A Few Things I Wish I’d Thought of Along the Way

My debut novel, ‘Underneath the Killing Tree’, has been on sale for a little under three months. Ever since it hit the shelves at the end of May there has been a whirlwind of activity and I haven’t had much time to breathe, let alone do much else other than focus on my book.

I made the decision early on to publish my book independently. I had spoken to other authors who had taken the ‘traditional’ route and one common theme continually emerged. Once their publishers dug their hooks into the book, the authors felt as though they had lost any kind of creative control.

My book was my baby – I had worked tirelessly on it for two years, writing, re-writing, editing – and I wanted to be the one who had the control; especially over things like my cover design. I had very specific ideas as to what I wanted and I didn’t want to be told what I could and couldn’t do. Although maintaining control has been a positive, there has also been a downside to taking the independent publishing route.

First and foremost I have had to undertake all the different aspects of marketing my novel. While I was writing it, I hadn’t ever considered how I was going to sell it. I just thought that the quality of the story with its complex plot and flawed characters, would carry it along all by itself. Coupled with a unique cover design compared to other books of my genre, so that it would stand out, how could I go wrong? But as I quickly found out, unless people actually know your book is out there and know who you are – it doesn’t get seen.

I have also learnt that marketing a book is different to marketing other products. Word of mouth is a very big driver of sales, as well as trust in an author’s brand. People pick up books by certain authors because they know what they are going to get and can have a certain guarantee of the quality of the writing. Other people like to browse and pick up books based on their cover, or the title, or reviews by other readers.

For my part, I have spent weeks building an on-line presence, including this website. I have also had giveaways, written a book of short-stories (Available for sale here) and submitted more stories to competitions and magazines – all in the name of getting my name and a greater body of work out their into the wide world. It has taken some time – tweeting, blogging, writing, etc. however I am beginning to see the fruits of my labour.

The key here is, although in the beginning it may all seem too difficult and a little hopeless, if you stick with it, then you will see results – as long as the quality of your story is there.

I have included a short excerpt from my novel, ‘Underneath the Killing Tree,’ below (The opening scene of chapter 5). I hope you enjoy it and if you’re looking to purchase a good read, you can buy it here.

  1. Whatever will be, will be

During his short 25 years in this world, he had been exposed to so much darkness, so much hatred and despair, that he had thought there was nothing left that could touch him any longer. Nothing that could throw him back into the depths of desolation which he had found himself wading through at the end of the Great War. Nothing which could surpass the torture he had put himself through every single day for the last two years, for sending so many other young men to their violent and decidedly anonymous deaths from the trenches. But all that was war – this on the other hand was something so unexpected, so much out of the blue, that Baden Hope could no longer see any meaning to life; not any of it, none at all.

She was his only reason for still being alive – he had carried the hope of her in his heart all the way through the war. Even when he had received news of her impending nuptial to some stranger – he knew in his soul that Emlyn still loved him. She was the reason he had eventually pulled himself out of the mire and had returned to Loxley from his self-imposed exile. He had returned determined to take back what the war had taken from him. And now that she was gone, she was the reason that he was finally going to set himself free from the tribulations this life had thrown at him.

     “We will be together again soon my love,” Baden mumbled to himself as he finished securing the end of the thick rope to the base of the tree.

He wanted to double himself over and scream and squeeze and twist and contort until he could wring all of his rage, all of his feeling out of himself. But he had been doing that for the past week and none of it had worked, and although Baden still felt the fire of emotion searing through every fibre of his body and of his soul, he knew that he had made the right decision. The decision which he had already made peace with many years before.

For someone called Hope, he was certainly running in short supply of it.

He hadn’t washed; not for a week. He could smell it – but he didn’t care. Nothing mattered anymore. He looked up at the branch, the one where she had chosen to put an end to their twisted fates. He picked up his rope and he flung it through the air so that it wrapped around the branch twice. It hung like a python awaiting its prey. He took the end of his rope and he stepped up onto the old, wooden bench. It was a place so familiar to him. It was the place where he and Emlyn were, and he realised how fitting it was that it was the place where they would forever be.  

He tied the hangman’s knot and then slid the noose slowly over his head, letting it rest heavily upon his broad shoulders. Standing in the exact same place where she had been, he thought only of her and what she must have felt in her final moments. He had loved her; he still did. But this love was no longer a source of any kind of comfort. Pain stabbed at his heart and anguish burrowed relentlessly into the pit of his stomach. He wanted to vomit. He wanted to rip open his insides and pull them all out, bit by bit, and be free from all of his sorrow. 

He yearned for her; he wanted nothing more than to be with her. How could he have ever considered any kind of future without her?

He uttered, “The hand is past, the time has come,” as he collapsed away from the safety of the bench.

As he began his deathly swing through the air towards his final salvation, a desperate cry rang out from somewhere behind him, but he was beyond all of that now.

Time slowed in that moment and he could feel every sensation coursing through his body. The coolness of the breeze against his skin, the strong beating of his heart, the coarseness of the rope which had tightened around his neck and the freedom that only a dying man can possibly know. And then the pain – excruciating pain.

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