New year, new resolutions: 2023

This thing of reviewing the year that just passed is getting a little stressful. Could it be because the further we go on the more it seems that twelve months go by in a flash?
Okay, kidding!
It’s not that stressful. On the contrary, it’s actually useful for me to collect my ideas, realising that deep down (very deep down) I did something again this year and therefore giving myself a virtual pat on the back, thanks to which it’s easier for me to continue to carry on my many resolutions.
Then, thinking about it, this 2022 seemed a little longer than the previous ones. Just a wee bit, huh! Without exaggerating.

But let us leave these pseudo-philosophical (?) considerations aside and return to the facts. You may be wondering whether or not I managed to complete the resolutions I declared a year ago.

To tell the truth, I made this task quite simple, since I had only one resolution, that is to complete the preparation of the English version of the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy.

Well, the first book in the series, “TheMentor”, was released on 30 November. The editions of the second, “Syndrome”, are all ready and the book is already available for pre-order. It will be published on 28 February 2023. Some editions of the third, “Beyond the Limit”, are also ready and available for pre-order. I still have to finish preparing the print ones, but there is no particular hurry, since the publication date is 31 May 2023.
So I can say that, as regards the preparation of the books and their publication, I have respected my intentions. Yay!

On the promotion front, however, I’m a bit behind.
In an ideal world, I should have had all the editions ready and available for pre-order as early as August, so that I could use the following three months to arrange the promotion and arrive prepared for the release of the first book.

Of course, we don’t live in an ideal world.
In reality, I only received the manuscript of the last book from my English proof-reader in May. I worked hard to complete the corrections and finally, after the umpteenth re-reading (also of the previous books), I found myself with the final version of the text.
And then summer arrived, with so many things to do (like going in holidays) and at the same time a lot of translation work to do.


Moreover, I started updating all the e-book editions of my books, in order to have a single epub version, with all the latest information inside, including all the necessary links (some didn’t work anymore). It was a job I had been carrying out since the beginning of the year and in some cases I also had to update the print versions.

Then, in May, I started experimenting with the possibility of making hardcover editions, so that I was prepared for when I would have to use this format with the English trilogy.
The object of my experiment was “Affinità d’intenti” (Italian book), which, being my shortest novel, allowed me to create a version in this format at an acceptable printing and list price.
For the occasion, I made a brand new cover based on the concept of the old one, but this time using photos. In particular, I used two shots by a Dutch photographer who lives in Sicily. This new cover has also become the official one for the e-book.

By the way, for the occasion, I created my new logo, which for now you can only see in the site icon on your browser and in a few other real (including the aforementioned hardcover edition) or virtual (like my YouTube channel) places.

The next step was adapting the cover also to the English edition, “Kindred Intentions, both for the e-book and for the hardcover version. I also used it to create a second paperback edition, which is distributed via Ingram.
You can find out more about this edition and see some photos of the Italian one in the article you can find at this link.

The point is, in August I found myself with only the manuscripts of the trilogy in English in my hands and some ideas for adapting their covers (starting from their Italian version).
Since, in order to do things, you also need to know what you have to do, I sat down in front of a blank sheet (actually, a OneNote page) and drew up a detailed list of everything I should do to preparing books for publication and promoting them. Some entries then gave rise to new adjoining lists, until I finally got a real plan, which is still in progress.

At that point it was already September and I had to prepare my “Self-publishing laboratory” (a workshop) and a lecture for “Scienza & Fantascienza” (Science & Science Fiction), which I would then give in October.
At the beginning of October I finally returned to Varese to personally teach the workshop at the University of Insubria, after three years. How nice it was to be able to look students in the eye again!

(The first photo was taken in Varese, and you can see me together with Sara Simoni, a former student of my laboratory and now a fellow author.)

And two weeks later, I attended the conference, albeit remotely, since it was not possible to organise it during my short stay in Lombardy.
I have dedicated a separate article to the workshop and the conference that, if you wish, you can read at this link.

All this talk was to say that, basically, I turned around, and it was already November. And I was supposed to publish the first book within a month. Argh!
At that point, I really had to work hard.
Just think that the book has only one e-book version, but five different paper editions, each with a slightly different cover (two in the hardcover version and three in the paperback version). This is due to the fact that I have used multiple platforms to ensure that the book gets the widest possible distribution. It’s just that each platform has slightly different templates even for books in the same size.
In short, a long work!
But I’m glad I did it, because the covers came out really well. Check them out on the English trilogy mini website at this link.

However, all of this meant that I could only start promoting seriously after the release of “The Mentor”, so three months later, compared to the original plan.
Fortunately, self-produced books never expire.
So my main occupation at the moment is planning promotions and testing advertising platforms. I hope to see the first outcomes of all this work before the publication of the second book, in order to have a good domino effect on the third.
At the same time, I’m exploring other possibilities to exploit my rights, but I don’t want to go into details now. I’ll tell you more about it in the future if I see any opportunities materialise.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t mention any prequel to the trilogy (“La prova”, which in English would be “Evidence”). Well, as I feared, I didn’t have the time to deal with it at all. Not that I really wanted to write it, mind you, but even if I had fancied it a little, it wouldn’t have been of any use.
I have not completely ruled out the possibility of writing it in the near future, also because I always have the outline of the book ready in the drawer (it is literally in a handwritten sheet stored in a drawer), but if I just want to think of doing that, I must first complete the work started with the trilogy. We will see!

On the positive side, of the many entries on those lists that I mentioned earlier, at least half have been crossed out, which means I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I swear you I can hardly believe it!

It must also be said, however, that I didn’t spend twelve months always working in front of the PC. Apart from the fact that obviously in the summer, I spent a lot of time by the sea (and here the summer lasts from May to October), in July I went in holidays away from Sardinia (it was about time!) and, incredibly, I set foot abroad, even if only for a few hours.

I spent a wonderful week in South Tyrol, in particular in Puster Valley, from which I made a dutiful stop in Austria.

(The adjacent photo was taken on the cable car that connects Valdaora to the top of Plan de Corones, in the one below you can recognize the Three Peaks of Lavaredo taken from the observation point near Dobbiaco.)

The word wonderful, however, is absolutely reductive in describing how well I was during this holiday. You should know that I stayed there for a long time with my parents for the first time when I was still little more than a child (we are talking about more than three decades ago), in a small village called Villabassa (Niederdorf). I went there again in the mid-90s and then not anymore until last July. I was in South Tyrol again in the 2000s: once in 2001 for two days in Bressanone (to attend a concert) and then a few days in 2007 in Val Gardena, where Cagliari (the football team) was in retreat.

Well, when I set foot there again after a long time, I was delighted to discover that Villabassa hasn’t changed at all. After thoses decades, I remembered everything, I recognised every street (it’s not exactly a metropolis!) and I felt again that great feeling of peace that only the mountain can give you, combined in this case with pleasant reminiscences of a time of my life which was certainly much more carefree than the present.
We had been there for less than a day when my partner and I said to each other: we have to come back!
And I really think we will.

And if you’re curious to know how I spent the remaining time of 2022, in addition to the time spent dealing with my publishing business, translations, my beach life, and my holidays in the mountains, well, I spent it watching lots of tennis!
Eh, yes, it seems that this addiction of mine, which I already mentioned a year ago, continues. But on the other hand, if you have by chance kept an eye on my Facebook page or my Twitter profile or my Instagram stories, you were certainly already aware of it.
On the contrary, this December of abstinence (!) was quite hard. However, I consoled myself with figure skating (!!) and, obviously, with football, even if Cagliari has been making us suffer a bit in recent years.

Furthermore, there was no shortage of good films and especially good TV series to surround everything, with the addition of some good books, even if not many (lately I’ve been reading very little).

And finally, not content with the need to use English more and more, I decided to freshen up my German, now limping after years of little use, even in translations. I’ve been getting back to it little by little since last spring, without much haste. I’d like to bring it back at least to the level it was about ten years ago, to be able to exploit it more in my job as translator (and not only, as I did in July, to eavesdrop undisturbed the conversations between the hotel owner and German-speaking customers during my stay in South Tyrol).
Since I’m here, it wouldn’t hurt if I did the same with French, too.

Am I forgetting anything?
Ah yes, also this year I attended some MOOCs (massive open online courses) on FutureLearn: three in all. I find it more and more difficult to find something interesting that I haven’t already attended, but I don’t give up and keep looking.


Okay, let’s say that the report of the year that is about to end, albeit a bit chaotic, can be defined as complete. Now only the last part remains: setting resolutions for next year.

And this time too I intend to limit myself to the essentials.

1)      Finishing preparing and publishing the English edition of the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy. And being able to get as much as possible from the promotion, without however feeling too much disappointed if I can’t reach as many readers as I would like.
I admit that for me it is already a success to be able to publish it, after all the work done to translate it. Once it’s there for the English-speaking public, I’ll have something tangible to work with to make the most of its rights.

2)      Finishing updating all my sites to be mobile friendly and introducing new graphics, with my new logo. I had already started doing this in 2021. Then, during 2022, I created mini websites for the English editions of my books (including the trilogy and Red Desert). Now I have to convert the main one both in Italian (Anakina.net) and in English (Anakina.Eu) and the Italian one dedicated to the Aurora Saga (or maybe I’ll call it Aurora Chronicles).
I should also take a new official photo, since the one I use now is more than eight years old.

3)      Doing more physical activity. I really want to take this as a serious commitment.

If all goes as expected, I should complete the first two resolutions in less than a year, considering that they are both underway. This means that there will be time for more, but I absolutely don’t want to make plans about it.
In fact, one of my greatest wishes is completing everything, really everything, that I’m doing and finding myself one day with zero projects started. And at that point deciding, based on how I feel at that moment, which will be the next one to dedicate myself to.


Will it happen in 2023?
We’ll see and, hopefully, in a year’s time I’ll tell you all about it.


That’s all for this year, too.
As usual, I close by thanking all of you who follow me: family, friends, readers, colleagues, and collaborators.
Heartfelt thanks for the support you give me.

If you want, tell me in the comments of this article, or of the social networks where I’m sharing it, how your 2022 went and what you intend to do in 2023.
Have a good end and a good beginning!

Detective Shaw’s London: old New Scotland Yard

In common use the term Scotland Yard is another way to define the Metropolitan Police of London, also called Met, which has jurisdiction over the area called Greater London (excluding the City, which has its own police), but it actually means the building where it is based, the full name of which is New Scotland Yard, often referred to simply as the Yard. This denomination originates from the address of the first police headquarters in Great Scotland Yard (1829), although the main entrance was at 4 Whitehall, and followed the moves first to Victoria Embankment (1890), with the addition of the adjective “New”, then to Broadway (1967) and finally again to Victoria Embankment (from 2016).

In the previous headquarters of the London police there was the famous rotating sign (see images), which had become a real tourist attraction (in fact I too could not resist the temptation to take a picture in front of it in the 2011). But the building at 10 Broadway was abandoned by the Metropolitan Police in late 2016. It had, in fact, already been sold since 2014 to the Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG), although it was still in use. As part of a real estate redevelopment for the police force, the headquarters was relocated, along with its rotating sign, to the Curtis Green Building (again on Victoria Embankment) after it underwent a refurbishment.

You have no idea how many problems these latest developments, whose timing was far from certain, created me during the writing of “Syndrome”, until its publication, which took place in 2016, and during the writing of the last book in the trilogy, “Beyond the Limit”, published in 2017.

Having to write books set a few months after they were written, I found myself having to guess about the future.

The Mentor” luckily was published before the Broadway building was sold, but for “Syndrome”, I was forced to sift through the news on the internet to figure out when the move to Curtis Green would take place. Needless to say, the information was scarce and often contradictory. Once I established that it would not take place before June 2016, I limited myself to mentioning the imminent move in the novel. For the next one, however, the matter became more complicated.

Beyond the Limit” is set at the end of May 2017. In theory, the transfer should have been finished by then, but I wasn’t at all certain of this in November and December 2016, when I wrote the first draft. I was forced to choose to show that my characters were already in the new location, then just before the book’s publication, I had to make sure it was the truth and possibly prepare to edit some passages of the text.

Then there was a second problem. The old New Scotland Yard housed one of the three forensic science laboratories of the Metropolitan Police, which is the one where Detective Shaw’s team works in my trilogy. Considering that the Curtis Green is a smaller building (the picture is an illustration showing its expected look after the refurbishment), that the police were looking to cut costs, and that the refurbishment of the laboratory located in Lambeth was among their projects, I really had no idea if the place of work of my characters would be moved to the new headquarters or elsewhere or merged with another laboratory. Having found no further information on this, before working on the book, I had to pick one option and stick with it. The easiest thing was to talk about a simple move to the Curtis Green Building. If that were the truth, fine. Otherwise, it would have become just another of the many artistic licences I took while creating this story!

But let’s go back to the old location, the one on Broadway.

It also included the Crime Museum, also known as the Black Museum, which contained, among the various exhibits, some letters presumably written by Jack the Ripper. This was moved to the Curtis Green Building. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public; only police officers from all over the UK can visit it by appointment.


The area where the old New Scotland Yard was located is nevertheless very interesting from a tourist point of view. It is practically midway between Westminster Abbey, which is a stone’s throw from the Parliament, and the Westminster Cathedral (the latter is Catholic), connected by busy Victoria Street. The nearest Tube station is St James’s Park (which is mentioned in “
The Mentor”), on Broadway itself and near the park of the same name.

I honestly have no idea what the inside of the old New Scotland Yard looked like. In describing the forensic science lab in “The Mentor” and “Syndrome”, I relied on my imagination, but during my latest search, I found a Daily Mail article showing old photos of the inside of the building dating back to 1967, when the police moved in. You can find them at this link. They are truly images from other times that depict archives full of paper, huge switchboards, enormous maps, and automatic teletypewriters, which at the time were the state-of-art of technology.

Who knows how it had become in more recent times. Perhaps somewhere there was a state-of-the-art computer (or maybe a futuristic one!) and a nerdy forensic investigator, like Martin Stern, walking around the department in a Darth Vader t-shirt. Or there was the office of a detective chief inspector, like Eric Shaw, with a semi-transparent door through which he peered at a young colleague, like Adele Pennington. Or perhaps there was a meeting room, with a table, a screen and many chairs, where together with the detective of a Murder Investigation Team, like Miriam Leroux, everyone discussed clues and physical evidence to find out the identity of the killer.

I don’t know if there was any of this, but I still like to think so.

“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!