A new range of Doctor Who fiction ebooks? Yes, please

According to SFX magazine, BBC Books (an imprint of Ebury Publishing, which is itself an imprint of what is now Penguin Random House) is to start a new range of Doctor Who ebook fiction. Time Trips will be a range of 10,000-word self-contained short-story-cum-novellas, seemingly featuring any of the series’ eleven (to date) Doctors, priced at £1.99 each. At a later date, the stories will be collected for a print edition.

The first tranche of authors include Jenny Colgan (who, writing as JT Colgan, has already written the DW novel Dark Horizons), AL Kennedy, Nick Harkaway and Trudi Canavan.

As with the 50th anniversary Puffin ebooks which are being published at the rate of one a month, it seems that Ebury are looking outside the “traditional” pool of authors which created the first print novels after the series returned in 2005. This can only be a good thing – the wider the range of authors, the more variation in the worlds and challenges that the Doctor will face. I do hope that some of the authors whose DW novels I have enjoyed in the past haven’t said goodbye to the range for good, though – this is all about expanding the DW universe, not jumping to a new version.

It’s also notable that three of the four authors so far announced for Time Trips are women – which kind of puts the TV series’ own track record in perspective.

Series like Time Trips are a sign that traditional publishers are finding new ways to make digital publishing work that don’t just ape the old print-based systems. Random House’s Dan Franklin was on the panel for a special edition of BBC Click for which I was in the audience in April 2012, and  he really seemed to have his head screwed on. The involvement of the big guns doesn’t prevent the enterprising self-publishers from making a splash, too – if anything, providing mainstream quality products from traditional publishers helps ensure self-publishers work to the same standards, as well as providing the incentive for the growth in ebook reading to continue.

• Just a reminder that my own (non-fiction, unauthorised) Doctor Who ebook, Ten Things About Who, is available to buy from Amazon.co.uk. More details »

 

Arts 2.0: a catchup and an appeal

Since I last linked to my Arts 2.0 column for The Stage, I’ve written three new pieces. First off, the launch of the BBC iPlayer Radio app just three days after the combined BBC/commercial radio RadioPlayer app led me to look at both, as well as some of the other options for audio listening. I have to say that while I’ve used both those apps since, it’s the iPlayer app that I enjoy using the most. Once you’ve started listening, of course, you tend to leave the app – but the act of selecting which audio stream to listen to should be quick, and not feel like a chore. I think the Radioplayer has some way to go on that side of things, while iPlayer Radio is closer to nailing it.

Then last week, I looked at three magic trick apps for the iPhone. I remain to be convinced that custom apps can be effective sources of conjuring – close-up magic with real life objects is far more effective than working with pixels on a screen. John Archer’s Streets app works along the right lines because it uses the maps feature within the phone itself – or at least it did, until Apple dropped Google Maps for its own service with iOS 6.

Finally, this week the news about Radio 4 releasing the Letter From America archives got me thinking about all those dramas the station has commissioned over the years, but remain locked away due to contractual or other reasons. Recent radio productions of West End hits then led me to talk about archiving contemporary performances.

An appeal for help

I’ve got a few ideas for future columns, but if you have an arts-working-with-technology story you’ld like to pitch, please email me at scott [at] thestage.co.uk.

One thing I’d like to do for next week, to tie in with the start of NaNoWriMo, is look at digital tools that writers – of books, plays, or scripts for TV, film and radio – use. An initial appeal on Twitter brought up several references to Scrivener, which combines templates for several writing projects with the ability to store research notes. I’m not just looking for scriptwriting software, though – do you use anything to incentivise you to write a certain amount each day? Other applications (from Evernote to Pocket) to collate research materials? Anything digital to remove distractions and allow you to focus?

Whether it’s PC, Mac, iOS or based on another platform – or a piece of hardware gadgetry you can’t do without – I’d like to know about it. Use the comments box below or email me at the address above!

Coming soon: The Ghosts of Christmas

I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about getting a short story published, without going into further detail. Now, though, my publisher has announced full details, so I can officially go public. My story, Tell Me You Love Me, is going to be published in Big Finish’s forthcoming short story anthology, Short Trips: The Ghosts of Christmas.

I’ve been so excited about this, ever since Cavan and Mark first asked me to pitch. From that point on, really, I’ve had to keep pinching myself to believe that it was actually happening.

Thanks to Mark and Cavan, who gave me some great notes back from my early drafts, I’m really quite happy with the way the story has come out. Since handing it over and getting the final draft signed off, I’ve looked back at it and wondered if I could have done various bits better (I’m sure the answer will be ‘yes’ on all fronts). I suspect, though, that I’d never be completely happy with it.

The Ghosts of Christmas will be published in December.

A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon

Originally published on Gay.com UK

A group of university archaeologists are camped out in a Californian forest. One of the team, of Native American descent, is convinced the place is haunted – and the weird nighttime sounds that are spooking them all out are slowly convincing the rest of them.

It sounds more like the setup for an episode of Scooby Doo than a murder mystery, but the latest novel from Gay Men’s Press enters areas that Hanna-Barbera’s ‘Mystery Machine crew’ would never dare approach.

In A Dangerous Thing by Josh Lanyon, bookseller-turned-crime writer Adrien English escapes out to the Pine Shadow Ranch, bequeathed to him by his beloved grandmother, in the hope of overcoming his writer’s block and to sort out in his head his frustrating relationship with the S/M-obsessed LAPD detective that he met in Lanyon’s first book, Fatal Shadows.

Continue reading “A Dangerous Thing, by Josh Lanyon”

The Ropemaker’s Daughter, by Virginia Smith

Originally written for Gay.com UK

We’ve all told little white lies on a first date. First impressions matter, we’re always being told, so it pays to come across as interesting as possible. A little hint of thrill in one’s job here, a dark secret in a slightly-murky-but-not-threateningly-so past there. After all, if the relationship doesn’t go anywhere it’s not going to matter, and if it does, well, your new partner will look over such indiscretions. Right?

Wrong — at least, for the heroine of The Ropemaker’s Daughter, an amazing first novel by Virginia Smith. Rebecca is a habitual liar, concocting elaborate past histories with which to enthral men, safe in the knowledge that they’re not going to get to know her and so will never find out the truth — that she’s little more than a Southampton librarian. This is all well and fine, until she meets someone who’s an even better liar than she is. He claims he’s Adam, Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend who she dumped a year earlier, but she knows differently for two reasons. Firstly, he looks nothing like her ex — but more significantly, the real Adam had thrown himself off a cliff ten months earlier.

Rebecca enlists the help of Paige, a woman who also knows the fake ‘Adam’, to find out just who he is and why he’s tormenting her by posing as her late ex. As they do so, Rebecca finds out more about herself – including an increasing attraction to Paige.

Lovers of Barbara Vine will adore Smith’s plotting. The story propels itself along, with no twist ever feeling forced or unnatural. While the same can’t necessarily be said of some of the characters. Paige’s backstory, for example, is peppered with unusual and unbelievable cardboard cutouts. These, however, don’t detract from the sense of dramatic urgency.

The ending possibly suffers from being a little easy to guess, but with all great mystery novels it’s how you get there that matters, and ‘The Ropemaker’s Daughter’ takes you on a fantastic ride.

The Sacrifice, by Gordon Linton

Originally written for [Gay.com UK](http://uk.gay.com)

Anybody who’s grown up gay in a small village will know how important it can suddenly become when you meet someone like you; someone who shares your secret. Greg Chaley, the hero of new novel The Sacrifice, finds out when he meets Kit, in his school choir.

Two years older than he is, the androgynous older boy is immediately aware that Greg is different; not because he’s gay, but because, like himself, he has supernatural abilities. At first, Greg is sceptical. It is only after wishing a dreadful fate on his homophobic music teacher, who subsequently suffers a horrific car crash, that he begins to believe that Kit may have a point and that he really is not like other men.

Gordon Linton’s debut as a novelist follows the path of Greg’s dalliance with black arts through school and on into university. Whenever dark magic is used in fiction, there’s often a strong link with sex (Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s lesbian couple of Tara and Willow, concocting powerful spells together in their bedroom, being just one recent example). It’s the same case here: as Greg’s powers begin to grow, he meets and falls in love with the handsome Phillipe, only to find that their passionate lovemaking is channelling his powers into performing acts of criminal – and fatal – evil.

If the whole premise sounds hokey, it’s redeemed by the absolute seriousness with which it’s taken within the framework of the novel itself. When the plot dips into pure melodrama, the fact that the reader’s own scepticism is echoed by Greg’s own thoughts helps to propel the story onwards.

As the story is moves on to its inevitable climax, Linton for the most part manages to keep on the right side of the line that divides the fantastic from the faintly ridiculous. One of the least believable elements, though, is the manner in which the villain of the piece is despatched. While the method is just about plausible within the framework of the book, the fact that it needs to be explained a few pages later on is maybe a sign that its execution is weaker than it should be.

All in all, The Sacrifice is a satisfying, if at times undemanding, read.