Publishing my first book - following my dream!
Dreaming an idea
...The Thai Airways Boeing 737-200 made its way to the head of the runway at Koh Samui Airport. Inside the cabin, a ten year-old boy sat with his parents and two siblings, his nose and forehead glued to the window as he tried to take in the last sight of the island where he had spent the past seven days.
As the aircraft rolled lazily on the bumpy tarmac, Jack Parsons gazed at the scenery around the airport’s perimeter that suddenly brought not-so-distant memories of his holidays spent on the beach playing with his dad, building complicated sculptures on the sand, or crashing into the gentle waves that rolled into the well-manicured beach.
Jack wished he were still on one of the beaches, watching the balmy afternoon turn into night under the watchful eye of his mother, while his father talked away with other European holidaymakers and sipped strangely shaped drinks carved out of unpronounceable and exotic fruits.
For young Jack, this had been the closest thing to paradise. With these surroundings, what need had he for school, summer camp, or even football?
In Your Dreams
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So begins the first lines of IN YOUR DREAMS, my first ever published novel. With luck, it won’t be the last, however, that is not for me to decide. I can plan, dream, make provisions, market, throw curses or spells, but only life, my Maker, my lucky stars maybe – and the market, of course – will have the final word.
Yes, I am over the moon. whay lie? It took me almost two and a half years to write. Then, once I submitted the manuscript to my publishers, another eight months of changing, fine-tuning, rearranging, re-writng, and of course, paying lots of hard earned dollars to get it live. Not to mention the waiting, nail-biting, email exchanges, hair-pulling, and God knows what other kinds of nerve-wrecking habits I developed down the line waiting for my book to get published. I tell you, not even my closest and dearest have an idea what was brewing inside my head during those months.
It is sometimes a wonder they still agree to be my closest and dearest!
As any first-timer, I had expectations, illusions, and fears about where this new journey would take me.
During the inception and subsequent development of IN YOUR DREAMS, there were many happy, anxious, doubtful, sad and weird moments. So many of them that I could even write a book about the whole experience!
Anyway, it was all worthwhile. Yes, my first serious literary, and why not, artistic project is out on the loose, and I am damn proud of it! With luck, it will make you laugh, cry, cringe, or simply report me to the literary police.
As you can probably tell, I do not have a strong literary background, so all this has been new to me and a real learning curve.
After finishing my secondary education – or whatever I managed to salvage of it – and failing to really make up my mind as to what I wanted to specialise in professionally, I realised I had a slight inclination to the artistic side of life.
A stubborn dreamer in my younger years, as many kids, my professional aspirations ranged from being an airline pilot, a professional footballer or a rock musician.
These dreams were unceremoniously quashed due to poor eyesight, growing up in a predominantly baseball loving nation and my inability to adhere to discipline.
Within years though, I went through the professional sieve and what was left was definitely my unwavering love for music and everything that moved around it. The lack of discipline however, stubbornly stuck to me like that odious rash in the you-know-where’s.
I trained as a recording engineer, took up some bass lessons and life was rock n roll!
Work found its way into my life, not necessarily in the music field but in audio post-production, voice-overs, dubbing and sound special effects, which was not a bad thing mind you. I met a barrage of great people, some of which, twenty something more years down the line are still dearly close. One of them even agreed to marry me and all!
In terms of musical greatness however, well, the lack of discipline probably deprived the world of what could have been a great bassist. At least, that is what I like to believe. I always considered I had interesting musical ideas, but just never developed the skills to express it and for that I blame no one but me.
I did however, write some pretty good lyrics...
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Carl Manning had crossed that thin and delicate line that separates trust from betrayal. It was not his family this time. On this occasion, he wronged his good friend, who was now like a raging bull in a china shop.
A calming and somewhat soothing effect befell upon him the farther he went inside the church. This was now between him and God. At least there was no need of lengthy explanations to his maker, for He was supposed to know it all.
Inside the safety of the house of God, Manning started praying furiously. For the first time he felt his prayers had a special resonance, and that had nothing to do with the high ceilings of the church.
Pray the police find you before I do, Carl, because if I do, I will f****ng kill you, you little piece of sh*t . . . Those final, chilling words he’d heard from Jack Parsons still resonated inside his head.
Something from Nothing
After some life changing events, I moved countries and sadly, changed profession as well. That however, only helped fuel my other passion – travel.
Travel on the other hand, triggered an apparent talent I had dormant and I admit, very well hidden. Writing.
Just as a means to share my travels with far-flung friends and relatives, I started writing chronicles of any interesting trip I’d made and after my first humble attempts, they got more sophisticated and improved in quality.
One of the turning points was the discovery of Hub Pages, which effectively served as a platform to share my writing with a larger audience and things slowly and timidly gained momentum from there.
That was when I decided to go bolder and started my first attempts in story writing. Two failed attempts only served to rethink my path, hone my abilities, discover and develop my style.
Then, and this is no publicity stunt or pun, I had a dream. Mr Wong came up to me while I was standing in an airport queue, and that was the beginning of a great storyline.
During that time I made countless mistakes, some due to over-enthusiasm, others because of my inability to adhere to discipline, a few thanks to my eyes growing bigger than my brains and because of that I made a few errors of judgment.
The important thing however, is I learned from that. Unknowlingly to me at the time, one particular mistake also gave me the drive and freed my creative time to press on the gas and finish my novel.
Writing is a great learning curve. And one does not become good by cruising on a perfectly tended tarmac; you has to suffer a few blows and bumps here and there in order to learn and improve.
My novel gathered form, shape and life, with countless changes in structure, design and plot.
It is strange, but there reaches a time where you end up empathising with the characters of your own creation. In my case, Jack, Kees, Brian, Kyra, Monika...they all have a special place in my life now.
I still cannot decide whether that is good or not, however, I do keep a watchful eye for those men wearing white coats and sporting a suspicious smile.
A troubled past, a scary present, a cursed ability...
Kyra had been awake since about three in the morning. It was almost five, and Claus, that disgusting excuse for a man, would soon be home to start the daily torment. Today, however, she would put an end to the abuse. Whatever the outcome, today was liberation day. She would not reach her twentieth birthday living like this. Kyra only had this one opportunity; if she blew it, hell would definitely be a blissful wish. Kyra was also convinced God would understand and have mercy on her. God was different to monsters like Claus.
One or at most two matches would suffice. With the right ingredients, fire travels fast.
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To Publish or to Sef-Publish?
One of my greatest dilemas was whether to go the traditional path and look for a literary agent - risking countless rejections, waiting idle for replies that may or may not arrive - or self-publish.
In the end and after many hours of research, I decided to self-publish. Now the task was to find myself a reputable Self-Publishing company. More research beckoned.
Once I penned my last chapter, almost 28 months after I scribbled the first words, it was time to submit my manuscript to the publishers who had been supporting me along the way.
This support however did not come cheap or easy, and I mean this in no derogatory way. I went through iUniverse, a US based Self-Publishing company, which for someone in my capacity nowadays is probably the best way to start.
By self-publishing, it pretty much meant you have to pay for all the production process, which was no mean feat. On the other hand, not only did they publish my book, they also offered editorial support, proofreading service, content polishing, and other services to ensure that authors publish quality material. On that side I had no complaints.
The distribution process, well, it could have gone better, but then, it is a risk with self-publishing.
The production process was not shy of anxious moments, but I am thankful for all that because, during those months, what I submitted back in October 2013 was by no measure close to what the book currently looks like.
Again, this has been such a great learning experience, as in between, I have built my own website (www.antrichards.com), finally learned to use [and discovered the usefulness of] twitter and expanding on my social media skills! All this trying hard not to become conceited or fall into the diva trap.
Iuniverse’s support, experience, feedback and expertise has produced a product that send shivers up my spine every time I think of what I have achieved with this feat.
I will not deny it, I feel a mix of pride, satisfaction, immense happiness every time I clutch the first copy of my book in my hands.
The first night, a few hours after the first proof was delivered, I went into the living room before going to bed and had a good look at the book. Again. It was beautiful. So shiny, so new, so mine.
It reminded me of a similar situation I went through twelve years ago almost to that date actually. I was just about to leave the hospital room where my wife and newborn baby were to spend their first night together. I looked at my newborn son. So shiny, so new, so beautiful. So me!
Reaching the finishing line
Unfortunately, this exciting process has not been shy of difficult moments. Yes, I have had to juggle my writer’s dream with my day to day activities and responsibilities. That has meant attempting to write well into the late hours, staying away from the comfort of my own bed and all the company that comes with it.
It has also meant, taking my dream with me on holidays, trips, much to the understandable annoyance of my better sides.
Sometimes, when pursuing a dream, I have learned, one has to become selfish, sometimes aloof and to a degree pragmatic. As with every new project, enterprise or experiment, there always is a fair degree of risk. If all goes awry, the consequences can be dire, but then again, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Crucially though, it coincided with my older brother Richard being diagnosed with a serious illness. For many reasons, most of them academic at this stage, but mainly practical at any rate, I kept this dream to myself and my very closest – my household, that is.
Somehow, I cannot recall now, but again, meaningless right now, Richard got wind of what I was doing and managed to read a couple of my short stories I had been writing simultaneously to ‘In your dreams’. He was absolutely thrilled. I was chuffed! Every time we met, we’d speak about my ideas, and he told me in no uncertain terms that I should go one step further and pursue my dream of publishing the book.
Never in my life had nagging been so welcome! That though, also created a certain urgency to my project because as 2014 cemented itself in the calendar, his health began to deteriorate at a faster pace than my book was being produced.
Fate and destiny can be one bitch of a lady at times, though. On the same day I got my first paperback proof delivered, Richard made the final journey.
Talk about mixed emotions. To be honest, I would happily have forfeited the publishing of my book if that could have kept my brother with us a bit longer. But life, providence, our maker, maybe destiny even, had other plans.
However, after leaving us to join the ultimate gig in the sky, I gather comfort in the knowledge that before many of you, future readers, my dear brother already knows the outcome of IN YOUR DREAMS.
Of course, I dedicated the book to him. It’s my humble tribute to a wonderful father, a great brother, and a remarkable man. You see, in a way, he was a dreamer like me.
So, whether I become a best-seller, or I only manage to sell thirty copies among my friends and family, I am satisfied I published my first book. My first novel.
I realised my dream and nobody will take that away from me.
© 2014 Ant Richards