By James Sajo
This past week I went to the local middle school/high school to meet with a group of kids interested in writing. I’ve made this trip four or five years in a row now, and am always charged up by the enthusiasm and interest they have. Once they got beyond “How much money do you make as a writer?” (and they don’t seem intimidated by the paltry sum it is) we engaged in cool discussions.
We talked about why it’s important to write well and what can they do to get better at it. They were curious about my daily schedule and how to be disciplined enough to stay focused on the task (it seems focus is an issue with teenagers – who knew?).
During my one hour meet at the school, the kids asked plenty of great questions.
Next, we did an active writing exercise, substituting words and phrases to a painfully boring sentence to make it come alive with vivid descriptions and compelling verbs.
They did seem concerned at how frequently a writer is told “no” by agents or publishers or editors (this writer is, anyway). I asked them if they get back up when they fall down, and they got it.
Get ready for a group writing exercise
I left them with two pieces of advice on being a better writer: read more and write more.
It is so gratifying to find a new (good) review of my work. Here are two new ones that have recently been put on amazon.com. Thanks to both reviewers for their kind words about “The Salome Effect.” Of course, I’d love to get more…
This is the story of an American in Italy who falls irrevocably in love with a painting by Carravaggio and a sensual stripper, set within the beautiful backdrop of Torino. Exquisitely evocative and colourful this atmospheric masterpiece ensnares the senses and illuminates the mind, by transporting you the very heart of Italy’s vibrant culture. James Sajo flawlessly captures Italian life; the passion and obsession with both fine art and mouth-watering food, which is utterly delectable and piquant. This astonishingly unexpected and profoundly absorbing story swept me away, with its intoxicating concoction of lust, genius, deadly desires and gluttony that was so darkly disturbingly magnetic! Having never visited Italy I was captivated by the richness of the ambience and the places described in such detail, hence I am keener than ever to visit the location of where “The Salome Effect” takes place.
This fantastic fictional tale about a former American Soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, a spicy Romanian stripper, a priceless Italian painting and a mysterious murder is incredibly impressive. Utterly believable and highly readable this novel containing likeable, interesting characters was an unexpected surprise and delight. Cleverly combining exquisite detail with inspired creative vision, the author has created an imaginative masterpiece of sheer wonderment that takes you on a thrilling ride. If you were looking for a sub-genre “noir” fiction that is enjoyable and that has a fast-paced plotline, then this would be my top recommendation to you.
4.5 star rating
Format: Kindle Edition
The Salome Effect is about an American who lives in Torino, Italy, and has fallen in love with a local stripper, as well as a painting by Caravaggio. The plot tells of his plan to have both. What really draws you in as a reader are little details of Italian life that the author has sprinkled in. These make you want to be in Torino – where chocolate truffles are served with hefty Barolo wine, where a homemade ‘simple’ dinner of linguini, egglpant, and Barbera wine sounds exquisite, and where dank and smelly back alleys contrast to adjacent and magnificent locations that include La Raggia palace – bigger than the Palace of Versailles. I’ve visited Piemonte in Italy south of where this book is set, but now – having read this book – am fired up to visit Torino.
This is a very readable story about cops, robbers, and community. It’s about how love can drive a man to outlandish ends, how friendship and deals sometimes trounce the law, and about how a person can be seduced not only by a beautiful woman, but by food, art, and the need for a sense of belonging. Characters include a hefty Turkish bouncer, a corrupt politician, a knife-wielding lout, and a powerful painting that draws their situations together. This book will make you want to spend time in Torino, and to enjoy the local food, wine, and galleries. Well done!
This week, on Friday I will make my annual visit to the local high school to talk to kids about writing and why it is cool. I think I’ll start with the difference between
“Let’s eat, Grandma!”
“Let’s eat Grandma!”
It is an old ploy, but the high school kids might like it (and hopefully get the point!)
My next big project comes from that genre. I’ll be telling the story of a woman from the House of Savoy during the 17th century. In the mid-19th century, the Savoy King was the driving force that unified the Italian peninsula into the country we know today as Italy.
But two hundred years earlier they were, quite literally, a house divided. Duke Vittorio Amadeo died (some believe poisoned by his enemies), leaving his wife Cristina to serve as Regent until her young son could rule the House. She had the qualifications: her older brother was King of France, one sister was Queen of England, another Queen of Spain. Her mother was from the powerful Medici family of Florence.
Cristina, Duchess of Savoy
But the fallen Duke’s two brothers Tommaso and Maurizio were not happy with the choice of Cristina. They were allied with the Spanish throne and feared her ties to France threatened their own ambitions. Spain and France were already involved in battles and skirmishes throughout Europe. The danger to the House of Savoy was very real.
Cristina, Duchess of Savoy ruled for 26 years. She sometimes battled sometimes negotiated but won a delicate balance between Spain and France, outsmarted and outlasted her two brothers-in-law in a bloody civil war, and raised four children. She instituted political and cultural reforms, constructed roads, built hospitals, and improved the living conditions of her subjects.
Everybody has heard of Elizabeth 1 of England or Catherine the Great of Russia, but almost nobody knows the story of Cristina. I plan to change that.
She was The Royal Lady to her subjects, who loved her.
I am nearly finished with the research phase and (almost) ready to start writing. I’ll keep you posted!