Friday, 2 December 2011

Windows 7, anyone?

By Peter Stuart Smith (AKA Max Adams, James Barrington, James Becker, Philip Berenson and Jack Steel)

I'm in something of a state of limbo at the moment, in the unusual position of not having a deadline looming. I've delivered the pre-edited manuscript of the next 'James Becker' book to Transworld, and so there's nothing else I can do until the editor gets back to me with his comments and any feedback from professional readers. My next deadline isn't until next year, when I'm scheduled to deliver the second Simon & Schuster novel in mid-February. I know that actually that's only about ten weeks away, but because it's next year, it still feels somehow distant.
            That book, like the first in the 'Jack Steel' series, The Titanic Secret, is written against a background of real events, which makes the book both easier and more difficult to write at the same time. It’s easier, because I have a fixed series of real-world occurrences which in themselves will dictate the timescale and the major events to form the basic plotline, but more difficult because I have to weave my story around these fixed points, which cannot be moved in any way – the date, the place, and the events themselves have to be described exactly as they took place. The good news is that I'm already about a third of the way through the first draft, and I should have the book finished by about the end of January, which will give me roughly two weeks to hack it about and knock it into some kind of shape.
            And then, I think, I'll have about six months to write the third book for Simon & Schuster, title and subject entirely undecided at the moment, and by that time I will also be working on the next Transworld novel, so the middle of 2012 is probably going to be quite a busy time.
            As regular readers of this blog will know, the fourth 'James Becker' novel – The Nosferatu Scroll – was released as a mass-market paperback late in November, and the initial sales figures look pretty good. In fact, there's already talk of a reprint being ordered, which is good news.
            I'm also tinkering away with another couple of ideas, just in case I have any spare time. One is non-fiction, but concerns a subject which seems to have become rather less popular over the last few years, so that might be quite difficult to sell. But precisely because it's non-fiction, I don't have to write the entire book before my agent can begin offering it to publishers: a detailed synopsis and an example chapter should be enough to see if there's any interest out there.
            The second idea is pure escapism: a new field, with new characters and, almost inevitably, a new nom de plume. But that's a lot more work, because I'll need to complete the first novel in the series and have a pretty good idea of where the rest of the books are going to be heading before my agent can try and sell it.
            And, of course, I have to be sure that I can find the time to write them.
In this regard, I seem to be actively hindered by Microsoft. A few months ago I purchased a brand new laptop, a Hewlett Packard Pavilion which offered remarkable value for money and a very high specification: a fast quad core processor, a 750GB hard disk, 6GB of RAM, USB 3, fingerprint reader and all the rest. It came as standard with Windows 7 Home Premium, and that seems to be the problem. It's better than Vista, but almost anything is better than Vista, and it's certainly not anything like as good as Windows XP.
The particular problem I'm facing is that almost every time I change to a different application – when I open a browser to check something on the Internet, for example – the operating system hangs and displays the irritating message 'Not responding' next to the name of the new application. That state of affairs can last for anything from a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes, and as everyone who uses a computer knows, two minutes spent staring at a frozen screen can seem like an eternity.
            I've trawled the Internet looking for fixes, and there doesn't seem to be one, despite the huge number of sites and blogs that deal with the issue, so I presume it's something I'm just going to have to live with until Windows 8 arrives sometime next year. Assuming, of course, that the new operating system will be an improvement on the old one, which is not something you can take for granted when Microsoft is involved.
            In the meantime, has anybody got any ideas?

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