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Two books and a movie


I am lucky: there’s people out there that give me books as gifts. I am really moved by this, because it means these persons recognize my addiction, and have enough compassion to want to help me stay sane by keeping me well provided with reading matters. So yesterday I got a digital copy of Alastair Humphreys’ My Midsummer Morning. The person that sent it to me (thank you!) knows I am a fan of Humphreys’, and knew I was curious about this book – that chronicles the author’s travel through Spain, on foot, living on the earnings of his busking. Humphreys’ offbeat adventure was inspired by another great book, Laurie Lee’s classic As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, which chronicles Lee’s cros...
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The Corsair and the Stray Cats


A few months ago I set up something that was to be called Seven Lives – a collection of my unpublished stories, seven, all with a cat somewhere, to be treacherously handed to my supporters on Patreon (because it’s good to be my supporters on Patreon ) and then to be grouped in a single volume, to be sold to raise funds for two stray cat shelters. Arrived at the sixth story, three things happened I was told that cats have nine lives, not seven, silly!my current job as a ghostwriter overflowed and drowned mea global pandemic hit us all And so my plan for one story a month went hiwire, but only a little – and so the seventh story, which was scheduled for March, came out only today. All the stor...
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The Cat with No Name

The Cat with No Name, a feral cat that used to hang around our courtyard, was killed last night when someone run it over with a car. On a private side road, in a small village, during lockdown, the list of suspects is very short, and yet it is impossible to nail the person responsible. The Cat with No Name used to come to the courtyard when my father sat outside in the evening, looking at the stars. It was feral, but it liked humans, and it was very sweet. It asked for food, it liked to be cuddled. Today is a very bad day. Original link
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Wouldn’t it be fun …?

That’s how usually it begins. You are there minding your own business, watching a movie, say, or reading a book, or listening to some music, and all of a sudden this idea pops up. Wouldn’t it be fun…?And you are in rouble, because usually it would be fun – or at least you think it would be, and you start writing and… ah, that’s how it begins.Case in point… I am watching this series. Fun, well made, predictable as a lot of pulp fiction tends to be, but that’s part of the fun.We set out with a classic line up of character going on an adventure: the hero: unassuming, but he’s actually a Doc-Savage-level ultra-competent superhero with magical powersthe tough chick: dresses in leather, throws kni...
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Binge watching


Almost everybody out there, if I must trust (and I shouldn’t) what I get through mi social media, is using the lockdown time to catch up on movies, TV series, books, comics and videogames. And really, why not?We live in a media-rich landscape, and our old life forced us to leave behind a lot of stuff. And while I was never a fan of binge-watching, as I mentioned previously I’ve been supporting myself on a steady diet of Chinese horror/adventure web series these days, courtesy of a Youtube channel that streams subtitled episodes. And I must say that in general I am impressed by the quality of the products I’ve seen so far. So, the twenty episodes of The Weasels Grave gone in two nights of ins...
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A Grave for the Weasels


Two weeks ago I spent a weekend binge-watching Candle in the Tomb, a Chinese web-series about the exploits of a team of grave-robbers trying to find (and loot) an ancient lost city in the Gobi Desert. Despite the sometimes rough humor and the clunky SFX, it was a great fun – and for this reason, I moved on to the follow-up series, Candle in the Tomb: The Weasel Grave. A long weekend approaches, and this is just what I need to keep my spirits up during my long sleepless nights. In the original Candle in the Tomb, we met Hu Bayi, a former soldier that once cashiered finds his only marketable skills come from a family heirloom: a book about the theory and practice of tomb raiding. Set in the 19...
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Enough Dark Elves to last you a lifetime


The fine folks at Humble Bundle are offering a huge bundle of Forgotten Realms novels, most of which seem to focus on the Underdark and its denizens, the Drow or Dark Elves. As usual part of the proceeds go for a charity. One buck will net you six titles, and if you go all in and spend 15 bucks, you’ll get 23 books. There’s a whole slew of R.A. Salvatore novels featuring Drow swordmaster Drizzt, plus a few titles from other authors and series.I admit I am not a fan of R.A. Salvatore, but admittedly I read his books a lifetime ago, and in translation. This is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the bestselling Salvatore. And other books seem promising. As I mentioned, part of what you pay will ...
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Men (and women) of learning and of steel


Back in the day, I fell desperately in love with the writings of Mary Gentle, the British writer whose Rats & Gargoyles is still in my top five of favourite fantasy novels thirty years after I first read it. I have multiple copies of it, and the only time in my life I was mugged, the guy attacked me to steal from my coat pocket the paperback of Rats & Gargoyles.A bibliophile-thief? A fantasy-loving thug? In those pre-internet days, the only way to get everything Gentle had published was perusing the catalogs from Andromeda Books, and then mail an order (you know, with envelope and stamps) all the way to the UK, and then wait and pray the postman didn’t so something stupid. One of the first M...
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A memory called Empire


My insomnia keeps raging, and so I am filling my long nights with books and movies – because you can’t go on writing without a pause. A good opportunity to catch up with titles I have overlooked or left behind in the past years. And right now I am really enjoying Arkady Martine’s A memory called Empire, that is the sort of smart, fun space opera that I have always liked. The reason, really, why I read (and sometimes write) science fiction. The plot in a nutshell: Mahit Dzare is rushed to the position of her people’s ambassador to the Teixcalaanli Empire when her predecessor dies. Winging her way through the political red tape and the byzantine rules of the imperial court, she starts investig...
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As if…

As if I had not enough already on my plate, compounded with a general lack of energies and a devastating lack of sleep, I’ve thought it would be good to use internet for something more than squalid self promotion and for mindless entertainment. Like, there’s people out there that are having a real bad time – much worse than mine – dealing with the lockdown and its consequences.Kids that used to meet their friends in preschool.Singles holed up in a one-room apartment somewhere in suburbia.People that have no one to talk to. What could I do?I am basically a writer and a teacher.What could I provide for the community?Any ideas?Write them in the comments. Original link
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Like a ragged samurai – L’Armata Brancaleone


Mario Monicelli (1915-2010) was a genius and a true artist. He started his career in movies at 19, writing an adaptation of Poe’s Telltale Heart, and for over seventy years he was at the cutting edge of Italian cinema, with a total of 112 scriptwriting credits, and 69 movies directed. He was one of the stalwarts of the so-called “commedia all’italiana” (Italian-style comedy), a genre that, at its best, mixed broad farce, subtle satire, and sharp social observation. And Monicelli was the best in the game. Italian-style comedy came with a bundled problem, and some friends warned Monicelli that by bringing to the screen the flaws of the Italian character in highly comedic manner, his would be p...
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Italian Low Fantasy – Kickstarting Brancalonia


The page for the Brancalonia Kickstarter is live, and the project was financed in about one hour. Color me impressed – and grateful to the fans.There is still twenty days to go, and so the project might become huge.But what’s this Brancalonia thing? Brancalonia is a game setting for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, a psaeudo-historical fantasy that taps the rich catalog of stories, folklore and ideas from the Italian middle ages.Based on the same concept of the highly successful Italian fantasy anthologies Zappa & Spada (something we could translate as Spade & Sorcery), Brancalonia is a low fantasy setting, in which the players portray members of the Medieval lower classes, trying to e...
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A very Italian sort of fantasy


Admittedly, the title of Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich’s Italian Sword and Sandal Films, 1908–1990 is misleading. The book does not cover only sword & sandal movies (aka peplums), but a whole selection of swashbucklers, historical and Biblical flicks. And I am not complaining at all. The book, published by McFarland & Co in 2017 is really just a long check list of the most important movies in the broad category of sword & sandal as applied by the authors. Like in, say, Silver & Ward’s Noir Encyclopedia, we get details on every cast and crew member but alas not an extensive critical article for every film. This is really a pity. On the other hand, if you have spent part of your youth watchin...
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Vincent Price Blogathon: The Saint


It’s the day of the Vincent Price Blogathon, when we celebrate one of the most iconic, elegant and versatile actors ever to grace the silver screen, Vincent Price. Most of us know him for his huge catalog of horror movies, but Price was also a star in film noir and in costume dramas, he had a fine comic spirit and one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood. He worked in movies, TV and radio, and outside of his acting career, he was an art expert and an excellent cook. The blogathon is hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews and Cinematic Catharsis, so point your browser in that direction, for a huge selection of posts about Vincent Price, his life and his art.And then come back here, because...
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Jade Yeo in Bloomsbury


I was mentioning my lack of experience in the field of romance, and as luck would have it, I ended up with a romance novella on my reader.A classic case of fuzzy serendipity. Zen Cho, a young fantasy writer from Malaysia, has been on my radar for a while – ever since her Sorcerer to the Crown made quite a splash.And the other day, as I was browsing Amazon, as one does, I spotted a short work by Cho called The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. What can I say?It was short, it was cheap, I bought it. And only later I discovered that it is not a fantasy, but rather a romantic comedy set in 1920 London, following the titular Jade Yeo, straight out of East Asia and working as a reviewer for a magazine, a...
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My story “Sapiens” on the Imaginary Worlds Podcast

The latest podcast from Imaginary Worlds is all about Solarpunk, as a culture, and attitude and a genre of science fiction. And I had the surprise of learning that my short story Sapiens, that was published in the second issue of the magazine DreamForge, was selected as an example of the genre.So, if you will, listen to the podcast – it’s full of great ideas and great reading suggestions.And I am in there, too! Original link
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The Watcher in the West


I have just delivered to my Patrons in the Five Bucks Brigade a 4000-words story called The Watcher in the West, the sixth story in the Tales from the Frontier series – stories that are exclusive to my Patreon page, set in a fantasy borderland between not-exactly-Mughal-India and Tang-China-but-not-really. This story is special, because it is a reworking of a story I wrote for an open call at the start of the year, and was in the end rejected – despite being praised by the editors. I wrote The Watcher in the West chiefly because it was a challenge – I had been asked to write a genre I had never tried before: romance.Granted, the request was for a romance story with action, swashbuckling and ...
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Interviewed


Today I’ve been interviewed for a podcast – a panel about history and roleplaying games, in which I spent part of the time pushing Brancalonia, the low (and I mean low) medieval fantasy RPG that will get its kickstarter in a few days, and of which I am one of the masterminds. It was quite a pleasant experience, chatting with other game designers and history buffs about what we do when we use history as the basis of our games – what we keep, what we leave out, and why.There is only one question that keeps nagging me: how come that when I sit facing a microphone my voice becomes a croak, my already limited intelligence sinks, and in the end I can’t even spell?Oh, embarrassing, very embarrassin...
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Mediums of improving conversation, brilliant wit, and moral obligations


Some things never change. I get an idea for a story, I start doing a modicum of research. Three Letters from the Country (because I am going to write it!) is going to be a ghost story set in a country house and told through letters. Ergo, I research old country houses, possibly of the British persuasion, for a map and hopefully some interior shot (to make my descriptive work easier), and I do research letter-writing during the Victorian and Edwardian era (because I want my letters to be formally convincing).And I take notes, because I am also writing an article about research for writers. Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com So, letter writing in the Victorian era… now that’s a surprising ...
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Three letters from the country


I am starting to suffer for the insomnia that in the last two weeks has wrecked my routine. It’s not just the fact of sleeping (badly) by day and staying up at night, but most of all it’s a matter of entangled schedules.I have things to write, but my schedule is shattered.And as it usually happens, when I have too much to writer and not enough time and energy to write it, I got an idea for a new story. An idea that is good, solid, fun, and it has a potential market.Damn. Fact: I never wrote an epistolary story.That is, a story told through letters.And now I have this idea, called tentatively Three Letters from the Country – because I don’t have the time to write it, and yet I already have a ...
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