Month: October 2018

Courtney Lane-The Seat book cover

The unholy trinity (grammar, syntax and semantics chaos)

 The Sect by Courtney Lane

(1 out of 5 stars; it made me laugh)*

Sometimes I am not happy with self-publishing. This is one of those times. 

As a reader and writer, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. Advertise a book as extreme, dark, disturbing, and you get a lot of readers willing to overlook the fact that same book is simplistic, implausible and littered with mistakes. The Sect is such a book. What should have been a final draft on a PC waiting for an editor to kick the living daylights out of it, is instead a published book, first part of a trilogy. Let’s see.

  • Stereotypical main character.

The rich innocent girl cliché has been used countless times, and it is both unoriginal and unrealistic. Just because someone is rich, it does not mean they live in a protective bubble. On the contrary, rich girls tend to be a lot more jaded than girls of the same age and lower income. Why? Use your common sense. I am also tired of seeing innocent girls being thrown in the shit. Where’s the challenge in that? Why not use someone who’s smart and streetwise, and still gets duped? I’d love to see a writer pulling that one off.

  • Fuck logic because reasons.

The main character’s actions and decisions don’t make sense. Her circumstances don’t make sense either. They just don’t. However they make a convenient basis for the plot, so let’s give her the common sense of a cauliflower. For science!

  • I ate every space after ellipsis because I was hungry.

Three dots are followed by a space if they are in the middle of the sentence.  Otherwise the sentence looks as if it had to urgently hit the brakes and the words kind of clustered together, victims of a tragic typing collision.

  • Change of past tense narration to present in the middle of the book.

Please don’t do that. The Timelords will find you and hurt you.

  • Purple prose, grammar and syntax mayhem.

Dear writers, please don’t use rare and unusual words and expressions if you aren’t certain what they mean of how to use them. Chances are you are using them wrong, and it’s not flattering or constructive (although it can be very funny).

I cherry-picked some examples:

“Since the day after I began living on the street…”

 No. Just no.

“My deferred dreams…”

The  word deferred means postponed. Dreams aren’t something that can be cancelled and rescheduled, like a doctor’s appointment.

“It nearly persuaded me into breaking down.”

You can’t be persuaded into breaking down. First of all, we persuade someone to agree to something, and convince someone to do something. Also, if breaking down was a matter of choice, then it would not happen. I think what the writer wanted to communicate here is that the heroine, upon seeing her worried mother, almost gave in and reappeared.

“With his shirt tucked into his slacks, the imprint of his wallet was easily found.”

An imprint is what happens when you press a hard object onto something soft. It does not stick out, it goes in. This sentence means that the guy had a wallet made from titanium and it had left an impression on his butt. I’m also not sure how such a large butt dimple can be possibly misplaced or lost, in order to be found. I think what the writer is trying to say here is that the outline of this guy’s wallet was readily visible. 

“His dark brown eyes were trained to the window.”

Train: to point or aim, used with “on” or “at”. It usually refers to a camera, gun, etc. So much better to say his eyes were focused on the window, isn’t it? Ditch the impressive verb and you can both communicate what you want to say and be correct. Unless this guy shoots laser beams out of his eyes and I just didn’t get it.

“I took in the storefronts, some closed, some were on the brink of opening.”

On the brink: point or state very close to something unknown, dangerous or exciting. Unless the storefronts belonged to science labs, brothels and drug dens, I don’t see any reason for the expression “on the brink” here.

“You need to be taught a lesson on who among us is the omnipotent one.”

Um, the Lord Almighty if you are Christian? Or Allah if you are not? Or chocolate if you are me?

“I shook my head with a viscous motion.”

Ye gods! This one made my eyes pop out. The only way you can make a viscous (thick and sticky) motion is if you aren’t a human being, but a piece of liver sliding down a wall. Or an amoeba. Or an offspring between a human and the Old ones. Why not write “a hibiscus motion”? It’s prettier and just as nonsensical a choice. I mean, why not. Hibiscus motion. I like it.

Editing, guys. Proper, merciless editing. I can’t stress this enough. I really can’t.

Did Not Finish at 21% Come on, blame me for it.  

You can find the Sect here.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

 

Censorship at its most insidious

 

Let me tell you a story. I mean, that’s what writers do, right? They tell stories.

Back in 2014, when I started out my journey as a published writer, Amazon only published ebooks via its KDP service. KDP is short for Kindle Direct Publishing. If you wanted to also offer a physical version of your book, you had to use Amazon’s subsidiary company, Create Space. So I published my book, the Theater of Dusk, using both companies. KDP published the ebook. Create Space got the physical book. Good so far? 

I’ve paid for everything out of my pocket. By ‘everything’ I mean the cover, editing costs, the costs of organising giveaways and sending copies to the winners and so on and so forth. It was a large sum, and I don’t regret spending it. Other people spend the same money on shoes and the latest iPhone. I wanted to publish my book. Each to their own. Don’t judge me for my vices and I won’t judge you for yours. 

My book doesn’t sell, and it comes as no surprise. Since Amazon will publish even the manuscript of a monkey with basic IT skills, the floodgates were opened. Everyone hoping to make a quick buck or having delusions of grandeur jumped on the bandwagon. The market was and still is buried under tens of thousands of cheap, similar, awful books. Standing out became impossible, unless there was a team of professionals behind your book who used their knowledge and some serious money to promote and advertise you. Since I don’t have a big publishing house behind me, I had very little hope of getting noticed. In fact, I never stood a chance. This, by the way, does not mean I regret publishing my book. I will never regret that.  

About a month ago I made updates to both versions of my book and re-uploaded the manuscripts. Create Space contacted me shortly afterwards and told me they will stop publishing my physical book because it violated their standards. I sent several emails asking them to point out the exact problem, because they wouldn’t even tell me if it was a title, cover, description or content issue. My book just violated their standards, end of conversation. They refused to answer my emails and explain what the problem was. And of course the book remained out of print.

Create Space is currently in the process of becoming one with KDP. The physical book was recently transferred to the new company. As soon as that happened, it was blocked there too. Wowsers! So I contacted KDP asking for help to solve this issue, hoping they’d be more professional and give me information. I mean, unless you tell me what the problem is, how in the blue blazes am I supposed to solve it? I waited and waited and got the same vague reply. That my book violated their standards, and consequently it would not be published.

At the time of writing this entry, only my ebook was available. I am surprised they haven’t taken that down too. Now, I would love to think I’m too shocking for the minds of common men, and my literary genius has scared them senseless and they cowered before my immense depravity. But believe me if I tell you I’ve both read and written some very extreme things, and my first book is nowhere near close. All things considered, it’s rather mild, it has a ton of trigger warnings in the description, and even the erotic scenes are few and in between.

How hypocritical is it to sell books like 50 Shades as Amazon and refuse to sell what doesn’t even qualify as porn?

How hypocritical is to sell mysteries and thrillers with excruciating details of gruesome murder and torture and refuse to print what can barely be labeled as violent?

I am disheartened, because it has been a non-stop uphill struggle for four years and it doesn’t look like it’s going to improve anytime soon. I also know why they won’t tell me what the problem is. If they did, and I had money, I could have taken legal action. By keeping the details vague, I can’t accuse them of something specific. So they get to do what they want, and I have no say in the matter. A meek, obedient, perfect little cog, keeping the Great Machine running.

A meek little cog with visions of cities burning, of angels mating with monsters and giving birth to abominations, of deepest darkness, the Night Without End. Of beauty inseparable from suffering, for all beauty leads to suffering. Of compassion, cruelty and despair, and everything forbidden and forgotten, desolate and alone, crying out under starless, empty skies.

Still want me to be your cog? Because I don’t think the shoe fits.

I don’t even know why I bother writing this entry, except for the fact I am too bitter to keep it inside. It’s not going to change anything and I know it. But I’m sick to my heart by constant adversity. And my only outlet is, unsurprisingly, writing. I mean, who would have thought.