East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Cheer Like an Egyptian

This post was shared with my Patrons, but it’s too good a story to keep for a chosen few. Also, this is the genre of anachronism thing that my friend Claire loves to hate, and I hope she passes hereabouts and enjoys the disaster.

Fact is, a friend forwarded me, three days ago, the preview of a book – I will not mention the author nor the title. The reason the pages were forwarded is simple, and three-fold:
. It’s a story set in Egypt, and therefore intersects my interests
. It’s a good example of bad worldbuilding (and I am currently teaching a course on the subject, so I need show-and-tell material)
. “See, you fool? You spend too much time doing research…”

Well, I do not.
I love doing research, and if it does not make my writing better, at least it helps with my Impostor’s Syndrome.


Anyway, the extract is rather amusing, sort of like putting a rabid cat in a box and then sitting over it, and it will certainly make for a great handout for my course.
The names are at best wrong, at worst ridiculous, the action is wooden and stilted, and then the Egyptians shout


Really? Continue reading



News from Nennius Britannicus and the boys

I am happy to say that I have just signed a contract for the publication of the (first?) story featuring centurion Nennius Britannicus and his Contubernium.


I am currently revising the proofs.
As soon as the story will be out I will post here (and everywhere else) the relevant links.
I am very happy (but I guess you guessed that).


Caveman names

Let’s talk about names.
And not just any name – primitive names.
Names for cavemen – and I don’t mean Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.
My primitive fantasy story requires a hero, and a heroine, and what else… and if I have a way to play fast and loose with Atlanteans and Lemurians and assorted campers, the name of the hero is too important an element to improvise.


So, for “lost civilization” cultures, I’ll use a few Minoan names, shuffling a few consonants about.
And if Didikase and Kubaba are a silly name for bad guys, Kitanetos might work with a little adjustement.
And the female name Kitane is quite good.
But when it comes to the primitive Homo sapiens, that’s a territory that’s been explored in the past, and it’s hard to be original and effective. Continue reading

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At work on Central Station

25986774With all the stuff that’s been piling up on my desk recently, I failed to post a note about the fact that I am having a lot of fun and a great time all around translating Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station for Acheron Books.
The novel’s so good and the author’s prose is so fluid that it is very easy to go through pages and pages of it almost without noticing.
Which of course means that I have to do a second pass to check all the small bits-and-pieces of the text.

Let me tell you about it… Continue reading


Mister and Miss Belzoni

I was absolutely sure I had done a post about The Great Belzoni, but I was unable to find it.
It’s becoming unnerving, this thing that I get an idea for a post, plan it and write it in my mind, and then forget about actually writing it. I am damn scared of Alzheiner, you know…

Portrait_of_Giovanni_Belzoni_by_Jan_Adam_Kruseman,_1824Anyway, here’s the guy, portrayed in all his barbaric style and Oriental mystery.
Giovanni Battista Belzoni was born in Padua in 1778, but his family was from Rome, and in Rome he studied hydraulics. He flirted with the idea of joining a monastery, fled when Napoleon conquered the city and ended up as a barber in the Netherlands.
From there he moved to London, met and married a woman named Sarah Bane, and they both joined a circus – Belzoni was 6 foot 7 inches, and got a gig as a strongman, but he later got into phantasmagorias and light shows.
During a tour of southern Europe in the early 1810s, Belzoni became acquainted with Muhammad Ali, and went to Egypt to demonstrate a hydraulic machine of his own devising, that would be used to pump water from the Nile.
The machine worked but he was not hired, and therefore he found himself in Egypt, and without a job.
Someone suggested he should look into the local antiques. Continue reading


Status report

Three-thousand and five hundred words in one afternoon is not that bad, and it is a clear sign that I’m back in the game – nothing better than clearing one’s desk to start anew.

Maybe it’s the change of season, too – the cold cold winter is over, and now the days are getting longer.

Meanwhile, new projects are popping up all over the place, and as I was saying to a friend over the weekend, I’d rather need a few six-packs of 36-hours days. But apparently they don’t make them anymore.

And the reading material is piling up – I have here a nice little essay about the Marxist theory of the Cthulhu Mythos that is really what the doctor ordered to find some distraction and possibly a few story ideas.
The Last StandAnd I’m waiting for my copy of the last Spillane book – because I’m not a fan but it was the man’s centenary, and the ebook was real cheap, and with a fantastic cover, and so I pre-ordered it.

And finally, I’ve been asked to give a demonstration of my Tarot-reading skills, and who knows, maybe I found myself a new job.

So, all in all, two days out of the Astigianistan hills were good for my health and my writing and everything else.
I should take more frequent vacations.