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31 August 2014

and they certainly are. Inspired by the new pullets my older hens have also moved into full laying mode and I’m currently collecting a stack of brown, and green eggs every day. (I have several hens that are part-Araucana, a breed that lays green eggs, and some strains of which can lay blue or lavender eggs too. That’s only the shell of course, inside they’re normal eggs – Although I do wonder if Doctor Seuss had Araucana hens?)  But being completely free-range my hens produce eggs of which the yolks are orange, anbd have a flavour that is realy ‘egg’, not the palid, tasteless yolk of battery hens. I have hens for three reasons, one is that IMHO a farm should have hens, two is that I love seeing them wandering freely about, leading happy normal free hen lives, and the third is that by gum the eggs do taste better!

Much to the annoyance of many of us in my area, Meridian has chosen to dump two local meter readers. This is infuriating for several reasons which I thought would have registered on Meridian as being common sense. The meter readers have been doing the job for a very long time. They know us and we know them, and as many meters in rural properties with older houses are inside said house, it’s a good idea for the reader and homeowner to know each other. The previous reader in my area knew me, where the meter was in the house, the watchgeese were familiar with him, and the cat adored him. Meridian has said that this is a cost-saving measure. Really? A new reader is going to take several times the amount of time it has previously taken to read the meters in any given area where these guys have worked. The new reader has to find the right gate to the most commonly used door, knock and wait until someone answers. Then he has to ask to be shown the meter. In my case he also has to negotiate the geese who, not knowing him, may well refuse him access meaning that each time I see him arrive I have to drop whatever I’m doing and rush outside to escort him in and then out of the house. And, with my not knowing who he is initially either, I have to stand at the door while I check his I.D. What if I’m suspicious that this isn’t a genuine reader? What if I don’t feel happy with this person having free access to my home? I know our original reader who is a local man, he strolls in past the geese, pats Thunder, reads the meter and leaves again. If I’m busy he does that on occasion without ever seeing me. I was happy with that. I’m not happy with someone I don’t know doing this. It would be different if our two meter readers had chosen to retire, but they haven’t. We’re told this change will save money, I bet it won’t. And if Meridian think that hiring people who don’t know the layout of properties and meter placements, don’t know guard dogs and watchgeese, have to explain themselves at every reading to suspicious householders, (and probably get bogged in gateways and other trouble spots that the original people knew about too) is going to speed things up, then all I can say is that while the new readers are reading meters, someone should be reading Meridian heads, because this is a deeply silly act, which will save neither time nor money and is going to annoy a lot of their customers who may decide to go elsewhere once they’ve thought about it.


with it being the season for it, our local newspaper is again using a trickle of my consumer articles. In the last few weeks, articles on Keeping Warm in Winter, Recycling Unwanted Books and Magazines, and an open article on how annoyed I am that Meridian Power Company has dumped two long-time familiar meter readers from our area, have all appeared.

20 August 2014

Not for anything he did, but for something that in my opinion, he always failed to do. He never became the person whose role he acted. It was always Tom Cruise there not the character in the story, and I could never forget that, until the other night. Sunday night TV2 showed us the 2012 rock musical ROCK OF AGES with Tom playing Stacee Jaxx, and he was brilliant. Not only has he a fine singing voice – something I’d never suspected – but he really can act. As Jaxx, debauched, disolute, a man who’s losing both his way and his music, he rocked. He showed just how he’d been corrupted by the money, the power, and having his every whim catered to by his manager for whom he was a cash cow and nothing more. Cruise showed how Jaxx was conscious of this but couldn’t fight free of the constant temptations and the easier path. And for me, for the first time ever that I’d seen Cruise in a movie, he stepped out of being himself and became Stacee Jaxx. I grew up in the 60s, rocking out in coffee bars in Auckland and Wellington, and this movie took me back so very very well. It’s a reasonable movie, but Tom Cruise is great, his portrayal of the character and his singing shone. And it makes me wonder now, how he’d do as Count FranknFurter in Rocky Horror? Could be fun to watch THAT!

And an update email from my Wildside publisher the other day, to tell me that my collection, Sherlock Holmes:Repeat Business is now a finalist for the 2014 Silver Falchion Award in Best Single-Author Collection. Even if I don’t win, just being a finalist is amazing. Unfortunately as the collection came out in early January 2014 and the awards aren’t announced until late August of 2015, I’m going to have to be very very very patient.

PC stuff is getting more and more ridiculous. I was talking with a friend about racial profiling recently and pointed out that if you take it all the way you get a woman reporting to the police that she was beaten and burgled by a man who broke into her apartment. She describes him as of a particular race, mid-twenties, had a limp, and wore gray overalls smelling of petrol. The police then note that:

they can’t look for a man, (sexist,)

they can’t look for a lame guy, (ableist)

they can’t look for a man of a particular race, (racist,)

they can’t look for a guy in his 20s, (age-discrimination,)

and they can’t look for a guy working in a garage, (because by now this may be class-discrimination.)

So they arrest the woman for making a discriminatory report. Stop laughing. If you take this PC nonsense to the logical end, that is about what you’ll end up with and as I’ve been noticing of late, we aren’t far off this damfool outcome already.


Published paperback, Baen, January 1986.

There are times when it pays to have a blog! Last year I did one of my Have You Overlooked columns about this author who’d had a very low output of very high quality – and in that I mentioned I didn’t have the earlier of his two books. I had A Lion on Tharthee, but not SaturnAlia. At the end of Overlooked, I said if anyone had a spare copy at an affordable price I love to have one. And now I have. To my great delight, the author himself saw the article, emailed me, and next thing, I had a copy of a book I’d wanted for a couple of decades. Not only that, he also sent a number of sketches related to the book, and a gorgeous colour copy of the picture that inspired the book. Saturnalia arrived here in a Monday’s mail and I read it in great gulps over the course of some hours. And it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Two things struck me as I read. The first was that despite LION having been Book two, I’d not found I needed to have read SaturnAlia to understand and follow events. However having read LION first and then reading SaturnAlia, I think I enjoyed it the more, being already familiar with the characters. The other thing was that despite both books having quite a lot of science and mathematics involved, (and I’m one of those according to Robert Heinlein who aren’t quite human because they don’t understand the higher forms of math) I still throughly enjoyed both books. It takes a very good author to fill a book with hard science and make someone like me who can’t understand most of that, still love the book.

So in SaturnAlia Professor Kurious Whitedimple is teaching Archaelogy at Spacehome University when he receives a demand that he report to the SpaceHome President. He does so to find himself immediately embroiled in what could have been a lethal accident, and a fast trip into space to investigate a non-human artifact that has been discovered on Iapetus. There he finds that the artifact is one of a number of them scattered across several portions of the Solar System, he is introduced to Junior Badille, one of the most fascinating characters I’ve read in 60+ years of reading, and embarks on an epic attempt to beat Earth to the artifacts. There is old-fashioned skulduggery, Machiavellian machinations not the least of them by the Professor and a very satisfying ending, that managed both a comfortable rounding-off for the book, while also leaving sufficient ends for the next book to hook on to and continue the story.

It’s going to be one of my enduring ‘literary’ regrets that while there could have been a third book, Baen chose not to publish one. Why, I have no idea, This duo were so well-written that I’m sure they sold well, and a third book would have brought the on-going themes of First Contact and vicious Spacehome/Earther politics to a really satisfying conclusion. Frankly I wanted more after I’d read the second book, now I’ve read both first and second books, I feel that the publisher cheated me out of that third book. Maybe if some of us write to Baen and ask, we may get it. If not, well, some authors in this position have eventually published via one of the e-book sites.

(I note that at least I know Mr. Callin hasn’t died. In the case of author, Lorna Freeman, currently generating much speculation, (and who is one of my other ‘literary’ regrets) we don’t even know that. She wrote three brilliant fantasies in The Borderlands series. The fourth, listed as The Reckoning Flames, was said to be in progress over 2010, but in January 2011 the author dropped completely off the map. Her blogsite was never used again, Roc, her publisher seems to know nothing, and there is now speculation that Lorna Freeman may not have been her real name and that she died in early 2011. However it was clear from her blog comments over 2010, that of the fourth book she must have written half if not more – and have an outline or notes on the intended ending. Readers are asking why IF the author died the publisher has not obtained that partial ms and had another writer complete it. Happily Mr. Callin is in the position to write the third book. Now all us writers have to do, is persuade Baen to offer him a contract and once the book is submitted, to publish it. Pleeeeeease!

9 August 2014

Perhaps what is the final load of firewood arrived for the winter last weekend. I was worried about that since while we had a long dry spell over the start of the year, that’s been very well made-up for ever since and the lawn was soft. The sort of soft where a big truck can sink hub-deep into the lawn and stay there. Luckily the firewood man had, most sensibly since he was delivering a smaller amount of wood, used his ute and trailor, and that glided over the soggy lawn with the greatest of ease, not even leaving wheel-tracks, let alone sinking into the surface. So I have firewood again, hopefully sufficient to last me until the weather dries up in October when I can start buying in and stockpiling again for the next winter. And even better, to date it’s been a milder than usual winter so that I used less wood and found life less chilly. I don;t know about global warming, but I wouldn’t mind more winters like this one.

Published Signet, large pb, July 2013. Book six in the Monkeewrench series.

While I was in Auckland in April I raided the ever-great Bookwormz and came home with a carton of used books in as-new condition. This was one of them and it looked so interesting I’d grabbed. I read it first once the carton arrived and then sat it on the ‘for consideration’ shelf for a month while I considered. After which I bought the other five published to date- new. (This is why authors shouldn’t mind too much about not making money off their books being sold and resold secondhand. If anyone buying one secondhand really loves it, they tend to buy the others new.) The five new ones tickled in and I started reading. They too were great, so much so that I went on to read this one a second time in three months because I couldn’t bear to have finished the series.

Off The Grid starts with Grace McBride and ex-FBI agent John Smith on his boat anchored off the Florida coast. Grace wakes hearing footsteps and creeps on deck to find the boat has been boarded by two men, they have a knife at John’s throat and it is clear that in another two seconds she’ll see him murdered. Grace shoots both men, and after brief discussion, dumps both bodies overboard, sets their dinghy free, and she and John go elsewhere, quickly. While that’s happening, a young girl fleeing from sex-trafficers has her throat cut while the four younger girls she is trying to save are whisked away. And a little later the police find two men shot executiuon style in a house with the four traumatized girls locked and bound in a back room. So does all this connect? You bet it does. It’s the beginning of a wild ride through Minneapolis as the computer firm of Monkeewrench, detectives Magozzi and Rolseth, and Smith’s FBI colleagues struggle to sort out possible Armageddon for a list of American cities. Along the way it takes in native Americans, war veterans, Somali criminals and winds down to a violent shootout in Reservation territory.

The book engaged me every step of the way, which is interesting considering that it was book six in a series. But still without my having read any of the earlier books, it managed to hook me completely. I found the characters fascinating, the action and plot convincing, and the peripherals intriguing. The interaction of the four people of Monkeewrench caught me strongly, I had to get the other five books and start the story from the beginning, find out about them, who they were, how they came to be together, and what Grace’s traumas had been. I needed to know about Grace and Magozzi’s relationship. I wondered about the other three, Annie, Harley, and Roadrunner. And how had Agent Smith come into their lives? I read the other five books as they came in and found out some of it, although not all, and I want to know the rest of it. P.J. Tracy has me hooked. I’m about to pre-order the next book (out around February 2015,) and hope that tells me more about the Monkeewrench people as well as providing another terrific ride. One thing however, the darn publishers are doing it again with this series that is, publishing some of the books in the UK with one cover/title, and in the USA with another. For instance, the first book, Monkeewrench is also published as Want To Play. Watch out for that. I accidently ended up with two copies of that book, one under each title. But do I recommend this book/the series. Hell yes! My only regret is that the author doesn’t write faster…

and yes, I’ve just signed and sent contracts for my story Jimmy’s Night In to sold to Twisty Xmas tales, a New Zealand anthology due out before Christmas. As always, I’m pleased to be selling in my own country, others may pay more, but it’s always nice to be accepted at home.