East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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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.

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The power of the Longlist

Thanks to my inclusion in the BSFA Longlist for the short fiction award, I’m experiencing a sudden surge in popularity – a friend interviewed me for his YouTube channel, and now the local news “is available for an interview”. And I am really eager to see what will happen, considering the last two times they wrote about me, they got my name wrong, once calling me “Daniele Menna” – because “Davide Mana” is such a complicated name to get right.

This is very strange.
I wonder what might happen should I win… women tossing their bras and their hotel room keys to me, like they did with Tom Jones?
And also, what would happen, should I not get an award – which, let’s be realistic, is the likeliest eventuality – … what then? Oblivion, hostility… what?

All of this is a sharp reminder of the fact that such things can be gratifying, and of course I’m excited about being longlisted and all that, and it’s an important sign that I am doing at least something right, and an award would be crazy good, but one would be wrong putting too much stock in all of this. In the end, the stories are all that remains, and what people felt reading them.

Which is the reason why I am happy to have sent away two pitches today, and I am currently working on a third.
Daniele Menna can probably rest on his laurels. I can’t.



I am absolutely speechless (but not really, you know me) at the news that my short story Singularity, published in the magazine Shoreline of Infinity, has made it into the longlist for the BSFA Award for Short Fiction.

The list features some incredible stories by a number of excellent writers, and I am really feeling proud and humbled at the same time. It’s the first time a story of mine gets any kind of recognition, and … oh, well, I could get used to this sort of thing!

Anyway, I do not have a hope in hell considering the colossal stories that are on the list, but I do not care. This is great!

Enough rambling.
Back to editing.

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Editing on a cold Sunday afternoon

There’s a chicken experimentally going in the slow cooker – new recipe, somewhat dubious – and I am wrapped in a blanket at my PC, editing three stories for publication – three stories I sold in December 2020 and that will be available in March, or later, via the respective publishers.

March 2021.
It feels at the same time very close (“heck, one fourth of the year is gone already!”) and very far (“March is like… six weeks away!”).
As usual, working on the edits suggestions from top notch editors is a pleasure – there’s a faint thrill of panic, but it is under control.

But sitting here on this cold Sunday afternoon editing stories I wrote last year and now will see publication, put me in the mood for more writing.
First, because we’re fifteen days into 2021 and I have not yet submitted any new story, and second, because I’d like to self-publish something, to capture the fast turnover that only self-publishing allows.

Anyway, right now, there’s some edits to be approved.
Then, we’ll start jotting down ideas again.

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So you’ve got a cold.
The world – or at least a fair chunk of it – is going bonkers, and you’re going through one of your usual bouts of insomnia.
It’s three am and you’re unable to stream the new Lupin TV series.
Your house is cold as a Viking hell, and you don’t feel like writing.
What better opportunity to back-up your data and then update your operating system?

Fast forward to seven hours later.
You are trying to roll-back a failed update, while your PC refuses to connect to the web.
You start thinking that this year 2021 is going to give 2020 a run for its money.
You are cursing ancient Lovecraftian gods.

Then, thankfully, your computer programmer brother finds a way to get your LAN working again, you go online and the roll-back fails, but now you can try the update again, and it sort of works.
You have the whole afternoon to re-install the bits that are missing.

Your PC works – and it’s the perfect time to find out that all of your backed up data was lost, because the portable HD you used acted up. You have a fine collection of empty folders.

The weekend will never come too soon.

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Season’s Greetings

In the classic Christmas Movie Gremlin (hey, it is a classic!), the character of Kate observes how the Christmas season is the hardest day for lonely and depressed people.

While everybody else are opening up their presents, they’re opening up their wrists.

And indeed, a lot of people out there are being hit hard.
I usually realize things are taking a bad turn because my insomnia is replaced by absolute lethargy – I’d sleep all day, and it’s probably a coping mechanism, a way to shut out the problems.

Because they get thicker and weirder on Christmas, don’t they?
Yesterday I got an overdue payment bill that I thought I had discussed and settled with the guys.
I’ve got the money to cover it, but what the hell, a menacing letter two days before Christmas?
How come bills and hassles always hit us two days before Christmas?
And this morning both water and power were cut – because a pipe exploded somewhere because of the cold, and to work on it, they (accidentally?) cut the power for the whole village.
Merry Christmas.
Or something.

So, it’s going to be hard – this year probably harder than in the past.
We know it, we can take it.
Hold on tight out there, and if you feel the tide is rising too fast and you’re going to go under, reach out to someone and seek help. There is nothing wrong with seeking help.

And to cheer you up, here’s a song from another movie that deserves to be a Christmas classic.
Check it out.
And Happy Holidays.