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.
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…
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
The eleventh book in the Mac Maguire detective series has just been published. Here’s the official blurb –
‘Mac is just back from holiday and is once again getting bored when he is asked to help out by the local police. It turns out to be one of the strangest thefts that Mac has ever come across – a whole house has gone missing! Evidence is hard to find but, with some creative thinking and the help of his partner, Mac finds himself on the track of a suspected murderer. Despite his best efforts, tragedy strikes, and he is left to wonder if the murderer will ever be brought to justice and whether this might be a case that he will never recover from.’
This book has been a long time coming. Since I retired and started writing full-time, I’ve been averaging two books a year. It’s taken well over a year just to produce this one. I hope that it’s been worth waiting for!
2020 was a horrible year. I know that Covid was a major issue for many people but, surprisingly perhaps, it rated fairly low when it came to my family’s other health issues during that year. One of these issues, and not the greatest, was my Prostate Cancer. I had been diagnosed just the year before when, by luck more than anything, my problems urinating became apparent. I didn’t go to my doctor though as, like most men, I just tried to ignore it. However, I was asked by my neurologist during a routine examination about this and she insisted on reporting it, just in case. While the problem could have been caused by the damage to the nerves in my lower spine (which is also the cause of my chronic pain), my neurologist wanted to rule out Prostate Cancer first. This proved to be a very wise decision and one for which I’m very thankful. Continue reading