I appreciate that many of my loyal followers lose sleep at nights wondering
what I’m up to in my career, so I thought it was high to time bring you up to date on things. The vast majority of authors don’t earn enough income from their books to make a living from writing alone, and so have to have a part-time or even full-time job as well. I’m lucky in a way in that my writing is supplemented by writing-related work such as critiquing of manuscripts for unpublished authors, copy-editing and proofreading. One problem with that is it’s very time consuming for relatively little reward. And because it’s so time consuming and one has to work to deadlines, it tends to leave little time for one’s own writing. I used to have an undemanding little part-time job which gave me plenty of time for working on my own stuff, but since taking up the editorial-type work I now have much less time to spend on my own writing. That wasn’t how it was meant to be! But there you go…
Anyhoo, I’m currently in the final stages of getting my next historical non-fiction book ready for print. I’ve just checked the proofs and sent them back to the editor, and the next stage will be drawing up an index (which I always hate!) and sorting out the pictures to go in it. The book title on the proofs is King Charles II & His Escape into Exile: Capture the King. It isn’t the way I put it on my manuscript and to me they’ve got it back to front. I’ve put in a strong plea to have it changed back to Capture the King: King Charles II & His Escape into Exile. Surely it makes more sense that way? I invite my legions of followers to agree or disagree.
At the same time (everything pretty much has to be at ‘the same time’, which is part of the problem with trying to work this way!) I have made a start on the third of the three books I signed up for with the publishers, Pen and Sword. It’s about heroism and tragedy in the history of the lifeboat service, and in particular focuses on winners of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Gold Medal for Gallantry.
I’ve unearthed some fascinating and poignant stories so far. In the early days, just after the Napoleonic wars, a lot of saving of life off the British coasts was performed by Coastguard vessels, which as well as trying to intercept smugglers also doubled up as a rescue service. I have just come across one poor young man who was a veteran of the Nelson’s navy and was at Trafalgar as a ships’ boy. After the war he became the captain of a Coastguard cutter and deservedly won his gold medal going to the aid of a ship in distress. But very soon afterwards he responded to an alarm about smugglers bringing their goods ashore. He and his men found themselves outnumbered by a huge armed gang, and in the ensuing confrontation he was hit several times during a shoot-out (as were all of his men, most of whom were then savagely beaten where they lay). He was left disabled and unable to work for the rest of his life, having served less than a year with the Coastguard.
My latest find is a sailor from Devon who, after performing his heroics, decided to embark on a circumnavigation of the globe in a small Devon-built ship. He achieved this, but something went wrong in his life (I haven’t uncovered what yet but he was certainly suffering from some illness if nothing else) and he took to drink and laudanum to kill the pain, and was found dead on his little vessel at the age of 50. (But don’t worry – there will be some happy endings as well!)
The good thing about proofreading for a historical/military publisher is that I get paid to read the kind of things that interest me. I’ve just been working on a fascinating diary by an officer fighting in North Africa during WWII, and I’m now embarking on one about the lives of civilian women in Hitler’s Germany.
One of these days I may get back to the several half-finished fiction works I had to leave behind…