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!

Gina Fava’s THE SCULPTOR wins GOLD for Best Mystery/Thriller Ebook in the Indie Pub Awards!

 THE SCULPTOR has won the GOLD medal for the Best Mystery/Thriller E-Book in the 19th Annual, 2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Gold medal ippy

I’m so honored and thrilled. Thank you, sincerely, to the judges, and most humbly to every one of my readers.

Congratulations to all the winners, and if you write everyday, you win everyday.

E3. BEST MYSTERY / THRILLER E-BOOK

GOLD: The Sculptor, by Gina Fava (Steepo Press)

SILVER: Twisted Vine, by Toby Neal (Self-Published)

BRONZE (tie): All Good Deeds, by Stacy Green (Twisted Minds Press)

Last Words, by Rich Zahradnik (Camel Press)

Click Here to Buy a Copy of THE SCULPTOR.

Click Here for the full list of the all those who submitted their work and medaled.

Congratulations to all who submitted, as the work is the ultimate reward.

 

Review of Jeff Klima’s L.A. ROTTEN: A TOM TANNER MYSTERY

Are you a reader who enjoys a gritty story with a still-beating touch of heart? Jeff Klima’s L.A. Rotten is an intriguing and refreshingly entertaining hard-boiled mystery.

L.A. Rotten: A Tom Tanner Mystery

Book Details
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Random House Publishing Group – Alibi
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Number of Pages:

Purchase Link: LA Rotten bk cvr
e9177-amazon33

 

Book Synopsis:

L.A. Rotten is a thriller about a cleanup man entangled in the viscera of a crime spree as a reluctant sleuth.

My Review:

The perfectly flawed characters, the subtle, edgy humor, and the description so vivid that I found it hard to breathe through my nose in some scenes, all make this a must-read novel for those who enjoy raw, “pulpy” mysteries, akin to Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Protagonist Tom Tanner’s character arc, from a man in tune with his basest instincts to one who finally gets in touch with the shred of humanity he forgot he had, is delicious, as the satisfying, issue-ridden secondary characters all struggle to push him over that edge throughout. The reader will surely find that the “A”ntagonist reeks of just the right amount of bile and intrigue to make him a terrifyingly interesting yet astonishingly credible serial killer. Klima must get to work on the next one – I need another Tanner fix!

Engrossing and satisfying, L.A. Rotten is a hard-boiled thriller that readers will be unable to put down.

My rating: 4 out of 5 FAVA beans.

2403706171_f35624b8b8

 

The author, Jeff Klima, an expert cleanup artistjeff klima in Orange County, writes what he knows, and it shows. He’s also written, The Dead Janitor’s Club, and you can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, or visit his website at jeffklima.com.

Review of Steve Ulfelder’s WOLVERINE BROS. FREIGHT & STORAGE: A Conway Sax Mystery

What does it take to transform an average Joe into a bad ass dick (sleuth, that is)? Pure grit and hard core determination. Just ask critically acclaimed, Edgar-nominated author Steve Ulfelder, whose gutsy yet affable hero, Conway Sax is back, with a vengeance.

Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage: A Conway Sax Mystery

Book DetailsJH-01027
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Number of Pages: 320 print pages

Purchase Link:  

  e9177-amazon33

 

Book Synopsis:  

“Conway Sax is a man on a mission—this time in Los Angeles, where he uses his race-driving experience in a desperate bid to rescue Kenny Spoon, a washed-up TV star who’s been kidnapped. It’s a favor for Kenny’s mother Eudora, Conway’s dear friend and a fellow member of the Barnburners, his tight-knit maverick AA group.

After hauling Kenny back to Massachusetts, Conway finds himself caught between Eudora and her two sons: Kenny, and Harmon, a cop who resents his talented, troubled half-brother. Each member of the Spoon family distrusts and even despises the others, it seems… and each has a past full of dark secrets that may explain why.

While Conway tries to learn why Kenny was kidnapped and protect him from further harm, a shocking murder devastates this complex, all-too-human family. Conway vows to find the killer and avenge the death, but each clue only points to more suspects.

Things get even more complicated when Conway, separated from his girlfriend Charlene, begins a passionate affair that can’t help but cloud his judgment. The more secrets he uncovers, the more danger he’s in as this masterfully written page-turner builds to a wrenching confrontation.” –Official Website of Steve Ulfelder

cropped-f1-race-car.jpg

My Review:

You’ll love this guy. The protagonist, Conway Sax, relies on his keen instincts, a healthy man card, and a zealous reliance on his own baggage to get him to the bottom of the mysteries that encroach on his life as a car mechanic. His lovable soft side, his resiliency in the face of whatever bad guys throw at him, and his enduring loyalty to his friends and his comrades in dependency (“Barnburners”) make him a true hero in my mind.

Ulfelder’s writing style is steady and approachable, reeling in the reader from the first page. His use of first-person perspective is vulnerable, acute, and engaging. Ulfelder taps into Sax’s recovery from dependency with affecting honesty and humor. He unfolds the mystery with gradual pace that feels real and justified.

Ulfelder also plunges a dip stick into some car racing jargon that’s smooth and slick. You’ll find yourself adding “bootlegger turn,” “tank slapper,” and “bump drafting” to your everyday vernacular. His secondary characters are spot on, full of enough vitality that you’d think they were idling in a Crown Vic outside your front window. The authentic journey through the winding roads of Central MA will have you dropping your Rs. The dialogue, as well as Sax’s inner monologue, is sincere, fresh, funny, and noteworthy (“Two times a year, I wish I had a gun.”)

If you’re a fan of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels, this Steve Ulfelder mystery is for you. It is fresh, raw pulp fiction that’s refined into a sweet and coarse concoction, and it’s sure to please.

My rating: 5 out of 5 FAVA beans.

2403706171_f35624b8b8 

SteveUlfelder-e1363706586930-150x150Steve Ulfelder is the author of three mystery novels featuring unlikely hero Conway Sax: SHOTGUN LULLABY, THE WHOLE LIE, and PURGATORY CHASM. Steve left journalism to write novels and focus on Flatout Motorsports, a company he co-founded that builds, rents, sells and services race cars. Steve’s debut novel, PURGATORY CHASM, published by Minotaur Books in 2011, was nominated for the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the Best First Novel category, and was named Best First Mystery by RT Book Reviews. Steve is a proud member of Mystery Writers of America (serving as president of MWA’s New England chapter), Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. He holds a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio Wesleyan University, and lives with his family in Worcester County, Massachusetts. Learn more about Steve Ulfelder’s books at www.ulfelder.com.

 

 

Cape Cod Writers Conference: Nuggets of Wisdom Wash Up on Shore Like Sea Glass

One of my favorite things about Cape Cod is looking for sea glass,

those shards of broken glass lovingly smoothed by the ocean that wash up on the shore,

painstakingly sought after and plucked from the wet sand with as much glee as if spotting gold.

Karen L. Day (YA Author of: A Million Miles From Boston) wasn’t supposed to start my day with nuggets of knowledge, but she did it anyway.  Instead of combing the sand for sea glass, I was surprised to find that it just washed up into my shoe.

I’m attending the Cape Cod Writer’s Conference this week.  Cape Cod Writer’s Center of Osterville, MA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its conference, and they’re pulling out all the stops with thrilling keynote speakers (Joseph Finder, Amy Caldwell, and Andre Dubus III), literary agents, manuscript reviews, and a plethora of writing and publishing classes.

I showed up early to class, trying to avoid bridge traffic, and found to my dismay that the seats had already been filled.  I entered the eerily silent room and squeezed into a single empty seat between two people already poised with pen and paper at the ready.  The instructor at the front was primed with laser pointer in hand and eyed me up and down as I struggled, red-faced and breathless, to open my notebook.  Finally, the instructor smiled and said, “You know there’s only four minutes left in this 90 minute class?  Bridge traffic?” Yes, I’d stumbled into the class prior to the one I’d signed up for and butted in, mid-writing exercise. (UGH)  The group was lovely and invited me to stay for the last four minutes, and I must say, although the presenter, Karen Day, writes outside of my thriller genre, her insights into the writing process resonated with me throughout the rest of my day.  Sometimes, it’s a good thing to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Two of Karen Day’s insights that I gleaned from the four minutes of what must have been ninety amazing ones are:

1)  When you’re finished with the first draft, immediately sit back down and write another paragraph or scene.  Sometimes, some of those last fleeting thoughts are profound enough to reshape your ending, and make the story stronger.

2)  When you’re flushing out your characters’ traits, remember to dig deep, and determine what makes your characters vulnerable.  Readers relate to your protagonist’s, and antagonist’s, vulnerability, and that makes the story stronger.

Thank you, Ms. Day, and all the students in the the Writing for Children class who warmly accepted me as one of their own for four minutes.  I’ll relish your nuggets of wisdom from my visit to Cape Cod like the jar of sea glass I cherish on my writing desk.  By the way, the conference continues every day this week with a variety of classes and events.  Be sure to work this one into your writing calendar for next year!  Any brilliant pieces of sparkling wisdom plucked from the vast ocean of the writing realm that you’d like to share?

Thrillerfest 2012…in the Books

Thrillerfest 2012 was a success!  ITW organized quite a conference:

  • Panels from established authors offering keen insights and helpful advice,

    Joseph Finder and USMC Capt Jack Hoban,
    Orchestrating “Ethical Warrior” fight scenes

  • A variety of prestigious agents to pitch at Agentfest, and
  • Plenty of opportunities in which to connect with writers and readers alike (book signings, cocktail parties, and a thrilling awards banquet.)

2011 Thrillermaster R.L. Stein and me

Thank you ITW board members, organizers, authors, and agents for all the fun and education.  Congratulations to all the winners of 2012’s Thriller Awards.  Check out ITW’s website for information on the conference and PW’s website for a list of the winners.

New York City was a blast!

  • My interview and “ride along” with one of NYPD’s finest, Officer Sheryl Puletz, and her “partner” Eddie was unforgettable.  My hat’s off to all those who serve and protect everyday.

    NYPD Officer Puletz, and Eddie

  • My visit to the 9/11 Memorial was heartfelt, but my country pride swelled at the sight of just how much we’ve rebuilt.

    World Trade Center

  • No visit to the city is complete for this writer without paying homage to the NY Public Library.
  • Of course, after a full day of Thrillerfest, nothing beats chomping down Five Guys fries while copping a squat in Bryant Park.

    NY Pubic Library

It’s great to be home, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!  Hope to see you there.

Drop me a line…I’d love to hear your Thrillerfest stories, too!

Welcoming Connection

Writers seek to relate to readers with every piece of writing that we create.  We also associate with other writers for camaraderie, information, and empathy.  We crave connection, the essence of community.

Today, I invite you to connect with me.

Welcome, officially.

The purpose of this blog is all about skeletal recomposition:  I add flesh to bare bone.  That is, as a thriller  writer, I regularly post information and then categorize it according to some of the typical elements of a thriller novel.  Let me flesh out the categories for you:

  • HEART (Characters):  Brings the Story to Life
  • SPINE (Plot/Scenes/Structure):  What Holds the Story Together and Moves It Along
  • SKULL (Style/Voice/Theme):  Getting Inside the Reader’s Head
  • FEMURS (Setting/Description):  Legs to Stand On
  • BLOOD (Spattered Information):  Miscellaneous Posts
  • SKELETAL REMAINS…OF THE DAY:  Book and Movie Reviews

____________________

A little bit about Gina Fava, and why I leap at every connection:

Born 20 minutes from the Peace Bridge that connects Canada with Buffalo, NY, and residing somewhere between the Boston Zakim and the Cape Cod Sagamore, I attribute my writing philosophy to taking the plunge at every opportunity.

At 9, I stood with my dad on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.  He pointed to a rainbow and told me to “dream farther than the end of it”. I took the leap and filled three journals about it.  I’ve never stopped writing, or dreaming.

Later, the young man who’d rescued me from a bomb threat to our university in Rome asked me to marry him under the Bridge of Sighs after braving Venice’s Grand Canal, inspiring my suspense-driven novels and short stories, and many thrilling years of marriage.

My bios at Twitter (@ginafava) and Facebook both read:  Gina Fava, Writer of cliffhangers.  Bridge jumper.  Now you know why. I hope you’ll connect with me there, too.

_____________________

THE RACE

Connecting with Readers

I’ve recently embarked on a journey toward the publication of my two novels.

The first is a thriller, entitled THE RACE, about car-racing covert agent Devlin Luccesi, who must save Rome from annihilation and rescue his young son from an elusive international criminal and his race of followers.

THE SCULPTOR

The second novel, entitled THE SCULPTOR, is a suspense novel in which Mara Silvestri is the only woman who can stop the Sculptor from murdering Rome’s female grad students, and the one woman he truly covets for his collection.

Please take a few minutes to explore my website at www.GinaFava.com.  I hope you’ll find something that grabs you, perhaps a novel synopsis, or one of the many photos that inspired my novels, maybe a short story, or a link to another great resource that resonates with you.

____________________________

Connecting with Writers

Please take note of my blogroll.  Each one represents a part of my community, and they all truly mean a lot to me, personally and professionally.

A) Initiation Blogs

These blogs initiated me into the industry.  I still turn to them when I need succinct, sometimes brutal, always honest, never shy advice about writing and publishing.

B)  Life Support

I’ve come to rely on these blogs for great lessons in craft, or just plain old positive energy.

C)  Colleagues-in-Arms

The people who write these blogs are those authors who’ve gone above and beyond the call.  They’ve been there to kick me into gear or pat me on the back, with a post, a message, a tweet, a coffee, or a phone call, when I truly needed it.

To all of the writers listed above, I am truly grateful.  Also, not a day goes by that I’m not pleasantly surprised by a newly discovered blog, one that tickles my phalanges or inspires murderous thoughts (in a good way, I’m a thriller writer!), so be sure to check back for new ones that might pop up on my blogroll in the future.  It might just be yours.

_______________________

Coming Soon

Getting back to skeletal recomposition, consider these juicy bones to chew on in future posts:

  • Chernobyl, 25 years later
  • F1 Racing in America, professional and amateur tracks
  • Household weaponry
  • Using international slang to spice up dialogue
  • Fava bean recipes
  • Italian museums, churches, and artwork that are often overlooked
  • Reviews of great thrillers, that just might be yours
  • And many more…

______________________

Thank you for reading this blog.  I invite you to link up with me, and the rest of the writing community, at our usual haunts.  We’d love to connect with you.  Do you have a favorite blog you’d like to recommend?