Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Time Alone

Laura has her first dancing show tonight and so most of the day was taken up getting her ready for it; makeup, hair, costume order – all stuff I know little about. So I was a good morale provider. Gail volunteered to work behind the scenes (tomorrow we will all be in the audience) and seemed to be getting a buzz from it.

All of the preparations meant that I had the house to myself for large chunks of the day.

So I wrote.

I wrote my first poem in a couple of months and called it Perfect Place. It’s about the river in the village I grew up in as a boy and spent a lot of time fishing, sitting and just watching nature. Having lived in various cities so long now I often think back to those days and the feeling of being part of nature, and I found myself dreaming of it today. The poem came naturally.

Gail and Laura came back from the rehearsals and I had dinner waiting for them – scampi and chips. Then they were off to the theatre again so I ordered myself a Thai Chicken Curry – deliciously hot and chunky. Then I started redrafting the issues of HJ I wrote on Friday night while drunk, and surprisingly, found that most of it didn’t need much changing. Jackie got into a fight, which has altered people’s view on him, and that will include the readers as well. But I like the context it was written in and the edge it has now given Jackie so I kept it in.

Hallowe'en isn't the same as it used to be, and I don't just say that because I have grown up. I still feel the excitment in the air I used to get when going out dressed up to visit houses and do performances. But in my day there were several of us that would go about and visit loads of houses in the neighbourhood. It was a real adventure when I think back and we always came home with bags full of sweets and fruit. (The fruit always went off!).

Nowadays, and this may just be Edinburgh I'm not sure, you don't see many kids out abd when you do there are loads of adults as well. Our door only got knocked once and it was the wee girl from next door with her Mum. We were the only house she was visiting so I scrambled the sweets I could and gave them to her.

This brings me onto tomorrow's dancing show that Laura is in. Parents aren't allowed to film or photgraph the event and this same rule applies to school shows as well. The reason? Peadophiles have ruined it for everyone. I may be cynical, but I can't help thinking the drop in Guysers and the ban on video are somehow connected by this. This country needs to get tough.

It has been a hard weekend. I count my blessings I have Gail to fall back on.

Tomorrow is a new day.
Colin 10:57 pm | 1 comments |

Saturday, October 30, 2004

I'll Get By With A Little Help.....

Today was better.

I received an amazing display of support from the people at my writing group. I almost feel guilty for having underestimated them so much, but having spoken with them, feel a hundred times better. Some of them read my blog, and so thank you again - you know who you are.

My friend Paul was through visiting Edinburgh with some of his pals on a stag session, so I met him for a beer in The Beehive at Grassmarket. I was going to take them to The Last Drop, but they had already been and gone before I arrived. They were all firemen - Gail would have loved it!

We had a laugh, and I forgot about stuff but had to leave them early to go into work. I was home by 11pm and totally shattered from the last two days.

A lot of my friends - real friends – the group that I would trust with my life and who have always been there – are coming through to Edinburgh on Wednesday. Most have the day off and are in the country at the same time as one another, which in itself is a rarity, so I have taken the Wednesday and Thursday off. I cannot wait to meet up with them again. I never laugh so much when we are all together. It will probably get messy as the meet-up turns into a giant party – but we only get to do it once every few months so roll on Wednesday.
Colin 10:50 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, October 29, 2004

Blocking It Out

Today was a bad day. In fact, it couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Thank you Mr. Postman.

I went to work for an hour.

I went to the pub.

I went home.

I drank whisky.

I wrote 5000 words of HJ.

I drank more whisky.

I called it a night.

Colin 10:48 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Lethargy

I felt fully recharged this morning somehow, which is an odd feeling to have on a Thursday. Normally I have a fuzzy head after an evening at the snooker table with beer, but today I feel raring to go. I think it is because I got some good writing done the first two nights of the week and worked late to achieve it. Being so tired yesterday and not writing for an evening has rolled everything back and I can see the plot clearer, and what I know is wrong with issues 22 and 23. Well there isn’t much wrong, but I need to edit them more so that the next scene – which is a major one – rolls along effortlessly.

I saw an advert up on the noticeboard in my office advertising a second-hand book sale that the guys in the mailroom are running. For a small donation to the company charity fund, you can take your pick of book. And then an idea hit me. I emailed the guy running it to see if he thought it would be okay for me to insert some of my fliers for Hunting Jack into the books (a charity donation on my part would be made), so when anyone bought one there would be a chance they would at least check it out on the website. There’s only about half a dozen people a day buying books, but that’s 30 a week, and if just one of them subscribed to HJ it would be worth it. We shall see.

By the time I got home the previous late nights started to catch up on me. I found it hard to get in gear, stopping and starting and by 9om I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I could not concentrate or get motivated at all despite sitting in front of the laptop knowing what I have to do. As a result it was a non-productive evening and I am pretty annoyed with myself for not having done anything.
Colin 11:43 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Revenge Of Lothian Buses

This morning was a complete disaster. Having written until nearly 1am last night I woke up even more shattered than yesterday, but managed to crawl out of bed for the meeting with the big-wigs.

I boarded the bus with the best intentions, convinced it would be a worthwhile investment of my time. The bus roared easily up Leith Walk and as we were navigating the roundabout next to The Playhouse, it sounded as if the driver attempted to change gear. Only the gear never made it and the bus slowed to a halt, whining and groaning.

There we sat, with a queue of cars building up around us and nowhere to go. By the time the big-wig coffee morning started, I was still sat on the bus waiting for the cavalry to arrive so we could be safely escorted from the bus.

I was now in a dilemma; walk in nearly an hour late to the informal big-wig session, or forget about it. I chose the former, figuring it would be the best thing to do under the circumstances. Since I had left the house without a coffee, I made my way to Starbucks, sat down with my notebook and ordered a cappuccino. A most pleasant way to spend the morning I’m sure you will agree.

My lunch appointment was still on however, and I met up with Ruth – an old friend and colleague from my Glasgow working days. We went to a Chinese equivalent of a “greasy-spoon” café, and enjoyed a nice lunch and confab about may things, past and present.

Ruth has recently embarked on an Art Degree course at the Edinburgh School of Art. It’s part-time between her job and it sounds like it’s a great move for her. We talked about her course and my writing and I think she is feeling the same way I did when I first started to write in a serious way. I’m delighted for ,her and it’s good to have another person to chat to about the “artist’s mind” in person.
Colin 10:34 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

John Peel: A Legend

I woke up shattered again and it was a real struggle to get out of bed. The cold mornings aren’t helping and the clocks will soon go back making it even darker, but I also blame The Soprano’s for being shown so late on a Monday night!!

I finished off sending the last of my press releases so fingers crossed someone takes an interest somewhere. Got to keep plugging away and put I the effort otherwise I’m never going to get out of here.

Received some extremely sad news in the afternoon. John Peel died suddenly today while on a working holiday in Peru with his wife. He was 65. John was one of the original founders of BBC’s Radio 1 and it was his love for music and determination to give bands a chance from all obscurities that made him such a well-loved and respected figure. His crumbling tones emanating from the radio in between tracks not only displayed his huge passion for new and forward thinking music, but provided a soundtrack for generations of radio and music lovers across the UK.

He was responsible for initiating The Peel Sessions, where recordings would be made of unsigned and new bands in a studio and broadcast in the quest for airtime when they had no records to be played. Many famous artists played these sessions, or were introduced to the world by John, including my favourite band, Madness. It was this session that helped to broaden the market appeal of the band before they were a finished product, and as a sign of how much the recording is still valued today, only the most dedicated of collectors have a copy of it after being released several years ago. I have one, and since John’s death the value of that one rough recording has surely quadrupled in value.

Rest in peace John, and thank you for your dedication to music – you have left a legacy like no other.


John Peel: 1939-2004

Read more on John Peel

I was referred to a nice application from a journo friend who had a requirement to create PDF files. Adobe charge a fortune for their in-house editor, but OpenOffice can create PDF files for free and has some wonderful graphics capabilities. This will be very useful for creating professional fliers, websites and other promotional stuff. Just what I have been looking for.

Tomorrow is the day of the coffee morning with the corporate big-wigs. If anyone remembers, this caused much turmoil in my mind before I finally came to a decision about whether or not to attend, but the prospect of meeting an old pal for lunch after it and the opportunity to use the setting in a story somewhere were the persuasive factors. Except, the sole in my left shoe has burst and I do not have time to get new ones before then. So, I will walk into the boardroom with my less than pristine trousers on, burst shoe, unbuttoned shirt with the tie loosened at the top. And I don’t care.

Issues 22 and 23 of HJ are coming on, and I finished off two short stories that have been languishing in my ‘almost ready for submission’ pile.
Colin 11:38 pm | 0 comments |

Monday, October 25, 2004

Forcing The Issues

The morning news held some disturbing local drama: one of the bars I drink in from time to time (last week with my wife for one), was firebombed late last night. Two men walked into The Lighthouse on The Shore in Leith and threw the device injuring one man before fleeing up the road. Why? One would expect to find there is some connection with gang warfare involved but in a lot of these cases it is just down to mindless violence brought on by drugs in some way or another. It is a sad reflection on society when you can’t have a drink in a bar without having to wonder about the ‘element’ ruining it for everyone else. No doubt they will catch the culprits and they will get off with some lenient sentence as usual.

Read the story here

I pushed the ball further by spending time fishing out the various other Glasgow and Edinburgh student publications and noting their details. I will get the press release for HJ to them as soon as possible.

I was updating my submission tracker and decided to insert an extra column to indicate the overall status of each piece of work because of the clutter of submissions. It seems my poem, Robots, has been sitting alone since it was rejected on August 26th so I headed over to various e-Zine listing sites and found PNG Poetry Online. They are currently calling for submissions and as I think the poem fits its style I submitted it when I got home. Technically Robots isn’t a SF genre poem, but it seems to have been picked up like that by everyone who reads it so I shall try the market. It has to have a home and I have grown strangely fond of it.

I wrote two issues of HJ – 22 and 23. Issue 23 is going to need a lot of work done on it. Consisting mostly of dialogue, I found myself struggling to really get into it and it came out more like a script. Still it means progress of over 2k words so I am pleased with that. I have found in the past when this happens and I go back to pad it out, it comes to me easier on another day and I end up stretching it into 3 or 4 really good issues instead of 1 or 2 bad ones.
Colin 11:51 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Business End

With all the paint dry we could get all our stuff back into the kitchen where it belongs which is a relief. There was a bit of worry that the wall paint wasn’t the shade Gail wanted and I thought for a horrible minute we would have to go buy more and start again, but thankfully, she liked it.

I managed to fix my email and downloaded a barrage of mails that had been queuing on the server. There was quite a lot from Madness fans interested in the new album release for next year and I also had another booking request come in from a French agency, which I passed on. Can’t see them taking next years tour to the continent but if the price is right…

I worked my through my Writers & Artists Yearbook and used it to put together a spreadsheet for tracking press releases and all the different organisations' contact details. The release that is to go out via PRWeb is good, but I changed it for this set of releases to incorporate more local and individually appropriate information. It went out to all the Scottish national papers, the local Glasgow and Edinburgh one’s, the Edinburgh and Paisley University papers and various local and national magazines and ezines. I could not for the love of God find out how to submit to The Scotsman so I’ll grab a copy in the morning. They only have a form and I don’t want to send it via that but I may have to. Failing that, I’ll mail them a hard copy. I also still have to submit to the Glasgow Uni papers.

To read tomorrow's scheduled PRWeb Press Release for Hunting Jack, CLICK HERE

HJ issues 18, 19, 20 and 21 were all read through one last time and submitted to KIC and I also finished redrafting Heart of a Child, which I wrote for a competition. I was scanning for places that would be appropriate for submission and I checked out a link on my writers' forum listing places my colleagues preferred. I settled on Wildchild, and made the submission.

Note for this week: Got to keep the ball rolling!
Colin 11:27 pm | 1 comments |

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Teamwork

I knew today wasn’t going to be a writing day. We are almost at the point of being able to say the refurbishment of our kitchen is complete but there is still a fair bit to do. And today was all about painting, so I figured if I could get through a lot today, tomorrow I would be free to get a full days writing done.

And so I painted, and painted and recoated. It was awkward, boring and not fun at all, though with Gail doing other parts it felt like we were a real team and that was satisfying. My wife is incredibly independent – it’s one of the things that attracted me to her in the first place; the fact that she does her own thing, won’t be walked over by anyone and gives as good as she gets. She already had her independence before I came along, and it’s one of her best qualities. Which is why doing things together isn’t always possible, but today it all clicked into place.

After all the work was out the way we tidied up and welcomed a couple of Gail’s friends over to the house. I stayed out the way of the female banter and spent the evening trying to fix my email. I had checked it in the morning but Outlook Express hung and despite various reinstalls, application patches and reconfiguring of the registry, it just would not work. My midnight my patience was wearing thin so I left it alone and hit the hay. With a build up HJ issues and other important emails expected, this failure could become a serious problem before long.
Colin 11:54 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, October 22, 2004

"Hi I'm Colin. I'm a writer."

Today shot past. I spent the morning in meetings and in the afternoon I reworked the press release for PRWeb and submitted it. Some of Iain’s suggestions were straight out the tabloid book of puns but really helped to spice up the copy. It shall be released Monday 25th and I also intend to release to some specific UK targets then as well.

I met my pal Zander after work for a few pints down in Hamilton’s of Stockbridge. We met up with his pal and sister and some of his bowling chums before moving onto Hector’s – a real posers palace.

Normally I wouldn’t write about this stuff but I made an interesting development amongst some people I was meeting for the first time. For the first time, I introduced myself as a writer and not as an employee of [insert faceless company name here]. It felt good, and I was surprised by the reaction I got.

For a long time I have been expecting to be treated as another wishful thinker, to be laughed at, or be branded one of the “Oh I always wants to write a book” brigade, and was prepared to have to hide my anger. I take my writing seriously and it is absorbed in me as much as I in it, so you can start to see where this comes from.

Instead, the people I spoke to were actually interested to hear about what I wrote about, and more specifically the research that goes into it. I ended up having lengthy discussions about homelessness and world travel, and had a really good night out.

Not only am I really starting to think of myself as a professional writer, but my peers are also. And that feels good. Another step towards being free from the mundane.
Colin 1:05 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Production Line Problems

I was stuck in meetings all morning, and it was a nightmare. In fact the last couple of days have been pretty dire in here – more rumours are circulating of another round of pay-offs in the New Year. I am also hearing that some teams can expect not to get a pay-rise at all. This is bad. Somehow I wish I were one of the lucky ones that got made redundant only a few short months ago.

I’m putting on weight again. More than likely down to the many drinking sessions I have had the fortune of attending of late, but I’m lacking in energy and need to get the buzz back that only adrenalin packed heart can give. Four years ago I ran the Glasgow Half-marathon, and since then I have declined slowly back to my old ways. I don’t think it’s so much what I eat – more a case of when. A lot of the time I go without a dinner and sit and write thousands of words into my PC. Then by 10pm I get hungry and have a couple of cheese rolls or something - which isn’t the time to be eating at all. I need to get that sorted but I won’t be doing the marathon again. The training alone takes up too much time and commitment and with all the projects I am involved I simply cannot afford it. An hour a night, every couple of nights should do the trick.

I want to speed up my writing production line. Hunting Jack is turning out roughly 3 or 4 polished issues per week, which equates to roughly 4,000 words. This week has been good and I have also completed two short stories for submission. But I want to keep the production line moving. I have so much on that a day without writing plays on my mind and I get irritated. I want - need - to be writing more and varied work. I'm still wavering over this novel in a month plan, and I have enough to be going on with.

Iain got back to me over my press release for HJ and has advised some excellent alterations. The bloke has read thousands of these things over the years and so I trust him - well, as far as I can throw him - he does work for News of the World!! ;-). I shall read over the changes and take a look at his suggestions and hopefully get the release submitted tomorrow. I'm also gathering up local and other Scottish newspapers wth a view to advertising.

My pal Rob popped over tonight to escape the Virgin Vie (make-up) party his girlfriend is having – which Gail was at. We had a couple of beers and watched The Godfather, which was great and it was good to catch up again. I never got any writing done though, so I need to make sure this weekend from Friday onwards is a productive one. That’s three nights on the trot and nothing of serious worth has been put on paper. Itchy fingers are now a serious problem.
Colin 10:50 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Cold Wind Blows

It is much, much colder today. If this is still autumn then we are looking ahead to a bitter winter just like the so-called “experts” are predicting. It’s always cold here during winter, and it is worsened by the roaring winds that blow over the rock Edinburgh sits upon. There’s no escaping the wind-chill factor it, freezing numb faces and cold-drying skin. The jumper and warm coat sellers make a fortune here.

On the subject of weather, I added a weather tracker to my site for Edinburgh - it's over there somewhere on the right panel ---->

I spent most of the afternoon putting together a press release for Hunting Jack. NOT the easiest thing I ever had to do – almost as bad as a synopsis in fact. It took me ages to get a first draft together then I enlisted my old chum Iain – Deputy Editor of News of the World (one of the UK’s leading red-tops and Beckham agitators) – to have a look, which he duly obliged.

I received an email from my editor at KIC; she is looking for theatre reviews from across the globe. She has sent the request out twice, and both times mentioned Scotland specifically and so my nose started to twitch. I posted to my forum asking for any pointers which I received. I’m not sure if I will do this. I like going to see plays and have seen the odd musical from time to time but I’m not any kind of authority on the subject, and so don’t know how much I could put into a review. I have done concert reviews in the past, but they weren’t up to much – more biased passion than anything constructive. I shall see.

I won 5-4 at snooker in the evening - it was a good laugh. I am conscious though of having been out two nights in a row and I now have a queue of 5 HJ issues waiting to be submitted as well as everything else. I am feeling the squeeze of time being placed around my head - I must get a grip and get more done.
Colin 1:28 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Is It Me?

Some days when I am walking along the street, to work or wherever, I get the feeling other people are trying to avoid me. And some days when people look at me as I walk past them, I think they are smirking, almost repressing laughter. Then other days, like today, I see people more inclined to just smile if I catch their eye as I walk past.

Am I the only one that gets this?

I have noticed since starting to shave my head on a regular basis, I don’t get stopped by "marketing people" in the street any more. Which is a shame because I like getting freebies. Except I haven’t shaved my head (or face for that matter) for 9 days and so I am a veritable hairy bloke – as far as it goes for me that is. Maybe that is the difference: no hair equals threatening appearance, hairy equals welcoming appearance.

Or is it just me?

My parent’s were up visiting St. Andrews at the weekend for a wee break and got back last night. My father, Dave, was most upset after he left his car parked by the side of the 18th tee of the Old Course. When he returned, the familiar dent of a golf ball had been left on the roof of his Rover. I can just imagine the profanities that echoed out over the links towards the North Sea when he saw it.

It’s the school holidays so the traffic is lighter in the morning which makes getting to work easier. The other good thing is that Laura gets to stay overnight at her Gran’s house, which gives Gail and I the chance to go out mid-week. (I know – such a phenomenon!)

Back in Glasgow when I lived the wondrous years of my Bachelor life, I used to go to the flicks every Tuesday with my mate Craig, get a couple of beers and catch up. There came a time when we walked into our local multiplex with 20 screens and realised we had seen everything.

Anyway - I digress. We booked up for the cinema and off we went to see ‘Saw’ (not the plank version!) and it was most exciting. Gail has a sore neck at the moment and can’t move it very well, so she had major problems getting popcorn into her mouth. By the end of the film there was more kernels lying on her that in her!

It’s not a bad film, plenty of twists and drama, but I thought there was some dodgy acting in parts. It got quite gruesome too and why the name of the film was titled became obvious later in the film.

I couldn’t help being reminded of the Paul Auster novel, The New York Trilogy while watching it however. Without revealing the story of the film, two men are manipulated mysteriously by a third who plays them both from the middle, and all three have to come to terms with their own lives, and the solitude they each lived in, and now have to face. This has strong comparisons to Paul Auster’s trilogy of story’s so I found that quite interesting.
Colin 11:02 pm | 1 comments |

Monday, October 18, 2004

Literary Advancement

I didn’t feel as if my day started until I decided to walk home. The office was dead as usual all day and the coffee gave me heartburn which didn’t help. I was lucky in that the rain that had been on and off all afternoon stayed off for most of my journey home, and only started again when I walked up the path to my house.

I checked my email and took a look at Heart of a Child. This is a short story I wrote a while ago and submitted to the Bridport Prize Competition, and now that the winners have been decided I took another look at it with a view to sending it back out into the world. Within the first two lines I spotted several very obvious errors, and so I ended up reworking the entire story.

Since I first wrote it, I have settled into a flow of writing I am happy with, I have found my writing voice, and when I revise prose now I pick up on certain things far quicker that I know should not be there: the words had, that, was etc. POV changes and reversed sentences. I picked them all out and generally gave it an overhaul with a bit of restructuring to give it more of an impacting beginning.

It is a sign of how far I have come since first writing it, and now it is an even tighter piece of work. I would be ashamed to send it out as it was, and I wonder to myself how many more changes I will make to it if I go back to it a year from now.

Then I got into HJ and completed off Issue 21. It’s all getting very dramatic and I now have issues 18 thru 21 to get sent off to my editor – have to force myself to say that, “my editor”. It’s a writing thing.

The Soprano’s was superb tonight and there are only three more episodes to go. It's one of the very few programmes on the telly that I actually watch with interest, and it is about to end. Such a shame as it is so addictive. I love how the writers work in real life to the script; Tony fondly remembering his mate John – as in John Gotti. Superb stuff.
Colin 11:08 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Smashing The Deadlines

When I got up (it’s my day for a lie in) the house was empty as Gail had taken Laura food shopping. So I fired up the coffee machine with some Blue Mountain and made a bacon sarny. As I sat reading the news, little did I know the drama that was soon to unfold.

I tidied up before G and L got home and packed away all the messages they brough back with them. I got changed into my pentin’ breeks (painting clothes) so I could paint the kitchen ceiling. The kitchen is nearly finished now; all the units are up, everything plumbed and electrified that should be, the tiling is done and all that is left now is to put the handles on the doors and paint the walls and roof. Only problem was there was no paint brushes, so we decided on a short trip to B&Q.

I first saw the woman looking at me from the driving seat of her car as I jumped into the passenger seat of ours. Gail and I had a short discussion about the keys to the house before we buckled up and then reversed out into the street. A horn was the first I heard, then Gail scream, and then a crumple - our car coming to a shuddering stop. We had reversed into the side of another car which had stopped in the middle of the cul-de-sac.

It felt worse than it was, a small scratch or two to both cars the only damage sustained. Gail was a bit shaken and the occupants of the other car were okay. Laura was the worst off – she was taking a drink from her bottle of juice when the bump happened and it cut her gum. She got a bit of a fright by what happened and when I looked in she was doing her best to hold back the tears. I jumped into the back seat with her while Gail got the insurance papers and she burst out crying. All was well in the end though; we shall just have to wait until the bill comes in.

With the brushes bought I got home and painted the first coat of paint onto the roof. I’m no Van Gogh but I did my best.

With my chores all done I spent the rest of the afternoon revising Issues 18 through to 20 of HJ. It’s going well and I had a brainwave for Issue 21 which I had partially written so I changed it entirely. It now brings in a major twist and unexpected moment of drama to the story, which is something else I will have to keep track of – but that’s fine - the more the merrier. If it starts to get clogged up I will take heed, but as it stands, it really does add to the story.

I am now way ahead of my schedule with Hunting Jack. The deadline for Issue 18 is October 26th and I wanted to be at Issue 25 by then so it looks like this is going to be achievable. With Issue 21 taking the twist it has, the next several issues will probably be written as one huge block. In terms of days, the story has been running since the Sunday evening and Jackie is now at Friday morning. The next three days of his life are mapped out and I have some exciting writing ahead.

I was also looking at the overall word count. I have written 22,000 words of HJ over 20 issues, which is an average of 1100 words per issue. Having signed a 9 month contract, and with 9 issues a month I need to write a minimum of 81 issues so I am a quarter of the way there. Also, I am 10 weeks ahead of my first subscribers so have built up plenty of leeway should anything go wrong.

One thing I am wary of is not writing on any other projects. I was kind of expecting to have gotten bored with HJ having written it continually now since August. I thoght I may have had to vary my writing to keep it fresh. But the truth is I am so excited by this story, that every day I am thinking about it, writing about it, taking notes and dreaming of the future with it. It has consumed me more than any other piece I have ever worked on, and the beauty is, I have learned so much already room this serialisation process. I knew it was something I wanted to do and while it was extremely daunting at first (can I do it? do I have it in me? etc.) it has proved to be invaluable. I am lucky as well to have so many fantastic authors in my writing forum that I can bounce off and ask for advice, and who encourage and support me. As a writer at my stage of development, I don’t think I could have expected any better than this.

In the evening Gail and I settled down with an Indian meal and watched a movie. We are working our way through the Alien films and we watched the second one: Aliens. She has never seen these films and she loves a good scar movie, so it was a joy to see her Pakora fly into the air when the scary monster jumped out and frightened the beejeezus out her.
Colin 11:04 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Passports, Books And Cornflake Packets

We had a terrible storm last night. The wind and rain lashed against our window and kept waking me up. I finally got to sleep but was woken around 5am by Gail staggering in from her night out. I was going to write about how my own wife couldn’t find the toilet in our own house due to the level of Jack Daniels in her system, but then she might read this one day so I better no mention it.

Despite the broken night’s sleep I was up at the crack of dawn with Laura. I tried to get into some writing but I’m always too tired at that time of the morning to concentrate. Plus the passport mess up is still haunting me. We watched the Dick & Dom Show (a show that encourages kids to walk into libraries and scream the word “bogies”). It really is an awful piece of programming. Why can’t they just show Looney Tunes repeats then everyone would be happy?

I dropped Laura off at her dancing class around half ten – Gail still comatose back home – and headed up town. My Mum had sent me some book vouchers for my birthday a couple fo weeks ago and I figured they would be well spent on some research material. I wanted to head up to a shop on The Roayl Mile to get some books on Calvinism (as recommended to me by Devon), which I spoke about a few days ago (see Tue 5th October entry). But I didn’t have enough time before I had to go back to collect Laura so will leave that till next time.

I picked up a large copy of Gangland Britain: Volume’s 1 and 2 by James Morton. It is an encyclopaedia packed with facts, figures and pictures from the 19th and 20th Century’s all about organised crime networks and the gang battles that surrounded them. It is broken down into geographical sections and it is going to be a huge help to me with what I have planned for HJ. I also picked up a book called One Of The Family: The Englishman and The Mafia by John Pearson, which is the true story of Wilf Pine who not only was the manager for Ozzy Osbourne’s band Black Sabbath, but became entwined with the Mafia. So I bought it as there is a relation to HJ there also and it may give me some ideas – it looks a good read anyway. I also got Catch-22 by Joseph Heller; a book I have been meaning to read for years and always forgot to buy – but now I have it.

My collection of books is growing at a fair rate now, but along with it is the queue of books waiting to be read which seems to be growing at an exponential rate. It is a problem because I want to write, therefore I fill most of the spare time I can afford doing this. But I also want to read not only because I enjoy it, but because a writer MUST read if they are to improve and learn. You might say it’s a Catch-22 situation!

I got home, made lunch then sat down at the PC to check out my facts about British Passports. I found the official site (http://www.ukpa.gov.uk) and guess what – you CAN have a passport if you are 16 - that's the minimum age! I have been saved and am very thankful for this turn of luck. An important lesson here though: make sure to check ALL facts no matter how small and irrelevant they may seem.

The rest of the afternoon was spent tidying up and playing with Laura. It was still horrible outside so she couldn’t get out with her pals. We tidied her room first then started doing work for her Brownie badges – making games up using the lettering of food packaging. I had forgotten how much I enjoy cutting things out and I think I made more of a mess than she did. I think Laura appreciates having another kid in the house (albeit me) and she even said I was more of a big brother to her! Good or bad I don’t know - at least she likes me. Gail wasn’t too impressed by it all though when she discovered the cereal cupboard full of wee bags of Cornflakes and Wheeto’s because we had snaffled the cardboard boxes so we could cut more stuff out.

I went in to work at about 7pm to implement some software and managed to squeeze in a Blogging update and write a bit more on HJ.
Colin 8:47 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, October 15, 2004

Smelly Toilets And The Gentle Side Of Football Hooliganism

I’ve got that Friday feeling again and it’s doubly good because today is also pay day! Unfortunately I can’t celebrate this coming of cash because Gail already had the night booked out with her pal (same one from last night). Not to worry though, for tonight me and Laura are having a pizza making night with a DVD of The Simpsons on. Sometimes the simple things in life ARE the best!

The toilets in my work are an absolute disgrace. It’s well known that the Company deems business areas more important as they are customer facing and are involved with bringing all the millions in. As a result, we here in the I.T. department have our own shabby little building that has not been updated since the 70’s. The toilet has three traps; two have broken lids, two have blocked sinks and one has a blocked toilet. They have been like that for weeks now and nothing is getting done. Downstairs we spend millions on mainframe computers and paying us mugs to support the damn things, and they can’t even supply us with a decent place to take a dump!

[Note from the editor: My apologies for the language used in that last paragraph, but that outburst has been on the cards for a while.]

So the wife went out and me and Laura enjoyed our pizza, ice-cream and Simpsons DVD. When she was off to sleep I set about HJ. I wrote up to about half way through Issue 21 and stopped. I reached a point where Jackie has to collect his belongings from an “institution” and one of which is his passport. And then it hit me: 16 year olds can’t get UK Passports!

There is no going back now because it was mentioned in the first issue. I swore a lot, banged my head and eventually sent a text message to my sister (she used to work there). She confirms you have to be 18 to get a standard ten year passport. Typical. I am going to have to work this in somehow because even though I have no immediate plans for Jackie to go abroad, it might happen somehow. I mean, how am I to know – I’m only the writer – not the protagonist! I just thought at the time a passport would be a good thing to have on him as it would leave the door open for plenty of plot opportunities.

I closed my laptop and opened a bottle of Miller High Life from the fridge. (Yes I know, but it was all that was there. Someone brought it to a BBQ a while back, and yes – I found the name ironic too.)

I settled back with my beer and put on a DVD my sister Lindsay had given me for my birthday last month; The Football Factory. It’s based on a novel by one of my favourite authors, John King. It's about Tommy Johnson, a football hooligan who likes his beer, cocaine and casual sex. But it isn’t your stereotypical film made for the sales that football violence will entail. Nope – it is actually a deep analysis of the young male white psyche in Britain today, and how he comes to term with his own life. It is an excellent book, and is actually the first in a series of three novels concerning Tommy and his mates, the other two being Headhunters and England Away.

I really enjoyed the film, and was glad to see they had captured the spirit of the book and the parallel comparisons with the disaffected white youths of today and their Grandfathers who fought the Nazi’s. There is one fantastic quote from the book that is the only one I can remember being highlighted in the script, which was: “We are an island race, pure and simple, and that’s why we have to fight.”

Colin 8:11 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Scottish Pavement Drinkers

I met Gail outside her work at 5pm – the first time I’ve been down since she started. Lovely office, all glass panels and snazzy modern layouts. You can see right through the building from the rear to the front and out onto the Shore, in fact the office looks right over the Water of Leith and the surrounding café’s and bistros. Sounds like somewhere in southern France, but alas, the water is manky and the freezing winter is approaching fast. I can't believe the punters who DO sit on pavements in freezing cold weather - they really are kidding themselves. Edinburgh may have culture, but Paris or Milan it is not so they should stop trying to be Europeans. This is Scotland and they should remember it!

We went for a wee drink before having to go and collect Laura from the After School Club. One bottle of Budweiser and a glass of red wine were had. Now, I am not one to moan, especially about buying the bevy, but the wine was £5 for a 250ml glass!! I could have got the bottle for less!!!

Anyway we had a nice wee drink then headed off. Gail’s pal just got back from holiday so she went round to visit. I managed a guilt free evening of writing after the Wee Barra was in bed. And I got through a nice amount too; I tidied up Issue’s 17 and 18 and wrote 19. Issue 20 I made a start on but it was getting late and I was feeling fatigued so I stopped there. I’ve hit an interesting point in the story. Jackie is making decisions for himself now, and not relying so much on others around him to guide him. I think the experiences he has had and the trauma of it all did have a negative effect, but he is starting to use these experiences as positives.

Gail is out again tomorrow night so hopefully I can make some more strides with the story. I also want to make a start in my column for KIC Magazine and get more done on my website manuals. I'm working night shift on Saturday so hopefully that will give me some time to get more done as well.

Going to be busy, busy, busy!

Colin 11:01 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Project Updates

I slept in big style today. I woke at 9:45am and made it in for half 10! Nobody noticed of course such is the team spirit that is so prevalent in here. I don’t know why I was so tired. Lights were out about 11pm last night so there is no reason why I should have not got enough sleep. I think I might be sleeping lighter though. I’m usually quite heavy but when I woke today I felt like I had only got a couple of hours. Could be all the projects on the go just now jumbling my brain.

In fact, I’m going to list my current projects:

Hunting Jack
Issue 16 pending
Issue 17 written, needs padding
Research required for major sub-plot to develop forward into next issues
Deadline for all these, and submission of Issue 18, is October 26 (this keeps me a month ahead of first subscriber). Realistically expect to be up to Issue 25 at least by then.

KIC Magazine
First article on Website Development (WD) waiting to be written
Some planning of the structure of the columns needs worked out
Graphics for the column to be designed
Also going to submit an article for the Travel column concerning Scotland.
Travel column will require photographs therefore, expedition!
Deadline for all this 1st December 2004

Novel
A Friend To Die For (working title)
Not been worked on for several months now. The plan is to pick this up later once HJ is nearing the end of its contract, for two reasons.
1- I do not have the time to commit 100% to the novel with all the other work that is on-going right now.
2- I am learning so much from HJ that although I will pick the novel up and complete it, I will be expecting to see much that I want to change and a very heavy re-write structurally will be required.

Short Stories/Poems
Loaded – waiting for re-write
Bill McCarthy – waiting for re-write
Facing The Music – waiting for re-write
The Hill – long-term project
Several other short stories and poems still out on submission
No submissions have been made now for a couple of months due to work on HJ

Website Manuals
Have worked out an outline of modules for the course
Need to develop standard format throughout manuals
I want manuals to be in pdf format if possible
Need to complete each module
Promote this service further
No deadline but would like to see complete by November 30th

Websites
Keep all my sites up to date
Complete off current 3rd party websites
Promote web design service further


I received the official news from Dave and Isla Graham, who are now expecting their second child next April – big congratulations the them both and wee Molly who his going to have a big sis/bro!

Devon’s website is now up and running at www.devonellingtonwork.com.
I worked alongside her on the project and now that it is "live", she seems really pleased with the results. I'm really pleased too because she was fretting way too much over it. Hopefully the site can help to generate some work in her direction.

I was about to head out for some beers and a game of snooker when the phone rang – Ian had to cancel. So I was left floundering, but decided not to waste the rest of the night. Gail was busy with her own work (day work stuff she brought home – she’s committed!!) so I opened up Issue 16 and polished it up, then sent it away. I also completed Issue 17 and wrote the first draft of 18. Issue 17 is a scream! After the drama and suspense that has followed Jackie up until now, I found myself chuckling away at the idiocy he displayed tonight...about time he made me laugh!

So in the end, it was a really productive night!
Colin 10:48 pm | 24 comments |

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Issue 16 - Paragraph 1

A large chunk of the day was spent working. Which might not be so bad if it weren’t for the pure negativity that lives in this place. The smallest things are annoying me in here now, and I have to get up and go for a walk just to let it wash over. If I sit at the desk for too long, it creeps up until you can feel its breath on your shoulders, its light grip on your shoulders. "I gotta get oot man!"

I grappled once more with Para 1 of Issue 16 – and by jove - I think I got it! Finally I think I have reached the balance of good description and flow and I could feel the tension surrounding these 94 words finally dissipate. Issue 17 flowed well, but needs some padding out after I read it over. I need to do some research now though because the story is getting complicated every page I write. It’s not overly complicated - I do have a firm grasp on the sub-plots that are advancing, though a couple of these plots will require some reading and referencing. I’m starting to feel as if I have slowed in my writing over the past few days, yet the ideas are still coming. I am conscious of moving forward now and getting things done.

I decided to leave Issue 16 until tomorrow and give it one final read over before I send it on – just to be sure. I started doing some initial searches on the internet and dug up some interesting stuff for starters. There is lots more to do – a trip to the Library is also on the cards.

Some of my writing friends are also contributing to the planned KIC Magazine, and Devon is doing a Tarot reading column. She very kindly did a reading for Jackie McCann and late last night she sent them back. There is a possibility the reading might be published in a future issue of KIC Magazine so I am not going to go into it in detail. What I will say is, I have started doing some research on the results of the reading, both for Jackie AND for me, and am amazed at the information I am picking up on. Jackie was treated as a living breathing individual and the results reflected that. There were some particular comments that linked into future development plots I had considered for using to tie in the story nearer then end, and there was also some more direct observations concerning what Jackie is going through right now. Fascinating stuff! Check Devon's Blog, called Ink In My coffee
Colin 1:15 pm | 0 comments |

Monday, October 11, 2004

City Moods

When I got up, I was still really hacked off for forgetting to submit “Daffodils” into the competition before the October 10th deadline. Reluctantly, but accepting the fact that I had to just get on with it now and put it behind me, I opened my submissions tracker spreadsheet to update it with a rejection (as punishment) and lo and behold – the deadline is 15th October! I have till Friday!! I was getting confused with the dates because there is another one due for Dec 10th. And so I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. I have been given a second chance, and I will make sure the entry is on its way before the end of the day.

It wasn’t a particularly interesting day. There wasn’t much happening anywhere really. Sometimes, I sense the mood of the city as I walk through it. It’s an interesting way to get to know the place you live. Over the years I have noted the differing personalities of a city or town, which includes the buildings as well as the people.

Paisley – It used to be young and vibrant, but somehow became a ghost town. You could taste the anger that came from that, the depression and the sense of parochialism. Paisley always seemed to think it was better than it really was, and it has become cursed. Walking through it now, it resembles a dying old man who once had a dream. Unfortunately, he took too many drugs, drank too much and got involved with the wrong kind of women. Now he hobbles about with a bad reputation and no friends.

Glasgow – Some days you really felt the anger within the city streets. There is no way to explain it; such an intangible feeling but the nervous energy it generated while doing something as simple as walking for a bus could really become quite intense sometimes. All you wanted to do when that happened was get in to the house, barricade the door, make some toast and tea and put on a video. You would feel like you had to watch your back sometimes, and if you got in a taxi, the driver would be cursing at other motorists and driving like a maniac. Or there would be a delay in the off-license as some young Ned was refused alcohol and starts to get mouthy. His friends outside maybe getting edgy and so you leave before it kicks off like you know it will. And if there is a football match in the city that day between the Old Firm teams, you can taste the hatred and anger in the air on every corner.

This is only one emotion I used to get in Glasgow. The most common by far is a sense of transition and positive thinking. Glasgow still makes me feel like I belong to it and that it is my true home. Glasgow is the man trying to break away from his past and shed the stereotypical images he has lived with for so long. He is young and he is old; constantly changing and able to fit into most age groups. Yet he still remains fundamentally the same in a lot of respects; the self-deprecating humour of the man on the street, the in-your-face opinions, the love of football, socialising, romance and down to earth way of living. Glasgow is a friendly chap behind the gruesome face, and once you get to know, will be a life-long friend.

Edinburgh – A city of enormous variety, yet to me covers its face with the biggest and fanciest of masks. You can feel the pride it has in its history, of generations steeped in Scottish history and a passion for upholding all things Scottish. Though in doing so, Edinburgh has split itself in two and now has its problems like anywhere else. You can feel the shame that Edinburgh has towards its other half, and both these halves have a real dislike for the other. The political, historical and money laden side hates the discount shopping, 20 Benson & Hedges, Alcopop side, and vice versa. The two sides clash wherever you look, and it is this war that I see whenever I walk through the streets of Edinburgh. I see a pompous arrogance at times, which is at odds with reality; the reality of life everywhere else on Scotland. I can feel it, and it is unwelcoming because I am unsure where I fit at times. Edinburgh can be very cliquey; one day you are its friend, and the next you are not welcome to sit at its table.

I just saw how long this Blog is getting! I’ll stop there because I'm getting a really weird feeling of deja vu. At night I worked more on my Website Manuals and a couple of websites that are on the go just now. Also wrote some notes for HJ but have given him a couple of days off due the Para 1 on Issue 15 debacle. I’ll get back to him tomorrow.

Colin 11:34 pm | 2 comments |

Sunday, October 10, 2004

The Worst Writing Sin?

I realised today that I have committed one of the cardinal sins of writing – I have missed a deadline. Months ago, I saw a competition in the writing magazine I subscribe too – called Writing Magazine funnily enough – and wrote a story for submission. The remit was the word “Daffodils” – and it had to be incorporated into the story in some way and be about 1200 words long.

I wrote the story of Leo, a hit man who is given the job of killing his old friend and accomplice. He waits in his friends flat at a table with a bowl of daffodils on it, and when his pal comes home, they have a conversation that results in some history being revealed and Leo kills him. Before he leaves, he throws the daffodils on the body.

I think it’s a good piece, full of nervous energy and tension, though probably not good enough to win anything. But the story was written precisely for that competition so I wanted to make sure it got entered before submitting elsewhere as a normal piece of fiction.

When I checked my subs folder, true enough – the piece was still there with the stamped envelopes ready to go. I couldn’t believe it. I am such a pillock.

Lesson learnt - this will never happen again.
Colin 1:21 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Skinheads And Nude Ballroom Dancing

I spent most of the afternoon continuing work on the Website Course manuals and forgetting all about HJ Issue 16. That first paragraph isn’t right, but it is always nearly there. It can wait for me now.

Met my old pal Rob Wardlaw for a couple of pints in the Station Bar in Edinburgh’s west end. It’s a local bar – not your usual big night out place, but as you always seem to find in these places you get a great pint.

We were on our way to see one of our favourite bands – Bad Manners. Purveyors of fine Ska since 1979, Buster Bloodvessel (vocals) is a favourite among Ska fans for his massive back catalogue and endless touring schedule. Unfortunately he has not been of good health of late. In the last year his already hefty weight got to breaking point at over 30 stone (over 400 pounds!) and he collapsed on stage in Rome. He finally had an operation and died on the operating table for about 4 minutes. He came through it though, and at the last gig I saw him at a few months ago in Glasgow, he still looked as awful as ever.

Then on Saturday night he appeared on stage at about 11pm. My jaw hit the deck just as much as it did when I first clapped eyes on him - he must weigh a quarter of what he did only a couple of months ago. He isn’t skinny by any means, but the sudden turnaround (under doctors orders) makes him look almost gaunt in comparison. He has had his stomach halved in size to make it tighter and smaller again, and his belly removed – literally scythed off and the loose skin stapled up.

I couldn’t believe it – there he was dancing and jumping around the stage, when only a matter of weeks ago he could hardly walk! Good on him – though I often wonder what goes through his mind?

It was a great night out though. I met a bloke who has e-mailed me before through my other website, The Magnificent 7, and it turns out he lives in Edinburgh too! There was a good crowd for the gig as well, I would estimate at over 1000, which is about five times the normal for a BM concert. This was down to the Corn Exchange being over run by Scootering fanatics for the day as one of the local Scooter clubs celebrated its 25th Anniversary. I’ve never seen so many skinheads in one single place in my whole life!

Skins get a bad press, but the reality is very different to the stereotype.

It’s all about 2-Tone, the infectious Ska beat that made you dance and lyrics that made you listen. The clothes – Doc Martin boots, rolled up jeans, Fred Perry’s, Harrington’s and Union Jack’s - gave the skins an identity, and told the truth about British society.

During the peak of the Ska movement, yes there was an element of violence associated with the live shows. These days though the 2-tone generation have grown up, and it’s more red faces and spreading bellies, than alligators with Stanley knives. Sure, times were harder back then with unemployment etc. and 2-Tone did break the barrier between different cultures, but at a price.

These days, it’s all about having a drink, having fun and getting away from the daily routine. Ska and the skins are never revived – it keeps on going. Some skins take this ethic too far though - like the bloke in teh middle of the mosh pit - totally naked - dancing away as if he was the only one in the room. It was hilarious, and some of the rudegirls needed to be led away in fits of laughter at the sight f his wee white willy bouncing up and down as he ballroom danced to the Can Can (the ska version)!

Nobody is special...

Colin 1:16 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, October 08, 2004

Muslim's, Glasgow, and George Castanza

This morning was one of those days when you get up and everything is just fine. I put on a classical music CD my Dad made up for me and let it play loud while I showered. My coffee tasted extra good – Blue Mountain’s of Jamaica mon! And the sun shone through the cold, fresh air as I walked for the bus. Some days, it’s just great to be alive. I wonder why I always get this feeling on a Friday…

I got into work and settled into my routine of laying out papers over my desk, frowning a lot, sighing creatively, swearing at the computer every ten minutes or so – all designed to create the illusion that I am working hard. Maybe George Castanza was onto something! See George Castanza on work (Numbers 2,3,5,7,8 are particularly effective I find).

I was happy to read that a friend of mine, the writer Pamela K. Taylor, had an article published on the front page of www.muslimwakeup.com. Entitled The Miseducation of Muslim Kids it concerns a subject that obviously holds no relevance to myself, but the sphere in which it sits does – and it got me thinking.

A long time ago I got swept up in the old Protestant/Catholic debate, and went down roads that could possibly be described as “only suitable for literary research”. I met lots of people, drank in lots of bars, and could easily have become embroiled in an unsavoury way of life. As I grew older, I grew out of the divide, partly due to tiredness from the same age-old arguments, and partly due to the fact I could no longer tolerate hearing my “friends” comment on their Protestant enemies, when I myself, am a Protestant.

Bigotry in the West of Scotland is a disease for sure, and where education benefited me, it didn't seem to have an effect on the greater majority. I don’t wish to be seen as some preacher standing on a soapbox here, but the fact is, a lot of people find it easier to remain in their secular worlds of sectarianism because it gives them an identity. A large percentage live below the poverty line and they brainwash their families to believe the same as them because it gives them hope.

I remember talking to a friend over a pint several years ago. He is a Catholic and I mentioned to him what a bold step it would be if he was to send his child to a non-denominational school instead of a Catholic-only one. He was raging that I would suggest such a thing, and took it very personally. He saw it as his choice (no arguament there from me) and he would bring up his child the way he saw fit. I wasn’t trying to persuade him, merely point out that if more people did that kind of thing, then bigotry would slowly filter away and people might see the benefit in learning from one another.

And so the cycle continues, and when I read Pamela’s article, the same thoughts entered my mind as they did back then. Now, I know even less about Muslims and Islam than I do about Protestantism and Catholicism (I once had to ask my Mum what religion I actually was), but I found myself reasoning that perhaps education might just help. However, based on the test case of my earlier years, I doubt it would.

In Glasgow, the Catholic/Protestant thing will always take precedence even over the hatred that exists in some parts now towards the Middle East. Everything about that last sentence is sad. Maybe we are destined to implode as a race.

As this Blog wasn’t designed to be a forum for political or religious issues I shall cease where I am. Needless to say, I will carry on trying to understand.

I struggled yet again to get paragraph 1 of issue 16 of HJ to work. It is now officially doing my head in and I spent far too long last night mulling over it, changing it and get annoyed. So I closed my laptop and forgot about it.

I switched my efforts to putting together Web Development for Writers notes and make a start on the manuals that I will use for training purposes through my site and other avenues. I now have a solid plan, broken down into logical segments and made a start putting them together.
Colin 1:50 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, October 07, 2004

More Twists And Turns

Got in late last night after an epic battle on the snooker table with my father-in-law. I won 5-4 and it went down to the wire, potting a hard pink and black to win the match. I also scored my highest personal break of 27 during the tightly fought encounter. And now this morning I am shattered – such is the way.

I got an email from the editor at KIC Magazine with the details of what she is looking for in the Website Development column. This is going to be great fun. I had no time at work to develop anything so I brainstormed a few ideas in the evening and came up with an idea for the travel column. I will get to these over the next few days hopefully, and the travel article will require some research and photography to be arranged.

I re-read Issue 16 of HJ and got into a fankle with the first paragraph. Every time I tweaked the words it just didn’t sound right. No flow and the descriptions seemed skewed after each re-write. I re-drafted it several times, looked away, started again, re-wrote it nearly a dozen times. I stopped, worked through the rest of the issue (which was mostly fine), then went back to Para 1 and tweaked it again. I decided enough was enough and left it till tomorrow to look at and see if it makes any more sense.

I went into Issue 17 pretty much blind, but it proved to hold another surprise for me. Another character is involved in the story and her name is Paula Cairns, a nurse from Paisley who is a side character, although as it turns out, proves to be quite a useful for our Jack. Keeping track of these developments is tricky and between each issue I always find myself asking, “Does this fit with the overall flow and scheme?” Most of the time it does, but sometimes it has to be altered. Issue 17 takes me down another unplanned route, but this is the fun of doing this kind of work. Funny how this writing goes – just when you think you know what’s round the corner…
Colin 11:11 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Another Exciting Project

I hate it when people stand by your desk and instead of clearing their throat with one single hack, choose to cough, and gurgle every twenty seconds instead. Then there are the ones who have a conversation right above your head when you are trying to concentrate on the small amount of work that has come your way. Do none of these people see me sitting here with my face getting redder then finally getting up and walking away round the building just to get away from it? It’s like a scene from the invisible man, and I am the one who is invisible! I’m not unsociable by any stretch of the imagination, but I do object to people who are rude and don’t even have the courtesy to check themselves out!

Rant over.

I decided to accept the invitation of coffee with the Company Secretary and the IS Director in a fortnight. I have arranged lunch with an old pal after it, but that is not my reason for going. There are a lot of rumours circulating in here once more, similar to they way they did a couple of months prior to us being old of the redundancy programme. There are two of these; first, that we are about to be bought over by a large Bank in the area. Second, that early next year there are to be more redundancies in this department.

Therefore, I am going to have coffee with the top man, and as well as take in the superb view from office that overlooks Edinburgh Castle, I am going to be wearing my journalistic hat. I am going to ask both of these people, in a polite and subtle way of course, all about what is happening and pass on the feelings of my colleagues. I won’t be doing this to make them squirm (though I will be reading Man Watching by Desmond Morris before I go!), but it is the nearest to the top brass I will ever get (or want to be) so I might as well make the most of it.

I read over HJ issues 15 through 17 and am very pleased with the way they have worked out. I sent issue 15 to my Editor.

I also submitted a proposal to write a column for KIC Magazine and it was accepted. I am going to write a regular slot all about Website Development for Writers. I have been sent my “assignment” already and am really looking forward to getting my teeth into this. The Editor also asked I send in contributions for the Travel column which she may also use.

Things really are moving forward nicely!
Colin 1:07 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Calvanism, and Talking Heads

On a daily basis I normally write my Blog in an MS Word document before transferring it to Blogspot the following morning, but for some reason the only document on the floppy that would not copy or open was my Blog. Corrupted, and with no means of retrieving it, I had to delete it - which it did no problem – and so I write my entry for this date off the cuff and trying to remember the crux of what I had written. And that’s where it is annoying – it was good, and now I can’t remember.

Oh yes – I remember now. I was writing to try and help myself decide whether or not I should go to the coffee morning with the IS Director in the big building up the road. I gave loads of reasons not to, and I really can’t be arsed typing them all again. Suffice to say, I didn’t think I should go given the hypocrisy of it all and the fact that I don’t see why I should push my tie up to the neck when I don’t do on any normal working day in the office.

That was yesterday’s thought, but now as I write this (Wed 6th), I have formed an opinion overnight that maybe it would be a good source of material, that it could be used somewhere in some story in the future. And so if I can brave the stressful questions and non-genuine greetings I may just be onto a gem as far as writing goes. And that is more important to me. Plus I could go for lunch with my friend Lynda who works in the same building afterwards so we'll see.

I walked home from work again. I am finding it quite therapeutic and it gives me time to think at length. It takes about an hour and sometimes I stop and take notes when little diamonds pop into my head. I spoke with Jack, his voice now determined in my head. He wants to be more grown up, but is still pulled by his teenage years and deep down he thinks the experience of running away will do him good in the long run. I hope he’s right, because he doesn’t know what I have planned in the next few days.

When I got in, HJ flowed. It was almost as if I'd had a “clear the air” session with him and I found that getting to the next phase came much easier. I don’t know, some days it is so much easier to see the words than others. I tidied up Issue 15 and it’s almost ready for sending in, and Issues 16 and 17 wrote themselves. The story really has gone off on its own to places I had not planned, and so each time I sit down to write HJ, I get a real sense of excitement, because I myself am just dying to know what happens! Weird – but totally satisfying.

KIC are planning a new printed magazine that will be coming into the market early next year, and after receiving a mail from the editor I responded with some ideas. Hopefully it will be a quarterly magazine and as well as the possibility of short story publication, I have put my name forward for a regular column which I would just love to write.

I watched Writing Scotland in the evening after having missed it last week. It was really interesting and I could relate to a lot of it. They spoke about how darkness is inherent in all Scottish literature, simply because of our pessimistic mentality, and I find that a lot of poems and stories I write are dark. Just take HJ for example, it's dark but has veins of romance and humanity and humour. The programme then moved through Calvinism and John Knox, while wanting people to read the scriptures, saw the free, imaginative writers’ minds as a bad thing. I think I may have to get a book on the history on Scottish literature next time I’m at Borders because this series of documentaries has opened my eyes to a lot I never knew about. I’m off to google Calvanism...

Colin 11:44 am | 2 comments |

Monday, October 04, 2004

Jubilee Clips On My Creativity Pipe

After the weekend that was, I’m feel quite refreshed and recharged. In fact, I’ve not felt quite as chirpy on a Monday morning for a long time. The rain was chucking it down and made getting into work rather a hassle; autumn is making its presence felt. The temperature drop is now very noticeable; puffs of breathe in front of peoples faces, large wrap coats, slushy leaves in the gutter, crisp crunching of pavements underfoot – winter isn’t that far away either!

I’m finding it hard to move from the point I am at with HJ. There is plenty of motivation and drive, and I know the following step where I need to be with it as regards the development of the plot, but I am finding it difficult to progress through this barrier into the next phase. It's like a jubilee clip is blocking my creativity pipe! I’ve been here before and documented how I got out of it and have tried this, but it just hasn’t felt right. I know the research is accurate because I went to the Ambulance Service and spoke to them about it so it isn’t that. There just seems to be a temporary loss of direction. Writing about it here helps me think, and I reckon if I print it all out and read it from start to finish it might help me carry through the next phase. I have put together an issue summary but it’s not good for seeing the way ahead, only the path behind.

So I waited until the printer at work was free and quietly slipped off the 36 A4 pages that make up Hunting Jack as I know it.

My inbox had some rather interesting mails in it when I got home. First up is a novel writing challenge from NaNoWriMo.org.

“November marks the 6th annual National Novel Writing Month. The idea behind it is to get all of us tentative writers writing. It is designed to be a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over talent and craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.”

It sounds like a lot of fun though I’m not sure If I have the time what with the attention required of HJ and my novel sitting at 60,000 words and only about half-way through – untouched for several weeks now by enlarge. I’ve registered though, and who knows – I do have a couple of ideas from my notebook that I had wanted to expand on into larger stories – maybe now’s the time. I’ll pass the link on to my group as well.

I received an e-mail from the KIC Ed. She is putting together a quarterly Magazine and is looking for all kinds of contributions including short stories. I think I might submit Heart of a Child, which was rejected recently by Bridport, and possibly a couple of the others I have been working in if I can get them rewritten.

The last e-mail I recieved was from KIC - another two people have subscribed to Hunting Jack. That's me got five in total so far - more than I imagined at this early stage so I'm delighted. I hope the story lives up to their expectations.

In the evening I looked over it my HJ manuscript, made some notes, watched The Soprano’s, and fell asleep thinking of what bridge to take Jackie over next. It’s still foggy in my head.
Colin 11:57 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Easy Like Sunday

Just when I thought a peaceful start to today was on the cards, my father-in-law showed up with drills and sanders at hand to do some more work in the kitchen. Within seconds the house was turned into a tranquil haven for the quiet-minded, to a hellish brain-piercing racket. But I won't complain, indeed can't complain, because the job is being done for us by a perfectionist at trade value. It's just the unexpected disruption that is annoying. The big guy has a habit of showing up at the least appropriate moments and diving straight into his work. But again, I shouldn't really complain.

I spent the afternoon making a huge meal of Marzetti for everyone. It's one of my favourite dishes; and Italian-Scottish hybrid, with mince, pasta, plenty onion and cheese and served with garlic bread and red wine. I skipped the wine.

In between tending to my culinary's I did some work on a couple of website's that has needed done. One for a writer friend, and I also had some updates for The Magnificent 7 - a Madness tour is on the cards next month and we all wait with baited breath for the official announcement.

I also updated my own site and added a new section called Services. I detailed work that I can do for people - mainly writers and small businesses in the field of web site development and PC support. I have been doing this for long enough and been involved with plenty other web projects to be able to offer a good service. So now that is up, I shall give it a wee nudge in the promotion department and see what crops up.

I had submitted three poems to The Poetry Kit at the start of August and the reply came back in the afternoon. It was a very blunt and almost rude reply, and it has put me off submitting to them again in the near future. I know they have a good reputation and are very busy, but I was disappointed that is the best they can come up with in the way of a standard rejection. Two of the poems I sent in have since been published anyway so maybe I can use it as a marker as to where I am.

I wrote out an overview of the issue development of Hunting Jack to make it easier to scan through from a high level. This has helped me to see gaps that need filling in the plots and make sure I don't miss anything out.

Later I read The Red Notebook by Paul Auster in its entirety and took some notes. The ideas generated from this book I want to make sure I use to their maximum potential. The guy's a genius.

And so here is a rundown of my current Submissions list now that I have an update to be made:

Short Stories
Heart of a Child - Bridport Prize Competition (possibly concluded)
Daffodils - Writing Magazine
The Blind Man of Cathkin Street - Writing Magazine
A Bond Of Faith - Sol Magazine

Poems
5 poems to Greenshoots Magazine
2 poems to About The Arts e-Zine

Aims for this week: Get up to Chapter 20 minimum of Hunting Jack and if time, fit in the reworking of Bill McCarthy, Loaded, and maybe re-submit Heart of a Child now that the Bridport is almost certainly over.
Colin 1:32 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Think Ozzy Osbourne - But Blonde

I relaxed all day. I got up late, made some coffee and went back to bed. Total and utter laziness I know but as with all great nights out (see yesterday), there is a price to be paid and I paid it big style. I watched some snooker, read a bit of The Prison House by John King, watched the TV as the football scores came in, and all from the comfort of my bed. when I finally got up, it was time to get ready to go to a 30th birthday party in Edinburgh. I could have done without it, but Gail had some friends from a previous life attending and so my invite had to be fulfilled.

Maybe it was because of the previous night, but I couldn't get into the flow of it. Despite this being my fourth night out on the trot (unheard of since I left bachelorhood), I struggled at times to be involved. The population was mostly women which didn't help (something else that wouldn't have mattered back in bachelorhood), and I found myself talking to the only male in the place at the bar. Ben, partner of Carol - one of Gail's other friends - had just got back from the Hibs game and had been drinking all day. He made no sense at all, but his patter was extremely funny. He could best described as an extra from Braveheart with his long blonde curly locks and haggered appearance, he made quite a contrast to the rest of the party go-ers. Think Ozzy Osbourne but blonde!

Eventually Carol took him home in a taxi and returned to the party shortly after. Happy that Ben was safely home in bed and unable to do himself any damage, she relaxed and got up to dance. An hour later, in walked Ben, casual as ever after having got out the taxt and walked through Edinburgh back into the party. He eventually fell asleep, only bouncing back into life when Bon Jovi came booming through the speakers.

So no writing was done at all. The nights out are finished for now and I simply must concentrate on Hunting Jack and moving forward with my other projects. I won't feel guilty though - I haven't had such a good time for ages!
Colin 8:25 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, October 01, 2004

Workplace Shenanigans And An Unexpected Night Out

This morning I received an e-mail from the Managing Director of our IS Department: the main man, the one who's picture sits proudly atop the tree of disillusionment. He has asked me to attend a Coffee Morning in the director's suite of the main Head Office building along with the Company Secretary. The reason for this, he explains, is "to enable him to meet staff from across the Division and for staff within the Division to meet each other and discuss topical issues in an informal environment."

So from about 8 or 9000 other members of IS staff, and by playing the percentages, they could not have picked someone with less enthusiasm and more cynicism than myself. I was one of about 20 that was invited, which is what...450 to 1 or someting!?!

I don't know how this has happened or indeed why, but I can only compare the magnitude of this request as perhaps akin to George Bush being asked to speak at a John Kerry convention - or Margaret Thatcher being asked to address the annual Sinn Fein get together - or David Beckham being asked to the News of the World's Christmas party. I am left wondering if someone put my name forward in order that they can start a more intense brain-washing course and lure me back into their fold. I must resist.

After work I met up with my old pal Dave Graham, one of the old school who I used to drink with regularly on a Friday night along with a few others. With the advent of marriages and children, sadly these events are now not as common as they once were. So we met up for a sneaky pint at 4pm in Clark's Bar.

Dave has revealed a hidden desire to write, and has started asking questions - the same ones I asked myself five years ago. I hope he is serious firstly because it will be great to have another writer at close hand to talk to, and second because some of the ideas he has are superb and can definitley be worked on. He started a Blog this week, check it out at Worries Of A Wandering Mind

Anyway, by 1.30am that sneaky pint in Clark's had moved onto Hamilton's in Stockbridge for a plate of Suasage and Mash (why?) and then St. Stephen's Bar, a student haunt as it turned out, and we got about whipping their asses at Killer Pool. We were eventually asked to leave when the barmaid, who objected to us gambling in the first place, had decided enough was enough.

It was an unexpected night out, but one of the best I've had in a long time. It was just like the old days. Unfortunately for me, I have to do it all again tomorrow when I go to a friends 30th birthday bash in Edinburgh centre....
Colin 1:39 pm | 1 comments |