East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Karavansara Free Library: Six books by Emily Hahn

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove of free ebooks somehow related to Karavansara’s themes and topics.

220px-Emily_HahnWe started the Karavansara Free Library with a few titles from Rosita Forbes, and now we follow up with another woman I find absolutely fascinating: Emily Hahn.
Another traveler, journalist and adventuress, American Emily Hahn was the woman that attended posh parties in Shanghai in the ’30s in the company of a diaper-wearing monkey – a fact that I mentioned in my novel The Ministry of Thunder, and I was criticized for writing rubbish. Ah!

Emily Hahn was also an expert on primates, a walking, breathing scandal, an opium addict (for a while), and a damn fine writer.
In her career as a writer she did comedy, politics, history, science and biography, art and travel memoirs.
When she was arrested by the Japanese after the fall of Hong Kong and was asked how could she have given birth to a child out of wedlock, she replied

I am a bad girl.

The Internet Archive has four books from her huge catalog ready for download…

1941 – The Soong Sisters

1946 – Raffles of Singapore, a Biography

1956 – All About Leonardo da Vinci

1959 – The Tiger House Party: The Last Days Of The Maharajas

hahn… and as a little extra, there’s two more volumes in the Gutenberg Project, Emily Hahn’s first two books.

1930 – Seductio ad Absurdum

1931 – Beginners Luck

All in all a fair selection, that shows the style, wit, skill and versatility of Hahn’s writing.

More books by Emily Hahn are currently being reprinted by Open Road Media, and are highly recommended.


John Collier’s Paintings

OK, so I got a little obsessed with this painting here


I like it a lot – it’s called A Priestess of Dionysus and was painted by a Pre-Raphaelite painter called John Collier.
Now the fun bit is, John Collier painted a lot of portraits of science guys, including what is probably the most famous portrait of Charles Darwin – because Collier was the son-in-law of Thomas Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog”, and so he was sort of into that community. He was actually twice Huxley’s son-in-law, as he married two of Huxley’s daughters. Not at the same time, of course.
I always liked Pre-Raphaelite paintings, but Collier was not on my radar – probably because he was mostly a portrait painter.
So I thought… why not do a gallery of John Collier’s paintings?
Here goes. Click on a thumbnail to see a large version.


42K words in 7 days? OK, let’s do it.

It must be an April sort of thing.
In April 2012 I wrote a novel in six days – I started on the 25th of April and finished on the night of the first day on May.
deathisnoobstacleI did it because I wanted to test what Michael Moorcock said in the lengthy interview he did with Colin Greenland, published as Death is no Obstacle.
Moorcock talked about writing a fantasy story in three days – and I planned taking twice as much to be on the safe side.
I was also pretty fed-up with the talk about art, inspiration and the writer being some sort of mutant that taps some unknown source of writing power and blah blah blah.
To me writing is skill, dedication and hard work. It’s a craft, it can be learned. There’s nothing mystical to it.
In 2012 I got a lot of support from the readers of my Italian blog. I was also told I would fail, because I lacked the training.
But I did it, and the 40.000 words novel I wrote in 2012, Beyul Express, became the first part of what was later published as The Ministry of Thunder – writing it was fast, revising and editing it took a lot of time.
Well, now I have the training. And I have the Dean Wesley Smith structure, from Writing a Novel in Seven Days.
So that’s what I’m doing – starting on the night of the 24th (Monday) and finishing on the night of the 30th. Continue reading


Wine, sex and folk horror (and other things)

Despite the general sleepiness that comes with Spring, I’m trying to clear my desk of my backlog of stories, articles and translations I need to deliver to my clients, and in the meantime I’m trying to work on a pair of submissions and a couple of self-published things.
The new Buscafusco story is 75% done, and I’d like to nail its box shut by the end of the month.
acheron_the__ministry_of_thunderAlso, the Dean Wesley Smith book Writing a Novel in Seven Days is making me itchy to try. As I mentioned, I did it once already, and the novel I wrote in eight days later became The Ministry of Thunder, of which I am well pleased, as are my readers (eight 5-star reviews! hooray!)
Now I’m wondering if it would be feasible to try and do a 42.000 words story about Aculeo & Amunet.
And then there is the bit about local traditions and folk horror. About six months ago I promised a friend a novel a-la Dan Brown to stimulate interest in the territory and lure tourists in these hills. Part of that project became the Buscafusco series, but the idea of a horror story set in the Piedmontese vineyards sounds more attractive every day. And as per original plan, might make enough people curious to give a minimal boost to local tourism.
Now, as I think I mentioned, the local spook-du-jour are the masche sort of witches/hags of peasant tradition – and my friend Fabrizio Borgio is an expert on the subject.
BUT, in a twist of research madness, I decided to look at another tradition that might provide ample food for stories… even Aculeo & Amunet stories.
Because this is a wine country, and wine means Dionysus. Continue reading


Writing a little/Writing a lot

Yesterday I overheard an interesting discussion, and that’s what I’d like to tell you about, but first, a heads-up.

Writing_a_Novel_Cover_FinalI mentioned in the past the StoryBundle as one of the tools that I am using to keep reading in these times of money shortage and other disasters.
They have an offer up called The Write Stuff Bundle 2017 which is highly recommended – you get books about writing by the likes of Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lawrence Block and Dean Wesley Smith, among others. You also get an 80% discount on Writer’s Café, an excellent writing software. You don’t pay much, and a share of your money goes to a charity.
Nice and smooth1.

Now I mention this because the bundle includes Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing a Novel in Seven Days, that is quite fun to read, and proposes a very interesting challenge.

Which brings me to the discussion I overheard yesterday, the gist of which was

It is better to write just a few stories rather than write a lot, what really matters is that the little you write you sell to a big publisher and then you land a big prize

And this is a theory I do not subscribe to. Continue reading

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Service announcement

A little bit of administratrivia, if you don’t mind.
Some of you might have noticed this button

Did you like this post?
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

appearing at the bottom right of a few recent posts.
As the button itself seems to suggest, it’s a way for anyone willing to show their appreciation for my blog by buying me a coffee once in a while – it’s basically the little brother of the button appearing in my sidebar, just beneath the search bar.


The small button will not appear on all posts. I’m making it my policy to put it up only occasionally, and only on posts that exceed the 600 words in length – because over the 600 words mark I do need a coffee (or some tea, actually) to keep going these days … and you need some coffee too, probably, to keep reading.

As we are talking about the coffee button, I’d like to thank all those that bought me a coffee in the last days, and in particular the gentleman that doing so compared my writing to the works of David Drake: it is not often I get compared to a writer I really appreciate and respect, and this very kind compliment came to me in a very bad moment, and helped me a lot. Thank you!

And as I am at it, I’d also like to thank all those that have so far subscribed to the Karavansara mailing list. Thank you!

And I guess I’ll throw in a Thank you! for all my readers as well, because I like everybody to have a good time, and readers are really the reason a writer writes.

Thank you all,
ladies and gentlemen!

… and now, back to our regular posting schedule …