Saturday, 31 March 2012

Image conscious? Must try harder!

New specs, hair just done - the only problem was, photographing myself on a mobile phone.  Note to self: need decent photo for publicity.  Must speak nicely to son or work out how to take self-portraits on digital SLR.  I could do it on the old 35mm, but of course, that's old hat now.

Okay - time to ensure my Highland Society talk fits the PowerPoint that I prepared earlier.  'Scuse me!

Friday, 30 March 2012

And sometimes life has a way of stopping you in your tracks


By yesterday afternoon, I couldn't decide if I was a consumptive Victorian heroine or a moth which had got too close to the flame.  All I knew was that I felt ghastly and was either severely post-viral or plain burnt-out.  So Dr Clever-Clogs made her apologies at work and sidled, coughing, off home to bed, not perchance to dream, but at least to drift in and out of sleep for a few hours.  My symptoms perplexed the GP this morning, but I've coughed less today, so maybe I'm on the mend, regardless.


How is the book revision going?, I hear you ask.  Isn't that the purpose of this blog?  You're absolutely right.  I confess I've spent rather a lot of 'spare' time preparing lecture notes this week.  And I did deliver the lecture to a select few (two) yesterday morning!  It's a bit disconcerting to find your 'lecture' could have been a tutorial.

This weekend, I have to revise a talk for the Glasgow Highland Club, play for a wedding, two church services and a Palm Sunday concert.  Nonetheless, if I can find a chunk of time for book revision, I shall put it to good use.  Just one more chapter and the appendices and bibliography, then I've been right through it once.  Which I had intended to achieve by 2nd April, so I'm not far out.

Beautiful descant and treble
Oh, I did do one useful small task before my lecture yesterday: I listed as many potentially-interested organisations as I could, for the publisher's publicity team.  Their author's pack mentions something about this, so I decided to start my list.  I'm sure I will think of more, but at least there's now the beginning of a list on a page in my jotter.

Right.  I'm going to practise musical examples on my new recorders, which are getting their inaugural outing at the Glasgow Highland Club lecture.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

And sometimes life gets in the way

The Absent Author

I'm in my PJs already, because a guy's 2-litre Coke bottle exploded over me at the Asda checkout earlier this evening.  Serious Authors aren't supposed to get worked up about petty annoyances.  Indeed, I can play 'Johnie Cope' with even more gusto as I fume over the irritations of a rather chaotic day, but today has been exceptionally irritating.

I coughed and spluttered my way through the 9-5, wondering if I was turning into a consumptive Victorian heroine through reading too much contemporary literature.  Pale and interesting, I felt lousy, but at least my coughing hadn't cracked any ribs like one of my Twitter associates.

Probably because I felt rotten, I chuntered more than usual over the minor annoyances that occur in any office environment.  Leaving the building, I found some solace in the magnificent daffs and tulips in the border outside our city-centre premises.

And suffered verbal abuse on the way home, from an aerosol-snorting junkie reclining on the subway seat this evening, who impressively managed to haul himself upright to start begging for 'ny spare chaynge' a mere ten inches from my face.  Far too close for comfort, and I declined firmly.  No knights in shining armour on the subway - they all just sat there in their suits, pretending it wasn't happening as the guy hurled insults at me.  I got off at the next stop.  Yuck.  Reported him, then got back on the next train, and annoyed my nearest and dearest by being late home.  I can't win!

Then there was the Coca-Cola fountain at the checkout.  I think I've had enough of today.  I'll print out my handouts, now I'm stocked up with ink again, and then I'll declare the day over.  There will be no revision of my final chapter tonight.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

No ink, and I twirl to a halt like a child's spinning top

It has been another evening of lecture preparation.  I compiled a list of "Databases for detailed music queries".  And found notes for a previous lecture, which I plundered and rearranged.  Finalised the powerpoint and got that printed out.  Decided which musical examples to play on the piano.

And then, and then.  No more black ink, oh bother.  

Worse, I know Beethoven's 'Johnie Cope' [sic] may not have been one of those he did for George Thomson, but I don't have details of where it did originate.  I'll have to check.

 Spinning top

As I commented to a friend just now, it's tricky being one thing full-time all day, then being something else at night.  Librarian turns lecturer/author.  No wonder I'm twirling!

Monday, 26 March 2012

The author speaks

Book deadline - but even closer lecture deadline!

Ritson - Scotish Songs
Despite having a deadline for my book submission, I have other pressing engagements with their own deadlines.  This evening was devoted to devising a PowerPoint for Lecture 3 in my series on Scottish music for Strathclyde University's music students.  This one's about eighteenth century Scottish music. The nice thing about lecturing is that it keeps the basic subject matter fresh in one's mind.  And whatever you think about PowerPoint, I 'm grateful that it enables me to speak without holding a sheaf of notes in my hand - that's a definite advantage.  (I did try devising Prezi presentations some months ago, but I couldn't get to grips with zooming in, out and across the screen without lurching like a seasick landlubber.)

The database geek

This evening, I was also reminded how very much I appreciate  If you have access to it, search for Jig and Stumpie - an audio clip of a couple of bagpipe tunes from Joseph and Patrick McDonald's Highland Vocal Airs.  Great fun!

McDonald - Jig and Stumpie
Now, all I need are a couple more examples to play, and Bob's my uncle.  Let's see ...

* Scottish Cultural Resource Access Network

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Writer's Weekend

Edinburgh Uni - no musical ghosts
 I sought my imaginary friends at every turn on my walk between Edinburgh Waverley and the Uni Library on Friday.  No trace of them. My Victorian Scots music collectors are shy of modern technology.  Ah, well.

After an early night, Saturday dawned.  Time for some author maintenance - a trip to the optician in the morning, and a concert at night.  Hairdresser booked for next weekend, so I'll be presentable for my Glasgow Highland Club engagement to talk about Alexander Campbell's Hebridean tour.

The clocks went forward today, which prompted a search for "Up in the morning early" ("Up in the morning's no' for me", otherwise known as "Cauld blaws the wind frae north to south").  A few tweets later and I had a link to Concerto Caledonia's rendition, which is fabulous.

This afternoon, I had to write a book review for the Library Review journal.  Not so much an avoidance tactic for my own book, as a necessity, if I wanted to make the deadline.  Ah, the bliss of a clear conscience!  But mine will be the book being reviewed, this time next year, and that will be a strange feeling. 

My new friend Daniel, the French cartographer, has drawn a lovely map for my book; the images are on order from the Uni Library; and I just need to send a link to my editor for the image that WAS going to be on the cover but is now going to be inside.  Things are making progress.  Exciting!

POSTSCRIPT.  I resolved to get a chapter revised tonight, and promised myself to put in a bit of practice with my new recorders prior to the Alexander Campbell show. Such are the 'best-made plans of mice and men' (crikey, I nearly footnoted that!; must reference my sources), that I have reached 22.13 and I cannot think another coherent thought tonight.  I think I've addressed everything I need to address in Chapter 7, but I really need to go over it one more time. But not this time!  No recorders, either - it's too late.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Victorian Scots eluded me today

Edinburgh today
This has happened before.  I go to Edinburgh for a librarianship event, and my Victorian ghosts promptly turn on their heels and run away from me.  I don't think they like the thought of computers and technology...

More pictures tomorrow.  My brain is fried.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Author's grand plan: ambitions and reality


I suppose I might have guessed that drawing up a plan at the New Year was probably tempting fate, but readers of this blog will concede that I was, in fact, ahead of schedule at times.  Until two completely different situations intervened: I was offered the opportunity to do some lecturing (over and above the librarian 9-5 day-job); and we were smitten by man-flu.  Two weeks for the spouse and two boys, and now ten days for me.  And I simply couldn't resist the lecturing opportunity, so I now had five lectures to prepare for, the first two whilst the house was consumed by man-flu.


In the weeks between 5 March and 2 April, I'd planned to revise chapters 6-8 and the bibliography.  (And, by implication, my appendices, though I omitted to list them back in January!)  The idea was that I'd then have four weeks in hand for double-checking footnotes and other footery details (that's a Scottish word), and possibly be able to submit the manuscript early.

Four weeks for three chapters and a bibliography.  But - here I am two and a half weeks through the four, and I've revised ONE chapter.  In my own defence, I've sourced all my images, filled in licence applications, and now got a great free map from the lovely French cartographer Daniel at D-maps.
Things could certainly be worse.

Well, here I am with eleven days left on my self-imposed schedule.  I did make a start on revising Chapter 7 this morning, before delivering Lecture no.2.  I just have to strengthen my resolve to get on with it over the weekend.


Oh yes, and I forgot to mention - there's one conference paper to write, one to revise, the Alexander Campbell show to run through, and the possibility of re-running it a couple more times for a couple of other groups.  Yikes!  A "can-do" attitude can lead to overload!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Truly professional writer

 A website?!

I think, when Writing Magazine tells me to have a proper website, they probably don't mean a work-in-progress report by blog.  A real professional website for yours truly?  I never imagined I'd come to this.  Perhaps I'll wait until I've submitted the revised manuscript to Ashgate before I take that next step, though.

Our Ancient National Airs

So, where were we before I succumbed to the Man-flu? Ah, yes - the quest for images and a map.  Well, there's small progress on both fronts.  Remember I found a fabulous image for the cover?  I've now asked for a quote for a licence to use it INSIDE the book rather than outside.   As for the map - friends did their best to help, but the best suggestion came from the map department at Glasgow University Library.  I'm now liaising with a French cartographer.  Watch this space, on both counts.  We're getting closer to solutions.

 Developing a voice: lecturing

Feeling as though I'm drowning slightly,  my head bobs above water again now I've got tomorrow's Scottish music lecture finalised.  The second of five.  It was actually the one I was most bothered about, but I think it'll pass muster.  An overview of Scottish music in 55 minutes?  Sure, I can do that, musical examples and all.

And that leaves me half an hour or so to start thinking about Chapter 7 revisions.  Look at me, I'm airborne!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Lecture 2: An Overview of Scottish Music in 60 minutes

Well, that's my excuse for another night of no revisions!  What did I do for my book this evening? Well, I did send an email ...

Tomorrow night is GOING to be revisions night, though!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Not really being dilatory

I devoted several days to surviving a humdinger of a cold, and no revision has taken place.  (I didn't think any words I strung together would have any sparkle whatsoever!)  However, I am getting closer to having a map for my book - essential if readers outside of Scotland are to understand where my song-collectors lived!

I've also given the first of five lectures on Scottish music, and tonight finalised the PowerPoint and my examples for the second one.  A few annotations still to write, but not for the PowerPoint, so all's well so far.

Tomorrow?  Source the score for a Robert Carver mass at work; write the annotations at night; annotate a map for my new contact the cartographer; and start seriously looking at Chapter 7.

Yes - definitely progress.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Weekend ahead!

Who else gets their supermarket run AND laundry up-to-date on a Friday night, so they can afford the time to feel ill over the weekend?

But in my case, I have to buck my ideas up because I want to revise a chapter of Our Ancient National Airs, and write a lecture, not to mention doing a book review.  (Actually, the book review has a certain appeal - you can curl up under a blanket with a book, especially a skinny book that won't take long to read.)

Oh, and Small-Fry needs to get his specs adjusted after being assaulted by a stray volleyball in the school gym.  So that needs fitting in, too.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The cost of an image

James Simpson's flute collection
It's been an image-conscious day again.  Composing a PowerPoint for a lecture this evening, I had several images to insert.  Luckily, no permissions were needed for nearly 200 year old manuscripts from our own collection. I'm sharing one of them with you here.

Unlike the 207 year old image I want for my book cover.  Sob!  I've now been quoted a price.  Oh, I'll pay it: I like the image so much that I feel it's worth it.  I just need my editor's approval before I flex my flexible friend! No, don't ask! I'm not going to show anyone that until it appears on my book cover!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A wedding dress? Or a book cover?

Rising Prices

Okay, it was 25 years ago, and it was a wedding on a budget.  I didn't have a wedding dress as such - it was a very nice cream dress, but it wasn't a wedding dress.

Still, I've just applied for a licence to use a black and white image from 1805, as cover title for my book - and there's the possibility it may cost more than I paid for that dress.  As I said in last night's posting, 'Do I look better in this? Or that?'

Incidentally, I've still got the dress.  It's a neater fit now, but I can still wear it. (Should I give it an airing for the book-launch?!)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Conveying the RIGHT image

Last night, I selected a number of images from the Scran database (one of my favourite databases, I might add) - then showed them to artistic Son no.2 for his considered opinion.  We ended up with seven possibilities for my book cover.

'Do I look better in this?  Or in that?'

This evening, I cyberifically twirled and pirouetted my images with SuperSpouse.  We ended up with the first picture I'd found yesterday: a couple enjoying domestic music-making at the pianoforte in 1805.  Tomorrow I have to write the permissions request, and some time after that, I'll find out if I can afford to use it! 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Image conscious author

Off I trotted to the University Library today.  A whole day's annual leave, and the chance to be just one person for the day - an author.  (It was odd being just a visitor to the library, rather than a postgrad.)

Boy, did I work hard?!  I was calling up all my old imaginary friends' books, and examining them for usable images.  Then filling in the application forms for images to be made.  One double-sided form per image - it took ages.  But then again, the whole point is (a) to save me the effort of trying to make really top-quality images myself, and (b), because I don't actually have access to the images for most of them in any case.  No choice, then.

After that, I attended a presentation at a workshop on metaphors and stuff.  A bit of an eye-opener, that.  They're codifying millions of metaphors.  I've codified tunes in the past.  But I'm not codifying my natural metaphors in the same way, when it comes to early nineteenth century Celtic song-collecting.  Who would have thought there were so many different ways of looking at metaphors?  I suppose I might have guessed; after all, we look at music in so many different ways.  And I loved hearing different speakers talking about words.  They were good with words themselves.

Fleetingly home again, I fed the remaining teen (one's at uni, and the next one was out and about), then took him for his music lesson.  (I was so tired I fell asleep waiting in the car for him.)

And then back to searching Scran for images.  I'm down to a shortlist of half-a-dozen for the cover image.  I haven't yet found a nice simple, early 19th century pen-and-ink or etched map of the Western Isles, but I'll search Scran before I look further.  Anyone of your acquaintance specialise in old maps?

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Author takes a night off in search of fresh inspiration

I went and heard our Scottish music students' concert this evening.  Having polished off a chapter last night, I felt I deserved an evening off.  And it was lovely - just what I needed.  One of the singers helped me out with sung examples in a lecture a couple of years ago.  Her voice was good then - how it has matured, though!  Wow.

Quite apart from having a couple more chapters, appendices and a bibliography to check, my pressing concerns now are visual ones: I need images, and a contemporary map.  I'm coming round to thinking that it'll be easier to pay for them than try to take digital photos and spend ages attempting to become an image expert.  I do words - that's my speciality!

Then there's going to be the indexing.  Apart from the mechanics of indexing a pdf (with some detailed instructions provided), it's not too daunting apart from the sheer size of the thing.  Ah well.  Librarians are used to repetitive tasks - I should be okay there!

I also want to start thinking where to advertise this book.  Yes, the publishers do it.  But any suggestions I can give, will be useful.  Any conferences, magazines, journals ... any ideas, anyone?  Promoting a book on Scottish song-collecting?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

With a hop, skip and a jump, Chapter 6 was briskly dusted down

That was quite straightforward.  After the effort of inserting material for a new Chapter 5, and heavily revising it, I can hardly believe that I've spent an evening on Chapter 6 and can consider it revised. To be brutally honest, it's a perfectly sound and worthy chapter, but it wasn't as much fun as its predecessor.  Minstrels and metaphors are more engaging than commentary on commentaries!

Anyway, that makes me 209 pages down, 104 to go.  Exactly two-thirds of the way through.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Minstrels and bards finally put to bed

 Our Ancient National Airs
by Karen E. McAulay

Chapter 5 is revised and polished to within an inch of its life.  Time to move on.  I have two months (eight weeks - yikes!) in which to get the rest of the book manuscript all tidy and shipshape.  Three more chapters, appendices, bibliography, images, a map! (where am I to find a copyright-free map?  Anyone know any good old maps?) ... oh, golly.

Must keep my eyes on the horizon - a book on Scottish song-collecting, with my name on it.  Ah, the excitement of it all!

Ah, alchemy!

Why, you might ask, would a musicologist get interested in the practice of alchemy?  Not that I've got the test-tubes out ... but if my SONG collectors allude to it, then presumably it's to convey a sense of antiquity, the 'times of yore' and all that.  In metaphorical terms, alchemy as vehicle, and antiquity as ground.

from, with thanks
I was merely rearranging subsections in Chapter 5 (it's okay - I promised myself I would move onto Chapter 6 tomorrow, and I shall!), when I realised that alchemical references appeared in another quotation as well as the ones I'd identified earlier.  Plainly this meant I had to clump the references together - and find something a bit more profound to say about them.

You know, the rest of today looks busy.  Morning worship (I'm an organist) - then finish with Chapter 5. Additionally, start drafting the outline for a series of lectures, and get my bag packed for tomorrow's music librarianship London meeting.  And all the while, the siren voices of my True Imaginary Friends are niggling at the back of my mind:-  

Come back to us, think about us, we've got more to tell you yet ...