Writing and transformation


Tomorrow, I’m preaching once again at St Mary’s, Newport-on-Tay so having had a full and busy week I’m sitting at my PC on Saturday morning/afternoon pouring over the gospel reading (John 4: 5-42) searching for inspiration.

I already have a sermon that I’ve preached on this Sunday in the lectionary (Year A, Lent 3) but I’m keen to write something else, something new. Despite feeling quite exhausted, dizzy and in need of a long and welcome sleep.

One of the threads that is woven throughout the opening chapters of the Gospel according to St John is that of transformation, starting with Jesus’s changing of water into wine. I could do with some transformation this afternoon, starting with the changing of my blank word processor document into a sermon!

Come to the Land of Skull Bay

Come to the land of Skull Bay.

Clearing out stuff at Mum’s the other week I came across this story of mine that I’d written at primary school. I thought I’d share it with you. It’s called “Come to the Land of Skull Bay”.


Before I share the story, I thought I’d make mention of the format that I found this story in. The story was written on the middle pages of a small, four-page booklet with a full-colour, hand-illustrated cover. As you’ll see from the tale, I obviously spent more time on illustrating the front than on developing the plot and storyline, but I think you can see that it was worth it.

I’m reassured that at such an early age I obviously took JRR Tolkien’s advice to heart, that if you want to write a convincing fantasy piece you must start with a map. And what a fine map I produced. From top left, working around clockwise, the locations in the vicinity of “The Land of Skull Bay” are:

  • Scale Creature Bay
  • Plain of Mysterious Mist
  • Gloom Vocano
  • The Howling Rocks
  • Dark Wood Forest Nightmare Bend
  • Broken Claw Hill
  • The Floating Island
  • Cave Point
  • and of course, in the middle, the dubiously phallic Skull Tower Island

I’ve not corrected any of the spelling in retyping this. I think that it gives it an extra layer of authenticity.

Skull Tower Adventure

I came to Skull Bay because I was touring the mysterys of the world. This was the second one I am at. The first was the Burmuda Triangle. The part I am going to is Skull Tower Island.

When I arrived on the island I felt as if someone was watching me. I put up my tent and layed my things inside. I took a slow wander round the island and went back to the tent and fell asleep.

The next two days I did experaments on the soil and rocks. On the third day I saw a black ship coming towards the island. I took down my tent and hid in a hole in the ground.

When the ship came to the shore two men jumped out and went towards the tower and opened a sort of door with a bone. I slipped out of the hole and followed them up a ladder to the top then I hid behind some crates, and they pushed a button and the mist disappeared from the plain and other things disappeared.

I watched them go down the ladder and go to the ship. They sailed towards the plain but they smashed into the howling rocks. They dived out and swam to the shore, with black robes on.

I pressed a button and the mist appeared.

I ran down the ladder and across to my boat and went to the plain. I soon found the two men on the ground. I pulled back the robe and the man was a skelaton.

The next day I buried the man and went on the third place which was Stonehenge.

I got a “V.G.” for that from my teacher.

I love the ending. You can almost hear the teacher saying, “Right, class! You’ve got five more minutes on your stories, if you could bring them to a close now.”

“Arrgghhh! Panic!” my poor eleven year old brain must have thought. “But we can’t be finished. I’m still only in Act 1, we’ve only just met the protagonist and I’m only now realising the imbalance! What must I do?! … Sod it! I’ll just have to bury him and move on to Stonehenge, … where the demons dwell; where the banshees live and they do live well.

I bet Stephen King never wrote anything is spine-tinglingly harrowing and blood-curdling when he was at primary school! I wouldn’t be surprised if someone from the BBC Drama department writes to me and asks to buy the rights for that story, which I think you’ll find is still copyright me! … or the writers of every Scooby Doo story that has ever been.

In the words of Nick Ross from Crimewatch UK: “Don’t have nightmares!”

Teach Yourself Mahjong (3rd edition) out now

Teach Yourself Mahjong

This week I received a package from Hodder Education in the post. It contained my complimentary copies of Teach Yourself Mahjong (Third Edition) by David Pritchard. And me. (ISBN-13: 978-0-340-92726-7, ISBN-10: 0-340-92726-7.)

While I’ve probably blogged this before it’s probably worth repeating that the reason I came to update the third edition was that the original author, David Pritchard, died suddenly in December 2005.

As I’d done some consultancy work for Hodder earlier in the year they approached me to write the update, following Mr Pritchard’s original update plan. The copyright of his work remains with his family, I believe, who also receive any royalties, while I get the copyright for the portions that I wrote:

Copyright Gareth Saunders 2007

I provided around 70 updates on the second edition and two new chapters, one on Chinese Official International Rules and another on mahjong on computers and the internet, which is one of the most comprehensive accounts of this subject in any mahjong book today. It was a lot of fun to write, and a lot of hard work and discipline, but certainly worth it.

Among the pile of free copies that Hodder kindly sent me is one marked “correx” in which I’ve to scribble any corrections for the next reprint. I’ve spotted a few already. If only I’d a copy of Teach Yourself Publishing and Teach Yourself Proof-reading to help me.

Teach Yourself Mahjong is available at all good bookstores, including Amazon UK.

The Pedestrian Knock-over Roundâ„¢


I was doing so well too. I’d managed to pack up seven bookcases without reading any of the books — well, okay just the one — when I discovered a box beside my desk marked “Journals”. “Ha ha!” I thought, “this should be fun.”

One thing that I like about my journal writing when I was younger was how precise I was with my approximations. I would never write things like “Got up around 8am” it had to be “Got up around 8:03 am”.

I opened my journal from 1992-1993 randomly at page 77 and read.

Sunday 13th December 1992 (ADVENT 3)

[7:16 pm] I didn’t get up until 1pm today. I missed church and lunch at DRH. I thought that I might write a quick letter to Liz Steele in Kenya – I still haven’t finished it!

I like the use of an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence. What a crazy thing not finishing a letter is. Ooh! what a crazy and rebelleous student I was.

You see, I was reading The Lord of the Rings until about 3 am this morning and when I awoke in the morning at 8 am…

It must really have been 8 am on the dot for me to have written that. My alarm must have gone off or something.

… I could hardly see or function so I consciously decided to stay in bed and go to the 6 pm Evensong in St A’s, St As.

See, that’s what I like: attention to detail. Even my abbreviation of St Andrew’s, St Andrews (the name of the Episcopal Church I attended) had the apostrophe in the right place.

Even at 1 pm I didn’t really want to get up. I was so tired. It’s probably also because I’ve got two essays to do for Friday and I’m trying to avoid them.

I said Morning Prayer at my desk and then wrote to Eddie [my brother] and Liz in Kenya.

Ian T. Rankine came to visit me with a box of Frosties and two pints of milk which we then devoured.

We didn’t just eat them, you’ll notice. No! We devoured them. Inspired by the tiger on the packet no doubt.

It was just a short visit, however, and at 4:54 pm …

At 4:54 pm EXACTLY!

… we headed down to Regs with some new ideas for the Gladiators [TV] programme including Shark-infested Pools, the Trench Warfare Roundâ„¢, and the Pedestrian Knock-over Roundâ„¢ where the Gladiators drive cars and the contestants try to avoid getting knocked over!

It’s nice to see that people’s taxes were being put to good use to educate my friend Ian and I.

And so here I am after Evensong at my desk eating a 150g bar of Galaxy and feeling quite upset …

I did wonder why I put on so much weight at university: being upset is so fattening!

Blogging break over. I’d better get on with packing, I suppose.

Random Name Generator

Book with blank pages lying open.

If I ever decide to write a novel (stranger things have happened!) I’ve found the perfect Random Name Generatorâ„¢: SPAM! By which I mean unsolicited e-mail rather than the tins of spiced pork and ham.

Here are the marvellous names of people who today have supposedly e-mailed me personally to inform me about how I can earn a $1000 bonus, buy all the medications that I could possibly want — including viagra (or as they prefer to spell it: \/IAaGR@), solve all my health worries in one fell swoop, and inform me about possible security violations on my accounts with the Fifth Third Bank, Athens Financial Group and Alliance & Leicester. (I also got an email with the subject “disease fibreglass” — eh?!)

  • Trenton Bartlett
  • Vernon Brandon
  • Gusto Conrad
  • Latoya Franks
  • Alisha Gomez
  • Monroe Hoskins
  • Dominga Lounsbury
  • Austin Mertens
  • Jewel Pacheco
  • Guadalupe Rupprecht
  • Sara Schaffer
  • Aldo Templeton (isn’t that just a merger between two supermarket chains? One from the 90s, one from the 70s)
  • Marivel Tracie
  • Nash Wess

My favourite is Trenton Bartlett. Wasn’t he in The Great Escape?

(There was actually another one that I quite liked, but I then realised that it was a real e-mail to me from someone enquiring about his Psion!)

Dawn over Cellardyke

Dawn sky over Cellardyke

While you were asleep (probably, if you live in the UK) I was up early (05:45) and working on the final few edits and corrections to the first draft of the Teach Yourself Mahjong book which landed on my doorstep about a fortnight ago. So far I’ve only spotted about 15 corrections, which is not bad going.

As I read and pondered, composed sentences and rattled my fingers around on the computer keyboard, outside the sky gently turned from a deep black to this spectrum of reds, oranges and blues. I’m going to miss this view when we move to our new house next month; I’m going to miss hanging out of the Velux window in the roof at pointlessly-early o’clock taking pictures of the sea at dawn. Enjoy it now while you can.

The book is finished!

Finished book manuscript awaiting posting.

At last, I’m done — and I’m fairly done in too! — the book manuscript is finished and awaiting posting.

For those of you who may not know, since May I’ve been working on writing an update to the Hodder Education book Teach Yourself Mahjong. The original author, Mr David Pritchard, sadly died at the end of last year, and Hodder approached me in the Spring to work on the proposed 3rd edition.

Having read through the last edition, and thoroughly absorbed Mr Pritchard’s wishes for the revised edition, I set about compiling a list of all the updates and edits that I felt needed to be made. In the end my list contained 77 required edits, which meant anything from simple requests like “change the words ‘Chapter 11′ to ‘Chaper 12′” to “that illustration is upside down, please turn it the right way round” to writing completely new chapters.

I’ve written two new chapters: one on the new (as of 1998, which is fairly new in the context of a game that is around 130 years old) Chinese Official International Rules and mahjong on computers and the internet.

And all I need to do now is post the lot (all 1.7 Kg) to the publisher. As well as the original manuscript, which I’ve marked-up, there are also print-outs of the two new chapters, plus a print-out of the new manuscript (edits and all) as well as a CD-ROM with the whole shebang in electronic format.

And then I wait to see if what I wrote was good enough / will be included / isn’t littered with errors* (*delete as applicable). In the meantime, can I have my life back now please…?