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23 March 2014

Yes, the ewes lambed and now the babies have all been brought in and the stuff done for them that happens at that time of the year. Rubber rings on the tails, and vaccinations. It wasn’t well received – it never is – but better that than flystrike or tetanus. So they’re back out in the paddock muttering to themselves but safe from the nasty things that can afflict small lambs. And I can feel free to get on with my writing.

It’s been a year for story sales and appearances to date. The other week I got two ‘author copies’ of a very well presented and attractive hardcover. These are of an anthology from Guideposts in the USA – Best Angel Stories of 2014, and contain my story, A Still Small Voice. (I note that they also have an excellent story by my friend Laraine Barker. ) I was pleased to see this, it’s a nice job, and graces my bookshelves.

Hardcover, ROC, June 2013.

Also a Christmas present and received with cries of joy. I like much of what this author produces, (he lost me partway through his Deathstalker series) and while I don’t like the Drood series (of which this is the 7th ) quite as much as other series like the Nightside, Haven, the loose ‘Blue Moon’ grouping, and Ghost Finders, I do enjoy it sufficiently to have the series shelved in my ‘permanent’ section. Interestingly in this book there is substantial bleedover from others of Green’s series too, with Nightside and Ghost Finders characters popping up in a number of places. In Casino Infernale too I think that a reader would have had to have read at least the last couple of books in the series to know the background. If you haven’t you could have trouble picking up a number of the plot threads because this is an intensification of previous action.

Eddie and his beloved Molly Metcalf, have been given a mission by the Department of the Uncanny. They are to attend Casino Infernale and break the bank that backs the casino, The Shadow Bank. Many have tried, to date none have succeeded, but Eddie and Molly had better not fail because those behind the Shadow Bank have plans and not good ones. Entangled with all this there’s a return of the car (with a personality all of its own,) J.C. From Ghost Hunters, an appearance of the Nazi version of Valkyries, several million sort-of-clones, an equine God, two great characters from Shadows Fall, and a resounding ending in which the bad guys become the good guys…sort-of.

The ongoing mystery of just how Molly’s parents did die and who was really responsible moves on slightly, with hints that the person they know to have committed the actual killings may have been justified in some way, under duress, or even not quite as guilty as claimed. IF you have already read at least the book before this one, Casino Infernale is recommended. If not, start at the beginning and get to it. The journey? Fun.

11 March 2014

After an email recently it occurred to me just how lucky I am. I’m one of the Guests of Honour at Conclave 2, the National SF Convention in Auckland over Anzac weekend. And as such I’ll be doing a seminar or two, the odd talk, and I could be grabbed for a panel if someone’s needed in a hurry. And that’s where the luck comes in. That doing this sort of thing doesn’t bother me at all. I know writers for whom this produces panic at the very idea, let alone actually standing up before anywhere from 20-200 people and talking. They go hot, cold, feel faint, they sweat, go clammy, and feel nauseous. I have none of that and I’m deeply grateful for it. But the odd thing is that apparently this fear of public speaking is based on a ‘prey response.’ I had that mentioned to me only recently and was surprised so I looked it up and while studies are interesting, I’m not entirely sure that this fear has much to do with prey response.

I note that in some of the studies/articles on this, it is said that public speaking is something that must be learned, and that a speaker needs to learn not to react with a prey response. Nonsense. I’ve been able to speak in and to the public since I was as young as 6-7 when I performed at church socials. I think that the ability to do this may be inborn in some, but may need to be learned for others, but that you cannot truthfully say it must be learned by everyone, only by some. Apparently the sight of all those faces looking back, for some people triggers the prey feeling that a predator is fixing on them, and that, or even the memory of it having happened on a previous occasion, can now produce prey-response. Myself I think that it is more likely that it takes a previous unpleasant or unhappy experience of public speaking to produce that, and if such an event never occurs, you’ll have always spoken happily in public. I also believe that if that negative memory is replaced by one that IS pleasant, then the person will continue happily with public speaking thereafter.

And therein lies the difference between scientific studies and the layperson’s experiences. They have studied the response and come to a conclusion that the response is instinctual and must be trained out of everyone. I know that it never applied to me, I was never trained out of something that didn’t exist for me, and I know that on a number of occasions over my life I have convinced friends with that problem to speak in public under circumstances that have provided a pleasant and amusing outcome. They are now fine with public speaking. Why weren’t they before? Because they had an earlier specific unpleasant experience and were afraid of it occurring again. This isn’t an instinctual prey-response, it’s one that was learned and can be unlearned. It’s this sort of thing that now and again makes me wonder about scientific studies. Or is it just that I and those others who have never minded public speaking – lack a prey-response? Any scientists out there with a good answer?

Looking at the TV news on the recent floods in Christchurch I’m very grateful that we don’t flood up here. We do get ferocious gales however so I suppose it’s always something. And currently the last three months have been too dry as well. I guess with a farmer the weather is rarely perfect. However I’ll settle for not-perfect. It’s better than floods. Also just past has been the 10th anniversary of the 2004 floods when a whole bunch of bridges were washed out, a number of small vaillages were completely cut off, a main gasline was wrecked, and many farms were under water. I remember it vividly because the low-lying areas in the neighbouring Wairarapa and Manawatu were flooded. Farside being where it was, yet again stayed dry. And before someone says that I’m ‘lucky.’ No, actually that’s why I purchased here, because it’s well away from possible floods or tsunamis. Of course, I’m also a mere 20k from a major mountain range. I’ll just have to hope that no dormant volcanos reactivate…

large-size soft cover, Titan Books, September 2005.

The author produced only 13 volumes of the Modesty Blaise full-length books and short stories collections that weren’t comic strip, I loved all of them, (see the entry – Modesty Blaise in my Have You Overlooked – ? section. So I finally decided to buy one of the comic strip books just to see if theyw ere readable. It was as I feared, for someone who prefers actual words, and who reads naturally at a very high speed, a book of three ‘strip’ stories isn’t nearly as good, but it’s still a long way past better than nothing. The artwork is very well reproduced, the stories are good with the authentic feel, and other familiar characters such as Sir Gerald Tarrant are involved. And, I could also pick out events/characters here and there in the three tales, that had also popped up in the books. Not exactly the same, no, but just sufficiently similar that I could see perhaps their genesis in the strip before their far more fully fleshed-out appearance in the books.

Titan list another nine in this large-size softcover comic strip reprint series, each so far as I know, with three stories. One or two of those may be too close to the books, so if you have the books you may not want to buy the Titan strips that cover those stories, but if you don’t have the books and like comic strip, then these are probably the way to go. If you’d prefer the books but don’t have them, I see that The Book Depositary UK seems to have at least some of the original books in currently reprinted editons at very reasonable prices. I recommend the books/story collections wholeheartedly, and the comic strip books reservedly. However I should add that I plan to buy others of them myself so the reservation is more personal, and isn’t too stringent.

 

In addition to stories, in case no one has guessed, I also write articles for a number of venues. Last couple of weeks there’s been a spate of them appearing. From Freelance Writers has come, ABUSING HISTORY, FACTS AND COMMONSENSE. The SPCA quarterly, Animals’ Voice published, BEWARE OF HEAT, and PROPERTY OF A YELLOWHAMMER, while the Australian Writers’ Website put up my article, REMAINDERS: A Little Advice. To top that off, CADS (which does factual items on mystery fiction and its authors) published my article, MODERN THEMES IN JOSEPHINE TEY. You can’t say my work doesn’t get around.

2 March 2014

Simon Hawke (born September 30, 1951) is a USA author of mainly SF/F novels. He was born Nicholas Valentin Yermakov, but began writing as Simon Hawke in 1984 and later changed his legal name to Hawke. He has also written near future adventure novels under the penname “J. D. Masters” and a series of humorous mystery novels along with many novelizations, many of his other works are under his original name so if you wnat to see everything, look for all three names.

Hawke’s first book,s 1981-1984, under his original name were rather heavy, more philosophical, and without major sales. But in 1984 he changed his bamne and began writing lighter work which took off with the dozen books of The Timewars series, (1984-1991) followed by the two Psychodrome books – Psychodrome and Psychodrome 2 in 1987 and 1988. And in 1987 he started an urban fantasy series. ten books based on the idea that after our civilization collapsed, magic came back and became the new technology. That series was good work. I ran into Simon Hawke’s work when in 1992 I purchased a book entitled The Nine Lives of Catseye Gomez. It was the nineth in the Wizard series, I read it in a gulp one night, cracked up, and went out looking for more of the same.

The fact was, that sadly, I didn’t find them. 9 Lives seems to have been a one-off. It was a riot, a parody of Mickey Spillane set in the world of the Wizards series, and it wasn’t only as funny as hell, it also made some very good points on a variety of subjects. I treasure my copy of it, re-read it regularly, and recommend it to anyone likely to enjoy that sort of theme. I can also recommend the TimeWars series and the others of the Wizard series too, but after them, Hawke went first into a mystery series which you’ll either love or dislike, and then into years worth of novelizations – everything from Battlestar Galactica to Star Trek, Batman, Predator, and Friday the 13th. There was a three book-foray in there of The Reluctant Sorcerer (1992)The Inadequate Adept (1993)The Ambivalent Magician (1997) which are very readable, but from then on it was novelizations and mysteries. So far as I can discover he had no more published books after 2003 with the fourth and final book in his Shakespeare and Smythe mystery series, and he seems to have given up writing short stories before that.

I find it a real pity that he never used Catseye Gomez as the start of a new spin-off series. The book was clever, funny, made a number of very good points on religion, animals, cops, personal freedoms and the Mean Streets, and would have been worth buying at twice the price. I’ve had it for more than 20 years, read it maybe five or six times and love it all over again each time. If you want to buy only one book that this author wrote, buy that one. If you want to buy an SF series then buy the Timewars books which are good reading. For Urban fantasy buy the Wizard series, or  for plain fantasy buy The Reluctant Sorcerer, The Inadequate Adept,  and The Ambivalent Magician. And while the author may not be selling any new work, his older work – including Catseye Gomez –  remains available on amazon and other sites.

And an update to that. While at Conclave 2, I purchased an older anthology entitled Mob Magic, which contains an excellend Catseye Gomez short story – My Claw is Quick. And again it reminded me what a pity it is that he didn’t write more of this character.

Over the past couple of days I’ve been re-reading my Garfield books and it occurred to me to wonder, if aliens arrived on earth and read those, what are they going to think of them? (why do cat lovers read Garfield? Because Jim Davis knows a thing or two about cats, and it also reminds those of us who have cats that no matter how bad our cat is, s/he is never that bad…) But an alien with little knowledge of earth is really going to wonder if perhaps these are not perhaps satirical parodies about a world-ruling dictator? Hmmm… Come to think of it, would they be entirely wrong? And if our civilization perishes and some of the books are eventually dug out of the ruins several hundred years later, what will their archeologists reconstruct of our civilization based on those works?

And it certainly does seem to be less rainy than usual. I had my suspicions that this could be so coming into January and so far they’re being confirmed. Unusually we seem to be getting not only less less rain than usual but also less than the nearest larger town 20K away, which has had four times our amount over February to date. Since I understock rather than overstock it’s not likely to be a problem for me, but if it continues dry it certainly will be less than good for some of my neighbours who carry greater stock numbers. Nor does it bode well for March. I’m only glad that the hay barn is full. However last year we had problems with the water supply when there was a lot less rain than usual, and if rain is down this year that’s likely to be a problem again. It’s always something with us farmers. (And having gone into print to say that we’re short on rain, it’s my experience that we then get weeks of horrendous rains and have to worry about floods instead… In fact this is the ten year anniversary of the 2004 February floods which, while they didn’t effect me up here, certainly did much of the rest of the country (and a number of rural bridges) a lot of no good!)The latest forecast suggests that rain is on the waythis coming week and it may be – however the last 20 times they’ve claimed that’s so, there’s been little or nothing, so I don’t plan to sit about expecting it.

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