A new blog from the creator of The Vincent Zandri Vox about writing, traveling, and the world in the present tense.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Killer Off Roading in Chianti

In this video, we come upon a felled tree that is blocking the road. Checco decides to get a little creative in attempting to move it out of the way so we can pass on through, reach the summit, and then drive down into the valley and the little town of Greve where we will have lunch.


The Chianti region of Italy is renown for its mountain vineyards, olive oil farms, a lush countryside filled with wild game including deer and boar, and a peaceful, healthy lifestyle that hasn't changed in centuries. Mostly it's know for its famous wines. It's a place to visit in order to escape the hustle and congestion of the cities. A place to eat, pray and love as the saying goes. To forget about your mortality for a while.

Or is it?

This past spring I wrote about motorbiking in the Chianti mountains. At the time it seemed like a dangerous prospect. But that was nothing compared this past Tuesday when I accompanied my fixer and friend Francesco "Checco" Tassi on an off-road tour of the Chianti mountains in his small Jeep. Imagine if you will, motoring at high speed along steep narrow paths that barely accompany the width of the vehicle, with deep, brown-water hidden ruts on the driver's side and only inches (and sometimes not even that) from the passenger side door, sheer cliff drops off one hundred and two hundred feet or more, and maybe you get the picture.

And I thought Egypt was dangerous.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dear Random House/Penguin Author....

Dear Random House/Penguin Author:

Congratulations on the merger of the two giants who control your career and your life. I just wanted to let you know that from this point on, your agent will be telling you, "All's cool bro, no problems. Random House/Penguin (...or insert imprint HERE) loves you man. They totally fucking dig your style. You are their dough-ray-me future...Oh, sorry, gotta go, call from the Bertlesmann bros on the other line..."

Right now, author, you are feeling sort of sick. Your stomach is tight. You haven't slept much over the past few days. You might have a headache. You are irritable towards friends and family. You can't work.

You're not getting a straight answer from anyone.

All you want to know is, "Is my present publishing contract secure in the midst of this new merger?"
Or, "Are you going to renew my contract like you promised?"

You probably gave up your day job once you were told a major pub had accepted your new book and were paying you a six figure advance to start out with. Maybe you told your entire circle of friends and family about your good fortune.Maybe even the local newspaper ran a "local boy/girl makes good story" on you." Maybe you've never been so happy in your life. Maybe even your significant other now believes that all those horrible moments of doubt...all those arguments about "getting a real job and writing on the side" ... were for naught.

Your ship has finally docked. Or so you thought.

Problems: Maybe your only source of income is the advance promised you by RH and/or Penguin. Perhaps, they paid you the first installment but now that a merger is taking place, your agent can't seem to get anyone who knows what they're doing on the line. Maybe you never considered what might happen in the face of a corporate merger. Of course you didn't. What writer anticipates a corporate merger?

Maybe you have new friends in New York who work in Editing, or who work in Marketing. Maybe you have already partied with them and now consider them your buds. Maybe they can help you. Because that's what friends on the inside do, right? They help you.

But then, you're not hearing from your new friends no matter how much you call, email, or text.

Maybe their fate is as hellish as yours. Maybe after years of service they are being let go. Maybe the corporate merger is dictating that they go find new jobs in greener pastures. Perhaps pastures that have nothing to do with publishing.

Dear author. I hate to say this, but there's a pretty good bet that unless you're already bringing in publishing numbers equal to James Patterson or Harlan Coben, you are going to be dropped from the list. You are going to be the "casualty" of the inevitable "cleaning house" that the new RH/Penguin company will have no choice but to do. Because after all, these conglomerates are two white whales that are already dying and making them co-join like two gigantic Legos ain't gonna work. For some reason, the powers that be feel like by joining up, they can beat a publisher who actually cares deeply about its authors: Amazon Publishing.

Dear author...Have no fear.
The future is here and if you have talent, endurance, and the willingness to adapt, you will survive to publish another day. You will be around for years to come. Your former, now gigantic conglomerate publisher will not be. In fact, it is already dead.



Friday, November 2, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood the New Brown Shirts

That sign behind me doesn't say Benevolent Men's Club...It says Muslim Brotherhood Headquarters. It's a blurred because we had to move fast or else face some serious trouble...

Anyone out there who believes the Muslim Brotherhood is a myth or that these guys are still men of ideas and simple faith who gather together every Friday to play cards and shoot the shit or that they are not interested in pretty much crushing anything Judeo-Christian in the world, had better listen up.

The MB exists.
They are filled with rage and hate directed at the west.
They carry weapons.
Dangerous weapons. AKs locked and loaded with doubled-up banana clips held together with both duct tape and colorful cloth, the colors of which represent a specific set of beliefs (see paragraph no. 1).

Not only are Jews unwelcome in Egypt, they require special documentation. There is, at present, one synagogue left in Cairo, but it is a tourist attraction now since there are estimated to be less than 200 Jews left in a city of ten million inhabitants. I can bet that estimate is inflated. Because if I were a Jew here, I'd be leaving. 

In many ways, Egypt and much of the Middle East has become pre-war Germany and the Muslim Brotherhood, the new Brown Shirts. The police command little respect here as evidenced by the motorists who fearlessly scream and shout out obscenities at them. Perhaps it's always been that way or just perhaps, the police aren't exactly the ones in charge here. People, especially women, have experienced their physical brutality in the streets.  

Not only is it dangerous for me to admit I'm an American (I've been Canadian for weeks), but should I tell anyone who cares that my significant other and our daughter is Jewish, I might have a real problem on my hands. Perhaps you feel I'm being overly dramatic. Trust me, I don't want to test my theory out in any which way possible. So I've kept my mouth shut, my eyes and ears open, and my fingers crossed as I make my way across the desert country.

Listen, in many ways I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But it's one thing reading about what's happening here in the papers, but it's quite another thing living it. Fearing it. It's disconcerting, to say the least. knowing there are countries that exist in the world where my loved ones are not welcome, not to mention, safe. 

 Martyrs R' Us....

At present, the Middle East is exploding. What results from fallout of that explosion remains to be seen. One thing is for certain, if the Muslim Brotherhood continues to take charge, like they have in Egypt (much to the dismay of many Egyptians, especially women), then a major Judeo-Christian vs. radical Muslim conflict is inevitable.

But wait just one minute...I totally forgot about 9/11/2012 Benghazi, Libya raid and the simultaneous attack on the US consulate in Cairo's Tahrir Square...I've forgotten about more than a decade of conflict in the Middle East. We already are at war. Or perhaps I should be a little more open-minded and objective about the whole situation. In the words of the late journalist Martha Gellhorn who spent her fair share of time in pre-war Germany: "Fuck all that objectivity shit."