Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NaNo Update And Book Cover

We are now officially beyond the halfway point of National Novel Writing Month, and I have to confess that a little bit of panic has crept in. I have just crossed the halfway point - 25,000 words - of the expected total word count, but it came 4 days after it should have.

I always knew that not being able to get done on time, especially given my daily writing workload, but I was determined not to fail at the first time of asking. This made me assess what failure would actually mean in this specific scenario. Assuming I don't hit the magical 50,000 mark by the time the clock strikes Midnight on the last day of the month, will it means that the story will stop and be cast aside? No, it does not.

I have had this little tale bouncing around in my head for about 3 years, and can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. If it means that I come out of that tunnel a few days behind schedule, then so be it. THIS THING IS GETTING FINISHED!!

I have even taken the step of having the cover designed, which was actually a very painless process, as well as being one that fit into my non-existent budget. The finished result is proudly displayed up top, and it has actually contributed to my excitement level.

I want to take this time to thank everyone who has offered words of encouragement and support, especially my incredible wife who has had to sit and listen to me ramble about tiny plot details while she is just trying to relax and have a little quiet time.

I may only be halfway home, but the boys will be here soon....oh, and the inimitable Miss Raven Loonie, too.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NaNoWriMo: 10 days In

As mentioned in a previous post, my month of November was going to be dedicated to finally taking part in National Novel Writing Month. The story I chose to write was one that has been stewing in my head for years.

The story involves a pair of detective names Bangers and Mash who are charged with investigating mysterious events in the English countryside: Think Emmerdale Farm meets the X-Files.

I have now officially passed the 10 day mark and am pleased to report that I am almost 14,000 words in. As pleasing as that number is, as it represents the longest thing I have ever written, it's also a little disconcerting. I am officially off the pace to "win" my NaNoWriMo challenge, which is not something I want to do at the first time of asking.

I am fortunate enough to write for a living, but am in the position of going through a rather purple patch at the moment in terms of orders. Trying to create a balance is tough, but I am still up for the challenge. I know exactly where my story is going, as well as having a clear understanding of how to get there through the plot. When I do get the chance to work on Bangers and Mash, the words come thick and fast. I'm not horribly off the pace right now, and may actually be able to make up a big chunk today. I just churned out 600 words in about 20 minutes and am itching to get back there now.

I always knew that failure was an option going into this, but I see it becoming less so the more involved I get and the deeper into the story I dive. is this the best thing that I have ever written? NO!! Is it the most fun I have ever had in front of a laptop? YES!! And that is why it will get done. I'll keep the updates coming as best I can.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Penny Drops

I AM AFRAID!! No, it's not because Halloween is right around the corner and the creepy crawlers are set to make an appearance. It's because the day after the costumes are packed away and the sugar high has gone, it will be time to start National Novel Writing Month.

It's been a couple of years now, but I can still clearly remember sitting at our humble little dining room table, looking at Penny, and asking, "What should I do."

I have been writing for as long as I remember, but I had finally taken the step of trying to make a little bit of money doing so. It was starting to pay off, but the demand for my services made working a full-time job seem like an inconvenience. There was never any hesitation or doubt in her voice when she replied that I should quit and write full-time. My wife is a woman who puts everyone else first and who does all she can to make sure that I am happy. She only ever harps at me when I am off my meds and not behaving as well as I can. I call it nagging with a purpose, whereas she will describe it as looking after the man she loves.

I love what I do now, but there are days when the things that I write become a chore. You can only talk about foot fungus, new cars, or wrapping paper for so long before you start to feel as though your creativity is slowly but surely slipping away. When those days hit, Penny will nag once more, telling me to take a break and write about something that does excite and inspire me. I try, but since I don't get paid to do that, I become distracted and give up.

And so we come to NaNoWriMo, which is something I have always wanted to do, but have been too afraid to get into. It's not the idea of writing 50,000 in 30 days that seems big, especially since I usually triple or quadruple that amount in the average month, but rather the fact that I want to do this so badly and fear that I will fail. The story i plan on writing is one that I have had in my head for more than 2 years now, and is one that I know will stay off the page if I don't commit to this.

I'd find an excuse to back out now where it not for my wife. She believes in everything that I do, even when I feel as though it's all crashing down around me. She lends encouragement when needed, but will not sugar coat her criticism if I do something half-assed. That is how she views my short stories. They were all created as small ideas that I would build into something bigger, yet have left untouched. She knows this, and as much as I sense her pride when she reads what I write, I also see the tinge of disappointment that there isn't more.

I never want to disappoint that women, because there hasn't been a single moment in out time together when she has left me feeling that way. And so November 1st will come and I will tap away until the word count hits 50,000. I don't know how the finished tale will look or read, but when it's done, I know that I will look at my wife and see that I have made her happy. What else is there to live for?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

NaNoWriMo With a Side of Bangers & Mash

As the calendar on the wall becomes a little thinner and the month of November draws ever nearer, I begin to harbor thoughts of the approaching National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This same routine has played out for as long as I can remember, but I always seem to find a way to wriggle off the writing hook and cop out of participating.

That is all about to change this year as I am stating my intention to go after the 50,000 word mark that needs to be achieved during the course of the month. It will be a tough task, especially as I look at the amount of writing work and deadlines that are currently piled up on my desk. The desire to use that as an excuse is strong, but I cemented my entry by declaring to my wife that I was going to do it.

This is something that goes way beyond the promises made on our wedding day, and has more to do with making her happy. Promises are important, but not as much as seeing that what you do makes the person you love so very much proud of you. My wife is my biggest supporter when it comes to writing, but also my biggest critic. She refuses to blow smoke up my perfectly sculpted ass, choosing instead to point out flaws or flights of fancy that simply don't fit in the narrative being created.

I was talking to her the other day about not being able to write for myself as much as I would like, to which she responded, in her usual style, that I should make the time to do it, but only if I was going to step out of what I do relatively well and try something different. That means ditching the short, flash fiction style of writing that I love and heading into the deeper waters of a fully fleshed out novel. The fact that she knows I have a couple floating around in my head made the statement hit home pretty hard.

With all of that said, I will be dusting off a story that I started a couple of years back called Bangers & Mash. It's basically the tale of a pair of supernatural detectives who inhabit the English countryside along the ley lines. The story is pulled from parts of little tales I would tell my kids at bedtime when they were little. I have a ton of weird little characters from that time, a couple of which will make it into this book.

I will be adding a little widget to the site that will show my current word count, but if you want a closer look at what's going on, be sure to follow the Bangers & Mash Facebook page. Oh, and wish me luck!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pardon My French, I'm Scottish

I overheard a conversation recently where one of the parties involved was telling a sordid tale that required the use of some colorful metaphors. It was obvious that not everyone approved, as that old "swearing is a sign of a small vocabulary" nugget was once again thrown into the discussion.

As the name of my blog suggests, I am a writer (yes, I have no other job and I get paid to write on a daily basis), albeit of questionable talent. Money regularly shows up in my Paypal account for the words that I string together, which means that in the eyes of some people, I must be doing something right.

In the course of those writings, I am seldom if ever asked to use salty language, although that does not prevent me from hurling a stream of obscenities at my ham hands when I misspell "the" for the umpteenth time in a single paragraph.

It therefore stands to reason that my vocabulary may not be as weak as my swearing habits would suggest. I would also say that the theory of that being the case is somewhat moot when you consider that some of the best writer's in the world using curse words to emphasize a point or create a character in their storytelling. People tend to write what they know, which means those words must somehow be a part of their everyday life.Is their vocabulary stunted, or that of their editors, for that matter? I think not.

My foul language came by being a product of my environment. I grew up in an area of Scotland that you don't tend to see on whisky bottle labels and shortbread tins. It was a rather downtrodden place where where unemployment was high and tolerance to alcohol abuse was low. That was not a combination that resulted in flowery language being the norm. Instead, the C-word (and I don't mean Cancer) was regularly used as a way of describing the positive aspects of an individual, as in ...."that fucking Bobby is a good cunt."

As much as I was a quiet, studious kid that liked to read and spend time in the library, I was also the son of a bar manager, and as such spent a fair amount of time in the pub. It was there that the more putrid of curse words started to break through my literary filter and into my impressionable young brain. The point is this: Yes, I may swear a lot, but I'll be fucked if it's because of a lack of vocabulary!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

In Praise Of Tim

I was jut flipping through my blogs and became appalled at how long it has been since I have written anything here. Truth be told, I haven't really had anything happen that has inspired me to rant or praise, but that all changes this morning.

I may have mentioned in the past my love for coffee and how I need my morning jolt of caffeine in order to get the day started. The problem has been that since I moved from Canada to the US, getting my hands on a delicious cup of java for the coffee maker has not been easy.

We have gone through several different brands and flavors, before finally settling on Folgers 100% Colombian as our coffee of choice. As good as that brew is, it still pales in comparison to the coffee delivered by Tim Horton's.

Imagine our joy yesterday when my kids returned from a visit with my sister holding a giant can of Timmy's coffee in their delicate little angel hands. The first pot was made this morning, along with a stunning homemade breakfast quiche, and I am in heaven, which is actually saying something coming from a confirmed atheist.

To every silver lining, though, there is a cloud attached that cannot be ignored. The cumulus crapper here is that there is only a finite amount of coffee in the can. Every spoonful of coffee grinds shoveled into the filter brings closer the day when the tin runs empty and my might heart starts to break. It is at that point that I will have to switch from drinking java made from the sweat of the greats in the Hockey Hall of Fame to the juice of Juan Valdez's Donkey.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Time To Get A Little Snarky

I may have mentioned on here in the past about my previous efforts at doing Top 10 lists centered around the news of the day. I did them for a couple of different sites, experiencing great success each time. I even went through a phase where they were picked up by a college newspaper until I stopped doing them completely. The reason I quit, both times, was due to the ridiculous attacks hurled in my direction, most of which came fro Lady Gaga fans. It seemed they didn't really care for the fun I poked at their idol, with my snarky little remarks seeing to get them all fired up. I was making a little bit of money doing these lists, but not enough to have to put up with that level of crap.

I have now officially toughened up and have started a blog dedicated to those snarky little Top 10 lists. I love doing them, and they really are a welcome break among all the other stuff that I have to write every day. The new site is called The Daily Snark and is updated every day, assuming the news isn't all entirely miserable. If you don't mind seeing your favorite celeb poked with a sharp stick, head on over and check it out.

If you want to follow The Daily Snark on Facebook, you can do that by clicking HERE.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!!

It's nice to scroll through your Facebook timeline on a day like today and see the smiling faces of Mother's the world over as they receive their flowers and presents from their grateful kids. There is also a little blow to the belly for those whose Mother's were taken altogether too soon, which is where myself and my sister find ourselves. In those moments it's easy to feel a little bit of anger and jealousy for all of those other kids, but i quickly realize that's not fair.

My sisters and I had a childhood that could best be described as ordinary, but it was made all the more memorable by a Mother who was extraordinary. Yes, there was the occasional, albeit deserved, smack across the arse with a slipper that had a sole seemingly made of iron. There were also moments of sheer embarrassment when, with all the windows wide open, Mum would clean the house and belt out tunes in accompaniment to her "Singalong-a-Max" tape by Max Bygraves. To say that she was a horrible singer was understating the fact, but you had to give her credit for trying. Yes, there were those times, but for the most part there was laughter.

She was perhaps the world's greatest unconscious comedian, letting slip a string of faux pas that would leave us all on the ground in stitches. This list could go on forever, but some of the best were:
  • Taking about an arrest made on here street and describing how the police took the criminal away in cufflinks
  • Talking about the twins that a woman at her work had, and when asked if they were identical, responding, No, they are Filipino
  • Telling me and my girlfriend at the time that she was taking us to see the movie "Breakdown" and that she was paying....no arguments. I then tell her to make sure she doesn't ask for tickets to "Breakdance," to which she replies, "I'm not bloody stupid, John."...30 seconds later..."3 adults for Breakdance please."
  • Deciding that going down a slide flat on her back would be a good idea, only to go flying off the end and cracking her head at the bottom....it sounds horrible, but you really had to be there. That, incidentally, was a Mother's Day trip that myself and my sisters took her on. 
  • Getting blootered drunk and hopping around in the backyard singing "Skippy The Bush Kangaroo" 
There are many more, to the point where we all started to believe that they were intentional. It would have made perfect sense, as she was a woman that loved to laugh and who loved and lived life to the fullest.  And that laugh of her's was one that was infectious, especially when the baby seal barking kicked in and the false teeth started rattling.

My Mum was a lot of things to a lot of different people, and they all loved her because she made them all feel loved. The mere mention of a baby being born meant that the knitting needles would go into high speed as she designed a whole new wardrobe for said little one. That she stayed around long enough to put those knitting needles to use for her grandkids was just one more thing we could all be happy about.

So, yes, there is a little bit of anger and jealousy today, as there is every year at this time. But more than anything else, there are incredible memories that, when you close your eyes and think about them, make you feel as though she is sitting right beside you. I am not a man of faith, but I know she is with me every day, and that she guides me in every decision I make, because it was she, more than anyone else, that made me into the man I am today. My sisters will tell you the same thing if you asked them. How the influence our Mum had on them shaped them into the amazing women that they both are....they both have the strong, proud exterior, but they have the same hearts, cast from the same carat of gold that was present in our mum's.

So to all of you who have Mother's still with you today, or who are Mother;s, I say...Happy Mother's Day. To my own mum i say....I miss you every day, but you are always in my heart.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Questions Answered

 I wrote a post yesterday about the questions I am frequently asked about writing. Much to my delight, I have had one of my favorite writers, Mr. Drew Brown, pose another couple of great questions. Let's get to them:

1) Do you have set routines to your writing? Like a particular time of day, or do you have silence or music in the background. What goes on around you as you write?

I really have no writing routine at all, mostly because of the work my wife does. She is a regional chef and is usually on the road and away from home Monday to Friday. I keep all kinds of odd hours during that time, which means I might be writing a wonderful piece about ass boil lancing at 3 in the morning, with nothing but the scent of brewing coffee to keep me company.
I will have the TV on if there is a show on that I follow, which are very few, or of there is a big soccer game on. Other than that, there is usually music going on in the background. Oddly enough, I am able to listen and hum or sing along while I write. Not sure how I do it, but it's yet another of those things that I don't question. Now, when I write fiction, I often use music to fit the mood of what I am writing. Dark, violent scenes are usually accompanied by an industrial music background, whereas emotionally charged scenes have something a little more fitting.
I have the opening of a story called "The Hanging Tree" ready to leave my head and hit paper, and when I put it up here, I will also attach the music I used to help me write the very emotional opening scene. I have some personal moments that I can pull from for that, but I end up feeling as though I am picking at a nasty scab if I go that route.
2) In your fiction, do you ever censor yourself? Are there topics/issues you are unwilling to commit to paper?
No. There have been some things that I have definitely questioned, usually involving children, in my stories, but if I censor myself, the emotional jolt of shock that I felt when the idea came to mind will then be removed from the story, making it a little too vanilla for my own personal tastes. I am not easily offended in real life, and I think that somewhat translates to my writing. I have yet to dream up something appalling enough that I would be afraid to commit to paper.

My thanks to Drew for asking those questions, and I encourage you all to check out his amazing zombie novel "Last Hope." I guarantee it is unlike any zombie tale you have heard before.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions - Writer's Edition

The beautiful weather is slowly returning to my part of the world, which means I am taking some time to crawl out of my coffee stained hidey hole in order to catch some fresh air. That also means engaging in conversations with people, usually at the pub, where the question of what I do for a living almost always comes up. I am still pretty sheepish with my "writer" answer, if only because it somehow seems a little pretentious coming from my lips. What usually follows is a series of question that I try to answer as though I have never heard them before. I really don't mind, though, because for the most part people really do seem genuinely interested. Here are the questions, as well as the answers I usually give:

What do you write about? - The answer here is pretty much everything. I make money by writing articles for blogs and websites. I never know what I am going to get asked for next, which actually makes it all a little interesting. Now, if I had my choice, I'd much sooner write short horror fiction, but until someone starts coughing up some real dough for my work, that part of my "career" will have to remain a hobby.

OH!! You write stories, where do you get your ideas? - Most of my ideas start out as dreams or from something that I see or hear when I am out and about. A single little overheard snippet of conversation can get the gears grinding, as does an image that may seem ordinary at first, but which somehow turns into something else in my head. I have long since stopped trying to figure put why my mind does that, as it always has, without offering me any sort of explanation for this seemingly odd behavior.

How do you write? - It is here that I usually start to lose people a little, probably because they like the Hollywood image of a struggling writer hunched over a typewriter, cigarettes piled off to one side and wads of crumpled paper on the other. The truth is, I don't start typing until the story is fully formed in my head. It usually starts out with a series of conversations between the characters, whose words seem to throw paint on the canvas behind them. Oddly enough, most of what I write is very free from character dialogue, but it's their words which paint the scene. Once the story is done, I type. There are very few moments where my hands leave the keyboard, and I am somehow able to fill in little details that weren't in my minds rough. Again, I don't question this process, I simply follow it.

Have you ever been published? - Yes. My first couple of submissions were met with rejection letters that almost made me quit altogether. I then received one from an editor that loved what I had written, but who felt the story wasn't quite suitable for his magazine. I was referred to another publication, where the story was published. That was so long ago that I have even forgotten the name of the magazine, but it's still the best $25 I ever made. I don't send stuff out anymore, choosing instead to either self-publish or just throw some stuff up on my other blog, Pretty Little Dead Things.

Who are your influences? Easy one - Clive Barker. I am in awe of how he can make the grotesque sound so stunningly beautiful.

Who is your biggest fan? - I only have one, I'm afraid to say, but even if there were millions, it would still be my wife Penny. She will not simply blow smoke up my ass and tell me how wonderful I am, choosing instead to point out the things she didn't like or understand in a story. I love that, and I love her.

That's about it. I am sure there are more, but by the time those arrive I am usually well into the beer and simply can;t remember them. If you guys have any questions, please feel free to fire away. You can buy me a beer later.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Post From Cole Millen

I'm sure most of you regular readers are well aware that my wife is a Regional Chef who spends much of her time on the road. One of the biggest challenges she faces is being able to eat healthily while stuck behind the wheel. The temptations of fast food are almost overwhelming, but she does her best to avoid them.
This is a subject that is of great interest to me, and hopefully you too, which is why I was delighted to receive this fabulous guest post from Cole Millen. Please read his tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst traveling, and be sure to head on over to his blog where there are even more great tips.

 How to Look Great Before and After Your Vacation
It's a sad story. You work hard for months so you look great on your trip only to go on vacation and return home feeling plump and heavy again. Fortunately, it's not hard to eat healthy while still enjoying yourself on vacation. Simply follow these easy tips and you can maintain your lean look during your retreat.
Stay Healthy On Your Flight
You can save calories and money by bringing along your own packed healthy snacks and foods. Select some easily transportable items like dried fruit and nuts. You can also eat a healthy meal before leaving your home to avoid having to eat while traveling all together. If you do need to eat during your travels, select healthy options like baked or grilled chicken, fresh fruit and salads with healthy or no dressing.
Find a Health Friendly Hotel and Area to Stay
You can easily find a health friendly hotel and surrounding area by doing a little Internet research. Check out online review sites for hotels that have gotten high ratings for being healthy. I recently found a great site that listed reviews for hotels in Las Vegas regarding their amenities and services along with the restaurants in the nearby area. This allowed me to find a great hotel that would allow me to maintain my healthy lifestyle, while also being able to pick out which restaurants I could eat both nutritiously and deliciously. You can also search hotels on a travel website to quickly find one that offers nearby walking trails and indoor gyms. Some hotels even now offer treadmills and other gym equipment in each room. If your hotel has room service or an on-site restaurant, you can usually find the menu online to see if there are healthy options available.
If your hotel offers a minibar, refuse the key to prevent yourself from succumbing to any cravings. Once you arrive at your hotel, you can find a nearby grocery store to stock up on healthy snacks so you don't end up snacking on candy bars and other high calorie treats during your stay. You can bring your own convenience meals and prepare them in your room to save both money and calories. When ordering room service, look for fresh fruits and vegetables, and request that dishes be prepared without extra calorie ingredients like cheeses and sauces.
Eating Out
Try to find a healthy restaurant. Typically, restaurants that have seafood and fresh salad bars offer healthy meal options. Avoid all you can eat buffets so you don't overeat. You can have a healthy snack before leaving for the restaurant so you won't be tempted to eat a lot of high calorie appetizers like bread sticks and rolls. You can also check out a restaurant's website online to see their menu and confirm that they have healthy options. Avoid dishes that are basted, breaded, buttered, or come with heavy sauces. Look for foods that are baked, grilled, light, high fiber, and fresh.
Following these simple tips will help to keep you on track during your vacation so you won't get a nasty surprise when you step onto the scale after your return home.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Crushing Disappointment

I have had to take numerous lingering glances at the calendar today, just to remind myself that it's NOT a Monday. To say that this day has been a lost cause to this point is putting it mildly. Rather than driving you all to drink with the minutiae of the morning, let me tell you what it is that has really put me in the foulest of moods.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, professional basketball player Jason Collins became the first active male professional sports player to admit that he was gay. It was an incredibly brave move that should be openly applauded, and I have to admit that the outpouring of support in the wake of the announcement has been fantastic. That all turned to complete shit this morning as I was stuck on I-85 taking my wife to the airport. We had the morning sports show on the radio, and it didn't take long for the calls to start coming in.

"......if more atheletes come out, think of the expense placed on teams that will need to build separate locker rooms......"

".....the majority of the gay community has AIDS, what if they get cut on the field......"

".....i don't want to hear about this guys bad choices......."

Those were just a few of the gems that I heard through the red rage that was slowly bubbling up inside. The level of hatred and misinformation is absolutely stunning to me. I have had a number of different gay friends during the course of my life and can safely say that I have never been concerned that one might try to come on to me at any given time, have not contracted Aids by hanging out with them, and am well aware that their sexuality was not a matter of choice.

Yes, we as a society have come a long way in accepting out gay brothers and sisters, but it seems there is still quite a bit of work to be done.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sexy Ass Vampires

I'm at an age now where I realize I am never going to write that one story that just becomes a runaway smash success, and that's perfectly fine. I found my place in the writing world, and while it's not necessarily what I dreamed of, it affords me the opportunity to sit home and tap away on a laptop all day - no boss, no annoying co-workers, and no need to put on pants.

The thing is, I know that I could probably thrash out some competent piece of literary tripe that would do well, but is it worth it? Do I really want to pen the next mediocre vampire trilogy or write a novel about a time-traveling Scottish highlander who is sent into the future to meet his one true love who has been reincarnated in today's world? It appears that those are the 2 options that are open if you want to be a success in the self-publishing world....oops, silly me, there is a third that I almost forgot about - the bleak sci-fi story where you get to use "dystopian" in the description.

I am not bashing the people that put together these stories, I am simply wondering if they are writing what they love or what they think will sell. I put together short little stories that make my family members question my thought processes, but it's an organic writing method as opposed to one that I give any real thought to. I see or hear something, which makes me think of something else, which leads to a few words getting hobbled together where a little kid ends up getting nails through the head while he holds a dead cat.

Maybe I am wrong. Perhaps all of those writers were putting those tales together before Twilight became what it was, but it just seems that the amount of paranormal romance and vampire books available took a massive spike after the shiny vampire became a huge success. I hope that is the case, I really do. I want to imagine that everyone that takes the time to write is doing so because it is what they are passionate about rather than something they can cash in on.