Another novel finished and submitted!

With reference to my two most recent blogs (Everything goes in threes and In praise of small independent publishing houses), I’ve spent an intensive fortnight unearthing the 78,000 word draft of a novel, which several years ago I deemed unsatisfactory and shelved, and performing restorative surgery on it. This involved a 16% reduction of the word count, to 63,000, and a good deal of reorganisation. I then wrote the requisite synopsis and covering letter and submitted the whole package to my favourite indie publisher, Fantastic Books Publishing. I asked them first whether they’d be willing to consider the submission and they were kind enough to say they’d welcome another manuscript from me. That was the uplift to the spirits, or ego-boost, I needed!

The novel addresses the question “What would happen to society if law-breaking became inconceivable and therefore impossible?” and the corollary question “How could such an apparent blessing be made to happen?” The answer to the corollary question involves an intervention by the University of Pandaemonium, otherwise known as Hell, and the answer to the main question is “catastrophe”, which is only averted by the prayers of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It’s obviously a comic novel, but the theme/question is serious in an abstract, academic kind of way.

Periods of intensive work aren’t unfamiliar to me, but I suspect I was driven to this one because however insouciant I remain on the surface, deep down I was unsettled by the cancer diagnosis and needed to distract myself in a creative way. I was also mildly disconcerted by the premature arrival of autumn. As our long hot dry summer draws towards its more characteristically British close (grey skies, intermittent rain, cool temperatures), signs of autumn have started to arrive… about a month early. Blackberries, rowanberries and haws are as ripe now as they usually are in mid-September, and the trees have adopted the tired appearance they attain when their leaves are about to lose their greenness and start to fall. Indeed, some horse chestnuts, for example, are already wearing brown. The migratory birds are still with us because they respond to day length rather than contingent meteorological signals, but plant life is another matter.

Premature autumn or not, I’m about to go on holiday. I’ve hired a cottage in the Yorkshire Dales and I plan to do some walking and sightseeing. I’ll be near to Fountains Abbey and fairly close to Riveaulx Abbey and Richmond Castle, among other antiquities, so I shall enjoy myself even if the weather is less than perfect. When I return it will be to a new creative writing course, which I start teaching on 10th September, more work on the folktale film project, and the usual round of storytelling gigs and open mic sessions… interspersed with hospital visits and in due course, no doubt, an admission for surgery.

Sufficient until the day…


  • Your new book sounds brilliant, Mark – do keep us posted about publication (and title!).

    And yes, fall is early – the husband started smelling it in the air a few days ago (his smeller’s better than mine), and the trees across from me have the beginnings of color change just at the top.

    Am pulling for you with this cancer. Really hope all goes well.

    • Mark Henderson

      The manuscript I’ve recently submitted has the working title The Engklimastat, an invented word with Greek roots – it denotes “that which stops/prevents law-breaking”. I don’t know whether the publisher will accept it but it was fun to write.

      The cancer isn’t a major worry – at least I’m not letting it become a major worry! I’m going to see an oncologist tomorrow (6th) and the relevant surgeon next Tuesday (11th). I suspect there’ll be unamusing consequences whichever course of treatment I choose, but they’ll be better than the alternative!

  • phibby venable 18.09.2018 - 19:30pm

    Mark, Congratulations on the book! And I want to add that you are extremely talented and deserving. I think this is a beautiful post – love the vivid descriptions of fall & even the tired trees are real enough for me to picture in the excellent view you bring.
    I am deeply sorry for what you are enduring with the cancer, but reassured by your optimistic attitude and courage.
    hugs, Phibby

    • Mark Henderson

      Thank you again, Phibby. The cancer is small and localised and I’ve no doubt it will respond to treatment. There’s a high probability of more or less full recovery. Appointments are now set up, and in the meantime I carry on with my busy life as normal!

  • Goodonya! Another novel finished! Another goodonya for keeping such a healthy attitude about your condition. Now I need to read the rest of your blogs so I can find updates.

    I hope you enjoyed your holiday.


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