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Thursday, 24 March 2011

2003: the latter half

November 19, 2003

Well sometimes things change. I am proceeding with the exploration stuff for online, but I have dropped the idea of a book (that changed again later). The stuff I want to do just doesn't work in print, and what I could do in print would not be very different from a lot of other books already in a crowded market. No matter, it will be an excellent online resource. 

Instead, I am looking at a rather more strongly science-based topic, and beginning to think again about the islands book. I should get the edited poisons manuscript back this week, and I should know in a week or two what the next project will be. Rockets is due for release in the US in May 2004, and has had a couple of nice reviews — less than I would have hoped for, but it's a bit specialist, so I have to console myself that it appeals to people like me.

September 25, 2003

I have now seen the edits of chapter 1 of the poisons book -- Emma has chopped more than a third of it, and it is really beginning to work. I have lost some choice anecdotes, but it was much too wordy. Meanwhile, I am well into the next project, a look at how Australia was mapped from 1606 to 2006 -- and I have been in central Australia, riding a camel to the south of Oodnadatta, getting a feel for what it was like to explore or prospect on a camel, and chasing around the Mortlock Library in Adelaide.

My mate Ramki in Chennai has been developing an absolutely brilliant interactive front end in Flash, because this will be a Web site, a CD-ROM and a book, all working together. We have been working on Eyre's journal as the first example/test case, and we are starting with a map of Australia, with the route traced by Eyre, a few hot spots that show what was happening at different points, leading into a major slab of Eyre's journal. The aim is to bring people to primary source material, but also to interweave the different accounts and link the common themes that occur. So I am busy . . .

I am still doing radio talks about Bittersweet and also about Rockets, I need to be on top of the poisons book, and I will soon be into picture research for that, while getting stuck into exploration and mapping — when I retire, I plan to complete two books a year, so I am going to have to get my head around even more things at one time.

August 5, 2003

Things are moving fast: I am off to Adelaide, Coober Pedy and William Creek in just over four weeks to experience camel-travel in the desert as part of the exploration book, and I am developing an exploration timeline that I will put a link to in the near future. I will also be going through archives in Adelaide. On current plans, I can do much of the research in Sydney, but I will need to get to Canberra and Melbourne, and possibly Perth and Brisbane to read stuff. My emphasis is on the ways Australia was mapped, and my aim is to look at the methods used to survive, to map, to record information, and to navigate. I will be looking at coastal and inland exploration, right down to modern satellite mapping.

July 25, 2003

Later, I shredded the other chapter that seemed OK, and ditched parts of it, while moving other bits around. The discards file is close to 10,000 words already, and it will get bigger. Meanwhile, we have thrown out the title that got me going. I wanted to call it Mr Pugh's Breakfast Table Book, a reference to the character of Mr Pugh in Under Milk Wood, who read Lives of the Great Poisoners at the breakfast table, and dreamed of killing his wife. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the book moved away from being lives of the great poisoners quite a while back.

Plans for the next book have changed, and I am looking at a major history of Australian exploration. Once again, it will involve some travel, but more of that later. The last couple of weeks have involved a number of radio interviews, some from the ABC's "Tardis", a single-person studio at Ultimo in Sydney that makes it sound as though you are in Adelaide or wherever, instead of Sydney. Others have been by phone, and while those people have all said nice things, they are a self-selected sample, because people who did not like the nook would not bother. The amazing and flattering thing is that most of them seem to have read the book! Still, we will have to wait and see what the reviewers say in the next few weeks.

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