Heaven’s Jubilee And Other Short Stories, by Faith Blum (1:10)

IOD score cardToday we see that readers will assume obvious differences are significant.

What I gleaned about the stories: Exercise can be better for keeping warm than staying still; especially if one is confused.

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.

WTF #1: Missing page break

Analysis: The book features a dedication that starts on the line after the last item in the table of contents. Previous experience suggests that e-books that lack chapter breaks are likely to have been automatically converted from a word-processor file and then released without being proofed. However, as this isn’t always the case and doesn’t in and of itself destroy my immersion, I try to give the benefit of the doubt.

In this case, the lack of even a clear line between the contents and the dedication did more than raise a concern about conversion artefacts; it raised the spectre of the prose jumping from one scene to the next, or even one story to the next, without a visual cue to tell me a break had occurred.

With part of my mind now diverted from casual reading to actively monitoring for hidden breaks, I moved on.

WTF #2: Odd use of a nickname

Analysis: The first story opens with the protagonist trapped in a cell, wondering why, of all the followers of The Way, they’ve been singled out. Without any strong time or place signals, I wasn’t sure of setting or genre yet, but The Way had an Eastern mysticism feel to it so I pegged it as probably either a real-world Asian religion, or a fantasy religion or philosophy based on one. The protagonist then goes on to mentally recite passages from The Book in rhythm with their jogging around the cell. Recitation of phrases in conjunction with action suggested mantras, which strengthened the Eastern religion feel. Then the protagonist reveals one of the passages: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”

My mental image juddered at a clear quote from the Bible. I was expecting anything other than real-world Christianity. Wondering for a moment why my surprise felt so strong, I realised that The Book had tripped me too. Most Christians I know call the Bible The Bible. Some of them call it The Good Book instead. But I don’t know any who call it The Book. However, I have encountered quite a few fantasy authors who create monotheistic faiths with the trappings of Catholicism (or similar) but use The Book instead of The Good Book for the very reason of not offending someone by creating too strong a connection to Christianity.

Having shifted my mental image from a religion of Eastern roots to a variant of Christianity, I still wasn’t sure if this was a real-world sect or a fantasy one. So I moved on.

WTF #3: Inconsistent formatting

Analysis: The second story opens with the protagonist’s internal dialogue, which is set in italics. However a few sentences later, the protagonist’s next piece of internal dialogue is set in roman. While I have no issues with an author using the more modern approach of not setting internal dialogue differently from narration, I do expect consistency in formatting. So, this inconsistency in the first paragraph (where the proof-reader would surely be the least fatigued), raised a strong concern that the same muddled signalling would persist throughout the rest of the book.

Concerned that the muddled signalling might obscure distinctions that I couldn’t make with ease on my own, 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.

Ghost Stories, by Ron Ripley (1:33)
The Darwin Protocol, by William Oday (9:54)

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.