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