East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Read like a writer

Skyfarer_144dpiI said I would be reading a book, and I am.
I am reading Joseph Brassey’s Skyfarer, that I got me in paperback for the price of a pizza, and is proving to be quite fun. Highly recommended, based on the initial premises, and I’ll tell you more once I’ve finished it (won’t be long, it reads like a breeze).
The only problem, I had to turn off the “little voice” in my head.

I guess you all remember Magnum PI, and his little voice…

Magnum: [narrates] When I write my book on how to be a world class private investigator, I’m going to include a chapter on listening to your little voice. Everybody has one, and mine was saying to stop Marcus and find out the real story behind his new car. Of course I didn’t, which is another chapter, things I should have done, but didn’t…

OK, so my little voice starts talking as I start reading, and points out all the neat things the author did with his story: nice turns of phrase, killer characterization, great dialog.

“See,” my little voice tells me, “that’s how it’s done. You should try it too! Take notes, you fool! Learn from the good ones!” Continue reading

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Studying archaeology for fun and profit

I often write about the joys of doing research for what we are writing.
In general, I tend to do a lot of research “on the fly” when writing short fiction – like using Google to find out what’s the most popular brand of beer in Arkansas or the timetables of trains to and from Paris.

514215So, when I am writing short fiction – or when I get major doubts while cleaning up a first draft – my first stops are, unsurprisingly, Google and Wikipedia, with Pinterest (now that I can access it again) as the go-to place for visual references, and YouTube for action-related info.

For longer works, I still rely on books, and as far as online resources are concerned, I go for a MOOC whenever possible.
I think it was Mary Gentle (wonderful writer – her Rats and Gargoyles is highly recommended) that said that university courses are the best way to do all the research you need on a subject with the minimum of fuss. Continue reading

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Writing to the sound of the coffee-grinder

Coffee grinder Alexanderwerk Type 4155

My CPU fan is busted for good – and as a consequence my PC makes a noise like a coffee grinder.
The emergency replacement two weeks back was just a way to buy time.
While I wait for the delivery boy to deliver the new fan, I’m struggling through the final chapters of my second novel – thank goodness for Portable Apps.

And in the meantime, while I also keep the GreyWorld Project going, I’m also planning future activities.

There’s a new Aculeo & Amunet story in the works – and once again I’d love to place it in a magazine instead of self-publishing it. Continue reading


Writing fluff

Air_FluffMore talking aloud with myself, in English, about my current project.
In roleplaying games, “Fluff” is the name usually given to the gaming material that describes the setting – as opposed to the “Crunch“, the rules and mechanics of the thing.

Fluff is what I like in games – and what I normally write in gaming books.
After all, to me, roleplaying games is about living adventures in strange and new worlds – rules are for the weak.

Right now, in the early phases of my new work, I’m trying to decide how to present the fluff in my book. Continue reading


You don’t know Jack… but you will

20071128dumplinghouseMany years ago I spent a long night with some friends, eating Chinese and talking writing.
Fueled by Cantonese Rice and Flambé Dumplings, we came to the conclusion that the best ideas are those that feel completely crazy, and that make us a little scared, a little uneasy.
Not so much scared as in a John Carpenter movie, more scared as in “heck, how am I going to pull this one?”

If you can answer that question, you’ve got a good story idea in your hands.

So each one of us, that night, set down his own impossible story idea, and the morning after, these were forgotten.
Or at least tucked away in some dark corner of our memory.

That night, I invented Jack Nada. Continue reading

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Small adjustments

Monday has come around again
I’m in the same old place, the same old faces always watching me
Who knows how long I’ll have to stay?
Could be a hundred years of sweat and tears at the rate that I get paid
[Supertramp, From Now On]

Ah, January 2014 is almost gone, and here I am again, trying to do too many things at the same time.

Karavansara’s been lingering in a twilight realm thes last few months – more of a PR media outlet about my writing than a true blog.
The first year of Karavansara has been good, but not exceptional – mostly because I think I was not often personally engaged with my posts. Continue reading