Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Monday, February 28, 2005

Window Fitters And February's GDR

I struggled to get into work what with last night being another candle-burning session at the laptop. When I got in made a strong (very strong) coffee and logged on to my PC. The problems from last week were fixed and it was perhaps foolish of me to think this would be an easy day.

First my boss handed me a slip of paper with people to call on it; I pushed it to the side to do later. Then Gail called – we have had an offer for the house for the full asking price. Great news - but not quite. The window company - CR Smith - are starting to take the piss.

To cut a long story short, we were promised a detailed quote for our vendor’s solicitor two weeks ago. We are still waiting and it is now holding up the sale of our house because we cannot get the issue resolved with our sellers’ solicitor. Gail called them five times last week, each time being told, “There are no managers in just now”, or “So-and-so is not available.” They never called back and faxed us a crap quote instead, which not surprisingly, was rejected by the vendors. Now with an offer in, the situation has become a matter of utmost importance.

Gail sent me the info and I got on the case. I called them up and was given the same line, “non of our managers are in until 12.30pm Mr.Galbraith.”

“Put me through to head office then.”

“This is head office, Mr.Galbraith.”

“Put me onto a manager please.”

“There’s no sales managers here.”

“A finance manager then, I don’t care who it is, just someone who holds some responsibility in your company.”

"There's no managers here."

"Are you trying to tell me a company of your size has no mamagers in before 12.30 on a Monday?"

“I'm sorry, can I take a message and get someone to call you back?”

“No. Because it is evident your admin staff are incapable, so I want to speak to someone who will get something done, now.”

“Please hold.”

(this conversatrion was repeated several times, each time my anger rose just a little bit more).

I finally got the Marketing Director who took my details and said she would personally look up our information.

Ten minutes later the Regional Sales Manager (I thought they weren't in the office?) rang me and I explained the situation. He left me with a guarantee he was personally seeing I got my quote by end of today.

By 4pm there was nothing and Gail was doing her nut. I called him back and he promised it had been sent but would send it again. It arrived at 16:55; the SAME quote but with an added blurb on the front!

I called the twat, sorry - Regional Sales Manager back and let loose with what I thought about him and his firm. I advised a strongly worded letter of complaint would be forthcoming and a copy of which would go to the top person in the company. He grovelled and took on full responsibility. Too late, said I and asked if he could recommend someone better to buy new windows from.

All this from a company who boast the best reputation for putting in windows and for customer service! If this is what their pre-sales is like, what is their after-sales-service going to be? This saga is to be continued...

I’m kind of famous for my complaint letter writing after having led a two-year campaign against Next - a famous British clothing and household company - for crappy service. I won.

Other significant scalps collected include Thameslink (a ticket man who verbally abused me got the sack and I got a non-payment fine returned) and Weatherseal (yes – another window company, who pulled out of a legal battle after I got Watchdog involved).

When a company deems it within their right to treat a customer shabbily, there is nothing more I like than to make their life hell. 6-page letters of complaint come easily to me, and I enjoy taking these things to the top.

BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!!

I had to leave work at lunchtime to get back home for the surveyor coming to value our home. I was told he would be there sometime between two and five so I got home about 13:55 to discover he had already started in the front garden. By 14:10 he was finished and I had the afternoon to myself to write.

By 14:45 the solicitor had called to give us a renewed offer based in the value of the house. We were counting on more but have to go with it. It'll need some re-jigging of the finances but I'm sure we'll manage. We have to! At least the house is sold and we can work towards the big move.

My nephew paid us a visit to give Laura her birthday present and card for tomorrow. He is 1½ and full of beans. He seems fascinated by my lack of hair. I’m sure if he could talk he would be wondering why I look like a big baby!

Once the house quietened down I got down to writing and completed the passage of Hunting Jack that has been giving me so much grief. When I split it into logical issue sections, it had grown from 6 issues to 9 giving me a whole month to submit. Once they were sent in I pulled three poems that have been on submission for months on end with nothing heard back. 8:41, Who Am I?, Robots and Lost Tears were all sent in to This Is It Magazine which is currently calling for submissions for issue 7.

As today is the last day of February, it is time to examine my To Do List for the month. I know before I look at this it is teamed with failure, but I must look at it positively and use it to my advantage. I believe if nothing else, it has helped me realise the amount of work I can reasonably expect to do, balanced with my work and family lives. In saying that, I am in the middle of a house move so perhaps in a couple of months, I will be able to push the barrier a little bit further again.

February GDR

Fiction
* 1 new short story - not done
* 1 short story for Writing Magazine (Feb Compo) - not done
* Re-write Bill McCarthy short story (need to give different ending) - not done
* 13 issues of Hunting Jack (upped from 9 last month - only 6 completed)
* Submit Loaded (F) for publication - not done
* Submit Bill McCarthy (F) for publication - not done
* Submit The Oasis (F) for publication (still needs another read & edit)
* Follow up on long-standing poetry and story submissions. Pull and resend if necessary. - (3 poems pulled and resubbed for issue 7 call at This Is It Magazine)
* Read A Friend To Die For manuscript. Plan or write next chapter - not done

Poetry
* 4 new poems (upped from 2 last month) - not done
* Submit Lost Tears for publication (This Is It Magazine – Issue 7 call)

Non-Fiction
* Chapters 1 and 2 of Web Development manuals - not done
* Issue 2 of KIC website development column - (almost complete – deadline extended by Ed)
* Issue 2 of Theatre review column -not done
* Issue 1 of Travel column (for issue 2) -not done
* Issue 1 of UK music column (for issue 2) - almost complete (deadline extended by Ed)
* Write 3 travel articles about Edinburgh with different angles - not done

Marketing and Promotion
* Leaflet re-distribution for Hunting Jack (to be done during school hols) - not done
* Design business cards - Complete. (Need to select a printer)
* Do more to promote web design services - not done

Reading and Research
* Finish reading The Prison House by John King - not done
* Read more fiction! - read several plays and short stories plus The Red Notebook by Paul Auster
* Research Buddhism - Researched and material gathered. Not read yet.

Technical
* Update website for client in Scotland - complete
* Design new site for new client - in progress

Things that have come up this month
* Another rewrite for Heart of a Child. Moved to March issue because of UK/US English differences.
* Judge playwright contest - read 5 one-act plays and scored accordingly

Successes
Not as many as last month. I feel quite deflated with my lack of progress given how good January was. I think the targets were too high and I never took into account the balance needed to be kept what with a week and a half of school holidays that I covered as well as the house sale. In hindsight I could have picked a better month to up the targets, which were probably only down to the excitement of last month’s achievements.

A new character in Hunting Jack has developed and is an interesting contrast allowing for a new angle. The last month’s worth of issues have been the most challenging to write. It took a lot of self-absorption to get it right and though I am not 100% happy with it, I don’t think I ever could be.

Disappointments
No new fiction other than Hunting Jack. HJ itself didn’t work out as planned which is a mixture of time required for this particular stage in the story as well as not digging out extra writing time.

No poems at all, but then I wasn’t really inspired.

Had to ask my editor for an extension on my deadlines for the magazine. Travel and Theatre columns are causing me the biggest headaches in particular because of time and money.

Statistics
Fiction: 9000 (16000 last month)
Non-Fiction: 2000 (1600 last month)
Blog: 16400 (19000 last month)

Summary
Next month: must do better!
Colin 11:28 am | 5 comments |

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Another Late Night Sesh

More cleaning and viewing, though today was a day of promise. We had a return visit from one of the couples who noted interest in the house and on leaving they said they would be requesting their solicitor arrange a survey with a view to putting in an offer for the house. If the bid matches the asking price we will be moving on April 15th - not 29th as it is now. I could feel the stress lift slightly as they said they would be going this far with it.

The weather was good for the viewing; bright and not as cold as it has been of late making it quite a pleasant day – for writing!

I took time out to watch Ireland play England at Rugby; glad I did as it was an excellent match, which Ireland won.

Then I wrote long and hard into the night; another 2am stint which saw me add an extra few thousand words to the section already. I’ll definitely come out of this with more than the original half dozen issues.

In the background as I typed and edited, the TV was showing Throw Momma From The Train and I kind of watched some of it as I typed. I’ve seen it before but it was company while I wrote.

Actually, it got me annoyed. There was Billy Crystal, trying to start a book with the words, “The night was humid/hot/moist”, and ending up writing a best seller which saw him able to take his pal and girlfriend on holiday to a sunny beach in the Bahamas! Yeah right. If only it were that easy!
Colin 12:09 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, February 26, 2005

At A Loose End

The rugby trip was cancelled.

I was gutted and more than a tad angry. To have it called off so late was bad enough, but I had given up other things in order to go; things that couldn’t be put back on.

For example, I had wanted to go to Easter Road to support St.Mirren when they played Hibs in the Scottish Cup. Since it is impossible to get tickets on the day of the game, I couldn't go.

I also gave up the chance to go and see This R 2-Tone last night. The gig was a 3am finish and today's rugby session was supposed to start at 10am, hence my reluctance to go.

I ended up watching the rugby on the TV (Scotland beat Italy), listening to the Hibs v St.Mirren game (Hibs won 2-0) and writing.

Laura had a bunch of her pals over for her birthday party in the afternoon(she will be 8 on Tuesday). They assembled in the house and then Gail and her Mum took them all to the pictures with wee bags of sweets and juice for the movie. This of course meant I had quite time to watch the game but I was still reeling at having to miss all the fun. I couldn’t go to the movies either since as there was no room in the cars. And I couldn't have a beer with the rugby as there was none in the fridge!

I stayed behind and made them all party food for when they got back; sandwiches, cocktail sausages, crisps and cake etct. Laura had a great time – lots of presents and attention and sweets. Everything a growing wee girl needs.

A headache came on over the right side of my head so lay down for a couple of hours later in the afternoon. I got up about 8pm for dinner then wrote through to 2am. I'm fighting through the passages forming this part of Jackie's story; slowly but surely. I have already formed the next few issues in my minds so I just need to get it done, and get it out.
Colin 11:59 am | 0 comments |

Friday, February 25, 2005

A Little Of Nothing

My work computer wouldn't start today, and remained on the blink until it came time to go home. All kinds of weird stuff started to happen; Arabic text, strange activity, applications vanishing.....it was a real technological twilight zone.

I decided to let the technicians get on with trying to fix it but I was getting in their way so much I went to Clark's for a pint. Dave and Tom followed suit and we had a couple of jars.

I managed to get my mobile phone wired up to my PC which was good to release all the movies and images I have taken. The memory card was getting full so this means I can burn them off and start again.

I did more work on a website and getting a contract sorted out for it too. I figure its going to be something I need to establish early on so spent sometime getting the statements the way I want them.

Not much else I want to say about today. It was a frsutrating and annoying day though I did get more done on Hunting Jack. An email to all authors was sent out by the ed at KIC and I just know if I don't get this section fisnished and sent in it is me who's going to get the personal email telling me to shift my arse.

I've stumbled with some of the Jamaican dialect for a character which is proving slow but worthwhile. Sunday will be the next time I get to work at it but I really need to have them in by then.

Rugby tomorrow; Italy at Murayfield and the afternoon in the Rose Street purveyors of ale. Cannae wait!
Colin 2:13 pm | 1 comments |

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Bit Of A Ramble

Recognising this month’s failure has brought me to a point of focal acuteness. (I made that last phrase up – I hope it works). If I were a spot/pluke/zit/pimple, I would be wide and red with a little yellow dot on top. The pressure within would be so great, the redness would be increasing and the skin quivering from the sheer pressure from within.

Yes, I am ready to burst.

But I am not a spot. And the only thing bursting out of me is creativity. Thursday mornings always seem to be good. Maybe it is the Kronenbourg from the previous night with fluffs up my brain just enough to allow it to ooze ideas without restriction. Loads of “what if’s” and no “but’s.”

I had two interesting dreams last night. The first saw me at a Madness concert with only about 10 other people there. It was a private function and so we joined the lads on stage for a sing-song. A meaningless dream so far as I can see, though it may be related to the talk of the release date of the forthcoming album.

Dream number two concerned what used to be my second football team. Ie. The team I always held a soft spot for even though I went to support someone else.

St. Mirren. The Buddies. The Pride of Paisley.

Everyone knows about the Paisley Pattern. Lesser known is the fact I was also born in the town. Paisley is now a ghost town and if you were to walk through it on a Friday evening be sure and wear a stab-proof vest and keep well clear of anyone in Burberry patterned clothing.

I digress. The dream concerned me queuing to get into Love Street (the ground they play at) to see them play football. I know what brought this dream on. Partly because I have been thinking about my time spent in Paisley of late – my university days, early night-clubbing nights and of course, going to see St. Mirren.

It is also brought on by the fact St.Mirren are through to the Quarter Finals of the Scottish FA Cup and are playing Hibernian FC this Saturday in Edinburgh. I was going to go until I found out I am already at the rugby, but I wish them well.
Colin 2:08 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Lost Writing Week

And that was that. Yesterday was only one of two days I got to myself to write over the school holidays – and yesterday the kids all went back to school too! Nothing went as planned although it was great to spend so much time with Laura. She’s growing up too fast. I wish she could stay as she is but I know one day I will turn around and there she’ll be – driving away in her first car or going to meet her pals for a night on the tiles.

Laura and I shared some conversations over the course of the week. Private stuff I’m not going to share here, but unwittingly, she has revealed to me not just how grown up she is getting, but her feelings for me too. She laid some ghosts to rest for me; she’s only 7.

I have realised I am going to have to plan my writing better. I thought I had done this at the start of the week but now that I look back, it was all crap and I went about it the wrong way. One of my GDR’s is to reinforce my desire to write with family and friends and I think this is the root cause of the problem. I’m still not taken seriously enough – or I don’t feel as if I am anyway. This, I feel, is holding me back to a certain extent.

I’ve lost my way this month. I think my targets were too high and caused my to tighten up and think more about deadlines than about creating. Only in the last few days when I realised I wasn’t going to meet them all did the writing start to flow again. January was excellent, but February has not matched up at all. When March comes I will go intermediate and pace myself better. It’s trial and error but I need to find a balance or I’m going to get nowhere.

Perhaps this would be a good time to bring my Submission Tracker into the public domain once more and see where I stand...

Short Stories
The Blind Man Of Cathkin Street - on submission to Writing Magazine competition - announcement due next couple of months.
A Bond Of Faith - on submission to Sol Magazine since 13th August 2004 - needs to be chased up.
Heart of a Child - accepted by Wild Child for March 05 - undergoing edits
The Oasis - almost ready for submission

Poems
Robots - on submission to PNG Poetry since 24th Oct 04 (chase up)
8:41 - on submission to About The Arts since 7th Sep 04 (chase up)
Who Am I? - on submission to About The Arts since 7th Sep 04 (chase up)
Disposable Pen - on submission to Binnacle Compo since 30th Jan 05
Perfect Place - on submission to Binnacle Compo since 30th Jan 05
Lost Tears - waiting to be submitted

This list has stagnated over the last month. I need to get it churning again and get my prose to a completed state quicker.

We woke to a snow-covered Edinburgh this morning. Even Leith had its fair share of blanket coverage. As I gazed out the window of the bus to work at the white flakes still falling, Unfinished Symphony by Massive Attack came on my personal radio. A wonderful tune to match the mood of the day, but when I slipped on my arse going down Dublin Street I thought perhaps Looney Tunes music would have been more appropriate.

It took me the largest chunk of the working day to catch up with all my e-mails from the last week or so; 434 emails in my inbox!

Gail and I have been invited to a surprise 50th party, plus I have Laura and Gail’s birthday at the start of March, Mothers’ Day, my sister Fiona’s 30th and two days out for the rugby. I’d love a week on a beach.

A few of us in our writing group submitted short stories into the The storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction 2004. Well, big congratulations go to my writing pal Mark Vender, whose story El Paraiso was voted a Notable Story of 2004.

Read this excellent piece at: The summerset Review - El Paraiso

Colin 10:41 am | 4 comments |

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Time And Technology

I got up, had my breakfast, ironed my shirt and got showered. Then, at the last possible minute, decided I had earned a day to myself after the last week and a half of hecticness.

So I phoned work to tell them I was extending my holiday by another day. Hey! I need to take them before March 15th or I lose them so what they gonna say?

I spent the morning writing, continuing my work on Hunting Jack from yesterday. The mail arrived with a clatter and I knew it was something heavy'ish. My suspicion was confirmed when I opened the brown envelope and found the paper copy of the first issue of KIC Magazine. My first official time in print with a theatre review of We Will Rock You and the first of my website development columns.

It looks fantastic, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

I surprised Gail at work by turning up to take her out to lunch. She was happy to see me (I think) and I took her to Giuliano's Italian restaurant on The Shore. We had pasta followed by coffee and hot chocolate so she went back to work well chuffed.

I went home and got fired into the writing- on my own - with no distractions - total and utter peace. I could finally concentrate fully and thoroughly immerse myself in the world I have created for Hunting Jack.

Gail picked me and Laura up after work and we drove out to Kinnaird Park – a shopping estate near Portobello. While they went looking for school clothes I nipped into PC world and picked up myself a CD/DVD writer and some blank disks. I’ve needed one for so long and when I got it home I installed it and burnt off some redundant data onto disk – saving over 1 Gb of space in the process!

I also bought a USB storage key which is going to prove invaluable when transferring large files between PC’s. Things like research and web files or stuff related to my writing. It is also going to be handy when talking to clients about websites. Instead of giving them a link to check out when they get home of all my web templates, I will be able to use this device to carry 256Mb of websites around in my back pocket.

I played around with my new technology then got back to the writing. It was flowing nicely and I didn't want it to stop.
Colin 12:55 pm | 1 comments |

Monday, February 21, 2005

Marzetti And A Birthday

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. Codswallop! After watching The Soprano’s on DVD until 2.30am last night I went to bed and slept through till the phone rang at 9.30am in the knowledge Gail was off to work and Laura safely delivered to her Grans as discussed.

Laura ran through to my bedroom to tell me the phone was ringing.

I never even knew she was in the house.

Gail assumed I was attempting to squirm out of baby-sitting - not so, but I couldn’t believe this had happened again. Only last week I was asked if I wanted Laura could go to her Grans on the Mondays and Wednesdays. I agreed because I wanted to write and get on with some personal stuff. So how this all managed to get turned on its head is beyond me. Needless to say though, it was all my fault so I just got on with it.

My parents were coming over later in the afternoon so after a quick tidy I started preparing dinner. Marzetti; a classic Italian/Scottish hybrid meal which is simply a favourite for everyone I make it for. It was my Mum who gave me the recipe in actual fact, so I had to make it just right.

Before they arrived I got some writing done and started to catch up with the discussions in my writing group. The notes from last night are very good and I have started to incorporate them into Hunting Jack. By doing this, I will expand the number of issues naturally.

My folks arrived while Laura was at her swimming class so I took them over to see our new house; their first time seeing it in ‘the flesh’. There wasn’t much to see from only the front of the house but that will soon change when we officially get the keys.

With everyone back in the house we sat down to a lovely meal of Marzetti, garlic bread and Chianti.

While working on Hunting Jack during the evening, I came to realise two important things.
First, on checking my notes I realised today is Jackie's birthday. There is no significance in the date, other than when I was mapping back into his past the date was plucked more or less from thin air. He is 26 - the same age as my wife. Odd? Perhaps - though there are similarities. Both have had the kind of lives that only strong-willed and independent people could survive. Both have multi-faceted personalities, much of which is still probably unknown. And both have had to face issues beyond their years but still managed to retain a down to earth, childish charm.

Second, the section of the story I am writing is being held back and I realised why. Up until now I have been comfortable writing an issue at a time. Many issues form part of a larger plot line, and others are shorter, more individual passages. The trouble with the current section is I am trying to write such a large (and important) section while keeping to this format. Put simply - it ain't working.

So, I have removed the titles (Issue xx etc.) and have pulled each of the six issues in question into the one larger piece. This way I can work on it more comfortably and once complete, I will go back and split it into relevant issue lengths.

There are problems with this approach though. I don't know if I am going to end up with more issues or less issues of greater length. I suppose I will have to wait and see. It is such an important part of the story though, I cannot let the impending deadline rush me into messing it up. Jackie is unaware of what is happening to him in the bigger picture, but I do, and controlling this is a test of my writing skills.

Tally ho!
Colin 2:24 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Viewings And Arthur Miller

Viewing day - again.

I slept till mid-morning and boy did I need it. Gail had taken Laura to her dance exams so I had my breakfast and got on with doing up the house - again - for viewing. Last Thursday we never had any viewers, which was disappointing, so we are thinking about putting on a closing date before moving to a fixed price. Both these measures should stimulate buyers into making an offer if they are genuinely interested. Time ticks on and the last thing we need is to be paying two mortgages.

That's tomorrow's plan – but today there were no viewers yet again. Disappointing but not the end of the world as I had to keep telling Gail.

While we waited in vain, I caught up with all my friend's blogs and logged into my writer's group. My detachment from life was highlighted when I read that Arthur Miller died last week. I don't remember seeing it on the news or in any papers, which I am very surprised about.

I remembering reading the script for Death of a Salesman back in High School. It had an effect on me such that before reading it, I never thought I would ever be interested in plays, or trying to understand the depth of writing and human emotion that is possible through writing. I remember it being a sad, yet strangely uplifting experience as the class worked its way through the book.

Years later, the film was broadcast on terrestrial television and I taped it for safekeeping. Every now and then I watch it and listen to the script unfolding. It’s all in the script for me and not so much in the actors. I think it would be better as a radio play actually, but it always brings back memories and tugs at my heartstrings.

Thinking about it now, I think it may have been the same year we also read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. These two books combined, influenced me more than I realised at the time and I always look back fondly on the way they were taught to me and how it was possible to take so much out of a book more than just pure flashing entertainment. They had meaning and purpose and reason and perhaps, had I not read them, I wouldn't understand the value of a good book – or good writing – to this day.

Once the viewing was over I started work on dinner; warm baguettes with grilled chicken, mayo, rocket and sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil. Delicious!

Into the evening and I got time to write out my notes I took down on my audio recorder on yesterday’s trip to George Street. By the time I finished writing out the notes I had ten pages of transcript so it took me most of the night to transfer and expand on them into useable form for Hunting Jack.

The whole exercise proved to be very useful. Not only has it made the whole location firmly detailed and familiar in my mind’s eye, but it also threw up several great ideas that can be incorporated into the story.
Colin 10:31 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, February 19, 2005

More Research

I took the opportunity of a spare morning while Laura was at dancing to go up town for an hour and do some research for Hunting Jack. Some of the descriptions of Jackie’s life in and around the centre of town are sparse and not detailed enough. So I used the voice recorder of my phone to take notes and observations in the area he is currently in.

It proved useful in recording finer details of the streets and surrounding lanes, but also as a way of recording my overall feelings of the area and the people. When trying to simulate Jackie’s situation, you do get an overwhelming feeling of being very small, vulnerable and scared. These are the qualities I have to get across in a more subtle way. There is lots of opportunity in these few issues for metaphor but I need to get a move on before my subscribers catch up and I get the editor chasing at my heels.

On my way back along George Street I noticed a CD and Record Fair at the Assembly Rooms. I always seem to miss the event so I popped in and had a look around. It was great to see thousands of vinyl records for sale and some at excellent prices. My problem is I have everything Madness ever recorded on vinyl and so looking for the old stuff is a waste of time. In fact, there is so much to choose from at events like this it is possible to spend the entire day just browsing.

I never bought anything, but I did listen in on a couple of interesting conversations between sellers and buyers I might use later.

I collected Laura from her dance class and went to a bakery to buy lunch; bridies, pies and sausage rolls. We got the bus home and after spending some time with Laura and getting her ready for a party, I managed to get down to some writing.

I wrote up most of the music column though I am disappointed with some of the photos. They came off onto the camera superbly but the transfer to PC has darkened and blurred them. I will need to adjust them manually to get them submittable.

Exhaustion set in early. The last few days have been horrendously exhausting and it all caught up with me by about 9.30pm - so I went to bed. I read The Red Notebook by Paul Auster and found a great deal of inspiration from it (to the point I dreamt about it). It's all I could manage and I'm afraid of not meeting any of my GDR's for February. The heat is well and truly on.
Colin 5:16 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, February 18, 2005

Trip To Calton Hill

The weather was more bearable today; cold but bright, so Laura and me headed up to Edinburgh. I left a parcel in Rob’s car last night and so we met him on a break so he could give me it. On the way along Princes Street the Police and Paramedics were attending a scene. Somebody had been hit by the airport bus. The delays looked quite extensive running from the West End of town.

After we left Rob we popped into the Guide's Shop and Laura got her badges book. She has been wanting/needing it for a while so she can get stuck into her Brownie badges.

Then it was off to Calton Hill. Laura has been on at me for ages to go up the hill so it had been a long time coming as we walked round past the Playhouse and up Royal Terrace. It was a nice wee walk up the hill, if not knackering as well, but well worth it when we got to the top. The sky was cloudy but it was still clear enough to see for miles.

The hill faces onto Arthur’s Seat and from the viewpoint you get a fantastic aerial view of the east and north of the city; the rooftops, tenements, high-flats and cobbled streets between. You can look right down on top of the High Street, the new parliament building, Holyrood Palace and the Scotsman building. Eastward gives a great view down into Leith and the Hibernian football ground dominates. Northwards and in the distance, the Forth Rail Bridge is clearly visible. I got video footage of the lot and took digital photos from the recording.

We brought packed lunch to eat as a picnic when we got to the top of the hill. Picture us with freezing wind blasting in our faces as we munched on our sandwiches....

Here's some pics:


Click to enlarge

























A flash-storm of hailstones soaked us through and froze us to the bone so by the time we got home we were very glad to see the fire on and a change of clothes.

Gail was home briefly before going on a work night out so I made her dinner on coming in and ran her a bath. When she was out me and Laura made pizzas and watched Shrek 2. By the time she was sorted I was ready for bed myself and as a result, couldn’t summon the will or the energy to write a single word.

Colin 4:19 pm | 1 comments |

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Red Lesbians

Today was all about tonight. My pal Stuart Howie played his first gig in his new band at the Queen Margaret Union (QMU) in Glasgow. I decided to cover the gig for the KIC magazine and so took along my Digicam to get video footage and photographs.

Unintentionally though, I double-booked my evening– arranging to go to Glasgow for the gig and forgetting we had a viewing period for the house. I nearly cancelled going through if Gail’s Mum hadn’t agreed to accompany her as I didn’t want to leave her in the house on her own when any old weirdo could just show up at the door.

Most of the day was therefore taken up with looking after Laura and house polishing – again! Top to bottom, walls, mirrors, floors and ceilings. I got most of it done before dropping off Laura and heading up to Haymarket to meet Rob who was picking me up to drive through to Glasgow.

We headed through and went for a drink in the Tennent’s Bar on Byres Road before heading into the gig. Which was surprisingly good.

Four bands were lined up to play - all local unsigned bands. The first couple were pretty poor, kind of like poor imitations of Nirvana. But the standard definitely improved. Stoo's band - The Red Lesbians (I still don't know why) - played their own songs and they were very good for their first ever gig. They brought a small band of loyal fans with them and although the venue was nowhere near packed the atmosphere was quite good for a student shindig. Maybe that was due to the £1 a pint at the bar - who knows?

Here's some pics:
Click to enlarge













Colin 3:17 pm | 1 comments |

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

So Much For Planning

As I write this entry for Wednesday 16th February, the time is roughly 3pm on Sunday 20th February.

The reason for my lack of currency in the blogging game is down to a week of hectic shenanigans and rushing around like a mad man. I have exhausted myself mentally and physically over the last few days and my writing has suffered.

This was the week that promised so much more on the writing front. I took the week off essentially to look after Laura and save money on the school club fees. I knew I would be busy but I would have Monday and Wednesday to write solid. Monday worked out fine as you already know, but the rest of the week rolled forward unstoppably and time flew with it. It became harder to find the time or energy to write and to say I am shattered, is an understatement. Not only have I struggled to write fiction, but I haven't blogged or been onto my writing forum.

Forgive me if much of the following entries between Wednesday and Sunday read like event listings.

Wednesday
So much for planning. I wrote into the early hours last night, safe in the knowledge I would be able to get up later and have the day to myself to continue writing. Laura would be at her Grans again and after I would go to snooker and return to write into the night again.
Not so.

Gail came through to the room and asked why I told Laura she was going to her Grans today.

“Because she is. She always goes on a Wednesday," said I.

“Not today,” Gail said, surprised. “She’s staying here.”

Wonderful.

As the discussion continued and I was waking up to the reality I was only going to get about four hours sleep and not get time to write during the day, there was a knock at the door. It was the MIL.

When told of the situation she agreed to take Laura for the day and thus, the miracle was complete. I was saved. She would be back earlier in the afternoon though – that was the deal. Which meant I couldn't in fact go out as I planned because Laura may, or may not, be back around 3pm.

So I caught up with my sleep until about mid-day then got up, had some coffee and got ready.
I spent the afternoon working on a website design for a new customer. It’s an exciting project, which is going to require an interesting approach due to the specifications I’ve been given. I’m putting together a load of templates for them to look at and hopefully they will like some of the designs I give them.

I’ve become distant from current affairs due to being on holiday. I’ve not been able to check any news websites, online newspapers or even buy a paper. Even time spent in my writing group is suffering though I did manage to logon and catch up briefly.

Laura returned home for dinner and I went to snooker. I would much rather have wrote. Things are getting in the way, but I can't complain. A balance needs to be gained but there is so much going on it is impossible to do everything.
Colin 3:13 pm | 0 comments |

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Hectic Day

My brain got a good rest last night and pinged into life in record time for a Tuesday. I had to be in town with Laura mid-morning to pick up the keys to the new house for a window survey. It turns out the double-glazing isn’t up to standard so we need a valuation so we can bargain down the price of the house to the value of the new windows we have to put in by law.

So Laura and me headed off and collected the keys but with an hour or so to spare we went into town for a wee gander. I showed Laura where Jackie has spent the last two nights and where he has spent some time over the last few issues. She finds it weird how I talk about him as if he is real.

We passed an advert for an Andy Warhol exhibition which is in town, and Laura wants to go see it. I’ll try and take her towards the end of the week when I have more time. I was hoping to take her up to Calton Hill this afternoon but we spent so long in the new house we ran out of time. If the weather is clear on Thursday or Friday we’ll do it then and try and fit the exhibition if possible.

While we were packing for the house move a few weeks ago, I came across a couple of traveller's cheques worth 100 Euros. I must have mislaid them after one of my trips abroad. I popped into Thomas Cook and sold them back for £65. That'll pay for my new CD/DVD rewriter I'm planning on getting.

Laura and I walked up to the new house. A few of the neighbours noticed our presence and seemed interested in our appearance. It was Laura’s first time inside the house and she loved it. There was much excitement while I showed her around and where her new bedroom is going to be. She loves the garden and took a liking to the conservatory. Gail arrived shortly after on her lunch break and it was the first time we were all in the house together. The day we finally own it and move in is going to be very special.

The bloke from the window company arrived and took down all the details and gave us his spiel but we already knew most of what we wanted. The quote came in as we expected so now it’s back over to the solicitors.

Gail's lunch hour ran out so in the afternoon I took down detailed notes of the dimensions and locations of radiators and cubby-holes so we can start to plan carpets and bed location etc. Then Laura and me had to go back into town to drop the keys back off at the solicitors before coming straight back home again. From leaving for the keys to getting home again took all of five hours! By then it was almost dinnertime so I had got no time to write at all.

Gail returned from the dentist after a traumatic experience. She went to bed early after some TLC from yours truly so I was left to feed and get Laura sorted. I had Laura coughing in her bedroom and across the hall Gail feeling sorry for herself after the dentist - my nursing talents were much in demand for the best part of the night.

I never got to writing until about 8pm but I went well into the night. Both my girls were finally asleep by 11pm so I was undisturbed from then on. I worked mostly on The Oasis and wrote notes for Bill McCarthy and HJ before giving up with tiredness.
Colin 1:44 pm | 2 comments |

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Full Day Of Creativity

I got up just after Gail left for work not long after eight o'clock. With the house still in top shape after yesterday it was an absolute pleasure to get ready in a quiet, tidy, peaceful house. If only it could be like this more often.

Before I started my writing there was some stuff I needed to take care of - I checked my email, took care of some banking and filed away some correspondence. Then the phone went - it was Gail saying we've had two notes of interest for the flat. I tried to keep her from getting too excited since they aren't actual offers - but it's a step closer nevertheless.

I redrafted two KIC articles and wrote two issues of Hunting Jack before lunch. It's moving into Paul Auster territory now with Jackie really having to deal with a solitary life on the street and severe loneliness. It's hard to write about from an emotional point of view because I hate putting him through it, but it's also very challenging. Without actually doing it, I'm putting myself into his shoes as much as possible. He's learning with every sentence and I see it more as a rite of passage before the next phase of the story.

I stopped for lunch at about 1pm and then went for a walk to the shop. It was cold and I was glad I remembered my bunnet. I never realised how many learner drivers there are round here on a mid-week during the day.

I bought the essentials at the shop - coffee and newspaper - and got Laura a Valentine's Card for when she comes home tonight. I did the same last year but she recognised my writing instantly despite me trying to alter the flow of the pen. I remember her saying; "Never mind Dad, it's the thought that counts." So wise, for one so young.

When I got home I wrote the card out with my left hand. It's barely legible so hopefully she won't suss it was me.

Into Hunting Jack and I've complicated things with a new character. Jackie was in Leith and bumped into a "well-kent" face from around town. Which posed a problem so I changed his physical traits as much as possible but retained his aura - which is significant. He's called Victor and is Jamaican born, has a gold tooth and cane, and his dreadlocks hang matted down his back. But please don't judge the book.....

I researched and wrote another four issues during the afternoon so at this rate I'll have my thirteen issues down by the end of the week and can concentrate on other work before going back to edit them. My subscribers are catching up fast and I think I'm only about 2 or 3 weeks ahead of my first reader.

Gail and I swapped Valentine's cards when she got home. We both refuse to do any more due to the OTT exploitism (?) of the whole thing. Besides, I prefer to send Gail flowers out of the blue and do and I don't have to do it on Feb 14th to prove I'm romantic. As for meals - most restaurants hike their prices on this day so what's the point in paying over for a meal in a packed restaurant when you can get it cheaper in the same restaurant when it's not crowded with couples proving their love. Who needs it? All you need is a cuddle and whisper.

I moved onto edits with the short story's I have on the go just now in the evening and by 10pm I had written, more or less, for about 12 consecutive hours. I felt drained, tight and 100% satisfied. This is what my life should be like every day.

I closed off the evening with a relaxing cuppa' and an episode of The Soprano's from my Christmas DVD.
Colin 4:46 pm | 0 comments |

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Early Valentine

Laura kindly got up at 5.45am, but despite me trying to convince her it was still the middle of the night, she wouldn't budge. So I let Gail lie in as long as possible and got Laura sorted with breakfast and entertainment. This left me time to clean the house for the afternoon viewing - I polished the house from roof to floors all in 3.5 hours. Not bad going for one so un-domesticated as me. Ahem.

The viewing went well. We had a return visit from Thursday night and two others sounded positive. By the time it had all died down it was after four o'clock and I was shattered from being up so early and all my household duties. I went for a kip while Gail went out to see her sister-in-law for an hour.

Some emails came in from KIC; I've got another winner to my Hunting Jack competition, taking my total to 9 running subscriptions. It was 10 but I think i've lost someone. It's going well and hopefully after this week it will increase even further.

We dropped Laura off at her Grans for the day since she is also staying over tonight and tomorrow. This meant Gail and I could actually do something together for a change - and call it a small Valentines Day celeb come early. With two days still to pay day we couldn't do anything fancy so there would be no romantic dinners or gestures this year what with the new house purchase. We plumped for a mix - dinner AT the cinema!

We booked in for a comedy - Meet The Fockers - not as good as I hoped but still a good laugh, which is all we wanted really. The cinema was practically empty when we arrived and the girls at the food counter had cooked too many hot dogs so they were giving them away. Clutching armfuls of cheap food we were two of only six others in the theatre. As usual I spilt my Coke on my shirt and jammed a pop corn kernel in between my two front teeth - so annoying. Gail laughed more at that than the film itself!

It was so good to be out without having to rush home for the babysitter or worry about the next morning's school run. Not that I'd change anything, but those were great days.
Colin 11:23 am | 0 comments |

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Writer's Dilemma

I had Laura all day and it was tough going. Some days she can be so easy to be with, but other days there is no pleasing her and the tantrums flow left right and centre. Today was one of those days. I never got a moments peace even during the rugby (Scotland got humped again, this time by Ireland) – the only time I put aside hoping for relevant calm but it never came. I ended up putting her to bed early before I went totally insane.

Gail had a night out so I set up the laptop out and got to work on the articles. I need to get them in quickly and I am going to included last nights gig as part of the music column. I got through a lot and it is really just the travel one giving me problems now. Still have to find a play though!

I got a couple of interesting emails to day. One was from my Ed at KIC asking if I would help judge a playwright contest. I agreed and she sent over the scripts anonymously. I spent the evening reading them and enjoyed doing it, though I'm not sure if I am qualified but I scored them honestly.

I got another from my Ed at Wild Child. The US/UK language issue is continuing. Apparently the words I fixed with genuine double-meanings aren’t what she meant. It is words like “lots” she wants removed because the English don’t use them in the context I have. This is rubbish and I think I will have to withdraw the story from the magazine. There is nothing more I want more for Heart of a Child than to see it published, but the changes she wants made now are way beyond the reasonable expected. I am not an expert in the English language to the extent some people are, but the word “lots” is in the dictionary, it is used in every day life in Britain and it is relevant to the story (told from the eyes of a young boy).

It is a dilemma and I have to detach myself from the artistic desire somehow and see that I am not sure if this story is going to get what it deserves.

Colin 11:16 am | 1 comments |

Friday, February 11, 2005

Pancakes, Three Men And Black

My first day off work until the 22nd – lovely! What a great feeling to know I won’t see the inside of the office for almost a week and a half. Even better is the fact I will get at least two whole writing days, which I intend to get the best out of. I also intend to get a couple for trips under my belt – Laura has already been roped into helping out.

I almost felt guilty lying in bed watching Gail get ready for work – but not quite. I spent the morning with Laura, got breakfast, dressed and checked my email. We went out to buy ingredients to make pancakes before lunch (a promise I made since I missed it this year). Then we had a nice lunch and watched some television while I wrote out my blog.

Pancake making proved to be messy and tricky. Not only did I drop and egg on the floor, but we also managed to get flour everywhere. The pancakes themselves came out quite well and by the time we cooked and eat them with honey we were stuffed.

I was to meet Rob in The Last Drop on the Grassmarket, but when I got there we could hardly get in the door for hundreds of Irish rugby supporters. I had forgotten Scotland were playing Ireland tomorrow and the town would be full of green and white shirts and scarves.
We moved to the Black Bull and caught up over a couple of pints before heading into the Liquid Rooms at about half past seven.

We were there for a gig by a band called 3 Men & Black. It consists of Pauline Black, Dave Wakeling, Nick Welsh and the one and only Roddy Radiation. It was the first time members of the four main 2 Tone bands had been on tour together – on stage together – for 25 years. For this alone it was unmissbale. What made it more appealing was the acoustic set they were to put on.

It was a fantastic night. We knew it was not to be an ordinary Ska gig when we walked in to the hall to be confronted with the sight of tables and chairs. Several skinheads were obviously caught out by this – all dressed in their skanking gear but nowhere to go.

The band covered a mix of songs from their chairs, an array between The Specials, The Beat and The Selecter. I found The Specials transferred to acoustic far better than the other songs, Do Nothing and Rat Race in particular changing form dramatically and delivered with more power somehow. I was very impressed with Dave Wakeling’s voice; I never knew he was so good!

They talked a lot between each song; it’s origins and tales they remembered from being on the road back in ’79 – Dave still with a strong Brummie accent despite his years spent in L.A. It all helped make the set very intimate and very powerful. Meeting with Roddy and Dave after the gig topped it all off – two heroes of a generation with their feet still planted firmly on the ground.
Colin 11:12 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Those Welsh Are at It Again

There are some people in this country that cannot help themselves when it comes to sport. They take it too seriously, as if it is a matter of life and death. We have our football fans, who live for their teams and spend vast chunks of their income on following them. We have our golfers, who spend all their spare time on the course and whose partners are referred to as ‘Green Wives’. We have our general sports fanatics – also referred to as couch potatoes – who spend their time clicking between sport’s channels, drinking beer and eating curry’s.

This is a strong generalisation of course, and not everyone falls into these categories. But as far as the bottom end of the scale goes, this pretty much sums them up. It would not be a generalisation or inaccurate statement if I were to say, that the man in the following tale, is a total and utter head case.

The Scotsman reported on a Welsh Rugby supporter, who commented in his local club prior to last weekend’s international with England, that he would “cut off his balls if Wales managed to beat England.”

Amazingly, and to the astonishment of everyone, Wales did in fact win. The man in question then returned to his home, severed his nuts from his body and returned to the club with his jewels in his hand, proudly showing them off to everyone.

Panic ensued, and an ambulance was called. A quick-thinking barman stuck the man’s genitalia into a pint glass full of ice, in an attempt to preserve the fading testes. The last anyone heard, he never got his balls back, and he is now being carefully examined in a padded room somewhere.

Today was hard going. A full plate served up at work and a busy night with house viewings saw to that. After a scramble all day to get my project finished two weeks ahead of schedule, I rushed home to get cleaning on the house. It didn’t need a lot due to the constant attention it has got recently but it is still tiring.

I noticed the fish bowl getting a bit murky but with no time to clean it out, I stuck wee Smashie under the bed until the viewing was over. I gave him extra food to say sorry.

We had three sets of viewers within the first half hour and another couple later on. Two viewers looked particularly keen and things are looking good. It was exhausting answering the door and reciting the same old spiel about the house for every viewer. By the time it was over I was ready for a beer and an early night.

In fact it was a poor day on the writing front. Tomorrow I aim to make time to work on the KIC articles. Incorporated into this will be reviewing the 3 Men & Black gig in the Liquid Rooms.

It’s nearly two weeks into February, and I am way behind on my To Do List for the month.
Colin 3:21 pm | 1 comments |

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hero of the Year

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MUM!!!

My dear old Mother celebrates another birthday today. It used to be that as I grew older, she would always say to me how old it made her feel. When I turned 20 she said it, and when I turned 30 she meant it. The tables are turned now, because as my darling Mother charges towards retirement, and my 7 year old daughter tells me she knows what a “willy” is, I realise it is ME who is getting old and I just never noticed.

A Close Shave
I’ve not shaved for a week. This goes for my head as well as my face. It is pure laziness that I have not kept myself trim, even though I know when I leave it too long between shaves like this, it stings like hell when I take a razor across my skull. So be it. It’s just been on of those weeks where I feel even less like making an effort to be respectable in work. I like getting dressed smart when the occasion merits, but I don’t see why I should do up my tie or be clean-shaved just to fit in to the Corporate Thing. We don’t even need to where suits in my job. We are so far removed from the customer I could literally sit in here in my thong (oh – let’s not go there again) – in a Bat Man outfit and it still would not reflect badly on The Company. Let’s face it, the Board do a better job of making idiots of themselves without me joining in.

I made good progress with The Oasis redraft and rework of Bill McCarthy, but it was all I could manage due to the workload I have on. Only today and tomorrow remain to get this lot finished then it will be relative peace.

Laura is going to go to her Gran’s next Monday and Wednesday, which means I should be able to get two full writing days as God intended. I intend to make the best of them and make a significant impact into my GDR.

Hero Of The Year
I was talking to my mate Ian over e-mail today. He lives through in Glasgow with his girlfriend and two dogs and is a thoroughly nice chap. Which is why when he told me the following story I couldn’t stop laughing.

He had a run in with a local Ned (non-educated delinquent) recently, and to quote his words:

I’m sick to the back teeth of Burberry and Neds. I just want to get a gun and shoot every single Buckie-toting skag bucket littering the pavement. I caught some junkie breaking into a car on the street last month and chased him through the park before 'restraining' him.

When I jumped on him, he pulled out a screwdriver and threatened to stab me. But I was more mad 'cos I'd got my new jeans dirty so I just lamped him. First time I've ever hit anyone in my life. He kept saying he was – to use his own words - 'jangling fae a hit' (trans. Badly requires an intake of class ‘A’ drugs).

Do you know the worst thing? I was chasing him and then wrestling with him at 2pm on a sunny Sunday, the park was packed, and not one person came to help. Everyone looked the other way, even when I was asking for assistance. When the Cops arrived they said I should have 'restrained' him a bit more and claimed self-defence. It goes to court next month but what's the betting he gets a fine and let off?

Another thing that made me slightly mad was that I got radio back and the cops returned it to the woman who’s car it belonged to. She lives two doors up from me, and knows it was me who got it back, yet she's never been round to say thanks! Some folk don't deserve us super heroes...

I had to laugh – but congratulated him at the same time.

THE FOLLOWING IMAGE,
IS A PRIVATE JOKE...





Colin 10:51 am | 1 comments |

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Leading The Way

I found getting out of bed quite hard this morning. I just wanted to lie for hours but alas, it is a luxury I will have to wait for. It wasn’t a bad morning, in fact the weather was pleasant – the early spring seems to still be with us. The flowers around Leith Links are already coming through with yellow, though the purple and white is still to make an appearance. They seem to sprout earlier each year.

While I drank my morning coffee, I noticed on Teletext that St. Mirren drew Hibernian in the quarter finals of the Scottish Cup. I fancied going to support the Saints seeing as they were my local team when I was growing up, and the match is at Easter Road - five minutes from my house. The game is due to be played on February 26th, however, and I’ll be touring Edinburgh in my kilt that day while entertaining the Italian fans for the Six Nations Rugby match.

I’m falling behind on my articles. I’ve spent too much time planning them and not enough writing and spent a large part of today fretting about it. But then getting to shows to review them is proving more difficult than I thought. I wrote to the Entertainment manager at the QMU about covering the Red Lesbian gig next week and made a start listing all the libraries in Edinburgh I am going to hit with Hunting Jack over the next couple of weeks.

I arranged to go and see a band called 3 Men & Black on Friday. It’s a 2-Tone special tour The band consists of Dave Wakeling (The Beat), Roddy Radiation (The Specials), Pauline Black (The Selecter) and Nick Welsh (Bad Manners). The beauty of this tour is that it's and acoustic set, so should provide another new take on British Ska.

Click here for more info on 3 Men & Black

I started the re-write of Bill McCarthy. Much of the critique I received back from its first submission last August, contained many suggestions I have automatically improved on by way of experience. There were specific suggestions relating to length of passages, structure and the twist, that I now pick up automatically when putting together a story. So although this story needs a lot of work, it means I am learning at the very least.

There was an excellent article in Writing Magazine from a writer, who spoke about his process of writing a story – whether short or novel length. The same aspects are thrown into any daft idea that comes his way. Some end up in the bin and others have made it to full print. I am going to make a summary of the points he makes in the article and keep it somewhere handy.

The one thing different about Bill McCarthy to all my other stories however, is that it is told from 1st person pov. I think this may be why I struggled with it at first but I have done some work in this format since then and feel happier working with it. Coming up with a good twist has also helped and it’s going to look nothing like what it was when first subbed.

I made a total of $8.12 from Hunting Jack last month. This equates to £4.36 = 1 pint of Tennent’s lager and a double whisky in Clark’s. The change can go in the charity box.

I hadn’t a clue what to write as I started the momentous task of 13 HJ issues, and yet again I was amazed by what happened. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it constantly amazes me that even when I am in my darkest hour, literally a testicle hair from admitting I could be about to experience writer’s block - Jackie takes over and leads the way.

Colin 10:46 am | 1 comments |

Monday, February 07, 2005

Grinding Out The Words

I finally settled on a new logo for my blog!

See above or Click to view

I like it. It’s sexy, sophisticated and gives a feeling of being out in the mysterious, away from the mundane, delving into the recesses of my brain.

Two of my friends from my writing group have stories up in this month’s Wild Child e-zine.

Mingled Yarn by Michelle Miles

and

Guitar by Warren Parsons

Congrats to both!

I got nothing done during the day what with a heavy workload coming through at the moment. It’s not stuff I can put on off and with me being on holiday from Thursday, I need to have it done. The Development areas are waiting for this new software so they can develop code they think will save the business money. They should se what we pay for the support from IBM for this stuff; it’s seven figures a year!

I got to working on my articles when I got in. I haven’t decided what Play to go and see in place of my original choice but I’m going to have to figure it out soon. I might buy another copy of The List and check out the options again.

My friend who is in a band has got their first official gig. The Red Lesbians will play the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow on Thursday 17th February. I am going to try and get through to cover it for KIC.

A friend asked me for some quotes relating to a Tarot reading she did for Jackie last year. I was supposed to send a couple of lines but when I started to write about it I found it turned into a novelette!

Hopefully it contained what she needed, but it also proved to be a good exercise for me. I compared the reading to what I knew about Jackie McCann then (October 04) and to what I know now. Some of the results were startling. I’m not going to publish the reading though. I feel that it might remove the magic surrounding it and make it less personal should I reveal it.

Gail nipped round to see her sister-in-law and I went to bed early. My head was pounding from staring at the computer screen (2 at work and 1 at home) all day and night. I wrote some Hunting Jack longhand, referring to some photographs I took on my camera the other week. It felt much better to be writing with a pencil than typing for a change. Usually when I write longhand it is only notes I am taking which I would then refer to and expand on when I am back at the computer or in my large notebook. It’s the only way I could grind out any kind of writing for the day.

Congratulations to Ellen MacArthur who is now the fastest person to sail solo around the world non-stop. I watched her cross the finish line from a live TV broadcast, as she sailed over the finish line after 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 33 seconds at sea - alone. At only 28 years old, one has to ask what she plans to do next!
Colin 1:01 pm | 1 comments |

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Truth About Britain's Music Scene

Sunday mornings are rarely as energetic. I bounced out of bed (yes - really), at 9am and made myself some coffee and toast. After a quick shower I got dressed and headed out into a brisk morning chill with overhead blue sky to get the morning papers.

The News of the World was giving away a free classic rock CD and I bought my usual Sunday Herald. Back at the house Gail and Laura had also got up and so the house polishing began once more.

By two o'clock you could have ate your dinner off any floor, shelf or surface in the house, it was that clean. We relaxed and waited for the throngs of people to come and view.

By three o'clock nobody had been and I could sense Gail's nerves starting again at the thought of not a single viewer. At three thirty, the doorbell went and we had our second viewer - a little old lady keen to buy an easy-maintenance home on ground level that is near to a Bowling Club and the Doctors. Since we satisfy all these requirements, our fingers are crossed she will make an offer.

The thought of writing did nothing for me today and I struggled to get any motivation up. I wrote my blog entry for Saturday, which usually gets me going but nothing. Part of it was tiredness. All this house cleaning and getting hyped up over possible buyers is probably not dong me any good, and the longer it goes without any notes of interest then the more the pressure will build as we reach our moving out date. Two mortgages is not something we even want to consider.

I ended up taking hold of my notebook and sitting in front of the television. I did finally come up with some good stuff – mostly for Hunting Jack and the thirteen issues I have to get through this month. I began to wonder it maybe I have given myself too much, but then I feel guilty for not pushing myself hard enough. It’s a balancing act and I suppose I have yet to find the optimal point.

While writing in my notebook we had ‘The 100 Greatest Pop Videos’ programme on the television. I was disgusted to see Ghost Town by The Specials only getting to number 91 despite the pivotal role it had to play in the culture back in the early 80’s.

The presenter (Jimmy Carr) said, “This video and the song came at a time when Britain’s cities were caught in the midst of riots – so with The Specials job done they split up and formed the Fun Boy Three”.

This may be funny to some, especially those from Thatcherite backgrounds, but back in 1981 Britain found itself in trouble. The numbers of jobless people was rocketing, the schools were emptying of kids who had no hope and no future, and Thatcher’s government was at the beginning of a torrid period, which saw the death of the coal and iron industries. The only thing that kept a lot of kids on the straight was music, and particular at that time, Ska.

The Specials were the founders of the movement, and Ghost Town went to number 1 that summer because it spoke out for the young, ditched by Thatcher and left hung out to dry. The song captured the mood of the nation in a 3 minute, mood-packed, acutely political track recorded onto a 7” plastic disc. The vinyl merely reflected what was happening in the country – it was not the cause of it.

Madness came in at number 25 with the video for Baggy Trousers. A classic of its time, the kids in the playground and mood of those formative school years, was captured forever in the fun-packed video with the flying Sax man. I never realised it was Peter Ustinov’s trousers though, that were used in the video (size 50).

One thing that continually sprung to mind was how far British music has plummeted in the last thirty years.

In 1978 we had Sid Vicious with his version of the Sinatra classic My Way in the charts (number 85 in this poll). Whatever you may think of the likes of the Sex Pistols, at least they had passion, belief and courage. They were stupid of course – but they believed in making their own mistakes and sticking two fingers up at anyone who said they couldn’t. The people who followed bands like the Pistols are now grown adults, with families and wives and nice houses (mostly). They look back on their teen years with enthusiasm and pride, for it was a time when they were truly free to express themselves in any way they wished, even if that meant sticking safety pins through their noses and putting super glue in their green hair.

Nowadays we have bands like Girl’s Aloud, Brian McFadden or McFly – squeaky-clean artists who are nothing more than cynical marketing ploys.

Take Busted for example. Gail and I spent around £100 ($170 USD) between us for tickets, petrol, food and merchandise, when Laura went to see Busted just before Christmas. Two weeks later they announced they were splitting up due to “artistic freedom of rights”. Bullshit! They weren’t artists to begin with – they were puppets for the fat cats like Simon Fuller. And don’t tell me the timing of the split wasn’t planned in advance so they could take full advantage of mugs like me who will pay the cash.

Don’t get me wrong; I am glad Laura went because it was a great memory for her to have. But when you see older girls on the TV crying and receiving counselling because a band have split up you have to start asking questions.

The point is though, that the kids who follow the bands nowadays are fed negative images. For example, you must be beautiful, you cannot be chubby, you must not have spots, and you must never touch drink or drugs or do anything bad. Yeah ok – and this may be the image that sells records but it isn’t reality.

What happens when these kids grow up? Fans of the Sex Pistols emptied themselves of their frustration and anger at their “teenage problems” on a dance floor to the sound of angry music. In twenty years we are going to have a nation full of adults who still have the anger within them – and what then? Where is it going to go?

It is a blanket of fear – a fear of self-expression - that has been placed over the country that has led to music losing its way and thus by transference, a nation of kids who don’t know where they are going. And the government have introduced an anti-social policy to rid the gangs of Neds from our streets.

All they really have to do is bring back Punk and Ska. Give the kids an identity, something THEY can relate to, not what the beaurocrats and fat cats would like them to be like so they can rake more cash in. Because if we don’t, things will only get worse for our ears, and the country will be left in a void full of people who can't think for themselves and who believe the way forward is to kill individuality and replace it with processed art.
Colin 11:59 am | 3 comments |

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Writer's Troubles

I am a touch embarrassed about my ridiculous antics from last night. Gail told me not to worry about it - apparently because everyone knows she is married to a pillock. I laughed it all off and just put it down to "one of those things that happens from time to time". Not that I am anti-anything, but there is a certain freedom to prancing about in a - oh never mind. The whole thing is best forgotten.

Today was pretty low on excitement. I think it may be down to the fact last night was such a raucous affair and the resulting sheepiness. Nevertheless, here's what transpired.

In the morning I did some work on my articles, outlines and sketches for the travel and music columns mostly. I need to establish an angle for each of them and I seem unable to make any solid decisions regarding them.

I took Laura out for the afternoon so as to give my brain time away from the computer and to give Gail some time to herself. We walked into Leith and visited a couple of shops but I couldn't get the things I needed for the house. So we hopped on a bus into Edinburgh and I took her into Waterstone's at the East End of Prince Street.

I checked out a few sections I normally look at when I am in; crime, travel, Auster etc. and something hit me. There is no section for books on poetry. I checked the sign - nothing. I was amazed because I thought they would have formed part the staple set-up of a bookstore. Although I wasn't specifically in to buy anything, I would possibly have been tempted to buy a couple of books on poetry - but since there wasn't one - no sale!

Laura did choose something - after what seemed like hours of endless mind-changes later. In a 3 for 2 offer, she picked from the Angelina series of children's books by Katherine Holabird and Helen Craig.

We popped into Fopp but there was nothing worth parting with my £20 vouchers I got at Christmas for. Next week sees my Mother's birthday and in four weeks it will be Laura's followed by Gail's two days after that. Then near the end of March it is my sister's birthday as well - and of course Valentines Day comes in ten days so I bought all my cards for all these occasions in advance. For me, this is unusual.

Back at the ranch we all settled down for some family time. Jurassic Park 3 was on (I never knew it existed) which we watched with a Pizza Hut delivery for dinner.

I got lots of feedback from my writing pals in the States concerning the problems with Heart of a Child. There are several common things that each person highlighted and a few others that I would have never have thought of.

The whole thing raises an interesting issue. At what point, after working on a piece for a long time getting it just the way I want it, should I give over to the request from a publisher to change it purely to suit their audience, over the intentions the piece of work in its description and dialogue?

The story is set in Scotland and some of the terms are understandable in UK English only. That is to say, an American audience may interpret a sentence differently simply because of the dual meanings of a single word.

Obviously, there is the author's intentions when writing it. And of course you always have to consider whether it is suitable for the intended audience. But where is the line you cross from artistic interpretation to degrading a piece of work simply to get it published.
Wild Child Publishing would be a great place to be published, but I am in split minds now. I will set some time aside tomorrow to reflect on this and make changes to Heart of a Child on a case by case basis. Then I will re-read it and make a decision.

The troubles faced by us writers eh?
Colin 4:42 pm | 2 comments |

Friday, February 04, 2005

A Thong And A Bow Tie

My short story, Heart of a Child was pulled from the February issue of Wild Child at the last minute. It will be published in the March issue instead. I received the email this morning explaining it was because of “inconsistencies with the British English”.

I looked over the piece when I got to work but couldn't figure out what the editor means so I posted a request to my writer’s forum to see if any of the US members can help. It’s weird because the story is set in Ayrshire in Scotland and I deliberately did not include any local dialect. So I’m stumped – for now.

The morning raced in – mostly because I worked on redrafting The Oasis. I changed a lot of it around and there is still more work required to give it a suitable background and impact. I do like it though – it’s very unexpected the way it unfolds, and it now sits at 4700 words.

Lunchtime saw me back in Clark’s. It’s been two weeks now and somehow it felt right. Dave and Tom were already there when I arrived at 12.05pm and Tom was celebrating his new flat purchase in Leith which finally went through. The 10ft by 7ft bathroom, complete with jacuzzi atop a plinth seemed to be the biggest talking point.

I left them for a while between 2.30 and 3.30 due to core corporate hours. It was a tough hour, and I very much regretted it. Some offers from writers in my group came forward, so I fired off the story over to their email boxes to see what they could make of it.

With work out the way I rejoined the lads back in the pub. We had a couple more pints, a game of darts, then I headed round to St. Vincent's with Tom (Dave was ordered home after a stern telephone call), and I was dismayed to discover it has been SOLD!

It appears the owners have sold up to a chain, which is sad news. It means the pool table will go, along with the atmosphere and cheap booze. It is the only place in town I know of that sells double-spirits for the price of a single - no matter what day or time it is.

We teamed up with some other guys already playing pool and formed a big match. With the double vodkas flowing merrily and Tom hammering even at pool it soon became apparent that my quick drink after work had degenerated into a melee once more. Tom agreed it was best we don't drink together too often, but as I left to go home the last thing I heard him say in his cheery Irish accent was, "Same time next week then?"

When I got home I was rather merry - ahem - and I joined Gail and her pal in another couple of drinks and some discussions about things I can't really remember now. What happened next though, is not something I am going to elaborate on in too much detail. I am not proud of it, though at the time it was probably very funny. Suffice to say, it could be a while before I follow through when dared to do anything else that involves a thong and a bow tie ever again.
Colin 7:54 pm | 2 comments |

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Billboards And Bush

Not the best start to a day I’ve ever had. First my toothbrush snapped, leaving me with an inch of handle with which to scrub my pearly-whites. Then my shoelace snapped leaving me struggling to find enough lace to keep my shoe on. I was amazed I even made the bus to work after all the faffing about.

The bus journey to work was good. I was accompanied by a great soundtrack on my personal radio; Supersonic by Oasis, Creep by Radiohead, Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana and It’s The End Of The World As We Know It by REM. I felt a whole lot better after that so rewarded myself with a cappuccino from Club Sandwich.

Oh, I forgot – I was going to work wasn’t I? So how could it get better? My PC spent the morning winding me up until I was within sixty seconds from ripping it out the network and pitching it through the window. God how great that would feel!

I had a dream last night about George Bush. He was giving a speech about his intention to invade Iran and Syria if they did not comply with his instructions over WoMD. He didn’t sound convincing and struggled to keep his face in the knowledge he has been through it all before and as some would say, already paid a price for it. When I woke up, I wasn’t sure if I had dreamt it or if it was a dream invoked by the radio alarm being on over the news…

Getting to the theatre to review Look Back In Anger is proving problematic. I found out I can get discounted tickets through my work, but that is only on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Trouble is, I am out on a Wednesday and Thursday night is viewing night for the house. That leave Tuesday’s and it is booked out for those days. I might have to go for another play.

I did a new logo for the blog (see top of page). I'm not sure if I like it though. The image is superb - the world at night. But I don't know if it suits what this blog is about. I'm going to experiment with more designs meantime.

We had our first viewing of the house tonight. I left work early and went home to give the house a quick polish, though when I arrived the billboard man had been to put up the For Sale sign.

Now, I know we have people in the UK who require assistance from the government and other socially concerned organisations. It is good we have programmes which encourage, shall we say, people with no desire to work – to actually get jobs.

So how is it possible that even the dumbest of people, when given an address, a street map AND a photograph of a property that has gone up for sale, can put the sign in the WRONG garden? The number is on the front of the building for God sake!

If I wrote a story about it no one would believe it. It defies belief.

So the house was made to gleam like a show home and then the waiting began. Time ticked as I resisted the urge to make my dinner and Gail nipped out into the back garden for a ciggie. For Gail’s own peace of mind I was praying someone came to view and with about half an hour left the doorbell went. A recently married woman and her Mum were duly shown about and seemed to like the house. They never gave any direct hints but they did like the layout, space and décor so we can only wait. Next viewing is Sunday afternoon and hopefully with it being during daylight hours we will get more interest.

Honourable Mentions
The author and friend of mine, BK Birch has had a short story published over at Penwomanship.com called A Day with Pepper. It’s a lovely read and you should pay it a visit.

Also on Feb 4th (today as you read this my trusty bloggerrettes), Michelle Miles, fellow author and buddy over at KeepItComing.net has one of her serials – Scars of Yesterday - on a special one-day sale. $3 (£1.75) for a three months subscription.

Click here to buy this subscription
Click here for more information on Scars of Yesterday

PS - I never dreamt Bush's speech.
Colin 9:49 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Groundhog Day

The early spring is still with us and I bet there are a few citizens of North America hoping Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his own shadow so they can join me in this glorious weather. They’ve had a hard time of it lately by the sound of things and I’m sure some respite from the blizzards would be welcome news.

Groundhog Day is a peculiar thing. For me, it used to be a mild comedy starring Bill Murray, but it turns out there is more to this little molehill than meets the eye. Did you know Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers gave Punxsutawney Phil his name after King Phillip? Also, did you know Punxsutawney Phil is 188 years old and has been making weather predictions every year since? Did you also know only the President of the Inner Circle can understand Punxsutawney Phil when he speaks in the Groundhogese language?

There is one thing about the tradition that boggles my mind. And that is Gobbler's Knob!! Who thought that one up? As there may be some children reading, I shall refrain from my usually expected immature remarks.

If you want to know more about Punxutawney Phil, click here www.groundhog.org

Before lunch I polished up Loaded so it is now ready for submission. Not sure where it’s going yet, but I reckon inline with my GDR it should be a paying market.

Inspiration struck me for a poem on the way to work this morning - the first of at least four I shall write this month. It’s another to do with the writing process and I’ll post it here, of course, once it is complete.

Yes, I've changed the picture on my blog. Here we have a full body-shot of myself taken on May 22nd 2004 as I waited for the Heathrow Express to take me to Paddington, where I would change to the Circle Line to get me to King's Cross. There I would change again to take me to Camden Town. Then I would walk up Parkway and live the best day of my life (apart from my wedding) where I witnessed Madness take to the stage in the Dublin Castle pub. Want to read more and see pictures of this momentous day? Then click here!!!

Snooker was good though I lost 6-3. For the second week I have had mixed feelings about it. I am so motivated towards my writing I want to spend every minute doing it. So when I have to take time out I feel frustrated at not writing, or researching or doing something towards my goals.

I know it is unrealistic to think I can spend 20 hours a day writing, but the way I feel right now that IS all I want to do. Even if I were able to write full-time, not only would my GDR be so much larger, I would be mega-motivated. It would be unwise though. to do nothing but write all day and every day. I still need a balance; all work and no play…. and all that jazz.

So I tell myself it is good for me to get away from writing and from thinking about it. But I don’t want to be away from it. I think about it as soon as I am awake and it is the last thing I think about at night. I think about it at work and I think about it travelling to and from the office. In fact – I’m addicted. Or is that too strong a term for motivation?

If writing was my job, I would be the happiest person in the world. It is what I want to do. Actually no – writing is WHO I AM.

It took me years to figure this one out and I want other people in my world can recognise it also. That's the hard part.
Colin 11:22 am | 3 comments |

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Ready, Steady........

An Occurrence
Something occurred to me last night as I waited for sleep to take its grip. On Saturday, as you know, I took a camera and notified and followed Jackie's route through Edinburgh since he arrived (for me) in the city. Then, on Sunday I wrote the most glorious issue (for me - as a writer) of Hunting Jack - ever!

Are the two related? I think they might be. This could be the evidence I need that when it comes to Hunting Jack, maybe I am not quite 100% IN as I thought I was. I was IN at the weekend - and the result was nothing short of orgasmic (for me). I think I need to crawl deeper under Jackie's skin.

As I write, I just realised how to do this. And this is getting good - very exciting. A while ago a friend of mine read Tarot cards for Jackie. The question was: "Is Jackie following a path true to his heart or is the promise of "greener grass" going to lead him astray?"

I looked into the result of this reading and thought about it a lot at the time, but have neglected it over the past couple of months. Now is the time to strike and look into it even further. I feel like Sherlock Holmes having just discovered an important link has been missing all along.

Award
Speaking of Hunting Jack - it's won the KIC Editor's Choice for February 2005!



It's all here!! http://www.keepitcoming.net/choice.html

You know what to do now.....


The House
The house is now officially up for sale. The prospectus is complete and looking great, the website updated and the sale entered into the local property papers. We now await with baited breath for the frenzy of bidding to begin. The first possible viewing is this Thursday. Gail said she will be heart-broken if nobody shows so I just keep telling her to relax. It could start slow and pick up, or start fast - who knows. It's a sellers market to an extent, but until you get the people in the door there is only so much you can do.

McVane
I have a mystery fan. Someone going by the name of McVane has a blog at http://mcvane.blogspot.com and it is very good. I only came across it myself through a friend in my writing group who found it. She contacted me because we have something in common with McVane - both our blogs are listed under his/her favourite blogs!

I don't know who it is, but they are definitely interested in writing. I think McVane is an agent or publisher judging by the text - either way, I would love to find out. Please email me at madness@supanet.com and let us join in triumphant bloggophoria! I promise to be discreet if you so wish.

Early Spring
Spring seems to have come early to Scotland. Well Edinburgh at least. It is unseasonably warm and sunny. Maybe our two weeks of summer have come early this year, and we are going to get rain from June to August. Typical.

Special Mention
Most of my faithful readers will read this on the 2nd of February. If that is the case, then get yourself over to where my writing chum, Cerridwen Iris Shea, is offering a 3 month subscription to her bloody fantastic serial called Angel Hunt for $3!!! That's a saving of $6.99 from a normal 3-month sub!!

And for all my Brit readers - that's only about £1.75 for 27 issues of a fantastic tale!

This offer is only available on the 2nd of February, so you better be quick. It's a damn good read - I heartily recommend it.


Click here for full details of this offer

Click here for details of Angel Hunt

Click here and you might look daft as this isn't a link ( I won't tell on you. Yes, YOU!)


February's To Do List
And so another writing month begins. I have set the bar higher than ever before with this month's tasks, and included some new things with which to advance some of the goals of the overall GDR 2005 plan.

Fiction
* 1 new short story
* 1 short story for Writing Magazine (Feb Competition)
* Re-write Bill McCarthy short story
* 13 issues of Hunting Jack (upped from 9 last month)
* Submit Loaded (F) for publication
* Submit Bill McCarthy (F) for publication
* Submit The Oasis for publication
* Follow up on long-standing poetry and story submissions. Pull and resend if necessary.
* Read A Friend To Die For manuscript. Plan or write next chapter

Poetry
* 4 new poems (upped from 2 last month)
* Submit Lost Tears for publication
*Buy a book or two on poetry structure and form

Non-Fiction
* Chapters 1 and 2 of Web Development manuals
* Issue 2 of KIC website development column (1st draft already done)
* Issue 2 of Theatre review column
* Issue 1 of Travel column (for issue 2)
* Issue 1 of UK music column (for issue 2)
* Write 3 travel articles about Edinburgh with different angles

Marketing and Promotion
* Leaflet re-distribution for Hunting Jack (to be done during school hols)
* Design business cards
* Do more to promote web design services

Reading and Research
* Finish reading The Prison House by John King
* Read more fiction!
* Research Buddhism

Technical
* Update website for client in Scotland
* Design new website for new client

Off we go!!!!
Colin 10:02 pm | 2 comments |