Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The Tao of Seneca

This post started as something completely different. It started with me trying to put together a list of gift suggestions you guys might like. This led to my decision to send a book as a gift to a friend (let’s hope she likes it), and then through circuitous ways to a book I think I mentioned before, and finally to the author of The 4-Hours Workweek, and finally to Seneca.

Isn’t this world wide web thing a blast?

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Very short stories

Short stories are tough.
There is this sort of… not really a debate, more like a feud, between those that Novels are proper literature, short stories are for losers and those that short stories are the true distillation of talent, any hack can write a 1000-pages trilogy given enough time and coffee.
Both are wrong, of course, and both are right, because the fact is, it’s not a binary system – there’s a whole lot of shades and issues there.

I write mostly short stories and novellas.
I feel comfortable with the word-count, and they make for reasonably fast writing, meaning I can sell them quick and keep the creditors at bay.
Sometimes I write longer stuff.
All formats have their pros and cons.
My favorite word-count is probably within the 8.000-to-12.000 words range. Shorter, I usually feel cramped, longer, I usually need a lot of time and planning and things get somewhat rambling. Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: El Borak

773049I’ve been discussing the El Borak stories with some friends recently.
For the uninitiated, El Borak, whose real name is Francis Xavier Gordon, is a character that appeared in some of the last stories written by Robert E. Howard. An adventurer in a similar vein to Talbot Mundy’s JimGrim, Gordon’s always been one of my favorite characters, ever since I discovered an old paperback with a Chris Achilleos cover on a shelf in a bookstore, about thirty-five years ago.

The El Borak stories are tight adventure yarns, set along the Northwestern Frontier and in parts East.
Not the most popular character in Howard’s production, El Borak was a mature effort on the part of the author, a character that might have allowed Howard to grow in different directions.
But these are what-might-have-beens.

Six of the El Borak stories, including Lost Valley of Iskander, that really made an impression on sixteen-years-old me, are available online, having fallen in the public domain.
Here are the links to the versions on the Wikisource servers.
Enjoy!0f070aadc63cfd2749ab0cbd74da9e65--conan-heroines

The Daughter of Erlik Khan (First published in Top-Notch, December 1934)
Hawk of the Hills (First appeared in Top-Notch, June 1935)
Blood of the Gods (First published in Top-Notch, July 1935)
The Country of the Knife (First published in Complete Stories, August 1936. Alternate title: Sons of the Hawk)
Son of the White Wolf (First published in Thrilling Adventures, December 1936)
The Lost Valley of Iskander (Alternate title: Swords of the Hills)


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A Halloween reading list

Halloween, Halloween… it’s weird when you find yourself doing more posts about Halloween than you will ever do about, say, Christmas or New Year’s Eve.
It’s like Halloween has become the Web’s main festivity.
A festival of ghosts, spooks and dead people.
Seems fitting.

So, why not suggest a reading list for Halloween?
And considering we are cheapskates, why not a list of free ebooks?

Let’s see… Continue reading


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Waiting for the Haunting

coverEverybody’s talking about The Haunting of Hill House, the new series on Netflix. I’ve been told it’s quite good, by people I trust, and sooner or later I plan to catch it.
I will let some time go by.
I find a little unnerving the onslaught of those that spent the weekend binging on it, and now are rampaging on the socials.
Beautiful!
Scary!
Wait until you see episode six!
It’s none like the novel!
The finale is great!
He is very good, but she is also very good!
I’m watching episode three a second time!

It’s not a matter of spoilers.
I read the novel, I watched both movies, I have a general idea of what to expect.
But it feels like sitting at dinner in a fine restaurant, and having the guy in front of you telling you how much you’ll enjoy the second course while you are still going through the appetizers. “Be sure to order the salad…”
Please cut me some slack.

And while I wait for the noise to quiet down and for the bingers to go binge and enthuse on something else, I might as well read the original Shirley Jackson novel again.
And in case you are interested, you can get a copy for free, legally, from this link, because the copyright on The Haunting of Hill House expired in Canada.

This is probably the best ghost story ever written, and it’s quite suited for the season.
Check it out.


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Karavansara Free Library: Robert Byron

A few days back I asked for opinions about the contents of this blog. I have been asked to do more posts about games, and about travelers and explorers.
And I say, why not?

So here’s a post about a writer and world-traveler I discovered during my second year in university, and he remains a favorite of mine. His books have contributed to fuel my interest for the Silk Road and the adventures and experiences of travelers in the years between the two Wars.
And you can get his books for free, so I think I’ll give you a brief introduction, and then let you enjoy the guy’s writing. Continue reading


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Karavansara Free Library: The Well of the Unicorn

I’m writing a story.
Big deal, you say.
But no, wait, because it’s interesting.
The story is set in some unnamed American town, somewhere in 1948 or maybe 1949. As the story opens, the main character works as a reader for an old lady who’s losing her sight. My character spends three afternoons every week in the old lady’s parlor, reading her aloud from a book.
What book?
The_Well_of_the_UnicornNow, the book is not essential in the story. It’s just a prop, something my character can cling to as the events in her life suddenly start twisting in a whole new direction.
A hardback, then.
A good solid hardback she’ll be able to clutch to her chest like it’s an armor in that single scene right at the beginning.

And so I did a quick check.
I just needed a hardback published in 1948.
And Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn was published in that year.
Bingo.
There is something good, for me, about a young woman reading aloud from The Well of the Unicorn, and then embarking on a life-changing adventure. Continue reading