“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.
So, it’s Christmas once again and there’s a strong feeling of deja vu in the air. Covid is still news as the Omicron variant spreads and, in the UK, the threat of a new lockdown is on the horizon. News is constantly coming out about how little right-wing Governments care for the lives of the people they rule and even democracy itself come to that. Lying and alternate ‘facts’ have inexplicably become okay with a lot of people but only if these align with their incredibly distorted world-view. Partisanship is worse than ever with both sides vilifying the other as the far-right wingnuts disappear down into the rabbit hole of total virtual insanity and see weird conspiracies all over the place.
I must admit that I like that word. It means that there might be some light at the end of the deep dark tunnel that we’ve been living in lately. Yet, I see acts of kindness daily, people smiling at each other under their masks and children still getting excited about what delights Christmas Day will bring.
The twelfth Mac Maguire mystery has now been published. This one is a little different to the other eleven is that it has a supernatural element to it. I’ve always loved ghost stories and I’ve been looking for a way that I might incorporate this into a Mac Maguire story for some time. Finally, the idea came to me and so I’ve run with it.
I hope that fans of the series won’t be too thrown by this as the book is still very much a crime mystery. However, it’s also my hope that the new added supernatural aspects might just make it a little bit different and in a good way. I’m also aware that Halloween is upon us and so I’m delighted to get it published just in time for the occasion.
Mac Maguire’s twelfth outing – The Blood Moon Murders – is a little different to the others. You might get a clue what this difference is through the dedication – ‘For Halloween, ghost stories and things that go bump in the night.’
I have long been an admirer of M. R. James and his ability to put ghostly goings-on right into the workaday world. I’d guess that it was the title that first gave me the idea that this might be my chance to incorporate a supernatural thread into a murder mystery. That and the fact that the book should be ready to be published around Halloween.
As you can guess from the title the murders take place during an eclipse of the Moon by the Earth. I witnessed a really good one some years ago and the effect of the moon darkening and then glowing red with the light that had made it through the Earth’s atmosphere is a really eerie experience. It was easy to see why ancient peoples saw this as a harbinger of change and even doom.
I’m talking here about Spoon Theory and how it’s become a really useful tool not just for myself but for my whole family.
To quote from Wikipedia –
‘The term spoons was coined by Christine Miserandino in 2003 in her essay “The Spoon Theory.” While out to eat with a friend, Miserandino’s friend began watching her as she took her medication and suddenly asked what it was like to have lupus. Miserandino grabbed spoons from around the diner where they sat and gave her friend the handful of spoons she had gathered. The spoons helped Miserandino to show the way that people with chronic illness often start their days off with limited degrees of energy. The number of spoons her friend had was how much energy she had to spend throughout the day.
As Miserandino’s friend stated the different tasks she completes throughout the day, Miserandino took away a spoon for each activity. She took spoon after spoon until her friend only had one spoon left. Her friend then stated that she was hungry. To which Miserandino replied that eating would use another spoon. If she were to cook, a spoon would be needed for cooking. She would have to select her next move wisely to conserve her energy for the rest of the night.’
So, why has this become so important to us?
Looking through all my posts, I realised that I’d never written anything about something that looms large in my life every single day and also in that of my fictional alter-ego, Mac Maguire. It can, by itself, decide whether a day is going to be good or bad.
So, what brought this up in the first place? I was having an email conversation with one of my readers, who also has pain issues, when I was reminded of a review that someone left for one of my books a few years back. I’m paraphrasing here but it went something like – ‘It’s a good story and we know that the lead character suffers from pain but I don’t know why the author needs to keep mentioning it.’
To explain, Mac Maguire is the main character in my crime series of books. He’s a former police officer and murder specialist who was forced to retire from the force due to damage to his lower spine. This damage led to him having ongoing pain issues, in fact, pain issues very similar to mine! So, why did I saddle poor Mac Maguire with this in the first place? I was working at the BBC when I finally had to admit that I had a disability and it was only then that I began to notice the absolute lack of disabled people on TV and radio. This was also true for books and movies. So, when I began writing (ironically to take my mind off my pain) I wanted to ensure that I did my bit to make disabled characters more visible and that is why Mac Maguire inherited my pain issues.
The answer isn’t complicated, it’s those people who you ask to read your book before you publish it. I’ve touched on this subject a few times in my posts so why write about it now?
My latest book, A Concrete Case of Murder, took quite a while to write. Too long for my liking. Writing is never an easy process but, due to a confluence of adverse circumstances, writing became impossible for some months. Since retiring, I have been publishing two books every year, however, A Concrete Case of Murder took over eighteen months to complete. Having a series of ten books already published, most of which were well-received, I found myself getting a little paranoid about this latest one. I think that my paranoia was mostly triggered by an offhand remark someone made which was something to the effect of, ‘If it was hard to write it will probably be hard to read’. It was not a comment I appreciated all that much.
And so, the seeds of doubt were sown. All I could do was carry on writing and then trust to my readers.