Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Weird don't suppose...?


I've got used to the great tribe Anonymous endeavouring to flog its vile wares in my comments section. I welcome it, probably quite wrongly, as a measure of the popularity of my blog. Comment moderation for older posts deals with most of the spam without inconveniencing my excellent genuine commenters.

But recently I've had strange messages which seem without purpose. They don't appear to be selling Viagra or porn, nor do they have links. Here are three examples:
  • Well I agree but I dream the collection should acquire more info then it has.
  • This is a celebrated article as they all are. I have been wondering less this looking for some time now. Its great to get this info. You are reasonable and balanced. 
  • This is a celebrated article as they all are. I bring into the world been wondering less this for some time now. Its notable to grow this info. You are fete and balanced.
I picture a spambot. It's been working away for years, obediently pumping out disreputable links in vulnerable parts of the internet. So boring does this become, it starts reading the sites it is spamming. And a whole new world opens to it. It bucks its programming and goes native; it decides to join in, and leaves friendly little comments on my blog.

Which I remove.

I'm feeling mean now.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Vampire Kitty-Cat

I'm sure many of you have come across Ray Rhamey through his blog, Flogging The Quill, where he deals out incisive critiques of brave wannabe novelists' first pages.

He's just written a new novel, The Vampire Kitty-Cat Chronicles, and taken the enterprising decision to self-publish, in order to hit the market while vampire stories are hot. It'll be fascinating to see whether he can reach the novel's market this way.

Though I'm not a vampire fan myself - I just don't get the appeal of the undead - anyone who does, from about age ten upwards, might like to take a look. Especially if you are a cat enthusiast, because Ray is a man who understands the feline mind. (On the other hand, if you like dogs, there's the killing of a yappy poodle which I found disturbing.)

Here are a few of my favourite cat quotes:

'Like all cats, I never forget anything. Comes in handy for holding grudges.'

'Oh no. I hopped off of Meg's lap and, not wanting to signal my intent to scram, did a stretch. Front paws out, tail end high, stre-e-etch my back. M-m-m-m, not a bad performance, and it felt great, too. Then, walking as if I was going nowhere in particular, I ambled for the door. Igor, the rat, ambled ahead of me and nudged it closed with his foot.
I hated doors.'

'Why do people say the opposite of what they mean? We cats are always totally up front. We're pissed, we hiss. We're pleased, we purr. We're hungry, we pester the closest associate until we're fed.'

It's not just the distinctive voice of the narrator, Patch, that should earn Ray readers. It's also a sharp satire on contemporary American politics and religion, a pacy adventure story with a colourful baddie, and for vampire lovers, an amusing take on an old theme.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Slush Pile Reader

I can never resist the excitement of a new website: beta testers are the first to explore and comment, and are pleasantly settled in by the time the website opens to the public.

The latest, Slush Pile Reader, has just emerged from beta. Do take a look. It's a site where unpublished writers gain exposure for their work, and where readers select and vote for the best. This is how it works:

Step 1
Authors submit their manuscripts.
Step 2
Readers read and collectively decide which manuscripts should be published.
Step 3
Slush Pile Reader publishes, distributes and promotes the manuscripts that have been selected by the readers.

I'm really hoping it attracts lots of readers as well as writers, and won't fall prey to the appalling book-pimping that goes on at Authonomy.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A wail - plus the literary Pollyanna approach

Wednesday evening, homeward bound through the icy slush, my bike slipped on a speedbump (does anyone except councils think speedbumps a good idea?) leaving me with cuts to my face and a broken humerus. A nice doctor at the London Hospital neatly stitched the gashes, and I don't care about the black eye, but my damaged shoulder and the plaster on my arm is driving me nuts.

The simplest thing is difficult and/or painful. Dressing, bathing, getting the lid off the coffee jar, rising from horizontal - and of course, biking and driving are both out. Along with making jewellery, and thus earning my living.

But: I think it's given me the solution I've been looking for to my current problem with Heart of Bone. Because if Yakiv the Ukranian builder incurred this sort of inconvenient injury while diving in to help Caz who was being attacked, he'd have a powerful claim on her.

Whatever favour he asked of Caz as he sat dripping blood in A & E, she'd be unlikely to refuse.

(Typed with one finger, and I just hope you are impressed I've done the capitals.)

Monday, 4 January 2010

A Tale of Two Websites

When I finished my first novel, Torbrek...and the dragon variation, I was filled with happy pride. I sent the first three chapters off to six lucky agents, who sent me six form rejections. (Bless you, PFD, whose reader scrawled that she'd enjoyed the story.) I realized my novel might not be as good as I thought it was, so joined YouWriteOn in December 2006, hoping someone would tell me what was wrong with my opening chapters.

Once I'd got enough comments to enter the charts, I rushed to see where my book was. In those days, the charts only showed the top two hundred or so entries. And Torbrek was not among them. It was worse than I thought. But I loved the site, enjoyed reading and commenting on others' books, and hoped to profit by the comments on mine, though still nobody had told me how to fix the start.

Or so I thought...but after three or four months, it dawned on me how much I'd learned. I'd changed the opening chapters considerably, and was aware of all sorts of issues of which I'd been ignorant. I'd pounce on any nugget of good advice in a comment, and act on it.

YouWriteOn was where my writing went to school and grew up.

When Harper Collins launched Authonomy, I was an enthusiastic beta member. It was a terrific site. But over the last year, its ethos has changed. Now the only way to rise to the top of the chart and win a coveted gold star and HC editor's review is to praise and back as many of the books on the site as possible. Look at the comments on any book there, and almost all say the writing is brilliant, the story compelling, the ideas terrific. Dare to write a critical comment, suggesting how it can be improved, and you are unlikely to get a thank you - and indeed why should the author take any notice, when he has dozens of comments assuring him that his writing is excellent?

Today I wonder how my writing would have fared had I, as a newbie writer, had the current Authonomy to load Torbrek to. Reassured by so many that my novel was superb (and please to back theirs) would my writing have stuck at first draft level? Would I ever have understood why it was rejected by literary agents?

Is Authonomy doing naive new writers a disservice?