A new target

Photo of street map of York

I’ve taken a couple of months away from contracting to work on the sequel to Fallen Warriors and ready another book for publication. I ended up needing almost all of the first month to ready that book and was finally able to send it to the printers at the weekend and am now focusing back on Fallen Warriors.

I like big targets for my writing. Huge, seemingly impossible goals that are quite at odds with how I tackle other projects. I had in mind that I would write 5,000 words a day and produce a 100,000 word draft by the end of May, then perhaps even go on to write the first draft of the final book of the trilogy in June.

I started actually writing today and managed 1,000 words.

Considering that I’m trying to switch my gears from editing mode to creative mode, that might not be too bad. In the last month of “editing” Fallen Warriors, I actually first draft wrote most of the final chapters. They were then edited, they were proof read, but the story just flowed out as ten years of subconscious thought made itself known. That was while I was working full time.

Over four weeks I virtually wrote 2,000 words a day in three hours or less. It should be possible to write 5,000 words a day when I’m working full time at it.

In theory.

5,000 words a day seems like a goal worth pursuing. The first draft of any book doesn’t have to be perfect. It just needs to get the story out and since with each of my books there has been a process of rewriting and editing, I know I can and will improve on the first draft. Also, I have always needed to delete scenes and chapters. So why waste time carefully writing scenes that may eventually have to be cut?

I already know I’m not going to have all of June available, other commitments have taken priority. It might take me a week or two to get up to speed, but that’s okay. My main goal is to tell a gripping and enjoyable story. If I can do that faster, fantastic.

If it takes a bit longer, that’s also okay. I’ll be posting daily updates from Thursday onwards. Tomorrow is a different kind of day, but more about that later…

Instagram

View from Cliffords Tower in York looking towards the Minster

I signed up to Instagram months ago on the recommendation of fellow writers. Followed a few people, but just didn’t get it. I’ve struggled to know how to use Facebook and Twitter, and Instagram seemed like just another social media platform that I didn’t have time to use. Until a couple of weeks ago…

Turns out I quite enjoy using Instagram and maybe I do “get it”. At least, I get how I can use it.

I drove down to York (taking our electric car which may inspire another post shortly) for the weekend to do some research for the sequel to Fallen Warriors. I wanted to walk through the city, remind myself of how it feels to be there, and scout out locations to use in the next book.

As you’d expect I took a bunch of photos, and thought I might share some of them on Instagram as the weekend progressed. I added some short descriptions, not really understanding the potential the descriptions gave, until I posted this one of Monk Bar: https://www.instagram.com/p/BxkwnuUBiF_/

I hashtagged it #FallenWarriors, wondering if hashtags work the same way as on Twitter. Turns out they do! And of course, descriptions are searchable…

I’ve tried posting photos on Twitter and on Facebook, but neither platform really seems to fit for what I’m trying to convey. Instagram does. I want to be able to post a photo that intrigues me, a scene that has captured my attention, and share a short sentence about that photo. I also want to drop clues about my books, things that only readers will understand. Add cryptic notes as hints towards what I’m planning to write. Maybe even lead people up a blind alley, after all, it’s all about the journey, right?

And there is no pressure. I can post one photo a day, or not, and regardless, everything I’ve posted will be there for people to stumble across. Unlike Twitter which feels every time I use it like I’m trying to drink from a fire hose!

So, if you’d like to see what I’m up to on Instagram, you can find me here: http://www.instagram.com/my100goals/

I intend to post at least one photo each weekday for the next month and then review. Look forward to connecting with you on Instagram!

What a year!

Work became my focus for almost all of the last year. Back to back contracts requiring most of my energy and leaving little time for writing and almost none for marketing and promotion. I did attend the Dundee book fair (picture below) and also several other fairs in the lead up to Christmas. Some were more successful than others, and overall I was really pleased with the response.

Photo of Mark Anderson Smith at Dundee Book Fair

They say that a blog needs regular updates otherwise people lose interest, well, I wouldn’t blame you if you had stopped checking.

My situation has changed though and I’ll share about that later. For now, I’m conscious that this blog and website needs a fairly major overhaul.

The last few days I’ve missed calls from an unknown number. They eventually got through to me this morning and I had a good chat with a guy from a hosting provider I use. Once we covered the reason for his call (and the other attempts) he pointed out that my website was showing as “Not secure” in the address bar. I had been aware of this, but updating the website had been so far down my list of priorities that I hadn’t even made a note to look into what it meant.

He explained that most web browsers now look for a security certificate on the website that allows the browser and website to communicate securely. I’ve known about the padlock symbol on Firefox for some time, but Chrome in particular is now using plain text which makes it stand out more.

Dragon Lake isn’t yet selling through the website, but my new friend pointed out that users are less likely to use a website that is unsecure, and I certainly do have a sign-up form for my mailing list. So, I’ve decided to bump up securing my website and figured I might at least get some capital from it, so I can share what I find out along the way.

I’ll be sharing some news with those who’ve signed up to my newsletter this week and later on through this blog. If you want to among be the first to hear, sign up to my newsletter now!

Dundee Book Fair!

I’m delighted to be taking part in what promises to be a readers paradise of a book fair next Saturday!

If you live in or near Dundee and like reading (or are looking for Christmas presents for readers) add this event to your calendar:

Poster for Dundee Book Fair on 8 December 2018

You’ll find me there on Saturday 8th December 2018 from 10am till 4pm at City Church, Tulideph Road, Dundee DD2 2PN

Hope to see you there!

A Fallen Christmas

My wife was accosted a couple of weeks ago by a lady she didn’t know. The lady approached her and demanded to know when the sequel to Fallen Warriors would be released. My wife doesn’t know and right now neither do I. However I can share that a teaser for the sequel has been included in a Christmas themed anthology released last month by the Association of Christian Writers: Merry Christmas Everyone

Picture of ACW Christmas Anthology: Merry Christmas Everyone
ACW Christmas Anthology

My short story: A Fallen Christmas, introduces a new character who will have a major role in the sequel to Fallen Warriors. When I say short, we were limited to 1,000 words in our contributions to the anthology. However, the quality of the other stories, poems and essays included is excellent and I’m delighted to be included.

I bought a few copies to sell on at Christmas Fayres over the next few weeks.

I’ll be selling the anthology and my novels at the Abronhill Community Christmas Fayre today from 12 till 3pm.

Next Saturday, 24th November from 10am to 1pm, I’ll be at St Maurice’s Christmas Fayre. If you’re in Cumbernauld today or next Saturday, come and meet the author!

I’m nervous to share more about the Fallen Warriors sequel until after I’ve finished the first draft, but for everyone who is waiting, I’ll post more about where I’m at with it next week. Or you can ask me in person at a Christmas Fayre…

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…