New year, new resolutions: 2018

As usual, at the end of December I find myself taking stock of the year that is coming to an end and setting goals for the next one.
Writing this article was relatively easy in the past years, as many of the projects I would undertake depended on factors under my complete control. One year ago, however, I had to limit my resolutions, as I didn’t know if some things that were at stake would have come to completion and therefore I wasn’t able to plan anything specific after the month of May. Now for 2018 it’s going to be even more complicated due to some pending matters, one of which ended just at the beginning of December, and then in the next few months maybe I will be able to understand a little better in which direction I should address my efforts. However, there are some fixed points: some resolutions on which I have clear ideas.

But let’s go by order, starting with the resolutions expressed a year ago that I managed to complete:
- I completed “Beyond the Limit” (the final book of the Detective Eric Shaw trilogy), I did the editing of the book and I published it on May 21 in Italian;
- I stopped for about a month after the completion of the first draft of this book, but I cannot say that I fully recharged my batteries, because I was quite taken by family and even health issues (I became allergic to mites);
- I tried to commit myself to promote the Detective Eric Shaw trilogy by means of offline events, starting with a book signing in Carbonia (Italy) a few days after the release of the last book. It was a very entertaining event and many people attended it. Unfortunately, no more events followed, even though I received several proposals, because due to organizational reasons, and/or due to lack of time on my side, it wasn’t possible to do them. But I trust that it will happen in the future;
- I devoted some time to FantascientifiCast (Italian podcast about science fiction), even if only in the first part of the year. In the second part it wasn’t possible simply because I didn’t watch any new science fiction series on TV and I saw very few new science fiction films. Moreover I mostly read old science fiction books. Fortunately, the second season of “Westworld” and “Mars” will be released in 2018, so I’ll probably come back to the podcast;
- I read about 52 books (I say about, because I’m writing this article well in advance, but I’m confident of reaching that number by 31 December);
- until to September I managed to schedule in advance the posts for this blog (and also for the Italian one), then I actually let it go (except for this post), because at the moment this isn’t a priority. I have a series of articles in progress (in Italian) and I have to write several reviews of books that I read, but beside this I’m going to write on my blog only when I feel I have something interesting to say, without trying to do it as a duty;
- I think I managed to plan my working time a little better. I enjoyed last summer, thanks to the particularly stable climate here in Sardinia. I also had a nice trip (a cruise to Denmark and Norway). In autumn I was able to dedicate to some interesting things (I’m writing about it later in this article) and to resume a certain work pace, after a long pause from writing that I really needed;
- finally I took stock of my first five years as a self-publisher. This is obviously a positive evaluation, but at the same time it is accompanied by the awareness that many things have changed in the publishing market and this requires the development of new approaches.

What wasn’t I able to do?
Unfortunately in 2017 I couldn’t repeat the experience of the class I taught in Varese, but I already knew that there was a risk of skipping at least one year. Hopefully I’ll do that again in 2018.
Moreover I haven’t written so much, but this was my choice. I started writing again, very slowly, in November, knowing that I have to increase my pace on January.

What else did I do or happened to me in 2017?
First of all I found an agent to manage the translation rights of some of my books, in particular of the Detective Eric Shaw trilogy. I came to this person after almost one year and a half of seeking representation, during which I discussed with other agents about a possible collaboration without being able to find the right agreement. Working with her took me some time to prepare the material she needed. In fact, this person does not speak Italian and has therefore no way to read some of the books she is representing, at least until they are translated into English. This forced me to write very detailed synopses for her. And I hate writing synopsis!
We are still at the beginning of our working relationship and I don’t have big illusions about it, but it represents a first step towards my search for new ways to reach more readers in markets where I might never otherwise arrive.

The second important event, which is also the most recent (it happened at the beginning of December), was the reversion of the English translation rights of “The Mentor” (first book in the Detective Shaw trilogy) by Amazon Publishing.
This suddenly put me in front of new choices and potential opportunities.

In the past months, while waiting for this to happen, I decided to resume studying specifically some aspects of the English language. I started studying this language as a child and I use it for work and in my private life for about twenty years (since I have access to the Internet). Moreover I have already translated other books in English (the “Red Desert” series and “Kindred Intentions”). But now with the reversion of the rights of “The Mentor” and with the collaboration with a British agent I need to make a step change.
Well, to tell the truth, all this is fun for me, since it involves practicing a foreign language, as well as reading books, watching films and TV series because I need to improve my writing skills and listening skills.
So, after a few months spent studying (let’s call it this way), I’m translating into English again: I started a new translation of “The Mentor”.

In 2017 I also followed nine MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses), thanks to which I learned several things that will be more or less directly useful for my work. Some have been a kind of research for future fiction projects, others helped to improve my English, others to broaden my knowledge of fiction and writing in general, and others to add more knowledge to my scientific education. Among these, undoubtedly the most interesting (and long: eight weeks) was “Moons”, a course on the moons of the Solar System organised by The Open University on FutureLearn.
Apparently not satisfied, I already registered to five more courses for 2018 and I tend to think that others will be added.

Although I haven’t written much this year, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t create new stories. I have in fact written many notes, outline sketches and sometimes complete outlines for nine future book projects. These include also a short prequel (a novella) of the Detective Shaw trilogy, of which I already have a complete outline, although I don’t know yet when (or if) I’m going to write the book. It’s just a matter of deciding to write it.
In addition to these nine projects, there is also “Sirius. In caduta libera” (Sirius. Free Falling), but I will talk about it in the resolutions for the new year.

Among the new experiences in 2017 is Wattpad. Actually I have an account on the site for a couple of years and in the past I just published a preview of two books in English. Since last October I started to be interested in the Italian readers and, out of curiosity, I started posting my old fan fiction “La morte è soltanto il principio” (Death Is Only the Beginning). Its publication on Wattpad was completed just before Christmas (sorry, it’s in Italian only). It was also a way to review it for the umpteenth time and see if I could use it to find some more readers.
I don’t think I would ever use Wattpad to write a project in instalments, but it could be an interesting tool to do some promotional experiments.

At last, but not least, I started writing “Self-publishing lab: Il mestiere dell’autoeditore” (in Italian), a book based on the self-publishing class I taught at the University of Insubria in 2016.

In short, in the end you can’t say that I did nothing in 2017, can you?

Image by Tomasz Rozkosz
Image by Tomasz Rozkosz
And now here are my resolutions for 2018:
1) write and publish “Sirius. In caduta libera” (Sirius. Free Falling) in Italian, the fourth part in the Aurora saga. I’m starting to write it immediately after the holiday season and I intend to publish it, as planned, on 30 November. Speaking of this book, I will say more on it, when its translation is started. For now I only say that it is set about five years before “The Isle of Gaia (I must translate this one and another book in the saga yet), it’s main character is Hassan Qabbani (you know him from “Red Desert”) and that the story takes mostly place in Earth orbit;
2) finish translating “The Mentor” into English within the first few months of the new year (including the editing and proofreading process). This project is a priority, as I would like to have it available as soon as possible in its final version to evaluate the various opportunities for republication and promotion of the trilogy on the English market. In this regard, I would also like to be able to start the translation of the other books in the trilogy (maybe complete the second one), but I’m not setting any deadline now. Anyway, I promise that I’ll do my best to have the whole trilogy published in English as soon as possible;
3) complete the first draft of “Self-publishing lab: Il mestiere dell’autoeditore”. I would love to complete its final draft as well, but I prefer not to set any deadline. This is my first non-fiction book and it requires a different attention on my part both for the content and, above all, for the packaging. When I have completed it, I will program the details of its publication and promotion;
4) read longer books. In past years I decided that I would read an average of one book a week. I realise now that this is not for me, as it forces me to read several short or not particularly long books to achieve the goal. I don’t think it makes sense. As a reader my ideal novel has at least 400 pages, but if it has 800 or even more, and it’s a good book, it even becomes perfect to me, because it has a more complex plot. And I love complex plots. So I decided not to set a minimum number of books a year, but a minimum length (for example, 400 pages on average) for about 80% of the books I will read in 2018. Moreover, among these at least one third will be novels in British English, since this is the English in which I am translating my own books.

That’s all: only four resolutions, but all important and under my full control, except causes of force majeure.
What do you think?
Of course I have more projects, but I prefer to tell you about them when I decide which one to prioritise.

As usual, I want to conclude this article thanking all my loved ones, my friends, my collaborators, and my readers. With you, thanks to you and also for you, I do this work with determination and passion. And my results are also partly yours.
Thank you so much.

I wish you all a 2018 full of satisfactions and, if you like, I would be happy to know your resolutions in the comments of this article or on the various social networks in which I’m sharing it.
As we say in Italy, have a good end and good start!

Colonist of Space - Charles Carr

**** The future of the past

Four years ago I read “Salamander War”, the sequel to this book, and I appreciated it greatly, despite being old-fashioned science fiction.
“Colonists of Space” clarifies the previous events, that is, it narrates the journey of the Colonist’s crew to a planet called Bel, with all its difficulties. In my opinion there is a lesser originality than what will be seen in the next book, so much that it suffers more of the passing of time, but it was still a pleasant reading with some unpredictable twists and even a little action.
One of the most interesting episodes is the short stay in an apparently uninhabited planet, made necessary to carry out a repair. Two of the main characters, Dr. Hyde and Eleanor, move away to collect samples and soon the situation falls apart.
Some problems encountered during the journey are resolved with excessive ease, but all the novel has a very fast pace and a linear plot that, like the next one, makes it a perfect read for the younger ones and for those who, like me, sometimes wants to travel in space with fantasy without too much effort.
In the way the characters speaks, as well as in the whole text in general, there is a sense of formality typical of the past. It facilitates the identification of the reader in this future of the past, in which one travels from one star system to the other, in which gravity is dominated, but computers still use perforated cards.
The beautiful of fiction is that even an impossible scenario like this, when you read it in a book, seems quite plausible.

Colonists of Space on Amazon.

Get “The Mentor” before it’s too late!

When “The Mentor” was published two years ago and became an Amazon international bestseller, hitting No. 1 in the Kindle Store in USA, UK and Australia, I was amazed by how many readers had I copy of my book in their Kindle and actually were reading it. More than 170,000 people read my book, which was a lot more than what I hoped when I sold the English translations rights to Amazon Publishing.
Now, two years later, my agreement with Amazon Publishing is coming to an end and in about three weeks I’ll get those rights back, therefore the current edition of “The Mentor” won’t be available anymore (actually there will still be some copies in paperback for a while).
So this is the last chance for you to get and read this crime thriller set in London, and meet for the first time Detective Chief Inspector Eric Shaw and his pupil.

You can get your copy here:

The price is $3.99 in USA, 5.07 in Canada, £4.00 in UK, only €0.99 in Germany, France, Italy and Spain, €4.11 in The Netherlands, $6.49 in Australia, R$ 12.91 in Brazil, ¥6.87 in China, ¥ 471 in Japan, Rs129 in India, and $72.36 in Mexico.
The book is available as ebook, paperback and audiobook.
Moreover it is free for Kindle Unlimited members.

Of course this is not the end for Detective Shaw. He will return soon with a brand new edition (including a new translation, this time into British English) of “The Mentor”, which will be followed by “Syndrome” and “Beyond the Limit”, thus completing the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy.

If you want to keep informed on this trilogy, please subscribe to my mailing list.

This is how the trilogy looks like in its original Italian edition. Do you like it?

See you again very soon with the Detective Eric Shaw Trilogy!

The Time Machine - Herbert George Wells

***** A timeless classic

I always feel a strange emotion in getting into the classics, as they present ways to narrate that would have no room in modern fiction, yet some of them retain the unchanged ability to engage the reader.
This is the case of Wells’s “The Time Machine”, where the narrator voice is a secondary character that merely reports what the protagonist tells. This kind of framed structure could create a certain distance between the reader and the events, but this doesn’t happen in this book, since the narrator just introduces the time traveller and let him talk with his own voice. And the way he does it is so vivid that in the mind of the reader every element and emotion described becomes an image, despite the dated language. Actually, the latter contributes to the suspension of disbelief. In fact, we find ourselves transported not only to a distant future in which the adventures recounted by the traveller take place, but also to the end of the nineteenth century, when he is telling them to his friends.

This way, reading is also turned into a short but intense journey.

The Time Machine on Amazon.

Explaining the unexplainable with “Saranythia”

Today’s guest is an old acquaintance of this blog: science fiction writer Richard J. Galloway. Author of “Amantarra” and “Saranythia Part 1: The Gates of Setergard”, both translated into Italian by me, Richard offers us his own presentation of the latter and answers to a few questions I asked him.

Three hundred thousand years ago Amantarra’s sister Saranythia had set off on a secret mission to save her people. She’d never been heard of again. She’d hidden her tracks so well that even a species as advanced as the Bruwnan had been unable to find her, even when the situation had reached a critical point and her help was desperately needed.
It had been twelve years since the crisis had been averted and control of the city of Valheel restored to Artullus. The entity that had controlled the city had not been defeated, it had simply vanished, leaving behind a set of complex mysteries. Not all the citizens of Valheel had returned to the city and the majority of the Bruwnan were unaccounted for. Those that had returned had been galvanised into discovering the motives behind the entity’s genocidal attack on them.
On Earth, life was good for John and Elleria, but it didn’t feel secure. The sense that there was something more, that something was coming, had never gone away, and for twelve years they had watched and waited. In particular, Amantarra watched Tyrus, whose manifestation in human form had coincided with the entities disappearance. Tyrus, an agent of the entity, appeared to be biding his time and had occupied himself with building Burnston’s company into an empire, his true purpose hidden.
Then Amantarra received an invitation from a moon in a distant galaxy, and the game changed.
Saranythia will be published in four short parts.

You already told me about the object (in this article) that inspired “Amantarra”. Is there any object or event that has been particular relevant while writing “Saranythia”?
No, the influence is not based on an object or event, not this time anyway.  It’s based more on a collection of concepts. I have a fascination with the unexplained, be it scientific or otherwise, and an impulse to try and explain them. Think about ghosts, no one has ever proven that they exist and yet their persistence in human culture continues. Why?
Let me give you a sort of parallel example. A few years ago I was thinking of a friend I’d known at school. It had been years since I’d seen or spoken to him as he lived thousands of miles away in the far east. The day after I thought of him, he turned up at my door. He’d been in England on business and thought he’d call round. Now this is a true story not an urban legend and it serves as a starting point for the following three questions.
1. Did my friend turn up because I’d thought of him? Cause and effect.
2. Did I think of him because he was planning to visit? Premonition.
3. Was it coincidence?
Perhaps it was all three until it became one of them, Quantum Mechanics, or perhaps it was something else entirely. “Saranythia” is a search for a definitive answer to the mysteries of ghosts and the coincidental appearance of long lost friends. It just happens on another planet.

Why did you decide to publish it in four parts?
Mainly the length of time that has passed since publishing Amantarra. Due to family circumstances it has been difficult over the last five years for me to get any writing done. Those events are all behind me now, but of course it has been a while since anything was published so I decided to publish in four small parts. That way I can get the story out to my readers much faster.
“Saranythia Part 2 - The Varton” will be published in April 2018.

Is there a book (or more books), among those you’ve been reading while writing “Saranythia Part 1: The Gates of Setergard”, which you think may have somehow influenced you?
I love the fantasy works of Robin Hobb and I’m sure her style of writing has had an influence on my writing, but my influences are almost always graphical. I tend to picture a scene long before I’ve decided what’s going to happen in it. For example, the opening scene in “Saranythia” was inspired by a background image I have on my computer. Once I have a setting, the characters appear quite quickly and start interacting. I just write down what they say and do. Okay that’s a simplification of the process, but it is in essence what happens.

Raised amid the heavy industry of the north east of England on a diet of Star Trek, Doctor Who and fantasy novels, RICHARD J. GALLOWAY rebelled against his schools assumption that heavy industrial work would be his vocation. Having exhausted the only apparent option, the careers master would despair. “If you don’t want to work in the steelworks, where do you want to work?” His reply was always, “I don’t know.” The industry he finished up in would not materialise for another ten years. No wonder the master struggled. From school, via drawing office and architecture, eventually he found himself working with large computer systems.
Career aside, the thread that bound it all together has been fantasy. He has never lost his fascination with the imagery that a good story invokes. After all it had shown him worlds beyond this one, and possibilities beyond the steelworks. It continues to do so.
Richard still lives in the north east of England with his wife, family, and a large cat called Beano. The heavy industry has shrunk, but Richard’s world of fantasy has grown. He often wonders what advice he would have been given if the careers master had read the occasional bit of science fiction.

Richard’s first novel Amantarra was published in 2013, while its sequel Saranythia Part 1: The Gates of Setergard is now available on Amazon.

Visit Richard online at:
And follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

The Abyss Beyond Dreams - Peter F. Hamilton

***** The Void Returns

Seven years after reading the Void Trilogy, I returned to the Commonwealth universe created by Hamilton with this first book in the Chronicle of the Fallers duology and met Nigel Sheldon in a new story set in the Void. Chronologically the story outside this anomaly located in our galaxy overlaps in part with that of the trilogy but has minimal contact with the latter. In the Void, however, we know new characters in a new planet where a spaceship was conducted about two hundred years before (but three thousand passed in it): Bienvenido. In addition, we have a way of discovering something more about the purpose of the existence of the Void.
The novel, divided into several books, is long and complex, but all the threads are quickly assembled accurately by the author and with great fun of the reader. Along with the class struggles of a civilisation that for three thousand years sees its evolution blocked by the aversion of the Void against the most advanced technologies, there is the struggle against a new alien species that, using a deception that certainly isn’t a novelty in science fiction (“Invasion of Body Snatchers” immediately came to mind), is a subtle and constant threat to the inhabitants of Bienvenido. At the same time, however, it will prove to be a resource.

After reading the novel - no doubt the most beautiful one I read by this author so far - the desire to get the sequel immediately is very strong. And I guess, as far as I am concerned, I’ll go along with it soon.

The Swimming Pool - Louise Candlish

***** An engaging and unpredictable story

I read each page of this book with great curiosity, because it was not the usual thriller with a dark and dramatic atmosphere where somebody eventually dies.
Aside from the prologue, “The Swimming Pool” brings you into the life of Natalie, a normal woman with a husband and a teenage daughter, who lives an extraordinary experience: make friends with Lara Channing, a local celebrity. She is thrown into an artificial environment that attracts her more and more, leading her to overlook her old friends and family.
What’s behind this interest from Lara about her?
The great thing about this book is that you don’t have the slightest idea of ​​where it will end up. What is the conflict that defines it? Does it concern Natalie, her husband, her daughter or Lara? Or someone else?
Well, every day I was anxiously waiting for the moment to immerse myself in it to find out what would happen next.
The characters are well built and the plot is never boring, although there is little action. In retrospect, I realise that this novel is characterized by a very well defined structure that allows the reader not to lose themselves in its three timelines.
During the reading, I sensed the author’s efforts to keep my focus on the core of story, preventing me from taking too much notice about the daughter of the protagonist, Molly, but I didn’t realise to what extent this aspect was crucial.
Moreover, the ending is the most beautiful thing in the book and made me decide for five stars, instead of the four deserved by the rest of the novel, especially because of the way it creates a parallelism between mother and daughter.
This does not mean that “The Swimming Pool” is a perfect novel.
I didn’t appreciate the misleading use of the prologue, for example.
Attention, spoiler: the prologue is a dream, not a real event. During the reading of the whole book, I was tormenting myself to try to place it in the story, but then I found out that I couldn’t, since it wasn’t a real event. And this was a disappointment.
As I said before, the novel is well structured, but at times, it’s too much structured that it looks artificial. The transition between the various timelines seems forced by the need to follow a pattern rather than giving the impression of being spontaneous within the development of the plot, and this distracted me several times from immersing myself into reading.
Moreover, the protagonist is overly naïve and weak. It is immediately apparent that Lara has approached her for a reason. In particular, the attitude of the protagonist of feeling always regretful even in the light of the deception she has suffered is irritating. Natalie has an overly low consideration of herself. I expected a reaction from her, revenge. What he had done as a girl could not be compared to the gravity in Lara’s actions, because the latter is an adult. Yet Natalie does not really get angry, she continues to feel guilty.
Once I reached the penultimate chapter, which is a long tedious account, I feared the story would implode. But then this is unexpectedly saved by the last chapter and I’m sorry that no more space was given to Molly, whose character is certainly much more interesting than her mother’s is.

The Swimming Pool on Amazon.

Ripper - Isabel Allende

***** The (almost) thriller you don’t expect

I had never read anything by Allende, it just had not happened until this book ended up in my hands. I was curious that an author like her, who certainly didn’t write genre fiction, had tested herself with a thriller. How was it possible?
But, as I read, I realised that “thriller” was little more than a label given to a book that is hardly labelable.
Of course there is a serial killer, an investigation and in the end a considerable amount of suspense, even some action and the discovery of an unthinkable murderer, but the core of this novel isn’t the plot, but its bizarre characters and the way in which Allende paints a picture of their outside of the box (and surely funny) life, immersed in San Francisco daily life. Unlike many thrillers that seem to be created by using the same schemes, “Ripper” is a wide-ranging novel, full of digressions that, like the tiles of a puzzle, fit into the general picture. They are so distant from each other that we cannot guess what we will see in the final image, but in the end we don’t care much, because each one of them entertains, inspires and somewhat enriches us thanks to the almost endless inventiveness of the author in creating the strangest of characters, using a simply wonderful prose.

It is without doubt one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.

Ripper on Amazon.

The Last Coyote - Michael Connelly

***** Bosch never disappoints you

This time Harry Bosch has to deal with a case from the past that personally concerns him: the murder of his mother, a prostitute whose death has never found an explanation. For a long time he wanted to avoid taking care of it, but now in a new period of crisis he’s facing (his woman left him, his house will be demolished and he is suspended from work for attacking his boss, while he sees the returning of his problems with alcohol) he decides to make clear about a murder of which nobody has never cared, except him.
Connelly’s pen throws us into Los Angeles’ most obscure places in the 90s and 60s to follow Bosch in his quest for truth. Once again, the author shows us another facet of this wonderful character, so complex that it is an inexhaustible source of conflicts that never bore and succeeds in making the reader identify in him.
As in the previous novels, we are led to a number of theories, but the answer is before our eyes, yet invisible until the end, because our involvement in Bosch’s personal and emotional events makes us almost blind to the details, just as it happens to him.

The Last Coyote on Amazon.

The Girl in the Ice - Robert Bryndza

*** Interesting plot, but unconvincing execution

This book never takes off.
It starts with the typical scene of certain crime thrillers, narrated from the point of view of the victim; a scene we already know how it will end. The protagonist, Erika Foster, is a detective of Slovak origin (like the author), who is considered to be very good at her job, but has just lost her husband during a police action. He is recalled to work to investigate this case because of her skills, but is constantly hindered by her boss, who seems to want anything but solve it (I wished it were so ... and instead he simply acts in a senseless way). Erika, like the usual rude and impulsive policewoman cliché at all costs (characteristics that would automatically make anyone unfit to have a police command role), disobeys her boss, becomes aggressive, behaves a bit crazily and ends up also embarrassing him in public, because it seems she has no other reason for life but solving the case.
Honestly, I found the behaviour of all the characters often artificial, over the top or illogical.
Can a good detective who found a message from the serial killer in their pocket do not worry about finding things out of place in their own flat? Very sly, I would say. Like Sherlock Holmes!
The novel from time to time moves away from the protagonist, showing scenes from unimportant points of view. In particular, the climax scene is not from the point of view of Foster, who among other things has not quite understood who the killer is until he threatens her.
In short, apart from the slightest curiosity of understanding the identity of the killer, the novel has failed to engage me.
Moreover, this edition leaves a bit to be desired as well, amongst unwittingly comical typos (the dessert becomes a desert!), others that are incomprehensible (the same name written two times in the same line but in two different ways), annoying repetitions and even formatting errors.
It gave me the impression of the first naive attempt to write a thriller, perhaps inspired by cinema, rather than an imagined and structured story for the written word. Probably the style of the author has improved in the next books in the series, but I guess I will never find out.