East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Four Cities

It is all my friend Claire’s fault, of course.
She just posted about this interesting writing prompts website, and in particular she mentioned the prompt about describing your city as a person.

I did some attempt at it on Claire’s page, but then I thought I’d like to expand on that.
Leaving Castelnuovo Belbo out of the picture, if you please, because after my first attempt at Claire’s, I am sure it would be just an exercise in necrophilia.
And because it’s not my city, or town or village or hole in the ground.
I’m just living here, but I do not belong. Thank goodness!

As I mentioned in the past, I am a two-cities kind of guy.
A girl I knew once said it’s because I am a Gemini.
But I really have four cities, so maybe I’m a Gemini with Gemini ascendant, who knows. Or maybe it’s just superstitious rubbish, and I’m in fact one of those “city slickers” Joe Jackson mentioned a long time ago…

We think we’re pretty smart
Us city slickers get around
And when the going’s rough
We kill the pain and relocate
We’re never married
Never faithful not to any town

So here goes, my web-exclusive Four Cities, an exercise in impromptu urban fantasy.
Enjoy. Continue reading


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You know that sensation, when you are reading a book and you are one one hand completely captivated by the story and by the author’s technique and on the other hand you are saying to yourself “Damn! I wish I had written this!”
It happens to me sometimes.
51U5hA-9TQL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_More often than one would expect. I guess it’s because I always read cool books.

The last time it happened with Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and right now is happening with Edgar Cantero’s horror/comedy Meddling Kids.
That not only is a great book, written in a highly imaginative and original language, and not only is the sort of story I wish I could write.
It’s a book that appears to have been written for me.
I am the target audience.
And I am a happy guy.
I mean, a story referencing Scooby Doo, and It and H.P. Lovecraft?
At the same time a comedy and a pretty tough, ’80s-style horror?


Here’s the ad copy…

SUMMER 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster—another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids.

1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader . . . which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years.

The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

I’ll write more about this baby as soon as I’m finished with it (soon, by the way it’s going).

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It was love at first sight

Two days ago I fell in love.
No, hold your horses, it’s not a romantic thing.
Two days ago I fell in love with a beautiful woman designed by my friend Angelo Montanini, fantasy artist, fashion designer and teacher, one of the giants of Italian Tolkien-inspired illustration, and the man who developed the earlier concepts for Hope & Glory.
He published this on his Facebook page and his Instagram, and I was completely blown away.

montanini gun girl 2

Isn’t she a wonder?
Doesn’t she instantly suggest you stories, adventures, a life of danger and mystery and romance? Continue reading


The Hour of the Dragon

For a short course I gave online in the past weeks, I went back and revisited The Hour of the Dragon, a novel by Robert E. Howard, also known as Conan the Conqueror.
This is the only novel about Conan ever written by Howard, and it was used many years ago to introduce the character to the Italian public. In this, the Italian publisher followed the lead of Lancer Books, that in 1950 started its Conan series with this same book.
It was not the first Conan book I ever read (that was Conan the Adventurer) but it was the first Conan story by Howard I ever read in English. And I read The Hour of the Dragon in the Berkeley edition curated by the late Karl Edward Wagner, and based directly on copies of Weird Tales. Without, that is, the editorial interventions of De Camp.


Much later, in the mid-90s, I managed to get a copy of the Donald M. Grant hardback edition, that rests on a secret, heavily guarded shelf, too priceless to be contemplated by mortal eyes.
And finally, I re-read the book in the past week in the Gollancz complete Conan Centenary hardback edition.
Let’s take a look at this thing. Continue reading


A brief ramble,like every summer

There is a moment, when you are working as a freelance writer, that’s terrible and scary. It comes regularly, usually in the summer, as August approaches.
The paid jobs dry up, and you catch yourself out of breath, metaphorically and literally, as you see money go and never come in, and overdue bills come to haunt you as letters or phone calls from the energy company or the phone company.
It’s a frantic moment, in which you find yourself juggling too many projects in the hopes that one, just one, will go down properly and get you enough to make the crossing of this desert, and bring you to the safety of Autumn. A safety you are not sure really exists.

Maybe I talked already about this state of affairs, in the past. As I said, it hits hard as August approaches, and you hear the Beatles in your head

See how they run.

It will get better.
I know it will because this is the third August I face, and still, here I am.
But it’s bad, really bad.
It’s anxiety and fear, amped up to eleven but at the same time not immediate, not close enough to wrestle it.
Add to that the torpid countryside in the heat, the desolation and the intellectual isolation of this backwater place where they can’t spell your name properly, and you get an idea of the horror.


And yet…

Continue reading


Rejection slips

Got a rejection in the mail this morning.
Short pitch for a novelette – general plot and a 500 words scene.
It was a long shot.
Two hours at the keyboard, one night, a long time ago.
It happens.
Getting rejection slips is part of the game of writing and submitting to publishers.
Sometimes our stories are just not good enough.
No conspiracies, no misunderstandings of our art, no bullshit.
The submitted material was not good enough.
A writer trying to make this their work should learn to take stock, accept the rejection and move on.
And start thinking at possible ways to recycle the material.

Talking of which… Of course my Patreon supporters might get a chance at reading both outline and sample scene, for their delectation.
I suffered for my art, now it’s their turn.