Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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A magic primer

I have just delivered the last chapter of a big job to the editor, I have spent one hour revising a translation (more work on it tomorrow), and tonight after dinner I will try and write a 1500-words flash-fiction to answer an open call. Maybe.
Maybe I will just go on and follow up on my before-dinner reading.

To celebrate the closing of the big one, I have cracked open a book I have had here for a while, Philip Carr-Gomm and Richard Heygate’s The Book of English Magic, that I bought a few months back and has been here tempting me all along.

The volume covers what it says on the tin: magic, as traditionally practiced in England. No Wales, no Scotland.
Only Ye Merrie Englande and its magickal history find a place herein.

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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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Accountants, Soldiers and Nurses

Accountants are dangerous. And no, I am not going to entertain you with my adventures in mortgage and banking. The fact is, while doing a bit of research both for The Ministry of Lightning and for a short article I am about to write, I chanced on something that will not go in the article – being only tangentially connected with the topic – and will certainly get into the novel. And it’s all about accountants.
One accountant in particular.
His name was Andrea Compatangelo, and he was an Italian, from Benevento.

Let’s bactrack a little – during the Great War, a number of Italians fought in the Austro-Hungarian forces, simply because the territories from which they came, while being ethnically Italy, were part of the Hapsburg Empire. Many of these men were taken prisoner on the Eastern Front, and deported to Russia.

After the war, an Italian military mission took care of extracting the “talianski” from the Russian working camps, and bring them back to Italy. This is the subject of the article I am writing.
But there were others. And here we go down a wholly different rabbit hole. This is a strange story…

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A house in Venice

Have you ever spent a whole afternoon looking for the plan for a Renaissance Venetian house in order to use it as the setting for a few scenes in the story you have written already, but is missing that extra something?
Well, I did.
And thank goodness for domestic refurbishing companies, because otherwise all I had been able to find was a detailed plan for the Palazzo Ducale. A little too upscale for my purposes.

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But architecture studios today are quite proud to put up the plans of the buildings they have worked on. It took me the whole afternoon to find the plans, but now they are here on my desktop.
The following step was ditching three thousand words of my 10.000-words story, and go back to redesign the whole action scenes at the core of the story.
Because now I have reality to work with.
That is the reason I did my research in the first place. Continue reading


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Visit Versailles online

I often speak of the joys of research. While I am polishing Asteria in the court of the Sun King I have checked out a few online resources about the palace of Versailles.

Asteria, as I have often said, is not historical fantasy, but more pseudo-historical fantasy. Very pseudo. The model being the old peplums, we don’t care much for authenticity or accuracy.

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But I still like to get an idea of the places, before my characters wreck them and lay them waste.

And while I was researching King Louis XIV’s apartments, I found the official website of the Palace of Versailles.
And I think you should visit the website, and like I do, dream about a visit in person.


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Sixteen Italians in Tientsin

There were sixteen Italians in Tietsin in 1901.

  • Two hairdressers
  • Six owners or staffers of two Italian restaurants
  • One mechanic
  • One miner
  • Two businessmen
  • One builder
  • Three artists: a singer, a musician and a painter.

These are the things one learns doing historical research.

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And one can also get an article out of it, and sell it. Because bills won’t pay themselves. Continue reading