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Victoria writer a finalist for Amazon <br>Breakthrough prize</br> Add to ...

Victoria's Ian Gibson got some good news earlier this month: He was told he's one of the three finalists for this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which sees the winner score a publishing contract with Penguin Group (USA) and a $25,000 (U.S.) advance against royalties. Word of Gibson's short-listing was announced today and he'll know May 27 if he's beaten the other competitors: Napa, California's Brandi Lynn Ryder and James King of Wilton, Conn.

Gibson's entry is in the so-called "young adult fantasy" genre, a novel titled "Stuff of Legends." Gibson, 29, recently married and works as the assistant box-office manager at Victoria's Belfry Theatre, described the manuscript in a brief interview today as "a satirical take on pulp fantasy." A retired hero, Jordan the Red, is forced out of retirement by a 15-year-old fan named Elliot and together they go on to face villains, monsters and demonic armies.

Gibson's been writing since he was "very young," including what he calls "very cheesy one-page versions of Hardy Boys' mysteries." He says he completed a novel when he was 15 but it wasn't very good and therefore prefers to think of "Stuff of Legends" as his first serious fictional foray.

This is the second year for Amazon's breakthrough prize. (The inaugural winner, Fresh Kills by Bill Loehfelm, was published by Penguin subsidiary Putnam last August.) Each hopeful first had to post a pitch over seven days in February, with a maximum of 10,000 pitches permitted. The 10,000 were then winnowed down to 2,000, then 500.

Amazon customers have until May 21 to go to www.amazon.com/abna to vote on their favourite finalist. (The entry earning the most votes will be deemed "the potential grand prize winner, subject to verification of eligibility and compliance with the rules.") The site also includes excerpts from each of the nominated novels plus critiques by the four judges -- authors Sue Grafton and Sue Monk Kidd, agent Barney Karpfinger and Penguin Press editor Eamon Dolan -- on the nominees they culled from a long list of 100 determined in April.

Brandi Lynn Ryder's manuscript, "Malice, Quite Close," is the story of the unlikely friendship between a 15-year-old San Franscisco girl fleeing her abusive father and a wealthy art collector named Tristan Mourault. James King's "Bill Warrington's Last Chance" is about a man's attempt to re-establish ties with his estranged children after he's diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

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