Where the Birds Were Broken

Right, I’ve gone public. That’s going to be the title of my novel (probably). I’ve now finished 4 chapters – out of 10 – and I intend completing it by the end of the year. I actually started it some years back, and then Kate Mosse published Labyrinth. That has a modern story and one set in the period of the Albigensian (Cathar) Crusade. It has a significant cave in it, and the Holy Grail figures in it too. Mine has two timelines – one modern and one Cathar; it has a cave, and the first draft mentioned the Holy Grail (that’s gone now, apart from a visit to Roslin Chapel). More weirdly, four of her characters had the same names as four of mine. Actually, that’s the easiest part of the coincidence to explain – we must have used the same reference source for local period names – the Inquisition records. But it threw me, I will admit, and I stopped writing my novel.

Very recently I decided to start again; it’s so different from Kate Mosse’s book that I don’t think anyone will accuse me of copycatting – besides, I started mine before hers was published. I was going to write it on retreat next year, but it’s going so well that I think I can do it in my own time, as it were. So that left me with a writing vacuum to fill next year. My new poetry collection is coming from Red Squirrel (Scotland) this September, and I didn’t want to start on a new poetry collection so soon after that.

I’ve come up with the idea of writing a book-length collection of haibun. It’s a form I like writing in, and I’ve had several published in magazines. Basho’s probably the best-known exponent of the form. His masterly Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Roads of the Deep North) is the classic example. Basically it’s a narrative, usually of a journey, written in poetic language, and including haiku. With all the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve seen, I’d love to translate my travel journals into poetry. So that’s what I want to do next year, if I get the chance. I need peace and quiet for this.

Most novel publishers look for authors who have at least three books in them, but at my time of life, and with all the other demands on my time, this will probably be my one and only novel. I think I’ll self-publish it in digital form – I’m happy with the books I’ve already published in Kindle editions. Will the haibun volume be published? I don’t know, and, frankly, at the moment it doesn’t matter so much as getting it written.


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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One Response to Where the Birds Were Broken

  1. Jim Murdoch says:

    Well I’ve never read Labyrinth so I’ll have nothing to compare it too. I’m not a plotter so I could never tell you how long any book was going to be. I’ve always aimed at 50,000 words—that feels about the right length for me—but with my third book I ended up writing 90,000. I love novellas but I just can’t seem to write one.

    I’ve never attempted to write haibun but then I’ve only written one haiku in forty years. I like the idea of these forms but they don’t really suit my voice.

    Digital publication is all fine and well. The real bugger is marketing, how to find the readers who know nothing about you. The trick, of course, is not to try and attract readers but to find out where they’re gathering (that would be Amazon then) and set out your stall there. In the morass of ebooks it’s so easy to get sucked under. I do small runs of my novels, an initial print of thirty and top ups of ten when stocks get low. But the increases in postage are making me seriously wonder if publishing another paperback wouldn’t be just vanity. Or I might just do the thirty and leave it at that. I still know quite a few people who don’t seem that crazy about ebook readers but it’s only a matter of time.

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