Friday, January 28, 2011

The great title hunt

This morning I finished that story inspired by the snippet of insider police information. The anthology is coming together nicely and I'm starting to think about something other than just finishing stories: the order of the contents and a title.

The other day I realised that all the stories involved revenge in some form or another so I wanted a title that would reflect that. Straight away I thought of 'Best Served Cold', and headed off to search the Amazon catalogues. Not that titles are covered by copyright, of course, but it's nice to know that if I do get my book published it won't be one of dozens with the same name. That way if a reader searches on the title rather than my name, they won't be faced with a heap of books and choose the wrong one.

Sadly for me, 'Best Served Cold' was a popular idea. There were at least seven or eight books with that title, ranging from mainstream crime novels to self-published e-books. Not wanting to be number nine on the list, I had to come up with something else.

A frequent port of call for titles is quotations so I started searching online for quotes that involved revenge. I was struggling rather; too many of them are Biblical and involve God's vengeance - possibly not the most suitable thing for a book about crime. But then Dave came to the rescue with a Confucius quotation which was ideal. So now I have a working title, a contents page, and another story to slot in. If I can keep up the momentum I might actually finish this thing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Belated Christmas

A week before Christmas we were supposed to go out for our annual friends' Chrismtas meal/bash. There's usually eight of us and each year we pick a local restaurant or pub and have a good, old-fashioned fun evening. This year we were due at Los Iguanas, a South American restaurant in the Arcadian centre in Birmingham city centre. We'd been the previous year and had such a great time (fantastic food, good 'buzz', friendly service) that we booked again. And then it snowed. Rather a lot, actually, and several hours before the meal we were forced to cancel.

Luckily the restaurant understood. The city centre was gridlocked, their customers were dropping like flies (apparently only 25 turned up out of 250 bookings), and they very kindly held the booking open for us until the new year.

On Saturday we tried again, and this time the weather was kind to us. Six of the original party of eight made it, and we had another fantastic evening. Same wonderful food, same great vibe; in fact the only thing that was missing was the Christmas trimmings - and you don't really need crackers or a tree to have a good time.

While we were there one of our friends, who's a police officer, let slip a little nugget of information that immediately set off story alarms in my brain. I'm not going to say what it was, because that would give the plot away, but first thing Monday I settled down with the idea and have been scribbling ever since. The result is another crime story for the anthology and if I finish it I'll be sending a note of thanks to my friend. I just hope he realised the inspiration he sparked!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Website update

Following on from my news about QueeredFiction's recent facelift, I should mention that I've updated various links, information etc on my own website to make it easier to read about (and order!) 'Queer Dimensions'. I've added a snippet of a very nice review from Rainbow Reviews, and a whole plethora of links to point of sale for both the electronic and print versions of the book.

You can find the result here.

In other writing news I'm feeling rather pleased with myself today since I've finished off not one but two new stories for the crime anthology. One is a ghoulish tale about a crack in a girl's bedroom wall; the other starts with a man jumping naked out of a birthday cake. I've been struggling with the latter because neither the plot nor the language seemed to match up to the first line, but at long last I've scribbled something I'm happy with. It's much darker and more vicious than I first intended, but better for it in many ways.

The anthology is filling up nicely. I have two, possibly three more stories to finish (depending on how long they turn out to be), and major rewrites on a couple of others. After that, I might actually be ready to start sending it out. Of course, it would help if I could finish two stories a day, every day...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Contest to avoid

This particular news has been spreading round the internet like a bout of flu, but it's such an all-round Bad Deal for writers I felt I had to pass the information on, just in case any of you were tempted to enter this contest.

First One Digital Publishing (no link provided for reasons which will become apparent) are a start-up e-publisher. As part of their launch they have organised a writing competition where at least part of the prize is publication with their company. The contest is open to novels and they are charging a hefty entry fee for the privelege, of $149.

This immediately rings alarm bells, because if you pay that much money and the prize is publication, then you are effectively paying the company to publish your work. That fee is monstrously high; a typical fee for a private, high-quality contest with proper, independent prizes, is only around a tenth of that amount. And because the press is a new start-up, they have no track-record of publication so there's no way of checking what your sales would be like, assuming you won.

But it gets worse. Because tucked away in the small print at the very end of their contest guidelines is the following:

"By submitting an entry, all entrants grant Sponsor the absolute and unconditional right and authority to copy, edit, publish, promote, broadcast, or otherwise use, in whole or in part, their entries, in perpetuity, in any manner without further permission, notice or compensation..."

That's without compensation. Effectively, they are taking all rights to your work, in perpetuity, and not paying you a penny in advances or royalties or flat fees or anything else.

So. You pay them to enter the contest. Whether or not you win, they take your novel, publish it themselves, and take every last penny of profit it makes.

And you get nothing.

Less than nothing, because they've taken the rights for ever, so you can never submit your work to another publisher.

Can I respectfully suggest giving this contest, and its owners, a very wide berth? At the very least it's naive; at worst, it's a colossal scam. I kind of wish it was illegal so I could report it to someone. As it is, all I can really do is pass the word along and warn as many writers as possible to stay away.

Monday, January 17, 2011

QueeredFiction facelift

I've been meaning to post since before Christmas about QueeredFiction's jazzy new website. Their old site was rather dark and more than a little hard to navigate but the new version is much more straightforward, not least because all the books on their catalogue are now visible at a glance and each book has its own page with blurb, reviews and ordering details. The new design is also more eye-catching than the old (if a little... pink *grin*) and they even have their own stylish new logo.

You can find details of Queer Dimensions, the anthology which includes my short story The Visitor, here. The page includes full details of the contents and authors, as well as links to point of sale for both the e-book and print versions.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Printer rage

Am I the only person who beats my fists on the desk in sheer frustration when I'm trying to write and vital bits of equipment or software won't work?

I spent a large portion of Friday afternoon crawling round on my hands and knees underneath my desk, trying to get my cheap-useless-piece-of-crap printer to actually PRINT. First of all it wouldn't talk to the laptop even though everything was plugged in and switched on. Then it took about 20 sheets through the feeder at once. Then I took everything out except one sheet and that wouldn't go through. Then I got a couple of sheets to go through and they went in skewed and jammed. Now the bloody thing won't work at all.

Aaargh. *hits head repeatedly on keyboard*

I'm coming to the conclusion that cheap printers aren't worth it. This one only cost about £30, but has lasted less than a year...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Inspiration from daytime tv

I don't know about anyone else but I very rarely watch daytime tv - I don't have the time, plus it's usually crap. Just occasionally, though, you catch something that just screams 'story' because of the human element/emotions involved.

This morning I saw 'Wanted Down Under' which is a property programme for Brits wanting to move to Australia. Apparently loads of them just pack up and go out there on a whim; this programme does at least take them out there for a week, show them the sort of property they could afford, jobs that are available, living costs etc etc. A bit of a reality check, in other words, while making good telly.

Today's 'subject' was a 40-ish bloke from Sheffield who had a lifetime dream of moving to Oz. He had a 16 year old son from a previous marriage and was remarried to a nice lass; they had two small children. The lass clearly thought the world of him, but he came across (whether in reality or by skillful editing) as a selfish bastard. The lass didn't want to move at all; she had loads of friends and family in the UK and didn't want to leave them behind. He was quite happy to leave everyone behind - including his 16 year old son.

The week went from one disaster to another. Their UK house was valued at a good £50k less than they thought it was worth, so they'd struggle to afford a similar property in Oz, let alone the 4 bed with swimming pool he wanted. He'd have had to take a lower responsibility job with a pay cut; and to afford the lifestyle she'd have had to work too. That was fine with him, even though she didn't want to because of the kids.

By the end of the show it was obvious that emigrating was pretty much the worst thing they could do. The couple were interviewed separately and she said that much as she hated the idea, she would do it for him because 'at the end of the day he was the most important thing in her life'. When they interviewed HIM, he said that if he chose Oz and she chose England, they would talk it over a lot and then he would get his own way, 'simple as that'. But if worst came to worst, they would split up.... Whether she ever saw those comments, and what happened if she did, wasn't made clear.

When I'm writing my crime/noir stories I sometimes wonder if they're a bit unrealistic, but watching this you realise that there are little tragedies going on behind closed doors all over the country and writing about dark, selfish people is actually a lot more realistic than you might think.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Back to the grindstone

After a long break courtesy of bank holidays, bad weather and general not-wanting-to-workness, I finally settled down to writing again today. It wasn't much - a short, thousand word story about killer crossword puzzles for my crime anthology - but it's the first time I've put fingernail to keyboard in nearly a month.

I say 'grindstone' in the title of this post but actually it feels great to be back at work again. Like many writers I get fidgety if I have too long away from the craft; sometimes 'fidgety' is the least of it and 'irritable' or even 'exasperated' might describe my mood better. I saw a quote recently about writers never having a holiday because even when they're not physically writing, they're still working on ideas, and it rang very true. Sometimes all those ideas build up and build up until you just have to get them down on paper, or explode. Luckily for the walls and carpet I managed without the explosion but this particular story has been fizzing around my brain since before Christmas and it's still a relief to get it finished.