Well, I made it.
After a series of delays and setbacks, I have finally managed to publish the first couple of novellas, along with their attendant bonus stories/novellas.
This is just a note to tell you this. I shall copy the various blurbs for each, share their covers and include some links to where to find the books. At this point, they are all ebooks only, with paperback, print-on-demand, to follow at some point in the future.
Pour les lecteurs francophones : bonne nouvelle! La traduction française du premier livre, Une Seule Mort, sera très prochainement disponible en ligne.
I still have a lot to do, such as build pages on my site for each novella and story, release Une Seule Mort (the French translation of Only One Death), create a French updates letter on Substack, then there’s all the marketing, lots of marketing… But, for now, I’m relieved to have reached this stage.
These novellas have had a very long genesis, with my ideas altering as I drafted each story until they finally made sense as a whole. There will be blog posts to write about this but, for now, these Tales of The Lesser Evil can be seen as introductions to characters, places and ideas that will be crucial in a longer work to come. Watch this space. (And please, share share, share!)
To the stories…
Only One Death
After travelling for years, Dhinal hopes he is close to discovering how to save his people. Along the way, he has collected a ragtag band of misfits, all of whom harbour secrets of their own. The latest member of his group, Strings, is running from something, her dreams haunted by flames and terror. Together, they arrive in the bustling city of Eastsea, seeking a guide to the legendary Amethyst Mountains.
Kees is tired of the city. She longs to seek solitude in wild places, far away from the noise and stench of others.
Both Kees and Dhinal know the wilderness does not care about you, it simply exists. Whether you live, or whether you die, is up to you, to your companions and to sheer chance. Winter is whispering in the high places, dangers-unknown abound in the forests, and fractures begin to appear in the group itself.
The truth, Dhinal knows, is that there are many ways to die, but only one death. Yet this journey will test them all, in ways they could not possibly imagine.
This was the first story I crafted in The Lesser Evil. It had previously been intended to be a standalone novella, a play on the standard fantasy quest. However, it sparked ideas, as words often do and, before too long, I was writing…
Death & Taxes
Fea Little: the largest city still standing in the Interior, the City of Mazes, the Crossroads of the North — trade centre of a vast area. Where there is trade there is money, where there is money there are taxes and, where there are taxes, there are tax collectors.
Which is where Merie comes in. Nominally in charge of collecting tax for The Petals, for too many years her work has been undermined by others; any trust she once possessed went up in smoke, the night her husband burnt alive.
Pol is an effective member of her team and his niece, Little Pepper, is terrifying in her ability to kill. But Merie does not trust them; the pair may simply be better at hiding their secrets.
Merie has a plan. A plan she has worked on for years. It all comes down to one night, one final job, and then she will be free. If it goes well. If not, she shall leave her four children without a parent.
Merie knows that no plan is foolproof — especially when the night is full of those who want her murdered.
This tale was the one I began, knowing how it would feed into a longer work. In one of those blog posts I mentioned earlier, I shall go into more detail about why I chose to pursue this business model for these stories. One reason was simple — do you ever read something and find a paragraph where a character’s motivation, where their spark for doing something crucial, is explained with a sketch of a backstory? I wanted to write those backstories first. Several authors of fantasy (and other genres) will write a longer work, then go back to write prequels to fill in these blanks — think of these as similar, pre-emptive blank-filling. These also meant I got to play with time and the past in a way that was easier than including these events in a novel
Another part of The Plan was to make the first tale free, permafree, for those into the jargon. This is designed to act as a lure, a gateway drug as it were, BUT I thought I’d go one step further. As well as the permafree Only One Death, I decided to add a further lure, a free story with each and every novella.
The first such, available with Only One Death, in exchange for signing up for this very newsletter is:
Dust & Death
After four years away, Dhinal is nearly home, carrying with him the means to save his people. He also brings Strings, who is hoping to find a home of her own. Together, they prepare to enter the hidden canyon city of Av.
Strings has had many months to prepare herself, but everything she thought she knew is going to be thrown into question — and what they discover in Av changes everything.
In a land of dust, there are some things best left buried, but Dhinal and Strings must venture deep below the desert, to his people’s biggest secret. What they discover makes the horror that forced Dhinal to leave his people pale into insignificance.
And some secrets strain the balance of the mind; fear is one thing, but what Strings shall learn goes far beyond fear — it shall test her bond to Dhinal and her very sanity itself.
This is the shortest of the stories — after all, you do get it with a free novella. In total, if you part with your email address, then you get the 23k words of Only One Death and 14k of Dust & Death. I think that’s more than a fair price.
The final story, the bonus tale for Death & Taxes, is also my personal favourite. I think. Maybe.
A Clean Death
Pepper has one more name on her list, just one more death to tick off then she can go home, but this final murder will be anything but easy. She has three days until the city is cut off and she is trapped for winter, three days to find her prey. And finding one man in Youlmouth — where it is law to wear a mask in public — may prove too much, even for her skills.
Hedda has trained for this ever since she can remember, yet the question remains — does she have what it takes to snatch away a life? Does she have what it takes to make Pepper proud?
This death is not a simple task, but events have a habit of overcomplicating the already-complicated, and what Pepper and her apprentice shall discover is beyond anything they could possibly comprehend.
There are things the world does not know, things that live only in stories and whispers of rumour.
Things that want Pepper dead.
And where can you find these?
Pretty much anywhere you can get ebooks.
One of the webpages I need to build is a links page, with everywhere you can find Tales of The Lesser Evil. I shall also talk about my decision to go wide, rather than follow the Amazon-only route so many seem to prefer, but not now. Here’s a short list. (I’m leaving off a few of the other online bookstores and those still processing at time of press but, if you have a favourite that is not listed below, have a search — Only One Death and Death & Taxes might well be there. Also, some of the links below may take you to the wrong locational store [eg .fr, for example], but I’m sure you can figure it out.)
Dust & Death and A Clean Death can be found as links in the ebooks themselves.
Only One Death:
Amazon (and at .ca, .co.uk, .fr etc )
The price is the same everywhere — 0.00.
Death & Taxes:
Amazon (and at .ca, .co.uk, .fr etc )
The price of Death & Taxes is set the same across the different shops, with small currency variation to get a nice figure in each location. $2.99 or £1.99, for example.
In total, adding together the word count of the four Tales, I calculate you get roughly (!) 80161 words for the price of a coffee (or less, depending on your coffee). Not bad, eh? The forthcoming two novellas (and bonuses) are even longer and will be priced similarly.
And that’s it, more or less. I’ll no doubt mention these again, several times, so apologies in advance. If you enjoy fantasy stories, especially diverse ones where things are not always as they seem, then you might want to give these a whirl. If you enjoy them do please leave stars and a review hither and thither! And do please pass this on to anyone you think might enjoy the books and/or newsletter.
(This newsletter is brought to you from Bilbao, more on this in a couple of weeks…)