On THE RIDE again (1) The Panic Diet

It’s springtime. Birds sing, trees sway, rivers tinkle gently by, and every magazine cover in every newsagent bears its own version of this:

⇒⇒⇒⇒Mag cover

I make derisory remarks to anyone who will listen: my friends and family are well aware of my perpetual outrage with the magazine industry and its obsession with external beauty.

But when it comes to being on the Ride to publication again, it seems that I have no option but to concern myself with these weighty matters. Punch is due to be published in October, and I am near the end of the first round of consultation and edits.

By this I don’t mean reading over my own, rough manuscript – no. I mean the process when you have made your manuscript as good as you can make it, then show it to the publishers. They like it. They take it on and commit to it and spend time reading it properly, taking notes, engaging with the text.

And in the resulting discussion it turns out: apart from some passages which need a little work, my manuscript in general is a little flabby. It would be healthier and leaner and fitter for purpose if it shifted all the bits that aren’t strictly necessary. In my case, this amounts to around 4000-5000 words which I must try to shave off the length of this book.shock

It’s HARD, this; and just like any diet worth its salt, it hurts!

But wait, there is an additional complication – not only am I asked to reduce the length. There is a particular aspect of the story which, according to the editor, is interesting enough to elaborate on: ‘More about the dancing bear, please. Kids will love the dancing bear!’

What??? More???

And so it came to pass that, while ruthlessly slicing away my favourite passages, I now began gathering new material again: replacing the junkfood of cliches and lazy phrases with the carrot sticks of additional research, to build up the muscle my story needed.

I have good days and bad days. But like the holiday panic diet, there is a deadline. That plane will leave.

So, is it working?

Too early to tell for certain.

I guess it’ll be up to the readers to judge whether Punch is in great shape when he finally gets out there.

*Gulp*

 

 

BLAST-OFF! On The Ride Again!

The REALLY COOL THING:

I am over the moon to reveal that I am on The Ride again!

IMG_2414 (1)

Cranachan are going to publish my second novel in October. It’s a Victorian boy-on-the-run story called PUNCH

It is announced today, on the 355th anniversary of the first recorded ‘Italian puppet play’ in Britain featuring the Punch character, mentioned by the diarist Samuel Pepys on 9th May 1662 (yes, the Samuel Pepys, the one who recorded the Great Fire of London).

Here is a wee teaser:

‘THE MARKET’s on FIRE. FIRE! FIRE! The BOY DID IT!’

Smoke belches out through the market entrance.

And me?

I turn and run.

When 12 year-old Phineas is accused of a terrible crime, his only option is to flee. In the unlikely company of an escaped prisoner and a group of travelling entertainers, he enters a new world of Punch and Judy shows and dancing bears. But will Phineas clear his name? And where can he turn when memories of a darker, much more terrible crime begin to haunt him?

I’m neck-deep in edits at the moment, but I’m so excited! Thanks for being part of it all!

Countdown Clue to the Really Cool Thing: THREE

Ha – something has been brewing, and it’s about to see the light of day!

Now, every really cool thing (and trust me – this is the Mother of All Cool Things!) needs a countdown. Those of you have followed the blog for a wee while will know that I am fond of a clue or two, so here goes:

Image result for countdown three
COUNTDOWN

And here is your first CLUE:Image result for fire clipart

Puzzled? Good! There will be another Countdown Clue tomorrow!

Free Stuff for Teachers (3) ‘Don’t Touch the Writ’ Game

 

Another Highland Clearances activity for teachers – this time it’s a game!

CaptureThe eviction writ was considered legally binding if villagers had been touched by the document.

In Fir for Luck, the villagers go to great lengths not to touch it – and manage to force the sheriff officer to burn the writ instead. ‘Mind, that writ was never served’ snaps one of the villagers as the servant of the law is sent on his way.

Split the class into two teams. It’s best played in a sports hall or outside, but a cleared area in the classroom may well be fine. Pupils should sit on chairs or benches opposite each other in two lines.

Place a bucket with a rolled up piece of paper in the middle of the two rows, with at least a couple of metres in between.

Number each team, but start the count at opposite sides so that, say, the number 10s on both sides are diagonally across from each other, with the bucket (containing the writ) between them.

game1

Now call out a number. The two pupils with that number will run to the middle, grab the writ and attempt to touch their opponent with it before he/she reaches their seat again. Discourage violence!!!

If successful, they gain a point for their team. If their opponent gets to the writ first and manages to touch them with it, the other team gets a point. Deduct points for not getting up at all.

Mix numbers up, and try to catch pupils out – that way it’s the most fun. Keep it fast-moving, taking care to always place the ‘writ’ back in the middle. I tend to play until the first team reaches 20 points or similar. Kids seem to really like this game.

It also works sitting on the floor, but ensure proper boundaries – in my experience there is a fair bit of bum-shuffling towards the writ! Not something the 18th century villagers would have done, I’m sure!