Friday Review – Chapter 1 of Rise by Brian Guthrie

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With my Canada trip well and truly over, it’s time to get back to the reviews.

First, a little backstory as to why I’ve settled on today’s choice. I’ve had my eye on Jukepop for a while now, and I am currently working away on a submission for a serial on their site. Jukepop seems like a good place to start with a continuing serial of stories – at the very least, they seem to be a place to gather a decent audience and a community of readers and reviewers.

I start my serious  investigation into Jukepop by picking one of the most popular stories. Many have already commented on this, but I’ll toss in my 2 cents, along with my usual look at what I, as an author, can learn from it.

Rise: Tears, Chapter 1 – Paper

The unedited version, before its publication, can still be seen on Jukepop.com.

The preview on the book’s Amazon page provides the first chapter for free. I am basing this review on the finished Amazon version of the first chapter.

This story caught my eye immediately with the first line from its blurb – “On a shattered world protected from the cold of space by a water shield, the people are dependent on Ancient technology to survive.” What a neat hook! It promises a world different than ours, and yet this story begins with the very mundane and known – paper, of all things.

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Friday Review – Gravity’s Edge Gifts by J.C. Towler

Now that I’ve spent a month reviewing stories for eFiction (as a thanks for being published by them), my reviews look at stories that stand out from my weekly readings around the internet. I choose stories based on what they can teach about the craft of writing.

I also like to review stories by people who comment on my posts or review my stories. Hint, hint.

Right, so now I turn back to Every Day Fiction and look to the flash fiction http://www.everydayfiction.com/gravitys-edge-gifts-by-j-c-towler/.

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The good:

Right away, the scene is set in great detail. The author uses strong imagery with lines like “gnarled woman with skin like old beachwood” to create a clear mental image of the setting and scenario.

I can feel the desperation of this poor guy going into this shop as a last resort, and then there’s this darkly funny kicker when the shopkeeper offers him a ‘solution’ to all of his problems.

The kicker at the end gives a nice little zing, an exclamation point at the end of an enjoyable, easy read.

The could-be-better:

As good as this story is, there are, of course a few areas for improvement. As the scene is set in the starting, we get the line ‘George Moss barely registers any of it”. Really? All that scene-setting, and it’s totally lost on the character? While such failure to notice can be used to characterize, I think it’s much better to have the setting trigger some reaction in the character. All the dream catchers around remind him of his hippie days? The incense reminds him of a girl he dated? Any reaction that tells more about where the character is coming from is better than failure to react, in my opinion.

My takeaway:

The story is well established in the first three paragraphs – I can see a character, know what his problem is, and understand in detail the setting he’s walking into. This story shows how I can quickly establish a strong foundation for a quick, meaningful story.


J.C. Towler can be found at https://plus.google.com/+JohnTowler/about.

Gravity’s Edge Gifts was published by Every Day Fiction on August 3, 2015.

Strategies to copy edit

TCC Edwards:

I’ve been following the blog Writer Dissection, and I’m finding the advice fairly well-thought out and useful. The author, Alissa Berger, has a lot to say on topics such as characterization and editing, and she provides many useful resources.

Here’s a nice post from her about some of the tricks used in cleaning up your writing work for submission:

Originally posted on writerdissection:

If I were a pathological liar, I would tell you that copy editing is when you clone yourself, manipulate your genetics, then step back and see the effect it has on your double. But, I’m not. And we’re not even up to that point yet (i.e. cloning humans). But, you should still know how to copy edit.

Strategy #1 CUPS!

CUPS is an acronym that goes like this:

C – capitalization

U – usage

P – punctuation

S – spelling

This method encourages a series of passes rather than edits by the reader, and usually works by writing CUPS vertically in the top right hand side of your first page. Once you completed one step, you write your initials as to not forget you checked that. This works good in elementary classrooms, but this will work just as good for you.

As extra resources, I always recommend the Purdue OWL. They have a lot…

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eFiction July 2015 Review #4 – Best Before by Katrina Johnston

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This brings us to the final review from July’s issue of eFicition magazine.

This week, I take a look at Best Before by Katrina Johnston

The fourth story in this issue is one by a writer whose works are very easy to find around the internet. Katrina Johnston is from Victoria in my home and native land, and was the winner of the CBC Canada Writes True Winter Tales Challenge.

The good:

As a slice-of-life, inner monologue piece, Best Before quickly sets up a believable, everyday situation. Sardonic humour wipes away any eye-rolling that the phrase slice-of-life might induce – it’s a fun read, and it’s clear that the author is having fun with it.

The protagonist, working in a Subway-like sandwich place ‘tells it like it is’ in the foodservice industry. She details her various customers and the freshness policies of her duties as a “sandwich architect” (a not-very-subtle jab at Subway). I have no trouble believing that the author worked in such an environment at some point – or at least talked with many people who have.

Her infatuation with a Prince Charming (a regular customer named David) is funny and a little sad. She clearly has it bad for the guy, and the narrative paints a crisp picture of unhealthy infatuation. It becomes clear early on that a) this is one lonely girl and b) it’s extremely unlikely that she’s going to get this guy.

The could-use-improvement:

My first thought when I finished this piece was ‘That’s it?’ The ending fell a little flat – once I got there, I realized that the story really was all in this girl’s mind. Her anger, loneliness, and frustration are all clear, but what does she actually do? She never clearly acts on her infatuation, and holds in her reaction when he walks in with his girlfriend.

I didn’t feel the story had a strong enough twist – I wanted to see her say or do something to David or his girlfriend. Shout? Loudly profess her love? ‘Accidentally’ spill sandwich fixings over the girlfriend’s dress?  Anything, really!

My takeaway:

Slice-of-life is a story type that is hard to make interesting. Most attempts are trite, uninspired, or just plain boring. Best Before, however, avoids tedium through humorous, sardonic commentary. I can learn more about how to use humour in my stories, and how to give my narrators voices that can carry readers’ interest to the final word.

 


Katrina Johnston can be found on Twitter – @Momtrina.

Best Before appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

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I’m in B.C.!

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Four generations of boys met near Prince George yesterday!

I have a good reason to skimp on my Wednesday posts – I’m travelling around British Columbia! It’s pretty far from my hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, but it’s where most of the Canadians in my family are now!

I’m in Prince George as I type, and I’ll be passing through Jasper, Banff, Whistler, Vancouver, and Victoria in the remaining two weeks of my vacation.

You can bet I’ll be looking out for writing inspiration as I travel. This beautiful land is ripe with history, scenery, and colourful characters!

Keep your stick on the ice, eh?

– TCCE

eFiction July 2015 Review #3 – Unaccomplished by Alissa Berger

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Yup, I’m still reviewing July’s issue of eFicition magazine.

This week, I take a look at Unaccomplished by Alissa Berger

A richly detailed dystopia, Unaccomplished could just as easily have been in Nebula Rift, the science fiction imprint by the same folks as eFiction. It shows a world where worth of humans is decided by talent and accomplishment, and those who fall short are harvested. Their limbs or organs are collected, or they get ground up for food. Yeah, pleasant stuff.

The good:

The narrative takes its time in this piece, building a horrific concentration camp in a world obsessed only with the results people produce. The supremely talented, the prodigies, and olympic superstars are granted free passes, while everyone else must prove themselves or get chopped up.

Grim, gritty, yet believable – by mining a common worry (“Can anyone see how good I am?”), the story gives a world similar to other dark dystopias, yet different in focus. Its a deep, immersive narrative that quickly suspends disbelief.

The could-use-improvement:

It’s a little long in some places. While I appreciate the way the narrative takes time to set up the inevitable ending, there were some missed chances to chop down the word count.

The main character, Wrander, facing death by dismemberment, never seems too broken up about it. There’s a serious lack of emotion – the tone of voice is a bit flat. Now, I realize this might be intentional as a mood for the piece, but I felt that Wrander didn’t fight, didn’t try to take a stand. I wanted to feel sorry for him, or to root for him, but as soon as he’s taken in to the concentration camp, he seems to just … accept it. I wanted stronger reactions from him, or some last-ditch attempt to show everybody that he is indeed talented, that he is accomplished.

My takeaway:

In a word, Worldbuilding. The big strength of this story is in building its world – the environment and reality are established quickly and expertly. The dystopia takes common fears and the modern obsession with celebrity and talent-searching to a horrifying yet believable extreme. The characters accept this reality fully, allowing the reader to accept it.

This story can help me learn how to craft a stronger world that readers will accept and appreciate.


Alissa Berger can be found on the web at writerdissection.wordpress.com.

Unaccomplished appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

Buy the magazine at Barnes & Noble.

eFiction July 2015 Review #2 – Garbage Collector by George Garnet

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I’m reviewing each of the stories featured in July’s issue of eFicition magazine (which also happens to have a story by me).

This week, I take a look at Garbage Collector by George Garnet.

The second piece in the issue follows a night in the life of a garbage collector in a dangerous city. Told from the first-person, the story moves briskly as the collector witnesses a woman terrorized by thug, and decides to intervene.

The good:

This is an easy and quick read, its narrative quickly painting a gritty environment and a character who just wants to make it a little cleaner.

The story shows a restless protagonist, seeking solace in a repetitive, easy job of cleaning the world. I like that while the protagonist is conflicted, he is brooding or overly cynical, like one might expect from a garbage collector. He sees the good in his job, and has found ways to take pride in it.

When he helps the woman in trouble, it’s clear that this is just another kind of cleaning. He rises to the occasion not just to help out, but as part of his self-assigned mission. I have no trouble understanding and sympathizing with him.

The could-use-improvement:

The voice seems a bit sophisticated for a garbage collector. There are a few choices that mark him as more educated – which is fine, if it’s clear why he’s a garbage collector instead of something else. There’s a hint that he’s there because his wife left him, but it’s not enough. I would have liked either a hint of a previous job that ‘fits’ his language, or to see him narrate with more slang and less sophisticated word choices.

My takeaway:

The prose moves quickly, painting the dark world of this lowly garbage collector. I appreciate stories with a lowly underdog, someone overlooked by society. My own protagonists tend to be in more ‘respectable’ positions – this story made me think that I should have more variety in my characters’ social and economic backgrounds.


Garbage Collector by George Garnet appears in eFiction Vol. 6, No. 4 (July 2015).

Buy the magazine at Amazon.

Buy the magazine at Barnes & Noble.