A Trip Down the Spanish Steps

In my recent thriller, To Die Again (see description at end of blog), the characters of my story are evading bad guys and do the unthinkable…they drive their small car (think Smart Car) down the famous Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy. Since I just spent some time in Rome and stayed not far from the Spanish Steps, I snapped a few shots to share and take you on a short journey down the famous Spanish Steps.

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Few people are out because it is early in the morning. A neat piece of trivia. In the bottom right of photo you can barely see the top corner of a door. John Keats lived and died in an apartment there. (Photo S. Parks)

Considering the pride the Italians have for their historic landmarks, and the millions of dollars that have been put into restorations over the years, driving anything down the steps is an unthinkable act (and can land you in a boatload of trouble$). Drinking or eating lunch on the steps is discouraged. The steps have been, however, a prime meeting place for young and old alike, since their construction (see the crowds below).

The Spanish Steps on a summer evening 2018. (Photo S. Parks)

A little history might help to understand the what, why, and where of the Spanish Steps. The steps are technically called “Scalinata di Trinita dei Monti.” The 135 steps are located in Rome, Italy, and were built on the steep hillside to connect the Piazza Trinita dei Monti (under patronage of French king) at the top to the Piazza di Spagna (Spain) at the bottom. Or you could say it linked the Spanish Embassy at the bottom (which is now off the end of the plaza) to the Trinita dei Monti church up above. How old are these steps? Plans and ideas for the steps began in the 1500s but due to funding, and social and political disagreements, they did not get built until the 1700s. They were designed by Francesco de Sanctis and constructed from 1723-25. Now let’s start at the top of the stairs and work our way down. The explanations are in the photo captions.

At the top of the stairs is a plaza with the church Santissima Trinita dei Monti overlooking the hill. A road covered in square black pavers passes right in front of it. There also stands an obelisk, which is not Egyptian, but a copy made by Romans of an Egyptian obelisk sometime in the 1st to 4th centuries. It is believed to have been used in a private (ruling class) Roman garden. It was erected here in 1798. (Photo S. Parks)

The large convex curve in front of the obelisk is actually the top of the Spanish stairs. This vantage point offers a wonderful view of the city, including the dome of St. Peters. When the day gets busy you will see vendors here, selling flowers and paintings. On each side of the curve are entrances to the stairs as can be seen in the next photo. (Photo S. Parks)

This is one of the two entrances from the top of the Spanish Steps via the Piazza Trinita dei Monti. You can see a vendors umbrella not yet opened.

After you walk down one of the two upper entrance staircases (one can be seen on the left), they coalesce and end in the first of several platforms on the stairs. In the background, you can see the top floors of buildings constructed on the hillside along the stairs.

On each side of the platform above there are again stairs to each side and they continue down to a narrower platform.

This is the second platform from the top. I love the graceful curves and how easy these steps are to take. You hardly feel the climb going up.

This last section has a central and side staircases bringing it down to the piazza at the bottom. Also note the street straight ahead. It is one of the most upscale shopping streets in Rome. The taxi driver who dropped us off in the area told my hubby it wasn’t safe for me to be on the streets until after 7:30 at night. He then winked and said that was when the stores ($$$$) closed.

Much to my surprise, the early Baroque fountain at the bottom was actually built a hundred years before the steps in 1627-29. I’ve seen Fontana della Barcaccia referred to as the fountain of the long or old boat. It is believed to have been designed by Pietro Bernini (the father to the more famous Gian Lorenzo Bernini). The design was also supposed to be that of a sinking boat, and it is certainly sinking into the street.

Other fun facts about the Spanish steps:

-English poet John Keats lived and died (1821 at 25) in a house on the right at the bottom of the steps (26 Piazza di Spagna). I believe it is the Keats-Shelley House museum now.

-The last restoration of the Spanish Steps was in 2016 and Bulgari donated 1.5 mil toward the cause.

-The steps became famous to Americans after the 1953 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. For younger folks, they also showed up in The Talented Mr. Ripley starring Matt Damon.

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If you’re wondering about the book in which I used the Spanish Steps and parts of Rome as a setting for several scenes, check out TO DIE AGAIN, a modern day thriller with science fiction and romantic elements. Links to Amazon and other retailers can be found on my website by clicking here BOOKPAGE.

A woman who doesn’t die.

A human who isn’t easy to kill.

A man who murders for power.

Death doesn’t come easy to Dr. Mona Signoretti, who is closing in on a killer she has tracked for two thousand years. As part of a special FBI unit, her failure to stop him puts at risk the population of Earth as well as the mission to save her part-human race from destruction. When Mona’s undercover role is discovered, and her life-sustaining energy threatened, human FBI agent, Grant Thornton, is assigned to work the case and keep her alive—not an easy task in a world where enemies refuse to die.

Book one of this modern-day thriller series set in the ordinary world, mixes adventure with technology, and politics with science fiction. If you enjoy memorable characters, strong heroes and heroines, and a touch of romance, then dive into the world of Infinitas. Pick up To Die Again by an author of four national writing awards.

Under The Radar Giveaway

This contest has ended and we have winners! Yes, winners. The response exceeded my expectations so I’m giving away an ebook copy of Under the Radar to the second and third place names drawn by a random generator. I have emailed the winners so please check your spam folders. Happy reading!

Winner of the print book: Pat Widder

Winners of an ebook: Pierre Borlase & Diane (no last name)

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If a click on the link in my newsletter brought you here, your name has now been entered to win a print copy of the first book in my latest series.

Please check back on Saturday April 8, 2017. I’ll be posting the name of the winner and will contact them by email.

Happy reading!

*If you are dropping in on this blog and reading this message and like to read thrillers (with adventure, exotic places, and a little romantic tension), sign up for my newsletter by clicking HERE and get the FREE ebook Repossessed.

 

Keep Your Eyes to the Florida Skies

Welcome to the Florida Mystery Writers Blog Hop and Sandy Parks‘ True Airspeed.

“Florida is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

It’s no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories we write are actually inspired by true events in our Sunshine State. Join us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes with our first Blog Hop sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. READ Sandy’s blog about flying in Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, ENTER the contest to WIN a Kindle Paperwhite, and CLICK the links below to read another member’s view of crazy Florida.

Since I write stories full of action-adventure, mystery, and a quirky band of characters who legally steal big airplanes for a living, I chose to write about Florida from the perspective of people who fly in our skies. What do pilots and their passengers encounter living in this swampy, beach-lined, and lightning capital of the US, that they might not in other states? I asked that very question of two pilots at the Sun-N-Fun airshow last week.

T-6 Warbird

T-6 Warbird

Thom Richard, who races P-51 Precious Metal in the Reno Air Races and lives in Kissimmee, had a definitely unique Florida tale. He was flying his T-6 Warbird (similar to the one pictured above) to Marco Island at night. When he approached the airport, he was asked to do a low flyby down the runway. For anyone who flies a unique aircraft, this is not an unusual request. Aviation fans love to watch and hear the powerful (and loud) warbird aircraft. But this was at night, in the dark, when no one would be able to see much. He did as directed and executed a low flyby and came back and landed. After he taxied in, he was curious as to why they requested the flyby. Simple. It was the best way to get the twelve-foot saltwater crocodile off the runway! We have more than gators in Florida.

Thom Richard, Reno Air Race pilot of P-51 Precious Metal.

Thom Richard, Reno Air Race pilot of P-51 Precious Metal, at Sun-N-Fun 2014.

Florida Crocs and Gators can be found in the most unexpected places...like runways.

Florida Crocs and Gators can be found in the most unexpected places…like runways. (Nile croc photo from Wiki Commons/Leigh Bedford. Gator photo by Will Parks.)

Chuck Gardner works at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Texas, but has many hours in the Florida skies. He flies warbirds like the Stearman biplane (shown below), the T-6, or the famous P-51 Mustang. His favorite time for flying in Florida is March in an open cockpit. That time of year a low level flight over central Florida orchards brings the sweet sweet smell of orange blossoms wafting (rather blowing) into the cockpit. Sure hope he doesn’t have allergies.

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Stearman Biplane with the open cockpit makes a great way to smell the orange blossoms in Florida.

On the other hand, Chuck had a number of things were not so great about flying in Florida. There are the afternoon thunderstorms that are accompanied by lightning…lots of lightning. A few years ago a small tornado blew through the Sun-N-Fun airshow at Lakeland, overturning aircraft and tents. No injuries, but a lot of damage and shook-up fans. Mother nature has other very small, very annoying ways to cause problems flying in Florida that every driver here will understand…Love Bugs. Those two little black bugs that are stuck together and airborne. The front end of a car can turn black with bugs stuck to them, and so can the propellors and leading edges of an aircraft. Yuck. BIG, beautiful birds are another claim to fame for the state of Florida. Contact with one in the air or on the ground can cause quite a bit of damage to an aircraft. Chuck said frequently when taxiing out to fly, he has to rev his engines to clear stubborn Sandhill Cranes who refuse to move off the runway.

The Sandhill Crane can be curious and rather fearless, when it comes to cars and planes.

The Sandhill Crane can be curious and rather fearless, when it comes to cars and planes.

Last but not least, since I write about extreme characters who steal/repossess airplanes for a living (REPOSSESSED and coming soon OUTFOXED), I thought I’d mention that there are several people in Florida who have recently become well-known for a reality TV show on Discovery Channel called Airplane Repo. One of the stars is Mike Kennedy who lives in Orlando. He’d make a great character in a novel. Another is Ken Cage of IRG, who has part of his business, International Recovery & Remarketing Group, at the Orlando Executive Airport. It’s a strange world out there, folks, so pay your bills and they won’t take your airplane back.

Airplane Repo star Mike Kennedy and wife (center), Sandy (rt), Test pilot hubby Scott on left.

At 2014 Reno Air Races we ran into Airplane Repo star Mike Kennedy and wife (center), Sandy (rt), Test pilot hubby Scott (lt).

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll come back sometime to read other blog posts on aviation, travel locations, or simply to check out some of the fun photography and crazy stories.

Enter Now to Win a Kindle Paperwhite

Now for the good stuff. As part of this blog hop with other mystery/thriller/suspense writers, we are giving away a Kindle Paperwhite. Just click on the following link and follow the directions to sign up.

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into the participating authors’ email newsletter list. Your information will not be shared with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time. Winner will be notified by email. Authors are not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Winner agrees for their name to be used in conjunction with the contest on FMWA and authors’ social media sites. U.S. Residents only due to postage constraints.

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To continue on this BLOG HOP, VISIT other Florida Mystery Writers, read they Florida stories, and WIN more prizes:

Victoria Allman, Gator Bites, http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog <http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog>
Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca, http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca <http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca>
Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida—How it got to be home, http://www.GreggEBrickman.com/blog.html
Diane Capri, Fishnado!, http://www.dianecapri.com/blog
Nancy J. Cohen, Characters Too Weird to Be True, http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Joan Lipinsky Cochran, The Million Dollar Squatter: Crazy in the Land of Coconuts and Bagels, http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677 <http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677>
jd daniels He Did What? http://www.live-from-jd.com <http://www.live-from-jd.com/>
Joy Wallace Dickinson, “In Florida, It’s Great to Be a Cracker”, http://www.FindingJoyinFlorida.com
Dallas Gorhman, http://www.DallasGorham.com
Linda Gordon Hengerer Crazy Treasure on the Treasure Coast, http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/ <http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/>
Vicki Landis, Eavesdropping 101, http://www.victorialandis.com <http://www.victorialandis.com/>
Sandy Parks, Keep your eyes to the Florida skies, http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com <http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com>
Neil Plakcy, Moscow on the Intracoastal http://www.mahubooks.blogspot.com/
Johnny Ray Utilizing Google Plus Air to Facilitate Author Interviews, http://www.sirjohn.us
Joanna Campbell Slan, Honey, You’ll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf http://www.joannaslan.blogspot.com <http://joannaslan.blogspot.com/

 

Baton Blog Hop

Book 1 in Hawker Inc Series. Winner of Daphne du Maurier Award, Maggie Suspense w/ Romantic Elements, HOLT Award of Merit.

Book 1 in Hawker Inc Series. Winner of Daphne du Maurier Award, Maggie Suspense w/ Romantic Elements, HOLT Award of Merit.

Delightful author JB Lynn of the Killer Chicks invited me to participate in the Baton Blog Hop. This “hop” is of interest to readers who enjoy mystery, thrillers, suspense, or romance, and works this way: I answer a few questions about my work in progress, and then pass the baton along to three other authors. Hopefully that will introduce you to new writers you might have never read before.

Before we start, I’d like to say a few things about JB Lynn who writes the humorous series about a neurotic Hitwoman. If you love to laugh and enjoy quirky characters, this is a series you should enjoy. I’ve also heard she has a dark thriller in her past published with Carina Press. I just added another of her books to my TBR pile.

Now to the questions about my current project. I’ve been working on a series called HAWKER, INC about a team who repossess high-end aircraft. When the rich don’t pay, someone has to take their toys away. What happens when you put an ex-military pilot who grew up in the family casino together with a conman on the run, a mechanic who paints her nails to match the country of operation, and a sexy Greek lawyer who has his own secret agenda? Then, of course, there is the mysterious boss that hides his identity from his crew. The first book in the series, REPOSSESSED, won two major national contests last year.

1. What am I working on? I’m editing OUTFOXED, book 2 in the Hawker, Inc series. This book is unique because it has become relevant because of the missing Malaysian airliner. OUTFOXED deals with the loss of a team member over a botched B737 airliner repossession and the team’s attempt to even the score. What could happen when a B737 goes missing and how is it possible? While the theme may revolve around aviation, I write for the characters (they make me do it). This book deals with a team that has been demoralized by the loss of one of their own. Each sees the death as failure on their part. Come along for a ride to four continents and find out if Jet, Gregori, Lenny and Roxy can pull off this caper and bring their team back together.

2. How does my work differ from others in this genre.

My characters are a bit quirkier than most in the action-adventure, thriller genre. I take suspense and action-adventure, and combine it with touches of humor and personal relationships. Jet is a loner who moves at her own fast pace. Her mother runs a fly-in casino with a dirt strip near Vegas. Gregori, is a legal eagle from an uber wealthy Greek family. He has missing years in his background that reveal he does a lot more than sit behind a desk. Roxy is a female mechanic who believes in only being the best. She is following in her dad’s footsteps. Lenny, a conman, is a displaced New Yorker not able to go home because he stepped on the “boys” toes while extracting Roxy from the midst of trouble. He does the teams groundwork and snooping for the repo team and can usually be counted on to get them into trouble.

3. Why do I write what I do?

First, I love to tell stories and to share them with others. That means putting the story on paper (or digital these days). Take that and mix it with a family who eats, sleeps, and breathes aviation. Visit my website if you’d like to see more details on my dad, hubby, brother, niece, son, and me who are involved in aviation. I flew as a kid with my dad in light airplanes and later learned to fly at Edwards AFB while my husband was going through test pilot school. Yeah,  I only fly puddle jumpers, but I get to live vicariously through the other “s@#t-hot” pilots in the family.

4. How does your writing process work?

My best answer to this is it changes with time, topic, and genre. The one overall process I try to stick with is a relatively thorough plot and character arc. I don’t consider myself a “seat of the pants” writer because my topics necessitate research for topic and locations. There are times, though, when I think I should have done a better job plotting details, and others when it seems I plotted things too tightly and had to loosen up to let my characters breathe. One thing I’ve learned over many years of writing, is that the process is fluid. As a writer, you’ll get better at some things and see where you need to improve on others. That means a tweaking of how you write. My biggest wish…I had more of the journalism touch and could write faster.

More great authors to check out: These authors will be posting next Monday on March 24th.

Enjoy romantic suspense and some inspiration with author Connie Mann. As the blogger at Busy Women~ Big Dreams and a boat captain (sounds wonderfully adventurous), Mann’s Angel Falls is currently #5 on Amazon’s Christian Suspense Romance Bestseller list. Join Regina and Brooks as they protect a young orphan from killers, while struggling to overcome problems from their own troubled pasts. Connie is a serious writer who has been honing her craft to great results. She’s an enjoyable, gracious lady, and a fellow Floridian.

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Hold on for a ride with romantic thrillers from Vanessa Kier and her Surgical Strike Unit. Vanessa is writer friend from the Kiss of Death Chapter. This chapter of writers goes on yearly trips to killer locations all over the US. We’ve been to the CIA, FBI, military installations, the State Department, FEMA underground shelters, fire and police departments, bomb squads (blowing up things was fun!), and have even met the LA mounted police. She has lots of great background to have written the six books in this series about a private special ops group. Visit Vanessa next week at her Facebook page or website.

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Public health nurse, Beverley Bateman, writes murder, mystery, medical thrillers, and romantic suspense. Imagine finding yourself along on a Caribbean cruise with no memory and someone trying to kill you. That’s the premise of Beverley’s latest book “A Cruise to Remember.” Another of my Kiss of Death Chapter mates, Beverley works as hard for the chapter as she does on her writing. Check out her blogspot next Monday to learn more about her books and writing.

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That’s it for the Baton Blog Hop. Please stop by and check out these authors and I welcome any suggestions of authors you love to read.