Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chillies and Sun Beds

Wednesday 22nd August
That’s better: the wind started to die on Monday but the sea was still colder than usual. It died completely yesterday and the sea immediately turned warm again (and I was able to take a long swim without the wind blasting sea water into my mouth every time I faced into it to breathe) and today there’s little wind too. I was also hoping, what with the Greek holiday coming to an end, for the beach to be less crowded, but a wedding party of 32 people turned up to occupy the apartments beside the beach. Sigh.

But things are otherwise fine. Penny Royal II is rumbling along nicely with targets and story threads clear. As I wrote previously: Sheila Williams of Asimov’s has accepted my story (about 20,000 words) The Other Gun. I had half expected it to be rejected as too Polity-slanted but she says I have enough back-story there for non-Polity-readers to understand it. There was also the possibility of a response of, ‘Well, it’s okay but...’ Next, if I don’t use it in my present books, I’ll turn that Dr Whip stuff into a story and bang it off to Asimov’s too.

Sunday 26th August
Okay, time for a little catching up. I ran my niece and her boyfriend back to the airport on Friday and surprisingly (for me) was quite sad to see them go. Before they went they caught some very nice days here with the wind stopped and the sea temperature on the rise again and the same weather has continued ever since (though apparently the wind will be back on Wednesday). Now, with our visitors gone, I’ve been turning my attention to an important matter: chilli sauce.

Having gathered in the first half a kilo of chillies I’ve produced a nice quantity to be going on with, and with the amount of chillies growing and the rate they’re ripening at I’ll probably be picking half a kilo every week. I’m hoping to take back to England a couple of 1.5 litre plastic bottles of the stuff. This time I won’t make the mistake of packing them in the centre of a suitcase surrounded by all the wires and adapters we take back. Last time, after my case was X-rayed, they had me open it – the combination of a large bottle of liquid surrounded by wiring arousing some suspicion.

Monday 27th August
Right, in the tradition of many Internet blogs, time for some cute kitten pictures:

And now, in the cynical tradition of this blog, it’s time for a reality check. Previously there were three kittens but in the picture below you’ll see that there are now two of them – one of them with its eye closed up. There was no sign of the other one and the reason for that could be one of many. I know that there are weasels in the olive grove where the mother is keeping them. There are also sand martins all over the place (bit like a polecat or pine martin) and no shortage of birds of prey. Sickness is also an option as is that old favourite: a Greek boy with a rock. A local tosser with an air rifle is not to be ruled out either – a guy for whom I’ve made up a little aphorism: if you shoot cats all winter you end up with rats all summer.

Tuesday 28th August
Really, some people just don’t get it. The batches of sun beds on the beach are owned by various establishments fronting the beach – they in fact pay rent for their section of beach and the number of sun beds on it. The ‘free for customers’ concept is a fairly recent one, brought about by the steady decline in trade. If you use a sun bed and don’t buy anything from the bar or restaurant owning it you’ll get charged by that establishment because it is, well, a business and not a social service. Charges for a pair of sun beds, plus umbrella, range from €5 to €10 on Crete. Therefore, if two of the four or five of you buy a bottle of water each at 60 cents, while the rest of you get your food and drink from the local shop, if you chop and change between sun beds while you’re there – occupying one of each pair so arriving couples cannot use them – and leave all your stuff scattered across them while you’re off for three hours eating a meal elsewhere, it is not beyond the bounds of reason to understand that the bar owner is going to be a little miffed.

The last few days have been hot, but not according to the thermometer. When outside up here it felt like it was in the 30s yet was in the late 20s, while down in Makrigialos it’s felt like it was 40C yet the thermometer read 30. The reason for this of course was humidity, which seemed to reach saturation point yesterday with the gravel between the bar and the beach looking like it had been hosed down, skin feeling clammy, dew dripping from the tamarisk trees and beach bags and clothing turned dark with damp. Now all is changing with the North wind coming back (predicted to be force 8 but just breezy up here at the moment) and the temperature here reading a few degrees down but feeling much lower. This bodes ill for the wedding ceremony due to be conducted at Revans bar on Wednesday. I predict sand in the buffet, the bride hanging onto her skirt and hat as she enters and any sound recording marred by the flapping of umbrellas and the roar of the wind.

My decision to write the trilogy of Penny Royal books all at once has been proved the right one. I’ve already gone back to the first book to alter a conversation by adding just a couple of lines, but they’re critical for the book I’m on now. Next I’ll be going back to alter the history of Riss – an assassin drone made in the shape of an ancient prador parasite (which resembles a cobra with an ovipositor extending from its tail, small grasping limbs under its hood and a third eye on top of its head). Riss must now be made a witness to what happened to factory station Room 101...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Thursday 16th August

Damn, after a week of stillness or balmy breezes the Meltemi is back. Bead curtains have to be tied up to prevent them turning into Gordian tangles, chairs and tables are going walkabout outside. Our flowering tree, which we were told was a datura but which might be (according to Barry Arrowsmith) a brugmansia, had begun to put out flowers but now they’re being shredded.

But on the plus side it is still lovely and warm, my chillies are doing wonderfully...

...and nothing is slowing the pace of my writing.

Penny Royal II is at 32,800 words is five chapters in and developing nicely. I’m presently writing a conversation between a King’s Guard (remember them?) and another prador who has been undergoing a rather odd transformation. In fact, if you wanted to nail my stuff with one word then ‘transformation’ wouldn’t be a bad one. Examples abound: the King’s Guard themselves and the prador king, the Old Captains, Vrell, Cormac ... in fact choosing characters who do not transform physically or mentally would be a more difficult option. But I’m waffling, all fiction, in essence, is about transformation.

Friday 17th August
I would like to suggest, just mildly and by the way, as a point of discussion, that dog owners who allow their dogs to yip, yap or bark continually, especially in a hot country where most people leave their windows open, should be strung up from the nearest lamppost with a choke chain. I would just like to raise the point that while Tinkerbell’s yip yip yipping might be cute to you, that your neighbour is steadily emitting steam from his ears and would like to come round and stamp it into a fluffy smear on the floor. I would further like to suggest that Tyson’s deep and loud bark, to which your main reaction is an ineffectual ‘now now then’ and a secretive tensing of your testicles, is extremely irritating to others. Perhaps you should also consider that getting yourself a dog is not a great idea if you’re going to leave it alone either in the house or tied up in the back yard all day while you’re at work. You know, there is something about the continual yapping of a dog that makes me want to dress up in dark clothing, black out by face, and take a little wander in the darkness with a very large knife.
I’m just sayin’.

Monday 20th August
It’s starting to feel autumnal here already, but that may well be due to the constant wind having cooled everything off. It’s also the case, as ever, that when it turns hot in Britain it turns cooler here. I’m sure some weather forecaster would be explain to me why – doubtless something to do with where high pressure and low pressure cells are sitting etc. Hopefully it’s not going to be downhill from now on and we’ll get a rise in temperature from today what with the wind having eased off.

Tuesday 21st August
Closing in on 40,000 words with Penny Royal II. Time to introduce Factory Station Room 101...

Ah, good news from Sheila Williams: my story The Other Gun has been accepted for Asimov's.

Oh, and here's an interview for SFX.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Writing and Swimming

Thursday 9th August

Okay, getting things in order. Over here on the Tor blog (that’s Tor Macmillan not Tor US) there’s a survey about my books, about what you like best, and some prizes to be won including my entire back catalogue and some signed artwork.

Penny Royal II now stands at 22,152 words and it’s been 22 days since I started on it. Obviously this averages out at 1,000 words a day but then three weekends have to be subtracted, two days spent on the short story The Other Gun, a day picking up relatives from Iraklion and a day spent on interviews and other ephemera, so 12 days, which gives me an average of 1846, so just a spit away from the word count I aim for. Working on that basis this means I should have the book done by about Christmas then, all being well, a third one done well before it’s time for me to deliver the first of the three. Well, that’s the plan anyhow.

Friday 10th August
Damn, what happened this morning? I woke up at around about 5.00 and couldn’t get back to sleep so got up at 6.00. I took a shower and then went outside to bucket the shower water onto my plants and, seeing Dean and Samantha up and about, went into a state of shock. These two generally aren’t stirring from their pit until gone 9.00 or 10.00. Now even Caroline is up and about. Perhaps it’s the wind, or rather the lack of it. It had a few more rebellious blasts yesterday morning and then died and this morning it’s gone. So we’re no longer hearing that but instead the steadily growing din of the cicadas.

Moving on to the ‘where are they now’ section ... familiar faces are missing from the beach this year...

Hi David and Lesley!

Monday 13th August
So, with it getting to hot to dance to the Wii a couple of months ago, with one record resulting in me dripping like I’d just got out of the shower and skating on sweat, I had to give that up. However, the increase in temperature meant the sea becoming warm enough for me to get into without my balls trying to retreat into my torso, so I changed my exercise routine. I took my first ‘harbour swim’ in June (I think someone measured it on Google Maps at about a quarter to half a mile) and was pleased to manage it without the rests I took when starting swimming the year before, but was still thoroughly knackered. In the picture it’s from where I’m standing to that line of rocks to the right of the harbour mouth.

By July it was getting easier and now it is getting almost too easy, so I’m not swimming straight back from the harbour but doing partial or full circuits of the buoys that mark the point beyond which I might get run over by a jet ski.

And still it’s not damned well enough to stop my stomach from sticking out.

And on a final note, bar work can be dangerous, especially when you catch a broken glass on the way to the floor, Kostis:


Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Beginning of August

Wednesday 1st August

Okay, tomorrow Zero Point comes out. As usual Amazon has jumped the gun, though I’m pleased to see that it’s up to number three on the ‘New and Future Releases SF’ there with only some tie-in type book I have no idea about above it along with something by a guy called Iain M Banks, which I of course have no objection to. No point looking at ‘Bestsellers SF’ because all the top slots are occupied by G. R. R. Martin books and other fantasies. Funny isn’t it how on Amazon you can fine down a list so it’s maybe ‘SF, space opera, hardback’ yet on that main SF list they apparently can’t tell the difference between SF and Fantasy. Go figure.

Thursday 2nd August
Yuk, the temperature has dropped with this morning’s reading at 9.15 being 24C and in the sky those strange white fluffy things not normally seen over Crete at this time of year. Damn, while sitting outside last night I even had to put a T-shirt on. However, it’s still nice and warm down in Makrigialos and I can get into the sea without flinching. Today I’ll do so again and then we’ll have a meal at a restaurant called Golden Beach to celebrate the release of Zero Point. I wonder if there’ll be a load of single star reviews appearing on Amazon for that book. Surely not, surely those who didn’t enjoy The Departure won’t have gone out and bought Zero Point too...

I didn’t produce much fiction yesterday, instead answering email questions for SFX magazine, writing another blog post for Macmillan to use on their Tor blog, and sorting out ‘DVD extras’ for the books, these being pieces I cut out of the books and consigned to a file called bitsSF (or the cutting room floor). Penny Royal II is up to 15,780 words and I will dive back into it now.

Sunday 5th August
On Thursday afternoon I drove to Iraklion to pick up my niece Samantha and her boyfriend Dean who are now installed in our ruin. They’re finding it quite warm after escaping the lowering skies of Chester but, unfortunately for them, this looks like it’s going to be a Meltemi summer, with that wind perpetually blowing up. Matching the timing of last week it returned this Saturday and may be with us for days or weeks. Kostis, down at Revans, told me a story about a hotel further along the coast that was sued by some German holidaymakers because they turned up for a two-week holiday and had two weeks of force ten gales. Silly of them (they didn’t win), but I perfectly understand how they felt.

Monday 6th August
Yup, the wind is still here ... even as I wrote that is gusted through the doors, knocked a calendar over and nearly had a pot of flowers on the floor, almost like it was giving me the finger. This morning I was awake before 7.00 listening to it gusting and chucking things about outside and now I’m at my laptop early. The only answer to weather like this is to laugh at it and get on with other stuff, which is why I’m now diving back into Penny Royal.

Okay, that was good: 2,000 words written by 10.30 AM ... and then lots more.