Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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One-handed

I have a lot of things to do – I am writing a campaign for a roleplaying game (sketch maps, draw diagrams, do the actual writing), I am revising a novel, I am about to sign a contract for another novel (fingers crossed), plus the usual number of short stories written on spec. A few articles. An interview. The podcast I am producing and co-hosting.
Lots of stuff.

But, in an unexpected accident (silly, all accidents are unexpected), I went and broke a finger, and as a result I am writing with only one hand. And I’ve been lucky – it could have been a lot worse.

So, what to do?
My writing is severely limited, and I might go for a dictation app for the urgent stuff.
But for the time being, as I am still in convalescence – and I’ll be for another week – I am trying to keep my mind off my current problems, and I’m catching up on my books backlog.

Right now I am reading Zen: the Art of Simple Living, by Sunmyoo Masuno, a slender book of practical zen for everyday life. A lot of the wisdom in the book is not new, and indeed a few things are already part of my day to day routine, but it is always good to have a reminder.

And it is also interesting, in this moment of forced stillness, to be reading a book about stillness as choice and lifestyle. It is a good moment as any to take stock of the situation and make a few adjustments, and any sensible suggestion is welcome – this is the right book at the right time.

Indeed, this accident will make me wiser for the future – and indeed, one of the first suggestions in the book, if applied, would have saved me lots of grief.


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A ghost in the library

I am happy to announce that my short story A Rainy Night in the French Quarter is the featured story in this month’s Dread Imaginings – and you can read it for free.

It is a ghost story, set in Shanghai (big surprise, uh?) and in particular into one of the phone booths that the city administration transformed into mini-libraries.

I hope you’ll enjoy it.


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Non Disclosure Agreement

I have just signed a contract for a big-ish writing job, something large and fun and different that, with a modicum of luck, will come out next year and will carry my name on the cover (or somewhere inside).
Something I cannot tell you about, for a publisher I cannot disclose, part of a project that shall remain unnamed.
Aren’t non disclosure agreements a wonder?

But I can tell you this is one of two big jobs I have lined up for the autumn (the second being still pending), a big fat 80.000 words writing adventure that I will have to plan carefully and execute with speed, elegance and panache.
Or something.

It will mean reading a lot of interesting books for research (a couple I have read already early in the summer), and then write, write, write.

So, the basic equipment is here and is ready

  • a BIC pen and a copybook
  • a stack of books
  • a folder filled with ebooks
  • Scrivener
  • a virtually infinite supply of tea

The vacations are over.
Time to get to work.

And also time to find a way to post updates about my work here, without telling you about what I am writing.
This is going to be fun.


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A drink with Mary

So, here’s what’s happening: I am writing a short story.
Big deal, you say – that’s what you do for a living, of course you’re writing a story.
Which is somewhat correct, but let me explain…

Saturday this thing appeared in my mailbox…

An evening drink on the beach in Sicily, with a side of an appearance by the Virgin Mary (whose Ascension was celebrated on Sunday), and a complimentary rosary.
Free admission, donations welcome.

You see where I am going?
How could I not write a story about this?
Tackling my brother’s passion for cocktails, and my old interest in Tiki lounges and exotica?
Of course I had to do it.

So there you have it.
I’m writing it.
Then I’ll post it to my Patrons.
Then… we’ll see.


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Writing a writing course

That’s what I will do during the two weeks of vacations that start today – I will write a writing course.

The idea started after a long chat with a friend, about how there is people out there – mostly kids – spending hundreds of euros on writing courses in which individuals with very dubious qualifications but very aggressive propaganda teach them poorly the very basics, usually in such a soulless, dogmatic way that the poor kids emerge completely crippled.

Now, how to defuse such a state of affairs?

Of course, if you are fluent in English, you can follow Brandon Sanderson’s lessons for free on Youtube, and for about 150 bucks per year you can get the Masterclass writing courses, if that’s your cup of tea, and learn all you can from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, David Mamet or Margaret Atwood.
But here’s the rub – a lot of Italian teenagers are not that hot with English, and so they end up shelling out their hard-earned savings to get some commonplace writing guidelines (“show don’t tell”, “write what you know”) from individuals that would not manage to write their way out of a paper bag.

So, why not put together a very basic writing course, one covering all the basics, a course that’s easy to read and fun, and then give it away for free?
Say, applying to it a Creative Commons license?

And that’s what I am doing – I have currently about 2500 words of it.
It will be in both Italian and English, and I will try and distribute it through a variety of channels, starting with my Patreon pages and then my blogs and socials.
The idea is too provide the basic writer’s toolbox to all that are interested, and also to nurture a mindset that will make it harder for self-styled gurus to push their half-assed belief systems on the unwary … because they will not be unwary any longer.

And for starters… it’s a lot harder going than I thought it would be.


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In the wilderness: on death, betrayal and fear

They say you shouldn’t talk personal stuff on the web, because it’s only going to bring grief, but I don’t care.
So this is going to be a strange post – if I’ll ever post it – but let’s start somewhere good.
Let’s start with Emmylou Harris.
While I can’t say to be a country music lover (I am not), I have always loved Emmylou Harris.
Sometimes in 1990, more or less, I caught on the radio Harris singing “Boulder to Bimingham”, and on the following day I got myself the 1975 records, Elite Hotel and Pieces of the Sky.
What a beautiful voice!

Where is this going?
I’m getting there.

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The rule of cool is not enough

I did not want to write this post.
No, really!
I have better things to do and barely the energy to do them, why then…?
Ah!
Let me get this from the start…

I have watched Army of the Dead.
It’s currently on Netflix, and the whole world and their sister watched it – Zack Snyder’s own take on the zombie apocalypse, featuring David Bautista, and poised to become the start of a new cinematic universe.
An action-adventure movie, more than a horror – that’s what I was expecting, and I was cool with that.
I like action-adventure movies.
And believe me, my expectations were really low.

It was a joyless experience, as somebody already said.
One that made me re-evaluate a lot of other movies – compared to this, the silly fluff of Monster Hunter feels like John Milius working on a script from Karl Edward Wagner.

And I am sure you’ve read the reviews – both those that praise Snyder as god’s gift to the filmic arts, and those that say this is a load of rubbish wrapped in an out-of-focus aesthetic and spiked with dubious morality.
And I stand firmly in the second camp, and yet…

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