Monthly Archives: September 2012

A personal journey in writing…part 6…by Stuart G Yates

I remember once we had a parents’ evening in one of my schools and the deputy head asked the teachers what their dream was. Naturally mine was the write a book. I hesitated, because of course I had already done that. So the obvious reply was ‘To write a best-selling novel’. I gave a self-conscious smile as everyone’s eyes turned to me. The walls pressed in, the temperature rose, I felt my face begin to burn. But why should I feel embarrassed? It was true. Furthermore, it still is. I suppose, it’s the dream I share with every writer. It’s not the fame, or the money (if there is any), it’s the simple knowledge that your words are being read by hundreds, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people whom you don’t know. Wow, what a thought.

That was the goal. At first, however, I had to get published.

The thing is about trying to get published, you have to actually submit a book.

And I wasn’t doing that.

Yes, I was writing, now and again. Nothing serious. Just a few spare afternoons here and there. As I wasted time, the years came and went.

I did write ‘The Pawnbroker’ on Alderney, as I described in my last blog. It was a mere 22,000 words long. How could I call that a book? I had lots of ideas in my head, but not the energy to sit down at the keyboard.

We moved from Alderney, returned to the mainland. I got a great job as Head of History in a Middle School. I’d always loved history, and now I was teaching it full-time. No more maths or science for me – youpi! Well, that was the idea, at least. I was happy, and Suffolk was beautiful. I became…comfortable. Bad thing that, for a writer of dreams.

The years kept coming and going. They have a tendency to do that. Maybe you’ve noticed. I certainly did, most tellingly when I woke up one morning in a cold sweat. I was three months from being fifty. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was to be a prophetic sort of morning that one. I went on-line I noticed a piece of news, something I hadn’t seen before. It was an advertisement for a concert. Down in Twickenham, London. A so-called ‘reunion’ concert. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I can hear the groans. How many more groups are going to reform and get on the money-wagon once again…True, true. Usually, I shun that sort of thing. But this, this was different.

Back in the Seventies there was really only one band for me. By the Eighties, I was totally immersed in them. Genesis.

Not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps, but they were mine, and here they were, the ‘Turn-It-On-Again’ tour, and I was soon to be fifty. Five days before my birthday they were on – what a fantastic present to give to myself. So, I bought the tickets and went down to Twickenham and… there they were. I stood amongst 80,000 other people and it was as if I’d stepped back in time. I had what is sometimes referred to as a spiritual experience.

What has all this got to do with writing? Well, it was this – As I stood there, singing along, punching the air, stamping my feet, I was struck by one simple thought: it was time for me to act! I’d just seen my musical heroes, from almost thirty years before. Thirty years ago, I had the dream, and in all that time I hadn’t done one solitary thing to make that dream  of being an author a reality.

I was a man obsessed. Determined. Inspired. I began to write, in earnest. It was 2007; I was 50 years of age, and I had so much time to make up. I wrote like someone possessed.  The stories poured out of me. My first completed novel was ‘The Well of Despair’. I was so very proud of it.

Then came the churning deep down in my stomach, because of course, writing a novel isn’t the end of the process. It has to be published, and to do that…I had to find a publisher. Or an agent.

So, I went down to the local library, as I had all those years ago. It wasn’t the same librarian who directed me to the correct shelf – that really would have been really weird. I found ‘The Artist and Writers Yearbook’, just like I had thirty years ago, and set to work. Now, however, it was emails, not letters, that were the order of the day, and off they went. A covering letter, a synopsis, the first three chapters. The usual form which has stayed with me every since.

Then I waited…

And you all know what’s going to happen next, because you’ve all done it. So I won’t say. Not until next time, that is…because the story has some unexpected twists and they are not so nice.

 

My latest hard-boiled thriller, ‘BURNT OFFERINGS’ is now published by Moonshine Cove Publishing. Just click on these links to purchase a copy:

AMAZON, (http://www.amazon.com/Burnt-Offerings-Paul-Chaise-Adventure/dp/1937327132/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348839361&sr=1-12&keywords=Moonshine+Cove+Publishing);

KINDLE  (http://www.amazon.com/Burnt-Offerings-Chaise-Adventure-ebook/dp/B009HX2IYC/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348839361&sr=1-11&keywords=Moonshine+Cove+Publishing);

and other e-reader platforms HERE (https://www.xinxii.com/en/burnt-offerings-p-337954.html) .

 

Thanks for your support.

 

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A personal journey in writing…by Stuart G Yates

I wrote ‘The Pawnbroker’ on Alderney.

For those of you who don’t know Alderney, it is a very small island in the English Channel. It’s also very beautiful. Its coastline is dramatic, and the water shimmers and sparkles as if it were telling everyone that it should be in the Caribbean. A place where you can relax on unspoilt beaches, take stock, breathe.

It was a place full of surprises, despite its size.

I’d had the idea for ‘The Pawnbroker’ for a long time. It simmered away in my head and on Alderney, all that fresh air and a more open spirit gave me the urge to get it down on paper. However, on one of my many walks, I came across a half-forgotten well, hidden by a profusion of bay trees and bushes and accessed by a tiny lynch gate. It didn’t seem that anyone had been there for years, but it was a wonderful place, tranquil and sweet smelling. A small, worn stone bench and a trickling spring all added to the atmosphere of quiet contemplation. Of course, being me, my imagination began to take hold. And soon I was planning out a new story and ‘The Pawnbroker’ was put on the shelf for the time-being.

The beautiful coastline of Alderney

I learned that the well had been the favourite resting place of a wandering monk, who had visited the island way back in the 600s. I can’t remember his name unfortunately, and no amount of searching the Internet has given me any clues. I remember I christened him Saint Ignatia for the story I began to develop. That could well be his real name, but I don’t know. It sounded good, and I believe it still does.

‘The Well of Despair’ flowed out of me, as easily as the water did from that natural spring. It was a young adult novel, and its genre was horror.

I’ve always loved horror, both the written and the visual. I have fond memories of Mondays nights, sprawled out on the living room carpet, eyes glued to the TV. After the News at Ten, the Hammer Horror would be screened. The best antidote to school the following day as you can imagine. That’s why I hated Sunday nights so much – no films to help me forget, just for a few moments, the hell of Mosslands Senior Comprehensive.  Such was my love of these films, that I bought myself a Super-8 one-reeler of ‘Bride of Frankenstein, and watched it repeatedly. Four minutes long, silent, never bettered.

Anyway, back to ‘the Well’.

It took me a long time to write. I had a career in teaching to follow, don’t forget. And a family. It wasn’t easy this juggling act.

Then I moved back to the mainland. Suffolk. Beautiful countryside, challenging kids. It took me a while to get myself back in front of the word-processor.

But I did. In 2007 I moved to Spain. The Costa del Sol. Heat like you wouldn’t believe, swimming in the sea, sun-bathing next to the pool. When winter drew in I at last turned once again to the written word. Spain gave me the chance to breathe again. Teaching in the UK had become one, long procession of paperwork and endless meetings. Actual teaching of children seemed to be a secondary consideration. In Spain, it was the opposite. And with more time came the opportunity to write.

So I polished up ‘The Well’, got some people to read it, polished it again…and then thought about who I could submit it to.

Here we come to one of the most pressing problems facing new writers – which avenue to go down? We all know the choices:

1. The traditional route; finding an agent to represent us, get us noticed by the ‘big boys’, achieve the five-figure (even six-figure) deal. Mmm…more of that later…

2. Find a so-called independent publisher who will edit, encourage, guide, supply the ISBN, the cover…type-setting…the list goes on…and more of that later too…

3. Self-publish. More of this now. I never considered self-publishing. This was my personal choice, and still is. I know we hear the stories, the Fifty Shades of Self-publishing success…but, I’m still to be convinced.

So, clutching my 45,000 word manuscript (of which I am still very proud), I decided to go on a two-pronged assault. I sent it to agents and independents.

And boy did I learn a lot about independents!

You can visit my re-vamped website www.glennstuart.co.uk to see the sort of work I have written for young adults. My latest will be out before Christmas. If you prefer more adult orientated work, then pop along to amazon.com and put a search in for Stuart G Yates. Thanks for your support, and please, make a comment if you wish.

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Adventures in writing…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates

Life has a funny way of simply getting in the damned way.

Take my writing – as this is what this blog is all about, I may as well focus on that. Work dragged me down. The daily grind, wishing the weeks away. The dreaded Sunday, the thought of work looming over you like the proverbial cloud. In that regard, work wasn’t much different from school. Except I got paid. Well, after a fashion. It wasn’t very much, not in those days. Just over ten pounds a week I received. And no, before you jump up and down and shout, I’m not talking pre-war….“I remember when I could go out for a pound in my pocket, buy six pints of beer, take in a show, catch a taxi home and still have enough left over for a weekend away in Paris.” Yes, well…I’ve heard all that. The truth is, I didn’t have much, but I got by. I survived.

And my writing sort of got forgotten.

Then, when I was the tender age of 19, I changed jobs and found that I could afford little luxuries. A new typewriter, that was the first item on the list. And with it came a new spurt of creativity.

But it didn’t last long. Women, you see. They are your real downfall. Emotions. Never a good thing. Not when you’re young.

Poor me.

Writing went on the back-burner and was to stay there until I left university.

In one sentence, that doesn’t seem such an event. So let me quickly rattle through ten years of mundane, soul-destroying jobs, going back to night-school, then college, then university. It took me six years to become a teacher. I hardly faltered at all, except when my parents died. First my mum, from diabetes followed a few months later by my dad, from sclerosis of the brain. Both hideous, both leaving me reeling from the loss. When I’d gone into university, they were both alive, and now they were both gone. It took a lot of coming to terms with.

However, I got through and got myself ‘qualified’. At long last, I felt I had a bit of purpose.

My first ‘real’ job as a teacher took me to the stark beauty of Cornwall. I remember that first Sunday before I began work, surfing down at Trebarwith Strand and thinking that nothing could ever, ever get better. For many years, it didn’t. I lived in the same village as my school, and from my classroom window I could see my first daughter Emily playing in the front garden of my house, which was just across the road. Even now, that image brings a lump to my throat. Mainly, though, it was Trebarwith. I loved it there. And when I was writing novels that got published, I set one of them down there, in that wonderful place. If you ever go to North Cornwall, go to Trebarwith Strand. You won’t regret it. But make sure the tide is out, or you’ll only get a spot on the cliffside, and if you want comfort that is not the place to be.

I’d written in university. And, I’d been singled out for praise. That was nice. Writing a book, however, that was something else.

I set down an idea for a thriller. It was called ‘A flight of Crows’. Don’t ask me why I called it that. Something to do with crows and carrion, and how they fly away if you so much as look at them. Or is that rooks? Whatever, I thought it evoked a sense of terror, like Hitchcock so brilliantly evoked in the Birds. I actually thought it was a good story. I still do. But I didn’t finish it, and that was the big problem in those days. I simply didn’t finish anything. Lots of ideas, lots of plans scribbled on the back of used envelopes, but no fruition. I began to wonder if I would ever be capable of setting down anything more than forty thousand words.

And then, I went to Alderney. From that point everything was to change.

 

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Adventures in writing 3…a personal journey by Stuart G Yates

The book was rejected.

I knew, deep down, that it would be, but it still hurt. The rejection letter, however, is still one the most uplifting I have ever received. I still have it. In fact, I have all of them, either hard copies or e-mails. And there are quite a few. They only re-enforce my determination to carry on.

And carry on I did.

I remember coming up with a story which I thought was good. This time, I actually sat down and planned it, which was rare for me in those days. Often it was just a case of me sitting down and hammering away at the old Olivetti. Did I mention this was my brother’s typewriter? No, probably not. He was not amused when he discovered that I was putting it to such excessive us.

Well, anyway, this story. I had high hopes for it, and the first draft simply oozed out from underneath the ribbon, a little like a lasagne maker, all smooth and perfect. Good enough to eat! OK, I exaggerate…but only a little! I was so pleased with it that I decided to employ a professional typist to get it ready for publication.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I was actually willing to pay money to have it beautifully collated and prepared.

I went to see this person, who had one of those huge, impressive golf-ball machines. Don’t know if you remember these, but they were the peak of type-writing technology in those days. She showed me copies of university dissertations she had done, and they looked wonderful. So clean, so neat. When I thought back to my ‘Tippex’ covered bits of rag, I felt humbled. This woman was perfect! So, I explained the situation. I was an author (EEK!) and wanted my story word-perfect. I pointed out that, because it was a work of fiction, it may well contain some swearing, perhaps some violence, and a spattering of…sex.

Now, it was at this point that I noted the raising of one eyebrow. She didn’t look up, just held my tatty manuscript in her hands, head down. But that eyebrow should have warned me.

She gave me her rates, which were not excessive, so I asked her to go ahead.

About a fortnight later, she called at my house. She had done the first few pages. They looked…sublime. I had an urge to bow down and kiss her feet. I resisted. Of course, these first few pages did not contain any of the afore mentioned swearing, violence or…sex.

Buoyed up, I thanked her – paid her – and off she went, telling me she would be in touch.

I never heard from her again.

I’m not sure why. I tried phoning her, but no reply. I even went around to her house, but no answer. She was obviously in; the car was in the drive, the curtains open. It could have been a scene from one of my thrillers…a murder mystery perhaps, ‘The disappearance of the stern-secretary’…who knows. Whatever the reason, I never met her again.

I have long suspected it was all that swearing. Or the violence. But surely not the sex? No…surely not!

I still have that story in a box somewhere, along with a lot of others. Perhaps one day I will resurrect them. Time will only tell.

For now, however, time was moving on. I was drifting from one dead-end job (when I could get one) to the next. I decided it was time to get an education, so at 29 years of age, I went back to school. Night school. Two years of that got me into University, and another fours later and I was a qualified teacher.

But the urge to write still persisted. No, wrong word – dominated!

 

You can find details about me and my books on my website (which is about to be revamped) on www.horroronthecosta.com, or on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Just put in a search for Stuart G Yates, or Glenn Stuart if you prefer horror! I hope you like what you see.

 

 

 

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