My Bibliography

Friday, 28 September 2012

These dog treats will kill your dog... VERY suddenly.

I just watched a very interesting documentary on CBC's Marketplace about this popular chicken jerky treat which I've always bought at Costco; thousands of dogs are dying all over... including my last one... of sudden kidney disease because of these treats, and its been going on for years.

There is something in the glycerin.  Check out their Facebook page to see what others say, and also the CBC's website on this documentary which, I  understand is also going to air through the US on Saturday 29 September.

These and other treats made in China, should be avoided at all cost.  And the packaging, as do many dog treats, fool you into THINKING they're made in your own country.  Canada, doesn't even have regulation for dog food.

Love, your dog?  Spread the word.

CBC Article/video
Waggin' Train's Facebook page

This documentary on Marketplace, made me truly angry; I gave my dog a Waggin' Train chicken jerky treat every day and he too died very suddenly of kidney disease. Thankfully, I haven't been to Costco in months, where I used to buy them, so my current dog hasn't had any for a long time, but coincidentally, or is it, as a young dog, he no longer gets sick like he used to for no apparent reason. 

Rest assured I will do my part in spreading the word about this. It also makes me sick that there is no regulation of dog food in Canada. I don't care what this company's videos say, how they spin it; all the tests that came back from various countries, with suspicious elements in them, belonged to Waggin Train treats all made in China. 

That's good enough for me.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My other 'blog'

Now, the other place where I occasionally print my little stories, together with pictures, isn't quite a blog, it's known as a hub.  The thing is though, their web-crawlers are pretty efficient in seeking out large amounts of text elsewhere on the Internet that's the same as content I might put here, or anywhere else for that matter, and so they tell me off, or deactivate accounts that are guilty of not being exclusive to them.

So, if you want to read the latest funny little story that I wrote, entitled Bigfoot or Big Lie, click on its title here to go read it.  It chronicles the true account of a Kentuckian family from the seventies who had various encounters with Bigfoot and other anomalies.  One of whom wrote to me after reading Prickly Scots to ask if I would tell her story for her. Check it out. It's entertaining, lots of moonshine and stuff goin' on, even the Waltons get a mention, and lots of pics there too.  Enjoy.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Was Juliet (as in Romeo) fat?

So, today I'm the guest blogger on Indies Unlimited where I talk about authorial maturation - with the help of precipitous terrain and animal spirit guides.  Yes, really.  Check it out though, it's a fun piece.

In fact, I am featured on their site twice today; also winning their flash fiction story this week.  My entry, which needed to do with a ghost in a theatre (a photo prompt) and be 250 words (see below) will be published in an anthology later this year.  Fame at last.

The Prompt

It is her first performance in this theater. She has heard the stories about him, the one who sits in the sealed box—the box no one is supposed to be able to enter.
Some say his appearance is a good omen; others that it spells certain doom for the production.
She wonders if he will appear tonight and what his presence will portend.
In 250 words or less, tell me a story incorporating the elements in the picture.

My Story

She’d seen him many times. In fact, on each and every occasion her parents had taken her to the ancient teatro. Yes, the mysterious figure, the real star attraction; filling the house every night regardless of what tragedy unfurled the stage; the audiences’ eye wandering continuously towards the haunted box. Most thought it a gimmick, a ghost story designed to enthral, but she knew it wasn’t. Ye-s, now more than ever, she knew.

What seemingly good fortune that’d kept her parents coming back to this ancient city to perform the Roman amphitheatre every summer; prestigious roles in operas such as Madama Butterfly, Aida, and Don Giovanni, and for where she’d put on weight for her own ‘fat lady’ role one day. Yes, forces beyond nature, bringing her back, year after year. Undying love. It had to be. Ye-s, no more would humanly impediment keep eternal lovers apart.

Her own debut performance in Teatro Filarmonico, a fortnight hence of her fourteenth birthday on 1st August, would also be her last. An operetta; Roméo et Juliette, that’d end in real tragedy – at least from the audience’s perspective.
But he didn’t come; Juliet, together with the audience, glancing expectantly up at the box all night, disappointed it’d remained empty.
‘He’ll carry me off, act five, the dying scene.’ She thought. ‘Will thrill the audience; take me into his arms, spirit me away. As it should be.’
But still, Romeo failed to appear, and she just knew it was because she was fat now.

Check out my guest post on Indies Unlimited.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

My book is being showcased today

Today 'Indies Unlimited' are featuring my new and improved Prickly Scots book on their wonderful site dedicated to showcasing indie writers.  So I would truly appreciate your support to help spread the word by coming and clicking on any or all of the social media buttons on its page, and even if you could leave a word or two, that would be amazing.  My writer friends, I'm relying on you especially, and If you haven't heard of Indies Unlimited, it offers many different ways for quality indie authors to get noticed; sneak peeks like this, which also includes getting listed in their library for a year, guest posts, competitions, and all manners of other interesting ways.  you should check it out.  Please don't make me look like a 'Billy-no-mates now, will ya?'

Thanks for your help and support.  Click here to take a look at the sneak peek and hopefully you will click on the social media buttons below it - just pretend its one of those meme cartoon thingies or a cat picture.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Conflict and Resolution - in life and in fiction

Robert Burns Statue Irvine,
which I used to climb over as a kid,
being directly on the moors at the
back of our school

When I was a kid I nearly plunged to my death from the side of what I thought to be a cliff called 'The Blue Billy'.  Hanging there literally by the skin of my teeth; one hand dug into whatever shallow groove on the rock-face its unbitten fingernails could find, and the other grasping onto a weed growing out of the side of the crag, which I knew if I were to put the slightest bit more pressure on, would come out by the roots and I'd be nothing more than a splat on the ground below; no saving ledge to break my fall as there usually are in the movies.  The reason?  A couple of boys had been killed falling off of there, trying to do the same thing, and I wanted to prove that it could actually be done.  And even though I soon found out it couldn't, dying wasn't an option either.
I find the same thing in fiction; creating impossible situations; feeling sometimes, how the hell do I get my characters out of this one?
Turns out that it wasn't a cliff at all but an industrial waste 'bing' started decades before I was born, nicknamed by the locals due to its colour.  And to give you an idea of the height, during World War II they'd built a Royal Observer Corps watchtower, giving a wide overall view of the Firth of Clyde (and credited with the first visual sighting of Rudolf Hess's Messerschmitt 110 - a destroyer twin engine German aircraft) in 1941.  Irvine Harbour, for that's where I lived, Irvine, Ayrshire on the West Coast of Scotland, me and Robert Burns both, a prime target for Hitler's invasion of the British Isles, Irvine, not me and Robert, it being a major boating district and also in the vicinity of a company called ICI, which in war time, made chemical weapon components - the smoke of which I would often see rising from across the moors in the distance even during my own childhood when they'd reverted back to making everyday pharmaceuticals to poison us with; sometimes contaminating the area with meltdowns, chemical spills or whatever, harmful pollution anyway.
Turns out also that that wasn't the only industrial waste playground that we as little kids ran around on delightfully; the huge hill that went for a couple of miles (it seemed) just across the road from the house we'd moved to from the comparatively clean, apparently, ancient city of Glasgow, was also one - and something I've only just learned through the Internet; the word 'bing' long-forgotten until my research at this very moment bringing it back to me that that's what we'd called what I'd previously thought of as being a natural hill, a place of beauty, one filled with happy childhood memories.  But places so old that nature had taken a hold of them, so I can be forgiven; grass, bushes and trees growing upon them, and once, I even remember seeing a beating heart of a newly ripped open hatchling lying in the bushes, nature rife, living and dying atop that poisonous old hill.  I wonder if that's why I have such a strong constitution, the reason that I never get sick, maybe I'm a mutant, a product of that entire chemical environment I played on and breathed the air of?  The reason maybe at the doctors last week for my tennis elbow shot that they couldn't find a heartbeat; four attempts at it, and barely contained smiles as they struggled to find it before reluctantly confirming they thought I did actually have a pulse?  (True story.)
But I'll never forget that day, precariously hanging there; the sky suddenly blue and vast, the ocean in the near distance, foaming at the mouth, crashing waves higher than ever before, silent, suddenly inviting, the sand dunes melted, swirling milk chocolate, the elephant grass that would slice our skin like paper cuts on the banks above, a jungle, hiding places where we would sneak up and slide down from to scare kids sitting underneath and get sand in their sandwiches, but it was alright; for everyone pretty much knew everyone else; their mothers would bitch at our mothers later.  And I’ll never forget either, how everything became silent as time slowed down as I contemplated it all.  Even the yells of my two little friends at the top, near to what we believed might have been Hitler's tomb - having heard something about him being connected to the Blue Billy, and what, as it turns out, was the aforementioned watchtower, a bunker dug into the ground and a place that'd long since fascinated me - their faces genuinely concerned, panicking, realising the severity of my predicament, running to 'get an adult.'  Yes, I thought I was going to be the third little boy that parents would tell their own kids about had died falling from that cliff, just another little boy that'd come to the beach in the summer and came back dead because he was too adventurous like seemed to be the norm; drowned, disappeared, or whisked away to another dimension through an astral portal, or whatever - as I really thought had happened when bodies were never found.  But no; I had to find a way out; my mother would kill me if that were to happen.
The Heckling Shop where Robert Burns worked 1781 - 82
which, growing up around it, I probably just thought was
someone's old tool shed.  Tut tut.  Where were my teachers
And in that moment, I laughed, a strange feeling consuming me, knowing that something would have to kick in if I were to escape the inevitable, that I could rely on absolutely no one to get me out of that situation other than me myself and I, for there was no time to go get any help, a helicopter or anything; the roots of that weed, in my mind's eye, snapping, one by one inside the rock, like a burning rope on a suspension bridge.  Taunting me.  Telling me to go for it, to let go of it and grab whatever wasn't surrounding it.  'I dare you,' it said, using the same order of words as my little friends that'd gotten me into that situation.  And I can still see that weed today, feel it getting weaker; can see every unaccommodating shallow groove on the side of The Blue Billy actually, I can feel the sensation of what it perhaps would've felt like just before one was to plummet to their death.  And then time ran out, my foothold slipping in sync with the integrity of the weed as reality set back in and I could hear both screams from below and above now, telling me, rather unhelpfully, to climb back up as if I was just some mortal being who'd simply frozen through terror and not necessity.  No, I'm not stupid, even if had put myself in that perilous situation in the first instance; 'of course a wid climb up, or doon, if a damn well could, ya stupit eejits.'
Irvine Beach with the addition of wheelie bins since my day
But unless my fingernails had suddenly become retracting bone claws a la Wolverine, with the ability to anchor into what was hard as stone, or if it was all the industrial waste I'd run around in for the last few years of my life that'd transformed me into a giant mutant insect, literally allowing me to scale that wall using every muscle of my hands and feet, my face, even, clinging to it for dear life, or if a guardian angel had come to lift me to safety, I don't know, but I saw a man leaning over the top as I was starting to slide downwards, finally losing it, the earth and stone crumbling, his hand a million miles away but at the same time so close that it couldn't possibly be real because I knew I'd climbed back up as much as I could but not quite enough to reach it.  No, the fall was imminent, simply a matter of seconds away and I could already feel the sensation of what it would be like to drop that distance, and marvelling, looking over to the harbour, the town way off in the distance, the church spires that you could only see from up there.  Yes, nothing more to do but take it all in.  The last things I would ever see, things that I'd always taken for granted. 
But then, somehow I found it, that strong lifesaving grasp that had I been any older would never have supported me, held on so tight that if he didn't save me, he was coming down with me, yes, found it simply by everything else that'd been keeping me safe having forsook me, other weeds, higher up, weak, coming right out as I tentatively tested them, and then, clambering, no choice but to panic, realising that hand coming from the sky, almost, was the only option, which, when I finally grasped; elevating myself only through sprouting wings, brought about a sense of relief that I've never known since, a sudden realisation, and sense of gratefulness before I'd even been dragged over the side, that I was actually going to continue living.  And as I looked down over the side of The Blue Billy, not listening to the man telling me how stupid I was, I saw me, in another reality, lying at the bottom of it.
Irvine 'Old Town' High Street, early 19th century
The original point of this story was intended to talk about finding a solution to problems in writing; creating seemingly impossible situations with no apparent way out, but somehow, out of the blue (pardon the pun) it just comes.  At least for me anyway, something indeed sprouting me wings, flying me across what I always think of as an abyss of imagination where the unlikely solution is waiting to reveal itself, but only at a time of adrenalin kicking in to demand it.  But then, during the course of researching my old home town for this piece, looking for pictures of The Blue Billy, and finding none (but pleasantly shocked and surprised at just how old Irvine was; the history attached to it, Napoleon III, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns and many, many others staying there, including a favourite place for William Wallace to go fishing, some pictures and drawings that I've never seen before pleasantly popping out of nowhere) it's become about something else too; how a story can evolve by its own volition, writing itself, getting sidetracked to the point where you are flying that abyss, creating something completely unexpected and inspired in so many other ways.  You just need to put yourself in the position - preferably not hanging from a cliff though - even if it is character building.
Irvine Harbour
Finally, while not as dangerous as The Blue Billy, per se, I really am shocked and astounded today at all the parents who used to simply watch us from their balconies run and jump over the roofs of a set of four little buildings out back, uniformly built to accommodate sheds for each unit of what was a block of maisonettes, the gap between the adjacent two buildings, maybe six feet, but the space between the ends of each, two, three times as wide, took a whole running jump along the entire length of the roof to make that sucker - and only the bravest of the bravest attempted it; only one, I remember, falling, slamming into the brick wall, getting up unscathed, pretty much, maybe a broken leg, and the rest of us laughing at her before trying it out for ourselves.  I did it once, and yes, I managed it, despite not thinking I might, but perhaps my wings sprouting yet again, for if someone else could do it, then so could I, but no desire to ever do it again, once quite enough, just as I never scaled down the side of a toxic waste cliff side either (and okay, maybe I added the word toxic, but who knows?) better to live vicariously through fiction from hereon in, and where, getting back to the point, they don't have to make sense, and yes, where a solution will always arise even if it seems impossible.

And just one last thought; maybe I did fall that day, now, I wonder why if that's the reason they couldn't find a heart beat, yes, now I wonder if I even exist, or maybe, like everything else, I only do so in my, or that is to say, your, imagination?  Humph.


Click for bigger pic, and get a perspective of its size from whatever
that is in the foreground - a wagon a la the Old Wild West?
Since writing this post I went on a mission, because I won't be beaten, and finally was able to capture a screenshot from a YouTube video presentation of old Irvine, and I recognised The Blue Billy immediately, even though this one was taken at the turn of the 19/20th century. Bear in mind that seven more decades would add to the length and height of this thing, and when I was hanging off it I was yet to reach two digits!  The rock face I was hanging from is the sheer one far left.

Warped Mirrors - a paranormal comedy
Want to see just how young Julian Abercrombie deals with his conflict - his older self from another parallel come to steal his soul, and no matter what he does, a life-changing event will occur, win or lose?  Then Warped Mirrors is for you - Amazon or Smashwords.