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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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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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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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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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Doodling and Crimes


Today I spent a fair part of the afternoon doodling as I tried to get my next story going. I owe one of my Italian publishers a story by the end of the month. I know what I want to write, I have the characters and the general outline and direction the story will be going, I could easily have a first draft by the end of the week, just writing after diner. But I still need an entry point. Where does the story start? As close as possible to action, of course, which means in the convent’s entrance hall. But from whose point of view? The former landed-gentry belle now making a living as a highway-woman? Her lower-class, deceptively rough sidekick? One of the nuns? The old doorkeeper nun? The shre...
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Summer solstice microadventure challenge


Today I had three revelations of sorts, three proper alarm signals ringing at the same time. First, I realized that the deadline I had been dreading these last three days is actually still one month away. Second, I realized the chapter 9 of the book I was to deliver “by Sunday morning, before lunch”, worked a lot better as chapter 5, but this meant doing some extensive rewrite. Third, I realized it was actually Sunday, and not Saturday as I firmly believed. And yes, I realized it after lunch. I spent the afternoon rewriting and am now quite satisfied with the end result. I’ll give the manuscript one last check and fine tuning (no more chapter juggling!) after dinner, and then I’ll send it al...
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Historical smoking and other unhealthy writing sins


I don’t smoke. I never did. I consider it a foul habit and a waste of money. My parents did not smoke neither, my grandfathers both did (and it shortened their lives). As a kid, just walking by someone smoking usually caused me to break into a fit of cough. This was somewhat awkward during my teens and twenties, because it looked like everybody smoked then. My girlfriend in high school smoked. Marlboros. Talk about awkward: it’s hard to be in love with someone and you start coughing like you’re about to spit a lung every time you get close to her. But anyway… I watched a lot of old movies, as I grew up. I liked – and I still like today – old noirs. Humphrey Bogart. High Sierra is one of my a...
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Revision time

Tonight I spent about three hours revising my story Bottled Up, following the extensive notes I received a few days back from the project’s editors. It was quite interesting, because revising took me almost twice the time writing the story had taken. As I mentioned elsewhere, working with an editor is always a great opportunity to learn something new, and this was the case. I cut mercilessly the excess text from the opening, and then expanded the action scenes, making life for my protagonist a little harder. In full agreement with the editors, I also shortened the sentences and clarified a few points. The only suggestion I did not follow 100% was about the ending. First, because the editors ...
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And the second’s in, too

My second book proposal of the week has been approved by the editor, and so as the pros say “we are in business!” And it’s a good thing to get a mail in which your editor closes the dances with “now I’ll wait for your outline and your advance estimate.” It’s really good. On the down side, now it really looks like I’ll have to talk with my accounting agency, because should everything work out for the best (fingers crossed) I might be crawling above the poverty line in the next months – which means Johnny Government will knock on my door asking for a larger share. But that’s good, too. Sorta. Original link
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Tired of Tanaka-san: adventures in Japanese learning


My story with Japanese is long and involved. I first got me a copy of Teach Yourself Japanese when I was in high school. I was fascinated by the East, I had a knack for languages, the book was cheap… oh, come on, do I really have to make excuses? The Teach Yourself book was good but as a high-schooler I had too much to do already. I had much more success with the Teach Yourself French book. We’ll get back to that. My brother did take Japanese and Chinese in University, and then worked with Japanese artists as a music promoter. Back when he was doing it, his Japanese was good. Today he says he’s out of exercise, but that’s just his perfectionism speaking. He’s good. Some of it brushed off on ...
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