Tuesday, 29 March 2011
The entries for 2005
July 3, 2005
I have just been through perhaps my most productive period ever. I have finished a re-draft of the Kokoda history, filling in a few gaps, I have completed the first draft of my history of exploration and sent that off to the publisher. In the past three weeks, I have finished off the second and third of three books on doing science projects. For about five years now, I have maintained a page on this topic that draws 100 gigabytes of downloads a year (half a million hits by 200 kilobytes), so I thought I might as well do some books to fill in the gaps. [Note in 2011: it never happened!]
My plan is to do three "how to" volumes at basic, intermediate and advanced level, and these are now all complete. The next step is to do about six books on individual areas of science, but first, I need to find a publisher (always a bit of a hard slog), and that is what I will be doing in the next few weeks. Most of that will be waiting time, but there is the germ of an idea for a series of Australian historical fiction lurking in my mind, and I have a big science encyclopaedia project that has been sitting on the hard drive for years, so I won't be idle. That aside, it looks like I am off to the USA in late October to talk about sugar — more on that later.
A mate of mine, Australian poet Mark O'Connor, is working on a translation of Shakespeare into modern English: later this week, I am going out to NIDA to hear a read-through of his Troilus and Cressida. Later, I will add more on that, but Mark is retaining the structure and story, even the internal rhythms, but with modern language to tell the tale of "the Coalition of the Willing that sailed to Asia to teach Troy a lesson, and the intertwined love story of Troilus and Cressida." Hmmm.
Ah well, at least it gets me out of the house — I have no intention of turning into a recluse, but I can see how it might sneak up on you. Thud! Ouch! Hmmm, I'm agoraphobic, all of a sudden! Not for me, thanks . . .
Oh yes, and as part of the science projects thing, I have been building a nice resources page for people.
May 19, 2005
Well, another book done. In late March, I had a contact from a publisher I knew from somewhere or other. When I realised that plans had changed for me, I sent out an "available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals, anything" email to anybody likely to be needing a scrivener. I thought I would cast the net around and see who needed me.
This is where it helps to have runs on the board, books that can be seen, and reviews. Anybody wanting to check me out is likely to find this page, which alerts them to some of my capabilities, and points them to reviews. In this game, you can't afford to be a shrinking violet: you need to advertise!
Anyhow, Andrew Kelly from Black Dog Books got back to me to ask if I would be interested in doing a book on the Kokoda Track campaign of 1942. I had been more or less in the Kokoda area, many years ago, so I said yes, and began reading. There are many books on the subject, but my task was to write for a young teen audience, which I have now done (there is more about that in the April 20 entry).
That is now out of the way, so as of today, I am casting around for the project to do next. There are about thirty titles on the list of want-to-dos, but many of those will never go any further. I think it is time I finished that book on Australian exploration, though islands look good.
On another front, the US Edition of Poisons is now out, and people are saying nice things about it, and the first references on the Web to the Polish and Slovak editions are now findable. As details are uncovered, I add them to the Killer Bean of Calabar page.
April 20, 2005
Well, it is now almost three months since I gave up my day job. Instead of writing full-time for an encyclopaedia and part-time on books, I have been writing full-time on my own projects. Well, mostly my own projects: I have recently completed a fairly large lump of work for a CD-ROM on World War I for my old employer. This was more research and text acquisition than original writing, but it came from my having a fairly detailed knowledge of the period.
That meant I knew where to dig for original documents and accounts of the war, and where to source the (true) claim that tanks "arose as an irregular side development of the armoured-car branch of the Royal Naval Air Service work". That material has now come out on CD-ROM. War seems to be following me around, because I told a few old mates that I was available, and out of the blue came a request from another publisher to do a book for young people about the Kokoda Track.
I do not agree that writing for young people is a lesser profession. I have just completed a book on poisons for young people (you'd better believe it!) and it has given me a fresh insight into the question of poison. This new book was for Allen and Unwin, who published my Killer Bean of Calabar, so there was a bit of an overlap, but there was a different emphasis, with a much stronger requirement from me that I explain the principles, briefly but effectively. I needed some new research for it, but it was mainly rethinking.
There is a surfeit of books on Kokoda for adults, but these all have many assumptions about what the readers know. I will not be doing an adult book on the subject, but in some ways, I think it might be worth doing an essay of maybe 2000 words first (that takes me 13 minutes to read as an Ockhams Razor talk) to identify the central theme, then I would do a book for young people on the same topic, around 20,000 words (which will get the story lines sorted), followed by the adult version, coming in at about 60,000 words, and benefiting from the prior compressions.
One of these years I will try the three-step plan, but for now, Kokoda will just be the young people's book, centring mainly on the amazing achievements of young Australians, sent into the jungle with inadequate equipment, support and training by a gutless, amoral crook named Thomas Blamey. The man was a liar, a coward and a bully, and it will be an interesting challenge to tell the truth without letting this fellow's bastardry detract from a tale of amazing heroism, where the Australians defeated crack Japanese jungle fighters, the jungle, and their own stupid general, who was aided and abetted by an even nastier piece of work, 'Dugout Doug' MacArthur.
It became obvious to me in the first month of no day job that it is a trap to work on one project — I get bored, so I am at present:
· Working on completing the Australian exploration book, mentioned below: it needs a bit more research, some polishing and picture research;
· Researching the Kokoda book;
· Working on a series of shorter books on science projects to go with my projects Web site;
· Producing Trivia Night quizzes to order;
· Polishing up the disasters book; and
· Plotting up a few other ideas that are too nebulous to list yet. Several of them are for young readers.
March 26, 2005
I have now completed the first draft of the book on human-generated disasters that I started in mid-February. I will probably write another 10,000 words, then delete 15,000, and I am still finding fascinating addenda, like the 35 pounds of fossils that Scott and his Antarctic party hauled — if that had been food, they would have made it to the next food depot, and so survived. The US edition of Poisons is getting its first reviews, and I am working on a couple of ideas, as well as a series of books on science projects. It is nice to be able to control how my time is applied.
This week or next, I will get back to the explorers — I simply cannot work full-time on one project without getting stale.
February 8, 2005
The proofs of the US edition are long gone. Today, I checked through the copy for the cover, and signed off on that -- and I got the news that there will be a Slovak edition as well (translated, of course!). Bit by bit, I am getting all of my favourite bits of the world. Since I wrote my last entry, I have switched from day-job writer doing books after hours to full-time writer, so there are more new books about to be hatched . . .