Free Short Story Collection on Kindle Today!

twocephalopods3Hey guys,

My collection of Flash Fiction, Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar is free on kindle today!

If you’ve enjoyed the fiction I’ve posted here in the past, then I really think you’ll enjoy this book. It contains sixteen short works in a range of genres, thriller, horror, sci-fi, and the occasional comedy.

So, if you have a kindle or the kindle app on your iOS/Android device then pop along to Amazon and give it a go!

Quick Updates

Carrier PigeonHey guys, it has been a while since my last post so I’m just giving you a few updates. I’ve been scaling things back the last couple of weeks because after moving the blog to its new hosting and the work recording Those Aren’t Biscuits, I’ve just been so burned out. I just wanted to take some time, give my brain time to cool and re-focus things a little bit. I put a lot of my short fiction projects on the back burner for a while and started seriously working on a novel. Then I scrapped it and started a new one.

So, it has been slow work. I’ve been taking it steady, I’m working on an idea I had a long time ago and I’ve plotted it in a lot more detail than I’m used to. (To be honest, the plotting probably pushed me into full burnout mode. It’s more stressful than it looks.) But now I’m back to my usual schedule, I’m writing every day and I’m working through the story. A few details need rethinking, but for that most part it’s working out well.

I also have the pleasure of working in a genre that’s completely new to me. (Crime/Supernatural) So, all play and no work right now.

In other news, I’m reading a lot more lately. I’m pushed myself through the first Game of Thrones book and I’m making good progress on the second. I’m enjoying them, though not completely without criticism. I’m a sporadic reader, at times I can burn through books but often I need to force myself through. I’m trying to build good habits and keep my mind sharp. It has been a learning experience already, as I’ve found something I really admire in George R. R. Martin’s style. He presents a large amount of characters, each chapter follows a different character’s POV, and yet he always manages to advance the plot significantly without playing the omniscient narrator. Characters will often discuss events occurring simultaneously, but from their own unique perspective. It means the story is always moving forward, even when the players involved aren’t “on-screen.” It’s a skill I’d love to develop.

Lastly, I know I’ve posted Lego pics here before, but I’ll be reviving my old Lego blog at http://bricksfix.blogspot.com if you’re interested in following that kind of stuff.

Is Short Fiction Selling for You?

It’s been three years since I started my path in self-publishing by posting Christmas Past to Amazon. I put a lot of work into preparing that little story, designing a cover and rewriting it so often I can probably still recite it start to finish. Since then I’ve published another standalone story and three collections, but I’ve noticed in the years since that short fiction has become a tougher sell. It used to be that sales would trickle in even when I didn’t promote the book heavily, since then I can’t even get a decent spike in my sales during a free promotion.

Over the last three months, sales for that first little book look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 16.07.23

It has all be a little demoralising for me, because the big draw in self publishing has always been the opportunities it offers for writers working in non-traditional markets. With the decline of the fiction magazine, self publishing can fill that gap, but not if the market just doesn’t exist. I’ve made mistakes along the way, I know. I waited too long between books early on and I’ve really dragged my feet when it comes to getting a novel on the store, but performance is still way below what I’d expect by now.

So, I’m putting the call out. If you write and self publish short fiction, particularly for kindle, how are you doing with it? Has progress been in line with your expectations? Let me know in the comments, or drop me an email.

10 Things I Learned as an Indie Author.

With Apologies to Buzzfeed:

1) Being listed on Amazon isn’t as glamorous as it looks.

SylvesterGif

Yes, there I am in the same category as Stephen King. How many have I sold? Well… *mumble mumble*

2) Reviews are like gold dust.

BugsBunny Dog

Opinions. Must. Have. Opinions.

3) Everything I have ever written is too short.

That'sAllFolks

Make my short story longer, you say?

4) Writing Erotica gets more and more tempting every year.

Bugs Bunny Dance

Bow-chicka-wow-wow = Ka-Ching!

5) No amount of sales is too small for a party.

Daffy Duck Dance

Cash in the royalty cheques, we’re going Super-Size at McDonalds!

6) Nobody you know reads…

Sylvester Coyote Reading

“Why don’t you get it made into a film?”

7) …Well, not what you’re writing anyway.

Wil E Coyote Psychology Book

“Is it like the DaVinci Code?”

8) Writing a blurb is one of mankind’s greatest challenges.

Sylvester Smoking Coffee

BUY MY BOOK BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW. THERE IS A GHOST IN IT.

9) It’s hard to explain what you do without giving people the wrong idea.

Boring Mechanism

No, I am not rich. No, I am not unemployed. Getting closer though.

10) It is the greatest feeling in the world.

Pepe Le Pew SPinning

“And more, much more than this, I did it my waaaaaaay.”

Endangered – A Short Story

Epping_Forest_Centenary_Walk_2_-_Sept_2008Hey guys, a few updates before story time.

Just to let you know, the free promo for Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar is over now. Sorry if you missed, but there’ll be other freebie days soon if you just keep checking. (Or subscribe via the button on the left and WordPress.com’s high-tech robots will keep checking for you.)

We’re getting towards the end of another cycle of short stories. This is the seventh, just one more and I’ll start getting them ready for publication and they disappear from the blog completely. If you’d like to read some of the older stories, just nip over to Amazon and check them out.

In other news, Those Aren’t Biscuits hit a grand total of TEN episodes last week and we’re all very proud. Episode 11 records tomorrow night, so stick around for that. Now I’ll just leave you with the story.

– Owen

***

Endangered

Aaron ran until his chest ached, and when he could run no more he ducked down and braced himself against one of the ancient trees until he caught his breath. Fliss didn’t need to stop as often, and when Aaron stopped she didn’t wait, but slowed and kept an eye on him. They had been running together every night for nearly two weeks through the forest. There had been three at the start, and they weren’t about the lose each other again. Aaron felt the energy coming back to his legs, he couldn’t hear the creature just yet. If he heard nothing for a little longer, he would signal Fliss and they’d take a rest break. Ten, twenty minutes at most. Sometimes they would lose it for as long as an hour, but it would always pick up the scent in the end. It was best to stay ahead if you could.

He waved at her, she’d slowed to a jog now. When she looked back and saw him, she circled around, hurdling over a collapsed log. It was dark, the middle of the night. The moonlight barely broke through the treetops. Aaron guessed his eyesight had adjusted in the weeks since they entered, on the first few nights it had been as if they were entirely coated in darkness whenever the sun set. Now he could pick out more details. When they were close he could see the light glint in her eyes. She did not speak much, but he knew her desire to survive was as strong as his. After all, she ran. She never fell back like Carter had, and while he was sure she would not leave him willingly, he knew she would not hesitate to run if she had no choice. That had been their life for fifteen nights.

They had not seen the creature. Not in the light, and barely in the dark, but it was always stalking them. They knew nothing about it except that it was enormous, it ran fast and made its way through the trees like a ghost. They knew nothing about its intentions except that it killed. It had killed Carter. From that night on, they camped during the day and ran during the night.

The pain in Aaron’s lungs was started to subside. Fliss tossed him a water bottle and he drank, he thought about eating, but the rest didn’t last long. The creatures low whine started to travel through the trees and the slight shake of the earth began. Aaron didn’t know how many more nights he could run, but he knew he could not stop, and so they set off again through the trees.

As they ran, the creature came closer, Aaron didn’t dare look back but he could feel its size, he could feel the force of the air on his back as the massive thing made its way through the forest. As the sun finally broke through the treetops, he heard it scream and retreat. They had made it to another day.

The energy drained from him, he stumbled until he came to a hard stop of the forest’s mossy floor. Fliss stumbled through a couple more steps before heading back to him and they sat on the ground. They fell back, and like every morning they laughed and congratulated each other on surviving another night.

“I don’t know how long I can keep running,” she said. And he knew how she felt. Each night it became harder. They already slept most of the day, but before they made a bed from whatever they could find, they planned their route. Fliss kept the map she had been plotting in her back pocket. It was sketched out on the back page of an old textbook, in mud, pencil, and whatever else she could make stick. In the corner she had doodled a spiral, she traced over it in pencil every time, like it helped her think. He liked watching little details like that. She traced a line, the best estimate they had of the route they had taken through the forest so far. They guessed at its size, but there was only so much they could learn in the dark, and the creature could come from any side. Leading them off in any direction. It was hard, keeping the head clear on so little sleep, to plot it out, but they worked out the best direction to head. The way they would try to run the next night. Then, with a vicious sunlight burning their eyes, they tried to sleep.

It wasn’t easy. Aaron was starting to adjust to the night light, but Fliss found it harder. She would have bad dreams, shake herself awake and pull Aaron with her by her screams. He tried to comfort her, but he didn’t know how. They weren’t close before the forest, he didn’t know her that well still, and so he focused on trying to go back to sleep and leaving her in peace.

That night was different, his sleep started peaceful, but this time he had a dream. A dream of noise and blood, and he wanted wake up and escape it, but his mind couldn’t win the fight. His body was exhausted and even when he was semi-conscious, his legs wouldn’t move. Every muscle resisted until he fell back into a deep, enrapturing sleep.

When Aaron woke it was dark. He panicked, threw himself out of the bed with a shout. Then he remembered the creature, cursed himself for making so much noise. But there was so much to be afraid of, sleeping in was not a good sign, he was pushed as far as he could go. He could sleep no longer. If he slept in again, he would be dead. He didn’t hear the creature yet, but it could not be far off. He stood, and in the dark, he tried to find Fliss to wake her. He was sure he found the spot where she had made her bed, but he couldn’t see her. He kneeled, but his hands touched only grass. It felt wet but his bed was dry. He held his hands to the moonlight and saw blood.

Aaron ran. He ran before he could stop to think about why he was running and when he finally came to his senses he let the words travel across his mind. “Fliss is dead.” And he knew it was true. It had been the same with Carter, they had slept in the night. Not knowing that was when it hunted, and it had picked one of them off. Now it had done the same, and there was just him left. Panic took over, and he ran again, but Fliss’s voice rang in his head.

“I think we’re ok.” She had said after Carter died. “We haven’t heard it again, it might not hunt after it kills.” Carter’s death had bought them a day. The loss of Fliss might do the same. He might not have a day, but even if he didn’t, could he carry on running? All he had left was the hope that somehow it was sated. And he stopped running. He sat on the ground and really felt the pain in his muscles. He was sure the creature was nearby, even if it wasn’t hungry. He slept, and somewhere deep down, he hoped the thing would pick him off in the night too.

In the morning, Aaron felt better. He tried not to think of Fliss, hard as it was, but it had been twenty four hours since he really had to run. His body ached, but for the first time in two weeks it felt like it was mending. And he could travel during the day. They had talked about that, if they could just make good time in the daylight, maybe they could see signs of something beyond the forest. Find shelter, or even find where the thing slept and kill it. That was Fliss’s ambition, Aaron just wanted to go home, and he was sure they could. However big the forest was, they had run every night since they arrived. It couldn’t be much further.

He set off in the direction the had planned, and kept his eyes open for anything unusual. He found it around noon. A campsite. Signs of a fire, beds for three people. In his desperation he nearly cried. The hope of finally seeing someone else was too much. But there was something wrong, he recognised the site. The three had slept there the night Carter died. They had been travelling in circles. He was walking back the way they came, and it was much too far back to their starting point. He picked up Fliss’s map, rescued from the campsite. In the corner she had drawn the spiral, he’d taken it for a doodle. She had known all along. Everything, the map. The entire thing. A waste of time, a distraction just to keep them going. And she hadn’t said a thing. He sat in the camp, he was going in the shock. Time passed so fast it was becoming dark again. And he waited in the bed he had made weeks ago, and wondered if the creature was hungry yet.

Free Short Story Collection Available Now!

Two Cephalopods CoverHey guys, It’s freebie time again. Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar will be free until the 8th of Feb. The collection contains sixteen short stories, and you can read it on the kindle, or the kindle app on your phone, tablet or PC. Grab it from the links below, or read on for a few details about the book.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar: Sixteen Little Stories

This double volume contains both The Octopus of Suspense, and Octopus Returns.

The Octopus of Suspense

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Octopus Returns

From the author of Christmas Past and Time Trial.

The Octopus is back with another eight little stories. Visit the future in PILOT, discover the dangers of time travel in DETRITUS, don’t touch the glass in MIRROR, MIRROR, and many more.

Each story offers something a little different, but each will have you on the edge of your seat!

Two Cephalopods Walk Into a Bar: Available Now

Two Cephalopods CoverHello all! Just wanted to let you know that I have a new book available on Amazon now. It’s a double volume containing both of my previously published collections for a special price. Details below.

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk

Two Cephalopods Walk Into A Bar: Sixteen Little Stories

This double volume contains both The Octopus of Suspense, and Octopus Returns.

The Octopus of Suspense

The Octopus of Suspense is a collection of eight little stories that will take you somewhere new. Exploring a range of genres, each story enters the world of a unique character. From the desk of troubled pulp writer, to a starship in the distant future, The Octopus of Suspense offers a surprise at every turn. Originally written for weekly release online, they have been revisited and expanded for this new collection. Each story is between 1000 and 1500 words long.

Octopus Returns

From the author of Christmas Past and Time Trial.

The Octopus is back with another eight little stories. Visit the future in PILOT, discover the dangers of time travel in DETRITUS, don’t touch the glass in MIRROR, MIRROR, and many more.

Each story offers something a little different, but each will have you on the edge of your seat!

Against the Wall – A Short Story

hubble_large_04Hey guys, it’s short story time again. This story came about because I was processing an idea for a longer story and I wanted to get a feel for the setting so I wrote this up as a quick idea then fleshed it out. Let me know what you think. 

***

Beckett gripped the ladder, and through a fog of booze, made an attempt at a controlled descent. His knee cracked with every rung, but he wasn’t far from the ground. He still put his footing wrong at the last step and came down a bit too heavy, but he’d done a pretty good job. He checked his surroundings, one of the old Cavalier 2-26s. There was a time when they’d made up most of the Hive’s skin, the place had a little class in those days. Long before he arrived. Still, the Cavs were big ships, high quality, not the like the slums they built around them. By the time he worked the skin, the slums were mostly old cargo haulers surrounded by a network of sealing tubes and snub fighters. God knows what the shell was made of now.

He missed his cosy office, almost wished he’d never taken the job. No, he didn’t.

“How’d you like to nail Dylan for good?” She’d asked. She leaned in, asked him to keep this in her strictest confidence. She was shy, held back on the information until she knew she could trust him. And she could, he’d been working on putting Governor Dylan behind bars most of his life. The Hive was corrupt, everyone knew that. Even in the centre, where the ships still looked new and there were no blackouts, a good coin got you further than a decent job. Dylan was a special kind of corrupt though.

No, he didn’t regret taking the job. What he regretted was taking such a cushy place when he got the chance; it was making him soft. He found the 2-26’s exit without bumping into anyone, but had to squeeze through the old maintenance hatch into a communal hall that looked like a derelict freighter. He had to suck his gut in to get through, desk job was making him a little wider too. A few people milled about the old market stalls, mostly selling food that looked scraped together from vending machine overs. The map on the wall that reassured him; the route was a pretty straight line from here to the shell.

Of all his regrets, moving to The Hive wasn’t one of them. He arrived when he was twenty-three, he’d wanted to see it all his life. For some people, The Hive was the galaxy’s biggest folly; for others, a symbol of human ingenuity. For Beckett, it was just a place to find a good job. It started off as a small cargo fleet that settled a little out of the solar system. Deregulation of the shipping lanes made it more dangerous to travel alone, four or five ships were trading so often they started leaving the docking clamps together and stayed in a loose Orbit around the nearest star. That was ancient history now, for all Beckett’s life, the Hive consisted of tens of thousands of ships. Some big, some small. Some intact, the others broken down and harvested for resources. The up and coming’s in the academy liked to call it a free-form space station, but most of the traders called it Bric-a-Brac Moon.

Beckett was nearly there now. The outer layers of The Hive, the shell, contained the newest ships. Little more than single accommodation craft, wired in for power and emergency propulsion. Things were risky, but there was always work to be done. Truth was a nightmare but Beckett looked at it with all the admiration of a home town. If the little sun glider he’d lived in when he first arrived was still around, it would probably be carved to pieces by now. Hell, he reminded himself, it wouldn’t even be the shell anymore. The place had added twenty or thirty layers since then. He climbed through another sealing tube, breaking through into an observation deck. Crowded as always. The only place the rich bothered to visit in the shell, and they went with an escort. A chance to look out at the stars. And while they stared out, Beckett stared back the way he had travelled.

It had taken him days on foot. The last ten layers were suffering intermittent blackouts as the ships became smaller. There were no elevators, just hatches, doors, small empty cabins, and locked habitation centres to traverse. That had taken a day all by itself, but he had reached the skin. The outer layer of The Hive. Travelling this far was hard work. About the only thing harder was travelling to a specific spot on the skin. Going deep was easy, the centre was almost impossible to miss, but the outer shell of the hive was the size of a small planet. Beckett had been careful to plan his route, and to take his time. Not too much time, if he wanted to meet his contact he could not be late, but people who were careless often didn’t return. He held on to the image of the woman who hired him. No names, be discreet, meet the contact. One of Dylan’s rejects, banished to the shell for knowing too much. And that made sense too, the shell was full of people who had pissed someone off.

After six days of travel, Beckett had arrived. The skin was a thin but busy layer, usually full of engineers and new arrivals sealing their ships into the infrastructure before assessing the resources for harvesting, but the meeting place was empty. He walked the corridors for a bit, getting a feel for the place. He could see the workers through a viewing window, hard at work on the latest member of the hive, a small cargo vessel that was nearly broken down now. The meeting place was in the opposite direction; a small, beaten Nebula Yacht that looked empty. Becket climbed aboard. There was nobody there. He checked his watch. He was early, less than an hour, but better than he expected. He hoped his contact appreciated it.

He examined the ship, he had arrived in a ship like it. It had been his Fathers. He hadn’t thought about the old man in a while, he never appreciated Beckett joining the Hive. Old fool, half the solar system was on board now. Probably living in some slum somewhere, and never even bothered to get in touch. Beckett found an old overturned chair, one of the last bits of furniture left in the craft, and made himself comfortable. Everything had been taken, the slums were so bad these days, the poor sods living there had probably stripped it before the engineers arrived.

After two hours, Beckett gave up. Whoever his contact was, they weren’t coming. He had a feeling he’d been set up, no doubt Dylan had something planned in the city and wanted him out of the way. He felt a fool, before consoling himself. He had, at least, been willing to head out for it. Better than most would do. He lifted himself up and walked to hatch, which slammed shut when he was inches away. A radio crackled behind him, he spun around but he was alone on the ship. It was the craft’s internal radio, but the signal was broken, low powered. A source nearby.

“I’m sorry to mislead you, Mr Beckett.”

“Dylan?” His chest felt tight, this was bad.

“You know, I almost changed my mind.” The radio fizzed again, filling the silence. “But you were so dedicated, who else would have climbed all the way out here.” There was a grinding metal noise above and beneath him.

Beckett closed his eyes. “Oh no.”

“Goodbye, Mr Beckett.” He turned and stared at the stars outside, and felt his heart sink to see the ship was moving. He ran to the dash, looked for controls for the engines, the radio, anything to get control but it was all gone. “Don’t worry, Mr Beckett.” Dylan’s voice was already breaking up. “I’m sure someone will find you before the air runs out.” Beckett’s eyes traced the corners of the ship, trying to measure up the size. He wasn’t so convinced.

***

Octopus Returns: A Sting in the Tale – Coming Soon.

OctopusReturnsCoverGood Morning, folks!

I’m happy to announce that I will have a new book hitting Kindle this month. As you know, I’ve been posting more short pieces to the blog this year, and I’ll be collecting these together into a follow up to the collection I published this time last year. That volume is still available HERE if you’d like to get a taste of what’s coming.

Until then, enjoy the (probably) final version of the cover and let me know what you think.

Nostalgia Time: The Demon Headmaster

 

This entry in Nostalgia Time is a little bit different. The Demon Headmaster was a long running children’s show, based on a popular series of books by Gillian Cross. The series followed the exploits of Dinah Glass, a foster child who comes up against the sinister headmaster of her new school. She soon discovers that The Headmaster is a supernatural hypnotist, running the school perfectly and scoring the best test results by hypnotising the entire student body at once during assemblies. However, it’s not just Ofsted The Headmaster is trying to win over, as Dinah begins to suspect the school is just a testing ground for something far more ambitious. 

Terrence Hardiman terrified my generation with his terrifying portrayal of The Headmaster, and while the plots became goofier as the series wore on, the show was always well cast and performed. Child actors aren’t known for bringing out the best of the material, but the story worked and kids were believable enough in it. So effective was it that much of the show’s visuals are still burned into my brain. The hypnotised kids waiting patiently in lines to start the school day, and later the creepy testing facility hidden in the woods. The use of something familiar, a typical british school, to create fear and suspense would later be revisited in Series 2 of the rebooted Doctor Who with Toby Whithouse’s School Reunion. Both featuring brainwashed children and a dark patriarch at the top. 

The Demon Headmaster has been gone for a long time now. The last book was in 2002, the TV show finished in 1998, and Children’s TV has moved away from strong narrative drama anyway. Still, it’s nice to remember a time when Children’s TV was so imaginative and so motivated by encouraging independence, free thought and intelligence.