The Long Walk to become a Writer

Newsletter for November.

The Long Walk to become a Writer

Talking and writing about my books are one of my favourite activities. This is what my newsletter is about today. As it is the first newsletter I am sending out, I will tell a little something about each book, what inspired me to write it and how I went about writing it. More importantly, how they all got published. So, let’s start at the beginning.

The idea for my first book germinated more than thirty years ago. My husband was a traveling sales rep leaving me at home with the children for three to four days a week, every week. With a full time job, a household and four young kids to take care of, I was too busy to get lonely or bored. And yet, there were times my imagination kicked in asking a lot of what-ifs. Like what if your husband had another family somewhere? What if he spend his days away from home with this second family, telling them he had to leave for a business trip every time he came home to me? What if I and my children make up the second family?

Nah, logic kicked in. It is not in his nature to do that. What about other possibilities? What if he were a spy doing spying things when he was away? Yea, that sounded like an acceptable theory. Nice touch. Nice ring to it: “my husband is a spy”. And so my favourite character, Anton Joubert was born. For a long time I fantasised about how Anton Joubert disappeared letting his family believe he was going to Cape Town for a book conference to check out new books and writers for his little suburban bookshop, which, of course was a cover for his real activities.

The stories about Anton grew in my mind, but it was not before my children were grown and out of the house that I actually sat down to write. I started off writing in longhand. I got hold of an old Olivetti and typed the story so I could send it to a magazine. The magazine turned me down, but I was not discouraged. I simply started typing the next story, a short story based on something that really happened. I was turned down again; the editor told me something like that was not possible. I just smiled, thinking you ignoramus, it did happen, it happens all the time, the newspapers are writing about it, television broadcasts about it.

My son and his varsity friends found a pile of computer components, assembled them and showed me how to use windows, I think it was Windows 123, or something like that. Yes, it was a long time ago. So my spy story got typed on computer together with a number of short stories, some based on real incidents, some purely fiction. Once getting started, I was not planning to stop writing. All the while I was wondering where I might find a publisher interested in my work. They all appeared to be secular, while my stories had a distinct Christian character. At that time there were no Christian magazines that published fiction.

Eventually I worked the spy story together with a number of the shorts into a novella where all the stories connect in a sensible way. And then it happened. I found a publisher after watching a TV program. There was an interview with a new young writer who sang the praises of her publisher. I had nothing to lose, contacted the publisher – a one-man business – and my book, “Areafees” was released in 2011 as a print on demand. And there it ended. The book never got any further than the few orders from family and close friends.

While trying my hand at marketing the book, a bookshop owner referred me to a publisher in the Vaal Triangle. By that time my first book in English was ready. I sent this book to the new publisher. She was quite excited, but informed me there was some work to do. Following her kind advice, I did some more writing, adding another fifty-thousand words, changed a few things and sent it in again. Now “Father’s Will” was ready for production. The editor wanted to meet me in person to discuss the process and some details. It was right after the time I relocated to Cape Town. I suggested we talk on Skype, but I never heard from her again. Until today I cannot understand what happened. She answered my friend request on Facebook and that was it. Never another word.

At this stage I started believing I was never going to get a book published. Very nervously I decided to explore the possibility of self-publishing. Inexperienced as I was on internet usage, it took what felt like an eternity to open an account with Smashwords. The instructions to format any written piece of work is very clear and easy to follow. Still, I was so scared all the typing might disappear or the computer might blow up at the slightest mistake. Formatting “Father’s Will” took weeks, instead of hours, but I got it done. What a joyful moment it was when my book appeared on the Prime Catalogue of Smashwords.

Being an expert self-publisher now, I went ahead and published several stories, including a new version of “Areafees”, now sixty-thousand words added, changed the name to “Die Laaste Areafees”, (meaning ‘The Last Zone Celebration’) and made a new cover image. However, the desire to hold a printed book in my hands never left me. It was not on Facebook or Twitter that I found my publisher. It was in a thread on LinkedIn where a number of writers complained about how difficult it was to find a reliable publisher that did not charge an arm and a leg before even looking at your work.

My comment was that I would join the cow and jump over the moon if I could find such a publisher. The next participant to the thread commented these exact words: “Send me your book. I will publish it”. I still hear music at the recall of those words. If joining in that tread on LinkedIn at that very moment is not Devine intervention, I will never know what is.

Long story short, just over a year ago I sent my book to Publication Consultants in Alaska. When I received the contract, I was ready to join that cow for a jump over the moon. In January this year, “My Father’s Will” was available on Amazon and early in March, I held my printed book in my hands. Wow, wow, wow. A pink cloud under my feet lifted me sky high. A month later I hit the solid earth with the awakening realisation that the book was not going to sell itself. The big job with the monstrous title of MARKETING starts after publication

Following “My Father’s Will” a novella titled “The Bigger Fish” was released in June. It is a story about two art students with childhood issues. The girls deal with these issues in different ways. Joni, the attractive brunette is driven and set on succeeding in her studies and later a career. Liza, the blond curly top is a happy-go-lucky kind of person who does not want the restrictions of many rules. She does what she wants, when she wants if she wants. Unlike Joni, she is extremely talented. But her painful childhood drives her to substance abuse.

When Quintin appears on the scene, everything changes. The lives of both girls are impacted in a major way, never to be the same again. There are choices to be made. Choices to be made for the right reasons and with a sincere heart.

The next book in line, “Man in a Picture” is a novella about an old lady who died on her bed with an unknown photo in her hand. Her grandchildren, her only surviving relatives, were puzzled about who the red encircled face in the picture might belong to. This mystery sent them on a hunt that took them all the way back to WWII, the battle of Rotterdam. The answer to their questions came from an unexpected source. Acquaintances are made and a little romance follows, but there are obstacles.

Next in line at my publisher are two more novellas, a story about older folk and their desires, dreams and concerns, and a murder story that I co-wrote with my husband. More about those in the next news-letter.

Until next month, blessings.

Magdel Roets

Poet & Writer of Christian Faction, Non-Fiction and Fiction.



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