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Monday, 7 May 2012

BLUDGEONING A BABY SEAL FOR ITS OWN GOOD.

Once again, the blog takes a turn into other areas as I consider writing a follow-up to the unbloggable.



Here’s a rule to live by. Never interfere in another person’s life. Don’t give well-meaning advice on major subjects. I didn’t give advice to anyone on anything. Gradually, in turning self-publisher, I made comments to other writers. I still didn’t give life-changing advice.
   Until I was followed on Twitter by Kacey Vanderkarr. That random act led me to a fear-filled blog on writing. For the first time in my life, I encountered FEAR in a writer. An otherwise inspirational person. This woman could write. She inspired people outwith fiction. Yet she couldn’t or wouldn’t face the fear in her own work.
   I took the night off. No more editing for me. Instead, I wrote The Vanderkarr Memorandum. This evil act was sure to reap a whirlwind on my own head. What would I think, if a writer did this to me? I’d think it time I faced reality.
   This does not make for good reading, if you are a fear-filled writer. Background. Kacey had written books. She didn’t believe they were good enough for publication. Ever. I felt like a government official, dragging a baby seal onto the ice for bludgeoning. Those big wet eyes of hers, asking me WHY?! Kacey’s blog comments are italicised here. Excerpt from work in progress, and so on. I’ve added a few comments in light of further developments. Those are bracketed.



Hey there, kiddo. For some unfathomable reason, you followed me on Twitter. I hiked over to your blog, and had a look at what you had to say. Didn’t have time to check everything out, but I picked up the basics. I’ll make some observations that you may find useful. Whether you like them or not is your business.
   Okay. Blog design. In the name of optical health, and for the love of the retina, ditch the white text. I’ve deliberately broken some excellent design rules myself – but I haven’t crossed the line into white text madness. The major internet crime committed by bloggers is to aim for white text on a black background. According to the young persons, this is considered cool.
   Unless you have to wade through more than a thousand words. In which case, it is in a place that is very far from cool. You’ve compounded the crime by going for that subdued lava tone in the background. Fear not. You are a long way from being the worst offender. Lime green on black, anyone? Er, no.
   Your emotional response is probably along the lines of…but I LIKE it. Readers will hate the notion that you don’t care about their optical health. Your writing style is easy to read. The physical act of reading white text is not. Is it a blog entry, or a sadistic eye-test?

(Kacey ditched the white text.)

Excerpt from work in progress. Didn’t have much to say about this. Character is established quickly. Plenty of information without laying it on thick. At 1,300 words, or roughly four pages of manuscript, it sets the story up. I expect the alien landing, knock at the door, or gas-explosion occurs in the next few pages.

(And I wasn’t far wrong.)

From the section on the rutabaga. I remember using this in a story, back in the days when the dinosaurs ruled the earth. Just one story. I liked the sound of the word. When I read your Damien Rice comment, I slapped Rootless Tree on and thought…why would anyone have this as a soundtrack to kicking the crap out of someone? Then it hit me. I hadn’t listened to the album in a good while. Saw him late one night on Glastonbury footage – 2003 – and went looking all over the town for his first album next day.

(I think the rutabaga featured in a story by Keith Laumer, and I liked the sound of the word. Still amuses me today, the rutabaga.)

Is there anyone on the internet who DOESN’T have an interest in the Zombie Apocalypse?

(Ah, my target audience is huge.)

All dead rock legends live again. Can’t fault your choice. I’d queue to witness Bonham Senior killing the drums. And our ears. Bonham Junior turned out okay. As for Kurt…load up all guns. Bring your friends. We all know she’s overboard.

(These pleasantries over, I realise I have now disrespected Queen Courtney in public. Well, I had my raisins.)

Right, back to writing.
   July 2011, and the demise of Borders. Back then, I was gearing up for all the learning I’d have to do, to take my manuscript from MS Word document to Kindle product. My plan. Become self-published before year’s end. Publish a second book six weeks after the first. And publish a third book six weeks after the second. I had a lot to cram in. There was only one way to learn. It wasn’t the easy way.
   You lament the demise of a physical store selling paper books, and ask what will happen to agents. They are fast turning into writers/publishers. You spend a fair bit of that post dealing with emotional responses to physical books.
   Yes, you are firmly in the book-sniffing camp. If you’ve seen Buffy, you’ll know that librarian Rupert Giles laments the fact that the internet has no smell. Libraries will still exist. They’ll just be more digital. Books will still exist. They’ll just be more digital.
   I say these things as a writer of e-books. As a reader, I am a purchaser of hardback books. I was a stone’s throw from the Stevenson house in Monterey, just over a decade ago, agreeing with the woman on the till that THEY would never replace books.
   Books are handy for holding doors open. Or sitting cups on. Paper page-turning is an old information storage and retrieval system that still works. It isn’t broken. No need to fix it. But…the digital world has transformed publishing for good. Not for ill. For good.
   I gave up receiving rejection letters, and published according to plan. Then, six weeks later, I published again. According to plan. In five weeks, I’ll do it again. No agent. And no publishing company. Complete control over content. Building an audience takes time. I’d be doing publicity with a publishing company’s involvement in any event.

(My third book was published right on time. I avoided being hit by a white van a short while later.)

This isn’t the future. It’s the past of 2011. I’m sitting reading various blog posts of yours which ask for advice. The most important thing about advice is that you aren’t required to like it. Format your work for Kindle, Kacey. Become your own publisher. Kill any fear you have. Rein in emotional responses and think hard about your plans. Do what I did, and what I continue to do. Self-publish.
   And don’t just self-promote – help other writers. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’ll give you a singular lesson in time. The record for a response from a publisher was 54 weeks. Rejection. I’d forgotten writing to that publisher.
   In self-publishing, I put my first book out and turned to the construction of a short story collection. Almost six weeks later, I was nearly ready to submit the work. To an audience, not an agent, or a publisher for further consideration and a printed version a year after that. No.
   I wrote two sequels to a short story over the weekend, edited the hell out of them, and checked everything on the Sunday night. By Monday afternoon, the book was on sale. Time is precious, above rubies. I’m about to throw out a third book in March.
   It is inconceivable to even hint that a paper publisher would put out three of my books across a twelve-week period. I did it. Yes, admittedly, I didn’t just walk in off the street one day and decide HEY, MAYBE I’VE GOT A BOOK IN ME.

(At the time of writing, I was still to achieve the goal of publishing three books across the twelve weeks. But nothing was going to stop that third book from going out on time, as events were to prove not long after. I was in a single-minded mood, writing to Kacey. Forgetting that I’d taken the night off editing an unpublished book three to talk to her…)

For a long time, a LONG time, I didn’t write those two sequels. I knew they’d be around 5,000 words each. But I didn’t have a marketplace for the short story collection. Well, now I have. It’s called the mighty Amazon.
   This was MONUMENTAL unfinished business for me. I’d set the roots of the sequels down in the original story when I first wrote it. But the market wasn’t there. I couldn’t crack the publishing world. A world based on the short-term sale of paper. Over on the digital bookshelves, my material isn’t forced into storage to make way for other authors. The market exists.
   Suddenly, I had an outlet for my work. And I resolved to gather my short stories in one place and publish them – with the unwritten stories thrown in. Imagine vowing to do that. And then doing it, the weekend before publication. This is the digital world writers now operate in.

(You’ll have to excuse the brevity of the last three paragraphs. To get into the ins and outs of the tales and their history, I’d need to break this blog. Not break the blog post into chunks. Physically break the blog.)

Let’s continue this in End of Manuscript Anxiety. Critique readers were bugging you for the rest of the story, just as you bogged down. How you write your books is your business, but I don’t do it with a committee looking over my shoulder. Distractions are, by their nature, distracting. It’s worth pointing out the bloody obvious.
   In six days, you wrote a page-and-a-half. Let’s call that 450 words. And we’ll pretend your typing speed is 40 wpm. Twelve minutes of output, over six days. Representing a hundred and twenty seconds of typing over a twenty-four-hour period. I’ve written shopping lists longer than that.
   Do I suffer from some form of fear at completing a manuscript? No. I fear that I’ll be hit by a bus with so many fictional worlds as-yet-unwritten. You must develop the same fear I have. I encourage you to. Think of a great writer. Someone who has written wonderful books. Imagine that writer dropping dead before completing possibly the best book of his career. Readers are robbed. Do you want to be that writer? I’d love to be that writer, and have his output to my name. But I wouldn’t want to rob readers by falling over dead.

(Yes, I’m clubbing a baby seal. For her own good. It’s not meant to be nice. However, I do encourage Kacey to develop a different sort of fear. All writers should fear NOT being published.)

Just over a decade ago, standing in the shadow of the Stevenson house, I hadn’t read Weir of Hermiston. The book has an awesome reputation. From the man who gave us Treasure Island, came this – his greatest novel. He dropped dead after writing chapter nine.
   How can that be his greatest book? It’s unfinished. Hell, with nine chapters – it’s barely started. I refused to read it until recently. When I did, I had to agree with the view that it was his most accomplished work. I was saddened that he didn’t live to write the best jail-break scene in literature. All in the name of character, and in the service of the story.

(I was digging deep, looking for an example Kacey could relate to…whether she’d read the chosen book or not. In that case, I had a fear of reading the book. A fear I overcame. One I’m glad I overcame. I hoped that inspired Kacey to ditch her own worries, or examine them in a new light at the very least.)

So stop flapping your arms and develop a different kind of fear. Not fear of completing a manuscript – fear of NOT completing a manuscript. Be afraid, be very afraid. Just be afraid of something that will prompt you into producing more work. Stevenson died of a brain haemorrhage. He was just getting started, if Weir of Hermiston is anything to judge him by.
   You say you have a future, and wonder if you have the ambition. It’s the other way around. You don’t know if you have a future. Someone’s alcohol-intake, coupled with a stint behind the wheel of a vehicle, could destroy your career faster than any critic. Know that you have the ambition.
   Plans. From August, 2011. You talk about four books. Do they all use the word plethora in the text? Just an observation. Item #3 on your list involves editing Stepping Stones. You wonder if you are getting too much advice. I don’t write my books with a committee looking over my shoulder. Maybe I should mention that again later.
   You have a fear of losing the story in the editing. Why? The story doesn’t change in the editing. In the editing, you are looking for typographical errors, obvious blunders in description, and inconsistencies. You aren’t…gasp…rewriting the story? (Koff koff, ack, splutter!) Say it ain’t so.
   That fear of completing a story – you admitted you knew how the story would end. Well, if you know how it ends…you needn’t procrastinate in getting to the end. Above and beyond that, you needn’t change the story once it is done. If you are going to rewrite a story, it’s a new story. Give it a new title, and new characters, with a new plot.
   I don’t rewrite stories. But I do edit the hell out of them. I catch the typos the spellchecker ignores. And I fix format glitches. I may kill a repeated phrase that dashes across a single page like the Ebola virus on a mission. But. I. Don’t. Rewrite. Stories.

(Plot never changes in the editing. Characters never change in the editing. Setting never changes in the editing. If you are having trouble with this concept, your big wet baby seal eyes are about to take a battering. Write your story. Edit your story. Publish your story.)

Did I mention that I don’t have a committee giving me advice on a work in progress? I know how it ends, and wouldn’t change the end based on someone’s opinion of the first third of the book in any event.
   “Print all four books and put them on my bookshelf. Pretend they’ve been published.”
   What you should have done was self-publish all four books, and put them on your digital bookshelf. In the digital world, a series sells better than a lone tome. There are promotional offers that can be used to flog a book at a low price as a way of interesting readers in the books that will pay your bills.
   Moving Forward. A post that contained a few things worth commenting on. October 9th, 2011. I was three weeks away from starting my blog. As soon as the official blog posts began, I’d run six weekly blogs and publish my book. Then I’d run six more blogs and publish my second book. And now, at the start of February 2012, there are five blog posts to go before book three hits the mighty Amazon.

(Even taking time to bludgeon Kacey on the ice, I managed to publish according to plan. My blogs are written in bulk and published weekly. I generally automate the publication.)

But back to October. You were pleased that you’d advanced as a writer. Editing the manuscript half a dozen times. Getting close to having the work ready for agents. Yes, writing is a learning process. Somewhere in my notes on writing, I made three very important statements.
   One. We all have our own ways of writing stories and what works for me may not work for you. Two. Always know how it ends. (But see point one.) Three. Always know when it’s finished. (Regardless of point one or two.)

(In bludgeoning this baby seal, I was trying to do so tenderly. That somehow comes across as sicker than just thumping the hell out of her defenceless frame. What works for me may not work for you. I was telling her to ignore me if she felt like ignoring me.)

If you know how it ends, and you reach the end, the book is done. All you are doing after that is looking for blunders. The book is done. Let it fly, or fall. But do let it go. Because it is finished. I sense that you have trouble finishing books, and trouble finishing with books. These are major difficulties you must overcome. I’ve never suffered from this sort of trouble. So to see it in you, or any writer, is baffling. From my perspective. Next…

(Okay, so I lied to her. Fortunately, she will never read this part. Her eyes will magically skip a few lines. Look Kacey, magic beans. That should do the trick. In the early days, I had trouble constructing books. But telling her that would have been counterproductive. In the recent past, I finished writing books with ease. Lying to a baby seal as you bludgeon the baby seal isn’t going to make you seem any more dastardly. Not really. Sue me. Kacey’s trouble was believing a story would NEVER be ready. And I didn’t suffer from that extreme complaint.)

Is it so Hard to be Helpful? You seek help for your writing, but that doesn’t give people the right to criticise what they haven’t even read. How could any of us know your stuff isn’t ready for an agent. Have we read it? Last time you checked, we hadn’t.
   Oh dear. Here’s an awful lesson from the digital world. People seize rights. There is an act, committed by some authors, against the work of other authors. These idiots review digital books on Amazon, without ever having read them. Yes, handing out one-star reviews. To perceived rivals. Or to writers who criticised the petulant author on a forum or in a blog comment. Average age – well, I’m guessing four going on five with a petted lip tripping the toes.
   Worse than that. There are people who feel the need to hate Amazon, hate Kindle, hate self-publishing. And they routinely give one-star reviews to self-published Kindle books they see. There was an argument that women could not ride on early steam trains, as the speed would make their bosoms explode. No one brought up the possibility of exploding testicles. How strange.
   You are American. Freedom of Speech grants the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre – if there is a fire. Everything else is up for grabs. People will criticise you without having read your work. Deep in my notes on writing, I’ve made the comment that I don’t care what people think of my work. Praise does nothing for sales. Damnation shouldn’t. All I care about is three meals a day and a roof over my head. If enough people buy my work to make that possible, I am a successful writer. The end. Opinions are unimportant.
   As I discovered when I overcame the stumbling block relating to reading Weir of Hermiston. I had to ignore opinions, and find out for myself. At the end of chapter nine, there was a brief entry about Stevenson’s plans for what came next. I was in awe, just as I was saddened in the same thought. Knowing it was never meant to be.
   If you put your work out there, it is out there to be shouted at, clawed, stabbed, pierced, roasted, slimed, irradiated, chopped, filleted, skinned, disembowelled, and pissed on from a great height. Let them piss from a great height – the piss will miss. Precisely BECAUSE they don’t know you.

(Do you know any fear-filled writers? Quote that last paragraph at them.)

Never. Can’t. Don’t. Is it possible to provide positive constructive criticism by using those words? Yes – I’m a writer, and construct sentences. It’s my job. Here’s positive constructive criticism of your work. I’ve read these blog entries, and the snippet of your one-armed Ginger story.
   Don’t set up a blog using white ink. Think of the children! Okay, there isn’t actually any ink.
   Never rely on an emotional response as a basis for a spurious argument against fact. Book-sniffers will always be around, but the business has changed. For the good. Good for the writer. Lament the closing bookshops. Stories continue to be told. Tell stories.
   If you can’t finish a manuscript out of fear of completion, fear getting hit by that bus.
   Is your work ready for agents? No. Agents are dying out. Your work is ready the moment editing is finished. Publish. When I planned to set up my blog on Hallowe’en, I had nothing on there. Over the weekend leading up to that rainy Monday, I rattled out a story.
   Started on Saturday night. Spent Sunday writing the bulk of it. I edited the tale on Sunday night. There was a final edit early on Monday morning. In torrential rain, with guisers flitting through the streets, I made my way to the library. And I posted my story on the blog. Just for readers to check out, on an otherwise empty blog.
   Guisers are those who go in disguise on Hallowe’en, so the de’il cannae get them. For a long time, the spooky night was far more popular in Scotland than in England. That’s gradually changing, with an American influence creeping into England.
   My story, The Chalice in the Snow, is still on my blog. REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. (THOUGHTS ON PUBLISHING FROM AN AUTHOR ON THE RUN.) It was written at speed. And edited rapidly. It’s just shy of 15,000 words. I conjured it out of thin air. To a deadline. One day, I’ll include it in a collection of short stories. With that in mind, I went back at the distance of a few months, and edited it for commercial publication. What did I change? Hardly a thing. Minor stylistic points.
   I knew how it would end. And I knew, when it was finished, that I was done with it. On Monday night, I published. Was it ready? Yes. You’d be hard-pressed to spot the differences between the blog version and the official version.

(On writing that, I returned to the blog and read my story. There, I spotted a typo. Thanks to Kacey.)

Is your work ready for agents? Listen, kiddo. You have to look ahead of that game. Is it ready for readers? Say yes. Publish. Kindle fiction isn’t set in stone. If you have to correct errors after publication, you can simply update the text.
   So stop worrying about things like that. Worry about writing your stories by committee. Did I mention that I don’t write that way? Are you sensing that this is important? Worry about dying before you are published. Fear the blank page remaining blank. Worry about that bus.
   So. Is a manuscript ready for an agent a week after it’s finished? Trick question. If it’s finished, it is ready for readers. Publish. Fact – one day after I finished editing my collection of short stories, my book was ready for the public. Not a year down the line. A year you don’t get to live twice over.
   Okay, I was a bit sneaky there. As it turned out, I had to re-publish the next day. An asterisk in my product description was rejected by Amazon. I had no way of spotting that until the book went on sale. The remedy was to dive in and use another asterisk that was accepted. I hit the button again, and the product description went up a few hours later. But that’s the beauty of glitches – they can be fixed.
   NaNoWriMo. A character in Return of the Jedi, as I recall. You remind yourself that you wrote a book running 110,000 words in four weeks. See. No fear of completing a manuscript. I once wrote an 80,000 word book over seven days of typing. With the specific intention of doing it that way. I had a 10,000 word story that I could use as a flashback in the middle of the book…
   So I spent three days on three chapters leading to the flashback. Then a fourth day going over the short story, making sure the first three chapters were consistent with the story. Another three days for the last three chapters. Knew how it was going to end, knew when it was done. Didn’t fear completion. Feared not completing. Oh, and I wrote it without anyone looking over my shoulder. Repetition of themes in fiction is a powerful tool in a writer’s armoury.
   Writers are Depressed. Yes, by the thought of not completing a story before DEATH interrupts the career. When you are really into a story, you can pound out twenty pages a day. Around 6,000 words. Twice the length of this letter to you, as I type this paragraph. There is no telling what sort of mood you are in, from the work you do. If stories typed themselves, you’d be doing something else. Something grimmer than typing stories.
   Which brings me to the Hard Dose of Reality. There’s a message in there. That 2011 is probably the worst year of your life. Too soon to say, surely. A cousin survives a shooting in 2010. Your father-in-law is gone. Another cousin goes. Your mother has cancer. Loses her job.
   Perspective. Are you still scared of completing manuscripts by this stage? You are a runaway bus from death. Who will carry on your literary legacy? Be scared of failing to complete manuscripts. Here, you repeat the chant. You’ve done another manuscript, one that you feel might be ready to send to agents soon. Would that be after you take a lot of advice from a committee on how to rewrite the bits these people don’t care for?

(I don’t write with a brass fucking band in my office. Windows Media Player, on occasion. But no committee activity. I know that critique group sounds VERY AMERICAN. If it sounds Scottish, it must sound Scottish with an East Coast accent. My sarcasm is unpardonable.)

If you write that book, and edit that book, it is done. Published. These critique people can read the published version. If they spot a typo, update the book. But you shouldn’t change the published story’s plot or characters at that point – pissing off all the customers just to please the tastes of family members, friends, and writing buddies is INSANE. Don’t. I don’t, can’t, won’t. Never.
   That’s constructive criticism of writing I haven’t read, written by someone I don’t know. Instead of editing my book this evening, I chose to write to you because I feel that you are in need of serious help here. It is clear to me that you have a writing style worth reading. Leaving aside differences in English, for I write in two forms of English that are alien to you.

Kacey, hi. I took a break to catch a documentary. Then read over, and edited, what I’ve written. I don’t know if you are reeling from what I’ve said to you, or nodding in agreement. Here’s the thing. I don’t care, one way or the other.

(I lied, obviously. This fear-filled writer uttered cries for help, and I turned up to see what I could do for her. I did care. It was clear to me that I could give advice that was ignored, shunned, or even vomited back at me. I’d never given advice before. Too late in the day to start giving advice? No. I was on a rescue mission. Even if I had to bludgeon that baby seal, just to save that baby seal.)

Lately, I’ve been trying to get away from plugging my work. Instead, I wanted to describe aspects of my work. How I tackled things. I wanted to engage with readers, rather than other writers. But when I encountered your blog today, I saw someone who was in trouble.
   Do this. Run a search on the phrase REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE. Visit my blog. Go back to the start, and work your way through my blog posts. Absorb whatever is useful to you. It doesn’t matter if my style of fiction isn’t your thing. Read The Chalice in the Snow. That’s a day’s work. Not a typical day’s work. Full-on, really getting into the story.
   Then think about my tale. Sunday night. Edited. Monday morning. Final edit. Caught an appalling error. Monday night. Published for the world to read. As a way of introducing my work. This will mean more to you as a writer, once you’ve read the tale.
   Here’s something else for you to do. It will cost you time, nothing more. Invest the time. Go to Amazon and download Kindle-reading software. Several Previewer downloads are available. There’s also Kindle for PC. I’m sure, if you don’t use a PC, that there are other versions for whatever clockwork monstrosity you use.
   Then, on March 5th or March 6th, go to Amazon Kindle store. Type RLL. On those days, my book, Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords, will be on sale as a freebie to promote the launch of my third e-book. Pick up my first e-book for nothing.
   Read it. Enjoy it. Detest it. I don’t care.

(In that case, I WASN’T lying. I genuinely don’t care if people like or dislike my work.)

Once you’ve read it, read ABOUT THIS BOOK. And pay particular attention to the entry on PAPERLESS PUBLICATIONS. This will give you my perspective of e-publishing as I was getting ready to publish on Deployment-Day. December the 12th.
   Do these things. Download free software. Then buy a free book on either sale day. Absorb what I say about electronic publishing. Consider going electronic. I say these things to you BECAUSE I don’t know you. BECAUSE I haven’t read those four manuscripts. You wanted advice. Advice was given.
   Was it negative? No. Will you change the blog design and use black lettering? For the sake of a stress-free ophthalmic experience, yes, yes, and yes again. It’s just plain wrong. If. But. Maybe. Banish those thoughts. It’s a big internet no-no for a reason.
   Eventually you’ll find your way to the book designer Joel Friedlander, if you haven’t already. He’d say the same, only more stridently. I know. As a writer, I should be giving you advice on WRITING. Not on blog presentation.
   Well, just so you know. I was mugged by an author who told me I had to blog. Out came the cosh, and I saw stars before my eyes. So I gritted my teeth and got down to it. Wasn’t so bad. I looked at other blogs, to see how people did things. They did things in black lettering. Not in white.
   Your turn to see stars before your eyes after the cosh comes out. Learn to format your files for Kindle. Allow six weeks between publications. And publish your backlist every six weeks. Blog about it. Use Twitter to announce your impending Deployment-Days.
   What’s holding you back? You. Fear. Paranoia. Uncertainty. Develop a plan. Adapt the plan as events unfold. Will you publish a book this year? National Novel Writing Month should be National Novel Publishing Month.
   If you have four books sitting there, then you could have four books published. Put one out on D-Day. After six weeks, there’s book two. Another six weeks. Book three. Week eighteen comes around in the cycle, and book four arrives.
   They don’t make money right away. But they don’t make any money sitting unpublished. When will your work be ready? When it is finished. Publish. Right. I’ve done my bit, trying to help other writers. If anything I’ve written here seems to be a hindrance to you, ignore it. Just don’t ignore the previous sentence.
   It’s after midnight, and I fear turning into a pumpkin. Though, strangely, not a rutabaga.

There, the Vanderkarr Memorandum ended. Kacey responded in her blog. That response appears here next week. How did things pan out? Eventually she said that I saw through her, and gave her tough love…
   I saw fear. Nothing wrong with fear. It may prove useful. Tough love? I have now been cast in the role of some brutal Scottish army Sergeant, barking at the raw recruit to pull herself together. This is Commando training. For writers. Welcome to Achnacarry.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Jist anither five mile (ten miles) up rat wee hill (mountain) in light mist (a torrential downpour), an’ ye’ll tak a rest. (Cardiac arrest.)

BABY SEAL: Sarge, I’m American. I never even signed up for the Scattish army.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: It’s raw haggis fur rah winners.

BABY SEAL: What if I come last?

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Ye’ll catch yer ain haggis, in rah wild. An’ gut it wi’ yerrr berrr haaands…

BABY SEAL: Oh jeepers.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Are ye no’ rah lassie frae yon Strangerrr Diarrries…wan o’ them, onywey…no’ rah pixie frae Middle Earth, rah ither wan…

BABY SEAL: Er. Stranger…yes. That’s me. In the black and white photo.

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Aye. Ah took wan luik at yon photie, an’ asked masel’…

BABY SEAL: Yes?

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Whit did they arrest ye fur…

BABY SEAL: Fur?!

SERGEANT JOCK MACBASTARD: Aye. Seal fur. Get up yon hill!

NEXT BLOG: AN INTERESTING TURN OF EVENTS.

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