marina_bonomi: (book)
I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and your 2013 started in the best possible way.

Here is our weekly instalment of Black Fox (I really need a better title for this), I hope you are enjoying the journey so far. The previous instalments can be found under the 'fox' and / or 'romance' tag.
Let the music speak... )

marina_bonomi: (book)
As promised, here I come, as both the year and the chapter draw to a close together.

A word of warning, This scene rapresents serious violence on-stage, is not graphic but emotionally charged.

If you are new, here are the previous episodes:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And now

Let the music speak )


Next episode will be way lighter in tone, I promise! In the meanwhile have a great last day of 2012 and may 2013 be better than your hopes.

marina_bonomi: (book)
Part 1

Part 2

And now part 3 :


It started with a suite of folk songs and dances, light-hearted, happy music celebrating spring or harvest time: brooks murmured, birds sang, smiling country girls danced easing the mostly Italian public into a different landscape, Hu Xiaowen’s bamboo flute soared with the swallows and voiced the dreams and hopes of the villagers .

afterwards we moved through space and time, sampling choice morsels from the different musical traditions of the ancient empire: pieces for ceremony, for the ancestors, for the glory of the emperor and for the private enjoyment of poets drunk with wine and inspiration; again the flute was our key to a time of history, myth and fable.

The intermission came and most of the public took the chance to move a bit, strolling to join friends and acquaintances spotted in the crowd. “ Care to drink something?” I asked my friend.

"Yes, thanks” she glanced at the crowd milling about “ Better go now, before they realize all that chatting has made them thirsty”.

The foyer was still half empty but a while later, as we stood there sipping our white wine, most of the spectators came in, in twos or threes, crowding the bar in a rush to get served before the concert started again. I caught snatches of conversation , comments almost drowned in the hubbub, there was tension in the air, a sense of suspense not unlike the pressure of a thunderstorm building in summer, Lucia looked at me:  “ He has  built a lot of expectation, hope he can fulfill it”.  The lights in the foyer dimmed, I set down my glass, moving towards the entrance of the auditorium: “ We will know soon”.

The first piece of the second half was a movie score suite, music most of us had heard without really paying attention while following the struggles of Li Mubai or the tale of the nameless one, almost all, by now, could recognize the echoes and the twists of tradition into the modern pieces. We started to feel at ease convinced that that was it, we had got what was there to get, we were ready, we understood, and was this everything?

And at that point, when the last note had vanished and the applause had died down, the Maestro went to exchange a few words with his musicians, then he nodded towards the backstage door and, while the choir filed on stage among the startled murmurs of the audience, he came back to the podium and turned towards us.

Signore e signori,” he announced in a mellow baritone and perfect Italian  “ we have prepared a surprise for you tonight: the very first public execution of my newest work, the one-act opera Lullaby for the Lost Ones, in a concerto performance”    And with that, while we stared at each other and at the programs in our hands,  and the cultural attaché of the People’s Republic in the  royal box dispatched a few people to find out what was happening, Hu Xiaowen gave the musicians their attack and the orchestra started playing.


_____________________________________________________________________________________

Today's episode is a bit short, but this was the best place for a pause. You'll see why with the next instalment. :)

Allow me tonight to wish you the best possible Christmas, may it be as you hope.

marina_bonomi: (cap)

Part 1 is here



As we, arm in arm, entered the elegant eighteen-century building,  I recognized a few familiar faces milling around in the  stuccoed lobby: a  critic writing for the local newspaper  sneered something sottovoce  to his companion, a false blonde with silicon-enhanced lips and way too much makeup for either the hour or the occasion. The critic’s expression didn’t bode well for his opinion of the performance, but everybody in town knew Mr. Lorenzi’s crankiness was as carefully cultivated as his Van Dyck .

I smiled  spotting the tall figure and snowy hair of my high-school chemistry teacher. A gifted amateur musician, he was the terror of those of his  students who were also in the conservatory. He never missed a dress rehearsal and, more often than not, followed the performance on the score taking notes. 

Quite a few members of the theatre’s choir were there too,  women making up at least three quarters of the total. Lucia followed my gaze : “Do you think that they are here for instrumental music?”

 “ You are terrible, you know? Hu Xiaowen’s fame is well deserved and  having him here in Chiarenza is quite the event, he usually moves in way more elevated circles”.

It’s not like we are a blank spot on the musical map, far from it. Our summer opera festival, held in the old Roman theater on the hill, is known world-wide and, together with our rich history and natural landmarks, brings to Chiarenza hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, it’s just that our winter symphonic season isn’t, usually, quite in the same league.

The lights flickered signaling that the concert was about to start, the noise level abated and the tension went up a notch while we all entered the auditorium looking for our places.

Inside, a troupe from a regional TV channel was checking their camera and sound set-up, the flow of incoming public parted around them, narrowly avoiding a minor disaster when an elderly gentleman tripped on one of the cables. As soon as the audience was settled the musicians came in, it wasn’t the full orchestra but a smaller formation with some new musicians carrying Chinese instruments among the local regulars. They took their seats on the stage.

 “ What are those instruments?” whispered Lucia.

 I leaned in her direction “ Those with the bow are erhu, a kind of Chinese violin, only they aren’t really Chinese, they originated with a nomadic people in the North; the wind instrument that looks like a bundle of bamboo canes on a pipe is a sheng, the mouth organ; the two ladies play the moon guitar, zhongruan and the gentleman standing in the back plays the bianqing, a lithophone”. An huff from the man sitting on my other side silenced me, I shrugged an apology to Lucia mouthing “Later”. The lights in the auditorium dimmed, leaving us in half-shadows; only a spotlight remained, aimed at the left side of the stage.  Just a few moments before the  tension in the audience started to ebb,  Hu Xiaowen  entered.

He was tall,  with a longish, strong-boned face that spoke of Northern China and wide, intense eyes the color of dark amber. It wasn’t his looks, though, that held us all mid-breath, that would not have been enough, it was his effortless magnetism, the charisma he exuded with his simple presence that grabbed us and would not let go.

The guy from the  Confucius Institute  who entered after the maestro to introduce the program was the anticlimax.  He must have felt it,  because he tried to warm us up with a couple of jokes and keep up with his written presentation, extolling the ‘unwavering friendship’ and ‘glorious musical traditions’ of Italy and China,  but after a couple of minutes he surrendered and went for a brisk, shortened version before disappearing again behind the curtains with a plastic smile stamped on his face.

Then the music took center stage.

marina_bonomi: (book)
As most of you know, I have a paranormal romance in the works. It has been going by fits and starts, for a while it felt like it had ran aground, recently it began obsessing me again nagging at some things that didn't work well. Today I found myself rewriting a couple of scenes, one of witch included some rather draining research. I hate when I start editing before having a full first draft, but it seems I cannot help doing it.

And, since I am going to do it anyway, I thought of having my strange modus operandi work to my advantage : I'll start posting Black Fox  (horrid temporary title) once a week, comments and discussion will influence the development of the story.

Hope to have you on board,

Here we go )

NOTE: edited as per suggestions. Thank you!

 
marina_bonomi: (book)
...as one of my favorite characters would say.

Among the people and groups I follow on Twitter there is Medievalists.net (a wonderful resource on its own account), through them I discovered Unbound and a very special book.

Unbound is a British Kickstarter-like site, for books only, and the project Medievalists.net posted about is The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. The wake is an historical novel set in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings, in the author's words it is a story of the collapse of certainties and lives; a tale of lost gods and haunted visions, narrated by a man of the Lincolnshire fens bearing witness to the end of his world.

As if it wasn't enough (for me it definitely was), this is what the author has to say about the a very specific struggle I'm sure many on my friends' list will relate to:

More than three years ago, I began to write a historical novel which made me realise why I don’t read many historical novels. I couldn’t make the words fit, and I gradually began to see why: the language that we speak is so utterly specific to our time and place. Our assumptions, our politics, our worldview, our attitudes – all are implicit in our words, and what we do with them. In order to have any chance of this novel working, I realised I needed to imagine myself into the sheer strangeness of the past. I couldn’t do that by putting 21st century language into the mouths of eleventh-century people.

So I constructed, almost by accident, my own language: a middle ground between the Old English that would have been spoken by these characters and the English we speak today. The result is a book which is written in a tongue that no one has ever spoken, but which is intended to project a ghost image of the speech patterns of a long-dead land: a place at once alien and familiar. Another world, the foundations of our own.


Here is a short excerpt:

when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time.a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofon if it brings him regn who locs in the mere when there seems no end to its deopness
none will loc but the wind will cum. the wind cares not for the hopes of men
the times after will be for them who seen the cuman
the times after will be for the waecend

who is thu
who is thu i can not cnaw
what is angland to thu what is left of angland
i spec i spec i spec
no man lystans


I know this book will drive me crazy, but I also know I'll enjoy every minute of it.
marina_bonomi: (book)
Yesterday's Poetry Fishbowl had a fascinating theme: 'Influential women'. A series of prompts combined in inspiring [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith to write Rarely Well Behaved .

While I like her work and I get her point, I must admit that I have trouble with the last verse, because, well one can be a good girl and sit at the loom because she doesn't know any better, but one can also choose freely to do it, not waiving any right in the process.

So, following the age-old tradition of answering a poem with a poem, here is mine

They say: “ It’s out of fashion”,
“ You are limiting yourself” they say,

“ You could be so much more”,
“you are throwing away our  efforts”.

They feel diminished somehow,
these proud women of progress

that one of us could, knowingly,
choose to be ‘just a housewife’.

But I’m not ‘just’ anything, sisters.
I choose the path I walk on, just like you;

With my eyes open, with my weapons ready.
I know my strenghts, my weaknesses.

I am here, building my home no matter what,
Guarding and preserving what I do love

With all my powers of mind and body
Just like you do, in your own way.

If you fight for the right to choose, sisters,
Then respect mine, just to begin.

Why is for some so hard to believe
That I know what I’m doing,

That home, and husband, and children
Are just what I want and need for myself.

Just as you fight your war outside
I fight for my cause right here

One thought at time, one word at time,
Raising my children to be decent people

Who think, who question, who love,
who can choose their own path

Being there as a mother, a teacher
An equal partner with a brain, a soul

And hands that are at ease in the kitchen
And on the looom, because there is where

My talents lie. Why should I pretend
Otherwise to make you happy, sister?

It was known once, long ago,
The old ones had it right:

“ The woman at the loom, one thread at time,
may weave the fate of nations”.

I'm working on getting some of my works published as e-books, if you like my writings and would like to show support tips are appreciated.
marina_bonomi: (book)
Some time ago I was in the mood for some light, fun reading, I happened across White Tiger by Kylie Chan, the blurb intrigued me, I went with the book and was hooked right from the start.

Let it be said immediately, it isn't a 'perfect' book (if such things even exist) there are moments in which I wish the editing had been tighter, sometimes the romance is a bit schmaltzy and the action feels a bit repetitive, but nothing of this mattered overmuch to this reader, because a whole lot of things felt absolutely right, and one of these is the outsider gaze of the main female character, Emma.

Wave in front of me a book, any book, set in China (in the wider sense, including Taiwan and Hong Kong) and I'll bite, but most of the time when those books are written by non-Chinese authors (mrs. Chan is not an ethnic Chinese) I end up throwing  them against the wall out of frustration (sometimes outright fury, thankfully those are few and far between) due to mistakes, misunderstandings, poor research, exoticizing, 'I want to show you how much research went into this' or anything in between. Not so with White Tiger and the other books in the series.

Emma, the female protagonist is an Australian expat living in Hong Kong, she works as a teacher in a kindergarten and, in her free time, as a nanny. In the same day she leaves her job and gets an offer from one of her private clients, a mr. John Chen, to become a live-in nanny for his daughter. John Chen isn't exactly what he seems and Emma finds herself catapulted in a world she didn't have an inkling about.

When I surfaced for air, having zoomed through White Tiger, Red Phoenix, and Blue Dragon I tried to find out what had me so enthralled in what basically is fantasy light reading, I found a few things.

The setting: as one could hope for, the author having lived there, Hong Kong comes alive in the trilogy, and not as the magical exotic city where magical things happen, Hong Kong here is  alive and concrete (pardon the pun), pollution and maddening traffic very much included.

The cast of characters is wide, but not exaggerated and they are, by and at large, well rounded.

The supernaturals in Hong Kong are mono-cultural (a nice change from the usual) and part of a whole system that is internally consistent and get explained little by little. 

The main thing, though, is Emma's gaze. She is a foreigner and an outsider, her closest friends are also foreigners (an American and an ethnic Chinese from Australia), at the beginning her relationship with the local people is just about work-only, she is adjusted, reads and researches but a lot of things go above her head while she has very present some matters that can directly impact her life ( the 'trophy Western worker' for instance as a way for a company to gain face),and this doesn't change all of a sudden  when she finds herself working for a shen (I'm trying not to spoil too much).

Some of the supernaturals like her from the beginning, some are very standoffish because they don't like the idea of a foreign woman in their midst and, in either case, when they talk and joke among themselves a lot of it is lost to Emma because she doesn't share either their cultural milieu or their common history. It is very well done, half a sentence there, a literary allusion buried in dialogue here, a joke that has somebody reacting strongly for no apparent reason someplace else, definitely not enough to bore a reader with no previous knowledge of Chinese myths (and the tasty morsels are explained in the author's note), but at the same time enough to give cultural dephth  to the whole and to startle this reader into delighted laughter more than once either because I got it or because I didn't and wanted to find out.

So, my compliments to mrs. Chan for the whole and, specifically, for using the outsider gaze as it should be used but too rarely is.

   
marina_bonomi: (book)
A post by one of my LJ friends ( [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_, this time ), provides a lot of food for thought and sparks a post of mine. I count myself fortunate in my friends.

La marquise ponders on many things, one I feel strongly about is the matter of principles, rules, duty and sacrifice as portrayed in fantasy literature.

If one reads recent productions, by and at large it feels that we are in the age of the anti-hero, the sheer number of books with vampire main characters, for instance, seems indicative to me. Not considering the popularity of the ultimate predator as hero, though, even normal human 'heroes' seem to be mostly loners who live by their own rules, disregarding those of the society around them as arbitrary or just irrelevant, 'I do what I like and I don't give a ****' people.

I understand the idea of cycles in history and literature, I understand growing tired of 'clichèes' and going for something else (even though at times I think some people don't get the difference between a clichè and an archetype), but when I read over and over again on authors' and readers' forums that 'evil characters are more fun' or that 'goody-two-shoes are boring' I start to worry.

Let me say it loud: if a good character is boring it is because it is written badly.

I see  this idea that being good is effortless and a good character is also perfect, we all should know enough, by simply living and dealing with people around us, to realise that it is an idiocy : being good, being decent, takes effort. The tentation of shortcuts, the tentation of 'but no one is looking, no one will know' is always there, should be always there. Rules chafe, even though one recognizes the need and embraces them willingly, doubts creep in, hard choices need to be made, the dark night of the soul can threaten even the most devout and committed of paladins (or rather particularly the most devout).

One of my favorite characters (non-fantasy, but the reasononig is the same) is Brother Cadfael, the benedictine sleuth created by Ellis Peters. None who is aquainted with him can doubt that Cadfael is a good man, but he is also a complex character.
Cadfael is a Welsh monk living in an English abbey on the border between the two countries, he has taken the cowl in his fifties after a rather adventurous life, with both eyes well open and loves the life he has chosen, warts and all. With all that, he often comes in contact with different grades and shades of evil and at times has to choose, as he puts it, between obeying the rules or The Rule, but in no case is this  a travesty for 'do whatever I like' .

In the last book of the Chronicles, Cadfael comes to know that his natural son is being held prisoner, and he leaves the abbey against the wishes of his abbot to do what he feels is his superior duty towards a son he didn't know he had, knowing fully well that he might have thrown away his chosen life  with that decision. The book closes with Cadfael prostrated in front of the altar of Saint Winifred, in the abbey's church. The reader is left hoping that the errant sheep will be welcomed back, but we don't know, and neither does Cadfael.

Here are the two themes that [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_ (rightly, in my opinion), feels are lacking in most contemporary fantasy : duty and sacrifice, the idea that there are things worth doing, no matter the cost to oneself; the idea that my own convenience could and should take a distant second place to something else because that is the right thing, the idea that someone might choose to lay down their life, with no resurrection spell or last-minute rescue, because that is how it should be.

That is, I think, the main reason why I loved, and still love, The Wheel of Time saga (I haven't read the latest books yet), because, no matter how derivative the first book might be, or what the holes in the world-building are, or how in need of a tighter editing that huge beast was, the themes of sacrifice, choice, lesser evil, and duty, embraced, freely chosen or shouldered from what appears to be chance ('why me?') are constant threads giving meaning to the whole, that, for this reader, covers a moltitude of literary sins.

It goes without saying that I highly recommend [livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_ 's books to anyone wanting to read fantasy with brains and elegance, her most recent post mentions quite a few other writers of note.

Death is lighter than a feather,  duty is heavier than a mountain.

     

Read Today

Oct. 1st, 2012 09:13 pm
marina_bonomi: (facepalm)
Because of sexual discrimination, women in ancient China seldom received education. Women were not expected to write so their work were usually lost to the time.

Really? Everywhere in China? Always in ancient China, never mind that (restricting it to imperial history) 'ancient' (or 'traditional') China goes from 221 BCE to 1644 CE (if you don't count the Manchus, 1911 CE if you do)?

And how come, then, that one of the most famous ancient Chinese historians is a woman, one who was  also a poet and  court librarian, taught the Empress and the ladies of the court and whose daughter-in-law was  a writer too?

How come that Stanford University Press has published Women Writers of Traditional China a 928-page anthology including works by about 130 female poets (and poets only) from the Han dinasty  to the end of the empire?

This kinds of extreme generalizations drive me crazy, they tend to pass from a divulgative book (or article) to the next without anyone bothering to check, much like the 'dirty and brutish' view of the European Middle Ages or the fable of the widespread hate of cats in said Middle Ages for being witches' familiars  (never mind that the animals most often quoted as diabolical were black dogs and that the height of the witch hunts was in early modern times).

It isn't the case of the OP, but often, when I see this kind of statement about women being oppressed in ancient China I can almost hear a congratulatory self-pat on the back, an unspoken 'here it was different'. Pray, tell: how many women writers can you mention for the Roman Empire? How many Greek female poets but for Sappho?
marina_bonomi: (book)
Some of you may remember that I mentioned having an half-baked idea for a paranormal romance, I went so far as posting here a snippet of the beginning. I think I wrote about 400 words in all, the story didn't let me be but something was off and the words weren't right.

Last week I thought of some changes, and the pieces of the puzzle started coming together, my characters started talking to me and I find myself writing every night, linking together the scenes they show me during the day.

I realize that's nothing new or grand for the many writers I'm lucky to have in my friends list, but for me it is, since every time I have written fiction it has been in short form.
I'm used to writing fairy tales, not novels, Ming Li has been my longest work to date and it's just over 7000 words, so finding myself at 5200 words with a whole lot of story left to tell it's a new and very exciting sensation.

And if my male main character is determined to be something of a dissident in addtion to a composer and wants to use his music to bring some issues to the attention of the public in a book that was supposed to be pure escapism... ...well, if a character takes the bit between his teeth and runs that's a good sign, right?

*crosses fingers* 
As you may know, a few prompts bouncing back and forth between [livejournal.com profile] thesilentpoet , [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith and myself started a conversation that originated the Silk Road Allies alternate history project. The project now has a community on Live Journal for discussions, sharing of resources, communal world-building and posting of 'in setting' material (including a couple of new poems of mine, not previously published on LJ).

If you enjoyed our previous works and want to read more come over to [livejournal.com profile] silkroadallies and make yourself confortable, if you think you might like to contribute something to the setting (prose, poetry, visual arts, music and crafts are all welcome) ask to join, membership is moderated but we'll get you approved as fast as we can.

And if you like the idea, but aren't sure about getting involved, signal boosting is really appreciated.

Thank you.







Thinking of Home While on a Mission in the West (1)

This morning, wild geese went East,

At dawn they broke my sleep.

Restless, I can’t dream again,

Alone, I think of Chang’an (2).

(1) Anonymous poem found in the archives of the Chinese embassy in Italy.

(2) Chang’an ( ‘Perpetual peace’, modern day Xi’an 西安 ‘Western peace’), was the capital of more than 10 Chinese dynasties, during its heyday it was one of the most populous cities in the world, this poem dates from the mid-eight century AD, when Chang’an counted a population between 800,000 and 1,000,000 within city walls.


________________________________________________________________________________



This is an apocryphal piece 'in the style of Tang translations', if you wish, that I wrote for the Silk Road Allies alternate history project. While no Tang poem was found in the archives of the Chinese embassy in Italy, the information on Chang'an is true.



If you like my work  and want to contribute, tips are appreciated: they'll go into funding my research for this project and some art commissions to illustrate it.

had been close allies for about 2000 years, how would world history be different?

A few days ago [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith left a prompt to [livejournal.com profile] thesilentpoet:

In 97 AD, Chinese General Pan Chao sent an embassy to the Roman empire, but little came of it. Suppose China and Italy had united, how would that change things?

This poem was the result, outlining a whole timeline. If you know me you can imagine the rest, I wanted more and wanted to see what [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith herself would do with a few prompts related to this alternate-history universe, [livejournal.com profile] thesilentpoet agreed as well.
The result were The Treasures of Marco Polo based on a couple of items listed in an inventory after Marco's death he never spoke about; The Lost and Found Legion about the idea of the embassy and the identity of the ambassador and the , as yet unpublished The Tea Tempest.
I was reading about the real embassy sent by general Ban Chao and how in Chinese documents it is said that ambassador Gan Ying turned back because of the info he got from some Parthian sailors about the lenght of the remaining leg of his trip to Rome and the dangers involved. Fact is that Parthians and Scythians were the middlemen of the silk trade and wouldn't have been too happy if the two empires started dealing with each other directly.

I couldn't help but imagine a pair of Parthians trying the same stunt on a very different ambassador, [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith 's Cai Luoma, the result was:

Cai Luoma and the Parthians

They tried it on him, the two Parthian brothers.

The older spoke first, in sorrowful tones:

“This sea, o my friend, is so vast and large,

With terrible storms, and many hidden dangers;

It may take years  to cross it at all”.

Then spoke the younger, with honeyed words:

“ This we say to you  in token of friendship,

Your faraway lord, no matter how wise,

Could not have known  the dangers you face”.

Insisted the brothers, concern in their voices:

“Providing for many, your friends and retainers,

Will tax your resources, will leave you stranded,

Turn back while you can, we speak out of care”.


But in truth... )
marina_bonomi: (book)
In effetti lo sento più invernale, ma è venuto fuori stamattina durante un laboratorio di haiku in una terza media, da uno spunto di una delle ragazze.


tracce di gocce
sui vetri appannati
lachrimae rerum
marina_bonomi: (book)
Is a very interesting fantasy/alternate history novel by a three-writer team, Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer.

I'm often wary of collaborations, but in this case as I was reading I kept forgetting that the book has more than one author, no mean feat, in my opinion.

I picked The Shadow of the Lion from the Baen Free Library, I was intrigued by the premise, a fantasy set in 16th century Venice, and I figured that, it being free, at worst I would just lose a couple of hours before deciding it wasn't for me (I'm past the phase in which I forced myself to finish each and every book I started).

In that couple of hours, or even less, I was hooked. The alternate history is intriguing (also 'alternate theology' if you wish, thanks to the conversion of Saint Hypatia), the characters are nuanced and three dimensional, there are as many intriguing and strong females as males, and it manages to completely sidestep one of my biggest turn-offs in fantasy (the 'big, bad, fanatic church' and 'poor, persecuted magic users/pagans' trope) here there is bad and good on both sides. I loved equally the dottor Marina (a family name here) the strega, and father Eneko Lopez, a Basque former soldier of venture turned priest who, I believe, is the fictional alter ego of Íñigo López Loiola

The plot is complex, many of the major players on the European checkerboard of the time are there (but for France, the rival of the Empire is different in this story), it may not be your cup of tea if you don't like politics in your fantasy but the politics is neatly balanced by the action, in my opinion, and neither feels overdone.

And, most of all, Venice feels real. That in the book is the city were I studied, with its pride, its history, its special mix of sea and island that sets it apart from any other city in Italy, the strong esprit de corps of the workers at the arsenal, the strenght and world-view of the canalers, the pomp and sense of duty of the best of the aristocracy... I could go on for hours. Venice is a character in the novel, and not a minor one.

This is not to say that the book is perfect, but my problems with it (if that's even the right word), are definitely minor.

I did a couple of double-takes reading of the Swiss guard of the Doge and of the Scaliger of Verona as an enemy of Venice in 1538 (in this world the Scaligers were thrown out of Verona in 1387 and Verona gave itself to Venice in 1405), but I think it likely that these aren't mistakes but points of divergence (note to writers of alternate history: please, please put a note on historical matters somewhere in your book spelling out what is intentionally different , this reader, for one, would be grateful) .

All through the narrative there are Italian words for flavor, I've no doubt they work fairly well for readers that don't know Italian, for me... the mis-spelled words were like a constant itch I could not scratch.
Giaccomo for Giacomo, Polestine for Polesine, Caesare for Cesare, Fruili for Friuli, Veneze for Veneziani, capi (a plural word) used also as a singular, in one instance slices of prosecco on a platter (prosecco is a wine, neither cheese nor salame) and why should Kat, a scion of one of the 'old houses' of Venice bear the definitely non-Venetian family name Montescue ?

They are all small, silly things, but an Italian beta-reader would have weeded them out, and I believe an already good book would have been made even better by it.

BTW, if any of my writer-friends on Live Journal needs an hand with Italian words or details, I'm happy to officially volunteer.
marina_bonomi: (book)
[livejournal.com profile] haikujaguar has this interesting post about speculative fiction that doesn't fit the mold of 'inspired by such and such culture' (which is a thing I love and I'd like to see more of, but it appears publishers like better playing it safe).

The post links to this list of 'Non-european Fantasy by Women' (sic), connecting nicely with this previous rant by[livejournal.com profile] la_marquise_de_ .

I went to read the list out of a mix of interest (I'm always up for discovering new-to-me authors) and a masochistic streak (all those 'everything by Europe, please' posts and lists make me feel a bit like I and my fellow Europeans are plague-carriers, moreover no setting on its own guarantees a good book), and I found a couple of interesting things:

First of all: the list includes books set in Eastern Europe and Byzantium, because 'those are less known' and ' in fantasy, Europe mostly means Western Europe, the protestant and catholic countries'.

..But it also includes at least a book, Silver Wolf , set in Rome at the time of Charlemagne and another, Lavinia, set in pre-Roman Italy. It looks like Italy moved while I wasn't looking...

It is a pet peeve of mine, but my hackles rise really fast when people manipulate data like...,you know, geographical and cultural boundaries, because they don't fit the theory (European settings must be stale and overdone, so let's mutilate Europe of anything that hasn't already been done to death), besides, as many have said better than me, most of what generally passes for 'Standard European Setting' is McFantasyland, a bland, flavorless pap of uncertain composition.

So I'd like to start a list of mine: speculative fiction set in Europe-inspired or European settings written by Europeans (Europe , not the EU, both female and male authors, if dead, deceased not earlier than 20 years ago )
suggestions are welcome.

Ben  Aaronovitch

Sarah Ash

Petros Ambatzoglou

Pierre Bordage

Maite Carranza

Mike Carey

Mark Chadbourn

Susanna Clarke

Michael Ende

Valerio Evangelisti

Alan Garner

Kerstin Gier

Markus Heitz

Paul Hoffman

Wolfgang Hohlbein

Ju Honisch

Rhys Hughes

Tanith Lee

Stanisław Lem

Suzanne McLeod

Sergei Vasilievich Lukyanenko

Stan Nicholls

Milorad Pavić

Pierre Pevel

Otfried Preußler

Cecilia Randazzo (aka Cecilia Randall)

Jessica Rydill

Andrzej Sapkowski

Ekaterina Sedia

Johanna Sinisalo

Kari Sperring

Jonathan Stroud

Thorvaldur Thorsteinsson

Licia Troisi

Freda Warrington

Diana Wynne Jones
Some time ago, following a link by [livejournal.com profile] ysabetwordsmith I found myself reading a call for prompts by [livejournal.com profile] kajones_writing, I left one of mine but was really intrigued by the one Elizabeth had left, about a vampire who could speak only a specific dialect of Chinese.

That prompt ended up sparking a few ideas of my own (of course without any of the specifics that were in it about [livejournal.com profile] kajones_writing 's  setting), and here is the result, in a world of my own.






This was the place, the alley behind the old cinema, Gloria could feel the call that had drawn her: a buzz in her ears just below hearing range, a suggestion, a sudden idea that it may be worth checking the alley for that bracelet she had lost yesterday. Except she never wore bracelets.

The link to her domina gave Gloria some protection, her turning allowed her to recognize the suggestion for what it was: the lure of one of her kind looking for prey. She tensed, this was her domina’s territory, and Violante had clout enough among the Kin of Venice that none of the locals would dare to intrude in her preserve, she had no guests at the moment either, so this new one must be a  poacher.

A poacher meant trouble.

The Kin had their rules, they were a necessity for survival. If people kept disappearing and turning up in the canals drained of blood the Herd was bound to notice, no matter the level of denial most had for the strangeness that lived under their noses. A stampede could easily turn into a mass-hunting, it must be prevented at all costs.

Gloria approached the mouth of the alley, melding with the shadows while she concentrated, freshly turned as she was, extending her senses still took effort. No breathing, no heart-beat, utter stillness, just the mind-lure; it was stronger, now an Elder would have been able to pick it up at a distance without even trying. The poacher must be really hungry, hungry enough that it would not mind the risk of broadcasting its presence. Hungry enough to drain a fledging of the Kin? The thought was almost enough to make Gloria shudder, she wasn’t about to go in  blind, she needed a lure of her own.

As always they answered her call: the ubiquitous pigeons of Venice: pests, nuisances, the city council had tried to deal with them multiple times with no success at all… but they had their uses.

A small flock landed just outside the alley and started pecking as if it were full day and not the deep of the night.

Walking stomachs and no brains

To the rustle and the cooing Gloria added a call of her own:  Food, come out, there is food here. Blood, warm blood. Nourishing, rich, yours for the taking… Blood.

Something pounced out, the birds took wings, one of their numbers missing, neck torn before it could feel it, body squeezed to pulp by thin, shaking hands, the last drops of blood oozing into a mouth stretched wide, fangs in full view. Gloria moved before thinking, tackling the interloper, keeping it prone on the cobblestones, ready to break its neck.

The poacher slumped.

 Did you really think I’d fall for it?  Gloria kept her hold on her prey, the physical contact allowing her to feel  the intruder: weak with hunger; female; so freshly turned that she almost reeked of Herd.

What’s happening here?

She forced the woman upright, held her against the wall.

“ Who are you?”

The only answer was a blank stare from dark, almond-shaped eyes.

“ Do you understand me?”

Silence.

Maybe English would work, everybody spoke English nowadays.

What is your name?

Nothing, but the same flat,  resigned stare.

Gloria fished  her cellphone out of a pocket, speed-dialing Violante one-handed, her domina answered on the second ring.

“What is it, filia ?”

“ I caught a poacher, Domina. she's just turned, no more than one week”

“ There should be no fledglings so young around, what does she say? Who turned her?”

“ She doesn’t say anything, I think she doesn’t speak Italian. She looks Chinese to me.”

“ Bring her in”.

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

“You were right” said Violante, coming in from what her familia called ‘the guestroom’, “She is Chinese”.

“ Then you were able to speak with her?”

The elder  woman shook her head: “Looks like the wretch never went to school and learned a proper language, she bleats a dialect I don’t understand. I’ll have to arrange an appointment with Luigi Wang, if he doesn’t understand her either he might know someone who does”.

The domina was pacing, a sure sign of trouble.

“We must get to the bottom of this, turning without permission is a crime, turning somebody who cannot speak, or write” she added with a sneer “and abandon the fledging half-crazed with hunger, ready to kill at random, is a provocation and an act of war from someone who tried to cover his tracks. The Serenissimo must be informed immediately”.

Gloria nodded, only by sheer luck they had avoided a disaster.

“ She is secured in the guest room but she needs food, will you take care of it while I’m at the palace, dear? She is likely to be a messy feeder, but my herd needs culling anyway and I know I can trust you to do things as I like them.”

“ Yes, Domina”.

Gloria turned and went, some chores were better done and forgotten. She hated mopping floors.




Funny...

Mar. 28th, 2011 03:52 pm
marina_bonomi: (book)
I've been thinking about writing more and I've been jotting down ideas and characters, letting them simmer in the back of my mind.

In the last few days something has started coalescing and taking form and I find miself thinking about it every time I let my mind free to wander, I can see this possible novel stalking me until it's written.

The funny thing, given one of my recent entries, is that, no matter how I try to bend the story in another shape, it comes out only as... a paranormal romance

Yes, you may laugh, I'm laughing myself.

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