Born to Magic, by David Wind (5:25)

IOD-BornToMagicToday I realized that the typo-gremlin likes to strike when the reader is most vulnerable to misunderstanding.

What I gleaned about the story: Areeena is on a sort of vision quest, seeking her spirit guide, when the untimely intrusion of a poacher seems to put the whole adventure on its ear.

Find this book on Amazon.

Technical Note: I’ve mentioned ebook file sizes in the past, but today’s example weighs in at a ponderous 11 MB, making it the largest ebook I’ve ever seen that wasn’t a photography or art book. And, having examined the contents, I see nothing that requires such a bulky package. This book shouldn’t be any larger than 1 MB.

I just hope the author has opted for the 35% royalty rate with Kindle, because at the 70% rate, he’d be paying $1.65 per sale just to support the delivery charges. (Amazon charges $0.15 per MB for each download if you take the higher royalty rate.) So by my math, making a royalty of 70% on a list price of (currently) $2.49 would yield him $1.74, less the delivery charge, for a net revenue of just 9 cents per sale.

It really is worth your time to try to slim down the book file folks.

WTF #1: Confusing prose

Analysis: Wordy prose is not very fashionable these days, but in their zeal to stamp it out, some writers and editors go too far. One frightening bit of gutter wisdom I hear often is to remove all occurrences of “that” from your writing. This is lunacy of course, because it simply isn’t true that all instance of “that” are extraneous. Some of them can indeed be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence, but more often than not, I find it introduces ambiguity.

Consider this passage: Areenna sensed the treygone knew she posed no threat, yet it watched her closely.

On first reading, I parsed the beginning of this as simply “Areenna sensed the treygone,” inferring that she had some kind of animal-kindred sense ability. Then I got to the next clause: “knew she posed no threat,” and thought that there probably should have been a comma in there to divide the two clauses. On top of that, the previous sentence had gone to some length to tell us how fierce the male treygone was. But now it’s a she? Could that just be a mis-type for “he”? Then I rounded the corner on that last clause—”yet it watched her closely,” and here’s where the wheels came off. I had now seen a male treygone referred to as both she and it in the same sentence. Clearly I’d taken a wrong turn. And all this confusion over a missing “that.” If the first clause had been “Areenna sensed THAT the treygone knew she posed no threat,” I would have cruised on past with my attention firmly on the battle of wits between Areenna and the bird. But of course, that’s not what happened, so the flag went up.

WTF #2: Echoing headwords

Analysis: A pair of “She”-headed sentences in the first paragraph were followed by two successive paragraphs headed with “Areenna.” This second case was the more noticable, because the first paragraph in the pair was only a single short sentence, so the headwords lined up visually as well as audiby. Finally, the triple threat was filled by a second stutter of “She”-headed sentences near the bottom of the page. And since this was still the first page, I had to throw a flag.

WTF #3: Sloppy proof-reading

Analysis: She spotted the poacher sitting in the joint of two large braches… Taken here in isolation, you can probably spot that there’s a missing ‘n’ in that last word. But in the context of reading the story, during which there had already been a number of invented creature names and so forth, I spent a moment wondering what a “brache” might be. With a poacher sitting in the “joint,” I wondered if maybe it referred to some kind of oddly named meat animal. It was two full paragraphs later before I finally got confirmation, when the poacher plunged 30 feet to land at the base of the tree. So much for my whimsical meat animal. It was just a couple of misspelled branches. Sigh. Chalk up another one for the gremlin of the typo, who always seems to strike where the reader is most vulnerable to misunderstanding.

Opal Eggs of Fire, by James Calderwood (4:38)
Snapdragon: And Six More Stories with Bite by Jack Kardiac (4:21)

About the author

Jefferson Smith is a Canadian fantasy author, as well as the founder, chief editor and resident proctologist of ImmerseOrDie. With a PhD in Computer Science and Creativity Systems compounded by a life spent exploring most art forms for fun and profit, he is uniquely unqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.