Discovering My Suomi Roots

 

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ME : THE QUESTION

I remember staring at the screen and reading the question one more time. It was short and sweet. Easy for me to answer, but my mind stalled for what seemed like an eternity stubbornly refusing to process the implications.

I was like some dyslexic schoolchild. My thought-processing faculties struggled to get going and it was as if time, itself, had come to a complete standstill. I was completely flummoxed. This was unexpected. It was like when you have a conversation with someone and suddenly they switch to a completely unrelated subject without warning. No continuity, equals confusion often for me. Maybe I’m just not as sharp as I used to be? Or can I blame advancing years and loss of brain cells as the perfect excuse?

Confusion lifted as my brain, without warning, clicked into gear. What threw me initially was how I had overlooked it? I looked at the date again. The message had dropped into my inbox over four months ago! I was truly mystified. I was meticulous when it came to computer housekeeping. Always reviewing my email inbox, as well as old files and folders, on my computer. I had been the same when I was working. I endeavoured to be organised, clearing the clutter. It was key to working in a hectic environment. There was so much work to do and too few hours to do it in.

It was the simplest of questions. But who was asking the question and why? The name was not familiar to me. But maybe it should be? More to the point how did they know me? I was confused. So many years had passed.

Susan was sat with her feet up on the settee reading a book on her kindle. Probably another Tom Clancy thriller. Although, these days, she was trying out different authors from the seemingly unlimited supply of free ebooks offered by the growing number of self-published authors. She must of looked up and seen the puzzled expression on my face.

“What are you looking at?” she asked, tilting her head to one side, as she lay her kindle down.

“Come over here and I’ll show you,” I remember saying.

Curiosity got the better of her, as she quickly rose from the comfort of the settee without any further comment, and sat alongside me on the seat I was perched on. She looked at the screen. She was deep in thought and I knew she was going through the same stilted-thought process I had just a few moments earlier.

“Who’s it from?” she asked finally.

“No idea,” I responded. “I was just looking through my messages and noticed this one was marked as unread. The funny thing is I received this over four months ago and never noticed. I can’t understand how I missed it.”

“So are you going to reply to it?” she asked looking at me.

“I don’t know … I really don’t know,” I said staring at the screen.

All I could think about over the next couple of hours was the message despite my best efforts to find another distraction. Picking up a book, or channel-hopping with the television remote, did not retain my attention span for long. I kept wondering who had sent the message and why? I knew I would have to respond to it. I needed to find out more. My curiosity was well and truly piqued. I imagined the sender had probably given up all hope of a reply, by now, given the weeks which had elapsed.

I opened the lid on my laptop rousing it from it’s sleep mode. I had left the browser open on the window displaying the message. Slowly and deliberately, I typed out my response. I hesitated momentarily, before pressing ENTER. There, it was done. Little did I know then, that action would change the whole course of my life and take me on a journey of self-discovery. I would ask countless questions over the weeks ahead. Everything which had gone before, I would challenge and come to view differently.

Before I continue, I need to take you on a journey with me starting from my childhood. This will help you understand my roots and the reasons for my hesitant response to the question I had just answered. Some of the events I can remember quite clearly, others are more faded with the passage of time.

Discovering My Suomi Roots

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It’s been a little while since my last post all those weeks ago. Christmas has come and gone and we are now into a brand new year. I’ve been kept busy with some family time, writing and walking the excesses off from the festive period!

So what about the writing? I finished my first revision process and now have “Discovering My Suomi Roots” on my kindle for final editing. I find this process helps me get a feel for how the book might look and read in eBook format.

Usually I correct any grammatical and punctuation issues at this stage. I also tweak any awkwardly structured sentences or paragraphs as I read through. There are a couple of the later chapters which I am not fully comfortable with. I’ll take the opportunity to review these and rewrite as necessary, but nothing major.

It’s another short memoir, but over twice the length “Timmy” turned out to be. After final editing I have a couple of readers lined up to help with any last minute tweaks but otherwise it should be just about there.

So what exactly is this memoir about? I’m not sure I’ve gone into any detail explaining this apart from some small references to the content here and there, either in the “Timmy” memoir or my blogs.

I don’t want to say too much or I’ll spoil one or two twists and surprises I have in the book. Briefly it’s about discovering my Finnish roots later in life in a very unexpected way. I take a look back on my childhood years, touching upon my relationship with my family, and the story follows the roots thread throughout my life up to the present day. Hopefully you will have got a flavour for what’s in store.

I set myself the deadline of the first quarter of this year and fully expect to be on schedule to have released it or certainly have it available for preorder by the end of March. It will be available through Amazon in both eBook and printed format. I have in mind also to bundle it up with “Living With Timmy” and release that version at the same time.

That’s it for now!

Stepping Out With an Activity Tracker

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It is important to stay active, more so as you get older. Aside from the health benefits it increases and broadens your quality of life. It also enables you to keep on doing the things you have a passion for, even in later years. Maybe even try something new?

So how active should you be? Well, NHS guidelines recommend that you should do 10000 steps per day. In reality the average daily number is probably nearer 3000/4000 for most people. They also recommend undertaking at least 150 active minutes during the course of a week. Active minutes can be achieved through brisk walking as well as through other aerobic exercises.

I always thought activity trackers were for joggers and young people. I could not be more wrong! I purchased and started using one about a year ago when I was in my early sixties. Why, you may ask? I was overweight and unfit – a combination of not being active enough and a sweet tooth!

Over the initial six month period I lost over two stone in weight and four inches on my waistline firmly placing me back into the normal weight category for my height. It made a massive difference to my feeling of wellbeing and confidence levels. The only drawback is I have had to buy a new wardrobe of clothes!

I found my activity tracker and the supporting software application easy to use and understand. For me it was a lifestyle changer. So how are they so effective?

There is good evidence to suggest that people who keep track of what they do can improve their health. Tracking this data encourages people to follow a healthier diet, exercise more and sleep better. Activity trackers make the tracking easier and give feedback in real time and tell us the areas to improve.

Monitoring alone, however, is not enough as enthusiasm can wain after the initial period. The addition of fitness goals assist in keeping your interest focused, particularly as these goals can be revised and further goals set. The goals add a competitive edge to the process which also helps with motivation. The activity tracker can monitor both activity and sleep patterns, suggesting goals and offering encouragement alerts to the user. This helps set easily manageable health changes to your daily routine which might include going for a walk in the afternoon or encouraging a longer sleep duration. This goal setting will continue until you reach your desired level of fitness and then you simply maintain that activity level.

Enthusiasm and motivation are key factors but activity trackers also encourage social support. How do they do this? Most activity trackers will let you share your progress with private and public groups. Aside from monitoring each others progress, this adds a competitive edge. Further encouragement can be promoted through setting and taking part in group activity challenges over specific periods. This provides added interest and impetus for the user especially when friends and family are involved.

Aside from helping with your personal fitness they can also help you lose weight as they did in my case. They give you an indication of calories you have burned on a day-by-day basis and will calculate a personal calorie intake level for a weight loss program.

The health benefits are immense from adopting a more active lifestyle. It is good for heart health, keeps your blood pressure under control and increases your energy levels. This lifestyle change can also motivate you to embrace new activities and challenges that previously you would not have considered.

So can you afford not to step out?

For more information why not check out Get Fitter, Get Leaner, Get An Activity Tracker!

Available at Amazon.co.uk at a reduced price of £0.99p until 26 November!

First Draft Complete – Now The Real Work Begins!

Finally I finished the first draft of Discovering My Suomi Roots on time (by a couple of days!). Now the real work begins!

The first draft I always find hard work. I’m more of a plotter than a pantser that’s for sure. But, despite all the  planning at the outset, I still find it hard working my way through to completion. Somehow I manage to plod along convincing myself it will all be worth it in the end.

My planned structure and content for a writing project always has to be flexible. As I am writing I find other detail I have overlooked for inclusion. Or ideas on how I might tell the story differently suddenly strike me. So there has to be some flex in your plan.

It is very tempting to look back and start rewriting parts of your writing that you know will have to be rewritten. Avoid this! Your focus needs to be aimed at completing the initial draft. Revision comes later!

Once completed, for me, the enjoyable part comes next. I find the revision process much easier. You have something tangible to work with even if you are working with a very rough first draft. My words and thoughts flow easier. I am much more relaxed as the story starts to come to life and take shape.

But without that first draft there can be no revision process!

 

 

 

Writing That First Draft

This is a major learning year for me. Up to the end of last year I had written a few short stories and non-fiction articles. Most of those being assignments for a creative writing course I was studying.

In 2016 I was determined to turn my hand to some larger writing projects and learn a little more about the craft of self-publishing. To date I have released a couple of short works – a personal memoir and a non-fiction title, both about 15000 words each. Not long writing projects by any means, but a big step for me.

Over the last couple of weeks I have begun my next writing project in earnest and I am 13000+ words into it – less than half way. When I started writing I read an awful lot of blogs and articles on the subject. I have tried to pick out advice and tips that work for me to help me along the way.

Here’s what I’ve learned to date about writing the first draft :

The Right Environment

Firstly you need to find the right personal environment to write. No matter what you are writing you need somewhere that suits you. I have learned that everybody is different and has different preferences. Personally, I like to take myself off into a quiet study room, when I am writing at home. No music, just peace and quiet. This helps me gather my thoughts. Either early morning or early evening is when I tend to do my writing, setting an hour or two aside to focus on it.

Planning

I’m a planner. I like to be organised and have structure. Even with a structure I can still be flexible with my writing but at least it gives me the comfort of a framework to work within.

I use Scrivener for my writing but you can use any writing software that you are familiar and comfortable with. I plan out the chapter structure using the cork board option within the program. Once I have completed that process I then plan out the content for individual chapters making notes on the subject matter I want to include. These are easily accessible and to hand within the Project file as is any research I have done.

You should have a basic idea on how long the writing project is likely to be in terms of word count. This is something you don’t necessarily have to stick to unless of course you are writing an article or story to specific word count guidelines. It will however give you an approximate guide of what you should be aiming for. If you have set yourself a timescale for completing your first draft you can then quite easily work out a daily word count target.

Set yourself a daily word count and stick to it. Any deviations should be exceptional. This certainly helps keep me on track to progress and finish the project once I have started.

With everything set up I am then ready to write.

Writing

Write until you finish the first draft. Do not look back on your work with the intent of revising any of it until you have finished. Doing so is fatal, as I have found. It just gives you an excuse to slowdown or stop the whole process of finishing your work.

Your ideas on individual chapter content might alter as you progress your writing. Rather than make any drastic amendments immediately I always wait until I finish the first draft. If need be I make any necessary notes to myself in the manuscript itself. I can always cut and paste chunks of text later into other chapters as part of the revision process.

Usually if I look back on what I have written I see a lot of obvious amendments I need to make. These may be areas where I could have used more or better dialogue, use of cliches, too much useage of particular words or phrases, etc. I leave any amendments until the second revision.

After The First Draft

Once I have finished the first draft that’s when the real work begins for me. Shaping and finalising the writing into a completed work. How many revisions does it need? I need to be happy that it’s as good as I can make it so I don’t set myself a revision maximum. However there has to be a limitation to the number of revisions you undertake to bring it up to an acceptable standard.

I have found writing to be a continual learning experience.

My Thoughts On Scrivener IOS

 

I use Scrivener on my MacBook Pro for my writing projects and have done for almost 12 months now. I probably don’t use it to it’s full capacity but I use the bits I need to help me organise my writing.

When I heard that Scrivener IOS was finally coming out I got really excited. At last I would have a copy of my favourite writing application running on my iPad. But how would it run? Would it be anywhere near as functional as the Mac version? What about the screen size?

I suppose the main reason for wanting a version of Scrivener on my iPad was for when I was away from home on holiday. I always leave my laptop behind and travel with my lighter iPad. At last I would have a seamless process to continue or start a writing project without having to manually swap files to Scrivener on my laptop whenever I came back home.

As it happens the IOS version was released just before I embarked on my Austrian summer holiday. So just in time to test out and as it happens I have started another writing project. I’ve brought my 9.7 inch iPad Pro with me together with an Apple Magic Keyboard that I use with my Mini Mac at home. It’s a nice keyboard and a much cheaper option than buying the proprietary keyboard that goes with the Pro.

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All set up and ready to go!

I’d just thought I’d give you a few impressions of the new IOS version. This is by no means a review as there are plenty good, detailed reviews out there – just a few thoughts.

  • Syncing through Dropbox I have found to be straightforward. Before I went on holiday I set up the structure of the project file on my laptop, added research files, etc and saved to Dropbox. With the app on my iPad I was able to pick up the file and sync everything perfectly to my iPad. I tested this a few times with different variations and found my laptop and iPad syncing without any issues. So for me, a trouble free easy process.
  • Screen size is not an issue at all. The screen certainly doesn’t look cluttered and I have found it a pleasant experience. In two weeks I am 10k+ words through my project which is on target with the word count I set. I think that alone is testament to the practicability of the set up I am using and the ease of use of the IOS release.
  • I like the fact that you can have your notes easily accessible on the left hand side of the screen without having to switch to another screen and therefore interrupting your creative flow.
  • Referring to recently accessed documents/chapters/research/etc is easily undertaken with the relevant menu button at the top of the screen. You can then use the same button to flick back to the document you’re working on.
  • Session word count against your target is available just like the laptop versions. The total word count of your particular writing project is also displayed.
  • Cork board is very user friendly and easy to use. I have found no issues with that.

I have explored all the various functions but, as with the laptop versions, you can customise the display screens, fonts, etc.

In summary I am enjoying using the iPad version. It really has been a godsend and I am sure I will use it even when I get back home. The price may be off-putting for some put I consider it to be well worth the money.

The developers have done a first class job with the level of functionality of this application. So don’t delay if you want the flexibility of writing on the move!