Time for a new invention.

My t-shirt was clammy. I was still perspiring from an hour of hot yoga. In another reality, I would be agitated and short-tempered but after a combination of body contortions and deep-belly breathing, I was quite calm and relaxed.

The clerk at the Post Office looked at me and simply said, “sorry sir, the system is down.”
“Can’t I go onto your online post office and pay you there?”
“No. I’m sorry, we only accept credit cards or cash.”
“But the bank is closed now and this amount exceeds my withdrawal limit.”
“Let’s wait a few minutes and then we can try again.”

I sat down on a round, green stool-cushion. It was one of those stools with a single pole cemented into the ground. And that was when I thought that it was time to invent a molecular teleportation device for getting objects from A to B. Scientists have developed the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator ever built. At a cost of over three million Euros, the LHC recreates the conditions at the time of the Big Bang. Scientists have also successfully transported Atoms across distances, so they must be close close to cracking the concept of molecular teleportation?

The rapid development of technology over the past twenty to thirty years means that as a generation, we are more connected than ever before. The cassette tape became the CD-ROM and then the flash drive. Now it’s even easier to just stream live music off the web. The telephone became the cellphone and now the smartphone means that information is instantly accessible. An example is this blog that you’re reading. I’m writing it on my phone, sourcing and inserting links and pics.

And then there’s the (SA) post office. It’s as if it’s frozen in time. An antiquated and almost ancient service, that simply has not changed in hundreds of years. It’s very much in use today but unfortunately makes you as a consumer feel that it’s just not safe, efficient or reliable. I had no choice but to use this service (as opposed to a courier service at about ten times the price!) to send off signed books to 20 individual winners (all overseas) of a competition that I ran recently on Goodreads.com.

After about ten minutes, I stood up, went back to the clerk and tried my card again. It worked! Yay! I was so close to having to take all the books back again. I mean how ridiculous? No online payment option? Like I said. Left behind. If this was a virtual problem, it would have been fixed and improved upon tenfold!

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Twenty Xmas Presents

Winner

Congratulations to the following 20 winners of the Goodreads competition. They have each won a signed paperback copy of Return To Lemuria:

Tammy Pooser
Susan Jackson
Pamela Muldowney
Kris Cram
Marcie Sasso
Sabrina Wilson
Nicky Harvatt
Laura Fry
Sarah Sarg
Louis Richards
Kai Wong
Bernie Cinkoske
Tara Bittler
Christina Kelly
Ralph Pelaez
Candice Lemus
Rick Gillispie
Sandra Smothers
Jeffrey Malis
Tavo Bazante

* Copies will be posted on Saturday (Post Office closed for Christmas.) Please allow 6-8 weeks for international delivery outside of South Africa.

 

China

My author-idol, China Mieville and his words of wisdom….

“When people dis fantasy—mainstream readers and SF readers alike—they are almost always talking about one sub-genre of fantastic literature. They are talking about Tolkien, and Tolkien’s innumerable heirs. Call it ‘epic’, or ‘high’, or ‘genre’ fantasy, this is what fantasy has come to mean. Which is misleading as well as unfortunate.

Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious—you can’t ignore it, so don’t even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there’s a lot to dislike—his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien’s clichés—elves ‘n’ dwarfs ‘n’ magic rings—have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was ‘consolation’, thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.

That is a revolting idea, and one, thankfully, that plenty of fantasists have ignored. From the Surrealists through the pulps—via Mervyn Peake and Mikhael Bulgakov and Stefan Grabiński and Bruno Schulz and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison and I could go on—the best writers have used the fantastic aesthetic precisely to challenge, to alienate, to subvert and undermine expectations.

Of course I’m not saying that any fan of Tolkien is no friend of mine—that would cut my social circle considerably. Nor would I claim that it’s impossible to write a good fantasy book with elves and dwarfs in it—Michael Swanwick’s superb Iron Dragon’s Daughter gives the lie to that. But given that the pleasure of fantasy is supposed to be in its limitless creativity, why not try to come up with some different themes, as well as unconventional monsters? Why not use fantasy to challenge social and aesthetic lies?

Thankfully, the alternative tradition of fantasy has never died. And it’s getting stronger. Chris Wooding, Michael Swanwick, Mary Gentle, Paul di Filippo, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others, are all producing works based on fantasy’s radicalism. Where traditional fantasy has been rural and bucolic, this is often urban, and frequently brutal. Characters are more than cardboard cutouts, and they’re not defined by race or sex. Things are gritty and tricky, just as in real life. This is fantasy not as comfort-food, but as challenge.

The critic Gabe Chouinard has said that we’re entering a new period, a renaissance in the creative radicalism of fantasy that hasn’t been seen since the New Wave of the sixties and seventies, and in echo of which he has christened the Next Wave. I don’t know if he’s right, but I’m excited. This is a radical literature. It’s the literature we most deserve.”

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Set The Mood

Technology continues to amaze me. In a few simple steps, I was able to upload a sample of my novel to a website called #booktrack and then record personalised background music over paragraph text to create an immersive reading experience. As a reader, you can adjust the speed at which you read, while a cursor bobs down the right and side of the page. Just click the big arrow on the right had side to turn the page and the sound fades out and then fades in again with a new track in between scenes. Genius! Just click this link (and turn up your sound) to check it out.

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I fell in love. With some art.

About six months ago, with my limited Photoshop skills, I designed a book cover for my novel, Return to Lemuria and I wasn’t happy. Finding and designing a book cover for a novel must be one of the most frustrating things to do! As an author, you want it to resonate with the story, depict a sense of what it is you are writing about and project an enticing visual interest for a potential reader. It should also work well as a thumbnail (for Amazon and other digital covers).

As I neared completion of my story, I became increasingly frustrated, as I couldn’t find or really design what I really wanted. And then I found a piece of art and I fell in love. Instantly. It was a magical piece of a woman looking up at a beam of light with her hands in a full lotus mudra. It glowed with a powerful energy that spoke to me as if it was designed specifically for my story. The artist painted a beautiful picture . I found the artist’s name, Eric Nez, at the bottom of the piece and then the hunt began. I found a beautiful video of the artist at work. I was amazed at his skill, painting an exquisite piece exclusively with spray brushes. I then managed to track him down on Facebook, sent him a friend request and a personal message requesting the use of his art for the cover of my novel. A week or so later, he accepted my friend request but did not respond to my message. After several more messages, he finally responded, approving the use of his art in return for $100. I immediately accepted his proposal and requested his details so that I could settle the amount owing. Several weeks went by and he never responded, despite many more messages and posts to his Facebook wall. I began to lose hope.

And then I received a friend request from someone who was Facebook friends with Eric. I accepted her request and sent her a message, asking her for assistance. She told me that she regretfully could not help me because Eric had no cellphone or bank account! She told me to continue attempting to reach him via Facebook. I continued to send message after message but to no avail. I was beginning to lose hope once again. A few weeks later, I came across another Facebook friend of Eric’s and this time, he promised to do what he could to help. He went on to tell me that Eric was a hermit and seldom saw him. He confirmed that Eric did not own a cellphone or a bank account. I was amazed, but on closer reflection, felt envious of someone who turned his back on technology and disconnected himself from society to live a life where he could express his passion through art.

Finally, after convincing him that he was a real part of my story, this friend of Eric’s agreed to accept a bank cheque on Eric’s behalf but would not give me his banking details either! I spent over an hour in the bank yesterday obtaining what is called a bank draft (similar to a cheque) for $100. The teller told me that she met her quota for drafts for the year as it is a form of payment that is very seldom used any longer! LOL! I have now sent the draft via registered mail to the US where this friend of Eric’s hopes to see him at the end of the year to settle my debt.

The hard work invested in finally getting the rights to use this artwork for my book cover has a lot of meaning for me. It proves that, just like my story, hard work pays off.

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Once I caught a fish…

You know that weird sense of looking at the spelling of a word for too long or saying it out loud too many times so that it begins to make no sense? I have developed the same kind of feeling when writing down numbers. Up until recently, I have not had much concern when writing numbers as numbers or numbers as text. I.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or one, two three, four, five. Soon after I started writing Return To Lemuria, however, I realised that consistency was key. It is important to maintain consistency in your writing so as not to confuse the reader. An example is the metric vs imperial system. Then there’s numbers. I learnt that it’s important to spell numbers out where possible instead of writing down the numerals. For example it’s better to write out one instead of 1 in a sentence. Having said this, there are many exceptions and no golden rule. E.g. it is commonly accepted to write out the time as 5.00pm but it looks and sounds better to write five o’clock in the afternoon. For more info on the use of numbers in grammar, check out this link.

That weird sense of writing numbers now comes into play… Because I have trained myself to consistently look out for writing numerical numbers in my writing over the past year, every time that I write a number as a number, it looks odd. Like it’s wrong. And so I change it to text and it feels and looks better. It’s weird because I never really had much of a preference in the past… #realworldproblems

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Get It Here

My first magazine review in Get It Mag. #publicity #review. More reviews here.

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Off the Grid

Meme. An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations. I came across one of these memes recently that put things into perspective. It was a snapshot of 5 bicycles lying haphazardly on a piece of lawn in front of a house. The meme read: This was how we used to know where our friends were playing, implying that nowadays we use electronic communication to do the same thing. It also implies that before Facebook and Whatstapp, kids were more sociable and spent more time outdoors, doing physical exercise.

Today, most of us are permanently connected to the digital communication network in some form or other. From our mobile phones, laptops and even televisions, our attention is constantly in demand. Even kids are connected to the web via iPads from their early years. And it seems as if this trend is not declining…

So what do we do? How do we find balance for both our kids and ourselves in this digital maelstrom?

I had the fortunate opportunity to get off the grid last week and I highly recommend it. 11 of us converged on the Tsitsikama Nature Reserve near Plettenburg Bay in South Africa. It’s an incredible part of the world teeming with wildlife, freshly flowing rivers and thick, indigenous forest. We set out on a 5-day hike called The Otter Trail, along the coast, stopping at wooden huts each day to rest our aching muscles. The best part of all of this, is that there’s no reception. Nada. One if my mates that was with us runs a mobile business. He confessed that he had not disconnected for 15 years! You can just imagine how liberated he felt!

I believe that it’s vitally important to regularly disconnect from the digital world in order to break the pattern of confinement that we often finds ourselves in. This experience gave us all the opportunity to really appreciate nature, each other and life in general. It helped many of us reflect on ourselves and those around us. For some, it was a life-changing experience that I’m certain will create positive change to the way in which we conduct our lives going forward. Whether it’s diet, exercise or an overall awareness of our actions in the real world, even the smallest change creates a ripple that impacts on our immediate environment.

The lesson? Get out more. Explore this beautiful planet we call home. Disconnect from the Grid.

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Feeling Lucky?

It’s competition time! I’m giving away 20 books via Goodreads.com. Simply click the link below to enter.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Return To Lemuria by Richard Gradner

Return To Lemuria

by Richard Gradner

Giveaway ends December 24, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

SF

OK, so the first thing that comes to mind when you see SF is Science Fiction, right? Well it is for me in any event. Yes, Return To Lemuria may have elements of science fiction but my understanding of science fiction novels are the ones that involve stories of space exploration, robots and aliens, of which my novel bears no similarity at all.

Just recently, my wife Adele came across a genre that I believe perfectly defines my novel, Return To Lemuria. It’s called Speculative Fiction. The irony is that world-renowned science fiction author, Robert Heinlein is attributed this genre, who coined it a 1947 editorial essay. Speculative fiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements.

Return To Lemuria has all of this and more. It’s a story set in the present day but draws on the plausible existence of the descendants of an ancient, highly advanced civilisation, that lived on a continent in the pacific that disappeared at the time of the last ice age, over 12,000 years ago. It’s an action-packed thriller of a tale, filled with adventure, mystery and intrigue. For a free sample, reviews or to purchase a paperback or digital edition, please visit richardgradner.com

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