Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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A coin tossed from the bridge

I have mentioned in the past the movie Le Bossu (On Guard for the English-speaking markets), a fine French swashbuckler from twenty years ago that I like very much and used to watch every time it passed on TV hereabouts, and now have on DVD and watch at least once a year.
Great action, fine story, excellent cast.
Great movie, watch it!

Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters


In the movie, the main character, Lagardere, recalls the time when, as a Paris street urchin, he had developed a stunt that allowed him to make some money: he would ask the passers-by to toss a coin in the Seine, and he would dive behind it from a bridge, and retrieve it as it sank in the water of the river.
He even had a short rhyming song, to hook the punters.

Needless to say, Lagardere’s skill of diving from bridges and disappearing under the surface of the river will come handy later in the story.

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Writing, magic and everything

The first book I ever read by pulp giant Walter B. Gibson was not a Shadow novel, but a beautiful hardback called The Book of Secrets.

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As I think I have mentioned in the past – if I didn’t, I’m doing it now – as a kid, between ten and fourteen, having discovered a big box of magic tricks in my grandmother’s attic, I had developed an interest in stage magic.
I was pretty good at coin, card and sponge balls manipulation, but really I never got anywhere – a modest amateur. But I read a lot of books on the subject, and Walter B. Gibson, to me, was the guy that wrote books about magic I could not read because my English was not good enough.
In the end, my English improved, I stopped doing magic tricks, and I bought me a copy of The Book of Secrets. Continue reading


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Bookshelf archaeology

51jAwNDM1rL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I was looking for a book, and I found two.
I did some digging on my shelf for Damon Knight’s classic Creating Short Fiction. As I mentioned, I started talking about short fiction with my friend Claire, and I wanted to check out if Knight’s book held some momentous secret I had forgotten.
For the uninitiated (but then, what are you doing here), Damon Knight was one of the greatest short story crafters in the field of science fiction – he is the author of To Serve Man, that was adapted in what is possibly the most famous episode of The Twilight Zone – and he also was an editor and critic. He was one of the founders of the SFWA, and of the Clarion Workshop.
He is the man that, as a critic, defined the idiot plot.

His writing handbook focuses on short stories, and it is quite good all things considered. It was originally published in the early ‘80s, but it is still well worth a look. Continue reading


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More writing advice: don’t let them know

When I was young and reckless, I received a piece of advice about writing that later I forgot.
The advice was

Never never never let them know how fast you can write.

It is an excellent piece of advice, but I was stupid, and I forgot about it. And they found out how fast I can write.
Up to 2000 words per hour on a decent first draft – it is a necessity, yu see: when you pay your bills by writing, you have to write a lot to make sure you’ll have enough when the guys from the bank come a-callin’.
So yes, you are fast.
And you were foolish enough to let them know.
And this, as the man that gave me that piece of advice so many years ago well knew, is a problem. Continue reading