Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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Practicing the True Secret of Writing (or at least trying)

I think I already told you part of this, so bear with me if I repeat myself.
I started dabbling with Zen in high school: our teacher was convinced the Ministry-approved curriculum for History and Philosophy was limited and incomplete, and so he assigned us to write essays on subjects that were not part of the program. I already had a passion for the east, and so I chose to do a paper on Zen philosophy.
My teacher provided a few titles, and then I discovered Thomas Hoover’s Zen Culture, and I was thoroughly fascinated. Incidentally, Hoover’s book can be downloaded for free – together with many of his other fine fiction and non-fiction books – from the author’s web page.
My essay got top marks, my schoolmates concluded I was even more of a crackpot and a geek than I appeared to be, and I started what was to be an on-off interest for the rest of my life.

The crackpot part is significant – there was another thing I did, back in high school, that marked me as a weirdo. I wrote stories.
They were very poor stories, mostly fantasy and science fiction, hammered out on my mother’s Olivetti typewriter, but I liked it as much as I liked reading. Possibly more: because I’d be able to write stories I did not find around, and I would have loved to read.
It was a start.
My schoolmates looked at me and shook their heads.
Not all of them – a few were quite supportive – and one of them even said “You’ll end up being a real writer.”
I wished I had his faith in my skills.

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Making changes (still writing -related)

After the bout of bad health I suffered through early this year, I decided to make a few changes. After all, my life has changed: I was a researcher working in a lab, a teacher moving between universities, now I am a writer spending most of his time sitting in the dark in a room full of books, typing.
So, different life, different problems, time to make some changes.

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Uncharted

Uncharted is both the title of a series of digital games I would have loved to play but never did due to hardware shortcomings and the title of a song I like a lot. This post has nothing to do with either of them (but the song is actually playing in the background as I write this).

In three days it will be the 8th of May, and the third anniversary of my father’s death. The date also marks the moment I became a full-time writer, after a few years spent as a geologist that wrote stories in his spare time. The reason for the shift: no money in the bank, no work, writing to pay the bills turned out to be the only way to keep going.

These three years have been for me a journey through an uncharted territory. I did not have a plan, when I started checking publishers while putting out self-published stories using a variety of aliases, following the old pulp standard of being a lot of people, so I’ll be able to sell more.

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A few books for indie authors

This post is the product of a few exchanges I had over the last two weeks with a few friends and colleagues, about writing and in particular about writing as a freelance/independent/mercenary writer.

I am convinced one can learn anything from a book, and thank goodness there’s a lot of great books out there. I am listing a fer here that represent, to me, the minimum library for the independent writer. This is not of course the Word of God – it’s just my personal list of favorites.
Your mileage might vary.

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Writing and flute playing

I’m doing a bit of recycling here, but I hope you’ll like this old piece I wrote in 2013. The fact is, I mentioned my flute-playing past, in a post on my Italian blog, and the “also read” function of WordPress suggested this old piece from five years ago, and I re-read it, and found it’s not so stupid or dated or what. Why not clean it up, translate it and post it here?
It’s a piece about writing…

It’s now over fifteen years since I last picked up my flute, and more than 25 since I last played it seriously. Many things put an end to my activity – from the disappearance of the people with whom I could play, to the fact that the time became less and less, and at that point, having to sacrifice one of my too many interests, the flute took second position to writing.
And talking about writing, there’s a few things I learned as a flute player that apply pretty straightforwardly to writing – because you must not believe the gurus, you can learn about writing everywhere.

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Writing Short Stories: the best advice I ever got

shortstory1OK, I was talking with my friend Claire, the other day, and she was telling me she wants to start writing more short stories.
Which is just swell, because, hey, I want to write more short stories too!
So – you know me – I tried to talk her into doing something together, because she’s a fantastic writer and a great person and I’d have a lot of fun working with her – and who knows, she might have fun working with me on some weird and sideways project.
She was kind and measured as ever at my advances, and, what can I say, we’ll see.

But in the meantime I looked here on my shelves for stuff about short stories – because if that’s going to be the mood of the next few months, why not write a few posts on the subject. So I checked out books and stuff, and I will do a few posts and things, but because one has to start somewhere, I think I’ll start from here: from the best piece of advice I ever got about short story writing, that appropriately enough is a suggestion about beginnings.
Isn’t that neat? Continue reading