Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Give it a spin

It started because of the podcast I am producing and co-hosting with my friend Lucy. After we recorded the last episode, we started talking about a cancelled project for a spin-off series, and we both agreed we would have watched the hell out of such a spin-off. But there is not a hope in hell we’ll ever see it. Dang.

But of course the obvious follow-up was that if no official spin-off is made, a writer could always take the basic concepts, change the registration plates, give it a new paint job, and then give it a spin.
I mean, you can’t copyright story ideas, you can only copyright the way they are executed.

And so, after spending five to eight hours a day on my current ghostwriting gig, I decided to see what would happen if I spent one hour after dinner jotting down a few ideas.
Throw in a few other influences, change this and that… throw in a little John Carpenter, a little George Miller.
Add a political twist, but classy. Add a few original characters.
And I had to spend a while researching how much blood you need to lose in order for your heart to fail. fun stuff, what?

And now I have the first draft of a six-thousand-words story in the can, and two outlines for other two stories – one of which I dreamed, believe it or not … first time this happens to me.
And so I am seriously thinking whether it would be better to try and pitch the finished stories to a magazine, or self publish them. And again, self-publish as three shorts, or as a three-stories volume?
And where do I get a cover, or three?
And considering it’s been over one year since my last self-published ebook, will anybody be interested?
Ah!
But it’s fun, and it’s a relaxing exercise, because there are no strings attached – I am doing it for the best reason there is for writing: because I’d like to read these stories myself.
The result is pulpy good fun, without too many complications.
And the great bit is, these stories are starting to look like they are set in the same universe of my other project, the science fantasy adventure one. Which is fitting.
I might have a big thing here going, and no time to really work on it. As usual.


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No rest for the wicked (or something)

April started with uncertain weather, the shift to Daylight Saving Time, showers, a number of problems and headaches, and the typical springtime weariness that makes sleeping the best apparent option.
But there is no time for that – or at least for over-sleeping.

I am currently working on the double to close the ghostwriting job I’ve spent the last six weeks working on. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, and it’s a good thing, because there are unexpected expenses on the horizon, connected with my mother’s grave being moved – a service that used to be free, and now that the Turin cemetery has become a for-profit company costs in the order of fifteen hundred euro minimum.
It’s great to live in an ultra-liberist society, what?

But things are moving, more or less in the right direction.
I have a lot to write – apart from the ghostwriting gig – and there might be interesting stuff coming.
Watch this space.

And because as usual when I am overworked I get ideas that I’d like to put to paper instantly, a friend just pointed out to me a connection between Hammer’s Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter, and and the anime movie Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. One that it would be great to explore in a story or six.
But let’s jot down a few notes, and save that for the long sleepless nights of summer.


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Developing ideas and characters

A nugget of wisdom I found in a book I am greatly enjoying.
Talking about a short story published in 189, the author says she used it to “get a feeling” for a setting she’d later develop in a series of novels, and to try and develop the kind of character that would later appear in one of those novels.

It’s a scheme I heartily recommend. Get paid developing the ideas for your novels!

Indeed, it seems to be an excellent idea, and I have used it in the past, without really knowing.
I’ll have to write more stories, and use them to explore a few of the ideas I’ve here simmering.


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The most infuriating way to waste a few hours

This afternoon I gathered my Hollow Earth Expedition players – also known as The Friends of Mister Cairo – and I spent the afternoon playing, chatting, and having a much needed laugh. And it’s really great to have the web to help us keep our sanity this way.

But before that, and afterwards, I wasted the best part of the morning and a fair chunk of the evening trying to dream up one of the most dreaded things for a writer: coming up with a title.
It seems easy, right?
And most of the time it is not a problem _ I usually can come up with something feasible. But today? No cigar.

The fact is, this is for a big-ish project – quite fun, but also rather big – and it does not involve only me, and I can’t get myself and my accomplices stuck with a bad name forever.
We need something easy, catchy, original, and that conveys certain ideas at a glance. Something that cannot be mistaken, or twisted out of shape. Something with staying power, that can be printed on a T-shirt in a fancy font, and sells in cartloads.

There is no formula, and indeed I tried a couple of online title creators, because … technology.
But it turned out to be useless mostly useless.
And so it’s back to the basic pre-tech systems: jot down as many titles come up for your work, and then start erasing all those that really don’t work on a second pass – and so on and so forth until you have only one left, and that’s the good one. Well, at least the one that provides you with the highest degree of fit for the subject. A starting point, if nothing else.
And rather a time waster.


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A young Helena Saratova…?

I have often mentioned how graphically inept I am, and how much admire – as a consequence – artists that can draw, paint or give shape to their ideas as images in any form.
My schooling steered me away from images at a very early stage, and I grew up to be language-oriented, written-word-bound. I do not complain… but I do complain.
While I’ve taken courses and done exercise, I am still hopeless with a pencil, don’t even mention brushes and paint.

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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.

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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…

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