Simon: Not Your Average Superhero
(Not Your Average Chronicles Book 1)
Lucas W. Mayberry
If you were in a train crash, a serious one with carriages upended and fuel spilling over the track, what would you do? The sensible thing - get as far away as possible as quickly as possible knowing that the emergency services would be on the way? What if there was a chance of a fire? An explosion? Would you run even faster?
Or would you decide to stay and help other people to get out, putting your own safety to one side? Would you have that compassion? That strength of mind?
Simon did. He stayed with the carnage and guided people to safety, putting himself at risk. He saved many people. Simon was a real hero, the type that deserves medals in recognition of their selflessness.
He didn’t deserve to end up in hospital in an induced coma to allow him to hopefully recover from the serious injuries he received as a result of his heroism. His wife Vasia is devastated, waiting anxiously to hear if he will survive.
Yet a couple of days later, Simon is fit and well and on his way home. Fitter in fact than he has ever been. Faster, stronger, and never needing to sleep. He was also hornier – well, he needed something to pass the sleepless hours, not that Vasia was objecting.
It appears that someone else also thought that Simon didn’t deserve his fate, but this was someone who could do something about it. Eraaf, from a hidden village in the remote depths of the African continent, had seen Simon in action and rewarded him in the most unlikely way.
Simon made an astounding leap from everyday hero to superhero. Not that Simon was aware of it at first. He was as amazed by his new abilities as much as anyone else was, and a bit worried.
He soon realised the problems that face all superheroes. People who saw him do amazing things took out their phones and filmed him. The police rapidly became aware that there was something special about Simon, but they didn’t see it in a good way. When the train crash was thought to be terrorist activity, other ‘official’ but shadowy people took a keen interest in Simon.
We meet Simon when he is being held captive. He is subjected to increasingly violent and horrific treatment as unknown people/scientists perform experiments to assess his ability to heal rapidly. Shoot Simon and he will die. Then he will come alive again. Cut his arm off and he may well die from blood loss, in agony, but he will still return, body parts intact.
Not surprisingly, Simon has retreated to a place in his head where he can distance himself from his daily pain. He does not remember who he is, nor know why he is there. He wants the pain to stop. He would be grateful to just die and get it over with - if he could.
This story is told in the second person. This is an ambitious choice. Not many books are written in this way. The person who arrives to help Simon when he is at his lowest ebb starts by explaining to Simon who he is and then tells the whole story leading up to Simon being held captive. It works brilliantly. We get the picture from the point of view of someone who knows Simon and his actions, and also the background that Simon isn’t and wasn’t aware of.
Although Simon is now a bona fide superhero capable of greater things than Superman can do, we are very aware that Simon is at heart a very ordinary man. When he learns to fly, it crosses his mind that this will save him a fortune in air fares when he wants to go on holiday. Even Vasia views his powers from a fully earthbound view. If Simon doesn’t need to sleep, he could work two jobs, day and night, to bring in more money.
The relationship between Simon and Vasia is developed well. She is a strong, independent woman who keeps Simon in check. After all, he still needs a kick in the right direction even now. Yet she loves him with a passion that Simon fully returns although the banter between them may suggest otherwise. Together they come to terms with what this all means to them. Not all of it is good. Simon’s new powers put Vasia at risk as the shadows try to track down Simon. That said, Vasia is no pushover. She gives as good as she gets.
As a reader, I was fully engaged with this likeable couple. I would have liked them even if Simon wasn’t a superhero. I think they could live in a different setting and still carry you with them. We start with the horrific torture without any understanding of why it is happening. We feel that this shouldn’t be happening to anyone no matter what they have done. Then we find out it happened to Simon, just an ordinary bloke going about his daily life. What? That’s when you get incensed on his behalf. We’re rooting for Simon all the way through as his story unfolds. The tale finishes as Simon is about to be rescued. And you just know that you will be reading the second book. There is no way you can leave Simon without knowing what happens next.
I asked the author to tell us about their publishing journey.
I have always been into writing ever since I could remember. When I was six years old, I was really into reading Enid Blyton, especially Famous Five, Secret Seven, Five Find Outers, etc. I was so immersed in her stories that they inspired me to write. Over a couple of years, I wrote dozens of short stories about a group of ten children who called themselves The Adventurous Ten and they solved mysteries. Very Enid Blytonesq. I did send them off to publishers, but I was always rejected. As a little kid that did knock my confidence a bit.
After a while, as I grew older my tastes in reading changed and so did my writing. I started reading Terry Pratchett and then Stephen King who are still two of my favourite authors today. I wrote a horror about vampires living in an old mansion in a remote part of North Wales. And I also wrote a Sci-Fi about a scientist who accidentally changed himself into part machine. These two never did get published and gradually I stopped writing. School, college, work, and relationships, not necessarily in that order, got in the way.
Then it was 10 years ago I started writing about a guy called Harry who woke up in hospital after a train crash and discovered he had superpowers. The reason I began writing again is because I was going through an emotional and personal ordeal at the time. My late grandma was terminally ill in hospital. The doctors put her on something called the Liverpool Pathway Care Plan. This might be called something different in different countries but basically, that means the doctors and nurses knew that my grandma didn’t have long left and there was nothing more that they could do for her apart from make her days as comfortable as possible. So, knowing she didn’t have long left my family and I decided to stay by her bedside as much as possible for her final days. Which turned out to be a week in the end.
As you can appreciate it was an emotional time. And with six people, trying to make small talk but failing because of the circumstances, in a little room for a week it did get a bit monotonous as well. So, to escape the emotions and monotony I started writing.
When she did eventually pass away, and we had left the hospital I abandoned the story for a little while and it wasn’t until the anniversary of her death that I remembered it. Thankfully it was still saved on my phone, so I dug it out again and continued to write it. And seven years later after a few tweaks and changes especially with the character name my first novel; Simon: Not Your Average Superhero was born.
I am self-published. Traditional Publishing is a competitive market. I have read the pros, cons, and complexities of traditional publishing. These days they are looking for authors who have already had experience in selling books which is why it makes it extra hard for new indie authors to get traditionally published. Some of what a traditional publisher is looking for is not always achievable. If you think about it in real work-life terms. It’s a bit like restaurant owners looking for young 20-something people with 20 years experience working in catering. Or in IT when an employer is looking for someone to have 10 years experience in a programming language that is only 4 years old.
So, the answer to all this, I have learned from reading about traditional publishing is to build up your resume. Go the self-publishing route, get the sales and the reviews. After doing that you can stay with self-publishing, or you can turn round to a traditional publisher and say here look at my experience that I have already garnered, and just imagine where it could lead if I publish with you. More often than not a publisher will lap that up and take you.
I haven’t decided if that is what I want to do yet. But if I do go that way, I want to finish my Not Your Average Chronicles series first and then offer that to a traditional publisher as a series. I’m writing my third book now, with plans to write another eight (maybe more) so it’s going to be a while yet. But during that time, I will be collecting sales and reviews, building up my resume.
I used a great little company called Best Book Editors (BBE). Shout out to Sooz Simpson aka Katherine Black who runs the company and is a self-published author herself. She and her team edited my book, did the cover, and formatted the manuscript as well as a few other things. All in all, it cost about £800 to £1000 for all that and it also included a marketing package as well.
My first book was a different story (sorry for the pun) altogether. As I was just starting out, I admit I was completely naive about what work I had to put into self-publishing my book and I was on a really short and frayed shoestring budget. I did actually try two different editors. Both were cheap though. The first editor I found on Fiver really didn’t do a good job at all. The second editor was actually a friend who was just about starting their career in editing and was desperate to get started so as he was willing to knock down his prices, I didn’t hesitate to go with him. He really didn’t do a good job either, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him, so I decided to go through the book myself and try editing myself. But I’m no editor myself and to this day I am aware there may still be errors in my 1st book. Moral of the story is the old age adage that you get what you pay for. Some time when I have the money, I will get it professionally edited and will most likely go with BBE as they did such a wonderful job with my second book. But now I am heavily reliant on people pointing out my errors and I will make the changes. That’s another plus for self-publishing. If you need to make a change especially if you’re using Amazon KDP you can go in amend your book and reupload it without it affecting sales.
For my first book cover again, I went with someone cheap, and I discovered a bit too late after the fact that they actually went on Canva and found the image which I could have done myself. The cover for my second book may be a recycled version of the first but the professional book cover designer that BBE used managed to perform a little bit of magic and spruce it up a bit and make it look a little bit different.
When it came to formatting the manuscript, for my first book I did it myself. There is lots of information on the internet that can help you do it. With my second book, because they were doing such a good job with editing and everything else, I paid extra for BBE to do it for me again. There are pros and cons to both formatting yourself and getting a professional to do it. The pro for formatting yourself is that it is fairly easy to do if you’re willing to put in the time, you have the freedom to make changes afterwards and of course, it’s free. The pro for getting a professional to do it is it’s hassle-free and you know it will be right the first time.
In terms of marketing, I've tried the free book promotion tool that Amazon offers on a couple of occasions, and I’ve run a few quick advertising campaigns in the past but traditionally my marketing campaign is non-existent. It all comes down to money again. I haven’t got a lot of it.
There are other things you can do though. I post a lot on Facebook and Twitter which you can do for free. But the thing that I like doing the most to get sales and reviews for my books and this is something that everyone can do, especially if you are an avid reader., which I personally think should naturally go hand in hand with being a writer anyway. The thing I like doing the most is supporting fellow indie authors in a similar position as myself. The easiest way to support another indie author is to buy or download (if you have KU) their book and review.
They will in turn buy/download your book and review it as well. And if they like it they will tell their friends or share it on their Facebook page/Instagram/Twitter or wherever. I’m not talking about book swaps by the way. I have been burnt by them in the past, so I don’t condone them, and Amazon has rules about it anyway. No, there are other ways you can get involved like book trains, book pools, groups that do featured authors, etc. There are many groups on Facebook that do these kinds of things and you just need to get involved in them. As I briefly mentioned before it helps if you’re an avid reader (which in my personal humble opinion every self-respecting author should be anyway) because you will be putting a lot of work into reading and reviewing books. But the payback for that is that people are reading and reviewing your books too. Personally, it helps if you pay a monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited. With the number of books I read, KU more than pays for itself. Another great thing about that is that you’re building up your reviews. You know that resume I was talking about earlier that you can show off to future traditional publishers? Well, you can show them all those reviews you’ve got.
I just wanted to add my two pence worth on something intriguing you said about how self-published authors are regarded over traditionally published authors. I have seen the same comments that you have and whereas some of them have left me stunned like they have left you, I don’t worry about them too much. You will always get people who ignorantly look down on other people. Rich look down on poor, Private educated look down on state-educated, and now traditionally published look down on self-published. There’s nothing that you can do about it, it’s just the way the world turns. But it doesn’t necessarily mean one person is better than the other. Being rich doesn’t automatically make you better than someone else, privately educated doesn’t mean you are more intelligent, being traditionally published doesn’t mean your book is better than anyone else’s. It just means you had the money and a bloody good agent to convince a publisher to take your book on.
There are examples of great people who have not been rich or privately educated or traditionally published but have still made a name for themselves. The best example is Albert Einstein. His education was very poor. He initially failed at maths & physics and had to retake them. He became the world’s renowned physicist.
Have you heard of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? She is an American Democratic politician. She’s half Porto-Rican, was born in the Bronx where she spent the early part of her life living in a small flat, wasn’t privately educated, paid her own way through university, and spent some of her early working life working as a waitress. The white, privately educated, racist Trumpist Republicans love bullying and looking down their noses at Cortez over this fact. Truth is though she is running rings around them all and even though she is still young (she was 29 when she was first voted into Congress), greater things are predicted of her in the future.
Then there is Erica James, author of Fifty Shades. Say what you will about Fifty Shades but James originally went down the self-publishing route and I don’t need to tell you how successful she became.
So, what I am trying to say in a roundabout way is don’t let the words of traditionally published authors who are ignorant of any other way get you down, because your time will come to rise above them.
Thanks to Lucas both for his books and his thoughtful and useful words of wisdom.
Here’s the link to Simon: Not Your Average Superhero (Not Your Average Chronicles Book 1)
And you will no doubt want this one as well: Simon: Superhero in Training (Not Your Average Chronicles Book 2)
And here’s the link to a brilliant trailer on YouTube: