On The Subject of Beta Reading

One of my goals of late is to try and read and review as many books as possible. The only reason I haven’t been so active with reading people’s work from the online communities is that I have been filling that void by reading the offerings of the members of the North Shore Writer’s Group.

Being a part of the group has been a great experience. Not only does it get me involved with the community, both in the literary the local Salem resident sense, but there’s so much to take on board. And the group meets two to three times per month, so it’s easier to get to know this crowd.

So at the moment, I haven’t done a Beta Reads Review yet. The main goal behind that is to review the finished product of a work that I had either beta read, or offered feedback on at some point in the piece’s early stages.

 

The Alpha Reads: A Short Story by Eva Fairwald

Please keep in mind, that all of the comments made in this review are directed at the story, and should not be taken as a direct insult to the author. My intent is to fairly review the story I have read, but unfortunately, to review a story fairly is not synonymous with flattery. If Eva Fairwald – the author of Immortals: A Trusting Darkness Story sees this review, I hope she will take the comments on board in the spirit that they are intended: As a constructive critique to improve the quality of her work in the future.

The offered short piece begins with a brief summary. Immortality can be granted with the consumption of apples, raised by an Elvish caretaker named Iðunn in a place called the Sacred Garden. The story takes place in a time when the sanctity of this apple orchard is threatened by an army of brutal human soldiers, intent on waging an eternal campaign of conquest.

The story begins with beautiful descriptions that really draw me into the world, so that I feel like I am standing in the center of this garden with Iðunn. Unfortunately, that’s where the description ends, because what follows is the introduction of characters that have not been given much development.

For example, there’s Harold, who is a prince, and is apparently a bit of a downer. I find myself strangely identifying with this character, as he appears to be a half-empty kind of guy, whose portents turn out to be not so far off the mark. But just as quickly as he is introduced, the wife that he appears to be pining for appears seemingly out of nowhere to rescue her prince in the nick of time.

A lot of this information is conveyed in the form of blocks of dialogue, where it is easy to forget who is speaking. I know that in the beginning of a conversation between two people, you don’t have to remind us specifically who is speaking at each turn, but it helps to use action and descriptive text to remind the reader that these aren’t just talking heads.

The writing also suffers from a number of run-on sentences. My overall impression is that the author is either not that experienced with writing short stories, or that stories with multiple characters are her weakness. Either of these things can be improved upon, of course.

Whenever any artist offers free work – be it writing, music, or painting – you should definitely be grateful for the gesture. Unfortunately, this short story is intended as a sampler for the author’s full novels and the quality of the piece does not make me eager to open my wallet.

A Special #SmallBusinessSaturday Post

There are two bookstores that I wish to give a special shout out too. The first is The Bennington Bookshop in Bennington, Vermont.

The Bennington Bookshop   was where I spent the majority of my hard earned baby-sitting money. At first they were the regular suppliers of my monthly Animorphs addiction, as well as the occasional Star Trek tie-in, and other literary fixes that plagued my youth.

The store had a low pressure atmosphere, with a warm and inviting sitting area that made it a welcome place to go on a cold winter’s day. Back when one of Vermont’s world famous blizzards struck the town of Bennington, I remember this being one of the few businesses that remained open for that day.

This was also the place where I bought my very first tarot deck.

The only bookstore in the Southern Vermont area that holds a candle to The Bennington Bookshop is the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont.

A number of well established authors have held special events here, including Sue Grafton and Stephen King. Since the days when I first discovered this book shop, they have expanded to include a coffee shop/bakery, which has made them like a small business version of Barnes and Noble, while still retaining their local flavor.

Other services include a printer that allows aspiring young authors to actually have a printed copy of their own book.

A Story of Hope for the Holidays

Now that I have two books available on BarnesandNoble.com of all places, it seemed to be a good idea to get in touch with someone from my local BandN and try to nurture a professional relationship. Barnes and Noble has a long history of helping the authors who create their primary revenue source after all.

When I called initially, I was told that the person I wanted to talk to was the Community Relations Manager (I hope I got that right) who just happened to be named Hope.

I called her this morning and asked if it would be possible to arrange a kind of reverse interview following Black Friday. I can’t tell you the entirety of the conversation, because I’m already tiptoeing on the line by giving you her first name, but suffice it to say, I made her laugh on the phone. Though it can be hard to describe laughs to people, trust me when I say that it was the “good first impression” style of laughter.

 

So with the appropriate holiday just on the horizon, I can honestly say that I am thankful for finding Hope this year.

The Tripod Trials

I bought a new tripod recently. Only ten bucks, it has flexible legs, so that in theory I could make videos from a variety of angles in any place I happen to be.

My plan was to record a video “interview” whereby I summarize my books, share some insights into the stories, including Easter eggs that readers might find interesting, and generally just encourage people to rush to their favorite on-line retailers.

Alas, finding a quiet place in all of the North Shore to record a video is about as likely as finding the winning lottery ticket underneath the floorboards of a house you won from the Publisher’s Clearing house.

So I went to the one place in any town where I should have relative peace, quiet, and privacy: a cemetery. This provides a whole new set of challenges. Appropriate location, wind, how respectful is the place I am setting up my camera? Are the groundskeepers going to give me a hard time, are there going to be a lot of dog walkers? What about the traffic inside and around the cemetery?

I went to cemeteries all the time to rehearse comedy sets and other things, so this should have been no different. Alas, the circumstances were never right, so I returned to the library to come up with a new plan.

Oh, and before you hit the comments section, I’m aware that I could just record the video at home. That is a last resort, with just as many distractions and frustrations as any other place.

The Sweetest Death Has Been Accepted

You may recall some of the drama I experienced when I published my first book, Survive by the Sword. Fortunately, I seem to have learned my lesson, because The Sweetest Death BookCover14_72DPI.jpgwent up without a hitch.

So keep an eye out, because that means The Sweetest Death will be available on Barnes and Noble.com, and the other online retailers that work with Smashwords.

 

The Art of Delayed Gratification

(And Why I Suck at It)

I recently checked out a book by Stephen Kendrick, entitled Night Watch. It is the “lost” chronicle of Sherlock Holmes’ encounter with Father Brown.

I’m loving it so far, if for no other reason than Kendrick seems to have a flair for adopting Doyle’s original style. I shouldn’t be so unfair to the other authors who have written Sherlock Holmes tales, but to be entirely fair, I am always prepared to cringe at any alternate depiction of Doctor Watson.

Alas, I have come across another book in a series of Urban Fantasy novels that is also coincidentally titled The Night Watch Series, by Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko. This was while I was scanning the table full of paperbacks of a book sale at The Beverly Free Library. The book was only one dollar, so it was officially mine, as opposed to the former book, which is the property of the Lynnfield library and therefore subject to return any moment now.

So why couldn’t I wait and finish the Sherlock/Father Brown crossover? Because I just suck that badly at delayed gratification and The Night Watch Series is just that good. Sometimes I can put something off until the last minute, whereas other times I have to respond to an impulse, no matter how ill advised it may be.

As an author, I know there are times when this mentality will cost me opportunities. Hopefully, I will be wise enough to recognize those times in the near future, but I also won’t lose sleep over them. In the meantime, I will undoubtedly finish the Sherlock Holmes story and in good time, offer a review of the book.