East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Clod & Dagger

One of the things I’m working on is a sword & sorcery story for a forthcoming anthology of Italian low fantasy, known as “Zappa & Spada”1.
The idea is to do a humorous – if possible – collection of grim stories about the lower classes in a fantasy setting.

My idea is moderately humorous but not overly grim2, and evolves around the lady of a small feudal holding that, while her husband and all the “able men” are away to fight for the emperor, has to patch together an army of peasants, poachers and women to hold back a marauding band of raiders.

Not an overly original idea I will admit – George MacDonald Fraser used something similar in his The Candlemass Road, and a great little book it was3.
But I’ll try and make something different of it. Continue reading


Somewhere, I’m sure, the future is bright: big enough dreams

I stumbled on something that looks like it’s been made for me, the other day.
It’s called Sapiens Plurum:

Sapiens Plurum (Latin for “wisdom of many”) was named to reflect humankind’s evolving connected intelligence. Our mission is to inspire us — the first species that can intentionally impact its own evolution — to aspire beyond what was humanly possible. The rising generation, the Sapiens Plurum generation, will have the power of gods of ancient myth: to heal, to transform, to battle and to better the future of humankind, to overcome problems that have plagued civilization for millennia: thirst, hunger, disease, pollution, brutality, tyranny and environmental degradation.

Now it’s easy to act cynical and blas√©, but I think these are worthy aspirations.
So where do I start pushing to help get this thing on the road?

It turns out they are having a contest. A literary contest, called 2017 Earth-Day Short-Fiction Contest.

Sapiens Plurum is seeking writers who can plot amazing outcomes. Our Earth Day Short Fiction Contest this year challenges authors to dream big enough dreams. Tell us of a future: In your imagination, can we evolve humanity to a better place? Or will we, like Icarus, end up too close to the Sun?

The idea is to submit a short piece, 1500 to 3000 words, a positivist, optimistic story about how the future will be better in a big way.
That I can do. Or try to.
I love optimistic SF, and 3000 words, while hard (actually harder than 4500, so sue me) can still be done in two evenings.

But as I took a walk to get my brain working, I hit a brick wall.
The bright future awaiting us… Continue reading

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No Sword and No Sorceress

And so I didn’t make it.
I didn’t finish Children of Shadow in time for the Sword & Sorceress submission (12 hours left, not enough).
The fact that I spent the best part of a day walking up and down a golf course is certainly one of the reasons why I wasn’t able to nail the box of the new Aculeo & Amunet story shut.
By the time I was home yesterday night it was well past nine and I was completely spent.

There is a thing I was discussing with my friend Hell Greco1 two nights ago, that really has something to do with the unfinished Aculeo & Amunet story, that I thought may interest someone out there.
Or maybe not, in which case, skip this post. Continue reading


Another sprint

I’ve devoted a lot of space recently to my writing, which I realize is boring to a lot of people out there.
Sorry ’bout that. This is my last writing-related post for a while.
Fact is, you know, that talking publicly about what I am about to do forces me to stick to my guns, and actually do it. It’s good motivation.
So here is what I am about to do: I am about to spend tonight revising the last bits of Hope & Glory – the plot point campaign called The Flight of the Ostrich in particular.21844978
Then I will drop everything else for two days and spend those 48 hours doing a short story about Aculeo & Amunet.
I have a few ideas I need to sort out, I can do that tomorrow morning while I am queuing at the tax office, and then I’ll start writing, and in two days I’ll have a 6000-words story, and I will submit it to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress 32.
I learned too late that the submission window for the anthology closes on the 14th of the month, that is this Sunday. And on Saturday I am away for a job, probably.
So I will have to do a sprint-writing thing, and by the evening of the 11th at the latest I need to have my story.

The anthology guidelines specify

Stories should be the type generally referred to as “sword and sorcery” and must have a strong female protagonist whom the reader will care about.

0c6581662f0d6b2882dded6b8741c36dWill the reader care about Amunet, when she is usually so keen telling us she does not care about anybody but herself? Hopefully so.

I’d really love to get into the Sword & Sorceress anthology – apart from being an excellent market, it is also an excellent showcase for an author.

And if I’ll get tangled in some other thing and I’ll miss the deadline, because it is a well known fact that we must expect the unexpected, well, I’ll have another Aculeo & Amunet story, and I will look for other markets.

The good bit about writing is that nothing gets wasted.
But enough talking about writing!
Wish me luck.


Language and Stories

I’m writing a story.
It’s an alternate history short story for a forthcoming project.
I will not disclose the details, but I can safely say that it’s a story that features Carole Lombard – because I love Carole Lombard, and she’s the right woman in the right place, so to speak, for the story I want to write.

Annex - Lombard, Carole_09

Scanned by Frederic. Reworked by Nick & jane for Dr. Macro’s High Quality Movie Scans website: http://www.doctormacro.com. Enjoy!

The story that I am writing, in fact – 1000 words done last night… and that’s what I want to talk about. Continue reading


Introducing BUSCAFUSCO, a tough guy for the wine country

There’s been a project I’ve been sitting on for months now, and today I decided to give it a spin – the idea being writing a story in one day, and then clean it up, put a cover on it and then load it up in Amazon, and see what happens.
Work with pulp speed and pulp standards, to tell pulp stories.

So I did it.
I started this morning at 9.30.
It is now 5.30 pm as I am writing this, and I have 9000 words down, and about half as many still to go. And it seems to be working.
So, to give myself that extra push, I’m announcing it here straight away, and I’m also giving you a short behind-the-scenes and a cover reveal.
I hope you are interested. Continue reading


A new song for old faces

Talk about never throwing away anything.

It was August 2014, my life was pretty different, I was about to publish a new collection of Aculeo & Amunet stories and I mused about doing a spin-off of the series, focusing on the character of Centurion Nennius Britannicus and his contubernium.

connollyFor the uninitiated, the contubernium is the smallest unit of the Roman army Рa band of eight men, led by a decanus, with two auxiliaries, and maybe a mule. The guys, called contubernales,  lived together and fought side by side. It was a very tightly knit sort of military unit, and probably one of the (many) reasons why the Roman Legions were so awesome in the field.
So back in the summer of 2014 I decided I’d do a spin-off series, and call it Contubernium. I said I would be…

Something like Hill Street Blues, but set in Alexandria, in the Third Century.
A city filled with zealots, fanatics, weirdos and loose women.
With Lovecraftian creatures.
It would be fun.

But then the project went nowhere.
I had my Scrivener file with all its odds and ends and stuff, but quite clearly there was not a good story in there. So I filed the lot away.
Fast forward 30 months. Continue reading