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  • Third Time Lucky by Alberta Author Eric J Brown

    Posted on April 30th, 2016 admin 2 comments

    Allow me to grumble for a moment.   What is there about self-published authors that leaves them so vulnerable to egregious errors of spelling, punctuation, and grammar?  Is the Alberta education system so deficient that English is not taught?

    Here's a sample of writing from Eric J. Brown of Magnolia, Alberta, posted as part of his biography on Author's Den:  "My name Is Eric Brown, [sic: comma error] I was born raised and still reside [sic: comma error] in teh [sic: the] Canadian province of Alberta. I began writing when I was 13 years old, and self published [sic: self-published] my first novel, Ginny, in 1998 adn [sic: and] have sicne [sic: since] published, [sic: comma error] Ingrid 2000, Anna 2002, The Promise 2004, and To the Last Tree Standing 2006".  Is the man dyslexic? Can he not see those errors?

    Another reviewer of Brown's work, Erica Maidment, wrote on Amazon of Anna--Her Odyssey to Freedom (2002)  , "...My main complaint with this book is that it 20160430_092831[1]suffers from very poor editing. I am willing to overlook minor and occasional errors, but the errors were rampant and marred the text. I liked the content so much that I would really like to read some of the author's other books, but I am apprehensive if it means slogging through so many missing quotation marks, incorrect words, incomplete sentences, and spelling errors."

    I'm currently reading Third Time Lucky, another self-publication (Magnolia Press, 2009). It's a formulaic love story involving mail-order-bride Jane Brody and crusty suitor Ethan Phillips, set near the fictional town of Grimstad in rural Alberta, Canada, in 1925. City-born Jane needs to adapt to life in the backwoods; curmudgeonly Ethan needs to learn more civilized ways; both are socially backwards and unable to communicate. Will they be able to share their feelings? Will Jane succumb to the blarney of the lovable Irish moonshiner on the next homestead? Will she use her return ticket back to Ontario? Well, duh.

    The writing is a bit flat, but it is readable, with interesting characters and enough plot movement and character development to keep me engaged.

    Anachronisms abound, making me wonder just how much (or how little) research Brown did.

    • Despite the story being set in 1925, Brown's characters generally use a 21st century vernacular, such as having Jane refer to Indians as "bad guys"; an educated woman of the time might say "savages" or even "aborigines".
    • "Nonetheless, Jane was wary of her first contact with First Nations people" (p. 130) -- the term "First Nations" was not in use until the 1980s.
    • Brown has his characters talk of Prohibition as if it were current, even though Alberta repealed it in 1923.
    • Jane is from Montreal, where Prohibition never really took hold; even so, she is a "temperance woman" (though she spent some time in Ontario, where it took hold deeply)
    • The WCTU in Canada was closely associated with various churches, yet Jane is of no particular faith.
    • Alberta women got the vote in 1916, and the hope was that with suffrage, women would stand firmer for temperance; yet by 1925, both Prohibition and the temperance movement had lost force, especially in Alberta. Had Brown been aware of these social and political overtones, he might have used them for a further layer of depth in his novel.

    These are minor issues, and not unexpected from a self-published author, though IMO a good editor would catch them.

    The run-on sentences, missing punctuation, poor construction, and misused homophones ("wrapping his fist on the table" instead of "rapping", for example) detract significantly.  All the flaws noted by Maidment in the earlier work are present in Third Time Lucky.  Did the author learn nothing from his earlier novels?  Did he not seek further help with proof-reading and editing?

    Yet this book had not one but two editor/proofreaders:  the author acknowledges "Lillian Ross, fellow author and proof-reader..." and "Eileen Harrigan for her work as principal editor".   If the published manuscript is "cleaned up", the rough draft must have been ghastly!  In their defense, I will mention that the spelling is generally acceptable (although I take exception to "Whiteman" for white man).  At least the spell-check is turned on in whatever word-processor he is using.  Perhaps using the grammar-checker as well would help.

    The characters, by the way, are always grinning. They never smile, beam, smirk, simper, or give a wry twist of the lips -- they just grin. This struck me about halfway through the book, and for every page after, a character that grinned made me wince.

    I don't entirely blame the author for the book's shortcomings; I'm sure many good writers are poor spellers and grammarians.  In fact, I admire Brown for producing not only one but at least eight novels.  I admire him even more for producing decent, readable prose and entertaining characters.  It's just too bad that his proof-readers can't proof, his editors don't edit, and his word-processing software doesn't flag homophones for review.

     

    A Post-Script:  I had the opportunity as working with another Alberta author, Dave McKenzie, on his novel Calypso.  We went through several revisions and edits, and in the end Dave produced a well-written and tightly-plotted book.  Still, despite the careful work of several proof-readers, I have no doubt that we missed something, somewhere.  It is our hope that whatever errors we left were minor.

     

    2 responses to “Third Time Lucky by Alberta Author Eric J Brown” RSS icon

    • Met someone who knows Eric Brown; she told me that he is indeed dyslexic. So am I, but I’ve learned to use the tools in my computer to the point where, I hope, I catch most reversals, homophones, etc. Perhaps Brown just needs someone to help him set up his AutoCorrect.

    • loved this book, can’t wait to buy the next book


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