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I’m a winner, I’m a sinner, do you want my autograph?


And yes, that’s a quote from Supertramp’s Breakfast in America – but I’m not going to talk about that (great record, incidentally, part of my growing up etc.). It’s lunchtime, not breakfast time, and as I’m skipping lunch, I’ve caught a small bit of silly fluff on the socials that made me feel like writing a letter to the director.As we old people do. A local influencer posted on Facebook the reason he dislikes ebooks how do I get an autograph from the author? Do I ask the guy to scrawl his name with a sharpie on my e-reader? Now that’s a problem, ain’t it? Well, actually it ain’t. When I published my very first self-produced e-book, back in – wow – 2013, I ran a small contest, and the first...
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The joys of embezzlement


It all started because, while we were recording a podcast about the 1992 TV movie Ghostwatch, with my friend Lucy we started rambling – as we do – and ended up talking about dame Maggie Smith (yes, we tend to ramble far and wide). I mentioned how it always breaks my heart that most viewers know Smith as the old lady in the Harry Potter movies and in Downton Abbey. I’ve always had a desperate crush for Maggie Smith, and after that chat, I decided to go back and re-watch the movies in which I first found out about this beautiful, extraordinarily talented actress. Travels with my aunt, of course, and Murder by death, the two Peter Ustinov Poirot movies, The Honey Pot, and also a small strange q...
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A free taste of the Monstress


I do not read many comics anymore. I used to, but in the early 2000s it turned into a very expensive habit – the funnies I used to buy for a pittance at the news-agent’s when I was a kid had become the classy big books I found in a bookstore by my university when I was older, and now they were luxury items sold in specialist bookshops in which guys bickered about whether Evangelion was stronger than Gundam or whatever. In the end, I decided to keep buying books and drop most of my comics.But once in a while I still find something interesting – like today’s offer via Amazon, of the digital version of the first issue of Monstress for free.I can go for that. Written by Marjorie Liu and drawn by...
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Hunting the Kamongo in the Black Lagoon


I was home alone for lunch, so I cooked myself a bowl of rice, and then I watched The Creature from the Black Lagoon, from 1954. Because it’s a movie I like, because it’s been a long time since last I watched it, and because in a couple of weeks I’ll have to record a podcast about it and I want to sound smart and say intelligent stuff. And as I was quietly enjoying the show, something suddenly … ah! In the movie, the characters are sailing upriver along the Amazon in a boat called “Rita”, and the resident marine biologist is talking about the Amazon jungle, that’s just like jungles were back “in the Devonian age, 150 million of years ago.” And my brain goes, well, no, the Amazon jungle is no...
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Mummies, asteroids and fatigue


Having set straight (hopefully) the first 150 pages of the second draft of my Ghostwriting Job from Hell in two days, I have spent yesterday afternoon and this morning writing a learned article about the Tomb of Nefertari, the beautiful (and resourceful) wife of King Ramses II. One of the perks of working as a freelance is the fact that often variety allows us to forget about the chores and enjoy the truly entertaining.That’s the nice part – doing something interesting and fun, and get paid for it. The Nefertari piece is one of three that I pitched to an Italian magazine – the first (already written and accepted) was about the canals of Mars, and the next one will be about surrealist fashion...
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A bundle of World SF & Fantasy


I’ve often mentioned how book bundles have been for me a good way to keep reading while money was tight. These days maybe money is not as tight as before, but I still check out regularly HumbleBundle, StoryBundle and, for my gaming needs, the Bundle of Holding. And today I happily splurged five bucks on the basic tier of the latest SciFi StoryBundle – a fine selection of world SF curated by Lavie Tidhar. The basic level featured three books that are on my Amazon wishlist, plus one I did not know about – so, why not? I saved money, I made sure some of my coins went into a charity, and now I have a few books to read, and a new author to discover.All the books in the bundle come in multiple for...
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Up from the Facebook depths


Yesterday some twitch in the Facebook engine brought up a post I had made more than one year ago, about a weird idea I had about a story, possibly the first in a series. It was a solid Idea, and I had started working on it and even had an interested publisher, and then – for a change – my day-to-day life had taken a turn for the worse and I had to scrap the project. Oh, damn. But yesterday that old post came up from the depth of Facebook, like a stretch of oceanic floor uplifted by some tectonic event – an algorithm shift of some kind, some big data rift – and there it was.And people saw it, and they started going – damn, man, you need to write this, like, NOW! And I was looking at those not...
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Developing ideas and characters

A nugget of wisdom I found in a book I am greatly enjoying.Talking about a short story published in 189, the author says she used it to “get a feeling” for a setting she’d later develop in a series of novels, and to try and develop the kind of character that would later appear in one of those novels. It’s a scheme I heartily recommend. Get paid developing the ideas for your novels! Indeed, it seems to be an excellent idea, and I have used it in the past, without really knowing.I’ll have to write more stories, and use them to explore a few of the ideas I’ve here simmering. Original link
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Brancalonia at the University of Edimburgh


Brancalonia, the “spaghetti fantasy” roleplaying game has been a runaway success on Kickstarter – which means the writers and illustrators are hard at work on these hot summer days to get everything ready.But meanwhile, back when the Kickstarter was still running full tilt, the History & Game Lab at Edinburgh University took an interest in us. As a result, you can listen to an interview on the subject of games, history, the interplay of the real world and fantasy, and a lot of other things, on this podcast. Brancalonia art by Lorenzo Nuti My voice is horrible, I am quite obviously clueless, but hey, you might find something interesting in my ramblings. Original link
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Permanently dead


I am putting together the preliminary information and notes for a story I will write this week, because Mr Publisher and Mr Editor are waiting for it, and we do not want to keep them waiting, do we? The story is an adventure thriller with some urban fantasy elements (proper urban fantasy, not vampires shagging werewolves), and it’s planned to develop across a fair portion of Europe as the main character keeps one step ahead of her antagonists.A pursuit story, in other words. For this sort of thing, considering I have a pretty detailed outline already approved by the editor, I will need a few things: a location in the Carpathians for the opening chaptersplans and photos for a believable Carpa...
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Color change

And then you wake up and find your blog color palette has been changed. Not that I had anything to do about it – apparently during the night WordPress changed its “website identity” settings, and changed my dark brown accents to pale blue, as you probably can see. I find it ugly and, also, irritating.An off-handed reminder that by hosting Karavansara on their free servers I am not, after all, the owner of this place, nor do I really have any control of this blog. Now I’ll have to throw away some time trying to work out a way to bring back the look of “my” blog.I have checked out the new tools and options – now WordPress comes with a series of pre-set color palettes that are, in general, unif...
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Ennio Morricone – 1928-2020

Ennio Morricone wrote the soundtrack for dozens of movies and basically provided musical accompaniment for the dreams of a lot of people out there.He is gone now, but his music remains. Music like this… Original link
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And then you find this photo…


Yes, that’s Harpo Marx.Yes, that’s Amelia Earhart. Original link
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The stories of Smoke


A few days ago I was told (once again) that I should find me an alias (as if…) to “differentiate my offer” and “avoid confusing my readers” – the poor creatures being of the sort, apparently, that might be shocked and confused to find I write historical fantasy, science fiction, occasionally horror, thrillers and adventure.And confused readers apparently stop buying your stories. Now, I usually assume my readers are strong-willed enough not to be scared off by the fact that a story of mine does not fall in the same genre as the previous. And indeed, I usually point out a number of excellent writers that wrote across all the spectrum of fiction without changing their names.I usually mention C...
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Fear of finishing, part 2


And let’s admit it, it is fitting that a post about the endless reworking / rewriting / tweaking / revising we do to our work in order to push the finish line as far as possible should have a second part.I mean, the first was not quite finished, right? Well, here is where I talk about academia, roleplaying games, and “the funny incidents that happen when you try and make your living as a writer” (remember? this was the topic of the comic book I was told to start posting instead of these useless words I am putting on my blog and nobody reads anyway). But on to the fear of finishing. The most tragic case of this sort of endless procrastination I ever saw was from a colleague back in university...
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Fear of finishing


I’ve got another bunch of revisions from my current client, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the gentleman is a victim to something we (meaning, we that write regularly, to a market, for a living) should know quite well: it’s the fear of finishing.I’ve seen people crash and burn because of that. I do not know what the psychological mechanism actually is, but there is this increasing sense of anxiety bordering on panic that sometimes settles in when you approach the end of a story you are writing. You suddenly feel the need to re-read, revise, re-write, start it all over. What up to yesterday was quite fine, now is not that good anymore.Because you are so close to sending it off to the ed...
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A forced vacation


Somebody said once that writers never take time off – you’re in the queue at the supermarket, and you’re mentally working on something… ruminating a plot point, stealing a snippet of eavesdropped conversation for recycling in your work in progress, considering what chances are for your next submission.A vacation – that in my case might mean, sitting in the shade in my courtyard, with a bowl of ice cream and a good book – is not different – that good book I’d be reading? It’s still part of the learning process, still a source of ideas, or a sample of someone’s writing I admire, and I’d like to be able to emulate.When you make a living writing, your brain never lets up. And yet… Yesterday my c...
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Holmes & Friends are in


Just a quick one to let you know I’ve just got my author copies of the two-volume set of Sherlock Holmes & the Occult Detectives, the massive anthology edited by John Linwood Grant, and they are beautiful books. In other news: I need a new webcam (this one sucks). Original link
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Lunch break at the Outpost


Today was another good day – I mailed a translation and a chunk of gaming-related material, and then I did some improvisational cooking to put together some lunch. As I was eating, I checked out the first two episodes of a series I did not know, called The Outpost. Let’s pilfer the summary from Wikipedia: The Outpost follows Talon (Jessica Green), the lone survivor of a race called ‘Blackbloods’. Years after her entire village is destroyed by a gang of brutal mercenaries, Talon travels to a lawless fortress on the edge of the civilized world, as she tracks the killers of her family. On her journey to this outpost, Talon discovers she possesses a mysterious supernatural power that she must le...
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And talking about covers…


… I do not have much time to write a post because I am busy reading, and last night the Amazon Oompa-Loompas delivered on my reader a pristine copy of Jessica Bakkers’ Guns of Perdition.And if you will take a look at the cover, you will realize that you need to read it like, now. Now you’ve seen it – go and buy it! Original link
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