At this time of good cheer (bah humbug!) I wondered what I could blog about that would fit with the mood of the holiday season! A challenge indeed, for one who has his head down in his day job, wishing for more time to devote to his writing! Anyway, for the past two evenings, I have been pacing the streets of London - well, one street in particular - giving away (yes GIVING, for free!) copies of my first novel, "River of Judgement". Have you ever tried to give away stuff to strangers? Not quite as easy as you might think. Well, the story goes something like this...
(With my apologies to: Simon and Garfunkel; Dr Seuss; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and Sir Paul McCartney and the late John Lennon)
It was a winter's day – in a deep and dark December. I stood alone, gazing from my office window to King Street below. Would that I could recall the freshly fallen silent shroud of snow that had lain on my lawn but a few weeks ago! I am a rock, I am an island.
Then, I had stood with my feet ice cold in the snow. Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And I puzzled and puzzled 'till my puzzler was sore. Then I thought of something I hadn't before. What if Christmas, I thought, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
I packed my bags of books and sallied forth into the cool, damp night air.
My destination reached, there I now stood. The snow of the past weeks had lifted and the cold abated. (Temporarily – for it was forecast to return with a vengeance at the weekend). There were people to right of me, people to left of me, people in front of me. They were cold & hurried; thirsty, hungry as hell. Boldly they strode forth to the well that was London’s Covent Garden – into the jaws of commerce. Into the mouth of Hell strode (at least) six hundred.
I took courage and, approaching a passer-by, said...
“Dear Sir, would you like a copy of my book? It took me months to write, will you take a look? It's a novel by me... (pausing for effect)...I am a paperback writer!
A long, expectant pause...
No response, so I continued
“It's the thrilling story of a desperate man, his business partner didn't understand. It's three hundred pages, give or take a few, I'll be writing another in a month or two. But right now, though, I need a break... I want to be a (famous) paperback writer!”
And the passer-by passes me by, hands raised defensively in a sceptical, distrustful shrug!
I ask you... Try to be generous!
Ah! But I have a secret weapon! Enter Michele, my (now brunette, ex-blonde) belle.
“Michele, my belle, sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble.”
“Pardon?” says Michele.
“I need you to...” I pause, finding I need to repeat myself over the noise of buskers and shoppers. “I need you to... I need you to...”
“What,” she says, impatiently. (I hadn’t given her the script!)
“I need you to make them see... oh, what my book means to me. Until I’m done, I'm hoping you will know what I mean.”
“Get away with you,” she laughs... and relieves me of a pile of books and disappears into the crowd.
A few metres, a few metres, a few metres onward, all in the valley of commerce she wandered, amidst the six hundred
“Forward,” I call out, “my belle!”
“Charge for the mulled wine,” she cried back. And into the valley of commerce, she continued into the six hundred.
“Mulled wine?” shouts I. Then, thinking some, I add “...sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble, tres bien ensemble.”
So there I stood, again! People to right of me, people to left of me, people in front of me. Still cold & hurried, thirsty, and hungry as hell. Still boldly striding forth within the well that was London’s Covent Garden – the jaws of commerce.
Again I took courage and, approaching another passer-by, said...
“Dear Madam would you like a copy of my book? It took me months to write, will you take a look? It's a novel by me... (again pausing for effect)...I am a paperback writer!
Pause. She stopped, turned and smiled...
Now what? I think, surprised. A response! Quickly I continue...
“It's the thrilling story of a desperate man, his business partner didn't understand. It's three hundred pages, give or take a few, I'll be writing another in a month or two. I am a paperback writer!”
“Why, thank you, kind sir. If I may, I’d be pleased to take a look.” And if I really like it, can I buy the rights... (Yeah! In my dreams, dear reader!)
“If you like it, you can pass it on... Merry Christmas, I hope you have fun! I am a paperback writer!"
And the passer-by passes me by, hands clutched around a copy of my book.
'Forward, to the mulled wine!' says Michele, reappearing. “I’ve handed out all my books, youv’e taken your time!
“Was there a man dismay'd?’ I ask.
“Not tho' anyone would know,” she says.
“Some peeps have blunder'd... why be so distrustful.
“Ah!’ she exclaims, ‘theirs is not to make reply, theirs is not to reason why, theirs is but to do or buy!”
“Yeah,” I agree. “Into the valley of commerce they continue, but not all the six hundred.”
“Let’s get that mulled wine,” says Michele.
“Sorry, the wine’s gone! Look, there’s a stall selling hot spicy Somerset cider.’ We change direction.
“That’ll do nicely, this cold night!’
“Of course...,” I add, ‘It could have been my hat that put some off!”