Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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November after-dinner project: worldbuilding and roleplaying

Breaking a finger was not a good idea.
Right now the finger’s doing well (thanks for asking), the doctor likes what he sees in the X-ray shots, and I’ve made froends with the X-ray technician, so everything’s for the best.
BUT, writing is a drag.

Right now I have a full right hand and two fingers and a thumb on the left – but I must go carefully, because i don’t want to hit or press the broken finger. So, I’m writing slow – or at least slower than my standard.

This would not a problem were it not that I am to deliver a full RPG campaign by the end of December, a full fantasy novel by the end of January, and more or less between those two, a 20-pages piece of geographical/historical worldbuilding for another RPG.

Three very exciting projects – I’m having a blast, writing them… well, sort of a slow-mo blast.

And because I am doing all of these things… why not get something else on the cooker, just to make sure I won’t have a moment for myself?

Continue reading


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The lost army of Cambyses

There’s a number of lost armies in the ancient world – lost legions, lost expeditions. According to Herodotus, Cambyses II’s expedition to subjugate the priests of Ammon in what is today the Siwa Oasis took a very bad turn, fast. The 50.000 men sent by the Persian king to give a hard lesson to the priests marched for ten days in the desert known as the Great Sea of Sand, got completely lost, and when last heard of were considering cannibalism as a way to survive.

When he came in his march to Thebes, he parted about fifty thousand men from his army, and charged them to enslave the Ammonians and burn the oracle of Zeus; and he himself went on towards Ethiopia with the rest of his host. But before his army had accomplished the fifth part of their journey they had come to an end of all there was in the way of provision, and after the food was gone they ate the beasts of burden till there was none of these left also. Now had Cambyses, when he perceived this, changed his mind and led his army back again, he had been a wise man at least after his first fault; but as it was, he went ever forward, nothing recking. While his soldiers could get anything from the earth, they kept themselves alive by eating grass; but when they came to the sandy desert, certain of them did a terrible deed, taking by lot one man out of ten and eating him.

Herodotus, Book III, chapter 25

I have stumbled on the fifty thousand men that Cambyses lost in the Sahara while working on a project I am not at liberty to describe in detail – suffice it to say that it does have a vague connection with Robert E. Howard, and now will feature – among other things – undead Persian soldiers emerging in full Harryhausen mode from the Great Sea of Sand.

Destruction of Cambyses’ Army by a Sandstorm Source Internet

And really, nobody knows what happened to Cambyses’ men – OK, we know they died in the desert, and various causes, from sand storms to dehydration, have been proposed through the years. Indeed, roughly once every twenty years some archaeological expedition claims to have found the remains of the Persians somewhere. So far, all claims have been debunked.

Reading on the subject these last two days has been a nice opportunity to find out about desert survival (or lack thereof), about the Persian military structure, and about sandstorm physics.
Isn’t this writing thing a blast…?


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A ghost in the library

I am happy to announce that my short story A Rainy Night in the French Quarter is the featured story in this month’s Dread Imaginings – and you can read it for free.

It is a ghost story, set in Shanghai (big surprise, uh?) and in particular into one of the phone booths that the city administration transformed into mini-libraries.

I hope you’ll enjoy it.


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Non Disclosure Agreement

I have just signed a contract for a big-ish writing job, something large and fun and different that, with a modicum of luck, will come out next year and will carry my name on the cover (or somewhere inside).
Something I cannot tell you about, for a publisher I cannot disclose, part of a project that shall remain unnamed.
Aren’t non disclosure agreements a wonder?

But I can tell you this is one of two big jobs I have lined up for the autumn (the second being still pending), a big fat 80.000 words writing adventure that I will have to plan carefully and execute with speed, elegance and panache.
Or something.

It will mean reading a lot of interesting books for research (a couple I have read already early in the summer), and then write, write, write.

So, the basic equipment is here and is ready

  • a BIC pen and a copybook
  • a stack of books
  • a folder filled with ebooks
  • Scrivener
  • a virtually infinite supply of tea

The vacations are over.
Time to get to work.

And also time to find a way to post updates about my work here, without telling you about what I am writing.
This is going to be fun.


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A drink with Mary

So, here’s what’s happening: I am writing a short story.
Big deal, you say – that’s what you do for a living, of course you’re writing a story.
Which is somewhat correct, but let me explain…

Saturday this thing appeared in my mailbox…

An evening drink on the beach in Sicily, with a side of an appearance by the Virgin Mary (whose Ascension was celebrated on Sunday), and a complimentary rosary.
Free admission, donations welcome.

You see where I am going?
How could I not write a story about this?
Tackling my brother’s passion for cocktails, and my old interest in Tiki lounges and exotica?
Of course I had to do it.

So there you have it.
I’m writing it.
Then I’ll post it to my Patrons.
Then… we’ll see.


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Selkies, Sirens & Sea Monsters (and Octopodes)

The anthology Water: Selkies, Sirens & Sea Monsters, edited by Rhonda Parrish, is out tomorrow, just in time for a nice relaxing read on the beach. Advance reviews were extremely positive.
The volume features my short story The man who speared octopodes, about a man that, you know, spears octopodes, for… reasons.
Check it out.