What I’ve Done This Week #5…

Do you know what the collective noun for rejection letters is? No? Battlefield. Lately I have received a battlefield of rejections. All right, that’s a lie: there is no collective word for rejections. But there should be.

This last week or so I have seen a number of them fly into my inbox, so much so that I started to wonder if all these publishers had gone for a coffee together and agreed to reject me at the same time. Whether it is my novel or the various short stories I have got out there to be judged, none of my words seem to be immune to a shake of the head and the proverbial red pen.

Sure, it can be disheartening when you see something that you’ve put a lot of work into, be cast aside with the same simple stock rejection note that has probably been sent to dozens of poor writers before me, but that’s infinitely better than not hearing anything at all, and that happens far too often.

Years ago, before submitting a piece became (mostly) an electronic affair, you would hear tales of paranoid writers sending out their novel and delicately sticking a single hair in between a couple of pages. That way, when it was returned they would know if their work had even been read, let alone reviewed. Nowadays, that kind of insurance measure is impossible, and we just have to take an editor’s word when they pass on our literary gold for something else.

But you have to have a thick skin in this industry, and mine is beginning to feel like leather.

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12th Century Romance…

I spent the weekend in the Scottish Highlands with The Girlfriend©. It wasn’t really a Valentine’s thing, but I guess that’s what the timing would suggest.

I booked a night at Tulloch Castle Hotel, which is in Dingwall, just north of Inverness. The building is a nine hundred year old relic that retains a lot of its original look, and comes complete with a resident ghost called The Green Lady. Thankfully I didn’t see her, although our four-poster bed was so wide that she could easily have slept with us and I’d never have known.

I have been to many amazing places around the world, but for sheer natural beauty it’s hard to think of anywhere that is quite as breathtaking as the road we took back from Loch Ness on Sunday morning. A photo doesn’t do it justice, but I’ll drop one in here anyway.

Fantastic hotel; great food; spectacular scenery. And, of course, the best company I could hope for. Well worth the near three hour drive to get there.

People Are All Kinds of Dumb #5…

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, there’s no better article to highlight than this one, about a guy in New Zealand who is trying to flog his romantic services for money. It’s basically prostitution without the sex, although even that can be negotiated for a price.

Peter Wilding is – subjectively, of course – an average looking man, who seemingly possesses an above average sense of humour as well. He has a great variety of available packages for any girl who takes up his offer (and yes, he does specify he is only interested in members of the opposite sex). His deals start from as little as $15 for a one-hour morning meet-up, and go all the way up to a fifteen-hour overnight combo for a whopping $150.

It’s an attention-grabbing idea for sure, but whether it’s a desperate troll for love or money or both, once you put the silliness of it all to one side, it’s a little creepy and certainly open to abuse and conflict.

Maybe next year, just find a girl the old-fashioned way, Peter. Go to a bar and get a girl drunk like a normal bloke.

What I’ve Done This Week #4…

I’ve been thinking of going back to my racially charged novella, The Ballad of Martha Brody. It’s a story that had its start in life when I was eighteen and living in Malta, as a 4000 word piece called Talk is Cheap. A couple of iterations and a couple of decades later, and it now weighs in at almost 22,000 words – spiritually the same story written by that clumsy teenager, but practically something with much more depth.

Some time after I had completed it in 2013 – although every writer knows that a story is never truly complete – I wrote another chapter for it. Although it slips in to the narrative quite well it has sat, orphaned, on my laptop for a few years, not really a part of the larger arc. I think I’m just about ready to sew it all together and finally make a concerted effort to see it published, as I do believe it’s one of the best things I’ve produced.

Of course the novella is the bastard child of literature: there are very few places that take them in, and even fewer that are worth bothering with. It is for that reason that I toyed with the idea of turning it into a novel for several months, but I don’t really think it would have the legs for that commitment.

Having said that, in the publishing world a mediocre novel stands a better chance of success than a great novella… so there is that.

People Are All Kinds of Dumb #4…

I have a PlayStation 4, along with over 90 million others. It’s a few years old now, but it’s a cool piece of kit, still very much sought after. So much so, in fact, that this guy in France couldn’t resist trying to pick one up for a little over £8.

Now, full disclosure, sometimes The Girlfriend© will buy half a dozen loose Granny Smith apples from Tesco (other supermarket chains are available) and bag them as onions, so I appreciate that my horse is not particularly high here, but this kid has balls like grapefruits to think his idea of retail thievery would work.

In defence of my own indiscretions, I’m never there when she does it. But I shouldn’t be surprised: she is from Fife after all.

What I’ve Done This Week #3…

I sent off my novel Slipwater to a few more agents this week, because (hard as it is to believe) it’s been almost a year since I finished it. And even harder to believe is that I have not changed, added, or removed one word of it since then. Seems I’m showing some restraint in my forties.

I know that if other more traditional avenues don’t work out I could go the self-publishing route. That’s something that’s always open to me. I know as well that that does not have to equate to giving up. There are plenty examples of self-published novels that have subsequently been noticed by the big leagues, but the fact that anyone with internet access and enough words is literally a few mouse clicks away from being a published novelist still irks me and, for the time being, I refuse to do it.

I want an agent or an editor to tell me what I already know – that it’s good, that there’s a market for my writing, and that they want to buy the manuscript.

Too much to ask? I guess we will just wait and see.

People Are All Kinds of Dumb #3…

Ladies, have you ever been browsing the aisles in your local Tesco, disappointed that your period wasn’t due for another couple of weeks? Well, here’s some advice, from a since deleted article in the UK edition of Marie Claire:

Parsley can help to soften the cervix and level out hormonal imbalances that could be delaying your cycle, helping your period come faster. If you’re struggling to find a dish based on parsley, don’t panic – the most effective forms are said to be parsley tea and parsley vaginal inserts.

Yes, you read that correctly – parsley vaginal inserts. Just stick it on up there, add a little seasoning to taste, and you should be flowing in no time at all. Fresh parsley, dried parsley. Organic parsley. The choices are plentiful. I would ask The Girlfriend© to try it out, but she always confuses parsley with coriander, and we don’t yet know what that does to the menstrual cycle.

“There are only a few things that should go in your vagina and vegetables generally aren’t one of them.”

Quote of the year, right there.