Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Travels in Xanadu-du: The Book, it has Landed!

I know most of you are desperate to know about the progress of my novel, Travels in Xanadu-du. Not least because some of you have actually paid good, hard cash money to get a hold of a copy. Only a month late, I am pleased to announce that it is shipping! Not without glitches, of course. Life would be so boring if everything went to plan, now wouldn't it? The plan was that the printers would make a big pile of books. The bulk of these would be shipped to Liverpool where my publisher is based, and ten copies would be delivered to me in sunny Madrid to do with whatever I like. Hmm. Some bugger got it wrong. The doorbell rang at about noon today, and the nice (but sweaty) young man from UPS delivered box upon box of books into our micro-piso (if you've been following the plot, you'll know that we live in the world's smallest flat, but we love it because it's right in the middle of Madrid).

I've seen my name in print many times. But to stack up a bunch of books like this, well; it's a bit unusual.

So, I spent the afternoon printing shipping notes and address labels, printing and signing maps of Xanadu-du, signing the books themselves, and then packing up the pre-ordered books and taking them to the Post Office to wave goodbye to them. Please take note: no author that you've ever heard of went to such great lengths to keep his punters happy!

Actually, this cock-up didn't work out too badly: we saved a good old British pound on postage to the UAE. But we gained an extra one on postage to the UK.

Until the current stock is exhausted, you can get your book signed and personally taken to the Post Office by the author, and a signed colour map if I feel like it. So get on over to Xanadu-du, and place your order NOW!!!

I love you all.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Hard Rock To Close in Three Months

Apparently the land that the Hard Rock Café stands on has been sold to somebody who wants to build a skyscraper, and we know how desperately Dubai needs more of those. So yet another Dubai landmark will be pulled down. There's a Facebook Group. As I remarked on there:

What a shock! I remember when HRC was first built, and I thought 'what a crap location'. Now it's in the heart of New Dubai. I think I left Dubai at the right time: the powers that be have no idea how to build a city: they only know how to build buildings (well, some of them know how to build buildings). But cities are about much more than the buildings that they are made of: they're about soul and culture and character. Dammit.

Anyone can join this group: I wouldn't expect it to make a difference, but it would be nice to think that the authorities do take a bit of notice. Not that the evidence bears this out, of course: the Exiles and Country Club gone, Satwa and Safa Park under threat. Surely there must come a point where you stop throwing away the good stuff that you have and replacing it with tacky and soulless rubbish? Oh, sorry, this is Dubai.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Travels in Xanadu-du

Aaargh. We've had a couple of weeks of completely unexpected delay in the production of my wonderful novel. Firstly, I thought I had uploaded the files to the printer's website. There was no obvious way to verify this, so I emailed my 'client services representative', who ignored me for a few days and finally, after a whole wasted week, said the files had not been received by them, and explained the completely impossible-to-find way to find out what the situation is on their (absolutely bloody horrible) website. Marvlious.

So I uploaded the files again, and after a three-day wait the pre-flight crew in the US complained about 'multiple missing fonts'. We're talking about PDF files here, and standard practice when creaing PDFs is to embed any unusual fonts, but not to embed things like Arial or Times New Roman which are present on every PC and have direct equivalents on Macs, Linux boxes, etc. So these #$%#$^ in the US were quibbling about the absence of Arial and Times New Roman. Arial is actually used in the headers of the bookblock, but TNR appears nowhere. Anyhow, I had to produce and upload another file for the bookblock, and force the embedding of these common-as-muck fonts, and then wait another three days while they got around to opening it. Finally: two days ago the status was 'printing'. Yesterday, the status was 'shipped'.

Hopefully I will receive the proof copy tomorrow or the day after. If it's ok I can order the initial print run and fulfill the pre-orders that we have. So those of you who have not yet ordered your copy: the special offer of a full-colour map of Xanadu-du, signed by moi, still stands, but only until the point where the book goes into production. So get thee over to the Xanadu-du website and place thy order.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Carnage On Sheikh Zayed Road

Driving on SZR always used to give me the willies, even in clear weather. Driving on it in fog had me turning religious and hoping there actually was a God who was listening to my prayers. Because the sad fact is that 99% of people on that road have no clue whatsoever about how you should drive in fog. This morning there has been absolute carnage on SZR. Accurate figures are yet to arrive, but we can say at least six dead, 300 injured, and 200 cars trashed. In one out of about five incidents. This is completely insane. Nobody seems to know or understand why this happened. I hate to be a smart-arse, but this is why it happened: they were going too fucking fast.


Gulf News gives some tips for driving in fog. Not bad, not wrong, but they missed the absolute crucial point. It's all to do with visibility and stopping distance. The GN article says 'slow down'. This needs to be expanded upon. What it should say is 'slow down so that you are confident that you can stop within the range of your visibility'. In dense fog, this can mean that you are travelling at 10 kmph. Or less. But it means that if you suddenly encounter a pile of 200 blazing wrecks, emerging out of the fog 6 metres ahead of you, you will be able to stop or avoid becoming wreck #201. It also means, of course, that there's a good strong chance of some other moron hitting you from behind. The only consolation is that they might be in the outer lanes while you are sticking to the inside one. If you possibly have the option: don't drive in fog.

Let me get really boring and repeat: if you can only see 10 metres ahead of you, you should not be travelling so fast that you cannot stop within, say, eight metres. Got it? Your car is probably no longer than 2.5 or 3 metres long. To be able to stop in such a short distance, you should be crawling at less than 10 kmph (166 metres per minute). And forget about being late for work. You are going to be late for work. And so is your boss and so are your colleagues. You will not score any Brownie points for beating them. Especially if you are dead.

The point is that in seriously thick fog, you must think like this: can I stop within the bounds of the wall of fog I see before me? If you don't think you can, SLOW DOWN!

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