The Story of my First Story

A Cautionary Tale of Hope and Naivety

A long time ago (1996 I think?) in a bedroom not so far away (about three and a half miles away from where I live now), a teenage boy decided to put pen to paper for the first time.

Twenty-five years later that same boy is still writing and finally, after a quarter of a century (on and off) of trying, I’m finally seeing my work in print and online.

This year has been my most successful writing year ever, but the road to where I am now starts way back at the end of the last century.

It’s Robin Tunney’s fault, you see. Well, her, Fairuza Balk and Keifer Sutherland.

For those who don’t know, Robin Tunney and Fairuza Balk were rival witches in teen horror flick, “The Craft.”

I went to see the Craft when it came out in the cinema, and after I watched the film something strange happened.

The characters lingered in my mind. I asked myself what happened next in their lives? I started imagining how scenes could’ve happened differently. I started thinking about how I would’ve written the plot if it was up to me.

More importantly, I started wondering what would’ve happened if the witches from the Craft had met four other outsiders with supernatural powers.

I was, of course, talking about The Lost Boys (the vampires I mean. Not Peter Pan’s crew).

Four witches vs four vampires. The idea sparked a fire within me. Within days I was scribbling their story in exercise books when I was supposed to be doing homework. A week or so later, the exercise book was full and the story complete.

The same can’t be said for my homework.

Ignoring such concepts as editing and revision, after completing the first story I jumped straight into book two, then into book’s three and four.

Then A-levels got in the way. The notebooks went into the cupboard. And stayed there for a year.

Eventually, I dug them out, re-read them and realised there was something in them. Mainly a lot of crap. But amidst the crap, there was some good stuff too.

So, picking out the best bits, and working on a PC now, not by hand, I rewrote the story and called it “Blessed Be.”

For the life of me now I can’t remember the plot, but I do remember some of the characters. Rebekah and Marie, my rough copies of Sarah and Nancy from the Craft, would reappear in slightly different guises in some of my later stories. The head vampire Jared however — a cross between David from Lost Boys and Armand for Interview with the Vampire— never made it out of “Blessed Be”.

When all was said and done, Jared was dead, Rebekah was the victorious saviour of her coven and the book totalled around 100000 words.

Shortly afterwards, I saw an ad in the newspaper. A publisher was looking for manuscripts, so (still without any editing beyond spell check) I printed out my “masterpiece”, slipped it into a padded envelope and dragged it to the post office.

A short while later I got a letter in the post. The publishers loved my book, thought it was an amazing piece of gothic horror, and couldn’t wait to publish it.

I was stunned and delighted and dreaming of my future life as the next Stephen King.

The thousands of pounds that the publisher wanted me to pay towards the publication of my book was a mere trifling matter.

After all, literary luminaries such as James Joyce has paid to publish their early works.

I knew this because the publisher had said so in their letter asking for cash.

Now, I was nineteen at the time, but I wasn’t a complete idiot. It all seemed too good to be true. Surely this was a con?

So I did some research. And lo-and-behold, there in my local Waterstones were some real-life books with pages and covers and everything, and they were apparently published by the same publisher who wanted to publish my book.

Thrilled at my good fortune (I was nineteen at the time and hadn’t heard of vanity publishing) I went to my bank, managed to secure a loan to cover the cost of the publication of my soon-to-be-bestseller, then went home, signed the contract, included a cheque for the first instalment, sent both off and…

Heard no more. Time passed. These were the days when email was a luxury and people still wrote actual letters. I wrote a few over the next six months, each one enquiring what was happening with my book, but I never got a reply.

Confused, I looked into the company again. And this time I realised that the books in Waterstones were not published by the same company.

Oh, they shared a similar name, but on closer inspection, I realised that the logo’s were different. As was the publisher’s address on the inside of the book.

Thinking that I may have been hoodwinked, I decided not to send any further letters. Or cheques.

I also did what any impulsive nineteen/twenty year old with a lot of money in the bank and an unhealthy obsession with heavy metal would do.

I bought a B.C. Rich guitar, Peavey amp and turned my attention to becoming a rock star.

I never heard from the “publisher” again but I still see their advert in the papers from time to time. I also never made it as a rock star but that’s another story.

A year or so later, I felt the urge to put pen to paper again. “Blessed Be” was confined to a dusty shelf in my bedroom, and eventually lost altogether. A new story was begun.

And over the next seven years, I wrote more novels and a fair few short stories.

One of those stories was called “Weird Mirror”.

In 2020 I would rewrite “Weird Mirror” as “Mirror Mirror”. In 2021 it was a finalist in the Write Hive Horror Contest and became my first published story when it featured in the Duplicitous anthology published by Write Hive in conjunction with Inkedingray.

Since then, I’ve returned to my writing roots. This year, I’ve written about vampires and about witches, but I’ve never written about vampires vs witches again.

Maybe in the future I will.

Maybe Rebekah’s story will be told again.

Maybe “Blessed Be’s” time is yet to come.

4 thoughts on “The Story of my First Story

  1. Gary, I’m so sorry to read what happened to you with being conned into sending money to that bogus book publisher. However, I’m pleased that the experience did not kill your passion for writing. And congratulations on getting one of your stories published in an anthology. I wish you continued success with your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You were brave for even trying. Some are so paralyzed with and the pursuit of perfection they don’t even start, much less follow through. At least that publisher did not try to get money from you. All was not lost.

    Liked by 1 person

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