Sea of Glass – Extract

Sea of Glass by Rebecca Gransden - Front Cover

‘The theatre was empty, brighter, he could see more of it through the gloomy light this time, though its edges remained elusive. He wouldn’t dawdle in the place. The feeling that someone had only just coughed and left the room hit him. He rushed to where he’d found the way out before, the doorway in the dark he’d hurt himself trying to round. Now in the twilight of the stage there was no door, only old plaster and paint, an oddness to its colour.

The pit hummed at him, calling him forward, inviting his compliance. If he didn’t want to be stuck he’d have to move through didactic pathways, sacrifice his will to self-govern in extremis and resolve to temporarily surrender to whatever capricious assholes turned the cogs of the place.

He took the old steps to the stage floor and wandered to where the builder had sat. The pit was still and shadowy, no hint of the struggle that had taken place within. The emptiness soothed him and he allowed himself a pause to wilfully forget about his EXIT. Under the theatre light that fell on him, especially his face.

Name.

Take to the centre and forsake the mask, wear your best then let her undress you, all the moments flicker past in her, you stole her you know, hustled her like a numbskull in fluke, couldn’t ride her waves incandescent, so she spat you out poisoned chalice style, her movements pyrrhic victories you’d hold against her because she shone her fractured light on your want, now you wander umbilical precipitating perfected shits, walking away, forever walking away.

Kattar moved to backstage, around the chipboard blank scenery, wires hanging disconnected, copper and rubber tubes, nails in the walls. A power box was fixed to the wall near some steps leading into a dark way back farther. He opened the box, full of switches with stickers and worn away diagrams for instruction. One switch glowed green so he flicked it. Music filled the room, muffled from out front in the theatre. Closer, the sound of whirring machinery sprung into life, grating and squelchy.

Rumbling travelled from the stage on the other side of the scenery. He hesitantly moved to retrace his footsteps, peeping around the splintered wood to spy the open stage floor. There, in the middle of the stage, the flooring opening up, a square trapdoor controlled by robotic pulleys. From below a bulk rose, difficult to see, to make out at first, rounded and bent. It pushed from beneath, a portion of it caught under the sides of the trapdoor. The trapdoor gave and a foot sprung up, dirty and bruised. The body ascended, twisted, inverted, guided by rope, flopping at the knees, cracked skew-whiff at the ribcage. Discordant grimy guitars rattled in minor chords, reverb in a whirlwind around the theatre. Her thighs ready to split, like an unpicked sausage. Someone’s daughter. Someone’s daughter. If this is Anna then that’s too bad. The woman’s dress had fallen inside out and over her face, her hands peeking out from under the hanging material with wrists bound, a tattered bra rotted into her skin, the rest of her naked and bare. Someone had stripped her, hoisted her up, hidden faceless. Kattar couldn’t decide how to react. The sight of her was a world. The dress was stained, with dirt, excrement, patches of fluids. He found a clear section of hem and lifted it, to confirm her deadness. The shadow underneath showed a face beaten and shocked, lacerated cheeks pointing to a forehead with letters carved, the right way up for him, upside down for the woman. ‘Queen of Worms,’ it said in bloody cuts, as worms slimed through her hair and balled squirming inside the hole of her open mouth. Her eyes were shut.

Kattar dropped the hem of the dress, which fluttered back to cover the woman and her worms. This felt forensic. His neck hairs prickled like he was under observation, a study onstage. Now who was making him an actor? Shitty move, thinks it’s clever. But the body is real enough. The music tore his nerves, wearing him down, twangs turning into fuzzbox mush, distorted whines percussive and deconstructing feedback until his ears pounded hot. Was it louder, or he more sensitive? There was something in the music he couldn’t background anymore. Squinty, he glanced at the pit, but all was vacuum.

Blue flames emerged from her fingertips, softly curling them. The blue grew, flowed ethereally across her hands, took hold on the binding of her wrists, turning to warm orange flickering faster. The binds burned away and her arms swung free, her hands alight flung sideways, rocking to and fro. The flames travelled along her arms and ignited the dress, which burned with white intensity up her frame. At this the body screamed and gurgled, expelling worms in a cascading arc, contorting against the flames. Violent as the yells were they carried an unnatural music, frequencies spectral. Kattar stood transfixed with astounded curiosity because she sounded long dead. The flash of fire enveloped her, and a wriggling cocoon of light undulated spitting cinders and rolling sparks. Kattar held out his hand, reaching cautiously, to find no heat to the flame. The sparks at his feet travelled over the dark floor to catch every wiggling worm, and crisp them up on collision leaving charred pellets in their place. Mid flow the smouldering brickettes briefly formed the words ‘FIND ESPE’ in fierce orange before continuing to scatter and then cool to coal dust.

The light on the woman diminished and she hung blackened, swinging gently, tannery shine like midnight.

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Who Will Buy My Book?

I think this may be an unanswerable question. Creating strict rules of knowledge concerning who will and who will not buy your book is something best not done if you’re new to selling books. If you’ve sold enough to develop an understanding of the types of people who are interested in buying, reading, and reviewing books then the characteristics of your readers can be valuable in having a picture of ‘who’ and ‘why’. This picture will never be complete and it can only give you guidelines. Surprise readers wait behind every corner.

As a result, all I have is my experience and case studies of selling my books, which has informed me and given me a basis for understanding my target audience. Still, most of this basis is assumption.

Case study #1 – science fiction

When I sold The Antpod Faction at the Leeds Steampunk Market I was struck by the type of people who were interested in it, having given it no prior thought. I suppose I must have subconsciously assumed my ideal readers would be a similar age and the same gender, with interests firmly in Asperger Syndrome, science fiction, and politics, which had inspired the story. Of course, seeing people’s faces doesn’t always give you all the information about their interests and people choose to divulge what they think is important or what they want to.

I really had no idea, and using myself as the basis for my ideal readers didn’t necessarily work. It turned out that a variety of people were interested in my story: old people who liked books and were looking for something different, fellow authors of either gender, husbands or wives in their thirties or forties or fifties who had families, young people in their mid-twenties interested in science fiction or in getting into writing, and creative stallholders.

Away from the Leeds Steampunk Market, different people were interested in The Antpod Faction: book-loving female reviewers, people who worked with or knew about autism, teachers, people who identified as being wired differently, and people kind enough to just try it because I had spoken to them.

There are already a few of what we call ‘demographics’ in the above three paragraphs, but do you see how my picture of my target readers has changed when comparing specific observed readers in Leeds Steampunk Market as opposed to people I found elsewhere; usually at craft events or through online reviews.

The number of times I was asked if I would make it a series made me wonder if series fiction is what readers want …

Case study #2 – fantasy

Young men and older men were interested in my Roc Isle series. Some wanted to read something more fast-paced than The Antpod Faction or were interested in it because they liked fantasy table top gaming, and these were similar genres.

I ‘suspect’ some readers wanted to try it because they wanted to get stuck into a series, and while The Antpod Faction was ‘my science fiction’ book, Roc Isle: The Descent (book 1) became ‘my fantasy book’.

How do you know who will buy your book before publishing a new or different book?

This is where research may come in, if past assumptions about past sales are not giving you a definitive picture. It can be of value to know something about your ideal readers before publishing because then when branding or marketing your book you can target it appropriately.

The question is how to go about this research and I believe this completely depends on the author.

  • Maybe you have friends you can ask in person, or online.
  • You could have specific questions you need answers to or a specific group of people you need answers about; and a survey, group discussion, or interview could benefit your research.
  • You could go to a book event or other event and ask stallholders and any customers you talk to questions about which books they prefer.
  • I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t ask an author in person or online, even ones you don’t know and who you think can give you an interesting point of view.