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FunBITS: Bears in Boats Fighting Crime

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As the resident iBooks Author geek at TidBITS, I was not surprised when Adam Engst forwarded me a press release for a “novel-length work of literary fiction created with iBooks Author” and asked me if I wanted to take a look. What I found was an interesting, if not satisfying, mystery about art theft and chicanery in Venice: “Venice Under Glass,” by Stephan J Harper.

Plot and Execution -- The tale is recounted by the protagonist, one “Basil Baker” — a self-described “sleuth — a seeker of truth” who has been summoned to Venice by his Uncle Clive to help solve a rash of thefts of priceless Venetian glass from private collections and museums — a civic catastrophe described by the press as Il Maladora di Venezia. As Basil pursues various leads and clues, he meets a wealthy philanthropist, an art historian / tour guide with a black belt, a stereotypically clueless police inspector, a helpful singing gondolier, a jet-ski-riding gang member who is also the scion of a respected Venetian family, and a world-famous rap-music artist. Along the way, the narrator recounts various historical and cultural facts about the city known as the Queen of the Adriatic.

Oh, and all of the characters in the book happen to be teddy bears… did I not mention that?

The plush ursine cast allows the author to make a number of mildly amusing jokes, as well as to include some scenes that, were humans involved, might be too violent for many readers — for example, one character is brutally torn limb from limb. But fear no nightmares: in this world, thread and stuffing replaces blood and guts, and even the most severe injuries can be repaired by “the very best tailors and seamstresses in Italy.” (At another point in the tale, one character under interrogation has an eye brutally popped out — and then sewn back on so the questioning can continue!)

Unfortunately, the mystery at the heart of the book is no mystery to anyone who has ever read more than a half-dozen works in the genre, and the writing is, at best, workmanlike. It reads, in fact, rather like a juvenile genre offering on the level of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys, although it does brandish a vocabulary that might challenge many pre-teen readers… until they figure out that a tap can bring up the built-in iBooks dictionary.

In fact, the book largely feels as though the author took his travel journal and photographs from a trip to Venice and wrapped them in a slender mystery, turning the stock characters (possibly based on friends and acquaintances) into stuffed bears as an in-joke: Harper has run a “literate site for bear lovers” for years. Many of the illustrations, in fact, look like travel photographs that he has processed with digital filters for artistic effect.

The book also suffers from the bane of many self-published books: the lack of a professional editor to eliminate the typos (for example, straight quotes and “smart” quotes seem interchangeable in this book), stylistic infelicities, and simple errors in wording (“incredulous” does not mean the same thing as “unbelievable” — really, it doesn’t!). An editor might also have helped improve the book’s pacing and structure: the story opens slowly, floating like a gondola adrift on the Grand Canal, and even when it picks up some speed it never moves faster than a teddy bear toddle.

As an Interactive Ebook -- iBooks Author, which Harper used to construct his ebook, provides a variety of well-designed templates, navigational aids, and a collection of “widgets” — interactive tools for presenting video, images, quizzes, 3D models, and other elements — to aid in the construction of digital textbooks. (Let’s not forget that producing interactive textbooks was the original purpose of the software — see “Apple Goes Back to School with iBooks 2, iBooks Author, and iTunes U,” 19 January 2012.)

Many of the app’s templates and widgets are also suitable for non-instructional books, and a number of publishers have taken advantage of that to produce non-textbook ebooks with it. What’s more, because the app was designed to be used by non-publishing professionals — specifically, by teachers, who generally have little available time to master complex professional-level software packages — it has also become a popular choice for authors who want to self-publish attractive ebooks without having to purchase and learn a complex publishing platform. iBooks Author is free and relatively easy to master (and for a little help, see my book, “Take Control of iBooks Author”).

Harper, fortunately, does not make the mistake that many first-timers do when confronted with an app that provides lots of features: that is, to use and overuse every one of those features just because they are available. Instead, he limits himself mostly to static artwork placed on the page, and occasionally indulges in a short (2-5 second) video. He also makes use of iBooks Author’s Gallery widget to provide samples of artwork featuring Venice between the chapters of the novel. The result is a visually attractive book that doesn’t overwhelm the reader with ornamental overload and extraneous interactive clutter.

If anything, Harper has been too unambitious in exploiting iBooks Author’s capabilities: for example, at one point he presents a static map of Venice that could have benefitted from iBooks Author’s Interactive Image widget, which would enable the reader to scroll around the map and view it in close detail.

Nor, sadly, has Harper mastered how the Table of Contents of an iBooks Author book can work: though he divides the novel into several chapters, the book’s Table of Contents presents them as one long chapter.

Is It Worth It? -- With a price of $2.99, the book is well within the means of almost any potential reader. But, except for the friends and fans of the author, it is not apt to appeal to adult readers who aren’t instantly intrigued by the idea of a cuddly noir novel featuring sentient stuffed animals. It might appeal to a bright pre-teen who wants to learn more about Venice and who would be entertained by teddy bear antics; however, not being a member of that demographic segment, I can only hazard a guess here.

Nonetheless, that such a book exists at all, and is published and available for sale to millions of readers, encourages me: before the advent of tools like iBooks Author and distribution channels like the iBooks Store, such an exercise in self-publishing would have been an expensive undertaking for an author. While “Venice Under Glass” is hardly a masterpiece, it does demonstrate that writers can now self-publish and distribute attractive books without descending into penury.

And that is good news for the aspiring author stuffed inside all of us.

Check out the Take Control ebooks that expand on the topic in this article:

Learn to collect, read, and sync ebooks in the OS X 10.9 Mavericks version of iBooks, as well as in the iOS version. Author Sharon Zardetto helps you optimize your onscreen reading environment and explains how to organize and find your books. You'll soon not only be reading, but also adding bookmarks, highlighting passages, making notes, and more.
Join ebook designer and instructional software developer Michael E. Cohen as you make a Multi-Touch ebook with iBooks Author 2. You'll plan your project, customize a template, set up your table-of-contents, lay out your pages, add interactivity and glossary items, and publish your masterpiece!


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Comments about FunBITS: Bears in Boats Fighting Crime

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Stephan J Harper  2014-05-28 14:53
Thank you for reading "Venice Under Glass" and taking the time to express your thoughts.

You might be interested in a new site dedicated to this entirely new genre of Literature made possible with iBooks Author;

It's straight commentary; no ads; no selling, no BS.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-28 19:21
FYI: a conscious decision was made NOT to use iBooks Author's Chapter divisions. They look fine in a textbook or non-fiction cookbook, but they interrupted the flow of the narrative. When I looked further into this I realized why. In Fiction, individual chapters don't have these 'abrupt' changes that CAN be confusing in a narrative and were deemed inappropriate. For that reason I decided on a continuous flow with the individual chapters demarcated within the narrative like a standard novel. I do understand why you feel otherwise because not many people are aware of what iBooks Author can do in this new genre of MultiTouch Fiction. In fact, as of this writing, VENICE UNDER GLASS happens to be the FIRST and ONLY example of a MultiTouch Fiction novel created with iBooks Author - so I can understand your confusion.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-28 19:28
Lastly - and purely in good humor - your "the writing is at best, workmanlike" were you referring to passages like:

""However, what struck me immediately upon entering was perfume. It wasn't Cordelia—rather roses. The scent was unmistakable. There were dozens and dozens of flowers in vases of all descriptions filling the living room. Roses grew from metal floor stands and stood in cut-crystal on side-tables and window-ledges and overflowed into the dining room, stopping only when the bouquets had covered her kitchen counters, scenting the air throughout like crazy. Some bear had sent her bright yellow and orange dozens, poised next to red, white and pink dozens. In the center of the living room, two dozen anxious roses blushed lavender by the vacant love-seat. " - CH14 pg.104

That's straight out of Fitzgerald and Keats, my friend. Straight out....and VENICE UNDER GLASS is more a lyrical prose poem to Venice than anything else!
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-28 19:36
Ok, not one last thing. This is: You mentioned that I could have made the map more interactive. Yes, I could have...but that 'stakeout' map has three other iterations in different formats, one of which expands full-screen.
Funny you picked the one thing YOU would have done but failed to mention the 40 other instances of advanced widget use. Tell me, honestly, did you really read the book from beginning to end? Because how you could characterize Inspectore Loredan Marcello of Polizia Venezia as "a stereotypically clueless police inspector" when he's anything but is bewildering.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 00:58
This is too easy, Michael: "It reads, in fact, rather like a juvenile genre offering on the level of Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys." In fact, like this?

"A crowd had gathered on the San Marco side where a Carnevale reveler, costumed as an infamous Senator of the Old Republic, was entertaining the crowd with his 'drunken' antics and crude bloviations. He carried an empty wine bottle as a prop, pausing often to ‘drink’ and belch again. He wore the mask of privilege and superiority, alternating these expressions with the stupefied looks of a drunken letch. This pantomime he complemented with exaggerated staggering. A mock-exercise routine included chasing several ladybears who screamed in delight. The Senator owned an oversized purse, open and overflowing with bribes ("campaign contributions") from his constituency. He engaged the crowd in a game of pretend solicitation and the historical figure—drunken, dishonorable and corrupt—was thus given life."

Didn't, in fact, read the book?
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 01:23
"Juvenile" and "at best, workmanlike" as this perhaps, Michael?

"The Mayor was unharmed but thoroughly humiliated and so waterlogged that it took three of Marcello’s largest to drag Vincenzo Gritti back up onto the dock. Had the water been any deeper the Chief Inspector would have called in the divers—whose normal duties were rather grim by comparison. When the Mayor finally stood—trying to regain some composure—he slipped and fell into the water again. The howls and growls of derision will replay in his head for the rest of his career. I couldn’t tame the impulse to laugh and had to look away for fear my reaction might be misinterpreted—or worse, caught on camera. By dinnertime, TeleVenezia was promoting the breaking news with a scroll-bar dubbing Vincenzo Gritti “Mayor AquaOrso” alongside a video of AquaOrso being snatched, carried and tossed in the water, dragged out soaking wet by the police then falling off the dock back into the lagoon over and over again on an endless loop.'
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 01:32
Or perhaps you were referring to "juvenile" prose such as this?

"Then a familiar face, “dressed” as Lady Godiva, entered the reception hall....In the bright palazzo lights Reina was even more spectacular than I remembered. She was flawless: not a blemish on her anywhere—and there was a lot of ‘anywhere’ showing. Coco Grande’s bears were scrutinizing her intently; but there were no chinks in her regal bearing. Reina’s expression was open and generous—unspoiled by any hint of haughtiness. One feature fascinated above all: Reina’s eyes had an irresistible translucence. Two wide-set luminous pearls captured the world’s reflection and its wonder then invited all to gaze within. Reina was sublime—radiant and beautiful in exquisite measure; elegant and graceful as she moved with Paco! from one group to the next; animated with an angelic temperament that enchanted every bear at the Ball. Our Lady Godiva won even the jaded hearts—hearts that had everything yet still beat unfulfilled."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 01:42
Perhaps you meant these 'Hardy Boy' reflections on life lessons and morality?

"However, there were two frightening things that I learned on this case that shattered some of my illusions. They pushed a profound dilemma to the forefront of my psyche.

"The first was that this bear, Herbert Richard Glass, became a good friend in such a short time. It was a close friendship; the kind one is certain will be a friendship for life. We’ve all had these; some of our best memories are of friends known briefly, in experiences lived through intensely. I was positive Loredan and I were like that; that we would be friends—and comrades for justice—for life. But that I fell into Glass’ trap—well, that was really embarrassing. Gullibility in my profession is not a virtue. My false friendship with Glass—forged by circumstance and necessity—proved as out of place as pasta in a blast furnace."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 01:43
"But here’s the other frightening thing: there are bears out there who willingly do harm to others. They knew it and didn’t care. These were hard, reckless bears who took without conscience or remorse. And worse, they stole away our faith in each other; and they didn’t care about that either. There were bad consequences and all would pay. To many, Glass had been a benevolent angel spreading his largesse over the City. He offered money, security and protection. All that was now yanked away. Those in Venice who had benefited from his vast generosity—and there were many—would have to return to the world of unmet longings, a much barer reality. Great wealth affords certain comfort. I guess that’s the appeal, ultimately—the feeling that we’re being cared for and looked after; that we are safe with basic bear needs met. But the cold light of day coming up on this crisp Venetian morning would be a stark reminder that life is uncertain and we can find ourselves adrift on turbulent waters."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 01:45
"Herbert Richard Glass was a complicated and brilliant bear; but he remained an unrepentant one. And that, for me, betrayed a presumptuousness beyond extreme: it was ugly and conceited and revealed a bear deeply flawed in the design. Glass would be a case-study for the ages—internationally analyzed by experts across every time zone. His tearful parents wouldn’t escape the scrutiny either and questions would be asked about what they did or didn’t do or could have done better. (“He never learned to cry,” his mother would tell Vedi Vanità for their Spring cover story). When this humiliation was over and the expert consensus had rendered its post mortem, Herbert Richard Glass would be mercilessly—and gleefully—dissected with the scalpel of public opinion sharpened for precisely that purpose."

'Juvenile' and 'workmanlike' Michael?
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 01:57
Missed all that in your ‘close reading’ Michael? Surely you read the “juvenile” and “at best, workmanlike” prose on the first page?

“Landed in Paris at 7:45am local time, unrested and a little bleary-eyed. I taxied over to Le Gare de l'Est and boarded the train for Venice... I thought I might try to stay awake for the first part of the trip, so I rang the cabin steward for his strongest coffee and settled back with a copy of The Times. Half an hour outside Paris, we were in the country and heading towards the Swiss Alps. My eyes fell lazily from the paper and out the window, where the lush green zipped by in a Degas abstraction streaked with intermittent patches of snow. The soft, steady clik-klp-klop, clik-klp-klop from the tracks lulled me into a daze.”
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:10
Where you say "turning the stock characters (possibly based on friends and acquaintances) into stuffed bears as an in-joke" you meant like this?

"A few moments later Signora Morosini appeared. She was an elderly bear, regally attired even at this early hour. She wore a green silk suit in a delicate, iridescent jacquard which she had complimented with a multi-faceted emerald necklace. Brilliant earrings in the same design twinkled by the fireside while a pavé diamond lizard with emerald eyes crawled up her lapel. Signora's ginger fur showed signs of gray here and there, as well as a little wear. She was well-maintained, however, and it appeared she had some recent work done: there was new stitching around her neck and arm sockets as well as new paw patches in a light auburn suede. She was sprightly with imperious eyes that were trained intently on me. They were eyes that wouldn't miss much."

That's a stock character? It's all just an in-joke with my friends? Really, Michael?
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:15
This is not original writing, Michael?

"But the mummeries had just begun. Harley Kino, newly arrived on the scene and witnessing the crowd's enthusiastic reception of his predecessor, was determined to earn his share of attention. As the Senator crossed the bridge, Harley tagged behind, miming the politician, gesture for gesture. When the Senator stopped and pretended to drink again, someone tossed Harley a bottle of Pinot Grigio (it was, after all, Carnevale). Not missing the cue, Harley pulled the cork, toasted the crowd and poured the shimmering liquid past his lips until the bottle was empty. With that gesture, Harley's imitation was complete. But the applause brought an end to Act One of his performance. Harley hurled himself into an impromptu series of cartwheels over the bridge and back again, waving to the Senator on each pass. Encore! Encore! screamed the crowd. Harley's sense of the theatrical had been emboldened by his eager ingestion of wine: what came next was memorable."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:18
"Harley Kino commandeered a pair of pantalooned walking stilts from two young performers on break from the bright afternoon. He quickly mounted the stilts; but once aloft, he began swaying inexpertly, taking wide, uneven strides like some berserk cast-off from the Cirque du Soleil. Screams of encouragement were heard from both sides of the water as Harley teetered above us. Wobbling violently at the apex of the bridge, Harley Kino concluded his act by diving head-first into the Grand Canal. An eerie, surreal moment of quiet followed. All eyes were on the performer's hat floating precisely where Harley had entered the water. Fifteen seconds went by. Twenty seconds. Thirty! The suspense was finally broken when Harley bobbed to the surface, waving madly—and wearing his hat! The crowd roared once again. It was inspired improvisation that would be immortalized on YouTube for all the world to see."

Not characters but in-jokes, Michael? Based on my friends? And you know this how?
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:37
So, you missed the satire and social commentary completely, Michael?"

"Mystico Rafael, the famous Venetian artist (costume by Titian), accompanied his lovely daughter Gazelle. She had the name and a shape the world’s modeling agencies had pursued forever. But other than a complete devotion to her father, Gazelle was focused on pursuits of a higher calling; pursuits untypical in the worlds of fame and fashion. She was disenchanted at an early age by the media obsession with her famous father. In a recent interview, Mystico revealed that Gazelle was in her last year studying International Law at Université de Genève. She had already interned with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It was no secret she wanted a position with the International Court of Justice. Gazelle was plotting a course into the most learned, most consequential circles and the idea that what dress she wore mattered was beyond her interest."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:40
And here, too?

"Salvatore’s gold pen made a note in an enormous reservation book. Our names were inscribed inside a genuine antique, leather-bound portfolio from the library of a monastic order made extinct by a modern world that wanted nothing more soothing than the balm of instant gratification. The ironic ‘manuscript’ inside (where Salvatore had written), now recorded the times and dates when the named devoted would indulge their appetites, untroubled by any price they would have to pay. On each page, ample room down the margins waited for the chef to illustrate his culinary inspirations."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:45
Surely not here, Michael?

[Marcello] had escorted the Mayor back to police headquarters ‘for his own protection’ and the Mayor was quietly napping in Marcello’s private office. We sat in the adjoining conference room.

“He could use a good cry right about now,” observed Cordelia. “Do you think he might resign, Inspectore? After all that has happened, wouldn’t it be the honorable thing to do?”

“Signorina, there is nothing honorable about politics.”

The more involved my conversations with Loredan became, the more layers of complexity he revealed. Trained as a prosecuting attorney, Loredan Marcello had turned to police work after seeing bad bear after bad bear get off and beat the system, then continue their felonious careers. Police work had given him greater satisfaction—the opportunity to actually do something to combat the crime that tarnished his City. Now, I needed to take full advantage of this fact and appeal to these greater angels in his character.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 02:59
The environmental theme is from Nancy Drew too, Michael?

"I knew of MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, the project dubbed MOSE—a clear biblical reference for a city that knew it needed to be saved. Venice was built on millions of wooden piles driven deep into the marshy islands of the lagoon and has been sinking since the first days of the Republic. While Venetians learned to cope with the annual aqua alta, or high waters, flooding only worsened... Further exacerbating the problem, climate change has induced a rise in sea levels. La Serenissima, threatened by the very waters upon which she was built, prayed that MOSE would lead to a future that, otherwise, looked promising... Contentious political and environmental debates caused delay after delay. Once the environmentalists were satisfied there was still the matter of funding. €4.6 billion in new taxes was a frightening prospect for any politician; and politicians were known to fear the wind blowing in the wrong direction."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 03:08
'Juvenile' like this observation from the main character?:

"It was a strange dream. How strange were my questions? I knew what Uncle Clive would say. But what had Glass actually done, besides being gracious and friendly—and giving? H.R. was a multi-billionaire—a very generous multi-billionaire. He had donated billions for the flood gates to protect Venice from an angry Mother Nature who found herself pregnant with a polluted atmosphere she was forced to carry until every coastal city on Earth was flooded. Glass was “Il Salvatore di Venezia” and viewed as such by many."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 03:43
Is Basil Baker a perceptive narrator who provides thoughtful reflections on his world, Michael? Let’s see:

"I sensed excitement ahead as we entered the Grand Canal. It was that time in the evening when the winter dark tempted everything into motion. Throughout the City bears traveled to new destinations: some for duty, some for romance, some for pleasures of one kind or another—some looking for other things."


"I left La Questura at half past eight. Roberto had offered to take me home to San Polo by police launch but I needed to walk. There was so much spinning around in my head; and without sleep my nerves were frayed. I’d just come out of an intense interrogation and was expecting a delayed reaction to hit me at any moment. I was alone with my thoughts and it wasn’t a place I wanted to be: like a waking nightmare, I kept rewinding and replaying the video footage of my attack on poor Grasso. No one deserves to have his left eye popped out, I thought. It wasn’t my best hour."
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 03:51
And here:

"I stepped up to the podium... From the front of the stage and out fifty rows into the crowd were the protesters who had marched from every sestiere in Venice. They had reached such a heightened state of agitation that it occurred to me I was making a horrible mistake and had badly misjudged the situation... What’s the worst that could happen? I thought, shocking myself with the first half-dozen answers that flashed in my head... I started to introduce myself and was surprised when Piazza San Marco fell quiet... I hadn’t spoken three words when a tomato soared past my head and hit the Mayor’s press secretary in the face. It was a perfect shot. I’ve never seen such self-composure on a bear and I doubt I ever will again. He turned restraint into a cardinal virtue. But the crowd stayed calm—making it difficult to determine what bears lay in wait with other dangerous produce. I’ve seen an eggplant break a plate glass window and can imagine the mischief a zucchini might get up to.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 16:24
Mr. Cohen, I value proper literary criticism - critique that is based on the referenced text. I backed up everything I said that you got wrong. You offer no evidence to back up any of your drive-by pronouncements that I just showed were wrong. It is abundantly clear to everyone now that you really didn't read the book. If you had, you would have seen it as a breakthrough work. But the worst part is the lack of professionalism and respect: you expect others to respect your books and to listen to your advice yet you fail to show the same professional courtesy to others who just might know something you don't. You didn't write this book; I did. Why does it bother you so much? To dislike a book because you just don't like it is one thing. But to purposefully mischaracterize what's in and then tell others, that's something else entirely.
François  2014-08-31 14:01
Even in France, critics are laughing:

It was reported on one of the most famous french newspaper. Hold on !
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:51
Praise the Gods!
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 12:13
“Oh, and all of the characters in the book happen to be teddy bears… did I not mention that?”

That’s your ‘tell’ Michael: what gave you away! Now, we BOTH know where that came from, don’t we? I wrote it. I had the audacity to let one of my website characters, Neville Addison-Graves III, write a critical analysis of VENICE UNDER GLASS (Basil’s Blog at using the standard methodology of literary criticism in academia - a fancy way to say Neville supports each and every point in his analysis with specific textual reference, as I have done here. For some reason - pique? spite? resentment? who knows? - you were more interested in taking me down a peg and thought the best way to do that was to misrepresent VENICE UNDER GLASS.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 13:53
So rather than do your own rigorous work required to support an honest review to prove me wrong, you decided on the lowbrow approach with the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew trope signifying your contempt, even though a cursory review of the actual text would show anyone you were wrong. You coupled this, ironically, with the insinuation that self-publishing was somehow at fault and layered on some snobbish disregard for what you perceived as a violation of iBooks Author best-practices even though you don’t write about Fiction in your iBooks Author tips book and never heard the term MultiTouch Fiction until I officially named the genre on May 9th!
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 16:27
Do you actually think I wanted to be the first to use iBooks Author to write an original work of MultiTouch Fiction? Over the entire two year period spent on VENICE UNDER GLASS, I was certain someone else, some big name author and publisher would beat me to it. I looked EVERY day. But no one did. Do you understand the implications of this? It was up to me - not you, not anyone you know, not a major publisher or big-name author - to write about and pioneer this field for ALL of us. Have you read any of the foundational posts at Because if you haven’t, you simply are not qualified to express an informed opinion on this new genre of Literature? If you think you are, let’s have it. Stop the hating and naysaying and misrepresentation of someone else’s Art. Create your own Art.
Andrew  2014-05-29 11:32
Methinks the author
doth protest too much over
teddy detectives
shaunduke  2014-05-29 11:36
That is the understatement of the week. This is one of the most ridiculous author reactions I have ever seen.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 11:52
Ah, the non-serious come out to play. Naturally you would be the uneducated - unfamiliar with critical review. Yet, amazingly, you seek out opportunities to 'contribute' - what? Nothing of any value or substance. My god, your either of you contribute anything to the world of Ideas or Art? And just how would you respond if you had created something of value that someone thoughtlessly tore down?
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-29 11:57
Do you not know that there is greatness in each one of us? That there is greatness in you? What do you stand for? What do you defend?
I don't know about greatness, but I did eat a TON of jellybeans today.
Andrew  2014-05-29 12:17
Still wasting time here.
He isn't realizing
We're laughing at him
Lord Sir General Theodore H Bearington III Esq  2014-05-29 19:12
I'd shrug and move on. Definitely wouldn't spazz out about a review that really wasn't all that harsh, and actually had some very positive things to say. Certainly not what I'd consider thoughtlessly tearing down.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 13:11
Lord Bearington, I shall heed your advice.

I want to thank everyone for reading; this was a fun little exercise. I tried to use critical thinking and a few of the standard analytical methods developed over 400 years of scholarship to address one-by-one Mr. Cohen’s misrepresentations of Venice Under Glass. To refute Mr. Cohen, I marshalled evidence directly from the work itself. If you don’t think I backed up what I said with evidence, just show me where. Don’t blame me for asking you to show me. And if you just want to say, ‘screw this guy, who does he think he is?” that’s okay, too. Just know that you’ve left the conversation. If your opinion is that anyone with a website who has written a few How-to Manuals is a qualified literary critic incapable of error, you’ve just tossed those 400 years of scholarship in the waste-bin. Anyone CAN be a literary critic if they care to learn HOW to be one; how good they are will still depend on WHAT they write, not THAT they wrote it.
Andrew  2014-05-30 13:32
Reeeeeally late to take the high road, Mr. Harper. 'Specially when you stop to take a parting shot at the reviewer.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 13:41
Excuse me, but I was ALWAYS on the high-road. I just have standards. If someone is wrong, tell them and show them where, don't just stop in for a drive-by insult. And it's not an insult to tell you that you just did a drive-by insult.
Andrew  2014-05-30 14:56
Okay, serious question before I go back to haiku: were you drunk when you posted the 20+ comments that make up the first comment thread? It's okay if you were; I won't judge. But there's no point continuing this if it was a one-time mistake.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 19:14
Andrew, let me ask you a serious question: are you interested in a serious discussion about this or just want to know if I'd been drinking? Btw, I've INVITED anyone to judge WHAT I said. Just tell me WHY I am wrong. I've been clear on that...
Andrew  2014-05-30 15:22

and the following two pages, basically.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 17:16
Those remarks are all ad hominem, Andrew.

Lissibith states: “I see exactly what they meant by workmanlike writing now” without saying why it’s workmanlike. It would be instructive to see her take a passage and rewrite it to her liking. After all, she says she sees EXACTLY what is workmanlike. Can she do that? Is it unreasonable to ask her to explain by example? Just a few sentences would do. She's a writer. As a writer, I always want to know when something isn’t working. I have an editor I’ve worked with for the past ten years who can spot a story defect a mile off. She always tells me WHY something doesn’t work. Don’t we all want to know WHY something isn’t working? If I want to ask you why you think something isn’t working and you don’t want to tell me - okay, that’s your business and you’ve left the conversation. But the fact that I’m asking is my business; you must remain agnostic on my decision to ask. It’s my decision; not yours.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 16:58
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 16:58
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 16:58
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 16:58
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 16:59
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 17:10
Here, Andrew, from fellow writer forum “Authors should really stop telling reviewers how to give reviews.”

#4314 Bicycle Fish: “For more insight into the author's love of his self proclaimed genius, read the fake review he mentioned in the comments.”

There’s nothing fake about that review. has been on the web since 1998; these are all all fictional characters, including the reviewer! It’s standard MFA practice to write a critical review of your work and support that critique by textual reference. The point of the exercise is for the writer to think critically about their work. If the argument is valid and supported it is proper literary criticism. Others are invited to critique on the merits. No one takes you seriously if you just say - “Gee, look what he did over there!” The REASON I took ONE line from it is because it’s the line the reviewer lifted from my own writing which I used as a referent to make my point that he took the line!
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 16:59
What happened? Fixed.
Andrew  2014-05-30 16:59
I think we've been talking at cross-purposes here. I'll bow out. Maybe we'll meet at Absolutewrite sometime.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 17:29
What was your purpose, Andrew? I've only asked WHY you don't agree. I believe in objectivity: the words matter, not who said them. We all depend on that statement being true. An argument is either sound or it isn’t. The only way to determine if an argument is sound is to examine the words. If I read a book and say only, “that writer makes no sense” - that’s okay, but then I’ve taken myself out of the discussion. If I say that in my writer’s group, someone will simply ask how the writer failed to convey his intent. If I say “well, that’s my opinion” everyone will gently remind me that it’s okay to have an opinion but we’re here to discuss how we came to our opinions.
Andrew  2014-05-30 17:32
If you really thought
I cared about the review,
I cannot help you.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 17:46
“Critique” at absolutewrite is that I wrote a lot of words, i.e. not what I said but rather that I dared to say them. Ketzel (“Of the big heart”) says: “And so far, he hasn't posted a single thing that actually, yanno, refutes the opinions in the review.” My second post was very specific!

Cohen: “Nor, sadly, has Harper mastered how the Table of Contents of an iBooks Author book can work: though he divides the novel into several chapters, the book’s Table of Contents presents them as one long chapter.”

Harper: “FYI: a conscious decision was made NOT to use iBooks Author's Chapter divisions. They look fine in a textbook or non-fiction cookbook, but they interrupted the flow of the narrative. When I looked further into this I realized why. In Fiction, individual chapters don't have these 'abrupt' changes that CAN be confusing in a narrative and were deemed inappropriate. I decided on a continuous flow with the individual chapters demarcated within the narrative like a standard novel.”
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 16:34
Artists strive for ‘unity of effect’ - that’s a basic tenet. How the artist achieves it - well, on that we must remain agnostic. We don’t tell an artist who paints only lillies she should start painting roses, too. Now, if you want to see for yourself that what I said is true and worked in Venice Under Glass, download the Preview which contains the first six (of 24) chapters. It was purely an aesthetic choice. But fellow writers who want ‘honest’ reviews need to remember that ‘honest’ is a word that has meaning. It’s an important ethic in all journalism, including reviews. Yet, Reviewer Cohen states an untruth (that I don’t know how iBooks Author works here) and then goes on to make a value judgement (“sadly”) compounding his error. Is this honest? Don’t blame me for pointing out the very words he wrote! Mr. Cohen knows a lot of things about iBooks Author; so do I. So what? If I want to paint lillies, that’s my choice. If you want roses, go paint them.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 18:13
And if you don’t want to take issue with someone who professionally reviews your work, that’s your business. I don’t make decisions for you.

Lastly, no author in his or her right mind would quarrel with the New York Times over the issues I raised with Mr. Cohen because the standards of the New York Times wouldn’t have allowed them to be printed.

And, thank you, Samsonet, for having the decency to post one of my arguments. You seem honorable. I've invited criticism all along; I only ever asked that it be valid. Not one has a lock on truth. And yes, despite what your Mocking Queen of Swords says, there IS greatness in each one of us. You depend on the truth of that statement with every sentence you hone, every page you agonize over. And if you think something is great, show the world. Be courageous. We'll all be dead soon enough.
"That's straight out of Fitzgerald and Keats, my friend. Straight out....and VENICE UNDER GLASS is more a lyrical prose poem to Venice than anything else!"

I was laughing at you for your reaction, but if you truly think your drivel resembles anything approaching Fitzgerald and Keats, I now just pity you. Unless you meant Mr. Fitzgerald who ushers at St. Bridgets and Keats the maintenance guy at the library.

Then, yes.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 21:51
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-01 21:42
You do not convince. Are you saying that sentence isn't lyrical? Because that's what it sounds like you're saying. I've studied Fitzgerald all my life and he instructed his own daughter how to emulate Keats with a very specific example from The Eve of St. Agnes. Do you know the phrase I'm referring to? FSF said that writers should 'steal' techniques from the best and then make them their own. There's a well-known passage in "The Beautiful and Damned" where he uses Keat's technique in a modern setting to do just that. In my own sentence, the verbs carry the roses throughout Cordelia's apartment just as he instructed. The apartment comes alive with roses just as FSF instructed. If FSF thought other writers could do this, who are you to say he was wrong? Please, by all means deconstruct the sentence and show me that it's not lyrical. Can you do that? Otherwise, it sounds like you just don't like hearing an author value what he wrote. FSF never felt that way.
The difference is between genius, and aping genius. Moving words around to sound pleasing to yourself is not approximating genius.

Here's a good rule of thumb, and I'm not being facetious: If you have to tell people what a good writer you are, you're probably not. If you're truly good, people (and critics) will tell you.

Until then, it's very good advice for you to back away from the keyboard. You're fast becoming a national joke. (see
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 22:57
You think this is about YOU? I wasn't talking to you. I was presenting an argument to the reviewer. YOU chose to insert yourself into the discussion with drive-by ad hominem. Would you rather I ignore you? Sorry, but I wasn't raised to be impolite; and the Jesuits who taught me to value reasoned debate would never forgive me if I didn't defend what I thought was true. Sister Mary would be pleased that I am treating you with respect, patience and courtesy. I simply asked you to explain yourself. You either want to explain what you said or you don't. But if you express a view and then don't care to explain how you came to that view, why would you expect someone to consider what you said meaningful? Why would you say the writing was drivel unless you had a good reason to say it was drivel. Deconstruct what I wrote and SHOW me why it's not lyrical. Show me why its drivel. Can you do that?

And for Christsake, I never said I was a genius. Show me where I said that.
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-06 08:33
Ms Q, was referring to Stephen J Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. Do you base all your views on such close, considered observations?
Amor De Cosmos  2014-09-01 15:07
Oh, I laughed so hard at this, beer shot out my nose.

TBH I did read Stephen at first and thought, WTF?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:54
Ok, I owe you a cold one!
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 21:50
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 21:20
Everyone, can we PLEASE now dispense with the ad hominem? If you want me to value your critique of my prose, at least show me the courtesy of reading it. I shouldn't have to say this: but why would you expect to be taken seriously if you don't give a reason why you should be taken seriously? I've taken your insults and patiently responded by simply asking you to explain WHY you are saying what you are saying. If you don't want to tell me why, that's perfectly reasonable, too. But I would simply ask WHY don't you want to explain yourself?
Andrew  2014-05-30 21:39
Okay, I keep telling myself to stay away, but I want to make this clear for the record:

Nobody's talking about the book. They're talking about you, Mr. Harper, posting 23 comments quoting your own work in disagreement with the reviewer. Over ten hours. That's part of why I asked if you were drunk; a very rude question, which I'm sorry for, but I honestly couldn't tell.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 21:45
No, welcome back, Andrew. Glad to have you over...

Well, I wasn't talking about the book, either; this has always been about explaining WHY the reviewer was in error.

As for "Nobody's talking about the book" - Not yet, Andrew. Not yet :-)
I think the whole point of a review is it's an opinion. Maybe you wrote a great book. But you can't force people to like it. How would you know the reviewer is in error?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:56
Uh, because I read the review. Please try to keep up, my dear.

Btw, liking it is beside the point. I have already commented elsewhere that I would never tell anyone they should like VENICE UNDER GLASS. That's a personal preference. This is about HONESTY in professional reviews.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-30 22:46
I'll give it one more try to show I'm a reasonable, upfront and open fellow. Over on, Lissibith stated: “I see exactly what they meant by workmanlike writing now” without saying why my prose is workmanlike. It would be instructive to see her take a passage and rewrite it to her liking. After all, she says she sees EXACTLY what is workmanlike. Can she do this? She's a writer. SO, here's my challenge to all those who felt free to criticize and refused to explain their position.


I never said I was better or worse than any of you; yet you felt free to think you can write and my prose sucks. Prove it. Take any of the referenced passages above that I used to justify my remarks to the reviewer; deconstruct it; tell me why it sucks; then rewrite it until you think it's better. If you can't do something as easy as that, how on Earth can you call yourself a writer and think you are qualified to judge my writing or anyone else's?
Kevin Nelson  2014-05-31 06:52
Most of the commenters here (and at AW) haven't been criticizing your book at all. They've been criticizing the way you reacted to the review. Even when you receive the harshest, most unfair review in the world (which this one wasn't), it's generally best to move on and let your work speak for itself. Just about the only exception would be if the reviewer made an extremely specific factual mistake, like misspelling your name. I think most readers are aware that reviewers are expressing subjective opinions. A demand that they "prove" what they say is misplaced.

(And by the way, people can criticize your prose without needing to rewrite it into anything better. By analogy, I can test-drive a car and find all sorts of faults with it even if I have no idea how to design a better car.)
Kevin Nelson  2014-05-31 07:19
But since you seem so very eager for criticisms to be backed up by specifics, here are some specifics. Let's look at the first excerpt you posted above, about the roses in Cordelia's room. Lyrical? Sort of. But several clunky bits undermine the lyricism. Roses have a scent, but they do not emit "perfume," unless you're speaking metaphorically; and, if it is a metaphor, it's a poor one. A good metaphor would make us think of the scent of roses in a different way, and this one doesn't.

Further points: A rose can grow IN a metal stand, but not FROM a metal stand. There should not be hyphens in "cut-crystal" and "side-tables." The phrase "like crazy" is very colloquial, not really compatible with the lyrical tone you're going for. It's totally unclear what the metaphor of roses being anxious might mean. (Are they in a vase that looks like it's about to tip over?)

Again, I'm not claiming to offer an objective assessment--I'm just supporting my own personal opinion here.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 10:46
Look, Kevin, if you are going to comment, at least read what I wrote. It's common courtesy. I methodically lay out my case but it's not THAT long. I explained in clear language WHY I responded. I pointed out FACTUAL ERRORS. Responding to a reviewer is my decision. I don't make decisions for you. As I said, no author in his or her right mind would quarrel with the New York Times over the issues I raised with Mr. Cohen because the standards of the New York Times wouldn’t have allowed them to be printed. Journalism has standards and one of those standards is objectivity. Journalism is not opinion; when opinion IS expressed, it is accompanied by supporting FACTS. My response was not an attack but a point-by-point rebuttal to what the reviewer got wrong. Read it and tell me where my critical analysis failed. Lastly, writers criticize me FOR responding and the time I put in, not WHY I responded. Have they never once sat in a chair for ten hours to put their own words down?
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-03 11:39
However, I do appreciate your interest in the passage itself. At least we have an honest dialogue started.

Of course, cut-roses don't even 'grow' Kevin. It's poetic license as in "the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music" (FSF). 2) Google "les parfum des fleurs" and check IMAGES. I chose my words carefully to place the emphasis that there were so many roses that they filled Cordelia’s entire apartment (this becomes important later in the story). Do you think I failed to convey that impression? It was my choice to place a slightly lower emphasis on les parfum des fleurs for the needs of the story. Poetic license.

But we still have a gap in your: "several clunky bits undermine the lyricism. Roses have a scent..." The issue above, naturally, has nothing to do with the lyricism of the existing words. Where's the clunk, Kevin?
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-01 11:57
3) Elements of Style: "when two or more words are combined to form a compound adjective a hyphen is USUALLY required." In my passage, "cut-crystal" is the modifier for "vases of all descriptions" in the preceding sentence. The "side-tables" and "window-ledges" the vases are on, may be hyphenated for clarity but there are no hard and fast rules on this usage. All three together makes the passage flow better on the page. Again, poetic license. 4) "like crazy" IS colloquial; modern usage consistent with a character's speaking style, as in "[r]each me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass." (FSF) Is that 'clunky' Kevin? Basil Baker may have a way with words but he's not speaking poetry. 5) "anxious roses" - "blushed lavender" - "vacant loveseat" anticipate romance between the two characters. TOTALLY unclear, Kevin? That's the word you used.

Note in none of this am I being defensive; just explaining why I chose those words that YOU pointed out.
Kevin Nelson  2014-05-31 17:28
In your passage, "cut-crystal" isn't serving as a compound adjective at all. It certainly isn't modifying a word in an altogether different sentence--that's not how English adjectives work. Rather, you are using "cut-crystal" as a noun phrase.

I'm afraid I don't have the time or energy to participate any further in this discussion. It is very much a matter of opinion how good a metaphor is, or how apt poetic license is. I have backed up my opinion with specifics; you remain free to hold a different opinion.

If I am not mistaken, one of your own characters has advised you to "move on." I suggest you follow Lord General Bearington's advice.
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-03 11:51
That was not one of MY characters and wouldn't presume to take credit for the delightful name: "Lord Sir General Theodore H Bearington III Esq" is very clever and it's not from my pen.

On the other issue, since you are bowing out and don't wish to see my response I won't waste my time with one. Tell me if you change your mind. But just because you GAVE specifics, doesn't automatically make them valid. You do understand that, right? I'd hate for you to leave with the wrong impression.

EDIT: But for the record, Kevin is right when he says: “[‘cut-glass’] certainly isn't modifying a word in an altogether different sentence" - ‘cut-glass’ is modifying a word IN THE PRECEDING SENTENCE. There’s a period instead of a semi-colon because, after everything else is done - and as all the great writers attest - the flow of the words on the page takes final precedence.

As for anyone advising me to stop replying to commenters...well, I've clearly stated my views on such advice.
a basil  2014-09-01 16:04
"But just because you GAVE specifics, doesn't automatically make them valid. You do understand that, right? I'd hate for you to leave with the wrong impression."

How about the numerous specific passages you've cited to refute the review? (Read: solipsism)
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-02 16:04
Mr. Flibble ( addresses me:

“The reviewer has posted their subjective opinion -- it cannot be "proved" one way or another. They are pointing out what they see to be problems -- you may not think they are, and maybe other readers won't, but, and here's the important bit, you don't get to decide what someone else's subjective opinion is.”

Well, which is it, Mr. Flibble? A "subjective opinion" and objectively "pointing out problems" aren’t the same thing. If a reader doesn’t like “Venice Under Glass”, ok, fine. So what? Why would I tell someone they should like it. Let me put it this way: I don’t CARE if they like it or not because I have no right to expect them to like it or not. That’s an individual preference and won’t foolishly insert myself where I have no business. HOWEVER, if Mr. Flibble would care to come out of his hidey-hole over there in his in-group of snarky writers, he might want to, you know, actually READ WHAT I WROTE!
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 16:00
A reviewer is a journalist and journalism has standards of objectivity. Look at any review in the NYT. When an opinion IS expressed, the reviewer ALWAYS supports it with reference to the text. It’s called credibilty, Mr. Flibble. Do you actually believe just anyone can call themselves a professional reviewer and then not practice the basic principles of literary criticism developed over 400 years of scholarship? Because, I assure you that your professors wouldn’t let you get away with it. I pointed out FACTUAL ERRORS in the review. If YOU don’t want to defend your work in a similar situation, that’s your business. NOWHERE in my remarks do I not give a reasoned-response. You are all writers? Yet you can’t put together a reasoned-response in a coherent paragraph (like this one) to any of the arguments I made showing WHY the “reviewer” was in error? I am addressing YOUR comments point-by-point. Yet you can’t seem to get beyond the fact that I, what, wrote a lot of words?
Andrew  2014-05-31 12:46
At this point it seems
the best course of action is
to just let it go
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 16:09
At this point it should be obvious that I am writing because I have something to say. If you don't want to hear it, why are you listening? If you don't think it's important to think through something deeply and analytically, why do you care? I'm writing now because it's fun and a great way to practice writing clearly. That should be obvious, too. Have I in any way been unclear?

I'm a writer. So are you, Andrew. If you write something that you know is good and the people qualified in the field tell you that it's good, do you really CARE what someone over on some message board says when they can't seem to put a coherent paragraph together to support their snark? I don't. I really don't. I just don't respect anyone who's not serious yet expects to contribute to a serious discussion anyway. My words stand. The only ones who matter to me are the ones who take the time to read them. Go over to that forum and see the litany of snark and snide rejoinder. Now THAT'S embarrassing.
Andrew  2014-05-31 14:10
Listen. The reviewer hasn't bothered to reply to you at all. The people at absolutewrite can't tell if you're drunk or trolling. Whose mind are you trying to change? Let it go.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 15:47
Andrew, did you not read what I just wrote to you? There's nothing to let go of; you imply that I shouldn't be writing. It's my concern and I just told you why I'm writing. I don't tell you what to do. Why do you presume to tell me? Why do you insist on inferring I must be drunk. Have I been unclear in any way? Has my reasoning been sloppy? Have I not given a reasoned-repsonse to ALL comers, including you AT THIS MOMENT?

As I said: My words stand. The only ones who matter to me are the ones who take the time to read them. Go over to that forum and see the litany of snark and snide rejoinder. That's not legitimate commentary and they know it. Their professors never let them get away with it; you need to justify your views. They refuse to think clearly and prefer saying I'm drunk.

Mr. Cohen doesn't have to respond. He knows what he did and he's read the comments. He's learned from it and will now be a better reviewer. We all learn from our errors; in fact, it's the only way we do learn.
Stella Daniels  2014-05-31 17:30
Psst. Andrew is a troll. He's baiting you, and you keep falling for it. You can't win arguments with trolls. If you reply to them, they consider it a win.
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 19:00
Thanks for the head-up, Stella! And greetings...

Psst...they don't realize yet that this ceased to be about me long upstream. This is a master-class in literary criticism and textual analysis and they have no idea what I'm talking about + no idea how qualified I am to teach it. It just amazes me that they call themselves writers but aren't interested in the words. I don't know any writers like that; and my writer's group thinks this is DELICIOUS.

They also think I'm being too patient and generous. But that's just me. These guys over here would have laid waste to them long ago. Think Dale Peck then think about five of him! No serious writer gives a second thought to correcting an Internet book 'reviewer' who misrepresents their work. This is serious business for serious people and our livelihoods are on the line. Writers are brave and we don't tolerate shoddy thinking. The NYT and the WSJ don't make amateurish mistakes and that's why we send Christmas presents to them every year.
Andrew  2014-06-01 21:09
Oh, Stella, Stella, Stella. Don't you know that no good deed goes unpunished?
Michelle  2014-09-01 20:05
You're funny.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:04
-----“What do you mean I'm funny? You mean the way I talk? What? Funny how? What's funny about it? Let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny? How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what's funny!” -----
Miranda  2014-09-02 01:33
Every single little thing about you is absolutely fucking hilarious, and you don't even realize it. I haven't laughed this hard in months. :)
Stephan J Harper  2014-05-31 16:12
For those ethically-challenged reviewers (and mocking writers condemning me for presenting a reasoned argument):

"A book review is a description, critical analysis, and an evaluation on the quality, meaning, and significance of a book, not a retelling. It should focus on the book's purpose, content, and authority. A critical book review is not a book report or a summary. It is a reaction paper in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded AND PRESENTS EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS EVALUATION."

Why on God's Earth should it be necessary to remind you all of this basic tenet? You learned it at University!
Jonathon Ames  2014-06-01 12:57
Seriously, do NOT argue with reviewers. I learned this hard lesson early in my career. Believe me, it NEVER ends well, and the author in this case is not only arguing with reviewers, but is doing so ARROGANTLY.


If you can't handle getting negative reviews, DO NOT BECOME A WRITER. I don't care if they LIE about what's in the book, believe me, I learned you cannot argue with reviewers. Period. Full stop.

I didn't go to university. Arrogant so and so.
Bernard  2014-09-01 13:07
I'm firmly on Stephan's side. I think critics have had all too much power for too long. I think it's good that Stephen is standing up for his work. Not to mention he's getting a lot of free publicity.

I had a critic in a small press magazine call one my stories "ka ka," with no other analysis at all. The story in question wasn't great, but it was bought and paid for by a print small press magazine and brought in something like $75.

Literary fiction like Stephan's isn't my cup of tea, but, to me, the combination of literary fiction and teddy bears is simply delightful - a combination of the serious and the silly. I wouldn't ever claim to understand it. "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like."
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:09
Thank you for your thoughts. Just remember: Art is an individual expression. The cynic despises your passion and your talent because he has no passion or talent of his own.
Cassidy  2014-09-02 01:55
Mr. Harper, I completely agree with everything you have said. I just wanted to let you know too that I am so completely enamored by your prose. You've drawn comparisons between your work and that of Fitzgerald and Keats, but to hell with them I say! Your work far surpasses theirs in lyricism and maturity. In all of my years I've never come across a work as quietly brilliant as yours. I never expected a novel about stuffed bears to impact the way I view life in such a way. "Venice Under Glass" has shaken the set of morals that until now I have based my life upon, and has encouraged me to open up my mind and truly decide for myself what is right. And for that, I thank you. Please keep writing and inspiring people forever.
Sam Balderdash  2014-06-01 13:44
This is the most extraordinary display of author hubris I’ve ever seen. Like Anne Rice on steroids.
Has anyone actually read book this yet??
Sam Balderdash  2014-06-01 20:01
Why yes, the reviewer.

I wouldn’t patronize this author, ever, based upon his behavior here.
Spider Robinson  2014-09-01 11:01
You just did.
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-02 15:03
For anyone who actually wants to see a short, well-balanced, non-prejudical review of Venice Under Glass, see D.B. Hebbard’s review at Talking New Media here:

Note my response to the reviewer. The review is short yet meets the journalistic standards quoted just above. Mr. Debbard (like Mr. Cohen), is not a literary critic; his analysis is focused on his areas of knowledge. I agree with every word he said. Now compare this review to Mr. Cohen's review; read my remarks. I support each contention with references taken directly from the text of Venice Under Glass that contradict Mr. Cohen’s statements. You will see at once what I've been talking about all along as well as the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Cohen deliberately made FALSE statements about the text and inserted personal comments and conjecture outside the realm of the work itself.
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-02 14:35
And, as I have said, I chose to defend my work against deliberate mischaracterization that Mr. Cohen knew would be read by THOUSANDS. If you don’t want to defend your work in a similar circumstance, that’s your choice. If you think a well-reasoned, detailed response like mine is going to hurt a writer’s career, you can’t possibly know this for fact. It may have that effect or no effect or, in our media-hyped age, the exact opposite effect.
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-02 14:52
The ONLY reason I responded to commenters after my remarks to Mr. Cohen is because they inserted themselves into the discussion with direct insult. I was patient and gave considered-responses of my own. NO one came back with well-reasoned, considered-responses to support their snide rejoinders because they had none.

Instead, they continued their snark over in another forum, remarks that were, in essence and in toto, ‘go see the author’s meltdown’ and ‘what a hissy fit’. A well-reasoned response defending your work is not a hissy fit or a meltdown. A hissy fit is a hissy fit and that’s why it’s called a ‘hissy fit’. It’s the EXACT OPPOSITE of a well-reasoned, considered response. And a ‘well-reasoned, considered-response’ usually calls for more that 140 characters. If you STILL say ‘well, there he goes again’ you haven’t given a moment’s reflection on the sentences I just wrote. Don’t you all expect people to consider what your response is after they’ve made a comment directly to you?
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-02 14:59
And the reason no serious writer has commented is because serious writers - and there are many - heeded the advice that all the great names said was required for great writing. They are doing the hard work and deep reflection on their craft and know first hand what happens in their own work. They know I’ve had an ‘ace-in-the-hole’ all along.

So, now I’ve said all that I have to say in this forum; it’s all there and on the record for anyone who cares to read and THINK about the words. And the only response that I will offer - free of charge - is to confirm the answer to: “What’s my ace in the hole?” If you don’t know the answer, you’re not a serious writer. It’s as cut-and-dried as that. If you post haha obscenity after obscenity know that you’re the joke not me. I’ve tried to be of service; if you don’t know valuable advice when you hear it, well, that’s unfortunate. I always listen to valuable advice. But hey, like I said, that’s just me.
Andrew  2014-06-02 20:25
Bye bye!
Sam Balderdash  2014-06-05 05:42
"it’s all there and on the record for anyone who cares to read”

Yes, yes it is.

Here’s some “valuable advice.”

Stay away from social media.
Stephan J Harper  2014-06-05 15:54
It wouldn't be right for me to hold anything against you all just because you were rude, condescending and thoughtless. And so, I am stopping by to lay at your feet a gem that you failed to pick up the first time. This is a test to see if you are committed to the craft of writing:
Brandi J  2014-06-10 22:13
Oh, heck with it. Let's see if we can get this to a hundred.
I'm just commenting in order to be part of an historic event.
The Biblioholic  2014-09-01 10:39
Me too! :-)
"I'm just commenting in order to be part of an historic event."

If I were a comment critic, I would give this five out of five stars and highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about writing comments.
Just Say No  2014-08-31 14:31
This is, I suppose I should thank you for filling the last hour or so of my attention. Seriously, though.....stay off drugs.
Macha De Vyne  2014-09-01 07:20
All I can think when I read this is the song from "Frozen" -- "Let it Go". But it was an important lesson on what not to do when someone takes the time to read and review your book, and what to do when you're the reviewer -- not respond at all.
That Bad Dog  2014-09-01 10:14
This comment thread is that for which the internet was invented. I say, "Bravo", my friend.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 21:09
Much appreciated!
Kim Greenblatt  2014-09-01 13:09
Keep it safe and sane. No dueling pistols, swordplay or flying garden weasels please.
Well, there's a favorable review of the book on a website called, but I'm pretty sure this dude wrote it himself. "Mr. Harper is the creator of, “a literate site for bear lovers” on the Web since 1998. He occasionally writes poems using the pseudonyms Ernest Fitzgerald, Jr and The Rational Romantic. They all live in California."
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 14:54
Well I, for one, will now buy and read the book purely on the basis of how entertaining this comment thread is!
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:01
Christopher Robin helped me download the book. I was going to start reading it right away, but I thought it was time for a little something first...
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:02
And Piglet stopped by to say that Rabbit has Called a Meeting, so we need to make our way to Eeyore's, which is the only place big enough to hold everyone.
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:03
Of course, by the time we arrived it was clear that even Eeyore's field is not big enough to hold Tigger.
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:05
And Roo WOULD try to copy him, so we all spent the first ten minutes chasing both of them while they went bouncing around everywhere, Causing a Commotion. Kanga kept saying "Now Roo, dear..." and Owl made several Pronouncements about Coming To Order, but it didn't seem to matter.
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:05
We were chiefly worried, of course, about Rabbit's Friends and Relations, many of whom are Very Small and might have become Bounced.
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:07
Finally Roo got tired and stopped, and TIgger stopped to see what was next. He says Tiggers never get tired, and he is probably right. Eeyore suggested that it was sure to be This, if it wasnt already That.
A Bear of Very Little Brain  2014-09-01 15:09
After all the fuss, Christopher Robin lent me his iPad, and Piglet and I made our way back home to settle down and read -- after having a little smackerel, of course. My honey jars were starting to call to me, but I couldn't hear them before over all the racket.
Andrew  2014-09-01 18:45
I love you, Edward Bear.
Amor De Cosmos  2014-09-01 15:29
Well, that read was certainly worth an hour of my time. Stephan, you are very tenacious and I like it. Some people are telling you to "let it go", but I think you should call the late night talk shows. This thread is getting shared globally and you should cash in on it. I have to go now, off to buy a copy of "Venice Under Glass".

P.S. Mr. Cohen, well done for taking the high road.
Jon De Jong  2014-09-01 18:02
Most of it seems to be laid out in the comment section - save yourself 3 dollars and realise the missing passages weren't good enough to refute criticism.

I love you Stephan J Harper
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 21:11
Jon de Jong, that you chose not to read and think about what I wrote honestly and objectively is readily apparent to all those who actually took some time in here to consider my words. You are just another blowhard who can't justify what you wrote. Why waste your time? Why be so dishonest? I posted about 2000 words in excerpt. VENICE UNDER GLASS has over 58,000 that makes you an ill-informed liar. What motivates you to mislead others?

If you don't like VENICE UNDER GLASS, well, like I said above (but you probably didn't read it) "SO WHAT?" Why should I tell you to like it. I don't CARE if you like it because I have no right to expect you to like it or not: that's a personal preference. HOWEVER, when you tell others not to buy it, now you're fucking with my livelihood. How dare you! That's just malicious! Let others see the free sample if they want and decide on their own. What the hell is wrong with you?
Gary Farber  2014-09-01 19:35
"is readily apparent to all those who actually"

You don't actually get to speak for the people reading this thread.

You don't actually get to speak for anyone other than yourself.

Repeatedly asserting that you do speak for others is, absent an actual survey to support the claim, not as useful a rhetorical technique as you think it is.

But welcome to internet fame! You surely have worked to earn it, and you deserve it!

Purely incidentally -- I assure you -- all of my own prose is fucking lyrical. Please, by all means deconstruct any sentence and show me that it's not lyrical. Can you do that?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 20:40
I'm not speaking for anyone but myself. I just made the objective observation that some have, in fact, read what I wrote and understood what I was saying rather than condemning me for simply defending the work. SHOW ME WHERE I CLAIM THE AUTHORITY TO SPEAK FOR SOMEONE ELSE. Oh yeah, right, you can't. Can you back up anything you say? For instance, can you tell me where, specifically, in the argument I make to Mr. Cohen that I was in error? Set aside judgement momentarily - if you can - whether I should have taken issue with a professional reviewer who deliberately mischaracterized my work. How is Mr. Cohen right, when for example, he states that Capo Inspectore Loredan Marcello is a "stereotypically clueless" police detective when he is, in fact, worldly, cynical, VERY competent and one of the most admired public officials in Venice?

I would be pleased to provide a constructive critique of your prose if you would provide a sample of it.
Jan Appelzaad  2014-09-01 15:40
I'm _so_ going to share this on FB. This is one epic (in the FB-sense of the word lol) comment-thread.
Thanks everyone, especially Stephan J Harper, for contributing :)
Barbara Delaney  2014-09-01 15:56
This author completely ripped off the Mollisan Town Quartet by Tim Davys. Those are four absolutely brilliant books. This just enrages me that this author would so blatantly steal the ideas of another writer.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 18:07
Breaking radio silence: Barbara, my dear, I started writing VENICE UNDER GLASS in 1997. The first chapters appeared online at in 1998. Basil Baker, Cordelia Pembridge-Howl and the rest of the cast are wholly original characters and if you can prove me wrong, I'll gladly send you a thousand bucks! And if you spread your libel, I'll sue your ass! Am I in anyway unclear on this, my dear?

Tread carefully...check your dates and facts before leveling potentially damaging accusations. The history of VENICE UNDER GLASS from it's online inception (1998), to it's license for development as a video game (1999) to its publication as a MultiTouch Fiction title for the iPad (2014) has been extensively archived online.
Stephan J Harper is exactly what I've always imagined the authors of literary fiction to be.
Is it up to me to point out that his protagonist is "Basil Baker," and there was already a series of children's books about an animal detective named "Basil of Baker Street," popular enough to become a Disney movie?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 18:15
You are wrong, sir. The name of that character is "Basil of Baker Street" NOT "Basil Baker" and just to PROVE this to you, DISNEY OWNS THE RIGHTS TO BASIL OF BAKER STREET and has known about my creation (Basil Baker; Venice Under Glass) since 1999 when their interactive division expressed interest in licensing a video game ("Venice Under Glass") that was being developed with the storyline and characters of MY CREATION. Furthermore, Basil of Baker Street is wholly derivative of and dependent on the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre (the mouse protagonist lives in Holmes' basement for godsakes!) Don't you think Disney would have something to say if your ignorant supposition were remotely true? You are yet another Internet idiot who actually thinks he has something substantive to contribute. You don't.
My God, I... I've never been shut up so hard. Please consider all my ill-thought comments retracted.

And as long as I'm posting, how'd the video game deal work out?
Jamoche  2014-09-01 19:22
You're the one who's wrong, dear. The OP did in fact say the Disney character was "Basil of Baker Street". Perhaps your reading comprehension needs work?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 21:01
Oh, your snark is so clever. C'mon, you know the answer. In 1999-2000 the DotCom bust took out a lot of companies out here in Silicon Valley. Was it too bad that Disney Interactive, Mattel Interactive and Hasbro Interactive (during that crazy CD-ROM game craze!) all expressed interest in publishing the game VENICE UNDER GLASS but wanted our team to complete it on our own phantom millions? Yeah, it was really unfortunate that we weren't back in 1996-1997 when it was standard operating procedure for all the big game publishers to fund promising games from small studios to their completion. So laugh at our misfortune all you fucking asshole!
Okay, I've won a kind of prize because I'm the first one Stephan swore at.

Now, Stephan, because I'm a fellow human being, I'm going to stop talking to you, with advice to continue to work on your writing which really does show promise. You can't win an online fight like this one, because there's always another jerk who wants to provoke you. I believe your happiness lies somewhere away from
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:47
Jamoche- what, having trouble reading between the lines? His intent was clear.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:06
What, playing the sympathy card now? Suddenly you’re a human being? Sorry, not buying the act. To delight, revel or otherwise enjoy someone else’s misfortune is just fucked-up. My company, like so many others in 2000, lost millions in the DotCom bust. And I don’t need you or anyone like you to tell me my writing has promise. I already have it on good authority, and yes, THAT was my ace in the hole. Lastly, what makes you think I’m trying to “win an online fight like this one?” I’ve already won. Did you think I would pass up this opportunity now that I have a global audience? I'm just surprised it took three months.
Vermont Non-Luminary  2014-09-01 18:20
I actually like the idea of an author reviewing the review - doesn't happen often enough. Also, I had to start laughing - as Mr. Harper kept adding on and adding on and adding on, that took on a life of its own and was funny in its own right.
Also, why not take on a reviewer? If you have a point to make, make it - or as I like to say, "make your case". Which Mr. Harper is. I don't have to agree or disagree with him to appreciate his approach. Cheerio….
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 18:30
Thanks for your comment. As you surmised, the reason I posted SO many excepts at the beginning was because I wanted to be thorough in laying out my case. Notice each time I make a specific point to refute Mr. Cohen. I just let the text speak for itself; which is always best.
Michelle  2014-09-01 20:13
You did FAR MORE than let the text speak for itself.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 21:00
Yeah, I defended my work with well-reasoned, considered responses. You prefer superficiality and judging others by...what criterion? How are you even qualified to judge my work? Your opinion is irrelevant. I hate beets; but if you like them, what's it to me? You on the other hand are part of the Internet ilk that prefers jabbering without a thought in their heads and telling everyone else they should hate this author guy too. You disgust me.
D Hodgson  2014-09-01 18:38
Please don't let this end here. Surely there is room in history for a Comment Section that rivals such lengthy runs as The Mousetrap. I yield my Internet posting virginity this one and only time for such an epic undertaking. May I not live in regret. You have no idea how hard it will be for me to click that button; but I must. I MUST.
Jamoche  2014-09-01 19:17
So... just how is this MultiTouch stuff that different from the HyperCard books that were all over the self-published world back in the day?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 20:58
If you are interested, you can read about it at But it's more of an evolution.

"iBooks Author was created so that authors could take books and ebooks beyond words and static illustrations by creating new titles – multimedia book ‘apps’ – specifically for the iPad. iBooks Author is a revolutionary product transforming genres one by one. Textbooks and Non-Fiction were the first to be re-imagined and re-invented, both to critical acclaim and widespread consumer appeal. iBooks Author has now given the concept of ‘enhanced interactive fiction’ the definition and scope it so badly needed, establishing the legitimacy of the new genre once and for all."

Teddy Ruskin  2014-09-01 20:30
"My eyes fell lazily from the paper and out the window..."

I suppose this is what happens occasionally when they're sewn on.

Mr. Harper, you may have a questionable future in literary prose, but you'd be a shoo-in for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. That way lies your greatness.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 20:56
Taking eleven words out of their context and pretending that you understand a damn thing about what I wrote is the HEIGHT of arrogance.

The Internet idiots keep rollin' by...oh, my kingdom for a substantive comment!
Andrew  2014-09-01 21:10
Those are all ad hominem remarks, Stephen.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-01 21:35
Your work is puerile and under-dramatized. You lack any sense of structure, character and the Aristotelian unities.
Indeed. In all fairness, here is a more complete excerpt, though the original poster's point is still clearly made.

Half an hour outside Paris, we were in the country and heading towards the Swiss Alps. My eyes fell lazily from the paper and out the window, where the lush green zipped by in a Degas abstraction streaked with intermittent patches of snow.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:20
Birthday Idiot - Do you know what any of those words mean, troll? And if you haven't read the novel, why would anyone think you had anything worthwhile to say about it?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:21
Anton - No, that is not the complete scene. points.
The comment is not on the novel. It is on an excerpt of text that clearly has the character's eyes falling out the window. If that was not your intention with the sentence, then there is a structure issue. What need is there for an entire scene?

You are the one who placed text excerpts up as examples and asked for someone to dare to deconstruct. This is a perfect example. Most authors would have a good chuckle, fix it, and move on.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-01 22:48
He said "more complete", not "the complete". He gave the necessary context.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:23
You're having trouble with "My eyes fell lazily from the paper and out the window...?" Are you serious?
Anything that causes a snort of laughter while reading a passage that is meant to be serious deserves a second look and usually an edit. Yes, of course the reader can be blamed for such folly, but why go there?
Birthday Boy  2014-09-02 00:43
I in fact do not know what "you" means. Could you enlighten me?

Also I may be fuzzy on "any".
Andrew  2014-09-01 21:05
Would anyone like
To write some haiku with me
And enjoy the thread?
Andrew the bulldog
stubbornly baiting a fool
perhaps a lawyer
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 22:47
Tell us Andrew when you write something as original as this (from the novel):

...There were over a hundred roses—nearly a hundred and a half! It was over the top. Cordelia kissed me on the cheek then whispered in my ear.

"I especially loved your card, Basil."

"But I didn't..." I started, until Cordelia, singing to herself in the hall mirror, handed me the card over her shoulder. It was unusually ornate for a paper trifle: it held an elaborate gold gilt pattern and the personal greeting inside was as if someone has dipped a very expensive fountain pen into a pot of liquid gold and wrote this haiku:

In Venetian cold
Winter yearning for the Spring
Hunger Needs Romance

It was signed simply "An Admirer."


You, Andrew, are a gnat, a fool and a poseur. But do share Ron's jellybeans...

Andrew  2014-09-02 00:52
My wife and I are sitting in the living room. Our teenage daughter is asleep upstairs. Or at least we hope.

My wife tap-tap-taps on her computer keyboard. She’s writing a novel. I’m not a writer myself, but I do what I can to support her goals. Sometimes, like tonight, that means staying up with her and surfing the web on my tablet.

“How’s the story coming, honey?” I ask.

“The parrots are rebelling. Kia thinks she’s going insane, but she can’t tell if it’s the Purple, the Speakers, or her genes,” she says.

That makes no sense to me, but what can I say? It’s literature. I nod appreciatively and start a game of Fruit Ninja.

My wife stares at the screen for a few moments. I pretend I’m entirely focused on Fruit Ninja, even though I lost the game about ten seconds after I started and haven’t begun a new round yet. I’m sure she’s going to ask me something soon.

And sure enough, she does. “Andrew, I’ve got this character.”

“What about them?”

“She’s not very likable.”


“Well, she was supposed to be.” With that, all the rest of the words come pouring out. “This character is a mega rockstar that the main character falls in love with. In the book, she gets into a fight with this other rockstar, because she thinks the other guy insulted her when he didn’t. And everyone tries to get her to understand what he actually said, but she’s not having it. And she’s coming off as an arrogant jerk.”

“So…” I say. “Is she eaten by zombies?”

She laughs. “Not in this story, it’s contemporary romance. On one hand, I want her to be difficult and slightly self-centered. But while on the outside she seems stubborn and snobby, looking at it from her point of her she just thinks she’s being insulted and bullied. And I don’t know which side the reader’s going to take.”

I consider. “Does she have to get in a fight with the other rockstar? Is he important to the romance plot?”

“No…” she admits. “But he’s much more interesting than the hero...”

“So make him the hero,” I say, like that would solve anything.

“I can’t just… wait a minute.”

And that’s how she began ZOMBIES ON THE STAGE.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-01 21:27
"In the center of the living room, two dozen anxious roses blushed lavender by the vacant love-seat."

You can't blush lavender. It's entirely the wrong color to blush. You might as well say that the peas were blushing green.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 22:50
Please, by all means, share with us what you have written. At least I have the balls to use my real name and put myself out there rather than hide behind anonymity...and stupidity.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-01 22:50
Appeal to accomplishment is a fallacy. I do not have to have published anything to be able to criticize your work, in much the same way that if you received burnt food from a chef, he would not be able to hide behind any number of Michelin stars to justify his mistake.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:27
Your critique has no merit. I suppose you find this construction problematic as well: "...the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music."
ButthurtAuthorsAreHilarious  2014-09-01 21:31
Can't tell if insane author or brilliant troll...
I would have guessed a brilliant troll if it wasn't for the author's identical arguments in his webpage review of his book.
"...Notice each time I make a specific point to refute Mr. Cohen. I just let the text speak for itself; which is always best."

The text does indeed speak for itself. It seems, however, that what you hear it say and what I hear it say are at opposite ends of the spectrum. And before you accuse me of not reading and considering _all_ that you have written above, I have.

It is your _opinion_ that the excerpts you posted refute Mr. Cohen's _opinion_ as shared in his review. It is my considered _opinion_ that they accomplished quite the opposite.

Your scholarly definition of a book review serves well enough in academia, but means little in the "real" world. _Every_ author receives heart-wrenching reviews, justified or not. It is part of the game. How the author reacts to such can and will--whether you choose to believe it or not--affect future professional relationships. I invite you to follow your own advice and allow the book to speak for itself.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:34
You are like all the others: you think you can just SAY that you have read and understood what I wrote to refute Reviewer Cohen and we’re just supposed to take your word on it without any good faith effort to PROVE you have read what I wrote at the beginning of this comment thread. No, you haven’t read what I wrote and now I’m going to prove it and put people like you in your place. I will do the work for you - what you could have easily done were it not for your blind obesience to so-called authority - and one example shall suffice: Mr. Cohen’s Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew trope signifying his contempt for VENICE UNDER GLASS. I refer you to the opening chapters of the top three Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels (or pick your own favorites if it pleases you). You can view these at or download, as I did, the Sample/Previews of each book from the iBooks Store. Any objective analysis of the style of prose in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew books makes it immediately apparent that, WHATEVER you want to say about the prose in VENICE UNDER GLASS, it is NOT that.
Mr. Cohen review did not--in my opinion--carry a tone of contempt. He expressed opinions, some favourable and some not. You expressed opinions. I expressed opinions.

You will never, ever prove yourself "right" in this venue. Ever. That is why I and several others have encouraged a mature and as-graceful-as-possible bowing out. An admission of overreaction followed by withdrawal is what would mark you as a seasoned author and professional, not this endless ranting.

If you have a novel out that is worthy of being read, it will receive many reviews with which you do not agree. If you thrive on stress and drama, then you have found the perfect means to feed your addiction.
Secret Satellite  2014-09-01 22:17
Setting aside the author's literary skill, how is "multitouch" fiction its own groundbreaking genre? Also, why do all the references I can find to it lead back to Stephan J Harper?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 22:25
Read the short 'foundational' posts on the new genre at If you still have questions, I will try to answer them.

The reason "MultiTouch Fiction" references leads back to me is simply because I coined the term and named the genre on May 9, 2014. That's all...
Shpencification  2014-09-01 22:24
"I let the text speak for itself" you posted so many comments you might as well have posted the whole damn book in this thread!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 22:38
No, I posted about 2,000 words out of 58,000. It's called "substantive argumentation using textual reference." But you probably don't care about that one bit, huh, troll?
Birthday Boy  2014-09-01 22:56
It's called "dignity", but your continued posts here are whittling away at it. Seriously. Honest, genuine, I-wish-you-the-best advice here: STOP. POSTING. Maybe issue an apology or something for letting yourself get dragged into this, but then let it go. An author should not respond to critics in this fashion. You are only hurting yourself. Leave this website, make a nice cuppa, and get to work on your next book and/or teddy bear. Keep doing it, and read the reviews, good and bad. Learn from all of them. You aren't a literary giant yet, and I'm sorry to tell you that if you keep spending your time here you never will be. If you want to rise above the rest, just keep writing and never think you're a great; always search for your flaws and try to push past them.
Well said.
Andrew  2014-09-01 23:31
Look, I tried to tell him this ninety comments ago. He didn't listen then. I hope he does now, though.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-02 00:03
He's been silent since "not fucking around this time". I honestly hope it stuck.

EDIT: Wow, he posted TWO MINUTES after I posted this. My sympathy for him is GONE.
Kinopio Taicho  2014-09-02 00:26
"You aren't a literary giant yet, and I'm sorry to tell you that if you keep spending your time here you never will be."

Maybe this is an epic troll by J.K. Rowling?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:33
Go fuck yourself, Birthday Idiot. Who are you to tell me anything? You have no authority or knowledge of best practices in social media. I have a global audience now and will let them read my words here as I put trolls like you in your place.
Andrew  2014-09-02 00:37
Those are all ad hominem remarks, Stephen.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-02 00:46
Mr. Steven Harpy, you have both criticized me for hiding behind anonymity and made comments about my qualifications. It seems to me you can't have it both ways. Who is your global audience? Why aren't they rushing to your defense? And how are you putting me in my place? What IS my place? What's yours?
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 01:12
You have a global audience true. Sadly they all think you're an idiot. So, maybe not so good?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 22:51
In case there's any doubt left, I'm back. And I'm not fucking around this time. The trolls will be shown their place...
Harmon  2014-09-01 23:42
Maybe you could create a special edition and include all these comments in the appendix. I've certainly enjoyed reading them. They have made me never want to read your book though.
Kinopio Taicho  2014-09-02 00:26
"scenting the air throughout like crazy"

Pretty sure Keats would have done better than that for his version of "Bears in Italy" or whatever.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:40
You wasted your time with such a lame comment? At least try to be funny or original. Banality is so unbecoming.
Birthday Boy  2014-09-02 00:51
You've wasted your time with hundreds of comments. You have an article mocking you written in a foreign language. Reddit has a thread about you ( ). No one is saying, "This guy is telling it like it is." They're just laughing at you, or worse, feeling secondhand embarrassment.
Johan Apfeltor  2014-09-01 23:46
This is amazing. I have never seen anyone freak out so hard in response to criticism, and I've been on the internet long enough to see a lot of freaking out.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:36
It is NOT a response to criticism; it is righteous indignation at dishonesty and deliberate mischaracterization. I laid out my case. Read it if you want to; there's a lot here so read it before you jump to conclusions.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 01:17
He hasn't called the feds yet. THAT was a meltdown. C Minus, must try harder
Luther  2014-09-01 23:52
"Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!"
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 00:34
Love that movie!
Andrew  2014-09-02 00:58
In three days, there have been a hundred new comments. I love it.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 01:34
It was the haikus
Wot made this the epic thread
That it has become
Jonathan S Primsby  2014-09-02 01:11
I thought this was the most perfect troll on the internet, up until the 10th post when i realised anyone that motivated must clearly be a very angry and repressed man.
You're artwork has spoken, poor Stephen, and unfortunately the artwork is no Mona Lisa, It's soiled toilet paper!
Birthday Boy  2014-09-02 01:21
I wonder if it was the cancellation of the (actually real) video game version of Venice Under Glass that broke him. To have had a chance to rise so far, only to be crushed by the whims of fate... Ah, a cruel world we live in.
Augustus Ursor Minor  2014-09-02 01:15
Is David Brent from The Office now masquerading as delusional writer? The author seems to suffer from the same hubris. You don't need to read the damn book to realise it is at the level of third-rate teen fiction. The passages he highlights as exceptional writing truly made me wince. Cliches, poor characterisation, turgid clumsy prose. What is astonishing is that he truly believes it has merit as a work of fiction. Perhaps it could have worked as a children's book but that would have meant simplifying the pretentious language.
This author simply can't see why readers might want to bait him - he is such deliciously easy target.

And yes this has gone viral through Twitter etc or I would have missed this record-breaking literary discussion. Get Mr Harper on a TV chat show now as I want to see this swivel-eyed loony in the flesh. Failing that maybe Ricky Gervais could use it as the basis for a new sit com. Right. The hook is baited. Let's start fishing.
Catalina Capri  2014-09-02 01:16
Thank God for people like Mr. Harper. It is tremendously refreshing to see a writer stand up and defend his work without shame when faced with what he considers a faulty (note I did not say negative) review. Kudos to you Mr. Harper. You are like the Tank Man of 1989's Tiananman Square fame. You are here facing down seemingly insurmountable odds armed only with moral righteousness backed up with intellectual analysis by which you lay out your case.
Yes, just as with the Tank Man, you are grossly outnumbered by your would be bully oppressors, but just like that Tank Man, YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY OWNING THEM!!!
Right is right and wrong is wrong, no matter how many internet yahoos say differently.
Keep up the good fight sir!!! You have my respect and admiration, and by the time I had gotten about halfway through reading this comment section, I had already decided to buy your book and give it a read.
Seriously though, you don't like beets? What the hell is wrong with you dude???
Dr John Watson  2014-09-02 01:39
I haven't read the book and will probably never read the book. I came here as this is now all over social media.

Never mind the book about teddy bears, these comments should be collected and turned into a book themselves. They are highly enjoyable and very entertaining!

A more cynical person than me might suggest that this has been a huge publicity coup orchestrated by the author. If so, then it's bloody genius!

As a writer, whenever someone criticises my work in future I shall re-read this to gain a little perspective. What has made it more amusing is that the author spent a good number of hours talking to himself - the reviewer hasn't even bothered to come back and justify his criticism. But then he doesn't need to does he?

Keep up the good work, this is providing some much needed mirth :)
Andrew  2014-09-02 01:48
Now I'm imagining Sherlock Holmes reading the comment thread and becoming increasingly frustrated by it.
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