The Last Outpost, by Hannah Ross (2:04)

Today we see that early warning signs are often correct.

What I gleaned about the story: Brianna is a school teacher. Her husband doesn’t seem to think she’s very smart.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: It’s a bit odd to receive a submitted ebook that has no embedded cover. This is usually a sign that the author is inexperienced – either in general, or at least in the world of ebooks. I don’t count it as a strike on its own, but it does stiffen my spine a bit, in preparation for a bumpy ride.

Note: The legal page continues directly into Chapter One without a page break. Again, not a strike, but it definitely reinforces my expectation of bumpiness to come.

WTF #1: Major layout problems.

Analysis: The first thing I noticed was that the formatting has no paragraph indentation, making it hard to scan to the start of the next paragraph. This combines with the double line spacing to create a wall of text that’s entirely too hard to track.

But the real glitch for me was the fact that every line terminates in a hard return. Not every paragraph. Not every sentence. Every line. So no matter what font size I use, the text does not reflow to fit my display.

All of this makes for an uncomfortable ebook experience. So uncomfortable that I was glad that all three strikes came quickly. It was somewhat surprising to me how physically uncomfortable unconventional layout could be.

WTF #2: Tense conflict

Analysis: Being an environmental scientist sometimes felt as though he and his wife live on different planets.

Which is it? Past tense (felt) or present tense (live)? The rest of the story seems to be set in simple past, so I’m guessing lived would be the proper correction here.

WTF #3: More tense collisions

Analysis: A few sentences later, the narrator is describing his wife:

Brianna taught third-grade English in their home town of Madison, Wisconsin, and knew very little of different types of ocean algae or the state of the coral reefs near Australia. Once she joined her husband on an international conference…

I read this thinking that the international conference was where he was about to go and that he would go on to say that, once she joined him there, they would have a marvelous time, or something like that.

But instead, that line turned out to be a reference to the deeper past. It wasn’t a conditional future at all. It was the beginning of an example from the deeper past about how little she knew. As such, it should have been rendered with past perfect: Once she had joined… But without that “had” to signal a past even further back than the simple past of the narrative voice, other interpretations become more likely. Like the conditional future.

Unfortunately, in this case, the early warning signs proved accurate.


Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

Scaring the Crows: 21 Tales for Noon or Midnight, by Gregory Miller (10:13)
Just a Little Terrible, by Vincent V. Cava (1:34)

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 underqualified in just about everything. That's why he writes.