Freedom From The Mundane - A Writer's Blog

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Poetry Progress and August GDR

Knackered, but enjoying all the hard work. That's how I can sum up this week so far. If I could look into the crystal ball one week, I know the chances of me being twice as tired next week are pretty good. I'd give them evens, in fact. Gail is leaving on Saturday to fly to the Greek island of Kos for a week with her friend. Not bad for some, I hear you ask, and you'd be right, for I am stuck at home as the weather slides towards autumn.

Luckily, I'll have Laura to look after me. Don't laugh, because that's how it will probably be. She'll try and take advantage and more than likely get away with it, too. She'll drag out the last five minutes before bed, and hope that I am writing and forget about her still watching the TV ay 10.30pm. She'll laugh as I forget to pack her sandwiches for lunch and she'll make sure I don't forget about the Pizza Hut delivery and movie I promised her.

I'm missing Gail already.

Didn't achieve much before work or over lunch. Spent some time building my review for August's GDR, (which is bloody awesome this month!!), that you can find below. Made a few updates to the website to include a bigger Scruffy Dog Review promotional area. I'll upload this soon. The new issue is due out tomorrow - go check it out - it's a fab one this month:

The Scruffy Dog Review

I called my mother in the evening. Told her I was sorry for all the shit I'd put her through during the last 30-odd years. After she stopped laughing she asked, why, and I told her about the story I had written and of the weird set of emotions I felt as it came to its conclusion. Apparently I'm not "all that bad," which I suppose helps.

I made good progress with the poems for Poolside Poetry. Most of them are nearing the final stages of polishing, but quite a few are still in need of some major reconstruction if they are to be good enough for the book. I reckon, all things considered I could be looking at a January/February release date, but that will also depend on how NaNoWriMo goes and the availability of a photographer. Sarah - if you're reading - get in touch.

And so to August's GDR Review.

Fiction
* Type up and complete Wide Awake
- not done
* Continue with Hunting Jack
submissions - will allow to run out. HJ not complete by 30/40k.
* Continue with Stella
submissions - catch-up email sent to Yello to see if they want to be involved.
* Complete editing A Friend To Die For
to point where left off [read/edited to end of ch.17 (30740/40000 words)] - nothing done
* Give A Friend To Die For
a better title (if one comes up - already got few ideas)
* Keep on top of submissions list - submitted some poetry and one short story. Still waiting on the rest.
* No new submissions made

Poetry
* Work on new chapbook, Poolside Poetry
- WIP. No date set due to being busy - don't want to rush it.
* 5 poems submitted to the Poetry Super Highway

Non-Fiction
* Work on Scotland's Treasure
for September column - Fringe review complete (900 words)
* No new submissions

Marketing and Promotion
* Full effort made to promote Fringe Fantastic
at the Fringe - Worked the streets during Fringe (Press releases/postering/leafleting/networking/selling)
* Complete cross-promotion with Fife B&B for Fringe Fantastic
- books waiting to be sent out
* Keep website up to date - complete
* Follow up on PR received - pending. Will combine with new PR from the Fringe

Reading and Research
* Finish reading Catch-22
by Joseph Heller – WIP
* Bought and read Elements of Style by EB White
* Re-read all of Rick Lupert's chapbooks
* Re-read Hidden Capacity by Frances Macaulay Forde
* Re-read Pilgrim Heart by Brooks Carver

Other Projects
* Stay on top of editorial work for TSDR - done
* Work on ARS Anthology - Need to contact writers who said yes, but no sub made. No work done this month.

Things That Turned Up
* Two of the street performers in my book bought a copy of FF
* Networked with street performers and other writers at Fringe and Book Festivals
* Attended six author/publishing events at the Book Festival
* Attended performance poetry workshop at the Book Festival
* New short story written based on DE's TSDR blog exercises. Regrets
(1700)
* Piece of flash fiction written called Spawning
(200) based on DE's TSDR blog exercises
* Outlined novel synopsis for Slick
- NaNoWriMo effort in November (900)
* Started writing short story, Amanda & Joe
for third of DE's TSDR Blog exercises (900)

Successes
* Met a lot of great people and made contacts this month through the festivals
* Gained bag loads of confidence through networking and Book Festival workshop
* Gained bag loads of knowledge about writing and the business at the book Festival
* Had a lot of fun promoting my book
* Wrote a lot of fiction, much of it in 1st person
* Realised just what I need to do to sell my book - perform my poetry live

Failures
* Never sold as many books as I thought I might. Bloody hard work!!

Statistics
Fiction - 3,700
Non-Fiction - 15,100
Poetry - 0

Outstanding Submissions

Fiction
3am Magazine 1
Barcelona Review 1
The Portable Muse 2
This Is It 1
TSDR 1

Poetry
Forward Press 2
PSH 5

Non-fiction
Interactive Dad 2

Manuscripts
Stella still with
4 publishers
Hunting Jack
still with 6 agents


Summary
I don't think I need say much about this past month (from 10th August). When I landed back in the country from my summer holiday in Cyprus on the 9th, I knew it was going to be busy and I also predicted I would get little done in the way of new writing, as opposed to promotional work. Ok, so I still need to be writing more fiction every month as far as word counts go, but still, it was always felt August would be a slow month.

How wrong I was.

Not only did I have a wonderful time meeting new people, interacting with other writers and promoting my work, I also embarked on a new confidence-fuelled journey of fiction. I have lots of exciting projects that I am working on; short stories, novel planning and so on, but on the poetry front things have taken a giant leap. Attending a Performance Poetry workshop at the Book Festival has given me an educational boost in writing verse, but it has also given me a massive boost in my confidence, both in my own abilities as a writer, but also in the place I have within the writing community.

Ok, so I didn't sell many books, but all that has happened this month far outweighs that in the short term. And in the long term, I know will prove invaluable when it comes to pitching them. I actually feel like a writer and that is an achievement in itself. I have reached a place - pushed there by my own self-determination - and although it was scary and wobbly, I came through it a better person and a better writer.

This has been the best month, as a writer, I think I have ever had.
Colin 11:21 pm | 0 comments |

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Emotions of Prose

Tired after last night's late shift. Ended up writing the synopsis for my planned NaNoWriMo novel until 1:45am. I kept thinking of missing links and areas I will have to research in advance. I've got two months to do all that, but I expect there will be times in November I will have to down tools to go find something out. I gave it a title too - Slick. Here's the draft blurb.

In fact, here isn't the blurb. I was going to post the rough outline of the novel, but decided against it. I hope you aren't annoyed or upset. If you really want to read it, because it means that much to you, email me here, and I'll send it to you.

Started work on the first draft of the Name Exercise from Devon's The Scruffy Dog Review Blog prompts. "Amanda and Joe" was the prompt and this was quite tough, I found. Well, tougher than the last couple of exercises anyway. I got writing and came up with a rather sad tale called, Amanda and Joe (funnily enough); two elderly people who find each other in later life through a tragedy that is dealt them both. Intrigued? Not half as much as I am.

I applied the changes I noted down last night to Regrets. It improved vastly now that the possible questions surrounding it are answered in the prose itself - but more subtly, I think. Later on, I printed it off double-spaced and sat back to read it, making edit notes as I read. More cutting and re-organising of the prose was required, but a strange thing happened.

As I came to the second re-write of the day on the last couple of paragraphs, I felt really involved in the story. I mean, my gut was wrenching and I felt quite emotional about the whole thing; the plot, the twist but more significantly, all these words and phrases - all the perfect ones - came out of my head and onto the paper. So when I read it back afterwards, I found myself feeling - roughed up emotionally.

What's more, I had an overwhelming need to call my mother and tell her I was sorry for all the shit I've ever put her through! Where that came from I have no idea, but as it was too late to call her tonight, I'll do it tomorrow.

Explain that one Mr Freud!

I've come to realise so far through Devon's exercises, that I think I've been approaching short story telling all wrong. Not in the writing of them, so much, but more in the 'I need a story - what can I write about?' way of thinking.

Instead of thinking about a story, I should just use prompts like these to pull a story out of me. I've been making it too hard on myself and I'm finding that the stories come much more fluidly when prompted from objects/names/paintings etc. I must say I'm looking forward to the Phrase Exercise already (got lots in my head for that), as well as the smell and sound ones.

I've added some new blogs and websites that are total musts as far as I'm concerned! I've added the links to my website and/or to my blog (which you you are in!) Go check them out, dude!!

Craft Green Poet - Juliet Wilson's Poetry blog
Bolts of Silk - online poetry magazine
One Deep Breath - haiku poetry
Poetry Associate of Scotland - superb national resource for poets
Scottish Poetry Library - info for Scottish poets
Poetry Scotland - info for Scottish poets
Literature Training - Support and development for writers
Colin 11:42 am | 1 comments |

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Headswell of Ideas

I woke up feeling tired, but like I had earned the sleep after a lot of hard work. And I have been working hard, but enjoying every minute of it. Then when I staggered to my office and turned on my PC (purely by habit) to check my email I got a lovely little surprise.

For some time now I've been participating in surveys run by The Scotsman. You know the kind of thing; you fill out a form and are then elegible to win 50 quid of Amazon vouchers or something in a random draw.

I didn't think anyone won these things, but it turns out they do. Because this time, it's ME!

I have no idea what survey it was, but a lovely lady from the paper had emailed me to say I had won and could I confirm my postal address. Here's what prize is on it's way to Chez Galbraith:



Work
The Scotsman/Orange Prize Anthology 2006

Various authors including Janice Galloway,Duncan McLean, Brian McCabe ISBN 1904598838

Well-known names and talented new writers are all to be found in this volume of the very best entries to Britain's biggest and most prestigious short story competition - The Scotsman and Orange Short Story Award. Entrants were given a single word - work - to trigger the imagination.

Twenty of the best stories from the competition sit alongside specially commissioned stories from Janice Galloway, Duncan McLean and Brian McCabe. Last year's winner of the £7,500 first prize was Kirstin Zhang with her story, The Enemy Within, a subtle, multi-layered story about the deceptions that affect an Indonesian worker's life. Over one thousand entries were received in 2005.


Excellent!!

And now for something completely different.

As most of you probably know, I used to write for KeepitComing.net. Before its untimely collapse it was a serial fiction provider, and it was through this medium that my novel, Hunting Jack, came to be born.

I have also mentioned my recent epiphany regarding this work of fiction, where I have come to realise it is being circa 40k words short, despite it being on the submission cycle.

Now, it occurred to me last night that as I have decided to leave Hunting Jack alone for a while - possibly about a year - I could reinsert it into the serial fiction market. Virtual Tales (set up by ex-KIC authors), approached me a while back to see if I wanted to join them and they seem like the obvious choice.

I'm still unsure, though. It's all there waiting to go; the blurbs, the issues (almost a years worth), the artwork, so maybe I should let it go out to work for me while I let the characters rest in my head. I wouldn't have to do any work for it - just promote it. Then, when a year of the issues is up, I could go back to it and complete the remaining story with a fresh mind.

But I'm not sure if this is a cop-out, either to me or the story. I feel like it might be a good thing to do, for the CV and for the exposure it would give me. But then, promoting takes up a lot of time and I'm worried about the long-term problems it might cause when it does come time to begin "novelising" the final part. It just feels a little weird after having worked to move it away from the serial format.

I think, maybe, when I came across the Virtual Tales website, it was possibly the idea of writing another serial that appeals. I love the "not knowing where I'm going" aspect of the writing, the adventure the characters took me on and the excitment of the deadlines. So maybe I do want to do another one, but it's just that Hunting Jack might be the wrong choice.

This won't be a quick decision. I think I'll sleep on it more.

I've been in correspondence with a wonderful woman called Frances Macaulay Forde. She hails from Perth, Western Australia, and not only is she a wonderful poet and author in her own right, she is also the first official owner of a copy of Fringe Fantastic on that particular continent.

Frances mentioned the impending start of the WA Spring Poetry Festival and National Poetry Week, where she will also be reading some of her poems. She suggested I come over next year for the festival, as they usually have a number of Irish and UK poets over to stay at the FAWWA's accommodation close to Cottesloe Beach.

How do they get there? By way of a writing grant, which allows them to attend the festival and promote poetry through readings etc.

Sounds interesting, and maybe something to think about! Check out Frances's her website at: www.francesmacaulayforde.com

I made a few changes to Regrets and made a few submissions in the evening. Five poems to The Poetry Super Highway, and an interview request to someone I met at the book festival recently for The Scruffy Dog Review.

It was a reasonable hour when I went to bed. But I couldn't sleep for ideas buzzing around in my head. I ended up getting up just after midnight and sitting in the lounge with a glass of milk and the TV on low.

I wrote down notes for more changes I need to make in Regrets,and more importantly, I wrote several pages of a synopsis for the novel I intend to write for NaNoWriMo.

The basis is the story is sound and I think I can make it a thrilling crime novel out of it. But one never knows what can happen during the writing of a novel.

Earlier, I re-registered on the NaNoWriMo website (I'd tried it before but failed drastically), set up my profile and joined the Scottish Lounge discussion lists. Hopefully there will writers from Edinburgh taking part who might want to get together. Fingers crossed.
Colin 10:41 am | 1 comments |

Monday, August 28, 2006

A New Man

I feel like a new man!

A born-again writer has arrived in Scotland, his name is Colly and he is charged so highly, blue sparks can be seen occasionally fizzling from his clothes and hair. People close to him have begun complaining of receiving small shocks as he walks past them, such is his highly intense level of creativity and motivation.

I am of course, talking absolute shite. Or it will appear like that to anyone who isn't a writer, because only writer's will know what it feels like to be on this kind of surge. This is how I feel today, and have done for the past few days, and nothing is going to stop me writing and fulfilling my ambitions.

I wrote my Scotland's Treasure column today for September's issue of The Scruffy Dog Review. I left it VERY late, but that's only because I wanted to do a review of this year's Fringe Fesival. It's basically a review cum advert for next year's festival and not specific towards any shows, but more of a general look at the city, how it changes and very much reflective in mood.

I wrote a new short story, about 1600 words in length. It's been inspired by Devon Ellington's writing exercises in The Scruffy Dog Review Blog, which in this case, was about objects. We had to write a short story that contains each of these objects: coral-coloured lipstick, a blue satin sandal, a pair of monogrammed cufflinks, a cigarette lighter, and a gold-capped fountain pen.

At first I thought of doing a 1930's type of story, you know, like Bugsy Malone (was that the 30's?), and then I felt a pull from some kind of spy/crime background. But nah! Nothing really appealed, so I sat on it for a couple of hours. While on my lunch it came to me, not inspired by anything in particular, but I knew the idea was ripe when it arrived, jumping into my head from somewhere.

It's a thrilling piece of fiction, and as I came to the conclusion of the story I actually became aware of my guts tightening and shoulders tensing up. The other big news about this though, is that I wrote it in first person, which is a departure from my usual work. I've tried this in the past and failed, but I've been reading more and more first person work and studying the form. I decided now was the time, I just needed the right piece to do it with, and I felt this was the correct choice.

It's personal, adds to the drama and really puts the reader in the place of the protagonist. I think it comes off quite well but I still need to work on it to get it just right. I want to discover my first pov voice more. I'm comfortable with my third voice, so want to take the opportunity to discover my first. Besides, I'm think of doing NaNoWriMo in first pov so I need the practice.

I also carried out the second exercise later in the evening. This was a painting exercise, where you had to choose a painting, study it and write a story about it. I farted about on Google looking at some of the classics but nothing really took my fancy. Then I remembered Dee Rimbaud and went on over to his website.

After a short search, I found one. It's called Born Upon A Storm and is a pastel picture. You can purchase it here.



'Born Upon A Storm' is Copyright © Dee Rimbaud.

The story ended up being a piece of flash fiction, coming in just over 200 words. I think this form suited it because it's quite an immediate piece of imagery, with powerful colours and if you twist your head, the scene may not quite appear what it was originally meant to be. And this is how I wrote about it; not from the original intention, but from my warped imagination.

The story is called Spawning and I would like to share it with you now.

Spawning

The bullet hit him right between the eyes. He had just told me about last Saturday evening at his girlfriend's flat. Her boyfriend walked in on them having sex on the kitchen counter. They got into a fight, which he had won, but he knew it wasn't going to be over - not by a long shot.

We had just nipped out from the party for a cigarette. We were talking when there was a loud crack from somewhere behind me, a whipping noise beside my ear, and before I knew what it was, the glass of red wine in his hand was falling in slow motion, shattering loudly on the patio.

His body met with the water with an almighty splash and I just stood there, stunned and terrified, staring down at his floating body staring back up at me with wide eyes. I'll never forget his eyes; worry and fear embedded forever on his shattered face.

The water slowly settled as a small river of Claret worked its way into the fishpond and united with the blood from his wound. I have no idea how long I stood there, but it gave ample time for a small frog to swim out of the lilies, and poke around in his ear looking for somewhere to spawn.

'Spawning' is Copyright © Colin Galbraith 2006.
All Rights Reserved.
Colin 12:52 pm | 1 comments |

Sunday, August 27, 2006

On your marks, get set...

Last night my best mate Craig took me and Gail out for a meal. We went to Santini's Italian restaurant, which is adjoined to the Sheraton Grand just off Lothian Road. I had a sublime plate of fresh fillet of Atlantic salmon with pesto, green vegetables and potatoes, washed down with a lovely bottle of Chianti.

While in the bar waiting for our table beforehand, we were stood next to Sir David Attenborough, a man who I think is possibly one of the most famous and loved men in Great Britain, and has been for the last 20 years.

He was the voice of nature programmes while I was growing up and his contribution to British television over the years unmatched. It was he who launched BBC2 and was it's controller for several years, before returning to do what he does best - nature.

He looked every bit the kind, gentle man you see on the television and for an 80-year old bloke he is looking excellent. Naturally, I was too scared to interrupt his conversation to tell him how much I admired his brilliance, and so stuck rigidly to completing my vodka and fresh orange instead.

High on the crest of the motivational wave of literature, I spent the afternoon spring-cleaning my office. It's a bloody mess and has been for weeks now, with crap on the carpet, books strewn all over the shelves and my desk a towering clutter off books, papers, pens and pads. It simply needed to be done.

I can work in a "clutter" so long as it is organised, otherwise when it is like this, it just hampers me creatively. So I got to work and it didn't take me too long, though the time wore on when I decided to work through some boxes storing more papers and correspondence.

I set aside half of a shelf for new boxes to organise things in. I now store all my current papers to be taken care of, reference information and published hard copies.

Now I can see my desk, the carpet is clear and my mind sparkling brand new with ideas and motivation. The first thing I wanted to do was a series tasks set by Devon Ellington on The Scruffy Dog Review Blog. I started with the Object Exercise and will also do the Painting, Name, Phrase and Senses exercises too. I'll keep you informed of my progress.

I also have some new short story ideas percolating as a result of clippings I came across while re-organising my office. I've started a new, handier folder called Ideas Folder. Good, eh? The last one was just a paper folder, torn and limp - this time it's a box holder, much stronger and purposeful. I'll talk more about these new stories as I get to them.

Also, I have had an epiphany regarding Hunting Jack. Listening to fellow authors at the Book Festival this past week made me realise something when I came to apply the knowledge they conferred to my own work: Hunting Jack is NOT complete.

In fact, it is nowhere finished. That's why I've had so many problems with the ending and the sequel, and that's why it is never going to get picked up by anyone. It finishes on a low and leaves the reader frustrated and sad - probably angry too. In short, it's a good story, but is a pish read because of the ending.

And so I've been thinking about this. It makes total and utter sense to write more, but this then throws all my attempts at getting signed with an agent back several months. It needs to be completed, however. It simply must be addressed. And I'm not talking about an extra chapter or two here, I'm talking about another 30 or 40,000 words. I'm talking a LOT more work.

And to think I sent it out on submission like that. I've probably blown my bridges with several agents because of it, but then, it's all part of the learning curve I suppose. Another thing I learnt at the festival is that all writers have clangers; things they wished they had or hadn't done in hindsight. This is one for me and I'll just have to get on with it.

The next logical question is, do I actually want to go back and finish Hunting Jack? Is now the right time? I'm on such a creative surge just now I don't want to spoil the flow by editing. Plus, I've spent enough time working on it that I now have a backlog of work. Should I perhaps put this one away and finish it later, in a few years, to go to work on my other projects? Maybe I should bring Jackie into the NOW and complete his background later, just like Rebus is with Rankin, in a new book?

I think puttnig the manuscript away for a while and working on new projects is the way forward. I need to stretch my mind into new and expanding areas. I need to grow while the surge is on.

It's no wonder it took me an age to get to sleep tonight!
Colin 11:50 am | 1 comments |

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I AM a Writer

For once I was looking forward to a relaxing Saturday morning in Edinburgh. I dropped Laura off at her dancing class - which has soared in priced by 20% per class over the summer - and headed straight for Waterstone's for a wee shimmy around.

I bought a book from the reference section, one that I couldn't resist when I picked it up. It's called Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White, and is a handy pocket-sized book containing all the rules and advice on composing prose.

It is a superb reference guide. It answers many of the questions and highlights where I have suspected I have misused words and grammar all this time. I am already compelled to re-write everything I have ever written, but perhaps I shall get round to that later. In the meantime I shall study it and keep it close to my workplace.

After coffee in my usual place, and in my usual seat, I headed to the Charlotte Square and to the Book Festival for the final time this year. I noticed on entering that Jacqueline Wilson had appeared earlier and that Alexei Sayle was due on later; both authors selling out weeks earlier. Not next year - I'm going to book early for the higher profile authors and for the workshops.

Today's session was a talk with Roger-Pol Droit, a French philosopher and writer. He was talking about the philosophy of everyday objects, and I originally booked it with a view to getting ideas or to expand how I view the outside world with my "third eye".

The book he was promoting was a diary he kept containing writings of encounters with every day objects; paper clips, pencils, books, cups etc. The premise came about when a friend of his asked him "How are things?" and Roger naturally answered "fine." Later he came to think that he didn't actually know how "things" were. What "things" was his friend talking about?

Sounds boring, but when you actually hear what he means it is fascinating. To give you an example, Brian Morton (a Paisley man) held up a glass and said, "as a scientist I would describe this is a device primarily for holding liquids, made from a composite of sand and metal extracts, and shaped at high temperatures for strength etc. etc."

He continued, "but on the other hand, I might tell you that this was the glass my father bought me on the day he died," thereby totally changing the view and importance you place on a single object, that perhaps might have no meaning to anyone else in the room. It was great stuff.

And with that my Book Festival was over. This year has been my best yet. I have spoken with and listened to other writers of differing genres and backgrounds, I have learnt more about the business of writing, I took the plunge and went to my first workshop, mainly to test the water and find out more about my place within the writing world (and in particular poetry).

But best of all, I have met many wonderful people and in particular have given my confidence a massive boost. I have shared the floor with other writers of different stages and have felt comfortable with where I am, the decisions I have made, and where I am going. This has been a real eye-opener, a confidence booster and more importantly, a massive source of motivation.

This week, as a result of all my work at the Book Festival and the Fringe, I actually FEEL LIKE A WRITER. Within my mind, I haved moved from being an office worker who writes part-time, to being a writer who has to work every day to pay the bills.

I AM A WRITER. And the funny things is, I never wrote a thing.
Colin 10:53 am | 2 comments |

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Writing Business

Got a cracking sleep last night. I was so ready for a solid few hours, despite the Muse gig at nearby Meadowbank Stadium. It was almost like listening to a live CD recording as they ran through their set, the heavy noise from the amps pouring out and smothering Leith and beyond. It was a strange quiet that befell when the band finished the set; almost as if they and their 30,000 fans had vanished at the click of a finger.

I'm still buzzing from everything that has been happening this week. Laura is complaining she never gets to see me, and Gail is rejoicing for the very same reason.

Meeting up with Tania last night was brilliant. When I met up with Valentine for the first time a few days ago, I knew it was him immediately; his appearance slightly resembles his statue character. But Tania looks entirely different. She is much shorter than I imagined, probably because she is on a plinth when performing, and her face seems a different shape altogether, more rounded and European. Her personality is totally different to what I imagined, too, in fact, I never recognised her when I met her on Princes Street; it was she who came up to me.

We're going to swap links for our websites and once Valentine's is up and running, we'll do the same there. Tania asked if she could include her poem on her site and I was delighted to agree. It's going to be a trio of individually linked websites from separate ends of the artistic spectrum.

After work I went for a couple of pints in Clark's with Dave, Tom, and Zander. It's been a while since I was last in. It felt like I was returning home in an odd kind of way. Afterwards I headed up to the Book Festival for a session called The Writing Business with writers Colette Bryce, Linda Cracknell, Chris Dolan and Debbie Taylor.

Each one has had entirely different careers to date, involving TV and radio work, plays, poetry, fiction success etc. etc. The purpose of the session centred around making the break from the day job to go full-time with writing.

Most of it wasn't knew to me, although it was interesting to hear their personal anecdotes and experiences. I came away with a lot of notes that I wrote down and also the leaflets they handed out at the end are packed with information.

Making my way back down George Street after the event, I spotted my three drinking pals sitting on the pavement seats of the Assembly Room Bar. I joined them, and the rest, as they say, is entirely predictable.

We had a drink and then moved on to Tiger Lilly's. Not my kind of place at all. Expensive, full of posers and yah-yah's and just not comfortable at all. There was some amount of celebrity spotting as we drank our £5 pints of lager. Vernon Kay, John Leslie, Andy Walker and Jack Dee all were in the house.

I left early'ish at around 11pm as tomorrow I have lots on. It's my last weekend of the Festival and there is much to get through.

Before I go, I read today that the Random House Group has acquired rights to the auto-biography of Andrew Murray, the Scottish tennis player. Century will publish his autobiography in hardback two weeks after the end of Wimbledon next year.

Can I ask why? He hasn't done anything yet except beat a few people and whinge constantly to the media about intrusion. When he wins a major then he can start thinking about having something to say. At least do something with your life first - it's only just begun! Talk about thinking you are something you aren't? Talk about taking the piss out of the public!

Colin 2:33 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Submerged at the Book Festival

What a wonderful few days. I've been totally lost, nae submerged in the world of literature and the expressive arts. It's been a hell of a ride and there's STILL MORE to come.

Tuesday 22nd

To catch up, on Tuesday evening I attended two talks with best selling authors. The first was with Manda Scott, who gained fame as a crime writer but was at the Book Festival (BF) to talk about the fourth book in her "trilogy" about Boudica. All of this was new to me, but the power in her conviction and clearly excellent knowledge of world history was amazing.

She came across as a very quiet but assured woman, who seems very comfortable in the fact she is now a full-time writer and what she is writing about.

After a quick break I had a session with crime writers, John Harvey, Mark Billingham and Declan Hughes. This was a much more active hour, with all three authors approaching the stage clutching glasses of alcohol of some kind.

First up was Billingham to read from his book, and as a former stand-up comic he was absolutely hilarious. Never mind the quality of his writing (which sounded wonderful as he read), it was pre-reading speech that I'll probably remember most.

Next up was Declan Hughes, the "new crime writer on the block" who, as a former playwright, not only read from his latest novel but performed it as well. He was right into it and it was totally engrossing to watch.

John Harvey read a short story he had written but admitted that he didn't normally drink as much Highland Park whisky before going on stage as he had tonight. He was funny throughout as he tried to keep himself awake, nodding off at times but chirping up with some quick-witted and intelligent remarks.

The debate about crime writing was fascinating. There were some good questions from the floor that challenged mainly Billingham versus Hughes in that Hughes writes in 1st pov and Billingham in 3rd. It was a crying shame when the hour was up because everyone was just getting into it when we had to stop.

When I got home I felt totally invigorated. It was so good to have been sat listening to authors who were all from such different backgrounds, but who have got to where I want to be. I took so much inspiration from their words and advice, which they were all eager to impart, by the time I left I felt like a new writer.

The main thing I took from it was the fact they they are all from different backgrounds and experience. Scott was a vet and hated it, Billingham wrote comedy for TV and hated it, Hughes was a playwright who had toyed with writing his novel for 15 years before he felt the time was right to go ahead with it. And as for John Harvey, he is a legend in crime writing circles and has been for a long time.

Wednesday 23rd

I was exhausted after last night because I couldn't sleep for thinking about it all. I was back up at the BF by 10am (I took the whole day off to do BF stuff) for coffee and pastries with writers Alan Bissett , Nick Brooks and Michael Cannon. This had a Scottish fiction slant to it and it was a great way to start the day. There was a lot of humour, as there always seems to be, and I enjoyed it, though not as much as last night's crime session, I have to say.

Afterwards I joined the massive queue that was stretching around the interior of the gardens. This was one of the big events of the BF; a reading and talk with Andrew Motion, the UK Poet Laureate. He has just released his auto-biography, which he read from, but sounds more like a work of fiction in how it is written. What I mean is, it read beautifully, poetically almost (as you would expect from Motion), as he has not gone for the traditional method to writing his book. His is written in parts in present tense, which made it fascinating to listen to.

Motion is a quiet-spoken man, and very polite. He reminded me very much of Charles Dance but it his grasp of the English language that came across most, both in the reading of his book and in his discussion with the host. It was fascinating stuff as he recalled sections of his life and shared them with us, but also very sad in the circumstances of his mother's death when he was 17. He read from the section of the book when his mother has just had her horse-riding accident and it was a harder man than me who didn't admit to having a lump in one's throat.

The nerves kicked in as soon as the session was over; soon it would be time for the performance poetry workshop with Anita Govan. When I arrived there were about a dozen others, who all looked less nervous then myself. I took my seat in the circle inside the Writer's Retreat tent and soon the session began. Anita is a lively and spontaneous person, which helped as far as making it easier to relax.

We began with personal introductions, then by some ice-breaking/trust enhancement exercises, such as ball-throwing, making eye contact with other people, breathing and relaxing exercises. It was all very strange, but I soon got into it.

Then we had to do readings that Anita had brought with her as a way of teaching the basics of it all. Things to consider; what the poem is about, the tense, the meaning, the feelings etc. We paired off to prepare and I read On The Ning Nang Nong by Spike Milligan; a great poem that I've often read to Laura. I read it on the stage with another lady (sorry - forgot her name).

We were fast running out of time once we had all been up so we got straight into personal readings. The session was 90 minutes long and only some of the group managed to read their own poetry out. I never managed to, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, that apart I was glad I did it. It was totally nerve wracking but the things I took from it were invaluable. I will approach my poems differently, use what I know to improve and advance them and of course the confidence factor has been greatly boosted. Just talking to similar-minded people was a rush in itself, never mind getting up on a stage!

And so it was over before I really knew it. I made some good contacts and I feel myself moving towards attending Poetry Slams in the near future. I don't think I'll perform at the first one I go to, rather just get a feel for it, but I reckon I'm definitely moving in that direction.

I met up with my mate at dinnertime and we did a wee tour of some of Edinburgh's finer establishments. I really, really needed a pint after the last two days and, well, it was 3am before my "pint" finally ran dry.

Thursday (today)

Back to work today, but with a giant headache and major body-tiredeness. 3am finishes just aren't as easy to handle as they used to be.

Still, I felt like a new person after spending so much time around books and other writers over the last two days.

I did some editing on the poems for Poolside Poetry and made some notes for NaNoWriMo. I'm really looking forward to that now, in fact, I feel like there is so much writing in me I just want to take a year off!

But the best thing about today was meeting up with Tania Rocha and Valentine (living statue performers). They are great people and if I am going to take anything from this years festival - apart from what I've spoken about so far - it is that I am really happy that I have managed to get myself out there and meet so many different people from all artistic backgrounds. I have truly moved out-with my comfort zone and feel so much better for having just gone with the flow.
Colin 12:42 pm | 1 comments |

Monday, August 21, 2006

Happy New Year

My body feels as though it has been run over by a road-roller then stretched in all directions by a series of ropes and horses with whips. It's that bad. I think. I've never been pulled in all directions by a horse so I'm really just using the analogy for artistic effect. Please humour me at this point; I'm very tired.

On the bright side I noticed a slight rise in my average number of hits to my main website today (not this blog). Maybe nothing to get excited about, but when I looked at the stats more carefully, a large proportion of them came from Internet Cafe chains. Could visitors to Edinburgh who have seen my adverts be checking me out?

I've booked up for some events at the Edinburgh Book Festival this week. Tomorrow I'll be at two events; Meet the Author with Manda Scott and then a Crime Writing discussion with writers Mark Billingham, John Harvey and Declan Hughes.

On Wednesday morning I'll be at the Wake up with Words session about Scottish Fiction with writers Alan Bissett, Nick Brooks and Michael Cannon (free coffee and pastries included - yeehaah!). Then immediately after that I'll be listening to Andrew Motion, the UK Poet Laureate, talking about his life and new auto-biography.

On Friday evening I've booked into a session with writers Colette Bryce, Linda Cracknell, Chris Dolan and Debbie Taylor, to hear them discuss the challenges of giving up the day job to become a full-time writer.

Then on Saturday lunchtime I'll be attending a talk by French thinker and philosopher, Roger-Pol Droit, about the philosophy of everyday objects and how they come to have meaning to us. I'm hoping this will give me new ideas and slants I can apply to my fiction.

There is one further event on Wednesday that tickled my fancy: Performance Poetry Workshop with Anita Govan.

Here's the blurb: "This practical, fun and dynamic workshop will demonstrate how to write and conceptualise a performance poem, taking it off the page and into performance. Be prepared to let go all you know, and bring examples of your own work. (Maximum 20 places). Sponsored by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society."

I hovered over the keyboard for a while about this one. When I booked the other events I thought about this one too. But I left it and let it fester in my mind for the afternoon. This whole standing up and "performing" my poems scares the living bejeezus out of me. I will make no qualms that I am unsure if I have the bottle for it (without a bottle already in me), but when I saw the listing, I thought, "well, maybe I should just go for it. I won't be the only one there shitting myself."

But then I talked myself out of it every time. "I'm not good enough," and "I'll be out of my depth," and "what the hell am I doing?" All that kind of typical self-doubt that always comes into play when someone wants to see my book or talk about my work.

But I fancy it. I really do. Out of all the events this one stood out as a real unmissable for me. All the other fiction workshops are sold out and I want to get to at least one to meet other writers if nothing else.

Then I remembered something that a writing pal said to me last year when I was shitting it over the Ian Rankin meeting. "It's good for you to push yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then. It'll move you into a new level."

So I clicked the order icon and paid for a place at the perormance poetry workshop. I'm nervous already.

The speed at which everything is happening right now is quite frightening. I'm not getting much done in the way of writing, but as always seems to happen in August, it's only because I am totally consumed with the Fringe and Book Festivals.

This year is the first year I've really made the Book Festival Count. Rightly so. I don't get to meet other writers much during the rest of the year and with this on my doorstep it would be criminal to let it pass without taking advantage.

As for the Fringe, well I've made it count too. Not by going tolots of shows but by networking with other people who are involved. For example, I got an email from Tania Rocha today (the performer who I wrote Love At First Sight about). We are going to meet up later in the week.

August is always so inspirational. It is a return to base and a return from the page to the wider world. If writing were a religion, then August is surely the new year for us writers, especially in Scotland. You get to recharge and reassess everything and you become bombarded with hope and drive and determination to succeed.

Soon it will be September and autumn, my favourite time of year when my writing seems to always become richer. Then it will be NaNoWriMo, and I fancy I will be in a great frame of mind to tackle it.
Colin 11:15 am | 0 comments |

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Working the Fringe - Part 2

I slept like a log last night. Well, for most of it anyway. I was awoken at 4am; Gail's arrival time back at the house after her pal's Hen night. Then Laura woke me asking for a glass of water at 6.30am. Both risings broke my sleeping pattern into shreds and annoyed me severely, but what can one do?

I finally got up proper at 7am, ready for another day on the High Street. Before all that though, I had to meet Valentine a.k.a. The Man of Gold. I phoned him when I got into town and we met at the end of Princes Street near to where he was staying. I wasn't sure if I had the right place at first, until I saw his golden bike chained to a nearby fence outside his hostel. A surreal moment.

When he arrived in his civvies, I could see the resemblance to the man against his character. It was definitely there, but most folk will only know him when they see him all painted and standing still. In fact, I remember my first words to him were, "I didn't recognise you without your gold on."

He bought a copy of the book and seemed delighted with it. He spent some time flicking through the pages, returning to the page with him on it and shaking his head in amazement. We spoke for a while about his professional work as a street performer and my own work. I asked him about the trials of wearing gold paint every day. He doesn't seem to mind.

I've noticed none of the street performers I have spoken to refer to themselves as buskers - ever. They are all true performers and regard their art with pride and dignity. Rightly so, for it can't be easy but they all seem to be totally into it as their life, not just their job.

We parted and I took Laura back home via the pet shop where we had to stock up on essentials for all the animals. With that all taken care of and with a quick snack and cup of tea, I returned to the city on my own to meet my sister, Lindsay, who was coming through from Glasgow for the afternoon to soak up some festival air and help me dish out some leaflets.

We had a nice afternoon, stopping by in the Greyfriars graveyard to see the resting place of wee Bobby and his owner John Gray. We watched a lot of the performers in action and I got talking to a lot more 'leaflet people' today compared to yesterday. A lot of my posters were still visible - just - on the pillars, so this time I stuck more up down some of the Closes and left leaflets in shop racks.

We stopped off for a break in Deacon Brodies cafe. Never again. £7.50 for a cup of coffee, a hot chocolate, a slice of millionaires shortbread and a piece of carrot cake! Daylight robbery, but then it was Deacon Brodies.

Then a moment of pure happiness. One of my personal favourites from Fringe Fantastic is on page 64/65. It's called Love at First Sight and is about one of the street performers; a lady who does the statue thing, but she is more than just a statue. She's almost like a ghostly apparition, or a marble creation come to life, I'm not quite sure.

Anyway, I spotted her (having not seen her yesterday) and compared her with the picture in my book. There was some debate about whether it was the same lady, but once she smiled, I knew it was her.

I approached and dropped some money in her box, and as she bent forward to take my hand I said, "There's something I want to show you." Her expression remained unchanged, still acting out the part she was playing.

I held the book open at her page in front of her. A couple of seconds passed before the expression on her face altered. It was priceless; shock and disbelief mixed together as it dawned on her she was looking and reading about herself. She almost fell off her plinth.

I was hit with some surprise myself when she wanted to meet me to buy a copy after she had finished performing. I took her email and left her a message when I got home. I look forward to meeting her and seeing what she thinks of it.

Another street sale!!

After trudging around the streets for another couple of hours we decided to head home. I saw Lindsay onto the Glasgow bus then made my own way back to the house, exhausted and weary with another aching right shoulder.

I fell asleep on the couch and only got up later in the evening to make some cheese on toast and clean out the rabbits and guinea pig cages. I'll analyse this weekend in depth in tomorrow's post, because there is so much I have learnt and can take from the past two days alone. Much of it is still to sink in and much of it, if I start writing now, will keep me going for hours. I need to sleep. Badly.

Until tomorrow good people.
Colin 10:52 am | 1 comments |

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Working the Fringe - Part 1

Friday was a lost day so it's not much even mentioning. Tell a lie, there was one thing I should mention...

I returned from work late; around about 8pm. I was soaked through to the skin after torrential rain for most of the late afternoon and early evening that I had tried hard to avoid. But alas, there were too many holes in the clouds to prevent my arriving back to my home dry.

I changed and switched on my PC then sat down to read my email. There was one email that stood out from the rest, from a correspondent over at Sky News. She was working on a piece running this weekend about bloggers and wanted to interview me, and could I call her back if I got this email before the evening.

It was already well past 8, but I gave her a call anyway on the off chance she might still be looking. Alas (my second of the day), it was not to be as her deadline was long gone and the piece was prepared. She thanked me for returning the call and after a few pleasantries I put the phone down.

I couldn't help but wonder what a magnificent opportunity for exposure I missed due to my one-in-a-million decision to work late. My failure to access an email in time has lost me a slot on Sky News! I was gutted, but nevertheless it spurred me into a motivational line of thought concerning Fringe Fantastic.

I am going to have to work hard this weekend, so I feel that I have balanced out what I lost.

And so to today. I was up early and away out the door with Laura to take her to dance classes, which resume today. No stopping off at any coffee shops however, as I made a beeline straight for the High Street with my rucksack packed with fliers, posters and books.

Now, none of this is as easy at it sounds. I arrived at the top end of the street in good time and took a wander through the rather empty street. Most of the street performers and market owners were still setting up for the day, but by the time I reached the bottom I could feel the numbers in the area growing rapidly.

I took out my fliers and stood next to a Royal Bank pillar. I wondered what to do. People were walking past me, but I felt a tad shy and reluctant to start forcing my fliers into people's faces. I started to walk again and fell into line behind a girl who was clutching a bundle of far superior fliers to mine. She too was passing people by, then as if she had just been given a giant push from a hand called Courage, she approached a couple of people and told them about the show she was promoting, handing over a leaflet as she did.

I had seen how it was done. It was time to take action.

I lifted my arm, small flappy piece of paper in my hand, and held it out. Nobody came forth. I started to walk again and caught a glimpse of a woman who was already glimpsing at me. I raised the flier in her direction, she smiled and took it. "This is better," I said to my self and carried on.

An elderly man and woman were coming towards me now. I held out the flier and said, "Fringe Fantastic, sir?" He blanked me and walked on. I felt shattered.

I had just over an hour to get used to it, and by the end of my time I was just beginning to feel like a beginner. I had only managed to give out a handful of fliers though.

I headed off to collect Laura and then home for lunch. Afterwards, Laura insisted on joining me and off we went again.

Laura was an inspiration. It was her who came up with the idea of holding the fliers upside down so people walking towards could see what they were, and it was her who had the idea of shouting out "Fringe Fantastic" in the middle of the street to get people's attention.

Attention is the key word. There were throngs of people struggling along The Mile in both directions and as the afternoon wore on, it was taking longer and longer to get to either end each run we had at it. It was hard to stand out even with fliers and a copy of the book to hand.

At one point I spotted the Man of Gold statue. I've seen him at previous festivals and on the TV advert for VisitScotland.com dressed in a fully gold suit with bicycle. I watched him for a bit, then with a copy of Fringe Fantastic opened at page 58, walked up to him and held it out in front of his face.

He didn't blink. I stood my ground. His eyes shifted an eye towards the page. A smirk. A wide smile. He was off his plinth before I knew it and asking me all about the book, and if he could buy a copy. We arranged to meet tomorrow as he was unable to purchase just now due to him performing all afternoon.

My first street sale!!!

Laura and I carried on for the rest of the afternoon; dishing out leaflets and putting up posters. By the back of 5 I was knackered; 40 copies of Fringe Fantastic doesn't make for a lightweight bag resting on ones shoulder.

We headed home, slightly red from the sun, feet and shoulders aching and very hungry. Gail was heading out on a Hen night as we arrived so as soon as she was gone I cracked open the Irn-Bru and ordered a pizza.

What the hell! We had worked damn hard and I think we deserved it.
Colin 7:23 pm | 0 comments |

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Anniversary Celebrations

Damn blog. I've let it slip again, but then I did have some shit to deal with on other fronts. Stuff that has regrettably taken my focus away from the Fringe and my book. Stuff that is also far more important, so c'est la vie, I'm afraid. I'll just make the best of what's left of this week.

Yesterday was my 3rd Wedding Anniversary to Gail. We married on August 16th 2003 and it has sometimes seemed that a long time has passed, yet other times as though it all happened yesterday. I wouldn't have had it any other way (mostly) ;-) ), and I definitely know I picked the right girl. She's one in a million.

She challenges me, provokes me, makes me laugh, won't be walked over and is the most independent woman I know. I could never have married a 'house-wife' and I know in Gail I got someone who is the total opposite.

To celebrate, I took her out for a meal at The Iglu and then to the Best of Scottish Comedy night at The Stand.

Iglu is a relatively new restaurant found in the New Town. It bases all its menus on organic or wild produce. Not being that fussy about pesticides in my food, I thought it would be a nice change to see how the other half eat.

The restaurant itself is lovely. Nice and cosy but classy, with hard wooden floors and tasteful decor in the upstairs restaurant area (downstairs is the bar). The highlight for me was the tropical fish tank built into the wall.

The staff were very attentive and the quality of cooking not too shabby at all. I have to admit to not being able to tell the difference between organic food and standard, but then my rare-cooked rump of wild venison with mash, blue cheese and vegetables would have gone down a treat in any establishment.

I'd definitely go back, but not too soon as the inflated prices to reflect the organic nature of the food didn't really reflect in any excessive boost in quality. If it's an ethical thing then fair play, but I won't pay £15GBP for a side of meat I can get for half the price up the road, just because itm was shot the day before on a hillside in Glen Nevis.

The Stand, as always, was a scream. It was the Best of Scottish night and while I only recognised one act (Bruce Morton), the other two, on later investigation, proved to be quite famous in their own right. Sandy Nelson in particular, having had several movie and TV parts to his credit. Films such as Braveheart and TV such as Still Game, The Book Group and Velvet Soup.

When we arrived though, the place was still filling up and all the seats at the front of the stage were taken. All except the extreme front, where you are actually sitting face to face with the performer.

I should say, that the stage at The Stand is tiny. It is about four feet long by two feet from the wall and only about three inches high at most. It's easy to miss it entirely and fall over it. So while sitting at the front might get you a view you could still get from half way back, it leaves you wide open to be picked on by the performers.

And if you are a chubby, bald spectacle wearer with a West of Scotland accent, you are prime material for anyone with a fast tongue.

It wasn't long before the banter started. The announcer, Susan Morrison, came on and immediately accused me and Gail of swinging with the new-age couple next to us. Not too bad, I hear you say, but then when Sandy Nelson came on, things got worse - for me.

He made a bee-line for me as soon as he was on stage, with a quiff and side-burns not unlike a mini-Elvis (he was a short bloke), and his fist held out to start some weird Afro-American-style handshake. I didn't click and he kept doing things to make me look stupid. Eventually I caught up with him, then he walked away saying, "The bald specky cunt finally got it."

Lots of laughter.

And as I turned to Gail and said, "So says the sad Elvis reject," there was a lull in the audience volume, my comments were heard, and he was back over challenging me, eyeball to eyeball before I knew what was happening.

As it turned out I gave him his first ten minutes of material. I'm getting immune to it now: always being singled out at some point. It's a talent I have for looking - well odd, I suppose.

The press release for the new round of Fringe Fantastic promotion went out yesterday. I forgot I had set it up before I left for Cyprus. You can read it here (it's very good):

My latest Press Release

I've still got the hard copies to send out over the next couple of days to editors etc. I've not been able to due to certain printing restrictions that have affected me. In fact this week has been a total upside-down balls-up. I can't fulfil my Fringe wishes and the frustration and fact I have had to divert my attention to unrelated matters, has meant I'm not getting any writing done either. I have to get a hold of this problem.

I read Fringe Fantastic for the first time in a looooong time tonight. I quite enjoyed it but know I could do it better if I was doing it right now. I'll have to make sure everything I learnt from it goes into the production of Poolside Poetry. This new book is not going to be on the same scale - internet sales only on this one - for now anyway.

I also ready through Rick Lupert's collection of chapbooks. His poetry is awesomely funny and appropriate to what I am trying to do. Go check out some of his stuff at The Poetry Superhighway; he's been a hige influence and source of confidence.
Colin 4:23 pm | 2 comments |

Monday, August 14, 2006

Post-Holiday Rage

The thought of returning to work had me filled me with dread. I think that's what's been making me so tired: just wanting to be anywhere except here. It was a real drag getting up knowing I had to be in the office. I mean really bad, almost tear-provoking sadness and regret that I ever did an I.T. course at university in the first place.

I know it was the sensible thing to do, but if I only I had made my decisions based on who I was and not what I should be, I might be a bit happier in my working life by now. But then, it's all life experience I suppose, and without it, I would never have met Gail. In reflection, without her my life would be worse off - I just wouldn't be aware of it.

Speaking of my wife, she starts a new job today. Her climb up the ladder in the world of finance/investment has been nothing short of meteoric. I'm very proud of her and how she has carved out her own career through self-training and persistence. Her career is doing the opposite of mine: I am plunging into the depths and she is soaring through the sky ever higher. Good on you babe!

Anyway, no point in getting all morbid about my own career. I have my writing, and it is this madness that keeps me sane.



When I wrote the above I was feeling crappy about being back at work. Post-holiday blues and all that sort of thing. As I write this, I am raging. Without going in to specifics, I have reached the end of my tether with this place. Small-minded, petty and arrogant doesn't sum it up. The sooner I get out, the better.

As a result, I got no writing done or anything to do with The Fringe. My time this evening, was taken up with other, more pressing matters.

End of post.
Colin 10:08 am | 1 comments |

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Book Work and August's GDR

I'm having no problem sleeping at the moment. I went to bed at 10 o'clock last night (on a Saturday!?!?) and slept for 12 hours. Catch-up perhaps from all the 5am starts on holiday? Or is it post-holiday depression?

Whatever it is, it will all be over tomorrow when I go back to work. I've got Tuesday off with Laura, which is when the Festival will really begin for me. I'm nervous and excited. It's going to be a real challenge. I cannae wait!

I spent most of the day at the computer. A pal is having PC problems while at the same time trying to develop a website AND keep up to date with her writing schedule. Microsoft seems to be doing it's damndest to block her on all fronts, so I'm doing my best to help her through it.

I typed up all the new poems from my notebook. This took me ages because not only is my handwriting pretty poor in places, but I started re-drafting them as they went into their individual Word documents. I have 68 poems in total. Whether I use them all is another thing.

I had a brainwave as to what the front cover might be while taking a coffee break. I was flipping through the Fringe guide for this year when an image jumped out at me. I can't remember what show (one at the Underbelly I think), but the image was of a bloke in a tuxedo standing in the sea with a big grin on his face.

I immediately thought, "What if I could get a picture of me standing in a swimming pool, fully clothed and reading a book!" Cool front cover, I think you will agree. I'll contact Sarah and see if she's up for it (I hear she might be moving into her own business areas now) and I'll need to contact some local swimming pools to see if they would mind. It would be a laugh if I could pull it off and totally off the wall.

I read a couple of reviews of Irvine Welsh's new novel, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs. It's a mixture of good and bad, and I do wonder if Welsh is struggling to write about anything else other than violence fuelled drugs and sex. It would be good to read something about the other side of the fence. I'm scared his books may be becoming predictable and that he is writing to please his fans rather than trying to expand his work.

Anyway, here's the two extremes. See what you think.

The Times

The Guardian

Here's August's GDR. Bear in mind that due to my holiday in the Med there's not going to be as much on it. August is all about one thing - The Fringe!

Fiction
* Type up and complete Wide Awake
* Continue with Hunting Jack submissions
* Continue with Stella submissions
* Complete editing A Friend To Die For to point where left off - read/edited to end of ch.17 (30740/40000 words)
* Give A Friend To Die For a better title (if one comes up - already got lots of ideas)
* Keep on top of submissions list

Poetry
* Work on new chapbook, Poolside Poetry

Non-Fiction
* Work on Scotland's Treasure for September column - Hope to visit Van Gogh show in Edinburgh and some kind of a Fringe review.

Marketing and Promotion
* Full effort made to promote Fringe Fantastic at the Fringe
* Complete cross-promotion with Fife B&B for Fringe Fantastic
* Keep website up to date
* Follow up on PR received

Reading and Research
* Release Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol.2 into the wild
* Finish reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Other Projects
* Stay on top of editorial work for TSDR - done. 2 stories outstanding
* Work on ARS Anthology - Need to contact writers who said yes, but no sub made
Colin 12:19 pm | 0 comments |

Saturday, August 12, 2006

July's GDR

I was up early today despite the slight effects of a mini-hangover. Last night we were at a 50th Wedding Anniversary Dinner Dance for one of Gail's Aunts. We had a nice meal followed by a ceilidh (not my favourite form of dancing) and caught up with many of Gail's family. Gail comes from a VERY large family. Her mother was 1 of 9 which means she has numerous cousins and aunts, making it very confusing when an outsider like me enters the family and tries to remember all the names and things I should say/not say, do and not do.

Naturally I floundered on several occasions, so I spent most of the night with Ben, boyfriend to one of Gail's cousins and a kindred spirit when it comes to these types of evenings. We sank a couple of bottles of wine and a few beers to move the night on and talked about this and that.

Anyway, the night ended and I knew I was already getting up early because Milly, Laura's Guinea Pig, is not well. I found her in the garden this afternoon bleeding from her bottom. I called the vet who said to take her off vegetables and make sure she is taking plenty of dried food and water.

By this morning, there was no bleeding and she had cleaned all the blood from her coat. She was behaving normally and eating well so we decided to give her time to see if she can recover on her own. She's well into her adult life but we don't want to lose her yet. I'll keep a close eye on her and any reoccurrence or changes in behaviour and I'm whipping her in to see the vet.

When I was on holiday I couldn't help worrying the about animals, the rabbits in particular. It's quoite ridiculous how fond I've grown of them. I even had a nightmare that the rabbits had eaten each other and that I returned to find two rotting corpses in the hutch. Thankfully, when we got home they were fine, as was everyone else including the fish.

Mind you, Ian went overboard with the rabbits. They will eat constantly if you let them and it can be misleading when each time a bowl of food is put their way, they scramble to it and wolf it all down. You need to monitor and ration all their food but I think Ian let them get under his skin when I discovered he had fed them 6 weeks worth of food in the fortnight we were away. Mopsy and Pippin are both looking on the tubby side and so I'll have to cut back for a few weeks and give them exercise to get them back to their proper weight, but do so without harming them.

I spent a lot of the day catching up on correspondence (electronic and paper), organising my office and preparing the press releases for the new wave of promotion. I need to get to the printers first thing on Monday after a small alteration to the current leaflet and then it's out and about to promote. Tuesday I have off so Laura will be coming with me. Should be fun.

I booked my wedding anniversary celebration for this Wednesday (meal and show) but for obvious reasons I won't be revealing those details just yet as they are a surprise for my wife.

I then remembered I had still to wrap up July's GDR and prepare August's. So here goes!

Fiction
* Write a new short story - done - first draft penned in book - Wide Awake (3k)
* Begin agent query process for Hunting Jack - listed Scottish agents. Letters, synopses and Lit CV done. 11 Scots agents approached.
* Continue publisher query process for Stella - listed more publishers to approach
* Begin writing A Friend To Die For where left off - read/edited to end of ch.17 (30740/40000 words)
* Give A Friend To Die For a better title - not done
* Keep on top of submissions list - done
* Work out ideas for Hunting Jack sequel - WIP. Came up with another idea for NaNoWriMo.

Poetry

* First read in public of Love Is at sister's wedding - complete. Not happy with the speed I read it though.
* Write any poems that come to mind - circa 70 on holiday in Cyprus.

Non-Fiction

* Work on Scotland's Treasure for September column - Hope to visit Van Gogh show in Edinburgh and some kind of a Fringe review.
* Write story/article for Being Dad Anthology - not done. Can now bin this as book complete.

Marketing and Promotion

* Step up marketing and promotion of Fringe Fantastic for this years Fringe - Letters to ed's and new fliers complete
* New round of press releases for Fringe Fantastic with this years Fringe in mind - ready to go
* Keep website up to date - done
* Follow up on PR received - WIP

Reading and Research

* Release Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol.2 into the wild - not done
* Re-read A Friend to Die For - WIP
* Finish reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - WIP

Other Projects

* Stay on top of editorial work for TSDR - done. 2 stories outstanding
* Work on ARS Anthology - Nothing done. Still need to contact writers who said yes, but no sub made

Things That Turned Up

* Excellent feedback from my crit partner for Stella. Re-write complete and on submission.
* Had idea of cross-promoting with Fife B&B and Fringe Fantastic. Accepted - details being worked out.
* New book penned on holiday in Cyprus. Chapbook to be called Poolside Poetry and Other Tales of Cyprus
.
* Read Oracle Night (Auster), Death Is Not The End (Rankin) and The Outsider (Camus) - again - while on holiday.

Successes
1 partial request for Hunting Jack. Subsequently rejected though.

Failures

One Story rejected Loaded and What a Waste, 4/7/06
Stella rejected 1x. No address 1x.
Hunting Jack rejected 2x. Non trading x1.
1 partial request for Stella from Neil Miller Publications (Black Cat Books) - not being followed up due to charging policies

Statistics

Fiction - 3,000
Non-Fiction - 12,800
Poetry - 5,000

Outstanding Submissions

Fiction
Insidious Reflections 1
Writing Magazine 1
3am Magazine 1
Barcelona Review 1
The Portable Muse 2
This Is It 1
Adirondack Review 1

Poetry
Forward Press 2

Manuscripts
Stella - 8 sent, 1 partial, 3 rejected, 4 waiting
Hunting Jack - 11 sent, 1 partial, 4 rejected, 6 waiting

Summary

Despite the early finish to the month in front of my PC I was happy with the amount I got through, both on the editing front and new writing. The idea for the new chapbook made my holiday more enjoyable and allowed me to keep in touch with the writer inside me. A new challenge to go alongside the Fringe was most welcome. August is going to be mega-busy but I feel refreshed after my holiday and having read another Auster novel. I always feel so much better about my efforts when I read his work.
Colin 3:27 pm | 1 comments |

Friday, August 11, 2006

Back From Cyprus

Hello! I'm back in action!!

While it is excellent to be home - and I mean really, truly, excellent - I can honestly say that the last two weeks in Cyprus were superb. We had a totally relaxing holiday; lots of rest, food and drink, and of course lots of play and shenanigans.

Our flight out went like a dream. We got to the airport with no problems, checked in quickly and the flight took off on time. We arrived in Paphos with a roasting hot afternoon sun waiting for us, which remained for the duration. I can't remember ever seeing a cloud for the entire time we were there.

The hotel in Limassol was way better than we were expecting. It turned out the complex was an 'all-inclusive' place, so it didn't take long for us to work out that an upgrade from self-catering saved us money and gave us access to all the food and drink we could eat. Bad news for the waistlines, but good news for the pocket.

The pool was superb and the hotel entertainment excellent. Laura made loads of pals, which left me and Gail plenty of time to make our own friends and spend time relaxing with no worries. And it was while resting on a sun-lounger by the pool that I hit with an idea. I had taken out my notebook to scribble down some minor ideas, when the poems started to come. Before long I had a couple of dozen and by the end of the fortnight I had almost 70 poems drafted in my notebook.
And so very soon, I intend to publish my fourth chapbook of poetry. No photography this time (perhaps, as it was a family holiday, I'll have to see), but lots of funny verse and contemplatory poetry. It will be called, Poolside Poetry and other Tales of Cyprus. No dates as yet as there is a lot of work to do, but I think it will make a good read and follow-up to Fringe Fantastic.

I did a lot of reading too. I began with Oracle Night by Paul Auster. It was a brilliant story and a true Auster novel, taking me on a thought-provoking journey about identity and the lives we choose to lead. I then moved onto a Rankin novella, Death Is Not The End, which was easy to read and a very enjoyable mini-thriller. I then re-opened The Outsider by Albert Camus. Gail had just finished it and I couldn't resist another read at it. I found it more compelling the second time round, and although I already knew the character and outcome, it was still gripping and sad.

We never went on any major trips while we were there. A trip to a Flea Market, which turned out to be a bit of a flop, but it was interesting from the point of view of character ideas (some of the people!). We went to Fassouri Waterpark with a couple of families we met from Fife. It was a great day out on the flumes and rides, but I suffered my worst shoulder burns during the trip.

I faired not too badly in the sun overall. Although it was around 100 degrees most days, I made sure my Factor 30 was regularly topped up and that plenty of after-sun was applied in the evenings. I do have a slight "browness" to my skin, but not as much as Gail who can develop a great tan under the rays.

Coming home was a bit of a disaster. No sooner had the transfer bus pulled up at the airport than we were being told of the minimum five hour delay ahead of us due to a technical problem with the plane, which was still berthed at Glasgow Airport. It took almost two hours to check in, due to staff shortages and a power-cut in the terminal, then two missing passengers and a missed take-off slot meant we had sat in the airport for over eight hours before we took off. It was a nightmare.

My Dad collected us from the airport and kindly drove us back home to Leith. Waking up in our own bed was a luxury after the hell we had endured, but it could have been so much worse had we been flying home on a later date. No sooner had I got up this morning, I started hearing about the terror plots and subsequent knock-on delays to all airports in the UK. We missed it all by a couple of hours, quite literaly.

And so it has been a great two weeks. The sun has gone for now and the reality is I will be back at work on Monday. I can hardly wait (sic), but there is still much to be done on other matters. There is the Fringe Festival, which is now underway, and therefore all the prep work I did before I left, has to be put into action.

There is also the revision work I was in the middle of as well as the submission of Hunting Jack and Stella to publishers and agents, as well as all my other smaller projects.

My email address was postponed by my ISP because of size constraints while I was away, so if anyone has emailed my since July 31st can you resend please and I will get back to you. I knew I should have checked my email while I was away!

No rest for the wicked - so to speak!
Colin 6:00 pm | 3 comments |