HTDC is now available on Smashwords! It’s the same price as on Amazon, but now you can get it in multiple formats.
HTDC is now available on Smashwords! It’s the same price as on Amazon, but now you can get it in multiple formats.
One time in high school I tried to describe my novel to a friend.
“It’s about a girl who wakes up in a weird town with no memory. She meets this strange boy…”
“Ah,” said my friend, “I know where this is going.”
I smiled. “No, you don’t. You really don’t.”
So, for anyone who has read the first three chapters of HTDC and already thinks they know where it is going, here is a bonus excerpt from where things start to get a little weirder.
The world tilted. Lycia felt like she was falling even though the ground was still beneath her feet. She pushed against what she thought was the trapdoor above her head, only to find herself stumbling sideways through a heavy door. Aster and Meg burst out behind her and almost pushed her down the long, straight stairwell that they now stood at the top of.
They stared down into the shadows, clinging to each other to keep from falling. The door behind them slammed shut.
“What just happened?” Meg whispered.
“I have no idea,” Aster whispered back.
“Are we still in Greenwood?”
Aster pushed past the two girls and walked down the stairs. “Let’s hope not.”
They came to the base of the stairs and stepped onto floorboards the color of dried blood. The planks of polished wood were placed in a pattern that spiraled into the center of a vast circular ballroom. High above them was a domed ceiling, covered in dripping strands of illuminated crystals. They glimmered and glittered in a kaleidoscope of colors, casting woozy, uneven patterns across the room. The walls appeared to ripple as the colors danced over them. The contrast with Greenwood could not have been starker.
The room was ringed by a raised platform, where dozens of tables sat draped in moth-eaten green tablecloths. In the center of each vacant table was a flickering blue lantern. In the middle of the room was a round stage, the edge fringed with golden lights. On the stage was an enormous grand piano, and over it stooped a tiny man dressed in a gray pinstripe suit. His entire body was covered in brown hair that protruded from the ends of his sleeves and trouser legs. He looked like a dead animal that had been stuffed into a suit and propped up on a stool, only he was very much alive, and playing a gentle melody on the piano.
“I’m dreaming,” Lycia murmured.
“Don’t say that,” Aster said, gazing hungrily at the luminescent ceiling. “If you say that you’ll make it go away.”
“I think I want it to go away,” said Meg, her voice small in the giant room.
“No! This is amazing!” Aster cried. “I feel like I’ve dreamt of this place. I belong here.”
“I don’t know, Aster. This feels wrong,” said Lycia.
Aster grabbed Lycia by her arms. “But you did this,” he said, his eyes shining with crazed excitement. “You’re the one who made this happen. We’re out of Greenwood! If it weren’t for you we’d still be stuck there, but now we’ve escaped to somewhere else, somewhere better. You did this, Lycia. You got us out of there!”
Lycia wrenched herself out of Aster’s grip and backed away from him. “What’s gotten into you? We don’t know where we are or what’s going on. We don’t even know if this is real. All I did was open a door. Even if we are out of Greenwood, what about our parents? What about Dottie? Are you just going to abandon them?”
Aster was breathing hard, a hint of color in his usually pale face. “Of course not,” he conceded.
Lycia studied him warily. At the back of her mind something was eating away at her. Morgan had given her the key. If they had truly escaped Greenwood, then it was Morgan who had allowed it to happen. Lycia knew Morgan wouldn’t just let them leave. There was some other motive here. She wanted to spill her thoughts to Aster before he got too carried away, but thinking of Morgan only reminded her of the kiss she had been told to pass on, so she held her tongue.
“We’re not open yet!” a thundering voice bellowed. To the right of the stage was a bar with an enormous man squeezed in behind it. At his back were rows of brightly colored bottles and glasses stacked high on rickety shelves.
“Sorry,” called Aster. “We didn’t know. We just, uh… ended up here.”
The man sniffed the air, as if analyzing their scent. “Ah, you’re new,” he grumbled. “That explains it. Well, I’ll let it slide this time seeing as we’re opening soon anyways. But don’t be making a habit of it.” He took a filthy rag and commenced wiping down the bar top.
Aster, Meg and Lycia recovered from their shock and tentatively moved down the steps toward the bar. The grotesque details of the bartender came into view. His proportions were so unusual that he barely seemed human. His abnormally large head was perched on a short, tree trunk-like neck that expanded out into broad shoulders and thick, flabby arms. He wore a long-sleeved tunic made from a patchwork of rags and old leather. Around his broad waist was a wide leather belt that held various bottle openers and vials sealed with tiny corks. Aster, Meg and Lycia each sat down on a rickety bar stool, looking up in awe at the bartender’s revolting face. His eyes and half of his mouth had been stitched closed with thick, rough thread.
The bartender wiped his pus-encrusted eyes on the sleeve of his tunic and leaned over Aster. “What do you want?” the bartender asked through the unstitched corner of his mouth.
Aster was unable to answer because he was holding his breath against the sickening stench oozing from the body of the bartender. Meg delicately placed her hand over her nose. Lycia’s eyes watered but she managed to ask, “What have you got? Mr…”
The bartender shuffled around to face her. He leaned close to her as he had done to Aster, sniffing with his wide, hairy nostrils. He peered through his stitches and smiled lopsidedly, a string of saliva jiggling on the edge of his meaty lip. “The name’s Roland,” he said. “And we’ve got whatever you want. But then, most people don’t know what they want. They think they do, but in truth they don’t have the slightest idea. If you can find what it is you truly desire, it will be yours.”
Aster smirked. “That’s a very philosophical thing to say about buying a drink.”
Roland threw back his massive head and laughed, spraying great dollops of spit all over the bar counter. “I wasn’t talking about drinks. But since you mentioned it, would you like one?”
“Uh, alright then,” said Aster.
Roland twisted his arm unnaturally around behind his back to reach a bottle. He placed a glass in front of Aster and poured what appeared to be thick, steaming mud into it.
Lycia raised an eyebrow, looking down into the contents of the glass “So, is that what he truly desires?”
“Perhaps,” said Roland.
Aster looked first to Lycia, who shrugged, then to Meg, who meekly stared back. Lifting the glass to his lips, and looking like he was fighting the urge to retch, Aster took a gulp of the thick brown liquid.
Lycia and Meg watched with concern as Aster placed the glass carefully on the counter. His eyes closed as he swayed from side to side. Then he sighed happily and fell backward off the bar stool. Lycia and Meg leapt up with a cry to try and catch him, but he hovered serenely in midair for a second, before floating gently to the ground like a feather, landing softly on his back without a sound.
Meg crouched over Aster, shaking him gently to wake him. Aster’s eyes snapped open. He stared directly at Meg and said, “I wanna do that again!” Then he burst into an uncontrollable fit of giggles.
Roland removed the drink from the bar. “I think that one’s a bit too strong for you, actually.”
Lycia and Meg pulled Aster to his feet. The room fell silent. The hirsute pianist stopped playing and turned to the bar.
“It’s time to open, Roland,” the pianist called out.
Roland nodded, and knocked twice on the counter with a giant, gnarled knuckle. “Here we go,” he said wearily.
At first, only a scattering of strangely dressed patrons sauntered down the stairs, but within minutes there was an avalanche of people—and things that clearly weren’t people—scrambling and slithering down into the great circular room. A raging river of colorful creatures filled the room with fur and frills, suits and satin dresses. There were giant reptilian humanoids, bird-like women covered in feathers, beastly men with tusks and hooves. There were creatures that did not appear to be made of solid matter, which floated like mist, crackled and flickered like flames, or splashed and rippled like water. The patrons hooted and howled with glee, raising a twisted assortment of appendages in the air. The crowd surged in an ocean of tones and hues that Aster, Meg and Lycia had not even known existed.
“Welcome to Bassisha,” Roland said to the wide-eyed trio.
As the patrons milled around the stage, the pianist tapped on the lid of his piano, and four more hairy men climbed out, each holding different instruments of unrecognizable design. They struck up an eerie blues tune that was both familiar and otherworldly. The patrons either began to dance hypnotically or sat at the round tables, buzzing loudly with babbling conversations.
Aster, Lycia and Meg stood at the bar and watched the colorful cavalcade with their mouths hanging open.
“We’re definitely not in Greenwood,” said Lycia.
All Aster and Meg could do was nod.
It has been almost three months since my little novel left the nest. Sales have been slow, but I’m overjoyed by the positive responses I’ve received (you can read reviews at Amazon, Amazon.co.uk, and a particularly cool one by Jeff Clough).
It’s hard to find a balanced opinion about self-publishing. Indie authors will tell you that they are the future of the literary world and anyone who uses a publisher or an agent is a conservative dinosaur on the brink of extinction. Traditionally published authors will tell you that indie authors are a bunch of entitled amateurs who were too shit to get a publisher or an agent so they were forced to publish their drivel themselves.
Nothing in the world is as black and white as that.
So here is what I have learnt so far from my self-publishing experience. I’m not pushing an agenda for either side. I’m too bitter and cynical to believe that much in anything.
Lower your expectations, A LOT
You are not going to get very many sales. However reasonable you think your interpretation of “not many” is, it will still be much less than that. Once all your friends and family buy a copy, your sales will slow to a geriatric snail’s pace, to the point where you can’t even tell if the snail is alive.
The people who find the most success with self-publishing are the people who crap out another book every few months and garner momentum through their sheer prolificness. I think, in many cases, it’s about quantity rather than quality. It took me eight years to perfect my book. I’m not about to rush the next one.
Extroverts, extroverts everywhere
I kind of assumed that all writers were quiet little introverts like me. I assumed we would all shyly shuffle our books forward, lower our eyes and fidget uncomfortably while the world gently took our babies away from us, and we would smile quietly to ourselves and experience a moment of peaceful introspection.
I was wrong, the extroverts write too. And they do it loudly, waving their hands about and insisting on everyone’s attention. They will get book sales, not because their books are necessarily better, but because they force people to notice them. I once had a girl at a concert lean on me because she thought I was part of the wall, so getting noticed is probably not my strong suit.
Tits or GTFO
Before I self-published, I thought that romance novels were nothing more than faded Mills & Boon in the bargain bin at the second hand bookshop. I had no idea that romance novels were such a huge industry. That shit is EVERYWHERE. It’s not just restricted to the romance genre, it’s invaded everything else as well. Just try to find a contemporary fantasy novel that doesn’t double as a romance novel Everything has to have romance now.
This leads me to the conclusion that we need more women in control of producing good quality feminist porn. That way, women could still get the satisfaction they need, while leaving some room in the bestseller list for the rest of us.
There is a lot of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” amongst indie authors. You can write reviews for their books in exchange for a review of yours. You can tag their books and they’ll tags yours. Every time I get close to buying into that mentality, I end up feeling dirty. I mean, thanks random stranger for retweeting my tweets, but it sounds like your book is some kind of conservative right wing racist fantasy, and I can’t in good conscience return the retweeting favour.
On the flipside, I’ve heard of indie authors leaving one star reviews for authors they perceive to be their competition. Between that and the trend for authors to give themselves a bunch of fake five star reviews, Amazon reviews have been rendered pretty much useless to discerning customers. Which sucks, because I’ve received some genuinely good reviews.
It sounds like I’m being overly negative, so I’ll sum up with this: Despite the crap that comes with it, self-publishing is still worth it. My book was never an easy sell to publishers – it’s too weird and doesn’t have obvious mass-market appeal. By self-publishing, I can allow my book to find its audience in its own time. Now I am in control. It’s a slow journey, but every little sale and every little review feels incredibly huge.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everyone telling you what you should be doing with your book, how to do it, when to do it etc. But you have to filter all of that out and do what feels right for you and your book. Just because we are all indie authors doesn’t mean we all have to follow the same path. It was following different paths that made self-publishing possible to begin with.
HTDC is featured on SpecFicPick today, which is a speculative fiction webzine. There are some other very interesting looking books that have been featured previously, so be sure to check it out.
I told myself that I would take a break from writing once How To Disappear Completely was out. I have studies I need to finish, wardrobes full of crap in need of cleaning, video games in need of playing, birds in need of cuddling.
But the thing about self publishing is that it’s dangerously easy. If I wanted to, I could save this blog post as a mobi file, upload it to Amazon, set the price at $9.99 and you could download it to your kindle in 24 hours. I wouldn’t do that, of course, because that would be stupid, but the fact remains that I could.
So I’m thinking of doing a short story collection. I have a few lying around. They only need a bit of polish. And the collection would either be very very cheap, or entirely free!
The stories I’m thinking of including so far are as follows:
What do you think?
For a limited time, you can get How To Disappear Completely for only 99 cents!
Still not convinced? Here are some things people have been saying about HTDC:
“Extremely well written and anyone who enjoys twisted, confusing and disturbing imagery will also enjoy it.”
“I was intrigued from the very first chapter and still guessing until the very last one. I was thoroughly captivated by the deliciously dark worlds of Greenwood and Bassisha and their strange inhabitants.”
“The inspiration for fantasy is often too personal to have meaning for anyone other than the writer. In this case however the characters are superbly drawn. Their dilemmas are convincing, despite the bizarre setting.”
So, what are you waiting for?
Author Jeff Clough has written a great review of HTDC over on his blog.
“Howells dives into Greenwood on page one and leaves the reader feeling as off-balance as the main character, a delicious device if the author can pull it off and Howells uses it well. It’s a novel that’s equal parts action and mystery, which keeps the story moving even as it explores human nature and the nature of reality itself. And as the violence escalates to horrific levels, we’re made to experience all the dread and terror that birthed the town of Greenwood in the first place.”
How To Disappear Completely is FREE all weekend long!
Now is the perfect opportunity to give this little tale of teenage angst falling down the rabbit hole a try.
It’s now been a full week since I published my novel. Sales are trickling in at a slow and steady pace, and people continue to be extremely supportive, presumably because they haven’t reached the really fucked up parts in the book so they aren’t scared of me yet.
I had a little book launch party with family and friends, which was kind of a weird experience for me because I haven’t had a party since the days of pass the parcel and musical chairs. I really enjoyed it though, especially this spectacular cake!
That’s my book cover rendered in chocolate! Completely edible, completely delicious.
I hope the coming weeks continue to be successful for my little book. There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of promotion, but for now I’m content to take a well-earned break from words. I’ll worry about becoming a best-seller later.
After the sugar high has passed…
It’s only been a few days since I uploaded my novel to Amazon (you can buy it HERE) but already I’m very happy with how it’s going.
I thought it would be scary, putting my little heart and soul out there for anyone to download, but I actually feel incredibly at ease. It’s only in hindsight that I see how miserable the editing process had made me. Now that the book is out there, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. The misery was worth it though; I’m confident I have put out my best possible product.
Everyone has been very supportive. Friends have been ferociously reblogging, retweeting and facebooking. Entire workplaces have been inundated with emails. I’m pretty sure half the Queensland Government has been notified through their various departments now. Thanks everyone!
I’m going to focus on getting reviews for now. But I only want REAL reviews. I’ve been hearing some awful accounts of indie authors creating multiple fake accounts in order to give themselves a heap of five star reviews. I’ve also seen authors vilify reviewers who have given them a negative review. I don’t want to take part in any of this bullshit. You are allowed to dislike my book. You can even hate it if that’s how you truly feel. I’m prepared to take the good with the bad and I’m not going to embarrass myself by getting in a huff about it.
It’s going to be a long and rather slow road, and I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. But I knew it would be like this. I’ve never really expected to be a best seller. What I would like, though, is a little bit of cult status. I would love this book to really mean something to people, even if it’s not many people. I want people to connect with it, to see themselves in it, and take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone.
And then I want them to cosplay as my characters at conventions and write dirty fan fiction!