Wednesday, 21 February 2018


Don't dodge those rookie writing mistakes. Make those fucking mistakes and learn from them. Earn your learning the hard way. Thus endeth the harsh lesson.

Thursday, 8 February 2018


No, this post isn't about future plans.
   This post is about plans that brewed for years, mwuah-ha-ha, insert Top Secret Volcano Base here...
   I typed that aloud, didn't I? Oops.
   Yes, I have loads of unfinished business to stamp DONE. Along the way, I set up other things. Damn it, can I just type things once without accidentally typing thongs...
   Setting up other thongs is a different story.
   Elusive ends are in sight. This project, that tale, those plans. And that saga is merely the saga on this blog. I blog elsewhere as other writers, peddling products that don't quite fit in this cosmic shoebox.
   My plans for this blog include...shoehorning stuff in here so that stuff does fit in here.
   If plans go according to plan, then I'll be doing collaborations with all kinds of people and one or two vast robot armies. (There may have been a casual reference to a secret base earlier, but I think we got away with it.)


One of my schemes involves a collaboration with Melissa C. Water...

Let's be politically correct about this...there will be lesbian cow-fucking. There's no fucking way to get around talking about the swearier fucking version of Tourette Syndrome, bitches. Fucking deal with it - I'm going to, Mr Frodofuck.
   If you found that offensive, hell, you can fuck the fuck off, Pluto.


Some of these collaborations stem from chats with my first author contact on the internet, Karen Woodward. Her earlier disappearance (by time machine) and her return kicked off the whole conversation that put collaborations to the fore.
   If she returns from her second time travel trip in good order, Karen should also pop up in my collaborative work. One day, we'll do a radio show.
   "We present The Karen Woodward Mystery Hour, brought to you by Proliferated Coal Products: sending coal everywhere."

The Canadian author and time-hopper Karen Woodward, in a grainy crowd shot from 1936 at the Berlin Olympics. Here, Karen is stunned into silence as fellow-Canadian Frank Amyot secures the gold in Canoeing.

(I might possibly have let fly the news that Karen travels through time to research her stories. Don't think anyone noticed the slip-up, though.)


And there are other collaborators, too secret to mention. This stuffed bear, for example.

I've had to hide the poor bastard's identity in a grainy photo. He didn't want his family to learn of his encounter with novelist and potty-mouthed stand-up Joy Eileen.
   Something tells me that's going to be the rudest collaboration on the list. Or I could work with Joy, instead.


There are other people, vast robot armies, and alien beings from worlds unknown...but we'll reach them in good order. If we ever reach them.
   Over the weekend, putting this blog post together, I had a reversal of plans and things weren't looking good. Then, as the weekend crumbled to dust, I had a reversal of reversal of plans. So the whole show might be back on again.
   This blog post was about plans laid down, not plans I have. I don't set out to be cryptic or mysterious, though I've been told I am all three.

Monday, 1 January 2018


How hard is it to read 52 books in a year?
   It isn't. Start by reading three books a week and then find yourself skipping weeks when life intrudes on your page-turning. Hope that it averages out.
   Did I make my quota? On the last day of the year, I finished the 52nd book. Mission accomplished.
   The challenge now is to finish off whole shelves of books in a far more organised way. In finishing shelves, I can clear entire bookcases of unread tomes.
   That's the goal. But the plan? Sadly, the plan is unchanged - I read what I damn well want to tackle next. And that might leave a pesky shelf or a troublesome bookcase unloved and wasting by the wayside.
   If I concentrate on this alcove, and that's a shaky prospect, then I am staring at five bookcases arranged in a semi-circle. To clear the large bookcase to my left, I'd tackle around 25 volumes. Half a year's reading, pretty much.
   I'm not certain of the number, there. I have three books in a loose series and I know I've read two of them. So, just to be sure, I'd need to read all three of them. That's 27 volumes.
   Quirks intrude. To the right, I see twelve or thirteen books that I must look at. Once I look at them, I'll know if I've read maybe that one on the end and the one next to it...
   My memory is something that comes rated  highly by other people. But I don't feel that, when staring at SO MANY BOOKS. Have I read that one? I'm sure I have.
   This led me to read a book on the renaissance twice over, at a distance of a good half-decade. Didn't matter. It was a good book. And if I read it again by accident, I'm sure it'll still be a good book.
   Directly ahead, eleven books taunt me. Read those, all on one shelf, and the bookcase itself is swept clean. Well. Damn.
   The problem is that a book is a book is a book until you count page after page after page. And for every shelf of ten books, there's a shelf of eight reasonable books and two massive logs.
   I must hacksaw my way through the logs. It's an achievement to pick up a slim volume and polish the damn thing off in a day. That week's book is done, and makes room for the log - and the log must be chewed through at a hundred pages a day every day for five days straight. I am a small termite, making little progress, in one of those weeks.
   And I haven't even considered the books in the other place. Across a darkened hallway, there lies a room with even more books inside its bulging walls.
   The good news. Books bought last year didn't exceed books read. So I am winning this war. Either I catch up on my excess or an entire case lands on me and I am squished by the weight of my folly.
   To summarise: never buy loads of books in a sale, read your way down through the deficit...and then immediately buy more books in another sale, putting you back where you started.
   It's hard to recover from that.
   I'm doing what I can, a page at a time. Is that good enough? Well, I finish the books. And I haven't truly hated one book yet.

Friday, 8 December 2017


Spammers are annoying. Really annoying spammers take the time to dive past basic anti-spam defences.
   I picked up a few digital fleas - they never made it onto the live blog. The steam-heat blitzed them.
   What to do?
   I could've turned comments off. Instead, I chose to make comments open to members of this blog. Want to post a comment? Join up.
   Since instituting the construction of this mighty barrier, I've had no spam.
   Well. Damn.


What do they gain from spamming? Nothing. They are bots. Even the hidden human hands behind those bots gain nothing. No one comes to this blog to read spam boasts about high-powered financial services in your area.
   Or in anyone's area, come to that.
   Do I spam?
   Not really, no. Twitter is all about that coffee - with the spelling #coffee - and other topics of a serious nature. I'll Tweet that I've published a blog post, and I'll Tweet that I've published a book. But that's A TWEET.
   I don't Tweet BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK, BUY MY BOOK. Cut yourself a slice of that action and you'll see the word SPAM all the way through it.


Quirkily, I was irritated at Blogger. The system gave me the option of diverting spammers, and that system failed me. This is why I took the next step up.
   Blogger e-mails me to inform me of a comment's arrival. Seeing a spam notification in my in-box was as bad as seeing the spam on the original blogging site.
   I've had moderation switched on, since, oh, third and fourth and eighth parties came in to extol the supposed virtues of genuine headphones by the even-more-genuine Dr Dre.
   It's so nice of tenth parties to come in and raise awareness of the issues surrounding headphones.
   The Dre counterfeiters didn't stop by for long. It's the stock market goons who set up camp on random blog posts and commented about the deep abiding need to invest in a thing that may resemble a pyramid scheme on the surface.
   Just couldn't shake these fools, no matter how I tinkered with the blog. And so. Here we are, with the lesser solution - comments are now from members of the blog only.
   If that didn't work, I'd have gone in for COMMENTS OFF. Anyone who really wanted to say something then would still have the public e-mail address available to them.
   This is the same public e-mail address that brings me news: my Bank of Ireland account has been hacked AGAIN. Shocking security, over there. In this past year alone, I must have lost all of Sani Abacha's missing millions, by my reckoning.
   I'll check down the back of my digital sofa. See if I can rustle up loose change, edible biscuits, or a hefty dose of insider trading info. Sounds legit.

Friday, 3 November 2017


Job done?
   It's the start of November, and I've caught up...almost. With weeks to go, I've read 50 of the 52 books I planned to tackle this year.
   Except that I didn't plan a list. I chose this book or that book and got down to it.
   The state of play is wide open in January and narrow as hell as the last sands drift out of the calendar. Right now I don't have a shelf with two unread books on it...or I'd read those and close off another shelf.
   This means...unless I go book-daft between now and the last hours of December...that I've pretty much limited myself to clearing three bookshelves.
   Recap: a shelf takes an average of two-dozen books. A short shelf will squeeze in a dozen. After reading 52 books, I'd expect to clear two long shelves and a few unread books on a short shelf.
   No surprises there.
   Did I stick to reading hardbacks? Given my two mass-purchases of hardback books in generous sales created a bookberg that collided with my shelves, wrecking them, the agenda is to melt the bookberg.
   However, through the year you buy in a few paperbacks and insist on the rule: if a book comes into the house, it jumps to the front of the queue. Try to read it the day it arrives.
   If we go by bookcase, I have 25 unread hardbacks to the left of me. Half a year's reading. Forward and left in a most awkward bookcase, there are 35 volumes queuing up.
   Ahead of me there are a mere eleven tomes desperate to be read. If I read that one small shelf, I clear the entire bookcase. Why don't I hop on that train next year? Perhaps I will.
   On my right, bloody hell, only five. That can't be right. And yet, I find it easy to count to five.
   I must away, to another room, and check on the rest. This is what happens when you buy in loads of books.


But I stop in my tracks and wonder what these hardbacks weigh. After a few mystic miscalculations, I misconclude that I'm staring at half a metric tonne.
   I buy hardbacks for their durability. Moths last longer than paperbacks. I don't buy books as potential investments. Hell, I don't buy anything as a potential investment.
   Nothing I own is bought with the view to its increased value over time. If I don't recycle or throw out the things that are worn out, I keep what I buy or make gifts of things.
   This means these books are here until I'm not here. I clear the shelves of unread books, but I never clear shelves of books unless I am moving bookcases.
   At the moment, my reorganisation of the collection leaves me with two near-empty bookcases...and one of those was bought in as the lastest of the last bookcases I'll ever buy...yes, I've thought that before. That's the lastest of the last this time.
   Lack of space is funny that way.
   So. Challenge. Can you read 52 books a year? Yes. Did I read a book a week? No. I started the year reading more per week, and knew I'd tail off as I tackled immensely lengthy volumes. It averaged out, just in time.
   Will I clear more than three bookshelves next year? Depends entirely on what I feel like reading. As usual, the plan isn't to have a list but to get through a pile without adding significantly to the pile by purchasing even more books.
   If you or loved ones have been affected by the issues raised in this blog post, remember there is no cure for book-reading. Readers will buy more books even if they have enough unread books to construct a small house. Ooh. A bookhouse. Mmm.


That weighty detour took me away from the truth. Elsewhere, not right here, there IS a bookshelf with two unread books on it. Will I tackle those in the coming weeks? Depends entirely on what I feel like reading. ;)

Monday, 2 October 2017


A chunk of the way into the year, I pondered the state of my bookshelves. Was I clearing bookshelves after reading books, week in and week out?
   For reasons of the plot, no.
   A writer's bookshelves are not stacked alphabetically. As a writer, you cram the books in by height, or width, BOTH, and that is the system of systems - perfect in its randomosity.


Now I am a chunk of the way from year's end, and the great accounting nears. Have I been reading a book a week? No. I started out by reading more than a book every week, knowing that the pace would slacken as I tackled weightier tomes.
   As I am reading more than a book a week at this end of the year, I am on track to finish 52 books in 2017. Luckily, I didn't buy 52 books. I reined that unicorn in, oh, many a moon ago.


How many shelves have I cleared of unread books, then? Two. And one of those I managed only in the past month. (And I killed off two shelves by reading a bare minimum of books. Not even a handful.)
   Averaging it out, I'll have finished the equivalent of two full bookshelves by the end of December. Where the hell are those shelves? Here, there...
   I read what I read thanks to the random nature of my very practical filing-system. Books fit on shelves. I vary the topic, week by week, and that sends me flying around the shelves on a mission to bring the number of unread books down to microscopic size.
   Quick poll. To my left, I'm staring at four bookshelves in one wide bookcase...
   The lowest shelf doesn't count. That's packed with reference books, and I am not in the mood to read dictionaries from cover to cover. (Exception: I've read The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce...so that you don't have to.)
   Above that, most of the books are unread. Fifteen. Possibly sixteen. I have three books by J.M. Barrie there, and I know I've read two of them. But I can't be sure which two. I leave them there for now, knowing I'll solve that puzzle when I take a notion to.
   Higher up. There are five unread books, all short story collections, and I am working my way through those VERY gradually.
   Top shelf. Three books to go, there. No. Four. It pays to double-check, and peek past the bulk of one mighty tome to see an unread book not in its shadow...the missing book is way over to my right, on a table packed with unread books. Over a dozen of them...removed from shelves for convenience...
   If I see the books off the shelves and on the table, I am more likely to take action. It's a system that works, going by the books I've polished off this year.
   My unread book problem is dwindling. Yet I don't seem to clear the shelves. There'll be a turning-point on the shelf situation. But I fear it won't be this year.
   In my first post on this topic, I cleared a shelf. And I've cleared a second shelf since. My fast-paced high-powered executive lifestyle whizzes along faster than I care to describe.
   Glancing sideways, I see I'm being overtaken by a snail. Wonder what the snail's reading.
   Look on your own Shelves, ye Mighty Readers, and despair.


Friday, 1 September 2017


Where is this paperless office?
   That rare creature exists...if you let it gambol freely through the digital pastures. Can you run a paperless office? Yes. Do I run one? Almost. Okay...no.


Wilf Lancaster was an information expert who envisioned a paper-free society. Are we living in that society now? On a global level, no.
   Through the haze, the future happens all around us in the here and now...in fits and starts. We're still in need of paper.
   Wilf didn't invent the paperless office. He considered society. The paperless office sounds as though it is an advertising slogan, and with good reason.
   IBM wanted to sell IBM. The corporation needed to flog its International Business Machines. How do you go about selling arcane devices seen as part-electrickery and much-wizardry?
   You promote convenience. Solve a problem. Save people time, effort, energy, cash, or all of the above.


Why am I thinking about the paperless office? I'm going through the vault again. Every few centuries, I mountaineer my way through stacks of paperwork and decide what to sacrifice.
   That time has come, again. Unclutter. And so, I scale the teetering piles and separate wheat from chaff. There's a lot of chaff. But...
   I must ask the obvious question, even though I know the answer. Is paper-use down? Significantly, oh yes. Have I eliminated my use of paper? Almost.
   And other organisations? The ones my office reels into, in the night. Have they eliminated their use of paper? To a great extent, yes.
   A scan of a document is accepted in an e-mail, in place of a piece of paper I "must" post away. This is a widespread move, and has been moving and spreading widely for ages.
   Some hold out against convenience, unfortunately. So. No paperless office, not when my office comes into contact with papery offices across the globe.


I shredded.
   Thirteen bags of confetti headed to the great recycling plant in the sky. In the Olden Times, in a year of thirteen moons, I might expect that pile of paper to represent the annual haul.
   Now I am shredding back almost half a decade, to generate the same level of material. The vaults are swept clean, once more. Waste paper in the office hasn't been a thing for a long long time.
   I find that there's still stuff worth keeping for a few years and then shredding. And I find there are still official organisations that only operate by transfer of paper.
   Do I have a chequebook? Yes. When did I last use that? Not once, this year. Hell, I don't even use the PIN when flashing the plastic in public. You flash it now with a wave that's read at a short distance, so I'm not shocked that I haven't used a cheque in over a year...
   Actually, I'm more surprised that I used the chequebook around a year-and-a-half back.
   Paper money itself is being taken over by the Australian concept of polymer banknotes. And books?


Okay, I'm a Kindle author. My books are digital. The advantages of digital storage are vast. Could I convert my paper library into a digital one?
   Fuck, no. This trove is bought and paid-for and lurks on shelves that were bought and paid-for. Once I became a Kindle author, did I stop buying paper books?
   Why was that the case?
   Books bought and stored on an e-reader are easier to ignore than are the books on the stacks. Physical presence tops digital presence as a reminder, if not in many other categories.


Time to conduct a survey. How many books are on my Kindle?
   I mean...ignoring test copies. There are plenty of test-bed files on there that I created, to check formatting of my own stories.
   Now I see the battery needs charging. And I've just flicked Spaghetti Bolognese off the screen. When did I last have spaghetti? (It's been three days.)
   I dropped a splodge of food back to the plate, and there was a mild spattering of sauce - most of which I cleared up at the time.
   There are 109 items on my Kindle - there were 110, if we count the wayward spaghetti blob.
   Right, then, to the numbers...
   There are multiple versions of my stories in various format testing stages, including those ready for publication, and they take up half the number of titles on the Kindle.
   Then there are classic literary works that already sit on my shelves as paperbacks and hardbacks - and I downloaded those free books to have a look at different versions and Kindle formatting techniques.
   Of 109 items...55 were my files.
   And of the remaining 54 files, I paid for...
   Only four files...one I selected accidentally and instantly refunded. Meaning the money I spent on buying Kindle books over a five-year period was...£6.64 for three books.
   My Kindle was, and is, a device for testing the integrity of the formatting on the Kindle books I write. It doesn't serve as a magical portal to books. Not for me.


Yes, I am still a Kindle author who reads paper books. In that sense, the office is FAR from paperless. (In the time it took to compile this post, two books came into the house and I read them both on the day of arrival. This keeps the backlog down.)
   I stared at the bags of shredded paperwork, knowing that I stared at the end of an era. Few documents come into the house. And of those, very few require shredding. So thirteen bags for years of documentation...they represented steep decline of paper-use in the office.
   Yet I still have a printer, for the few times I must print material. Shredding is still important, and printing...became more vital than ever, at a lower frequency, but...shredding and printing are in decline.
   Thank fuck for that. Ink cartridges are priced in kidneys, these days. We'll never have a paperless society. You could wipe your arse on a Kindle screen, but I'm not recommending it and I'm not speaking from experience.
   Instead, I busy myself wiping off the spaghetti.


Tuesday, 1 August 2017


I always thought of reading a particular book as unfinished business - the setting happens to be Algeria.
   A billion lifetimes ago, I caught a documentary on the author Albert Camus. Of note was his death in a car crash. Details of the author's doom translate into oddball fiction when dropped onto the page.
   Camus died with a train ticket in his pocket. If he'd boarded that train with his family, he'd have avoided being killed by his publisher.
   Francine Camus took the children through the winter landscape by train. Albert, on the other fateful hand, accepted a lift from his publisher pal.
   Being Scottish, I'd easily avoid this fate - if you spend money on a ticket, you use it and damn any inconvenience that comes your way. The offer of a free lift counts as an inconvenience once you've paid for another trip.
   Life is random. By default, death is random as well. I once avoided a travel-related death by not being in the wrong place at a very wrong time.
   If I'd been there, I couldn't have avoided death. Destruction was guaranteed.
   John Donne observes that death itself is slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men. This goes for the rest of us, too.
   If you risk doom on one form of transport instead of aboard another, which path do you take? At the outset, virtually every journey carries risk. Use the ticket? Accept the lift?
   Camus felt like keeping his publisher company, I suppose. Michel Gallimard didn't long outlive Camus. Nasty wreck.
   The writerly thing that jumps out of this story is the train ticket. And the really writerly thing that leaps from the affair is a snowstorm.
   No, not from the wintry French landscape. Inside the car. All those paper notes. The wreck was littered with dozens of pages from the writer's latest and greatest work - unfinished as he died.
   This documentary touched more upon the finished books, and I was curious about the story of a stranger. Camus set this in Algeria. On the American side of the ocean, that book is The Stranger. 

The Outsider. Cover, the Folio Society edition, 2011, illustration copyright Matthew Richardson. 

Conflict with an identical title forced a change to The Outsider on this side of the Atlantic, and that is how I've known the title down the years.
   The book's reputation is one of those awkward beasts. Do I really want to read a story about a cold fish who doesn't respond well to anything around him?
   But it's a classic.
   That label carries little currency. I've tackled a few dud classics in my time. No point naming names. I suspect emotional wear and tear on facing a few classics I've yet to read...
   Every million years I glare at The Whale, and turn away...much as two wedding-guests would hastily shun an ancient mariner.
   I know, from the nautical reputation preceding The Whale, that Mr Melville's weighty tome is a treatise on the inner workings of ceteceans. It also contains a few scenes about sailors.
   To deal with the generalities of the plot, I must wade to the eyebrows in the specificities of the whale itself. Ambergris and baleen are sure to feature.
   Camus died in a car, with a book and a publisher. His death reads now like a strange fiction. And his fiction, The Outsider, plays like fact.
   Eventually, I picked the book up and read the first part. (The book is divided into two sections, for reasons of the plot that I won't spoil here.)
   Would I even care about the uncaring character depicted in the story? I had to set the book's reputation aside and judge for myself, of course.
   And I found a character who observed a great deal. I remembered the line by Christopher Isherwood.

I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. 
And I thought...no, not quite like that. But in the general area. Isherwood is saying (or waving) Goodbye to Berlin. Camus is remembered through the filter of winter-bare trees on Parisian streets...
   But his story of an outsider burns harshly under an Algerian sun. Long story short, too late, I finished my business with an unread book, and set it up on the shelf between...
   An unread book and an empty space where an unread book once perched. More unfinished business. The missing book was located on that special book storage area...the floor.
   I find it impossible to write about The Outsider without revealing the plot. It's not a barrel of laughs, that's for sure. This is Graham Greene, with all the jokes cut out and more heft in the telling for that.
   Camus. The Outsider. It's a classic.