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Once upon a time...



I think those may be some of the most dangerous words in the English language smiley. Not so much because of themselves, but because of where they can take you. in the words of Bilbo Baggins - "It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might be swept off to."

Well, I got swept laugh. On Thursday June 14th, 'A Comedy of Terrors' was released by MuseitUp Publishing. You can find it at MuseitUp, and at Amazon.

But that, in a sense, was the wave breaking. If you ever watched a wave break on a shore, did you ever think about where it rose? Where it started? What shift of the deeper sea began it?

Well. Once upon a time...

Once upon a time - there was a cave. This is what it looks like. Well, it does when it's empty:

The Lava Tube - Istaria

The cave doesn't actually exist, but that doesn't stop it being real - not to some people anyway smiley. Because this cave, it exists in an online game. When it was first released in December 2003 it was called 'Horizons: Empire of Istaria'. These days it's still there, but it's called Istaria - Chronicles of the Gifted.

Yes, it's still there. Still around after some nine years. The game's still there - and so is the cave. I know it is, because I went there last night to take that picture.

Of course, I didn't go there as me. I went there as a grumpy old dragon, who never uses one word where ten will do. He's called Sephiranoth. And one thing about dragons - they love their gems. And one thing about dragon lairs in Istaria - they take a lot of gems (and other things) to build. And one day, long ago (about seven years ago, around 2005), Sephiranoth was in that cave, digging up gems. And it turned out he wasn't the only person there. Someone else was there. Someone not a dragon. Someone standing on two legs. Someone called Sonea (does that name ring any bells cool?). But, like most things, such a meeting should be put in perspective. Because in Istaria, dragons do not necessarily find themselves on the end of a pointy stick wielded by a Knight in shiny armour. They actually get on quite well with two legged folks. Well, when they let the two legged folks get a word in edgeways, anyway blush. So lets do that. Put things in perspective, I mean:

Sephiranoth and Sonea - The Lava Tube

Dragons, you see, are a little large blush.

So what does all this have to do with 'A Comedy of Terrors'? Well. That's the thing, you see. All that 'once upon a time'...

One of the things about online games is, they tend to divide into the RPers (Role Players) and the, um, non-RPers. And the RPers, they tend to have stories for their characters. Before Horizons had even released I had a history written for Sephiranoth. I knew who he was, where he came from - where he was going. And the player behind Sonea (who I eventually learned was called Pat), she wanted a history too. She'd heard some of Sephiranoth's, and wanted to know if we could maybe do something for Sonea together. Just a page or two...

Those are other dangerous words. 'Just a page or two'. Over time, we started expanding that 'page or two'. The pages turned into little stories of their own. Stories we would tell to the other players online some nights. And one day - well, one day after nearly three years of not-writing a book - we sort of realised we were. Writing a book, that is. And (missing out lots of boring bits about the company changing hands, then changing to worse hands, then to much better hands) - well, another day (in 2008) the company that owns the game decided they liked the book (or what they'd seen of it) enough to want to publish it for their players. That was this book:

Pat Phelan and Graeme Smith - Thunder and Lightning

It can still be found, if anyone wants to find it. We wrote it (to the best of our ability) so it could be read even by non-players - but don't blame the company for the layout. That was my fault, and I'm an Idiot blushcheeky. I knew a lot less about such things then than now.

But that's not important right now. I'm not trying to sell you that book. I'm not even trying to sell you 'A Comedy of Terrors' smiley. This is just 'once upon a time'...

Some time after 'Thunder and Lightning' came out, Pat and I wondered whether it might have a place in the wider world. So, as one does, I did my not unusual dragon-in-a-china-shop impersonation - and some research. And I found out one of the things you're supposed to do if you want to get a book out is to 'write a Query'. A query is the one page letter (OK. Yes. Or email cheeky) a writer sends to an Agent they would like to represent them. Or would like to try to interest in representing them. Or would give their right arm, first born and eye-teeth to represent them.

Nurse! The red pill!

Phew. That's better blush.

Of course, these days I know that's not true - that you just go and write a Query - even though it is. There are a million other things too. But then? Well, this was 'once upon a time'. So I wrote one. A Query.

It. Was. Awful cheeky.

I had a pretty good idea it was awful - but I wanted a more professional, market savvy stamp of awful-ness. So I did some more research. And I found something. Or rather - someone. I found an Agent (no - I didn't 'find an Agent' like writers want to find an Agent. Calm down devil) - who did (and does) just the sort of thing I was looking for.

I found the Query Shark.

I know. I can just hear you asking. 'The Query Shark? What's a Query Shark?'. Well - it isn't so much a what as a who. Because she's the one and only. The Query Shark is a Real Live Agent (Janet Reid of finePrint Literary) who offers the would be Query-er an amazing service. If - and it's a big if - you get really, really lucky, she'll take your Query. She'll take it - and tear it to shreds. In public.

But only if you get really, really lucky. Because it's not just one of the best ways to find out how to improve a Query - it's almost impossible to be the one she picks out of the thousands she gets to tear and shred. Because the Query Shark is inundated with people who want her to tear their Queries to shreds. To show them how to write better ones. Actually, she's equally inundated with people who think they've written one of the most amazing Queries ever - but who are about to find out they haven't devilcrying. Either way - it's really hard to be one of those she picks to tear apart. So in February 2010 I sent Our Lady of Teeth my Really Bad Query. And, to try to get her attention, an introduction to the Query. Call it a Query -for the Query. You can read the whole sad, sorry tale here:

The Query Shark - Query 146. How to write a Bad Query

Suffice to say - I was right. It was a bad Query. It was, in fact, a truly terrible Query smiley. But there was something else. Both Our Lady of Teeth and some of her responders liked the intro letter. The Query for the Query. And one response in particular bit me. It was this one:

"Could you please write your whole book in the voice you wrote your introduction? It would be an awesome fresh voice for all the melodramatic dragon fantasies in the world. I am tired of dragon-land, but I will buy a dragon book with that voice. I will promote it too, (with all the popularity I possess.)
Please begin with "First, if I may, allow me to introduce myself. I'm an idiot."
Then have a fight with a dragon that shows what an idiot your MC really is. I mean, who fights with dragons? Idiots."

I didn't know the good and wise Lady Liesl then. I know her better now. But - I admit it. 'A Comedy of Terrors', the book itself, started right there. If the Lava Tube was the deep ocean shiver that began it, Lady Liesl was it's first rising - the rising that must happen to any wave if it is to break.

Because I sat down with that first line - and I thought. And, being a pantster (that's someone who doesn't plot out everything that's going to happen in the book before they write a word - they start typing, and hold on for the ride blush), I wrote a second line. And another...

This is where I'm supposed to say 'the rest is history'. But it isn't yet. Not really. Because it's still happening smiley. By August 2010, I'd written some more lines. Written them, self-edited, passed them through alpha readers and beta (yes - there's a difference. No - I'm not saying what it is here. That's for another day cheeky) - and I sent the Query shark another Query. I sent her this one:

The Query Shark - Query 172

And it appeared Lady Shark liked this one. Rather more than the last, at least. But.... well, but nobody else did. Because I sent the Query out into the world - the world of Agents - and none bit. Not a one. I started getting used to the Querying writer's two oldest friends - 'no reply means no', and 'Form Rejections' laugh.

Which is not to say it was, or wasn't a good, or bad Query. Or that 'A Comedy of Terrors' was - or wasn't - a good or bad book. It was just - not for them. Because that's how it is with a potential Agent. They have to consider whether the book being offered is one that will actually sell - and whether it fires them up enough to make it something they can commit to for what will probably be well over a year. And this one? This one, it seemed - wasn't.

And that might have been that. Or I might still be sending it out to silence, or those Form Rejections. But - and if ever you want to succeed, there pretty much has to be a 'But' - I have a friend.

Yes. I'm looking at you, Lady Cheryl. So there cheeky. Because this friend, Lady Cheryl, she's hip to the groove. Even back then, she could feel the times a-changin'. And she suggested a number of times I try some of these new-fangled electronical publishing folks. And - cutting a lot of pointless resistance on my part short - eventually I listened to her. Because in July 2011 I sent the Query the Shark liked to MuseitUp Publishing. And in August 2011 - they offered me a contract. And yes. The rest really is history. Because on Thursday June 21st, 2012 - MuseitUp Publishing published 'A Comedy of Terrors'.

Graeme Smith - A Comedy of Terrors


And there it is. 'Once upon a time...'. Dangerous words. Because, like Bilbo said, it's a dangerous thing setting foot outside your door. Or writing. Even just a page or two... laugh.


Lady Mary's picture

Congratulations, Graeme! Hope the journey is fun and exciting for you.

Graeme's picture

... Lady Mary! smiley.

Well, the thing with journeys is, they're a bit like tales. They never really start - and they never really stop. I just finished my first round pre-edits for 'Road like a River' - and I'm still polishing 'Jack Shadow'. So I'll just keep lifting my feet up and putting them donw, hoping there's still a road under them when they land! blush wink.


Cheryl B. Dale's picture

So what's wrong with just letting yourself get swept away?

Graeme's picture

Lady Cheryl

Heh. I guess I'd have to sort of link to Syliva Plath and 'Not waving, but drowning'. The thing with being swept away is you lose a lot of control over where you end up. Of course you do if you try not to be swept away - but then if you do end up somewhere, you can at least pretend to yourself you had a hand in it smiley.

And I'm glad you loved CoT wise one - you were one of the larger reasons I kept writing it. That, and the way bl**dy Segorian just kept chattering on in my head, whether I typed or not cheeky. Um - is that the 'swept away bit? laugh


Kelly Hashway's picture

Congrats on your release! I hope you are able to enjoy this among all the mayhem that comes with spreading the word.

Graeme's picture

... my thanks indeed smiley. It is indeed a madness - but a good one laugh.

I think what I'm looking forward to most is to when I somehow manage to squeez some time back i to actually write some more blush cheeky.

Diane's picture

I am ever so very proud of your accomplishments. I am glad to see you stick with everything from the beginning to the end. You are one very smart dragon and I will forever remember you for your braveness into the world of storytelling and getting it published.!!!!!



Graeme's picture

My thanks indeed - and the latest update (heh - I really must post another blog entry cheekyblush) is that Books We Love (a different Canadian e-publisher) have contracted a novella of mine - 'Jack Shadow'laugh.

Sinistra Inksteyne's picture

Where have you been all these years???

And how does one buy an e-book if one doesn't have a kindle?

Sinistra Inksteyne

P.S. I read your comment(s) on Kristen Lamb's blog, and followed my nose down the rabbit hole. Er, dragon-hole. Cave. Whatever.


Graeme's picture

... Lady Sinistra!

Well and all. Now there's a puzzlement. For with a greeting like that, it seems we must know each other! But - even though I confess the name sounds and feels like I should be able to - I cannot place it blush. And I am therefore embarassed, and must remain so until you put me out of my misery, wise one and fair! smiley

As to years - well again. For there's rocks round here called me granfer when they was mountains - and so there are too many years too far passed for me to number them. So where did we dance, Lady Sinistra, and when Was it Vladivostok - and the custard? OR Vienna, and the matter of the Queen's... but no. I would have remembered. The chase through the... and then the ArchBishop came in and caught... Ah. Such days! devil

As to e-books - there are Reader applications for those who do not have e-readers. Amazon do one for Kindle e-books, for Windows and Apple and Linux machines, and there are similar readers for EPUB files. Let me know if you'd like a link, and I'll be delighted to dig one out smiley.

But in any wise, and my poor, lost memory I hope forgiven, welcome to my rabbit hole! Or, at least - this dragon cave. And  any friend of the good Lady Kristen (or any who venture to her door) is someone I'd love to be able to remember better laugh.

Sinistra Inksteyne's picture

Fear not, your memory is not so far decayed as you might think, for we have never danced before, my ambidextrous hands being matched by equally ambisinistrous feet. Alas.

(Let us not mention the custard.)

On a more technical note, am I correct in thinking that A Comedy of Terrors (and if you can make Shakespearian puns, I am sure we shall get along) ordered directly from Muse It Up will include a PDF form? (I followed a rabbit hole at the back of the dragon cave...)

I am sure my Luddite leanings can cope with a PDF, and even if I can't, I'm sure my Caped Gooseberry can.

Sinistra Inksteyne

Graeme's picture

Lady Sinistra

Then at least I'll only pine for the years I have not known ye, and not the memories of years I have and cannot recall smiley. Well, and seek to mark such years as may come with memories in the place of those I do not hae for not knowing ye cheeky.

Yes indeed. If you were to buy any of Muse's releases direct from them (and they have in my view some excellent books by some excellent writers), you don't just get a single specific format. You get (at no extra cost) an EPUB file, an htm (web browser readable) format, a PRC (Kindle format) file and, as you quite rightly say, a PDF file. So I'll let my venal, self-serving side hope that helps! blush

Honour to ye, Lady Sinistra. Aye, and to thy Gooseberry (Caped or otherwise) the same! laugh

Sinistra Inksteyne's picture

Technical difficulties. You may have a rival for the title of Idiot, as regrettably, the unseen hand which formed the MuseItUp website saw fit to connect the "Click Here To Read Terms of Service" link to the Bookstore page.

Which, unless it is a very meta way of saying that like true love, they have neither terms nor conditions, is not fantastically helpful to someone wishing to make a purchase.

Plus (incipient Ludditry on my part, perhaps) I wasn't able to find a contact email. Do you think you could let them know?

Thanks in advance,

Sinistra Inksteyne

Graeme's picture

Lady Sinistra! smiley

And (as ever) a delight indded to be see you smiley.

It would be my pleasure (if 'pleasure' is the right word to use about such a task frown) to let them know. Could you let me know which link was crossed? I wandered over to the Muse bookstore page and took a quick look but couldn't see it - undoubtedly me doing that whole 'Idiot' thing. Er - again blushsmiley.

If you could either drop it in an email, or post it here, either would be fine laugh.


Sinistra Inksteyne's picture

Many thanks for your prompt reply!

I'd heard publishers expected their authors to do a lot more of the work these days - I didn't realise that extended to customer service and IT helpdesk

The misdirection is on the 'cart' page ( - after one has selected one's preferred reading material - just above the "Check Out Now" button.

When one hovers over the blue text Click here to read terms of service and check the box to accept them it shows, which is indeed where it goes when you click.

Do not pass go, do not collect $200 (or rather do not deposit $5.50...)

Sinistra Inksteyne

Graeme's picture

Update duly sent to the publishing Editor at Muse and my thanks indeed for the information, wise one and fair .

I don't know when she'll see it - she's Canadian, and it's Thanksgiving here today. But I'm sure she'll take care of it at her first opportunity .

So - trying very hard to put arrogance and ego as far to one side as possible - would it be improper to ask who/ what had attracted your coin's attention? I'd hope it was me, of course - but I'm trying to do that whole 'arrogance and ego to one side' thing. Um, probably very badly .



The Idiot

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