Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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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


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An expensive hobby for rich chumps

Joe Lansdale, a writer I enjoy very much and one of the men that are working harder and with most success to keep high the banner of popular fiction (popular in the sense that people like it, not in the sense that it is cheap), posted the following on the first of September…

wvCpHwOA_400x400Write from the heart.
Avoid self-publishing until there is no other choice, is my suggestion. And if you think I’m telling you that you have to do as I suggest, I’m not. But like it or not, mainstream publishers generally sells more books. I’ve done a bit of it all, mainstream, small press, and even a bit of self-publishing of established books. I would love to see the rise of more small publishers that pay and do quality work, like SUBTERRANEAN for one example. But the thing is, anyone can self-publish, and there’s no vetting.
If you must, do it, but it’s always nice to have someone else validate its worth. Start with paying markets. I truly believe a large number of people who self-publish have never tried the traditional route and don’t want to deal with possible rejection. Rejection makes you stronger, or it did me. I became more determined. The mainstream publishers don’t necessarily know more than others, but they pay, and they pay because they believe the work is valid. Can it be valid and self-published? You bet. But I’ve gotten a lot more exposure to my work, which is certainly not typically mainstream, with mainstream publishers than with anyone else.

Today, an Italian translation of this text has been doing the rounds of Italian writing groups and Italian writers’ walls on Facebook.
See, you suckers? Joe Lansdale sez you shan’t self-publish! Continue reading