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Radio drama: The Hex

Here’s something spooky for a cold winter night: The Hex, based on M.R. James’ Casting the Runes (which was made into a movie called Night of the Demon, by Jacques Tourneur).Enjoy!Original link
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The Rose of Tibet


As expected, the effect of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors is making itself felt, causing my reading list to explode as I discover writers I have so far ignored.First it was Margery Allingham, and now it’s the turn of Lionel Davidson.A writer that was highly praised by Graham Greene and often compared to Eric Ambler, Lionel Davidson had three Gold Dagger Awards and was considered for a while a highly favoured contender, if an outsider, for the title of best British thriller writer. One of his books was even made into a TV series by the BBC and his last book, published in 1994, received rave reviews.But then for some reason he fell out of sight.Of all of Davidson’s books me...
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It's not fantasy


I just found out my old paperback copy of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Italian edition published by Rusconi, which I bought in 1983 or 1984, goes for up to 150 bucks, second-hand, online.I could give it a thought, really.Apparently all the old editions of Tolkien’s doorstop novel are being called back and destroyed, or so it seems, as part of a complicated copyright infringement lawsuit that also branches out in a legal battle about slander and what not.The crux of the problem: the current Italian publisher of Tolkien commissioned a new translation, and all hell broke loose. The old translation’s been accused of being inaccurate, the new translation’s been mocked for some choices and som...
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Two-Guns Bob at 114: on the need to start reading Robert Howard again


The first thing I ever read by Robert E. Howard was People of the Black Circle, the opener in Conan the Adventurer and still my favorite Conan story today. I bought the Italian edition in the early ’80s, the sturdy hardback with that gorgeous Karel Thole cover that gave me a lot of problems both at home and in school.Indeed, the first thing I was asked when a schoolmate saw I was about one third into the book was…“Has he already raped someone?”That was when I learned that sword & sorcery was considered on a par with pornography by those that did not read it.Forty years on, I sometimes get the impression that a lot of those that do not read sword & sorcery are still under that impression – bu...
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The Blue Nightingale, a new Tale from the Frontier


I have just posted a new story to my Patrons, the fifth short in the Tales from the Frontier series – a short fun piece, written in a single sitting and set this time on the other side of the Abode of the Snow, in the not-exactly-Chinese-empire of the northwest.A story about honor, duty and common sense, called The Blue Nightingale.Because it’s good to be my patrons.Original link
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Cultural illiteracy


Werner Herzog, not exactly the latest newcomer, used to joke that kids coming out of film school had wasted three years and a lot of money, and thought the history of cinema started with Star Wars, they had no idea of who Elia Kazan was, or who D. W. Griffith was.And about half an hour ago I was talking with a friend, and she was aghast: in a TV quiz show, the participant was asked to give the name of “the Sergio who directed Once Upon a Time in America“, and the participant drew a blank – this person had no idea of who Sergio Leone was.Now I told my friend that it may not be a good idea to use quiz shows as a measure of the general state of the nation, but… damn!This is much worse than the ...
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Plots, Nefarious or Otherwise


Sitting here wrapped in blankets, drinking hot tea and popping aspirins to try and get back on track after two days spent on the road and in the cold, I find that there is little I can do but plot future stories.I sent a detailed pitch to my Italian publisher, but I’ve yet to hear back from them, and I have here two open calls that would be madness to miss – so I sit, and drink tea, and plot.This is the phase in which I do not write, but rather I pile ideas upon ideas, and let them simmer.Basically it means to look at what I like and what interests me at the moment – certain themes, certain clichés – and see how they intersect with the themed calls.Can I really write a humorous SF story feat...
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Lime pie noir

Having spent most of the last 72 hours running around – mostly on trains – all I have to post today is this great little noir movie…Original link
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Coming soon: Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives


Two volumes, 200.000 words, 21 stories (including one by yours truly)Original link
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The Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon: the Two Godfreys


Hold on tight to your seats, ladies and gentlemen, because this is the day of the Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon, and if you’re ever been around here before, you know I worship Carole Lombard, that we lost too soon and was absolutely irreplaceable.The Blogathon is hosted by The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Carole & Co, so be sure to check the link, and you’ll find a wealth of posts about Lombard, her movies and her life.And then come back here, because we are about to discuss My Man Godfrey, and also, My Man Godfrey.It’s going to be a gas.Let’s get the personal details out of the way from the start, My Man Godfrey, directed by Gregory La Cava in 1936, saved my life. This is not ...
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A tour on the Minibus


As expected, the night spent reading Chris Fowler’s book about forgotten writers has started wreaking havoc with my reading plans, or at least with my to-read pile of books and ebooks. Having read Fowler’s fun collection of short bios, I found it to be excuse enough to finally go and check out a writer that’s been on my radars for years now, but I never found the time, or motivation, or that extra bit of curiosity that would make me go and spend money and time on one of her books.Margery Allingham is a lot more popular in the UK – where a TV series was made of her more famous character – than she was ever here in Italy. But in fact she was one of the queens of traditional English mystery – i...
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Selling the unknown


I have just mailed a four-page preliminary pitch to my Italian publisher, a proposal for a novel that might be fun to write, and might become the first in a series (one hopes) and might even have a chance on the international marketplace (ditto).Now, a short pitch should include the working title, the general plot, and the major selling points of the book. The author, in other words, should tell the publisher why this book is the coolest book ever written, why it will sell in cartloads, and who is going to buy it (possibly multiple copies of it).And here is the rub – one of the strong points of my story, I am sure, is that nothing like this was done before, at least in my country, at least w...
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Gone but not forgotten: Christopher Fowler's The Book of Forgotten Authors


When was the last time that, against all good sense and sanity, you spent a whole night up to read a new book from cover to cover? Wrapped in a blanket, drinking hot tea, while the countryside outside was silent and mist-shrouded under the moon, it happened to me last night, and I am now typing this before I crawl in bed, my day’s schedule completely scrambled, but who cares.Yesterday (my goodness, it was only yesterday!) I received as a gift an ebook copy of Christopher Fowler’s The Book of Forgotten Authors, and as it usually happens, I checked the first pages, just to see how it felt. I was preparing dinner, and I was in fact putting the soup up on the stove.I went through the foreword, a...
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We are still having fun


I read the news today, oh, boy, just like John Lennon did. In my case, it was a social media post by someone I know. It was a masterful piece of brand management – three paragraphs with all the right keywords and all the bits and pieces to reinforce the author’s brand, the SEO perfectly balanced. His pet topics, his by-words, even a subtle call-back to his first book.The sort of thing you read in books by social media gurus about how to establish your presence and reinforce your brand.It was, also, a piece about the recent death of a person, a public figure, a musician.Me, I’m old fashioned, probably even Victorian in such things, but I found it in poor taste, and my respect for that person ...
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Spare change and writing classes


Talking about my generation, like Roger Daltrey used to do, we never really got used to the copper spare change that came when we transitioned to the Euro system. It’s psychological, and cultural – the 1, 2 and 5 eurocent coins feel like ballast, feel like a waste of time counting.Back in the days, soon after the advent of Euro, older people used to refuse to take the change, when shopping… “ah, seven cents, keep them!” and anyone paying a 1 euro candy bar with 20 five cent coins was looked at by everyone in the shop like he was some kind of beggar with a sweet tooth.So what happens now is, when you take an old jacket out of the closet and brush it up, you find a selection of ones and twos a...
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Zweihander + Main Gauche: RPG in the pocket


I wrote about Zweihander, the Grim & Perilous RPG developed, unsurprisingly, by Grim & Perilous Studios and Daniel D. Fox, back in 2017, when I got a copy of the basic handbook in PDF and was quite positively impressed.Basically, Zweihander is a retro-clone of the classic Warhammer Fantasy RPG (WHFRPG) that made it big – it cleans up the rules and it straightens up a few of the glitches of the olf First and Second editions of WHFRP, and while preserving all the good parts of the old game, it also adds a few bits and pieces – the core rulebook is a hefty 672 pages. The hardback edition is impressive and rather costly – but you can get the PDF version for less than 15 bucks.For the uninitiated...
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Vampires


Last night I pulled out two things from my shelf – my copy of the Hammer movie Vampire Circus (1971) and my copy of J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book, a massive encyclopedia of the undead that is part of my somewhat extensive collection of non-fiction books on the subject. I was quite surprised when I discovered The Vampire Book was published in 1994 – is it really been that long?This led me to reflect on the reason for my general dislike for vampires in the last few years – the Vampire roleplaying game, that first came out in 1992. Suddenly vampires where hot in the ’90s, and as it usually happens, the surge of recent converts to the new faith caused me to look somewhere else for my thril...
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Selling stories to foreign magazines


Today I was told yet again that I should write a handbook to explain to my Italian colleagues how to sell stories to foreign magazines and anthologies – especially English-language magazines in my case.I had to explain that such a handbook would be pretty short – so short, in fact, that I can publish it here in its entirety…write a storymail it to a magazineif they buy it, cash in the chequeif they don’t buy it, send it to another magazinein both cases, start writing another story as soon as you’ve mailed the firstAnd that’s it, really.But a lot of people want to know “The Secret”.The Secret is a little like The Rules – that set of procedures or rituals that, some writing handbooks promise, ...
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No inbetween

I was standing on my soapbox… ok, on my Italian blog… and I was talking about those guys that play the Amazon algorithms to increase their sales in ways against the company’s rules. A friend of mine is doing a series of videos on the subject, and if you are trying to make a living by writing, the presence of people that game the system is a problem – a livelihood-impacting problem.And I was taken to task by a reader because, you see, I often write about adventurers, thieves, people living outside the law, rule-breakers and other shady characters – and are not these individuals that abuse the system to make money in the same class?It’s easy to write about adventurers and other shady character...
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Vampirella: Blood Invasion – a short review


I mentioned it yesterday, and I read it last night and today as I sat around a doctor’s waiting room – Vampirella: Blood Invasion, the first Vampirella novel, written by Nancy A. Collins and published by the fiction branch of Dynamite publishing is a very fast read, and a fun one.For the uninitiated, Vampirella is a character created fifty years ago as a host for a series of anthology magazines, that later evolved into an indie comic-book character in her own right, with her own universe, recurring characters, timeline and everything.Often dismissed as a vampiric rip-off of Barbarella, and criticized by its open sexiness, the raven-haired and very scantly clad vampiress is a lot more than ju...
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