East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Cities of the Imagination

It went like this: first my friend Hell (yes, they really call him like that) did a blog post about the city he writes about, the city he was born in, Taranto. Then my friend Alex did a piece about the city he was born in, and about which he writes about, Milan.
And so I did a piece on the city where I was born, and about which I sometimes write about, Turin.
The piece that came out is weird and melancholy, and I even forgot to give it a title, and you can find it here translated through some web gizmo that I’m sure will make it even more surreal.


But the fact is, I have written a lot more about London, Paris and Shanghai that I ever did about Turin.
And so, why not do an alternate universe sort of piece, about the towns I write about in my fiction?
My cities of the imagination, if it does not sound too pretentious, and with all due respect for both Italo Calvino and Schuiten & Peeters. Continue reading


An Aculeo & Amunet Spin-off?

One never knows.

bobhoskinsI was putting the finishing touches on one of the Aculeo & Amunet stories that will be collected in the next A&A ebook (coming in september, barring accidents), and I noticed that a number of throwaway characters had proved to be tougher and much more fun to write about than expected.

Centurion Nennius Britannicus is a short, balding man that looks somewhat like Bob Hoskins in my mind’s eye – a second-tier officer with a tendency to get on his commander’s nerves.
When we meet him in The Hand of Isfet (the immediate sequel to Bride of the Swamp God), he’s on patrol duty in the streets of Alexandria.
He’s not exactly enjoying the ride. Continue reading


Finding a Title

aculeo&amunetNobody appreciates the problems of a sword & sorcery writer.

Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on the next Aculeo & Amunet book.
Granted, two stories still need to be edited, but I see the finish line, and I’m pretty happy: after two novelettes published as stand-alone ebooks, I’m going for a collection – the next A&A outing will include four stories

  • Mirror of Amunet
  • The Witch with Green Eyes
  • Island of the Goat
  • The Crypts of Eskishaar

Three short stories and a novelette. Continue reading


Historical Fantasy – Fleshing Out the Background

Sometimes being too clever is not so clever in the long run.
When I first sketched my characters of Aculeo and Amunet, I was not actually writing a story.
I was explaining how to play fast and loose when putting together a very basic sword & sorcery plot.

So, when sketching Aculeo, it felt like a good idea to make him a veteran of the Siege of Palmyra, AD 272.
Sounded cool.

revolt_barbariansFast forward 12 months, and Aculeo & Amunet had their own story – which is set in a swamp somewhere north of Menphis and south-east of Alexandria, Aegypt, AD 276.
Total background research required – one afternoon, plus one evening watching two old peplum movies.
Nice and smooth.

Another six months, and my heroes have their first ebook, a number of nice reviews, and their own series, with two other stories being written.

And here’s the problem – because it’s all right playing fast and loose when you are writing a one-shot short story.
But when you start handling a series, and your characters start exploring their world, you need to put down something more than six paragraphs of notes. Especially if you are using a psaeudo-historical setting.
The historical part is the one which requires some care – you can still improvise in the psaeudo- sections*.

And here’s the big surprise – choosing the Third Century AD in the Mediterranean area was either very smart or very stupid on my part. Continue reading