East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


A way to keep the brain going: learning a foreign language (or five!)

The subject of languages came up in the comments section of my last post, when Floodmouse asked about my fluency in both English and Italian.
And I thought that for a blog that has the Silk Road as one of its themes, together with exotic adventure and history, then languages should be an interesting and pertinent topic. And languages have always been an interest of mine – and I learned a few, and I might have some dubious wisdom to share.

3592844F00000578-0-image-m-32_1466643151552And talking of dubious wisdom…
I can’t remember in which of the Flashman novels1, Flash Harry gives some good-natured suggestion to young men abroad in need of learning the local lingo in a haste.
Flashman’s suggestion boils down to shacking up with a local prostitute for the time needed, and do some conversation between… ehm, sessions.


Now I never tried that one, but I do have a few languages in my CV, and I am absolutely certain that knowing a different language (or three) is an essential life skill.
It helps us communicate with others, of course, and it provides us with the opportunity of seeing the world through other people’s eyes – by reading their books and newspapers, by listening to their songs and their radio news, by talking to them.
Practicing a foreign language is also an excellent method to keep the dust off our brain.
And it can be quite fun, if done with the proper attitude.
And indeed, the web provides a lot of opportunities for learning another language, and practicing it. Because practice is the important thing. Continue reading

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KaravanCast Episode 1: a resources list

This is a sort of follow-up to my post about the first episode of the KaravanCast.
I’ve been asked to provide links to some of the books and movies I mentioned in my ramble about King Solomon’s Mines, and here’s a short roundup of what you can find for free on the web.


Future podcasts will be posted with a full list of resources included.
Thanks for listening!


King Solomon’s Mines on Project Gutenberg

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar on Project Gutenberg

The Scarlett Citadel at Project Gutenberg Australia

Movies on Youtube

1937 King Solomon’s Mines

1950 King Solomon’s Mines

1985 King Solomon’s Mines

2004 King Solomon’s Mines

Note: quality can be less than optimal.


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Just a quick heads up for a wonderful resource I just discovered: the place is called WuxiaWorld, and these guys are translating in English a number of wuxia (Chinese fantasy sword & sorcery novels) and light novels from the Far East.


This comes as a classic case of fuzzy serendipity, as I am currently planning an Oriental Fantasy of sorts, and this certainly qualifies as research.
And fun!
Check them out!

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A new feature: Worldbuilding

As a spinoff of the massive work I’m doing on the Hope & Glory project, I’ve rebooted my old collection of Worldbuilding Resources as a new feature page here on Karavansara.
You find the relevant link on the top bar, under Features.


The page collects articles, books and software for writers interested in worldbuilding – that is not only the Tolkien-esque chore of spending thirty years drawing maps and noting down Elvish irregular verbs, but also quite simply the task of providing vivid and active detail to your story.
Or game.
Or whatever.

Check the page out.
If you have any suggestions, if there’s anything you think I left out, please use the comments on that page to give me a pointer.

I’ll post updates to this Feature occasionally.

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The Anciet Worlds in 3D

It’s Friday, but today I will not post an image for a prompt, but rather a link to a full website filled with wonderful images.

Doing some background research for my Aculeo & Amunet stories*, I found AncientVine.com – a huge repository of information, images and video abut life in the Ancient World.


Go check it out.
It will leave you speechless.

* Yes, it’s again the old story of the swape/shadoof…


Writing with Pinterest

piniconAs I mentioned a few days back, I’m exploring Pinterest as a tool for writers.
And as we know, the Pinterest nation is 70% women – this already makes Pinterest attractive, but let’s not talk about looking for a girlfriend…

For the uninitiated: Pinterest is a social media and tool based on the pinboard metaphore.
You collect items of interest around the web, and organize them in graphical, themed pinboards – providing images, videos and sounds, text (Pinterest allows for 500 characters comments), links.
You can share your pins, collaborate on pins with other pinners, and “steal” pins from other boards.

An early attempt at putting together a writing-oriented pinboard was the Mock Elizabethan board I manage together with my friend Chiara.
We both share a passion for the Elizabethan Era, and it seemed a fun project collecting weird and unusual modern Elizabethan references in one place – as a game, but also, who knows, as a source of inspiration for future writing project, maybe even the joint project we’ve been talking about for years now, and still haven’t found the time to get going.

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Guest Post – The World’s Most Lethal Snakes (1)

This is an important first, for Karavansara.
This is the first guest post on these pages.

From the Italian-language blog OTIUM, guest blogger Ferruccio Gianola will entertain and inform us about the ten most lethal snakes in the world.
A subject that fits nicely (?) the theme of Karavansara – as a collection of informations about far away lands, and as a resource for adventure writers and readers.

Due to the length of the article, this top ten will be published in two parts.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, Ferruccio Gianola… Continue reading