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Crooks in history


I have just delivered a 33.000 unproofed manuscript to all those that last summer supported my crowdfunding for the fist Italian-language outing of BUSCAFUSCO. The book is called La Storia Fatta coi Cialtroni (literally “History made with slobs”) and it is a first collection of eccentrics, adventurers, loose women and other assorted crooks and cranks across the last three centuries. The proper book will come out (hopefully) for Christmas or (more likely) for Twelfth Night, and it was a hoot to put together and a cow to edit. That’s why I sent off an unproofed version. My Patreon supporters will probably get new excerpts of a second volume, and some English-language snippets of the first. Bec...
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“Fever” is out

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The Pro Se Thriller of the Week is, to me, a fine example of a simple idea elegantly executed: four thriller series, new episodes coming out alternatively one er week. The offer includes the techno-thriller of THE OUT OF TIMERS, the police procedural of MURDER, AR, the sophisticated caper thriller of AKA THE SINNER and the supernatural thriller of HARRIDAN. Four series, six episodes each, each episode written by a different writer. A total of twenty-four novellas, one per week for six months, at a ridiculous price. The tag-line of Thriller of the Week is the future of digital storytelling. And I am part of this, having sold four stories to Pro Se Productions, one for each series. And today, ...
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Hussars & Hackers – return to Drachenstahl

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Back in… oh, it was probably 1984, I first tried my hand at a series of short stories set in a post-catastrophic future, in which micronations (but they were not called micronations back then) were the last surviving bastion of order in a world in which environmental and economic disaster had created billions of refugees. I had just read a book about the coming ice age (it looked legit), so I threw that idea in. I had been reading The Prisoner of Zenda for the first time, too, and I sort of wanted to mix the small operetta nation/state of the book with a sort of futuristic and cyberpunkoid stories. Hussars and Hackers, if you will. So I imagined this small Alpine nation, called Drachenstahl ...
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Jolanda and Me

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It is always a pleasure receiving your author copy of a book you contributed to. When the book was edited by the likes of Franco Pezzini and Fabrizio Foni, it is an extra pleasure because you know it’s a high-quality volume. So here I am, in my very messy library… … with my copy of Jolanda & Co – le Donne Pericolose, a far-ranging survey of dangerous women in popular fiction. I contributed a piece about a classic trope, the Queen of the Lost City in fiction from Haggard to the 1930s – and took the opportunity to once again show my affection for the Egyptian Amenartas. And now the book’s here, and it’s a beauty, and I am very proud of being part of this beautiful project. Original link
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Earhart in the Marshall Islands?

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I started reading about Amelia Earhart back in university, after stumbling on a slim book called I Was Amelia Earhart, a fictionalized account of Earhart’s final days. Most obviously fictionalized because nobody knows exactly what happened to Earhart after she disappeared somewhere over the Pacific in 1937, together with her navigator Fred Noonan. The book was strange, not exactly what I had expected, but what the heck, there was a mystery in there, one I had heard mentioned for ages, but never got into. So I started reading on the subject. In recent years, the fate of Earhart has been variously studied and analyzed, and the general consensus seems to be the aviatrix went down in the general...
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The Stalls of Barchester


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Patreon: the New Deal

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As Styx used to sing, Nothing Ever Goes as Planned – I launched my Patreon page on the 1st of December 2017, and about a week later Patreon announced they are changing the payment system. The following is the suggested text I should post for my followers, to explain to you what’s going to happen: In the past, I was covering Patreon’s 5% fee and all of the processing fees in full for all of my patrons. This meant that every month I saw anywhere from 7-15% of my earnings taken out to cover those processing fees. Starting December 18th, Patreon will apply a new service fee of 2.9% + $0.35 to each of your individual pledges. This service fee helps keep Patreon up and running and standardizes my ...
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The Singing Mummies

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Fiendish Yen Sin! I should have thought about Singing Mummies in AMARNA! Original link
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Hope & Glory, Analytical Engineer

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Work on the basic handbook for Hope & Glory has accelerated as the end of the year approaches, and I receive daily sketches that will become interior illustrations. So, why not share? This one, for instance, is called Analytical Engineer, and is the work of the excellent Alberto Bontempi. In the world of Hope & Glory, analytical engines based on Charles Babbage’s designs are commonplace, and drive the march of progress. Original link
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The time of deeds


No one can linger in the land of Egypt … The time of deeds on earth is only the occurrence of a dream. (Egyptian Harpist’s Song, XVIII Dynasty) Original link
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Night Visitors

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Do we need ghost stories? Possibly. It turns out the house in which I’m living is supposedly haunted – this explains why some of the locals look strangely at me and my brother. Or maybe they are just weird country bumpkins, who knows. Fact is, by the weekend I’ll have to deliver a learned article – in Italian – about ghostly literature. It’s the spirit (aha!) of the season, I guess. I’ve been translating two ghost stories for a new publication – a story by Edith Nesbit and one by the wildly eccentric Robert Stephen Hawker, and I’ve been reading on the subject. I still remember fondly Night Visitors, by the late Julia Briggs. I got the Italian edition of this wonderful essay on English ghost ...
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Researching Egyptian Art for Fun and Profit

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And talking about courses… Today I decided that Dutch is not the language for me. I tried it on both Duolingo and in a MOOC from Futurelearn, and in the end I surrendered. I can’t make it. Not at this time. A pity, really, but I’ll save it for the summer to give it another go. On the other hand, I am about to start a 30-hours introductory course on ancient Egyptian art – because enrolling in an online course is still the best way to research a novel. And a course on Egyptian art will help me with both the current AMARNA project and the Corsair story I am preparing for early next year. The course is offered for free by the Open University in collaboration with the British Museum, and I’ll als...
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The Longevity Dividend

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I just finished an online course about the strategies for a successful aging. I’m over fifty, after all, and without a hope in hell for a pension and a healthy retirement, I will have to keep myself in working order until the day I die. Better start early. The course was an absolute wonder – lots of ideas, lots of suggestion,m some great interactions with my fellow students, and at least one concept I’ll take away and keep close at hand: the longevity dividend. The idea is simple – as we grow old, we accumulate experience, what one of the teachers described as “crystallized intelligence”. We already had a lot of good ideas. Couple that with a good culture and an agile mind, and we are alread...
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Back on the Nile

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I’m not a fan of Agatha Christie. I think what turned me off was starting with the Miss Marple mysteries, after viewing the old Margaret Rutherford movies. My late aunt, that was a great fan of Christie gave me an omnibus edition with a number of Miss Marple books, and I hated them. There. But as I think I already mentioned, I love the Poirot movies featuring Peter Ustinov, and when it comes to Death on the Nile, in my house we are divided – to me, nothing surpasses the Ustinov movie, while my brother, that is a David Suchet fan, prefers the TV movie. And now, while the world is talking about Murder on the Orient Express, I decided to go back to the original Death on the Nile novel. Christie...
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Three ideas adding up

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The idea of writing shorter fiction is not a bad one – there is a market out there that pays good money for stories under 2500 words. As I mentioned a few days back, I am a long-winded sort of writer, but I am working at my shorter fiction. And then there is AMARNA, and the idea I posted a while back, about doing something with Fantomah, the Daughter of the Pharaohs. And so I thought… One of the characters in AMARNA, the last to join the cast, is a self-styled adventurer, very loosely based on Leonard Clark, physically inspired by Ron Ely in his turn as Doc Savage, and called Tenn Ford. I think I told you how adding Tenn to the mix helped me balance the story and actually got me writing. Now...
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Serendipity and communities

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My friend Claire often talks about serendipity. Me, I’m an old statistical analysis guru, I don’t believe in serendipity. And yet… One of the things I have been worrying these days – and I was not the only one worrying about it, from what I heard – is what will become of Karavansara and strategie evolutive, my two blogs, now that I also have a Patreon page. Patreon is a fantastic platform for doing what it does, but it also has a requirement – it wants me to live there, to do my things there. My patrons are hungry for contents, and I am supposed to provide them a steady flow of contents. But what about my blogs? As luck – or serendipity – would have it, an artist I have been following for a ...
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Inhuman beauty – Kathleen Byron

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I’m re-watching a number of Powell & Pressburger movies, these nights. It started with an article I read on the website of the British Film Institute. That made me re-watch A Matter of Life and Death, which led to a post on my Italian blog, and a mention of my favorite Powell & Pressburger movie, Black Narcissus – so I re-watched that one too, and I will post on my Italian blog about it too. Both movies feature an actress I always found marvelous, but I never followed very much – Kathleen Byron. She was absolutely beautiful in such a strange, somewhat disquieting way. Born in 1921, she was 25 when Powell & Pressuburger cast her as an angel in A Matter of Life and Death, in which she shines f...
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We are snowed in


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A good, busy day

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What a day! Today I launched my Patreon Page – and already I have six (count ‘em, six) patrons. Check out the button in the sidebar. I also did the launch for my Self-Publishing online course for the Italian market – offering both VIP and Regular access. And I am happy to announce that the VIP Tickets were sold out in five hours – while Regular access is still available 1 . All of the above meant I spent most of today juggling Mailchimp mailing lists, DoAttend and Google Class accounts, and checking out various notifications. It was a very good day, and I want to thank everybody! Thank you! Now I’ll prepare my first post for my patrons, and then I’ll complete a rewrite of my New York story, ...
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Storium and the Writing Game

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I mentioned Storium in my previous post. I found out about Storium when I got hooked up into it as a result of my taking part in the 7th Sea Second Edition Kickstarter. I took a tour, and was positively impressed. Basically, Storium is a cross between a storytelling game, an old choose-your-own-adventure game book and a collective writing experiment. It works like this… The host (me, in this case) sets up a gaming world, a setting. Lays down the rules, defines the style and genre of the thing. He provides building blocks for creating characters, and maybe creates a few to get the ball rolling. The characters have goals, personalities. Personal histories. The host also writes a story, in chap...
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