The Top Ten Facebook Crimes – Chapter Five

facebook userBook Number Three, Chapter Five

Chapter One – An Unexpected Start to a Sunday Morning

Chapter Two – Sleeping on Your Front

Chapter Three – Destination Obal B

Chapter Four – Half a Hot Dog in a Handbag


Sunday morning into the afternoon, somewhere in the city.

I appear to have turned into a Facebook bore.

I know, Facebook. Like, who would bother when you’ve got Twitter, and Instagram? I just used to go on it for the occasional nose, and maybe once or twice I posted a pic of me and various other people getting drunk, or one of Corky the cat doing his cute-sy stuff. I maybe posted something once or twice a month.

I never posted up inspirational quotes about love, friendship and/or fitness, or a bet that 97 percent of my friends would never share this earnest quote about cancer, or reply to a post with one word, and preferably a word that was flattering, that described me.

But now? Now I seem to do all the above. And yet at the same time, I have ten times the number of friends on Facebook I used to have and people keep sharing my shite. Those inspirational quotes seem to be very popular indeed, and my Facebook friends appear to love all those sickly pictures and videos of cute kids I keep posting.

And not one person has made a sarcastic comment about this: Celebrating our 20th year of marriage. Can’t believe we’ve been together and so happy for so long. Love you so much baby. You’re the best which was posted a week ago.

20th year? Well, that ties in with the dodgy wedding pic on the landing I guess. Continue reading

The Source – A Review

The SourceThe Source by James A. Michener
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set aside plenty of time for this read – it’s a lengthy tome. But you’ll be glad you did put in the effort.

I love this book. I use the present tense because I’ve just read it for the third time and I anticipate I’ll read it again and again. My first reading was when my grandmother bought it for me not long after I returned from a stint on a kibbutz. The second time was when someone bought the book for me after I lost the original – I gave it to someone and they never gave it back, don’t you just hate that?. And now I’ve re-read it for the third time.

The Source is a hugely ambitious novel, taking in the history of civilisation and religion. It starts with a fictional archaeological dig and it takes the form of a series of short stories related to each layer of the dig interspersed with what is going on in the present day. Primarily, it’s about Judaism, but it also includes the birth of Christianity and Islam (and all the schisms in between).

If you love history and you find religion fascinating, you’ll love this book. I’m an atheist, but the explanations at the beginning for why a group of people might have started to believe in some kind of greater being were wonderful. All through the book, you see the various religious, political, cultural and societal issues emerge, and their contribution to what happens next.

It’s also darn good story-telling. Each of the short stories that take place years apart (in some cases thousands of years) is actually quite a long short story, but I found myself wanting to read on every time, even though I knew what was going to happen because I was reading the book for the third time.

At times, the archaeological dig pieces feel a little heavy-handed, two of the main characters basically serve as mouthpieces for two different peoples. But the extended end piece pulls everything together terrifically. The book was published in the mid-1960s, and there are several predictions in it about what will happen in the future. See if you agree with what Michener’s characters predict…

View all my reviews

Chicken Wings: The Debate (And Writing from the Male Viewpoint)

I don’t know if I do it well, but I love writing from the male viewpoint. It’s kind of liberating. I hope this isn’t too cliched. It’s part of a book I’m writing at the moment, the first part of which is here. Wee warning, there’s a couple of f-bombs in here, so if you don’t like that kind of thing, please don’t read on…
Crispy_Chicken_WingsRyan squinted at the screen of his phone. The girl looked vaguely familiar. School? A neighbour? The daughter of one of his mum’s friends…?

The parkour group he’d joined last year, that was it. She’d been a member of that. Though she’d been…wearing a lot more clothes then.

“What’s that ye’re lookin’ at?” Snatching the phone out of his hands, Matt stared at it, a slow grin spreading across his features. Ryan rolled his eyes and stood up, trying and failing to grab the handset back.

“Smokin’ Ryan. Who’s this wee honey?” Matt smirked, enjoying watching the blush spread across Ryan’s face. Blushing was something he did a lot of, and Matt prided himself on making Ryan blush as much as he could.

“Fuck off Matt,” he said, managing at last to snatch the phone back and shoving it in his pocket so Matt couldn’t take it off him again.

“Ooh, sorry princess! So c’mon. Who is she? Friend of yours?”

“Who’s a friend of his?” Jamie had come into the room, accompanied as always by his Staffordshire bull terrier Cocoa, a gentle, affectionate dog despite her rather fearsome appearance. He’d just taken her out for a walk.

Let off the lead as Jamie entered the room, Cocoa bounded up to Ryan, jumping up so she could put her front legs on him and wag her tail furiously. She loved Ryan almost as much as Jamie.

Matt exchanged a loaded glance with him. Shall I tell him or not? He really was an annoying prick.

Ryan beat him to it. “A girl I know from parkour. She’s on Instagram.”

Matt raised his eyebrows in comedic fashion. “Aye, Jamie. This lassie he knows on Instagram. Modest wee soul. Me and Ryan here were just admirin’ her… fashion choices. Gottae say though, if that’s all she’s wearin’ in Glasgow at this time of year, she’s gonnae be awfy cold.”

Ryan glared at Matt once more, but refrained this time from telling him to fuck off. Matt was his uncle Jamie’s best friend after all, and he didn’t want to offend Jamie.

Having shrugged off his coat, Jamie looked questioningly at the two of them. “She’ll be a bit young for you is she no’?” he asked, directing the inquiry at Matt. Matt shrugged. “Doesnae look it.”

Ryan pounced. “Actually, I think she’s younger than me. Fifteen, might even be only 14.” Continue reading

Review of Thornfield Hall

Thornfield HallThornfield Hall by Jane Stubbs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I was apprehensive at first, as I read Jo Baker’s Longbourn last year, a book that shared the same premises. The two books take classical stories and re-tell them from the viewpoint of the servants, Thornfield Hall is based on Jane Eyre, and Longbourn on Pride and Prejudice. As Jo Baker had already done it so well, I didn’t think Jane Stubbs would be able to match her book.

The books were only published three months apart, which seems to suggest both authors thought up the idea at the same time.

But back to Thornfield Hall. The narrator is the housekeeper, Alice Fairfax – herself a member of the gentry according to her mother’s strict specifications, who is forced into servitude through poverty. Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester are no longer main characters and instead the under classes shine. The Brontes used genteel poverty as a theme in their books, and frequently highlighted the limited choices available to women. Stubbs does the same with Alice Fairfax, neatly noting Jane Eyre’s own prejudices and snobbery towards her.

Bertha – the madwoman in the attic – is presented very sympathetically in this interpretation, as is her nurse Grace Poole. Jane Stubbs suggests a plausible and witty interpretation of what actually happened when Thornfield House burned down. She also gives Rochester a less than sympathetic character, particularly relating to his behaviour in the West Indies.

The ending felt very satisfying. The good received their just rewards – not just Jane Eyre, and the servants managed to get one over their masters. Excellent stuff.

View all my reviews

Debut Novel Giveaway at Edinburgh Festival

weekend limited copiesROLAND Tye’s debut novel, Weekender, will officially be published by Comely Bank Publishing on 19 September. Advanced copies are currently available from selected bookshops.

Weekender follows various characters over a weekend set in Edinburgh’s recent past, the story moving from one character to the next as their paths cross. Over three days it explores a city of contrasts: sex, drugs, violence, love, family, betrayal, redemption and despair.

Roland, who was born in Edinburgh in 1979, originally thought of the idea back in 2000 and the journey to publication has been as compelling as the novel itself.

Roland said: “I never imagined it would take this long to get Weekender finished and published.

“They say writing a novel can be a long journey but I seem to have taken it to a new level! A huge thanks goes to the amazing people at Comely Bank Publishing who turned my dream into a wonderful reality.”


As it’s festival time and Edinburgh is chock full of artistic and literary talent, Roland is embarking on a promotional campaign over a weekend (obviously!) that will see limited edition copies pop-up around the city between 19th and 21st August.

The aim is get Weekender travelling around the world, with finders asked to read their copy and then leave it where someone else will pick it up.

People will be able to log and track the journey on social media using the hash tags, #discoverweekender #ifoundweekender, and also @weekendernovel, and @comelybankpub

Comely Bank Publishing was set up by author, Gordon Lawrie, in 2012 to give Scottish writers additional options for self-publishing and for writers to share their experiences and expertise. It’s a publishing co-operative that creates opportunities for Scottish authors to publish works of interest using 21st century publishing options, including eBooks and print-on-demand.

Gordon said: “I set up Comely Bank Publishing because I genuinely believe that too many authors are failing to have their works published.

“The future of literature can only be saved if bright new talent is nurtured as it used to be.

“Here at Comely Bank Publishing, we want to share our experiences so that others who want to self-publish can benefit from what we have learned along the way.”

Other Comely Bank Publishing Titles include Four Old Geezers and a Valkyrie by Gordon Lawrie, The Man from Outremer by Dave Burke, Katie and the Deelans by Emma Baird, and Our Best Attention by Jane Tulloch.

For more information and to obtain high-resolution pictures, please or phone 07979 121150



Comely Bank Publishing is based at:

Comely Bank Publishing, 87/6 Comely Bank Avenue, Edinburgh EH4 1EU


Telephone: (+44) 0131 332 3470



Twitter @comelybankpub

Kelly’s 40th

sweet wrappersI seem to have hit my stride – discovered what I really like writing about, and that makes writing really easy.

It turns out I like writing about the emotional ups and downs of Scottish women in their 40s. As I’m a Scottish woman in my 40s, then maybe that’s not surprising. Write about what you know, right?

Anyway, here is chapter one of what I’m writing now. It does contain some adult content and bad language, so if you don’t like that kind of thing, please don’t read any further.




Hey @Kelly1976! Just to let you know we can’t make ur 40th on Sat. Bit of an epic Christmas & New Year. Sorry! Sure it’ll be fab #Kelly40!

Wow. An “I’m not-coming” RSVP via Twitter. That had to be a first, setting a new lower-than-ever standard for etiquette. It was the day before her party, and the unwritten rules of politeness according to Kelly Thompson was that if you had to cancel at short notice you did it by phone.

A text or email was bad enough – but Twitter was public. Said friend had just revealed how (not) special she thought Kelly was and told millions of people at the same time.

Having a birthday on the 3rd of January had always put her at a disadvantage. As a child, most people had chosen to give her joint birthday and Christmas presents, and Kelly always suspected that the combined value did not add up to the same amount as two separate gifts. The same rule applied to birthday parties. Her younger and older sisters both had birthdays in the summer. Their celebrations felt quite distinct from Christmas.

Children and teenagers were quite happy to party any time – it didn’t matter to them that Christmas and New Year had only just taken place – though her mother often tried to move the party closer to New Year so she could see her friends at the same time. But at least in her youth, those Kelly invited always came to her parties.

Unlike now. She ought to be used to it. For the last 12 years or so, there had been a marked reluctance from friends and even family to throw themselves enthusiastically into any birthday celebrations precisely because of the proximity to the festive season. It hurt then, it still did.

It rankled all the more because she was single. If she had a partner, perhaps he would have booked her into a top hotel – the five-star Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire perhaps – for a weekend, spa appointment, taster menu and the finest selection of wines all included. Then, she supposed she wouldn’t give a flying fuck about organising a party or some kind of special celebration with friends to mark the passing years. Nope, she’d be too busy listening to the sommelier as he explained precisely why this particular white went so well with the amuse bouche she was about to eat, as her imaginary husband/partner toasted her, embarrassing her by telling the waiters they had to treat her very well, as the love of his life was 40 today.

Of course, in this little daydream, the waiters all protested vehemently. “Forty? No, no. That’s can’t be possible. Surely madam is celebrating her 30th birthday today?”

Sighing, Kelly stood up and stretched raising her arms high above her head. As a freelancer, she mostly worked from home and that meant spending long hours in front of her PC. Some years ago, she’d invested in one of those Swiss ball chairs which was meant to help with posture – forcing you to sit up straight instead of slouching forward. It was effective, but it didn’t make up for the hours she put in for her various clients. You just weren’t meant to sit for long periods of time.

Outside, it was your typical early January early evening in Glasgow. The rain had been falling steadily all day, and the skies hadn’t brightened from gun-metal grey. At this time of year, the days were short, but this one had felt particularly short because it had been so overcast. She’d had to switch on the lights in her Merchant City flat at three o’clock. The blinds were all firmly pulled down now, and the place felt cosy.

Despite its city centre location, Kelly’s flat was quiet. It was located at the back of the block in Wilson Street and thus not near to the main road. Her windows were triple glazed and the old building featured thick walls. The worst noise was often seagulls – who could start up early in the mornings, but not at this time of the year. She wasn’t on the side nearest to the area’s pubs either. The flat’s relative peace and quiet was an advantage she hadn’t fully appreciated until a few months into her move there. She’d befriended one of her neighbours – a gay guy, who lived on the same floor but whose flat faced the opposite direction. The noise difference was considerable. He had often knocked on the door at night, begging her to let him in so he could sleep in her spare room in the days before she’d turned it into her office, the noise at his side of the building too much for him. Kelly had agreed, secretly thrilled as it felt a bit like having a boyfriend or partner. She always hoped that other people coming down the stairs noticed them leaving her flat together in the morning and thought of them as a couple.

It helped that Josh was incredibly good looking. He wasn’t particularly tall, but he was at least taller than her and he had inherited some impeccable genes from his French mother – olive-skin that always tanned at the merest hint of sun, thick, dark hair, huge Bambi eyes and cheek bones to die for. He was a rower too, and it showed – his shoulders and arms muscular and his torso patterned with lines that defined the much sought after six-pack. He’d let Kelly touch it the first time she’d seen it, her jaw dropped in awe.

“Is that real?” she’d stuttered, and he’d smirked. “Too right. That’s what marks a gay man from a straight one – the care he takes of his body. Darling, I’m a slave to the gym.”

Naturally, his chest was hairless too. And yes, he also favoured the back, sack and crack wax. She hadn’t seen the evidence of that at the time, but some months later after a riotous night out, he’d happily showed her and her best friend Nell what a hairless backside and balls looked like.

“Weirdly naked,” Nell said, and then asked if she could touch them. Kelly protested, but Josh let her, saying it was the closest he’d been to a woman since the age of 14. The three of them watched in interest to see what his cock would do. It slowly stiffened, Josh shrugging apologetically and then glancing at the two of them speculatively.

“I don’t suppose…?”

Nell had looked on the verge of agreeing to whatever, but Kelly stepped in. “Absolutely not! One, you’re gay Josh, and two, Nell’s married.” She held her hand up as Nell murmured that giving a gay man a hand job wasn’t technically infidelity, surely.

“Yes, it is! What do you think Daniel would say if you explained to him that you’d just jerked off another man? Want me to throw a bucket of ice water over that Josh?”

Both of them looked suitably chastened, the change in mood backed up by Josh’s rapidly deflating erection.

Kelly supposed it was his fault she was so fussy these days. He’d set the standard for how a man should look if she were to fancy him, and his image often popped up in her mind when a man stripped off in front of her for the first time. Much as she tried not to, Josh’s torso would float enticingly in front of her, obscuring the view of saggy man boobs, and a stomach that rounded outwards.

At least she could count on him to be there tomorrow night. Josh had moved out a few years ago – his BBC Scotland job allowing him to upgrade and buy a house in the west end of Glasgow. He’d also met someone, marrying the guy last year when the laws had changed to allow marriage and not just civil partnership.

Moving into the kitchen, Kelly opened the door of the cupboard – the high-up one where she deliberately kept her stash of chocolate in order that it was out of reach. The little psychological trick – out of sight, out of mind – had its limits, and inside that cupboard was several blocks of Dairy Milk, truffles and boxes of wraps that clients had given her at the start of the holidays.

There was another disadvantage of the January birthday thing, especially when you were approaching the big 4-0. Didn’t most women embark on a fevered diet before their fortieth – vowing that the old saying, fair, fat and 40 would not apply?

If your birthday was in early January, though, you had weeks of festive feasting just behind you snapping at your heels. All those Christmas parties and huge meals that marked out December – rich, luxurious foods people didn’t usually eat. Mince pies, sausage rolls, stuffing, cakes and puddings galore. This year, Kelly’s mother Rose had gone completely over the top. Her oldest daughter Louisa had come to hers for Christmas, having spent all of the Christmases since she’d been married with her in-laws. Louise had decided early on that her in-laws were far worthier of attention and attendance than her own family.

Conscious of the honour, Rose went all out, anxious to create a feast so magnificent her fussy oldest daughter would never go anywhere else again. Once the attendance had been confirmed, she had rushed off to the shops and bought every food magazine she could get her hands on, flicking through them feverishly in the search for the best menu she could find. The resultant Christmas meal had included canapes, a first course, a fish course, the main course, pudding and cheese and biscuits. Kelly had thought she might pop afterwards. Josh would have told her, “Well, you can always say no, can’t you?”. As if it was that simple. Rose was a feeder. She took refusals to eat her food personally. A person had to say “no” at least three or four times before she stopped offering you second helpings. Most of the time, it was easier to wearily accept.

There had been lots of leftovers and everyone had been sent away with foil-wrapped packages. As Kelly was the family’s only vegetarian, the goat’s cheese and mushroom pie hadn’t been touched by anyone else, so off she went with enough food to feed eight people. Her mother had perfect hands for pastry and what she’d made for this pie was flaky and light. Kelly had also ended up the recipient of 12 mince pies, lots of cheese straws and a white chocolate cheesecake that only had a quarter missing from it.

She had left the food in her fridge from a few days, in which time she had made some serious dents in the cheesecake, but eventually she threw it all out, covering the lot with washing-up liquid to deter any bin raids late at night.

Continue reading

The Joys of Internet Research

nailsHow did writers manage years ago – research-wise?

I’m a big believer in the powers of the search engine. Ask a question – any question – and someone’s asked it before you. Here’s a case in point. Yesterday, I wanted to describe someone going into a beauty salon. Those of you who do make use of salon services, particularly nail bars, will know there’s a certain very strong, chemical smell associated with them. What is it?

I began to type the words, “what does a nail salon” in. By the time I’d typed “sm”, auto fill had kicked in, and the suggestion “What does a nail salon smell like” appeared.

Dead Cats

The first site I found was on answers yahoo – and funnily enough, was from someone writing about nail salons and wanting to know what that smell is. The answers weren’t terribly helpful. Someone had suggested dead cats, but one or two sites later and I had my answer.

Ethyl acetate.

That’s just one example. For the book I’ve just finished (first draft only), I needed to know if exploding cars happen often, what takes place at a memory clinic, how Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, what happens during a medical termination, when Glasgow Caledonian became a university, if Botox is a brand name or a generic name for face-freezing injections, and the lyrics to a number of songs,* all of which was revelaed with some judicious searching.

Alternative Words

Then there’s the joy of the online thesaurus. You discover you’ve just used the same word three times in the last two paragraph and off you head to the thesaurus to find an alternative.

I have no idea how writers managed before the internet. Did they save up all their queries and then go to the library? Did they have to phone people up? Would the novelist writing about a nail salon 25 years ago have phoned up a salon and asked the question? As a result of the difficulties of research, did writers just write about things they knew a lot about?

Thanks heavens for the internet, hmm?


*Those lyrics might need to come out. I’m trying to work out if I would need to pay a fee for them, if I misquote them slightly, or have characters speak the lyrics to each other. There’s more information about using lyrics in your writing here.

Preposterous Endings and Implausible Plots

The burnt-out car - it doesn't happen half as much as Hollywood would have you believe.

The burnt-out car – it doesn’t happen half as much as Hollywood would have you believe.**

Last week, I watched a film I thought preposterous and a book that featured an implausible plot.

It made me think because when you’re a writer you imagine various scenarios in your head, trying them out to see if they work or not, and rejecting plenty of ideas because they seem unbelievable.

It’s the biggest contradiction about fiction – good films and books need to be believable. Even if you’re writing about teenage boy wizards and their adventures saving the world from a malevolent man everyone fears to name. (Except for the said teenage boy wizard.)

By the time I’d got to the end of Jason Bourne, I had switched off. The last car chase (and there had been a few beforehand) seemed ludicrous, as did the final fight which was long, drawn out and physically impossible. Films like to throw together the main good guy and the main bad guy for a final fight, the main bad guy always managing to miraculously escape everyone else’s efforts to bring him down.

The book I read* featured three women who managed to set up a business together which was of course an immediate success. They all managed to find the loves of their lives at the same time so that the book had a happy – and very neat – ending.

It did make me think though. Should writers spend too much time worrying about the plausibility of their plots? Does it make something less enjoyable if the ending is predictable and unrealistic?

Plenty of us go to the cinema or read books for escapism. When life’s pretty uncertain, why not watch something or curl up with a book where you know the goodies will win, the baddies will get their just desserts and the heroine will find love?

I’m currently fretting over several elements of my own book, wondering if they are realistic enough. I’m worried about a car crash, where a car conveniently explodes (forums online suggest car explosions are nowhere near as common as Hollywood makes out), the progress of an old woman’s Alzheimer’s (I suspect I’ve made it too quick for plot reasons) and the timings of some revelations that I fear have come too thick and fast.

Making something interesting and making it believable don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but I’d rather write a book that people read and don’t feel forced to mutter, “Oh, for God’s sake! Seriously?” or “What a load of rubbish!”




*I don’t like giving mean book reviews, so I’ll keep the book’s identity a secret. And actually, I did quite enjoy it.

**Picture thanks to Jeff Buck.

Y’know? No – That’s Why You’re Telling Me

microphoneYears ago, people who weren’t used to public speaking or presentations would pepper their speeches with ums, ahs and ers.

The good old days, hmm? The modern equivalent is “you know”. If you’re a regular listener to podcasts as I am you will hear this phrase repeatedly. Americans are particular offenders, but the practice is spreading.

I find it grating. The odd use here and there is okay – although I’d prefer an er or an um – but I listen to podcasts where people use it every few words.

If you listen to broadcasting professionals, such as those who present BBC radio shows for example, you probably won’t hear the phrase. “You know” separates the professionals from the amateurs. To stop using it, or at least to stop over-using it, a presenter needs to slow speech down.

There’s a tendency these days for people to talk too fast. Modernity encourages short attention spans so we all speak quickly, desperate to get our multiple points across. If you listen to old broadcasts or speeches from politicians, you will notice how slowly they speak. Slower speech sounds more authoritative and measured.

Sometimes I find myself using it in speech. It slips in if you haven’t given enough thought to what you are saying. If you’re an offender, keep this in mind:

“You know?” I don’t know. That’s why you’re telling me.


Deep-Fried Marshmallows

If you’ve ever worked with clients, you’ll probably know what I mean by this short story.

Fish_n_chips“The thing is with clients… they know for sure what they don’t want, but seldom know what they do want.”

“Too right! You’re expected to be part magician/part mind reader.”

“My mind reading skills have failed me of late.”

“Well, the usual trick is to give them the opposite of what they asked for.”

“Mmm, might work. When I gave them what they requested, they hated it.”

“Oh – they really didn’t like the battered, deep-fried marshmallows with ketchup?”

“Not one bit of it.”

“You could try fish, and maybe serve it with some fried potatoes?”

“I’ll give it a shot.”


©Emma Baird 2016