I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” [...]
I’ve been in Scotland the last few days, at the Wigtown Book Festival in Galloway. Where’s Galloway? That’s what I wondered. It’s in the last remaining corner of Scotland that I’ve never been to before – bottom left, with views across to Ireland from Stranraer, whose Primary School I visited on Monday afternoon.
I arrived on Saturday, flying to Glasgow and driving down in a hire car. I realised that I didn’t have a map and had put my faith entirely in the SatNav. I stopped in Girvan to check I was doing okay and bought an ice cream from Bob Bordone, a third generation italian ice cream maker.
He told me that the great big rock out there in the sea was Ailsa Craig, part inspiration for my Craig M’nure stories! I almost felt at home eating my 99 on the beach staring out at the misty monolith.
Wigtown is quite grand, as it used to be the county town of Wigtownshire. It is now a booktown like Hay-on-Wye. It was a wonderfully friendly set up and I met up with John Fardell and made new friends at a late night supper in the pub.
Monday Morning I visited St Ninian’s Primary and spoke to about 15 children who make up KS1. We spent sometime coming up with an hilarious story about the tooth monsters who torture you with toothbrushes and drills if your teeth fall out with holes in them. This was one story, we decided, that it was not a cop out to have the hero wake up in the morning and find it was bad dream after all.
In the afternoon, I visited Castle Kennedy, where I nearly tripped over a Red Squirrel. It waited while I got my camera and posed for me, then it let me take a profile shot before he skittered off into the woods again. They are totally enchanting creatures. The castle benefits from the warm air of the gulf stream, so the walled garden is an impossibly romantic tangle of herbaceous borders, still flowering away in late September.
Tuesday morning I drove to Carsphairn in the middle of Galloway’s nowhere, and had a lovely time at the school that has only 13 pupils!
I worked out that I just had time to visit Culzean castle on the way back to the airport. What a wonderfully romantic place, perched up on the rocks staring out at Arran.
In the middle of a story, I need to do some research. Does the Cola and Mentos thing really work? View the video and find out!
We are so used to using computers and software now that incremental updates pass us by. I use a mac, so sorry if you are one of those windows users. I’ve just noticed a search box marked search history on the bottom right hand side of my Safari window. (Safari is my web browser)
I typed in something I’d been looking up recently and it instantly brought up a coverflow selection of the websites I’ve visited recently that are related to the subject. Amazing!
Not just a list, but good sized images of the sites. Not just saved images, but live connections to the sites so as I flick though them I can see if they’ve been updated. For a visual person like myself, this is so much better than drilling down through a history of URLs, generally broken down into days and weeks. I can never quite remember when I last visited a site.
How many other brilliant innovations are there on my machine, that I will only find by accident? I suppose it was mentioned in a read me document or a welcome to the new look Safari video somewhere, but who has time to go through all those?
I just heard a bit of kerfuffling on the roof of my studio. This is usually either cats, squirrels or blackbirds looking for grubs in the leaf litter. A minute later I was distracted by a movement outside my window. A squirrel clung to the trunk of the willow tree, that is about twenty five feet away. It was flicking it’s tail as if to get my attention. Then I saw it was carrying two apples in its mouth, arranged beautifully, like a puffin arranges its fish.
I scrabbled around, looking for my camera, telling it to stay still for just one more moment. The camera does not zoom that far, but by cropping and enlarging in photoshop, you can see what he was up to. Once I’d got the shot, he shook his tail and disappeared.
The birds have been acting strangely this morning too. Flitting around the pond in an agitated state – mostly tits and dunnocks that have been invisible all summer. It must be the equinox – a message has been triggered in their brains. “Get ready for winter!”
I seem to have so much to distract me from getting on with things – or am I really looking for things to do rather than get on with the job?
I’ve mentioned before that I’m starting out on a new eight book series. This involves a lot more writing than I’m used to, so its a bit daunting. I dived in and wrote the first two stories, but knew they weren’t right, even before my editor said so. But that was good. It was a start and showed what was wrong and pointed me back to the original intention – the series was bought two years ago – I’m only now writing it, so its taking a while to rekindle the original inspiration.
Thinking time is the hardest thing to justify when you work from home. Staring out of the window or going for a long walk does not look like fruitful labour. But it is necessary. Having spent most of yesterday fiddling about with my son’s car and other seeming useless endeavours, this morning I find my mind has been working on the problem all along and half an hour with my sketchbook has moved things along enough that I feel ready to have a go at a new first draft.
The pressure is starting to build for cover designs. I need to plot out the stories and know the characters fairly well to be able to get on with the covers, which may well be designed and promoted before I finish writing all the texts. The plots are building and I feel confident it will all get done, but there is nothing like having a draft for the first book that everyone likes, so that is what I’m about to get started on… in a minute… when I’ve made a cup of coffee…
The stories involve a bit of boys own stuff which I feel I should research properly, to the point where I might video what I do for the blog. It’s not easy finding something to write about every day, y’know?
Sometimes it has to be cheaper to get it done right in the first place. My son’s Ford Fiesta came without a radio CD so I got one at a very good price from eBay. A Sony, no less. The Garage offered to put it in for us.
That was all well and good, but it wouldn’t remember the radio station presets. So I looked on the net and eventually found the installation instructions and downloaded them and looked on sites for others with the same problem. It seemed easy – reconnect a wire, or something.
This morning I opened the gubbins and had a look. OH dear! The Ford cabling has weird colour codes. I spent quite a while looking for info on this but had no luck. In the end there seemed to be three things I could do. One of them seemed to work. Switching two wires so the switched power didn’t go to the main permanent power. It made sense really. But then it wouldn’t remember the volume settings and each time I changed channels it nearly blasted a hole in the roof as the volume was reset to full!
I was about to give up, when I thought I’d try one more time in the configuration I felt should have been correct. This time it behaved itself and seems to have kept its settings okay. Phew!
Was it worth a whole morning? It certainly would have cost to have it put right at the garage. Tomorrow my wife and son go visiting Universities and will take the car on its first long trip. They need the radio and CD! I guess I’ll get brownie points. Now all I need do is some work to pay for it all.
Why am I wasting my time writing this blog!?
And so another great series goes down the pan, fallen prey to the notion that we want more and more gory detail and breath-panting horror.
DS Boyd, the leader of the cold case unit, is border line psychopath himself. I know the saying is that you set a thief to catch a thief, but this is a bit beyond belief. He would have been demoted to parking crimes a long time ago in real life, just for the way he treats his staff, who are ridiculously loyal to him.
Last night, they left the criminals to meet out justice on their behalf. It was a sorry mishmash of a story that relied on unbelievable changes in character from all the team. Tara Fitzgerald, the ice queen pathologist, now turns out to have another life in which she goes to “private clubs” to pick up passing illegal immigrants. Where did that come from? Up until now she’s worked 24 hours a day in the CCU crypt. Who in real life has all the skills to singlehandedly do the autopsies, test everything that is testable, measure up crime scenes and remodel them on the computer, she does her own DNA testing and the units scene of crime work. No one can do that much on an 8 hour shift. besides which she must have the most well funded lab in the country. It is so uneconomical to have all those machines standing by just in case she needs them in the next episode. Lets not mention the acting – she so overdoes the mad scientist bit that it becomes obvious she only got the job because she can act without emotion.
I’m sure that police get involved with their cases, but does every episode have to link the case to a member of the team and put them in peril? It’s such an over worn plot now.
Maybe the real science is now too humdrum. A DNA match is made and an old crime is solved – no hiding place – no drama.
I’m bored of Boyd – I want to give Eve the heave – dispence with Spence and send Grace back to base. I no longer feel I need to watch this one.
The cows then began a new cheese planet and the circle of life was contained, except that some children wanted the cows to attack the beetles with milk guns!
We cut the cheese and mice out of the story and left the cows on a frozen planet at the edge of the solar system. Never mind, they found a new calling as purveyors of ice cream to the Universe!
In the afternoon, we needed a Universal being to squeze all the flavours from the old, spongey stars. We chose The Mystical Hands of Space! The Hands made jelly planets which were eaten by Mista Blobba.
The last two flavours he ate were frog’s legs and light. He had eaten so much that he exploded into a billion little jelly blobs each with a seed of light inside. This was Starspawn. the lighst grew in the jelly and became the stars we know and love today!
You learn something new…
I’m in Gateshead at the moment, at the Gateshead ICT Centre and the theme is Space. Yesterday St Ausutine’s Primary helped me come up with a most bizarre story about an Egg shaped planet populated by Chickens and Scaredy Cats. The photos are the first draft that we came up with.
The poor frightened creatures are controlled by Big Bad Buck, who spends most of his time creating master plans. When the comet of love flies over the planet he has to leave and go to planet World War II and begin a whole new master plan!
I saw this sign on a broken door of a train in Paddington Station. The sub headline on the logo needs to be dropped on this particular notice. It’s a pre-printed form that is designed for when things are broken down.
Kind of belittles the mission statement.