7 Days of Office Hell: Day 3

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

As I mentioned yesterday, after being unforgivably rude to someone whilst working in an office, I vowed that my stupid mouth would never be the cause of such embarrassment ever again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m standing in front of a class of creative writing students. The classroom is now my office and I’m confident I’ve learnt my lesson about not saying things that are stupid or embarrassing or offensive.

An elderly female student has just finished reading a short story she’d created about a Frenchman falling in love with a young woman who was wearing a short skirt. The female student smiled wistfully and said, “I think he only fell in love with her because of the short skirt.”

“Of course,” I agreed. “Frenchmen only like two fabrics: short skirts and white flags.”

Someone tittered.

The author of the story fixed me with a patient smile that I didn’t read correctly. I thought I’d just seen a green light for every Frenchmen joke I’d ever heard.

“Do you know why Jesus wasn’t born in France? Because they couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. What do you call a Frenchman in the final of an international sport? The referee. Where’s the safest place to hide your money? Under a Frenchman’s soap. What do French recruits learn in basic training? How to say, “I surrender” in 17 different languages.”

I paused for breath.

Some of the class were smiling. The author of the story was still fixing me with her patient smile.

“Did you hear about the French army rifle that was for sale on eBay? It was advertised as ‘never fired’ but dropped once.”

That one made me smile, so I paused for a self-indulgent chuckle.

The author of the story said, “The story was about how I met my husband.”

I suddenly felt like a piece of human excrement.

She said, “Well, I say my husband. I mean my late husband.”

And I vowed, from that day forth, I’d never say anything embarrassing, hurtful or stupid ever again.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 2

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

The reason why I wrote Raven and Skull is because I have worked in an office and I know that working in an office can be hell. I’ll even be honest enough to admit that there have been times I have been the source of that hellishness.

For example, there was the time I worked in an office with a dodgy reputation for paying bills on time. The owner of the business believed this was sensible practice: take as long as possible to pay a bill and the interest accrued on those unpaid monies went to him rather than to those who helped him. Admittedly this meant he gained pennies whilst the companies he worked with lost hundreds of pounds – but he thought it was acceptable business.

Which meant that, instead of doing our work in the office, we spent most of the time answering calls to irate suppliers who wondered where their money was. And it was a form of hell. It wasn’t my fault that the bills hadn’t been paid: the owner refused to sign cheques until he’d seen a court order. It wasn’t the fault of the credit control people chasing their payment: they were employed to demand outstanding monies.

But it meant I did one of the most horrific things I’ve ever done in my life. I answered the phone in a snarky mood. I found myself talking to an irate credit control lady who was demanding to know why her company hadn’t been paid and what I was going to do about it.

She said, “I’m not trying to cast assnertions against your company-“

I cut her off by saying, “No. You wouldn’t be trying to cast assnertions, because there are no such things as assnertions. I think the word you’re hunting for, and failing to correctly grasp, is aspersions.”

As soon as I’d said the words I realised I was a despicable human being. We’re all entitled to make mistakes with pronunciation. We’re all capable of getting words wrong. And here I was, snarkily mocking someone for making a simple mistake.

“Aspersions,” the woman repeated. She sounded small and I felt as though I’d just punched a puppy.

I promised her I’d look into the outstanding monies and get the oversight rectified as soon as possible. And I vowed, from that day forth, I’d never say anything embarrassing, hurtful or stupid ever again.

Come back here tomorrow and you can see how well that worked out for me.

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

7 Days of Office Hell: Day 1

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway this week with more details below.

“Mr Wade,” Moira began.

She had the sort of raspy voice that suggested a lifetime of smoking and lungs the colour of a tramp’s underpants. Tony could hear every syllable struggling to make its way through layers of yellowing phlegm and tar-blackened bronchioles as Moira gasped his name in her gravel-strewn death rattle.

“I’m glad I found you here alone, Mr Wade. I’ve been wanting to talk to someone from management.”

Tony pointed to a seat and waited for Moira to sit down. His heart pounded from the surprise of discovering he wasn’t alone in the building. He didn’t particularly want to talk with Moira – ideally he would have been happier finishing his work and going home – but there was no polite way to dismiss her from the office without causing offence. Telling himself that a break from the workload might not be such a bad idea, he stretched his neck until it cracked and then he settled back in his chair.

“What’s the problem, Moira?”

Silence.

He could hear the sounds of the office around him as the building breathed. The heavy sigh of an expectant printer, the constant whisper of fluorescents above, and the tinny faraway crackle of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre building to its distant conclusion from his iPod speakers. He studied her eyes – the whites turned rheumy yellow and the pupils a black that was unnervingly deep – and waited for a response. Although Moira had been with the office since he began working there, it was the first time he had sat in the same room with the woman and studied her at such close proximity. Her hair was a tangle of grey barbs. Her face was a relief map of porous flesh and ravine-deep wrinkles. There was a wart on her jawline, a gnarled lump of discoloured flesh sprouting a dozen short black hairs. Tony thought the hairs looked like insect legs wriggling from beneath her skin. Previously, he had thought Moira was another of the forgotten office drones; a dinosaur from accounts plodding towards extinction. But staring into her eyes, he got the impression that she might be far more than he had ever imagined. The thought trailed an icy finger down his spine.

“What’s the problem, Moira? What did you want to talk about?”

“I think I might have killed them.”

The theme of this novel is that office work is a living hell. So, to be in with a chance of winning a free copy of the Raven and Skull audiobook, simply tell me: what’s your most embarrassing story from working in an office?

Email: me@ashleylister.co.uk and I’ll be selecting a random winner by Sunday 8th August 2021.

Raven and Skull: Giveaway

My 2016 novel Raven and Skull is now available as an audiobook.  The Kindle and Paperback versions have also been slightly revised with updated covers and lightly polished content. And, in celebration of the book being made available as an audiobook, I’m organising an audiobook giveaway. Please check back here tomorrow for full details.

Starting on Saturday, and for the duration of all next week, I’ll be running a week-long competition to win a copy of the audiobook version of Raven and Skull.

Pre-Order Now Available

I am delighted to announce that Escape is now available for pre-order.  It’s going to be released on August 22nd 2021 and is the fifth in the series of Dark Tales from Innsmouth.

Events in Innsmouth are moving to a climax. The Esoteric Order of Dagon are determined to bring about the end of the world with the summoning of the Elder God: Dagon. The order’s leaders refuse to acknowledge the repercussions of their act. And they are determined to make the seas boil and the dead rise as they prepare for Armageddon.

But one fearless lecturer from Innsmouth University understands the impending perils. He believes the Esoteric Order can be stopped. And all he needs to do is to help three dangerous individuals escape from Sefton Institute for the Criminally Insane.

There will be more updates over the forthcoming weeks but I have to say, Escape is moving us closer to end of the story.  

Question for the Author

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

I’m not sure if I’ve answered this before but, if I have, the chances are I got it wrong.  This is a loaded question that doesn’t give all the options. 

Character is certainly important because we go to fiction to meet those remarkable characters who make us love fiction. From Jeeves and Wooster through to Pratchett’s Death or Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter: we read fiction to meet these remarkable people.

However, plot is equally important because the concatenation of circumstances that take characters from the start of a journey to its conclusion are essential to our enjoyment of the story. Remove plot from any of the stories involving the aforementioned characters and you have a story about Bertie Wooster coming home drunk and Jeeves serving him a hangover cure, or a story where Death does his laundry, or a story where Dexter files his tax returns.

But, for me, more important than character or plot, is the author’s way of telling a story. The best character in the world is going to stay closed inside the pages of a book if the author isn’t capable of telling a compelling story. Perhaps part of the reason why Sherlock Holmes stills remains so popular is not just because he’s a fascinating character who participates in some engaging stories: but it’s because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle narrated him so well.

Enid Blyton’s characters are two-dimensional, and her plots are formulaic, but her storytelling got me (and countless others) into the world of reading. Agatha Christie gave us remarkable characters with Marple and Poirot, and inventive murder mysteries for both of them: yet it’s her abilities as a storyteller that have made her writing live on.

Which is my way of saying that, whilst plot and character are both important: the voice of the storyteller is most importantest.

The Fearless Reviews

By Ashley Lister

I’m indebted to all the kind folks who have taken time out to review Fearless: A Dark Tale from Innsmouth.  I know book reviews probably seem unimportant to most people but to authors, it’s rewarding to know that what you’ve written is working for a reader.  Yes, there’s also an Amazon algorithm that means, the more reviews a title receives, the more Amazon suggest the book to targeted readers. But, for me, it’s the satisfaction of knowing that what I’ve written has worked for its intended audience.  Thank you to everyone who’s written a review, and thank you to everyone who’s thinking of writing a review.  You guys are awesome.

Honestly, my only critique is that this should be a full novel. Having it as a novella is great and it helps keep the pace up, but I would love to see it expanded more and developed even more. I would say that pace is good and makes for a fun read, but, with such interesting plots and characters, there is nothing wrong with slowing down from time to time to really explore and expand them.

Grimm Deathwish

I read Ashley Lister’s Fearless: a dark tale from Innsmouth in one sitting. Oh. My. Gosh. I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed such amazing dialogue in a story. It’s clever and dark and had me laughing and exclaiming out loud, much to my husband’s dismay. The characters and their interactions are absolutely brilliant.

Lisa Lee

https://bibliophiliatemplum.wordpress.com/2021/04/06/fearless-a-dark-tale-from-innsmouth/

Mileage may vary on this one, but if you’re looking for a fast, single sitting tension-filled novella, this will tick all of those boxes.

Steve Stred

Monday Morning Update

That was quite a productive week. I managed to complete the first draft of Escape, book number 5 in the dark tales from Innsmouth.  This one reintroduces so many of my favourite characters from the series that it’s been a giggle reacquainting myself with some of them.  I think the series will finish with one more book and I’ll be back with more information once I’m closer to finalising a release date for this one.

I also managed to finish uploading the Raven and Skull audiobook.  This has been a lot of hard work but I’m pleased that the title is going to be able to get to a broader audience. I currently consume the majority of my fiction through audiobooks, so this means the title can be enjoyed by readers like myself (i.e. those who are too lazy to read words).

Raven & Skull

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been working an audiobook version of Raven and Skull.  This has been a fun way of revisiting the story for me and I think the finished product tells the story in an entertaining and satisfying fashion.

It goes without saying that Raven and Skull is still available as an eBook or print book and I’ll be letting everyone know on here when the audiobook is available. However, to hear a sample from the product, click the link below:

The Greatest Difficulty for a Writer

I’ve never been a great one for pretending that writing is easy or difficult. The truth is that some stories come easily and other stories take a little more cajoling to get onto the page. Sometimes it’s easy to address this with meticulous plotting and note-taking in preparation. And sometimes these activities are the exact thing that will kill the creativity of an idea. What’s the point of writing a story when you know how it’s going to end?

But, in recent months, I’ve found a new problem with writing that makes every word a struggle. It doesn’t so much sap creativity as place a barrier to getting the words on the page.

This is Oswald’s current favourite sleeping place. 

The World’s Worst Writing Partner

As you can see, he’s across my lap, chin resting on my right arm, with his fat backside nestled down by my left leg. Is this a comfortable position? Not particularly. I now walk with a limp. Is this conducive to improved writing? Not particularly: my words-per-second has dropped considerably. Am I going to change this? No. The spoilt little shit seems comfortable, so I’m just going to be a lot slower with my output.