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Chaz'z Blog

Friday, January 31, 2003

Patrick writes from France to point out that it should be no surprise if Outremer comes in blue covers, given that 'outremer' means ultramarine (well, obviously it does, and I can't believe I didn't see it sooner; Capten, art tha sleepin' there below?). And my dictionary tells me that the reason that particular shade of blue is called ultramarine not because of any connection with the blue of the Mediterranean, as I had always assumed, but because it was originally made from lapis lazuli, which had to be brought in from beyond the sea, ultra marinus, outre mer. 'Outremer' is also the French word for lapis lazuli, as well as being the general term for overseas and the specific term for the Crusader states. And now of course it is the series title for three or six volumes of fantasy, depending which side of which sea you prefer. Honestly, blue is such a greedy colour...

Posted by Chaz at 01:04 AM GMT [Link]

Thursday, January 30, 2003

I'm sorry, but I do just have to share this with you; it's going to be murder to type, but it is beautiful.

From 'A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye', author unknown, c 1572:

To Make a Dyschefull of Snowe

Take a pottell of swete thycke creame and the whytes of eyghte egges, and beate them altogether wyth a spone. Then putte them in youre creame and a saucerful of Rosewater, and a dyshe full of Suger wyth all. Then take a stycke and make it cleane, and then cutte it in the ende foure square, and therwith beate all the aforesayde thynges together, and ever as it ryseth take it of and put it into a Collaunder. This done, take one apple and set it in the myddes of it, and a thicke bushe of Rosemary, and set it in the myddes of the platter. Then cast your Snowe uppon the Rosemary and fyll your platter therwith. And yf you have wafers caste some in wyth all and thus serve them forthe.

Sic. I think. Isn't it a joy?

Also a joy, I have the cover for the first vol of the US edition of Outremer (the first of six, over there), and I like it very much. Even despite its indisputable blueness. I am, I confess, not fond of blue; I never wear it, and there is very little in the house. Except, obviously, on book covers. Not much I can do about them, except cover them over; which in general is too much trouble (besides which, they'd still be blue beneath, and I would still know), and specifically in this instance I don't want to. Why would I, with a John Howe picture and a fine design? Oddly, it's the second time JH has illustrated vol 1, as he did the UK edition too. Actually, I don't know if that is odd, or if it happens often; it would feel odd to me, if I were asked to write two different stories around the same illustration. But art is another country: as witness my troubles with film, with comics, all of that visual stuff. But I am just starting to put framed pictures on my walls, perhaps I'm getting better...

Posted by Chaz at 05:55 PM GMT [Link]

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Ah, what a waste of being sick this is. Every time I try to recapture my social life, I have a relapse: Super Bowl just laid me out for all of Monday, and today I had one pint at lunchtime, one single virtuous pint and I felt rotten all afternoon, headachy and feverish and coughing again.

And yet - when I should be loitering palely on the sofa with one duvet, two cats, several hot toddies and a pile of Chalet School books, thoroughly enjoying my indisposition - I keep coming up here and working. Actually the work is kind of fun at the moment, which is why I keep doing it, shame to waste those transient touches where I remember how much I can enjoy this job; but I'm not ill often, and I do also enjoy the treatment prescribed above, and it seems a shame again to waste the opportunity to indulge in it. I used to be much better organised than this; I used to get sick immediately after I finished a piece of work. Stopped me partying, so of course I grumbled about that instead, but I'd sooner do that than this. Struggling gamely on when I feel like death has that nasty scrubbed protestant smell to it, all disinfectant and tiles and hospital corners on the bed, where what I want is softness and silks and incense, a faint whiff of decay. Damn it, my only ambition is to be a sybarite; what am I doing, playing at being dour?

By the way, your word of the day is 'smallage'. It means a kind of wild celery. Use it or lose it. And then report back.

Posted by Chaz at 11:24 PM GMT [Link]

Monday, January 27, 2003

I am a bad person, and I deserve to be punished.

So what's new, you ask, what's special, why the auto-da-fé? Because there I was at a perfectly peaceable dinner party, having a perfectly nice time; and I trailed my coat, I was deliberately provocative while being uncertain of the temper of my opponent, and that is a social crime in my book. Happily it all turned out okay, but I couldn't have been sure of that beforehand. Tut.

Actually it wasn't a dinner party, it was a Super Bowl party (and my thanks to R. L Trask for telling me that it is the Super Bowl; I would probably have said Superbowl otherwise, despite long years of acquaintance. Double-tut), and we were having dinner before the game. Just the five of us, and I knew none of 'em besides my host, but we were getting along just fine, good food and interesting conversation. One of the other guests was a film buff of the first water, so a lot of the talk was of movies; and eventually I did it, I said, 'Books matter, films don't.' In just so many words.

There was a brief pause - Philip in fact demanded one, while he refilled glasses and fetched things from the kitchen, not wanting to miss a moment of what followed - and then battle commenced, and we had an hour's ding-dong before the game. Which was, at least for me, more fun than the game (which was lop-sided, and towards the wrong side - no magic, and no partisan pleasure either. You need one or the other). Everyone else may have been bored rigid, of course (another social crime, mea culpa), but if so they hid it well.

The interesting thing, though, is that you set up these contests and engage in them, and afterwards, just sometimes, you find that you really did mean it. I guess it's a good way of finding out where you stand; and I find that I am absolutely serious about this, I really do believe that books have a greater artistic and cultural weight than films do. I don't mean just personally, that they are more important to me; obviously this is a personal opinion, but I think it's universal, I think it's a truth.

Pinning down why is a lot harder than simply asserting it to be so, and I'm not going to reproduce here an hour's hard talking and a degree of esprit de l'escalier rethinking afterwards. It's something to do with text being the most direct of media, the least filtered; the author sits at one end of a log, the reader sits at the other and there's precious little space between. Doesn't matter how much credence you give to auteur theories, film is still the product of many voices, and they're seldom all singing from the same hymn-sheet. But I don't want to dismiss all collaborative art; I think theatre matters, in a way that I think cinema does not. So what else? Well, there's that word 'product' - the majority of films are thought of that way by the majority of people who work on them, where the majority of books are not, books don't become product until they leave the writer and move into the publishing house. There's the process, the experience: with a book you choose where you read it and how much time you give it, where for a film you need machinery and you go at the pace it comes, that seems to be a factor in my head. And a book is a book is a book, where a film these days can be a cinema release or a video version or a director's cut - how can you take seriously an art form where you buy the title on DVD and are presented with three different versions, and you have to choose which to watch? Consumer choice may be a political desideratum at the moment, but it is nothing to do with art.

And so on, and (I fear) on and on. Many arguments, and some I agree are tenuous, some may be fatiscent or even fatuous, but the cumulative effect on me is this, that I do believe that books have a tap-root into the human psyche which movies simply lack. They may have more cultural impact at the moment, but that's simply a criticism of current society; they and we are concerned largely with the surface of things, and that's where they operate: lights moving on a blank wall, which when the movie is over will still be blank.

Posted by Chaz at 08:02 PM GMT [Link]

Thursday, January 23, 2003

... So there I was, hating Windows and grumbling about it mightily, being I suspect very tedious about it, not to say tendentious. And eventually Harry suggested that if I really felt that strongly, I might take a look at Linux; and Geoff (that's Geoff Ryman, the only man I know who can make me feel both short and stupid) said pretty much the same thing, but added that if I went the Linux road, I should schedule a couple of hours a week for the first year to learn it properly.

I should not need to say that I did the one, but not (or not yet) the other. I've been using Linux for two years now, and still haven't really learned my way around. Deliberately moving to a system that makes fewer allowances for ignorance feels great, it flatters my ego, but leaves me bumbling around all too often in the half-dark, knowing that I've read something about this somewhere but I can't remember where and certainly have no idea how to handle it now that the situation has actually arisen...

So what are the attractions of Linux? Well, it's not Windows, and it's not Mac; that's two points in its favour. And it's open-source, it's free. Technically that's as in freedom of speech rather than free of charge, but there are many distributions that you can download for no fee. It's a community enterprise, developed by many programmers worldwide sharing ideas and keeping no secrets; all the code that drives the system is right there for anyone to adapt it, improve it and pass it on. I love that, even if I can't play that game myself. I love its generosity of spirit; Microsoft systems will only work with Microsoft code, you can't open Linux files in Windows, but all my old Windows files are right here on my Linux system and I can read them, write to them, save them in other formats, whatever I want. Conversely I can write new stuff in Linux and save it as a Windows file, for the benefit of my less progressive friends.

It ain't all roses, and as I say, I haven't learned my way around well enough to fix some of the problems that come up. Word processors are a case in point. I used to love WordPerfect in the good old days of DOS; when I switched to Windows I also switched to Word for convenience's sake, but I never liked it. There used to be a Linux version of WordPerfect; I fell on that with glee, like I'd come home again. But then Bill Gates bought a large chunk of the company that owned it, and what do you know? Suddenly they dropped all their Linux programs, stopped selling or supporting them, cancelled all future development. (Where are the anti-trust legislators, when you need them?) I managed to track down a copy of the last released version, and got a friend in the States to send it over (thanks, Jeff) - and never managed to get it running properly on my system.

But then along came OpenOffice, which is distributed free. That's so much in the spirit of Linux, I loved the idea and was determined to love the program. Which I did and do; it's still a little primitive in comparison, but it does everything I need and I should have been happy to settle down with that, watch it as it grew and grow alongside. But OpenOffice has a big brother, StarOffice 6.0 - it's essentially the same program, only that with StarOffice you get Asian fonts as well. Obviously, with my Chinese in mind, Asian fonts is a big plus. But StarOffice you have to pay for. I dithered for months, principle vs convenience, and in the end I bought it. And have been happily running it for the last month - except that in the last few days, it's taken to crashing every time I try to save a document. It crashes very elegantly, and virtuously restores everything when I boot it up again, and it does allow me to save work in other formats; but its own native format, every time, it announces an irrecoverable error and over it goes again. This is not good in a word processor, and I have absolutely no idea what's going on. So at the moment I'm back to OpenOffice again, and never mind the heathen Chinee.

I'm also inclined to crash myself at the moment: sandpaper throat, swollen glands, head full of sludge. I'm going to bed.

Posted by Chaz at 12:05 AM GMT [Link]

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

A couple of times already, I've promised to talk about Linux, what it is and why I use it. There was a time when I thought this whole weblog might turn into a newbie's diary, Little Chazzie and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs; but then, there was a time when I thought that shifting from Windows to Linux would turn me back into a power user, a serious computer nerd. It hasn't done that, which I regret, I was always a wannabe nerd; but hey, you play the cards you're dealt.

So here instead is a brief history of Chaz and his computers, to explain where I'm coming from here.

The first mathematical devices I ever encountered were the adding-machines my father used in the accountancy department of the company he worked for. This is before the days of pocket calculators; those machines were mechanical, you set cogs and pulled a handle and heard the gears turn within. Babbage was building such things in the 1810s, and I don't think they'd changed much since.

When I was eight, though, my life changed. For just one year we had an inspirational teacher, in that traditional way that some lucky children do; it was my bad luck that he was a mathematician. For a year, he made a mathematician out of me too, but it didn't last. During that year, though, he had us doing amazing things; and brightest and best, we got to programme the Oxford University computer. This is back in the days when computers were the size of a small hall, and remarkably stupid; the average digital watch these days would outperform that beast. I loved it, though. I learned KDF 9 (programming language - very basic, but hey, at eight years old you're not proud), typed equations onto ribbons of paper tape and jumped that computer through all the hoops it could manage, and thought I'd found my life's vocation. Under Dr Johnston, I ate calculus for breakfast. Then we moved up a year, it was back to long division sums, and soon the only calculus in my life was growing on my teeth.

The next calculating device that came my way was a slide rule. Okay, I loved that too, but it wasn't quite the same. I slipped away from maths like a disappointed lover, went back to literature, didn't see another computer until the day I borrowed money from the bank to buy an electronic typewriter, and in the shop I saw my first PC. Five years later, I borrowed rather more money from the same bank and bought one.

This was before IBM released their patents, or whatever it was they did to make IBM-compatibility the standard. My first machine was an Apricot, which ran its own software and was - ahem - the apple of my eye, till it was nicked in a burglary. Its replacement was a Dell, my first true PC, running DOS. Say what you like about Bill Gates - as I do, and I have, and I will again - but I did love DOS. That's when I became a power user, I was deep inside that machine, I knew what made it tick and it ticked to my command.

And then bloody Apple Macs came along, and suddenly graphics were all the rage and nobody wanted a text-based operating system any more, it was all mouse-and-icon and clever little windows with, look, menus, gosh wow... And so Bill Gates invented Windows, and took half the fun out of my life.

People are always asking me why I hate iconolatry so much, what I've got against user-friendliness. What it is, is that when I wanted to delete a file, I used to type 'delete'; now suddenly I was having to drag a picture of a file onto a picture of a waste paper basket. How patronising is that? I resent being talked down to by a machine. It's lowest-common-denominator computing: 'some people can't cope with keyboards, therefore none of you shall cope with keyboards.' Damn it, I like keyboards, I'm a typist, I'm good at this; it's the only physical skill I have, and these people are trying to take it away from me. 'Try this new dictation software, Chaz, it's really good these days.' No, shan't, won't, don't want it.

For the sake of professional compatibility, to be able to share files with my publishers, I had to use Windows, and Word; but I hated them, and never learned to use them efficiently. Bill Gates made a moron out of me, a trained ape who knew which buttons to press to access basic functions, but never penetrated beyond that most superficial level. And I knew it, and resented it, and became bitter and twisted where once I had been joyful and clean-limbed.

And grouched about it, of course I did; and soon my more sussed friends were suggesting gently that I might like to go and look at Linux. Which I did; but it's too late now, and I've been going on too long. More, I promise, in my next...

Posted by Chaz at 11:46 PM GMT [Link]

Helen was back in town this weekend: a friend of short stature but long standing (cf Chambers' definition of an éclair, 'a cake long in shape but short in duration' - a dictionary with a sense of humour, hallelujah!), Helen who used to own the best house in Newcastle until she sold it last year, and not alas to me. It was very lovely to see her, despite that clear and inexplicable shortcoming, and a fair amount of drinking was done, with her and others. And then Kate & Adam came round Sunday night to help me eat smoked sturgeon and keta caviar (sing ho, for the writer's life! But they were gifts, for my birthday; I have generous and understanding friends). I made blinis, and am still basking in triumph. There are probably as many blini-recipes as there are blini-makers, but they seem to fall into two camps, the simple (beat eggs, add flour, add milk - essentially a pancake mixture, but with buckwheat flour) and the complex (yeast, flour, warm milk, stand for an hour, add melted butter, egg yolks, a fold of whisked whites). We recommend the latter, and not simply from a male urge for complication: lighter and richer at the same time, and approved for authenticity. What more could you want? Except for a lemon cake with honey syrup to follow, and we had that too. And then down to Live Theatre for an evening of poetry and music - Amanda Dalton, my adored (well, hell, everyone's adored) Julia Darling, and Maggie Thacker singing largely Julia's lyrics. More drinking, more talking, more lateness.

And despite all of this social stuff, and despite also cleaning the house - at least to the point where there is a visible tidemark lapping around the public rooms, thus far and no further - I have none the less been working also. Not on the fantasy text, I set that aside for a few days (again!), to write an early outline for the Moshui project, the big Chinese fantasy sequence that my American agent really doesn't want me to write. Don't ask me why I did that, but I did. And am actually quite happy with the result, which I rarely am with anything even vaguely approaching a synopsis. Someone recently described this process as being asked to draw a map of a land you haven't visited yet: a point of view with which I am wholly in sympathy. And yet one does it, because one has to; gone are the days when I could sell a novel over lunch, or down the telephone. (Hey, look, I've been doing this job a long time, okay? I'm allowed to murmur wistfully about the golden years...)

Posted by Chaz at 12:24 AM GMT [Link]

Friday, January 17, 2003

...And talking of fun, last night was full of it. Fun in Sunderland, which can happen, despite the odds. Went down to Ottakar's, where the manager Steve is the chain's national SF/fantasy specialist, and a Good Thing in many ways else. He was giving a launch to Simon Morden's first novel, 'Heart', published by Razor Blade Press(for only £4.99, which seems too cheap, somehow, for a B-format paperback - weird, huh?) with a really good cover on it (despite the misprint in the blurb - and why is it that I can't look at even a short piece of text without finding a misprint? Some say it's the spirit of the age, but actually I think it's just me. Either text imbroglios itself just ahead of my reading eye, or else misprinted matter is attracted to my attention by some chemical interaction that we don't yet understand. Either way, it's a pain. I have a proofreader's mind and the soul of a copy-editor, and I want rid of 'em both...). No great crowd at the launch, but they sold out, forty copies, which is brilliant - first time I've seen a reader buy ten copies and then come back for another ten. She was buying for a reading group, which makes perfect sense, but is still impressive to observe.

And then half a dozen of us went out for the traditional Indian afterwards. Well, technically Bangladeshi - I had a hot duck dish, which as ever wasn't really hot enough. Sigh. But it was the sort of occasion I really enjoy, from first to last: focused around books without being obsessively bookish, talk that ranged from the problems of the industry (too many books by other people, not enough by me) to stuff that had nothing whatever to do with literary matters, and another newbie launched into the world. As well as 'Heart', I also bought a copy of Simon's story-cycle on CD-rom ('Thy Kingdom Come', published by Lone Wolf). And didn't think until I got home that I probably won't be able to run it in Linux. Will I have to boot up Windows, for the first time in six months? Or will I just prefer not to read the stories? Who can say?

Posted by Chaz at 02:58 PM GMT [Link]

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Every now and then, Jean prompts me into a quick snapshot paragraph of the books I'm currently reading (see 'What is Chaz reading?' on the front page hereof). Sometimes, though, I think 'What is Chaz buying?' would be at least as relevant, books that I need or want or intend to read, plus those that I'd just like to have sitting on the shelves in case they turn up useful at some indeterminate point in the future.

So: Blackwell's is the last bookshop in Newcastle to have a proper sale, where you can pick up a twenty-pound hardback for a pound or two. It's also the last bookshop in Newcastle to carry a proper range, rather than just the new bestsellers and the discounted backlist of a chain like Waterstone's. So I took a wander through the store this morning, and came home with:

'Turkey: from the Selçuks to the Ottomans' by Henri Stierlin: essentially a coffee-table book, lots of pretty pictures and not too much text. This is research, obviously, for the current fantasy project; I'm not the most visually gifted of writers, so images help.

'Palace Women in the Northern Sung, 960-1126' by Priscilla Ching Chung: an academic monograph published in 1981, and the first book I've bought for thirty years with uncut pages. Again, obviously, research for the big Taiwan fantasy; but I'd probably have bought it anyway, from general interest.

'Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing' by Martin Gardner: basic stuff, meant for kids, but you never know what you might glean, and this is once again research, for 'Getting Carter' which is going to be very full of secrets. But three researchy books for three different projects is quite enough to be going on with, so

'The Bang-Bang Club' by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva: its subject is war and the reporting of war, by two press photographers from South Africa. Grim stuff, but this goes on the You Never Can Tell shelf; how impossible is it that I'll never want to write a story about a press photographer?

'The Independent Cook' by Jeremy Round: he was the cookery writer for the Indie, until he died too soon. Worth hanging on to, via this welcome reprint.

'Apples' by Frank Browning: and yes, it really is about apples. And no, it's not a recipe book, it's a book about apples. I was looking at it slightly askance, but I flicked it open and found 'He assumed that his sister would be safe. When he came back to Alma-Ata a few weeks later, however, he found his old room empty and locked. There was no trace of his sister.' Which, in a book about apples, meant that I just had to buy it.

'Lost in a Good Book' by Jasper Fforde: sequel to 'The Eyre Affair', and the next adventure for Thursday Next, literary detective and registered dodo owner. Just for fun; I have no excuse to offer, nor would I if I did. A man's allowed a little fun.

Posted by Chaz at 03:06 PM GMT [Link]

Friday, January 10, 2003

Yesterday I worked in the morning and half the afternoon, and so finished the rewrite of the Luke story. And so e-mailed it to the States, about half-past three; and in less than an hour had a reply, and a happy acceptance. This man is amazing, truly. The trick will be to remember that he is also unique.

Then into town to act as Gail-Nina's lovely assistant at her talk on fantasy films at the Tyneside Cinema: my job to change the videos over, to allow an even passage from clip to clip. Jean and Roger came, and Roger (being a person who reads other people's weblogs, and even responds to them) reminded me of Hofstadter's Law: 'It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.' Which is a little neater than Brenchley's First Rule of Everything, but occupies much the same territory and is, um, longer. As I said... (For those of you who haven't read it, Hofstadter's book Gödel, Escher, Bach was a must-read for my generation, a primary text and deeply influential. Saw it again recently, so I know it's out there...)

The other excitement of recent days has been the near-death experience of my washing machine. It did in fact expire, mid-cycle, amid strange smells and internal noises; but I gave it a hard reboot - that is, I turned it off, kicked it hard and turned it on again - and it is now back online. But I do not trust it, and so I have been looking for a new one; and here we are in sale-time, and there's only one machine I want. Well, it's stainless steel, and rather gorgeous to look upon. And about three times the price that one needs to pay, so perhaps it's just as well that the old one is hanging in there. Aesthetics are important, but there may perhaps be limits.

Here's a thing, though. I don't make resolutions, but every year I start determined to do two things: to work harder, better and more; and not to teach, to say no to any invitation, to turn them down and run away. Every year, of course, I fail in both of these. We are currently, what, nine days in. So far the work is going well (I wrote a thousand words of the next fantasy proposal today, hurrah); but today my old friend Penny phoned from Northumbria University, to ask if I could do some tutorial work with her Creative Writing MA students. I have an ongoing relationship with Northumbria, even from before I was writer in residence there a couple of years ago. And Penny's a mate, and I was never any good at saying no even to total strangers. So of course I said yes. I have all the willpower of a boiled noodle (here's a thing, by the way: if you take uncooked poppadums and cut them into ribbons, then lay them on top of a hot curry, slap a lid on and take it off the heat, after a couple of minutes you have a pan full of soft creamy noodles to eat with it). Nine days is not exactly a record for my feebleness in holding out - one time I was out walking when I swore blind that I would take no more teaching; came home, the phone rang, would I run a workshop for sixth-formers, yes I would - but it's still extraordinarily feeble. I embarrass myself, I do.

Posted by Chaz at 01:30 AM GMT [Link]

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Brenchley's First Rule of Everything: Everything takes longer. Longer than what, you ask? Longer than it used to; longer than it ought to; longer than was promised; longer than you'd think. The rule is universal in application, and has never been controverted. It was coined, of course, in respect of the creative process, particularly the writing of fiction; but its reach is broad and deep. Take, for example, the relentless partying in this syncopated season (who was it, which wit who defined syncopation as 'an uneven progress from bar to bar'?). I spent much of last week thinking 'Okay, party and dinner on Wednesday, dinner on Thursday but at least I get to spend Friday at home before big party on Saturday, celebrate my birthday and then it's over, rehydrate Sunday and get back to work on Monday...'

Guess what happened? A late invitation to dinner on Friday, no night off. Saturday's party was in Durham and not given on my behalf, I just co-opted it (lawks, 44 - I'm palindromic again. Which the year no longer is, we're out of sync - tho' it occurred to me that our generation is one of the few who will live through two palindromic years, unless stem-cell research really can elasticate the human lifespan). And sat up late over a bottle of armagnac and a Chalet School book, for treats; and so wound my way home Sunday and was immediately summoned down to the pub by my old mate Pete, to hear Tim Dalling sing Louis MacNeice, which is a very happy combination. Then back to Pete's afterwards, of course; and on Monday I really was going to stop all this drinking and do some work. So I went to the pub in the afternoon, but was really good, just the one pint and a read through the Luke story; and on my way home I stopped off to see Simon only to tell him about the story, because he'd been instrumental in helping me frame it. And it was not at all my fault that he happened to be going down to the pub to meet some mutual friends (and yes, I do know all the objections to that phrase, but I'm going to use it regardless; it's been around since 1658 or thereabouts, and there isn't a better - or would you prefer me to call my friends common?), so of course I went with him just for the one drink, just to wish them happy new year, it would have been uncivilised not to. And of course they were going to dinner after, and they wouldn't let me leave - and this is what I mean, it takes longer than you think to jump off a moving train, however steely your will may be. You're always further down the track than you expect.

However, here we are and I didn't go to the pub today, I only drank at home in moderation; and did some work and some useful things about the house, and looked up recipes for blinis on account of all this smoked sturgeon and caviar in my fridge; and my useful culinary tip of the day is this, that if you have no blinis and no bread, then caviar on crumpets is actually quite good. With sour cream and lemon, or else with scrambled eggs; either way is fine.

Posted by Chaz at 01:15 AM GMT [Link]

Thursday, January 2, 2003

...And virtue is not always its own reward, sometimes it comes with a bonus. I e-mailed the story to the States at 9pm, New Year's Eve; by 4.30pm on New Year's Day I had a provisional acceptance, the proviso being that I give it the proper rewrite that I intended anyway. I like this man. I went to two parties yesterday evening, and smiled and was happy at both. Selling a short story always gives me a buzz. It's different from novels, or at least from commissions: that's a commitment, an anxiety, a guarantee of trouble ahead. With stories the trouble is behind me, the work is done or pretty much done, and a sale is reassurance that it's been done well or well enough. Writing is (as if you hadn't noticed) sheer egotism, an extended shout of 'Look at me, see what I can do!' - and it comes with that moment of doubt inherent, where you're just not sure if anyone is actually going to turn their head to look.

Posted by Chaz at 04:07 PM GMT [Link]

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

Oh, lawks. Where have I been? Well, on Sunday I went to Kate's vodka party. She tells me, she assures me that the whole point of a vodka party is to get drunk. So that's okay, then. I ended up being looked after by other guests, friends of us both, who brought me back to the city but seem to have felt that I should not be home alone, so they bedded me down in their house. Apparently it's the first time they've ever seen me drunk into silence, totally concentrated simply on remaining vertical. I don't remember it at all, but I do recognise the description. That's very me.

So that kind of wiped out Monday also; I spent the morning with them, the afternoon sitting on my sofa, the evening cooking a lamb & dal curry. With melon seeds, which are possibly the most disappointing thing I've ever put in my mouth: entirely without flavour, and a bit like chewing bamboo. Then I installed some new software (StarOffice 6.0 for Linux, of which more anon), and went to bed.

All this meant, of course, that I woke up Tuesday morning with the Luke story half finished, no idea where it was going and just that day to finish. When was the last time I worked this hard, either in terms of dredging up ideas or in terms of laying down the words? I can't remember. I was up before 8am, I e-mailed the finished story to the States about 9pm, and I didn't think about much else betweentimes. Lord only knows what the story's like, I haven't read it yet (if the editor likes it, I'll do a proper rewrite; if he doesn't like it in this state, he wouldn't have liked it cut & polished either. Or so the argument goes), but at least I met the deadline.

Posted by Chaz at 01:04 PM GMT [Link]

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