East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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It was love at first sight

Two days ago I fell in love.
No, hold your horses, it’s not a romantic thing.
Two days ago I fell in love with a beautiful woman designed by my friend Angelo Montanini, fantasy artist, fashion designer and teacher, one of the giants of Italian Tolkien-inspired illustration, and the man who developed the earlier concepts for Hope & Glory.
He published this on his Facebook page and his Instagram, and I was completely blown away.

montanini gun girl 2

Isn’t she a wonder?
Doesn’t she instantly suggest you stories, adventures, a life of danger and mystery and romance? Continue reading


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Fake interviews and pulp writers

Yesterday I read what I think is the fakest (is that a word?) interview ever published. The sort of interview that makes me absolutely certain the guy being interviewed never wrote the story he’s been interviewed about.
Stilted answers, that failed to capture the plot, the characters or the background of the story being discussed.
Generic, sum-zero platitudes, the sort of meaningless placeholder text one finds in bad writing theory books (“a story about captivating characters”).
It was infuriating, because I take writing seriously, but some evidently don’t.

51KKCGDFlLL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve read a lot of personal accounts by writers, and a lot of biographies. When they are not fake they are a great insight on the creative process, and are a never-ending source of ideas, techniques and tricks of the trade.
In this sense, I cannot recommend enough the volumes Speaking of the Fantastic, that collect the interviews Darrel Schweitzer did during his long career. Better than a writing course. Much better.
And mind you – I give writing courses.

Anyway, to recover from the bad aftertaste of that fake interview, I went and got me a nice little book that sells for 2.99 in ebook and is worth every last cent. It’s called Pulp Era Writing Tips and it’s a collection of articles about writing by – you guessed it – authors from the era of the pulps, as edited by Bryce Beattie. 514HLWfJs9LAnd I found in the volume all the freshness and the authenticity that was sorely missing from that other text.

Authors, in my experience, generally like to talk about their work. They like to relate anecdotes, point out funny or uncanny bits, and generally go through their creative process. Many tend to romanticize their working routines, or give it a too organised, planned and one-size-fits-all sort of feel, and sometimes some will provide what my friend Hell (yes, they really cal him like that) calls “the Commode Story”, like in Reservoir Dogs: not the truth, but a story so finely crafted, so thoroughly rehearsed and so often repeated that they believe it themselves.
But most of the time, you get good value and solid, reality-based information.
And that’s what you want to get.
You get it in this small booklet.
Pulp Era Writing Tips is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in writing, and to anyone with an interest in the pulps and in entertainment fiction.
Might even help someone learn a trick or two when they try faking it at interviews.

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Missed opportunity

Oh, crap!
And so while I was busy (sort of) taking the weekend off and trying to keep burnout away1, the Pro Se submission window closed – and my pitch for a 12-episode serial was not yet ready. A twelve books series paid with 50% royalties, and it fizzed.

F*ck f*ck, f*ckety f*ck f*ck!


Three days of work wasted.
Or not.
No, not, not at all, really.

Because I have here now a complete project for a 12-episodes series of novellas, planned to be published in monthly stand-alone installments.SaveForLaterATT
Action/adventure thrillers.
Set in modern-day Europe.
Tackling ancient – and not so ancient – mysteries.
Featuring an exciting new character.
And an intriguing set-up.
A thing whose high concept is

The Ninth Gate meets The Transporter

But cooler. A lot cooler than that.

I wonder if it could be developed as a self-produced series…
Oh, well, back to work on other projects, in the meantime.

  1. and also, and here I should only kick myself for an idiot, tackling low-paid RE:CON reports for clients that treat me like dirt. 

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Holmes & HPL

sherlock-holmes-greg-joensI was listening to an old Harlan Ellison interview, last night, and he was saying that if you want to get a proper education, you have to read the Canon, that is, all the Arthur Conan Doyle stories about Sherlock Holmes.
Those will set you straight, Ellison said, because they are stories about the power of rationality, the power of observation. And they teach you that there are no mysteries if you pay attention.

And I think it’s a sound suggestion.
Hell, you can’t go wrong with “Read Sherlock Holmes!” Continue reading


Of Corsairs and Masks

corsair firt proof coverI mentioned too many projects.
Some new, some old, some halfway in between.
To wit…
The third Corsair story has been long overdue.
I miss Leo Martin, and who knows, maybe my readers miss him too.
The third and fourth stories in the series had been outlined and researched, but then I never got around and never wrote them.
This is an old project.

5d18194e0b0408cf2132f3dcb901665bAnd then there is Black Mask.
The legendary crime pulp magazine, the one that first published stories by Dash Hammet and Ray Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner and Paul Cain and Fredric Brown and all the greats. I’d love to get a story of mine in Black Mask – because yes, it still exists.
They publish hard-boiled and crime, of course, and I want to have a story of mine on their pages.
This is a brand new project.

And I guess you can see where this is going. Continue reading


Zombies from the Pulps

51fBesVApgL (1)Jeffrey Shanks’ Zombie from the Pulps is exactly what it says on the tin – a collection of twenty stories from the old pulps dealing with the walking dead.
Not, mind you, the shambling hordes of post-Romerian cinema, but the subtler, more personal and vaguely more anthropologically correct zombies of old fiction.

The selection includes at least two well-known pieces, H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West and Robert E. Howard’s Pigeons from Hell – most readers are likely to have read these before, and probably own multiple copies of both stories. I know I do.
The same goes, probably, for H.S. Whitehead’s Jumbee, another true classic, and for C.A. Smith’s Empire of the Necromancers, a true wonder of macabre humor and baroque imagination.
But it’s the rest of the collection that is a treasure-trove of surprises.
We find that often forgotten gem, Henry Kuttner’s The Graveyard Rats, and then a number of little-known stories of Haitian magic and walking corpses, by the likes of August Derleth, Manly Wade Wellman, Henry Kuttner, E. Hoffmann Price and Seabury Quinn.
But there’s also a nice little number by our old friend H. De Vere Stacpoole, and a fine story by Garnett Weston, who penned the original story for White Zombie, and here hides under the alias of G.W. Hutter.
And more.

A nice little anthology, highly recommended to seekers of the macabre.