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Author Blogs

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Just let me write this blues away: 2000 words


I have just churned out 2000 words out of nowhere, in a single sitting. One hour. My hands hurt, I need a cool drink, but now here I have the first half of a short story that’s absolutely unwanted, and that will never find a home. It’s a free writing exercise, the sort of thing that happens when I say frell it all, let me just write! It’s also sort of a prequel of my novella Parabellum Serenade, that I’ll (hopefully) will self-publish this autumn. It’s a war story, set in an alternate timeline in which the Great War spun out of control as the Bolshevik Revolition spilled into the West, and the resulting mess of revolts and military coups intersected the great epidemic of Spanish Flu, and the...
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Back to the (Captain) Future


Captain Future was a pulp series of science fiction novels that started in 1940, mostly written by Edmond Hamilton. The stories, featuring Curtis Newton, aka Captain Future, aka The Wizard of Science were classic space opera with a pulp hero twist – Captain Future was sort of Doc Savage in space, complete with a team of quirky helpers and all that. Now, for us here in Italy, and for my generation, Captain Future is a special thing, not much because of the novels – only a few were translated, and quickly disappeared – bu t because in the early ’80s the Toei Animation series was distributed in my country, a part of the “Japanese anime invasion”. To me it was a special treat, because I knew Ham...
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Think fast: outlining a novella in two hours


So what happened was this: after posting about my idea of writing a story based on a character like Captain Katanga in the Indiana Jones movies, I was discussing details and possibilities with my friends online. Stuff like who’d be part of the crew, would they operate only in the Mediterranean or extend their activities to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, would they kick Nazi ass exclusively or would they also punch some other occasional colonial bad guys… stuff like that. And one of my publishers dropped me a line… “You know where to send this one once it’s finished, right?” And so, considering the pitch had already happened and worked without me doing nothing, I went and sent him a proper...
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Six months to Christmas…

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Happy Birthday Indiana Jones


Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr, was born on this day in the year 1899. Admit it… you’d pay good money to see this movie. Original link
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Change the plans, reschedule the schedule


So everything was perfectly planned, OK. With calendar, timetables, outlines, the works. The month of July was thoroughly mapped: a week to nail closed the Sherlock Holmes story I owe to my publisher, then three shorts under my various aliases, and then some spare time to finally complete the first draft of a short novel I’ve had laying here for a while. Perfectly planned. Nice and Smooth. Then everything went completely hiwire, on day one: July the first, 7.30 am. Bang! It went like this – and yes, this is going to be long and convoluted, as my mental processes… you’re welcome. Last week something happened that pissed me off completely. You probably caught bits of it on the news, or maybe n...
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Character Sheets


No, I’m not talking about Dungeons and Dragons. I’m talking about character sheets for the characters in novels. Not to say that I haven’t used D&D to make characters for my novels, because I certainly have. However, Dungeons and Dragons lacks some very important elements for characters in books. You want your characters to be memorable. You want them to be believable (at least in some ways). You want them to be unique. How do you go about doing that? Well, I’ll start by telling you how I do it. Then I’m going to share some resources I found to help. However, since I mentioned resources, I’ll actually start with what I use to outline, keep notes, store information, and begin my writing proce...
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Michael Whelan


Today is Michael Whelan’s birthday. There are a lot of my favorite books that were graced by a Whelan cover, and I discovered a lot of my favorite books because they had a Whelan cover. “Michael Whelan is doing the art, it can’t be bad.” So here’s a gallery of Michael Whelan covers for some of my favorite books. Click on the thumbnail to see the full image.. Original link
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Honor among thieves


The thing one does for research. Today I weathered the heat and humidity by applying massive doses of cold tea and by reading an interesting article about the ethics of criminals. Apart from the interesting bits about organized crime in 15th century Spain – that might come handy for future writing pursuits – I was particularly interested in one aspect of the ethics/crime/professionalism quandary: if I can compare writing to a con game (as Lawrence Block, among others, has done), and a writer to a highly skilled international jewel thief (cfr. Paddy McAloon’s “The Best Jewel Thief in the World”), then what is the place of ethics in all this? Does being professionals only mean we get paid, and...
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Ocean of Storms


It’s been fifty years, give or take a few days, since we first set foot on the Moon. One of man’s greatest achievements, one we should be all proud of. I was there, sitting on the floor in front of the telly. I was two years old and I only have very confused memories of the screen and the excitement around me – and probably they are second-hand, false memories. The doorstep of the universe, and we had finally placed a foot on it. Then things went differently than what we dreamed. We had to think about “real important stuff”, I guess, like building bigger cars. But moon dreams are what pays my bills, so I wrote a story. A short hard SF number, about the Moon, and the future, and us. It’s call...
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Making Of A Cover, Part Three


The Day Of The Photo Shoot This was your classic busy day, during which you scramble to get everything done in the short amount of time you have allocated. We had to meet our photographer at “solar noon.” Why? Simply because we were using a green screen, poor-man style. Basically, I had bought some green fabric, which we needed to hang from a tall fence, and the sun had to be directly above us so that it would not cast a shadow. So we had a timeframe to get ready in. One of the largest issues with using my daughter as the model for Samara was her hair color. Samara has dark black hair, and my daughter has dirty blond locks. Otherwise, she fit perfectly. So her cousin, who used to work in bea...
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Voices in the Dark


The last time I listened to an audiobook I was driving along the highway to meet a friend, and I got so engrossed in the action that I missed my exit, and had to drive an extra fifty miles. I learned my lesson, and left audiobooks on the side for a while. These days I no longer have a car, and I have a stack on audiobooks I never got around listening to. I’ve got half a dozen Bryant & May mysteries by Christopher Fowler I got with a special offer a few years back, and I have a huge selection of Warhammer 40K novels I bought with a Humble Bundle two years ago. And more. These audiobooks, together with the huge troves of audio-dramas one can find online (via the Internet Archive), are an absol...
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If you can’t stand the heat…


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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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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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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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Making Of A Cover, Part Two


The Costume So I got my model, and I had my photographer lined up. What’s next? Well, she needed to look the part. I needed something directly from the book, and Samara was described as wearing mammoth skin, black leather, with a brown-and- gray fur. My first stop was Hobby Lobby and Walmart, where I bought a few things: This was the fabric I purchased, and I know there is very minute difference between the two black ones in the picture, but they were very different in person. The black fabric from Hobby Lobby was softer, more supple than the faux leather from Walmart. I had a friend, as I mentioned, who intended to put this together for me, but much to my horror, he was not getting back to ...
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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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