Archive for November, 2009

November 26, 2009

>Intermission

>I’ve spent the last few days not writing. That’s not entirely by choice, more by circumstances. Clearly, being able to post this, I still have access to the laptop, and the Internet has not fallen down in my absence.

So, what does a writer do when not actually writing? In my case, it’s yearn to be back writing, if this week has been anything to go by.

I took a week off work with the noble intention of doing some house decorating, in an attempt to tidy things up for Christmas. It didn’t start well.

On Saturday, the wallpaper steamer went missing, making the prospect of removing the paper from the girls’ bedroom a little daunting. Calls to errant brother-in-law, usual culprit of such borrow-and-not-return shenanigans, were unanswered. He was finally tracked down on Sunday, and the much-travelled steamer miraculously reappeared.

Walls duly stripped, the task of painting the walls began. During the lead-up to the redecorating, the girls were allowed (foolishly) to scribble on their soon-to-be-removed wallpaper. Except, on one wall, the paper was already stripped which meant the wall was bare. Basecoat applied and various luminous blue and pink scribbles were peeking from beneath the paint.

Two coats later, and the drawings were still visible.

In the meanwhile, the bathroom was attacked. Ceiling paint quite literally fell from one side of the bathroom and resolutely refused to come down from the other side.

In a moment of madness, following a casually made “Ooh, that’s a nice colour for a feature wall, don’t you think?” comment, I decided to paint one wall of the living room – and move everything around in the process. I’m still not over the horrors I found hidden in the process. The arrival of the TV engineer during the move-around was expected, but surprisingly inconvenient, especially as the new equipment doesn’t seem to working quite as well as expected.

Another coat of paint in the bedroom still hasn’t covered the drawings.

The bathroom was de-moulded. The sticky valve in the kitchen tap replaced (and don’t get me started on how difficult it was to find a replacement valve that fitted, and then suitable replacement tap handles. You know those companies with “plumb” in their name? You’d think they’d stock such basics as tap valves and handles, wouldn’t you? Yes, me too.)

The bathroom ceiling was repainted – badly – and floor tiles removed. Another coat of paint in the bedroom. Drawings resolutely refuse to disappear.

The TV still isn’t working properly. The living room is a disaster area, except for a small corner of sanity which only serves to remind me what the house should look like. The girls’ bedroom is still unfinished, as the pictures haven’t completely faded yet; as a result they are sleeping in our room while we sleep on the sofas downstairs. The bathroom needs at least another coat of the hideously difficult to apply ceiling paint and new flooring of some sort. Our bedroom, long bereft of wallpaper, waits patiently for attention. The hall and landing need a fresh coat of paint.

I think I might have taken on too much this week.

And Mrs MB comes home and says “You haven’t done much, have you?”

I’d rather be writing.

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November 13, 2009

>Feedback

>There are about a million and one posts around the web that advise aspiring authors to make their manuscript as good as it can possibly be before submitting to agents – examples are Nathan, Nicola and Kristin. It’s certainly sound advice.

When writing THE LONG SECOND, I was fortunate to have almost constant editing taking place, which meant that when the first draft was finished, it was already pretty solid and error-free (though not entirely). Because Marshall Buckley, the author, is a collaborative effort, every chapter that is written by one half of the partnership is read, checked, commented upon and corrected, usually within 24 hours. Working this way probably wouldn’t suit everybody, but it works well for us. (And please forgive me for switching between I/me and us/we – it all amounts to the same thing really).

In addition, there are a number of Beta-Readers who also checked for plot failures and inconsistencies. As a result, THE LONG SECOND went through a total of three drafts, with drafts 2 and 3 really being only minor corrections (with the exception of one chapter which had a reasonably significant re-write).

When it came to submitting to agents, there was a reasonable level of confidence that the book was solid and presentable, and that confidence was rewarded when we signed up very quickly with Lora.

While discussing the state of the sequel, I asked whether she wanted to see an early draft or would prefer to wait for a more presentable copy – especially as I think this book is likely to require a slightly more heavy hand when it comes to the editing process. As expected, she told me she would wait for it to be in a “tighter state” before reading it. At the same time, she sent over a nice compliment:
“THE LONG SECOND was a pleasure to read precisely because it was already in a fairly advanced state… which helps immensely with first impressions”.

Book 2 is now well over 75% complete, and the few hitches in the storyline are now resolving themselves nicely. It’s all downhill from here. I expect the first draft will be complete by about the end of November/early December, with the final version ready sometime in January.

In other news… the HTC Hero is still here and working nicely, having spent the last few days trying to make it talk to the work email system (I won’t bore you with the details). Oddly, my normal work phone (a dull but worthy Nokia) has just died. Strange coincidence.

November 5, 2009

>Technology Geek Moment

>All you non-techies might want to look away now.

I’ve been pondering getting some sort of SmartPhone (TM) for a while, just so I always have access to email where-ever I am – just in case anything important happens.

My preference has been for an iPhone. I already have an iPod touch, and that does a good job just as long as I’m in reach of wi-fi, but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately, I’m struggling to justify the cost – especially when my day-job already supplies me with a perfectly workable phone (which I don’t have to pay for).

My company uses Blackberrys (or should that be Blackberries?), but I have an slight aversion to them, and haven’t requested one. They’ve just signed up with a new network provider and are evaluating various phones, and as one of the resident techies, I’ve had the chance to play with a couple of them.

Sadly, the directive from the top has said “No iPhones.” Dammit.

So, we tried the HTC Touch Pro. And it was dreadful. Truly dreadful. Windows Mobile has a long way to catch up.

Now, we have the HTC Hero, and I’ve claimed it. It’s much better than the Touch Pro, but it’s no iPhone, but it shows promise. The Android O/S is still pretty new, and I think over time it will mature nicely. HTC’s Sense Interface is pretty decent too – responsive, smooth and reasonably intuitive (most of the time).

As a phone for our business, I don’t think it cuts it – especially up against the Blackberrys. It doesn’t feel Enterprise Ready – unlike the iPhone which has stacks of documentation on how to intergrate and lock-it down.

But, it’s OK. I like it, but I don’t love it. If they let me keep it, I won’t complain, but I’ll still be thinking of the day I can justify grabbing myself an iPhone.

Oh, and if this sounds like I’m a bit of a Fanboy – I’m not especially. I don’t believe Apple is the saviour of the Tech world, in the same way I don’t believe Microsoft is the Devil incarnate. Right tools for the job and all that (Windows 7, by the way, is excellent – if you’re in the market for a Windows upgrade).

On the writing front, I’ve had a lazy week as I’ve been reading more than I’ve been writing. As I mentioned last time, I read FIRE by Kristin Cashore and the recommendation still stands. I’m now reading Abigail Arrington’s PRECESSION – more on that next time.