Apr 19, 2010

Okay then, the family holiday in Cornwall is over, the kids are back at school, so it must be time to head back to the shed in the garden and start writing again.

Coincidence or synchronicity or just random events close together? Last month I was planning a visit to Iceland to find out what it’s like to drive on snow for ‘research purposes’ . Well yes it’s not utterly essential to go all that way to find snow and a Land Rover pimped up for cold weather, but my friend Ragnar (watch out for his cameo in Evolutionary Void) hales from Iceland and has the aforementioned Land Rover. It would be rude not to visit. But then the first volcano erupts, so I put the visit off for a while. Then I’m writing notes on Great North Road, which has a planet with an equatorial zone where all planes are in danger from dust which falls out of the planet’s ring system. Oh look, Iceland, volcanoes, aircraft in danger of dust. And this not long after I’m reminded I came up with the Credit Crash in the Mandel books. Hummm..... must write myself some lottery ticket numbers.

But now I’m walking across the garden to the shed to start writing the short stories which are going to be ever so slightly late, and the courier arrives with the page proofs for the American edition of Evolutionary Void. So that’s three days spent reading not writing. Then I start reading and whatever process is used to transfer from the edited version in Word to the book typescript hasn’t worked very well and a whole load of errors have crept in –no I don’t understand how that can happen either. Which makes it more than three days, which brings us to the May holiday, so the proofs are late back. But at least I can start writing again, ah no, the UK page proofs have now arrived...

There have been several people who have written in to the site over the last year or so, asking about e-book schedules. Yes I know they’re not all available in all formats in all territories. This is not something I’m happy about, either. But trust me when I tell you that anything in the publishing industry takes a very long time, especially when it’s as new to the industry as this. My publishers are working through this issue in their own way, and hopefully one day it will all be out there in a fashion that anyone can access from anywhere. Hopefully when I finally finalize my US contract (three months of negotiation between agent and editor and counting) there should be more books available on line. When I know, you’ll know.

The UK contract is finalized and signed. Next year, 2011, Macmillan will be bringing out a collection of short stories that I’ve written over the last eight or so years. Given my very slow output, that’s not quite enough so I’m writing an additional two for it. The provisional title is Manhattan in Reverse. Following that, in 2012, it will be a stand-alone SF novel, Great North Road, which is set in a completely new and different universe, so not the Commonwealth, Confederation, Mandel, or even the Fallen Dragon one. I’m looking forward to that. There are a lot of notes already written, and I’ve even got a map. I’ve started calling it my monster in the dark novel, which is almost accurate.

So here’s the scene. You’re a taxi driver taking four blokes to the airport, driving down the motorway. They are going on a weekend golf break together, so there’s a lot of cheerful banter. Then one of them suddenly, and in a perfectly serious tone, announces: Oh yeah, I need to visit Newcastle to find a good location to murder someone. Do you a) remain calm and wait until they’re out of your cab before frantically calling the police? b) swerve over several the lanes on the motorway in shock?

The correct answer was: b. However, happy ending, one of the other blokes in the cab leans over and quietly says to you: it’s all right, he’s a writer, he’s talking about research.

On the music front, I’m listening to the new Hang Cool Teddy Bear album by Meatloaf. Really. Seriously, I am. Stop laughing.

On the DVD side of life, Mrs H and I have finally caught up with The Wire. Got the box set as usual, and we’re up to series three already. It doesn’t come much better than this. I’m disappointed by the new season of Ashes to Ashes. I will keep watching because I’m interested how they’re going to resolve it, but that’s the only motivation to keep going.

Took the kids to see How To Train Your Dragon. Which was competently done, but Felix was bored by the last fifteen minutes and was clambering all over his cinema seat, which is a fair enough comment. Did like the trailer for Toy Story 3, though.

Now when I’ve finished doing the proof checking, and getting the short stories out of the way, and mown the lawn and weeded the strawberry plants ready for summer, I can start on the new book...

Oh hang on, what’s this? A small true life episode, which may just go a long way to explaining why I’m always so far behind with everything.

Felix has recently developed a bad habit when he’s in the car of switching on the rear ceiling light every time he gets out of the car. Normally I remember to switch it off and tell him not to do it again (because he always listens and does as he’s told). This time I forgot. So next morning when I press the lock button on my car keys –nothing, not a flicker of light or any sign of the doors unlocking. But (good design) my car, unlike Mrs H’s car, has still got a keyhole, you can use the key manually. Very 1980’s, but useful for times like this. I unlock it, and pop the bonnet. At this point I leave the keys on the driver’s seat, ready for when we run power to the car so I can hop in and start it up. However, Mrs H’s car has the battery under the driver’s seat (bad design) the jump leads won’t stretch from there to the front of my car, no matter what angle we try parking them. Ok, so Ragnar brings his car around and parks it nose to nose with mine. He opens the bonnet, and the battery’s in the back (bad design) but (good design) there are electrical attachment points in the front for occasions just like this. We finally clip the jump leads onto my dead battery. The car alarm promptly goes off (good design I suppose, in case anyone’s trying some clever method of messing with the electrics to steal it). It also automatically locks itself to prevent that theft. Really really really REALLY bad design. I am left on the outside, looking in at my keys on the driver’s seat.

Peter F. Hamilton
April 2010

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