Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review::The Legion of Nothing

The Web Story

I purchased the E-book version of this:

Truth be told I read this all on the web version which does have a few extra words and missing words on occasion. I have not really seen many spelling problems. So really Jim Zoetewey does an excellent job of keeping his ongoing work on the web in both tight story and excellent grammar. For me though what really helps is that this all take place in Michigan. Being a native of Michigan the story brings a slice of home into the world building.

The Legion of Nothing is mostly the story of Nick and his struggle to live up to his grandfathers expectations while trying to complete high school and stay in his parents good grace. His friends and co-heroes are all too helpful, which is probably really no help until he finally commits to being a hero.

I don't want to call him a reluctant hero. It's just more difficult when all his friends, Haley, Cassie, Daniel, Vaughn, Rachel and Travis have real super powers while he's quite normal. If he can be normal having a grandfather who taught him how to make super armor and a martial arts trainer who is an enigmatic mercenary.

Going out to fight crime the first time seems like a great idea on a boring night. It quickly turns into a dangerous and deadly turn of events that exposes them to a wide range of super and not so super villains who really don't want anyone interfering with their comfortable lives of crime.

It goes without saying that school is going to interfere with their crime fighting work, a lot.

This story has it all along with a cast of thousands that I have to admire Jim for being able to keep up with. If you liked those old comic heroes and or want to see a little something different then this book is for you. There's a lot of that sly humor you get in those books. And Jim does such a good job of description and keeping things moving that you hardly notice that there are none of those pictures in each panel.

Can't wait for the next book. And I won't because I'll just keep up with his web site.
Thanks for a fun read Jim.

J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Book Review::The Kingdom of Malinas

E.J.Tett's first effort at writing is by far one of the better first efforts I have read in quite some time.
She puts together all the elements of story with her own style and class that have not been matched by her peers.
She has tremendous characterizations, conflict, plot and theme nailed down.

This is a well thought out effort for a first book. And it says a lot that although I venture into the fantasy genre now and then my favorite is Science Fiction. This does give me an advantage and disadvantage in that I have little to compare it to.

The only reason I picked up this novel was because I'd been snooping around the SSFchronicle writers forum and noticed that several people there have published various works in various fashion from traditional to self and I have to say that I've up to this point been disappointed with the ones I have tried out.

I came in not expecting much after three other disappointments , one of those is a traditional published author. I'm happy to say that this one surprised me.

It starts out slow and I suppose that it could be argued that its a bit rough around the edges because it's a first effort and its self published. And I suppose that if I were coming from the place of being in a forum of writers I might tend to try to be hyper critical.

Fortunately I come from being a reader of fiction with a 50 plus year background and I have to say that I found the author's style of writing to be be fresh, entertaining, and quite tightly woven. She can only improve from there.

The story begins slowly with our main protagonist Sorrel who is a very strong female character- there are many of those in this story. Her father was a warrior and her brother is one and she wants to follow in their footsteps. Despite the families efforts she will if it kills her and as the tale unfolds it seems that fate is on her side. There is enough in the development of characters to keep me in the story. Her plot seems quite original though I admit that I lack enough exposure to this type of fantasy.

And then:

It's at chapter 12 that she grabs me- one quarter the way through the book. I found the hook that kept me reading this in one sitting. I think its safe for her to say to her friends at SSFchronicles that it does not take a major hook at the beginning of every story too keep your readers happy. She feeds the line out carefully and then hooks you into the story so deep you can't get out until you are finished.

What's really great about this novel is that it's full of characters that can hook any reader. There are almost too may to chose from and yet she pulls it off and this is a first novel; as long as she keeps her present voice she can't go wrong.

What I have a hard time understanding is why there are no reviews here from her fellow SFFchronicle pals there are thousands of people in that forum. Don't they have anything to say? And I won't accept the lame excuse that they could be accused of being partial or having a conflict of interests.

Ms. Tett I think you could teach Ian and Toby some tricks to help them out they need it.

J.L. Dobias

Monday, December 24, 2012

Book Review::Space Captain Smith

Space Captain Smith by Toby Frost.

I always like to say something good about a book before I point out the negative.
It has a nice cover and I was able to read more than a full chapter for free.

Toby should look at the small piece where he introduced Paul Devrin there are a number of paragraphs where he develops this character that almost hooked me. If only he had done this with the main characters or any number of his sidekicks. Sadly he did not and it digressed quickly even with this more evil sounding character, Paul.

There are few books that I don't finish.
I must admit that I only read the part that was available free so I won't belabor any points. I can't give away plot points because there was only one that I sort of noticed here.

I'm one of those people who do not judge a book by its cover or the blurb on the back. Rarely do I read the blurb that might be in the front. What I do; is read the first chapter and if it doesn't grab me I don't take it home.

I tried to give this the benefit of the doubt but perhaps the humor has missed me and perhaps the development of the characters is tied to that humor.

Either way even had I spent the overly bloated price for the e-book I probably would have put it down after the end of the second chapter.

It's likely just me but this just didn't do it for me.

The two stars if for that one bright light in the dark character of Paul Devrin.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain

Here is an Interesting Review

Yes Virginia: Pure Science Fiction Can Entertain

I recently read someone’s rant about how Science Fiction doesn’t need all the Gee Wiz science that pervade the modern era of writing. The author bemoaned the fact that readers prefer the Wiz Bang to real science. They state that those who write Science Fiction with real science are writing to an elite audience of readers.

It was a comment meant to make me think. It did just that. I look into what is being proposed.

Yes we can take all of the stuff of science today and fill the stories with only that. That would truly be Science - Fiction or Fact - depending on whether we depict fictional characters or real people. Science - recognizable today - turned to Fiction with the what if- that is common to Science Fiction - adding fictional but believable characters into the what if of speculation.

This made me think of the old discussion about Sci-Fi not being Science Fiction. Perhaps the above would be one of the delineating elements. In the article I read this was one distinction the writer was making, because of a bad connotation put upon Skiffy as they call it.

That aside I actually hate that word Skiffy so I’ll use Sci-Fi for the remainder of this article.

The issue I take is that for a reader it’s difficult to find and for the writer to write an as if without extrapolating the Science to some itchy limit, which runs the author head on into a bucket load of Sci-Fi.

I look at what I like to read. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I look at what works and what doesn’t. I look at what is strict science and what looks like Gee Wiz or Wiz Bang; and I rediscover something.

When we object to all the special effects and strange (over- extrapolated) notions we usually do so with the notion that these stories are driven by those props. For us; people buy these genre because they have all the fancy gadgets and flashy lights. That’s why the book cover is so important!

What I like in my fiction is stories driven by characters.(I look at the cover-read the blurb in back-if possible I read the first chapter or ten pages- then I decide if I’ll like it.)

Any author who has mastered the ability to place a believable, likeable character into whatever situation will get my full attention every time.

Plots do not drive the fiction. Many plots are rehashes of old reliable plots. Occasionally there is something that looks to be new.

Themes don’t drive the fiction. Themes often are planned but sometimes they just happen.

Wiz Bang and Gee Wiz and over the top science don’t drive the fiction. Those are the props.

Characters drive the fiction. Believable people the readers relate to and become sympathetic with.

When we obsess with avoiding the Wiz Bang, go for the straight science with a pure heart. We fall short, because we forget to develop the character while we painstakingly bring the science to life.

A problem for science purists is a lack of understanding as to how the reader ignores their writing in favor of the Wiz Bang fiction writers. Many times we attribute it to a deficiency in the reader.

We don’t comprehend the Wiz Bang authors skill at creating some really believable people. People who are driven by normal desires and hopes and dreams. People who just happen to be surrounded by gardens of wiz bang.

That Wiz Bang can be altered or removed and the story remains interesting the plot remains true. The reader is reading because they are invested in the characters. They relate to the characters.

So, yes, there might be a distinction between fiction that takes science and extrapolates a what if that stays mostly within the confines of today’s science; and fiction that warps today’s science with what if’s that look like magic.

What the reader likes is not so much effected by either of those. If the reader doesn’t like the story it’s not the science or lack of science; it’s more likely the author’s characters didn’t connect with the reader.

Any fiction writer who peoples his story with weak cardboard characters with no redeeming qualities must rely on the Wiz Bang or the Pure Science and will likely not get the reader’s attention.

Writers of either type will get any number of readers as long as their voice and characters come alive on the page. Everything else is gift-wrapping, around a gift that is the way the author tells the story.

J.L.Dobias author of Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review::Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel is clearly a book that every aspiring writer should consider reading.

As far as to say that Donald Maass is a definitive source or this is a definitive work would be presumptuous.

There are quite a few definitive ideas in here that I believe every writer should know. And I believe it is presented with an entertaining and authoritative air.

I must admit that I made the mistake of reading The Fire in Fiction first and I don't believe that it is quite as informative as this book is. It in fact reads mostly like mini reviews of some of the author's favorite books.

Yes there are things an author should try to do to be more marketable and those are covered here, but Donald is in no way preachy about these ideas. I believe Donald is quite clear that there is a need for balance and his notion is not to make all writers write the same- but, to make them all write better.

I'm not sure that my writing will ever reach the level of respectability that he holds out for, but I think I can easily see where I need to improve and that's what counts as to how this book works as a tool.

I will definitely recommend this along with other tools to all of my friends and even those who help me edit my work.

I especially like the notion I was able to take away that when questioning things like POV (point of view) and tense that it is not as some would try to make a person believe ; too difficult and not recommended for a new author to go down such a path; but it's more likely that the style around what the author is trying to do just needs to be focused to make it more readable.

And Donald Maass gives examples and ways for this to be accomplished.

It the difference that you see when trying to do a do it your self task at home and someone comes and says.
"You are going about that the wrong way." Then they walk away.

They could have at least shown you the right way- but maybe they don't know the right way.

What Donald Maass says here is let me show you how to make that work.

Two thumbs up.

J.L. Dobias

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Review::The Fire in Fiction

I found The Fire in Fiction to be helpful only in delineating things I've previously discovered and wished I'd known earlier. Perhaps it even has helped me hone in on the target in some areas I tend to slack off in and I would have loved to have read this five years ago before I did all the research that helped me see the targets the first time.

What it is most insightful of is that it encompasses the mind of a literary agent and what this one likes and expects from his authors. And perhaps some bit of unintentional verification of something I have long suspected. They really do like purple prose as long as it is purple prose that helps develop the unique character that is integral to the story. There's a lot of it in these example that he critiques.

That leads us to the problem that resides in the pages. This book is a serial compilation of critiques or reviews of what appear to be this authors favorite authors. And I would agree with others that it serves little purpose other than to pat the backs of these authors and fill the pages. Much of what is said here could be condensed and I would expect that to be the first thing that would be recognized by a literary agent when editing this whether it is self edited or otherwise. ( and it would be insane to self edit in this context).

Something that would have been helpful is examples of what went wrong amidst all the what went right.

And at least twice we were told certain things could not be covered here as they would take too much time and space which becomes ridiculous when one considers that 100 pages of this could have been eliminated by narrowing down all of the favorable reviews.

The reason I gave this four stars is that it doesn't deserve five and I am taking enough out of it to rate it higher than three.

I definitely recommend this to any author as a refresher on what works for some of this agents favorite writers. There is much to take away and I would also recommend it to the Forums and writers groups who always claim they are helping each other meet the requirements of an agent. This might help them focus a bit on the real as opposed to their preconceived notions.

It's also engaging and entertaining despite the bloat of examples.

J.L. Dobias

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fan Wars:: To Review or Not To Review

I was recently looking once more for someone to review my book.

I've given away 650 plus copies and have one review to show for it. I have two other reviews that were directly solicited by me so this one is my prize possession though it be short and well, not so sure how sweet.

"What a crummy ending, just left you hanging."

Short and to the point and she's right. I probably need to be slapped for that one. I'm writing a trilogy. Oh, and that's not my excuse- this is my first novel- that's my excuse. But really this is not about blame or pointing fingers. So, I should get back to my point.

I came across a critique site and was sorely tempted to leave a calling card. I did that and it is quite fortunate that most critics won't do anything with your work without a bit more than a calling card. I then proceeded to look at this critic's work. It was not bad- not sub par. But, this is the internet we're talking about so there is a lot of leeway for that merit system.

I discovered another feature here--The critic was offering to exchange site links and the review for a free copy of the authors work. This is of particular interest because it may just infringe a bit on the ability of the critic to give a fair critique. This made me a bit leery. Then I chanced across something interesting. It was a mention of a bad review and seemed to be the critics defense of a recent critique that she had given. I thought that strange. Thinking perhaps that some of her readers and fans had not appreciated her critique.

I was almost appalled to find that it was, in fact, the author who had taken umbrage. And there was a link to his rebuttal of her review.

I of course had to follow that and found the makings of a range war. Here I found the rebuttal and a link to the critique and another link to the critics defense of her review. I read all of these trying to figure out what I could about the situation, well that is what the blogs are all about, Right? It's not like I'm intruding where I shouldn't. I read these through thoroughly and thought that someone might have been breaching etiquette.

It only became increasingly clear there was some sort of breach when a fan of the authors defended the author and, by claiming their own authority in the writing business, besmirched the reputation of a critic who they thought was unprofessional in defending their review.

Now I normally hesitate to comment on blogs--mostly because each and every type of blog needs to have the commenter sign up for a new account. If I did that every time I wanted to comment I'd have an eight and a half by eleven sheet full of usernames and passwords.(oh wait I do have that.) The point is; it takes a bit to move me to comment.

I felt something a bit unsettling in: a writer refuting critic's critique and expecting that the critic would not respond. My thought being that writing a critique of a critique of your own work seems a bit of a mistake and would invite an immediate and direct response.

I tried to leave a comment at the writer's blog (tried 3 times before I suddenly was finding myself locked out of any ability to type in the comment field) Each of the three times I finished and hit enter and the screen would refresh and nothing more. So I finally left the author a rather heated comment in his email that if I were prone to paranoia that I might think he was sitting there moderating the posts and repeatedly deleting mine.

Of course his response to that was an apology and a rather concealed comment to me that he placed on his blog about an email that intrigued him and the fact that someone might get into the middle of his range-war without knowing the facts. Then there was something at the end about letting sleeping dogs lie.(I paraphrase here and might not be doing justice but this is part of my point that I might some day get to.)

His favorite fan came to his aid again and promptly suggested i should mind my own business and that I had too much time on my hands.(I have so much time when working 40hrs a week and writing the second novel.)(And, yes I know, Hornets nest and all I should have brought the flying bug spray.)

Needless this led to a short dialogue- email wise as it took a long time before I could make WordPress understand I already had several WordPress accounts and didn't need another since I've no intention ever of using WordPress for my personal blog. They won the argument so I have several plus one.

In the ensuing dialogue the author made a point that the critic could not have read the book and made the comments that they had made. To back that up there were apparently several other readers who read the review who apparently talked him into writing a rebuttal of the review. And that if I read the book and her review I'd see that clearly myself.

Now this critic also made the mistake of giving away too much of the plot-- which in itself seems strange for someone who is accused of not reading it. But in reading the review I'd have to agree that a lot of plot and ending were out there.

So I read the book- I enjoyed it- not so sure I'm convinced that it proves anything about whether this other person did or did not read it even based on having read the bad review the review of the review the defense and then the book. Some people just have specific opinions about things and that's what the review process is all about.

So, back to the point.

What is criticism about and when might it be appropriate to critique a critique and who has the right to tell either the critic or the writer to shut-up and listen.Here's an interesting link about criticism in general.

Even more so this one on reviews. I specifically recommend both of these to people in forums in the hope they might learn a balance in whatever it is they claim they are doing when they invite new works to be reviewed by other members. They could stand to teach some of this, but sadly they don't.

Anyway I've tested many forums and writers groups on line and one thing that you learn quickly is that when allowing others to critique in a forum- the writer should be a pillar of quietude and nodding acceptance to any and all criticism.

I believe Forums take it too far with these rules because this should be the one real place that a person can actually discuss more about the review or critic process without getting publicly shamed. Most forums discourage any sort of questioning and a good critique for value in learning needs to have a flow of information both ways.

But for lack of better ways to control things this is the code of ethics forums use and although I don't agree (that proven by the fact I've at least twice been banned all the way down to my IP address) They will continue to be that way because they can.

I believe those rules have no place in forums because it promotes internet bullying.

Conversely I do think that such rules or guidelines should apply to real critiques of our finished works that have been offered out there.

Putting your work out there invites the risk someone might not understand or like what you write and that they may actually take the time to tell you that.

If the critic points out a deficiency you can fix then that should be helpful for you. If it looks more like they are attacking then it's time to go to the next critic.

As regards such knee jerk reactions as our own readers might have to such a horrible criticism, though it is flattering to have such fans, the writer should discourage, not promote, defensive discussions. We should help the fans understand that not everyone will like the work.

And as to letting sleeping dogs lie. I thought they were dead and just figured someone should give them a decent burial.

Egregious Ghostwriter

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Shattered Memory by Alan Halsey

A Shattered Memory by Alan Halsey.

A twisting suspenseful edge of your seat thrill ride!

I picked up this book because someone gave it a bad review.

There's a bit more to it then just that but that should sound intriguing enough.

This story starts out a bit strange and I might compare it to a Philip K Dick novel-for anyone not acquainted with him he did the original book the Blade Runner movie is based on. He did a lot of novels that played on themes about the mind and consciousness.

The second chapter of Alan's novel takes us into the life of Carolyn. And I confess at this point I almost put the book down. I'm glad I didn't. There was something about the pace of the first two chapters that bothered me but they are important to the story. And once I read the third chapter I was hooked.

From here on its almost like reading two books waiting for the moment that they both hit the supper highway and collide head on.

The story of Carolyn , Jerry, Samantha, Bill, Ley, and Derick is a carefully crafted tale that needs special attention to the details. As it evolves it is reminiscent of the Suspenseful mysteries of Robert Ludlum and Trevanian. The reader quickly gets the impression that there are more to these characters than meets the eyes. As the bits and pieces evolve before their eyes they can only be drawn further into the story.

As I mentioned there were speed bumps on my road to this good read. And I would warn that there is what I consider rough content that you have to read through because there is important exposition and foreshadowing within those pages.

But, I have this to confess. I know that the author spent a considerable time writing this novel- years- and I shamelessly devoured it in less than half a day because I couldn't put it down.

For all you suspense and mystery readers this is a must. You won't be disappointed.

J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DMCA::The Quandary, The Decision, The Weirdness of the whole concept.

DMCA::The Quandary, The Decision, The Weirdness of the whole concept.

---------I posted the first part of this elsewhere----------------------------
Periodically I search the web for anything Cripple-Mode and I'm always giddy to find things new pointing to my work.

I found this.
-Hot-Electric(as of this writing the link had been deactivated.)

The person who posted this shared it on their twitter account with a link to the document.

It may be the book equivalent of certain music free sites.

Now I --am-- offering a special edition of this e-book on SmashWords so it's not like this is stealing business. (this is not that edition and I'm not sure if he made his own. If so he used the wrong cover and the full rights to that one don't belong to me.)
I don't know this person, yet. Looks to be my biggest fan.
I'm on the fence as to how to treat this. A major upset is that on SmashWords I can keep track of how many people download my book. (ie: I have the illusion of control.)

Hopefully other authors already are watching this site and others.

J.L.Dobias author and copyright holder of Cripple-Mode: Hot Electric.

---------------Since that time.------------------------------

Anyway I decided I can't sit on my hands so I filled out their DMCA required document and submitted it with a mostly polite request to take it down.

Within an hour it went down- to all appearances anyway. They submitted that the pertinent information is now in their copyright or copyleft filter database so this should not occur again.

I have no idea what happens to the poster though I did ask them to go gently as I have no intention of pursuing anything in that direction myself. This type of site is what I would term an attractive nuisance.

My decision was motivated mostly by the notion that no action sends the wrong message and there are other authors out there having this same problem and possibly some who have yet to discover it. And though there is a possibility there were a hundred some people who read my book from there I have no way of knowing how many read it and how many just took a quick look.

The bottom line is I did not expect this to happen the first year with my first novel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diogenes:The Internet:Writer’s block: a prelude to a rant

Diogenes:The Internet:Writer’s block: a prelude to a rant

I recently embarked on a search. Likened to Diogenes search for an honest man. Except that I’m pretty sure that that would be at best an Oxymoron being that Diogenes was a Cynic that eschewed all things man made. and since my search was confined to the internet… Well, you can’t get more man made than that.

The entire construct of the internet is a man made thing down to the very construct of all the rhetoric. I say rhetoric in the most simplistic notion of it being any exchange of words between people.

Words, words. There is a never ending flow of them across the great divide of wire and air and bits and nibbles. What there is not is a flow of intelligent information. Things of real consequence seem to be jammed up into the system. Log jammed by the rush of too much runoff from the flood of viscous unceasing storms of opinion.

Into this maelstrom I dove looking for some answers to simple questions about publishing. There are any number of sites that will suppose to tell you they will unravel the mystery and put to rest the myths so many have been victim to. If only there were some truth or light to that very claim.

Sadly, no matter where we land we must take salt with us.

In this instance- having written and published a novel- it has taken little time to discover that the hardest part is not in the writing but in the marketing. To this I was led to believe that I should hold myself responsible because I did not patiently await, as the rest have, for the arms of traditional publishing to save me from such folly.

There is no end to the folly one might encounter through such deviation.

Thankfully I take responsibility and this search is not for justification but mostly for clarification. At first I found a wealth of knowledge amongst some of my own favorite popular traditionally published authors. I could list some sites, but I chose to make the reader search. In many cases these authors are still reliant upon their publishers and are sticking their necks out, or so it seems, to make these claims.

Many if not all, when they chose to, will relate the same story. The benefit they obtained in traditional publishing was that they received a check up front with promise of potential for more royalties after the initial royalties were able to pay the up frontage. Most will explain they never saw another dime. Some will mention that the three readers that did buy their books are some of their most ardent fans. The important and next reveal is what I was looking for.

They all were quite upfront in saying that the majority of the marketing was left to them. Though the publisher does offer some, it seems mostly contingent on what they have available in the budget. Guess what. A new author does not garner much in budget for these ‘standard’ services.

I felt a bit of weight lift there knowing that I was not doing any less or more than the traditionally published author. Now though comes the wrinkle.

The traditional publishers would prefer us to believe differently and have gone to some extent to obfuscate this in hazy claims to always giving marketing services.

It did not take long to run across some interesting ‘Professionals’ who reside in the most insidious part of this internet, The Forums.

There are many professed insiders who have ‘worked’ in the industry as editor-agent-or somewhere within publishing. They have found it necessary to continually remind us of the myths of the industry.

I will only list this one and I’ll try not to let my opinion guide which one.
It’s a good article and sounds quite believable but suffers of vague fogginess in several areas one of those being the marketing end. There seems to be information missing to refute the actual claims in the alleged myth.

Personally after reading several of these I tend to go with the published authors that I know and the understanding that there is more truth in the truth we leave out of our explanation.

I did manage to come across one author whom I would like to share. This author seemed to have no problem with debunking the same myths and it makes a precious counterpoint to the people in the other half of the industry.

To highlight the frustrating and the sometime useless nature of the web I’d like to share this one. These make me wonder which planet these people are on.

I’ll grant this is old, but even then the only thing worth noting is the graphic at the top which makes some sense.

This article seems to suggest that anyone publishing e-books away from the traditional publishers is yet another scammer from some there-in named African country. Not to mention calling most self publishers plagiarists.I'll grant that he may mainly be referring to people scabbing things off the internet and charging for it which is a whole other ball of wax.

For those who need balance there is this one:

I’m not sure which way they are leaning or what they are selling.

The only certainty I have found is that by the strength of your salt, the reader has to try to discern what might be the truth. And I for one have found it to be hard to gain that from inside the internet.

What I did find is more questions to ask as to more good reasons there might be for self publishing.

One of those is control of the final look and feel of the book. I’ll leave two interesting posts on that thought.

If its about control…
Another view on control-makes you want to read the book
I confess the second post made me want to read the book.

For a number of good reasons Diogenes would not be surfing the net today to find his honest man. But, if the honest man were there caught in the log jamb who is to say if Diogenes might or might not try to bring him safely out and away.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Passive and Active Voice -The importance of understanding what it is.

NOTE: I obtained this with permission to re-post from the author. It was posted in their blog in a writers forum. It comes as little surprise this user's account was blocked and the blog posting was removed. Forums are not suited to freedom of speech. It might be a bit harsh and opinionated but I'm not sure it should have caused them to remove it and it's author.
What do you think?

Passive and Active Voice -The importance of understanding what it is.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a small problem identifying misplaced usages of either Passive or Active voice and that in many cases I am guilty of not paying attention to them. One certain eventuality is that in a critique forum it will come up and rear it’s head.

This is why it is clearly best to be prepared to accept my ignorance, regret my lack of diligence, and be thankful that I came forewarned and forearmed. Except remembering, in this forum I’m not allowed to shoot the ignorant messenger.

When addressing the issue of Passive and Active I first assumed I was being too sensitive to what was occurring. So, I did what I always do- research. Then I had the forethought to remember that I could address this best in a blog. Anger leads to the dark side and the ignorant are allowed to hide behind the rules, which were made to protect the forum from utter chaos.

I found some interesting articles and then I found some corresponding evidence on the web.

I was quite surprise when, for a change, wiki-had some extra help and guidance.…...

There is also an older article of enlightenment:…...
And lastly my old fav Grammar girl.

Some gems of note I found:
Many language critics and language-usage manuals discourage use of the passive voice.
This advice is not usually found in older guides, emerging only in the first half of the twentieth century.
In 1916, the British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch, criticized this grammatical voice.

This would mean that there is a lot of literature prior to 1916 that doesn’t even know of this guideline - and there is evidence even within the work of George Orwell, who thought he agreed with the guideline yet violated it as though it didn’t apply to him.

———Now days we have people who sweepingly proclaim these gems.————

Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other times it’s vague. Also, passive voice is usually wordy, so you can tighten your writing if you replace passive sentences with active sentences.

Most writing authorities agree that the active voice is both more engaging and easier to read than passively-constructed writing.

———-making the guideline.their rule of thumb——-

————————-Here’s my favorite—————————-

A recent study suggests that less educated people—those who dropped out of school when they were 16—have a harder time understanding sentences written in the passive voice than those written in active voice. We should stick with active voice if you’re writing for the general population.

——Can we think of a more creative way to say talk down to the reader ————-

——not to mention: we’re arrogant enough to believe we’ve trained them to expect things this way.—-

this guideline is partially based on this faulty example ::to paraphrase:

Strunk and White mis-apply the passive voice to several active voice to a tune of three out of the four.
“At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard” is correctly identified :

“There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground” no sign of the passive anywhere.

“It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had,” also nothing passive.

“The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired,” not here.

——back to the issue at hand————

As some background I will point out the observation that in a critique forum we have a huge portion of us OCD people some of whom are obsessed with the flavor of the day. Choppy sentences were being targeted. Many followers were gained. The villain was Purple Prose. Riders were assembled for the posse. Tell becomes a victim to show. This goes on.

To be fair there are those of us who are obsessed with punctuation and grammar and spelling for the good of all. We are the do-good-ers who pave the way for a happy substantive edit. Although, sometimes we get just a bit over eager while forgetting that the victim (er… subject? author?) is intelligent enough to take a few examples and run with it. We the mighty ones are not happy until we squash all the offenders and repeat offenders with our red and blue. Sometimes happily creating a wonder that is bloated twice the size allotted for the original piece.

The problem is that our obsessiveness leaks over into the area of style. And style has guidelines not really rules. And there are exceptions that sometimes (check the above articles) even the style guide misses or fails to identify properly. This all leads to the author spending too much time fixing things that stand because we were jarred by what may have been a few legitimate lines of, in this case, passive passages.

What ultimately scares me here is that there are programs that help us authors to identify these offensive passages, which are based on faulty guidelines. So, It falls upon the us all to carefully go through and discover, which are offensive and, which stand as they are and, which are smack dab in the middle of the guideline that says we should use a passive here. I’ve seen many of us, in our enthusiasm, rewrite them all on the pretext of erring in the directions of caution.

What makes things difficult is there are rules that prevents the author from determining if I the critic who pointed out the problem even know all the guidelines or just some or if I am parroting what’s happened to me. There is no way to determine or verify this so it devolves on the author to realize that as he makes this seemingly more readable for me, he might be offending the intelligence of another. And I am hidden behind a notion that the author need make no changes if he so chooses. But, since he came for my advice, which I’ve so graciously given to him, he likely will do my bidding even if I haven’t done all our homework.

This, tied with backwards rule that I as a new person, one who might well need to learn more about these style guidelines, cannot post for critique until I have 30 post and those 30 post can easily be critiques of someone else work even though I’ve possibly never critiqued before. Basically I will learn the guidelines while critiquing and after giving 30 I’ll learn more from those who were, at best, self taught the way I am. That’s not to say that when I reach a 1000 post or 10s of thousands that I might have done my homework, because I might not realize there is homework yet to do.

This adherence to flawed guidelines as though they are rules does not confine itself to just this small example. It extends into such things as purple prose, show versus tell,use of cliche’s, and onto the length of individual lines of prose. I have heard the whole gamut criticized. Too many long sentences and then two many short choppy sentences and then too much alternating between long and short. That last is clearly wrong yet there is a highly numbered poster who is constantly complaining of that and saying a scene should have the same style of sentence structural length throughout meaning most if not all longs or shorts when clearly its recommended that for the smoothest flow there should be a balanced mix.

So the guideline followers can’t even follow the guidelines.

What makes me deeply afraid here is that this environment is a quick and easy way to remove creative, from writing. There have been other attempts to create mass productive writer shops that would profess to produce many writers of equal high caliber skill. The problem is that they would all speak with one voice and the truly creative part of writing will be lost. Not to mention the lack of proper understanding of the real guidelines and that they are guidelines.

Every writer wishes to come up with the new - never before thought of idea that will hook the reader, the editor, the agent, the publisher. That’s not the only place where writing is creative. In fact some sources will have us believe that there are no new plot ideas. For something fresh and new, personal style and voice are the best place to start and I constantly see those two discouraged and given second and third row seats (often pushed into the nose bleed section) with the hope they will eventually leave the auditorium.

This is not to say that there is no place for a critique forum. It can do wonders to help locate many problems that I can’t see in my own writing. What it will not do is prepare me to publish my own ideas with my own style. It will show me the value of a simple edit by other eyes. There is no way for the forum to complete this edit job on any given work so its not that much help with grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Those will all be fixed during the real edit cycle in the real world anyway.

Most of all it will allow me to stroke my ego by thinking I am helping.

And it’s taught me the value of doing my homework before I try to help everyone else or let them help me.

Nov 8 2012 —Egregious GhostWriter

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Japanese Steampunk alternate universe

Japanese Steampunk alternate universe. subtitled how to peeve off your readers.

Just a random thought/ question::


If someone writes a novel about Japan- an alternate Japan - with steam punk ish air cars and hunts for gryphons. How important is it that this novel be true to the culture and language of the Japan in our reality?

Is it okay to miss-use the language and misplace the flora and fauna and perhaps even throw in some Chinese folk lore or characters from such into the mix?

Is it worth the risk of peeving off a few readers who are die-hard fans of everything authentically Japanese. Or should you tuck tail and perhaps write about the same stuff only transport it to some far off place like Barsoom.

In other words- when writing fiction how important is it to keep your facts straight? I’m not talking about internal facts in the novel I’m talking about external facts in reality. Reality:: which is not what they are writing about. This is fiction after all.

We all know the importance of making our science in science fiction sound intelligibly workable. But most of the time we know it’s not real. (off in the distance we hear a sharp and anguished, “It’s not?”)

But some parts need to be believable. Some of the character development has to make some sense but how much has to be verifiable and real when compared to this reality?

And if you’re going to use an alternate language (based on one which is real and the author may or may not be have some knowledge of) should you stick strictly to the rules that apply in our reality or can you bastardize it a bit? Keep in mind this is an alternate universe.

What is artistic license?

And when does a reader have the right to revoke the authors license?

Should we levy fines?

Just some thoughts begging Others thoughts.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ay' get me me other crutch will ye, I need to get me dictionary out of stowage!

When did it become poor form for an author to send his readers to a dictionary?

I don't know how many times now that I've perused a review blog or lurked through a writers forum and found so much negative response to the use of large words or words whose meaning has changed enough over the years that someone would suggest that using it for what it was intended was a grand sin.

I have heard every argument from it being purple prose to perhaps trying to talk over the reader's head. But, the truth seems to lie in that no one wants to pick up a dictionary anymore. And in this age when the dictionary is a few clicks away on a keyboard that seems even more phenomenally idiosyncratic at the very least.

I recall when I was young, yes I really do, and maybe I don't remember it all exactly the way it was, but I think that I've got this one correct. I was assigned reading, which required the use of a dictionary. I was encouraged to read those novels that would introduce me to new words and I was, eventually, never in fear of entering a library where my mind would be devoured by the vagaries of an author who was too high handed with his vocabulary.

Perhaps it was just me, I remember even times when first delving into Mark Twain's universe that I had to find the meaning to a word. Oh, but, then, I didn't always try to rely on just the context to tell me the meaning. And I knew well the pitfall of trying to use context because there were words used in his time that meant something different today. No context does not define the word it helps determine which definition the writer is using. The dictionary still defines the word.

In recent years I've actually found small innocent words that have been sorely abused. Oh, sure by context you can figure out what the writer wanted to say. They merely slipped up and used the wrong word without looking up the meaning. It's only four letters so why would anyone look it up? Now there is the root of this whole problem. Some people simply do not want to use a dictionary for anything.

The question is: how did we reach a point where the so called professionals of reading and the help desk for writers have been allowed to lay claim to knowledge that readers don't like using the dictionary and that they have to be coddled into the understanding of the meaning of every word by its context and that no single word should actually encompass that context unless its such a simple small word that the simplest of readers might glean the meaning and the context without all the fuss of verification.

Yet to hear that someone would put a book down rather than constantly run to the dictionary makes me cringe. How many times have Poe, Dickens, Melville, Conrad, and Doyle, been cast aside for this very reason today? I still have my dictionary at hand whenever I read Charles Dickens. Might as well just burn Dumas and Cervantes.

The worst argument I have heard yet is that, for a new author, it is forbidden. If they want to become a well read author they must use simple words that everyone understands. Since they are not established as the authors mentioned above, they have no right to use outdated and long words that are mostly an obvious show of purple prose attempts to create great flourishing phrases that will stand out.

And, there might be some truth to that.

But, these same people who spout these truisms have time and again shown an unswerving inability to gain context of the material to even begin to determine what is and is not purple prose. Their method is: if it looks, smells, tastes, and sounds like purple prose then it must be. The ability to determine context seems to blow completely from their head.

Even the famous phrase such as "It was a dark and stormy night..." can have relevance. Of course it's often what follows that is determined to be Purplish. Sure they all recognize that one as purple prose. But, if something happened on that dark and stormy night that could never happen on any other sort of night, then what do you do?

The sky was devoid of light and there was a dearth of open space between the angry clouds. Even the few voids in the cloud mass seem belligerent with the occasional flashes and their cacophony of sounds like drum rolls. Behind that blackness was even greater darkness as the elements shed their frustration over the earth below. Coming ever closer ever faster towards revealing the many flaws in the very structure of the great Manor House.

I use a dictionary when I write. Often to check spelling sometimes to make sure of my definitions. If I have to look it up that could bode ill towards my reader. Should it stay or should it go. That depends on the context and how well it fits the structure of the writing. It should never be determined by how often I might send a reader on some mad dash to get that dictionary from under their bed or from off the pressed leaf collection.

It should never be decided by a quorum of "writers" who have determined that the readers are not smart enough or will be distracted if they have to look up a single word.

On the other hand the reader still may just toss the book aside because they really are lazy and indigent. That's just a risk you take- and obviously with all the unsolicited help out there one that need not be taken at all if you want to play it safe.

Copyright J.L. Dobias

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Being a frequenter of I came across this gem of a book as The Nine Inch Bride. It was probably a title far from what would interest me. But, with goodreads I always get the free offers about three days too late and I expected that to be so with this book anyway. To my surprise I saw that it was offered for a much longer time than usual. The caveat being that I would have to write a review.

Being no stranger to the need for reviews I thought this was quite reasonable and download the book which it turns out is the first half of a whole, which has been split and is named Book one: Conundrum.(the first conundrum being that my copy calls itself the Stone of Conscience)

I must admit that the beginning of the book intrigued me. But as with some other readers it segued soon into something less bearable for a time. For me it was just that it was bit too morose with the downward spiral of the life of our protagonist. It's when the suspension of belief occurs that the story picks up pace again. So does our protagonist's life.

At this moment it is almost safe to say that one might wonder that the events that follow isn't just a fabrication of our protagonist. But slowly we get the notion that the fantastic has happened and it is all real. But, the most interesting and intriguing part of this portion of the novel is that it becomes almost a political science diatribe. Unfortunately it takes getting about half way through the book to get there.

It's worth the trip.

In some way the long political discussion borders on perhaps a intimation that this might be a commentary on socialism. The real and elusive never quite attainable socialism that lives only in philosophical discussions.

The character that delivers it runs their own gamut of potential - from angel to devil. They just draw the reader in with what seem like selfless acts- to what seem like intelligent conversation about current political failing in democracy - to a bit of an imp suggesting almost the unthinkable.

Ultimately we're led to believe the goal is to help the real and elusive never quite attainable democracy that lives only in philosophical discussions to finally come to full bloom. Something that possibly is being held back by circumstances of today's global economy and capitalism.

I mentioned socialism earlier because along the line there is a familiar thought mentioned about how once the system is allowed to purge itself- capitalism will dissipate or just sort of go away to make way for the true democracy. Our protagonist's new friend wants to help this process along.

I want to see how this works out for them, that means I will have to obtain the next half.
(Which might be named A Stone of Conscience.)

It's a shame the author is Anonym-ous but there seems to be a measure of paranoia in writing when simple names are misspelled deliberately to inadequately obfuscate the reference of whom they are speaking.

J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode Series

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Murder on Michigan Avenue is not your average mystery.
It's also not your average LGBT novel.
It is a literary masterpiece that puts its author Jere Myles on par with other favorites of mine such as Hemingway.

Certainly there is a heap of murder within this trilogy. And a large mystery that unfolds to the reader. There is no doubt that the bulk of characters intersect or have lives that are bisected by gay and bi-sexual themes. Strangely, though this is not really just a mystery and certainly not an in your face LGBT novel.

This is a primer for a large discussion of an ever growing problem in the community of man. This is a story of love and how much our world today does to stifle anything related to it. The characters of Jon and Mieko and Eileen could be considered dysfunctional by many in the world because of their confusion of orientation. But, such a judgment would overlook the obvious. Their dysfunction is that they live in a world that has taught them to hold onto their love out of fear. Fear of rejection and fear of being misunderstood. The lives of these adults is only the tip of this iceberg. There is much more that is involved here. In these books we only see this piece. I wonder if Jere Myles will return to these characters and help explore the rest.

We have been carefully eroding love from society. If two close and old friends meet and hug and kiss. If they are women it may go unnoticed. If they are men it might raise eyebrows or more. We are taught from childhood onward that certain types of display of affection for members of the same sex are not appropriate. This of course in direct opposition to "Love thy neighbor as thy self." I'm talking about love here and not that sticky love/sex thing that people get hung up on.

Today we live in a world that is beginning to facilitate the denial of love of parent for children just out of fear of it appearing to be the wrong things to onlookers. We have even legislated ourselves to a point where protecting the young takes away a parents ability to reach out and lovingly care for their children. The lives of the people in these books is a mirror of the symptom of these problems. And it all goes much deeper. Because there are those who would point at these peoples lives and try to justify their problems with what they have chosen as a lifestyle while overlooking some fundamentals.

It's rather ironic since sex is more common to eating, sleeping, breathing, sensing. All pretty much autonomic responses. All at sometime necessary for continuing life. All at sometimes subject to subjective urges that go beyond the norm.

The shame is that society places Love as a lifestyle decision. Man was made to love whomever he chooses to love not whomever some lifestyle dictates. When a lifestyle chooses whom we love it restricts our ability to love to the fullest and that is definitely dysfunctional.

Yes. I suppose someone else could argue I took too much from these novels- but, I think not.

This book this trilogy is for everyone who's ready to handle it with a mature attitude.
For those who have read the other two- what are you waiting for?
For those who haven't- there is enough here to give you the full picture. But, I'd advise reading the other two.

J.L. Dobias author of Cripple-Mode Series.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I prefer my own voice, but if you want a ghostwriter go forum it!

Writers Forums:

Now lest someone get me wrong. I'm not against writer groups or workshops. There is a lot to be had from the notion of a peer review. A place where I can throw out my ideas and some of my prose to be playfully bashed or shaped and reformed. I just believe this should be in a place where I sit eye to eye with a comfortable understanding that this really is meant to assist each person present in honing their craft. It should also be a place where each person's qualification in the craft are visible for all to see so that I know whether I'm interacting with a peer or a mentor. It does make a difference if a peer makes an observation and it is validated by a mentor, in my decision to consider the thought or dismiss it out of hand.

There are many ways I have seen in which forums online can work toward undoing all the hard work I've put into building my craft. There are many ways that forums online create a falsely comfortable atmosphere while engendering disassociated sociopathic bullying. And forums employ all of these nasty ways in a most creative fashion.

There is no doubt that the need for online writers forum has been driven recently by the proliferation of self-publishing on the web. I am certain that the first response internet team was well meaning in its initial intent to do a good deed. There is truth to the saying that no good deed goes unpunished. It has taken little time for all sorts of writer forums to crop up. In my brief limited foray I sampled some dozen in my genre alone.

Who can start a forum? Well today almost anyone with internet access. There was a day when it took someone who was savvy about the computer the internet and some programing and lots of geek knowledge of linux. Now there are so many tools and free resources that a twelve or thirteen year old could start one.(That age group oddly and actually is valid with the savvy computer internet community I mentioned earlier.)

My experience is that most writer forums are started and administered by people who have not yet published but are hoping to publish soon after they get some help from their sites users. Very few- in fact only one of the twelve I sampled- have a qualified published author (advertised) on their 'staff'. Staff consists mostly of people whom the ADMIN has given admin privileges. I focus on the one with the 'qualified' professional. - with several books in publication the one I read was mediocre and violated many of the tenants taught in the forum.

The forums have rules:

These rules arise from way back in the age of slow modem bbs. Written at a time when they felt the only way to deal with what they considered rude people was to gang up and flame them causing a flame war resulting in chaos in that particular bbs. So, I've no problem understanding the need for rules to control that type of situation/behavior. The problem is that it does not control it as much as it puts that type of conduct (flaming) into the hands of the ADMIN teams, elite squad. So the first rule is that I must be civil in my correspondence online and civil is as is defined by the ADMIN. Or suffer being flamed by the ADMIN who will then bury the body.

Because the forum's all offer what they gladly proclaim is a benefit of the knowledge of its membership given freely at their own considerable expense. (In brain matter and time.) There arises another rule of necessity. Since it's common for the existence of transient membership (people who are looking for possibly some form of ghostwriting to enhance their work) who drop out after getting help and don't seem to contribute anything to the community. There are rules for a minimum number of posts to ongoing threads before I, a new person, may be allowed to post my own thread- for critique or assistance. Typically this can be 10 to 30 qualified comments in other people's threads. By qualified that's that the post must pass certain admin standards. It does not in any way imply or infer that I have to make qualified comments within my own knowledge. In fact I'm free to go way above and beyond my knowledge to offer any assistance I feel I can get away with.

The next important rule: the one for when I obtain the ability to post my own thread: is probably the most insidious yet justifiable because of the flame factor.

When I post I must keep in mind that these people are all taking time out of their busy lives and generously offering their valuable help to me- an assumed novice( who incidentally fleshed out 30 mandatory 'brilliant' critiques just to get here)- and I am prohibited from responding to any of their critique or otherwise noted helpfulness. (Unless to say thank you for the insightful response.)They explain there will be disciplinary action taken for any transgression. What is not explained is that if I am perceived as failing in this rule, the whole mass of anointed will descend upon me with flaming until I'm banned for starting the whole thing. ie; I lit the flame that caused their gasses to ignite.

This is the insidious part:
I now face a community of slightly definable noobs who are less than x posts old in the community. And a more undefinable quantity who are above that bar some to the tune of having thousands of posts. Having thousands of posts does not make them an expert writer but most of them think that it does. The recognized professional sometimes makes comments- but not that much.

So basically I am throwing my work to a vast number of people who haven't or can't publish their writing. These people are supposed to be helping me accomplish what they have not yet accomplished. And- they are hiding behind that clause that says they are taking their valuable time to help me and I should be so grateful to them. Keep my mouth shut unless I'm offering the help.

Now this is all not that bad because you have the same thing in a writers group/discussion /workshop. But you also have someone there to moderate and recognize when someone is way out of line. In a forum the moderator shows up much beyond the point when you ignited the flame.

And what could possibly bring this on:

Well on the lighter end there are the obvious OCD people.

I am Mr. punctuation I will never be happy there either is a lack of punctuation or too much- never enough. I cannot help the writer without tossing screen after screen of corrections. Filling in red and blue from top to bottom. Nor can I refrain from observing that I will not offer corrections at all with the grammar and spelling because I'm simply exhausted by the mass of incongruity in the punctuation.I am incapable of offering up perhaps two or three examples and trust that this writer- who obviously is incapable of judiciously applying punctuation- can complete the task.

I am the Grammar and Spelling gatekeeper. Not only will I find and destroy all relevant errors I will point out words which simply no one in their right mind uses today. I will not be satisfied until I've reduced the writers work to the level of drivel that any reader might understand without the need of an overrated and too heavy to carry dictionary. God forbid that the writer should interrupt the reader with a necessity to learn. And when I am finished though it may take three times the words that are allotted I shall have created the great American masterpiece and it shall be mine. But I shall liberally allow the writer to claim it for their own. Disregarding the fact that I probably belong in the GhostWriting threads.

I know that Spelling and Grammar and Punctuation are important enough for everyone to try to have these taken care of so they don't distract the rest of the knee jerk OCD responses. Still I should explain that I can not resist the urge to totally rewrite your work once its out there.

I am Character development. I am a gestalt of all my parts and get very disturbed if you separate me by too many words or god forbid across several paragraphs. Never tell of me- show me but please for gods sake show me all in the first paragraph so that everyone may know me within the first 20 words or so. Oh and while you are at it squeeze in some excitement and tension maybe a bit of conflict lest the reader think I'm too boring to bother with. It doesn't help if you spread me across the whole piece- then the reader will lose interest before getting to know me.

And once all the above have been broken and beaten several times and way beyond the scope of human understanding, I shall resort to reminding you that the reader does not have a mind of their own. We have trained them to only be comfortable with third person and past tense writing. If this writing so much as tries to deviate I will find so much wrong with it to make any writer sorry they ever thought they could put two words together.

Lastly-because the work must stand mute- because I have been so generous with my time and knowledge- I stand firm with the knowledge that I didn't even read this once through before I took the red pen to it. No I started at the very first sentence and with my brilliance I dissected this evil piece of garbage line by line. Knowing that even as each sentence that unfolded answered the questions I so brilliantly brought forth to display your misguided ignorance, I had no need to back-peddle because the light of my brilliance will be seen by all and none shall dare dispute what I say. I shall allow my light to be used to replace the dimmer glow of the wretched soul I condemned today and will so generously allow the author right to claim my brilliance as their own. --I.M. GhostWriter Egregious

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dog Eat Dog Publishing!

To publish traditionally or not to publish that is the question...

I was going to pontificate on the virtues of self publishing while bashing upon the traditional methods when it occurred to me that I have better things to do with my time.

So here's a link to a website that will be extra helpful if you intend on writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy.(For those who don't know true Science Fiction is non-existent- at least by my crippled understanding of most formal definitions and that's a whole 'nother' discussion.

This is not a rant but it might be long and since I'm not expert it might be opinionated. I did try to keep it somewhat informed. Lacking in citations though.

The above site is written by an established writer who has an agent and a publisher. I don't need to emphasize the focus will be on extolling the virtues of having both. ie: It is heavily biased. But, it is informative in demonstrating the monster that every writer-new author- will have to face to get published. And though it will also relegate those who subvert the system to the label of Vanity Publishers there are many important pieces of valuable information to be had from here no matter how you intend on publishing.

Particularly pay attention to the 39 steps (I loved that movie-not even related to these steps though) 39 steps

Now back to the question. Of course there is a third option. That is to self-publish. While most seasoned-monied- authors will recommend that you abide only by the first two which seems to make some sense. I have often wondered if they might be treading carefully so as not to bite the hand that feeds them. But, if you read the material in the above links carefully I think you will agree there is something much more simple and perhaps sinister in their motives.

If you have read the above then you know some of this but I'll try to paraphrase.

A suggestion is that .03 percent of a 10000 sampling of books are published in a year. Of one genre it was said 1800 books were published in a year. That means it took roughly 60000 selectable choices to get that. Of these there are reprints of old titles and there are old standby producible income authors that cover a large portion of those depending often on the publisher and how much they focus on that genre. This gives the new author a miniscule chance of getting his foot in the door.

Even then with the foot in the door there is a one in ten chance that that new author will make more than his initial advance.(in a case where the house has a small commitment to the genre there might not be a new author) One primary reason is that they have no presence(except in some exceptions where they have presence somewhere else). Mind you publishing companies (traditional that is) do have dollars for advertising. Those dollars will mostly go to the tried and true authors and books so don't hold your breath. You will need to market you and your book if you want any or many sales.

Bottom line: Its a dog eat dog business this publishing. The ideal is to get the tried and true authors out as quickly as possible to suck up the most reader dollars before the competition gets those dollars. There is a finite amount spent on books and reading and it's every man for himself. The brick and mortar and e-commerce stores only make this ever more evident by flushing their brand of marketing into only the books they know they will sell the most. It is all about the bottom dollar- making the most profit to help defray the cost of that crappy book the new author snuck into the system. (Could be a really good book but if they are unknown it might not matter. Maybe a good argument to get your crappiest piece published first. By at least one authors account that would only alienate the three people who purchased it.)

Always keep in mind that some publishers might only have 0 to 10 open slots for a book in your genre so they may not even get to your manuscript before they fill them. You might get the form letter because they didn't have that 11th slot.

Also it is possible for a very good book written by a new author going to publication and failing against the very poor work of an established author within that same publisher's domain.

That said if you pass the .03 percent to make it into that big lottery you still haven't won and your chances of winning are minimal.

If you go with self publishing your chances are not going to get better. I will not sugar coat this. All you have done is subverted the system to get a chance at the bigger lottery. It does not ensure that your name will appear in the long list of potential winners. There is a lot of marketing that would have to happen unless you are already somehow an established house hold word.

Remember the Dog eat Dog part though, because what it does do is cut into that market, which is not what these published authors want to see.

Is it greed or self preservation- you'll have to decide.

This is the reason established traditional published authors like to call self publishing, vanity publishing. That is an interesting term because if you go with the traditional publishing it makes you feel better and you might get some help with marketing and you might get your name out there and you will have hard volumes to offer to friends and family and you will probably finally qualify for some specific writing clubs that require traditional publishing to qualify. If that doesn't sound like vanity publishing then I don't know what would.

Vanity vanity all is vanity. Its just nice to see your name even if its a pseudo name on a hard copy or even the e-cover of a book.

What they have that self publishers don't have is that cushion of someone else money invested and possibly thrown away on their work. If the self publisher's work incurs cost its to the self publisher. And when there is no profit that may well be construed as a hobby- not vanity. A hobbyist painter who sells their own paintings is not considered a vanity painter- er; at least I don't think so. There is probably less likelihood of them cutting into other painters income. So, you don't see other painters shaking their head pointing and saying shame vanity painter.

So you might ask is that finger pointing meant to convince both the vanity publishers and the readers to stay away from these mavericks who infringe on their territory. Once again I can't judge this. It's just my curious observation.

One negative side of self publishing as noted is the lack of a system to market yourself and your book. If you already have a presence that condition markedly improves. ie: You are a star doing your memoir or auto-biography- You have a website with interesting content that people have been begging you to put into book form. You've committed the crime of the century and have too much time on your hands in prison.

This can lead to the next 'bane of the dog'. One really good marketing tool is to give your first book (e-book) away. If your writing is good this will lead to selling your next book. One hint here; try to have the next book close to finished before the new readers lose interest.

This definitely will grind on the traditionalists who don't generally have this as an option. It will also cost you whatever you've invested.

The good news is that now with some sites you can do free e-books with relatively no cost. The only cost will be money spent to have editing done and covers made. And- if its difficult for you -maybe having someone convert your file to acceptable format.

This takes us to the next wave of attack.

There seems to be a prevalent notion that self publishing will automatically mean the exclusion of certain variable that the publishing industry has 'trained' the average reader to expect.

These would include:

The use of first person:: We've trained the reader to be familiar only with third person. A new author couldn't possibly have the genius to pull off first person writing.

The use of present tense: see above: Not only is present tense going to grate upon the reader if used too much but will be impossible to sustain along with first person.

Over use or under use of punctuation: doesn't matter that they are polar opposites the new author is guilty as charged.

Use of cliche's: (I'm unclear if this includes some idioms, but it doesn't matter.) we reserve the right to determining whatever we think is a cliche is one and the new writer will use a dozen or more so it's just no good.)

Poor grammar will be rife in the new author's work.

The new author's work will lack the tight nature of the traditionally published as it will lack substantive editing.

New author's characters will lack depth and clarity(especially if we convince them not to use the cliche's and idioms and poor grammar.)

I can go on for days, but the list will not contain anything that the self publisher can't have fixed. The most difficult is the substantive editing because to get an outside professional job is costly. More so if you have over 150K words.

The self publisher will have to be careful about keeping an eye on the editors and very careful about any offers to help market his work(which is very costly). Marketing is probably the toughest job you will have. But chances are unless you are the author of a famous series of books about a wizard you will have to deal with that reality in the traditional publishing venue also. So far for myself the best marketing tool has been the book giveaway. I went from no books downloaded to 200 downloads in three days. Its not a best selling number but it's something.

I cut myself short on the critical errors in writing because I'm lazy. Also because I will address later, in the trial and tribulation of trying to use online forums to hone your skills.

As a hint I'll possibly entitle it:

If you want someone to ghost write it for you then go forum it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Self Publish How To Resource

If you have self published or you are thinking of self publishing there is something in here that you can take away.

There's lots of general help and some specific tips and a bit of wisdom such as the statement listed below.

"If you think your writing is perfect and that you never make mistakes, then you're clearly delusional - no offense, but no one is perfect, ever."

How Expert Press; Johnson, Jennifer-Crystal (2012-04-01). How To Self Publish - Your Step-By-Step Guide to Self Publishing (Kindle Locations 278-279). . Kindle Edition.

I like that it covers a lot of territory in a compact area. Everything from editing to formatting and choosing programs to help publish and format the cover graphics. Tips on creating e-books that will give the reader the best experience. I particularly found the tutorial for setting up MS Word review features helpful. That is something I could have benefited from on my first venture into self publishing. Now when I hand someone my raw work to edit I can just say here- chapter one under Revision.

Nice tool.

J.L. Dobias Author of Cripple-Mode:Hot Electric

Thursday, June 7, 2012

V:The Other Hamilton Sister: Rifle

The Rifle; is the key.

That's what Dalton had suggested. He shifts his position in the sand where I'd left him sitting. His hands are still restrained by the overlarge tie-wrap.

I walk over to the rifle. I pick it up and use the edge of my blouse to wipe the grit off of it. Turning it slowly in my hands. It sure looks like dads. I choke back a breath. I observe, "This could easily be it, but I've no idea how many of these there might be around here." I look up at Dalton as if he might be able to confirm something and turn away before he can respond.

My eyes stop and rest on Ted who is still in his alcoholic stupor watching this drama unfold. Ted doesn't appear to be focused on anything. I slowly look back at our prisoner.

Dalton moves once more. He winces as though in pain and looks over his shoulders then at me. He says, "It's a one of a kind here. Possibly the only one outside of earth itself. That's an exceptionally old piece." It almost seemed to me he'd left off saying, Belongs in a museum. That makes sense. Dad made his own shells.

I grip it a more tightly. The significance begins to grow. My eyes tear away from it and rest again on Dalton. I've no idea if he can fathom how much this means to me. I look again at the rifle. I pull back the bolt. The trigger moves and the used cartridge is exposed. Obviously Jason doesn't know how these work or he forgot in a hurry during the excitement. It's a wonder he had it loaded and ready. If he's not familiar, someone else must have set this up before giving it to him. The question then is why. Jason might have even fired it by accident. The second time he tried to fire wasn't an accident, but it was very stupid. I flip the spent cartridge to the ground. I pull down the magazine, it has only two bullets left. I dig those out and stuff them in my pocket then replace the magazine and leave the bolt and trigger in locked position. I hook the rifle on my arm pointed at the ground.

As if thinking the same thing I am. Dalton says, "Interesting."

I let out a slow breath and manage to croak out, "So you found my parents dead and someone took this and you traced it to Jase."

Dalton shakes his head and says, "Not quite. I wasn't able to get near the compound and I was following a different trail."

I correct him and say, "It's a house or estate, that's what we call them here." I open my eyes wider and stand straight while considering what he's just said.

Dalton shrugs,"Yeah. I know. I'm sure they call them that where my primary came from. I didn't know about the rifle until I saw your friend coming over a hill waving it around dangerously. I knew it existed. Until I saw him with it I wouldn't have known where it was. I assumed he was headed this way. He had the rifle and I figured that he was the one I was looking for."

Breathing more normally I grasp onto what he's said and ask, "You couldn't get near the house? Were the local police there and you are unofficial or something so you couldn't get involved with them?"

Shaking his head he say, "Na. They took me there so I could see that they really had the problem they said they had. They thought I could solve it for them. I couldn't and that's when they got upset and we parted ways."

Coming over next to him and pulling out my knife I say, "So, what kind of problem did they have?"

He gives me a dubious look until he's certain I'm not going to slash him. I use the knife to saw away the plastic tie from his wrists. While he rubs at the marks he says, "The um, Estate guardian."

Preforming my best dumb look I say, "Estate what?"

He repeats, "Guardian." Then he looks at me for a hint that I might have a clue. He says, "It's some older tech from the clone home worlds. Some of the tribes use them to guard the property of important tribe members. The guardian stays dormant while monitoring life signs of the owner. If he dies or appears to, they activate and protect the property of the owner. In most cases it amounts to protecting the body. Trouble with them is that they can activate if the owner is too far away from them and forgotten to disarm them. I need to confirm that your parents really are dead, but can't do that until the guardian is deactivated."

Shaking my head, I say, "I didn't know they had one of those. So, they sent you here without the code to deactivate it. I hope you didn't come here to me for the code."

Dalton looks annoyed but says, "I had the code. And it's a bit tricky and dangerous approaching one of those. It can be deadly if you don't deactivate it right away. It seems your father changed the code somehow. It was quite a feat to get away from that thing before it squashed me."

I nod and say, "And that's about the time the locals abandoned you?"

Dalton runs his hand through his hair and says, "That about sums it up."

I narrow my eyes to slits again. I say, "Can't the locals just hit it with something hard. Maybe knock it over and disable it."

He shrugs and says, "Maybe something from their military. I think they're hoping your parents are just absent. The hardware to bring it down is expensive and so is the guardian."

Ted distracts us with a movement. The branches on the ground crack as he tries to back into the edge of the trees. I turn around to look in the direction that Jason had run off. I first see Misha then Jason. He must have brought her for an extra witness for when I strangle him.

Jase has his hands in his pockets and is looking down. Hesitantly his voice explains, "I didn't know it was loaded."

I fix him with a stare and say, "Well, that's the first rule with these things. Always treat them as though they're loaded. What I really need to know though is how you ended up with it. I also thought by now you'd be half way back to the big city. And, before you tell me anything I should explain something to you. This was very important to my father. He kept it locked up. I tried to get it out a couple of times just because I was sick and tired of his obsessiveness with it and a few other things. He always caught me in the middle of the act. The last time he told me if anything ever happened to him he'd be sure that I got this since I found it so fascinating."

Jason looks away then edges into the camp in careful steps. Misha is holding back where she is. I can see she's pretty uneasy about what might transpire. I've no idea what Jase may have told her. He says,"Yeah, well. Your dad told me I should give that to you. That's all there is to it."

My body almost sags involuntarily. I say, "Ha! Now I'm not sure what bothers me most. That you appeared as though you were going to keep this or that you were actually talking to my father. What is that all about?"

Jason looks from Misha to Ted then to me and says, "I don't think I was the only one he offered to pay to come talk to him. He just wanted to talk about you. How you've been doing." Jase's eyes dart to the side to watch Dalton, his hands are making fists.

I'm still glaring at him without uttering a word. A while later when his eyes come back to me he says, "I, think he was going to offer me some credits to bring you back home. He wanted you home whatever way he could get it done. It was a lot of credit. But, I wasn't gonna take it for anything."

I look at his co-conspirators and say, "I'm sure it was a lot of credits. So what really happened? Why did he change his mind?" For the next question I have to bite my tongue a bit. "Is that why you killed him and took this?" It takes every once of energy to keep my voice steady.

Jase shakes his head and says, "I swear he was fine when I left. You heard the man here. He didn't check cause of that guardian thing. Maybe they're still alive. All I know is he already had the weapon out. He seemed spooked about something and gave me extra chits and told me to make sure you stay where you are."

I look at Dalton who is also shaking his head. He say, "It's possible they could be alive but not likely. I'm not sure anyone would be able to tweak the guardian to activate when the owner is still alive and nearby. And, it could have even been keyed to only trigger if both of them were dead. I suppose if they both packed up and ran off somewhere far enough away the guardian might have triggered. I'll know that once I can get past it. But, by design it's primary function is to locate the body and protect it. Based on it's constant position I'd guess it's protecting something."

I'm wondering now why he even bothered to come out here. Dalton must be able to read my body language because he says, "I'm hoping that it might be keyed to you also. You are out of range right now. As soon as we get you closer it might response to your presence."

I say, "So, what's the key look like? Cause I don't wear jewelry and crap." Dalton approaches me. I step back and the rifle bobs on my arm. He looks at it and stops. I stare and say, "What do you have in mind."

Dalton says, "It's a tag. Sometimes in the earlobe. Maybe. It will feel like a lump."

I put my hand up to my left lob then the right. I shake my head.

He says, "Sometimes they insert them in other places."

To that I give him a steady stare. I say, "Well, I don't know you well enough to have you groping all over my body in search of something that probably doesn't exist. In fact,now that I think of it, was that the plan last night?"

He slowly shakes his head while backing away with his hands half way up.

There's a long quiet into which I do a lot of pondering. I finally break it, slapping my hands together. I say, "Well, maybe we should go check this out and see if there's a way to get in there." Dalton doesn't move or speak and that might be a good sign. Still I have doubts. Almost hopefully I say, "Unless my dad paid you to concoct this god awful story?"

Dalton shakes his head again. His voice is almost soft as he says, "I wish it were that simple."

Jason says, "Hey, we could go along. Make sure he keeps his hands to himself. Make sure you can come back here after you straighten things out. Oh, hey. Your father wanted you to stay out here. Maybe you should do that. Maybe he sent the gun to you for protection."

I think Jason is telling the truth. There still is room for doubt though. I walk over to him and say, "It's okay. You should stay here. If Mr. Greymare here had it wrong, the authority in town might have things just as muddled. You probably don't want to deal with them."

Walking into his space I say, "You can hold on to this while I'm gone. And even though I took the live rounds from it, don't point it at anyone."

I grab the stock twist it around still pointing it at the ground. And I place the rifle into his shaking hands.

Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

IV:The Other Hamilton Sister::Venom


I've seen people cook these without draining em. Not me. Besides there are uses for that venom. I try to drain any that's left in the sack into whatever small container I have handy. This one only had a little. It was enough though if it had gotten close enough to score a hit. Stuff can paralyze a horse. If they can catch the horse. Most horses seem to have a sixth sense about these lizards.

Love the taste. That's the lizard not the horse.

Don't ask me what it taste like. I don't like chicken. Come to think of it this stuff is more like the marrow from that bone in the round steak. A little rich. You can only eat so much. But these lizards usually aren't any bigger than a cat. Cats like the lizard meat too. But, I've seen a few get on the wrong end of the deal. It's not pretty.

I lick some of the juices off my hand. The fire crackles and sparks. My other hand withdraws quickly. I've cut most of what I'll eat off. It's spread out on the flat part of the wood I call my plate. Sitting on my haunches well away from the radiating heat I nibble. When I look up Michelle shifts her weight. I think she's been sitting there waiting for me to offer her part of my kill. I point the knife at the fire. I say, "I was gonna save the legs for Jason. I know how much he likes them." Mich's nose wrinkles and the look of disgust tells me the legs are safe. I say,"Oh. Sorry I should have offered some of this." I separate the remaining chunks half and half and hold out the plate.

Mish puts her nose up and kicks at the dirt. Some of the dirt goes into the fire. She turns and starts to walk away. Without turning back she shouts, "You people are disgusting. I don't know how you can eat that crap. Those lizards and the disgusting..."

I offer, "Insects."

She says, "No! Those maggots. You eat insects too?"

I have to think about the maggots thing. Then I say, "Oh, the grubs. Sure those are good for you. And, It's mostly the larger insects. They have extra flavor."

She's almost running now. I can hear Mish choking or screaming. "Ahhhhhhhhhh..."

I hear someone laughing. Looking towards the sound I see Ted is standing shirtless with a jug under his arm. He's leaning up against a fragile tree. His feet are all clomping down on some green vines. I fix him with a remonstrant stare. I say, "It's really not that funny you know. She shouldn't be out here if she can't contribute. More so if she can't stomach the things we bring to the table."

Ted says, "She's a hoot. You were supposed to bring her up something from the bar." He uncorks the jug and takes a long swig.

I pull my eyes back and upward. "Oops. I forgot." I point at the flat thing on the fire with the legs lightly scorched. "I did bring that though, Jason doesn't have to have the legs."

Ted rolls his eyes and says, "Like she's ever going to touch that stuff."

I look at his jug and say, "Maybe if you could get her to drink some of that she wouldn't be so averse."

He hugs his jug more tightly. Now he has nasty looks for me. He says, "She starts in on my stash and I'll deliver her back to her mom and dad."

Shaking my head I say, "She didn't run away. They booted her. She doesn't have many options."

Ted grumbles, "As opposed to you who have parents who posted your picture before they discovered you weren't interested in being found."

I divert my gaze to the fire. Watching the flame inhale and exhale. I say, "Yeah, well. It wouldn't be a problem if I'd been brought up the sensible way. I'm not even sure how you can call people parents when they not only don't have your genes, but they have no clue how to parent someone."

Ted says, "Maybe you should cut them some slack."

That makes me growl. I say, "Maybe you shouldn't drink that stuff in the daytime when it can suck the water out of you. You'll pass out somewhere where no one notices and my next lunch will drag you off somewhere."

Ted shrugs his shoulders and says, "Circle of life, ya gotta love it."

I hear a rustling of the nearby foliage and start to wheel around. Ted shouts out, "Oh, welcome back Jase, you're early. Thought you was gonna work all weekend. What's that you brought back with you?"

I turn in time to have Mr. Dalton Greymare thrown almost at my feet. His hands are behind him. When his forward motion pushes him to his knees I have to stick mine out to keep his face from hitting the ground. His clothes are all dusty. His face and arms are scratched up a bit. When I take a closer look I can see the heavy duty plastic tie that's binding his hands together. I look up at Jason ready to ask him what the deal is but I have to stop and turn away. I'm almost laughing.

Jason is also covered in scratches. It looks like the bramble attacked both of these guys. But, Jason has a black eye too. Bramble doesn't usually do that. When I look back down on the captive I notice he has a shitty grin on his face and his eyes are staring at my thigh. Jason lowers the antique weapon he's pointing at Dalton. He scowls and says, "Good you can torture him for a while."

I nod at the rifle. "Where'd you get that? My dad has one like it. It's in a glass case. Like it's something valuable. Only takes it out to clean it."

Jason looks at the rifle with what seems like added respect. He smiles and says, "Got it as a sort of bonus on my last job."

I say, "Nice bonus." Reaching down I hook the tie and pull out my knife. I say, "Enuff horsing around. We should let Mr. Greymare go."

Jason looks at me with quizzical eyes. Then he nods and pulls a wallet from his pocket and says, "You know him? I guess that would be about right. Being he's from your home world. Don't cut him loose until I have a moment to find out why he ambushed me." His hand has stopped my knife before reaching the plastic.

"Ambush?" I raise my eyebrows. I don't know if I should be impressed or confused. I look at those boots again while Jason tosses the wallet at me. I catch it and look down to Dalton, who seems happy to rest his head on my thigh, I say, "Escura Luz, is this some joke. A fake ID. Greymare from Escura Luz. Lord Greymare?"

His shoulders shrug and Dalton says, "I am but a shadow of my former self."

That hits home. The clones that are brought up after their namesake has passed away are religiously taught to view their life that way. I throw the wallet down and say, "Yeah, a shadow full of crap maybe."

He doesn't say anything so I grasp his wrist and tear him away from his comfort zone.

Jason says, "I didn't know you had lords on the clone worlds."

I look Dalton in the eyes. Yeah there it is or isn't. There's no fear. He has a neck chain. I pull at it and it pops out with a small tube floating at the end. These are used to scab off a chunk of flesh to go to the vats when Dalton has any sort of death, untimely or otherwise. Most of the clans closer to the central cities keep some on file. Some like the ones in the region of Escura Luz don't have that much luxury. And some choose to wait until the event happens. They have been known to lose a part of their line that way. He still looks too soft to me. But I now have a little more respect for him.

Letting out a long breath I say, "So what are you doing here?"

Almost bordering on glib Dalton says, "Your friend here dragged me."

Shaking my head I say, "Not here, here. Why are you on New Terra? I always thought mom and dad were just being paranoid that someone was going to come out here looking for us."

Dalton fixes me with a cold stare before he turns his head and over his shoulder he says,"You should have killed me out there when you had the chance." Jason just looks confused. Dalton turns back to me. He says, "Your parents are dead."

My heart sinks and I have no idea why.

It's quiet for a long time. Jason seems to be on the edge. He's holding the rifle as though he's going to throttle it or maybe strike Dalton with the stock. Unsure of which, I hold up my hand and say,"You don't want to mar that if it's valuable." I stare at Dalton while a moist glimmer of a tear is trying to make itself in the corner of my eye.

Dalton looks once more over his shoulder and then address's me again. "They were murdered three days ago. I arrived here yesterday. I picked up the perpetrators trail by evening. They went to ground and I spent the night at your nice tavern. I almost missed his flight out this way but i was able to get up there on Jerry's truck so I could intercept him."

Gasping once I say, "What are you talking about?"

Jason takes this moment to bring the rifle to bear down on Dalton's kidney. Dalton's knees start to buckle but he holds his stance. He grits his teeth and says, "You should really take a closer look at that weapon."

Jason brings the rifle up, I try to grab the barrel and pull him towards me. He lets off a shot that nearly deafens me. He pushes me aside trying to rip the rifle from my hands. He tries to point it at Dalton with me still holding onto it. I grasp my knife and swing it out towards Jason's face. Jason brings up a hand to his face and he steps back. It probably felt like he was stung. He looks at the blood on his finger and starts to move forward again with the rifle.

I grit my teeth and say, "You should probably get down to the river and wash that out." I let my eyes wander to the fire where the charbroiled lizard sits over the dying embers."

Jason looks, his eyes widen and he drops the rifle and runs almost in the same direction Mich had gone.

I wheel around and grasp the front of Dalton's shirt. I pull him closer and say, "Alright, while he's busy you better start talking fast."

When he remains mute I nudge him."Better hurry before he realizes that knife didn't have any venom on it."

Copyright 2012 J.L. Dobias