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Fake interviews and pulp writers

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Yesterday I read what I think is the fakest (is that a word?) interview ever published. The sort of interview that makes me absolutely certain the guy being interviewed never wrote the story he’s been interviewed about. Stilted answers, that failed to capture the plot, the characters or the background of the story being discussed. Generic, sum-zero platitudes, the sort of meaningless placeholder text one finds in bad writing theory books (“a story about captivating characters”). It was infuriating, because I take writing seriously, but some evidently don’t. I’ve read a lot of personal accounts by writers, and a lot of biographies. When they are not fake they are a great insight on the creati...
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Blazing keyboards in the dead city

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According to a website that caters for collectors of vintage stuff, my mother’s last typewriter, an Olivetti Lettera 35, is worth 40 bucks – but on eBay I saw some specimens go for 100 euro. Not bad, for an obsolete piece of tech that carries a QZERTY keyboard. Mine… well, OK, my late mother’s is still in perfect working order. It only needs a new ribbon, that goes for about 8 bucks on Amazon, and no shipping fees with Prime. And I’ll need to buy one, because on the 4th of August I’ll be using my old Lettera 35 for one of those “cheap stunts” that, I’ve been told, “proper writers” don’t do. Well, screw them. On the 4th of August, barring incidents, we’ll be sitting between a bookstore and a ...
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Not just the bills

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Today, a beautiful person told me she likes reading my stories because even if she suffers from dyslexia, my writing style is clear enough for her to be able to go through my tales without too much difficulty. And she really enjoys them, she says. It does not happen often. I do get feedback from my readers, and it’s always great to hear from you guys, but this one, today, was really unique. This is the sort of thing that reminds me I’m not doing this just to pay the bills. And that the reason why one manages to pay the bills is because sometimes things like this happen. This is the sort of thing that makes it worth it. I’ve been happy happy most of the day, and I’ll be most of the evening. A...
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Missed opportunity

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Oh, crap! And so while I was busy (sort of) taking the weekend off and trying to keep burnout away 1 , the Pro Se submission window closed – and my pitch for a 12-episode serial was not yet ready. A twelve books series paid with 50% royalties, and it fizzed. F*ck f*ck, f*ckety f*ck f*ck!   Three days of work wasted. Or not. No, not, not at all, really. Because I have here now a complete project for a 12-episodes series of novellas, planned to be published in monthly stand-alone installments. Action/adventure thrillers. Set in modern-day Europe. Tackling ancient – and not so ancient – mysteries. Featuring an exciting new character. And an intriguing set-up. A thing whose high concept is The N...
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Holmes & HPL

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I was listening to an old Harlan Ellison interview, last night, and he was saying that if you want to get a proper education, you have to read the Canon, that is, all the Arthur Conan Doyle stories about Sherlock Holmes. Those will set you straight, Ellison said, because they are stories about the power of rationality, the power of observation. And they teach you that there are no mysteries if you pay attention. And I think it’s a sound suggestion. Hell, you can’t go wrong with “Read Sherlock Holmes!” I am not a Sherlockian – or I am not anymore. I used to be one of the Hounds of the Internet, an old mailing list/reading group born when you still had to use a dial-up connection to go online....
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An idea for a summer camp for high-schoolers

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As I said, I took most of the weekend off, and enjoyed a good book. One that was given to me as a gift for my birthday. And as a result, I created a course/summer camp – something that would be fun to offer to kids the high-school range of age. And yes, I know, I know, I said that I would not think about work and all that, but then, what with eating some ice cream and re-watching some old Haruhi Suzumiya anime and all that, ideas sort of collided and I sketched this course and even so it’s really OK – no, really! – because they will never allow me to do it anyway, so it’s, in the end, a flight of fancy on a summer afternoon. And yet, boy I’d like to do it! Let me tell you about it. The book ...
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Be good to yourself

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I’m going through one of my usual mood swings. As I think I mentioned in the past, I am getting used to this state of affairs, I guess it sort of comes with the writing job. An effect of mental fatigue, with the current extras of the heat and humidity, and assorted material worries. I know it will pass, but right now I feel exhausted and am experiencing a mix of unhappiness and restlessness that is not exactly fun. But as I said, I am used to it, and I have learned strategies to analyse it and then let it go. This post I am inflicting you is part of the process. And the point, in the end, is taking a break. Escape that horrid little voice in your head that says You are not writing! You won’t...
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New Copyright Rules?

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Carpaccio between East and West

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Yesterday I mentioned Vittore Carpaccio, a Renaissance painter from venice that will appear in my next Corsair story – independently of where it gets published. Now, Carpaccio – a little-known artist, in fact – is interesting because he was a strange mix of influences. In particular, his paintings are a strange mix of Flemish and Oriental elements. Indeed, good old Vittore was an artist whose style could only have developed and flourished in 15th/16th century Venice. The city known as La Serenissima (The Most Serene) sat in the perfect place to act as the hub between Northerd and Western Europe on one side, and Asia and Eastern Europe on the other. A merchant port and a seat of banks and shi...
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Of Corsairs and Masks

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I mentioned too many projects. Some new, some old, some halfway in between. To wit… The third Corsair story has been long overdue. I miss Leo Martin, and who knows, maybe my readers miss him too. The third and fourth stories in the series had been outlined and researched, but then I never got around and never wrote them. This is an old project. And then there is Black Mask. The legendary crime pulp magazine, the one that first published stories by Dash Hammet and Ray Chandler and Erle Stanley Gardner and Paul Cain and Fredric Brown and all the greats. I’d love to get a story of mine in Black Mask – because yes, it still exists. They publish hard-boiled and crime, of course, and I want to hav...
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Ramen Days

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In the last thirty-six hours, more projects have piled up on my To-Do list. Lots of stuff to write. Some absolutely great ideas. Things I want to do. And that will pay a nice figure, in the long run. And that’s the rub, the long run. All these new beautiful projects laying here in front of me would require hard work and lots of time. A nice bit of research, too. And long hours spent writing. And that’s OK – that’s the deal, that comes with the territory: you want your story, you sit down and work for it. So that’s not really the problem. The problem is putting one month of work in a story that will pay six months later, when you have no margin, when you are living hand to mouth. I had a big ...
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More Sketches of China

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After yesterday’s cover reveal, it’s time to write a little about Sketches of China , my fifth novelette in the Hope & Glory series that acts as an introduction/prequel for the game, that will be out very soon. The plan for the novelettes was to try and show a different corner of the Hope & Glory world with each story. So we’ve been through the Anglo-Indian Ray (Glass Houses), North Africa (Number the Brave), the Imperial court of Russia (Part of the Machine), on a flying ship belonging to the Republic of Iezo (Above the Clouds) and now, China. Also, each novelette tackles a different genre, showcasing the different themes and gaming approaches the players will be able to adopt in the game. ...
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Sketches of China

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A visit to Goblin Tower

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The Goblin Tower is a 1968 novel by Lyon Sprague de Camp, first in the series known as the Reluctant King. The novel follows the adventures of the reluctant King Jorian, in fact an engineer and watchmaker, that by chance finds himself in the shoes of the king of Xylar. But tradition has it that the career of the king of Xylar has an expiration date – expiration being the proper word, as it ends on the hangman’s stock. The frantic activity of our hero to abandon the title, the throne, and the country, before his position becomes too compromising sets the pace of the story. It is not that abroad things are any better, since all the nations of the continent are prey to a political and social ec...
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Medium Plans

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I need some help. Fact is, I am just totally fascinated by Medium. It’s not just that it’s apparently very easy to set up, and promises to pay me if a lot of people read my stuff, but I like the idea of a primarily word-based platform. Yes, one can drop an image in and all that, but from what I saw while I was working on another project, on Medium word is king (or queen, or whatever). And I like it a lot. Uh, yes… for the uninitiated Medium is a sort-of-blogging platform that features some classical elements of other social media – like the possibility to upvote articles, and a focus on quality of contents. And I like it, and I’d like to try and use it. Only, what could I do on Medium that I...
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Rules of writing

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The Demoness with White Hair

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I have just posted a 4000-words short story on my Patreon page, for all the members of the Five Bucks Brigade. Today I uploaded the English version, the Italian version goes up tomorrow. It’s called The Demoness with White Hair. As I explained, it all started with a 500-words test I did to apply for a gig as a freelance writer. I don’t have much faith in the result of the test, but I liked my piece, and others liked it too. I got compared to Harold Lamb, of all things. As soon as I stopped bragging to my friends, I decided I would like to expand that vignette, and do something more substantial with the barely sketched setting. And I did it. So, if you want to read my story, you’ll have to jo...
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The dog ate my homeworks

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I could justify the delay in the completion of the final episode of AMARNA with some tear-jerker story about how shattered I was at the news of Harlan Ellison’s death. And indeed, it felt like being punched in the face. Harlan Ellison looked like the kind of guy that would shrug off an inconvenience like dying. I could make excuses about the fact that I had to work on two translations on whose sale hinges my ability to pay my mortgage. That, and an article about Journey, the band. I could simply claim that my PC fizzed as I was trying to update to Ubuntu 18.04, and I lost everything but my way home. The fact is, I am still 8000-words short of the ending, and I have spent the whole day so far...
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Harlan, 1934-2018

“The only thing worth writing about is people. People. Human beings. Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line, insight by insight. If you do not do it, the story is a failure. […] There is no nobler chore in the universe than holding up the mirror of reality and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of the commonplace, the everyday, the ‘normal’, the obvious. People are reflected in the glass. The fantasy situation into which you thrust them is the mirror itself. And what we are shown should illuminate and alter our perception of the world around us. Failing that, you have failed totally.” ― Harlan Ellison Original link
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At the feet of a giant

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I discovered Harold Lamb pretty late in my life, about ten years ago. I had retrieved, as a kid, a pair of biographies written by Lamb, I had found in my grandmother’s attic. They were from my mother’s collection of young girl’s reads. I think one was Tamburlane, and the other might have been Theodora. I don’t know what happened to those books – I guess my mother gave them away. I was not overly interested in historical biographies, at the time I liked dinosaurs. Only much, much later I found the collections published by Bison Books and edited by Howard Andrew Jones, and it was a delight. “Who,” my friend Claire asked, “Lamb the one of the Cossack?” I knew, through my readings, that Harold L...
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