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26 October 2012

A friend congratulating me the other day on my book being sold, said that she wonders where I find the time to write as much as I do. There are times when I do too. Although, really, when you look at the fact that I’m retired, live alone, and, allowing for sleep and meals, have something around 95 hours a week in which I can write at need, it isn’t so surprising. Or it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t that other things intervene and soak up some of that 95 hours. One of them is my farm and the creatures thereon. As in today, which is fine but quite chilly.

So, start in on emails and – the geese are yelling, what’s set them off? Trot out to check and find that the two ganders, Stroppy and his male offspring, Sonny, have decided to start a fight. Speak sternly. Fight stops, and I go back to my emails.  Thunder wanders in and wails at me. I stare at my cat. “What’s the matter?” We only have pidgin in common but I do get the message and put emails aside to go stoke the fire before my feline friend freezes – and back to the emails. Odd hammering on the bedroom wall. Hang on, I know what’s doing that. Look at the clock. Ah, yes, the hens would like it to be known that a meal is now slightly late and hammering with their (hungry) beaks on my bedroom wall, usually reminds me.Race out, feed the hens, the geese, collect 7 eggs, and head back inside.

Thunder wishes it to be known that if it’s good enough to feed all those feathered things, it’s good enough to feed the cat. Feed the cat. Finish emails and start on an item for my blog. Post that, and start on another. Thunder points out that the fire needs stoking again. Stoke the fire. Post that blog item and wonder what I’ll write about for ‘comments from farside’ this week…at which point Thunder notes that he can hear something. I stop typing and listen. Hmmm, so can I. Head out to check and find that an idiot lamb (Elly Mae’s black and white  ram lamb) has got his head stuck in the fence. Unstick idiot lamb, watch briefly to see he’s ok, he is, and retire inside to think what I should write for “comments from Farside’ – and a topic dawns on me. I have just enough time to write and post this before I should start dinner, feed the cat, and finish reading the book I want to review. I’ll find time for those things as I do for everything else, but there are times when I feel that a 34 hour day would be an advantage – and I daresay, I’m not the only one to whom that idea has over occurred.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That has to be one of the happiest headlines a writer can type (apart, of course, from such titles as “Book is NYT Best Seller”, or “book’s sales pass a million.”) But as both are unlikely to ever apply to me, I’ll settle for Sold a Book! Yes, I was offered contracts for my standalone Young Adult book, FLYING FREE , and signed them the other day. It’s been accepted by Sky Warrior Books in the USA, and I’m delighted. It’ll be out next year in POD and DL, and I look forward to its appearance. So far this year things look likely to be in threes. Three books out this year – WHERE THERE’S SMOKE:The Fire That Changed the Law, AUTUMN OF THE WILD PONY, and QUEEN OF IRON YEARS. And, demonstrating how I get about, each is from a different publisher, in a different genre, and out in a different country. I’ve also written three new books, and so far, sold two. One more and I can claim to be very well balanced…

The Readers Digest this month offered a whole list of ways to sleep well. I feel that there must be something wrong with me. They say that you should go to bed at regular times. Ah, well, I go to bed at any time from 7pm to 2am.

They say that you should take a short walk before bedtime. Ah well. If I did that I’d be doing it on a sidewalkless country road in the pitch dark and I probably would sleep exceptionally well after that – the dead do.

They say that I should avoid eating fatty foods or drinking stimulants in the evening. Ah well, do coke and a toasted cheese sandwich count? (Apparently yes, they’re guaranteed to give me sleepless nights.) And they say that I should have a cup of chamomile tea – I HATE herbal teas.

And – They say that if I dream recurring action-filled dreams then I may have Parkinson’s, PTSD, epilepsy, or migraines – I don’t.

So what’s the outcome? I do all of the above and sleep peacefully. Not sure if that means that I’m atypical or if the list is wrong.

As for the final item, I have none of the problems listed. But I have recurring action-filled dreams which I may then wake up to write down in precis, write out in full later, and sell to various markets as short stories. The last one of those appeared in an American anthology a couple of months ago. Thanks, I’d rather keep my recurring action-filled dreams, I get paid for them and they’re fun to dream.

Conclusion not all magazine articles apply to me…or possibly you either. Don’t take them too seriously.

 

 

19 October 2012

Arthur Sellings was the pseudonym of Robert Arthur Gordon Ley, who was born on 31 May 1911 in Kent in England, the son of Kent and Stella Grace (Sellings) Ley. He lived for most of his life in Tunbridge Wells. In addition to his writing, Ley was a book and art dealer and antiquarian and later he was a scientific researcher for the British government. It is said that his research work inspired some of his science fiction. His work appeared in many well-known SF magazines of the day including Galaxy, Nebula, The Magazine of F and SF,  New Worlds, New Writing in SF, and others. He died of a heart attack in Sussex England on September 24th 1968. Note that Ley also wrote under pseudonyms Ray Luther, and Martin Luther.

In June I was in Auckland at our national SF Convention. While there Alan Robson very kindly loaned me a number of books by Arthur Sellings, four of which I read in the course of the convention. Before he mentioned this author I had neither heard of him nor read any of his books, but I had enjoyed his work sufficiently to purchase Junk Day for myself. In the science fiction post holocaust tradition Junk Day presents us with the end of civilization . . . and what happens next to a few selected individuals. I’ve always been fascinated by this type of story and have a shelf of them ranging from books written in the 1940s, up to more recent epics like One Second After, which was why I chose to buy this one in particular. The questions, how do you cope when thrown back on your own resources, when anyone you meet may try to kill you for a crust of bread? How do you now react to neighbours you’ve known casually for years? To friends who can bring nothing to your survival? To importunate family members whom you’ve never liked? The fight to survive is fascinating alone, but a good post-holocaust book makes you consider if simple survival is sufficient, and what is the real nature of current society since such books tend to reflect the time and society in which they were written – do we need other people about us and what of the institutions on which we have relied?


In Junk Day, an artist and hanger-on of society, a man named Bryan finds himself a survivor after strange events wreck everything about him, slaughter millions, and devastate the planet. He is already a cynic, and little changes when he meets Vee, the last survivor of her convent, and he starts to paint again. Later the two of them meet Barney who has created a fiefdom, with himself as ruler, and an economy based on salvage, explaining the book’s title. (I noted again, survivors existing on canned goods dug from various ruins and I feel that this needs the author to make a point on that. This book was not written as if the events occurred some time into the current future. And I’m uncertain if Sellings was ignorant on this subject or merely assuming that in his own near future canning methods would have improved. However I would say that even now, it is unlikely that canned food would survive for decades in a condition where it remained safe to eat. Should I write a post-holocaust book where characters are still eating canned goods a long time after the post-holocaust event, I think that I’d toss in some casual allusion to the new canning method/materials that permitted the can’s contents to remain wholesome indefinitely.)

Interestingly Sellings never explains what caused the strange events that destroyed his civilization. I found that reasonable, other authors have gone into lengthy explanations for the collapse, but Sellings merely says what happened and leaves his characters more concerned with their survival – a valid alternative which provides an intriguing background allowing the reader to speculate. Like other British writers in this sub-genre, Sellings tends to the pragmatic, he understands that those who have survived will not be angels, but Bryan is not a complete brute although his use of Vee makes it clear he probably would have committed rape had she not agreed to sex, however he also permits her time to consider and allows her to set conditions. This pro forma rape seems to have upset some reviewers, (who have no understanding of how survivors may behave after widespread catastrophic events and if they think Sellings was harsh, they can’t have read The Death of Grass,) as did his failure to mention racial conflict. But when this book was written large areas of Britain remained mono-cultural, and if a writer chooses to set his background there, then of course, his characters too will be mono-cultural. In fact he has substituted class as the conflict instead and does a workmanlike job of that, by contrasting Bryan’s attitude with that of Barney, originally a working man whose belief in fair-play is his version of the law.

I found this a reasonable book, interesting, and well up in quality against others of the sub-genre. It was a little shorter than I would have liked, leaving less space for development of theme and characters, but it has gone to my ‘permanent’ shelves none the less and if I run across others of his novels at reasonable prices I will probably buy those too. My thanks to Alan Robson for drawing my attention to the author.

Following is Sellings’ bibliography.

Novels:

Telepath (19620

The Uncensored Man (1964)

The Quy Effect (1966)

Intermind (as by Ray Luther)(1967)

The Power of X (1968)

Junk Day (1970)

Collections:

Time Transfer and Other Stories (1956)

The Long Eureka: a Collection of Short Stories (1968)

 

Non-Fiction:

“Where Now?” (1961)

There is also a very long list of short stories which may be seen on Wikipedia. It seems to be that this would be a good time for some SF-spirited person to put together a couple more collections of Sellings’ stories.


 

And the gales have been back much of the week, it’s a real pain listening to the wind screaming in the trees and worrying if it’ll become too much for one of them which may then fall on the house. It’s why whenever the wind level gets too high, I let the fire go out. I’d rather be cold for a while, than have the house on fire. Actually, since the winds have been arriving in the afternoons it could be worse. I lit the fire both Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 7am and by 10am it was 24 degrees inside, and stayed that way all day even when I let the fire die around 2-3pm when the gales started again. Now all I have to do is hope that the ordered firewood arrives before the last lot runs out, that nothing blows down especially not on me – or the power/phone lines – and that the gales stop very soon because I’m heartily sick of them! (Phone call last night, firewood arriving today – it has. To the fury of the gaggle who consider that people dropping things on their lawn are up to no good!)

 

16 October 2012

hardcover, published 1979 St Martin’s Press. The cover and internal illustrations are done by Maurice Wilson and are, as usual, beautiful, and beautifully done.

In fact this particular copy has huge value to me for a number of reasons. I corresponded with the author for some years, and my friend Andre Norton also loved her work. The copy I have is the one Doreen sent to Andre and has a slip from her letter which says so, glued into the book. I value the book three times over as a result, once that it was written by a friend, once that it was given to Andre, who, knowing I hadn’t yet found a copy, gave it to me shortly before her death, and a third time that I have always loved Doreen Tovey’s books and re-read this one and the others every few years.

This particular volume is the sequel to The Coming of Saska, (which recounted how one of the Tovey’s previous Siamese had died and they’d acquired a new Siamese boy.) It includes tales of the author’s donkey, the local mice, local people, some very odd events, and has stories about Shebalu, their Siamese girl. As always, the book is warm, gentle, very funny in places, and takes an affectionate look at everything around them. It’s more bitsy than previous books, it goes back and forth in time, and places, and includes tales about the Siamese cats owned by friends of the author.

Very interestingly, one of these is a tale about an American author named Elizabeth Linnington, which provides another connection since she was a long-time friend of a long-time friend of mine, and when she died in 1988 she left him all her “author copies,” each with a slip inside saying that this was so. I’d always liked her three series, and, and as I’d had problems obtaining many of her books in New Zealand, I purchased those copies that I didn’t have, directly from Rinehart and thus I have some copies stating that they are from the Estate of Elizabeth Linnington. Andre also knew Elizabeth and liked her work, the Luis Mendoza series in particular, so that there is something of a circular feel to the whole thing. I’m not the only person I know who loves Tovey’s work either. Two other good friends collected most of her books, and shortly before one of them died in 2011, she gave me all of the Tovey’s she owned to ensure that they wouldn’t be simply dumped. Since I already had them all I now have some duplicates, mostly in hardcover. For anyone reading this blog who also loves Doreen Tovey, is missing some of her books, and would like to have them. Email me via this site and we can talk about it.

Her books are recommended very strongly to those who love animals in general, cats – Siamese in particular, to those with a sense of humour, a liking for England and the English countryside way of life, and semi-autobiographies. These books don’t date and I plan to re-read mine regularly for another 20 years – or however many more I live.

 

 

 

     Items continue steadily appearing in newspapers about Lance Armstrong and his possible involvement in doping. So far as I understand it the argument put forward by the agency that wishes to convict him goes like this. We are certain that Lance Armstrong is a drugs cheat. We can find no proof of this, therefore Mr Armstrong is not only a drugs cheat but also incredibly cunning, hugely organized, unbelievably lucky, and well-protected by his cohorts. Er, pardon? If you can find no proof of this, isn’t it possible that Mr Armstrong isn’t a drugs cheat? Again I have no strong opinion myself as to whether or not he is, but increasingly I am bothered by the arguments that say “he must be because we want him to be we can’t find proof which means that he is but he’s so cunning we can’t prove it, and because he can no longer afford the time and money to fight us so he’s had to cease, he must be guilty”.

 

Consider this scenario. I open my door to a polite knocking by several police officers.

We have come to arrest you as being a bank robber involved in the robbery of seven major banks and the theft of tens of thousands of dollars, they say.

I don’t rob banks and I’ve never had tens of thousands of dollars, I protest.

We know you don’t have the money and all our investigations can only agree. However the Police Commissioner is adamant that you are a bank robber therefore you are and we must arrest you. Besides, you have been consorting with bank robbers.”

What bank robbers?”

Several customers at the bank you use are under suspicion of bank-robbery, several others have in the past been known to commit such crimes. Since you all use the same bank you are an associate of bank-robbers.”

You mean that because I am involved in a business, and others I may know casually use the same business it is assumed that I am in their line of work? But my vet also uses that bank, as do my minister, my doctor, and my car mechanic. You do not assume that I am a vet, a minister, a doctor or a mechanic?”

Of course not, they are not criminals and we are not planning to prosecute anyone for being a a vet, a minister, a doctor or a car mechanic. Besides, several of the bank robbers have admitted that you have assisted them in the past.”
     “What?”
    “Well, we had to offer various inducements for them to say so. We’ve promised not to prosecute them, or not so stringently anyway. Some we’ve agreed to allow to go free, or with minor sentences if they would say what we wanted to hear.

But how could anyone believe what they would say? Haven’t judges in the past agreed that such evidence should be weighed very carefully since criminals will say whatever is demanded if it results in reduced punishment? ”

That’s all true, however we’re certain that if we bring enough of these bank robbers to testify against you, and if we talk about it in dozens of papers, pointing out over and over that you must be guilty because so many criminals say you are, then the public and ultimately a judge and jury will agree. You must understand that once we have you convicted in the court of public opinion, we can then arbitrarily have you convicted in a real court.

But you have no actual evidence, nothing other than possibly-coerced testimony and your own obsessive belief that I’m guilty.”
     “That’s irrelevant. We know you to be guilty and we will convict you. Besides which, you must be guilty because we can’t find physical proof, that shows how cunning you are. If you’re that clever you have to be guilty.”

What?”

And anyhow once we’ve charged you, you’ll use up all your money on lawyers, and once you are emotionally exhausted by all the legal processes through which we’ll drag you, you’ll decide not to keep fighting and we’ll be able to point to that and say you must be guilty, and that you know it or you’d keep fighting us.”
But if I’m exhausted and have no more money how CAN I keep fighting.
     “That’s irrelevant and once we’ve pointed it out to the public several dozen times in many venues, they’ll understand that. No, you’re guilty and there’s nothing more to be said.

Except that there is. A citizen is innocent until proven guilty, not by hearsay, but in a court of law. Not because they run out of time, money and energy and stop fighting, but because there is solid proof and they’re convicted on that. Not because a number of those with their asses to protect give testimony – which should be taken apart and tested strand by strand and their reasons for speaking considered very suspiciously – and that testimony tested thoroughly in a court of law. Lance Armstrong may or may not be a drugs cheat, but so far as I can see, the only things against him are the obsessive determination of an agency to convict him, and the possibly coerced testimony of those who already are self-admitted cheats and who may be motivated by inducements or by simple jealousy of a man who has been a giant in their sport. And repeating that he is a drugs cheat in newspapers, magazines, on TV and radio, insisting over and over that he is guilty until he proves he is innocent is contrary to the laws of both our country and the United States. Lance Armstrong may be guilty, but merely saying he is, claiming that his ceasing to fight proves it, that many self-confessed drug cheats say that he’s one of them so he must be, is not evidence! And until someone produces something genuine in that line, if nobody minds, (and even if they do) I’ll continue to assume that Lance Armstrong is innocent until proven guilty. And wonder about the motivations of those who insist so hysterically that he has to be guilty, and that several hundred negative drug tests have had to be faked in some completely undetectable way which only goes to prove what a cheat he is. Yeah, right!

The mail car stopped at my gate about half an hour ago, I strolled out and collected that which had been delivered, and on opening a large flat envelope find that I’ve received the Certificate of Excellence from the (International) Cat Writer’s Association, for my story – The Domen – in the May issue of UK’s Penumbra ezine. Receiving this is also a nomination for the Muse Medallion,which is announced in November after further evaluation of the nominee stories.
(The Certificate is judged by a panel of three judges. In order to receive it all three must assess the work quality as 90% or higher, so receiving the Certificate is something of an accolade.)

7 October 2012

by Manning Coles. Hardcover, H&S published January 1948.  8th in series.

I have almost all of the Manning Coles’ “Tommy Hambleton” books. I love them, read my way through them all every few years, and would really like to acquire the couple  that I don’t yet own. They’re witty, clever, often very funny, and I have liked the series character since I first ran across him in a copy of Pray Silence, which I picked up in a charity shop in the mid1960s.

Let the Tiger Die is one of those books that makes you chuckle almost from the start. Tommy is on holiday in Sweden soon after the war. Over some days he observes a German being followed by three men and being Tommy he’s interested. When the man is abducted he can’t bear to stay out of events and follows the abduction car in a taxi. This results in two murders, that of the abductee and the taxi driver, while the abductors phone the police and claim that the killer was Tommy. He flees Sweden – in the abductors’ own boat, which then seizes up, and he is rescued by a Dutch captain with an obsession about company promoters, which he believes Tommy to be – and imprisons him until they arrive and he can turn him into the Dutch police. Things then become complicated. This book is the second in which two ex-Argentinian model-makers appear. Forgan and Campbell have a shop in Clerkenwell Road in London, and a habit of becoming embroiled in odd events. In fact any event in which they become embroiled becomes odd even if it hadn’t started out that way. (They turn up in several books in this series, adding farce and colour to those books thereby.) As in the series to date, this book while set after the war, continues to pit Tommy against Germans determined to continue with Hitler’s work. The book ends with Forgan using one of their number’s bombs to blow up the conspirators while only Hambleton, Forgan, Campbell, and a large dog named Tonio, escape.

This series started with Drink to Yesterday, which was frankly brilliant. Witty, incisive, and very funny, although it is the second book (Pray Silence) that I prefer by a small margin. I enjoy the entire series although I find some books better than others, however that is personal preference and other readers would, almost certainly, prefer different ones according to the type of theme they favour. The series is notable for its one liners – although most run rather longer than a single line. But very rarely does one of Cole’s books fail to produce one or more out-loud laughs from me each time I read them. Since recently we have also been seeing on TV a series called Nazi Hunters, I’ve found it interesting to note how often what is said on the TV series agrees with items from the Cole’s books. Of course, since one of the authors, (the author” Manning Coles” was actually two people,) was a spy in Germany during WWI and returned to the Intelligence Service before WWII and into 1958, they should know what they’re talking about – and they do.

I would recommend the series, however readers should be aware that several of the earlier books have minor comments or brief episodes that embody the casual racism of the time. I do not believe that the authors were genuinely racist, but the terms and 2-3 brief episodes particularly in the first couple may anger or distress readers. It’s a pity, and I hope that should the books be republished in future, these offhand mentions and minor events could be altered or expunged so as not to leave false impressions and spoil the books for younger readers.

 

 

several more days of ferocious gales of late, the geese are still sitting grimly although there are no guarantees on results as last week we also had an afternoon of simmering thunder. Very annoying as I have several people who’d like a gosling or two but with thunderstorms prone to kill developing embryos, it may be that the current three hatches – won’t. And while my firewood stack has held out quite well, that’s about to come to an end with the last of it in by the fire now, so that unless I can find some more dry wood to see me through at least one more month, I’m going to have a rather chilly and unhappy October. Either that or a warmer but more expensive month as I use heaters. Sigh.

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