Chris Hadfield

Chris Hadfield

I went to see Colonel Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut of some considerable fame, speaking at the Usher Hall last week. Talk about inspirational! His 90-minute presentation with videos, sound, imagery and even song, was as enlightening as it was gripping, as humorous as it was humbling, and as inspirational as it was joyous.

The whole evening wasn’t what one might have expected, i.e., a review of what we already knew through previous interviews and social media posts. It was a journey through the emotions, thoughts and idiosyncrasies of an astronaut waking up on the day he was to “leave Earth” and what then followed.

It was fascinating stuff, truly amazing to listen to him describe the sensations and thoughts while walking up to the space shuttle: “I’ll either be floating around by the end of the day or dead.” And it was the wee things, like how all the astronauts jumped into the air at once when the lift taking them to the Shuttle entrance got to the top of the lift shaft. Silly stuff, but gave the impression of a bunch of excited people finally fulfilling years of training and dreaming.

And the training! Is there anything the guy can’t do? Absolutely everything is covered and trained for in minute detail, every eventuality in order to be able to cope with the most constantly asked question throughout his journey: “what could kill us next?”

For me, hearing him talk about looking back on a planet with no borders and a human race as one, was quite remarkable. It left me feeling very small and insignificant but at the same time part of something great and wonderful.

Writing Progress

Good progress is being made on my next novel, GATECRASH. Work has been moving relatively smoothly – a fresh set of eyes on a story has definitely helped – but the last couple of chapters have been very sticky. I remember the original versions of both chapters and neither of them were easy to
produce in the first place. Hindsight, and a new perspective, has meant I’ve been able to approach the problems differently, allowing myself not to feel disappointed with having to bin both chapters and re-write them from scratch. As a result, they both flow better and work as a much slicker link to the next part of the novel.

I’ve recently noticed feeling this way about a lot of my writing since I came back to it. It’s almost as though not thinking about it for so long and diverting my creative energies elsewhere, has helped to clear my mind and remove the cobwebs; scrape away the dead moss, so to speak. Suddenly, I feel that all those difficult editorial decisions that need to be made are clear as to what needs to be done, when in the past I might have been struggling to see the woods for the trees.

I’m aiming to be done with this version of the manuscript – I think t’s now the fourth – before it goes to its firsts beta reader. And it’s been a few years now since I was able to say that!

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Reaching For The Stars

Star Wars

Rather sadly (to some), I’ve now seen Star Wars: the Force Awakens a grand total of six (6) times. I suppose one might argue I’m a little bit obsessed, but actually that’s quite wide of the mark. It’s more a case that the removal of all barriers leading to my creative energy and my raw imagination have all run amok!

Put more simply, it’s not just the continuation of the story from my childhood I find fascinating, it’s the whole creative process behind creating it – the attention to detail, the gay abandon, the wildly fascinating characters, the humour, the drama, the new worlds beyond worlds (metaphor?) – to be stimulating to the point of salivatory excitement. Well, not THAT stimulating, but it gets my creative juices flowing every time I watch it.

And of course, having grown up with the films, role-played the movies with my pals, and even once written the entire script of Star Wars: A New Hope from memory while in primary school, you can begin to see the effect it’s had on me since I was a wee person.

For me, it paralleled the cult computer game of the 1980s called ELITE, where one had to choose between conforming to the galactic rules or living a life in the shady underworld of space. I preferred to roam the galaxy visiting planets to trade with in order to scramble a living, while also trying to steer clear of trouble from other pirates, bandits and mercenaries. Cue Han Solo… you see where this is going, right?

Now, as a 42 year old man, it’s my passion for writing that the continuation of Star Wars has shone a heat lamp on, by re-lighting the desire to create and evolve my own worlds in the same spirit and creative energies that Star Wars came to life through.

Death

It’s been a hell of a few weeks where death is concerned; an outstanding start to 2016. Quite clearly, Mr G. Reaper has had his holidays and has got back to work with vigour and energy, killing off a whole host of famous and not famous names, some of whom meant more to me than others.

First up early in December, literary legend and old friend, William McIlvanney passed away aged 79. It came as a great shock to me given our history and I will miss his influence immensely. I kind of assumed he would live forever – he will through his work, that’s for sure – but it’s the direct influence he had on me when we spoke and finally met that will stay with me forever.

Then came a boyhood hero of mine, The Specials drummer John ‘Brad’ Bradbury, who just last week suddenly and out of the blue aged only 62. He was the man who gave The Specials their distinct sound, with his unique playing style in songs that meant to so much to me growing up. I’m privileged to have seen him play a number of times.

Brad’s funeral was overshadowed yesterday by the sudden death of David Bowie from cancer at 69. The world rocked to the news he had kept his terminal illness hidden, and while I wasn’t a fan of his work, I appreciated what he did and why he meant so much to others.

And finally, just last week while browsing through Facebook, I came across the news that an old friend of mine had also died suddenly. Duncan Robertson was an old pal of mine in the 90s who I enjoyed many nights out in Glasgow with. I’m remembering O’Henry’s, Rock Garden, and Fury Murry’s, and I’m also remembering when he opened the massively successful Candy Bar in Glasgow and then later in Edinburgh, as well as some of his many other business ventures. I last saw him in Charing Cross in Glasgow a couple of years ago while I was working there, and it’ll be his cheery smile that he met me with, that I’ll remember most.

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The Wrong Name

So, I have five goals for the year. Three fiction-related, one poetry-related, and the final one is all about reading.

Reading takes care of itself. I’ve always been good at mining out slots to read during the day and the Kindle is a major advantage to getting through more books. I remember when I got my first Kindle my reading increased dramatically, and able to synchronise what I’m reading across my iPhone and iPad has only served to increase the amount of opportunities to squeeze in as much reading as possible.

As for poetry, you may remember I take care of all of this under the pseudonym, Chas Stramash, but that doesn’t mean I have extra time in the day to write or publish poetry. As things stand, I have a half-written chapbook that was scribbled roughly into a notebook while on location in Sri Lanka last year. It’s a book that’s written itself more or less, and setting aside dedicated days to work on it – using poetry writing as a break from fiction – will ensure I get this goal completed easily and enjoyably enough.

But it’s within the fiction realm that I’m demanding most from myself over the course of the next year. I’m planning to complete three outstanding projects, two of which are more outstanding than the third!

So which one first?

I began work aimed at completing GATECRASH during the summer last year, and because it’s still fresh in my mind, and because I know where it’s going and where I want it to go, I’m going to continue with it first. It makes most sense.

It’s also the first book I’ve worked on using Scrivener, so importing it all back into a single document would not only be difficult, it would also mess up my research and planning that I’ve set up within the tool. I’ll be leaving all that as it is. Given that Scrivener isn’t available for the iPad yet, I can’t work on it in the mornings, which means I can fill that particular time a lot with other work… a new chapbook, for example.

There is one important thing that needs changed in this particular book, however, and I think it’s the reason the book has faltered on so many occasions. I am now, in the light of reflection, positive it is why I have been unable to finish it to any form of satisfactory level.

Most of the main characters have the wrong names. Only the lead female and one of the male characters have the correct name.

Changing the names of multiple characters is not something I’ve ever contemplated doing before. I’ve always felt that when a character is named – given birth to in my mind – he or she stays with that name for eternity. The same goes with how they look and behave (in my mind). But thinking about this with an open and clear mind, removing all prejudices and blaming mechanisms, I’m sure the wrong names are what is proving to be the fly in the ointment of this particular novel. They just aren’t sitting well despite being good characters. They have flaws and bags of personality, loud voices, the will of life and they hold the story up in a strong way. But there’s just something not right about them; they have the wrong names.

I’m terribly Sorry Matthew, but you’re just not a Matt!

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Goals for 2016

I’ve spent the last few days developing a new set of GDRs (Goals, Dreams and Resolutions), my first for around four years. I’ve spent enough time looking back at the last few years, analysing what came along in my life that meant I had to stop writing, and forgiving myself for dropping the ball. Looking back, I was in a great position and at times I feel like I’ve lost all the momentum I built up.

Those four years have remained in the back of my mind as I shape what will prove to be a critical year for me and my life in writing; pivotal even, as I attempt a “comeback” of sorts. To this end, I’ve been employing several methods for enabling myself to get back on the horse and motivating myself to the point of frustration:

  • I’ve re-read all of my old work: short stories, poems, and previous longer works of fiction (STELLA, BACCARA BURNING, SLICK, GREENER IS THE GRASS).
  • I’ve been contemplating the projects that remain unfinished from four years ago that I want to use to springboard back into things again.
  • I’m spending time with the characters involved in each of the unfinished projects to see who has the loudest voice, i.e., who is willing to help me out more.
  • I’m re-reading some of the works of my oldest friends in writing, and some of their work published since I moved into exile, for want of a better phrase.
  • I’ve been plugging back into some of my favourite blogs from writers who inspire me most.

And so for the first time in four years, I now have a fully developed set of GDRs for 2016; demanding, but not overly so; unapologetically challenging while keeping within the boundaries of optimal motivation. I like their familiarity and I like their freshness.

My life now, compared to where I was in 2012, has transformed completely. A lot of it is due to me coming to terms with who I am, some of it is down to pure chance and a splash of fate, but most of it is due to me deciding to take my life in the direction I wanted it to go; I have made my life into what I want. I’ll not be apologising for that any time soon, because for the first time in a long, long time, I’m really happy.

One of the few key things that remains is to re-focus and re-channel my creative energies into writing again. And that’s what the GDRs and the five motivational methods I outlined above are all about.

I’m not going to list all of my personal writing review and GDRs here, for that you will need to head over to the site run by Devon Ellington: Goals, Dreams & Resolutions, but for the sake of initially making it public, here’s my 2016 Writing Goals:

  1. Complete and Publish GATECRASH
  2. Re-write and Publish HUNTING JACK as a novel
  3. Complete NaNoWriMo 2015 Novel
  4. Publish Two New Chapbooks
  5. Read 40 Novels

Bring it on!

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The CG Awards and Looking to 2016

So that was 2015. A year of ups and downs, but mainly ups. And on the writing front it was a year of, well, mixed fortunes really. But I’ll be kind to myself and say it was a step in the right direction.

Keeping line with previous years, here’s my wrap-up of 2015: The CG Awards.

MUSIC
Best Album Bought: Allas Sak, Dungen
Best Live Gig: Mogwai 20th Anniversary, Barrowland
Best Musical Discovery: Wolf Alice

FILM
Best Film (cinema): Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Best Film (TV/DVD):  Under the Skin
Best Documentary: The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

LITERATURE
Best Fiction Book Read: The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
Best Crime Fiction Book Read: Gone Again, Doug Johnstone
Best Non-Fiction Book Read: The Politics Book, Paul Kelly
Best Poetry Book Read: Human Chain, Seamus Heaney
Best Author Discovery: Willy Vlautin (The Motel Life)

OTHER
Best Meal: Martin Wishart Restaurant, The Shore, Leith, Sat 2nd May 2015
Best Bevy: The Diners Xmas Day Out (Dumbarton FC, Glasgow, Twilight Sad)
Single Most Embarrassing Moment: Too numerous to mention
Saddest Moment: The Deaths of William McIlvanney and John ‘Brad’ Bradbury
Single Most Memorable Moment: Getting engaged to my soulmate on the stage inside the Dublin Castle pub, Camden Town

With regards to writing, my output has been dreadful over the past few years (see previous post ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’), but this past year has seen things stir and get to a point I have been generating new ideas and writing again. More to the point, I’ve been enjoying it.

Writing highlights would be:

1- New chapbook written while on visit to Sri Lanka.
2- Final draft work on previous unfinished novel.
3- Entry into NaNoWriMo and a new novel being born (although I failed the November writing contest due to a bout of Norovirus).

So what of 2016?

It’s a year I must complete two unfinished projects (two novels and one chapbook) and it’s a year that, most importantly of all, I develop a new system of writing that works for me. Routine is the one thing I can rely on, and into this I must build a method for writing and for continuing to write all the way through to publication. I’ve got the desire again and I’ve got the support, it’s a case of working out a suitable rhythm and plan and sticking to it.

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Three Days Until NaNoWriMo

With three days to go until the big kick off, I find myself in an unusual position with regards to writing a fresh novel: I’ve two belting ideas. 

One is the idea I hinted at in my last blog post involving the supporting character from my first novel, Slick. The other comes straight from my “ideas” folder built up over many years. It’s an idea I had back in 1998 but it still works, is still juicy, and it would only need adjusting to modern day times and a new location. 

So which one?

Well, the more I’ve thought about each of their merits, the more I’ve erred toward the logical choice: a mix of both. 

But regardless of which way I eventually go in this, one problem remains the same: time. 

In order to write 50,000 words in 30 days, one must hit a minimum of 1667 words each day. As a number it isn’t all that much, it’s the regularity of it that becomes the problem if you’re not geared up or used to it. 

The two previous times I’ve done NaNoWriMo, I’ve blown out of the stalls with around 4-5000 words on the first two or three days. It’s then died down to the minimum number each day, with the odd spurt of a couple of thousand usually at the weekends. This method also allows for a day or two off if needed (and they usually are in order to keep perspective).

Both those times though, I hadn’t planned on being out of the country twice! The upshot is, if I’m going to do this, I’ll need to do it over 20 days, not 30. A quick tap on the calculator will show a new daily total required of at least 2500 words, with no days off. 

My plan, therefore, is this: to aim for 2000 a day, but also attempt to write while on holiday. Sounds easy but it won’t be, although I do have the support of my OH on this. 

I recently bought a new iPad as well, which should help me write while travelling. I also bought a Bluetooth keyboard for it that sits inside the case to make things even more amenable.

And I’m going to do more advance plotting than normal, something I wouldn’t normally do for NaNoWriMo. Flying by ones’ wings makes the whole experience a lot more exciting. But I think it’s a necessity this time around if I’m going to achieve that 50k mark at all. 

Todays goal is thus: make a final decision on the theme/plot and pen an outline. 

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Confessions of a Justified Sinner

My name is Colin Galbraith. It’s been over two years since my last blog post.

Yes, over two years. 2 years. Apart from a pre-written poem, we’re talking about 29 months to be precise.

So. Here we are then.

I guess you’ll be wanting to ask some questions so I’ll get the main stuff out the way. In the last two and half years or so I have…(in no particular order)

  • turned 40
  • got divorced
  • got some new tattoos
  • moved into a dream flat by The Shore in Leith
  • took one of the best holidays I’ve ever had in Cyprus
  • learned that as a single man, I “still have it”
  • found myself
  • rid myself of dead weights and negative influences
  • learned a few songs on the guitar
  • attended 73 music gigs in the space of one year
  • Re-read that last one: that’s 1 & half gigs per week for a year!!
  • built up my freelance I.T. business
  • worked for 3 major British and worldwide banks
  • saw my daughter turn 18
  • saw my young sister turn 40
  • lost my cat, Jeremiah, who has now moved on
  • discovered I love going to the cinema on my own
  • became an uncle for the third time
  • been nicknamed “Peter Pan” by two of my nieces
  • met and fell in love with my soulmate
  • moved to Livingston
  • visited the Asian continent for the first time
  • become engaged
  • become a dad to two new mini-lop bunnies, Lulu and Crumble
  • and probably most importantly, I’ve grown happier and more sure each and every day

So there you go. I think that just about covers it.

And with all that out of the way, the only big question that remains now is ‘why start blogging again?’

Simple really. I miss writing and I’m finally getting my long lost muse back.

The encouragement I’ve also received from my fiancé over my writing and the fact I’ve started work on a new poetry chapbook, also helped to point me to the inescapable conclusion that I had not, in fact, written my last novel, or indeed story.

The timing of this regeneration and invigoration is probably the best it could be. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts this Sunday, which I’m hoping can be the perfect launchpad for a new novel, and my spur to move on with all the plans I had before all this began.

For the uninitiated, NoNoWriMo is an online based writing marathon that anyone can sign up to, the aim of which is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days. Not as easy as it sounds by any stretch, but it is how I wrote Slick (available on my website) and Gatecrash (unpublished), so I have done it before.

For the past few weeks I’ve been bouncing ideas around in my head, endlessly mulling things over, and toying with new characters. I’ve also been falling into odd little absences, which although might appear to an outsider like I’m not paying attention, are in fact just me plotting the outline of my next book.

And so with six days to go until NaNoWriMo begins, I have a strong protagonist and the formation of an antagonist. I have a location. I have a rough plot idea. And I have inspiration aplenty.

My protagonist is the most formed in my mind for this project but that’s mainly because I’ve spent time with him before. You might recognise his name: Lennox, D.I. Lennox.

Blogging is my attempt at not only journaling my path through this years NaNoWriMo, but also a requirement in that I really do need to grease the wheels.

To tell you the truth, despite the obstacles in my way, I really am quite excited about starting a new journey.

Posted in Editorial Comment, Family, Freelance, Livingston, Writing | 3 Comments