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Thursday, 24 March 2011

2004: the first half

June 5, 2004

I have been working on a database of excerpts from the journals of the explorers for about a year now, and it is now up over 2600 entries. My latest addition has been Leichhardt, and I have started on Oxley. I start with the e-text of a journal, and I pick key passages that go into a spreadsheet, along with a whole collection of keyword codes that I can later convert to real key phrases to assist in searching. I have created it to help me in my writing, but I think it will end up being as important as the book.I am using a flatfile database design (for now -- that may change), but the keywords (metadata, if you prefer) make it easier to find related bits in other journals: for example, most of the "explorers" followed clear paths laid down by Aboriginal feet, just as wilderness walkers follow wombat tracks in some areas, or the pads left by kangaroos in the patched hills of central Australia. This involuntary assistance by the original custodians is never mentioned in school books, probably because historians don't get out enough. I have a code, \ap, that translates to "Aboriginal paths" to link such entries. I am toying with asking my publisher to add a CD-ROM with this collection on it to the book. In the mean time, I have sent a copy of the draft version to a Victorian school, so they can try it out and play with it. [Addendum in 2011: there is a zipped version of the file, if you want to try it.]

I walked up a hill, away from the camels one morning, and saw these pads on the opposite hill. Animals follow these paths as well, but I wonder how many Aboriginal feet trod them as well.

June 1, 2004

Back from my travels, refreshed and bubbling with ideas, I have today received my first copy of The Killer Bean of Calabar, and I am well pleased with the way it looks. This is what you write for. I have also discovered that a kindly government, having established Public Lending Right and Educational Lending Right, has paid a nice little sum into my coffers to recompense me for lost sales caused by copies being in libraries. Now comes the run-up to the release and promotion of the new book, and a bit of time in the library, working on the new one.

April 10, 2004

The order of books to come is now set: first, a close look at the methods used in exploring and mapping a continent, mainly about Australian work, but with occasional looks at parallels in North and South America, Africa and Antarctica. Some of the travelling research for this will also see me looking at the book I have planned to come after that, which will be a rather technical look at islands. The page proofs of The Killer Bean of Calabar have been checked, and now I am off to look at the biodiversity of Cyprus, the siltation around Normandy and some archives in Paris. It is time for the children to move back in and mind the house.

March 9, 2004

The corrected proofs have gone off for what can now be officially announced as The Killer Bean of Calabar and Other Stories, due out around June (it has its own page now). There was a story in the Toronto Globe and Mail, yesterday, saying that I was about to publish my third one-word title in a row, but that is only because I kept calling it "the poisons book". It ain't so. Out of the blue, I have been working on a serious science education project, with no idea of where it may be published, but it needed doing, but I look as though I will be going ahead on islands next, or maybe some of the more curious aspects of exploring Australia. Put it this way, I have started reading, and I plan to get away from Paris long enough to take a look at the problems around Mont St Michel. On the other hand, I have been reading the journals of William Carron, who survived the Kennedy expedition, and Wills, who did NOT survive the Burke and Wills expedition. I have enough curious techniques to sink a battlefleet, like people who regarded camel's feet as a delicacy. It seems the old explorers were a lot more interesting than the way they were taught in school.

Getting down to it, right now, I have four well-worked out plans for books, an almost complete manuscript, a completed manuscript, and a detailed plan for a children's series: I think it is time a couple of them happened.

January 27, 2004

I am still uncertain what to write next. I have three strong ideas, and I am working on each of them to a certain extent, but with travel to Singapore, Cyprus and France planned for later this year, islands are beginning to look more interesting. One of the other ideas involves a series of books for children on a subject to be announced later, but it is beginning to shape up. This is a fiction project, but while fiction requires research, in this case, I have just about all the research I need, already to hand, thanks to my past zoological training. I am hoping to dovetail two projects.

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