Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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A (Mary) Gentle thing: The logistics of Carthage

Rats and Gargoyles by Mary Gentle, is one of my favorite novels of all time, and Mary Gentle has always been on the list of authors from whom I hope, one day, to learn something.
What I find particularly appealing about Gentle’s work is the idea that the reader should do their job: think, connect the dots, fill in the blanks. This is part of what makes the Gentle so “difficult” but also, I believe, so rewarding for those who have the courage to face the reading.

In the past few days I received as a gift a copy of Cartomancy, the volume that brings together all the short fiction by the author (excluding the stories of the White Crow series, which are found in a separate volume). It is one of the many collections of short stories that came to me for my birthday – and I thought … why not do a series of posts, a piece on each short story?
And why not start with the stories in Cartomancy?

(also, this is a the first in a series of posts that I will do on my Patreon, both in Italian and English – this one is freely available here too, and on my Patreon page)

Let’s try.

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Pitch perfect

Well, no, not perfect.
Perfection is a trap.
But last night I was informed that two of my recent pitches have been accepted, and I’ll be writing two new stories that I need to mail off by the summer. The acceptance of the pitches is not a guarantee the stories will sell, but hey, it’s a start!
Time to get writing again!

And I am putting together notes and ideas to make another pitch on Monday.
And this one is going to be big, and I’m pretty excited at the opportunity.

It’s been suggested I set up some kind of instructional thing about pitches, and how to do them.
It might be fun, but as usual I am not sure I can really teach it to people.
I’ll think about it.

And talking about teaching: I’m following an online course about dealing with toxic people in our writing career.
Because stuff happens, you know.
It’s turning out to be quite fun.


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Gearing up for #StoryaDay May 2021

Novel writers do the NaNoWriMo, where they churn out a first draft of a new novel in the month of November, and they post a badge and blog about it. Short story writers have their own high-pressure challenge, and it is StoryaDay May: we set our own rules, but the basic idea is writing a new original story each day, for the duration of the month of May, based on a prompt provided by other writers.

I did it last year, and ended up with 20-odd flash fictions, half a dozen of which I sold in the later year – and one was actually longlisted for the BSFA Award.
So deciding to do it again was a no brainer.

My own rules for this run are pilfered from my friend Claire’s own run – because I am lazy, and because why re-invent the wheel, right?
So here they go…

  • Flash fiction.
  • At least five stories a week.
  • First drafts only. No revision – not at this stage.
  • And I’d like to say “No research”, too – but… yes, well. Let us keep it at “No rabbit holes,” shall we?

That’s absolutely perfect. I particularly appreciate the rabbit hole bit, because… research, right?

If I will be able to keep up with this, I might end the month with 20-odd flash fictions again, and then I’ll be able to revise them, and send them off into the world to provide money to buy food and pay bills.
Because that’s the way I do it.

Last year I used Scrivener, but since this year my copy of the software refuses to run on Linux, I’ve shifted to Focuswriter, that’s proving to be quite good, and comes with typewriter sounds for those moments when I feel nostalgic.
So the idea is simply to write all the flash fiction into a single file, separating them with a “##”, and then sort them out later when I will revise.

I’ll keep you posted.


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Another cover reveal: Water

Today I can finally show you the cover, by Ashley Walters, for the anthology Water: Selkies, Sirens and Sea Monsters, edited by Rhonda Parrish as part of a series of elemental-themed collections.
The book will be available soon, and you can preorder now.

The cover is absolutely beautiful, and the anthology includes a story of mine, a short called The man that speared octopodes.

You can read more on the book – and find a complete list of contributors – on the editor’s own blog.


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Give it a spin

It started because of the podcast I am producing and co-hosting with my friend Lucy. After we recorded the last episode, we started talking about a cancelled project for a spin-off series, and we both agreed we would have watched the hell out of such a spin-off. But there is not a hope in hell we’ll ever see it. Dang.

But of course the obvious follow-up was that if no official spin-off is made, a writer could always take the basic concepts, change the registration plates, give it a new paint job, and then give it a spin.
I mean, you can’t copyright story ideas, you can only copyright the way they are executed.

And so, after spending five to eight hours a day on my current ghostwriting gig, I decided to see what would happen if I spent one hour after dinner jotting down a few ideas.
Throw in a few other influences, change this and that… throw in a little John Carpenter, a little George Miller.
Add a political twist, but classy. Add a few original characters.
And I had to spend a while researching how much blood you need to lose in order for your heart to fail. fun stuff, what?

And now I have the first draft of a six-thousand-words story in the can, and two outlines for other two stories – one of which I dreamed, believe it or not … first time this happens to me.
And so I am seriously thinking whether it would be better to try and pitch the finished stories to a magazine, or self publish them. And again, self-publish as three shorts, or as a three-stories volume?
And where do I get a cover, or three?
And considering it’s been over one year since my last self-published ebook, will anybody be interested?
Ah!
But it’s fun, and it’s a relaxing exercise, because there are no strings attached – I am doing it for the best reason there is for writing: because I’d like to read these stories myself.
The result is pulpy good fun, without too many complications.
And the great bit is, these stories are starting to look like they are set in the same universe of my other project, the science fantasy adventure one. Which is fitting.
I might have a big thing here going, and no time to really work on it. As usual.


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Cover reveal: The Devourer Below

I am pleased to share the gorgeous cover, designed by John Coulthart, for the forthcoming Arkham Horror Anthology, The Devourer Below, edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells and published by Aconyte/Fantasy Flight. The book will be published in July, but the cover was revealed only today.

The volume includes a story of mine, set in Arkham during the Jazz Age, and called All my friends are monsters. I am very proud of being part of this project, and I am extremely pleased with my story.
But then, I’d have to be, right?


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Three novellas and the need for an artist

Because trilogies, right?
I have just delivered a chunk of work, finished an article and cleaned up the first edit of a 10.000 words horror story. I have still a ton of stuff to do, but I’ve hit on a nice concept, that I’d like to develop in the next few months, possibly as a self-publishing adventure.

I won’t discuss the details at this point, but I have two characters, one of which has a name, and the other is still looking for their handle, look and identity, and I am seeing a world emerge.
And I have a few notes. A beginning, and a nice beginning, if I say so myself.

And I have a cartload of other projects in various stages of development, but you know how it is, right?
You are busy trying to finish something, and there comes this big, shiny, fun idea to distract you.

But as I am piecing the first story together – the idea is to write three 15.000+ words novellas – I have started looking for a cover artist.
Or, better, I have started looking for places where I can look for a cover artist.
My budget is small, but I am willing to make a sacrifice, and send my brother to bed without dinner for a few weeks in order to get a cover for my book. Having a cover would certainly act as a great push forward – and would probably help me sell my book.

So, where to look?
The aforementioned brother suggested Fiverr, which probably explains why he’s going to skip a few dinners.
And I follow a lot of great artists on Twitter, but they all seem to be way out of my league.
So I am asking you – any suggestions?
Use the comments and help me.
Thank you!