New series on It’s a Crime!

Crimeficreader of "Its a crime! (or a mystery…)  is starting a new series called "Authors from previous years: where are they now?" What a great idea.  I’ve often wondered "what happened" to an author of a book I’ve read ages ago and enjoyed. Did they ever write any more books? Well, now we can find out. Please leave suggestions of your own favourite but forgotten authors  in the comments of Crimeficreader’s post to which I’ve linked here.

(By the way, Typepad spell check’s suggestion for "Crimeficreader" is "Triumvirate".)

Don’t try to comment on Monday night

From "Everything Typepad" blog:

"TypePad Maintenance Monday night, 2/26. TypePad continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and it’s time for some upgrades. On Monday night February 26th starting at 10:00 pm PST we’ll be taking the TypePad application offline for approximately two hours to perform routine maintenance and add some bright, shiny new hardware. During this time blogs will be available for reading, but you won’t be able to log in to TypePad to manage or post to your blog, and readers won’t be able to leave comments or send TrackBacks. We’ll be posting updates to status.sixapart.com, so tune in if you’re interested. Thanks for your patience as we continue to grow TypePad! "

Paperback Writer: Protag No-Nos

Link: Paperback Writer: Protag No-Nos.

I ususally link to Paperback Writer’s consistently excellent posts on Web Writer, my blog collection of advice and tips for authors. I’ve done so on this occasion, too. But I just have to share with you PBW’s collection of "protag no-nos", or  as one might translate, "cliched main characters".

Abracadabra Erection Dude; Freckle Sprinkle Girl; Inexplicably Stumped PI; Love Scene Interruptus; Needle Teeth;  Oncoming Betrayal Headlights; Supermodel Family Girls; Too Sexy for his Shirt; Unconvincing Flaws; and Wolverine Wounds.

I can’t pretend to recognise all of these, but I certainly do some and for the others I get the picture even if I’ve been spared the experience. The chuckle-inducing definitions are at the link.

Carry on Wuthering

A post on BrontëBlog: The Brontës know no borders (and earlier posts linked to therein) reports news of not one, but two upcoming productions of Wuthering Heights. One is due on ITV, end of this year or beginning next. No details of who is to play Cathy or Heathcliff. The other is a "Hollywood comes to Yorkshire" supposedly starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. OK, let’s have some better suggestions in the comments: nobody could think up less suitable actors for the two roles than that, surely?
Incidentally, there are competitions and prizes at the BronteBlog, one prize being a copy of the DVD of the recent BBC production of Jane Eyre.

Heartsick by Chelsea Cain

I was directed to this video link: Heartsick by Richard Charkin’s blog. He says "don’t forget to turn on the sound" but of course, on principle, I didn’t, so I watched it on silent. That was enough for me. A new thriller to be published by Pan Macmillan in August. Slick video, but not for the faint "hearted".

Inaccurate infotainment

Makers of a Japanese science documentary have admitting making up experimental results and redubbing interviews to put false words into foreign scientists’ mouths.

The scandal broke after the programme claimed that eating fermented soy beans could help you lose weight. Claims made in several other of the show’s 520 programmes – about the soporific effects of lettuce, for example – are also under review.

The full story is here, in Nature: a subscription may be required to read it, in which event let me know in the comments if you’d like to gain access, and I’ll assist.

Unpleasant Cargo

This unpleasant post: Precious Cargo: Why Print On Demand Technology Won’t Transform Publishing is a cowardly and inaccurate rant about a post I wrote a while back on Petrona, in the process misrepresenting what I wrote, and ascribing opinions to me that I do not have.

I was alerted to this post by Dave Lull, the man who wrote it did not do me the courtesy of letting me know he was writing it or had written it. I have written a comment on his blog, but as he has "comment moderation" switched on, this comment may not actually appear, and I have not saved it.

Dave discovered this situation by reading a posting by Michael Blowhard on "Get Rich Writing". Mary Scriver, in a comment on Michael Blowhard’s posting, supports my position: "Winkler’s critique of Maxine is not valid because POD is only part of the revolution." Thank you, Mary.

My post, incidentally, was not hot air but was about a POD programme at Random House, which the publisher is expanding, as reported in Publishers’ Weekly, among other points about the supply chain not mentioned by "Precious Cargo". There are inaccuracies as well as omissions in the Precious Cargo posting, some of which I specified in my comment to the post, if he is not too cowardly to publish it.

Little Face: “every mother’s nightmare”

In a world full of uncertainties, one thing is for sure: the worst thing that can happen to anyone is to have a baby and lose her or him a week later. The paranoia and tension associated with such an event are at the core of Sophie Hannah’s novel Little Face.

The opening chapter describes how Alice, mother of week-old baby Florence, leaves her mother-in-law Vivienne’s house, where she lives, to visit the local exclusive health club to activate the membership recently given to her by Vivienne. The visit is surreal; throughout the chapter I was internally screaming at Alice to go home to her baby: I could not imagine how someone could overcome the strength of hormonally fuelled separation anxiety a week after giving birth to view a health club. Such is the dominance of Vivienne, who can overwhelm the feelings of those around her and control their actions, the health club episode being but a harbinger. When Alice returns home, she finds that the baby asleep in the cot is not hers.

The plot unfolds in an initially irritating temporal style, with chapters alternating between the beginning and end of the following week; and between the police investigation and the unsettling dynamics of Alice’s life with her increasingly distant husband, his son by his first marriage (yes, the first wife was murdered), his mother Vivienne, and the imposter baby — events which spiral out of control into simple but nerve-shredding episodes of sadism. 

I eventually got used to the strange rhythm, and could see how the author is using it to keep the reader as on-edge as her characters. This is one book that you just have to keep reading once you start it.  The ending is a bit of a let-down: just too complicated to be believable even though I couldn’t really fault the logic. Never mind, Sophie Hannah’s first crime fiction novel is a fantastic debut. I can’t wait for her next, whether or not it features any of the same characters.

Competitions, collaboration and competitiveness

A few pieces of news via the Bookseller (9 Feb edition).

The wiki novel by Penguin is apparently getting more than 100 edits an hour, by 7 February having mushroomed into at least 3 separate novels. The project began on 31 January so heaven knows what it is like now, although the site is now being closed for a few hours each day to avoid overloads. I don’t think I can bear to go and look.

National Book Tokens has opened a "not yet published" competition, open to all unpublished booksellers in the UK and Ireland who are aspiring authors. Submissions must be no more than 10,00o words and the deadline is 29 June 2007. The prize is a publishing contract with Faber. If you are an Amazon marketplace seller, I wonder if you are eligible? If so, it will increase the potential number of entries rather dramatically.

Writing of Amazon, the company is under fire for selling US editions of books through its UK site. Publishers are upset at this practice because it violates their international rights agreements. It seems that it is Amazon marketplace sellers who are to blame, rather than Amazon itself, and a digital solution is being sought (I didn’t fully understand it but get the drift). I am not sure what I think of this; the law is the law of course, but  it is very frustrating to have to wait a year for a mass market paperback to be published in the UK when it is already available on the US Amazon site, and can legally be purchased if you are prepared to pay the same price in international postage as the cover price of the book and wait 4-6 weeks.  I  can’t believe that a huge number of sales happen via US editions being sold on the UK Amazon site; I suspect the purchasers are a relatively small number of  enthusiasts that is not going to dent the sales figures of a UK launch of a title.  No figures are given in the Bookseller article.

Quick Reads questions

Apparently the UK "Quick Reads" initiative is in danger of ending after this year due to lack of support from some publishers and interest from the public. The next batch of eight titles (short novels, price £1.99 each) will be published on World Book Day (1 March), accompanied by a BBC dramatisation of The Grey Man by Andy McNab, one of last year’s books.

Quick Reads are short books written in simple language, aimed at people who don’t usually read books at all.  According to the Bookseller, some publishers have been reluctant to support the initiative on the grounds that there are no "semi mythical reluctant readers", given the plethora of celebrity biographies et al.  Even so, about one-third of the UK population is estimated never to read a book, lacking basic literacy skills or just not interested. The Bookseller opines that the first two years of the programme missed a few opportunities by a "slightly patronising" generic approach, weak covers and including some authors "who don’t command real consumer recognition".

This year’s batch includes media names such as Kerry Katona, John Simpson, "Dr Who" and Ricky Tomlinson. As last year, the Sun is a partner in selling these books and the programme, and lots of organisations are working "beneath the radar" to try to capture these hundreds of thousands of potential new readers.

The Bookseller believes that publishers and retailers should back the initiative with money and long-term support. It does not opine as to the long-term goals of the programme. Is the idea to persuade these non-readers to read 10 short books every year and that’s that? Or for these books to be a platform to encourage readers to attempt a "full length" work? Why is it considered a "good thing" for someone to read a short book by "Dr Who" or other TV celebrity rather than do something else? The Quick Read programme does raise rather more questions in my mind than it answers.