I sent away for a book a couple of days ago to start some basic research for the third book in the series. The book I wanted was second hand, and is currently unavailable new. The package containing the book arrived with yesterday’s post. The only problem was, it was the wrong book, almost unrelated to the one I sent for. It was, however, almost directly connected to another line of research I was starting. This is either a startling coincidence or the dealer had somehow anticipated my real requirement. There is a word for a fortunate discovery by chance, ‘serendipity’*.
That also reminds me of a Taoist fable about a Chinese duke who asked an aged advisor to recommend someone who could buy him a wonderful horse. The man suggested was set upon this task by the duke. After a period of some days the duke asked for a progress report and the man replied that he had found a dun-coloured mare. When the horse arrived at the stables it turned out to be a coal-black stallion. The duke protested to the aged advisor that the man he had suggested was some kind of idiot. The advisor asked if the horse was an excellent beast, and the duke replied that it was marvellous. The advisor commented of the man ‘Has he really got that far? Ah, then, he is worth ten thousand of me put together.’
I suppose the moral of the fable is that if you get so far in noticing the quality of something you often fail to notice insignificant details. Perhaps the dealer has become enlightened in that way.
* After a story by Horace Walpole, ‘The Three Little Princesses of Serendip’.
The draft was finished almost a week ago and is being edited and proofed. Now I am aware that I can get very defensive about the books. Corrections to commas and words which crept past the spell checker I can handle, but the comments asking if people would behave in this way at this time make me squirm. I try to be historically accurate, at least as much as I can within the confines of the plot. And I am writing to a formula for a commercial market. There is a certain amount of fantasy in the spy stories, so a gratuitous sex scene is just about par for the course. Also, in dialog, people often echo the other person who is talking, so some repetition is normal. The structure is also intended to be easy to adapt as a screenplay, so there is very little inner dialogue.
Anyway, I am dreading the draft coming back as much as I am committed to defending some suggested edits and changes. Does every author have this paranoia for a process which is only intended to improve what is produced?
I have just finished the draft of the second book in the Walter and Godiva series. This is entitled ‘Down in the Flood’ and is set (mostly) in Paris in January 1910. This is considerably longer than the first book, ‘Troubled Waters’, but should lose several hundred words from the first chapter. The edited version will be reviewed a second time for typos, etc, and then published. I’ll probably do a version for the new Kindle format and the more advanced standard of epub, with photos and other details of the research included.
So for now I shall be putting away my books on Lenin and MI6 for a little while. There is some other editing I must be doing for someone else, and some catch-up with some administrative tasks. The third book in the series will be set in May 1910 in South Africa. And will involve the death of Edward VII and the succession of George V. There is plenty of research to be done about the politics of that part of the world during the build up to partial independence from Britain, and the racism which was enshrined in law. The good thing is that I am writing much more quickly now.
Having put up the price of the first book in the series to an economic level – but still good value – I find that sales are going much as they were before. Before setting out on the next book I will try to produce a POD version for those without eReaders and perhaps an audio version.
The first book can be found on http://www.chelonist.com/troubledwaters.html
and also on Amazon Kindle books under my writing name of Jon Wakeham.