Sunday, 31 October 2010

Saturday, 30 October 2010


My son now feels he’s too old to go out on Halloween. We call it “guising” in Scotland. Short for disguise, geddit? But people now call it Trick or Treating. When I were a lad we used to have to do something for the treat, like sing a song, recite a poem or at the very least tell a joke. Nowadays they stand at your doorway with their hand out. While the other hand holds a bag already chock-full of sticky treats.

One year I even wrote a play. I was twelve. It was shit. So sue me. I got my sister (aka Queen of Chaos) and her pal to play the other two parts. We each had about 3 lines of dialogue – I was very fair-minded and all I can remember about it was that someone died horribly at the end.

The neighbours must have laughed up their dinner when we moved on.

So, this year the wee fella is 12 and he’s way too cool to be going out in a disguise. This is me feeling kinda sad and relieved at the same time. It’s cold out there people!

The Wee Fella has never been much of a reader but the school have managed to get him interested in the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. So, emboldened by this success I place a book beside him on the sofa. It’s a more conventional novel, Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (a friend of mine) which has won shedloads of awards.

Me: why don’t you have a go at this. It’s won a lot of awards.

The wee fella just looks at me...

...and says, Dad, you’re taking this too far.

Me (on the phone to a friend): Oops, nearly called you a name that rhymes with Rick. (I didn’t want to use rude words while my son was around)

The wee fella: (shouts) Dad, the word is prick!

Me: Don’t you talk like that.

TWF: I don’t. I'd never use a word like that. I call my friends arseholes

Friday, 22 October 2010

It's a joke, so laugh dammit!

A SAMPLE from THE alleged TOP 50 JOKES OF ALL TIME ...

...and not even a mention of David Cameron

1. A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: ''Ugh, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!'' The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: ''The driver just insulted me!'' The man says: ''You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you.''

2. ''I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu.''

3. ''Dyslexic man walks into a bra''

4. A young blonde woman is distraught because she fears her husband is having an affair, so she goes to a gun shop and buys a handgun. The next day she comes home to find her husband in bed with a beautiful redhead. She grabs the gun and holds it to her own head. The husband jumps out of bed, begging and pleading with her not to shoot herself. Hysterically the blonde responds to the husband, ''Shut're next!''

5. A classic Tommy Cooper gag ''I said to the Gym instructor "Can you teach me to do the splits?'' He said, ''How flexible are you?'' I said, ''I can't make Tuesdays''.

8. Doc, I can't stop singing the 'Green Green Grass of Home'. He said: 'That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome'. 'Is it common?'I asked. 'It's not unusual' he replied.

12. My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well, I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

14. A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named 'Amal.' The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him Juan'. Years later; Juan sends a picture of himself to his mum. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wished she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, ''But they are twins. If you've seen Juan, you've seen Amal.''

15. There's two fish in a tank, and one says ''How do you drive this thing?''

18. ''My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that.''

19. I rang up British Telecom, I said, ''I want to report a nuisance caller'', he said ''Not you again''.

23. A priest, a rabbi and a vicar walk into a bar. The barman says, ''Is this some kind of joke?''

28. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. ''But why?'' they asked, as they moved off. ''because,'' he said ''I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.''

37. I swear, the other day I bought a packet of peanuts, and on the packet it said ''may contain nuts.'' Well, YES! That's what I bought the buggers for! You'd be annoyed if you opened it and a socket set fell out!''

38. A lorry-load of tortoises crashed into a trainload of terrapins, What a turtle disaster

41. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly. But when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it.

42. I've got a friend who's fallen in love with two school bags, he's bisatchel.

44. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: ''I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.''

46. I'll tell you what I love doing more than anything: trying to pack myself in a small suitcase. I can hardly contain myself.

47. So I met this gangster who pulls up the back of people's pants, it was Wedgie Kray.

The study was carried out after –and this is my favourite - Tim Vine's joke "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again." was voted the best of this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

What’s your favourite?

Monday, 18 October 2010


Before I name the winner - a quick re-cap...I invited you good peeps to leave a message after the interview I posted on May Contain Nuts with the lovely Gillian Philip. Then I was to draw a name from the messages and the winner would receive a signed copy of this fantastic book.

Cue dramatic music.

Dum, de dum, de DUM

Let it build for a minute or two,.


And then drag it out for another thirty seconds.


Before I finally announce that the name of the winner is...

(these lyrics are copyright so don't even bother trying to steal them)


Congrats to Marley and if I could ask you to email me off-blog with your address and I will get the book off to you in the post as soon as I can drag my fat ass down to the post office.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Time Off

The Bob Blog

He’s getting bigger.

Other Stuff...

What else has been happening? I’m on holiday this week catching up with my reading and writing. Makes me sound like the class dunce, innit?

Also got a man in to do some work around the house, cos I’m hapless, clueless and lots of other kinds of “less” when it comes to DIY. My ex used to laugh at me (note the “at” part of this sentence) whenever I had a screwdriver in my hand – and no, that’s not a euphemism – she said I turned from mild-mannered Clark Kent kinda guy into The Hulk.

No, seriously I would go into a RAGE. And curse like a character from an Irvine Welsh novel. I blame the parents.

So for the good of my blood pressure and for the sanity of my loved ones I no longer attempt anything that requires a tool in any shape that’s different than a laptop. Or a fork, knife and spoon. Or a TV remote.
The Queen of Chaos (my twin sister) recommended a handyman that she has been using . He came round today to do some bibs and bots. His first challenge was to remove a light fitting that has been bugging me since I moved in 4 years ago. It hangs from the ceiling and almost reaches the floor in a series of cream canvas boxes. An Ikea special if you will. It doesn’t work. It has never worked and I friggin’ hate the thing. But being me, it takes a while to get round to doing anything about it. I can hear all of the women reading this going, gawd I’d hate it if my husband was like that.

If he is, my advice: get over it and get a handyman in.

The old fella worked in electrics. Every time he comes over he looks at it and ask me if I have a pair of ladders. The answer of course is – is that shaped anything like a laptop? To be fair, the old fella is just the right side of five feet so he has the disadvantage of assessing where the light fitting connects to the ceiling from the vantage point of a hobbit.

Handyman guy looked at light fitting. He studied the top of the light fitting where it touched the ceiling. I say studied, he screwed his face up in thought and looked at it for about 5 seconds. Where the light fitting touches the ceiling it is shaped like an upside down cup. He twisted this cup thing ...and the whole apparatus lifted off in his hand. It took all of a second to remove.  And no wonder it didn’t work because it was attached to a metal hook. There was nothing even remotely resembling an electric wire anywhere in the vicinity.

Oh how we laughed.

The previous inhabitants of this house must have just liked it as a kind of a feature.


Anyway, who gives a monkey fart about DIY?  I have a giant TBR pile, a book and a shitload of poems to write.


Friday, 8 October 2010

Talking with Gillian Philip

A couple of weeks ago I attended the launch of the novel Firebrand in Glasgow by the HUGELY talented Gillian Philips. I reviewed the novel on these pages and it has since gone on to be reviewed by Amanda Craig from one of our biggest newspapers (but I got there first) and given the title of Fantasy Book of 2010 by their reviewer.

I caught up with Gillian and asked her some questions on your behalf. Eventually, I caught up with her. ‘Cos she’s rubbish at answering her emails.

Here’s wot happened.

You have 3 words. Describe Firebrand.

My must-write.

Nice answer. Now you have another 20.

Fantasy that's as real as I can make it. Adventure, romance, violence, danger. Hot faeries who are all human.

I love it when people meet their word count. Anywho, when you started to write Firebrand what were you looking to achieve?

I never intended to write it. I was supposed to be writing a contemporary fantasy, but one of the characters took over and demanded a prequel. What could I say? There was no finishing the other book till I'd indulged him. So I was looking to tell his story, I suppose. Or let him tell it.

You are a bloody good writer, Mrs. Nobody goes from scratch to excellent straight away so how did you learn?

Why thank you Mister! Er, yes. I'm so glad you never saw my early efforts. I learned by writing and writing and... well, some of it was diabolical. I wrote romance novels for a while, but they weren't any good. Before that there were other efforts. Saga things, with murders in. I'm so relieved the cockroaches ate them. Anyway, I sort of got the hang of it eventually. I consider it a brilliant stroke of luck that I found out about manuscript advice services (I didn't know they existed), and I had incredibly useful advice and feedback from Hilary Johnson's service in particular. I think I am good at taking advice (almost too good, sometimes. I've occasionally had to change manuscripts back to the way they were in the first place.)

(Note from the blogger – there are other script advice services and this in no way constitutes an advertisement. Unless someone from Hilary’s wants to get in touch and offer a few quid, in which case this is a FANTASTIC service.)

So that was it, really. Writing and rewriting and rewriting again, till I got better and didn't have to rewrite quite so much. I don't think there's any substitute for that.

A faerie tells me that one of the reasons you write such good actions scenes is that you fenced during your (obviously) well-spent (sniggers) youth. Go on spill...

Yes! I used to fence epee once a week. It was fantastic fun and I was actually fit for a while. Best sport in the world. And I especially love epee because you can hit anyone anywhere (within reason). With sabre, for instance, you're restricted to above-the-belt... Well, I had to give it up for a while because of time pressures, but I do want to go back. I don't know if it helps with the action scenes, but maybe it helps to know what a challenge it is to hit someone. I've watched an awful lot of swashbuckler movies, too, in my time, and that probably helps as well...

I invested so much emotionally in your characters in Firebrand to the extent that I was down on my knees giving a football style roar when one of your bad guys received their comeuppance. What is the secret of this reaction?

I don't know! I really don't know, but I'm absolutely thrilled when people have that reaction. I think it must be to do with the fact that I care about the characters enormously, and they're very real inside my head, but I'm not sure how that conveys itself to the page. I only know you can't expect readers to care about characters if you don't, and that's why writing has to be sincere to be convincing.

Why fantasy?

Fantasy because... I like a good fantasy, with lots of action, especially a believable fantasy... and I get very frustrated with a lot of fantasy. You know, the 'Lo, I am the Master of Dragons, yea, it is so prophecied by the Wizardy One...' sort. On the other hand, I adore the really good ones, and I wanted to write one of my own, the kind I'd want to read. And I wanted to set it in Scotland, because you don't see that much Scottish fantasy at the moment. And I wanted to give it a contemporary edge.

Why faeries?

Faeries for... much the same reasons? I wanted Scottish ones, too. There are plenty of human-sized, gorgeous big faeries around the book world at the moment - as is the way of things, faeries became 'big' (in several senses) as soon as I decided it might be a nice original idea - but many of them are Irish Sidhe or fourth/fifth generation American. I wanted mine to be very much the Scottish breed, with their own Scottish attitudes. Highland and Central Belt.

Why that particular period in time for Firebrand?

I'd started to write the series in contemporary times, and I never meant to write a historical episode. The trouble was, my villain/antihero Seth took over my brain, and I felt I absolutely had to tell his story (or let him tell it, anyway). I knew he was about 400 years old, and as it happens that took me back to the time of the Reformation and the Scottish witch trials. As soon as I started to research the period, I was hooked... and let's face it, the best thing for a writer is to have plenty of hideous experiences to throw at characters. And it was a very ugly time...
(Uglier than a naked wrestling match with Jedward and the old fat guy from Borat)
And now a quick-fire and entirely frivolous round to help your readers get to know you a little better.

Butter or Margarine?
Butter. Cows are cool, plastic isn't.

Salad cream or mayonaiise?
Mayonnaise. Salad cream: the dressing of Satan.

Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars. For Darth/Anakin mostly. Even though the prequels are crap.

Boxers or briefs? (Comes under the heading of Try to Make The Interviewee Blush)
Boxers. Just... oh, you know.

PJs or au natural?
PJs. Oh please. I live in the north of Scotland.
And the lady's not for blushing.

Cats or Dogs?
Cats. Even though I feel like a traitor to my dogs.

Wine or beer?
Wine. But it's not a fair question. I need context.
(Context? She wants context? Only a professional would need context for a question like that. Just sayin’)

A lie-in or a jog?
A lie-in. I love my bed in the morning.

Stilettos or wedges?
Stilettoes. You can't feel like a killer bitch in wedges.

Ooh, get you. X-factor or Strictly?
Strictly. It's the frocks. Oh, and I hate X-Factor.

To celebrate the continued success of this wonderful book I have a free signed copy to give away. All you need to do to win is to leave a message that makes me smile (I need to get something out of this malarkey) and I will do the draw out of the hat thing. Except I don’t have a hat since some of the folk I work with laughed at the last one I wore. Yes, you, Ms W.

So instead, I’ll close my eyes and throw a small piece of soggy tissue at my computer screen and the one it sticks to wins.

Judge’s decision (that would be me) is final.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Its National Poetry Day...

...and I had intended to research a poem for you, but as usual I'm at the coo's tail (which is a charming Scots phrase meaning I'm rushin' aboot like a daftie) so I'm just going to have to try and show off, I mean share with you one of mine. ~smile~

This is an old one from my first collection In The Raw which I'd kinda forgotten I'd written until a friend told me she'd been reading through it and this was one of her favourites.

It's about...och, you can work out yourself what it's all about.

Another Kiss?

You offer the benediction of your kiss.
But what worth a kiss when it’s as chaste
as a 10 year old in her communion dress?

How did this spiral
from love in all its colours
to a base transaction?

You allow a touch,
I’ll smile once in a while

You purse your lips, I’ll pay the rent.

An exchange of services
for an exchange of fluids.

And when did the press of lips on that place
where neck meets shoulder meets fire
begin to fail to charge your heart?

And where do you chase your thoughts
when you close your eyes? Do you dwell
on my limbs pressing heavy on yours?

And when at the last our sweat mingles,
does the thin of your desire fade?

And why do I lie in the afterburn
when my heart stutters towards sleep,
turn my face to yours and pray
silent as the worn night
for one more kiss?

Now go and find some more poems and have yourself an experience.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

It's the start of the month...

and there are more reviews available for your delectation over at CRIMESQUAD

Here's one of my faves from the last few weeks...

Roger Smith - Wake Up Dead

It’s a hot, dry night in Cape Town when gun-runner Joe Palmer and his ex-model, American wife Roxy are car-jacked, leaving Joe lying in a pool of blood. As the thieves, meths addict Disco and his sidekick Godwyn, make their getaway, Roxy makes a split-second decision that changes her life forever.

This decision brings her on a collision course with Billy Afrika, a mercenary to whom Joe owes money, Disco's prison-loving gangster “husband” Piper, a would-be African insurgent leader, and a dirty cop determined to use Roxy to escape his dangerous Cape Flats beat.

As these lives collide, old debts are settled and underscored in blood and Roxy is caught in a wave of increasing violence in this beautiful and uncompromising city.

It simply doesn’t get more “noir” than this. This is easily the most violent book I’ve read this year, with a degree of carnage that could almost push this book into the horror genre. However, it is a violence that is germane to the characters and springs from the author’s understanding of the people he is writing about, rather than violence just for the sake of it.

In Piper we have one of the most loathsome and fearsome characters I’ve come across in crime fiction, but he is a clearly a product of his brutal upbringing. The gang is his family; the jungle of the prison provides his life lessons. Could he have turned out any other way?

Like almost everyone else in this novel Piper is locked into a mindset of poverty, intolerance and ignorance; a mindset that could be argued is the bastard child of apartheid and an outlook that the author demonstrates continues to trouble the inhabitants of this beautiful country.

Indeed, it is this honest portrayal of the city and its inhabitants that offers some form of mitigation for the violence mentioned earlier. Each character, even the ones on the right side of the law, straddle the line between good and bad and each is vividly described giving the reader a strong sense of the physical. Roxy is a beautiful ex-model and the frivolously named Disco is described as a startlingly handsome man, but in this dark fable being endowed with good looks is no blessing and becomes the launch-point to each of these characters’ troubles.

With his neat prose and breakneck pace, Roger Smith has conjured an excellent read. I’m guessing that this is not a book that the South African tourist board will be touting; it is undoubtedly a book that will place this country’s thriller writers in the forefront of a world readership.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

The one where he rants about the death of choice...

When I was at Sainsbury’s this morning – I’m in a major huff with Tesco – and I bought my croissants – I’m a weekend croissant-a-holic – the young guy at the bakery counter told me to have “a fantastic day”. Not a great day. A fantastic day.

Now I’m not one of those moaning myrtles who complain about some of the cheesy Americanisms we are adopting on this side of the pond. I like cheese. All that protein, calcium and vits. Yum. The guy who said it wasn’t following some corporate mindwash instructions, he really meant it. And I left the store with a warm, fuzzy feeling and that had nothing to do with my croissant anticipation.

Now about Tesco and my complaint with them and guess what, it surrounds the issue of books.

My three regulars will be aware of the fact that I was giving a reading at a library in Newton Mearns recently and while I was waiting to perform I had a wee blether with the librarian – a big YAY for librarians. Wonderful people. During said chat I asked about the new mammoth shopping mall at Silverburn and what the affect had been on local shops.

Not good, she said.

‘Cos I hate the place, I said. Silverburn has got the same shops as EVERY shopping centre in the country – why we don’t all wear exactly the same clothes is a mystery to me. The floor is too shiny for my shoes and I slip everywhere. AND there’s no book shop. A centre the size of a small town and is has no book shop. WTF?

I put this (a wee bit more politely) to nice lady at the Information Desk in Silverburn. She informed me, yes we have no book shop but Tesco is right over there and they sell books.

I gave her that look.

The one that said I’d rather slam my testicles in a drawer.

Back to the library and the lovely librarian got all gossipy. She even did the Les Dawson over the garden fence thing. If any of my 3 readers are Brits of a certain age they’ll remember a sketch that the comedian Les Dawson used to do. He’d put on a large pinafore, wig and curlers and remove his teeth. Under the pinafore he’d have breasts of epic proportions and he’d have his arms crossed underneath them as if trying to hold them up. Whenever he/ she had a particularly delicious piece of gossip he’d mash his gums, hoik up his breasts and pass on the info.

So – hoiks up boobs - the librarian told me that someone told her – so it’s third hand and don’t even try to sue me Tesco cos I’m skint – that when Silverburn was being built and shops like Tesco, Marks and Spencers, Next and yawn and blah were booking up spaces, one company who bid for a unit in the centre was Waterstones. The only national book chain (how tragic is that?) in the UK.

Guess who put a stop to that with their big hob-nailed boots and corporate greed? And there’s another nail in the coffin of consumer choice.

There are people who are much more eloquent on SUPERMARKET GREED AND THE DEATH OF CHOICE than me but here’s my tuppence worth. The supermarkets and chain stores are killing off our town centres, they’ve decimated the farming community and the book trade is on a very slippery slope.

Go into a Tesco or Asda. Look at the bookshelves. All 3 of them. Read the authors’ names. It’s mainly the usual suspects, innit? Cole, Patterson, Brown et al. If this momentum continues – bookshops become extinct – and Tesco and Asda have 3 bookshelves with the same version of the same books year after year after year after year after year after year after year. How depressing is that? What will happen to all of those wonderful writers who don’t sell more than a million copies? What about all of those writers looking to get into print? If Tesco and Asda don’t think they can sell them they won’t give them room on their 3 shelves. (I’m away to hide under my quilt for a few hours. You don’t want to see a grown man cry.)

And we only have ourselves to blame. They can’t kill off choice without our complicity. They rely on our busy lives and laziness of thought.

Next time I crack open my wallet I’ll be thinking more carefully if my money could be better off spent at the local butcher or baker.

Jeez, my horse is so high I’m gonna break an ankle when I jump off it.

Rant over.

Now I’m off to read a Brent Weeks (HE IS THE BOMB) fantasy novel I bought in Waterstones yesterday.

Y’all have a fantastic day.