Book Sale Page Three

Okay, please read this post before contacting me. 

The new copies of Polity Agent and Line War below have gone. One and three on the list below.

Details on contact, postage etc are on my first post about these. Scroll down. Also be aware that some of the books in the previous posts have gone. Sorry to disappoint.

I’ll also add here, just on the off-chance, that I have a load of paperbacks of these in German if anyone is interested. Perhaps some Germans read this, or language students, or someone with other connections to that country?

Book Sale Page Two

Contact details and information regarding postage and packing are on the previous post. Unfortunately the uncorrected proof copy of Polity Agent at the bottom here is now gone. I left that on there just so you will know that if you want something, then order it quickly. As on the previous post: first come first served.

Book Sale!

Page One

Mainly so I can keep track I’m going to put these up over a few days. To the prices here I will have to add postage and packing. Dependent on where you are this can amount to as much as if not more than the price of the book. The last time I did this books went missing in the post, so these will have to be either signed for or tracked or both (I haven’t sorted that out yet). If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you can contact me there, otherwise neallewisasheratgmaildotcom. First come first served. Please don’t ask me about books that do not or have not yet appeared in these posts.

I will sign the books and write in some message as preferred. You’ll also get one of my home made (signed) bookmarks with each purchase.

Hannibal – Netflix Series

I enjoyed this to begin with as it covered the ground of Red Dragon and expanded on it. The lurid murders, convoluted plots and the psychological interplay between the characters satisfied something in my twisted psyche. The camera work was also excellent with some equally satisfying dream sequences. It was of course utterly fantastical but I did not find it an effort to suspend disbelief. But at the back of my mind resided the sure knowledge that the franchise would be extended and the series would probably die, as many do, by stretching an increasingly meagre plot over many episodes. Then along came series two starting out with a sequence from some months in the future that raised my hopes that this would continue to adhere (loosely) to Red Dragon and that it did have a beginning, middle and then end.

The second season started out well with this, but then came an expansion of the psychobabble, the dream sequences and the ‘artistic’ camera work. These last two kinda reminded me of the new Blade Runner film where art forgot story and went wandering off by itself. It even had the same ramping up of the music volume in an attempt to impart meaning where there was none. But I stuck with it because of that initial sequence. In season three it slid into the plot of the film (and book) Hannibal but with its own particular twist on those. Maybe it would have been okay if someone had reined in the ‘artistic filming’ but I suspect someone told them it was really good so they did more of it. The psychobabble also increased to fill the growing void and segued into the nonsensical. The plot was being stretched thin and hardly covered the holes. A few episodes in I finally gave up. Other viewers also gave up because this was not renewed after the third season.

This is, unfortunately, common in many series I see on Netflix. Franchise extending kills them. Film makers should have the courage to propose series that end rather continue sucking at that teat. At best, if they don’t, what starts out as promising turns into soap opera. The money men and executives behind them should also learn from this growing catalogue of failure. I don’t hold out much hope.

Writing Update

Now checking my journal I see that is was at the end of July when I took a 20,000 word plot thread, extracted from The Warship, and decided to turn it into a short story or perhaps something longer. I mucked about with it for a bit then, cutting away about half of it, and then turning it into something very different. I changed it from third person to first person and ran with it, little concerned about endings, structure or putting together a coherent plot. I would just stay with my protagonist and see where he went.

Inevitably, the human mind always searching for patterns and the author mind always searching for a story, I began to reveal both. Connections began to appear, whether unconsciously created or exposed by chance and I began to impose coherence. My protagonist – a clone sold by some nasty types to the prador for coring and thralling – was called Jack Four. The rest of the clones were Jacks, and Jills, but their story was shorter and not much fun for them. Jack Four then became the working title of something that just kept on growing.

I’ve stated before that my aim when writing a first draft is to write 2,000 words a day five days a week. But for odd days out and one or two rest days I’ve pretty much stuck to that. There’s no doubt now that Jack Four is to be a book since, as of today, it is at 114,000 words (my books range from 125 to 175,000). I seem to be back to the form I had when I wrote the Transformation trilogy.

Jack Four has no enhancements beyond knowledge, loading to his mind from quantum storage crystals in the genetic material from which he was fashioned. He’s human and vulnerable and has a fight on his hands to survive, initially in the prador king’s ship and then elsewhere. Of course I can’t say too much about that ‘elsewhere’, but suffice to say that alien monsters in his future, along with the nasty types who sold him, the prador that bought him, and the question of who he was, in the genetic sense, and who he will become.

Fasting Blood Pressure

About six years ago, when I was drinking, smoking, slightly overweight and not getting enough exercise, my blood pressure reached 140/90. It came down during those periods when I had a dry January and once dropped much lower when Caroline and I were dancing to a Wii thingy for a month, but was still in the range now designated as pre-high blood pressure. My reading of it subsequently was intermittent – probably because I really did not want to know – but I do recollect it went up again when I went back on the booze and lack of exercise.

Stopping smoking brought it down a bit and, over the last five years as I’ve steadily given up booze and got a lot more exercise, it dropped further. However, it still stubbornly remained in the pre-high range. Usually it lingered around 130/80. This was despite going on frequent 7 mile walks and hitting the gym for 2 or 3 hours a week.

About ten months ago I went to the doctor (worried about chest pains that turned out to be the result of a pulled muscle through weight training) and he checked my pressure. It was higher than the readings I got at home, but I noted that he had the wrong cuff for my size of arm. Also referring to my record and a cholesterol test I had many years before, he opined I was on the edge of problems, and suggested statins. I of course read up on statins and ignored his advice. I did not see the point of risking all sorts of unpleasant side effects for a microscopic, positive effect seen in highly-debateable and heavily-biased drug company clinical trials.

Over last year I was still in that pre-high range, though venturing into ideal on occasion – normally the diastolic pressure what with readings like 125/75. At this point I told myself, oh well, I’m getting old so have to expect this. However, while fasting, my pressure started to come down more and more. Within about 3 weeks of two-day fasts each week (exercise continuing) both systolic and diastolic were venturing into the ‘ideal’ range. It is now, after seven weeks, firmly there with a reading of 117/69 this morning.

I’m feeling smug.

Note: After a recent conversation I am reminded that while I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, my doctor also wanted to put me on the SSRI anti-depressant Citalopram. This was utterly contraindicated because my problems were the result of a delayed grief effect I needed to push through. With that I also looked at the side effects, the trials and people’s experiences with the drug and decided fuck no. There you see it: if I’d meekly done as I was told I would probably be on anti-depressants and statins now, steadily in a decline that in fact can be delayed in a big way. ‘Consult your medical practitioner’ they tell us. We need to be thoroughly aware of the dangers of relying on doctors and their big pharma pushers.

Destination Universe! – A E Van Vogt

I haven’t been disappointed until now on rereading Van Vogt. Here is a collection of short stories published in 1953 which, it usually being the case, were probably written in a previous decade. They weren’t hugely dated in terms of mores, but the technology (where described) was risible to modern sensibilities and in two separate stories we had humans walking about on Venus and Mars without any necessity for suits. I guess these would have been no biggie if it weren’t for other problems. The stories did not feel solid and coherent, in a couple of cases they meandered until the writer produced an ending out of his hat. That being said, some of them were enjoyable, I just suspect the publisher pulled together some sub-par offerings to bulk out the collection.

Fasting Update 5

It’s a fact that when you exercise, the positive changes that happen to your body – increased muscle, fitness, lung capacity etc – do not occur during that process. They occur afterwards during sleep, resting and through eating the right foods. This too, it seems, is the way things work for fasting. Yes, when you fast your glycogen gets depleted, you dump water and your body start to eat its fat. You do see your weight drop. Autophagy and (later) apoptosis occur. However, these are only part of the process – the body stripping out the damaged and the useless, burning up excess fuel – and to complete it fasting must be complemented with ‘feasting’ and sleep.

I’ve noticed my weight going down a lot during fasting then coming up again during refeeding, but every time my weight has been steadily declining overall. This is all good, but I noticed that where the fat was disappearing I had loose skin and that the weight returned to the same place. Then real changes occurred with sleep that was unusual for me: for example snoozing for an hour during the day, then flaking out for nine hours in the night. This has happened a few times during refeeding and, each time, I found that my weight had stabilized at a lower level, fat had melted away and my skin had tightened up.

Now for some negative effects: The worst day of fasting each week is always the first. I feel tired and often cold. I reckon it’s because on that day I’m making the changeover from the calories I’d been eating to fat burning again. This doesn’t particularly slow down a gym session in the morning or stop me writing during the day. I don’t feel particularly hungry either, probably because, having done this for so many weeks, I’ve accepted on some unconscious level that I am simply not going to eat on that day. On the following day the cold and lethargy go away and I don’t feel hungry then either. The hunger only returns when I actually start eating again.

Another noticeable negative effect has been an increase in anxiety. This would probably not be a problem if you are not prone to it, but I have been for a number of years now. It’s been said, wrongly, that your body will slow down and go into starvation mode whereby it tries to burn less and hang onto more. During dieting, and perhaps towards the end of a lengthy fast for someone not carrying piles of fat, this may be the case. However, during intermittent fasting the body does not get the chance to do this. The metabolism actually speeds up by dint of adrenaline and cortisol. And this of course can lead to increased anxiety.

Oddly, I have only experienced this in a way I rarely experienced while suffering from it long term. I don’t consciously notice it as I go about my daily routines, but do when I relax. Then I get a burning sensation mostly in my arms, but also elsewhere. My understanding of this is that it is the end of anxiety. The body fights for its own preservation by drawing the blood in around the major organs, when you finally relax, the blood returns to your extremities and hence this sensation. There are other effects too of this process, but they are not so bad that I am tempted to give up – the weight loss and other positive effects far outweigh them.

Fasting Update 4

I’m into my fifth week of fasting for two days a week and eating sensibly on the other days. It is getting easier and easier to do. After an initial big loss of weight I’m now averaging 2lbs a week. I’ve kept going to the gym so there has been no muscle loss (in fact my gym sessions have increased in number and length). It is noticeable how, on refeeding, my muscles expand again. This brings home to me that the scare stories about you burning up your own muscle and piling on the weight after fasting probably relate to glycogen storage. Every gram of that stuff is stored using 3 to 5 grams of water so of course that weight will go up and down.

Nice this weekend to have to punch some more holes in my belts. Nice also to put on clothing that has been shaming me from inside the wardrobe for some time. My energy, mental acuity, libido and self-esteem are all up, while my negativity has dropped through the floor. As far as autophagy is concerned I don’t know – the aforesaid are probably a result of that. It will be interesting to see what other changes occur as I get down to my target weight, which is some weeks away yet. I’m still aiming for the upper end of my BMI.

A further note here on that ‘refeeding’. I have not noticed any tendency at all to want to gorge myself. I can be very hungry and eat (and thoroughly enjoy) a lot of food, but no more than I ate when not fasting and, over a day, usually less – when I count up the calories in a day they’re still below my BMR. This last may be because my body has adjusted to fewer calories for efficiency, but still, I’m not putting it all back on. It is also the case, because I’m in the groove of this, that I want to avoid carbs and think more carefully about what I eat. It would be ridiculous to go to this effort and then throw it all away.

This is well worth doing. It takes practise of course, and one must accept any failures and just carry on.

Fury – Henry Kuttner

This is a really old one. First published in Astounding Science fiction in 1947 one would expect it to be full of anachronisms, dated mores and all sorts of silliness. It does have old sfnal idea of Venus being a planet occupied by a massive hostile jungle, but this can be found in SF books published 20 or more years later and I wonder if here might be the first time it was used. The human race, having destroyed Earth in a nuclear war, is now resident in ‘keeps’ under the Venusian seas. It is sinking into decay under the overly cautious rule of immortals and needs someone to pull it out of that. Enter Sam Reed . . . I enjoyed this very much and didn’t find much in the way of the stuff that has made me wince in other SF books. As for Venus being a jungle planet it was easy enough to forget the reality.

Recommended, even though this is 71 years old.