East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Leave a comment

The hard part

Last night I spent (or wasted) a few hours trying to explain to a contact of mine why writing is hard.
Because this guy was like, “hey, I’ve got this great idea, the story will practically write itself!” and from there it was all downhill to the classic “you just got to sit down and write it, right?”

So I asked him to give me the short summary for “Casablanca”, the 1942 movie. Because it’s a movie everybody knows, and because it illustrates perfectly my point.
The short summary my friend gave me goes more or less like this…

During WW2, in Casablanca, Rick Blaine is the owner of a night club. When his former lover appears, together with her French Resistance husband, Rick needs to straighten his relationship with her, while staying one step ahead of the Nazis.

Which is a viable capsule plot for Casablanca, and it has all the “great ideas” – star-crossed lovers, war, political intrigue, exotic locale, Nazis.
Nice and smooth.
Now write it.

“What do you mean, write it?”

And I explained that a great idea is indeed a good starting point, but then you need to develop it.
You’ve got to find a way to present Sam, and the Peter Lorre Character, and the Sidney Greenstreet character… you’ve got to figure out the scenes, what happens when, what to show and what to imply. Write the dialogue. Create a sense of continuity.

“Let’s say I give you two hours. Can you write me two pages of Casablanca, your own version, in two hours?
I’ll be back later.”

And I went and watched the movie we’ll discuss tonight on our podcast.
When I got back, my contact told me it doesn’t work the way I said. Writers don’t do it like that.
One does not write like this, one has to wait for inspiration.
At this point I reminded him of the time when he asked me for a story, 6000 words in ten days – “all you have to do is write 600 words per day. Easy.”
What about my inspiration, then? What if I had to wait for the Muse to appear for one week?
“You’re the writer, that’s your business.”

A business a lot of people think they know better than we that do it.


48 hours to write

I am turning off the cell phone and shutting down my connection because I got a very attractive call for a science fiction story yesterday, that comes with a slight drawback: the call closes in 48 hours. Can I make it?
Of course I can.

The fun bit is, for one of those strange serendipitous things that happen, the call – that is for a story about the future of sex, of all things – arrived in my mailbox just as i was watching a video on Youtube.
This video, from thew 1969 musical Sweet Charity:

… and it sort of gave me the basic idea on which to start writing.

Say, wouldn’t you like to know what’s goin’ on in my mind?

Well, that got me something going on in my mind, and I’m currently 600 words into the story. I’ll let you know what comes out of it.

Leave a comment

French Naughtiness, General Pershing, and inspiration

There is an image, here on my desktop, I’ve been hoping to use as an inspiration for a short story for quite a while.
It’s called Les Surprises de la Vie de Chateau: La Revue Nocturne, that is Surprises of the Life in the Castle: The Night Review.
It’s a host of ghostly dames, in gorgeous Medieval dresses, examining with curiosity and bafflement the lingerie of a flapper girl as she spends the night in a castle’s bedroom.


It was drawn by Chery Herouard for a magazine called La Vie Parisienne, somewhere in the 1920s. Continue reading

Leave a comment

It was love at first sight

Two days ago I fell in love.
No, hold your horses, it’s not a romantic thing.
Two days ago I fell in love with a beautiful woman designed by my friend Angelo Montanini, fantasy artist, fashion designer and teacher, one of the giants of Italian Tolkien-inspired illustration, and the man who developed the earlier concepts for Hope & Glory.
He published this on his Facebook page and his Instagram, and I was completely blown away.

montanini gun girl 2

Isn’t she a wonder?
Doesn’t she instantly suggest you stories, adventures, a life of danger and mystery and romance? Continue reading


How to write without inspiration (sort of)

she who maulsMy friend Yuri hates me, or so he says.
The problem emerged after my public writing session last week. Basically I sat down for five hours typing, and two days later I had a story to sell1. Yuri mentioned on Facebook the fact that he’d been staring at a blank page for a while, and therefore he hates me.
My answer to that was that he’d spent too much time thinking. You’ve got to start typing, I said. If after five pages you still don’t know where your story is going, then you have a problem.
Another friend of mine, Paolo, butted in, saying that following my rule, he’d never have written one of his recent stories – a big hard sf tale.
A good starting point for a discussion, but Facebook is not a good place for discussions of writerly survival. So, let me see if I can put this thing in some order here, and try to explain what’s going on.

This might be the first of a series of posts, I don’t know. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Aculeo & Amunet on the Road to Babylon

So I am currently writing a new Aculeo & Amunet story.
It’s good – I like the guys, and it’s like taking a vacation.
I’d love to have three or four stories for a new collection to publish for Christmas – I’ve one ready, and another I am writing right now… let’s say I’m sort of halfway there..295f12a6feb1e0d8e3cfbfe76f0e75f5

The story I’m working on right now is very loosely based on a 1976 song called The Road to Babylon, from an album called The Roaring Silence, by the Manfred Mann Earth Band.
As I said in the past, I use a lot of music for inspiration, background, soundtrack and assorted distractions when I write, and listening to this one really got me going. Continue reading