Did we get lucky?


With apologies for the long gap between posts, here’s a little music for Christmas. Mark Knopfler performs his song Get Lucky, in which the last verse is relevant. It’s not a bad song, either…

Time to ring some changes

Making things happen on the web (for me, at least) usually involves a few steps forward, a glass of wine, a step backwards, another glass of wine, then… what was it I was doing? But today, it being damp in the Waipara Valley, I have been trying to stay focussed and deliver a new version of the Limestone Hills web site. Not only was the old one incredibly out of date — still announcing our first truffle as if it was news — but events leading up to the publication of my next book (now retitled The Aviator) have made me rethink our web presence. So…

Limestone Hills is now built on WordPress, and the blog has given up its “blog” subdomain to find a home in the main site. Over the next week or two, I’ll be installing a small web store to handle sales of books (physical and digital), using Paypal to handle credit card processing rather than the manual process I’ve been using up to now. The empty home page and all the others will be populated with text and pictures, and there will be a lot of tweaking of sidebars and gadgets until I’m happy with the way it looks.

The Aviator will be launched in August, and already has its own Facebook page, plus a brand new blog ((Three blogs I’m running. I must be mad.)) which will record events in The Burning World. On The Farm will be for truffles, food, wine, farm, family and musing, and over at Hot Topic I’ll continue covering climate science and policy news as humanity sets about delivering a burning world for all our tomorrows.

In other web-related news, the Limestone Hills Facebook page has been seeing good traffic this truffle season, and is worth a follow if you want to know what we’re up to.

Now, where did I put that glass of wine?

[Richard Thompson]

You say it’s your birthday…

[vimeo 11237479 w=480]

It’s not my birthday too (yeah), but it was Paul McCartney’s 70th yesterday, and a friend on Facebook pointed me at this rather wonderful recreation of most of the second side of Abbey Road by New York tribute band The Fab Faux by way of celebration. Take twenty minutes out of your day and enjoy it in all its glory…

[oldfogeymode] I pre-ordered Abbey Road from a record shop in Tonbridge, and picked my copy up on the day it was released (September 26th, 1969). It got played rather a lot, and was the soundtrack to more than a few formative experiences… [/oldfogeymode]

On delivering a second draft

For the two and a half people who come here with some sort of regularity: big news. I have finished the second draft of my next book, a work of speculative fiction ((Which I usually describe as a science fiction comedy adventure satire. Others might prefer cli-fi, or climate fiction.)) with the working title of Lemmy, or Around The World By Airship. Since I announced the project over two years ago, I have been setting and missing any number of deadlines for its completion. The last few weeks have been spent rejigging and restructuring the book based on a preliminary read-through by my editor, the estimable Lorain Day. It’s been a bit like doing a cross between a jigsaw puzzle and a crossword puzzle, trying to make a Jackson Pollock into a Van Gogh, and now I leave the text — all 112,594 words of it — to Lorain’s tender mercies. A copy of the draft is also in the hands of the artist who will do the cover, the very wonderful Dylan Horrocks, who has, I think, only agreed to do it because there are airships involved ((Specifically, a very hi-tech and intelligent airship.)).

With luck and a following wind, I hope to publish Lemmy in a couple of months. It will be an ebook, available worldwide through Amazon for Kindles, and through everyone else for iPads, Kobos, Nooks, Sony Readers, iPhones and the rest. Or you’ll be able to buy it direct from me, if I can finally work out how to install a little web store on this site. Paper copies of Lemmy will be available soon after through print on demand services. More on the publication plans as they firm up over the next few weeks.

Being the first part of the next book

I promised at Christmas that I would make an early draft of the intro and first chapter of my next book available here at the end of January. That deadline slipped a little (no surprises there), and I haven’t finished the first chapter, but here’s a draft of an introduction. Working title is Lemmy, final title unknown. By way of experiment, you can hear me read it here. I used the iPhone Audioboo app, so there are a few stumbles, little polish.

Beyond revealing that I stole the basic idea from a bloke called Swift, I’m not going to go into more detail about the rest of the book because it hasn’t been written yet, and much might change. I added a whole new voice today, for example. My intention at the moment is to make the finished story available as a low cost ebook and print-on-demand paperback. When is a good question. Do not hold your breath.

Time of the season

I ride the farm bike (four wheels, a buggered exhaust so it roars rather than purrs) round the vineyard several times a day at the moment, in the hope that this will deter voracious avian thieves from feasting on my crop. Last year, they reduced a tonne to 300kg, but this year (fingers duly crossed) a number of large vineyards down the valley seem to be intent on providing fodder, and so the flocks of starlings and waxeyes haven’t yet come this far upstream. And if they do, I have a shotgun waiting. To scare them, of course, though four and twenty blackbirds might very well make a nice pie. A lot of feathers to pluck, though. We have also acquired a pheasant in the vineyard to go with the quail that parade across our lawn. I haven’t got the heart to shoot either…

Grape news: We plan to bottle The Faultline’s first vintage this weekend, and harvest the next the following week. The pinot will be first, with the syrah a week or ten days later. Meanwhile, Peg’s nose is going to start hunting for Burgundy truffles, and I will be checking for saffron milk caps at regular intervals (none yet – but we have had some very nice birch boletes from my father-in-law’s lawn and a giant puffball from a grassy bank in Rangiora).

Book news: Hot Topic has made the shortlist for the Royal Society of New Zealand’s first Science Book Prize. Richard Dawkins will announce the winner at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival on May 15th. I have many minor appendages crossed.

Google Book Search, Amazon etc

Time for a bit of book marketing. A little while ago, I submitted The Truffle Book to Google’s Book Search feature. The full text of the book is searchable (here), and you can read relevant pages (scanned in from the pdf edition). Although the whole book is available, you can only read about 20% at any one time — which seems like a sensible limit to me. After all, the pdf edition isn’t exactly expensive — NZ$15 is about US$9.40 or £5.10 — and I would like to make a profit on the exercise.

Meanwhile, my US and UK distributors have put the book on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. If you’ve read the book and enjoyed it, how about contributing a reader review? Or putting it on your wish list? You might suggest a friend buys a copy there, just to push the sales rank up a bit.

UK readers can also purchase the book from Truffle UK (who recently sold quite a few copies at the Chelsea Flower Show, and have a nice congrats message on their homepage). I suspect they also had a substantial hand in getting the book plugged by gardening writer Bunny Guinness in The Sunday Telegraph back in June (not available at the Telegraph website (yet?):


Not exactly a review, but a firm recommendation… and sorry about the pic alignments going wonky. I’m struggling with the Flint css… Mark?

Winosandfoodies like truffles…

Good reviews are always welcome, especially when they’re by someone who knows whereof they write. So thanks, Barbara at winosandfoodies.com for taking the time to read the book and post so nicely about it. She ploughed through the PDF edition in about a day, which shows great determination!

Don’t open the tin, Barbara…

Listen here

Here’s the link [2010: now broken] for the Radio New Zealand archive of Saturday’s Kim Hill show. It seemed to go well. If you wonder why there’s a brief diversion into Welsh vocabulary in the middle, it’s because one of her earlier guests (physicist Paul Callaghan) was discussing colour, and opined that the Welsh had no word for green. He was wrong. The stream will be available for four weeks (Windows Media Player required).

On the radio

I‘m being interviewed by Kim Hill — New Zealand’s finest radio host — on her Saturday morning show on National Radio this week. Unless the schedule changes at the last minute, I’m due on at about 11-20am, after the regular food spot. You can listen to a live stream from the RNZ site (go to one of the links above and click on the Audio box in the top left of the page header), and the interview should be hosted on the RNZ site for four weeks afterwards. I’ll post a link when I have one.