The Elevator

The Elevator low res

I’ve written five novels and numerous short stories, but this is my first venture into the medium-length form of the novella.

The Elevator is now available for preorder for kindle/kindle apps at the discounted price of £0.99 / $0.99. If you’re interested, grab a copy before the publication date of 18th September as the price will increase that day. If you’re in Kindle Unlimited, you’ll be able to read it free from the 18th.

It’s dark fantasy, containing some elements of science fiction, such as AI, and has a mild horror feel in parts. Oh, and there’s an appearance by a dragon. Well, I am Welsh.

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Tale of a Tale

A question that is often asked of writers is, “From where do you get your ideas?” As most writers would, I imagine, agree, it’s not an easy question to answer. Here’s my take on it.

What if? I ask myself that a lot. It’s how nearly all of my ideas for stories begin. Just two little words that can open worlds of possibilities.

Though not always. The hypothesis may lead nowhere and is quickly discarded. Sometimes only hints of potential are revealed, perhaps to be filed away for another time. What if that bloke sitting opposite me on the bus is a psychopath? Nah, he looks like an accountant. But what if he’s a psychopathic accountant? Hmm, I quite like the juxtaposition of madness and mundanity. Perhaps he’s cannibalistic and preys on tradesmen, a sort of plumber-munching number-cruncher. One day, maybe…

On occasions that what-if question leads to places where my imagination scrambles to follow. That’s what happened with the Earth Haven trilogy, but to explain I need to go back almost twenty years to where it began.

I have long been fascinated by end of days tales in film and in books. It was almost inevitable when I started writing fiction in my early thirties that I would sooner or later pen one of my own. And it started with a question: what if the apocalyptic event involved mankind being wiped out deliberately? Other questions followed hard on its heels: who would do that? Why? How?

And again, what if? What if we were created by an advance guard of beings from a distant planet and the bulk of their population is only now heading this way?

This led to more questions, more possibilities. If we were created by off-world beings (I’m hesitating to use the word ‘aliens’ since they are, on the face of it, more us as we would ideally like to be: non-violent, altruistic, cerebral), then to what purpose? If this took place many millennia ago, we would have been little more than shambling, rutting foragers, possessed of simple brains yet a compelling instinct to survive and procreate. Maybe we were created as expendable slaves, little more than drones, designed to face toothed and tusked and clawed danger in place of our masters; to spread out and populate and colonise; to cultivate and construct; to prepare the way.

But what if the arrival of the rest of the off-worlders was delayed, perhaps by thousands of years? Mankind would have proliferated, grown smarter, become warlike and warring, developed cunning and technology, demonstrated a nasty streak and a tendency to violence. The peaceful incoming beings would now be vastly outnumbered. Would humanity welcome them with open arms and a peck to both cheeks, or with open enmity and missiles to both flanks?

Those who remain of the advance guard must make a decision: allow their people to arrive to a barrage of detonating warheads, or take action that will clear the way for a safe arrival. Wouldn’t it be ironic if humankind must now itself be eradicated as it has become the obstacle?

These are the questions I mulled over as the twentieth century drew to a close. While people fretted about the Millennium Bug, I wrote a short story that began to answer these questions, while posing more: The Third Coming.

The twenty-first century arrived and then along came the e-book revolution. It passed me by. By the time I paid attention, trying to get noticed as a new guy on the block was like trying to stand out at Woodstock by wearing a flower in your hair.

I jumped in anyway. Bundling ten short stories together, including The Third Coming, I published the collection Pond Life in August 2012. I hadn’t thought about The Third Coming in more than ten years. While my regular career took unexpected turns, writing had taken a back seat, though the longing never disappeared. Back it came, bubbling to the surface as ideas in that short story began to nag at me.

The off-world beings inhabit a planet hundreds of light years from Earth, yet the story demands they have the ability to travel here in months. Traditionally, science fiction writers have employed concepts like wormholes or hollow asteroids or dimension-bending bubbles to allow faster-than-light travel to exist in their stories. The method of travel hinted at in The Third Coming was none of those. A force exists that we’ve all heard of and that moves a great deal faster than light. What if (there it is again) the beings had discovered a way to harness that force?

Other questions raised by the short story vied for attention. What was the original purpose of Stonehenge? Were the dinosaurs really wiped out by a meteor? Can any of this provide an alternative explanation for the so-called missing link between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man?

The catalyst that drove me to the keyboard to formulate answers came when a reviewer of Pond Life mentioned that he would like to see the world in The Third Coming explored in more depth. In May 2013 I wrote a scene describing the effects of a deadly virus on the human body. Nine feverish weeks later, the first draft of The Cleansing was done. In a private nod to the origins of the novel, the Millennium Bug took on a new meaning.

But the story wasn’t fully told. Too much to fit into one reasonably-sized book, there would be two sequels. I know that many readers find trilogies unsatisfying, having to wait for the next one to come out while their ardour cools, but it was either that or write a doorstop. And, seriously, who would buy a doorstop written by a virtual unknown? Over the course of the next two years, I wrote The Beacon and The Reckoning, bringing the Earth Haven trilogy to a close.

Even as I finished the first book, there were questions still nagging at me. Many of them started, ‘What if?’ Some reviewers of The Cleansing posed their own questions. Niggling, itchy questions that I endeavoured to address in the sequels.

It doesn’t only start with ‘what if?’; often, it ends with it, too.

Earth Haven Book 3: The Reckoning

The Reckoning (Earth Haven: Book 3)
The Reckoning (Earth Haven: Book 3)

The final instalment of the Earth Haven trilogy is due to be published on 22nd December. Here’s the description:

Unnatural calm prevails. Trepidation builds. Silently, a storm gathers.

Survivors from mainland Europe and North America converge on Britain. Weary, confused, all come seeking answers; some are spoiling for a fight.

What began with the Cleansing and was hastened by the Beacon nears fruition. But time is running out, and human numbers are too few to win the last battle alone. Unless help can be found from the unlikeliest of allies, failure is assured.

Humankind faces its ultimate test. The Reckoning is upon us.

Preorder Discount
The kindle version is available now to preorder from Amazon at a discount of £1/$1 on the published price.

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Writing a Trilogy

In May 2013, I sat at the computer and wrote the description of the symptoms of a deadly virus. It was a scene from an apocalyptic story I’d had kicking around in my head for years and transferring it to paper (at least, to a hard drive) opened the floodgates. Nine feverish weeks later, I had written the first draft of a 90,000-word novel.

The story was nowhere near finished. It would need at least another novel to complete, probably two. Although I would have finished the story come what may – once a tale is in my mind, the only way to dislodge it is to write it – here’s one advantage of a trilogy from the writer’s point of view: I could see how well the first was received before committing to the second.

Earth Haven Book 1: The Cleansing was published in December 2013. I sat back and waited with bated breath for the first reviews to come in. Thankfully, they were positive and so I sat down to write the second book.

Before writing The Cleansing, I had completed two novels, both of which are standalones. (One has been published: The Village of Lost Souls. The second – provisionally titled Another Fine Mess – has been accepted for publication.) This would be the first time I had attempted to write a sequel.

Here’s the thing with writing a sequel: the writer owes it to the story, to himself (or herself) and, most of all, to the readers who enjoyed the first book to make the second as good as or better than the first. He’s also not working with a blank canvas; at least, that’s how I felt. Although I introduced new characters into the second book, I was still working with those who had appeared in the first and they needed to continue being the characters the readers of the first had come to know, while continuing their arcs and developing as good characters must.

While I worked on the sequel, reviews for The Cleansing continued to come in. Still mainly positive – phew! – but increasing the pressure for the second novel to build upon those good vibes.

Earth Haven Book 2: The Beacon was released in January 2015. This time, the wait for early reviews was more nail-bitingly angst-filled. Unlike with the first book, readers would be parting with their hard-earned cash this time around in reasonable expectation of reading a story that matched or improved upon the standard of The Cleansing.

I had already begun work on the final instalment in the trilogy when The Beacon was published, but it had been slow going. I found it difficult to build momentum without knowing how the second book would be received. (Also, life or, more accurately, death – of a good friend – interrupted progress.)

Then reviews of The Beacon started coming in; another huge sigh of relief when they were, in the main, positive. Now I could press on full steam ahead with the final instalment.

This proved to be the most difficult one to write. Not only did I need to make this one as good as or better than the first two, I also needed to ensure I tied up all loose ends. With the first two books totalling around two hundred thousand words, there were a lot of loose ends. And the biggest pressure of all? Ending it in a way with which readers will hopefully be satisfied and that fits the overall tone of the story.

There are writers out there who pen many series and serials. They must all be familiar with these issues, but this was the first time I had experienced them. Whether I managed to overcome them, well, that remains to be seen. I have sent the completed and edited manuscript of Earth Haven Book 3: The Reckoning to my publishers and await hearing whether it will be accepted for publication.

If it is, by the time the first reviews come in, I shall have no nails left. In the meantime, I’m starting work on a standalone.

Earth Haven Book 2 : The Beacon

The sequel to ‘The Cleansing’ was published on 9th January 2015. So far, the reaction has been extremely positive – always a great relief.

I’m working on the final instalment in the Earth Haven series, provisionally called ‘The Reckoning’. I’m over halfway and heading for the finish.

Since I don’t work from a detailed outline (I’m what’s charmingly referred to sometimes as a ‘panster’), I’m not entirely sure how it’s going to work out for the survivors of the human race. I’m looking forward to finding out as much as my readers are. C’mon Tom and Ceri – I’m rooting for you guys!


Sam Kates smaller size

As you’ve probably gathered since you’ve found your way to my website, my name is Sam Kates. The photo above of a middle-aged bloke with a hair shortage: that’s me.

I live in Wales, a small constituent country of Great Britain and the U.K. Like many of my fellow countrymen, I possess a fondness for rugby union and a good pint of beer. Usually the two go hand in hand.

You’ve probably also gathered that I’m an author of fiction. At the time of writing (December 2014), I have three published books available on most online retailers in e-book and paperback formats. Two more books are due to be published shortly.

In March 2013, I teamed up with the good folk at Smithcraft Press. The opening book in the Earth Haven series, The Cleansing, was, in December 2013, the first book to be published as a result of that partnership. The second book, The Beacon, is due to be published in early January.

Earth Haven is a long (hence the breakdown into three books) apocalyptic tale of the eradication of most of the world’s population and the handful of survivors’ struggle against another deadly threat – as if they haven’t been through enough already, bless them.

I am working on the third and final book in the Earth Haven series. Provisionally titled The Reckoning, it will bring the series to a definitive conclusion.

In May 2014, Smithcraft Press published two more of my books. Pond Life is a collection of ten short stories, tending towards the darker side of life, science-fiction and fantasy. The Village of Lost Souls is a short novel about love and loss and the supernatural.

A fourth novel, Another Fine Mess, has also been accepted for publication and a date is awaited; the wheels of publishing do not turn rapidly. This story does not involve the supernatural or the fantastic or the scientifically fictional. It is a comical tale of the series of misfortunes that befall a disgruntled young man and his attempt at escaping the rat race for something that he hopes can only be better, a sort of paradise on Earth. The title is a nod to two of my favourite comedians, but also has relevance in the context of the novel. You’ll have to read it when it comes out to find out why…

Been nice meeting you. Please do drop by occasionally. Your company alone is enough, but if you can bring good beer, it’s all to the good. Cheers!