If You Really Want to Travel, Read!

There is nothing more lasting in the mind of a reader than a description of a place, be it a city or village, barren desert or a mountaintop, a room in a shabby inn or the majesty of a castle. When a reader finds themselves transported, not unlike a time machine, to a place far from the reality of their life or experience it is simply magic.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, California, in the remains of an orange grove that over time was sold off and became a typical Valley tract home neighborhood. Reading was my time machine ticket to the world, my escape from the mundane world in which I lived. Hence, I was never without a book in my hand. While other kids played outdoors on a Saturday, you’d find me laying on the living room couch reading a book. Often times those were classics, since we had a full set of Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte, Tolstoy, well, the list goes on and on. I think my mother was in a mail order book club that sent a new classic literature book every month. Of course, I progressed to more current literature like Dr. Zivago (one of my favorites), and all of the James Bond books (loved those), and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, all of Hemingway (my favorite author).  I was a reading machine, and to tell the truth, I had no favorite genre. I read sci-fi, literary, paranormal, romance, historical, biographical, fantasy, none of that mattered. What spurred me was my desire to travel the world, to live in another’s skin, to embrace the long tide of history. In a nutshell, to understand the world I lived in, or maybe, the world I’d rather live in.

I thought it might be nice to share a few favorite descriptions from novels that are unforgettable.

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy – “That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wildflowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running…”

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen – “The Cicada sing an endless song in the long grass, smells run along the earth and falling stars run over the sky, like tears over a cheek. You are the privileged person to whom everything is taken. The Kings of Tarshish shall bring gifts.”

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice – “Paris was a universe whole and entire unto herself, hollowed and fashioned by history; so she seemed in this age of Napoleon III with her towering buildings, her massive cathedrals, her grand boulevards and ancient winding medieval streets–as vast and indestructible as nature itself. All was embraced by her, by her volatile and enchanted populace thronging the galleries, the theaters, the cafes, giving birth over and over to genius and sanctity, philosophy and war, frivolity and the finest art; so it seemed that if all the world outside her were to sink into darkness, what was fine, what was beautiful, what was essential might there still come to its finest flower. Even the majestic trees that graced and sheltered her streets were attuned to her–and the waters of the Seine, contained and beautiful as they wound through her heart; so that the earth on that spot, so shaped by blood and consciousness, had ceased to be the earth and had become Paris.”

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac – “On soft Spring nights I’ll stand in the yard under the stars — Something good will come out of all things yet — And it will be golden and eternal just like that — There’s no need to say another word.”

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – “Though we’d been driving a while, there were no landmarks, and it was impossible to say where we were going or in which direction. The skyline was monotonous and unchanging and I was fearful that we might drive through the pastel houses altogether and out into the alkali waste beyond, into some sun-beaten trailer park from the movies.”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

The Sun also Rises by Ernest Hemingway – “Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and away off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches.”

In my own writing, painting a sense of place is as important to me as creating my characters. One without the other would be a barren landscape, a painting or a book without color.

In my work in progress, working title Saving Layla I describe the Grand Bizarre in Tehran, Iran. Here’s a taste.

“The largest bazaar in the world, with more than six miles of merchants’ shops, teemed with locals and tourists. Cyrus held tightly to Layla’s hand as they walked. His eyes monitored everyone around them, searching for a tail as he pulled her through the crowd. Layla, wearing a dark pink scarf wrapped around her head and neck, appeared excited to be out among people. Her eyes flitted left and right as she tried to process the human energy around her. Stopping on occasion, Cyrus gave authenticity to their visit by pointing out architectural elements, explaining that some of the oldest buildings, walls and passages were more than four hundred years old.

“A footnote in the history of Persia,” he explained to her, “a land whose history and civilization dates back thousands of years before the birth of Christ.”

He wanted to make her comfortable in the environment. He pointed out the domes and the towering, vaulted ceilings that sported skylights admitting natural light. Streams of sunlight poured down like waterfalls that were strangely alive with dancing dust motes. Like a tour guide, he pointed out the beauty of the intricate tile and brickwork, artistically laid out in traditional Persian patterns that, after the Islamic conquest of Persia, nearly fourteen hundred years ago, were adapted into Islamic architecture.

Each corridor contained a different world. Everywhere Layla looked fruit and vegetable stalls, filled with a cornucopia of produce, overflowed their boxes and baskets. The scent of spices perfumed the air. It was exotic and intoxicating, the endless array of orange and yellow saffron, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon, their pungent fragrances stimulating their senses. Each corridor of the bazaar specialized in different products for sale. One alley was devoted to figs, dates, and nuts, in all varieties, both dried and fresh. In the fabric corridor, thousands of yards of fabrics of every quality and for every purpose, from embroidered needlepoints for upholstery to fine silks from India and China, were displayed on bolts or rolled around cardboard tubes. If you could imagine it, it was for sale somewhere amid the hundreds of vendors flanking the passages. At one point Layla stopped, forcing Cyrus to wait as she admired a shop window containing hundreds of gold bangles strung across a display that covered the entire width of the store.

Layla had never seen anything like the Grand Bazaar, and Cyrus was pleased to see the color return to her cheeks and a smile on her face.”


In Love With Your Characters? I Am.

Author Belle Ami Wants Characters To Live
First Published on

Release Date June 16, 2016

Release Date
June 16, 2016

Stacy Hoff’s Nights of Passion Blog

Hello, Passionate Readers! Today I’m having author Belle Ami talk about a subject near and dear to my writer’s heart—the pain of having to let go of the characters we create. It’s tougher than you might think! Don’t believe me? Here’s Belle in her own words:

Let it be known, I do not like saying farewell to the characters in my novels. After all, I’ve slept with them, dreamt with them, fought with them, empathized with them, hated them, and, of course, loved them. They are like my children, oft times difficult, doing things I don’t approve of and a real pain in the ass, but when all is said and done, they are mine, and just like my children, I will defend them with my last breath. However, there does come a time when, as Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, you have to let them fly on their own. I quote, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth,” which can easily be applied to your characters. Even though you’ve created them and breathed life into them, there comes a time when you have to let them go. Mr. Gibran also wisely wrote: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” If that’s not true of your characters, I don’t know what is.

My new book soon to be published by Soul Mate Publishing is actually the third book in my The Only One series. It is a stand-alone romance/suspense novel that is the last in this three book series. I love my characters for their optimism, their cynicism, their idiosyncrasies, and their flaws. I like to think that they are fully developed people who reflect not only what life has dealt them in the past, but people who wish to change and improve who they are in the present. That’s what brings them to life and that’s what places them with their feet firmly on the ground as living, breathing beings.

Miles Bremen is a billionaire who has fought his way to the top. Everything he has gained in this life he has earned. Perhaps that accounts for his possessive nature, his inability to trust, and his desire to keep what he considers his. His flaws are many, but he attacks life with an unbridled passion. His failed marriage to Adelia Lindstrom is a stain on his otherwise perfect world, a world in which he is usually in control. Adelia is the one woman he ever loved and he lost her. He is determined to do whatever it takes to win her back.

Adelia Lindstrom seemingly has everything, wealth, beauty, perfect twin children, and a career she loves. But, beneath the veneer of success and prosperity lies disappointment, tragedy, and unending lies. Her parents were murdered, her marriage ended in a custody battle, and she is confused by the feelings she has for the two men in her life. Her ex-husband who betrayed her in an unforgivable manner is back on the scene determined to win her back. Her best friend and lover, FBI agent David Weiss, has always been there for her, but his new career with the bureau has made him unavailable and removed. What’s a girl to do? In the beginning of the series, she was a young, trusting, vulnerable woman, but her trials and tribulations have matured and made her wise. She is no longer a girl, but a woman who knows who she is, and isn’t afraid to risk everything for what she wants. But, what does she want?

Throw in an added obstacle for good measure, she’s about to become the target of a serial killer. Can David protect her? Can Miles win her back? Can she have her cake and eat it too? Is there a happily-ever-after for these three. You bet there is, but not without pain, discovery, and overcoming obstacles. There is a Zen saying that I like to apply to my characters: Leap and the net will appear.

I digress, getting back to letting go of your characters. It turns out I’m not very good at it. In my new series that I am writing, in the second book, I’ve decided to bring back FBI Agent David Weiss. He with his firecracker partner, Cassandra Saladino, is investigating a terrorist attack on the United States. I’m very excited about bringing back one of my favorite guys.

Oh, the joy of not having to say goodbye to a character, to allow them to live and love again.

EXCERPT: One More Time is Not Enough – Release date June/July 2016

Northern California

Route One

The sports car hugged the road as David down-shifted into a hairpin curve on Route One. Adelia brushed the wind-blown wisps of hair that had escaped her braid from her eyes. She leaned her head against the headrest and absorbed the late Summer sunshine. The radio station The Highway blared over the radio, competing with the engine’s roar. At the academy, David had fallen in love with country music thanks to Preston. A song came on the radio next, and he turned up the volume.

“Listen to the words, I believe this is our song.”

She turned to look at him but his dark aviator sunglasses hid his eyes. With her curiosity piqued, she listened. A sexy baritone voice filled the air.

When you walked through the door

I knew…you were the one

My heart said hello, but my head said run

Before I knew it I’d asked you to dance

Time stands still in the arms of romance

Pulled you close, kissed your lips, felt your fingers

in my hair;

Turning slowly, falling fast, trying hard not to care;

You’re like whiskey and music

With your hands all over me

Turnin’ me on, like a sexy song

Making it hard for me to breathe

I should have seen the writing on the wall

One more time is not enough

When there’s nowhere left to fall

Adelia switched off the radio and turned away from him as she fought back her tears. “Are you trying to hurt me? I don’t remember you ever being cruel.”

“No, I’m trying, to be honest with you. We both know this magical escape is an illusion. A week from now I’ll go to Washington and you’ll go back to your kids, and Miles will convince you to remarry him. Just like the song says, One more time is not enough, when there’s nowhere left to fall. We were never meant to be.”

“You don’t know a thing, David Weiss.” Frustration simmered inside of her. “Can’t you for once just live in the moment?”

“One of us has to try and keep the moment real.”

“I still don’t understand why you had to join the FBI? You’ve made it impossible for us to be together. It’s as if you’re doing everything in your power to put obstacles in our way. All your professed love for me, was it all a lie?”

He reached over and took her hand, raising it to his lips, then kissed her knuckles. “I’d take a bullet for you, and you know it.”

“Then show me what you feel, show me you love me.”

“I’m here, aren’t I? Isn’t that enough.”

She turned away from him. “No, it’s not. Like the song says, it will never be enough.”

Tema Merback

Writing as Belle Ami


Twitter: @BelleAmi5