Sunday, June 25, 2006

Taking stock

I've spent far too much time this weekend in front of my computer(s) (ss) (sss) -- yes that's actually three computers that I use regularly, here at home. One of them is my shiny new MacBook, which is turning out to be one of the most pleasurable (if relatively expensive) purchases I've made in several years. But nevertheless my eyes have been fixed on one bright rectangle or another all weekend (and still are, as I type this).

Have I been wasting my time? I don't think so, but I did have some other stuff to do, which for one reason or another has proved not so easily doable, and I've ended up in front of the screen(s) again. The problem with computers is that they are so capable. You can do so much diverse stuff with them, it's sometimes hard to knuckle down and do the stuff you should be doing.

Such as writing.

I have a novel in progress, which I'm writing in a decidedly episodic manner. I don't have a plot, only a collection of characters plus a series of cool events that I want to incorporate into the narrative, so I'm writing several disconnected passages featuring one or more of the characters, hoping that I'll be able to pull it all together into a coherent and logical form later on. As a novice writer I believe this is a perfectly acceptable way to proceed. If there's one thing I've learned from reading a ton of writing-advice books, it's that there's no single correct way of writing fiction -- there are as many correct ways as there are successful authors.

My first novel, soon to be podcasted, was originally intended to be a series of linked short stories, the first of which I hoped to sell to a magazine and get a captive audience for the subsequent instalments. Eventually, after reading Muriel Gray's excellent first novel The Trickster, I decided to make it a novel from the outset, ditching the single-viewpoint perspective in favour of interwoven multiple viewpoints.

That novel (130,000 words) is finished, at least in a form that I'll be happy to release as a podcast, after spending more than two years messing about trying to interest agents, who seem to think it's acceptable to request three chapters and a synopsis and then sit on them for six months, only to reject them with an inane comment about 'not doing science fiction' -- despite my query letter being completely specific about the genre.

I didn't sit idle, in fiction-writing terms, after I completed the rewrites of my first novel. I now have 75,000 words (about three-quarters complete) of another novel written with a far more rigid structure -- alternate chapters told from alternate viewpoints. But that strict rigidity has been difficult, and I've yet to convince myself that it will work. Consequently I've reached a point when I'd rather be writing something else -- so that's what I'm doing.

The podcast novel will be in addition to The Rev Up Review, which even now is overdue for a new edition, but I'm determined that recording weekly episodes of the novel will not affect the (ir)regularity of The Rev Up Review. In fact, it's my intention that RUR will be a major asset in the promotion of the podcast novel.

Sometimes it worries me that I don't get RUR out as often as some other podcasters produce their shows, that I might be in danger of podfading. But I do it for fun, and to promote my writing, which I also do for fun. If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it.

And as far as this blog goes, I'll write it when I feel like it (such as, two posts in as many days, even after a year's break...).

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I've had my MacBook for nearly two weeks, and I'm loving it more and more.

The latest thing I've discovered is with the digital audio out (otherwise known as the headphone socket). I've used the digital audio out on my PC for recording streaming audio (BBC radio's 'listen again' service, for example) onto Minidisc, but my PC has only a coaxial digital output, so I normally use a coax-to-optical converter. This works well, but the recordings have the Sony SCMS (Serial Copy Management System) enabled, and are treated as digital copies, which means I can't make further digital copies from them. This is annoying, and inevitably leads to an additional analogue stage if the recordings need to be copied off Minidisc onto CD, for instance.

The MacBook, however, has TosLink audio jacks, so I can connect an optical cable directly between the MacBook and the Minidisc, and it appears that the recordings have SCMS disabled, so they are entirely DRM-free! Not only that, but plugging in the TosLink cable disables the MacBook's volume control, setting it to maximum, so I don't even have to remember to turn it up.

Needless to say, I'll be using the MacBook for all my future 'streaming audio to Minidisc' recordings.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Despite my previous concern over the unavailability of Universal versions of some of the software I'm used to, it seems that the problem is solved (after fashion, and for the time being). The latest PowerPC version of OpenOffice appears to run satisfactorily under Rosetta. Not fast, but adequate until the Universal version is stable and reliable.

So I do, after all, have compatibility with all my previous documents -- which is a relief, considering that this shiny new MacBook, for all its sooper dooper coolness and utility, is supposed to earn its keep with mundane stuff like wordprocessing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

It's arrived!

I now have a shiny new white MacBook. So far I've used it only in my kitchen, connected wirelessly to the router I bought a month or so ago specifically with the prospect of a new notebook in mind. The MacBook's wireless performance is impressive, picking up half a dozen networks I'd never seen before.

The screen appears extremely sharp, making my cheap 17" TFT look decidedly woolly, and even my 19" CRT now seems a bit furry.

I've been downloading software updates, as well as some other free and open source software I expect to be using. I gather that the Intel versions of DivX and other plugins for QuickTime are a bit iffy, so for the time being I'll be using VLC for playing AVI files.

I have hit a problem. My preferred office software, OpenOffice, isn't available as a Universal Binary in stable form yet, and I've discovered that the alternative, NeoOffice, won't run under Rosetta. For word-processing only, I've downloaded AbiWord, but the two times I've tried to use it (under Rosetta), it's bombed out. Not good.

That's how far I've got, in one-and-a-half evenings. More later.

I've had other delights as well...
...but you'll have to read my other blog to find out about that.