Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Karavansara Free Library: 7 books by Sven Hedin

sven hedinThe Karavansara Free Library does Sven Hedin, and it’s quite a feat.
A true explorers’ explorer, Hedin had a colossal output of writings, and he is certainly one of the essential authors when it comes to Central Asia and the Silk Road.
“Geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, travel writer, and illustrator of his own works”, to quote Wikipedia, Hedin did more than anyone else for the exploration of Central Asia, and his accounts are a collection of sharp scientific observation, anecdotal narrative and adventure.
Sometimes more academical than the works of Rosita Forbes and Emily Hahn, Hedin’s books can sometimes sound a tiny little bit self-celebratory, but really, the man was all over Asia and really went where no man had gone before. Well, no European man at least.
Granted, he sometimes sounds like he was too much in love of his own myth, and certainly being chummy with Hitler (that was a fan of his) did not do any good for his post-war popularity, but in all fairness he soon found out what monsters he was being chummy with, and he did what he could to stop their madness.

“He was a pioneer and pathfinder in the transitional period to a century of specialized research. No other single person illuminated and represented unknown territories more extensively than he.”

The Internet Archive holds a wealth of his books, but here we will only list a few titles, let’s say Sven Hedin’s Essential Bookshelf. Continue reading


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Better Never Told, day 5

Day five came and went and I finally cashed in my extra words.
A number of practical issues came up today, and in the end I started writing at 8 pm and finished at 2 am, including a number of pauses.

Then the story got lost.
It was not supposed to happen, as I had my set pieces in order in my mind and only to put on the page, but it did not work out.
I stumbled into a single glaring logical hole at the core of my structure, and as a result, I had to backtrack and try to set things straight.

Now backtracking is never a good idea – the standard practice should be to go on writing, and just make a note, directly in the text, about the changes that will be needed in the previous chapters, to be made during revision.
That’s what I should have done, but I was foolish and I backtracked. A character shifted from thirty years of age to fifty, and more infodumps were sneaked into the structure.Fire-Rescue-Equipment-Sign-NHE-6885_300
End result: 6300 words written in almost six hours, and then I really could not take it anymore, and I cashed in my 700 words bonus,
The total word count now is 25.004. No more bonuses, no more extras.
Tomorrow I will need to write 8000 words, and 9000 on Sunday.
And then it will be done.
Wish me luck.


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Marathon or 100 meters?

The whole point, of course, is not to suck.
No, OK, let’s me get this from the start.
I was discussing with a friend, 36 hours back, whether what I am doing with my 42000 words in 7 days challenge is like running a marathon or running the 100 meters.
In other words, is it a matter of endurance or is it a matter of speed?
From what I saw so far, it is both and none of them at the same time.
Last night, I’ve been able to write 2800 words in two hours – my standard “cruising speed” when writing being roughly 1000 words per hour, this means 40% more than my usual.
On the other hand, what’s allowing me to go on is not speed, is the need to reach the current target.
It’s a matter of staying focused, and keep writing. Continue reading


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Better Never Told: day 4

Today was the first really hard day of this challenge.
penne-allarrabiataI was expecting a heavy day, and it was just so. I started writing late, wasted some time due to an unexpected disaster (a small flooding of my kitchen due to a broken bucket) and other engagements (including cooking my killer *penne all’arrabbiata+ for dinner), and basically I started at eight and finished at 2 am, in four sessions of writing.
But it’s all right – I wrote 6100 words, further increasing my extra fund of words.
Today’s part might be deemed somewhat “infodump-y” by some, but after all there is a point in which I must give you a bit of background.
The story currently clocks at 18.700 words, and is going in the right direction.
I have the next plot points laid out clearly in my mind, and tomorrow we’ll go for the 7000 words mark.
It occurred to me that by doing this incremental thing, I’ll be writing more in the next three days than I wrote in the first four so far.
The balance, so to speak, of the story, is about to shift. Tomorrow we pass the halfway-point, and the novel begins finishing.
Or something.51+BO6eijoL

The soundtrack for today’s writing was provided by Renaissance, with their album Scheherazade and other Stories, which is quite good, and it suited the – limited – action of today’s chapters.

Now a cup of tea, and then I’ll try and write a post for tomorrow.
No, better – a mug of chamomile infusion, and  I’ll write a post tomorrow morning, so I won’t risk it disappearing again.


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The strange case of the vanishing post

Jeremy_Brett_as_Sherlock_Holmes… which would make for a good, if derivative, Holmes pastiche.
But after all, aren’t all pastiches derivative?1

The fact is, my scheduled post from last night vanished without a trace come the morning – which is somewhat apt, in a fantasy/horror sort of way, but it also means I’ll have to rewrite it from scratch.

It’s the second time something like this happens in ten years of blogging.
The first was about two years ago, on my Italian blog.
I was going through a massive writing bout back then, too.
Rule for survival: NEVER schedule your post late at night when suffering from sleep deprivation.

In other news, I’ve started re-watching the Jeremy Brett Holmes series, and might, one day, write about it.
Or write a Holmes pastiche.
Or both.
Now, I’ll go and catch some sleep.
Later!


  1. a thought worth investigating. 


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Better Never Told: day 3

Third day, and five thousand words done, and it was harder than I expected.
In part because all of a sudden I found myself lost, with the classic “where do we go from here?” moment of panic, and in part because my friend Marina (that will be a beta reader when this adventure is over) found a way to distract me at about 500 words from the finish line.
But I made it.

Now Rose, the main character, is fully rounded, and motivated.
We know her background, and know she won’t give in when faced with darkness.
The seeds of future discoveries have been planted, and evil has made its first incursion in the ordered and quiet life of Rose.
Now the dread “first third” of the novel lurks – and tomorrow I’ll have to write 6000 words, and that’s gonna be a true challenge – the first glimpse of the hardships to come.

But I’ll make it.
If I’m not too distracted – because Marina pointed out to me the new Humble Bundle, that for fifteen bucks drops in your hard disk every strip ever published (and a lot never published before from Berkley Breathed’s Bloom County.
And you also help a charity. Isn’t the internet beautiful?
That’s why I wasted half an hour tonight: to get me my share of Bloom County, one of my all-time favorite series. I’ll be downloading digital comics for weeks, but it will be worth the wait.

BloomCountySDCC

As a side note, I wrote today’s 5000 words without a musical background.

Now a short break, and then I’ll prepare a post for tomorrow.


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The Road of Kings: Conan and Italian Opera (probably)

Sometimes good ideas are not.
Foreign-sounding names for characters, for instance.
Apart from the vaguely Welsh/Gaelic/Tolkienoid elves and the alphabet soup of Lovecraftian monsters (of which my favorite, if apocryphal, remains “Shuub-Wankalot”), a name can make or break a character.
A basic trick I was taught long ago when naming secondary characters in my fantasy stories is to select a geographic area that somehow has the same feel of the place from which my character comes, get a map, jot down a few place names, and then tweak them a little, moving vocals around or cutting and pasting names.
Et voilà, instant names for characters.

The method can backfire spectacularly – in the 1959 version of Journey to the Center of the Earth we meet Frau Göteborg, as portrayed by gorgeous Arlene Dahl; the scriptwriters thought that, if London and Washington are legit family names for Brits and Yanks, then Swedish ladies could be called Göteborg, the second largest city in Sweden. They were wrong.
Much hilarity ensued when the movie was distributed in Sweden.

MBDJOTO FE010

The name is Goteborg, Frau Goteborg.

But there’s an even more spectacular example of “foreign” sounding names backfiring. A case in which a fine, no indeed an excellent writer, played fast and loose with naming conventions, and probably having listened to a few opera records too many, created a surreal experience for some of his readers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Karl Edward Wagner’s Conan and the Road of Kings. Continue reading