Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Learning from anime

I’ve had this idea, about a series of posts about what I learned about storytelling from various media I used to spend my time with as a kid. This was in part inspired by a chat I had this morning with my friend Lucy, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
As a kid I watched a lot of movies and TV series, cartoons both western and Japanese, I read comics, I read novels and short stories and non fiction… each of these shaped the way I think about stories, and I think it might be fun to try and take a look at all these influences.

And I’m starting with anime because… ah, because we need to start somewhere, right?

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Creative mumblings

Among the many things I’ve been toying with, while I am trapped in a time-consuming, soul-killing writing job, there’s a ghost story. I’d love to write a “proper” ghost story, more or less novella-length, set in modern day and with a classic structure.
I even have a working title – The Cold Spot.

And this morning, while I was doing a modicum of chores, I set my brain to thinking about it, and a question came up – would I be able to do something different with such a story?
Because, really, writing classic ghost stories in a world where the readers can get Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House or Peter Straub Ghost Story or, indeed, M.R. James’ collections, the risk is an exercise in futility.

Now there are two indexes, so to speak, by which I can measure a story, these being, for lack of better words, fun and significance. A lot of highly entertaining books are like a glass of water – they pass and leave no trace.
Others leave a sign, and offer us better insight in the world we live in.

It would be good to do a fun, significant story.

But on the other hand, there are moments what we need is just a tall cool glass of water, to bring us back to life.
So maybe all this is just a part of me trying to avoid the fact that I should sit down and write the damn thing, and get it out of my system.
It would be nice to have it in time for Halloween.
Or for Christmas.

But first, I have to clear my table.


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An obsession with notebooks

I was reading an interesting piece by writer and adventurer (or the other way around) Alastair Humphreys, about his tools as a writer, and I followed one of his links down a rabbit hole of posts, tweets and photos about notebooks.

The photo of Humphrey’s soaked notebook above reminded me of my time in the field as a geology student. The basic tools of the trade of the geologist in the field are hammer, compass and notebook. The basic destiny of the geologist student in the field is to get soaked.

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Buying fans

A few days ago I decided to invest part of the money I made with my last story sale to buy me a fan. During the last three years both the fans we had here at home died on us, and the one that’s left is one of those huge wind machines they use during concerts to keep the musicians cool on stage under the floodlights. It’s a blast. Literally.

So on Friday I started browsing Amazon, while I transferred some money from my PayPal – where I had been paid for the story – on my credit card, because Amazon won’t accept PayPal, which is a nice little medieval thing, like when the Sultan in Istanbul would not accept the coins of the King of France, but would happily cash in the money from Italian Merchant Republics. Makes you wonder about the future of our civilization, right?
So, I have a credit card I use only for Amazon, and I fund when needed.

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Little unplanned-for adventures

Two nights ago, I sat in the courtyard during one of the most impressive electric storms I ever witnessed. Clouds chased each other in the sky, the roll of thunder echoed over our village, and flashes of light made the countryside and the deserted streets of Castelnuovo Belbo look like a Hammer movie set.
I was half-expecting to see a carriage drive up the lane, carrying Peter Cushing or, with a little luck, Ingrid Pitt.

Instead the night only brought a drop in temperatures, from 40°C to a much more manageable 18°C.

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The strongest emotion is fear and the strongest fear is fear of change

This morning I had another brief but momentous discussion, over a social network, about the menace to our civilization, and more importantly to our livelihood as writers, that are themed calls aimed at specific groups – usually based on gender, ethnicity, age bracket or other such things.

You know, SJWs rampaging in the streets, publishers putting political correctness before quality, the usual load of rubbish. And like in that old Flashman book, “I gave them a fine piece of my mind, but at that point they had already thrown me out on the sidewalk.”
So I decided to write my thoughts here, just so that I can inflict them on you.

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Bribes

I have been in the habit of bribing myself to write – I set targets and little awards for reaching them. Finish this story, and you’ll get a serving of ice cream, or a Mars bar.
Which, in a village where a Mars bar goes for two bucks, is no small thing, you will agree.

Right now I am writing a short story for an anthology submission, and while I have a good idea of where the story needs to go, and through which specific way-points it’s got to go to get there, I am having a hard time finding the proper voice and tone for it.
I really like the theme (a cross-over of history, myth and weird fiction) and I really want to make it into the finished book, but I’ve been wasting a lot of time.
So I was looking for a little bribe for finishing the job.

Then, a friend posted something on Facebook.

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