My third novel ‘An Invisible Nemesis’ is out ... and what a ride! - I’m talking about the whole process from concept and writing the first page right through to publication itself. I started writing the book in July 2017 and already had the main character, Jack Compton on board. He featured in my previous novel ’Fly Back and Purify’, as a fledgling journalist harbouring a mental health condition. This was in 1994 when he was just twenty-eight-years old... Fast forward twenty-five years and now, he’s a freelance reporter in his fifties.
I completed writing the book in February this year but didn't have time to relax. Patience isn't one of my virtues and I wanted the book out by the summer. February was when the serious bit, the editing came into play. To say that it's an arduous and tricky part of the procedure is an understatement.
The proofread process has always been a niggling problem for me and something I’ve never had much luck with. This time I decided to send the first few chapters to a special friend who came back with some valuable feedback. Her advice prompted me to seek a professional proofreader, so I hired one of the best, but it was at a cost. The manuscript came back much cleaner and was very well polished. That’s the upside. Even after publication, to be honest though, a couple of stray punctuation issues have come to light. Frustrating and annoying? – Yes, but certainly not a show-stopper.
Truth is, an author can only read their own manuscript so many times and anyway, like most authors, I will be bringing out a new second edition a few weeks after its initial publication. This helps address any late issues before a full book marketing campaign begins. So, if you've obtained a copy early on, keep hold of it!
Moving on, what to do with the book when published? I purposely channelled the paperback version through just one distributor. This has enabled the book to chart. Indeed it made No.1 in Lulu.com’s Top 100 Mystery and Crime chart in its first week of publication and then hit No.1 in their ALL FICTION Top 100 table for May. The paperback is due to be released on Amazon.co.uk and available by order through other outlets by the beginning of July.
What now? Well, there’s already been a very successful book launch and signing evening in my local pub and other similar events are being planned. Press Releases are going out, including to the Maltese press where the book is predominately set. I’m also looking at the possibility of launching a Facebook promo campaign with a similar event on Amazon once the second edition is available..
People who know me will be aware I’m not in this for the money. UK publishers released more than twenty new titles every hour over the course of 2014, meaning that the country published more books per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world. UK publishers released 184,000 new and revised titles in 2013... If I manage to sell just 1,000 copies of any of my books then I consider that to be an achievement. Essentially, I write primarily for my own enjoyment and if just a few people enjoy my work along the way, then the whole journey through to publication and beyond is worth it!
The nucleus for the next novel (something completely different) is already swirling around in the grey matter!
Most books have a back story, or at least some of the sub-plots do. For me, my paranormal novel Fly Back and Purify is no exception. Pub landlady. Carol Baker, (pictured) formerly of the Royal Oak in Knaphill, Surrey is also a psychic medium and assisted me greatly with my research. The following is from a piece I did when working for the Woking News & Mail in 2016...
When most people walk into a public house and think of spirits, they are probably looking at the choice of whiskeys, rums or vodkas from the optics behind the bar. At the Royal Oak at the bottom of Anchor Hill in Knaphill, the term spirit can take on a whole new meaning as the pub’s landlady Carol Baker is also a psychic medium. Carol and her partner Mark McDermott have been running the pub since March 2015.
Carol told the News & Mail, “Many psychic mediums use a spirit guide to describe an entity that may be attempting to make contact with the living. With the help of a guide I can use my ‘third eye’ to see spirits, the images can then become full apparitions; they are vivid and appear very real.”
She describes clearly seeing a couple who were previous landlords at the pub, a priest, an old man who sits in the corner at the front by the window and two children in Victorian dress who play upstairs.
It is known that in 1851 the landlord was William Collyer who ran it with his wife Sarah. By 1891 the pub was being run by Alfred and Phoebe Brighton. From 1900 to 1935 the landlords were Joseph and Minnie Searle
and Minnie took sole responsibility for the establishment’s liquor licence following Joseph’s death in December 1935. Joseph who was born in 1869 had also been a local dairyman. Could one of these couples still be living there in spirit?
Indeed, the Royal Oak has a very rich history and dates back to the 17th Century. In the mid 19th Century Wesleyan Ministers formed a Sunday school which met there until the completion of the original Methodist church in Knaphill in 1867.
Carol says that she picked up her spirit guide, a young child called Emily when she worked at the White Horse pub in Steyning in West Sussex. Emily has stayed with her ever since. She believes that the girl had been murdered by a seven-foot tall poltergeist after hiding a wallet at the White Horse.
Carol added, “Whilst many people sense or feel the presence of a spirit, most will never see them. Communicating with the spirit world is a gift that I am blessed with and very happy to talk about. My ‘third eye’ is really my mind’s eye. Behind my physical eyes there is an intuitive eye and I am able to use this for soul to soul seeing and that’s how I can interact with my friendly spirits right here in the pub.”
Carol admits that most customers at the Royal Oak are totally oblivious to its ghostly occupants, however if anyone should ever sense or see something or are perhaps even sceptical about their existence, she will always be on hand to happily talk and explain the phenomenon from her point of view.
Note: Carol has since left the Royal Oak and now runs a pub in Hampshire
If you have read The Asylum Soul you will know all about Mrs Pengelley's Knaphill Pie. One reader has asked if there was a real recipe. The answer is yes. Bacon & Leek complete with all the 'secret' family ingredients.
The recipe comes from a family who lived in Queens Road, Knaphill at the time the book is set and is known to have been a favourite among those who worked at Brookwood Lunatic Asylum.
Records show that the pie got its name simply because the bacon came from the Middle-White breed of pigs that were bought and reared at the institution. The breed was actually favoured by the asylum's bursar because of the fine quality and quantity of its pork.
ORIGINAL KNAPHILL PIE RECIPE (Bacon/Leek)
- Full stove/oven.
- Melt 2oz knob of lard in large pan.
- Add 16oz bacon (chopped) and stir for 5 minutes until beginning to slightly brown then allow cooling down slightly.
- Transfer to deep medium oven dish and add 2 finely chopped leeks.
- Add level tea spoon of grated garlic and stir again.
- Grate 8oz strong cheddar cheese and sprinkle over top.
- Whilst bashing washed King Edward potatoes in saucepan add salt, water and milk and sprinkles of white pepper.
- When fused set potato into dish on top of other ingredients and add tram-lines with fork and then sprinkle rosemary sparingly on top.
- Cooking time 1 hour 20 minutes. Check and prod with a long fork every 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven when potato is browned. Allow 10 minute rest.
- Best served with carrots and cauliflower.
Note: Quantity of ingredients based on 4 served.
WHO WROTE ALL THE PIE? (Article)
The following article appeared in Writing Magazine, October 2016...
"Many of us see self-publishing as the most obvious route to getting our work in print but what happens after that and how do we market our books?" asks author Mal Foster.
"In the lead up to the publication of my debut novel The Asylum Soul and given that much of its content could be of local interest, I was more than aware of the need to promote the book on a local platform. A follow-up article in my local newspaper picks up on the Knaphill Pie, an old local recipe which is mentioned in the novel and is a typical example of the marketing avenues that I have recently been exploring. The result, a renewed interest in the book and increased sales!
The Woking Advertiser reported that... ‘Literature is being brought to life and put on the menu at a Knaphill pub thanks to a collaboration with an author in the village. A pie recipe featured in a book... Mal Foster published his debut novel, The Asylum Soul, in May and is thrilled with its five-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Readers have praised the writer for his work and said that they can really identify with the fictitious characters and appreciate the diary format of the novel.’
The book tells the story of twenty-three year old Tommy Compton who was incarcerated at the Brookwood Lunatic Asylum in 1929. The asylum was closed in 1994.
The actual recipe for the Knaphill Pie came from a family in Queens Road, Knaphill, near Woking in Surrey whilst I was researching material for the novel. They lent me some old books and there were some loose leaf pieces of paper inside and one fell out with the recipe on. There was a list of ingredients, bacon, leek, cheese, garlic and mashed potato, so all I had to do was to work out how to make the pie.’
In the book the bacon comes from pigs slaughtered in the grounds of the old asylum. I made a couple of my own pies at home and then the landlady at the pub put her own take on it.
The landlady at The Crown, Sarah Nubeebuckus-Jones who has read the book had a conversation with regulars in the pub about the pie. She then decided to make a version of it and now it’s top of the list on the pub’s main menu.
My advice to everyone is to interrogate their book’s subject matter, try not to overlook the finer points; there could be something there which might just warrant that extra publicity."
In July 1975 I was sitting on a platform at a railway station on the outskirts of Paris. Someone on the opposite platform had a cassette player. I could hear a voice, monotone, clear, concise, dark but the melody captured me. It was Leonard Cohen singing The Partisan from his 'Songs from a Room' album. I was hooked.
When I got back to England I bought all four of the albums which he had out at the time. There were also two novels and around six poetry books.
His deep voice with all its wisdom, love, pain and honesty consumed me. He soon became my biggest influence and source of inspiration. Indeed, his fine spectrum of work is the 'Hallelujah' of my very own personal, private religion.
On Wednesday 9 November 2016 rumours across the internet suggested that he had died the previous Monday, Indeed a formal announcement was made after his funeral by his son Adam on Thursday 10 November. Needless to say, I shed more than just one tear when everything became apparent and sadly real later that day and into Friday.
Leonard was buried privately and laid to rest in an unadorned pine coffin next to his beloved mother and father in Montreal, Canada.
My ambition was always to meet Leonard, to shake his hand, to thank him for his music and poetry. To thank him for his wisdom and his voice - a voice that has guided me through dark and difficult times and uplifted me. Of course that will never happen now.
Leonard Cohen was a true gentleman and a master of his craft. His spirit will walk with me forever. I loved him and I will continue to love all the words and music that he has blessed me with.
Leonard Cohen (21 09 1934 - 07 11 2016)
“At last, he
said to himself, the spirit has taken up some of the heavy work...”
- from ‘Death of a Lady’s Man’
Portrait by: Vincent Keeling