The World Ends in the UK

So, I’m a little confused, and if you’re reading this and you live in the UK, perhaps you can help.  Book One of How the World Ends has been available for a little over two weeks now, and it is doing surprisingly well in the UK.  I’ve made essentially no effort to promote this book in any marketplace, aside from this blog, a few tweets, and my Kindle Scout experiment.  In the UK, it’s been in the top 100 charts for paid Kindle books about alien invasions for a while, and has consistently been in the top 10 000 kindle books for the last couple of weeks (and there are more than two million kindle books available).   So, my question is: why?  Is there a social media presence from someone in the UK who has been promoting this book?  Or do those in the United Kingdom just have a soft-spot for apocalyptic fiction in which very little is explained and lots and lots of people die?

I’ve had books available on Amazon for more than six years now, and never have I had such a proportion of my sales for a book come from this marketplace (well over 50% of sales have come from the UK).  Does anyone know the answer to this?  If you do, please comment on this post, or email me directly.  You can find my email in the contact tab at the top.

I should also add that I have a soft-spot for the UK.  I worked in London for almost three years from 2000 – 2002, working as a teacher right after I finished my university degree.  Although the work was challenging, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and was foundational in making the person I am today.  And as such, there are references to England or London (usually small) in just about every book I’ve ever written.

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The Most Boring Xmas Special Ever Written

Boring Xmas Cover
So, today I finished a draft of what’s tentatively being called, The Most Boring Christmas Special Ever Written.  It started with an idea I had last Christmas, about making a semi-sequel to what is, ironically, the most popular (at least in terms of downloads/purchases) book I’ve written.  I spoke/emailed with Daniel about this for some time, but in the end he gave me his blessing to write it myself.  Daniel is simply too busy with work and his kids and life to put his whole heart into this right now.  I started writing the draft in May, and finished it, well, today.  Like I already said.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a sequel over the years.  The title would be very obvious (The Most Boring Sequel Ever Written) but I really don’t want to write any more choose-your-own-adventure style books.  I think Daniel and I have kinda beaten that to death.  So, I was thinking that this Christmas Special might be purely linear, doing away with the many banal choices that were in the first book.  However, in the end, I decided that the book would need something to make it a little different from a straight-ahead (boring) book, so there is only one choice, fairly early on in the story, that leads to two different endings.

The book is actually longer (in terms of a word count) that the original.  Like The Most Boring Book Ever Written, it follows the same ex-military person from the second person.  It takes place five years after the first, and incorporates some of the same characters.  What I hope is that it has the same tone and funny/boring flow of the original without just being a retread.  Only time will tell if I was successful with that.

Anyhow, The Most Boring Book Ever Written was a relative breeze to edit because of its complete lack of pretension.  I really, really want to have this Christmas Special ready by November.  What’s the point of having a Christmas Special out in the new year?  It’s too short for me to enrol in Kindle Scout (which is too bad, as I think it would stand a chance of doing well), but that will also speed up the process.

After I’m done with this, I’ll return to editing Book Two of How the World Ends with the idea of it being released in the first half of next year.

August the 14th

So, Book One of How the World Ends will be released on August the 14th, 2017.  It is now available as a pre-order at Amazon.com for the Kindle versionHTWE Cover 1.  The paperback version will be available soon, as well.   I have to get a few more things ready for that, so not sure when.  There will be updates.

As you can probably tell, this means that my experiment with Kindle Scout let to a rejection, which is not at all surprising.  I’m actually more positive about the entire Kindle Scout experience than I expected, and I will most definitely use it again in the future.  Like I’ve said in the previous post, Book One is not meant to be a standalone story, so I didn’t expect it to be chosen.  Still, an interesting idea, even if I did refer to it as a crowd-sourced slush pile before.

As for Book Two, it will certainly be ready sometime in 2018, hopefully in the early part of the year.  I’ll see if Book Three will be released in late 2018 or 2019.  The drafts of all are complete, but I don’t want to needlessly rush their release.

 

How the World Ends (Book One)

So, I thought I’d try something new.

First of all, I thought I’d try to write a science-fiction/horror novel and I’m not sure if it ended up really being either of those two things, but I’m never a fan of straight-ahead genre specific stories.  It started almost three years ago as a strange dream (in which I was watching a movie, the plot of which became the basis for this book), the complete draft was finished back in September of 2016, and now I feel pretty much ready to release the first third of the story.

Book One, along with the other two parts, is not meant to be a stand-alone story.  It is quite literally just the first part of a three-part novel, but I feel that the story in its entirety is a little too long for most people to be willing to grab onto.  Plus, trilogies are all the rage these days, so I might as well try jumping on that bandwagon.  Each Book has it’s own story arc, rising tension, climax, but it’s still most definitely one story.  Over the last six months, I’ve been focussing on cleaning up Book One as much as possible, with the hope of releasing it this summer, and specifically on August the 14th, since it is a significant date in the story.  Why not.

But I also thought I’d try out Kindle Scout.  To be honest, I’ve heard mixed things about this program, in which Amazon effectively crowdsources the old ‘slush pile’ that used to (I guess the probably still do) clog up valuable space in the mailrooms of literary agents and book publishers.  Once accepted to Kindle Scout, a book is placed on a 30-day online trial where people can recommend it.  In the end, however, the Amazon overlords/editors decide which books are selected for a specialized type of book contract, not the voters.  One of the issues I have is that books being accepted in the Kindle Scout program are supposed to be “professionally copyedited, at the very least,” which in a normal book contract is something that publisher takes care of.  If a publisher truly likes your work, they should be able to see past a few typos and pay for that themselves.  But, anyhow, I thought I’d try this.  Like I said, I thought I’d try something new.

So, as of today, How the World Ends (Book One) has its own Kindle Scout Campaign page, on which you can read the first 10%ish of the book, look at a picture of me without a beard, and potentially recommend the book for a Amazon publishing contract.  The page will be active for 30 days, after which I’ll be told the results.  I really don’t expect this novel to be picked up, as it doesn’t fit into a clean genre/category, but why not.  And if Amazon gives me the rejection letter that I know so well from the literary agents of old times, I will promptly prepare it to be released on August 14th, both in Kindle and paperback formats.

So, if you’re reading this, why not click that link.  If you are interested in the except, why not click the recommend button.  And if you’re too busy to actually read the except, why not click the recommend button anyhow.  After all, doesn’t that summarize modern life?  Clicking likes and moving on to something else?

 

The Beginning

Alex slipped, landing on his knees and sliding down with both hands outstretched against the soil that rolled beneath his fingertips, a conveyor that he could not grab hold of.  His father reached down to catch him but the boy gripped onto a hunched, protruding root and came to a halt.  “Are you all right?” the man asked with wide iceberg eyes, curls of black hair dangling from either side of his cavernous cheeks.  He was short of breath, face flushed, not by exertion but instead from the thought of his son’s tumbling and irreversible descent: how a single, fumbled misstep could so callously erase all the life that came before it.

“I’m okay,” Alex said, conscious of his father’s expression.  “I’m okay.”

“You have to watch your step.  This is a mountain.  It deserves your respect.”

Alex nodded and mumbled a vague acknowledgement while regaining his footing.  He pretended to understand the meaning of the word, respect.  He knew it was important, something that adults used to demonstrate their virtuousness, to show that they were kind individuals.  He could understand the meaning of the word when told to respect his Dad, to respect the elders.  But when Alex’s father told him to respect a tree and its fruit, told him to respect a goat before it was slaughtered, told him to respect those insects that survive the most profound of life’s calamities—told him to respect a mountain—then Alex knew just to nod, to feign acceptance.

His father grabbed onto a dangling cedar branch and pulled himself up the exposed rock to avoid placing weight onto his bad foot.  Every other step was abbreviated and yet he remained confident on the steep incline.  “Come on,” he said, holding out one hand to clasp.

“I said, I’m okay.” Alex replied, scampering up on all fours.  “Is it much farther?”

His father nodded.

Alex sighed, keeping both eyes on the red and withered needles beneath his feet.

“Trust me.  It’s going to be amazing.  It’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen”

“I know.  I know.”

Alex thought he knew.  He called it The Beanstalk even though aware that it wasn’t a plant and had nothing to do with the fairy tale.  He’d analyzed pencil-sketched drawings on wrinkled white paper.  He’d overheard the words of adults that described this enormous structure with vocabulary and allusions that didn’t make sense to a six-year-old boy.  His father assured that he needed to see it with his own eyes to appreciate its “profound scale.”  And again, Alex’s thoughts would return to their copy of the picture book still occupying a narrow sliver of their living room bookshelf, yellowing lines of tape adhering the many tears that traced the spine and dog-eared corners on almost every page.

“So, what is it?” Alex asked, searching through the trunks of trees in hope of catching a glimpse of its profound scale.  All he could see were other mountains.  The entire world was an endless series of wrinkled peaks.

“I don’t know,” his father said, trying to mask his annoyance, not with the question, but with the fact that this had all been discussed numerous times before.

“But it’s not really a beanstalk?”

“It’s not really a beanstalk.”

“And they made it?”

“They made it.”

“When did they make it?”

“Before you were born.”

“On the Fourteenth of August?”

“Sometime after that.”

“And what does it do?”

His father forced another sigh into a chuckle.  “You know I don’t know.”

“How come I can’t see it yet if it’s so big?”

“Because it’s so far away.”

“Farther away than those mountains?”

“Yes.  A lot farther away than those mountains.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I know.”

“Can we stop and have a snack?”

“Soon.”

“How soon?”

“Soon.”

“We must be close?”

His father didn’t answer.  This was the third time in as many months that they’d attempted this ascent, each of the previous journeys concluding with Alex being carried down on his father’s back before reaching the peak.  Alex lived his entire life surrounded by mountains and yet he clearly couldn’t appreciate their size, their profound scale, how he could hike for hours and still be told that there was so much left to climb.  Perhaps that was what it meant to respect a mountain, he thought: they are big.

 

Although pleased that he was able to take a rest and eat as many dried blueberries as he wished, Alex knew what this meant.  They were still a long way off.  They’d been hiking since the first light of dawn, leaving their home long before the blue sky of day had smothered the last of the swirling, luminous nightlights.  Alex was excited when he awoke; he could hardly sleep the night before.  His father really believed that he was ready to make it this time.  It just wasn’t fair that the trek took so long.  Looking up the mountainside, the arching ferns and wrinkled tree trunks never seemed to extend much farther.  They had to be close.  And yet they weren’t.  Every time they’d come across another pink plastic ribbon tied tight around the stalk of a lanky birch, Alex hoped that this would signal that the end was near.  But there was always another.  He wanted to admit to his father how weary his legs were, but it was too late to turn back.  His dad would tell him that it didn’t matter, that he could do it, that he had to respect this mountain, or something.

Alex stood up, nodding with exaggerated swings of his chin to his father’s reminders of being careful, and grabbed a stick from the ground, his eyes drawn to the smooth bark and a clean snake-tongue split at one end.  He held it towards his father.  “Would this have made a good marshmallow stick?”

The man laughed, caught by surprise, “That would have made a perfect marshmallow stick.”

Alex turned back, holding it in the air above an imaginary fire, fascinated by the idea of a marshmallow.  There were so many things that adults reminisced about that made no sense to Alex and that he had no intention of understanding.  But marshmallows!  As light as a mushroom and yet composed of pure sugar.  Held above a flame, and the snow-white exterior would inflate to a crackling, golden brown.  It was magic.  Edible magic.  Without looking back towards his father, Alex said: “We should try making marshmallows again.”

“I don’t think it would work out like you’d want.”

“But can we try again?  Please?”

“What you’re going to see is way cooler than a marshmallow.  Trust me.”

Alex nodded, not because he agreed with his father but because he knew that it would appease him.  He banged the stick against a rock, looking out towards the distant peaks, recognizing only Skihist Mountian and hopeful that his father wouldn’t quiz him on the names of the rest.

A glistening black slug rested motionless on a bed of bloodshot cedar needles.  Alex knelt closer, now able to trace its glistening, meandering path that originated from the bulging roots of a cedar.  A pair of antennae searched through the space, two fingers feeling around in the dark, oblivious to the hominid that towered above, staring down.  As Alex shuffled another step closer, the creature withdrew its protuberances and shriveled in defense.  He poked it with his stick and the mollusk compressed into a dense mound.  It could have been a fallen nut or a wrinkled, decomposing leaf.  Prodding it further, the slug resisted Alex’s attempts to roll it over.

“What are you doing?” his father asked.  “Just leave it alone.”

Alex sighed.  He wanted to step on it.  He still thought that he still might.

“It’s not hurting you.  Come on, now.  Let’s go before it gets too hot.”

The boy stared at the immobile creature, knocked it one last time with his stick, and turned to follow.

 

There it was.  His father had limped ahead with excited steps and called out.  “You can see it,” his voice breathless, his arm outstretched and pointing through the thinning trunks of trees.  It didn’t look like beanstalk.  No matter what Alex had been told, he still visualized something green, a snaking weave of leafy vines that would extend into the shroud of clouds that capped the sky.  Alex stopped climbing, grabbed on to his father’s outstretched hand without looking.  It didn’t make sense.  It was too distant for details, to have any discernable color.  And yet it could not be missed: a great vertical shadow, snaking like a gnarled branch held upright into the sky where it radiated auburn against the hazy ceiling of the atmosphere, out into the cold dead of space.  It made any one of these mountains that he’d spent the entire morning scampering up appear like a lone fern beneath a looming, ancient fir.  Nothing could be so massive.  It just didn’t make sense and Alex winced and rubbed his eyes as if it was a mistake.  The entire southern sky was cracked.

“What is it?”

“I said, I don’t know.”

“Are there giants up there?”

His father chuckled.  “It’s not a beanstalk, remember?”

“What is it?”

“I don’t know.”

Alex kept squeezing his father’s hand.  “I’m scared.”

“It’s okay to be scared.”

“Are you scared?”

“I was.”

“You’re not scared anymore?”

“I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“I’m not scared.”

“Why not?”

“Because I think we’re safe.”

“You think we’re safe?”

The man squeezed Alex’s hand looked him in the eyes with a tender smile intended to make his forthcoming lie appear as genuine as was possible.  That same comforting, essential falsehood that his own parents had repeated to him, assured him, on countless occasions before their own vicious and untimely deaths.

“Trust me.  We’re going to be fine.”