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Never say Rat God

We have a mouse in our house. So far he’s ignored the traps we’ve set, and he’s raiding our pantry during the night, and in general making a lot of weird noises. But last night, feeling like he wanted something special, he bit through one of the LAN cables of our home network, cutting through it and isolating my brother’s PC from the web. Now we’ll have to buy a new one, and the closest computer store in the area is 20 miles away, and we don’t have a car. So it’s an order via Amazon, which means – because we are in a very special place – waiting for a week. And the fracking mouse is still at large, and tonight it will be showtime again – and let’s hope he has not developed a taste for LAN ca...
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In the Shadow of the Rat God


One thing that usually makes me laugh – or depresses me, depending on my mood – is when one of my esteemed Italian colleagues points out that I am too classy and complicated, in my stories, too off-putting and not ready enough to go down to the level of my readers. In a market that’s requiring increasingly simplistic and adolescent stories, being told by a colleague (or a publisher!) “you’re too classy” is the kiss of death, the professional equivalent of a 2-star review on Amazon. Game over, man. Game. Over. Right now I am writing a new Aculeo & Amunet story, and I have been looking for a title. To start on the right foot, I ran through the previous stories of the series… Bride of the Swamp...
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Idle for a while


At the end of last week I took part in the Nizza Monferrato book fair, Libri in Nizza, to meet a few old friends and talk about books and stuff. The event took place in the Foro Boario, a vast public hall that was created refurbishing the old cattle market. Due to causes independent of the organization’s decisions, the temperature inside was probably 35°, with a humidity fit to growing orchids. As a result, I am now here with a fever, and a sore throat I am treating with honey drops and hot tea. My head is killing me, and I am wracked by cough. Aren’t these cultural events a wonder? But it was generally fun, and afterwards we had a pizza at Casablanca’s, and talked shop, and projects, and st...
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The Deadly Lady from Madagascar (and other dames)


I am experiencing some technical issues (and a bout of bad health), so I’m not doing much these days. I’m falling behind with my writing and with my post, and everything else. But I was browsing some old paperback art and I happened to spot this picture… … and I thought, wow, that’s a story I’d like to write. Turns out this is a Robert Maguire cover for a novel called The Deadly Lady of Madagascar, bt Frank G. Slaughter (nice name for someone writing about deadly ladies) that I will try and find somehow. If I can’t write it, I can certainly read it. But as I was at it I found a selection of beautiful Robert Maguire art, and so here’s a gallery (you can click on the images to see the full-siz...
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In the company of thieves


Back when I was young and I was trying to read all the fantasy and science fiction I was able to lay my hands on, a holy grail of sorts was the books of the series Thieves’ World, edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and Lynn Abey. It was one of the earlier shared universes in the genre, and it featured the works of an incredible selection of writers. The volumes were published in Italy by Fanucci, in a series of hardback volumes that were very expensive if you were a teenager, that featured mismatched covers, sometimes iffy translations, and normally included extra stories by Italian authors that were a little more than iffy. I think I have two volumes, bought at a discount from a second-hand books...
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The festive season is coming

And here’s a nice post from the blog of Richard Thomas, called Ten Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors This Holiday Season Check it out. Original link
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Some numbers so far


I have been told that it is in poor taste to talk about our small daily victories or losses when it comes to selling what we write, because our art should be pure and ethereal. But I do not give a damn about such silly posturing, and today one of my stories bounced back, together with a nice rejection letter, and one was shortlisted and passed to a second bout of evaluation to see if it will be accepted. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. October has been an intense month (13 stories pitched, picking up from the slack September schedule) in a rather intense year, so I decided to go and check a few numbers in my submissions spreadsheet. I post them here, in open disregar...
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Learning stuff


It’s that time of the year again, and I’ve enrolled in two new courses – well, I meant to enroll only in one, but then, you know how it happens, and I clicked on the button and… OK; so today I took the first lessons in two new online courses on Futurelearn. The first is a six-weeks course in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology, hosted by Durham University, and I find it particularly interesting because it works for me on three levels. It works professionally: back in the day I took a master in Applied Micropaleontology that included a section of Forensics Micropaleontology, and I later followed up with a few books on the subject. The archaeological and anthropological side of the forensics...
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Running camels


Here at Karavansara we love camels, and we are surprised of the fact that they are sometimes considered indolent animals. A camel can run at 70 km/h on the desert floor. And here is a beautiful photo, from the IPA Awards 2018. Original link
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Pandora in Krasnojarsk


For my next story, that will be part of the Seven Lives Project, I have put together a handful of pieces, like cards in a solitaire, or pieces of a puzzle. I will start writing the story tomorrow, and work on it for the whole week, and once it’s ready (hoping it’s ready in a week) I will translate it in Italian, and post it to my patrons. This, at least, is a plan. But right now, these are all the pieces I have… Krasnojarsk at the end of the 19th centuryI have a place, called Krasnojarsk, somewhere in Siberia, just north of the Mongolian border. It’s the winter of 1918, and the city is the base of the Battaglione Savoia, a highly irregular unit of the Italian army.I have a bit of obscure his...
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Modesty


Today is Monica Vitti’s 88th birthday, and I decided to celebrate by watching again the 1966 movie Modesty Blaise, based on Peter O’Donnell’s character of the same name. Now two things I need to make clear: I always loved Monica Vitti, and I always found the Modesty Blaise movie hard to digest. Monica Vitti And it is weird, because we are talking a film directed by a giant of British cinema, Joseph Losey, and featuring a cast that includes not only Monica Vitti, but also Terence Stamp, Dirk Bogarde, Harry Andrews and Clive Revill. The problems are others. First, much as Monica Vitti’s voice has always been one of her assets, her accent stops very soon being exotic, and turns out to be just i...
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Anger

Conveying emotions in writing is particularly tricky but also an essential skill if you want to write. The basic rule of thumb should be that you do not declare the emotion of an action or a line of dialogue, because doing it explicitly is not elegant, and the clear mark of the amateur. “Two sugars and no milk,” she said angrily. … in other words, is not the best we can do as we write a scene in which an afternoon tea turns into a duel with cake knives. We need to find a way around it. This is not, of course, an unbreakable commandment – but as usual when writing, we need to keep an eye out and try to suggest tone and mood tot he readers without telling them. This is the notorious show-don’t...
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The need for secret histories


As I am writing this, huge crowds have gathered in Lucca for what is the largest event in Europe centered on Comics and Games. For the long Halloween weekend, hundreds of thousands of visitors will crowd the narrow alleys of medieval Lucca, prowling the stands of publishers big and small, meeting artists and authors, trying new videogames, ogling cosplayers, and suffering the bad weather, the crowd and the noise. Then they will come home, will arrange all that they bought on their beds or on their living room floor, and take a picture, that they will post on their socials, showing the world their “loot”. Which is curious, because looting implies taking without paying, while the merchandise o...
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My nipples are different


For the first time in my online life, I had a post blocked by Facebook, together with a prim and rather icy pop-up that informed me the post violated the Community Standards for nudity and sexual activities. Of course I laughed out loud about the sole idea of that circus that is Facebook having standards of any kind, community or otherwise, but then I had to accept the fact that, yes, I had just broken the Facebook laws of decency. And on the eve of Halloween, of all times… What happened is – to make a long story short – I was discussing the late, lamented Burt Reynolds, while chatting with some friends, and I posted the classic Playgirl photograph from the ’70s. This photograph… And the Fac...
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Halloween in an old village


It’s the 31st of October, early afternoon. I’ve just put the chicken and potatoes in the slow cooker, and acknowledged the fact that a story I had submitted in June was rejected. It’s OK. This month I submitted 13 stories, more than reaching my quota. The sky is battle-cruiser grey, and there is a faint mist that will probably get thicker as the day progresses. I am taking a couple of days off. There’s a story I should finish but I’ll never make it in time for the deadline. Pity. The last few weeks have been complicated, and now that the worst part is over, I can slow down a bit and have some fun. Fun to me these days means chiefly reading a good book, and I am currently enjoying very much L...
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Into the Empty Quarter

The full documentary of Alastair Humphreys’ and Leon McCarron’s adventure across the Empty Quarter was released yesterday on YouTube, and it’s absolutely mind-blowing. Check it out. Original link
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Free Imps & Minions

The anthology Imps & Minions , that features my short story “Bottled Up”, is free on Amazon for Halloween. If you feel like reading a massive volume of fantasy stories about imps and other small-fry minions of evil, please download it. I hope you’ll enjoy the stories, and feel like reviewing the book! Original link
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A story that needs to be written


Illustration by Art Adams. Original link
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This is not the cat goddess you are looking for


Growing up in Turin, and spending a lot of time in the halls of the old Egyptian Museum, I became acquainted early on with Bastet and Sekhmet, the two cat-goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon. Both goddesses started out as lionesses, but later Bastet (or Bubastis) was characterized more as a cat, while Sekhmet retained her lion aspect and her fierceness. But there was a third cat goddess, I was surprised to find out, one whose acquaintance I made only in the last few days, as she became instrumental in resolving the plot of the latest story I wrote. I am talking of Pakhet. O You of the dawn who wake and sleep, O You who are in limpness, dwelling aforetime in Nedit, I have appeared as Pakhet th...
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Knave RPG


After years of roleplaying, my brother and I have put together a huge collection of … stuff. Rulebooks, sourcebooks, supplements, scenarios, campaigns, maps… We do not play much anymore (here where we live polyhedral dice are considered a tool of the Devil, or something) but we still occasionally buy and read games, and dream of building our own, homebrew system. Yesterday, to celebrate the launch of my new Italian ebook, I treated myself to two bucks and change of gaming handbook, and bought Questing Beast’s new roleplaying game, Knave . And I read it all in a single sitting. Which is not hard, because Knave is exactly 7 pages. Now, it’s true that we are talking about seven very tightly pac...
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