Monday, June 01, 2015

Kinda Catching Up...

As the result of various computer problems, and a tendency to take the easier route of sticking stuff up on Facebook, I haven't posted much here about my return to Crete this year.

Okay, I came back on April 5th to find my garden in it's usual parlous state. This has never been a problem to me because I always look forward to the chance to get on with doing some stuff outside.

The weather, as I noted in a previous post, wasn't that great back then and I ran my stove for longer than usual. That same weather was of course a lot better than in Britain and didn't much prevent me getting into my usual routine of mountain walks. I also took up the mantle of 'personal trainer' for my next-door neighbour Anna, who last year was teaching me Greek. She's been walking with me three times a week and gradually extending her range. Note the first picture here those who read this blog lasts year. This was one of the areas burned down to the soil last July (I think).

By May I there was no more need to wear jeans while walking, though they went on in the evenings. I was also ready to exact my revenge on my brother Bob and his wife Christine. They came out here 7 years ago with the strange idea that Caroline and I had been walking lots in the mountains and were very fit. They'd trained themselves up for some walking. Meanwhile Caroline and I had been training with carafes of wine and cigarettes down in the bars of Makrigialos. One walk we went on with them left me so knackered I collapsed on a sofa and fell asleep directly afterwards. Anyway, we walked most days of their holiday here and, annoyingly, they did fine.

Later, because Christine had read the book The Island by Victoria Hislop, we took a trip to said island of Spinalunga.

I took my kayak out just a few times in April, but my trips in it steadily increased throughout May. I did, at one point, take out a waterproof camera but, unfortunately, it wasn't proof against the shaking of the kayak and most of the pictures I took were blurred. Disappointing.

Those of you reading this because it is the blog of an SF writer I am afraid I have to disappoint. I'm not back on that horse yet. Things have, however, taken a very interesting turn in that area, but I am not yet at liberty to talk about that...  

The Lazarus War - Jamie Sawyer

So, we've got a hostile race of alien biomechs somewhat in the mould of H R Giger aliens. They're pretty much intent on exterminating the human race though currently a shaky truce is in place. Humanity is divided into the good guys and the Directorate, so let's toss in some terrorism, subterfuge and traitors. We also have starships sporting particle beam weapons, railguns the size of skyscrapers, laser batteries, missiles... And then there are the uber-human super-soldiers clad in powered armour and wielding plasma weapons... Is that enough for you? Okay, beyond all the above loveliness the characters engage and there's a good story here with the action ramping up all the way.

This, dear readers, is the good stuff. Recommended. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Retail Therapy.

My last post on here was about the last straw with my old laptop. Dying its death of a thousand cuts transpired that any time I tried to open something my next move would be to go away and make a cup of tea, or mop the floor, or paint the Forth Bridge. And still I would often return, do something further, and find myself watching the little blue circle of death turning on the screen. In that blog post I spent the best part of a morning trying to load some pictures, and finally gave up.

If I hadn’t had an Ipad to hand I might have thought this was all due to a slow internet connection, but no, on the Ipad it doesn’t take a Bank Holiday to open Facebook, and loading pictures takes just a few seconds. Yes, I have no doubt that my brother’s imminent clean-out of the laptop will result in good things but still, retail therapy time and, fuck it, a new laptop is tax deductible.

I’ve read many times that Apple computers are just faster, with a better operating system and simply easier to use. This has proved out with the iPad and, while I was moaning about my old laptop, someone on Facebook suggested the Macbook Pro. I took the plunge and my brother brought me one when he came out here on holiday a week ago.

I’m slowly getting used to this new toy. I was worried about not having Microsoft Word, but Pages isn’t much different and is easy to use. It’s not as if I will be doing anything complicated with it — just words and stuff. The operating system is taking a bit of getting used to and it’s asking me things concerning iCloud that I’m clueless about. But oh my, the thing is damned fast, pretty and sleek, and I just know I did the right thing buying it.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

April Showers?

It’s been a while since I posted a blog on here so time for some catching up. Here’s one I wrote but didn’t post back at the start of April:

Yesterday afternoon, while during a rest from gardening I sat under the tin roof of the kazani drinking a cup of tea and chatting with my neighbour, Anna, the sky darkened and a downpour arrived. After a while, I went inside, lit up my stove and lost myself in Simon Scarrow’s The Eagle’s Prey. A little later, I had to close the window shutters and turn on the lights. Such is the design of the windows to fit the 2 feet thick walls of this house – the shutters opening outwards and the windows opening inwards – that rain blown against the windows quickly works its way through and runs down the walls inside the house.

The downpour continued all afternoon and throughout the night. This morning, during a pause, I went outside to gather some more wood from my meagre supply, hoping to get it dry so I could light the fire again. As I tossed the faggots of olive wood into a beer crate it started raining again, heavily, and I thought I would get soaked. After a moment it then impinged that I wasn’t getting wet. This was because the rain was bouncing off me.

Only as I got back inside did I remember that the sound of the rain against the shutters throughout the night had often been a clattering rattle. I put my tardiness in realising that a lot of that rain had been hail down to still being thoroughly knackered from the 10 hours of gardening I had done the day before the downpour started.

Last year Anna told me that she likes the sound of the rain, that it is ‘romantic’. My response was typically British. This year Anna tells me she will never call the sound of the rain romantic again. Even the Greeks are sick of it now – the rain, hail and snow that has been hitting them all Winter.

Meanwhile I need to buy another expensive load of olive wood to keep this place warm.

I will shortly attempt to include pictures with this post, but haven't been having much success...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Books at Last...

Ooh, sunshine outside! If it doesn’t cloud over and start pissing down again I can get out for a walk. This weekend has been a write-off in that respect – windy and wet on Saturday and the same on Sunday but with a triple helping of the wet. I also didn’t get into the weight-training much and succumbed to the need for calories. I drove up to a local shop and there bought hobnobs, Tuc, chocolate honeycomb and chilli-rice crackers. I ate one packet each of the biscuits, a pack of the honeycomb and two packs of the crackers on top of my usual meat, veg and fruit. The result of this was a weight climb (the body retaining water for digestion).

However, I’m not disappointed with myself. I felt quite knackered and it was one of those ‘the body demands’ times. It’s interesting that on the two occasions over the last month or so when I’ve stopped exercising for a couple of days and eaten what I’ve wanted there have been visible changes to my physique. This morning my weight is up compared to the average over the last two weeks, but more fat has disappeared around my midriff and elsewhere my musculature is more defined. But I’m also happy about something else: books!

During the events leading up to Caroline’s death in January last year I lost any urge to write fiction or to read it. Shortly after her death I only wanted to watch DVDs or play spider solitaire and subsequently my interest in the DVDs waned. As I’ve mentioned before it’s as if the part of my brain that extracts pleasure from fiction shut down. But over the last few months I’ve got back into enjoying the DVDs and over this last week, after pushing myself, I’ve read and enjoyed 3 books – two from the series above. This isn’t much to all you readers, but it’s more than I’ve read over the preceding year.

Now hoping that another push will return to me my writing mojo.         

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Walking Still...

It’s grey windy and wet right now at 10.20AM so perhaps I won’t bother going for a walk today. I have been walking 7 miles day on most days for months now and that, plus weight-training over the last few weeks, is starting to give me periods when I’m completely knackered. The body needs to catch up.

Meanwhile, over the last few weeks, Spring has sprung. The snowdrops have finished flowering and now daffodils and primroses have opened. On some days I’ve even been able to head off with just T-shirt and jeans.

It’s been the same route every time: out of my house, by road down to Althorne Station, across the track and down to a marina by the river Crouch, along beside the river then up to Althorne and back by road. Each time during this walk I’ve seen the steady progress of this conversion of a water tower into a house.

Interesting views and all that, but it’ll be a lot nicer walking in the mountains of Crete. There I’ll start taking some different routes and start regularly walking some of the gorges.  

The Hive Construct - Alexander Maskill

I decided a few days back that I needed to get back into reading again as a precursor to starting writing again. I think what is happening to be can be described as a slow and error-prone reboot. Anyway, to this end I’ve started reading an hour of Greek a day, and I also picked up an SF book that had been sitting on a shelf for more than a year.

My apologies to those at Transworld/Doubleday who sent me this uncorrected proof copy for comment. Stuff got in the way and I’m more than a bit late for useful comment. I had a slight problem when attempting to start The Hive Construct a number of weeks back but suspect that has more to do with the state of my mind than any fault in the book. This time I slid into it easily over a few days and polished it off late last night. I won’t go into much detail. Cyberpunk staples like hackers, AI, bio-augmentation, civil unrest and nasty corporations are all there, but the tale is engaging, well told and insightful. Suffice to say that it’s not all black and white, good guys and bad guys. I could go on citing this and that but in the end any review is ‘I liked this’ or ‘I didn’t like this’ along with numerous justifications.

I liked this. Well worth a punt for the SF reader. Buy it.    

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Prador Moon Promotion!

This would be good entry level into the Polity for new readers. Prador Moon is on Amazon now for just 99 pence! No idea for how long it will be available at this price.

The Polity Collective stretches from Earth Central into the unfathomable reaches of the galactic void. But when the Polity finally encounters alien life in the form of massive, hostile, crablike carnivores known as the Prador, there can only be one outcome – total warfare.

Chaos reigns as, caught unawares, the Polity struggles to regain its foothold and transition itself into a military society. Starships clash, planets fall and space stations are overrun. But for Jebel Krong and Moria Salem, trapped at the centre of the action, this war is far more than a mere clash of cultures, far more than technology versus brute force. This war is personal.

Prador Moon is one of Asher’s most shocking excursions into the Polity's universe of over-the-top violence and explosive action – a vivid, visceral, brilliantly intense space opera that you won’t forget soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Further Update

And now an update on some other stuff. I’m still struggling to take an interest in writing and reading. The most I’ve been doing is a few interviews. I get occasions when I’ll do a bit of fiction and then my interest wanes. I suspect this is not only a result of what happened in January last year – I guess getting your nose rubbed in horrible reality can create an indifference to the fictional kind –  and everything that led up to it, but depression throughout this January and February – probably very much SAD related. As I do, I’ve been fighting this with exercise.

Previously I did this by taking a 7-mile walk every day. Now my routine is 50 press-ups and 50 sit-ups in the morning, that walk at about midday, then going on into the evening weight-training sets while working my way through box sets of DVDs (oddly my appreciation of fiction has returned here). This interspersed with any other writing related work I need to get out of the way, like those interviews. I’ve also cut most of the carbs out of my diet with the result that my weight is down to just over 12 stone. Yesterday I went over the top with 2 lots of weight training plus another 50 sit-ups. One session is two sets each of 15 repetitions of curls, upright rowing, prone rowing, stomach press, and standing presses from chest and then from behind the head, all with a curling bar weighing about 25 kilos. This all keeps depression at bay with the added benefit of making me the fittest I’ve been in many year.

I’ve not been on the internet much – for various reasons I’ve grown sick of it. In fact I feel relieved about heading off to Crete to a house without internet. There I hope to be a bit better mentally and be able to knuckle down to some writing. First on the agenda will be a short story or two … well, that’s what I think right now.

In other news, the second book of the Transformation trilogy will be called War Factory. The original title (after just a working title of Penny Royal II) was Factory Station Room 101. Those at Macmillan didn’t like that much because all the present associations with Room 101 would tell the new reader nothing. I’m happy with War Factory.   

Update On My Eyes

Time for a bit of an update here about my eyes. It has now been over a month since I had refractive lens replacement and the healing process is still on-going. I am sitting here able to read this screen without glasses and I can read printed matter too. There is however, a range to this reading. Text that is at the distance one would normally hold a book is easiest, but double that distance and it is cloudy. My long range vision is good too. When I’m outside looking at stuff I can’t fault my vision but when I’m inside there is a bit of cloudiness for things at about 10 feet, like the time on the DVD player. As with my vision before, the more light the better it is.

At my last check-up it transpires that this cloudiness is likely due to debris in my eyes. After these operations stuff floats about in there and sticks to the lenses. This can be cleared at a later date with a short procedure with a YAG laser. However, they won’t do this until after the healing process, which takes a minimum of 6 weeks. I’ll be in Crete by then so it’ll have to wait until after I get back. This is not a problem since the light out there is much more intense than here and I’m managing fine without glasses anyway.

Also during that last check-up it turned out I was suffering from dry eye which, since they provided me with eye drops, I’ve found out was also a cause of cloudiness in my vision. Apparently dry eyes are also a by-product of healing.

Another problem is halos. If your job were to involve a lot of night-time driving I would not recommend the multifocal lenses I have. Bright lights on a dark background all have a series of concentric rings around them. I get this with small items like the small lights on various electronic devices. I get it round titles on the TV that are on a dark background. And it was especially noticeable during the last leg of my journey back from Chester this weekend – from car headlights when it got dark. Then again, my eyes did not feel tired from the drive and I also wonder if the effect will decrease after the YAG laser and when my eyes are less dry.

The upshot then is that I’m still not sure if this operation was a great idea. However, this might well be due to my own lack of patience. I was hoping for quick good results. My vision has improved but I doubt I can properly judge the success of the operation until a year down the line.