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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

UNFINISHED BUSINESS IN ALGERIA.

I always thought of reading a particular book as unfinished business - the setting happens to be Algeria.
   A billion lifetimes ago, I caught a documentary on the author Albert Camus. Of note was his death in a car crash. Details of the author's doom translate into oddball fiction when dropped onto the page.
   Camus died with a train ticket in his pocket. If he'd boarded that train with his family, he'd have avoided being killed by his publisher.
   Francine Camus took the children through the winter landscape by train. Albert, on the other fateful hand, accepted a lift from his publisher pal.
   Being Scottish, I'd easily avoid this fate - if you spend money on a ticket, you use it and damn any inconvenience that comes your way. The offer of a free lift counts as an inconvenience once you've paid for another trip.
   Life is random. By default, death is random as well. I once avoided a travel-related death by not being in the wrong place at a very wrong time.
   If I'd been there, I couldn't have avoided death. Destruction was guaranteed.
   John Donne observes that death itself is slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men. This goes for the rest of us, too.
   If you risk doom on one form of transport instead of aboard another, which path do you take? At the outset, virtually every journey carries risk. Use the ticket? Accept the lift?
   Camus felt like keeping his publisher company, I suppose. Michel Gallimard didn't long outlive Camus. Nasty wreck.
   The writerly thing that jumps out of this story is the train ticket. And the really writerly thing that leaps from the affair is a snowstorm.
   No, not from the wintry French landscape. Inside the car. All those paper notes. The wreck was littered with dozens of pages from the writer's latest and greatest work - unfinished as he died.
   This documentary touched more upon the finished books, and I was curious about the story of a stranger. Camus set this in Algeria. On the American side of the ocean, that book is The Stranger. 
  

The Outsider. Cover, the Folio Society edition, 2011, illustration copyright Matthew Richardson. 

Conflict with an identical title forced a change to The Outsider on this side of the Atlantic, and that is how I've known the title down the years.
   The book's reputation is one of those awkward beasts. Do I really want to read a story about a cold fish who doesn't respond well to anything around him?
   But it's a classic.
   That label carries little currency. I've tackled a few dud classics in my time. No point naming names. I suspect emotional wear and tear on facing a few classics I've yet to read...
   Every million years I glare at The Whale, and turn away...much as two wedding-guests would hastily shun an ancient mariner.
   I know, from the nautical reputation preceding The Whale, that Mr Melville's weighty tome is a treatise on the inner workings of ceteceans. It also contains a few scenes about sailors.
   To deal with the generalities of the plot, I must wade to the eyebrows in the specificities of the whale itself. Ambergris and baleen are sure to feature.
   Camus died in a car, with a book and a publisher. His death reads now like a strange fiction. And his fiction, The Outsider, plays like fact.
   Eventually, I picked the book up and read the first part. (The book is divided into two sections, for reasons of the plot that I won't spoil here.)
   Would I even care about the uncaring character depicted in the story? I had to set the book's reputation aside and judge for myself, of course.
   And I found a character who observed a great deal. I remembered the line by Christopher Isherwood.

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. 
   
And I thought...no, not quite like that. But in the general area. Isherwood is saying (or waving) Goodbye to Berlin. Camus is remembered through the filter of winter-bare trees on Parisian streets...
   But his story of an outsider burns harshly under an Algerian sun. Long story short, too late, I finished my business with an unread book, and set it up on the shelf between...
   An unread book and an empty space where an unread book once perched. More unfinished business. The missing book was located on that special book storage area...the floor.
   I find it impossible to write about The Outsider without revealing the plot. It's not a barrel of laughs, that's for sure. This is Graham Greene, with all the jokes cut out and more heft in the telling for that.
   Camus. The Outsider. It's a classic.


Monday, 3 July 2017

UNPUBLISHED BLOG POSTS: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

I came in here - and here means Blogger - to publish a blog I'd written up. Then I remembered, that blog post was something I worked on for LATER USE. Couldn't publish it, not just yet.
   And this sent me on a quest to write of something else instead. What, though? I started counting unpublished blogs. There are sixteen unused bullets dotted throughout the list of posts.

*

Why aren't they published?
   Several fall under the category of things I am working on...things I can't talk about just yet. I'd say half a dozen blog posts are in that line of work.
   One is an obituary for Harlan Ellison. It's difficult to publish that sort of item while the old fart is still alive.
   Another is an obituary for a writer who disappeared off the internet, and I was about two weeks from publishing it when, lo, there was a miraculous recovery from death. Awkward.
   Three were about the dreaded Table of Contents, formatting issues with electronic books, and problems with Amazon Kindle. This small series on difficulties with formatting...felt too topical at the time.
   I had the sense that industry-level problems would be overcome in no time at all. And my instinct was right. There might be something worth salvaging from those three blog posts. Something of use in the longer term. But I don't see how to convert the pieces into something coherent. Well. Damn.

*

And that leaves a few isolated blog posts on random topics. Comic books. A singer, and her one song that I liked - leading me to conclude that I'd never buy any of her albums. But that blog post was meant to slide majestically into the subject of writing. And it never quite did.

*

Okay. Why leave these items unpublished on the blog? There's an option to delete. Why not take it?
   Recycling.
   I've gone back to short stories and inflated them to novel-length. Never throw anything away, if you are a writer. That scrappy piece of nonsense might come back...not to taunt you, or haunt you, but to inspire you from out of the depths.
   Obviously, I'm glossing over the novel I shredded. But even with that novel, I made sure to save the one section of it that was halfway decent. And I could still reconstruct the book from memory, with a second stab at that story.
   Recycling. Using the unpublished blog posts in a different way. Even if a blog post is timely and its time comes and goes too quickly to be of use, there might be a kernel in there that adds a crumb or two to a different cake at a later date.
   Don't recycle crumbs that way. I won't be eating out of your kitchen.

*

Life goes on. And it ends. So there'll be an obituary for Harlan Ellison one day. It's not a piece of writing that praises him, just so you know.
   OVERLY-LITIGIOUS OLD GROPER HARLAN ELLISON IS DEAD.
   Just giving you a sense of how that one pans out.

*

Blog posts are sometimes, like this one, slapped down and published. It's important to write things and put them out there as soon as they are written.
   (Though I had to wrestle with a formatting glitch that shrank the first line of each new section, delaying publication by a few minutes. Damn you, Blogger! I was making a point about near-instant publishing, and you tried to steal my coffee.)
   On other occasions, a greater degree of planning is required.
   You force yourself to blog about complex things that haven't happened yet - things that won't happen for AN AGE. And that is one way to force yourself to get those advanced plans seen to.
   Now I must away, into the grey day, to see to those advanced plans.

 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

SHORT FAN-FICTION: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

How short is short fan-fiction? I thought about that, and remembered the Twitter. The Twitter amuses me. It readily accepts coffee in a pure state - coffee with a hashtag.
   I struggle to write coffee in stories without putting a hashtag in there.
   Rarely, I might mention my books on the Twitter. Only rarely, though. Mostly, I Tweet the #coffee, and THE STAR WARS. Sometimes I Tweet both in the same typing breath.
   Does this constitute short fan-fiction? Yes. It does. I rounded up those Tweets and sent them to a coffee shop for cake.
   These altered snippets appear courtesy the Fair Dealing and Fair Use doctrines of copyright law.
   The alteration to Fair Dealing, allowing the inclusion of parody as a category, is a relatively recent addition. Long overdue, and most welcome.













Wednesday, 10 May 2017

HELPING WRITERS WITHOUT HINDERING: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Recently, I helped myself out by refitting the office and turning it back into an office. The workspace gradually deflated around me and turned into a nightmarish place to navigate.
   Salvador Dalí took charge. I sent him to live on Mars. Free holiday. Things are back to abnormal.

*

Even more recently, a writer came to me backstage and asked for help. I offered help. That doesn't mean I helped. It means I offered information that worked for me AT THE TIME.
   Hints, tips, help...
   If these things work for me at the time of asking, you get those things packaged as advice. Business advice on writing changes with the weather, and is not solid. Rely on it while it works...
   Dot dot dot.

*

But I must add this.
   Use the advice that works for you. I may offer formatting advice that is dead and done once Amazon drops support for a particular format. And that is what it is. Time-stamped aid.
   Advice rises and falls with the tide, true.
   When it comes to solid writing advice, your basic solid writing advice is timeless. Put the hours in. Read all kinds of stuff, and do more than just the reading.
   Did I mention coffee?
   When it comes to the writing, do the writing. No shortcuts. Write the bad stuff. Stop writing the bad stuff. Keep going.

*

So what is the advice on giving writing advice? Don't hinder. In giving advice, ask questions. And after giving that advice, ask questions of yourself.
   I hope I avoid hindering writers who come to me for help.

*

Then...another writer put material out there for comment and modification. I went backstage and ran through the manuscript.
   You spot formatting glitches, and gradual inconsistency sneaks in...so you want to nail all that...
   Anyway. Writers actively come to you for help, and you do what you can. Other writers reach out to the whole audience, and if you can help from your seat eight rows back...go for it.
   Though I recommend going backstage, even if you are at a public event. A professional approach stands more chance of getting through to a truly busy person.
   I was thanked for my hints and tips. My views. But I asked a load of questions in reaching the point at which I decided to offer those views.
   We all steer our submarines through the murk of the internet. It's better to up-periscope and take bearings...than to lie on the bottom of the sea, running out of air.

*

Also, did I mention coffee?
   The alternative is tea, if you'd rather secure your caffeine intake without relying on the taste of coffee.
   And there's chocolate. Coffee. Chocolate. These things will aid your writing. Your superpower is storytelling, and your secret origin is being exposed to magical levels of coffee and chocolate.
   I don't give advice on superhero costumes. Me? I'm with Edna Mode. No capes, dahling.


  

Sunday, 2 April 2017

REFITTING THE OFFICE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

One more book came into the house...
   And the house snapped.
   Valiantly, I held both halves of the house together with grit, determination, and Elastoplast. I'd say don't try this at home, but, it's a house thing, so...

*

I speak of reaching the limit. Saturation. No more room for books, and certainly no more room for bookcases. This time, I brought a book into the house and read it immediately.
   If I misremember correctly, I'm (barely) maintaining my pace of reading a book a week.
   Anyway...I was done. No more room. And I needed more room. It was just (barely) possible to refit the office and come away with more room at the end of the ordeal.
   If I planned it right.
   Planning. What does that mean? It means that, out of all the tools in the toolkit, the tool I keep handiest for handiwork is the tape. It's within reach as I type.
   I don't think about moving a bookcase without reaching for that tape. Moving a bookcase means shifting the books off it: shifting the books to SOMEWHERE ELSE - a mythical place.
   The monoliths close in. To shift a bookcase I must first move another bookcase deeper into the room. Twelve other items shuffle around the floor before I'm ready for that phase.
   Bookcases that move with books in them - ah, those are rare birds. I think twenty steps ahead, and I am five steps behind. Each of those five steps is a fatal flaw waiting to pounce.
   Apply the old rule.

*

The space you'll need most is the space you just obliterated with the heavy object. Now the heavy object can't come out to play. Find a new space. In another country. That's the closest space free, now.

*

I repaired a few world-weary bookcases.
   Hundreds of books marched off shelves. Space disappeared. Every night, Prometheus recovered from the morning's eagle attack. His liver regenerated.
   Every night, I played Frankenstein, and regenerated the computer. It had to go. Then it had to return. Ah, the joy/misery of plugging cables in, and hoping for the best. Ritual sacrifices to the great god Komputie staved off the horror.

*

And so it went, for a time Beyond Time. Until...
   Nay, I dare not speak of it. For...as I write this blog, I'm not quite finished. I knew I had to print a few letters out, so I managed the feat. Then I cut my printer off from my computer in an act of bravery that was really an act of stupidity in thin disguise.

*

Here I sit, after countless days, waiting for one more extension cable to arrive. But it's...mostly done. What did I wreck? A little space, but that loss of a little space is AWFUL.
   Yes, I gained a great deal of floorspace. But I had to sacrifice four feet of space on the very top of two now-awkward bookcases. With all that repositioning, it's not safe to return tall books to the highest spots if they aren't backed by walls.
   It's true. I reached for that awful solution.
   Thou Shalt Not...project bookcases into the room. For that way, and it is written, that way madness lies. Bookcases now surround the screen I'm staring at. I've created a cubbyhole for writing in.
   Now, more than ever, my office IS the library. Everything shifted back to the other end of the room in a move that I never saw coming. That's because I looked the other way, denying that I really had to do SOMETHING about this office.
   Matches and petrol cans weren't going to cut it.

*

Now I have a book problem that runs exactly four feet long. A solution will present itself. I'm certainly not going looking for one.
   It was enough for me to save the office by refitting it and making it so much easier to cross in a hurry. (Or even slowly.)
   Refitting took too long. And I haven't the energy to recount the heroic deeds behind saving the jumbo extension cord. There's no scope for investigating the odd little piece of broken plastic that's clearly sheared off SOMETHING.
   But what, though...what?!
   Cables snake everywhere. I think of the word snake as...that's the technical term for the plastic monster that devours all the other cables and makes the place 3% tidier. Is a cable snake poisonous? Why would you eat one?

*

My thinking was elegant in closed-minded simplicity. I'll never have to refit the entire office again. So they said, in whispers. They lied to me! New equipment ran in, and demanded space. I cut a deal, moving shelves with the speed of a tortoise on its day off.
   Bookcases, bookcases, bookcases. All out, a bit like the tide. And most back in. It's true to say I retired an awkward rolltop bookcase to...another place...
   And a few cupboard doors had to go, to squeeze that extra drop of space out of the new arrangements. I pensioned off a picture that could still hang on the wall...but that's inviting trouble.

*

Inevitably, I am done rearranging shelves. Really done with it. I knew I had to get on with the job and accept that dismal fate. You put it off with a bit of tinkering here or a spot of adjusting there.
   Eventually you know there's no way around it. That's because it's towering above you, and you foolishly moved a companion bookcase into its path. But you do what you can to squeeze by.
   If I didn't have hundreds of hardbacks on those shelves, I'd have hundreds and hundreds of paperbacks. Yes, I have hundreds and hundreds of paperbacks anyway.
   I know. No more books. I have four feet of books to squirrel away, and only prestidigitation will do the trick. Or digitisation. In this electronic age, that amounts to much the same thing.

   

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

CLEARING SHELVES: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Enter the swirl. Here's the whirlpool. This is how it works...
   I buy books and stack them on shelves. Then I clear shelves. I don't take the books off those shelves.
   No.
   I take them off the shelves, read the books, and return them to those shelves.
   But.
   I am an author. So. I don't keep books on shelves in alphabetical order. Why the fuck would I do that? Books go where they fit. That's the bloody rule.


*

A shelf is cleared when all the books on that shelf are read.
   Enter the swirl. A new book arrives. It won't fit anywhere. I have to remove an old book that can fit anywhere, and put the new book in the vacated space where it'll bloody well squeeze in.
   And this means...
   A shelf, cleared, is suddenly clear no longer. It has a new unread book on the board.


*

Well. Damn.
   I'm reading a book a week. But I am not clearing shelves. New books saw to that problem, down the years. Now I am staring at 22 shelves of hardbacks, and...
   After much reshuffling, reorganisation, the ditching of a cabinet, the transfer of new tomes to the top of three bookcases...
   There are 22 shelves, and one shelf is cleared. Look at that sturdy board. There are 26 books on that cleared shelf, and nothing else will ever fit on it. Nothing. There's no way to reshuffle. Not on that one.
   Now I am staring at the nearest shelf. By coincidence, it contains 26 books. And I've read 25 of those. Closing in on that one last title. I should have it done by the weekend. And the weekend is long-gone by the time this post goes out.



   I turn to the shelf ahead. It houses 23 books, and I've tackled 21 of those.
   Surely, you say...


*

To clear shelves quickly, all I need do is read that one book here, two volumes there, and those three tomes yonder.
   Ah, bless your heart.
   I read what I feel like reading, of course.



   One book down, with that weekend far behind me, means one more shelf is done.
   What did I do next? Did I take the obvious path, and turn to the shelf with two unread books on it? Then the shelf with four unread books on it?
   The obvious path is a thorny one, and there is great resistance on it. Yes, to clear shelves I should read these two books next. Followed by those four.
   But I go where I please, down there in the stacks. That's the whole point.
   My purchasing habits changed. I bought in a stack of dozens of books in a sale and munched through them. Only to buy another huge stack of books in a second sale.
   And I never recovered from that. My rule of reading the book that comes into the house when it comes into the house...that rule warped and shattered under the deluge of paper.
   Well, purchasing habits changed. No more calamitous sales like that. This means I am making progress, one tome at a time. It's nice to clear shelves. But it is far better to read books in no particular order. Or in the illusion of order.
   No more bookshelves? And no more books? No more massive sales - cursed blessings, all.
   My hardback reading deficit hovers around 150 - yes, three years at a book a week. I knock it down in one year, and then it sneaks back up on me the next. Paperback books intervene, taking up time, deflecting the weekly consumption of the hardbacks.
   But I am getting there, this time.
   There's also the small matter of finishing hardbacks in series. But that is a small matter. I polished off one trilogy in January. Clearing shelves isn't about clearing shelves. It's about reading books. The stacks, seen from a distance, don't create a path.
   It's a mosaic.
   Also, quite hard to see at a distance. Walls get in the way. That's a technical thing.









   

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

THE ADVENTURE OF THE SEVENTH BOOKCASE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.


Six bookcases danced to my tune. The seventh pretended to caper, and stabbed me in the back. I booked myself into a corner. No paint required.
   In a futile attempt to gain more space, I decided that moving seven bookcases in a long slow swirl down the drain was just the thing. And so it proved. The thing. Often, I return to the thorny problem of space. And just as often, I tell myself…
   Well, this is it. I’ve reached saturation. When there’s no more room in halls, the books will walk the Earth. (Thank you, G. Romero.)
   This time, it all felt different. I wasn’t making space for more bookcases. No. I was simply making more space. Storage units ebbed and flowed. I’d removed the maze of (budget) metal frames long back, and placed larger, sturdier, more expensive monoliths in their stead.
   Quite right, too.
   Now I KNOW I’ve reached saturation, and there really isn’t room for more bookcases unless I do something INSANE. That way, madness lies. Obviously.


What could I do?
   If I moved this bookcase out, I could move an identical-sized bookcase in. Wait. What?
   I’d gained a bookcase that was almost the same size as another two monoliths. Bookhenge grew around me. The only problem with this late addition was a loose top shelf. And that lone problem was a major one.
   Solution. Replace it with an identically-sized bookcase that definitely fits in the vacated space.
   Bookcase one and case two went with little difficulty. In the case of a borderline case, always employ the scholarly approach: wing it. That case is too large to move, fully-laden. Okay. Lift a few books off, and stack them somewhere. Anywhere.
   Move nowhere near the place you are about to move the bookcase to. That way, lies congestion.
   You’ve moved a few books off shelves. Try swinging the bookcase about its own handy pivot – the bottom left or right corner. No joy? Sensing the boards warping, on the verge of a churning snap or three? Lift more books away.
   Yes, it is easiest of all to empty the bookcase entirely. But then you have no room. ANYWHERE. As a weapon of last resort, shift the offloaded books to another floor. This level of foolishness is known. Well-recorded. It’s not for you, so consider it merely as a non-option of an option. A noption. If you insist on being American, a nope-tion.

*

Of the first six bookshelves, I moved three fully-loaded and three partially-empty. I left the worst until last. This bookshelf was the largest. I had to empty it. Not a tome left. After I scoured the bookcase, I considered removing the adjustable shelves as well.
   No. I thought I’d just barely get away with moving this case intact.
   If you know anything about books and moving bookcases, you’ll know that you don’t even glance at the spine of a book unless you have a tape to hand. I measured everything. Everything. Yes, I’d relocate two framed pictures to accommodate the largest bookshelf. No other way.


Measure, measure, measure.
   And the corner of the bed? Well. I’d be forced to slide the bookcase up over the corner of that bed and…
   That’s where the faint-of-heart cease and desist. Yes, it’s HARDER to move the bed. EASIER to lift the bookcase up and slide it over, pivoting that last case in the process.
   The tape told me the bookcase would definitely slide in there with enough room to spare. Up over the corner of the bed. Around to the left. Forward into its last resting-place. That narrow avenue. We’d park on the left, away at the back. And the bed’s height wouldn’t be a problem. What? Remove the mattress first?
   No. I needed the softness of the mattress to see the deal through.
   Part one. I stood on the bed, and manoeuvred the book-free monolith into position. Sequel. Cautiously, I hefted the bookcase up onto the bed. No difficulty there. Part three. I slid myself around to the left and prepared to draw the shelf alongside me.
   This task belongs to me, and goes by with surprising ease.

*

The whole while, I’m thinking about the last time I bought a bookcase. The last bookcase. Yes, I’d really hit saturation.
   Now I had a problem. The bookcase swivelled around, and I stood ready to drive it home. But I couldn’t do that from the side or the rear. I could only tackle the job from the narrow alley I aimed for. Yes, I had to go ahead of the bookcase.
   Or watch the whole case tip over and head too far down to the ground to land safely.
   I rehearsed that, and struggled to save the case. Save it I did. Close. Then I went in advance of the monolith, and dropped myself into the narrow alley.
   Still not a problem. Two vast cases stacked up against me, held there by a wall. I dragged the third case further and further into the mire. The moment of truth proved to be a lie.


Everything hinged, or rolled, on a curious roller-top bookcase. I had to slide my hefty bookcase right next to it. No go. Wouldn’t budge. The roller-top article didn’t quite stand true. And that mild deviation from right turned the whole scheme wrong. I couldn’t escape the alley, to make the modest correction.
   Damn. I’d bookcased myself into a corner. This was the end. They’d be lucky to find a skeletal hand there, at the dark alley’s edge.
   Surely I hadn’t trapped myself.
   Oh.
   Wiggle room?
   For a worm, yes. Not for a human.

*

Shift the bookcase to the rear of the room. Bring it back a smidgeon. Squeeze. Turn. Squirm. Slump. The bookcase is a ladder leading out of my predicament, but only if I don’t put my weight on it.
   Now I’m in here, it’s impossible to tilt the bookcase so that it mounts the corner of the bed on a return to wide open spaces.
   Can I nudge the roller-top obstacle just long enough to drop this massive jigsaw piece in place?
   No.
   Then can I move the roller-top the other way, forcing it out altogether? Absolutely not.
   Now I juggled, slowly, with the various pieces.
   I felt the heat. There was no heat. I’d turned the heating off, knowing this would be hot work. But I felt the heat. There wasn’t room to remove a jumper.
   Dehydration takes me before hunger, right? Or madness, perhaps. An ill-advised attempt to move the bookcase jumped to the top of that list. DON’T PUNCH ME, bookcase! 



What of the plastic drawers beyond the roller-top? A fingertip struggle ensued. It was barely possible to shift the plastic drawers, in fits, in starts. Yes, I closed off my one avenue of escape by drawing the drawers further out into the alley. Best possible bad move.
   No matter. I was committed, by that stage.
   The plastic drawers slid free. Wiggle room. I pushed the roller-top into the space vacated by the plastic. And then I returned to shunting the bookshelf into its intended spot. Finally, I had space. I staggered from the narrow alley and put everything back.
   That plastic set of drawers went away without a murmur. And the roller-top bumped in, nestling against the seventh bookcase, with ease. What was so hard from one side was a flimsy nothing task from the other side. I survived the adventure of the seventh bookcase.
   What did I learn? In all that time of hefting bookcases, I’ve had narrow squeaks down the years. But this was the narrowest. A shade too slim for my svelte frame to negotiate, the squeak proved squeaky as squeaky could legally be.
   The bookcase went to its doom with a cosmic sense of finality.
   Truly, I have no more room for bookcases. And this means no more books. The old lie, trotted out one last time.
   With bookcases rearranged, I contemplated the ancient sport: clearing a shelf of books. And by that, I mean reading those two books on that shelf. Then that shelf is classed as done. Cleared.
   I gaze at the shelves to my left. On the nearest shelf, two books go unread. Ahead of me, three books, part of a set, sit lost and unloved. And so it goes. If I manage to read a book a week, I’ll be happy.

*

As this blog goes out, one month down, I’ve read two books a week.
   Inevitably, after writing this blog, before posting this blog, I bought one last last last last last LAST lastest of the last bookcase. A small one, that fits just in there. I measured, in advance.
   No more bookcases.


Sunday, 1 January 2017

THE OLD ARCHIVE GAME :A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

It's the first day of a new year, and the archive is four hours from being updated on the cloud.
   That archive is already here on this computer. It's on that external hard drive. I may copy the archive over to yonder dusty laptop lurking behind the main computer.
   Earlier, smaller, archived years sit safe in a fire-resistant safe.
   My published works are all archived on Amazon, where they are for sale.

*

Yes, the best form of archiving for an author is still PUBLICATION.

*

Lessons learned in previous years allowed me to archive with ease this year. No mess, very little fuss, and hardly any blood on the carpet.
   The only problem is...the next archive. Starting afresh, and dropping all the new folders into another new folder. I prepared for that task long ago...
   It's a paste job.
   And yet...each year brings change. Old familiar folders for regular contacts just curl up and flake away in the wind when companies go out of business, say.
   Contacts ebb and flow. A few folders go up automatically. Those people will get to me sooner or later. Some contacts fall into the sketchier category, though.
   May turn up.
   No need to create a folder until that happens. Mentally, you replay a scene from Amélie. This is right at the start of the movie...
   There, in an apartment on the Avenue Trudaine, we see a sad man erase an address from his book of friends. Death creates gaps, of course. But other events take people out of the archives.

*

In ancient times, I'd spend the first day of the year archiving.
   Then things grew more complicated, and I'd check more thoroughly. Days passed. A week went by. I wondered if I'd have the previous year's archive in a fit state come the end of January.
   It isn't about losing data. No. The problem is accidental duplication of data. With slight variation following, to add to the fun. Luckily, I keep that to a minimum now.
   As far as I know.

*

Another year, and another archive put to bed. With large chunks of the archive transferred to the new year's fresh folder, the job is marked off.
   Save your files. And try to avoid mismanagement of those saved files. Write stories. Publish them. Data is robust. And data is fragile. Discuss all you like. But save the discussion in several different places.