The Magic of a Book at Christmastime

Author Heath Savage

Available in Paperback and e-book

For Christmas 1967 I received three books: one was about the birds and animals of Australia, one was about the changing of the seasons, and the third was “The Children’s Bible in Colour.” I still love to read about the natural world, and three months ago I began to study The Bible in earnest, online with an accompanying podcast. I am sixty years old and neither I nor my interests have changed much since I was six.

Back in November when I wrote a blog about “Living the Dream I referred to a manuscript that I had carried around with me for about a decade. Well, this year I finished it. The completed novel emerged through many, many drafts; the characters’ names changed, plot lines altered, and the setting, Edinburgh, moved along with the times, just as real life does. I finished it. I actually wrote a novel! Seventy-four thousand words. Two-hundred and sixty-four pages. And I have been told by my fiercest critic and best friend of almost thirty years that it does not suck!

I re-read it four times, just taking it in: “It’s finished! I did it!” Perhaps I should have run around the garden a few times whooping, or let off some fireworks? But that’s not my style. I sat quietly at my desk beaming into my coffee, but I do confess, I did perform a little “chair dance.”

Now my book “Festival of Death: an Edinburgh Murder Mystery” is uploaded on Amazon, I am referring to myself an as “the author” and I expect people to buy it. I, the kid who slouched at the back of the class until it was time for art or games, when I could come alive. I, the one who couldn’t sit still or concentrate; the kid who distracted herself, and everyone else, from the mysterious tedium of formal education, by being a noisy pain in the ass. I stopped arsing about once, long enough to write a short story; homework for my English O- Level class. I was rather pleased with it at the time. My English teacher read it, raised her eyebrows, and sent me to the Headmistress to “confess” that I had cheated and copied it, or had someone adult at home write it for me. Fat chance: my grandmother could not read or write, and my parents both worked in factories. They left school at 14.

Yes, I have written a book. All by myself. I didn’t copy it. Nobody wrote it for me. I found the self-discipline to sit still, to create a story, characters and events; with a structured beginning, middle and end.  So, two-up to the form mistress who wrote the terse summary on my Third Form Christmas term report in 1974: “Has ability. But fritters it away.” And the same to the voice in my head that mocked me for many years: “Don’t get above yourself, it’s shite, you’re not a writer.”

The book (my book, the book that I wrote, so, get stuffed, Mrs McLaughlin!) is now on Amazon, in paperback: “Festival of Death: an Edinburgh Murder Mystery” by Heath Savage. It’s a bit rude, it’s a bit sweary, it’s a bit like me – not everyone’s cup of Darljeeling. I am quite glad that my dear departed mum and dad won’t be reading it! My best friend, who is a fierce critic and discerning reader, reviewed it and announced proudly: “It isn’t shite!

I am not done; in the new year I will be looking for an agent, a mainstream publisher, and I will be writing the sequel. The working title of this is “Dancing with Death: Another Edinburgh Murder Mystery.” It is a lot darker and grittier than the first, and I have introduced some new characters. Since the 29th December I have outlined the structure and planned out the plot, and I have written almost thirty thousand words.

This book excites me, because it challenges my ability to work within the parameters of the structure and form that I created in the first book: the language, and tone have to be the same, and the characters have to remain consistent with their original personalities and foibles. So, when I place them in new, much darker, situations, their actions and reactions must be consistent. Their personal stories have to evolve in a believable way too. I think this sequel will be the better of the two books, because I am now more confident and my writing has a spare quality that I explored in the first, but did not quite accomplish.

Here’s to 2022, and to success for all who dare to write!


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