Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Silenced Hills

Image by kind permission of
Kelly Shorten and Musa Publishing
All writers love stories, and some say that the best comedians are really storytellers - with a bit of tragedy thrown in for good measure. I'm not really sure where this tale fits, but I've been itching to share it with you.

Back in the mists of time I was travelling from Cornwall to London by train and a story began to unfold. It was the tale of a man on the run, perhaps even from himself. It unfolded over the course of the five hour journey and, from the beginning, was known as The Silent Hills. Many writers have that experience of a story arriving, fully formed, and this was one such gift.

In August 2011 I was fortunate to come across Musa Publishing. To my surprise and delight they enjoyed The Silent Hills and wanted to publish it as a standalone story. There swiftly followed some mid-Atlantic editing and a cover design, before TSH was duly published in October of that year. 

The whole process has been an education and a joy, but - and not for want of trying - TSH never soared to great heights. As a standalone story, frankly, it stood alone. I was encouraged by the publisher to write a follow-up, which made perfect sense when you read the story. However, the 'voice' wasn't there for part two and I knew I'd have to create the plot and narrative this time, which risked ending up with a contrived piece of writing. (Yes, I know that all writing is contrived, but there's often an added inspiration or intent that breathes life into the endeavour. Not so this time.)

I don't know what constitutes good sales, as I have nothing to compare TSH with. It received some good reviews and the feedback suggested that people appreciated the same things about it that I did.

Well, folks, time moved on and I wrote something completely different for Musa - the mid-grade story Superhero Club. Elsewhere, when I wrote the first of my Brit thrillers, Standpoint, I like to think that some of TSH's DNA was also present. One great thing about having Musa publish The Silent Hills was that one of my fellow authors there suggested I join the International Thriller Writers to get regular updates connected with the genre. 

At that time the newsletter covered novels, but not short stories. However, three years is a long time in writing and politics. ITW started listing new short stories and I thought it might be good to get a line in for The Silent Hills, as part of its third anniversary as an ebook. All of which was fine. However...two mini events coincided.

1. The ITW kindly gave The Silent Hills a mention and included Musa's book link.
2. Musa wrote to me on the three year anniversary to remind me that rights would be reverted to me, unless I wanted them to continue publishing The Silent Hills. I, of course, understood that rights reverted to me automatically, so when I received a contract requiring an electronic signature, I assumed it was to re-contract TSH for another three years. Not so. It didn't help that I'd checked out the email and e-contract using an iPad, which is not blessed with a giant screen. 

The upshot is that TSH's rights were returned to me and, quite rightly, Musa removed all versions of The Silent Hills available for sale online. Of course, this occurred at the very same time that the ITW came out that included TSH and a sales link. This is why, if you happened to receive the ITW newsletter, and you liked the title, The Silent Hills, you might have been perplexed why it was impossible to get hold of a copy.

As the young John Connor said in T2: Are we learning yet?

We are now!
Today's lessons are:
1. Always take copies of book reviews.
2. Always read the contract carefully!
3. Always have a Plan B.

Realistically, I now have two choices:
a) Republish The Silent Hills myself, as a standalone story.
b) Incorporate it into a collection of short stories.

Whichever route I take, or even if I decide to retire TSH, I'd like to thank the good people at Musa Publishing for getting my story to a wider audience. It's been quite a ride!

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