Of Musical Matters

Have been greatly taken up with music and songwriting of late, to the exclusion of other writing.  This is mainly because I am still waiting to hear from publishers about various literary works. Music offers instant gratification while I wait. The guitar and mandolins sit there in the study, become impossible to ignore. “I’ll just plug in and play a few songs…” which of course turns into hours…

Songwriting is a natural progression from that. I am pretty much always in the process of writing a song and it can take up an almost endless time and not always be productive. And yet when I’m fully engaged in writing a novel or book-length project, I don’t write songs! It’s either one or the other for me, never both at the same time.

However, with my music buddy, after nearly two years of rehearsal, we’re nearing the end of getting twelve tracks into a suitable condition for putting onto a CD. Nothing too ambitious, its essentially a set list and four of them are covers. Eight of the tracks are our own, four of mine, four of his, and they fit within the general category of Scottish traditional folk or acoustic. We’re quite proud of our songs but we’re not expecting to win a Trad Award, at least not this year! It’s just for fun really. The biggest problem we’ve faced and continue to face is the struggle to improve our harmonies. The question of our band name is another issue. We did a gig as Stairheid Rammie but that suggests a ceilidh band, then we got two songs on a charity CD as The Ferryboys and now I’ve suggested Corbies’ Knowe which is an actual place that we both like and it has historical significance. So that might be it. No-one else is using that name, at least according to Mr Google.

Inspiration in the Woods

Yesterday we went for a walk in the woods in Perthshire. It was mild, dry, there was even occasional sunshine and we saw lots of wildlife, lots of red squirrels, fallow deer, flocks of starlings, buzzards, Canada geese, wigeon. This time of year, before Autumn shrinks into Winter is an inspirational time for a writer. There’s something about deep woods that is iconic of wilderness or the outdoors. Of course civilisation emerged from the forests and so there’s something mythic about being enfolded in deep woods. It’s a symbol of the depth and darkness of otherness; some 18th century religions sought to portray woods as an actual source of evil and think how many slasher movies take place there. For me, a walk in the woods with the vibrant Autumnal colours always requires a notebook and pen in my pocket. And my most recently completed novel started that way. I was walking in the woods of Vermont, early fall, some years ago and it occurred to me how easy it would be to get lost and… what if you wanted to get lost? Would it be possible to stay lost, to survive as a hermit? From that idea, I soon came up with a character who wanted to escape… into woods and possible motivations… an unusual character, but harmless, likeable even, and if you have somebody who is lost, even willingly, you’re going to need to have somebody looking for him… I had half a plot already. So then you need a starting point… perhaps a failed romance…

And that was how my mind turned and twisted as I came up with my novel ‘The Way Back’ that has taken me longer to complete than any other project. In fact, I have worked it and reworked over years while other novels have been begun, completed and published. Recently, I spent some time with it and really got to grips with and this time I think I have finally nailed it. Anyway it’s out there, so let’s hope publishers agree.

Dundee Literary Festival

Dundee Literary Festival is over for another year. I hugely enjoyed my brief event as part of ‘Exploring Dundee’s History’ participating alongside other authors published by Abertay Historical Society and Billy Kay.  The event was reasonably well-attended (around fifty) but was all too brief!

I also managed to attend several other events, including a discussion of Graeme McRae Burnet’s third novel, Accident on the A35, chaired by Louise Welsh. I was gratified when the discussion veered towards the subject of Alex Trocchi as an influence. Later, I managed to get Graeme to agree to a selfie!

Forthcoming Event – Dundee Literary Festival

I am looking forward to participating in an event on Thursday 19th at 5pm in the Bonar Hall Dundee,  celebrating 70 years of Abertay Historical Society publications.  As an Abertay author myself – Vol 1&2 of Dundee’s Literary Lives 2003/4 (see Non-Fiction page), I will be speaking along with other AHS authors and Billy Kay. Full details at: https://literarydundee.co.uk/festival/think-local-exploring-dundees-history-for-70-years

New Site under construction

Apologies for the lack of information on the site, which is presently under reconstruction.

I have had a website presence since 2002 in various formats however a couple of weeks ago, due to circumstances beyond my control my site disappeared.

I am working hard to restore it. Thanks for your interest.