A blog from Tonto Books, featuring musings from the publishing world and some occasional special guest appearances.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Dial M for Adam in Digital Awards

Tonto author Adam Maxwell is in the running for an award. The Dial M For Monkey writer is nominated for a One North East Digital Award in the best podcasting campaign category. His website www.adammaxwell.com offers free podcasts and short stories. If you like the look of it you can vote for Adam here. Closing date for the confusingly-named Digital Awards 2007 is 28th March 2008. You can get more info about the book here.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rocketbelt movie - last reviews

Despite some better reviews, Pretty Bird, a movie based on The Rocketbelt Caper story, failed to find a buyer at Sundance, according to USA Today. 'Nothing went as planned this year at Sundance,' says the paper. 'Star-studded films were left without distribution, including... Paul Giamatti's rocket-pack entrepreneur comedy Pretty Bird.'

In a separate interview, Giamatti told USA Today about the rocketbelt: 'It's a real thing. But they only fly for 30 seconds, and they're incredibly dangerous, but they exist. There is a whole subculture of rocket-belt enthusiasts.'

Over at 109.com, the real story gets a mention: 'One of the films at Sundance that flew under the radar this year was jetpack fantasy Pretty Bird, based on the book The Rocketbelt Caper. The film is billed as a comedy, but the real story is both weird and disturbing - more of a comedy of errors.'

UGO also brings up the real story: 'Writer/director Paul Schneider's take on the story is funny and filled with colorful characters, but his faithfulness to actual events is the film's downfall. In real life, building a rocket belt is dangerous business, fraught with angry words, duplicity, kidnapping and murder... Unfortunately, everything falls apart in the final act as the true story [of the rocketbelt caper] has nothing even resembling a happy ending. Schneider is to be commended for not attempting to rewrite history with a factually inaccurate conclusion... Sadly, Pretty Bird crashes hard as a comedy since the true story is completely devoid of redemption or even closure.'

Wired gives the movie an 'honorable mention' in its Sundance round-up: 'For the first half, it plays like a Silicon Valley cautionary tale, except set in New Jersey... But what could have been a classic tale of American capitalism, technology and paranoia meandered off into melodrama by its end.'

The influential Variety offers criticism: 'The darker side of the American spirit of invention weighs on actor-turned-helmer Paul Schneider's Pretty Bird, an overly calculated cautionary tale... With a gruff and one-note Paul Giamatti as co-star, pic won't fly in the theatrical market, and will prove a dicey sell abroad and in vid... Strong plus here is a soundtrack plucked from Dutch minimalist composer Wim Mertens' catalog.'

Let's end with a positive review. Indiewire calls the movie, 'Smart, sharp and lovely to watch.' 'Pretty Bird is a Horatio Alger story with a welcome cynical streak; it's David Mamet's The Water Engine with welcome playfulness. It's familiar, yet fresh at the same time... Pretty Bird is an impressive first step for Schneider, granted, one with expected flaws.'

Although the true story certainly has comedic touches, I envisioned it more as a Coen brothers-style black comedy in the vein of Fargo. Fingers crossed the company that have actually optioned the book will do a better job. It looks like the only reason to see Pretty Bird will be to find out which bits, if any, they've nicked from the book. See for yourself by reading the The Rocketbelt Caper.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Novelists 2008 web publicity

Word is spreading about our North East New Novelists 2008 project, as mentioned in a previous post. Currently you can read about it on the following websites: The Journal; Booktrade.info; Hexham Courant; The Crack; Literature North East; Literature Training; Newcastle City Council; Tom Kelly; and loads more, but that's enough to be going on with. Get details of how to enter here.


Monday, January 28, 2008

A textbook case of an unrealistic claim

The following letter appeared in Saturday's Guardian money pages, but is perhaps better suited to Viz comic's Letterbocks pages. Hurray to Cambridge University Press. Boo to DM from County Durham. This country, etc...

A textbook case of an unrealistic claim

Q: I sent a 10-year-old French textbook back to publisher Cambridge University Press because some pages became detached. CUP refuses to replace it or refund postage money.
DM, County Durham

A: No. Your request is unrealistic. Ten years is a good life for a textbook which you may now know by heart! Publishers have no responsibility to replace a book. A bookshop would, however, have to help with a new book which fell apart. Amazon sells the title second-hand for under £10.

See also the first letter on the page, My lap dancing bill is up the pole. Some people, etc...


Friday, January 25, 2008

Rocketbelt movie - more reviews

Lots more reviews for Pretty Bird, a movie based on the Rocketbelt Caper story, which premiered at Sundance this week:

Cinematical puts it into the 'Good Sundance Movies with Rotten Titles category'. 'Loosely based on actual events, Pretty Bird is a darkly amusing look at the American Dream... [Paul] Schneider's screenplay dabbles in both broad humor and dark comedy, and the three leads seem to be having a lot of fun with this somewhat strange material... Toss in a typically amusing supporting turn from Kristen Wiig, and a few really unexpected plot contortions, and you've got a fine indie flick that's definitely worth a look.'

The Cinematical review also explains that in the movie Paul Giamatti plays Rick Honeycutt (the 'Larry Stanley' character, for those who have read the book), Billy Crudup plays Curt Prentiss (the 'Brad Barker' character), and David Hornsby plays Kenny ('Joe Wright').

The Boston Globe says the movie 'certainly looks good on paper [Yes, on 224 sheets of paper, bound into a lovely cover and available from all good bookshops!], with its hip cast and oddball story line about a deluded entrepreneur (Billy Crudup) and a rage-aholic aerospace engineer (Paul Giamatti) building a rocket belt... Except that the movie doesn't hit one note that doesn't feel strident or forced... In its own small, overbaked way, Pretty Bird feels like the death of indie cinema.' Ouch.

Hollywood Reporter says 'Pretty Bird flaps one comic wing and one dramatic wing, but this slight-framed bird never soars and ultimately crashes under the weight of its excessive thematic ballast. Intermittently amusing, this light comedy is a get-rich-quick story gone bust. Unlikely to navigate successfully as a theatrical, Pretty Bird should flap straight to video.'

Film Threat says, 'When this movie first started, I was very intrigued about the possibility of a greasy marketing man, a rocket scientist, and a mattress salesman getting together and making a dream a reality... The first part of this film is excellent... Yet as Pretty Bird went on, all dreams and hopes of this movie being great crashed and burned... even if this film is based on true events like it is said in the beginning.'

Mike D'Angelo at The Screengrab says, 'Schneider based his screenplay on a true story, one that takes a surprisingly dark turn. Major characters wind up dead, kidnapped and imprisoned. And yet the film's tone never really wavers from goofball geniality... File this one under Fascinating Failure.'

Erica Stern says the movie is 'just a crazy, all-over-the-place, "yes this is your first feature" comedy that makes you wonder why Paul Giamatti was so adamant on its production that he would act and produce the film.' Oddly, she also says, 'Unfortunately, new friend Craig, told me an awful story about how the idea (one of the best parts besides the actors) was taken from a good college friend Zene...' Erica, tell Craig to read this.

All Eyes All Ears says, 'I liked it for the most part.'

LAist says, 'Up until the moment of the first successful rocket belt flight, I was captured by the strange imagination of the story... After the rocket belt flight, though, the movie took a dark turn which felt completely out of sync with the rest of the film. Paul Schneider was actually at the screening and mentioned that he wanted to make a film that explored the dark side of ambition. Pretty Bird certainly does that, but in doing so sacrifices the wonderful sense of whimsy and invention that the first part of the film so expertly created.'

If you'd like to know what that dark turn might be, you really should get hold of The Rocketbelt Caper: A True Tale of Invention, Obsession and MURDER as soon as possible.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Voucher offer - 20% off at Borders

Courtesy of the fine folks at Borders, here's a voucher to get 20% off any full-priced Book, DVD or CD. Just print off the voucher (or get it sent to your mobile phone) and take it into your nearest Borders store. It's valid until 17th Feb 2008. Among the books you'll find there will be several lovely titles from Tonto Books. Just in case you need reminding, some of them are shown under the voucher. We're sure the nice people at Borders will help you find them.

Print the voucher here or get it sent to your mobile here.

the burglar's dog jonny kennedy the rocketbelt caper wor al


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rocketbelt movie premiere - first reviews

First reviews are in for Pretty Bird, a movie based on the Rocketbelt Caper story, which premiered at Sundance on Sunday night. It would be polite to say the reviews are mixed...

Blogger cha no ma-ri says, '"Pretty Bird" is about a con man who is so mired in his lies he doesn't seem to know what it would be like to tell the truth. It's well-written, brilliantly acted by Billy Crudup and Paul Giamatti, but I came away from the theater feeling that I didn't care too much about the characters.' The quote they will use on the posters is 'well-written, brilliantly acted'...

Lou Lumenick on the New York Times Blog offers a less quotable view: 'I knew 10 minutes into "Pretty Bird", the self-indulgent directorial debut of actor Paul Schneider, that it wasn't going to work for me despite the presence of Paul Giamatti as the inventor of a rocket belt who develops a conflict with an entrepeneur (Billy Crudup, incredibly annoying). I stuck it out for an hour; there were plenty of walkouts, including the L.A. Times' Kenneth Turan.'

Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch Blog says: 'Laced with a mordantly off-kilter sense of humor, the movie seemed to make many people laugh out of confusion as much as anything else, and the last 30 minutes left most completely bewildered. Waiting outside for the shuttle bus afterward, one long-standing indie distributor muttered, to no one in particular, "I don't understand why they even placed that in the festival. It was so bad."' Oh dear. Still, it's early days....

Now would be as good a time as any to remind that, although Pretty Bird is obviously based on the Rocketbelt Caper story, it is not affiliated with the book, the option for which had been previously taken up by another movie production company. Why not buy the book and imagine a movie in your head? More details, extracts, etc are here.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Pete Tanton's change of note - interview

There was a big 3-page interview with Pete Tanton in The Journal on Saturday to promote the New Novelists competition. Pete won the previous competiton with his novel Johnny Lonely. In this really nice interview by Hannah Davies, Pete talks about the success of Johnny Lonely, how the Tonto project has benefited him, and about his next book. You can read it here.

The article also contains full details of this year's New Novelists competition. You can read full details here.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Pretty Bird movie premiere

Pretty Bird, a movie based on the Rocketbelt Caper story, will premiere on Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie stars Paul Giamatti (Sideways) and Billy Crudup (Almost Famous) as pair of entrepreneurs who team up to build a rocketbelt, with disastrous results. Giamatti says, 'They have this kind of James Bond jet-pack, and it leads to complete mayhem as they try to steal it from each other. I play a fairly tightly wound guy. He's unemployed and feels he has never gotten his due as the kind of genius that he is, always screwed around by his other employees and cut out of the deal. He slow-burns through the whole movie.'

Paul Giamatti in Pretty Bird

Details about the movie remain scarce, but we'll reveal more here after the premiere. For those that have already read the book, in this fictional take on the Rocketbelt 2000 story Giamatti plays a version of the real-life character Larry Stanley, while Billy Crudup plays the Brad Barker character. If you haven't yet read the true story, you can see more about the book here.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fiction 2008: Being Normal by Stephen Shieber

More news about our Fiction 2008 project. In August, Tonto Books will publish Being Normal, a collection of short stories by Stephen Shieber. Stephen's stories have been published in the Tonto anthologies, and this is his first solo collection. 'The collection is called "Being Normal" because none of the characters are particularly normal,' says Stephen. 'It would be boring if they were.'

As part of the project, Stephen will work with acclaimed short story author and novelist Laura Hird. Laura's story collections include Hope and Other Urban Tales, and she does much to promote short stories and new writing via her website www.laurahird.com. 'I'm a huge fan of Stephen's work and will really enjoy working with him,' says Laura.

The Tonto Books Fiction 2008 Project is supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England. As part of the project we are also running a New Novelist competition. See our previous post here.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fiction 2008: Everything You Ever Wanted by Rosalind Wyllie

Another day, another signing. As part of our Fiction 2008 project, Tonto Books will publish Everything You Ever Wanted by Rosalind Wyllie. Ros was previously published in three Tonto short story anthologies, and this is her first novel. As a taster for the book, Ros says: 'Twenty years ago, when I was 17 I worked for a few months as a waitress and announcer for the acts in a Mayfair hostess club and that I have used that setting as the backdrop for the novel – part coming of age, part thriller.' The book will be published in August.

During the editing process, Ros will work with novelist Caroline Smailes. Caroline is the author of In Search of Adam, and also an editor and mentor. 'I am thrilled and it is an honour to be involved in a project that will promote and develop the voice of emerging writers from the North East,' says Caroline.

The Tonto Books Fiction 2008 Project is supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England. As part of the project we are also running a New Novelist competition. See our previous post here.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tonto to publish Ashley Hames book

Tonto Books is pleased to announce that our first signing of 2008 is TV presenter and director Ashley Hames, and we will publish an eye-opening book about his wide-ranging and fascinating career later in the year. Ashley got an unusual break as the infamous News Bunny on L!VE TV, but he is probably best known as the presenter of Bravo TV's highest-rated show Sin Cities. Other credits include Bad Trip, Man's Work, and most recently the BBC2 show Guilt Trip.

The book begins with Ashley's time at L!VE TV (during which he ran for Parliament and legally changed his name to News Bunny!) and then concentrates on his travels around the world with Sin Cities, experiencing all manner of sex, drugs and debauchery along the way. It's a fast-paced and hilarious tale, and we'll post more details about it here very soon.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Remembering Chrissie

Thursday 10 was the memorial service in Newcastle for novelist and tutor Chrissie Glazebrook, who died in December 2007.
The service was packed with friends, family, writers and colleagues and there were ten speakers who reflected on their friendship with Chrissie. Carol Clewlow and Penny Smith (tutors from Northumbria University) read out some of our words as graduates of the course, and extracts of Chrissie's work were read and displayed. It was nice to hear so many stories about Chrissie and the immense humour by which she lived. Although tears were shed, there were many of laughter as we heard about what Chrissie was like to work with and her outlook on life.

For anyone who doesn't know of Chrissie's work, you can find out more about her here:

Guardian Obituary by Sean O'Brien

The Madolescents


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Tonto New Novelists 2008 launches today

Are you writer based in the North East of England? Could YOU be a Tonto Books' North East New Novelist 2008? Pens at the ready - we have TWO publishing contracts up for grabs! As part of Tonto Books' new fiction project, we are today launching our North East New Novelists contest. Two lucky writers will win publishing contracts and see their novels published by Tonto Books in January 2009. The contest will be judged by bestselling novelists Kitty Fitzgerald (Pigtopia) and Wendy Robertson (Family Ties). Uniquely, the two winning novelists will be mentored by Kitty and Wendy as their novel is developed for publication.

The Tonto Books Fiction 2008 Project is supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England. Due to the nature of this project's funding, the contest is only open to writers in the North East of England. Writers outside of this region are advised to watch our website and newsletter for news of future national and international projects for which they might be eligible. The closing date for submissions is Monday 31 March 2008. Please see full submission details on our website.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New year, new name - welcome to Tonto Books

Alert visitors to this website will already have spotted this - Tonto Books is the new name for Tonto Press.

Our website - now www.tontobooks.com - has also had a New Year spruce-up. Have a gander and let us know what you think.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Where do you start?

Following on from yesterday's post about getting back into writing, I watched Get Carter again last night and felt even more inspired to put pen to paper.
I always find writing anything competition-based gets me completely bogged down with too many questions... What are the judges looking for? Will Judge X like this because it's similar to their work? Are they looking for a commercial idea? Will something with limited readership appeal still have a chance if the writing is good? The list is endless. The answers? I'd imagine it is a bit of everything. I don't think it is worth entering any writing competition if you are catering to the tastes of the judges, but all judgements are based (to an extent) on personal taste, whether we admit it or not. A commercial idea is obviously something that will make the competition look good if it has mass appeal and goes on to become the next Harry Potter - but critical acclaim is always what we seek as writers too.
On the subject of ideas, what about high concept? Here's another blog with an interesting post on high concept worth reading.
And now you're bogged down too.
My apologies.

There are books on how to come up with ideas, books on how to write books, books on how to write short stories and probably even books on how to write books on how to write books.

What do you do then? It's simple - writers write. Get writing! Revisit that novel with a fresh and optimistic 2008 eye. Don't get bogged down by thinking all the what ifs, just write your story, get it out, don’t procrastinate. You never know when these competitions are going to be announced, so don’t get caught out by having a high concept one-liner and 300 blank pages.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Being a Writer

Here's one to start the New Year. I watched a TV documentary over the holidays about JK Rowling, looking at a year in her life up to the publication of the latest Harry Potter book. There are Youtube links to various docos here.

I've never read any of the Harry Potter books and probably never will. I think I'm one of the only people I know who hasn't read one. However, I was quite gripped by the documentary. JK Rowling was just like the rest of us... a struggling writer. She had the archetypical writer's poverty-stricken lifestyle, but never gave up hope. It took her back to the flat where she struggled as a writer. She was asked how many millions she now has in the bank; she said ‘loads’. We found out how many millions of books she’s sold and we gasped.
A few things struck me about the doco. As writers, we all know what it’s like to sit there day in, day out, looking for that big break that rarely happens... and here is living proof that it can happen. It’s so easy to criticise and hate people who become successful at something, but JKR didn’t rub my face in it as a viewer. She wasn’t the devil, she’s not someone we should hate. She was normal, humble and admitted that a lot of her big break was down to luck. Its people like her who have made writing more accessible and dispelled the myths that us writers are all mad eccentrics (well, some of us are).
I thought it was great to see someone making a good living as a writer and I actually thought that one day I might just make the effort to read a Harry Potter book. Might.

So – my New Year Revolution is to go back to writing in my spare time. Importantly, I want to enjoy writing. I’ve got a deadline for a non-fiction book approaching and I intend to get something to the New Writing North Writers’ Award this year. Don’t forget to keep checking our friend’s blog out – she gives a good insight into the world of a working writer.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Happy New Year

The Christmas tree and decorations are down, there's no turkey left, the chocolates nearly gone and it may be your first day back at work.

We hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year, but it's time to put your Christmas booky wooks down and get back to 'normality'.

Yep, as the link suggests, Russell Brand's book was Christmas number one seller in the UK, closely followed by Nigella Lawson, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson. Doesn't look like anyone reads fiction anymore.

Never fear - we'll put a stop to all that. It's the first day of a new year in Tonto world and we've got some exciting new announcements to make in the next few days, so stay tuned for more details.