A year in writing

Clava shadow2014 has been a busy and exciting year on a number of fronts.

Following the publication of The Return of The Mullet Hunter on Kindle towards the end of 2013, one of 2014’s first projects was releasing it in paperback and on Kobo (which will also work on iBooks and other epub formats). This was definitely a case of the difficult second album, and I wish it had been less than nearly four years since the first book in the series Up The Creek Without a Mullet came out, but you can’t have everything.

There were some nice reviews of TROTMH, and I was very pleased with the book itself – in many ways more than UTCWAM, because I felt my writing was a bit more polished and mature, and my style a bit more settled and comfortable with itself.

I had little time to rest on my laurels, however, as in March I published my third book, rail adventure The Next Stop in multiple formats. I was really proud of The Next Stop for a number of reasons – the unusual concept, the local nature of the book, and the fact that it really awoke in me and helped me express a big developing interest for discovering the off-beat and curious not in far away places but in amongst the everyday and the ordinary. I was also pleased with how I wrote the story and quite a few of the reviews I got.

Sadly, as with TROTMH, there weren’t quite as many reviews as I’d hoped, and this is I think due to two things.

Firstly, my second and third books have been self-published. Although a fiddly and time-consuming process, it’s also incredibly liberating as you can do what you want, when you want, with your books. The principle disadvantage, however, is that the support of publishing industry professionals and the credibility of a traditional publisher are the main ways to catch the attention of media when it comes to plugging a book. Of course I had neither, so despite what I thought were good sales approaches (especially for The Next Stop which I genuinely feel was a neat concept and thus had a good “elevator pitch”) very few mainstream media covered either book.

You can significantly compensate for this through hard work on promotion, but that leads me to my second reason: time pressure. Leaving aside the fact I have a busy full-time job, I had a looming and immoveable deadline which rather limited the time I could spend on publishing and publicity of 2014’s two books.

That deadline was becoming a dad. I blogged at the time about how I am not discussing that side of life on my website or social media, but you can guess how easy it is to write regularly after such a change in circumstances.

As such, my writing for the rest of the year has been characterised by infrequency and my a continuing interest in what lurks close to home. That in no way is a compromise on my interests – posting here less often means (fingers crossed!) that the quality is higher, while I am genuinely enjoying looking at the local area through new eyes and discovering interesting things that are close to home.

This has led me to explore (and blog about) exotic new places like Fochabers, as well as old favourites like Shetland, Aberdeen and Applecross; and I’ve revisited the road to Skye and the early stages of the Great Glen Way. I’ve had a ride on the Edinburgh trams, invaded a micronation, and mused on the bustling cruise ship industry in Invergordon and the non-existent brewing industry in Inverness.

I took a lot less photos than I wanted this year, and did hardly any hillwalking, but I did take time out around the time of the referendum to get on my political high horse quite a bit (however I’ll not harp on about that here).

Excitingly, I managed to do a wee bit of “professional” travel writing. That included an article for Wanderlust magazine’s website and highly enjoyable events with Nairn Bookshop and Inverness prison. The latter I’ve not actually mentioned on this website until now, but I’ll be telling all about that fascinating experience in the first mailout on my new travel writing email newsletter.

That newsletter is also a bit of a new development to report. I’ll be retiring (well, gradually neglecting and starving) my Facebook page over the coming while and shifting any “hot off the press” news to a format that people are actually more likely to notice and read. Whether it works or not, time will tell. If you fancy subscribing, please do.

In amongst all that busyness, I even managed to sneak in a wee trip abroad in February of this year: for an Esperanto meeting in Toulouse, France, which I wrote about in both English and Esperanto. My Esperanto competence is starting to plateau, thanks for asking, as a lack of time and opportunity to use the language means it’s not exactly declining but it’s certainly not taking those vital final steps to true fluency. Not that I go in for New Year’s resolutions but if I did, it would be to read and write more in Esperanto.

And that points me towards the coming year. And despite everything going on in life, there are a few things to look forward to. I have a big announcement on the writing and books front to make quite soon (and the newsletter will hear it first), I have a few interesting places to visit lined up, and there may even be a trip or two abroad.

Details on all that are sketchy and time will tell as to how they pan out. Though if that wasn’t the case, life would be boring.

This is a bit late to wish you Happy Christmas (if you celebrate it), but it’s hopefully in good time to fling lots of New Year wishes in your direction. May 2015 be everything you hope for.

Unless you have really horrible hopes for 2015, in which case may it be absolutely nothing you hope for.

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