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:

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
You may link to this post from 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

100 words: Reap the harvest

100 words
written daily
for 100 days
will leave you
10,000 words richer.
10,000 words that would not have been written
unless you persevered
and with determination,
to complete
the task before you.
Jesus said,
some seeds fall on good soil
producing a crop:
100, 60 or 30 times
what was sown.
Yet if you don’t sow
you will never reap
that harvest of a completed goal:
a life saved,
a finished book,
a race that has been run,
a project completed.
How dreadful
to give up
while still able.
Set your goal.
Start work each day.
Measure your progress
and reap that harvest!

© Mark Anderson Smith 2017

100 words – A transformation

The goal I set myself
to write 100 words
a day
for 100 days
is one I share with you.
The power
of daily progress
be overestimated.
Brick by brick
the house is built.
Drop by drop
a lake is drained.
Small steps
towards your goal
will take you there.
Small steps
will train you,
will build discipline,
will give you a sense
of satisfaction,
will allow you
to gradually
take longer steps,
walk further each day,
run faster,
jump higher,
Not only has your goal been achieved
but you as a person
are transformed.
Will you join me

© Mark Anderson Smith 2017

Why do I want to blog?

Why do I want to blog?

Initially (back in 2009) it seemed like a good idea. Then I lost my way. Thinking about restarting the My 100 Goals blog requires I ask this question.

Fact is, I miss blogging. I find writing to be therapeutic. I feel better when I write my thoughts down. If I’m not writing, I get cranky.

But I can write in private. Why write in public?

Well, my life goal has always been to become a writer. I’ve been a writer my entire adult life, but blogging has helped focus my attention on the underlying desire – to have people read my stories, to make money from my writing.

I made no money from my initial blog, but am wondering about including advertising on this new platform.

But I don’t want my entire focus to be on making money…

I want to blog for Jesus. For this blog to be part of living for Jesus. Back in 2009 I wrote down my thirty first goal as: “To be and do all that God wants of me”

A web blog is an opportunity to hold myself publically accountable to that standard. Am I being and doing all that God wants of me?

Also, I want to encourage you to complete your goals. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the “My” 100 Goals… I tried this tag line for a while: My 100 Goals, Your 100 Goals – Together we can make a difference.

I want this blog to be more outward looking, while still having 100 goals as a focus, use that to encourage you to go on to achieve your goals. To discover your purpose in life.

So, what will this blog be about?

  1. I will use it to be and do all that God wants of me.
  2. I will use this blog to encourage others to achieve their goals.
  3. This blog will be used to help others find their purpose and calling in life.
  4. I will use this blog to sell my books and to make money.
  5. I will also use this blog to help others through book reviews and sharing what others are doing.

If you think I’ve missed out something important or am on completely the wrong track – let me know!