Wednesday, June 28, 2006
NaNoWriMo, And Camus (again)
A friend wrote to me the other day with a suggestion about this years National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). She suggests I do it, if not for the experience I suspect, but more for the networking opportunities it may present.
I read her email, scribbled the contents onto a small piece of brain tissue and inserted it into my 'To Be Read Again More Carefully' drawer inside my head. I left for work but the idea wouldn't remain in the drawer, closed away for long before it was rattling around wanting attention. So I started to think about it more carefully.
What I would write about or whether I could manage 50,000 words of a novel in a single month does not seem to be the driving factor. In fact, that isn't the worry. Two years ago I signed up for the project but never completed it. That may have been because I didn't make full use of the networking advantages or because I wasn't as committed as I maybe should have been. Either way, I never got what others seem to have got from it since.
But I also think that maybe it is something I should throw myself into and see what comes out at the other end. And I'm also thinking, maybe this is an opportunity to find out more about Jackie McCann. Where is he now that it is 11 years on from Hunting Jack? Bringing him into real-time is a mouth-watering prospect. Finding out how he has changed - or not changed - and throwing him into a brand new story is very, very tempting.
My only worry would be that I am accused of relying too much on one character. Shouldn't I create more and expand myself further in that way? Well, it didn't do Rankin, Welsh or Rowling any harm - so why can't I?
And then of course the networking side. I really need to meet more writers and talk with them, share ideas and opinions. Last year the only serious writer I met was Ian Rankin! Not bad, I hear you say, but it's not like I'm going to ring him up every couple of days to have a chat. I need to move outside my comfort zone, push myself further and expand. With the Fringe also coming up, it's all on my doorstep so what the hell am I waiting for?
Already this is becoming one of those tiny little seeds planted in my head, by a woman who probably knew fine well what she was doing when she suggested it to me. You know who you are. :-)
Speaking of Hunting Jack, I worked through a tonne of edits today. I'm approaching the conclusion of the story, and I've enjoyed the build up of tension as I have read it through. I believe it works well. The only thing nagging away at me is the ending. I want to leave the reader satisfied, but the current ending doesn't allow for that. It does allow for sequels, which is also a requirement. I suppose I'll have to write it through and see if the natural flow takes me to the same place the story is currently positioned. It's the only way.
I bumped into Nick (one of Gail's colleagues) today as I went to pick her up from work. He's been reading my blog and it seems that that book by Albert Camus, The Outsider, has had a profound effect on other people who have read it also.
We spoke about the book for a few minutes, and our conversation sparked more thoughts about the quality and genius that the book is. But what exactly? I am going to sit down after the weekend and attempt to break down the factors I think contribute into making the book one that simply will not be forgotten. What is it exactly that keeps causing it to drift into my head and sticking to the inside of my skull, from a writer's view. How did Camus achieve it? I'll let you know what I come up with.
I probably won't be blogging again until Sunday night or Monday. Reason being this weekend is my annual trip to Blackpool with my bro' Craig. We've been going every year now, on the same weekend, for 15 years. Staying in the same B&B (same room too!), going to the same bars in the same order, eating in the same places and just taking basically each other back to zero.
It sounds ridiculous and it might seem like that to outsiders (Camus again?), but to us it is a tradition that has grown to be an institution in our minds. It is a 'closed shop' and one that I think only us truly understand its meaning.
See you next week.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Something else that annoyed me today was this. How can this man, who steals 21 million GBP from his employer (the Royal Bank of Scotland) get 10 years in prison, when this man gets 3 and a half years for driving his mother's Audi TT into the pram of an 18-month old toddler and killing her?
10 years for stealing cash from a company that is worth billions, to 3.5 years for taking an innocent wee girls life! Under current rules, the thief could be released in 5 years and the killer in just over 1 and a half!! Proof, if it was needed, that this country's legal system is totally screwed.
I printed off and prepared queries and submissions for Stella and sent off the first batch to eight carefully selected publishers. Now it's a waiting game. There are two in particular I am quite hopeful of as they seem the perfect match. The rest are speculative, but well within the reams of what they are looking for, so fingers crossed.
I worked on Hunting Jack for the most of the night. I edited the new chapter and then scanned back a few pages to make sure it fits in seamlessly. Keeping the tone in the prose thereafter is proving easier than I thought because much of it is already there, it just needs reinforced. There's only about three or four chapters left to go so if I get my finger out my arse I can have it complete by Thursday lunchtime.
I found an excellent blog that I'm going to link to. It's called 1 Painting Every Day. The artist, Jeremiah Palecek, is on a mission to paint one picture every day, as the name suggests, and his work is excellent. I'm no artist, but his pictures really appealed to me and I spent quite a while browsing his work. You should go check it out.
While I'm on talking about interesting web sites, check this one out. It's The Bible told in Lego. Very cool.
Monday, June 26, 2006
I keep my aftershave on a shelf in my office for handiness mostly and because I was in a hurry I placed the glass bottle of John-Paul Gaultier down on the cabinet next to my aquarium.
I heard a clink as the glass bottle came into contact with the edge of the tank.
I blinked hard as I watched two splits in the glass shoot out from the point of contact, fracturing the aquarium wall. I sounded a full alert and called in to work. "Problem with my tank" I said, in the knowledge that if I didn't act quickly, I could face a house full of water, a destroyed office, electricity problems and of course, a bunch of dead fish.
Luckily the side of the aquarium held until I had reduced the water level quite significantly. I left the wee buggers in 3 inches of water while I contemplated the options. I decided I had to get a new tank for them, or say goodbye to the fish-keeping once and for all.
I had lunch with Gail then headed up Leith Walk. The sun was shining brilliantly and Leith was buzzing with lots of happy people, all blissfully unaware of the dire circumstance unfolding back at the Galbraith Zoo. I bought a replacement tank - just the glass, which was surprisingly cheap - and headed home. I washed it out and left it out on the grass to dry in the sun, while Milly played on the lawn.
By now it was after 1pm and there was no point heading to work. I decided to complete some work on the room, glossing the window frames and giving the walls their second coat. I took the already dismantled bed out into the back garden and sanded the entire thing down ready for painting at a later date. All of this took me until 6 o'clock. Time flies.
After a small dinner of cheese on toast I got to work on the fishes, transferring them to a bucket and swapping out the water, plants, rocks and finally the tank itself. This whole process took me until midnight and as I left the water to settle with the fish back in their home, the tank was still only two thirds full. I'll do the rest tomorrow night. At least they all survived.
All this DIY work has been great fun and very valuable for marital relations, but not so much for my writing exploits. I must try and get Hunting Jack complete by the Thursday. If not all of it, then most of it. I must also get my July column for The Scruffy Dog Review submitted before Thursday and I must see if there is anything more I can do with my GDR to tick things off.
I won't have a full week because on Thursday my annual Blackpool Extravaganza begins. Year number 15 with my old pal Craig.
It's going to be a busy week.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Second coats were applied on walls and roof. We worked right through until 1am. The room is really taking shape and I'm quite proud of what we have achieved in the past two days. Despite my hatred of most things DIY, I have to say I have actually enjoyed this weekend. Maybe it was the change from sitting at a desk all week doing sweet eff all, to doing some proper work for a change. But I think it had more to do with the sharing of the work in bringing our home up to how we want it, that made the difference. It was a lot of fun, and I have surprised myself with the level of marital bliss to be gained from DIY.
I got a call from my sister. Apparently the person who is conducting the marriage service next week wants to review my Reading beforehand to ensure there are no religious references in it. Odd, but of course I don't mind. There are none, so I know it will be fine. My main worry is that my sister and Nolon like the poem. I've written it over the course of a couple of months and the first they will hear it is when I recite it at the wedding, which incidentally, will also be my first public recital of a poem I have written. I'll post it here on the blog once the wedding is over.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
DIY, Not SOS
Me and Gail slept in the living room now that the bedroom has been gutted. One mattress on the floor like a couple of squatters, surrounded by empty coffee cups and discarded clothes. All we needed was a spoon and a lighter and it would have started to resemble a scene from an Irvine Welsh novel.
I dropped Laura off at dancing and headed up to town to get my kilt sorted for the wedding. I use The Kilt Hire Co. at Haymarket; easily the best around for getting hold of hard-to-get tartans and all done to the most professional of standards.
I plumped for my favourite tartan; Black Watch. Not only do I like it, but given the recent amalgamation of the Scottish Regiments, (nullifying the existence of The Black Watch regiment), and the fact the wedding is just outside Perth, I thought it fitting I should wear it. It will give me a chance to wear my Glen Garry and Red Hackle.
After completing the deal, I headed to Dofos; straw and other essentials for the Galbraith Zoo were purchased, then I collected Laura and headed home.
The afternoon was all about the bedroom. Together, me and Gail got through a power of work. We sanded, primed and white-washed all the walls, skirting and edging (there's a name for those bits but I forget). It took us from lunchtime until 6.30pm, when I had to start getting ready to go to work. Yes, you heard right - I was off to the office for a second Saturday night in succession.
Most of my time in the office was spent sitting around waiting for other people so I worked in Hunting Jack until I got too tired to concentrate. I did some major editing and finished work on the new chapter. All in all, about 3500 new words.
I never got finished until 4am and when I got home, Gail was just finishing doing more work on the room. We retired exhausted and sore, but happy with the progress made.
Friday, June 23, 2006
I was only in work until lunchtime before I headed off through to Glasgow for an appointment at the Glasgow Caledonian University Eye Clinic. Time for me to get a new set of contact lenses but I stupidly forgot to bring my prescription. The result of an hour journeying through was a brief meeting in the waiting room with the Optometrist as she told me that without either me wearing my contacts (my supply ran out a year ago), or my prescription, there was nothing she could do.
If it weren't for the fact I was meeting my sister for a drink and dinner, then it would have been a total waste of time.
It was about then, that I found out I missed out on the chance of a small fortune. My mate, Dave, has bought into a horse syndicate. His horse, Moonwalking, was running in the 3pm at Ayr and he said it might be worth a couple of quid each-way, but it wasn't expected to do anything as it is just setting out on its racing career. At 25-1, I believed him.
My intention was to put a fiver on the nose and a couple of quid each-way but I never got time to visit a bookies after coming out the Eye Clinic. I checked the result on my way to meet my sister. The bloody horse won - and it did it at odds of 50-1!! I missed out on over 250 guineas. I was not best pleased.
I met with my sister and we had a pleasant dinner. We opted for Frankenstein's Bar and Restaurant and did some catching up over a couple of beers and a bowl of chilli. The next time I will see her or anyone else from my family, will be at my other sister's wedding on July 8th.
I got back from Glasgow in time to help with the clearing out of our bedroom. A massive effort is being stirred that me and Gail can decorate our bedroom in one weekend. Well, everything except the carpet (next weekend) and the new cupboards/drawers (not ordered yet). It's a tall order, but I'm sure if Nick Knowles can do it, then so can we.
Confirmation emails came in from Forward Press regarding my poems submission and from a publisher who has sent me all their requirements if I want to send them Stella.
Got to get all those letters and synopses out next week and I simply must get Hunting Jack complete.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
It was windy as hell today, with the ever-present threat of rain hanging over the country. It made it not-too-pleasant for those hardened souls down at Stonehenge for the Summer Solstice celebration. Anoraks and jumpers all round, then.
By early evening the clouds had scattered somewhat, and the winds had dropped making it an altogether pleasant twilight to the longest day of the year.
I used the mild atmosphere to put the rabbit run out on the lawn and give the 'scamperers' a nice bit of exercise. I then retired with a cup of tea to watch some World Cup footie.
Every so often I would get up to check no cats were mulling around. A couple of times I caught one prowling round the cage terrifying my tiny wee furry bunnies. The last time I checked that evening, though, I noticed something odd.
There were no cats, foxes or anything else around; just Mopsy and Pippin, playing freely and eating the grass. I watched them momentarily, as Pippin kept turning awkwardly to chase after Mopsy. She was persistent in her chase, not giving up for anything except to get up close to her sister.
"Strange," I thought. "I hope they're not fighting."
Then, to my absolute horror, Pippin finally caught up with her. She mounted her and proceeded to hump her vigorously from behind. Her hairy little fur-ball bottom was just a blur as she let rip into my little Mopsy.
I dived for the cage, my heart thumping and breath short, and whipped Mopsy out, put her back in the hutch and stood back to take in the gravity of the situation. Pippin, is a bloke!
I couldn't believe it. We had been told we were taking two females, but instead not only did we have a boy and a girl, but incest and rape would appear to be ripe in the bunny community.
My immediate thought was, "Pippin needs to get fixed as soon as possible." But then the chain of reasoning kicked in; "What if she's already pregnant? I can't handle another half-dozen bunnies - where would they go? And if she isn't pregnant, I can't leave them alone together before I can get them to a Vet, so where are they going to sleep?"
You can see the dilemma.
And as any normal caring rabbit owner would do in this day and age and predicament, I immediately turned to my cohort, my protector of all things knowledgeable, my cyber-shoulder to lean on. I logged onto Google.
"Female bunny humpin"
It would appear that female bunny humping is a common occurrence. Two females or two males that live together, may be seen humping, not as a form of intercourse, or gay relationships, but as a way of displaying dominance. In fact, it has also been seen in a hutch with one female and one rabbit. Yes, you guessed it; female rabbits hump their male partners to remind them who the boss is! (Sounds familiar).
I sank easier into my chair. "That's a relief," I thought. "But what if Mopsy's already pregnant? Or worse, what if she isn't and I put them together and it turns out Pippin IS a boy, after all. I couldn't take the risk.
I sat for a reasonable amount of time looking at images of rabbit penises and vaginas. I eventually became slightly worried that the cyber-policemen might be watching my internet usage and decide to come round my house and club me for beasteality-related perversions. I logged off and took my new found knowledge out into the garden. I lifted Mopsy and Pippin into my arms one at a time, opened their legs and checked them out.
Two girls. No doubt about it. Relief all round, but I think just to be safe, and to avoid several horrible illnesses such as cancer, I should get them sprayed regardless. Safety first, eh? I can't go through that experience again anytime soon, that's for sure.
Back to business and I got through quite a lot today. I received some fantastic feedback on my query letter template. It's all about being punchy and appealing, giving the editors what they want and getting your sales pitch across at the same time. Couple that with getting a 4-page synopsis down to a single page - which took me a while, but I got there - then you can start to see the horror of this kind of work.
I worked on the letters for Stella and Hunting Jack, too. Printing them off for read-through's and editing them time after time. Each time I put them through the mill, more chops were execute. The tighter the synopses and letters are, the happier I become.
I prepared the first few letters for sending out to publishers I want to pitch Stella to. Some of them will go out with a couple of chapters and the synopsis, others just the synopsis. I'll probably sit on the letter and synopsis for a couple of days and keep going back to it; just to make sure it's as close to perfect as I can get it.
I submitted a couple of my kids poems to Forward Press for a new anthology they are working on. I sent them River Monkeys (one of my personal favourites) and Gnu Atchoo!. Both make me laugh, both are silly and both give me the best chance I think I have of getting accepted at this moment in time.
I'm toying with purchasing a couple of 'How-To' books; The Well-Fed Writer and The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman. Both come highly recommended and could be just the insight and motivational type of reading I could well do with.
I'm not going to write any more today, but as you should remember from yesterday, 10 years ago today I was stood in Finsbury Park, London, N4 for my first ever Madness gig in London. Madstock 3 - never forget!
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
The Summer Of '96
~ ~ ~ Flash back to ten years and one week ago. ~ ~ ~
I was working in a small office at the back of Strathclyde Chemical Company in Johnstone. I was on a 9-month contract analysing their I.T. requirements and putting in place suggestions for improvement and upgrade. Very boring stuff.
I had earlier got my hands on a ticket to Madstock 3 on June 22nd 1996, which would be my first ever Madness concert in London itself.
At the same time all this was happening, a popular TV show for young adults of a free and easy nature was being aired on Friday evenings on Channel 4. TFI Friday was an archaic chat show hosted by the (then) popular Chris Evans.
Since my two friends and I would be arriving in London the morning before the gig, I thought it might be fun to go to the show. I picked up the phone and dialled the Channel 4 number from my desk in the back office of Strathclyde Chemicals, and asked to speak to somebody who could get me tickets for TFI Friday. A few clicks later and I was speaking to a young lady with a cockney accent.
"I'm looking for tickets for TFI Friday."
"Certainly. If you give me your details I'll put you on the waiting list."
"Oh. It's just that me and my pals are going to see Madness next Saturday and we thought it would be fun to come and see the show on the Friday night."
"There's a four week long waiting list, I'm afraid. Where are you travelling from?"
"And you're coming to London just to see a Madness gig?"
"How many is there in your party?"
"Just the three of us."
"Well, I'm sure we can fit you in. I'll post you tickets out today."
Next day, three tickets for TFI Friday arrived at my door.
And so on the morning of Friday, 21st June 1996, me and my two pals flew to London. It was a glorious summer, one of the best. The music in the charts was awesome, the sun was shining, EURO 96 was being held in England (England beat Scotland on Saturday 15th 2-0) and the drink was affordably easy. Life was good and about to get better.
After an afternoon sunning and drinking it up in Leicester Square, we headed to the Riverside Studios, located down a small cobbled street next to the Thames and Hammersmith Bridge. We were a couple of hours early so we popped into the typically English pub directly across the road (The Crown I think, or something like that). Time passed quickly and soon it was time to leave and join the back of the queue to get into the studio.
As I stood in the queue, with my pint of lager in one hand and cigarette in the other, I turned around to see a ginger-haired man walking towards me. He was wearing colourful slacks and soft shoes and was not as tall as I thought he was from the television. It was Chris Evans. He was more than happy to stop and talk to us for five minutes, asking us why we were down in London, impressed at our devotion to Madness, sharing a laugh, stealing a draw of my fag and sip of my lager and hoping that we enjoy the show.
Inside the studio we were given a superb insider's view of how a live broadcast is produced. Well it wasn't really live. When TFI first started it was totally live, until Shaun Ryder came along and turned the air blue during a rendition of a Black Grape song. By 1996 there was a ten minute delay between recording and broadcast.
Guests that day included Kula Shaker, Manic Street Preachers, Keith Floyd, Gazza (by phone), and as luck would have it, Ally McCoist - Scotland's favourite goal scorer at the time, who lived just up the road from me back home!
It wasn't until I got home after the weekend that I saw the show in full. We got ourselves on screen several times and it was a memorable day. I can still remember the high of being in the studio, the buzz of the impending Madness concert mixing with being let loose in London and mixing with the celebs and production staff. I remember nearly losing my head when the overhead cam swung round to get an angle on the sexy nuns carrying in Gazza's England strip. I remember being drunk on fun as well as alcohol later that night.
Halcien days. 1996 was a classic year. I'll talk about the gig tomorrow. Maybe even dig out some pics.
Back to today, and I edited the synopsis to make it tighter, but it really is too long. So I decided to do a long one and a short one depending what editor's requirements might be. The long one stands at four almighty pages, and the short one two. I am really struggling to get it into one page but I really need to get the short one cut back drastically.
My friend has agreed to beta-read Stella for me. I couldn't resist giving it one more flash-read before sending it off and I actually found a few typos while doing so.
I wrote out the template letter for the queries to be sent out to the editors I selected from the Writer's Handbook. I posted it to my writing group for feedback because there are plenty of writer's in the group who have swum through these waters before me and can hopefully provide valuable advice.
I typed up a letter of approach to send to Yello's management team in Zurich. Just as I was about to post it I remembered it would be going by airmail so I held off and will take it to the Post Office tomorrow for sending.
I worked through all the small press publications (and a couple of large ones) that I had selected yesterday and put them into a spreadsheet, which I will use to track my submissions. I then cross-checked them with the book and entered in all their details; address, email, web, submission requirements etc. Three or four of them are a damn good match and will most certainly be in the first batch to be sent out.
I'm getting quite excited about Stella now that it is about to go out into the world on its own.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Attack Of The Killer Slugs
It's a good question.
If rumours are correct, there is a higher percentage of suicides in the dentistry profession than in any other. Why is that? Well, staring into people's mouths all day can't be that glamorous, can it? All that plaque, wine and coffee stains, fag breath and furry tongue syndrome, can't make for it to be high in job satisfaction - can it?
Maybe it's just the money that appeals. Dentists are extremely well off, especially now most have gone private in this country, but I can't possibly think that the money is enough to keep them in it. It certainly isn't in my job, and I am not about to turn to dentistry as a way out of I.T.
With my tooth filled (a previous filling had fallen out and left a hole just the right size for raspberry seeds to get jammed inside), I bounded out of the surgery and tripped on a protruding slab in the path. And as I boarded the first bus to the town, I suddenly realised I was dribbling down my face and shirt, the after effects from the nova-cocaine pumping around the entire left side of my face, now becoming horribly apparent.
The worst thing was, I could not have a coffee for fear I would burn my face off and not even know about it until tomorrow. An itch on my upper-lip, but when I scratched I couldn't feel it. Then inside my nose, something tickled, but when I went to rub it clear of the sensation, I could feel nothing for the drugs in my nerves. Terribly annoying that.
In fact it was around three in the afternoon before I felt the tingle of my nerve endings slowly creeping back to life and I was able to drink my first coffee.
Back home there was some interesting news waiting for me. A couple of people got back to me with contacts for Yello. One of them however, is more involved and has personally forwarded my email to their management. I also got sent the contacts information for the band's Zurich office. I shall write another letter to these addresses to support the forwarded email. I sense that I am getting ever closer to the man, the writer, the lyricist, the singer, the film director that is Dieter Meyer.
I wrote out the first draft of the synopsis for Stella. It came out at four pages and circa 2000 words long. I'll get it re-worked so I have two versions depending on the different publishing house requirements; a 1-pager and a longer detailed one. I want them done in advance so I don't have to worry about getting them out at short notice should the occasion arise.
I began working on the query letter template for sending out also. This is the bit that is worst about writing. These bits have to be done and I would much prefer to have them out the way so I can get the queries sent out. But they have to appeal. They have to be professional and gripping so that someone sits up and takes notice in amongst all the other queries.
In other words, they must not be rushed.
Before I went to bed I did a quick sweep of the back garden for slugs. It was somewhat colder and windier tonight so there wasn't as many about, but it was still approaching infestation levels. I threw on my dressing gown and grabbed the salt and went out to murder them. The cold started to get to me after a few minutes (it was almost midnight) and once all visible slugs had been slaughtered into bubbling blobs of green, I retreated to the house.
As I wandered through the kitchen I stood on something that felt stuck to my left insole. I looked down and raised my leg to see a dead slug stuck to the bottom of my foot. I must have stood on it while I was outside and brought it in with me. That's what I get for being a tyrant in the garden.
Obviously, these slugs are devious opponents and I should be more wary of their attacking strategy from now on. Slugs on the base of your naked feet in the cold Scottish air, is not something I would recommend to anyone.
The common garden slug: a cunning and devious enemy
Monday, June 19, 2006
I rushed to work, annoyed that I had not time for a coffee. Then it hit me how much I hate this place. I had forgotten somehow, despite spending my Saturday night encased in its prison-like walls, how much dread overcomes me as I approach the building, like shadows of doubt and terror, creeping up as if spawned by the Grim Reaper himself.
Overkill? I think not.
I sent off my crit to my pal who's manuscript I read. I must say it was a valuable exercise for me and I am honoured and thankful for being given the honour of beta-reading it. I would not be at all surprised to see the book on the shelves some time in the near future. I keep meaning to ask her if I can say what the book is. I'll do that tomorrow.
I was authorised to join a Yello mailing list so my first email was to try and find contact details for Dieter Meyer. Hopefully somebody knows something.
I spent a large chunk of the evening working my way through the Writer's Handbook for possible publishers of Stella. I dug out 20 strong possibles, three of which are e-publishers. Two of the traditional publishers are extremely good fits and will be first on the query list. I need to draw up query letters and a synopsis for the novella - task for tomorrow.
A new series of Still Game started tonight. Laugh? I nearly shat myself!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
I drank coffee and showered but didn't feel any better. It was raining, too, so going out was scored off the list. I had some lunch and watched out the dreary window for a sign of Gail returning from her Hen night in Glasgow. I called her, but she was still at my sisters.
I was bored beyond belief, so I called my Dad to with him a happy Father's Day. He wasn't long up either by the sound of it.
By early afternoon, despite everyone only being away for one night, I found myself really missing everyone.
Gail called from Haymarket. The train was stuck again but she would be home by 3.45pm - about half an hour. I waited expectantly for her to arrive, like the last puppy in the pet shop window. She called from a taxi to say she was going to collect Laura, which would save me having to do it and they would be home for 4pm.
At 5pm the family arrived home just as I was slumping into the bed to watch the Brazilians play in the World Cup. Laura made me a dinner of Macaroni and Cheese for Father's Day and gave me two cards; one bought and one she made. Dinner was great but I was aware of the total lethargy inside me pulling me towards the ground.
By 6pm Gail and Laura had left to go and visit her Grandfather. Alone again, I went out back to check on the animals. I couldn't be arsed writing or reading such was my abject boredom. I was now beyond fixing it and I realised the whole day had been nothing but a countdown until I got back to bed.
When they returned at half past nine, it was way past Laura's bed time so she went straight to sleep. I checked on the fish and noticed one was MIA and the other was floating dead at the top of the tank, chewed beyond belief by the teeth of the two new Oscars. They will have to go. My mistake will cost them their lives, but it's either that or I lose the whole population of my tank.
I was so happy to get to bed.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Gail was away early to Glasgow for my sister, Fiona's, Hen party. This left me to do the housework and everything else. Not that I was complaining, it was just the though of having to go into work for 7pm tonight that ruined what could have been a good day.
I took Laura to dancing as usual then headed for a cappuccino and pastry in my usual place. It was far too muggy for clothes to be worn outside, but such is society I am compelled to cover up my nakedness with cloth and string. Don't worry, I am not about to turn into a naturist, though on days like this it's about all I think about doing.
A quick visit to Dofos for a rabbit brush and then into the fish shop. I ended up buying a couple of beautiful Tiger Oscar's. I found out when I got home however, that they grow to over a foot long and have an incredibly aggressive streak. I should "expect fish to start disappearing overnight" according to my Dad. I put them in the tank and while they weren't shy, no blood has been shed as yet. I'll be keeping a close eye on them that's for sure.
I did all the housework and headed back into Leith to run more errands. I dropped off Laura at her Grans for the night on the way back and headed home to get some sleep before tonight's night-shift. Not before giving the rabbits a brush through with protective anti-lice powder, clipping their nails, grooming them, cleaning out their hutch and hanging out the washing.
I went in to work for about 7pm and had my dinner at my desk; Mexican chicken roll, crisps and a bottle of Irn-Bru. Sad eh? Actually it wasn't all that bad. I took my copy of Catch-22 in and also my mini-TV so I could watch the Italy v USA World Cup match. I finally got home around 4.30am and had a cup of tea to wind down before trying to sleep at 5am.
Onto other matters. I received a tip from a friend about an interesting children's market. It's a website with links to specific children's magazines that may just be a suitable home for some of my kid's poems.
I need to catch up on all my blog reading. I've lost the plot slightly during the last week and I need my blog-fix to get me up to date. I wrote up some catch-up entries on my own blog; something that has been lacking of late, and added some more touches to the poem I will be reading at my sister's wedding.
Oh, and I found an active forum for fans of the band Yello. I registered to join and once accepted I'll ask if anyone knows the whereabout of Mr. Meyer.
Friday, June 16, 2006
Oh, So Tired
It wasn't too bright or warm today as it has been of late, but rather overcast with the tiniest hint of a possible spit of drizzle. It is still very humid under the blanket of cloud though, which makes it very uncomfortable.
Still, it makes a change to hear people complaining about something other than rain.
It was such a long day today. My fault, I know, for getting in to work before the birds were even up. I've got an overnight implementation tomorrow so most of my day today was spent preparing for it. The phone never stopped, which all contributed to making it a busy, hectic shift. I never even made it to the pub for a pint at lunchtime. Feels like ages since I was last there on a Friday.
By the time I got back from work I was shattered. No rest for the wicked though as I got stuck into tidying the house. Gail thinks I'll make a great house-husband one day, but I tell her it's just a phase. It took about an hour and a half to give it the once over so it will be nice for the weekend.
An organised and tidy home makes for the release of more creativity in my mind, I find. If I don't have to worry about where anything is and I know I'm organised behind the scenes, my mind relaxes and the words flow smoother. There's that word again. Smooth. Nice.
I sent the letter off to Warner/Chappell in the hope they will pass it on to Dieter Meyer or Boris Blank. I'll do another scan for some form of contact details for the band, maybe concentrating on fan sites and Mercury, who seem to be involved somehow as well. Every time I do a search though all I get back are links to the Mercury Music Prize, which is of no use to me.
I gave Milly's hutch a clean and then gave her a bath. Guinea Pigs, when wet, suddenly become very skinny, bony and pink. No jokes please. After I bathed her, I wrapped her up in a large towel to keep her warm while she dried. With just her wee nose poking out, she sat comfortably and watched TV with me for a bit while munching on a lettuce leaf. Bless her.
I watched Friday Night with Jonathon Ross. One of his guests, Peter Kay, who is an English stand-up comedian, has to be one of the funniest men alive. Before he came on, the show was entertaining and fun. As soon as he arrived I was roaring my head off with laughter. I even began to worry if my unadulterated laughter would wake Laura sleeping upstairs. There's nothing like laughter to make you feel great, though.
And that was it. Tiredness overcame me and I dragged my weary body upstairs to the land of nod. I couldn't even manage a chapter of Catch-22. I kept nodding off and dropping the book so I just gave up.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Looking For Mr. Meyer
One of the best moments of my day is when I go out to say good morning to all the animals, check their food and water is sufficient and make sure they are generally comfortable. The early morning calm in the shelter of the garden makes it a nice way to spend 10 minutes with my coffee. I talk to them and they stare, poke their wee noses up to the railing and compete for my attention. They always seem glad to see me and it lifts me immensely before I finally face the inevitable and head off to work.
Today dragged though. I left early to get back for England's second match in Group B of the World Cup, against Trinidad & Tobago. A dull game by standards already set, but it came to an exciting end with ten minutes remaining, when England scored twice to secure victory. That's them guaranteed qualification through to the second round where, if I am right, they could play Equador or Germany. They will have to play much, much better if they are beat either of those teams and proceed any further.
I let the rabbits out the hutch and in the garden for the first time tonight. They went mental, bounding and running all over the place, landing on each other and thumping the ground with excitement. I've supplied a small run to keep them safe (bigger one to come) and they really enjoyed themselves. They will be 13 weeks old on Saturday, so I'm starting to wean them onto greens and other non-pellet food, with which to supplement their diet. Outdoor exercise comes as part of that, too, but until now they have been unable to stomach grass, hence why they were only in their hutch or let loose in the living room until tonight,
I've decided on my three books for taking on holiday this year. Whether I'll actually get time to reasd them is another matter, but I'll take them anyway.
* Oracle Night by Paul Auster - my favourite author, and a book that has been on my 'to red' list for quite a while.
* Don Quixote by Cervantes - a classic novel, which hugely influences Auster's work. It's about time I sat down to read this epic.
* Death Is Not The End by Ian Rankin - Got to keep the Scottish writer influence flowing in my blood also.
I wrote the query letter to send to the record company in charge of Yello. I was unable to find a management address anywhere but I will have another scout around and see if I can locate them tomorrow. Dieter Meyer is a hard man to locate since the previous company went out of sorts but hopefully somebody will pass on the letter and the idea of a novella written around one of his albums will spark his interest.
It anyone knows how to conact him or his agent, please drop me a line.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
On Sunday my folks came through to visit. After my dad slept off half a lager in the living room for a couple of hours, we had a BBQ out in the back garden in the late afternoon sun. Most pleasant, although I was reeking from charcoal smoke by the end of it. All the usual stuff was devoured; sausages, burgers etc. but we also had chicken in garlic and herbs and Gail made up some lovely kebabs (the healthy option) with peppers, onion and chicken in a fajita sauce. Drool, drool!
I was off work Monday through to Wednesday, and spent half my time in Gail's office fixing their I.T. problems. My skills and talents know no bounds though I was only paid in coffee. Actually, it was fun to be working with Gail again in the same office. That's how we met you know; I wooed her over the fax machine and chatted her up with post-it notes stuck to her monitor. Three months of chasing and I finally bagged my girl. That was six years ago in December. Time Flies eh?
I'm making good headway into Catch-22. Still not sure where it's going but I'm getting used to the writing and the humour. It may have taken me longer to adjust to it having just read The Outsider, but while it still is not making total sense (yet), it is fun to read.
I've been preparing my July column for The Scruffy Dog Review. It has a more summer theme and is very current. I've also been writing up my critique for my friend's manuscript. It's growing longer by the day but I want to make sure I get across all my thoughts and don't miss anything out. I took loads of notes on the manuscript while reading it and I'm now transferring these into the crit. It's a book that deserves to do well because it hasn't left my mind since I put it down. As such, it deserves my best reaction and effort.
Couldn't be arsed with snooker come the evening but I still managed to win 5-3, despite me wearing my glasses and not my lenses. I've been detoxing myself, too, staying clear of the booze for the month after May, which was quite a hectic one. July is setting up to be a cracker, though, despite it meaning the first half of the year will be over and done with!
Where has all the time gone?
Saturday, June 10, 2006
English For A Day
I had a different Saturday morning, though the structure was much the same. I headed straight for a cappuccino in St. Andrews Square and sat scribbling into my notepad over a pastry. Then I walked down to Dofos and purchased two bales of hay, a pack of woodcarvings, rabbit muesli and a new outdoor hutch for Milly.
Now that the rabbits are 12 weeks old, last night they were moved into the hutch outside. The new hutch, a smaller one but very cool, is for Milly to live in. Sad as it may sound, I found myself worrying about the rabbits being outside for the first time. I left the outside light on and every time I walked past the kitchen window all I could see was their wee faces looking in at me as if to say, "Why have you stuck us out here? We thought you loved us!"
Getting the new hutch home proved a laugh, walking down the street with it perched on top of my head. Eventually I flagged down a taxi and got home the easy way. Back home I kitted it out and introduced Milly to her new home, next to the rabbits but with her own privacy.
My scalp has tightened right up and has started to bubble. Very soon, I know it will start to peel and I will be left with a new layer of skin.
I've started reading Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Funny and challenging is the best way to describe the first few chapters I have read so far. It's from my lengthy waiting-to-be-read pile, which I am trying to work well into this year if possible. The Outsider by Albert Camus will take some beating as my Read of the Year. I can tell that book has had a huge influence on me already. I can't seem to get it out of my mind.
I've been writing these past couple of days but it has been a real job to squeeze it in. I've been polishing the house, as you know, for my folks coming to visit tomorrow and despite the tiredness after all my homely duties and doing stuff with Laura, I've managed to keep the ball rolling.
Even while watching England's first game in the World Cup Finals in Germany, did I manage to scribble some lines into my notebook. I may be one of the minority, but as England are the only British team in the Finals, I am supporting them. Scotland is one of the most parochial countries in the world and it is at times like this that the population of this tiny nation shows itself to be terribly narrow-minded and self-obsessed.
I stood for the National Anthem, right hand on heart. I supported them in their 1-0 victory of Paraguay. Being Scottish does not mean you should neglect your Britishness. A true Scostman will hold the values of both close to him but always mindful of the fact of who we are and where we belong.
Come on England!!
Friday, June 09, 2006
Security Is Paramount
To make matters doubly worse (what can be worse than having a burnt head and a future of skin falling off as a result?), when I went to make breakfast, there was no coffee left!
My worst nightmare had now come to fruition.
My nightmares were nothing compared to the couple in the house opposite me. While I was tending to the house - cleaning, polishing, hoovering inside and out, the doorbell rang. I answered to see a medium-sized, dark-haired young policeman standing on my doorstep.
"Don't panic mate," he said immediately. "Not yet, anyway."
"How can I help?" I offered my assistance to the boy in blue.
He went on to explain how the young couple opposite had been broken into last night. The burglars had managed to get in through a tiny window and had made off with some electrical equipment and lady of the house's purse, who by the way, is heavily pregnant.
"Did you hear anything last night?"
"Not a thing," I said, which is regrettable seeing as we slept with our upstairs bedroom window open due to the stifling heat. I was out like a light last night what with the effects of over-exposure to the sun and so slept through everything. Gail, like me, heard nothing either when I asked her later on.
And so now the entire street is on tender hooks. Every time a motion activated light comes on curtains twitch and heads pop out of doors.
There's not much more we can do. We've already got substantial systems in place to warn off possible intruders, because you just never know.
Security is paramount these days. Unlike the old days when apparently you were able to leave your door unlocked when you nipped down to the shop for a pint of milk. Great days I'm sure, but I'm not taking any chances. Too many wee blighters about with singular thoughts of where to get their next hit and not caring what they do to other people to get it.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Don't Mess With Mr.Sun
In that one and a half hours spent on the open grass playing field, I managed to burn myself. My head, face, shoulders and arms all got in the way of the sun and it's rays. As I hadn't had time to splash on any protection, I knew I was in trouble before I even got back home.
My head started to get tight and a headache came on quite drastically. By the time evening came, my skin temperature had risen to 103 degrees Fahrenheit and I was feeling quite sick. I retired early to bed covered - and I mean covered in after-sun lotion.
Most of you are probably cringing at the thought of all this, but to lighten the mood here's a picture taken notlong after the effects had taken hold. Try not to laugh too much. I do have feelings you know.
Or at least, I will do once the nerve endings grow back again.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
I Saved Clark's Bar
That's where I will soon be. In only a matter of weeks we will be flying off to sunny Limassol in Cyprus for a two week break. Cannae wait. But before then there is lots to do including my sister getting married and my annual trip to Blackpool. July is going to be a busy month.
But enough forward looking and back to today. By 9am I was sweating my man-breasts off thanks to the spiralling heat-wave. It was not conducive to a productive working day, only sleep and day-dreaming.
On my way home from work while going to the ATM to get some money, I happened to pass Clark's Bar. A slight rise of broken smoke was rising from within one of the metal cigarette disposers attached to the wall, a common sight around Scotland since the introduction of the smoking ban (the metal container, not the smoke).
On my return from the cash machine, the smoke was substantially greater and on smelling it, I noted it was of burning paper, and not as I had thought, the last remnants of a discarded cigar.
I popped into the bar and informed Linda that her fag disposer was on fire. She grabbed the water pourer, more commonly used for topping up whisky, and threw it on the now raging inferno that had developed inside the box. More water was called for before the fire was finally exterminated.
"You might just have save Clark's Bar," said Linda.
"Any chance of a free pint then?" I pondered.
"Not on yer nelly," she confirmed.
Ah - good old Clark's!
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The Outsider And June's GDR
Last night I trained for the first time in a long time. I used the elliptical trainer and boy, did I feel the pain. Laura was coaching me, using a balloon pump to blow cool air into my face as I worked away, shouting things like "No pain, no gain!" and "You'll be a slim man in no time!" She also said by the end of it I looked like I had been dragged through a river by the amount of sweat pouring down my face.
Today was scorching hot all day. A quick check on Yahoo Weather confirmed a peak of 74f in Edinburgh! Good for preparing for a trip abroad, but no so good if you are crammed into a small dark office watching the summer pass you by outside.
The hot weather is not good either when you are pumping away on the training machine, sweating buckets and pushing through the pain barrier. I did half an hour on it tonight after a warm-up. My legs and arms were aching afterwards and I slumped in a heap on the back lawn, pouring glasses of cold water over my head.
I seem to have hit a small garden wall in the writing of the extra chapter for Hunting Jack. I can't seem to get my leg over it and it's proving to be annoying. All the research is done and the lead-up is good, but for some reason I can't write what comes next. This suggests something is subconsciously amiss, perhaps a forgotten arc, a misplaced fact or simply that it doesn't fit right somewhere along the line. I'll need to fight through it, get it wrong if I have to and hope it reveals itself so I can fix it once complete.
I read another few chapters of The Outsider before I slept. I'm about half way through it now. What a fantastic book. There are passages where you can tell the translation from French has proved difficult, but there are other sections where the imagery and power of the words is simply remarkable. When I think about the book later, I remember everything that has happened to the protagonist, Meursault, in fine detail, as if I were recalling a personal memory.
The story is unfolding at a wonderful pace. Meursault has just been through the trauma of his mother dying. Except that he has suffered no trauma, which feels strange but not when you get to know the character and understand his thinking. He went through the process of the funeral somewhat reluctantly, watching everyone else mourn but not quite knowing why or what the point was. Then he returned to his bachelor life with ease, carrying on with work and his life. He's a laid back kind of guy, no pretensions and probably easy to get on with, though his habit of folding to what others want is quite annoying.
He visits the beach with Raymond, a dodgy character from his building, and his girl, Marie, and as I left it for the night, he has just committed a random act of murder by shooting an Arab on the beach who is at conflict with his dodgy mate Raymond. And that brings part one to a close. Can't wait to find out what happens and how Meursault's attitude to life is challenged after this.
The title is well chosen. Meursault is certainly an outsider, but only because he doesn't seem to conform to everyone else's ideals, not in any sinister kind of way, he just wants to live his life the way he sees fit. I think that's the message I am getting from this book so far - fitting in to society and the structures we have to live under and the conflicts this presents.
June's GDR Plan
* Complete final draft of Hunting Jack (Edited upto and including Chapter 30 - 72,750 words)
* Complete new chapter of Hunting Jack - WIP
* Write a new short story
* Keep on top of submissions list
* Begin query process for Hunting Jack (list agents, prepare letters, send out)
* Contact Yello management and publishers to gauge possible Stella publication
* Begin writing A Friend To Die For where left off
* Give A Friend To Die For a better title
* Complete poem for reading at my sister's wedding in July - WIP (Love Is)
* Write any poems that come to mind
* Complete work on Scotland's Treasure for July column - WIP
* Write story/article for Being Dad Anthology
Marketing and Promotion
* Step up marketing and promotion of Fringe Fantastic for this years Fringe
* New round of press releases for Fringe Fantastic with this years Fringe in mind
* Keep website up to date
* Follow up on PR received still to be actioned
Reading and Research
* Release Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol.2 into the wild
* Complete crit of friends novel
* Re-read A Friend to Die For
* Read The Outsider by Albert Camus
* Read True Tales of American Life by Paul Auster
* Select books to read on holiday
* Stay on top of editorial work for TSDR
* Gather submissions and work on ARS Anthology
Monday, June 05, 2006
I'm Back (with May's GDR Review)
I've been busy. The first day of my absence - Last Wednesday - was planned. I was out all day with Mikey P and Craig as we toured the bar taps of Auld Reekie. Thursday was a scheduled day off and Friday was the first of my unscheduled days off, when I had to take time away from the office to look after Laura.
During this time I got little done on the way of writing. I had planned to, but being the caring dad I am I resorted to keeping the little one amused. By Saturday she was still poorly but it was such a gloriously hot day we donned sun tan lotion (yes - it was a scorcher) and we sat out all day in the garden. Day turned into evening and eventually we dragged ourselves back inside the house.
Sunday wasn't quite so hot, but still humid enough to be able to sit out back again. I worked on the garden making it spick and span for Gail's brother and his family when they visited later in the afternoon.
And so to today. I completed the second read-through of my friend's manuscript and am now putting the response together. I finally got down to reviewing last month's GDR but I feel like I have been away from the PC for ages. My PC was hardly on at all over the past few days and while I was too busy to miss it, I'm aware of a loss in momentum.
Here's May's GDR Round-Up.
* Complete Stella - done
* Complete second redraft of Hunting Jack (Edited upto and including Chapter 30 - 72,750 words)
* Complete new chapter of Hunting Jack - WIP
* Write a new short story - not done
* Keep on top of submissions list - done
* Write poem for reading at my sister's wedding in July - WIP (Love Is)
* Write any poems that come to mind inspirationally - 2 new kids poems written
* Commence work on Scotland's Treasure for July column - WIP
* Write story/article for Being Dad Anthology - not done
* Write four weekly blog entries for TSDR - taken a back seat with this
Marketing and Promotion
* Step up marketing and promotion of Fringe Fantastic for this years Fringe - done
* Keep website up to date - done
* Follow up on PR received still to be actioned - not done
Reading and Research
* Release Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol.2 into the wild - not done
* Finish reading friends novel WIP and prepare crit - almost done
* Prepare for Extra HJ research - work completed
* Stay on top of editorial work for TSDR - done
Things That Turned Up
* Prepared and distributed PR for Silly Poems e-book
* Kicked off idea for an anthology with everyone in my writing group. Have taken on editorial responsibility for it.
* Re-wrote and submitted Daffodils to This Is It Mag, themed issue.
* My poem National Portrait (from Fringe Fantastic) was read out at a Scottish Festival in Tennessee by the band Albannach, who the poem is about.
Espresso Fiction rejected Heart of a Child, Daffodils and On A Monday Morning
Fiction - 3,600 (half in edit, half in new chapter)
Non-Fiction - 14,000
Poetry - 200
Insidious Reflections 1
Writing Magazine 1
3am Magazine 1
Barcelona Review 1
The Portable Muse 2
This Is It 1
One Story 2
Adirondack Review 1
It was a superb month. Ok, so the word count was slightly down but that was predictable given that all of my efforts were put solidly and squarely into the editing and reworking of Hunting Jack from serial to novel. It's working well. The break from the characters has done me a lot of good, allowed me to see them in a fresh and enlightening way.
The emphasising of what the story is about has triggered more research and a whole new chapter. This new chapter has led to a rippling effect that has reached out to the farthest edges of the story. A net total of 1800 new words during the first 30 chapter edits and a further 1800 on the new chapter, which still a work-in-progress by May's end. I'm very pleased.
Elsewhere I completed the final draft on Stella linking everything together to a most satisfactory state and hopefully giving it enough mystery and suspense right to the last line. I really couldn't care if this sells or not, it was a labour of love and something I wanted to do for years.
I squeezed out a couple of more kids poems. Too late for the e-book but who knows how far away volume 2 is. No new short stories written although plenty of ideas have been forthcoming. I really have dedicated all my time to Hunting Jack and once it is complete I sense I will feel as accomplished after I did after writing it for the serial. It has changed a lot sine then, the writing has improved and the characters more defined, flawed and humorous.
And that's about it. May was all about fiction, which was my goal. So from that point of view I have met everything I aimed for. All I need to do now is put Hunting Jack to bed and begin on my other projects.