Vincent B. LoCoco – Author

Archive for November 2017

Getting to Know Maria Callas

La Divina

Prima Donna of the Opera

All names for the great Greek/American Soprano, Maria Callas.

Maria owned the opera stage in the 1950s, singing all over the World including at the Metropolitan and La Scala in Milan.

Often paired on stage and record with the tenor, Giuseppe di Stefano, Callas brought forth from the music pure emotion and pathos.

A thought hit me just the other day. There are people in this world who have not heard or seen her sing one note.

In today’s busy world, take a three-minute break and watch this clip from Puccini’s Tosca. The performance is from Covent Garden in London. The year is 1964. Franco Zeffirelli, the great movie and opera director, was the stage director for this performance.

An opera singer can be put into two simple categories. The first one hits all the notes, sings a perfect line, and the technique is spot on. In other words, a wonderful singer, but all rather boring and bland. The other type of singer exposes their very soul on the stage. It’s all emotion and power. That’s an exciting singer. That’s Maria Callas.

You see her very being. Her performance is a window into her soul. What a talent.

Chip LoCoco

Author of Tempesta’s Dream and A Song for Bellafortuna

Dilly Dilly

I hate the dilly dilly commercial so much, I will no longer drink BudLight.

If you must hear dilly, dilly on occasion, I then recommend you listen to the wonderful singer, Laura Wright, with another beer of your choice.  Enjoy.

Impressing the Gatekeepers – The Literary Agents

 

 

Love it or hate it, Literary Agents are the gatekeepers of the the publishing  world. An agent is the person who deems whether or not your manuscript is ready for publication and, this is a big one, if the agent thinks its sellable.

What does sellable mean in this context? I have come to learn that it means in the agent’s mind is their an Editor out there at a publishing house who they deal with who would take on this project. Period end of story. Agents know what those Editors like and what they are looking for and thus, if your work fits that mold, bam, you might just get picked up by an agent. It’s very subjective and your little manuscript is just one of hundreads that the agent received that week. Is it hard? Yes it is.

So, of course, the key is getting your work to rise above the rest. How is that done? A well written, catchy, query letter. I know what you are asking at this point. What the hell is a query letter?

A query letter is a few paragraphs describing the work, and a little bit about your writing career. That’s it. Usually no longer than a page and just a few paragraphs. That query letter, although short, is the key to the kingdom. Somehow, someway, within those first few sentences you must write something so compelling that the agent desires to keep reading and if lucky enough, likes it so much that they then request that you send to them the manuscript.

That’s a lot of pressure for the person writing a query letter. You have worked months, perhaps years, on the manuscript, yet it all comes down to this query letter. Like I said, love it or hate it, that’s the rules of the game.

So, here are my few tips for writers out there.

  1.  Make sure you research the agent and what they are looking for. For example, if an agent only likes books about 14th century England, you really don’t want to send a query letter to that agent your story about the zombie apocalypse in 2017.
  2. It’s hard to find an agent. You will be rejected, often. Keep in mind that a lot of very successful writers were rejected by agents. Keep trying.
  3. All agents know accept the query letter by email. Makes rue your direct your email to the correct agent and that you spell their name right.
  4. Follow their submission guidelines which can be found on the literary agent websites. Some agents want a few pages of the manuscript sent with the query letter. You must abide by their rules. Remember, it’s their game and it’s their rules.
  5. A legitimate agent does not charge a fee to read your material. They are only paid on the commission they receive if they are able to sell your work. Do not deal with agents wanting you to pay them anything up front.
  6. If an agent calls you to enter into an agreement to represent you, please make sure you have a great bottle of wine to celebrate. But, keep in mind, that’s only step one. A big step, but only step one. Step two is the agent selling the work to an editor.

So, as you can see, the query letter begins this whole process. Trust me, the day an agent calls you and says that love your work and want to represent it, is a day you will not forget.

In closing, I wanted to give to you an example of a query letter. Below is my query letter for A Song for Bellafortuna, my second novel. This query letter got a lot of responses from agents to see the work and it also landed me an agent. So, before letting you review it, let me just say that I wish you the best of luck in your writing career.

 

Query for A Song for Bellafortuna

Considering the way life is lived today, I will tell you of a time and place where the people lived their lives with a heroic passion for decency. Bellafortuna, Sicily was such a place and the setting of my historical novel, A Song for Bellafortuna.

The manuscript was selected as a short list Finalist in the William Faulkner Literary Competition held in conjunction with the Words and Music Festival in New Orleans.

John Biguenet, author of Oyster and The Torturer’s Apprentice and a distinguished English Professor at Loyola has read the manuscript and declared that it is an inspiring story of a Sicilian village threatened by commerce but saved by opera. He said it is a quiet, reflective, and meditative work. It reminds him of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

In 1908, the great Neapolitan opera tenor, Enrico Caruso, learned that his wife had run off with his chauffeur, leaving him to care for his two children. Both humiliated and devastated at his loss, Caruso traveled from Florence to Sicily and Tunis to get away from the crush of reporters hounding him over the news. I used that historical trip as the impetus behind my story.

For years, Bellafortuna was a great producer of wine and olive oil. However, with the arrival of the Vasaio family, production over time is gradually lost and the villagers soon find themselves in debt to the very powerful Vasaio family, who acquires the villagers’ harvest and sells the harvests to other wineries and olive presses throughout Italy .

However, one family in the village, the Sanguinettis, remained outside the control of the Vasaios. But the reason for this blessing haunted Antonio Sanguinetti every day of his life. His father had worked closely with the Vasaios, aiding them in keeping the other villagers in debt. Since then, Antonio lives his life trying to overcome what his father had done. Antonio’s own son, Giuseppe Sanguinetti, follows through with his father’s mission; to rid the village of the Vasaios, bring freedom to the villagers, and once again produce the wine and olive oil that had brought glory to the village a long time ago.

With the great opera composer Giuseppe Verdi’s choral song of freedom from Nabucco, ‘Va, pensiero’, as their rallying cry, the villagers slowly come together and realize that through music and the love and kindness of the Sanguinettis, there could be a better life in the village.

A chance meeting with Enrico Caruso many years before by Giuseppe Sanguinetti leads to a wager with the powerful Vasaio family that if Caruso would ever sing in the village, then the villagers would achieve freedom.

So, in 1908, when Caruso flees to Palermo , Sicily , the entire village of Bellafortuna mobilizes to try to convince the great tenor to sing in Bellafortuna and bring them freedom from the Vasaios. The end of the story is poignant and suspenseful. Will Caruso come or will the villagers hatch a plan of their own to bring freedom to their village?

Cavaliere Ufficiale Aldo Mancusi, President of the Enrico Caruso Museum of America with regard to my manuscript has stated that, “The book was a joy to read. It is a wonderful story, told in a magical way.”

I am an attorney in New Orleans and an author. My first novel, Tempesta’s Dream, was named as an Amazon best seller and won the Pinnacle Award in Historical Fiction. A Song for Bellafortuna is a tribute to all of my Sicilian ancestors.

I hope you find this brief description engaging and such that you would like to see the work. The manuscript is finished and presently is about 286 pages or 80,000 words.

Thank you for your time and your consideration.

Chip LoCoco

 

 

 

The Student Prince

One of my grandmother’s favorite movies was The Student Prince. A wonderful musical about a prince who falls in love with a bar maid in Hidelberg Germany.

 

That film introduced me to the voice of Mario Lanza, the great American tenor, which in turn led me to a lifelong love of opera.

The history behind the making of the film is quite interesting.

Mario Lanza was hired to play the main lead. He first went into the studio and recorded the soundtrack – which rumor has it he cut all the songs in one take.

On the very first day of filming, he got into a spat with the director who felt that his singing on the tracks and his expressiveness on film was too over the top – to emotional. More operatic, than Broadway. Lanza walked off the set and quit the film that day. (The belief that he was sacked because of being overweight is simply not true and was created by MGM to disparage him)

MGM’s contract allowed the use of Lanza’s voice for the film even though he had quit the production. They hired the British actor, Edmund Purdom, to lip sync to Mario’s voice. He truly does a remarkable job in the film. But it is Lanza’s voice that makes this move soar. As Purdom recalled years later, “It was enough to make you sweat, just listening to that voice.”

 

In what must have been satisfying to Lanza, upon release of the film and a record of the songs, the record was much more of a success than the film.

Here is a clip from the movie of the great song – Beloved. My God – what a voice.

If you have the chance, watch this movie and be blown away at a once in a lifetime voice.

Chip LoCoco

Author of Temepsta’s Dream and A. Song for Bellafortuna

A New Orleans Italian Sandwich Creation

Salvatore Lupo was the owner of Central Grocery in New Orleans. He catered to the large Sicilian-American immigrant population who settled in and worked around the French Quarter. Salvatore Lupo is best known as the creator of the muffuletta

Marie Lupo Tusa, daughter of the Central Grocery’s founder, tells the story of the sandwich’s origin in her 1980 cookbook, Marie’s Melting Pot:

One of the most interesting aspects of my father’s grocery is his unique creation, the muffuletta sandwich.  The muffuletta was created in the early 1900’s when the Farmers’ Market was in the same area as the grocery.  Most of the farmers who sold their produce there were Sicilian.  Everyday they used to come of my father’s grocery for lunch.

They would order some salami, some ham, a piece of cheese, a little olive salad, and either long braided Italian bread or round muffuletta bread.  In typical Sicilian fashion, they ate everything separately.  The farmers used to sit on crates or barrels and try to eat while precariously balancing their small trays covered with food on their knees.  My father suggested that it would be easier for the farmers if he cut the bread and put everything on it like a sandwich; even if it was not typical Sicilian fashion.  He experimented and found that the ticker, braided Italian bread was too hard to bite but the softer round muffuletta was ideal for his sandwich.  In very little time, the farmers came to merely ask for a “muffuletta” for their lunch.

For a city known for its food, it’s only fitting that for Sicilian-Americans, New Orleans is home to one of their most iconic sandwiches.

Chip LoCoco

New Orleans Author