Thursday, 30 October 2008

Spaced Out

Look. You know about this Authonomy website for aspiring writers, yes? I'm on it, and so is Alexander McNabb, Mr Fake Plastic Souks. He's a great writer, and he's got this really great, outrageously funny book called Space. For the last two or three weeks it has been in the Top 5 of the Editor's Desk. This means you get a proper review from a HarperCollins editor, and maybe even a publishing contract. But only if you're in the Top 5 at midnight tomorrow (31st Oct).

Here's the thing: Space has just slipped down to number 6. So, all you literaties, glitteraties and arty-farties, get along to, and have a read. If you like it (and how could you not?), do a very quick sign-up and put it on your bookshelf (the link that says 'Back The Book').

While you're at it, you could do the same thing for Tybalt & Theo, by a slightly more modest author.

Thank youse.

Winter in Madrid

Winter arrived with a vengeance yesterday. At approximately 4.40 in the afternoon. MamaDuck had arrived home from work at 4pm, and reported the weather to be fairly pleasant. I arrived home from shopping at 5pm, absolutely chilled to the bone. Horrible, it was.

Northern Spain has had snow overnight, and forecast temperatures for Madrid for the next five days don't get higher than 10°C, and go down as low as 2°C. Brrr.

So this is definitely Cocido season. Cocido Madrileño is a wondrous thing: soup and stew, all in one. Warming, filling, and almost healthy (it contains all major food groups except chocolate), it's absolutely perfect for lunch or dinner on a cold winter's day. Basically, it's a big ole stew. It contains scrag-end of unnamed meat, big lumps of fat, chorizo, morcilla (black pudding), potato, carrot, onion and cabbage, and loads of garbanzos (chick peas). There could also be a chicken in there. These are all stewed together for a few hours, and then some of the stock is drained off. You cook up some noodles in this stock, and serve it as the first course. And then you serve the meat and veg as the main course.

I've had it several times as a menu del dia, and usually been disappointed, mainly because the main course is bone dry, and I likes a bit o' gravy with me dinner. I had one today though, and it was very nearly perfect. They bring you a bowl with some cooked noodles in it, and an earthenware jug that contains everything else: you decide how much liquid you want with each bit of the meal.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

A Damn Fine Movie

We went to see 'Burn After Reading' last night. It's the latest Coen brothers film, and I'm always up for watching their work. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovitch and Frances McDormand (the lady cop from 'Fargo') are the leads.

What a funny movie this is. We were completely baffled by the first half hour or so, but the story grew, the script got funnier, and, well, just go see it!

We saw it in English with Spanish subtitles. There's a lot of profanity in the film, so I learned a lot of new Spanish words from the subtitles.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Leaving The Dark Side

I suspect that my laptop, this one here, which I've had for almost three years, is not very well. It's jam-packed with junk, data, and probably some malware. Nothing that a good ole reformat wouldn't fix, but I'm not prepared to do that.

MamaDuck, who ocassionally uses this heap of poo, has suggested that I should think about replacing it. So, I thought about it yesterday. And what I thought was, 'I'll leave the Dark Side. I want a Mac.

Meaning, I am sick and tired of PCs that don't work properly, I'm sick unto death of Micro$oft. I will get me a MacBook. This is not an easy decision for me: I've used PCs for over 20 years, and all my software is for PCs. But MacBooks have Intel chips in 'em now, and they can run Windoze and Windoze software.

I had the pleasure of using a MacBook for half a day when I was in England in August, and I was really impressed. My friend who owned it said he bought it on Ebay.

I'm not really clued up about Ebay - it didn't really work in Dubai, and I think it barely works in Spain. So I had a look on, and found a machine that I was interested in. And then I tried to sign up. Of course when I put my country in, it sent me to, all in Spanish, and only offering goods for sale in Spain. Poo.

Not to worry, got in touch with my baby in the UK, and he can handle it from there. I have to say, he's an expert Ebay user - he even buys baked beans and cheese there.

So this ultra-high-spec MacBook was going for about 360 quid, but the auction finished about an hour ago. I was prepared to go to 550, but we weren't going to bid until the last minute. In the last hour, my potential bid was bust. It had already gone up to 600. In the end it went for 720.

No matter, I've found a couple more. One auction expires tomorrow afternoon. I'll keep you posted about how we get on.

UPDATE: 22nd October. Got one yesterday. Having watched 3 auctions, I realised that my bid for the spec I wanted was too low. Finally bagged it for 721 squid. More than I wanted to pay, but not at all bad considering it's only a month old, and about 3 times faster than my current lappy. Also has 2 gigs of RAM.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Tybalt & Theo

Here it is, then. The beginnings of my new book, Tybalt & Theo.

Here's the blurb:

Theo has just lost his bank 97 million pounds. The global finance industry is in meltdown. He thinks he is going to lose his job, one way or the other. A chance accident sends him hurtling towards certain death at Newgate Underground station, but when he wakes up, he finds himself very much alive, in Newgate Gaol. In 1608.

Meanwhile, Tybalt finds himself propelled forward from 1608 into a world he cannot understand. He discovers the dubious delights of fast food, appears on stage at the Globe and fails to find his good friend Will Shakspere.

Here's the cover:

And here's where you can read the first 10,000-odd words.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

I Be Writing Again

Ever since I finished writing 'Travels in Xanadu-du', 15 months ago, there's been a bit of a hole in my life. I'm grateful to those of you who actually bought it, but clearly it hasn't reached the market it's intended for (and it is a bit wierd, and not without its problems, I'd be the first to admit).

A little over a month ago, publishers HarperCollins launched a website called Authonomy. This is a website where aspiring authors can showcase their wares and get valuable feedback on it. And if they are insanely lucky, can have it reviewed by HC editors and ermm, maybe, just maybe, published.

I've been hanging out there quite a lot, and so has my buddy Alexander McNabb (well, I say he's my buddy, for some bizarre reason we never actually met while I was in Dubai, but, you know). Alexander's excellent book 'Space' is currently at number 9 in the Authonomy chart. Which is just incredible because I'm pretty sure it's being supported by real people, not just his nearest and dearest.

I digress.

I've been wanting to write more since my first book, but suffering from an ideas drought. I've also been pretty busy with the real work.

Yesterday, I sat down with the deliberate intention of thinking up an idea for a novel. I closed my eyes, relaxed a bit, and bang! There it was. I scribbled down a plot outline and then began to write. Yesterday I produced 1432 words, and today I gave it a full day and produced 3902 (a full-length novel is between 80,00 and 120,000 words). And I am still laughing my socks off. 

Here's the thing that thrilled me, the thing that I had almost forgotten. Once you start writing a piece of fiction, there is almost nothing you can do to stop your characters from making it up as they go along. They just do stupid stuff, follow the path that they want to follow, and all you have have do is write down what they do and what they say. It's exhilarating!

But I think I've learned a few things from the previous book and certainly learned stuff from the Authonomy website, so I reckon the new book is gonna be a corker!

I'll be boring you rigid with this, you mark my words.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Wakey Wakey!

I was up unusually early this morning, so I got to see this:

Friday, 3 October 2008

Well I Never

If anyone had asked me how Madrid ranks in size of European cities, I'd have guessed about tenth. And I'd have been wrong. I only mention this because MamaDuck read something on the topic a few days ago. In fact, Madrid is Europe's third-largest city.

London is number one, obviously, followed by Berlin. But what about Paris? Surely that's the second-biggest? Mais non, it's fifth, with just a bit over 2 million peeps.

Here's the full top 100, and it contains lots of surprises. I should point out that the figures are city administrative areas, not 'greater' or metropolitan areas.

You learn something new every day.