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Libraries and Public Lending Right

A guest post by Michael Jecks...

I had the “fun” this week of getting back to administration.

People think it’s a delightful job, being an author. Well, yes it is. How many jobs can you think of where you get paid to daydream? But it does have the unfortunate difficulty that there tends to be no department to deal with expenses, travelling, organising meetings, or writing up marketing briefings, say.

Today I had to write up my Public Lending Right forms for the latest books.

I like libraries - All authors do!

I’m not that inefficient, really. I spent too long working in offices to be all that bad. Still, it does distract me when I have other work to do. I get confused when confronted by forms.

Recently Greig, the delightful marketer for Cult Pens, sent me a table to look at. It contained a set of details about when certain blog posts were scheduled to be published. That was great - except I couldn’t look at them. I don’t have a spreadsheet software package.

Back in the 1980s, I was one of the first people in the country to play with spreadsheets. I had an Apple IIe, and on that I had Supercalc. Since I had been a student actuary, I could understand tables with really very complex calculations. But I did suffer from not understanding how the hell you programmed a computer. My only experience of programming had been with an ICL/Honeywell mixed system at university that depended on punch-cards to program. I invariably went through many cards before escaping the dreaded response “Bad command/syntax: failed.” And then I’d usually get the ruddy computer into a semi-suicidal loop until an intelligent Chinese gentleman could come and liberate it. In fact the only part of my university degree which I passed was computing, because that element was based on weekly assessment, and since I got help from other people each week, my results didn’t reflect my complete and total incomprehension of all things computing and Pascal.

Anyway, I didn’t understand programming, and when confronted by a series of cells requiring coding, I got flummoxed and failed. And gave up.

When I bought Office from Microsoft many years ago (I needed Word when WordPerfect went down the drain), I discovered I had tables again, and I began, tentatively, to use them. I set up a simple structure and started to record all my books. They were there under author, title, ISBN, and a few other criteria. Wonderful.!No calculations, only a simple table format. Even I could do that. I managed to get some 5,000 books on that, so that if, God forbid, I should ever have a fire, I can refer to Dropbox and prove that I owned rather a lot of books. Actually, there are rather more than 5,000 now, but I can’t help that!

Except with the last update of operating system (seemed a good idea at the time) I learned that my old version of Office wasn’t any good. Apparently “Power PC” applications don’t work. Which means that my version of Word is defunct. As is the tables package. So when I tried to open a document, the computer told me there wasn’t the software to do so. I had to buy more Word. More Office.

Have you seen how much Microsoft wants for their software? This grey hair of mine isn’t only due to age, you know. I looked, and swore, and looked elsewhere.

Now I have a piece of software that cost a fraction of Office, but I still don’t know how to use tables. And when I received the spreadsheet from Cult, I couldn’t look at it.

So, to return to where I started, there is a horrible sense of disaster whenever I see a form in front of me on a computer screen. I had to input the names and details of my latest book, TEMPLAR’S ACRE, as well as the new editions of all my older titles. It took time. And as I pressed the “Update” button at the bottom, I was assailed by doubts. Had I hit the right buttons? Did I get the right ISBN in without a typo? Or will I suddenly hear from someone telling me that I’ve incorrectly and illegally claimed the rights to Lord Archer’s latest tome?

Hopefully not.

Still, there is one good thing I have achieved this week.

I’m always on the lookout for a new system of any sort that will help me to make better use of my time. I’ve invested in computers, in tablets, in notepads, in diaries, all with the ambition of getting things done just better somehow.

Well, I’ve hit on a new diary idea that really appeals to me. It’s called the Chronodex time system. Instead of working to a day which is structured on a diary in a simple sequence of hours in a day, the Chronodex is set on a clock. You block out the hours you will need for each task. It works well for me, I think because it looks less structured (and God alone knows, I’m pretty unstructured at the best of times!), and that itself helps me to see things more clearly. Trying to block out a diary for the different tasks I have looks somehow more logical, when viewed in this way.

In any case, I’m playing with it for now by printing out stickers with the Chronodex design (like this) and when I have a day which needs planning, I just put it into my notepad. However, there is another thing that appeals to me, and that is using a similar format for my year planning. I have never been able to get on with normal year planners, but I now wonder whether a circular format would work better for me for annual planning too.

I need to get cracking on the planning, after all. This last week we had a brilliant flash of lightning that lit up the yard and road outside like an arc lamp at eleven at night. I know it was eleven at night because there was a programme my wife wanted me to record at twenty past eleven, and I spent twenty minutes trying to set up the DVD player to record it. And failed. Because the ruddy lightning had spiked the power, I think, and the DVD player won’t work. Which is nice, because it means it matches the TV, which also seems to have gone phut!

Replacing those two, on top of the car’s MOT failure last week, will require a lot of cash. So, as I say, I need to plan to earn more money - quickly!

Have a great weekend.

As well as collaborating with fellow members of The Medieval Murderers, Dartmoor-based Michael Jecks is the author of thirty three novels in his best-selling Templar series. His latest, Fields of Glory will be published in June 2014 in hardback and Kindle from Simon & Schuster. Expplore more of Michaels' work at: www.michaeljecks.co.uk

21 June 2013

Michael Randall

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