Cabals of Blood: Tales of Cosmic Horror, by Richard Klu (8:45)

Today we see that a single misplaced comma can be enough of a bump to derail a reader.

What I gleaned about the stories: If you really want to be an eccentric businessperson, you need to have tower blocks torn down and rebuilt just to change the light in your office.

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.

Kudo #1: Really engaging opening

Analysis: The first story opens with: He loved the velvet covering he’d hand stitched for the Codex. Immediately, I was curious: why had the protagonist made the cover of velvet? Why had he hand stitched it? As the paragraph continued, other velvet items of a modern nature were revealed, making velvet seem more than simply a material chosen for a book cover and also implying the protagonist had access to wealth; this just increased my curiosity as greater riches and a modern setting suggested hand stitching was a choice rather than a necessity.

WTF #1: Verb/noun confusion

Analysis: Several pages into the first story, the protagonist is described as the decipher of a document. As a person who translates a message is a decipherer, I was unconsciously expecting an extra syllable; the absence felt a little like the jolt of hitting a pot hole. Knocked out of my flow, I had an instant of wondering whether decipher was a noun (perhaps an antonym of cipher), but that didn’t work either because it would refer to the document and not the protagonist.

While still interested in the story, I had shifted fully into analytical mode so moved on.

WTF #2: Paragraph formatting shift

Analysis: The collection opens with paragraphs set in the traditional fiction style of indented first line and no white space between. However, when I passed the end of the opening paragraph of the second story, I discovered neither indent nor white space. My immediate thought was that I recalled the previous story being set differently, which triggered a flick back just to be certain I wasn’t misremembering. This back-paging would have been a sufficient sign of lost immersion on its own; however, it also separated me from the story enough that the typesetting portion of my mind had space to warn that paragraphs without indents or a clear space between were at risk of running together.

My faith that the formatting would support a fluid reading experience damaged, I moved on.

WTF #3: Rogue comma

Analysis: Slightly over a page into the third story, a cosmic threat is described as an: ageless, durable, being. Where a list of discrete adjectives precedes a noun, commas separate the individual items from each other and no comma separates the final adjective from the noun they modify; a conjunction between the last two adjectives is optional. So, when I hit the comma after durable, I was primed to parse the next word as an adjective or the start of an adjectival phrase; thus, hitting being, a noun, left me flailing to resolve my mental image.

My faith in the smoothness of the experience lost, 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.

Dislocations: Fictions, by Windsor Harries (4:37)
Like Life Itself: Ten Short Stories, by BP Broome (4:07)

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.