Apples To Apples ~ A Dialogue Thursday Post

It was a slow day at the bookstore. My friend and I were walking among the shelves, casually running a finger up the spines of the titles and seeing if anything jumped out at us.

He noticed something.

“Hey, look at that. It’s Twilight, but there’s a green apple on the cover.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “It’s the same story, with the genders reversed.”

“Cool. What about that one?” He pointed to Twilight with a Golden Delicious apple.

“That’s Twilight if Edward fell in love with Jacob.”

“And what about that skinny one; the one with the apple cut up into slices?”

“That’s Twilight if Bella informed her dad about Edward’s behavior early on. It’s not very long.” I walked to the end of the shelf and picked up the copy of Twilight with a freeze dried apple on the cover. “This one is supposed to be awesome. It’s Twilight if Bella suspected Edward of cheating on her with the vampire from Alaska, and drove all the way to Nome to confront them. I hear she wears a diaper so she doesn’t have to stop.”

On the way out of the bookstore, we saw a window clinger announcing the upcoming eighth Harry Potter novel.

I scoffed.

“Looks like someone’s run out of ideas.”

“I know,” My friend agreed. “What a desperate attempt to milk a past success.”

Trap Streets

Trap Streets are fake streets drawn into a map and given a false name. If this street appears in another map somewhere else in the world, the cartographer knows that his work has been pilfered. Or, it’s a street populated by refugee aliens that’s been protected by an otherworldly entity/technology, I’m still not clear on that.

Like many authors, I like to use real locations in stories. People from the area can better visualize themselves in the familiar surroundings and people who are not from the area will hopefully learn a little about the setting. At the very least, it’s a lot easier remembering the names of streets and places that I’ve been to, but I don’t always remain faithful to the geography.

In The Sweetest Death, most of the places in that book are actual locations that you can find in the North Shore. Salem Willows, the Beverly/Salem Bridge, the China Buffet, and my friend’s AirBnB are faithfully depicted to the best of my literary ability. But the pub with the upstairs apartments and the fudge shop are both fictional versions of their real life counterparts.

Similarly, Survive by the Sword takes place in Southern Vermont, though I am very vague about some locations. For example, Ainsely-Court Theater (which so far has only been mentioned but not actually visited in the story) is the fictional counterpart to Old Castle Theater Company.

The reason I have changed the name is that it gives me a sense of freedom over the building. Naming locations is one thing, because you can stick a house that doesn’t exist on Fleet Street in Framingham and no one is going to blink an eye. But if I set the story at the Plummer House for Boys, a real historic location found on Winter Island in Salem, Massachusetts and for some unexplained reason I have girls living there, then people will rightly call foul and my TVtropes page is going to include Critical Research Failure among other things.

Unless otherwise stated, either in the blog, or in an interview, or at that book signing of the distant future in which I finally get to meet all of my reader, every location I depict is subject to having a few Trap Streets. They exist to show you a wonderful story in a certain place and time, but by no means can you visit them without the aid of your imagination… and maybe a man with a blue box, but that’s up to you to arrange.

Zeta Read Reviews ~ If I Was A Fat Kid Watching Anime by Steven Borella

What… did I just read?

I know it’s a serious effort, because he went to the trouble of buying not one, but two covers. Or maybe, as he is allegedly a computer engineer who went to the University of California, he designed the covers himself. Kudos if he did, because if this is a sample of his writing, than at least he has something to fall back on.

I can’t tell if this essay was meant to be satirical in nature. In the first place it is horribly formatted, with gratuitous use of italics for no apparent reason. Words are capitalized for emphasis, regardless of whether or not they should be emphasized. But then there is the mean spirited nature of this six page offering.

Let me slow down just a moment and point out that I really don’t want to make a reputation for myself as someone who attacks other authors, either online or in person. For all I know, this author is simply portraying a character, the way comedians sometimes have a completely different personality on stage than the way they are in real life. Maybe Steven Borella doesn’t really believe that students who sit at the front row of a class are “brown nosers”. Maybe he actually has respect for students that actually participate in the really expensive college courses that they’re going to have to pay for later in life. On the other hand, he could just as easily have had all of his classes paid for by a wealthy relative, which is why I really hope that none of what I have read in this essay is meant to be taken seriously. Still, I have to review the work as it is presented, which includes my reaction to the overall nature of the piece.

It’s categorized under Essay on Smashwords, so I have to assume since it is not also categorized as such that his piece represents the genuine thoughts and opinions of the author.

There’s confidence. There’s the courage to hold true to your convictions, enough so that you inspire others to follow you. But then you have mean spirited and angry diatribes by someone who clearly feels that he is above everyone. What other conclusion can I draw from a guy who assumes that any person who is not “getting laid” must be masturbating all the time. He also misspells masturbation at one point and assumes that all fat people who pay attention in class can’t be “getting laid”.

Whatever this author’s problem is, or whether I’m reading too much into it, he’s doing himself no favors by the poor effort that’s been put into the format of the final piece. Everyone responds differently to different attitudes and Borella may very well have his readers. After looking at this, however, I will not be one of them.

The Zeta Reads ~ Private Investigator Isabel Raven Monta Rosa by Cordia St. Clair

There’s a fine line between giving an honest review and just outright being a jerk. Sometimes that line is very blurred.

Simon Cowell is often referred to as a jerk. He brings tears to the eyes of hopeful musicians and he does not apologize for this. In the beginning, this caused friction with fellow American Idol judges Randy and Paula. And from the beginning of the UK X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and all of the other shows that Cowell has produced and/or participated in as judge, his straight forward personality and abrupt manner have been the subject of both praise and ridicule. Simon Cowell is not a jerk. He’s a business man. He is not a singer, but he knows a good singer when he hears one and more to the point, he knows who will make the best return on his investments.

Youtube commenters that suggest people they don’t like should commit suicide are jerks.

That is the line.

I fully intend to give the following work a very honest review. It will seem as though I am being a jerk, because to be quite frank, I downloaded it for free and I still overpaid. But all an honest review means is that I am being fully honest about the feelings this work has provoked in me and I am not receiving any compensation for it whatsoever.

Maybe I’m not being fully honest. After I downloaded this story, by Cordia St. Clair, I was on my way home to read and review it, when I found a twenty-dollar bill on the ground. Was this some cosmic payment for the honesty that I am about to unleash? Is there a divine power above me that is spurring me to tell Cordia St. Clair what clearly no one in her inner circle has had the courage to tell her?

I’ll leave it for you to decide. And by you, I mean my faithful readers, not my therapists, lawyers, and the future Internet Archaeologists who uncover my blog and wonder if this is what led to the Great Lunar Catastrophe of 2035.

Cordia does not believe in using covers for her books. Because, to paraphrase her interview responses, she wants the work to speak for itself. She does not wish for the quality of her work to be judged by the cover. This might mean something if the quality of her work was not a very juvenile effort.

The story I downloaded promised “lots of twists”. It also promised that “I will like this”.

The first big twist is that apparently all one has to do to become a “Private-Eye” is to write a letter to your local sheriff’s department and list all of the things you are good at. The second twist is that the sheriff’s office will write you back to say, “Yup, you’ve got the job.” No real experience required, no background check, no interview. I’ve always assumed that becoming a licensed private investigator would require a lot more effort than selecting a job from the newspaper of the latest Sims game, but apparently I was wrong.

Halfway through the 33 page long story, a fantasy subplot gets introduced wherein the main antagonists are named Count Van Helsing and Count Von Headlock. And it’s appropriate enough because this story is a fantasy. And not Game of Thrones fantasy, but the kind of fantasy where you and your best friend chase one another in the school yard shooting one another with a pistol made from your finger and thumb.

What really drew my attention to her work was the fact that she has invited people to contact her, just on the off chance they might want to pay her actual money for her writing. Well, Cordia, if you read this, I hope take this to heart.

If you really want someone to take you seriously as a writer, take all of those stories off of Smashwords. Take them down and rewrite your first book. Whether it’s a short story, or a novella, or what have you, you need to take your time with that first work. Write it, finish it, and then find someone who will give you the mother of all proofreads. That someone cannot be your friend, or your boss, or your family member, or your coworker who is only trying to make you happy because they hope you’ll swap shifts with them on Friday.

Pour your heart and soul into that book. Your father told you to try for attainable goals; well you’re not even trying. When I see work like this, I see someone who might have typed something out on their iPhones during their fifteen minute break, and maybe spent their half-hour break uploading the story to Smashwords. I can’t believe that anyone who truly cares about you and the impression you make on those people that you hope will one day offer you money in exchange for your work, would take a look at your story and say, “This is perfect. Post it up now.”

You might also come back at me with the fact that English may not be your first language. If that’s so, that still is not an excuse. Because if you were writing in your first language, you would still have to produce something that was as polished as it could possibly be before you even think of asking someone to judge the story by the writing.

Also, don’t besmirch the idea of a cover. Because a picture of yourself, which you don’t seem shy about using in lieu of a cover, is not doing you any favors in the marketing department. This is not a personal attack on your looks, or your appearance, but until people consider your writing akin to an unholy addiction (which might offend you as a Christian writer, but even Christian writers have to have a proofreader) then you may want to think twice before they associate your face with a story that they can’t even bring themselves to finish.

In the words of Simon Cowell, I’m giving this story four no’s.

Same Page Media Reviews: Maple Street ~ A Short Story By Joseph Nardone

Maple Street starts off by assuring us that this is a Joseph Nardone short story. This is not a story set in a universe/time line where Joseph Nardone is the main character, but a story written by the author of the same name.

Please keep in mind that all reviews presented on The Salem Author From Bennington may contain spoilers, and as this short story is being offered for free through Smashwords, I suggest downloading a copy and reading it for yourself before reading this review.

Although it could be a part of a larger time line. I do feel that this is a story that tries to introduce us to something bigger. It starts off on such a huge note, introducing to the characters who live in this tiny little oasis of civilization that is Maple Street. I immediately think of those places in Ireland where it is said that you cannot build a house without the permission of the Elementals and that the ruins on the land are from those who tried. But as it ends, it leaves you with the impression that a lot of loose ends have been left dangling in the wind.

The story really begins with an altercation with a neighbor. Young Matt Francis has grown tired of the old man Jenkins cutting up the tree that is rightfully on his property. After an apparently unsuccessful attempt by his wife to communicate and placate the crochet old neighbor, she has decided to simply ignore him and let him enact whatever arboreal assaults he can think of. But Matt decides to take matters into his own hands, which ends up with him beating up an old man. It’s okay, because the old man holds his own.

I could say that this was where the story fell flat for me. But I’ve grown up in places where the problems skills of grown men were only mildly less developed than these two. It’s actually a pretty realistic conclusion and Matt’s character is very consistent being a testosterone fueled jerk who thinks he can just walk into a guy’s home and declare himself the rightful ruler of all who inhabit the dwelling.

However, it’s the full introduction of Dominick where things start to feel rushed. Soon he’s killing people in the most violent and gruesome way imaginable. I’m not sure if he’s a god living on Earth, or if Maple Street is a cosmic version of The Sims, but Dominick apparently only has to worry about the consequences from the others of his ilk, which he is about to meet as the curtains close.

When I was just a wee lad, trying to write mostly to impress adults, I had this typewriter. And the ink on that typewriter was beginning to run low. So I wrote this story (not this story, faithful reader. Try and keep up) and I finished it. And I showed it to my creative writing teacher the next morning and she told that the ending felt rushed. Like I ended it simply because I had to.

This story definitely felt rushed towards the end. Whereas the beginning was a huge build up that promised a connection with each of these characters, the ending felt like it was being written by a small child who suddenly had to put all of his toys away, because his parents told him it was time for bed. So the story ended satisfactorily for the child, because no one else has a stake in it, but if I were watching this child play, I would feel so cheated out of an ending. And if this is the part of a larger universe, I would wonder at the writer’s ability to do this on a larger scale. Would I become invested in the story of Maple Street and it’s residents only to be incredibly disappointed by the end of a long and perilous journey?

It’s a good effort. It might be just what established readers of Nardone’s work were looking for, but if this is the first story that new readers have looked at, then it’s going to disappoint some of them and maybe turn them off to possibly paying for other works by the same author.

As it stands, Maple Street starts off fun and sweet but leaves a mixture of confusing flavors in my mouth at the end.

A Form Of Petty Revenge (3) Real Life Experiences

Your boss gave you an unfair review.

Your partner embarrassed you by telling complete strangers that you have to go to the bathroom, and then asked them to show you where it was even though you insisted you were fine, because apparently you’re five years-old and can’t make your own decisions when your partner is with you.

Your children were the spawn of Satan for a day.

But you can’t blog about these events, because people close to you read your blog, and people not so close to you. And there are always going to be hindsight detectives out there who know exactly what they would have done in your situation, they know exactly how everything would work out, because of course their solutions always magically work when they’re the ones listening to the story. (Or, not listening, but we’ll touch on that later)

Do you keep the event all to yourself? Do you let it consume you like a tumor, every day, for the rest of your life? Do you drink to forget about it?

Of course not.

You take that real life experience and you make it a scene in your story. But wait! You shared this experience on a writer’s forum and they told you, “You can’t use real life experiences in fiction. They don’t work in a fictional story. I told you not to use it! Don’t you dare use that real life experience! I’m warning you! BANG!”

Okay, it didn’t quite happen like that, but you know how militant some writer’s forums can get, so it’s not such an exaggeration. I assume this will happen at some point. For now, how unreasonable would that be, to take your real life troubles and turn them into a story?

Michael Crichton was fond of using minor characters to spout ignorance and to have the main characters roll their eyes, or deliver a show stopping lecture. He did this in The Lost World, wherein he basically showed everyone what would happen if you actually tried that “Stand still and the T-Rex won’t see you” BS that was perpetuated by the film based on his first book. He even used the framing device for that information by throwing the fictional character of Alan Grant under the bus, since it was his book that spread the theory around in the Jurassic Park/Lost World continuum.

Sherrilyn Kenyon drew very heavily from her real life experiences when depicting a character who was the victim of physical or emotional abuse. So did David Pelzer in his autobiographical series of books. John Edward often talked about the kinds of people he encountered during his medium sessions and in the early stages of his career.

Everyone draws form real life experiences, both good and bad. Writing is a form of escape. It can also be a way of showing people, “Yes. This thing happened to me. These people were jerks. But look at what I made out of the crap they put me through.”

Do it. You’ll feel better. And it will test your mete as an author if you can do it in such a way as to make the events flow smoothly into the narrative.

A Form of Petty Revenge (2) The Unruly Partner/Family Member/Friend

We all joke about it. You can find examples of this in nearly every one of your favorite artists. This is the form of petty revenge that can quickly turn into a double edged sword if you are not shy about using it, so just be aware that while it can be a great way to relieve some tension, it can backfire as quickly as anything that has fallen out of the mouth of, well, anyone currently running for president.

It’s the concept of putting the family member, friend, coworker, or mouthy, power hungry librarian into the narrative of your story as either the villain, or the victim of some terrible consequence.

You can have fun with this. Exaggerate their worst characteristics. Write about a very specific incident that happened between the two of you and insert it into the narrative, or as an amusing B plot.

Just remember, never flat out name the person you are angry with. This goes perfectly with the standard common sense advice of, Don’t Write it If You Don’t Want Someone To Read it. And if you’re going to tell the person you’re doing this to that you’re doing it, make sure they have a good sense of humor and that they’re not the sort of people to try to take you to court over petty annoyances.

Although if they do take you to court, be sure to bring several copies of your work with you, as this could also be a golden opportunity to score new readers .