Adventures of a Publisher
Adventures of a Publisher
21st June 2015
A minor triumph! It has taken me two weeks but I formatted "My Take" in Word. What's more, Smashwords accepted it without demanding any revisions or corrections! This may not sound like much to some people, but I have been using Quark Xpress to lay-out books all my computer life, so it is quite a challenge . . .
Anyway, you can get your My Take e-book here.
11th June Dreaming again!
You see that tall house in the centre of the picture? that is the house where Bérenger Saunière, the priest of Rennes-le-Château, was born and spent his childhood. On 5th June I heard that it was for sale with a recently dropped new price that I could afford! Immediately I thought; I could give up my dream of living in Carcassonne for that! To live in Bérenger's house would be very special indeed. ( Click here for an article that will tell you why.)
The fountain in the village square, with the mythical sea creature that reminded me of the legend that the Merovingian king Clovis was half mythical sea-creature, is situated in front of the house and across from the church where Bérenger worshipped as a boy. You can look south-east from this square to see Rennes-le-Château on its hilltop, as Bérenger must have done so often in his life. From a practical point of view for me, from the square you can take a road directly down to Couiza, where are the shops and facilities and buses to Carcassonne every hour. I found a video showing the inside of the house; click here to see it. The house was so lovely inside, built in 1840 and hardly changed from its fin-de-siècle splendour.
I saw the ground floor with its front terrace, superb living room, roomy kitchen and dining room, as a meeting place for "Rennies", as those who love Rennes-le-Château are called, with space for my various collections - of Roman remains from the region, books about Rennes-le-Château in French and English, and statuettes and pictures from the time of Bérenger Saunière. And shelves of my books of course! Upstairs also had plenty of room, where Jacek could come and stay, and where Kris and Jean-Luc could stay all summer if they wished. Kris (my translator) had just hosted a major French conference at Rennes-les-Bains and told me she would like to concentrate on smaller conferences of up to 15 people. Perfect!
What a power-house we would be, with all the activities associated with books and research about Rennes-le-Château, plus a great deal of sun on summer evenings . . .
I didn't even pray in the church, it seemed to me and many of my friends that it was my destiny to get it, it felt so right for all of us. The mechanics were in place, I had apparently found a buyer for my own house, and so I made an appointment with the agents to view Bérenger's house on the 11th June. I wanted it sooner than that but the agents couldn't make it, they said.
At seven o'clock in the morning on the 11th, I received an e-mail - the house had been sold. I couldn't believe it, notaires don't usually sell houses at seven in the morning. Eventually the agents said that an offer had been received and accepted, because of which they were "not allowed" to show me the house.
Suddenly, it all swept back, especially when the promised buyer for my own house never materialised either. The sense that, instead of being someone special, I was just the woman that agents and other people never quite told the truth to. A straight answer to a straight question seemed to be out of the question. Much more than a house was involved, pride, status and ambition all hit the dust with an almighty bang.
It took me a while to face up to this, I never spoke to another human being for four days.
And all the other properties on the market seemed so drab . . .
4th June Setting up the season
Being a publisher is hard physical work sometimes. I had done all that needed to be done, as regards designing publicity posters, posting them on Facebook, ringing up everybody, such as the restaurant and the bookshop, for a book-signing of "White Ladies" in Le Jardin restaurant at Rennes-le-Château. But - "Can you bring some more Sacred Journeys?" said Porte de Rennes bookshop. They had sold out! As books weigh heavy and I was traveling on public transport sudden re-calculations had to be done! How many White Ladies should I take, how many people would want me to sign it? But I made it (exhausted!) and was met at Couiza by Trebha and by Ani Williams in Rennes-le-Château, who was singing there that day to praise in song white ladies everywhere.
I had asked the restaurant for Blanquette wine but Champagne arrived!
Suddenly, I looked across and someone looked familiar - it was Lucinda, that I'd met years ago, we had done a bit of research around Mary Magdalene's route through Bugarach some years ago and I'd used the pictures in the book. She was quite moved and joined us when a second bottle of Champagne miraculously appeared on our table!
I was meeting up with friends to show them the glories of Carcassonne Bastide, the lower town, that not many people know about. It was founded by St Louis in 1247, after the fall of Montségur. They were curious about my purchase, so we decided to go and have a look at Two Lodges.
It was strange . . .I realised that other people had been there. The furniture inside had all been moved about. But why, after I had signed for it? Were they still showing other people around? What was going on? There was a lot of pigeon droppings in the courtyard and a lot of dead pigeon bodies, half rotten.
The sellers had refused to clean the property - but?
We went into North Lodge. Someone had been there and had left the upstairs window open. To my horror, the pigeons had moved in. The upstairs bedroom was full of pigeon droppings, all over the chairs and the bed and mattress that had been left in the house.
South Lodge? We never even went in, because pigeons inside the house were flinging themselves against the windows trying to get out, honestly, it was like a horror movie, literally The Birds by Hitchcock.
Well, I knew the property was a cheap price because it was "a ruin" that needed renovating. I was happy about that - it would be an interesting project. But I would not be able to ask someone to help me carry unwanted furniture and mattresses to the tip if everything was impregnated with pigeon droppings which incidentally, are poisonous to humans.
I cracked. Why were these sellers such bloody awful people that they couldn't clean up the place to sell it?
In France one has the right of retraction for a week after signing the first document, the compromis. So I retracted.
I feel bad about this. After six months I am now no nearer to "Moving the Office" as I was in January.
So excuse me while I go and have a nervous breakdown and mourn my dream. I will come back next week
18th May - how to sign a contract
My new revised contract for the Two Lodges came through so I immediately made an appointment for 2pm. This was going to be my big day! After five months of negotiation, the two Lodges were going to become mine!
Even the notaires themselves are disputing with the Government about the increased legislation. The contract was over 100 pages long and each page had to be either initialed or signed. Tedious! But at last it was done.
I felt very strange. No surge of triumph, no thinking - this will be mine!
My faith in human nature was restored when my friend Gabi, who had run me, got a flat tyre outside the supermarket. We asked for help. The young man in the supermarket was kindness itself and never lost patience when Gabi thought she had lost her purse - it was on the roof of the car! We decided to go to the Café de la Gare (we were in Lézignan) because they knew all the taxi-drivers there and I often call in for a pastis, and a taxi booking, when returning from Carcassonne. The young man offered to drive us to the station. "But won't your boss mind?" said Gabi. The young man said; "Je suis le chef!" (I am the boss.) For some reason this amused me for the rest of the day. Je suis le chef!
14th May - how to sign a book
We held a book-signing in Rennes-le-Château for "Rennes-le-Château My take" in front of the Porte de Rennes shop on the way to the church and tourist office. This is an excellent spot because everybody who comes to the village walks past this tiny garden and it is only a step away from le Jardin de Marie when weary signers need refreshment!
Contributors to the book included Susie Harrison from Bugarach, Anneke Koremans from Belvianes, then Tim and Cyndi Wallace-Murphy from Esperaza, but the star of our show was Jacek (in the pictures) who had come all the way from Gdansk in Poland. Everything got off to a fine start due to his gift of a bottle of Polish Honey Liqueur. Tastes even better in the Mediterranean sunshine!
Lots of readers passed by of all nationalities, French and Spanish but also Belgian, Dutch or German who practised their English on us. The interest in Rennes-le-Château is immense. Some readers went away with a lot of signatures by various authors and the thought occurred to me; how does one do a signature - professionally? To give extra value to your reader?
The purpose of the signature is so that the reader can meet you and relate to you and tell their friends about it afterwards so - learn the art of chat! Secondly, they will look out in the future for other books by you and thirdly, the signature makes the book more valuable and the reader is less likely to lend or give the book to his or her friends.
What to write in the dedication? Find out a bit about your reader and make sure the name appears in full, so before you sign ask a few questions and find the person's name. Write; "To - reader's name - with best wishes for your holiday or research" or whatever the person has told you about themselves. Then add your own signature, as personalised as you can make it memorable, with exclamations marks or whatever! Then add the date for this is a special occasion for your reader, and the place - somewhere like Rennes-le-Château obviously adds an important value to the book and if the people are on holiday, adds a little extra to their later travellers' tales.
Meanwhile, our event turned into quite a party, we made jokes and drank wine and the customers joined in.
We sold a fair number of "My Takes" and people came out of the shops with books they had bought there and I was pleased to see books I had published a while ago, including "The Visigothic Inheritance" and "The Sacred River of Rennes-les-Bains" were still selling well.
When I got home I checked the art of professional signing in a French book whose author I met and still remember, Jean-Pierre Juge, whose book, the Mystery of the Priest with Millions, was being promoted in Narbonne in 2000 - the year I moved here! He was chatting to me for ages and wrote in the book; "For Valerie, dear sister of the pen and lover of mysteries, with all my sympathies!" This was a joke as we had been talking about how the mysteries will never leave you alone . . .
6th May the worse thing you can do is . . .
to go and look at a house you can't afford! It was even called Ste Anne . . .
Just a few minutes walk from Carcassonne station, it had a garden . . . I was thinking, I could have a dog again! I could grow herbs, I could hang washing out to dry in the sunshine, friends could come and we could drink wine together in what was once a genteel pre-World War One house . . . with marble fireplaces and elegant staircases. . . I could have moved into it the next day! It was perfect.
The price was less than the price of my house in the Narbonnais, so it was feasible. Then the agent told us that the property had only been on the market for six days and she had already received an offer from a property developer and would I like to make a higher offer? Well, I couldn't enter that sort of race because I didn't yet have a buyer and so wasn't in a position to proceed.
Everybody was saying - I took a lot of photos - oh, you must get it, you must! I was dreaming for several days until I realised that a property developer would always have more money than I would and then I plunged into a depression.
So never go and see somewhere unless you are in a position to buy, if you like it, it will only break your heart.
29th April Everything happens at once
The vine was growing out of control and climbing over the wall into next door! I had gone with my friends Gabi and Peter to see the Two Lodges after a gruelling interview with the agent. The compromis had not been sent to me because the sellers wanted a hefty deposit paying! After over four months of negotiations! I refused absolutely. The agent sent us to see another property, just in case, but somehow I couldn't see myself as a shop-keeper . . .
As I walked back into the house that evening the phone was ringing. I'm delivering your books! said Sébastien my printer. The next minute boxes of White Ladies arrived, just in time for the bank holiday.
It was strange to see the culmination of nearly three years work all neatly folded into pages of colour pictures and experiences; for further details, click here.
21st April Day on a High
I was on my way to meet Kris my translator at Rennes-le-Château and had nearly an hour to wait between train connections at Carcassonne, so decided to have a little walk around the Bastide thinking, as I crossed the road by the traffic lights into the Bastide, that I might live there one day. But instead, in my head, I already did live there. I can hardly explain it but it gave me a real high, a rush of adrenalin, this was my place. It was a bit like when I had my first property in France and was coming and going until I could move permanently; it was already my home and I was merely going back to England to work.
And although I first saw "Two Lodges" on 23rd December 2014, I've thought since that day it would be mine, in spite of all the legal delays.
Well, in Carcassonne people were stopping and chatting on the streets, and saying hello to me, and then I met the "bouquiniste" selling rare second-hand books and we got chatting, he seemed surprised to meet an English publisher . . . anyway, maybe he will be my first friend in Carcassonne.
Kris and Jean-Luc were waiting for me at the Café St. Anne at Couiza and off we went for lunch at Le Jardin, which was very peaceful. Everyone was sitting in the shade of the trees. But - business! Kris was thinking about which book to translate next, we had been working together on a suitable text for "Barbarian Gold" in translation, but as a well-known French writer is also doing a Visigothic book this year, we thought one by us in French would do better to wait a while. Meanwhile, she had been researching the Celts (to find out who lived at Rennes-les-Bains in the time of Claudia Procula) and I had my proof of the White Ladies book with me.
And one day the rest will be history . . . then we continued to Les Labadous to meet Jaap Rameijer, Kris had heard so much about him. Jaap was working in his garden, with its view of Rennes-le-Château perched on its hilltop, but entertained us royally as we all made plans for the coming season.
It is Jaap's heaven there, in the valley with the stream in the sun, the place where once, he says, in another life, he was a young boy who became Mary Magdalene's friend and willing slave. It was a day for mystic revelations!
14th April But what about the office?
It was my birthday! I was so depressed at the lack of action for "The Two Lodges", the property I want so much, that I went to see another house in Carcassonne.
It was a nice house in a very friendly area just south of the Bastide with a large window opening onto the street; the front room would have made a good bookshop. We had great fun pretending to be book-buyers at the window, "I'll have three copies of Usson please!" said Carol. However, the lay-out of the rooms meant I would have nowhere to entertain visitors on the ground floor, and I kept thinking of the courtyard at "Two Lodges". . . . so then we went for lunch in the vegetarian restaurant which was good food in a "zen" setting, and it was warm enough to sit outside.
Then, when I got home, a new compromis had been sent to me by e-mail! I approved it and just have to wait now for the buyers to sign it and at last I will have something on paper to prove I am going to buy "Two Lodges!"
5th April "My Take" promotion day
It was a cold Easter Sunday in the Jardin de Marie restaurant at Rennes-le-Château, which is why we are all huddled in our overcoats! There's Tim Wallace-Murphy, me, his wife Cyndi and Anneke Koremans. It was the first time I had met the Wallace-Murphy's, who wrote separately in the book. I was impressed by Cyndi's gaiety and Tim has a great depth of knowledge of religious mysteries around the world, about which he has written several books. (This comes through in the article he wrote for "My Take.") Jaap Rameijer (see post for 12th March below) had come too and took some photos.
But we had to get serious about Book promoting! Here's Ani Williams buying hers. She is well-known locally as a harpist and spiritual coach.
Then we had fun and discussions for the rest of the afternoon, which finished with a delightful highlight when Anaiya Sophia arrived with some of her customers - she has a guest-house at Puivert - and they carried away what books I had left!
Altogether, I was so impressed by the way the writers all liked the book so much, not only for their own pages but for the variety of ideas an opinions expressed in it. None of them knew what the others had written and so one could see many agreements of ideas but also many divergences, which is of course part of the magic of Rennes-le-Château. Other writers not able to come (from Germany, Italy, Poland and Canada, no less!) have all been sent their complimentary copies and if enough of them are in Rennes-le-Château sometime during the summer we will hold another signing.
30th March Back to Rennes-le-Château
"My Take" is rapidly becoming a howling success! Interest was triggered when I posted a picture of the BACK cover.
It consisted of quotes taken from the articles written by "Rennies" for the book. (Never waste your back cover!) All the writers were given a free hand and none of the writers knew what other people had written. It was really interesting to see the contributions as they came in. One or two themes were consistent, such as the Holy Grail, but generally a picture emerged of the deep "meaningfulness" of Rennes-le-Château to the people who live or visit there. The personal stories of those who started a completely new life were were most moving.
Myself and the authors are holding a presentation to celebrate the book, so do come along if you can. It's on Easter Sunday, 5th April, from 11-30 onwards and there will be a glass for you there, to sip as you meet the writers and get your copy signed . . . they cannot all come, of course, as people have written from all over Europe, the States and Canada, but we locals will do our best to please you!
See more here.
23rd March Back to books
While "My Take" was at the printers, I took a long hard look at "White Ladies in Languedoc and Ariège." My printer thought my cover design was too harsh and so I designed a softer, lighter one. Here the two are side by side.
Then I posted the two covers of Facebook and asked for opinions - which was the better cover? People liked them both, and the general consensus was that the first was more passionate but the second was more likely to sell books!
So the second it will have to be . . . for more info about the book, click here.
16th March What I want
My friend Jaap had advised me to "go for what you want" so on this sunny Saturday I rang the agent for the property in Carcassonne and told him about the faulty compromis. He was delighted to hear from me! He will check all the mistakes and errors and get the seller's notaire to send me a copy for approval before the seller signs it. I should think so too!
Apparently, the compromis, or first document, is issued and signed in the office of the seller's notaire, while the Acte de Vente, or second and final document, is signed in the office of the buyer's notaire. As the seller is an elderly lady, they want to do it through the post . . .
Meanwhile, I have been to see the city architect, a charming man. Carcassonne has an "initiative" to improve the quality of both housing and life in the Bastide of Saint Louis (or lower town.) The property must be restored in the original style, the roofs will be under my charge but the electricity and water systems must be done by Council-approved companies, but grants for this work will be available. I rang the council and she said that all I will need to do is submit a declaration of work for approval. That doesn't sound too difficult . . .
12th March, Les Labadous
I needed some time-out from houses! I had been going up and down to Carcassonne like a fiddler's elbow, and one of the Rennes-le-Château bookshops had placed a massive order, so I rang my friend Jaap Rameijer and asked him to meet me off the 1€ bus at Couiza and do me the favour of running me up to the "citadel" to deliver the books and then I would buy him lunch.
"Oh no need for that," said Jaap gaily. "Let me cook lunch for you at Les Labadous!" Well, he has just published (in his native Dutch) a cook-book for men so I considered myself honoured! But also, his home Les Labadous is very special, and after we had eaten the chicken stir-fry with carrots and herbs we walked around the domain which is situated about two kilometres to the south of Rennes-le-Château, which can be seen from the grounds.
It's called the "Brook of Colours" and Jaap was baptised in it, for his domain is a spiritual "house of friends" and every summer delightful people come to stay in this peaceful domain in magic Rennes-le-Château country.
Jaap is also a writer, his book about Orbs being well-accepted, and he told me about his book "Men are different." It is about improving men/women relationships which led to quite a cheerful discussion! He asked me to edit the English version from the point of view of tidying his English, which I did over the following few days with pleasure. (My rates are reasonable . . . ) I did NOT alter a single word about the holy war . . . !
You can read much more about Jaap and everything he does by clicking here.
I thought you'd like to see this picture taken while wandering around the Bastide of Saint Louis at Carcassonne between meetings! It's from the fountain in the Place Carnot and it will appear in my White Ladies book.
But legal transactions are not! A whole month has gone by! This is because "moving the office" is moving slowly (the planet Mercury was going backwards, they tell me) but the roses in the courtyard are still blooming . . . I first saw the property just before Christmas and have had three builders look at it to give me quotes and the condition was worse than previously supposed because the official survey had not looked at the two roofs. Then the notaire designed a contract and the seller signed it but I had not even seen it . . . I decided (instinct) to ask at the town hall, even though the estate agent told me three times it was not necessary, for information about the property and I was given eleven pages of building regulations.
The "Bastide of St. Louis" is a town of great historical interest (one of the reasons that I want it) and the Town Hall wishes to make sure everyone is properly housed to a certain standard (grants are available) and to encourage people to visit there - "make the tourism" the French say. I am just the person they want!
So I will go and see the recommended architect and perhaps we will get something moving now.
To re-cap - the property is in the historic lower town, not the Cité of Carcassonne, and consists of a courtyard with two small houses, on for me and one for my guests. It is quite private so we will be able to hold parties and book signings and so on. Carcassonne is much closer to Rennes-le-Château and I will be able to travel to the Two Rennes more easily and more frequently. The property needs renovation but is utterly charming and exactly right for me. Here's some more pictures.
So - wish me luck!
5th January 2015
The good news was a new boost to my business but the bad news was - postage has gone up! and gone up quite a lot too. I'd been reading something about Shakespeare so write this little ditty;
Oh woe is me, undone am I,
the Post has raised its prices,
they all have gone sky-high!
Beloved friends, times are hard
but I make a promise from this bard.
Place your order here and now
I will absorb the cost I vow!
But not "4ever" I'm afraid. But I'll do my best.
This made me quite philosophical about writing and the art of writing. 1. I have always thought of it as a craft rather than an art. After all, Shakespeare was a hack - they demanded a play for the following week and he wrote it! 2. If you write a private diary, and then edit it to publish it, is that "Art" or not? 3. Writing is certainly 99% perspiration, especially the act of turning the 1% inspiration into something published. Proof-correcting is the worst. 4. A book in the process of being written evolves over time, and a second edition can evolve further, with extra facts, text and pictures being added. So when is a book ever finished? 5. In this case a book is not static in the sense that art, a picture hanging on the wall, is. 6. Equally, a reader needs time to assimilate your book, in the same way we need time to appreciate music, which often takes us through a journey. And like music your book must also reach a crescendo and a satisfying conclusion. Put more energy into the end of your book than the beginning.
4th January 2015 - a New Year!
From January 1st 2015 we have publisher status, as Val Wineyard Publishing is now registered as a French business. Isn't that great news? The main advantage is that my books can enter the French distribution system, I will have to go along to head offices dressed in my best suit. Or maybe the vague but brilliant artist approach might work better? We'll see!
To celebrate this, on the last day of December 2014 I had an idea, I don't know why, to do a compendium to be called "My Take on Rennes-le-Château," or something similar. I asked a few friends if they would be interested in contributing and was taken aback by the positive response. I am already editing some of them! Here's the project;
So if anyone out there is interested - send me your articles. Soon!
Readers have been fascinated by my "Moving the Office" story (click here to see it at the end of the article), many adding all sorts of theories on Facebook, plus offers to help with renovation, which have been gratefully received. The property is actually two houses, one for me and one for visitors, with a shared courtyard between them, in which is enough space to build a bookshop. It would also be suitable for book-signings and social events. However, the situation is not without drama! I went to see it with a builder friend and one of the houses needs a new roof! The owner is not in the least interested, he just wants to sell it! However, I really like it, so all sorts of machinations are afoot. We found it very sad that the house had just been abandoned, for twelve years, and everything left behind; the picture is of the man who used to own it, the seller has inherited it.
A friend has suggested I make copious notes and then write a book about it called The Carcassonne Chronicles. The two-house property is in the Bastide or lower town. Modern Carassonne is basically in three parts, the Cité on the hill, originally a Celtic oppidum, taken over by the Romans and then the Visigoths (they hid the treasure of the Temple of Jerusalem there), the Bastide of St.Louis, built in 1247, and the town all around which has grown immensely ever since the airport made its appearance in the 1980's.
Something else to write, yet more titles! I'm even thinking of doing this column, Adventures of a Publisher, as an e-book. (Not to mention several unpublished novels . . . but hasn't everybody got those?)
Meanwhile, I decided to devote this winter to getting my blogs sorted out! I had so many of them, so I have combined two into one and called it " Rennes Times Two." The picture above is on the opening page for it was taken in the "Place de Deux Rennes", the place of two Rennes, so I thought that was appropriate. All those who would like to write their "take" on Rennes-le-Château might be pleased to hear that includes Rennes-les-Bains as well.
Meanwhile, I have been writing this publisher's blog for about eighteen months now. For previous entries, look under "Archives" at the bottom of our Contents list on the right, and if you wish, add a comment about whether it would make an interesting book . . .