Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Anyone know a good vet?

Anybody know a good vet? All day yesterday I had a gradual build up of pain in my shoulder that radiated down my arm and up my neck. By the time I got to bed I could barely move my head. Any position I could arrange myself in that was comfortable for my foot ...yes, you guessed it, was uncomfortable for my neck/ shoulder.

So here’s me today with my foot in an ice bath and a heat compress across my shoulder. S’not funny you at the back.

By the way, these heat compresses are amazing. It’s like a giant sanitary towel, shaped like the wingspan of a pigeon (without the head, tail... and the guano). You pull it from the packet and as it comes into contact with your skin these wee pads positioned inside it heat up. Clever, eh? And you can wear it for 12 hours.

An interesting side issue to this situation is that I’m also suffering from “walk-envy”. This is a very real phenomena, kinda in the same ball park as penis-envy or boob-envy, without the strange glances and padded underwear. How it works is this – people walk past my window all healthy and pain free and stride-y and I get pissed off. Oh, give it a rest, dude. It’s only been a fortnight.

So while I’m consumed with envy at people who can walk without pain I’ve got four books on the go. Does anyone else out there read like this? This is quite normal for me until one book in particular asserts itself on my mind and demands that I finish it first.

My foursome include Chris Ewan’s A Good Thief’s Guide to Paris, which I received courtesy of Scott Pack at Me And My Big Mouth (a must-read blog for book lovers). This book has a wonderfully intriguing premise where you have a novel where the main character is a novelist writing a book about stealing stuff, while he is actually stealing stuff. I don’t normally read caper novels as I prefer my books to be life or death, but I’m really enjoying what I’ve read so far.

Her Fearful Symmetry is Audrey Niffenegger’s next book following the HUGELY successful The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I loved. Early signs are good, however when I bought it at my local Waterstones the bookseller commented that they were having trouble selling it. It seems a good proportion of the locals who bought the first book didn’t really enjoy it. What, you mean they were swayed by all the attention it received. Noooo. I was disappointed. I want people to enjoy books that I love. Philistines.

Also adding to the clutter in my Being Read Pile is Robyn Young’s Brethren. This is a tale of knights going on a crusade and putting those pesky locals to the sword. Initial impressions are mixed. I’m struggling to identify with the characters, but I can see that all the elements are there and it should be worthwhile carrying on.

I’ve also started a review copy of James Ellroy’s soon to be released Blood’s A Rover. This is another book where I’m conflicted. It’s the third in a series and I’m probably hampered by the fact that I’ve not read the other two, although the blurb does say it can be read as a standalone. For those of you who are unaware of Ellroy, he’s the writer of L.A. Confidential and feted as one of crime writing’s modern greats. This is a doorstop of a book, with a large, bewildering cast and a style all of its own. James Ellroy can write a sentence of seven words and impart a degree of information that another lesser writer might manage in a seven line paragraph. Sometimes the staccato sentence style he adopts is a delight, sometimes it’s an irritation. However, this is definitely one that’s worth persevering with.

Sometimes you do have to work at your pleasures, no?

Monday, 28 September 2009

What Goes Around...

I am a wee bit unsure about posting any of my poems on this blog, but in this case it is necessary for you to get the joke. Also this particular poem has been published in New Writing Scotland and on a CD of poems so I’m not worried about it popping up somewhere else under someone else’s name.

That is of course, presuming anyone would want to steal one of my poems. Anyway, here it is...

Art in the Park

They wur in among the trees, behind the big hoose at Rozelle.
Right there oan the grass, like they’d dropped from a plane.
Huge they wur. Huge wae effort. Huge like a god’s thoughts.
-Whiddye make o’ them? I ask my wee boy.
Had tae drag him away from the black box,
before his een went widescreen.
He points, finger oot like a dirk
– Dad, that one has a big butt.
- Furgoadsake. You watch way too much telly, son.
‘N the word is arse.
He jist luks up et me n’ says
– Whatever.

The Yoke this wan’s called. He’s hunched over.
Heid awa tae the side, like Gourock.
I move closer for a good look.
- Dad, let’s find some branches, so we can play at sword fighting.
I run ma hands over the granite. See, ye think it’s gray,
but up close it has a’ these speckles o’ black, n’ flashes o’ green.
-Dad, I’ll be Darth Vader, the wean skips over wae two sticks. -Who are you?
- In a meenit, son. Ah’m huvin’ a moment tae myself.
Noo, he’s just starin’ at me ‘n he says
- Whatever.

See, son. It’s aboot Jesus n’ his pain. But it’s more than that.
Nature’s givin’ a hand here. The stone’s gray like a sufferin’ sky,
n’ the trees are stretchin’ their arms oot tae share a touch.
Tae soothe. The earth is aroon the base reachin’ up
tae pull the granite back in. N’ see here, moss and lichen
…n’ wid ye look et that? That lichen is like a red stripe
doon the statue’s ribs. Whaur a wound might huv been.

My boy stops wavin’ his sticks aboot,
- Dad, I cannae believe you are actually my dad.
I just looks doon et him n’ say
- Whatever.

So... this poem was performed by myself on a CD that Makar Press published just over a year ago. And forgetting that my son and I have an ongoing debate about bad language, I played the CD in the car while he was with me.
‘N the word is arse.’ I say in the poem.

The wee fella homed on this. Ooh, Dad you said a bad word. Tell me you don’t swear a lot, says he. Of course not, says I. Only for effect or when I’m trying to amuse someone. Eh, says he looking totally mysstified, that makes no sense.

Fast forward a year and the CD hasn’t been played since. He’s watching a Horrible Histories episode and the theme is Ancient Greece. The next thing I hear is the wee fella shouting at the TV, ‘Kick his ass, Zeus.’ A phrase which you don’t ever expect to hear coming out of your child’s mouth.
Hey, says I, watch your language.
Sorry, dad, says he with a cheeky wee smile. I forgot. The right word is arse.

Sometimes you know some things are going to come back and bite you on the bum, but you can never quite tell how.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Stuff n' Nonsense

Update on the ankle: it’s still freakin’ sore. And I’m getting cabin fever.

Having too much time on my hands, I’ve been surfing and shopping on the web. And those nice people at Comet delivered me a new laptop. Wuhoo. I LOVE getting new gadgets. The old one was well past its best. It’s 5 years old (is that old for a laptop?) and is DEAD slow. I can go and make a cup of tea while it loads a new word document. Trying to watch any moving objects is beyond it. And for all those mucky minds out there, I’m thinking football highlights.

This has led to a couple of technological issues however. My new computer software wasn’t talking to my security software which wasn’t talking to my password security software which wasn’t talking to my broadband provider. Which meant I couldn’t access my emails. Until this morning when speaking to the right person over the phone got it all sorted. Frustrated much?

I’ve also got a problem with my ipod library, but I’m not going to talk about that after working on it for 2 hours or I’ll end up freakin’ losing it. And while I’m not losing it, I still haven’t sorted out the phone issue. I have an old one that I can’t work out how to text with. I may love new gadgets but I hate technology. Confused much?

An interesting side effect of the cabin fever is the change in my appetite. I can’t be bothered eating. Unless it’s late at night and the food is highly calorific, has zero nutritional value, comes with excellent artery clogging properties and is either coated in batter or chocolate.

This of course is a Bad Thing when taken in conjunction with the fact that I can’t exercise. I may need to measure myself for a new fat suit. If I had a tape that is – and no not every man is born with a measuring tape in his hand.

What else have I been doing with all this time, I hear you ask? Watching TV is the answer.

Watched some cool movies. “Brick” is a high school movie given a Sam Spade noir kinda feel. Clever and engrossing. Bangkok Dangerous was ok and it gives Nick Cage a chance to kick some butt while wearing the same expression for 90 minutes and sporting one of the worst haircuts in cinematic history. A question about the hairdo, Nick. Why are you taking pointers from the Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci Code? Didn’t look good on him, dude. Anyway, the film passed some time.

I also watched Iron Man, which has a 12 age banding. Which is about right. Burn after Reading was also good fun. Frances McDormand is a comedic genius and Brad Pitt’s not just a pretty face....spoiler alert...the gormless, hiya buddy look on his face just before the George Clooney character shot him. Priceless.

Then there’s the chat show brigade. I caught a couple of minutes of Jeremy Kyle and Jerry Springer. Ok, you know how reluctant I am to voice an opinion on this blog (yeah right) but Kyle is a sanctimonious prick. At least Springer pretends to care about the people he’s manipulating. ‘Nuff said. Why these people line up to be traduced (that’s just for you, E) on TV is completely beyond me.

My tolerance of public humiliation being used up I turned to the Comedy Channel. Two and a Half Men is my new favourite comedy. The half-man in question gets all the best lines. He’s 11 at this stage and has a wonderful deadpan delivery. He’s doing his homework and trying to work out why, in his opinion, he’s so stupid. This is the running joke throughout this particular episode. He turns to his father near the beginning and asks, ‘Dad, are you and mom related?’ His next theory is that he ate some lead paint as a child. He finishes the episode by turning to his father and saying, ‘I got it! I was a crack baby.’

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dinner with the Queen of Chaos

Remember the Queen of Chaos (QC)? My gorgeous twin sister? Given that I’m pretty much housebound at the moment, she has been keen to come to the rescue. I could visit and make your tea she suggested, keep you company. Her rescue attempts have been thwarted however, because...

1. She lives 10 miles away.
2. She doesn’t drive
3. Usually when she comes to see me I have to make like a taxi.
4. My ankle is not quite flexible enough yet to drive.

When I pointed this out to her she thought for a split second and said, Oh well, never mind.

Both of us are relieved, it is fair to say. The last time QC attempted to make me a meal was Christmas 2005. Christmas Eve to be exact. QC and my Dad had been at mine for Sunday lunch around half a dozen times since I moved into my new place six months previously.

I foolishly decided to annoy her. So I pointed out that in the 12 years QC had been in her flat, we hadn't even been invited over once. She has a lovely wee flat, nicely decorated, wardrobe BURSTING with clothes but a kitchen as well-equipped as an abandoned warehouse - she's way too busy being fabulous to worry about things like kitchen utensils. Besides, she says, what more do you need than a plate, a knife and fork?

In any case, she reacted to my badgering, picked up the oven glove gauntlet and invited Pops and I over to hers for dinner on Xmas Eve. And whatsmore, she announced proudly, she would provide everything – food and drink.

This was great. I was going to be spending most of my Xmas with my then special friend (we have since split – 1, 2, 3 awww) and given that my pet hate at this time of year is the way people stock up as if for a world food shortage - this meant I could avoid the queues in the supermarket altogether.


The week before Xmas I receive a panicked phone call from QC. She doesn't have a table. We would all have to eat off our knees in front of the telly. Dad hates eating off his lap, she says and isn't it nicer to eat at a table while not staring at a TV screen? I had to agree. And didn't I have a nice big
dining table, she helpfully pointed out? We could have the meal at yours, she said, but I will still provide all of the goodies.

This was of course, the point of no return. The moment in time you realised while watching a movie or reading a novel where disaster could still be averted...

OK, I answered. I can see the sense of that. My place. Your food.
-What's on the menu, I ask?
-prawn cocktail, trifle and some Cava, was the reply.
-what, no main course? I ask.
-the prawn cocktail will be so big you won’t need anything else. Besides, she continued before I could question her any further, don't you think we all eat too much at Xmas time? I kinda like the idea of a lighter meal at the start – a kind of warm up for the main event.

This was of course, the point of no return 2. The point in the movie where the handsome actor opens the door and bravely chases the knife-wielding thug down the poorly lit street...

QC phoned the next day to arrange for me to pick her up at the train station on Xmas Eve and to let me know that Dad would be bringing the trifle.

- Wasn't that nice of him to offer, she asked? And he didn't need too much prompting either, she added.

I pick her up around 6pm on Xmas eve from the train station. She looked great as usual – long blonde hair, four feet eleven, size six – wearing a new top, if I'm not mistaken. (I’m a female shopaholic partner’s worst nightmare – I notice these things) It's only when she's in the car and belted in that I realise that she wasn't too heavily laden with goodies. In fact the one carrier bag she was carrying was decidedly on the light side. I'd seen dog walkers having just scooped the poop with busier carrier bags.

Ignoring the voice of worry in my mind I drive us both to my place. How long does it take, she asks as I park in front of my house, to defrost a bag of prawns?
-They aren't fu - I will myself into a state of calm - what does it say on the bag? I ask with as polite a voice as I can muster. It is Xmas after all.
-Cannae read it in the dark. Let's go inside, she answers. She walks in front, I follow with growing alarm. And a growing sense of pissed-offness (Again, I`m a poet, I can make up words)as I realise that most shops will now be closed for the holidays and we are all at the mercy of whatever QC is holding in that wee bag.

Inside, I point her in the direction of the kitchen. It's all yours, I tell her, while walking to the bathroom to wash my hands Pontius Pilate stylee.

- Awww, not going to help me, QC asks.
- Nut, this is your gig, gawdhelpus – I'm now moving resolutely into asshole brother mode.

I had an open plan kitchen, living room area – so I switch on the TV and have a seat. Arms and legs crossed. This is her party. Leave her to it.

QC reads the back of the prawn packet. Shit, she says, eight hours. Eight hours, she repeats in case I haven’t heard her the first time - what are we going to do?

- Naw, I say. You! What are you going to do? This is your fecking party.

She starts humming which is her defence mechanism. She fills the kettle and then sticks her head in my fridge – which is pretty much empty – hoping that any activity will diffuse the irritation I’m no longer bothering to hide.

-Where's your Thousand Island dressing, she asks?
- Why would I have fecking Thousand Island Dressing? I’m shouting now...It dawns on me. You don't have any dressing? Is that not what turns a prawn salad into a prawn cocktail?
- Phone Dad, maybe he'll have some, she suggests.
- He’s strictly a brown sauce man, why the feck would he have fecking thousand island dressing…I have another moment of clarification. QC's bag of goodies didn't clink on the way in – it barely even rustled.
- Where's the Cava? I ask.

QC brings her head out from behind the fridge door. It must have been nice and cool in there, she’s looking less pink.
The kettle pings. QC turns towards it.
- Where's the Cava, sis?
- I did have it, says QC as she fixes the collar of her top, in my trolley. In the supermarket. Then I saw this lovely wee shirt. Phone Dad. Do you think he'll have some Cava?
- Awfurfuksake sis, the auld yin wouldnae know Cava from a hole in a rock face. Whisky, lemonade, tea milk and water, that's your lot.

My head is now in my hands, which is why I don’t see what happens next.

In the kitchen QC has split the prawns into three piles and has poured boiling water over them.
-See, she says with triumph in her voice, they've defrosted.
-Where did you learn that wee trick, I ask.
-My pal.
-Then what does she do with them?
-Cooks them – throws them in a stir fry or something. Why are you asking? She chews on the inside of her cheek and hums at the same time, wondering where the hell I'm going with this and if she should stick her head back in the fridge.
-We'll be eating them raw.
-In a salad.
-Yes – what's your problem? They've defrosted. They're now edible.
- Edible and quite possibly poisonous, ya numpty, I answer and storm into the kitchen. Well given that it was about 7 steps, my storm was probably more like a mince.

Right, I take a deep breath. I need to retrieve this situation. AndIneedtocalmdownandIneedtostopshouting. It is Christmas after all.

-Where's the salad, I ask.
QC hands me a small bag.
-Awfurfu…that’s it? I am now roaring while holding a wee tub of pre-prepared salad from Morrisons.
-What's wrong with that, asks Una? I eat this all the time – and it sometimes lasts me for a couple of days.
- What are you, a size zero? There's three of us.

I open the wee bag and empty it on to a plate. I count four lettuce leaves, four cherry tomatoes and some shredded beetroot. Barely enough for one – nothing but a garnish for three.

Just then Pops walks in the door. We both stop what we’re doing and stare at him.

- I hope you're no hungry, Una giggles.

Then she and I collapse over the kitchen worktop laughing like a pair of drunks. Dad stands in the doorway, wearing an expression that suggests he's wondering what he brought into the world, while holding a large bowl of Morrison's raspberry trifle.

QC serves him a cup of tea while I rummage – more in hope than expectation - for something in my bare cupboards that we can eat.

I find two baking potatoes, a tin of tuna and a block of cheese (this was in my pre-grated days).

Xmas Eve Dinner menu 2005 was as follows.

Starter – Petite Salade – one iceberg lettuce leaf, one cherry tomato, a sprinkling of shredded lettuce and a drizzle of olive oil.

Main – baked potato. Dad got the tuna. Sis and I shared the cheese.

Dessert – Raspberry Trifle.

Mmmm. Yum. The festive season has never been the same since. Now nothing says Christmas to me more than tuna and cheese.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The things kids say...

A lazy, but goody (I'm a poet, I can make words up) blog today - with thanks to EW.

(Ankle update: badly swollen, only comfortable position is when foot is off the floor. Shame that, eh?)

And on with the things that kids say...

JACK (age 3) was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: 'Mom why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?'

MELANIE (age 5) asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn't remember any more. Melanie said, 'If you don't remember you must look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six.'

STEVEN (age 3) hugged and kissed his Mom good night. 'I love you so much that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window.'

BRITTANY (age 4) had an ear ache and wanted a pain killer.. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: 'How does it know it's me?'

SUSAN (age 4) was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. 'Please don't give me this juice again,' she said, 'It makes my teeth cough.'

DJ (age 4) stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: 'How much do I cost?'

CLINTON (age 5) was in his bedroom looking worried When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, 'I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in it?'

MARC (age 4) was engrossed in a young couple that were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: 'Why is he whispering in her mouth?'

TAMMY (age 4) was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, 'Why doesn't your skin fit your face?'

JAMES (age 4) was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: 'The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to salt.' Concerned, James asked: 'What happened to the flea?'

The Sermon I think this Mom will never forget .

'This particular Sunday sermon...'Dear Lord,' the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. 'Without you, we are but dust...' He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little four year old girl voice, 'Mom, what is butt dust?''

Monday, 21 September 2009

Once more, with feeling...

I just realised that I hadn’t blogged for almost a week...whatcha been doing, dude I hear you ask? Aren’t we your bloggy friends your main priority? Well yes of course you are – ish. I’ve been busy on the manuscript, is the main reason. And I’m happy to report that just the other day I typed those three little words. The goddamn End.

Yes, 140,000 words later and the first draft is done. And can I just publicly thank E at Cliff Cottage for the space, time and support (not to mention the delicious meals, multiple bags of maltesers and lashings of whisky) she has offered me over the last wee while. Without the writing weekends at CC I would be nowhere near the stage I am now. You’re a saint, E. Every writer should be blessed with a benefactor like you.

The stage I am at now is the re-write. See, you think you type those three little words and your job is done. You can crack open the seal on that bottle of whisky, neck a goodly portion of same, put your feet up and relax while dreaming of all the plaudits, adulation, kudos, female attention and cash that your work of undoubted genius is bound to bring in. But then you make the mistake of reading some of it and you realise that the hard work is yet to begin. The Re-write.

I sometimes listen to other writers talking about the process they go through and mentally tick them off as mendacious and self-deluded if they say they love the re-writing process. Who are they kidding? It’s a freakin’slog.

The main difficulty with me is honesty. Reading something I’ve written and giving it an honest appraisal is not easy. These rows of words are my children. Especially that beautifully crafted metaphor on page 11. And then there’s the issue of being caught up in the narrative...we all love a story, don’t we? I read over the text, forget I’m supposed to be editing and ten minutes later I realise I’ve lost my focus and been drawn in to the story. Which is nice ‘cos if I’ve caught myself doing that and I know the story intimately, that’s a good sign, innit? No, it isn’t, ‘cos I miss stuff. So then I need to go back and start all over again.

Anywho, the re-write can wait a few weeks. I need some distance from the work before I can edit it effectively. Besides I feel a bit drained. It takes a lot of mental energy to sustain that kind of effort over the months. Whatever emotions my characters are going through, I need to “experience” a little of that myself. So it’s time to chill, blog and catch up on my reviews for crimesquad.com.

That’s the plan. Except that I’m laid up injured. I went over on my ankle yesterday and did some ligament damage. It’s no funny, Miss W.

There was I, sharp as a new pin on a Sunday morning, bright as a silver button and as hungry as a hunter after a night out on the Saturday. To celebrate my non-hungover status – I was captain sensible – I know when to stop – I walked to the local shop and purchased a newspaper and some munchies that could be used to cook a fry-up. I left the shop swinging my wee bag, mind full of the stomach filling, artery clogging potential of the contents in said bag and suddenly found myself falling shoulder first into a wall. Somebody had made the ground uneven. The pain was awful. The swelling in my ankle was instant. Never a good sign. So while I’m hopping up and down on one leg groaning in a high pitch, fukfukfukfukfukfukfuk, an old man walked past me and said – that doesnae look good, son. No shit, Doctor Moriarty. While my indifferent fellow shopper ambled over to his Ford Focus and drove off, I hopped, stumbled and limped 300 yards to my house. The first 100 were nasty. Thought I was going to have to phone a taxi to take me the rest. The pain reduced to a dull roar and I managed. Wot a trooper.

Accident and Emergency is never my favourite place to while away the hours. Particularly when the sun is shining, I’m the one damaged and I have a bag full of fry-able foods wasting on the kitchen floor.

Long story short-ish, I waited a few hours to be assessed and x-rayed. Nothing broken, but I have suffered some ligament damage. After three. 1...2...3...awwwww.

Right. That was rubbish. Do it again, but this time with feeling.

I’ve to sit with my foot higher than my heart and wiggle my toes once an hour. Try doing that while working on a laptop. No easy. Another thing is that I’ve not to exercise for 6-8 weeks. Time to put back on that fat-suit. Well, I would if I had access to some food. The cupboards are bare and I can’t drive. Not enough flexibility in my ankle to do so safely. Hurrah for Tesco Direct. Problem is they have no delivery slots until tomorrow lunchtime. In the meantime, a quick inventory of my kitchen cupboards reveal that Old Mother Hubbard has been in on a raid. All I have left are 2 apples, 3 tangerines, two tins of tuna, an egg and some frozen chips. Oh, and a bottle of wine. There’s calories in wine, no?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I have a cunning plan...

Try this on for a cunning plan...

You have a struggling business. Profits are down. People are spending their hard earned elsewhere. Then you find a new product. This product is not just popular, it will sell in the millions. Let me repeat that...it WILL sell in the millions. Name your price and people will tramp through your establishment all day, every day for weeks, perhaps months to get their hands on it.

This is your chance to make some money, right? Your chance to shore up some of the losses of the previous year and perhaps to give you a buffer for the next year or two. Suddenly, everything in the garden is not just rosy, but the roses have had their thorns clipped.

You buy in advance units and stock your shop from floor to ceiling and wait for the deluge. But wait...there is one more thing to do. Why don’t you take the recommended price and half it? You buy it from the wholesaler at a certain price and then you discount that and sell it on. Yes, you don’t make ANY money from it at all. What a most excellent idea. The business will last for ever with a plan like that.

WTF? Have you lost your mind?

Well, yes actually we have. The business plan I’m talking about concerns the UK book trade and the product mentioned is the new Dan Brown novel The Lost Whateveryoucallit, which as I write is quoted by Reuters as breaking first day sales records apart.

The same thing happened with Harry Potter. Guaranteed cash. Yet the booksellers fell over themselves to discount it. I had a friend in the trade who realised it was cheaper to buy it from Asda rather than from the wholesaler. Nuts.

And don’t get me started on the big supermarkets selling books. Okay do....they see huge bestsellers like Dan Brown as a “loss leader”. People just LOVE to pick up books like The Lost Thingummyjig for a fiver while they stack their trolley full of chicken breast, tin-foil and pot noodle, dontcha know.

Do you love books? Do you like to have a choice in the authors you buy? Do you like to see new authors coming through now and again? Do you enjoy browsing in that special atmosphere that only a bookshop can provide? If you have answered yes to these questions then you would probably rather tidy your pubic hair with a blowtorch than buy your books from Asda or Tesco.

But if you are one of those people who are ruled by their wallet, please think on it. Because if the public continue to use their supermarket for their literary thrills in greater numbers, we will be reduced to a world of a dozen A-list authors re-writing the same book over and over again for fear they will be dropped by their publisher and the only new authors to be published will be her or him off the telly with the big tits/ hundreds of lovers or some sorry guy/ gal who was battered by their father, ignored by their mother and shagged by the family pet.

I'm almost tempted to go buy the Dan Brown in Asda, but I have to go look out that blowtorch first. We're talking jungle foliage.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Feeling stupid

I couldn’t be more hacked off if someone just chopped at me with an axe – actually, if they aimed at the stomach area that would be No Bad Thing and a whole lot cheaper than liposuction. I digress. The reason for my hacked-offness? Some wankstaindipshit has stolen my mobile phone.

And I only have myself to blame. It was a lovely day. I was driving with the window down, listening to some tunes. I parked the car in a quiet side street in Glasgow. I had an hour to spare before I went to a crime writers’ event, so I went to Borders for a coffee and a free read at whatever took my fancy.

On return to my car I realised that I hadn’t put the window back up. Ooops. Then I realised that the leather wallet thingy with the CDs in was no longer on the passenger seat. Nothing else seemed to be missing. I checked for my phone which I had stowed away out of sight in the compartment on the driver’s door – nae phone.

How on earth did the thieving wankstaindipshit find it? My car is as tidy as my house. You need to wipe your feet on the way out. The compartment on the driver’s door is a mess of CDs (in and out of their boxes) flyers, maps and other assorted shit. My (flawed) thinking is that prospective thieves wouldn’t be bothered to filter through the mess in the hope of finding something.

This is me feeling seven colours of stupid.

‘Cos of course the insurance company won’t payout and I won’t even attempt to come up with a plausible excuse as I ALWAYS get caught. I’m rubbish at making up lies. Which I guess is odd, coming from a writer.

If you find yourself in a pub in the west of Scotland and somebody looking like a wankstaindipshit tries to sell you a Samsung 8800, kick him in the danglies for me, willya?

Actually...apart from the nuisance of paying for a contract (which has 16 months to run) and having no phone, I kinda like the idea of being outside that particular matrix.

Which reminds me, if any of my friends – either of you – has left me a message recently, I won’t be getting back to you any day soon.


Friday, 11 September 2009


How amazing does this look. This is an honest-to-god photograph taken from the Hubble telescope. My sources tell me it is an exploding star.

Awesome is one of those words we use too much, but here it is absolutely appropriate.


If only I smoked ganja. I could have a toke and then sit and stare at this for hours. I'll have to settle for a cup of peppermint tea and a cadbury's twirl.


Wednesday, 9 September 2009


When Sha’el over at "http://wardancingpixie.blogspot.com/ asked me to come up with a guest blog I was thrown. Yeah, me thrown. All that white space and nothing to say. At first. Then I thought about my usual style on May Contain Nuts...which is ok for me ‘cos this is my blog and I get to decide what goes – it’s good to be the king, as the wee lion once sang – and I worried if my house-style would suit Sha’el and her readers.

In any case I decided just to write and see what came up. And what came up kinda surprised me...and then again it didn’t. It’s something that is on my mind right now. Having been on the cusp of a publishing deal a coupla times I need to keep reminding myself to “keep on keeping on” and that’s what I rabbited, sorry blogged about.

I’ve posted it here as well with a few changes – I’ve allowed more of my MCN house-style to come through- but I’d urge you to go pay Sha’el a visit. Her blog is mostly a showcase for vintage photographs and well worth a visit. I don’t know where she finds her amazing images.

My blog for her starts here...
Do you have a dog? When there’s a knock at the door, who’s the first to reach it? The dog, right? If the door goes 100 times of an evening, the dog will run to it every time. And the thing is... it’s never for him.

That, my friends is a facile, but effective description of persistence. A quality that writers and artists, indeed anyone, working in a creative field or anyone with a goal has to master.

The creative world is full of stories of people who persisted until...One of my favourite writers, as frequent visitors to this blog will know is a fella called R.J. Ellory. Roger wrote 22 novels in 6 years. He amassed over 600 rejection letters and yet he kept going until...

Where would you have given up? When would you have decided that enough was enough? 20? 120? Would you have sold your computer to the Samaritans and jumped off the roof of the nearest library shouting – you’ll never know what you could have had! Would you have reached anywhere near 600? Or would you have like Roger, kept on going until...

When I asked him about being, in my view The Poster Boy for Persistence, he had this to say
“I am reminded of something that Paul Auster said. He said that becoming a writer was not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman. You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accepted the fact that you were not fit for anything else, you had to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days. I concur with his attitude. From an early age I knew that this was what I wanted to do, and I applied the old adage from Disraeli: ‘Success is entirely dependent upon constancy of purpose’. The twenty-third book I wrote was the first one I had published. I did amass all those rejection letters, and have kept a couple of hundred of my favourite ones. Now it doesn’t matter. Now it feels like that was my learning curve. And I wrote those first twenty-two novels in six years, the majority of them in longhand, so one thing it did teach me was to work and work and work, even when I didn’t feel like it. It gave me a strong work ethic, and made me feel like Picasso. When asked why he was always working and never rested, he said ‘When inspiration finds me, I want it to find me hard at work!’ That’s a good philosophy and one I still apply every day.'

A constancy of purpose. I love that. How does one achieve such a thing? Constant reminders? Keeping in touch with your goal? Giving yourself permission not to be distracted by television, housework, gardening, youtube, plucking your earlobes (honestly, the more I lose on my head the more it grows elsewhere)?

Surely in addition to claiming ownership of persistence, one has to learn how to deal with rejection? Roger counted over 600 rejection letters. An amazing number. Can you imagine them sitting on a pile on your desk? How high do you think they would reach? How hard would it be to pick yourself up again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again...don’t worry, I’m not going to type out 600 of them.

Thinking of my own journey thus far, their have been a fair few disappointments and a goodly number of rejections to deal with. Yet, taking my cue from Roger I persist...

My work ethic is not quite as focused as Roger’s. I’m part driven and part lazy bastard. Not the best combination. I wrote two novels in three years. I attracted an agent who was distracted by other clients and other ambitions and they got nowhere. This was a big learn for me. Attracting an agent may be A Big Step but it is no guarantee. Still I dealt with the disappointment – eventually - and moved on...to novel 3 and while I was submitting this novel I began work on novel 4.

I came close with novel 3. Very close. A major publisher was so serious they were talking to me about what pen name I might use. There is an American author called Michael Malone who beat me to it by a few years.

It fell through. I was crushed. I was like Man Under a Giant Boulder Crushed. I went into a huff with the world. I had a petted lip the size of the sticky-out part on a baseball cap. (Note to self. When coming up with a comparison at least do the research to find the right word) Pushing the boulder off with a few choice curses – bastards was the mot juste if memory serves me well - I carried on working on book 4 never losing sight of the overall goal. I will be a published writer. I will earn my living from writing. This became my mantra.

I attracted another agent. This one was prepared to work hard for me. And she did. Most of the big publishing houses in London have read my crime novels. Again, I have come very close. Some of the rejections were a basic “thanks, but no thanks” and in some ways this is easy to deal with. They didn’t “get” the books. Fine. It was the rejections that turned the books down in rave terms. “Had to stay up all night to finish...” “I LOVED the main character”, “Michael Malone is an accomplished writer who tells a satisfying tale”.

They say that and then they say NO? What the fuck is going on here? I’ve also been turned down because I have written a book set in Scotland. It appears some publishing houses have a quota of Scots. Who knew? And is this a form of marketing racism? Whatever, it is damn disappointing. I can move to Manchester, dude.

Each subsequent rejection has strangely become easier to take. The first few were difficult. I say difficult, in essence I wanted to crawl into a hole, suck on my thumb till it shrunk to the bone and never come out. A few walls were punched. More than a few curses were thrown into the air. I might have said the C word a few times and the F word. And maybe even the other B word. On each occasion it took a couple of days for the cloud of defeat to disperse and for me to regain my equilibrium. And a positive expectation.

Now? I’ve gained enough experience to see that I am moving one “NO” closer to a “YES” with each knockback.

Currently, I am on the desk of two of the largest crime publishers in the UK and two independents. And I’m pressing on with book number 5. And wishing they would hurry the fuck up.

Perseverance. What is it? The ability to go through the fear of failure, the fear of success (yes, I know its crazy, but it’s real) the rejections, the frustrations, the defeats and come out the other side with your goal still alive and intact in your mind.

F.Scott Fitzgerald said you should never mistake any single defeat for a final defeat.

Winston Churchill said, ‘never, never, never, never give up.’

When I started out writing this post, I didn’t intend for it to turn out like a lecture, but I’m sorry I’m not going to apologise (see what I did there). It is what it is.

To be fair, it’s probably an epistle to me, but I hope you get some benefit from it.

I’d like to leave the final few words to Calvin Coolidge.

“Press on. Nothing can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; the world is full of unsuccessful people with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Here’s to pressing on.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A clue as to why this is a significant day...

If the beer company made birthday cakes it would probably be the best birthday cake in the world...
The wee fella sang a lovely song to me this morning. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. You look like a monkey and you smell like one too.
And even those nice people at Quercus got in on the act. The other day I blogged about the Philip Kerr book that won the big prize and today I got home from work to find that his publishers had sent me a complimentary copy to review for crimesquad.com.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Mind Munchies

125,000 euros is not to shabby for a book prize, is it? This is what Scottish author Philip Kerr won the other night for his novel If The Dead Rise Not. This is the latest book that features his Berlin detective Bernie Gunther. Gunther is a great invention and Philip Kerr is a writer on my must-buy list. Do yourself a favour and check him out.

Here’s some good news for those of us of large proportions. Large thighs apparently lower your risk of heart disease. The magic figure is 60 cm or in old-english, 23.6 ins. For an effective measure place the tape around your thigh just below the gluteal fold. Or in English, the crease where your arse meets your thigh. If it’s below the magic 60 cm, prepare to get those skinny thighs of yours exercised. Or, you could eat half a dozen doughnuts before you go to bed. Simply brush off the sugar coating if you are worried about your teeth. Do I, or do I not provide a public service here on May Contain Nuts?

This next one is with thanks to E...
What’s the difference between Bird Flu and Swine Flu? For Bird Flu you get tweetment and for Swine Flu you take some oinkment.

I’m toying with the idea of getting an e-reader. Anyone out there got one? What’s your experience? Is there anyone out there willing to give one away to a struggling writer? Anyone? Sony? Just think of the exposure May Contain Nuts can give you. Save a fortune on marketing, by the way.

Aleksandr Orlov, the aristocratic meerkat, a bizarre character dreamt up by Comparethemarket.com, the insurance price comparison website, has become a “star” in his own right with 555,000 Facebook fans and 25,000 Twitter followers. WTF? Are people so starved of entertainment? Get a life, people. Buy a book.
Hey. That could be my new slogan.

As my blog is chiefly about books and writing, I thought it was about time that I spent some blog inches on some of the issues important to me in the world of writing. One such issue close to my heart is that of sentence structure. If your syntax can be misconstrued it could lead you or your characters into some serious trouble. Lemme give you an example, cos I’m a sharing kinda guy.
Read carefully and see where you could have your character improve on his dialogue…

“The boss had to fire somebody, and he narrowed it down to one of two people, Debra or Jack. It was an impossible decision because they were both super workers. Rather than flip a coin, he decided he would fire the first one who used the water cooler the next morning.
Debra came in the next morning with a horrible hangover after partying all night. She went to the cooler to take an aspirin. The boss approached her and said: "Debra, I've never done this before but I have to lay you or Jack off."

"Could you jack off?" she says. "I feel like shit." “

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Crimesquad in September

It's that time of the month. The beginning...in case you've had your head up your ass and you're wondering. What this means is that the guys over at www.crimesquad have put up their reviews for the month. Some of which I have slaved over. Worked my fingers to the bone over. Sweated blood over. Go on, read them. You know you want to.

There's one such review that I wanted to draw to your attentions. (I use the plural for any multiple personality types out there. May Contain Nuts is an inclusive blog)This is my review for R J Ellory's latest book, The Anniversary Man.

The review also includes a question and answer session we set for Roger about his book and his writing. In my view it is required reading for any pre-published writers, and curious readers out there. You will find it at the following link. Fingers crossed it actually works. Frankly, I could be better at the technological aspect of blogging.

Well I would if I could be arsed. Frankly. (Who is this fella Frank and why do we give him a name check when we want to assert our honest credentials? What is the etymology of Frank?)

I'm all about the words. And the occasional picture. And the comments. I LOVE comments. Leave me more comments. Makes me feel less like I'm involved in some form of literary masturbation. Which is good for you, my friend's 13 year old son told her to excuse his use of a certain website on her work laptop. Which is a whole other blog, that I ain't going to write.

Eeesh - now I'm worried about what adverts will appear down the right side after using the word "masturbation". No, the other right.

Anyhow, I digress. Which I'm allowed to do cos this is my blog, innit.

You'll find the excellent R J Ellory if you go to crimesquad He's about to be launched stateside, so the good people over there should be rushing to a bookshop asap.