Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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A new deck for the collection

Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand was a very popular fortune teller during the Napoleonic era, that became (in)famous when she became the card reader and confidante of Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. She was also arrested for espionage – and for witchcraft, but it was hard to make the accusation stick in post-Illuminist France. When she died she left a fortune to her only heir – that being a devout Catholic burned all of her stuff, and wanted nothing to do with her, but kept the money.
Better known as Mlle Lenormand, Marie also created her own tarot deck – and I received a packet this morning containing a new Lenormand Tarot deck for my collection.

And the Lenormand Tarot is particularly interesting if you want to use the cards for writing experiments.

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Plots, Nefarious or Otherwise

Sitting here wrapped in blankets, drinking hot tea and popping aspirins to try and get back on track after two days spent on the road and in the cold, I find that there is little I can do but plot future stories.

I sent a detailed pitch to my Italian publisher, but I’ve yet to hear back from them, and I have here two open calls that would be madness to miss – so I sit, and drink tea, and plot.
This is the phase in which I do not write, but rather I pile ideas upon ideas, and let them simmer.

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Selling the unknown

I have just mailed a four-page preliminary pitch to my Italian publisher, a proposal for a novel that might be fun to write, and might become the first in a series (one hopes) and might even have a chance on the international marketplace (ditto).

Now, a short pitch should include the working title, the general plot, and the major selling points of the book. The author, in other words, should tell the publisher why this book is the coolest book ever written, why it will sell in cartloads, and who is going to buy it (possibly multiple copies of it).

And here is the rub – one of the strong points of my story, I am sure, is that nothing like this was done before, at least in my country, at least within my genre of choice. I can point out TV series and movies, comics and books, that work on the same premises – or something really similar – but in Italian, as horror/thriller? No, never.

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We are still having fun

I read the news today, oh, boy, just like John Lennon did. In my case, it was a social media post by someone I know. It was a masterful piece of brand management – three paragraphs with all the right keywords and all the bits and pieces to reinforce the author’s brand, the SEO perfectly balanced.
His pet topics, his by-words, even a subtle call-back to his first book.
The sort of thing you read in books by social media gurus about how to establish your presence and reinforce your brand.
It was, also, a piece about the recent death of a person, a public figure, a musician.

Me, I’m old fashioned, probably even Victorian in such things, but I found it in poor taste, and my respect for that person dropped a few more notches.

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Spare change and writing classes

Talking about my generation, like Roger Daltrey used to do, we never really got used to the copper spare change that came when we transitioned to the Euro system. It’s psychological, and cultural – the 1, 2 and 5 eurocent coins feel like ballast, feel like a waste of time counting.
Back in the days, soon after the advent of Euro, older people used to refuse to take the change, when shopping… “ah, seven cents, keep them!” and anyone paying a 1 euro candy bar with 20 five cent coins was looked at by everyone in the shop like he was some kind of beggar with a sweet tooth.

So what happens now is, when you take an old jacket out of the closet and brush it up, you find a selection of ones and twos and fives. Ditto when cleaning drawers, or when you happen to look in old china vases and other odd containers.

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Selling stories to foreign magazines

Today I was told yet again that I should write a handbook to explain to my Italian colleagues how to sell stories to foreign magazines and anthologies – especially English-language magazines in my case.

I had to explain that such a handbook would be pretty short – so short, in fact, that I can publish it here in its entirety…

  • write a story
  • mail it to a magazine
  • if they buy it, cash in the cheque
  • if they don’t buy it, send it to another magazine
  • in both cases, start writing another story as soon as you’ve mailed the first

And that’s it, really.

But a lot of people want to know “The Secret”.

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The first book of 2020

Last night I splurged 8 of my hard-earned dollars to acquire the first two tiers of the latest Humble Bundle, called 2020 New year, New You – a grab bag of titles on a variety of topics, good as fuel for new year’s personal resolutions – self-help books (from time saving to meditation to retirement plans) and cookbooks (a book of slow cooker recipes!), writing handbooks and a thesaurus, books about bucket lists and other wonders. These sort of bundles usually capture my fancy, because they feel like going through a bookstore filling a basket with stuff that makes me go “wow, that’s interesting!”
My 8 bucks contributed to help a charity (in this case, Every Child a Reader), and bought me 16 very different books.
I was particularly interested in the cookbooks, in the memoir by a former undercover detective, and in the writing handbooks.
The first I started was therefore David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist.

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