Grave Clouds: & Other Dark Tales, by John Allen (1:04)

Today we see that frequent inconsistencies combine to erode the reader’s confidence in the author.

What I gleaned about the stories: Self-destructing media are a powerful inspiration for an author.

Find this book on Kobo.

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: Distracting metadata anomalies

Analysis: The title and author showed up in my ereader library as stated above. As soon as I saw it, the colon niggled at me; was it deliberate (which suggested the author was wont to experiment with punctuation) or was it an accident (which suggested there might be proofing issues).

When I opened the book, the cover displayed the title without the colon or the capitals on the Other Dark Tales; and displayed the author as JW Allen. This significant lack of consistency raised the question: if the author’s name—potentially one of the things a person is both most familiar with and most invested in—varies, then will other things have been checked for consistency.

Had either of these two things occurred on their own, I might have glossed over them; however, multiple issues with the metadata gave a sense of a slapdash job, so I scored a WTF.

WTF #2: Random hyphens

Analysis: Several paragraphs into the introduction, the author lists the first publication of the stories collected. This opens with:

The Sun Also Rises” was shortlisted in the Writelink 2010 Short Story Xmas Chillers competition.

Grave Clouds” – was published as “The Difference” by Ink Pantry in 2013.

The difference in formatting hooked my eye. At almost the same moment, I stumbled over how to parse the hyphen: was it intended? If so, what did it mean? There seemed to be no meaningful information conveyed, but it seemed an odd typo to make.

Fully in editorial mode, I moved on.

WTF #3: Change in paragraph styling

Analysis: The book opens with an introduction set with a single line between paragraphs and no indent; while this is traditionally a non-fiction style, it is still a standard style so didn’t interfere with my saccade. However, when I flicked to the first story, I discovered it was set in the usual fiction style of no space between paragraphs and a slight indent; although this—obviously—wouldn’t have been an issue normally, I had internalised the rhythm of the previous style, so the change resulted in a slight hitch as my eyes overshot.

Setting aside my speculation over whether the use of a different style for the introduction was deliberate, 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.

Burnt Worlds, by S.J. Madill (40:00)
Dislocations: Fictions, by Windsor Harries (4:37)

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.