2191 New York

I went to New York recently and made this video while I was there.

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The Next Big Thing

I haven’t posted in a very long. Some things just end without any particular reason why and blogging was one of them for me. However, I’m going to post on past me’s blog cos I got asked by the very talented Chris Kouju to take part in this Work In Progress Challenge, where I’ve to answers some questions about the book I’m writing. Here was/is the result.

What’s the working title of your book?
Eat the Wounded.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I started off writing a short story for a horror magazine – a simple story about a man in an unnamed town being haunted by a bunch of scarecrows that came in from the desert. The word count got too big for the magazine, so I kept going with it and let it turn into a book.

What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a horror/ sci-fi/mystery hybrid.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
My protagonist, Wenton, would be played by Viggo Mortensen and his wife, Darla, would be played by Theresa Wayman. I’d have Sean Connery as Sherriff McWitter, Warwick Davis as Maurice, Javier Bardem as Demotte and Peggy Lipton as Mary-Lou.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
As the Vietnam War ends a small town cornfield worker’s wife vanishes, and the same soon happens with everyone else in his town.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
An agency I reckon.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About a year and a half. Just finished the first draft last Sunday. Now the hard work begins.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Thomas Glavinic’s Nightwork is similar in that it’s about the fragility of the individual and it has people vanishing for an unexplained reason.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
When I worked in a charity shop I found a brilliant horror called Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge. After reading that I was inspired to write a short story set in the south-western region America. Cormac McCarthy has a big influence on my style of writing and I got some good ideas from his books (Outer Dark and The Border Trilogy especially) in how I wanted my characters to talk.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s like if the tension was taken from the first part of that Uruguayan horror film, The Silent House, and put into a small town where everyone was disappearing or dying, and an unknown terror was closing in. It has also got parallel dimensions and time travel – a winning combination.

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The night the clocks go forward

I’ve been really busy these past few days so I have. I started a new editing job up near Edinburgh, and I’m doing a wee bit of volunteering at a charity shop. I’m in charge of the book department – and I spent the best part of today categorizing the fiction in the cellar. The amount of Dan Brown, James Patterson, Quintin Jardine and Catherine Cookson is mental. There are piles and piles of that shite hiding in every corner. Mills and Boon is everywhere as well, but the wee grannies love those over there.

The shop is only sorted into fiction and non fiction, without any distinction in genre. So, I’m planning to change the layout and make it easier to find different kinds of books, without having to flick through the usual pish. I found some really good quality Asimov hiding down the back, and there was a big pile of Anime. There are lots of really good books that will improve the quality of fiction on offer. I think a bigger distinction in choice will attract more people. Everyone that has ever wanted to read The Da Vinci Code has done so already, so there’s no need for it, and the same goes for Twilight.

One of the good ones I found today

I’ve been watching a lot of Limmy’s show recently. I think he’s brilliant, and one of the best comedians around. His Dee Dee character is genius – it’s a wee shame the series has ended. I’m also loving Professor Brian Cox’s new series The Wonders of the Universe. Just like Carl Sagan, he has a gift in making science clear and interesting without being patronising.

The clocks go forward tonight. The bastards are going to steal an hour of my life. That’s how I’m seeing it. The bastards.

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Poor wee Hans

Today was a sad day. By accident, I ended the life of a mouse. His name was wee Hans.

Imposter wee Hans

I drove over to Satu’s flat in Edinburgh. After dinner she starts squeeling saying she just saw a big spider or a mouse run behind the couch and sprints out the living room. So, I went and got the mop. I planned to corner the wee fella and coax him into a bucket then let him outside. This was a trick I successfully pulled off ten years ago with the help of my brother when we caught Squeeky the mouse in my mum’s nursery. But this time things didn’t go as planned.

I moved the couch and wee Hans ran out beside the kitchen door. I pounced with the mop and trapped him under it. It was one of those squishy headed mops, not one of the dreadlocked looking ones, so I thought he’d be okay for a second. I felt him struggling and pressed him down a little bit more to stop him escaping. As I took the bucket to scope him, his wee tail wasn’t moving anymore. I lifted the mop an he was dead. Like Lennie from Of Mice and Men did to his puppy, I’d squashed him by accident.

I’m sorry wee Hans.

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Book Review – Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Mr. Shivers, the debut novel by Robert Jackson Bennett, is one of those books that starts off with so much potential but loses its way by the end. It’s set in America in the Great Depression and follows Marcus Connelly’s pursuit of a scarred man, called Mr. Shivers, who killed his daughter.

Along the way Connelly meets small groups of others also chasing Mr. Shivers. Bennett infests his prose with beautiful descriptions like, “Black eyes, ugly eyes. Like puddles of oil sitting in the road,” and sets up a good revenge story.

Towards the end, it changes gear and turns into a story about something more horrific than just murder and vengeance.

Mr. Shivers reads very similar to a Stephen King novel and certain scenes are reminiscent of The Gunslinger. His characters, however, aren’t the most memorable, but he does write a great villain. Bennett does have a gift for setting up scenes and with deeper characterisation his next novel might rival King.

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Book review – Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Life of Pi deserved all the praise it got, as it was a smashing wee book, but Yann Martel’s highly awaited follow-up Beatrice and Virgil isn’t as impressive.

The story begins with a famous writer called Henry who has recently struggled to finish his latest offering – a flipbook about the holocaust. After a meeting, Henry realises it’s best to bin the book.

Henry then moves to an unnamed city. A letter from an old taxidermist, living in the same city, intrigues him. It contains part of his play about a talking donkey called Beatrice and a monkey called Virgil who live on a striped shirt. The animals discuss things in a Beckett like dialogue from pears to something that happened which they call the horrors. The deeper Henry gets drawn into their world, the more suspicious he becomes that the play is actually about the holocaust.

Henry’s wife describes the taxidermist’s play as, “Winnie the Pooh meets the holocaust.” And she’s not far off what Martel has created – an awkward mixture that any writer would struggle to blend.

There’s a twist near the end as with Life of Pi. Sometimes a good ending can save a bad book but Beatrice and Virgil unfortunately didn’t have a good ending.

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24 days go by

All the snow is gone thank fuck. Big Jimmy, my old car, wasn’t coping very well in it. I even managed to dent the front when I drove over a stack of ice in the dark. I used to love the snow when I was wee, and it does improve the appearance of the place, but that ain’t worth having to dig your way out the driveway everyday.

This is a picture I took of a frozen loch that's near where I live

It seems like it’s been 2011 for a lot longer than 24 days. I’ve been splitting my time between Glasgow and Edinburgh. I drove to Edinburgh at the weekend for the first time this year. Trudy, my SatNav, decided to freeze on the way back, leaving me lost. My sense of direction is somewhat poor at the best of times so I ended taking a wrong turn somewhere and was lost. Luckily, I eventually got her working again. I doubt I’d have found my way home if I didn’t.

The three best things I’ve discovered, so far, are:

Freaks – an old film from 1932. I thought it would be shite, but it was brilliant and now one of my favourite films. It’s about these characters in a circus, mainly following a midget called Hans who falls in love with Cleopatra, a trapeze artist. Poor wee Hans.

Stroszek – a German film from 1977. Stroszek follows Bruno, an alcoholic, as he heads for America, hoping to leave his miserable life in Germany behind him and become rich. It’s a very strange film, and for some reason reminds me of an American film called Gumbo. It’s nothing like it, but has a similar atmosphere throughout. Stroszek drags a wee bit, but it’s still an excellent film. Bruno’s old neighbour and the pimps in Berlin are brilliant characters.

Lumines Block challenge – this is a Tetris rip-off game I have on my mobile. I decided to play it on the train coming back to Glasgow on the 4th of this month. I’m addicted even though it’s not that entertaining. I’ve been playing it in my sleep most nights this month. It always hooks me in for one more quick game, and three hours later I’ll still be playing.

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Best/Worst books 2010

So, 2010 has only a few days left doesn’t it? It’s that time of year people when start to get all nostalgic about what they’ve done and start to plan all the things that they’re going to do for next year. I’m not really one for doing that stuff. In terms of planning, I don’t like to plan anything too far ahead (a month at most). I’m more of a ‘let’s just see what happens kind of guy’, rather than watch long-made plans crumble around me. There are exceptions to this rule but not many. I’ve achieved more than I thought I would this year, so all I can hope for is more of the same in 2011.

I’ve decided to list the five best and five worst books I’ve read this year. I’ve read some of the best and definitely some of the worst ever written.

Top five worst first:

(1) The Secret Crown by Chris Kuzneski. This is a contender for the worst novel ever written. I could go into detail, but I’ll just make myself angry. Avoid it.

(2) Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel. A steaming pile of shite. Martel is up his own arse with the success of Life of Pi and this follow-up was a joke of a book.

(3) Greybeard by Brian Aldiss. The fact that I read a re-print, and it was still full of grammar mistakes, is not even the start of the problems of this ‘classic’. With lines such as, ‘The moon hung like a undescended testicle low in the belly of the sky…’ on page 146, you can get the drift of how bad this one is.

(4) Novgorod the Great by Andrew Drummond. This novel was just so boring. I had to force myself to finish it.

(5) The Postman by David Brin. Seemed like a first draft and dragged on and on. It was between this and Margaret Attwood’s Oryx and Crake , but this just edged it.

And the five best are:

(1) The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I finished this book on the 1st of January 2010, so it just made it. McCarthy’s best novel to date, and one of the best novels ever written.

(2) Night Sessions by Thomas Glavinic. A close second, and one of my all time favourites.

(3) The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall. An outstanding novel.

(4) White by Marie Darrieussecq. A unique novel set in the Antarctica. Beautifully written.

(5) Handling the Undead by John Ajvide Lindqvist. An excellent novel that was a fresh outlook in the zombie sub-genre.

That’s it.

Happy end of the year/ Christmas

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Since the heating in my house is on the bunk, just in time for the snow and lovely temperatures around minus 74, I’ve made myself a homemade hot water bottle. It’s an empty glass Irn Bru bottle filled with boiling water. Keeps for hours so it does, and it’s safe to say I’d have pneumonia without it.

If there was a God he would have invented Irn Bru first

There a few things better in life than a glass bottle of Irn Bru. I’m not one for endorsing any brands, but this product can’t be beaten. If I was stranded on a desert island, it’s something I’d want to have with me. Speaking of desert islands, I’ve finally got round to reading Robinson Crusoe . It starts off a little slow, but I’m now up to the point that he’s become shipwrecked and it’s getting good. Of the three things I want to do before I’m old – one being living in the Antarctica and two being driving across America – living on a desert island for a period over a month is the one I’ve always wanted to do. Maybe after reading Brain Griffin’s self-help book, Wish it, Want it, Do it, I’ll know how to realise them all.

I’ve nearly finished the second draft of my novel. It’s been more of an abridgement exercise as I’ve chopped out over 10,000 words from the first draft. I felt that the first draft lacked pace but the ending might seemed rushed now. I’ll decide what to do after a lot of thinking and some feedback. It’s taken the overall word count down to around 75,000, so it might be too short for the post apocalypse sub-genre, but I’ve kept my cuts just in case.

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November = free stuff

I was up in Edinburgh today viewing flats. They were dishing out free Bailies at the train station. I ain’t a drinker of that muck, but I wasn’t going to turn down free alcohol. I reckon this new hazelnut flavour will probably taste like cement mixed with dark chocolate. But it’s free so I can’t complain. I plan to sink my four wee bottles sometime soon. A wee walk along Princes street and I’ve got free chewing gum. New flavours from Mentos I think it was. This got me wondering, where’s all this free stuff in Glasgow? I can’t mind anytime apart from the usual Metro, that Shortlist magazine and those crazy Scientology people dishing out ‘free stress tests’. There should be more free stuff. Even if you have no use for it – it cheers you up no bother.

Famous Scientologist Tom Cruise pictured after helping another stressed out Glaswegian on Buchanan Street

I’ve read three books the past few weeks –
(1) Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Pretty Little Horses’. McCarthy is the best writer in the world today. His stories are always exceptional and this one is no different.

(2) I’m nearly done with John Advije Lindqvist’s ‘Harbour’. Another excellent horror, possibly his best yet. I’ve got around seventy pages to go, and I’m sad I’m nearly finished – it’s that good.

(3) The last one is called ‘Delete This at Your Peril’ by Bob Servant. I read this in its entirity today. I couldn’t put it down. One of the funniest books I’ve ever read. It’s even funnier than Frankie Boyle’s autobiography. I had pains in my chest laughing and almost vomited one of those wee Actimel yogurt drinks out my nose. I’m not going to say anything more on it, other than read it.

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