Sunday, 18 October 2020

Gone has Gone!

 Hi Guys,

As some of you may know, Gone has just gone out a few days ago. It's another urban sci fi with UFO's and tropical islands. But it's not part of the Barton Villa series or world. It is however, just as unhinged! Undoubtedly it's all that sunshine that drives tropical islanders into the arms of insanity (he says while sitting in a freezing cold study, staring out at a dark grey sky and plenty of water falling down, and wondering when summer will finally arrive!).

Chy is still sitting on my computer, barely a couple of chapters away from completion, but hopefully due to be finished soon. I've just hit a bit of a road block with it and am waiting for inspiration to strike. The life of a writer!

Anyway, here's the blurb for Gone and I hope you're all safe and well:



Life on a tropical island in the Pacific was a blessing. Michigan Jennings loved it. He could go swimming or diving or just laze out in the sun all day. He could drink rum on the beaches, hang with his friends or play an exciting game of squid ball. And of course being a Jennings he didn't have to work.

Could things be any easier?

But then someone stole Bora Bora, and Mich's world turned upside down. People started trying to kill him! Aliens began floating around in their flying saucers! And an overly affectionate mountain lion kept trying to lick him to death!

What was a guy to do?

Of course there was only one thing to do. He had to get Bora Bora back, rescue his friends – and the girl – and save the world! Somehow! It should be simple really. He was a Doctor after all – of anthropology!

Cheers, Greg.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Airlocks and Reality

 Hi Guys,

Bit of a pet peeve of mine, which I thought I'd let loose. (Sometimes you just see the same thing too many times and you just have to say something.) For me it's airlocks. I've been watching a whole bunch of sci fi / space opera shows lately, (even though I should be writing!) and I don't know how many times I've seen it but people keep getting blown out of airlocks. I hate that! It drives me nuts! It's just so wrong!

There's a couple of reasons for that. The first is of course the design of airlocks which has a single overwhelming priority - keeping the air inside the ship. Air is absolutely the most precious resource a space ship can have, and it can never be wasted. Which means that every airlock in a space ship has a single operational principle - the outer hatch will not open if there's air in the airlock. If it did every time one opened the ship would lose air.

So the way they actually operate, is that you get into the air lock, both hatches are closed, and then the air is pumped out of the airlock, before the outer hatch is opened.

It works exactly the opposite way on submarines where the water is trying to get in. The airlock is emptied before you can open the inner hatch. If it wasn't, then every time you opened the inner hatch, you'd be hit by a wall of water. 

Of course there's a physics issue too. In order to blow someone out of an airlock, you need a pretty good blast of wind. But unless the inner hatch is open as well - in which case all of the ship's air is escaping to space and everyone's dying - it's not happening. The airlock itself is only a small space within the ship - lets say eight cubic metres - or a two by two by two cube. The hatch has to allow people in and out so it's probably the same size as a door in your home, say two square metres. So if all the air rushes out in one second when the door opens, the jet stream hurling the guy out is blasting at a rate of two metres per second for that second or four and a half miles an hour. Which means that only if the man inside was standing right at the outer hatch and got hit by all the air escaping the airlock, would he have to face a full second of this tiny breeze. But most likely if he was up against the inner hatch, banging away frantically as they do in so many films, he wouldn't get hit by any rush of air at all.

You could of course speed up the rush of air by decreasing the size of the outer hatch - rather like making air fly faster by blowing through a straw. But there are limits to how fast the air can fly, and even if all the air smashed into the chest of the trapped man, there would still be no more air mass hitting him than before. And worse, even if for a second that faster moving eight cubic metres of air at one atmosphere dislodged him, he wouldn't go very far. The outer hatch would be so much smaller to achieve this, that he would hit it and get stuck!

So airlocks are a pet peeve of mine - as are killer storms on Mars which has an atmosphere only one percent as dense as that of Earth. Even thousand mile an hour winds would be no worse than someone blowing on you on Earth. And ray guns making noises in space where there's no sound.

My point here is that space operas like all genres, needs to follow some basic physics rules and you can't just write things because they sound cool. And I say that as someone who isn't even a hard science fiction writer. So my thought for writers of sci fi when they're plotting is to add another question to their plotting process - "is this possible?"

Anyway, enough griping. I should get back to writing. After all I am busy working on three books at once! But the good news is that Chy is almost done and hopefully in another month or so it'll be out.

Cheers, Greg.

Friday, 21 August 2020

From Drought to Flood!

 Hi Guys,

Well it's been a while since I last posted. But I have a good (reasonable?) excuse. My writers block died away and I've been flat out writing since. Naturally this has it's pros and cons.

The pro is that Chy which I was struggling with is now 120K and maybe five or six chapters away from having a complete first draft.

The cons are that there's a lot of other new books at various stages. The one I'm most excited about is The Gorgon's Run which is an urban fantasy about a gorgon police officer in New Zealand who just wants to live a normal life and build his home. Unfortunately everyone else wants to murder him!

On top of that I'm exhausted - mostly from watching endless dvds! I re-watched all of News Radio which is hysterically funny, and then moved on to the British detective genre - Agatha Raisin, Shakespeare and Hathaway, and Queens of Mystery. They were all brilliant by the way.

And somewhere in the middle of all that, my house decided to start suffering plumbing problems - the noisy ones that drive you crazy as you can hear the damned water flowing under the house but can't work out where it's coming from and so can't sleep. The plumbers coming back on Monday for his latest visit - he doesn't even need to ask for directions to my home any more!

I used to have a car like that - a 1975 HC Viva. Pretty much every month I had a major repair and once it was done I'd tell the car there was nothing left to go wrong with it. I was always wrong! The saddest part of all was that the car eventually gave up on originality and started having the same breakdowns over and over again. I can't tell you how depressing it is when the starter motor pinion locks itself into the ring gear for the third time in six months and you know the whole gearbox is coming out yet again! There's a reason I went Japanese!

So anyway, that's been my life lately - plumbing bills and writing. But hopefully Chy will only be another month or so away and the house will have floated away on a river of water that came from its copper pipes which everyone keeps telling me will last for a lifetime! Then I'm thinking I'll buy a Japanese house!

Hope you're all well and practicing your social distancing. I just don't wear antiperspirant and that seems to do the trick!

Cheers, Greg.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Stuck In Ruttland!

Hi Guys,

Well it's become a rough old time for me this last week or so. The weather's turned freezing cold, and while you'd think that wouldn't bother someone with as much padding as me, it actually does. And I seem to have acquired an eye problem - it's probably dry eyes, so hopefully not serious - but everything's a bit on the blurry side, it feels like grit in them and for some reason they keep weeping. Damn it's irritating! But hopefully the optometrist will give me some drops.

But the most annoying thing is that the mad, almost frenetic inspiration that was driving me for the first half of this year seems to have vanished and every time I sit down to type my fingers fail to move. (And when they do much of the time it's to erase most of what I've written!)

Most writers go through periods like this - some call it writers block. I'm not sure it's that. It's more like being lost, sitting at the keyboard and simply not knowing where the story is going. So I thought I'd share some of the things that seem to help me when I fall into these ruts.

The first is at the top of this post. I like to create a cover for the book I'm working on and then paste it to my computer screen. It hopefully gives me a little bit of an inspiration every time I turn the machine on. And I have to admit the cover is brilliant. The image from 123RF was great and I modded it a little for atmosphere and lighting and to better let it fit the plot of the book. It may or may not be the sort of cover that would make a reader want to pick it up, but it works well for me in persuading me that I want to write it.

Distraction is also a useful tool. Sometimes you just need to get away from the keyboard for a little while. Immerse yourself in things that don't require a lot of concentration. So for me it's usually old movies / tv series and computer games. At the moment it's Heroes of Might and Magic V and a whole bunch of comedies - mostly British.

Oddly coffee helps - but not in the way you'd imagine. For most people it's a stimulant. For me it relaxes me, even helps me sleep!

And even more strangely, exercise. Normally I'm totally opposed to all forms of exercise - including walking. Truly if I could get one and afford a whole bunch of servants, I'd be riding around town in one of those divan chairs that Dave Allen used to have on his show when he was playing the Pope. (Sadly I don't think a mere four men would be enough to hoist me off the ground!) But lately I've been playing with the free weights a little, and I think I might even have broken into a sweat at one point! Scary stuff!

Anyway that's what helps me at these times. I imagine other writers will find other distractions and techniques will be of more help in getting them through. And one more thing - the understanding that you will get through it.

Of course the next book - Chy - is in the works, but I fear it may be a month or two before it's ready to roll. It's an epic fantasy which is only two thirds complete - and I haven't even started on the blurb as you can see!

So that's where I'm at. I hope you're all well, and getting through these endless lock downs, which seem to be starting up again just when you think they're over! But fingers crossed, there will be a vaccine probably early next year.

Cheers, Greg.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

The Man Who Fell Flies!

Hi Guys,

So The Man Who Fell is now out - in ebook form anyway, it could be another three days before the paperback edition gets approval. (Man was that a battle to prepare - there was a problem with the file and it kept getting knocked back, as usual with no explanation of why, so I had to nuke the text file completely and reformat from the ground up! The trials and tribulations of being an author!)

This ones an urban fantasy - I hadn't put out one for a while and thought I should - but it has no witches or wizards or spells. No vampires or werewolves either. Just a bunch of lineages / families with interesting gifts. The Ilans for example have essentially got super strength which they can pass on to their lovers. They're the Amazons by the way. The Domani can "suggest" things and have a limited ability to read minds. They're the descendants of the baba-yagas. And the Vans have the power of "awe". Essentially it's an almost spiritual power of light and overwhelming ... well awe ... that leaves people on the ground, stunned. There are other families of course, and they've all been battling with one another for thousands of years while always making sure that the normals never find out about them.

And into this mess comes Dale Fall, who returns early from his work one day, to find his wife in bed with another man, and then promptly gets picked up and hurled out the window of a thirtieth story penthouse in Manhattan. His wife's an Ilan though of course he had no idea. Roll on three or four years and he's an alcoholic living on a life style black in Hamilton New Zealand, still with no clue what's happening - and more superwomen are trying to kill him.

I really enjoyed writing this book, but as I did I kept thinking it borders on the superhero / mutant genre - except no guys in tights and no flying! No super criminals either - though all the families have long histories of making large amounts of money and gaining power through less than legal means! As I said at one point, the Domani have gone from telling fortunes to making them!

All of which left me with a strange question - just what is the difference between the superhero / mutant genre and the urban fantasy genre? Because it strikes me that they overlap a long way in some cases. Are superheros really just urban fantasy and mutants urban sci fi?

Anyway, thought I'd leave that question with you guys to think about. I need to go back to writing!

Hope you enjoy the book.

Cheers, Greg.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Barton Villa Flies Off Into The Sunset

Hi Guys,

Well Barton Villa Welcomes You 3 has made it to the digital shelves, and sadly it marks the end of the series. But I think it's the funniest and possibly the most biting from a social commentary perspective. It has a few words to say about racism, sexism and empowerment - which wasn't really the point of the book but just sort of came out in it. Personally I think it's the job of speculative fiction to delve into these areas from time to time.

I'm going to miss these books. They've been a roller coaster of fun as I've written them - which is probably part of why I've written them so quickly. The other part is of course the Corona Virus lock down, which has freed up a lot of time and also killed my television viewing, since half the shows I watch have died in a hurry!

I hope you've all found the time provided by the pandemic lock down productive and that none of you have become ill.

One of the things I have noticed during this time has been the way certain political leaders have risen to the challenge. Our own PM Jacinda has turned out to be an inspiration which surprised me a little. I didn't vote for her, her politics are different to mine, but she's impressed me enormously. I think the things we all need at times like this are people who get to the heart of the matter, tell it straight and actually seem to care about the people they lead. Not that I'm a cynic (yeah right!) but I've seldom encountered that in most politicians. I still won't vote for her because I'm a dyed in the wool green voter, but I appreciate what she's done for New Zealand. And who knows, maybe she'll come over to the green point of view and then I will!

Anyway, the third and final books out, and I hope you enjoy it. And remember - always keep your Nazi's spayed and neutered!

Cheers, Greg.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Barton Villa 2 Meets the Press!

Hi Guys,

Just a quick post to let you know that the sequel to Barton Villa Welcomes You is now out - as of yesterday. As you can see it has the catchy title of Barton Villa Welcomes You 2! (I wonder what the title for the third one will be?!!!)

I hope you're all doing well with your various home detentions and social distancing. And while I'm here I thought I'd just give two quick thoughts on it.

First, I'm not at all sure about taking Chloroquine despite what seems to be being said in some quarters. Because when someone says what's the harm - the harm is obvious. For the taker personally, Chloroquine can cause fits and seizures, heart rhythm problems and death. Yes it can kill you. And it's also been the culprit of a couple of murder mystery books, because one of the other effects it can cause is schizophrenic type symptoms such as hearing voices. It should only be taken under medical supervision.

The next problem of course is that it's a drug needed to treat malaria and lupus, so while someone's taking it to potentially treat corona virus, someone else may not be getting the dose they need to actually protect them from another serious illness.

Last of course, whatever its effectiveness may be found to be, it doesn't mean you can forego the social distancing and rigorous personal hygiene measures. It's not a substitute.

However two substances have been found to have some benefit against colds - and roughly fifteen percent of common colds are caused by various members of the coronavirus family. Vitamin C and Zinc. They won't prevent a cold but they have been found to be beneficial in reducing the duration of one by about a day. It may not be much and it may not be anything at all in the case of this particular illness, but when someone says "what harm can it do?" the answer is in almost all cases, none. So now may be the time to get out the multivitamins. And if you have a condition (they're very rare) in which zinc or Vitamin C in large quantities can be dangerous to you, naturally consult your doctor first.)

The second piece of information I have for you, is about diabetes, which studies have now shown is a co-morbidity in over forty percent of coronavirus deaths. However the studies were done in some poorer necks of the woods where medical care is known to be less than perfect. And thus far I haven't yet been able to find any studies that show whether it's diabetes itself that's the problem or poorly managed / un-managed diabetes. Until we know this my advice is simple - if you have diabetes, now is the time to get it completely under control. Do your tests, check with the doctors and make sure you're taking all your meds as and when you should.

I hope that that's perhaps of some interest / value to you

Good luck to all of us.

Cheers, Greg.