This blog is usually about my writing, or other authors I love. In case you’re steeling yourself for the crushing disappointment of not hearing about my latest publication, relax. There will be links to my new anthology at the end.
We writers tend to live in a fantasy world of our own creation much of the time. But at times in any writer’s life, reality doesn’t just intrude: it bangs open the door, shouts loudly to attract attention, and continues to be demanding and exhausting for as long as it can get away with. A bit like a teenager.
Moving house counts as one of those reality intrusions. We’ve been moving since January this year. It’s always more tiring, worrying, dirty, and expensive than you remembered, and like childbirth you swear you’ll never do it again. This particular move has been enlivened by multiple shifts, long-term storage of everything needed to make life bearable, lost house purchases, and far too much cleaning. Note to self: it’s someone else’s turn to clean the freezer, forever.
We finally moved into our new home last week, just in time for the featured cliche sunset. Our Victorian cottage is on the western slopes of the Malvern Hills, and provided we peer round and over the thirty unpacked boxes of books, we can see as far as mid-Wales and the Brecon Beacons. That the cottage is full of books, and only books, is due to the move from a house with reasonable proportions to one that poses challenges of space in most directions. What were we thinking? Clearly we weren’t thinking, just swooning at the views from our hobbit hole.
As well as the Welsh hills in front, we have a hill behind. We’re actually perched near the top of the bracingly-named Perseverance Hill. So we now rejoice in a hillside back garden in stiflingly close proximity to the back door. Wants a bit of digging away, we thought. The first garden designer hopefully quoted £30k. That’s a lot of digging. As it happens, we have now unpacked our spades, and two wheelbarrows (one each), so money to be saved there.
The next problem isn’t so easy to solve. We both work from home, and have kept very close to BT throughout our wanderings in an effort to ensure our online work suffers minimal interruption. BT have excelled themselves – not easily done once you’ve already won the “Trash utility provider of the universe” award. I will skate lightly over the three times they unilaterally cancelled our broadband order. On the last occasion, shortly before the move on 23 October, they told us we’d be connected on 27 October. Not great, but we figured we could use the wifi at the obliging cafe nearby for a few days, and we’d keep our fingers crossed the fluctuating mobile signal would suffice till the landline went in.
Twice more we had calls from anxious young people with suspiciously exotic accents to adjust the date, each time pushing it back: from 27 Oct to 2 November, then to 9 November, and ultimately to 13 November. They also wrote to inform us that on 9 November we will have a new seven digit landline connection. In an area where all other landline numbers have six digits. This has cast a different light on the whole shambles. We now realise we’re not just being treated with the disdain all large corporations seem to have for customers. On the contrary, we are so special we’ve been allocated our own number range. The suspicion that this is merely another demonstration of total incompetence has never crossed our minds.
On a positive note, we have now cleared enough boxes to sit in both front rooms. Probably easier to do it one at a time. Or each of us sit alone in one room. We can escape the rat race of emails, social media, internet and phone calls, and enjoy our individual views of the other side of the Hills.
My new story Heart’s Trust
Haven’t forgotten I promised links to my newly published story Heart’s Trust. It’s one of six science fiction stories featured in Rosie Oliver’s new anthology “SFerics 2017”. The book is out now, in print and as ebook
I really hope you’ll like it. In this story, I’ve reverted to one of my favourite themes, exploration of a new planet. But of course things do not go smoothly for planetary resource assessors Liv and Martin …
Here’s a taster, from the opening scene:
“Something is alive down there, Liv. Really.”
Martin stood by the bridge’s curved window and leaned over as if to study some detail on the surface of the planet, X72E, or Medea as we had nicknamed it. At some 38,000 kilometres below our starship, Argo, it was very doubtful he could make out anything on its surface. Yet something, maybe his exobiologist’s instinct, was focusing his attention down there.
His dark curly hair fell forward a little, obscuring his bony determined face. His mind was clearly not in the here and now. I had seen this look before. He was working a hunch, the kind of hunch that has no basis whatsoever. His hunches had often turned out to be right. Often – but not this time.
He had no cause, not even the merest of hints to say there was intelligent life on Medea. So there was no reason to withhold his permission to let me get on with a full survey – mineral and energy sources, water, and whatever else the Company told us to look for. And Medea had all the signs of a good haul: a rocky planet with a dense metallic core, plenty of surface water and a sufficiently ambient range of temperatures on most of its several well- wooded continents. The more opportunities for affordable exploitation we find on a new planet, the bigger the bonus. And we certainly needed the money, especially after so long stuck on Earth while I was ill.
“Liv, what do you think?”
I sighed. My impatience must have got across; he glanced up and quickly turned away. I felt my breathing quicken a little, and my hands tensed. “You know what the position is, Martin. We can’t mess around here much longer. Our planetary sweeps show no higher-order animal life. In fact, no animal life at all. We’ve foot-
slogged the surface survey, spent a lot of time over it. Take it from me – there’s nothing intelligent to find. You can give the green light.”
He turned, lifting the heavy curls away off his forehead. His face looked flushed.
Guilt and irritation shot through me. This was really more his call than mine.
“I have a feeling about this place, though,” he said. “We need to look again. Spend a
bit more time on the surface. Be sure of our facts. There’s something we’re overlooking. We just haven’t found it yet.
To read more, click here to buy the print edition at £3.40, or the Kindle version at 99p.