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.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Barton Villa Takes To The Press

Hi Guys,

So March nears it's shocking end and this coronavirus outbreak has exploded into something I don't think anyone saw coming. Certainly not me. And now we in New Zealand are in our second day of lock down, and crossing our fingers that when the four weeks are up this nightmare will be under control. But as worrying as it is for us, when I look at the unfolding horror on the telly, I know it must be a thousand times worse for so many of you. And all I can do is wish you and your loved ones all the best and hope that the measures being taken by our various governments will bring things under control.

In the meantime I have another book out, Barton Villa Welcomes You, which is a sort of light-hearted space opera set mostly in the South Pacific, which oddly enough doesn't involve aliens, UFOs or epic space battles. But it is set on what may be the strangest tropical island ever imagined. I hope it brings some cheer to you all in these difficult times.

Here's the blurb:

Barton Villa Welcomes You:

There is a tropical island in the South Pacific where the millionaires frolic in the sun. Secretly. Because they're the ones that don't want to be seen. An island where traffic gives way to ducks, the world's richest people ride old scooters over the dirt track roads, and where leatherback turtles have a protected hatching ground – even though none have ever been seen.

It is an island from which alien spaceships come and go – though no one ever reports them – and of course there are no aliens.

And it's also an island which the ever watchful eyes of NovATA have noticed. Which the boss of the alien hunting agency has set his greedy heart on. And which an art forger and an intelligence officer will have to protect. If they can.

But then of course there's the vital question. What will the aliens – who don't exist – do?

Cheers, and best of wishes to you all, Greg.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Adrift Among The Stars

Hi Guys,

Short post this time. Just to tell you all that Adrift is out.

It's a space opera about a man who's abducted by aliens, rescued by alien police and then just wants to get back home to Earth. The book continues the theme from The Travel Bug, that alien really means alien - not people with funny noses and extends it to their worlds, pointing out that it's unlikely we'll ever be able to just wander around safely on alien worlds in a T-shirt etc. But mostly it's just a romp in space with a lot of twists.

I hope you enjoy it.

Cheers, Greg.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Manx is Out

Hi Guys,

So my first book of the year is out – Manx – and I'm feeling good. (Apart from my back of course which is absolutely killing me! Too much sitting, staring at a computer and snacking – way too much snacking!) But anyway, I feel like I'm finally making progress instead of simply sitting in my chair, staring off into the distance and typing random thoughts, and that's a good thing.

One of the problems writers face (I say confidently as if I have any idea what other writers go through!) is motivation. Not necessarily to write, but instead to write to a program. I write because I love to tell the stories in my head. But it's a very different thing to going to work every day and working. There you have goals. Set things you have to achieve every day. On your own the only goal you have is whatever you set for yourself. I may actually work harder and for a great many more hours at my keyboard than I did when I worked nine to five, but I tend to write less productively. My daily word count is much greater than before, but for every book I write I probably have ten others which I start but then let go nowhere. Some of them are nearly complete novels. So when I complete one, it's always an achievement. This book is a definite achievement. And Manx was also one I loved writing.

I love the cover too. It fits the book because the main character in it – Maxwell Smythe (Manx) – is a librarian in a Victorian / steam-punk era library who adopts a green eyed cat – despite the fact that he can speak with cats and knows they have nothing good to say!

The cat in question – She With The Sharp Claws Who Must Be Adored – is based loosely on my own cat Tab (yes Tabby the Tabby – I never claimed to be good with names!) Tab passed away late last year after a long battle with hyper-thyroidism and then renal failure, and I have to admit the loss hit me quite hard. It's amazing how much the little fur-balls can worm their way under your skin and into your heart. But I'd like to think that a little of her seeped its way into the work. Particularly the complete lack of guilt or shame she knew when she destroyed pieces of my home! In fact she used to stare at me with bits of fluff and furniture in her mouth, and wonder what I was upset about! Purring by the way, is simply a cat's way of lying!

The next book on the line is Adrift – which has absolutely no cats in it! It's a space opera about a man abducted by aliens trying to get home. I'm hoping to get that out in the next couple of months – but sadly I often have such hopes, so we'll have to see! Still the first draft is complete, and I'll start on the edit after I've completed the paperback version of Manx.

And maybe for once, I'll finally achieve my target of four books published in a year! Who knows – it's a new decade. Anything could happen!

Cheers, Greg