Having a Triberr nightmare…

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Triberr – I was invited to join several months ago by a very fine writer and blogger by the name of Bert Carson, and I was delighted to accept. The technicalities of Triberr go waaaay over my head, but basically you join groups (or – duhhh – tribes) of like-minded people, and you help each other out by tweeting links to everyone’s posts. So their followers get to hear about your blog and your followers get to hear about theirs, and with any luck you all benefit by reaching a far wider audience.  Great system.  And it’s certainly worked well for me – I know that quite a few of the people who have chanced upon this blog have done so entirely because of Triberr.

However…I appear to have hit some sort of a glitch with it.  My last post – ‘The delights of the deadline’ – has got stuck in a groove, like vinyl records of old (if you can remember that far back…) and keeps getting reposted. Several of my tribemates are sending this post out day after day – without even being aware that they’re doing it, and for the life of me I can’t find out how to stop it.

In a sense it’s been quite good, because the post has had many more hits than I would normally expect it to receive – but I do fear that it’s starting to look very spammy, both for me and for those innocent tribemates who are sending it out quite by accident.

Also – and this is truly ironic – the title of the post keeps getting subbed down to ‘The delights of the dead’…

Nightmare logo

Nightmare logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so I suspect many zombie and horror fans have come to visit and been very disappointed to find a resolutely Gore-Free Zone!

I have tried to contact the head honchos at Triberr, but my pleas for help don’t seem to have reached the right spot – so I’m kind of hoping this post might do the trick. In the meantime – my apologies to anyone who’s fed up to the back teeth of seeing the link to ‘delights of the deadline’ over and over again – all I can say is – It’s not my fault, honest!

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.)

The importance of thumbs

I’ve never given my thumbs much thought before. I know they’re important, I know they do a good job, I know that having opposable thumbs sets humans apart from most other mammals. I’ve just never really paid any attention to the tasks my two were actually performing. Am now.

This is because I’ve hurt my thumb – the left one. I’ve staved it, which I always thought was a Scottish expression until I googled it and discovered it’s pretty universal. It happened while horse-riding – basically we were popping over a few jumps, and all was going well until our rhythm got somewhat out of sync. In a move that was both unintentional and unfortunate, my thumb slammed into his neck at a speed and angle which proved distinctly deleterious to the aforementioned digit! 

A few years ago,  I broke my right wrist (uh yeah so that was also horse-related…I don’t bear grudges…). This came as a horrible shock to my left hand which had been happily bumbling its way through life, lending the occasional – hand – but basically happy to leave all the tricky stuff to its partner. Suddenly finding itself thrust into the limelight and being made to do the work of two practically sent it into a meltdown. At the time I wrote…

I’m beginning to wonder just what my left hand has been doing all its life. All these years it’s gone its own way, swinging blithely along at the end of my arm, quite content to let my right hand do the bulk of the work. I might never have noticed this  discrepancy, had it not been for right hand getting itself smashed up along with several other parts of my anatomy when flung unceremoniously from a horse into a stone wall. Now it’s encased in a heavy white plaster cast, and left is having to do a full day’s work.

Its first task in a public place – to sign my name as permission for the surgeon to do what he liked to right hand while the rest of me was under general anaesthetic sent left hand into a blue funk. Gripping the pen was bad enough, but when it was asked to create joined-up letters on the page, it crumpled under the strain. If a hen had walked through dirt then taken a casual stroll across the document, the result would have looked more like my normal signature. 

The whole experience has made me totally reassess my relationship with my two hands. I now see that I’ve taken Right for granted, just assuming it would get on with any and all of the myriad tasks set before it in the course of any one day. That meant everything from writing, to opening a jar, to brushing my hair, to operating a computer mouse. Lefty is fine for the sturdier and less imaginative tasks, like changing gear in the car, or lifting the kettle to pour water into a cup. But give it anything requiring the least degree of subtlety, and it turns into a bumbling idiot.

Who could believe brushing your teeth could be so complicated? Toothpaste up your nose is not a pleasant experience! However, we can all learn – even my left hand. After just a few days in the job, it’s beginning to get the hang of things. This morning only two dollops of butter were left on the breakfast bar, my clothes went on in more or less the proper order and facing the correct direction, and I managed to get right hand settled into its sling without throttling myself, so there is hope.

However – now that its thumb is temporarily out of action – I’m finding I may have been a tad unkind to my left hand in that story. It apparently does a lot more than I gave it credit for – as is becoming apparent multiple times a day when I go to do something – and find I can’t.  Getting the rind off a butternut squash is tough enough with both hands – trying to do it with one is impossible – and, as I discovered to my cost, using your left arm as a kind of clamp for said vegetable while endeavouring to slice off its tough skin – really isn’t to be recommended if you wish to emerge from the exercise intact.

Well they do say necessity is the mother of invention, so I am finding ways round this current difficulty. Getting my husband to do things for me is one option of course, but not always achievable… However I am particularly proud of my new (soon to be patented) method of applying deodorant – using right hand to spray both underarms.  If you don’t think that’s any great achievement – just try it for yourself – you’ll see!

Finally – Big thanks to my friend Rosemary Gemmell for giving me the blogger’s Sunshine Award! I think I now have to list some unknown facts about myself – so I’ll save that for the next post…

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!

I’ve got my rights back!

It’s taken some time and quite a lot of emails winging to and fro across the Atlantic, but I’m delighted to say I am now the proud owner of the rights to the nine books published by Mills and Boon/Harlequin under my pen-name of Rachel Elliot.  I decided ages ago I wanted the rights back, because I want the books to be available to a new audience through the miracles of downloading and POD.

Certain conditions are attached, as you’d expect – for example I’m not allowed to use the M&B or Harlequin trademarks and I can’t use the original book covers. That’s not a bad thing – I reckon it’ll be fun to collaborate with my illustrator Wendy to come up with new ideas.

The plan isn’t to republish the stories as they are, because I want to rewrite and update them all to some extent – and I’m really looking forward to that, though it’ll be a pretty mammoth task. So for example – Song of Love centres on the story of singer Claire Silver and Scottish castle owner Roddy Mackenzie, and the conflict arises from the fact that he thinks she’s using him to further her career, because his brother just happens to be an Agent for top entertainers.  I’m toying with the notion of introducing a kind of X-Factor element to the new version of the story – what do you reckon?

I haven’t actually read the originals for ages, so revisiting them will be fascinating – I hope readers think so too!

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…