Becoming Estevan and Other Science-Fiction Tales of Love & Obsession, by McCamy Taylor (0:17)

IOD score card

Today we see that if the opening pages of your book suggest you haven’t spent time on it, readers won’t either.

What I gleaned about the stories: Sometimes, characters will— But perhaps the point would be clearer if I explained the context. When people are young, they often—

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 cover, while a pleasant piece of art, suggests the genre is literary or fantasy rather than science-fiction; however, that didn’t make me doubt that the title and blurb were telling the truth so I didn’t score a WTF.

WTF #1: Obvious error on the title page

Analysis: The title page labels the book: Becoming Estevan and Other Science-Fiction Tales of Love &Obsession. A missing space in any circumstance could make me question whether a book has been thoroughly proofed; a missing space on the title page, where any proof reader is both freshest and has only a few lines to review rather than a page of text, elevated that concern significantly.

Noting in passing that the error also caused the text to wrap in an unsightly fashion, I moved on.

WTF #2: Page numbers on table of contents

Analysis: The table of contents lists the page number of each story. Reflowable formats, such as MOBI and EPUB, don’t have fixed page sizes so don’t have actual page numbers; any page numbering that is displayed is an approximate comparison to print and not a navigation method. So, my first thought was that this ebook had been converted from the print manuscript without any changes being made to account for the differences between print and electronic layouts.

Where the first WTF had raised a concern that there might be distracting spelling errors or punctuation niggles, this brought to mind sentences broken in half due to the input manuscript defining a fixed page size, erroneous page numbers, misalignment due to manual tabbing/spacing, and the other layout issues that can occur if a format with fixed margins, fonts, and such is converted to an ebook without consideration for the differences.

Hoping the conversion would turn out to be clean, I moved on.

WTF #3: Unconverted markup

Analysis: The opening paragraph of the first story ends halfway through a sentence, which is punctuated with – – – (three hyphens) instead of an em-dash. Although the failure to convert the placeholder to the actual character niggled me, the correct use of a dash rather than an ellipsis gave me just enough confidence in the author’s prose that I awarded the benefit of the doubt.

Then the third paragraph ended in three hyphens as well. While one ill-formed em-dash had been bearable, two in the space of the first three paragraphs suggested the author might be fond of em-dashes, and thus the forthcoming prose would tug at me like a dripping tap.

My concerns over the conversion confirmed, 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.

Of Cinder & Bone, by Kyoko M. (2:00)
Dungeons & Diamonds, by Zeppy Cheng (6:14)

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.