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!

Following in the footsteps…

I’m very proud to say that I write regularly for D&G Life – a magazine which covers beautiful Dumfries and Galloway and in 2009 won the accolade of Scottish Magazine of the Year. I do features on a variety of subjects – including a series on towns and villages in the region – and I always try to make sure any animal stories are sent my way.

I also have my own column in D&G Life and pretty much a free rein to choose my own subject which has allowed me to write about everything from climbing Skiddaw to discussing shoes with a transvestite in Sorrento.  I generally avoid writing about anything in the news because the column has to be submitted several weeks before the magazine is printed, so there’s a risk that the topic could be pretty dated by the time people get to read it.

I made an exception for the news-hacking scandal, because I wanted to say a word in defence of journalists – not the gutter-hacks who go to despicable lengths to get their exclusives – but those reporters who genuinely put themselves in danger to get to the truth no matter how unpalatable.

I also wrote a column about the riots which tore apart several cities this summer – trying and failing along with everyone else to make sense of the absolutely inexplicable.

This month though I’m back on happier and more familiar territory – namely romance and the writing thereof.  I wrote a wee bit about Reclaim The Romance – but angled the column mainly on the need for writers nowadays to get involved in marketing.  I was happy to cite the excellent example of my friend Janice Horton (from Dumfriesshire). She is a veritable pioneer in this vast uncharted territory and I’m delighted to follow along in her footsteps, benefiting from her experiences which she’s generous enough to share freely.

Janice Horton with her lovely West Highland Terriers

If you like your romance leavened with a touch of sassy humour and if you particularly enjoy a Scottish setting – then get yourself a copy of Bagpipes and Bullshot – Janice’s current bestseller.  You can find out more at www.janicehortonwriter.blogspot.com – and if you drop by, tell her I sent you!