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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The entries for 2007

December 5, 2007
I have just recorded a short talk for Perspective which will go to air on December 11. I seem to have "Fast Book" safely in the hands of the editor, and I have completed 20% of the first draft of the next book, which I am still neglecting to identify. Four other projects are getting attention at the moment, but I have no idea as yet which one will get the push.

November 11, 2007
Well, The Fast Book is off my hands for the moment, Australia's Pioneers, Heroes and Fools is in the shops, I am doing a bit of radio promotion with more to come, and I have spent the past 48 hours doing picture research for 1859. I knew most of the images I wanted, but tracking them down, checking copyrights and writing captions is a soulless and thankless task — but like indexing, you get cursed if you don't do it right. Now back to the last revision (I am a bit past half-way, and still finding bits that should never have got through) and making the changes that are needed.

October 22, 2007
I finished the first pass of The Fast Book last Wednesday, but as generally happens when I go all-out, I will need to do a big re-write. I now have my copies of Australia's Pioneers, Heroes and Fools, due for release on November 1.

October 10, 2007
Well, I missed out on the top spot in the Premier's History Awards last night, but I was in good company, and I am pleased to have got as far as I did. Chris and I went to the dinner at Government House. The Bogong moths were out, the flying foxes were out (I tried to persuade a couple of people that the large fruitbats were also moths, but to no avail). As we walked down to GH, I regretted that it was not built a little later, when Gothic Revival was all the go, just to match up with the bats. 

Today, I reached the halfway point in the draft of The Fast Book. I don't think I have mentioned that one before: it is an eclectic look at fast and slow things in our world -- including snails, chameleons' tongues, the causes of Cerenkov radiation, centrifuges, the effects of temperature on a dijeridu, glacial flow, the movement of tectonic plates, supersonic botflies, running footmen, pyroclastic flows, scramjets, tidal bores, the postal services of Cyrus of Persia, the bulls of Pamplona, steamships seeking the Blue Riband, moose cavalry -- and much more. 

Today, the first copy of Australia's Pioneers Heroes and Fools arrived, so I am sitting here with my eyes shut, just feeling the heft of it. Holding a new book is a special feeling!

October 8, 2007
The first review of Australia's Pioneers Heroes and Fools is out, from Australian Bookseller and Publisher

When bushwalking, I often wonder who discovered first that a plant was poisonous? For Australia's early European explorers, it was usually a case of finding out the hard way. Macinnis, a science and history writer known most recently for Kokoda Track: 101 Days, takes us on a tour with those explorers, rediscovering the hardships and tribulations they faced and the decisions they made.

The story is an interweaving of the journeys of many explorers, comparing the situations that most found themselves in: finding food and water, relating to Indigenous Australians, mapping, trying to find the inland sea, and dealing with the political situation back home. The excerpts from the journals of the explorers are proof of just how treacherous--and sometimes how amusing--the expeditions were.

The usual suspects are all present--Burke and Wills, Stuart, Oxley--but also the lesser-known explorers: Creaghe (a woman), Horrocks (who died when shot by his camel Harry) and their Aboriginal companions and guides. This book is a 'who's who' of exploring in Australia. It reads more like a novel than the average work of nonfiction. Readers with an interest in Australian history and exploration, not to mention bushwalkers and hikers, will relish it.
Reviewer: Tristan Blattman, special sales manager at the UNSW Bookshop.

September 10, 2007
For the past fortnight, I have been sitting on the embargoed news of an award short-listing that is now official.The award is a fairly prestigious one, The Young People's History Prize, a part of the 2007 NSW Premier's History Awards. Suffice it to say that I am chuffed. I note that I am joined on the short list by Lili Wilkinson, whose book, Joan of Arc was also published by Black Dog Books. The other title, John Nicholson's Songlines and Stone Axes is from Allen and Unwin. I am chuffed to keep such company. 

Now we three await the final results. Me, I will be out in the Pacific, working on a manuscript (the fifth draft of 1859), fiddling with plans and turning them into an early draft (The Fast Book) and digging for data on a project yet to be announced.
Here is what the judges said about Kokoda Track:

Peter Macinnis gives an insight into the experience of the Kokoda Track through the eyes of not only Australian soldiers but also war correspondents, military generals, Japanese soldiers and the people of Papua New Guinea . He creates a detailed and well-rounded overview of the events that took place on the Kokoda Track in 1942. Punctuating the text with first person interludes, Macinnis offers readers the opportunity to empathize with participants and interpret events from a multitude of differing angles and perspectives.
Kokoda Track: 101 Days functions on several different levels: as a factual reference of events that took place during the Kokoda Campaign, giving extensive details of battles, terrain and tactical decision-making; as a thought provoking chronological narrative of the determination, courage and endurance of a group of Australians fighting to protect their country; and as an opportunity for young people to appreciate the contribution and sacrifice of all participants of this campaign on both sides and at all levels of command.
I have cleared the last proofs of Australia's Pioneers Heroes and Fools.

August 6, 2007
I am back from travels in the US and Germany, with lots of good material for several planned projects. I have joined Facebook, and the cover for Australia's Pioneers Heroes and Fools may be found in my book covers album, as yet incomplete. I am now flat out on The Fast Book, a new project for Murdoch Books that will remain undescribed for now, and revising the fourth draft of 1859.

June 27, 2007
I have finished revising the 1859 book (yet to be titled), and I have also completed the manuscript of a look at the pioneers, heroes and fools that we call the explorers, and that has been accepted by Murdoch Books. My aim was to look more at the methods they used, and like Kokoda, it was based on an earlier work that failed because I lacked focus. I spent two weeks in the Kimberley with the two mss, without actually doing all that much to them, but I gathered some ideas. I have two more books to complete by March next year, and right now, I think I will get there easily. So long as I don't lose focus . . . 

To help me with that focus, I am off shortly to the US and then Berlin to do some digging for the first book I will do after next March (subject matter withheld for now), but I am also starting to move on the historical fiction series that I mentioned before. Mainly, I am firming up the sequence of steps that get the hero from Cornwall to Australia. Most of the factual matter will come from the two books I have just completed. but as yet, i have no publisher.

April 19, 2007
Life is still good. Having started the new book on 1859 from detailed notes that often included first drafts, I have finished the first draft, worked right through it, and now I am ready to print it off and take it away with me. I have operated on the edge of tendonitis/RSI since 1981, when I typed up my Master's through three drafts, something over 100,000 words in all, and right now, it is starting to bite. Time for a break 

I currently have the next three books lined up, the next one researched and roughly laid out, and two behind it that will take me to libraries all over. Now I am starting to negotiate the one after that. 

On the good news front, I find that my juvenile poisons book is on the NSW and Victorian Premiers' Reading Challenge lists, and also on the ACT Chief Minister's List. That means more kids get to read and think.

March 23, 2007
Life is good. First, there is this review from the Sydney Morning Herald, a couple of weeks back:
Kokoda Track: 101 days
By Peter Macinnis
Black Dog Books, 176 pp, $16.95
Classed as juvenile nonfiction, this is a gripping book that will fascinate both adults and young people. It gives a vivid sense of what it was like for Australians who fought on the Kokoda Trail across the Owen Stanley Ranges in Papua in July-December 1942. The Japanese aim was to take Port Moresby and use it to neutralise Australia's value as a base for the Americans. 

The heroes are the men of the 39th battalion, an Australian militia unit similar to the army reserve, and the 2/14th and 2/16th AIF battalions. They fought a strategic retreat, slowing the Japanese down until reinforcements could be brought back from North Africa and the Japanese pushed back. 

The villains of the book are generals Douglas MacArthur and Thomas Blamey, pontificating back in Brisbane. The lowest point came when Blamey accused the men of the 2/14th and 2/16th battalions, who held the trail for weeks, of 'running like rabbits'. 

Macinnis' 101 days joins a small library on the subject. The maps and illustrations are excellent. 

-- Sydney Morning Herald, March 10-11, 2007, 'Spectrum', "Short Nonfiction", page 35 

And I am under way with the next book, the one I have been secretive about. I started just on a week ago, having all of the research and many draft passages in a spreadsheet, and I have completed 16,000 words in the past seven days. That is first draft, and it will still change quite a bit, but I think I have enough head start to offer a brief description. 2009 will be the sesquicentenary, the 150th birthday, of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, which people like Richard Dawkins will tell you changed the world. 

I don't disagree with that, but the world was already changing, and altered in many, many ways during 1859. Both Riemann's hypothesis and the Rankine cycle were developed that year, lawn tennis was invented, regular mail steamers began running from England to Australia, several Australian colonies had elections with full adult suffrage, the first oil well struck oil in Pennsylvania, gold was found in New Zealand and the US, the first railway ran in 'the Cape Colony', Canada had 1000 miles of railway in a single run, the Suez canal was begun, and a battle was fought between two nations where the armies were commanded by the nations' rulers.

And some idiot proposed using solar-mirror fused blocks of sand to build a tunnel across the Sahara, so people could cross the desert safe from heat and simoons. The Great Eastern was launched, they hanged the last of the patriots known as the Indian Mutineers, the French invaded Saigon, the Russians invaded the home of the Chechens, and a stupid Englishman released rabbits in Australia. In America, they hanged John Brown, in London, the unions saw that united, they would never be defeated, when they outlasted a vicious lockout by the building employers of London. 

Actually, there was quite a lot more, all of it working to make the world much smaller and more compact, and just a bit more democratic and free.
Now I am deliberately going slow, as I have found that when I rush, I produce stuff that reads badly. Softly, softly, catchee monkey!

February 26, 2007
The Kokoda book is out, and I had news today that it is a nominee for the 2007 NSW Premier's History Awards, in the Young People's History Prize. There is a long way from a nomination to a win, but one can live in hope.

More importantly, there was a news story about the book in my local rag, the Manly Daily, and that identified my suburb, which was enough to provoke a fascinating call from a man who wants to write a book himself. Normally, to be honest, I would wish the caller well, and run for cover. It's a long, particularly hard road to walk, and if I am going to do all of the books I want to do before I get too batty, I need to be selfish. The story, though, has me entranced. His story is about his uncle -- they were both in the navy at various times, but his uncle left him the most amazing documentation. So I am going to help him a bit. 

I have also taken on an HSC student to mentor. The student is attempting an advanced level in poetry -- I know about the basics of scansion, enough to write light verse and limericks that really work, but I am no poet. I know a few poets, I know my poetry, but I am tackling this task with a bit of trepidation. It's the sort of thing that keeps you young. 

Meanwhile, I have my contracted next book, and I am doing an outline for another book, basically a quirky social history, but the one with the contract will be a blockbuster, so I need to start drafting that soon. There is an external time-scale in the form of an anniversary . . . (note, later: that was an oblique reference to '1859', which has a 150th anniversary coming up soon)

January 27, 2007
These topiaries were at the royal palace at Ayutthaya.  I rather liked their lawns, as well.
I have the Kokoda book coming out next month, the Korean edition of the poisons book out in May, and I am heavily into the research for the Allen and Unwin book that I am still not saying much about, other than that it is about the history of science and technology. I am also working on ideas for three other books, doing outlines and sample chapters. I still don't know if any of those will fly. 

I am off to northern Thailand, Laos and Cambodia tomorrow, with a few book-related thoughts, but this is mainly to see the area. I am taking a few plans with me, but this is mainly a break to clear my mind. But yes, I am taking a couple of outlines with me to think about. 

And some good news: It's True! You Eat Poisons Every Day has been added to the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge list. This is better than when the Victorian Education Department vetoed an article of mine on 'Villains' because one of my female villains was the alleged axe-murderess, Lizzie Borden (as in "Lizzie Borden took an ax . . ."). Not suitable fodder for children, they sniffed, the puny-minded, whey-faced, scramble-brained poltroons!

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