Saturday, June 27, 2015

Too much for one week

This was a strange week of reading: a variety of  genres (that normally aren't my favorite ones), betas and published, short stories and first drafts of chapters.

I'm feeling a bit dizzy, perhaps I should give it a break.

But that's not what I want. I  just want to get my head clear for the next challenge. And yes, this week was full of challenges.

One of these challenge is beta reading. No, I didn't give up after my first try (Beta reading). The girl I thought to be offended and hurt by my comments a few days later sent me a book she had even published to help her make changes. What a surprise!

I decided to continue beta-reading. As most of the authors offered fantasy or romance, sci-fi or history - all not my favorite genres - I decided to offer my "service" to the only one labelled horror thriller by an Indian author. I won't mention the title because it will be released in three days. I had a lot to comment about the storyline, the style, the characters...but as he said it was too late for changes. But his reaction encouraged me further. My thoughts were appreciated.

So I gave a  "romantic thriller" a chance. Keith's first novel. Very explicit sex descriptions in relationships I would never approve in reality nor do I like to find them in books. I told him so, but I tried to stay objective, pointing out where I found weeknesses, giving ideas how to improve his story without changing it to my tastes. That was indeed a challenge. And it isn't over! This novel is meant to be the first part of a trilogy and he is sending me now bits and pieces, the product of his mind storming, and appreciates my feedback. A very interesting and engaging process.
my review on goodreads

And then I found Michaels request to beta read his published romance. He wanted to know "if good enough was really good enough". I thought I had read enough sex scenes for at least a year - but it was Michael, my first guest, and I knew he at least has writing skills. And it flashed me.

This typical cover is hiding a gem nobody would expect here. Yes, there is explicit sex but not as an end in itself. It is a very well written young adult love story describing thoughts and feelings in an astoundingly real way and has true-to-life dialogues.

In this case "good enough" was indeed good enough - better than that.

Today I'll throw myself into the next beta read. Again a romance, more sex to come. Obviously that's what people write ad read. The author seems to be desperately seeking some feedback.

In between all this beta-reading I got the opportunity to read Mark Matthew's short story. He's one of my favorite authors so I had to read this story although I really don't like either zombies nor running. I don't watch zombie movies, a disadvantage, because I didn't understand all the innuendos, but I finished this very short story with goose bumps all other.

For NetGalley I'm actually reading some very different short stories.

An other challenge here!
I'm only half way through because it's so difficult to read the various slangs and accents.
The first story is from 1896, I've arrived at the 1930s now - and it is depressing.

my review on goodreads
After finishing Michaels romance I really wanted to read his other book. So I bought it for 1.11 € (For months I hadn't actually bought a book). Labelled as Science fiction, another genre I don't favor.

That was again something different. The shining world of globalization and privatization. Again very well written, very interesting characters - but an open end that left me unsatisfied.

Quite a lot for just one week - when did  find the time to read all this? I honestly don't know. Probably I'm neglecting things I should do instead.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A disturbing read

I usually avoid reading autobiographies, well, not consciously, but I really don't read them very often and mostly don't like them very much, sometimes due to the lack of writing skills, sometimes because they are implying that you should just do what they did and everything will be fine or they are shouting "Look what a terrible life I had".

But the one I read this week was an exception.  It will be available in about six weeks, but I got an ARC from NetGalley.

My review on goodreads

 I wish it was just a novel, but it's very real.

Sexual child abuse, teenage runaways, human trafficking, drug abuse, heroin addiction, imprisonment, marriage with an alcoholic, divorce, cancer - the list is long and disturbing.

But this courageous well-written autobiography isn't trying to shock by graphic descriptions nor does it seek pitty.

It is written with a purpose, it is part of Barbara Amayas fight against human trafficking.

Maybe it isn't as intense and thrilling as some novels about the same issue, but to know that it isn't fiction makes a difference.

Of course I knew that all these things exist. It's no secret that society isn't as it should be.

The fact that it took her decades to understand that she was only the victim was astonishing for me.
Now I have a better understanding of the bond between the victims and the traffickers.

I appreciate that instead of complaining and blaming her parents, her pimp, the customers, the system or the society as a whole she is giving helpful advice to parents, to teachers, to law enforcement, to doctors and nurses, to young adults and of course to victims.

An enlightening important book that doesn't stop at the tragedy but shows that there is hope.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

My first guest

After so many novels, some of them really deep and thoughtprovoking, and yesterday's challenging beta reading experience I needed something short, light, intelligent and entertaining. 

I was lucky.

Searching on goodreads I met Michael and his very short senseless and incredibly funny story. 

We exchanged some nice "PMs" and I asked him to be my first guest writer and to answer a few questions.

How can anybody write such nonsense?
Nonsense?! LOL. I grew up watching movies like Airplane, Hot Shots, Spaceballs, and the like. This one just came to me. And as I was writing it, whenever I got stuck, I just wrote whatever came to mind. 

Are you always a little or more crazy?
Crazy? I'm sane. It’s the rest of the world who doesn't have it together.

As far as I know you've published two novels. Jugding from the cover "Preferred Rewards" seems to be a hot romance and "Shines before you" seems to be a sci-fi-mystery. Two very different genres. What do you think you write best?
I just write. I like to think that I defy genre, because in my opinion, the best stuff is hard to categorize. Shines Before You was supposed to be a series, and ended up being a wake-up call to the reality that writing isn't much of a profession - more like winning the lottery. I had no idea how to convince people to actually buy my stuff. Preferred Rewards was a little something I produced for a guy who was trying to start up a business as a publisher, and he specifically wanted romance/erotica. I sent it to him, and he sent it back saying the sex scenes need to be more - and I thought they were too much already! I took that opportunity to use the graphic scenes to illustrate relationship between the main characters more, because I wasn't about to write strictly sexual content for the sake of writing sexual content. I was actually quite proud of it, and then his business tanked while I was in the middle of the next one. It was just there taking up space, so I ended up publishing it myself.

These days, I'm looking for a real job. I'm still writing... trying to cut down..

Thank you Michael, I really appreciate your participation!.

And here' s the story:

My very short review

Cover Art

Michael Patrick Lewis

This "book" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is
completely coincidental, except for the reference to Bob Jenkins, that's deliberate. Fuck you,
Seriously, fuck you.

Cover Art
Copyright © 2015 Michael Patrick Lewis
Smashwords Edition
ISBN: 6πe -2π  + 4sin(φ)i√2 - ln17

All rights reserved.  Any complaints about the content herein must be hand-delivered by a
member of the Westboro Baptist Church to the following address:
2131 Caliphate Street
Raqqa, Islamic State
Edited by:
The Editor, duh.
Cover Art and Design by
If you like the cover art for Cover Art, that shows you have very poor taste.

Legal Disclaimer:
This disclaimer is legally binding in all jurisdictions, and should not be construed as to
represent anything other than a formal disclaimer of legal status. The legality of this
disclaimer shall be construed as legally binding for all intents and purposes wherein
heretofore thereabouts in all jurisdictions such as enforcement of disclaimers shall be
enforced, so long as disclaimers of legal status are construed.


It was a dark and stormy night. The writer sat up from his desk, pondering that opening line.
Was it cliché? How many caricatures of the writing process began with the ubiquitous dark
and stormy night? Perhaps he had a purpose. Perhaps he wanted to evoke a deep emotional
resonance in his audience by tapping into cultural nuance. Perhaps he wanted to build a
connection with the audience by presenting a point of common understanding. Perhaps
instead, he was just being lazy.

He pondered the situation, all through this dark and stormy night, and decided that a profane
word placed in the opening page might shock the reader.


There, now the reader was shocked. Or is it 'will be,' or 'is?' As he wrote, the question of
whether the audience was presently shocked was quite interesting. Clearly, they will be. But
then, by the time they got to this point, the shock would surely have passed.

Fuck it, let the editor figure it out, he'll fix everything. It was time to introduce the plot.
The protagonist was a person who looked like a physical description and had a compelling
personality. 'Surely,' thought the writer, 'the audience will want to know if the protagonist is a
male or female!'

Or 'was,' at least.

Or 'will be,' depending on one's point of view, yes?
The writer chose instead to leave the matter unanswered. Perhaps he wanted to build
suspense by leaving the audience in the dark.

Or, maybe he was just being lazy again.

Now there was a conundrum. How should he refer to the protagonist? In the English language,
gender-neutral pronouns can be difficult to come by. There is 'it,' of course, but it doesn't
serve well to describe a person, does it?

'That's good wordplay,' thought the writer. He mentioned the word 'it,' and then used it twice
more in the same sentence. It made him feel quite proud of himself.

Did you get it? That was funny, wasn’t it?

Distracted, he once again turned to the plot.

The protagonist was out on that dark and stormy night, and encountered the bad guy.

"Who are you?"
"I am the bad guy."
"What do you want?"
"To create conflict."
"But, why?"
"Because without conflict, there is no story. It's central to the plot."

The protagonist was sad and confused. Hiser compelling personality did not permit them to
relish in conflict, not like this bad guy. "Why don’t we just resolve this now? Why drag it out

"Because," replied the bad guy, "This story is 2000 words. We’re up to only 419."
"But I count 423."

"That doesn't include the four feeble words you just added. And if you include this sentence,
we're all the way at 447 by now. But that doesn't include this sentence, here. Either way, it's
immaterial. If we end this story now, what will the writer drone on about for the next 1500
words, give or take?"

"He could talk about pudding," suggested the protagonist.
"That would just be filler."
Now, there was nothing wrong with using pudding for filler, Dunkin Donuts does it all the
time. But then, the issue was not about the appropriateness of pudding as a filler, not even
chocolate pudding, but how to drag out the conflict and make the target of 2000 words
without sacrificing quality of content.

How do they make pudding, anyway?

The protagonist wasn’t sure, but there was something dreadfully wrong. It was a literary
element so terrifyingly grotesque, that not even an arduously pretentious word choice could
distract from it.

No, it was the fact that 'Dunkin Donuts' was a proprietary brand name, or 'still is,' and the
writer had just used it without permission.


Now, there was a conflict. Perhaps he planned to secure permission. Perhaps the design was
to yank an awkward verb into the narrative for the purpose of changing the subject.
Perhaps he was still being lazy. Or 'is still.'

And he had the munchies, and was craving a pudding-filled donut.
He checked the word count again. 667.

'What if I add this sentence?' he thought to himself. It didn’t matter. The fact was, and there
was no way of getting around it, was that pudding was not as filling as he'd hoped.

Unsure what to do, the writer simply saved the file and closed it. 'We will finish this later,' he
thought. Perhaps living life in the real world would provide an answer.

In she walked, her clothes wet from the dark and stormy night.

"The writer has reopened the file," was all she said. She was exceptionally beautiful. Had she
not been, the audience might not will have believe her a compelling love interest.

"So," she continued. "You're a man, after all."

It was strange that her first statement came with the qualifier 'was all she said,' and she ended
up saying something else immediately after that, but then strange things often happen on
dark and stormy nights.

"Not necessarily," replied the protagonist.

"Well, if you're the protagonist and I'm a woman, then what else is there?"

"If we assume that 10% of the population is gay, then you can't be too sure, can you?"
She did something sexually provocative, that could easily be misconstrued as innocent. "Well
then, there's a 90% probability that you're a straight man, then."

The protagonist looked around the scene at the various props, and then back to the woman.
"If we decide that human sexual preference follows a binomial model, then you would be
right. Suppose that preference to homosexuality follows a poisson distribution with λ = 0.1
and k = 1, then it would actually be closer to 91%."

She licked her lips. "You have a very compelling personality."
"I know." And with that, the protagonist looked out the window into the previously
established and oft-repeated setting.

"What is it?" She asked.
"Without an antecedent, I don't know what it is."
"I thought it was over. I thought we wouldn't have to deal with it again."
"It’s never going away."

She lowered her eyes melancholically.
"That’s not even a word," the protagonist complained.
She looked up. "But you understood what it meant."
"I’m sorry, you came here to see me?"
"I knead you're help." A tear dropped her I.

The protagonist just shook their head. There was no way but to just let that one go. "Is it the
bad guy?"
"It would be funnier if you refer to him as 'that cum-sucking fuck-brain.'"
"Maybe true, but that kind of vulgarity would diminish the narrative integrity of this story."

She sucked her teeth and huffed. "Haven't you been reading? This story has no narrative
integrity. That much should have been clear to you back when you were talking about word

"Well, we're up to 1127. We’re already half way through."
She shook her head sadly. "You do realize that your count is completely inaccurate? The writer
put those numbers in for the rough draft, but it's been revised several times over. I mean, it
will be... will have been... will has done be."

"Why doesn't he open the thing on the laptop using Word, and use that to fix the word counts
instead of writing this whole thing on a BlackBerry Z10?"

She sighed. "Because he's lazy. He could just as easily use the BlackBerry too recount the
words, butt who has thyme four that?"

The protagonist studied her words, and a tear dropped his or her eye. She was right. All the
counts were completely inaccurate. Are. The rest of them that the audience hasn't even read
yet will been as well, so it was true; this story be having absolutely no narrative integrity

"Wow! That's tense!" exclaimed the protagonist.
Fuck it. Let the editor figure it out; he'll fix everything.

She continued. "You do realize, the half-hour that it takes for the average reader to finish this
is time out of their life that they'll never get back?"
"Of course. I didn’t compel them to read this crap."
She sat down. "I know."

And so, the plot thickened, like pudding. 814 more words, or however many, was a lot to come
up with, but it wasn't impossible. At least it won't be anyway, especially if you consider that
this sentence was added during revision, and so the words have already done been came up

Then suddenly, the plot twisted, like a pretzel. Perhaps it would have been fine to say that it
twisted like pudding, but then pudding doesn't twist very well. It kinda just clumps together
into a semi-solid mass of goodness. But pretzels twist, before they're baked, at least, and so do
donuts, some of them, at least, and in the end, if you can count them, you will find, perhaps, a
great number of commas, in this sentence.

Anyway, back to the plot twist, which was baked and covered in sea salt, and served with
mustard and beer. But not pudding, that was saved for dessert (or will be). A knock came at
the door.

'I wonder who that could be,' thought the protagonist, wondering who that could have been.
The door was opened on that dark and stormy night, to reveal a package. It had an antecedent
this time, and it was opened to reveal a brand-new Deus Ex Machina that had been ordered
from that online auction site whose proprietary brand name the writer does not have
permission to use, or at least 'did not,' anyway.

This device wasn’t large. It looked like whatever the audience imagined it to look like, except
on the face of it there was a button, and along side that was a small digital screen displaying a
number. '1424' was what it said, but it kept going up each time a word was added to the page.
And so, the love interest and the protagonist whose sexually ambiguous yet compelling
personality set out to destroy the bad guy. They were going to devastate him, to eviscerate
him. They were going to do something so terrifyingly grotesque, that the lazy-ass writer
couldn’t be bothered to thesaurus a word for it.

They were going to audit him!
The writer shook his head. "That’s cheesy..."

Fuck it; let the editor figure it out. He'll fix everything.

The only problem was that the writer will not have has had to decide where the bad guy was
will done have been concocting his sinister plans.

This was not good. And with only 464 words to go before the end, they had to think of

"I have it!" She said. "He has to be at Dunkin Donuts!"
Of course! They have the best pudding-filled donuts! Where else would he be?
In they walked, through that dark and stormy night.

"We meet at last!" said he.
"How dare you say something so cliché?" The fire in the protagonist's eyes burned like
something that burns a lot.
The love interest spoke, too. "You can’t create any more conflict. You’re evil schemes have
been foiled!"
The bad guy cackled, and the reader will felt a chill because of the writer's ingenious word
choice. "'You're?'" he taunted. "Now, who’s creating conflict?"

"It ends now!" The protagonist stock definitely, facing the market whose sole purple was too
create conflict.

"You still don't get it?" He replied. "You can’t depend on spellchecker. It likes to fill in words
that don't make any sense." A dark and sinister motif played in the background.
"Either way, it ends now." And the heroes of the story brought out the Deus Ex Machina,
prepared to press the button.

He smiled unflinchingly, and with a British accent, said, "You do realize that we still have 268
words to go. This story is far from over."

The love interest looked at protagonist, scared. A lot can happen in 246 words.
The editor removed a sentence here because it didn't flow right, and the writer filled it up with
this nonsense just to maintain the illusion that the word-count was still more or less
consistent. A quick glance down at the Deus Ex Machina. 204 words to go, without so much as
a complete sentence. It was time.

"That’s a weak plot device," taunted the bad guy.
"Your mother's a weak plot device," retorted the protagonist.
And so, with heart thundering and breathing pretentiously laboured, the protagonist
adverbially pressed the button.

Suddenly, the Editor appeared. Immediately, he complained that his title was (is?) not a
proper noun.

"" cried the bad guy.
"That’s cliché," said the editor, and his words were removed, leaving behind a pair of
quotation marks with nothing in-between.

The writer was relieved. "I’m so glad this idiotic story is finally over."
"Almost," replied the editor. "You still need 93 more words."
"What should I fill them with?"
"I don't care; this is quite simply the stupidest thing I've ever read. I'd wipe my ass with it, but
I think that would be redundant. I'm especially perturbed about the fact that you used a Deus
Ex Machina to solve a common-sense problem with a character whose presence and authority
are well within the narrative scope."
"So what? It's conflict for the sequel..."


"Fuck!" exclaimed the writer. Adding the words "the end" at the end made the story go over by
two words.

"Dammit!!!" that previous sentence made it go over by even more.

WTF?!? Stop adding more words! Seriously, we're up to 2042 by now, and by the end of this
sentence, we're going to be over by even more.

Ahh, fuck it. Let the editor figure it out. He'll fix everything.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Beta Reading

Two days ago I joined a group on goodreads called Beta Readers thinking it would be interesting to help authors with their work. I still think it is. But it will be hard to find the right combination between author and reader in this group. There are just too many posts, too many offers, too many requests to check them all. Still, there were two answers to my post:

One author just wanted more reviews (no beta reading) but the second send me a story.

I had some free time today and decided to dedicate my morning to this short story, just 39 pages.

I felt like a highschool teacher correcting some homework. This wasn't reading and commenting the storyline, the characters or some illogical flaw. Practically there was no style to comment.
Alternately she startet her paragraphs with "That was when" and "And then", she put her commas at random (unfortunately I don't really know the English rules of punctuation, so I couldn't help there). the vocabulary poorer than mine. The story wasn't anything new or surprising.

All my red corrections, my blue suggestions and my green comments won't be able to save this piece of literature. "That was when" I really felt sorry: How could I sent this back with all those colorful notes without hurting her deeply? I don't want to hurt anybody. I'm always striving for harmony and I only wanted to help.

Walking on eggshells I wrote a long compassionate email and sent the text back. I don't expect to hear from her.

Does that mean I won't do any more beta reading? Definitely not. But perhaps I should stick to authors I've read.