Category Archives: book

Novels and fascinating theories

A while ago, I stumbled across M Vera Bührmann’s book, Living in Two Worlds, and found it fascinating. My novel, Things Unseen, grew around the ideas in Dr Bührmann’s book. I wonder how often that happens: an interesting theory in psychology, or archaeology, or another discipline, opens the bud of a romantic novel or wakes the sleeping beast of a horror story.

Dr Bührmann spent a number of years working with African healers amongst the Xhosa people in South Africa, exploring the ways in which the healers look after the health of their community. These healers are often called “witch doctors”, and their powers are sometimes referred to as “magic”. Here’s what Dr Bührmann has to say:

My aim therefore is to show that much of what is called “magic” in the healing systems of the amagqira [the Xhosa word for healers] is not “magical” in the usual sense of the word but is based on sound principles of depth psychology, especially as formulated by Carl Gustav Jung and his followers. The amagqira have not thought out and systematised their methods as is customary in the Western, scientific world. They have, rather, perceived their methods intuitively, and use them in, to us, non-rational ways.

… The “two worlds” I am concerned with are the Western world which is primarily scientific, rational and ego-oriented, and the world of the Black healer and his people, which is primarily intuitive, non-rational or orientated towards the inner world of symbols and images of the collective unconscious.” [Living in Two Worlds, published by Human & Rousseau, 1984, pages 14-15.]

Xhosa traditional healers believe that our ancestors communicate with us via dreams. The word “ancestor” has a special meaning to a Xhosa person. An ancestor is a presence in your mind and in your family, who plays a very definite and beneficial role in guiding your actions and guarding you and your people.

Jungian healers believe that our unconscious communicates with our conscious minds via symbols in dreams.

I’ve billed my novel, Things Unseen, as “a combination of sizzling romance, eerie horror, and tense psychological drama”. It’s a love story. It’s also a story of African and European cultures meeting, competing, and merging to produce something new. It’s the result of careful study of African culture, language and stories. It plays with symbols from both African and European cultures.

In her book, Dr Bührmann describes the similarities between the treatment methods and philosophies of African witchdoctors and Jungian psychologists. My novel weaves a story around this theme.

An interplay between story and theory: I’d guess this is fairly common in science fiction. In fact, the inspiration travels in both directions there. How about other types of fiction – have you seen the sleeping beauty of a story awakened by an interesting theory?

Things Unseen

Out of print: “Confluence, Tech Comm Chocolate”

A few months ago, I asked my publisher to take my Confluence wiki book out of print. The book is titled “Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate: A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication”. It takes a while for the going-out-of-print process to ripple across all the sources of the book, but by now it seems to have taken effect in most sellers.

solong_300pxWhy did we decide to take the book out of print? I’m concerned that it no longer gives the best advice on how to use Confluence for technical documentation. The book appeared early in 2012, and applies to Confluence versions 3.5 to 4.1. While much of the content is still applicable, particularly in broad outline, it’s not up to date with the latest Confluence – now at version 5.6 and still moving fast. I thought about producing an updated edition of the book. But because I don’t use Confluence at the moment, I can’t craft creative solutions for using the wiki for technical documentation.

Here are some sources of information, for people who’re looking for advice on using Confluence for technical communication:

  • If you have a specific question, try posting it on Atlassian Answers, a community forum where plenty of knowledgeable folks hang out.
  • Some of the Atlassian Experts specialise in using Confluence for technical documentation. The Experts are partner companies who offer services and consultation on the Atlassian products. The company I’ve worked with most closely on the documentation side, is K15t Software. I heartily recommend them for advice and for the add-ons they produce. For example, Scroll Versions adds sophisticated version control to a wiki-based documentation set.
  • AppFusions is another excellent company that provides Confluence add-ons of interest to technical communicators. For example, if you need to supply internationalised versions of your documentation, take a look at the AppFusions Translations Hub which integrates Confluence with the Lingotek TMS platform.

A big and affectionate thank you to Richard Hamilton at XML Press, the publisher of the book. It’s been a privilege working with him, and a pleasure getting to know him in person.

For more details about the book that was, see the page about my books. If you have any questions, please do add a comment to this post and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge or point you to another source of information.

Things Unseen – introducing my new novel

Things Unseen - introducing my new novelI’ve published a novel! It’s called Things Unseen, a psycho-romance, available in eBook format from Amazon.com (Kindle) and Smashwords (Kindle, EPUB and other formats).

Yes, I’ve joined the ranks of technical writers who write fiction, following in the footsteps of the indefatigable Dave Gash and the irrepressible Patty Blount. (And more, I’d guess.)

What’s the book about?

Dirk and Elise meet in Cape Town in the mid 1980s. They fall in love. Things happen. Well, you’d expect that! But some of the happenings are tragic, scary, or just plain weird.

Dirk and Elise bump heads with lovable rascals and with more complicated people. Evil people, supernatural beings? That’s for you to find out.

What do I think of it?

I am delighted with this book, and proud of all it represents. A love story. African and European cultures meeting, competing, and merging to produce something new. The results of careful study of African culture, language and stories.

Is there a link between African witchdoctors and Carl Jung? Read the book to see what Dirk and Elise discover. In this, I am indebted to M. Vera Bührmann’s book, Living in Two Worlds, Communication between a white healer and her black counterparts.

I think you’ll enjoy Things Unseen. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

The artist

Ryan Maddox designed the cover for Things Unseen. He’s the talented artist who created the illustrations for my technical book, Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate, a wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication.

I’d love to know what you think

If you read Things Unseen I’d love to know what you think of it. If you can add a review on Amazon.com, that would be awesome. Or add a comment on this blog post. This is exciting and just a bit scary!

Here are the links again:

The Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki has moved to a shiny new site

The Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki is a companion to my book about technical communication, technical writers, wikis and chocolate. This week we moved the site to a shiny new Confluence OnDemand server. Please take a look, sign up if you like, and also please consider changing any external links you may have pointing to content on the site.

The new address of the Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki is: https://wikitechcomm.atlassian.net/

The old address was: https://wikitechcomm.onconfluence.com/

What does the move to Confluence OnDemand mean?

Confluence, Tech Comm, ChocolateConfluence OnDemand is Atlassian’s new hosted platform. Our site will now automatically get the latest and up-to-datest version of Confluence. It’s currently running an early version of Confluence 5.0! So we’ll be able to play with the latest Confluence features before anyone else. If you’re interested, keep a watch on the frequently-updated Atlassian OnDemand release summary.

My seat-of-the-pants feeling is that the new site is significantly faster than the old one. :)

The hosted platform restricts certain functionality, primarily add-ons and customisations of the wiki. I won’t be able to install add-ons or plugins that are not pre-approved by Atlassian. This won’t have a big effect on people using the site. We no longer have the awesome add-ons from K15t Software for creation of ePub and DocBook exports. The Copy Space plugin isn’t there either. Gliffy, for drawing diagrams, is available in Confluence OnDemand, along with the add-ons listed here: Atlassian OnDemand Plugin Policy.

Existing content, redirects, and external links pointing to the site

This bit is for the 77 people already using the wiki. :) All your pages, blog posts, comments and other pieces of information are safely on the new site. Please let me know if you spot anything amiss.

Atlassian has put redirects in place. If you try to go to the old address, you should automatically end up on the new site. The old site will be decommissioned in a few weeks’ time. There’s no scheduled date for the shutting down of the redirect service, but it’s probably a good idea to update any external links you may have, to point to the new site.

The book

The book is called Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate: A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication. It’s about developing documentation on a wiki. It’s also about technical communicators. And chocolate.

Do come and join the fun at the book’s wiki site: Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate wiki.

My book now available in eBook format

Great news! My book is now available in EPUB, Kindle and NOOK formats. The book is called, Confluence, Tech Comm, Chocolate: A wiki as platform extraordinaire for technical communication. It’s about developing technical documentation on a wiki. It has bits about social media, agile environments, search engine optimisation, and more.

The book is available at:

Here are some screenshots of the book on an iPad. Click an image to see the pictures as a slide show.

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