Goodbye Scotland (That’s us away, then)

Photo of Edinburgh, taken on George IV Bridge

Horrible traffic, horrible weather, but cool old thing in distance. Pretty much sums up my Scotland (and particularly Edinburgh) experience

Rebecca and I sat on the front lawn of our home for an hour yesterday evening, waiting for a taxi. “Five more minutes, five more minutes.” It felt like a final – and necessary – irritation before we left Scotland.

After a day spent gutting the house of furniture and sentiment, of selling the beloved car (and leaving it in the car-park of a Wester Hailes housing estate – my inner class-snob wept but it seemed safe enough) we had said goodbye to my parents, the neighbours, and my cat – dead since last October and still making my jaw clench and eyes smart with guilt over my inability to save his life.

It seemed a fitting end, sitting on the grass, watching the neighbours arrive home from school and then work, giving them a bashful wave, as if we were squatters, Gypsies, as if we didn’t still own the house, lounging on the lawn with our six suitcases. And somehow, it wasn’t even raining. Continue reading


Authors for Japan – £11,000 raised

Authors for Japan badge

Authors for Japan: £11,000 raised

I’m happy to report that the Authors for Japan auction has raised £11,000 for the Red Cross Japan Tsunami appeal.

Well done to Keris Stainton and everyone involved in organising, donating and bidding. My particular thanks to Ellen Arnison for winning my auction. She wins a signed copy of Threeplay, a named character in Difficult Second Novel, and my hopefully not-too-shabby mentoring on writing dialogue.

Thanks Ellen!

Let’s be honest (our characters shouldn’t be)

Road sign for Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth: Not always the first stop on the trip

I had an almost existential crisis this morning when my gym  (seriously, the very last time I mention that place) – had seemingly removed E4 from the TV screens, thereby denying my workouts the last 15 minutes of Gilmore Girls and the first 15 minutes of Smallville.

It turns out that E4 is still there, masquerading as BBC2, so all is well. But it did make me look at these shows in a new light, and remind me of the value of telling lies in fiction.

I won’t dwell on Smallville, where the sole purpose of dialogue is to convince the viewer after that episode’s fight that a much bigger, altogether sexier battle is still to come.

I absolutely will dwell on Gilmore Girls – a show infused with such addictive power, such dark, dark magic that while it hasn’t yet turned me into a 14-year-old girl, I can see how it might happen. Continue reading

Authors for Japan

Authors for Japan badge

Click! Bid! Make a difference!

Authors for Japan is an auction to help people devastated by the earthquake in Japan.

It was organised by writer Keris Stainton and includes items offered by 170 different novelists, writers, publishing professionals etc.

The auction will close at 8pm (GMT) on Sunday March 20th, and the highest bid for each item will win.

I am offering:

  • A signed copy of my novel, Threeplay
  • A character name in my Difficult Second Novel
  • Mentoring (by email or Skype) for a new writer wanting to improve their written dialogue skills

You can find details of my item here. And you can find details of all the items being auctioned here. Some amazing things up for grabs! If you love books/writing, there will be something there for you.


New York, New York (Looking for Judge Judy)

New York City cab

Rebecca's travel guide tells me that NYC cab-drivers don't speak English and don't know how to get to your destination. I will try the subway.

Stop #1 in my life-changing, life-trembling move to the United States is Newark Liberty International Airport.

Rebecca and I  understand EWR as a necessary evil; a tense and petulant airport, unlike Edinburgh or Nashville which are small and friendly enough to at least pretend they’re happy you want to fly somewhere.

But Newark is where Continental flies to from Edinburgh, it has been our Hub-of-choice for 6 years, and so Newark is where I will begin my life as a permanent resident in the United States.

Stop #2, before we fly on to Nashville, is a 7-day vacation in New York City. This game plan, on the face of it, seems designed mainly to drive my Judge Judy and all right-thinking individuals to distraction.  I had to explain to the Judge my whereabouts for the first week in April 2011, I fear she would give me the same short shrift she gives her arch nemesis; Men Who Do Not Pay Child Support.

Arrive in a new country with no job or home of your own? Living off your savings? Is the first logical move really to relax and spend a week in one of the most expensive cities on Earth? Baloney, Sir!

But let me make the case for the defense. Continue reading

Missing it already (You can’t get that at Wal-Mart)

Gregg's Sausage and Bean Melt

Gregg's Sausage & Bean Melt. Just 28g of fat, but tasting like so much more

My wife posted online about some British items she’ll miss when we leave, an impromptu list which caused a well-meaning reaction from family and friends along the lines of “Don’t worry about X, we have plenty of Y here”.

And hey, talking about things you’ll miss before you’ve even left? Sounds like someone’s changed their mind, sounds distinctly like cold feet.

But both these reactions are to misunderstand how we’re feeling as our departure date grows closer. Rebecca doesn’t think Tennessee is negligent in lacking any of the Scottish things she’ll miss, whether it’s Radox Sleep Easy bubble bath or an IKEA within driving distance. Nor will she search for the next best replacements when we get there (aside from an electric kettle, but that’s just a basic United Nations quality of life issue). It’s just…stuff, stuff that exists here right now, that reminds us where we are and what has made the last ten years a particularly British experience.

In a fit of marital solidarity, here are the 7 things I’ll miss just because:

Continue reading

Characters (and when they poke you with sharp objects)

Photo of car wing mirror
Photo of car wing mirror

Keep your eyes, and ears, open

I’m writing today. Not Difficult Second Novel; I’m writing a piece of privately commissioned fiction for the grand rate of four cents per word. Ah, sweet anonymous glory, this is where the Internet takes me.

There’s no mystery, no devious sleight of hand to writing when you’re being paid for it, aside from the garden variety concentration and motivation problems that anyone sitting at a desk has. But there’s definitely a trick required when there’s no  financial guarantee, when it looks as though you’re just making stuff up for the hell of it, when the only promise comes from yourself. And that trick is character. Continue reading