I’ve been writing for over half my life. But, like most writers, I took a while to get my act together and actually finish a novel. It took hitting one of those age milestones for me to stop prevaricating and actually type those blissful words: ‘The End’.
But, as we all know, and as Winston Churchill famously said in relation to World War Two, we weren’t at the beginning of the end. But we might be at the end of the beginning.
So, beginning made, we advanced proudly on to the next stage. You’ll be familiar with this one. It’s the standard rejection letter stage. This goes on for quite a while.
From there we move on, if we’re lucky, to the more personal rejection letter. Maybe even with a few encouraging words scribbled at the end by the editor. But it’s still a rejection. It doesn’t necessarily smell any sweeter with the addition of a few barely decipherable words.
Six years and six books later, in my case, I received my first letter from a publisher saying they wanted to publish my novel.
I’d been writing romances in the hope of getting signed up by Mills & Boon (Harlequin). I never managed to get taken on by them. Although I did get to the ‘few words’ stage. They advised me my books had too much plot and not enough romance…
So, I decided to try Robert Hale, who also published romance in a smaller way. They accepted my novel, Land of Dreams (set in the Canadian Arctic in an attempt to be ‘the same, but different’!–out of print in any format), for the fabulous sum of — wait for it — £100. Still, it was a start. And, of course, I’d go on to greater things…
Robert Hale rejected my next romance.
This latest rejection had made me good and mad. I simmered quietly during all the time it took before I managed to get published again.
It took me a while—a long six years. But I eventually listened to that quiet little voice inside. It had been telling me for over half a decade to try changing genres.
God knows I felt like murdering someone! So I did what that little voice had been saying, switched genres and turned to crime.
And out I went, when Macmillan was taken over by a firm of German publishers, and they dropped about a third of their list, including yours truly.
It was another six years before I managed to get published again. What is it with me and the number six? Anyway Absolute Poison started my stop/start writing career off again. This time I’d go on to greater things, for sure.
Alas, the greater things never happened. I languished on the midlist through God knows how many years and another ten crime novels. With no marketing budget, no publisher-paid-for book tours, no nothing. It really was a dead-end job with no hopes of promotion.
Worse, it was a very poorly-paid dead end job which had to be fitted in around my real dead-end job.
Is this it? I thought. Is this what all my aspirations and hard work had been about?
By this stage, I was pretty disheartened and beginning to lose my love of words and the joy I’d previously found in putting them together. I was still working full-time at the day job and fitting in my writing during evenings, weekends and holidays. It wasn’t much fun for me or my long-suffering husband.
I’d always tried to educate myself about the publishing world. The same as I’d tried to educate myself after I left school at sixteen. It was this desire to learn that brought me to Joe’s blog.
Hardly able to believe my eyes, I read what he had to say about going it alone in a self-publishing world.
Could there really be a way to escape the publishing treadmill? Rekindle(!) my previous delight in the written word? And make a proper living, too? It seemed too good to be true.
There’s got to be a catch, I thought. But I continued to read Joe’s blog. From his posts I discovered other authors who’d taken the step into this Brave New publishing World before me. I started to think, ‘Mmm. Maybe it is possible’.
Joe was and is, such a great enthusiast, such an inspiration. He writes the things about publishers that most of us only think. In 2010, the year I turned Indie, it was like a succession of those ‘ping!’, light bulb moments.
Although I still hardly dared to believe I could succeed on my own, after a few months’ I became brave enough to turn down my publisher’s latest contract.
Not a difficult decision in the event. Especially as signing it would mean I agreed to give them the ebook rights to my entire backlist, the potential value of which they were starting to grasp.
Hey, I might be ill-educated, but I’m not stupid; certainly not after receiving a publishing education at the hands of the Master! No way was I signing that. So I said, ‘thanks, but no thanks’, and cut myself adrift to sink or swim on my own.
But I wasn’t alone. I had Joe always there with so much advice. And I had all the other intrepid authors who, like me, the publishing world assured us, would come to regret our foolhardy decision to leave their ‘nurturing’ nest.
Well, I’m happy to tell you we weren’t so foolhardy after all. I now earn more in a month than I used to earn in an entire year publishing the traditional route.
I was able to give up the hated day job.
I finally managed to get the rights back to the last of my books.
And since 2010, I’ve been a proud Indie author.
Altogether, with my eighteen traditionally-published novels, I now have twenty-eight books to my credit (21 mystery/suspense, 1 biographical historical novel (Reluctant Queen), 3 romances (written under a pen-name), and 3 non-fiction. And I’ve published short fiction as well.
The eighteenth Rafferty, Game of Bones– as well as all the rest of the series from Kith and Kill #15 – is one of my self-published works.
My Rafferty & Llewellyn Series is more cozyish procedural than noir, with my London-born and Essex-based DI Joseph Aloysius Rafferty hailing from a working-class Irish Catholic family who – with their little more than passing acquaintance with the letter of the law – are the bane of his life.
Being a policeman in the Rafferty family is not a happy experience. And while they might give me, as the author, and, hopefully, the readers, a lot of fun, they cause Rafferty plenty of angst. Angst compounded by me partnering him with DS Dafyd Llewellyn, a more moral than the Pope intellectual Welshman.
So, alongside the murder investigations, I’ve generally got family-caused mayhem going on in the sub-plots. Which gives Rafferty plenty of ‘how the hell do I get out of this?’, moments.
Now, I really must get on with my so-called work in progress (Untitled #19 Rafferty series), which seems to have been as stop/start as my writing career!
Okay, the catch is that I have to market them, and do all the hundred-and-one jobs entailed in running my own little publishing empire.
But I have a new lease of life, new readers and a new, much improved, source of income. All things the nay-sayers claimed I’d never get. It’s great! And, Joe—so are you! 🙂 xxxx
Joe sez: I remember thinking that it was my fault my books never made the bestseller lists. Even though my publishers made so many mistakes it was a comedy of errors. Even though I’d done more than any author, before or since, to self-promote. I felt the responsibility for being midlist.
Self-publishing for me was emancipation. With it came the realization that I’d done many things right, and that it was the archaic, greedy, dysfunctional, evil industry that had screwed up, not me.
But I won’t place all the blame on NY publishing. Because fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for eight legacy published books, I became a willing participant in my own victimization.
Granted, it was the only game in town. To a starving man, a crust of bread is a banquet.
But I’ll never forget the feelings of failure, many of which stemmed from my own modest expectations.
I can imagine what young sports stars feel like, working their asses off in college sports, hoping to go pro. I can also imagine how they feel when they get a shot at going pro, and it doesn’t work out. The whole “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” sounds like it was written by someone trying to soothe himself after a horrible experience.
Honestly, I don’t know what hurts more. Spending years trying to break into legacy publishing but never getting a deal, or getting a deal and being treated like crap.
I still see authors going after legacy deals and I honestly can’t understand what the allure is. Aren’t there enough confessional stories of woe on the internet that show how legacy publishers treat authors? Aren’t there more and more indie authors speaking about their successes?
I’d like someone to explain to me why, if they read my blog, they’d still pursue a legacy deal. The hope of a NYT bestseller? It can happen self-publishing. A movie deal? It can happen self-publishing. Someone to guide them through the publishing process? That DOESN’T happen in legacy publishing. Publishers don’t take care of you. They exploit you.
I’m not the only one crowing about this. I’m seeing the same stories, over and over. I’m seeing publishers make the same mistakes. I’m seeing the old system fail, bit by bit. All the information is out there, easily accessible.
And yet there are still authors who want a book deal. The Big 5 and Harlequin are still seducing authors into taking unconscionable deals.
A murder victim with no face. A media calling for answers. And a detective with a family not averse to a little gentle law-bending.
Newly-promoted British Detective Joe Rafferty and his partner, Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn in a murder mystery involving the killing of a young woman bludgeoned beyond recognition, with no ID and found in a secure place to which she supposedly had no admission. Who is she? How has she gained access? And who was responsible for her murder?
DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN #2
A murder victim with no enemies. A dead patriarch. And a detective who’s struggling.
British Detectives Joe Rafferty and his partner, Dafyd Llewellyn, set out to discover who killed Barbara Longman–a woman with no known enemies. But it soon becomes apparent that the murder has been committed by someone who must have known the victim very well.
DEATH LINE #3
A murdered seer who failed to predict his own future. A partner who refuses to see the murder as an inside job. And a Detective who wonders where the answer lies: past; present; future?
Death Line sees the detective duo trying to solve the murder with his own crystal ball, of the famed ‘seer’, Jasper Moon. Gradually it becomes clear that Jasper Moon was a man of many parts, not all of them appeared very savoury.
THE HANGING TREE #4
A disappearing murder victim no one would miss. A witness destined to haunt him. And a Detective who felt ambivalent about getting a conviction.
The detective pair investigates the murder mystery of the vanishing hanged man. But when the hanged man turns up in Dedman Woods for the second time, the British detectives are able to confirm that he is a man many had reason to hate. Because Maurice Smith, charged years earlier with four child rapes, had escaped on a legal technicality. Was someone acting as the public executioner, dealing out their own form of justice on the legendary Hanging Tree?
If you like the Detective Bill Slider novels, the Dalziel and Pascoe series, Stuart MacBride’s Logan McCrae, Stephanie Plum and LJ Ross’s series, the Rafferty 18-strong series brings the wit, wisdom, and willingness to bend the law with the best of them.
Buy this book to learn about Joe Rafferty, his ne’er-do-well family, and po-faced partner.
18-STRONG MYSTERY SERIES
‘Didnot see the end coming.’ Amazon Reviewer
‘Evans’ humor seriously added to my enjoyment of her book. The series has stand out central characters and clever plots.’ AUNT AGATHA’S BOOKSHOP, ANN ARBOR
It had the added appeal for the parents that until the day of the coach outing dawned, we could be kept more-or-less in order by the ever-hovering threat of being kept at home for naughtiness, while everyone else made faces at us from the back of the coach. A threat not to be borne. Even David, my second brother, always in scrapes, behaved himself more than usual.
The day arrived. It was beautiful, clear blue skies, and the temperature already soaring by eight in the morning. My three siblings and I squabbled our way on board with the other kids, pushing and shoving, as we all wanted to knab the back seat. The bigger boys staked their superior claim, so that was that.
I didn’t care. I was going to the seaside. I would have sat anywhere, ever with the adults at the front.
Someone started a singsong. We sang to the halfway point, where we had a toilet break (this was back in the 60’s when coaches were more spartan than they are now). One of the dad’s suggested a quick visit to the pub. This wasn’t too popular with us kids, of course, as we saw the tide going out on our seaside adventure.
But the grown-ups bribed us with crisps and lemonade and disappeared with alacrity pub-wards. We must have played up, making a nuisance of ourselves, asking everyone who went in to tell the parents to hurry up. Anyway, they soon got fed-up of our whining every time the door was opened and being accosted about rowdy kids by strangers, because within half-an-hour we were back on the coach. Off again. The next stop would be Folkstone! Maybe that’s what gave me the idea to try bribery and corruption by my main suspect in Dead Before Morning, my #1 Rafferty & Llewellyn Mystery!
You can’t eat yet
By this time, my two brothers were starving, and started riffling through mum’s neatly packed bags. This earned them a smack and a ‘Wait till we get there.’
My sister Maria and I sniggered as the greedy pair got a backhander. We, of course, were models of decorum (though I have a vague memory of being sick with excitement on the coach floor).
Are we nearly there?
The singsong started up again. Soon we were asking, ‘Are we nearly there?’ And this carried on for the next half-hour, till, finally, as we sighted the sea for the first time, we answered our own question, as we cried, ‘We’re here!’
We reach Folkstone
It was a gorgeous day. So often in England, a day that starts bright with promise will, by early afternoon, have turned into a damp squib, with grey skies blotting out the sun. But not today! Today the sky was still as deep a blue as it had been at eight in the morning. Sea gulls swooped, crying their seaside cry.
Then, we were clamouring to get in the water. We were told to wait till our lunch had gone down. I couldn’t believe it. Why were all the adults, after promising us an enjoyable day at the seaside, putting so many obstacles in the way of our enjoyment? First it was the pub; then we must eat lunch; now it was, ‘wait till your lunch goes down!’ I’d have suspected a conspiracy, if I’d known such a word at ten.
Into the sea
But eventually mum announced that sufficient time had passed, and we were allowed into our swimsuits.
At last! We raced like lemmings over a cliff, eager to feel the lap of the water around our legs. It was icy, even on a scorching day; the water around Britain’s coast is always chilly. But we splashed each other, uncaring of the cold water and how it made our teeth chatter.
Twenty minutes later we came out of the water, looking for food. The sea air had even given Maria and I, normally picky eaters, hearty appetites.
The case of the disappearing grown-ups
Then one of the men in the party said a visit to a seaside watering hole was obligatory. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than, as one, all the adults disappeared pub-wards, pausing only to shout instructions to, ‘Behave yourselves.’
It was a scorching day and it wasn’t long before the cool water lured us again. Soon we were bobbing about in the waves, splashing one another, squealing when one of our bare feet landed on a sharp pebble, but thoroughly enjoying such freedom.
It didn’t last long. At least for me. Not many more minutes had gone by when a bigger wave swept in. As the youngest (and smallest), the wave knock me off my feet. Down I went, into a green world, strangely echoing, with distant shouts mingling with the whoosh of water in my ears.
My flapping arms brought me to the surface again. The sky was still a brilliant blue. I opened my mouth to scream, but before I could emit as much as a squeak, it filled with water and down I went again into that green, green world, with its whooshing water making everything seem vaguely unreal.
Did my life flash before me?
I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ But drowning I found a curiously peaceful experience, so it didn’t unduly bother me. Weird. My life didn’t flash before me. But I wouldn’t turn ten until October, so there wasn’t much life to flash.
Going down for the third time
Peaceful or not, I was still, involuntarily, flapping my arms, and they brought me to the surface again. Again my mouth filled with seawater before I could scream or gulp in air. I was going down for the third (and presumably, the last) time, when somebody must have finally noticed that Geraldine was drowning, not waving.
They shouted for Tommy, the only boy in the party who could swim. Tommy hauled me out and dumped me like a sack of spuds on the beach, while I coughed, spluttered and said hello to my lunch.
My mum was sent for, not too pleased at being hauled from the pub, until somebody explained what had happened.
Just think-No Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mystery Series!
This is my main achievement in life. If I’d died before I reached the age of ten, I’d have nothing to show for my life apart from some running medals.
Don’t be too hard on her. Admittedly, it was irresponsible to leave four kids, none of whom could swim, on the beach, while the adults all went to the pub. But poor mum rarely escaped her child-rearing duties. Day after dutiful day, there she’d be, arguing with the neighbours when David got in trouble again, sitting in the hospital for ages while one of us got patched up after our latest mishap. Year after endless year. Looking back, I wonder how she stood it.
That was the end of my day at the seaside. I wasn’t allowed in the sea again all that hot summer afternoon. I couldn’t even make sandcastles as it was a pebbly beach. Instead I watched my siblings having fun. But the sea had lost its enchantment for me in any case. Nearly drowning will do that.
Mum booked swimming lessons–but only for me!
One thing stands out from that day (apart from my brush with death). My mum was around the swimming baths as soon as they opened the next day to arrange swimming lessons, presumably thanking the fates that she’d still got four kids.
But the swimming lessons were only for me. The other three, who couldn’t swim either – even David, my mum’s favourite – could drown!
Mum’s cock-eyed logic still makes me chuckle even today.
What about you? Have you had a brush with death, but lived to tell the tale? Do write and tell me, and, with your permission, I’ll feature the best of them on my blog.
At last, after months, and months, I have been able to customise my website. Each time I tried (and failed), I got one of those irritating messages that said it was unresponsive and I could either Wait or Exit. I was tearing my hair out that I’d wasted half a day on this malarkey.
I eventually realised that it might be one of my plugins that were the culprit (slow or what?). They’ve been behind every other aggravation I’ve experienced, so when I thought about it, one or more of these was the obvious suspect.
Plugin Problem Solved
After I stripped out all of my plugins, barring the few that are self-controlled, I could customise. Amazed? Delighted? I’ll say. I might even dare to be more regular in my blogging in future (if that’s not tempting the fates to do dire things–which it probably is).
Bright and Shiny
Repeat after me. I must not get new plugins in the manner of a person seeking happiness in retail therapy. It will only bring misery and pain. So these are my new rules to live by:
insert only one new plugin at a time
find out exactly how it works
delete it the minute you suspect it of sabotage
don’t agonise–ask a tech-savvy person for help
this applies equally to all technology. If you don’t understand it, and think you never will–don’t install it. Technology is such a time-suck if you weren’t brought-up with it.