Monday, October 31, 2005
October's GDR Review
Now that the clocks have gone back it is much darker in the morning and much darker earlier in the evening. No doubt this will come to annoy me if I cannot get out in it much but I do enjoy being out in the darkness, especially during the winter. Everything is so raw and nature seems poised in a state of patience. A clear sky at night when the stars are out remind me of my insignificance and a crisp morning in the dark going to work almost make the destination worthwhile.
It was great to walk into my office (the one at home) and see Smashie in his new position. He looked quite restless last night with the new surroundings and the lighter surroundings he is now in. The light blue walls must make it seem like he's lost in the ocean like that wee Clown fish in Finding Nemo. But by this morning he looked like he was getting used to it and quite enjoying the early morning rays coming in through the window. When he sees his new tank, he'll no doubt feel like the king of the castle, and rightly so. He must be so bored in the wee round plastic effort he's in just now.
I published the front cover of Fringe Fantastic here on Freedom From The Mundane and was about to send the final manuscript to the publisher when I noticed a tiny error on one of the pages. A single letter in the middle of a single word contained an underscore. How incredibly annoying such a small and insignificant marking on a page can prove to be. I had to hold off sending the manuscript until later once I had removed it and reformatted the document back into a PDF file.
Today of course, is Halloween. As predicted, the kids from last night came round again, this time departing with their bags full of sweeties and nuts. Laura had a great time away with a group of kids from the street going round the neighbours guysing, and then on to a party. There were loads left over so I spent quite some time reminding myself how addictive Monkey Nuts can be.
Keep It Coming is supposed to be restarting tomorrow but I have heard nothing despite another email to the editor. I am drawing a line between myself and KIC, which is not easy as I loved the concept and writing for them was a lot of fun. KIC gave me a wonderful opportunity and I gained a hell of a lot of experience through it. However, I think the time is now right to forward an email and accompanying letter of resignation, then when the appropriate time is up, copyright of Hunting Jack will revert back to me and I shall offer it as a serial through my own website.
I spent the evening designing bookmarks and leaflets for the Fringe Fantastic launch and getting the initial website design down on paper. It won't be anything fancy, but it has to be professional and support the promotional activities I have planned. Very soon I will be announcing a competition to win free signed copies of the book, details of which will be posted here.
I also continued reading through Hunting Jack and editing the issues before converting them to PDF. It's so weird to be back in Jackie's world, but extremely enjoyable. I also spent some time reviewing my work for the month, which brings me neatly towards October's GDR Review.
* Final edit on Whisky Snatching and submit to WM (deadline Jan' 06) - done - needs submitted.
* Complete What A Waste and pitch to high-ranking paying markets only - done - needs querying.
* Work out plot to fit the album Stella by Yello - ideas forming - want to write this in November to capture the real essence.
* Keep on top of submissions list - done.
* Complete final edits on all poems for Fringe Fantastic - complete.
* Complete design and layout of Fringe Fantastic - complete
* Conduct photo shoot for front and back covers of Fringe Fantastic - complete.
* Conduct Photo shoot of professional author portraits - complete.
* Submit penultimate final draft of Fringe Fantastic to publisher - complete.
* Chase up query for How-To Create an E-book article and dig out new markets - chased on 17/10/05
* Write four more articles for Great Scottish Authors series (400-600 w each) - Janice Galloway (WIP), Muriel Spark (WIP), Iain Banks (WIP), Edwin Morgan (WIP)
* Write up Ian Rankin interview for Scruffy Dog Review - WIP
* Write up Ian Rankin interview for Great Scottish Author's Series - WIP
* Develop ideas for travel articles I have in mind (Edinburgh, Leith, Renfrewshire, Aberfoyle) - no work done on this.
Marketing and Promotion
* Develop bookmark idea - created Fringe Fantastic, Hunting Jack and Brick by Brick bookmarks. Need ink and card to print off for distribution
* Joint Press Release about KIC status - Will issue if no KIC restart on Nov 1st.
* Begin preparing a marketing strategy for Fringe Fantastic - complete and ongoing. Launch date set for December 2nd. Full spreadsheet developed of activities and tasks until Christmas.
* Keep website up to date - ongoing
Reading and Research
* Read Tall Tales and short Stories Vol.2 for bookcrossing.com then release - read, but not released yet.
* Get fully up to date with KIC e-zines - complete
* Finish Kidnapped by RLS - complete
* Finish research book for unpublicised future project - ongoing
* The Scruffy Dog Review was announced on Oct 10th. I was proud to be asked to be an Associate Editor and have joined a talented team of writes and editors.
* I have a new monthly column as a result of TSDR called, Scotland's Treasure. It will cover theatre, music and art reviews from around Scotland.
* As well as reading submissions I also have a weekly TSDR blog entry to write, which will be published every Tuesday. Two written this month.
* Started work on the remaining articles for the Great Scottish Author's Series: James Boswell and Liz Lochead.
Things That Turned Up
* Invite to appear on Global Talk Radio's talk show for readers and writers called A Story To Tell. Refused the offer though due to their "sponsorship requirements".
* Approached Steve Van Hekel, owner of Tall Tales Press with view to contributing to an anthology about step-parenting. He is very interested and we will arrange a time to speak about the book.
* Covered Proud Mary gig instead of FGTH for TSDR. Not sure if I will include in final submission for my TSDR column.
* Started reading and editing Hunting Jack for the PSH 2005 Poetry Contest sponsorship prize, then reformatting into individual PDF files for sending out.
* Due to the above, I am now seriously considering offering Hunting Jack through my own website as a serial once I have resigned from KIC.
* Robert Louis Stevenson - Poet and Author, was published at Circadian poems on October 4th.
* Original submission for RLS work was accepted via query for The Literary Traveller. First paid non-fiction piece. Expect to be published in 3-6 months.
* Quick field trip to photograph RLS house in Heriot Row for Literary Traveller.
Open Wide Magazine rejected Heart of a Child
Fiction - 7800
Non-Fiction - 6730
Blog (inc.TSDR) - 19700
1 short story to The Edge Magazine
1 short story to Writing Magazine
1 short story to Big Ugly Review
1 short story to Barcelona Review
1 short story to The Portable Muse
1 short story to 13 Magazine
2 short stories to One Story Magazine
2 short stories to Wild Child
1 short story to Open Wide Magazine
2 short stories to Summerset Review
1 short story to the Adirondack Review
2 short stories to Fringe Magazine
1 short story to Gorlan Publications
4 poems to Story House
1 non-fiction article to Writer On Line
5 articles to KIC
It's been a hectic month. Most of my time has been spent getting Fringe Fantastic into a state that reaches my expectations for the project; which I set very high. I have put everything into the production of this book right down to every minute detail of the layout and design to each and every word of the manuscript. Even if it is a failure on the eyes of my peers, I have enjoyed it, learned from it and fulfilled a burning ambition as far as poetry is concerned.
Fiction never suffered though as it did last month and I polished up two short stories and began to reformat Hunting Jack into PDF's for distribution in a contest I sponsored. The prospect of taking on the sale of the serial myself is exciting and doesn't seem to be as complicated as it could be. The main thing is getting readers interested so I intend to continue with the marketing plan for Hunting Jack alongside Fringe Fantastic.
The biggest success so far in non-fiction was the sale of an article about Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a major achievement and I am delighted.
Looking to next month, I have three poems being published by Circadian Poems, loads of marketing work to do the Fringe book launch and some exciting fiction work as well. I also have several non-fiction assignments and of course, the 'Things That Turned Up' section always seems to hold loads of surprises and work more and more each month.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Unveiling Fringe Fantastic
Pumpkin preparation for Halloween. Together, we set about gutting the pumpkin and planned meticulously how we wanted it to look. Carefully with the knife we carved out the face we eventually decided on and I placed two candles inside for effect. Not a bad effort, I have to admit.
I got an email from the lady who won Hunting Jack through the PSH 2005 Poetry Contest. I gave her the options of how she wanted the first month sent to her and she chose for it to be sent every Tuesday and Friday for the four weeks. I'm kind of looking forward to doing it and intend to prepare the issues in PDF with some graphics to liven it up a bit too.
I organised all the shelves and drawers in my office, which not only got everything much more organised, but made the room more open now that nothing is lying around. I moved Smashie up into the room as well, and with the light blue walls I think he feels he is in the ocean somewhere. By Christmas I should have a brand new aerated tank with live foliage and hopefully, a couple of brothers and sisters for him to play with.
I setup the laptop in the living room and spent the evening giving the manuscript one final going over. I couldn't find anything despite trying and so I'm confident I have everything done. The cover, the graphics, the fonts the content - all done. Tomorrow it's off to the publisher and hopefully in a few days I'll get the first proof copy to go over and confirm before signing it off.
Can you believe we actually had people Guysing tonight? The doorbell rang a couple of times, and when I answered it groups of girls - not young girls either - burst into song while dressed as princesses and goblins and things. I halted them in their tracks and asked if they knew what day it was. "Halloween", they said. "No - that's tomorrow", I replied, and told them to come back on the correct day. They trudged away disappointed.
This is the first time I've ever seen this happen. Halloween has been celebrated since the Iron Age and I don't care if today’s kids are more impatient for things to happen these days than they ever were, the date is not going to be altered to suit them so they can get used to October 31st being Halloween or they can bugger off.
I mean what next - Christmas in November? Hogmanay in June?
Before I go, here is the front cover of Fringe Fantastic: The Poet's Experience of the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Creative In The Kitchen, Not The Notebook.
I left my office out because I knew I would be working in it during the latter part of the afternoon. A lot of my folders and books had just been shoved onto the bookshelf out of the way and I need to get everything totally organised. Same too for the cabinet and drawers, which need to be neat and ready for whatever I might need.
We had invited Gail's friend, Samantha, down for dinner and I made a long-awaited curry. It wasn't a strong one, just a mild Tikka Masala with Naan bread but it was lovely. I loaded it with extra chunky onion and peppers and a dash extra of garlic and scotch bonnet to give it an extra kick. We eat the meal over a nice bottle of red wine and a good confab and then another couple of red's vanished after dinner.
Quite a pleasant Saturday evening all round, but I could here my manuscript shouting at me from the office the entire time.
Friday, October 28, 2005
I had to collect Laura from school at half past twelve and saw little point in going in to work for only a couple of hours. You might say what's the difference between this and any other normal Friday when I would go to the pub around that time anyway, and I see your point, but refuse to go into it here for fear of being proved wrong.
So I watched five minutes of morning telly before remembering how shite it is and got up for some coffee before nine o'clock. I find it harder to these days to get back to sleep when I'm woken and once my brain kicks in with things a la writing, there's no hope of any more slumber for a few hours yet.
Besides, Fringe Fantastic now has a front and back cover and there is much important work to do if I am to realise the December 2nd launch date. With the font now decided on I had to convert all the chapter and title fonts within the pages to the new look. This took ages since there are 82 pages and it really does get quite fiddly. Oh, I know I promised to reveal the front cover today but I'm going to hold off until Sunday since there is some tweaking I want to do on it first.
At six thirty in the evening I had to go into work to do short shift. Good money but it meant that it tore my writing time in half. I couldn't really fit anything in after dinner and when I got home about nine o'clock I decided to work through my marketing plan for the book since I knew I would never be able to get my mind into anything else.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I worked on my latest Great Scottish Authors piece, with a final word count of circa 2500 words. I reckon after some strong edits I can get it down, but again he's lead such an extraordinary life, you feel guilty about chopping things out just to get the word count down. I'll obviously make it tighter and then make a judgement call after that when I see how many it drops by.
I told myself I had to make a cover decision and get the technical problems sorted out with Fringe Fantastic before midnight. So I got the laptop out and worked in the living room, installing, fiddling about and uninstalling software to try and get the cover the way I want it. It took me most of the evening.
Then, an epiphany.
I have a little used software package hidden away on my main PC that is not intended for this kind of work, but I thought might just be able to apply what I want to do. I went upstairs and sat down at the computer, fiddled about some more and voila! I was able to get the new fonts onto an original image of high resolution for the cover.
I had done this test with my leading choice and after it was complete I sat back and looked at the cover with distant and fresh eyes. It started to call to me. It looked right. I t felt ok.
The front cover is complete. I'll generate it tomorrow and straighten it up and post the cover here for its first public airing. Now I can roll with the marketing plan and design the leaflets, bookmarks, website and start to tell the world; Fringe Fantastic is a huge step closer to reality.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Come with me to 1992 and I shall explain -
~ wavy effect to indicate reverse time travel ~
Glasgow, July 1992
The weather had been kind most of the summer, but I missed a lot of it with my extended hours working in the local supermarket where I had been employed for over two years. The money earned allowed me to enjoy the beer gardens of Glasgow's West End, and the nightclubs at the weekend. I was between my second and third year at University and each morning, Atlantic 252 played You at 8am, then repeatedly during the long, hot days. It was the radio station of choice that year and the song became engrained in my mind as I worked the shelves of the frozen department. It was a glorious time; my confidence was high and I had a girlfriend. We will call her Susan Packard.
She was four years older than me and had made the move from University to a full-time career with relative ease. She was on good money and had bought a flat with her friend just off Great Western Road, though they still lived the 'student' lifestyle, refusing to break away from it altogether. With no real responsibilities on her shoulders, who could blame her?
Her attitude towards partying seduced me from the day we met. I had spilt a drink on her in Fury Murry's one night and as I apologised for my error, my words fell from my lips and missed her ears totally, as we fell into a drunken snog. Love at first vodka, you might say.
I was smitten; she was blonde, funny, rich (compared to me), liked to drink, had her own flat and was generally great fun. She introduced me to many new things in the bedroom and as I moved further away from relative naivety, so too did my trust in her start to build. We had the same tastes in music, so I leant her records; a 7" disc of You, by Ten Sharp and The Greatest Hits of Tears for Fears CD, which I had only bought it that day, and had yet to listen to myself, were the first of my generous lendings.
On one of my rare days off, I was out with my pal, Bobby, on an excursion to the shops near Susan's part of town. It was a Monday and since I knew Susan would not be in work that day I thought it might be a good idea to pop in and see her, to show her off to Bobby and to welcome her back from her recent holiday in Dublin. She had gone over for a week with her flat-mate and then on to London for a few days and she had sent me loving postcards from both cities. That was nice, I thought.
We arrived at her door and I was excited about seeing her again. It had been just over a fortnight since our last embrace and my youthful stirrings were rampant. I rang the bell and waited. Inside I could hear rustling and someone approaching the door.
A girl answered that I didn't recognise.
"Hello," I said, assuming her to be a friend. "Is Susan in?"
The girl screwed her face. "Susan who?"
"Susan Packard. She's my girlfriend."
"Packard?" I think that's who lived here before. Sorry, I moved in here two weeks ago. There's no-one else here but me."
I apologised for inconveniencing her and she closed the door.
I stood facing the void where my life had just vanished in a puff of smoke, dumbstruck at what had just transpired. Bobby couldn't contain himself, but when he realised my mood he quickly calmed down. We went to the pub across the street to surmise the situation.
~ wavy effect to indicate forward time travel ~
Edinburgh, October 2005
To summarise the summer of thirteen years ago:
Susan moved house without telling me.
I never heard from her again.
I had to buy The Greatest Hits of Tears for Fears again.
You, by Ten Sharpe, was by now unavailable, so I couldn't replace it and never got to hear it on my record player.
It remains one of the few missing elements from an otherwise record collection, if I say so myself. Although all this happened before the advent of eBay, so maybe there's hope yet.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Into the Non-Fiction Market, I Boldly Go
Feeling in a John Barrymore kind of mood, I opened the cutlery door and opened the envelope with a steak knife (it was the best I had). It was a letter from the Press Complaints Commission. The Commission are about to hear my complaint against Ross Clark and The Times. They apologised for the delay but assured me a decision in writing is imminent.
A delay? I was unaware there was one, which must mean, hopefully, that I'm not the only one to complain about the prejudiced, anti-Scottish garbage I read in last month's Times. I wait with baited breath for the final decision.
The front cover selection for Fringe Fantastic is now down from 30 at the start to 20 yesterday and 12 by lunchtime today. There are only two designs, but it's the font that's giving me the most grief. There are a few I like and it's a case of rejecting the ones that are missing that certain something, and keeping the ones that try to say that little bit more. Each round of rejections it is getting harder and harder. I may have to release the book with umpteen different covers!!
I got it down to 3 in the evening having selected which design I want to go for. Then I hit another problem - the DPI might not be enough on the images after I've messed around with them. Time to get in touch with Sarah I think and pick her brain.
In the morning I printed off the two stories I worked on yesterday and gave both Whisky Snatching and What a Waste a final proof-read over my lunch break, picking up the smaller errors and ensuring they read correctly. The former was over the word limit by 200 words, which meant some major decisions having to be made on my part. It took ages to lose the baggage but both are now finished to my satisfaction. Now comes the submission phase; Whisky to a writing competition and Waste I will pitch to some magazines.
I worked on my next article for the Great Scottish Authors series. I'm also going to pitch this one to a separate online publication so I'm not going to reveal who or where this one is for just yet in case it jeopardises my chances. I think once the series is complete I might try and turn them over because it looks like they will never see the light of day at KIC even though the lot were accepted. Such is life.
When I got home I had some marvellous news in my mailbox. My feature article on Robert Louis Stevenson has been accepted by the publication that originally got me delving into the story of his life. I originally intended it to be a short article but the more I read the more it was never going to be a single one-pager. The Literary Traveler will publish the article in three to six months time, possibly with my photographs. This is my first paid non-fiction piece that was specifically targeted to a specialist market, so I am absolutely over the moon.
Monday, October 24, 2005
Fringe Fantastic Launch Date Announced
It reminds me of those days in Primary School when we sat in the classroom under strip lighting and on plastic chairs, while the dark clouds. The rainy weather sat motionless outside waiting for us to leave to go home so it could soak us, adding to our misery. My attitude to rain is much different these days, although it has always been my favourite form of precipitation.
I have decided that the launch date for Fringe Fantastic will be Friday, 2nd December 2005. This will give me enough time to complete the book's layout and design and plan in detail all the marketing I have planned, but just required a date to begin.
I divided the book marketing plan up into separate weeks so I can keep track of what needs done and when, which means the full campaign will last for 10 weeks. I've only worked it out up until the end of the year and I'll do another major one for next summer when the Fringe comes back round. But something hit me - there's only 10 weeks left of the year! Even worse, it's EIGHT weeks until Christmas!!!!
Anyway, once the shock subsided, I have four tasks to do by the end of this week with regards to Fringe Fantastic work. I purchased the domain, www.fringefantastic.co.uk today, and I need to build a one or two page website to support the book promotion, decide on the final layout and front and back covers, then submit the final manuscript. Time to get over this "letting go" illness.
I did a lot of work on the missing section to What a Waste. It contains more contrasts with The Blitz and the Olympics, a better focus on the age differences and it now reads at around 6000 words.
I also completed going through some changes I wanted made to Whisky Snatching. It's a cracking story but is suffering from the word count restriction. I'm writing this one specifically for a competition and I have to keep between 16 and 18k, which is not easy when certain vital elements require expansion. That's the beauty of poetry; it teaches you to say so much, with so few words.
I wrote my weekly column for The Scruffy Dog Review blog, which will be published tomorrow at the TSDR Blog and I did a quick update to my main website.
A busy first day for the last week of October. Just what I needed!
Sunday, October 23, 2005
In fact by the time we had got the bus up town and walked to the old Stevenson home, we were drenched. Laura had problems the whole morning with her umbrella and I was trying to keep the camera dry under my hood most of the time.
I got the pictures and although I wanted to get some more, we had to head home to dry off. Laura was soaked through to her socks and jumper and I was luckier with my hiking boots on. But then I don't have a habit of walking through ten feet-wide puddles by accident like she does!
I tend to use Sundays for getting organised if it is required. I find it helps rid me of procrastination when it strikes, like it did last week. And so today wasn't so much about solid singular work, rather lots of little projects being tied up. Most of my afternoon was spent in my office doing such minor things that had to be done. I find I write easier if my physical location isn't in a clutter. And organised mess I can handle, clutter for no reason, I hate.
An email came in from the PSH 2005 Poetry Contest, which I sponsored before all the problems with KIC started. I have been allocated my person to arrange for a free month's subscription. This presents an problem if there is no publisher. I decided I will contact the person and offer them either the full month but from my mailbox or the month as a single PDF file. As way of compensation they can have the remaining 8 months free in whatever format they choose. If it works out, you never know what the possibilities of going DIY might be in the future.
It took me ages to get the pictures of RLS's house downloaded. The software was playing up and I had to reinstall it from scratch. It seems to happen when I remove the USB cable and reattach it. I'll have to get one of those adapters that splits the connection into four slots instead of one.
Once it was fixed I ran over the manuscript and sent it, plus pictures, to the magazine. I'll reveal their name if they do snap it up because it could still be rejected, but I'm very hopeful it will now go through as they seemed very keen.
I can feel the pressure of the close of the year starting to build behind me. It's the last week of October tomorrow, so I had better make it count.
Finally, I want to wish my pal, Lara a safe and happy journey as she moves to her home new home in Denver, Colorado (USA). I hope she and her husband, the kids and the wee fishy are all very happy and she should know there's a whole troop of people at the writing forum who'll miss her while she's in absentia.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Spirit Of '69
Eventually, we did find the party - an hour and a half late - and it all worked out well in the end. We went back to their house for some coffee and cake and to catch up before we headed back through to Edinburgh to beat the traffic.
Some wee Ned in a white Ford Escort started weaving in and out of the bus and traffic lanes leading along towards Princes Street. After a set of lights Gail turned into the lane we needed to get off the street and all you could hear was this guy belting his hand on his extra-loud hooter. In the rear-view mirror, Gail could see him screaming and waving his arms around like a lunatic.
Up ahead the lights changed to red and he changed lanes again, just to get along side the car. My side of the car. His door opened slightly as he pulled the handle to get out, obviously to have a go at Gail. I'm ashamed to admit that the thought of giving a time-wasting speed-boy racer a good slapping and losing all the pent-up frustrations from work and other life hassles out my system, just seemed like such a fantastic opportunity, I actually wanted it to happen.
His eyes caught mine square on and in that single instant I could see him reading my mind from the glare in my eyes. He paused, got back into his car and ran the red light just as it was starting to change to green.
It's amazing the effect having a skinhead has on some people. Hare Krishna people don't talk to me any more either.
(NB. Spirit Of '69, is a reference to the skinhead bible of the same name written by George Marshall.
Friday, October 21, 2005
Remember That WIP?
Yes, I've got lots of projects on the go, and yes, I want to get right back into some solid fiction, and yes, I've been using all this as a reason not to plan and write. It makes me very determined to set a date for the handing over of Fringe Fantastic and to let it go so I can move onto everything else that is demanding my attention. It's not that I'm short of ideas or anything!
I have a marketing plan written out and developed to include many mediums of interest, all of it dependent on the date of publication. All I need now is - the book!
Someone at my writing group suggesting posting page 17 of our current WIP's onto the board and I was going to post it from Fringe Fantastic. Then I thought, “wait a minute!" So I posted page 17 from A Friend to Die For, my WIP and first novel idea, which has sat untouched for a year since I took on completing Hunting Jack.
I surprised myself how much I enjoyed reading my own work. It was a good extract and could even stand on it's own as a flash-fiction piece. It made me hungry to rediscover the whole of the manuscript and to getting it complete. I really need to get Fringe out of the way.
I checked the download stats of Brick by Brick from just my blog (it's also available on my main website). Currently the total stands at 146 since I put the counter up on the site. There has been 8 today (the highest daily amount ever), 7 on the 13th and 5 on the 10th, which are the two other highest daily downloads. The rest average about 3 per day and the weekly average is increasing all the time from 54 in October, 21 in September, 8 in August and 6 in July. For a small-time free electronic chapbook, it certainly seems to be attracting a lot of interest.
I met Dave for lunch; two pints and a roll in Clark's, the staple diet of anyone serious about their wasteline. (That was an intentional spelling mistake, by the way!) A few pints into the evening and everything felt fine. When I got home later, Gail and I ordered a lovely Chinese meal and it went down a treat to finish off a day which was not the busiest I ever had.
I can't sop thinking about all the work I want to do and get involved with. I feel the urgency within me like a natural driving force.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Unfortunately I am not in my twenties and I find it increasingly true when I hear about the difference being in your thirties makes to your life. It takes me longer to get over the bevvy and I want it to be a longer time until the next one. Unfortunately for me, I did it twice in three days. I am a stupid, stupid man.
But I enjoyed every minute, so I will probably do it again.
Laura wanted another Daddy-Daughter day but the weather was not the best for going on any trips. So after lunch we did such things as make insects out of stretchy balloons, undertake projects from the art magazine I bought her a couple of weeks ago and have another picnic lunch. I had another attempt at trying to get her into Star Wars by putting on Episode 5 - A New Hope, but she just doesn't seem interested. I'll keep trying on that one.
She's getting so old - for an eight-year old. When Gail came home from work I gave her a big kiss and cuddle - as I always do - when Laura shouted for us to "get a room!" Turned out she heard that one from a film called Freaky Friday the other day.
I got a response to my query from the magazine that initially got me researching and writing about Robert Louis Stevenson for. I was worried tey might not want it, but they wrote to say they are very interested and want to read the full article along with pictures. I'm delighted because this is the first query I've had with a favourable response for a paying market. Not got the pictures though, so that will HAVE to be done this weekend - no delays.
I also heard back from the publisher/editor of Tall Tales Press. You may remember me mentioning an anthology called Tall Tales and Short Stories in which my writing pal, Leigh Clements, had a story published. I received the book from Michelle Miles via the BookCrossing.com initiative.
Well, after reading the book I read the author biographies at the back and it turns out the owner of the publishing company is a single father with a young daughter - please read his website for more information - but the upshot is he is putting together an anthology called Being Dad; Fathering after Separation or Divorce.
I emailed him a few days ago with a view to contributing and he got back to me today. He is very interested in getting me involved with the project and wants to discuss it over the phone. It's definitely something I want to be involved in and I'm looking forward to speaking with him and putting together some appropriate work.
I've decided not to do the Global Talk Radio interview. I sent the programme manager the details of my current situation with KIC suggesting an alternative scope of interview, and although they think this should be fine if I send them more information on the project, they are insisting on all authors, particularly international ones, footing the bill for the cost of the interview phone call and the all sponsorship fees. I'll have to find out phone costs but I just don't fancy the idea of paying out at least forty quid for a ten minute interview. I'm not in a position to be able to afford that kind of money.
I'm still dying for a good curry!
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
The Piano Bar
Nevertheless it was a short day. My energy levels received a welcome boost over lunch when I ate some Marzetti leftover from last night. As I was eating at my desk I was emptying out my 'E-mails to Read' folder and realised I was meant to have written The Scruffy Dog Review (hereafter known as TSDR) blog entry for Tuesday! I totally forgot and so started to rattle my brain for something to write about.
I bought a Scotsman and checked the BBC art's pages - nothing. I scanned google for ideas - nothing. Then I remembered the catalogue I got in the post last week. It was the brochure for this years Guildford Book Festival, which is currently running down in south-west London.
I rattled an article together and posted it a day late, but couldn't find the Admin forum address to apologise, so I logged on from home later.
On my scan through the BBC Scotland website I came across this horrific story from right in my hometown: Boy, 3, found dead with mother
What can you say about it? Tragic, awful, sad, all this is true but I just hope the wee laddie doesn't end up in some place worse off now he has no parents. Hopefully his gran will be able to support him, if not, I fear he'll join the list of unfortunates who had to be brought up under the Social Services and had their life fucked up as a result.
Here in Scotland, there is a poor track record for care, particularly for small children. All too often are stories appearing in the papers about the Social Services letting down kids who were at risk. They turn up dead or on drugs and jail is the only place they know by the time they are twenty. If we want to cure many of the ills of Scottish society, then we should start to look at the support system we have in place, install the right people and inject some cash because the wages these people are on is a disgrace.
I used to have a girlfriend whose job it was to go around the streets and try to pull off junkies and alkies into the van to offer them help. They would take them to the Centre and try to get them into programmes within hostels or services that would try to give them a leg up. But she was faced with daily assaults, abuse and threats - all for £18k. She had no support either, only told to get on with it or get a new job.
People say Scotland is becoming more socialist these days and very left-wing. I don't think it is. I think it's just the politicians in the giant council building they like to call the Scottish Parliament. Jumped up Councillors like our First Minister, Jack McConnell, who thinks tax payers money is better spent on holidaying in the States telling people how great it is here, instead of putting the money to better use. Maybe if he did, I would not fear for the wee boy from Leith quite as much as I am today.
Mikey and Craig, my two Weegie (pr. Weejay) pals came through from Glasgow for a meal and drinks. They wanted me to show them something new in Edinburgh, so I took them to The World's End bar and The Jolly Judge on the High Street before dinner at The Filling Station. For some reason the waitress found it hilarious to leave the pepper pot in my pasta, but I think it was only because she found me a remarkably sexy individual.
I then took them into The Last Drop (sorry Devon!), the White Horse and then Mad Dogs. They wanted to keep going, and so despite my pleading to the contrary, we ended up going to The Piano Bar.
It was dire. The place is a haven for heffers and a den for dickheads. Standing under the speaker didn't help change my opinion either and you can imagine my astonishment, when at about 2am Tom Daly (as seen in Clark's) walked in through the door.
His first question was based on his knowledge of me and my opinion of the establishment I was now stood. "What the hell are YOU doing here?" he asked in a strong, southern Irish accent.
After a few words he went to the bar and then I heard from Craig, that he thought he saw Zander at the back of the pub. Sure enough, when I went to look, there he was.
It was a surreal ending to a good night out. Next time I see the guys will probably be over Christmas and New Year, which is approaching far too quickly for my liking.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Learning To Let Go
Laura and I had breakfast over an hour of Tom and Jerry cartoons. Then when we were ready, went out to the supermarket to buy some goods. With no coffee left, I was on a mission and I also picked up some stuff to make a nice dinner for Gail coming in later on.
The rest of the day was spent with Laura. We made a den in the living room from chairs and blankets and had a picnic during the afternoon. We watched videos and drew pictures, made skeletons for Halloween and generally had a lot of fun. One of her pals from the neighbourhood came to the door but she didn't want to go out to play. When I asked her why, she said, "because I want today to be a daddy-daughter day."
I made Marzetti for Gail coming home from work, which was delicious as always, and once everyone was happy I sat down to write. Laura had gone to her Gran's house for the night and Gail went to visit her pal who just started a new job, so I was blessed with a silent house.
I'm still in a quandary about the completion of Fringe Fantastic. It's a kind of frustration, a feeling of lost control I get when I think about it. Devon Ellington posted some advice after yesterday's post and it helped; I need to set a date by which I must adhere to strictly. If I don't, I run the risk of being indecisive about the final design for years to come and it will never see the light of day.
I know I can eventually come to a decision about the final design, but the content is worrying me also. 'Why on earth would people want to buy it' and 'is it good enough' are the main bugs in my machinery. I never had these problems with Hunting Jack so much because it was accepted before most of it was written. I shall have a think and set a date as Devon suggests, then LIVE by it. She’s right; it is the best way. I need to learn to trust myself and get over these things. Thanks Dev.
Monday, October 17, 2005
That was my day.
I amazed myself by even getting to work. When I finally dragged my carcass out of my pit I looked in the mirror and the view was shocking. Red-eye syndrome and large dark bags hanging from my eyes stared back at me from the mirror. My head was sore, I was dehydrated and all I wanted to do was sleep.
I got ready and made it to work half an hour late. I really should have booked a half-day or something but my foresight was missing yet again. I got a coffee from the shop and took it into work, sat down and contemplated sleep once again. Would anyone actually notice in this room full of the damned?
By the time I thought it was almost time to go home, I realised it was only lunchtime. I could have cried. I got some soup - it was all I could stomach - and a bottle of water for lunch and waited for the time to approach five o'clock. It felt like an eternity, watching the wee numbers on the bottom left of my monitor. What did I do to deserve this?
I was so tired I couldn't concentrate or summon the will to do anything. Seeds of doubt started to grow and I suddenly found myself unsure about anything to do with the festival book. Are the poems good enough; is it worthwhile; have I gone overboard; could I have done more? That's the biggy - could I have done more? I keep thinking I could have.
Sure I have put everything into the book; passion, committment, an open mind, but I said all that during the writing of Hunting Jack also. Only now after the dust has settled, do I see I could have put in so much more.
So I went to bed thinking there's no rush with the book. It doesn't have to be out on a certain date so until I am happy I keep thinking I'll put it off before turning it in, releasing it into the critical world unready. But I was sure it was ready.
Maybe I'm scared or maybe it's normal paranoia. Maybe it's just because I'm just so damn tired I'm not thinking straight. I could sleep for a week to be honest and I feel like I'm missing things, forgetting stuff and always never quite giving it 100%.
Catch me on a good day though, and I'll tell you the opposite.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Frankie Says No Chance
I checked my email and automatically went to open up the Fringe Fantastic manuscript when I remembered - it's done! There's no work left to do on it except maybe one final print off and triple-check and of course, the cover. It was a strange feeling that another major project is almost at an end. I can't wait to see it fully bound and in my hands as a physical entity though. That will bring a new level of excitement, I'm sure.
The evening entertainment had been planned many weeks before. Dave Graham had spotted an advert for a gig by the 1980's pop sensation, Frankie Goes To Hollywood (FGTH), in the Liquid Rooms. The idea was pitched and thrown about the back room of Clark's Bar for a while, before we finally decided to go ahead and get a couple of tickets.
The build up to the gig involved digging out all our old Frankie CD's and seeing if we could still remember the words to such classics like, Relax, Two Tribes and Rage Hard. It never bothered us that FGTH had a massive gay following, because we liked their music and as it turned out, we always wanted to catch them live.
I arrived at Dave's mid-afternoon with a bag of beer and my glad-rags on. While discussing the gig over an aperitif, we realised we were still in the dark as to who was supporting FGTH. We logged onto their website to see if it had any information. The message we were met with, went something like this:
++ INCORRECT TOUR DATES ON TICKET SITES!++
// 15 October '05
Because of various reports that FGTH have rearranged their October UK Tour to February/March 2006 FRANKIESAY.COM would like to the clarify this situation - FRANKIE will NOT be performing at any of the advertised shows which are currently (and incorrectly!) posted at various online ticket sites.
FRANKIE can only make apologies, on behalf of those responsible for this confusion. FGTH are looking into how this situation arose and as to why tickets for February (and even still, October!) are being wrongly advertised for sale on the Internet.
As you can tell, we were gutted that this was how we found out and at such a late time in the day. We scanned the gig guides but found nothing else on we could go and see at such short notice. And so with bowed heads we went out for a couple of pints anyway.
First stop, The Last Drop for a pint and then we went to a nearby seafood restaurant. It was most romantic as we ate our mussels and pasta over a bottle of Pinot Grigio by candle light. If FGTH had still been playing, we would surely have been mistaken for die-hard fans.
Our plan was to go for another couple of beers then head into Bannerman's pub, where we would get to see some unsigned bands play - at least it would be live music. We stopped in Finnegan's for one when Zander sent a text message to say that a band called Proud Mary were playing in a club called The Venue. They supported Oasis on one of their tours and Noel Gallagher picked them up for a record label he's involved with, so their credentials were looking slightly better, as was our evening.
We stopped in Pivot Bar for a drink when Zander joined us - in case Noel Gallagher would be there! There were some blokes already standing to the side with long hair, leather jackets and country-style shirts. Dave reckoned they were the band; either that or die-hard fans because he heard that was their kind of dress sense.
When Zander arrived he confirmed it was indeed the band and went over to talk to them. He returned with the news we were all on the guest list. Result! Free entry partly made up for the disappointment of Frankie, but suddenly with a bottle of wine and some beer inside me, the night was looking quite rosy.
Proud Mary were in fact, pretty damn good. It's kind of hard to pigeon hole them, but there is a definite 1970's - Alabama 3 - country and western feel to their rock music. Many of their songs seemed like top album tracks and you could feel a lot of influence by some major hits in the past, but it left you with a feeling of being unable to identify the tracks after they were finished. They kind of blended into each other so although they were foot-tappingly good and executed with some great guitar work, only a few were truly memorable in a stand out way.
Still, I can't complain. We got in for free and ended up having a great night out when it looked like we were heading for disaster. I'm thinking about writing a review about the gig as part of my column for The Scruffy Dog Review. In fact I will write it, but I'm not sure if it will make the final submission.
We headed back to Pivot Bar for another couple before heading off for the night. Somehow, I had managed to get quite drunk, and on a Sunday night this was not good, for after Sunday comes Monday. And I hate Mondays on the best of days, let alone with a hangover I knew would be hard to avoid.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
For any woman to go through such an ordeal that she suffered at the hands of her husband, Ike Turner, is something nobody should have to face. She was repeatedly assaulted, raped and psychologically abused for years before she finally broke free and saw what he was doing to her. I've heard of woman talking about their fear of leaving their abuser using an array of excuses for staying, but Tina finally saw the light and got herself out.
I was amazed it had happened to her because she always came across as an incredibly strong woman. And I suppose that's the strength that was enough to get her out of her personal hell. But never once did I realise what she had endured. I hope for any woman who are stuck in the same situation today and might have seen the film last night, to use it as the spur to get out. I actually felt mildly sick at some of the scenes in the film they were that graphic. It kind of makes me, as a man, disgusted that any male could treat their partner in such a way.
I was up from 6am because that's when I happened to wake. Strange, because I've been feeling tired all week. It made the day a very long one but I got a lot done in and about the house.
My sister and her fiance (Fiona and Nolon) popped in on their way to an evening out with some friends in Edinburgh. With her new job as a primary school teacher we don't see each other as much as we used to so it was great to catch up. Gail and a few of them are going to see a show in the Playhouse in a few weeks so me and Nolon agreed to go for some beers that night and do some bonding. Should be a laugh; Nolon's a good man and I couldn't have wished for a better bloke for my wee sister.
I complete the manuscript for Fringe Fantastic. All the poems and titles are aligned correctly, the page number problem sorted and all the images just as I want them. The foreword and notes are done as are the acknowledgements and formalities.
All I have to do now, is select the book covers. I've put together four fronts and five backs but it's an awesome task. I'll need to think hard about what one fits best and if I should change anything. Or indeed, if I should think more about the cover and what it needs to do. There are a couple in particular I like, so I think it will just be a case of trying to come to a decision.
It's a huge dilemma, but a good one because I know after I've made it, the book will be complete.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Curse Of The Were-Escalator
I picked Laura up from school and we went to the cinema to see the new Wallace and Gromit movie - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was hilarious! In a room full of mostly kids, my raucous laughter caused Laura more than a slight bit of embarrassment; but it was a great film and the popcorn not bad either.
Laura was attacked by the escalator on the way out of the complex. It snared at her shoelace as she was approaching the bottom and just as I was about to kick the emergency stop she pulled free. She was fine about it all, though her shoelace was mangled. Some old woman shouted, "She'll be in trauma now, that girl!" Not really. She's a tough wee cookie my Laura, and she found it funny than anything else.
Earlier I collected the photo CD with all the images from last Sunday's photo shoot. Sarah gave us a quick run through of the images on her computer and some are excellent and are immediately put onto the contender pile. There are some great images and I might include some throughout the pages of the book as well.
The first picture I selected was easy - the author photograph. It's a black and white picture taken in front of the toilets inside the Jekyll & Hyde pub; except it's not what you might think. The doors to the toilets are hidden by large bookcases that are fake and you have to find your way in. The effect of which makes me look rather intelligent, as I appear to be standing in a library. When in fact, I'm not.
I spent the night working on the covers for Fringe Fantastic. I made up a few and converted them into PDF. I'm still not sure because of the amount I have to choose from. There's a problem with the alignment of the page numbers too. They don't convert when used in the footer and when I insert them as images they convert onto the next page.
Publishing problems, at their most annoying.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Soon, it will be populated with a new breed of lettuce and processed cheeses. Soon, intelligent life will breed and grow within its secret walls and extra-terrestrial life can be studied at close quarters by mad scientists with weird haircuts. Or perhaps I'll just wipe off the spilt Irn-Bru and throw the mouldy tomatoes in the bin.
The rain has stopped and with it my connection with nature's finest resource. The sun is out, though it is still nippy in the air and deepest autumn is slowly rolling towards us. Very soon the leaves will begin to fall and all the hidden birds nests will be revealed for miles around.
Which reminds me; remember last year around this time I told you about the picture I took from my old bedroom window when I still lived with my parents. It was of a solitary blackbird sitting in a winter tree looking around for a friend and some food. The bird was there every year - at least I think it was the same bird - and I grew to be it's pal, putting out food for it and keeping it close to the house.
I was going to scan the picture and display it on this bog but I couldn't find it. Well, during the course of unpacking all my gear into my new office, I found the picture. It's as beautiful as it was when I took it and the wee bird, who I never gave a name, still sites proudly in its tree. I will post the picture soon, once we hit deepest autumn and the mood is right.
Police officers were called to an Edinburgh office today, after reports that the serial toilet breaker of last year, had returned.
It is feared the man dubbed 'The Loo Roller' has returned to wreak yet more havoc on an unsuspecting workforce, just having recovered from the last spate of attacks late last year.
It is thought The Loo Roller sneaks undetected into the male toilets on the first floor of the swanky Edinburgh office, drops his trousers and sits on the pan, at which point the toilet seat itself splits open leaving a small, but dangerous crack.
One witness who wishes to remain anonymous told us, "It's all a terrible shock. We thought he'd done his worst but it looks like he's come back for more. Some of the people who work here are in terrible distress. It's a bum rap because they can't seem to catch the guy who's doing this."
Health and Safety officials at the company have advised staff not to use any broken toilet seats as they risk serious injury to their posterior and pride. Staff who witnessed the broken seat have been offered counselling and been given time off with full pay to recover.
Police have issued an appeal for anyone who should see a man, possibly with a large build and walking with a slight impairment or sitting balanced on one cheek of their bottom, not to approach him, but to call the Loo Roller Hotline number immediately.
We shall now return you to your normal programming.
I spent the night working on the finer details of Fringe Fantastic. All the images and title graphics are now done, the whole thing proof-read and ready to go. I decided at the last minute to add in a new section of notes, which mostly explains some of the Scottish terms and definitions used throughout. I want it to be as complete and understandable as possible.
Mik and Lara did this so I couldn't resist - again.
Three Names You Go By:
Three Parts Of Your Heritage:
Three Things That Scare You:
1. Dying young
2. Losing my family
3. The Scottish Executive banning drinking
Three Of Your Everyday Essentials:
2. A good scratch of my bollocks
Three Things You Are Wearing Right Now:
3. Baffies (slippers)
Three of Your Favourite Bands or Musical Artists (at the moment):
2. Dogs Die In Hot Cars
3. Dead 60's
Three of Your Favourite Songs - at the moment:
1. I Predict A Riot (The Kaiser Chiefs)
2. You're Beautiful (James Blunt)
3. Voodoo People (The Prodigy)
Three Things You Want In A Relationship (other than Real Love):
1. Olympic sex
2. Lots of laughs
Two Truths And A Lie (can you guess which is the lie???):
1. I drowned six kittens in a Loch for money
2. I once burnt down the Scottish Homes HQ in Glasgow
3. I was shot at by a farmer, who disliked my treatment of his haystacks
Three PHYSICAL Things About The Opposite Sex That Appeal To You:
Three Of Your Favourite Hobbies:
3. Going to gigs
Three Things You Want To Do Really Badly Right Now:
1. Go to bed
2. Go on holiday
3. Go to Clark's
Three Places You Want to go on Vacation:
Three Ways That You Are Stereotypically A Chick/Guy:
1. I hate shopping
2. Grumpy in the morning
3. I think farts are funny
Three Things You Do Daily:
1. Check my email
2. Drink a coffee
3. Wish I had more time
Three people I Would Like To See Take This Quiz:
1. Boris Johnson
3. Her Majesty The Queen
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Bring It On!
I had a busy morning work-wise but found the time to make the adjustments to the Fringe Fantastic manuscript that I picked out with my red pen last night, then transferring the changes to the original poem manuscripts to keep them all inline. One thing I also neglected was individual images for the poem titles so I worked on getting them created and to the right dimensions.
It's coming together nicely now. Only the cover images and a few small amendments to go!
Not much else to put into today's post. Work is so bad it is stressing me out and I was really looking for to my snooker evening as a result. Well, not so much the snooker but the four pints of Kronenbourg I drank.
The weekend is promising to be quite good. There might be the chance to see my sister Fiona and her fiance hopefully, maybe even my other sister Lindsay who is going to be in town, a trip to the movies, a curry, a new fridge freezer, a 1980's revival gig and I should also get my hands on the pictures for the front cover of Fringe Fantastic. Bring it on!
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
It Never Rains
I like the rain. I feel safe in it. People in Scotland are far too quick to put up their umbrellas and get all down in the mouth about a simple state of overlying conditions. It's only rain; we get plenty of it so we should reap the benefits.
When rain is falling, the streets sound different; emptier of people and more welcoming, relaxing, like a big friendly brown bear stretching its arms and yawning to reveal a soft underside that makes you want to cuddle up. The streets know nobody is looking so they chill out and relax for a bit. Concentration is lost and the tarmac ripples with pleasure as nature's water runs to its sides and down to the lowest point.
Don't wear a hood or put up an umbrella when it rains, stand somewhere quiet, preferably somewhere that has lots of grass. Allow the water to land on your head and run down your face. Hear the individual drops shatter on top of you, and listen as the grass around you cheer each time a new drop lands.
Feel life being recharged all around you while you stand. Water is life and life is for getting wet every now and again. To quote the Big Yin; "I hate all those weathermen who tell you that rain is bad weather. There's no such thing as bad weather - just the wrong clothing."
I did a small update to the website and worked through my emails. A quick check on my submissions saw that I still have revealed 17 fiction subs under consideration, 4 poetry subs and 9 non-fiction subs.
Worked some more on Fringe Fantastic, lining up each and every page so that the distance between the titles, start of poems and edge of the page are exact. I also dedicated a few poems to some people and completed the foreword. All that remains is the cover photo's, exporting a couple of titles into graphics, changing the images inside the book to black and white. I printed off the version as it stands and proof read all 45 poems and text from paper in the evening. It's amazing what you pick up.
I received an invite to appear on Global Talk Radio. It was as a direct result of my press release in August and they want me to appear on their talk show called A Story To Tell to talk about Hunting Jack.
Me. On the radio.
All their shows remain on the site for live streaming so I tuned into last night's broadcast. It sounds professional and sounds like it could be a very good opportunity. I would be asked about my story and other aspects of my writing and be able to promote my work to a growing audience of targeted listeners.
Except - without KIC then I have nothing to promote! My last PR went out before all the KIC troubles started so I'd be promoting something nobody can get a hold of. Unless I tell them what's happened since and suggest the interview concentrate on Fringe Fantastic. I posted a message to my writing group to see if any of the more experienced writers there had any good ideas.
Deary me. The trials of being a writer.
Monday, October 10, 2005
The Scruffy Dog Review
I am delighted to announce the launch of The Scruffy Dog Review. The inaugural issue will publish in January 2006 and it will be a bi-monthly electronic literary magazine, offering the BEST of both traditional and eclectic flash fiction, poetry, short stories, screenplays and book reviews.
It's founder, Editor-in-Chief and good friend of mine, Brenda Birch, asked me if I would like to come aboard as an Associate Editor. I was only too delighted and could not be more thrilled to join this exciting venture. It's my first step over to the "other side of the publishing fence," but one that, given the publication and who I am working with, seemed the right time to do it.
My colleagues are some 'well kent' names if you read my blog a lot - Devon Ellington, Michelle Miles, Lara Stauffer, Terri Dunham, Angela Miller, Mark Vender and EL Reedy. It's a privilege to be working such a talented and motivated group of writers/editors.
And so on the first of January 2006 we will launch our first issue. To that end, we're now accepting submissions (they've started arriving already!) for the January issue. Please visit The Scruffy Dog Review to check it out and find the guidelines.
Read the official Press Release.
I spent some time adding in the new poems and rearranging the layout to accommodate them, and I also wrote the first draft of the Foreword for Fringe Fantastic and it came out not bad. Perhaps a few tweaks and it will be ready but I want to keep it to a single page and not go over.
I designed some bookmarks for both Hunting Jack and my Brick by Brick e-book, which I will print off on card once my printer has some new ink cartridges.
Speaking of Hunting Jack, if there are any subscribers out there - and I know there are a few - could you please contact me urgently as I have news about your subscriptions. With KIC on an "extended break," it is vital you get in touch with me asap.
My computer is doing my head in. It's started hanging and cutting out as and when it feels like it, which is no good when I am trying to read vital emails regarding TSD etc. It may soon be time to bid fair well to the old fellow - with a pickaxe and hammer!
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Shooting In The Breeze
When I spoke to the photographer for the book, Sarah Swanson, it was eleven thirty and the sun was shining. When I put the phone down, the rain started pattering on the window and I thought today's photo shoot was going to have to be cancelled. Luckily, it held out and although it was mild and overcast, the day was a huge success.
We got the bus into the city and I started off by showing her some of the ideas I had noted down the previous week. The first couple were not much good due to obstructions in the view and the spontaneity soon became apparent when then idea of shots of me walking along the central reservation of Princes Street came to mind. It was my first taste of public posing for a purpose, and it felt peculiar.
We moved into Prince Street Gardens trying to get more angles and view of the Castle. With it being the singularly most dominant feature of the city it seemed a good thing to concentrate on. The front cover HAS to be easily recognisable and be associated with the Festival so we took pictured of it from all around; some with me in and some without.
We walked up over The Mound and up towards the Castle where we saw Robert Englund of all people, getting his picture taken. He looked every bit as scary as he does on film.
We snapped some ad-hoc pictures in front of the castle gate with the ancient Scot's Guards complete with Musket and sword. They might be pictures better used inside the pages than the cover but it was still fun.
Then we moved down towards Chambers Street and onto the pavement outside the Bedlam Theatre. The arched red door always intrigues me so we took a lot of shots outside. The posing became a bit paranoid here because of the rows of cars lining up at the traffic lights directly opposite but we got the job done.
Down onto the Grassmarket and as we headed to get some shots of the backside of the Castle the idea of some pub-shots came to mind. We stopped in The Last Drop and being, as it is, a bar, we had a pint before continuing. I asked the barman if it was fine to take the pictures and he very casually said yes, as if he got asked that question a lot. The bar has a low, warm glow ambience and without the flash, made for some great shots.
We got the extra shots of the castle and then headed back up towards the Bridges and across onto Princes Street. We took some shots coming back down the Royal Mile and on seeing The Filling Station pub, a moment of inspiration struck. I went into the bar and sat in their large glass window while Sarah snapped away from outside. I could hear the conversations of the drinkers behind me get quieter as they all slowly started to wonder what I was doing just sitting totally still in the window of the pub.
Then an idea I had on Friday while in Clark's sprang to mind, which was to use the backdrop of the hidden toilets in the Jekyll & Hyde pub; hidden by a large bookcase. We made our way top J&H and naturally, another pint was called for before we took more pictures. The barmen here took rather longer to decide if it was ok to take the pictures but Sarah had already started flashing the camera all round the bar. In the back of the pub is a large fireplace and seats, where we took some pictures and then of course in front of the bookcase.
A drunk lad and his girlfriend made it a very awkward situation with all their comments and banter but we got the shots and they looked terrific on the camera.
It had taken us about four hours to get them all before we headed back into Leith. Sarah is going to download them all and crop and alter some before trying out some fantastic ideas she had for the front cover. One of her ideas was spectacular - way better then my Calton Hill one, and if it comes off it will be a classic. Nelson's Monument on Calton Hill is closed on Sunday's, which is why we never ended up going there.
By the time I got back home I was knackered, but the day was an all-round success. In a few days I'll have the results and can start to select a front cover. Not long now!
Saturday, October 08, 2005
Attack Of The Giant Yorkshire Puddings
I had a heavy hangover for a good few hours today. Last night's session took me until 2am and when I woke at half past twelve the frontal lobe of my brain was thumping inside my head, my tongue felt like sandpaper and my ears ached with a dull, pulsing sensation. One too many vodka's, I can only presume.
There wasn't much to do today except fart around the house until the time came to go to Gail's parent's for dinner. I couldn't write; the strain in my eyes from my less than glare-free monitor just too much on my hurting eyes.
Dinner was great. Carol made roast beef with roast potato's, vegetables, gravy and the largest Yorkshire Puddings I have ever seen. I'm not kidding when I tell you it rested on the plate over all the food at a staggering six inches by five! Just imagine it - it was massive! I was so stuffed afterwards, I could hardly sit down.
With a nice bottle of Australian Red to wash it all down I fought through the meal and finished it off with some Vienetta with fresh single cream then coffee. Not at all bad for a Saturday night's dinner.
When we got back home it was nine o'clock and despite a couple of paracetamol my head would just not stop thumping. I was supposed to have been meeting Dave for a couple of pints after his full-day babysitting stint but I just couldn't handle it. Instead I did some writing in my notebook (I still couldn't face the PC) and went to bed early.
Tomorrow is the photo shoot for the book cover. The weather forecast had been predicting rain today all week but it was a fine sunny day. Let's hope tomorrow is the same.
Friday, October 07, 2005
The Rats Are Running
Work was as bad as it has ever been; boring, uneventful and like a magnetic force in reverse. In the past two months two members of staff have left our team. Several others have intimated a strong desire to follow. What does that tell you? Does it suggest people enjoy working in a company that used to be fun and productive? Or does it make you think the core is as rotten as a barrel of apples after sailing around the south Pacific on a schooner for six months.
Clark's was full of people complaining about wanting to leave the same company I work for. It's actually getting boring because all the complaints are the same as mine; I've head it all before. Don't get me wrong, it used to be a great place to work. I used to feel like I belonged to something worthwhile and the people were good to work with. There was a great atmosphere and the work we did was constructive and cutting edge. After the "restructuring redundancies", the rot set in and people weren't as friendly any more. A death sentence was cast and everyone started looking about to see who would jump ship first. Those first brave soldiers are now leaving like rats from a sinking ship. The saga goes on.
Planning for the Fringe Fantastic marketing campaign is picking up speed. As well as all the usual press releases to internet feeds and mail-outs to literary magazines and newspapers, the News of the World have already agreed to get involved. Although reviewing literature and arts is not exactly their bag, they have agreed to publish a small article about my chapbook from the "local author" angle. This will expose me and Fringe Fantastic to a circulation of 3,759,443 readers (Source: ABC, 01 Aug 05 - 28 Aug 05). Pretty cool, eh?
My lunchtime pint in Clark's turned into a few more and by eight o'clock and well under the grip of an alcoholic haze, we (Zander, Julie and her pall Jill) moved to Robertson's Bar in Rose Street (aka Bar 37). We drank until about midnight - I think - before I headed home to find Gail still up. I put on some tunes and had another couple of drinks, finally making it to bed around 2.30 am.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Wheels Of Motion
Poetry is a wonderful thing. I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules to writing poetry, because that would detract from it's individuality. I learnt this the hard way. But I do think that what all poems have in common is the ability to show a slice of emotion, of someone's heart or soul, or shine a light on a glimpse of perfection, or imperfection. Poetry is the ability to say in so few words, what a novel might take to say in thousands. It is the capturing of an ounce of essence of the human soul.
But it's more than this. The word "poetry" turns a lot of people off because they automatically think of Wordsworth or Shakespeare. If someone says they aren't a fan of poetry, it's only because they haven't found the type they like. Poetry can be strong, soft, funny, provocative, disgusting, real, human, gentle, loving and hateful. It can be everything and yet in the mind of the reader, it can mean something totally different to so many.
The next time you are in a book shop, check out the poetry section and have a wee snoop. Or go online and check out some poets; just have a wee read and experiment.
Very, very tired this morning. My mood was little improved when I got to work due to the coolness in the office caused by it's failing air-conditioner. It's supposed to cool us in the sum and warm us in the winter - instead it does the opposite and because of all the cutbacks, the department in charge couldn't give a damn about it. So I spent most of the day in cold, flu-ripe conditions. I wonder if these arseholes will ever get their act together.
Speaking of arseholes, I had an encounter with more than my fair share today and I left work in an even worse mood as a result. The place is just not conducive to being a pleasant place to work any more. There are too many ego's and failed careers to make it enjoyable any more. Too many people with Teflon coated backs to make the place even worthy of attempting to change.
The difference is, I can change. I have done in the past and I can do it again. The wheels of motion are turning.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
The Search For Perfection
On a normal night we might play nine frames, on a poor night seven or eight. Tonight we played six. After arriving just after seven o'clock as normal, we had only played two and a half frames three hours later. The big man certainly knows how to chit-chat.
It was good to be back though and to be honest I've missed the game over the last three weeks, although I have enjoyed being able to write on a Wednesday night. There has to be a balance though so I can't complain.
Confirmation of my letter being delivered to the Press Complaint's Commission arrived today - all four pages of it with supporting documentation. I'm hoping for a public, printed apology in The Times to every Scottish National person.
I managed some work on the Fringe Fantastic manuscript, inserting the new poems and tightening them up. I'm worried there isn't enough poems or that they aren't deep enough. I've tried to load them with imagery, innuendo, metaphor and emotion but I'm getting scared a lot of this will be missed. Many of the poems are a real departure from what people might expect from me, so in some ways this is a real risk. When Susan read the manuscript at our meeting last week she laughed and nodded to many of them but whether this was out of politeness once can never tell.
Maybe it's all just pre-publication nerves. I want the book to be perfect and as much, if not better, than the vision I had for it back in the summer. I want it to make people smile, laugh and feel what it is like to live in Edinburgh during the Festival month. It has to mean something, be a good representation of one person's experience - the poet's experience - me. The day this gets handed over after final proofing will be a nervous and exciting time.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Death Of A Legend And The Top 5 List
I grew up with him on my television screen as he and colleague, Ronnie Corbett, entertained millions of viewers on their Saturday night show, The Two Ronnies, which ran for fifteen years. If you didn't watch it you missed out on most of Monday's conversations back at school. When I grew older I started to appreciate his other work especially Porridge, which he always said was his most accomplished work.
He was part of the very rare group of British comedians who can honestly lay claim to the fact that they not only shaped television viewing habits for a generation, but also shaped the memories of millions of people; installing himself into the hearts and minds of everyone who watched his shows.
Ronnie Barker is a showbiz legend who will never be forgotten.
1929 - 2005
Such is often the way of family life, notice of certain events is often assumed rather than mentioned. So I took today off to clean - and I mean clean - the house. If I hadn't, it would have caused undue stress at night so I threw myself into a major clean-up operation. It was very hard work. Every room got a thorough going over and it took me from 9.30am until 8pm to polish everything from the windows to the radiators to the ceilings to the floors - in all seven rooms plus the halls and stairs. The only break I had was 25 minutes for lunch and half an hour when I went to collect Laura from her choir lessons.
As you know, I'm not one who normally likes to blow their own trumpet and I'm not going to start now, but I'm thinking of entering myself into the UK Hubby of the Year Contest because of the things I do.
An article I wrote has been published on Circadian Poems. Read all about Robert Louis Stevenson - Poet and Author by clicking on the link.
To balance this delight up, I received a rejection in my email from Open Wide Magazine for Heart of a Child.
My office is beginning to resemble an office after I got tore into it this afternoon. Once the boxes of surplus books and research were out the way and put into the loft, it made an immediate impact on the visual aspect.
Gail's folks got back from holiday today and my MIL brought me a wee statue of a Buddha for my office. I think she is trying to tell me something. I placed it on the new shelves and prayed his little belly wouldn't bring the whole lot tumbling down.
For the last couple of months I have been so charged about my writing and I can only see the autumn spell being even more dense with creativity. It's all in the mind and spirit of course, but it almost feels physical; the drive to write and create and write and write. It's a powerful addiction and I love it. If I had to give up bevvy to save my writing, I would!
There's been weeks this past year when if things built up to the point I was overloading with work, I would freeze and everything else would suffer. At the moment I just can't seem to get enough of it and I think it's because I addressed the work versus family issue. Since I put together the timetable and shared it with Gail, everything I have taken on has only fed my energy levels further.
To finish today's entry off, here's some facts about me - courtesy of Sue at Turning 30 and a Half.
Colly's TOP 5 List
5 Things I Plan To Do Before I Die
Publish a best-selling novel
Father a child
Make love - right before I die
See the North Pole
5 Things I Can Do
Write fiction and poetry
Construct a website
Cook a great meal
Argue a point until it's flogged to death
Whistle like a budgie
5 Things I Cannot Do
Resist a pint
Touch my toes
Appreciate TV advertisements
5 Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex
A great ass
Sense of humour
(NB - For all of above, please refer to my wife)
5 Things I Say Most Often
"A pint of Tennent's please."
"Hello. How are you? I am fine."
"Oh - I see..."
"What the fuck?"
5 Celebrity Crushes
Diane Keaton (yes - even now)
Monday, October 03, 2005
A Near DIY Disaster And October's GDR
My office is a tip. Boxes of books and research lies everywhere and it seems to be taking an age to sort it out. I spent most of my evening on it because as soon as it is done the sooner I can start to enjoy the room. There isn't enough room for everything and so all the surplus, not-immediately-required things I have are being boxed and will be stored in the loft. Easy to get to should I need it and it also means the room can be kept more organised.
Tempers were fraught when Gail and I tried to put the shelves that I constructed last night, onto the wall. The hand drill was brought out and dust shot everywhere as I bored my way through the plaster and into the wall of the building. Up went the shelf structure but panic ensued when the screws kept popping out of their holding.
As I write this, it's still on the wall, but I don't trust it with anything heavier than a bookend. I'll have to get Ian to check out the solidity of my drilling. Of course, Gail's immortal comment finished the DIY experience off for me when she said, "I'd have put it further to the right inline with the cabinet."
I can't wait until it's finished though and I'll post a pic when it is. I'm looking forward to getting the fish tank in as well - a new home for Smashie.
My friend and colleague, Devon Ellington, today launched Circadian Poems - a site dedicated to the art of poetry and the world around it. It opens with a wonderful poem by a good friend of mine, Wanda D. Campbell, which has set the bar well high as far as the standard of poetry you might expect to read on this site. Go check it out - I have some articles and poems accepted myself for the near future.
I can see this month is mostly being about the publication and launch of Fringe Fantastic and so my GDR for October reflects this work. Fiction-wise, my schedule is left pretty much open although I intend to absorb myself in the writing of a story to sit alongside the album Stella by Yello. It's an idea I had a couple of years ago and have not done anything about. The time is right now and it's bubbling away aching to come out.
* Final edit on Whisky Snatching and submit to WM (deadline Jan' 06)
* Complete What A Waste and pitch to high-ranking paying markets only
* Work out plot to fit the album Stella by Yello
* Keep on top of submissions list
* Complete final edits on all poems for Fringe Fantastic
* Complete design and layout of Fringe Fantastic
* Conduct photo shoot for front and back covers of Fringe Fantastic
* Conduct Photo shoot of professional author portraits
* Submit penultimate final draft of Fringe Fantastic to publisher
* Chase up query for RLS market and dig out new markets
* Write four more articles for Great Scottish Authors series (400-600 w each) - Janice Galloway, Muriel Spark, Iain Banks, Edwin Morgan
* Write up Ian Rankin interview for Scruffy Dog Review
* Write up Ian Rankin interview from a writer's angle and pitch to appropriate markets
* Develop ideas for travel articles I have in mind (Edinburgh, Leith, Renfrewshire, Aberfoyle)
Marketing and Promotion
* Develop bookmark idea
* Joint Press Release about KIC status
* Begin preparing a marketing strategy for Fringe Fantastic
* Keep website up to date
Reading and Research
* Complete Read Tall Tales and short Stories Vol.2 for bookcrossing.com then release
* Get fully up to date with KIC e-zines
* Finish Kidnapped by RLS
* Finish research book for unpublicised future project
A biggy is underway - but I'm not in a situation to announce any details JUST yet
Sunday, October 02, 2005
IKEA Strikes Back
I had just given the radiator it's second undercoat when Gail suggested a trip to IKEA - a place I hate more than anywhere else I can think of on the British Isles. She persuaded me, of course, with her usual tactics and so off we went to the other side of Edinburgh. The reason for the trip was essentially so I could get wall brackets for the shelves we already had in the garage that I wanted to erect in my office.
IKEA is a box in a field with its own wee traffic lane to get into. Shepherded through the gates and into the flow of trolleys and shoppers we went, and soon I felt just like one of the millions of other robots. It was almost as bad as work. We toured the showrooms looking at kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms for when we renovate in the future and spent hours looking for ideas than anything tangible.
We got some things for the kitchen; a large Yukka plant for the conservatory and I got a whiteboard for the office and a small plant. I want a framed picture for the large wall but nothing took my fancy. The shelf brackets they had weren't all that nice so we moved on to B&Q. I bought some bits and bobs and a pot for the Yukka plant but the shelf brackets were significantly more expensive. So expensive in fact, it was cheaper to buy a shelf set and construct it from scratch. Which I did. Four shelves in a curved formation, on which I will put the books that have most meaning to me and maybe something tasteful.
There was a quick stop in the supermarket to get some ingredients for a Mexican dish I wanted to make for dinner before finally, after five hours of shopping, we headed home - with just about everything we didn't go out for in the first place.
When we got in I made chicken fajitas, complete with all the trimmings and sat down to a beautiful, if not very filling meal in the conservatory. Very respectable indeed.
I put together the shelves in the evening and after an extended period filled with mostly sweating and swearing, I finished the job. It will be tomorrow before I can get them onto the wall so I spent the rest of what was left of the night relaxing with my wife. I did get time to do some writing; my GDR plan for October, which I'll post in tomorrow's entry as there are a couple of things I need to check on first before going public with.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
September's GDR Review
I had Laura's dance duties to take care of first however; getting up with her at 7am and getting all her gear ready and into Leith. Gail has been really tired all week so I let her lie in and while Laura was in her classes I headed into the centre of Edinburgh to scout some book cover locations for next week's shoot.
I started at the west end and worked my way along Princes Street and into the Gardens. Ross Bandstand is a good prospect for something entertaining I think. After helping some Americans with directions, I headed further east and decided I wanted a coffee. I stopped in a shop just off St. Andrews Square and took a seat in the window.
With a cappuccino in my left hand and my pencil in the other I started to write into my notebook. I came out with half a dozen new poems for the Festival book and some other various garb, but it was so nice just to be sitting in peace and writing about the city from the comfort of a cafe.
Then the fun started. Before I went back to collect Laura I thought I would try Calton Hill for a suitable location that would give me a view along Princes Street. When I got to the top I was knackered and my legs starting to hurt. It was very windy but I seemed unable to get the view I wanted.
I realised the Nelson Monument was directly in line with where I thought I needed to be so in I went. A wee lady stopped me and after she stopped laughing at me profusely sweating forehead, I asked her if there was enough room at the top for a photographer and subject.
She said if I wanted to nip up and take a look that would be fine and that I wouldn't have to pay if that was all it was for. I said I would pay next week when we came back for the shoot. She also gave me the number of someone I have to call for permission but that it shouldn't be a problem.
Thinking it was only a few steps up I started off taking them two at a time. The steps took me up in a steep upwards spiral and after a couple of minutes I had to stop from the burning pain in my thighs. I restarted and every time I thought I was just round the corner from the top, the steps just kept on coming, and coming.
Eventually I got there and squeezed through the narrow door, falling out into the balcony wheezing and gasping. Lines of sweat were blown off my head from the strong headwind and the hood of my jacket whipped round and slapped me in the face.
The view however, was unbelievable. I could see all around Edinburgh for miles but even better, I could see directly down onto Princes Street and right along it with the Scott Monument, Edinburgh Castle, the Balmoral Hotel and the Gardens all in clear view. Spectacular doesn't describe it and the chances are if we can get the right shot, this will be the cover of Fringe Fantastic.
After getting Laura and going home I made lunch and got started on completing the office. I patched up a couple of botched paint efforts on the wall and put the first undercoat on the radiator. Gail helped me install the handles on the furniture and after much discussion we decided where everything was going to go in the room. We brought the book-case up the stairs from the garage and suddenly the room really was beginning to look the way I envisaged at the start.
I started bringing in all my boxes from storage and sorting all my books, papers, research material and magazines into piles. Some of it will be stored properly in the loft and some binned. The rest will find a place on the book-case.
With stiffening muscles though and a sore back, I stopped for the night after Gail ordered a Chinese meal. I was too sore to restart and decided to leave the rest until the morning.
Time waits for no man though, so here's September's Monthly GDR Round-up of my work.
* Submit On A Monday Morning to WM competition - done (posted 6/9/05).
* Final edit on Whisky Snatching and submit to WM (deadline Jan' 06) - still WIP.
* Pitch What A Waste to high-ranking paying markets only - query written; section under rewrite before querying.
* Get on top of submissions list - updated all listed publications; sent all simultaeneous submissions out.
* Refresh myself with A Friend to Die For using methods developed for HJ - brief read over; no firm plans as yet due to other work.
* Work out plot to fit Stella by Yello - not done, but no hurry for last month. Been on my mind though and will be done over next two months.
* Write remaining poems about the Edinburgh Festival - 39 poems typed and edited.
* Collate best poems of the Festival - done
* Collate best photographs of the Festival - done; selected suitable entries from circa 300 pics
* Design and format the layout for the chapbook - second draft of text ms complete and printed for final proof read
* Consider some poems for submission to Circadian Poems - submitted, Perfect Apple, Empty and Brunette - all accepted
* Chase up query for RLS market - not done; need to dig out new markets for this
* Write four more articles for Great Scottish Authors series (400-600 w each) - done (Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, James Barrie and Irvine Welsh)
* Interview Ian Rankin - done; needs typed up and articles written.
* Rework RLS article (poetry focus) for Circadian Poems (990 w) - accepted. To be published on 4/10
Marketing and Promotion
* Bookmarks - got stuff from Michelle, investigating further.
* New round of leaflets for HJ - no point as KIC appears to be folding
* Begin preparing a strategy for the Fringe Festival chapbook campaign - no work done on this yet.
* Update my main website - complete; new non-fiction and contact/press section; other pages updated for relevance.
Reading and Research
* Read Rick Lupert's chapbooks - all 5 read.
* Read Tall Tales and short Stories Vol.2 for bookcrossing.com - done.
* Keep up to date with KIC e-zines - done; almost up to date with all my subscriptions.
* Finish Kidnapped by RLS - stalled.
* Finish research book for future project - stalled.
* Finish Rankin research - done.
None this month.
Things That Turned Up
* 2 poems written (outwith Festival book scope); (Perfect Apple, Empty)
* Advertised for photographers on 3 online forums - loads of responses; met with and appointed Sarah Swanson.
* Final edits to the KIC Round Table Interview - completed.
* Pitched idea of Rankin Feature on KIC website (as opposed to newsletter) - Accepted but probably going nowhere now.
* Applied for p/t freelance position with American publication looking for Scottish writers.
* Shaggy Dog Review looks like it's going to become a going concern. Very exciting.
* Met with UK's leading crime writer, Ian Rankin - an invaluable experience.
* Found a photographer for the Festival book project.
* Applied for some non-fiction work online.
* Took some nice landscape photography.
Not sure if I class rejections as failures precisley but I'll include them here anyway.
* Glimmer Train rejected Daffodils. They don't know what they had.
Fiction - 1200
Non-Fiction - 3840
Blog - 19,300
It's been a damn good month. Not a lot of fictional output because all my time and energy has been spent focussing on the Festival book and non-fiction work. I have no problem with this and am not disappointed because the work I am doing, I am learning greatly from. The experience and work involved is great fun and well worthwhile.
As far as watershed moments in my writing career go, meeting and talking with Ian Rankin has to be at the top of the list. While it was essentially an interview for an article, I gained a wonderful insight and valuable advice from a man with a wealth of experience and a literary back-catalogue to make any writer stand in awe. It was a pleasure and an honour.
Looking to next month, the close of September will see the publication (hopefully) of the Festival book. Autumn is now tumbling towards me and the pull of new fiction becoming stronger because of it. My hunger, as it always seems to do at this time of year, is swelling within me.
Great things are afoot.