Money for Free

Mystery has surrounded who has been leaving packages of money in the village of Blackhall Colliery, in County Durham since 2014.

The cash was left in places where it would be quickly found and close to residents who would benefit from financial assistance.

Now, two benefactors have identified themselves:

Their good deed resembles the plot of a novel written by Niall Williams:

It made me remember a similar story from when I was living in the USA in 2002. An elderly couple won the Mega Millions lottery, an absurd amount, a couple of hundred million dollars. They gave their house to their daughter, along with several million, and hit the road in a new RV joining the ‘snowbirds’ who migrate south to warmer states.

They didn’t tell anyone of their good fortune but kept their ears open for stories of people down on their luck. Thus, if someone had run up medical bills, they paid them off anonymously. If a mobile hairdresser needed a new vehicle to run her business, then they’d buy her one, seeing to it that it was delivered without mentioning who’d paid for it.

The world needs more do-gooders like them!

Republishing Out of Print Books

I’ve read of several cases where an author bought back the rights to their book(s) after a publisher allowed them to go out of print. Most self-published them, doing a better job of promoting their titles than the traditional publisher. Other authors approach book companies trying to sell their work for a second time.

These short articles explain the ramifications of those two options:

Some books have never been out of print, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula: (Warning: alarming images!)

It’s easy to see why some classic novels have endured, but I’m occasionally surprised to find books that have languished—or which spawn a cult, driving up second-hand prices.

Two good examples of the latter are Tom Neale’s An Island To Oneself, which I’ve praised several times on Paul Pens.

His story is as timeless as Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, so I’m amazed An Island To Oneself is out of print. Second-hand, it reaches eye-watering prices; there’s currently a copy on eBay for £105.

Travellers visit Neal’s island on pilgrimage:

Another favourite read that’s no longer available new, is Twistgrip: a motorcycling anthology compiled by esteemed motoring journalist and author L.J.K. Setright. There are two copies on eBay priced £75 and £59.99.

Had I the money, I’d purchase the rights to these two books and reprint them.

Which titles would you like to see revived?

How Different Are Your Stories?

Fashion designer Coco Chanel stated:

Stories need to stand out in some way to be marketed. Even if you accept that there are only seven types of plot, you can still write unique characters who do unusual things.

A modern way of describing this is having a Unique Selling Point (USP) which can also be an elevator pitch, a term used to describe selling an idea for a movie to a film producer you’ve trapped for a few seconds in an elevator. An extreme example of this is Snakes On A Plane whose title alone summed up the plot.

I write in the crime genre because I like it, and, as it’s the second-highest selling genre I stand more chance of success; also, crime stories allow me to tackle anything in society. I deliberately chose to conform to the conventions of a crime series—a set location, reoccurring characters and compelling antagonists who commit dreadful crimes. Cornwall and its landscape become a character. I explore the lives of my main character and his detectives to encourage the reader to bond with them.

Where my books differ from the mainstream, is that the Cornish Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle is the opposite of typical sleuths who drink, womanise, gamble, smoke and bend regulations. He’s a Green/Liberal lover of nature and the arts, who rides a 10’ long black chopper and is clean-living and faithful to his woman; I didn’t give him a love life until the fifth book. In these ways, he’s a weirdo.

Will this make him stand out enough to be successful? I’ve yet to find out. Do readers want to find a main character who’s unique, as marketers suggest?

How different is your protagonist? What idiosyncrasies do they have?

Are your stories predictable or surprising in their twists and turns? They should always be plausible.

Who Do You Love?

A recent report from the sometimes murky book world shows how fascinated journalists and researchers are about the love lives of writers.

The poet T. S. Eliot had an unhappy first marriage, which he credited with having inspired him to write The Waste Land.

His second marriage was happier, but this hasn’t stopped speculation about his love life. Princeton University Library has made a collection of 1,000 of Eliot’s letters available to researchers. Some were sent to a woman he declared to be his muse, but who he denied was ever his lover.

This made me wonder about what researchers would make of my love life, should I ever achieve any fame from my books. With emails, one’s outpourings are permanently available…they’re never truly deleted:

There are no clues to my love affairs in the dedications of my five completed Cornish Detective novels, which are to six female friends and one male friend. All were supportive to me while writing.

Who do you love?

Will researchers be able to tell?

C. S. Lewis wrote a charming dedication to his goddaughter, Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: