A Pocketful of String: 11 Short & Shorter Stories by Me

A Pocketful of String - cover

So, I’ve concocted a small book of short and shorter stories. You can buy it for the cost of a mildly overpriced coffee on Amazon, see links at the end of this self-promotion!

It contains:

– The spectre of Death
– What happens when the Luck Child returns
– Fond memories and grim futures
– How not to turn 25
– A terrible warning about rabbits
– What happens to your heart
– An overtly sentimental dining room table
– A failed love spell
– A haunted photobooth
– A very surprising breakfast
– The apocalypse, from above and within

Not quite in that order.

I’ve thought a lot about doing this, over the last six months. I was going to do it before The Pulse, and then I thought that that’d be some kind of weird cop-out (I can’t explain why, but it’s how it felt…like I *had* a novel and wasn’t paying attention to it, perhaps…that it would be somehow easier to shove eleven little things out into the world than one great big thing that hadn’t had any seal of approval…either way, I didn’t).

Most of these stories have been around and about before, some appeared on this journal recently, one was my first paid piece of fiction, and one I just got the rights back to. A couple, though, are completely new to this collection.

Part of doing this is to clean my writing slate, I think. I don’t have any other finished things I plan to publish, I don’t have anything out with agents or magazines, for the first time in ages. I have a heap of drafts, in varying stages. I’ve a side project I’m really, really heart-and-soul excited about, but that’ll be under a different name, and I probably won’t discuss it here. I’ve that novel that I hope has a chance of going to agent properly, if only because it’s a lot more commercial than The Pulse, and it has the kind of plot and characters that make the most of taglines and summaries. I still utterly stand by my first novel, but as I continue the uphill battle to take it to an audience that might enjoy it (and I don’t think I’m being extensively deluded in believing it has one), I continue to be astonished by how unsellable it is. If you’ve any thoughts, do let me know 😉

So yes, A Pocketful of String. That’s what I’m meant to be selling here! It’s quick and easy to read, it’s got a few self-indulgent comments about the writing of all the things, and it’s a memento, really, to myself of the last few years. Heavy on whimsy, magical realism, wordplay and weird stuff, but nothing too dark or unpleasant.

Should you so wish, you can buy it Amazon US & World or from Amazon UK. You can also buy it from any national Amazon by searching, unsurprisingly, Pocketful of String! It’s so exciting to find you’ve a reasonably unique book title XD As ever, feedback and connection is wholeheartedly welcome. These tales might be small, daft, and occasionally plain weird, but they’re dear to me, and I’m pleased to share.

Also, if you’d like to add me on GoodReads, even just as a fellow reader (I’m aiming for 200 books RaR-d this year – if you fancy sending me anything for review then do message me!) I’m here.

The Pulse: Of Castles and Diamonds, Oh My*

I published my book today. If you’d like to preview/read it, you can do so here: UK edition or here US edition. Also on most international sites via the search thing, ‘The Pulse A E Shaw’ ought to do it XD

Also I have a Goodreads thing, I obsessively catalogue my reading and like to find books in all the places, so having an author account is crazy exciting. Come, add me.

The #1 thing people asked me when I said I’d a book was, ‘What’s it about?’ And even after infinite attempts to answer this question without ruining the general point of reading it, I still struggled. This should’ve been a sign that this wasn’t going to be an easily saleable thing, and it’s certainly something I’ll keep in mind for the next book. This is more of a ‘what’ book than a ‘how’, and I think that’s where the problem lies. Finding out what it’s actually about is, characters aside, the general purpose of reading this, as far as I can see at this point.

It’s also why I’m really looking forward to seeing if anyone does read it. Then they can tell me what they think it’s about. I also worry that it’s like some massive Rorschach thing – everyone will turn around and go, OMG, this is a massive metaphor for lmnop attribute about yourself that you clearly haven’t noticed (quite possibly being an only child, for example). This is perfectly possible, and I’m much more frightened of doing this than I’d thought I’d be.

I wasn’t anticipating a minor, but exceptionally irritating formatting screw-up when I first uploaded my book, so I’ve not been able to do the YAY HERE IT IS thing I wanted to do. I probably should’ve expected such a thing, because I did decide to go with inserting dividers in places, rather than just asterisking everything, but it all looked fine enough on the preview, so I went for it…and then it was annoyingly unfine. But I’m working on it. And I’ve done it now. So here’s this post. Eeeep. Hi. I’m going to try to be a real author.

*not the actual subtitle. possibly should’ve been.

A Catalogue of My Excuses

I am very much the kind of human that makes excuses, qualifications and clarifications before everything. I serve a meal and warn that it might not be okay because the peppers are a fortnight old or because I got all wrapped up in Wittertainment and forgot to stir for a while or because it’s Tuesday and salt has new kinds of chemical reaction to courgette on Tuesdays, or whatever, not because I want to be blameless, but rather the opposite – I want you to know that if my food happens to suck, I already know why and am sorry for that but have made the decision to serve it to you anyway.

This is very much the feeling I’m having about the self-publishing thing (aiming for Sunday, if you’re curious for a timeframe). I know there are rather epic flaws and fails within this book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want you to read it. I hope there aren’t major, serious inconsistencies. I seriously, desperately hope there aren’t any typos or spelling mistakes. I am doing my very best to remove any words that don’t need to be there.

That’s the thing, really. I’m doing my very best. I need that to be good enough.

There has been a time at which I’ve really wanted to go through ‘traditional’ avenues, but, thinking about it in every possible way of late, I’ve realised I don’t think of self-published books as being any less of a book at all, and therefore why wait? This isn’t a book I think will sell millions. I hope, I really hope there’s someone somewhere out there with whom it resonates, somehow: that’d be more than enough, and a happy success. I want to see what I can do with what and who I already have, without paying anyone to give me their version of it, without having someone else chop it about or tell me I must.

It’s an odd book. The pacing is not perfect. Or even good, perhaps. I love things that unravel. I love things that come together at the end. I love endings. I love to know what happened. Why it happened. How. I want to answer questions, and leave space for imaginings. I want to bundle a spider’s web together and make it into a really smooth, neat ball of complexity.

I’m embarrassed to say how hard I’ve been trying, how much I want this to be a legitimate, worthwhile read. But it doesn’t have to be that for everyone. It isn’t everyone’s kind of thing. This is why I don’t know how to sell it, or explain it. I don’t want to tell you the story on the cover: that’s what reading’s for. But blurbs are important for a lot of people, so it seems, and, well, you only need to look at the kind of rating system the internet enjoys on its recreational reading to see that people don’t like to be surprised by certain kinds of content.

So, those excuses.

– I wrote a book I wanted to read. Specifically, just what I wanted. There’s no reason it should correlate with what anyone else wants to read, but, then again, a lot of people love things I love just like I love them, so there’s no reason it shouldn’t either.

– It starts with a dream. Apparently this is the worst possible most cliche narrow-minded atrocious thing one can do with a YA novel. I shan’t start another novel like that. But that is, regardless, where this novel begins, and I’m not going to change that.

– Speaking of cliche, I don’t think anyone looks at themselves in the mirror for a long while, but there’s a good chance they do. I don’t think that’s the worst thing either. I look at myself in the mirror every day. And think about what I see.

– I don’t really mind being a cliche. I don’t mind if you can’t finish it. I kind of need to say that. It’s okay if you don’t like my things. That’s interesting too.

– I don’t think this is a big thing for anyone that isn’t me. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 48 hours contemplating things like being British and worrying/wondering what people think of who you are and what you do because, damnit, the opinions of people you love and respect are important. I’ve wavered multiple times over the sentence “I’m a writer” or “I’m trying to become a writer” because there seem to be so many implications beyond “I am a purveyor of word collections” there. Regardless of whether there legitimately are or aren’t, I feel them.

– I intend to write a lot of books. Books vary in quality. I want to write a lot of different things, a lot of different styles. I want to improve. I don’t want – at this point – to sculpt and shape what I’m doing into a format. I want to start by being honest about where I am and what I can do alone.

– The beginning of my book is stilted and wonky. But at the beginning, my characters are stilted and wonky. I’m trying to look at this as us all learning together, and I think there’s something nice in that. But I wonder if readers will be so forgiving? Should they have to be? No, absolutely not. Hmm.

– I suppose what I’m saying is, I want you to know that I’m both terrified of people thinking I’m getting above myself by putting what I’m doing into the world the way I’ve made it, and wishing that I could say, I’m a writer and have 100% of the people I say that to find that a tangible and applicable description.