Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coming Through the Fog

It has again been a while since I’ve written anything in here so time for an update. The weather here is changing and I’m more inclined to walking than heading down to Makrigialos to use my kayak. I’ve also reached the stage where I’m getting a bit bored with the thing — like I’m going down there to use it almost out of a sense of duty.

As the season progresses my chilli plants are producing and I’m making plenty of chilli sauce. I also made some quince jelly. Earlier on I spent time repairing some chairs, renovating a cupboard, plastering a wall … but in the end none of these things are what I am supposed to be doing! None of these things are what most of you who are reading this come here to find out about.

Excuse me if I’m repeating myself … well, fuck that. Suck it up. When Caroline died I was well on top of things on the writing front having written the three books of the Transformation trilogy before I even needed to deliver the first. I’d reached a high point while doing these — banging out the words daily and thoroughly enjoying the process. Then, having my face rubbed in harsh reality, I lost all interest in fiction. I stopped reading books completely. I watched a few daft things on DVD but mostly watching TV was of no interest either. As for writing … I tried it for catharsis in the first year but that just fucked me up even further. Thereafter the thought of doing anything at the keyboard other that the ephemera of Facebook and Twitter just stressed me out.

The reality of my situation is that all the walking and kayaking are to keep depression at bay. All the other things I do, like the chilli sauce, repairing furniture and other items, the gardening and occasional jobs in other people’s houses, are easy tasks that don’t require me engaging my brain. The problem with ‘engaging my brain’ is that it starts thinking, and thought has regularly taken me to places I didn’t want to be over the last couple of years. Seriously, you come out of grief into a stage where you are managing, but never realise just how screwed up you are until either you or some situation puts you under pressure.

But other reality has impinged. I had to go back to my keyboard to go through the editing of War Factory (the second book in the Transformation trilogy). My publisher also asked for a few extras which actually required a bit of creativity from me. I dreaded these but was duty-bound to do them. And when I did them I found the task wasn’t so bad. I could do it. The engine had shut down for a while but when I turned the key it started right up again.

Another thing that has impinged is the steady support of fans — their love of what I had done before and their hope that I’ll do more. I started to feel guilty inside my cloudy little world. Fucking hell. I’m lucky to have been able to take off the time I have to wallow in my own misery. Plenty of people have gone through what I’ve been through and have to head back to work a week or so later because they have a mortgage to pay.

Due to all the above, and some other things that have happened this year, mainly to do with my mind beginning to chew on itself again in way I seriously could not allow, I decided I must reclaim at least one of the things I’d lost. I made the decision that once I’d packed off War Factory to Macmillan it was time for me to just sit down and write. Maybe this is also because I’m reaching the purported average time to get over the death of a loved one, of two years. I don’t know.

My intention was to just let rip; to just write and write and see what started to come together. I didn’t expect much of myself. I started with the idea of writing for one hour every day and steadily increasing. It didn’t work out that way. On the first day I wrote 600 words, but on the next I wrote 1,400 words. This second day was a Monday. On the Tuesday I did 2,000 words then every day thereafter until Friday. I then realised I had just done what was a full working week for me while writing the Transformation trilogy, of 10,000 words a week — I aim to write 2,000 words a day for 5 days a week. The next week I did 10,000 again, with just a catch up 1,000 on the ensuing Saturday.

At one point I did have a moment of panic. Where was I going with this, what was it all about? This lasted about an hour. I told myself to shut up and just keep going. Next, like boulders looming out of the fog, I started to see the shape of something, I started to see where I was going. The landscape now lying before me grows wider and wider as the fog clears. It is strewn with wrecked spaceships and Jain technology, picked through by Old Captains, war drones and Golem. Overhead I think I see a dragon sphere, but it is not clear because of the glare of an accretion disc, the space battles and maybe an exploding world or two.

Next week, another 10,000 words. I’ll maybe get a head start on them today…         

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

War Factory US Edition

Here's the full original artwork for the cover of War Factory published in the USA by Night Shade Books...

Looking good!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Sauce Two.

Right, while planning out the various things I was going to do today, I picked my latest crop of chillies. I then weighed the total and realised I had enough for one batch of chilli sauce (check the recipe 2 posts back).

As a result my planned hour of Greek reading, my aim to write out something, and my intention to head down to Makrigialos all went out the window. Because it was time to make sauce. 

This is one lot made, though I suspect I’ll be boiling it all again and adding cornflour because it’s not quite thick enough.

Meanwhile, for those who come here for news about writing, I dispatched War Factory back to Macmillan. I’m told there’s yet another load of editing then to be done… *sigh*

Chilies chillies chillies…

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Self Examination

It has been my experience that a person’s surroundings often reflect the state of their mind. When I worked in engineering (on a milling machine) those with the muckiest work benches scattered with oily tools and swarf were the slowest and most untidy workers. I always spent time cleaning down my bench and my milling machine, and I still worked faster than others. Tidy mind; tidy surroundings.

Today I cleaned my house because sometimes if you tidy your surroundings it helps to tidy your mind. Recently I experienced a disfunction of my mind I’d never had before. I’m not going to go into much detail but it stemmed from low self-esteem, low self-worth. It scared me and I hated myself for it. This wasn’t me and I was baffled by it — looking for excuses.

A piece of the puzzle fell into a place for me today when I remembered something a friend said, while drunk and upset recently. This person said, ‘I don’t know who I am anymore.’ I realised then that this applied to me too. Why should I have low self-esteem and self-worth? I am, by whatever measure you care to use, a success. I am fit, healthy and strong. I can’t recollect anything I’ve tried to do that I’ve failed at.

And of course the explanation is there in my recent past. When I watched my wife die of bowel cancer, I could do nothing but offer the support I could. But nothing I could do stopped the process. Nothing I found on the Internet, no fucking supplements, no miracles, nothing hard work could solve. I think it was then that I lost sight of who I am. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

It’s time to find myself and kick myself up the arse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


When I first started gardening on Crete I tried growing all the usuals like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, salads and various fruits including grapes. I’ve since discovered that cucumbers tomatoes and peppers are so cheap it’s better to buy them and that grapes over my pergola just get annihilated by the wind and leave a mess over my terrace.

I tried various seeds bought in UK garden centres and had some successes and some failures. But always the best was to collect seeds and cuttings here and use them. 

One day while walking through a small village called Vori I saw, growing in a pot, a large chilli bush, a shrub really. I collected some of the fallen chillies and planted their seeds. Someone also gave me a branch from another chilli bush that produced small hot chillies that go through and amazing colour transformation, from green to yellow, to purple then orange then read. It looked like a Christmas decoration. I started growing these too.

In my first year of growing both varieties I got a large crop of chillies — much more than I could possibly use in a con carne. Being brought up not to waste things I searched out recipes for sweet chilli sauce, which I do like. In the end I put together my own recipe and it has been a success. Others here on Crete use it, including some Greeks.

If you’re interested, here it is: two mugs of vinegar, two of sugar, one whole bulb of garlic and half a kilo of chillies. Put through a food processor but don’t chop too fine, boil in a saucepan adding cornflour to thicken, and then pour into hot jars and seal.

I found that I was more interested then in growing chillies than any other plant and this year did some buying over the internet — getting many different varieties of chilli seeds. From memory I have habanero, fresno, rococo yellow, capsicum, tabasco, jalapeƱo, scotch bonnet, Bhut something or other and many more besides. Disappointingly many did not germinate but, still, that would have been about 300 plants. Those that did grow you see here. I am now collecting my first crops and soon it will be time to make chilli sauce! 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Catching Up Yet Again *Sigh*

Sorry if I'm repeating myself here but I don't want to check back. It is time to write and move on...

Yet again I have been lax about writing blog posts, and that must change. I could make the excuse that it’s because I have been so busy I just could not spare the time but that would be bullshit. The reality is that I’ve had plenty of time at a laptop or my ipad and spent most of it on Twitter or Facebook. They are so easy; too easy.

So, where am I? I’ve been lazy still — on the writing front. All I have done this Summer is a scattering of interviews, some editing work, and made a few desultory attempts at starting a book. This is going to change. I’m thinking now that I need to get out of the box once again. I started a follow-up (maybe trilogy) to the Owner books. This was to be based on the short story I published called Owner Space. It was to be first contact Owner style. But no — maybe later. I think that what I need to do now is get seriously weird, let myself go, like I did when I wrote The Skinner. More on this when I get started…

But it is not like I’ve spent this Summer just sitting on my arse posting on Face Book. I’ve been continuing to fight a psychological battle mainly by pushing myself physically. Many of those who have suffered depression and fought it off will be aware that one of the best weapons in your armoury is exercise. Get out for a walk, run, swim, lift some weights… I started walking the day after Caroline’s cremation and since then my mileage must be up in the thousands. Here on Crete that activity is much more pleasant than in Essex (obviously) and until maybe a month ago I was doing plenty of walks in the mountains.

However, as the Summer progresses the activity becomes a bit less pleasant when you have to carry a cloth with you to wipe the sweat out of your eyes. At this point things had opened up in my local seaside town of Makrigialos and I displaced walking with kayaking and swimming. The result is that I am now the lightest and fittest I have been in 25 years at under 12 stone (75 kilos) and don’t have a scrap of fat remaining.

So, now I must aim to get my mind straight and start applying it. I have some editing yet to do on War Factory (the next Transformation book after Dark Intelligence) then … yes … it is time to open a new document and stare at a blank page until something happens.