Sun Zoom Spark

Damning The Torpedoes With A Big Stick And A Keyboard Full Of It

"I am just going outside and may be some time..." A Strange Day
There are very few times I can honestly say I've been sideswipwed by events in my life, but I can now add another one.  Someone who I had been told had died in a car accident after we had lost contact with each other back around 1980, sent this email...
Hi Chuck
or at least I hope it's John 'Chuck' Connor, ex-RN communicator and co-author of (more like driving force behind) In Defiance Of Medical Opinion ?

I've just found a reference to you in Prolapse 11 with this email address and wondered if it was still current !

I was taking a look on-line at what references there might actually be to me when I came across a link to the History of SF, and then some fanzines - and lo, there was a photo of somebody I recognised - my old mate John Connor, albeit a few years older !

I read with some dismay that I supposedly was killed in a car accident 'way back in the 1980's' - I have no idea where that particular rumour might have come from, but I did leave the communications branch in the early 80's and re-train to photographer; maybe somebody got the wrong idea ?

Anyway, I just thought I'd drop you a quick line in the hopes that this email address is still current - and possibly catch up with someone I haven't been in contact with for about 30 years !!


Aleck (Bill) Butcher

Apart from being totally knocked for six.  We've already started emailing and catching up, so if I'm a little non-communicative for a day or so, you now know the reason why.

Damnit Shiela! Those Woofters are getting every-bloody-where!
A six part series about a gay Australian SF Club?  Strewth!

( - not as stereotypical as it first sounds - actually it's bloody bonzer!)

It's A Secret Operation / Don't Want This Getting Out / So Watch It Watch It Watch It ...
As seems to be the way these days, networking is more than just sticking an RJ45 up your router stack.

Masochists and long time readers of this crap will remember my comments about the Harper Collins Authonomy site (SPAM as many other members as you can, get them to review your book and that way it gets pushed up the ratings until to reaches the Editor's Desk for comment - one gaming geek wrote something and rammed it through by getting 800 of his on-line friends to 'Vote' - which shows you how fair it has been in the past.)

However, as the first novel is still dying a slow and malingering death on the site, I went back to it recently after some 150 days away.  And I found an interesting PM from Kirsten Anderson (caeristhiona at gmail dot com - Anti-Spam, fill in the correct bits) an editor for Rebel Tales magazine (Holly Lisle's venture - someone I know little about, if anyone can enlighten me?) - still not seen any final Rebel Tales products, but Kirsten is interested in serialising the first Harry Rhimes novel (Comedic Suspense - American classifications here, seems Suspense covers a multitude of sins, such as mystery, thriller, noir possibly)

Anyway, canning the crap and getting to the meat, she's also sent a list of wants for a March 15th Deadline (And I think the printing date should read 2011 not 2010):-


Here's the prompt for my upcoming season in March.  I still have room in all categories, so feel free to forward this, along with my contact info, at will.  Also, if anything's unclear, don't hesitate to ask.



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <>
Date: Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 5:22 PM
Subject: SEASON PROMPT: Spy stories

If you're receiving this message, you're on my list of writers for Rebel Tales.  If you no longer want to receive assignments and season previews, please email me back and I'll remove your email from the list.

- Kirsten


Short: 2k-16k
2-issue serial: 16k-22k
3-issue serial: 22k-40k
4-issue serial: 40k-60k
6-issue serial: 60k-90k


Intrigue.  Danger.  Mystery.  Classic spy stories have all the elements of suspense fiction in spades.  From the slapstick humor of Get Smart to the gritty action of the Bourne series to the perfectly-blended martinis of James Bond, spy stories have been around forever, and yet they never seem to go out of style.  For my upcoming season of Rebel Tales Suspense, I want to feature spy stories of all kinds -- and I need your help to do it!  The deadline for these stories will be March 15th.

This season prompt is just that -- a prompt.  Feel free to interpret these guidelines as creatively as you like.  I'm always interested in new takes on a genre or concept.  If you're unsure how an idea you have will fit, pitch it to me and I'll give you feedback.  And of course, I'm always open to receiving first drafts for review.


1) Mystery: This is the most basic piece of the story.  In the world of spies, nothing is as it seems.  One of the key functions of a spy is to uncover the truth, whether by seducing a leading army general, hacking into a computer, or intercepting a sensitive document.  Even in cases where the spy thinks that he or she has all the information, things are rarely what they seem -- even their employer might not be giving them the whole story.  And just like with any good mystery, the reader gets the pleasure of uncovering the clues along with the main character.  In this sense, a spy could be treated like a glorified detective, on an international scale.

2) Politics: The world of politics is the traditional setting of spy stories, though corporate espionage is also a perfectly legitimate topic.  Either way, the stakes in a spy story are absurdly high -- nations, economies, and administrations will rise and fall depending on the spy's success.

3) Hired hand: The spy is almost never the person involved directly in the intrigue.  Rather, he's an employee (or in some cases, a volunteer) hoping to advance a particular agenda.  Still, at the end of the day, the only benefit James Bond will take home is a hefty paycheck; the real beneficiary is Her Royal Highness.


Of course, few spy stories fall into one of these categories cleanly.  Still, here are some common tropes of spy stories to help inspire you.

Example: James Bond
Perfectly coiffed, perfectly dressed, this spy blends seamlessly into the very upperest of crusts.

Example: Mata Hari
This spy does their best work post-coitally, seducing secrets out of heads of state, military heroes, and the like.

Example: Silvia Broome in "The Interpreter"
This spy isn't a real spy. Rather, they get swept up into extraordinary events and can't help but get involved. These people often work alone, compelled to act when the powers-that-be don't believe their stories.

Examples: Jason Bourne in "The Bourne Identity"; Ethan Hunt in "Mission Impossible"
This spy can do it all: computer hacking, sharpshooting, hand-to-hand combat, and delicate negotiations.  They will often work as a lone wolf -- after all, they don't really need anyone else to succeed on a mission.

Example: Victor Lazslo in "Casablanca"; The Scarlet Pimpernel
This spy is not necessarily a government employee; rather, they may volunteer in service to a political cause to which they're devoted, such as the overthrow of an unjust regime.

Example: Johnny English; Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart"
This spy is often the most inept in their particular agency.  Maybe they're just clumsy yet underestimated; maybe they're true idiots.  Nevertheless, they always end up stumbling onto the right solution.

Example: Jack Bauer from "24"
This person is responsible for stopping spies.  Of course, this often means that they have to engage in a little espionage themselves.

Example: Col. Nicholson in "The Bridge on the River Kwai"
This spy's mission is to cause massive destruction, when all other avenues of negotiation seem closed.  Obviously, this topic should be dealt with sensitively; however, if the spy's cause is just enough, and the situation is hopeless enough, this type of story can be very powerful.

Examples: John Steed and Emma Peel in "The Avengers"; Tommy and Tuppence Beresford
These spies are inseparable, and always work better together than they do when they're apart.  The team can be as small as two people, or as large as an entire department (such as the Counter-Terrorism Unit on the show "24").  Each one should have a unique skill that the other members lack.


Not sure if any of you fuzzies and furries are interested?  If so, email Kirsten and let her know.  BTW, the airmail for Harry Rhimes came in at just under £19.00 for 280 sheets TESCO 75gsm Value, one of their £2.00 semi-transparent box files with the elastic closing bands, a CD with the files burned on it, and a large bubblewrap padded bag.

The business model seems to be based on a share of sales made with your material in it (something Accent/XCite have been doing for a while now) HOWEVER - I have not seen the contract, but according to the website(s) they are only looking for First US electronic/Web publishing only - so my intention is, provided this project makes it into 'print' is to finish the second HR novel, and ride that on the back of the completed serialisation in Rebel Tales (ie, us the fist in serial form to advertise the second as a potential paper - with the remaining rights still intact for the first novel.)

As I've mentioned to someone else before now - my own problems are many (no, stop it, it's too easy a feed line) and some revolve around my own snobbery in accepting Web as a 'respectable' form of publishing ("You're not published, dah-links, until you've slaughtered a forest!") - but I feel that this is something at least worth looking at.


And Here's To Minty Humbugs, She's A Real [that's more than enough of that! - Ed]
He's taken it out
And shaken it twice
Now he wants to know
If you like it naughty or nice?

It's that time of the year when Christmas settles on mother Earth like a successful invasion from planet Kitsch - but we still love it!

Here's wishing everyone who knows us A Very Merry Christmas and a suitably Wonderful 2011!

Right, I'm off to stick a carrot on the snowman, and surprise the turkey with half a pound of butter and an orange!

[I thought we agreed, no more Tory jokes! - Ed]

A Tip Of The Hat To The Spotlight Kid
Captain Beefheart died aged 69.  The first album I bought was an old American import of Safe As Milk, then Strictly Personal.  The rest is a history littered with amazement, enjoyment, and a continued listening to a back catalogue (though I could never, ever, get into Troutmask Replica - and believe me, I've listened to some seriously weird vinyl in my time.)

So now that the snow has settled, I've raised a small glass in honour of the Captain, and his memory will still keep the Big Eyed Beans from Venus alive.

Spare A Thought For These People (I'm One Of Them...)
After the last burst of news, here's a little more.  For some time I've been pushing to get my writing group up on line - and believe me, some of them make a basket full of kittens look evil, such is their bountiful good intent.  But now, as of this evening, I can say that

is officially up and running.  It's a long and political story involving various council grants, the lady Mayoress of Hertford (even though I'm a Hatfieldian these days - and anyway, her Ladyship talks more Essex than posh) and a lot of jumior arse-kissing from some of the members, but the website isn't that bad.

Nor is the Encounters anthology we've produced (schlepping in at a stuppingly impressive 312pp, professionally printed) in which I have three pieces (one short, one massive prose-poem, and one extract from a longer work - the remit was a max of 5,000 words the lot.

As usual, it's a case of when they're gone they're gone (Kate doesn't like the idea of PoD) and the rest of the material is actually very good (with almost no smiling gingerbread men or talking unicorns.  And believe me, Julia, those scars will take a *long* time to heal...)

Go on, it's actually worth the effort!


Krist!  Ya can't type, download, and multi-anything with Livejournal open, can you?  At least not without it throwing in some hi-ASC characters as well...

Maybe Not Quite Filthy Pro-Dom, but...
I've not been posting in here for some time, and for various reasons (one of which has been keeping Steve 'Boy' Green's need for episodes of Boardwalk Empire sated...)

Anyway, apart from getting the first rejection for the second novel (Jenklow & Nesbit rejected on the grounds their books were close to being full, despite having run ahead and asked about the state of their business...) I got an acceptance (other than bits of porn which, regardless and in difference of various comment, actually give me some good money, considering.  And please note, I did NOT use the expression 'Bangs Per Buck' - well, until now...)

However, from the strangest of places sometimes comes the strangest of news, and I've now have a piece of straight/mainstream fiction provisionally sold to those wonderful guys over at the Library Of The Living Dead Press.

Okay, so maybe Dr. Pus and The Grinder are editorial names which won't be appearing on the writing CV, and although LotLD originally centered around Zombie fiction, they've now branched out into SF anthologies (selling through Amazon, B&N, etc.)  Here's Bill (aka Grinder) with the news:

Congratulations!  Your story was selected to be published in Rockets, Swords, and Rainbows: New Stories of Science Fiction.  A table of contents will be listed on the Library of the Living Dead forum and a contract will be emailed to you once the manuscript has been edited.  Thank you again for submitting you story.

The story is a short piece of fiction (around 5,000 worms - sorry, words) called And Dream of Angels.

Okay, so maybe it's not the multi-million dollar contract I might have liked, but at least I know the quality of the writing has had something to do wtih it, mainly because Bill and the Dr. pay for, and fund their publications, out of what I would call non-commercial sources, bless them.  Just like the old fanzine days...

And if they want to buy stories about Humanids, Telepathic multi-coloured octopii and multi-organismed creatures with strange reproductive habits, then who am I to stop writing the stuff? 

And, as most of you old Furry Horde (ah, those little furries, and those not so little, from the old Skate Press/IDOMO days) know - it's all done in the best possible taste...  (yeah, right...  Actually, from what I've seen of the whole outfit and operation, they are professional and very good, and having beated off a lot of compteition I'm actually quite chuffed to be in the anthology.)

And the Royal Mail is losing money?
"Sending an International Reply Coupon with your mailing means the recipient can reply to you for free or by paying only part of the postage cost. You can buy the coupons from most large Post Office branches for just £1.40. Then whoever you send the coupon to can exchange it for international postage at a post office in their own country. They can be used to buy postage for anywhere in the world, not just to reply to the country they have been sent from.

"If you receive a coupon from abroad, just take it to the Post Office and exchange it for 67p worth of stamps. International Reply Coupons make it so much easier for you to keep in touch with friends and family in foreign lands.

"Please note: The current version of the International Reply Coupon has an expiry date of 31st December 2011. After this date, International Reply Coupons with this expiry date can no longer be exchanged for postage."

So I pay £1.40 for 67p's worth of postage?  No wonder the private sector want to get their fekking hands on this money-maker....

Coming Back In From The Cold Light Of Reality...

One of the reasons I've not been posting for some time is that I made a strange decision recently. It was in part influenced by something I read in Writer's News magazine, and also because at the time I thought it might actually be a useful resource.

I joined, and uploaded the Harry Rhimes novel.

For those not in the know, the Authonomy site is basically a massive databased slushpile run by HarperCollins. The routine is simple:


  1. Register your name, and then upload either several chapters or the whole thing (depending on whether or not you have a complete product to start off with.)

  2. Upload a cover for your work/work-in-progress.

  3. Write two pitches – one short (25 words, I think) and the other long (around 300 words – we're basically looking at the old back-cover blurb synopsis here.)


That puts you into the arena. Once you are on the database you are assigned a ranking, and your 'novel' is also assigned a ranking.

Your ranking is based on your ability to spot and comment on books which go up the chart, rather than down it.

The novel's ranking is based on the number of people/reviewers who have backed your book (put it on their bookshelf) and/or commented on it.

The further up the chart your novel progresses then the nearer you get to having your work 'critiqued' by a reader from HC.

As Rolf Harris says, “Can you see what it is yet?”

Within 10 minutes of loading up 79,500+ words, I had other members/writers such as Suzie Q, Texmex, and (so help me) Rev. Hardy, all telling me how fabulously wonderfully professionally written my novel was, and how they were backing it. Oh, and as per Authonomy netiquette, I was now supposed to back their offerings.


So I go to see Suzie Q's offering. It's incomplete, and reads like a first draft mémoire (and I strongly suspect the 'I' key on the keyboard must be the most worn of them all.)

is another incomplete offering, thankfully shorter that the Q, but if I wanted a James Bond clone I now know where to look.

Best for last, though. Rev. Hardy is on a mission from the Southern Baptist Army of God, and he takes no prisoners (despite it being Pro Life, Zero Tolerance from the first paragraph.)


Sorry, I may have been prepared to prostitute my writing self in regard to Suzie Q and Texmex, but I draw the line at the borderline Supremacist stuff. Though, on thumbing through other peoples' comments I found that both Suzie Q and TexMex thought the Reverend's upload was a 'fabulously wonderfully professionally written' book.


Meanwhile, from out of nowhere, I find my message box is now swamped by what are known as Blind Backer requests (the old 'you back mine, and I'll back yours') or disguised BBs in the form of Reading Swaps. There are also several interesting 'teams' at work – where a 'writer' asks you to back their work and then leave a message to three or four other 'readers'. These 'readers', on seeing the writer's novel on your bookshelf, will then back your book (this is disguised as Bonus Backing.)


After a couple of days I look over the comments in regard to the novel. Well believe me when I say this, but if the sun ain't shining where you are it's because my arse is pointing downwards and I'm standing up – as opposed to holding my ankles with my arse in the air.


Apart from the fact that I have always been told 'never come to market without a product to sell', most of the offerings on the site are incompletes or works in progress, and I'm left wondering if this isn't just a honey trap in order to keep unpublished writers out of the hair of agents and publishers.


As it is, I've heard nothing back from Crème de la Crime as yet – but it is still early days. I have my eye on Poison Pen Press (who are also handling Eric Mayer & Mary Gentle's historical writing) and maybe even Pill Hill (again, both over in the US – so will have to see if electronic submissions are okay.)


Then, of course, I'll be picking up an old copy of Writer's Handbook (2010 is far cheaper than the new one, and the information is virtually the same) and touting around the agents again. Who knows, maybe this time something will happen.


As it is, the second novel (Turncoat – Cheshire-based UK Police story with DI Fennick and DS Hansen – the first in a series of six-figure book deals, no doubt) has been finished and put aside for a month or so in order to let it settle. Then it will be edited properly.


Meanwhile, there is the second Harry Rhimes to get on with, plus submissions to Encounters (the Hertford Writers' Circle anthology.) Not sure what the plan is for that, but I've dropped three pieces into the pot, and the final anthology should be out in December. Printing cost around £800 for 300 copies, putting it at a break point of £4.00 per copy to absorb the freebie review and publicity copies. Should sell for £5.99 cover price – giving the seller £1.99 per unit shifted. Needless to say I shall be shamelessly plugging it around friends and family.

As they say at the vets – you have been wormed.


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