Saturday, August 25, 2018

Hat change... again! The Excited Writer

I have to be totally honest with you, I was taken entirely by surprise, and the last couple of days I felt like living in a parallel Universe.
It all started months ago, to be precise in July. I was looking for new marketing material and information on how to improve my strategy when I came across a link for submitting my new novel to an award.
If there is something I have learned in these two years of being an author is that awards are quite powerful tools to provide credibility. It can convey the attention of potential readers and of potential publishers.
Moreover, the prize was yummy, a bounty of incredible marketing services, and that was too good to leave it. 
To be honest, I am not looking for a traditional publisher but should any of them be interested in my work, I might take the chance into serious consideration. Now, I did submit my novel "The ghosts of Morgan street" without any expectation of whatsoever. They accepted the entry and gave me a link to the voting page to gather votes for my nomination.

My second name is PROCRASTINATION, so guess what happened? I forgot to share it with all my contact and social pages.
"Oh, well," I said, "with the next chance I will set up a reminder twice a day to share events that need votes."
I totally forgot about it when an email arrived from the organizer of the award:

"SAY WHAT??" I made it to the semifinals, and the 10 finalists would be announced the 21st of August 08:00 PM EST time.
A small calculation to realize that it meant 03:00 AM in Finland... sleeping like a baby.
Again I thought that if there had been anything significant they would have also sent me an email, so I didn't worry about it too much.
The 21st of August arrived, and I woke up in the night for a glass of water. Looking at the clock I noticed that within ten minutes the ten finalists would have been announced on
live streaming, so I considered that I could stay awake for a while.
I connected to the live streaming and waited, as they reached the "Thriller section," I heard something too familiar, my name and my novel were called.
My comment:
Dropping dead!
I was one of the ten finalists that have to travel to Columbus Ohio and speak to an audience about my novel.
That was enough to say goodbye to all the chances to fall asleep again, and I didn't even care, too bad that I had to be very silent not to wake up my husband.
So October the 26th is the date when I will be presenting my book. Once again, it would be great to win the first prize, but on the other hand, I feel like I won a million bucks, for the chance given.
This tale is supposed to give other authors who are self-publishing and keeping their dreams alive, an encouragement to apply for every single award existing. Everything that can give you a small chance to grow up is something that should be taken. Never believe "I will never even reach the finals" because if I did it... well you too.
One thing I remember, and I will keep within myself for the rest of my life is what my former employer said to me when I left the company for a higher position in a bigger company.
"Being a great professional is everything in the career, but if you are not in the right place at the right time, quite a few your skills can do to you. You have them all, so I am glad for the chance you got, and you were able to grab."
So here my message to you, believe in your dream and shoot as high as you can, you might be just the right person at the right time.
Have a great weekend and STAY TUNED!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Where the fairies sing...we remain for a bit in Tuscany

Here we are once again on this beautiful Saturday morning. Summer is still on here in Finland, so I am continuing the topic of the legend connected to unusual places.
We are again in the Bisenzio Valley, one of the most enchanting place:
Traveling is not just visiting different places, but it means getting acquainted with the history and culture. One important part of the culture is represented by the myths and legends.

Those are generally connected to facts that have really happened in the past, and with the time they have mixed beautifully with the ancient folklore. Like in tha case of the story I am going to tell.
It is said that in the year 1133, in January, when all the houses kept their doors closed to find shelter from the cold, a big party was held at the residence of the Counts Alberti.
Between the guests, there was a young maiden, Erigarda, daughter of Judge Guidone and in love with the Count Uguccione Alberti, who promised to marry her.
However, despite the official promise, the count never really moved forward to actually marry her, causing her struggle and suffering.
Erigarda's father, Guidone, considered his behavior extremely irreverent and decided to revenge. Therefore in the middle of the party, two emissaries arrived to talk to Count Uguccione and gave him the sad news that his grandmother Lavinia was dying and requested to see him for the last time.
He accepted to go with them, but during the trip, the diverted to another direction with the excuse that the snow made the usual road too difficult. As soon as they passed the Fiumenta river, a third man assaulted Uguccione.
He was a man called Tebaldo, who was also in love with Erigarda. The man brought Uguccione deep into a cave and having him chained he decided to leave him to die slowly, to wash the honor of the young maiden.
The morning after also Erigarda was found dead, and only in his death bed, Uguccione admitted having organized the assassination of Uguccione and Erigarda. He killed Erigarda because he knew that she would have died, knowing that the man she loved so much disappeared mysteriously.

The place where Uguccione was killed is close to the river, and time by time people reported having heard moans coming from the cave.
Those moans are told to belong to the fairies that sing, but perhaps this legend comes from the cries of Uguccione that were heard muffled from the outside.
The place looks indeed like a place where fairies gather to sing:
The cave where supposedly the horrible crime was consumed. (Picture by Giuseppe Marchi)
If you are going to walk along the river and will reach the infamous cave if you don't dare to go inside, you might want to keep silent and listen, perhaps you might hear the fairies sing...

Have a lovely weekend and Stay tuned for new tales and stories.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Some legends I have learned in this journey

Italy is a fascinating country, but besides the great sceneries, history, great food, and wines, there are quite many legends bonded to places of unique beauty.
So far in my journey back to Italy, I visited many places in Tuscany but a couple of them had interesting stories to tell, and this time I am going to tell you about the legend bonded to the fortress of Cervaia (Rocca di Cerbaia).
The ruins of the castle, which was built in the XII century and is located on a cliff in the municipality of Cantagallo in Prato province. Its history is not very clear particularly for what concerns the owners of the castle. It has been owned for a long period by the Alberti family and sold to the Florence Republic. In the year 1400, the fortress was almost dismantled but refurbished in 1512 to fight against the invasion of the Spanish army.
During 1600 the fortress changed owner and was purchased by the family of Gricignana, and finally acquired by the municipality of Cantagallo which aims to restore it. Driving from the road that from Prato in the direction of Vaiano/Vernio. As you reach the old bridge of Cerbaia, you will find a small path on the right with a sign showing the way.
Following the sign, you will walk along a small path:
leading to a bridge that crosses the river:
Already from there, if you look up you will spot the fortress:
which can be reached by foot along an enchanting path.
Now to the legend, that has the young Nelfia as a protagonist. Nelfia was a young lady at those times only fourteen years old, daughter of the Alberti Family, owners of the castle. The tale says that because of her rebel character, she was kept segregated and constantly guarded by a friar, also called "The Guardian."
Nelfia was extremely beautiful, and although she was kept inside the castle, there was still the chance for her to see and be seen by soldiers, who remained enchanted by her beauty and wished nothing more than to meet her.
She was also enchanted by some of them and also wished to meet them. The guardian friar felt sorry for her destiny and seized the opportunity asking for money from those soldiers to organize secret meetings with the young girl.
Nevertheless, the chance that those soldiers could tell about their encounter and put Nelfia and particularly the friar in big troubles was high. For this reason, after the encounter, the friar killed the soldiers by pushing them down the cliff.
Since then, every time the river turned red, it was because Nelfia had a new lover.
It is said that Nelfia still wanders the area under the shape of a white snake, looking for her lost lovers.
This is, of course, just a legend, but it gives one more reason to visit the ruins of the fortress of Cervaia, and the wonderful landscapes surrounding it.
One small hint for those who are intentioned to visit it. I suggest you go on springtime, as the weather is milder, and nature is greener and full of flowers. This is the time you will enjoy the place at its best.
If you instead wish to have a glimpse of its darkest side, then visit it in autumn or winter when nature matches the darkest stories that happened during the times when it was inhabited.
For today is all, I hope you enjoyed the tale.
Have a nice weekend

Friday, August 3, 2018

What is going on in the world?

Admittedly, it is not easy to stop a person like me, and that was something that my mother used to say to me quite often. Sometimes positively, some other in a not so positive way, particularly for her, who wished me to be quiet at least for an hour.
However, this time my blog will come to you a bit earlier, and that is because I will leave tomorrow early in the morning to the first part of my holiday.

I will be once again exploring Italian beauties and places that are less usual, in the hope to find those little, hidden gems that do not just escape the tourist's eyes, but also the eyes of those people who live there day after day, ignoring them and spending their lives close to amazingly beautiful places.
Next month, instead, I have another holiday coming up, and the premises started to look quite challenging.
We planned to go on holiday to Vietnam and spend some time also in Laos. Initially, the plan was very roughly designed this way:

We will spend a little more than a couple of weeks before coming back to our everyday lives. As most of the times happen, we have booked only the first part of the journey, that is the hotel in Saigon for the first three nights, the flight to Pakse in Laos and the first few nights in the hotel in Pakse (route 1). From there we'll see what will happen, but the routes 2 and 3 are on our main idea of the journey to see the most.
I do not know if you have followed the recent news, but on the 28th of July a part of a hydroelectric dam system has collapsed, discharging on the nearby rivers over  5 billion liters of water. The effects have been devastating for the people who have lost their houses, or loved ones. It is a disaster when these calamities happen in the region where the preparedness is low, and the infrastructures are inadequate to protect the population from similar tragedies. There have been recorded at least 29 people dead, over 1000 missing and over 6000 households lost in areas where slight or no mobile telephone coverage exists.
The fact seems that because of the heavy monsoon rains the "Saddle dam,"(1) which was already suffering from structural problems became overcharged. 
That was the last straw, and within a couple of days it failed and flooded the villages located downstream (4):
Of course, in these kinds of situations there is always the final question: "could this disaster be avoided?" 
This is a kindof answer we (outsiders) cannot give, and we need to remember that to evacuate an area where there isn't any mobile phone coverage, you need more than a couple of days time.
The situation seems to get stabilized day after day, but there will be quite some time before people will be able to have their houses back and for sure they will never have their loved ones back. With this in mind, it is not going to be a sweet holiday, but as usual, my target is not much to enjoy the sun in a five-star resort, but to discover new realities, understanding this world better, one travel at a time.
So far, my wandering has brought me to experience many different realities that allowed me to understand fully how lucky I am. For all the troubles I have been through, it seems less than a small fraction of what people in other countries are going through in their daily lives. Many of the places and the people I have met there have changed my way of seeing the world and will stay in my heart forever.
I will be back next week with other topics I hope you will find interesting.
Until then, I wish you a great weekend!
Stay safe and stay tuned!

The long road of writing a book.

Publishing a book is a journey on a rocky path that involves several stages, from writing and pre-editing to editing, formatting, selecting ...