Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Cover reveal: The Devourer Below

I am pleased to share the gorgeous cover, designed by John Coulthart, for the forthcoming Arkham Horror Anthology, The Devourer Below, edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells and published by Aconyte/Fantasy Flight. The book will be published in July, but the cover was revealed only today.

The volume includes a story of mine, set in Arkham during the Jazz Age, and called All my friends are monsters. I am very proud of being part of this project, and I am extremely pleased with my story.
But then, I’d have to be, right?


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Paris to Berlin and back

I’m writing a story, for a big anthology that will never, but NEVER buy a story of mine, but it would be criminal not to try, both for the money, the exposure and the company I’d be sharing. So, a hopeless task, but I am writing.
And this morning, while I was revising the first draft, the brilliant thought struck me, that I might get a better end result by moving the action fromParis in the 1950s (a venue I have used in the past in a couple of well-received stories) to Berlin in the 1960s (a venue I never used).

After two hours of on-the-fly research and assorted rewrites, I came to the conclusion that no, it would not work better in Berlin than it does in Paris. The problems I am seeing have nothing to do with the place, and the general atmosphere, or the historical and political moment. So back to Paris we go – at least I’ll be playing on my home turf, so to speak.

And this is, of course, one of the great advantages of writing over, say, film-making.
A complete change of setting can be done on a zero budget.

The problem remains that the story is not working as I want it to work, and this further lowers my already low chances of making a sale.
But of course this is the reason why rewrites exist.
Back to work.


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Living in the past…

… for a few days, at least.
It struck me as funny, this morning, the fact that I am spending the Easter weekend reading a game tie-in fantasy novel about a bunch of questing heroes (I’ll post a review as soon as I’m finished), and watching the first two seasons of the old Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki OVAs. And eating ice cream.

My, this is like, what, 1993?

But really, I needed to take a few days off.

Have a happy Easter out there, and stay safe!


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The burgers always taste the same

I was talking with my friend Lucy, a few moments ago. We were discussing the first pages of a book we’ve both picked up and, alas, dropped real fast. The first pages are critical, and here, in two pages, we got such a distillation of elements done to death in the last thirty years, that we were both unable to go on. And we talked about this, comparing our reactions.

Now, I am not a big fan of gore-drenched slasher-fests, and so my distaste for the self-congratulatory tone with which the violence was portrayed in the text was somewhat natural. Lucy is more into this sort of books, and what she objected to was the cliché feel of the whole thing.

“We’ve seen it done better, a thousand times, since the ’90s”

she said.
And she is perfectly right.
And yet the book is selling like hotcakes, and it’s got a brace of rave reviews.
What the hell happened?

My take on the thing is, the book caters for the lowest common denominator, and that’s what the majority of the target audience is expecting. What they actually demand.

So a good strategy is to feed the audience a checklist of expected cliches, in the expected order, and with a language as commonplace and plain as possible.
Anything new, different and original might scare the target audience away.

And this, really, is the only thing that might convince me to go on reading this book – to see if the author is smart enough to hook his target audience in the first stilted throwaway pages, and then, once the readers have been hooked, reel them in and hit them with a few original twists.
It would be great.
But I doubt this is how it goes.

Talking with Lucy, we remembered the song Styx used to sing…

I like fast food
The burgers always
taste the same

Entertainment should be entertaining and, in this instance at least, it is not entertaining to me, or to Lucy.
We have been there already, now we want something more, something better.
I’d go as far as to say we’d be happy with a less-than-perfect story, as long as it goes someplace we’ve never been before, or throws a different light on ideas we are familiar with.
But we have to accept that to the majority of the readers, the lowest common denominator, the burger-like story that always tastes the same, is perfectly fine.

It’s a very unpleasant situation – both from a writer’s and a reader’s point of view.


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Three novellas and the need for an artist

Because trilogies, right?
I have just delivered a chunk of work, finished an article and cleaned up the first edit of a 10.000 words horror story. I have still a ton of stuff to do, but I’ve hit on a nice concept, that I’d like to develop in the next few months, possibly as a self-publishing adventure.

I won’t discuss the details at this point, but I have two characters, one of which has a name, and the other is still looking for their handle, look and identity, and I am seeing a world emerge.
And I have a few notes. A beginning, and a nice beginning, if I say so myself.

And I have a cartload of other projects in various stages of development, but you know how it is, right?
You are busy trying to finish something, and there comes this big, shiny, fun idea to distract you.

But as I am piecing the first story together – the idea is to write three 15.000+ words novellas – I have started looking for a cover artist.
Or, better, I have started looking for places where I can look for a cover artist.
My budget is small, but I am willing to make a sacrifice, and send my brother to bed without dinner for a few weeks in order to get a cover for my book. Having a cover would certainly act as a great push forward – and would probably help me sell my book.

So, where to look?
The aforementioned brother suggested Fiverr, which probably explains why he’s going to skip a few dinners.
And I follow a lot of great artists on Twitter, but they all seem to be way out of my league.
So I am asking you – any suggestions?
Use the comments and help me.
Thank you!


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Lunch break with the ninja

Back in the early ’90s, I was part of a growing number of fans of Japanese animation in my country. In Italy we had been hit by a wave of anime since the second half of the ’70s, and then a decade later the floodgates opened with OAVs and movies. fanzines were printed, clubs were formed.
I said “in the early ’90s”, but it was actually in 1993 that I dropped out of that community, as I was starting to see things I did not like. What had been a passion, born of an interest for wild and wonderful stories and great art, was turning into a playing field for little Hitlers, people that wanted to dictate what people should or should not see – “why are you reading Marvel comics? You are supposed to be an Otaku!” – and a few individuals were starting to make an awful lot of money fleecing the fans.

I know I turned and walked away in 1993, because that was the year Ninja Scroll hit the screens.
And today at lunch break I watched it again for the first time in 28 years.

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