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Let somebody else do the thinking


About twenty years ago (my goodness, is it really been this long?) while my mother was resting after a major surgery event, she used to spend her afternoons watching German-produced TV movies based on the novels by Rosamunde Pilcher. She said she found the locations beautiful, and the stories were engaging, “even if in the end they are all the same story.”I sat with her on a few of these afternoons, and at a certain point, I picked up a notebook and started sketching a diagram – I had seen three movies, and they all shared the same structure, that I could sketch quite easily. I made a point of catching a few others and yes, there was a formula, not only in the sequence of events, but in the ...
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Greetings from Dry Gulch, Colorado


I am pleased to announce that Tales from Dry Gulch, the weird western collection edited by David B. Riley, is available in both ebook and paperback via Amazon.The volume features my short story Hank’s Ghosts.Welcome to Dry Gulch, Colorado. The year is 1881 or so, the gold mine has played out, but there’s talk some company from back east is supposedly putting in a zinc mine near town. Folks are friendly in Dry Gulch. Don’t forget to stop by the bakery for a loaf of sourdough bread from Miss Wendy’s secret recipe, then wet your whistle in the saloon next door. Just be sure to tip that piano player. You can get your prospecting supplies from the Dry Goods Store. And you can catch up on Mrs. Dun...
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Arthurian Planetary Romance: Sword of Ages


I have received as a gift the first volume of Gabriel Rodriguez’ Sword of Ages, a big, colorful comic book that lasted me back to the years spent reading Heavy Metal or L’Eternauta, and later 2000AD: science fiction, action and adventure in surreal, exotic locales, beautifully drawn and engagingly narrated.Sword of Ages does indeed recall the look & feel of Metàl Hurlant, and Rodriguez admits his visual debt with Moebius and his narrative debt with T.H. White’s Once And Future King, but also with Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, and with Frank Herbert’s Dune.Given the premises, Sword of Ages might have turned out in a derivative hodge-podge, but Rodriguez manages to mix the various ingre...
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Tell’em, Neil…


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Useful lessons, and where to find them


Yesterday I posted an article for my Patrons, in which I tangentially compared this writing business to being an adventurer.And I know, it’s a romantic notion, it’s me telling stories about myself to paint a veneer of glamour over the tight budget and the overdue bills, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it: writing for a living is like setting off on a long journey to find the ancient ruins of the Lost City, or crossing an ocean on a sailing ship.Having recently discovered the works of Alastair Humphreys, I’ve been reading Ten Lessons from the Road, a motivational handbook based on Humphreys experiences during his four years travelling around the world on a bicycle.Some insight on the ...
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This time I’m gonna strike rich!

I just received a mail that promises to solve all my economic problems, and set my writing career on the right path.No really!Judge for yourself…Dear Friend,An oil business man made a fixed deposit of $26M in my bank branch where I am a director and he died with his entire family in Syria war leaving behind no next of kin. I Propose to present you as next of kin to claim the funds,if interested contact me with your full name, and telephone number to reach you and most importantly, a confirmation of acceptance from you.Please reply with this Email: xxxxxYour Truly ,Ling LungNow I’m here preparing a letter for mister Ling Lung.I think I’ll mention to him that I still have here his grandfather ...
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Happy birthday in ancient Egyptian


The request comes from a fried: her nephew’s birthday is coming, and the kid loves Ancient Egypt (what kid doesn’t). She’d like to write him a Happy Birthday message in hieroglyphs.Can we help?Of course we can.It actually took me two afternoons.The first part is quite easy.One gets the Wallis Budge’s An Egyptian Hierogliphic Dictionary and looks up the words…But I found it quicker to look it up on the Gardiner. I have a personal fondness for Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar.At this point, as you have the words Happy, Birth and Day, you’re all set.My scanner doesn’t work. I had to photograph the squiggles to send to my friend.Is there a good font for writing hieroglyph?A quick survey of the free f...
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Making of a Cover, Part Five


The Final TouchesThe last few weeks have left me worn and tired. I have been working tirelessly on perfecting the cover of The Unfettered Child while also working with my editor to perfect the manuscript.What more could be done with the cover, you ask? Actually, so much more. In fact, I found something new to fix almost every time I looked at it. It’s been a while since I did part four of this series, so let’s back up to then:The cover first uploaded to Amazon.As you can see, I had Samara standing in the corner, looking kind of vague, her feet shrouded in shadow (okay, a gradient really), and striking a tree in the distance with a magical lightning bolt. Something nagged at me when I present...
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They could have shot you guys!


Yesterday’s microadventure was a great success. True, my legs feel like lead right now, but I’ve heard from a lot of people that would like to try something like that in these hills, I received suggestions and idea, and all in all it was quite beautiful, and fun.Online.Hereabouts reactions were a lot more conservative.“You guys were lucky!” one of our neighbors said. “The hunting season’s open, they could have shot you guys!”Much hilarity ensued, because I live in the kind of place in which your neighbors think it’d be a hoot should you get shot.I also learned to some dismay that I evidently look like a boar in an aloha shirt.And I mean…I have friends that are hunters.They have a deep concer...
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The call of (micro)adventure


And so we did it. We left early this morning and walked all the way to the next village, that’s called Incisa Scapaccino.We avoided the main road and followed a narrow road that snakes along the Belbo river, climbing up and down the hills and entering into deep thickets of wild trees.This was just an experiment – a short hike, a stop for breakfast, more walking, a short foraging run at the local supermarket, and then back, once again walking along back-roads and paths through the fields and vineyards. Our equipment consisted only in a 10L backpack and a bottle of cold natural water, that we later supplemented with the ingredients needed for a few sandwiches.We had some minor problems as we c...
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The art & craft of writing, a handbook in the form of a dialogue


I have finally finished reading Yours to Tell, Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Writing, by Steven Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem, that I had started back at the end of may, and then had somehow slid down the reading pile, for a number of reasons. I collect writing handbooks, and this one came back to me at the right time to offer some diversion and a different and fresh outlook on what I do. Because sometimes while we can’t write (for whatever reason), we still can read about writingAs the title says, the book is built in the form of a dialogue between the two authors, and it has a very relaxed, informal tone. It is probably not the best choice as a first handbook for the totally uninitiated,...
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  138 Hits

Dictation, or, how I hit 3500 words per hour and kept going


I started dictating my stories to Google Docs.The basic idea: we talk a lot faster than we type, so we can essentially dictate a rough first draft a lot faster than we can type it. This is one of the nifty ideas in Chris Fox’s excellent little handbook, 5000 Words per Hour, but it’s not something he invented: many authors of the past dictated their work, including Erle Stanley Gardner and, as it was pointed out to me a few days back, Edgar Wallace.What you need: a Google account and a smartphone or, if you are the sort that prefers to work with a microphone and a PC, you need to make sure your PC is 64 bit.Mine is not, so I use the smartphone.If you use an Android phone, it comes with the fu...
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  145 Hits

The Aeronauts looks like something I might enjoy tremendously

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  128 Hits

The case of the missing library


One year ago, in two evenings, I wrote the first 3000 words of a planned 4000 words of the Contunbernium, in Italian. I was not very convinced by the proposal I had received about publishing a story of mine, and the way in which the story was going left me cold, and in the end I dropped it.I don’t throw away anything.Writing is my job, no matter if I like it or not (it’s complicated), and I don’t throw away what I write. So The Cursed Hieroglyph languished in a lonely directory on my PC until I was asked for a story with specific characteristics. Bingo.So I’m rewriting and finally finishing my story, and as I usually do, I am doing a bit of research on the fly to tighten up the background.It...
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Cats


No, not the old-musical-now-a-major-motion-picture-with-a-creepy-trailer Cats. I really mean the, you know, small killing machines that have domesticated humankind since the neolithic.Cats, Felis domestica.Yesterday, talking with a friend, I learned about an organization that works with cats, and that’s called Freddy’s Cathouse. I’m not swimming in gold, but I decided I’ll support them, because it’s a worthy cause, and comes with the recommendation of someone I trust. Also, I love the idea of being able to say I support a cathouse: Harry Flashman would be SO proud of me!I’m also spreading the word, as you see – and I’ll try and see if there’s a badge I can place here in the sidebar for you t...
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Still crazy after all these years

If the last 24 hours are any indication, this is going to be a wild weekend, but not in the naughty/risque way that might be fun.In the last 24 hours I haveSpent one evening eating pizza with a friend who happens to be a good writer, and we decided that considering the current state of fantasy in our country, we’ll pitch our next books to Harlequin.Spent a whole night and the best part of a day editing a book to patch a mistake I made, in order to still be able to deliver it in time for the deadline…… which led to the cancellation of my planned microadventure for tomorrow.Had three beautiful ladies on my Facebook profile discussing in enthusiastic terms the manly charms of… Matthew McConaugh...
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They do not fight enough. As if I cared.


In the last six months or so I’ve heard harsh criticism leveled at a number of books…Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New SunMervyn Peake’s GormenghastPatricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster’s TrilogyRobert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s CastleMercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novelsJ.B. Cabell’s JurgenJohn Crowley’s Little BigBooks that spend too much time in useless description, with little or no action, and characters that spend more time talking than fighting. My usual answer, “What, then?” usually receives strange looks.In at least one occasion I once again got the boring lecture about the fact that true fantasy is “Norse” in themes and moods, while another of my correspondents took some time to explain to me...
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The last days of August


Back when I was in school, the last days of August were days of frantic work, doing the home-works that had been waiting for three months in my copybooks. Now it’s thirty-odd years since I last had any home-works to do, and yet these are frantic days nonetheless.I have to close a big translation I need to deliver by the 31st – I’ll probably deliver it tomorrow or the day after that.Then there’s another important translation to deliver on the first week of September.I am working on the two Contubernium stories I have mentioned yesterday, and I have two other short stories in the works – one horror, one a straight detective mystery, possibly the start of a new series, with an eye on a very spe...
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There’s a dead body in the library…


“All right, gentlemen, I need three volunteers.”A chorus of groans and curses greeted centurion Nennius Britannicus as he entered the barracks of the contubernium. The sun had touched the horizon to the west, and the men were off duty. In one corner, hunched over a clay bowl, Brennius and Ranulphus were playing a game of dice. Festus Cimma was sitting on his bunk, cleaning his short sword, and on the next bed Scorsonides was reading one of his books. There was the smell of cooking in the air, and Troglodites was setting the table for dinner. Dunius Clericus, the decanus of the squad and Nennius’ second in command frowned. “Trouble?” he asked, standing and smoothing his tunic. Then he turned ...
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Into the Empty Quarter

Wilfred Thesiger’s Arabian Sands was one of the first true-life adventure books I remember reading, about thirty-five years ago. The book was published in 1959, and collected Thesiger’s notes about his travels in the Empty Quarter of the desert of Arabia between 1945 and 1950.The book is apparently on the Excluded Products list on Amazon, so while you can still buy the ebook through this link, I won’t see a single penny for the sale. But I don’t give a damn – this post is to recommend a fine book, not to make money. And screw Amazon.And as I am at it, here’s the short version of the movie of the expedition Alistair Humphreys and Leon McCarron undertook in the steps of Thesiger a few years ba...
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