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One evening with the Snake Woman


I know this will sound outrageous, but in the long run I rather like best “the other” Hammer movies rather than the classic Dracula & Frankenstein flicks. Maybe it’s because the Dracula and Frankenstein movies I have seen so often that in the long run I know them by heart, while the less-well-known Hammer films still bring an element of surprise. So, I’m going through the Hammer catalog, checking out the less well known flicks. After 1962’s Captain Clegg, two nights ago I spent ninety minutes with The Reptile, from 1966 (that in Italy was distributed as “La Morte Arriva Strisciando” … Death Comes Crawling). The plot in three words: in a British country village, a string of mysterious deaths ...
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Re-reading the Three Musketeers


Yesterday a friend informed me that the most recent Italian translation of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers was selling for 99 cents on Amazon in digital format. Now I have my old copy here somewhere in some box, but I did the math and realized it’s been something like thirty-six years since I last read the mother of all swashbuckler novels, and so I sacrificed one buck and got me the ebook. Now Dumas’ novel is one of those books that, for some reason, some have decided are kid’s books. The consequence is these books are pushed on the unwary teenagers, usually with massive cuts and rewrites to excise the bits that are most obviously unfit for a younger audience.Which is something that drives me c...
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Friday night with Captain Clegg


And so yesterday night, after ordering a pizza, I sat down and re-watched a movie variously known as Captain Clegg or as Night Creatures, a 1962 Hammer movie featuring Peter Cushing and Oliver Reed. And if Cushing and Reed aren’t reason enough to watch a movie, well, sue me. But it’s actually better than that, because Captain Clegg was not to be a movie about a guy called Captain Clegg or going under the alias of Parson Blyss – but then Disney got in the way.Follow me… Russell Thorndike created the character of Dr Syn in 1915, in a swashbuckling novel called Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh, and a rollicking good yarn it is – and it was followed by a number of sequels, chronicling the ...
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So you've dreamed of being a mercenary…


I have just received a gift of books and chocolate from a far-away friend. It’s the sort of thing that’s good for morale, because yesterday was a bad day – sometimes these coincidences happen, and they never cease to surprise me. We live in a strange, but not necessarily hostile world. One of the books in the box was a well-beloved classic I mentioned I wanted to re-read, another is a war story that looks quite exciting, and the third… oh, the third I am starting right away, and filing it under research. The third volume is a wonderfully used copy of a paperback called Manual of the Mercenary Soldier, published in 1988 by Dell Books, and written by a man called Paul Balor. The book was later...
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Worthless


Today an old gaming supplement I wrote a few years back was reviewed by an Italian webzine. It was described as “rough and noisome”, but I understand that these are currently considered compliments in the national panorama of fantasy fiction and gaming, in which being “ignorant” has become something we are supposed to be proud of.So it’s OK.Always good to be reviewed, especially if it’s a generally positive review. Alas, the book in question, that I pitched, designed and wrote in 2015, was presented as somebody else’s project, to which I was attached as “compatriot”, essentially a second fiddle on somebody’s else’s gig. For someone who is trying to make a living writing, seeing one’s work at...
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And talking about movies…

The first movie in this series (Vyi) was beautifully looking, brainless fluff, am OK entertainment for a warm summer night.The second episode looks like more of the same, but with all dials turned up to eleven. We’ll see what the end result is… Original link
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500 movies per year


I was talking movies with some friends, a few nights back, and one of them asked how come it looks like I have seen every movie out there, twice. And so I had to explain that, first, I am cursed with this memory, that works 110% when it comes to remember movies or other useless things, and really sucks at everything really important (like faces, phone numbers, passwords etc.). And that second, I was born fifteen years before he did, and so I grew up in a different world. When I was a kid, we only had two TV channels on the telly, and they started broadcasting at 5 pm. In black and white.Which sort of sucks, by today’s standards, but we were lucky because we had a lot of cheap cinemas – the p...
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Playing along the Frontier


So you are working not on one, not on two, but on THREE big huge projects, each on of them with a deadline ticking. One project is fun, another is just what you always wanted to write, and the third you hate every minute of it but is paying the bills, so bend on that oar and push!What do you do, then?Simple, you invent a fourth big huge project just for yourself. Right now I am reading Ray Vallese’s Writing with Style: An Editor’s Advice for RPG Writers, because I like to know what I am doing, sometimes, before I start doing it.Now, when you write for a gaming company, you usually get a nice style guide with all the rules you are to follow to write the sort of material they will publish. It’...
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Supernatural Christie


I am not an Agatha Christie fan. That was my aunt, in our family – she had been through the whole Christie canon, and could quote you chapter and verse of every story and novel, forward and backward.I read about a dozen novels, but I was more of a Dorothy Sayers kind of guy. Oh, I saw the movies and liked ’em, even if I still find Miss Marple insufferable, and I am looking forward to the forthcoming The Pale Horse, mostly because it seems to have a folk-horror angle and features a few actors I like a lot. But I recently received as a gift a digital copy of possibly the only Agatha Christie I was really interested in reading – The Hound of Death and other stories, a collection of twelve short...
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What a way to relax: 5000 words in one afternoon


I am currently working on a couple of big projects that are taking up a lot of time and energy, and I am doing all I can to keep my weekends free to recharge my batteries. One of the two jobs is causing me a lot of stress and anxiety – something that had never happened before, not this hard. So finding the time to relax is essential. On the other hand, there is an open call I received at the end of last year that I really like, and I really would love to be part of the connected project. All I need is a 5000-words story, a swashbuckling romance with a twist.And anyway I always said I find writing relaxing – especially if I am writing for my own, and not for my clients. It’s not just the pay ...
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Robert Conrad, 1935-2020


Hell of a week – bad weather, bad health, unexpected expenses, work complications, and the good guys keep going: yesterday it was Robert Conrad, the star of The Wild Wild West and Baa Baa Black Sheep/Black Sheep Squadron, two shows I loved as a kid, together with the spy show A Man Called Sloane.It’s been a hell of a week. Original link
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To be born and to die

Ulysses, discovered as a kid in school when I was six or seven, remains one of my favorite heroes, and certainly the first of my heroes, and Kirk Douglas’ portrayal is the definitive article.And this scene will forever resonate with me. Original link
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Kirk Douglas, 1916-2020


We lost Kirk Douglas early this morning, and already I have caught the blasé Facebook Philosophers going “why the shock, why the surprise, he was 103!”To which I say, fuck you, you soulless wankers. Kirk Douglas was a giant, a man who made film history, with a catalogue of movies and roles that is staggering for variety, quality and freshness.Many remember his role in Spartacus, but I would have a hard time selecting the role in which I best remember him – Ulysses in the Italian adaptation of the Odyssey, probably, or as a scarred Viking chieftain in The Vikings, or his turn as Ned Land in Disney’s 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea.But what of the noirs, like Out of the Past, and Billy Wilder’s A...
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Too many interests

I was talking with a few friends about two job-related issues: to wit specialization and home-working.Two things that do not have much in common but one thing – the marketplace hereabouts seems to have got them wrong, and a lot of the people I know (writers, translators, web designers, computer programmers, artists) are suffering for this. Working from home is not considered “real work” here in my country – I live in a place where you get hired to do a translation, you get paid by the page, and the boss wants you therein his office, sitting at the desk, so that he can see you while you translate.And yet, a lot of jobs could be done from home, with flexible hours, a lower environmental impact...
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Sunday Night in Hamunaptra


Last night I went and re-watched Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy, from 1999. I first saw it in the theatre, in ’99, with my brother. At the time we were used to go at the matinee show, taking advantage of the discount, and enjoying shows in which we were often the only viewers. For The Mummy, there was about a dozen people in the theatre, mostly pensioners. We smuggled in two packs of crisps and two bottles of Sprite, and had a great time. Possibly even more than the first Indiana Jones movie, The Mummy is my perfect go-to movie if I need to explain to some mundane friend what pulp is all about.It often goes like this… Me: I read and often write, you know, pulp fiction…The other guy: Ah, Tarantin...
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A great novel, and dignity


First things first: I am reading a great novel, and you should read it too. Because it’s a great fantasy novel from a good writer, and because it’s the sort of Eastern-themed sword & sorcery that if you are reading these pages you’d probably like.Also, for a few days it’s priced at 99 cents on Amazon. The book is called Never Die, and was written by Rob J. Hayes. Five champions are called back from death to help the God of Death settle a score with an impossible-to-kill enemy.Just dig the cover. Yes, I know.Go buy it, and read it. Rob Hayes’ book made a huge impression on me.As I said, I like the story, the setting and the characters a lot. The writing is great, crisp and direct while still ...
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Being silly is not enough


I was being silly, and I was discussing with some friends the wird crackpot theories of one of those guys they call “Pyramidiots” – you know, the sort that “I don’t know how or why to build a pyramid, so the aliens built the pyramids.”Which, incidentally, it’s a perfect premise for fiction, but utter crap when presented as factual. And the author we were discussing in particular claims that the pyramids were built by Neanderthals. Yeah.They were built by Neanderthals before they developed speech. And so we were talking and being silly, a friend said they’d need to be great mimes to coordinate the works and I replied Yeah, they were led by Marcel Lescaux And now I know I have to write a story...
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The coldest days of the year


We are keeping warm and fighting with a number of technical issues hereabouts, as the coldest days of the year keep us indoors.And not just us. The perks of living in the country: the cold causes mice to seek refuge indoor, and as every year we had to deal with these small home invaders. This year though it’s been different – the beasties are more cunning (and avoid our baited traps) and are showing a penchant for eating through plastic bottles (thus flooding our sink with dish detergent) and more importantly, on cables.We’ve been experiencing LAN problems, and half of the kitchen appliances are damaged. And the crazy thing is, of course, that I am thinking this is a good premise for a short...
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One night at the (Vampire) Circus


Having milked Dracula for all it was worth, in the early ’70s Hammer Films turned their gaze to other vampires and, taking advantage of the more relaxed censorship rules, created what is called the Karnstein Trilogy, very loosely based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu Carmilla (that you can find here as a free download in case you missed it).The three movies in the cycle are The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1971), and are considered classics – and I will have to write about them sooner or later.The Karnstein vampires are different from their Transylvanian counterparts, being generally female, much more inclined to nudity and most importantly being able to go ...
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A new deck for the collection


Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand was a very popular fortune teller during the Napoleonic era, that became (in)famous when she became the card reader and confidante of Josephine, Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife. She was also arrested for espionage – and for witchcraft, but it was hard to make the accusation stick in post-Illuminist France. When she died she left a fortune to her only heir – that being a devout Catholic burned all of her stuff, and wanted nothing to do with her, but kept the money.Better known as Mlle Lenormand, Marie also created her own tarot deck – and I received a packet this morning containing a new Lenormand Tarot deck for my collection. And the Lenormand Tarot is particularly in...
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