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The Wave Queen: Caroline Harris

May 27, 2010 2 comments

Adventure Romance Suspense

After inheriting a diary written by a 19th century ship’s cook, together with a handwritten will and USA naturalisation papers I was inspired to tell the story of the voyage of the Wave Queen, a merchant vessel, from Shoreham, England to Valparaiso, Chile in the year 1872.
Three years of research and the book became a fictional adventure story based on fact.
The hero, Charles Hamilton-Bashford is an eighteen year old Eton School-boy. He recklessly squanders his five thousand pound annual allowance and being hard-pressed for the payment of debts, begs his father to give him an advance. On refusal he in his desperation steals and forges his father’s cheque to settle his debts.
Charles’ father, a retired Major and a respected Magistrate, discovers the forgery and sends Charles to serve on a cargo ship separating him from his sweetheart, Florry.
Charles escapes before the ship sails, and reaches his aunt ‘s London home only to be recaptured and sent back to the Wave Queen.

Meanwhile Florry is propelled into a series of tumultuous events.

What adventures will befall them ?
Will he returned to England?
Will he ever be re-united with Florry?

The Wave Queen is full of careless errors. I found misplaced commas, missing quotation marks, inconsistent formatting, comma splices, and some random capitalisations. Charles, its central character, uses a modern idiom throughout while his father talks more like Mr. Banks, the father in Mary Poppins; and the heavies who visit Charles in order to encourage him to pay his debts complete our Disney picture by talking a pastiche of English which owes more to Dick Van Dyke than to 1872, the year in which this book is set.

The author has failed quite spectacularly with some of her more basic research: for example, she provides Charles with an annual allowance of £5,000 which equates to an income of £2.7m today which could be possible, I suppose, but it’s a heck of an amount for an eighteen-year-old to have unsupervised access to while at boarding school.

The text lacks detail, colour and sophistication and despite my very best attempts to be lenient, I read just three pages of it.

The Chronicles Of Bobby Isaacs: Stuck In The Friend Zone: LG Putzer

May 13, 2010 1 comment

When eleven-year-old, band geek, Bobby Isaacs falls in like with his best friend, Jenna Richards, he uncovers a secret about Chris Kruger, the school bully. In a plot to impress Jenna, Bobby enters a spelling bee, hoping to come in first place. Desperation drives him to do something that gets Chris Kruger’s attention. After the two fight, Bobby discovers Chris’s terrible secret, but not before Chris destroys Bobby’s most prized possession.

Stuck in the Friend Zone is a story about two of the most fundamental yet important universal concepts Forgiveness and Understanding.

I’ve received quite a few books like this one lately: books with an engaging tone, from writers who are competent and who show potential: but they are all let down by careless errors which should have been caught at the copy-editing stage.

Of the fifteen issues I found in THE Chronicles of Bobby Isaacs: Stuck in the Friend Zone, all but three concerned basic copyediting issues (double hyphens used for some of the dashes; some random and rather odd capitalisations; several extraneous commas, etc). Two of the remaining three focused on some clunky exposition; and the final point was that while I understand that all children are different I don’t believe that a boy with Bobby’s background would be showing such an interest in girls while still only eleven years old.

I can see that he might be vaguely aware of girls; but I don’t believe that awareness would have developed as far as it seems to have done in this book. If the passages concerning Bobby’s feelings for Jenna had been written in a more “something is happening here but I don’t quite get it” tone I might have believed it more but as it is written, I just didn’t.

So: I would advise Lena Putzer to pay a lot more attention to copy-editing her work in future; to be more alert to the dangers that exposition poses to her pacing and tone; and to see if she could make this major part of her storyline—Bobby Isaacs’ feelings towards Jenna—a little more believable. Because if she resolves these issues then she could have a fabulous book on her hands: her writing is lively and funny and gave me a real sense that I was acquainted with the characters, and that I understood their world. It’s a shame she failed on the basics having done so well with the more difficult stuff: I read seven pages out of a total of two hundred and forty-one.

With My Pen as My Witness: Ian Boyd

March 11, 2010 Comments off

A self-compiled collection of modern musings. This publication ranges from the political to the comical, from the dark to the romantic.

Following the author’s journey throughout university we travel through his mind, his nights out and his emotions. While his future wife lives in a different country, he drinks too much, he parties too hard and he tries his best to hide the pain.

We move on through to his questioning of the world around him, his job, his musical ambitions and watch as he moves to the capital in search of dreams.

This ironic but beautiful collection of poems will remind you of the best of times and the worst of times.

This is the first part in an on-going collection of thoughts.

Reading this slim collection of poems I felt as though I was spying on the author: it reads like an adolescent’s journal-scribblings, and just isn’t ready to be published.

Poetry is one of the most concentrated art-forms there is: to work, poetry has to be lyrical, intense, fresh and pure, and I’m afraid that I don’t see a single one of those qualities in Boyd’s work. His poems look like real poetry on the page—or at least, they would if the book had been formatted a little better, and the typesetting had been carried out by someone more skilled at the job—but I’m afraid that’s as far as the resemblance goes.

If Mr Boyd wants to attract a decent readership then I strongly advise him to read a lot of good poetry and to do his best to develop an understanding of rhythm, imagery and depth before he publishes any more of his work. I read just three pages out of thirty-one, despite my repeated attempts at leniency.

The Deadline Murders: Ron Morgans

January 7, 2010 Comments off

HENRIETTA FOX is a paparazzo. A wild, flame-haired girl in biker’s boots and leathers with an Irish temper. She rides a Yamaha on the streets of London stalking celebrities for the tabloid gossip pages. When a Chinese military plane explodes in a fireball before her camera, life for Henrietta Fox gets dangerous!

Five reporters across Europe have been murdered, each with their exotic, lop-eared Sumxu cats. Animals considered extinct for 300 years. Only Henrietta Fox knows why – and that knowledge could kill her. To survive she must pursue a madman across China with partner CASS FARRADAY, a six foot three ex-Repton public schoolboy turned tabloid reporter.

Only they can prevent an Armageddon assault on Britain’s Air Traffic Control. Fail and half a million lives will be lost.

http://www.ronmorgans.com/

Some self-published books are dreadful; a few are fabulous; and a few come so very close to being really good that I want to grab their authors by the lapels and shout words like “typesetting!” at them, as loudly as I can.

If Ron Morgans lived near me, he’d be getting the shouty treatment right now.

With The Deadline Murders Mr Morgans has written an engaging, competent murder mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed: but he’s let his book down by allowing some very basic errors to scatter themselves all over its pages. He’s used hyphens where dashes should appear; I spotted a few extraneous commas; and his page numbering is all over the place: his front matter pages are numbered 1 to 8 and then begin all over again with page 1 when his story starts (it’s convention to use a different numbering style for front matter if you want it numbered separately from the main text otherwise you end up with more than one page 4, which is confusing and can cause problems when referencing the text); and on a personal note, I found the paragraph indents far too deep. These are problems which a good copy editor—or even a good typesetter—could have fixed for him, and it’s a shame to see them on the pages of this otherwise competent book.

Such problems are minor, though, and as ever, my main focus is on the writing. I have a few issues with some of the grammar (for example, in the back cover copy quoted above it is implied that Henrietta’s leathers have an Irish temper); and there were a few problems with the text which only Mr. Morgans can fix: I realise that this is a thriller, and not a literary novel: I expect it to rely on the standards of the thriller genre. But in this novel some of those standards have been over-used to the point where they’ve become stereotyped. The two main characters were stereotypical in both their characterisation and their differences to one another: Henrietta Fox is a biker-girl photographer with red hair and a temper; Cass Farraday is ex-public school and wears suits from Saville Row. While they’re lively as characters go, I wanted them both to have more depth and subtlety and I think that a writer of Mr Morgans’ talent could have achieved this without too much trouble, even allowing for the limitations posed by the genre’s conventions. As it is, the interplay between his two main characters at times strays into Gene Hunt’s territory: on several occasions I felt like I was visiting the provincial 1980s (which was my favourite decade, though, so no great hardship there). Despite these little niggles it’s obvious to me that Ron Morgans is a capable, confident writer who, with a little more guidance and revision, could have brought this book up to a significantly higher standard.

I’ll happily admit that my genre-of-choice is literary fiction, which isn’t what Ron has written here: but I’m not trying to drag him over to the literary dark side. I just get the feeling that while this book is good, he is capable of much more. He has sailed through some of the things that others find most difficult—finishing a whole novel, creating distinct and lively characters, and constructing a plausible world for them to live in—who hasn’t done quite so well with the easier stuff. I think that Ron Morgans is a writer to watch who, with persistence and dedication, might well go on to bigger things, and I’m thrilled to have been sent a self-published book which shows such potential. By the time I reached page twenty-seven I had abandoned my scorecard: I read The Deadline Murders right through to the end and I’m pleased to be able to recommend it to you, albeit with just a few very minor reservations.

Edited to add: my good friend Sally Zigmond has also reviewed this book, and you can read her opinion of it here.

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