Friday, August 29, 2008

A Very European Evening

Turtle soup, anyone?
An English guy, Errol, and a German guy, Martin, have been delivering a training course at Mick’s place of work, so on Wednesday we invited them out for a meal.

By some amazing coincidence, Errol is from my home county of Lancashire and many of his relatives live in and around the area I’m from, so he knew the place well. And even though he now lives in South Carolina, he hadn’t lost his Lancashire accent at all. Martin lives in Germany, and though he spoke excellent English, I think he had a little trouble keeping up with three northerners at times.

We arrived at the restaurant at 6:30pm, but we were gassing that much it must have been about 7:30pm before we even ordered our starters (appetizers), and it had to be another hour before we got around to ordering a main course. By 9:30 we were the only ones left in the restaurant, and had the place stayed open later, I’m sure we would have still been there at midnight. I could see the staff milling around in the bar area waiting for us to leave. I’m surprised they didn’t start vacuuming the carpet by way of a hint (that has happened to me before), but no, they were much too polite for that.

Anyway it was a wonderful evening, with great company, (talk about laugh, I damn near wet myself), fabulous food, and a very patient server.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writer's Rights

In the comments on my last post I tried to explain why I can’t publish my article on the Black Death on my blog, and this got me thinking that I should maybe say a little something about writer's rights.

The vast majority of publications ask for "first serial rights," this means that the writer grants a magazine the right to publish their work one time only. After publication all rights to the work revert to the author.

Sometimes first rights will come with an additional proviso, usually some sort of time constraint. The magazine may ask to retain rights for three months, or they may pay you an additional fee to publish it on their web site for an agreed amount of time, in which case rights don’t revert to the author until that time has elapsed.

So if a magazine wants first rights to your work they don’t expect it to have been published elsewhere, and with most editors that also includes blogs.

Now in the case of the Black Death, I wrote this for a kid’s history magazine and if they publish it they want "all rights," that means exactly what it says. If a writer grants all rights to a piece of work it means they forfeit the right to use it ever again. A lot of children’s magazines take "all rights." Neither does this particular magazine publish articles on their web site, so no links either.

I should point out that I write very few things for publications that take all rights, for obvious reasons. In this case I don’t mind giving up all rights to the article, it’s what I call "a throw away piece." And it doesn’t mean that I can never write another article about the Black Death, after all, the magazine doesn’t own all rights to history, but it would have to be a different article.

I hope that clarifies things a bit. And this list of rights is not exhaustive, there are few others, but these are the main ones, so if any of you write with a view to publication make sure you know your rights.

Anyway, if the magazine doesn’t publish the Black Death, and there are seldom any guarantees in this game, then all rights revert to me, in which case I’ll post it up here.

And I'm sure you've all dozed off by now, so I'll wish you Night night and sweet dreams.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I did get my driver’s license sorted out last week. It wasn’t too painful, I only had to wait about an hour before getting "processed," and I had a book with me so that passed the time along. The only painful part was there were no loos (restrooms) at the place, and I’d had two cups of tea before leaving home. I was just about ready to burst by the time I got back. %-(
Oh, and the other painful part, my photo, it’s quite gruesome, I just hope no one asks me for ID in the next four years!

The book I was reading and have since finished was Tess Gerritsen’s, The Bone Garden, and I confess I was a tad disappointed with it. Part of the book is set in "present day" and part in the 1830’s. The historical mystery was engrossing, but I found myself getting annoyed when it switched back to modern day. The present day aspects of the novel were just a ploy to introduce the historical, and IMHO, could have been omitted altogether and the novel would have been better for it. The ending was also a bit naff, (English slang term, used in a variety of ways, but in this case means cheesy, or clich├ęd). If you’re a fan of Gerritsen’s (as I am) you’ll read it, and for the most part enjoy it. But if you haven’t read her books before, I wouldn’t start with this one.

After doing some final revisions to my piece on the Black Death, and adding some discussion topics and activities for the kiddywinks, that was sorted and sent in on Monday. Whenever I write an article ― time permitting ― I like to leave it alone for several days before I do the final edit, that way I approach it with fresh eyes and am more likely to spot my mistakes.

Yesterday, I read it to my writer’s group, Grand Lake Wordsmiths Unlimited, and they all liked it. One of the members is a retired teacher and she really praised it, I only hope the editors like it as much. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a real hit and miss affair this writing lark.

In the meantime, I’m still working on "the bloody thing," which lately has been a bit like pulling teeth. This is a bit of a dumb expression, do dentists find it hard work pulling teeth? I do wonder sometimes if this book will ever be sorted. I also have a short story running around in my head that I know is going to demand to be written soon.

Anyway, I must dash, there’s dinner to be sorted.

Toodle pip.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Big Read

I saw this on my good friend Raquel’s blog at and as I support any initiative that encourages people to read, I thought I’d reproduce it here.

The Big Read is being promoted by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. you can find their web site at

I’m not sure where this list comes from as it does not appear on their web site, it may just be some meme from the blogosphere. But allegedly, the Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of these 100 books. I guess that makes me an above average adult as I’ve read 56 of them. :-)

Anyway, wherever the list came from it’s fun to play along.

  • Bold: I have read.
  • Underline: Books I love. I haven't figured out how to underline so will put an asterisk *
  • Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read only 6 and force books upon them!!

1. *Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen*

2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3. *Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte *

4. The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling (I haven’t read the whole series, just 2 of them)

5. *To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*

6. The Bible

7 . Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman

10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 . The Complete works of Shakespeare (I haven’t read them all, but a lot of them)

15. *Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier*

16. The Hobbit --J.R.R. Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveler's Wife

20. **Middlemarch - George Eliot** (I really love this one)

21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. **Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck** (I really love this one)

29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 . The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 . Emma - Jane Austen

35. Persuasion - Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41. Animal Farm - George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47. *Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy*

48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50. Atonement - Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52. Dune- Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54. *Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*

55. **A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth** (Another of my faves)

56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72. Dracula - Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses - James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons

78. Germinal - Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession - AS Byatt

81. *A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens*

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85. *Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert*

86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince – Antoine de St. Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down - Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town like Alice- Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet- William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I will add a proviso, jsut because I haven't added an asterisk, doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book. I enjoyed reading them all.

In addition, I think there should be something on this list from Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, That Old Ace in the Hole, or Accordion Crimes. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is also notable by its absence. I could think of lots more worthies, too.

Who would you include?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Sorry Saga of the Driver's License

Me and my bruvver. We're just two guys that love each other.

Well, it’s been a busy old week. I am still working on my book, which is now known as either the bloody thing, or that damn thing. I guess you could call them working titles. :-) Amazingly though, I do actually have a title for the bloody thing. I usually struggle to come up with titles for my stuff, most things I write don’t get a title until they’re finished. This one has a title, but it’s nowhere near finished.

I’ve also been working on a piece about the Black Death of 1347-1351 for a kid’s history magazine. That has proved a bit tricky. It’s difficult writing a piece about the Bubonic Plague, which killed a third of Europe’s population, without making it too gruesome for the kiddywinks.

Also this week, I had to go and renew my driver’s license, and what a nightmare that proved to be. I had intended to get to the licensing place early, but things didn’t quite go according to plan. Do they ever? And when I did finally set off, I got held up with a train for 20 bloody minutes while it shunted some carriages into an industrial park. I got to the licensing place just as they were closing for lunch. Come back at 1pm, they told me.

As the temperature was 97°F. with a heat index of 108°F. I went to the store to keep cool in their A/C. When I got back there, the place was packed with people, and I was told to sign in and come back at 2:30pm. I then went to the library to stay cool.

At 2:30, the licensing place was still wall-to-wall people, but at least I had something to read while I waited. At 2:50, someone acknowledged my presence, and asked me why I was there. I was sorely tempted to give him some fly answer, but I refrained. I mean why the bloody hell did he think I was there? Anyway, he tells me that as it’s only a simple renewal I can do that at the tag office. I could have punched him. Why didn’t he ask me that at 1 o’clock? Needless to say I was spitting feathers by this time.

At the tag office, the lady there tells me I do have to go to the licensing place as I have to produce my INS documents (green card), which of course I don’t have with me. By now it’s 3:15, and I haven’t got time to drive home and back before they close at 4pm. Had I known, I could have done that instead of going to the library. (Spit!)

As they only do the licensing one day a week in that town, I now have to go through the whole process again at another town on Tuesday. Great! Bureaucracy, doesn’t it drive you nuts?