East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Another idea

People that do not write have a hard time understanding that ideas are everywhere. They’ll come to you and say “I’ve got this great idea for a novel, I’ll tell you so you’ll write it and we can share the money.”
They get it wrong on three counts – first, because they think there really is any serious money in writing (ah!), and second, they believe their idea is unique (it’s not).
Third, and final, you can’t write a book based on a single idea. You need at least two good ideas to rub together for a long work to have a hope in hell.

Ideas are everywhere, and a good writer – well, a decent writer… let’s say a serviceable hack – is the one that can recognize them as they pour around him.
A general rule of thumb is, when you are overworked, stretched thin and at the lowest point of a low period, you’ll start getting all these brilliant ideas.
It’s like an Egyptian curse.

Let me give you an example.

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These quarantine days are heavy – working on three projects (one good, one bad, and one weird) seemed like a good idea at the time, but after five days it’s starting to take its toll. My hands ache, my head aches, and I am absolutely sure I will never be able to write a single line of decent fiction for the rest of my life.

So to recharge my batteries and take my mind off the plotlines and what else, I’ve found a piece of my past as a TV viewer on Youtube, and I’m spending my lunch break going down memory lane.
because I was a very unhappy student in my first year of high school when I first saw Shoestring.

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Clive Cussler, 1931-2020

I will openly admit that I have always found Dirk Pitt insufferable but, in a nice symmetry, I have always liked Clive Cussler – probably since the day I found out he had found an agent and sold his first novels by faking an agent’s stationery and setting up a simple but effective confidence game.

Clive Cussler was a man that wrote book about sea adventure, and used the proceeds to have real-life sea adventures – and to collect classic cars. He projected a certain joy de vivre that made me like him even when I staggered to finish Valhalla on the third attempt.
And later I found out I liked his other series much better – and I absolutely loved his memoirs about tresure hunting and relic salvaging.

Clive Cussler is gone, but he entertained us for decades, and his legacy will certainly live on.


A photo from 1939

On the joys and the pains of doing research: I am currently putting the finishing touches (hopefully) on a book about Piedmontese travelers around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. And one of the perks of this job – that for reasons long to explain I am doing part-time and under less-than-optimum conditions, is that I get to go back to the library and the web, doing a final pass of research.

When the book turns its gaze to China, it’s of course like coming again back home – how many stories I have set in the Middle Kingdom? Ah!
But while I was trying to decide what to quote from Peter Fleming’s book about the Boxer Rebellion, I chanced on a photo that got me off on a tangent for about half an hour.

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Kickstarting Holmes and his Occult Colleagues

I am very pleased to announce that the kickstarter for Belanger’s Books new anthology, Sherlock Holmes & The Occult Detectives is now live, and seems to be going quite nicely. The books are coming, and by backing the kick, you can get them at a special reduced price, with some added extra perks thrown in

The massive two-volumes anthology will collect 21 new stories featuring the Great Detective and a small army of his unusual, eccentric and occult colleagues, from Carnacky to Hesselius to Van Helsing, and many more – including my very own Miss Valerie Trelawney, in The Adventure of the Manchester Mummies.

Because we all know that Holmes does not care for the supernatural, but there are cases when, if you eliminate the impossible, you still need the help of a specialist in things that go bump in the night.

The Kickstarter offers many perks and extras for those that will feel like putting a higher figure on the plate, in the form of a number of other collection of Holmesian apocrypha.

Check out the page of the Kickstarter for details.



So, we got a suspect Coronavirus case in our region, and Piedmont is locking up with a “preventive quarantine”, while the population is panicking. Here in Astigianistans, schools will be closed until the 2nd of March, and the same apparently will be true for museums, cinemas and theatres all over the region.
And we don’t know what next.

A few of my contacts talk about supermarkets being either empty, or being assaulted by shoppers eager to stock up before they lock themselves up in their homes.

And yesterday in a bar in Asti I heard a guy say “the only way to handle this” is to barricade ourselves up in our farmhouses, and shoot on sight anyone that comes closer.

Ten years ago, the N1H1 scare had a hundred times less impact, while being a lot more dangerous than Coronavirus.
But back then we did not have political propaganda to whip up panic and meaningless (and frankly racist) reactions all over.
Like, deserting Chinese restaurants or anything vaguely oriental – including “that supermarket where a lot of foreigners go”.
Or, really, seriously advocating shooting on sight of potential zombies, with a straight face, in a public place, while the people around you nod and say they’ll check their shotguns.

So, now the question is… what would a writer do, in such a situation?
OK, order a pizza for dinner, but then, what else…?
Ah! Watch this space for news…