Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Non Disclosure Agreement

I have just signed a contract for a big-ish writing job, something large and fun and different that, with a modicum of luck, will come out next year and will carry my name on the cover (or somewhere inside).
Something I cannot tell you about, for a publisher I cannot disclose, part of a project that shall remain unnamed.
Aren’t non disclosure agreements a wonder?

But I can tell you this is one of two big jobs I have lined up for the autumn (the second being still pending), a big fat 80.000 words writing adventure that I will have to plan carefully and execute with speed, elegance and panache.
Or something.

It will mean reading a lot of interesting books for research (a couple I have read already early in the summer), and then write, write, write.

So, the basic equipment is here and is ready

  • a BIC pen and a copybook
  • a stack of books
  • a folder filled with ebooks
  • Scrivener
  • a virtually infinite supply of tea

The vacations are over.
Time to get to work.

And also time to find a way to post updates about my work here, without telling you about what I am writing.
This is going to be fun.


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A drink with Mary

So, here’s what’s happening: I am writing a short story.
Big deal, you say – that’s what you do for a living, of course you’re writing a story.
Which is somewhat correct, but let me explain…

Saturday this thing appeared in my mailbox…

An evening drink on the beach in Sicily, with a side of an appearance by the Virgin Mary (whose Ascension was celebrated on Sunday), and a complimentary rosary.
Free admission, donations welcome.

You see where I am going?
How could I not write a story about this?
Tackling my brother’s passion for cocktails, and my old interest in Tiki lounges and exotica?
Of course I had to do it.

So there you have it.
I’m writing it.
Then I’ll post it to my Patrons.
Then… we’ll see.


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Blair Reynolds has left the building

I never met Blair Reynolds, and I believe we never exchanged more than a few words on a mailing list that’s long been lost in the dark alleys of the web, far from the glitter and bustle of social media.
And yet, I owe Blair Reynolds much of what I am today.
Let me tell you.

It was more or less twenty-five years ago that I was browsing the stacks of my friendly local game shop (that was not that local, nor that friendly) when I spotted a magazine with a sepia cardboard cover, and on that cover there was an image.
This image, on this magazine.

That cover had been drawn by Blair Reynolds, that was not just an excellent artist, but also a superb writer, as I discovered digging into the magazine.

I bought that magazine, and then tried to track down every other issue.
And because we had this hot new thing called the internet in those days, I looked around, and I found a community of people that shared my interests in roleplaying games, Lovecraftian fiction and other assorted weirdness.
We started chatting.

Four or five years later, because I had bought that mag and started that conversation, I made my first professional sale – and my stuff was published in a book that featured a bunch of Nazis and a swastika on the cover.
I got a lot of strange looks because of that.
That cover had been painted by Blair Reynolds.

Flash forward twenty years, and I still get the weird looks, and I make my living writing in English.
And it all goes back to that weird, disturbing cover on the 6th issue of The Unspeakable Oath.
Because of it I met people that shared my interests.
Because of it I found the courage to start writing in English.
Because of it I made my first professional sale as a writer.
Because of it, in the long run, I am earning my keep.

We never met, and we barely ever spoke to each other, but Blair Reynolds is one of the handful of people I can truly say made me what I am.

Blair Reynolds died a few hours ago, and I will never meet him, and I will never speak with him.
But I owe him a fair share of my life.
He will be missed.


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Selkies, Sirens & Sea Monsters (and Octopodes)

The anthology Water: Selkies, Sirens & Sea Monsters, edited by Rhonda Parrish, is out tomorrow, just in time for a nice relaxing read on the beach. Advance reviews were extremely positive.
The volume features my short story The man who speared octopodes, about a man that, you know, spears octopodes, for… reasons.
Check it out.


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Violent Femmes (not the band)

I was 23 when Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita hit the screens, and it was wild.
There had been action thrillers before, of course, but none like this – Anne Perillaud was absolutely stunning, and she was a killer.
In the true sense of the word.
La Femme Nikita was tough, dark in an almost neo-noir way, elegantly shot, and it featured a woman that did what usually was done by a guy, in this kind of movies.

Fast forward thirty years, and the kick-ass dame has become a common trope of modern action cinema, to the point it is now almost its own genre – the crime/espionage action thriller with the lone woman fighting her way from the first act to the third. You know, stuff like Atomic Blonde.

Today being Sunday, and this being August, I decided to take one day off. I spent the morning (re)reading the dark, disquieting The Devil in Nanking, by the late lamented Mo Hayder, and in the afternoon, it being too hot for anything else, I started the fan and then went to see what Prime Video had to offer.
I watched three movies. First, I watched Kate Beckinsale kick ass in New York in Jolt, then I watched Sasha Luss kick ass in Paris in Luc Besson’s Anna, and finally I watched Karen Gillan kick ass in Berlin in Gunpowder Milkshake.
Let’s talk about it.

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The Good, the Bad and the Starfish

I am not a big fan of superhero movies.
Granted, I liked Donner’s Superman, and I can enjoy a good superhero flick once in a while, but I am not a fan, I don’t have high expectations and I don’t wait holding my breath the next Marvel or DC film.
I enjoyed the Green Arrow TV adaptation, for a while, and I like Doom Patrol. A lot of the rest I missed simply because I was not interested.
And I enjoyed the Birds of Prey film for what it was. But to me The Avengers are still John Steed and Emma Peel.

It was mostly because of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Idris Elba’s Bloodsport that I watched The Suicide Squad.
And James Gunn. I liked his old horror, Slither. I trust the guy.
Cast and director convinced me, despite the fact that I was never able to go deeper than fifteen minutes in the first film of the series, Suicide Squad, the one without a “The”.

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Writing a writing course

That’s what I will do during the two weeks of vacations that start today – I will write a writing course.

The idea started after a long chat with a friend, about how there is people out there – mostly kids – spending hundreds of euros on writing courses in which individuals with very dubious qualifications but very aggressive propaganda teach them poorly the very basics, usually in such a soulless, dogmatic way that the poor kids emerge completely crippled.

Now, how to defuse such a state of affairs?

Of course, if you are fluent in English, you can follow Brandon Sanderson’s lessons for free on Youtube, and for about 150 bucks per year you can get the Masterclass writing courses, if that’s your cup of tea, and learn all you can from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, David Mamet or Margaret Atwood.
But here’s the rub – a lot of Italian teenagers are not that hot with English, and so they end up shelling out their hard-earned savings to get some commonplace writing guidelines (“show don’t tell”, “write what you know”) from individuals that would not manage to write their way out of a paper bag.

So, why not put together a very basic writing course, one covering all the basics, a course that’s easy to read and fun, and then give it away for free?
Say, applying to it a Creative Commons license?

And that’s what I am doing – I have currently about 2500 words of it.
It will be in both Italian and English, and I will try and distribute it through a variety of channels, starting with my Patreon pages and then my blogs and socials.
The idea is too provide the basic writer’s toolbox to all that are interested, and also to nurture a mindset that will make it harder for self-styled gurus to push their half-assed belief systems on the unwary … because they will not be unwary any longer.

And for starters… it’s a lot harder going than I thought it would be.