Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Friday, September 30, 2005

Birthday Boy

I woke to Laura standing by my bed clutching a handful of cards and gifts and telling me to "wake up - it's your birthday!"

Naturally, I did as I was told and opened all my cards and gifts. Got some socks, which is always good because Gail keeps nicking mine, and there was a new shirt for work from my MIL. Gail already got me my gift - these wonderful new glasses I now wear with accompanying prescription shades. Laura got me a couple of ska/reggae CD's which are superb. There were a couple of books as well; the latest Harry Potter (end of the queue wee man) and a new book by ex-mafia soldier Henry Hill. He's come out of hiding after divorcing his wife three years ago and this book is the sequel to Wiseguys, the book that the film Goodfellas was based on.

In the evening we went to Giuliano's Italian restaurant on The Shore in Leith and had a nice meal. It was very busy and one of Laura's school pals were in for a family 80th birthday celebration. At the end of the meal the waiter brought out the birthday girl's cake to a rendition of Congratulations over the speakers and everyone started clapping. The cake was a giant replica of a bottle of Smirnoff Vodka. Not bad for an 80- year old!

I was glad Gail and Laura didn't do the same for me - although the vodka might have been nice!

I did one of these personal predicter things. I got it off of Magick Musings. I think it is particularly accurate - especially the writing observations.


Your Birthdate: September 30
Your birthday on the 30th day of the month shows individual self-expression is necessary for your happiness.
You tend to have a good way of expressing yourself with words, certainly in a manner that is clear and understandable.
You have a good chance of success in fields requiring skill with words.

You can be very dramatic in your presentation and you may be a good actor or a natural mimic.
You have a vivid imagination that can assist you in becoming a good writer or story-teller.
Strong in your opinions, you always tend to think you are on the right side of an issue.

There may be a tendency to scatter your energies and have a lot of loose ends in your work.
You may have significant artistic talent and be very creative.
What Does Your Birth Date Mean?
Colin 10:52 am | 5 comments |

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Crossroads

I can't explain it, but I actually felt quite happy today. At times as I sat at my desk and did the rounds I felt quite elated at something, though I'm unsure what 'it' was. Could it be the weekend approaching? Could it be the cup of cappuccino in my hand? Could it be the email banter with a couple of ex-colleagues when I worked in Glasgow many years ago? Who knows, but it made for a good start to this particularly Thursday.

I wrote my letters to the Press Complains Commission and The Times Editor, about Ross Clark's xenophobic article in Wednesday's issue. I believe him to have breached several paragraphs of the Press Code of Conduct as well as the main article and basis of the Public Order Act of 1986. I'll proof-read them tonight and post them tomorrow.

Cutting my ties with KIC is not going to be easy. I recently renewed my contract with them, which keeps me with them until March next year. I have to give a month's notice but this doesn't include them having to hand over my subscribers details. There may even be an issue with the Data Protection Act on this issue.

Even after my month's notice, I don't get the rights back to Hunting Jack for another 90 days - the end of January sometime. I intend to find out who my subscribers are, request they be refunded and send them the serial for free myself. It's only fair and I think a show of understanding and good PR would be not only welcome but a good idea at this stage.

A joint press release will also follow with some of my other colleagues who work for KIC and then hopefully I can repair some of the damage that has been inflicted.

As for Hunting Jack, well, it will no longer be in the public domain, so I will have to decide where to take it from here. There are several options:

1) Continue with plan to rework it into a novel and attempt to get it published mainstream.
2) Self-publish it and sell as a serial through my own website.
3) Leave it alone and move on.

Option 1 is the obvious choice. I always intended to turn Hunting Jack from a serial into a novel and pitch it to agents. The problem is, other work has moved in and taken over and after discussions with some readers of the serial, there may be opportunities to take it to a new level. I am coming round to the idea of joining Jackie McCann a few years later - real time (now) - and finding out what he's doing, what he's involved in and what has happened to him. Hunting Jack would then be the background to his life, which can be gone back to at a later date and of course referred to in the course of the next one or two novels about his life.

Option 2 is a no-go, because I do not want to self-publish any of my novels. I want these to be done the old-fashioned way with an agent and to build a career through them. The only reason I self-publish chapbooks is because it is fun, they help me to gain status and they give me loads of experience and opportunities. This doesn't apply to novels.

Option 3 (see Option 1). The temptation to write a series of novels based on what happened in Hunting Jack is growing strong within me. These would be the sequels to what has already happened and could be the way to go.

Back to today.

I spent my whole evening working on Fringe Fantastic. A problem with the title graphics has meant when they are printed they appear to be in a light grey box. I also spent time getting the layout perfect and inserting photographs into the main body of work to support certain poems. I decided to include a new section at the end called Images of the Festival, which is a small selection of interesting photographs to conclude the book.

It now stands at 73 pages, with another few still to be created! Value for money is a certainty!!
Colin 12:22 pm | 2 comments |

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Freedom Of Speech And Responsible Journalism

Bit of a struggle to get out of bed this morning but the weather was nice and sunny enough to make the trip to work worthwhile.

I had trouble keeping calm this afternoon. There is nothing worse when you are trying to concentrate than a group of technical guru's who gather behind you at your desk, then spend an hour talking and laughing loudly. It's made even worse by the fact one of them sounds like a Jack-in-the-Box being strangled when he laughs, making it one of the most annoying sounds I've ever heard in an office.

The weather took the usual pattern today; sunny but cool am - windy and wet pm, but by the time I left work it had thankfully stopped raining.

Gail made another fantastic pot of fresh carrot and coriander soup tonight. While Laura was at Brownies we popped into Morrison's for some stuff and bought some fresh, crusty baguettes to eat with the soup when we got back.

We also made a trip to the dump to bin all the brick and tiling from the downstairs toilet, which is next on the list of rooms to be furnished. I couldn't help thinking as I threw the bags into the skip, that my original desk and cabinet handles were laying in there somewhere.

I'm into the fine details of the design and layout of Festival Fantastic. I'm giving the poems a thorough going over as I move from page to page, lining everything up and ensuring there are no discrepancies whatsoever. The font has to be exact on each page, as do the page numbers, copyright and acknowledgement information and of course the author information needs to be splendid too.

I've still to write a Foreword. I thought about asking someone else to do it but I'm not sure who would be best suited so I might do it myself. I also have to order the ISBN number through the publisher and once I have that I can generate the bar code, without which, the book cannot be sold in book shops.

I discovered that any non-standard fonts used in text and/or titles are wiped by the publishing process if it is included in mere text and so I will have to go through all the page titles and replace the text headings with graphic headings. A bit of a pain because all the page numbers have to be done too, but it should make it a cleaner final production.

I read an interesting article in today's Times.

Hadrian knew the truth by a freelance "journalist" called Ross Clark.

Never have I read such a mis-informed, racist and insulting piece of journalism. For it to come from such an esteemed organ such as The Times, I am amazed this article even made it past the editors, because it brings the organ to its preverbal knees and shows it to be nothing more than a prejudiced newspaper with right-wing views. For them to hide behind the "it was a columnists opinion, not the newspaper" line is a disgrace, particularly when it is not displayed anywhere clear that this in fact is the case.

Scotland does have a problem with violence, mainly in areas of deep urban poverty where these crimes are by enlarge, committed. Several towns in Scotland have bad reputations and the statistics make poor reading, but this does in no way justify a journalist to use this as an excuse to stick the knife into a nation of people as a whole, or to use a national newspaper to air his apparent personal disillusioned prejudiced beliefs.

For the benefit of Mr. Ross Clark, I will address several comments made in his disgusting copy.

1) The translation of "Have a wee dram afore ye go," is not "I'm going to stuff this broken beer glass into your face." This in fact is Mr. Clark's bigoted interpretation and as such, his article is immediately factually inaccurate.

2) "thereby allowing the violent Scots to defile us peace-loving English and Welsh." Peace loving English and Welsh? If you want to drag up history Mr. Clark let us start with the problem of your football supporters who seem to love going abroad and causing mayhem and violence to the point a tracel ban was imminent.

3) "if you stripped out attacks committed by drunken McSporrans and McTavishes just arrived on the train at Euston." Responsible journalism does not involve using a bad experience Ross Clark may have had in a train station and using it as an excuse to defile and insult an entire nation. Using terms such as "McSporrans" and "McTavishes" not only creates an air of bad taste but it also shows the high levels of ignorance this journalist has. This can only be described as inciting hatred through prejudiced and hateful views, something I thought Westminster is trying to cut out.

4) "I wouldn't be surprised if England came out as the most murder-free country in the world." Is this a fact? Can Mr. Clark back this up with evidence? Or should I drop to his level and recount every rude Englishman I have encountered in the past in a bar in London somewhere.

5) "It is hardly as if there is anything new about the Scots propensity for murder." Again, an opinion that if it was said about the Muslim community, would result in a heavy penalty in the British Courts and probably the end of Mr. Clark's career. If Ross Clark is referring to the violent history between the English and the Scots, he would do well to pay attention to the facts rather than taknig a school-kids view of the battles where many of both our countrymen died.

6) "When even a former Scottish Labour Minister, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, ends up being jailed for setting light to the hotel where he had been drinking, there seems little hope in reforming the Scots." First, it seems highly inappropriate for any journalist to take pride and gloat about a crime committed that may have resulted in people's lives being endangered. How Mr. Clark can take any pride out of this incident is beyond me and he should be ashamed.

Secondly, for Mr. Clark to use this incident as the springboard to comment on how an entire nation can ever be reformed - and why would we even need to be reformed to the satisfaction of a bigoted journalist? - is a total and utter disgrace.

7) When talking about electronic tagging, Mr. Clark suggests, "just rebuild Hadrian's Wall" as an alternative. Please do, Mr. Clark, freelance journalist, then perhaps we won’t have to listen to your drivel any more.

I believe Ross Clark's article to be in direct contravention of the Journalists Code of Practice and the Public Order Act of 1986 for the following reasons:

JCP
Section 1 - Accuracy
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

BREACHED. Ross Clark's article is factually incorrect, misleading and contanis informatrion distorted tro reflect his own prejudiced points of view. The article does not approach the subject with any substance or journalistic decency.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, mis-leading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.

NOT FORTHCOMING. So far Ross Clark has not responded to the criticism for this article, instead he has left it to his editors, who published through the paper, a statement indicating as it was an opinion and not the newspapers there is nothign to apologise for.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

BREACHED. Ross Clark has failed in his dity to do any of this. He has blurred fact with fiction and his own personal distorted beliefs.

Section 12 - Discrimination
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

BREACHED. The main charge against Ross Clark is this one. Had this article been about Muslims, Islam, Jews or any other race or ethnic group, Mr. Clark would be in a Court of Law by now.

Section on Public Interest
iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

BREACHED. This article misleads the public by MRr Clark's individual statements contained within the copy.

Public Order Act 1986

Offences under this act, "prohibit the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displaying any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting with the intention of stirring up racial hatred or where racial hatred is likely to be stirred up."

Clearly, this has law has been broken by the journalist Ross Clark in his article in The Times of Wednesday 28th September 2005. The histiry between the two nations has been at times a violent and bloody one and many people have used this as an excuse to continue ill-feeling and violcence to the present day. It's one of the reason's we don't play the Rous Cup any longer.

But in this day and age when the threat from international terrorists is as great as ever before, Ross Clark would be better refraining from stirring up hatred between two nations who need to stand together, rather than inciting violence and division.

As a result of this article, the Conservative Party, the SNP and the Catholic Church have all come out and publicly condemned The Times over this article. I will go one step further and intend to draft a formal complaint to be submitted to the Press Complaints Commission, a copy of which will also be forwarded to the Editor of The Times.

I expect a reply.
Colin 7:21 pm | 1 comments |

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Talking Art

Important Announcement

The new Madness single artwork is now ready and a release date has been set for October 31st 2005. Girl, Why Don't You, the original song by Prince Buster, one of Madness' biggest influences, can be pre-ordered from 101cd.com.

MESSAGE ENDS

Today started off quite pleasant. The wind and rain last night that battered most of the east coast had gone and I walked to work in a calm, cool breeze. By lunchtime, the heavens had opened again and rain was falling horizontally due to the resumption of the gale-force winds. I half expected a blizzard by dinner time but it never transpired.

I collected Laura from her latest after-school activity - choir singing. One by one all these wee kids trouped out the school gates singing like mini-soprano's to popular tunes I can never remember the name of. What with this and her tap dancing, she's not the quietest of kids.

It looks like KIC has been abandoned by its editor. An auto-response to the email I sent revealed the date for the re-start has now been pushed back to November 1st! I would have thought an email to warn the authors would have been polite and a mail-out to the bloody subscribers a necessity.

It's become a total sham and I'm only going public with it now because my contract has been broken so many times by the editor it would be impossible for me to be dropped anyway.

I am gutted for my active subscribers who have paid good money to be left with no product. It borders on fraud. I am gutted for the other KIC authors who have dedicated large amounts of time not just to writing the serials, but to promoting and marketing them, as well as the company itself.

I can't have anything to do with it any more. I am going to insist KIC refund all my subscribers and then I will provide them with the serial for free. It is nothing short of shambolic the way this whole situation has been handled and I think for the case of my writing career I should disassociate myself with KeepitComing.net for the greater good.

The vote for the Festival book title has now closed. Thanks to everyone who took part and I'm pleased to announce the title is the one I would have picked anyway if you all hadn't voted for it. The Festival book will be called:



I headed down to The Waterline bar on Leith's Shore to meet Sarah Swanson, the official photographer for Fringe Fantastic. It was our first meeting and it went well. We talked about the project at length and about writing and photography in general, but being a Glaswegian at heart, a lot of our discussion revolved around the old Edinburgh/Glasgow divide.

Sarah read over the first draft of Fringe Fantastic to get a feel for it and has already started to come up with some ideas about how to go about it (including the use of make-up!). The weekend of the 8th/9th October has been pencilled in for a photo shoot so fingers crossed it isn't chucking it down with rain when the day comes.

We got on really well which is good as I wouldn't want to work with someone who I didn't like, and I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures that come out of this. Sarah also agreed to do me some author portraits but I've no clue what my image is. Need to think about that one.

I had only expected to be out for a couple of hours and then intended go back home to do some more writing, but by quarter past eleven we were several pints into the meeting when we realised we'd better make it the last one.

One thing I came to realise is how quick this month has passed. I'll already be putting together the GDR Round Up for September in the next couple of days but it feels like only a week has passed since the August one.

Hopefully I can squeeze the most out of the next couple of days before I do.
Colin 11:31 am | 2 comments |

Monday, September 26, 2005

Swimming

I woke up to a rejection from Glimmer Train for Daffodils this morning. It wasn't entirely unexpected given the organ's standing in the literature market, but it will take more than that to dent my confidence.

Last night was extremely stormy. All day the winds were blowing at almost gale speeds, and the rain and wind battered off the bedroom window all night. It makes you appreciate the warmth of your own bed when you can hear it all going off outside.

When I left for my folks on Saturday there had been 97 downloads of Brick by Brick. By lunchtime today there were 102! It's going at some rate and that's just from this blog, not from my official writing site! Hopefully all these people will by the Festival book when it comes out too!!

I left work early to take Laura to her swimming lessons. It's normally something Gail's Mum does for us but as she's on holiday I took the time out to see how my wee girl is getting on in the pool. She's doing fantastic; swimming easily and diving about as if there's no barrier to her confidence.

There is no official waiting area for the parents while the kids are in the water, so the Management set out chairs behind a line of tape for us to sit. So with my blue shoe covers on I took my seat at the deep end and watched Laura going about her lesson.

My view was blocked at one stage when another class of younger kids lined up in front of me. The teacher wanted them all to slide into the pool and tread water for as long as possible.

"That's good," I thought. "I'll be able to see Laura easier when they're out of the away."

Unfortunately, I forgot that the term 'slide into the pool' isn't that exciting for 6-year old kids, as I discovered when they launched themselves into the deep end in front of me. I froze, as it suddenly dawned on me that the huge wave of water they had created was now heading in my direction.

Half a second later I was sitting soaked with mildly warm, bleach-treated water over my person. None of the other parents got touched, which became apparent by the laughter aimed in my direction. I took it in good spirit and half of me wanted to just jump into the pool fully clothed. I always wanted to do that for a laugh but it would probably have scared the bejeezus out of all the kids.

The rest of my evening was spent tidying up paperwork, books, magazines and folders that are swimming around my side of the bed. No writing got done and rather alarmingly I've yet to hear from the KIC editor about the resumption of the ezines, supposedly on the 25th of this month.

I'm getting worried so I fired off an email asking about the status of the publication. I have subscribers waiting in tow, commitments made with other publications with regards to sponsorship and an outstanding pay cheque. Come to think of it, I'm a subscriber as well and have still to get the remainder of my ezines before the hiatus started.

Truth be told, I think KIC is dying and won't be back as it was before, if at all. It's sad but I suppose that's life.

Here's a few images from my family trip to the River Gryffe on Sunday:







Colin 11:00 am | 3 comments |

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Field Of Miracles

My stomach still felt dodgy for most of the morning but one shower followed by an empty omelette cooked by my Dad and it started to feel a bit better. Yes - I said empty omelette; I never knew there was such a thing either!

I went out with Gail and Laura to show them the River Gryffe where I used to fish and explore. Seeing as I was on another nostalgic trip I used it as an excuse to show them round the village I was brought up in.

We started off down at the Torr Weir, but we were just too early in the season to see the salmon leaping the falls. I got some nice photo's of the this section of the river and the weir, but I won't post these until tomorrow as this post already has enough images in it later on as you will see.

We messed around by the river for a while, having stick races and skimming stones then went up onto the old railway bridge overlooking the whole valley. It evoked so many great memories but there were more to come.

We went back to the car, stopping in a couple of shops on the way before following a road leading out into the country. It passed my old Primary School, which was the first time I have seen it in over fifteen years. Memories of when I was Laura's age came flooding back and it's a tie you feel you never want to let go of. I'd love to be able to go inside the building some day and look around.

We kept driving deeper into the country along the single track road passing several farms until we were totally surrounded by patches of forest and vast fields with grazing cattle and horses. We passed one field; small with only one cow in it and as we drove passed we realised it was about to give birth. We parked the car and got out to watch a tiny miracle happen before our very eyes.

This is a story best told in pictures, so if you are squeamish or eating your lunch while reading this then look away now. I'm not too much of a macho-man to admit that when the wee thing was born, I felt quite moved.

(Click any picture to see it enlarged.)


Pushing hard

She's too tired to stand upright now

After a while, the Farmer ties a rope around the protuding hind legs of the calf

The Farmer starts to pull


Here she comes

The calf arrives lifeless, into the world

The Farmer checks mother and calf are fine and leaves them to it

The baby calf starts to look around for it's mother

Mother cautiously approaches it's newborn; instinct kicking in

The baby calf reveals itself to us for the first time

With gathering strength, the calf tries to get to it's feet for the first time...

...and flops back to the ground!

One more try...

...and another spectacular flop!

Eventually the calf gets up and stays up...

...and makes it to it's mother to have its first meal of milk


Back home my Mum had cooked a roast chicken for dinner followed by lemon meringue pie and coffee. Delicious! Nothing like a home cooked meal, but before long we had to get moving back through to Edinburgh. It was already getting dark and with work and school tomorrow we had to get moving.

On the way back through, Laura entertained herself by getting me to lie back in the seat so she could massage my head. She's getting quite good at massaging my temple now but so long as it keeps her amused!

I checked my email when I got home and my Robert Louis Stevenson article has been accepted by Circadian Poems and will be published on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2005. Also, the three poems I submitted are going to be published; Perfect Apple on November 4, Empty on November 16 and Brunette on November 30. I'll post the links when they appear, but the link to the organ can be found over on the left of this page.

I saw a game on Turning 30 and a Half so I'm going to do it as well because I like the idea. It's called 23:5 and the rules are:

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to it).
3. Find the 5th sentence (or closest to it).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

So here goes: "I noticed a coolness in the air walking to work this morning."

Hmmm - not as exciting as I was expecting, but given that I live in Edinburgh, one can only assume it to be another accurate weather report.

Colin 11:43 am | 3 comments |

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Old Memories And Prawn Sandwiches

The car was packed by lunchtime with our bags and after some food, we set off for Glasgow early afternoon. We did the journey in just over an hour and a half, which was quite good going, but stopping off in Johnstone lengthened the journey slightly. I used to work there when I was going through University in the local Safeway as it was back then. It's now a Sainsbury's but not that much else has changed.

There were a couple of old faces I recognised; people who were die-hards even before I started there in 1990. When I left in 1995 they still held the same positions and by the look of it, promotion/expansion is something they still haven't sussed might be a good idea.

Being in the store brought back a million and one memories. The five years I spent there were superb in helping me to pay my way, and balance it with having some raucous fun during my educative years.

Saturday's were best. A 6am start to take the deliveries would be followed by a fry-up in the canteen at around 10am. Then it would be into then it would be into the dairy produce under orders of my boss - StarTrekFanBob until lunchtime, where we would all sit and have a riot in the canteen taking the mickey out of Danny Lavery and talking about girls and football. My afternoon was always the same - frozen foods. I loved it because I was left to get on with it and could nip back and forth to the changing rooms to keep up with the football scores or have a blast of some Madness on my personal stereo.

By 6pm I would be finished and I would head home to get my dinner. By 8pm I would be in a pub with my mates before heading into Glasgow centre and Fury Murry's nightclub for a bevvy and maybe a wee dance with the ladies. Then it would back to Uni for the week before doing it all again. Halcien days.

We missed the worst of the traffic on the drive through to Glasgow, but not the weather. When we left Edinburgh it was sunny and mild; by the time the M8 motorway took us through Glasgow, it was grey and cool.

After time to catch up with my parents over some coffee and quiche, Gail and I got ready and headed up to Mikey P's house. We had a few drinks in his with Craig and then hailed a taxi to Stevie and Nancy's wedding reception out at Gleddoch House in Langbank. Actually, it was a marquee next to the clubhouse and we arrived half an hour after the keyboard stared spouting electric sparks and a power cut left all the guests in total darkness. If it weren't for a guest who was an electrician, it could have been a disaster. As it was the marquee was so cold anyway due to the lack of heating, we were delighted to take refuge in the nearby clubhouse for some warmth.

Other than the temperature though, it was a good laugh. There were some faces I haden't seen for a while and some people to introduce Gail to for the first time. By the end of the night she had become so confused with all the new names to remember she started forgetting who everyone was. But they were all that drunk anyway nobody cared a jot.

The taxi home wasn't pleasant. The road between Langbank and my parent's house is not a long one, but it is very windy, hilly and narrow. My guts started to respond with a queasiness making me feel very uncomfortable.

By the time I got back I went straight to the loo and then to bed, leaving Gail and my Dad up talking till 3am. I later discovered my discomfort was caused by one of Stevie's prawn sandwiches served at the buffet, which was less than friendly.

If I have a curry tomorrow, it won't be prawn

Colin 12:08 pm | 1 comments |

Friday, September 23, 2005

Colin Galbraith - RIP

As I should have perhaps expected, the sky across Edinburgh was bleak, grey and wet this morning, reflecting my mood in almost every way. Only thunder and rain would have completed the emotional picture.

To make matters even more dire, the coffee shop was stowed out so I couldn't get my coffee, and apparently I died the other day as well. Read my obituary in today's Scotsman.


Click to enlarge

There isn't much else I can really say about today; it wasn't an artistic day nor was it a day of positive energy. What I can say is that I was overjoyed to be able to introduce Gail to my chums in Clark's. She never liked it when I last took her five years ago but I think the free drink from Gary the barman helped change her mind.

Tom put a tenner on a horse each way at 125-1. It came second after a fifteen-minute decision over a photo finish. Although Tom missed out on one and a half grand, he still walked away with four hundred pounds, a shaky hand and sweaty brow.

I had to work at seven o'clock, which was less than pleasant and when I got home I was so tired and was suffering a sore head, I popped a couple of Syndol, had a cup of tea and sandwich and went to bed.

Never have I been so delighted to lay my head on my pillow. I am glad today was over but it was nothing to celebrate. Tomorrow we're all going through to Glasgow to stay overnight with my folks. Gail and me and going to Stevie and Nancy Bates' wedding at night, and drink I shall.
Colin 12:40 pm | 3 comments |

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Duff

Not a bad day. I was quite busy at work but we don't want to talk about that since it's all duff. I think the word 'duff' has gained extra respect over the years since we found out Homer Simpson drinks Duff Beer. It has for me anyway.


Fancy a Duff Day?

I found a great site a while back that I meant to post earlier than this. It belongs to Dee Rimbaud, a Glasgow-based writer and artist. He's leaving Glasgow; in fact, he's leaving Scotland because he's sick of it. I left him a long message and I hope he reconsiders but I respect his reasons. Scotland needs more people like him or we're going to implode.

I had an incredible response to my announcement about the demise of The Magnificent 7. People responded with thanks, praise and best of all, memories, of the meetings between Madness fans from all over the world. The best email was from Suggsy, a member of the Madness tribute band 1st Step Below, who has offered to host the site on his own server although it would remain dormant. This means The Magnificent 7 could be given a last minute reprieve from certain doom, to have a long, if un-maintained life. Negotiations are still ongoing though, so I'll keep you informed of any progress.

I worked on my personal website in the evening, giving it an overhaul with a new non-fiction section, contact page and reorganising some of the other information on it. Another tick on the GDR but it had needed an update badly. Later in bed, I realised I forgot to actually upload the changes so I'll do that tomorrow night.

I downloaded all the images from the Edinburgh Festival I took on my digital video camera. There are almost 300 and I'm probably only going to use a dozen at most. Some of them reminded me of events and people I had forgotten about, which inspired more poems for the book. Will this poetic tide ever stop? Hope not.

As far as duff goes, tomorrow could be the epitomy.

Colin 10:37 am | 0 comments |

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Dear God

On the way to work I saw a bulldozer parked outside Clark's Bar. I nearly shat myself. I went into Club Sandwich for a coffee to calm down and thankfully the driver was also in getting his breakfast. Phew!

Another hurricane is headed for the Gulf Coast in America. It's further west this time and headed right for Louisiana and Texas. I have friends from my writing group that live there. It's a Category 5 at the moment; the highest there is, and by looking at the reports, there is speculation that this could be the biggest storm to hit North America since the pilgrims.

I'm worried that New Orleans was just the start of something so much bigger. There are some people spouting nonsense that all this has been sent from God as some kind of divine test. If God enjoys killing his own people like this then maybe it's time he had a health check because he's clearly lost the plot.

Or maybe there is no God. Maybe it is all dust to dust. Maybe I'll concentrate on leaving something behind for the ones I love, because when I'm gone, none of it will make any difference anyway. Maybe while I'm here on this earth, I'll do the best I can to be the best man I can. That's the scenario that makes more sense to me. If there is a God, it's getting too late for some people to return to their Faith, so prove yourself now.


Splat!

I ended up sitting up late last night to watch a Bond film on TV - Tomorrow Never Dies, so I'm still behind on my sleep but feeling good because of all the work I'm getting through. I need to keep busy this week; there's a lot of stressful things coming up and focussing on work is helping me to remain steady and balanced.

I submitted three poems to Circadian Poems; Empty, Perfect Apple and Brunette, which are the first poems I've submitted individually for quite a while (apart from the ones to Story House yesterday!). I've been working on collections and themes and concentrating on submitting fiction more, that I have neglected them lately.

I worked most of the evening on the design and layout of the Festival book. All the pages are now in place and contain all the text and verse. It stands at 55 pages in total so far, which is before any photography; the Festival photography, not the ones Sarah will take.

My back started to ache so I knew it was time to finish for the night so I took Gail with some tea. The Omen was just starting so I watched it fully for the first time ever. Chilling, to say the least, and although some of the acting was a tad suspect I found it to be one of the better horror films I've seen. I liked the incorporation of innocence, the Bible, Satan and darkness to create the effect of pure evil. There must have been a lot of research that went into it, which reinforces some of the lessons I have been learning over the last couple of weeks about preparation.

The only other horror I can remember genuinely enjoying - watching in suspense rather than laughing at its stupidity - is The Ring. I found it quite a scary and tense film. It's not the jumps and starts that make a horror for me, it's the build up of tensions, the mix of the unknown with the unexpected, the stuff you don't see that is implied. Good stuff.
Colin 11:53 am | 2 comments |

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Healthy Living

The CD I have in my bedside alarm clock didn't go down too well this morning when Scorpios by Adam and the Ants came blaring out the speakers at 6.30am. Gail had the day off for the September school holiday, and I had forgotten.

Being logged onto my company mainframe between 12.30 and 02.30 last night didn't help matters though. I got called out, and while this means good cash, it is also very knackering when you get woken up to work then can't sleep again. I paid the price with heavy eyes and a grumpy demeanour. A shower and the first coffee of the day went a long way to helping my mood.

Work was shit. 'nuff said.

When I got home Gail had made a pot of wonderful fresh carrot & fresh coriander soup with fresh crusty baguettes. Fantastic! Healthy AND tasty!! Quite filling too as I didn't feel much like dinner after it so I just got on with working away in my office. And the first full evening proved to be very busy.

I found a call for submissions on Craigslist-Edinburgh. A new publication called Fringe Magazine is looking for some material so I added it to my list for later. I was forwarded an advert for a part-time freelance position with an American company looking for a writer who "bleeds tartan". Sounds intriguing so I sent them my information.

I completed the re-write of the Robert Louis Stevenson article, giving it more of a lean towards his poetry. I think it gives the article more life, and I should probably have written more about his verse in the original, but there you go. I gave it a final read over and submitted it later on to Circadian Poems.

I began the process of narrowing down the photography applicants and got it down to four from eleven - not easy! Nor was writing the rejection letters. I know how it feels to receive one so I tried to make them as personal and up-beat as possible.

To decide between the final four was a nightmare. All of them had great portfolios and all of them talked a good game. When it came down to it, the split came when I looked at who seemed the most positive and approachable. So after much deliberation, I'm happy to announce Sarah Swanson as the official photographer for the Festival book project.

I submitted four poems to Storyhouse, where if accepted, they will appear on coffee labels across America! I think it's a great idea, so I sent them ones with a Scottish and coffee feel; The Old Lady of Edinburgh, In the Edinburgh Fog, Scotland Neglected and Girl in Coffee Shop.

I announced to the Madness community that The Magnificent 7, will be allowed to die in a couple of months when its hosting contract expires. It was a sad letter to write, but it's one that has to happen if my writing is to advance unhindered.

I sent out multiple submissions for each of the un-published short stories I have written. I didn't see the point in effectively only having one story out on submission to two publications a year, when if they accept simultaneously I can have them out to more. It will improve my liquidity and chances at publication. My list grew accordingly, so here is a run down of my subs list as it stands tonight:

Poems
Story House - 4 poems (The Old Lady of Edinburgh, In the Edinburgh Fog, Scotland Neglected, Girl in Coffee Shop)

Fiction
The Edge Magazine - 1 (The Blind Man of Cathkin Street)
Writing Magazine
- 1 (On A Monday Morning)
Big Ugly Review - 1 (Heart of a Child)
Barcelona Review - 1 (Loaded)
The Portable Muse - 1 (A Bond of Faith)
Glimmer Train - 1 (Daffodils)
Thirteen Magazine - 1 (The Blind Man of Cathkin Street)
One Story - 2 (Heart of a Child, A Bond of Faith)
Wildchild - 2 (Daffodils, The Oasis)
Open Wide Magazine - 2 (Heart of a Child, Loaded)
Summerset Review - 2 (Daffodils, Loaded)
Adirondack Review - 1 (The Oasis)
Fringe Magazine - 2 (A Bond of Faith, The Oasis)
Gorlan - 1 (Daffodils)

Non-Fiction
Writer-on-Line - 1 (How To Create Your Own E-book)
Literary Traveller - 1 (Robert Louis Stevenson in Edinburgh)
Circadian Poems - 1 (Robert Louis Stevenson - The Poet and Author)
Keep It Coming - 5 (Great Scottish Authors: Robert Burns, Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, James Barrie, Irvine Welsh)
Freelance Job - 1 (p/t application for Scottish writer sent)

Things are looking much healthier these days!
Colin 11:05 am | 4 comments |

Monday, September 19, 2005

Perils Of The Rubbish Bin

In all the furore of the work at hand and everything else that life has thrown at me these last few days, I clean forgot not only about my future Brother-in-Law's birthday, but also about my parent's wedding anniversary. Well, it's not so much I forgot, I remembered about them all last week but sat on it until I did forget. What's worse is I can't buy the cards today because it's a holiday for most people, except of course, this office.

I'm feeling quite stressed and out of it today. My head pounded the entire morning at work and not even lunch appeased the pain. My back is sore and I feel like smashing up something that has little value just to make myself feel better. Actually, a cuddle from my wife would do the trick so I met her after work and pounced on her as soon as she was out of the door.

I filtered out suitable publications for the five short stories I have sitting on one submission and got them ready for emailing from my home PC. One Story accepts via an online form so I sent them A Bond of Faith and Heart of a Child. I also re-drafted the final version of the query for What a Waste and put together a job application for a part-time position at a publication looking for a Scottish writer.

Then I had three more applications received from prospective photographers. The more I get, the harder it seems to be. I drew up a spreadsheet to try and filter out who is most suitable. Some had totally inadequate responses so they were easy to reject. Others are way over the top qualified and should really be looking for larger paying markets. I know a credit in a book is a good thing, but having a gleaming corporate media company wanting to take a picture of me for a chapbook doesn't fit with my image as much as it should be well beneath them. I'll keep a note of them though for the future.

While I was working on the applicants information I got an email from "swanieslunch". Now, the person who surfs under this ID popped into my live internet chat with KIC lat month but never said anything, and when they replied to the photography advert, I started to think it was one of my pals playing a trick. I questioned them all in Clark's last Friday but they were adamant it was none of them. Stumped, I tried to bluff the person by sending them a reply asking for their name and age.

Turns out it wasn't someone playing a trick. Turns out it was a serious email about the photography ad. Turns out I know who the person is (kind of) because I read her blog regularly. Turns out, it's Sarah Swanson of the Bored In Leith blog (see left of page).

So I moved the "swanieslunch" folder out of the Rejected pile and into the In The Running pile and started the process of looking at everyone's online portfolios again. I now have seven people in the running and I don't want to string them along. Some are very impressive, but it's not just good pictures I'm after. I want someone who is free of mind, is not afraid to throw any kind of idea into the pot and is local. I want someone who can handle a good digital camera and can help me interpret my ideas into a damn good book cover. I'll make a final decision tomorrow probably.

When I got home I started the big clean-up operation in my new office. I got hold of some large bin bags and started to throw out all the empty packaging, bubble wrap, cardboard and carpet cuttings. Gail took the bags to the Tip while I made Laura her dinner. She still wasn't back by the time we had finished so I went into my office with the intention of completing the assembly of the cabinet; the drawers and cupboard door needed their handles fitted.

I looked around for the small bag they came in but couldn't see it anywhere. Surely I took the handles out and put them with the other parts? No, it seemed I didn't, which meant only one thing.

I had thrown them out with the rest of the rubbish.

My heart stopped. They were specially ordered chrome handles to finish the furniture off in style. Gail was going to kill me. I tried calling her but her mobile was in the house. I called her pal who went with her, but her mobile was switched off. My only chance of survival would be if the Tip was closed for the holiday.

Eventually she returned; the car now empty of the bin bags. No such luck. I told her, rather sheepishly, what I had done. She shook her head. "You're a twat!"

This little setback didn't stop me from moving the computer into the room and setting it up for use. No problems there, which was just as well.

Remember Life As She Knew It by Leigh Clements? It was one of the short stories in the book, Tall Tales and Short stories Vol.2 that I received from Michelle Miles as part of the bookcrossing.com network.

Leigh left a comment in Thursday's blog entry asking more about my Great Scottish Writers series, so for Leigh and anyone else interested, here's the rundown.

The editor at KIC wanted to start a series in the weekly newsletter about great historical authors so I suggested I could do a run of some of Scotland's most famous authors, and not just restrict it to historical figures. The first one about Robert Louis Stevenson was published on August 24th.

I've written five more articles for the series; Robert Burns, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, James Barrie and Irvine Welsh. I was also presented with the opportunity to interview Ian Rankin for a feature article on the KIC website which I am still working on. Hopefully when KIC resumes on Sunday, these articles will start to be published as from next week.

I plan on doing more next month so long as the opportunity is still there, as I also want to write about Janice Galloway, Muriel Spark, Iain Banks, James Boswell, Liz Lochead, Edwin Morgan, Susan Ferrier, Mary Brunton, Catherine Carswell and William Alexander.

It's been great fun to do and very interesting. I've learnt about a lot about Scotland's writing tradition through the research and had my eyes opened to the world of literature that has come out of this country.

Hopefully, I can get myself onto that list too.
Colin 1:03 pm | 2 comments |

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Working As A Team

Got up at 8am with Laura and had breakfast while watching Looney Tunes. I never heard Gail coming in last night so I knew it must have been a late one and decided I would let her have a lie in. She probably needed the blow out and I would make her breakfast when she got up.

I checked my email and blog and was delighted to get some feedback from some people about my free e-book, Brick by Brick (available on the left of this page). It is always wonderful to hear what people think about my work after they take the time out their lives to read it, and it is even better to hear when it has been enjoyed. So thank you very much, Max and Alicia.

My plan was to prepare for the days DIY and hopefully get through most of it early so I could return to writing for the latter part of the day. I am still getting applications for the book cover photography and have loads of my GDR to get through. Which reminds me - remember to vote for your favourite book title on the left! There's already been some votes come so get your vote in too.

But the day slowly turned into a 'let's storm the office and get it all done' kind of day. It took me until lunchtime to paint the bookcase in the garage and then with all done I made some lunch and while I waited for Ian.

When he showed he finished the wiring and Gail and I nipped to B&Q for some extra parts and lighting. We had an early dinner (mince and tatties! Yeehaah!) and while Ian laid the underlay and carpet tidied the other parts of the house, which were suffering from neglect due to all the tools and carpet pieces lying around. We offered help but other than a cup of tea he didn't need it. The new lighting turned out not to be suitable, so it will need to be replaced and when Ian left for the evening, he kindly took Laura with him to stay the night at his.



The new carpet, walls and skirting

This meant Gail and I could get down to some serious - erecting - of the office furniture. We decided to try and get most of it done tonight so it was out of the way. Not as easy as it sounds but we worked together and it felt good; we were a team and strangely, there were no arguments about who got to use the screwdriver or put on the wood glue. We got the desk complete and most of the cabinet. Finding the parts was a nightmare when comparing them to the plans and by the end of it the upstairs landing was a total mess.

When we finished it was half past ten at night and we were both hungry and thirsty. Cue a haggis pizza and bottle of Irn-Bru to finish off the night. It looks like by tomorrow night it should all be complete and I should be able to start moving in. Then I can get back to the writing, which at the end of the day, is what this is all about.

Colin 12:00 pm | 2 comments |

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Pentin'

Other than sending in the articles for the Great Scottish Writer series to KIC, I got nothing done. It was a day that any DIY expert would have been proud of as I got wired into the office. I painted the walls (two coats) and glossed the door. The walls took much longer than expected and with Laura on my case most of the day (Gail was out) the whole operation took me up until 9.30pm. Other than stopping for dinner with Laura, I was at it all day.

We also got the new carpet. It's a light brown/beige shade, which keeps everything neutral and calming. I'm still unsure about the colour for the book shelves, which, although it is a different name on the tin, the colours look almost identical to me.

So we're all ready for tomorrow. Ian is due round to fix the sockets to the walls, fir the carpet and radiator back on. Then we can start to assemble and move in the furniture and I'll finished the small painting jobs later (with lots of covers).

I think I might buy a picture for the wall; maybe a scenic view or a painting, but it has to fit the mood that the room is taking. It's very soothing and I can see it being a great place to write. My ideal space, in fact.

With any luck, I'll be writing in the room tonight, but it'll be a long shot as there is still lots to do.
Smashie can start to think about moving in today as his new home can't be that far off from being purchased now. And I'll be able to have my printer on the same desk for the first time ever, which is a bonus.

It's all coming together and I'm very happy.

I read a story from the book, Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol 2, sent to me by my pal, Michelle Miles, through the Bookcrossing.com project. Life As She Knew It by Leigh Clements, fellow KIC author, was my first port of call. It's an excellent story about a woman who realises her life exists only within the plot of a book and there is nothing she can do to alter fate. Sometimes, I get that feeling as well.

NB. Pentin': Painting, in phonitic Scottish language.
Colin 9:31 am | 2 comments |

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bloody Friday

When I left the house this morning it was half past seven and I felt good. I felt refreshed, charged and ready for a long day, plenty of writing and lunch in Clark's. A good Friday, with no controversy or drama. How wrong I was.

As I approached the bus stop and marvelled at the blanket of cold, dew-filled air lying over the Links, I wiped my nose, for it was running slightly and I had not a hanky on my person. It kept running and I found it odd that only my left nostril should be suffering such an attack of the sniffles.

I looked at my hand.

A red smear stained the skin.

I bent over and let the blood run from my nose onto the pavement. It didn't look like stopping so I nipped my nostrils closed and started to walk back up the hill to the house. It only took a few minutes to stop the bleeding and then I was on my way again, thankfully, with no splashing on my jacket or jeans. But it was strange it should happen in such a way.

Work was busy so I was delighted when lunchtime came so I could get a pint with Dave and Tom. I only had time for a couple before I had to get back and check on some work I left running, but I also got time to email my friend who is an editor for one of the UK's leading national Sunday newspapers. They don't normally deal in fiction; just sex, drugs and scandals. I sent him my query and he read it over. He made some good suggestions on how to add to its impact and make it more 'editor-friendly'.

And that's about all I managed. I went back to the pub when all was done and had a few more pints with Tom. We met up with Zander at Tanfield Bowling Club. He recently won a big tournament and was proudly showing off his photograph in the Scottish Bowler magazine. The club reminded me of a place I used to drink in Bridge of Weir when I was still at home. Strangely enough it was called the Bridge of Weir Bowling Club. At £1.80 a pint who could complain?

We left at about 10pm and headed into town where, for the first time in years, I was refused entry to a bar. No, I wasn't drunk or incapable. I was a bloke, and there were already too many blokes in the bar even though it was half-empty. Nice going guys; if the owners of The Privy Council bar on Hanover Street were to hire people with brains, we could all be in some serious trouble. Obviously this minimum wage thing isn't working for some people. As it stand, I'll not be back and won't encourage anyone else to either.

We went into Milnes on Rose Street instead (far more user-friendly) and I left at around midnight. I was tired, hungry and ready for my bed. I jumped into a cab for home, made a cup of tea and hit the hay. Tomorrow is DIY day, but if I can get through all my work I'll be able to get some writing done when Gail goes out with her pals.
Colin 5:04 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Wheelie's Nightmare

I caught Ian Rankin being interviewed about his new book, Rebus's Scotland on BBC Breakfast this morning. The interview was very short and rushed and he was asked the usual questions; inspiration, history, etc. He was definitely wearing make-up; he's much paler in real life.

I worked a lot on the Fringe chapbook; deciding on chapters, organising the poems to fit the headings, running through and editing all the poems. I messed about with the publication tool to see how it will work and it seems quite simple yet flexible anough for me to do pretty much anything I want with it.

I still think I can do more with the poems though. The collection I have so far is good and I like them. Most aren't tradition poems; more like slam poems, but when the photos go in along side, which I'm positive I can do cheaply, I think it will make for a great wee book.

But I still don't think I'm expanding and stretching myself enough within the thought process of the poems themselves. I know I have done some good work, but there is a darkened door in my mind that I have still not found. Behind that door lies the path to enlightenment and lots of envelopes being pushed through doors. I have to find a quiet time and expand my mind. Perhaps I should get drunk and do it that way.

Speaking of the Festival book, I still need a proper title. The working title is Fringe Fantastic, which is quite good, but I want to make sure I get the best one. I have put together a selection of the best ones I could think of. Some are off the top of my head, and some are named after actual poems, which I feel reflect the focus and feel of the book. So, as a challenge to all my readers, I have decided to put the title out to a public vote. You can choose from the list here, or suggest your own. This list will be on the left hand side for a couple of weeks then I'll count the votes.

Send your suggestions here

Fringe Fantastic
Snipping the Fringe
Tearing up the Fringe
The Masterplan
Sunshine Fruit
National Portrait
Doggy Style
Fringe Verse

I found a couple of really good blogs, quite by accident.

Belle in the Big Apple - Belle, a Southern Gal, documenting her life in Manhattan in a fresh and funny way.

Procrastination Station - Colorado based bloke with a fine interest in literature and music. Very witty blog.

Back home after work I got stuck into painting the second coat on the ceiling of my office and glossing the skirtings and window frames. It looks a treat now and on Saturday I'll paint the walls. Ian is coming round on Sunday to finish off the plugs and lay the carpet so by Sunday evening I should be able to get the desk and furniture assembled. If it all goes to plan, I can start to move in Sunday night or early next week. Yeehaah!

Gail had Chinese food last night with her pal who came round and there was loads left over, so I had a plate of spicy beef with egg fried rice for my dinner. I was so tired after it though that I gave up any thought of writing and went to bed. I started to watch a programme about the artist, Marc Quinn, who today saw his sculpture, Alison Lappar Pregnant, erected on a plinth in Trafalgar Square.

It's a controversial piece because the subject is disabled, naked and heavily pregnant.

Of course the debate is raging of whether or not it is suitable or not. Personally, I don't see anything wrong with it. It's challenging and makes you think about something in a new way. It says something about disability, art, motherhood and humanity. It says something about personal courage, discovery and truth.

But there is one thing that struck me more than anything. Alison was talking about the distinctive similarities between Marc's sculpture of her and the sculpture, Venus de Milo. Both are female, both are naked and both exhibit the same disability; that of having lost both upper limbs.

The question here is, why should the Venus de Milo be accepted and revered as a classic, simply because it is assumed the sculpture lost it's upper limbs but had them before, whereas Alison Lappar, who was born with her disability, be regarded as a "freak" and "totally unacceptable", to quote a couple of recent art reviews.


Venus de Milo

Alison Lappar Pregnant


It's a fascinating question, which challenges all our opinions and thoughts on how we treat the disabled in this country. The fact we now have a statue celebrating Alison's body as beautiful and not as a freak of nature to be ignored, says something about how far we've come in accepting. But have we done in enough in reality for the disabled? You only have to look around you to know that's not the case.

This is all getting quite serious so I shall leave you with this thought. My Uncle Bill is disabled; lost the use of his legs many years ago and as a result is in a wheelchair. He told me the worst thing about being a "wheelie" was the "wheelie's nightmare". When asked what that was, he said, "when you're going down the street and your wheel goes through a dog turd, then comes back round on the wheel and you put your hand right on it."



Colin 10:34 am | 3 comments |

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Business End

I got a lot of organisational work done today, all of it helping to keep back the flow of demands from all my other projects and stopping me being consumed by them.

I listed all the stories that I want to send out on simultaneous submissions. I've never really gone in for this before, but to give stories the best chance possible, and where publications accept it, I'll give it a go. I'm aiming to get all unpublished stories out to at least three or four publications, except for any written specifically for competitions.

I wrote a query letter for What A Waste. I want it to go to some major newspapers that have suitable magazines/supplements and that I've seen publish this kind of thing before. I'll start with Scottish broadsheets (Scotsman/Herald and Sunday editions etc.) and work from there. If I could get it published by one of them, it would open some doors for other projects that could be very important for the future.

Some of the people on these newspapers have started responding to my press releases, so when the Fringe book comes out I hope to be able to get even more press interest than last time. I'm still determined to get a feature in The Leither magazine. Every month they have arts features and they have still to respond to anything I've sent them. Hopefully the Fringe book will pique their interest.

I worked through the 8 applicants I now have from photographers who replied to my adverts. I rejected 2 due to lack of technical resource or availability and another 2 because their response only said, "What's it about?" Sorry, but if you cannot even be bothered to reply in a semi-professional manner then I'm not even going to give it the time of day.

I'm down to 4 serious contenders now, one of which stands out a mile but I've yet to see a portfolio. 2 have sent pictures, though I have no way of confirming if they are genuine, and 1 has their own website. All very impressive, but the one that stands out so far has talked the best game. I emailed them all with some more questions, so I'll wait for the responses before arranging meetings.

Then it was off to play snooker; my last game before Ian goes on holiday, which means a couple of free Wednesday's over the next couple of weeks.

Got to get on!
Colin 3:34 pm | 1 comments |

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Productivity

Productivity is our word of the day, folks!

I completed the writing and editing for all the articles I planned for the Great Scottish Writers series. Articles on Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, James Barrie and Irvine Welsh was my target set out in my monthly GDR, and I got them all down. Whether they'll get published is still in the balance what with the problems at KIC, but I'll submit them tomorrow nevertheless. I'll keep my end of the bargain going, at least. The Rankin article is to be a feature and I'll start work on this next.

I had to do some more research for the Robert Louis Stevenson article for Circadian Poems. This article will be based on the one previously published by KIC, but will also look at his poetry. Most of the work was already done on this but I came across a website that has every single poem he ever wrote on it.

If you're interested, point your mouse at any of the links on this page and have a read: Complete RLS Poems

My second photography ad is now up after the good people at the Ideas Factory approved it. Click here to view the ad

I've had five responses so far from the ad over at Gumtree.com. I'll have to sort them, contact the people, and if necessary arrange some form of meeting. I want to be able to see their previous work, see how serious they are about their art and hopefully click with them on an artistic level. If it all works out it could be a long term collaboration since I plan more of these chapbooks in the future.

My friend, Devon, today announced a wonderful initiative by Broadway performers to raise money for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Most of my US pals probably know about this by now, but if any of my readers from the UK are going to be in or around New York City on September 25th, then you should take a look at this:

New York's Theatrical Community Joins Forces For One Of The Most Important Events of the Season!

Ben Vereen & Liza Minnelli
Bryan Batt, Shoshana Bean, Victoria Clark, Charlotte D'Amboise, Jill Eikenberry, Raul Esparza, Shuler Hensley, Megan Hilty, Bill Irwin, Brian d'Arcy James, Isabelle Keating, Adriane Lenox, Terrence Mann, Rue McClanahan, Michael McElroy, Julia Murney, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O'Hara, Denis O'Hare, David Hyde Pierce, Carole Shelley, Christopher Sieber, Michael Tucker, Frederick Weller and The Broadway Inspirational Voices plus the casts of The Light in the Piazza, Hairspray, Mamma Mia!, All Shook Up, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Wicked to all appear in:

BROADWAY'S CELEBRITY BENEFIT FOR HURRICANE RELIEF

Date: Sunday, September 25 at 8:30 PM
Location: Gershwin Theatre, NYC
Information: Ink In My Coffee
Tickets: Ticketmaster.com

Before I go, a friend of mine, Jo-Ann Fillon, has had a story published online at Clever Magazine. It's called Cat: a tonic and you you should have a read.
Colin 12:01 pm | 0 comments |

Monday, September 12, 2005

Flexibilty and Determination: That's The Key

The urge to write and create is unbearable at the moment. Meeting Rankin has brought my desire to a seething head so much so, that all my projects, current and planned, are screaming at me within my head. They're all fighting with each other like a bunch of school kids clamouring for the last remaining Mars Bar in the tuck-shop.

I have to settle myself down, get straightened out and organised in my mind. It's probably just as well my discussion with Gail happened when it did, because if it hadn't it might not be so easy to see how to go about it.

I worked out a timetable. It's totally flexible and just a guide but it shows tangible quantities of hours spent on each area of work.

Click here to view the timetable

I've mentioned before that I'm a member of a poetry group. I was asked to join a while ago and once I settled in I found it a very useful place to post the occasional poem but more importantly, learn from the others for there are some far more experienced poets there than the likes of me.

Lately though, I've been getting disillusioned with it. It is understood that poetry is subjective and personal and that interpretation of a poem is open to different people at many levels and in all ways.

But I am becoming more of the opinion that poetry is actually a secret language and that one must learn these meanings before they can write poetry that will be understood by the elite.

Bollocks to that. I write poetry to make me feel good and to practice a form of expression that I enjoy. Why should I conform to the elitist view just to fit in? I'll be honest and say a lot of the poems I read on the forum make no sense to me whatsoever. The metaphors, rules and structures used mean nothing to me, yet are obvious to most of the others. They just don't make sense and I find it harder each day to contribute to the discussions.

I am not thinking of giving up poetry, but I am thinking of giving up on the forum, because although many of the people are open to reading lots of challenging poetry, unless it sits within their understanding it seems to get belittled.

That said, there are several people in the group who are delightful and read my poems for what they are. They criticise them fairly and praise where they feel it's applicable. These people know who they are (I hope!) so I wouldn't want them offended by this post, but I felt I had to express my feelings.

But the long and short of it is, I am beginning to think the forum is not for me. It is running down my confidence at a time when I am working on a chapbook of poetry. I don't need the negativity around me when the project needs all my positive energy poured into it.

The search for a photographer to do the front and back covers of the fringe book has gone external. Having tried all the photographers I know - my mate Chris - I decided that my best chance was to approach a local University and post some ads on local online message boards. I need someone with talent, motivation and who is willing to work for a credit on the book since I can't afford to pay them.

First stop was here: http://www.photographers.co.uk. I used this site before when I was looking for a suitable cover for Hunting Jack. Then I found Gumtree; a local free classified website. Click here to view my advert

When I got home I painted. Yes, I know it's not on my timetable but I've swapped Monday and Tuesday around this week. See? Flexibility!

I painted the roof and glossed the skirting and window frames. The skirting is the worse because I have to lie on the hardwood floor and work my way round the edges of the room. It's not pleasant and my arms and knees suffer for it. I'll recoat them all again on Thursday night and that should be them. Then it will be onto the walls, which are going to be a shade of inspiring light blue. A carpet will go down and then the furniture assembled, shelving put up and then the small things to make it perfect.

After a shower I sat down at the laptop and edited the 28 poems I wrote last night as I typed them out. Some are better than I gave them credit for - in my eyes - and I now have a total of 39 for the book. I will put every single one of these poems through the editing and critical mill so they are pass every test before I publish them. There's also still a couple of areas I want to write about and then that will be it. I'm aiming for about 50-55 poems in total as the book will be about 60 pages in length.
Colin 8:25 am | 1 comments |

Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Busy Sunday

Lest we forget the tragedy that took place four years ago, this very day.

September 11th is a date that history itself shall never forget. What happened changed the world and it is hard to believe that four years have now passed since I watched those terrible images flashing across my television screen. I remember it like yesterday, and it still seems so incredible to think that something like that could happen, or that someone would wish it to happen.

For those who died, for those who lived through it, for those who lost loved ones and for those still haunted, let it be known that the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland and all its Territories are with you by your side and that we share your burden with a firm belief of freedom and respect for all.

I got up reasonably early and had breakfast with Laura. We watched some Tom & Jerry then put on a Simpson's DVD until Gail got up. I get slagged from people all the time who say I'm nothing but a big kid. But I like being a kid, and I'll never fully grow up. Maybe it's immaturity, maybe I just like having fun, I don't care. All I know is, I get to spend time on Laura's wavelength and we can enjoy ourselves. I become more of her big brother as opposed to her Dad and it feels great. She'll be grown up soon and when that happens the chance to be a kid with her will be gone.

I hit the office for most of the day. I washed down all the wooden areas then undercoated them; the door, door frame, skirting, window frames and the book shelves in the garage, all done on a single pot of paint. I worked to the tunes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, a band me and Dave decided last night we were going to get tickets to go and see in mid-October when they come to Edinburgh. Should be an interesting night out, that one. If you don't know much about them, I'll explain when I come to blog about the gig nearer the time.

I was splattered in white undercoat by the time the sun was beginning to settle, but it was all worthwhile because Gail made a cracking Sunday dinner; steak, parsnips, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, chips and onion gravy. Deeee-lish!!

My after dinner coffee went down a beauty and as I sank into the couch I knew it would be a struggle to get up and do anything else. I got my notebook out and left it open beside me but I made more tea and coffee and watched a film with Gail; MIB 2. Throwaway sci-fi nonsense but a good laugh nonetheless.

I had emailed my editor at KIC earier in the day to pitch another idea about the Great Scottish Authors series. I didn't think the Ian Rankin article could be justified just being published in the newsletter and so put it to her she could use the article to help regain some form of dignity should she have it on the website and use it in some promotion.

She agreed, and while it means I have put some pressure on her to make sure KIC doesn't disappear down a void, it also means I can squeeze as many pubilshing credits out of KIC as possible before it probably does.

I went to bed and then my Muse kicked in. "No way you're going to sleep after sitting on your arse all night!" she yelled.

Poem after poem poured out of me, all of them for the Fringe Festival book. In the space of an hour and a quarter I had written 28 poems in all; some long, some short, some humorous, some serious, some colourful, some grim. My Muse was more tired than me when I finished and turned out the light.

Colin 11:35 am | 1 comments |

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Writing Versus Family: Creating A Balance

More rain, but after yesterday's excitement I barely noticed, or even cared. It was a rare day of relaxing with the family. Because of the weather nobody could be bothered doing anything much although I had booked a meal in TGI Friday's for us in the evening.

Gail's friend spent the afternoon in the house because her flat was being re-plastered and I did some work on poems for the Festival book. I still need to get these all down, but I keep going back to the ones already written and tweaking them instead of getting "the clay blocks" of the others written.

Ian popped round later in the afternoon. As you can see from the photo below, my office has now been re-wired, plastered and an undercoat applied to the walls. This means I can now get back into it. I think Gail really wants my PC out of the kitchen and so I expect to be doing work on the room tomorrow.


The theme of writing versus family reared its head once more. Looking at myself honestly, I have to admit that if given half a chance I would write every day, all day, and not think about anything much else. But I have a wife and family and I don't want them feeling neglected. I don't think I've been giving all I can to them. It's a funny situation, but I find myself procrastinating about DIY - and using writing as the main excuse not to do anything.

Gail and I talked at length and the most significant thing she said is that she is proud of me. She said she is proud of my commitment to my writing and the passion I have for it, just so long as it doesn't intrude on family life more than it needs to. She's happy with me writing and following my dream, but I need to give more to the people who need me most. She's never said this before, and I took this as a major form of recognition as well as a blast of reality.

So we came to a compromise. I am going to make out a timetable; not one set in stone, but a guide as to when I will be able to write (guilt-free) and when I will give my time to DIY in the house. Doing things as a family has never been an issue - I love to get out and about and use everything I do as a source of writing insiration. Obviously things will happen to alter this timetable, but so long as I get to write at length and Gail is happy with the work I put into making the house nicer to live in, then hopefully, we will all be happy.

The first step towards this was going to TGI Friday's, although I had already booked this much earlier in the week. A great time was had; loads of great food and drink, and the desserts - well, you simply cannot beat the Cookie Madness!

When we came back we talked some more but the upshot is, particularly after yesterday, I am clearing the way for a career in writing and making people realise that I am now an unstoppable train of creative literary energy. Nothing, and I mean nothing will stop me becoming a full-time writer. I want it more than anything esle in the world and with Gail and my family's support I know I can do it.

Next stop, the GDR!
Colin 12:02 pm | 2 comments |

Friday, September 09, 2005

Meeting Ian Rankin

It looked like it had been raining all night as I crept out of bed at 6.30 and peeked outside. The street shone with the reflection of street lamps in gathering puddles and the patter of never ending precipitation. I showered and got ready, leaving myself plenty of time to make sure I had everything and psyche myself up for today's meeting with Ian Rankin.

I wanted to try and get hold of a suitable earphone set that would fit the jack to the dictaphone I bought earlier in the week so I got the half past eight bus into town and made straight for Dixons. It was closed, so while I waited for them to open at 9am I popped into HMV - it's always open.

I had a quick scan of some CD's and on the way back out the store I passed a new section of books by Edinburgh authors. A stack of books by Irvine Welsh and, you guessed it, Ian Rankin. It felt odd as I flicked through a few of his novels in the knowledge I was about to meet the man at his house. I remembered there's a new book of his due out sometime this month, Rebus's Scotland, an overview of the places that have been part of Rankin's novels, but I could only assume it wasn't published yet, as I couldn't see it about.

I went back into Dixons, which was now open, but they never had what I needed. They gave me a place I could get the earphones but as it would turn out, I wasn't going to need them.

I got the bus to Ian's part of town, which was all very new to me. I had printed out a map from the net and brought it with me so I had no problem finding the street. The problem was it was all houses. Big houses. There were no shops or cafes where I could sit for a coffee while I waited the extra half-hour that I had arrived in advance. I ended up killing time with a packet of mints and my mobile phone in a bus shelter.

Eventually the time made it to five minutes to ten so I wandered round, counting down the numbers of the massive houses until I got to his. I walked up the path, approached the door and rang the bell and took off my glasses to give them a clean before I went in. As I was wiping the second lens clear of water the door opened and I put them back on. I had never been quite sure what to expect, but there in front of me, hand extended in welcome, was Ian Rankin.


He showed me through to the kitchen where he opened up his mail and introduced me to his wife, Miranda. The conversation revolved around the article I was writing and the difficulties of cutting down the number of words versus having to pad articles out to the required amount. The topic changed to music after Ian's latest copy if MOJO arrived in the post with a free CD of New English music.

Ian made some coffee and showed me into the living room where we would conduct the interview. He gave me a sneak preview of his latest book, Rebus's Scotland, the one I had looked for this morning. I still felt as if I was living the surreal and it wasn't until the actual interview started that I began to relax.

Since we had been talking about music I change the starting point of the interview with a question relating to the subject matter. I chopped and changed my questions throughout depending on where the conversation was going naturally, but kept to the main points I wanted to get information about. I was happy to let him do most of the talking, but at times the discussion became more of the kind of thing I'm used to in Clark's with my mates.

Ian was very easy to talk to. By the time my cassette clicked off I had got lost in the conversation, and like I had been warned by my friend who set this up, I found him to be very open, honest and pleasant to be around.

The interview lasted just over an hour and although it felt like Ian had moved into "professional interview mode" for the actual questions, I took this as pure professionalism on his part. The rest was, as I should have expected, friendly, interesting and informative.

This interview was more than a chance to get information for the KIC article. Naturally this was the prime motive, but getting this opportunity was something I knew I had to capitalise on from a personal angle. Many of the questions I asked were not only useful for the article, but I was able to take the answers and learn from them. Ian Rankin is an immensely successful author, and to hear him answering questions about writing that I have always wanted to ask, and at such a high level, was extremely stimulating.

Without probably realising - maybe he did, who knows - Ian taught me more about the world of publishing and writing than I have ever learnt in any other single place. He gave me a glimpse into the real world of writing, the business as well as the art, and he showed me the hard work involved as well as the rewards. The two most important things I will take from meeting Ian Rankin are these:

1) Writing is most definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, what I want to do with my life. People will have to get used to this because after spending this time with Rankin, I am left with a feeling of support and positive energy, that where I am going is true to me.

2) I need to do more research. Hearing how Rankin goes about his own work, the investigative process and his desire to make the next book better then the one before, showed me that the research I do - on Hunting Jack for example - is nowhere near enough what is required. I thought I got my hands dirty with HJ, but I see now I never even had the gloves off.

Ian offered to get me a taxi because of the rain but I didn't want to take up any more of his time than necessary. I thanked him for his time and he made sure I had his email so I could keep in touch and send him the article when it gets published.

Off I went back into the rain, down his driveway and out into the street. I took a deep breath and let out a massive sigh. I could finally start to take it all in. I rewound the last few seconds back on my recorder and listened; yes, it was definitely him.

I waited only a couple of minutes for a bus back into the town centre; a bus that in actual fact took me right past Clark's Bar. Since the time was almost quarter to twelve I jumped off and the first person I met was Dave. Two and a half minutes later we were in the pub eating lunch and having a pint.

There we stayed for pretty much most of the afternoon talking about Rankin, his books, my books and the horses. I left at about 7pm to get home to baby-sit for Laura. I ordered a pizza and sat down with my recorder and started to write out the transcript of the interview and all
my recollections of the day behind me.

As far as writing days go, this has to be one of the best!
Colin 4:33 pm | 1 comments |