Buena Aitutaki Social Club

The Cook Islands were wet. We had rain on most days, but only one whole day and a couple of afternoons were completely washed out. We sunbathed during the bright bits and snorkelled in the rain. The latter (the swimming, not the rain), at the tiny atoll of Aitutaki, was outstanding – giant clams, big fish, clear water. There was music too – a fabulous little acoustic band called The Sunrays.

The Sunrays in full flow…

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The book is finished; time to work on the book

Fourteen chapters of The Truffle Book were emailed to my editor, the very excellent NZ literary heavyweight Mike Bradstock, this afternoon. He will no doubt dissect it and tell me that large chunks are tripe and need to be re-written, and I will meekly do as he says. Well, perhaps not meekly.

For a few weeks I shall cease to be a writer. My magical transformation into designer, scanner operator and production manager is about to begin – but a little later than I had envisaged. My scanner of choice, the Nikon LS 5000, is out of stock in NZ, and I won’t get one until the end of April. Irritating, but unavoidable, and not disastrous, given that two weeks in April are being given up to holidays: the Cook Islands. In the meantime there’s the NZ Truffle Association conference to get organised, and a book to design.

A deep sigh of relief has been heaved. Now what shall I write next?

Behind schedule, but on target

The word count for The Truffle Book has been ratcheting up steadily over the last five weeks, and I’m well within sight of my 40,000 word target. Today, however, I took a step backwards. I cut a huge chunk out of one chapter because I’m in severe danger of overshooting that target. I cut 2,500 words, but then wrote 1,000 so the net loss wasn’t too dramatic. It was mainly undigested notes pasted in, so not a great loss.

My style is hardly terse, in fact it’s rather discursive (but not flowery, heaven forbid), so my editor will be able to trim some fat, but if I go too far over the top the page count of the book will go up, costs will rise, and that’ll either put pressure on my margins or the finished price of the paper book. Not a problem for the pdf version, except perhaps for bandwidth issues. Quality words only from here on in.

I’m two weeks over my original schedule for finishing the text, so hitting my early May target for publication is now unlikely, but I don’t care (much). It’s such a relief to be making significant progress, and I have a feeling that some of the stuff is not too bad. Makes me smile, anyway.

I’m beginning to think about pictures and illustrations. I’m planning to buy a 35mm slide scanner to handle all my slides (there are quite a few from all over Europe and NZ, and buying a scanner is near enough the same price as having the scans done professionally), but I still need to source others. Another bridge to cross (in due course).

The final countdown

The wordcount of The Truffle Book (see column on the right) has just ratcheted up a few hundred words. I’m a little over a third of the way to my target word-count of 40,000 carefully chosen and finely honed words. Words that can then go to a suitable editor for a second opinion.

Smile in Christchurch

Brian’s antipodean tour reaches the parts other bands often don’t.

I was all set to start saving up for a trip to see Brian Wilson performing SMiLe at the Sydney Opera House in December, when – by something not far short of a miracle – I learned he was going to turn up in Christchurch on December 17th in the Town Hall. Fabulous. You may expect a review in due course.


Somebody’s beaten me to The Truffle Book!

I’m sorry if you’re offended by the word “bugger”. It’s an everyday part of the language down here, thanks in no small part to an amusing TV ad for a farm vehicle. It is also a precise expression of my frustration at discovering that someone else has beaten me to the use of The Truffle Book as a title. Now I’ll have to think of something else, and the carefully cultivated uniformity of my book titles has been destroyed.

Perhaps I’ll call it something pretentious like Truffle: From Tree To Table, or just Truffles. Anybody got any ideas?

[Update: 9/1/08] I took no notice, and published anyway.

Brian Wilson and Smile

On Tuesday I called in to Radar Records in Christchurch. I left with the new Elvis Costello CD and the remarkable new Nick Cave double, but I didn’t get my paws on Smile. Yesterday, as I passed the record store in our local mall I heard a faintly familiar fragment, and diverted rapidly inside. Smile was looking up at me from the “now playing” pile, so it was immediately purchased. It has been on various players ever since. In fact I’m ripping it to the iPod as I write.

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The (late) Truffle Book

The Truffle Book is a work in progress. Very slow progress. I’m writing this entry as a warm-up to writing about the chemical constituents of truffle aroma, about half way through chapter three. If I make any serious inroads on that chapter, then the word count in the column on the right will ratchet up a little more. This blog is a way of publicly committing myself to getting the thing written and published, and as long as blogging doesn’t replace real work, we’ll be OK. I hope.
In 1999 I wrote The Olive Book, intended as a guide to growing olives in the southern hemisphere. It was the book I’d wanted to read when establishing the olive grove at Limestone Hills, and because olive growing has become fashionable in Australia and New Zealand, it’s sold reasonably well. We’re not talking big numbers here, because there aren’t that many olive growers around, but I still get an occasional royalty cheque.

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