East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


The formula

This morning I spent a few minuted talking with a friend and colleague about a book he has abandoned halfway through and about which I never went beyond the Amazon preview. In about of self-assuredness, I mentioned the fact that a book like that I can write in two weekends. Which was not meant literally, but close to it. Let’s say I can crank out ten thousand words a day – two weekends, starting on Friday evening, would mean 50.000/60.000 words in two weekends.
Nice and smooth.

I mentioned this to another friend, about half an hour ago – she’s writing a series, and she was taking a break, and we exchanged a few messages. The point of the discussion was – the time-consuming part is not typing (and she’s a much faster typist than I am), but coming up with good ideas.
Ideas about plot twists, character traits and interactions, ideas about dialogue.
Good ideas and the research to stimulate and back them are the critical point, and they are time consuming.

Continue reading


Night thougths and story ideas

Last night I was going through a bout of insomnia, so I wrapped myself in a stack of blankets and I watched me something. I chose a Japanese animated series, one I liked a lot when I was a kid. A spin off of the original, 12 20-minutes episodes that came out in the mid-’90s and that I had missed at the time.

I watched and enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I liked the storytelling, the characters and their dynamics, and OK, there was a certain amount of fluff and adolescent angst but what the heck, it was a Japanese anime, it’s supposed to have those.

And while I was between episodes, a strange sensation hit me…

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Hotel rooms and airports

There’s this story I heard a few days ago, that goes like this:

Q: How do you know that a stand-up comedian is being too successful?
A: All of their new jokes suddenly are about hotel rooms, airports and comedy venues.

The risk of success is, you start working on your successful routine and you lose touch with everything else. Staying in touch with what’s out there, with everyday life, with people and events and ideas is absolutely indispensable to keep having fresh ideas.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Starting up again

And so, having delivered my manuscript to the editor, and having spent a long weekend basically reading, eating and sleeping – not necessarily in that order – I am ready to start working on the next project.

Or am I?


Right now, there’s a full plate of stuff to do for my game writing job – books to author or co-author, stuff to be researched, plans to be made.
This is not much a matter of inspiration – the projects are more or less solid – but of scheduling the work to be done and then stick to the timeline. Continue reading

Leave a comment


Last week I hit on a great story opening.
OK, I say so myself and all that, but I was impressed with my skill and elegance.
And a few beta readers agreed – so maybe it’s not just me being overconfident.

A great beginning requires a great development.
What follows is some notes on my mental processes from themoment I realized I had a great hook.
Some insight in themind of a madman, in other words.

A great beginning requires a great development, I said.
A great story requires a great character.
So I looked around in my HD folders, and I summoned back from oblivion the character of Steve Randolini, the narrating voice and hero of Interesting Times, the story that got the second prize in the Hydropunk competition.
I like Steve a lot – he’s cool, witty, elegant.
I’ve been feeling very bad at the idea that the Hydropunk story will be his only outing.

roccodfNow, the original Steve Randolini was inspired by Rocco Vargas – the astronaut-turned-nightclub-owner in the fine, very fine post-modern pulp comics by Daniel Torres.
Incidentally, I love Torres’ work, and will have to write apostabout him, as he’s certainly a major influence for me, and has been for two decades.

Anyway, the Hydropunk story has its own setting and development, but it would be rather easy to recycle the main characters – not only Steve, but also his partner Bonnie Avery – shifting the action from uchronic sci-fi to straight pulp.

Which leads me to my old crush for Indiana Jones.
I’m a notorious Indy fan, and I’d love to write stories about an adventurer dealing with ancient mysteries and lost treasure.

Now, a few years back, I wrote a series of treatments for a hypothetical comic series to be called Huaqueros, about a group of university dropouts working as grave-robbers-for-hire.
Nothing came out of it, but the research I did is still there.
Nothing gets wasted hereabouts.

What attracts me to the role of the huaquero, the grave-robber, is the moral ambiguity.
A moral ambiguity whose loss is, to me, the greatest problem with the Indiana Jones movies.
I mean – in the Raiders movie, Jones is not supposed to be such a good guy.
indymarionC’mon, he recovers artifacts which he then sells to his own museum, bending all the rules… he’s a scoundrel that actually seduced the underage daughter of his best friend and mentor…
And now she’s a tough chick running a disreputable drinking den in the Himalayas, a pretty girl that can drink sherpas under the table…
And isn’t it great, in Raiders Indy has to prove himself better than Belloq, instead of being automatically on a higher moral ground?

Toning down this darkness – as it was done in the later Indy movies – was for me a big let down.

So, if the new Steve Randolini is to become a dealer in lost artifacts and cursed items, I’d like to keep him on the wrong side of the law, and on a debatable moral ground.
Not an anti-hero, but a reluctant hero.
He will have to work hard to do the right thing.

Also, somewhat in line with the original concept for Randolini, I’m giving him a very small, but significant bit of mystical background.
But I always loved about The Shadow was Kent Allard’s backstory – and without going all the way down the “I learned some mystical mumbo jumbo in Tibet” road… why not give my character a push in the weird/supernatural direction from the very start?
Why not give him a good reason to constantly stumble on weird supernatural stuff?

Also, giving him some weird backing and some frankly disquieting allies, could help bring character, background and setting together, and help the stories acquire an original, slightly unusual flavor.

And the mix could be fun enough to keep me interested.
And keep me writing.
And hopefully keep people reading!
It might work.

Now I only have to write the damn thing.
And then find me a publisher – or go the self-pub way.


Why Bother?


(it’s A LOT less romantic than that)

Writing a blog is really a great source of ideas.
An example?
It’s 23.33, sunday night.
In theory, in about thirty minutes a post should go online on Karavansara.
And here I am, staring at the fog inundating my courtyard like a pool of soap water, and racking my brain for an idea.

And then, on my other blog, the Italian one, a surfer comments a recent post, asking…

Why do you care about the number of readers reading your blog?
Is it a matter of money – more readers, more donations?
Or is it a way to confirm how good you are? More readers means I’m a better writer?
Why bother about being read?

Now, ok, I’ll admit it – I’m facing a difficult week, and my first reaction is slamming repeatedly my forehead on the keyboard.
When someone that’s actually reading me asks me why I am interested in being read, the sense of emptyness and desolation scares me witless for ten seconds solid.
But then, c’mon, let’s think about it – here’s a theme for the new post! Continue reading