Sunday, 28 February 2010

Blood on the forum (and I'm not talking Julius Caesar)

Ah, another end of the month on Authonomy, and it's one of those musical chairs months when six people are in contention for the top five places and a gold star. And it's sometimes vitriolic on the forum.

I remember in the early days of the site, during a particularly bad month, a Harper Collins spokesman came on the site expressing wonder at the fury and mayhem. 'We're not offering a holiday in the sun,' he said, 'just an editor's critique.'

But of course it's NOT just that; each top fiver secretly hopes in his innermost heart that his book will be the first to wow an HC editor so much that he'll be offered a contract. Even though it's never happened. To date, eighty-eight writers have won a gold star on Authonomy, and not one of them has been offered a publishing deal. The handful of books HC has published from the site were picked up while they were much lower in the charts.

So why do people bother? Why do they spend hours each day for up to a year reading or pretending to read others' books and writing gushing comments; why do they do the spamming and the the swap-shelving, the touting for support on the forum (because that's what it takes these days)? I really don't know. I do know that some truly excellent reads get nowhere near the top of the charts, as their authors have too much sense to get involved in the frightful struggle.

And I'm quite certain that Harper Collins needs to adjust the system, to make it fairer and a lot less like a dance marathon.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


The daughter took me to see Avatar yesterday. For those of you who have just emerged, blinking, from an enclosed monastic order, Avatar is James Cameron's latest movie, which has broken all box office records in America.

And I can see why; it's hugely entertaining escapism, the beguiling alien world of Pandora is brilliantly imagined, and the special effects are awesome. The story, simple though it is, kept me on the edge of my seat. Way better than Titanic, which I didn't warm to at all, and nearly as good as Terminator 2, one of my favourite films.

Only one cavil - the ore that has excited the greed of the Earthmen is called unobtanium. This is such a joke name, I can only think Cameron used it to be getting on with in early drafts, and it stuck.

Official Avatar Movie

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Fantastic news!

The best news of the past week is that Guy Saville has found a publisher for his exciting novel, The Afrika Reich.

Set in an alternative 1952, when a victorious Nazi Germany occupies much of Africa, The Afrika Reich tells the story of ex-assassin Burton Cole who attempts to foil the plans of messianic racist Walter Hochburg. You can read the first chapter here.

Two publishers got into a bidding war over it, the winner being Hodder & Stoughton, who plan to publish The Afrika Reich in hardback in February 2011. Guy has signed a contract for a two-book deal, got the sort of advance that's becoming an endangered species in these hard times, and had a champagne lunch in Mayfair with his editor (a scenario that surely features in the dreams of every unpublished writer).

Everyone who is acquainted with Guy will be pleased. It couldn't have happened to a nicer chap, or a more deserving book. It's good news for all the people who will soon be able to buy it and enjoy the read, too.

Postscript: A few years ago, I used to visit a website called New Authors, and you will think me horrid when I admit I went there to laugh heartlessly at the frightfulness of much of what was on offer. I'd just finished my first novel, Torbrek...and the Dragon Variation, and this site confirmed my belief that my book was pretty hot.

Then I joined YouWriteOn, and the first book I was assigned was Guy Saville's All That Happened With Alice. I realized that maybe there was scope for improvement in my writing after all...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

This is one offer I CAN refuse...

Do you think this as out of order as I do?

Harper Collins has got together with UKTV to run a competition for crime writers:

Submit a short crime story between 2000 and 5000 words that starts with the following first line: “In my experience, those who beg for mercy seldom deserve it.”

So far, interesting. I read on, until I got to this paragraph:

Where you submit your entry to this such submission you grant UKTV and HarperCollins Publishers Limited each a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce and publish, distribute and make available to the public your entry in any media, now known or later developed, for the full term of any rights that may exist in such content.

If you do not wish to grant such rights to UKTV and HarperCollins, you should not submit your content to the site.

My jaw dropped. So, even if you don't win, by virtue of entering it into this competition, you have lost control of your short story. And if they want to, Harper Collins or UKTV can publish your story, turn it into a film, make it the basis for a TV series, use your ideas or characters, all without paying you a penny. You no longer have any rights in it at all. Further on it says:

For the avoidance of doubt, subject to the licence granted above to UKTV and HarperCollins Limited, you shall retain ownership of the copyright in your entry.

Not quite sure what good that would do you. I'm going to pass.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Chaucer, channelled by Bill Bailey

I studied Chaucer at school. My year got a duff one, The Canon's Yeoman's Tale. Never heard of it? I'm not surprised. If I say it's about alchemy, I make it sound way more interesting than it is. My daughter fared much better with The Franklin's Tale, a haunting story about love and fidelity.

But the good thing about having read Chaucer is that you get to appreciate this sketch by Bill Bailey: