Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday 28th May

I haven’t got a lot to say, or rather a lot of time in which to say anything since the work on the kitchen never seems to end, so here are some pictures. The first is of a visitor to our garden, who stuck around for a while sunbathing on our stepping stones then either buggered off because of the cats that come here, or was eaten by them. Unfortunately the leopard snake that appeared by our pots was too quick, so no pictures of that.




Next a selection of pictures of the tiling job in the kitchen:






Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Walls and Kitchen


Thursday 10th May

Mikalis and Leornardo turned up this morning and the latter is now working on the retaining wall for our front garden and another that runs along the side of the path leading to our front gate. Leonardo’s name is quite appropriate in a way because he does a very neat and precise job of pointing, though whether he’s designed any helicopters or investigated anatomy I’ve no idea. Here are ‘before’ pictures of the wall, after he cleared the weeds. The collapsed section was caused by a water pipe leak two years ago. Hopefully I’ll be able to put up the ‘after’ pictures with this post too.



After:



Friday 11th May

Feeling absolutely knackered last night I went to bed at 9.30, but the sleep thereafter was then followed by a bit of insomnia so I was up 2.20 sitting at my desk drinking a cup of tea. I do dislike not sleeping properly, but instead of moping about when I can’t sleep, I try to do something. In this case it was writing about and thinking about Penny Royal, and now I’m glad I woke up because it gave me a Eureka moment.

I can always write. I can create interesting scenes and events and I can progress them on the basis of characters, and related scenes and events – it’s just a case of moving from A to B to Z. Everything has consequences, time moves forward (well mostly) and every action has a reaction etc. The progress of a plot can sometimes be no more complicated than holding a stone above the ground. If you release it you know what happens next. I sometimes consider how right now I could quite easily embark on an endless book. However, that’s not what I have to do. I have to tell a story, it has to be enjoyable, fairly complicated and I have to end it in a manner satisfactory to both you and me between two covers.

With this Penny Royal thing I’ve been telling the stories of various interrelated events and characters and shifting them about like jigsaw pieces, only pieces that keep on changing shape, and trying to find out how they interlock. In fact, whittling bits off them to make them interlock and carving new pieces to fit in the gaps. My Eureka moment came in The Line of Polity when I made the mental connection between the sun mirrors of Elysium and the almost insoluble problem Cormac faced: Skellor, in a Jain-transformed Polity dreadnought. In the Penny Royal books I have been looking at a way of closing a large circle, but while thinking about that realized a smaller circle could be closed in this first book. As soon as that idea established itself in my mind things started to fall into place and the refinements began to kick in.

A whole section I’ve already written needs to come nearer the end. The heavy-worlder Trent needs an earring. Isobel needs to be more of a predator. And I now clearly see the resolutions those transformed by Penny Royal must face...

Of course, I can’t tell you much more than that.

Monday 21st May

Well, shortly after my Eureka moment I hoped to make the alterations I had thought about while they were still fresh in my mind. I started in on them but then we got a phone call from a driver from Nomad, who was delivering our kitchen. Shortly after it was delivered I set to work assembling the first cupboard. Over the next week I finished assembling them all, took down and shifted the old ones and set to work installing the new ones.

Here's the old kitchen:




Plenty to do and plenty of problems to overcome: I had to extend the oven wire; find the right plumbing for the sink (I thought it would be delivered with it); I had to take off old tiles stuck on with tile glue set like granite; the kitchen corner isn’t square and I had to make a glory hole in there (I don’t like corner units), and this required some help from an English guy here who has a better set of power tools available (thanks Chris) and who also cut the worktop and hole through it for the sink for me; there isn’t a straight wall in the house; the hooks for the units along one wall fell precisely on electric wiring, one of them even over a wall junction box (I managed to avoid these until I decided, in belt-and-braces fashion, to put up another fixing and drilled straight through one); we don’t have enough worktop; wiring in new plugs seemed to take forever...


The kitchen, bar the tiling and a couple of small bits and pieces, is all but done. It has provided us with a lot more cupboard space, a lot more worktop, is definitely more ergonomic and a lot cleaner and tidier. The only problem is that we don’t like the doors. They are large, plain and of a colour that matches nothing else in the house. I’m now thinking about architrave, beading, paint...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Zero Point

It's up for pre-order on Amazon, but you'll have to wait until August 2nd:


Earth’s Zero Asset citizens no longer face extermination from orbit. Thanks to Alan Saul, the Committee’s network of control is a smoking ruin and its robotic enforcers lie dormant. But power abhors a vacuum and, scrambling from the wreckage, comes the ruthless Serene Galahad. She must act while the last vestiges of Committee infrastructure remain intact – and she has the means to ensure command is hers. On Mars, Var Delex fights for the survival of Antares Base, while the Argus Space Station hurls towards the red planet. And she knows whomever, or whatever, trashed Earth is still aboard. Var must save the base, while also dealing with the first signs of rebellion. And aboard Argus Station, Alan Saul’s mind has expanded into the local computer network. In the process, he uncovers the ghastly experiments of the Humanoid Unit Development, the possibility of eternal life, and a madman who may hold the keys to interstellar flight. But Earth’s agents are closer than Saul thinks, and the killing will soon begin.

Another Promotion


Here are the relevant sections of an email from Bella Pagan:

Amazon are planning a promotion to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee and are considering including GRIDLINKED. Details are included below, but they are seeking approval for this and it would be great if you were able to agree to this (I have).

The promotion will run on amazon.co.uk between the 22nd May and 5th June, but they are also looking at amazon.de, amazon.fr, amazon.it and amazon.es. This is the same format as their Valentine’s and Easter promos, with titles included at highly reduced prices (usually 99p). Amazon have also made a particular request that GRIDLINKED should be included, as they wanted to tie it in with use of the blog you wrote for them a little while ago, which they haven’t put up as yet.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Orbus Audiobook

Nice review of the Orbus audiobook here.


But back to Orbus and a question: what should science fiction do? In Asher’s case his science fiction tells a great roller-coaster story and explores survival, genetics, societies, technology and other themes should be present in science-focused fiction. And he manages to show deep thinking without derailing the story he’s chosen to tell.




Bamboo and Zombies


Thursday 3rd May
I just had some fun with emails here, being able to receive them but unable to send them, so my apologies to those who have received late replies. It turns out to have been some sort of ‘port 25’ problem. I checked on the Virgin Media website for the settings of Live Mail and changed the port settings of my mail, which is virgin.net, to those of virginmedia.com, and that seems to have worked. Hopefully it’ll keep on working.

The temperature here is climbing now which is nice but annoying because I’m spending most of my time working inside. When I’m not writing I’m up on a stepladder filling the bamboo ceiling (I’ve done about a third of it now) and, within about a week, our new kitchen will arrive and I’ll have plenty to do putting that in.

The Penny Royal book is now rapidly approaching 100,000 words (in fact I should pass that count today) and developing nicely. I reckon I’ll have it done before Zero Point is published and of course more than a year before Jupiter War is published, so that definitely puts me over a year ahead of Macmillan’s publishing schedule. I’ve decided I’ll file these books about the black AI as Penny Royal 1, 2, 3 etc and allow the titles to naturally arise out of whatever I produce. Tentative titles involve the names of various characters and a particular item: Isobel, Spear, and The Spine, but they may change later.

Friday 4th May
Excellent: last night was the first evening we’ve been able to comfortably sit outside on the terrace. The stars were out and gleaming, the temperature at 21C and further use of the stove is looking increasingly unlikely. Another first on this evening will be the first fresh salad from the garden: the various salad leaves are big enough to cut, and the spring onions and radishes are ready. I’ll provide pictures of these below just to annoy some people in England.


Oh, I do believe it’s raining in Britain now, quite heavily. Any sign that they’re lifting the hosepipe ban, or are you being told that it’s a special kind of summer rain? Here on Crete, under the auspices of the corrupt and failing Greek government, lazy tax-dodging workers and cash-strapped local amenities, where the sun blazes down for, on average, about 300 days a year, there hasn’t been any kind of hosepipe ban or water shortage over the five years we’ve been here. They still manage to supply the massive watering systems for the olive trees, and they still manage to supply all households with water, so much so that a hosepipe rather than a broom is generally used to clear outside paths and terraces. They also still manage to supply an influx of millions of tourists each year. The only time we ever went short of water was when the village main was being replaced. So why is it that such a supposedly crappily-run country can manage to keep the water flowing when a supposedly advanced one like Britain can’t? I’ll tell you why: though you hear the newsreaders and forecasters wanking on about the dry weather, that isn’t really the problem. It’s infrastructure failing to keep up with millions of water-hungry people. It’s the population, stupid.

We also get power cuts here, but they never last longer than an hour. Only in England do we get them lasting long enough for us to start worrying about the food in the freezer. Doubtless the delay is due to the time it takes to fill in the risk-assessment forms, don the required reflective jackets and safety helmets, shut down the required parts of the massive grid (population again) and then replace the fuse.

Monday 7th May
Excellent meal in the Stratos last night. Here’s some pictures of the restaurant, view and genial hosts:


Wednesday 9th May
Rather than get back to writing on Monday I continued with what I had been doing all weekend: filling that bamboo ceiling (I wanted this job out of the way before the kitchen arrives), which I completed in the late afternoon, even foregoing our half hour of dancing to the Wii. I had considered painting the bamboo white and leaving the beams as they are, but decided that with a bit of tidying up and maybe a coat of clear varnish, this is how it should remain:


We’ve just watched the first season of The Walking Dead, but on the strength of just the first few episodes we decided we wouldn’t bother with another season. It was mildly enjoyable in so much as the alternative was Greek TV, BBC World or other DVDs we’ve already seen, but that’s the limit of it. For Caroline it failed to grip and was directionless and ‘Lost’. For me it was the glaring holes always found in zombie films. How do zombies who move like, well, zombies, manage to take over the world? As was demonstrated in this the only way these things, which move like rejects from the Ministry of Funny Walks, manage to catch someone is if that someone stupidly manages to plonk himself in the middle of a crowd of them. How do these things, killed by a shot to the head, unable to open doors, climb ladders or drive vehicles ... in fact things less capable with any kind of technology than a three-legged cow ... how do they succeed against assault rifles, tanks, jets and flame throwers? It just makes no sense at all.


On top this logical hole there was plenty of plotting and directing silliness. In one scene we have someone bargaining for tools, in America, where every garden shed or garage would be full of them. In another our heroes have to cover themselves with zombie blood and guts to cover their smell, then walk along a zombie filled street to a place where keys were available for vehicles they could use to escape the city. Subsequently, after fleeing zombies and finally acquiring a truck, one of them breaks into and hot-wires a car for the other to drive to draw off the zombies. Well why didn’t he do that in the first place with one of the many cars parked nearby, where the zombies weren’t crowding? And how did anyone think that having these things stumbling around the streets making sounds I last heard on Monty Python could be anything less than risible I have no idea.

One first season we did enjoy, and that was Deadwood. I found Calamity Jane an annoying screw-up whose speech I mostly couldn’t understand, but the rest of the characters were excellent, and Ian McShane was superb. The whole setting was a grubbily believable depiction of the lawless West – the whole look of the thing just right, down to the details of clothing, weapons, tools, ways businesses were run, everything. Unfortunately I believe this was a series that fell foul of franchise renewal and terminates abruptly. Still, we’ll buy the rest of what’s available.


Another we watched was The Borgias. I vaguely remember the old series of this and how much I enjoyed the Caesar character and his pet killer and in this found them both a little disappointing. I also had trouble understanding what many of the characters were saying throughout the first few episodes. Whether this is down to my tinnitus and increasing deafness I don’t know. It may be that they’re trying to be more naturalistic in speech just as many film makers have been with their camera work – you know, the annoying close-ups and shaky camera shots. But after a few episodes I did get hooked and did enjoy it. It’s not quite in the class of The Tudors but certainly we’ll buy the next season.


Yesterday, after shopping in Sitia, my labours over the previous days started catching up with me, along with a temperature of over 30 down there and 28 up here. I was rather knackered so confined my work for the day to preparing spare ribs, which we’ve not been able to find here before. Today the temperature at 9.00AM was 22.9C whereas yesterday, at the same time, it was two degrees lower, so it’s going to be a hot one. However, I must get back to my keyboard and do another 2,000 words of the Penny Royal thing, which now stands at 102,721 words.

That's all for now. Contemplating a swim.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

From Geckos to Revans (with a rant on the way)

Friday 27th April

A few patches of mould lifted some paint in the ruin over the winter so yesterday I went in there to wire-brush those areas and paint them. I knew the ruin had a guest behind the fridge from when I went in there before, and it was still there when I moved the fridge for painting. The cheeky thing has been living in the evaporation tray at the back of it, doubtless for the warmth. I caught him to show Caroline then, when I’d finished the painting, I put him back. Better to have geckos living in your house rather than those visitors with rather more legs.




Sunday 29th April
One could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve entered the age of the righteous fuckwad, what with smoking bans, minimum pricing on alcohol and taxes on hot pies, but you would be wrong. I submit that the urge to tell people what to do for their own good has been with us since the dawn of history, and always transforms into the urge to force people to behave correctly. We’ve always had those with us who get niggled by the thought that someone, somewhere, might be enjoying themselves and that it should stopped. There should be a law. They should be taxed.

The latest wheeze (forgive the pun) is in the Netherlands. Righteous fuckwads there have decided to ban foreigners from cannabis cafes which of course, like all forms of bansturbation and just like the smoking ban, is just a step on the road to stopping that enjoyable, unhealthy and terribly terribly wrong activity. But hang on a minute, what are those running the cafes supposed to do? Should they put up signs saying ‘No English, No Germans, No French’? Surely that is discrimination on the basis of national identity? The basis of this latest bit of idiocy is that smoking cannabis is illegal in other countries. So, working with that basis ... isn’t alcohol illegal in some countries? Will bars in the Netherlands soon be putting up signs saying ‘No Saudi Arabians’ or, since the ban on alcohol in such countries stems from their particular religion, should they ban Muslims from entering? Yeah, right.

Tuesday 1st May
There is, apparently, a debate across the world about the benefits of austerity as opposed to spending. There are those who feel ‘spending should be increased to boost business’. Yet surely that depends on who is doing the spending and what the money is spent on. Our governments cannot resist agenda-driven spending so we get ‘investment in green energy’ which means expensive, inefficient and heavily subsidized fucking wind turbines. It ‘invests in people’ (thank the Anti-Midas Brown for turning the word ‘invest’ into a joke) which means more social, down-the-toilet spending that fails to generate any wealth at all. By all means spend, but on shale gas, nuclear power, and emerging technologies like biotech, nanotech or ... here’s a radical idea: since every pound paid in tax ends up as 30 pence by the time the bureaucrats and politicians have taken their cut, how about cutting out the taxes and leaving the money in the hands of those more competent at investing it?

I’m hearing a lot of sobbing going on at the BBC about the rise of right-wing parties across Europe. In France it’s Le Penn and in Greece its Golden Dawn (with a flag that looks like an amalgam of Greek key and swastika). How can this possibly be happening? I guess people are starting to learn the truth behind Margaret Thatcher’s, ‘Socialist eventually run out of other people’s money’. Of course the left is kicking up a stink too against austerity, but that’s just short-sighted self-interest – their wonderful response being, ‘Spent too much money? Spend more!’ While the far left is also gaining more support. The reality here is that all across Europe those who are not bored shitless by politics are looking at the main parties – usually centre left and centre right – seeing them perpetually screwing up and noting that you couldn’t slot a fag paper between them, and are looking elsewhere. The problem is that they are looking for solutions in more state control. Those like me who see ever-expanding government as the problem are heading down the pub.

Wednesday 2nd May
Enough of this ranting nonsense. Here’s how the beach looks by Revan’s bar: