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William Goldman, 1931-2018


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Asteria in Prime Reading


Amazon Italy just informed me that – were I interested – the first story in the Asteria series, Italian edition, has been selected for the Prime Reading programme. Prime Reading is basically a promotional tool that allows Amazon Prime subscriber to download my ebook for free – while Amazon pays me a fixed amount covering forfeit-fashion all the “sales” of the promotional period. An excellent offer, that not only signals that my Asteria stories are a small success in Italy (enough to attract Amazon’s attention), but promises to help my series to reach a new audience. Which is fine, because more readers for the first episode in the series also means – hopefully – more readers for the follow-up...
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The right word for it: Mulligrubs


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Fighting the Kaiser in the American South-West


Alternate history. I like that a lot – you get the best of both worlds, a solid historical background, and a fun science fiction/fantasy/what if angle and plot. I did write a few alternate histories in my time, and of course Hope & Glory is a huge alternate history universe. So yes, I like that. And while I don’t read that much alternate history anymore, I am in the habit of keeping a few books as an emergency stash for bad moments, and one, in one of my surprise book boxes, happened to be an alternate history book. And I’m having a go at it. 1920: America’s Great War is a novel by Robert Conroy, published by Baen Books in 2013. The premise: the Germans win the Battle of the Marne in 1914 an...
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A coin tossed from the bridge


I have mentioned in the past the movie Le Bossu (On Guard for the English-speaking markets), a fine French swashbuckler from twenty years ago that I like very much and used to watch every time it passed on TV hereabouts, and now have on DVD and watch at least once a year. Great action, fine story, excellent cast. Great movie, watch it! Original Cinema Quad Poster – Movie Film Posters In the movie, the main character, Lagardere, recalls the time when, as a Paris street urchin, he had developed a stunt that allowed him to make some money: he would ask the passers-by to toss a coin in the Seine, and he would dive behind it from a bridge, and retrieve it as it sank in the water of the river. He ...
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It’s Louise Brooks’s birthday

Louise Brooks
She liked pulp magazines… Original link
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Short stories collections and learning the tricks


It sounded so simple, right? Pick a few short story anthologies, and use them as a writing handbook. To learn how to write short stories. Easy. Until they ask you to actually name the frigging books. To chose. To make a list. Because you need to make a choice. Who’s in, who’s out? So you start making a list – Leigh Brackett, Fritz Leiber, Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazny, Tanith Lee, Charles De Lint… But what about Roald Dahl? Can you leave out Ray Bradbury? And what about Fredric Brown? Nobody ever remembers Fredric Brown. Just like nobody remembers Avram Davidson… Can you leave out Robert E. Howard? And Dorothy Parker and John D. MacDonald and all the rest of the non-fantasy crowd? But there ...
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Writing, magic and everything

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The first book I ever read by pulp giant Walter B. Gibson was not a Shadow novel, but a beautiful hardback called The Book of Secrets. As I think I have mentioned in the past – if I didn’t, I’m doing it now – as a kid, between ten and fourteen, having discovered a big box of magic tricks in my grandmother’s attic, I had developed an interest in stage magic. I was pretty good at coin, card and sponge balls manipulation, but really I never got anywhere – a modest amateur. But I read a lot of books on the subject, and Walter B. Gibson, to me, was the guy that wrote books about magic I could not read because my English was not good enough. In the end, my English improved, I stopped doing magic t...
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Bookshelf archaeology

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I was looking for a book, and I found two. I did some digging on my shelf for Damon Knight’s classic Creating Short Fiction. As I mentioned, I started talking about short fiction with my friend Claire, and I wanted to check out if Knight’s book held some momentous secret I had forgotten. For the uninitiated (but then, what are you doing here), Damon Knight was one of the greatest short story crafters in the field of science fiction – he is the author of To Serve Man, that was adapted in what is possibly the most famous episode of The Twilight Zone – and he also was an editor and critic. He was one of the founders of the SFWA, and of the Clarion Workshop. He is the man that, as a critic, defi...
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Stan “the Man” Lee, 1922-2018

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More writing advice: don’t let them know

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When I was young and reckless, I received a piece of advice about writing that later I forgot. The advice was Never never never let them know how fast you can write. It is an excellent piece of advice, but I was stupid, and I forgot about it. And they found out how fast I can write. Up to 2000 words per hour on a decent first draft – it is a necessity, yu see: when you pay your bills by writing, you have to write a lot to make sure you’ll have enough when the guys from the bank come a-callin’. So yes, you are fast. And you were foolish enough to let them know. And this, as the man that gave me that piece of advice so many years ago well knew, is a problem. It is a problem, first and foremost...
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My Weekend with the Sweetheart

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I like those books that can disrupt your tightly-plotted schedule. I hate them too, but mostly I like them. We sometimes chance upon them, and we have to drop everything else and just read. It happened me this weekend, via a strange discussion wit some online friends about, of all things, wrestling, and an ultra-cheap paperback offer from Amazon. And so, I took a much needed break this weekend and got in bed with The Sweetheart, the first novel by American writer Angelina Mirabella. It was a good choice on my part. And yes, with that cover, I was for a briefest of moments afraid I was going to wade into MadMen territory – but thankfully I was not. Set in 1953, The Sweetheart is the story of ...
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In Flanders Fields

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11/11/18

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Unless WordPress lets me down, this post will go online at 11 am of the 11th of November 2018, exactly 100 years after the signing of the armistice that put an end to the First World War. It is interesting to note that the peace was ratified only on the 10th of January 1920, but for the men in the trenches and the fields and the mountains of World War One, the 11th of November marked the end of the war.   I am listening to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem as I write this. I’ve been surprised, in these days, about how seriously I am taking this centenary. But after all, I belong to a generation that knew personally people that had fought in the trenches. I talked about my grandfather , on my mo...
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Writing Short Stories: the best advice I ever got

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OK, I was talking with my friend Claire , the other day, and she was telling me she wants to start writing more short stories. Which is just swell, because, hey, I want to write more short stories too! So – you know me – I tried to talk her into doing something together, because she’s a fantastic writer and a great person and I’d have a lot of fun working with her – and who knows, she might have fun working with me on some weird and sideways project. She was kind and measured as ever at my advances, and, what can I say, we’ll see. But in the meantime I looked here on my shelves for stuff about short stories – because if that’s going to be the mood of the next few months, why not write a few ...
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A night with Hansel & Gretel

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Long sleepless night? Tired of writing? Watch a movie, then review it. So I went and checked out Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters, a 2013 movie 1 I had missed back then, and that, I said to myself, can’t be worse that that Brothers Grimm movie. I was somewhat right – and here I am to offer a quick-and-dirty review. The basic premise: Hansel & Gretel, having been abandoned in the wood and having killed the witch, grow up to become Jemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, bounty hunters that buy their clothes at Gap (or so it seems – lotsa black leather), act real cool and badass, and specialize in hunting witches. A plague of disappearing children brings them back to their neck in the woods. The movi...
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It’s not depression, it’s just an overload of a-holes

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Ever since I saw my father sink into depression and drag all of our family with him in his self-destructive attitude, I have blamed myself for not being able to catch the hints early on, and I have also started keeping my mind under observation. Scared of losing it? You bet. I have written in the past about the ups and downs of pursuing what could be described rather presumptuously as a creative career – be it writing, or teaching, or scientific research. The condition of being constantly engaged, the mind constantly working on ideas, connections, developments, is in my opinion a big help in keeping dark mood at bay, but when it fails, it helps the dark moods to come on and do their thing. I...
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Art requests and a new series

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One of the best bits of this writing business is sending cover art requests to the publisher. Oh, it’s a bother, because, well, I grew up with those incredible Whelan, Sanjulian, Frazetta, Maitz covers, and so my imagination tends to run amok when I have to describe my dream cover to the artist, but it’s also lots of fun. … and then we put a big sabretooth tiger skull in the right corner… And it usually only takes two or three attempts. But this time it took only one. Which is a rather circular way to say that my sword & sorcery story, tentatively called Heart of the Lizard, is getting a cover, and is, therefore, “a thing” – or it will be soon-ish. Hopefully this will be the first in a serie...
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More shopping suggestions from Amazon

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Amazon keeps suggesting me books, and I am happy to report the very dubious books and DVDs about the Fascist Regime are gone – and gone are the books about the Arabian Nights and the Tits & Sand movies, alas. Right now, Amazon is pretty sure I need a writing handbook and/or a programming handbook. Which is not all bad: I have just accepted a suggestion from the latest mail and splurged 99 cents on a book about data analysis with Python, because after all environmental data analysis was my “real job”, and I like to keep up to date. Also, turns out data analysis in Python is one of the most requested skills in tech jobs right now – not that they’ll ever hire an old guy lost in the hills somewh...
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Prudence interrupted

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And so I ended up writing an origin story. It all started whit the plot for the wrong story I told you about. I had a character and an idea, and a possible story, and last night I spent some time playing with the bits and pieces I had. In the end I had to drop the work halfway – an urgent request arrived from a client, for a quick-and-dirty translation, and you know how that goes. Bills to pay and all that – paying jobs get the priority over on spec projects. But in the meantime I had got some feedback from my Patrons, that had a look at my preliminary notes. So my character started growing and acquiring depth and nuances, the story started deviating from the set path – as predicted and expe...
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