Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Richard Ridyard Affair

The Richard Ridyard Plagiarism Affair exposed by Angel Zapata in his blog post I've Been Plagiarized…and I'm Not Alone has been both sickening and fascinating. It's sickening because someone stealing words and claiming them as your own has caused even the most left-wing pacifists to sharpen their pitchforks and warm up their tar. I don't need to go into my own diatribes here: we all hate it.

The experience has been fascinating because it demonstrates both the perils and the pinnacles of the online writing world; a world that I entered myself only a few months ago.

The perils of the online writing world are clear. Firstly, there is so much more material to steal now. So many more people now are publishing in online journals, personal websites, blogs and other forums. This new group of available victims are also the most vulnerable. They are the new wave of talent, the up and coming – or at least they're trying to be. Secondly, there are so many new venues to use stolen material; and these are actually the same new places that people can steal from. This was, in part, the undoing of Mr Richard Ridyard, and brings me to the pinnacles of the online writing world.

Mr Richard Ridyard ripped off a number of writers, but he was discovered by Angel Zapata. How? Because Angel was reading a story in Flashshot and recognised his own work, which had previously been published in Micro 100. First pinnacle: every reader of online material has the capacity to recognise something they've read before, and identify a potential word thief.

In Angel's case, this was easy: he recognised something he wrote himself; but we're only talking about two sentences. The first sentence is loosely stolen, the second sentence is a verbatim theft. It's bad, but not compelling enough on its own to do much about it. Yet, something was very wrong: and Angel started digging. We all have the capacity and the responsibility to dig like Angel dug. The second pinnacle of the online writing world: Google. This is such a powerful digging tool, as demonstrated by the ultimately damming body of evidence that Angel was able to collect and present.

Now, Angel got to work immediately. He notifyied some of the editors and authors that he'd identified as victims of Mr Richard Ridyard. He did this both before and after his blog posting, but he had other things to do with his life. Things like work, family and sleep. But Angel was not alone in his rage. The third and greatest pinnacle of the online writing world is that we act like a community. Our community includes writers from a wide range of countries, with a wide range of talent levels. Many of us have had minimal, if any publication. Some of us aren't very good at all. As a community; however, we look out for each other. We read each other's work and make comments, at blogs and social networking sites like Six Sentences.

When Angel exposed a plagiarist in our midst, we worked together as a community to weed him out. We put links to Angel's post on our own blogs to help spread the word. We emailed editors of online journals and authors to let them know they'd been duped. Those editors got back to us very, very promptly. They were thankful and removed Mr Richard Ridyard's "work" almost immediately. This is a real credit to those editors, and the experience has made me realise that they are just as much a part of this online community as the writers. If anything, their passion for good and honest writing greater than any writer: just look at what they do. They're actually more vulnerable to this type of deception than us writers, so we should look out for them.

Let's not abandon the online writing world because of its few perils. Let's build on what we've learned by The Richard Ridyard Affair. Let's embrace the pinnacles of this world-wide community, and work together to eliminate plagiarism and create beautiful writing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Pplagiarism is a very, very low act. Dark fiction author Angel Zapata has recently discovered that he, and others, have been plagiarised by one Mr Richard Ridyard.

Angel has exposed Mr Ridyard in his blog post I've Been Plagiarized...and I'm Not Alone. I'd like to support Angel in tackling this issue by encouraging you to read his well-researched article. We all need to be aware of the type of things that go on, and the type of people that do it.

The Joke's on You

I've posted a six-sentence story to the 6s Social Network called The Joke's on You. This was my response to a challenge by Dan to write a story along the lines of the familiar "A man walks into a bar..."

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Sunday Scribblings writing prompt #182 is "cheese", which is the title of this little story.

She was a very beautiful woman, from a very upper middle class family. She was way out of his league, but he wanted her anyway. She agreed to go with him to a restaurant for dinner. The place was her favourite, though he'd never heard of it. She took the lead with the ordering, which was fine by him.

"How about some cheese for dessert?" she asked him.
"Sure," he said. That sounded safe; he liked cheese. The date had gone pretty good so far, he thought.

What arrived at the table didn't look like cheese. It didn't smell like cheese, either.

"It's a Tasmanian blue vein," she said, before popping some into her mouth. "It's just heavenly."

If it was heavenly for her, it was going to be heavenly for him. He cut of a bit of the cheese, put it on a cracker, and put the lot into his mouth. He chewed. It was as though something dead had exploded inside his head. In an instant, his nose and sinuses were on fire. His eyes were streaming tears as he stumbled into tables and other patrons, searching for the exit. He didn't make it in time.

She was gone by the time he recovered, and he never saw her again. Later, he married a girl who was a year below him in high school. They are happy together. For them, cheese comes in thin squares, wrapped in plastic.

The Way of the Moth

April sat on a bench in the garden and watched a moth float by in front of her. The moth´s path was erratic as it flapped along; moving up, down, left and right. Despite it's twisting and turning, its overall path across the garden was, overall, quite direct.

April liked to sit in the garden to be around nature, to relax, and to contemplate. She thought about the moth, and its flight path. The moth's path was a lot like the path of her own life, she thought. She could learn a lot about life, by watching the way of the moth.

A butcher-bird swooped from the tree branch above and caught the moth in its beak. It flew back to its branch. It struck the moth against the branch; once, then twice more, to kill it. It watched April as it swallowed its prey. For long moments, April and the butcher-bird stared at each other. Then, as the bird flew away, she understood about life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

[3WW] Tip Velocity

Three Word Wednesday (3WW) CLVI words are: eclipse, languish and velocity. Here is my effort, called "Tip Velocity"

David wants to be a published author, in every corner of his soul. Not just a published author, but popular, respected and honoured. Everyone agree these are lofty goals, considering David failed Junior English and mows lawns for a living. For now, however; he continues to languish in obscurity. His only "published" works are those he posts to his online blog, which even his friends and family read only occasionally, and reluctantly.

David's desire to write is such that it can eclipse every other aspect of his life. This helps him get through each day, because mowing lawns can get boring after the first two minutes. While pushing the mower along, he dreams of characters, plots, crises and resolutions.

While pulling the lawnmower back from the edge of Mrs Smyth's garden, he runs over his left foot. It doesn't hurt as much as it should, and it really should hurt a lot with all that blood, he thinks. Mrs Smyth faints when she see's the blood, so he hobbles next door to call for two ambulances.

While David lies in his hospital bed, his friend Allan, an engineer, tells him that the tip velocity of a lawnmower blade is approximately 650 kilometres per hour.

"Thanks for that," says David. "Hey, did you read my blog yesterday?"

"Sorry," says Allan, as he checks his watch and stands up to go, "I didn't."

From Dream to Reality [Alternate End]

Mattrozzi made the suggestion in the comments to my little story From Dream to Reality that a different ending might have worked better. Here is that same story with an alternate end along the lines he suggested. Only the last paragraph has changed.

The plant rumbled and shook loudly through Ralph's earplugs. It wasn't just noise, though. The plant was talking, and she wasn't happy this morning. A conveyor roller squeaked above the rumble, competing for attention with a loose drive belt on one of the ground floor pumps. The vibration in the plant beat louder every few seconds, then softer, shaking the structural bracing till it clattered. The raw coal screens were out of synchronisation again.

Black dirty water poured, out of control, from the ground floor to swirl around half blocked drains. Ralph splashed his way to the front door. He glimpsed the product stackers out in the yard as he went inside, teasing him with tiny wisps of product that drifted onto stockpiles that were still far too small.

Ralph took a deep breath before making his charge up the three flights of stairs to his office. He started to plan his day on the way up, juggling the priorities. He smiled as he pushed open the door of his office. Being the plant manager was everything he'd dreamt it to be. He would turn this plant around; because now, he could. Now, Ralph didn't hate Mondays anymore.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Espresso Stories

I've had two more stories published at Espresso Stories. Stories at this site must be 25 words or less. This is the extreme end of flash fiction, sometimes called "hint fiction".

The stories are Stalker and Widower. My full catalouge at Espresso Stories can be found here.

If you enjoy this site, I highly recommend signing up. That way you can rank each story 1 - 5, and help determine it's overall ranking.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

From Dream to Reality

The plant rumbled and shook loudly through Ralph's earplugs. It wasn't just noise, though. The plant was talking, and she wasn't happy this morning. A conveyor roller squeaked above the rumble, competing for attention with a loose drive belt on one of the ground floor pumps. The vibration in the plant beat louder every few seconds, then softer, shaking the structural bracing till it clattered. The raw coal screens were out of synchronisation again.

Black dirty water poured, out of control, from the ground floor to swirl around half blocked drains. Ralph splashed his way to the front door. He glimpsed the product stackers out in the yard as he went inside, teasing him with tiny wisps of product that drifted onto stockpiles that were still far too small.

Ralph sighed heavily as he started up the three flights of stairs to his office. One foot in front of the other, gripping the handrail for support, he shuffled to the top. Being the manager wasn't what he'd dreamt it would be. Now, he hated Monday's more than ever.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Once in a while

See here for a six-sentence story I wrote called Once in a while.

I've had some feedback that the six sentences stories are not as popular. If you want something longer, see my previous post.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Your Optimism, My Faith

Tristan challenged me to write a short story demonstrating the difference between optimism and faith, as described by what has been called the "Stockdale Paradox", recorded by James C. Collins in Good to Great. See the wikipedia article on James Stockdale for more information.

Thanks to Tristan for pointing out the Stockdale Paradox to me: I hadn't heard of it. I gave this one a lot of thought, and I hope that this story meets the challenge.

I feel a need to note that like everything else on this blog, this is a work of fiction – even if it is written in the first person. I am not, and am not claiming to be, a bestselling author. My name's not John Percival anyway.

Your Optimism, My Faith
A young man approached me out of the airport crowd. He was about thirty years old, with black hair gelled into that messy, just out of bed style. I avoided eye contact until he said, "Excuse me."

I let my book drop a little from my face and turned to him. "Yes?" I said. "Can I help you."

"Sorry to just come up to you like this," he said, "but you are John Percival, aren't you?"

Even a bestselling author, such as myself, is really only a minor celebrity. A 'real' celebrity goes around in his own plane, chauffeured limousine and has his own bodyguards. He's mobbed by fans and paparazzi, but is equipped to deal with it. A minor celebrity like myself, is stuck in the middle. I drive my own car, take regular airline flights like everyone else, and go to the shops without a body guard. Fact is, most people don't know what author's look like, and ninety-nine percent of the time we don't look like the studio portrait on the dust jacket anyway. This time however, I was busted.

"Yes," I said. "As a matter of fact I am."

The man extended his hand, "I'm Nelson. Nelson Hogan; very pleased to meet you, John."

I shook Nelson's hand, and sat down next to me. I wasn't too surprised to be picket out of the crowd. I was in Australia launching my latest book, and it was already on the bestseller chart. I was due to appear on one of the network television breakfast shows in Sydney the next morning.

"I'm really glad to meet you," said Nelson, "because you're my role model".

I'd never heard this one before. "I love your latest book" was more common, followed by some unsolicited advice on how the plot might have been improved. All I managed to reply was, "Oh?"

"I've also written a novel myself and…"

He must have seen the fear in my eyes, because he quickly added, "Don't worry; I don't want you to read it or anything. I've started sending it to publishers. I've already had two rejection slips, but I'm really optimistic about getting it published soon."

"Really," I asked. I was intrigued, having been through the rejection slip phase myself. "What's the basis of your optimism, may I ask?"

"Of course you can ask, John," said Nelson. "You're the reason, actually, that I'm so optimistic. I read somewhere that you had fifty rejection slips from publishers and agents before your first novel was published. I just know that soon someone will say yes to me too."

I smiled, but without humour. There are few things as sincere yet totally ridiculous as unfounded optimism. It scares me. "Actually," I said, "I had fifty-two rejection notes. But tell me, why is the number of rejections that I got relevant to you?"

Nelson paused a moment, and ran his fingers through his hair. "I'm not saying my novel is in the same league as yours: I'm just saying that your optimism is my inspiration. Each time I send a letter or an extract to a publisher, I'm at home, expecting them to say yes."

"Can I give you some advice?" I said.


"Stop expecting them to say yes. Stop being that optimistic: it's insane."

Nelson's jaw dropped; literally. Some drool actually escaped down to his chin while he sat, unmoving.

I felt obliged to explain a little further. "It wasn't actually the first novel I wrote that got published," I said.

"What?" He reached with his hand and wiped away the drool.

"That's right," I said. "Once I sent that manuscript off to the first publisher, I starting writing my second novel. Then, whenever I got a rejection note, I sent the manuscript to the next publisher, or agent, and went straight back to writing."

"Why did you keep writing the second novel when the first one was getting rejected?"

"You haven't started writing your second one?"

"No," said Nelson, looking at the floor.

"Then why did you write the first one?" I asked.

"Because I like writing," he said. "I want to be a writer. I think I have a lot to say, I think I can entertain people. I like it. You must understand that."

"I do understand that, " I said. "Why then didn't you start writing your second novel?"

It didn't look like Nelson had given this much thought before. "I suppose I thought I'd better get the first one published. You know, to prove myself; show that I could do it."

"That's funny," I said. "You said you're very optimistic about getting your first novel published, but that you don't seem so optimistic about the second."

Nelson seemed to prefer to ask the question. "You were so optimistic about the publication of your first novel that you started writing your second one; is that right, John?"

"No, I wasn't optimistic at all," I said. "In the end, not being optimistic paid off. Once I finished my second novel, I thought it was a lot better than the first. So, I stopped sending the first one around, and started sending out the second one. And of course, I started on my third novel. That second novel I sent out was the first one I got published – with some major rewrites – by an editor that was willing to give me a go. My first novel stayed on the shelf, and then my third got published."

"He didn't publish your first one?"

"I never showed that editor my first novel," I said. "I wasn't optimistic – I was realistic. I faced the hard fact that fifty-three professionals in the publishing industry didn't think it would fly. Later, I picked up that manuscript again and had another read, and it was terrible! It's so bad; it's not worth rewriting."

Nelson spent a few moments contemplating. "So," he said. "You were realistic, rather than optimistic. What kept you going, then? Was it your love of writing?"

"It takes more than just a love of writing to put that much work in," I said. "What kept me going was my faith in my ability to write, and more importantly, my ability to learn to write better. I had faith that if I kept working at it, I would write something worthy of publication."

"Isn't your faith the same as my optimism?"

"No!" I said, a bit too loudly. Some of the other passengers gave us dirty looks. "No, there is a major difference. Your optimism has you at home expecting a call any moment from a publisher, begging you for the rights to publish your manuscript. My faith kept me writing, knowing that in the end I would get better, and would be published. Your optimism is going to get dashed one rejection at a time until it is completely ruined. You won't get half way to fifty-two rejections before that happens. My faith in my ability to become a better writer is completely independent of external influences. It continued through the time of the rejection letters, and it continues when fans, and even agents, try to tell me that now I'm perfect."

Nelson said nothing for a minute, but looked down at the heavily worn carpet. Then, very quietly, he said "I don't really see the difference. Faith or optimism: it's the same."

The lady speaking into the public address system announced that my flight was now boarding.

I turned to Nelson as I grabbed my bag and stood up. "Think through what I've said again; a lot. This is critical, not just to your writing career, but to your whole life. If you don't see the difference soon, you'll die of a broken heart."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Piano Man

"He can sure play that piano!" said the man in the cheap suit and the red tie.

Joe nodded, smiled, and asked him if he'd like another drink.

"Sure, another beer," he said, "and one for the piano man too!"

"He only drinks Glen Fiddich, eighteen year old, doubles."

Red Tie paused for a moment, obviously trying to guess the cost of a double eighteen year old Glen Fiddich, and working out through the alcoholic haze whether the piano man was that good - and whether he was that generous. After a moment, he said, "Sure. A double eighteen year old for the piano man."

Joe nodded again, smiled again and got Red Tie his beer. Then he then reached to the top shelf for the Glen Fiddich bottle on the very end, poured out a double shot into a glass with two small cubes of ice, carefully replaced the bottle, and took the drink to Tom at the piano. Tom nodded his appreciation to the man in the red tie when Joe pointed him out. Red Tie held up his beer in salute.

Back at the bar, Joe laughed as he watched Tom grimace at the taste of the iced tea. The caper had been Joe's idea. Tom didn't drink alcohol, so he'd been missing out on drinks from happy customers for years. Some were even offended that they couldn't buy him a drink, and Tom didn't even like orange juice. The iced tea looked enough like whiskey, and the price of a double top shelf spirit went straight into Tom's pocket; most of it, anyway. The only problem was: Tom hated iced tea more than orange juice. He'd get over it.

In all my Glory

I've submitted a challenge to the Six Sentences (6s) community, to write a six sentence story where the sentences start with the numbers one through six. Along with my challenge, I threw in my own attempt. You can see the challenge, and my story "In all my Glory" here.

If you've ever thought about having a go at writing, why not join the 6s community and have a go? A six sentence story doesn't take long to write.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

3WW (Three Word Wednesday) - "A Bag of Potting Mix"

I've just come across a very simple little blog site called "Three Word Wednesday", or "3WW" for short. In the words of the site's owner, "Each week, I post some words. People write things using the words. Then they comment here."

So, I thought I'd give it a go. The last 3WW (number CLIV) words are "Disarm", "Engage" and "Mayhem". This is what I came up with.

A Bag of Potting Mix

The plan is simple, and we follow it to the letter.

We go to Big W, and the Saturday morning shopping is mayhem, which is perfect. I engage the dragon-lady gatekeeper in a conversation, asking for directions to the gardening section. It's her job to check the bags for stolen merchandise and watch out for suspicious characters like us. While I'm chatting with the old girl, it's Brad's job to disarm the alarm on the anti-theft tag detection sensors.

With the thumbs up from Brad, we go shopping. We find a 68cm flat-screen high definition plasma TV that will suit our flat just fine. On the way out I distract the old cow again by thanking her for her help.

"No problem," she says, "it's all part of the job. Did you find what you were looking for?"

I smile; Brad is walking straight out the shop behind her, barely managing to carry the box. "Sure did; thanks again. Sorry, I have to go now."

I catch up with Brad as he gets on the escalator down to the car park. We finally get the box into the back seat of the car; it barely fits. Just as we close the doors, a cop turns up. It looks like the battle-axe gatekeeper is not as dumb as she looks. Next time I pretend to find what I'm looking for in the gardening department, I should probably buy a shovel, or a bag of potting mix.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Published on Espresso Stories!

I've had two stories published at Espresso Stories. This site is the hard core of flash fiction. Each story has a maximum of 25 words!

The stories are:
Hope you enjoy them. If you sign into Espresso Stories, you can rank each story. The collective votes for each story determine its rank in the slush pile.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Your Objection is Noted

This story is a response to another challenge from Mattrozi. His challenge was:

Write a short story no more than 300 words in length and use "noted" in the title and somewhere in the text. You may not use any words starting with the letter "b" and it must be written in first person.

Confession: I've busted the 300 word limit out to about 600. Sorry. In return, I offer a first-person account of Tara, the character that I introduced in
Dilute Solution, and which Mattrozi said he'd like to know more about. Not using words starting with 'b' is really challenging; but that's the point, isn't it?

Mattrozi writes a poetry blog called
Cleveland Thomas.

"Tara," said Mr Everton, "tell me what you think of your last assignment.
I looked longingly at everyone else leaving the English classroom, going off to lunch. I turned to my teacher. "What I think's not important, Mister Everton," I said, smiling sweetly; leaning a little closer. "It's what you think that matters, isn't it?"

Mr Everton sighed and took a step back. "Very well," he said. "I think that it's an excellent first draft from a highly intelligent, highly lazy young lady. I think this took you twenty minutes; tops."

That got me. I'd actually written my short story submission during the ads of Australian Idol. "Whatever," I said, softly, looking at the floor.

Mr Everton sighed again. "This story, as it currently stands, is less than what I consider a passable quality." Before I could argue, he put his hand up and kept talking. "However, I'm confident that about a lunchtime's worth of rewriting and editing will elevate it to a pass; or higher."

I didn't like where this was going. I said nothing, and looked Mr Everton in the eye as he went on.

"Take your laptop with you now to the staff room, and you can get to work. I'll accept your assignment at the end of lunch.

"Si-ir," I said. "That's just not fair!"

"Your objection is noted." he said, "Though you're quite right. Giving you a second chance isn't really fair; only I think that with a push you just might start to realise some of your potential."

The lunch hour went slowly; however, I worked hard. I had to pass English. A fail would have a seriously tragic effect on the spending money and other goodies I get from Dad.

About half way through lunch, Mrs Atkinson, my Art teacher, knocked on the door of the staff room. "Mister Everton," she said, after noticing me, "I need to speak with you for a moment please; privately."

I just wished I could hide in the corner for the next few minutes to pick up some hot gossip on another student, or even a teacher. As I got up to leave, I had a stroke of genius. I opened "Sound Recorder" on my computer, hit record, and then locked the computer.

# # # # #

I could not have hoped to record a juicier conversation. My two teachers weren't talking about a student or another teacher; they were talking about themselves. They were having an affair; a very raunchy one, it seemed.

Later that night, I lay in my room in the dark and smiled. I formed my plan and slowly drifted off to sleep.

# # # # #

I said nothing as I played Mr Everton the conversation on my iPod the next morning. He went pale, and his hands started to shake. He stopped listening after half a minute.

"You little cow," he said.

I said nothing, and tried not to smile; much.

"What do you want?"

"I want an 'A' for English," I said. "Like you said, I'm pretty lazy and don't like to spend a lot of time on my assignments. So, I'll turn up to class, and hand in the assignments that you write for me; and you'll give me an 'A'."

Mr Everton stuttered. "That's extortion! That's --!"

"Your objection is noted," I said, and it felt good to say it. I turned and strutted down the hallway towards the Art department.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Miner's Wife

I've been posting a lot of six-setencers lately; sorry. I've struggled to find time for anything more. I've received another challenge, which I'm working on, and hope to post soon.

This story has been cross-posted here at "Six Sentences" Social Network. It's a bit melodramatic; I know.

She lay on her side on the bed, holding the paperback in front of her, absorbing the pages. The world within the pages put her into a trance that numbed the constant pain. She could ignore the ache in her own heart for a little while by feeling make-believe joy, anticipation, romance.

When she put the book down, the fictional world dissolved, and reality slapped her again in the face like a cold, wet towel. She dealt with the real world only as long as she had to, and then returned to her bed and to her book. There was nothing she could do anyway; they would keep digging until they found a man, or a body.