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Heatwave at the Keep


Heatwave is the title of a song by a band called the Blue Nile that I discovered in the version by Dave Stewart (not that one, the other) and Barbara Gaskin. Not that you care, I guess. An heatwave is also what’s hitting Europe in this moment – we are at 38°C here in Astigianistan, with a staggering 58% of humidity (that goes up to ‘70% in the evening). It will get hotter in the next days. People will die, like it already happened in 2003. All we can do is stay indoors, use the fan in moderation, and try to go through these days. I’ve work to do, and I’ll do it in the night. In the meantime, I pass my time listening to old records and reading a chiller – because, well, one can try and get ch...
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Without a Blog: the Earphones Diaries


And so I’ve gone and invented me another thing, a game of sorts to keep my brain going and get away from writing and reading 24/7. It will be called The Earphone Diaries, and it will live only on my social networks: my  Facebook profile, my  Instagram  page, my Pinterest boards and my Twitter . Much as I love blogging, there will be no blog supporting this guerrilla project. The Earphones Diaries will be a series of daily post, presenting a record I am currently listening to. I’m going at this without a plan, the course is once again uncharted: no genre tags or other hang-ups, just the music that’s currently playing in my earphones, presented in short, less-than-2000 characters posts. Just f...
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The new book has been outlined: now comes the fun part


This morning I put together the first proper outline of a book that will supposedly see the light in early 2020: a non fiction book for a small but classy Italian publisher dealing with one of the topics of this blog: travelers and explorers in exotic parts, between 1800 and 1940-something. The trick will be weaving together the lives of at least twenty historical characters, so that the volume will be a homogeneous narrative and not a series of episodes. So I spent quite some time trying to decide whether to use time or space to tie the story together. Following geography seemed a good option at the start: it’s a lot more easier to build a single narrative about people that are actually in ...
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  89 Hits

Either drop it, or write a s#it first draft in two hours


My friend Lucy is a terrific writer and a wonderful woman, and has the sort of clarity of vision that is one of the fundamental powers of “the Other Half of the Sky”. I was talking with her about my current plight, and she doesn’t see no problem… Me: I hate this story, I can’t write it, it’s making me waste more time than the money can justify, and it’s making me deeply unhappy. Lucy: Have you been paid an advance for it? Me: No. Lucy: Then drop it. And that’s the only answer, really, but… let’s start from the beginning. Remember that procrastination thing I’m doing? Five weeks to stop wasting time and finding excuses. Well, it’s sort of working. Not only did I pay my bills in time, see my b...
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  55 Hits

When holy souls get going


There’s a saying in the place where I grew up, “When the holy souls get going…”, that’s used to describe an unexpected bout of bad weather, especially when you have planned to go somewhere. This is a play on the fact that saints should be accompanied by bright light and pleasant colors when they manifest – but you decided to go somewhere, and now it’s pouring, or snowing or something. In the last 36 hours various parts of Piedmont were hit by hailstorms that left the streets choked with ice. And here in the Valley of the Belbo, black clouds have been piling up since early this morning. “It was for tonight, right?” my brother asked, referring to our planned Microadventure. “Tonight, yeah,” I ...
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Turntable: In Phil Marlowe’s Shoes


The first post in the Turntable series was so consistently ignored, one would be tempted to just close the lid of the record player and forget about the whole thing, but I actually like the idea of talking, here on my blog, of a different form of storytelling… and then I prepared a banner for the series! I can’t use the banner just once, right? I might as well do another post and see if something changes… The old Ricordi music store in Via Roma/Piazza CLN, Turin, was on three floors – at ground floor they had pop and rock records, downstairs in the basement they had classic and opera, and upstairs they kept jazz and blues. If you happened to visit the store on a Saturday afternoon, you’d get...
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Detoxing for readers and writers


There are a lot of things I learned from my friend Riccardo, who’s been gone now for a few years. He was the one that taught me the one trick you need to know to start reading in English, and he was the one that asked me if I was crazy because I wanted to show my stories to a certain publisher, thus saving me from a fate worse than death. And he taught me that sometimes we need to detox, as readers and – as I would later learn – as writers. He also taught me how to do it. You come to a point, he used to say, when everything you read feels the same. It’s because you’ve been reading too much of the stuff, be it science fiction or fantasy or horror or any other genre. Or just any fiction. So yo...
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Only for completists


There is one more work of mine that’s being evaluated for publication, and one I will mention here because it got me thinking about how my life has changed in the last few years. The work is a collaboration, and I am quite proud of being in the team that put it together. It’s called Benthic foraminiferal proxies of environmental changes during the pre-Messinian salinity crisis of the Sinis Basin (W Sardinia, Mediterranean Sea) And no, it does not feature swords, sorceries or strange creatures – unless you consider banthic foraminifera as such. How things have changed, I was saying – up to five years ago the above would have been a good sample of my job – data analysis of environmental data a...
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Short fiction – the first six months


A few days of quiet, working on my own projects for a change, and recharging the batteries as I wait for new challenges. Or something. The total for 2019 at the moment is 38 submissions9 stories accepted1 story given away pro bono7 stories still waiting for the editors’ responses Which is not bad, but could be better. After much work – and I really mean a lot of work – I was able to “get” the 2500-words format. I tend to be long-winded, and my “standard” formats used to be 6000 and 10.000 words. Going shorter means a complete rethinking of the story structure, and that’s something one has to exercise. The main reason to learn to write 2/3000 words stories is, of course, that that is usually ...
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  71 Hits

Death and Ghosts in Czarist Russia: Detective Anna


Did you know you can watch Russian TV shows, subtitled in English, on Youtube? I did not, but yesterday a contact suggested to me a Russian series from 2016, called Detective Anna (or, alternatively, Anna the detective) , and by googling I found it all on Youtube, subtitled, for free. So I watched the first two episodes, and it was quite fun. As usual during periods of intensive writing I like to watch a TV series or a movie in the evenings (you may have noticed a lot of posts about serials, recently, on Karavansara), and it looks like Anna Mironova will keep me company in the next few years. So, what are we talking about… Freshly transferred from the capital (because of some obscure scandal...
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Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Yes, like in the Neil Young song. And this is one of those “funny” posts about living as a writer that should make me look human to potential readers and would-be Patrons. Sure, just look at me… So the big news this morning is we got a call from our internet service provider – they just updated the radio/sat grid we use for connecting to the web, and so we are now able to do stuff our old PCs can’t really do. But we are now in the 21st century as far as web connection is concerned: we’ve got the same transfer rates you get in, I don’t know, Seoul or Tokyo. Which is good news, and only costs us an extra 5 bucks per bimester. And once again I had to feel grateful for my friends, that two years...
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  85 Hits

The French Swordmistress: Julie d’Aubigny


I am about two thousand words into a story that starts with a swordfight between a woman in a green silk dress and a nun, in the smoke-chocked corridor of a burning convent. This will be my entry – should the editor deem it worthy – in the new collection of Italian sword & sorcery published by Acheron Books. And the woman in green is, obviously, inspired by mademoiselle de Maupin. And really, I was sure I had posted about her in the past but I did not, so here we go. Julie d’Aubigny was born in 1673, the daughter of a secretary of the Count d’Armagnac. She became the count’s lover at the age of fourteen, and thenmarried her off to a Monsieur de Maupin, from which she took the name of Madame ...
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Procrastination: a five-weeks plan


I’m trying new things this summer. Nothing particularly momentous, but I am convinced we need to keep our brain working: I saw the effects of ennui and apathy and they fill me with dread. So in the last two years I’ve been keeping an eye out: learn new things, explore new ideas, and what else. Keep the neurons firing. After all, one of the first explorations of new topics I undertook was a course called Aging Gracefully, and they made it very clear that to age gracefully you need to keep the brainbox clicking (and live long enough, of course). So this summer I’m taking on three new – or not so new – projects: I’m trying to refresh my Japanese (target: be able to understand a movie or a song)...
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One evening with Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga


Sometimes we need to get away from it all. From the writing and from genre fiction and everything else. The fans, the other writers, the social networks. Just get away from it all. Maybe it’s the heat and the humidity, or the tiredness of too many months spent working full tilt, or the fact that I always get melancholic on the weekend. Anyway, yesterday I went looking for something different, and found (again) Epifania Ognisanti di Perega, the main character in The Millionairess , a comedy written in 1936 by George Bernard Shaw that was, at the time 80 years old. The plot in a nutshell, courtesy of the usual IMDB: Epifania is the richest woman in England. She’s also strong-willed, highly int...
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  71 Hits

Blood & Treasure or, I am too old for this


Seven minutes into the pilot of Blood & Treasure, the new TV series by CBS, I stopped laughing and decided that life’s too short to waste time with such irritatingly cliched writing. And it’s a pity, really, because there’s obviously money backing the series, that was shot on location in a number of places, including my hometown of Turin, but the writing is so abysmal, I really couldn’t make it. I wanted to, because at one point I thought it might be fun to do a post on Karavansara. I went back and restarted it. I stopped watching 11 minutes in. Let’s see what we are talking about… An antiquities expert teams up with an art thief to catch a terrorist who funds his attacks using stolen artifa...
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Small fries & Odd Jobs


I will devote part of this weekend to a few small writing projects. Now that the bulk of a big project’s behind me, I find my will to write back in full force. Closing a project is always soul-draining, for a number of reasons, but if nothing else, it looks like I’ve learned to bounce back quick enough. So, what will I be doing? A friend pointed me in the direction of a writing contest: short stories about the moon, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing. The thing is a little fuzzy and I’ve still to check the guidelines and stuff, but apparently the first placed in the competition will get a 100 bucks bookstore gift card. I generally steer away from competitions – I don’...
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Palace intrigue and zombies


I am not particularly fond of the zombie craze of these last few years. I watched the classics, I do enjoy the occasional recent movie, I even wrote a story set in a post-apocalyptic sorta-zombie story, a long time ago, as part of a shared universe a friend created, but I find it damn hard to do something new and cool and meaningful with zombies. On the other hand, when I find someone that’s actually able to do something new and cool and meaningful, I like it a lot. Case in point: Kingdom, a South Korean TV/Netflix TV series that pits its main characters against a horde of zombies in 15th century Korea. And weirdly enough, it’s based on a true story. There are many reasons why the story work...
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Making Of A Cover, Part One


Finding Samara If anybody had been following me when I first started the publication process of Assassin Marked , they would know the struggle I went through to come up with a cover for it. Since it was such a short story I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I also couldn’t find any stock photography that portrayed Damian. Fast forward two years later to when I began preparing my first full-length novel, The Unfettered Child , for publication. I wanted to really do my best with it, so I started early. I had several plans: Getting my daughter to model the main characterMaking a costumeDoing a photo shootFinally, making the cover When I first had the idea, my daughter was keen on doing t...
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Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Writing


My brother, who plays the role of my conscience better than Jiminy Cricket, told me yesterday that I have to grow my Patreon. I was telling him that I started following a Japanese girl who has a Youtube channel where she teaches Japanese, and has over 900 supporters on Patreon, for an average of $ 5 per follower per month. I have 42, of supporters on Patreon, people who trust me every month and bet on the fact that I will continue to write. “You have to make sure you get more,” my brother tells me. “Eh, it’s not easy,” I reply. “This girl holds courses, she teaches, it is clear that those interested in learning Japanese follow her …” He shrugs his shoulders. “You also hold courses on your Pa...
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An evening with Mr Shunn


A story bounced back, about one hour before dinner. Polite, cold, standard editor’s mail: good story, not our genre, worth keeping on the lookout for a publisher, good luck. Oh, well, it happens. As we dined it started raining again – there’s storms passing across the skies of Astigianistan – so no after-dinner walk tonight. I sat down and started tweaking that story – it’s been so long I had forgotten a lot of things. I revised it. Cleaned it up. Cut about 150 words. Nothing major, on an 8000-words number. Tightened the dialogue a little, made some minor adjustments. Checked for American vs English spelling. It’s a good story. OK, so I say so myself, sue me. A crime story. A story of the Co...
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  79 Hits