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: yourauthonomy@harpercollins.co.uk

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.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Scott's Blog: The Shopping List

It feels like we’ve broken through some sort of threshold recently. Perhaps it was getting rid of all that spam (Rachel doesn’t like me saying that in case it comes back), maybe it has something to do with people getting used to the new site and finding the way to use it that suits them best. It is probably a lot of things. The point is, after a period of upheaval things appear to be settling down a bit.

Don’t get me wrong. We don’t suddenly think the site is perfect or that we can sit back now and leave things as they are. We really don’t. But I thought it was worth writing a few paragraphs to take stock and let you know what lies ahead in the near future.

We are still in the handover period during which the developers are tweaking and fiddling with the site to make sure it does the stuff we asked them to make it do. Until that is over we cannot instigate any major additions or changes, with the exception of our spam solution which was really urgent, but once that period is over we can start to roll out some new stuff.

Here’s a sneak peek at our shopping list:

Reply Button. I don’t want to abuse my power, such as it is, but the lack of a reply button for messages on my profile is doing my nut in. Fortunately lots of you feel the same way so this is one of the first things we will look to do.

Editing Messages and Comments. We want you to be able to edit and change any messages or comments you post on the site. You know, in case you’ve made a typo or decide you no longer want to call the other person a complete and utter @&#$*%!

Deleting Messages. At the moment you can only hide messages you have received so that other members cannot see them but that doesn’t completely delete them or stop you from seeing them. Much as I love scrolling back through the various complaints and abuse I have received it might be nice to delete them completely.

Deleting Books. Though it is possible to delete books from the site by overwriting them with a new book or a blank document, and making them private, it’s clear that a simpler version would be helpful.

This is by no means a definitive list, there are lots more things we want to change and add, but it does cover the immediate highlights. We will let you know when some of these are due to be implemented.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

How I came to write this novel: My author journey by Katy Regan

The Story of You is by far the hardest and darkest (in places) book I’ve ever written, and yet I hope it leaves the reader on a high - even if you feel like you’ve been through the mill! I was very interested in the concept of ‘love conquering all’. Damaged people can find relationships hard, but I wanted to explore, how even if someone has had a lot of pain in their life, they can overcome this and still find true love.

One way or another, mental illness isn’t far from most of us and I’ve always been interested in how it affects peoples’ lives. I spoke to a lot of mental health professionals for research for this book and one of the things that kept coming up, was that mental illness is often the result of unprocessed pain. I then asked myself the question: If one woman’s past came to bite her on the bum in a big way, how could and would, she deal with this to move on in her life? I was interested then, in making the main character a psychiatric nurse: Robyn is skilled at helping people deal with her demons, but what would happen if she was forced to deal with her own? If she was forced to tell the truth about her life?

This was the starting point of the book. Robyn has had a lot of things happen to her: dealing with the loss of her mother and her baby as well as the awful events of that summer. However, Joe is a constant: he is the one person who has stuck with her and accepts her for who she is with all her baggage. This seemed to me, the ultimate love story. The question then, was would she push him away when he came back in her life in a way that repeats the past, or overcome her personal obstacles to be with the person who has always been right for her; the one person who can make her happy?

I had this idea that the letters would be like a parallel world Robyn has created almost as a self-protection mechanism; a world where nothing bad happens, where there is always hope. When it came down to it, this was harder to pull off than I thought! But I hope the letters show that whatever she’s been through, Robyn is still a hopeful, strong person. Deep down, she believes in love even if that belief is tested to its limits.

I really enjoyed writing the Grace character. I suppose she is a mirror. She is what might have happened to Robyn if she didn’t have the love of Joe and her family and this is why Robyn cares about her and her story so much.  Robyn comes to realize that love really can heal us. Grace may never be ‘cured’ but by helping her to reconnect with her daughter, Robyn sets her on the path to a happier future.

It is only with hindsight (and a few months off from it!) that I have worked out why this book took me so long and was so difficult. It was a heady mixture of a few things;
  • The subject matter was probably the furthest away from my own life than any other book I’ve written - none of the big things that happened in it have ever happened to me (I’m very lucky.)
  • Because of this, I had to do a lot of research. I found it was a tricky, vicious circle: I couldn’t write a scene until I’d researched and I didn’t always know how to research / where to look / what questions to ask because I didn’t know what scenes I wanted in the book because I didn’t have the material! And on and on it went…..Until I finally immersed myself in the world of mental health sufficiently to be able to write scenes without looking at vast swathes of notes.
  • It was dark, but I wanted Robyn to be a funny person. Striking that balance between humour and darkness was terribly difficult and required a lot of trial and error, thus lots of writing. I probably write 50,000 more words that never made it into the manuscript.
So, it’s fair to say that this book nearly finished me off (I joke - I can joke now…) and there were genuinely many, many times where I thought I couldn’t go on with it. HOWEVER! Where there is dark, there is light in writing, as in stories and indeed, real life. On the plus side, I found that because I stretched myself so much with The Story of You, I gained in confidence. It was a case of, "well I’ve done that, so I can do anything". I can write anything I put my mind to.  I think it’s this that means I’ve enjoyed, much more so far, the writing of novel five. That’s not to say there haven’t been, and won’t be many problems along the way, but I feel much more confident in trying new things out, being more daring, not feeling like I have to stick to a classic women’s fiction ‘chick-lit’ genre. I feel like I ‘own’ my story, have honed my narrative voice more and have more faith in myself that I WILL get it right in the end. After all, I’ve done it four times now, so it can’t be a fluke! (can it?) I guess that inner critic never fully goes away, but that’s what keeps us improving our writing.

The Story of You is out in paperback and ebook today, and is available here.

You also read a sample of the first 8 chapters of the book on Authonomy now.

Follow Katy on twitter @katyreganwrites 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

One to Watch Wednesday - The Withering

This week’s One to Watch is The Withering by B. Illi, a children’s fantasy novel. I think a test of good children’s fiction is whether it makes you smile. From the first paragraph, this had me smiling:

With its faded brown façade and small square windows, Number 3 Bog’s End was nothing to look at. Compared to the creamy white and prim hedge rowed neighbours’ houses, it was rather a bit of a disappointment – like a bulbous black wart smack on the nose of an otherwise pretty visage. Presently, in a corner of this dreary looking house, in a small but comfortable room there slept a boy— or rather he tried to.

This is a tried and tested scene setting opening, an ordinary looking street where something extraordinary is about to happen, but B. Illi does this with such charm, and at such a steady, almost lulling, storytelling pace, that you can’t help but be drawn in. From what I have read so far, it’s a good story, well told. Each chapter ends at just the right moment, there’s tension and excitement, darkness and humour as well as some brilliant imagination-capturing imagery.

There is some work to be done, the dialogue doesn’t always feel natural and age-appropriate and the transition from the real world to the fantasy is too abrupt and arguably comes too soon, before we’ve really got to know these characters. Barty comes across as quite a precocious character, and the adults have touches of eccentricity. This could all work well, but these characters need to become real to the children who read about them, and for that to happen they need time and development.

However, we think The Withering is an exciting work-in-progress, which is certainly worth a read. And can we just say, what a beautiful cover that is. Here’s the pitch:

What sort of horrid place was this where bathtubs turned to lakes, elves died and children had to run off into the night to save themselves from— what were they running from?
Barty Glossop would be the first to tell you that Bog's End is the most boring and annoying place to live in all of Slurry.

But when his mum disappears, an unexplained death occurs and a narrow escape from the clutches of a ghoulish Withering leaves him and his best friend Alfie standing in a valley in the hidden inner world of Enerhaven, things are not at all what they seem.
After a run-in with murderous bog-goblins Barty longs to go home, but there's only one problem: the High Elves of the Cidhr Mounds think he's a Son of Yóren and the answer to all Enerhaven's prayers. Now they won't let him leave.

In the south the shadows linger and grow stronger each day. Dark creatures of the Unseelie Court and black-hearted men are rallying around a powerful seeress out for merciless revenge. She has her eye set on the Great Oak Throne in the Eternal City, and an old score to settle with Baldùr and the remaining wizards of the Ash. What she has in mind threatens to unleash a far older, greater evil upon all of Enerhaven.

Now Barty must find and read from The Book of Light. Only it holds the key to saving them all and to sending him home so the sooner he finds it, the sooner he and Alfie can leave this dastardly place. But how do you find a book that no eye has ever seen nor hand ever touched? More importantly, how do you stay alive long enough to do so?