It was just over a year ago (in fact, it was about 1:30am on Christmas morning 2017) that I read an email from a friend informing me that my publisher, editor, and friend, Jo Lowe of Inknbeans Press, had died.
The news was not totally unexpected, but it hit me hard, and Christmas last year was very much a matter of smiling on the outside and grieving on the inside. Since then, I have had to pick up the pieces, not only of my emotional life (for I, like all who knew her, I think, was more than a little in love with this lady whom most of us had never met in person), but of my life as a writer.
Jo had done so much for me. She had accepted my Tales of Old Japanese, which I had sent to her on the advice of a Facebook friend, and waxed enthusiastic about them. But even before these reached their slot in the publishing schedule, she suggested and encouraged the publication of my Sherlock Holmes pastiches, which proved to be more successful than either of us could have imagined.
While I was living in Japan, the timezone differences allowed us to chat through Skype or some other text-based messaging system, and we didn’t just chat about books. She was immensely supportive, not just of me as a writer, but of me as a person, and helped me through a very awkward emotional period in my life. Without her support, my life now would be very different, and very much worse than it is now.
I helped her with Inknbeans Press, doing layout work, and assisting with covers. I edited a few books outside my genre, to her satisfaction, and that of the authors. I also, with her encouragement, ventured into new fields of writing. Some successful (to my mind, if not in overall sales) books came out of that.
And then she was gone…
She left behind her a widower who had had nothing to do with the publishing business, and was grief-stricken by her passing. She also left behind about 30 authors whose manuscripts and books were in a state of limbo regarding rights to publish and copyright. Eventually this all got sorted out, but in the meantime, for my part, I took matters into my own hands.
I bought a bunch of ISBNs (they cost money in the UK, as they do in the USA), fired up the self-publishing business (j-views) which I had started with before I joined Inknbeans, and in the last 12 months have put out some 20+ of my ex-Inknbeans titles (publishing as j-views) under my own name, and several others of other authors and groups.
It’s been quite a bit of hard work, and hasn’t left me a lot of time for writing original material. Let’s hope that 2019 brings more opportunities for writing, now that all my backlist is available (as print, or as ebooks, or both). If you want ebook editions, I have spent a little time and money putting together this site as a storefront, from which you can buy Kindle or otherwise editions (check out some of the pages).
But I still miss Jo. I write something, or have an idea, and still ask myself – what will Jo think of this? And then I remember – she’s not there to ask any more. Hard to credit that someone you never met in person can have such an influence and effect on your life, but that’s the way it is. This is part of what I wrote in the memorial booklet we (the Inknbeans authors) produced for Jo, our “Boss Bean”:
The best friend I never met has gone from this life. One of my supports has gone – to another, better world, where the coffee is always fresh and hot, where printers keep to deadlines and estimates, and where the authors turn in perfect manuscripts on time, every time.
Goodbye, Jo. I miss you more than I ever believed I could. I wrote this poem for her, shortly after I heard of her death.
Words can send news.
They can send hope.
They can even send love.
But they cannot smooth pillows,
or wipe a fevered brow.
They cannot make a reviving cup of coffee
Or a soothing cup of tea.
And so, living on the other side of the world,
I could do nothing
but watch the flame flicker,
And go out.
And all I have left are the words that passed between us.
They seem so empty now.