My Bibliography

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Groom Room

This blog is posted here purely for anyone living in Vancouver, BC, doing a search for The Groom Room - 3728 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 2M3 - a dog grooming salon.  Anyone else might be disinterested.  
This is what the owner, a bitchy little man, says on his website: 
Jay Jay's goal is to see his clients leaving happy and satisfied.
Could've fooled me buddy!  Read on to find out why; but at least it gave me good cause for a blog rant:

The Gloom Room

Are we really pampering our pets when we take them to a grooming salon, or are we putting them through a day of hairdressing hell?
There's a lady I know, whom, as a white man, I affectionately call my 'Chinese Mom'.  This lady lives in the past; thinks of computers as what the bible calls 666, yet is always asking me to look up things on my 'machine' for her; companies with good reputations for both maintenance work on her property and reputable businesses to service items like her 1960's answering machine or a cobbler for her thirty-yr-old boots.  Yes, refusing to update anything, or buy new, despite the fact she has more money than a small African country.
She calls me every other night to discuss the state of the world today; her philosophy; 'nothing's as good quality as back in the old days' - which, trust me, she's still immersed within behind the mysterious wrought iron gates that fortify both front and back entrances to her building, heavily padlocked too, her house, a veritable and well-preserved museum depicting life exactly as it was in the last century; stuffed with pristine artefacts, good as the day they were bought.  Better, maybe.
Her most consistent observation is about how people aren't polite any more, that they're unprofessional, lack-lustre, self-serving, and, for the service industry, astonished that its staff just don't seem to care.
Now, of a different generation, I've always raised my eyes at that; thinking she just hasn't moved with the times; still expects everyone to smile and say 'good day', servicemen to wear peaked caps and give a cheery wave from the window of their trucks as if we were all living in a fifties utopia.  But she might just have a point; may have converted me, after all, made me wish that I'd been born in a different era.
The horrendous experience I had this morning at 'The Groom Room' (or as I found out, more gloom, than groom) - a dog grooming service on Oak Street, Vancouver  - left me stunned, and, as an otherwise quiet and calm person, saw me screaming like an Irish fishwife as I left the place, my blood not just proverbially boiling, my eyes popping like a futuristic gargoyle on crack, other customers needing to duck lest they got zapped by the laser cross-fire of my glare.
First, I should point out that The Groom Room's website goes to great lengths to say how professional they are, praises the owner as if he's the second coming; is comprised of self-praising comments and testimonials comprising of, in my opinion as a writer well used to deciphering such applaud, manufactured reviews, and, if not, at least purely selective; not open to receiving general comments from their customers.   Now I know why.  But we have social media to express ourselves, these days - platforms not just for Kamikaze Stanley Cup rioters to jump from.  Yes, word of mouth, not literal anymore as might've been in latter day, but a way to share our experiences, good and bad, to get to the truth of it.  And this one was so horrendous, I want to shout it from the satellite in space.
When I was told to come back five and a half hours later to pick up my dog, I expressed complete surprise at that length of time, questioned it, and was told, before the girl going into great detail as to what the procedures were for grooming a dog, that 'its not just your dog we have to groom'.
"Yes, "I said, "I do know what's involved, but I did make an appointment.  Are you telling me that my dog will be locked in a cage for most of the day, waiting around at every turn for the next stage, grooming, washing, drying, whatever?"
And I'm not sure she understood English exactly, as they do state that they have an 'open room policy', but quickly, she said 'yes' to this, and obviously shocked that I was unhappy with that answer; convinced, I suppose, by her blank expression, that that's what I'd wanted to hear.
"Well that's a bit much, " I said, again, still maintaining calm; knowing how to be civilised, "what happened to my appointment, I don't want to leave him in a cage for the entire day; he's just not used to that?"
"Well, you still want us to do?" she said, obviously wanting me to say 'no' now.
"Well I'm here now, and he is overdue, so I suppose so," I said against my better judgement, "but I will have to reconsider in the future."
Then, someone, apparently, the owner, comes through from the grooming station, the guy whose managed many stores before opening his own according to the website that also claims he might just be 'best in show' himself, but in actual fact, surlier than a pit-bull with a toothache, the kind of owner you might see flouncing pretentiously through a high end hair salon, and declares that they 'don't have time to do him today', dismissing my dog with his hand as he saw to the next customer, obviously deeming me an awkward one off the bat; a cheek to have even questioned their operation.
"Well, after that... no; I don't want him to stay here now, anyway," I retorted, still, relatively calmly.
"Whatever,' he said, as I walked out the door, again with a flick of his hand.
Yes, the top-dog owner of this apparently highly acclaimed business, shouted at me more bitchily than the actual bitches running around him behind the counter, more-so than two drag queens double-booked in a sleazy night-club might have each other.  And so that's when I lost it; coming back through the door to shout like the aforementioned fishwife; pointing out the actual meaning of the word 'appointment', closing with a statement that he can look forward to a 'nice testimonial' on his website - but then, of course, they don't invite honest general opinion.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he shouted, again with a flick of his wrist, regardless that he was checking in the other victim   a man in a business suit who might just have been happy to have his dog incarcerated for his working day.
And while as a business owner myself, I don't always agree that the customer is right, I damn well would never speak to, or dismiss anyone like the owner of this business did to me; a new customer, who simply, and reasonably, I feel, objected to a five and a hour so called 'appointment' to groom my mini-schnauzer, leaving him in what is tantamount to a production line, one where he wouldn't get to pee, eat, walk, nothing.
Dog business is big business, in this city and I thought it was too good to be true from such, an, apparently, highly acclaimed place; getting an appointment with only a few days notice, but if I'd known my puppy would be stuck in an assembly line for the entire day, I wouldn't have bothered booking.
So beware; find a groomer that actually works to a schedule, dedicates time to your pet - which generally should be about two and a hours to three for most small to mid-sized dogs, in my (other) experience - and not pushed and shoved around waiting for the next stage in the grooming process, oftentimes cooped up in a small kennel in a hot room and feeling abandoned.
If this is how the owner of The Groom Room treated me, I can only imagine how he'd treat my dog when I wasn't there to see.  And talking of which, I wouldn't even speak to my dog, with as much disrespect as he showed to me, a paying customer.
So yes, my Chinese mom might just have a point, common courtesy and professionalism far less than pedigree these days, it seems.  An extinct breed, right enough, no wonder she locks herself away from society and craves the good old days where people knew the meaning of customer service.  No wonder, that she'd rather resort to using '666' than go out into the world in person.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Me no stupid, me no silly, me hing oan tae ma daddy's willy

Writers, when was the last time you looked in your documents folder?  Cleaned it out, even?  I've spent the entire afternoon doing that, and not before time for I never have on this computer before, and I've had it for over two years now - and as someone who's constantly writing, that's a lotta lotta slush, and I still have my old computer to go through; many stories on there that I keep meaning to resurrect.  Another day.
All I know is that every time I wanted to open my Prickly Scots manuscript in Word, that I had to plough through a whole plethora of stuff even using the 'finder' option on my iMac that's supposed to make it easy.   But still, when a hundred copies of it exist, all with similar titles, it can get a bit confusing.  So what do I do?  I take the time to determine which are no longer current, save them somewhere else, a new folder created purely for Prickly Scots books, and then I dropped the originals in the trash.  'Hah, ya bastards', I say maniacally, but still wise enough not to take the trash out yet; ye-es been so burnt before with that, that St Pauls admitted me for two weeks, treating me with cold baths three times a day.  And sure enough, when I tried to open those files, the computer told me in that sanctimonious arrogant voice that may or may not have been real, that I couldn't cos they were in the trash.  So, after rooting through that - a task that rather unpleasantly reminded me of my impoverished childhood - I reinstated them and then had the bright idea to start afresh; allocating simple names that denote each version of them, whether for Kindle or Smashwords, as well as numbering the parts I, II and I & II - so six in all.  "Hah ya bastards," I say again, still not trusting to empty the trash; trust issues having stuck to my shoe from the murky trail that led up to the path of my life obviously; long since relying only on my own direction.
But, as I was doing this, what I found was a metaphorical treasure chest, and being a little bit obsessive compulsive (but in a good way, apparently) I couldn't stop there.  No, I went through each and every document containing the most obscure titles, which of course weren't titles at all, but the first few words of the document that I had never named (although there was a piece I wrote entitled.  Scooby Doo, a Ménage et trois and the Coconut Organs - a travel story about the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean).  AhemWon't be doing that from hereon in, and in fact I've already named this blog's document, so I can recognise it instantly in the future.  For that's what I found; tons of blog articles, enzines, short story entries, complaint letters (my, I am extremely good at those; I even scared myself) nasty letters to my neighbours (well, he was neglecting his dog) letters to the SPCA, smart comebacks to various online sites and forums, absolutely pathetic submission letters for my works (remember the days we all thought we needed agents?  'Hah, ya bastards.') Millions of poems, tons of reviews that I've saved from all my little pieces that I realise are flying free all through the Internet, my college writing notes (very methodically transcribed, I have to say - impressive - or anal retentive, one of the two, either way I was obviously a brown noser.)  Even other people's manuscripts, some of which I had to really concentrate hard on to make sure they weren't mine at all, and some from pseudonyms who are me, but for 'whom'  I use different voices (hence not immediately recognising them.)  Wow!  There were so, so many chapters from my books, the same ones, edited over and over and over all in separate documents from the one before, so many, many copies of my books and again individual chapters and excerpts from those same chapters.  Projects I've started, and keep meaning to come back to, countless documents with 'ideas' and things I've heard in passing, or that occurred to me at some point, and which I never seem to consult, and a lot more to boot (which I'm surprised my computer was able to, given how heavily laden it was).  But double that; I remember making the very unwise choice once upon a time, to have Word automatically create a back up copy of anything I create, and I still haven't found how to reverse, so I guess I have a back up of this blog too now.  But it's my mission now to find that bastard thing and get it switched off as well, before it all starts piling up again.
Now, what about the trash, I hear you scream, well as we say in Scotland (or, at least we did) about a man and his son jumping out of an aircraft, for whatever reason, with only one parachute - or maybe it was jumping from a block of flats -  but anyhoo... 'Me no stupid, me no silly, me hing oan tae ma daddy's willy) ooh, good title for this blog,  ye-es, that'll be sure to bring a few new people to my rambling... hmmm.... but now if I rename this, I'll have two copies with different titles.  See the problem?  So feeling sanctimonious myself now, already decided to blag on this blog about the fact that not only have I cleaned my house this week due to the outrageously long time my housekeeper has gone away on holiday for, I cleaned out my computer too. 
I also had the smarts to find some blank cd's to make copies of all my books, no cold baths for me this time, ya bastards, and so, not only doing that, but reinserting them to make sure the bastard computer isn't lying to me again, I sit back with a metaphorical glass of scotch and a cigar, and invite the metaphorical neighbours round to witness the delete button being pressed.  But the moment spoiled when I did; the turncoat saying there was something locked in there, and did I really want to delete that too?  'I mean, like really?' it said impersonating Regis on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, leaving me in doubt all of a sudden, of something I was so sure about.
'God no', I thought, bastard's probably an integral part of fucking everything and I know it weren't in there yesterday... as an old English friend of mine would 'of' said - cos I emptied a few less precarious things then.  So reinstating it, only perhaps, back to whenst it came, I tried again, and everything disappeared with that wonderful whooshy noise like someone's fag end being sucked out an aircraft toilet, and despite the new files in the new folder, I cringed a little as I went to open them.
'Hah, ya bastard, I win," I said.
Now, I don't do dishes, never have, will hide the dirty bastards anywhere, under the couch, under the sink, whatever, on the patio even, if the dishwasher needs emptying, but another old friend of mine always said, 'if you rinse, as you go', it won't be as bad.  Never! I spat into her face, but I think she might just have had a point.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

When souls attack... fighting back

Ever tried to look for a picture of nothing, but at the same time, something?

It goes without saying that most of us are sick to death of our frikkin' alternate selves gallivanting through all parallels of existence, damaging the reputation of our purer than pure souls.  Right?  I mean, when all is said and done, there can only be one soul.  So what happens when two corporeal selves actually physically touch (and I know, like me, you've spent many a sleepless night wondering just that)? 

And what would happen in the metaphorical 'sorting office' if your evil other kills you, will your soul go the right place... the appropriate afterlife?  Well this experience I had last night has the answers to that and more  - although I have no idea why my alternate self chose to suddenly materialise in my bed; I didn't know whether to be flattered or frightened.  This tiny stand-alone chapter of prose (isolated from the regular styling of Warped Mirrors, a paranormal comedy) is one of two, the second, near the end of the book, a spoiler).  So, come, come fly with me through the universe and find out what's there... or not.
Ch. II The Universe
Silence.  I find myself simply being in some natural state amid an endless environment, bottomless, no up, no down, simply direction all around.  Freezing, scorching, everything in-between, but yet I do not suffer; I am not burning, nor I am cold, for I am part of it.  Floating, soaring, sentient, everywhere at once, and yet nowhere at all, my spirit delivering me both to where I have, and haven’t been.  But not for much longer; time, of which there is none, is running out; Divine Intervention losing His tolerance; tranquil infinity bored with such humanly concept.  Omnipotent, yes, for in this present I am one with everything that exists and that does not, has once been, but yet to become.  Nothing, where I am, not even I, yet I am rich; own all that is not corporeal.  No one thing here that can contain any other, yet still they do.  And then I see them; magnificent colourful spheres, invisible, so beautifully patterned, remotely scattered within folds of seamless, infinite and intricately weaved fabrics of space, time and dimension, painted by hands of gods, hitherto unimagined vistas.  And I am in control, at least for now, master of sorts, a god myself of this divergent realm; the energy encompassing me, obeying the command of simple thought, traversing me through a vast container fashioned simply from all that I am, until it emerges me in some other galaxy, a place, that too, is part of me, or I it. And as I knew it would, it looked exactly as I had always known, even though I had never seen it before in any lifetime.  And the solitary planet shimmers luminously; red, amber, green, and above all others, implores me to become a part of it.  For I can be, I already am.  Entrancing, it is, but entrapping, pitiful, inviting.  I don’t want to go, and I won't, though I will arrive in less than an instant, or never in this eternity.  But as alluring as it might be, as ensnaring, I will leave if I do; for I can; yes, I am in control of the stellar chariot that draws me towards it - at least for now; stronger than the impostor, I know.  Soaring within it, motionless, yet speedily, leisurely, willingly, hesitantly, hurtling towards both a place of euphoria and, perchance, of eternal damnation, if I don’t.  A place impossible to comprehend in my waking state, conceived of, perhaps, but impeded by human limitation.  And it is as well, for we should not know.  I see that now.   Beings that lived, that died, burning, thriving, hostile, beguiling, insisting that I befall unto them to be less than all I can be or more than I am.  But still, this moment is not mine.  Yes, I have a choice, for this celestial crossroad is not my eternal walk home.  
Not yet.

Available on Amazon, Smashwords and Bibliocracy

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Things I’ve come to realise since my cleaning lady went on a seven-week vacation

1.     That my life has changed irrevocably, the meaning of ‘line up’ now quantifying the fact that the dishwasher will indeed not empty itself.
2.     That there might just be something to being a bottle collector; I could most certainly supplement my income with the amount of empties that I’ve just had to deposit for those less fortunate - either that or I could learn a new musical skill.
3.     That my fridge might just be a portal to new worlds with intelligent life forms.
4.     That it’s not just politicians with dirty little secrets hidden within their cabinets.
5.     That unlike the dishwasher, my oven will clean itself even if its skill does seem to be restricted; missing the nooks and crannies of the hotplates as it does, but no matter how much I try to encourage it, the microwave just can’t match those obliterating kind of temperatures; what just might be inspiration for a wanna be Picasso evident on all three sides, top and bottom.
6.     Where the expression ‘breeding like rabbits’ was begat from when I looked under the furniture.
7.     That ‘Lysol Ultimate Bathroom Cleaner’ might ultimately rein from the bathroom throne; providing shining hope for the murky minions there, ‘tapping’ into its skills even in the kitchen, but for whatever reason it has a grudge against my beautiful wooden dining table; wiping it clean, sure, but beating it into a dull submission ‘to just think about that!’
8.     That it is not minor earthquakes in the region, after all, that make the pictures on my wall askew from time to time, for there have been a couple of shakes recently and still they’re as straight as the last time I adjusted them just after my cleaner left two weeks ago.
9.     That windows of opportunity ‘clothes’ themselves when doors doubling as laundry baskets no longer will.
10. That despite Nancy Sinatra’s claim; shoes do not take on a life of their own.
11. That, in contrast to number ten, toys really do come alive when no one’s around – either that or someone’s running a doggy day care here when I’m out.
12. That judging by the water’s absolute refusal to drain in the shower, it might just be time for a haircut.
13. That the outdoors has, under false pretences, taken credit far too long for the fresh aroma of nature that I always thought was particularly skilled in permeating, even in winter, the smallest cracks of my doors and windows.
14. That contrary to what their name suggests about their disposition, baseboards really don’t skirt any issues at all.
15. That the dog doesn’t mind taking a bath now, not after the last time I rinsed him down in there; the tub doing a highly impressive impression of the dank mucky puddle up the park.
16. That there’s no treasure in that old trunk in my study as I always fancied there might be.  No, now I have to put that retirement plan to bed! (See what I did there?)
17. That silver might just be an impostor; in fact it’s a cotton lining to be discovered behind every soft downy cloud.
18. That my bathroom windowsill might have a point; spreading gossip that I’m metrosexual as has been its tendency of late; perhaps its time to go back in the closet?
19. That if you don’t pick up the party favour from your Godson’s christening - a love heart shaped picture frame attached to a nicely tied blue ribbon containing iced chocolate almonds - that fell on the floor when you were cleaning the dresser, that the dog will accuse you of having held out on him all this time.  Yes...  a false labour saving method is the art of procrastination when one considers the mark on the carpet that the ingestion of his very first taste of sugar will undoubtedly deposit later.
20. That the canine species might just be more intuitive than we think, vacuums really are obnoxious sucky bastards.
21. But the biggest thing I’ve learned since my cleaning lady abandoned me?  That what highly manipulative parents say is true; anything can be turned into a game; stopping in-between chores to write these little notes and rather enjoying it, the place sparkling now to the point where I might have missed my vocation – but I rather suspect that’ll be a one time deal only - but at least I got to write as well.
22. That I might not be paying her enough - but... then again... anyone who can take a frikkin' seven week unpaid vacation, might just be doing better than me!
I think I’m good for two weeks now, only five to wade my way through.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Oh... comma-on now!

Oh geez!  Even though I swore blind I'd never personally ever look at one (in particular) of my earlier books again in terms of editing, somehow what I used to think was really great now makes me cringe with embarrassment pretty much no matter what excerpt I randomly choose from it - at least in terms of technical skill, not the storyline itself.  And yes, I had a few people proofread it too - and I trust that they advised to the best of their ability... at that time.   But it obviously didn’t cut it – unless my standards are, as I've been told, too high? (But can there even be a limit to quality?)

I really think I'm going to have to though, go through that book in its entirety in terms of the little things, that is. Comma over-usage for one - something I've long since known about myself and thus far have tried to dismiss as being unimportant enough to not have to go back in and fix in older works.  But now that I've looked, I feel that the overuse is just completely unacceptable.  Thankfully its something I'm not guilty of anymore but it does leave me wondering how I could've been so over-exuberant in the first place?

I dread the thought of doing this edit though.  Perhaps I have to approach it methodically; one chapter at a time and only when I really feel like it (which will be absolutely NEVER) and try not to completely rewrite every sentence as I always want to do when I go back over most of my old stuff; time consuming to the point where I could've written a couple of brand new novels at least and without the same kind of stress attached. 

I have numerous projects on the go at the moment, but somehow it's in my head now that this edit has to take priority.  Funny thing is though, that I wonder if the general reader even notices, or cares if they do; people do seem to love the book and no mention ever made of the stuff I, as the (erstwhile) proud daddy of, wanna change – such as a lack of contractions - something I still have to check myself for forgetting to use.  Anyone would think my name was Data.

I wonder if I'm just being obsessive, or if every writer goes through this?  Will there be something else I want to change in six months time about that same book?  Would it be better not to even look at my old stuff and just get on with what I'm doing now?

One thing's for sure though; I have long since adopted a 'say it as it is' policy when helping out other new writers - a polite honesty for which I've often been berated in amateur societies where most stroke each other's egos, and so these days I only employ any help I think I can offer where I think it might actually be wanted... nay... where deserved.  But I say, if there was more of it instead of treading on eggshells, perhaps later on in the writing journey people like me wouldn't be looking back thinking like I do now and wasting so much time correcting everything.  Yes, that's right, it wasn't my fault!  Lol.  

But I guess that's why it's called a journey; a nice place to arrive at when you do, somewhere to breathe out the view; things suddenly starting to make sense without you even realising it.  And when you really think about it, to have these kinds of moments where you just want to open up a time portal and go back and slap yourself silly - or in my case, grab myself by the crown of the hair and bash my head hard right through to the back of my computer repeatedly until it sinks in once and for all - can only be a good thing.

I’m doing the first chapter today – even though I think I might’ve done that one the last time I stressed out about comma usage; masking it in the first couple of chapters, sneakily leading the reader to believe these wouldn’t be overused in the rest of the story, but hopefully hooked by that point, they wouldn't care a hoot.  But then again, would they notice, really?  I mean, if someone well on their way on their writer's journey didn't when they actually employed them, would a reader know any better?  Hmmm - perhaps the answer to that is, only the more discerning ones would.

But I've promised myself to just try and concentrate on the obvious minor things and not do a complete rewrite this time - and maybe that'll be the next thing I'll discover that I've subliminally learned on this never-ending journey.  Huh - ye-ah... and I'll also discover I was the winner of the mega-millions even though I didn't actually have a ticket.