Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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A tour on the Minibus

As expected, the night spent reading Chris Fowler’s book about forgotten writers has started wreaking havoc with my reading plans, or at least with my to-read pile of books and ebooks.

Having read Fowler’s fun collection of short bios, I found it to be excuse enough to finally go and check out a writer that’s been on my radars for years now, but I never found the time, or motivation, or that extra bit of curiosity that would make me go and spend money and time on one of her books.

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Selling the unknown

I have just mailed a four-page preliminary pitch to my Italian publisher, a proposal for a novel that might be fun to write, and might become the first in a series (one hopes) and might even have a chance on the international marketplace (ditto).

Now, a short pitch should include the working title, the general plot, and the major selling points of the book. The author, in other words, should tell the publisher why this book is the coolest book ever written, why it will sell in cartloads, and who is going to buy it (possibly multiple copies of it).

And here is the rub – one of the strong points of my story, I am sure, is that nothing like this was done before, at least in my country, at least within my genre of choice. I can point out TV series and movies, comics and books, that work on the same premises – or something really similar – but in Italian, as horror/thriller? No, never.

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Gone but not forgotten: Christopher Fowler's The Book of Forgotten Authors

When was the last time that, against all good sense and sanity, you spent a whole night up to read a new book from cover to cover? Wrapped in a blanket, drinking hot tea, while the countryside outside was silent and mist-shrouded under the moon, it happened to me last night, and I am now typing this before I crawl in bed, my day’s schedule completely scrambled, but who cares.

Yesterday (my goodness, it was only yesterday!) I received as a gift an ebook copy of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors, and as it usually happens, I checked the first pages, just to see how it felt. I was preparing dinner, and I was in fact putting the soup up on the stove.
I went through the foreword, and them, after dinner, I said to myself I’d check a few pages.
And now here I am, bleary-eyed, the book finished, and the certain knowledge that it will have a terrible influence on my 2020.

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We are still having fun

I read the news today, oh, boy, just like John Lennon did. In my case, it was a social media post by someone I know. It was a masterful piece of brand management – three paragraphs with all the right keywords and all the bits and pieces to reinforce the author’s brand, the SEO perfectly balanced.
His pet topics, his by-words, even a subtle call-back to his first book.
The sort of thing you read in books by social media gurus about how to establish your presence and reinforce your brand.
It was, also, a piece about the recent death of a person, a public figure, a musician.

Me, I’m old fashioned, probably even Victorian in such things, but I found it in poor taste, and my respect for that person dropped a few more notches.

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Spare change and writing classes

Talking about my generation, like Roger Daltrey used to do, we never really got used to the copper spare change that came when we transitioned to the Euro system. It’s psychological, and cultural – the 1, 2 and 5 eurocent coins feel like ballast, feel like a waste of time counting.
Back in the days, soon after the advent of Euro, older people used to refuse to take the change, when shopping… “ah, seven cents, keep them!” and anyone paying a 1 euro candy bar with 20 five cent coins was looked at by everyone in the shop like he was some kind of beggar with a sweet tooth.

So what happens now is, when you take an old jacket out of the closet and brush it up, you find a selection of ones and twos and fives. Ditto when cleaning drawers, or when you happen to look in old china vases and other odd containers.

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Zweihander + Main Gauche: RPG in the pocket

I wrote about Zweihander, the Grim & Perilous RPG developed, unsurprisingly, by Grim & Perilous Studios and Daniel D. Fox, back in 2017, when I got a copy of the basic handbook in PDF and was quite positively impressed.

Basically, Zweihander is a retro-clone of the classic Warhammer Fantasy RPG (WHFRPG) that made it big – it cleans up the rules and it straightens up a few of the glitches of the olf First and Second editions of WHFRP, and while preserving all the good parts of the old game, it also adds a few bits and pieces – the core rulebook is a hefty 672 pages. The hardback edition is impressive and rather costly – but you can get the PDF version for less than 15 bucks.

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Vampires

Last night I pulled out two things from my shelf – my copy of the Hammer movie Vampire Circus (1971) and my copy of J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book, a massive encyclopedia of the undead that is part of my somewhat extensive collection of non-fiction books on the subject. I was quite surprised when I discovered The Vampire Book was published in 1994 – is it really been that long?
This led me to reflect on the reason for my general dislike for vampires in the last few years – the Vampire roleplaying game, that first came out in 1992. Suddenly vampires where hot in the ’90s, and as it usually happens, the surge of recent converts to the new faith caused me to look somewhere else for my thrills.

Me, I was a Ravenloft sort of guy, or even better a Warhammer Fantasy RPG sort of guy, when it came to roleplaying vampires.
Even better – a Chill sort of guy.

As for stories…

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