East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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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

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For Others

how-to-walkI’ll take this a rather circuitous way – but you should be used to it by now.
I was given a book as a gift, for my latest birthday – Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Walk.
I always was a long-distance walker.
When I was a student I used to walk instead of taking a bus, to save the money and buy books, or records. Later, when I started driving (I was a late starter), I tried to keep walking, and recently, after years of inactivity, I picked up hiking again.
This, coupled with my long-standing interest in zen, made me really curious or reading that particular book.
And I found it very good – simple, down to earth, and filled with great intuitions.
And there’s a passage, in it, that goes like this…

Sometimes I say I walk for my mother or that my father is enjoying walking with me. I walk for my mother. I walk for my teacher. I walk for my students. Maybe your father never knew how to walk mindfully, enjoying every moment like that. So I do it for him and we both get the benefit.

I was touched deeply by this one because I read it about one month after my father passed away. And it touched me also because I had already done that – twenty-five years ago. Continue reading