Autumn Harvest, by Mark Kasniak (0:53)

IOD-AutumnHarvestToday we see just how quickly a reader can bounce out of your book and never come back.

What I gleaned about the stories: Horror protagonists are, as a rule, a bitter and melancholy bunch.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move on to the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.

Note 2: The lack of a capitalization in the subtitle niggled me, but as it is an easy enough mistake and I hadn’t started the book, I didn’t score a WTF. However, it might have tipped the balance against downloading the book had I been otherwise undecided.

Note 3: The inline Table of Contents is unlinked and lists page numbers. A strong suggestion of a print-to-ebook conversion carried out without consideration of the differences between formats. However – despite a strong correlation – it was not proof of errors or obstacles in the text, so I continued; albeit somewhat warily.

WTF #1: Breathless sentences

Analysis: The opening sentence of the first story is “Where the hell are we going already?” I griped at Charlie as I sat in the back seat of his old sedan becoming ever increasingly more impatient. Without commas to separate the clauses, my mind kept everything at the fore rather than parsing each unit and moving on. Thus, I read faster and faster in an attempt to reach the end before I lost track of what I was holding in buffer.

This gave a sense of being out of breath, and thus triggered exactly the pause for a rest an author least wants a reader to take before they are hooked. Having bounced off the first sentence, I moved on.

WTF #2: Tense confusion

Analysis: The second story opens Glenn Oliver hated his life, and continues with a few sentences on how his poor childhood inspired a desire for a great adult life. Then I hit: Now at age forty, he knows that awesome life he’d always dreamed of had been just never in the cards for him. With no previous indication that the in-story present time wasn’t cast (as is common) in the past tense, the sudden present-tense statement didn’t parse cleanly.

Noting a second issue before anything had occurred to hook me, I moved on.

WTF #3: First line ambiguity

Analysis: The third story opens with:

Do you have anything else to say? Those are just seven words I thought.

Without a comma after words, my instinctive parsing (following the same structure as “Those were just seven things I carried”) was that the narrator thought the previous sentence among other things. Almost at the same moment, my mind threw up the alternative that the comma was missing and thus the narrator thought “Those are just seven words.”

The next sentence confirmed it was the second meaning: however, having encountered a third first-page issue in a row, my trust in the clarity of prose was already gone and I pulled the plug.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Download one of these free short stories, in the format of your choice, and decide for yourself.

In Strange Worlds, by Brenda Cheers (6:15)
Recovered, by Amber Polo (6:01)

About the author

Dave Higgins has worked in law and IT for both public and private sector organisations. When not pursuing these hobbies, he writes poetry and speculative fiction. He was born in Wiltshire, England. Raised by a librarian, he started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. He currently lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, his cats, Jasper and Una, and many shelves of books.