People often ask me how one might set about becoming a published author. The answer is reasonably simple, start writing and sending off your work to magazines, publishers, agents etc. With regard to having a book published one way to do this is to get a copy of The Writers and Artists Yearbook and look through the lists to find a publisher or literary agent that has a list in which your work might fit. For example there would be no point in sending your MS on the paranormal to Mills and Boon. Having found what you consider to be the right publisher or agent send in first a covering letter asking if they would be interested in reading your work. You should include a single page synopsis and an SAE. Also include a very brief biography of yourself listing your published work to date. That is what I did in 1990 when I sent a letter to the editors at one of the world’s biggest publishers HarperCollins. They replied, I sent them an outline of the book, they liked this, sent for me and within three months I had a commission to write the book which they subsequently published. That book was titled: ‘The Psychic World Of James Byrne’.
My first success as a writer was winning The Lancashire Evening Post short story competition in 1989. This is the ghost story that started my career as a published author.
The deep leaden grey sky darkened as soft snow fell in flakes on this cold Christmas Eve. Alone in her neat and tidy front room, toasting her toes before a flaming log fire, sat Miss Felicity. Her fingers ruffled the fur of Marmaduke, the comfortable cat.
The Westminster clock chimed eight. “Soon be time for bed” she murmured, disturbed from her half-sleep by the familiar tones. Felicity gazed towards the table and her eyes rested on the now yellowing photograph of her long lost lover. Then her mind drifted back to that Christmas Eve many years ago when her Edward had stood by that very table and promised that they would be married when he returned from the war. But he never returned. She thought of the simple stark message from the War Office, “Missing in action, presumed dead”. Felicity brushed away a tear. “So many years, so many years” she whispered and shuffled into her pink pom-pom slippers. Outside the frost froze the flakes of snow into a hard white carpet. An unearthly silence settled about the little house as she quietly prepared for bed.
Undaunted by the bitter cold, the all-male choir of St Mary the Virgin’s church gathered in the congregational hall. Dressed in their warmest clothes with gloves, knitted hats and thick socks the singers carolled forth into the frosty street, determined to bring the spirit of Christmas to one and all. “Keep those lanterns up lads” shouted Harry, the keen as mustard choirmaster, his breath misting in the winter’s night.
Inside her snug bedroom Miss Felicity curled cosy in a deep soft eider-downed bed. Drifting slowly into dreamless sleep she heard, far, far away in the distance, the faint sounds of the approaching carol singers. “Christmas alone” she sighed, thinking of times long past, when her life held promise, and Edward.
“Come on lads, let’s sing Silent Night it’s always a favourite. Harry cajoled his carollers who by this time were beginning to feel the chill of this frozen Christmas Eve. Slowly they began walking along the road leading to Miss Felicity’s home. The house stood slightly sheltered behind snow-hung conifers dimly lit by a solitary street lamp.
“Mind if I join you for this one?” The voice came from a tall young man in a long brown overcoat with bright brass buttons. Harry was startled; the stranger had appeared, so it seemed, from thin air. “Must have been the snow deadening his footsteps” he thought. “Yes why not, spirit of Christmas and all that, hope you’ve got a good voice.” Harry led the group to a halt almost directly beneath the bedroom window of Miss Felicity’s house. They formed themselves into their practised pattern with the tall stranger standing at the rear. He sang along with them in a deep, dark haunting voice: ” Silent night, Holy night, All is calm, All is bright”.
Miss Felicity was awake at once. They were singing her favourite carol. Happy memories flooded back from a time long, long ago when she was a young woman. Felicity filled with emotion, thinking of those distant days and what might have been. Pushing back the heavy eiderdown she shuffled to the window and drew back the deep red velvet curtains. Staring out into the bleak night she saw, in the semi-darkness below, the glow of the carol singers’ lanterns. “Holy infant so tender and mild”
Her heart seemed to leap into her mouth, there at the back of the group of carollers he stood. Yet it could not be him, tall, strong, sure of himself dressed in his Army greatcoat, bright brass buttons reflecting the lanterns’ yellow light. “Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace”
With an agility that denied her years Felicity hurried downstairs and flung the front door wide open. “Edward!……Edward!” she cried, but the carol singers had gone. She could see, for a brief moment, the indistinct outline of the group as it turned away disappearing into the swirling winter mist. Careless of the cold, she walked out to where the carollers had stood, singing of a Holy night long, long ago. In the dim light cast by the lone street lamp Felicity saw something twinkling, something yellow on the crisp white carpet of snow. Her thin fingers reached down and picked up a single brass button.
“You’re quite a good singer” Harry said to the stranger as the choir strolled back to the congregational hall. “Have you ever thought of joining a choral society?” he asked. But answer came there none, from the still silent night.