Monday, 8 December 2014

A Warning to Readers and Writers Everywhere

There's a bit of a situation unfolding on Amazon right now - a user going by the name of "Jay Cute" has been uploading other people's books, slapping their name on them and hoping it will pass as one of their own.

For the past little while I've been scrolling through the pages of search results for "Jay Cute", one-star reviewing them all as the piss-poor attempts at plagiarism that they are.

It makes me really sad to think that somebody could really just take the work of another person and try to make money off of it like that. Authors spend months - heck, even years as I well know - drafting their book, going through the euphoric and frustrating process of shaping it into something readable, drowning their sorrows in their beverage of choice, et cetera... and then you get jerks like this who just disregard all of that and pinch it for a quick buck.

"Jay Cute"'s efforts really are bizarre, though. The stolen books have little to no product description, and the thief has made no attempt to conceal the name of the original author. They've just slapped their name on there somewhere, and more often than not the original author's name is quite clearly visible.

I'm scrolling and scrolling and it's becoming sickeningly obvious that there are quite a few victims of this crime. "Jay Cute" has victimised erotica authors, writers of chick-lit, non-fiction, there are a few covers in there that look fantasy-ish - but like I say, it's hard to tell with the vague or non-existent product description. I get the sense that "Jay Cute" is randomly stealing books to sell, not sticking to a particular genre. The prices vary as well, from about £1 - £6 that I've seen so far.

((Later, after many many reviews in which I began to lose the will to live and started copy-pasting "PLAGIARISM, AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE...IARISM" over and over))

Some of the stuff is downright confusing. They attempted to sell Kaje Harper's "Show Me Yours" (available for LEGITIMATE download on her Goodreads page) as "City of Bones" by Cassandra Clare?? Whuuuuu????

I've also been checking the reviews of other people on there who are calling this individual out and I've seen a few remarking that "Jay Cute" has other pages on Amazon, which probably means that they are going under several different names.

The whole situation just makes me sad. I'm sad that there are people out there who would do this, and I'm sad that Amazon has let so many plagiarised titles slip through to the point where the thief could actually make money off of them. And as a writer who was seriously contemplating going down the self-pub route, it makes me feel nervous and kinda unprotected. What is there out there to stop somebody doing this to one of my books in the future?

I dunno. I just thought I'd get this out there, so that writers and readers alike can become more aware of what this person is doing, and the risks. From what I've heard, people have been e-mailing and Amazon is aware of the situation, so hopefully soon we'll have a result.

People, don't plagiarise. And be wary when buying books online. Might be worth noting that these links probably won't work any more when Amazon resolves this, which will definitely be the best outcome.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Really Rad Roleplayers do Mutants and Masterminds

Mutants and Masterminds © Green Ronin Publishing

I'm not sure if I've written about this on here before, but I take part in a tabletop RPG every month with my roleplay group - the game is a superhero RPG called Mutants and Masterminds, and our particular game is set in the Marvel universe, in the North West of England. Our characters are brought together by a robbery at a bank that they all happen to be waiting in line at, and wind up joining MI13 as a superhero group known as the Liverbirds!

It's hilariously good fun, and more often than not we're all laughing so hard that we can't even roll our dice properly. We've had people falling on their own swords immediately after kicking ass, heroes who would happily bring a building down to stop an enemy despite there being civilians inside, vomit related PR disasters, emotional breakdowns involving bacon sandwiches, and whales using Twitter.

One of our members, the wonderful Laila, has been working hard to write a novel based on the crazy adventures of our heroes, and you can find her blog with all of our updates here. She has a bit of catching up to do because she trekked a part of the Sahara for charity recently but most of our adventures are there!

The players, our characters and their Twitter accounts are...

Me and my girl Indrani Abbott, codename Devi; a young British-Indian witch with a rat familiar called Thelma (go figure!) (@DeviTheMystic)

Anna's character Dr Willow Andrews, whose seductive superhero is the gorgeous Nymph. Due to her using her pheromone powers on everybody in the first session, and then me failing utterly by rolling a natural 1 in my efforts to resist, Nymph has the easily-flustered Devi wrapped around her little finger. She uses super-serum to give her skin a bark-like strength and appearance, and has power over plants and insects. (@woodenNymph)

Rhi plays Facade. Facade cannot remember her own name, has a propensity for punching things, and surprises me every session with her recklessness and disregard for everyone's safety. Even her own. She is hilarious. (@FuryAndFists)

Hannah plays Maeve Maddox, a magician's assistant and skilled telepath who goes by the name of Cassandra. She can mind swap, she enjoys singing in other people's heads, and she really hates the circus. (@CassMaze)

Laila's character Ellis Parker works in a museum by day, but when criminals are afoot she becomes the telekinetic sword-wielding Vixen. She goes between kicking ass and completely humiliating herself, usually one round after the other. (@CodeNameVixen)

Ren plays Iris Layla Caddigan-Yves, an ebony beauty with power over electricity, AKA Joules. She isn't particularly fond of people, and can teleport through the mains if needed, which is awesome! Unfortunately, Joules does not have a Twitter account.

Laura G, one of our newest members, plays a university student who accidentally acquires her powers after a drunken dare goes horribly wrong. Her tweets are golden. (@Distortion_KK)

And we have an enemy played by Katie; Victoria Bramhall, AKA Phreak, who isn't a superhero but is scarily gifted with technology and gave us a run for our money when she decided to go renegade. She will be back... (@PhreakTech)

Last but not least, mention must be made of our brilliant GM Pottsy, who doesn't play a hero as such but he plays our AI assistant, BOB - which stands for Battery Operated Brain. BOB helps us in our investigations, struggles on a daily basis to understand human beings, and ensures that everybody's bowel movements are normal. (@BatteryOBrain)

We have two more members waiting to begin - Jack, one of Hannah's friends, and my good friend of many many years, Laura F. Jack has a character created and ready for introduction, Laura F is still in the planning stages. It's all terribly exciting!

So there you have it! If you would like to get on board and follow this mad adventure, check out Laila's heroic novelisation efforts (seriously, the lass writes so fast to get it all down it's unbelievable!) and our characters' respective Twitter accounts. Some of our characters usually tweet and interact (read: bicker) during sessions. It's a lot of fun!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Book Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Those who know me well also know that it is dangerous to mention the name Patrick Rothfuss around me. His two books are burned, word by word, into my brain. Mention him around me and my eyes go faraway as I begin to gush about him and his blog and the beauty of his prose and how amazing his characters are and how gripping the plot of his Kingkiller Chronicle is and how excited I am for the third and final book in the trilogy and and and...

When I heard that Patrick Rothfuss was releasing a short novel featuring one of the characters from The Kingkiller Chronicle, I was thrilled. I found out that it was about Auri, one of the series' most intriguing characters, and I did several backflips of joy. And then I spotted, available for pre-order on the Waterstones website, a beautiful hardcover edition, SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR. I think I died; obviously I can't remember for sure, most likely because I was dead. Somebody was kind enough to resurrect me - probably Jason because he's the White Mage of our group and all - and you're damn right I hurled exactly 1299 pennies at the computer screen.

Obviously it was a pre-order, and so took some time to arrive. I kinda forgot about it for a while because I'm easily distracted. But a few weeks later, a parcel arrived...

It's beautiful!

I haven't been able to read it what with all the NaNo business and busyness, but in the last few days while I'd hit 50k and was winding down, I decided to give this book the read it was crying out for.

And... wow. How do I describe it? It was not what I expected from a book, but exactly what I expected from a book about Auri. Does that make any sense? It's joyous, bittersweet, sad and beautifully strange, and full of the childlike excitement and wonder that endears Auri to so many readers in The Name of the Wind. Rothfuss structures the book so neatly, so perfectly, that Auri herself would be proud.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is bizarre in that it has no dialogue. Apart from the brief appearance of an unnamed little girl who spots Auri during the book, there are no other humans shown. We see footprints, we hear the clamour of life echoing down from the world above, but Auri is the only person we meet.

It's wonderful. I am a total sucker for unusual books like this. When the writer does well, they are amazing. And here, Patrick Rothfuss has done very, very well indeed, because despite the lack of dialogue and the singular human character, it is such a gripping read. Auri's only company in the Underthing are the various objects she picks up along her journey - sprigs of lavender, jars and bottles, long lost perfumes, broken cogs - and like her, we grow attached to these objects as she seeks to put the world right and find a proper place for them. We feel her pain when things are moved, or seem out of place. We are overcome with fascination as she explores these long lost rooms buried deep in the ground. We quiver with excitement as the days pass by and her unnamed but very much known friend comes closer to visiting.

Also strange is the fact that the book doesn't feature action and conflict on the same level as The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear. But again, because this is a story about Auri, it works. We watch her exploring, and the excitement comes from discovering new places with her. There are terrifying moments such as when she swims to grab the brass cog in The Yellow Twelve, unsettling moments such as when she fears that people might be coming into the Underthing to disrupt her peculiar perfection. On page 77, a short chapter titled 'Hollow', my heart simply broke.

Of course, we have got to look at Nate Taylor's gorgeous illustrations. They're so clean, and detailed - they remind me of something from a fairy story. He captures Auri's innocence wonderfully too, her slight appearance, her cloud of bright golden hair, the vastness and mystery of the Underthing in which she resides. The full-page illustrations are stunning. Some of the pages are 'framed' by what I would describe as studies of some of the Underthing's architecture and it works brilliantly to really draw you in to the setting.

As a voracious reader and aspiring artist and writer myself, this book complete with Nate's illustrations was like tucking into a big, fat strawberry covered in chocolate. Delicious, sweet, the perfect treat that leaves you wanting more. The whole thing together is a work of art in itself; I am so impressed.

I literally do not have any qualms with it. I know that probably makes me a shitty reviewer, but at the same time I'm not the sort to whip problems out of thin air. The only thing I would say is that I definitely recommend reading at least The Name of the Wind before picking up The Slow Regard of Silent Things. It will lose none of its mystery if you do, but a few bits here and there would make a little more sense, and you would probably be a bit more invested in the story having drummed up a bit of curiosity! Plus the series is just awesome anyway. GO. GO AND READ IT.