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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 j...
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I never wrote a vampire story


It’s something I realized a few nights back, while watching the new BBC adaptation of Dracula.It was the classic realization thing in three movements, like a symphony, that’s often mentioned in writing handbooks:first movement – damn, I can write better stories that this!second movement – hey, I actually never wrote a vampire story! Never, in all these years…third movement – opens a new folder and a new file in Scrivener. Which of course leads to the question… why not? Mostly it’s because I have always felt like all that could be done with the genre has been done already, not only by the venerable Bram Stoker, but by writers like Tanith Lee (with her Dark Dance books, for instance) or Nancy ...
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Night of the Befana


I have already posted in the past how, in the Italian tradition, on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January the more-or-less benevolent hag known as Befana brings little gifts to the good kids, and coal to the bad ones.The Befana is a very old tradition, and apart from the bad press she got after being sanctioned as the Fascist Regime’s response to too-British Santa – so that in the 30s she became “Befana d’Italia” – it’s still a sort of smaller-scale Christmas in a lot of Italian families. Traditionally, the Befana is said to bring the festivities to a close, clearing the field for the Carnival that follows. We usually exchange gifts on this night in my house, simply because the fe...
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Hits and Misses


I’ve spent the last two days working in the morning (I’ve got a translation to deliver, and that’s overdue) and watching TV series in the afternoon, while nursing a bad case of cold.I’ve also been writing, but not as much as I’d have liked. But I consider myself on vacation until the 6th of the month, and I’ll be recharging my batteries and feeding my idea box with stories. I’ve been watching two old TV series – one old, the other very old – and two pretty new ones.So here’s some quick notes. First, a general consideration that came up last night as I was talking with some friends – “old”, when it comes to entertainment, has become anathema. Why spend time watching a movie or talking about i...
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The first book of 2020


Last night I splurged 8 of my hard-earned dollars to acquire the first two tiers of the latest Humble Bundle, called 2020 New year, New You – a grab bag of titles on a variety of topics, good as fuel for new year’s personal resolutions – self-help books (from time saving to meditation to retirement plans) and cookbooks (a book of slow cooker recipes!), writing handbooks and a thesaurus, books about bucket lists and other wonders. These sort of bundles usually capture my fancy, because they feel like going through a bookstore filling a basket with stuff that makes me go “wow, that’s interesting!”My 8 bucks contributed to help a charity (in this case, Every Child a Reader), and bought me 16 ve...
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Dreaming up a new series (because rust never sleeps)


I was talking with some friends, a few days ago, of how much The Avengers (the British TV series, not the guys in spandex from Marvel) had an impact on my life. It was the vision of the classic Steed & Peel seasons back when I was around 8 that made me a committed Anglophile for life – and so everything, from my desire to learn English to my spending one year in London as a student, stems from there. My interest for spy stories and a certain brand of strange, surreal adventure certainly owes a lot to The Avengers (and to The Prisoner).I believe my attitude towards women was shaped (also) by an early crush on Mrs Peel, and if I keep writing stories about couples bickering, chattering and work...
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Bill Shakes in 2020


Because I needed something different to do (boredom can be a terminal illness in these hills), I have just joined the Shakespeare 2020 Project, a bunch of like-minded individuals that will read the whole of William Shakespeare’s works in the year 2020.We begin tomorrow, with, quite obviously, Twelfth Night. In case you are interested in joining the initiative, here is the link. I think I will post about my adventures in Shakespeare – my brother suggested a podcast, but the more I think about it, the more I understand that I HATE talking to myself in public.So I’ll write. And as I am at it, here is the list of what I’ll keep handy throughout the year: The Oxford Complete Works of William Shak...
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Public Service Announcement

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The last twist of the year


My friend Angelo pointed out to me a recent article on an Italian newspaper about Andrea Compatangelo and the Battaglione Savoia, that – with minimal changes – are featured in Guillotine Wind, my recent historical adventure novella. Based on the little I was able to find on the character (that I called Campatangelo, with an “a”, adopting an alternate spelling found in some documents) and his adventure, I played fast and loose while I was writing – there is a point beyond which historical adventure has to be more adventurous than historical.The name change was indeed intended as a signal that my story was fiction, not history. I knew for a fact that Compatangelo (an accountant, not an army of...
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Are you by any chance the guy that…?


Yesterday something happened that had never happened before to me: I was discussing a comedy sketch with a friend on her Facebook profile, and one of her contacts joined the discussion. It was all very civil and amusing, until this new person I did not know suddenly went… No, sorry, wait a minute, are you by any chance the guy that wrote The House of the Gods? And I could only confess that yes, I am the guy that wrote The House of the Gods, but I did not do it by chance, it was premeditated. I did it on purpose.She went on to say she had greatly enjoyed my novel, and we sort of became Facebook friends and all that. It’s the first time I am identified by a total stranger as “the guy that wrot...
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Yet another Valerie


What’s with me and the name Valerie?I do not know – but I know a lot of Valeires have turned out in my stories through the years. Indeed, the female lead in my very first “good” work, back in 1989, was called Valerie. And maybe it was the Quarterflash song of the same name, but I doubt it. Anyway, Valerie Trelawney debuted in society this morning, as my Patrons in the Five Bucks Brigade received the third story in the Seven Lives project – a short called The Case of the Inkmaker’s Daughter. The character will have a more public debut later in 2020, when a second story, celled The Case of the Manchester Mummies, will be published in a big fat anthology together with the work of many writers t...
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The '20s – building a reading list


I need your help to build a reading list of history books about the 1920s.Now, let me explain…I was told, back when I was in the Air Farce, that we cannot learn anything from history, and that history is just a collection of facts put together by the victors, and has no value.I do not think so. I did not think so back then, and I do not think so now. I have been joking about the fact that in a few days the ’20s will be here again: flappers, charleston & foxtrot, and adventure await…That’s what we normally associate to the ’20s – The Great Gatsby and all that.But the ’20s also saw the rise of populism and totalitarianism (read the news, recently?), social and financial crisis and the headlong...
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One last crazy thing before the year is over


I will devote the next six days to writing the last story of the year – or, the fist submission of 2020. I just got a call for an anthology that promises to be fun, and different, and pays professional rates. It couldn’t be better, really, as it ticks off so many great boxes…. The basic set-up is for a swashbuckling story, but with a very interesting twist.I get the opportunity to write light fantasy, something that does not happen often these days – no gore, no obscenities or gratuitous ultraviolence, no sociopaths as heroes.I might even try and do some humor – even if humor is hard, it’s the hardest thing to do.I have a hefty 7000-words allowance.Should the story be accepted, I’d have the ...
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Vintage Christmas on Radio Karavansara

Because it’s a few hours away, and in a week’s time the ’20s are about to begin… Original link
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Merry Christmas!


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The first writer that really scared me: Algernon Blackwood


Some things stick in our minds for decades.I was eleven years old or thereabouts when I got my copy of the Italian version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghost Gallery, a collection of horror stories (not all of them dealing with ghosts) aimed at a younger audience. Having been raised on Scooby Doo, and an avid reader of The Three Investigators, the idea of a collection of ghost stories was pretty exciting – and I got the book for Christmas that year. It was 1978. Now this was a case of wrong expectations – the spooky stories in the book were none like Scooby Doo or the Three Investigators, and if a couple were quite humorous, like the three entries from Robert Arthur, none of these stories had the r...
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Quiet, rest and some Flat Earth


It’s the 23rd of December.I have mailed my latest novella to my Patrons, and sent an ebook to a friend as a better substitute for a greeting card. The pantry is stocked, the menus decided for the next days. All the bills have been paid (well, OK, most of them), and there’s money (not much) in the bank. I’ve even bought a sack of treats for the feral cats that will come and sleep in the big box we’ve placed outside.Now I can sit back and relax for a few days.Read a good book, or three. And for starters, as I keep exploring the Fantasy Interregnum and reading old classics I missed or read in bad translation, today I’m settling down with Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master, the first volume in the Tale...
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Greetings from Krasnoyarsk


And so it’s finally done, and delivered to my Patrons – Guillotine Wind, the first Pandora story, was one of the hardest nuts to crack in my multifarious writing career. But it also features – if I do say so myself – some of my best writing.And it’s a first in a series!And it will go on to be part of the Seven Lives Project, and so it will benefit a bunch of stray cats. The cats will dismiss the whole thing like something due to them by divine right, but who knows, some people might like the stories. While I had been toying with the idea of writing a few prequel stories to The Ministry of Thunder, Guillotine Wind came together through what I usually call fuzzy serendipity – some unlikely fac...
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Translating myself


Having closed Guillotine Wind, my latest novella, I am now getting ready to post it to my Patrons – and this means translating it in Italian. Because it is good to be my patrons, and my Italian-speaking supporters get my stories in Italian, just as my English-speaking supporters get them in English. This means a bit of extra work, and the hard part is not translating the text, but conveying the tone and the rhythms. And that is, after all, the crux of translating. I am always dissatisfied with my own translations of my own stories – there is always something missing. Case in point – the title of my latest novella: Guillotine Wind.It’s good, compact and yet intriguing-.Sounds fine.In Italian ...
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Guillotine Wind: the soundtrack


I like to think of my stories in terms of movies – with a cast, shots and camera angles, and a soundtrack. And as I have just finished Guillotine Wind, I thought I’d publish a selection of songs that have been playing in the back of my mind as I was writing.And so I prepared a cassette. Just follow this link: GUILLOTINE WIND O S T Original link
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