Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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It’s not the years, baby, it’s the mileage

Today was the first proper sunny day in months, and we met with our friend Fabrizio for a chat and some social interaction of the kind that’s not done in online meetings. So we took a jaunt to Costigliole, where Fabrizio has his house and his writing shack. And because he’s a much more active and fit person than I’ll ever be, he took us on a long walk among the hills.

And boy am I out of shape.
The exercise completely floored me, making it clear that I better start doing something about my (lack of) activity, or I’ll end up like one of those old men that roll on the floor instead of walking.

On the other hand, the fatigue brought inspiration – and I am about to pitch a new story to a publisher that might (only might) be interested in a story of mine.
An active life also improves mental agility.
But what the heck, wasn’t it a meatgrinder of a walk…


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Beginnings

In the last year, keeping my Patreon up to date has been hard – in part because of the general sense of fatigue that weighed me down, in part because of the need to try and sell everything I was writing, in order to cover the bills and buy food.
So yes, I have been a very bad Patreon Creator – and I have lost a few Patrons because of this, and I am really sorry, because these are people I have let down.

But now things are, if not looking up, at least no longer looking sideways, and I’ve just started a new series of Patrons-only posts, in which I will pick the opening of a novel or short story, and analyze it, to see what the author did, what work the first lines do in the economy of the book.

These are short posts, that I will upload both in English and Italian, and are a fun way to look at writing technique and, maybe, discover new and old books.
Being short, I can manage to put up two per week, for as long as I have novels to examine. Half the posts about the openings will be uploaded in the weekends, and go to all my Patrons, and the other half will be available only to the stalwarts of the Five Bucks Brigade. These I will post during the week.

For starters, I have posted the opening of C.S. Forester’s classic adventure novel, The African Queen, for all my supporters, and the opening of Daniel Kehlmann’s Thirty Years War fantasy Tyll for my Five Bucks Patrons only.


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Down the Ulamba river

I am reading C.S. Forester’s The African Queen, the classic 1935 adventure story that in 1951 was turned into a movie by John Huston, featuring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. I must have seen the film a thousand times, and it remains one of the all-time great romantic adventure films, but I had never read the original novel – nor was I particularly familiar with C.S. Forester’s other books. Sure, I saw a number of adaptations of his Hornblower stories, but I had never read any.

And I must say I am impressed by Forester’s narrative economy and skill in creating characters and bringing them alive on the page. The prose is lean and direct, the images vivid, and the psychology of the characters masterfully presented. The lot, with an almost total lack of artifice. This is entertainment, without any conceit or affectation, and yet it manages to be literature.
Really, I am surprised they don’t study this book in schools – and it really is a concise, fun master class in how to write an adventure story.

And the good news is, while I spent some of my hard-earned money for a copy of the novel, you can actually download an ebook edition for free, from this page.
I really recommend the novel – if you are a fan of the Bogart/Hepburn movie, doubly so.
And if you read it – or if you knew it already – tell me what you think of it in the comments.


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Crows & Foxes

About one year ago, before all hell broke loose, and before I found myself trapped into the Ghostwriting Job from Hell, I started working on a project I called The Conversations of Crows and Foxes.
I even announced it on my Patreon.

Then, as we know, everything went to hell in a handbasket, but the idea remained – I’d love to write a series of imaginary folk tales, using them to explore a secondary world, a fantasy land different from ours, but not too different.

As it usually happens, the project has laid dormant for twelve months, but today I received a copy of this photo…

… and it looks like it’s time to get to work.

It makes you wonder what they are talking about, right?


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Back to high school

Today’s challenge is writing a 5000-words horror story that’s due for submission by Monday. I have the story outlined, and I’ve set down the first 2000 words – which also means the story will probably be closer to 6000 than 5000 – but it’s OK, because the top hard limit is 10.000 words, so I’m fine.
And yes, I have been told that all this talking about word-count and required lengths and other “technicalities” detracts from True Art(R) and impoverishes my Muse(R), because imagination should be free-flowing and unbound.
I have been told that.
By people that never published a single line of work.

Incidentally, I believe that discipline and restraints help creativity.
So, on we go with my horror story, and as the two characters are about to face the monster and fight for their lives, I’m taking a pause for a cup of tea.

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The long and short of it

The Shortlist for the BSFA Award‘s been published, and I am not in it.
Ah, what a pity.
But this was my first, if marginal, nomination for an international professional award, and it was great as long as it lasted. It means I’m doing something right, sometimes.
For the rest, as the Buddha said, expectations are the root of suffering, and indeed I held no expectations – for this reason I say that not making the Shortlist is a pity, but actually not a disappointment.

On the plus side, the interview I gave one month ago to the local newspaper and apparently was lost or otherwise disappeared and vanished, will now probably resurface. And they’ll get my name right this time.

Back to writing.


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What a week!

Sometimes life gets better than fiction – and mind you, I write thrillers, fantasy and horror, stuff featuring pigmy zombie cannibals, so that “better” must be taken with a grain of salt.
A big grain of salt.

Last summer, while the pandemic was all the rage and the nation was going in and out of lockdown, some of my power bills got lost – never delivered, for some reason or other. I tried to get in touch with my power company, and got dead letter on the whole front – no reply to my mails, perpetual muzak on the phone.
I worried, but not that much – I mean, services companies always find a way to get their money, right?
So I waited for a signal.
I paid the bills as they came, and waited for developments.

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