Novels I refuse to publish and a special offer
When someone asks an author how long they have been writing for, the answer is always always.
Wait, that doesn’t sound right, does it?
What I’m trying to say is, authors always answer the question, always.
Hang on, is that clear?
That reminds me of this rather mystifying sentence:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Yes, that is an actual grammatically correct sentence.
But wait, I’m not here today to discuss linguistics. I’m here to talk about writing.
Have you ever tried writing a novel? It’s difficult. I’ve written sixteen of them now, and I still quake with fear and apprehension whenever I begin writing a new book.
No matter how many novels I succeed in writing, there is always that feeling at the start of a new book that this will be the time I fail. This will be the time I crash and burn and never pick up a pen again. Or tap at a keyboard. You know what I mean.
And I have failed at writing many novels. If you are a long time follower of this blog (and thank you, I appreciate it) you will have read the excerpts from some of my abandoned novels here, here, and here, along with a rash promise to complete them one day.
But are there any others?
And if so, will I ever finish them?
And if not, why not?
And why do Police police Police police police police Police police?
To answer the first question, yes there are. I can think of two in particular, and no, I will never finish them.
Well, I seem to have answered two questions already, so I might as well crack on and answer the third. But don’t you even dare to think about asking me to address the final question. Just don’t.
Way back in time, and I’m talking long enough ago that there were no mobile phones and our rooftops were being invaded by satellite dishes, I wrote and completed my very first novel. Called, The End of Time it dealt with, yes you guessed it, the end of the world. Now, the world wasn’t ending because of out of control climate change, and there wasn’t a nuclear war or a zombie outbreak.
Nope. The world was ending because Jesus was about to return.
And everyone was waiting for it to happen.
I took the concept of the second coming seriously and populated my novel with men and women having a crisis of faith while the world slowly ground to a halt around them.
It doesn’t much sound like a laugh a minute, does it? And believe me it isn’t.
But I was very proud of it at the time, and I still am in a weird way, but even back then I knew there was no good reason at all to send it to a publisher or an agent.
It wasn’t good enough.
I decided to write a second novel.
Part of the reason for writing The End of Time had been to work through my own spiritual existential crisis, but that hadn’t worked so I decided to leap back into the world of Christianity once more. And private detective novels.
My second novel, Caught in a Cruel Net, had a Baptist minister looking for his missing teenage daughter in 1980s Birmingham whilst, yes you guessed it, going through a crisis of faith. I like this one just as much as The End of Time, maybe even a little more because it took me a lot less time to write and it is a better book.
A friend read it and complimented me on it, and told me he hadn’t seen the twist coming, which was very gratifying.
Again, I knew I couldn’t send this to a publisher. But I was learning, and I was maturing as a writer.
So I started writing my third book.
That one ended up being published as Caxton Tempest at the End of the World.
I’d finally worked through my issues with Christianity enough that I didn’t need to put spiritual matters front and centre in my narrative. In fact, this time I simply wanted to write a rip-roaring adventure, a supernatural thriller through the seedier elements of London and beyond.
And I succeeded. Caxton Tempest at the End of the World takes in elements of the Sherlock Holmes books, Oliver Twist and Dracula, along with a cowboy, a master of the martial arts, demons, underground tunnels and graveyards plus secret societies and a zombie-like thug by the name of Marlow Crimps.
The Fallen Angel
The tall, stooped figure stood in the open doorway, holding the oil lamp out in front of him, casting its yellow light across the room.
That was the first thing that Jim ever remembered about him, this tall, skeletal, bent over figure, holding the dirty oil lamp. The second impression Jim had of him was his long, blackened fingernails and his bony, crooked hands. The next was his clothing; shabby, grey shirt and trousers, stained with dried blood and hanging loosely from his gaunt frame.
The bile only rose in the back of Jim’s throat, threatening to choke him with disgust and fear and utter loathing, when he finally saw the man’s face. The haggard, pallid features, the thin wisps of hair trailing across his head, the skin stretched taut over the skull, and threaded with fine, blue veins.
The man’s sunken, hollow eyes glittered with baleful pleasure when he saw the two frightened boys standing before him.
“Aaaahhhh,” he whispered, as he took a few steps towards the brothers, casting the flickering yellow light of the oil lamp over them, to see them better with.
Jim squeezed George’s hand hard, keeping a tight hold on him.
Just let him come a few steps nearer, thought Jim, just a few steps nearer, and then we’ll run round him, and out the door. Just a bit closer, just a bit . . .
As if reading his mind, the man reached out a gnarled hand and pushed the door shut behind him. And then he whipped his head round at the sound of grunting and squealing as a dark shape scurried past them.
He looked back at the two boys and said, “You’ve been naughty boys, haven’t you? Meddling where you shouldn’t, no doubt, as naughty boys are wont to do.”
The man lifted the glass of the lamp and blew out the light. In the sudden gloom Jim just about saw the man squatting on the floor, and scratching his long fingernails on the filthy carpet.
Suddenly, with much squealing and grunting the thing from the shadows leapt at the man’s hand, but in a flash he had pinned it to the floor, and then lifted it high as he stood up. The thing wriggled and squirmed violently in his hand, but he held on tight.
“You’ve been fortunate indeed,” whispered the man. “Devil’s imps don’t usually leave their prey so long before killing them. But this little one is out of practice. Too long boxed up in a cramped old trunk, eh my pretty?”
Snarling and grunting, the thing sunk its teeth into the man’s hand.
“Aaaahhhh, yessss, bite away my pretty, do your worst, before I pack you away again.” He reached out a dirty hand and gently stroked its head.
The man walked past the brothers to the fallen trunk, and, kneeling down, placed the squirming, struggling devil’s imp back into his prison.
Still holding on tight to George’s hand, Jim took a step toward the closed door.
Before he could take another the man had turned on the spot, an arm outstretched to point at him.
“Stay right where you are!” he hissed. “I haven’t finished with you two boys yet.”
He turned back to the trunk, making sure to fasten it securely.
“Wh . . . who are you?” Jim said.
Slowly the man rose to his feet, his back to the two brothers.
“My name is Murmur,” he said. He turned slowly and looked at Jim, and then George, his gaze lingering over each of them. His tongue snaked out of his mouth and wet his thin lips. “And now, my lovely little creatures, it is my turn to ask, who are you?”
“My name’s Jim, an’ this is George, my brother. It were my idea to break into your house, Mister, not George’s. If’n you’re gonna call the peelers . . .”
“Sshhhh . . .” Murmur said, waving his long, bony fingers at the boys. “Nobody’s calling the police, oh no.”
George tugged fitfully at Jim’s hand.
Jim swallowed hard, even though his mouth was as dry as parchment. Despite the cool of the room he was sweating profusely.
Murmur shuffled closer to them, reaching out a hand and stroking Jim’s cheek with one of his long, dirty fingernails.
“Such handsome little boys,” he whispered. “Such beautiful, fair skin, such delicate features.”
Jim’s flesh flinched involuntarily at each touch of the old man’s fingers. The stench of death lifted from the man’s dry, cracked skin and filled Jim’s nostrils. His stomach turned over as he struggled to keep his breathing under control.
Murmur reached out another hand, sliding it around the back of George’s head, slipping his skeletal fingers through his tousled hair. Slowly, inexorably, he began to draw the young boy’s head toward him. In a display of pleasurable anticipation, he bared his teeth and sucked in his breath, bubbles of spit glistening on his withdrawn lips.
“I . . . I saw you today,” Jim said, in a desperate bid to distract the old man. “I saw you . . . with Inspector Behrends.”
Murmur turned to Jim and dropped his hand, suddenly ignoring George, who staggered backwards and sat on the floor with a thump.
He stayed where he was, his eyes unfocused and glassy.
“What do you know about Behrends?” Murmur hissed, drawing closer now to Jim.
“I . . . I saw you with him,” Jim repeated, a tremor creeping into his voice.
“Yesss, yesss, you already told me that, you pathetic dribble of snot. Tell me what else you know, quick before I scoop out your innards and chew on your guts.”
Jim felt that at any moment now he would lose control of his bladder, a final humiliation to suffer before this thing killed him and ate him. He closed his eyes for a second, blotting out the hideous features that were now only inches from him, but unable to ignore the freezing, stinking breath that blew across his face.
“I know he’s investigating a murder, that he needs help and he asked Caxton Tempest.”
“Caxton Tempest, eh? And what do you know about Tempest my pretty little thing?”
Jim struggled hard to think, to come up with something to say just to keep this monstrosity distracted until he could think of a way to escape.
“Well come on then, my handsome little creature,” Murmur hissed, crouching like a giant, black spider over Jim and reaching a clawed hand out to stroke Jim’s cheek. “Tell me what you know before I suck your eyeballs out of your skull.”
“I don’t know,” Jim whispered, “I just know that he helps the coppers sometimes, an’ that he’s worried about these murders, said it were serious.”
Murmur pulled back, and Jim coughed and gasped for air, grateful to be free of the man’s stinking breath.
I hope you enjoyed reading that little snippet from Caxton Tempest. If you fancy reading the rest well, Caxton Tempest at the End of the World is currently discounted for the next four days.