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Thursday, 24 March 2011

2003: the first half

June 21, 2003

Well, one of the two chapters I thought was OK has just been shredded and distributed around the other chapters or into the discards file, and the book is beginning to work the way it should. Writing means rewriting -- you'd better believe it!

June 15, 2003

I have my advance copy of Rockets, and actually getting the finished product in your hand makes it all worthwhile — a bit like picking up a baby for the first time. Yesterday, I finished a second pass through the poisons book, today, I completely pulled it apart, except for two chapters that worked, and rebuilt the pieces to create two new chapters.

It is still a bit wooden, but it is anatomically correct, just needing some life. I have started serious research on the title for 2005, and I am planning the pictures for the poisons book. Tonight I need to write a 1300-word piece on rockets to go in Australasian Science to get some extra publicity for the book.

June 9, 2003

It is a holiday Monday, and I am half-way through the second draft of the poisons book. The project I hoped to get accepted failed at the last hurdle, so I will put it back in the bottom drawer, and come back to it some time. I now have a firm plan for the book after poisons (mid-2005 release) and the makings of an outline, and I have a clear notion of an excellent title for the book after that (mid-2006), and each of them will involve some travel. More of those later, but the 2006 book was conceived as the result of a question about public footpaths by a librarian. Publicity time for Rockets is drawing close, with release in a month, so I should see an advance copy any day now.

May 19, 2003

The cycle moves along. The first draft of the poisons book is almost finished -- it is up to 76,000 words, and I don't like some of them, but that's normal, so I will send it to Emma the Editor and get some feedback. I am doing a talk at the local library tomorrow, where I will unveil the title. I now know who will be doing the publicity for Rockets, which should reach me in last-final proofs Real Soon Now.

Printing and distribution happens remarkably fast for a book that has been developing since about October 2001, with research. I found out too late that some serious people sat down in the reading group of a nearby library for a discussion of Bittersweet last month -- I was holidaying on Lord Howe Island when they met, so I guess it wouldn't have happened, but the mischievous side of me would have liked to be there. Probably best to avoid such occasions -- one might hear ill of oneself :-).

May 8, 2003

I have completed the index for Rockets, and I am back worrying at the first draft of poisons — I want to get Emma Cotter, my editor, to have a dabble in it by about May 19, and after that, I will add some more text — the last chapter is incomplete but I may take it apart and move the stuff elsewhere. Then I can get back to the bottom-drawer project. Tonight, I have to dig out a mugshot of me for Rockets, do the blurb draft and some nonsense about me to go inside the book. The question now is whether I will mention my Black Belt in bog-snorkelling. Decisions, decisions. . .

May 1, 2003

I am working my way through, indexing Rockets -- I use Word for this, and a macro of my own making, since I over-wrote the original one, to mark up the key words in the manuscript. then I insert page breaks to make the page numbers match, click in the right place, cut and copy the index to a new file, special paste it as unformatted text, clean it up and send it off for final editorial stuff.

Well, Bittersweet is out in the US as well as in the UK -- I got a bit of a buzz when I tripped over a listing from a French bookshop that offers books in English. In the next few days, I will do the last bits for the pictures for Rockets, which is the confirmed title, and I have 62,000 words in first draft for the poisons book, so I will be taking a holiday on Lord Howe Island with Chris, and the manuscript will follow me. I have a title for the poisons book, but I won't say what it is, just yet. It will be time soon, to think about the book after that. Maybe water, maybe something to do with the way the earth works, maybe not. Who can say? I recently pulled another ms out of the bottom drawer, and I am trying to get some interest in it.

April 10, 2003

The 62,000 words is really a bit like the clay piled up on the potter's wheel: it has something of the right shape, but it needs to be beaten, bashed, pinched, squeezed and worked over, then it needs to be fired and glazed. There is still a long way to go . . .

February 25, 2003
The cycle winds its way through another year. I have a publication date of July for Rockets (that is to be its title), and I have seen the blurb and art work for the cover, Sylvia Milne in Chester and Even Flood in Norway tell me has just shipped their first pre-orders of Bittersweet, and I am more than half-way through the research phase on poisons, with some 1500 entries in the database (including quite a few short passages that will go straight across), and everything is going ahead nicely.

The database is worth a comment -- I use a simple word processor on an Apple e-mate to do the bulk entry -- I can work anywhere with it, and it is ready to start in three seconds. I just put tabs between fields, and worry about the rest later. Then I transport that file by serial cable connection to a Wintel machine as RTF, open it in Word, convert the text to table, spell-check it, then copy and paste into Excel.

It may sound complex, but it makes life incredibly easy for me — it's what I call "smart lazy", putting effort into avoiding effort. There is nothing that requires a relational database, so I just do flatfile in Excel. Each entry is, in effect, an index card, and I list chapter and chapter code in separate columns, and sort by that. Later, I will paste slabs over into Word, make up chapter files and export those to the e-mate, so I can do word processing wherever I like.

My other big fear is losing stuff, but I use a laptop and the Internet to move and store copies of key files on my work computer -- and I store work files at home, as well — and there are even a few strategic CD-ROMs, just to be on the safe side.

February 5, 2003

I have now completed most of the research in the next book, though I will be digging for more all the way to July. The general subject: poisons. The contract is signed and I have the advance. About 1500 words are written: the introduction and the conclusion, and most peculiarly, I have a final title — the rockets book has only just been given a final name, which is under wraps for now (but see Feb. 25).

January 15, 2003

I later found it on the US Amazon site when a good friend in Washington tracked it down. Thanks, Mary Lou! I have sent back the rockets book proofs, so now I am into some serious reading for the next book.

January 7, 2003

The news is now in, and Bittersweet has been listed with Amazon in the UK. The US release is still a few months away (May, actually) with UK release in March. I have been rather busy researching the next book, and I have just finished going through the edited ms of the rockets book. More on the next book in a month or two, but the contract is signed.

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