I will be the first to admit that this has been a very difficult year. It has been a year when I have struggled to get into any kind of flow with my writing. Until very recently that is. I am so grateful that, at last, I will be able to publish something in 2022. Not only a book but a Christmas book too.
I have been trying for the last few years to write a Mac Maguire novel set at Christmas but, however hard I tried, nothing came to me. So, it is in something like wonder that, very late in the day, the plotlines for Mac’s Christmas Present popped into my head.
Like my third book, The Weeping Women, it features two cases. However, at around 40k words, it’s somewhat shorter than most of my books so I will be selling it at a reduced price.
Halloween, or the eve of All Hallows (All Saints Day), would appear to be something to do with the Christian religion but nothing could be further from the truth. It is, in fact, a vestige of the old Irish pagan religion and celebrates the feast of Samhain. Samhain is ancient and, with Beltane, was one of the most important festivals in the Celtic year.
At Samhain, people would celebrate the harvest and they would feast and light fires to acknowledge the coming of winter. They also believed that it was a very special time when this world and the spirit world could touch each other. Spirits and fairies known the Aos Si could pass freely into this world and roam around. They also believed that their ancestors could rise from the dead and they would even lay places at their tables for the dead.
Here in the UK, we are in a deep dark economic hole. It all started when the traditional party of power became high on Brexit. However, it turned out to be not a golden ticket to a brighter future but a one-way ticket to being a third world country. After the party in power knowingly voted for a serial liar and cheat to be their leader, there was never going to be any happy ending. Despite everyone trying very hard not to see the enormous elephant in the living room, they kept on supporting him. Lie upon glib lie and they all cheered. That was only until their leader, bloated with corruption and power, tried to protect a serial sexual predator, one that he put into a position of great power knowing what this awful man was like, only then did the party finally find any sort of conscience and finally vote him out of power.
What followed made all this look like a mere molehill. The new leader, fired by winning and a streak of sheer lunacy, put all our money on a mad bet in the global casino and lost big time. In a matter of weeks, the UK’s global economic reputation was in tatters and we are all the poorer for it. Why someone isn’t doing prison time for the enormous suffering they are causing is beyond me. Ordinary people in their millions will freeze, go hungry and become homeless as a direct result of this reckless act. Children will go hungry this Christmas.
I was asked this question by someone recently and I gave them an honest answer.
‘I’ve no idea,’ I replied.
I got quite a puzzled look when I said this as I had just told the person who had asked the question that I had published twelve crime books so far. I had to explain further. What I meant by this was that, if there was a right or easy way to write your first book, I certainly hadn’t found it. If my journey in writing could be compared to a drive say, from New York City to Washington DC, some two hundred miles or more, then my journey would have taken in Washington State some three thousand miles away. Nothing about the route I took towards publishing my first book, The Body in the Boot, was straightforward. Let me explain…
As much as I like my posts to be positive, or at least informative, this topic has been on my mind for a while. I’m old enough to remember the Age of Aquarius, peace-love-dope and The Beatles singing ‘All You Need is Love’ to the entire world. It was possibly a reaction to the black days of the Cuban missile crisis but I remember it as being a time of hope, a time when everyone seemed to buy into the idea that the only way forward for the human race was to get on with each other.
We seem to be living in the polar opposite of those times. For ‘Peace’ read ‘Turmoil’, for ‘Love’ read ‘Hate’.
Since 2015 I’ve managed to write two books a year so, if I am to keep that up, I would now have a book ready to be published. I haven’t.
I’ve got two books on the go, both of which are around a third of the way there, but even that doesn’t add up to a whole book. So what happened? I could point to catching Covid, which I feared was turning into the long version for a while, then there are my aches and pains and other medical issues. I could even blame being on Facebook where I found that I spent too much time doom-scrolling which usually left me feeling more than depressed. I could blame lots of things but, for me, writing has always been a refuge at those times when my pain issues were bad and things were tough.
I can only conclude that it was the dreaded writer’s block.
“If you are defeated once and tell yourself you will overcome, but carry on as before, know in the end you’ll be so ill and weakened that eventually you won’t even notice your mistake and will begin to rationalize your behavior.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.18.31
The quotation above is from today’s entry in The Daily Stoic. Just before I read the above, I read the latest news. After some two thousand years, the quote has rarely been more apposite. The quote was paraphrased by Einstein –
‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’
Yet, here we see political leaders going down a well-worn path. Create an enemy, you know, them. It doesn’t really matter who but Jews, Black and Brown people, Roma and, of course, immigrants are handy punchbags. Anyone who can be categorised as ‘other’ will do. Then tell lies about them.
My advice to new authors is to always give the traditional route a chance before turning to self-publishing. However, it’s my feeling that self-publishing may be the only option for many writers. I read an academic paper last year, one of the first to look at authors from a Black, Asian or other minority background. One of my major takeaways was around the barriers that exist for authors from all minorities. There is a practice that exists within most publishing houses called ‘comping’ where submitted books are compared against previously published works to get an idea of how commercially viable they might be. So, what’s the problem?
This post has been kicking around in my head for a few weeks now. In fact, ever since some motorists yelled at me. Let me explain.
My wife and I sometimes meet up with our son for lunch in a town not far from where we live. The pub is, unfortunately, in an old part of the town and you can only access it by driving down a single narrow street. I’m usually in luck in that I can find a disabled parking space near the pub entrance. We need this because my wife is disabled and, on her worst days, she can only walk a few steps so I need to get as near the entrance as possible. On this particular day, the disabled bays were full as were all the loading bays. There was nowhere to pull over. So, as we hadn’t seen our son for a while and didn’t want to go home, I stopped to let my wife get out with the plan that I would drive off and park in a nearby car park.
We were stopped for no longer than a minute and a half and, in that time, I was passed by three cars. They had to go up the opposite pavement and still came with a millimeter of my car mirror. All three shouted and made disparaging gestures at me, with one quite wildly intimating that I only had sex with my hand.
With a brand New Year having arrived all too quickly, I’ve been thinking about what might be happening in 2022 with regard to my books. I’ve now written twelve Mac Maguire mysteries and the thirteenth is about a third of the way there. This one will be set at Christmas and a Mac Maguire book set during the festive season is something that I’ve been trying to achieve for quite a while. In order to ensure that I succeed this time, I will continue writing this book during the early part of the year and will hopefully have it completed by June or July. If my plan works out then I should have no problem in publishing it in the run-up to next Christmas.
Does that mean that I will only be publishing only one book this year then? No.