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This blog documents my staying at home and writing (and the subsequent whatevers to that writing). It also serves as an online journal for friends and family. It is more-or-less guaranteed to be sans intérêt to most anyone else.

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Sending news to Mum and the world since last week

2004 Reading List

Being a list of books read during the current year.
Sourcery
Hogfather
Moving Pictures
Pyramids
Soul Music
Mort
Faust Eric
Small Gods
Carpe Jugulum
Jingo
Men At Arms
Feet of Clay
Maskerade
Lords and Ladies
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Guards! Guards!
Interesting Times
Equal Rites
The Last Continent
Wyrd Sisters
The Eighth Colour
The Light Fantastic
Dark Side of The Sun
Strata
Only You Can Save Mankind
Johnny and The Dead
The Discworld Companion (with S.Briggs)
- Terry Pratchett
A Child Across The Sky
The Wooden Sea
The Land of Laughs
From the Teeth of Angels
A Marriage of Sticks
- Jonathan Carroll
Northern Lights
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
I was a Rat!
Clockwork
Count Karlstein
The Ruby in the Smoke
The Shadow in the North
The Tiger in the Well
- Philip Pullman
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Witch Week
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Magicians of Caprona
- Diana Wynne Jones
What a Carve Up!
The Rotter’s Club
A Touch of Love
The Dwarves of Death
The House of Sleep
- Jonathan Coe
The Empty Sleeve
Smith
The Sound of Coaches
Blewcoat Boy
- Leon Garfield
The River Styx Runs Upstream [Le styx coule à l’envers - Nouvelles]
Ilium
- Dan Simmons
The Black Book
Set In Darkness
The Hanging Garden
Hide And Seek
Black And Blue
Bleeding Hearts (Jack Harvey)
Witch Hunt (Jack Harvey)
- Ian Rankin
The Wish List
Artemis Fowl [2]
- Eoin Colfer
Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K.Rowling
The Shining, Stephen King
Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorov
Free for All, Peter Wayner
Desolation Point, Dan Brown
Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson

2003’s reads can be found here.
work
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the views expressed herein

It goes without saying that, unless clearly attributed to any third person, all views expressed in this journal are my own. And in no way reflect those of the company for which I work.
If you want to know why they don’t reflect those of the company for which I work (and which shall remain nameless) read on…

Friday evening, time to go. My right hand is cold—I suspect that this is something to do with the position of my hand on the mouse cutting off the circulation to me hand—the end of my fingers, under the nails, is blueish. My left hand, the one that stays on the keyboard is OK. I am rubbing my hands trying to bring life back into the right one. My boss (MB) enters stage left.
“It’s cold in here.”
“It’s OK,” I reply. “Anyway, I’m going now.”
She switches on the heater.
“I don’t really think that it’s necessary to heat the room over the weekend,” I say.
She goes out. I switch off the heater.

Monday morning I enter my room and am lyophilised—like when freeze-drying instant coffee—all liquid is sucked out of my body instantaneously: the heater has been on all weekend. I switch it off and open the window.
MB comes in.
“It’s a bit cold in here…”
“No it’s not, it is so hot that I have difficulty breathing.”
She walks over and switches on heater.
“I just switched that off…” I say, ”...when I opened the window.”
She walks out. I switch off the heating.
Her husband arrives.
“Bit cold here…”
“I don’t think so…” I start.
He walks over and switches on the heating. He walks out. I go over and switch off the heater.

A while later MB arrives in my office.
“Isn’t X here today?”
X is the guy who works opposite me.
“I don’t know,” I say. “You told me Friday that he wasn’t here then nor today. I don’t know any more than that.”
“But he was supposed to call me this weekend.”
“OK. And how am I supposed to know if he called you this weekend?”
She leaves.

Mid-morning I close the window as the temperature has become reasonable. MB arrives.
“It’s getting cold.”
“I have just closed the window. I don’t think that it is cold.”
She switches the heater on.
“Because it makes cold draughts all over,” she says, indicating the rest of the offices.
“I have closed the window. And I don’t need the heater on, thanks.”
I switch it off.

Apart from that I code PHP for most of the day.

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no spam today...

Untrue. I’m still getting my fair share of all this gunge. I’ve just stopped collecting the names and have been flushing it away as soon as it arrives.
Curiously enough, the abstract expressionists have stopped sending me spam now.

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two green apples

Ludivine has just called saying “Do I want to join her over at Les Halles to eat out?” As I had planned to write tonight—she being out with a girl friend—I had to say ‘no’. Well, I didn’t have to and I did have to hesitate a lot, but I want to advance, and I have been thinking and planning stuff in my head and particularly I can see a twist at the end of Juliet that I would rather like to try out… So I will put aside the apples and cheese and stuff that I bought to do some cooking. (This being an activity unlike work but like washing-up that is condusive to thinking.) I will sandwich instead.

Apart from that, I have decided that my mind has liquified (all is the fault of the mindnumbing stuff at work). And now it seems that I have been working on revising Juliet for what feels like months. This story is supposed to be finished. I want to get on with Died and the Pirates. Small argh.

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film 101

We rented 2 DVDs this weekend: Donnie Darko and Ring (or Ringu for the purists). It was curious (and Ludivine noticed this, not me) that they both used a countdown as their dramatic device. In DD, he is told the world will end in 28 days, in R the protagonists have 7 days after watching the cassette. And, of course, they were both films that played on our fears somewhere. DD also allowed me to hear that lovely rendition of Mad World (as well as Killing Moon and LWTUA) they comes up on Into the Mystic quite often.

Both films were pretty much what I expected (which doesn’t mean that I was disappointed, far from it). DD was polished, referential, pleasantly cyclic (and there was Carter as a bonus). R was japanese, i.e. the titles were both kitsch and amateur (really weird, it seems that either they don’t have title designers in Japan or they just have a totally different conception of what they should be.) Also the editing was shakey in one or two places (And I don’t mean bad, just shakey, as if the DVD was made from a slightly-used film copy and that some of the edits had busted and been hastily repaired—this is not the first time I have noticed this in Japanese films. See the car driving away, and when it arrives in Izu the first time.)

Anyway, I found the scene with the well most touching and very un-western— it reminded me of the River God scene in Chihiro (Spirited Away I believe that this is called in English). And I thought that it was the end… but this was when it got scarey…

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ever more search terms

I found that ‘bit’ came up a bit too often for my liking. So I wiped a few off the face of the earth (or a least off the manuscript of Juliet—or the tapuscrit, nice French word for a typed manuscript that…), exchanged a few others for little, two for trifle and one for smidgen. Also a few sentences got rewritten.
The person who said that all words ending in “ly” are adverbs was a berk. The first that I found was ‘butterfly’ and then ‘family’. OK, I did finish by finding some bad usage—quickly scrambling: the dico confirmed that the ‘quick’ part was already in the scrambling part. But it was exhausting just reviewing the false negs.
Another bit of advice that I find unhelpful is: Don’t do descriptions of the weather—the weather is practically a character in Juliet and as it doesn’t speak much, all I can do is describe what it is doing, no?

What is interesting about revising in drabs like this, is that I’m not rereading the tapuscrit each time, so when I do come back to do a print out and a big sweep through, I hope that I will appreciate my changes when seen in the alltogether. (I don’t, I have a backup of a pre-revision version. Just in case.)

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more search terms

I went in search of this which I knew I had in my bookmarks… Yes, but where? which lead me to this which I didn’t know of. Most useful both. And the parent page on Robert J.Sawyer’s page is full of ressources, too. I’ll take all the advice that I can.

Anyway, the new terms to add to my list are !, very and ‘d. Weird one that last one, but I found that I had lots of them, and in pretty ugly places.

Still revising.

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those revising days

I am surprised to find that editing and revising texts is such hard work. If I go at it for more than a two hour stretch I am exhausted and not good for much else for the evening. Certainly not writing. By pausing after about 90 minutes I manage to pull in 2 one-hour-and-a-half shifts with 30 minutes lost in the fold.

Writing can be exhausting but it can also be elating. Not always, but I have found myself lifting my nose from a 6-hour stinker without realising just how time has passed. This does not happen when revising.

There is also a limit to the number of times that I can read the same text over and over and still see it clearly. To this end I have discovered a list of words that I believe I use badly. These comprise, and this is not yet an exclusive list, and, was, were, in order, that, like, thing; others will probably get added over time. So how do I revise like this? At this stage I type, for example, and in the search field of the word processor. This generally—if I do it right—shows me the first occurrence of and in the text. I read the sentance. It may pass, in which case I press CMD-G right away to inspect the next one. Or the sentance may seem wonky. With or without my questionable and. Then I try to rewrite the sentance, and any others that may come before and after. Sometimes this works. Sometimes I just call up the colours palette and mark the offending passing in blue. In my code that means, come back later with a fresh head and clear out this here mess. Then I press CMD-G. You get the idea. Sometimes I will see consistant bad use of a niggly word. This is how in order, like, and thing came to be added to the list. But by just looking at seemingly random snatchs in this manner my eyes stay awake to typos and mistakes. I’m pretty sure that I’d have missed most of these if I had just read through, as the sense of the story would have caused the my eyes to see the ‘right’ words, precisely those that aren’t there.

Now when I did the first two draughts, these niggly words, as I affectionately think of them, appeared to fit fine. My tongue flowed over them with both ease and mastery. But that’s how it works. Now look back at this paragraph… no, right back. See that little did at the beginning? And that’s the sort of like the thing that I was meaning. That did brings nothing purposeful there. (It’s just hanging around feeling contrived because most of this paragraph is.) It’s a sign that I could tighten up that sentance; look for a more appropriate verb than ‘do’. And And that’s the sort of like the thing that I was meaning is an attempt to show all those horrifying forms in one sentance. Yuk.
Working at fragments and nibblets in this fashion also means that when I come back to reread the whole story I haven’t already bored myself to death with it. I can—reasonably—see it afresh and then concentrate on plot and the larger picture.

So revising is boring hard work. Which is probably why I’m writing this to give myself a pause. But also because I am annoyed at my lack of progress.

When I decided to write, that is write in the sense of producing fiction, and do it with a serious weather eye set on publication, I also made the decision that I would write something good each and every day. Get at least a couple of paragraphs under my belt before breakfast by the expediant of waking at some gawdforsaken hour and gnawing my pen until breakfast (which I have never done, but it was an idea that did come to me…). Without in fact going to those extremes, I have managed to keep up my rythmn. I have one completed novel (This is also a very bad novel and will never even be proposed to a publisher, much less a friend’s eye without the sort of serious re-write that would make open-heart surgery look like an afternoon stroll, but I did it. I started it, planned it out, sat down and wrote it. In dribs and drabs it took a year. But I did it, and there is a satisfaction in just knowing that it didn’t fall to the wayside.) I have one novel for kids that I am editing and at least two more in my notebooks (one, Died is in fact spilling out, even now). I also wrote about 20 poems in the last eighteen months, or which about a third are acceptable and will find themselves into a Christmas book. I also wrote a short story for Christmas last year. I finished that translation that I sent to Alain. I am getting there.

Except the days when I’m revising, editing and cleaning copy. Oh well.

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life
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Fish on Prozac

Ludivine pointed this one out to me – she saw a mention in Terre Sauvage magazine.
Perhaps it explains why all those sushi eaters are so happy…

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writing
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The abstract impressionists have taken a day trip away from the coast

I would like to thank Janette Baca, Isaac K. Brandt, Guadalupe Bullard, Abel Burke, Clint T. Burks, Brendan Burroughs, Adelle Clara, Lorrie Cleveland, Marcie Cummins, Trent Diggs, Gene Dominguez, Valerie Elliot, Quincy Engle, Orlando Hart, Melva Hoover, Minna John, Brooke Kent, Eddie Land, Fritz Landers, Steven Manning, Alonzo Martin, Iris Mayes, Parker McCall, Edmund McQueen, Ronald Meadows, Ali Mora, Shelley Morton, Milton Parks, Junior Pope, Jackson Pritchett, Sam C. Puckett, Claudia K. Saenz, Shirley Salgado, Robin Starks, Darrell Vera, Mohammad Walls, Robert S. Walter, Gil Wise, and Andrew Yarbrough for writing to me with their generous offers of increasing my fortunes and parts of my anatomy, decreasing my bank account by way of Nigeria and chemically shrinking other parts of my anatomy, as to the offer to send me real diplomas from real universities in excahnge for real monies… Thank you, I am most touched. Unfortunately I must refuse these magnificent offers. I get to keep your names though…

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life
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so far this year

Philip José Farmer
Le Fleuve de l’éternité, tome 1 : Le Monde du fleuve
T2 : Le Bateau fabuleux
T3 : Le Noir dessein
T4 : Le Labyrinthe magique
T5 : Les Dieux du fleuve

Started reading the first Riverworld book when I was a teenager. And put it down then. I couldn’t remember why—fair enough, this was 30 years ago. So I carted these out of the library. I don’t think the fact that they were a translation was the problem. I think that the polite way of saying things is that these are a little dated. Had these five tomes been a short story (30000 words?) then I think this would have been an intriguing and thought-provoking moment. Stretched over five volumes of deeply introspective (and painful) prose from the mouths of ‘reconstitued’ figures like Mark Twain or Richard Burton (the explorer/translater, not the Welsh actor)... It was painful.

Neil Gaiman
Stardust
Miroirs et fumées
American Gods
De bons presages (Gaiman / Pratchett)
Des loups dans les murs (Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (Illustrations))

‘Wolves in the Walls’ was read with and for Kim. We both loved it. Perhaps we should read ‘Coraline’ together… Beware of ‘Stardust’ in French, the translation seems a bit off, the story appears to flag at moments (gets sort of threadbare, curious). I will read this in English sometime and see.
‘Good Omens’, ‘American Gods’ and ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ are all wonderful. I didn’t see any artefacts of translation. The diable vauvert is a wonderful print house (Note. I read American Gods first. I thought that the trident-holding devil with the floppy willy was a special version of their logo for the book… No. It is the ‘official’ logo. Any publishing house whose logo is a devil with a dangling & floppy willy, can’t be entirely bad!)
These books are now very high on my wishlist of books to get in English.

Terry Pratchett
Le Dernier continent : Les Annales du Disque-monde
My first dip into the Discworlds… Curious. Very, very funny. But curious. I will undoubtably be reading more as this is the twenty-somethingishith tome.

Jonathan Carroll
Le pays du fou rire
Very curious (I think that I have already said that somewhere). It starts out deceptively pleasant with enough curious/strange happenings to lead you in (I have the impression that we never get all the story about her burns—and does this explain/call up the fire?). Then this gets progressivley stranger, but steadily and logically so. And then the end is fast and frightening. Brr. I will undoubtably be reading more of Jonathan Carroll.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Terremer
La Main gauche de la nuit
Le Monde de Rocannon
Le Dit d’Aka, suivi de Le nom du monde est forêt
I think that there were at least two other of her books, but the titles escape me for the moment. These were everything that the Philip José Farmer were not. And the Earthsea books (the French Edition that was as fat as a pregnant phonebook had all but one in there I think), were an eye-opener to a world where magic was a tissue and a force like the wind or gravity in this one.

J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I re-read this as I wanted to see if it was as flatly written as I remembered. It was. I found this the most disappointing one in the series so far. The others, even if they were written with a blunt crayon did have good yarns and ripping adventures. This one bumbled on through the most boring school year ever (and it was so predicatable that the Dolores Umbridge would be a… well a pain in your Umbridge, dear) and then when you could see that the last few pages were arriving and you suspected that nothing was going to happen, suddenly something happened. I didn’t find Sirius’ death moving. I just found it botched. Am I the only person who thinks that the films are in fact better than the books?

And a bunch of other stuff {mainly short stories} online. I must remember to note titles and links.

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Juliet #3

Am busy revising Juliet. Simple stuff at the moment, using the ‘search’ function to look for idiomatic constructions (idomatic is a mot-valise meaning that I’m the idiot, and I make the same mistake, over and over, automatically), and then I examine each one to see if that was really the use and the meaning that I wanted… And I tend to let phrases run with ‘and’ a lot, so I am asking each one if it really needs to be there. Surprisingly enough, a lot of them don’t.

Waiting in the wings is some bigger stuff: list of passages to cut, for example, some missing clues and hooks… Well, not exactly missing. I thought that things were clear but remarks that people have made imply that perhaps they’re not, in fact, as clear as I intended/thought/wanted.

Then I’ll probably let it sleep again for a week or two.
...
The apple and roquefort tart was quite edible. Tonight I will make something different.

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Salutations G. Hussy

Here we go:
Ashley Bautista, Everett Blanton, Protectives G. Bolts, Harris Bouchard, Tracey Covington, Kristeen Dale, Rafael Daniel, Bradford Finch, Rich Fontenot, Rosanne Foster, Tami Frederick, Janie Gaines, Tracey Gilbert, Seymour Hager, Corine Hathaway, Sidney Heard, Phoebe Hensley, Fanatics H. Hotheadedness, Bettye Hubbard, Salutations G. Hussy, Convoking H. Implosion, Retirement I. Ionian, Garrett Jacob, Jasper Johns, Marquita Love, Araceli Macdonald, Kaitlin Padgett, Julianne Perry, Lizzie Pritchard, Ofelia Quick, Roland Reeder, Marabou E. Reflexives, Sherry Seals, Notorious C. Seres, Ken Stahl, Outdoors L. Trouts, Cleo Wade.

...

Jasper Johns? Will the next one to come along be Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko? De Kooning perhaps…

How come? Is it that great American artists have names that are easily random generated? Or is this some ‘joke’? Or even, is the spammer counting on the vague familiarity of the names to incite people to open up the mail…

I must also say that I find the ‘middle-barrelled’ names (Convoking H. Implosion, Fanatics H. Hotheadedness, Loquacious Q. Conjoined, Marabou E. Reflexives, Meddles R. Moving, Notorious C. Seres, Oran L. Grotesquely, Outdoors L. Trouts, Protectives G. Bolts, Retirement I. Ionian, Salutations G. Hussy) sound extremely false. As if the spammer is deliberately making them as outrageous as possible in order to attract attention. (And isn’t ‘Salutations G. Hussy’ missing a comma?).

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Lost in Migration

Alain sent me the final installment of the corrections for a translation that I sent him to read over. English -> French. Most nicely he didn’t just read, but sent detailed notes and suggested corrections. Corrections of which I used over 98% saying (sound of palm hitting forehead): yes, that was what I meant to say. He tells me that now he must go over it again as there are still some rough patches. All I wanted was a mail saying whether he thought that I was wasting my time.

I will do another read-through and send him back a copy. Never look a gift horse… And so if anyone needs good, careful, thoughtful translations in the direction English to French, please contact me at the general.dogsbody address and I will pass things on to Alain.

Once the translation is finished (several months work). Then will come the hard bit. Finding a publisher. I did the work to see if I could. I know that the rights hadn’t been sold for France when I started (I must contact the agent again). The author has a good solid reputation and his books sell well. All in all, everything to succeed. Oh well. I’m lucky that I’m not doing this is for a living.

Today’s names:
Carlene Adkins, Carol Arnold, Hairy E. Barbie, Franklyn Bech, Bridget Benson, Catherine Burnette, Lorrie Busby, Amparo Carlton, Jonathan Caron, Ofelia Castillo, Wayne Chung, Sheena Coates, Sandy Crenshaw, Robbie Crow, Jeannine Donaldson, Cristina Dorsey, Eliseo Floyd, Esteban Hager, Bruno Harding, John Hinson, Mayors D. Horizon, Marco Huff, Marshall Huggins, Freeman Johnson, Louisa Mcclellan, Boyd Medina, Myrna Moser, Sue Parrish, Wilbert Rasmussen, Mason Reaves, Thad Robles, Margo Shea, Dr. Sonia, Nigel Staton, Demetrius Trotter, Alyssa Vogt, Marina Watkins.

{Hairy E. Barbie ??? Is someone joking or something?}
I even wrote a small PHP script that sorts these, on surnames, would you believe!

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I should be cooking

Let it be absolutely clear. Ludivine is out swimming and I thought to do a roquefort and apple tart. This is a variation on the roquefort and pear tart which is even better. Or should be, providing that the apple variation comes out as planned. Everything is in the beating of the egg whites.

A quick note. Ludivine has protested that I arrange the ‘truth’. She claims that in the ‘hair’ incident, for example, she actually said that I ressembled Han Solo. Not Chewbacca. That is as maybe, but the way I wrote it makes for a better story. And everyone who knows me, knows that I ressemble more Chewbacca than Harrison Ford.

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writing
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Died #1

755 words. This means I have managed to spout nearly 500 since last time. And while I know that most of these will be rewritten at some point, the voice for this chapter is slowly emerging. This is encouraging.

What is starting to worry me, is that the voice is almost adult and this was supposed to be for children. I accept that due to the subject matter it wasn’t going to be suitable for an 8 year old (as I hope Juliet is) but I suppose that I would have liked to aim at 10-11 year olds. But even then I might have to tone the language down. Or do I mean, water it down?. The language is not vulgar, nor chock-full of swearing or whatever. It is just rather Victorian at times and while this may interest the sort of kid that I was at 10, it is certainly out of the reachs for most, even readerly, kids nowadays I fear.

Apart from that, the story has decided to set itself in and around Clifton in Bristol. Any ressemblance with today’s Bristol is certainly strained to say the least; this was a place that I found most memorable when I visited it some 30 years ago. I suspect that I will be working from those memories.

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Today’s guest list

Luz Alvarez, Van Beasley, Corine Bishop, Yvonne Brady, Raul Canoza, Dawn Childress, Barbra Cobb, Fernando Coley, Roy Connor, Terrell Crow, Grant Crowell, Cecelia Flood, Lillie Graves, Hannah Griffin, Aldo Hager, Lorie Hendrix, Ivy John, Benito Lancaster, Allison Mark, Brian Mccarthy, Ava Mckinney, Peggy Moore, Mabel Osborn, Jackson Pollock, Roderick Post, Elliot Sapp, Freida Sizemore, Joni Stout, Madge Underwood, Fran Zapata

So why is Jackson Pollock spamming me rather than playing dead, huh?

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Small Argh!

200 words.

And even then that is a rounding up because the official count is 196. Is this really all that I have to offer for today?

Of course, I have most of Chapters One and Two of Died mapped out, but the words, when they get down on the paper and once I transcribe the crossings out, the squiggles, the side notes… it just doesn’t come out right. The ‘voice’ isn’t there. Small argh!

(asides: on another front, currently in iTunes, the wonderful and aptly-named radio paradise is playing Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. I have made another page of notes for Juliet. (I also wondered today if it was possibly to make a version that possessed no adjectives and no adverbs. Just the story, and then see what needed to be added back in. Will probably not get past the idea of ‘whataboutif’.) Also went with Kim and Ludivine (and Yvan from upstairs) to see the behemoths at the natural history museum (Have I ever mentioned how much (and why) I hate sites in Flash? This one is no exception. And did you hear the one about the Czech Republic?) It was pretty pleasant except all the pushing and shoving. And then this evening, doing nothing more energetic than walking upstairs I felt my back go ping. Even now it’s pulling.)

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In which we name names!

The day’s names:

  • Bobbi Khan
  • Hung Passmore
  • Franklin Miller
  • Reginald Holden
  • Cornelia Michaud
  • Erick Capone
  • Cara Christensen
  • Graciela Reeves
  • Dionne N. Childs
  • Denise Barker
  • Johnnie Wang
  • Fran I. Dennis
  • Bernard Pritchard
  • Stephanie Myers
  • Adah Shirl
  • Katheryn Ransom
  • Jamie Cahill
  • Ivy Yang
  • Barry Saldana
  • Eddie Beck
  • Ned Muller
  • Jerome Marshall
  • Myra Ross
  • Quinn Pleasant
  • Terri Strong
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Calling Mr. Meddles R. Moving...

So where do authors get their characters’ names from? The classic answers to this question used to be graveyards and phonebooks. However a new source has perhaps arrived…
In the last half hour I have received spam from:

  • Kenya Cope
  • Meddles R. Moving
  • Pedro Keenan
  • Fay Larson

All wonderful names. Especially Meddles R. Moving. Although the idea of the mixed Irish/Hispanic descent for Pedro comes a close second.

I suppose that it would be inevitable that given the giganormous quantities of spam being sent and the random generators that the spammers are using to create patternless material in order to slip under the radar of spam filters, that now the entire works of Shakespeare are even as we speak being recreated and mailed out disguised as ads for medication, to denizens of the Net worldwide.

Oops. Time for bed, I think.

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A New Beginning

I don’t understand how caitlín r.kiernan can possibly say that she wrote XXX words so-and-so day (except perhaps the obvious answer that as a professional writer she had damn better know).

So the day before yesterday I started work on the ghost story—provisionally titled The First Time that I Died… (and hereafter for convenience’s sake “Died”). I now have, in addition to my note books with sprawls of notes, veritable wabes of them, that I fill out when riding on the Metro (I find the Paris Metro very condusive to productivity. I don’t know if this is a Metro thing or whether all public transport systems function in the same manner, the only other one that I have ever tried being the London Underground and then I was so young I can only remember dark cavernous halls filled with ticket machines because of the Brits’ charming habit of making you buy a ticket for the exact and precise station that is your destination rather than having a simple, ‘one-price-fits-all’ scheme like here. Passons). As I was saying before I was diverted by the Metro, I have three pages, each containing a variation of the intro. Each criss-crossed with notes, changes, reminders and question marks. Each page contains between 200 and 500 words so that, in all, I wrote about 1000 words over those two days. But how many will I keep? How many will stay on? How many will be reused? (Always a possibility, recycling words, no?)

I have also started compiling a list of changes for Juliet. In this way, when I will decide that it is time to go back and revise, I will also remember things that I must add in.

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simultaneity and synchronicity

I am still nurturing the project to knit my own blogging system. As such it would match this twisted limbs as it is were made for them, which, of course, would be the case. This would allow me to do the things that I thought I could do in Pivot, and probably can. But as the last time I tried, I busted everything to such a point that I had to reinstall all, I am not looking forward to trying. (This is of course, the same principal as IKEA furniture: you buy it as it is supposed to do what you need. However, once you attempt to construct the damned thing it goes haywire, has 3 type C screws when you need 5, 7 of type D and you only need 4 and the type F widgets so ressemble the type E ones that you have already worn out the thread on most of them in unscrewing them for the fourteenth time. I used to see a nice bit of furniture in the Habitat catalogues, jump in the car to go to Paris (we lived in Orléans and out of the range of a Habitat at the time), look it over in the shop, and then come back home and make it. A lot easier like that. So I beginning to think that programming is similar.)

Anyway, I had a look at Textile which appeared interesting but a mite over complicated for my needs. And while the syntax is logical it isn’t always my logic. I have just finished writing the PHP code for a reduced set of this, and what do I see at daring fireball but John Gruber’s latest baby—Markdown. Now he has the think down right, which is better than getting the syntax down right like others. Except it is written in Perl, which I left aside yonks ago. And I don’t really want to get out the mental soldering iron to join PHP and Perl along the seams. Nor do I wish to code my tool in Perl. So do I continue (with what I now see is improvable) or do I chuck it out and start a clone of Markdown in PHP?

Never had this problem with furniture..

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life
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This is not the first time

I am currently reading Jonathan Carroll’s Land of Laughs (in French). The translation appears wonderful, the book is most captivating as it slowly leads you in, casting out little remarks that make you think hey, that’s odd, and then forgetting, and then, having slipped that past you, it inches further along… The speaking dog has just been mostly cruelly rubbed out, and the story is slowly and eerily sliding sideways. I picked this title up because I stumbled on it at the public library and because of the recommendation by the lovely Mr Gaiman.

What disturbs me—and this is not the first time—is that this was on the SF shelves. And, in case I missed that, it has the words Science Fiction writ large on the cover. As I read a lot of SF this doesn’t put me off. But, as I read a lot of SF, I get to see the reactions of other, non-SF readers (if I may temporarily label them as such—WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE!). This comes down to comments like: Oh, you like reading stuff like that? i.e. You are still stuck in some sub-literature zone, fit only for the likes of mal-adjusted spotty adolescent boys with a severe deficit on the social skills front[see below].

There is some cause for question with the library’s classification system as I also came across Pushkin’s Queen of Spades in the SF section, but perhaps this was a ploy by a russian-literature-adoring librarian to get people to borrow the book… In recent times I have borrowed Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (wonderful), Stardust (Good but not as good—and some problems with the translation in places), the Gaiman/Pratchett opus Good Omens (wonderful and hilarious, but AG definately tops this bunch). Other books that fall into this all previous stuff by this author was classified as SF so let’s just not think and put this one in there too category are Pattern Recognition (his best yet) by William Gibson, or Cryptonomicon (more than a bit Biggles and the Cable Around the World, but still fun) by Neal Stephenson (aside: just don’t get me started on the French translation of this. I read the book in English fortunately, but, besides the mean trick of publishing this in 3 separate books in French, they also published them in three expensive and crappily-translated-by-someone-who-had-no-idea-what-he-was-talking-about tomes).

For me these are all Fiction, period.

<rant>
Perhaps some are Fairy Stories, Moral Tales, Adventure Thrillers and all sorts of capitalised genres within that all-englobing Fiction category. So why not put them there (BTW, the French don’t have a Fiction area, they have sheleves labelled Literature and then Genre shelves, like for SF. Is SF not literature?] Put them on the Fiction shelves and the readers who have followed them from more canonical SF writings (except for Gaiman—I’m pretty sure that he has never done a pure SF work anyway) will find them anyway, but so will thousands of other readers who would never think of getting lost near the SF shelves.
</rant>

[the below] as I am a mal-adjusted spotty 40-something with a middling deficit on the social-skills side, I don’t intend this description to be insulting. Just factual.

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writing
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Juliet #2

I received a mail at midnight from Nadja (aside: shouldn’t she have been studying?) giving first impressions on Juliet. Apart from noting that the French was appalling, she did make some pleasantly unbiased remarks. She found the ‘battle scene’ too long (the scene that Ludivine found too short)—question to myself: does this imply that the length is not the real issue here? She pointed out some lax character development for Augustus (I can see the problem, I can see the fix.).

She empathised with Juliet (hip, hip, hurray!). And found that we didn’t see enough of Morrison, which I take to be a good sign.
Where to now? The more I think about it, the more I should be working on the Pirates story. And the more I am tempted to jump into the Ghost story and just take it as far as I can, as soon as I can.

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home
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Hair

Last summer I got my hair severely cut. It was just in the nick of time to get my famous sheepdog-like locks out of the way because a few days after the heatwave declared itself with a vengeance. Anyway, my hair is now growing back to its normal mass and length. This morning Ludivine remarked on it.
—Hey, you know that you look like the guy in the Millenium Falcon with Luke Skywalker, what’s his name?
—Han Solo?
—No. The other one, Chewbacca.

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home
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The Sweet Smell of Paris

Tuesday, when I went back to work, I kept sniffing. Besides the usual exhaust fumes and mucky odours, I could smell sewage all over. And the smell of stale sweat, dirt, urine & so forth in the metro…

Ludivine reminded me that I probably smelt all of it (the Sweet Smell of Paris) everyday. Just that I didn’t notice it anymore. With my nose unbunging itself after the short weekend cold, the smell of Paris came back momentarily.

This evening, coming back home… didn’t notice it at all.

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system
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If it’s Tuesday, it must be planet Earth

I have again read through the docs for this Pivot thingy, and still can’t see how to use the different categories (I would rather have liked a different category per page or something). I still don’t understand what the Referrer and the other strange blocks were for (I have since killed these, precisely because of that). Nor do I understand why these show random strange markup at strange random moments. In fact, I’m not even sure what a trackback is {what is a trackback, anyone?}.
So I am doing some serious wondering about digging into my archives and reviving the code that I have. It may not be better but at least (for me) it would be understandable.

Apart from that… Another wonderful day on another wonderful planet.

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home
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Tea break over... Back on me head

The Aspirin has done its thing and I appear to be in a state to drag the flesh back to the salt mines tomorrow morn. With a box of KleenexiTM in tow, n’est-ce pas.
Got precisely no, none, nada, zilch work done today. Most depressing. In fact all I have to show for the whole day is half a box of tissues and and a very sore nose.

Still have my doubts about this blogging system. I don’t feel happy. There are too many little things that don’t feel natural, I have to write some new styles to take into account the lists in the body, and the calendar, and what do the colours look like on a CRT? Oh, and I seem to have busted the comments, so nothing happens if you click on the socks.

I have however managed to add a small javascript that opens in a new window for offsite links while opening onsite ones in the current window. Pivot seems to have an ‘all or nothing’ setup for this… but there again, it’s probably me who has understood nothing.

& off 2 bed.

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system
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Annoyances

I have spent some time hacking the style sheets to get this away from the standard “flowered wallpaper” patterns that Pivot uses. I have the front page acceptable except for:

  • the calendar—there’s an annoying override for this and my styles get lost…
  • apostrophes—may have to hack the php for curly apostrophes instead of these dashes/primes

[update: i switched to Textile and these are a thing of the past—thank you Pivot and Textile!]

  • I will see how difficult it is to add a footer
  • the different entries need to be better separated.

[update: getting there…]
once I get away from the home page things get really rough, and I will spend some time on that… later.

I will also try and link in some other stuff like old essays, links to the downloadable material, my resume, and other pretty stuff.

But, for the moment, the priority is looking for more aspirin & then to bed.

Next day update. Reinstalled Pivot as it went wonky on me. Most annoying. I had used up a loo roll, too many aspirins, much kleenexi… feel horrible and wanted to write, and instead have to telnet all over the place… yuk. double yuk even.]

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writing
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Juliet #1

Finished first rewriting of Juliet today. This story was started on December 19th last year and destined to be a month-long project. 2 weeks writing, 2 weeks correcting…

So 51000 words later what do I have to show?

I write the whole book out by hand, twice. And in French. I don’t know what possessed me to do that part. I found that writing longhand was a lot easier than typing. Anyway, I’m getting ahead. Once I had written about a third of the book—little chunks from here and there as it was coming together—I decided that I needed a plan and so started sketching one out. It went OK and seemed to hold together as a story with the traditional parts for kid’s stories of ‘beginning’, ‘middle’ and ‘end’. I finished the first version about mid-January as I had planned. (Revised plan of course). I typed up everything, revising as I went. Then I “finished” the French version, and started to send out feelers.

I quickly realised that there were two problems:

*the structure: the alternating scenes that I used at the beginning were too difficult for an eight-year old to understand;

*the old material: I had some beautiful material—some of the first stuff that I had written for this story. It was beautiful, funny, poetic, different, evocative… but it was not this book. I had kept it in because I adored it, but the book had changed. It broke my heart but I had to hack it out and redo about a third of the book at that point.

It was also about at then that I decided that French, not being my native language, was not the one that I had a ‘feel’ (‘ear’?) for. So I set out to rewrite everything in English. At some point I will probably rewrite this back in French also. Once it was translated I corrected it. So I probably finished up writing 200000 words in fact, but only keeping 50000 of them!

Reactions? Well, I’m glad that it is finished (more why, after), and my opinion wavers from 10% needing a rewrite or 50%. I think that the best thing to do for the moment is to let it sleep. While I work on the next ones.

Erm, yes. While writing on this one I sketched out the basic plans for 4 more stories, still kid’s stuff it should be noted:

*one that is already petering out and will probably be abandoned. Call it ‘monsters’;

*one that is about Pirates, probably about 100000 words in length, the plan is nearly in place and I have a bit of research to do

*one that is a ghost story, probably a bit shorter than Juliet (40000 words?), the plan is missing about 30%. I have the beginning, the middle and the end, but I’m missing a lot between the middle and the end.

*one that is still too hazy to do anything with yet.

I’m tempted to attack the ghost story. Quite simply because I can see myself spending another 3 months (or more) on the Pirates and I’d like to finish something more quickly. But there again, I’m afraid to start the ghost story and get bogged down.

Choices, choices…

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home
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Wondering

...if what is currently dripping out of my nose is bad for the trackpad… {note to myself: buy more loo rolls tomorrow – have exhausted all the Kleenexi, and if anything, productivity of nose is increasing.}

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system
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Hello World [part 1]

This is another test to find out what is going on and how. Debugging furiously.

At first I was furious with this Pivot thingy. I had gone to sourceforge and searched for ‘blog’. I wanted a simple thing that ran on PHP, but didn’t use a database. I figured that was real overkill for my needs. [I also have about 80% of a flatfile blogging system here on the iBook, so this had better be easier to install that than finishing 20% of a homegrown system.]

After spending some time insulting the system because I wasn’t able to understand anything, it now seems approachable. I will see if the remaining irritations smooth out, or wrinkle up to such a point that I’ll finish mine.

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