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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Man Booker longlist truly international

There are some fearfully familiar names there,and some exciting new ones, including a debut novel from New Zealand

Official announcement

The longlist, or ‘Man Booker Dozen’, for the £50,000 Man Booker Prize is announced today, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges chaired by Michael Wood, and also comprising Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, John Burnside, Sam Leith and Frances Osborne. The judges considered 156 books for this year’s prize.

This is the second year that the prize, first awarded in 1969, has been open to writers of any nationality, writing originally in English and published in the UK.  Previously, the prize was open only to authors from the UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe.

The 2015 longlist, or Man Booker ‘Dozen’, of 13 novels, is:

Author (nationality) - Title (imprint)
Bill Clegg (US) - Did You Ever Have a Family (Jonathan Cape)           
Anne Enright (Ireland) - The Green Road (Jonathan Cape)
Marlon James (Jamaica) - A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld Publications)
Laila Lalami (US) - The Moor's Account (Periscope, Garnet Publishing)
Tom McCarthy (UK) - Satin Island (Jonathan Cape)
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) - The Fishermen (ONE, Pushkin Press)
Andrew O’Hagan (UK) - The Illuminations (Faber & Faber)
Marilynne Robinson (US) - Lila (Virago)           
Anuradha Roy (India) - Sleeping on Jupiter (MacLehose Press, Quercus)
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) - The Year of the Runaways (Picador)
Anna Smaill (New Zealand) - The Chimes (Sceptre)
Anne Tyler (US) - A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto & Windus)
Hanya Yanagihara (US) - A Little Life (Picador)

Chair of the 2015 judges, Michael Wood, comments:
‘We had a great time choosing this list. Discussions weren’t always peaceful, but they were always very friendly. We were lucky in our companions and the submissions were extraordinary. The longlist could have been twice as long, but we’re more than happy with our final choice.

‘The range of different performances and forms of these novels is amazing. All of them do something exciting with the language they have chosen to use.’

The judges were struck by the international spectrum of the novels, with the longlist featuring three British writers, five US writers and one apiece from the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, India, Nigeria and Jamaica. Marlon James, who currently lives in Minneapolis, is the first Jamaican-born author to be nominated for the prize. Laila Lalami, now based in Santa Monica but born in Rabat, is the first Moroccan-born.

One former winner, Anne Enright, is longlisted. The Irish writer won the prize in 2007 with The Gathering. She is joined by two formerly shortlisted British writers: Tom McCarthy (2010, C) and Andrew O’Hagan (1999, Our Fathers, and longlisted for Be Near Me, 2006). US author Marilynne Robinson has been shortlisted for Man Booker International Prize twice, in 2011 and 2013.

There are three debut novelists on the list: Bill Clegg, Chigozie Obioma and Anna Smaill.
Four independent publishers are on the list, with Garnet Publishing and Pushkin Press appearing for the first time.

The shortlist and winner announcements
The shortlist of six books will be announced on Tuesday 15 September at a press conference at the London offices of Man Group, the prize’s sponsor.

The 2015 winner will then be announced on Tuesday 13 October in London’s Guildhall at a black-tie dinner that brings together the shortlisted authors and well-known figures from the literary world. The ceremony will be broadcast by the BBC.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hazards of international travel

While it's not likely you'll be banished from the ship to make an epic small-boat voyage, there are traps you can avoid while voyaging overseas.

These commonsense tips come from Southern Cross Travel Insurance, and are well worth passing on.

1. That friendly pickpocket.  If a helpful local comes too close -- to brush bird poo off your shoulder, perhaps -- beware of swift fingers.  Your pants pocket is no place to keep your wallet.  If you have a purse with a shoulder strap, wear it under your jacket instead of outside it.

2. Flyers slipped under your door.  The idea of ordering in a meal from the menu slipped under your hotel door by a local Asian restaurant might seem tempting, but the big chance is that they're just after your credit card info.  No matter how tired you might be, it is better to go out and fetch the food yourself, or eat in the hotel coffee house.

3. Wi-fi.      Free wi-fi can be expensive wi-fi.   If you are doing anything risky online, like banking or buying, it is much better to log on with a password.  If your hotel advertises free wi-fi, it will usually provide the password that is specific to your room.  Ask at the desk of the coffee shop or restaurant when you take a table, as it is often part of the service.  Or pay at a respectable-looking internet cafe. 

4. Those freebies.  Beware of friendly locals with free postcards, flowers, beers and so forth.  They want you to buy something, and if you don't they make such a commotion that you pay them to go away.

5. That late night/ early a.m. call from the front desk.   Your phone wakes you up, and the "front desk" wants to check your credit card details.  The chances are it is not the front desk.  Put on a coat and go down to check.  Or put down the phone, then ring the front desk and ask if they have just made the call.

6. Fake police.  A man in a uniform slaps you with an instant fine.  He probably doesn't speak English, but insist on going with him to the station, to pay the fine there.

7. Slow service.  The clerk is so slow at counting out your change that you become rushed and impatient, and take that change without checking it.  Chances are that he has pocketed a fair proportion of it.

8. And we all know about corrupt cabbies.  Negotiate your fare before you get in.  Watch your luggage as it is loaded.  If you're with someone else, have the other person check that all the luggage is unloaded at the destination before you get out yourself.  And make sure your smart phone has a google map app, so the driver can't inflate the fare with a roundabout route.    

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Indie Bestsellers

GalleyCat's self-published bestsellers

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of July 22, 2015
1. Paradise Falls by Abigail Graham: “For five years, I’ve lived in fear. No one will stop my stalker. Nobody can – his father is a senator. Alone and powerless, I couldn’t run, couldn’t hide, couldn’t escape. Then I met Jacob.”

2. Flawed Love: House of Obsidian by Bella Jewel: “Rainer Torrence is everything I could have wanted in my life and more. He became my best friend when I was Thirteen years old. From then on, we were inseparable. He was my first love and my first heartbreak.”

3. Player by Joanna Blake: “James Fitzpatrick might have started out on the wrong side of the tracks, but his skills on the football field have brought him fame and glory. Now he’s forgotten where he came from.”

4. The Allure of Julian Lefray by R.S. Grey: “Lily, you predictable perv. I knew you’d open this email faster if I tempted you with a glimpse of JT’s “PP”. Well, put your pants back on and grab some bubbly because I have much better news to share.”

5. Flawed Heart: House of Obsidian by Bella Jewel: “I met him in college, and I fell in love. It was a beautiful love, pure and perfect. Max quickly became everything I could have ever wanted. He was the jock, the popular guy, and I was just Belle. But he made me so much more.”

6. The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington: “As a student of the Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war fought – and lost – before he was born. Despised by most beyond the school walls, he and those around him are all but prisoners as they attempt to learn control of the Gift. Worse, as Davian struggles with his lessons, he knows that there is further to fall if he cannot pass his final tests.”

7. Sacrifice by Adriana Locke: “My life changed forever the night my husband died. I was left with a shattered heart, a heap of bills, and our daughter, EVERLEIGH. I don’t want to rely on anyone, least of all CREW GENTRY. He’s my first love and the man who almost destroyed me, the man who has let me down every time I’ve needed him.”

8. Finding the Right Girl by Violet Duke: “Brian Sullivan has been in love twice in his lifetime. He lost his first love to early-onset Huntington’s, and he lost the other more recently…to his brother. And somehow, his heart has managed to heal itself after both. Amazingly, without therapy.”

9. Sinfully Mine by Kendall Ryan: “As my best friend’s little sister, Macey Hale was off-limits. Tempting as sin, and forbidden as fuck. I wish I could say that stopped me. I wish I could tell you I behaved like a gentleman.”

10. The Virgin Duet by Alexa Riley: “A gorgeous, obsessive, billionaire alpha. A curvy, sassy bombshell from the wrong side of the tracks. Both virgins… When Becs and Bray make an arrangement, they have no idea what it will lead to – sexual desires and lust that cannot be contained.”

Smashwords Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of July 22, 2015

1.  Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and Skills by George J. Siedel

2. Third Reality Revealed: Vision, Persistence, and Inventing a New Latino Identity 

3. Methods of Pulse Differentiation and Assessment 辨脉平脉法 Biàn Mài Píng Mài Fǎ 

4. Third Reality: Crafting a 21st Century Latino Agenda 

5.  Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental Development 

6. Next of Kin 

7. 2015 New York Giants Almanac 

8. Principles of Biology: Animal Systems: A Tutorial Study Guide (box set) 

9. Stocks on the Move – Beating the Market with Hedge Fund Momentum Strategies 

10. Depth Astrology: An Astrological Handbook – Volumes 1-4 (Introduction, Planets in Signs, Planets in Houses, Planets in Aspect) 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Russian Mega-capitalist's yacht in New Zealand

When Communism died, the opportunists took over.  And we have a sign of that here.

In the news

The biggest superyacht to visit New Zealand has berthed at Auckland's Wynyard Wharf because it is too big for the dedicated big boat marina.

The 134m Serene slipped into port early today, tying up around 7.45am, and watched by a sprinkling of onlookers who were taking pictures of the towering craft at the end of the Tank Farm wharf.
The yacht is owned by Yuri Schefler, a vodka tycoon who is understood to be holidaying in New Zealand for several weeks.

Asia Pacific Superyachts NZ has arranged the visit and is providing services for it while it is here. Managing director Duthie Lidgard said the $423 million Serene will be the biggest superyacht to visit this country.

Details from yacht charter websites show the vessel has a helicopter hangar, two helipads and a submarine hangar. There is an underwater viewing space and the vessel has 12 luxurious staterooms for 24 guests who are tended by up to 52 crew.

Tell the truth, I think this is gross.  Last night, I watched a disturbing and very well acted film called "Cargo."   It told the story of a Russian girl who was desperate to Make It in the USA -- so desperate that she was sucked in by people smugglers, and paid $3000 to get to Mexico, on the promise that they would get her into the United States and find her a contract.

She was told she would be an actress, of course.

Instead, she was kidnapped, and then thrown into the back of a van, driven by an Egyptian who had been paid $3000 to convey her to a strip club/brothel in New York, where she would be put to work.

A small film, and yet a great film, that makes you wonder about the conditions "back home" that send these desperate people to try to find a better life in another country.

Makes you wonder why the vodka billionaire isn't spending money on a bit of charity.  Back home.

And what the devil is he doing here in the middle of winter?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Castaways in Dystopia

The Maze Runner

Courtney Druett (oldest granddaughter) told me she desperately wanted the book.  She had seen the film, and she always wants to read the book of a movie she loved.

So I bought it for her, packaged and posted it, and remained curious.  What was it like?

The movie came out.  We saw it.  Terrific.  Effects were amazing.  In fact, the effects were so great that while I could remember the story and the message (human laboratory rats in a maze), I could not remember the characters.

So I read the book.

Better than the movie.  Great, gritty writing.  But the real plus of this book is the characters.  The teenaged boys who are trapped by "the Creators" in a great, stone, ever-moving maze where hideous creatures called "Grievers" lurk, are just so admirable.

They live in the innermost section of the Maze, called the Glade (so they are Gladers).  There is constant sun and water, and the soil works, so they set to making an environment where they can survive.  Like the amazing Grafton castaways I describe in Island of the Lost, they create shelter and food.  On Auckland Island, where the Grafton castaways were stranded, the climate was just too hostile to grow anything, so they were forced to slaughter the local wild life.  In the Glade, they establish a farm and a plantation.

But all the time, they are desperate to get out.  Then Thomas arrives, and he has a number of ideas.  Hugely dangerous ones, but they ultimately work, in an edge-of-extermination situation.  And so on to the sequels, which I can't wait to read.

It was the castaway situation that fascinated me.  These boys were very bright.  They understood three basic tenets:


Have rules. Act as part of a group.  Elect leaders and obey them.  And keep busy.

There were echoes of other books.  Lord of the Flies, for one  And the other was Clockwork Orange.

Dashner's theme of leadership is reflective of the first.  What he lacks is the pseudo-religion that the boys evolved -- worship of a pig's head, as a symbol of hope, penance and aspiration.  The Grafton castaways in Island of the Lost depended greatly on standard Christian piety, of the Presbyterian persuasion.  And you may scoff, but it worked (read the book).

In Clockwork Orange -- which is basically about a group stranded in a social stratum, when you think about it -- the boys had their own language.  Burgess did this absolutely brilliantly.  Dashner has a go at a Glader patois, but it is the least successful part of the book, because it does not quite come off.

Otherwise, The Maze Runner is a tour de force.  Brilliant stuff.  Read it. Don't leave it to the kids.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Book Giveaway For Water Ghosts

  • Water Ghosts by Linda Collison
    Water Ghosts
    Release date: Jun 01, 2015
    trade paperback YA/Adult novel

    "I see things other people don't see; I hear things other people don't hear."

    Fifteen-year-old James McCafferty is an un…more
    Giveaway dates: Jul 18 - Jul 25, 2015
    10 copies available, 239 people requesting
    Countries available: US, CA, and GB more

  • Closed to entries in: 7 days and 10:05:53
    Rate this book

    Friday, July 17, 2015

    Another book from the author of WATER GHOSTS

    One has to admire the energy and talent of Linda Collison, author of the acclaimed young adult novel, WATER GHOSTS.  With scarcely a pause for breath, she is launching yet another book.

    Twenty years ago (she confides in a blog post) I wrote a novel, one of my first, and entered it in the 1996 Maui Writers Conference Contest — where producer/director/actor Ron Howard would be the featured speaker. The working title was “With a Little Luck” and it won the grand prize that year.   In September the book will at last be published through my imprint, Fiction House, Ltd. under the new title, Blue Moon Luck.

    Blue Moon Luck, one of my earliest novels, was originally titled “With a Little Luck.” I wrote the first draft in 1995 — it took me about six months — then entered it in the 1996 Maui writers Contest, judged that year by best-selling authors John Saul, Elizabeth Engstrom and Don McQuinn. Call it intuition, call it delusional thinking, but I had a good feeling about that story. I had a hunch that, with any luck, “With a Little Luck” could win.

    The erstwhile Maui Writers Conference was a big deal. Held at Maui’s flamboyant Grand Wailea Resort, it brought together authors, hungry literary agents, top editors of the big New York publishing houses, playwrights, screen writers and Hollywood movie directors. In 1996 Ron Howard and Jackie Collins were featured speakers. All of this high profile razzle dazzle was funded by a thousand eager, emerging writers with disposable income who believed they too, had a manuscript that could, with the right agent and editor, win the Pulitzer, make the New York Times Best Seller list, or be optioned for a movie. Although there were lectures and workshops that were designed to help writers improve their craft, what really made the Maui Writers Conference seem magical was the possibility of discovery. Though chances were miniscule, that’s what we all dreamed of.

    I was one of those hopefuls who spent $495 (not including airfare or hotel) to spend a long weekend on Maui, where I never once dipped a sandy toe in the ocean. Like most of the attendees, when I wasn’t attending lectures or workshops I was feverishly rehearsing for the coveted fifteen-minute pitch sessions with agents and editors – sessions we hoped would earn us an invitation to send the manuscript to their attention, with the secret code to put on the envelope that would get it past the hack assistant who was prone to placing brilliant manuscripts in the slush pile.

    A few weeks before the Labor Day Weekend conference someone called to tell to me “With a Little Luck” was among the ten finalists — and to invite me to join the others in an intensive two-day workshop led by Saul, Engstrom and McQuinn. I was ecstatic. Yes! Maui, or bust! Since I was living on the neighboring Big Island at the time, it wasn’t such a long or expensive journey to get to the Valley Isle, though it was an emotional ride, for sure.

    Read the rest of the story

    Blue Moon Luck is being reviewed by Kirkus and Foreword Reviews. Other interested reviewers can receive an electronic advance review copy upon request to or by contacting the author directly. 

    Wednesday, July 15, 2015

    The fighting Temeraire .... dragon

    Years ago, I taught English as well as biology, and had the usual trouble getting reluctant readers interested in books.  Then I talked the school into buying a class set of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, first because it was attractive to girls (pony-owning girls, in particular), second because it was the first in a series (which hopefully would tempt the lassies into reading more), and third, because I loved the book so much myself.

    It was an inspired move.  The girls loved it.  One who had been a very reluctant reader became hooked.  She used to buy the latest in the series, read it, tell me about it, and then insist on lending it to me.  She went to university and studied for an arts degree, and went in for film-making. 

    So there was a success story.

    For those who don't know the Pern Dragons series, it is based on a planet named Pern, where the dominant life form is a dragon genus, which includes species of small "fire lizards" and proper large dragons.  Their talents and qualities are defined by their color.  The queen, of course, is golden.  The planet is also periodically threatened by a poisonous fungus from the sky, called Thread.  Only dragons can fight thread, guided by telepathic contact with their riders.  Great, imaginative stuff.

    It was probably because of this background that my attention was caught by an item in the local paper reporting that our local film guru, Sir Peter Jackson, had bought the film rights to a book about fighting dragons and their riders, called Temeraire. However, I only got around to reading it this week, and then by accident.  I was having trouble with Override, the engine for borrowing eBooks from the Wellington library service, and finally managed to download Temeraire as part of the struggle.  It was just part of the experiment, but of course I read it.

    As expected, Novik is obviously inspired by McCaffrey.  For me, the dragons are very recognisable.  They could hop over to Pern any day of the week, and merge into the scenery.  Just as with Dragonflight, for the millions of girls reading Novik's books, the dragons are the ultimate flying ponies.  Temeraire himself is very attractive, though.  A charming character, very easy to love.   Heart strings are pulled.

    What I didn't expect was that Novik is also obviously inspired by Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander books.  Her dragons are His Majesty's dragons, in the service of King George III, helping His Majesty's Navy to fight Napoleon. So, clever, clever, she is linking two hugely popular genres -- fantastical dragons, and the Age of Nelson.  And, what's more, the dialogue and social niceties are right out of Jane Austen.  And she does it very well indeed.

    I'll be reading more.

    Monday, July 13, 2015

    Amazing try

    I like watching rugby league, particularly when the teams are Kiwi or Australian.  It might be confrontational, but the hands are so very sure.  Miraculously so.  And the speed is amazing.  And the agility.

    But I have never seen a try like this before:

    Since I posted this video, there has been concern expressed that the maneouvre was dangerous -- that Friend could have landed on his head.  While rugby of whatever convention is confrontation, physical, and all that, thousands of men (and young women) play it throughout the winter without significant damage.  And, in this case, there was no deliberate pile-driving, or the lance-tackling that can turn a strong man into a quadriplegic.

    What is amazing about this try, is that Friend knew exactly where everyone was standing on the pitch, and threw the ball between his legs, while upside-down, to a chosen target.  And, from there, the try was made.  Outstanding. But what is perhaps even more admirable is that the player he tipped over used his hands to steady Friend as he came down.  That was sportsmanship.

    The try was repeated a lot on TV.  We watched it on the Crowd Goes Wild.  The young female reporter was game enough to try it with Field as her opposing player.  She managed it, with his help, and everyone had a good laugh. 

    Sunday, July 12, 2015

    Bureaucratic gobbledegook


    For some time the misuse of language has fascinated/annoyed me, (he says) as has the meaningless pomposity of so much of what issues from administrators. Lately I have worked up a composite of such phrases, and today I can offer this, below:

    It is not rocket science to be able to see, with 20:20 hindsight, that the elephant in the room was caught between a rock and a hard place. It had been moving forward to a new conceptual paradigm when the sky fell in.

    Was its holistic strategy innovative at this moment in time? Absolutely! The elephant was jump-starting an integrated quantum appreciation that would reach out to leverage an impactful resolution of the human resources conundrum which had gone missing. This could have been very uniquely game-changing. Unfortunately, its environmental metrics were not optimised to 110 percent scalability solutions. This challenged its platform's 360 degree sustainability, resulting in negative bandwidth at the end of the day.

    As it is the 'silly season', (he concludes) I offer this as an opening challenge for your blog pages. Invite other authors to submit their own compilations of hated and despised gobbledygook, and have some fun. 

    So there you have it.  Any bureaucratic double-speak that has annoyed you lately?  Or you might have fun making up your own!  Let's hear the result!

    Hornblower reincarnated

    Review of James L. Nelson's latest in the Wall Street Journal

    By James L. Nelson 
    Thomas Dunne, 323 pages, $26.99

    In O’Brian’s Wake
    The obligatory storms and battles test the hero’s nerve. But Nelson makes these maritime staples feel fresh.
    July 10, 2015 5:05 p.m. ET
    Dr. Johnson thought that serving on a ship was like being in jail, only worse. He had no experience of the sea but had learned enough of its dangers, hardships and horrors. Winston Churchill, twice First Lord of the Admiralty—that is, the minister responsible for the Royal Navy—once replied to an admiral who had spoken of its traditions that these for the Royal Navy—once replied to an admiral who had spoken of its traditions that these were “rum, sodomy and the lash”; fair enough.

    But the British (and Americans of the eastern states) have always been sea-faring people, and there is a rich library of naval fiction. Some of it, such as Joseph Conrad’s sea novels or Nicholas Monsarrat’s World War II best seller, “The Cruel Sea,” has been set in the time it was written. But much, not surprisingly, is historical. In England, C.S. Forester’s Hornblower novels, centered on the wars against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, long held the field. I delighted in them as a teenager and haven’t read them since, but I suspect that they stand up pretty well to the passage of time. This, after all, is one of the strengths of good historical fiction—it doesn’t date. As Richard Snow once wrote about Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin sequence, which runs to 21 books: “Times change, but people don’t.” O’Brian’s series, written over 30 years, acquired cult status and was admired by thousands who normally don’t read historical fiction, even by many who shrink from sea novels.

    I don’t know if the same is true of James L. Nelson’s fiction, but on the evidence of his latest novel, “The French Prize,” (Thomas Dunne, 323 pages, $26.99) it certainly should be. Mr. Nelson’s publishers advertise it as being for fans of Forester, O’Brian andDewey Lambdin (author of the Alan Lewrie novels), but it doesn’t really need this recommendation. Mr. Nelson—what a name for an author of sea fiction—has already written a “Revolution at Sea” saga, featuring a character named Isaac Biddlecombe, an American naval hero of the War of Independence. “The French Prize” is the first novel in a new sequence; its hero is Isaac Biddlecombe’s son, Jack, who has just been given his first command as captain of a merchant ship.

    Jack is an engaging, if quick-tempered, hero and already a masterly seaman, but his command is not what he thinks it is. On the contrary, he is a pawn in a bigger game, set up to engage in an encounter with a French man-of-war that will make it look as if the American government is provoking a war against Revolutionary France. For this purpose, his employer has provided him with cannon and saddled him with a passenger, a “faux bonhomme,” who at first seems a good chap but is anything but. The political intrigue and on-shore scenes are well and convincingly done, but the real action, happily, takes place at sea, and this is terrific, compelling stuff.

    Sea novels have certain conventions. A storm or two will threaten to wreck the ship, and there must be at least one battle described in vivid detail. Both storm and battle must test the hero’s nerve and ability to command. All this is more or less obligatory; the remarkable thing is that Mr. Nelson makes it seem fresh and new. His knowledge of sailing ships and how to handle them is profound, and he writes with such clarity and conviction that even a landlubber like the present writer can follow the action and be gripped by it.Yet as Robert Louis Stevenson suggested, writing of his favorite novel, Alexandre Dumas’s “Le Vicomte de Bragelonne,” “epic variety and nobility of incident” are not by themselves enough. They must be “based in human nature.” Well, Mr. Nelson’s Jack is more than an action hero; the novel is partly the story of his moral education. The faux bonhomme is not his only passenger. There is also a supercilious, well-born young cub named Wentworth, who introduces himself as “of the Boston Wentworths.” Jack takes an instant dislike to him, while Wentworth despises Jack as an ill-mannered boor. The two snap and snarl, but in the course of the novel they will learn better, and the tension will be resolved—to the benefit of their characters. I hope that Wentworth as well as Jack will feature in the sequel to “The French Prize.” They could become as compelling a double act as O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin.

    Friday, July 10, 2015

    Kindle Scout

    Yet another initiative from Amazon ...

    Introducing Kindle Scout
    Introducing Kindle Scout, a new reader-powered publishing program where readers help discover the next great books. 

    Submit your book to Kindle Scout and be considered for a publishing contract with Kindle Press in 45 days or less. We welcome submissions for English-language books in the following genres: romance, mystery & thriller, science fiction & fantasy, and literature & fiction.

    If chosen for publication, you receive:
    ·   Guaranteed advance & competitive royalties: A $1,500 advance and 50% eBook royalty rate.
    ·   Focused formats: We acquire worldwide publication rights for eBook and audio formats in all languages. You retain all other rights, including print.
    ·   5-year renewable terms: If your book doesn't earn $25,000 in royalties during the initial 5-year contract term, and any 5-year renewal term after that, you can choose to stop publishing with us.
    ·   Easy reversions: After two years, rights in any format or language that remains unpublished, or all rights for any book that earns less than $500 in total royalties in the preceding 12-month period, can be reverted upon request--no questions asked.
    ·   Early downloads & reviews: One week prior to release date, everyone who nominated your book will receive a free, early copy to help build momentum and customer reviews.
    ·   Featured Amazon marketing: Your book will be enrolled into the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.
    We believe authors thrive with options. If you value an advance, creative control, competitive royalties and marketing opportunities--this new program might be perfect for you. Learn more.

    Sunday, July 5, 2015

    Shipbuilders and the craze for cruise ships

    When I wrote the post about the nine new cruise ships arriving on the scene, I wondered where these ships were being built.  Now, thanks to Brian Easton and The Economist, I know that it is not China.  It is not Japan.  It is not Taiwan.

    Surprise, surprise, it is in Europe.

    Two massive new MFC ships (not in my list, because they arrive somewhat later) are being built at Fincantieri’s Monfalcone yard near Trieste in northern Italy. Their construction began on June 22, when a switch was flipped to cut the first steel plate.  The order is worth 5.7 billion US dollars.

    On June 15th Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise operator, revealed details of an agreement to buy four whoppers from Meyer Werft in Germany and Meyer Turku in Finland. 

    Of the 32 cruise ships on firm order, 30 are being built in Europe, says SEA Europe, a maritime-industry group.

    Why this craze for building cruise ships?  Anyone who is blitzed with advertisements from sites of the like of Avoya or Vacations to Go, or even one's own travel agent, knows that there is intense competition out there.  And cruising is just a sub-set of the travel industry as a whole.

    It is because the demand is rising.  As the operators find new avenues to make cruising more attractive, and more and more people take on board the simple fact that a cruise ship is a hotel on water, providing three-plus meals a day, all housekeeping, and often world-class entertainment, as well as conveyance from one interesting place to another, for one set fee, they realise -- as one cruise line phrases it -- that this is the way to holiday.

    Over twenty-two million took a cruise last year.  Twelve million were from America, six million from Europe, and I know for a fact that Australians are enthusiasts.  Asians are starting to buy into the trend.  The market is expanding beyond the classic (and I love this) "Newly weds, Over-feds, and Nearly Deads" that are the traditional customers.  Thus, we have the floating theme parks that I described in the previous post, designed to appeal to different generations and differing tastes.

    Who knows how long it will keep growing?  And how long the fad will last?  The cost is so high, and the ship so complicated to manage that the operators could easily become tired of it all even before the fashion expires.  As The Economist points out, it took ten years for MSC, a cargo shipping company, to establish itself and start making a profit.  And then there is the occasional disaster, ranging from a nasty outbreak of norovirus to the actual sinking of the ship. 

    But meantime, the trend is keeping European shipyards busy. 

    Thursday, July 2, 2015

    Competition in cruising

    One wonders whether the market can stand it, but NINE ships from seven different cruise lines are scheduled to embark on their maiden voyages between October 2015 and February 2017.  And the ship yards have been busy -- eight are brand new, and the ninth is an expensive refurbishment.

    And here they are, in order of appearance, as they say in movie credits ....

    Norwegian Escape (4,200 passengers)

    The 163,000-ton Norwegian Escape will be Norwegian's largest ship to date. It will boast the biggest ropes course at sea, with 99 different elements to challenge guests. There also will be a kid-size course for young guests who want to test their skills.

    The Norwegian Escape debuts October 29, 2015. 

    Viking Sea (930 passengers)
    Viking Cruises

    This 5.5-star ship will sport a modern Scandinavian design and be outfitted with two pools (including one cantilevered off the stern), a two-deck Explorer's Lounge at the bow and a Nordic-inspired spa (here, guests can go from the sauna to the "snow grotto," where snowflakes drift down from the ceiling through the chilled air).  All cabins will have verandas. Itineraries have been designed to maximize time in port, with the ship often staying until late evening or overnight.

    The Viking Sea debuts April 3, 2016.

    Ovation of the Seas (4,905 passengers)
    Royal Caribbean

    The Ovation of the Seas is the third vessel in Royal Caribbean's Quantum class, joining Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. Unique features on board include a simulated skydiving experience; the North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule at the end of a mechanical arm that lifts occupants more than 300 feet above the sea; and the Bionic Bar, where two robotic bartenders shake or stir your favorite cocktail.  (I wonder if they want a tip?)

    And here is an utterly new angle -- interior staterooms provide virtual views of real-time scenery on floor-to-ceiling HD screens.  And (dear lord) there are roller skating and bumper cars for the kids

    The Ovation of the Seas debuts April 17, 2016. 

    Sirena (684 passengers)

    Oceania will acquire the Ocean Princess from Princess Cruises and give it a $40 million refurbishment at a shipyard in Marseille, France. Next year, it will launch as the Sirena. Key features are destination-rich itineraries and casually elegant, country-club ambiance, with a staff of 400 to care for 684 guests.

    The Sirena debuts April 27, 2016. 

    Carnival Vista (4,980 passengers)

    Carnival's largest ship will debut with some brand-new seagoing features, such as the first IMAX theater on a cruise ship, the line's first onboard brewery and the Kaleid-O-Slide, where you can jump into a one- or two-person inflatable raft for a twisting, turning trip down a waterslide. At the SkyRide, passengers can pedal hanging recumbent bikes along a track suspended 150 feet above the ocean.

    Havana Cabanas (aka balcony rooms) will have patios -- complete with hammocks and lounge chairs -- that face the Deck 5 promenade. 

    The Carnival Vista debuts May 1, 2016. 

    Harmony of the Seas (5,200 passengers)
    Royal Caribbean

    The Harmony of the Seas will be the third of the Oasis-class ships. Like sister ships Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, it will boast seven unique neighborhoods, such as Central Park (planted with live trees and plants) and the Royal Promenade (an interior boulevard flanked by eateries, lounges and shops).

    Passengers can take on the challenges of the FlowRider surf simulators, 43-foot-high rock-climbing walls and a zipline that's nine decks up in the air.

    The Harmony of the Seas debuts May 29, 2016. 

    Seven Seas Explorer (750 passengers)

    Regent calls the "6-star" (!) Seven Seas Explorer the "world's most luxurious ship." Guests can expect king-size beds and high-quality linens, large bathrooms and spacious verandas -- the largest balconies in the industry. Accommodations range from 307-square-foot Veranda Suites to the stunning 3,875-square-foot, two-bedroom Regent Suite, which will boast an in-suite spa retreat with sauna, two ceramic heated loungers and treatment area.

    The Seven Seas Explorer debuts July 20, 2016. 

    Seabourn Encore (604 passengers)

    The Seabourn Square will be the social hub of the "6-star" Seabourn Encore, encompassing a library, sitting area, computer center and European-style coffee bar. The spa will have a fully equipped gym, personal trainers, steam and sauna rooms and a full range of treatments. There is a marina at the stern with complimentary kayaks, pedal boats and windsurfers. All of the ship's staterooms will have verandas.

    The Seabourn Encore debuts January 7, 2017. 

    Viking Sky (930 passengers)
    Viking Cruises

    All staterooms on the Viking Sky will have private verandas. The unique enrichment program on board provides lectures from experts in history, music, art and cuisine, carefully selected to enhance each itinerary.

    The Viking Sky debuts February 25, 2017.

    Better start saving.  Some of these will be very expensive ... unless the competition skews the market.

    Wednesday, July 1, 2015

    Interesting notice re romance and Scribd

    As Mills & Boon and Harlequin know (and reap a lot of money out of it), romance readers are bulk readers. They engulf huge amounts of their favorite literature, and it seems that they are skewing the market.

    Draft2Digital has sent out an interesting notice, describing that one of the eBook subscription services, Scribd, has big problems with this.

    "As we all know," they say, "the concept of a subscription service for books is extremely new. There are several models on the market now for effectively monetizing subscriptions, and none of them exactly matches what we’re used to from traditional sales royalties. As the market experiments with different approaches, there are bound to be some missteps and false starts along the way. In fact, we should expect this business model to evolve even more in the near future.

    "Scribd took a significant risk putting in place a model that paid authors the same amount as a retail model for each book read by a subscriber. As we all know, romance readers tend to be incredibly avid readers. In trying to cater to this voracious readership while under this progressive payment model, Scribd has put itself in a difficult place. In a bid to better balance these operating expenses, Scribd is immediately slashing the volume of romance novels in its subscription service."

    Odd.  Very odd.  Perhaps the next step should be to categorize subscribers, and charge less or more according to the kind of literature they order.