Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

After Katrina

Apparently today is to be one of the hottest days of the summer. Excuse me? When I was sat in Clark's Bar last Friday there was hail stones bouncing off the window - who said Summer could return? What am I talking about - I'm off to Spain tomorrow.

Speaking of which, I have a ton of work to do to before I go and can let it all slide into the background. So with a nice coffee in front of me I warmed up to the day. A parcel dropped through the letterbox. I picked it up and immediately remembered what it was. Book - from Texas - I mentioned it last week? Michelle Miles sent it to me all the way from Southern US.

I opened it and there was a book called Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol.2 inside. Hmmm, I pondered, not what I was expecting. But then, I wasn't told what to expect and wondered if maybe one of the stories had relevance to me in some way, because I had been told, I would like it. There was a note on the front saying to read inside the front cover, which I did, and the penny dropped.

It's one of the books that forms part of the BookCrossing.com network. Books are freed into the wild and picked up by people to read. Their journeys are recorded on the website so you can see where they have been and where they are in the wild last time they were let loose. It's a great idea, and this book is my first one I've taken in.

It gets better. One of the authors of the collection, Leigh Clements is in my writing group - AND she used to live in Leith. I'll try and dig out her website.

After that, things started to go down hill.

I had planned to get my money changed into Euro's at lunchtime but I forgot to bring my passport into work with me, so at lunch I headed home, had my lunch then went back into town. When I got there, I found my usual place for changing money was devoid of Euro's so I had to tramp about to find a place that did. All this, in a horrible sticky heat.

The heat over the city was incredible. Not a searing heat but muggy cause by lots of warmth trapped by low and thick cloud cover. It was palpable on the tongue and as is the normal, the heavens opened and huge drops of rain began to fall through the warm air. Thunder can't be far away, but what annoyed me more than the impending rainstorm was the fact I had put out a washing of clothes I wanted to take to Spain with me while I was at home. Best laid plans, and all that.

Tell you one thing, my problems are nothing compared to what's happening in southern America after hurricane Katrina rolled over the top of New Orleans and Mississippi.

Watching the news one has to remind themselves that this isn't some third world country in Asia, but in fact the USA; richest country in the world. The images I am seeing are horrendous. One man clutching his kids describing how he couldn't hold onto his wife's arm any more and she was torn away, just one tragic story that held me in silence.

The reporter I saw today was describing how for most people down there it just hasn't sunk in the enormity of the disaster. He mentioned that most people seemed to be expecting the city to be back up and running again by next week, when in fact it will be more like two months before clean, running water is restored, electricity is working and food and provisions can start to be properly processed.

Think about it. You live in one of the largest cities in the world (population 750,000) and there is no water, shelter, warmth, power or anything! Scary how easily it all happened.

Some of my American writer pals have vented their anger at the delay in international aid being pledged to help the victims rebuild their lives, and I have to admit, I'd never thought about it like that. The US is always expected to pump billions into disaster zones, but when something happens to them, everyone looks at their feet and says, "it's not our problem - they can afford it."

I just scanned over a couple of news portals, a few tabloids and the Government's own website, but there appears to be nothing evident to suggest any aid is coming from Britain. Why not? Why hasn't the PM made a statement about this? Or as this is his last term is he not bothered about US/UK relations?

I was hoping to post my August GDR Review, but I've ran out of time with all I've had to do before I go away, so it will have to wait until I get back. No great shakes - I won't be doing any writing as such over the next four days but I will be gathering material, you can count on that.

Anyway, I'm signing off for a few days. Be safe and I shall return when I've sobered up on Monday or Tuesday.
Colin 9:12 pm | 5 comments |

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The RLS Debate: Genius or Jakie?

The weather cannot decide what it wants. It's possible to have rain, sun, gales and hailstones all in the one day at the moment. Today it is sunny, but everyone takes an array of clothing wherever they go because by lunchtime it could be pelting down. Such is the Scottish weather, and people wonder why we moan about it.

I gave What A Waste a read through and spotted several minor errors, gave it a polish and edited a few more sentences. I'll let it settle and finish it off this evening for good.

I also started work on the third of my series of Great Scottish Authors - Arthur Conan Doyle. 5000 words I had down after research, which has to get down to around 600-700! This will be tough and a real test of my editing skills if I'm to keep his life making sense. After a run through over lunch I got it down to 3200.

I received some feedback on my first article of the Great Scottish Authors series about Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS). Dave Graham of Edinburgh wrote to me to say;

"I read your submission about RLS today......have you deliberately romanticised the man? You seem to have missed out the reason for his later ill health....drink and drugs (ergotine). When he was studying Law he missed half of his classes as he was hooked on all sorts. Without the altered state of mind he'd have never written his novels."

What Dave says is partly correct; RLS's health was worsened by his abuse of drink and drugs, in fact it was some of these substances that contributed to him developing the idea of Jekyll & Hyde through an interest in chemical imbalances. I did hint at it in the article when I said he was not attending seminars at University and instead spending his time with hookers and low-life's in the dens of the Old Town.

However, RLS wrote a great many of his novels well before he was "hooked" on anything. He suffered from Tuberculosis from a very early age and this was one of the main reasons he was ill and fled the country for more agreeable climates. To say he wold not have wrote anything because of drink and drugs abuse is not entirely true. His severely haemorrhaging lungs were not given much of a chance to to improve, that's for sure.

Also, the original RLS article from which this KIC article was derived, covers all of these things in more details due to its greater word count. The original article, currently on submission- stands at around 2500 words. For KIC, the editor ask that I get it down to around 400. You can see my dilemma - what to leave in and what to take out. It is never easy to narrow a man's entire life into a couple of hundred words. All I hope is that I managed to convey the man's life and spirit in as representative a way as possible.

That all said, it is great to get feedback on these articles, and with plenty more authors still to come in the series, I hope they can provoke more debate about the quality, and the misgivings, of Scotland's Greatest Authors.

I gave What A Waste a final read through in the evening and picked up one minor typo so I think it's now ready to hit the submission circuit. I'll start digging out contacts tomorrow.

Got a lot to do tomorrow before I fire off to Majorca for Fat Bates' Stag Weekend. Tomorow is, afrer all, the GDR windup for August.
Colin 10:26 am | 0 comments |

Monday, August 29, 2005

Nightmare On Dundas Street

I had a horrendous dream last night.

I was helping my friend move pianos when my left rib cage broke. Actually, it snapped clean off from the centre of my sternum and fell loose to the bottom of my belly, swinging around inside me like a slab of beef ribs inside a poly bag. If I pressed my hand into my left side I could feel my lung.

I went to the hospital where they deemed it inoperable until they had operated on my skull first to try and relieve the pressure build up. So without any anaesthetic being administered, the surgeon proceeded to use a Black & Decker to drill several small holes into my skull at precise intervals, stopping just short of my brain. I could hear the high-pitched whine of the drill as it bore through my skull, causing my head to lurch slightly from side to side. The smell of burning bone was horrible, like I was trapped in some kind of Mafia chopping factory. Into these holes, wires of different colours were then stuck in and jammed unceremoniously into my brain in order to take readings.

Nice. Thank fuck I woke up when I did. Suggestions as to what this means are most welcome.

I had an early appointment this morning, which meant I never got my morning coffee before I left the house. I had time to set it up, but had to leave it sitting on the counter, winking at me from beside a steaming kettle as I waved goodbye to a moment of early morning bliss.

Since I had a free couple of hours, I used the spare time to go and collect my watch from the jewellers. It feels so good to have my watch working on my wrist again. I also took a quick look around what is left of the Fringe; tents are coming down, rigging being dismantled and a unanimous "phew!" can be heard from the locals.

During the KIC Live Chat last Thursday, Devon Ellington mentioned the last time she was here there was 1280 shows in 200 venues. The success of this years Fringe has seen over a million tickets sold to see 16,000 performers. Or to compare it to Devon's last visit, over 27,000 shows in 300 venues. One wonders how such a small organisation manages to pull it off.

They do it in pub back rooms a lot of the time, and it was in the back room of the Holyrood Tavern that the latest winner of the Perrier Comedy Awards was discovered. A previously unknown comedienne by the name of Laura Solon won the top prize, after her show in which she plays eight different characters was selected.

And so the tourists are leaving, the hangovers are starting and it feels like one massive Monday morning back to work for everyone. Well mostly everyone; the Job Centre at the Foot of the Walk was stowed out as I walked past.

Walking down Dundas Street I let my mind drift to the lovely hot cappuccino waiting for me inside Club Sandwich when I got there. I made my way speedily down the hill but when I got there I saw the shop in darkness. I looked about. All the other shops were closed. Then the horror struck me full in the face; today is a Bank Holiday!

All the shops except for the newsagent were closed so I had to make do with half a pint of milk instead of a delicious and creamy coffee. Bummer!

I did a brief tidy of my desk tray at work and came across an old copy of the News of the World, Britain's premier Sunday tabloid, leader of sleaze and all things scandalous.

This copy dates back to August 17th 2003, the day after I was married to Gail. It reads;

Groom Is Engaged

ROLY-POLY groom Colin Galbraith missed his own wedding - after getting trapped in a lap-dancing bar's LOO on his stag do.

The chubby 29-year old fell asleep wedged in his seat at New York's Cassa Rossa club on Saturday night. He wasn't found until Monday - the day after his nuptials.

Bride Gail Robertson, 25, fumed: "He's toast!"


Ah, the memories. Sometimes knowing influential national editors can backfire on you, but I would just like to set the record straight and say that I have never, NEVER in my life, been to New York.

In the evening I finished off War Generations. Thanks to all the input I received from my writing pals who took time out to read it and offer some criticisms, it reads much better, is more focussed and the characters more distinguishable. I'm quite excited by it and I'll give it another read through tomorrow when the head is clear. I renamed it to What A Waste - I figure that is a better, all-round title. Then, I have noted the specific markets I want to aim this at so a round of query letters will be in order.

I also completed and submitted the second issue of the Great Scottish Authors series for KIC. This issue concerns the interesting life of Robert Burns, and when it is published, I'll let you all know.
Colin 10:50 am | 6 comments |

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Back To Church

The man who inspired my short story, Whisky Snatching, died 11 years ago this very day. RIP Wee 'Uncle' Joe.

Showered and dressed smart before 9.30am on a Sunday can mean only one thing - Church. It's not something we do on a regular basis, in fact the last time either me or Gail were in a Church in any formal capacity was our own wedding day, over two years ago.

The occasion was our to see Charlie Maule being Christened, the three month old son of our friends Sarah and Rob, in St. Andrew's Parish Church in Musselborough.

The ceremony was - interesting. One moment the Reverend was laughing her head off for organising an inter-Church BBQ but then realising she never had one to cook any food on. The next minute the Church was split into groups for Peruvian hymn singing. It was all very lively and would blow the cobwebs out of most stuffy heads on any Sunday morning.

Wee Charlie didn't seem bothered by any of it and when it was over, we all made our way to the Quayside Inn, overlooking the North Sea. The weather was very blustery so we were glad to get a lift down by a couple of Gail's friends.

Inside the function suite the drinks started to flow as everyone started celebrating the event. Gail knew everyone. I was introduced to more of her friends from school, their partners, brothers, aunts, sisters - you name it; the history of Leith, according to all the old school friends, relived before my very eyes.

Accompanied with Sarah and Charlie, Rob stood up to cut the cake and make a speech. He started with the usual stuff, thanking everyone for coming and for all the gifts, and then he started to talk about how much he just wanted to be a good Dad. And we all heard his voice go, and we all saw his eyes well up. There wasn't a dry eye in the house by the time he stood down.

We joined a table with more of Gail's friends; the ones she goes out with occasionally. Only one of them had their partner with them so I spoke to him a bit before he left. That left me with Gail and four other "lively" ladies. To cut a long story short, it was likle being in the middle of an exaggerated Scottish version of Sex And The City. It was almost horrendous if I hadn;t enjoyed sitting on the other side of the fence so much. I felt like a lamb to the slughter, but hey, I'm just a bloke!

We left around 4pm and my kind MIL drove us home. Both of us were slightly - how shall I put it - merry by the time we got home and a lazy afternoon ensued. By the time the effects had started to wear off, it was evening and the only thing left to do was enjoy the peace and quiet in the house (Laura was at her Grans overnight), order pizza and watch a film.
Colin 11:59 am | 0 comments |

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Getting Around Edinburgh

By lunchtime I had covered a huge chunk of Edinburgh. While taking Laura to dance lessons, we were offered a lift by one of her friend's Mums, which meant I had her dropped off and was on the bus up heading up Leith Walk just as the clock touched ten am.

I got off in Princes Street, and walked towards the National Art Galleries. The route to the High Street via the steps was closed off for rigging to be erected safely, and several large OB vans belonging to the BBC were parked on the gallery grounds. Then I remembered; Rolf Harris is doing a live show tonight for BBC Scotland, where he and 100 other artists are going to try and replicate the Mona Lisa on a vast canvas. I'll try and tune in.

I walked up The Mound and cut up the steep section to join the High Street at the base of the Castle Ramparts. The air was cool but not enough for me; it really is a steep and exhausting hill to climb at speed. Why did I not start at the bottom? Because I wanted to walk down the Royal Mile from the very top to gather more, and probably the final material, for my festival chapbook.

Scanning down the street towards the Forth, I could see the bustle and excitement was largely missing. The crowds of the previous week were gone and there was a distinct lack of leafleters.

I started to walk and came across a group of actors dressed in medieval costume, all sitting by the side of the road. In front of them a girl in similar attire was dancing with a dragon mask on a pole to the beat and tune of an Irish drum and violin. It sounded like some kind of Pagan ritual by its down beat, but the words were of freedom in the UK. Interesting, but a total loss because I could find nobody handing out leaflets to the crowd to explain what it was, so I moved on.

A Youth Theatre group performed an acoustic performance of a song from their musical, The Fifteen Streets, in front of a busy coffee shop, the smell from it delicious as I walked past. Fresh coffee and morning crumpets wafted temptingly under my nostrils, trying to pull me in but I resisted, for now.

I kept going and realised I was already over the Bridge and heading towards the lower ends of the High Street. I remembered a shop that a friend said I should pop into and say 'hi' if I was ever in the area. I wasn't sure where about the shop was, so I kept going, trusting my instinct that if I had already passed it, I would surely have noticed it before.

Eventually I came to The Wyrd Shop near the end of The Mile. The bolted red door, letters protruding from the mailbox and wire mesh over the window meant only one thing; it was closed. I checked my watch; it was quarter to eleven and no sign of anyone about. I peered into the darkness of the shop and checked out the wands, books and models of witches hanging from the roof. I'll have to come back another time.

I headed back up towards the Bridges and down towards Princes Street. For the past three months my watch has been stuck at 1.34pm thanks to a failed battery, so I stopped in at a jewellers and handed it in to get a new one fitted. Apparently this is an overnight job that costs ten pounds. A tenner! What a rip off!

With my watch gone I felt naked, so I fought against the wind channelling down Rose Street to get to Fopp in order to give me back my feel good factor. I scanned the records but noticed there were some new books in. I could feel the vouchers burning a hole in my pocket and so after much deliberation, I picked up a copy of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath for three pounds.

I also picked up a copy of a hardback book called, Zines. Published by Booth-Clibborn Editions, it is a collection of small press and independent publications from around the globe. It is one of those kind of books you could stare at for hours while sitting on the loo but even just scanning through it in the shop, all the graphics, images and text, I knew I would find its content useful and provoking. At seven pounds, I consider it money well spent also.

I started the long walk back to get Laura. I wanted to stop in the pet shop on the way there so there was no point getting a bus. In the shop I was looking through all the different kinds of fish food; I needed to get Smashie a refill of his usual food, but also something different to vary his menu, so I picked a tub of Daphnia as well as his flakes. As I stood selecting the food, I noticed a model of a black cat at my feet that I hadn't noticed when I first entered. I looked at it sitting there in a perfect pose and wondered when they started selling stuffed animals in a pet shop. An ear flickered and then it looked up at me, through me, then turned away.

I paid and left and started off down Leith Walk. A few weeks ago I noticed a new record shop appear about a third of the way up from Leith, so when I came to it I went in for a browse. It has a small interior with light wooden flooring giving it a modern but empty feel. There is still very much a feeling of it being a new shop trying to get onto its feet but the owner was friendly enough with light jazz playing over the speakers. On closer inspection, this shop isn't your average Joe trying to complete with Borders or Fopp. This is actually a music and bookshop bordering on the specialist. The shelves and drawers contain some of the most amazing books and vinyl records I have seen in such an obscure surrounding. They have early Specials 7"'s and some cracking R&B and Soul LP's. There is also some hard to get books; original works by Arthur Millar, Yeats, Burns and Banks. This is a shop I will have to do some serious business with in the future.

Next door is the aquarium shop and I couldn't resist a quick look around. They have a vast array of fish in stock as well as tanks and accessories of all sizes. I'll be back here soon to get Smashie kitted out with a larger and proper home; probably get him some new friends too.

One more stop off in Gregg's the bakers and then I picked up Laura and headed home. We had lunch then Gail headed out to go shopping with Laura and her Mum. Ian came round to finish the electrics in the office. Then the fun started.

While tapping words of wisdom into my work laptop - this blog entry to be precise - I logged onto the Internet on my PC in the kitchen and got it ready to post yesterday's entry. Suddenly, with no forewarning of the impending danger, all the power in the house suddenly vanished. The TV went blank, the laptop flickered onto its battery power source and the video lights started to flash.

'Oh horror,' I thought, and prayed the kitchen wasn't on the same circuit that Ian had just turned off. I walked through to the kitchen and sure enough, the screen of my PC was blank.

Anyone who knows anything about PC's knows you just don't turn off your machine; it can cause huge problems and basically fuck it up. I'd been running anti-virus and other utilities to try and get rid of some of the sporadic problems I've been having this last couple of weeks, but as I write this, I have no idea what is going to happened when I turn it back on. All it needed, was a quick word of warning.

As it happened, the PC needed a quick run of it's repair facility and it seems to be back to normal - just. In the evening I read some chapters of some of the books I have on the go, and did a lot of work of the War Generations story.
Colin 4:53 pm | 0 comments |

Friday, August 26, 2005

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. G

An easy start to the day; coffee and a muffin for breakfast and an hour later, a large cappuccino from Club Sandwich. The sun was shining and the sky clear, but there was an edge to the air, no wind, just a sharp coolness like the direction of the air current had suddenly shifted.

I drank my coffee at my desk, slowly. By the time I finished the last slurp it was cold, yet it was more exciting than any of the worked I consumed until lunchtime, of that there was no doubt.

I met with Dave and Tom briefly in Clark's for a pint over lunch, caught up on all the news and heard about the work night out they were on last night before going back to the office. I wasn't there long though, since our insurance company has had arranged an appointment at the doctor for me, for 3.30pm.

They sent me a letter a fortnight ago saying they would require me to undergo a cotinine test and provide a pee sample to prove that I don't smoke. Fair enough, it's not like I've got anything to hide.

By now the weather had turned. It was blustery and sporadic showers had fallen all afternoon leaving a wintry feel to the streets of Edinburgh's New Town. I found the health centre easily enough and stepped up to the large Edwardian door, rang the bell. A woman answered and buzzed me in.

I let the heavy door bang shut behind me and found myself in the entrance hall; tall, wide and empty with health advice leaflets lying untidily on a nearby table. Hundreds of mini tiles created a chequered pattern beneath my feet. I followed them and turned the corner into the main part of the building. The woman who let me in was sitting at a large wooden reception desk, her grey hair neatly permed and not a smudge of make-up out of place. Other than her voice, the building sounded empty as she told me to wait in the reception room.

I followed her orders into another large but warm reception room. The smell of fresh coffee filtered into my nose and I noticed how soft it had become underfoot with the plush blue carpet. A large wooden fireplace formed the main feature to my left, encasing an old-style gas fire with two solid wood and green covered chairs either side of it. A glass bookcase stood in the corner by the window displaying a selection of disorganised medical material, and in front of this a couch of similar design to the chairs and water cooler. I pulled a plastic cup and filled it with water, then continued to look around as it gurgled itself full of water again behind me.

Just then, another door opened and a well-dressed gentleman of a much older age walked in. He cleared his throat.

"Mr. Galbraith?" he said, offering me his hand.

"Yes," I said, and finished as much of the water as I could and placing the cup on the table. I shook his hand and followed him through.

"We're down the stairs I'm afraid," he said, allowing me to go ahead. "Two floors down. Straight on here - then right - then through the door to the left - then first right and left. No left, right - I mean correct - and the room is to your right."

I followed his guidance to the letter as he followed me through the gleaming white corridors, shaded ever so pink from the bright red carpets that lined them. I walked into the examination room and heard him close the door. He moved around me and sat behind his desk like a 19th Century Schoolmaster. "Sit down please, Mr. Galbraith."

I sat on the edge of the flimsy wooden chair, my hands resting on my knees. I watched him pull out a file and open a sealed packet. From this he retrieved a small plastic case, like a cigar tube, and opened it. He handed me a small stick with a pad on the end.

"Can you put this in your mouth please. Make sure there's lots of saliva; that's how it works you see. The more saliva the better it will be. While that's working can you complete this form as well, please?"

He pushed some papers towards me and I looked them over. It had all the usual questions one would expect so I filled it out in no time at all, covering it in ticks and crosses. He took it from me and looked at the end of the stick still sticking out my mouth.

"The end of that turns blue. That's when it comes out," he said. "Make sure you swish plenty of saliva about. Take your clothes off please."

"What?" I attempted to say, but couldn't manage a word for the small, ever darkening stick in my mouth. My frown and startled impression, I hoped, would send my alarmed message loud and clear.

"For the medical exam," he acknowledged. "You need to take your clothes off."

Concern was now the main factor flooding into my mind. Take my clothes off? I was of the impression this was only meant to be a quick swab in the mouth and a piss in a pot.

I loosened my laces and slid off my shoes, stood up, and tried to remove my t-shirt but the stick in my mouth kept getting in the way. The Doc guided me to the scales, wrote down the result then measured my waste with a tape. The stick finally went blue, so I removed it and he placed it back in the cigar tube.

I wiped the dribbling saliva from my chin. "I thought this was meant to be just a cotinine and urine test?"

"They want a basic insurance medical apparently, so there's other things to check for."

"Like what? What exactly are you looking for?"

"Just your weight, blood pressure, statistics, things like that."

"Yeah, but why? I'm a non-smoker and I only thought this was going to be a quick test."

He shrugged his shoulders. "No idea. The underwriters must have asked for it. It's in case you die, you see."

"Die?" I asked alarmed. "But I'm not the smoker!"

"You'd need to ask them. Now, can you jump on the bed please?"

Now I was feeling really alarmed. I could feel my blood pressure rising, my heart thumping and my eyebrows furrowing deep scars into my forehead as I slid semi-naked onto the plastic sheeting of the doctor's bed.

The Doc felt my abdomen. Why, I have no idea.

"Can you sit up, please," he said.

I sat up and he moved behind me, placed a cold stethoscope on my back and told me to breathe heavily. I of course, obeyed him.

"Can you do it heavier, like this," and he started to blow short sharp breaths against the skin of my back.

I did as he asked and on each breath he pressed his implement on a different spot of my back. I could feel my face reddening, but this was not due to being out of breath.

"That's fine," he said. "You can le back again."

Images of me lamping this guy, with my blocked fists then running half naked into the street were now flashing through my mind. The plastic ring tightening around my right upper arm was still not enough to deflect my thoughts of basic homosexual-abuse-defensive violence.

"Strange," he muttered, once the machine had finished clicking away.

I looked up at him, his wrinkly face and busy nostrils filling my eye-line. I waited for an explanation.

"Your pulse is doing over a hundred. That can't be right - better do it again to be sure."

And he did, while I lay there, enraged but trying to calm myself down to give the meter a more realistic reading of my blood pressure. It never came.

"Are you feeling okay?" he eventually asked.

"Well, now that you mention it I am feeling a bit stressed."

"Work trouble? Family?"

Are you fucking mad? I thought. "I just wasn't expecting all this, as I explained earlier."

"Oh, don't worry, it's all standard procedure. You can get dressed now. We're done."

I got dressed incredibly quickly and he handed me a small cold clear plastic plot with flip-top lid. He showed me where to go and when I returned into the room I handed it back to him, now full and warm. He thanked me. Fucking weirdo, I thought, but probably unfairly.

He shook my hand on the way out the door, and when I turned to acknowledge it, he had already shambled back into his laboratory. I left at speed, surprising myself how well I remembered all the directions to get out through the maze of corridors and different levels.

Back in the street the rain had begun to fall. I hurried home and told Gail of my experience. Her response convinced me it would okay to write about it here. I should expect more of this kind of thing the older I get, she said.

One thing is for sure; I may have more of this to look forward to as my body ages and starts to fall apart, but I'll never be cruel to a smear test ever again.
Colin 9:23 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Live Chat And Other Stuff

Quite an exciting day today on the writing front. The first of my biographical articles on Great Scottish Authors was published in today's KIC Weekly Newsletter. Click on the following link (and scroll about half way down) to read about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson, one of my greatest personal influences.

Great Scottish Authors 1 - RLS

Over lunch I did a bit of reading and some research for the Great Scottish Authors series. I also clicked on the link to the left that says "Who Links Here?" and found this site:

TF Torrey

It's the blog of author TF Torrey, who I discovered also writes for KIC, but more excitingly, subscribes to Hunting Jack! Fantastic! Thank you! You can check out his serial from KIC called Crusader at Link to Crusader and he also has some links to some of his impressive published short stories.

Of the exciting opportunity I referred to yesterday, the final confirmation has now come through. It is set in stone (as much as something like this can ever be) and so I have two weeks to prepare for the event itself. There is LOADS to do to prepare for this and I am very excited about it.

Tonight was my very first KIC Live Chat. With the time difference being what it is, some writing friends couldn't make it due to work commitments but of those who popped in it was a good laugh and an interesting chat. I kept the full transcript and I have edited into a more understandable form for reading from the blog.


Devon: ;0 So, Colin, how's it at the Festival? Crazy?
Colin: It's hectic! I'm going to miss it though till next year, because I did so much.
Devon: The last time I was there, there were 1280 shows in 200 venues. It was nuts! Have you met a few real-life Jackies this year?
Colin: Funny you should mention that, but yes. There's bloke I keep seeing at the top of Leith Walk.... no Rod Stewart impersonators though! :-)
Devon: Have you gotten ideas for new stories from wandering around the streets during Festival time?
Colin: Loads. I was mainly looking for poetry inspiration and photograph opportunities. I have 300 pictures so far and about 30 poems, but there are some stories too that have come about from that as well. It's an exciting time just now here
Devon: Do you sometimes get overwhelmed, looking at your notes, wondering how to fit it all in?
Colin: Not really.... if its good enough to go in as an appendage to something else or on its own then I'll use it - somehow, somewhere, sometime :-)
Devon: How's the leafleting going? Does it help to do "exchanges"?
Colin: I got a different reaction to people when I asked them to take one of mine. Like I had crossed from possible ticket sale to one of them...but it worked - people asking what it was about etc.
Devon: I'm homesick for the Fringe and asking questions about this year's festival -- Angela, jump in anytime!
AngelaM: Col, you mentioned photography... how long have you been doing that and how does it compliment your writing?
Colin: Not long started with the photography. It only came about earlier this year when I thought it would be good to stick pictures to some poems. Now I want a proper camera and to go on field trips etc. It def works well though - I enjoy it
Devon: It's kind of cool to get that give-and-take, isn't it? We made lots of new friends that way.
Colin: If some of the people I handed leaflets to get back I'll be chuffed :-)
Devon: We ended up going to the pub with lots of them, Colin.
Colin: Devon - Last Drop per chance?
Devon: Last Drop, Bannerman's, The Ox, The Jolly Judge, the . . . so what's next, writing wise? Now that HJ is complete?
Colin: Finish and publish the Fringe chapbook; complete the Great Scottish Authors series and complete my first novel WIP (while HJ is still contracted)...plus everything else
startrekfanbob: Colin, I forgot to let you know that a new series started on BBC2 about the Scottish language. Can't remember for the life of me what it is called. Thought it might be your kind of thing.
Devon: At least there's a lot going on, right? Oh, if you're interested in the development of language, Steven Pinker has a good one called Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language. I bought it at the Museum of Natural History, of all places.
Colin: Glad to be busy. My writing life is as exciting just now more then it ever has been. Cheers Bob! I'll look into it.
Devon: Can you tell us a bit about the WIP? Or is it still in a delicate state?
Colin: Dev - well, it is set in Glasgow mid 1990's. It involves three friends and a girl. The girl is murdered and the plot develops in such a way that each of the friends is discovered to have a motive. Mistrust grows and friendships tested. Apart from the murder - it is based on a real-life situation...except I've used a ton of "artistic license"
Devon: Sounds fascinating. Artistic license is the way to go in fiction. Saves lawsuits! Are you going to go back to Glasgow to do some research, or can you do everything from Edinburgh?
Colin: The research was done a long time ago. In fact - I started writing this about 6 years ago but stopped when I did a writing course with the OCA. So it's been half written for a long time - the story mapped in my head for years - and the characters developed to an extent that all I need to do now is get my head down.
Devon: That's great -- and sometimes the hardest part of it!
Colin: I think because the characters have matured in my head before they got to paper I find it easier to see their differences and interactions
Devon: Have you set a goal by when you wish to finish? Or are you letting the book take its own time?
Colin: I want it finished before the end of the year - well before if I can manage it. It's finding the time at the moment. August is dedicated to the poetry book and so next month I should be able to hit the pages again.
Devon: Are you using multiple points of view, or one?
Colin: Originally it was written in 1st pov - didn't work though. Then 3rd. And then multiple - so I have options :-) I'm getting more adept at 1st pov now though, so maybe....
Devon: yeah, it's weird how it morphs, isn't it? I get so annoyed when I want to write in third, but certain sections come out in first.
AngelaM: that hasn't happened to me yet
Devon: In Widow's Chamber, I wanted it to be in first, but I also figured I might need to veer away from Nora, so I wrote in third. But it's turned out to be in third, but mostly through her eyes anyway.
Colin: A lot of it depends on who the main character is and how they want the story to be told. If it is a suspense thing it can be easy to decide but sometimes you just have to try them all out - as in this case
Devon: Oh, Angela, don't worry, it will. And then you'll remember this conversation and laugh! Yeah -- rewrite the chapter from every possible viewpoint and see what works the best.
Colin: In WC, there were times I could sense where the decisions were made. It was seamless though
Devon: It'll be even better when it's cleaned up!
Colin: The thing about the KIC format is it makes a great serial but effectively, It's only the first draft of a book - so I always question how good it could really be compared to what being in a novel format can give it
Devon: Yeah, Tapestry is smoother, because I had four or five drafts of the first big arc -- the one where she's working the temp job -- before it became a serial. I used what I learned in the interim, though. The first section of WC was rewritten a lot, but the farther along one gets, the harder it is to do more than one or two rewrites -- and I like to do four or five.
Devon: I am the Rewrite queen. I'll keep rewriting until the editor rips it out of my ink-stained fingers.
AngelaM: my serial is based on the first draft of the WriLiMarCha thing but it's changed a lot
Colin: I think Tapestry and Charlotte are my favourites of your serials because the characters are so strong. In fact, I was watching that new programme Lost the other night and the girl in it - cant remember her name - reminded me of Nina
Devon: Also, there are things coming up now in the serial that I wish I could go back and set up differently or change earlier. But it's too late.
Devon: Evangeline Lilly -- the one who plays Kate?
Colin: Same here - like the geographical errors for one doh!
Devon: Oh, now all those entries about Lost made sense?
Colin: Yeah - Kate - her that is on the run. Nina in my mind, to a 'T'
Devon: Yeah -- and in WC, I changed someone's name by accident -- but didn't catch it until it's too late. So I'm calling it "The collector's edition" -- like a book edition where limited copies were run and its worth something.
AngelaM: There are things I'd change in the serial if I could, too. In the meantime I've marked them on my hardcopy
Devon: Yeah, I keep running notes.
Colin: That's one reason I am looking forward to "novelising" my serial - to change the mistakes and bits I don't like
Devon: Yeah -- sometimes I look back and want to cringe! I started making character charts, but got behind.
Colin: And I still have ideas for e-book based on HJ
Devon: I want it! (jumping up and down, eagerly)
Colin: You want the e-book?
Devon: Yes, as soon as it's published, I'll buy it! First in line! I like Jackie -- I want to see more of him.
Colin: LOL! Cheers! I better start writing then. I have two ideas - one based on the origins how Jackie was adopted and one based around Victor. How did you like him by the way? Did he fit or was he a dud character?
Devon: I want to know more about Vic.
Colin: Jackie's the most important character I've written about. Shame we never got to write the combined scene with him and Nina
Devon: I still want to do it when she gets to Edinburgh
Colin: Dev - No problemo! Love to do it - it's a great idea
Devon: Of course, it's taking her a year longer than I expected.
Colin: Dev - Jackie's got time - he's taking a break lol!
AngelaM: so Jackie will appear in future work for you, Col? Any idea what format?
Colin: I can see Jackie getting involved in some short stories, Angela, plus the KIC novellas and more than likely another novel at some point. He's only 16 and got lots to do. Lots to go wrong as well. Then there's Katie - she'll keep him on his toes!
Devon: Col -- research is sometimes the most fun and the most frustrating. I always find it takes me down so many different paths, and I'm afraid I'll lose something if I don't explore every single one.
Colin: I think of research as being lie those Grail Quest books - I could never do them right because I had to see where each avenue led....
AngelaM: hey Col, if you were going to use a pseudonym what would it be?
Colin: Oh...now there's a question...hmm...let me think...maybe Campbell Currie...bit poor that perhaps though
AngelaM: Col that name makes me think of soup for some reason
Colin: LOL! Campbell is my middle name you see but is getting quite popular over here as a first name. And Currie is my father's middle name. Put the two together...

End of transcript

Introducing:

Devon
Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in various genres, both fiction and non-fiction. Visit her website; her blog, Ink In My Coffee, with its feature, Racing Ink, and participate in her brand new project, The Thirteen Traveling Journals Project (sports fans welcomed and encouraged).

Devon's serials at KIC are:
Cutthroat Charlotte
The Widows Chamber
Tapestry


AngelaM
Angela Miller was raised in Sawmills, a small town nestled in foothills of the western North Carolina mountains. She fell in love with reading early and was introduced to the romance genre at age nine when her grandmother gave her some old Emilie Loring novels. Through the years she devoured countless books and spent many hours daydreaming. She wrote her first novel in a notebook during high school but the work was mostly forgotten during college and the early years of marriage. She started writing again in 2003 and has since completed two novels.

She has a deep love for the mountains and hopes one day to call the Great Smoky Mountains home. In the meantime, she takes trips to the Blue Ridge Parkway as often as possible.

She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Gardner-Webb University and worked briefly in retail before she resigned to be home with her children. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Hickory, North Carolina.

Read her serial here: Fate Steps In

StarTrekFanBob
Bobby Mackerel is an old friend of Colin's - in fact he used to be his boss. Their love blossomed in the chiller of a Safeway store in Renfrewshire, Scotland and has remained as strong as ever since. Visit Bob’s blog at What You Leave Behind
Colin 11:31 am | 0 comments |

** LIVE AUTHOR CHAT TONIGHT!! **

*** YES, IT'S TONIGHT!! ***

Event: KIC Live Author Chat
With: ME!!!
Date: Thursday 25th August
Time: 8pm to 9pm BST. (12noon to 1pm Pacific / 3pm-4pm East US)
Info: All you need is a working PC and an hour of your time. Log on at the link above and join us for some online discussion about KIC, writing and other related topics. Everyone is welcome!!

CLICK HERE TO CHAT WITH ME!!
Colin 11:04 am | 1 comments |

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Something In The Air

Never got up in enough time to be able to have a cup of coffee before I left work, which was quite annoying, despite having enough milk in the fridge. Plus I actually had some work to do today, though not much, it did push my afternoon into the obscure by having to think about I.T. for a while.

Received a load of critiques back from some friends about my Whisky Snatching piece. Some valuable, some not so, but there are one or two common threads throughout it all that will enable me to polish this to a much better standard.

A friend posted me a book today - but I don't know what it is, so it's very exciting. It's coming all the way from Texas and should be here within a week.

I feel quite restless. Like I need to be somewhere but don't know where. Maybe it's just being in the office as I write this portion of this entry, or maybe it's because there are other things happening in my life that have upstaged everything else. There are some things that are not for this forum or indeed most people ears, you know - personal things - things that come in cycles that unsettle me.

There is something else that I cannot mention - just yet - out of respect and fear that by talking too early it may not come to fruition. When it does, I shall speak and ye shall be enthralled. It has put the fear of God into me, because I feel way out my depth. But it is a great and wonderful opportunity and I'm not one to pass those kinds of things up easily. More later.

Or maybe this feeling is brought on by my impending trip away with the lads. A stag weekend to Majorca, of all places. Don't expect there to be much writing done - it's not that kind of trip. It will be about laughing and drinking in the sun and the kilt.

Snooker was a scream tonight. I got beat 6-2 by old Ian (I tell him I let him win as part of my Help the Aged in the Community Scheme), but most of the night was spent recalling both our younger years, drinking and being out on the pull. Swapping stories such as these are a sure sign that I am considered a pal as well as a son-in-law.
Colin 10:55 am | 0 comments |

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Things I Hate



REMINDER

Event: KIC Live Author Chat
With: ME!!!
Date: Thursday 25th August
Time: 8pm and 9pm BST. (12noon to 1pm Pacific / 3pm-4pm East US)
Info: All you need is a working PC and an hour of your time. Log on at the link above and join us for some online discussion about KIC, writing and other related topics. Everyone is welcome.


It's raining again. I'm hearing it's pitter-patter down and it's wet in the street, reflecting the lights and splashing feet. I've nowhere to go, and there's nothing I have to do. I hear the sound of rain falling in my ears, washing away the weariness like tears. I can feel my troubles running down, disappear into the silent sound. I feel the rain falling on my face, I can say there is no better place than standing up in the falling down, in so much rain I could almost drown.

Last paragraph copyright © Madness 1986.

In line with the recent Top Ten Things I Love post, here is the opposite. 'Hate' is a strong word and so I kept that strong in mind while putting this list together. In no particular order:

1 - Adverts. Especially smarmy or patronising ones, or where they feel that whispering you the info is more likely to make you buy their crappy products. Those ones make me want to vandalise my own TV set.
2 - Ignorance. People who think they know everything about everything and refuse to accept any other point of view or fact as being valid. There is no such thing as a living encyclopedia, particularly when the population lives on one side, and the truth on another.
3 - Interruptions. Finding harmony with my Muse and then being whipped out of it, for something that is if no importance, other than to the person who caused the interruption.
4 - Money. I'd rather live without it. It makes my life a pain and a constant worry. I have to work in a shit hole to get it, and it disappears before I can blink. Maybe I just wish I had more of it. But that would make it worse. See, here we go - it's causing an argument with myself!
5 - Manky Toilets. People who splash pish all over the seat, then leave it. People who leave jobbies floating in the bowl and leave it bobbing for the next person to come it. Crimes, mostly found at my place of work.
6 - Reality TV. Is this the best that British Producers can come up with? What about something decent that doesn't involve encouraging brain dead twats to think that being a brain dead twat is something to be proud of. These people aren't celebrities - they are washouts. What about more programmes with monkeys in?
7 - Cold Callers. I have a list of them. First offenders are dealt with politely and asked not to do it again. Repeat offenders told in no uncertain terms to "fuck off." Hardcases are reported to the relevant complaints commission in 7-page letters sent my special delivery, demanding action be taken.
8 - Liars. People who lie to me or attempt a deception are not exempt from revenge. I will go years before exacting revenge for something worthy enough.
9 - Bigots. I've lived in Scotland too long not to be angry about the effect that the war between Protestant and Catholics has had on this country. If we could round them all up and ship them off to some tiny wee island in the North Atlantic we should. Scotland needs its own Alcatraz for the scum on both sides that give us all bad name.
10 - Running Out of Dairy. There's nothing worse when you realise there is no milk left for your coffee of margarine for your toast in the morning. It can ruin an entire day.

I spent the evening reading. I have several books on the go at the moment in an attempt to feed my imagination, continue research into a new project idea and of course, for entertainment. I'm not revealing the research book name or topic just yet, in fact I may never. I've even got a book in my desk at work for lunchtimes.

Last year I mentioned I wanted to write a story in line with the songs from the album Stella by Yello. I've started to think about this in advance instead of waiting for late autumn to hit.

My GDR seems to have grown itself this month. While I gave myself on specific things to work on, I seem to have been so involved in them that I have taken on more things without thinking bout it. Not sure the effect it will have overall, but I'm going with the flow anyway.

There are a few more poems I have pushing through my skin for the Festival book. I have provisional title for the book; Fringe Fantastic. We'll see - it may all come down to which poems get the go ahead before I finally decide.

Colin 11:42 am | 1 comments |

Monday, August 22, 2005

An Apology And A Rant

First an apology.

No sooner than I posted my blog entries for the weekend this morning, an email arrived into my overflowing inbox. It was from my youngest sister, Lindsay, who I shared drinks and dinner with only three nights ago.

"It was the Agua Restaurant we went to on Friday NOT the Metro..... your blog entry is wrong."

My sister is rarely wrong but as is the way with little sisters, they always strive to be like their big brothers on a subconcious level. I remember one incident many years ago when she was getting into trouble from our mother for behaving like an arse. My mother yelled at her, "who do you want to be like when you grow up? Your big brother!"

Lindsay took it as an insult, I took it as a moment of great pride.

No doubt I got this quote slightly wrong, but then it has been eons of time since the immortal sentence was uttered. I have never forgotten the moment, because it was all too true and I nearly pished myself with laughter. So, I apologise for the error - it was the Agua restaurant we dined in Friday last.

On with the day's writing.

I did a lot of research on some of the authors I want to write about in the KIC Great Authors series. Many of what is thrown up is useless and boring, but a lot of the time, what is written differs slightly in interpretation depending where you found it. It's a bit of a challenge to sort it all out.

Mince 'n' tatties for dinner again; simply unbeatable!

I worked on the Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott articles tonight. Robert Burns was fun because he hails from the very same part of the world my father's family originate, between Ayr, Cumnock and Mauchline. Sir Walter Scott proved to be most surprising in that I learned a lot of things I never knew about him; local things that I walk past every day and never realised them to be associated with him.

The Ian Rankin article needs to be fully reworked. Something came up late in the evening and after, when I looked at the article again, I saw that it needs to be rewritten in its entirety. It will be a better article for it, but in a most surprising way. More on this later.

This Thursday, I'll be the featured author on the KIC Live Chat. All you need is a PC and an hour of your time between the hours of 8pm and 9pm BST. (12noon to 10pm Pacific / 3pm-4pm East US). Log on and join us for some online discussion about writing. Everyone is welcome.

Before I go, take a look at this:

BBC News Report

It's a story from last Tuesday; a toddler died on the beach at Cornwall after getting trapped in the sand. It was a tragic story and is something you would not wish to happen to anyone. It was reported with dignity and the family's wishes were respected the whole time.

Until tonight.

The people behind this magazine - Closer Magazine - are running a national television advertising campaign for the latest issue. All the usual typical female target stuff is on offer, as highlighted by the sexy voiceover lady in a high-pitched and excited tone; "Find out how you can lose a stone in a week! Learn to dress to bag yourself a bloke! Read all about the Beckhams latest antics and read all about baby Abbie who died on the beach last week. All this and more, in this weeks Closer!"

I was disgusted. I know the UK glossy magazine market for 18 to 30 year old women is a battle to the death, but this was a step too far in my book. They were actually using this wee girls death to sell a magazine less than a week after it happened! Have they no morals? Have they no respect?

Not having read the article, I am unsure if they had the assistance of the family involved, but this too is a bit unnerving. If the article is being run as a journalistic piece (doubtful given the quality of the publication), then the family should sue. If though, the family are involved, they should be ashamed for cashing on their 3-year olds death in such a way. My stomach turns just thinking about this again.
Colin 10:59 am | 4 comments |

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Gardening

The sun continued to beat down on Scotland making it very awkward to work outside. I hate suntan cream as it is and I don't see why I should have to put it on in a country where rain is supposed to be the norm. I cannot wait for autumn to arrive.

After an early lunch I started work on the garden. A load of leaves from the overhanging foliage was cluttering up the place up so I gathered it into one huge pile and binned it. I weeded the patio and flowerbeds and laid more weed killer on the concrete to try and keep the crawlers away.

Then I trimmed the small hedge by the kitchen and the large conifers that divide our garden with the neighbours while Gail took care of the lawn. I'm sure our neighbours would rather the hedges were taken down but we've decided we prefer our privacy that a sheltered garden brings.

All the while the sun beat down on my head, but at least I got a chance to wear my new prescription sunglasses.

I don't mind doing the garden. If it's quiet when you are working it can be nice and relaxing and reminds me of when I used to muck around in the fields and gardens around my home when I was young. I try to show Laura the vast amounts of nature that live in the garden but even the sight of a beautiful butterfly on the wind is enough to send her screaming with hands aloft out into the street.

My mother-in-law gave us a plant for our second wedding anniversary and I planted it in the garden once all the tidying, cutting and weeding work was complete. I don't know what it will grow into but it looks quite nice as it is.

I felt quite good after an afternoon working in the garden and went for a shower while Gail made one of my favourite meals; mince 'n' tatties. (Mince and mashed potatoes). Fantastic and there was plenty left over for another couple of meals tomorrow night, too.

I worked on Ian Rankin tonight. Not literally, but the article for the KIC Great Scottish Authors series. I could only squeeze him down to about 650 words as well so I will need to contact the editor to see if that is too much. She is looking for between 200 and 300 words per article but if they are to spotlight Great Authors then surely they deserve more than that. It's kind of hard to talk about someone's life in such a pitiful amount of words; particularly writers who have achieve so much like RLS and Rankin.

I'm really into Kidnapped (the book, not the action). The more I learn about Stevenson and the more I read his work, the more I like and admire him. There is much I can learn from his work and he is not only inspiring in the lifetime fulfilment aspect, but also from his use of Scotland as the backdrop for much of his work. I can tell that this influence will have huge bearings on my own work still to come.
Colin 10:21 am | 0 comments |

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Shortest Blog Entry, Ever

I did hardly anything today. I drank a lot of Irn-Bru, eat a lot of cocktail sausages, finished Treasure Island, read more of my research book and started Kidnapped by RLS.

In the evening I found myself watching the BBC Proms; the London Philharmonic Orchestra performing Beethoven's 9th Symphony. This was the first time I've ever sat down to listen to one of these kinds of performances and I quite enjoyed it.

I worked on the KIC Great Authors series of articles, polishing up the Robert Louis Stevenson one, and preparing Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Arthur Conan Doyle. I already had their research done a while back for soemthing else and so just have to write it all up.

Another heat wave hit town and it was a roaster all day. Blue skies and a red-hot sun making it unbearable to do pretty much anything, including get to sleep.

I think my lack of writing this week has contributed to the slow down of my mind. This must stop.
Colin 10:08 am | 2 comments |

Friday, August 19, 2005

On The Town

I slept in. It was a dream that caused it; a dream I fail to recall because I awoke so suddenly and jumped to it when I saw the time. Just as I was leaving the postie arrived and delivered my new business cards. They are top quality; the font very clear on the black sheen background. I stuffed a few in my wallet and rushed to work.

Work = duff.

Normal routine for Friday lunch - Clark's for a pint and a sandwich with Dave and Tom; always good.

After work I met up with my parents and youngest sister at The Filling Station on the High Street for some drinks. They were through from Glasgow to see the Military Tattoo and had plenty time to fill until it started.

We had a couple of beers and caught up and watched the street festivities going on behind us. Two English pirates stopped to hand us fliers and ask where we were from. "Doon the road," I told them, and they realised we weren't Australian after all.

We went for a meal at the Metro restaurant in the Apex City Hotel on Grassmarket. Then I walked them back up towards the castle and left them when it started to get too busy. I could see the castle in the background between the buildings on either side of the street; all lit up in blue and yellow it looked fantastic.

As I was about to jump into a taxi I got a call from Tom who was in All Bar One on George Street so I joined him in there for a few more drinks. It's one of my least favourite bars in Edinburgh; always too busy, lack of bar staff, no atmosphere and full of ya-ya posh types with Gucci shoes and handbags.

We were sat near the bar at one of the large wooden tables when two guys sat down opposite us. One was young, well dressed and spoke his English very well. The other was older, had a strong Glaswegian accent, wore a ponytail and was dressed in jeans and a white vest top. They struck up a conversation with Tom, but I smelt a rat and immediately withdrew from their questions, directing my attention elsewhere while keeping my ears firmly on what was being said. I had seen this before; once they get your trust they get you to buy them a round, then they ask for your wallet and watch, a knife pressing under the table into your knee, and you are so shocked and taken back you don't want to make a fuss.

Their initial questions revolved around work; where, who with, position held etc. Then they started to challenge the answers; why do you do it, I bet you love ripping off companies for hundreds per week etc. All typical stuff. Then just as Tom had managed to deflect most of their more probing questions, he came out with a defensive question of his own. Whether he asked this in an attempt to rattle them, change the subject or out of pure naivety I will never know. But he did and it shook the pub to its foundations.

"Are you two gay?" he asked.

My jaw hit the deck. My worries increased further when the older man, now identified as 'Billy fae Glasgow', became slightly tense at this accusation and told Tom he was only wearing the vest top because he had "nae other clothes that were clean".

His friend, David, calmed him down and things returned to semi-normality. Billy lit his roll-up and Tom, realising the error in his questioning, turned his attention to the American girl sitting next to him (who he later persuaded to accompany him on a dinner date next week). I decided to find out as much about these two as possible, because if they were up to anything I'd be able to tell.

Turns out they were the most unlikely couple of pals you would ever suspect. David was having problems at home with his girlfriend - who he soon left to go and try to patch it up with - and Billy had nowhere he could really call home as such. He stayed with a friend and busked for a living in Rose Street. He let us hear some of his singing while in the bar and I couldn't stop thinking he looked and sounded like Francis Rossi of Status Quo.

I left soon after and made my way home. I still think they were up to something but perhaps Tom was nearer the mark than he realised. Whatever their story was, Billy and David may well find representations of themselves in a story somewhere along the line.
Colin 9:56 am | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Discoveries

British Airways sent me their latest newsletter this morning. It began, "As you are a valued customer~" I've travelled with them twice in the last two years, so how am I valued? And what if I wasn't valued, wouldn't I get the newsletter or would they just refuse to serve me cucumber sandwiches when I got on board one of their planes? If this email was meant to make me feel special it didn't. It merely made my press the delete button even quicker.

Michelle Miles challenged us to think about the top ten things we love. I've excluded obvious things and made it everyday things, hence the reason my family does not feature as it's a given. It sill wasn't as easy when you get down to thinking about it, but here goes (in no particular order):

1. Coffee - freshly made, preferably Jamaican. First cup of the day is always special.
2. Writing - gives me a joy that drills to my core.
3. Clark's Bar - well, any bar really.
4. Monkeys - feel a deep connection. I used to want to be one. Still do.
5. Irn-Bru - there's nothing quite like it.
6. Rain - listening to it tap on the window or standing in it and feel it against my skull, it doesn't matter, for rain is a blessing.
7. Silence - a truly golden thing I try to take advantage of whenever I can.
8. Music - I couldn't live without it.
9. Bookshops - I find it very easy to lose track of time in them.
10. Fishes - Calming, peaceful, graceful, and beautiful.

Look at how bored I was today - I rearranged all my links along the left hand column alphabetically.

Devon from Ink In My Coffee came up with a blog calling card idea so I visited several blogs from her list and they were so good you should all take a look.

Turning 30 and a Half
A down to earth and humorous blog from Sue in Vancouver.

Java Diva
A funny and well designed website from Jenn near Texas.

Wired Writer
Fascinating blog from freelance writer AM Adams.

Magick Musings
Writer Sandy Jones' excellent website and blog.

Trying To Be Dad
A blog I can totally relate to. Glad I found this one and I'll be going back.

Kemmyrk
A new site from writer Cerridwen Iris Shea exploring the world of tarot and the oracles. It looks fascinating and definitely worth a read.

I let go of the Fronds of Thought journal today. It was very hard to see it packaged up and I found myself taking photos of each page with my mobile phone cam so I can remember it by! I'm happy with my entries, but also I'm not happy - I think that's just down to the emotion of saying goodbye. I wanted to fill every page. I'll miss its presence in the house.

The weekly KIC Newsletter has opened a new slot where they will cover Great Authors. I contacted the editor to see if she would like a series covering Scottish authors and she would. I'll start with Robert Louis Stevenson - though the 2500 word article already written and pitched needs to be cut down to about 200-300 words. Doubt I can manage it that much so hopefully she will accept 500-600.

I spent the evening working on this article and planning the next few. I'm also going to cover writers like William Alexander, Sir Walter Scott, James Boswell, Sir James Barrie, Janice Galloway, Irvine Welsh, Muriel Spark, Iain Banks, Ian Rankin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Burns, Liz Lochead and Edwin Morgan - probably more.

Oh, and I got a six-month paid subscription for Hunting Jack! Yee-hah!

In the background I watched a documentary about John Irving. It was fascinating to listen to him discuss his life and influences and the process he goes through when writing a novel. He mentioned how early on he always writes the last few lines and pins them on the wall of his office, so that even if the novel takes him five years to write, he knows where he is going and can see it in front of him.

He mentioned his latest book, Until I Find You. It took him the longest time of all his work to write, and at over 800 pages it is a huge read too. More interestingly though, he read sections of this book which were set in Leith! In the book he describes in details the old railway that used to run through the port, the tattoo parlours, Leith South Parish Church, Jayne Street and other local spots were described perfectly.

It was no surprise therefore, when he also said he uses his contacts across Europe to provide him with local contacts so he can visit and walk the street of the places he intends to write about.
Colin 11:27 am | 4 comments |

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Slow And Slower

Today dragged like the arse of a three-legged donkey along a cobbled street with a 1 in 5 gradient. I actually contemplated leaving the office at lunchtime and going home, safe in the knowledge that nobody would probably notice. Seriously - it is that bad in here.

For some reason I felt the stifling crush of commerce and office politics more than usual today. I couldn't sum up any will power to do anything over lunch except read the newspaper and surf some websites. The inanity of some of the people that work for this company never ceases to amaze me. Their whole lives determined by the assholes around and above them, working towards a goal so that when they die they can say they have achieved something. Achieved what, exactly? The achievement of lining the pockets of the Director's and policy/shareholders is not a dream I aspire to. Who cares? Who cares about procedures and parameters, protocol and passwords? What about a life worth living?

I say "hello" to some of these people as I pass them in corridors or on the stairs. Occasionally I get a response, the others are too brain dead to know how to greet someone who might want to talk to them. The rest are just too smarmy and ignorant, wrapped in their own self-important worlds because they hold a higher grade. Well done, chaps - way to go - what an example of how not to do it.

Somebody new has joined the ranks of Hunting Jack Subscribers. The past couple of months have seen me have a steady core of six subscribers, three of which had their subscriptions end by virtue of reaching the end of the serial. This means I now have 4, so with me signing a contract in June to keep me with KIC until March 2006, the new subscriber would take me to May if they went all the way.

It's good to know people are still interested. I'm hoping for resurgence in interest in the next few weeks after I distribute all my leaflets - of which there are loads.

A few weeks ago I put a download counter on my blog to count how many people were downloading my e-book, Brick by Brick. When it went live on the Poetry Super Highway website for the 2005 Giveaway project, 74 people downloaded it in 24 hours. With no additional publicity several months later, in the past few days a dozen people have downloaded it from this site. Given there have been several months between the PSH project and me putting up the counter, I estimate there has been well over 100 downloads. This is most pleasing.

I emailed a professional photographer pal of mine to see if he will be in Edinburgh over the next few weeks. I want to get a good front and back cover for my book and I have some ideas of what to do. Because it's about the Edinburgh Festival, I fancy doing a front picture of me standing with my arms aloft at the top of Calton Hill looking over Princes Street, as if I am embracing the city. Another idea I had was to be standing in the middle of the Royal Mile while all the festivities are on and for only me to be in focus.

One of the downfalls of my rather excellent new spectacles is that playing snooker is not as easy as it was before. This is bad because it is making my father-in-law look decidedly better than he actually is. The 7-2 drubbing I received this evening can only be put down to the fact that I am still adjusting to my new specs. The only other option is to resort back to my contact lenses or get special glasses when playing, but I don't want to end up looking like this bloke:


I'd like to highlight some important news from some writing buddies of mine:

Michelle Miles has release a PR for the completion of her e-serial, Scars of Yesterday. Read it here.

BK Birch has completed her historical e-serial, Blood on an Appalachian Sunset for KIC. Congratulations, Brenda!

Brenda has also had a second extract of her novel, Strange Fruit, published on WCP. Click here to read this fantastic extract.

Devon Ellington's latest e-book, Elusive Prayers, is now available to purchase and download. This e-book is an offshoot of her popular e-serial, The Widows Chamber.

And Marlys Pearson's latest novel has just gone to press. Go here for more information and to order: The Price of Temptation
Colin 12:14 pm | 5 comments |

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A New Look to The Fringe

Two years ago today, Gail and I were married. At around 2.25pm we swapped rings and became husband and wife, vowing to stand by each other through thick and thin. Unless I have a cold or some other debilitating illness.

It's been a funny, hectic, emotional and brilliant two years, and I wouldn't swap them for the world. I knew she was the one when went out drinking one day in December 2000, and ever since then nothing has been allowed to get in the way. We'll die old and decrepit; I'll probably be lucky to get a boner and dribble my dinner each night, while the highlight of our week will probably be the trips to the Bingo Hall with the blue-rinse brigade. But I don't care; so long as we're together I'm fine with that.

I watched the clock all morning and it dragged. I decided the best time to call Specsavers would be at 11.30pm and when the clock on my PC struck the time I called them up. The response was swift and exciting; my glasses were ready for collection.

I jumped on a No.4 bus at York Place, where by the way, The Stand Comedy Club is doing special Fringe lunchtime shows for free and you can buy a nice lunch while watching the acts. The No.4 took me out to The Jewel and I made a beeline for Specsavers.

The woman found my package, took me over to a desk and sat me down. I removed my contact lenses to a huge sigh of relief and I placed my new glasses on for the first time. It felt brilliant, ecstatic even, and I couldn't stop myself emitting a low orgasmic groan as I uttered the words, "Oh yes!" while looking in the mirror. She let out an embarrassed laugh, unsure whether I was just pleased with my new glasses or if I had just ejaculated where I was sitting.

I thanked her and trooped proudly out of the shop. A bus that would take me back to the city centre was just pulling in to the station and as I went to step on it I realised I wasn't quite adjusted to the 'movement' of the ground as I walked. I put out my right leg to try and step on the bus, hesitated over the confusing distance, and missed the step entirely.

I went from feeling great to knowing I was just another twat with new specs.

I left work early and headed home to get ready for my night out with my wife. We arrived at the Assembly Rooms Bar; more of an underground street next to the main entrance that runs between George Street and Rose Street. I ordered a couple of drinks and we took a seat to soak up the atmosphere. It wasn't as busy as a weekend show but the buzz from the pub's population was still evident; the buzz that only live comedy can give you.

Inside the ballroom of the Assembly Rooms a stage and temporary seating had been constructed for around 200 people. Craig Hill came on just after 7.30 with his trademark black leather kilt and tight-fitting t-shirt, camp as hell and jigging all over the stage.

He immediately latched onto the three old ladies in the front row, bombarding them with blue-rinse jokes and grannies-wanting-to-mother-a-poof material. Then he moved onto the girl sitting next to them with her fiance and started up an impromptu game designed to guess whether she was upgrading or downgrading her life as a result of her impending marriage.



Some hecklers threatened to ruin parts of the show but were suitably disposed of professionally, humorously and with a hint of annoyance.

It was a superbly funny show as he rattled off gay joke after gay joke and by the end of it you actually felt as if you were as much a part of gay culture as he is. I'd definitely recommend him for a good night out. His comedy, show that is; nothing else.

Craig Hill's Got The Ballroom - Edinburgh Fringe 2005

With about 45 minutes until our dinner reservation we stopped in at Brecks Bar on Rose Street for a swifty before heading into The Living Room on George Street. The Living Room

The lights were dim and the candlelit tables made for a romantic and relaxing evening. In the far corner the live piano player entertained us with various tunes as we enjoyed a fantastic meal.

The menu was a nightmare to choose form it all looked so good, but we went for Mussels of the day and Fresh asparagus with crushed tomatoes & saffron butter to start. Then for the main course Gail had and 8oz fillet steak with mash and I went for the Roasted rack of lamb with mustard crust & dauphinoise potatoes. All of it washed down with a lovely bottle of Chianti Castiglioni, Marchesi De' Frescobaldi 2003, which cost almost as much as the meal itself.

Back up the road and a cup of coffee and that was us - our second anniversary. Year 3 begins tomorrow.

Colin 12:03 pm | 5 comments |

Two Years Ago Today!

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, HONEY!

Colin 11:59 am | 6 comments |

Monday, August 15, 2005

Coming Together

I'm still feeling quite depressed about the distinction problems between artistic freedom and my role as a husband and dad. So I left for work later than normal; determined to enjoy my cup of coffee instead of rushing it just so I could make the bus.

I'm still really hacked off about not being able to get my new glasses. I kept my mobile on all day in case they called, even though I knew the chances were slim. I'll maybe call tomorrow morning and chance my arm. If they were ready I could go tomorrow lunchtime so I could wear them on Tuesday night out with Gail.

Last night I read another large chunk of Treasure Island by RLS, and today a number of issues of Angel Hunt by Cerridwen Iris Shea and Cutthroat Charlotte by Devon Ellington; two of the KIC serials I have some catching up to do.

As if my queue of projects is not long enough at the moment, I am of the frame of mind to start writing an adventure story. All this reading about pirates and dragons and mysterious figures is very exciting. Probably too exciting for little old me.

One Story rejected The Oasis by way of a short, standard rejection email. I like this story thiough, so I'm going to stick with it. The character in it is someone I might use in the future, although it would have to be in past-time because I kill him off in this particular piece of prose.

Tomorrow I'll draw up a load of places to submit all my stories too that take multiple submissions and that fit the bill as far as what the editors appear to be looking for. I need to get more short stories published. Some of them are good - I know they are - I just need to get the finger out and believe in them more.

Gail decided to go out to Fort Kinnaird in a last ditch attempt to get Laura school socks. I nipped into Specsavers on the off chance and guess what - my subscription shades were ready. I was delighted but it whetted my appetite further for my daily glasses. The woman told me that my lenses had now arrived from the place that thins them and so they should be ready for tomorrow. She marked it as an urgent job so I've to call tomorrow morning and hopefully collect them at lunchtime.

Discussions over my writing and the house never materialised; the issue settled over a game of Scrabble instead. This is a game that Gail loves and I get frustrated at. She uses my temperament to her advantage; subtly manoeuvring her keys around the board where I am forced to play for awful word points and leave the trebles open for her to snap up. You would think a writer enjoys this game, but it's a form of torture the way Gail plays it and always wins.

However, all is now peaceful in the house. Laura has one more day before she goes back to school (hooray!!) and tomorrow is our anniversary. The Festival Book grows daily, Fronds of Thought is about to head off for the States and I have a string of short stories fighting for the cause. Things seem to be coming together after a small blip.
Colin 11:38 am | 0 comments |

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My Battered Muse

I caught up with all my sleep last night and felt wonderful for it this morning. There were a couple of odd dreams though; I dreamt I got my spectacles back and they were all scratched and useless so I had to wait even longer for them. I also dreamt about the War on Terror - an AQ cell had moved in across the road then got raided by the police. It turned out to be preparing to target the Edinburgh Festival with a bombing campaign. Nice.

I nipped out to get the paper and some other stuff. Normally I buy The Herald and Sunday Herald but in August I buy the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday (SoS) for all the festival coverage it provides. In today's SoS there was a free book give-away of the Scots Dictionary. It's superb and it gives me ammunition because a lot of the words I use that Gail says are slang, are actually official Scot's Language. Vindication, at last.

It was a slow day, with the weather nice and pleasant. I thought about working on the office but with the electrics still not complete I can't do anything inside the room. The bookshelf and radiator in the garage need painted but Gail was over at her Mum's and brother's houses most of the day so I couldn't get away to buy paint. I wouldn't know what type to buy anyway.

This decision not to do anything in the office is one I shall now regret for a while to come, for it is a fine line the balance between a normal life and that of a writer's.

There seems to be no grey area between, but only defined do's and dont's. I'm told areas of my life are suffering and the guilty party is my writing. It's a dilemma I need to air some carefully worded thoughts on.

I think the time has come that defined blocks of time have got to be set out in my life if all parties are to be kept happy. A compromise has to be reached. It seems I will have to get my finger out of my arse if I am to keep a modicum of peace. So when will I be able to write if I have to devote more time to other areas of my life? Later into the night, early morning, at work and in my sleep seem the most plausible answers.

My Muse is confused, hurt and a little pissed off. The last I saw of her she nipped out back with a cigarette and a cup of coffee to calm down under the amber dusk sky.

I am going to suggest this tomorrow to all interested parties and I will attempt to reach a compromise. But the world must understand that I am not going to stop writing for anyone. It is in my blood and it is what I intend to do until the day the big man with the scythe taps me on the shoulder and says, "time's up, wee man. Yer coming with me."

The more I seem to commit to my writing, the harder it seems to become for other people to take me seriously. I know I'm not alone in this struggle but at the end of the day why should I feel guilty about having a passion and a drive to do something that makes me feel whole. Writing is what and who I am and if I am not writing, a large part of me is missing.

I am serious about my writing, just as serious as I am about my family. I just wish my family could be as serious about my writing as I am about them.
Colin 11:34 am | 1 comments |

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Nuffin' Appenin' Ere Guvnor!

I've had a hectic day. There was little sleep for me last night to ensure I got up bright and early, so my morning was heavy, tired and saggy. I was also running late to get Laura to dancing and by the time we walked at speed into Leith she was ten minutes late (15 after she changed).

The weather all day was muggy-warm and bright though on the horizon dark clouds could be seen to be gathering out on the North Sea. As soon as I dropped Laura off and walked out the Centre, the heavens opened and I was caught in a sudden downpour.

I darted onto a bus heading up Leith Walk, cursing my bad luck and lack of time to get a coffee and headed straight for the Fringe Ticket tent on Princes Street Mall. I collected two tickets I ordered to see Craig Hill on Tuesday night at the Assembly Rooms and as I was about to head back down into Leith I remembered a book that caught my eye while in Borders the other night.

It's a book that supports an idea for a novel that has been swimming around in my mind for a couple of years now. It has everything I need to know; technically and psychologically and will be a valuable resource when I come to write the book. It's too early to say any more, the point only being that I spent some time this morning in Waterstones and bought a valubale resource book.

I went back to get Laura and was aghast to discover she still had another to go. The Disco classes had resumed and so I fannied about Leith for another whole hour. Woolworths just ain't that interesting.

To top it all off I called the opticians and there is a problem with my glasses. They have hard to order the lenses due to the thinning required and so I'm looking at a total of a 7 to 10 day wait. Bugger it! I was all excited like a kid at Christmas but I guess I'll have to wait longer - what choice do I have.

That old man who walks about Leith with the cowboy outfit and toy guns is becoming a real pain in the arse. I'm sorry, but I don't see anything amusing about pulling toy guns on children in the street. Half of them jump out their skin and the older ones give him strange looks.

He did it to me then tried to block my path. I felt like shoving the old bugger out the way but a mixture of pity and revulsion prevented me. He needs help, of that there can be no doubt, but since this happens in Leith it's barely noticed against the backdrop of everything else that goes on here.

Eventually I got Laura and we went home, but Gail was not at her best. The poor soul couldn't get out of bed until three o'clock due to illness so I had to content with Laura and all her pals. I managed to pick out some horses for the day's substantial racing card; Extreme Measure doing me a fine turn in the 1.35 at Newbury.

But I got no work done at all, which annoyed me and knocked me off my even keel. I was so shattered I could barely life my head at points, though I did struggle to make a Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner *ahem*. James Bond: From Russia With Love came on and I used it as an excuse to procrastinate.

I wrote this blog entry out to try and provoke movement in my Muse, but instead found negativity sprawling over the keyboard. She just wanted to chill out for the night and who am I to argue. Certain words in this entry have probably given the game away of just how tired I am anyway.

I did make a submission to boost my short story publication chances; The Blind Man of Cathkin Street sent to Thirteen Magazine. Then I decided reading was the answer. Treasure Island is coming to a conclusion and there is also the new research book I bought today.

Hopefully tomorrow will prove more fruitful if I can just get a decent night's kip; not too warm, no disturbances and no goddamn ships in the docks setting off their horns like last night and I'll be just fine.
Colin 10:33 pm | 3 comments |

Friday, August 12, 2005

Science Fiction, Man

The Bratz Doll I bought Laura came back to haunt me. Laura just had to get her dolls out the car boot at 9am - just as I was leaving to catch the bus to work for a 9.30 meeting. I moaned - Gail told me to shut up and do it - so I did. Laura was happy and off I went, running to the bus stop with my belly bouncing around inside my shirt. Yes - a diet is impending.

I got to the final turn in the road in time to see the bus pull away from the kerbside and all the passengers on board smirking at my inability to make it on board again.

So I walked into Leith. But with the Lothian Bus overtime ban still in operation, a Saturday Service is all we've had for the last 2 weeks. So after a 20 minute walk and 10 minute wait, the first bus that came along was - yup a number 12. I would have been better off just waiting at the bus stop I had ran for in the first place. Instead I was all sticky and sweaty because the weather wants to start to mellow but the summer is hanging on for dear life.

Naturally, I missed my meeting for I was 30 minutes late. So I got a coffee and made my apologies. All because of those cursed Bratz Dolls; soldiers for Lucifer's Army I'll wager.

I don't know how I forgot to mention this i nyesterday's post, but after choosing my specs last night, Gail took Laura to buy new school shoes out at Fort Kinnaird. This gave me browsing time in Borders next door. I perused various sections of general interest, not looking to buy anything really; RL Stevenson, Shakespeare, Dickens, Me (only kidding). I took a wander over to the photography section and while flicking through a book containing pictures of Ye Olde Edinburgh Town, an interesting conversation struck up behind me, and being the amateur sleuth, I listened in.

A man who was clearly and American author was trying to persuade the manager of Borders to buy certain amounts of his latest novel both in hard and softback. The conversation went into marketing strategies and placement, most of which was handled by who I presumed to be the author's agent - a slightly plump man with a distinctly proper English accent. I looked at the author; a modest looking man dressed in a suit with dark hair and glasses. His moustache looked suspiciously American - I don't know why, but after listening to their voices, his voice seemed to fit the face immediately.

The agent wanted to talk about marketing, and the author about his travels around Scotland doing signings and a convention he just attended in Glasgow. Eventually I got bored listening in and wandered off.

While scanning the Poetry section an announcement came over the shop tanoy. "Attention all Borders customers. We are delighted to announce that Walter Hunt, the acclaimed science fiction author, is now signing copies of his latest book in the Art Book section of the store."

Now I had his name, so I went to the science fiction area of the shop but could find no trace of any of his books. I also found it odd he should be doing a signing in the art book section as this is tucked away in a small niche at the back of the store.

I moved to the 'Auster' section and pondered Paul's latest novel, Oracle Nights. It came out last year and I've still to get it but have no time at present what with a huge backlog of reading to get through.

Another announcement was then made over the tanoy. "Attention all Borders customers. We are delighted to announce that Walter Hunt, the acclaimed science fiction author, is now signing copies of his latest book at the front of the store next to the Latest Releases section."

This made more sense, I thought. If you want to market something, at least be seen! I felt sorry for him, because although it was late opening and the store medium-busy, no-one seemed the slightest bit interested. Had I been more into science fiction I might have bought one of his books.

Just then Laura came up behind me and told me she was finished getting her new shoes. It was time to go so I never got a chance to see how Walter got on. I hope it was worth his while and I nodded a 'hello' to him as I left the store.

It was interesting to watch him go about the signing. I wish him lots of luck with his latest novel. He looks to be a prolific writer as I later saw on his website: www.walterhunt.com

I am extremely excited about my new glasses. Everyone's getting pissed off because I keep asking if they are as excited as me. They aren't, of course, but I like to ask anyway.

11am arrived and into my inbox dropped a familiar e-mail from Dave: "Fancy a pint at lunch? Tom's not made it into work again."

Without even asking I'll bet that Tom's evening went something like this: Clark's for a beer, more beer, another bar for chapmagne, Finger's Piano Bar, Casino till 6am. So I met Dave at 12 in Clark's for our weekly catch-up over a couple of pints.

The afternoon dragged but I got home at a decent time before diving into the Round Table interview - Round 2. I read through everyone else's comments and added in some responses and additions.

That was me though. It took a while to get through it because I was entertaining Laura at the same time, and then Still Game came on - the only TV programme I am prepared to down tools for.
Colin 2:05 pm | 1 comments |