Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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


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Oh, damn!

So I spent most of last night listening to some music (I’m currently on a Shiina Ringo/Tokyo Incidents bender) and fitting together the little pieces of a short story based on the guidelines I posted yesterday.
You know, the one about the wrong sort of leading lady.

It was not easy, it required a lot of staring at the screen and playing solitaire and what not.
But finally, I got all the bits and pieces in place, and the mechanism worked like, well, clockwork, while still leaving me enough margin to improvise and keep the narrative lively.

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New tools

logo_todoist_schemaI just started using a tool that is likely to improve and streamline  somewhat the way I attack my workload. It’s pretty popular, as far as I know, and it’s called Todoist.
Basically it is a list-making tool, a scheduler.
You put in the stuff you have to do, with dates and details. You can flag and prioritise the single entries, and it’s got a lot of nifty bits.
You can use it on your smartphone (I don’t) or on your PC, where it appears as a plugin for both your browser and your mail client.

I usually key in

  • Title, brief description of each interesting open call
  • The URL with the complete call description
  • The deadline

And this is helping me a lot. Continue reading