As my character, Botswana policeman, Detective DICE MODISE began to take shape, mid-2014, I again approached Harry Bingham of The Writer’s Workshop (now Jericho Writers – www.jerichowriters.com) to advise me. My chief problem was confusing my POVs (points of view). He also suggested that there should be more action; not gritty enough. Every bit of advice helps, and by this time I had learned to take Harry’s suggestions seriously. As a first move, I switched the murder to the opening chapter and followed it up with the introduction of my two main characters and their meeting with an irate hippo bull in the Okavango Delta.
The book I ordered from Kalahari.net arrived; a copy of Caitlin Davies’s book ‘Place of Reeds’. She had been editor/owner of the Okavango Observer while I was in Maun. She had been attacked by a man with a screwdriver and assaulted. I was hoping that the account of her experience would help me put a little authenticity into my Dice novels. Place of Reeds was not only useful from that point of view, it was a moving, powerful account of her marriage to a Motswana and the tragedies that finally forced her to return to England. Caitlin Davies writes very well and portrayed the Batswana and their culture and way of life as they are. It was an excellent back-grounding for Dice.
On 7th December, I finished writing Dice!! At 351 pages, I was quite pleased with it, but now the proof reading!! And deciding on a better title. Fergus Smith, friend and fellow author from the UK, whom I had met at Festival of Writers in York in 2010, read the draft and suggested Hunter’s Venom, and that fitted perfectly.
In between friends’ reviews and self-editing, the fun part was designing the cover. I settled on a rearing cobra. Later I improved it with the same image but part of a Delta sky scene which is an improvement.
In January 2015, I sent a copy of Dice to a South African friend who had suffered the traumatic experience of being hijacked and raped as their vehicle had been taken on a Toll Road near Johannesburg a few years back. Bravely, she had shared her rape experience with me, so is in the acknowledgements. She complimented me on the account of rape in my story; one of the cases investigated by Dice and the CID, and their budding awareness off secondary trauma by insensitive officials. In the end I attributed the book to rape victims and the organisation in Maun called Women Against Rape (WAR).
I wanted to send a copy of Dice to Caitlin Davies, so I wrote to her via a photographer she is working with in London, as I did not have an address for her. There was a reply from Caitlin Davies; thanking me for the appreciation of Place of Reeds but declining the request to read my book. Her assault was still too real, despite the fact that she wrote about it in her book.
What I was unable to obtain was feedback from Bonti Botumele, a Motswana writer I had known in Maun, regarding my portrayal of Batswana culture and traditions, although she did help with some vocabulary. But a great helper was Police Assistant Commissioner, Maloti Pauline Gabositwe, for all things Botswana Police.
By March I was ready to submit the script to a few agents and publishers. One to Simon Trewin of United Agents. I had met him at the Festival of Writing, in York, last year.
One to Ampersand Agents. Two weeks was all it took for them to send me a rejection email.
Another to Legend Press and one to David Headley, Literary Agent.
None of these panned out, but by June I was already into the second in the Sergeant Dice Modise Series, provisionally ‘Medicinal Purposes Only’ (which it remained).
I added it to the first completed chapter and sent it off to Lightship Publishing in the UK as an entry in their First Chapters competition. A winner would get guidance from a writer, an agent and a publisher to get it onto the market. The agent was Simon Trewin, to whom I had already sent the first Dice novel, Hunter’s Venom. Here was hoping the penny might drop.
So, self-publication, of course. However, the weight of promo and distribution falls also on the author. A huge learning curve and frustratingly time consuming.
Publishing directly through Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing – has eventually been the answer, but until my name is OUT THERE, sales are lean. Here is the new, and improved, I think, cover for Medicinal Purposes Only as you’ll find it on Amazon now.
Again, marketing and promo is up to me, and friends who can be bothered. Unmet fellow writers understand, and are still the best source of encouragement. My hat off to them, and I try to reciprocate whenever I am able.
The series is rounded off with the third novel involving Dice investigating an orphanage where an Afro-pop singer searches for her son, and is murdered shortly thereafter.
Dice became so real for me, along with his fellow officers, that, when I passed the police station on occasional visits to Maun, I had to stop myself from dropping in to catch up with them…