East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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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



Wine, sex and folk horror (and other things)

Despite the general sleepiness that comes with Spring, I’m trying to clear my desk of my backlog of stories, articles and translations I need to deliver to my clients, and in the meantime I’m trying to work on a pair of submissions and a couple of self-published things.
The new Buscafusco story is 75% done, and I’d like to nail its box shut by the end of the month.
acheron_the__ministry_of_thunderAlso, the Dean Wesley Smith book Writing a Novel in Seven Days is making me itchy to try. As I mentioned, I did it once already, and the novel I wrote in eight days later became The Ministry of Thunder, of which I am well pleased, as are my readers (eight 5-star reviews! hooray!)
Now I’m wondering if it would be feasible to try and do a 42.000 words story about Aculeo & Amunet.
And then there is the bit about local traditions and folk horror. About six months ago I promised a friend a novel a-la Dan Brown to stimulate interest in the territory and lure tourists in these hills. Part of that project became the Buscafusco series, but the idea of a horror story set in the Piedmontese vineyards sounds more attractive every day. And as per original plan, might make enough people curious to give a minimal boost to local tourism.
Now, as I think I mentioned, the local spook-du-jour are the masche sort of witches/hags of peasant tradition – and my friend Fabrizio Borgio is an expert on the subject.
BUT, in a twist of research madness, I decided to look at another tradition that might provide ample food for stories… even Aculeo & Amunet stories.
Because this is a wine country, and wine means Dionysus. Continue reading

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Shameless Plug: RE:CON after three months

On the first day of August me and my brother launched our small-scale venture, RE:CON Service, a fast, cheap and reliable research outfit aimed at writers and game designers.
Research is important – no matter what some people think – and sometimes you can’t invest a week researching details for a story you will write in one afternoon.
It’s just anti-economic.
That’s where RE:CON comes to the rescue: you drop us a line, we discuss the depth and width of what you are looking for, we agree on time and budget1, and you get a report covering what you needed.


So how did it go? Continue reading

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The Indian Mutiny of 1857

cover93235-mediumI know, I know.
I’ve already bored you to death – repeatedly – with my old thing about doing research and having a hell of a good time doing it.
But that’s it – I normally have an inordinate amount of fun doing research for my projects.

For Hope & Glory (you know that’s the hot topic here, right now), I had the pleasure of taking a university-level course in the history of Colonial Britain, and I read and re-read a lot of great books.
And expanded in new directions – like finally getting into the history of the Mughal.

But then there’s the serendipity thing – like, NetGalley, where I often find interesting books to read and review, offering me a review copy of The Indian Mutiny of 1857, by Colonel G.B. Malleson. Continue reading

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Researching far and wide

Something I often discuss on these pages is the joy (and pain) of doing research when writing.
Being a naturally curious individual, I actually enjoy doing research, and quite often I see writing as an opportunity to explore some issues that interest me.


Also, the amount of research is connected with the volume of work I am planning.
For a quick short story, say, set on Titan, the moon of Saturn, a selection of articles on the topic, plus the usual resources found online are normally more than enough.
Something particularly interesting and useful for the story might emerge, and then I’ll go in deeper on that single detail, usually while revising the first draft.
But in general, let’s say that, as a rule of thumb, a 6000-words story should be based on no more than one weekend of reading and note-taking. “For Dummies” books are a great resource when writing short fiction1. Continue reading