Author loses one plot, two vowels and three consonants

There’s much rejoicing here at Downie Towers over the news that the lovely Stuart (a Man who Can) will shortly be giving the blog a face-lift. l will thus be able to concentrate all of my muttering and cursing on Book Seven, which has reached that special stage where plot and author appear to be heading in opposite directions.

As Paul Theroux once observed, the writing of fiction is a messy and mysterious process. And, it seems, one that involves principally the letters I, O, L, M and N. At least, I think that’s what they were.

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8 thoughts on “Author loses one plot, two vowels and three consonants

  1. Being also a professional writer (of a completely different kind, alas), I’m all too familiar with your keyboard problem. In the old days, keyboards were better made, but these days the keytops are usually just painted on, and the commonly-used keys start to fade after a few months. My current solution is a Logitech illuminated keyboard. I don’t need the backlighting, but illuminated keytops can’t be just painted on: they’re inherently more durable. This one is now two and a half years old, and none of the keytops looks at all faded.

    1. Now that’s a thought – an external keyboard. You’re right: the letters, being painted on, were bound to fade. Presumably we’re supposed to have memorised their positions before they vanish.

  2. If you’ll decide to buy an external keyboard, think about old Compaq. I bought mine in 2003 and it still have all symbols visible and works fine despite several coffee and tea adventures. They have old ps/2 connector, don’t know you have proper port in your laptop (it’s round, about six mm diameter and should be purple). There are plenty of them on ebay, try to search “compaq RT101”, “Compaq 235496-301” or “compaq RT6656TW” (probably there are more magical numbers for these indestructible devices).

    1. Thanks Pawel – that’s a useful thought, especially as I now realise we have an old keyboard here. Now all I need is the connector to join them up, which I’m sure we also have, er, somewhere…

  3. heh. keyboards.

    my wife, a far bigger computer geek than i will ever be, cut her typing touch on IBM selectrics and as such has been rather uncompromising about keyboards. she absolutely can hammer the keys at roughly 130 wpm and thus you would think she goes through them at a prodigious rate…but no. she’s basically had three keyboards since 1981.

    the first was a ibm pc/xt keyboard she bought along with her first PC in 1982. all told, it cost her $8000. she kept the check and framed it. adjusted for inflation, this would be $21000 in todays money – she pretty much pinched every penny she could throughout college to get there. even more impressive was the fact that she earned all the money back within a few short years (and then some.)

    by the time we met, the computer had been replaced several times over. the keyboard stayed. and no, none of the keys ever wore off.

    in the early 1990s, bowing to the glacial trends in keyboard design, her venerable xt was replaced by a gateway 2000 anykey. now, the anykey is an almost mythical beast among keyboard aficionados and she loved hers with a red-hot passion. i had a few myself in the ’90s and there really was much to love. i still occasionally amaze my gaming friends bragging about their amazing mechanical-switch gaming keyboards with macro capability by saying ‘hey, i had that some 20 years ago!’

    of course, the DOS interface to program those macros was pretty much masochism, but i don’t talk about that.

    as it became apparent that allyson wasn’t going to move from her anykey to a more keyboard (‘why would i use a keyboard with keys i don’t want or need?’ was a common response), i dutifully sourced some spare parts, gutted my own 2 anykeys for repairs and generally just kept it going as best i could.

    but even though it was retired for the first time in 2010, none of the keys had ever worn off.

    it was retired for that miracle of modern keyboarding, the wireless keyboard. i had long moved on to a string of microsoft-made wireless keyboards (using one right now, in fact) much to the delight of my afore mentioned gaming friends (‘real gamers use corded keyboards’) who found my reasoning that having a keyboard you can move when your cat demands your undivided attention to be the source of much mirth. i just thought of it as very practical (allyson agrees with me. we love our cats.)

    so yeah, she rubbed her first key off in about 4 weeks. within 6 months the keyboard looked like one of those specialist keyboards that have no signage on the keycaps at all. and yes, the anykey was un-retired for another 2 years.

    it still has all it’s keycaps intact.

    we moved (for hopefully the last time) in late 2012 and as i was going through my big box of computer parts from bygone years, looking for stuff to keep and stuff to donate, i found my last corded keyboard, a backlit razer gaming keyboard. somehow, she had never seen it during it’s heyday of late, late, late night world of warcraft sessions where it provided the sole illumination. but when she noticed the ethereal blue (her favorite color) glow in the dark, she was smitten. the keyboard has some usb ports and a goodly amount of heft to it (gaming keyboards must remain stationary even when the user is ready to throw the occasional tantrum!)

    long story short, she filched my keyboard. i told her if the keys would wear out, chances are W, A, S and D would go first.

    two years later and all keycaps (and keys!) are still going strong.

    too long, didn’t read version: a older mechanical keyboard (if you can find one for a reasonable price on a place like ebay — i wouldn’t count on it, actually) are awesome. they were built to last forever and ever. but modern backlit keyboards are usually awesome too!

    even shorter version: what the above posters said is so, so true!

    (obligatory reason for coming by: just finished re-reading semper fidelius and just bought tabula rasa. loved every book in the series so far and am hoping for many more! thanks!)

    1. Oh Kurt, that takes me back! Those IBM interchangeable golfballs… we were at the cutting edge of technology, tho’ sadly I never got near 130 wpm. Well, not in any recognisable language. I can’t remember what our first computer cost but I can remember how terrified I felt at the thought that we might break it.

      It is of course entirely reasonable to have a keyboard you can move out of the way when the cat decides to sit there. As is carrying a large collection of antique computer bits and pieces from one home to the next because you might need them one day. Although I realise now that scattering them randomly about in various drawers and boxes all over the house was probably a mistake…

      Glad you’re enjoying the books! Sometimes it’s nice to escape into a world where no document can travel faster than a horse.

      1. allyson’s collection of interchangeable golfballs, ca. 10 minutes ago:

        we used her selectric (her high school savings paid for it — a long while before i came along) well into the last decade. for the longest time, there really was no better thing to create quick labels for stuff like VHS tapes and bric-a-brac jars with!

        my cat, frodo, in his preferred attention-grabbing spot (note the missing keyboard), ca. 2 weeks ago:

        (if anyone has to ask, i didn’t name him. he was actually my best friends cat. but he decided that he liked me better. and ultimately, i rather like frodo’s name. it suits him!)

        this is frodo’s preferred sleeping spot, ca. just about anytime:

        roughly 1 meter to my right. atop my DVR box (can’t really blame him — the always-on nature of said gizmo insures that this is likely the warmest spot in the room at any given time. cats like warm places!)

        my apologies for the cobwebs. my office/mancave/gamer den/book repository rarely sees a dust wand because manly man that i am, i’ve chosen to suffer dust and spiders in stoic obliviousness (fancy way of saying i’m lazy and allyson told me it’s my room, i can clean it myself.)

        welp, i’ve propagated the internet with more pictures of cats. my job here is done! 🙂

      2. Well I’m with you on the cat business, Kurt, but you can keep the spiders. The best thing about our latest feline acquisition is that she eats them. Or rather, bits of them… oh dear, I don’t even want to think about it!

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