Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Leave a comment

Writing and flute playing

I’m doing a bit of recycling here, but I hope you’ll like this old piece I wrote in 2013. The fact is, I mentioned my flute-playing past, in a post on my Italian blog, and the “also read” function of WordPress suggested this old piece from five years ago, and I re-read it, and found it’s not so stupid or dated or what. Why not clean it up, translate it and post it here?
It’s a piece about writing…

It’s now over fifteen years since I last picked up my flute, and more than 25 since I last played it seriously. Many things put an end to my activity – from the disappearance of the people with whom I could play, to the fact that the time became less and less, and at that point, having to sacrifice one of my too many interests, the flute took second position to writing.
And talking about writing, there’s a few things I learned as a flute player that apply pretty straightforwardly to writing – because you must not believe the gurus, you can learn about writing everywhere.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Marque & Reprisal

Letters of Marque are a staple of historical adventure and pirate-oriented fiction: be it in the Spanish Main or at large into the stardust-strewn Orion’s Arm, no matter if you command a sailing ship or motor launch or a starship, a Letter of Marque is what you need to be on the safe side. At least, on one safe side, at least.

Commodore Walkers Action by Brooking

The handbook definition is as follows:

Letters of marque and reprisal are commissions or warrants issued to someone to commit what would otherwise be acts of piracy. They will normally contain the following first three elements, unless they imply or refer to a declaration of war to define the enemies, and may optionally contain the remainder:

  • Names person, authorizes him to pass beyond borders with forces under his command.
  • Specifies nationality of targets for action.
  • Authorizes seizure or destruction of assets or personnel of target nationality.
  • Describes offense for which commission is issued as reprisal.
  • Restriction on time, manner, place, or amount of reprisal.

And that’s what I’ve been doing this afternoon, contrary to my plans – no, I don’t mean committing what would otherwise be acts of piracy(although it would be fun). I mean I spent part of the afternoon putting together a Letter of Marque issued by the Honourable East India Company to characters and players in my Hope & Glory roleplaying game – as in my universe John Company has become a sort of corporate state, they have a right to issue such documents.
To airships.
Because we like sky privateers.

The letter is part of a special treat for some of our fans, and part of the current Kickstarter to release an Italian language edition of the game.
And who knows, might turn into a hook for future adventures. It was also a nice opportunity to do the sort of research that makes this writing thing quite fun.


2 Comments

Accountants, Soldiers and Nurses

Accountants are dangerous. And no, I am not going to entertain you with my adventures in mortgage and banking. The fact is, while doing a bit of research both for The Ministry of Lightning and for a short article I am about to write, I chanced on something that will not go in the article – being only tangentially connected with the topic – and will certainly get into the novel. And it’s all about accountants.
One accountant in particular.
His name was Andrea Compatangelo, and he was an Italian, from Benevento.

Let’s bactrack a little – during the Great War, a number of Italians fought in the Austro-Hungarian forces, simply because the territories from which they came, while being ethnically Italy, were part of the Hapsburg Empire. Many of these men were taken prisoner on the Eastern Front, and deported to Russia.

After the war, an Italian military mission took care of extracting the “talianski” from the Russian working camps, and bring them back to Italy. This is the subject of the article I am writing.
But there were others. And here we go down a wholly different rabbit hole. This is a strange story…

Continue reading


4 Comments

Coming soon-ish: The Heart of the Lizard

There is one thing that can really make things look up even on a cold rainy day, when you are writing for a living, and that’s being asked by your publisher how many more stories in the same series can you write, per year, should the first one you just delivered be a success.

The obvious answer being “as many as you need,” of course – but in the meantime you feel real good because you know you’ve done a good job.

It happened to me a few hours ago, three days after delivering The Heart of the Lizard, my first (hopefully, of many) tie-in novella for Andrea Sfiligoi’s 4 Against Darkness fantasy solo roleplaying game, set in the gaming world of Norindaal.

Continue reading


4 Comments

British vs American

I have a problem.
OK, I’ve got a lot of those, but one in particular came up in conversation this afternoon, and the problem is, Brits and Yanks don’t speak (and more importantly, don’t write) the same language.
And because these two different languages as English, I mix them up, and (some of) my readers cringe, and it’s very very embarrassing and all that.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Show, don’t tell

We were talking about writers and social media with some friends, yesterday, and how you are supposed to post regularly and get Likes on Facebook and shares and what not to increase your reach and develop your platform. I hate it. I mean, when I post something on my Facebook profile or my Twitter channel, or indeed here on my blog, it’s not, usually, thinking

Wow! The punters will love this! My Social Media Score will go up!

So yes, I suck at social media.
On the other hand, talking with my friends, I found out a lot of writers feel awkward about strutting their stuff online just for clicks. An we identified three types of social media writers we really can’t stand.
So, why not post a brief profile of these guys. Maybe I’ll get a lot of likes and shares…

Continue reading