East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


August reading

I spent most of the last two weeks reading instead of writing.
Granted, three books of mine came out in the last four weeks, so I can’t really complain, but I know there will be hell to pay to hit deadlines and be good. And yet, right now fatigue both physical and mental was such that I needed to stop and recharge my batteries.
I’ve found out I slowed down somewhat, and gone are the summers in which I’d read three or four novels per week. But it’s not a race, so it’s OK.


My friend Claire over at Scribblings did a post on her reading week, and I thought, why not?
A simple list of what I’ve been reading recently.
Just for fun. Continue reading


Old Time Radio: One World Flight

I think I already mentioned in the past the Old Time Radio Researchers Group, a community of old time radio aficionados devoted to bringing accurate reproductions of old radio shows to the attention of the public.
I am not an expert of Old Time Radio – I know the basics, I’ve heard a few of the best known shows – and the OTRR Group is to me a source of endless surprises.


Browsing their collections of the Internet Archive is always a source of delight, and yesterday I discovered One World Flight, a 1947 documentary series by Norman Corwin (a giant in the history of American broadcasting). Continue reading


August the 15th – Ferragosto

51IfSECDQ2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I should be writing.
I should be outlining a new story for a possible publisher.
I should be designing a landing page for my stories of The Corsair.
I should be taking care of the vegetation overgrowing my front gate.

But today is August the 15th, Ferragosto, and the country is empty and silent, so I’ll be sitting here and reading, and recharging my batteries.


A postcard from Hanzhong

acheron_the__ministry_of_thunderWhen I wrote my first novel, The Ministry of Thunder, it was originally called Beyul Express. It was the first in a hypothetical series, and I had written the first draft in eight days. The second draft took six months, and expanded from 48.000 words to 78.000.
The book got some great reviews, and was generally well-received.
Later, I wrote another story featuring Felice Sabatini.
A lot of people had asked to learn more about Helena Saratova, Sabatini’s old partner, and Cynical Little Angels, set about two years before the events in Ministry, described the first meeting between the Italian pilot and the blue-haired adventuress.

angelsTwo nights ago I was going through one of my usual bouts of insomnia. This has been a rough time for me – rougher than usual. Lots of thoughts and stuff. In the last ten days I’ve been unable to write anything good – and you may have noticed my posts on Karavansara became erratic and short.
So two nights ago, nursing a hell of a headache, at about 2am I fired up a txt file, and started writing.
Write to the block, write through your worries.
At 6am the neighbor’s dogs started barking their hearts out at the dawn, and I found myself with 3500 words of The Ministry of Lightning, the sequel to Thunder, taking place in Shanghai, about six months after the last page of the first novel.

As the story opens Felice Sabatini, having walked the 7000 miles back from the Taklamakan desert, rolls back in Shanghai in the sidecar of a stolen motorbike driven by a Korean expatriate. The city is getting ready for trouble – there are sand bags in the streets, and lots of soldiers carrying weapons.
The motorbike enters the Italian-style garden of a mansion on Bubbling Well Road.
“Are you sure this is the place?” the Korean asks, looking dubious.
“I’m sure,” Sabatini replies.
He knocks on the door. A girl in a sailor uniform opens the door, stares at him, starts screaming, and slams the door shut.
Sabatini gives a reassuring grin at the Korean guy, that looks even more dubious.
Then the door opens again, and it goes more or less like this… Continue reading


Hope & Glory: Part of the Machine

And this makes three!
As I write this, the slaves in the vaults of DriveThruRPG and Amazon are busy working to put the third Hope & Glory novelette, Part of the Machine on the virtual shelves. Here is the link to DriveThruRPG.


I’m quite happy with the way this is turning out to be.
In the first book, Glass Houses, was set in India, and was a straightforward adventure/espionage story.
Then came Number the Brave, a war story set in the Sahara.

With Part of the Machine we move to snowbound Russia, for a noir intrigue taking place in the “zima krepost’” (Winter Fortress) of Czar Vladimir in Tsaritsin.
Young, jaded Varvara Vorovina Boleslavskaia is about to find more than she looked for as she moves between the apartments where the aristocracy plots and gossips, and the underground chambers where the workers toil and anarchists prepare their revolution.

As usual, the novelette comes with a full appendix detailing life in the Winter Fortress, the Russian obsession with chemicals and drugs, and more gaming resources to be used with the Savage Worlds basic handbook.



Childhood summer reads – The Three Investigators

A friend today ran one of those silly games on Facebook, asking her contacts to name the first book they read as kids.
Some answers were absolutely preposterous – like the guys that at the age of seven read 2001 – a Space Odyssey or Ian Fleming’s Licence to Kill or what else.
Pretty advanced readers, what?

ilcastellodelterroreMe, I was not so advanced, and I started reading novels when I was around seven or eight with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators, that was published in Italy by Mondadori (of the “Giallo” fame) in a line of mysteries for kids. At the time I watched and loved the Alfred Hitchcock Presents… TV series, and when I found there were actually novels written by him, I asked my mom to buy them for me. I’m pretty sure the first novel was Terror Castle.

The books were actually the brainchild of Robert Arthur, a twice-recipient of the Edgar Award, that had worked as author and editor for various magazines and Hitchcock-related projects.

I have fond memories of those stories – they were well-written, with fun plots, a touch of macabre and rationalized supernatural and the sort of characters and situations a kid could easily relate to.
The same line also included Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew reprints, and a serie set in London and called Pimlico Boys, that was actually written by an Italian under an English alias.

Anyway, to celebrate those books, here’s a small gallery of Three Investigators covers.


Books and Invincibility

With projects popping up and fizzing out almost daily (a big translation job just vanished, leaving me in the red for the winter) and stress levels rising, I decided to take a stress-free two-days, putting some order on my bookshelves.

My books have a tendency to accumulate like driftwood on a beach.
There’s the big tome on the occult I had to check for a RE:CON job, that’s now sitting on top of The Colonial Wars Sourcebook and India: A Cultural Atlas I used for some bits in Hope & Glory. That’s why all three books are bundled with the Savage World Deluxe handbook, and occupy a chair together with a stack of hardback novels, Chambers’ London Gazetteer and The Starflight Handbook.
And what of the cobweb-wrapped pile of volumes on the window-sill in the corridor upstairs, which includes a book on grave-robbing, a high-school textbook on earth sciences and The Time-traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England?
A mess.

So I sat with a carafe of cold tea, and I started separating the books into more rational stacks, and then to place them on their shelves. Continue reading