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Thursday, 24 March 2011

2004: the second half

December 14, 2004 

Regrettably, I did not slow down fast enough, and I have been through something not far off writer's block — I just had no urge to write left in me. I have been "back on the horse" for about the last two weeks, but I basically blew six weeks of writing time at what is usually my best time of the year. That hurts, but there was a grandson in the middle of it all . . . so pardon my smug grin.


Still, I have managed to get through the changes for the US edition, nothing major, just fiddly, and now I am waiting on the proofs. The cover looks VERY swish: you can see it also on the Killer Bean of Calabar page. Meanwhile, the next book is beginning to form up.

October 9, 2004 

I have completed about 50,000 words of draft text for the next book, and now I have slowed down, as I now have a clear view of what extra research is needed, in order to tell a story. The US edition is looking real: it is already listed on

September 17, 2004

I have finally started writing the next book. In a sense, I have been writing it for a while, because I now have a database of 4500 selections from the people we call the Australian explorers, something over 800,000 words -- 10 or 12 times the size of the book I will be writing from them, and it isn't finished yet. All the same, I have started tentatively writing chapter headings and introductory paragraphs for them, a total of about 3000 words, much of which will bite the dust before I am finished, but this is the way I take the clay of raw data, and shape it into a story. I described the database in my June 5 entry above. I am now adding material from photocopies of manuscripts, either accessed first-hand, or through transcriptions.

Out of curiosity, I looked today to see who else publishes with my new US publishers, Arcade — take a look at the names I am rubbing shoulders with!

As my Welsh forebears would say, there's posh . . .

Selected Arcade authors

  • Daniel Barenboim
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • Melvyn Bragg
  • Bertolt Brecht
  • Alistair Cooke
  • Lawrence Durrell
  • Umberto Eco
  • Sir John Gielgud
  • Russell Hoban
  • Dr. Richard von Krafft-Ebing
  • Jean Medawar
  • François Mitterrand
  • Octavio Paz
  • Shimon Peres
  • Marquis de Sade
  • Françoise Sagan
  • Raoul Wallenberg
  • Malcolm X

September 1, 2004

And even more good news from Marie: we are going to have a Polish translation in 2005. Now all I have to do is fiddle a book-signing in Cracow -- it is a beautiful city.

July 22, 2004

I had a phone call today -- Arcade Books in the US want to do a hard cover edition! And Marie Baird at Allen and Unwin who sells the rights to books tells me that this greatly boosts her chances in other areas. Apparently Arcade have an excellent name, and reputation, so I am more than a little chuffed.

The reality is that I do a split with the publisher on the payments (which is good, because they are motivated to gouge a good deal for us both, and I am no horse trader), and on the other hand, it is not bad, because they have negotiated a sliding scale, so if we sell well, we will all be happy. Which brings me back top the perennial question of motivation, and yes, I think we writers all want our books to sell, in part because even writers like money, but also because it tickles our ego to reach more readers. It isn't just about money: if it were, I would write bodice-rippers, but the money is no impediment to my wearing a cheesy grin.

July 17, 2004 

Today's entry is an important one for young writers: look after your health!

This morning, I have been to the physiotherapist to get my neck straightened out. This happens every few years, when I am heavily involved in more than one project, and the past two months have seen me furiously engaged in productivity both at home and at work, both on Australian exploration and on a new way of looking at science education. The end result has been excruciating pain, and there are several sources for this: poor posture because my desk chair had slowly dropped from the best level (something I have only just realised), twisting to one side to look at marked-up hard copy of earlier drafts, and having my monitor too low.

Remedies: replace the chair, raise the monitor a bit more, and get a document holder that sits above the monitor. It will cost a bit, but so does physiotherapy, and so does lost sleep from neck and back pain. I have only myself to blame, because I have lived with this since about 1980, when I got it from typing up my research that went into my Master's degree, and because I have nagged work colleagues about their practices for years, and taught ergonomics to students. There can be no short cuts!

If you are a full-time writer as I am (well, actually, I am an overtime writer :-) you have to expect problems. It goes with the job, like a ballet dancer's bunions. It doesn't mean you ignore it: you have to fight it all the time. Get in first and stave it off. John Appleby, my physio, has just read off my history to me, and spoken strong words.

The good news, though: I have my first review of The Killer Bean of Calabar, which appeared in The Australian today. I picked up a copy on the way home, and you can see it here.

July 10, 2004 

Well, the book is quietly out: not much reaction as yet, though more people seem to be looking at my site, which has to be good. On Monday, I start talking to radio programs, all over Australia, mainly from the safety of the Tardis, an empty ABC studio in Sydney, from which I can pretend to be in any part of Australia. We will wait to see what the reviewers say. Meanwhile, my database of explorers has exceeded 600,000 words, and I am only a third of the way through, at a rough guess.

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