Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Fast Writing

So my writing buddies and I thought it would be a good idea to try fast writing. You know, you think of a topic for 3 minutes, outline it for another 3 and then blast as much down on the page as you can in the remaining 10 minutes. We spent the first 2 minutes making coffee; the next 7 looking for the packet of biscuits David was certain he'd brought; and the remaining 6 minutes arguing about who forgot to switch the coffee machine on at the socket and where the hell were the mugs?

Duly fuelled, we decided that our approach needed a little work.

It's amazing how much procrastination actually occurs when you put a bunch of writers in the same room. We improved our coffee making skills though - no longer will they laugh when I degas the coffee before switching on the machine!

Ad yes, we found the biscuits. On top of the refrigerator, because that's where you leave stuff, right?

And the fast writing? We ran out of time.....


Monday, 20 January 2014

Hmm, so..

kinda wrote myself into a corner and now trying to figure a way out. My short story is currently languishing in the "to sort" pile. This pile is probably the largest of all, which is saying something. The "this might make a good story" pile is a close second. Although when I think about it the "here's one I started earlier" pile, probably dwarfs these two by some considerable measure.

The fact is I love to write and the number of stories that line up in my brain, fighting for their right to be told, has the ability to turn me insane. The truth is although I love to write, I have to write.

Soooooooo.....

Back to the notebooks. One more rewrite, one more time.

There's this girl. This woman. Her name is Sally. And I think I'm falling in love with her.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Another Year

Hard to believe that we are more than halfway through another year. This year has been a tough one, and I've not felt like writing. Luckily, my partner and I have emerged from the other side of all the health scares stronger and more determined than ever. When you think the time you have together may be slipping away, it makes you refocus.

Over the last 8 months I've managed to put on a lot of extra pounds - mostly around my middle. So, part of my refocus is now on shedding the excess baggage and enjoying life to the full. I've struggled with my weight over the years since I gave up team sports. While we hillwalked and biked, it kept in check but each year I'd add a kilo or so to my tally. When our old dog got that he couldn't walk the hills any more, we slowed down too, from 1 hill a month to 2 or 3 a year. This last year with the puppy, there has been a sum total of zero hills. The sum total of all of this - I weigh way more kilos than I should. 82.6Kg to be precise - that's 182lbs, about 40lbs heavier than I should be (about 18 kilos).

I've done the diets, starved myself of this and that, exercised frantically, all to no avail. Oh sure, I'd lose a kilo or two and be very proud of myself. Then I'd lose heart and before you know it I've put the two kilos back on and some. So this time, this time there's no diet. This time, I'm just going to meditate and think myself thin. I know what you're thinking. No way.

Well, I've been thinking myself thin for just over a week and those 82.6Kg are 1.2kg less than when I started. I know, not much, but already my other half is commenting on my face being thinner and my love handles have shrunk - noticeably so. I have more energy and I'm doing stuff around the house instead of sitting watching TV. At night I'm visualizing myself thinner, fitter and much more energetic. I'm drinking more water and eating nuts and seeds instead of potato chips. I'm having almonds instead of peanuts, fruit instead of cakes and cookies. I have a picture inside my head of the me I want to be.

I talked to a few people about visualization. They told me it was difficult to begin with but I'm not finding that to be the case. Maybe being a writer is an advantage as I regularly visualize the story I'm trying to tell, and the characters, to get a feel for what they look like, think or do. Visualizing myself really wasn't a big jump.

Will it work long term? Who knows, but I've just got myself a copy of Jon Gabriel's book and I'm going to listen to his visualization tonite. I'm going to keep doing this at least until Christmas, that's a fair shot.

And, big statement!, I'm going to update this blog regularly to let you know how I'm going. Just you watch....

Oh, yeah, the puppy. Murph would definitely approve of the highly energetic and delightfully madcap Oscar. Black lab through and through - he got into the food bin last night, luckily its tall and so he couldn't really reach. We've started the training walks and hopefully this September we'll do a small hill walk with him (all the more reason to lose those extra pounds!). He loves chasing balls down the beach, something poor old Murph never really got the hang of. This time, I'm glad we chose a puppy who gets to have a great life from the very start. Oscar doesn't wonder if he's loved, he takes it for-granted!

Monday, 11 June 2012

2 months on

So, two months since the mighty Murph shrugged off his mortal coil and headed towards that great puppy playground in the sky. The wife and I have been missing his dogness. There's just this big black lab hole in our lives, and our home. It's time to bite the bullet and find a new doggy maestro to share our life with.

Murph was a rescue dog. Three years old when we got him, it took him a long time to truly trust that we weren't sending him back. Though once he got the hang of this lovin' stuff he was, what one might term, demanding. We loved him for it. The thump of his very hard head into your knees was the sign for "I need an ear scratch"; lying in front of the couch on his back said "come on, time to play, scratch my tummy"; and grabbing his bowl in his mouth and knocking it on the floor was the sign for "chocolate please, the bowl's empty".

We regretted not having those first three years of his life, and saddened that he took another 3 to truly be himself. We want every second of the next dog's life. Its screwups will be ours, and hopefully they'll be the fun wacky kind. Not the sort that made Murph hit the deck first time I picked up a stick to throw for him. I swear, if I had ever met his previous owners, I would have known what to do with that stick.

So we're puppy hunting. We're close too. Meeting breeders who hopefully will like us and say "yes, of course you can have one of our puppies". We've passed the first stage, the questionnaire and a photo of your garden. We probably sent too many. But now we're off to meet our preferred breeder. So exciting.

I'm sure Murph would approve.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Ramblings from the desktop

It's been a busy month, what with holidays, the parents, the puppy hunt, writing and the day job. I'm not quite sure how we fitted it all in.  We had a great time hill climbing in Perthshire, the views from Rannoch Moor are stunning. Looking out across the desolation of the moor to mountain range after mountain range is pretty awesome. The Grey Corries were covered with snow, Ben Nevis even deigned to keep out of the clouds for just long enough to be identified.

Yesterday, the parents returned home and we had the house to ourselves again. It was quiet, so we switched the telly on to drown out the silence. Puppies have been born and we'll be heading off soon to see more than we can afford! Excitement is high but, inevitably, it's tinged with an element of sadness as there's no Murph to share it all with.

I'm beginning to get hooked on Twitter (@Jamie_AC). There are some fantastic people sharing elements of themselves with the world in general. I've been following a few well-known faces and the way in which they interact with those of us who muscle in on their conversations, is pretty impressive. Alison Moyet, Clare Balding, Val McDermid and Heather Peace have all been added to my "respect due" list. And Denise Warner is just plain funny.

What's really struck me though, on Twitter in general, is the debate on "same-sex marriage". (Why, BTW, do we have to call it "same-sex"? I just ask because we don't talk about "different-sex" marriage, or did I miss that post.) Now I'm all for extension of marriage beyond the, ahem, "different-sex" variety. Where I have a problem, is when churches try to claim marriage as their own private party. Personally, I'm not the religious go-to-church type and quite frankly I don't care if churches don't want to marry me to my sweetheart. But, I pay my taxes just like everybody else. Okay, so not everybody else,  I'm not rich enough to avoid paying taxes... Back to my point, and yes I do have one. Civil marriage shouldn't be subject to religious bias. Civil marriage is a commitment that brings with it certain rights and privileges as part of our [civil] society. As such it should not be restricted to one select group, but should be for those couples, irrespective of gender combinations, who are over the legal age to choose to commit themselves to their partner. My view of marriage is that it's up to churches and their congregations to decide on the rules for religious marriages; and up to the state to decide on the rule for civil marriages. The state has to treat all of its citizens in an equal and fair way, and yes, that means making choices that help minority groups. I have a view too on just how minority gay/lesbian/bisexual actually isn't, but I'll leave that for another day!

So back to the marriage thing. If a church bans (ok I'll use it) same-sex marriages from its roster, then it should not be allowed to carry out the civil part of the ceremony. If they allow same-sex marriages then they can do the whole shebang. My other view, is also simple. If the state does not permit same sex marriages then it should give up on the whole civil marriage thing; introduce civil partnership for all and leave the marriage stuff to the churches (with the same proviso on the civil element). Sorted.

Now, about world peace.....

Friday, 4 May 2012

It Can't Be May Already!

Hard to believe, I know. Seems like only yesterday it was Christmas. It's been a busy and sad few months for the Lloyd household. Just before easter our wonderful black lab Murph passed away. We didn't feel much like eating chocolate.

The last couple of weeks, we've been tidying out the loft. Boxes of photos have been assembled and either scanned or thrown into the discard pile. It's been quite a journey. My darling wife has done the most of it, me being the type who doesn't easily sit in one place for too long and bores easily. I love flicking through the photos, seeing places we should really visit again, and realising just how full and energetic our life has been. And how slim and young we were back then.

With all this reminiscing we've decided to pick up the pace again. We're off hill climbing later this month, used to do lots of that, crampons an' all. No Murph to accompany us, but hey it can't always be perfect. When we come back, the puppy hunt will begin in earnest. We've identified a number of breeders, at least one of whom ought to like us. If they pick us, then we can pick a puppy.

My wife has pretty much recovered her health (just as well considering the hill climbing part). I guess we're ready now for the next chapter in our lives together. Looking back through the photographic years, I see friends who were together and are no longer. New friends who have joined us, old friends who no longer inhabit this earth. Three friends who didn't make it to their 40th birthdays.

I intend celebrating my next birthday (just over a week's time) on top of a munro, surrounded by my friends. Well, those who make it up the hill at any rate, I have been told one or two will be waiting in the nearest pub. Time with friends and family is the best present around. And time well spent to boot.

So here's to Murph, thanks for all the years; to all my friends, thanks for being there guys; and to my wife, who needs no more words from me.




Monday, 30 January 2012

mint tea and thoughtful repose

Writing was a bit of a chore for me last year. My wife was seriously ill and I wanted to spend my time with her. Thankfully, towards the end of the year she began to turn whatever corners it was she needed to turn. I would say she's 80% better, and improving day by day.

During the last 12 months, we've changed a lot in our lives. She tires easily so we don't go out as much as we used to. It's sad to see some old friends seem to think that this means we don't need friends any more. Eye opening also to see the newer of our friends making sure we know they are still there for us, calling in for a coffee or just texting to say hi.

As for that coffee, I don't drink so much these days. Moroccan mint tea is more my tipple. Add some sugar, drink from a small glass and its sweet pungent aroma plays with the nostrils, transporting the brain to many an imagined world.

The novel I had begun at the start of the year, first words arriving as I sat in the emergency room, has been through many twists and turns. The bad guy turns out to be a good guy. A character I thought would die in the opening chapter turns out to be a crucial holder of knowledge and therefore cannot die. He holds the key on which the story turns. I now know what the title means, I know how the story starts and ends - I'm one of those writers who gets the title first and then wonders "what the heck story goes with that"! The middle is still a little jumbled, I hate a story that sounds contrived because the writer wanted something to happen. If something happens in my story it has to be a) because that's what you'd expect or b) it's a twist in the story that leads you logically to somewhere else. There's nothing worse than reading something and then feeling the writer cheated on you because something improbable happened to force the story to go in a particular direction. I don't mind the ones where you have to go back a few pages, or stop to think, so long as the reaction is "ok, I can see that happening".

So right now I'm thinking. Thoughtful repose. Not rushing my characters to make their next move, letting the story unfold and tell itself. I'm still figuring the changes required because of that key character having to stay alive, and am aware there's one more twist associated with that decision. Had he died, then my main character would have a difficult choice removed from him, he would simply do nothing. But with this character still alive he has to make a choice. A moral choice. I'm really looking forward to reading how it all turns out.