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.   

Silly O'Clock

Here I am awake at silly o’clock again so I might as well do a rambling blog post interspersed with the occasional and probably irrelevant picture. So what am I doing? Well, right now I’m wondering how I’ll get on walking 15 kilometres of gorges after sleeping for about 4 hours, and not 4 hours altogether, but each hour separate and distinct. This walk is one organised by a guy called Chris who along with his wife Claire runs The Rock – a bar in Makrigialos – and, having volunteered to go along, I can’t chicken out now. But then again I shouldn’t worry. Lack of sleep doesn’t seem to be affecting me as much as it should and, despite my best sleep over the last week being about 5 hours of raki-induced coma, I’ve walked 37 miles and swum 2.

 
All this insomnia, walking and swimming, combined with a lack of interest in food beyond it being fuel, has certainly had its effects. I actually have a belly that’s narrower than my chest now. When I lie down there’s a hollow there rather than a jelly mountain. My weight is beginning to dip below 12 stone, 2 stone lower than I was around Christmas and my lowest weight in perhaps 20 years. Of course, as is always the way with this sort of thing, while I am happy with this, others are not. I’ve been told to stop losing weight and that I’m starting to look a bit ragged, concerned females appear with plates of food and I’ve had shouted at me, ‘Neal! Where is your arse?’

 
So what else? Oh yeah, I am doing some editing on the second book of Transformations, provisionally titled Factory Station Room 101. But I have to say I’m finding it difficult to raise much interest in it. Then again, even at the best of times, once editing has moved beyond a certain stage, I find my interest plummeting. Perhaps I’ll just finish going through this next book, which won’t have to be delivered for a while yet, and try writing something new. I do have another section I removed from these Penny Royal books that I intend to turn into a short story, just like a previous section I turned into The Other Gun (published in Asimov’s).

 
Now, bouncing onto something else, what a crappy summer we’re having here on Crete. Usually by this time of year there is not a cloud in the sky, but this year the buggers are persistent. It has even rained in June, which I can’t remember happening before (though my memory is not to be relied on). Perhaps this is due to that global warming stuff – the prime mover of every weather event on the planet including snow in the Sahara, non-barbecue summers in England and probably rains of natterjack toads on Cairo. Oddly, this weather has screwed up my veg patch. Usually, it’s the heat that terminates my radish growing here – sending them rapidly to seed. This year they went straight there anyway and out of four rows of the things I’ve had about 3, and they were woody. Also my other salad veg had gone straight to seed. My only success has been spring onions, but I cannot live on them if I want a social life.

 
Finally onto the Greek. I’ve been finding things clicking into place in my skull lately. A major success was when Anna, my teacher, moved on from giving me verbs for ‘I do(whatever)’ to learn just in present, past and future, but all the other cases/versions. In English I fly, you fly, he flies, she flies, it flies, we fly, they fly, so it is all pretty easy. In Greek there is another version of ‘you fly’ that is a polite or refers to more than one ‘you’. And all of these are singular distinct words i.e. ‘I fly’ is one word, as is each of the rest, and as are the past tenses and the future tenses (though usually these last start with a separate ‘THa’ which is will or shall). Learning these lists of 18 verbs (he, she & it are all the same) I suddenly started to understand the rules. Now, if I learn just the ‘I do (whatever)’ verb, which I have to add is the only version you’ll find in Greek-English dictionaries, I can work out the other 17.

 
This is all great stuff, but sorting through list of verbs in my skull, or trying to work out the correct version to use, doesn’t much help with my conversational skills. By the time I’m ready with my reply the Greek in question has wandered off and trimmed a couple of olive trees. Now, therefore, the format of my lessons has changed: more talk and less writing.

Okay, that’s all for now. Time to get ready for my walk.      

SF Writing Contest

This is from Start Publishing and of course I had to put it here!
With the great success of our last contest, we would like to continue to offer the opportunity to inspire more writers. This time we ask that you write a 500-word short story using Neal Asher’s The Departure book cover as a starting topic. Ask yourself, what do you see in the image? Let your imagination take over.
Our publishing team will select the best 5 stories. The stories selected will then be posted to our blog page. We will host open votes on Facebook, Twitter and by email. The story with the most votes will win.
Winner will receive a signed blue ray copy of The Europa Report produced by Start Motion Pictures (formally known as Wayfare Entertainment) and poster. Deadline for all submissions will be January 13, 2014. Once all submissions are received we will announce when the voting polls will be open for the public. Please note, if your story does not have a title we will not accept your submission, as the title and author name will be used for voting.
Please send all submissions and inquiries to contest@start-media.com

Memories of Earth

Quite a while back I wrote a short story, based on the Owner trilogy, to be used in publicity. It wasn’t used so I retrieved it and dispatched it off to Asimov’s. Thankfully it was accepted and published in this issue. Sorry about how blurred this is, but it was the only cover picture I could find. You might also be interested to know that you can subscribe to Asimov’s via Kindle.

Here’s one review of my story I found.
All of which is by way of a preamble to say that I would have been disinclined to like anything I read, but I found Asher’s story a clever one indeed. The set up is quick (it’s a shorter short story) and the main character interesting – due to an alien attack, he’s left grounded planetside, no longer connected to the vast web of knowledge and technical support that gave him what was tantamount to godhood when up is space.

The Other Gun – Asimov's

It seems the April/May issue of Asimov’s is out (which caught me by surprise since it seems a little early). The Other Gun, a story I put together from a plot thread removed from Penny Royal II is the cover story:

You can buy a subscription to Asimov’s for your Kindle or order the paper version. Now, if you’re interested, here’s a taster of The Other Gun.

Update and a Steam Punk Robot

Penny Royal III is now past 60,000 words and progressing nicely. I’ve felt the need to do a Chandler-esque ‘walking in a man with a gun’ … well, sort of. I also decided to ramp up the weirdness and bring in some out-field elements. The man with the gun was the Brockle from my short story The Rhine’s World Incident and those other elements are a colony of piratical extremadapts and an Atheter starship. Not quite sure what I’m going to do with that starship, but I’ll think of something. I’m having fun here but perpetually having to go back and alter things. I guess a decent analogy of how things are running is the whole trilogy as a rope and I’m busily trying to weave together the frayed end.
Meanwhile I’m happy to see that my story The Other Gun is the cover story for Asimov’s April/May issue. I guess this means a cover picture for the story and it’ll be the second time that’s happened. Here’s was the first for Alien Archaeology in which Penny Royal and the Atheter mechanism first put in an appearance:

Today I also received a package from one Blaise Gauba who is a model maker. Here’s his website for those of you who might be interested.

This sculpture is cast in solid white bronze and the original wax sculpture he made (obviously to make the mould around) took him a year an a half to make in his spare time.

Personal Webportfolio Page: http://www.artbronzehardware.com/

This is the kind of thing you get for being someone’s favourite writer. Mr Crane? Well, not quite. This looks like a steam punk version of the Borg.

Lavender Nightmares

We’re now coming to the end of our temperance month which, according to ‘health professionals’ is not such a good thing because it might encourage people to think that once the month is over they can pour down the booze willy-nilly. I stopped listening to health professionals long ago when I realised that in their efforts at self-promotion they were contradicting each other every week. All I do know is that a month off the booze gives my liver a rest, proves to me I’m not an alcoholic, and is just one sign of my increasing disinclination to drink alcohol. In fact, as this month draws to a close I’m not at all anxious to go find a corkscrew. But anyway, that’s beside the point I’m aiming at.

One of the effects of foregoing the booze is better sleep. I’m finding myself sleeping for 7 to 8 hours a night and the only time I get up is to stumble to the toilet, usually because of the excessive amounts of tea and cordial I’ve drunk. This good sleep I’m finding increasingly important, as it is for many as they get older. In the past I’ve had trouble and one solution I tried was dripping lavender oil on my pillow beforehand. Last week, while in a chemist, I spotted a bottle of the stuff and on impulse bought it and tried it out again. The result was heavier sleep – I’m now mostly sleeping right the way through to the morning – and some lurid dreams and nightmares.

I have, this week, burned the living head of Hitler, along with his chopped up body; been swimming with both my parents, though slightly puzzled about the presence of my father since he was dead; been involved in a car crash; and at one point had artichokes growing out of my bottom until I delved inside to remove the large chunk of root from which they were sprouting. Weird shit, so to speak, and the first time I’ve remembered dreams for many months. Time to put a notebook by my bed I reckon, since story ideas might be available. Though I’ll probably give the story about anal artichokes a miss.