East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Faster than the speed of night

… is, in fact, a song by Jim Steinman that was recorded by Bonnie Tyler in 1983, and it also gave the title to her most popular album, that I dutifully have on vinyl because I was young and reckless once, or something.
But that’s not what I want to talk about.

The thing started with a movie featuring Michael Caine – an actor I like very much – and called Pulp. You can imagine I was interested in catching it (and I think I reviewed it in the past – I’m sure WordPress will put a link in the footer of this post if I did).
While the movie is not very good, it has a beautiful BlueRay case illustration, and it’s always good watching Caine playing a suave anti-hero.

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This writing thing is getting out of hand

I spent the whole day writing, clocking about 8000 words. It was not even that hard – the one true problem was the heat (we are again over 30°C with swimming-pool grade humidity and not a breath of air).
I also found the time to take a little walk after sunset, and I submitted two stories. One already came back with a list of required changes.

But yesterday night it was fun – we went out and met a writer friend, and spent the evening sitting out of a bar, drinking cool lemonade and talking shop.
The Doobie Brothers were wrong. It’s not hiding your heart. It’s these breaks, when you spend an evening rambling about everything with an intelligent person, staying away from the PC, internet and your current WIP(s), that keep you running,

But there are some drawbacks.
For instance, I came home last night well convinced I’ll write a mystery novel this coming winter. I’ll do it the way Stephen King does: six pages a day. Work two solid months, you get 360 pages.
The trick, I guess, is to have a solid outline, and extensive notes when you set out on this journey.
I will do it.

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Some late night thoughts about invisibility

This post might be (and probably will be) rambling and jump all over the place. Please bear with me – it’s very late at night.
I’ve been thinking about invisibility a lot, in the last few months. Now this is a good thing, one might say, for a fantasy writer: invisibility is a classic gimmick, and one that can be used to tell an exciting story while at the same time touching on a number of different themes, and thus talk about reality and truth. A good subject, invisibility, easily recognized and versatile.

Indeed it can be argued that my story The Smell of Empty Places (that was published in Italian in Acheron Books’ Dark Italy, and might one of these days be published in English, too) is a story about invisibility – the main character suffers (or enjoys? Ah!) a sui generis form of social invisibility, and making herself invisible is what she needs to do in order to escape the monsters she was able to find exactly because of her peculiar situation.

But it’s not invisibility as a story engine that’s been rolling through my mind in these last few months, but rather invisibility as a writer’s trait – as a very desirable choice for a writer.

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Practicing the True Secret of Writing (or at least trying)

I think I already told you part of this, so bear with me if I repeat myself.
I started dabbling with Zen in high school: our teacher was convinced the Ministry-approved curriculum for History and Philosophy was limited and incomplete, and so he assigned us to write essays on subjects that were not part of the program. I already had a passion for the east, and so I chose to do a paper on Zen philosophy.
My teacher provided a few titles, and then I discovered Thomas Hoover’s Zen Culture, and I was thoroughly fascinated. Incidentally, Hoover’s book can be downloaded for free – together with many of his other fine fiction and non-fiction books – from the author’s web page.
My essay got top marks, my schoolmates concluded I was even more of a crackpot and a geek than I appeared to be, and I started what was to be an on-off interest for the rest of my life.

The crackpot part is significant – there was another thing I did, back in high school, that marked me as a weirdo. I wrote stories.
They were very poor stories, mostly fantasy and science fiction, hammered out on my mother’s Olivetti typewriter, but I liked it as much as I liked reading. Possibly more: because I’d be able to write stories I did not find around, and I would have loved to read.
It was a start.
My schoolmates looked at me and shook their heads.
Not all of them – a few were quite supportive – and one of them even said “You’ll end up being a real writer.”
I wished I had his faith in my skills.

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Getting at least the basics straight

A few months back, I was the witness of a surreal discussion among (male) writers about how to write (female) characters.
It was one of those things that REALLY make me feel like a rude mechanical that gatecrashed a party of fine intellectuals, because the guys brought up literary theory, polling the feedback of female beta readers and conducting interviews with control groups to be sure of “getting it right”, and then of course Jung’s theory of the Animus and Anima, yin and yang, Freud’s letter to his chiropractor and what else.
Real heavy stuff.

Now, I usually think about the women I have known in my life – friends and lovers, relations and acquaintances, teachers, co-workers, neighbors, strangers overheard on the train and at the supermarket.
Characters in books, films, comics.
For certain bits – like the name of certain items of clothing, current or past fashion trends, make-up and grooming, I do a spot of research.
The rest I make up.
So far nobody complained about my female characters.

But then last night, I was shown this…

And I think we need to talk.
So take a deep breath, stop laughing, and let’s talk.

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Cherish the small pleasures

… because sometimes the big pleasures are out of your league.

And having spent a whole day writing, today’s small pleasure will be to take a walk under the stars and enjoy and ice-cool lemonade (that’s called “gazzosa” hereabout – like the French “gazeuse”).

There’s a company that does special edition bottles with nose-art style ’40s pinups.

Sometimes that’s enough to feel better.