Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Windy day

The weather is breaking. It’s not so cold anymore, and the days are windy and the sun bright. The grey cat is back, and he wants food, when he’s not laying in the sun, an eye out for intruders. And as it usually happens when there’s a wind, my bones ache and my muscles are cramped.
After the deep winter lethargy, I am moving on to spring crankiness.
Then it will be summer heat fatigue, and crankiness again with autumn.
The only way to feel all right is probably move to a tropical island, but that’s not going to happen any time soon.

In the first 60 days of 2021, I submitted a total of 24 stories, articles and pitches – and managed to sell six against four rejections so far. A great start, if a lot of hard work.
And this morning I signed a contract for a ghostwriting gig – which means an advance is coming, and if it’s true I’ll have to spend six weeks working hard, it also means we’ll be able to get our bills covered to the summer.
So, yes, things are going the right way.

And really, if there is a problem right now – apart from the aching bones due to the windy weather – is the fact that I need to write faster, or decide what projects will have to wait for a better time.
And there’s just too many great opportunities right now on my plate.
A nice change – while we are back in the Orange Zone, and we cannot leave our village.
But this is also a positive thing – the overwork does not give me time to feel the stress of the general seesaw of small-scale lockdowns, quarantine and continued precautions.

So yes – if you don’t see me around too often, it’s basically because I am writing.

But there’s other stuff coming, for the blog too.
Like that guy said, running is after all just keeping falling forward.
I’m getting good at it.


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Beginnings

In the last year, keeping my Patreon up to date has been hard – in part because of the general sense of fatigue that weighed me down, in part because of the need to try and sell everything I was writing, in order to cover the bills and buy food.
So yes, I have been a very bad Patreon Creator – and I have lost a few Patrons because of this, and I am really sorry, because these are people I have let down.

But now things are, if not looking up, at least no longer looking sideways, and I’ve just started a new series of Patrons-only posts, in which I will pick the opening of a novel or short story, and analyze it, to see what the author did, what work the first lines do in the economy of the book.

These are short posts, that I will upload both in English and Italian, and are a fun way to look at writing technique and, maybe, discover new and old books.
Being short, I can manage to put up two per week, for as long as I have novels to examine. Half the posts about the openings will be uploaded in the weekends, and go to all my Patrons, and the other half will be available only to the stalwarts of the Five Bucks Brigade. These I will post during the week.

For starters, I have posted the opening of C.S. Forester’s classic adventure novel, The African Queen, for all my supporters, and the opening of Daniel Kehlmann’s Thirty Years War fantasy Tyll for my Five Bucks Patrons only.


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Crows & Foxes

About one year ago, before all hell broke loose, and before I found myself trapped into the Ghostwriting Job from Hell, I started working on a project I called The Conversations of Crows and Foxes.
I even announced it on my Patreon.

Then, as we know, everything went to hell in a handbasket, but the idea remained – I’d love to write a series of imaginary folk tales, using them to explore a secondary world, a fantasy land different from ours, but not too different.

As it usually happens, the project has laid dormant for twelve months, but today I received a copy of this photo…

… and it looks like it’s time to get to work.

It makes you wonder what they are talking about, right?


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Back to high school

Today’s challenge is writing a 5000-words horror story that’s due for submission by Monday. I have the story outlined, and I’ve set down the first 2000 words – which also means the story will probably be closer to 6000 than 5000 – but it’s OK, because the top hard limit is 10.000 words, so I’m fine.
And yes, I have been told that all this talking about word-count and required lengths and other “technicalities” detracts from True Art(R) and impoverishes my Muse(R), because imagination should be free-flowing and unbound.
I have been told that.
By people that never published a single line of work.

Incidentally, I believe that discipline and restraints help creativity.
So, on we go with my horror story, and as the two characters are about to face the monster and fight for their lives, I’m taking a pause for a cup of tea.

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Even the best laid plans…

… of mice and men, are nothing when faced with the Italian post service and, more generally, with the wilds of Astigianistan.
So, the plan was to start in February and learn a new skill – following the suggestions of my followers and an accurate research, I decided to try my hand at knitting. Simple, cheap, relaxing, and at the end you have a pair of socks, or a scarf, or something to show.
Nice and smooth.
Or so it seemed.

First – the local (8 kms away) haberdashery shop is closed due to COVID. If I want to buy needles and yarn, I have to go somewhere else, which at the current state of affairs is not possible because… COVID. There’s no way I’ll take a bus (should it stop here, which is not a given) and then a train, to go somewhere looking for a shop where I can buy some wool yarn and a pair of knitting needles.

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A land of ghosts and thieves

According to Murnau’s Nosferatu, Transylvania is “a land of ghosts and thieves” that, let’s admit it, is not the best tourist copy you can come up with, but is certainly intriguing. I was watching the movie, and when that definition came up on screen, I stopped the film and wondered what sort of country could that be, and what stories could be written about it.
And because I’ve been itching to do some writing, I just spent two hours writing a short story. Not a story set in Transylvania, mind you, but most certainly a story set in a country of ghosts and thieves.

It’s a short fantasy piece, maybe a little conventional, but it was a good exercise anyway, and a fun way to spend a few hourse away from Murnau’s dreary (in a good way) world. Then I translated it in Italian, and now both versions have been posted to my Patron page, for my patrons to enjoy.

I have been a very bad Patreon Creator throughout 2020, in part because of various personal problems, in part because writing stories I could sell to magazines took precedence. Following the current standard, stories posted on Patreon count as “previously published” for most magazines, and as a result they get paid a reduced rate. This is not normally a problem when my productivity is up to normal level – because I can write both for the magazines and for Patreon without much effort. But when my production flagged in 2020, it became a problem.

But right now everything seems back to normal, and there will be more stories coming, both for the general market, and for my Patrons.
Writing is going to be fun again.