Archive for March, 2013


"Un-Conventional" short story competition from The Great Eascape. Follow the links to find out more.Over on The Great Escape we have a writing competition running. We’re inviting writers to submit 1000-3000 word short stories from the convention scene; short stories set at, or strongly featuring a convention or expo.

You can find all the details on our Competitions Page. There’s also a list of all the  competitions we’ve run in the past.

Prizes up for grabs include publication on the website and/or in Great Escapes | Volume 2, and £10 cash for 1st place! And you’ve still got plenty of time to get your entry in; the competition closes on 26th April.

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Free Information

Last week I discovered that, after a long history of being free to access, Duotrope.com had moved to a subscription based model. If you’ve never come across Duotrope before it is a searchable database of markets for written work, with added features such as a way to track the submissions you make. I’ve used it to find a number of places to submit work and I now have a listing for The Great Escape there. Until now they had been operating on donations from their users, and I wonder whether, if more users had donated they’d have been able to keep going with that model.

Today I came across another site while researching Irish mythology for a short story I am working on. The Internet Sacred Text Archive is a repository of mainly public domain reference books on world mythology, religion and folklore. They also sell CD rom collections of books. I must admit I felt like a kid in a candy store; all that free information! On their home page they have an advert for their latest DVD-Rom pleading for people to buy to help them keep going.

I think many people forget that the supposedly “free” information they find on the web actually costs money to put it there. I know; I run a free access site. There’s the cost of running the server where the information is held, the cost of registering and renewing the domain name every year. In the case of The Great Escape we also pay to licence images and fonts when we need to. And that’s just the monetary costs; it doesn’t include the value of the time you put in.

I didn’t buy a DVD-rom from the ISTA, mainly because I didn’t have $99 kicking around spare, but I did find a link marked “donate” and sent them a few dollars. The information I’d found on the site had been really useful and I’d bookmarked it as a resource to go back to in the future; it was worth something to me. The sites operators’ time and effort were worth something to me.

Script Frenzy logo

The Office of Letters and Light event Script Frenzy challenged writers to produce 100 pages of script in the month of April. It ran for the last time in 2011. Image source – www.scriptxray.com

I’ve been guilty in the past of taking free services for granted. I never donated to Duotrope and now it will cost me $50 a year to use it at all. I’ve also taken part in NaNoWriMo events three times and only donated once. This year The Office of Letters and Light closed down Script Frenzy because it wasn’t breaking even. From now on, I intend to make sure I reward content I think has value, either with a donation or for smaller things, through publicity. But that’s just me, what about the rest of the world?

Why do people expect things they find online to be free? Is it just because we’re used to it, or is it because there is no physical evidence of its value? No paper, no disc, no building with a counter where we can see someone sat behind a computer screen?

There might be an argument that, in a world where everyone is a producer of content, it makes little difference whether you spend your money on producing your content or on consuming someone else’s. But if everyone is a producer and no one is a consumer, is that even sustainable in the long term? Internet content just becomes a bigger and bigger drain on the resources of the producers.

Imagine how the quality of content on the internet would improve if the people producing it could actually cover their costs.

So what is the solution?

When people expect things for free, slapping an upfront price tag on it can be counterproductive, even when the price tag is small. Donations just don’t seem to work as Duotrope and Script Frenzy illustrate. But, what about a model which encourages people to pay what they think something is worth after they had read, viewed or used it? Could that work if enough people got behind it? What do you think?

Can I use that?

Some thoughts on the use of song lyrics and other copyrighted material in fiction or other media.

This weekend the subject of quoting song lyrics in works of fiction came up in conversation with another writer. He wanted to know whether he would be allowed to quote lines from a series of Alice Cooper songs in his short story and comic anthology.

I said it’s something of a grey area. There’s no such thing as fair use rights in UK copyright law as there is in the US, something that many producers of UK media fall foul of. In the case of song lyrics I think it depends largely on who owns the rights to the lyrics, which, for a well known song is likely a big record label, in which case you’re screwed. But, if it’s a smaller artist working under an indie label, well they might see the “free publicity” argument.

It’s the same with image rights, permission to use a location in film making or licensing music. In most cases the bigger the rights holder the more work you’ll have to do to secure permission and the more you’ll have offer in return in terms of up front payment, restricted usage rights or royalties.

In a moment of perfect timing, this Guardian article on the same subject turned up in a forum thread the day after I was talking about it. It’s worth a read, because it will definitely make you think twice about incorporating copyrighted material in your work!

Blake Morrison on the cost of quoting lyrics

My advice is to air on the side of caution with any material owned by someone else; if you don’t have a cast iron statement saying you can use it, don’t. “I didn’t think anyone would mind or notice” doesn’t tend to hold up well in court.

The last two months have been a crazy rush to get Great Escapes, Volume 1 edited and printed, hence the reason this blog has been somewhat neglected. But, the hard work is nearly over; the book is here! There are a few technical niggles to iron out with the eBook but by the end of next week it’ll be available to buy in all formats.

This weekend I’ll be at Cardiff  Comic Expo with The Great Escape and Hellbound Media where the book will go on sale for the first time, along with prints, art cards and merchandise for the Great Escape’s other projects. If you’ll be there, make sure you come and say “hi” and take a look at the new book.

Great Escapes, Volume 1 - Books, prints and art cards

Read an EXCLUSIVE excerpt of That Summer at the Lake – The brand new short written for Great Escapes, Volume 1

As part of the Kickstarter fund raiser for the book I offered a custom short story for one backer. Below is an excerpt from the resulting story, based on an original concept by Simo Muinonen.

She put her hand out and brushed her fingers on his calf below his rolled up trousers. He jumped and pulled his legs up onto the jetty. One hand quickly pulled the cabled pods from his ears. “Who’s there?” The scratchy sound grew louder.

“Hello Boydvass.”

“Kelsy?”

“What are those pod things?”

He paused for a second, rapid breath slowing, and then dangled the pods from his hand. “These?”

“Yes, are they making that noise?”

“You’ve never seen headphones before?”

“What are they for?”

He disentangled the cords from his clothing and pulled a little white box from his pocket. “I use them to listen to my iPod. Do you want to try?” He held out the headphones but kept the box in a firm grip. “Don’t get them wet.”

Kelsy smiled, took the headphones and held one to her ear. The faint noise grew until loud, fast-paced music filled her ear. She added the second. It was very noisy, but so exciting. Nothing like the gentle singing of her kind. Ears stoppered up with the headphones blaring away she couldn’t hear anything else. No wonder Boyd didn’t hear her approach.

“It is very interesting music,” she shouted over the din.

Boyd said something else but the words didn’t penetrate.

“What?”

He put one hand to his ear and mimed pulling out the headphones. Kelsy removed them.

“I said it’s Biffy Clyro.”

“What’s a biffy clyro?” she asked.

Boyd chuckled. “The band, silly. Boy, you really don’t get out much living here.” He pressed the iPod and the music stopped.

“Never, actually.”

“Do you live here all year?”

“Yes. We get ice on the lake in the winter.”

“I’ve never been here in the winter.”

“I know.”

His brow creased. “How do you know?”

“You used to visit in the summer, every year. Then you didn’t.”

He let out a long sigh. “Yeah, after the accident my parents didn’t think it would be safe for me here.”

“Accident? Is that how you became blind?”

The corner of his mouth quirked up. “You noticed that, huh?

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