Looking Back at 2018

As we slowly roll towards the end of the year it often comes to us to start looking towards the things we might want to achieve in the coming year. It’s a time for making plans, dreaming, wondering how we can shape the future; it’s time to spring clean the mind.

I’ve always found the best place to start with that is to take stock and look back at the year thats just passed. What plans did I have in place? Did I achieve them? What went wrong? What went well? What impacted those plans and skewed them off course? What could I have done better. It’s a time of reflection.

So, with that in mind, it’s time to roll out my GDRs (Goals, Dreams & Resolutions) review for 2018 and check out the stats. I already knew before I did this, they weren’t going to make for pretty reading:

  • Of 9 Goals: 2 were completed
  • Of 3 Dreams: 1 was completed; 1 partially completed
  • Of 3 Resolutions: 1 was completed

Not great. Not great for a full year of work.

It’s pretty much taken as red that the goals you set out will be, with a bit of hard work and application, achievable. So to complete only two is really quite poor on reflection. After what was a great start to the year, everything just changed from the end of June onwards. I’d published a new chapbook as Chas Stramash (DIGITAL PENETRATION OF A TICKET MACHINE), published a new thriller novel (HUNTING JACK), and taken the first draft of a new novel through to completion. Things were looking good.

Then I received an opportunity within the sphere of my day job (linked to one of my dreams) and I simply had to take it. It would mean (hopefully) a happy and rewarding working life and so far this has proved to be the case. It has also meant fully committing myself to the my new career, which in turn has meant taking on a lot of new things, learning as I go, and a lot of days packed with hard work. Fulfilling, yes. Conducive to writing novels, absolutely not.

Dreams are tasks one would complete towards turning life dreams into actual achievable goals, so to complete one and move to forward partially, is something to be applauded. I’ve got to be happy with that no matter what else has or hasn’t happened to plan.

The failure of my Resolutions — which were mostly life improvement resolutions — was mostly down to my own laziness, pure and simple. The best it got was when I almost achieved one then more or less gave up after I’d got it into a good place, so this was particularly galling. The one I achieved is, however, very significant so I’m delighted with that.

One year ago when I wrote my GDRs for 2018, I had no idea what was in store in the coming months. I was also coming off the back of an extremely successful 2017 and maybe I got a bit carried away with what I imagined to be achievable. Maybe I was already biting off more than I could chew, or maybe I just hadn’t considered things might come together in the way they did. Either way, going into 2019 I realise I have to be much more realistic in what I can achieve, and more importantly, can’t. I am going to have to fight to find a balance between my work life and writing life, that has swayed back and forward to both extremes in the last two years.

It is time to balance the boat and ride the waves.

And to finish up, here’s my BEST OF 2018:

MUSIC
Best Album Bought: Call the Comet, Johnny Marr
Best Live Gig: Mogwai at Leith Theatre
Best Musical Discovery: Willie Nelson

FILM
Best Film (cinema): Solo
Best Film (TV/DVD): Roller Dreams
Best Series (TV/DVD): The Sinner (Netflix)

LITERATURE
Best Fiction Book Read: A Day at the Office, Matt Dunn
Best Crime Fiction Book Read: Follow You Home, Mark Edwards
Best Non-Fiction Book Read: Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff
Best Poetry Book Read: N/A
Best Author Discovery: Mark Edwards

OTHER
Best Meal: Amanda Galbraith’s Summer Tasting Meal
Best Sesh: Diners Xmas Day Out in Paisley
Best Celebrity Encounter: When the Group Captain won a St Mirren signed football from Saints Club Captain, Stephen McGinn
Single Most Embarrassing Moment: Fake fall in the packed lobby of the Holiday Inn Express, Washington, Tyne & Wear
Saddest Moment: Death of our wee Crumble in my arms
Single Most Memorable Moment: Success of new career gamble

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Hunting Jack Hits the Cyber-Shelves

Hunting Jack by Colin Galbraith is Released Today

My new novel, a tense thriller set in Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1995, was released yesterday by Blue Sea Publishing.

HUNTING JACK is the story of a young Scottish lad brought up in London by his Aunt and Uncle after his parents were both killed in a car crash. On finding a hidden letter from them, he runs away to Scotland to try and find them, only ending up in a world of gangsters and a history embedded in the infamous Glasgow Ice-Cream Wars of 1984.

I originally wrote this story back in 2004 and it appeared as an internet serial, being delivered twice-weekly to subscribers email inboxes. Now, after a re-write and tidy, it can be yours as a single one-off novel – how I always wanted it.

Here’s the official blurb:

It’s midnight in London during the summer of 1995 and JACKIE McCANN is on the run.

With only the clothes on his back and a letter from Scotland, he is determined to make his way north to find his true identity. Behind him, he leaves his Aunt and Uncle, who for years told him he was the sole survivor of the car crash that had wiped out his biological family. But now his life has turned upside down upon finding a letter from his father — hidden by his new family.

In Glasgow things aren’t what they seem. Jackie discovers the infamous Ice-Cream Wars of 1984 provide the violent backdrop to his family history, and a mysterious man in black makes his bloody presence felt.

On the run and with his options slowly running out, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival opens up more links to his past and options for his future.

Does Jackie find his true identity?

Will he be reunited with his family?

Will he wish he’d never found that letter in the first place?

Some secrets are best left buried.

And here’s the pretty cool trailer for it:

Happy reading, and if you DO decide to buy the book (available at the special eBook launch price of 99p until this Sunday), don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon.

Finally, here’s where you can buy the Kindle, eBook and Paperback formats of HUNTING JACK:

Oh, before I go, I have a mailing list now. This will be THE place for the latest book news, special offers, freebies, and basically all the juicy stuff that I won’t be putting on Twitter or Facebook.

Just click here to be taken to the sign-up form: http://eepurl.com/dkIVBD

Enjoy!

Col

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GDRs 2018

It’s not been the best start to the year, in fact this posting is already around two weeks late, but I’m back up and running and in the midst of kicking off my GDRs (Goals, Dreams & Resolutions) for the new year. I’m not taking things easy and I’m not going hell-for-leather, but I’ve laid out a plan for 2018 that if executed in the correct order, could prove to be fruitful — more-so than 2017.

I remember saying the same last thing last year: “I’ll never get through all of this,” and “there’s no way I’ll find the time to do all of this as well as live a life.” But then I bit off the easy bits first, chewed them up and devoured them, which took care of a large chuck of my plan all before the first quarter of the year was over. Suddenly, by mid-March, everything looked easier and much more do-able. So that’s my plan again this year.

Here’s what I‘ve come up with. Not that two of the Dreams and two of the Resolutions have been redacted — they’re not for public consumption. In fact, this may be the last year I actually publish this on the blog. While I love — daresay need — to tick off lists in order to get things done, the way I approach my work these days is much more relaxed and depended on how I feel at the time. So applying too rigorous a framework around it is not having the desired effect as it once did. Nevertheless, here’s the 2018 GDR list:

GOALS

“Tangible actions with deadlines that get me further down the path.”

  • Complete and Publish Sri Lanka Chapbook
  • Write and Prepare Bob Lennox Prequel Novella
  • Write 1st draft of Bridge of Weir Novel
  • Complete and Publish On the Rocks: Bob Lennox #1
  • Write NaNoWriMo Novel (1st Draft of Bob Lennox #2)
  • Complete and Publish Rhodes Chapbook
  • Complete and Publish London Chapbook
  • A Ditty A Day Project
  • Read 30 Novels

DREAMS

“Fantasies about the future I plan to build, with an action plan to turn them into reality.”

  • XXXX
  • XXXX
  • Be Regularly Selling ‘00s Books Per Month

RESOLUTIONS

“Bigger, more life-changing commitments that build on the goals and work toward the dreams.”

  • XXXX
  • XXXX
  • Learn Basic French (carried over)

All in all, this gives me a total of 15 specific GDRs that I am aiming to hit to some degree. You can begin to see where the demands on my time are going to impact.

Of the Goals listed, there is a lot of interesting work listed here that I am hoping to see through. Namely, three new chapbooks, which are all already in different stages of production already and may see the light of day very soon.

There is also the intended publication of the first full-length Bob Lennox novel, a prequel giveaway, and a second novel in the series.

And the more keen-eyed among you will have spotted the “A Ditty A Day” project, more details for which will come soon.

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Hunting Jack Cover Reveal

Attention! Here’s the new cover of my next novel, HUNTING JACK, out in February next year with the terrific Blue Sea Publishing. It’s a tense crime/thriller/gangster story set in Glasgow and Edinburgh and based on the Ice-Cream Wars of 1984. Right up your street, basically.

Col

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Wrapping Up 2017

2017 Now that the first draft of the novel I began writing during NaNoWriMo is over and done with (out next year hopefully), it’s time for me, as a writer, to take stock of the year that’s drawing to a conclusion.

Did I meet my goals? What were the highlights and lowlights? What went wrong and what went well? And in what direction am I going to take things next year? All of these questions and more are what I ask myself as part of my annual Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions (GDRs) wrap-up for 2017.

These GDRs are nothing new; I’ve been working this process for years now. It helps me focus my mind on what I’ve been doing and where I’m going. They are based on an original idea by Devon Ellington who runs the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions website, and they are all prepared and committed to at the start of each year in order that they act as a guide for the coming year.

So here’s my 2017.

GOALS

  1. Complete and Publish GATECRASH
    • Gatecrash has so far blown all of my expectations out of the water in terms of sales and reader response. It is my biggest success so far.
  2. Re-write and Publish HUNTING JACK as a Novel
    • Marked as complete as it is now pending publication, a decision made late in 2017.
  3. Re-Publish STELLA Through Smashing Press
    • Publishing rights were returned from the previous publisher, allowing it to be re-published with a new cover by Smashing Press.
    • Also re-published as a 2-in-1 combo purchase for e-readers.
  4. Publish One New Chapbook
    • Poolside Poetry 2 made it to publication under my pseudonym, Chas Stramash
  5. Read 40 Books X
    • Made it to 31 books as this blog post is published. It’s a fine balance between reading and writing one’s own novels.

Midway through the year I also decided to partake in NaNoWriMo, which led to the penning of a new novel with DI Lennox as the protagonist. This novel has now gone through its first draft and will hopefully be published next year.

As you can see, meeting almost all of my goals and managing to include a full unforeseen novel writing project into the bargain, means 2017 has been a huge success for me. 2018 will be tough to match.

I don’t publish my Dreams or Resolutions as they are usually too personal, but I’ve summarised them regardless.

DREAMS

There were two.
One is still on target and one has not been achieved down to alterations in personal circumstances. They both still remain valid, and indeed one of them is being carried over to next year. The other may not.

RESOLUTIONS

There were four.
Two were achieved and this indicates a marked success given they have been on the list for a couple of years now! One is still in progress and on target to be met in 2018 so is being carried forward. The final one was nearly complete then turned around and was never achieved. This has been a huge disappointment, and so it is being made a top priority for next year.

2017 REVIEW

MUSIC
Best Album Bought: Mogwai, Every Country’s Sun
Best Live Gig: Porgy & Bess, Sketches of Spain, Usher Hall
Best Musical Discovery: R.L. Burnside

FILM
Best Film (cinema): Star Wars, The Last Jedi
Best Film (TV/DVD): The Lady in the Van, BBC2
Best Series (TV/DVD): Liar, BBC1

LITERATURE
Best Fiction Book Read: The Thread, Victoria Hislop
Best Crime/Thriller Book Read: Tombstoning, Doug Johnstone
Best Author Discovery: Kamel Daoud (The Mersault Investigation)

OTHER
Best Meal: Melenos, Lindos, for my birthday meal
Best Sesh: The Diners in Queensferry & Leith, May
Best Celebrity Encounter: Andy Hamilton, Kings Theatre
Single Most Embarrassing Moment: Going topless on a tram in Edinburgh city centre
Saddest Moment: Death of Lulu
Single Most Memorable Moment: Finally getting to meet Paul Auster at the Edinburgh Book Festival

In the next blog post, I’ll be looking forward to 2018 through a new set of GDRs. These are still being worked on; I keep finding myself getting carried away after the success of this year. It’s a hard task forcing myself not to bite off more than I can chew and to be realistic about the amount of work I think I can actually get through and keep developing in the right direction.

But then, that’s what the GDRs are for.

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NaNoWriMo: Done, Dusted and Over For Another Year

NaNoWriMo

It’s all over!

NaNoWriMo is complete, at an end, finished, over, caput, at an end, over and done with. It is no more. Fin.

And I completed the challenge!

Tired and just a little surprised with the monumental effort it took to get myself over the 50k line, I’ve found that I still have the burning desire to get to the end of the story that often dissipates once the ultimate goal of NaNo disappears. I was worried that without the drive that comes from Nano, I might struggle to get over the end-of-story line but that’s proved not to be the case.

NaNoWriMo can do that to you. You spend so much time and effort working towards to the goal of 50k by Nov 30th it’s easy to lose sight of the real goal which is the end of the actual novel you’re writing — assuming your novel doesn’t end at 50k words. The way I’m going just now, I expect the first draft of ON THE ROCKS to be complete in the next 10 to 14 days.

How did I get there this year given such a terrible first two weeks? It was a basic strategy really. I obviously had to increase my daily minimum target and force a few 5k days into the equation over a couple of weekends. Not easy going, but the closer I got to the end of this story, the easier it seemed to become. Quite often I hit a middle sag or struggle towards the end but in the case of this particular novel, it was a real slow burner that has spread like a bush fire in July.

In the end, the last Sunday of November saw me write almost 7k in a single day, which for me is a big day and pulled me so far up toward the goal line that I actually made the 50k mark two days early. Nov 28th saw me cross the line when all along I thought I’d be struggling to make it at all by the 30th.

It just goes to show what hard work and determination can do.

Did I enjoy it? Aye, without a doubt. This was a real challenge this year and despite the bad start, I came racing through. I’ve found there’s actually been a little bit of regret now it’s all over and that I’m missing it. I guess I’ll just have to keep on churning out the novels then.

But is the story any good? It’s only a first draft but it has real potential. I know where it has to change, which characters need to be moulded further, where the plot needs to be tightened, where the holes are, etc. The bottom line is, look out for DI Lennox’s first full novel with him as the main character later in 2018.

So what next now that December is here?

As I already mentioned, the first half is to be dedicated to actually completing this first draft of ON THE ROCKS. If you’re interested, the wee tracker on the top right of this page will continue to be updated with my progress as I strive for what I’ve estimated to be a first draft target of 80,000 words.

Then it’s into analysis mode as I look back and compare all my 2017 goals with what I ended up achieving. Then I can build a plan for next year, which based on this year’s successes, I already know is going to be busy and very exciting.

Onwards and upwards.

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NaNoWriMo: The Half Way Mark

NaNoWriMo

It’s half way through November and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is at its outward most point. We’ve reached the turn and already I’m heading back to the clubhouse with only one aim in mind: to reach the 50,000 word mark.

By this point I should be on 25k or more, averaging just under 2k per day and be sailing through my manuscript. Not so, for it has not been quite so easy as I’d first hoped. Not yet, anyway.

To date, my stats make for some pretty miserable reading. Although progress has been made, and what is down on paper is not altogether a total pile of shite, as of last night (15th) I have only managed to get down 10,468 words, which is approximately 15k short of where I should be. It also means I’ll only be at around 34k by the time midnight on November 30th arrives if I keep going at this rate. Since the kick-off, there’s only been 3 days that I breached the daily minimum required, 7 days when I fell short, and a full 5 days when absolutely zilch got written.

How has this happened with a plot that was devised well in advance and a healthy pattern of working?

Two things have hampered my progress:

  1. The main reason is that my working pattern was forced into an unforeseen change. I’m a morning writer – always have been, always will be – I’m more creative nearer dawn, clear in my mind, and as a result, the prose I write is concise, natural and offers the story in the right way. Thanks to over-zealous project managers in my day job, however, I suddenly had to start attending regular early meetings. This meant my working day was brought forward an hour and thus encroached on my writing time. I struggle to write at night because I’m tired and nowhere near as motivated to be creative as in those crucial early hours, so it was a real hit to my schedule.
  2. The second reason has had far less a bearing because it only involved having to re-think things in the story. As is normally the case when you set out on a new novel, things happen during the writing that you simply did not plan for. Maybe a character does or says something unexpected; perhaps a new character bursts onto the scene; or maybe holes in the plot are discovered that require a re-think in the direction of the story. It could be anything, and basically, in my case, this is what’s happened. A new character arrived at the front door (literally) that then required a total re-think of most of the story. This knocked me back because it would have been stupid to continue without considering the implications, but as I already mentioned, it wasn’t too big a thing to happen. The net effect was that I lost a couple of days writing entirely due to the mind mess it created, but on the up-side, the book will have ore depth and be more multi-dimentional because of it. If I’d been winging it from the start, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but seeing as I’d decided to plan ahead this year, it was a pain.

So that’s my half-time report. Progress made but the play has gone against me resulting in a couple of dodgy decisions and a change in my game plan. I’m down, but definitely not out. In my opinion, 40k in 15 days is still achievable if I can get some dedicated writing time and stick to it.

That’s why this weekend I intend to take part in a writing sprint. If I can somehow make up the missing 15k between now and the end of the weekend I will be back on track, but if I can do it AND get a few more words down too, then I’ll suddenly be ahead of the game.

This has the potential to be a game of two halves and the whole thing could change with the kick of a ball. Okay, so enough puns, but you get the drift.

Back to the page. See you in two weeks.

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