In the beginning (part 3)

To bring 'On Writing Going with Gabriel to a close.

Yesterday I told of how my first novel More Deaths Than One came into being to the sound of a fanfare heard mainly / only by a small population on the north west coast of Scotland. To continue ...


'However, one of the many, many avenues down which I had taken this first completed novel was a mutual appraisal website sponsored by the Arts Council of England called YouWriteOn.com. Dozens of aspirant writers had reviewed More Deaths and had liked it to the point where it became a YouWriteOn ‘Bestseller’. Ditto when I submitted it to a similar site, (now no more), called The Friday Project. Could I, could all those reviewing readers / embryo writers be wrong? I took advantage of YouWriteOn’s offer to publish at no cost to us. Of course there would be the little matter of learning how to set out the pages in a form acceptable to the reader and to the computed presses of the world’s largest print on demand house. Oh, and there’s the cover design, but that seemed no great problem for am I not myself an artist / designer? A couple of months later I held in my hands a first copy of More Deaths Than One. As I did so I realised that what I had arrived at was no more nor less than fully fledged self-publishing. A second, better edited edition of the novel arrived last October, this time under my own Pictures and Poems label.

The writing of a novel good enough for folk to read and remember and talk of to their friends is of course hugely demanding of time, mostly the early day hours in my own case. The learning about editing and page design proved for me less demanding but by no means easy-peasy for a non-geek. But marketing the outcome? That’s a different scale of difficulty altogether, even for someone who had occupied a working lifetime as a professional marketeer. On a scale of one to ten, marketing a novel gets an eleven. Equivalent to, say, climbing Everest in wintertime or learning quantum theory. Jane Austen or Tolstoi would have cried their eyes out had they needed to market their work today.

Undeterred (well, almost undeterred,) I had written by then that second novel; the one I’d originally planned as my first. It’s title: Going With Gabriel. It’s main theme is unusual, dramatic and yes, contentious, and it was published by my Pictures and Poems (i.e. myself) on Thursday 11th February 2010. In spite of the fact that five months before that I had sent review copies to all the national media, Going with Gabriel remained unreviewed outside of the Highlands of Scotland and a US based web-site called Goodreads.com - strongly recommended by the way. But why? Could it be me - too old, too out of the mainstream perhaps? Maybe flaws in my writing or story-telling skills? Something fundamentally wrong with the novel - perhaps its semi-taboo main theme? Well, I don’t think so and this is one new born that will not be abandoned. Time will tell.

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In the author’s note at the beginning of Going with Gabriel I wrote, “You might wonder what or who could have inspired a man, an old man you might say, to forego the attractions of retirement in favour of enduring the long agonies and occasional ecstasies of writing and getting into print and selling his novels. Well, amongst others … there’s Mister Ernest Hemingway, author in 1940 of For Whom The Bell Tolls, whose words and whose story combined to demonstrate, to me anyway, that fiction, perhaps more than anything else can fly straight and true enough to reach the human soul, wherever she may live.

So that it, up to now. What next? More short stories for sure, for these are my seed potatoes from which may spring new novels; God, the weather and life permitting. Actually my third novel is underway but I can't talk about that. To talk about a literary work in progress is, according to my oracle Papa Hemingway,like touching the wing of a butterfly. For by doing so you remove the dust and take away the power of flight.

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