Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Editing on a cold Sunday afternoon

There’s a chicken experimentally going in the slow cooker – new recipe, somewhat dubious – and I am wrapped in a blanket at my PC, editing three stories for publication – three stories I sold in December 2020 and that will be available in March, or later, via the respective publishers.

March 2021.
It feels at the same time very close (“heck, one fourth of the year is gone already!”) and very far (“March is like… six weeks away!”).
As usual, working on the edits suggestions from top notch editors is a pleasure – there’s a faint thrill of panic, but it is under control.

But sitting here on this cold Sunday afternoon editing stories I wrote last year and now will see publication, put me in the mood for more writing.
First, because we’re fifteen days into 2021 and I have not yet submitted any new story, and second, because I’d like to self-publish something, to capture the fast turnover that only self-publishing allows.

Anyway, right now, there’s some edits to be approved.
Then, we’ll start jotting down ideas again.


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Another massive book haul…

One of the most frustrating, if minor, things out there, is the way in which promotions on Amazon are handled – so that maybe you get an announcement from an author’s Twitter account, “hey, my novel’s on sale for the next week!” and you go and check and no, it’s not.
It is on sale for customers from the US, or the English-speaking world, but on good old Amazon.it the ebook is still going for ten bucks.
Oh, shucks!

I subscribe to a service known as The Fussy Librarian, that hits my mail every day with curated special offers and free promotions. It’s good, and the frequency of disappointments is lower.
But still, the feeling of being promised a discount and finding out that no, not in our corner of the empire… well, it’s bad.

But sometimes life is good.

Case in point, a recent campaign that I’ve found out by chance, and taken advantage of straight away – Tor Books trilogies, on sale as single-volume massive ebooks. As I think I mentioned in the past, I’m no longer so hot about big fat thick trilogies (life is short) but sometimes the opportunity is just too good.

What got me going was finding out, while browsing the Amazon.it pages, the Amberlough books were on sale – Lara Elena Donnelly’s deco-flavored fantasy stories have been on my to-read list for quite a while, and at first I thought The Amberlough Dossier was a collection of shorter works set in the same universe as the novels; it is not: it’s the three novels, in a single ebook, for little over two bucks.
So I bought it.

And then saw there were more three-books collections going for the same ridiculous price. So I gave myself an allowance of twenty bucks (just what I got for selling a flash fiction), and went on a shopping spree…

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Storm Constantine (1956-2021)

I have just learned about the death of British fantasy writer Storm Constantine, popular for her Wraethtu stories and for her collaboration with Michael Moorcock on Silverheart. A strikingly original writer, I first encountered her work back in 1992, when I discovered the trade paperbacks of her first trilogy – The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, The Bewitchments of Love and Hate, The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire.
In a beautiful style reminiscent of some of Tanith Lee’s works, the Wraethtu Chronicles were ahead of their time, in tracing the future history of humanity’s slow but inescapable replacement by a new species of hermaphroditic beings, the titular Wraethtu.

The stories were rich of atmosphere and tackled a variety of ideas and situations not often seen in commercial fantasy – which probably explains why Constantine’s novels developed a sort of cult following.

Constantine would later expand the series (that also came to include a roleplaying game), exploring further aspects of her future history, finally launching a publishing house devoted to her works (including expanded versions of her earlier books) and those of other writers she supported.
She published other series – most notably the Grigori sequence – and she also wrote a number of essays on magic, including a few spellbooks.

Often described as a writer of “shadow fantasy”, Storm Constantine was an impressive writer, both for her bold ideas and her sophisticate style, and she was also that rarest of creatures, a fantasy writer that would have been perfectly at home in one of her imaginary worlds.
She’ll be sorely missed.


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More options for February

I am going on with my plan to spend February (also) learning a new skill – because I think it’s fun, and because should it work, I could start collecting new skills, one month after the other. After all, that was what I always was about ever since I was a kid: my mother used to tell me to spend my summer vacations “doing something useful”, and I learned conjuring (the stage magic kind), tarot-reading, playing the flute and some french, some Spanish, some Japanese.
I guess she was hoping I’d find small jobs or stuff like that, like she would do when s he was a teenager – but she was a teenager in the ’50s, I was a teenager in the ’80s: the whole part time jobs ecology had changed, and all I was able to find was a contract job as a scarecrow…
But I always loved learning new stuff.

So, I made a list a few days back (WordPress will probably link the post below), I got some feedback, and it looks like knitting, harmonica-playing and juggling are the three top contenders. Of the three, my brother is averse to the harmonica (“it will feel like we’re in some kind of prison”), and juggling is better done in the open, so knitting is really looking like my choice – or at least, that was the state of affairs until Humble Bundle launched their latest book bundle, that is huge and is called Start Something New.

And I was not kidding about the bundle being huge. Drop one buck, and you’ll get seven volumes – cookbooks, a knitting encyclopedia (aha!) a book about redesigning your life, a Texas Hold’em guidebook…

But you can go up to over 20 bucks, and land a staggering collection of 61 books, each one covering a different skill.

And so yes, I put down a few bucks – knowing the money will go to a charity – and now I’ve increased my options. Texas Hold’em looks interesting, but I could also devote the four weeks of February to Feng Shui or book-binding, or some kind of creative, artistic craft.

But no matter what, I have now one week to decide – and then I’ll have a week to get all the necessary equipment to start my adventure in February.

Ideas, suggestions, odds and ends are welcome – just use the comments.


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Guilty (or so they say)

After fifteen years, my Italian language blog, strategie evolutive, has been anonymously reported to the Facebook authorities for unspecified “abusive contents”, so that I can no longer share my posts on the platform.
This begs a number of obvious questions – such as Why? and Why now? – but does very little to my online existence. I can still post and share on other platforms, and in general, who cares.

And as I seriously anybody could find my Italian posts so triggering they need to be reported and silenced, this in the end feels like that guy that scratches the paintwork of your car because you’ve parked where they would have parked had you not been parked there.
Petty and stupid, in other words.

The irritating thing is that filing a complaint with Facebook does not work – because as an automated message informs me, they have more urgent problems to deal with (to wit, checking the fake news about the pandemic and the American political situation), and therefore they will not review my complaint.

So here we are – and really, nothing has changed, except my perception of the number of dicks out there reading my blogs.

And as I am at it, I can close this post with a song by Alice Cooper, from an Alice Cooper record my late mother liked a lot (weird girl that she was, sometimes)


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Sword & Sorcery movies

I happen to be on a Sword & Sorcery roll. Big deal, you say, as if it was the first time. But really, in part this is because for Christmas I got the last volume in Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series, and so I’m finally setting out to read the whole bunch of novels in chronological order, starting with A Fortress in Shadow. In part it’s because another gift I got in my sock for the Befana festival is P.J. Thorndyke’s Barbarians at the Gates of Hollywood, this being a fun and opinionated survey of the golden age of sword & sorcery movies, to wit, the 1980s.

And as I was reading Thorndyke’s book, it happened – as it usually does – that I started feeling like re-watching these old flicks. because no one will be surprised to learn I saw each one of them at least once, and many of them (yes, I’m looking at you, Beastmaster) repeatedly, in many long summer nights, when sleep would not come, and a silly movie and a cup of ice cream was all that stood between my sanity and heat-induced madness.

And of course I’ve been watching a lot of movies since I started co-hosting the Paura & Delirio podcast with my friend Lucy – at least one movie per week, often watching it twice; more when we do our specials, like the one we did on New Year’s Eve about the Hammer Karnstein Trilogy, and what we’ll soon do with the two Nosferatu movies – Murnau’s and Herzog’s.

So the question is – do I have the time, between Cook’s book, my writing projects, my planning and building a vegetable garden and the idea of acquiring a new skill in February… do I have the time for these old sword & sorcery films? Say one per week, following P.J. Thorndyke’s excellent guide?

And, should I do it … what next?
I could blog about them, of course.
And maybe do something more – a film or two will maybe find a place in Paura & Delirio – because of the contiguity between sword & sorcery and horror/weird fiction.
But what of the rest?

I’ll have to find an idea.
But right now, I’ll have to go dig in the box of old DVDs for the titles in my viewing list that are not on VHS.
This is going to be fun…


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Because it’s cool!

During lunch-break, my friend Emanuele came visiting – we are planning a vegetable garden, and we surveyed the area and made a few plans, throwing around a few ideas.
Then my brother made coffee, and Emanuele explored the shelves of my library, and he asked a question…

Why are you so fascinated by the Silk Road?

And the answer was, of course,

Because it’s cool!

And really, I stand by this definition. But let me expand a little.

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