East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Serendipity of sorts: the Thirty Years War

“See you in Prague,” Graham Nash used to say – and today marks the 400th anniversary of the Defenestration of Prague, a rather obscure to most but pretty violent episode of European History that traditionally marks the start of the Thirty Years War.


Now, I am quite fond of the Thirty Years War, and this despite the fact that Continue reading


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A few nights with the Ace of Wands

tyrantking1A few nights ago, for the usual reason that I was suffering from one of my bouts of insomnia, I went browsing on Youtube, looking for something interesting.
In particular, I was looking for episodes of a very old British TV series called The Tyrant King, that I saw as a kid and which is part of those many shows that influenced my growth (or lack thereof), it being a mystery/espionage story featuring a T. Rex.
I was able to find very little on Youtube, but through a succession of links and cross-references and spurious serendipity, I discovered Ace of Wands, which is something I am sure some old friend mentioned twenty-odd years ago, but here I am now, and the series had been keeping me company these last few night. Continue reading


On The Expanse

I guess you guys out there have heard about the big noise that started when SyFy announced it was dropping The Expanse, the series based on James A. Corey’s novels and now in its third season.
The fans really got militant on that one, and I feel rather bad because I am a big fan of both the novels and the series, and sitting here in this corner of the universe, I’m pretty cut off from a lot of the action.

Sure, I signed the petitions, and withstood the blank stares of my friends that basically don’t get it (more about that later on) when I told then You should watch it!.
But it’s a little too little.
This post will not make things different, but at least I’ll give me the opportunity to point out a few things that I love about the series not only as a viewer, but also as a storyteller.

This will ramble a bit.
You’ve been warned. Continue reading

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In Cairo with OSS 117

s-l300Strangely enough, secret agent 117 was born four years before secret agent 007.
It was 1949 and French writer Jean Bruce published Tu parles d’une ingénue, the first of the eighty-eight novels he’d write featuring agent OSS 117 before dying an untimely death in 1963.
At this point, his wife Josette took over, penning another 143 volumes in the series between 1963 and 1985. At that point, Josette’s daughter Martine took over, and wrote the remaining 23 books in the series, between 1987 and 1992.
Through a total of 254 novels, Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, an American of French descent, born in Louisiana, goes from working for the Office of Strategic Services to the CIA and finally the NSC, basically doing a hardboiled version of the James Bond thing but, as noted above, being actually the one that started first. Continue reading

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The Consul, the Elephant and the Sarcophagus

This is a story that features an elephant, an Egyptian sarcophagus, and a man that walked the fine line between academia and being an adventurer, all the while serving the French government and his own interests (not necessarily in this order).

DrovettiI’m putting together the special contents for the SuperDeLuxe Edition of AMARNA, and because of this, and because of an article I’ve written for a Turin-based magazine, I did some digging about Bernardino Drovetti.
Drovetti’s work in Egypt and in Luxor in particular is a central element in the backstory of my serial, and the guy was certainly a character.
You’ll probably remember we had last met him, here on Karavansara, when he sent his men to harass and try to kill Giovanni Battista Belzoni, the archaeologist and adventurer.

But things get a lot more interesting than that, and following Drovetti’s tracks, I stumbled on a number of weird things. Continue reading


Egyptian Mathematics

220px-Open_University_coat_of_armsI am taking a short course on Egyptian Mathematics.
No, really.
It’s part of the Mathematics curriculum at The Open University, and it is available for free as an ebook through Amazon.
Indeed, you should check out The Open University on Amazon – there’s hundreds of course ebooks for free, covering all sorts of subjects, from sciences to law to humanities, to business. Absolutely great.

Of course (ah!) the main reason I’m reading this book on Egyptian Mathematics is as a form of research for my stories – there might be some ideas I can recycle in AMARNA, and both the Aculeo & Amunet stories and the tales of the Contubernium might use some of the stuff in here. For the same reasons, I have also the companion course on Babylonian Mathematics here on my reader. Continue reading


Midnight in Palo Pango

It seemed like a good idea at the moment – sleepless in the dreary night of the Astigianistan Hills, I settled down with a steaming cup of tea and Isle of Destiny, a 1940 movie I had never seen or heard of (and I would soon learn why) but that promised adventure and thrills.
After all, the movie poster announced…

She was a sarong wearing – gun-toting – poisoned-dart shooting siren of the South Seas!

What could ever go wrong?


Let’s see… Continue reading