Yes, I have done it. About three years of work and my novella is now published. It is self-published via Amazon, but that is still published. A Close Shave with Destiny started out as a short story that I intended to sell for 99p to get sponsorship for Movember, where you grow a moustache to aid men’s health issues. The story grew beyond that and, rather than taking me a few weeks, took me a few years to write. In fact it became a novella of just over 40,000 words. I decided, therefore, to donate some money to Movember and then sell the book as a piece of work in its own right. So what is A Close Shave with Destiny about? Well, as it was originally for Movember it is set in a moustache. It follows the hero Wignut and his aide Barnabas as they embark on a daring mission, one Wignut is not too happy about. Melstone, a village elder, tells of a prophecy where a deep snow will set in and the world will be scoured by large blades that cut trees and rip up houses. He says that it will happen soon, so Wignut and Barnabas are sent to collect a sticky substance from the Caves of Nosterak so as to glue down the houses in their village and save the villagers. It is basically a comedy fantasy story. Not convinced? Want to know more? Take a look at the sample below from the start of the book…
The wind was fierce tonight, even inside it chilled to the bone. It was as if they had picked the weather especially for the occasion, the howling adding to the sombre atmosphere.
“It is coming,” old Melstone spluttered.
Gasps came from faces that stared at him, they looked into each other’s eyes, fear creeping in. Well, nearly all of them, to Wignut it was like watching a bad play, all that melodrama made him sick. It was just an old man on his deathbed bringing up stories from legend. They never talked about this stuff in the full verve of their lives, always when they were about to die, when they were really afraid. But like so many before, it would be a false alarm.
“I can almost hear the roar now,” Melstone continued.
Wignut zoned out, the story had been told so many times before; the end of the world, the apocalypse, some even called it the harvest. First it would snow, not normal snow, not the odd icey droplet falling through the dense, tall trees that cover this area of land. No, this would be a thicker, sweet smelling, snow that seeped right to the bottom of each tree. People would swim for their lives, some drowning from the intoxicating foam. If you survived that, worse was to come, steel blades were said to scrape across the land, ripping trees from the ground and taking everything else with them. It was the final act, one that would leave nothing alive. Apparently Melstone had lived through the last one, but Wignut found that hard to believe, the legend told of nothing surviving, so how was he still here? That was also why he did not trust the stories, if no one was alive to tell them then how did they come to be? Mums and dads, granddads and grannies trying to scare their children so they would be good and stick to the right path, you could not get that one past Wignut.
He came out of his trance when he heard Dactar, the village chief, asking the soon to be deceased village elder, “and what can we do about it?”
‘Here we go again,’ thought Wignut, ‘another mission for me because of the superstitions and gullibility of this lot.’
Melstone paused dramatically, Wignut let out a large sigh. Eyes shot to him disapprovingly. “Come on,” he said, “he’s putting it on, we go through this every time.”
“Your elder is dying, have some respect,” Dactar replied in harsh tones.
“Do not be harsh on the boy, he is young and foolhardy but he has a part to play,” the elder interjected.
‘Just as I thought,’ Wignut said in his head, ‘crazy mission time.’
“So be it,” the chief said, still looking towards Wignut. He spun his head back to the elder, “please tell us your secrets.”
“There is a place where a sticky substances grows, a substance so strong that it could bond any two objects together. You must gather this substance, apply it to the base of the trees and buildings in this village. When the harvest starts it will not be able to rip the trees from the ground and you will be saved.”
Wignut snorted, eyes darted to him once more, “seriously, he wants us to glue the village down, this is silly.” The stares intensified, lips pursed and anger appeared in every eye. Wignut blew out his cheeks, shook his head and said, “I’ll get my sword.”
Wignut stared at the map, who thought of these names? The Caves of Nosterak, they were making this up, they had to be. He looked along the route once more, it should be easy enough. From the village they would head east through the tranquil forest, things would get a little harder on the outskirts where the mites roamed, but if they were quiet they would be able sneak all the way to the Red Spoticule volcano. It had been dormant for some time so would be quicker to scale than skirting round the base. They would need to head north at the White Fangs, then on to the caves entering either of the two. If they managed to get past the deadly Boogelas, monsters from your darkest nightmares, the sticky liquid was not too far in. A quick jaunt back and they would be home and dry.
Wignut rolled the map up, “doesn’t look too hard.”
“Yes sir, we will be back here before you know it,” Barnabas replied far too enthusiastically. He took the map from Wignut and added it to the pack he had prepared, it bulged at the sides, threatening to tear at the seams.
“Do we really need all that?” Wignut replied.
“Oh, you can never be too careful. We need the map and the weaponry, plus I know how hungry you get, you need all your strength if you are to battle evil forces. I also added a rope and a hook for the climbs, and you never know when you might need some money. Last time we went out the heel of your boots split, so I have included a spare pair. Also a comb to make sure you look your best whilst doing heroic deeds, and a sleeping mat and cover. Oh yes, you couldn’t go without Mr. Snugglebuns.”
Barnabas was helpful but sometimes he mothered. Wignut had not risen to top hero in the village by listening to his mother, mainly because she had died some time ago. Yes an assistant was useful, but sometimes he went too far, plus his persistent optimism was draining.
Realising that Barnabas would collapse under the weight off the pack in two steps, Wignut demanded he removed some items. “My sword is enough of a weapon, it will not be a hard fight, I don’t need all that food, we can sleep under the stars, I prefer my hair to be wild and why would I need Mr. Snugglebuns? I’m not a child.”
He watched as Barnabas removed a mace, three knives, two apples, six rice cakes, a loaf of bread, some cooked meat, the comb, the sleeping mat, the cover and a stuffed bear that had clearly seen better days.
“Thank you,” said Wignut in exasperated tones, “now can we go?”
He helped Barnabas put the pack on and headed for the door, before he got there he turned and looked at the pile of items. With a sense of guilt he said, “well, maybe Mr. Snugglebuns could come.”
You can buy A Close Shave with Destiny on Kindle or in print from Amazon using the links below…
If you buy it and read it then it would be great if you left a review on Amazon, even if you hated it I would like to know.
Some really good news this week, after three years of work my novella, ‘A Close Shave with Destiny,’ is nearly ready for release. The story centres around a hero and his aid who are sent on a mission to collect a sticky substance to glue down their houses when an apocalypse is prophesied. The whole story takes place in a moustache and, as you can probably guess, is a comedy fantasy story.
As writing is not my main job, and I have a family to support, I have not paid an editor so have been going through the manuscript multiple times myself, including using the program ProWritingAid. I now feel the work is the best I can make it, so am in the process of formatting it for release in both print and e-book form via Amazon.
I am not actively looking for beta readers, I have already had someone look at it, but if anyone would like to beta read it I would be grateful. All I can offer in return is a signed copy of the final book and your name in the thanks section.
So, yeah, watch this space. In a few weeks time the book should be available, I really hope people will enjoy it.
I final submitted a short story to an online and print based magazine. It is a strange story that is a little sci-fi but not really and a little fantasy but not really. It moves away from character and focuses on implied mysticism. Safe to say that finding an appropriate magazine to submit it to was a challenge. The one I found focused on left field sci-fi. I suppose I really did not expect it to get in so when it was rejected I was not surprised, even when it got rejected for the reasons I thought it would. However, I thought I would be hurt when that happened but I am really not. Maybe it is because I know other people get rejected all the time or the fact that there are more magazines out there I can submit to. It could even be that I know I can independently release it through Smashwords or Kindle and it won’t cost me a penny (although it may also not get read). The thing that did frustrate me, though, is that many places that want short stories like ones that are about people and are a bit quirky. They call it contemporary but I call it things I don’t want to write about! That is why it is so hard to find a place for some of my writing. It is almost a little too mainstream whilst being not mainstream enough. So the search for my place in the market goes on.
I think another area that helps me is that I see myself as a hobbyist author. I have a full-time job and only write because I enjoy it, therefore if writing gets me nowhere it is no skin off my nose. As long as one person reads and likes my stories then I have an audience. Plus I will subject my children to my writing when they are older! So, being a pessimist has not always helped me but I do feel with writing it does. Robin McKinley said ‘Write what you want to read. The person you know best in this world is you.’ I write stories that I want to read so as long as I keep doing that I will be happy.
So what next for my short story? I will submit it to a few more magazines and if it goes nowhere expect it on Smashwords for free in the near future.
This blog may seem as if it is fading, my writing my be halting due to work pressures but when something big happens you need to stop and think. For only the second time this year I feel it right to put my work and family aside and write something down. I am talking about the death of one of my heroes. A few days ago author Terry Pratchett passed away. He was a hero to many, a man who stood slightly away from the literary world by choice and produced book after book of gorgeous prose and clever humour. I first heard about Pratchett when I was in Year 5 of Primary School. I tried to read The Carpet People and Truckers, failing miserably at both as my unprepared brain could not comprehend what was on the page. This was not Billy Blue Hat or Roger Red Hat. Some years later, now at secondary school and in Year 9, I decided that I wanted to become a proper reader, I wanted to understand more and tell people of the books I had enjoyed. I had read some Point Horror and moved on to Point Fantasy. These were mainly watered down books doing for children’s fantasy what Mills and Boons does for adult romance. I was a bored, slow reader. Myself and a friend decided we would start reading the Discworld novels and picked up our copies of The Colour of Magic. It was so different, so new. I don’t think I got a lot of the jokes but I laughed a lot. I was still slow but I really enjoyed it, I may have ended up a few books behind my friends but we could all laugh about Rincewind, The Luggage, Two Flower and the librarian that got turned in to a monke…..erm ape. I think the one character that held my interest most was Death, he wasn’t some scary horror character, he had a soul (well maybe not but it felt like he did). His struggle to understand humanity just brought about so many laughs as well as a kind of strange respect. I stopped reading Discworld when I left 6th Form and decided to move on to new authors and try new genres. I had managed sixteen books in those five years which was amazing for me. Even with work begin hectic I can manage to read eight books a year now, that means that Discworld started my improvement in reading ability. Even though I stopped for some time I yearned for the Discworld and two years ago decided to carry on with them, alternating between a Discworld book then a non-Discworld one. Every time I pick one up it feels like visiting an old friend. Yes some are better than others but all are enjoyable and they are so easy to read. Now, though, I see intricate nuances that I missed before.
What is more amazing is that I have only really wanted to write stories in the last five years, before that I was more of a consumer. However, I did dabble in the odd story when I was younger. One of the my first efforts, which never got finished, was a novel entitled Magical Men. It should have been called A Massive Discworld Ripoff as I am Such a Huge Fan. It was terrible but it made me happy and I really thought I was being funny, I wasn’t though. The only comedy I have released thus far is Super Lizard, when I look at the short stories I think about the slapstick and silliness of the Discworld and use that as my yard stick. It is something I aspire to.
I have many people in this world I love, many famous ones I wish to be more like but none have had such an impact as Pratchett. Yes I have waffled on about myself but I think that is the greatest honour I can bestow on the man. He made me want to read, got me turning pages so my vocabulary, speed and understanding increased. He made me want to write, put pen to paper to give other people joy. But more than this, when I write, particularly comedy, it is his work that is the gold standard I want to get to. I can say nothing more than the man has been an inspiration to me and I am incredibly sad to see him go.
With NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow, my attentions are moving away from The Wings of Aysh-Karal to a stand alone novel. In honour of this I worked through the night to complete chapter 6. Now I am on half-term I managed to edit it this morning and it is now live on Wattpad. You can get straight to chapter 6 here or go to the main story page here. I hope you enjoy it as I feel the story is really starting to get going now. Also, do not expect any TWOAK updates for a couple of months as I focus on The Journey Home. That is all. Thank you.
Sometimes ideas for stories just come to you. I am still trying to continue with my novel and complete my sci-fi short story but since joining Smashwords, getting Super Lizard Begins on multiple formats and placing Bella and Lola on Kindle I have wanted to get more writing live online. I have folders on my computer for each book/story I write and have started two new ones as the thrill of what has happened in the last few weeks have stirred my creative juices. I have started neither book, well I have written a brief introduction for one so that is a bit of a lie, but they are there ready for when I want to go to them. However, on Tuesday this week I was doing some teaching and suddenly some 6th Form students popped in and recited some Shakespeare then left without explanation. They had actually asked if they could do it and I obviously let them. One pupil asked why they had done this. I then explained that it was Shakespeare’s birthday. They then asked why we were focusing on Shakespeare but ignoring Saint George’s day. In truth I did not actually know it was Saint George’s day and this got me thinking about English identity. It is often said that us English, ok I am actually from Guernsey so not really English but I live here and feel as good as being an Englishman without actually being one, have lost our sense of identity. We have traditions and rituals but they are often pushed to the side in favour of accepting a multicultural society. Whilst I am one for multiculturalism and understanding others beliefs and systems I hold true that England has lost some of its history. We should accept others but be clear who we are and where we come from. I thought then that we know of Saint George and we know he fought a dragon but we do not really know what it supposed to have happened, well most of us anyway. This gave me the opportunity to write a short story and get it on Wattpad and Smashwords thus releasing the tension I had to write. I set about finding some brief synopses of different versions of the story (well I mainly looked at Wikipedia!) and decided what to write. I then spend the next few evenings getting the tale together. This fevered spell spawned Lasia’s Fate.
When I was editing it I started to worry that people would think I was trying to convert them to Christianity when I had entered the writing from a purely story telling point of view, although this was largely looking at George and the Princess and it could seem rather fanatical at times. I had only employed this for literary effect and it was not my belief system at all. Well I am a Christian but I am also Agnostic. I believe that we do not possess enough knowledge at this point to prove the existence of God or Gods. In fact, though I believe in God, if someone proved he did not exist I would say ‘ok’ and simply stop believing in him. Sometimes I think my faith is important to me and other times I feel it is just to fill a hole. In all I really enjoyed writing Lasia’s Fate and in parts feel it is the best writing I have done. It got me to think, to put in imagery and try to get into the mind of someone who is not at all like me. I hope people take it for what it is, a fantasy story based around a myth.
Anyhow, if you wish to take a peek then you can access it free on Wattpad here and Smashwords here. It is currently pending review for the Smashwords Premium Collection so may be on other e-readers soon, but I wont bore you will constant posts of Lasia’s Fate is on WH Smith, Lasia’s Fate is on iBooks etc etc. I think I have done enough of that with Super Lizard Begins!