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If this is Thursday, this must be Peking… no, wait, maybe Shanghai…


As I am planning a special podcast episode for my Patrons to celebrate both my birthday and the Feast of Long Shadows, that is, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee’s birthdays, I am re-watching for the umpteenth time the 1972 classic “faux Hammer” movie, Horror Express. A movie I love, and I have watched thousands of times – one about which I believe I know everything.And yet, five minutes in, the screen announces… Peking, Russian Concession … and my brain does a double flip, and I go… Hold it. There was no Russian Concession in Peking in 1906. Must be Tientsin, or maybe Shanghai. You guys are playing fast and loose, here… And then of course I kick myself for a pedantic idiot, because I’m here...
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Silverado (1985)


My late father loved westerns and war movies. He’d re-watch Shane (Alan Ladd was his favorite actor) or From Here to Eternity whenever he had the opportunity, often providing a running commentary for the annoyance of anyone sitting there with him.You know, the classic “Oh, and now watch what’s coming up…” Growing old, I find there’s movies I re-watch in the same almost-compulsive way – but mine tend to be adventure movies (Romancing the Stone), spy thrillers (IPCRESS), comedies (Animal House), fantasies (Dragonslayer, or Ladyhawke)… but there is one western I’ll always re-watch with great pleasure. It’s not one of my dad’s faves, but it’s a western that hit the theatres when I was 18. It’s c...
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  101 Hits

Nothing wasted


Eighteen months ago, a publisher I respect a lot opened a tiny window for pitches – they were looking for a series of stories, and they wanted the whole package: premise, cast of characters, hooks, and short synopses of twelve episodes. And they wanted it within a week. I had a great idea (if I do say so myself) and so I started putting the pitch together. Three days in, the publisher announced that all the available slots had already been filled – they had received pitches that were so good and solid, they had filled all the available spaces in three days. So I shelved my notes and things. No way I could be able to do such a series as a self-published thing, and while I loved the premise an...
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A special (or two) for my birthday


My birthday is coming up in ten days, and I’ve decided I’ll do something special for my Patrons – because they are my special fans, and I felt like giving them something different.Why not use my 53rd birthday as an excuse? In the last few weeks I have started a podcast, in Italian, together with my friend Lucy – basically we sit in front of a microphone and talk about our favorite horror/fantasy/thriller movies. We started with pandemic, post-apocalypse British flick Doomsday, from 2008, and continued with the classic 1972 BBC production of Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape. We’re having a lot of fun, and when I asked her, my partner-in-crime accepted to do a special episode of our ‘cast, exclus...
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  34 Hits

Horror movies for families and other wonders


I am going to share a video-essay I just saw on Youtube, because it is really interesting and has a lot to say about writing horror and writing my kind of horror, but before we get to that I’ll have to make a little introduction and give a little explanation. Back in the mid-80s I started getting really interested in Hong Kong movies. Up to that point I had seen mostly Bruce Lee features (lots of friends from primary school got sent to karate lessons because of that), the occasional kung fu movie and of course Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, the Hammer/Shaw Bros collaboration. In the second part of the ’80s more Hong Kong movies started being distributed more regularly in my country, an...
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  122 Hits

Growing up with Yoko Tsuno


Today my heart broke for the second time for something that happened a long time ago – sometimes in the mid ’90s, my collection of Yoko Tsuno comics, the first ten volumes, was lost – my mom, god bless her, decided it was time to clear some space, and gave the books away, as a gift to the son of a friend of hers.I was serving in the Air Farce at the time, and when I found out, it was too late.Heart broken.And today, a friend reminded me of Yoko, and my heart cracked again. For the uninitiated, Yoko Tsuno was the main character in a series of comics created by Belgian artist Roger Leloup in 1970 – a series of science fiction thrillers featuring a young Japanese woman, an electronic engineer, ...
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  131 Hits

Writing a pitch with the LAYER system – part 1


I have a week to hit my publisher with a detailed pitch for a 10.000-words story I hope will be the first of a new series. So today I spent some time doodling on a notebook while I was waiting in line at the supermarket. This is something I learned over thirty years ago, from a series of articles by Piers Anthony. Be able to write anywhere, and use your dead time. As I have a limited time (I’d like to mail te proposal by the weekend), I decided to try and use the Plot Gardening method by Chris Fox – I got the book of the same title a few days back (as you know I collect books about writing), and it looks like it might be my sort of thing. In particular I am trying to apply the LAYER System, ...
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  127 Hits

Seize the day

Considering how liked have been so far these videos, I think I’ll go on posting them for a while. Nothing better than a little Chinese music in these hard days.Enjoy! Original link
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  103 Hits

Kyoto by Night

Nothing very complicated, just a beautiful short video about the night in Japan’s treasure of a city, Kyoto.Isn’t it wonderful, how we can explore the world from our home?Enjoy! Original link
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More Chinese music

It’s been a long, frustrating day – with only a bright moment to help me overcome this morning’s soul-crushing activities – and therefore I need something to relax.Chinese music always sets me free, as Steely Dan used to sing.Enjoy! Original link
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A little Batman to start the week

While I never was a huge Batman fan, I love the artwork by Bruce Timm, and I just found this short piece of Batman/Timm wonder.Enjoy! Original link
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The most infuriating way to waste a few hours


This afternoon I gathered my Hollow Earth Expedition players – also known as The Friends of Mister Cairo – and I spent the afternoon playing, chatting, and having a much needed laugh. And it’s really great to have the web to help us keep our sanity this way. But before that, and afterwards, I wasted the best part of the morning and a fair chunk of the evening trying to dream up one of the most dreaded things for a writer: coming up with a title.It seems easy, right?And most of the time it is not a problem _ I usually can come up with something feasible. But today? No cigar. The fact is, this is for a big-ish project – quite fun, but also rather big – and it does not involve only me, and I ca...
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  121 Hits

Workers’ Day

Today is Workers’ Day, and I’ll take the day off. I have a conference call in the evening, and I am planning future adventures, but for the afternoon I’ll just rest, read a book, listen to some music.We need time to recharge our batteries.I leave you with some nice music.Have fun! Original link
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Song of the drunken fishermen

More classic Chinese music for the evening – and considering it’s almost 8 pm and we are preparing a light dinner of fish, a song called Drunken fishermen singing in the sunset is perfectly right.Enjoy! Original link
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A story a day, for a month … what could ever go wrong?


Let it be known that it is all my friend Claire’s fault.Me, I was minding my own business, trying to type faster and close as soon as possible all the works I have hanging and… Really, it’s her fault! But over at her blog Scribblings, Clare wrote about this thing called #StoryADayMay, the brainchild of writer Julie Duffy.Basically, they send you a prompt every day, and you write a story.As simple as that.And I thought… why not? We are talking flash fiction here, and this is very interesting because I am weak on flash fiction, and might benefit from a thorough workoutflash fiction is always on demand, and so I might develop a nice reservoir of stories to submit to various marketsI might try a...
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  129 Hits

Type faster


One of the things we normally do not pause to consider is that, in most post-apocalyptic fiction – be it an after-the-bomb movie or a zombie plague comic or a novel about a killer virus leading to the collapse of Western civilization – we are, most likely, dead.The thought struck me a long time ago, watching a movie in which, after some unnamed catastrophe, the main characters walked over a field of sun-bleached skeletons, the victims of that ancient whatever. And I thought, that’s probably me, the one whose skull’s just been crushed under the boot of the hero. A few hours ago the news came – through Facebook, of all things – that the first COVID-19 case has been reported here in the village...
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Chang’an Again

Considering the relative success of my previous post about the music of of ancient China and Guqin, here’s another sample of these guy’s art.I hope you’ll like it. Original link
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The things they carried


Just when you thought things could not get any crazier, I got the news that an Alaska school board removed five “controversial” books from district classrooms. And now I still remember when Tarzan books were removed from libraries for promoting running naked in the jungle and living together outside of wedlock. But in this case, the books are not pulp adventures, as the “controversial” titles are “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller“The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison And it is weird, because I got the news just as I was preparing a post about The Things They Carried for my It...
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  132 Hits

Chang’an Fantasia

I’ve just discovered this band, and I think it will provide the soundtrack for my writing in the next few days.Enjoy!(and yes, as the video says, it’s by far better if you use stereo headphones) Original link
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Non-paying markets are not markets


I’ve just submitted two stories to the same magazine – they accept multiple submissions, they pay ten cents a word, and they have only one slot open, so it’s really a long shot. Very hard market, lot of competiton from people that’s way better than me. Why not double the chances? In fact I had mailed just one story, two days ago, but then I got caught in a discussion about paying and non-paying markets and…Ah, I’m a bad person! Because you see, one of my contacts was complaining of the fact that Italian markets for fantasy and science fiction are usually non-paying markets.Which means they are not actually, you know… markets.Because a market is a place in which something is exchanged for som...
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  114 Hits