Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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I chatted with my daughter this evening and she said Elliot is excited, but not yet nervous. He was nervous before Wednesday's semi-final game but did fine, so I told her he'll do fine tomorrow as well, win or lose.
Today is my daughter's birthday, so I called her earlier this afternoon, but no answer so I left a voice mail. She called back about an hour ago.
I had got the impression that the semi-final game was tomorrow (Thursday), but it was today. And they won, 8-1. So I started posting this while I was still on the phone with Rachel. She was at the high school waiting for the team bus to get back from the arena.
Elliot was named one of the three Stars of the game:
Elliot (#29) on the left.
He was selected the second Star player of the game, and just before I got off the phone, he was telling his mom that he got interviewed, too. So she will send me additional info on that.
The championship game is Monday afternoon at the Prudential Center. I'm not sure what the occasion was, but just three years ago he was in the net at the Prudential Center. Hints of things to come?
The game will be streamed, but I don't have the info on that yet either. I will be watching!
Grandson's high school hockey team is going to the state semi-finals.
Full disclosure: I do not know Jim West nor have I ever had any communication with him regarding this book, any of his other books, or any other subject. Mr. West was present at the Superstition Mountain Museum's 2020 Authors' Day on 29 February, an event I also attended as a local author. I am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and assorted non-fiction.
Let me state off the top that I'm not a fan of country western music. Never have been. I'm familiar with most of the musicians mentioned in this book because they became big enough stars to cross over into rock and roll. I'm a boomer who grew up in Chicago in the heyday of rock and especially of garage bands.
Jim West was seated two tables to my right at the Superstition Mountain Museum event last Saturday. I didn't have any direct contact with him, but I was definitely able to overhear his conversations with people who stopped to talk to him about his book and about the history of popular music in general. He came across as knowledgeable, articulate (he's a former DJ), and respectful. What struck me most was that people came to him with music history stories of their own and Jim West listened to them without constant interruption.
His was, I think, the only book not published either by the author or a vanity/subsidy press. The difference is immediately obvious. For one thing, there's a title page! And a copyright page!
It's not a book I'd read because I'm not interested in the subject, and the Kindle price is too high for 130 pages even with lots of black and white photos. But from the Kindle sample I looked at, it's well-written and informative.
And Jim West wasn't a jerk.
Full disclosure: I do not know Tom Alberti nor have I ever had any communication with him regarding this book, any of his other books, or any other subject. Mr. Alberti was present at the Superstition Mountain Museum's 2020 Authors' Day on 29 February, an event I also attended as a local author. I am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and assorted non-fiction.
Tom Alberti was sitting next to Ron Feldman at the Museum on Saturday, but he did not respond, to the best of my knowledge, to Feldman's outburst when I asked the guys to quiet their voices.
I downloaded the free Kindle sample of Alberti's book, The Horseman. I think I made it through four pages before giving up.
I don't think there's any question that this is a Gary Stu book. The character's name is Tom Blandini, and his beautiful wife's name is Dominique. Author Tom Alberti dedicates the book to his wife Dru Dominique Alberti. So that issue is out of the way.
Let's get right down to the nitty gritty of the product.
First of all, there's no front matter. What is it about these self-publishing authors that they don't believe in copyright pages?
Second of all, the formatting is screwed up. Block paragraphs annoy the hell out of me to begin with, but when there are indented paragraphs interspersed, I lose my temper.
As you can see, there are also problems with punctuation: missing commas, missing quotation marks, misplaced periods. This sort of thing is rampant.
And it gets worse very quickly.
Just copying and pasting via the Kindle doesn't capture the bizarre formatting, so I've done screen shots, but this is just the sample, so it's also available on the Look Inside feature.
But there's more wrong with this than just the inconsistent street abbreviations -- Ave. in some places, Street spelled out in others -- or random capitalizations. There's the matter of historical context.
Maybe the readers of Tom Alberti's books don't care. He has just one review on Amazon and two on Goodreads (plus two more, 4-star reviews from himself). The problem is that Arizona's history is politically complex, and with no historical timeline for this book, it's impossible to understand what's going on.
By five or six pages into the book, I still don't know what year it takes place. Arizona became a state in 1912; before that it was a territory. For a while it was part of the New Mexico Territory, and was even the Confederate Territory of Arizona for a couple of years. Alberti never mentions its status, so that's no clue. He mentions the railroad going from Tucson to El Paso, but a brief little bit of Googling tells me the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad didn't extend to Tucson until 1912, a few months after statehood.
However, if the story takes place after 1912, there should be motorcars on the streets, and telephones would be available for making various arrangements. For example, Tombstone, Arizona Territory, had its own telephone company in 1881.
I'm guessing, therefore, that Mr. Alberti isn't really interested in historical accuracy. He's just Gary Stu-ing himself into a kind of literary cosplaying without the need to follow the rules of grammar, story construction, readable formatting, or much of anything else. If he has fun doing it, well, that's okay, but I can't recommend these books for anyone else to pay hard-earned money for. The quality isn't even up to vanity press standards.
Rumor has it that Mr. Alberti didn't sell any copies of his books at the Museum event, but that's not surprising. Very few people sold any books at all, and no one sold a lot.
Half star for the insult to authors who try.
Full disclosure: I have met the author, Ron Feldman, on a couple of occasions but have never had a lengthy conversation with him about this book, his other books, writing in general, or anything else. He is local to Apache Junction, Arizona. He has written several books, one of which my . . . friend bought and read fifteen or so years ago. I myself am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and assorted non-fiction.
On Saturday, 29 February 2020, Mr. Feldman was among a group of eighteen Arizona authors who were exhibiting their works at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, Arizona. I was also one of the eighteen.
The event was held on the wide patio of the Museum building. Mr. Feldman was set up with a group of four other white male writers of Old West fiction and non-fiction at one end of the patio; the rest of the authors were at tables arranged along the length of the rest of patio. Separating the two groups was an open area in front the museum's actual entrance.
Because the museum's event was competing with another local celebration -- the annual Lost Dutchman Days -- in downtown Apache Junction, there was virtually no traffic at the museum most of the morning. That meant we authors pretty much had to entertain ourselves. For Mr. Feldman and his companions, this meant discussing politics, and discussing it very loudly.
This is a photo of the front of the museum building, showing how the patio extends from front to back under a nice wide overhang.
Mr. Feldman and his companions were basically clustered right at the front, just behind the handicapped parking sign on the left. The front door is behind the white sandwich-board sign, so the rest of us were lined up on both sides of the patio beyond the door and all the way to the back of the building.
That nice wide overhang provides shelter from the sun, but it also acts as an acoustical funnel. As Mr. Feldman and the other . . . guys . . . kept talking politics, they also kept getting louder. And louder. And louder. Finally the volume reached the point where none of the rest of us could have any kind of conversation without shouting to be heard over them. Because I don't take shit from assholes, I finally left my table -- I was at the end closest to the door, so also closest to Feldman & Cie. -- and walked over to them. They of course glanced at me and that was it. I was not worth taking any more notice of.
However, I bravely spoke up.
"Excuse me, gentlemen, but do you think you could tone it down just a bit? Your voices are quite loud, and the acoustics here are amplifying them to carry all the way down the patio, and none of the rest of us can talk."
Feldman immediately shrieked at me, "This is still America! We have freedom of speech! We ain't a socialist country! We can say whatever we god damn want to!"
I looked at him and said, "I don't care what you say. I'd just like you to say it a little more quietly so the rest of us can talk, too."
And I turned around and walked back to my little table.
I got dirty looks from Feldman the rest of the day. (For some odd reason or other, Ermal Williamson never told him he should smile more. . . )
Now, as to the book:
No way am I going to pay $9.99 for 169 pages in Kindle format without checking out the sample.
When I see a Kindle book published by the author and with no front matter at all, I know the author isn't familiar with "real books." The front matter may seem like nonsense to non-readers, but knowing when a book was published, who the publisher is, what the legal ownership/copyright is, all help the reader to understand the validity of the book. Yes, even fiction can be valid or invalid.
Mr. Feldman's Double Cross has no front matter at all. None. For his own benefit he could have listed his other books, but at least a copyright date would be helpful.
And no, it doesn't help to have that information at the end.
The book starts with a Preface, which is followed by a Prologue.
THERE ARE NO PARAGRAPHS.
Well, there are, but they are neither block nor indented.
This is annoying as hell.
Now, I admit I'm a picky reader, and it's easy for me to get thrown out of a story by a pesky detail That said, however, a well-written book will catch me every time. I just reread Barbara Michaels's Be Buried in the Rain for about the tenth time a few nights ago, and even though I know the whole story and most of the fine details, the smoothness of the writing kept me in the story from beginning to end.
Feldman lost me with the no front matter, and with the non-paragraphs, but I slammed the Kindle shut here:
Remnants of people – hundreds of bleaching human bones, and, occasionally, a skull – lie bleaching in a long, narrow, twisting canyon where an ambush had taken place.
Feldman, Ron (2010-04-30T22:58:59). Double Cross . Ron Feldman. Kindle Edition.
This book has not seen an editor with any skill. The author has insufficient skill to put out a professional product. Is there a story in there good enough to overcome the technical problems? I don't know, and I have no interest in putting forth the necessary excessive effort to find out. There are better books out there, by better writers, for more reasonable prices.
I sipped the sour milk and threw away the rest of the gallon. A half star for insulting my professionalism, and for being a jerk.
Even though it's been 20+ years since I read this, I remember how it ends, and that is making the reread delicious.
I'll keep this as short as I can.
And here's the reference with the history of these people.
I did the Authors' Day event at the local museum today. In virtually every way possible it was a bust. I sold enough books to break even and make a little profit, but not much. It was so bad that some authors packed up and left before noon. The event started at 9:00 a.m.; there was not a single paying customer on the premises until sometime after 10:00. That's how bad it was.
Though I had looked over the program for the day's events several times, I saw nothing listed other than the 18 or 20 authors. But shortly after I had set up my stuff, a tall man in western garb in the style of John Wayne came sauntering along the patio. I felt the bottom fall out of my stomach -- it was Ermal Williamson, husband and promoter of Paula Erlene, the plagiarising yodeling queen.
I knew him; he didn't know me. But my books were on the table in front of me, with my name prominently on the covers.
"Are you Linda?" he asked in his fake John Wayne drawl.
"I am," I answered.
"Well, honey, you need to smile more."
I thought this would be a good way for us to comment and then share the post to see who is still here to make sure we are all following each other. I only bring this up because I see some people posting and I appear to be the only one following their reviews.
I have gotten some comments from bots though which is another reason why I wanted us all to take this Friday to comment and share this post so we can all find each other.
Feel free to drop your name in the comments and share!
I just posted this on Twitter:
How do you politely tell someone that their picking of your brain is starting to give you a major head ache? Oh, and that if they still need to pick your brain, they should stop telling you how to do what it is they're picking your brain about?
This Saturday I'm doing an authors' event at the local museum.
The original invitation said nothing about the books having to be related to Arizona, the Old West, cowboys, etc., nor did the application for the event. I've done art events there before, and this was never an issue because my jewelry uses a lot of local stones, so . . . it's just never been an issue.
I found out a couple weeks ago that the authors' event is also supposed to be local-related, which is okay because I have one book that's set in Arizona, Firefly, that I have printed copies of, and two of my Kindle reprints are westerns. And of course Really Neat Rocks is specifically about Arizona.
But I was really planning to be able to sell print copies of The Looking-Glass Portrait, because even though I've lived in Arizona for 35 years, I'm like a lot of other people in this state in that I still have roots somewhere else. And a lot of the people who will be coming to the event are also from "somewhere else."
I began looking through the list of other authors to get some idea what they've written, and I quickly became very discouraged. Oh, not because their books were more in keeping with the "theme" of the event. But because I felt completely out of their league.
Most are self-published, or published through what I refer to as limited-access publishers -- the kind who look legit but take generous subsidies from the authors. Some are published through the real scam outfits, too, like AuthorHouse. Several of the authors and/or their books aren't listed on Amazon; one is apparently the product of a Kickstarter campaign and the book isn't even on Goodreads.
Speaking of Goodreads: I looked up one of the other books, found that it had three 5-star ratings, all by people who had no other books read, rated, or even listed.
I looked at the free samples on Kindle for a few of the books. Most, by the way, are outrageously over priced. One is listed at $9.99 for a 169-page Kindle edition that has no paragraphing. Neither indented nor blocked. It made my head hurt.
Another had spelling errors on the first page and more on subsequent pages. Lots.
The Looking-Glass Portrait is listed as 366 pages, and the Kindle edition is $2.99. There is still one typo that no one else found and after I did find it I wasn't in the mood to upload another whole edition for one missing letter.
Now, you're probably wondering why I'm complaining about someone picking my brains about these books. I'm not. No one has.
Someone is picking my brains about something else, because she knows absolutely nothing about the subject. Every time I try to answer her questions, she tells me why my answer is wrong. She now wants me to teach her how to do what I do -- how I make my jewelry.
I didn't see this coming. Maybe I should have. At first all she wanted was to go out rock hunting, and I was delighted to have someone to go with me. But now she's telling me my 35 years of experience hunting rocks in Arizona are worthless and she, after looking at some Google Earth images, now knows how to find the mother lodes. And this afternoon she announced she wants to come over to my house so I can show her how I make my jewelry.
The echoes from the past were loud in my brain as I was falling asleep this afternoon, drugged by Tizanidine in hopes of getting rid of the back spasms before Saturday's event.
"Would you read my manuscript and tell me if there's anything wrong with it, so I can fix it and win the Golden Heart?"
Two "aspiring" authors begged me to help them with their books; two "aspiring" authors won the Golden Heart and got book deals. Two Golden Heart winners turned their backs on me (quite literally) and treated me like shit ever after.
I'm not ready for this to happen again.
So I tried to change the subject at about 45 minutes into today's 65-minute phone call. I told her I was more than a little bit disappointed with the line-up of authors at the event coming up. She asked me why, and I tried to explain to her that it's very discouraging to be at an event where the rest of the exhibitors (for lack of a better term) don't even really know how the game is played. (Sorry for the mixed metaphors; blame the drugs!)
She told me I shouldn't be that way. I shouldn't worry about the competition, just do my own thing. Yet when I explained that she gets upset doing an art show where there are other vendors just reselling imported junk, she defended herself, but not me. Why? Because writing isn't the same thing.
I was a bit stunned, and though I kept trying to explain -- she knows absolutely nothing about writing and publishing and admitted as much during an earlier conversation when she said she wanted to pick my brains about that, too -- she switched the topic back to rocks and jewelry.
She wanted to know how Etsy works, so I walked her through the basics and navigated her to my store on Etsy. She asked a few questions, the kind that could have been answered by doing the basic research the way I and millions of other Etsy sellers had to do, and then she asked me if I knew "X". She gave the name of an Etsy user that I didn't recognize and I said, "No, I have no idea who that is. Why?"
"X," it turns out, bought something of mine. I told her I have no idea who my buyers are -- other than a few friends who have purchased things -- and I know nothing about these buyers beyond their name and address to mail the purchases to.
Then came the zinger:
"Oh, well, I was just reading this review and I figured you must have written it yourself."
Yeah, I kinda lost it. In no uncertain terms, and with more than a little anger, I informed her I never ever ever read reviews of my work, nor do I allow anyone to read them to me, and I've been known to block people on social media who insist upon it.
I'm not sure she got the hint.
Unfortunately, both of us are doing the same art show in early April. She is encouraging me to do other art shows with her, shows that I'm not able to do for a variety of reasons that she constantly dismisses. But I don't think I'm going to easily get over being accused of writing my own reviews.
I first read this in 1998, shortly after I had gone back to college. I have a few interesting notes gently penciled in the front.
Once again I am flat on my back in bed with muscle spasms. Good excuse to read!
My grandson, Elliot Marken, was nominated as one of the top freshman high school hockey players in New Jersey.
New Jersey continues to produce talent on the ice every year. This season is no different with a freshmen class filled with strong forwards, stout defensemen and hard-to-beat goalies.
In the finale of a four-part series, NJ Advance Media highlights the top freshmen and asks you, the fans, to vote for which players you think are the best. Scroll through the post to see the top freshmen and vote in the poll at the bottom of the post.
I didn't get this posted as soon as I had hoped, but if there is anyone who is interested in voting for Elliot, just scroll down through the link and VOTE. No registration needed!
(He was 5 in the picture below.)