Authors offer immortality in Web auction ...Rather cool!

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - How much would you pay to be immortalized as a zombie in a Stephen King novel or a good guy in a John Grisham thriller?

King and Grisham are among 16 authors selling the right to have a character in a book named for the buyer to raise money for the First Amendment Project, a California-based nonprofit group that promotes freedom of information and expression.

Details of exactly what each author is offering have been posted on Internet auction site eBay and the auctions will be held between September 1 and September 25, the group said on Tuesday.

King said he was offering the chance to name a character in a novel called "CELL," to be published in 2006 or 2007.

"Buyer should be aware that 'CELL' is a violent piece of work, which comes complete with zombies set in motion by bad cell phone signals that destroy the human brain," King said.

"Like cheap whiskey, it's very nasty and extremely satisfying," he said on the site, adding that if the buyer wanted the character to die, it must be a female name.

David Greene of the First Amendment Project, which provides legal representation in freedom of expression cases, said fans had already shown significant interest.

"My job is to put out the most conservative estimate and we're hoping to raise somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 between the 16 authors," Greene told Reuters.

The auction is not without precedent -- religious fiction writer Karen Kingsbury has raised some $100,000 for charity in recent years through a series of auctions that her publicists say bring an average of $2,500 per sale.

In the auction posting at http://www.ebay.com/fap, legal writer Grisham promised the character whose name he is selling would be portrayed "in a good light" in his next novel.

Amy Tan, author of "The Joy Luck Club," and best-selling romance writer Nora Roberts are also offering names, but they gave no guarantees about what sort of character it would be.

The author of the children's series "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" is selling "an utterance" by the infant Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest of the three orphan children whose adventures are chronicled in the books.

"Pronunciation and/or spelling may be slightly 'mutilated.' An example of this is in 'The Grim Grotto' when Sunny utters 'Bushcheney,'" the posting said.

Dave Eggers, author of the memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," said his buyer would be featured in an illustrated story called "The Journey of the Fishes Overland."

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