East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Putting Portent Idea generator to the test

I just discovered the Portent Idea Generator, that is one of those things that are supposed to help bloggers do their thing, that is, write blog posts.


Portent Idea generator is a web-based thingy in which you drop a word, the subject of your hypothetical post, and it generates a full post title.
Then you write that post, and people loves it.
Or something.

So here’s what I’m gonna do, what with today being Mardi Gras and all that: I will drop five words in the Portent Idea Generator and generate five titles, and then write five posts… and see what happens as I publish them once a day through this week.

The words are

  • Adventure
  • History
  • Fantasy
  • Orient
  • Old Movies (yes, I know, this is two words, don’t hate me)

We start in a few hours. Let’s see what happens.
And I admit I have half a mind of putting in also

  • Tits & Sand

as a sixth input.

And yes, the title is misleading – this will not put the thingy to the test – it will put to the test my writing chops. Which is good, because we must test our chops once in a while (not bad – sounds like a fake Lao Tsu or Bruce Lee quote).


Making eyes at Patreon

patreon_iconI’ve been making eyes at Patreon.
Or it’s been making eyes at me.
Meaning I’ve been reading the Patreon documentation material, and it looks like a great thing to expand my work and provide new content to my followers, while making a buck and trying to pay my bills and have more time to create fiction, non-fiction and game-related contents.

For the uninitiated, Patreon is a subscription service for creatives: patrons pledge a fixed amount per month (say one to five bucks, or more), and get exclusive contents and special perks, while the creators get a modicum of steady cash flow. The sort of thing that could help me me improve and expand my blogging platform or my author activity, for instance. Continue reading

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Sounds from another age

selection_554Back then long time ago when grass was green1, back when the internet was very different from what it is today, I started developing an interest for the first half of the 20th century – the gilded age, the roaring twenties, the sophisticated thirties.
I started watching movies, reading books and listening to music.
And back then I discovered a thing called Past Perfect – a record company specialising in remastering, through a complex resampling method, the original records of those ages past. The guys “simply” acquire as many good copies as possible of records from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and then resample each track, using redundancy to repair damage to the tracks: the idea being that hardly two old records will be scratched in the same spot, and therefore, if you get enough copies, you can patch together a single clean, undamaged record.
And it works!
I was able to track them down through that early internet, and I ordered a few records – and these are still among my favourites.

And only a few days ago I found out that Past Perfect has now a YouTube channel, where you can listen to their collections, and then order them through various online shops.

Here’s one of their records, just to give you an idea – but check out their channel, and their online catalogue – you’ll find lots of great music, remastered from the original 78 RPMs

  1. Yes, today is also George Harrison’s birthday. 

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Reading “Radio Girls”

As I mentioned the other day, I am reading a good book, and good books are a (relatively) cheap gateway to escape dread and depression.
And to learn new things.
The novel I am reading is Radio Girls, by Sarah-Jane Stratford.


Set between 1926 and 1930, Radio Girls is the story of Maisie Musgrave, a Canadian anglophile that is hired as a secretary for the newly created British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation), and becomes a witness in the early development of what is going to be called “talk radio”.
But hidden beneath the comedy and the mystery plot of the novel, is a well-researched story – the story of Hattie Matheson, the first director of the “talk” department of the BBC. Continue reading


Missing the Suez canal

Busy day – I got a rejection slip, I submitted a new story to a magazine, I wrote 2000 words of the forthcoming Hope & Glory handbook, and I cooked some top-notch tuna and tomato pasta for lunch.
And just as I was having lunch, I realized I had completely forgotten about the Suez Canal.

suez_canal_drawing_1881Let me explain – in Hope & Glory, after a catastrophe cripples the European Continent, a fleet carrying British refugees sails towards India.
The plan is to split the fleet in two – an as the bulk of the fleet circumnavigates Africa, braving the freak storms and the dangers of the long trip, a smaller fleet, carrying Queen Victoria and a number of VIPs, cuts through Gibraltar and Suez and reaches India through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Nice and smooth.

Pity all this is happening in 1855, and as Wikipedia promptly reminds me, the Suez Canal…

… was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869. After 10 years of construction, it was officially opened on November 17, 1869.

This is the sort of embarrassing thing that will have to be swept under the carpet when reviews will appear praising “the research and historical detail” of Hope & Glory, but right now it’s quite fun, because it forced me to rethink a small piece of the background, and in the end the whole turned out to be much better than it was before.
I was able to add drama, build a little on the mystique about the origins of the Anglo-Indian Raj in my setting, and I also had the opportunity to kill off Prince Albert.
Which is sad, because the guy was all right, I guess, but I needed Victoria to be a widow upon arriving in India.

And I like very much the way in which the setting is mutating under my hands as I write chapter after chapter. Leaving my options open and improvising the details make the whole thing fun, and the setting is much more alive.
And it’s not as time consuming as it might seem.



b332c24b69f3e33711f9475fd148e953I was taught to be grateful for the small things.
Today was a bad day – bad news, discussions, a tonne of bills to pay, the loss of a pair of paying markets, some gratuitous aggression, dark clouds on the horizon.
Which is nothing special, mind you – there’s a lot of people out there that’s in much worse trouble. But it is heavy, because you see everything unravel and it’s beyond your control. It makes working harder, it makes writing harder, because too many preoccupations clog your mind.
And if I don’t write, the light gets cut, the water and the phone get cut.

But then three things happened that let the pressure up a bit – not solutions to the problems, but small good things, unexpected. Psychological relief – which means that the problems remain, but now one can try and solve them, and if nothing comes out of it, one’ll be at peace, because one did what one could.
Small things to let one feel less into a dead end.

First, I got a copy of a book in the mail that I’ve been waiting to read for a long time, and tonight I’ll dig into it, and tomorrow I’ll post about it.
Second, I was reminded of a movie which I saw when I was a little kid, when my mom and dad were still alive and took me to the movies, and will do a post about that too.
And finally I saw this, and I’ll start by sharing it with you.

Hold on out there.
Things will get better.

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Waiting for KaravanCast: Beyond Thirty

thelostcontinentedgarriceburroughs565I just got an idea that… who knows?
I’m setting up the next episode of the KaravanCast, and for a number of reasons (see below), I decided to go and take a look at one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “lesser” books: Beyond Thirty, also known as The Lost Continent.
Now, the book is in the public domain, and so I thought you might like to check it out beforehand, so that when (if?) you listen to my podcast, you have a better idea of what I’m talking about.

You can get the novel in various ebook formats from Project Gutenberg, or an audio version from LibriVox.

As for the reasons why I’m covering this less-known work by Burroughs… Continue reading