Thursday, 30 October 2014

How to Get the Most Out of Authonomy

There's the old saying that writing is a solitary pursuit, but as members of Authonomy you'll know that it doesn't have to be. Authonomy published author Mary Vensel White said, when we interviewed her earlier this year, 'One of the benefits of Authonomy (is) the feedback from other writers and readers'. There's the chance to be discovered and have your manuscript read by an Editor, but there's also so much to gain from the community aspects of the site. The entries to our review competition (which closes tomorrow!) prove it, there are so many insightful and helpful reviews. 

But if you're new to Authonomy - well, we're all newbies to the new Authonomy - you might be wondering where to start. Whether you've been working on your manuscript for years and are finally ready to share it with others, you're just starting out and want help along the way, or you're a reader who enjoys discovering unknown talent read on for some tips on how to get the most out of Authonomy.

Reading – There are so many great books to discover on Authonomy and lots of different ways to find them. From seeing what is heading towards the Editor’s Desk, to searching using a tag, e.g. #ChickLit or #Comedy, you’re sure to find plenty to read. The more you read and rate, the better our recommendations to you will be. You may want to recommend a book you’ve found in the forums, to share your discovery with other members and give the author a boost.

Rating – Giving a book a star rating is a quick and easy way to indicate the quality of a book to other readers. Remember that all ratings are anonymous and you can change them at any time, so never feel pressured to give any other rating than the one you think a book deserves. Here’s some guidance on how to rate books:

6 stars – Excellent: Publish it. I’d buy it myself and recommend it to everyone!
5 stars – Very good: Should be on the bookstore shelves already!
4 stars – Good: Shows real promise.
3 stars – Average: Readable, but still needs work.
2 stars – Poor: Unlikely to attract readers in its current form.
1 star – Awful: Pulping is too good for it!

Commenting and Critiquing Giving and receiving feedback can be one of the most helpful and rewarding features of Authonomy. Sometimes you might just want to tell an author how great you think their book is, or you’ll spot some things that you think will help the author improve their work. Honesty is the best policy here as most authors are on Authonomy to improve their work and will welcome constructive feedback. Writing is rewriting, so while it can be hard to accept that a reader thought your male lead was diabolical rather than dashing, it’s a really valuable part of the process.

Backing – This one is simple: back the books you think should be published. While your shelf is visible, authors can’t see a list of whose shelves their book is on, so back the books you love.

Do you have any tips on how you get the most out of Authonomy?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

One to Watch Wednesday - The Life and Lies of Danny Diaz

This week’s One to Watch is a bit different, it’s a short story: The Life and Lies of Danny Diaz by A. Paine.

The problem with short stories is that there’s a lot of pleasure to be had from reading them without knowing anything about them. You don’t generally get a blurb for a short story and I only read the short pitch before I read this. So if you’re like me, stop reading this blog and go and read the story now.

For those who need a bit more convincing, here’s why I liked it. Spanning a single conversation between an ageing rocker and a music journalist, this is a brilliant example of a great idea being conveyed in the best form possible. Extend this premise over the length of a novel and I don’t think it would work, but as a short story it’s clever and effective. There’s an intriguing opening, which sets the scene quickly, then the secret is revealed almost straight away, keeping the reader’s attention. The body of the story manages to cover an entire career, but economically, with only the details that add to the tale. Then finally there’s a little twist at the end, and with that you've got a recipe for a great short story.

Short stories are notoriously difficult to market and it’s a difficult form to get right, but there is a market and when they're as pithy as this, they can be brilliant. Here’s the pitch, if I haven’t managed to convince you yet.

An ageing rocker, a journalist, and a small, seemingly inconsequential object. This is the tale of the greatest musical theft in history.
Such a small, seemingly inconsequential object. Yet for ageing rocker Danny Diaz, journalist Henry Lapthorn, and indeed the entire population, it is an object that has aided in the greatest musical thievery in history, forever altering the historical landscape of music as we know it. After years of wilful theft and deceit, Danny's life has come full circle as he reaches out to the one man who forever doubted him, intent on telling his story, and finding peace with his past. For Henry, it is the story of a lifetime, an unbelievable tale of deceit, addiction, regret, and redemption. But can it possibly be true, or is it just another ruse? Is this tale the fulfilment of Henry's career, or yet another deception in the decades long animosity between two men who know each other so well, and yet not at all.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

One to Watch ... Thursday - Gone for a Soldier

This week's One to Watch comes a bit later than usual, but is no less highly recommended. The book we want to bring to your attention this week is Gone for a Soldier by Kathleen KellyGarlock. I’m a sucker for historical fiction, particularly when there's a strong female protagonist as they can offer a new perspective which may previously have been overlooked in fiction. This has a bold premise, and while I think the story needs some fleshing out, I found myself hooked.

Gone for a Soldier tells the story of Lucy Tessier, a young woman who disguises herself as a man and enlists in the Union army. As you can imagine, you do have to suspend your disbelief a bit (I found myself getting slightly frustrated by the ease with which she disguises herself and there are a few plot holes) but after a few chapters you’ll be swept up by the story, as I was. I couldn't help but think of the film Some Like it Hot, when reading the pitch, and there is a danger that this complicated love triangle storyline could stray into farcical, slapstick territory, but what I have read so far suggests the author will handle this very well.

I’d like to see a bit more of the time in training, and see how the friendships between the men in the company develop, as I’m sure these relationships will be at the core of the story as it progresses. The reader roots for Lucy more and more as we learn more about her past and what she puts herself through to escape it.

If you haven’t already, why not give it a read? If you have, what were your thoughts? 

Here’s the pitch:

Life can change with the blink of an eye. Or the thrust of a knife. On the run from the law, Lucy Tessier disguises herself as a boy and joins the Union army.

Alone in the world and brutalized by a neighbor, Lucy Tessier fights back--with a knife. A year has passed since the first woman in Minnesota was hanged for murder and Lucy has no plans of being the second. She cuts off her hair, dresses in her dead brother's clothing, and joins the First Minnesota regiment as Private Rob Edwards. Lucy's plan to eventually desert changes once she realizes how much she relishes the freedom and respect extended to her as a 'man' in a man's world. 

Before long Lucy falls in love with a fellow soldier, but he likes another girl, and that girl is infatuated with Rob Edwards. Complicating things further, the doctor who saved the life of Lucy's attacker is the regiment's new surgeon. He's guessed Lucy's secret, but for reasons of his own is keeping the knowledge to himself. And as the regiment battles almost to the gates of Richmond, Lucy is tested physically and emotionally and learns that friendship, and love, are always worth the fight.

Historical fiction with a bit of romance--Gone for a Soldier is the story of a real Civil War regiment and a fictional girl.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Authonomy Review Competition

Publishing isn’t just about great books, it’s about great people building a supportive community around writing. That’s what makes sites like Twitter, Wattpad and Authonomy so good to be a part of.

Today we’re launching a competition to not only celebrate great writing, but great reviewing.

Write a review that you think is just top notch, and you will be in with a chance to get not only that book noticed by a HarperCollins editor, but your book too.

To enter, you simply need review an Authonomy book and share your comment with us on the blog as well as the book. The review can be long and detailed or short and snappy, lyrically positive or critical but instructive; we’ll be picking a winner based on the quality of the review. 

The review should make us want to read the book, but don’t be afraid to be constructive.

A HarperCollins editor will review at least the first chapter – or up to 2,000 words – of both the reviewer’s book and the reviewed book.

This is your chance to recommend a book you think is worth a look, AND get your own onto an editor’s desk.

What you need to do
  1. Read and review a book on Authonomy. The review must be published between 14th and 31st October. You cannot enter using a review written before this date, but you can re-review a book you’ve previously reviewed.
  2. Post your review in the comments for the book and in the comments section of this blog post. Please also tell us the title and author of the book you are reviewing and the author name and title of your own book.
  3. Repeat. You can enter as many times as you like, but entrants who repeat their reviews, or write very similar reviews on each book, will not count.
  4. The winners will be announced on 10th November.
UPDATE: If you are unable to post below because you do not have an Open ID log in, please email your submissions to:

Let the reading commence!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Forum Moderation and trolls

Today we want to address forum behaviour, and in particular, trolls.

At best, trolls can be a bit irritating, but at worst they can be extremely offensive and can drive away people who are there to take part in a genuine conversation. We don’t mean you should spend all your time in the forums talking about writing and books, we want the forums to be as free and open as possible and that’s exactly the kind of discussion that trolls disrupt.

For some, the anonymity of the internet provides a temptation they can’t resist. The lack of accountability they feel allows them to say whatever they think will cause the biggest reaction, without fear of any real life reprisal. Because that’s what trolls are looking for: a reaction. Yes they’re extremely annoying, and yes their presence on the forums is frustrating, but ignoring them is probably the best policy. The moderators and the Authonomy team will remove anything offensive and you can always report anything you think should be removed. They’re here looking for attention, but if they don’t get any, chances are they’ll get bored and move on.

So basically we’re asking you not to get dragged in to it. If you’re here to engage with other writers and readers and are here to get advice and feedback on your writing, don’t waste your time on trolls, even if it’s just to tell them to stop. We know it’s tempting, but it’s not worth your time.

As part of the new site, we’ve turned to some of the members we feel have made a really positive impact on the site over the past few years and asked them to take up moderator roles in the forums. They are volunteers, they aren’t HarperCollins employees. Moderators have the power to delete and edit posts that go against the rules of the site, which you can read here. They don’t have power to delete comments or personal messages. Reporting posts, comments or messages to HC is often the best way to report a repeat offender as having it on file allows us to build up a case against members who misuse the forums.

Unless you feel that posts have been unfairly edited or deleted – in this case you should contact us – we ask that you let the moderators get on with it. The moderators are also members of the site, and are there to read, be read, and critique just the same as you. They’re helping the site run a lot smoother and we think they’re doing a great job. Think about it, the less time they spend mediating and deleting, the more time they can spend using the site as it was intended.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

One to Watch Wednesday - The DCI Jones Casebook: Ellis Flynn

This week’s One to Watch is police procedural The DCI Jones Casebook: Ellis Flynn by Kerry J Donovan. Veteran Detective David Jones is called on to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. In a race against time – each chapter is headed with the number of hours and minutes the girl has been missing – Jones and his sidekick attempt to track the girl and her abductor down before it’s too late, following the trail to rural France. This is a pacey thriller, with strong commercial appeal, and a promising lead character.

Told alternately from the perspective of the perpetrator Ellis Flynn and DCI Jones, a popular and effective approach in crime fiction, Donovan takes the reader inside the mind of both the criminal and the detective who hunts him. Flynn is a particularly disturbing character, but Donovan is unflinching in his portrayal of him. As his intentions are slowly and skilfully revealed, the reader becomes more and more fearful for the life of the young girl Flynn has set his sights on.

I raced through The DCI Jones Casebook, it’s a gripping story and a very good example of the genre. The only thing I feel let it down slightly was the characters, who had so much potential, but aren't quite developed enough to give this a real series appeal - which it certainly has the potential to have. As a reader, I wanted to spend a bit of time with Detective Jones when he’s on his own, to really get inside his head. Alex feels the least developed of all, making the fact that she’s Swedish feels like an attempt to jump on the Scandi-crime trend, when she could be a brilliant supporting character. But there’s so much here to commend, so why not have a read and see what you think? Here’s the pitch:

An empathetic detective and his Swedish-born colleague hunt for the abductors of a teenage schoolgirl—a police procedural set in England and France.

When their daughter fails to return from school, her parents are terrified. Is she a runaway, or the victim of something more sinister?

Veteran Detective, David Jones, head of the Midlands Police, is tasked to find her. His team soon discovers a link to convicted sex-offender, Ellis Flynn, whom Jones suspects of grooming the naive teenager. A difficult case is made more personal when Jones sees a photo of the missing girl, Hollie Jardine. She is the spitting image of his God-daughter! Jones can't separate the two in his head.

With Hollie's chances of survival fading, Jones and his Swedish-born colleague Alexandra Olganski, risk their careers and their lives when they ignore protocol to follow Flynn’s trail across the Channel into France. What they discover in an idyllic backwater will stretch Jones' detection skills to the limit, and Alex's loyalty to heartbreak.

Ultimately, Jones faces an impossible decision - give himself up or the girl dies -- do nothing and the girl dies.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

One to Watch Wednesday - Thump

This week’s One to Watch is Science Fiction novel Thump by Andrew McEwan.

The first chapter immediately brings to mind the extreme isolation depicted in films such as Gravity and Moon. The act of eating a Banana, for example – an object and act in such stark contrast to the surroundings – is described in such microscopic detail, the reader is immersed in the moment.

This is an ambitious project, and the author is off to a good start. I want to find out more about this version of the universe and the characters who inhabit it. The writing style is unmistakably sci-fi, not overly cluttered, at times this works brilliantly, but can also leave the reader confused. I admit I felt a bit like I was adrift in space myself; this universe needs more of an introduction to the reader before they can really engage with it. We're often telling authors not to give so much away, to give their readers more credit, but it's hard not to feel like the reader just needs a little more help.

McEwan introduces some intriguing ideas from the outset. Spaceships containing entire frozen oceans, and the idea of gestalt beings (which I’m not entirely sure I understand). I hope more will be revealed later, but it would be helpful to give the reader an idea of what these being are and the implications of their existence on mankind.

There’s a lot of potential here, so why not give it a read and share your thoughts with the author. Here’s the pitch:

"You are a component; purpose unknown."

Being the space and time of Skidmore Shuffledeck, galactic mechanic.

Tutored on the machine world of Perridi, Skidmore takes his first steps into a space divided. The human diaspora is in full swing, just not in the twelve worlds, where Horatio Holroyd bends the void and Yours Truly chases his tail. Or on the cusp of the apocalypse, where Terminals seek the star at the centre of the universe - that they might destroy it.

Skidmore has to learn fast. Firstly, interspatial displacement, aka "the trumpet". Secondly, himself, and who he can trust. For the difference between man and machine is the difference between passive stoicism and frenzied blood.