Telling tales - finding words

I wrote many short stories between 2003 and 2006. Dee said they were for practice ahead of my first completed novel but I took each and every one of those stories very seriously. Two of them won prestigious national awards. Speaking of Champions and Willie's Place are included in my anthology, Twenty Bites, ISBN  978-0-9555193-3-8

Actually I had started and had completed 80,000 words or three quarters of an unfinished novel called Rose Feather all the way back in 1993. (I had actually been thinking about it since 1957!)  The intended back cover blurb for that one reads ... Rose is determined to succeed in the game of snooker - in what had always been, especially at the highest level, very much a man’s world. She is looking for help from her father, ex snooker star and hell-raiser, American Henry. And from her friend, up and coming Italian Roberto D’Amato. So why didn't I finish it? Pressure of business is the easy answer but not the right one. The thing is I committed the ultimate sin for a novelist - without knowing it - by sending our the unfinished typescript for critique to my friends and also to the lady who, I had just read in the press, was starting up a book publishing company. That company was to be called Orion, now one of the leading mainstream publishing houses in the UK. Of course I had, in1993, absolutely no idea how difficult it is to get a new novel by an 'unknown' author even read, never mind accepted, therefore I was pleasantly unsurprised when the new publisher wrote back about my Rose Feather in glowing terms, asking to have first sight of the finished script.I should have dropped everything, gone for broke with it. That typescript still resides within my PC. The other day I pulled it up on screen and had a look at it. Hey, it's really good! One day I hope to get it out, dust it off, finish it after these twenty years plus. Then I can ride it to the stars and beyond!!

But in 2004 I finally got around to writing that first novel. It was called More Deaths Than One. Dee knew I was planning a novel with a certain very deep probing theme. but urged me not to do it, to write a thriller first so as hopefully to make some money! The back cover 'blurb' of MDTO reads ... Thomas Thornton has settled down to expatriated family life in Saudi Arabia. He is wrongfully caught up in shariah law on drugs dealing charges but finds himself implicated in a far more universal situation. Injustice is a bitter pill - potentially a fatal one where your landing card is headlined in red italics: 'Death For Drugs Dealers'. Even with a past life as explosive as that of Thomas Thornton's, what odds against a future for himself, his family; what of his love for the ways of Arabia?  

When you finish the writing of your story and then the interminable (and essental) editing, re-editing and re-re-editing (etc) of a serious full length novel there is almost as much pride and satisfaction with your new baby as with the real thing - particularly if that first copy for retail has been produced by a 'proper' publisher. 
Alas, I was to find out the hard way that getting one of the mainstream publishers to accept (probably even actually to read) a typescript authored by an ageing, first time novelist is something with a degree of difficulty akin to swimming up a waterfall. After the best part of a year of trying I gave in and decided to go the self publishing route. This of course entails its own unique and thorough understanding of digital technology, and of book layout, and (in my case) of cover design, and of being accepted as a serious writer by the international digital publisher, Lightning Source - oh, and of that little thing called book marketing! So, battered but unbowed it was back to school time! Anyone can learn who wants to try hard enough. The above, ISBN 978-0-9555193-2-1 is the first result; one of which I am very proud.

I sent out a copy for review to a few national newspapers without hearing even if they had been received, but the editor of the the Ross-shire Journal was more encouraging. His published review got my sales off to a flying start. Copies still to this day dribble out in ones and twos whilst never reaching the hoped for hundreds and thousands. And still to this day I receive the odd e-mailed comment from somebody who might have found a second hand copy somewhere and enjoyed the reading of it. It is still in print and available, as they say, from Amazon or all good bookstores (quote the ISBN) or as an e-book. Ditto the two non-fiction booklets On Wester-Ross in 24 Paintings, Poems and Narratives and A Life in the Highlands in 24 Paintings, Poems and Narratives. Ditto my second anthology of short fiction, Twelve of Diamonds and my second full length novel, Going with Gabriel.

As I write this episode of my autobiography I am finishing a third novel, one that I began to write in 2009.  So what? So why? I have no idea. It cannot be for money - the chances of fame and fortune, even if that is what I seek are slim indeed. But I just looked up one of my old poems. Perhaps in this lies the answer ....

Finding Words

After sixty years

Focussing on right now

I found the two fine walkers

Coleridge and his friend

Mr William Wordsworth,

Had a brief skirmish with

That other wondrous set,

The dreamer Keats, the

Poetic mister Shelley

And the bad Lord B,

Went backwards in time

Through Swift and Pope

And Dryden to blind Milton

In his metronomically

Agonistic anti-Paradise

To find my friend John Donne,

A love-struck island to himself,

The whiff of something

Of great meaning thus

Becoming ever obvious;

Like incense

As the swinging starts.

Breathless, reading much of

Elizabethan stuff and such

I circled Shakespeare,

But warily, for a long while

Keeping nervous distance

Unsure about this Everest

Or maybe of my ability

To climb it or find the light

That so many others find,

Went back a long stride

But Chaucer was too tough,

Loved Spencer's Faerie Queen

Then fell on Tamburlaine,

From reckless Marlow and,

Ah! Here it is, (I thought,)

The source! that river

Of sweet scented mists

Still coiled and flowed

And thrust and heaved

And his words lived

And in his halcyon shade

I lay and took my rest awhile

And read how Shakespeare

Was perhaps Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love

They or some one wrote.

Although to me it mattered

Only that their words were.

And then in Winchester

In the dust-silent attic

Of that antiquarian book shop

Logan Pearsall-Smith's

Jewel of a treatise,

On Reading Shakespeare,

Lay opened in my hand

As when something flashed

Brightly in a muddy field

And you stooped to pick it up

And you were looking

Into the bright sun-colours

Of a diamond.

And so the good professor

Opened up the door

Switched on the lights

And there for me that wondrous treasury

Of works to brighten up my days

To hold an explanation for my nights.:

Thus, in the beginning,

Were his Words.

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