Dawn over Cellardyke

Dawn sky over Cellardyke

While you were asleep (probably, if you live in the UK) I was up early (05:45) and working on the final few edits and corrections to the first draft of the Teach Yourself Mahjong book which landed on my doorstep about a fortnight ago. So far I’ve only spotted about 15 corrections, which is not bad going.

As I read and pondered, composed sentences and rattled my fingers around on the computer keyboard, outside the sky gently turned from a deep black to this spectrum of reds, oranges and blues. I’m going to miss this view when we move to our new house next month; I’m going to miss hanging out of the Velux window in the roof at pointlessly-early o’clock taking pictures of the sea at dawn. Enjoy it now while you can.

The book is finished!

Finished book manuscript awaiting posting.

At last, I’m done — and I’m fairly done in too! — the book manuscript is finished and awaiting posting.

For those of you who may not know, since May I’ve been working on writing an update to the Hodder Education book Teach Yourself Mahjong. The original author, Mr David Pritchard, sadly died at the end of last year, and Hodder approached me in the Spring to work on the proposed 3rd edition.

Having read through the last edition, and thoroughly absorbed Mr Pritchard’s wishes for the revised edition, I set about compiling a list of all the updates and edits that I felt needed to be made. In the end my list contained 77 required edits, which meant anything from simple requests like “change the words ‘Chapter 11’ to ‘Chaper 12′” to “that illustration is upside down, please turn it the right way round” to writing completely new chapters.

I’ve written two new chapters: one on the new (as of 1998, which is fairly new in the context of a game that is around 130 years old) Chinese Official International Rules and mahjong on computers and the internet.

And all I need to do now is post the lot (all 1.7 Kg) to the publisher. As well as the original manuscript, which I’ve marked-up, there are also print-outs of the two new chapters, plus a print-out of the new manuscript (edits and all) as well as a CD-ROM with the whole shebang in electronic format.

And then I wait to see if what I wrote was good enough / will be included / isn’t littered with errors* (*delete as applicable). In the meantime, can I have my life back now please…?

The write place

Laptop, mug and papers sitting on a kitchen table.

God is good. I know that I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably get a load of comments claiming that God is good anyway regardless of the lovely things he does for Jane and I, and I quite agree … BUT, I’ll say it again: God is good. And this is why:

Way back in 2004 when we were looking for a house to buy Jane managed to convince me that it was a good idea to invest in a house with these words: “it could be somewhere that you could go to write”.

That was it: done. That was all it took to convince me, and a few months later we collected the keys to our wee holiday cottage, which we later named Kadesh, and sadly I’ve actually done very little writing there to be honest. I’ve done a lot of drilling, and a lot of painting, but very little writing. Until this week.

Last Friday we were expecting a family from Italy to come and stay the following day; they were booked up and everything™. And then with only 24 hours notice we received a telephone call from Interhome, our European holiday cottage booking agency, to say that they had cancelled. One member of the party had sadly been rushed into hospital. (I’m not sure if they were ‘rushed’ but it certainly made that last sentence sound more dramatic, didn’t it.)

So, while we may have been £1,000 the poorer this past fortnight, I have had somewhere in which to ensconce myself to finally finish my mahjong book. Like an estranged couple Jane has spent her evenings in the Toft Terrace house, while I’ve been holed up in George Street (next door) with no landline, no mobile phone reception, and no WiFi internet connection to distract me. As Dave Gorman so insightfully put it: the internet contains everything in the world ever, and I don’t know about you but I find everything in the world ever somewhat distracting. I quite agree.

And it has worked! This week I’ve been the most productive I’ve been on this project. I’ve suddenly found my rhythm, the words have been flowing, and all of a sudden my head is clear: I know what I should be writing and how I should write it. It is all coming together nicely. It’s amazing what a holiday and rest and the right environment does for you! I think that was part of the trouble: I was just exhausted, not having had break since February.

And at last I’m writing in my Writing House. “Kadesh” is a Hebrew word that means a holy place, a place set apart. That’s exactly what it’s been for me this week. It has been an oasis, a safe place, a sanctuary.

So what have I learned this week? That God is good. God has blessed us so much with the provision of our wee house. That God gives us space when we need it. Even if it means that random Italian strangers have to fall ill to provide that space*.

(* I’m not entirely sure about that last bit!!)

All good things come to those who wait…

Here’s an exclusive preview of what I’ve done on the mahjong book so far:

An open book with blank pages.

I’m going to call the book A Writer’s Block Tribute to Mahjong.

Only kidding, but I do wish that I had more energy. As much as I’m enjoying the discipline and new rhythm to life, this ‘proper job’ 9-5 routine is rather tiring. It’s either that or something to do with my not having had a break since February, when we visited the lovely Steve and Cath in London Town.

The last few undocumented-by-blog days have been very productive and very exciting, albeit very hot. My office has a couple of 15 ft windows that don’t open, and no fans. I’m half tempted to go and work in the server room next door, which has air conditioning to keep the shiny, flashing boxes cool.

In terms of work, this week has been really quite exciting, and our work-load is set to increase even more. I wish I could say more about what we’ve been up to than I can.

What I can say is that this week, like most weeks, has been spent working on both the big picture of what is to come in the website redesign (we’ve now estimated that we have around 10,000 pages to somehow squeeze into the new site!) while also working on smaller redesign projects as interim stages towards the Brave New World. I won’t say any more, but will wait until it’s all done and launched and then you can see for yourselves. Patience… patience…! All good things come to those who wait, and all that.

In the meantime, I’m off for some sleep, and to read this interview with Steve Lawson. I’m back up at 06:00 to do some more writing.

Books, football and evictions

Footballers huddled on a pitch.
France once again scrum down on the 22, deciding whom to evict from the team. Or something.

One of the worst things about trying to write a book during the World Cup is that the World Cup is on. I know it’s a bit of a circular argument, but it will make much more sense when I also say that Big Brother is on too.

Needless to say that once Sunday is over and France have successfully won the Big Shiny Gold Thing of Football™ I’ll be able to concentrate more fully on writing about Mahjong.

Except that Big Brother will still be on. Until about August 2090. Probably.