Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


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One-handed

I have a lot of things to do – I am writing a campaign for a roleplaying game (sketch maps, draw diagrams, do the actual writing), I am revising a novel, I am about to sign a contract for another novel (fingers crossed), plus the usual number of short stories written on spec. A few articles. An interview. The podcast I am producing and co-hosting.
Lots of stuff.

But, in an unexpected accident (silly, all accidents are unexpected), I went and broke a finger, and as a result I am writing with only one hand. And I’ve been lucky – it could have been a lot worse.

So, what to do?
My writing is severely limited, and I might go for a dictation app for the urgent stuff.
But for the time being, as I am still in convalescence – and I’ll be for another week – I am trying to keep my mind off my current problems, and I’m catching up on my books backlog.

Right now I am reading Zen: the Art of Simple Living, by Sunmyoo Masuno, a slender book of practical zen for everyday life. A lot of the wisdom in the book is not new, and indeed a few things are already part of my day to day routine, but it is always good to have a reminder.

And it is also interesting, in this moment of forced stillness, to be reading a book about stillness as choice and lifestyle. It is a good moment as any to take stock of the situation and make a few adjustments, and any sensible suggestion is welcome – this is the right book at the right time.

Indeed, this accident will make me wiser for the future – and indeed, one of the first suggestions in the book, if applied, would have saved me lots of grief.


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Some late night thoughts about invisibility

This post might be (and probably will be) rambling and jump all over the place. Please bear with me – it’s very late at night.
I’ve been thinking about invisibility a lot, in the last few months. Now this is a good thing, one might say, for a fantasy writer: invisibility is a classic gimmick, and one that can be used to tell an exciting story while at the same time touching on a number of different themes, and thus talk about reality and truth. A good subject, invisibility, easily recognized and versatile.

Indeed it can be argued that my story The Smell of Empty Places (that was published in Italian in Acheron Books’ Dark Italy, and might one of these days be published in English, too) is a story about invisibility – the main character suffers (or enjoys? Ah!) a sui generis form of social invisibility, and making herself invisible is what she needs to do in order to escape the monsters she was able to find exactly because of her peculiar situation.

But it’s not invisibility as a story engine that’s been rolling through my mind in these last few months, but rather invisibility as a writer’s trait – as a very desirable choice for a writer.

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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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Worldbuilding resources

I have updated my Pinterest pinboard on the subject of Worldbuilding.
I recently noticed that many articles linked on Pinterest have been deleted, moved or anyway are no longer available, so I am trying to keep the collection up to date and as free of dead links as possible.

Fact is, I am designing an online course in Worldbuilding, I’ll be offering early next year. Continue reading


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Straight through the keyboard

writingSometimes weird stuff happens.
For instance… I’m contracted with my Italian gaming publisher, to provide a cycle of six novelettes set in the gaming setting I am developing.
I mentioned Hope & Glory before, here on the blog.

Due to my father’s death and the subsequent problems, I’m a behind schedule – something I hate, but really couldn’t be helped.
Now, four stories are ready, one is halfway through, and the sixth is fully outlined. By the end of the month, I will close the job. Earlier than that, possibly.
Nice and smooth.

So why, why, oh why did I spend yesterday afternoon and most of this morning writing at a breakneck pace a seventh story that is actually quite good, and fun to write, and fits perfectly with the whole set up? Continue reading