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Category Archives: Daybook

Surreal in the Rain

While I’m usually stoic about being caught in the rain, poor timing and a phenomenal cloudburst drove me into a shop doorway on the way home late last night.

Watching a deserted pedestrian precinct, rain hammering down, I was surprised to be joined by a fox (who was substantially less bedraggled than myself, the suave so-and-so). As we stood on opposite sides of the alcove, backs to the doors, we alternated our gazes between each other and the rain.

Standing there, the world about us silent but for the torrent of descending water, we were both caught unawares by a seagull walking past, muttering those little conversational squawks they utter when solving a problem. Fox and I watched in mystification as the bird trotted away down the precinct, turned a corner and disappeared from view, still nattering.

Within minutes, the rain had eased to a mere downpour. Fox and I set off to complete our respective journeys.

Surreal times, kids. Surreal times. You all keep well.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2017 in Daybook

 

New World Disorder

And now, like the screaming after Brexit – but in a more immediate time frame – we wait. We know we’re going to be surprised. We just don’t know what form the surprises will take.

Ignore the pundits, the howlers, the hatemongers, and your fears. Live well. Do good. Love carefully but unreservedly. Above all: have fun. Always have fun.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Daybook

 
Image

My Great-Grandfather’s Poppy

Poppy

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2015 in Daybook

 

How I Write

A question on a forum reminded me that I had promised someone (sorry!) a long while ago that I’d post about my writing process and the tech I use.

So, with no further ado and apologies for being nearly a year late, here it is:

Stories arrive as the first two lines, a mental image, or initial plot section. From there, it’s ‘just write’ and see where it takes me. 🙂 At the end, I will have a piece of work that I cunningly refer to as a ‘chunk’. It may be a whole story. It may not.

Larger pieces come together in chunks, then I write other chunks to link the original chunks, then I go back to the earliest chunks and revise them for the clever stuff I thought up in the later chunks.

For the larger works I invariably end up with a notes/leftovers file as well as the main document.

When the chunks accumulate sufficiently to be a book:

  1. Starting with a 10- or 20-pass continuity/sanity/review checking before letting the proof readers at it.
  2. Proofing & editing is two or three passes (depending on how big a kicking I get from my proofers and editors) over a two-month period.
  3. There’s usually a prevarication/denial phase between proof reviews coming back and me fixing things.
  4. Post proofing is a 5- to 10- pass process before final review.
  5. Another prevarication phase, duration dependant on the number of chapter/story bookmarks and hyperlinks I need to add to the ebook. I hate ebook formatting.
  6. Ebook creation – which is only going right if I spot a single word that needs fixing/replacing – and submission of ebook.
  7. When that has gone through to publication, there’s a final review of the master before submission for printing.
  8. Then a review or two of the print proof before pressing the green button to let them make books for me.
  9. Euphoria phase. I made a book!
  10. Dread phase. I’m sure I missed something.

I have an Excel spreadsheet for published story titles, as I have over 500 of the little buggers now and duplication is not acceptable.

Word 2003
for all text work.
CutePDF for text conversion to PDF.
Proofs are created as watermarked Word files from the master documents, then run off via CutePDF and ALZIPped for sending to my proofreaders and editors.
ArcSoft PhotoStudio for cover creation, starting with original art for front or wrap cover and working through to finished, fully lettered cover. Everything for covers saved as JPEG, with incremental stages calved off to allow rollback.
Total Image Converter to turn JPEG to PDF for printing.

I run a 3-2-1 backup strategy, which is 3 backups on 2 different types of media with 1 offsite.

Incremental backups occur daily or whenever-I’m-away-from-the-laptop if I’m mid process.

All non-secured backups are encrypted.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Daybook

 

On the Dark Side of Curious

I was catching up on a bit of browsing today, picking up ideas, filling minor knowledge gaps, letting curiosity chase ideas and themes down virtual rabbit holes and such like. In amongst the plethora of sites I visited, I came across a piece about the creation of the first Starship Troopers film and where Paul Verhoeven took his inspirations for visual styles incorporated in it. For the patently neo-fascist Federation, he used Nazi styling to hammer home his message of “war makes fascists of us all”. But the latter part of the sentence that followed is where things went cold for me:

  “He evokes Nazi Germany – particularly through its use of fashion, iconography and propaganda – which he sees as a natural evolution of the post-World War II United States.

The implications of that, when taken in conjunction with where the actual power in the western world seems to dwell, is chilling.

Now, please forgive me if my understanding is limited, but to my mind, Nazism is a fundamental superiority regime that requires objects of contempt and objects of hate: ‘enemies’ within and without. It is also incredibly appealing to certain sections of society; as witnessed by its persistence.
When I mentally incorporate religion, twenty-first media manipulation and the susceptibility of large sections of the populace, it becomes something that looks a lot like a world-eating monster.

Nothing I have encountered for a very long time has perturbed me quite so much. Here’s hoping I am very wrong.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2015 in Daybook

 

It’s Your Gun. Learn How to Use It.

Sitting here on a Sunday afternoon, taking a pause from the brute logistics of changing my mobile number after four years. Authentications to be redirected, security resets, the odd hundred websites or so that need amending. Nothing impossible; merely implausibly, laughably tedious. How did this complexity creep in? At what point did the rise of the miraculous devices that would free us from the tedium of repetitive labour make us slaves to the next sequence of ones and zeros that could ruin our lives accidentally because a single digit got transposed?

There is a malaise that accompanies computers. It is a combination of the ‘delegated power’ excuse and the ‘if many are at fault, no one person will be to blame’ defence. ‘Just doing my job’ evolves into ‘just doing what the machine says’ and lo, you have gone from clerk to priest, delivering the word of inviolable authority – whilst having none of your own.

Computers are only ever as good as the people who make and program them. They are not oracles, and while those who work upon them relish the awe in which they are regarded (revenge of the geek, etcetera), most of them would be horrified at being deified for something they wrote simply to pay their rent.

A computer is a tool. It is a complex tool, but we have granted it a strange, pseudo-autonomous status that places it as our superior and arbiter in many situations. Here we see man’s oldest enemies – ignorance and fear of the unknown – raising themselves again.

If the computer is to be regarded as an authority, then those that created it must be inviolable, not a pastiche of merchant interests. (Again, the vile epithet ‘profit’ taints a simple concept.) Therefore, it behooves you, the user of these marvellous tools, to understand them. For in that understanding, there comes a diffusing of the almost reverential apathy: the waving of hands and dismissive “oh, I don’t really do computers”.

NEWSFLASH! You do computers every day. More correctly, they ‘do’ you. Your life is entirely dependant upon devices that for some reason you choose to relegate to a quasi-religious state of blissful ignorance.

Now, I know that you could point out any piece of modern technology and say: “Well, do you know how to use/build/maintain that?” And I’d quite probably have to say “No.”

But I could then go to the strange altar in your home that your children worship at for hours every day, and with a few flourishes and strange imprecations, find out HOW that strange thing you pointed out works. I could tell you it’s limitations and potential issues. I could show you how much we rely on it. You’d be reluctantly impressed. I’d be embarrassed. You’d ask “How did you do that? Well, I did that by using the thing you refuse to understand to alleviate my ignorance on the subject. (I’d also add that I looked up multiple sources before settling on the opinion I gave.)

The greatest cure for ignorance is sitting in virtually every home or hand in the developed world. Yet you continue to spout your dogma and stupidity like it is holy writ, choosing to watch videos of people being stupider than you, watch soap operas about people worse off than you, and play colourful children’s games. Thus entitling yourself to think yourselves ‘better’ than some nebulous, media-created ‘them’.

Is that a better thing than my state of watching a nebulous ‘them’ lead the majority of humanity toward poverty and ruin? I cannot say. We all choose how we live, to a greater or lesser extent. I have no right to say that my way is better than anyone else’s.

But I can state that willful ignorance of what is happening about you, when the means to enlighten your ignorance shares your home, is inexcusable.

It’s your weapon. For pity’s sake, learn how to use it, at least to the point where you know where the ‘shots’ are coming from, if not who’s firing them. You may even discover ways to stop the ‘shooting’. Being informed and making informed decisions about this society we live in is now essential. Because if you’re not paying attention, others are. And they benefit from your blind, apathetic reliance on someone (anyone!) else to make decisions for you.

Yes, I know that as long as the utilities keep running and your favourite stuff is available, you don’t really care, despite clicking humanitarian ‘like’s and doing the right petitions.

When the lights go out, it will be too late. You will have no warning. No excuses. You failed.

Computers are not the answer.

Information is the answer.

Computers are a tool.

Use them.

Learn. Adapt. Survive.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Daybook

 

The Days When the Dream Wears Thin

Everybody has them, I presume. Some more often than others, if recent analyses of social networking impacts on mental and emotional health have any bearing on reality. I get them. Had one earlier this week and am riding the turbulence in its wake as I type.

You know them well. Those days when you’re restless, or bored, or both. When nothing seems to interest you and you cannot summon up anything to raise a hint of doing anything. You wonder about what you’re doing or have done, and hindsight gives you a kicking when your defences are down.

The best way to alleviate your ‘man-flu’ or some other socially acceptable term for this sort of psychological constipation is do something. Do something now. Do something alone if possible but of your own determination regardless – it’s got to ‘feel’ right. Spend a few hours rewatching that TV series. Browse the net for utter trash that makes you grin or raise your eyebrows. Rearrange the bookshelves/DVD racks by topic.

This ennui is a feature of your mind and your mind is waving a little flag saying “Gimme a moment, I need to sort a few things”. Most of the time, sleep is when your brain tidies house. Sometimes it needs you to be awake but diverted while it deals with something. Chances are that you may never know what it is, but you will feel the ‘cloud’ fade away. More likely, you will suddenly become aware that it has gone.

There is no crime in giving yourself time in this hectic world. “Physician heal thyself” is entirely appropriate for non medical people too. Now, there may be an underlying problem. In which case, this time you take for yourself should allow you to discern the nature of the beast. And, more importantly: how to leash it, send it away, or accept it and add it to the zoo of psychological traits that comprise you.

Sometimes, you will only succeed in identifying the cause as the solution lies without. That’s good. Of all the things people can deal with, the unknown cause is the most detrimental. You’ve identified it. From there, it may not be simple, but a remedy (if necessary) can be worked towards.

Above all: don’t stop, don’t give up and don’t let anyone rein you in. It’s you body, mind and soul. Learning it takes a long time. These moments can be some of the most beneficial after the bleak part is over.

 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Daybook

 
 
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