East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Clio’s Days Off

An interesting question was raised a few days back from my friend Giulia, that manages the Liberi di Scrivere lit blog (only in Italian, sorry).
The question was, more or less

how much leeway do we have when writing historical fiction?

Meaning, how much can we change, distort, manipulate or basically rewrite historical fact to fit our narrative?

Now, I’m sure my friend Claire covered this subject somewhere on her Scribblings blog (and if she did not, she should), and Giulia’s question received lots of answers, some I liked, some I liked a lot less.
And right now I’d like to expand on my answer, that did go more or less like this: Continue reading



WordPress implemented a new blogging interface a few days ago.
It’s pretty cool, it’s designed to be distraction-free, and basically on my countryside connection it makes posting a blog a one-hour affair instead of the usual fifteen minutes.
Because the interface is beautiful, but it’s heavy on my connection resources.


But this is not the real problem – I already write my posts using a text editor caller ReText (but any plain text editor or notepad works) and then copy-and-paste them in WordPress anyway.
But while I was waiting this morning for the interface to load, I found myself with ample time on my hands and started thinking…distraction-free? Continue reading

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The 6 Biggest Fantasy Blunders

selection_555Another good one from the Portent Content Idea Generator.
Because let’s be serious – we all have read some very bad fantasy in our day. And I use the term fantasy in its broader sense, from sword & sorcery where mighty-thewed barbarians roam to the shaded forests of high fantasy in which elves of all stripes can be found, to the slithery shadow of horror, to the dusty and sun-baked landscapes of planetary romance.


There’s some excellent stuff out there, but there’s also a fair amount of duds.
And if reading the good stuff is essential to write good stories, reading a fair amount of drivel – as long as we recognise it as drivel – is also useful, because we all learn from mistakes, and when it’s other people’s mistakes it sort of feels good, doesn’t it?

So, having read my more than fair amount of fantasy drivel, here’s my list of blunders, ugly choices and bad ideas behind some of the worse fantasy I ever read. Continue reading


Missing the Suez canal

Busy day – I got a rejection slip, I submitted a new story to a magazine, I wrote 2000 words of the forthcoming Hope & Glory handbook, and I cooked some top-notch tuna and tomato pasta for lunch.
And just as I was having lunch, I realized I had completely forgotten about the Suez Canal.

suez_canal_drawing_1881Let me explain – in Hope & Glory, after a catastrophe cripples the European Continent, a fleet carrying British refugees sails towards India.
The plan is to split the fleet in two – an as the bulk of the fleet circumnavigates Africa, braving the freak storms and the dangers of the long trip, a smaller fleet, carrying Queen Victoria and a number of VIPs, cuts through Gibraltar and Suez and reaches India through the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Nice and smooth.

Pity all this is happening in 1855, and as Wikipedia promptly reminds me, the Suez Canal…

… was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869. After 10 years of construction, it was officially opened on November 17, 1869.

This is the sort of embarrassing thing that will have to be swept under the carpet when reviews will appear praising “the research and historical detail” of Hope & Glory, but right now it’s quite fun, because it forced me to rethink a small piece of the background, and in the end the whole turned out to be much better than it was before.
I was able to add drama, build a little on the mystique about the origins of the Anglo-Indian Raj in my setting, and I also had the opportunity to kill off Prince Albert.
Which is sad, because the guy was all right, I guess, but I needed Victoria to be a widow upon arriving in India.

And I like very much the way in which the setting is mutating under my hands as I write chapter after chapter. Leaving my options open and improvising the details make the whole thing fun, and the setting is much more alive.
And it’s not as time consuming as it might seem.

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The Necronomicon stays in the picture or, new project for 2017

And so I missed the deadline.
Well, I am actually. Sort of.


Now, the bad thing is, I spent two days writing and that work won’t be paid. And given the current situation, with my bank account echoing hollowly, that is bad.
But the good thing is, the work done did not dissolve at the strike of midnight – it’s still there, it’s still pretty good (if I do say so myself), and now I am free.
Free in terms of wordcount, free in terms of themes and tones, free to use my characters as I see fit.
And yes, I told you so, I’m thinking about a series. I always think in terms of series.

So here’s how I spent the morning of the first day of 2017… Continue reading