Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Writing In a Time of Covid

 Hi Guys,





Another long pause between posts - and between books. The good news is that Modesty is out. And that another book - The Traveller - is now through its first draft and has had two complete revisions and edits. It's a steam punk fantasy book with a main protagonist who can travel between worlds - other fantasy worlds - on a steam powered motor bike of course!

The reasons for the delay are many and varied. But lets just say that 2021 has been a shocker of a year for me. I suppose we're all due one now and again. 

It began with my sister coming to stay with me after becoming unemployed. And while that's no bad thing, it is a shock to the system for someone who's been living alone for so long to suddenly have to share a house with someone - and three cats!

And not long after that the plague arrived! Yeah, maybe it was technically a cold. But I have never had a cold that lasted a month before. Or one that left me coughing so much and so powerfully that it was literally agony to breathe. Or one that wiped all the energy from my system for another month and a half after that.

It wasn't covid, at least I don't think so. But man - it really made me think. If I did catch that damn bug, I definitely wouldn't survive it! Luckily I've now had my first shot and am looking forwards to the second and immunity. Yeah!!!

After that of course 2021 took another unexpected and terrible turn just as I had got back into writing. My mother who was elderly and living in a retirement facility, became ill. And literally the day after I published Modesty I was driving down to Wellington to be by her bedside. She died a couple of days later. And the only thing I can say about that is that even though I knew it was coming, I wasn't prepared for it. I'd guess that nobody ever really is.

Anyway, since then I've been trying to get back to work. It's difficult to concentrate unfortunately, my thoughts keep wandering, but I will return to things in time. And The Traveller will probably be out in a few weeks.

In the meantime, I wish you all the best and hope you're having a better year than I am. Oh, and I cannot stress this enough - get yourselves vaccinated!


Cheers, Greg.




Saturday, 27 February 2021

Anomalies

 Hi Guys,



Thought I'd better pull finger and get out a post this year - especially now that my first book is out for 2021.

Anomalies was a struggle to write and in fact I had to rewrite it several times before it reached a stage I was satisfied with. I think that's because it was one of the books that changed along the way. Though in it's case it wasn't the plot or the characters that fought to be something else, it was that the book developed an underlying theme. 

 In essence while you can read Anomalies as a straight forwards and hopefully enjoyable urban sci fi with a few thoughts on genetic engineering etc, it has an underlying theme about identity. Who are we and who do we think we are? And perhaps the most important question of all - who do we choose to be? All the main characters are wrestling with these questions throughout the story - with varying degrees of success. And while most of their issues are related to various forms of genetic engineering carried out upon them, it's still a question that can and probably should be asked by every one of us as we grow and change.

Anyway that's the nature of the book. Here's the blurb and I hope you enjoy it.


ANOMALIES:

Clem Atkins has lived happily on Coast Road in the Coromandel for sixteen years. To his neighbors he is nothing but a beach bum with an annoyingly loud car and a terrible wardrobe. They have no idea he escaped from a genetics lab as a child.

 

His neighbors also have no idea that the drug rehabilitation facility known as the Sanctuary, just a few k's down the road, is an alien base. And they would never suspect that Callie who peddles her way up and down the road every week to sell the Sanctuary's produce, is a surgically and genetically altered woman from another world.

 

And then there's Maggie, who only knows that she was built to be a spy, and she doesn't want to do that anymore. But there is no walking away from her life for those like her. And she doesn't know how to escape.

 

But when the navy shows up one day and starts bombing the Sanctuary the time for not knowing has to pass. It's time to start asking questions – and hope that the answers don't kill them all.


 

Cheers, Greg.

 





Friday, 18 December 2020

Lessons From French Class!

 Hi Guys,



Just realised that it's been a while since I posted. There's a reason for that - just not a good one! But yes I have been writing - a lot. Sadly only some of the time on Chy. But the good news is that I'm now in the last leg of that book and hope to have it out by the end of the year (yes this one!).

Anyway I thought I'd give you something to enjoy for Christmas. A true anecdote from my unfortunate past as a student. And yes there is a reason I chose that particular cartoon as a header. It seems so appropriate to me when I look back on my life!

Anyway they say that every good story should have a prologue, just as every good character should have a back story. I believe it applies to authors too. So here's one of mine.

 So a long time ago - more years than I care to admit to - or remember - I had to study French for school. And I was a terrible student of French. But really, if I can't spell in English or punctuate, what would have ever made them think I could do it in French?!

Anyway I was terrible at French. And come the end of the fourth form after two long years of complete failure and abject humiliation, the French master - a man we knew as Rubber Lips Anderson - had to finally admit defeat with me. But there were still tests to do. And so one day as he was preparing the class for one of them he decided to throw me an easy question. You know one of those most basic of questions just so he could satisfy himself that I'd actually learned something.

So he asked me in front of the whole class: "Curtis, when do you say "Si" in French?"

Naturally after two long years of study and having a huge encyclopedia of French vocab in my head (Not!) I knew it would be in there somewhere. And I searched desperately for the word. But it just wasn't there. I promise you though - I really did try. So in the end, knowing that another humiliating defeat was in store for me, and sweating just a little, I finally found an answer. The only answer I could think of.

I told him, "When you're speaking Spanish Sir?"

That day while my fellow students were falling all about themselves, laughing, I learned two very important life lessons.

The first was simple. That "Si" in French means "if". So I guess old Rubber Lips did actually teach me something. He should be proud.

The second was more in the nature of practical mathematics. Never sit at a desk within one metre of the Master's desk when he has a metre rule! My ear still hurts from the memory of having that wicked instrument of education wrapped around it!

Anyway I hope that brings you all some cheer for the holidays, and explains why my next book - "Practical Everyday French" - may be a little way off!

Merry Christmas all, and keep safe.

Cheers, Greg.




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:

 

GONE

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.