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Any way the wind blows


I like the work of Seanan McGuire, and tonight after dinner, when I finally decided, what the heck, I was going to read me something, I picked one of her short stories.It’s called Any Way the Wind Blows and it is a small fun gem, filled with airships and New York and parallel universes…I particularly like the way in which the author manages to pack so much into such a small, limited space.You learn to watch for such feats of writing agility, when you make at least part of your living by selling short fiction. Short fiction requires agility. I have Any Way the Wind Blows on Kindle, but you can read it online on the Tor.com website.It’s a short story, and it will take just about half an hour.B...
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In the Red Zone

As of one hour ago, the Asti province – what I usually call Astigianistan – is Red Zone for the COVID-19 virus. Which basically means nothing is coming in or out of this place, we are invited to stay at home and not go around, because the infection is out of control. All we can do is sit tight and wait – but really, if we have been infected already (I visited Asti twice in the last three weeks), there is little else we can do.If nothing else, by staying put, if we are carrier of the virus, we will not spread it around.For the rest, we have food for about ten days, and books to last us forever. I’ll keep you posted. Original link
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Three bucks well spent


As I said, after spending a whole day writing, I have no energy for reading, and so I devote my attention to music or movies or TV to decompress after the long day.But yesterday I blew 3 of my hard-earned euros for something different: a videogame, that hopefully will keep me amused during the quarantine. As a Linux user, I spent most of the last fifteen years not playing on my PC – if we except playing Go on various online servers. But recently,m through the never-praised-enough Humble Bundle, I was able to restore my ages-old and never used Steam account, and buy a few games for real cheap.Case in point, my latest purchase – 3 euro and change of Shadowrun Returns. For the uninitiated, Shad...
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World Book Day Book Haul


So, it’s the World Book Day and you have just posted about the fact that you are having a real hard time because the writing you no longer enjoy the two quiet hours every night to read a book.So, what do you do?Well, after all, it being Book Day, you go and buy more books. Which is exactly what I did, taking advantage of a small but much welcome Amazon gift card.So here’s the list of what’s now on my Kindle, waiting for the day when I’ll be able to finally read it. Lina Rather, The Sisters of the Vast Black – I’ve read wonders about this one, a novella about a bunch of nuns roaming the galaxy on a living ship. I love space adventure and this comes with the warmest recommendations from some r...
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Ruritanias of today


As assiduous readers of Karavansara know, I have always liked The Prisoner of Zenda – I first saw the movies (first the Stewart Granger film then the Ronald Colman) as a kid, and only later read the novels, and the whole concept of a pocket-sized state tucked away in some nook of the European map is a classic of belle epoque adventure fiction: operetta-style places, with Old Europe pomp and circumstance, the odd Strauss waltz, dashing men in uniforms and women with daring necklines and corsets… The whole “there is this small state in the Balkans” thing of course also worked in the early years of the Cold War – Eric Ambler wrote such sorts of novels, off the top of my head. Uniforms took a mo...
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Making time


It’s been a pretty frustrating period – while on one hand I keep getting offers and there seems to be no shortage of work to be done, on the other hand a number of things that were supposed to be pretty straightforward suddenly got really complicated. I am still trying to nail shut a job that’s been draining up my energies for two months now, and with no end in sight, it looks like in the end it will be really hard to get paid. Granted, it is all part of the learning process, but sometimes one would rather not go through the school of hard knocks. The quarantine is not making things any easier. The general worries are nothing compared with the shortages in supplies in the supermarkets.Grante...
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Stuff will happen


And so this afternoon me and my brother filed the necessary paperwork and were enrolled as librarians in the local public library. This is considered a voluntary public utility service for the community – that is, it is an unpaid job.But, hopefully, fun. The Castelnuovo Belbo Public Library is a huge affair, having received a few years back a donation of over 8000 volumes, that are still mostly to be catalogued and put on the shelves. From what we saw, cataloguing technology is solidly pre-1990, but we’ll work on it.And the building housing the collection is considered one of the best public buildings in the whole Belbo Valley and by extension, of the whole Astigianistan. Of course we have a...
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Introducing the Bigàt


Among the too many projects I am currently juggling, there is a side gig as the only person with a iota of sense and some manners in Brancalonia, a project for a D&D 5th Edition sourcebook and resource that will allow brave players to explore the world of Italian folklore, Medieval and Renaissance literature, and spaghetti fantasy.The sort of game in which Bud Spencer and Terence Hill team up with a non-Disney Pinocchio-style living puppet to go treasure-hunting in the plague-ridden, ghost-haunted, brigand-infested countryside straight out of Verhoeven’s Flesh + Blood. Cover art by Lorenzo Nuti I will serve as translator for the project – so yes, there will be a bad English version of this t...
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Another idea


People that do not write have a hard time understanding that ideas are everywhere. They’ll come to you and say “I’ve got this great idea for a novel, I’ll tell you so you’ll write it and we can share the money.”They get it wrong on three counts – first, because they think there really is any serious money in writing (ah!), and second, they believe their idea is unique (it’s not).Third, and final, you can’t write a book based on a single idea. You need at least two good ideas to rub together for a long work to have a hope in hell. Ideas are everywhere, and a good writer – well, a decent writer… let’s say a serviceable hack – is the one that can recognize them as they pour around him.A general...
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Shoestring


These quarantine days are heavy – working on three projects (one good, one bad, and one weird) seemed like a good idea at the time, but after five days it’s starting to take its toll. My hands ache, my head aches, and I am absolutely sure I will never be able to write a single line of decent fiction for the rest of my life. So to recharge my batteries and take my mind off the plotlines and what else, I’ve found a piece of my past as a TV viewer on Youtube, and I’m spending my lunch break going down memory lane.because I was a very unhappy student in my first year of high school when I first saw Shoestring. Shoestring was a BBC mystery series produced between 1979 and 1980, featuring young Tr...
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A nice video about The Mummy

This is the sort that pops up when one does research.Not life-changing, sometimes a bit irritating, but certainly three kinds of fun in a single parcel.Enjoy! Original link
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Clive Cussler, 1931-2020


I will openly admit that I have always found Dirk Pitt insufferable but, in a nice symmetry, I have always liked Clive Cussler – probably since the day I found out he had found an agent and sold his first novels by faking an agent’s stationery and setting up a simple but effective confidence game. Clive Cussler was a man that wrote book about sea adventure, and used the proceeds to have real-life sea adventures – and to collect classic cars. He projected a certain joy de vivre that made me like him even when I staggered to finish Valhalla on the third attempt.And later I found out I liked his other series much better – and I absolutely loved his memoirs about tresure hunting and relic salvag...
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A photo from 1939


On the joys and the pains of doing research: I am currently putting the finishing touches (hopefully) on a book about Piedmontese travelers around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. And one of the perks of this job – that for reasons long to explain I am doing part-time and under less-than-optimum conditions, is that I get to go back to the library and the web, doing a final pass of research. When the book turns its gaze to China, it’s of course like coming again back home – how many stories I have set in the Middle Kingdom? Ah!But while I was trying to decide what to quote from Peter Fleming’s book about the Boxer Rebellion, I chanced on a photo that got me off on a tangent for about...
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Kickstarting Holmes and his Occult Colleagues


I am very pleased to announce that the kickstarter for Belanger’s Books new anthology, Sherlock Holmes & The Occult Detectives is now live, and seems to be going quite nicely. The books are coming, and by backing the kick, you can get them at a special reduced price, with some added extra perks thrown in The massive two-volumes anthology will collect 21 new stories featuring the Great Detective and a small army of his unusual, eccentric and occult colleagues, from Carnacky to Hesselius to Van Helsing, and many more – including my very own Miss Valerie Trelawney, in The Adventure of the Manchester Mummies. Because we all know that Holmes does not care for the supernatural, but there are cases...
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Quarantined


So, we got a suspect Coronavirus case in our region, and Piedmont is locking up with a “preventive quarantine”, while the population is panicking. Here in Astigianistans, schools will be closed until the 2nd of March, and the same apparently will be true for museums, cinemas and theatres all over the region.And we don’t know what next. A few of my contacts talk about supermarkets being either empty, or being assaulted by shoppers eager to stock up before they lock themselves up in their homes. And yesterday in a bar in Asti I heard a guy say “the only way to handle this” is to barricade ourselves up in our farmhouses, and shoot on sight anyone that comes closer. Ten years ago, the N1H1 scare...
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The Aeronauts (2019)


Last night I discovered I still suffer from vertigo, and I did so in the most baffling and yet safe way, by watching a movie – The Aeronauts, directed by Tom Harper, is streaming on Amazon Prime, and it’s a good, entertaining, suspenseful movie, and it gave me vertigo.Which I guess it’s a sign of how well-crafted the movie is. Inspired by true events with a fair share of fiction thrown in, the movie takes place in 1862, and follows the balloon ascent of scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) in the first expedition to explore the atmosphere. As the balloon climbs, Glaisher and his pilot, fairground aeronaut Amelia (Felicity Jones) face a number of unplanned for challenges. The movie plays...
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Doing research on the Frontier on a 10 bucks budget


Of the 200-and-odd books I read over four years while working on Hope & Glory, India – A History, by John Keay was the first stop. I had tried approaching the textbook for my brother’s course on History and Civilization of India and the Far East, but found it too massive, and written in a language unknown to the living. Keay’s book was fun, well documented, and it was in a language I understood.I had to start somewhere, and I started from there, and later I also read (and enjoyed) Keay’s book about the East India Company. So now that I am doing a bit of in-depth background research for my work on the Frontier RPG, I decided to splurge on research books all of 10 euro: the price of a night ou...
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Flame and Crimson, a review


Having just finished Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: a History of Sword-and-Sorcery, published in 2019 by Pulp Hero Press, I can now expand on my initial post of a few days back. I am doing this because I think this books deserves a wide circulation, and so we need to talk about it, and because I got wind of some less-than-positive opinions going around, and I’d like to address those, too. So, for starters, let’s see what you get in the package. The book opens with a brief Introduction, followed by a chapter about What is Sword-and-Sorcery?, that defines what is about to be discussed. Considering how plastic definitions can be, and how labels tend to proliferate, this is a straightforward ...
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The Toilet Story, or beware the tales you tell


My friend Hell (no, not his real name but yes, they really call him like that) is a fine writer and an excellent editor, and he is the sort that harbours very few (if any) romantic illusions about this writing business. Stealing a page from Quentin Tarantino, he often talks about “The Toilet Story”. If you remember the movie Reservoir Dogs, one of the characters is an undercover cop, and he tells how he worked on creating his character before he started his job. The character-creation process involved inventing a story – in his case about a scary ten minutes in a public toilet – as part of his cover. Well, pretend you’re Don Rickles… and tell a joke, all right?The things you gotta remember a...
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The many children of Conan


As sometimes happens, the mailman delivered this morning a packet that caused me to change my plans for the rest of the day – or the next two days probably. The packet being an Amazon bubble-wrap envelope containing a copy of Brian Murphy’s Flame and Crimson: a History of Sword-and-Sorcery, published in 2019 by Pulp Hero Press (as far as I know there is no ebook edition). Now, I have a number of volumes on my shelf, critical and historical works about fantasy and science fiction, but when it comes to Sword & Sorcery, there is a distinctive lack of titles. True, there is a fair number of studies on specific authors (I have a few books about Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber, for instance), bu...
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