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Change in perspective


Last night my PC monitor died. So I went to my father’s den – a room we now use as storage – and retrieved another monitor: as an old PC user, I go by the mantra “always salvage the old hardware.” So in about half an hour I had the new monitor up and running. No sweat.And it’s been a nice step forward – the old monitor was small and cramped, and it had been going progressively darker for months. Not a great problem when writing is concerned, but all my images and covers where someway off. The “new” monitor is an LCD widescreen thing that feels like I’m in the middle of a wide open field. Great.On the other hand, this will cost me two days of work.For some mysterious reason, any time I update...
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1300 Mondays


In the opening chapter of his The Doorstep Mile(that once again, is highly recommended) adventurer Alastair Humphreys writes:I have fewer than 2000 Mondays left to live. I want to make the most of them, not just tick them off.This gave me pause.How many Mondays do I have left?, I wondered. I made some quick calculation, based on my family data.Both my grandfathers died in their early seventies.My father died at seventy-six.On my mother’s side we tend to be more long lived – we usually get in our ’90s if cancer does not get at us earlier.I am 52, so… how many Mondays?Less than 1300 is a good estimate.What am I going to do with them?Humphreys’ idea, presented in his book, is to try and do some...
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Insomnia Movies: a Night with Dr Anton Phibes, part 2


For reasons beyond fathoming, Robert Fuest’s 1972 Dr Phibes Rises Again was distributed with the title of Frustration, thus severing any connection with the previous entry in this short-lived franchise. But it was not frustration that caused me to watch this movie right after the first one, but plain old insomnia.What’s happening here…Three years after he extracted his revenge on the people responsible for the death of his beloved wife Victoria, Dr Anton Phibes is back from the self-embalming death of the first movie. The plan: to use an old papyrus to find the Egyptian River of Life and, now that the stars are right, bring Victoria back to life and enjoy eternal life with her.Not a bad plan...
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John Brunner's Traveller in Black


For many years the John Brunner stories featuring The Traveller in Black were very high in my Need to Read list. John Brunner was more famous as a writer of science fiction than as a fantasist, and he wrote some of my favorite SF novels (in particular, The Squares of the City and The Productions of Time). I often read about the series, and there was an edition in my country in 1996 – but I actually never saw a copy of that one, and I always considered missing these stories as a grave hole in my CV as a fantasy reader and writer.So I was quite happy when a gift from one of my Patrons brought to my Kindle The Compleat Traveller in Black, a volume that collects the five stories of the cycle: “I...
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The Occult Detectives are back


I am passing this along because it’s great news – the new issue of Occult Detective Magazine (formerly Occult Detective Quarterly) is currently available in print on Amazon. An ebook edition is forthcoming.This is a big fat mag filled with supernatural thrills, and it’s just what the doctor ordered to have some fun for the end of the year.And no, there is no work of mine on this one – but hopefully I’ll be able to sell some more stories to this fine magazine in 2020. Original link
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Oh, well…


A story I submitted last month just bounced back… because the magazine I submitted it to went out of business. This is the second time this happens to me – in the first case, it was a story I had already sold – between the acceptance letter and the publishing, the publisher went belly up. I could be cynical and say that’s the reason why you should always aim at paid-on-acceptance markets, but really it’s no laughing matter.Every time a magazine or a publisher goes out of business, we, as writers and as readers, are a little poorer.The only up side of this last sorry matter?I had mistakenly mailed the same story to two prospect markets at the same time. Now tat problem’s solved.Original link
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What, no RPGs for Christmas?


It’s been pointed out that my list of Christmas gifts for the masses was fearfully lacking in the Roleplaying Games department. To set that straight, I’ll post here three suggestions for the roleplayer that has everything.Because what’s better than spending Christmas day reading a new RPG handbook?Here goes…Scheherazade is a fantasy roleplaying game set in the world of the Arabian Nights. The setting is a nice mix of fantasy and historical accuracy, the system matches the mood of the game perfectly. Character creation is fast and fun, and the game offers endless opportunities for action, adventure and wonder. And the art is absolutely stunning.And yes, it was designed by my friend Umberto Pi...
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M.R. James for Christmas


I have just spent one and a half of my hard-earned Euros for a digital copy of M.R. James’ Complete Ghost Stories. The ebook is published by Macmillan in its Collector’s Library, and comes with an afterword by David Stuart Davies. This is not the only edition I have of the James stories – I have a paperback edition from Wordsworth Classics here somewhere, and you’ll find at least a James story in any self-respecting collection of classic ghost stories, of which I have a few.But what happened is, I just wrote a lengthy post about ghosts and Christmas, for the Italian online mag Melange, and while I was preparing a to-read list, I was quite surprised by the fact that M.R. James’ stories are no...
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A turn of the cards


I spent some time this afternoon discussing tarot decks with a friend – my collection never took off the ground (I have half a dozen decks, nothing to write home about), but I still keep an eye out for new designs and classic reprints, and so we talked, and traded suggestions.I often say that my definitive Plan B, should everything else fail, would be to find a corner table in a pub and do tarot readings. Indeed, it’s two years now that I say I’ll go and sit at the local pub, down in Nizza, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, order a drink and a sandwich, and start playing with my tarot – I’m pretty sure it would attract some curious parties.And I could tip the waitresses for them to send ...
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William Gibson's Alien 3


Ridley Scott’s Alien came out when I was a kid and I was not allowed to go and see in the cinema. I caught it a while later, in a drive in while I was by the seaside. As a kid who grew up reading science fiction, Alien was probably bigger, for me, than Star Wars (I had seen a lot of that sort of action in the pulp stories I had been reading – Hamilton and Williamson and Brackett…) and possibly than Blade Runner.Forty years on (my, I am old), I still love the first movie – a great atmospheric horror – and the sequel, Jim Cameron’s Aliens – the template for military SF. And I have a weak spot for the fourth instalment of the franchise, that to me always was like a lost snippet of that other fr...
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Insomnia movies: A night with Dr Anton Phibes, part 1


I first saw The Abominable Dr Phibes, the 1971 Robert Fuest movie, back in the ’80s, on a late-nite horror retrospective hosted by RAI 3, the “intellectual” and “left wing” channel in Italy’s state TV. I am pretty sure I saw it in black and white, which of course is a crime, because part of the wonder of this old horror movie is the colors and the looks.So I re-watched it last night, back to back with its sequel, as I was going through a bout of insomnia.The Abominable Dr Phibes is classified as a horror-comedy (or vice-versa), and still it is pretty gruesome and it does have a melancholic streak, and a certain tragic greatness.The plot in a nutshell: believed death in a car crash, Dr Phibes...
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Not so bad, but not so good: Royal Flash, 1974


Yesterday I wasted 100 minutes watching for the umpteenth time Richard Lester’s Royal Flash, the 1974 adaptation of the novel by the same title by George MacDonald-Fraser. A movie that on paper should have been HUGE: great director, excellent cast, based on a fun novel and adapted by the author himself… what could ever go wrong?For the uninitiated, Royal Flash sees our “hero” Harry Flashman (here portrayed by Malcolm McDowell) caught up the plan by Otto Bismark (Oliver Reed) to manipulate the local politics of a minor German state. The plot is basically The Prisoner of Zenda, with Flash Harry forced to take the place of a Danish prince to marry the German Duchess Irma (Britt Ekland). Lola Mo...
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Three for December (plus two)


Like every month, I have received a series of open calls from various magazines and publishers that are looking for submission, and so I am ready to start the game of writing on spec.Right now I have on my listA post-apocalyptic story, in the Mad Max tradition, but somewhat tongue-in-cheek.A vampire story (this would me my second vampire story ever… wow!)A folk horror story that will be hypothetically set here in Astigianistan.All these are in the 4000-8000 words range, and are therefore quite feasible. I plan on writing one per week this month.Then there is the opportunity for a new weird western – the first one sold nicely, now why not go back and explore the same setting again? Finally, t...
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Christmas, sooner than expected


Back in the heyday of my blogging, I did a review of a Kim Stanley Robinson story called The Lucky Strike – a classic what-if alternate history that imagined a different development of the bombing of Hiroshima.A good story, with a strong anti-war theme and message.Some comments on my Italian blog were scathing, to say the least: war is good, bombing Hiroshima was a great idea, thing could never have worked any other way, who’s this Kim Stanley Robinson chap anyway?It was very instructive.The story The Lucky Strike was published in a small volume with a dark red back, in a series called Outspoken Authors. The volume included not just the story, but also extra material, an interview with the a...
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Curse of the Golden Bat III – the First Superhero


After meeting a horrid human being like General Doihara, we need something to lift our spirits, and so this third instalment of the post series based on my research for Guillotine Wind and the strange case of the Golden Bat cigarettes.And we go in a whole new direction as we go back to 1931, and meet a character created as a tie-in with the cigarette brand.Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Ogon Bat…It was in 1931 when two young men, sixteen-year old Takeo Nagamatsu and twenty-five year old Suzuki Ichiro, decided to create a new character for the kamishibai market. A character somehow inspired to the Golden Bat cigarettes, probably to cash in on the publicity.Kamishibai (Paper Theater) is the ...
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Curse of the Golden Bat II – Lawrence of Manchuria


Second post in the “Golden Bat” trilogy of posts, a spin-off of my research for Guillotine Wind.We have seen how the Japanese created a Golen Bat Export brand of cigarettes with extra heroin, specifically for the Chinese market.This plan to get the Chinese smokers hooked on heroin was the brainchild of a man called Kenji Doihara, aka “Lawrence of Manchuria”.And boy was he a Grade A scumbag.Born in 1883, Doihara got out of military academy and covered a number of small-fry positions in the Japanese Army. Because he wanted a prestige position, he used his sister, that at the time was 15, selling her as a concubine for a high-ranking member of the Imperial elite. Thanks to that, he got a post i...
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Hamlet, James Bond and Rick Blaine


A new book in my ever-growing collection of volumes about writing, Hamlet’s Hit Points is somewhat different, because it is a book at least nominally aimed at game masters willing to improve the structure of their roleplaying scenarios, upping their game. But in laying down the foundations of a system to structurally map stories, Robin D. Laws manages to create a tool that works for games, for fiction and for movies/screenplays.The basic building block of the system is the concept of “beats”, which is derived by cinema: a beat is a portion of a scene in which something specific happens, bringing the action forward or laying the foundation for some forthcoming event.Once we see our story as a...
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Guillotine Wind, a preview


In a few days, my patrons will receive their copy of Guillotine Wind, a novella that celebrates the second year of my Patron page and is also part of the Seven Lives project. The stories in the projects will reprise characters from some of my series – we’ve had a Buscafusco story already, then we’ll get a new Corsair story,a new Aculeo & Amunet story, and so on.Guillotine Wind is something special, because it is part of a series (of two series, actually), but is also a first in its series. The debut story.Straight historical adventure, ready to roll.Yesterday my Patrons got a chance to see the first chapter of the new story – a rough, unedited draft.I am now sharing this here with you becaus...
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Curse of the Golden Bat


One thing I learned from Ian Fleming is branding my characters.Which sounds kinky – and quite fitting, given certain tastes exhibited by Fleming in his time – but what I mean is simply calling stuff by their brand name, as a shorthand to convey certain details to the reader.Bond shaves with a Gilette razor, lights his cigarettes with a Ronson lighter.Before it became the product placement we see in movies, it was a writing trick to give substance and weight, and definition to what were otherwise cursory descriptions. This works quite nicely with weapons – “he drew a gun” is different from “he drew a Remington .44” at least to some of the readers. And maybe those readers will be happy, and th...
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Dangerous with a gun


The ting writers are asked most often is “where do you get your ideas?”Harlan Ellison said he got them from the Idea of the Month Club in Schenectady, Neil Gaiman said you should not ask such questions because writers, being evil and scared of such questions, would mock you in a writerly manner.I usually say “everywhere”, and just to give you an example… well, here’s an example.I shared today on Facebook an article about Kinessa Johnson, an Afghanistan veteran that is currently hunting poachers in Africa.It’s pretty straightforward: they try and kill endangered species, they become an endangered species.A friend commented my post, wondering if she could do the same.To which I replied, basica...
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