Sunday, March 11, 2012

Literary Sweet 16

My last post was about how on the writing site Authonomy we are hosting a March Madness tournament in the style of college basketball's NCAA event except using our novels in place of basketball teams, with other writers selected as judges for each matchup. Sixty-four books started out and each round is single elimination. I was thrilled that both of my books -- the epic fantasy The Shard and the sci-fi thriller The Immortality Game -- made it through the first round to the round of 32.

Well I am naturally even more thrilled that both books continued their winning ways and have progressed to the round of 16. Here are the writeups:

The Shard—Ted Cross. Dude, you can write. I read fantasy only when it’s required of me in the Brutal Honesty crit group or when a book has sold so well I’m culturally illiterate without having read it. Your opening paragraphs tell me many things I need to know: we’re not in Kansas any more (two moons) and Miros is on his first great adventure with his father and brothers. Familiar trees dot the landscape of The Known Lands, and the name of the place suggests people reluctant to explore for some reason or another. The flashback to Mavvy’s visit supplies more of the missing information yet leaves me with plenty of curiosity that keeps me reading: what took her son? Will they find him alive or dead? Will Milos be of any help? Oh, my. I was certain death would visit a different character—Oswal—and appreciate your skill in misleading me so effectively. (Someone wasn’t paying attention to the pitches.)

The second chapter isn’t nearly so interesting to me. A wizard? Gah! But he engages in some mild magic-ing, shows me some info about The Known Lands, and is of course a likeable old fellow. I wish I felt more compelled to read at this point. Whatever errand he’s sent this bird to complete doesn’t feel so vital to the story.

The Shard reads like a completed manuscript. It feels polished and ready to publish. The rich detail in the manuscript helps to create a believable world, and the characters emerge as fully-formed individuals.

Heartless—Little Devil. I’m in trouble. This ms is as well-written and articulate as The Shard, so there’s no opportunity for The Hag to cast the tie-breaker vote. And it’s another genre I'm not terribly drawn to. I do find the opening chapter to be overly formulaic. Hubby leaves and we see his lover. Francesca (are there really that many women named Francesca in England?) barely reacts. Then she hits a dog and wouldn’t you know it? Its owner is named Drake Harrington. The only description we get of him is one concerned expression and a whole lot of kindness. Yet I suspect he’s devilishly handsome.

I stumbled a bit at the top of the second page. Doug? I don’t know him yet. I don’t know the other dog. And I’m wondering when I’ll learn about the novel mentioned in the pitches.

As the story unfolds, I suspect Francesca and Drake will be having something more—or other—than a simple affair. I appreciate this element of complexity and even wonder if maybe Drake is...a lunatic of some kind.

Overall, Heartless reads like a completed story but a slightly underdone draft. I suspect Francesca is more than just a jilted housewife, but her inherited house isn’t doing much to suggest she’s got any skills or life experience. Drake is of course a tantalizing mystery.

On the basis of its sense of completion, I’m going to go with THE SHARD. It feels ready for the bookshelf, while Heartless feels more like a great meal in need of some seasoning. Both are outstanding efforts and it was my pleasure to read them.


(This one had me matched up against another Editor's Desk winner)

Game #46
I’ve Been Deader
The Immortality Game

Winner: The Immortality Game

Upon reading the initial pitches I found myself immediately liking the concept behind ‘The Immortality Game’. The short pitch in particular is wonderful. The long pitch sets a dark tone, apt for a dystopian future.

The long pitch for ‘I’ve Been Deader’ is definitely one that enticed me into getting stuck into it. I had no idea how it would read. It sounds so surreal and very humorous.

I thought to myself I could easily enjoy both these books.

With both books, I couldn’t find any faults in the writing style, structure or grammar. In the end this game boiled down to personal preference and could’ve easily gone another way if someone else was the ref.

‘I’ve Been Deader’ is something I’ve never encountered before and I don’t think I’ll encounter it again outside of Splinker’s writing. The idea of writing from the perspectives of a sentient zombie is brilliant. Even though the MC has rational thoughts, he still blurts out the stock zombie cry “Braaiins”. It makes for a great opportunity to implement some unsaid undead puns.
A few chapters later the focus switches to a couple of new characters and the state of things as America is turning. To be honest, my interest dropped at this point and I wanted to know more about Undead Fred. Unfortunately, the remaining chapters were word fillers, and didn’t come back to conclude Fred’s sticky situation, leaving the reader to decide for themselves what could happen.
Overall ‘I’ve Been Deader’ was an interesting read, and highly recommendable.

The opening chapter of ‘The Immortality Game’ introduces one MC, Zoya. She is trying her best to decline her brother’s pleas of asking for her to look after a package of unknown contents. The reader is left with questions to be answered. What’s in the package? What has her brother done?
The second chapter introduces a second MC, Marcus, who is conversing with his digitalised father. I found this to be a fantastic concept; to extract someone’s mind and store it in a computer. It’s just the sort of thing that could end up happening. There are plenty of other both disturbingly thoughtful AND plausible ideas of what the future could hold.
Tyoma’s chapters distanced me from the book. I wanted to know more about Zoya or Marcus. Furthermore, I thought the video-game moment was a little long winded and would be far more effective if it was shortened. Perhaps this is just my personal taste, however.
At its heart ‘The Immortality Game’ is sci-fi through and through. And I’m not a major sci-fi fan to be honest, I often get lost in deciphering the new technology or new names for current technology. Either way, I found this comfortable to read, the pace in which these were introduced were very forgiving. To me, the world in this book very much seems to be the result of the internet/digital age gone awry.

Oh dear... this has been a tough decision to make. Both books are very strong entries and both books have acquired a great deal of attention so far, judging on the medal of ‘I’ve Been Deader’ and the ranking of ‘The Immortality Game’. Similarly, both books are written impeccably well and are delightful to read.

‘I’ve Been Deader’ is unique, witty and humorous.
‘The Immortality Game’ is thought-provoking, intelligent and has a great premise.

I enjoyed reading these books equally, and I would recommend both to people. As I’ve already mentioned above, if another person was the ref the outcome could easily be different.

Ultimately, I’ve decided that ‘The Immortality Game’ is the winner because of the morals, thoughts and the great story.


  1. Wow, congratulations again Ted! Your stories are kicking all kinds of butt!

  2. Sigh, but it's only going to get rougher from now on. Only really great books are left, so judging will come down to a matter of taste more than quality, I think. If I'm paired off against, say, a lit fic book and the judge is not a genre lover, I'm doomed! But that goes both ways...

  3. You got two through to the last 16. That is superb news, whatever the rest of the contest holds. Congratulations.

  4. That's excellent, Ted! Congratulations! I tagged you in the Lucky 7 meme (whatever a meme is)--take a jump over to my blog for more info :) It's fun--yes, I was surprised, too.

  5. Oh congratulations, Ted. The feedback your getting sounds great, and from what I understand of you from reading your blog, I think your fantasy writing is gonna be awesome. I can't wait until you get a big book contract so that I can buy them in the store :)

  6. I hadn't even remembered that I was facing I've Been Deader. I got lucky that the judge's taste leaned more towards my genre!