summer holiday ideas

20 Ideas to Grow Your Child’s Faith During the Summer Holidays

summer holiday ideas

As the school year comes to a close today, many of us are now thinking about the vast expanse of the six weeks summer holidays.  If you are a geeky organised mum like me, then you might have put together a list of trip and activities you want to do with your kids, or maybe even a calendar planning out your every move!!  Or maybe you’re the opposite and like to just go with the flow.  Whatever your style ,why not try to use this summer holidays to be intentional with your children and grow their faith.  I’m not talking about family church services every morning, but there are lots of fun ways in which we can act out our faith and teach our kids a bit more during this period of extra time with them.

So here are just a few ideas that you might want to try:

  1. Order a Treasure Box to try out and explore a new bible story
  2. Buy a Godventure Sticker Book and work through it together
  3. Learn a new worship song each week and have a praise/dance party in your lounge
  4. Try out “chat and catch” from the Parenting for Faith Course
  5. Visit a Cathedral or Minister and chat about the different areas in it and what they are used for
  6. Find a Messy Church or Holiday Club that your kids can go along to (even if its not run by your normal church)
  7. Buy Bake Through The Bible and explore the bible through food
  8. Spend a day making or baking gifts for your neighbours and go and pass them out door to door.
  9. Have an open garden afternoon and invite children from your street
  10. Pick a charity and fundraise for them over the summer, seeing how much you can raise in total (perhaps pick out 3 or 4 mission related charities for your kids to choose from)
  11. Set up a new child sponsorship account with Compassion and write a letter to them
  12. Visit activities in your local community and make new friends (try your library, children’s centre and local parks for what is already going on and support them)
  13. Recreate your favourite bible story through dress up/puppets/lego/playdough
  14. Make your own flags to wave during worship at church
  15. Make a bible themed assault course in the garden – go through “the den of lions”, across the sea of Galilee, roll the rock away from the Jesus’ tomb, etc!
  16. Commit to pray for their new class teacher and class mates over the summer and make a “we’ve been praying for you” gift to give to the teacher on the first day back
  17. Make parent survival kits for the new reception class parents to hand out in September or welcome to school gifts for the new pupils themselves
  18. Offer to have their friends over for the afternoon to give another mum a break
  19. Make bible bunting and add a triangle everyday with a picture of a bible story you have read
  20. Try out the new Devotional Dippers from 10ofthose.com

Happy Summer Holidays!! 

P.S.  Do share how it goes, and if you have any more ideas on how to grow your child’s faith during the summer holidays then post them in the comments below…

How Bible Journaling Helped Me

Life can be tough sometimes, can’t it?!  Sometimes bad things happen, sometimes we have to wait for what we desperately want, sometimes life is just tiring.  I’m not immune to that as a Christian.

What is it that gets you through those tough times?  Is it food?  Is it alcohol?  Is it friends?  The thing that has kept me going and kept me connected to God during the last two years of my life has been bible journaling.  I only discovered it a couple of months before we were told the news that our house was to be compulsory purchased by the government, but I am so so thankful that I did.  It has been a lifeline, a way to communicate what I’ve been feeling inside and a way to let it out and give it over to God.  When sometimes words and prayers won’t come, art and creativity have filled those gaps and I can now look back at the journey I took and be thankful that God was there with me in it.

I wanted to share with you some of the pages that I created along the way, a little window into my journey, and hope that they might inspire you to keep journaling through your darkest days:

golden calf

The Story Behind The Page: Golden Calf

golden calf
stupid Israelites?!

Have you ever sat in an Old Testament Bible Study and thought to yourself “How stupid are those Israelites??!  I would never do anything like that!!”.  Maybe its their lack of trust straight after God has done something absolutely miraculous for them (crossing the red sea on dry land and watching the Egyptians perish and yet being too scared to take on what lies ahead in the promised land for example).   Maybe it’s their long list of wants and needs that keep growing (water isn’t good enough, we want food.  Manna isn’t good enough we want meat as well).  There are so many instances of this that sometimes I find myself getting exasperated with them and thinking “well I would NEVER do that!”.

Oh how foolish I am!  For a few months I have been pondering on the story of the move from Egypt, across the desert, into the promised land.  I think it resembles our situation of being in limbo quite a lot, and I have journaled quite a few pages based on this.  But this one story jumped out at me last week – the story of the Golden Calf.

me and my golden calf

golden calfYou see, things are now at a point in our house move where we are just waiting.  Waiting for solicitors to do their job.  Waiting for official people to sign off on stuff.  Waiting and waiting and waiting.  And its in the waiting that often problems come up, because we get impatient to wait for God to sort things.   We are very good at trusting God when things are moving forward and look positive, but as soon as that progression stops so does our trust.  This was the situation for the Israelites in the desert.  They were moving forward, and then Moses decides to go up a mountain and meet with God.  They were fine with it at first.  Just decided to chill out and have a rest.  But this meeting seemed to go on for quite a while ( I mean it was an important meeting – the 10 commandments amongst other things were being given) and the Israelites started to get impatient and restless.  Rather than turning to God, they turned away from him and looked for something else (ANYTHING ELSE!!) that they could get some kind of comfort or answer from.  For them, it was a golden calf.  Why?!  I guess it was probably quite similar to idols they had seen in Egypt so would have been a comfort initially (until they realised it could do nothing).

This got me thinking – what was I turning to during this time of waiting to provide me with the comfort that I should get from trusting God?  When I thought long and hard about it, I decided it was worrying.  Constantly over-thinking things and going over everything was sort of a go to move for me, and I guess it provided me with some comfort that I was kind of doing something about the problems (even though I wasn’t!).  I also realised that food is a massive idol that I turn to when I get down or stressed about things, and I expect that nice food will cheer me up (it probably does momentarily but then I feel exactly the same and probably with stomach ache on top!).  These things are common things in our culture now, so it is accepted that you deal with things like this – very similar to the Israelites making their golden calf.

how i turned that into a journaling page

golden calf bible pageAll of this lead me on to make my own golden calf for my journaling page (ok so I printed off a picture I found on google) and then add my particular idols.  I made the calf a bit more bling with some glittery brads I had lying around, and then used gold embossing powder to stamp the words on the side.  I embossed some swirly patterns on the page too and then wrote these words to remind me what I had learnt:

“People say that religion is a crutch. Well what other things are you using as a crutch instead of trusting in God?  For me it is worrying and it.  And also comfort eating.  THEY HAVE NO POWER.  Only God does.”

no golden calfFinally, I wanted to make sure the message on the page was NOT to have idols so I made an acetate insert with a no sign over the golden calf.  I then added these words to it as well:

“When you’re waiting for God to move in his perfect timing, don’t turn to something else for comfort.  Idols are powerless, useless, a waste of time and energy and a crutch that you don’t need.”

Now all I need to do is try to fix my eyes back on God and trust him through all of this (and his perfect timing) rather than worry and eating my way through it!!  Why don’t you have a go at making your own golden calf page, and add the words of what you use as an idol or crutch to get through times of waiting on God.  I’d love to see what you come up with!

contents of tiny treasure box

Mum on a Mission Reviews Tiny Treasures

review of tiny treasures

A few months back Becky from the Treasure Box People got in touch to see if me and my youngest son , Reuben, would be interested in reviewing one of the new “Tiny Treasures” subscription boxes for Pre-school children.  Of course we were so excited!!  Sam absolutely loves his monthly Treasure Box which we now subscribe to (check out my review of it from last year), and it is a special time in our family life when it arrives.  We all gather around it to read the story, chat about it and do the activities together.   But Reuben (who is two years old) often gets frustrated that he can’t join in with all the activities, so we were looking forward to seeing how the Tiny Treasure box would help with this.

treasure boxes The most exciting thing for the boys is that both boxes arrived on the same day, so they both had one to open!!  Reuben’s was lots bigger, but that is mainly because for little kids the parts have to be big so they don’t swallow them.  The box that Reuben received was themed on the story of the Feeding of the 5000.  Included in the box were:

 

contents
  • A Storybook Bible Board Bookcontents of tiny treasure box
  • A large basket
  • Three small baskets
  • Two wooden fish
  • Ingredients to make salt dough pre-measured out
  • Piece of artificial grass
  • Book of ideas on how to explore the story

One thing to note that is that the Tiny Treasure Boxes are £20 instead of £10, and only come every two months.  But when you include postage in that amount (£2.90 at least for the large boxes) you can see that you are getting value for money.   By signing up you are building up a collection of treasure baskets that your younger children can come back to time and time again to explore each particular story.  The items you receive will not just be a one off activity, but some you can keep and include in your normal toys so that the bible and exploring it becomes part of their normal everyday play.  Isn’t that fantastic!!

open tiny treasure boxReuben was straight into the box pulling out the items and exploring them.  He loves books, so once he found the book we read it straight away.  I was then able to explain what the items in the box related to in the story.  It was only later that day I had chance to read the little book of big ideas and the suggested ways to do it!!  But that’s the beauty of these boxes – you can explore them and the bible story in a way that suits your own little one.

I remember when the Treasure Box Subscription first came out and being gutted that Sam was too young to get one.  Well yes, Sam is now old enough to get the normal Treasure Box, but I love that this Tiny Treasures Box is now available for the younger age.  I would really encourage all parents to think about subscribing, as it is investing in your spiritual parenting and will help you to be intentional with sharing the bible with your kids.  After a year of receiving them just think how many amazing things you will have to explore lots of different stories for years to come!

reuben in tiny treasure box

How do i sign up?

So if you want to sign up, head over to The Treasure Box People’s website.  You can also buy a one off box if you want to give it a try before committing to a regular subscription.

You can also sign up to the regular Treasure Box which is ideal for those over 5 years old.

 

NOTE: I was sent a Tiny Treasure Box for free in order to review, but all opinions are my own.

bible journaling in the UK

Bible Journaling in the UK

bible journaling in the UK

I am often struck by how different the UK is to other places. We make jokes about how we love to queue and complain, it always rains and how we all love to drink tea in the afternoon. Outsiders think we’re very prim and proper, but we know the truth! However, our culture is very different to other parts of the world (I think it is part of what makes me fearful of travelling!!!) and if we are going to truly understand how things work here we have to accept that.

I think the same is true when it comes to bible journaling in the UK. Recently our lifegroup has done a few dvd series created by churches in the US and pastors from other there. And as great as the teaching often is, it loses some of its impact because it just doesn’t apply as well to our culture. Bible journaling started over in the US and was popularized by Shanna Noel and the team at Illustrated Faith. They have done an amazing job in making Christian themed products available for creative people like myself, but sometimes I wonder if it doesn’t all translate exactly to how we do things over here in the UK.

In my mind, we’re not quite as garish and over the top sparkly as the US (sometimes I like a bit of glitter, but not always). We are that bit more reserved and traditional, some of us a little more reluctant to take our paint sets to the word of God. But I think the potential for bible journaling to inspire and encourage people here in the UK is just as great as anywhere else.

There are lots of people leading the way in showing us how bible journaling is done here in the UK. No, it’s not mainstream and you won’t walk into the range or hobbycraft and find loads of bible specific resources on sale. But I think that makes us British bible journalers that bit more resourceful and creative. We have to fight for inspiration and use whatever materials we can find. We look to reuse and recycle. We are local not national, encouraging each other in small groups and making gentle waves across the UK. We love for anyone to join us and we try to capture the heart of what God is saying to us, not just catchy slogans.

What do you think of bible journaling in the UK?  Share your thoughts in the comments below

 

 

Holy Hope banner

A Cuppa With Haidee from Holy Hope

haidee from Holy Hope

Do you ever pick up the phone and spend an hour talking, dreaming and losing track of time?  Well that is what happened when I interviewed a new friend of mine, Haidee, from www.holyhope.co.uk.  So grab your own cuppa and sit down to find out more about how it all started and Haidee’s latest exciting project….

1. Introduce yourself to us in one sentence ….

I’m a Northerner living in the South with my husband and family, running creative business Holy Hope.

2. What is it that you make/do?

I run a website which aims to gather Christian creatives and encourage people in their creativity.  I am also an artist, so sell some of my one of a kind pieces on the website too.  At the moment we are developing Bible Journaling Kits and products to accompany them to help people explore bible journaling and their own identity in Christ.

Holy Hope banner

3. Tell us the story of how it all started.

I had been creative for a long time, enjoying doing prayer collages long before bible journaling became popular.  Twelve years ago, just after giving birth to my daughter Isobel, I suffered with post-natal depression, and to help deal with this I started painting.  I heard God say that I should go and do an art GCSE, but when I signed up they didn’t have enough students to run the GCSE course so I ended up doing an A Level in art instead.

A little after this we moved down South, and I was thinking about doing a degree in Art.  I went along to a meeting and they said that next year university fees were going to be going up considerably.  It was now or never, so I ended up doing my second degree in Art.  Half way through my 3rd year of the course, the college came into some troubles.  I ended up getting some compensation money because of this, and I used it to set up my own art studio and website.  God gave me the name “Holy Hope” for it, and it all started to fall into place!  A friend offered me her stall at New Wine festival as she couldn’t go last minute and so Holy Hope was launched as a community of Christian artists.

Since then I have been gathering other Christian creatives with different skills to be part of the Holy Hope team.

4. How do you include your faith into your work and what you make?

When I am painting, I like to focus on a particular bible verse which I will try to illustrate.  I find it is a form of prayer and meditation for me.  With the Holy Hope website I am excited to use Christian art to reach out to others.  I love running craft evenings myself too, and find that creativity really builds relationships.  People let their barriers down when they are creating and start to connect with each other.  One example is that I have been teaching my cleaner, who isn’t a Christian, to do embroidery using bible verses, and she is taking those words into her heart.

5. What is your latest project about?

Bible Journaling KitOur latest project is some great quality Bible Journaling Kits which have been written and made in the UK specifically to encourage our nation.  Each kit will contain a set of specially designed stamps on the theme, an ink pad, cut out tabs on the stamp packaging and a bible journaling companion book containing four guided studies on the theme.  These are available now to pre-order for a reduced price of £22, ready for launch on April 3rd 2018.

Complementary products will also be available on the website soon, produced by other Christian artists in the UK, including stickers, mugs, badges and bookmarks.

The first kits will follow our Identity collection and will explore our own identity in God, so a fantastic way to start your bible journaling journey.

identity collection mugs

6. Do you have any inspiration or encouragement for us?

Just have a go!  Even if all you can do is just colouring, you can make your bible change and speak to you in different ways by being creative in it.  Make sure you spend lots of time in the word.

7. Please share a photo of your favourite mug!

This mug is “I am enough” and is one of my Identity collection mugs.  I love this one as it seems to be something I write in my diary a lot and is something that as women we need to take hold of and believe.

I am enough mug

Huge thanks to Haidee for taking the time to talk to me during the busyness of launching Holy Hope’s first ever Bible Journaling Kits.  I do hope you will head over and check out all the other lovely items on her website too, and I will be praying that the launch goes well in April!

Balloon Bible Page

The Story Behind The Page – Balloons

the story behind the page balloons

I’m not sure about you, but I love to see other people’s bible journaling pages.  Sometimes they spark something in me and inspire a new page in my own bible, and sometimes I just love to see other people’s styles.  However, when you see the pretty picture on Instagram or Pinterest you don’t always get the full story behind that page.  The beauty of bible journaling is that it is creative worship of our amazing God, and so for me I often find that each page is a product of a situation in my life, lesson learnt or meditation that has revealed something to me.  They might not always make sense to others, but each page is special to me and God.

So on reflection I thought I would share some of the stories behind my pages, to show you my process and inspiration.  I hope you enjoy and maybe pick up some tips for your own journaling. Today I will be talking about this page:

Balloon Bible Page

Starting with the sky

This page started out as a bit of a play around with watercolours at our Doncaster Bible Journaling “Craft and Chill” night.  I’d seen an idea on Pinterest where you used a cardboard cut out of cloud shapes and painted above it to leave a white cloud shape below.  I loved how this could make a sky themed background, so gave it a go.  I chose the page of a verse that had been written out on a post it on my desk at work for the past few weeks:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

I think in the version on my desk it had the phrase “confident hope” in it too.  Over the past few months I have heard that gentle whisper from God asking me to “trust him” and so many verses with that phrase in had been coming up in my everyday life.  This was just one of them.

After creating the sky I got a bit stuck – I knew I wanted the words of the verse somewhere on the page but I wasn’t sure where.  I decided to let it sit for a few days and see if inspiration hit.

the idea for the balloons

After a few days of not having any clue how to finish this page off, I was scrolling once again through Pinterest when a scrapbooking page caught my attention where a big bunch of balloons had been made out of die cut hearts.  I loved this idea!  I thought of how it linked in nicely with the verse where God is “filling you with all joy and peace” in the same way that balloons are filled with air.  It would look great against the sky background, but I didn’t think my heart shaped hole punch would make big enough hearts for me to write on.

close up of balloons

So instead I chose to trace a picture of a big bunch of balloons using my phone as a lightbox (this is where you get the image you want to trace up on your phone screen and place a piece of paper over it and copy it).  Once I had the outline of my bunch of balloons I then sketched out the words of the verse using pencil.  I wanted the focus to be on the words “TRUST IN HIM” as those were the words I really felt God speaking over me at the time.  Maybe other words might stand out to you, so you can really alter the layout to highlight what you want to.

With the general layout in place I got my coloured pencils out and coloured in the balloons (this was lots of fun and very colourful!).  I then went back over my words using a black fine liner so that they stood out clearly.

Its all in the detail

Full view of balloons and stringNow that the main parts of the page were finished I just needed to put it all together.  I wanted to add some nice details, and I think that they are what pull pages together and make them feel special.  So I looked out this paper string I had bought in IKEA years ago for the strings on the balloon and added a cloud themed tab to the top of the page.  I am still undecided as to whether or not to add some glitter to the edges of the clouds – what do you all think?!

Even though I love how the colourful balloons look on the cloud background, I think the bit that stands out and makes this page special to me is the phrase “TRUST IN HIM”.  That is what God is teaching me right now.

How can you use the ideas from this page and make it into your own?  Is there a verse that you love at the moment that you can write onto balloons?  Or perhaps you can steal the sky idea.  I would love to hear how you use this inspiration for your own works of worship.

Rachel x

 

wooden gifts

Mum on a Mission Reviews Kent-Made Signs

kent made signs

Who doesn’t love a customised gift?  Something a little more personal and unique than anything you can find in the shops.  Well I for one do, and I want to share with you a lovely website that I came across which has some really special things and what I love about them – KENT-MADE.

fun for the kids

wooden arrow signs

The first thing I ordered was two wooden signs with my boys names cut out.  I absolutely love these.  They look modern and fun, and I know that the boys will love them too.  I chose the arrow ones so that I can put them on their bunk beds when we get moved house, with the arrows pointing at who is in which bunk.  But they would work really well on a bedroom door too.  They are lightweight and thin, so you would be able to stick them up anywhere.  I would definitely choose to order these over other personalised bedroom door signs I’ve seen.

You can decorate them your own way

wooden signs

If you are a little bit creative like me, then maybe you will want an even more unique sign than just the names customised.  As these are not finished in anyway (like with varnish or paint) it leaves the options open to you to paint, decopatch or do whatever you like to them!!  My eldest son really wants a rainbow bedroom when we move, so perhaps I will paint these in rainbow colours to fit in.  The wooden signs pictured are only £8.99 including customisation and free postage.  If arrows aren’t your thing then there are also lots of other shape options available with either cut out or engraved names – just take a look!

unique gifts too

thank you wooden flower

As well as the lovely signs, KENT-MADE also have a lovely range of gifts for different occasions.  These include wooden postcards that you can personalise with messages and use for mothers day, birthdays, anniversary, best teacher or even wedding save the dates.  But the item that most stood out to me was the wooden flowers.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to open a surprise parcel with one of these in?  What I hadn’t realised when i ordered it was that it comes with its own glass vase to display it in.  Such a lovely detail!

wooden flower tag

I hadn’t decided who to send this to so my tag is blank, but you can of course personalise this with to and from.  The wooden flowers (which come with a variety of messages) are only £9.99 and will last a lot longer than actual flowers.  With mothers day coming up why not send your mum something a bit different this year.

I was sent these items to review, but I have actually fallen in love with them.  I am so looking forward to moving house now so that these can be displayed, and will definitely be heading over to KENT-MADE next time I need to send something special to a friend.  Why not go and have a look on the website and see what you fall in love with.

Disclosure:  I was sent these items for free in return for my honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

 

hannah dunnett NIV journaling bible

Mum on a Mission Reviews Hannah Dunnett Journaling Bible

hannah dunnett NIV journaling bible

I am so excited to say that I have been sent a copy of the new Hannah Dunnett journaling bible by Hodder and Stoughton to review for you all.  Ever since my lovely friend Jo introduced me to Hannah’s Christian artwork I have been in love with it.  The way that the pictures and words flow together is just beautiful, and really helps to draw out the meaning of the verses she uses.

You might remember that one of my favourite Christmas gifts from last year was a Hannah Dunnett print for my hallway, and that as soon as it was announced they were making a Hannah Dunnett journaling bible back in June it was on my wishlist!!

what is it like???

front cover of hannah dunnett bibleMy first reaction when I received the bible was just “how beautiful is this!!”.  There had been some mutterings in the bible jouraling world that it didn’t live up to expectations, but I absolutely love it!  Now it is quite a chunky bible, as the is not the smallest and the margins are left wide for plenty of drawing space, but it is really beautiful.  The cover featuring Hannah’s artwork is inspiring and something that I want to carry around with me and show off.  I imagine it would invite people to ask what it was if you left it on a coffee table.

As well as being really pretty, the cover is hard so will nicely protect your bible (and any artwork inside) from being damaged.  There is an elastic strap to keep the pages together (handy if you like to slot extra bits in) and inside the front and back covers and more lovely examples of Hannah’s artwork.

format inside

blank page in hannah dunnett bibleInside you will find one column of text next to a blank wide margin.  This is ideal for the more seasoned bible journaler who is happy to be free with their art.  After having my blue polka dot NIV journaling bible for over a year now, I can see how the single column of text is going to be beneficial to me and not having lines will be helpful too, as I draw more than I write notes.  But this is personal preference. The pages are reasonably thick, but will still need a good coat of gesso if you don’t want paint and pen to show through.

The nice touch to this bible is that scattered throughout are glossy pages with more of Hannah’s artwork which will hopefully inspire and encourage you as you are reading.

artwork in hannah dunnett bible

taking it for a test drive

As part of my Mummy Meditations series I have been looking a Mary, the mother of Jesus, so I thought it would be good to try out some journaling techniques in the Hannah Dunnett Bible and see how it went.  To put it to the test I used:

  • clear gesso
  • watercolour paints
  • felt tip pens
  • gold embossing powder
  • glue and heavy embellishments
  • washi tape

I thought this would be a fair test as to how well the pages and space coped with a variety of bible journaling techniques.  I have to say that it did very well.

Whenever I use gesso on pages, I always find that they wrinkle up a bit, so I was pleased to find that this wasn’t too much of an issue with the Hannah Dunnett bible.  The pages are reasonably thick for a bible and so they coped well with the gesso and having a heat gun fired at it!  The gesso worked well too, as there was minimal ink and paint coming through on the other side of the page.  The only thing you can see slightly is the black felt tip pen.

finished page in Hannah dunnett bible

As the pages are quite thick, the washi tape and heavy embellishments haven’t torn the pages or weighed them down too much either.  The embossing powder stuck nicely to the pages and haven’t shown through to the other side.  I am very impressed with the way that the pages have coped with all of these journaling techniques.

what’s the verdict

I have actually fallen in love with this bible.  I love the lay out of the pages, with the blank columns at the side of only one column of text.  I love the beautiful design of the front cover and the sturdy hardcover that is has.  I love the images and pictures supplied by Hannah Dunnet which are scattered through the bible, offering little glimpses of inspiration.

I think this is a bible for a reasonably serious bible journaller who appreciates and admires Hannah’s artwork.  And for the price of only £29.99 it is actually quite reasonably for a bible of it’s size and quality.  You can purchase your own copy here.

 

NOTE: I was sent a copy of the Hannah Dunnett Journaling Bible for free by Hodder Faith for the purposes of reviewing it.  However, all opinions are my own.  

 

 

fallen warriors

A Cuppa with Mark Anderson Smith

a cuppa with mark anderson smith

Welcome to another cuppa with interview – pop the kettle on a get comfy as we get to know Mark a little bit better…

1. Introduce yourself to us in one sentence ….

Hi, I’m Mark Anderson Smith and I’ve been a missionary, a mystery shopper, a health care assistant, and have crewed on a North Sea helicopter, but now make a living developing applications and databases for businesses.

2. What is it that you create?

fallen warriorsI’m a writer and have published two novels: Christian thriller—Fallen Warriors, and political novel—The Great Scottish Land Grab

To read more info on these and find out where to buy visit www.dragonlake.co.uk

You can also read reviews of Fallen Warriors on Goodreads.

3. Tell us the story of how it all started.

It started many years ago aged eight when I realised I wanted to create worlds like the ones I was reading about and tell stories about those worlds. Fast forward a couple of decades to 2007 while I wrote short stories and articles, when something said in a church service sparked the thought that it would be great to create a TV series where the characters performed miracles like we read in the bible. I hadn’t a clue how to get a TV series made so decided I would turn the idea into a novel which became Fallen Warriors.

I jotted down ideas and made a start and then realised that an idea I’d had ten years previously—about a terrorist attack in York, England—could work really well if I joined the two stories up. The story turned out to be harder to write than I’d believed possible and I stalled a few times. Then on a business trip I had another idea.

I’ve always been interested in owning land and found a website called: Who Owns Scotland. The website highlighted that much of the land we think of as publically owned is actually owned in secret by a few wealthy people. Looking deeper into the history of how that land came to be owned by them revealed a sordid tale of greed and violence and deception. It got me thinking: what if we could grab that land back. Within a few minutes I’d turned that thought into a title: The Great Scottish Land Grab.

All well and good, but I was already working on one novel and knew I needed to finish that, until someone suggested I try the NaNoWriMo challenge – write a 50,000 word novel during November. I couldn’t use Fallen Warriors, but knew this was a chance to complete a first draft of a novel and so accepted the challenge. By the end of that month I had my very first draft completed!

The problem then was that I had no experience of editing a story. I now had two novels, one partially complete and the other with a few major flaws and didn’t know how to turn them into the gripping stories I wanted them to be.

In the meantime I was developing my career as a software developer. Early in 2014 it occurred to me that I spent all day, every day, writing and editing code and documents that were being used by hundreds of people. I’d never thought to link my day job to my fiction writing. While editing a story is very different to editing a computer program, I realised I did have editing skills and just needed to work out how to use them to improve my novels.

2014 was a crazy year in Scotland. We held an independence referendum on whether or not to leave the UK. As I started to get caught up in discussions about how to vote, I realised The Great Scottish Land Grab could be adapted to be set during the referendum and that I could introduce some cliff-hanger events that would propel the story along. I set myself the task of writing a series of four short books to be released in the months leading up to the referendum. The Great Scottish Land Grab was eventually completed in three published ebooks just a week before the vote was due!

Having successfully edited and published Land Grab I then turned back to Fallen Warriors which was published in March this year.

 

4. How do you include your faith into your work and what you make?

In Land Grab it was quite subtle. I wanted the main characters—Robert and Helen Castle—to have the same worldview that I have and so in my mind they are Christians. However, some of the choices that Robert makes are quite extreme. There was more than a little Mussolini in him! At times in the story, the way he faces off against the police and High Court judges and politicians is revolutionary, and I felt it was important to push him as far as I could, to get under the skin of what it might take to transform a nation

In Fallen Warriors I wanted to avoid clichés that I’d seen in Christian stories before. The underlying story is of broken and damaged people being called to do great things by God, yet struggling with real life problems. It’s been quite satisfying to find that readers are able to relate to the struggles and suffering the characters face and also find hope that God is at work even in the darkest places we find ourselves.

5. Do you have any inspiration or encouragement for us?

Probably since 2003 I’ve been very focused on goals. I had a mini mid-life crisis when I turned thirty, realised I couldn’t really support my family, that I had two children and no career. I made the decision to go back to school, got a Higher National Certificate and found that focusing on clear goals could have a transformative effect on my life.

I would encourage everyone reading this to think about what you want out of life, to think about what is really important, to think about where you want to be in five and ten years time. Set some big, scary, ambitious goals and start thinking about how you could achieve them, and asking God and discussing with friends. I found that as I did this, my priorities changed and that I found true friends who came alongside and helped me.

Recently I’ve been reading In His Steps by Charles M. Sheldon. This is posing a new challenge to me…

6. Please share a photo of your favourite mug!

Mark Anderson Smith I’ve a few favourite mugs, but the one I’m holding in the picture means a lot to me. If you zoom in, you might just see the Microsoft Access database logo with a little wizard’s hat sitting on top. Recent clients gave this to me after I completed a project for them developing a database system that automated the creation of Power-Point slide decks. It meant a lot to have the work I did and the time I spent mentoring the team valued by them.

And that’s me!

 

Thank you so much Mark for sharing a bit of your creative journey with us!  Praying all goes well with your two books (don’t forget to check out the links to where you can buy them!).