Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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The House of the Gods

I am very proud to announce that my new novel, The House of the Gods, published by Severed Press, is up and running on Amazon.
And I am damn proud of it.

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The story is set on top of one of the forbidding plateaus that rise along the Brazil/Venezuela border.
The crew and passengers of a charter flight come face to face with a “pocket lost world”, filled with dangers, wonders and dinosaurs.
Then the bad guys with the big guns arrive…

I will do another post in the next days, or maybe two, about the background of the story and the characters.
But right now, my new book is out, is published by a publisher I admire, and I am in a catalog that features some of my favorite writers.
So I’ll take a break and celebrate.

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Building a better Lost World

It’s been pointed out to me that it’s damn hard finding a paleontologist these days, not to mention a paleontologist versed in science fiction.
I never thought of myself as a rare commodity before.
And as luck would have it, right now I am revising The House of the Gods, my novel of a lost world in the Amazon Forest, filled with dinosaurs and action.
In ten days I’ll send the final draft to my publisher, and then we’ll see.

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But in the meantime, why not do a little paleontology/science fiction post about my preparation work for the novel?
I’m a rare commodity, but I can be had – for a price. Continue reading


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Sleepless nights and dinosaurs

This last week has been pretty weird all things considered.
It’s now 2 am as I’m writing this. My usual insomnia made a major comeback, so that I spent most of the nights up, and then crashed into a deep, dream-infested slumber after lunch.
Which sounds pretty lovecraftian, but is really bad for the little social life I still manage to have.
On the plus side, I spend the nights writing, and have now hit a solid 8000-words per day rhythm, and I am now actually hitting all of my headlines in time, if not with a certain advance. Right out I’m putting the finishing touches on a story I’ll submit tomorrow morning – if I can dream up (ah!) a suitable title.
And I’ve been following online courses.
Apart from the course I am following about heart diseases (because I saw what happened to my father and I want to live), I’ve been brushing up my Spanish (because I want to leave this country, and Spanish is quite widespread) and I’ve just spent a few hours refreshing my knowledge of dinosaurs with a wonderful MOOC from the University of Alberta, called Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology. Because, dinosaurs.

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By the way, this course actually starts officially next week, and if you like dinosaurs, it’s highly recommended: clear, in-depth, fun, and with some spectacular interactive support.
Check it out.

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Getting friendly with dinosaurs

I can’t waste time any longer – in five days I’ll start writing the first draft of my new novel, an adventure yarn that is called House of the Gods and comes with a nice nice nice contract attached, which I have already signed1.
The story is fully outlined, the basic research is done, I have a folder full of clippings, links, and Wikipedia pages.
And pictures.
I’ll start working on it next monday, and I’m planning 5000 words per day, for ten days.
It won’t be so smooth – I’ll pick up speed as the story proceeds.
But I’m seeing it happen in my brain, like a movie I’ve watched too many times.
Now I’ve only to put to paper (or file) the plot of the movie, like I’d tell to my brother, or to a friend.
Nice and smooth.

Frazetta tyrannosaurus

So, in these final few days before I dive in, it’s time to get in the mood.
And because House of the Gods will feature dinosaurs2, I’m going back again to Robert Bakker’s The Dinosaur Heresies.
If it was good enough for Michael Crichton, it’s good enough for me. Continue reading


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Nazis & Dinosaurs – Half Past Danger

cover39842-mediumHalf Past Danger is a comic series by Stephen Mooney, released by IDW Publishing.

In 1943, sergeant “Irish” Flynn is on a recon mission on a Pacific Island, when his squad hits on something big.
Nazis.
And dinosaurs.
The sole survivor of a confrontation with rampaging T rexes, Sargent Flynn comes back with a wild story and a few grainy photographs.
Nobody seems to believe him, until a special expedition on the mysterious island is put together.
Together with a supercilious British spy, a larger than life USMC captain and a Japanese martial artist, embittered Flynn will have to face his nightmares again.

STK612602Half Past Danger is a concentrated extract of pulp adventure – it has got everything, and then some.
There’s the war, the Nazis trying to develop a superweapon (but not what you think), yankee supersoldiers, ninjas, beautiful women, and dinosaurs.
In its approach to its subject matter, Half Past Danger fits perfectly the style of New Pulp – old fashioned themes with a modern sensibility.

It’s fast, fun without being comedic, it’s gritty and nostalgic, with lots of meat and excellent art.
The first series of six issues will be collected in a massive hardcover that will hit the shelves in February 2014.
In case you missed the single issues, it’s well worth looking out for.

And let’s hope there’s more coming.


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Some notes on Dinosaur Hunting – part 1

Two years ago, a friend asked me about those B-movies in which Army types face rampaging dinosaurs, firing tons of bullets to no avail.
Were the dinosaurs really so hard to kill?

I wrote a post on the subject, on my Italian blog, which sparked a long discussion with further Q&A.
This led to a series of articles about dinosaur hunting.

I’m currently translating and re-editing that material, planning a small ebook for the curious – what follows is the first part of a this revised stuff.
More will follow.
But for starters… let’s talk weapons.

First idea: military-grade personal weapons can be a match for dinos.
A bit of metal accelerated to ultrasonic speed (such as a P90 bullett) carves a cavity in the target as large as a basket ball, so you can be a dino, but a burst from a modern automatic weapon hurts all the same.

But it gets better, and more complicated than that.

The idea that dinosaurs had thick, armored hides comes from the early years of paleontology – working by analogy with modern pachiderms, the first fossil hunters imagined dinosaurs to be thick-skinned like rhinos and elephants
Modern studies on fossil dinosaur hide tell us a different story – dinosaur skin is just reptile skin, often revealing clear signs of bite from predators.
Tough, but not enough to shrug off a direct hit from an automatic weapon.

Does this solve the T. rex vs AK47 debate?
Not exactly.

First of all, underneath the often garishly colored, supple reptile skin we find thick bands of compact muscle.
And then there’s the matter of bone plates – normally found on herbivores, on the back, rump and neck areas.

Both can somewhat soak the impact damage from our bullets.

And with really big beasts, it can take a few seconds, from the moment the bullet impacts to the moment the pain and damage registers in the brain of the animal – due to the distance the electric signal has to cover from the periphery of the body to the head.
And a charging dinosaur can do a lot of damage in a few seconds.

Which leads us to the old problem of the riunning dinosaur…

An elephant weighs—let’s see—four to six tons. You’re proposing to shoot reptiles weighing two or three times as much as an elephant and with much greater tenacity of life.

The quotes comes from the basic required reading on dinosaur hunting, Lyon Sprague De Camp’s A Gun for a Dinosaur – which you can find and listen to, here in the X minus One archive, as an mp3.

The bottom line of the charging dino problem – you can kill it, but before it realizes it’s dead, he can still rush you and squash you.

So what?
Sprague De camp offers a classic solution

Here you are: my own private gun for that work, a Continental .600. Does look like a shotgun, doesn’t it? But it’s rifled, as you can see by looking through the barrels. Shoots a pair of .600 Nitro Express cartridges the size of bananas; weighs fourteen and a half pounds and has a muzzle energy of over seven thousand foot-pounds. Costs fourteen hundred and fifty dollars. Lot of money for a gun, what?
I have some spares I rent to the sahibs. Designed for knocking down elephant. Not just wounding them, knocking them base-over-apex. That’s why they don’t make guns like this in America, though I suppose they will if hunting parties keep going back in time.

Holland & Holland Nitro Express .700 (in the ’50s, when Sprague De camp wrote his story, H&H and Continental only manufactured a .600).
Because we don’t want just to kill it – we want to drop him on the spot.

Of course, we are talking a 7kgs (15 lbs) weapon, that kicks like a mule – not the most confortable weapon to carry around Dinosaur Valley.

We can find today even better calibres – JDJ .950 and such.
There’s even a thing called Tyrannosaurus Rex.
But the .600 and .700 Nitro Express are still the discerning dino hunter weapon of choice.

Note that we are talking single, large dinosaurs.
Dealing with velociraptors – which are small and attack in coordinated groups – is quite another story.
In these cases, suppressive fire fropm full-auto weapons might be the only choice.

We close this first article, by reminding our readers of the Servadec Principle (thus called from the classic Jules Verne novel) – accustomed tothe rumblings of the savage wilderness around them, the dinosaurs might not be scared at all by explosions, and rather react with curiosity to the bangs of our weapons, coming closer to investigate.

In the next installment – Bring ’em back alive!