SIENA’S PALIO: THRILLING TRADITION, COMPETITION, & PRIDE

Imagine that your hometown team will be competing in the biggest sporting event of the year, as it does every year, right in the center of town. Pack the venue with over 50,000 spectators, both local and international, all there to see your team participate. Now bring on all the fanfare and hoopla in the days leading up to the main event, including an open-air feast and a ritual blessing of the key player. Now imagine that this monumental sporting event lasts just seventy-five seconds…

Palio Aug 1995 news

For the people of Siena, Italy, this fantasy is a reality. Considered Italy’s most famous annual sporting event, Palio is a horse race that combines pageantry, competition, and civic pride. The Tuscan hillside town of Siena fans out from the central, shell-shaped Piazza del Campo town square, where the race is run. It extends outward, through the maze of cobblestone alleyways, stone houses, shops, and smaller piazze. Siena is divided into seventeen contrade, akin to the boroughs of Manhattan, in which neighborhoods aspire to a passionate regionalism based on centuries old tradition. Since the Middle Ages, ten of the contrade vie one another for bragging rights achieved by a victory in a bare-back horse race that’s one lap around the piazza. The first horse to cross the finish line, with or without the rider, wins.

The race, held twice a year on July 2 and August 16, is preceded by as much pomp and circumstance as the post-race victory parties. Participants and spectators have been brought to their knees over a loss, or a win. Every stage is critical, from the initial presentation of the horses, to the “tratta” in which the horses and jockeys are matched. It continues with the five preliminary runs, to the final rehearsal dinner, to the blessing of the horse and jockey inside the contrada’s parish church, and finally to the race.

Palio July 1981

I attended my first Palio with my dad when I was ten years old. With my Aquila scarf wrapped securely around my shoulders, I cheered parade flagbearers marching down the ancient cobblestone streets while my gelato ran down my arm. We watched a trial run. Serious business, as men in suits converged to hash out the players’ worth, similar to a football draft, only with horses. My favorite part was the pre-race dinner. I couldn’t believe that with all the eating, the drinking, the singing, and the cheering, they had yet to run the race! Though we missed the main race, I’d experienced something truly memorable.

Palio Aug 1995

Years later, my husband, Jamie, and I made it to the big event. We packed into Piazza del Campo with my cousins in early morning…and waited. For hours beneath the August sun, the piazza filled with spectators, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, or peering out from hotel windows overlooking the track. Fans from competing contrade would argue, laugh, make bets, and proudly wave their flags’ colors. At dusk, the tension was palpable. The crowds roared as the horses cantered into the piazza. The tradition of centuries past, and the competitive spirit roiling between the contrade, and the anxiety built up over days of preparation all came down to a race lasting just over a minute. In one mad dash around the track, colors blazed past us in a blur. Men, women, and children shouted and chanted the names of their contrada. Cameras flashed. Hoof-beaten dust flew into the humid Sienese twilight. I don’t remember who won. But I bet it was Aquila.

Like a good thriller, Palio’s suspense builds to a satisfying climax that resonates with fans until long after it ends. Want to live the thrill? Head to Palio. Want to read about it? My latest mystery novel, FORMULA, features Palio, and it’s coming soon!

150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

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Click the above image to reach the Library of Congress website; read the full transcript (a mere 271 words) and discover loads of information about the Gettysburg Address delivered 150 years ago today on the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, PA by Abraham Lincoln.  The address, in a document permanently displayed at the Library Congress, is also inscribed on the side of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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Click the above photo to learn more about Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, and the famous orator who gave this speech, 150 years ago today.

Debut Author Gina Fava rolls out thriller, The Race, at the height of auto racing season

Here’s a general press release announcing the release of my debut thriller THE RACE.  

Feel free to contact me anytime.  

And, please, be sure to buy the book!

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For more information, to schedule an interview with Gina Fava, or for a review copy of The Race, CONTACT:

Gina Pangione

gina.pangione@gmail.com

 

Steepo Press

PO Box 1322

Plymouth, MA 02362

High resolution author images, book jacket art, press kit, and more available at:  http://www.GinaFava.com/media/

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Debut Author Gina Fava rolls out thriller, The Race, at the height of auto racing season

[PLYMOUTH, MA, June 28]  Author Gina Fava debuts her suspense novel, The Race: A HELL Ranger Thriller, in the midst of auto racing season, rolling out a story that draws from Fava’s time spent living in Rome, her passion for car racing, and her love for steering complex characters through gritty, fast-paced plot lines.

In The Race, Formula One champion Devlin “Lucky” Lucchesi’s life is torn apart in a terror attack.  Devlin vows revenge against Ishmael Zaid, a villain from his past, whose “Race” of followers have set a dozen bombs to wipe Rome off the map.  When Ishmael abducts Devlin’s son and violates the sanctity of the Vatican, Devlin and his covert HELL Ranger crew must race against time to beat Ishmael at his own game.

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“Like a super-Tuscan wine, the best thrillers are a complex infusion of elements,” Fava stated.  “I love blending mystery, history, and action when crafting a story, and then saturating the plot and the characters with all that I’ve reaped from my travels to Italy.”

Stephen M. Moore, author of The Midas Bomb says, “Gina Fava has spun an exciting tale that takes us back to mysteries like those of H. Rider Haggard’s classic novels and forward to the action thrillers like those of Preston and Child.”  August  McLaughlin, author of In Her Shadow, an Indies Excellence Awards finalist, calls the book “A high-octane thriller, rich with action, imagination and intriguing suspense.”

Fava plans a virtual launch of the eBook on July 14, celebrating the NASCAR New Hampshire 300 and the Honda Indy Series in Toronto.  An unofficial paperback launch takes place at independent bookseller Talking Leaves in her hometown of Buffalo, NY, August 8.  The official release of the print version coincides with the Italian Formula One Gran Premo, at Jamie’s Fine Wine & Spirits in Carver, MA, September 7.  Additional book signings and events will take her through the United States Formula One Grand Prix in November, and beyond.

GinaFavaPhoto_MA University of Buffalo graduate, Gina Fava holds a WNEC law degree and has studied at the American University of Rome.  But, it’s her first-hand experience with bomb scares, car chases, over-eager carabinieri, and dodging gunfire while living in Rome during the Persian Gulf War that spurred her extensive research in counter-terrorism.  She’s an avid auto racing fan, and she frequently travels Italy to hunt down her characters’ favorite wines.  She is the author of award-winning short stories, and is a member of International Thriller Writers.  A Buffalo, New York native, Gina Fava resides with her family in New England.  Her second novel, The Sculptor, is due for release in 2014.

The Race is available in eBook on Kindle, Nook, and iPad, and in trade paperback (490 pp., $17.95) on Amazon.com and through independent booksellers by Steepo Press.  ISBN  978-0-9893587-0-5.

Gina Fava is available for interviews, appearances, and/or book signings.  Contact ginafava1@gmail.com, or visit www.GinaFava.com to learn more.

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Recap of the Murder Mystery Show

As a follow-up to my previous post about the Murder Mystery Show, SO MUCH FUN was had by all:  the actors, the stage hands, the audience, the wine drinkers, and the readers…

Pre-Launch of THE RACE

Did I mention readers?  Oh yes, Zorvino Vineyards in Sandown, NH was packed to the gills with mystery lovers last month who spent the evening trying to figure out who dunnit, after kindly purchasing a mystery novel from one of the in-character authors.

Thank you to the owners of Zorvino Vineyards (beautiful venue!), to the script writer and my author friend, CJ West, who included me as a saucy, sassy, British reporter capable of murder, along with a whole slew of lovely people who took the stage for a great romp, including another fellow author, Steve Ulfelder.

To all the readers who picked up pre-launch copies of my forthcoming novel, THE RACE, I must tell you mahvelous dahlings, you are all wonderful!

THANK YOU!!

Gearing up before the event…

The Cast...before

Letting loose after the show…

The Cast...after

Smash: Pope Benedict’s Ring Will Be Destroyed

Well, I knew the press would reveal this bit of Papal trivia sooner or later, but a day after my blog post?  Yesterday, I asked:  What Will Happen to the Pope’s Ring Once He Resigns?

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Today, media everywhere has provided the answer:  

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The Camerlengo, or the Chamberlain who presides over conclave operations,

will smash Pope Benedict’s papal signet, the Fisherman’s Ring, with a special papal silver hammer.

It’s the same special papal silver hammer that they use to ceremoniously tap the deceased pope’s head three times before conclave meets.  Bonus:  Pope Benedict will not have to endure this particular rite before he becomes Pope Emeritus.

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By the way, as soon as the Pope resigns, the Swiss Guard is officially relieved of duty until the next Pope steps in.

A little Alpine skiing, anyone?

RomaVeneziaCortona2011Uno 101

What Will Happen to Pope Benedict’s Ring?

 What will happen to the Pope’s ring once he resigns?

I’m talking about the ring that every Pope wears on the third finger of his right hand, the one that every member of the faithful must kneel down and kiss as a sign of respect upon greeting him.

Called “Il Pescatorio” or the “Fisherman’s Ring,” it’s an official part of the Pope’s regalia.  It was passed down through the centuries to every successor to St. Peter the fisherman, the saint upon whose very bones the Vatican foundation is built.

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When a Pope dies, the ring is ceremonially removed, and smashed in front of the College of Cardinals by the Camerlengo.  Following conclave, the new Pope is then presented a new gold ring, emblazoned with a personalized brand.

The reason that I’m so curious is that in my novel, The Race, set to be released in the Fall, a terrorist infiltrates the Vatican and removes the Pope’s ring, signifying a ceremonial, albeit tumultuous transition of power.  The intense scene is rife with potential ramifications.

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My question is:  Once Pope Benedict resigns his post, thereby transitioning to Pope Emeritus, what happens to his ring?  Does he continue to wear it, or will it be smashed in accordance with protocol?  Pope Benedict earned his ring once he became top dog, so should he retain it upon retirement? Granted, the new Pope will receive his own ring, but if the Pope Emeritus keeps his ring, will the faithful still continue to kneel before and kiss that one too?   

I’m sure the matter will be clarified sometime prior to the impending conclave, and most certainly thereafter.  In the meantime, whether you’re an expert or you just want to offer up a theory, I’d love to hear what you think…

Gina Fava Interview AND Obama/Romney Debate

2 things today:

1.  Presidential Debate Tonight

2.  Author Steven M. Moore Interviews Gina Fava

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About the debate…

Click on the American Flag to learn more about How Presidential Debates Work

No matter your political affiliation, tune in tonight for the Presidential Debate between President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney at 9pm, because if you vote uninformed, then you have no right to complain!

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About the interview…

Visiting a Winery in Montalcino, Italy (research, I swear!)

The other day, I popped over for an interview with friend and colleague, Steven M. Moore.  You may remember that I interviewed him last week, and I published his interview here.  Well, Steve was kind enough to return the favor.  Here’s the link to Steve’s Blog where he shares with his readers what makes Gina Fava tick, and where you can learn more about his latest works.

Here’s the interview in its entirety:

Interview with thriller author Gina Fava…

 As a special treat today, I offer you an interview with fellow thriller author Gina Fava. A Buffalo, NY native, Gina lives in New England with her husband, Jamie, and their two children. A writer of award-winning short stories, Gina Fava is working to publish two novels, The Race and The Sculptor, both suspense thrillers based in Rome, Italy. She’s currently writing her next thrillers in both series. She travels to Italy often to research first-hand the red wines that her characters imbibe. An active member of MWA, ITW, and SinC, Gina’s a thrill-seeking bridge jumper, a Formula One racing fanatic, and a nut for blogging about skeletal recomposition. You can learn more about Gina at her website. Thank you, Gina.

 

1) Why, how, and when did you start writing?

 

I started writing to entertain myself in grade school. In high school, Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot blew me away, and his Night Shift short stories prompted me to write to entertain family and friends. It wasn’t until I returned from studying abroad in Italy that I sent my short stories and feature articles out to the rest of the world. I think I needed to experience life a bit before I realized that I had novels clamoring to get out too.

 

2) What is your biggest problem with the writing process. How do you tackle it?

 

Characterization. I love my characters from inception, but it takes some development in their infant stages until I grow close enough to them to appreciate their true personalities.

 

3) Do you feel writing is something you need to do or want to do?

 

Both. Being a writer is a part of who I am.

 

4) Have your personal experiences (or situations) influenced you creatively? If so, how?

 

Yes, in one way or another, my personal experiences always infiltrate the pages of whatever I’m writing. But never more so than in my novel, The Sculptor, in which the main character meets her love interest in much the same way that I met my husband, while studying abroad in Italy, only without the serial killer (that we’re aware of).

 

5) How much of your creative ability do you think is innate and how much is learned?

 

I think everyone is born with a kernel of some innate talent. It’s how one chooses to cultivate it that decides whether it will pop or not.

 

6) What is the last book you read? What are you reading now?

 

Blue Covenant, by Maude Barlow was the last book I read, an excellent resource on the water crisis and water rights. I’m reading Preston and Child’s Still Life with Crows right now. I love anything by Preston and Child.

 

7) Whose writing inspires you the most and why?

 

Stephen King. His characters resonate for me. His style is like comfort food for my soul. Dean Koontz’s description is akin to poetry for me. Their fiction makes me strive to be a better writer. And, King’s On Writing, inspires me to figure out how. [Note from Steve: King’s On Writing is recommended for authors of all levels and all genres.]

 

8) Do you have a favorite genre?

 

Thrillers (especially suspense, historical, horror, and sci-fi thrillers).

 

9) Should writers read in their genre? Should they be avid readers?

 

Writers should always be avid readers, and reading outside their genre helps a writer to see life from a different perspective, which will ultimately give their own writing more depth.

 

10) How do you find your plots?

 

Dreams; headlines; twists on history; what-if extrapolations on real life; my husband’s genius spin on something he learned.

 

11) Are your characters based on real people?

 

Many of my characters are inspired by real people. Most represent an amalgam of bizarre and ordinary attributes peppered with gumption.

 

12) How do you name your characters?

 

I’ve always been enamored with interesting names, real and fictional (like Odd Thomas, Val Kilmer, or Benjarvis Green-Ellis.) I keep a journal of international names and unique words and mash them together until they fit a character’s personality and also reveal something about them. [Note from Steve: Odd Thomas is a famous Dean Koontz character; Mr. Kilmer is the actor who played Jim Morrison, among other roles; and Mr. Green-Ellis was a New England Patriots’ player—now with the Cincinnati Bengals.]

 

13) Which comes first, plot or characters?

 

Every story is different. My ideas start with either a unique character with something to say, or a twisted situation that needs resolution. Eventually, both meet up on page one.

 

14) Any comments about writing dialogue?

 

I love writing dialogue; it’s the flesh of every good story. I strive to convey volumes while using as few words as possible. My tendency is to spill my guts, but the lawyer in me is always trying to reign it in. What ends up in a scene is somewhere in the middle.

 

15) How do you handle POV?

 

 

 

Handling POV is just a matter of discipline. It’s like staying in one lane of a 4-lane highway. At times, you want to change lanes or even catch yourself veering into another lane, but you should never do it without signaling first because you’ll crash.

 

16) Do you find background material for (research) your books? If so, how?

 

Research for me involves Googling key terms and finding books, news articles, and blog posts on the relevant subject matter, and more often than not, I’ll learn something more that gives my original idea more bang for its buck.

 

Sometimes interviews are better than any written resource–a chat with an Army Ranger, or a drive-along with a police officer can provide invaluable insights.

 

Also, I return to Italy often (where my books are often based) and visit first-hand the best places to plant a bomb, abduct a victim, or taint wine.

 

Douglas Preston taught me a great lesson at Thrillerfest a couple of years back: Get into your character’s skin before you write the scene. So, I’ve shot the same guns at a shooting range; I’ve skied off the same Alpine cliffs; and I’ve toured the same wineries that my characters have poisoned. Research gives writing that proverbial edge.

 

[Note from Steve: Douglas Preston is part of the thriller writing team of Preston and Child mentioned earlier…an interesting collaboration, to be sure.]

 

17) Do you use an agent?

 

I’m actively seeking one.

 

18) Do you self-publish or traditionally publish?

 

I’m actively pursuing both.

 

19) What are your most effective marketing techniques?

 

Blogging; Twitter; Facebook; GoodReads; attending writer conferences and workshops; active membership in SinC, ITW, and MWA; attending book signings and launches of fellow authors; guest speaking at cultural events; reading excerpts at open mic events; etc.

 

20) Do you release trade paperbacks or eBooks?

 

I’m open to both.

 

21) What do you think of publishing services like Amazon, Smashwords, etc?

 

I’ve actively evaluating all publishing options.

 

22) What is your favorite place to eat-out?

 

Alden Park–excellent martinis and lettuce wraps.

 

23) What is your favorite drink?

 

It’s a tie between a lemon drop shot and Pinot Grigio Santa Margherita. [Note from Steve: I’ll second the Santa Margherita, especially in Boston’s North End or New York’s Little Italy–or in Italy, of course.]

 

24) What other interests do you have besides writing?

 

Traveling, movies, skiing, reading, political news, attending hockey and basketball games, etc.

 

25) What was the last movie you went to see?

 

Magic Mike

 

26) What would I find in your refrigerator right now?

 

Homemade pasta sauce; homemade chicken soup; homemade apple pie; open-faced pickle/Swiss cheese/rye bread sandwiches (just finished re-watching Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).

 

27) If you could trade places with someone for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?

 

At the moment, Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. Her life intrigues me, and she can always chat with the Queen in her robe and slippers.

 

28) What is your favorite (song) and why? Piece of music?

 

“What a Wonderful World,” the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole Hawaiian ukulele version. Because life is too short and far too wondrous not to appreciate it. [Note from Steve: Good advice for us all!]

 

In libris libertas….

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Thank you so much, Steve, for the kind and generous interview. I appreciate your friendship, and, like your readers, I’m a fan of your writing advice as well as your talent. And to all of your readers, it’s great to meet all of you!

Is there a question you would have asked Gina Fava?  Is there a question you’d like to put to either debate candidate this evening?  Let me know!