Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

An Idea Blossoms

Blue skies and an autumnal breeze was the walking-to-work weather I experienced today. I wish I could have stopped somewhere and whipped out my notebook but alas, I had to go to the hellhole and pretend to look busy. I must also apologise for the mis-print in yesterday's Blog - the street's aren't quieter from a drop in tourists - it was a Bank Holiday. Are we the only country in the world that shuts down simply because the bankers need a break? And if so - why am I still required to work when all the sandwich places are closed.

Increasingly, I am finding that while I sit on the bus I take part-route to work, I get into some serious thinking. My mind goes into 'squelch mode' and comes up with nice wee phrases, characters and story ideas. Most of it evaporates from my mind as soon as I enter the office of course which is just as well I stop to scribble it down in the street, or use the recording function of my mobile phone to record my thoughts and pen them in later.
This morning's thought was a cracker! I reckon this is so good as to be a novel, or perhaps even a possible submission idea to Keep It Coming (KIC).

During the afternoon I expanded on this idea and got some notes down on paper. It's a good story, but also because KIC is a US based e-Zine, I think this may just appeal to that market of readers. I already subscribe to several KIC stories and so know what they are looking for, and as I have said before, I like the idea of writing a serial.

Had a bust-up with the people who host my webserver account. They won't allow me to re-route my colingalbraith.co.uk account to an area I set aside on the server under themagnificent7.co.uk domain. Despite doing this previously, and despite it being a common industry practice they have denied it can be done. Bollox to that - I did it previously prior to them burning down the original server and forcing em to re-upload over 100Meg of files. I complained and there response was tert and quoted their (unpublicised) policy on hidden domain forwarding. This all means I have a domain name with nowhere to put the code. I'm not a happy chappy. Unless I use a free hosting service, upload a single index file which only holds forwarding code and leave it at that.....hmmmmm.

Back home I transferred 3 pages from my daily notebook (2" by 3" page size) that I wrote while in St. Andrews, and it came out as 7 pages in my large notebook (4" by 6")! Also, using the method I have been talking about lately - simpler being better - I wrote a short story last night. The first draft came in at 2100 words, but the beauty of it is I didn't try to prove some kind of social point or turn it into a morality play. I just told a story, as it was, and you know what? The words just flowed, and it felt very satisfying. I really enjoyed writing it.

It is called Loaded, and it is based in Krakow so there is still some minor research I need to do to it before I post it up for critique at my forum. As far as short story writing goes, I at least feel like I am moving in the right direction.
Colin 10:56 am | 0 comments |

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Festival Ends

Last night saw the end of all the festivals; The Fringe, the Book Festival and the International Festival. The fireworks party in Princes Street is next Sunday but I doubt I will go. They haven't changed it in years and after the displays I saw at Disney World over the summer it can never really be topped!

While the congestion caused by all the people that come from the farthest global corners won't be missed, I will miss the atmosphere that is generated by The Fringe. I noticed a coolness in the air walking to work this morning. Less people were about, and it seemed calmer.While it was not cold enough to chill me, it was not warm enough to cause me to sweat either. It was just right, and it signalled the ending of the festival, and the approach of autumn. Soon the cobbled streets will be awash with the golden-red of the moulting trees.

I like this time of year. It is a time of change and my daily routine moves in line with the seasons. Whereas a lot of people in this country suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), or they say they do - call me cynical, I am the complete opposite. I love getting up earlier and walking to work in the dark. The wildlife also changes - you get to hear the birds waking up, snails are still confused as to what time it is and become breakfast. Foxes are still on the prowl and other people struggle to get out of their kip - which means I get the streets to myself. A friend of mine who works in Waterstones has a website where he posts photographs he has taken when he is out at night. He goes into the empty streets in the early hours to take pictures of the most obsolete and ignored objects, yet somehow, in the sodium glow of the street lamps they take on a strange beauty. I'll dig out the URL and post it later.

I spent a chuck of the afternoon looking for a PC upgrade. The one I have just now was top of the range when I got it five years ago - now it is a relic and suffering from an inability to be matched with new software - it stil runs on Win98! It has done a good job - seeing me develop three generations of The Magnificent 7 - the largest Madness fansite in the world. It has seen me commence my writing as a serious endeavour, and it has helped me get in touch with people with like-minded interests the world over - some of whom are now amongst my closest friends. Testament indeed, to the positive power the internet can have.

It is time to move on though, and the main catalyst for the change has not been the progress of technology alone - but my wife has insisted I get rid of the desk in the bedroom for it is taking up too much space. The last bastion of my personal freedom and space is about to disappear, although this has its advantages. I am looking to replace it with a laptop which will mean more portability. It will enable me to embrace many of the technological advances in the way of website development and DVD/CD production - something my current machine cannot handle. Also, I am being asked to develop more and more websites for people which is good for the cash balance, and a laptop will mean I can have meetings with people and actually SHOW them examples during meetings. And of course, it will mean I can perform faster research for my writing on the internet as well as upgrading to better software. I've not picked one yet - I need to make sure I get the correct specification. There is one I fancy over on the Dell website, which will surely cause some hysterics with a colleague over on the east coats of the US!

Meanwhile on my battered PC, I completed my website tonight and am just waiting for the domain to be re-routed to my personal web address.


Colin 10:49 pm | 4 comments |

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Reflections

Well I've had a busy and fruitful weekend.

On Saturday we decided to head west to see my parents. The subject of the great Glasgow/Edinburgh debate arose in my forum last week and it ignited the desire to get back through as soon as I could. And so off we went along the motorway to visit the 'old dears'.

The drive through to Glasgow always gets me excited - you've left Edinburgh behind and then there is nothing but wild countryside. Eventually you see a sign reading, "Welcome to Glasgow", and in the distance the first tower block of flats appears over the horizon. Signs to Garthamlock, Easterhouse and Shotts become bigger, and you start to wonder if the hub caps will still be on the car by the time you reach the Kingston Bridge (joke!). It is great to pass over the city on the mototrway - so many landmarks and memories - the feelings of time travel become very real and I realise just how much Ido miss the Dear Green Place.

When we arrived at my parents I was delighted to discover we were to be treated to a dinner, and my father threw in some cans of beer into the equation as well. By the time dinner had finished I was feeling good, and since the rain had stopped I took Laura out to show her some of the streets where I grew up. My entire life from birth until I left home was spent in this town - she failed to grasp it.

And this is where my day really started to feel like time travel. As we walked, I recalled all of my friends who lived in the houses we passed. Who knew if they ever returned here? Some, possibly, others had moved on. I saw the spot where I had my first kiss, the garden where me and my best friend played Star Wars games and football, the spot whereI had one of my more serious cycle accidents, and the corner where I fought the town bully. Looking back, I never once thought that 20 years after all of this, I wold return with my daughter of 7 years old.

It was emotional, particularly whenI stood outside the home of Joe and Carmella Palombo. Joe, or Uncle Joe as he was known to me without actually being related, was a legend around my hometown. He was a first generation Italian immigrant and everyone knew him as a loveable scamp, although he had a few other sides to his coin. I remember the day he died, like someone in my own familypassing on. My memory turned to astonishement when I realised that day was 27th August 1994 - precisely 10 years ago to this day. I couldn't turn the pages of my notebook quick enough when I got home.

Sunday arrived and I had plenty of chores to do - clean the bathroom, do the washing, make the dinner etc. Gail had gone shopping with her friend and Laura, so I finished them early giving me time to write. I redrafted Facing The Music, though I am still not happy with it. I think it needs a couple of more hundred words to be honest - the story doesn't feel finished. I startyed making notes for a rework of Bill McCarthy but again, I am not sure where to take it with the feedback I received from Gorlan Publications. I think I will sleep on this one for a few days.

I also designed a website for myself. I have this blog but I wanted to make a start on a proper author's website.And so I have. http://www.colingalbraith.co.uk will be ready for action some time this week hopefully. The site can be previewed at http://www.themagnificent7.co.uk/writing/index.html if you are interested.

Finally, I transferred the last of my notes from my daily notebook into the real one (I carry a small one round for comfort more than anything).

Cheers!

RIP Uncle Joe
Colin 11:59 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, August 27, 2004

Poetic Success

Ah the joys of writing. One day you are down, and the next you are up. At the start of the month I submitted four poems to Zygote In My Coffee, and this morning I was informed that they want three of them: Clouds, Missing Out and I Smoke Because I Want To. They rejected Robots presumably because it reads quite science-fictiony, but interestingly, it actually concerns the same subject that Missing Out addresses. Not to worry - I am delighted to have these published and they will start appearing from Issue 19, due out September 6th at http://www.zygoteinmycoffee.com

My subs list now reads:

2 short stories to Writing Magazine - deadlines ages away yet
1 short story to Sol Magazine
1 short story to Gorlan Publications - rejected but request for rewrite
1 short story to The Summerset Review
1 short story to the Bridport Competition - results due mid-September
5 poems to Greenshoots Magazine
3 poems to The Poetry Kit
4 poems to Zygote In My Coffee - 3 accepted for Issue 19 on Sep 6th
2 poems to Caffeine Destiny
2 poems to Pudding House - rejected this week

I have been reading a lot of short stories lately from a wide variety of authors. It has made me think (harping back to yesterday), that I am really aiming too high with mine and trying to achieve big things with them. I have come to the conclusion that simplicity is best and that it's possible to write great stories about everyday things. I read two over lunch, one called To Steal From A Thief written by an anonymous author about a boy who breaks into a house to rob and old woman and she binds him to her for life if she pays off the debt he hoped to repay by stealing from her - just to have some company. I also read one by Crysse Morrison called
Leonara's Forte
about a woman in a nursing home who takes dirty phone calls.

Both excellent reads, delicate and descriptive with superb dialogue, and yet they are not trying to achieve too much in the way of complicated plots or overstimulated characters. I need to focus on the things around me more and start using the notes I take every day and put them to better use.
Colin 7:47 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Brief Flurry Of Activity

There were two rejections in my mailbox this morning.

Pudding House said thanks but no thanks and wished me luck for Robots and Clouds. It was a standard rejection; short and sweet. I thought they might have been interested in Robots as it was a recommendation, but never mind. I know these poems are good - two of my best in fact - and am determined to find them a loving home. I see people being rejected everyday on my forum, (for novels not just poems), and my heart goes out to them. It is probably easier to have a poem rejected by an e-Zine than a novel by an agent/publisher after years of hard work. This will be me one day though - so I had better get used to it.

Gorlan Publications have intitially rejected Bill McCarthy but said they would be happy for me to resubmit if it was rewritten. With the rejection came a four paragraph critique from one of their editors. Now, I am not what you might call an experienced writer, particularly in the way of the submit/reject process, but I think a rejection letter of this length is quite out of the ordinary. There are plenty of suggestions within the critique for - what I thought was one of my best pieces of work, and some of them were quite cutting. It turns out there is a lot more I can do with it so I shall rewrite Bill and resubmit.

In fact, the comments while aimed directly at the submitted story, also confirm the broader feeling I have had over my last few stories. The editor said, "this ending has been done before" before suggesting ways of altering it - but I hit this problem a lot. While I get some good ideas now and then, tying them up can sometimes be a problem. I seem to be able to set a scene and draw a reader in easier that I am able to release them back into reality. I know some of my writing can be quite tense and dramatic - it is intended that way, but finding a suitable, rounded ending sometimes gets my mind into a fankle, and the editor of Gorlan has brought this to the forefront of my mind.

Come to think of it, the planned ending for my novel is going to have to be examined after this too. This is all good though - it's the only way to learn and better my writing so I am happy with this. Through self-analysis and critquing from experienced writers, I can and will get better.

On another broader theme, I was out getting some fresh air over lunch and did some thinking. I think I am going about it all wrong (short story writing that is). Going back to what I said earlier, I constantly get caught in the frame of mind that I feel as if I have to surprise the reader or perform a twist; that there should be a point or moral to every story I write. Im not opening up enough is what I'm trying to say. I need to really let my mind go and start spilling out any old idea - no matter how absurd - onto paper and then maybe I will be able to see the goal line easier.

Oh - and I had my first machine-made espresso at work today - not bad, not bad at all!
Colin 10:40 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

No Title's Please - We're British!

Today was a very mundane kind of day which is why I came up with the title - couldn't think of a more precise one.

Today I went to work.

While there, I did no work.

Then I returned home.

I typed more words into my laptop. The novel grows, but I am becoming disenchanted with it. It's nowhere near tight enough, the dialogue isn't cutting, and it needs the plot made more clear. I have to keep reminding myself that this is only the first write of my first novel, and that it will require a lot of rewriting. This is one of the main reasons I write short stories; as well as being fun and a joy to do, they also help me hone my editorial skills. Transferring this to a larger piece of work is a lot harder though, and getting the balance right will require a long painstaking effort. Not that I am complaining - I wish I had more time to spend on it, but what with life as it is, sometimes it can become frustrating trying to find the time to sit and write undisturbed.

*sigh*
Colin 1:06 pm | 2 comments |

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

War Of The Window Cleaners

This morning, my otherwise normal routine was stained by the unpleasant nature of some Edinburgh's residents. I shall explain.

I returned home from my holiday in July to find the fence surrounding my rear garden had been broken. Assuming it had been kids playing I left it and got out my hammer, nails and spare wood to patch it up. Later, I discovered that the lady above us has a window cleaner, and it was he who had wrecked the fence while attempting to jump into our garden with his ladder to get to her windows. A neighbour had seen him and it was her told me this.

And so I have bided my time for several weeks, waiting to catch the windown cleaner for a quite word and get the name of the company he works for vith a view to writingto them and expressingmy displeasure. As I left the house this morning, the window cleaner had planted his ladder in my garden to get to the windows of the flat above......

"Excuse me mate, who is it you work for?" I asked in a serious yet unthreatening voice.

"Dinnae work for anyone," he slurred.

"Well who do you do the windows for?"

"Guy next door. Why?"

"Oh right. So when you broke my fence a few weeks ago didn't you think it would be better to let me know?"

"You saying I broke yer f*****g fence ya p***k?"

"Eh - well a neighbour saw the window cleaner do it. So if it wasn't you then who else does these windows?"

"Naebody else does the f******g windows aw right?"

By now his language and attitude were starting to annoy me.

"All i'm saying is, it would have been nice for you to let us know that you broke the fence instead of just leaving it the way it was."

"Away and f**k yersel' ya w**k!!"

This last comment was accompanied by a masturbatory hand signal aimed in my direction.

Nice, I'm sure you will agree. The unenlightened in this country seem to think they have the right to do as they please. If it was up to me, he would be packed off to do some National Service instead of claming unemployment benefits while washing people's windows. Oh - I neglected to mention I looked him up didn't I.

No doubt this episode will land itself a place in one of my stories, and when it does, I expect it will fire an anger within me that was only too evident as I arrived at work this morning. Which was very busy today for a change - things seem to be going that way since rumours of us finally being bought out are rife in all quarters. Franky, I couldn't give a damn. Who in their right mind would want to!

I never got anything done in the way of writing and I am pissed off about that as well. Tomorrow is another day yes - but I wish I had today again.

Colin 10:05 pm | 2 comments |

Monday, August 23, 2004

Not A Lot Of Anything

Today there was much excitement in the office. A new tea/coffee machine was installed to replace the old decrepit one. This one not only has added features like being able to increase/decrease the amount of milk or sugar you want, but it also serves up espresso, hot chocolate, hot milk and my favourite...cappucino! Yay!! It took five (5) men to install it, but I think four of them were just there as protection against us lot lynching them at the time it took to get us a half decent drinks dispenser in this place.

Not heard back from any of my submissions as yet. I am slowly falling into a state of procrastination which I think is due to the weekend of relaxation I had. Well that and the CD I got recorded from the sound deck at a secret gig I went to in May by one of the world's biggest bands - Madness! I've had it on repeat for some time now.

It's not like I do not have enough idea's or projects on the go. I just feel quite exhausted today. I couldn't even be bothered cooking so we got a chippy instead. Total greed but sometimes it's good to just sit back with a fish supper and a can of Irn Bru and watch a bit of telly. I got bored though and performed some much needed maintenance on my computer. It is five years old now and really struggling. I freed up 5 gig's of space (50%) and did a bit of reorganisation of the disk space. If it weren't for the laptop I have at home supplied by my work for when I am on standby, I think it could annoy me even more the lack of speed and functionality the PC is now displaying. It will soon be time for a new one - I think I may even get a laptop - but I really need to get a CD writer to dump all my vital data onto. It's all backed up on floppy but some of the research documents I have are too big even for a floppy disk.
Colin 3:36 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Sun, Sea, Sand and Romance

I'm so glad we went to St. Andrews for our short break to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It is nineteen years since I was last there - the same day that Live Aid was broadcast all over the world. I was 11 years old, but this weekend I saw things I had never paid attention to before, and appreciated just how beautiful a setting it is for romance to flourish. There is still the long, wide open bay, the same skyline telling the history of the town, and naturally, the love of golf is self-evident. I should maybe take it as a sign that I am finally maturing into something resembling a "grown up", or maybe it is a sign of getting older, but I found myself wanting to visit the town's castle and cathedral.

Friday was spent walking round the town and doing a bit of shopping. We went for a drink in a bar and stayed for quite a while, then went out for a meal - which proved rather difficult. Everywhere we went was fully booked but we found a nice wee place eventually. We spent Saturday morning walking along the miles of sand, and then in the early part of the afternoon we visited the Castle and Cathedral. Before we arrived the weather was due to be "cloudy with rain". For once they got it wrong - it was glorious sunshine the whole time, so despite us packing out kagouls and jumpers, I should have been packing the suncream. As a result, and somewhat inevitably, I burnt my napper!

With the sea air tiring us out, we saw the latter part of the afternoon away drinking Jack Daniels and lager. This then turned into wine, and the evening progressed in a similar vein through to when I asked Gail to dance with me in the restaurant we had gone to for dinner. She refused, citing my inebriation and her embarrassment towards me as excuses - so I danced with myself. Our waitress gave us free coffee for the display though, so I couldn't have been that bad.

Over the weekend I had my trusty notebook with me, and scribbled many scene's, characters and ideas into it over the course of the weekend. All the history of the town, the views, its location and people; it all made for a stimulus injection of the literary kind. And yet, despite all this culture and stimulus, the one thing that I am continually drawn to is a sign I saw posted behind the bar of The Tudor Inn on North Street. It said simply, "Memo to all staff. It is advisable not to give Alan Chalmers ice with his drinks." That was it, and I am going to use it to build a story round. It just set me off in laughter, then the questions came; who, what and why?
Colin 11:44 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Abducted By Aliens

What a day!

Unbelievably I actually had some work to do today and so got nothing done at all during the day remotely realted to anything other than mainframe computers. Very tedious and very unchallenging.

On my way home I could have sworn I had fallen asleep at my desk, been abducted by aliens, dropped into the sea by the east coast of the US (when they realised I wasn't worth it), and then swam to the nearest shore. I say this because everyone I passed along George Street was American! It was unbelievable - every group that was either walking, standing, queuing or running was speaking in an American accent. I hope they are enjoying the weather now which has improved dramatically since last week.

At home, it was hard concentrating due to ongoing work in our kitchen. I persevered though, and when I got used to the banging and sawing I managed to get out a 3000 word story which I have called Facing The Music. It isn't finished yet, I just ran out of time but will get the rest of it down maybe on Sunday but definitley Monday. My space bar isn't working some of the time which is really annoying when I have to keep going back to seperate words. Might take the hoover to it later.

This weekend see's me and Gail going up to St. Andrews for a long weekend on our own to celebrate our first year of marriage. Seclusion, calm, relaxing - I can't wait. I bought a bottle of Moet and Chandon which I am going to stun her with on the beach with a couple of champagne flutes. Shucks - what an old romantic! So no Blogs till Sunday y'hear! :-)
Colin 10:54 am | 1 comments |

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sub, sub, sub!

I submitted Bill McCarthy to Gorlan Publications and The Choppers to The Summerset Review from work, and both via email. Gorlan looks quite good in fact as they either accept outright, offer feedback with a view to re-writing then accept, or send an outright rejection. They do this within 7 to 10 days for all correctly formatted ms's. The story I sent them seems to fit with the kind of thing they are looking for. Summerset I am not sure about, but I sent the ms anyway and as they wanted a blurb I sold it to them as a 'Scottish Tom Sawyer'. Again, we shall see.

With all the submitting over the past few days I have not managed to get into John King's new novel I got at that the weekend so I shall have to try and make time.

To summarise my submission position:

2 short stories to Writing Magazine
1 short story to Sol Magazine
1 short story to Gorlan Publications
1 short story to The Summerset Review
1 short story to the Bridport Competition
5 poems to Greenshoots Magazine
3 poems to The Poetry Kit
3 poems to Zygote In My Coffee (love that name!)
2 poems to Caffeine Destiny

I feel good! Yeah! I knew that I would! Yeah!
Colin 12:58 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A Comedy Of Erros

French vino really is the best - at giving you a sore head that is! Had a great time last night; most romantic, and very strange to be back in the place where we had our Wedding Breakfast with all those people a year ago. The Tattoo played in the background followed by fireworks - but that's a story for another Blog!!

First day back at school today (thank God), and Laura is now into Primary 3 - which also means the homework is going to intensify. We shall see how she handles it. She looked great heading off in her brand new uniform, though I wish someone would invent scuff-proof school shoes. They never last more than a fortnight.

All of my colleagues called in sick this morning so I was left covering all the work, phones and meetings. To pile more pain onto my predicament, the toilets were flooded, and the coffee machine out of cups. To top it all off, the cough medicine I bought yesterday decided to leak all over the inside of my desk drawer covering some papers, my wallet and some discs in a thick sticky goo. Oh what a wonderful place this is. If I was in the jail I would get better treatment than this and I wouldn't have to pay tax.

Over lunch I printed off The Choppers and Bill McCarthy, went over them with a red pen and redrafted them both when I got home. It took me most of the evening so I shall submit them tomorrow from work. The rest of the evening I worked on my novel. I was at 40k but after removing several flashbackscenes I was down at 36k. I'm now back to 40k and with a couple of sub-plot extensions that (I think) move the main plot along I reackon it's about 55% complete. I think the final word count for this is going to end up at about 80-90k but there is going to be a LOT of editing required on this so who knows.

I also spent much of the afternoon updating my Submission spreadsheet and adding more publications for sending stories and poetry to which kept my mind off the fact that today is yet another anniversary for me. Six (6) years ago I started work in here. I think I now offically qualify as "part of the furniture"!
Colin 10:43 am | 0 comments |

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Night Off

Congratulations to me! Today is my first wedding anniversary to Gail. It's been a long journey, but it's been worth it! As a result, no writing will be occurring tonight. I shall instead, for want of a better phrase, be "making the wife happy"! We are going out for a few drinks (midweek - I know!), and a nice meal tonight. It's the same hotel restaurant we had our reception in twelve months ago. It's a wonderful place overlooking Edinburgh Castle at the height of the Grassmarket. Then this weekend we are off to St. Andrews in Fife for a proper celebration. Just the two of us. No kids. No nothing. Bliss.

So due to all this, I did some submitting this afternoon from work.

'Who Am I' and 'Eight Forty One' to Lovenpoetry.com, which promptly bounced back with an unrecognised mailbox. Tut! I'll find somewhere else for these.

Above two poems then submitted to Caffeine Destiny - an Oregon, US based e-Zine.

'Missing Out', 'Limbo', 'Asphyxiation', 'Clouds' and 'Frustrating Facilitators' to the Edinburgh City Council's Green Shoots Magazine - published in all the districts libraries. I wasn't going to sub 'Frustrating Facilitiators' at all, but I thought it might get a laugh seeing as it's about their buses! I had trouble subbing to them also, but the editor got back to me immediately when she saw my mail blocked by their filter, and so I shall hope for some progress here.

That's me got just about all my "submittable" poems out on submission now. Fingers crossed.
Colin 3:54 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Frenetic Writing

Got some major writing down today.

Apart from when I had to go and pick up my new cooker, I got a whole day's writing down - 12 hours in total. It felt good. It was tiring. It was extremely satisfying. Spending so long really allowed me to get inside the characters of my book. They need help a lot of the time - they are misfits generally anyway - but they continue to surprise me and at times I feel as if I am only the custodian, and it is they who are writing this book, not me.

As well as work on my novel, I polished the short story called 'Bill McCarthy'. It's almost ready for submitting but I shall print it off first and go over it at lunch for a final review. I like to see something on paper first because sometimes it is not possible to see glaring discrepancies on a screen that somehow appear when black on white.

'The Choppers' was also put to bed. A short story about a gang of young lads in the eighties during the summer holidays. I'm think a series with this one....KIC? Hmmm - simmer down Col you ain't that good.
Colin 10:40 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, August 14, 2004

New Reading And New Ideas

I read somewhere that to be a good writer you must also read, read, read. I try to, but finding the time isn't always easy. When I am not working on the day shift I am raising a child and trying to do it in such a way that my wife isn't led into thinking she has two children in the house and not just one. So when I do get spare time, I like to write. I have to write. Nevertheless I do manage to get through my fair share and over the last few months I have been reading a lot by Paul Auster. I have mentioned him before and this afternoon I was on Borders over at Fort Kinnaird flicking through more of his work. They have it all and it is always a problem to know what to get. I plumped for The Art of Hunger which is a collection of essays, prefaces and interviews as well as an autobiographical account writing. Having just read a couple of his novels, as well as starting to re-read Hand To Mouth I will not start it until I have read the other book I got today. Paul King has a new book out called The Prison House, and although I hadn't seen it advertised anywhere, it was with great delight that when I checked under 'K' (I do it every time) I saw a new title staring back at me. This will be my next intake of fiction - starting in five minutes when I finish this.

The shopping spree wasn't all as much fun as this however. Gail decided it was about time I got some new jeans and clothes for Laura goinginto Primary 3 so I had to wait about for ages while she sidled through every clothes shop there was. Luckily, I had purchased the books forst so I flicked through them while I waited.

My kitchen is being rennovated at this time and is out of order until the new sink goes in. This also meant no water in the house for several hours which in turn meant no coffee. I was not happy but made do with Irn-Bru - God's answer to hangovers.

With Gail out for the evening I got down to some writing and redrafted Bill McCarthy. I also got down two early drafts of another couple of short stories which I am going to complete before going back to Bill. It's a definite for submitting - I really like it. I haven't heard back from any of my subs at all but the Pudding House poems were sent from my work e-mail so if there is anything I won't pick it up until Monday.

Last night proved very fruitful also. As well as there being a free bar until 9pm (I got there at five!) I met with an old pal who is just back from a tour of Europe. Oh some of the tales he told which thankfully, he did nearer the start of the night. I felt like a dodgy detective as I nipped to the toilet every so often, locked myself into a cubicle and got out my notepad to record them for use at a later date in a story.

Finally, I'm praying for everyone in Florida and the east coast of the US as Hurricane Charley makes it's way north. I have some friends over the pond there, and hopefully this storm will make another sudden turn and head out into the Atlantic to die off.
Colin 11:57 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, August 13, 2004

Lucky For Some

I had a wonderful sleep last night. The steak dinner and cup of tea really made me feel wholesome again and when I woke this morning I was full of vitality and freshness. Which really annoys Gail, particularly when she got in at 3am after going to the pub with her pal! Oh the trials of married life.

I'm getting sick of the rain. It won't stop and another hurricane (Charley) is about to hit Tampa, Florida and the west coast of the peninsula. My yongest sister is currently holidaying in the Dominican Republic and I'm praying it doesn't hit the island or any of my forum buddies. I've been watching Yahoo! Weather and it has been thunder and rain constantly since she arrived with no end in sight. Bit like Scotland really.

I started reading Paul Auster's autobiography, 'Hand To Mouth', again last night. Normally I don't re-read books but I have two reasons for doing so, 1) It is a fabulous book, 2) I read on the BBC Radio 2 website that an interview with him is to be aired on September 5th where he talks about his life and one of his novels, 'The New York Trilogy'. I really enjoy his work, and I really admire his style. I take so much from his methodology that it really inspires me. There are always so many subtle points that make up the book and they make me think hard about my own life as a writer.

At work I completed 'A Bond Of Faith' after receiving some crits from the forum. I was ready to scrap this story - maybe I should have more faith in myself in future. After a redraft I printed it out and sent it as a hard copy submissions to 'Sol Magazine'. I also got down an entire 2500 word story called 'Bill McCarthy' which I am confident about being publishable. I needs a bit more work on it and it will be polished tomorow ready for being sent out.

I'm really enjoying my writing at the moment. I can't remember being so involved in everything that I am working on, and the confidence to do more and more and submit more and more is growing. A lot of it is to do with the forum - there are so many expreienced and talented writers there and their feedback is always constructive - good or bad. It all helps improve oneself and that can't be a bad thing.

I wrote this Blog while still at work today because I have a night out after work for one of my mates who was thrown onto the pile of redundants recently. I'm just about to head off happy that I got through so much writing today. Had I not I would have been peeved since I won't be doing anything tonight. In saying that, nights out in Edinburgh are always interesting and I know in advance that I am guaranteed to get some new idea for a story or character I can use.

PS - I didn't know what to call today's Blog, so as it's Friday the 13th I went with a giant pun!
Colin 4:16 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I'm Only Human

I arranged a meeting with my boss this afternoon to discuss the state of affairs in my office. Low workloads, low morale and low enthusiasm is now ripe since the recent cull of 250 colleagues and friends from my department. The focus seems to have shifted from the slashing of careers to the advancement of damage-reducing press releases. And so I am left in a void. No work - and no will to work. And yet despite this, they still think I am doing a great job. He told me all the reasons why I was not one of the one's picked for redundancy, and explained that everything will work out in the future. Apparently I am performing at the top level of my grade despite only being promote to it a year ago. I think he may also have had a "How To Speak Like A Manager" book hidden under the table. It still bemuses me how I continue to get comments like these in the face of little or no effort on my part. Maybe it will get better, but it is getting harder by the day to drag myself into this place and look even the least bit interested. I wonder sometimes, if it is actually the Company that is making me like this, or perhaps it is my own desire to write more and more overtaking any other ambitions I may have.

I my subbing spreadhseet this afternoon to include yesterdays submissions to Pudding House. After the urgent e-mail I receieved from them yesterday I am hoping it won;t take too long to get an answer. This would be a great thing to happen if it did, but my hopes are not getting raised too much. I also decided to help my inbox out by subscribing to three stories at Keep It Coming: Tapestry, The Widows Chamber and Blood on an Appalachian Sunset, all written by fellow writing buddies of mine. I am very much looking forward to reading them.

I would love to do something for KIC myself sometime. The idea of a continual fictional plot seems very attractive, although I am unsure if I have the time or skill to committ to such a project. I shall maybe wait until I have a few more publications to my credit before forwarding my idea to them, which is still brewing in my head at the moment. I think I may be getting too eager too early. I wrote a short story a while back for a competition in a national writing magazine, and it occurred to me back then I could do a lot more with it. Based in Edinburgh and around Scotland it would be a thriller that I would want to read myself. That pretty much sums up how I decide if I go ahead with a story or not - would I read it myself?

Elsewhere, I have had an idea for a series of short stories. I was working on my novel (during work!) and decided I really didn't need two flashback scenes. They were fine to begin with, but now the novel has matured on paper they are surplus to the story and so I cut them out. Looking at them, they could both be used as stories in their own right, and even interlinked. They will fit in well with another idea I had years ago which I have never been able to work out how to get it down despite many attempts. This may just solve the problem.

My wee girl hasn't been sleeping at all well lately - complaints of being scared of the dark and nightmares have been preventing me from getting a proper nights sleep. So I braved the rain (yes - it's pouring again) and trawled Edinburgh for somewhere that sells a lava lamp - not too bright and not too dark, and it looks pretty. I found one eventually, but by that time I was soaked and starving.

The detox diet fell on it's arse tonight. I couldn't take any more raw vegetables, fruit and water after three days of it. The headaches, the craving for a cup of coffee, the overwhelming desire for just one finger of a Kit-Kat, the stomach cramps. So I grilled a steak and a baked potato when I got in.

Heck, I'm only human!
Colin 9:46 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A Great Day

Things just get better and better. It seems the God's are favouring us at the moment because as I was leaving for work the postie arrived. She had a letter for my wife, and in it is the details of her new offer of employment at a brand new company, brand new salary and brand new career path. In other words, she's outta here! (yes - ironically she works for the same company as me!)

I rang her as she was already in the office and the excitment was palpable. This gives us even more reason to celebrate next week when we go away for our first anniversary.

The delight that engulfed me this morning took away from the fact that I am now craving coffee - particularly that first one early morning. It's doin' ma' heid in man!! Veg and fruit is great, but this detox plan (badly needed I know) is not easy. Still, onwards and upwards eh?

Speaking of which, I have had movement on the submission front. After e-mailing a gentle query to Pudding House, Jennifer got back to me first thing (07:30 her time) with the go-ahead to fire across a couple of poems by e-mail. I had to do it immediately as there are reasons. Very short message but I followed the instructions to a T and Robots and Clouds are now in their hands. I await with anticipation.
Colin 1:15 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Productivity Rules!

I paid special attention to the bus on the journey into work this morning, unusual perhaps but I like to flex my "third eye" continually. Trying to see everything differently has given me new perspectives on even the most basic things and sprung up a few ideas into the bargain. That's the main reason I carry a notebook with me wherever I go. You just never know when you are going to come up with a story idea, new character, or even a single, killer line of dialogue. I drafted a poem late last night - called Frustrating Facilitators - based on my experience with Lothian Buses yesterday, and reviewed it a few times this morning at work, before posting it to my favourite forum.

Work was dire. The only productivity of note was the previous poem, and some notes and plot development for my novel. I suppose this makes me a paid writer in a kind of round about way, seeing as I am doing nothing else during the days except work on my writing. It gets difficult though, hiding what you are doing, the constant covering up of my notebook, or flicking of the screen away from Internet Explorer. I'm not the only one in this predicament, and it won't continue. It can't continue. Soon I will be forced to turn my hand back to what I am meant to be doing here, but the truth is, everyone is so zombified in here no-one notices.

The Fringe appears to have got off to a good start despite the atrocious weather over the past couple of days, and so has my detox diet. I'm forcing all the toxins and poisons out of my body in an attempt to purify myself and lose a couple of inches while I'm at it. The headache kicked in at about 3pm as I felt the last drop of caffeine I consumed yesterday drip out my system.

Tonight, I redrafted a short story entitle A Bond Of Faith. It's a good story but I have approached it in a different way to anything I have done before. It was a hard one to work out initially in my head, but once I got it into perspective it came out on paper easily the first time. There were some tense problems but I think I managed to clear most of them away. I might post it to my forum - first prose post from me for a while - and try to get some feedback.

I also complete two poems and may submit one of them for publication. I wrote to Pudding House regarding a poem I would also like to submit to them but not sure if they will accept it unless it is via snail-mail. Not the easiest given they are US based - I can only ask though.

I completed another chapter of my novel, which I reckon is now about 60% complete. I stuttered in the middle as I had a serious POV crisis. A book I read recently brought it all about and I suddenly wondered if it would be better told in first person. I started to revise it and was several pages in when I realised it wouldn't be better after all. All it needed was to iron out some plot crinkles, and loan behold, it started flowing again. In fact, I even came up with a different end to the story, which gives it a much greater twist, and also leaves it open should I wish to develop it into a sequel. I would like to do this, because one if the characters in particular, while only a supporting character, has developed totally on his own. He is very intriguing and deep, and I feel like I want to give him something in his own right. He has his own story to tell that it isn't being told in the current one.

All very exciting, and all in all, a good evening writing.
Colin 10:09 pm | 1 comments |

Monday, August 09, 2004

Back To Normal

The hot spell is well and truly over. Grey clouds welcomed me this morning as I rose from my slumber, and spittles of rain bounced off my baldy napper as I made my way to work. By lunchtime the rain was heavy and persistent. Looking out the office window is like peering into a bleak dankness, broken only by the fluorescent strips of light running in parallel along the ceiling. It is not pleasant, especially when I travelled through Edinburgh's soaking streets at lunchtime on foot, to return my kilt to the hire shop.

News reports came in of severe flash floods in Glasgow and of the devastation caused in the early part of the morning. Theose same angry clouds are set to continue moving east, so we are preparing for some ideal street-canoeing weather in thenear future. It continually amazes me that in a place such as Scotland - widely regarded as one of the wettest places on earth that ISN'T an ocean - still has problems when a couple of inches of rain should fall on it. It's not as if we haven't had much experience with the stuff, and it's not as if we don't have the equipment, the money or the patience to cope with it. But we do, and it keeps happening. You should see what happens when it snows!

With work over I trudged home in the torrential and unrelenting rain. I made my way to the nearest bus stop, but even then my suit was soaked through to the skin. I had to wait a further fifteen minutes for my bus, and with the day going as it had, I should have been perhaps more braced for the unexpected as I was. It is no falsehood, or tug at a comical story when I tell you what I am about to tell you. I watched as the bus approached from along Queen Street and into York Place, and I could see it was mostly empty so I was glad I would get a seat all to my sodden self. I edged forward to the kerb, and the bus moved into the bus lane. I watched aghast as the bus proceeded to shoot past me, sending up a litre of two of water into my face for the trouble. Embarrassment doesn't cover it, nor does anger. It's not the first time I have had a run-in with Lothian Buses, but this really took the biscuit. Eventually amother bus came although this only went half of the way I needed to go so I had to call the wife and ask her to rescue me. She obliged but mentioned that I would still have to make the dinner when we got in.

After drying off, I was straight back out again to go to Asda for a shop. I'm starting an 'Eating Sensibly Diet' tomorrow and so needed to get plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit in. So with all this going on I never got a chance to do any writing of substance other than some furious scribbling in my notebook (wet through also) and of course, this Blog.

Tomorrow's weather report will be slightly shorter as I am fed up talking about the movement of rain over Scotland for the time being. A poem is in the offing though, inspired by those lovely people down in the Annandale Street bus depot, which I shall refine and probably post to a forum I am a member of in the morning.
Colin 1:15 pm | 1 comments |

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A Bride, A Groom and a Short Story

The Scottish summer reached into its second and third consecutive days this weekend. I kid you not. We have now had three days of hot and sunny weather, all in succession. Saturdays glorious weather was more than welcome for my friends Nicola and Stephen who got married in the Hilton Hydro in Dunblane. Dunblane is a beautiful part of the country, set in the centre of the country between Falkirk and Stirling. It encompasses the vast rolling wilds of Scotland within a traditionally small village setting. Gail and myself drove up on Saturday and joined in the celebrations at twelve noon - the party never stopped until four o’clock the following morning. When the Bride arrived in the hotel for the ceremony, a fully regaled Scottish Piper played her into the wedding suite and up the aisle. The suite itself had large bay windows that overlooked the backdrop of the surrounding mountains making it a truly romantic Scottish wedding. Twelve hours later, we saw them out to the tune of Flower of Scotland and The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond. It was a fantastic day, and despite being duped into dancing alone, on my own, singularly on the dance floor in front of 200 people, I still had a great time. Needless to say though, everyone was left in no doubt that I really am quite a crap dancer.

Today took a while to get started. The hangover kicked in pretty much as soon as I got up, which was about 9am. Having had only five hours of restless sleep it was no wonder I could hardly eat any of my cooked breakfast. By the time we got home most of the afternoon had passed me by so I was delighted that I managed to write the first draft of a short story I had been developing in note form, called A Bond Of Faith. It’s not for anything in particular, but I will continue to work on it and hopefully find a somewhere suitable to submit it for application in the next few days.
Colin 8:32 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, August 06, 2004

Sunshine On Leith

Summer has arrived, and as is the norm here nobody knows what to do with it or how long it will last. True to form, all the cafes and bistros spilled their furniture onto the pavements, jumpers were swapped for T-shirts, and not a single person knew where to put their umbrella.

As this is the second day of my babysitting duties, I decided to head up town again with Laura. I had some things to do anyway - pick up a kilt for a wedding I am going to up in Dunblane tomorrow (lets hope the weather holds out), and I had to buy a card for a friend who just became a father for the first time.

I can't remember it being this warm for quite a while - we are talking WELL over 20 degrees centigrade! (60F). It's amazing how people in Scotland think the sun is a tourist attraction from the equator. No wonder the rate of skin cancer in this country has gone through the roof in recent years. It's perhaps even more amazing to think statistics like that last one are actually believable!

It turned out to be quite a productive day after all the necessities were taken care of - I had a load of updates to my Madness website that have been needing looked at, including some video clips of a gig I went to recently. I also worked my way through a load of e-mails from fans of the band that were in need of directions or information. Once all that was out the way I started developing some notes and story ideas in full using the scribbles I found lying on my desk during yesterdays clean up exercise. Got some great ideas to use but won't be able to do any real writing now until Sunday. I want to get a couple of short stories completed next week, get a few more poems down, and move my novel into the next phase. I submitted several poems to 'The Poetry Kit Magazine' and 'Zygote In My Coffee' late last night also, so hopefully one will get lucky.
Colin 10:04 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Viva La Festival

Despite only being back from my summer holiday a matter of days, today was a much welcome break from work. Oh joyous trumpets cease while I explain. We are in the middle of the school holidays just now, and Laura shares her time between her Gran and the Summer Club. The other days are spent with me because, as any parent out there knows, the cost of raising a child during the holidays increases for various reasons. And so for the next two days, I am playing babysitter.

Not one to hang about then, and as it was a decent day weather-wise, we went to meet Gail (the wife) for lunch in the town centre. This was a terrible error of judgement on my part, as I shall explain. Obviously the 'lunch with Gail' bit was lovely. Obviously. It was the 'centre of Edinburgh' bit that I should have had alarm bells ringing in my head. If you look to the top of this page it should say somewhere the word 'August', and when you introduce this word to the name 'Edinburgh', you get a cocktail of potential trouble. For August is the time when this town changes. Street performers sprout from the orifices of every building; bagpipers torture their pets on every corner; tourists swarm the streets clad in every model ever to be spawned by the Sony Corporation; city workers pop out for a sandwich and a coke and wish they had brought cheese and pickle rolls to work instead; and they all come together in a massive, crawling, organic throng of human life. If you stand at the top of Calton Hill in July, look westward and watch closely, you can actually see Princes Street take on the form of a chameleon, filtering into a different being altogether.

This of course is all very well, but it makes it a tad difficult to navigate from one end of town to the other. Where on a normal day you can walk the length of this famous street in twenty minutes, try doing it on a bus in August when the Edinburgh Festival is about to start and it can take upwards of and hour. As I found out.

I should say though, that The Edinburgh Festival, or rather it's sister The Fringe, is really a wonderful thing to fall on Edinburgh whenever it comes around. It is one of the better things to happen in this country on an annual basis, and apart from the revenue it creates through tourism, it is a fantastic source in inspiration for writing. You can go to any corner of the city clad only with your notebook and pen (clothes too obviously, unless you are appearing in 'Puppetry of the Penis' or something equally as obscure), and you are guaranteed something of value that can be incorporated into any form of writing. From that point of view - yes it's worth it. From the public transport angle - not so good.

Later, I continued in the organisational vein that accompanied yesterdays leap into Blogdom, and purchased some new notebooks and folders on the way home. Laura went out to play, and so I made about giving my desk a belated spring clean. I swept all the clutter away and took a cloth to the coffee stains and cigarette ash (cliché alert), threw out anything that was of no use and started on the pile of papers and magazines that had previously been living on the wooden top for so long. As I worked through the pile, I came across some old jottings and newspaper cut-outs I had made a while back. I've got folders for all this stuff but there are a few ideas for short stories that I am going to develop over the next few days, and maybe just possibly a full length novel, so it was definitely a worthwhile exercise.

And now.... on with the writing!
Colin 8:32 pm | 1 comments |

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Diving into Blogging

Hello and welcome to my Blog. You could say I am the 'new kid on the Blog', only I'm not a kid (cue smart comment from my wife), and I am not that new - not in human years anyway. Several of my writing buddies have Blogs, and they have inadvertently persuaded me that maybe it's quite a good idea. So here I am.

I have several passions in life, one of the most important to me being the craft of writing. I have always had a "thing" about the written word, but never picked up the pen seriously until 1999 when a friend, having listened to me drone on endlessly about wanting to write for many months, bought me 'Hand To Mouth', the autobiography by Paul Auster. He never knew - and still doesn't know to this day - what an effect that book had on my life.

I decided to start this blog in order to provide myself with a focus on my writing. It will be a place to shed my thoughts and fears; feelings and emotions. The title of this Blog says it all, for I am holed up in a job that pays well but offers little in the way of satisfaction. I work in an I.T. department where it is not just the computers that are programmed as robots. This Blog will be a living document of my struggle to free myself from these reigns, and that one day, my life will consist of writing as a career full-time. Freedom from the mundane - that's the dream.

If you're still with me, I shall tell you a little more about myself. I am 30, and I live in Edinburgh with my wife and step-daughter. We were married last August in Leith (she's a local) and honeymooned in Jamaica. I originate from the west coast of Scotland (Paisley and then Glasgow) - a subject that offers much in the way of potential for arguments around our home har har - and I love to go back to Glasgow whenever I can. I miss the place more than I let on. I love listening to ska and reggae music, and I also run a website dedicated to the band Madness. That is all I will say on Madness though, as I do not want this site to become linked in anyway to that side of my life - needless to say, they played a huge part in my upbringing.

Other interests that I flirt with from time to time are cooking (good stuff, not out of a tin), fly-fishing, football (soccer for any Statesiders) and drinking. And as this is now starting to sound like the end of a very bad CV (resume), I shall quit there for day 1 of my Blogging experience.

It's been fun actually. I feel like I have organised myself a little bit more, and trimmed off the excess fat from my mind just a tiny bit.
Colin 3:07 pm | 5 comments |