“The Mentor” is back!

After seven years, a new edition of my bestselling crime thriller The Mentor is out.
With a new cover and a brand-new translation in British English, the first book in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy is finally available for you to read it.


What if someone you love is a serial killer?

The Mentor is a crime/psychological thriller set in London whose main character is DCI Eric Shaw, a Scotland Yard forensic team chief who investigates a series of murders that seem related to a cold case involving a person he cares for.
The border between investigation and crime becomes blurred in a story that isn’t exactly about finding the culprit, but rather observing how the main character decides to react to his shocking findings.

You can download the ebook version or purchase one of the print editions (paperback and hardcover) directly from your favourite online store around the world.
A complete list of links is available on the website dedicated to the trilogy:
www.anakina.net/ericshaw

The price starts from £3.99/$4.99/€4.99 for the ebook edition.

 

Click or tap here to purchase the book!

 

You can also order it at your favourite Waterstones (UK) and Barnes & Noble (USA) bricks-and-mortar store.

 

Official description of The Mentor.

 

Twenty years ago Eric saved her.
Who will save him now?

DCI Eric Shaw, leading a forensic team at Scotland Yard, together with DI Miriam Leroux from a Murder Investigation Team, is investigating the death of a known offender. Killed by two gunshots: one to his neck, execution style, but preceded by another to his groin, implying a more personal motive.
Shaw’s attention at work is often distracted by a young forensic investigator, Adele Pennington, who is a beautiful woman over two decades his junior. However, his attraction to her is unreciprocated.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the London police, an anonymous blog describes the details of a very similar crime. The author of the blog signs herself as Mina, like one of the victims in a case Shaw investigated many years ago.

Meet DCI Eric Shaw . . . and his pupil.

 

Click or tap here to purchase the book!

 

But there’s more to it.

Book 2 in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy, Syndrome, is now available to pre-order in most online stores, too!
It’ll be published on 28 February 2023.


Self-publishing in Varese and “Scienza & Fantascienza 2022”

After three years of absence due to the pandemic, at the beginning of October I finally returned to Varese to teach my “Self-publishing laboratory in multimedia systems” at the University of Insubria.

It was great to visit the campus again and be in the classroom with the students. In fact, even if teaching at a distance has obvious advantages for those like me who live so far from the place where they teach, first of all of an economic nature, being able to interact in person makes the experience much more rewarding, both for the teacher and for the students. Seeing understanding or doubt in their eyes makes you immediately understand if what you are communicating is being received correctly. Furthermore, the students themselves are more inclined to ask questions and interact, since each of their interventions is made easier by the use of a gesture or a facial expression that unfortunately is not visible remotely.

What made everything more pleasant was the good weather that welcomed me in Varese, which reduced the classic trauma of the transition from swimsuit to coat that each time characterises my autumn visits to this Lombard city.

This year, moreover, the laboratory has reached a real participation record, with 37 students eligible to receive credits/points, plus an auditor. The previous record of 24 in 2020 has been disintegrated to say the least. And this time the laboratory was not taught remotely, with the students who appeared as present while they were comfortably at home. I admit that on one occasion I feared that there was no room for everyone in the classroom! I was particularly pleased with this also because this record was accompanied by the commitment of the participants, demonstrated by the beautiful projects presented in the last lesson.

As always, it has ranged between different literary genres, from thriller to fantasy, from children’s book to cookbook, up to a culinary-tourist guide of Italy. In short, there was no lack of imagination, and the two imaginary book covers shown in this article are just a small example.
But in general, the students showed some interest in the subject. And it was a pity to have had to condense the arguments in just sixteen hours, a time that allows you to do just a rundown on the world of self-publishing without being able to dwell on some aspects that could have stimulated the discussion with the participants, in particular with those whose interest went beyond the mere achievement of eligibility to receive training credits or seminar points.

Also on this occasion, during my stay in Varese, I was given the opportunity by Professor Paolo Musso to talk about self-publishing for two hours during one of his lessons in the course of “Science and science fiction in media and literature”, which is also the only university teaching in Italy on science fiction. Instead, unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in person in one of the conferences of “Scienza & Fantascienza” (Science & Science Fiction, which is linked to the course), since they started two weeks later. However, I played the role of remote speaker (the image below is a screenshot from Teams, through which I was connected directly from Mars… er… from Cagliari!).

 


In fact, on 25 October there was the inaugural meeting of 2022, in which space was given to the celebration of the tenth anniversary of this series of conferences and of the course, and I was able to give my contribution via Teams. Together with me, in person or remotely, eight other speakers participated: the aforementioned Paolo Musso, Giulio Facchetti (president of the degree course in Communication Sciences), Paolo Luca Bernardini (former director of DiSUIT), Nicoletta Sabadini (current director of DiSUIT), Rosanna Pozzi (professor of Italian literature at the Liceo Scientifico “Tosi” in Busto Arsizio), Gianfranco Lucchi (administrator of the science fiction website UraniaMania), Tea C. Blanc (journalist and science fiction blogger) and Antonio Serra (creator of “Nathan Never” for Sergio Bonelli Editore).

Each of us speakers contributed to celebrating this important anniversary in their own way.
Specifically, I explained the particular importance that the relationship between science and science fiction has for me precisely as the author of hard science fiction novels, that is, of that subgenre of science fiction in which importance is given to scientific plausibility of what is narrated. And in the four times that I have attended this series of conferences, I have treated this subject (scientific plausibility in science fiction) from different angles.
In 2014, I told how I had tried to imagine credible aliens. In 2018, I focused on how Mars and its colonisation are treated in science fiction and especially in my books. I did something similar in 2019 in reference to the Moon. While in 2020, the year in which all the conferences were held remotely, the topic was that of viruses and their positive and negative influence as an element of conflict within science fiction, and obviously in “Red Desert”, too.

In my books, adding real science in the story serves essentially two purposes.

The first is precisely that of the plausibility of the events narrated. This need stems from my scientific background. The scientist who is still in me claims to provide an explanation for everything around her. So, when I started writing science fiction (Red Desert and the following books), I spontaneously imagined a reality set in the near future that would find a possible confirmation in current scientific knowledge, while taking into account the possible technological evolution in 50 years.

To this is added my professional deformation as a teacher (I used to teach at university a long time ago, and now I do it precisely at Insubria) which pushes me towards an informative intent. I don’t use real science just to tell a plausible story, but also to leave something for the reader.
I love to read books that, in addition to providing fun, teach me something, and these are the books I want to write (it often applies to those in other genres). My intent is to be able to offer knowledge while entertaining, so that this knowledge remains even after reading. On the other hand, my stories are in turn inspired by my readings of novels, essays, and articles, typically scientific ones, as well as by the fruition of audiovisual contents that have in some way expanded my knowledge, as well as entertained me.

Then maybe, when I write, I go and double-check the sources (many of which are reported in a short bibliography) to try to be accurate or at least to avoid writing something that is clearly wrong. I’m not interested in going into overly technical details, but I prefer to give an informative cut, making sure to maintain some plausibility. When I insert scientific details, the purpose is to give a sense of authenticity to the story, but at the same time, I make sure that they are vague enough to avoid running the risk of misusing them within the fiction.
In fact, what I do is mix them with completely fictional ones. The mixture of the two means that often the reader is not able to recognise accurately the boundary between reality and fiction, that is, precisely, between science and science fiction.

These are some of the aspects I talked about in my short speech. However, the entire conference was recorded and will be made available soon. In due course I will inform you through my usual channels (Facebook page and other social media) and I will add the link or, if possible, the video to this article.

Finally, I want to thank Paolo Musso once again for the invitation and all the students, both those who attended the conference and, above all, those in my laboratory. I hope that what they have learned will somehow be useful to them in the future, and maybe that someone one day decides to venture into self-publishing for real!

A new deluxe hardback edition for “Kindred Intentions”

Kindred Intentions”, the English edition of my action thriller “Affinità d’intenti”, was published six years ago. It was a slightly different novel from my previous ones, as it was the result of a sudden idea and a very quick first draft.


It was the end of October 2013 when I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo again. It’s a challenge against yourself to write 50,000 words of a novel between November 1st and November 30th. The year before I had succeeded with “The Mentor” (of course, I mean the original Italian version of it), the first draft of which I had then completed in the following month, starting from an idea that had been in my head since 2010 and that I had had time to elaborate. But in 2013, I didn’t have the faintest idea what to write.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but at a certain point, I imagined the opening scene of “Kindred Intentions”, which starts with a bullet brushing the head of the protagonist. After thinking about it a bit, I was able to identify the end of the story, but I was missing everything in between!

Therefore, I threw myself into writing, following a bit the suggestions of the characters (Amelia Jennings and Mike Connor), who find themselves in a situation of danger after another, with few pauses, many people killed and a lot of black humour.

I completed the first draft on 28 November, that is, in just 28 days. I remember that I was so inspired that I was able to produce about 2000 words in just over an hour, so I didn’t have to work so hard to get to the end. Looking back now, it seems impossible to me. The details of the events unfolded in my mind from one day to the next. And it’s no coincidence that this fast-paced novel unfolds in a span of just 24 hours. It doesn’t leave you the time to think, just as I hardly had any when I wrote it, and therefore it tends to surprise the reader with its twists and turns.


Now, seven years after the Italian publication, I decided to revise this book to propose it in a new edition (the changes concern only the extra texts, not the novel), with a brand-new cover and a new format: hardback.
Being not particularly long and not belonging to any series, it was the best choice to start experimenting with this format.


I took the opportunity to rework the concept behind the original cover, this time using photos. In this regard, I used the shots by Sandro Williams Photography and Aleksey Sokolenko, bringing them together in a new graphic composition.

The result is what you see in the first picture.
The other photos are from the Italian edition in hardback, but the English one is identical, except for the language.

That symbol at the base of the spine is the icon version of my new logo, which will soon appear also on my website, both in this way and in its extended version.

I also added graphic elements inside; in particular, I inserted a small image in the colophon, in the chapter numbers and the drop cap at the beginning of each of them.

My intention was to create a book that was also beautiful to look at as well as to read. And maybe to make it a good gift idea for a thriller enthusiast!

 

The new hardback edition can be purchased for $17/£13/€16 at Amazon and $17 at Barnes & Noble.
As for the e-book, this too was updated to the new edition, both its content and cover, and is always available at major retailers.

The old cover, which I am fond of, since I drew it myself, remains in the first paperback edition from 2015.

Irony, twists and turns, and ancient mysteries in “Saranythia Part 3 - The Secrets of the Margspakr”

We get to the heart of “Saranythia” in this third part of the story. The protagonists begin a journey that will lead them to encounter ancient mysteries, not forgetting to entertain the readers.
The reading flows pleasantly between irony and twists, while the story unfolds on three narrative lines that intertwine with each other.
While in the first two parts we got acquainted with new and old characters and witnessed what brought them to this point in the story, in “The Secrets of the Margspakr” the action moves faster, keeping you glued to the pages, and the various previously introduced elements begin to interact with each other and take on a clear place in the plot.
There is no shortage of moments of hilarity, thanks to the edgy jokes of some characters and, above all, to the gags of the twins Erik and Dag.
As always, Richard J. Galloway manages to merge elements from the fantastic that seem to belong to magic or supernatural with real science, used as an explanation of the same elements. It’s very fascinating how he explains a real physical phenomenon, related to the behaviour of light, and then uses it as the basis for the extraordinary theory of the nature of the universe proposed by one of the characters.
In short, an exciting reading that has one flaw: having to wait for the publication of the next volume to finally know how the story will end!
In the meantime, I asked Richard to introduce the book in his own way and to answer some of my questions.
Here’s what he told me.

 




Time passes. Memories of events fade.
Half remembered history, blurred by embellishment, becomes myth.
More time passes. Generations of people are born and pass on.
Myth becomes diluted, sanitised, and relegated to long ago tales of heroes and kings.
Epic events of the past reduced to half remembered bedtime stories from childhood.  

And so it was with The Margspakr. To some, they were Wisemen from ancient times, advising the hero before battle and healing him afterwards, the basis of stories from their early years.
Others, like the Red Friars of the Saratarian Order, knew who The Margspakr really were, but not what they did. To them, The Margspakr were an unsolved mystery, a secret society who vanished without trace, taking their secrets with them.

For Amantarra, a journey beckons. A trap? That’s a good probability, but as a new player reveals himself, there seems no alternative other than to walk into it. It’s on this journey that they find evidence of The Margspakr, along with some of their secrets.

Stories from Earth hold their own mysteries, which the new player is very interested in. He claims to have explanations for the true origins of ghosts and twisted causality, but how exactly do you win a medal for falling off a beer crate?

With this third part of “Saranythia” we get over the mid-point of the story. At the end of the previous part, a twist had pushed the protagonists to a new course of events, namely to embark on a long journey to visit the Witch of Fossrauf. And it is precisely around the journey that this part of the story develops, which is joined by a couple of fascinating characters: the twins Dag and Erik, unbeatable warriors, but also great talkers.
Did you draw inspiration from something or someone in particular in creating these two characters?

Dag and Erik, yes, they had an interesting evolution which started with their opening argument as to which name should be introduced first. An argument that very quickly descends into farce. This opening salvo was based on the Tweedledee and Tweedledum characters played by Matt Lucas in the 2010 film Alice in Wonderland. So, Dag and Erik are identical twins born into a world where mind reading is the norm. It was obvious to me that they would grow to be two minds as one. They don’t perform well when they are separated, but together, in a fight, they are unbeatable two on two. Similarly, their explanation of why they are coming on the expedition to visit the witch appears almost scripted, with one warrior finishing the other’s sentences as they work towards a common goal.

After immersing ourselves in the medieval context of Setergard (except for some bits of Bruwnan technology), in the third part of “Saranythia”, as your readers can already guess from the cover of the book, our protagonists come across some advanced technologies. One of the most fascinating aspects is the way Pheenar’s characters react to technologies whose functioning is beyond their comprehension. And their reactions are funny, but most of all they seem realistic.
How do you put yourself in their shoes? Does it come spontaneously or do you use any particular tricks to identify with them?

The premise on which the story is based is that to primitive cultures all advanced technology looks like magic, or in the case of the peoples of Pheenar, divine. The Bruwnan technologies to which they are exposed are gifts from their God and not meant to be understood. The visitors from Earth bring new objects to be marvelled at, and as they are not divine, possibly understood. The reactions of the locals to things we take for granted is entirely spontaneous, I’m very good at getting hold of the wrong end of the stick. The humour comes from the complete misunderstanding of what they are being shown. Commander Vartii has a particular fascination with how things work, but he tends get overwhelmed by concepts, seeing things as a whole instead of breaking them up into more understandable component parts. Thus, the ropes, pulleys, and counterweights of a simple lifting platform fill him with awe and wonder. It’s through his eyes I introduce the fact that the people of Pheenar were once more advanced than they are now.

Let’s talk about the Margspakr. This is an Old Norse word, right?
Tell us a little more about its origin and why you decided to give such a name to these figures from the past that appear in the book.

Yes, it is Old Norse. “Margspakr”, this can be broken down into two parts: “Marg” (a shortened version of “Margr”) – meaning many, and “Spakr” – meaning “Wise”, so its literal translation is “Many Wise” or taken as a whole, “Very Wise”. I’ve taken the liberty of applying it to a collective to give the meaning “Wise men”.
Why Old Norse? Well, 16.3% of my DNA is Scandinavian, so I decided to release my inner Viking by basing the society on Pheenar very loosely around Old Norse culture, well the names at least anyway. This decision was clinched by a partially one-sided conversation I had with my dentist on the strange sounding place names we have here in the North East of England. Not being from the region she was curious about their origin and was fascinated to learn, between pauses in the drilling, that they were Norse.
“Fossrauf” is also Old Norse, “Foss” – meaning “Waterfall”, and “Rauf” – meaning “Hole”. So now you know that our intrepid band are travelling to “Waterfall Hole” to visit the Witch. If you’re wondering about “Setergard” it means “Mountain Pasture Farm”.

Lucy in the Sky

The film is inspired by the true story of Lisa Nowak, a former NASA astronaut who was arrested for attacking the girlfriend (also an astronaut) of another astronaut with whom she’d had an affair.



In the film, the protagonist, played by Natalie Portman, is called Lucy Cola, a highly trained astronaut, who thanks to hard work and evident talent is selected for a ten-day mission on board the ISS (International Space Station).

On returning, however, Lucy feels changed. Everyday life on Earth seems to her empty and useless compared to the experience she lived.

Her husband, who works as PR at NASA, is unable to understand the psychological change she has undergone. And so she, who in the meantime continues to train to be able to participate as soon as possible in another mission, befriends Mark Goodwin (played by Jon Hamm, that one from Mad Men), also an astronaut (divorced and with two young daughters), and two other colleagues, finding in them for the first time people who share the same mood. Mark’s friendship, in particular, leads to an affair, in which however she seems more interested than he is.

I can’t tell you more to avoid any spoilers, as the cinematic story, despite having the same ending as the real one, gives its own interpretation to subsequent events.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the film, and I’m pretty surprised that I only found negative reviews on the web. I believe that this is a beautiful psychological analysis of a character offered to the public by exploiting the potential of cinema. In this regard, the director’s choices are quite original. For example, the choice of continuously changing the aspect ratio of the image to contrast the expanded vision (of the cinema screen) of being in space, or even just of living situations that bring back the thought to that experience, to the 4:3 of TV used to narrate that silly everyday life in which Lucy can no longer find her own dimension.

But what is particularly beautiful is Lucy and the way Portman portrayed her.

I felt a lot of empathy towards her. Although her behaviour in the end was obviously exaggerated (and in any case it does not seem to correspond to the real facts), I could understand the exasperation she felt in feeling alone and betrayed as a woman in a world of men who accuse her of being “too much emotional” (even if in her work she is precise and cold as none of them know how to be), in having lost everything that mattered to her (returning to space and a family person very dear to her).

I believe that anyone who has had great disappointments in life (in the private or professional domain) can understand the state of mind of those who, having reached the apex of something, feel ill-suited to returning to “normality”, as if they feel like an alien trapped in a monotonous and insignificant world.

In short, I loved it.
If psychological dramas with an astronautical background appeal to you, I suggest you watch it.

Angels Flight - Michael Connelly

**** A formidable and very human detective, who however revels in his own misfortunes


Harry Bosch is undoubtedly one of the best literary detectives I have ever come across. Since the first book of this series, “The Black Echo”, I immediately found myself in tune with him, with his tearing apart the rules to find the culprit, with his weaknesses and his sad past. What makes these novels by Connelly real crime thrillers is the way in which the protagonist is personally involved in the cases he works in, so much so that the cases themselves are a tool of conflict that contributes to the evolution of the character. The problem arises, however, when the series gets longer and, in order to continue to have a protagonist who takes some personal demons with him (i.e. a flawed hero), every time that in a novel his life seems to take a positive turn, in the next one, what he got has to fall apart.

It was what I feared would happen in “Angels Flight”, which is why after I finished reading “Trunk Music”, featuring a happy ending, I hesitated for years before going on. Unfortunately, I had already bought the book; otherwise, I would have stopped at the previous one.

Obviously, my bad feeling has come true.

In “Angels Flight”, we see Bosch dealing with a murder that took place on the Angels Flight funicular. The victim is a black lawyer who is famous for cases against the police.

As always, Connelly expertly mixes fictional events and characters with real ones, giving us a realistic picture of social tension in Los Angeles in the late 1990s. What I particularly appreciate about this author is precisely the care he puts into detail, a sign of in-depth research work and a remarkable understanding of the subject. In this credible context, our Bosch moves, navigating among the press, colleagues who get in the way, intolerance towards the rules and the people who are under investigations. He does it as always with wit, following the evidence and his own intuition, and also risking his neck.

In this novel in particular, investigations lead him to discover inconvenient and unspeakable truths, which tend to lead him astray. The culprit will eventually turn up. I admit that I had guessed their identity simply by ruling out the others. But here the author adds a master stroke, giving us an unexpected and dramatic ending, and at the same time a perfect one.

What I didn’t like about this book, however, concerns the personal sphere relating to Bosch. As I imagined, the balance and happiness he finally achieved unexpectedly (and perhaps too easily) in the previous book are immediately shattered, and eventually he finds himself back to where he started. His character undergoes an involution whose purpose is to make sure he is the same flawed hero in later novels (which I have no intention of reading).

In particular, I did not appreciate the evanescence of an important character like Eleanor Wish, who in the first book of the series was crucial in defining Bosch in the eyes of readers, but who both in “Hard Music” and “The Spider” looks more like a soulless puppet, whose purpose is to bring him up and then make him fall again (poor Bosch!). It’s a shame, because I liked Eleanor, and she deserved a lot more substance.


Angels Flight at Amazon.

The Prometheus Deception - Robert Ludlum

***** Prophetic

I really like Ludlum’s books, although I realize how the author often reuses the same types of characters (especially the protagonist, who, in the end, is always the same) and the same themes. He has the ability, however, to readjust them to situations, settings, and plots that manage to maintain a certain amount of originality. In particular, I am fascinated by his older works, precisely because they show a present that is very different from the current one and in which a spy’s (or similar figure) life was made a little easier by the fact that technology did not permeate every aspect of reality.

“The Prometheus Deception”, on the other hand, is one of Ludlum’s last books (the penultimate, if I’m not mistaken), in fact, it is from 2000, so while reading it, you find yourself inside a more familiar reality. This is even more true thanks to the author’s ability to imagine invasive privacy technologies that, unfortunately, have largely become reality. The incredible thing is that he wrote about it before the 11/9 attack happened, but at times you get the impression that he had the chance to peek into the future to get inspiration.

To tell the truth, I guess Ludlum didn’t really believe that what happens in his book had a chance to come true. His was obviously a creative endeavour. Often a writer shows extreme scenarios just for the sake of trying to imagine the consequences and to create a conflict where throwing their characters almost in jeopardy, to see how they cope. In doing so, however, he was nothing short of prophetic.

Sure, it’s a long book with a truly complex plot, unfolding through a series of characters’ turnarounds and twists around every corner. On the other hand, the word “deception” in the title gives you a hint about that. You have to be patient and go all the way to be able to put all the threads together. When there are a few pages to go, it really seems all lost for the protagonists, but even then, there will be a nice twist, which will change everything, again.


The Prometheus Deception at Amazon.

New year, new resolutions: 2022

We’ve come to the end of a year again almost without realising it, right?

I must say that this 2021 has been very peculiar for me in various respects. My publishing activity is certainly one of them. At the end of 2020, in fact, I had decided to not write anything new for at least a year, since I had no more pending projects and, above all, I didn’t want to. And it certainly was very easy to follow this up!

 

I must say that from time to time over the months, even recently, the thought of telling some new story entered my mind, but the idea of going through the writing process and the prolonged commitment that it requires made me run away from such a thought. There were other things I wanted to do, although no less demanding in terms of time spent, but certainly lighter and more pleasant on a mental level (at least for me).
Creating an invented reality is exhilarating, but the unknown factor that must be faced every day in pulling something out of nowhere that is interesting and that works, and that maybe entertains those who read it, can be exhausting and anxiety-inducing. Instead, when it comes to return to what has already been created and defined (so there is no longer that unknown factor) and propose it again in another form that allows it to reach a wider audience, at least in theory, everything becomes more measurable and controllable, and therefore relaxing, despite the hours of work dedicated to it every day.

I’m talking about translations.


If you look at my resolutions for 2021, you will see that they included the translation in English of the two remaining books in the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy.
Well, I did it! And I managed to do it within the schedule I set over the course of the year.
I completed the translation of “Sindrome” (Syndrome) by May and that of “Oltre il limite” (Beyond the Limit) by November. At the moment, the second book of the trilogy, after being edited, is in the hands of my proofreader, while I have just sent the third to my editor.

 

It was a long job, and I was struggling to see the end of it. And it was made even more difficult by the knowledge that the text I was working on would become a published book in a fairly distant future (more on that later) and, as always, with uncertain results. All long-term commitments require perseverance and discipline, and carrying this out for 12 months (starting December 2020), without having a minimum of short-term gratification, wasn’t easy.
On the other hand, however, the process of transforming my novels from their original form in Italian to that translated into the language spoken in the place where they are set (London), and “hearing” the characters speaking in that same language, was exciting at times.

 

To do it in the best way, during these 12 months, I only read novels in British English (I have started reading in Italian again a couple of weeks ago), I watched almost exclusively TV series and films in this language; in a nutshell, I tried to create a sort of full immersion for what concerned fiction in general. And I liked it, of course I liked it. If it were up to me, I would spend all my time studying and practicing foreign languages (not just English), because I enjoy it so much. Maybe I prefer to do it without deadlines, but I fear that the latter are essential if you want to translate books!

 

In short, I achieved two resolutions from those listed a year ago.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I did for the others.

 

I partially managed not to get stressed out, at least in certain periods, but then I realised that, if I hadn’t at least set deadlines, I wouldn’t have been able to translate the two aforementioned books. And with deadlines, inevitably a bit of stress arrived. However, in the last few months I managed to slow down and this December, despite some unexpected events (including my main PC that made a short stay in assistance), I managed my work in a way closer to the goals that I’d set regarding my personal well-being.

As I said a year ago, it makes no sense for me to concentrate completely, even on an emotional level, on my publishing activity, if in the end it doesn’t make me feel good. And I have every intention of staying true to this principle in 2022 as well. However, I realise that it is a gradual process that requires a certain organisation and the ability to distinguish, among the possible goals I intend to achieve, those that really matter and that have a minimal chance of being achieved, even if a remote one (where there’s a will there’s a way!).
Unfortunately, you cannot do everything. If I had to listen to all the ideas that come up in my head and all the projects that tickle my creativity, I would end up paralysed in the face of the impossibility of pursuing them all. It would take maybe ten lifetimes, if not more, to do it.
On the other hand, putting off indefinitely those few that I really care about, waiting to find the time and the means to dedicate myself to them in the best possible way, means never getting to do that. So, I might as well decide once and for all to program them and start working on them. If at the end of each of them I don’t achieve the desired results, it doesn’t matter. It means that I have tried and then I’ll be ready to devote myself to the next project, with no regrets.

 

Another purpose that I have only half completed is to continue to write on my blog dedicated to self-publishing on Medium, i.e. Self-Publishing Lab (it’s in Italian). I did it until June, then I started a holiday period that isn’t over yet.
The reason is simple: I didn’t know what to invent anymore.
Obviously I could have written about one of the thousand existing topics on self-publishing that everyone is talking about, but this was not the purpose of the blog. My intention was to create a virtual place in which I could offer a different, original point of view, and useful and applicable suggestions for one’s publishing activity that no one talks about, at least on the Italian market, precisely because they are roads less travelled. But, in order to do this, it’s necessary to experience firsthand what you want to talk about.

The translation of the books in the trilogy, especially of the third (about 120k words), didn’t leave me enough time to further deepen my preparation on publishing marketing, much less to put this in-depth study into practice. I decided to give priority to the completion of the translation, completely putting aside any other promotional activity both on the Italian and foreign markets, except, at least until November, Facebook Ads (which are now paused, too).
Managing multiple things together and taking care of myself at the sale time just wasn’t sustainable.
And for what concerns avoiding stress, I realised that an effective way to do it is stop trying to carry out multiple projects at the same time, risking to do it in an approximate way and dragging them for long periods, and instead try to dedicate myself to one of them at a time, but finishing each one more quickly.

However, the blog won’t be abandoned forever. As soon as I have something else to say, I will add new articles. But I must, first of all, update for the umpteenth time the bookSelf-publishing lab. Il mestiere dell’autoeditore” (again, in Italian), of which the blog can be considered a companion, with the news relating to the self-publishing market that have accumulated since last July.
Also, I would like to leverage the blog content in a creative way (i.e. recycle it), so that it can reach more people. I have some ideas on how to do this (including something for the English-speaking market), but I will only talk about them if and when I decide to put them into practice.

 

In general, however, I believe that I must somehow carry on the didactic aspect related to self-publishing, because it’s evident that there’s a need to learn by those who approach this publishing model. Proof of this is the fact that, despite having paused all the advertisements and, in fact, the same blog on the subject, “Self-publishing lab. Il mestiere dell’autoeditore” continues to be purchased spontaneously and, apparently (from the messages I receive), appreciated by those who buy it.
Moreover, I continue to do so with the university workshop that I teach every autumn at the University of Insubria (Laboratory of self-publishing in multimedia systems). Unfortunately, this year too it was taught remotely, but reached a new frequency record, although I have put a tighter limit on registrations than in 2020.
As usual, the students proposed some truly original publishing projects (see picture above). Some of them are really thinking of turning what was just a simulation into a real publishing product, while just recently I learned that a student of mine from last year self-produced his first book and is carrying out very interesting offline promotional activities with excellent local feedback.
I obviously hope that in 2022 I’ll be able to physically return to Varese and teach the workshop to the students in person again. We’ll see.

 

Then there are two more resolutions not completely fulfilled.

 

One is about exploring new possibilities to exploit the rights of my books. And to tell the truth I did some research on it, especially with regard to audiobooks. It’s an aspect that I would like to investigate, but I realise that it requires investments, and having to invest money in it implies making a commitment to have an adequate economic return. All this is possible only if there is a very specific publishing and above all promotional project behind it, which I don’t have the time or energy to deal with at the moment.
On the other hand, as regards other types of exploitation of my rights, I postponed any investigation entirely to 2022.

 

The last resolution was to improve my image on the web.
Last January I changed a bit my Italian blog. Although it isn’t mobile friendly, I have improved its usability on smaller screens by increasing the size of the texts and icons.
Then I found suitable templates for my main (static) site. I really like one in particular. But then I didn’t go on and, as I turned around, the year was already ending!
I’m aware that updating my sites is the first fundamental step to take. If I intend to improve my activity on the web in such a way as to increase the organic traffic on my sites, I have to create a welcoming and functional virtual place, but at the same time I don’t want it to appear the same as a thousand others, at least for those who have the ability to view it on larger screens.

 

So, summing up, this 2021 didn’t go too badly. And this is even more true if I add that there is another activity to which I have dedicated myself during the year: I have translated into Italian the new book by Richard J. Galloway, “Saranythia Part 3. The secrets of the Margspakr” (which is already available in English).
I completed the first draft in early December and am now editing the text. Some beta readers from my publishing team will work on it in January. And I believe the book will be published in February!

 

What else have I done this year?


I attended two MOOCs (massive open online courses) on FutureLearn. Few, to tell the truth. But it wasn’t for lack of time or desire. Rather, I think I’ve already attended almost every course that interested me in this platform, so I’m having a hard time finding more. However, there are some still in my wishlist and I’m waiting for them to be re-started. Indeed, one will start in late January.

 

I had a nice holiday in the La Maddalena Archipelago last July (see picture above), but above all, after 24 months, in November I finally left Sardinia again to go to Turin to see the ATP Finals! (And I was even lucky enough to see a match with Djokovic. The photo below was taken by me.)

I must say that, even if I have always liked tennis, this year, thanks to the presence at high levels of several Italian players (in particular Berrettini and Sinner), I’m really passionate about it. Someone (?) calls me a tennis addict! I think it’s not bad at all as an addiction and I’m glad I have it. What do you think about it?



Moreover, since I was in Turin, I was a bit of a tourist and went to visit some places I hadn’t yet been to in my previous stays, such as the Basilica of Superga, the Royal Museums and the Palace of Venaria, and in particular the Mufant (it’s a science fiction and fantasy museum). Yes, I know, for an Italian science fiction enthusiast it was a serious lack, which I finally remedied (see picture below).

Well, after chatting for a long time about the things I’ve done and the things I haven’t done, it’s time to talk about resolutions for the year that is about to begin.



To tell the truth there is only one, which can undoubtedly be called my primary goal of 2022: complete the preparation of the English version of the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy. And by this I mean:

1) prepare all editions, i.e. ebook, paperback and perhaps also hardback (to be evaluated). I’d also like to produce an audiobook edition, but it’s an investment that requires further thought;

2) study a marketing plan for the launch and promotion over time of the trilogy on the English-speaking market;

3) schedule publication. In 2022 (perhaps in November) I’ll publish at most one, i.e. the new translation of “Il mentore” (The Mentor). The other two will follow approximately three months apart in 2023. The actual timing of publication depends on the previous point (without a marketing plan it makes no sense to publish). Also, I would like to write, and translate, a short prequel (a novella, of which I have already a title and an outline for years) to be used for promotional purposes, but I still don’t know if I have any desire (!) and time to write it, and then translate it. We’ll see.

 

Everything else, including the things I told you about in this article (and more that I keep to myself for now), will come later.
Hopefully, at the end of 2022 I will draw conclusions again here on the blog.

 

For now, however, I’ll stop, also because this post has become very long. In fact, I just don’t know how you got to read this far!

As always, I want to thank all of you, my family and all relatives, friends, readers, colleagues, collaborators… am I forgetting someone?
Thank you very much for your appreciation and support.

 

If you want, let me know what your 2022 resolutions are.
Meanwhile, I wish you all a good ending and, above all, an even better start of the year!

The Dark Circle - Linda Grant

**** The circle of former TB patients

This book by Linda Grant, whom I had already quite appreciated in “Upstairs at the Party”, transports the reader to a British sanatorium in the 1950s where tuberculosis patients were kept, or perhaps the most correct word is segregated. The story takes place at a time when streptomycin had already been discovered, but had not yet arrived in the UK, so the characters live in the hope that they can be cured sooner or later and not end up like all their predecessors.
The story specifically follows two teenage London twins, Lenny and Miriam, who are sent to a sanatorium in Kent by the British National Health System. Here they live with people from a very different social background, but the disease that unites all of them smooths out the differences and allows the creation of very close relationships.
The author uses tones that are sometimes light in telling the stories of the protagonists, but alongside this she describes the painful, cruel and useless treatments, as well as the psychological abuse, to which all patients are subjected. The contrast between the two leaves its mark as you read, as you go from laughter to horror, anger and sadness, and makes you mull over when you close the book.
The characters come out of the pages and their banal daily vicissitudes, in the way they are shown to us by the author, become almost compelling, as well as one is shocked to enter the sick mind of the doctor who is supposed to cure them.
For me it was also an opportunity to learn more about the historical period in relation to the clumsy attempts to treat tuberculosis, before effective and definitive cures were available.
I didn’t put the fifth star on because of the bittersweet ending. Perhaps it was difficult to come up with a better one, given the story, but, as happened with the other book by the author that I read, I had the distinct impression that there was a drop in tension and excessive dragging into the final part of the book.


The Dark Circle on Amazon.

Blue Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson

 

*** A look into the future, but without a plot

It was really difficult for me to finish reading this book. If I hadn’t purchased the print edition, I probably wouldn’t have gone beyond the first 30-50 pages. Yet I had read the previous ones, “Red Mars” and “Green Mars”, and thought I was prepared.
Well, I was wrong.
“Red Mars” actually had a nice, intriguing storyline, starting with a murder and then taking us back to make up what had happened. It was full of pure scientific speculation in the field of astronautics and the colonisation of Mars. Sure, those parts were long, but they were well balanced with the events narrated, and since I found them interesting, their reading had gone smoothly. Less interesting were those related to psychological topics, which in fact I’m not at all ashamed to say I skipped. However, despite everything, it had a plot that, for better or worse, developed throughout the novel. There was a bit of intrigue, even suspense, which made me want to keep reading to find out what happened next (or what had happened before). Although I did not appreciate the ending, I had no doubts that I had read a novel with all the elements necessary to be defined as such.
With “Green Mars”, things got more difficult. The author focused more on the individual stories, one by one, which tended to end when I began to get attached to the characters. The minor appreciation I had in reading this book led me to delay reading the last of the trilogy for several years. I only started reading it because I already had it and it seemed only right to get to the end of the story.
What I would not have expected was the absence of a real story.
“Blue Mars” is Robinson’s attempt to imagine the future of humanity’s conquest of space, starting from Mars and then going beyond. World building is, in fact, exceptional and represents the reason why I decided to give the book three stars, instead of the two that better reflect my feelings.
Robinson certainly did some huge research to write it. And he shows an immense fantasy. I can only bow to these two aspects.
Moreover, with his beautiful prose, he describes a terraformed Mars that is certainly fascinating.
But he forgot that he was writing a novel, which, as such, needs a plot, in which the characters must have a purpose to achieve, conflicts to deal with and a growth of some kind, and above all that the reader expects a story arc.
But there was none of this.
Each part is narrated from the point of view of a character, but in fact, nothing or at least nothing relevant happens. We continue to move forward in the decades and to pass from one telling to another of political developments and the description of places. Through numerous long pages, full of reports, everything is told and almost nothing is shown. The few real scenes, that is, those in which the characters interact or even speak to each other, add nothing to the narrative, since there really isn’t one. The characters are in fact just a side element.
The reason it took me over four months to read this book is that it bored me terribly.
And, when I was not bored, I felt a sense of sadness for the glimpses of existence (often depressing) of the characters that the author threw there, from time to time, to avoid turning the book into a speculative essay on the future.


Blue Mars on Amazon.