2 April 2013

While You Are Sleeping


New Release

My comic fantasy novel While You Are Sleeping is available on Amazon for Kindle from Tuesday 26th March 2013.

To celebrate the release, the novel will be at a special launch price of £1.00 for the first week or two (which, in context, is barely even the cost of a crappy cup of coffee from one of those crappy vending machines you see in hospitals or some such, and surely more enjoyable, although ultimately that is up to you to judge... after all, you may very well like crappy vending machine coffee and you may think my novel is pants so... anyhoo, horses for courses and all that jazz).

Click image above to go to Amazon page



Some basic blurb on While You Are Sleeping...


Running parallel to our world, there’s another world most people could never even dream ofa world at once familiar and yet utterly fantastical.  It is a land of elves, dwarves, trolls, goblins, tooth fairies, talking animals and dragons.  This is the Underworld; this is a place where anything and everything can happen.

Taking us into the Underworld for the first time is While You Are Sleeping, a tale of high adventure, lashings of fun and irreverent humour, and a smattering of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them pop culture references.

Our reluctant hero in this caper is Eric the Elf, sock-thief for a team of Chaos-makers, a ragtag team of creatures sent to wreak havoc in our homesin the Overworld, as they like to call iteach night while we sleep.

Eric, however, is an elf with a gambling problema problem that others are all too keen to exploit.

Cue all manner of shenanigans as Eric and his friends get involved in kidnapping, dangerous encounters with Underworld criminals, brushes with the law, and a courtroom drama like no other, as they battle to keep a very special objectand a very special Underworld visitorfrom falling into the wrong hands.

Follow Eric in his race against time, and an assortment of bad guys, to save his friends, himself andfrack’s sakeall life as we know it.

While You Are Sleeping is a fun and feel-good book for all ages, with a plot suitable for younger readers, although the choice of language might be a little too ripe in some places for the very young.




For a big sample (several chapters)

I'm a big fan of trying something before I buy it.  While the sample Amazon lets you have is a reasonable size, and I certainly recommend trying that before any Kindle book purchase, I personally think it takes a few chapters to really get into While You Are Sleeping, so to that end I am making several chapters available to read online via the link below.  It's a legit link, nothing dodgy... honest...

While You Are Sleeping - big sample on WattPad


For a small sample (just the first chapter)

If you can't be bothered with the big sample, how about a quick squizz at just the very first chapter...


***


It was just another ordinary night, but Eric the Elf wasn't enjoying himself at all.
"I'll have that... and I'll have that... and I'll, um, maybe not have that one actually," he muttered, lobbing a shifty-looking, yellow-stained sock into the far corner of the darkened bedroom.
Eric inspected the other socks in his hand and grimaced.  A grubby black dress sock and an old sports sock, with an odour faintly reminiscent of vomit, were hardly discoveries worthy of sock-thieving legend.  Figuring they'd do anyway, he shoved them into his large sack.
"Eric," croaked a voice somewhere nearby.
The lanky elf peered over his shoulder.  A green-skinned goblin was standing close behind, smartly dressed in a three-piece suit.  A silk cravat was tied jauntily around his neck, and he looked quite the dapper thing.
"Yes, Flik-Flak," said Eric, raising a wan smile.
The goblin cleared his throat with a little cough.  "I was wondering if you would like a hand tonight?  I'm at a bit of a loose end this evening once again.  It seems this poor boy doesn't really require my services, so to speak.  His hair is so messy, I rather doubt he'd notice if I ruffled it for him."
Eric shook his head.  "Sorry, boss.  I'm having a bit of a tough night myself.  I don't know what it is about these students, but they never seem to have anything except mismatched socks.  Like you said, I doubt he'd notice if I pinched any."
Flik-Flak smiled glumly.
Eric had an idea.  "Maybe you could give Chuckles a hand," he said.  "Being a student and all, I'd say this kid is due a belter of a hangover in the morning.  Looks like Chuckles has been taking his time over this one too.  Reckon he'll give the kid an absolute stinker of a headache."
The goblin looked round.  A rotund dwarf with an ample beard, Chuckles, was standing on the bed right next to the student's head, his face a mask of concentration mixed with a generous dollop of misery.  Clutched in his right hand was a measuring tape; in his left was a notepad covered with scribbled calculations.  Resting against the side of the bed was an ornate long-handled warhammer.
Flik-Flak approached with practised stealth.  "Chuckles," he whispered.
"Uh-huh," said the dwarf, the gruffly uttered syllables struggling to escape his thick beard and, frankly, his general indifference.
"I'm at a bit of a loose end tonight.  Eric suggested perhaps you could use a hand.  Need some help?"
Without saying a word, Chuckles reached down and retrieved his beautifully polished hammer.  His eyes lit up happily.  Turning away, he tiptoed back along the bed, giving the weapon a quick swing back and forth to limber up.
"Chuckles?"
The dwarf's cheek twitched with barely concealed anger.  He glowered over his shoulder at the goblin.  "No," he said grumpily.
Flik-Flak's shoulders slumped, and he turned to see if any other member of his team needed assistance.  A muffled groan from the kitchen next door attracted his attention, and he set off to investigate.
As he opened the bedroom door, the goblin noticed Eric watching with rapt interest as Chuckles slowly lifted the iron weapon high into the air directly above the student's head.
Flik-Flak stepped swiftly out onto the landing.  A chill ran down his spine as he heard the tell-tale THUD of a thumping headache being judiciously applied.
"Always sounds so painful, doesn't it?" said a soft feminine voice, somewhere to his right.
Flik-Flak peered down the dimly lit hallway and saw the svelte figure of his team's fairy, Tracy, floating slowly towards him.  With her flowing black dress, not to mention her liberally applied black and white make-up, she was the very image of the modern-day Goth fairy.  Indeed, so far removed was her garb from that commonly worn by her former peers, it was hard to believe she used to be a tooth fairy.
Tracy was clutching a set of house keys in her wand-free hand.  "Any suggestions, Flicky?" she asked, looking about for a good hiding place.
Flik-Flak glanced around too.  "Ooh, I don't know, Tracy.  Maybe over by the—"
Tracy beat him to the punch, hiding the keys in a tattered trainer propped up against the wall next to the front door.  "Sorted.  Not overly original, I know, but a classic hiding place nonetheless.  Time for a quick break, I think."
Tracy tapped her wand against her head and shrank instantaneously to the size of a fly.  Glowing brightly like a tiny star, she buzzed off through the keyhole in the front door.
Flik-Flak waited a moment, listening carefully.  He heard a sigh of pleasure followed shortly after by the faint tell-tale odour of cigarette smoke.  He shook his head—what a pity she'd fallen back into an old habit.  She'd been doing so well, but ever since—
Suddenly there was an almighty CRASH in a room across the hallway, quickly followed by a flurry of cursing and muttered threats.  Sighing, Flik-Flak opened the door.
The goblin stopped dead in his tracks and gasped.
The room was the kitchen of the house—or at least, according to the blueprints, it was supposed to be the kitchen—but now it more closely resembled a bomb site.  Cupboard doors were hanging from their hinges.  Water was spouting from a broken tap by the sink.  Plates lay broken in countless pieces on the linoleum.  Muddy footprints—belonging to the Almighty One alone knows who—spiralled out in a circle from the middle of the floor as though someone had been spinning on the spot and then lost balance, stumbling around in a daze.  Quite honestly, it was all a terrible mess.
Flik-Flak rubbed his temples, easing the tension of a developing headache.  "What in the Almighty One's name has been going on in here?" he asked loudly.
There was a grumble from behind the door.  The irate goblin peered around the corner and saw a messy-looking orc pulling its pig-like head out of a fridge, a half-eaten chicken hanging from its mouth.
The orc hurriedly stuffed the chicken into its gob and, cheeks full, forced an uneasy smile.  "Woshindme," he said, bits of meat falling from his mouth.  Wondering why the words weren't sounding quite right, he gulped hard, swallowing the lot, and tried again. "It wasn't me.  Honest.  Whatever you're talking about, it wasn't me.  I swear it."
Flik-Flak arched an eyebrow.  "Rodney, there's no one else in here.  What have I told you before about lying?"
The bemused orc scratched his mucky head for a second.  "Er... let sleeping dogs do it?"
Flik-Flak smiled thinly and slowly counted to ten in his head.  "No, not quite.  I told you that at the end of the day the only person you will ever hurt by lying is yourself.  Honesty is always the best policy."
Rodney scratched his head again.  "But… but didn't you say last week that life insurance was the best policy."
Flik-Flak closed his eyes and slowly shook his head.  He bypassed ten and kept counting all the way up to fifty.
Suddenly there was another loud CRASH, this time coming from inside one of the cupboards at the far end of the kitchen.
Frowning, Flik-Flak marched across the room and yanked open the door.
An ugly troll was sitting perched on the upper shelf, its hairy legs scrunched up into its hairy chest.  In one hairy hand it held a frying pan; in the other, a bag of rotten eggs.  On the shelf below was a pile of dented pots, pans and broken crockery. 
"Hello, Peter," Flik-Flak said wearily.  "I might have known it was you making the racket."
Peter smiled sheepishly and put down the frying pan.  "This looks bad, doesn't it?  I… I think I can explain."
Flik-Flak rather doubted it.  "Care to explain standing out here, or would you prefer to stay in the cupboard?"
The troll gave great consideration to the two options.  "Is it okay if I say the latter?"
The goblin shook his head disapprovingly.
Chastened, Peter clambered out.
"That's two nights in a row you've caused a disturbance while we've been working," Flik-Flak said angrily.  "I let you off lightly yesterday, but I want a better explanation today."
"I do apologise," Peter said softly.  His eyes scanned the kitchen, clearly anxious about something.  "It wasn't my fault.  Honestly.  But I don't want Pigkiller to get into any trouble."
"Pigkiller?  What's he got to do with you crashing about in the kitchen cupboards?"
Just then, seemingly of its own accord, the kitchen door swung open.
"Aye, min.  What've I got to do with you not doing your job right, like?" said a distinctly Scottish-sounding voice.
Flik-Flak looked round.  And then down.  The impressively muscular figure of Pigkiller strode purposefully into the kitchen—all two-feet one-inch of him.
The war-painted pygmy glared up at Peter.  "Aye, well?"
Peter swallowed hard and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow.  "Er, Pigkiller?  I don't recall saying anything about Pigkiller."  His eyes flashed in Rodney's direction.  "Did you hear me mention Pigkiller?"
Rodney's head was already back inside the fridge; he was totally oblivious to what was going on.
"I think you all must have misheard me," Peter continued.  "Easy to do, mishearing and such like..."
Flik-Flak and Pigkiller weren't impressed by the troll's stalling.
Peter laughed nervously, mopping his increasingly sweaty brow.  "Okay, the truth," he said, shoulders slumping.  "If you must know, I was hiding from Pigkiller."
Surprised, Flik-Flak glanced down at the pygmy.  Pigkiller was giving the troll a dirty look.  If a look had never killed someone before, then this look—the great-grandmother of all nasty looks—was coming mighty close.
"He... he's been giving me hard a time these last couple of nights," Peter said nervously.  "I was busy looking for somewhere to hide my bag of rotten eggs when I thought I heard him coming into the kitchen; so I quickly hid in the nearest cupboard.  Unfortunately, it was one that's full of pots and pans.  I'm afraid I may have, um, accidentally knocked a few about and broken one or two things."
They all stared into the cupboard; everything was either broken or dented.
"Why were you holding the frying pan?" Flik-Flak asked.  "You weren't planning to hit Pigkiller, were you?"
Peter looked down at the pygmy, whose hands were inching ominously towards the array of daggers tucked into the leather belt around his waist.  "No, no, I wasn't.  It was the only pan I managed to avoid breaking, so I was just holding it for safe-keeping."
"Aye, likely," Pigkiller muttered.
Flik-Flak thought it sounded plausible enough.  But why was his little friend giving Peter such a hard time?
The goblin drew a silver pocket-watch from his waistcoat and studied the largest of the three dials on its face.  Seventy minutes past thirty.  He tapped the face once and the dial instantly flipped round to reveal the time in the Overworld (or 'Earth', as the humans rather strangely liked to call it).  Five past four in the morning.  Not enough time left to get to the bottom of the problem, Flik-Flak decided.  After all, they had to leave in five minutes to catch the train back home.  "I think we'll discuss this another time," he said, putting his watch away.  "In the meantime, I suggest you two stay out of each other's way."  He looked down at the feisty pygmy.  "Pigkiller, can you go through to the bedroom and tell the others to finish up?"
"Aye, I suppose I can do that."
With one last glower at Peter, the pygmy turned on his bare heels and headed back out of the kitchen.
As the door swung shut, Flik-Flak gave the troll a stern look.  "I don't know what's going on here, but I do know there's an almighty mess in that cupboard."
Peter bowed his head in shame.
"We're going to have to make it look like the human made the mess himself," said the goblin.  "You hide that bag of rotten eggs somewhere, and I'll see if I can cover our tracks a little.  Okay?"
Peter nodded and sloped off to the far end of the kitchen to find a suitable place to hide the revolting bag.
Flik-Flak shook his head in exasperation and focussed his attention on the broken contents of the cupboard.  His eyes wandered over to the next cupboard, which was also open; he spotted a tray of eggs and some flour.  He smiled as a cunning plan started to take shape.

***

Eric pulled the drawstring on his sack, tying it up with his favourite Triple-Finger-Nipper knot—anyone who attempted to open the sack without knowing exactly how to do so would find the bizarre-looking knot unexpectedly baring teeth and trying to bite their fingers.  It had taken years of extremely painful practice to perfect.  Good old Four-Fingers McDowell had taught him the technique shortly before changing his name to Three-Fingers McDowell.
With his work done, Eric heaved the sack onto his shoulder and made his way towards the bedroom door.  "You coming, Chuckles?"
The dwarf was sitting on the edge of the human's bed, busy polishing his warhammer.  To all intents and purposes, he was a million miles away.
"Chuckles?"
Again there was no response.  Chuckles dabbed a small cloth into the tin at his side and applied a generous dollop of metal polish to the stubby blade.
"Chuckles," Eric said, as loudly as he dare.
The human stirred in his sleep.  The dwarf's eyes widened and he glanced anxiously at the mark.  Relaxing again, he resumed his grumpy disposition and glowered at Eric.  "What?"
"Are you coming?"
This time Chuckles appeared to at least consider the question, albeit briefly and somewhat grudgingly; slowly, however, his gaze fell onto his beautiful weapon.  He smiled.
Eric shook his head and tried again.  "Chuckles?"
The dwarf quickly looked up, scowled, and dropped down to the floor.  "I'm coming," he said grouchily.
Just as he stepped towards the door, the human muttered something unintelligible.  In the blink of an eye, the dwarf spun and brought his warhammer crashing down onto the student's head.  Seconds later, the mark was snoring loudly, fast asleep.
"I'm coming," Chuckles repeated.
Eric took one last look around the darkened room and, satisfied everything was as it should be, pulled the door open.
Pigkiller was standing in the hallway, picking his nose.  Caught in the act, he swiftly flicked something away with his finger and, grinning, waved at his friends.  "Aye, aye, lads.  You lot finished in there, like?"
"Everything's done," Eric said.  "What about the others?"
The pygmy jerked a thumb in the direction of the kitchen.  "Aye, they're coming," he said, and then lowered his voice, "but Peter's been mucking about again.  That ugly farker can be a right loser sometimes."
Just then there was another loud CRASH, followed by the muted sounds of Peter and Flik-Flak arguing.  All eyes turned towards the kitchen door.
"What's going on?" a sleepy voice asked.
Eric shrugged his shoulders.  Pigkiller nodded his head knowingly.  Chuckles gazed lovingly at his weapon.
Suddenly realising he didn't recognise the voice, Eric spun on his heels.  The bedraggled human was sitting up in his bed, trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes.
"Farking hell!" yelled Eric.
"Aye, out of my way, like," Pigkiller said, springing into action.  He charged past Eric in a flash, waving for Chuckles to follow him too.
The elf watched as the bold pygmy grabbed the duvet, climbed up onto the bed, and carefully tip-toed to little more than six inches from the student's yawning face.  Pigkiller pointed Chuckles around the other side of the bed.
Finally, the human stopped yawning, and slowly opened his eyes.
Pigkiller was eyeballing him, nose to nose.  "Aye, you ain't seeing any of this, right?  Say night night, now."
There was an almighty THWACK and seconds later the human was snoring heavily again.  Chuckles ambled around from the far side of the bed, carefully replacing his cherished warhammer in the sheath strapped to his back.
Pigkiller jumped down off the bed.  He wasn't happy.  "Farking hell—that was a close one.  Peter's got a lot to answer for.  There'll be hell to pay later, like.  Flik-Flak will do his nut."
Nodding, Eric held the door open for his two smaller friends; he followed them out into the hallway where they were joined by Flik-Flak, Tracy, a food-stained Rodney, and an embarrassed-looking Peter.
Their work, causing utter chaos in a human's home, was done for another night.  It was time for them to go home.  It was time to go back to the Underworld.

***

Through the fuddled fog surrounding his brain, the young student eventually managed to process the sound of the telephone ringing.
He opened his eyes, only to be almost blinded by the sunlight streaking through the gap in the curtains.  Groaning, he closed them again.  The ringing, thankfully, soon stopped.
Tentatively, he eased his legs over the side of the bed and lowered his feet to the floor, gently swinging his upper body round into a sitting position.  His head was pounding terribly, worse than any hangover he'd ever suffered before.  I didn't have that much to drink, surely?
Blocking the sun with his hand, he opened his eyes and found he had blurred vision.  He rubbed his eyes briskly—once, twice, three times—but still everything was a little hazy around the edges.  Good enough, he decided, and getting to his feet gingerly, he shuffled towards the door.
God he felt awful.  Aspirin, he thought, and lots of it.  Leaning against the wall, he staggered into the kitchen and made his way slowly over to the sink.
While filling a glass from a heavily bandaged tap, his brain suddenly clicked that something hadn't been quite right.  He looked over his shoulder, just to make sure, and his jaw dropped by about a foot and a half.
"Oh... my... God."
He could scarcely believe what he was seeing.  As he walked back across the kitchen, he took it all in.
The fridge door was wide open, and a mound of half-eaten food was lying in a puddle of milk on the linoleum.  Piles of battered pots and pans lay strewn around like wreckage collected from a plane crash.
On top of the cooker was a frying pan with what resembled a very poor attempt at an omelette burned onto it.
On the kitchen table close by was a bottle of maple syrup and the half-eaten remains of some pancakes.  Next to those were a pouch of tobacco, some cigarette papers, and a small tin case, from which overflowed a generous amount of what appeared to be… dried leaves?
Realisation dawned like a lethargic sun.  Only when he saw the contents of the ashtray, half-hidden beneath an empty packet of crisps, did it all fall into place—midnight munchies after a few too many puffs of the old wacky baccy.
He couldn't remember making any of the mess when he came back from his night out, but then a combination of alcohol and funny-smoke can play tricks on any mind.
He figured that explanation made some kind of sense.  After all, it cleared up the mystery of his thumping headache.  And it kind of accounted for the weird dream about the tiny man standing on his bed.
But what about that awful smell of rotten eggs...?
Vomit rising in his throat, the poor boy sprinted to the bathroom.

***

The student—Reginald Cumberbatch the Third—was very late getting to class that day.  So late, in fact, his professors, tiring of his increasingly poor attitude, had no choice but to flunk him out of his Politics degree, sending him spiralling into a lifetime of casual employment in burger chains and chocolate factories.
Interestingly, had Reginald gone on to finish his degree, Underworld actuaries forecast a high probability he would have gone on to become Prime Minister, and ultimately responsible for starting World War III under false pretences.
No coincidence, then, he'd been targeted for a little chaos and disruption.  Another global disaster secretly averted by the cunning Underworlders.