Horse thieves and drunkards

It’s not often you hear a preacher confess they are descended from horse thieves and drunkards: Will Graham, grandson of the late Billy Graham, made his Falkirk Stadium debut a week past Friday night under a Scottish sky that his ancestors would surely have recognised. All evening there was the threat of rain with just odd drops reminding me that I hadn’t brought my brolly.

Will alluded to his ancestors several times both on the Friday and Saturday evenings, trying to create a connection with an audience that mostly had little idea who he was. And it worked, for me at least. Anyone who can admit their heritage was messed up is likely to have a streak of humility that I find myself drawn to.

Roughly thirty years before, I went forward at one of Billy Graham’s events. Now here I was, volunteering at his grandson’s event, trained and ready to lead someone to Jesus.

Well, trained anyway. I didn’t feel at all ready.

Fact is that it felt like an overwhelming responsibility. Questions were running through my mind like:

What if I mess this up?

What if I get things in the wrong order?

If you’ve never been to an “evangelistic” event, there is usually what people used to describe as an alter call. We want to introduce people to Jesus and so they are invited to walk down to the front (called down to where the alter used to be) and led in saying a prayer of confession and repentance of sin, and acceptance of Jesus.

I don’t know how this will sound if you’ve never experienced this, but I grew up in a church attending family and can remember numerous alter call’s being made.

I said I went forward at a Billy Graham event. I actually went forward twice, one year after the other. And neither of those were the first time I’d gone forward either. At the age of twelve, at a Luis Palau event, I’d gone forward as well.

Despite saying the prayer, despite meaning every word, I didn’t receive assurance through those acts that Jesus was in my life.

In our training for the Will Graham event, we’d been given leaflets to read through with those who came forward. Fairly simple step by step questions to help people verbalise their reasons for responding.

It’s a sensible approach. People can and do get caught up in the moment and it’s worth taking some time to allow them to think through what they are doing.

As a child I had a lot of head knowledge about Jesus. I knew backwards and forwards what it all meant and I knew absolutely what I was getting into, even at age twelve, when I went forward.

What I didn’t have was the Holy Spirit. I am certain that the reason I kept going forward when alter call’s were given was that I was still looking for God’s presence in my life. I’d said the prayers, but for whatever reason, hadn’t received the gift that Jesus promised his followers.

It was only aged nineteen, after going forward yet again at an event, that I finally did recieve the Holy Spirit and finally had assurance that Jesus was in my life.

What changed? Well, I was asked to confess sin, not just in silence, but out loud. It was only after I did that, when I made myself completely vulnerable, that I experienced what I can only describe as a physical sensation of being filled by God’s spirit.

The preparation for last weekend and the experiences there have given me a lot to think about.

What am I doing with my life?

What are the most important things?

Am I living for Jesus?

I know I’ve committed to writing, but have found myself doing more reading the last couple of weeks.

I’ve consumed long articles and posts by David Robertson, from his blog at https://theweeflea.com/

Articles like this one from Tim Keller on why the UK Church needs to “Stand apart from culture or risk being ineffective”:
https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Tim-Keller-s-message-to-the-UK-Church-Stand-apart-from-culture-or-risk-being-ineffective

We appear to be living in a time where society is regressing. Yet society has done so before, many times.

Despite whatever we may do to ourselves and each other, our creator is watching, hoping we will turn back to him. Jesus is often incorrectly labelled as only having taught a message of love. Yet read what Jesus actually said and you will quickly find that Jesus firstly and foremostly called people to repent of sin. That was an act of love, to call out truth to people who would mock him, who would reject him, who would go on to kill him.

Jesus went on to tell people to seek first the kingdom of God. Our society focuses on love your neighbour, but unless we love God first, our understanding of what it means to love ones neighbour has the potential to become horribly skewed.

You and I may not have ancestors who were horse thieves and drunkards, but we are living lives that will one day be judged by our creator. By his standards, not our own. I find this both reassuring and terrifying.

If you don’t believe in God, then you may as well eat drink and be merry, for what else is there to live for. But we were created. If you are willing to look closely at the world around you, there is evidence of God’s creation everywhere.

One day you and I will both stand before our creator in what God’s word says will be a day of judgement. I hope you will join me in seeking God’s kingdom now, while we still have time.

If you don’t know Jesus, but would like to, get in touch.

You can also visit the Scotland Hope website

Finally, a few clips to share with you. Someone shared part of this with me on Facebook this week:

Before The Person :: Relationship Goals (Part 1)

I really enjoyed the music of Aaron Shust on Friday night as he led us in worship. Here is his song: God of Brilliant Lights

On Saturday The Afters really did Light Up The Sky

Do you read Historical Fiction?

Do you read Historical Fiction?

If so, you might be interested in The Historical Novel Society Conference. They are hosting the conference at the Westerwood Hotel, near Glasgow in Scotland, from 24th – 26th August 2018.

Keynote speakers include
ALISON WEIR
SARAH DUNANT
ROBIN ELLIS

There are quite a number of other Speakers, panellists and workshop leaders including someone I can actually claim to know: MARGARET SKEA, the author of Katharina: Deliverance, a novel of the wife of Martin Luther, a book that is now on my to read list!

Margaret’s website is: https://margaretskea.com/

Thanks to Montvalent and Pixabay for the photo above.

Drowning in Privacy

As those who signed up to my newsletter in the last year will know, I haven’t actually sent out any emails! (Apart from an initial welcome letter on signing up.) Partly because I’ve not felt that I’ve had anything to say, but also because I’d made life difficult for myself asking people to sign up to different things and in different ways.

I’ve collected email addresses from people I’ve asked to review books, signed up at author events and also who’ve signed up through this website. As you might be aware, the new GDPR regulations come into force tomorrow and I’ve had to finally face up to the fact that I need to simplify the whole idea of a mailing list. Time to get my head out of the sand!

I’ve added a privacy policy which you can now access from the menu and which can be read here.

I’ve modified my sign-up page to comply with GDPR regulations. It should now be clear that I use MailChimp to both store email addresses and send out emails.

I’ve created a new page where sample chapters of my novels can be downloaded here: http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/sample-chapters/

I’m conscious that there are still changes I need to make as I’ve noticed things on this website which are now out of date. If you spot anything, do let me know!

Picture of Ostrich used with thanks from: https://pixabay.com/en/ostrich-bird-africa-south-africa-171313/

Threading the needle

A few years ago, or more, I attempted to climb The Cobbler, a corbett sized mountain near Loch Lomond. We went as a family and we only made it half way, our kids running out of steam near some large boulders where we rested while others in our party continued on.

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to try again.

Photo’s of the three peaks that make up the Cobbler’s ridge are quite stunning and the description of ascending to the final peak sounded like quite a challenge. On Saturday I finally made it!

Walkhighlands has an easy route mapped out on their site here. We set off from the car park at 9:30 on a glorious day. By the time our climb levelled off to the plateau where you get your first glimpse of the peak I’d had to strip down to my t-shirt.

The Cobbler is finally visible

The path is fairly flat for the next couple of miles, but as we reached those boulders where I’d had to wait before, I realised that for a young child, that ridge that looked so exciting to me, might have looked somewhat terrifying…

The Walkhighlands route takes an easier route round the back of the mountain, but the friends I was with wanted to save time and head straight up the front. It was a scramble, but I quite enjoy that.

I confess that once I was on the ridge, I didn’t think to take many more photos, and those I took had members of our party and public and I’m now a bit wary of publishing them without permision.

I took a bunch of business cards advertising my novels and gave them out on the way up to people we met. I hadn’t known the Cobbler is actually Ben Arthur. Just for the day I renamed it as Ben Author…

I don’t have a head for heights and in places, I just had to focus on the ground in front and not think about the sheer drop just a couple of feet away.

The descriptions I’d read of the actual peak didn’t do it justice. I literally had to squeeze myself through a hole in a boulder like rock that sits extended out of the cliff. The “wide” ledge at the other side slopes downwards to emptiness that makes me freeze just thinking about it.

How do I get up there?

Fortunately there were several people making their way back as I made my way out onto the ledge who each offered encouragement. Crouching low, I made my way along the ledge to where weather seems to have carved a gap in the boulder and I could lift myself up, finally, onto the summit.

It felt good. But mostly it was just terrifying.

I knew that going back would be harder. Climbing is something we do instinctively. Lowering myself down is never as easy, and I’ve never had to do so with such a drop only short feet away.

Enter my guardian angel for the day: a man who climbed up just after me and talked me down off that boulder. I’m not sure if I’d still be there today if he hadn’t…

Thank you RM!

The roof of the world, well, Ben Arthur anyway…

Nothing to say?

I’ve avoided blogging over the winter as I’ve felt I’ve had nothing to say.

It is interesting looking back to my experiment last year of writing 100 words a day for 100 days. Often during that period I felt I had nothing to say, but I forced myself to say something, even if it was banal or pointless. My lack of blog posts since then are perhaps statement enough that I’m not sure of the value in posting unless I think I’ve something worth saying.

So, has anything changed? Why am I posting today? Well, yes, something has changed, though I’m not sure if I’m ready to post about it.

If you are looking for news on the Fallen Warriors sequel, I’m still working on the story, still increasing my word count, but I’ve not yet finished the first draft. However, I’m excited by the directions the plot lines are taking and enjoying developing the story.

More news soon…

Transitioning to what…?

After over three months of daily posts I’ve quickly allowed this blog to lie fallow.

Over the summer and autumn I’ve been writing the sequel to Fallen Warriors, but also trying to establish myself as a publisher with limited success.

It’s become very clear that many bookshops, perhaps most, are only willing to buy books from larger distributors, unless an author is locally based and so has a connection to the community.

I’ve been putting off my application to distributors, probably giving in to a fear of the unknown, that I don’t know exactly what they are looking for and probably only have one shot at getting the application right.

It’s a catch 22 for indie authors that we may be unable to sell to bookstores unless a distributor will take us on, but we may be unable to sell to the distributor unless we can show bookshops are buying from us.

As you can see from my Where to Buy page, I’ve had some success placing my novels with smaller bookshops and individual bookshops within larger chains.

I think I need to bite that bullet and send off my application(s) to the key distributors. Hopefully one or more will be interested in working with me, but if not, then I can stop worrying and use this website to sell directly to bookshops and to readers.

Which brings me to a question that I’m not yet ready to answer… What do I want to use this website for?

If I’m selling to trade (bookshops and distributors), then it makes sense to tone back the blog, perhaps move it to a back page or even remove it and show a more professional front.

But I think this website will always be aimed more at readers and certainly I’m directing everyone that I meet to this website, so it makes sense to use it as a follow up to those first contacts.

I’ll try not to leave it as long until my next post!

On the Air

Thanks to Dave Mitchell and Revival FM for hosting me this morning on their Mid Morning Hour show as I gave a plug for our upcoming Meet the Author event!

If you’re in or near Cumbernauld and would like to meet myself, Wendy H Jones and Caroline Johnston, we’ll be at Cumbernauld Library on 16th September from 2-4pm. Book your free ticket now!

Find out more about my novel Fallen Warriors in Dave’s interview which is available here: http://podcast.canstream.co.uk/revivalfm/index.php?id=5526

Boosting a flatlining Facebook event

It’s almost two weeks until my first Meet the Author event!

Cumbernauld Library and Culture North Lanarkshire have set up a Facebook event page and a page on the CultureNL website to advertise the event and ask people to sign up for free so they have an idea of numbers.

At the beginning of this week only four people had signed up and the Facebook page was only showing myself going and a grand total of 55 people having viewed the event after it had been live for two weeks…

I often feel there is too much to do and not enough hours in the day, but today was the day for doing something about this!

Part of the reason I’d been hesitant about promoting the Facebook event is that I’ve been stung in the past by facebook limiting me from contacting people when I’ve been trying to promote my novels. Facebook, understandably, want us to pay to advertise.

But, I hadn’t realised how easy it is to simply invite friends. I just needed to click on the Share drop down and select Invite friends…

I still had to scroll down through my friends and tick those that are local and I thought would be interested, but ten minutes later I’d invited 100 people. That was a good start. Within half an hour, four people had responded which was encouraging.

Then I paid to boost the event, setting the location within the minimum 17Km distance from Cumbernauld and targetting people with relevant keywords like “Thriller Novel” and “Crime Fiction” and “Young Adult Fiction”

I set the budget at £20 for seven days. Not a huge amount, but, then, I don’t have a huge marketing budget.

Depending on take up for the event I may run a shorter ad just before the event or continue it into next week.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from Wendy H Jones and Caroline Johnston. It would be great to see you there as well!

How to plan your next novel

This is the first of a four part series I’m sharing this week, exploring how to plan a sequel.

I’m planning to take July and August out to write the sequel to Fallen Warriors. I’ve never written a sequel before and have to admit, I’m quite nervous. For Fallen Warriors I had a very clear idea of the ending I wanted. In theory, as I was writing the novel, all I had to do was direct the characters towards that ending.

Of course it wasn’t as easy as that, and with eight main characters and several more minor characters, I struggled to keep track of their stories. The complexity of the plots was one of the main reasons it took me almost ten years to write.

My writing style is probably closer to what they call “pantser” than “plotter”, though I did write out plots for all of my characters… However, I struggled to believe those individual plots would work until I finally took everything I’d written up to then, started at the beginning and wove them all together. It was only then that I started to see that it did all actually fit together.

I don’t want to leave readers waiting ten years for a sequel so am planning to kick start the process this summer, writing a first draft and also putting some work towards the third novel in what will eventually be a trilogy. I’m expecting that this will allow me to make the plot more consistent across the three books as when I’m editing book two, I’ll already have a good idea of what happens in book three.

But, because I’m trying to be more sensible about how much I write daily for this blog, and because I’m planning to spread this post out over several days, allow me to say…

To be continued!

Flash Fiction: Iron Brew


“But why did the cancer come back, Dad?”
“Diesel cars. That’s what they’re saying now.”
“Why would that give you cancer?”
“I don’t know, Son. Make me a brew would you?”
“Another one? How much tea do you drink all day?”
“At least it’s good for you, not like you with that ginger. Full of chemicals that is.”
Angus smiled as his Dad put on a posh accent…
“Tea has been scientifically proven to have health benefits.”
“Aye, right.” Angus looked away as the kettle boiled, not wanting his Dad to see he’d welled up. He blinked the tears away as he poured the steaming water in his Dad’s favourite mug and then stirred the tea bag, noticing the orange tinge to the brown.
“Three sugars remember, Son.”
“Three, Dad? That’s a lot of sugar.”
“Still not as much as in that ginger you drink. Anyway, sugar is good for you.”
“How d’you reckon that?”
“They always give me ice-cream after my chemo. They wouldn’t do that unless sugar was good for you.”
Angus thought back to the sugar cubes he’d been given to make his vaccinations more palatable.
“No, I guess not, Dad.”
Angus took a dry spoon out the drawer and heaped a spoon with the white grains. Hesitated before pouring it into the tea. It wasn’t like his Dad was obese. Skinny as a rake he was. He let the grains tumble off the spoon and repeated again and again…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/
You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/05/flash-fiction-iron-brew/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Ginger: Scot’s slang for soda pop