UPDATE DECEMBER 2017: AFK, Awaiting has now been published; the offer described below is no longer valid. You can read the novel online on this site for free or purchase an ebook version.
I’m drawing the AFK series to a close with a fifth and final novel, AFK, Awaiting. The book has been finished for a few months, now, and I’m grateful to the feedback I’ve had since from a small number of advance readers, in particular Caitlin Tobias and Zoe Parness (Zoe very helpfully pointed out that I’d managed to spell the name of one of my key characters wrong throughout the book – this is why a writer needs fans). I now want to reward my most loyal readers also with a free copy.
Some of you might recall my attempt at soliciting reviews last year by promising not to release this title until I’d acquired no less than 100 reviews for the fourth AFK novel, AFK, in Pursuit of Avengement. I’m not quite done with that plan yet. It did occur to me, however, that I might have more success with this approach if there was a much more immediate reward for leaving a review than the vague promise of a possible extra book at some point in the future (if lots of other people also left reviews).
So here’s the deal. I will send you by email a free preview version of ‘AFK, Awaiting’ in either Kindle or PDF format if you leave me a review of AFK, in Pursuit of Avengement.
If, along the way, I reach 100 reviews for the novel, I’ll then release it officially.
How to let me know about your review. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the text of your review and the web address of the page on which it appears. For Amazon reviews, you can usually get a ‘permalink’ for your review by clicking where it says this next to your text (but don’t worry if this proves too difficult). Include in your email whether you would like to receive a Kindle or PDF version. It would also really help me if you used the subject line ‘AFK review’ for your email.
Already left a review previously? No worries – you’re the people I want to reward the most! Just send me the email as described above.
Where should you be leaving your reviews? Obviously, reviews at Amazon really help me. There are plenty of other places you can leave reviews, however, such as at Goodreads or Smashwords. I might even send you a copy if you’ve reviewed the book (and left a link, either to my site or the book’s Amazon page) in a relevant web forum somewhere.
Worried about privacy? A lot of people have told me in the past that they would love to leave a review of one of my books at Amazon, but since their Amazon account is in their real name they won’t do so in order to protect their SL identity. There’s a very straightforward response to this, which is that if you don’t tell me in SL that you’ve left me a review then I will have no way of working any of this out. If your name is Jo Bloggs in RL and you leave me a review under this name, how would I know that you’re also someone called Raspberry Crumble in SL if you don’t tell me as Raspberry that you left Jo’s review?
Similarly, please do not use an email address linked to your SL identity or mention your SL identity in the body of the email. If you keep to this rule, your SL identity is completely safe.
How do you read the Kindle version on your Kindle? If you’re a Kindle reader, you’re probably used to buying your books direct from your Kindle. You can also connect your Kindle to your PC in the same way you would a USB stick and transfer files across manually, however. The file I will send you if you request the Kindle version is a ‘mobi’ file that you will need to transfer in this manner.
How long will it take to send out the book by email? This is not an automated system – I will be reading and responding to emails individually. I will aim to respond within 24 hours at the most, but there might well be days when this isn’t possible.
Worried you’re expected to leave some work of literary genius as your review? Please don’t be. Reviews of a couple of sentences mean a great deal to me. If you want to add authenticity to your review rather than just writing a generic, “I liked this book” sort of comment, say what parts or characters you liked (or didn’t like) most of all.
Any more questions about this offer? Feel free to ask, in the comments section below.
And, to whet your appetite, here is the prologue to the new novel. Be warned: if you have not read all of the previous novels, this prologue contains spoilers!
I am a murderer. I killed a man in cold blood. I planned it, I tracked him down and I carried it out. I pushed a pillow into his face and held it there until his legs stopped kicking. You never forget a sight like that. You never forget the indescribable intimacy of it. Once upon a time this man was a child who went to school, who watched cartoons on TV, who ate up his dinner like a good boy, who told all his friends what he wanted to be when he grew up. Once upon a time he touched a girl’s hand for the very first time and thought about what kissing her on the lips might be like. Once upon a time he was a student, an intern, a lover, a bridegroom, a new father, a colleague, a husband, a widower. Once upon a time he was a man who bought groceries at a supermarket and washed the dishes and took his car in for its annual service at a place that knew its history. He was a name, a person, a connection, a node in the vast web of human society. He solved problems. He worked hard. He supported a football team. He outlived his parents. He held his little girl’s hand on her first day at school and, for the space of a few brief years, he was the person she most wanted to marry. Once upon a time this man was a person full of hopes and aspirations, a collection of thoughts about the world and how it worked; a scrapbook of happy, unhappy and happenstance memories. And then I came along and wiped out every last one of them.
I killed him because he stole from me the woman I was in love with, a woman I met in Second Life, a woman who thought I was a man, a woman called Inch Sideways. I don’t know what I was thinking any more, it’s all so long ago. My mind was blurred and messed-up. When you fall that deeply for someone you think about her all the time. Your brain becomes rewired to accommodate it; it’s as if she moves in inside your head. And when someone takes her from you all those new neural connections have nothing to chew on any more, except your hatred of this thief makes an acceptable substitute somehow. The love of her and the hatred of him become a single thing, a fused entity. Thinking about killing him leaves that permanent itch that is her feeling both scratched and unscratched, like saccharine feeds your sweet taste buds but leaves them wanting more, like masturbating makes another twenty-four hours of no sex bearable but does nothing ultimately to dull that need to be touched and made love to. Plotting the murder of John-Paul Barnaby, the man I knew in Second Life as Step Stransky – or, to put it more correctly, the first man I knew in Second Life as Step Stransky – felt like an act of saccharine love. It kept me going. It helped me to cope. It made me feel like I was doing something meaningful, like holding Inch’s hand or opening the door for her or wiping away her tears. Logic, rationality and sense had nothing to do with it.
When I thought about what it would be like to kill him, I never realised quite how beautiful a thing it would be. I never realised what it would be like to watch a man going through the process of fighting for his life and losing, to feel it through my hands and the knee I’d pushed into his chest, to hear the noises he made and the rattle of the bed springs as he fought against me. I couldn’t, of course, see his face, but the emotions were as clear to read as if I’d been looking straight into his eyes. The surprise. The irritation. The anger. The panic. The desperation. And then the fade as his oxygen-starved brain got lost, confused, pulled into its last ever dream.
And when I thought about what it would be like to kill him, I never realised just how empty I would feel once the act was done and the adrenaline had left my system. The fantasy I had of winning Inch back in Barnaby’s absence of course never came to pass. It wasn’t much later that she left Second Life. So there I was, still by myself; it had all been for nothing, except that now I didn’t even get to see her like I had before. And also I was a murderer. I had done something which could never, ever be undone. I had taken another person’s life. I had ended someone.
I was a murderer. I had crossed that line. As time went by, the memories of Inch, the memories of the love, the memories of the hatred all started to turn into distant things I felt less and less connected to. But the knowledge that I was a murderer remained. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke in the morning. It was the last thing I thought of at night. It followed me around wherever I went. It stalked me. It haunted me. From time to time I would forget, and then, whenever whatever the thing was that was occupying my thoughts was done, it would be waiting for me, like the spouse who waits up and is sitting in the chair when you get in and turn the light on. Remember me?
What does one do with such dissonance? How does one live with such a thing? It was an ache. It was a pain that I couldn’t adjust to. It was a noise like something endlessly buzzing, like someone shouting non-stop in my ear. I started to fantasise about turning myself in, just turning up at a police station one day and telling them who I was. I bet they get people doing that. I bet it happens all the time. I bet they know the look of someone who’s come to confess from the moment they walk through the door. I knew that this wouldn’t make me not a murderer, but at least then the freedom I would eventually get after doing my time – after paying my price – wouldn’t feel constantly like something I wasn’t entitled to. I would get ten years, maybe. Perhaps fifteen. Perhaps twenty. It didn’t really matter to me, even if I ended up spending the rest of my life in prison, because then I would be where I was supposed to be. Then things would be right.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It would have been like holding my own head under the water. And then important work came my way; things I wanted to do; things I had to do; things that saved people’s lives; things that brought justice to others. And then I was able to rationalise my continued freedom by reasoning that it wasn’t really a freedom at all, that I was serving my time in my own way, that I was more use to society outside than I could possibly be in a cell, only they just didn’t know it. I was a murderer, I reasoned, but I was a reformed murderer. It wasn’t in my nature to kill. That thing that had happened wasn’t really me. It was an act of madness. It was an act of insanity. It was a blip in my life that I regretted and that I would continue paying back until my energy to do so ran out. One life taken, but a hundred, a thousand, maybe ten thousand saved. I had learned from it. I had grown from it. I was a better person in the end than I had ever been before. Society had a net gain. If you tell yourself something enough times then eventually it begins to stick. The buzzing became quieter. The pain became something I could bear. Life continued. I got on with it.
But all that changed the day that Mica Borsec put a bullet through the head of my best friend and left him sitting in his armchair with his brain sprayed across the wall behind him.
In that moment, I knew I was destined to kill again.