Tuesday, 14 October 2014

U-Turns, U-Turns Everywhere!

I've recently (about five minutes ago) noticed that I've not been paying much attention of late to my 'to-do' list. With Winter almost upon us, I'm aware that I have less than six months now to complete my list, and that's not much time at all given the size of the list and the fact that I envisaged at least one of those items to be novel-length.
Is it time to abandon the list? Well, maybe. I was perhaps not in the best frame of mind when writing said list. I had it in my head at the time: I have a couple of good stories, maybe those could be expanded upon. 

Of course any story can be expanded upon, but should it be? 

For example: when I wrote Licking Walls in the Dark, I wasn't writing it thinking that it was going to be a series. I wrote it as a standalone story, and expected to leave it at that.
Then 'greedy-head' S.J. came along with his suggestion that it might be more commercially successful (which it's not right now) if Walls was part of a series. If it was: readers would have in mind that they could give it a try and if they liked it there was more to come. That was really my only motivation for saying that I would do another one. Now that I've had time to think about it I've decided that 'commercial success' is no basis for making decisions about art, so I'm sorry to say that it seems doubtful that there will be anymore Pon stories for at least the foreseeable future.
A new Finegold story on the other hand: maybe, just maybe that could be on the cards. However, it's not a priority right now, as I have another character who has piqued my interest: Worm. My latest novel, Worm: Demon Attorney at Law is sitting at 70k words with just over 10k (best guess) to go. That's my priority just now, to further the Worm line of stories, because he's a solid character, and I could write about him all day and night whether there's any chance of commercial success or not. And isn't that what writing is all about?
Lastly in the U-turns category: The Werechicken saga. Again, I'd had a notion to write sequels because commercial viability and all that. However, the planned sequel(s) - which was an epic fantasy of Lord of the Rings proportions - just don't seem to be working. I have written Frank's part of the story, which is about 90k words, and is a meandering journey through my world where he encounters elves, zombies, and a tribe of triclopses living on the back of a giant crab wandering through the desert. The idea was that Frank was being guided by an old witch who tricked/kidnapped him into another adventure. Their journey is based on a vague prophecy, and the plot of the story would be driven forward by the chapters of the story relating to the wizardess character, Thorn. 
The idea was that at the end of both storylines Thorn and Frank would realise that they both had the same goal, although their stories were completely separate, and they would help each other to defeat the big bad.
Unfortunately, Thorn's part of the story has not been much fun to write: without Frank , Thorn is actually pretty boring. Frank is the heart of the story, and no matter who I put him with he can stand on his own. It's his reactions to people and situations that make him a joy to write. Therefore I think that this might be the end for Thorn, and I think the story will be better for it. I reckon that Frank's story can be repurposed and the vague prophecy that he's following can relate to something else entirely (I have a few ideas, but that would be giving the game away). And what about Thorn? Well, my view is that continuing with the story that I intended to write could be a collossal disaster. Maybe the events - an all out war against the 'big bad' - still happen in my universe, but I have no plans to write about them anytime soon. Frank might hear some rumours, or pass through a town affected by them, but that's really it. He will run into Thorn every now and again, and he will see that she's no-longer the woman he fell in love with. She's become obsessed with an enemy that everyone thinks is dead, but at the same time has grown into a powerful wizardess, and a true leader. That greatness is what I wanted for her, but I don't think she can do that whilst being a part of Frank's life.
If anyone (mum) is thinking that my comedy story about a man whose 'superpower' is that he can turn into a chicken is making a leap into the 'tragedy' genre: fear not! I'll make it funny. I don't know how, but I will.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

When Worlds Collide

I had a bizarre thing happen to me recently in that my lives as a lawyer and a self-published writer collided a little bit. 

I was called on by a longstanding client to look over a contract. Nothing strange, although given the demographics of my client base I had expected it to be an employment contract or a tenancy agreement. I was pleasantly surprised, and insanely jealous, to find that what my client (who we'll call Adam) wanted me to look over was a publishing contract.

Publishing contracts are hardly my forte being what's lovingly referred to as a 'High Street Solicitor' here in the UK. I normally deal with the legal troubles that come with day to day life such as family law and criminal law issues. However, I felt pretty confident taking this on having done the required reading on publishing contracts for my own information so that if I was ever offered one I would be able to tell if I was being screwed or not. So I told Adam I would have a look (and free of charge since I knew he didn't have a penny to his name).

It all started out harmlessly enough. The usual contract elements about who parties are, what the contract is about, what book is being referred to. All that boring stuff which runs on for three pages without actually getting anywhere (as a lawyer I'm not saying it's not important, but as a writer my instinct is to get readers hooked up front and hide the boring bits somewhere in the middle).

Then, finally, we got to the crux of the matter: the advance. At first glance, I saw printed in words and figures "one thousand five hundred pounds (£1,500) Sterling". Better than a kick in the balls, I thought. However, once I looked at the context in which the words appeared: “the author shall pay to the publisher the sum of ONE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED (£1,500) STERLING within twenty one days of the date of signing this contract". 

Hang on a minute. That's the wrong way around entirely. Alarm bells rang, red flags went up, and my spidey sense tingled. This was something I had read about previously: despite this contract having the look and feel of a traditional publishing deal, it was really a deal from a vanity publishing house.

Now I'm not saying that in some circumstances, that's not okay. If you really want your book out there and want to pay fifteen hundred pounds for the pleasure, go for it. However, a traditional publishing deal it was not.

But wait, there's more!

In addition to asking Adam to pay such a price for publishing his book, there were some more strings attached. Adam would be required to give up his right to have the final say on the book's editing. And also: the contract was very clear that after taking Adam's money, the publisher had no obligation to actually publish his book. 

Now let's take those one-by-one: editorial control is something that new authors will have to be flexible on. If you want someone to sell your book, and you don't have the name Stephen King, your publisher is taking a gamble. They will want to make your book as sellable as possible. That might mean that your protagonist will have to change his name from M'Foto'qrt to Jim. Or it might mean a complete re-write of the story and removal of some of the 'edgier' parts. It all comes down to what you're comfortable with. Be very careful when signing a contract that you're not giving away more control than you're comfortable with. Be warned: it might mean walking away from that deal you always wanted.

Then there's the other small matter of the publisher making no guarantees that the work will be published. The basis of contract law is rights and corresponding obligations. If you are obliged to pay £1,500 to a company, the least you should expect in return is that you will be given a corresponding right under the contract to have your work published by the publisher. And not just that: a right to have it done in a reasonable timeframe!

My ultimate advice to Adam was to politely decline this deal, and to keep submitting to publishers and agents. 

So here endeth the contract law lesson. There are obviously hundreds of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to negotiating contracts, and these are just a few. My advice would be to lawyer up the minute you get a contract (if you don't already have an agent) these things take quite a bit of training to understand fully. Lawyers have their own language which might seem innocuous to the casual reader, but might actually have significant consequences should it have to be relied on in court at a later stage. 

Lawyery backside-covering bit: none of the above is legal advice. Consult your own lawyer before signing anything.

A stern nod and a firm, professional handshake,


Sunday, 22 June 2014

The June Update

If anyone has been keeping track (apart from you, mum) it's been a few months since I last posted. The shame!

In my defence I have been super busy at work. We've had a lot of cases going to trial/proof, which is great news for my boss, who will be making a fortune, but for me it just means I have to work a lot longer hours.

This means that at the end of the day/week I have very little mental energy left for being a writer Steve. I'm not COMPLETELY unsatisfied with the current state of affairs. After all, as countless internet sources will tell us: our passion for writing is unlikely to ever be a profitable one. Therefore if I want be able to afford my vices in life (Jack Daniels, curries, and video games) then I'll need to have a good source of income anyway.

However, now that the crazy level of busy-ness is over, I've managed to return to writing and have an update on my to-do list.

The Vampire Horse and Technically a Dragon are coming along well. Frank's bit is done and Thorn's bit has come along nicely. It's at nearly 30k words, and I have a general direction in which to take it. Thereafter there's a few other bits to be written, and then comes the dreaded editing process. However, I imagine I will just outsource the editing to Holly Bohl, the fantastic editor who edited Bookworm for me.

Bookworm (the new Worm story). This is edited and is just waiting for me to pull the trigger on publishing, which I'm putting off for a while because effort. It's coming!

Brand Spanking New Worm Story! I've gone rogue and have begun a new story that doesn't appear on the to do list. This one tells the story of Worm getting his first job at a law firm after achieving his law degree. It's going well, and I'm drawing on a lot of what I've learned up to this point about characterisation etc. I think it might be a good one, and am holding out some hope that this might be one to try with the traditional publishing route. I can dream, can't I?

New Finegold story. I have a setting and a name: Plainsilver. I'm staying tight-lipped about it otherwise.

The Hammer: parts 1 and 2 are done, but part 3 is proving tricky. I dunno, I'll get back to you on that one.

The Head Vampire and Pon. I don't really have any idea how to take these forward. It might be that they'll just have to stay as one-offs.

So there is progress to be made here, which makes me happy. Hopefully there will be some more free time in my life for me to actually be able to put these plans into action. Keep your fingers crossed for me.



Sunday, 27 April 2014

Exciting new Werechicken covers!

I've been blessed with the help of two enormously talented Redditors who have created covers for the Werechicken.

First up is u/Crowqueen's incredibly detailed hand-drawn cover:

The second is by user Artemis_Aquarius, whose cover stars just the titular werechicken, and the wizardess, Thorn. These are represented by two well-fitting stock photos who have been lovingly dubbed 'sassy chicken' and 'snowy broad' (the original stock photo had her in a snowy field):

Both users came up with completely different cover ideas, but I think they're both fantastic.

That being said, I now have two amazing covers that I can't choose between (and Art and Crow are very selfishly refusing to fight to the death to decide the matter) so my plan is to use one for the Smashwords version, and the other for Amazon. That will happen ASAP.

I feel very fortunate to have been given the assistance of these two massively talented people :-)

Until next time,


Sunday, 20 April 2014

On. Fire.

I've just finished the first draft of Bookworm, being the sequel to Worm - which you can have for free from down here \/

It ended up being a little different from what I had intended, but I like how it turned out. Worm is a very easy character to write.

It's going to be a bit of a rewriting process as I didn't really work out the other characters' traits until nearer the end, so I'll have to go back and give them personalities earlier in the book when they were essentially cardboard cutouts.

The total word count is 28k or so. A good novella length.

The story covers Worm's first week back at university, trying to reacquire his law degree. The legal business has changed since he was last a part of it. It has been overrun by vampires. Most, if not all, of the large law firms are run by vampires, and they like it that way. The vampires in the law class at Unity College like to run off any non-vampire competition within the first few days. What they didn't count on is that one of the non-vampires would be a demon. A demon who doesn't necessarily think that an all-vampire legal sector is such a great idea.

Worm also has to deal with the insignificant problem of having no money to his name. However, he has a plan: the university's catacombs are rumoured to hold a secret treasure trove of magical artefacts that could fetch a pretty penny, setting up Worm and his fellow treasure hunters for life. However, the catacombs are a dark and lonely place. Dangerous too. A good number of students who venture down there are never seen again…

It'll be available soon… ish.


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Top Ten Tips for Writers

Since it seems that everybody and their grandmother is putting out a "top ten tips for writers" post to draw people into their blogs: I'm doing it too. I wouldn't want you people to think I was too good for pandering to the lowest common denominator (because I'm really not).  

Top Ten Tips for Writers 

1. Never actually publish anything.  

Nothing ruins your writer-mystique like publishing your works. If you can tell people I'm a writer, and give them a vague description of your WIP, I bet they'll be really impressed. However, if you go ahead and publish something, they might read it and find out you don't know what you're doing after all.  

2. Stock up on duct tape, and throwaway mobile phones (burners). 

You need to get reviews somehow, hostage taking is a very effective method. Oh, you'll need a van too. 

3. A comfy pair of slippers is essential to being a writer.  

'Nuff said.  

4. Ignore all criticism.  

Anyone who doesn't love your work just doesn't get you. Smite them! 

5. Write drunk, and edit drunk too.  

Because editing sucks, and you need something to help you get through it.  

6. Never EVER use the word 'said'.  

It's dull. There are so many better words to use, like spluttered, ejaculated, spilt. That kind of thing.  

7. Erotica is where the money is. 

They say write about what you're enthusiastic about. Who isn't enthusiastic about sex? Also, if you have some weird fetish, you can write about that and get a part of a niche market.  

8. You're not a serious writer unless you're spending your weekends in Starbucks with your MacBook. 

Again, 'Nuff said. 

9. There's no money in writing. 

After you have written your first book, get working on your 'How To' series about being a writer. Don't worry if no-one recognises your name, no-one knows who any of these how-to people are. 

10. If all else fails: rip someone off.  

I'm a lawyer and this is legal advice: plagiarism is bloody hard to prove in a court of law. Go for it.  


Steve Birdman, Attorney at Law

The above is intended for humorous purposes only, and number 10 is NOT legal advice in any shape or form, no matter what I said in it. I will not be held accountable for anything you bastards do as a result of reading this blog. Oh, and re number 2: kidnapping is a crime. Don't do that either. 

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Updating the to-do list

I've now finished a draft each of parts 1 & 2 of The Hammer.

In case you haven't been following: I'm now a productive, serious writer. Yup, that's me.

The plan for The Hammer is to give series-writing a bash. I will release parts 1 & 2 shortly. Part 1 will be free, and part 2 will be $2.99. I will draw you in with part 1, and you will love it so much you will just have to know what happens next, and buy part 2. Then part 3 when it comes out as well.

What a dastardly plan! Ahahahaha!

Anyway, my writing brain is exhausted. I'm off for an early night.



Sunday, 30 March 2014

One Worm - Free to a Good Home

Please click below for your free copy of my demonic courtroom comedy Worm. The story was pasted onto the site a while back as an entry in Reddit's r/fantasywriters monthly writing challenge. I've now slapped a cover on it so you can carry it with you wherever you go :-) Enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Day 2 of productive, serious writer Steve.

It's day 2 of the program, and I've done almost 2,000 words of writing today, just over 3,000 total. I've hit a minor narrative snag, but that's no problem, I'll think about it tonight and tomorrow at work so that I can just sit down and get on with writing tomorrow evening. Good times.

Exciting news! I sold a copy of Licking Walls in the Dark at Smashwords. The useful Dashboard tells me that that sale earned me $2.45. Exciting times :-D

Also, with regards to the new plan I've embarked on, I forgot one avenue for new series: my loveable demon lawyer, Worm. The first story in Worm's tale is on this blog, and was entered into the Reddit r/fantasywriters monthly challenge where it earned joint second place. Worm will always be free, but I had an idea for a second story in the series set some time after Worm is released from prison. He must go back to university to earn his law degree all over again. I imagine it will be like the show Community, but with a demon.

So, in short, it's day 2 and I've managed not to fuck it up. Good times. It's hump-day tomorrow, so we shall see what it brings.


Monday, 24 March 2014


I'm feeling productive.

But then again, I'm blogging instead of writing, so perhaps it's a Jedi mind trick…

Anyway, from what I've been reading in other writers' blogs, having a writing schedule, or a goal, is the key to being a good writer who has lots of books out there.

So, henceforth, from this moment on, I, Stephen James Adolf Magill, shall write 1000 words every day.

No going back now. It's on the internet. That shit can't be undone. Nope.

I've done my 1k for today, and shall do more tomorrow!


S.J.A. Magill

Hammering Away

The draft of my first series is now into its second part.

The Hammer, which will be a three-part series about war, expectations vs reality, inaccuracy in the recording of historical events, and snotty grandchildren, is coming along nicely.

The first part came to a natural end at about 15,000 words. I think that's a fine word count for a story that will be priced at 0.99c, or free if I can get away with it. The second and third parts will be longer, and will be priced slightly higher.

This is all part of my businessman-plan. Because although I love writing for the joy of writing, and would still do it if I knew that there wasn't a penny to be made, I hate my day job. I hate having to get out of bed every morning before the sun rises, and I hate having to defend stupid clients (only a small rant this post, promise!)

I enjoy writing in the evenings so much that I keep thinking about how amazing it would be if I could just spend my whole day doing it instead of my day job. Unfortunately, and it's a first-world problem, my writing isn't very profitable, and my lawyering is somewhat profitable.

Therefore, in order to give up the day job in favour of writing for a living, I have to make money. Barring a lottery-win, that means I'm going to have to work jolly hard in order to do it.

Although, is 'working hard' really the key to success? Of course not. Well, it is, but that's not the whole story. I must also be working smart.

And how do I intend to do that? Well, I believe I've already begun. I was thinking to myself: how can I make more money from the writing? Sell more books of course!

No shit, Batman, but how do I do that?

I believe that I'm on the right track with The Hammer: one of the things that a lot of my favourite authors have in common is that the books they write either continue an already established story, or start a new adventure with the same characters. Adams had the Hitchhikers Guide series, and the Dirk Gently books. Tolkein obviously had LOTR, which was really one long history ('long' being the operative word). Pratchett has many series going at the moment.

The only real exception I could think of, where an author I like doesn't tend to write series, but starts afresh each time, is Stephen King. King's stories tend to be about the monsters though, and not so much about the protagonists. And it wouldn't be a very good monster story if there was no element of surprise. So to an extent there's not much scope for series in his work. But that's besides the point.

Ok, so now I've started a series. Very good. Where do I go from there? Do I start another series from scratch? No! I already have jumping off points for new series in the seven stories I already have.

Roland Erhoff's vampire adventure ended on something of a cliffhanger. Where did he go from there? (I'll tell you: he went to the Vampire Tower, where they did some not nice things to him, but that hasn't been written yet).

The insidious Dwarf culture on Terra, first explored with Pon, has a LOT more to be explored.

Finegold, the alchemist, is always capable of getting himself up to mischief.

And of course, Frank Novak and Thorn Middleton's latest adventures are underway already.

The other three: Mir Jonas Mir, Rhylay Dul, and Vorn the battlemage may, unfortunately, stay retired for now. I don't have any major plans for them, nor do I really see a way of taking their stories forward, as much as I liked them. Someday though.

SO: there you have it. My plan to make money. Given that it's taking me a VERY long time to produce any work, this is going to be a 'long game' plan. Hopefully not TOO long though. I'd like to get all of the above done in the next year or so.

In fact, that's it, I'm making myself a challenge. One year from now, I will at least have drafts of:

The Vampire Horse (The Werechicken Part 2)
Technically a Dragon (The Werechicken Part 3)
The Vampire Tower (The Head Vampire Part 2)
A new Pon story
A new Finegold story
The Hammer Parts 1, 2 and 3.

I'm underway already with some of them, and have ideas for the others. If you're reading this, PLEASE, keep me motivated, and keep me sane.

Warm regards,


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Here's to my Russian Readers.

Through the magic of this website's spying capabilities (no doubt inspired by the NSA's own efforts (bloody Capitalist pig-dogs!)) I have discovered that a lot of my traffic has been coming from the great nation of Russia.

Now, we all know Russia has been in the news recently for playing a TEENSY WEENSY bit too roughly with its neighbours. That's not what I'm here to post about. Anyone in any country can tell you that we're embarrassed by the actions of our politicians on a daily basis, and that we have not a goddamn bit of power to stop them. That goes doubly so in Russia. So, for this post, I shall be posting my favourite things about Russia:

Dmitry Glukhovsky

Probably the most successful Russian writer's story is pretty close to my own heart. His breakthrough novel, Metro 2033, was originally posted online for free, until someone realised how good it was and threw lots of money at Mr Glukhovsky in order to publish it.

The Metro series of books are now popular worldwide, and have been adapted/ formed the inspiration for two fantastic video games.

For those not familiar with the series: some form of disaster has caused the inhabitants of Moscow to seek shelter in the metro system. The survivors of the disaster have learned to adapt to life underground well, and in some cases, life is fairly bearable. However, although some communities have managed to develop systems of peace and order, there are other settlements which are more chaotic. And of course, between the settlements there are long, dark tunnels which one must not venture into alone if one ever wants to be heard from again.


What kind of writer would I be if I passed up this opportunity to reiterate my appreciation for alcohol. Vodka has led to some of my worst examples of decision making, but has consequently given me lots of good stories to tell at parties.

English Russia .com

My number-one source of information and culture about Russia. The site is presented without bias (or at least it used to be before they installed the hammer and sickle in the header) and lets outsiders see the Russia that Mr Putin would rather you didn't.


Mr Putin Himself

Not as a politician, but as a martial artist:

Presumably about to throw those two children?

So there you have it, my favourite things about Russia.

Do svidaniya,


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Publishing at Smashwords

I consider myself to be a writer, and not a salesman.

Does expecting to write some stories, put them up online, and expect everyone to flock to them like JK Rowling has just released Harry Potter 8 make me naive and arrogant? Probably. Okay definitely.

So, in an effort to be more salesman-like, I have registered The Werechicken on Smashwords. As those of you in the self-publishing community know, Smashwords is the biggest Indie-publishing website, and acts as a gateway to sites like the Apple iBookstore, and the stores for Kobo and Nook. It ensures listings on a lot of High-Street (or Main Street if you're in the USA) retailers' websites, which would be seriously challenging to get onto otherwise.

So there you go, I'm being businesslike with my writing. As I said, I'd much rather everyone else made the effort to find me, so I don't have to find them, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.

So what is the Smashwords process? Well, let me tell you:

First, as you would expect, you have to write a book. Smashwords are very good at providing assistance. Unfortunately, there's little they can do to help you with the content of your book. So that part is all down to you.

Next, you register with Smashwords. It's a simple step. If you've ever signed up to anything online before: Amazon/ Reddit/ Porn websites then you already know how to register with a company online.

Next, there is an option to make a profile page. This is recommended. If someone reads something you have written and thinks 'what kind of jerk writes trash like this?', then they can go back to the site, click on your profile and see EXACTLY what kind of jerk you are! Ah, the internet age…

Next there's the hard part. The formatting. Smashwords are on their game here. They know that publishing a book in a format that works great on a Kindle may look like shit on a Nook, so they have the solution: The Smashwords Style Guide. The Guide will ensure that you format your book document in such a way that you can download it on any device, and what comes up on the screen is what you intended.

The Guide is detailed, and uses features of Microsoft Word that you likely have never even heard of.

Oh Essjay, you loveable n00b, I've been using Microsoft Word for years, and I think I know my way around it; my novel - The Great Heffalump - will hardly need any formatting changes at all, I hear you say. WELL YOU'RE WRONG! Unless every time you want something centred on a page you've been assigning a different paragraph style, then you're going to have to do some editing.

That being said, although there are complex steps to follow, they are all explained in a mostly idiot-proof way. Even better, for the REALLY complex bit: creating a chapter-table at the start which links to the chapters in question, there is a video to show you what to do.

So, the end result? Thankfully, once the fourteen-thousand steps in The Guide have been followed, your book will actually look pretty damn professional.

So there you go, that is Smashwords author-handholding process to try and make them a bit of cash.

I'll let you know how it goes.


Monday, 24 February 2014

The Werechicken

The trigger has been pulled, the wheels have been set in motion, the dogs have been let out (but by who?), and I have a novel out there in the big bad world for all to see.

It's an odd feeling. I wrote the novel in about six months in 2011, then I sat on it for a long time. I decided to write some more things, shorter pieces, and put those out there first. I did that, then I went back to The Werechicken.

You want to know what happened? I had written a lot of other stuff by the time I came back to my novel, which was my first serious piece of writing. By that time I was a better writer, and what I found was that I had NOT been a good writer when I started writing my novel.

It was awful. My English was terrible, I had TONS of exposition that even I myself got bored reading, and I had a knack for throwing in little sentences that contradicted everything I wrote later. It was not a good feeling.

Editing is a hard, slow task, but re-writing is a different beast altogether. I hate it, and to be honest, The Werechicken is damn lucky it ever saw the light of day, because I gave up on it more than once, thinking that it would just be easier to chalk that one up to experience, and move on.

But I didn't.

I didn't do it, because I believe in the Werechicken. Maybe no-one else gives a flying turd about my novel about a young man 'blessed' with the ability to turn into a small, white chicken at-will, but I do. I think it's a good book. I think it's a solid fantasy story, and most importantly, I think there's bits in there that will give readers a good laugh.

And that's what I set out to do. That's really why I write. The world is a far too serious place, and I wanted to make it a little less serious. The Werechicken is essentially a 'fuck you' to people who insist that life has to be hard, and a struggle, and unpleasant, because those people, while they may be partly right, do not make the world a better place. There is a time and a place for seriousness, but it's not for EVERY time and place.

My main hope for my book is this: that someone will pick it up, read it, switch off from the 'real world' for a few hours, and get lost in the world that I've created, which is most certainly NOT serious.

If you buy it, I hope you enjoy it.



Amazon UK               Amazon US

Saturday, 25 January 2014



A demon stood at the foot of my bed.

I sprang to my feet, and illuminated the room with a shower of sparks from my fingertips. The demon had a red face; black, empty pits for eyes; and yellow daggers for teeth.

“Oh, it’s only you,” I said, “I was worried there for a second.”

The monstrosity sighed. “It annoys me that I can’t get a rise out of you anymore. Anyway, you needed me?”

“I did. I’m in trouble Worm.”

“I gathered that. It might surprise you to know that I’m here quite a lot,” he said. We both sat on the bed, which faced the door of the cell. 

“Can you get me out of it?”

“Maybe, what were you thinking?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever needed to ask about the limits of your power before. Can you turn back time?”


“Can you bring back the dead?”


“Can you erase peoples’ memories?”


“Dammit Worm, what exactly can you do?”

“I find that murder is often solved by more murder.”

I couldn’t tell if the demon was joking or not. Comedy does not come naturally to their kind.

“I don’t think that’s a very helpful suggestion. And anyway, it wasn’t murder, it was an accident.”

“Do you think the judge will see it that way?”

“He might. I’ll have to word my defence carefully. It really sounds worse than it was.”

“I can see the headlines now,” said Worm, “student wizard kills instructor’s cat, adds insult to injury by killing instructor.”

“Look, it wasn’t on purpose.”

“I don’t judge people, you know that. They might be more lenient on you if you show remorse.”

“But I’m not sorry. It wasn’t my fault. The instructor wasn’t supposed to be home!”

“That’s it! That’s how I can get you out of this!”

“How?” I asked. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. For a minute I thought I had wasted my time calling him here. “Can you teleport me out of here?”

“Don’t be silly, boy, the enchantments on this building means you’re not going anywhere. Even I can’t teleport here.”

“Then how did you get in?”

“I slipped the guard fifty bucks. Anyway, here’s the thing: we won’t teleport out, we’ll walk out of this place, together.”

“How? Can you cast a mind-control spell over the guards?”

“I told you my powers are more or less useless here. And stop guessing, it’s not your strong suit.”

“Then how?”

“I’ll be your lawyer.”


“Your honor,” started Worm, “these charges against my client are ridiculous. I intend to show this court that not only was my client not at the scene of the crime, but he wasn’t even in the same country. However, if your honour is not with me in respect of my primary position, I will show your honour that my client only acted in self-defence-”

“Against an elderly professor and his cat?” The judge interjected.

Worm was silent for a worryingly long time. His red, pointed tail, that stuck out the back of the trousers of his pinstripe suit was wagging nervously.

“Well, it was a very big cat your honour.”

The judge sighed and massaged his temples, “continue.”

“Thank you your honour. If your honour is not persuaded by my averment of self-defence, then my... third-ary position is that he was provoked to the point of using deadly force. The deceased and his cat had both been tormenting my client mentally, physically, and sexually in the months leading up to the incident-”

“Wait a minute, shorthand writer, could you read that last sentence back to me?”

The shorthand writer cleared her throat, and re-read Worm’s last statement, with just a little too much emphasis on and his cat both.

“Are you telling me that the deceased’s cat had been harassing your client?”

“Yes,” Worm said, “mercilessly.”

The judge looked over at the prosecutor, who simply shrugged. 

Unfortunately, Worm continued.

“The deceased and his cat harassed my client to the point where he could no longer control his rage, and he lashed out. And finally, if that position is not accepted either, I shall show the court irrefutable evidence that both the deceased, and his cat, died painless-ish deaths, and that the court should think very long and hard about not imposing a death sentence. Thank you.”

The demon sat next to me. My head was in my hands. He looked pleased with himself for some reason. The prosecutor was giving his own speech to the judge, so I took the opportunity to have a discussion with Worm about tactics.

“What the fuck was that?”

“It was my opening statement. Sorry, this is all a bit technical, you should just trust me.”

“Trust you? I thought we were going with the ‘self defence’ angle. Where did all that other stuff come from?”

“We’ve got to cover all the angles.”

“Worm, I know this is a very late stage to be asking you this question, but were you really a lawyer?”

“Of course I was! I was in practice for twenty years.”

That was something of a relief. I knew that I should have quit while I was ahead, but I kept asking questions.

“What kind of law did you practice?”

“Well, mostly agricultural. But I have court experience.”

“What was your biggest case?”

“Biggest case... let me see, which was my biggest... oh yes! I once defended a case where my client had been spray painting pigeons white and trying to pass them off as chickens. He sold thousands of these things by mail. Made himself a fortune, and the statues in the local town had never been cleaner.”

“Did you get him off?”

“No, he killed himself during my closing statement.  However I think the judge was looking persuaded by what I had to say.”

My head hit the table, hard.


The prosecutor had just finished his examination in chief of the deceased’s elderly neighbour, who had just testified that he had come into the house to find me standing in the living room, with the professor dead at my feet, and half a cat in each hand.

Worm was grinning.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got this,” he said to me. Worm had eventually admitted that he perhaps hadn’t given the most favourable opening statement in the world, but he absolutely assured me that cross-examination was his forte.

“Mr Jones, I notice that you’re wearing glasses. Tell the court, if you would: were you wearing your glasses on the night in question?” Worm turned and winked at me.

“Yes, of course I was.”

Worm spun back to the witness, almost losing his balance. “Are you absolutely certain about that? Bearing in mind you are under oath.”

“Yes, absolutely certain. I was out walking my dog. I can’t see where I’m going without my glasses.”

“Hmmm, and do you often walk your dog in the middle of the night? Where were you really? A bar? A whorehou-”


“Sustained,” said the judge, “Mr Worm, I’ll thank you to keep your manner professional, and please take a few steps back from the witness, your horns are practically taking his eyes out.”

“Of course, your honour,” he said, stepping back to the middle of the room, and regaining his composure. “Mr Jones, I put it to you that my client is completely innocent of all charges, and that the real murderer is in this very room...”

All at once, the judge, the prosecutor, and I dropped our faces into our hands in anticipation.

“I put it to you, that you are the real murderer, Mr Jones!”

“Mr Worm,” the judge groaned, “this accusation didn’t form part of your opening statement. Do you have anywhere to go with this?”

“Well he hasn’t denied it your honour.”

“I deny it!”

“No further questions.”


Worm stood in front of me, waiting for the judge to tell him to start. He was rocking on his heels, grinning confidently, and winking at me.

“Alright Mr Worm, you may begin.”

Worm began: “I wonder if you could tell me what happened on the night in question.”

I took a deep breath, and began. “I had broken into the professor’s house. He was compiling our final grades to send to the Archmage. I knew that he was going to fail me, so I wanted to get in and change my grade so that I wouldn’t be expelled.”

“Well, I think we can all sympathise with that. Go on,” said Worm.

“I found the papers in the desk in his study. I was so nervous as I rifled through them. I was extremely jumpy. I heard something behind me moving. I don’t know what I thought. I reacted in the moment, and turned, casting a cutting spell as I did. The thing that was moving was the cat. It had jumped onto an armchair, and I cut it in half. It was then that I noticed that the professor was in the armchair. I hadn’t aimed my spell very well. I ran over to make sure he was okay, but he was already dead.”

“And did you mean to kill him?”

“No, I swear!”

“Your honour. My client may have killed the professor, but-”

“Before you go on Mr Worm, I just have to check something. Mr Prosecutor, I have a copy of the death certificate here. Could you turn to your copy and tell me what was the cause of death?”

“Heart attack, your honour. Most likely caused by the shock of the spell.”

“Heart attack? Not blood loss?”

“No...” The prosecutor said.

“Were there any cuts on the professor at all?”

“No, your honour.”

The judge stared at the prosecutor for a few seconds. “Isn’t it possible that the professor could have died of natural causes before the accused arrived?”

“Well, I suppose it’s possible.”

The judge sighed and turned to me: “Son, if you plead guilty to breaking and entering, and assault. I’ll give you a year of probation and we’ll drop the murder charge. If you keep your nose clean you won’t go to jail.”

That, I want that.” 

The judge banged his gavel, and I hopped out of the witness box. Worm put his arm around me and he began to walk me to the door at the back of the room.

“Court rise!” Yelled the Bar Officer.

“Actually, just a second,” said the judge, “Mr Worm, could you come back for a moment?”

Worm looked at me, confused, and walked back to the front of the court. 

“Approach the bench, Mr Worm.”

Worm edged towards the judge’s bench, slightly apprehensive.

“Mr Worm, it’s highly unusual for me to ask this, but which law society are you accredited by?”

“The Maverro Law Society, your honour.”

The judge raised an eyebrow. “Maverro?”


“The same Maverro that was wiped off the face of the planet by giants two hundred years ago?”

“That’s the one.”

“And you haven’t ever joined another?”

“No, your honour.”

“So let me get this straight: the country whose law society which accredited you was destroyed two hundred years ago, and you have never been accredited since then?”

Worm froze for a second. “Well, um, you see, um, we demons are timeless creatures and-”

“Take him to the cells.”

“Ha, I’d like to see you try!” Said Worm.

The demon, in a burst of fire, disappeared, but instantly reappeared with a loud thud at the ceiling. His horns were stuck in the ceiling, and his legs dangled frantically.

With a crack, and a rumble of dislodging plaster, Worm fell to the floor, and groaned loudly.

“Take him to a cell with demon-shielding.”

Worm screamed at me: “If you get me out of here I promise I’ll give you your soul back!”

“Worm, you didn’t ask me for my soul...”

“Crap!” He screamed, as they dragged him out of the room.