It’s a cardinal sin…

…to set up a new blog and then go wandering off and leave it just sitting there, all alone – unloved and unadded to. Really – who would be daft enough to do such a thing? Who would go to all the trouble of choosing a host, finding a name, sorting out a theme and selecting from thousands of options a pretty picture to go across the top – only to then go meandering off and leave it on its jacksie?

That would be me then. That would in fact be exactly what I have done with this brand new, squeaky-clean, sparkly-eyed blog. Mea culpa. Since it clearly has my very own name on it – I can’t even resort to the excuse and get-out clause long beloved and oft-used by every member of my family – namely… ‘It wasn’t me.’

It may of course be pointed out with some justification that this isn’t a brand new blog, since there are several entries prior to this one. Ah – but that was when it was a .org. Now Dear Reader, it’s a .com. A whole n’uther crittur. With a whole n’uther set of categories, guidelines, tools, plugins and other assorted doohickeys for me to get my head round. Which may explain the delay in actually doing anything with this new toy.

This also may not be the very best time to start writing this blog – because from one second past midnight tonight – I’m going to need all the words I can lay hands on and definitely can’t afford to go squandering any in advance. Why? Because, for the second year – I’m doing NaNoWriMo – joining the merry band of people all over the world throwing caution and sanity to the wind at the start of November in a bid to write 50,00 words by the end of it.

 

 

This year – just to add extra spice to the mix – and somewhat to my surprise I find I’m a NaNoWriMo rebel. The rules of the challenge say you have to write 50,000 words of fiction – but this year I’m going autobiographical with a book on Border TV – the workplace I called home for 22 years.  I may scatter in a few bits of fiction here and there to protect the innocent – but the bulk of it will be fact, albeit somewhat filtered through my mind and memory.

Lesser challenges might cavil at that – pointing out that rules is rules and if you don’t like ’em you can sling yer hook and write somewhere else. Not NaNo through. It’s made of sterner stuff. If you don’t like the rules of NaNo – just bend them – or tweak them – or maybe drive a ruddy great bus through the middle of them. Just come onboard and join the fun anyway.

So now you know where I’ll be for November – please pop by and leave a word of encouragement – better still if you were a Border colleague, please leave a story of your own – just think of all the words you’ll save me!

The delights of the deadline

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (in which case all hail to you Sir or Madam for your uncommon good taste…) you may well be thinking, ‘hang on now – in her last post she was lauding the loucheness of lollygagging, now she’s defending the discipline of the deadline. Surely she can’t have it both ways?’ 

Ah but I can. I’m a Gemini, which means I’m not only entitled to hold two totally different opnions on one subject – I’m positively required to do so under astrological law. Says so in my contract.

Actually – the deadline and I go back a long way, and it’s fair to say we have an odd relationship. I fear it, detest it, groan under the weight of it and will do my utmost to dodge it. However the truth is – I’m no good without it.

For example – someone asks me to do a job for them – writing a magazine article perhaps, or producing a dvd. Fine, I say – when do you need it?  Everything rests on the answer. If it’s vague or non-commital – or worse still, if it’s something like ‘oh there’s no rush, just do it when you can’, frankly that’s the kiss of death on that assignment. It’ll be put off and put off till it’s so far down the To-Do list, it falls right off the bottom. Chances are high it will never get done.

If on the other hand the client says ‘well look, I’m really sorry and I know it’s terribly short notice, but I need it by thursday lunchtime…’, I’ll be delighted.  A little bit horrified if he happens to be telling me this on wednesday morning, but delighted nonetheless. Why? Because for me nothing else can concentrate the mind and focus the attention like a deadline.

Gilly Fraser as radio reporter.

Me as a baby journalist with Northsound Radio in Aberdeen!

I’ve been a journalist all my working life, with deadlines ranging from monthly for magazines, to hourly for radio news bulletins.  Give me the luxury of too much time and I’ll happily squander it. Be draconian with your deadline and I’ll be delighted. Demented – but delighted (there goes the Gemini again…!)

I do PR on a part-time basis for the Cumbrian-based Paragon Vets. I’m currently producing a dvd to be played in their waiting rooms, which includes actuality of animals being treated, plus nurse clinics, hints and tips, bullet-point lists of advice – all sorts of stuff.  It’s quite a big project, which I know will be very time-consuming. Head-nurse Karen asked me the other day when I could have it ready. I started to mutter about having this to do and that to do and having to clear the decks first – but Karen cut right through the dither. ‘I need it done by the end of April,’ she said firmly. End of April it is then.

So now I’ve got the double whammy on this particular assignment. Not just a deadline – but one which has been made public on this blog. No pressure there then! I’ll let you know if I succeed – and feel free to crack the whip if you fear I might be slacking – or, worse still – lollygagging…

 

 

In praise of lollygagging…

No, not a Scottish word this time – at least, I don’t think so. In fact I actually thought it came from Cornwall or Somerset, but according to the dictionary, the origin is unknown – unless anyone can tell me otherwise. In any case I take an all-embracing approach to language. If I like a word, I’ll adopt it, don’t really care where it comes from. If this turns my vocabulary into a mishmash or a mongrel – so much the better!

Lollygagging is all too often used in a pejorative sense and I reckon that’s deeply unfair. It means to dawdle or to loiter aimlessly – or, my favourite definition of all and a word I like almost as much as lollygag itself – to footle. Now please – couldn’t we all do with a bit of footling in our lives?  What’s so wonderful about speed anyway? Why do we all have to rush about as though we only have seconds left before the world explodes?

I had a particularly lovely time lollygagging with my horse yesterday. It was a beautiful spring day, the sky was blue and the air was crisp and clear and I genuinely couldn’t have asked for anything nicer than just to go out meandering with my boy. We had no destination in mind and no set time to get there, so we footled along just enjoying the birdsong and the quiet country roads.

Which brings me nicely to the Sunshine Award so kindly presented to me by my friend and fellow blogger Ros Gemmell (http://www.rosemarygemmell.com/) In accepting this award I am commanded to list five things that make me happy…

1/ Well, I’ve just told you one of them – lollygagging with my horse definitely comes right at the top of the list.

2/ Seeing my daft dog Dixie hurtling towards me, overwhelmed with joy because we’re back together again.

3/ Listening to my husband sing – he is a musician and singer and I know I’m biased, but I think he’s ace! 

4/ That moment of starting to read a new book and knowing within the first few sentences that it’s going to be fantastic. The most recent one to fall into that category is ‘Me Before You’ by JoJo Moyes. A beautiful book – highly, highly recommended.

5/ That moment of sitting down to write and actually feeling the words flow freely. Doesn’t happen often – but when it does…oh glory!

6/ I know you’re only allowed five, but it’s my blog so nyah! I’m not much of a one for fashion – but I have developed a bit of a pash for high-heeled shoes, especially the ankle boot type. When you wear shoes like that, somehow you just can’t help but strut your stuff baby!

(Thanks to jdurham on morguefile for this pic.)

Houghmagandie…and a rescue mission.

A blogging friend reckons you should never give your posts ambiguous or obscure titles. Make the heading simple, straightforward and easy to understand, he says, so that the reader knows just what he or she is about to be reading.

Good advice. Can’t fault it. But can’t always follow it. I confess as a reader I am more inclined to be drawn to the post called something like ‘Tangled thoughts for a tuesday…’ than ‘Ten tips for typists’. (No, those aren’t real examples – at least, I don’t think so…)

I like a little bit of intrigue, a wee bit of mystique, a tiny touch of ‘what on earth is that about then?’ So this post’s heading would definitely draw my blogging buddy’s ire – but it comes up trumps for me. Actually you can blame my mother for it.

‘I know you love learning Scottish words,’ she said in a recent phone call, ‘and this one’s a cracker.’  She paused to savour the moment and make sure she had my full attention. ‘It’s … houghmagandie.’  A non-Scot might have pronounced it as ‘hock-magandie’, but my Ma  is hewn from Aberdeenshire granite, so gave it the full treatment, affording the guttural ‘gh’  its right and proper throat-clearing prominence.

What does it mean? Sex. There – that’s as plain, simple and straightforward a translation as you could possibly desire. But it’s not enough. To me, houghmagandie means more than the plain, simple and straightforward act.  It conjures up romps in the hayshed, or tumbles in the sand-dunes, it nods more than a little towards the illicit, the unsanctioned, the kind of coupling that resulted in a trip or two to the sinners stool for Scotland’s lusty bard Robert Burns.

I think it’s a great word – far earthier and much more satisfying than other euphemisms like  ‘nookie’ or ‘rumpy-pumpy’ or, heaven help us, ‘making the beast with two backs.’  However – and again this is a personal interpretation – I don’t believe it delves into deep and murky territory. Illicit certainly, immoral quite possibly, illegal definitely not.

Sex has been on my mind a lot recently – because of this whole censorship issue with Smashwords and Paypal etc. Mark Coker seemed to be regarded by many as the devil incarnate because he agreed, albeit with great reluctance, to strip the Smashwords shelves of certain categories of erotica in accordance with Paypal’s instructions.

I mentioned in my last post that my book ‘Forbidden Love and Other Stories’ was keeping some very dodgy company in the Smashwords catalogue because I had foolishly ticked the box to say it contained adult content.  I hadn’t realised this would consign it to the realms of erotica, some of which would make Mordor look like a light-hearted playground. I wasn’t comfortable even browsing the titles and very definitely didn’t want my comparatively innocent little book to be languishing there! Well – Mark Coker himself came to the rescue to help retrieve my book – and I’m grateful, especially since he’s got plenty of other stuff to worry about right now.

Now it seems Paypal is backing off from its original demands and the debate is ongoing. No doubt it will rumble on – and on – and on. I’m happy to step back from it and indeed right out of it. However – should you ever wonder about the content of my books – there’s every likelihood you’ll find houghmagandie in them – but nothing to keep Paypal up at nights – and that’s a promise!

Smashwords, erotica and Paypal

Paypal has decreed that it won’t do business with the ebook distributor Smashwords (and presumably others) if it continues to stock erotica containing scenes of bestiality, incest and/or rape. Smashwords owner Mark Coker has agreed – albeit with some reluctance – to accept this.  In a letter sent to authors, he has written ‘it’s a slippery slope when we allow others to control what we think and write. Fiction is fantasy… A reader should have the right to feel moved however they desire to be moved.’

Many writers – and readers – have reacted with fury to what they regard as censorship on the part of Paypal.  Censorship is a massively tricky issue – to put it mildly. We all have our own boundaries – a topic which may be abhorrent to one person may be fascinating to another. Does anyone have the right to draw the line in the sand over which we should not cross?

I like to regard myself as open-minded with fairly liberal views. I appreciate the dangers if the power of censorship is given to the wrong people and allowed to be taken too far. How to choose the right censors however and indeed if there should even be such a thing as censorship – these questions will doubtless fill dozens of blog posts and newspaper columns following the Paypal decree.

I don’t really intend to get into the whole debate here – but I do have a personal point to make. When I uploaded my book ‘Forbidden Love and other stories’ to Smashwords – I had to tick a box saying whether it contained ‘adult content’. I spent quite a lot of time wondering about that – because the book does contain sexual scenes, but to be honest, they’re pretty lightweight stuff. There’s nothing graphic or violent or remotely deviant. In the end I did tick the box and I’ve regretted it ever since, because I suddenly found my relatively innocent little book in the company of some seriously dark and depraved shelf-mates.

I’m clearly far more naive than I’d realised, because I was genuinely horrified and sickened by some of the stuff that was there and freely available. I felt as though I’d abandoned my book in some lawless hell! I did try to launch a rescue mission by un-ticking the box, but failed miserably.

The title probably doesn’t help – someone seeing the name ‘Forbidden Love’ might well assume the book to hold all sorts of – well, forbidden love! Actually the title refers to a song in one of the stories – written by the rockstar hero for his childhood sweetheart who wasn’t allowed to go out with him because he was deemed a bad influence by her protective parents.  Not exactly rape, bestiality or incest!

So – I am actually delighted to see those other titles leave the Smashwords shelves. Maybe my book won’t feel quite so alone now!

 

An artist I most definitely am not…

…but I decided to try my hand at something vaguely creative as a birthday present for my husband Malcolm. Come to think of it I’m not exactly a techno whizz-kid either and this particular task called for both sets of skills so it’s surprising I didn’t just give up before I started and settle for a bottle of wine and a box of chocs instead.

Anyway – I do love taking photographs and I do love bumbling about on Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, so I decided to see where that might take me.  This is the result…

I suppose you could call it a snapshot of some of the most important things in his life. The central pic shows Mal on his best ever horse Shady Canadian, doing what they loved the best – flying over high jumps. His three (grown-up) kids are all there – plus our dogs and cats – there’s a shot of him and his mate Mike – they play in the band Silver Foxx together – and in the top left-hand corner, one of him and me looking a little bit smoochy.  What do you reckon?

The photo was turned into a canvas pic (found an online company doing a special offer so that was a result to please my Aberdonian heart!) – and I’m pleased with it. Makes a change from socks anyway!

It’s a dreich day…

English: A dreich day Bonawe jetty on Loch Etive.

Aye - this is a dreich day! Image via Wikipedia

…and if you know exactly what I’m talking about, you’re either a fellow Scot, or you’ve spent some time in Scotland. A couple of days in my native land is generally long enough to give you a taste of dreich. Sorry Scotland – only joking! You get beautiful weather too – but you have to admit, you are an absolute master (or mistress, let’s not make sexist assumptions here…) of the dreich.

Okay, enough already. If you’ve stuck with me this long and you’re wondering what I’m wittering on about – dreich is a weather term, which basically just means grey, dull, usually cold and with a bit of rain pretty much guaranteed to be in the mix.

Not a downright disastrous day – no gales or hurricanes or downpours – just altogether uninspiring. I think it’s a great word – no other sums up the greyness quite so well.

Snag is of course – it needs translation. At the very least it needs to be set in such a context that its meaning is immediately apparent. Or does it? Do readers need to be held by the hand, having everything pointed out to them and explained along the way – or do they enjoy discovering a bit of unknown territory?

Okay, maybe that’s a daft question. Readers go into new territories every time they pick up a book – especially if they enjoy science fiction or fantasy or even history. They expect that and accept that. But what about geography – or to use another blogger’s term – grammar geography?

I’ve seen quite a few posts recently debating if a writer should use British or American terms. Is it a pavement or a sidewalk for example. Do we fill up our cars with gas or petrol – should it be color or colour?                                                                                              This is a great post http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/02/03/grammar-geography-does-it-matter-to-you on that very topic. But bringing it down still closer to home – is it okay for a writer to use very localised language – dialect, vernacular, patois, argot – call it whatever you will.

Category:University of Aberdeen

Aberdeen University Image via Wikipedia

 

I’m from Aberdeen – where people have a lingo all of their own – known as the doric. It’s not an actual language, like gaelic, but it’s so much more than just a dialect or an accent.  How about this for example…

 

I went heelstergowdy ower a stane and landed in a muckle great dubby ditch – I was clortit tae the oxters!

That translates as:

I went head over heels over a stone and fell into a big muddy ditch – I was covered in mud right to the armpits!

or maybe…

He wis an affa fine cheil but I wis black affrontit when he gie’d me a bosie in front o’ a’ the  mannies and wifies in the kirk!

which becomes:

He was an awfully nice chap but I was highly embarrassed when he embraced me in front of all the men and women in the church!

Many writers have used the doric to great effect – none more so than Lewis Grassic Gibbon who wrote the classic Sunset Song (A Scots Quair.) Sheer poetry. I can’t imagine writing an entire book in the doric – but if I set one in Aberdeenshire, I’d want to include some of those lovely words and phrases, especially but not exclusively in dialogue.

I’m interested to know what readers think of that – would it add to the book – or is it a pain in the neck when you have to refer to a glossary? Please let me know – and if you want to comment in your own lingo – so much the better!

Think Naked Gun…

…and if the very name makes you smile, I’ll know you’re remembering the crazy films starring Leslie Nielsen

English: Actor Leslie Nielsen 1982 in a first ...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and Priscilla Presley.

English: Photo of Priscilla Presley at Chicago...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

I’m not always the greatest fan of comedy, but this series – especially the first – was brilliant.

 

 

So how has The Naked Gun found its way into my blog? Via an American writer called Kris Wampler, that’s how.  Kris is the author of a book called Love Train – and if you read this bit of blurb, I reckon you’ll swiftly see why it’s been compared to Naked Gun!

When he boarded the 10:45 train, Vic Steelbrass had just one mission: learn PowerPoint by the time he reached New York. But when Anastasia Romanov walked into his life, fate handed him a different mission. Suddenly, he has to seduce a beautiful Russian, foil a madman’s bomb plot, AND learn PowerPoint. With countless – or at least more than a few – lives on the line, Steelbrass must prove love is worth believing in…and kill a whole lot of bad guys in the process. He woke that morning as just your average, ex-millionaire, alligator-wrestling, skydiving businessman. But his life would be forever changed when he bought a ticket on…the LOVE TRAIN!

Still not clear why Kris should be starring on my blog?  Simples – I’m currently starring on his! Kris was kind enough to interview me for his blog – and if you’d like to read the result, please do visit http://kriswampler.wordpress.com/my-books

And – if that little sample of Love Train has whetted your appetite to find out if that average, ex-millionaire, alligator-wrestling, skydiving businessman ever does learn how to do PowerPoint presentations – you can find Love Train at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Train-ebook/dp/B005X3G3PK/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1328710871&sr=1-1

PS – I’ve got one other reason for becoming a member of the Kris Wampler fan club – he owns Old English Sheepdogs! Clearly a man who knows a cool pooch when he sees one…

 

 

 

Puppies, parties and post-production puzzlement…

According to one blogging guru, blogs should stick to one subject. They should be consistent. Their readers should know what to expect. They shouldn’t hop about from one topic to another willy-nilly.

Oops.

Well – this blog is titled ‘Reclaim the Romance’ and I have already shared my belief that romance is far more than just hearts and flowers – and that half the fun lies in finding it in all sorts of odd and unexpected places.

That excuse carefully crafted explanation won’t butter no parsnips in this post however – because as much as I love and adore the little blighters, there doesn’t seem to be much of a link between romance – and puppies.

Me with my own dog Dixie when she was just a pup.

Then again – they are cute and cuddly. they’re endlessly playful, they make me laugh and being in the presence of a pup always makes life just that little bit brighter – and that definition pretty much sums up my husband, so maybe there is a link after all!

Anyway – pups are currently uppermost in my mind because of a certain party held at Paragon Vets.  I do PR work for Paragon on a freelance basis, which basically means compiling their regular newsletters, running their Facebook pages and looking out for good news stories to farm out to the local media.  I also film interesting cases and procedures to use as promotional material. The latest project was a puppy party.

It was fun. Boy was it fun. There was romping and rolling and pouncing and prancing and all sorts of mayhem and daftness. Pups have no truck with social niceties, so they just happily leapt all over one another without so much as a how-do-you-do.

Puppies love to party!

Of course in the process they were learning a lot as well – like how to behave around other dogs and in new situations.

The bearded lady!

The Paragon nurse who was running the party also introduced the pups to things they might find scary – like umbrellas, loud noises – and beards. As we didn’t have a bearded person at the party – she simply ditched her dignity and donned a fake one! The pups paid scant attention to that – but it certainly amused the humans.

However – fun it may have been but it was also dashed difficult to film. Pups find no difficulty whatsoever in running off in six different directions – all at the same time. Trying to keep track of them with the camera proved quite a challenge. Now I’m endeavouring to edit the piece together – hence the post-production puzzlement mentioned in this post’s strapline.  I use Adobe Premiere Pro as my editing software and it’s capable of all sorts of wizardry and fancy stuff – but even it can’t pin down quicksilver.

Just as well I enjoy a challenge really – bet Steven Spielberg never had to post-produce a puppy party!

 

 

My husband, my hero…

…Well okay, maybe hero’s a bit on the strong side. He hasn’t dived into a raging river to save me, or run into a burning building to rescue a trapped kitten (though he would…) but  when credit’s due – I’m more than happy to pay up.

So what has he done exactly? He gave a speech at a function I was attending.  I know – doesn’t sound like much. After all, he’s a musician and has played with his own band Lemon Grass for more years than he’d care to admit, so he’s obviously accustomed to audiences, right?  Absolutely right – but that’s his world, that’s what he’s good at and accustomed to and comfortable with.  Public speaking – standing up to address a room full of strangers, hell, that’s a whole n’other ballgame.

As to the function itself – it was that most Scottish of Scottish things – a Burns Supper.  Furthermore, the speech in question, was The Immortal Memory. The main speech of the whole night – the keynote – the one that sets the tone – the one that has to interest, possibly educate, hopefully amuse and definitely engage the listeners.  No pressure there then.  Except – and you’ve probably seen this coming – my husband’s English.

Now normally this is not an issue in our household – except of course when there’s an England-Scotland football match, or when I bamboozle him with some choice bit of dialect.   But while we’re very happy to do our bit for cross-border relationships – we do recognise certain bits of territory into which we will not stray. I won’t have anything to do with Cumberland Sausage – and he won’t touch Haggis with a ten-foot bargepole. Normally.

So – when I was asked to find someone to do The Immortal Memory at the Burns Supper being held at Yarrowford near Selkirk this year, I know he won’t be at all offended if I say Malcolm wasn’t just the last person on my list – frankly he wasn’t on the list at all! He was all set for a cosy night at home in front of the fire, watching Sky Sports with a cat on his lap. Until the speaker I had organised – dropped out. At the very last minute. And I do mean – the last minute. Effectively dropping me in the doo-dah – from a very great height.

After taking that phone-call, I turned to Malcolm and said, really just in jest, ‘How’s your Scottish accent?’  I fully expected him to scoff at the very notion.  Instead – and even though he turned an interesting shade of greeny-white, he took several deep breaths – and to my everlasting astonishment, said ‘Looks like I’d better start writing a script.’

I’m happy to tell you he did a grand job. I could tell he was nervous, but I don’t think too many people could hear his knees knocking! The audience was warm and hospitable and friendly – just as a good Scottish audience should be – and they gave him their full attention and heartfelt response.

My husband is not what you’d call a romantic man. He’s not the sort to buy flowers or impromptu presents – and I’m never likely to get whisked away to Paris on a whim. But there are many forms of romance – and when, for my sake, he stood up before that crowded room to talk about Scotland’s beloved bard and to toast his Immortal Memory, I discovered a new one. And I doubt even Robert Burns himself could have topped it!