Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Christmas craziness- it is not OK to go slow

My day job is in the freight industry and the period leading up to Christmas is the busiest time of the year, this year we had record volumes flowing through our facilities. For the last 25 years I have had operational roles and have more or less worked up to the twenty fourth and then been knackered over Christmas itself.

This year it is a little different and I had the week before Christmas off and arrived at Christmas Day refreshed and relaxed.

I am also enjoying my longest break in my entire adult working career and still have a week to go before I get back to the grindstone and what is likely to be another busy year and have been on the road a lot one way or another.

This is the time of the year when many of us are on the roads. The roads are full of local and overseas travelers. And this is also the time of the year that there is the most tension and frustration on the road driven by volume and congestion and the driving antics of people that clearly couldn't give a rat's arse about everyone else they are sharing the road.
Given improvements in the main roads, vehicles, and also cultural changes to our acceptance of drunk driving and speed, the biggest danger on our roads are the people that constantly travel well below the speed limit and impede the flow of traffic behind them. These are the kind of people that cautiously negotiate corners at ten kilometres and hour below the signed speed suggestions and then once they hit a straight piece of road or a passing lane speed up so that it makes it more difficult for people to pass them.

Speed is still an issue but I don't know what value there is in pulling someone over for speeding on a good two lane highway and ignoring the mobile road block that has a tail of traffic behind it getting more and more frustrated at the lack of courtesy shown by that driver.

Over the years campaigns focusing on speed and drunk driving have been very successful in changing our attitudes to speeding and drink driving. It is about time the same focus was put on changing the habits of those of us that think it is ok to drive on the main roads at speeds that impede traffic. Maybe we can have a new motto- it is not ok to go slow.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The week before Christmas

I have been on leave from my day job all week and have found it quite liberating. Not only have I managed to complete most of my self appointed tasks, as well as the little extra's that popped up after a weekend's riding; new rear tyre, new barkbusters, and home made tail tidy after the OEM rego plate holder came loose. I have also managed to complete at least a few of the tasks set by the command authority, and get her Christmas presents as well. The ones instructed me to get and the ones I bought when I had clear instructions not to use my initiative.

I have found the week liberating in other ways, no mad rush to do any shopping, getting out and about when everyone else is working is a great feeling. More importantly I am pretty rested, which is pretty unusual for me at the this time of the year and I am going to have a good long break.

I was going to write about some interesting things I had seen this week or done. I did get caught behind a woman in convertible the other day who decided to stop in an admittedly slow stream of traffic and put the soft top up. Probably so she could start texting without anyone being the wiser. Texting being the number one cause of accidents on our roads so I am led to believe.

I also manged to get out and road test the new rear tyre and do a few more km's on my bike.

As I navigated to the blog from my Facebook page it struck me again how my blog and books seem popular in what I would consider unusual parts of the world considering I am a white middle aged, middle class male, of centre right political views, writing science fiction with a distinctly kiwi flavour. Though, any of the current crop of American Republican Presidential campaigners and their media cheer leaders would consider my views somewhere to the left of of Lenin.

For reasons that are beyond me my blog gets more hits from Brasil, Italy, and Spain and the Skid Chronicles Facebook page is popular in India. If I could work out how this happened I would no doubt be wealthier than I am today and my novels would be selling in the tens of thousands and not just the tens.......

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Second Coming- post apocalyptic fiction?

The Skidian Chronicles novels have some new reviews, neither of which I wrote myself!

For the First Chronicle

This book views its science fiction subject matter through a Kiwi set of eyes. The dry humour of the Kiwi farming character is amplified by the 'city slicker' attitude of his American "heroine"; his stoic country practical outlook versus her rather pathetic helplessness. My daughter bought me both books and I intended to read the first book and then something different before the second , however I was so intrigued by the plot at the end of this book that I had to immediately read the follow-up. I was amused that Keith chose to name his female lead after me , even though we'd never met, well not on this planet !

And great to see the reader liked the first book so much they bought and enjoyed the second book (The Second Coming)  in the series;

Having read the first book I was intrigued to see how the second book developed. I was pleased that my namesake developed more strength of character, and that the dogs had their own part in the plot. The storyline allows the reader to believe some of the subject matter could actually become a reality and at the end of the book I was left with some thought provoking reflections. This book is an easy read which make me smile, and I hope to read how the story progresses. The font size in the 2nd book was easier to read.

And one from a year or so back

The Second Coming by Keith Fenwick is a next-in-series title about several different people whose stories are in some way related, but if you are just coming in you don't quite know how. Sue and Bruce are normal, everyday Earthlings... mostly. Sue, who owns a travel agency, is somehow pregnant when she hasn't had a sexual partner in a very long time. Her best guess is immaculate conception.

Bruce, on the other hand, is a bit of a foul mouthed, rugged loner living off the land. He feels that something is missing--a chunk of his life perhaps.

On the other hand, Mitch, a third Earth personality (and the United States President), was experiencing no abnormality in his life before a spaceship landed in an American military airplane hangar after a little airspace encroachment, battle, and chase. The alien flying that craft is Myfair, the happenstance ruler of a mostly unknown planet, Skid--the most advanced planet in the universe.

In the wake of a mind-blowing apocalypse on his planet caused by a malfunctioning computer intelligence charged with making Skidian life as easy as possible, Myfair was simply traversing the deep, not looking for anything in particular, when he accidentally stumbled upon Earth, violating American airspace and instigating a dogfight in the process. The skirmish caused him to lose control and scrape his ship across a range of mountains, forcing him to find a place to land. A secured military base is as good a place as any, wouldn't you think?

To you and me it would seem like an insanely stupid idea; but to an intelligent life form that considers us a pitifully ill-advanced, backwater planet that can be easily handled, an air of arrogance keeps our intelligent thought process from rendering us dangerous to a Skidian, and even worthy of note. This is why Myfair was just fine with parking in a military hangar and taking a Sunday stroll around, checking out American war planes. His lack of realization that there could in fact be danger on such an inconsequential planet is just the reason he runs into Bruce, Sue, and President Mitch, which begins their journey together.

As a critique, it takes a lot of reading to get to this point. It could have easily been a hundred or more pages shorter. In addition some of the sexual description was weird, almost as though it hardly had a place in the book. I don't mean all of the sex in general, which was very little, but when it popped up unexpectedly--specifically from the main female character's perspective--it took me by surprise and seemingly without reason. On the upside, there are almost no instances of it. In fact, all such instances containing sex probably only amount to a single page, or less even. My final critique is that Bruce's mother added an almost irritating ingredient to the mixture that bothered me--not because it existed, but because it worked itself into this book so late. Perhaps Fenwick touches on this in the first book, which could make me wrong in thinking this was new, but it was bothersome none-the-less.

All in all though, I found the book quite fun, especially when I got to the meat of it. As the book follows Myfair and other Skidians and allows you to see what their arrogance and underestimation gets them into, it's hard not to laugh. Reading about the effect that Bruce and Mitch have on others is no different; it's quite comical and some of the adventure and action made it so I had to keep reading on past my bed time. The Second Coming turned out to be a fun and funny read and I would recommend it to anyone that has the endurance for longer, slower adult science fiction novels.

Monday, 5 October 2015

The story so far- The Skidian Chronicles Trilogy and Lifeboat teaser

In the First Chronicle, the main protagonist of this tale along with the woman in his life, was abducted by a group of aliens from the Planet Skid.

 The First Chronicle deals with Bruce and to a lesser extent his fellow abductee, Sue coming to terms with the culture shock of finding themselves in this alien environment with no prospect of ever making it home and doing their best to make a go of it on a world facing a Skidian made catastrophe. A catastrophe that no Skidian seems to be taking too seriously despite the clear warning signs to the contrary.

The comparisons with our own world are obvious along with the ‘it will never happen to me, or not in my backyard thankyou very much,’ attitude of the average Skidian. In time the dire predictions of gloom, doom, and famine did come to pass. This was of little comfort to the few survivors of the calamity that all but wiped out the greatest civilisation that this remote and relatively unimportant section of the universe had ever known.

The Second Chronicle, The Second Coming, deals with Bruce finding himself back home and dealing with a profound change in his life that makes him question everything he knows to be true.
Change that he is struggling to come to terms with, largely because the Skidians wiped the memory of most of the experiences that led to this epiphany. Bruce thinks he is losing his marbles until he meets Sue and discovers they have an infant son. They meet almost by coincidence in a bar in her American hometown that Bruce has been drawn to for no better apparent reason than an acquaintance has a brother who owns a bar in the city.

Then one of the original crew of Skidians who had abducted them turns up in the bar with a much bigger fish in tow: The President of the United States no less. The four of them return to Skid with a different mission from the first trip.

This third novel in the series; The Lifeboat deals with what happens next. Bruce discovers all is not what it seems and makes some startling discoveries regarding some of the questions that mankind has wrestled with for thousands of years. If you have a need to know the meaning of life then this novel is a must for you.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Our Cruise - September 2015

Cruise Ship Blog September 2015
Day One
Early start. As always almost impossible to get Joyce out of bed at any decent hour, she always wants a bit more sleep.

Made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and spent an hour or so in Koru having breakfast. Bumped into three or four current or former work colleagues checking in.

Turned off my work phone and tucked it away in my bag after deleting a few emails. Probably should have left it at home but I might need it for emergencies.

Joyce not happy that I have posted on Facebook that we are overseas as she thinks it is an invitation to someone to burgle the house. Can’t seem to delete the post and people are already wishing us a happy anniversary holiday. Oh well.

Uneventful flight over and got the train to the cruise embarkation point where we were drafted like a mob of wild cattle and the herded aboard in groups

Joyce is excited, I am not sure what she imagined we were in for but she is as pleased as punch to be onboard though a little concerned about the position of the cabin. It is towards the rear of the ship. Once we check with reception we learn that it is at the end of the middle part of the ship so all is good.
I can see why people talk about putting on weight on a cruise, everyone seems to have made a beeline for the free food and the cafes are crowded. (I weighed myself this morning back home and somehow lost 3 kg’s)
The Pacific Pearl looks to be an older ship, if you look hard enough you can see bits of rust under the paint work. But it looks ok and the crew are great.

First thing on the events calendar is the lifejacket drill and then I think it will be time for a beer.

The lifeboat drill was a bit of a shambles as the PA failed and the DJ had to read off the hardcopy, emergency handout. I hope the PA works if there is a real emergency.

The leaving party started before our drill was finished, some noisy kiwi band.
I wanted to see the ship leave port and Joyce wanted to watch the band so we parted ways. Joyce had instructions to buy me a beer and find me at the stern. The contingency plan to meet failed immediately and Joyce drank half my beer before I found her.

Only an hour and a half into the official cruise and it already looks quite messy in places. A lot of people are clearly here to drink as much as possible in the shortest time possible.

The team dealing with the passengers is mostly brown skinned from all over the world. I assume by the accents the team running the ship are white, as are most of the passengers. Who range from real wrinklies, a lot in wheel chairs or using walkers, to what appears a rather large number of bogans.

When I first started as a courier in central Auckland I used to exit some lifts completely disorientated, and at home, at night I often used to feel as if I was swaying, and still going up and down the lifts. 
That’s what the ship feels like at the moment and it is calm. Fuck knows what it will feel like if it gets a bit rough. It is also bloody windy, surprise, surprise. And colder than I thought. Lucky I packed a jersey.

Third world ship, wireless costs a shitload so I will use my phone if I want connect. Just got a txt from the Vodafone maritime satellite with charges. Maybe I won’t turn my phone on at all.

Went to a show. The music and the performance was pretty slick, but musicals do nothing for me. The karaoke in one of the bars afterwards was excruciatingly painful but far more entertaining. No we did not participate.

Dinner in one of the restaurants looked as though it was warmed up about six months ago and reheated today. I think we will take our chances with the buffet tomorrow instead of the restaurant. Quite frankly it was terrible.

The beer might be expensive, but no more than at a bar at home. The ship is rolling around a bit.

Day Two
Still on NZ time so I woke at about 3am and didn’t really get back to sleep. The boat is rolling around in the swell, it is a weird feeling as the bed is length ways which exaggerates the rolling effect. 

Level one alert announcement at about 5am did not help. The PA does work. Got up and had a shower and gathered stuff together in case we had to evacuate and put into practice what we didn’t learn at the evacuation exercise yesterday. An hour or so there was a stand down message. Sounds like an alarm of some kind went off in the galley. Maybe they had a fire.

Also felt a bit queasy. I’ll blame it in the rolling, pitching motion that I am not used to. But maybe it was that last beer or two. Still a good breakfast and I am more or less right. The buffet food was really good, so I guess that is where we will eat. Joyce lost an earring but the guys that look after the room found it. We’ll have to use them a decent tip in the envelope they helpfully left for us.

Despite me being the one that didn’t get a good night’s sleep Joyce has decided that she needs a snooze so I have to go and do some work on my book somewhere else. I’ll just wait for the laptop to charge fully.

Looks like if you don’t engage with the activities it will get a bit boring unless you do something. Unless you simply want to drink and eat to excess, or just rest and this is ok to. Lots of reading.
No phone or email. I feel as if I have my throat cut. And later in the day, welcome to the vagaries of cruising. 

Tomorrow was supposed to be a visit to Moreton Island but the weather is deteriorating so we are not going to call there now. Another sea day- not sure where or what that means, hopefully the ship will turn around and head somewhere where the weather is more settled.

It does look a bit wilder out the front of the ship. Note to self. Don’t drink too much otherwise I might stumble around a little bit more.

Of course what happens is that by the time we have completed our walk around the wind drops, the sun comes out and the sea flattens out. The Captain can't win.

Day Three
Still no internet. Not sure what is going on in the world. If the cloud died this is what it would look and feel like. Still have not bought any minutes. 

Uneventful night, though the ship is rolling and pitching more. Though we are more used to it now. Big difference in how it feels between where our cabin is and the extremities of the ship as both ends go up and down. The sea doesn’t look too much rougher than yesterday but it is a lot windier.

Needless to say we are not spending a lot of time on deck. Sitting in a lounge up the front of the ship.  Great view of, well the sea. The sea here is quite busy with ship traffic, freighters and another large cruise ship chasing us up or down the coast. I think we are still headed north, but for how long?

9.15am and we have had a good breakfast and Joyce is beside me stretched out on a couch.
Dennis’s birthday tomorrow so we will have to break internet silence and send him a message.
Seems we have turned around, actually I think we swung around to a new heading last night sometime.
After breakfast and spending some time in the lounge right up the front of the ship, had a snooze. Surfaced and had lunch to find the sea and the wind had dropped and it was quite pleasant having a bear on the rear deck. Pretty typical I guess, Captain makes a decision based on the weather forecast and immediately proven wrong.

Lots of sleeping and writing. Already have the disembarkation instructions. Looks like they are keen to get us off as quickly as possible on the morning of Day 5..

Day Four
Woke up at 5ish and had a decent sleep. Managed to get Joyce up at a decent hour for breakfast. 
Logged into the internet. Aus $0.75 a minute to send Dennis an email as it is his birthday today. 

Raining this morning but looks to be clearing up. Tried to log into google maps to see where we are. Must be under the radar as it can’t find us. Just realized how many really important personal emails I get. Not many, actually in the course of four days, none. The night before we left I set up some Facebook ads. Lots of likes bit no extra sales.

Had breakfast and now roaming the ship. Spent an hour or so in a café working on the great New Zealand novel and now it is time for another snooze. The rain has stopped and it looks quite pleasant outside.

It has turned out nice and have a had few pleasant beers in the sun and taken some photos. Time to have another snooze.

While I was having a beer on the upper deck I noticed that one of the stacks on the funnel had a dent. Should we be worried? Are we going to be negotiating a low hanging structure? I wonder what it hit.                 
Update from the Captain, someone has noticed a recreational fishing boat in distress so we are turning around to have a look and go to the rescue.

Update number 2- just a bunch of drunk Aussie fishermen with their radios off  in the middle of nowhere. Alarm over. Everyone waves as we go past and head back the way we came.
Early night. Don't sleep much. Always up and about early when I have a trip to make, a plane to catch. Still 2am is ridiculous                                                
Day Five- the longest day.
Woke at about 1 am and didn’t really get back to sleep, though I must have as I had a few dreams. Woken or kept awake by lots of activity, the neighbours packing at 2 am ish and people talking and yahooing.
The ship docked early and we were off the ship before 9am. What are we going to do for the rest of the day? Got the train to the airport only to find we couldn’t check the bag early in like we thought so went out and rented a car to go for a tiki tour. Then found the beach. Cronulla.

Riding the train and having a bit of a look around makes me realize how much older Sydney is than Auckland, and how much of it reminds me of 1970's images of English cities. Gritty and grimy.

Got back to the airport fairly early, the customs guys are on a rolling strike, so it seemed to make sense to get here a little early and enjoy Koru. Looks like we are going to be enjoying it for another forty five minutes now as the strikes delayed the earlier outbound services.

Plane delayed by an hour and a half but at least we got home in the end. I am still rocking and rolling.

By the way we had a great time on the ship.

Day Six
I am still rocking and rolling and doing the washing.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Lifeboat

I have finally completed the first draft of the third novel in the Skidian Chronicles series, tentatively titled; 'The Lifeboat'. This was supposed to the final novel in the series. However, there are some loose ends that I feel I need to tidy up, even if in doing so I am merely satisfying my own curiosity.

On the other hand I need to satisfy my growing audience as well.

I am going to start to post some excerpts from The Lifeboat in my blog and create a readers group to critique and provide feedback as I progress with the editing process. Let me know if you are interested in being a part of this team.

The Lifeboat.


Far out on the dark, frozen perimeter of the solar system a comet reached the outward limit of its orbit about the sun and began to blaze a trail back towards the inner system. This particular comet had never been recorded in human history or detected by any of mankind’s increasingly sophisticated astronomical instruments as it swung along its path.

Eventually the comet did come to the notice of terrestrial astronomers and was given the designation 2013D4. Comet 2013D4’s course was projected more or less accurately, enough to suggest that it did not pose an immediate danger to earth along with a number of other celestial bodies. For a number of reasons, not least that people wanted to know whether the bodies posed a risk or not to planet earth, some of these bodies were higher on the list than others in terms of importance and scrutiny. Comet 2013D4 was well down that list and nobody noticed a couple of unusual course changes that on close inspection could not be easily explained.

For a long time nobody picked up on 2013D4’s exact trajectory and when they did there was some idle speculation between the groups of astronomers that were interested enough in the possible outcome to discuss its route as it sped toward, then possibly impacting one or more of the Jupiter Trojans.

Eventually Comet 2013D4 ploughed into an asteroid called Automedon, knocking the asteroid out of its orbit, before it blasted out the other side of the Jupiter Trojans and carried on its merry way.

This kind of impact wasn’t all that unusual and happened regularly enough that astronomers thought little of it at the time. Automedon bounced around like a big marble knocking other, smaller asteroids out of the way. Then somehow it was flung out of the Trojan field and was hurtling its way towards the centre of the solar system where it would either meet its end in a mighty collision with the sun or be flung outward again to begin a journey through the solar system until it hit something else or degraded away to nothing.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Every little bit helps

Suddenly I seem to be getting some attention in the big wide world. Book sales are steady if unspectacular and people keep following me on Twitter, even though I have little to tweet. The Command Authority, using my spare phone tweets for me more often than I do. Though it would be fair to say that this is more by accident than design.

To cap this off people at work keep downloading my book and or swapping hard copies around  between them and actually  seem to be enjoying the read. Either that or they are saying nice things about me on the hope of a free coffee.

All this helps to encourage me to spend more time on the third (I hesitate to say final) chapter in he Skidian Chronicles series. Not easy after a long day at work and there is more to life than work and the second job that costs far more in time and effort than any hope of return.

This intermittent blog is actually a good way to warm up to the process of writing and to provide some shameless self promotion. Pity it is now 9.20pm and it is almost my bedtime.

Some neat new reviews for the First Skidian Chronicle

If you really needed a reason to buy both novels

"Easy fun read. I didn't really like the ending at first, but the second book clears it all up."

and well what can a man say?

"It took me a while to pick this book up only because I'd promised Keith I'd be brutally honest and I didn't want to disappoint! Turned out to be a book that I was unable to put down this weekend and wished I had read it sooner!

A surprisingly good and easy read, Sue P'd me off a few times due to her lack of knowledge about farming, or anything hah! The love scenes were a bit quirky (thats all ill say about that), and the arrogance of the Skidians and how it affected Bruce was pretty comical. Not quite sure if this was sci fi enough for me if that makes sense but It's only the first so am looking forward to reading the second over the long weekend."