Monday, January 31, 2005
And so, here is my list. First published at the start of January, this summary is a derivative of the full GDR 2005 list. It was broken down into all the things I must achieve during the month of January – fictional, non-fictional and business/marketing. It was updated during the month with things that came along during the period also. It provides an interesting look at my writing life over the past 30 days.
January – GDR
* 1 new short story - The Oasis (4400 words)
* 2 new poems - Lost Tears and Disposable Pen
* 9 issues of Hunting Jack - all completed (upto issue 45)
* Re-write Daffodils, Loaded and Bill McCarthy - Daffodils put on hold until crits available from NFG. Loaded re-written into a stronger piece (3300 words). Bill McCarthy not complete. Roll over to Feb
* Plan and make a start on Web Development manuals - Plan drawn up
* Research more non-fiction markets - Did this daily via freelancing job sites. Also applied for two freelance jobs
Marketing and Publicity
* Remind UPSA about interview request - complete
* Press release for Hunting Jack competition - Complete. Sent to national and local agencies and publications
* Contact target media for free HJ issues - Complete. Sent to national and local agencies and publications
* Leaflet re-distribution for Hunting Jack - Postponed until February. To be done during the half-term school holidays
* Prepare classified ad for KIC - One ad prepared and submitted for Hunting Jack. One ad prepared and submitted for website services
* Contact The Leither magazine with specific interview/feature query - Complete. Awaiting response
Things that came up in January
* Issue 2 of KIC website development column - 12 issue plan finalised. Issue 2, draft 1 complete
* Issue 2 of Theatre review column - Still organising night at theatre
* Issue 1 of Travel column (for issue 2) - Having trouble for ideas
* Issue 1 of UK music column (for issue 2) - Loads of ideas discussed with editor. Already approached two bands with view to ‘grassroots’ coverageo 1st draft imminent
* Website development request from US-based artist - Still in negotiation stage
* Three poems by Ultimate Hallucination E-zine - Limbo, Asphyxiation and Frustrating Facilitators
* Heart Of A Child accepted for publication in February’s edition of Wild Child Publishing
* Hunting Jack sold as a 3-month special on Ebay
* 2 other new subscribers
None – just more challenges for next month
Total word count for January:
* 16,000 (fiction)
* 1,600 (non-fiction)
* 19,000 (blog)
It’s been a good month. I set myself some pretty tough targets and bar a couple of legitimate postponements, I have surprised myself how well I have kept to a structure and increased my output.
The word count alone says it all. In the main GDR for the year I said I would do a minimum of 2 hours per night on weekdays and 10 hours on weekends. It never worked out like that – life got in the way, but I have learned to carve out what time I can.
The largest non-writing goal was to buy a house with Gail. This we have done and are in the middle of selling our current property. This upheaval has been – I think – directly responsible for the erratic writing time. But when I think about the nights unable to write, to the days and nights when I made time for nothing else, I am sure I have done more than I would have had I stuck religiously to the plan.
As a result, my commitment and desire has grown together and I have benefited in immeasurable amounts.
Looking ahead to February, the main task is to keep focussed and continue the work. I will perhaps even add to it and see how far I can stretch myself. If I fail, it will be my own doing, but the confidence gained from this month will surely stand me in good stead.
I received some responses from the latest press release:
* ITV's Teletext services have indicated a possible interest within their Entertainment section. Good, good!
* The Daily Record can't AFFORD me! What?
* The School Library Association has queried a block subscription for each school, which could then be used as 'site subscription' so to speak. They also asked about payments.
With a large part of my day spent putting together next month's To Do list, I wondering what to begin with. I couldn't decide so decided to shave my head and watch a couple of episodes of The Sopranos.
I will leave you now, my dear faithful bloggerettes, with the words of Kristin Tenor from the Writing Perc mailing list, who this week pretty much summed it all up for me...
"Some people just don't get it. Writing isn't about being published, it's about weaving words into understanding. It's about being true to the spirit within you that wants to set itself free. It's about standing up for what you believe in, and sometimes it's simply how we heal.
Writing is about writing. Nothing else.
You are a writer because you get up each morning and make the commitment to put pen to paper. Don't ever allow anyone to take that away from you. Honor yourself as a writer and sooner or later, the rest will follow."
Sunday, January 30, 2005
A Successful Day
On went my Dark Side of the Moon CD to the smell of freshly brewing Blue Mountain coffee, a couple of bacon slices and a freshly baked ciabatta roll. Drool - drool!
Things then went from good to even better before lunch had even crossed my mind. I wrote what is probably the best episode of Hunting Jack I have ever written. It is solid, packed with description and mood and has a great balance between inner thought and authorial comment. With it being the final issue before the readers are asked if they want to re-subscribe, I managed to leave it with a fantastic cliffhanger, giving it real edge and tension. Surely no-one can refuse.
Gail arrived home over lunchtime just as I had re-read issue 45. It only required a few alterations and was ready for sending to my editor - surely my fastest turnaround ever. I still don't trust myself though so I sat on it for a couple of hours, re-read it again then sent it in.
But I digress. When Gail returned she did so having gone out and bought a new bathroom for our new house - which isn't even signed for yet! Her face looked serious as she revealed the cost, how much she had saved on it and the extra toilet set she bought.
"Perfect Sunday for you eh?" I said.
Her face turned from grim to beaming with delight. "Too right!"
I like to see my wife happy.
My friend Devon spotted a cool competition run by the University of Maine. With no entry fee but a cash prize on offer, I thought it would be worth a go, so I submitted two poems - Perfect Place and Disposable Pen.
I then set about editing and polishing up The Oasis. I added an extra 400 words taking it to 4400 overall, while making it tighter at the same time. It still needs another couple of reads, but with it being such a large piece of fiction I will wait until tomorrow before giving it another go.
I re-wrote Loaded after dinner. I wanted to make it more compact and explain more of the circumstances that are covered throughout the story. I feel the point is missed and there is not enough conflict, so I decided to change one of the characters slightly, to give him more of an arrogant nature. The story works better, but again, I will wait until tomorrow before giving it another read.
I updated my January To-Do list (which I will publish the final version of tomorrow) and made a start on February's.
A full day’s writing and all in all, I’d say a total success.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
The Impact Of Pink
I watched a late documentary last night in bed; Classic Albums Of Our Time. It was superb as it covered The Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd. I have seen it before but the dynamics of the band always fascinates me. Each of the band members were interviewed separately and at times offered some very frank words to the camera, but they also played some tracks on guitar and keyboard, which was fantastic to watch. The rift between Waters and Gilmour still existed when this programme was made, though now they are on a much better footing after playing together at Glastonbury for the first time since they split. Now THAT was something to watch!
Pink Floyd music and lyrics had a profound impact on me when I first heard them back in 1979. I was a newbie in Primary school and still remember, to this day, being given into trouble as a six year old for chanting, “We don’t need no education!” in the class. Things worsened on my permanent record when Ian Dury released Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick the same year. In 1980 when Baggy Trousers was released by Madness, there was no going back.
Ironically enough, in 1990 when I was sitting my ‘O’ Grade’s at High School, I studied to the sound of The Wall permanently rotating on my cassette deck. Little did I know I was on a road with two very different sides to it. On one side I was being fed creativity from Pink Floyd and other music I was listening to, all of which helped shape into the person I am today in one way or another. On the other side of the road, I was being pulled subtly toward the turn-off leading to the Rat Race. It transpired I walked blindly down that road, but now I am attempting to cross it, through the wilderness and back onto the road true to me. And I know I’ll get there.
My alarm was set early so I could get Laura ready and down to her dance lessons in time. I was to pick her up two hours later, which gave me ample time to get a wee project of mine completed.
I jumped on a bus into Edinburgh city centre and got off in St. Andrews Square. I followed the path Jackie has taken since arriving in the city, and took photos and notes of his journey so far. Every stop and incident so far was recorded and logged in my notebook and on film. It proved to be an interesting exercise in that it felt as though I was almost him, but in a ghostly kind of way. It felt like a cross between a walk down memory lane, and the sensation of looking at Edinburgh through someone else’s eyes. The sounds, the smells, the people - all taking on slightly different characteristics. The only thing now is – how different would Jackie’s time in Glasgow be if I were to follow the route he took while there?
After lunch I had more to do around the house then I managed to fire out the remaining press releases I had lined up for e-mail distribution. I also polished up and sent in issues 43 to 44 of Hunting Jack to my editor.
After the past seven days, I’m looking forward to getting a nice lie in tomorrow. Well, if I can make it to 9am I’ll be happy!
Friday, January 28, 2005
Thank God It's Friday
Today I bounced out of bed at precisely 6am. Full of beans and energy I whistled as I showered, danced while I made my porridge and hopped, skipped and jumped while I got dressed. Then I ran for the bus – for the fun of it – and hummed merrily to the frolics of the early morning Radio 1 DJ designed to entertain everyone under the age of 19.
What really happened…
My alarm went off at 6am and I struggled to move. I crawled out of bed at 6.30am and trudged to the shower, holding my head under the flow, allowing the water to penetrate my skull via my eyeballs until my brain succumbed to the pressure that I was not going to go back to bed for about 16 hours. With bloodshot eyes, I mixed my porridge and stood next to the microwave, nodding my head against my shoulders until the ping of a job well done pierced the morning air. I dressed. Slowly. Then I walked with buckling knees to the bus stop. I turned on my personal radio and listened to Terry Wogan on Radio 2 – specifically designed to entertain everyone over the age of 30.
With a half day from work, normally I would have been happy to have a couple of jars in Clark's, then spend the rest of the day writing/researching/whatever needed doing in my plan for literary achievement.
But the house won't sell itself. So I spent most of the afternoon finishing off the last of the house polishing and talking with the solicitor. She came round to value the house and discuss the kind of money we are looking get for it. The main thing we want is a quick sale for the maximum price - fingers crossed our sales tactics are up to scratch.
By the time she left I was glad to be able to put the hard work behind me - for now anyway. This week has been a slog and a half and I'll be glad to chill a bit more this weekend. That said - the plan is to get through a lot on my writing schedule.
I came across another blog this evening that has a link back to my own blog. Nothing strange in that, except I don't know who's it is. It appears to be another writer's site, but there is no identifying details or means to contact the owner. A friend in my writing group spotted it because it has her blog listed as a favourite too. So she is as spooked as I am. It is rather flattering though - but weird nonetheless.
Right now I'm shattered after a heavy week. My thinking is to get a good night's kip and get the best out of the weekend, both with the family and with my writing. My dinner party has been cancelled for tomorrow so I won't be cooking after all. Shame because I had a nice meal planned. C'est la vie.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Test The Theory
I wrote a poem. I have been studying poetic structures lately – nothing formal – just reading and analysing other people’s poems more. I have been looking at structure, metaphor, imagery and line patterns and trying to apply them to work of my own.
Edwin Morgan wrote a poem about a mug, using a very specific structure. It is called Mug Poem (no joke) and is structured thus:
A - first stanza
A - describes what you do with the object
B - imagery and metaphor of object giving it life
C - second stanza
C - describes what the object needs/does for you
D - ends in ultimate human reality
Here’s what I came up with:
Scribble madly as a Priest without a prayer.
Write smoothly as a Falcon gliding on the air.
Capture the moment a woman turns wife.
Sketch a glimpse of another's life.
Hold me tight,
grip me right,
angled perfectly, in
your supple palm.
Inspiration in the twilight.
Then dispose of me, in the bin.
I worked on this poem for two days, and then sent it in to my writer’s group for suggestions. I thought it was very scrappy but surprisingly it went down well! Goes to show.
My new press release for Hunting Jack was released by PRWeb. Read it here at:
Hunting Jack - 2nd Press Release
My evening was hectic. On returning from work at 6pm I dived straight into completing the final leg of the house rejuvenation for tomorrow’s valuation. It was 10 o’clock before either of us got our dinner.
Now the hectic stuff is out of the way I *should* be able to relax a bit more and do more writing in the house. That’s the theory. I will put it to the test as soon as possible because I still have a few outstanding items to do for my January To Do list.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Screams, Screeches And Shrieks!
The high pitch scream could have woken the dead from their murky graves. I was pulled – nae yanked – from a wonderful dream, into a hard reality at precisely 7.09am by Laura at her loudest and most high-pitched scream. The frantic sound of her feet banging on the floor of her room provided a subtle bass to her operatic shrieking. Naturally, I feared the worst.
Our duvet cover leapt into the air like a flying carpet and hovered, while both my legs and Gail’s did a Scooby-Doo type floating scamper (as displayed by Shaggy running away from a ghost). We then shot for the door of the bedroom to get to Laura, all the while Gail screamed, “I’m coming, I’m coming!” The fear - evident by her tear-jerking shouts for her daughter –was evident in Gail, as it was in me.
But what was causing the panic? Laura had been up for around half an hour and was watching cartoons. I remembered this after the event. So why the frantic screaming and banging? Had she electrocuted herself? Had the roof fallen in on her? Had a burglar broke in through her bedroom window? Had I been a farmer in Wiltshire, my sawn off shotgun would already have been loaded and primed before I even got to the bedroom door.
Suddenly, our bedroom door crashed in and Laura belted straight into Mummy’s arms. She was panic-stricken. So too was Gail. I was confused as to what exactly had happened. There were tears and screams of, “I’m never going back into my room!”
A spider no bigger than a fingernail, had stupidly wandered across Laura’s bed sheet on its way to a dark corner somewhere, and the promise of a better life. Carelessly, the unassuming arachnid had wandered into the lion’s den.
When I found it, the poor thing had already suffered a major cardiac event, the trauma from which killed it outright.
By the time my own heart stopped trying to break through my rib cage, I was on my way home from work.
Work itself was hectic. I am taking a holiday in February – partly to use up my allocation before the new holiday year, and partly to save money on Laura’s out of school club. This means I won’t be in the office from February 10th to 21st inclusive. I can’t say I am going to miss the place, but there is loads I am planning for that time.
More on that later. The point is it leaves me – or rather my boss - with a problem, because a project I have been given to do is now under pressure to deliver by then. I am not sweating over it. He is. The upshot is I am going to have to work over the next week and a half to try and get it delivered, which means less time to do rewarding work, as detailed in my GDR 2005.
In fact no writing was done today, other than starting work on a new poem. It is very rough and nowhere near ready, but I do hope to have it complete for the end of the month.
I gave myself some tough challenges; both in the type and amount of writing I thought I could do during January. I have surprised myself with what I have achieved so far and it looks like I am going to do it – plus a bit extra.
Snooker was fine despite getting beat 6-3. I couldn’t concentrate on the game for all the things in my head, but I never used that as an excuse. I told Ian it was all part of my plan to give something back to the community under the Help The Aged scheme. He was not impressed.
I couldn’t get the house move out of my mind. All the things still to do listing themselves down one side of my brain, and on the other all the freelance work I have on, fiction work for my GDR and I have also been approached to do a website for a New York based musician. Add Jackie into the mix, talking to me and telling me he has been standing in ‘a certain place’ in Edinburgh for too long now, as well as Gerry Steele – the protagonist in the short story I wrote earlier in the week. So much to do!
It’s the life I want and I love it!
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
And The Moral Is...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BINNY!! 26 TODAY!!!
It is my youngest sister’s birthday today. Lindsay is now on the down slope towards her thirties, where she will join me with pipe and slippers in hand. Happy Birthday lil’ sis!
Here is the title of her favourite poem. Some of you may recognise it from a famous Douglas Adams book. It means a lot to her apparently:
Ode To A Small Lump Of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning
Lindsay also shares her birthday with Rabbie Burns.
Since Gail was at the dentist today and my father also suffered a weekend of toothache, this poem not only celebrates Burns, but is also for them:
Address To The Toothache
My curse upon your venom'd stang,
That shoots my tortur'd gums alang,
An' thro' my lug gies mony a twang,
Wi' gnawing vengeance,
Tearing my nerves wi' bitter pang,
Like racking engines!
When fevers burn, or argues freezes,
Rheumatics gnaw, or colics squeezes,
Our neibor's sympathy can ease us,
Wi' pitying moan;
But thee-thou hell o' a' diseases-
Aye mocks our groan.
Adown my beard the slavers trickle
I throw the wee stools o'er the mickle,
While round the fire the giglets keckle,
To see me loup,
While, raving mad, I wish a heckle
Were in their doup!
In a' the numerous human dools,
Ill hairsts, daft bargains, cutty stools,
Or worthy frien's rak'd i' the mools, -
Sad sight to see!
The tricks o' knaves, or fash o'fools,
Thou bear'st the gree!
Where'er that place be priests ca' hell,
Where a' the tones o' misery yell,
An' ranked plagues their numbers tell,
In dreadfu' raw,
Thou, Toothache, surely bear'st the bell,
Amang them a'!
O thou grim, mischief-making chiel,
That gars the notes o' discord squeel,
Till daft mankind aft dance a reel
In gore, a shoe-thick,
Gie a' the faes o' Scotland's weal
A townmond's toothache!
During lunch, I completed the press releases for both the Internet agencies as well as private publications. I also wrote personal letters to the editors/arts desks of various carefully selected publications, ranging from The Scotsman and The Leither to the East Lothian Review and List Magazine.
The premise is basically the same, except I have targeted the audience of each publication differently to make it more appealing. I gave the Ed’s suggestions and related the material to their own magazines/papers then posted them early afternoon.
I never got a chance to send some other releases by e-mail to the rest of my target list, so it looks like it may be Thursday before I get to that.
Gail and I had Indian for dinner then got fired into boxing a lot of my gear. My clothes, books, paperwork and other paraphernalia representing my cluttered (but highly organised) life, all packed away into neat little boxes.
I had to retrieve my kilt when I remember the Six Nations tournament is just around the corner, which will no doubt mean some furious Rose Street drinking with RAF Squadron 512 in the next few weeks.
My PC will have to stay as long as I can let it before bringing it down. The desk is to be dismantled and given an honourable discharge. And a replacement will be sought for my brand new office.
We got through a lot but there is still much to do. I toyed with the idea of not going to snooker tomorrow so we can get everything done for Friday.
“You’re GOING to the snooker, okay!” Gail said.
“I really think it’s best if I put the effot in to make sure it’s all done in time. There’s loads to do. It wouldn;t be fair to leave you to it for a night” I argued.
“It wouldn’t be fair on you – I know how much you like a pint and a game of snooker.”
“But –yer Dad won’t mind. Trust me.”
“No. Absolutely not. I like NOT having you around on a Wednesday, so yer going. And that’s final!”
The moral is: Even when you want to break your back labouring for your woman, sometimes it just isn’t enough.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Free Coffee And The Theatre
I stopped in at my favourite coffee shop on the way in to work – Club Sandwich on Dundas Street. I ordered a cappuccino and counted out my change, only to be told it was my tenth coffee – and therefore FREE! YIPPEE!! I just love it when that happens!
I got to work very late – but had booked the time out already so there was no hassle. The work I have on at the moment is slow in coming through because I have to wait on other areas to get their acts together before I can commence my part. The longer they take, the more I can spend doing other stuff so it’s fine by me.
Over lunch I bought a copy of the bi-weekly List Guide. I bought it to get an idea of what is on in the local theatres and found it also contained an article about the re-release of Paul Auster’s novel, City of Glass on February 3rd. I read this as part of his book, The New York Trilogy when I was on holiday in the summer and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.
I prepared two versions of a new press release I am going to submit. This new PR is going to play strongly on the fact that KIC is essentially a US-based e-zine marketing to the world. It will also highlight the Hunting Jack competition for a free subscription. I have also offered the individual editors – and I am making this PR personal to each publication – the chance to run some issues or offer free subscriptions for their own competitions.
I also wrote out some specific queries to some locally based newspapers and magazines with the same information, plus highlighting in each case just exactly how an interview with me about HJ can be slotted into their paper/mag.
It’s aggressive and very forward. But you don’t get anywhere in this game without making your name known and doing the hard slog. So I heard anyway.
With a view to the KIC theatre review column, I have decided to go and see Look Back In Anger by John Osbourne. It has just started a run in the Royal Lyceum Theatre. I showed it to Gail, making sure not to put any pressure on her and she said she would come along. I have missed the opportunity of a discussion with the cast but I will contact the theatre in advance and see if they can do anything or give me a press pack.
The last time I went to the theatre to see a non-play production was at the Kings Theatre last year. Gail and I went to see Stones In His Pockets by Marie Jones was on and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards we went for a meal at my favourite restaurant in town, Le Sept.
I love the cinema, but there is something exciting about live performances in a theatre that grabs me. Listening to the script and delivery of the lines, the emotions and the interactions. It’s the atmosphere that is so different; it creates a different kind of buzz to the big screen.
Gail fell asleep during the second half of Stones. She’s more of a musical show fanatic. We have tickets for Starlight Express at the Playhouse in April but that is too far away for me to write a review for the May issue of KIC Magazine.
Which is what I like about this writing gig – it gives me an excuse to get out and taste more culture. I was prepared to go myself. There seems to be difference between going somewhere like this as work, compared to going for enjoyment – if that makes sense.
I wrote 2,500 words of my new short story at night. I also renamed it as The Oasis. It’s good and I like it. It tailed off slightly towards the end but I know its flaws and strengths and I will spend some time getting it right. It is 4000 words in total, which considering the amount of work I have put into the house over the last three days, is not a bad average of words.
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Blood, Sweat And Tears
My day consisted of lifting huge and sometimes very heavy boxes, cleaning on my knees, washing all the windows (high and low), cleaning the kitchen down to the very last millimeter of granite tile and cleaning the front garden – which consisted of removing all the litter blown in by the recent high winds and trapped in our fence and hedge. It was disgusting. I also cut the hedge which also proved to be a delightful lesson in nature considering all the crap that gathers in it due to our location. Still - the place looks minted now and that's the main thing.
I took a long soak in the bath while dinner was cooking in the oven. I made Marzetti, to celebrate all the hard work we put in over the weekend. It's one of my favourite dishes because it is so easy to make, and it tastes so damn good. It's a mix of pasta, mince, cheese, onion and condensed soups. It goes down best with some garlic bread and a glass of well chosen red wine.
Last night I wrote until about 11pm and got through a very tough, 1500 words. All I really wanted to do was put my head down, but with my January To-Do List shouting at me from one corner and my conscience from the other, I knew if I went to bed with no writing done at all the day would be a waste – despite all the hard laboring.
It’s a good story; I just have to tell it the correct way. I figured the best thing under the circumstances was to write the story down and worry about the detail later. That way I would be ensured a good word count and it would give me an idea on the plot in close-up. I have chosen to set it specifically in the US – Arizona to be precise. Don’t ask me why. It is not being written with a particular US market in mind, nor is it being written to fulfill some hidden feeling of belonging to that part of the States. I just thought the story would suit that part of the world. It is called Oasis, and is a tale of tragedy with a humorous backbone.
The start of each month will see me publish my Monthly To-Do List, taken directly from this years GDR 2005 document (click on link on right of page). In order to track my progress I will publish the same list at the end of the month with my achievements met and any goals dropped. I have decided that, should I for example half complete a task I will not add it onto the following month as a ‘punishment’, but will use it to better target my aims for the month to follow. January is going well though, and I am comfortable I will meet all my targets, including the ones added during the month.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
The process of cleaning the house for the prospectus photographs, valuation and viewings has now begun. We began in the lounge: packing the non-essentials and deciding how best to get the place looking it's largest and most attractive. I'll probably take photographs when it's complete for two reasons; first, I know I will never have seen the house as tidy as when we are done. And second, it will be a good memory to have. It is after all, our first home together, but really, it has never felt like that to me. When I sold up in Glasgow and moved in, it was - and still is - in Gail's name and I had to find my own space in a home that had already been claimed. Which was not easy, and the adjustment was difficult at first. I don’t need a lot of space – just somewhere to write and listen to my music.
The house we are moving to was bought by us and will be decorated and upgraded by us. So to me, it will be our first proper home, and it will feel 100% mine.
The weather was nice outside; chilled, fresh and a clear blue-sky overhead. It's almost as if an early spring was in the air, and yet mid-winter is yet to stop by so I know it won't last. There are many more frozen mornings and blasting gale's still to come.
As if by magic our real-flame gas fire chose to go on the blink this afternoon. Having worked for years and with it being one of the main features in our living room, it is typical for it to stop working in the winter and with us relying on it to give the house a warm glow for any prospective buyers. A quick call to Ian the handyman was made and he hopes to get round tomorrow to fix it.
While cleaning the house, I tried to envisage how best to co-ordinate the house move with all my writing commitments. It's not going to be easy; I can see many late nights ahead, but the main worry is scheduling in a concert gig and a night at the theatre. I can see me ending up going by myself because I want to cover a play this time and Gail doesn't like them. She prefers musicals, which is fair enough, but there is also the baby-sitting aspect as well; someone needs to look after Laura.
I wrote to my editor at KIC during an afternoon break and asked about the possibility of expanding her ideas on the music column. With all the commitments I have getting to large concerts to do reviews is a costly and demanding thing to do. But if I was to write about local, national and international music in general, I think it would work and be more relative to the readership. I await her response.
Gail and I got through a pile of work in by the end of the day. Most of my time was spent polishing every tile, grout and inch of porcelain in the bathroom. Gail battered into Laura’s room and we quickly discovered just how much junk has been collecting in her room over the years. Half a dozen large boxes filled to the brim with toys. Her room is all but done now and the lounge is half-complete, so over all we are making good progress.
Time flies when you are having fun – ahem ;-) – and before I knew it, time had pulled itself into early evening. Into the kitchen I went and cooked up a nice big pot of chilli – not too hot so Laura would still enjoy it though, and it went down a treat - as did the sponge cake for pudding.
At night I got some time to myself. Gail took a long bath with her study papers for a financial exam she has on Tuesday and I brought the laptop through to the kitchen to write. With all the work I have on right now, I realised quickly if I am serious about this writing lark, I need to do it regardless of how little I slept last night, or how tired I am from today’s work around the house.
So I brewed a cuppa, stuck on my Classical Chillout CD and started to write. I started off with issue 2 of the website development column and got a pretty good first draft down. The word count is about right and it reads well so I’m very pleased. The good thing about this column is I have planned about two-dozen issues ahead so I know precisely what each article is going to cover. With the music and theatre reviews that isn’t so easy to do though. It could be with the travel column so I’ll have a think tonight about that and then jot a plan down tomorrow at some point.
It’s going to be hectic again tomorrow, and like today, I will have to squeeze my writing in any chance I get. Much of my time tomorrow is going to be in the garden (weather permitting). I have a hedge to cut, garden to sweep and tidy and then there is all the litter that seems to gather at the bottom end at street level. Most of it was blown in when some bins were caught up in last week’s windy storms and it looks a real eyesore now.
Right - I’m knackered! I’m off to bed.
Friday, January 21, 2005
No Rest For The Wicked
Off to work I trooped with a smile on my face for once. It’s amazing what change like this can do for one’s esteem and general outlook on life. Suddenly I feel so happy and closer to Gail and Laura than ever before – which is saying something.
Work however, brought me down with a bump. I had work to do which proved to be difficult. I was implementing changes to our mainframe software and hit difficulties with the set-up of the code. Problem after problem developed, each one compounding on the last making it into a mountain of error.
So I went to Clark’s.
On returning I had a brain wave and the problem got sorted. The main part of the implementation didn’t start until 7pm so at around 4pm I popped back into Clark’s for a quickie before the rest of the guys headed off to a free night in Grand Cruz. Just my luck; a free bar on a Friday night while I’m stuck in work.
A couple of the guys started asking about Hunting Jack – only Dave knew I wrote prior – and it was good telling knew people about the story and my writing. I am always conscious not to go on about it for fear of boring the shit out of everyone, but at the same time, I don’t often get to talk about it in public. When Dave finally passes me something to read that he has created, I am sure it will lead to more discussions. Bring them on I say!
Dave ended up not going though after his wife rang with news of his daughter being sick. Hope she gets better soon mate!
And so I found myself back in work at around 6.30pm. I logged onto my writing group for a bit and redrafted Heart Of A Child for Wildchild Publishing. I gave it one more read over when I got home and sent it back to my editor for February’s issue.
I received an email from my editor at KIC with the information on the next round of articles for issue 2 of the magazine - wanted ASAP for the May edition. This puts the pressure on, for as well as the January goals for my GDR list, I now have to add on a theatre review, gig review (I signed up for another column), travel column and the next website development column. This of course, all has to be fit into the hectic schedule of getting the house ready for viewing starting next week - everything has to be boxed, polished and fixed.
'No rest for the wicked' has never been so aptly applied!
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Change Is In The Air
For some reason my next door neighbor chose midnight to hand in the parcel that the Postie left earlier in the day. I opened it and to my joy it was a copy of Urdoxa, written by a member of my writing group, Kane X Faucher. I look forward to reading it, but it still has to join the end of the book queue by my bed. To check out his book and the publishing house from whence it came, see Six Gallery Press
I had a slight hangover this morning but luckily I had the day off anyway; a stroke of luck I was quick to thank the Almighty for.
My email contained a note from my editor at Wildchild Publishing with a couple of suggested changes she would like made to Heart of a Child. I will work on this tonight and get it send it in ASAP. She says it is "a lovely story" which is always good to hear.
Gail and I met up at 2.30pm after getting agreement to view the house again. This time we brought Ian - Gail's Dad - to check for initial damage to the house and he found none putting any initial worries we had to rest. So we put in an offer this afternoon and awaited a response. The circumstances were such that it was very unlikely it would be refused - and it wasn't. They swiftly returned our call and accepted our offer subject to a full survey tomorrow. If that goes okay, the house is ours!
We have a moving in day of May, to give us time to get this place sorted and sold, but the date can be brought forward to suit us due to our new home already being vacated.
It feels fantastic and there is a lot of happiness and excitement over the great start we have had to the year and the promise of what is to come. The best thing about the house is the study. Finally I will have a dedicated room to setup all my writing requirements; desk, books, computer - the lot. I may even manage to get that elusive tropical fish tank if I play my cards right.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
This Is Scotland, And It's WINTER!
This is Scotland. We are but a stones throw from Iceland and Scandinavia and the weather we get, while it may be a couple of degrees warmer than during the Ice Age, is still pretty much predictable. The question is not, "what can we do about the snow, wind and rain?" nor is it, "why do we act like God is against us when he throws freezing snowstorms at us and makes it piss with rain all the time?"
The question is, "when are we going to realise this is the way it is, always has been, and always will be?"
The truth is, us Scots always feel like we are getting the short end of the stick. It’s in our blood and goes back to our rebellious days battling against the superior English. The English aren’t bad people, we just like to go on about it because it makes US feel superior, since our football team is now one of the worst in the world and they have Wayne Rooney. Plus, to rub salt in our wounds, the sun shines quite a lot in Somerset and we never get to see any of it apart from two weeks in July.
To summarise: bad weather will always be here at this time of year because this is SCOTLAND and it is WINTER. These two words and what they represent have been making love in the same bed together for centuries – get used to it.
On another note, my hat blew off in the wind today and I slipped on a bit of ice and fell on my arse on my way to work. I was most annoyed because my baldy head was exposed for a lengthy period of time to the fierce wintry elements and my trousers ended up with a wet patch causing my bum to freeze.
Something must be done about this, I mean, we have our own Parliament for God’s sake! Surely we can build a wall around the country or something? Maybe a see-through one so we can watch all the rich people sailing past on the QE2?
The interview I did with KIC was published today on their website today. Read all about it here: KIC Interview
Spain is celebrating the 600th anniversary of Don Quixote by Cervantes, widely regarded as the first ever novel. (BBC News - Cervantes). This book is nearing the top of my To Read list I am happy to say, because it is one I am looking forward to reading.
Gail and I have been scanning the house market for a while now looking for a new house. We went to view a couple of houses out of interest a while back but when we decided we wanted to move this year we committed ourselves to seeing it through. It’s even on my GDR 2005 list.
Today I came across a beauty. It’s not far from where we are at the moment and is ideally located for us plus it is a fair size. Gail was quick off the mark and arranged a viewing - it is ideal but we asked to see it again during the day before we made any decisions.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
A Day Off
I went back to bed and slept till eleven, got up and immediately felt guilty. Not over having missed work, but for having missed a potential morning of writing. It is not laziness nor is it lack of responsibility. I have managed my holidays for the year such that I now have 3 weeks left to take in under 2 months, so I am due these days off.
But the reality is, I would much rather get up at 5am and work my arse off writing, than have to go into a place where my heart is not in it, where I am bored by the people around me (mostly) and where I get no reward from my work whatsoever. Actually, I'd rather write the 6pm to 6am shift but that ain't ever going to happen in the near future.
The challenge of working in I.T. is gone, though I am thankful for the time I have spent here and of the rungs on the ladder I have stepped up in a relatively short time span. I am thankful for this mind-numbing job also, in that it has helped me realise just where it is exactly I want to be in my life – writing. If it were possible, I would gladly take a pay cut to quit the day job and go write, sell my fiction and my articles and live a life that is right for me. If that included doing the home-care bit then fine, at least I'd be happy.
It used to be that money was my main driving force but not anymore. That has been replaced by the desire to be happy more then anything else. I want to die happy, whether I am published or not. The aim is not to be famous or rich beyond my wildest dreams; it is to be happy and writing about life and the things aruond me. Learning and growing, finding out new things about the world and the people in it. Anyone who says this is a load of rubbish and my head is in the clouds, only has their own heads ful of mince, because that is the kind of thining that didn't get the human race to where it is today.
I am not a single guy any more though, and until something big happens to either me or Gail, I will have to plug away slowly, paying the bills and living for the time I get in front of a sheet of paper. So long as that fire burns within me I will keep on striving.
So anyway, I got showered and dressed and started with my email – still nothing from any of the freelance jobs I have applied for.
I wrote to the end of my planned amount of issues for the month and have hit a point where I now need to decide the direction Jackie is to go in. It’s not a major move, but will determine how quickly he hits rock bottom before bounding back up again. I also spotted a minor mistake with the name of a hotel and location of a potential scene for Jackie, so I will have to correct that tomorrow after I talk to a couple of folk.
I also spotted one huge and potentially embarrassing flaw in the story. While writing down events and significant things that happened in Scotland and Edinburgh in 1995 (when Hunting Jack is set) I realised I should have checked a couple of things in Glasgow. My memory is pretty good for detail in that era and I was correct with all the places I chose for scenes – except one. The SECC Auditorium (aka. The Armadillo) features in my story, but was not built in Glasgow until 1997 – two years later.
This would only be picked up on by the most astute readers because the time frame will not become apparent until later in the story, therefore the location would be lost as it is not part of the integral plot. But it is still a blight, and one to change when it comes to revisions. I am more annoyed at my own lack of discipline in checking this out than anything else.
I spent some of the afternoon tidying the house for when Gail got back in from work. She phoned mid-afternoon and asked to pick up Laura and collect her new glasses from the optician. So off we went and Laura looks fab in her new pink-rimmed spectacles (the last ones got trampled on when she fell asleep watching the TV).
Back home it was a usual night. I made dinner, helped Laura with her homework and got the girls settled. Laura had a mini-project to do – find an interesting fact about waterfalls and we found some interesting stuff out through Google. Apparently Laura’s teacher told the class the Angel Falls – the tallest in the world – were so named because the water looks like angel wings as it falls. Not so – as we proved.
We discovered that the Angel Falls were so named after Jimmy Angel, a pilot who crashed his plane near the falls. They were discovered by someone else (a native of Venezuela) and it wasn’t until after the crash they were renamed to the Angel Falls.
Into the night and I wrote more Hunting Jack – mostly editing and going over some missing details and facts. Gail’s back is giving her real gip so she went to bed early leaving me to write this Blog and watch a sneaky episode of The Soprano’s.
Monday, January 17, 2005
A Different Workplace
Looking around, I eventually realised it was the people. They all look and sound like they enjoy being here for a change. Is it just me then? Am I the only one that sees my office as a prison for creativity? Am I the only one that feels they have been let down, eaten and regurgitated by a system of commerce and big business? Am I the only one happy to earn a few pounds and feel happy with my lot in life while the fat cats get fatter? Am I he only one with the desire to get out? Maybe not, but the rest certainly hide it better than I do.
A friend texted me in the evening to say it looked like they were going to get snowed in and may not be in work tomorrow. I took it as a joke, assuming they were on a night out or something. Then I looked out of the window and a snowstorm was in full pelt. It hardly ever snows in Leith so this was a real surprise.
My friend Devon is having real problems with her PC. They all seem to be XP related but while this would be an annoyance for most people, for her it is worse as it eats into her writing time and ultimately her income. Imagine a chef with no cooker, or painter with no brushes and you will see the magnitude. So she sent me the details of the problems she is having and I will search through some of the databases at work and see if I can help.
I came across some potential freelance markets that I have added to my 'Check out first' list and I edited and sent in issues 39 to 42 of Hunting Jack. I would have done more but it was getting late and I was still really tired from the weekend.
Slowly but surely I am eating away at my To Do list for January based on my GDR2005. There is still some major bits of work waiting for my attention but I am finding having this list broken down in the way it is, helps me to stay focussed at the right amount each time. A month seems to be a nice amount of work to have on your plate, while still allowing room for advancement and amendments.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
The Road Home
After a superb brunch aptly called the Olympic Breakfast, we departed on our separate ways. I had to catch a train to Edinburgh from Newcastle centre. so MikeyP dropped me off slightly early so I had time to grab a cappuccino before boarding the train north.
My mobile phone comes with an in-built FM radio, which is fine on journeys through built-up areas. It is not so good when you are travelling along the East Coast of England into the Scottish border region where no humans ever go. Thus - no radio signal.
I remembered I had brought a book with me, so I read some of The Prison House by John King. I have several books on the go just now which is a pain, but I really need to get through this batch to get into the next lot of exciting reads.
When I got home it was about 4.30pm and the family were waiting for me. Laura was excited to see me and Gail cracked a comment about some girl phoning this morning who said I had given her my number last night. As if.....!
The rest of the evening was relaxing and laid back. I read some of my book and caught up on my writing group and Gail watched some TV and studied for another financial exam she is due to sit on the 25th.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Stevie's Stag Party
When I arrived Craig picked me up and we went out to his flat in South Shields to dump our stuff. MikeyP had arrived earlier that morning and went Go-Karting with the rest of the Stag group, so me and Craig had a beer in the flat then headed out to a wee fisherman’s bar in South Shields – I forget the name.
We caught up, shared some laughs and enjoyed a few cold beers before moving to The Beacon bar – same style but with a nice wee restaurant attached. MikeyP and Paul arrived to join us at about 3 o’clock and it was the old boys back together again.
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Paul I have not seen for a couple of years. Some things happened between us that are old and not worth mentioning, needless to say I cut myself off from him. Seeing him again brought back some old memories – good and bad (he was a flat mate for a time) and there were no immediate hard feelings.
We went back to the flat and got changed, blasted some tunes and had a few more drinks before heading to the other end of Newcastle where the main stag party was staying. It was a weird setup; a Chinese restaurant with a hotel built onto it. By now the party was in full swing with everyone together – all 17 of us so you can imagine it was getting somewhat raucous.
Paul chose dinner to remind me part of the reason I distanced myself from him in the past. It will be a while before we drink together again.
Stevie (the Groom) was given his outfit for the night – a large bird which when worn made it appear he was sitting atop a huge chicken.
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Went over the road to a stylish bar called Osbourne’s for more drinks where we were also handed our Mexican gear for the night – large stick-on moustaches. This attracted the attention of the locals so I got hold of another moustache, tore it in half and used the ends as eyebrows. Rolf Harris eat your heart out.
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The Best Man had ordered a bus to get us to the city center so on we piled and havoc commenced. Don’t forget Craig and I started drinking at mid-day and the rest not until 3pm, so we were 9 drinks ahead of the 15 others. This of course proved too much for us and we swiftly moved into “clown mode” (see Blog entry entitled ‘Tears of a Clown’). The bus was in stitches.
Be glad you weren’t there – and we weren’t in a public domain. Enough said.
We got to Buffalo Joe's – Newcastle’s premium nightclub and fun bar based on a country and western theme - at about 8'ish. It was mobbed and the party was in full pelt. There were a couple of Hen party’s in the bar too and we persuaded one of them to join Stevie in the Wig-Wam-Bam cage. If you don’t know what this is – it is where a girl from the audience climbs into the cage with two hunky cowboys and is jostled and vibrated to the tune of cowboy songs. The ladies seem to love this - personally I don't get it much lol!
Stevie went head-to-head with the girl, running around the club kissing people and the person with the highest amount of snogs won vouchers for the bar. Stevie lost – we were most disappointed.
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One of the things Buffalo Joe’s is famous for is the Buffalo Joe Dancing Girls who perform on the bar itself. It always gets a good crowd and ensures there is something for both sexes. It’s great fun and a good place for a night out. When we left at about 11pm the queue outside waiting to get in stretched right round the block.
We went to another couple of bars and by 2am we were all beginning to slow down and long for our beds.
It’s always a touch call at that time of night, especially when on a Stag because if you are the first to concede you could be ridiculed forever, and ever.
I looked at Craig out the corner of my eye; he glanced back. Our thoughts connected simultaneously as we silently read each other’s thoughts: “Cheese sandwich, cup of tea and an episode of Frasier?”
We were home within the hour in front of the television. Sleep came quick.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Slow And Dragging
Today I feel like death warmed up.
Drinking mid-week used to be fine when I was but a 20-year-old student, when Thursday nights saw the start of the weekend festivities and would go on until the Sunday. I was fit, slim and generally quite windswept and interesting.
Unfortunately I am now 31, couldn’t run for the bus if my life depended on it, have a slight bump where my six-pack used to be and have lost one or two follicles from my healthy locks of hair. Thursday night drinking is so much harder to get over these days.
I crawled into work at about half past ten and logged onto my e-mail. Dave had already sent a message half an hour earlier with the subject: “OH MA HEID!”
At about half past eleven I got another e-mail from Dave which read, “Did any of you guys see Tom leave the bar last night. He's not made it into work.”
As I write, I have still to find out where the guys went last night after I left them in Pivot, but I would hazard a guess it was dark, dingy and had a pianist in the back playing karaoke tunes on a Steinway.
Work was slow and tedious and by the time it came to 4pm I could not wait to get home - which I managed to do as briskly as I could, stopping in for some shopping on the way.
Gail had a night out with her work mates - one of who was leaving - and so once Laura was in bed it was down to some writing. This too came slow due to my tiredness and I struggled to maintain a focus.
With a big weekend ahead I plumped for an early'ish night in front of the television.
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Saga Of A Dicky Tummy
I didn’t sleep well last night and woke with a dodgy stomach. I’m sure it was the beer. I know what Kronenbourg is meant to taste like – and that wasn’t it.
The weather at least, seems to have spring boarded forward to a bitter cold spring after the winter splendour it threw at the country over the last few days. I like the chill factor – without the wind in my face anyway, it’s nice.
I thought it was about time I sent my wife some flowers. Every time she has started a new job I have duly embarrassed her with a bunch of flowers sent to her office, but with the job she is currently in she asked me not to, due to the nature of her position and stuff like that. So I bided my time and I finally realised four months is long enough. So I ordered a dozen red roses down and waited for the phone to ring.
Before anyone asks they weren’t an apology – just an expression of my undying love! (bleuch!)
The phone rang at about 3pm. She was most happy and promised me great rewards on my triumphant return to our abode tonight. I knew what I hoped that meant, but when she said “You can watch Eastenders with me,” I knew I had been had.
I dug out half a dozen potential publications for pitching articles to: 1 technical writing, 3 fiction, 1 lifestyle, 1 music. I’ll need to check out their websites before I go any further, but at first glance he music site looks a good gig – non-paying but could be fun.
Various concerned people contacted me about this article in yesterday’s news:
Basically, a bloke in Waterstone’s in Edinburgh was sacked for writing a Blog about how bad his employers were, referring to the company as “Bastardstone's" and his manager as "Evil Boss".
As regular readers will know, I am not happy with my current employers but most of this dis-satisfaction is caused by me deciding this is not what I want and also because the company is shedding staff like the proverbial moult off a dog’s back. I want to further a career in writing and the low staff motivation is company-wide, not just me.
Also, people reading this Blog will not know who the company I work for is (unless I have told them), as I always refer to them as The Company. Further, my boss is not evil though he does have a tendency to wear grey neck-tight suits, stick his right pinkie in his mouth and laugh hysterically.
My job, unfortunately, is safe.
The dicky tummy continued well into the day and the offer of a “quiet pint” with Dave, Tom became an option after work. Tom is buying a flat in Leith and it was decided he should make his decision based on the quality of the bars Leith has to offer. And so we obliged as we are kind chaps, and volunteered to show him the various hostelry’s Leith has to offer.
So I went home and grabbed some food and a shower and walked down to the pub. The clear sky was still overhead and all the stars were visible as I walked through Leith Links. Right above the school, the Starry Plough shone – love those stars!
This is where my pal Devon may post a wee comment, and I invite her to confirm if she has been to any of these bars frequented me and my drinking colleagues this evening...
I went to meet them in the Carriers Quarters but they had already moved on to the Port O’ Leith Bar (famous for its Port O' Leith Port!), so we had a couple of pints in there and moved to Nobles Bar next door - an old haunt of my Father in Laws. This is where I found out one of the guys became a Dad a couple of weeks ago – and so a round of Zambuca’s was bought much to my disgust.
I am not a good shot-drinker. I used to be, until one night I had an encounter with a particularly vicious Tequila slammer. I won’t go into it, suffice to say I lost my edge in that particular war and so it is a miracle I kept the damn thing down, but I did.
Then it was into the pricey Lighthouse Bar on The Shore and then Bar Sirius – both devoid of life causing much consternation with Zander and his mate, who need ladies around them to distract them from spending their entire time on their mobile phones. What did they do before mobiles were invented one wonders. So much for conversation.
A bit of bartering with a taxi driver saw us shipped in two loads to the Pivot Bar on Calton Road, famous for being full of east European types. I didn’t last much longer; tiredness and drunkenness taking over. When Dave started dancing on his own on the dance floor, I knew it was time to go. I left with Dave and caught a cab home, leaving Zander, Tom and the others in Pivot.
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I got home and found two marvellous surprises; a single rose lying on my pillow and half a quiche (Lorraine), cooked by Gail earlier and left out for me to snack on when I got in.
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A good wee night out, but I just know I am going to regret it in the morning.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Bad Weather, Bad Beer
As I type this portion of my Blog it is 10:46am and as I look out the window it is almost pitch black, the trees are bent double and heavy rain is pounding the windows. What I wouldn’t give for a cup of coffee – oh, I have one here – okay, to be back in my bed then.
I updated my issue tracker and summary sheet for Hunting Jack with all the details I need to remember, locations and characters. I spotted an open hole in the plot, which I will address in a later issue when appropriate.
I’ve heard nothing back from any of the freelance writing jobs I went for but I’m not worried. These are my first attempts at article querying and I’m very new to this side of it, however I do know what it’s like to sub to slow editors through my fiction. I really hope the Edinburgh publication gets back to me with an acceptance. Of all the jobs I have gone for, it would pay zilch but would be such a brilliant thing to do – drink and eat out in Edinburgh and write reviews about everywhere I go. Their booklet and site are good, but Edinburgh is barely covered and Leith is non-existent so there is so much room for expansion.
I put another couple of queries together for possible submission to the site I mentioned the other day – Literary/Travel (with no Edinburgh section at all) but it occurred to me if they (or some) of these editors do get back to me with a bunch of “yes’s” I could land myself in it time-wise. So – I am going to do the research, take do the field trips, take the pictures and write a load of articles before submitting the queries for some of them. Just in case.
I’ll take Laura with me as she likes that kind of thing as well; visiting interesting places then doing wee projects on it. Which reminds me, she has started a scrapbook of all the days out we have together to keep them together. She is going to put in pictures we take and write about her “Daddy-Daughter” days.
I’ve fallen behind in the reading of KIC serials I subscribe to. I currently have 51 issues pending in a file waiting to be read! Plus I just won a month subscription to The Adventures of Ransom and Fortune by Michelle Miles to add to my reading list!
The other stories are by Devon Ellington, Cerridwen Iris Shea, and Brenda Birch – all fellow authors and friends of mine, and stories I would heartily recommend trying out. Take a look and read the free issues if nothing else – you might like what you see.
The Widows Chamber
Blood On An Appalachian Sunset
The Adventures of Ransom and Fortune
After discussion with my editor at KIC I decided to half the number of questions in the Hunting Jack competition – it was too hard for some people and costing my subscribers so there are now only five to answer.
I finished a poem I have been working last few days. I might have mentioned it – it’s called Lost Tears.
brings tears, that
run down your face
showing the world
your inner pain,
where do they go
wash them off
and they slip
down a drain?
Played snooker at night and won 5-3. The beer was off though – not cleaning their pipes again and I could taste it. Then when they overcharged us for a round I had to voice my disapproval; 15 pence is a lot of money these days lol!!
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
This morning I witnessed an act of the highest disregard from one driver towards my wife. We were dropping Laura off at school and pulled in to the left to wait for a car to pull out and free the space just in front of us by a yard or two. Our indicators were on as we waited patiently for the car to pull away so we could slip in to the space.
No sooner had the car pulled away though, another car arrived from the right and cut us off snatching the place just vacated – right in front of us!
Gail voiced her disapproval.
I saw red.
I reached over and pressed the horn, directed a "you're a loony" sign with my finger against my temple at the offender - who then smirked at me! If it weren’t for Gail shouting at me ("I was only standing up for you" I pleaded), I would have had their name and registration number down to my pal in A-Division with a complaint for reckless driving in front of a school for starters.
I had another winner in my Hunting Jack contest - yay!! Though I think I have lost a subscriber as well - boo!! They haven't renewed for over a month now so I remain at a running total of 8 subscribers - although three are technically still on the freebie month, it does mean I have eight readers.
While doing research this evening on the homeless problem in Edinburgh, I found out some amazing facts, but also stumbled on the perfect introduction for Hunting Jack.
"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Luke 9.58
Sums Hunting Jack up perfectly.
I edited out issues 39 through to 42 today and wrote issues 43 and 44. Jackie has hit problems already and it looks as though Edinburgh is going to be more of an experience than Glasgow was. Poor bugger. That's me written 8 of my planned 9 for this month already, but I still have loads to do in the next three weeks.
Onwards and upwards!
Monday, January 10, 2005
Tears Of A Clown
On Friday night as you know I cooked a stunning meal for no apparent reason other than because I thought it would be nice for my wife and her pal. It was nothing fancy, but it was made with good intentions. As I always do, I welcome Gail’s friends and family into the house, try to make them feel at ease and do my best to keep their drinks topped – as a good host should do.
Yet, for the third time now, this same friend has come away afterwards and told my wife that I am a “big grump” and we have subsequently “shared words” over this accusation later.
Maybe I am a grump. I am the first to admit that if you catch me at the right time, then yes – I can be a right grumpy bastard. I am an early-thirty-something male who has his off days particularly when I am tired or when I get exposed to too many TV adverts, reality television or boy-girl bands.
Who doesn’t have their grumpy days? The point is – I wasn’t on Friday night. I was cheery and had a laugh, cooked a meal and had some wine.
Bear in mind that I had been up at 6am, got Laura sorted for school and made her lunch, got into work for before 8am and sat in a stifling heat doing nothing I consider to be worthwhile – grinning and bearing it – returned home to cook dinner then wash and tidy up – BEFORE I even had a moment to myself! And then to be accused of being a grump is, to me, nothing short of a piss-take.
So I am very annoyed by this slur on my name, and I am annoyed at the pressure it places on me to act nice to this person who has now, I feel, stepped over a mark. The next time they visit I will act, as I always do, warm and welcoming and I will continue to cook meals for them. But I am left thinking she is going to blast me after every visit – which is not fair.
Another reason this annoys me is that very often I am accused of being “too much the clown”. In other words when there is a party, I like to show off and have a laugh. I like laughing, and I like making people laugh. I like doing stupid things and I like showing my bum off in public when I wear my kilt. And why not? I have a peachy bum, certainly nothing I should be ashamed off.
But the paradox is people expect me to behave like that every time they see me. If I am too tired to be the “clown” I don’t perform well and people then think I am grumpy. So I get lambasted either way.
A song by Smokey Robinson springs to mind. :-)
I dreamt of old friendships last night – people I have not seen for years who have drifted away either intentionally or unintentionally. It was brought on by the thought of meeting a couple of old friends (and I use the term loosely) this weekend at a friends Stag I am going to in Newcastle. More on that later.
I edited issues 39 to 41 in-between ‘real’ work and in the evening wrote issue 42 – Jackie arriving in Edinburgh and seeing the Castle for the first time. It feels good to have him here, in fact it’s almost like he’s lived my life in a way – geographically that is. I started off in Glasgow and moved through to Edinburgh when I started work here, so it was easy to write about the city when you arrive in it for the first time. Writing about Glasgow was like being back and it only makes me miss the Dear Green Place even more.
Sunday, January 09, 2005
Something else is bothering me about Hunting Jack. After not having read the issues in detail over the last few weeks, when I look back with a fresh pair of eyes I am left wondering if it is balanced correctly between the drama I want and the flow. I want it to be a good read but I want to avoid having in meaningless, mundane passages that don’t actually add any substance to the plot.
Maybe I’m looking at it more from a novel perspective when I think of it like this, because I think as far as issues go as part of a serial it works okay as it stands. I think.
But if I were to transform this into a novel, then changes will have to be made. As it stands, I am increasingly of the opinion that it lacks depth of character. I like the plot – I just think the characters need more work due to poor dialogue.
I worked all afternoon on the story. The junction between Glasgow and Edinburgh is proving to be a difficult transition. Up to now the plot has unfolded naturally and the ultimate goal and main story is in my ‘line of write’. However, there are a couple of loose ends from Glasgow that I really should have decided what was to happen with before getting this far. And so much of today revolved around planning and questioning the validity of my decisions, though I did complete issue 41.
Leaving a loose end to be picked up later or tying it up seems an easy decision to make in theory. In reality, it is much, much harder.
On another related note, my editor at KIC wants to give the serials ISSN numbers. This is the same as an ISBN number for a paperback but intended for serials and internet productions.
I am reluctant to do this as I think it may interfere with my chances of having the story published traditionally. The conversation is still on-going so we shall see what route it takes as I know other authors at KIC are querying this approach.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
Return Of The Bleach Dream
There is no reason for this that I can think of and despite searching around and leaving messages on dream forums in the net, I have been unable to decipher its meaning.
Laura was supposed to wake me up this morning but never came into the room until 9.30 am – half an hour before her dance lessons start so Gail ended up doing the honours. When she got there they were cancelled so she took Laura to the shops to get some things for a party she has on Sunday. This all meant I could get a nice, long, peaceful lie in peace; my first since before Christmas. I must have needed it too because I slept solid until lunchtime.
With Gail out for the afternoon I spent some time with Laura doing jigsaws, making some art with stuff she got from Santa and then I made her dinner. With all this fun I never got to make a start on any writing until I put her to bed at 8 pm.
I sat down with my mind wrapping around Hunting Jack but it wouldn’t reach the full way so I write this Blog to get me going. I lit a King Edward cigar, poured a glass of 12-year-old Balvenie (DoubleWood) single malt whisky, and the words flowed. Issues 39 and 40 formed themselves into nice, rounded issues and the evening was complete.
I caught a late film on BBC1 as I finished my last couple of whiskies. Edward Woodward playing the role of an English policeman who is visiting his daughter in Queens, New York and gets involved in a serial murder investigation. The film was called The Shamrock Conspiracy, and it was the biggest load of claptrap I ever saw in my life.
For example: Edward and his son-in-law (himself a New York PR man with the NYPD) go into an Irish Bar to try to trace two men involved in a hit and run which is related to the case. Ed asks for a drink and the bar owner tells him he is not welcome because of his English accent. As they sit talking to a woman about the case, they feel the eyes of all the bar regulars on the back of their heads and when they leave, Ed secretly takes a handful of sand from the floor (a real sawdust joint!) and throws it in the face of the man standing by the pool table with the baseball bat. The two men run out.
How pathetic and colloquial. First off, it’s an insult to the Irish if the people who made this film think all Irish are Republican sympathisers. Second, not all Irish are terrorists as this film would have you believe. Third, Irish terrorists (on all sides), are not all cheeky wee chappy’s that sing Limericks as they walk the streets. Lastly, it’s an affront to NY citizens, who if you believe the film, are all believers of the “Cause” and are only too glad to part with their hard-earned dollars to support terrorists.
Something just occurred to me as I write this. Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein President used to visit the US quite a lot to urge money raising and promote their political beliefs. As this film was made in 1995, I wonder if after 9/11 the same people who freely gave their cash to the IRA still do so after the terrorist atrocity, which occurred in New York. The IRA after all, has links with many of the countries that were, and still are, backers of Al Quaeda.
An interesting thought.
Friday, January 07, 2005
Straw, Charity And Useless Bank Notes
I fell asleep last night to the sound of high winds battering the building and the neighbours pots and bins being flung against the four corners of our cul-de-sac. I like listening to severe weather in the dark; high winds, rain, whatever - it gives me a comfort feeling, as though all around can do its worst, but can never actually touch.
When I woke the winds had died down and rain had fallen at some point leaving the air mild and breezy. Evidence of the ‘storm’ lay about the garden as I left for work at an incredible 7:10am!! Yes, I know it’s astounding but as it is Friday I wanted to make the best of it and make it last as long as possible.
As I drank my coffee before leaving this morning I saw Jack Straw on the telly making a speech in Phuket about the recent Tsunami disaster in the Far East. Standing in his pristine white shirt and chinos serving contrasting against his glowing tan, he spouted a bunch of well-known statistics and obvious statements. Is that all he’s got to do? Does it make him feel important wandering around as if he's actually helping? Of course it does! Away back to your expensive hotel Jack and sup on those cocktails you've been dying to try out since you arrived.
A friend of mine hit the nail on the head recently in her Blog when she said she would have more respect for these people if they actually rolled up their sleeves and DID something, instead of strolling around like VIP's nodding at all the REAL heroes on the ground.
Last night I checked over and submitted issues 37 and 38 of Hunting Jack. I also remembered something I neglected to mention in my Blog a few weeks ago but I think is still worthy of a sentence or two here.
Each year The Company has a Christmas appeal where you can buy a gift to the value of about a tenner for a boy or girl of certain age who will not receive anything from Santa. In recent years I have been buying for a girl the same age as Laura – it makes it easier when I am out shopping and ensures the recipient will get something appropriate.
At the same time, we can also choose to donate money to a homeless person instead, which gives them a meal on Christmas Day and a small gift. This year, due to my heavy research and interest in Hunting Jack (who is essentially a homeless person), I decided to divert my money in this direction.
My research for Hunting Jack has included talking to various people and organisations involved with homelessness, and a couple of these homeless stats I have uncovered have found their way into my story. For anyone who doesn’t subscribe to HJ (why not? ;-) ) here is a taste of the situation in Scotland today:
* 44% are single men* 20% are single parents who are female * 20% are single women * 5% are couples with children * 5% are couples without children * 3% are single parents who are male * 25% of all Scotland’s homeless live on the streets of Glasgow * 2,267 households lost their home through evictions and abandonments in 2003-4. Every week approximately 985 households will go to their local council and apply as homeless. Of these:
* 367 households will make a homeless application because their family, relatives and friends cannot offer them accommodation.
* 115 households will make a homeless application because a relationship has broken down.
* 104 households will make a homeless application because of domestic violence.
* 64 because they are fleeing violence or harassment.
* 44 because they cannot afford their rent or mortgage.
* 14 because they have had to sell their marital home because of divorce proceedings.
* 31 households will be making an application as homeless because they have lost their place in temporary housing.
* The remaining 246 households will face homelessness due to a wide variety of reasons: because they live in overcrowded conditions, because they live in unfit conditions, because the chief earner became unemployed, because of illness, because there has been a death in the family, because of problems with housing benefit, and so on.
* On 31 March 2004, there were 6,574households in temporary accommodation across Scotland. 1,208 (18%) of these households were in bed and breakfast hotels.
* On 31 March 2004, there were 3,833 children in temporary accommodation across Scotland. 234 of these children were in bed and breakfast hotels.
* The number of children living in temporary accommodation across Scotland increased by 27% between 31 March 2003 and 31 March 2004.
Pretty horrendous eh? Especially the children statistics.
The office was conducive to creativity this morning – mostly because it was empty when I arrived and remained so for at least an hour, but also because all my team-mates are off either on holiday or sick.
So by lunchtime I had written issue 39 of Hunting Jack, researched some information for issue 40, written most of today’s Blog, prepared some classified adverts for Hunting Jack, researched some non-fiction sites for possible article submissions about Scottish cities and cut the number of questions for the Hunting Jack competition from 10 to 5 as I think I am losing potential subscribers with a couple of the harder questions. Just think what I could do if I had every day to myself to make a living from this.
The IRA were today linked to the £27M bank robbery in Belfast last month (it was £20 million originally, but the bank upped the value at a recent revaluation). The thing that struck me was the sound of all the Republicans dancing about cheering their heroes and yet none of them will see any of the cash!! While their 'heroes' are out spending the cash (laundering it more precisely), they'll still be down the dole Q while them lot are living it up in Boca!! That is until the Northern Irish Police decided to withdraw every single Irish note from circulation and changing them for notes of different designs and colours! They have effectively told the robbers they went to all that trouble to steal millions of sheets of waste paper! HA HA!!
I was shattered by the time it came to head home. With no one in my work area for most of the day, I had no one to talk to and only got out the office between 12 and 12.20 for some lunch. I didn’t even get a pint in Clark’s! So I did a 9-hour shift and then headed home.
Gail’s pal Susan came down for dinner so I used the occasion to fire into a Chianti and make us all some Hoi Sin chicken with spring onions, red onions, garlic and basmati rice. A few more glasses of red wine to wash to down and I was ready for bed.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
The excitement of the wonderful start to the year in a writing sense has spurred me into action. I prepared issues 37 and 38 of Hunting Jack for submission as well as submitting a freelance writing position for a bar/restaurant reviewer in an Edinburgh magazine.
I also stumbled across a website that combines the literary world to geographical locations. They are looking for features that link these two worlds and amazingly, there was no mention of in Edinburgh on their site. They have 60k subscribers so I started to prepare a pitch for an article I would like to write for them. It would be good exposure and a good experience.
Having published my GDR for 2005 yesterday, I have now broken down what I need to achieve in January to keep on track. So, by Jan 31st I need to have completed:
* 1 new short story
* 2 new poems
* 9 issues of Hunting Jack
* Re-write Daffodils, Loaded and Bill McCarthy
* Plan and make a start on Web Development manuals
* Research more non-fiction markets
Other things to follow up on:
* Remind UPSA about interview request (if no contact)
* Press release for Hunting Jack competition
* Contact target media for free HJ issues
* Leaflet re-distribution for Hunting Jack
* Prepare classified ad for KIC
* Contact 'The Leither' magazine
Quite a handful, but very do-able.
Edinburgh became engulfed in wind this afternoon with pedestrians literally being blown off their feet. When I left work I was walking up Dundas Street with this gale in my face and on a couple of occasions it was so strong as to stop me in my tracks. It was so bad I even thought if getting on a double-decker bus would be a good idea - but I did, and put on my personal radio to take my mind off it.
London Calling by The Clash played as I passed by the Omni Centre and down Leith Walk, making me think of London. As I passed the Dalmeny Bar I found myself laughing out loud at some poor bloke who had been trying to tie his decrepit Christmas tree onto the roof of his car, only to see it caught in the gale and blown down the road. As hard as he tried, there was no way he was going to catch up with it as it bounced down the street.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Back At Zero, Charged And Poised
Gail and I have discussed joining a gym as the local one has started doing a married couples special price. I need to get fit again and I reckon if the gym went well I would consider doing the Glasgow Half-Marathon again this year. I did it back in 2000 and ran for charity – raising over £600 for CancerBacup in the name of Ian Dury. 13.1 miles is very tough though so we shall see. The priority is getting fit and shedding a few pounds.
I’ve had time to think and there are two things I have been thinking about a lot while on my holidays.
1) I never did any writing or note taking from the 27th December to 2nd January as intended. This means I have not written for almost a month. In a perfect world I would have, but the reality is stepping away from life to touch base with everyone has been more important. I had reached a point where confusion was all that remained from a pretty stressful period and it was good to let go of everything. This has of course left a problem in that I am now only about 2 or 3 weeks ahead of my leading subscribers – not out with the contract range, but still needing attention. I don’t feel guilty – I needed to do it. 2005 brings much hope and I am determined to make this year work even more than the last.
2) A couple of people mentioned how much they like my diary and that they never knew I thought the way I do. There are two responses to this: first, this is not a diary. Only those thoughts and events I wish be made public are written here, and nothing is said here that I would not say to a crowd of my peers face to face. This is a journal of a man who hates his job but loves his art, and it is intended to be just that – a record of heartache, loss and hopefully some achievement at the end of it. It is also intended as a place for me to sound off on some social and environmental aspects that wander through my mind from time to time. Second, I am glad people think they know me better through reading this journal. I take this as a good thing as it reinforces the inner feeling I have always had of being misunderstood and underestimated.
I received my first royalty cheque this evening from Keep It Coming. $22.33 for Hunting Jack (£11.94), which equates to four pints of lager and a couple of cheese rolls from Clark’s Bar. Lovely.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
Goals, Dreams and Resolutions 2005
On a good note, Hunting Jack sold as a one-day special at the Keep It Coming Ebay Store! That’s me up to 8 subscribers now! I also had notice from the editor at Ultimate Hallucination magazine, that he went ahead and published the 3 poems I submitted early December; Limbo, Asphyxiation and Frustrating Facilitators. What with all this and Heart of a Child being published by Wildchild Publishing in February, it really is a storming start to the New Year.
Anyway, here are my Goals, Dreams and Resolutions for 2005. Others in my writing group have done the same thing and I will use this as a marker for progress I make during the year.
This list will be permanently available as a link over on the right under the Hunting Jack front cover.
1. Where do you want to be with your writing in the long-term?
* To be able to resign from my job, in the knowledge that I can support my family to at least the standard of living we have now.
* To be an accomplished writer.
2. Where are you with your writing now?
* Much further than I expected!
* 1 Short Story published May 2004 – online magazine – non-paying
* 1 Short Story accepted for February 2005
* 6 Poems published – online magazine – non-paying
* 1 serial published – online e-zine – paying
3. What project did you leave unfinished last year that you need to finish for your own peace of mind?
* First novel Work In Progress: A Friend To Die For – 50% complete
4. What creative goals do you want to achieve over the next year?
* Complete Hunting Jack to novel length
* Move Hunting Jack into new areas
* Complete A Friend To Die For
* Write 1 short story per month
* Write 2 'deliberate' poems per month
* Continue to write inspired poems as and when - impossible to place goals on this
* Write 3 KIC Website columns
* Write 3 KIC Theatre Review columns
* Look for interesting articles to write in other areas (music, travel etc.)
5. What financial goals do you want to achieve over the next year? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? (Note: There is no need to post this information, but you should have a figure that you feel comfortable with in your own notes).
* This is not my driving force. Getting published and recognised is more important to me. Of course, in the transition from full-time office-worker to full time writer this has to become an issue, but until I feel I am at a certain standard with my writing and inner-belief, then I cannot use it as a means to forward my art.
6. What steps do you see necessary in your life to achieve these goals?
* Keep to a target of words per week
* Research and target more paying fictional and non-fictional markets
* Be more strict where I submit to
* Be more organised with my marketing
7. Each month, pick one step and work on it.
* January - Research non-fiction markets
* February - Research fiction markets
8. What will make you refer to yourself, first and foremost, as “writer”?
* Complete Hunting Jack as a novel in its own right
* Complete A Friend to Die For and search for an agent
* Establish myself as a good columnist for KIC Magazine
* Become a regular columnist for other markets
* Have stories published in paying and quality markets - especially traditional print
* Have others around me see me as a writer and not an office worker
9. What steps do you need to take on the technical front to achieve your goals (such as improving spelling, grammar, and a general widening of skills)?
* Internal Thesaurus
10. What steps do you need to take on the creative front to achieve your goals?
* Get more organised
* Take on new and challenging fictional projects
11. What changes do you need to make in your daily life (interaction with friends, family, job) to make this work?
* Continue to make progress convincing my friends and family to consider me a writer first and foremost.
* Be more devoted and committed to the act of sitting down to write.
12. What marketing steps do you need to achieve your goals?
* Develop and organise the process I built when promoting Hunting Jack
* Make the process quicker and develop templates
13. How much time each day do you vow to devote to your writing?
* Weekdays - 2 hours minimum
* Weekends - 10 hours minimum
14. With what new type of writing will you experiment in the coming year?
* Technical writing
15. What new non-writing interest do you wish to add to your life this year?
* Find the time to start fly-fishing again
* Read a book on Buddhism
16. What writing breakthrough this past year made you the proudest?
* Having my first short story story published
* Having my first poem published
* Having Hunting Jack accepted as a serial by KIC as paid fiction
17. What other goals, dreams and resolutions in your non-writing life do you want to work on in tandem with your writing goals?
* Buy a new house with Gail