My Book: An Excerpt from 90 Pages In!

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Hello again, you lovely thing.

Excellent news! I’m at 21,000 words in my book at the moment, which is just shy of 90 pages. By the time I’m finished I predict it’ll be near the 30,000 mark. It wasn’t supposed to be that long, but I’m simply having too much fun to cut the story short.

Below are 1,500 words or so that I wrote over the last day. As a quick recap: the king and his trio of companions are en route to rescue the kidnapped queen, Astra. The characters have overcome many obstacles, but are not without a few scars: the king is missing a hand, and Edgar has been turned into a panda. Yes, yes, it’s very silly, because silly is wonderful. Best if you temporarily switch off that grouchy part of your brain labelled ‘depressing adult cynicism’.

We join our bold quartet as they approach the last great danger of their journey: crossing the Sea of Pìss (pronounced peace). Enjoy. Or don’t. I don’t care. I love this shit!

*****

To the west, a great grassy plane lay before us, with the Sea of Pìss (pronounced peace) presumably beyond, and my Astra somewhere over the horizon, awaiting her love.

Our somewhat mutilated and mutated company mounted our steeds (which had indeed accompanied us through the mines, despite my not mentioning them (you should take it as a given that we are never far from our steeds, even if I forget to say anything about them (and yes, panda Edgar looked very silly sat atop a donkey))), and set out once more across the earth on our noble quest.

We rode abreast across the plane, parting the grass around us like scissors through emerald velvet. The air was alive with little birds and lazy insects, and areas of the grass chirped and buzzed as we moved through it. It was a fine summer’s day; the sun beating down, idling clouds recumbent in the ether, pollen in the air making us sneeze. We rode for three hours, a-chooing and a-tanning, idly quaffing mead and nibbling crisps and sausage rolls.

“I say,” I said, breaking the basking silence, “did I ever tell you about Astra and I’s honeymoon?”

The others looked across at me with interest. I was already lost in memory. If this were a film, the screen would go all wavy at this point and dissolve into a sepia-tinged clip of my younger years, where the actor playing the young version of myself looks irritatingly nothing like me, and you wonder how on earth, with budgets as large as films have, how could they not have cast somebody who looks even remotely like the lead actor in his present, older, form? But anyway, this is not a film, it is a book, and so in order to revisit the past we do not have to employ such whimsical narrative devices, saving us all time and effort. Excellent.

“It was seven and a half years ago. After the wedding, which as you know was a bit of a fiasco, Astra and I set out on a two-week jaunt over to the kingdom of my aunt, Queen Kundera. I wanted to go for longer, but Astra told me I needed to be present as king in order to keep order, and I suppose she had a point.”

“Aye, there were a big fire in’t docks when you were gone. And bandits took over the southern quarter. And my dog got nicked,” said Glob.

I blinked at her, mentally noted her comments down and punted them into the cobwebbed section of my mind’s library labelled ‘Willful Ignorance’, and continued.

“Verily, Kundera is a cantankerous old boot, but Astra and I were excited to experience the famed tranquillity of her hanging gardens. We decided that we would find a way to avoid her for the majority of the trip. So, upon our arrival, I crept into the yard and kidnapped the castle’s cockerel and released it into the forest to be free. Old Kundera woke up after midday every morning that fortnight, never quite understanding why, and by the time she had become dressed and breakfast-filled, Astra and I had spent each morning giddily bonking in the magnificent tranquility of the hanging gardens.”

The others didn’t appreciate this story as much as I thought they would; I supposed you had to be there. Selladore did go to high-five me on the sex-having, however the five was unsuccessful due to my regretful absence of a left hand. Selladore looked apologetic upon realising his faux pas, and hastily attempted a change of subject.

“Look!” he called, again. It seemed Selladore had adopted the role of ‘look!-er-in-chief’ in our company, which was ideal to be honest, what with Glob not caring about anything much beyond horses and Edgar being a small floppy bear now. I didn’t immediately see what Selladore was pointing at, and assumed this particular ‘look!’ was conjured to cover up his awkward slapping of my cauterised stump. Before us was simply green fields and blue sky. But then – didn’t the sky look quite… low?

The grassy plains did not quite reach the horizon; there was an odd strip of cold blue sky between them. It was then that I realised that it was not the sky at all that we gazed upon, but the terrifying frozen ice-waves of the Sea of Pìss.

“Unravelling endlessly goes the corpse-sea, the frozen mass of a billion tons of water, rigid and snow dusted and serene, yet below the icy surface, where the eternal cold cannot penetrate, O there be life! Down in the lurking waters, primeval and angry, there be nasties. O! The nastiest dread-fish ye can summon up from the dankest recesses of ye minds, tendrils and tongues, eyes waterlogged and empty, brine and blood and twenty hundred gnashing teeth, they be ne’er more than a couple of metres beneath the boots of any traveller mad or brave enough to attempt crossing.

Tread lightly, all ye who would seek to cross the Sea of Pìss, for if ye tread anything but, ye’ll ne’er tread again.”

“Edgar, what the fuck,” I cried, snatching the dusty old tome from his paws and batting him with it on his wet snout. “I didn’t even know thou could still talk.”

“I didn’t finish the passage! Let me finish it. You can throw it away after, if you must,” Edgar protested.

“Fine,” I snapped, flicking to the right page. I read the last small paragraph aloud:

“A note: if ye be seeking a haven as ye traverse the creaking ice, seek out the sea-town of Hemlock. There be the only place for a hundred leagues where a weary bastard can drink a mead or three and enjoy a comfortable trip to the privy without contracting a foul case of snow-sphincter.”

I clapped the book shut and tossed it over my shoulder, and a coarse spate of cursing in indecipherable colloquialisms told me I had accidentally clobbered Glob over the head. We drew up to the edge of the Sea of Pìss and dismounted. Selladore lifted Edgar from his donkey and set him down gently beside us. The waterscape before us was anything but peaceful in appearance; whenever the sea froze, whether caused by a wicked spell or Mother Nature just not giving a shit anymore, it had clearly been a stormy day. Ranks of waves the height of oak trees were frozen stiff, glowing blue-black with palpable malice. Their curled up foams were ragged like the curled legs of dead spiders; like a thousand screams frozen in time; like the world’s most aggressive lice comb.

“I reckon I’m not so sure about this Sea of Piss,” said Glob.

“Aye, nor I,” said Selladore.

Edgar didn’t say anything because he was counting his toes and rolling around.

“First of all, it’s pronounced ‘peace’,” I lectured. “And second, we have no choice. We cannot go back through the mines.”

“Why not?” asked Glob.

“Because… we just can’t. There are no famous heroes who shrugged and turned back three quarters of the way through their quests.”

“There are plenty of heroes who died three quarters of the way through their quests though,” said Selladore.

“Perhaps, but thou call them heroes just the same. We have to try.”

Never one to be outdone, Selladore rolled his eyes and flipped his boa over his shoulder.

“Fine. I bet one of us dies though.”

“Don’t be silly. Nobody is going to die.”

*****

“I shitting told you!” cried Selladore as we stood watching my beloved pig sinking into the watery abyss. We had made it several miles, winding through the ranks of gnarled frozen fingers, when Margaret had misplaced her trotter and plunged through the ice. The hole in the ice around her cracked and grew, and within seconds she was in the middle of a large watery ring. She didn’t do a very good job of treading water. Rarely do pigs excel at swimming lessons; their backstroke is terrible.

Through the ice, we watched the vague pink shape of my steed sink away from us.  “Fare thee well, my loyal sow-” I began to eulogise for my piggy, but then a big massive fish gobbled her up. One moment she was there, drifting serenely away, the next a colossal black shape swept over her as we stood watching in wind-caressed silence, and she was devoured in a single mouthful. After the first great horrible fish had once again dived down into the depths, a dozen more surfaced, lashing around in search of scraps. We could only see dark outlines against the grey waters, but each fish looked to be thirty feet long, and- SHIT!

As we watched in horror, something lashed up out of the waters in the hole that Margaret had disappeared through. It was a tentacle, gleaming obsidian and squirming. The tentacle probed the surface of the ice as far as it could stretch, and once it had decided that there was no other food on offer, slithered back down below. Then all was silent once more. Selladore looked at me with his mouth hanging open.

“Don’t be silly,” he said, “nobody is going to die.”

*****

So yeah, it’s odd, I know. It makes more sense in the context of the story. My aim with this is to give the writing a truly kinetic feel, the prose is alive, breathing – it’s not a means to an end, it’s not an inconvenience in the way of the adventure; the prose is the adventure. My goal is for each paragraph to contain something special, a little reward to the reader for plowing onward, whether it’s a shared in-joke, a mucky pun or a silly dismantling of common phrasings. I’m not quite there yet, but I’m giving it all I’ve got, by Jove.

I believe that no description has any right to be boring or average. Every sentence we utter has unlimited potential for mischief. I want to write the book I want to read, and this is the way I want it to feel; frenetic, stupid, boundless and scattershot, whimsical, and above all, free. That’s why it doesn’t matter to me if people like it or they don’t; I’m simply creating something that makes me happy. If it makes you a little bit happy too, if it makes you chuckle internally or feel intrigued or simply compels you to keep reading a couple more lines, then my goodness, I’m over the moon.

Cheers for reading. Have a wicked day; I hope you get laid. *fist bump*

xxx

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