A strong tower

The name of the Lord is a strong tower

I woke up this morning to a disturbing article. One I won’t share here yet – please forgive my reticence, what is the saying: “fools rush in where angels fear to tread…”

This morning I was able to go for a jog (at the speed I’m moving I don’t feel I can class it as a run!) and was able to take the photo above. I love to see ancient walls and towers being preserved and remembered, symbols of strength, of protection.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10 KJV

The cleaner is coming

The cleaner is coming
The cleaner is coming
Unblock the drain and swab that stain.
The cleaner is coming
The cleaner is coming
Make those beds, don’t shake your heads!
The cleaner is coming
The cleaner is coming
Pick up those clothes and wipe your nose.
Tidy these papers, off of the bench.
Clear each surface, so they can dust.
The cleaner is coming
The cleaner is coming
Clear the hallway and wash those dishes!
Are all these yours? What now? What next!
Here, take to your room. I said now! Not soon…
The cleaner is coming
The cleaner is coming
And now
the house
is clean…
Remind me,
why is the cleaner coming?

A long weekend

We arrived back in Scotland yesterday after a long weekend driving down to a reunion and back again.

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll have seen I didn’t manage to schedule in a post for early on Sunday. The first day of my 100 words in 100 days challenge that I was unprepared for.

On Thursday I finished a contract with a client, not knowing for certain whether they wanted me to come back in this week to do some more work. I find it hard to plan ahead when I don’t know if I’ll be working or even where…

Fortunately we’d been planning to take this weekend away for months. A chance to catch up with friends that ended up being a perfect round up to the contract and preparation for beginning the new project – writing the sequel to Fallen Warriors.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life right now. I don’t know for sure what direction this novel will take. I don’t know when I’ll next be working. I’m not even sure what I’ll post on this blog over the next few days…

I see that uncertainty mirrored in National and World events. Will Britain leave the European Union? Will our economy collapse?

There’s a disturbing chapter in the Bible – Matthew 24. It records Jesus responding to his disciples questions about when the temple would be destroyed and what would be the sign of Jesus returning and of the “end of the age?”

Jesus tells them of a series of sign posts events, many of which have already happened and are calamitous enough, but then goes on to talk about even more disturbing events that call into question the nature of our reality.

Given that Jesus kept messing with our understanding of reality – healing the sick and disabled just by placing his hands on them, raising the dead back to life, commanding a storm to be quiet and even cursing a tree so it shrivelled and died – when he talks about the sun being darkened and the stars falling from the sky, he does so from a position of authority.

To all those who love Jesus, this chapter is one of hope, a promise that no matter how bad things get, Jesus will return and will reward us for faithfulness to him. If you do not love Jesus then this is a warning to you, that any leader who promises things will only get better is lying to you, that war and turmoil will get worse, that one day you will be judged by the God who created you.

Jesus was sent by God to call us back to him, to take our place receiving the punishment we deserve for rejecting our creator, for the sin we have committed.

Jesus calls us to repent of sin, to seek him, to seek his forgiveness and follow him.

Will you follow Jesus today?

Sharpening my axe

You’ve heard the story of ol’ Abe Lincoln who allegedly said that if you need to cut down a tree quickly, the first thing you should do is spend time sharpening your axe.

All being well, I’m planning to spend tomorrow (my first day of writing the sequel to Fallen Warriors) on the writers equivelant: plotting, gathering my notes, brainstorming, mindmapping and generally trying to set out a structure to guide me as I set out to write two novels in two months.

Maybe I’ll actually spend some time writing, but I’m sure that I’ll get more done over the next weeks if I’ve got a plan to follow than if I’m constantly struggling to work out how to connect everything together. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Better late than never…

Is it better to be late than never?

For your own funeral?

I guess you could argue that both ways…

For your wedding?

In all honesty, it depends…

Every time?

To those who depend on you, the lines may become blurred…

Every now and then?

Yes. Sometimes it might be better late than never. Other times, never may be preferrable.

Today I am late. I could have just left it, I’m taking a weekend away and didn’t manage to pre-schedule a post for today.

It wouldn’t have mattered to take a day off, right?

Except, in my heart I believe – it’s better late than not at all.

Proof Reading for Dummies

So here’s my dummies guide to proof reading…

Take a book, start at the beginning, read slowly until the end and make a note of every mistake you find.

Simples…

Except… It’s really, really difficult when it’s a book you’ve written!

At some point I’m going to have to start paying a professional to proof read my novels. Until then there is no other option but to rely on the kindness of friends who have an eye for punctuation and grammar and spelling; and also to pick up my own book… Again and again and again until I’ve read it so many times that it’s almost stopped being my story and just become words on a page.

Tell you what though, the advice to start at the back of your book and read each page in reverse order does help.

Also, getting a physical proof copy printed up makes a big difference. I noticed a space where it had no right to be, fifty pages in. I must have read that passage a dozen times on screen, but seeing it there on a physical page, it stood out like a… Well, like a space invader… Please don’t shoot me 😉

I’ve heard that reading your book out loud is also a good technique. I’m not quite there yet with that one, but for some passages it has been useful.

How do you ensure your book is as free as possible from those irritating typos?

Friday Flash Fiction – A-llerrr-Gic!

Alan sneezed. An explosive sneeze that built up from nowhere far too quickly for him to do anything about. A tickling in his nose that became an irritation that became a tsunami of sensation that overwhelmed him until the sneeze blasted out.

“A-llerrr-Gic!” Came the cry from behind him. He didn’t turn, knew they were standing there at attention, saw a teacher shake his head and turn away.

Several times a day now, for weeks, they had mocked him every time he sneezed. Teachers had stopped them in some classes, but in others – as the Summer term grew to a close – had obviously stopped caring.

He moved closer to the starting line to get away from them.

“Going for gold, are you, Alan,” said Tony in a voice that only carried as far as his gang. Not that the teachers would have cared.

He hoped that High School would be diferent. It was terrifying to think that even though he might be the runt of Primary Seven, he’d no longer be one of the oldest in the school, but right back at square one. Though what difference would moving up make if he brought Tony and his gang up with him?

“Primary Seven boys, get ready!”

The teacher’s shout broke through his thoughts. Alan checked his pocket for his inhaler. Was reassured by the shape of the plastic.

“Go!”

Alan sprinted forwards, desperate to get away from Tony, ignoring his teacher’s earlier advice to pace themselves at the start of the 800 metres. He might as well run himself into the ground because Tony would make fun of him no matter what he did.

He rounded the first corner and was immediately passed by Gavin. He could feel himself struggling to breath and knew he’d only just started.

He kept going, trying to maintain his obviously slow pace even as James also passed him. Gavin was now a good three metres in front of him. Would the whole class end up passing him before he reached the finish line?

Should have started from the back, he thought. Then at least no-one would have passed me.

No, he told himself. Stop caring what they say. Just finish this race. I’m going to finish this race.

He focused on Gavin, now maybe five metres ahead. Tried to match his pace.

His lungs were bursting… He swallowed great gulps of air and felt his vision narrow down, but kept going. One foot in front of the other. Pushing himself forward.

He wondered if he should take out his inhaler as he didn’t seem to be taking anything in with each breath, but worried he would drop it unless he stopped and he was not going to stop!

Each corner rounded was a small victory. 100 metres round the top edges of the school football pitch and 200 metres to each side. 600 metres the full circumference and one extra length to give the full 800 metres. He couldn’t remember how many sides he’d run. Forced himself to keep going.

Then he heard someone say as he passed: “Is that Alan?”

Smallest and skinniest boy ever to reach Primary Seven, he thought. Who else could it be?

And then, there was the finish line! He stumbled over it, took a few more steps and collapsed to the ground.

At least he’d completed the race, he thought as he tried to get his breathing back under control.

“Alan, that was a good run.”

He looked up and saw his gym teacher.

“You came in third.”

He looked up uncomprehending, then looked over to the finish line and saw the rest of the boys in his class approaching. To his astonishment, the boys who had tormented him for so long were only now reaching the finish. He doubted any of them had been trying to run, but even so… James was even out of breath from his slow jog.

They also collapsed to the ground as they passed the line.

And that’s when it happened.

Out of breath from his run, kneeling on the grass, Tony sneezed.

Still struggling to control his own breathing, Alan pushed himself to his feet. Fixed his eyes on Tony and drew himself up straight.

He saw Tony give him a quick look before turning away.

Alan held himself at attention for a little longer and then relaxed. His breathing was still rapid and he felt a little light-headed, but for the first time ever, he’d ranked in a race!

Maybe High School would be different after all…

Copyright Mark Anderson Smith 2017 http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/ You may link to this post from http://www.dragonlake.co.uk/2017/06/friday-flash-fiction-a-llerrr-gic/ or share on a non-commercial website so long as the full copyright notice and this statement is included.

Let me know what you think of the story below…

A regimented writing plan

How am I going to do this, write two first drafts in two months?

It’s going to be very practical…

I’ll get up, probably at 6am.

I’ll write for an hour and then have some breakfast – say 15mins.

Then write for another hour which will take me to 8:15.

I plan to then go out for a short run. Get the blood flowing again. Shower.

Back at my desk by 9am.

Write for an hour and half.

Short fifteen minute break.

Write for another hour and a half.

That will have been five hours writing with 1 hour and 15 min breaks, start at 6, finish at 12:15.

Regimented…

I’m not sure I’ve ever been that disciplined in my life!

Well, it’s a plan. They say no plan survives the start of the battle intact. That’s okay. The aim is to spend the rest of the day with my family. Unless they are away, in which case I will spend some time on admin stuff – marketing my existing books, blogging etc. Or maybe even tackle the household to do list…

I’m still planning to blog daily, though may modify exactly how I do that. If I’m writing 5,000 words a day towards my novel, I’m not going to feel the same commitment to writing a blog post daily. Instead, I may do what I’ve actually done for this week – write the week’s posts in advance and schedule them all at the same time. I’ll let you know.

If you’ve ever written a sequel (or a first novel) in a month, how did you go about it?

It’s all about the story

Fallen Warriors was a real learning experience for me. I intended the plot to go in one direction, but wasn’t totally sure how that would look. In the end, by allowing my characters to direct the story, I ended up pretty close to where I’d wanted to, but had followed them all through some unexpected journeys.

I now have a situation – as I set out to write the sequel – where none of my character journeys are complete, where each of them still has some internal demons to battle.

Unlike with Season One, I don’t yet have a definitive ending I’m heading for. Well, that might not be totally true…

I’ve been jotting down plot ideas for months and I need to revisit those. I think that at one point I did think I had an overall aim for both Season Two and Season Three, but it may have been quite vague.

I’m intending to start this writing journey by storyboarding the overall plot:

  • One main story arc to link all three books.
  • Two major story arcs for books two and three.
  • Minor story arcs for each character that may stretch over both books, or may end and then spark a new arc.

For this I’ll draw on resources like the Three Act Structure for Novelists (by Fiona Veitch Smith.)

I’m extremely nervous about tying it all together!

But, I know I can, because I’ve already done it once.

All of that sounds very analytical yet I believe people are enjoying Fallen Warriors because it is ultimately a story about real people, facing real struggles, and in the end, overcoming them… Or not!

I enjoy writing stories for much the same reasons people enjoy reading them. I get an emotional rush as I place my characters in situations that tear them apart, break them down and then give them hope. Over the summer it’s all going to be about the story!

How much can you write in a day?

How much can you write in a day? This is a question that I keep returning to as I plan to write the sequel to Fallen Warriors. I wrote the first draft of The Great Scottish Land Grab in a month, writing an average of 2,300 words a day for 22 days in November 2011. It took me two and a half hours each day to write that.

But, then I ended up ditching half of that novel – easily 25,000 words – as I rewrote and edited the final version.

In theory I know I can write 5,000 words a day, but what is the point if I then need to discard half of that?

Well, on the plus side, you never know exactly what will work until you try. It is sometimes only during the writing that the story becomes clear, that the characters start to live. We change as writers as we become more experienced. The fact is that both for Land Grab and Fallen Warriors, during the rewrite, I added new scenes and extended existing scenes, essentially writing a new first draft that was actually good enough to become the final draft.

The hope is that having set up the background in Fallen Warriors Season One, having a pre-existing backstory and characters, that writing the sequel will be less work.

I will have child care responsibilities during the summer so am planning to get up at Six each morning, write for five hours plus a one hour break, and then leave the writing for the rest of the day.

My plan is to write 1,000 words an hour.

I expect I will take a couple of weeks off during the nine weeks that make up July and August, so I will only have seven weeks available to write.

Five thousand times five days times seven weeks = 175000 words…

Okay, I’m actually planning to write first drafts of both novels, Season Two and Season Three this summer.

Is it achievable?

I won’t know until I try, but in theory it should be.

The real benefit though is that it allows me to ensure that both plots are consistent, that there is an overall story arc connecting the three seasons and gives me more flexibility to end Season Two at an appropriate stage that will hopefully satisfy readers and leave them hooked for Season Three.

Anyway, that’s my plan for writing the sequel to Fallen Warriors and an estimate of how many words I’m planning to write each day. How much can you write in a day?