Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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More worldbuilding, and beyond

It’s now ten days that I’m working on my 30 Days of Worldbuilding Challenge on Patreon, and it looks like the world is conspiring to make me spend more money and more time on books and software.
Which is good. Sorta.
I mean, it’s almost a sign I finally managed to surf the flow of the Tao.
Or something.

First there was the Maps Bonanza bundle on Humble Bundle, and I ended up getting a ton of mapping software – and I formulated the new year’s proposition (in November, because I like to get ahead with the work) of learning to use the Campaign Cartographer 3+ software and start producing my own gaming and fiction maps.
Who knows, might even turn into a collateral source of income…

Then a second Humble Bundle came up, about game-design – and it is quite interesting, but as it is chiefly focused on video games, I spent only one buck, and got the minimum offer of three game-design books that look like all I will need for quite a while.

… and considering I had already splurged for a massive Numenera RPG bundle, and for a selection of Eastern philosophy ebooks by Shambhala, it seemed to me this month the Bundle had more than earned its keep.
And really, buying these bundles is a way for me to keep true to another of my new year’s propositions, from 2020 – if I find myself with enough money in my pockets, I will spend some for charities. And Humble Bundle is a good way for doing so while at the same time getting a load of books.

But this month, I decided, enough.

But then Bundle of Holding popped up in my mailbox with – you guessed it, a selection of stuff for worldbuilding, specifically aimed at games.
And the basic tier was about 8 bucks, and included a 15 bucks book I’ve had on my wishlist for two years. And so I went and got that too. So now I have more stuff to read.

The excuse I used with myself to gift me yet another bundle of books is that I’ve passed the 15.000 words mark on my current novel – while at the same time hitting 5000 words on the RPG campaign I have hereon my desk (I’m slacking on this one) and 15.000 words again on my Worldbuilding Challenge.
Not bad, considering I’ve wasted over a month because I was typing with one hand short of a pair.

And here’s the fun thing: the daily chapter of my 30 Days challenge is what helped me get back in gear with my serious work. Not only I am slowly recovering as much functionality as I can for my left hand, but I’ve also connected back with the fun of writing.
Which is good, because writing is what’s paying the bills.

And I have more things to come – I’d love to give the podcasting thing another spin, for instance, and create something different than Paura & Delirio, which I am co-hosting and is a great source of fun and learning.
I’d love to do something on writing, or fantasy, or both.
But there are a lot of things to take into account, most important of all I’d hate to do one of those “Who’s this Nyarlathotep chap anyway” things that seem to be popular with the nerdz these days.
I’d like to invent something unique, and different.
Right now I’ve a copybook, in which I am jotting down ideas.

So, things are rather good.
Now I’ve only to keep going.

(and incidentally, I’ve put links in this post to both Humble Bundle and Bundle of Holding. I’m not making a single cent out of this, but maybe some one of you guys is interested)


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November after-dinner project: worldbuilding and roleplaying

Breaking a finger was not a good idea.
Right now the finger’s doing well (thanks for asking), the doctor likes what he sees in the X-ray shots, and I’ve made froends with the X-ray technician, so everything’s for the best.
BUT, writing is a drag.

Right now I have a full right hand and two fingers and a thumb on the left – but I must go carefully, because i don’t want to hit or press the broken finger. So, I’m writing slow – or at least slower than my standard.

This would not a problem were it not that I am to deliver a full RPG campaign by the end of December, a full fantasy novel by the end of January, and more or less between those two, a 20-pages piece of geographical/historical worldbuilding for another RPG.

Three very exciting projects – I’m having a blast, writing them… well, sort of a slow-mo blast.

And because I am doing all of these things… why not get something else on the cooker, just to make sure I won’t have a moment for myself?

Continue reading


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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.