Celebrations and Literary Endeavours

This Week I’m…

Enjoying the sunshine. For one day only, the Celsius hit more than 18 degrees. It was glorious. More of this, please.

Supporting independent publishers, a la Comely Bank Publishing. Lucy’s Lloyd’s Russian Doll is out now, as is The Blogger Who Came in From The Cold. Available direct from the publishers here.

Peeing to help medical research. I spotted a poster recently, recruiting volunteers for research into the effects of the low-carb diet. I like to feel I can be useful so I stuck my hand up and said ‘yes please’, secretly hoping they might do tests and say, ‘Well, you ARE a special snowflake aren’t you? Never seen anyone with so much this, that or the other.’

Part of the initial sign-up involves 24 hours of pee collection. Oof, really? I said to myself. Not sure those flasks will hold everything…

Attending literary events, a la Booked 2018, West Dunbartonshire’s annual festival in celebration of books and writing. The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell is described as ‘a wry and hilarious account of life in Scotland’s biggest second-hand bookshop and the band of eccentrics and book-obsessives who work there’.

Celebrating my wedding anniversary—five years ago and the original raison d’être for this blog. (Flaw in the plan was that a run-up-to-the-wedding blog has a shelf life.) Flowers, chocolates and maybe a wee trip out this weekend beckons…

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Time For A Little Celebration

Is writing a novella easier than a full-length book? Not necessarily so…

Caron Allan Fiction

So it’s been a rough time these last few weeks, or should I say, months. I have to admit there have been more occasions during the writing of Scotch Mist: a Dottie Manderson mystery novella than usual for me to get hysterical, shout, swear and throw things, or descend into despair. I’m honestly surprised to have got through it, largely due to support from friends and family.

Writing a novella has been so much harder than I expected, too. Usually I write full-length fiction. And even in a text of 80,000 or 100,000 words, I can waffle quite a bit, and have to really cut out a lot of what the industry calls ‘padding’, and I call ‘chapter 47’ or ‘chapter 54’. Therefore I was convinced a ‘mere’ novella would be a doddle.

I had originally intended Scotch Mist to be around the 30,000-word mark. When I finally typed those…

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Chain Letters and New Beginnings

This Week, I’m…

Working to keep my mum well. I’ve assured a young friend she’ll be live and kicking in 20 days’ time. Why? My teenage chum sent me a text promising dire consequences (my mother’s death) if I broke the chain.

Ah, the chain letter! It’s enough to send you hurtling back to the 80s and those letters that did the rounds. I got a few of them. In those days, they were actual letters and much harder to pass on. You had to copy them out a few times. They focused on good luck—send this to 20 friends and you’ll come into money, marry a handsome stranger, etc. The bad luck wasn’t stated implicitly, but implied.

Now, it’s much easier to copy and paste a text or email of forty words that warn of terrible misfortune. And how kind of people to prey on the vulnerable and fragile among us, such as my poor wee friend.

The text promised me my mum’s death was imminent—giving me a woman’s name to Google as it happened to her. Must be true if the internet tells me so, hmm?

So, after sending my friend a text begging her not to believe this awful s**t, I’ve told her I’ll message her on May 7, confirming the continued good health of the wonderful woman who granted me life.*

There’s a story in there somewhere…

Starting a new job on Thursday. I’ll be working part-time for a project based at Glasgow University looking at better ways public sector services can work together. My role is to help the existing communications administrator.

I’m delighted as this gives me the best of both worlds. Freelancing is terrific and I love the freedom (the clue’s in the name) it gives me, but the money isn’t regular or great. It’ll also satisfy my need to do something worthwhile. I’m not going to change the way public sector services work, but at least I’ll write about some ways they can!

 

*A bold promise, but the odds are with me.

#amwriting Don’t Drink and Drive

Tackling the challenges of a thriller-stroke-crime story. Part one is here. It contains swear words, so stop reading now if you don’t like that kind of writing.

Danni shouldn’t have got in the car. That glass of fizz…oh, be honest with yourself! She’d had more than one.

But Ruby wanted to go home. They’d been ‘celebrating’ her divorce and Ruby insisted they drink something with bubbles so they could clink together flutes and say good riddance to that git.

Wasn’t it gin that made you sad? Ruby horsed her half of the bottle, then ordered another one. Belligerence became depression awfy quickly. She started to cry so hard she was practically howling. People around them started to move back. Maybe they thought it catching. It wasn’t your usual cheery Saturday night stuff.

“I want my bed!” Ruby cried. Her nose had started to run, snot sitting on her top lip. Danni decided not to point it out.

A taxi would have been the sensible idea, but neither of them had enough cash on them. And Ruby refused to walk the length of the street to go to the cashline. She wanted to go home NOW.

Danni had stopped drinking a few hours ago. She joogled the keys in her pocket and said the fateful words, “I’ll drive.”

Her wee red Renault had been a birthday present six years ago, a very generous one as her dad never failed to remind her. “Aye, well,” she thought but didn’t say. “Doesn’t make up for your years of never bothering with me.”

The night was coal black and the road quiet. They both lived in the next town. Balloch was their night out choice. In their home town, too many locals, and Ruby’s ex, drank. In Balloch, endless exciting possibilities presented themselves – tourists and Glasgow guys, hanging around the pubs that dotted the loch side and smirking at you.

As the car took the first left out of the town, Ruby pulled herself together. She’d whacked up the radio volume, choosing a local station that played dance stuff on a Saturday night. She couldn’t sing, but she chanted along anyway. Danni joined in, hoping it would keep her from crying.

You helped your friends, yes. But they were much easier when they were happy.

They were busy belting out the words to Timber when the view changed.

“Danni!” Ruby shrieked, clutching her arm so hard she almost yanked the steering wheel toward her. “There’s a fucking lorry there.”

So there was, a lorry straddling the two carriageways and another car next to it. Danni felt adrenaline and fear flood her body, the contents of her stomach rising up alarmingly. She slammed her right foot to the floor and heard the car screech its protests. The hand she held out to pull on the handbrake shook.

Time had stopped. There was only her and Ruby, a still shrieking, crying mess, and a small car hurtling along, enveloped in the blackness of the night and heading for the lorry blockade that loomed before them.

Then, the brakes kicked in and the car began to slow well before the lorry and the other car. Danni felt the breath she’d been holding for the last minute or so puff out of her, deflating her lungs, stomach and head.

There was a bump, the Renault catching something with its left wheel and its impact reverberating through the car. Not your wee bump that signified cars going over potholes or verges. Something else, something…

Danni felt the contents of her stomach rise once more.

“Was that…?” Ruby wasn’t shrieking now, but the whisper made it worse.

The car had stopped, the two of them sat there staring at their hands. “Sorry, Dad, sorry.” Why did that pop into her brain? But all kinds of thoughts were whirling through there, frighteningly fast.

Drink driving.

Convictions.

Losing her job.

Hitting a person with your car.

©Emma Baird 2018

 

Ten Reasons to Delete Facebook

delete facebookAre you sure you want to delete your account?

Hell, yeah. Cheerio Facebook. It’s been okay knowing you…

I’m as guilty as the next person of kneejerk reactions. I sign petitions without finding out more about the issues. I throw my hat in with stuff trending on Twitter. When a famous bod’s words are taken out of context, I tut without bothering to read the whole interview.

The Cambridge Analytica stuff was alarming, but was it enough of a push to press that delete button? I’ve hung onto my account for the last year because I thought I should be on it. I work in communications. I try (and mainly fail) to sell books. Two (sort of) reasons why you should be there. I added up the pros and cons of remaining. The plus points list was jolly feeble.

Delete!

  1. No more accidental, drunken posts. You promise yourself you’ll never ever do it, but wine o’clock comes round. Bye-bye inhibitions and hello Too Much Information.
  2. You’ll feel a bit secretive and quite powerful.
  3. You’ll never have to go to a kid’s birthday party again. Well, you might. A real-life one. But Facebook often feels like being at one long children’s party you RSVP’d to, saying ‘no, ta, I’m busy’, so they brought it to your house instead.
  4. You can genuinely claim not to have seen anything on Facebook, instead of pretending you missed the latest holiday snaps/ill status/kid’s birthday pics. when you don’t comment on something.
  5. No more working out weird Facebook etiquette. Do I say ‘happy birthday’ to this person, even though I’m going to see them in the flesh later today? Do I ‘like’ something (anything) on someone’s account just because I haven’t done so for a long time? If I miss commenting on a child, am I a rotten friend?
  6. No more fear of missing out. I’m an adult, but occasional pics of my friends enjoying a night out make me feel like I’m twelve all over again. Why, why, why didn’t they invite me?! Now, I won’t see it.
  7. No more of that heart sinking feeling when you read views you never suspected a friend/family member held. Brexit? Casual racism? Calls for capital punishment? Islamophobia? Hating cheese?
  8. No more lectures. I love it when someone lectures me on politics. Said no-one, ever.
  9. No more wondering why everyone else in the world has the photography gene and I don’t. Seriously, my photos are s**t. The rest of the world appears to take beautifully composed and focused shots. Yes, Instagram is all about pics. But I don’t know most folks on there personally. They can’t judge me for my lack of skill.
  10. Time! One less social media platform to procrastinate on is A Good Thing.

Builder Etiquette, Mini-Eggs and Stupid Things You Do In January

This week, I’m…

Admiring my cat’s ability to get comfortable everywhere. We’ve got the builders in and the house is covered in scaffolding. A nice sunny day and a bird’s eye view over the surrounding gardens? I’ll take that, he said.

Pondering builder etiquette. How many cups of teas and coffees do I offer? One in the morning, one in the afternoon? Should the tea be dead strong, as builder mythology suggests? And biscuits? Do Marks & Spencer’s salted caramel teacakes spur them on to finish more quickly than a bog standard Rich Tea?

And what, in the name of everything, is acceptable re the loo? I don’t know where they’re going to the toilet. This haunts me. Do I offer ours? You know what I’m going to say next. “Chaps! Please, use our toilet. But not, you know, for a number two…”

Watching The Frankenstein Chronicles. Seriously creepy, but seriously good! I do love finding a series to watch twelve nights in a row.

Wishing I hadn’t impulsively entered the Glasgow half-marathon. Seemed like a cool idea in January. When it was eight months away. February and StormEmma happened. Then I got a bad cold and ended up in hospital. The regular as clockwork runs stopped.

Plus, running for two hours?! I don’t mind pounding the pavements for half an hour or so. After that, not so much. Ah well. I can always walk it.

Persuading my pelvis to tilt back and forth. I do love a Pilates class or two, but isolating your pelvis is a tricky move. Seriously. You try it. Bodes well for my old lady future, tho’.

Gearing up for a family gathering. We’ll be marking Easter at my sister’s home in Edinburgh. EB and other half, siblings one and two, their husbands and kids, my mum, her partner and his daughter. A big roast* and a tonne of chocolate will feature. There’ll be a mini-eggs hunt post-lunch. And I’m warning you kids. I will win this. You don’t get concessions just because you’re young and wee**.

Googling things to do in Crete. At some point, hopefully soon, I’ll go outside and be warm. In the meantime, I fast-forward myself to October and imagine cloud-free blue skies, turquoise waters and the sun shimmering above me.

 

 

*Fingers crossed for lamb! But buying lamb to feed fifteen would bankrupt you.

**Actually, all but two of them are now bigger than me.

Counting Down the Days Till You’re Flat On Your Back (15+)

 

Ah, the advent of take-away coffee and the days before Facebook. Another wee spot of nostalgia for you. Part one here.

2006.

“Gareth, you’d better have anticipated my every need this morning!”

Gareth raised his eyes to the heavens and let out an exaggerated sigh. He specialised in those, sucking in his cheeks and blowing out breath loudly. “When they all warned me what you were like to work for, I said, ‘No, no Gareth! One can’t allow oneself to be unduly influenced by the naysayers. I’m sure ‘unreasonably demanding bitch’ isn’t at all true’.”

When he said, ‘I’m sure’, he reminded Lillian of that terrible sitcom from years ago—Keeping Up Appearances. The main character, Hyacinth Bouquet, had tried her best to emulate posh tones. Gareth (real name Gary) decided long ago to get ahead in fashion meant disguising his native accent. Sometimes it worked.

“Ay’m sure”. Not so much.

She poked her tongue out and grabbed a coffee from the tray he carried. A stint in New York ten years ago had given her a taste for strong, syrupy take-away coffee. The coffee shop trend was only just beginning to take off in Glasgow. Fashionistas were obliged to buy it in lieu of breakfast. John had stared at her in disbelief when he witnessed her buying herself a hazelnut Frappuccino with soy.

“Two pounds fifty for a coffee? You’re kidding me. You could buy yourself a bag of beans at that Italian deli in Merchant City and have hunners’ of them for that price.”

“Hungover, are we?” Gareth carped, plonking himself down at his desk. He waggled a paper bag at her, the grease stains marking it out as something deliciously fat and sugar-filled. She snatched from him. Last-minute crash diet plans be damned.

The headquarters of Glitz were on Bath Street. Lillian paid fearsome business rates for the privilege. But in fashion you had to appear successful, and the appearance of that meant locating yourself in the heart of the city. Their basement office was shivery-cold eight months of the year. They burned extra calories thanks to trying to keep warm, Gareth said—something to be thankful for.

Glitz wasn’t something Lillian had envisaged as an art school student. In her first year though, she’d discovered she loved working with textures and materials, and that’s what she had focused on during her four years.

Post-art school, she drifted. A rich background had many benefits, not least that of not needing to work. Then, a friend of the family got her an internship at an up-and-coming fashion house. Lillian fell in love. Because it was a small company, she got to experience everything. From design to pattern cutting, to sourcing fabrics, making clothes and then fussing over models as she sent them down the catwalk.

It was every bit as glamourous as it looked. She dressed Kate—the highlight of her time there. Even snorted a few lines with her. When the internship ended, she persuaded her mum and dad to pay for yet more tuition; this time at a polytechnic that concentrated more on the practical side of clothes designing and making.

Glasgow was the natural choice. It was far cheaper to set up a business there than London. And she had all her old art school friends, who’d welcome her with open arms.

Right? Sort of.

Glitz started life in 1999. Then, it had been her, two professional tailors who called themselves seamstresses and an assistant, a shy and retiring Gary who had long since come out of his shell. There had been ups and downs, but the last few years had seen solid success. The catwalk shows were greeted with enthusiasm and praise. Clothes sold in reasonable quantities and she achieved a reputation for quirky menswear.

“At least I can claim I’m single because I’ve been working too hard to establish myself.” It became a mantra; a comfort blanket of a statement. Love was for those who had time to spend on it. Lillian’s working hours ate into her evenings and weekends. Holidays happened seldom as she was too frightened to take time off.

But the aching loneliness hit her now and again. She was in her mid to late 30s. Lately, evidence of how easily other people found partners seemed to be everywhere. The unlikeliest of folks made it look easy.

“What did John say?” Gareth wore her clothes exclusively; the reason she put up with his backchat. Today, he’d prematurely anticipated spring. He wore the sandstone gilet and matching chino shorts with a long-sleeved pink shirt. She’d need to get pictures of him later.

“About Richard? He gave a useful gay guide to blow jobs. And advised on clothing.”

Gareth nodded, stretching out an arm to switch on his computer, and rattling off the subject lines of the emails that had come in. Lillian said yes and no where necessary, the coming weekend with Richard distracting her.

A whole weekend with someone you barely knew! Yes, they’d shared some drinks. Even gone out for a couple of meals together. She knew about his job, some of his personal history and that he’d been married before and had a daughter. He knew…less than that about her. On a first date years ago, Lillian blurted out intimate details of her life. Her date stared at her, muttered platitudes and bid a hasty farewell not long afterwards.

The first and last date she had with him.

“Haud your wheesht, Lillian,” as Kippy far more Scottish than her or John might say.

The paper bag held a large chocolate chip croissant. The flakes scattered everywhere as she ate, Gareth watching her in fascinated disgust.

“Are you sure Richard agreed to take you away for the weekend?” he asked. “If he’s been with you while you’ve eaten anything?”

She poked her tongue, realising too late it was covered in half-chewed bits of pastry. Gareth screwed his face up.

“Yes. And fuck you. Get on with your work.”

The croissant finished, she got up and made her way to the back room where they kept rails of clothing. Lillian favoured an androgynous style. As a tall, straight up and down shaped woman, tailored trouser suits, over-sized jeans and shirts suited her. John had said stick to that style but choose the more flamboyant stuff.

“Are you sure?” Lillian queried. Sixteen or so years in fashion taught her that men who appreciated the style and clothing she loved weren’t the majority. Shouldn’t she be picking out pencil skirts, wrap dresses or those full-shirted, narrow-waisted skirts? And stilettos, preferably Louboutins?

John smiled ruefully. “Yes. If you wear clothes you aren’t comfortable in, it’ll be obvious. It shows in your face. And didn’t you tell me Richard talked a lot about how you’re not his usual type and that’s amazing?”

The back room smelled of clothes, brand new fabric and overtones of hot cotton that came from ironing. Lillian took deep breaths of it. She came here to refresh, the sight and smell of the clothing charging her up, battery-like.

John told her to choose the shorts from 2004. That collection was on the third rail at the back. She took out a hanger and held them up in front of her. Men’s shorts, brocade pantaloons embellished with Swarovski crystals roughly modelled on pre-French revolution court fashion. They hadn’t sold well.

Worn with bare legs and sliders though, they’d work. A silky tee shirt on top would complete the look. Glitz did a line of silk tees that sold in industrial quantities, bought by men and women who loved their quality.

She picked a Paisley-patterned purple one from another rail and then changed her mind. Plain black would be better. Perhaps Richard did think her difference from his usual type a virtue. Best not to push that to the limits though, eh?

Main outfit picked, she added a few other basics. Two more silk tee shirts in various colours, the super skinny jeans that made a virtue of long legs and a utility-style jumpsuit that doubled up as daywear and evening wear if dressed up with heels and a silk scarf.

Her phone buzzed. “Can’t wait! Don’t expect too much sight-seeing. You’ll be too busy on your back…”

Seconds later. “Sorry! 😊 Seriously, tho. Can’t. Bloody. Wait to get you into bed.”

Her heart and stomach clashed together, the one beating super-fast, the other squirming in a combination of super-charged nerves and excitement. And something else. A man had only ever told Lillian once before he couldn’t wait to get her into bed. It hadn’t ended well.

She folded the clothing she’d chosen over her arm. “That was then.” Another mantra. “This is now.”

Wouldn’t every woman be flattered that a man counted down the days, hours and minutes until he tumbled onto a pristine-clean bed with you?

©Emma Baird 2018* Copy this and claim it as your own and I. Will. Hunt. You. Down.