Disturbed: A collection of five disturbing tales, by Michael Riddell and JJ Riddell (0:38)

IOD score card

Today we see that if the copyright declaration (where every word matters) contains multiple basic issues, readers will assume the rest of the book is even less polished.

What I gleaned about the stories: Local authorities tend not to spend money on public spaces unless they have to.

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: Uninspiring legal text

Analysis: The copyright declaration ends with:

No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form,

Electronic or mechanical without express permission

From the author.

The capital E of electronic caused me to miss a step because the context didn’t provide any reason for it to be a proper noun and the comma at the end of the previous line had primed me to expect a continuation of the same sentence. This slowed me enough that I noticed the lack of a closing comma after mechanical, which both niggled me from a proof-reading perspective and—more seriously—suggested a lack of care in the area of the book most damaged by the slightest inaccuracy. With both metaphorical feet having stumbled, I realised that the text wasn’t rendered as if my ereader had happened to break the lines there: the capitals marked hard carriage returns. This raised the spectre of the book being converted from a print manuscript without any concern for the difference in formats.

With my faith that the text would not be full of distractions damaged, I moved on.

Note 2: While typing the text out, I noticed that it refers to permission from “the author” (singular) whereas the copyright claim, title page, and other matter list two authors.

WTF #2: Forced Layout

Analysis: As I flipped on, I encountered a page that displayed the dedication at the top, then the title of the first story at the bottom. Curious, I flipped the page. The next page began with: By Michael Riddell. This confirmed my hypothesis that some—if not all—of the layout had been created using forced breaks and blank lines rather than letting the ereader render the text to reflow to fit the screen.

Glad that my glimpse of the forthcoming body text didn’t reveal overt mangling but with little trust left, I moved on.

WTF #3: Comma splice

Analysis: The second story opens with: Michael leaned back on the old wooden park bench and sighed, not much had changed around the place…

The comma after sighed made me expect a continuation of the physical description, so the transition to apparent dialogue caught me by surprise. My mind attempted to reparse it as as speech, but the lack of opening quotes didn’t fit that. An instant later, I both considered it might be a thought and realised that one cannot sigh a thought.

Realising it was two separate unconnected sentences merged together, my hope that the prose would be smooth enough to overcome any irritation caused by imperfect formatting was dashed. 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.

Eight Unreal Stories, by John Carter (1:42)
Fur Boys, by C.A. Newsome (10:10)

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.