Monday, August 29, 2011

Heavy Metal

Righto, I’ve been given permission by David Fincher to show some pictures from the now defunct version of the new ‘Heavy Metal’ film which I’ll scatter through this brief summation. A few years ago I saw a thing on You Tube called 'Rockfish' a short CGI-animated science fiction story. I thought it was good and finding the email of the guy who did it, one Tim Miller at Blur Studios I sent him a message saying how much I enjoyed it. Tim thanked me, glad I liked it since he had books of mine on his shelf. A while after this he told me about this Heavy Metal film and asked if I had short stories they might use.

Pictures from Mason’s Rats

I sent loads, they selected some and I altered some, amalgamating the three Mason’s Rats stories into one and shortening Snow in the Desert. They asked me to write some specific ones, so I wrote one called Half Breed which was an orc/elf battle based on Rorke’s Drift, and a short piece called Dinopocalypse. And on story count my stuff made up two thirds of the film. It was all very exciting since the people involved were Tim Miller himself, David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Alien 3), Kevin Eastman (owner of Heavy Metal magazine and creator of the Ninja turtles) and subsequently other people were to be involved, like Gore Verbinski, Guillermo del Toro, Tarsem, Peter Chung and Jeff Fowler (film buffs will know these names) and latterly James Cameron. Also I began to see the artwork being commissioned, which was very good.

Pictures from Bad Travelling

Initially the film was being looked at by Paramount, but they dropped out, and thereafter Fincher and Miller carried on hawking it around. At one point it went to Tom Cruise (he has a film company too), who looked at my story Snow in the Desert and thought it would make a good film by itself. However, all this was to no avail. Robert Rodriguez just optioned Heavy Metal and sadly he doesn’t get any of the stories/concepts/art that Miller and Fincher developed for their version of Heavy Metal.

Pictures from Snow in the Desert

Now Snow in the Desert might be turned into a ‘feature’. That would be great, but I have no intention of holding my breath!

Mantids and Madness

Tuesday 23rd August

Funny, in my last post about the goings on in Libya and Tripoli I ended with the comment that maybe I was being too cynical, but apparently I wasn’t being cynical enough. Whilst the BBC reporters were swallowing whole the rebel claims, and reporting on the capture of Gadaffi’s sons and his imminent fall, I was foolishly swallowing whole their reports. It’s been a pertinent reminder of how partial the news can be and, really, it ain’t over till it’s over.

Checking out the various lists on Amazon I see that the Kindle version of The Departure has risen to the number one spot in ‘Science Fiction, New and Future Releases’ with the hardback at number five. If I confine myself to the ‘Science Fiction, Hardback, New and Future Releases’ it’s at number three whilst in ‘Science Fiction, Bestsellers’ it is at number fifty-five (though of course yet to be released). Generally, over my last four or five books, a new release has always risen to one of those number one spots on Amazon for at least a while. I’m guessing that in sales terms my course hasn’t really changed much i.e. they’re climbing slowly but steadily with each new release.

Wednesday 24th August
Jupiter War is now into the 90,000s and steadily growing. I twittered last week that I might finish this book, which is the third of a trilogy, before the first book of the trilogy is even published, but I now think that’s unlikely. Certainly I’ll have the first draft done before we return to England in November

Friday 26th August
I hear this morning that Japan is 10 trillion in debt and beside the flippant ‘to whom and let’s shoot him’ I have to wonder just which countries aren’t in debt or, rather, which parasitic governments aren’t in debt. Here in Greece the leech government is sucking harder as the host country dies. I learnt yesterday about further confiscatory taxes with people who own houses above 100 metres in area being hit, PAYE tax payers being hit with a €50 ‘solidarity tax’, people with a boat above a certain length being hit, whilst if you own an SUV, combined taxes can amount to as much as €2000. Meanwhile the banks are preparing for the inevitable default and the possibility of Greece crashing out of the Euro. If this happens, this means me drawing out all the money I’ve paid in to my bank here, stopping payments and waiting. Greece may go back to the Drachma at a government set exchange rate followed by the rapid devaluing of said currency, which will mean a better exchange rate for me later, but the Greeks maybe having to use a wheel barrow to take their drachmas to the bakers for a loaf of bread. I utterly despair of the stupidity of governments across the world. As a guy I was chatting to yesterday noted, if governments had been companies the politicians would have been fired by now and prosecuted for fraud.

Here’s a couple of praying mantises knocking about our garden. I tried finding out a bit about them in my laptop copy of Encyclopaedia Britannica but found it only under ‘mantid’, which seems a bit daft in this hyperlinked age.

Monday 29th August
Oh dear, I must look into what is happening to Alpha Bank, which is my bank here. Apparently it is merging with Eurobank so as to be able to survive. I really don’t want the cash machines telling me to bugger off. I must also get myself a safe...

Meanwhile the weather here is turning a bit crappy. Though it is still in the 20s here up in the mountains, quite a lot of cloud is already appearing. I rather suspect another crappy winter is on the way and that we’ll be burning up a large portion of our wood supply before we head back to England... Um, but checking some of last year’s blog posts I see that my first moan about summer ending was on the 24th August

Meanwhile, I’ve learnt that our new neighbour has had a car accident, possibly while driving his car back here from Belgium. Stelios said something about him having a metal plate in his skull or face...

And just to introduce something a bit lighter, here’s a picture of me wearing silly glasses:

Monday, August 22, 2011


Wednesday 17th August

Yesterday I drove to Iraklion airport to pick up Samantha and Dean – my niece and her boyfriend – who are staying in our ‘ruin’ for two weeks. No real problems on the drive because if you remain aware that there are nutters on the road you can generally keep out of their way. The temperature hovered at about 30 and after the drive there and back I must have sweated about a gallon into my car seat, this was probably why, afterwards, two half litre glasses of ice-cold beer hardly touched my tonsils on the way down. It’s a struggle here.

Thursday 18th August
The chillies are coming thick and fast now and, having collected half a kilo of them it’s time to make sweet chilli sauce. I never actually wrote the recipe down for myself (unless it’s buried in this blog somewhere) but recollect it being half a kilo of chillies, one whole garlic bulb, salt, a cup of sugar and a cup of vinegar. However, I did write the recipe down for someone else and that says two cups of vinegar and sugar, and yet someone else told me I put corn flour in to thicken too. The only way to find out is to just do it...

And, retrospectively, here I am about essential authorial tasks, that is, preparing onions for pickling:

Well, the kids seem to be enjoying themselves. They took chairs up on our roof to soak up some rays in the morning whilst I wrote my 2,000 words, and then spent most of their time in the sea when we were all down in Makrigialos. As we were on the way back, intent on buying some bread rolls and not able to find enough, we decided to eat in the Gabbiano, whereupon plates were cleared, much laughter ensued and photos had to be taken of us being able to smoke in a restaurant. They retired to the ‘ruin’ at midnight and we hit the sack shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, to send in an email, I took a few up-to-date pictures at and from the house, which I thought I might put here:

Friday 19th August
I’m presently reading through The Hyperion Omnibus by Dan Simmons and both enjoying and remembering the book Hyperion, which I read many years ago. When I finish the omnibus I’ll maybe write a review of it, but meanwhile let me share a couple of things with you now.

As many of you will know, Hyperion is loosely based on The Canterbury Tales what with the travellers telling their various stories (in these cases usually involving some hideous encounter with the shrike) and from ‘the Poet’s Tale’:

On Heaven’s Gate, I discovered what a mental stimulant physical labour could be; not mere physical labour, I should add, but absolutely spine-bending, lung-racking, gut-ripping, ligament-tearing, and ball-breaking physical labour. But as long as the task is both onerous and repetitive, I discovered, the mind is not only free to wander to more imaginative climes, it actually flees to higher plains.

Much hollow laughter ensued from me after I read that. There speaks the effete writer whose closest encounter with a spade has probably been in a deck of cards and whose knowledge of physical labour has arisen from other effete writers, but whether that’s the poet in question, Martin Silenus, or Simmons himself I leave you to speculate. Hard physical labour numbs the mind, probably because all the blood flow is concentrated in the muscles, and the mind is focused on such mediocrities as not chopping off ones toes with the spade. In that situation the most it can manage is endless repetitions of ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’

The next bit to share is also from ‘The Poet’s Tale’:

Writers were among my acquaintances but, as in all times, we tended to mistrust and badmouth each other, secretly resenting the other’s successes and finding fault in their work. Each of us knew in his or her heart that he or she was the true artist of the word who merely happened to be commercial; the others were hacks.

And there speaks a writer with true and direct personal experience of other writers and the writing world!

Saturday 20th August
Bugger, the wind is back. After I polished off two and a half thousand words yesterday we went down to Makrigialos as usual. I managed my harbour swim, though coming back doing breast stroke I had to keep my head turned out to sea to manage to breathe. Thereafter, lying on the beach trying to read Hyperion became a bit wearing, because I didn’t want my entire body, including my eyeballs, exfoliating.

Whilst we were sitting inside Revans for a while Caroline checked out the books and discovered one that had been left there. I’m never sure whether to be glad to see books left like this or not:

Ah, here’s some of the local wildlife, the latter of which I’m saving to show our visitors:

Monday 22nd August
Well, it looks like Colonel Gadaffi is on the way out what with the rebels into Tripoli and his son being captured. Let’s just hope he’s not sitting in a bunker somewhere on a nuclear warhead with his finger on a button. Now, apparently, they are all free in Libya and will be able to say what they want. There’ll be no tribal conflict and everything from now on will be hunky dory what with peace and democracy settling over the country like a big comfy duvet. This is of course is about as naive as the thought that the rebellion would be over in just a few months. Look forward to the fanatics trying to push their case, various factions at each other’s throats and terrorist bombs going off in Tripoli over the next few years. Yeah, I know, I’m a cynic.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mid August

Wednesday 10th August

Damn it, I’m still having to type without using my left little finger and it’s a pain. I tried folding it up with a rubber band to keep it out of the way, but didn’t like the colour it was turning...

Along with the heat, cicadas, beaches filling up with holidaymakers and further Greeks at the weekends, we get Greeks holidaying here in our village too. I’m told quite a lot of them are from Athens, coming here to old family homes for a getaway. I spotted two Greek children coming down the side path to the ‘ruin’, probably having crossed the roof of our main house and, though I can snap out phrases like ‘Where are you going?’ or ‘What do you want?’ easily enough, in the time available I couldn’t quite put together, ‘Where have you been?’ and ‘That’s my fucking roof up there. It’s not a public highway and how would your parents feel if I followed you home and tramped all over their fucking roof?’ They’d probably gape at me in bafflement and then hurry away from the mad Englishman.

Here’s something Lorrie McCullough at Underland press sent me. You can pop over there and explain why you would love to live on Spatterjay, or Masada...

The project, authored and edited by Jeff VanderMeer, is called If You Lived Here: The Top 30 All Time Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Worlds. It's a compendium, of sorts, but also a travel guide to places like Dune, Ring World, Middle Earth, Lankhmar . . . and beyond . . . We've all lived in these places--in imagination if not in fact--and we're all united by our common experiences of them. We wanted to collect the worlds together in one place as both a walk down memory lane and a place to start new dreams.

We're reaching out to readers, writers, and booksellers to ask for nominations of worlds to include. We've set up a web form at, which takes the nominations and asks respondents to describe what they love about the world. (If things go according to plan, we'll include some of the responses in the book itself.) We're looking for as much community involvement as possible in this project, and we'd love it if you could help with a signal boost, a mention, or even some nominations of your own.

Friday 12th August
The wind has been blasting on and off over the last week. When we were at the Staousa Bar over the weekend it was pretty damned fierce and even though we were partially sheltered we needed water in the ashtray for it to serve any purpose at all. Over this last week it’s been humid too, so 30C (in Makrigialos) feels like 40 feels at other times when the humidity is lower, and clouds have been appearing in the sky, which is almost unheard of here in August. Yesterday it was very windy and got very cloudy, in fact without the wind carrying the cloud across the sky like an avalanche I’m sure it would have rained. Today it’s windy again, now blowing hard enough to chuck our chairs about the terrace, and the temperature up here this morning was below 20C with plenty of cloud about, and it’s bloody annoying.

It’s funny how wind can be characterized when one wouldn’t do the same with other weather. Like an annoying brat it runs around flipping letter boxes, knocking plant pots on the ground, violently shaking bead curtains and rattling loose tiles on the roof. Every now and again it throws a tantrum and starts throwing chairs about, when not maliciously mauling all my plants and trying to kill them off. A bit like a bully looking for a fight it shoves at my car when I’m driving, throws sand in my face and waits until I’ve filled a roll-up paper with tobacco before knocking it out of my hands.

Of course this crappy weather rather confirms something I was saying a little while ago. After the worst winter the Eastern Mediterranean has seen in fifty years there were those who were saying that now we’ll have a long hot summer. Bollocks. There is no chain of logic there and that is weather prediction based on hope. It could well be that another crappy winter is on the way and that it will start early.

Monday 15th August
At last the clouds have disappeared from over the mountains and the wind has stopped. The temperature this morning is 24C at 9.30, which we haven’t had for quite a few days now.

Whilst we had this wind we were back to the English way of spending an evening, i.e. slumped in front of the television. In England my mother watched a Danish series called The Killing, which is about just one murder and spread over quite a few episodes. She said it was very good and we’d heard good reports elsewhere. A couple here loaned us the series but it turned out to be the American version of the same thing, set in Seattle. Nevertheless it turned out to be very good (well, apart from one episode near the end that consisted entirely of parental angst) at depicting a single murder and many of the real consequences of the same, which most other detective/thriller series tend to trivialize. I recommend this.

What is not recommended is something called Haven. Like Fringe this was another attempt to jump on the X-Files bandwagon, but unlike the Fringe the acting and the story lines were crap. Two episodes were enough for us to not bother watching any more.

Hopefully the TV will be off in the evenings from now until October, but I doubt it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Getting Hotter

Wednesday 3rd August

Well, things seem to be stirring on the Hollywood front. I’ve just heard from Tim Miller at Blur Studios that one Robert Rodriguez has now optioned the Heavy Metal project and that in so doing he doesn’t get any of the stories/concepts/art previously submitted. This unfortunately means that you won’t be seeing a total of five of my short stories animated for the big screen. However, along with this bad news came the good, and it seems that something might happen with a certain short story called Snow in the Desert. This was, as those of you who have been following this saga might remember, a story of interest to some guy whose name was ... damnit, what was it, er, Thomas travel, Tommy Journey? No, I’m sure it had something to do with ships. Cruise?

As I noted in my previous post an LA producer also got in contact with me wanting a chat. Now this may be connected to the above or have nothing to do with it. Since, as I’ve discovered, these things tend to be rather secretive, i.e. say anything about this and we’ll have to have you shot, I’ll try to keep you updated but can’t promise to.

Of course all this is very exciting and leads to some drunken speculation out on our Papagianades terrace of an evening, but I’m not holding my breath. I keep on with the bread-and-butter work of writing the books and trying to keep you guys entertained and, if I get too big-headed, Caroline will certainly find me some sweeping up to do or a toilet to clean.

Monday 8th August
Damn, I had to take a bit of a break from typing from Wednesday last week because of something annoyingly petty: the end of my little finger hurt. It’s some form of RSI from typing I’ve had before which results in the end of a finger hurting quite a lot at a simple touch. ‘Type with your other fingers!’ I hear the cry. No, if I carry on it tends to spread to other fingers. Now I’m attempting to be a bit less heavy handed, which will of course change when I get excited about something I’m writing. Which reminds me: I once actually managed to wear a hole through the space bar of one of those old grey keyboards, so why is it now that they tend to go wrong before I can get anywhere near that stage?

Along with the cicadas and other big insects we’re getting some of the nice big spiders appearing here now. This one, which is about two inches across, has made its home on the side border leading up to the ‘ruin’. The day after I damaged its web with the spray from a hose pipe the line of white glyphs appeared on its web below it. A rough translation runs something like this, ‘Stop breaking my web – I’m eating those noisy buggers for you!’

Since the beach is now overrun with holidaying Greeks we went on Sunday to a taverna at a place called Kalo Nero (this means ‘good water’ and, as Stelios told us when he was showing us around, ‘not any more’). Here we have a nice demonstration of the price variations between tourist areas and places more remote. In Makrigialos a half litre carafe of white wine ranges from €4 to €6. Here (and the picture is of the view) a carafe costs €2.50. Also, in Makrigialos the price of a beer can be €3 whilst in some places in the mountains it can cost as little as €1, along with enough mezes to feed you for a day.

So, with a buggered finger I caught up some of my reading. On Friday I finished off the last book of four by Simon Scarrow telling the stories of Wellington and Napoleon. These are Young Bloods, The Generals, Fire and Sword and Fields of Death, and I heartily recommend them. As I noted before, the battle scenes and descriptions of the campaigning got a bit wearing and repetitive, mainly in the middle two books, but then how many different ways can you describe cannon balls and canister shot ploughing through files of soldiers? I would imagine that in trying to stick to historical fact Scarrow allowed the dry dead prose of the historian to slip into the books. However, these were four massive 600+ word tomes and I read them all, so the above, whilst it had an effect, did not stop me reading. What I also enjoyed was the acquisition of historical knowledge, about the Napoleonic Wars, about the politics, national manoeuvring and attitudes 9like the low regard for human life), about the way technology was developing (the first use of howitzers, for example) and, as always, this sort of stuff gives an insight into the present day. It is of course the usual insight of ‘technology advances whilst humans are as bad as they’ve always been’ or ‘no, the world is not falling apart – this is just business as usual’.

Tuesday 9th August
So, just before my swim to the harbour I noted a large boat moored outside the harbour, just beyond the buoys marking the dividing line between the swimmers and the jet skis. As I set out the water was clear enough for me to see the frappe cups and plastic water bottles on the bottom. About halfway to the harbour I noted slews of a pink substance floating just below the surface and thought that might be something I’d seen before: masses of globular objects that had to be eggs of some kind. At the harbour I turned round and swam back, momentarily encountering what I briefly thought was a jelly fish but turned out to be a plastic bag, which is why so many jelly-fish eating turtles are dying with guts packed with plastic. After a relax on the beach, reading the Hyperion omnibus by Dan Simmons and then having to put it down before suffering RSI, I went for another swim with my new mask and snorkel. There wasn’t much to see, unless you enjoy drifts of coffee stirrers, fragments of plastic sheeting and the occasional dilapidated tennis ball. I then noted more of that pink stuff, along with something else floating near the surface. This other object, this brown lump, changed my earlier assessment of what that pink stuff was. Andrex, probably. I’m guessing the people on that boat are flushing their toilet straight into the sea. Nice of them.

But of course turds and toilet paper swiftly come apart and rot down in the ocean so, apart from inclining me to scrub really hard in the shower and wash out my mouth repeatedly, these are nowhere near as much of a problem as all that plastic out there. The environmentalists should be focusing on stuff like that, which is one of the many reasons why I get so angry with their present preoccupations, like their insistence on the need to build bird choppers (American whooping crane anyone?), or their delight in the closing down of nuclear power stations in countries that last saw big earthquakes and tsunamis when Noah was wishing he’d left out the woodpeckers. And of course, I utterly despise their need to get rid of a gas that is a plant food and which they insist magically causes snow storms whilst also frying us in our beds, despite the fact that the main thing to track the rise in quantity of that gas in our atmosphere is the number of luxury cars being hired at climate change conferences.

With these riots going on in London, Teresa May tells us, ‘The police need the help and support of the local community,’ which is the usual politician-speak urban-elite claptrap. Well, here is the result of decades of ‘sensitive’ urban policing, irresponsible parents, a complete lack of punishment for criminals, political manipulation of the police, HSE bollocks, and cops being employed and promoted on the basis of gender, racial equality, their political correctness and ability to fill in reports, rather on them being over six feet tall and capable of collaring thugs. What the police need, Teresa, is to grow a set. Perhaps what we could do with is a few less diversity-trained ethnic outreach community relations officers, and a few more fifteen stone hairy bastards who know how to use a truncheon.

Ach, enough of that.

Having finished the Scarrow Napoleonic War books I then picked up Col Buchanan’s Stands a Shadow, kindly sent to me by Julie Crisp at Macmillan. On the back of the dust jacket is a quote that runs ‘Two pages into Farlander (the previous book) I was hooked ... I’ll certainly be reading the next book, for I have a feeling it’s going to be even better. Nice one Mr Buchanan’ by a guy called Neal Asher. So was this even better? I didn’t find myself being immediately hooked for any of a number of reasons: my hangover was getting in the way, because I couldn’t remember the story of the previous book, or because the prose seemed laboured to begin with. Really I should have read Farlander again before going onto this. Another thing that kept pulling me up was the odd chemistry of the ‘black powder’ here, and in one case a confusion between grape and chain shot (but then would anyone who had not just read four books on the Napoleonic Wars notice?) Anyway, I did get hooked later on and ended up finishing this at about 2.00 in the morning. My overall impression was that this wasn’t as ‘clean’ as Farlander – maybe suffering from a touch of mid-series syndrome – but it was as vivid and believable and a damned sight better than a lot of the lauded fantasy books out there, and I’ll certainly be reading the next one.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Into August

Wednesday 27th July

A certain retired Dutch physics teacher of my acquaintance said to me, ‘I’m glad I met you before reading your blog, else I would have expected someone always angry with steam coming out of his ears.’ This is because I use the blog to let off steam, but it is also about what is interesting.

If you sit down and watch 24 hour news you might think everything is falling apart when, in reality, all those wars, murders and natural disasters have been going on from the year dot and the only up-scaling is relative to population and to the number of TV hours needing to be filled. Through 24 hour news our impression of the world can be distorted because we’re not being told that meanwhile, in the rest of the world, an earthquake, a war or a famine didn’t happen. Equally, in the flesh I am not a hugely angry man, but I do post my exasperation and anger on my blog, so the impression given of me can also be distorted. It’s also the case that though this is a writer’s blog, what can I post about my writing?

Honest, no steam coming out of these ears, though having heard that from the Dutch guy I will endeavour to be a little less ranty, especially after that last one. Time to talk about plants and stuff...

Before we came here this year I got onto a website listing all sort of exotic seeds. The main ones I was hoping to see a result from were seeds for pitcher plants, Venus fly traps, tea and coffee. None of these came up in the first couple of months so I consigned the pots I’d planted them in round the back because there was always the chance they’d germinate later. Recently I decided that the seeds must have rotted so began emptying the pots, first picking up one I’d planted a coffee bean in. I emptied and found a sprouting bean so hurriedly put it back and waited. Now it seems I’ve got a few coffee plants on the way, but I’m buggered if I know where I’ll find room for them:

Another plant I’ve had trouble growing here is coleus, but I’ve done much better this year. Most of the seeds of ‘Top Crown Coleus’ germinated along with all of the seeds I’d saved from a dark red coleus last year.

Thursday 28th July
It seems I’m going to be even less ranty than predicted what with Caroline refusing to let me see the BBC news. This morning, for example, she sneaked a look at it while I was in the shower. I am in fact perfectly fine with this and feel no urge to turn on the TV to find out what members of the arsehole-ocracies of the world are doing. And almost certainly it’s better for my health.

One little thing I was thinking about doing on here was my own collection of aphorisms, perhaps trying to limit them to the character count of a Twitter message. Something along the lines of these: ‘Those who protest about cliques probably weren’t invited to join,’ or, ‘Those who moan about cliques probably don’t realize they’re in one.’ These occurred to me here because I really am someone who doesn’t like joining such groups, but time and time again I’ve heard people bemoaning the ex-pat cliques in Makrigialos to members of their own ex-pat clique. It’s a tribal thing really: we of the umpalumpas spit upon you Wanglefrogspouts.

Friday 29th July
Damn, and now I’m groping for something to write about now I’m not seeing anything on the news to get me irate. This, I guess, shows how habit-forming moaning can be. It’s certainly a trait to watch out for since it’s one that annoys me in others.

Okay, here’s how life is for me here at the moment. I get up in the morning, turn on my laptop, and while it warms up I bucket the grey water out of a barrel buried in the garden and use it to water the plants. With that done I return to my desk and warm up my writing faculties with a blog post like this one. I then turn to Jupiter War and aim to get 2,000 words of it done by the early afternoon. Just lately I’m not managing that because, like yesterday, I’ve been running back and forth through the book working out the plot – deleting, adding and altering. Yesterday, for example, my word count was 177 for the blog and 1606 for Jupiter War.

At some point during this we fit in a late breakfast and then, when I’ve finished writing for the day, I load copies of Jupiter War to two memory sticks. One goes in a drawer here whilst the other goes in the bag containing all the bits and pieces I take down to Makrigialos. This gives me two back-ups and, should anyone break in and steal my laptop, I’ll still have a copy or copies of the book, which is worth substantially more. We head down to the beach then where I have my ‘harbour swim’. This is over ten minutes of crawl across from Revans Bar to the harbour, then a little longer using both crawl and breast stroke on the way back. I’m not sure what the distance is but, me being very anal about counting stuff it’s about 320 strokes of crawl (one way), which I do in sets of three whilst bilaterally breathing. Maybe half a mile or so in total? I must check...

Next further dips are interspersed with whatever I’m reading, or the Athen’s News crossword or some work in a notebook as I sort out plot points. Presently I’m reading through Simon Scarrow’s four books on the Napoleon and Wellington – enjoyable, but the battle stuff is a bit repetitive, but then I suppose in reality it was repetitive. Later I’ll turn my attention to the stack of Dan Simmons tomes I brought here.

Having then worked up a sufficient thirst it’s ‘ora ya krasi’ (time for wine), with glasses of water and little bowls of nuts, seeds, crisps and sometimes water melon and other fruits. This is also people watching time: seeing the Greek mother who hasn’t realized that a number of years ago the doctor cut the umbilical cord attaching her to her child, or the Greek father blowing his stack because a boy from a nearby restaurant kicked over his sand castle, or an English guy of our acquaintance ‘on the pull’, or the woman in danger of being relaunched by Green Peace, or the twit on a lilo suddenly realizing he’s half a mile out at sea and in danger of paying Gadaffi a visit.

After a couple of hours of this it’s back home for something to eat, some time on the terrace in the evening discussing our eventful day and the meaning of life, then to bed, ready to start the whole circuit off again the next day.

I’ve had one or two interesting emails this week that are worth a mention. One was from a guy in America who really enjoyed Gridlinked and then: I caught myself doing something I promised myself I would never do after several disappointments; I went to your blog expecting leftist socialist drivel simply because that's what I've been seeing with many authors. I think you can guess how the rest of the email runs...

Another email was from Night Shade Books explaining the ‘Night Shade Silence’ and why I and others haven’t received royalties we’re owed. The letter from Jason Williams should be required reading for anyone wanting to set up a publishing company.

Then there’s the email from an LA-based producer who is a huge fan of my books and a partner in something called Black Box Management and who works with directors, writers and actors. He wants to get on the phone with me for a chat...

Monday 1st August
Damn the cicadas are loud this year. I guess there’re lots of them because of the long cold and wet winter, just as there’s more of all the insect life and other life besides. Their noise, I read somewhere, is capable of damaging ear drums at short range, and I can well believe it. When one is close I certainly get the feeling of something rattling in my ears. Oh, and the one whose job it is to catch and eat the buggers seems to be slacking on the job:

Even whilst avoiding the news it’s not difficult to pick up on snippets about the various ‘countries in debt’ across the world. Greece is going into default, no matter how European leaders might like to style it, and the rest of the PIIGS are following. Britain’s debt, when counted properly is in the region of 4 trillion pounds, whilst America’s is 14.3 dollars, and who knows how that’s being counted. But the statement that these countries are all in debt is absolute rubbish. In reality it is the large fat parasites attached to the countries, which have eaten up in some cases nearly half the country concerned, that are in debt. Governments, with their bloated bureaucracies are the ones that have been profligately over-spending, over-paying themselves and setting their own limit on their credit cards. And, as always, it’s the governments and those bureaucracies, who like leeches care little for the blood supply of their host, who keep on sucking until the last.

We’re avoiding Makrigialos over the weekends now because it is now holiday time in many places across Europe including Greece itself. There are many more people down there now, including Cretans from across the island heading to the beach for the weekend. This gives us time to get some shopping and generally sort things out around the house and garden though, with the temperature up in the thirties, all these are carried out at a rather slow pace.

Tuesday 2nd August
Okay, I need to get something off my chest: cicadas are not crickets. If you take a nice close look at one of the ugly bastards you’ll see something like a big horrible horse fly with more eyes than feasible. Here’s a picture for you:

Also, just as I was corrected years ago when in a short story I talked about the ‘scent of bougainvillea’ (it has no scent) and luckily did not compound my error by talking about ‘colourful bougainvillea in flower’ (all the pretty stuff you see is leaf bracts)...

... the sound of the Mediterranean (or more specifically Cretan) night has nothing to do with ‘cicadas singing’ because they stop their racket when the sun goes down. What you hear are crickets and frogs. Elsewhere in the world it might be different, because there are thousands of varieties of cicada and some of them do sing, apparently. Here they make a raucous racket and are tempting targets for a BB gun.

It’ll shortly be time to start picking the chillies:

I have to say that you do see some sights here. Yesterday we got a little bit concerned about a swimmer who was beyond the buoys, and who was therefore in danger of being run down by a speed boat or jet ski, and seemed to be swimming but getting nowhere. We wondered if this character was trying to do himself in, had just swum from Libya or Egypt or was just a bit of a nutter. Views through the binoculars of him wearing a sun hat, using plastic sandals on his hands to propel himself and wearing white socks seemed to confirm the last option. He eventually made it to shore – a quite porky individual who had to struggle in the shallows to put his white sandals on over his white socks before staggering up the beach to his towel.

Funny old world.

Prince of Thorns
Okay, some of you may remember my review of The Prince of Thorns, which has been one of the bets fantasies I read in a while. At the time some of you bemoaned my eight months early review of that book. Well, Mark tells me it's out now so go buy it. You won't regret it:

That's all for now.