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I’m going to prison

With wonderful help from experienced performers, writers and prison staff it looks like we’re doing a project in Barlinnie prison, Glasgow. It’s due for late Autumn and looks like we’ll be doing readings of several pieces, and a read-through of a play we’re hoping to take on tour.

Writing with No View

I have a collection of short stories coming out in August. They are themed around ‘addiction’. I’ve enjoyed trying out a range of styles and voices.

One thing I am interested to develop is the ‘view from nowhere’. It’s related to omniscient narration, indeed it is a form of omniscient narration. But in the case of A Very Rotten Day I’ve tried to imagine the day itself telling a story, letting a day become a character.

How successful I’ve been you can judge for yourself as I’ve published it on the FREEBIES section.


Get your free copy of Scotched on Kindle Saturday – Monday, 26 – 28 January. For novel details reviews and to get your book go here

A free promotion last week saw almost 200 downloads. I know that many will rest forgotten in the library but if I get a handful of reviews I’ll be delighted. Reviews have some influence in leading people to buy a book.

I want as many readers as possible as a writer, whether they’ve paid or not. Those who do pay will contribute to the totality of proceeds that the author is donating to charity.

Growing a Novel from Seed

An identity crisis going on here. I am Ade Johnston, author of Scotched. I am also Adrian Johnston Bailey. As Ade Johnston I write to keep readers turning the page. As Adrian Bailey I shall reveal my literary pretensions to be ‘serious’.

So I’m working as Ade Johnston putting to bed a collection of short stories. Then I’m (Ade Johnston) going to have a go at crime fiction. For a crime novel, the formula is just that, more or less there already and well trodden by many writers. I have to start with plot structure, story, drama. The bad guys and the police team: a female Detective Inspector, a grouchy sergeant (who initially resents his new inspector, a job he had applied for) and two Detective Constables. Throw in an officious Superintendent boss, an Assistant Chief Constable who plays golf with society’s best, and the big bad media.

My ‘literary’ novel

Maybe as long as ten years ago, long before I thought about actually completing anything, an idea came along. It was one idea among thousands, many of which resulted in reams of paper, writing which periodically I would burn. I like to think the time wasn’t wasted, time for learning to write.

Anyway, this one idea has survived the test of time. It is going to be transformed into a novel. Plot and story here are of small interest only. Character depth and relationships centre around a university philosophy department (bags of laughs there!). Susan is 23 years old, a PhD student who does a little teaching. She’s had a year off for reasons revealed towards the middle of the novel, and returns to university near the start.

During her time at home with mother a step-father, her Aunt Julia is dying, and Susan visits her frequently. Julia, though, is otherwise something of a familial pariah on account of her transgressive life style and refusal to adhere to respectable propriety. The bond between her and Susan is unlikely on the surface; it is revealed as something deeper and not literally describable.

The novel opens on the day of Julia’s funeral at the gathering in Susan’s home. That day also is when Susan returns to university, taking with her a memory stick and several notebooks Julia has pressed upon her. The content of the memory stick and the contents of the notebooks will slant the novel to include an epistolary narrative.

I’ve got no narrative structure but am writing scenes as they occur to me. I’ll join the scenes with straight lines later for the story. Susan’s character feels more real each day, and several other characters are making themselves known. It’s growing like a tree with branches and leaves for texture, roots to tap into the mysterious source for what will hopefully become a ‘philosophical’ novel.

Free Kindle version SCOTCHED 19 & 29 January

I’m coming to the end of my ties with Amazon and will be ‘going wide’ next month. You can celebrate with me by downloading to Kindle my novel Scotched this weekend, 19th and 20th January.

I’m very grateful for the latest review from Alex Bewley which certainly tells you what to expect:

Scotched is a real gut-gripping page-turner that bores a grizzly hole straight through the bowels of Scotland circa 2018, offering a core sample in which can be seen an all-too-accurate sight of life in the West of Scotland.

The portrait is painfully accurate at times with all the familiar sights of Scottish urban life – drugs, drink, gambling, poverty, crime – but also that which goes unseen, the intrigue, the corruption and hand-in-glove nature of politics, business, and organised crime; and that’s where the story gets good. In the midst of such a mess are one man and his family.

To this add the politics of Brexit, Scottish independence, and the religious tensions that still plague Scotland. And Football, of course! If your into yir fitba, this novel’s for you. If not, it’s unlikely you’ll ever enjoy the “beautiful game” more than within these pages.

A must read for anyone living in – or interested in life in Scotland today.

She’s resting. The Doctor Gave Her a Sedative

The Crisis – Frank Dicksee 1891

I wonder how many books, films and dramas have contained these words? Often set in a country house, the ‘mistress’ has suffered a shock her fragile female form cannot bear. The gruff but avuncular doctor is seen coming down the stairs. ‘I’ve given her a sedative,’ he says. ‘I’ll call in tomorrow.’ Then off he rides on his horse.

When the police inspector comes calling, needing to talk to the lady, her husband says, ‘That will not be possible. She’s resting. The doctor gave her a sedative.’

It’s a stock situation with stock script. It would definitely be more interesting if it were the husband who was resting after a sedative, his wife the stoical manager who can challenge all adversity.

In this slice of narrative how much is said about perceptions of strong men and weak women. We’ve moved on considerably from such stereotypes but they’re still to be found in ‘cosy’ contemporary fiction and television.

Thoughtful, intelligent fiction does not work with stock images. That is left to the churning out of the thoughtless and simple writers and readers. Yet there is for a writer a rich and fertile ground that is never exhausted in the exploring of sex and gender.

One other thing. There is an interesting and clear path from the nineteenth century idea of doctors’ ‘treating’ emotional distress with pills, potions and injections to the present day. Perhaps, for instance, ‘mothers little helpers’ as Valium became known through the Rolling Stones song, were the drugs needed to keep ‘a good mother and housewife’ functioning.

And as drugs were needed to sedate women trapped in tight gender roles, perhaps now all of us in a toxic culture have to turn to sedation. Ironically, in an age touted as the zenith of personal freedom, we have never been more constrained, and never will we be strong enough to meet the demands of a devestating capitalist realism.

Mother’s Little Helper

What a drag it is getting old”Kids are different today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though she’s not really ill
There’s a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day”Things are different today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
Cooking fresh food for a husband’s just a drag
So she buys an instant cake and she burns her frozen steak

And goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And two help her on her way, get her through her busy dayDoctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old”Men just aren’t the same today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
They just don’t appreciate that you get tired
They’re so hard to satisfy, You can tranquilize your mind
So go running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
And four help you through the night, help to minimize your plightDoctor please, some more of these
Outside the door, she took four more
What a drag it is getting old”Life’s just much too hard today”
I hear ev’ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore

And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day

Keith Richards / Mick JaggerMother’s Little Helper lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc

Sorting Books and Existential Dread.

It started about a month ago. One of those breezy, well-intentioned statements of commitment which was well wrapped in the ‘sometime in the future’ mantra.

It had got to the stage that not only were there piles of books everywhere but the piles were collapsing. On the odd occasions when I went looking for a book I couldn’t find it. More usually I’d be picking up books near at hand, those lapping on my armchair island, those books carried in by tides of daily impulsive purchases. I’d be reading bits of maybe six books each day. Meanwhile, the volume of unread books grew physically, and so did a gnawing and persistent unease.

I was disrespecting books. The puritan minimalist in me envied the reader who sits in a superbly organised library while enjoying the riches of one book at a time. So, a month ago, I ordered yet another bookcase which currently joins the book piles, forgotten, unassembled.


This morning I was subject to disaster. Yesterday, among the books delivered to me was the Penguin hardback version of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. I already have paperback editions – somewhere – but felt Marcus deserved special treatment. The Penguin version is what a book should be, beautifully made and printed. I spent a moment smelling it then placed it on the pile to the left of my armchair which is next to a bookshelf I use for not only books but varieties of detritus such as elastic bands, old pens, and where I place my drinks. Thus it was that I contrived to knock over and spill a full mug of tea.

That did it. I’ve been three hours now sorting books in my main room. I’ve got some empty boxes somewhere so I have made a big pile for the charity shops, maybe 50 books, most of which I haven’t read. Each title reminds me of a time maybe a month, maybe a year ago when I developed an inexplicable interest in subjects I knew nothing about. Sorting the titles I was seized with recognising an underlying manic and possibly Faustian desire to swallow every item of knowledge and thought contained in the universe. Oddly, I haven’t found my book about octopuses which I think is the only non-fiction text I read in 2018 with devoted attention and fascination. Perhaps there is more than a little of the octopus in myself. Or my multi-tentacled selves.

The largest transitory pile contains subjects to which I do profess an interest. Technology and culture, mental health, psychology, philosophy, theology. Too much. One reason I ended up with so many books is that I was beguiled by ones I’d read to follow a footnote or reference to read authors I’d not come across. Every field of human study bifurcates continuously into labyrinthine mazes, fractals. An academic may devote years of their life to researching a tiny aspect of a tiny aspect of a subject. Yet here is me trying to bypass disciplines and wallow in the easy joy of superficial understanding. Well, that last sentence is one aspect of my existential anxiety regarding my reading habits. Another is that such foolish reading habits remind me of something a teacher of mine once said in dismissing a writer: ‘He chewed far more than he could bite off.’

Still, the areas mentioned above are deeply important to me in a very broad sense. A few of the titles will go on the shelf, the rest in a box, a storage space, a dusty archive. I think many of us have a precognition, valid or not, that something may come in use at a future time. (It rarely does, of course: it’s simply forgotten).

Poetry’s easier because such is the high status of poetry in literary culture I don’t bother to separate periods, schools or – God help us! – ‘types’ of poetry. I take the easy way out. If it’s poems it goes in the poetry section. I feel a bit happier now, getting all the poets together. It’s been a while since I’ve browsed and chosen one to enjoy. There’s only one book not going on the poetry shelves – T.S.Eliot’s Four Quartets which is now on a shelf just to my left next to some Vedic selections.

Fiction’s easy to classify too. I don’t even bother to stop my pulp crime fiction from sidling up the ‘literary’ geniuses. This is symbolic, not just lazy. The crude distinction between the highbrow elite and the lowbrow masses is rarer these days but it still retains its offensive implications. Let’s be glad that Shakespeare wasn’t pressured into writing only for the galleries.

The most depressing pile of books, happily not too big, contains those How to… tomes. How to reach a million twitter followers. How to set up and run a successful business repairing umbrellas (I joke). How to self-publish. How to become an author-entrepreneur. How to master SEO – the 100% proven and easy way. How to market your book. All I can say is I was duped! One thing I have learned from such books is that they represent a huge part of the reading market. If you follow the fairly obvious advice to use the right keywords and categories, price your book correctly and have an attractive cover you’re 75% on the way to selling your How God can Make You a Millionaire. I’ve also learned that all that book marketing is not for me. Apart from the waste of many hours, and subscribing to a certain attitude of mind which is totally inimical to mine, you have to beware of mixing with the sort of people who, in many modern tragedies, were travelling salesmen.

Then, as the temporary piles begin to collapse and books I love but seem unclassifiable come from the recesses of memory, I find a space for those titles which I need for my writing projects. And there are only three of them! To think that if I spent my time writing I would hardly ever have to read again – an exhilarating yet terrifying thought experiment. And yet, the mess, the arbitrary collection of my books library is one way of looking at my mind. It’s disorganised, disconnected, in bits and forever adding jewels and junk. I should have the physical side of things sorted in the next few days, albeit that will mostly result in tidy-looking chaos. Psychically, from the very start of 2019 I shall be engaged in that strange thing writers seem able to do – to make everything seem so simple. If you want to think mud and Lotos Flowers, please do!

Anyway, that’s enough for today. And don’t get me started on my Kindle library. Somewhere in there are three books I’ve promised to read and review.

Ah, no longer finished finishing when the doorbell rings. A sweet delivery of the Everyman’s Complete Works of Michel de Montaigne

I’ve a Favour to Ask

I’ve a favour to ask. First of all, thank you to all the lovely people who have read my novel and given me such positive feedback in messages on social media. It is so encouraging and gives me the motivation to coninue writing. If you have time, it would be wonderful if you could leave a short review on Amazon. A single sentence is enough, some more detail if you have time. Reviews are just one of the ways to help other people find the book. Even if you haven’t finished reading you can still write a review. All sales proceeds are going to charity so your review will help there too.

Of course, if you haven’t read the book I would be delighted if you did. Me and a million other authors! But whether you do read it or not, whether you leave a review or not, may I take this opportunity to wish everybody a peaceful Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Today’s Word is….SCOTCH(ED)

It’s very rude and ignorant to call a Scottish person Scotch. Very bad form.

You can use the word safely and correctly, of course if you ask for a Scotch egg. On the other hand, it would be insulting to call someone a Scotch egg.

It’s also fine to ask for a scotch in a bar. Just don’t ask for a scotch that Scotch people favour.

But there’s a usage of scotch that’s becoming rarer these days. True, we do hear things like, ‘Downing Street today has tried to scotch rumours about….’

The definition at the top of this post reveals some of the quite intense meanings which have attached to scotch.

I tell you that after a hard day’s writing I am absolutely scotched.

Looking forward to a wee…


Here we go!

Right then, new blog. This one is the ‘author’ website which is supposedly vital these days if you want people to read your books. It will be some time before I say anything authorial as I have some way to go with my first novel. It’s finished. Kind of. Now I’m going through the deserts of proofing and editing. When all’s done, including blurb, cover, purchase of ISBNs etc., the manuscript will be uploaded to Pressbooks for formating. Pressbooks runs on a WordPress platform, and offers a range of format themes. It formats to your wishes then you can download different file formats (.mobi, pdf etc) to send to your chosen service.

That chosen service for me is – wait for it! – Amazon KDP for print and EBook versions. If I were an ethical consumer, of course, I wouldn’t go near Amazon. But I’m not.

A few months after the world stops in some sort of aesthetic fever, I’ll also be going via IngramSpark if it looks like people are reading the novel. Ingram Spark has the best distribution service.