Author of OUTBACK LOVE a contemporary romance novel set in Australia, JETTING AWAY a short story prequel to OUTBACK LOVE, MOON OVER MADNESS a paranormal romantic comedy and BAYOU BLUES AND OTHER SORROWS a collection of short stories and poems about life and love. All are available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, Diesel and Kobo. On Twitter @TeriHeyer

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Stories

Flowers on my patio.
I just finished reading two books, both "tall tales" so unbelievable, so poorly written, so poorly edited that I wanted to throw them across the room. However, I was reading them on my new Kindle Fire, which my husband gave me on my birthday back in July. Let it be known, I love my Kindle Fire, so I couldn't bring myself to throw it across the room. On the the other hand ... yeah, on the other hand, I was very irritated after reading each of these books.

I buy a lot of books. In fact, I buy more books than I really should, but I love books. I'm passionate about books. Yes, I admit, I'm addicted to books. So here's the deal. I spent good money on both of those books and though the cost was minimal, I did feel a bit cheated.

Here's my beef. I keep hearing about how Indie books are crap. Yes, there are people out there who use that exact word or worse. These same people rave about how traditionally published books are edited by a zillion of the best editors out there, which makes those books superior. Then there are some Indies, or should I say self-published (as some insist they're not Indies, but self-published), who claim to spend tons of money to have their books edited by the best editors in the business and, therefore, their books are superior to those not edited by the best of the best. If you can afford a high-priced editor, that's great, though most of us Indies or self-pubs don't have that kind of money. But that's all neither here nor there.

Okay, there are great editors and not-so-great editors. I'm not attacking editors here, just saying that some are better than others. Also, some self-editors are better than some paid editors, but that really isn't my issue either. What I'm saying is, the best editor in the world can't "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." If the story itself is crap, absurd, awful, terrible, you pick the word(s) you want to use, then the book falls short. In other words, the book itself is something not worth reading.

Now, as I was saying, I recently read two books, one by an Indie and one by a traditionally published author I've read through the years and have loved. Both books were so bad that I'm still steaming. Yes, that is steam coming out of my ears.

Here's the deal. If you are writing a book that has as its central theme, setting, what-have-you, around a true event (contemporary or historical) then get your facts right. A reader will probably (not always) accept your tall tale if you get the facts right. For the two books in question, the facts were so skewed they must have been written about a parallel universe.

I'll be the first to admit that fiction is not reality. Fiction is a story, make-believe, yes, a tall tale. But there is a difference here. I've read many a tall tale that was awesome. In my opinion, what makes a book great is when the reader can somehow identify with one or more elements of the story. Hopefully the hero or heroine is someone you can identify with or admire. Or maybe it's the setting that is so real, that the unbelievable characters seem to fit in okay.

The problem comes in when the facts are skewed beyond recognition, the characters are so unbelievable and/or have no redeeming features and the action is beyond the possible. That's when a book falls flat. That's when a reader feels cheated.

I will in future be even more selective of the books I decide to read. My time is precious and I don't want to waste a minute of it reading a book that leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. As a reader, I expect a book to have some redeeming features. I expect a book to be edited, not necessarily to perfection, but at least enough to make it readable. I expect at least one character to have something about them that I admire, can identify with, or at least can have compassion for that poor soul. I expect the storyline to at least be something I can swallow.

If the book is science-fiction, paranormal or fantasy, then as a reader I expect unreality, magic, the fantastic. But if the book is a contemporary, and your story is set around something that really happened, then I expect some truths. The same goes with a historical. Get the facts right and a reader will accept your tall tale if it's not too unbelievable.

I have to say that I read a lot of books. Most are good or very good and many are excellent. I read books by Indie authors and traditionally published authors. I do not expect a book to be perfect, but I do expect a good read. I make allowances for a book not being in my favorite genre. In fact, I've read a lot of great books that are not what I normally would read. It's the story that makes it great.

Now I want to explain why I chose the above photo to illustrate this post. The yellow and gold flowers are mums, recognizable flowers you can buy at most any store that sells flowers. The purple and white flowers are wildflowers. They are both beautiful. In my mind, Indie books are the wildflowers and traditionally published books are the store-bought flowers. They are both beautiful, exquisite, meant to be enjoyed.

What I ask of all authors, myself included, is to write that beautiful flower of a book. Make it the best story that you can. Edit it (either self-edit or professionally edit) the best possible. If it's an eBook, then format it correctly. If you can't do it yourself, then get someone to help you. There are guidelines out there that walk you through every step of the formatting process. Granted some books will be edited or formatted better than others. I admit, it's all a learning process, but honestly try to get it right, or at least readable. Check all your facts. You might miss something, but if you get the basic facts right, your reader will most likely overlook the rest.  Then write the best story you possibly can.

Below are some books that I've read over the last year that particularly stand out in my mind. They may or may not be perfect in all respects, but every one of them was a great read. So here are some of them (listed in no particular order).

Wool (Omnibus Edition) by Hugh Howey
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Emotional Waves by Maureen A. Miller
The Circle by R. G. Lawrence
Golden Boy by R. G. Lawrence
Judgement Tramp by J. D. Currie
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Desert Wives by Betty Webb
Mark of the Loon by Molly Greene
SEAL of My Dreams by Stephanie Bond, et. al.
One Small Fib by Jan Romes
Lucky Ducks by Jan Romes
Bluewater Killer by C. L. R. Dougherty
Runaway Twins by Pete Palamountain
Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke
Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
Come Back to Me by Melissa Foster
The Righteous (Righteous Series - Bks 1-3) by Michael Wallace
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Drinking with Dead Women Writers  by Elaine Abrose & A. K. Turner
The Independence of Carolyn Woltkowski by Benjamin X. Wretlind
Sullivan's War by Michael K. Rose
A Shore Thing (Otter Bay) by Marie Force
Dead Until Dark (A Sookie Stackhouse Novel) by Charlaine Harris
Mai Tai One On by Jill Marie Landis
Eyewall by H. W. "Buzz" Bernard

I'm sure I've left some out of the list above. This is by no means all the great books I've read over the past year. Sorry, but I didn't include any of the great short stories that I've been reading lately. I only wanted to list novels, novellas and anthologies in this list.

What am I reading now? Well, I'm almost always reading more than one book. So at this very moment I'm reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which I read back in my college days and decided to reread. I'm also reading Sketches from the Spanish Mustang by Benjamin X. Wretlind, which is awesome.

I hope that other readers will comment below and add some of their recommended great reads. There are so many great books out there and not nearly enough time in which to read them all.

PLEASE NOTE: I did not, will not, ever leave a bad review anywhere for these two unnamed books.  Both had some redeeming features or I wouldn't have read them. I'm just very disappointed. They could have been so much better with a little more effort. As a rule, I don't write bad reviews on books. If I can't write a good/nice review, then I don't review the book. So please forgive me, but this time I just had to vent.

2 comments:

  1. I've read Wool and Eyewall and agree. Both well done, well put together and edited.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for commenting. Glad to hear that you enjoyed Wool and Eyewall. I think both of those books are well-written great reads.

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