Friday, 22 June 2012

Plagiarism - is it impossible in the digital age?

Open University lecturer under investigation after 'publishing a Dylan Thomas story under her own name'

I read about this in the Times this morning, and. being a writer myself, a nosey one at that, wanted to know more, so I googled. And, wow, just wow - the gall of this woman is just amazing, and she's an academic with the OU as well! Not only did she plagiarize Thomas,  but she was discovered by another author, whose work she had nicked, Alex Keegan: the entire saga of how he found out is detailed on his blog, an interesting and horrifying read on the scale of Benford's copying. Within hours, he and his contacts on-line had discovered more cases than could be counted on your fingers and they were still going.

This whole thing got me to thinking about plagiarism and what goes through someone's mind when, in this day and age, they think they can get away with it.

Dr Benford (whose PhD Thesis was also being looked at by Alex and his band of investigators, see his blog for details), is alleged to not only have copied, but copied blatantly. The Thomas work apparently just had a different cover and her name on it. Not even the names of the stories and poems she allegedly stole in a lot of cases, Alex Keegan's being one. For a literary academic to do this is dodgy enough, I mean, imagine going to a conference and someone noticing that your work bears a remarkable similarity to a famous writer like, oh, let's say, Dylan Thomas, or Leonard Cohen (another cut and paste job under investigation), but it is also reprehensible: plagiarism will get a student thrown off their course. Add to that, in this day and age, when half an hour on Google can get you enough evidence to hang someone out to dry, how can anyone possibly be deluded enough to publish their copied work on Amazon, iBooks, LuLu etc, where the search engine is king?

From my own point of view, I'd never consider plagiarism:
  1. I think stealing someone else's words is reprehensible.
  2. I have enough ideas of my own to keep me going for more than a lifetime
  3. I feel guilty enough if my ideas vaguely resemble someone else's, even if they were independently created. This happens with me and my twin a lot, we just think alike and sometimes come up with stories that are very close to each other without even discussing them first. We've come to accept this fact and just look at it as interesting.
  4. I don't do bad things well, I get guilty (I'm the person that buys a ticket for a train that is half an hour late and left me standing in the rain, even though there is no conductor and no-one checking tickets at the other end - I just can't cheat) and then I'd worry, for the rest of my life, I'd worry about getting caught, about having done a bad thing 
  5. I want my work to be mine. I would not gain any satisfaction from any praise, or prize if that prize was earned by someone else's work, because, I would know it was not my effort that made it great. What type of glory is there in fakery?
Plagiarism vs Collaboration

However much I dislike plagiarism, there is part of me that has been thinking about 'complete and free collaboration' and what kind of gems could come out of that. By this I mean, not just sharing ideas, but a free exchange of characters, stories, places, concepts, objects, a sandpit where anything thrown in could be used and reused by anyone else. The only thing an author, or indeed any artist playing in the sandpit would own would be their own immediate creation, i.e. the words of their story (not the story itself), the pixels of an image. Thus the cut and paste copying of Ms Benford would not be allowed, since there is no creative input, but, say a person thought someone else's story was a good one and they wanted to see where they could take it if they took the idea and rewrote it - you'd have the same story twice, but told from different artist's perspectives. Someone else could also come along and turn the story into a graphic novel without fear of reprisals, because it's in the sandpit, that's why it's there, to see what the collective can do with it.

And then, taking the thought experiment further, what would happen if people were allowed to do what they liked with their immediate creation, i.e. sell prints of a picture, publish their story? There would be no case for plagiarism if the image or words had not been copied verbatim, if someone had created something else from your ideas, since by putting your stuff in the sandpit, you have given permission for people to do just that and work off your ideas. Yet, anyone publishing anything from the sandpit does not own the sandpit, so there could be no trademarking, or selling of copyright like Marvel does with its characters, because the author would not own the character, the sandpit would own the character. The author/artist would only own their interpretation of said character in the very limited sense of that one immediate creation, i.e. that one story/image/music, no-one could prevent someone else using that character in any way they chose.

I expect there are many collaborative works out there, but I'm a bit of a geek and a scientist at heart, I like to know 'why' things are, and I would love to create such a sandpit in a way where I could track its evolution, watch story branch from story through new interpretations, e.g. AU, different endings, rewrites in a different style. See characters develop as different people mould them in word, image and sound. Even understand which versions are most popular and understand why someone chose to branch off an idea at a particular point. So, rather than unpicking something's evolution after the fact, a situation we face most of the time, create an environment where such tracking was inherent in its make-up.

So, finally, I detest the stealing of words and images and music and anything else, but, being an author, words are closest to my heart. To take credit for someone else's work, whether that is emotional or monetary, is not right. I don't understand how anyone could feel good about something like that. But to create something beautiful built on the support of other's ideas when those ideas are freely given appeals to the creative and collaborative part of me.

On hours left on the competwition to win a unqiue, signed copy of YA Paranormal eBook, Death In The Family (Heritage is Deadly 1). by Sophie Duncan

On hours left on the competwition to win a unqiue, signed copy of my eBook, Death In The Family (Heritage is Deadly 1).

It's free, it takes one click and Wittegen Press do not DRM their books, so if you don't like YA Paranormal, you can always give it away :)

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

REMINDER: still 3 days left for a chance to win a signed copy of exciting YA Paranormal eBook, Death In The Family by Sophie Duncan

Just a reminder. There are 3 days left on the competwition to win a unqiue, signed copy of my eBook, Death In The Family (Heritage is Deadly 1).

It's free, it takes one click and Wittegen Press do not DRM their books, so if you don't like YA Paranormal, you can always give it away :)

Introducing Literary+

Literary+ is a new and exciting writer-based project being assembled on Google+.

It brings together passionate, quality self-published writers and readers to help each other promote their work, bringing more readers to every member. It was sparked by the simple fact that there are many top quality self-published authors being over-looked because they do not have the time and resources to effieciently and effectively market and promote themselves. With ambition and passion, Literary+ will take it's members to the heights they deserve through a tight-knit community of like-minded writers.

If you're interest in joining our fledgling community, seek out Shen Hart, our illustrious and mad for taking this on leader on Google+.

Look out for blog posts from me in the future with the Literary+ banner and, if you're on Google+, look for the #LiteraryPlus hashtag for more posts by the community..

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Competwition to WIN a signed copy of my new YA Paranormal eBook, Death In The Family

This competwition has only been running a few hours, but there are less entrants at the moment than there are prizes, so come on folks, it's free, it takes one click and even if you don't like YA Paranormal, Wittegen Press do not DRM their books, so you can give it away to someone else :).

Friday, 15 June 2012

Move Review: Snow White And The Huntsman

Went to see this movie on Tuesday. First summary thoughts, turn your brain off when you watch it, but if you like high fantasy, you'll probably enjoy it. Now, why do I say that.

Well, this movie is a fun romp through the Snow White fairytale, darker than Disney, with a vicious streak that harks back to the older versions of the stories of The Brother's Grimm. However, not as dark as I think it would have liked to be (but then it was a 12A). Having said it's a fun romp, I mean it, don't try and think too hard, because, hey it is a fairytale, like, the fact that Snow White is locked in 'The North Tower' from about  age 11 until she escapes at approx 17, no company, no teachers, no home comforts and yet, she comes out the other side an eloquent, fairly well-adjusted modern young American - not all due to Kristen Stewart's inability to act her way out a paper bag, either, the script writers really have to answer for that too.

Chris Hemsworth does not really over-exert himself on the acting front either, but, being a girlie, I can appreciate the bod (although I would like to lodge a protest that we didn't get to see enough of it) and so I'll forgive the ever-changing accent, that I think was meant to be Scottish, and the fact that, he was a huntsman, he had an axe, but every time he swung it, I kept expecting lightning to come down from the sky ;P.

Most of the good guys were a little limp actually, even the dwarves, and there was a strong cast there from Nick Frost through to Bob Hoskins. However, I would happily watch this movie again for the bad guys. Ravenna, the evil queen, and her brother, Finn, had the best dynamic in the story. A little suggestion of incest,  complete devotion, a shared anger and the pair of them could act.,Charlize Theron, especially: she walked the tight-rope of batshit insane and reasoning megalomaniac really rather well - she had her reasons for what she was and they more or less made sense. Actually, I'd have liked to have seen more of the siblings' back story.

Talking of back story, that is where the movie suffered - pace. There was far too much navel contemplation in the middle and it took ages to get from the queen's castle to safety with the Duke, and but a flit of an eye to get back...hmmm...There's a whole chunk of time where Snow White and our heroic huntsman stay in a village, that, inevitably, gets burnt to the ground by the bad buys. The only point this whole section makes is that The Huntsman wants to abandon Snow White, which he'd already done once anyway (and come back of course), so why do it all again and spend 20 mins labouring the fact?! If I had been the editor of that story, the 'little darling' would have been ripped straight out, because it killed the pace. There was a whole bit with fairies and The White Hart as well, that, frankly, either they should have got rid of it or tied it in a lot better. I might have suggested replacing both those sections with Evil Queen backstory, of which we only got hints and about 30s of flashback - that would have been far more interesting!

Having slammed the movie a bit, I will admit, I did enjoy it, for all the wooden acting and odd scene choices. It could do with a director's cut to prevent the audience slittings their wrist from boredom in the middle there, but it had something that kept me watching. And, as an aside, they set up quite a nice little love triangle at the end, which is a red rag to a bull for any slash fans :). 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

New Novel: Death In The Family By Sophie Duncan

NEW From Wittegen Press Heritage Is Deadly eBook: Death In The Family by Sophie Duncan Available 14 June 2012

 Death In The Family by Sophie Duncan

Title:  Death In The Family

Author(s):  Sophie Duncan

Date Pub:  14 June 2012

Length:  Novel (~100K words)

Genre:  YA, Paranormal Fantasy, Horror

Buying Options:  

  • Smashwords - $2.99 (ePub, PDF, Mobi(Kindle), rtf, ltf(Sony), Palm Doc, Plain Text, HTML)
  • Amazon: US - $2.99, UK - £1.99, DE - €2.68, FR - €2.68, IT - €2.68, ES - €2.68

ISBN:  ISBN 978-1-908333-35-3, ISBN 978-1-908333-34-6


Leaving a good London school with solid prospects, Tom Franklin has the world at his feet. Yet one thing has always haunted his perfect life: his dreams. When Tom discovers that the nightmarish images of dark places and even darker instincts are in fact repressed memories from his early childhood, he must face the heritage from his birth-father, a savage vampire known only as Raxos.

Realising his memories are his only hope of controlling his awakening instincts, Tom returns to, Coombedown, the sleepy, Cornish village in which he was born, unknowing that the night-breed in his veins will lead him into danger.

"Death In The Family" is a young adult, paranormal novel.

This is the first story in the "Heritage is Deadly" Series.

You do not need an eReader to view this publication; there are Kindle aps available for most devices as well as formats for other eReaders, devices and PC.


Tom could hold on no more, he let out a gasp of breath and then his world shifted into one of silver-greys. Knife and fork went skidding off the plate as Tom grabbed the large hunk of dripping beef in both hands and lifted it to his mouth. Urgently, he sunk his teeth into the thick flesh. Blood and meat hit his tongue and Tom almost melted with relief. His senses closed around the bite, his body settled, aches and pains fading almost instantly, and there was no stopping him after that.

Sharp teeth and sharper claws were all Tom needed to rip the steak apart, devouring every decadent morsel like he hadn't eaten in weeks. Every mouthful made the power in his belly spin faster, until his senses were almost breaking out of his body in the way they touched the world. The sensations were divine, intoxicating and Tom grinned around his meal, lost to the sheer satisfaction.

Yet, the meat did not last long and, gasping away the intensity, Tom looked down at his empty, bloodied hands, reality sinking back in. He could feel the juices running down and dripping off his chin. He was a mess. Yet, Tom could not put the genie back into the bottle, and, despite his very human disgust at what he had done, the night was still in him, seducing his senses.

Conflict was nothing new to Tom that day, and he chose to stall it with immediate considerations. Tom hated being dirty. That ingrained part of his character helped hold back the clash in his split psyche and, climbing out of bed, Tom headed to his en suite bathroom. He ignored the light as he went in and kept his head down, not wanting to see the sight he had made of himself. He knocked the mixer tap with his elbow and quickly ran his hands under it. Then he splashed his face, another sort of relief hitting him as he cleansed his skin of the evidence that he had lost control.

Yet, water could not wash everything away and Tom could not quite avoid the large mirror above the sink. His vision remained shifted, so the low light in the enclosed room could not help him and Tom looked. What he saw froze him with both the familiarity of it and the newness. His face, his messy brown hair, yet, it was his eyes that drew him in; at first, alarmed, he thought they were glowing. Trying to stay calm, Tom grappled onto any facts he could remember from his talk with Dr Cheringham. To be honest, he didn't remember many details, but enough came back that he stopped himself running away and hiding under the covers again with the knowledge that the cells in his eyes were just shining as they absorbed as much light as they could.

Shock dissipating, Tom dropped his gaze and stepped back from the sink. His hands and face were now clean again, but his shirt was covered in gore, so he hastily pulled it off. He heard the material rip as he misjudged his own strength and, throwing the clothing at the laundry basket, he could not miss the thick, sharp claw-like nails that had caused the damage. It was all too much too quickly and, keeping his mouth firmly shut, Tom retreated from his reflection.

Sinking back onto the bed, he curled up into his protective ball again, closed his eyes and tried desperately to bring the world back under control.

If you read and enjoy this title, please consider reviewing it at Amazon, or Smashwords, or one of the other eBook shops. Thank you.

And if you'd like to help a small, independent publisher: Ways you can help us to up the profile of the book. Thank you! :) There are many and varied ways to help raised the profile of this book, we've listed a selection below.

  1. Tag Death In The Family on your local Amazon site (US, UK, DE, FR, IT, ES) Just below the product details on each Amazon page is the tag section. Please tick the boxes next to the tags you agree with (please DO NOT click the agree with all tags option, because it does not help the book).
  2. Like Death In The Family on your local Amazon site (US, UK, DE, FR, IT, ES) At the top of every page there is a like link which you can click if you are logged in.
  3. Like the Heritage Is Deadly on Facebook Heritage Is Deadly on Facebook
  4. Review Death In The Family on any of the eBook sites: Amazon (US, UK, DE, FR, IT, ES); Smashwords.
  5. Tweet about Death In The Family, example tweet: Check out the NEW Heritage Is Deadly eBook from Wittegen Press: Death In The Family
  6. Circle, +1 and/or Share the Heritage Is Deadly pages(s) on Google+ Heritage Is Deadly on Google+
  7. +1 the book page: Use the +1 Button on Death In The Family's Book Page on Wittegen Press Site

Death In The Family: Wittegen Press Logo