Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Monkey & the Cat

Sometimes all the pieces fall in the right place at the right moment. And it feels good when it happens, because the world’s a complicated place, and it’s good to get some reassurance sometimes, that all shall be well – even if it’s a very small thing.

Yesterday night I was writing a new story (yeah, I know, life can be pretty monotonous hereabouts) – a short fantasy, steampunk-ish number featuring two strays, a girl and her cat.
I’m doing it with two different markets in mind – it all depends on how things will turn out. It’s going to be around 2000 words – I’m allowing myself six 350-words scenes (because YES!, I’ve got Scrivener running again!)
But anyway, I was checking my notes and trying to get the story off the ground, when for a number of circuitous reasons I ended up on YouTube and found this song…

Now I have the names of my two characters, and all of a sudden the story’s got legs, and is running. I plan to have it finished by tonight – I’m working on it only after dinner.
And no, the plot’s got nothing to do with the song, it’s just the name, and the way in which the characters coalesced as soon as I put names on them.
I think Monkey and her Cat will turn out to be fun characters to write.


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The Open Outline experiment

I’ve started a new thing on my Patreon, and I’m calling it Open Outline – part of my push to grow my page and my fan-base, but also a way to play with writing. Also, my patrons are a great crowd, and it looked like a good idea to try and harness their smarts to my advantage.

The Open Outline works like this: on the first of the month, I post the start of a story, roughly the first page or so.
During the following week, my patrons are invited to play with it – ask questions, sure, but also offer hypotheses about what’s going on, about where the story is going. They can suggest details about the characters or the setting.
At the end of the week, the best suggestions go into the story outline, and I add a brief treatment, explaining what I’m going to do with the story, and then we start round two – given what we’ve decided is going to happen… then, what next?
And then again.

By the end of the month, I’ll have a set of story notes I’ll be able to use to write a short story, that I’ll then post to my Patrons, giving all the participants a nice round of applause.
And then we’ll move to the next story.

Many of those that follow me on Patreon have some sort of interest in writing and storytelling, and I hope they’ll like the idea of playing with me. The others can just enjoy the show, and then read the story.
And to me this is a great exercise – because it means working with ideas that are new, different and fresh, and without a set target or destination.
As I said in a comment here somewhere, it’s good to keep busy – it keeps the blues away.


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Things to Come, #5

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll devote the next three months to try and grow my Patron page. I want to offer more benefits to my patrons, and possibly lure more Patrons.
In all fairness, I’d love should I be able to pay my mortgage with Patreon – and that means work harder, offer more quality and more perks to the brave souls that feel like gambling a few bucks every month on my ability to deliver.

For this reason I’ve decided to add a new tier to my Patreon page, a higher pledge level, well above the already heady heights of the 10 Bucks Lounge – something that I will cal the Writers’ Workshop, because this new tier will be writer-oriented.

The Writers’ Workshop hits you for 25 bucks per month, for a minimum of two months. That’s a lot of money – so what do you get?

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No NaNoWriMo, rather MyShoStoWriMo

I’ve spent the last two months working on stories for third parties – novellas set in proprietary gaming worlds, ghost-written memoirs, on-demand fix-ups of old articles, short essays for specific publications, a handful of translations.
It’s good, because it means I’m working, and sooner or later, with a little luck, I’ll get paid.
I’ve also been working on various projects that are not yet taking off – plans and outlines, projects and proposals.
Again, this is really good. It means I’m planning, laying the foundations of work for the next months.
I am also working on a real fun project I’ll tell you about in a few weeks.

But I need to stretch a bit.
Writing on demand is good and fine, but I want to go back to sitting at the keyboard, hammering out a story in two evenings, and then send it off to the editor.
It’s the fun part of my job – and even the panic that strikes when I’m about to press the SEND button is part of the game.
I need to go back to writing short fiction for fun and profit, or I’ll give in to dread and sadness, and old age will swallow me up.

So, for my next trick…

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The savages are coming

And so, just in time for the International Podcast Day, the 10 Minutes Till the Savages Come podcasts have been recorded, edited and uploaded, and in a few minutes will be available for my Patrons,and hopefully they will like what they get.
As a test run, yesterday’s work was quite instructive.

I still feel much more at ease with a keyboard – the process of writing is faster, and I find the medium of the written word much more flexible.
But I wanted to try a feature of the Patreon pages, and my Patrons looked interested, so, why not.

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10 Minutes Till the Savages Come

So today is the day I’m recording my first podcast for my Patrons.
To celebrate, my neighbors are having a bbq party with loud Balkanian music.
But it’s all right: I’ve been wasting time looking for a title and a theme and an idea for the first recording, and suddenly I hit on all three within ten minutes – and I could bore you to death with my ideas and beliefs about inspiration, ideas and how they sort of come to us, but, really, I think I’ll spare you.

The blog will be called 10 Minutes Till the Savages Come, that is the title of a song recorded by Manhattan Transfer in 1991, in the record The Offbeat of Avenues.
My podcasts will be ten minutes long – because, reasons – and the title, now that I’ve decided, feels like a no-brainer.

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Seven the hard way

I had it all planned. A new collection of my short stories, six of them, six different genres – a ghost story, a fantasy story, a science fiction story, a western, a mystery/caper story and a historical swashbuckler – and sharing a common theme.
My first new book for 2020, it should come out in both English and Italian.
Nice and smooth.

I only needed a title, and I needed it because it’s complicated pitching a book without a title.
Titles are complicated. You need something short, easy to remember, original, that hints at the contents but does not give away the twists and turns…

So I made a list of what would be in the book – themes, characters, setting, recurring tropes.
I checked the usual sources – Shakespeare’s Complete Works, the Bible, Oscar Wilde, John Donne, Lao Tsu, Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Steely Dan…

But of course there was the common, underlying theme, and it was there from the start, part of the pitch itself for the project.
And it pointed straight at an obvious title.

And titles can be obvious – nothing wrong with that.
Obvious, simple and straightforward.
The collection will be called Seven Lives.

Which of course means that it can’t be a six-stories collection.
I’ll have to write another one.
And I’m thinking about what other genre I could add to the list.
Any ideas or suggestions?
Write in the comments.