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The Last Mystery Writer

Writing, Waiting and Watching

By C. H. RichardPublished 7 months ago 9 min read
The Last Mystery Writer
Photo by Lucas Santos on Unsplash

Waiting was not something I was good at, but I had become accustomed to the endless game of watching the clock and hoping against hope. On this night I did not even anticipate that wish of accomplishment as the snow started to fall outside of the Violet’s Bookstore in downtown Bedford, New Hampshire. I looked over at my two kids who begrudgingly came with me. Avery, my fifteen-year-old daughter was on her phone, which was how I often saw her face in the last year since her mother got her that thing. Her pink hair looped over her face mask that she would take down every couple of minutes to post pictures of herself on social media. She had a textbook propped open on the table in front of her, so it looked like she was doing homework assigned over the holiday break.

My five-year-old son, Nicholas played with his truck “that can fly” as he floated it in the air while he laid on an old sofa propped back to the window. The sign over my table had already fallen. I glanced at the stack of my books that had not moved an inch except for one given to Violet, the owner and another to a customer who came for the children’s superhero party that was held earlier. I know the woman just felt bad as she could not get out of the store quick enough and there was no one else here. She handed me $11 for the cost and let me keep the change of a nickel.

Two copies sold of the fifteen books I brought. Avery was right when she shouted out in her exasperated tone on the drive over, “Who has a book signing the day after Christmas dad? Ma’s right sometimes you set yourself up to fail!” She was upset that I brought her here and she wouldn't have time to meet her friends later on.

The stress of the last two years had taken its toll on everyone in the family. My wife, Eva, left me just after Christmas in 2019, as she “was not going to watch me self-implode in another year of writing that stupid series.” We have been separated since and only started the divorce process a few months ago. The pandemic slowed even thinking about my book well, slowed in that it took two years to write as I am battling depression and had my own bout with Covid.

So here I am embarking on another launch of my book series. The first two in the series did fairly well on the local market. I had a great relationship with our town’s local bookstore who had several signing events for me. I sold more than a thousand copies each. I was on a roll. I quit my job and decided to write full time with Eva’s blessing at the time as things were going well. When the third installment in the series came out, the bookstore in my town closed and I was lost about how to market it. Needless to say, the book flopped with just under 200 copies and the fourth edition was worse with less than 50 copies which were all sold on the coastal part of the state. I’m not sure why I decided to do a fifth, except that I love my character and was not ready to give up on his story. However, Eva did not see it that way and gave me the ultimatum to go back teaching full time and forget about my series. I couldn’t do that. I did go back to teaching part time, but it wasn’t enough for her.

As I wrote the story during the pandemic, I really gave Ernie, the central character more life. He has been my friend all along. I wanted him to succeed even if I failed. He was on a mission to solve a murder mystery from his youth, all the while facing his own demons as a recovering alcoholic. I wanted to show he had finally made it.

"So here I am," I thought, "waiting the day after Christmas to sell a book at a bookstore in tiny village after devoting two years of my life and sacrificing my marriage, my income and many times my sanity for a story no one will read."

Truth of the matter was I didn't have many options. The larger bookstores were all going on-line and worked only with major publishers. This fifth edition of my Ernie Hatch detective series was published by a local publisher who was now facing financial trouble because of the pandemic. I found Violet’s bookstore an hour away from my home using a search engine. She let me have a signing for a copy of the book but could only offer me this day as apparently other local writers had found her store too. I did try to advertise a bit and posted on a social media page that Eva had setup for me when she still believed in me. I was surprised to see a few likes after the post went up. So, I had some hope for tonight. Then the snow started!

Violet even brought some gluten free tree shaped cookies over from the children’s party. Nicholas took one and made a face, but luckily did not insult her as he caught my eye. He nodded with words of thanks to Violet. Avery declined and slumped into a chair as soon as we arrived. Violet tried to engage her asking if she read the book. Avery still angry that she was here at all replied with a no and then turned to me and asked, “Is there magic or fantasy in the book, dad?”

“Avery there are no dragons, superheroes or witches! It is a detective series. You know how I’ve worked on this book for two years during this pandemic when the school shut down!”

Nicholas looked up from the couch and chimed in “Mommy says you are unemployed, and you should get a real job,” he turned back to his flying truck.

Red-faced I thanked Violet for the cookies. I let her know we would be ready to leave at 7:30 as we probably won’t get much foot traffic tonight. She nodded with a smile, and I felt like she knew there wouldn’t be any buyers coming anyways. “Okay Mr. Bailey, just let me know when you are ready so I can lock up. I’m going to clean the back room from the kid’s party. You should see the mess!”

I smiled and waved her on. I picked up one of my books and looked at my daughter who now stared at me with a pang of guilt.

“Dad it’s just that I’m not sure there is an audience for this kind of detective book anymore. Kids and even grown-ups like fantasy, horror or superheroes!”

I took a copy of my book, “The Man That I did Not See,” an Ernie Hatch Detective Mystery and held it under my arm. The wind had picked up as I looked out the frost covered windows. Not a person in sight.

I sat back in the chair and pulled out my pocket watch. My father gave me this watch, when I decided to pursue writing. He was an editor at the local newspaper and had tried to pursue his own novel writing career. He passed away after my first book, so he thought I had made it. He told me there are three W’s to becoming an author; Writing your story, Waiting for your someone to read your story and Watching to see if it will sell.

The pocket watch was something I kept with me every book signing, it brought me luck in the early years. I was hoping some of it would return. The bronze encasement glowed in the light. I watched the long arm pass each Roman numeral so very swiftly yet in slow motion 7:15, 7:16, 7:1 …. I started to nod off as my neck flung backwards. I felt the watch drop from my hand and startled me to wake as I pulled my head upright.

“What’s the point?” I yelled to the kids who both looked up in confusion. “Let’s pack up, there won’t be anyone coming out here tonight!”

I bent down to reach for the watch under the table, when a headlight beamed right through the glass of the front window. I turned to look, as a small heavy-set middle-aged woman came sliding towards store. She knocked and I waved her in. She opened the door wide as bell for customers rang with a tune.

“Hello, oh my, I’m here to meet C.K. Bailey, am I at the right place?” she asked while trying to catch her breath.

I was on my knees and moved towards her. “Yes I’m C.K. Bailey. Are you here for the book signing?”

“Yes, did I miss it?” she had a worried look on her face. “I got lost and my GPS was taking me all over the place. I shouldn’t listen to that thing anyways!”

“No, it’s here.” I honestly did not know what to say as I got to my feet. “Thank you, thank you for coming!”

“Oh, I can’t believe I am talking to C.K. Bailey, the girls in my group will be so excited. May I get a picture?” She asked as she held out her phone and stood next to me before I can answer. Her mask was around her chin and mine was still hanging on me as well, but I smiled as quickly as I could while she snapped a picture and looped her arm in mine.

“Our book club has read all four of your books and have been waiting to see what happens to Ernie? Does he go back to his wife? Has he another mystery to solve?” she looked at me inquisitively.

“Well, ah, here it is.” I handed her a copy.

Her eyes lit up with delight, my God, I actually have a fan. I’m still stunned.

“Now here is the thing Mr Bailey, the girls from my club all want a copy so I’ll need ten total.”

“Yes, of course. Avery, can you bag up ten copies for this lady, um sorry what was your name?

“Mr Bailey, I’m Clarice Lee Joy. I have been a fan of yours since your first book. What Happened on the Harbor!” She then reaches for a cookie.

“Those cookies have no gluten, sugar or flour.” Violet who had just come in from the back proudly exclaimed.

“They probably have no taste either!” laughed Clarice as she glanced over to see Violet’s frown and pulled her hand back.

“So, Mr Bailey, here is the thing. I came all the way out here from across the state not only to meet you. My you are a handsome fellow! Anyways, not only to meet you and get a copy of your book, but to see if you would speak at our book club next month? It would mean so much.”

“Why yes Clarice of course. Where do you meet?” I asked

“Mr Bailey everything is virtual now and we are connected to fifty states and parts of Canada. Each month one club gets to highlight a local author and next month our little club was chosen. As president of the club, I chose you, I mean if you are able?” she looks into my eyes for an answer.

“How many members from all 50 states and parts of Canada?” I ask in astonishment.

“About 50,000, but usually half that tune in. Here is my card with my email. I’ll send you the conferencing link.” I took the card and turned to Avery who was putting on her coat to help Clarice to her car with the books.

“You should plan on pre- ordering about 5,000 copies. The national club will cover the cost. From there individual members may want to purchase more. I really must go as the snow is coming down. I’m so excited you will be joining us. Call me in the next few days and we can work out more details.”

I walked back to the table still in shock. I picked up the last two copies of my book and just for a moment I tuned in. She paid for 10 copies, and we had already given away two. There should be three here. I looked over at Avery’s backpack to see “The Man I Did Not See” stuffed in it.

I wiped the tear as I fixed my mask. I checked my pocket watch which stopped when I dropped it and was now moving forward again.

FictionMystery

About the Creator

C. H. Richard

My passion is and has always been writing. I am particularly drawn to writing fiction that has relatable storylines which hopefully keep readers engaged

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  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (19)

  • Vicki Lawana Trusselli 2 months ago

    Loved this!

  • Sandra Tena Cole2 months ago

    So uplifting!!❣️ I was expecting a mysterious twist at the end, but this was even better! Loved it x

  • Novel Allen6 months ago

    I actually read every word, really well written story of perseverance and sticking to one's dream.

  • Great job Cindy!!! Very well written!!!

  • A nice revisit

  • Dana Crandell7 months ago

    This is pure gold, Cindy! Imagery, emotion, and so much that an aspiring author can relate to. Well done!

  • Beautiful, heartwarming & so filled with hope.

  • Mariann Carroll7 months ago

    Outstanding creation. 💕It was like watching the story up close and personal

  • JBaz10 months ago

    I felt like I was there, feeling the angst and frustration. I was hooked this and just kept wondering where is iy taking me. You last line was wonderful.

  • Natalie Wilkinson12 months ago

    Shocked at the idea of an actual fan, feeling that. I can’t wait to find out what happens at the book club.

  • Lynda Spargur12 months ago

    This was awesome and inspiring. People who don't write don't understand that burning desire that drives us to continue even when everyone around us says stop. As a mystery writer (none posted on vocal yet!), I love this story. Thank you for sharing it and all that you write.

  • Cathy holmes2 years ago

    Great story. Love it before, but now I can comment.

  • Dana Stewart2 years ago

    Excellent writing, love this story! I only wish it was longer! Great work!

  • Kat Thorne2 years ago

    That was great, really heart warming!

  • Heather Cumbo2 years ago

    Love this

  • Heather Hubler2 years ago

    Oh, I wasn't ready for that to end!! What a wonderful story :) Great work!

  • I must have read this before comments were allowed. Excellent work

  • Morgana Miller2 years ago

    Now this is my kind of story! I love a twist of good fortune. This story definitely put a smile on my face and a motivated writerly spring in my step :)

  • This was an awesome story! I loved it!

C. H. RichardWritten by C. H. Richard

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