Publishing Prescott Style

Self Publishing by John Prescott

Hmmm, I feel honored to be asked to be a guest blogger on Andy’s page.  I promise I won’t keep you long. I will share some of my insights, successes and failures with self-publishing.  So here goes….

I did a ton of research when I got serious about my writing.  I studied the market, the publishing industry, and other avenues that writing takes.  I became pretty frustrated with the ‘state’ of the industry and decided to do a book of short stories to try and get somewhat of a fan base started and since traditional publishers don’t take too kindly to short story collections the decision was pretty much made up for me by going the self-publishing route.  I want to say now that it’s a choice I am happy I made.

I want to stress that if you do go the self-publishing route be prepared for A LOT of hard work, but its rewarding hard work and as my grandfather always told me, “There’s nothing wrong with hard work.”  I agree with that 100%.  This will also be a big challenge for you and you need to make up your mind that you want to do it way before actually starting it.  You are basically starting your own business and if you’re not 110% dedicated to it you won’t succeed.  I know that sounds harsh but it’s the truth, plain and simple.

The good thing about self-publishing is that you reap all the profits from selling your work.  You don’t have to split royalty payments which are very slim with a publisher.  The downside to this is that you don’t have the marketing dollars to spend that a big publisher does, but thanks to web and many other useful online sites this is becoming less of a problem.

Ok, so now you’ve made up your mind, I’m going to self-publish…now what?  There are numerous questions you need to ask yourself and the most important one is, what do I want to achieve with my writing?  Do I want to sell just a few books for some extra cash or do you want to aim higher and do this for a living?  All are good questions but you need to decide before you take the plunge.

So, now you’ve got your mind made up and you’re ready.  Now what?  Well, hopefully you have a novel or short story collection ready.  The options available for self-publishing now are tremendous thanks to new electronic technology.  You have plenty of choices to choose from such as: Print on Demand, E-books, and PDF sales. A lot of choice are there before you and you can pick and choose as you wish.  I chose to go through Amazon’s Create-Space with their print on demand service (one I HIGHLY recommend), and through their Kindle store front as well.  I do want to say that Create-Space is a breeze and a pleasure to work with.  They go over all the steps and the process if pretty simple and explained for everyone to understand.  Once you upload your book (to be printed) they will send you a confirmation they have received your files and will tell you if they are ok to print.  If they are ok you are ready order a proof and wait for it to come in the mail.  Once you ok the proof (it usually comes to your house within a week) it goes live within 24hours to the world on their website and you also have your own e-store through them.

You can then order books directly from them to sell yourself.  This is one option I highly suggest you do.  I will give examples why in a few.  The Kindle process is pretty much the same way, except you don’t get a proof mailed to your door, but what you do get is a preview on your computer of what your book will look like on the Kindle. So any changes can be made on the fly.  I do want to say there are other book selling sites out there; one good example is Smashwords.  Many of my author friends have stuff up there and are doing quite well with that website.  So do your research and hey, why not put your book up on all of them?

 

Now you have your books (assuming you ordered some physical copies to sell to people) and are wondering what to do.  I am going to list the things I did once I got my books in.

  1. Always keep copies of your book with you.  You never know when a potential sale will happen.
  2. Schedule some book signings. I do want to say don’t waste your time with the big chain stores i.e. Barnes & Noble, Bordes, etc.  This I foresee will change in the future but as of right now a print on demand book is still scoffed at by the big boys.
  3. Think of all the places that might be willing to sell your book for you.  You will NEVER know if someone will take your book in their store unless you ask!  In my home town I have my book in every hotel gift shop.  This has really been a blessing and a gold mine for sales.  Just think of all the people coming and going or stuck there for a week or more on business and need something to read and if that person has fellow friend(s) there on business with them…another sale!  The best part about this is that the book leaves the hotel with the guest and is more than likely passed on to someone else.  So your book is now being seen by more people in a totally different location that your home town.  Hopefully they like it enough to get their own copy or maybe just by word of mouth sales.  This is a great promotional tool and it only cost you about 30 minutes talking with the owner of the hotel.  Not too bad eh?
  4. Schedule some readings at your local library/coffee shop/ or anywhere you can think ok.  Everyone I’ve met so far gets excited when they can say they personally know a writer/author.  You will be surprised at the turnout.  Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a lot at your first one.  You have to let the word get spread around a bit, but I can say that your next one you will see more people and if they like your stuff your next one will have even more people.
  5. See if your local newspaper will do a small article about you.  They surely won’t ever do one if you don’t ask them to!
  6. Always, ALWAYS be thinking of how to promote your work and then get out there and do it.
  7. If you are serious about your writing get a nice website done or start a wordpress blog to promote your work. WordPress is highly customizable to the point where it actually becomes a website.

Well, there is enough there above probably to have your mind going in about a million different directions.  I do want to add one more list for you.  It is as important as the list above.

  1. Network with other writers.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Most were in your shoes at one time.
  2. Sign up and get a Facebook account and spread the word.  Facebook has been a godsend for me.
  3. Make sure you get a good editor for your work (even if you have to pay a little for it). This is one area I wish I had taken more time with.  Not that I’m complaining about the editor I used with my first short story collection. He’s great and he did me a wonderful job, best of all it was free.  But I wish I would have let a few more people see it in the writing world before it went to print.  I have however gotten it re-edited and touched up and now it’s in tip top shape.  So let this be a warning or hint on one step to that you do before putting your book out!
  4. Another place to help get the word out is a site called Scribd. You can put up a story there for free and let people come to your page and download it.  Smashwords allows you to put up stories for free as well, and I can tell you that some of my friends are seeing further sales because of this very thing.
  5. Keep on writing.  Please don’t stop just because you have a book out, unless of course you don’t plan on writing another one.
  6. If you do plan on making writing a career, write and keep submitting to places that will accept your work.  Usually the online mags give you a little section for your bio and HEY why not plug about your book there!
  7. Set a goal for yourself with sales. I’ve found I’m more apt and willing to get out there and sell my books with a goal sheet hung up on my wall above my laptop.
  8. Don’t get discouraged! Keep at it!
  9. This is probably the most important thing to me.  THANK the person that buys your book.  REALLY thank them for opening up their wallet and buying something that you wrote for their entertainment.  It goes a LONG LONG way, trust me on this.  I know you can’t thank everyone, the Kindle and Amazon sales don’t let you see who purchases your book, but the one’s you sell in person you can and you should!

 

Ok, I’ve taken up enough of your time.  I am going to provide links to the various sites I mentioned above.  I hope this has helped you in some way, even if only a little bit.  I want to thank Andy again for letting me be a guest on his blog, Thanks man! I appreciate it!

One last thing I want to do here and if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t be practicing what I preach.  Here are the links to my books I’ve self-published. If you buy one, THANK YOU for purchasing them.  It means more than I could ever say!

Before Sunrise (both the physical and Kindle links are there): http://www.amazon.com/Before-Sunrise-John-Prescott/dp/1451537913/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290329867&sr=1-3

M is for Monster: Paperback- http://www.amazon.com/M-Monster-John-Prescott/dp/1453865675/ref=sr_1_82?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290330015&sr=1-82

Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/M-is-for-Monster-ebook/dp/B0049P1QOQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1290330084&sr=1-1

You can also visit my website here: www.john-prescott.com and my Publisher’s website here: www.darkcontinents.com

Links for sources mentioned above:

Amazon Create-Space: https://www.amazon.com/gp/seller-account/mm-product-page.html?topic=200354160&ld=AZOnDemandMakeM

Amazon Kindle Author Page: http://forums.digitaltextplatform.com/dtpforums/kbcategory.jspa?categoryID=2

Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/

Facebook:  www.facebook.com

 

Best,

John Prescott

 

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Legacy 1.1: Requiem

It’s here!

I am very pleased to announce that volume 1.1 of Legacy is now officially available in print. Requiem collects the first half of season one stories, from The Catalyst right through to The Flames of Chambrook. That’s 188 pages of Doctor Who action!

Followers of this blog will be familiar with a few of the stories, as I’ve run them on here recently. However, as an incentive for buying the print edition, it includes two stories not published on this blog. First up we Greg Miller’s The Ugly Bug Ball, a story which originally saw ePublication in 2006, and secondly we have The Flames of Chambrook from the imagination of A. R. Montacruz. This story is an exclusive to Requiem – although originally written in 2006, it never got finished in time and has thus never been seen nor read by anyone other than the editors.

Requiem is being published by Frankallen Books, and distributed by Lulu. It costs £5.25; but for the first week only it’s going for £4.99! As a labour of love, the contributors do not make a penny from the publication of this book, and all royalties go directly to Cancer Research. So, in effect, not only are you buying a series of interesting stories, but you’re also helping those suffering from cancer.

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller and Elizabeth Medeiros, Requiem features stories by Andy Frankham-Allen, Christoph Lopez, Niall Turner, Greg Miller and A. R. Montacruz, with an exclusive foreword by Montacruz and a cover by Andrew Orton.

You can buy it directly from the Requiem page…

A small note; I shall be running more season one Legacy stories in the new year, as a lead in to volume 1.2…

Vampire Knight #1

Today I am proud to present the opening segment of my new, serialised, eBook, Vampire Knight. Although I have a general idea of where it is going, I’ve no definite plan in mind. Thus, in many ways, this is something of an experiment. A story that will develop week-by-week, chapter-by-chapter. I will, of course, be making notes along the way, so that the novel follows a logical path in terms of story.

So, please do join me on this journey, as we all see where the characters lead…

VAMPIRE KNIGHT - Prologue

September, 1883.

The heat was intense, a little too much so, if Liam O’Connor had anything to say about things. Not that he did, of course – Lord Lockhead made sure O’Connor knew his place, and offering opinions was not it.

He removed his necktie and ran his fingers along the inside of his stiff collar. Why he had agreed to go on this expedition was beyond him, but then he remembered with a sardonic smile. He had no choice. In this forest, so far from civilization, it was easy to pretend otherwise, but one glance at the man walking ahead of him was enough to remind him of his place. He was only a butler, and an Irish one at that. And it was a common fact that it was a hard job to get anywhere in London without the right breeding. Wasn’t a nice situation, but that’s how it was. O’Connor had come to accept that over the years, but he didn’t like it. Neither did he like this forest he was in now.

‘How much longer, Mr Lockhead?’ he asked.

Lord Oliver Lockhead III was his employer, although O’Connor knew that Lockhead still had the old master/servant mindset. Not a nice man, all told. Grumpy, and stern. Tall, with greying hair and a thick beard. Clothed in an expensive suit, Lockhead looked very out of place in the forest. O’Connor was sure he had heard Clark trying to convince Lockhead to change his clothes. Lockhead would have none of it.

That had been back in London, nearly two hours ago. Yet O’Connor could not escape the feeling that he walked the whole world to get to the forest.

Lockhead held up a hand and the group came to a halt. He glanced at each of them, then rested his gaze on O’Connor. ‘A little bit of patience and stamina is all that you require, young man.’ Always the superior tone. O’Connor hated it. Lockhead indicated the trees in front of them. ‘Besides, it is just beyond those trees there.’

‘How do you know that?’

Lockhead sniffed. ‘I have been here before. Now, be quiet and follow me.’

O’Connor stood his ground, and hefted the sword he was made to hold to a more comfortable position. Lockhead didn’t even blink, he just turned away. Obviously the conversation was over as far as he was concerned. None of the others seemed concerned by Lockhead’s knowledge of the layout of the forest. As they followed Lockhead, O’Connor stepped over to Clark, Lockhead’s most trusted advisor. Clark was a rather large man in stature, but his dress sense was much more sensible than that of Lockhead. Khaki safari clothes, with a hunter’s rifle in his hand.

‘How has he been here before?’

Clark glanced at O’Connor, his aged eyes looking puzzled, affronted that a butler should address him in such a casual manner. For a second Clark didn’t answer, then with a slight shrug, he said; ‘Don’t you ever listen, O’Connor? It was Lord Lockhead over there that first discovered the link.’

O’Connor paused and watched Lockhead progress towards the edge of the forest. ‘Oh.’

*

The little group came out into a rather large clearing. O’Connor was last, but came to a stop the quickest. The sight that greeted him was the last thing he had expected. From the things he had heard in London he had expected some sort of castle, full of monsters and demons. Not this.

It was a settlement of some sort. O’Connor had seen paintings of similar things. Old stone huts, now in ruins. Drinking fountains, and a lot of people. More than O’Connor would have thought for such a small dwelling. And they looked so normal. All adults, the youngest couldn’t have been any less than twenty years of age. They were dressed in simple clothes, no doubt what Lockhead would have described as rags. That wasn’t how O’Connor saw it, though. They had a simple elegance that was touching. People who were not obsessed with material things.

Except for three of them. These three stood out among the rags; older than the others and dressed in the elegant clothes favoured by the gentlemen of London Town. Complete with top hat and tails. They were very out of place.

Before O’Connor had the chance to observe any more he was dragged behind the remains of a stone wall by Clark. He looked over the very edge of the wall at the settlement, then glanced at Clark.

‘Are you sure about this? They don’t look like the ones.’

Clark shook his head. ‘I assure you that they are, O’Connor. There is little doubt of that.’

‘But look at them. Enjoying the company of each other. Going about their own business. They are nobody’s enemy.’

Lockhead let out a bitter laugh; it was soft, but full of such emotion. He looked across at O’Connor. ‘Ah, the inexperience of youth. Don’t let your eyes fool you, O’Connor. It is they.’

O’Connor shook his head, and pushed his way past Clark. It didn’t escape his attention that he was getting bolder since leaving London. ‘But, Lord Lockhead, look at them.’ He pointed over the wall. Lockhead refused to look. ‘They are no different than our own families in London.’

Lockhead pulled O’Connor down to his knees, turned and glared at him. ‘Pray, stop this now,’ he hissed. ‘Conscience will not help you stop these… these things. They may look like you, but I assure you, they most certainly are not!’

Clark did his best to motion O’Connor to stop, but, although he had noticed, O’Connor paid no attention. Instead he pursued his course. O’Connor needed to get to the bottom of this, because when he was first told about this he had heard stories about monsters. Responsible for countless deaths in London. But these people were not those monsters, they couldn’t be. It just didn’t add up.

‘But…’

That was as far as he got. No sooner had he started than he realised that he could not find the words to express himself. He was never good at these word battles, and now it was beginning to show. ‘But, this isn’t right,’ was the best he could manage.

*

The group were so immersed in their internal debate that none of them noticed as a young woman walked towards the broken wall behind which they were hiding. She held in her arm a basket of clothing, meaning to hang the clothes over the wall to dry.

*

Right! O’Connor, I do not think that right was on their minds when they killed all those people.’

‘But, sir,’ O’Connor protested, in spite of himself. He was mindful of his actions, and how by arguing with his employer in such an open way was certain to have serious consequences when they returned to London. But he could not stop himself. ‘They’re just people! No different than the homeless forced into the workhouses…’

*

One of the group, another servant, slightly older and more loyal than O’Connor, noticed the woman approaching. She was the picture of beauty. Radiant skin, long flowing blonde hair, and a very full figure. The servant only noticed these things for a brief second; his mind was filled with the sights he had seen in London. All the dead people. He glanced around the group, unsure what to do.

*

‘Your bleeding heart will not save these creatures, Mister O’Connor. Go to the families of all those that have been killed,’ Lockhead continued, ‘ask them if this is right!’

O’Connor looked down at the dusty ground. Although deep in his heart he knew this was all wrong, he couldn’t help but be humbled by the words of Lord Lockhead. Clark watched O’Connor’s reaction and shook his head, then turned to Lockhead. Nobody noticed the other servant ready his gun.

‘How do you suggest we proceed, Oliver?’

‘Pick them off one at a time perhaps. Although that will take a while. Perhaps it is better if we…’

The conversation was halted by a gun shot. Even O’Connor looked over at the other servant. But that look soon turned to outrage. These deaths were not needed. The man lowered his gun and looked at them. His eyes conveyed the fear, and O’Connor’s heart sank at the sight of it. They were committed now.

They looked at the woman lying beyond the wall. She had a bullet hole in the middle of her forehead. Further into the clearing a commotion had begun. People were looking at the dead woman in confusion, while two of the three in the gentlemen’s clothes began walking towards the woman. Even from this distance the anger on their faces was quite evident.

‘Brilliant!’ Lockhead shook his head. ‘What did you do that for?’

The servant wore a puzzled expression. He opened his mouth to speak, but very few words came out. O’Connor watched him intently; it was becoming very obvious that the man’s mind was breaking. Something had to be done.

‘I think we have gone past the point of no return. Look!’ Clark pointed at the woman. She was getting to her feet.

For a moment her eyes linked with O’Connor’s and he shuddered. Blinking, he looked away, certain that the sun was playing tricks on him. He could not have possibly seen what he thought he had seen. The woman looked back at her fellows and let out a high pitched scream. O’Connor slammed his hands over his ears and stumbled backwards.

‘Damnation take it!’ Clark yelled above the noise. ‘Now what?’

The noise ceased and Lockhead looked at his little group, then turned to Clark. ‘We attack, what else can we do?’ For a moment he sounded scared, but then he took a deep breath and continued in a steady voice. ‘Make sure there are no survivors. This is for the fallen of London.’

O’Connor swallowed hard and gave Lockhead a scathing look. Lockhead just smiled coldly. ‘Attack!’ he hissed, and turned, pulling his knife out of the pouch on his hip.

The group followed him and launched themselves at the people of the settlement. Guns began firing, the knives and swords started flashing.

O’Connor stood behind the wall and watched. He could not move even if he wanted to. ‘This is wrong,’ he whispered. ‘Where is the right?’

*

Bodies lay everywhere. Blood and insides littered the ground, in places they were joined by limbs, in other places bodies lay mostly in one piece. But all had one thing in common; the hearts had been removed, thrown on the dusty ground and stamped on.

Two members of Lockhead’s group lay dead, their heads having been decapitated by brute force. O’Connor still watched from behind the wall, emotions swimming across his face. Disgust, hate, anger… fear. His mouth was dry and he licked his lips.

‘There should have been another way…’ He looked across at Lockhead and their eyes met. Lockhead had the crazed look of a madman, hanging on the brink of insanity. O’Connor watched as Lockhead looked down at the corpse beneath, and with bloody hands reached into the chest.

Lockhead lifted the heart out of the corpse and looked down at it. ‘You stole my daughter’s soul, I claim it back.’ He lifted the heart above his head, and looked up at the sky beyond. ‘As the rays of the sun lighten and gild the blackest cloud, so the soul by entering the body of the universe gives it immortality; the abject it lifts up. Rest, my dear Juliet.’

He let the heart fall, and with a look of pure satisfaction, squashed it underfoot. Clark and the other servant joined him. Neither spoke, they just followed him over to the wall. O’Connor watched them approach, all three of them with their clothes covered in blood. Lockhead did not spare him a glance, just carried on past him towards the trees. Clark stopped next to O’Connor and placed a hand on his shoulder. The young man was trembling. Clark opened his mouth to speak, but Lockhead turned back to them.

‘By Christ’s wounds, leave him, Clark! He has no stomach for justice!’ He walked back over to O’Connor and Clark, the other servant remaining by the trees. O’Connor forced himself to look Lockhead in the eyes, but he couldn’t. The eyes were cold, and filled O’Connor with an intense sense of dread. ‘Be sure to note, Mister O’Connor, that upon our return to London, you would be well advised to seek new employment. Perhaps there is some poor micher out there who needs the services of one such as you. A boy who cannot entertain the notion of justice. The two of you would be well matched. A micher and a coward!’

O’Connor waited a few moments until Lockhead and his two faithful ones had entered the forest, before he started towards the trees himself. ‘Justice…’ he whispered, bitterness only too evident.

*

For a while nothing moved in the settlement. Then a figure stepped out of one of the broken huts. He stood; the gentlemen’s clothes caked in blood. He was on old man, but despite his obvious seventy plus years, his skin was radiant and his eyes were alive with a fire. The old man surveyed the corpses of his people, his features giving away no emotion.

All the breeders were dead. The last colony, the final hope for his species… Gone.

‘It cannot be allowed to end like this,’ he said, a new idea forming in his head. It would take a long time to come to fruition, but if he were careful then perhaps his people would live again.

The man took a deep breath and set off towards the trees.

Chapter One next Saturday, Nov 20th 2010.

Vampire Knight © 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen,
Cover © 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen, for Frankallen Books. 
All Rights Reserved

Once again…

So sorry, once again life got in the way and I was unable to post Writers’ Wednesday yesterday. Life, in this case being crazy early mornings for the day-job, and watching the re-imagined V. Been over twenty years waiting for this show to come back, and so it’s going to get a bit of a review from me soon. There is so much to love about it.

So, I shall therefore have a special post next week written by Sharon Bidwell.

In the meantime, I’d like to remind you all that this Saturday I’ll be starting my new eBook, Vampire Knights, on this very blog. It’ll be an exclusive, never printed anywhere else (although, that’s not to say it might one day), novel serialised weekly. So, that’s just two days away… be there!

Legacy #7; ’70s Cutaway

Previously on LEGACY - Three Night Engagement.

Not for the first time that afternoon, Doctor Langton found himself wondering about drugs. He’d already seen two of his regular methadone patients and had handed out the usual scripts.  The man sitting in front of him now wasn’t obviously asking for methadone or anything like it, yet his behaviour certainly mirrored that of someone experiencing a chemical come down.

‘You don’t understand,’ said the man for the umpteenth time.

Yes, thought Doctor Langton, he’s finally going to come right out and say it.

He leaned forward expectantly, fascinated to see that his patient did literally appear to be wringing his hands. A drop of sweat fell heavily onto the blotter pad on top of the desk.

‘I can’t go to sleep you see,’ continued the man.

Okay, so maybe he wasn’t going to bare all, at least this was getting somewhere.

The man fixed him with an unnervingly intense stare, now speaking slowly and deliberately. ‘You don’t have to look at me like that, I know what I’m doing, you know? Doctors…’ He laughed, a short, harsh sound. ‘This decade is so lame, I’m glad I missed it first time round…’ He stopped dead, aware of what he’d just said.

Scratch the drugs, thought Doctor Langton, definite mental health case. Or maybe both. And I’m in here alone with him. Fantastic.

The man sighed heavily, looking distractedly at one of the watercolours on the office wall. Doctor Langton took the opportunity to ease his chair back a few inches from the desk.

‘Look, forget that,’ said the man, noticing the movement.

‘It’s okay,’ began Doctor Langton, in what he hoped was a calm and reassuring tone.  ‘Can you tell me how long you’ve been having trouble getting to sleep?’

‘What?’ snapped the man fractiously.

‘You said you’d been having trouble sleeping.’

‘No, no, I don’t want to go to sleep.  Sleeping is the problem.’ He fixed Doctor Langton with an impassioned look. ‘I can’t sleep.  Not now. If I do, I’m as good as dead. You’ve got to help me!’

Doctor Langton cleared his throat, trying to think of an appropriate response.  None came immediately to mind, beyond notifying social services.

The man stood up abruptly, coming round the desk to lean over the doctor. Without meaning to, Doctor Langton also stood up, backing his chair noisily into the wall.

‘Oh, come on!’ His patient was looking at him petulantly, and his eyebrows rose archly. ‘You think I’m crazy, don’t you?’

Before Doctor Langton could respond, the young man appeared to slip rapidly back into quite floridly psychotic speech.

‘They’ve probably got the Doctor already. I’ve got to do something and I can’t afford to go to sleep. Do that and they’ve got me.’ He looked up abruptly. ‘You must have some kind of one-shot system stimulant?’

Doctor Langton could only shake his head by way of reply.  He wondered what age the man was. Early to mid twenties? It was a sad case. ‘I can see you’re under considerable stress,’ Doctor Langton heard himself say eventually.

‘Oh go on, say it,’ muttered the man in a dejected tone.

‘Say what?’ wondered the doctor.

‘I’m mad,’ said the man, running a hand through his black hair. ‘I am, you know.’ And he smiled, a little unnervingly. ‘If I understand it right, I go to sleep now and the whole of reality buys the farm. Me too, come to think of it,’ he finished a little disconsolately. ‘Oh well.’ He held out his hand, which Doctor Langton took a little uncertainly. ‘It’s been fun. Have a nice life.’ With that, he turned on his heel and was gone.

‘Yes, well…’ Doctor Langton continued to lean against the wall for a moment, regaining his composure.  Eventually he sat down and pressed the intercom on his desk. ‘Jean, could you come in here a minute?’

A few seconds later his secretary, Jean Brooker, entered the room, smiling enquiringly.

‘Is everything all right, Ian? We could hear raised voices in reception.’ She lowered her voice confidentially. ‘He left in ever such a hurry you know.’

‘That’ll be reality running out,’ said Ian Langton, nodding sagely to himself.

‘Oh.’ Jean looked flummoxed.

‘I’m sorry, Jean.’ He rubbed his eyes tiredly, aware he still had another six patients to see. ‘Chap was definitely a few cards short of a full deck.  I need to put a call through to social services before I see anyone else. What was his name again?’

‘DeMars,’ said Jean with a frown. ‘American I think. He didn’t give a first name.’

‘Okay, thanks, Jean.’

‘No problem.’

As he began to dial, Ian Langton smiled wryly to himself. He’d only agreed to see the chap as a favour; he wasn’t even on the books.  Ah well, no peace for the wicked.  He stared out into the reception area.

*

Unseen by Doctor Langton, Jean Brooker or the bored patients in reception, a needle limbed creature hung upside down from the reception’s wall mounted clock by its feet.  Button eyes stared as it mouthed a soundless ‘Tick’ then ‘Tock’ in an absurd call and response.  Swinging serenely to and fro, a malignant pendulum, it grinned a rictus grin.

*

Mooching dejectedly down the road Brad reflected that his doctor’s appointment could, on the whole, have gone better.  Trouble was he’d never particularly liked or trusted doctors, with the one honorary exception. So why he’d actually come up with such a stupid plan in the first place was a moot point. Desperation perhaps? Yep, he thought that pretty much covered it.  Those last minutes in the TARDIS had been pretty surreal. Well, more surreal than usual.

He’d been headed for the control room, intent on talking to the Doctor about Jacen. In fact, he’d got to the control room, he was sure of it. The Doctor had grinned a greeting, no, scratch that, they’d even started talking.

Then it had happened.

There was an ear-splitting shriek and buzzing globules of what looked like TV static had started spilling from the scanner. Operating controls frantically the Doctor had engaged ‘Emergency Materialisation’, stuffed a bag of unfamiliar notes and coins into Brad’s hands and literally bundled him out of the doors.

‘Construct bounty hunters,’ he’d said in a stage whisper, then raised a theatrical finger to his lips.

‘Construct what? Doc, what the hell’s happening here?’

‘Construct bounty hunters, they’re trying a time jump.’ He’d paused, looking up and down the unfamiliar street.  ‘I’ll try and put them off the scent.’ Then he had given Brad the ‘deadly serious look‘. It was so absurdly pretentious it couldn’t be anything but deadly serious.  ‘Whatever you do, don’t go to sleep.  Reality’s liable to break down without you and I’ve not got the leads for a jump-start.’

‘What?’

The Doctor just grinned his enormous half-moon grin.  ‘You’ll be magnificent, Bradley, I know you will!’ With that he was gone, the TARDIS vanishing with its familiar asthmatic trumpeting.  A final sentence seemed to hang on the air.  ‘I’ll be back!’

And that had been it.  Now, having spent nearly forty-eight hours in London, 1975, Brad had had enough.

Who were these bounty hunters? Would they be coming for him too?

Finding himself standing outside a newsagent, he rummaged in his pockets, stuffed with various denominations of legal currency. Plus, he noted forlornly, a TARDIS homing device. Much good it would do him.

Locating a crumpled one pound note he pushed open the shop door.

*

Inside it was dark, cool and blissfully quiet compared to the street outside.  Garish racks of confectionery jostled for space alongside newspapers, magazines and sundry household items.  Wondering vaguely how a packet of dusters might help him save reality, Brad’s gaze settled on the rows of chocolate bars with their various unlikely names.

‘You got ten pence mister?’ Looking down Brad saw an Afro-Caribbean kid in denim, all of six years old, staring hopefully up at him.

‘Hey you!’ growled a white haired old shopkeeper from the back of the store.  ‘I’ve warned you before. Hop it!’

‘Hey, it’s cool.’ Brad raised his hands in a placating gesture, found a coin and gave it to the boy.

‘You shouldn’t encourage ’em,’ the shopkeeper rumbled.

‘Hey, seeing as he’s going to spend it in your shop, I don’t see why you’re complaining,’ Brad said tartly.

‘Smartarse.’

‘Yeah, right, whatever,’ Brad muttered as the shopkeeper proceeded to serve the boy.

He grabbed himself a random handful of chocolate. Definitely needed the sugar. Coffee would be good, too. ‘Hey, do you sell…’ He tailed off.

The shopkeeper had the boy’s coin and was inserting it into some sort of indentation on top of the cash register. Weird looking cash register come to think of it.  A look passed between the boy and the man.

‘Definite match?’ the boy asked.

‘Definite.’ The shopkeeper nodded. ‘DNA strand’s unmistakeable.’

They both turned to face him, eyes glowing a luminescent green.

Brad dropped the chocolate.

How come it was he who got to walk into the only trapped alien newsagents in the whole damn world?

‘Hope you’re not thinking of going anywhere,’ said the shopkeeper, turning a weirdly glowing ball of energy in his hand.

‘Big price on your head, man,’ added the boy nonchalantly.

‘You’re Construct bounty hunters, right?’ Brad saw a grin pass between them.

‘Well,’ said the old guy, tossing the ball from hand to hand.  ‘We are. But the contract’s changed.’

Brad didn’t need to hear the rest. As the ball of light hurtled towards him he wrenched at the central rack of shelving. Stumbling backwards out of the door he saw the middle of the store was now a mess of items encased in a web of viscous light strands.  He ran.

*

Soon he was aware of shouting from behind him.  The old man and the boy were in pursuit. In the middle of the air, balanced like surfers on futuristic skateboards, zipping in and out of the traffic.  They were gaining fast.  Brad went to catch at the arm of a traffic warden, but his hand went straight through the warden.

‘Don’t know you’re there, man,’ mocked the boy.  ‘Playing by different rules now.’

Brad stared wildly from side to side. The boy swooped overhead, turning for an attack, another ball of energy to hand.  Brad ducked sharp left, into the stairwell of a multi-storey car park. The familiar smell of urine and rubbish hit him. Lifts or stairs, lifts or stairs? One of the lifts was opening.  Brad stared.

It was the Doctor.

‘Well, come on!’ his friend boomed.

Brad needed no further encouragement.

*

Inside the lift he turned to the Doctor and stared again.  He was in the console room. The Doctor grinned triumphantly.

‘Yes, the chameleon circuit’s operational!’ He nodded to himself. ‘I would have done it sooner but necessity often proves the mother of invention.’ He grabbed Brad by both hands. ‘It’s good to see you, Bradley!’

‘You too, Doc, you too.  Now can you please tell me what’s going on?’

The Doctor beamed, plucking the homing device from his jacket pocket. ‘A small matter of splitting our resources. I had to throw the Construct off the scent, so I dropped you off and –’

‘You did what?’

‘I dropped you off and –’

‘You were using me as a decoy!’

The Doctor nodded, eyes gleaming. ‘If you like, yes. And a very good one too! Well done, Bradley!’

Brad sighed. ‘Great.’ He noticed the central column was moving. They were in flight again. ‘So what are the Construct again?’

The Doctor waved a hand. ‘Oh, creatures of pure causality.  With the causal nexus unravelling, and me being at the centre of it, those that watch such things have doubtless declared open season on us. The two you just met are Bartholomew and Anotyne.  Very dubious company.’

‘It just gets better,’ said Brad.

‘Yes, yes.’ The Doctor grinned in delight.  ‘It’s wonderful to feel wanted, isn’t it?’

‘No,’ said Brad pointedly.

The Doctor gaped. ‘I’m sure you can’t mean that. Oh, that’s interesting.’

‘What is?’

‘We’ve arrived somewhere else already.’ The Doctor operated the scanner. They were on top of a multi storey car park. In 1975 judging by the two figures hovering a good ten feet above the roof.

‘Tranquillisers,’ said Brad.  ‘I should have asked that guy for tranquillisers.’

‘Bradley, be a star and distract them would you?’ the Doctor asked. He was staring thoughtfully at the central column. ‘If they’re operating a linear inductor the only option’s to bypass it with a randomiser.’ He met Brad’s gaze. ‘It’ll take a minute. It won’t take them too long to get in here and I hate interruptions when I’m working.’

‘Right,’ said Brad.  ‘I’ll go and do the distracting thing.’

*

He found himself getting out of the passenger seat of a chrome blue Land Rover. This chameleon thing seemed to be working.  Turning he saw the bounty hunters hovering over the far wall of the car park. Brad backed around the Land Rover and looked over the rim of the wall. At least a hundred and fifty feet down. The boy was approaching at alarming speed, a shimmering ball of energy crackling in his hand.

‘Hey, so who are you?’ called Brad weakly.  ‘Bartholomew or Anotyne?’

A grin was all he got by way of reply. The skateboard sped closer. Heart pounding Brad took a step forward. The boy brought his arm up, bowling underarm.  Brad grabbed for him.

Confusion.

Brad fell heavily, very heavily, at first he thought the kid was on top of him but it was the skateboard thing.  It was incredibly heavy for something so small, an absolute deadweight.  Struggling up Brad saw the boy prone against the wall.  The light ball had exploded around him. A tracery of luminescent lines seemed to be eating in to him.

With an electrical fizz, boy and light disappeared.

‘You got Anotyne! You’ll pay for that!’ The old guy was incredulous.

So was Brad to be honest, but his shoulder and side were aching too much to think clearly.  Now white hair was coming for him.  The driver’s side door was opening.  The Doctor leaned out.

‘Bradley, strap yourself in!’

Brad stumbled to the passenger door.  Buckling himself in, his stomach lurched as the Doctor performed what felt like a three hundred and sixty degree turn. Bartholomew was very close now; Brad could see him in the wing mirror.

‘Time for the unstoppable force to meet the immovable object!’ announced the Doctor. And drove straight for Bartholomew.  Head on.  At the last minute Bartholomew seemed to realise the Doctor was serious and tried to swerve.  It was too late.  There was a clang of impact from the roof and the bounty hunter went sailing over the edge of the car park, complete with skateboard. There was an unnatural silence.  Brad shook his head.  He wasn’t sure if he felt like crying or laughing. The Doctor placed a hand on his shoulder.

‘What the hell is happening?’ said Brad.  ‘Did we kill them?’

The Doctor shook his head. ‘Not a chance. They’ll have reverted to causal particles. They were over confident, that’s all.  We were lucky.’

‘Right.’ Brad became aware he was sitting in the front of a Land Rover. ‘Hey, the TARDIS?’

‘Emergency reconfiguration,’ said the Doctor simply. ‘Inserting a randomiser is a devil of a job, Bradley. We need to lie low for a while, let the temporal trail go cold.’ Gunning the engine he headed for the exit ramp and the next level. ‘So,’ he said, his eyes sad and his smile serious.  ‘Tell me about Jacen.’

Brad looked down, noticing a newspaper in the well by his feet. He picked it up and looked it over; apparently something called UNIT was due to make a world shattering announcement tomorrow.

‘Bradley?’

Brad squirmed in his seat.  Before the Doctor had chucked him out to be decoy, Brad was all for telling the Doctor about Jacen; he even had a plan of how to save his friend. But now… He sighed.  The Doctor wouldn’t let this one go, he had that look on his bearded face.

‘Okay,’ Brad said, and began talking.

*

Brad talked and the Doctor listened.  As he talked, he felt a weight lift from his mind. Nothing changed but he felt easier just for having talked it through out loud.

A good two hours later they were parked high above the suburbs to the south west of the city.  The Thames sprawled lazily far below them.

‘You know, it’s weird,’ said Brad, ‘I can’t even remember the sound of his voice, y’know, what he was like. That’s got to be wrong.’

The Doctor seemed to smile at a private memory.

Brad sighed.  ‘You can’t take me back can you?’

The Doctor shook his head.  ‘I might be able to take you back in the normal course of things but I still couldn’t change what happened.’

It was Brad’s turn to shake his head. ‘But look what’s happening to you.  I mean, if that isn’t someone messing around with time…’

The Doctor laughed a short, uncharacteristically mirthless sound. Brad looked closely at his face in profile. There were anger and passion and questions there to match his own.

The Doctor continued to stare ahead, into the dying evening.

Neither of them spoke again for a long time…

To find out what happens next, look out for the soon-to-released collected stories of LEGACY season one, volume one, Requiem. It will be published by Japaf Publishing and distributed by Lulu Distributions. As ever, LEGACY is a non-profit series and the cost of the book covers printing and postage only – the contributors do not make a single penny from it. As an incentive for buying it, though, there will be two exclusive stories to volume one; The Ugly Bug Ball by Greg Miller (previously only available in the limited 2006 e-anthology, The Other Side of Reality), and The Flames of Chambrook by A. R. Montacruz – a never before released season one story!

Edited by Andy Frankham-Allen, Greg Miller & Elizabeth Medeiros.
Cover & Artwork © 2010 by Ewen Campion-Clarke.
'70s Cutaway © 2001, 2010 by Niall Turner,
Legacy © & ™ 2001, 2010 by Andy Frankham-Allen. 
Doctor Who © & ™ 1963, 2010 by BBC Worldwide. All Rights Reserved.

 

The online LEGACY adventures will resume New Year’s Day 2011 with The Millennium People, which follows on from the events of Requiem. But until then I shall be running a new weekly serialised novel, exclusive to this blog, called Vampire Knights. The novel will be an experiment, modelled on the early days of LEGACY. It will be written week-by-week with no absolute direction to follow. The story will grow organically, and along the way will feature guest authors – some of whom will be known, others will be fresh new talent.

 

Writers’ Wednesday #5: E-Publishing & The Author

Allow me to introduce new author, Whit Howland. Whit has recently had his first novella published by Untreed Reads, my review of which can be read here. He’s popped over to have a natter about e-publishing, and tells us just why he thinks it’s a good thing.

E-Publishing & The Author by Whit Howland

Before now I’ve always been sceptical of the digitalisation of information. I was, and to some degree, still am, a bibliophile. I love paperback books: the feel, the smell, and the look.

I especially love the old pulp paperbacks and their wonderful and sometimes lurid cover art. I can’t imagine a world where these books no longer exist. But is that what’s coming?  Are we racing toward a future where at the beach, instead of reading one of those chubby romances we bought at the supermarket on impulse, we will be reading the story on our  E Reader? Some say we are already there.


Regardless of where we are, or where we are going, I’ve decided to embrace this trend. And because I have, I’ve concluded the E Reader is a magnificent invention and does for humans what technology is supposed to do; it makes our lives easier in many ways.

We can store a larger quantity of books in our E Readers than on shelves. And we don’t have to break our backs carrying those god-awful heavy boxes of tomes we just can’t get rid of when it’s time to move. Looking at and reading the screen is a lot better for our eyes than reading print on paper. And, it is sometimes cheaper and always faster to purchase a story. But, the main reason I like this brave new world has to do with e-publishing.

E-publishing is an author’s version of winning the lottery. Before digital, it was very tough for an aspiring author to get past the gate keeper of a big publishing house or literary agency. This was especially true if your work was said not to have any commercial value. With E-Publishing all of that has changed.

Today, we have effectively slipped that gate keeper a Mickey Finn and he is down for the count. This is due to the fact that it is cheaper to publish an e-book than it is a hardcover or paperback. Also, it is much easier to distribute it. As a result, e-publishers are more open to unusual works. They are also eager to publish smaller pieces such as novellas and novelettes. With all this in mind, what’s not to like about E Readers and E-Publishing?

Well, for me being published has softened the blow and realisation of the possible demise of hardcopy. But for others who haven’t had that good fortune, I can see how a world where we are always plugged in can be daunting. Even I imagine a dark existence where instead of Borders and Barnes and Noble having rows of books, they will have rows of ports were we can all plug our E Readers into – and maybe someday the stories will be down loaded to a chip in our head.


But again, as an author, this technology is your friend. You should take advantage of this small window in time where you can publish just about anything you want because for me, the darker future is where the big publishing companies step in and again make it impossible for us new authors to publish our stories.

Text © 2010 Whit Howland
Author Photograph © 2010 Whit Howland
Cover © 2010 Untreed Reads Publishing, All Rights Reserved