Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Retiring a good series

It's been a long year, and we're not even done yet. It only seems like the other day that my wife Denise and I were on the other side of Australia to see in the New Year, and now its September and the football season is suddenly coming to an end. It's made me stop and think of the term 'season'. Everything has a season, and every season has its turn. When it comes to drawing the metaphor between seasons and a book series, it's taken a rather ordinary year to realise when an extraordinary series has had its time. Let me elaborate.

After smiling for the photo by the driver's control stand aboard the Oliver Hill Railway on Rottnest Island off the coast of Fremantle in Western Australia, I headed off the next day for a week by the ocean near Margaret River to celebrate my wife 'putting up with me' for 25 years of marriage. We took the Australind train from Perth to Bunbury, hired a car, and spent the next week exploring the caves, wineries and even sought out some old railway stations to photograph for a future book. Three nights in Perth and the trip south to Bunbury had also given me enough material to put together another train tripping adventure.

Ready to depart Perth for Bunbury in the heat of an Australian summer!

Fast forward to July, and work on a fifth Train Tripping instalment hadn't progressed beyond the notes scribbled in my notebook. The same notebook that contained all the notes I had jotted down from my adventures by train around South East Queensland for another instalment in the series. Denise and I found ourselves heading south on short notice to visit her mother in country Victoria in the dead of winter. True to form, I somehow managed to find my way onto a train, and let me tell you... Shepparton at 6.28 am in the middle of a frigid winter's morning is a damn long way from the sunshine of Margaret River in the summertime!

Alone on a frigid winter's morning in Victoria, about to board another train.

Despite the first hour of the journey south to Melbourne being in total darkness, with notebook in hand I started scribbling my usual observations in the remaining few blank pages. Travelling in the darkness had its downside however. With nothing to see out of the window between the lights of slumbering country towns, I started looking through my notes from Perth and Bunbury, along with my trips around Brisbane and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. Notes... fun facts... figures. Yet nothing that captivated me quite like the journey itself. In fact, the diesel locomotive hauled service from Shepparton that I was riding aboard was yet another example of a train that is slated to undergo change, with the ever popular Vlocity diesel multiple unit train sets set to replace it within the next 12 months. Just as happened to The Sunlander train that I rode on when I set out to write my first book in the series Train Tripping Coastal Queensland, changes were taking place around me faster than I could complete the next book in my series.

The 6.28 am from Shepparton, about to depart in 2 degree temperatures!

I put my notebook away. Instead of taking any further notes, I went to the buffet car, bought myself a cappuccino and simply sat back and enjoyed the trip. Who knows when will be the next time that I get to ride a train in Victoria, and it most likely won't be behind the gentle rumble of a locomotive. By the time I'd returned back to Shepparton later that day, I knew there was little chance of me adding any further instalments to my Train Tripping series.

After a year that has gnawed away at my time and creative endeavours, the train journeys that I have made over these past 12 months hardly seem worth the effort of fashioning into another instalment. Not when the trains in question are all in the process of being reviewed or updated with newer rollingstock. Tying any further books to a series that was written between 2014-2015 was only going to call for a re-write and re-release of the original books. The logical answer was to leave a good series be, and put aside all the new material I have collected for a new project with a different formula.

I'll always remember the first of these four books for earning me a nomination in the 2015 Global eBook of The Year Awards. As a 99 cent eBook, it at least proved to be cannon-fodder against the highly successful Lonely Planet travel guide books. But all four were mildly successful when it came to sales, and at times topped their bestseller categories on Smashwords. I made the decision to re-release them all in print over the course of 2017, when really I should have just let them be. At 99 cents they sold. At $7.99 in black and white print, even with the added inclusion of photos, they don't. But hey, even though their moment in the sun has passed, at least I have some cool-looking train books to place on my bookshelf.

It's funny how these realisations just seem to hit you at the right time. Instead of throwing myself into writing the three follow-up instalments as I had planned to, I now feel as though a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm suddenly free to hit-up another project. There's a few ideas already ticking over in my head that involve me finishing my railway-themed books on a high, but I can now finally sit down knowing that I'm free to do whatever I choose to with all this other great material that's just sitting there.

As for my Train Tripping Series? It's safe to say that it's been retired. The books will always be there, waiting quietly for readers to discover. But just like the trains featured in them, they too will take on a completely different perspective in the years to come. Maybe someday people may read them in a historical context, or a nostalgic sense, as they too remember when....

See also; Ending a career positively

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