The realisation that things never run smoothly in my life is well cemented! I’ve often pondered on why this is the case. Perhaps, it really is because of past transgressions? Who knows? Perhaps the truth is a little simpler. Some of us are just fated to have bad luck follow us along every step of the way on this journey known as life.
Well, I’m one of them.
Spain has given me a lot of opportunities. Back in Old Blighty, there never seemed to be any time to do anything at all. As a teacher, most of my spare time was taken up with either planning lessons, marking work, going to meetings, making reports about meetings, preparing for meetings, filling in forms…the list is endless. The actual time spent teaching children seemed to be secondary to all the other paraphernalia that went along with it. Not so in Spain. Here, I can actually do the job I’m qualified to do. And the rewards are boundless because of that. Not only is the job a lot less stressful, I have time. Time to know the children. Time to be with my family, time to visit places, relax and…write books.
I’ve always written. I don’t know when I actually started, but I remember giving my dear old Nan a whodunit I’d written when I was about ten. She loved all those Agatha Christie books, so I scribbled one down, typed it up (yes, we had type-writers in those days!), drew a cover and made it into a little book for her. She read it, and was genuinely surprised by the ending, because she hadn’t worked out how the deed was done!
Buoyed up by this early success, I continued writing. My first submitted book was back in nineteen seventy-nine. This was not the first I’d written, but the first I felt sufficiently confident about to send off to a publisher.
The weeks went by and my nails got shorter and shorter as every day I’d wander around the house, frustration gnawing away at me, hoping against hope that the postman would deliver me the letter to say my work had been accepted. When the letter finally did come, it was to say, obviously, that the work had been rejected. I was crushed. But, there was also a nice little note to say that it had been ‘a very enjoyable story’. So, something to cling onto in my quest to be published.
Life gets in the way of our plans, sometimes. Jobs change, people move on, marriage and children brighten our existence…and so it was with me. Raising children is a full time job, as we parents know so well, and my writing had to take a back seat. It never went away, however. Whenever people asked me what my ambition was, I’d always say the same, ‘To be a best-selling author’. Not, ‘write a best-seller’ you notice. For me, writing was the only thing I wanted to do, for life.
As I say, life has a tendency to get in the way. Having qualified to be a teacher, the decision was made to move away from our native Merseyside, to the bright lights of Cornwall. Wonderful. A few years went by, then it was a promotion, but on the Island of Alderney, in the Channel Islands! What an idyllic place that was. Small, carefree, relaxed. It was whilst living there that I began to conjure up all sorts of stories. I wrote two books on the island, but soon career plans took over and we went back to the UK. Novels were put on the back burner once again. Finally, we came to Spain. After the first year of mayhem, things settled down and I found myself returning to those stories I’d written back on Alderney. I resurrected them, dusted them off and rewrote them.
‘The Well of Despair’ was born!
I submitted it to a few places and then, one fine day, I got the message I’d always dreamed of, ‘We have read your story with great interest and would very much like to publish it for you.’ I was on cloud nine! I remember running around the house whooping with joy. A celebratory meal was planned, no expense spared! I’d done it, I’d broken in.
This is where the story really begins. But it’s not one that most of you will expect.
At first, everything seemed fine. Now, already, I can sense you beginning to shift uneasily in your chair. Remember how I began…things never run smoothly…Well, I should have known, I should have guessed. Let me explain.
After the initial euphoria came the nuts and bolts of the publishing world. I had to edit my work, make some changes, choose a cover, think about dedications, etc, etc. It was all very exciting and I threw myself into the whole process with gusto! Soon, my cover arrived for my consideration. It was awesome, everything I’d ever wanted and more! Then came the proof copy. It was fabulous. There was my book, my name on the cover. I can’t describe the sense of achievement I was experiencing. I was like a little boy whose birthdays had all come at once. Nothing could bring me down, I was so happy. All those years, all those dreams and plans, were now, at long last, turning into reality! And all of that disappointment was forgotten.
The first copies arrived and I began to plan the marketing campaign, which obviously included an article in the Grapevine, visits to local bookshops, etc. People at work bought the book and read it. They liked it. Word got round and others wanted it. I was elated!
The problem was, my publisher was in the States. He was very small and couldn’t do all the necessary marketing. This is not unusual with small publishing houses. However, what was unusual was the fact that he couldn’t offer me much of a discount on copies of my book. And it seemed very expensive. Anyway, not to be deterred, I ordered more. He seemed reluctant to send me as many as I wanted. Fifty copies to start with. All of my contacts with him had been via e-mail, obviously, given the distance. Reluctantly, he complied, and I sent off my money. Fifty copies equalled five-hundred euros. I’d sell them for twelve. Not a huge profit, but I honestly wasn’t interested in making money. All I wanted was to get out there, get my foot in the door, and then – hopefully – one of the big publishers, like Penguin, would sit up and perhaps offer me a deal. Imagine that! So, I ploughed on.
I waited. Every day I’d come home from work, hoping against hope that they’d be there, sitting on the table, a big box of shiny new books, my name shouting out at me from the wonderful covers. Fifty books. My words. The feeling that gave me…it was just incredible.
I waited. I’d text my wife, asking her to go round to the post-office, just to check that they hadn’t over-looked the parcel. She’d text me back. ‘No. Nothing’.
A tiny little warning bell began to peel very quietly inside my head.
Over the weeks I’d chatted to some other authors who used the same publisher. So I e-mailed one, just out of curiosity. Had he heard anything? You know the answer. ‘No.’ This was becoming a little more than serious. My e-mails to the publisher were now not being answered.
Time moved on.
I became increasingly anxious. E-mails were being delivered to him at a rate of half a dozen a day. Nothing. I went through his web site, every address I could think of. Then, out of the blue, came a message from his brother. My publisher had had a stroke – he was in hospital recovering and the brother had taken over the running of the business until the time came when the publisher could get back to work.
So that was it – the explanation! Why do these things always happen to me?
Next time, I'll continue with this soap opera, and you may be surprised at the outcome!
Just to let you know, as an aside, my second novel ‘Cold Hell in Darley Dene’ has been accepted for publication, by a different publisher, and will be out by the time you read this. You can order it direct from the publisher by going to www.blackleafpublishing.com. It’s a story of the paranormal, set in the years immediately after the Second World War, and has had some great reviews already. I think, if you like mystery and suspense, with a few thrills along the way, you’ll enjoy it! If you’d like to find out more about me and my books, just visit my web site at www.horroronthecosta.com.