Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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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Pitch perfect

Well, no, not perfect.
Perfection is a trap.
But last night I was informed that two of my recent pitches have been accepted, and I’ll be writing two new stories that I need to mail off by the summer. The acceptance of the pitches is not a guarantee the stories will sell, but hey, it’s a start!
Time to get writing again!

And I am putting together notes and ideas to make another pitch on Monday.
And this one is going to be big, and I’m pretty excited at the opportunity.

It’s been suggested I set up some kind of instructional thing about pitches, and how to do them.
It might be fun, but as usual I am not sure I can really teach it to people.
I’ll think about it.

And talking about teaching: I’m following an online course about dealing with toxic people in our writing career.
Because stuff happens, you know.
It’s turning out to be quite fun.


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How I spent my Workers’ Day

Working on a ghostwriting gig is great because it pays the bills, and because it gives me the opportunity to discover, explore and write stuff I would not normally have in my life – business, current affairs, other people’s lives.
It’s a great source of inspiration.
It is also a soul-killing experience, most of the time, because it means working for a boss, and a boss that usually hires a professional to do a certain job, but basically believes they know a lot more about the job at hand that the professional they have hired to do it. The result is, they do not respect the process.
Because they do not know there is a process.
They have this romantic idea of writing, that’s something that comes to you and possesses you like an ancient ghost, and they are quite sure they are the ones possessed … because it’s their book, right?
You are just a hired hand.
It can get tiresome.

But because I was thinking about these things, instead of spending my May Day weekend writing writing writing, I spent some time reading about writing process and writing structure. The fact that I was trying to put some order in my library, tackling the writing shelf, also helped.

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Gearing up for #StoryaDay May 2021

Novel writers do the NaNoWriMo, where they churn out a first draft of a new novel in the month of November, and they post a badge and blog about it. Short story writers have their own high-pressure challenge, and it is StoryaDay May: we set our own rules, but the basic idea is writing a new original story each day, for the duration of the month of May, based on a prompt provided by other writers.

I did it last year, and ended up with 20-odd flash fictions, half a dozen of which I sold in the later year – and one was actually longlisted for the BSFA Award.
So deciding to do it again was a no brainer.

My own rules for this run are pilfered from my friend Claire’s own run – because I am lazy, and because why re-invent the wheel, right?
So here they go…

  • Flash fiction.
  • At least five stories a week.
  • First drafts only. No revision – not at this stage.
  • And I’d like to say “No research”, too – but… yes, well. Let us keep it at “No rabbit holes,” shall we?

That’s absolutely perfect. I particularly appreciate the rabbit hole bit, because… research, right?

If I will be able to keep up with this, I might end the month with 20-odd flash fictions again, and then I’ll be able to revise them, and send them off into the world to provide money to buy food and pay bills.
Because that’s the way I do it.

Last year I used Scrivener, but since this year my copy of the software refuses to run on Linux, I’ve shifted to Focuswriter, that’s proving to be quite good, and comes with typewriter sounds for those moments when I feel nostalgic.
So the idea is simply to write all the flash fiction into a single file, separating them with a “##”, and then sort them out later when I will revise.

I’ll keep you posted.


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Give it a spin

It started because of the podcast I am producing and co-hosting with my friend Lucy. After we recorded the last episode, we started talking about a cancelled project for a spin-off series, and we both agreed we would have watched the hell out of such a spin-off. But there is not a hope in hell we’ll ever see it. Dang.

But of course the obvious follow-up was that if no official spin-off is made, a writer could always take the basic concepts, change the registration plates, give it a new paint job, and then give it a spin.
I mean, you can’t copyright story ideas, you can only copyright the way they are executed.

And so, after spending five to eight hours a day on my current ghostwriting gig, I decided to see what would happen if I spent one hour after dinner jotting down a few ideas.
Throw in a few other influences, change this and that… throw in a little John Carpenter, a little George Miller.
Add a political twist, but classy. Add a few original characters.
And I had to spend a while researching how much blood you need to lose in order for your heart to fail. fun stuff, what?

And now I have the first draft of a six-thousand-words story in the can, and two outlines for other two stories – one of which I dreamed, believe it or not … first time this happens to me.
And so I am seriously thinking whether it would be better to try and pitch the finished stories to a magazine, or self publish them. And again, self-publish as three shorts, or as a three-stories volume?
And where do I get a cover, or three?
And considering it’s been over one year since my last self-published ebook, will anybody be interested?
Ah!
But it’s fun, and it’s a relaxing exercise, because there are no strings attached – I am doing it for the best reason there is for writing: because I’d like to read these stories myself.
The result is pulpy good fun, without too many complications.
And the great bit is, these stories are starting to look like they are set in the same universe of my other project, the science fantasy adventure one. Which is fitting.
I might have a big thing here going, and no time to really work on it. As usual.


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No rest for the wicked (or something)

April started with uncertain weather, the shift to Daylight Saving Time, showers, a number of problems and headaches, and the typical springtime weariness that makes sleeping the best apparent option.
But there is no time for that – or at least for over-sleeping.

I am currently working on the double to close the ghostwriting job I’ve spent the last six weeks working on. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and it’s a good thing, because there are unexpected expenses on the horizon, connected with my mother’s grave being moved – a service that used to be free, and now that the Turin cemetery has become a for-profit company costs in the order of fifteen hundred euro minimum.
It’s great to live in an ultra-liberist society, what?

But things are moving, more or less in the right direction.
I have a lot to write – apart from the ghostwriting gig – and there might be interesting stuff coming.
Watch this space.

And because as usual when I am overworked I get ideas that I’d like to put to paper instantly, a friend just pointed out to me a connection between Hammer’s Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, and and the anime movie Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. One that it would be great to explore in a story or six.
But let’s jot down a few notes, and save that for the long sleepless nights of summer.


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Cover reveal: The Devourer Below

I am pleased to share the gorgeous cover, designed by John Coulthart, for the forthcoming Arkham Horror Anthology, The Devourer Below, edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells and published by Aconyte/Fantasy Flight. The book will be published in July, but the cover was revealed only today.

The volume includes a story of mine, set in Arkham during the Jazz Age, and called All my friends are monsters. I am very proud of being part of this project, and I am extremely pleased with my story.
But then, I’d have to be, right?