Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Digital Penetration and Yellow Wellies

Happy Birthday to me! Yup - Chas Smash aka Mr.G aka Colin is now 31. My daughter came into the room at 7am with all my pressies and cards. She got me the newly released 18 Rated Godfather DVD Collection ("she's only 7 - how did she manage that?" I asked) and a few other bits 'n' bobs. My In-Laws got me a nice big bottle of Malt Whisky. That's one present that shall not be wasted. My wife paid for the renewal of my subscription of Writing Magazine which I read every month. She said she wanted to get something I would appreciate, which considering her original idea was to get me a session with a qualified Colonic Irrigator (I kid you not!) I am quite pleased with. Now - I may be an open minded person, with grand ideas and considerations, unashamedly straight and yet equally non-biased on homosexuality, but when I think what she was willingly going to put me through, something primitive comes out of me (and I don't mean the obvious double entendre). I am a Scottish male, and as such have an in-built mechanism which starts to ring in my head when anyone mentiones the idea of inserting any form of digitallia into my anus. Sorry - but it's out of the question - I saw what happened to Johnny Knoxville on Jackass. Thank God for Mario Puzo!

On the way to work I saw a woman with a dark raincoat covering her business suit. She was about mid-thirties, dark hair, professional, wore make up and over all, not at all unattractive. As she walked towards me I noticed her yellow wellies sticking out from underneath her trousers, and could I take my eyes off them? No, and I nearly knocked a man off his bike.

I didn't get anything done on my writing at all today, so that has left me feeling a bit frustrated. I managed to dilute these feelings when my wife took me out for a birthday meal. We went to a nice wee Italian by The Shore in Leith. It's more of a family place which is why we booked it but the wean is still not well enough to come out so it ended up just being me and Gail.

Tomorrow it is back to the grindstone. With all the promotional stuff I am doing for now out of the way, I need to get back to HJ and get the story moving again after a couple of days respite. I wonder what he's been upto....
Colin 10:39 am | 1 comments |

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mother's And The Importance Of Being On Time

The gloom of the past couple of days is slowly lifting and morphing itself into humour, that is to say, I read over yesterday’s post and made myself laugh at how depressing it reads. It’s not all bad, I have a wonderful family, a comfortable life, I get to do and buy pretty much the things we as a family want, I have a good circle of friends, and of course I have realised that my ambition is to write professionally. There is plenty of sources of satisfaction in my life and perhaps I don’t count my blessings often enough.

The only down side is work, and yet ironically, today was actually quite enjoyable in the office. There was a lot to do; a glut of problems found their way onto my desk and I decided to fix them all by the close of business. I did, and received a few e-mails back from my customers thanking me. A small glow of human warmth in this place goes a million miles, and while I am probably in this rocky boat of turbulence with 8,000 others, it does sometimes feel good to have helped someone out of a face-off with their boss because their system wouldn’t work. Unfortunately for me, it isn’t enough for me to want to make it a life-long commitment!

I discovered my darling Mother reads my Blog. I had forgotten that by telling people about my website they might actually read it and she called me up. She was unaware that my determination to be a writer ran so deep and said she was impressed, but doesn’t know where it comes from and nor do I. Paul Auster summed that one up best when he said, “You don’t choose to be a writer; it chooses you.”

Before I headed off for my weekly Snooker match and pints of Kronenbourg, I sent in my Author Interview to KIC. I loved doing the interview, and I thought about doing the Radio show that KIC are involved with, but I really am unsure about this one. Aside from the time of day I would have to be on air (2 am), I suddenly find myself apprehensive to talk as a writer. I know I will have to do it eventually, I just don’t feel qualified or anywhere interesting enough. Then of course is the language barrier. My own doesn’t understand my West Coast accent half the time, so how could I expect several million Americans!

I also submitted a competition idea I have been working on to promote Hunting Jack. Ten questions about Scotland and the winner is to be drawn at random after a certain date. The prize is a month’s free subscription to HJ. That is if the editor agrees it can go, but I think it’s a good idea.

I also got an e-mail back from the photographer who I contacted to use his picture for the front cover for HJ. I will write to him tomorrow to say I am not using it now as I have already sent in my final version. I actually thought he wasn’t interested but he was – he just didn’t get back in time after I sent 2 follow-up e-mails with information. In a funny way, his non-reply meant that I ended up with a picture I am happier with. I almost felt bad for him, but as I read in my forum yesterday, when you are in this business, it is vital to be on time.

Colin 1:48 pm | 4 comments |

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Corporate Bull

We've all heard this phrase I'm sure. Perhaps it is an overused cliche, nevertheless it seems to so aptly apply to this hole of an office. I went to a meeting today; "The Way Forward" it was dubbed, and it was a briefing by our department manager on what the next steps are now they have shed all the staff they didn't want to keep on.

It truly amazes me how someone can get themselves so excited over Transfer Pricing, Balance Sheets and I.T. Services. But fair play, I looked at this man and thought how he must be so involved and absorbed by what he is doing, that he believes it to be a worthwhile investment in his life. I hope he looks back one day, like all of us, and is happy at what he see's he has done with his life. I know, without a shadow of uncertainty, that if I looked back and saw a life in commerce, the Rat Race, the endless struggles to be of higher status, then I will have wasted my life. I want to look back and think, "Yeah, I did something positive with my life and more importantly, it was what I wanted to do - not what I felt I HAD to do." And this is the difference. We are all different of course, but a lot of us are playing the same game, day in and day out, missing what is out there, the things that matter. Life itself takes a back seat.

I left the meeting having not heard anything that will actually help me in my job, so from that point of view it was a waste of time. Personally, I think this is still a sinking ship and when the big sharks start to surround us, we will be eaten whole and die. So be it. I really couldn't give a shit. Whenever D-Day comes, hopefully I will have already left. Hopefully, I will be, as someone called me the other day there, a professional author! Either way, I am damn sure I ain't leaving this earth having wasted my time sitting in some broken shell of an office.

Aside from all that, I read through the reasearch I got back from the East Midlands Ambulance Service - cheers Tony! I will incorporate the information Tony sent into these two issues next chance I get.

I spent the evening getting down to some marketing for Hunting Jack. I put together a presentation/advert for it and did the first flyer - an A4 poster that I will distribute around Edinburgh. I will also put together an A3 version and use it too. I took notes on other things I could be doing; use my press contacts to place adverts in newspaper supplements, place an ad in related publications and local papers, sub to search engines and cross link with other writers and publishers. The poster and advert are available on my site,

I just got an e-mail from the editor of KIC - I have my first two paid subscribers!!!! Now I have the pressure of actually KNOWING somone is reading my work!!

I feel great!
Colin 11:33 am | 2 comments |

Monday, September 27, 2004


After a weekend of partying I feel somewhat subdued. Not sure why it is, but I couldn’t sleep, and when I did I kept waking up at intervals of about an hour. I’ve been like this since Friday night and I don’t know why. I feel restless and knocked off centre.

This feeling accompanied me to work as well. I’m not stressed by work, just totally unsatisfied and unmotivated. With everything that is happening in my writing career, the spotlight really is on what ISN’T happening in the office and the feelings of useless time wasting become larger and concentrated. I really, really, really wish I had done a lot of things differently. I wish I had gone to University away from home but I never. I wish I had done and Art course but I never. I wish I had travelled but I never. I wish I were able to walk out of this place forever and never look back. If it was even remotely enjoyable it might be more bearable, but my frustration is manifesting itself in my grumpiness when I walk into the place. I know I am not very accommodating to the users we support when they ask stupid questions, and I try not to let this happen. But I am aware it does. I also find it hard to move out of this mode to being normal again when I leave, and this is often picked up on by Gail. It’s a Catch 22, and also true to say that I only work here because I have to. I don’t live to work; I work to live. I just want to do the work I want – and that is to write.
Colin 1:02 pm | 1 comments |

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hangovers, and How The Little Chef Can Help

Woke up with sore head and a hangover, naturally. Decided to drive backup with Mikey to Glasgow to avoid the hassle on the trains and get the express train home from there. Too tired to do any work of any kind except eat some dinner in a Little Chef half way between Newcastle and Carlisle. An Olympic Breakfast (the works) with Coke followed by Pancakes and Maple Syrup. Lovely, and just the thing for a hangover.

I checked my e-mail later in the evening and was delighted to discover that Kelli, the Ed of KIC, must have received my contract because Hunting Jack is now ready for purchase on the Keep It Coming website. It looks great and I am delighted to be on board.

Click here to read a free issue:

I still have not heard from the photographer so that idea is now officially binned. I cannot wait any longer.
Colin 1:59 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Newcastle, And A Bevvy With The Boys

I was up at 5am for my trip to Newcastle. The train left at 6.30am nut instead of taking 1.5 hours to get there, it took over 3 hours de to engineering work on the east coast line. This meant the train was diverted via Carlisle!! I was not impressed.

Got to Newcastle and met Craig and saw his new flat. Very nice it is as it overlooks the River Tyne from South Shields. Slowly the lads showed up though there were a couple of late call off’s so it was up to us, Mikey and Stevie to paint the town red.

It was a great day. We did a lot of catching up, mostly over beer and vodka in a bar situated on a beach sheltered by a cliff face. It’s a converted look out post or something, and you have to get a lift down the cliff to get to it.

I told the guys about my success with Hunting Jack and they were delighted. I don’t normally talk about my writing with them unless they ask, but they were genuinely pleased to hear about it.

There was no culture to the day’s events worth describing – it wasn’t that type of trip. We don’t get to go out together all that often due to careers, wives, babies and kids, so when we do we make up for lost time. Much hilarity and overly loud discussions on the tedious aspects of nothing much in particular did the rounds, and slowly during the course of the afternoon, things started to get a bit blurry. By midnight, it was a veritable haze.
Colin 1:56 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, September 24, 2004

Success With The PC

I finally managed to get my PC at home back online. I wired up the power supply I bought yesterday and turned it on – it worked! Much to my astonishment it was easier than I had reckoned, and far cheaper than paying someone to do it.

I’m still waiting on a photographer to get back to me about use of one if his images for the Hunting Jack front cover. If he doesn’t get back by the end of the weekend I shall create my own. I have an idea anyway, train lines and a blurred figure.

I have heard not a jot of any of my submissions that are still out there. September is nearly over so it looks as though the Bridport Competition was not to be, as I have heard nothing. The story I sent in was Heart of a Child so I will submit it to publications now that I am free to do so.
Colin 11:53 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Frustration Galore

I had to take an unexpected holiday today - the wean wasn't well enough to go to school. At first I rubbed my hands with glee, as I saw it as an opportunity to get some serious writing done.

I don't know why, but I could not concentrate. I tried to get around the absence in facts that I have e-mailed the Ambulance Service about and tried to get through the the next stage. Not to be. I managed a grand total of 558 words, though I did edit and finish off issue 15 as well.

I still haven't managed to get my home PC sorted out. It is still in bits although I have laid my hands on a new internal power supply unit. Only problem is fitting the damn thing - there's about a hundred cables to be connected and no instructions.

A disappointing day really, and I grew very tired towards the evening, ending up going to bed quite early. I am very wary of catching the chesty cough Laura has because I have a trip away this weekend to Newcastle with the lads and would be gutted if I missed it.

Some days, it just doesn't flow.
Colin 11:58 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Strangling The Creative Juices

I know I shouldn't complain, having surfed the wave of good fortune for so long now, it was bound to happen. I got pulled up by the boss today, nice guy, polite and very regretful about everything. He recieved a report showing my internet usage was "excessively high" last week. 21 hours to be exact. I apologised, and got back to work, putting the blame on the fact I had forgotten to log off (partially true). He said he wasn't bothered, but he was duty bound to tell me in case it came back to me in the future. And so I will restrict my logging on periods till lunchtimes in the future. It's ironic too because we were partially responsible for putting the damn system that logs all this stuff into place!

Wrote to a bloke who contact my Madness site about an unrelated matter. His e-mail address is at the East Midlands Ambuland Service and what with Jackie being up-ended into hospital by myself, I wanted to get the facts right on his condition and what could happen to him. So I sent him an email.

Issues 13 and 14 of Hunting Jack sent off to KIC during the afternoon. Just as well as it was back to the snooker tonight and a few pints. Life is tough :-)
Colin 1:53 pm | 1 comments |

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Internals Of Writing

Zygote In My Coffee have published the second of three poems of mine, that they are currently running in a series.

It is called Clouds, and is now available for reading in Issue 20 at:

Zygote In My Coffee - Issue 20

The first poem in the series, I Smoke Because I want To is available as a back issue at
Zygote In My Coffee - Issue 19

I've not heard back from the photographer who I sent the information to regarding the photograph of his I want to use for Hunting Jack. I'm getting concerned, hopefully a credit will be fine and not a steep payment that some photographers demand. If he doesn't get back in the next couple of days I'm gong to have to start at the beginning and find another cover.

I worked on issues 13 through to 15 today, todying them up, looking for grammar. I'm worried about my POV in places, my grammar and punctuation. These things worry me, and I'm scared that I may look back in the months to come and squirm at the things I am getting wrong, in what has become such an important project for me. As far as plots and characterisation go, I am confident with these, and with imageryand descriptive prose I know I have much improved and am writing in the voice that is truly mine. I just feel that on the technical aspects of writnig I am somewhat lacking in the knowledge required. Maybe a couple of books will help sort that out......

I watched an interesting programme on BBC2 in the evening; Writing Scotland is a documentary about the history of Scottish writers' and it discussed the concept of good versus evil within us and books that have handled this throughout the various generations. Interviewed were many famous authors including Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, AL Kennedy and hosted by Carl MacDougall.

I found it very interesting to hear of the history behind my fellow writers through the years, their influences and approach to darkness in their writing. Ian Rankin spoke of the internal struggle we all face, given we all have the capacity to do good, but at the same time we also have the capacity to do bad. And it is this same struggle within us that goes back to when we lived in caves, and how some of us wish we weer probably still there.

What Ian said, (and I'm noly picking on him because of this), reminded me of Jackie McCann - the protaganist in Hunting Jack. He is living this struggle at this moment, each time I put my pen on the paper. It wasa new way of looking at it, refreshing, clearer, and I will contemplate these words over the next couple of days no doubt.
Colin 11:56 am | 1 comments |

Monday, September 20, 2004

Back To The Grindstone

God knows how I get away with it, but I redrafted issues 9 through to 12 today at work and sent off issues 9, 10 and 11 to KIC. I'm feeling better having not done anything all day yesterday and for some reason the story reads better today after a few adjustments and from taking time off from it.

Most of the shops in Edinburgh are closed for the Public Holiday today, so the streets are quieter but less buses. It's a joke. Don't the sandwich shops and Lothian Buses realise that most people still work on a holiday Monday, yet they still insist on putting on a Sunday service. Bunch of wallies.

I got an e-mail from the owner of the picture I want to use for the Hunting Jack cover on KIC. He wanted more information, I obliged, and now we shall see what happens.

I checked out the BBC - End Of Story website to see who had won under the Alexei Sayle story, Imitating Katherine Walker. I was amazed to see it was the one that I had placed LAST when I read through them all myself. I don't know where my first choice rated, but there you go. Writing and reading certainly is an individual thing when it comes down to it.

I got straight down to writing when I got back from work. I redrafted 12, and wrote 13, 14 and 15. I had to force myself to stop. I had gotten into such a roll that even if I had walked away to make a coffee the story would still have been appearing on the screen. Something happened in the story I did not expect hadn't planned. I turned to Gail and said, "Poor Jackie. I just went and put him in hospital. Poor bloke."

This isn't a problem - I'm not going to change it - it just means things are getting a little complicated for him now. I have to admit to this being the most exciting thing I have ever written. I cannot stop thinking about it, and all I want to do is keep on writing it. When I compare this to the novel that is in WIP they are totally different. Not so much in style, but how they are being written. Now that I'm almost 8 weeks ahead and KIC haven't even got my contract yet, I wil be able to settle down soon and be able to get back to working on the novel.
Colin 10:52 am | 1 comments |

Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Day Off

I got the best sleep ever! I woke as usual at 7am and had to force myself to go back to sleep. It was worth it as I managed to sleep through until 1pm. And I felt fantastic after it. Best I've felt in a long time, totally recharged, awake and feeling great. Even better - the house was empty!

I put on a Jazz CD, brewed up some Blue Mountain and made a bacon sarny. Bliss.

Gail returned without Laura.

"Where's the wee yin?" I asked.

"At her Gran's. She'll be there all day and overnight. Tomorrow's a school holiday remember?"

Oh yes! The house would be free of weans, and plans of getting romantic with the wife were forming in my mind. Maybe a few drinks later, a meal in Fisher's even (great seafood place in Leith), who knows - the possibilities were endless.

Gail pulled out a folder of reports that she has been doing in her new job and asked if she minded if she borrowed the laptop for an hour.

"Sure thing babe!" I said, and left her to it.

Half a day later and I was still waiting. The time was now 9pm and because my PC is still lying in bits in the bedroom, I got nothing done at all. I did read more of John King's - The Prison House, and I watched a couple of my favourite older movies, Ocean's Eleven and Some Came Running, but that is all I achieved.

So intead of the big night out, we stayed in and watched a film - my third of the day - Alien, and ordered a Chinese takeaway.

Withdrawal symptoms were obvious by 1am, when I realised that by having written nothing all day my nervous system was paying the price. I was restless and my mind cluttered to the point that I was unable to get to sleep.

I finished the weekend on a high when I caught the final few shots of the Ryder Cup being played out. Well done to Europe for an amazing victory, and in particular, Scotland's very own Colin Montgomerie. He's been through the mill, and it was fitting he holed the winning put.

To do tomorrow: Make up for this day!
Colin 10:32 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, September 18, 2004

No Surrender!

The lack of technology will NOT get in my way.

Although my PC is in bits on the bedroom floor, I can still write. I will not be deterred or thrown off in my quest for literary something or other. Beside, I sill have the laptop in the lounge that I was given by work when I do standby or get called out. Only it doesn't have internet access but hey - I can still prepare my manuscripts.

I let gail have a lie in today and I got Laura ready for her dancing lessons/ Off we trooped, got the bus into town only to find it was closed due to the holiday weekend. I had brought the burntout power supply of my PC with me to take into the computer comonent shop in Leith, but alas, they are closed too right through to Tuesday. So off we trooped, back to the house!

I worked through issues 10 to 13 of Hunting Jack during the afternoon. Had a problem with 12 and 13. I knew where they needed to be by the end, but I couldn't get there easily. It just wasn't flowing/ I have a feeling I will be changing a bit of it after I have had time to contemplate.

I had to work Saturday night but it was busy - no opportunities for getting any writing done. Got home about midnight and had a couple of beers with Gail and her pal Susie who had come over. They were in a bit of a merry state when I got back, and being fully sober it was hard to get into someof the things their conversation.

I often wonder what women talk about, but surely it isn't ALL about sex, hanndbags, sex, hair colour and sex?!?
Colin 8:49 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, September 17, 2004


My normal morning pre-work routine is this:

The first three went swimmingly well. Then I bent down to press the cream coloured button on my tower PC. Nothing. Not a blip. I pressed it again. Still nothing.

I checked the plugs, the monitor, the house fuses, everything but it seems the only thing NOT working is my computer itself. This is bad. All my stuff, and I don't just mean my writing stuff is on that machine. Of course, I have backups so my work itself will never be lost, but my research files, notes, e-mails and other related documentation and files could be lost if I don't get it working. I also have all my applications that I need for maintaing my world famous Madness website, all my subscriber details for its mailing list, and all the coding that makes the damn thing work. PLUS in the past I have done websites for a few businesses to make a few extra bucks; all that is threatened by this failure too.

I had to leave it and go to work. With me not knowing if I had a working PC in the house, I got to sending KIC issues 2 through 8 from work. Thankfully I can stil access my e-mail via the browser, but it doesn't help my worries.

When I got in I checked the fuse in the plug, changed it and stuck it back in the socket. I turned it on. Crack! The back of the PC lit up blue in a loud firey spark and went out, electrical smoke drifting up into the air.

Now I have a serious problem. I dismantled the PC and will go and get a new power unit from somewhere fast. I need to get at my data.

Not the best of days.

Finished the evening watching Ian Rankin on Newsnight Review on BBC2 talking about various current issues of interest, then reading a bit of John King's latest novel, The Prison House.

Colin 11:13 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Letter To America

I posted my KIC contract this morning, and now I wait while it wings its merry way across the Atlantic to California. 68 pence it cost - for a five page contract in a standard company envelope. I would have expected it to be at least a couple of pounds - no wonder Royal Mail is making such huge losses. They should charge more for their services because I think they are shooting themselves in the foot at prices that low. Of course, if it goes missing, I'll know who to blame heh.

I found an ideal front cover for Hunting Jack on a photographers website( Intriguing, dark, mysterious - all the qualities I wanted. I added titles to the picture and re-sized it for the KIC website. Unfortunately the photographer never included his contact details so I mailed the website owners to put out a query in their newsletter (if they have one). I'm not sure what the copyright laws say about this given it was posted without a copyright attached to it that I could see, and with no contactable information.

Anyway, within half an hour the website editor returned my e-mail advising he had forwarded on my e-mail to the photographer concerned. Hopefully he will get back and we can come to an arrangement.

I complete the Blurb, Synopsys and Author Bio for Hunting Jack and sent them in. After much fretting over Issue 1 and whether it was good enough, I eventually sent it as well. I must have read those pages a zillion times in total now, and eventually I just had to say "enough is enough". I will post issues 2 through 9 over the weekend.

I did the Author Interview as well - what a weird sensation. It felt very "cardboard" the way I first approached it, so I read the questions and recorded myself answering them. Then I wrote what I had said into the document that gets sent to KIC. It went much smoother after that and the whole thing was very exciting. I wonder if Parkinson would like to have me as a guest?!
Colin 1:56 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A New Dawn

It took seconds after waking up before the buzz from my nerves reinstated themselves in my gut.

"Yes," I told myself. "You are writing for KIC, and can probably consider yourself a fully fledged author."

The enormity of this may be lost on some, and it may take longer than I thought to sink in, but I am determined to enjoy this taste of success. There is still a lot of hard work to be done though, I'm not kidding myself in that respect, but as far as the goals I set myself for this year go, I have beaten them hands down with this one.

My main aim this year was to get published. Simple as that. It didn't matter the format, the genre, electronically or in print - as long as I could get published. Money isn't an issue, that's not why I am here. I have had a few poems published and a short story, which I was, and am, still happy with.

Footballers' dream of playing for their national team in a World Cup, on the big stage, in the shop window. They get to mingle with other players and learn from them, improve their skills and absorb their art, (Football IS an art - just ask Bill Shankly).

Similarly for writers, especially at my stage (?), the dream is seeing their work published. If it is being talked about - good or bad - and if it is being read, then that's all that matters (to me anyway). But to be involved in a paying market, with other experienced writers such as within KIC, then I have taken a giant leap this year more than I could have hoped for.

I have discovered that when writing it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can be quite good, or that nothing can be improved. Not true, and only by throwing myself into this every day, reading books and writing more and more, am I now beginning to feel I am getting somehwhere, five years after the quest began on any kind of serious playing field. I feel that I have arrived somwhere significanty in a life goal. I may be over-reacting, but frankly I couldn't give a sh*t the way I feel today.

I went for a pub lunch with my team from work. We went to Hamilton's in Stockbridge - recently done up and looking quite smart now. No surprise to many to discover then, that it was a liquid lunch.

During the afternoon, I signed my contract - yes - I signed a contract for KIC and got it ready to post. I also worked out my synopsis, bio and blurb for the website. I have a great idea for a front cover image, but tracking one down on the internet is proving difficult and I may have to rope in a friend or two to get the desired effect.

In the evening I did a drastic, but vital thing - I ripped out the entirety of Issue 1 of Hunting Jack. This is a result of me learning as I go, for while it was good reading, I felt it did not contain the hook required for a first issue in KIC. It started too early and did not have enough action, so I ripped it out and inserted only a couple of paragraphs from it into Issue 2. This has given the story a much edgier start requiring more questions to be asked and I will go back and explain the background a little later in the story.

I read a friends Blog; a colleague from work lost her baby the day after she brought it home. As a Dad, I pray she can get through it - I doubt I could. As a writer, it makes everything that has happened to me over the last two days seem entriely irrelevant compared to the loss of a child.
Colin 10:45 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

One Giant Step...

Here is a transcript of the most exciting conversation I had at work today:

Colleague: "Would you like a drink?"

Me: "Coffee please."

Colleague: "Milk?"

Me: "Please."

Colleague: "Sugar?"

Me: "Two please."

[End of transcript]

Earlier this year I submitted an entry into the BBC - End Of Story competition. Six famous authors each wrote the start of a short story and the remit was to write the conclusion of the piece in no more than 1200 words. The winners for each author would take part in a TV programme and a national vote would take place for the overall winner who then gets to spend time with their chosen author and have the sory published. I chose Imitating Katherine Walker by Alexei Sayle.

Today over lunch I read the six entries that were shortlisted for this story. They were all very well written, but two in particular really stood out. One of them, followed roughly the theme I had chosen in that Rory, the protaganist, goes mad and loses the plot entirely. He wrote it in a more humourous way and slightly tangental to mine, but it was close in comparison. The author didn't leave as many gaps as I did - which was my problem. I knew I had come up with a good story, but 1200 words isn't a lot and I had to cut huge amounts out of mine before it met the criteria leaving gaps in the story.

Would I do it differently next time? You bet. I compare what I am writing now to back then (six months ago) and I know I am getting better - I can see it on the paper at the end of the day.

I logged on when I got home to the chatroom in my forum and chatted with some buddies. After I logged off an e-mail arrived in my inbox - from the editor of Keep It Coming. "Welcome to KIC," it said.

It is impossible to describe the surge of energy and excitement I felt at the time. Comparable perhaps, to the eruption of a volcano, only not as messy. I read through all the documentation that accompanied the acceptance, took great pride in updating my submissions spreadsheet, and jumped around hysterically scaring both the goldfish and my wife. I was visibly shaking and babbling incoherently, and that was AFTER Gail went out!

When I went to bed, it dawned on me that finally, without any doubts in my mind, I do feel comfortable with the phrase, "Colin Galbraith - Writer".
Colin 11:02 pm | 3 comments |

Monday, September 13, 2004

Churning Out The Chang

Woke up still feeling tired, as if I hadn't slept much at all. I feel as if I have a cold coming on and it took me ages to get myself into gear this morning. TWO coffee's were duly administered and a quick blast of It Mek by Desmond Dekker before I started to feel better. Got into work late however, and to my surprise no-one was there to moan. Can't get the staff these days!

My inbox contained a standard rejection from The Summerset Review for The Choppers. I'm obviously disappointed, but to be honest I wasn't expecting it to be accepted. Call it a hunch, but after I sent it off I changed it quite a bit and so knew the original wasn't of publishable standard.

Current Subs list now reads:

1 serial pitch to Keep It Coming
2 short stories to Writing Magazine
1 short story to Sol Magazine
1 short story to the Bridport Competition
5 poems to Greenshoots Magazine
3 poems to The Poetry Kit
2 poems to About The Arts

Got five hours of work done after dinner. I wrote issue/chapter 11 of Hunting Jack but it wasn't easy. I knew where it was starting and where I wanted it to end, but had to really think this one through carefully before I put pen to paper. Eventually it came and it felt right. I realised I wasn't setting the foundations of his friendship with a girl he has met, and so have expanded on this issue further, adding some intrigue into her own life. This resulted in some manipulation earlier in the story but the applecart is so far, still solid.

I then took a step back, printed off the entire manuscript so far and read it from start to finish with a red pen. There were a few mistakes to correct and alterations to be made, several tweaks, additions, deletions and corrections.

I believe that upto and including issue/chapter 11, I have something to be proud of thus far. The story is tight and moving at a good pace, there is plenty going on to keep the interest of any reader, the cliffhangers are sublime (some of which purposefully built in), and I think it is an entertaining read. I SO want this to get the go ahead!!
Colin 10:58 am | 1 comments |

Sunday, September 12, 2004

A Tiring Weekend

I'm knackered.

Saturday was my day for lying in but I never got past 8am. My head was buzzing with thoughts, coversations and things that Jackie (of Hunting Jack) is up to. It is an all-consuming passion this and I am becoming mindful that I should not let everything else suffer. I do after all have a novel and four short stories in WIP, as well as all my submissions.

Got much work accomplished round the house and in the garden to take my mind off it for a while. It became too much though and Gail was having second thoughts about going out for a drink with her pal so I gave her 50 quid and told her to have a good time. This meant once Laura was in bed I could write in peace with no distractions. It sounds really poor of me and almost 'hermit-like', but she needed to get out after her first stressful week in her new job. We all knew she would be in at the deep end; only nobody knew just how deep the water was going to be.

During the afternoon I received an e-mail from the editor at KIC. It was to confirm receipt of the story, and to allow a weeks review of it. This calmed me down somewhat, as a timescale should, and I stopped checking my e-mail every hour.

During the evening I wrote chapters/issues 7 and 8 and a short story into the bargain. My flow was disrupted by the hilarity on the TV; Billy Connolly was on Parksinson and the tears flowed down my cheeks for the whole interview.

When I went to sleep, I dreamt about Hunting Jack.

Sunday was Gail's lie in day (so it should - she got in after 4am), and Laura was up at 6:30am, so naturally I joined her. I was going to write but had nor the strength or frame of mind to get down to it. It was too early. After watching a couple of hours cartoons with my head drooping off my shoulders, I got round to finishing off the garden; weedkiller was sprayed everywhere in an attempt to prevent the weeds form sprouting through the concrete slabs every two days.

This left me the afternoon to write and I tidied up to chapter/issue 8 and wrote a further two. This sounds fine but I could have got through more had I not been so exhausted. Laura is demanding and through the haze of tiredness I could only concentrate in short bursts at a time. This carried on through the evening and I ended up going to bed early - I'll try to get a good start tomorrow if I can get some peace at work.

Overall, the story is going at a good speed though (I think); I have the equivalent of a month's issues should KIC accept the story, and the plot is steadily thickening. Jackie is proving to be as reliably unpredictable as I thought he would. I can't wait to get him to Edinburgh - long way to go though before that happens.
Colin 10:29 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, September 10, 2004

Waiting In The Mist

After the gloriously unseasonal weather over the last few days, today we were treated to a dim, dank and clammy fog which lay low over the town. As a treat, I took another couple of pics. They were taken from next to the trees which you can see on the left hand side of the photo taken on Sep 7th...

As you can see.....misty!

I got through some research for Hunting Jack that was needing done over lunch - minor things but local accuracy is key to this story. It's fun writing about Scotland, I'm looking at my country and it's people differently, through another person's eyes, and much of what I see around me makes less sense, and some of it more!

The afternoon was quiet; the air-conditioning failed and as we are unable to open the windows here for security reasons (the building houses all the company's mainframes and critical servers), we had to put up with the stifling heat generated from the machinery. To make matters worse, I started to think about my submission to KIC. I kept reading over the pitch even though it's gone, and I started to check my inbox more often.

When I got home I delved stright into Hunting Jack and have now polished up 6 issues/chapters with a 7th written and waiting in the wings. In between all this - inbox checking. It's ridiculous; I can't let myself go like this. I have to be "negative" while remaining positive and not get carried away. It's hard though, and I required one or two beers in order to help the passage to sleep be a smooth one.

It looks like I picked this week's Quote of the Week well...."I can resist everything except temptation." (Oscar Wilde).
Colin 10:39 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 09, 2004

The Send Button

The good weather is continuing here - not so it would appear over in the US. Hurricane Frances is creating havoc everywhere it seems, and so I am thinking of my pals enduring it's wrath as I sit here typing.

During the afternoon, with still little or no work of any kind to do, I wrote two days worth of Blogs due to the downtime, posted to my forum, and did a little more on Hunting Jack; mainly future plot idea's. I didn't get into it properly until the evening.

The big news of the day though, is that I clicked the almighty SEND button and sent the KIC pitch for Hunting Jack on it's way. I redrafted it first - a huge thanks to Devon for some excellent advice - and now I wait. Somehow this feels different than anything I have submitted before - and there's been a lot. Maybe it's because this would be a real committment, or maybe it is because I have really gotten into the story that I want it to succeed. Who knows? Fingers crossed...

When I got home I polished off the first three issues/chapters and rewrote the fourth. It jumps too far ahead and Jack's behaviour in it is well out of context. The result is much better and helped me flow straight into issue/chapter 5 which I completed before I hit the sack. Tiring work - but very enjoyable and I feel as if I am riding a crest of productivity.
Colin 11:47 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Isn't Technology Wonderful

Walking to work this morning I just knew it was going to be a glorious day weatherwise. An overnight haze had evaporated and left dew on the leaves and grass. The sky, as blue as the sea, and the sun yet to warm the air. I decided to walk through the Park on the way to the bus stop, and I thought it would be great if I could take a picture to put on my Blog to show how beautiful Edinburgh can be on mornings like this. Then I remembered - my mobile has a camera; I could take a pic, send it as an e-mail to my work address, then upload it from my pc! And here it is...

It's not the best quality but hey - IT'S FROM A PHONE! :-)

Tonight is snooker night so I knew I wouldn't be getting much done. So at work (*chuckle*), I got to writing a pitch for KIC. I had started it earlier and then left it, before picking it up again. After getting it to a reasonable state I e-mailed Devon Ellington (internet writing pal), and asked her to give it the once over. She obliged and I am very thankful. She gave me some excellent suggestions which I made a start on before I went out for the evening. I will finish it tomorrow and see how it looks then.

I won 4-3 at snooker. A close fought match which went to the wire and which I eventually won on the black. As much fun as this game is, and I do enjoy a pint and confab with my father-in-law, sometimes I have to remind myself of this very fact; I do have to wind down sometime. Before I went out all I wanted to do was work on my KIC pitch, more on Hunting Jack and the short stories I have on the go. It seems that somedays, socialising gets in the way of my writing.

Colin 9:50 am | 0 comments |

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Ups and Downs

After the elation of last night's furious writing, I was brought back down to earth this morning when I found a standard rebuff from Caffeine Destiny in my inbox. The poems in question were then sent straight back out into the wilderness to About The Arts who only accept between the 1st and 15th of each month. Fingers crossed again for Who Am I and 8:41.

Shortly after this I checked out the latest issue of Zygote In My Coffee, and was delighted to discover they have published the first of three poems of mine that they are doing in a series over the next few weeks.

The first one, I Smoke Because I Want To, is now available for reading at:

Zygote In My Coffee - Issue 19

I noted I forgot to send them my new web address so I forwarded it to the editor who seems a nice bloke.

I persuaded a friend who is not involved with writing so much, but likes a good read, to have a go at my novel on completion and redraft. He has read many short stories I have written over the past few months, and his input will be invaluable on the road to publication (touch wood). I also plan to ask my work colleague Julie; she reads about five titles a week and so I know I will get some good feedback quick!

Tonight also saw my first online chat with some of the writers I have befriended at the writing forum. It was good to chat in real-time and from such far flung places, the power of the internet brought us together.

I worked more on Hunting Jack, redrafting the first three chapters/issues. There are plots pouring out my ears so fast I can't keep up. At this rate, if KIC refused it, I would have a full length novel completed within a couple of months! The beauty is though, unlike the novel I am currently writing, where it already has a beginning and an end, this one is being written by the characters. I have no idea where it is going, and this is why it is so exciting.
Colin 10:48 pm | 0 comments |

Monday, September 06, 2004

Penance, And A Boy Called Jack

Last night after penning my weekend Blog, I read some stories by Poe; The Oblong Box, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat. All wonderful and perhaps not the best reading in bed, for I ended up dreaming of a cat that came to haunt me after being slaughtered by a fox. It haunted me because I witnessed it being killed and I did nothing.

Which reminded me of what I saw on Saturday night. I had nipped out to the front of the building at about midnight for a cigarette and was talking with one of our security guards. As we spoke, we witnessed a fox casually stroll up the road with something large and black hanging from it's mouth. It was a black cat, and it was dead. I joked about seeing posters on lampposts come Monday morning of someone looking for their pet. Perhaps that dream was my penance. Perhaps I won't be so quick to laugh in the face of nature next time.

I spent the afternoon working on a synopis and making a start to this new project - I gave it a working title also which I rather like. It will (probably) be called Hunting Jack and it is coming out very naturally - quite a frightening feeling. I printed off a worksheet for character development and filled in most of it without thinking wihin minutes. Jack is not a character based on anyone I have met, but for some reason, he has made himself easily approachable. I sense a long friendship is starting, and I get the feeling that no matter what I expect of him, he is not only going to surpass himself, but surprise me along the way. If I was casting in a move or a play, I would be positive that I have picked the right person for this part.

In the evening I cut out some pieces from the Sunday papers that I can use in some stories and stuck them away in my Ideas Folder. It is rapidly expanding which is good, though I have not had cause to refer to it of late due to all the stuff I am working on. I guess I've not been short of ideas, so I can't complain.

And so I settled down with my laptop early evening and began to type. I never stopped until after 1am - I had to force myself. Hunting Jack could well be the most stimulating piece of work I have written. One thing scares me though - the writing I am producing is of a different voice than previous works. I am unsure if this is down the genre I am writing in, or if it is a result of me working on something closer to home. Is it that I am landing in an area where I am as happy with my writers' voice, as I am with the result of my efforts?

Whatever it is, Hunting Jack is now 4400 words long and when I went back over it after the first draft, is easily divisable into 4 issues. I am definitely going to pitch this to Keep It

Speaking of publishing, several buddies of mine were published this week:

Ferrets For Fun

The Goddess Greenroom

A Soldier's Story

Go check them out!
Colin 1:58 pm | 2 comments |

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Talking To Writers

Saturday was taken up with chores and I got nothing done at all. I weeded the front garden which is a real pain because it is mostly covered in concrete tiles and gravel. This makes the larger weeds impossible to remove and so within days they have reinstated themselves proudly and defiantly. I am going to soak the entire area in strong weedkiller one of these days.

After that, I assembled our new garden furniture, made the dinner and got ready for work - yes work. I volunteered for a nightshift. Well the work is second hand to me and it meant I could get in some writing. That was the plan, but it turned out we had problems doing the installation and so by home time still nothing still been accomplished. I know I shouldn't moan, but I have to remind myself sometimes that writing has to take second place to the family, and that I cannot be seen to be sitting on my arse constantly while there is things around the house crying out to be done. Perhaps I will be rewarded in heaven - but I'd rather reep the benefits beforehand :-)

Sunday was quite pleasant. The sun was back out and I took the wife out to Fort Kinnaird to buy her a new suit for her new job tomorrow. While she picked out the one she wanted I nipped across to Borders and browsed the books. I picked up a copy of The Complete Works Of Edgar-Allan Poe. I have been wanting this book for a while now. I love how writing, the way he creates tension and doubt in his characters. I love how he takes what are sometimes such simple thoughts, and blossoms them on the page into extraordinary events.

I also picked up Don Quixote by Cervantes. This I bought out of pure curiosity. One of my favourite authors (Paul Auster) references Don Quixote extensively in some of his works. I have also heard people closer to home reference this book and so now I want to find out what all the fuss is about.

Speaking about Paul Auster, he was interviewed by BBC Radio 4's Book Club a while back and it was aired today at 4pm. I got home in time to hear him discussing his work on The New York Trilogy - my favourite of his novels - well three (it is a trilogy - City Of Glass, Ghosts and The Locked Room). The novel starts with a telephone ringing three times in the dead of night and on the third ring the protaganist, Quinn, answers the phone. This leads him into an adventure questioning his identity; I won't say any more - go read it. However, the fact is this actually happened to Paul while sitting at home and he often wondered what WOULD have happened had he answered the phone that third ring - which he never - but wrote a novel instead. The three novels together really make you think - and you have to think when reading this - you are coerced into it as they are all intertwined.

The more I read of Paul's work, the more I seem to get out of my own.

He also discussed the impression Don Quixote has on his life and his writing, and how every few years he goes back to it, reads it and uses it.

I simply MUST read this book.

Speaking of listening to writers talking, Ian Rankin OBE is appearing at Borders on Sunday 26th September to do a signing of his new novel Fleshmarket Close. I would love to go, but I will be in Newcastle that weekend to celebrating the birth of baby Abbi, the parents of whom are my good friends Mikey and Elaine Penman.

Talking to other writers is something I need to actively try and do more. The half hour of Paul Auster talking about his work opens up channels of thought, and I do a lot of discussing online - but I need more. I need to learn, to understand and to grow.
Colin 1:08 am | 0 comments |

Friday, September 03, 2004

Friday Fun With Flippin' Floppies

It was my wifes final day here at . I met the party in Ryan's Bar up the West End after work for a couple of beers before leaving her to it (babysitting duty called). As she moves on to pastures new, a better job for her qualifications and more pay, she is natuarlly excited at the progress she is making, as we all are. Nerves are beginning to take over though, as the prospect of Monday morning looms promisingly just over the horizon.

I wrote a story a while back called The Blind Man Of Cathkin Street, sent it in to a magazine and am still awaiting a response. While making backups of my stuff though, this one story would not copy over onto disc. The disc was maknig an awful noise as well and I just couldn't understand it and eventually came to the conclusion it had become corrupted and so assumed if I tried to delete it, it would not.

Oh yes it did and I lost it from the backup disc AND the hard drive (cos I was trying to be smart). So I lost it all, but I never panicked becuase I had a hard copy AND I knew I posted it up here ages ago for crit so I can rewrite it.

Turns out though - the reason it would not copy is because of the wee tag - you know the one in the top left corner which stops you from overwriting soemthing by mistake - had come loose and that was all. Thats what the noise was and why it would not copy. So I did all that for nothing.
Lesson - make sure your flippin' floppies have secure bits on them or copy everything onto DVD instead.

I spent the afternoon redrafting Loaded and then put it up on my forum for my writing chums to have a hack at.
Colin 2:48 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Like A Rolling Stone

The idea for a novel/serial has exploded inside my head so much so that it's becoming hard to get all the ideas down on paper quickly enough. I spent most of the day writing down ideas, developing characters and linking plotslines together. It's beginning to take on a life now, and I can see it clearly in my third eye. I'm being pulled into it like the eye of a storm, except this is one storm I want to be caught in the middle of. In fact, I don't care at the moment what I do with it as I just want to write the story so much. What happens after is irrelevant at the moment. Which is probably just as well, because rejections are ten-fold, but one cannot be denied the enjoyment of creation no matter how many rejection slips are returned.

I managed to put it aside for the evening and worked on Loaded. I went over the obvious cracks and sorted a lot of the grammar out, all of which added another 800 words on top. I will post it to my forum today and see if there is any feedback I can use.

I haven't touched Bill McCarthy since the rejection with feedback came back. Not that I'm avoiding it, I am still brewing over ideas on how to alter it. It needs an overhaul, not just a tweak.

My full WIP list is as follows:

Short Stories
Bill McCarthy - looking for another direction before re-write
Facing The Music - has two parts - part 1 complete
Loaded - first redraft complete and out for crit
Growing Up With Madness - currently on 3rd rewrite. Not touched for several weeks.
Haystacks - binned (but kept)
The Hill - this project is 4 years old and has been written and rewritten dozens of times. I cannot get it right but I will. It is important to me the story within.

A Friend To Die For (one of 9 working titles) - 50k complete

Untitled Story - Plot and character development racing forth onto the page

I finally managed to get my personal website up and running over at: Colin Galbraith - Writer. Colin Galbraith. Writer. Hmmm. Sometimes the two don't seem to go together. When people ask me, "What do you do?" I still say,"Oh I workfor . I wonder - when I will start to consider myself a writer above and beyond all else?
Colin 3:51 pm | 2 comments |

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

An Octopus Called Research

Last night I wrote a story called Loaded which is based in Krakow in Poland. So this morning I needed to find out some basic information like currency, hotel and railway locations, things like that. One thing led to another and before I know what I was doing I was reading about Oswiecim (Auschwitz), the history of Poland from the 11th to 17th Centuries, and the pollution brought to the city by the advent of their massive steelworks industry.

It is indeed startling to think that the germ for this story was planted in a bar in Stockbridge where it was entered into my notebook. A few weeks later it found itself growing onto the page of my word processor in my PC, and then today researched across the internet into a political and historical study. And that is one of the things I like about writing - opening your mind to things you would probably never read or see. I know it's only the internet, but Poland is now on my list of places I want to go and visit....when before it wasn't.

I found out I will be working this Saturday night at 10pm. Not the most socially pleasing hour to be working, but as well as the cash boost, I will probably come into the office early and get some writing done in peace. I will be working through until about 4am but a lot of it will be waiting about for people to test the software I have implemented so I can get a lot done. I may, just may, get stuck into the idea I had yesterday and see if it comes to anything for KIC.

Wednesday's are non-writing nights. I play snooker with my Father-in-Law, have a few beers and a laugh. During the quiet moments though, I find my mind wandering to my writing. I can't help it. I'm becoming an obsessive.
Colin 1:38 pm | 0 comments |