East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Still my favorite song

One day I will write a story. It will be called Still my favorite song, that is a quote from a song by Burt Bacharach, called It was you. I often use old songs to find a title for my stories and my works. My weird western gaming supplement for Deadlands is called Messico & Nuvole, and that’s the title of a song. All the Hope & Glory novellas have a title based on a record or a song, and Hope & Glory itself references Edward Elgar, of course.

One day I will write Still my favorite song, that is a story about a guy that after thirty years still has dreams in which he meets his first love. I could quote Donald Fagen’s The Goodbye Look, given the premise, and call the story An old lover dressed in grey, but Bacharach is more fitting. Fagen is too cynical.

In the story, whenever this guy is going through a rough patch in his life, he gets these dreams, and finds himself in a deserted city, a stark black and white city in a sort of Norman Bel Geddes modernist style, and there he meets his old flame, and they spend some time together, exploring the empty city, and talking. Then he wakes up, and he has only a sketchy memory of what they did, where they went, what they found out, what they discovered. But it feels good.

The dream thing goes on for a few nights, then the affairs in his real life get better, and the dreams are gone, only to return, months or even years later, when something goes wrong in his life again.

This goes on for thirty years. Then one day they meet in real life. She’s happy, she has her own life and everything. They have a cup of tea and a talk, like good old friends would. And talking together, they find out they have been dreaming the same city. They saw the same landmarks, went to the same places, and she has been meeting him there just as he met her.

I don’t know what will happen from that point on, in my story. I want to write it to find it out.

One day or another I will write Still my favorite song. Not right now, but I will, I know I will. After all, don’t they tell us we should write based on our own experiences?


Art for art’s sake

Not necessarily the 10cc song of the same title, but maybe… who knows? I stumbled today on a discussion in which one of the individuals involved claimed genre fiction can’t be as good as literary fiction, because if it’s good it can’t be genre fiction. I oversimplify, but that was basically the gist of the argument, with a twist – genre writing can’t be good because of the way in which it is produced, because of the authorial intent, if you will.

Now the obvious implication of this reasoning is, the moment I sit here and I say to myself , for instance,

now I’ll write me a ghost story

my story automatically looses the opportunity of being good, in a “literary fiction” sort of good. It’s flawed simply because I decided upon a certain form, and contents, that can be slotted into a genre. Mind you, it still exists the odd possibility that the story will turn out so good it will actually be literature, but it’s highly unlikely, and should it happen, it will be despite my intentions.

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Writing from experience

Reader, I did it! About two hours ago – at the time of publishing this – I sent a short story of mine to a literary magazine, my first literary fiction submission ever. Mainstream as hell, no flashing swords, no roaring rockets, no snarky adventurers in this one. Serious fiction, yessir.
There goes my pulp street cred.

The venue to which I have submitted my piece is so classy and literary and posh that they don’t pay the stories they publish, but in exposure – but I was happy to break my rule, never to give away my work for free, because, first, it was a 330-words piece that I wrote in thirty minutes (and edited in two hours, more about that later), second, I considered more a writing exercise than work, and third, because it is a story I want somebody to publish.

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To be or not to be

(nice title, what?)

One of those little details that tell you an awful lot about the differences between languages and cultures and worldviews is the fact that when dealing with jobs and occupations, English uses mostly (if not exclusively) the verb “to be” (as in, “I am a part time dog walker”) while Italian can use both “to be” and “to do” – “I am a part time dog walker” but also “I do the part time dog walker” (the correct English form would be the bulkier “I currently work as a part time dog walker”).

Where does this lead us?
Well, let’s start saying I am thinking of renaming a character in my current work in progress, from Sara to Pandora. That’s a big jump, uh?
Let’s backtrack for a moment…
( This is a speech I was supposed to give a few weeks ago in a library, then the thing fizzed – I hope you’ll enjoy it.)

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On the other hand…

Having explained (sort of) how I am going about my new story, mixing improvisation with a minimum of planning, I find myself in quite a different situation with a new project. And before you go, man, how many projects have you going? The answer is, as many as I can, because the bills keep on coming. But it’s more complicated than that.

Case in point – a publisher I respect has put up three calls for three different anthologies. Not much money in the thing, but as I said I respect the publisher, it is a new market, and it would look good on my CV.

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Structure on the go

Structure is essential in a story, especially if it is a long story. Even more so if it’s being written in a loose, impromptu way – the way I’m writing Parabellum Serenade. Once the story is finished, it will have to have a symmetry, like a crystal, a rhythm like a piece of music. The trick, because I am playing fast and loose, is finding a way to provide the story with hooks, with hard-points that will be used during revision to strengthen the structure of the narrative.

Parabellum Serenade (note to self – nice title, now you’ve got to get yourself a cover) is a story about a bunch of characters that served in the army and that, ten and odd years later, come together again for one last mission, to help a friend. They will find out they are about to take a larger bite than they can swallow. So, for starters, I am using a typical set-up for this sort of stories – the Five Man Band.

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Snowed in

The First of February came with a heavy snowfall, that started in the night and added up to the 30 cms we had got a week ago. This caused the day’s plans to go somewhat askew – we were supposed to drive to the supermarket for provisions, and will do it tomorrow instead, and spent the warmest hours of the afternoon shoveling snow off the lane.

This is the sort of thing I should post as an example of the funny surreal things that happen to writers when they should be writing instead. Shoveling snow or, like two days ago, running barefooted in the snow to try and catch the postman before he disappears.
What a cartload of laughs, uh?
You read of things like that and instantly you decide to follow me on Patreon.

But I’m being uselessly snarky.
I did need a bit of exercise, and shoveling snow was a good opportunity.

I keep writing, and tonight it’s going to be one long writing session. Also, I’m going to try a new writing trick. Then on the weekend I’ll be working on another project.