I must begin this post by stating I am a hard core Harry Potter fan. How strong a fan am I? Well, if you come up to me and tell me you don't like Harry Potter I will look at you with a pitiful expression and reply, "I'm sorry, but you know, there are support groups out there that can help people like you."
As it turns out there are quite a few people in need of these support groups judging from the many one star reviews that the Harry Potter books have accumulated at Amazon. Consider the numbers:
Sorcerer's Stone: 81
Chamber of Secrets: 33
Prisoner of Azkaban: 37
Goblet of Fire: 77
Order of the Phoenix: 161
Half-Blood Prince: 161
Deathly Hallows: 97
Of course these one star reviews are but a mere "blip" if you compare them to the combined thousands of 5 and 4 star reviews. But I was curious about why these people gave these great books one star reviews. The majority stated they didn't "like" the books for various reasons.
Now, all kidding aside, I can understand someone not "liking" a great book. I can respect that. I have not liked some great books. For example, although I liked the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, I did not like Tolkien's "Silmarillion". For me it was very slow and boring, but I still recognize it's a great book in its plot and scope.
However, the one star reviews that puzzled me were those that claimed that the books are not great because they are poorly written. These people wrote that the Potter series suffered from mediocre, careless writing, poor editing, bad grammar (e.g. run on sentences and overuse of adverbs), dreadful prose, shallow characters, and bland descriptions. Someone wrote: "The adults who like these books are the ones who didn't pay attention in English class." And these comments from readers are no different from those I had read that came from certain literary critics.
So let me get to the crux of this post. Even if we assume the Harry Potter books are not well written, I want to ask: what is the function of good writing? Are people supposed to learn to write well to better communicate with their readers or are people supposed to write well just because they should blindly follow a set of rules? My opinion is that it is the former that is important. Let me put it this way:
Effect on the reader = story + how you tell it
In other words, the "effect" the story has on the reader is due to the combination of the actual tale itself and how well you tell it (grammar and writing technique). In the literary community it is accepted that a good story can be told so badly (lousy writing) that the effect on the reader will be poor. But what is seldom discussed is that the story can be so good that it can overcome non-optimal writing.
I want to venture that there is a sizeable group of persnickety people out there who have become so enamored with the formal rules of writing that they have lost the ability to appreciate a good story, and this is sad. If the price I have to pay to become an excellent writer is to not be able to appreciate books like the Harry Potter series, then I don't want to become an excellent writer, period, as simple as that.
Be that as it may, I do think that these books are awesome and I agree with Stephen King who predicted that Harry Potter is destined to join the likes of Alice, Frodo, Dorothy and Huck Finn in the pantheon of the great characters of all time. And if you don't agree with that, well, I can provide you with a list of support groups that can help you.
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In a previous post I went over the fact that I have many muses, which provide me with a steady stream of writing ideas and as a result of this I never experience writer's block. However, I stated that this creates a big problem for me. My problem is that, as a result of my muses, my writing is eclectic. It's all over the place, from romance to horror, from fiction to non-fiction, from fantasy to science fiction, from wholesome family stories to naughty stories. Thankfully I can pick and choose which stories to write and, of course, to publish. But if I were to restrict my writing to say only the Nell stories that many of you have loved reading in The Sun Zebra, I would not write much. The Nell stories are just a fraction of who I am, the rest of what I write is very different. And herein lies the problem. The cardinal rule of this business is: writer, know thy reader. If you write wholesome family stories and your readers expect more of that, you cannot put out say a horror or erotica book. It would drive your readers away in droves. Well this is just the problem I have. The stories in my book The Sun Zebra are about family and love. But I have stories about murder, mayhem, monsters, and ghosts. I have stories overflowing with sexuality, and stories with bleak "unhappy endings." I even have a collection of essay and poems! How am I supposed to publish all this without rubbing my readers the wrong way? Some people have suggested that I create a new alias for myself but that would just multiply the work I have to do, which is already far too much on top of my day job. So I wanted to know about others in my situation. Are you an eclectic writer? If so how do you deal with publishing in several genres? Please leave a comment and let us know.
Not all pictures are worth 1000 words. Some like this one are worth a whole library's worth of writing!
You know how most writers have a muse? Well I have a confession to make: I have more than one muse. All in all (as far as I can tell) I have figured out I have nine muses. Let me run you down the list. The Little Girl: This muse is a magical child. She is adorable, very intelligent, and looks a lot like the child in the cover of my first book The Sun Zebra. In fact, she is the chief architect of all my Nell stories. I love her dearly, but if I wrote exclusively what she inspires I would only write children's books. The Comedian: This lady is all fun and laughs. It is impossible to engage her in a conversation without her going on a humorous tangent. If she were to take over my writing it would look like a cross between the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges. The Clergyman: This muse looks very much like a rabbi but he wears a cassock like a Catholic priest! He is constantly questioning the ulterior motives of every action and measuring them up to the highest moral standards. If he were to take over my writing I would not write. The Bard: This guy looks and dresses like Shakespeare. He has had a heavy hand in all my poetry. The Professor: This guy sports a bushy beard and looks like one of those German scholars from the days of yore. He is only concerned with academic discussions and favors the adventures of the mind. He is responsible for the scientist in me. The Hero: This swashbuckling muscular dude is dressed like a Roman centurion and is always on the lookout for quests and adventures. He is like Conan the Barbarian on steroids and looks suspiciously like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Sweetheart: This one is the quintessential hometown honey. The type of girl you break up with to go see the world but then end up marrying when you have grown up and return. She is into romance, happy endings, and keeping things tidy. If I were to totally embrace her, my writing would be Lake Wobegon-perfect: something that I try to avoid at all costs. The Slut: This muse is the type of woman my mother warned me about. As you would expect she wears fishnet stockings, lingerie, and high heels, and she is sizzling hot. If I were to allow her free reign over my writing I would only write erotica. The Death Lady: This one looks very much like the grim reaper. She comes to me in my dreams under the faint glow of the moon. She opens the mausoleum doors and beckons for me to follow her to some of the darkest places that have ever existed. The way my mind works is that these muses team up and then produce ideas for me to turn into stories. Each team effort is heavily slanted towards one or two muses with the rest adding a little touch of their own. For example, my first book The Sun Zebra was the product of a muse team commandeered by the Little Girl but you can detect the influence of the others including the Death Lady, the Comedian, and the Hero. My muses provide me with a steady stream of ideas that I write down in a list that keeps increasing all the time. As a result of this I have never experienced writer's block. The only time I've come close to experiencing writer's block is when I tried to force my muses to deliver a certain type of story. This doesn't work, and I have learned to just let them be. The above may sound good but it creates a big problem for me, which we shall talk about in my next post. In the meantime I would like to hear about your muse. Do you have one, or more? How does it look? Does it come and go, or is it with you all the time? Please leave a comment and let us know.
In this book author Joyce Faulkner treats us to a breathtaking and eclectic collection of short stories. They range from the complexity of dealing with the challenge of modern day relationships to seduction, betrayal, murder, and revenge, from the mundane to the afterlife and the supernatural, from individuals fighting to bring to the surface the trauma in their lives and come to terms with it, to those hiding terrible secrets: this book has it all.The stories are well written and very engaging. A few are shocking in their brutal honesty and others shy away from a "happy ending." A character asks in the story "The Menagerie", "Whoever said life was fair?" another character declares in the story "Unforgivable", “Sometimes there are no good choices...only a bunch of bad ones." Often the best we can hope for is resolution and closure, and that is what many of these stories are about.Some of the stories are structured around individuals coming to grips with feelings. Dealing with a estranged family including an ill mother (Winding Down), with the memory of an abusive father (Unforgivable), with being overweight and self esteem (Fattie Mattie), with the death of a relative (Empty House) and with returning home after war (Just Hold Me). Particularly heartbreaking and painful to read was "Infinity", where women deal with rape and its aftermath.The stories "Lilith" and "One Chittendon Drive" deal with classical monsters while others like "Chance" and the title story "Losing Patience" deal with perhaps the most complex, terrifying, and least understood of all monsters: ourselves.Among my favorites are: "The Brafferton", where two warriors from different ages and realms share their stories with each other. "Elizabeth Rose", where the perfect punishment for a bigot is dispensed. The humorous "Rubber Dome", where a widow decides to reactivate her sex life in a very matter of fact way but with an unforeseen result, and "In my Fashion", where a woman receives an unusual gift.My only qualms about the book are a glitch with my copy that prevented me from navigating directly to the table of contents and another glitch where the first page of each story was displayed without the title upon clicking the table of contents. However, these did not detract from the experience of reading the book.This book is not a "light read", it will not distract you from real life, rather it will propel you into the thick of things and make you think. If this is your mindset, then Joyce Faulkner's "Losing Patience" is the book for you.
Let me first come out and say publicly that I publish on Amazon. However, I have a concern: Amazon is getting pretty big.Just how big is Amazon? According to Frugal Dad Amazon's annual revenues are 34 billion; an amount that is bigger than the GDP of half of the countries in the world. Its web sales are 5X the web sales of WalMart, Target, and Buy.com combined. It serves 137 million customers per week. Its warehouses occupy the space that would be covered by 700 Madison Square Gardens. If Amazon were a country for active users it would be 2X the size of Canada. You get the gist don't you? Amazon is a giant well on its way to becoming an economic empire. So far it has been able to leave behind every company that has competed with it, and it shows no sign of abating. Amazon is going for the jugular in many areas to leave its competition behind or destroy it completely. For example, Amazon was encouraging costumers to use a price check app when they went into brick and mortar stores to scan products sold there. If they found they could get a better price online they would get a 5% credit on Amazon. The company in effect was using customers for espionage. Another example is the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program (which I have joined). If a writer enters his/her book into this program they have to remove their books from other outlets like Smashwords or Barnes and Noble.Amazon has been embraced by tens of thousands of writers, including myself, for delivering us from the shackles of the traditional publishing establishment. So far things are great and we are living the delirium of the revolution and the rise of the new order, but I wonder if things will be this rosy forever. After all, Amazon is a profit-driven corporation. In essence how is Amazon different from the corporations targeted by the Occupy Wall Street Movement? Do we trust it? What will happen if Amazon leaves the competition behind and establishes for all practical purposes a monopoly in publishing? Today on Amazon we get a 70% royalty on books priced $2.99 and up and a 35% royalty on books priced between $0.99 and $2.99. What happens if Amazon decides it needs more profits and reduces these margins? Of course, publishing with Amazon is a choice. We can always go elsewhere. But what happens in the future if there is nowhere else to go?
What do you think?
I want to thank all my readers for their support and encouragement since I've started writing. I began publishing my work on Scribd under the Phantomimic pseudonym more than 2 years ago, and I continued using it when I opened a Twitter account, when I created this website, and in the publication of my first book, The Sun Zebra. The pseudonym and the "hands" avatar have served me well for many things, and I know some of you have encouraged me to keep it. However, my alter ego has some limitations that are holding me back in things that I want to achieve. Therefore the time has come to step out of the pseudonym closet, so to speak.So to all my readers and followers I want to let you know that my real name is Rolando Garcia and from now on I will go by the name R. Garcia. It will take me a while to leave my "Phanto" alter ego behind and make the necessary changes to reflect this in my social media platforms, but this is my resolution for this New Year 2012. Otherwise everything will remain the same.Take care and I hope you have a great year.R. Garcia (Phanto)