East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai



Yesterday it was Friday the 13th and there was a full moon, so I met a friend who’s a fine horror writer and we went for a bite and a long night talking.
Of course we would have done it even had it been Monday the 19th and a quarter moon, but the whole day/moon thing was a nice touch.
We were assigned table 13 in the diner where we stopped, and that did not escape our notice.

As it usually happens in these situations, we ended up talking shop, and the discussion turned to our professional designation. Writer, that is.

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Journey with the gods: Takizawa Bakin and the writer as masterless samurai

36c970b7c39c9cba362d798ccec4baf2A few days ago I was reading a short pamphlet by a friend, that reprised, among other things, this idea we have been playing with, of indie and freelance writers being ronin, masterless samurai.
The comparison is strikingly fitting: individuals with competence and skill, bound to a code of conduct (or at least a work ethic), despised, mocked and feared because they lack a master (or an agent, or a publisher), trying to make ends meet.
A self-sufficient adventurer, a loner fighting his own wars.

The problem with these men was that they were armed and out of work.
(Nakasendo Way)

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Adopting Scrivener

Scrivener (software)

Now, it was Douglas Adams, I think, that used to say that trying new software was an excellent procrastination tool to avoid the actual act of writing.
I must agree.
And so, being finally able to run Scrivener on my Ubuntu-based old pc, I jumped at the opportunity of burning a weekend toying with the new writing tool.

For the uninitiated, Scrivener is a word processing software and a writing environment aimed at creative writers – it comes with presets for authors of fiction and non fiction, for screenwriters etc.
It’s highly popular and comes with rave reviews, and there’s a Linux version – which is fine, because sometimes the “sorry, Win/Mac users only” thing is frustrating.

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The Good Stuff

john-d-macdonald-60sYesterday I wrote great writers are those that can actually write down what we feel, but we so far have been unable to express with the same economy and focus.

Here’s John D. Macdonald, from the introduction to his short story collection, The Good Old Stuff.

First, there has to be a strong sense of story. I want to be intrigued by wondering what is going to happen next. I want the people that I read about to be in difficulties–emotional, moral, spiritual, whatever, and I want to live with them while they’re finding their way out of these difficulties. Second, I want the writer to make me suspend my disbelief…. I want to be in some other place and scene of the writer’s devising. Next, I want him to have a bit of magic in his prose style, a bit of unobtrusive poetry. I want to have words and phrases really sing. And I like an attitude of wryness, realism, the sense of inevitability. I think that writing–good writing– should be like listening to music, where you pick out the themes, you see what the composer is doing with those themes, and then, just when you think you have him properly analyzed, and his method identified, he will put in a little quirk, a little twist, that will be so unexpected that you read it with a sens of glee, a sense of joy, because of its aptness, even though it may be a very dire and bloody part of the book. So I want story, wit, music, wryness, color, and a sense of reality in what I read, and I try to get it in what I write.

He makes it sound almost easy.


NaNoWriMo… sort of

crest_square-1902dc8c2829c4d58f4cd667a59f9259November is NaNoWriMo month, and this year I am doing my own version of NaNoWriMo – I’m writing my doctorate thesis in one month.
Less than one month, actually.

It was not planned in advance – but real world engagements (such as, paying the bills and finding paying jobs thereof), caused the actual, sit-down-and-write work to slide further and further as the deadline loomed larger.
Then, in a final twist of fate, the email confirming the deadline was misplaced and popped up on my mail client with a delay of twenty days.

I don’t think this is going to count as a NaNoWriMo exercise (my thesis is not, after all, a novel), but actually I have to get 40.000 words – with images, bibliography and a few maps, ready for the 25th at the latest – and with ready I mean printed and sent to the Urbino University offices.

As most NaNoWriMo participants, I collected my material and coordinated my ideas well before the first of November – I have tons of notes, preliminary reports, articles, the works. The story… ehm, I mean, the dissertation paper is written in my head, illustrated with cool graphics, and accompanied by a solid map.
But I have to turn that ideal work into actual words on paper.
And ironically, this is going to engage all my pulp hack skills and tricks, this will be the final challenge, the ultimate workout.
If I come out of it alive, I will feel in the same league with the greats.
Pity I can’t use the Lester Dent formula on my thesis.

Now I’m toying with the idea of putting up a word counter, and enroll in the challenge itself.
But maybe not – after all, the judging commission might not appreciate the fact that I turned the sacred duty of writing down the results of my research in a challenge set to the standards of some weird Canadian thing.

But let’s see how it works out.
Any way it goes, it will be fun.


Author-Publisher, please

This is an impromptu post.
Chuck Wendig just posted another fine piece about… authors that publish their own stuff.
About the name you slap on such individuals.
Something I’m interested in, as I’m one of those that get slapped.

Let’s see.
The most common labels are:

. self-published author
. independent author
. self-produced author

copierLet’s admit it – they do suck.
At best, they aremisleading.
In my language, the label is usually (autore) Autopubblicato – and it reads as a mark of infamy.
It means, more or less, “you sucker, a real publisher would not touch your rubbish with a ten foot pole”.
And in my case might as well be correct – I’ve this thing which seems to ruffle the feathers of most publishers.

Incidentally – I do prefer author to writer, because it describes more precisely who I am.
A writer could be writing under dictation.
He could be a graffiti artist.
I’m an author.

Or, here’s another definition which is quite fun, content crafter.
Which is fine when I’m authoring stuff that’s not orthodox book- stuff – online articles, blog posts, slide text, infographics, etcetera.
Beats any day of the week the horrid web-writer so many people seem to enjoy (so much so there’s people out there actually selling “professional web-writer” certifications, these days!)

When it comes to publishing my stuff, anyway, the standard labels suck, but there are two other definitions I like much better.

The first is artisanal publisher, coined by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welsh in his excellent APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book.
I’ve been using that a lot – it removes the stigma of the guy working in his basement with an old HP printer and adds a touch of highly marketable mistique.

The second, which was recently proposed by Chuck Wendig, is author-publisher.
Which, and I have to agree with the man, sounds just like a multi-class character in a role playing game – like wizard-rogue, which I have played once in a while in my long gaming career.
And is mighty fine.
Sounds great.
It’s classy.

So here we go – from this moment on, I am Davide Mana, author-publisher.
I’m into artisanal publishing, actually.