East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Curse of the Golden Bat

One thing I learned from Ian Fleming is branding my characters.
Which sounds kinky – and quite fitting, given certain tastes exhibited by Fleming in his time – but what I mean is simply calling stuff by their brand name, as a shorthand to convey certain details to the reader.
Bond shaves with a Gilette razor, lights his cigarettes with a Ronson lighter.
Before it became the product placement we see in movies, it was a writing trick to give substance and weight, and definition to what were otherwise cursory descriptions.

This works quite nicely with weapons – “he drew a gun” is different from “he drew a Remington .44” at least to some of the readers. And maybe those readers will be happy, and that’s a good thing.

I am finishing the first Pandora story – that will be called Guillotine Wind, by the way – and the branding issue came up again.
Cigarettes, in particular.

Turns out that during at least the early phases of the Russian Civil War, the Great Powers were quite happy to supply the White forces with anything they may need – money, weapons and ammo, uniforms, medical supplies and, of course, cigarettes.
And cigarettes came from Japan.
So, what is Pandora smoking?

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Looking out for a Hero

My Patreon supporters are awesome – but you already knew about that. And because they are awesome, I received as a gift a copy of Lee Child’s new ebook, The Hero, about 48 hours after I became aware of its existence, and I signalled my interest.
That’s how great they are.

I have read a few of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, and found them fun, over the top, entertaining and diverting, and more than competently written. Can’t say I’m a fan of the character, but I have read a few interviews to the author, and I like his approach to writing. Also, he started writing when he lost his “true job”, and I can relate to that.
The idea of an essay, written by Child and called The Hero really sounded like the sort of thing I wanted to read, despite a fair number of very negative reviews I saw on Amazon.
And so I read it.

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Dangerous with a gun

The ting writers are asked most often is “where do you get your ideas?”
Harlan Ellison said he got them from the Idea of the Month Club in Schenectady, Neil Gaiman said you should not ask such questions because writers, being evil and scared of such questions, would mock you in a writerly manner.
I usually say “everywhere”, and just to give you an example… well, here’s an example.

I shared today on Facebook an article about Kinessa Johnson, an Afghanistan veteran that is currently hunting poachers in Africa.
It’s pretty straightforward: they try and kill endangered species, they become an endangered species.

A friend commented my post, wondering if she could do the same.
To which I replied, basically, why not?

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Enter the Women’s Black Hussars of Death

I am hard at work to finish the first Pandora story, and as I finally got to work on the last act, where the action heats up and things start to go bang! (because kids nowadays want explosions, you see) I have had the dubious pleasure of meeting the Women’s Black Hussars of Death – one of those things that will probably be flagged by critics because they are too pulpy and implausible, but actually were a real thing during the Great War and the Russian Civil War.

Yes, say it aloud… The Women’s Black Hussars of Death.
Why they never taught me this sort of stuff when I was in school?

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What was I saying about horror?
Because, you see, the postman just delivered my copy of the first issue of Hellebore magazine, and I am revising today’s schedule because I want to dive in straight away. But while my tea is brewing, I may as well give you a quick overview of this new fine mag.

Hellebore is a “limited-run magazine” devoted to the scholarly study of folk horror. For the uninitiated folk horror is that preeminently British sub-genre of horror fiction that uses folk traditions as its main source of inspiration: think about movies like The Wicker Man (the old one, not the one with Nick Cage) or Blood on Satan’s Claw. The genre had its heyday in the mid ’70s, but has been going through a revival in the last few years.

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Ancient incarnations of death

Like that guy said, never say never.
Or “not often.”
I was talking with a friend, about four weeks ago – she does not like horror fiction, she’d rather read historical fiction, and I said that these days I don’t read or write that much horror anymore.
And as a result, most of what I submitted in the last four weeks, and most of what I read, falls one way or another in the field of horror.

The last two books I read, in fact, have been two excellent horrors, both dealing – in a very different way – with the urban manifestation of ancient spirits of death.
They are both worth checking out, and as I have already mentioned Gemma Files’ Experimental Film, here’s my review of the other, Robert Levy’s Anais Nin and the Grand Guignol.

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Reading, writing, waiting

So we are now back to Orange Alert, and it seems that we will not be flooded after all. We spent the night and the best part of the morning in the danger zone, but the levees have held, and while the Belbo is very high, the worst is over. There’s been a few landslides, the road we followed in our microadventure a few weeks back is now completely flooded, but there’s been no serious damage to people or property.
We had a few brownouts during the early morning hours, but now we’re fine.

We spent most of the time taking turns in bed, and reading or writing.

I’ve added about 2000 words to my new story – the one featuring Pandora Marchincowska, that is likely to turn into a novelette and that I need to finish by the 30th – and I’ve finished reading a novel, started and finished a novella, and I’m currently reading a beautiful book about coral reefs.

I will tell you more about the books I read in the next post.

Meanwhile, two of my stories have been rejected (it happens), and I’ve started outlining my next submission.

Life goes on, no matter what the river does.