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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hot editing

Today is hot with a strong Nor'west wind ... it swings down off the Alps and assaults our house like the wolf that 'huffs and puffs' (maybe I am really a piggy?).

Anyway, it's far too hot to be outside (it's too hot to be inside too) but I have manged to finish editing the eleventh scene of "Past Life". Just another seventy odd to go. Sigh. So far that's added another 1k words and I am sure to add a few new scenes as well, so the word count is creeping up, even as extraneous text is deleted. 'More but tighter' is the dictum of the moment.

My next scene is where the reader gets their first introduction to a computer character. This is where things get difficult - the character needs to be a bit 'thin' and at the same time have qualities that the reader can relate too. Lots of head scratching coming up there, I think.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

China Ocean Shipping Company

At home my window overlooks the foothills of the Southern Alps. I love the view. At work, I look out on a rail yard. Right now they are loading containers onto a train of flat beds. There's a whole row of containers with "COSCO" stenciled on the side.

I Google "COSCO"; the "China Ocean Shipping Company". Their site says that "Every day, we manage the flow of cargoes, funds and information". Rail yard ... contaners ... from China ...


It was three in the morning. Sam Williams walked the rows of containers as he did six nights a week; every week. He liked nights. A man could be King of Everything at night. All these containers, the high fenced rail yard in which they stood, it was his kingdom. At nights.

Once, while wandering the alleys between the three story stacks of steel, he had tried to count the containers. But had lost track when some stupid cat had dashed out in front of him and made him start. Now he just told Elen that there were thousands of them and that the place felt like a graveyard at night.

That wasn't quite true: Graveyards were frighteningly silent at night. Once he had walked through one; the silence had sucked at his soul as though it wanted to drain the life from his body - to have him join the graveyard ghosts. Sam shuddered at the thought. Among the containers though, every footfall echoed back from the steel walls giving him an audible assurance of his substance.

Tonight there was another sound. Sam stopped. It seemed to come from high up; from one of the containers. He inched quietly down the row towards the sound; expecting to find one of the local cats. But now he could hear voices; Oriental voices. Instinctively Sam firmed his grip on the shaft of the Maglight that he carried, but the black shadow was too quick. It fell on him silently, wire slicing through his throat. Sam fell to the ground; life draining from his body.

There was more rustling before three black shadows ran from the containers and the place fell silent. As silent as a grave yard.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Two books at Christmas

It's the holiday season so I ran down to the other end of the book life cycle and became a reader for a few days. One book, I found interesting, but not particularly enjoyable, the other enthralling.

Patricia Highsmith - "Nothing that meets the eye" - a collection of short stories. I haven't finished reading this one yet; it's split into two parts; some of her early stories and some of her later ones. I've read ten of the stories so far.

The good: I enjoy her descriptive style and her use of language. She certainly knows how to create image and I came away thinking that I had probably not plumed the depth of the literary allusions she created. Culture and time differences would have made some of them rather opaque.

The bad: I came away from all ten stories feeling dissatisfied. The sting in the tail (if it existed) always seemed so weak and feeble. Usually the story just petered out in some entirely foreseeable way. Certainly not what I was taught a good short story should be. I may not bother to read the other stories.

Leif Enger - "Peace Like a River". This book blew me away. It is Leif Enger's first novel and it is utterly readable with an ending that completely ambushed me. The story is written from the PoV of an eleven year old boy (Ruben) and is set in the 1960's. His elder brother (Davey) kills two town bullies and goes on the run. Ruben's father, Ruben, and his younger sister (Sweed) set out to look for Davey, traveling through Dakota in the middle of winter. Also searching is a Federal Marshal (Andreeson) and its a race to see who finds Davey first. A simple story at its heart, but one with so many different layers and twists that it ranks as one of those rare books that, having read it, one comes away feeling totally satisfied.

Lief Enger certainly knows how to cook up a good story and if you've not read it yet, then I highly recommend it.

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