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FunBITS: Bears in Boats Fighting Crime

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.


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Comments about FunBITS: Bears in Boats Fighting Crime
(Comments are closed.)

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 !
RodeoBob  2014-09-02 12:03
"However, what struck me immediately upon entering was perfume."

Unless your narrator is intended to be unreliable, or you are establishing a character trait wherein the character frequently misuses language, what struck them was NOT 'perfume', but an 'aroma'. A room devoid of flowers but smelling of roses would be perfumed. (the meaning of the word implies artificiality)

Similarly, "Roses grew from metal floor stands" describing roses as "anxious" and "blushed" reveals an understanding of language that is more vague and approximate than precise. Unless said roses are also anthropomorphic and changed color while being viewed, they were neither emotional, nor blushing.

And to anticipate the rebuttal, using metaphor does not absolve one of bad writing. Metaphors, like any other tool of composition, can be good or bad, and yours, thus far, are... workmanlike at best.
The only thing the reviewer might have gotten wrong is in not coming right out and stating the obvious: Your work, Mr. Harper, has no merit.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-01 23:51
Praise the Gods!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 14:09
There are NO metaphors in this passage!

See my remarks on these issues you raise below where I address Kevin at length.
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...
Tyler L  2014-09-02 02:08
I just want to let you know that I've been reading through this entire thread and I have got to say that your composure has been absolutely astounding. I don't know how you put up with all of these pigs shitting all over your pearl of a book. You have my respect, I can say 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.
April   2014-09-03 22:53
"I had the audacity to let one of my website characters, Neville Addison-Graves III, write a critical analysis of VENICE UNDER GLASS..." mean you wrote a review of your own book?
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  2014-09-02 14:04
Each of those passages refutes a specific comment made by Reviewer Cohen. It's there for you to read. Did you read and think about WHY they were there? If so, perhaps you would be willing to share where I was wrong in my analyses. Be SPECIFIC. Can you manage it? Please, I hope you are not another idiot troll. I've become so used to them and recognize the grimy yourself...or begone.
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  2014-09-02 11:03
Surely you recognize Tommy's soliloquy from "GoodFellas" right?
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.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 11:08
You ALMOST had the perfect tone that makes sarcasm indistinguishable from sincerity...admittedly a hard trick to pull off...but you just had to blow it. Too bad. No points from Swift today I'm sorry to say.
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  2014-09-02 11:23
I wondered why these so-called writers/trolls were so close-minded and cared more for the fact that I dared to defend my work against deliberate mischaracterization rather than focusing on the actual words in my refutation. So...I was curious. Go over to that absolutewrite forum and check out for yourself the books they hawk on their every post. It's all there via Amazon's preview feature. You will be appalled! That these fools dare to criticize anyone's writing is beyond comprehension - until you consider that they have no real talent and can't stand it when someone else does. I mean, really, can anyone honestly say that I haven't expressed myself well in here with substantive comments. Now go back and take a look at what these poseurs have written on this thread. And they have the gall to say that I am embarrassing, that is pure projection because they know their own writing could never stand the scrutiny.
Puddin  2014-09-02 12:14
It's not about prose!
They mock your wild reaction
Well... and your hubris
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!
April   2014-09-04 00:01
I'm pretty sure he didn't mean that in the way you think he did.
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  2014-09-02 12:09
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.
Luc Ritchie  2014-09-02 14:01
Stephan, my dear, your talent for condescension is pretty good for a mediocre writer.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 14:30
You realize that sentence internally contradicts itself right?
Clara Cow  2014-09-03 17:45
I love you, Stephan, for contributing to this disucssion thread. I'm finding it infinitely useful!

I do suggest you review it's vs. its.
Stephan J Harper is exactly what I've always imagined the authors of literary fiction to be.
April   2014-09-04 00:15
Yeah, except he's writing potboilers about teddy bears.
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  2014-09-02 08:29
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 want...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  2014-09-02 11:36
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.

Lastly, what makes you think I’m trying to “win an online fight like this one?” I’ve already won. Do I sound stupid to you? Did you think I would pass up this opportunity now that I have a global audience? I'm just surprised it took three months.
Puddin  2014-09-02 06:09
"Global audience?"
A dubious distinction
If it bleeds, it leads
Jamoche  2014-09-02 09:51
There have been at least two tech booms since the DotCom bust, you know.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 11:41
Haiku is an art
Unfortunately practiced
By incompetents
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 11:32
Wow, how observant of you! And guess what? The latest has ushered in the mobile platform, including...wait for it...the iPad and iBooks Author and MultiTouch Fiction. And that's where I entered this conversation...try to keep up will you. Read the entire thread if you want to learn anything.
Michelle  2014-09-03 12:04
"Do I sound stupid to you?"

Yes, yes you do.
Barely Here  2014-09-02 18:13
Do you really think that Basil of Baker Street is dependent on Holmes' collection of violin compositions or are you just a pretentious ass?
Clara Cow  2014-09-03 17:47
Wait. So when does the video game come out? Or did I miss it? I can hardly wait to get my bear claws on this!
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."

Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-09-02 09:13
"Multi-Touch book" is the name that Apple uses for the format of books created by its iBooks Author software. The format, a variant of the EPUB 3 format, was originally designed by Apple in conjunction with educators and publishers to facilitate the creation of interactive textbooks. To that end, it offers "widgets" designed for instructional material (such as interactive quizzes, image galleries, 3D models) along with interactive glossary and index capabilities. But, though designed for interactive textbook authoring, the software's features are also useful for creating interactive books of other sorts, including photography books, cookbooks, entertainment-industry tie-in books — and even novels.

Unlike HyperCard, which was more of a general-purpose software-authoring platform, but which was capable of creating interactive books (see the TidBITS article, "The Birth of the Ebook", 17 July 2014, , for a history of the first HyperCard-based ebooks), iBooks Author is specifically designed for producing books and has no general-purpose software-creation capabilities. You can find out more about iBooks Author in "Take Control of iBooks Author," which is linked at the end of the review above.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 11:46
Thank you, Mr. Cohen.
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".
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 11:48
The book has characters who are teddybears! Are you suggesting there's no humor in this book?
My favorite line from Addams Family Values!
I suggested no such thing. The key element in the comment was "while reading a passage that was meant to be serious."

Are you implying that your intention with the quoted sentence was to create some humorous mental image of eyes falling out of a window? Your previous comments on the matter did not indicate that stance.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 14:36
Oh, bullshit. Show me where. The book has humor in its very DNA.
Show you where... what?
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.
Puddin  2014-09-02 05:59
Your haiku - high art
Not unlike blushing roses
Or that guy ... um ... Keats!
UnRaveling  2014-09-02 07:52
Fun fact: dip pens are not the same as fountain pens.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 11:52
You are being deliberately obtuse. To fill a fountain pen, you 'dip' it in the ink 'pot' then use the little lever to draw the liquid up. The cartridge fountain pen was invented so fools like you wouldn't get egg on their faces.
A Reader  2014-09-03 05:33
In the passage quoted above:

"...the personal greeting inside was as if someone has dipped a very expensive fountain pen into a pot of liquid gold..." This fragment changes from past to present tense incorrectly.
Your haiku has 6 syllables in the second line, rather than the correct 7.

Your simile is unclear; is it intended to mean the writing was in gold, or that it was (in the speaker's opinion) well-written?

The value of the supposed fountain pen has no relevance to the simile. The expensive nature of the gift is already established, hammering it home in this way is unnecessarily overdescriptive and risks distracting the reader from the actual scene.

Judging from these basic errors in just one small extract from the book, I feel justified in my opinion that this book is extremely amateurishly written and unworthy of further consideration. Have fun insulting me for my opinion like you have everyone else, though!
For the record, "Winter yearning for the Spring" does have the requisite seven syllables.

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 08:23
Your critique has no merit. I suppose you find this construction problematic as well: "...the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music."

You are also rather stupid: I wrote 'written' not 'published' - being published is not an indication of quality.

Do you even know what constitutes a fallacy? I wasn't making an "appeal to accomplishment" (I suppose you meant 'authority'); I was merely asking you to share with us what you have written so that we may see how qualified you are to judge someone else's writing. Either fiction or non-fiction will do. Btw, your ham-handed analogy to the chef implicitly characterizes my work at the level of 'burnt food' - you just committed one of the biggest fallacies of all: begging the question (i.e. assuming the conclusion through circular reasoning). Your presumptuousness is rather telling, is it not?
Birthday Boy  2014-09-02 13:57
The difference between Fitzgerald and yourself is that he didn't flip out whenever someone wrote a bad review of his work. By doing so, a person is easily allowed to mock your silliness.

And I know quite well what constitutes a fallacy. It is an argument of poor reasoning. Appeal to accomplishment - argumentum ad factum, just fyi - is when Person A suggests Person B is not qualified to make a remark because he doesn't have the same accomplishments as Person A (or a Person C). For example, Roger Ebert spent many years with NO qualifications to review films - but he is well-known to be one of the best critics of that particular genre. It follows thus that a person does not need to be particularly literary to make criticism.

And of course, while the implicit characterization does exist, the point was to illustrate that an individual can clearly make critiques. I do not assume that your writing is less than satisfactory because of my analogy, I assume as much because I've read the review.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 14:42
If you read the review and still cannot see the mischaracterization and dishonesty even after I took considerable care to be VERY clear and specific on these issues, then you are beyond reasoning with and confirm to all that you are, indeed, another idiot troll with a closed-mind. You are not worth my time any the list!
Have you considered the possibility that the reason almost no one has taken your side in this matter is not because of failure on their part to understand your position, but of failure on yours to make your case?
Stonecipher Beadsman  2014-09-03 11:46
Who are you to say that Birthday Boy isn't his (or her!) real name??
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 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.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 08:08
Note, yet again, folks, that this troll doesn't address the substantive issue I raised. Trolls never do. This troll is either being willfully ignorant or he is just plain stupid. Since his posts have a certain tone of sincerity about them, I'm going with 'just plain stupid.' That he cannot see Reviewer Cohen's masterful use of 'damning with faint praise' or Mr. Cohen's totally inappropriate personal conjecture only confirms my assessment about Troll Anton.
You miss my point entirely. Shall I label you stupid or obtuse for doing so? I think not.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 12:21
If your point is I should apologize and move-on then that further proves you haven't read what I have written in these comments. It is MY business. If I choose to defend my work against deliberate mischaracterization in a dishonest review, that is MY choice. If you want to defend dishonesty, then I have no respect for you, nor would any other decent human being.

If you think it's all just a matter of opinion, you are wrong and proves AGAIN you haven't read what I wrote about the obligations and ethics of PROFESSIONAL REVIEWERS.

At this point, I must conclude you are yet one more nasty bit of Internet sludge, oblivious to what's in front of his own face and, hence, unworthy of my consideration. I don't mind spending time; I just hate wasting it.
Whether you like it or not, much of what Mr. Cohen presented, and much of what will arise in future reviews is subjective in nature. Opinions. Calling "foul" and pointing to the rules will not change that, but it will stigmatize you (<-opinion). Opinions are not lies, and intelligent readers are able to identify opinions as such and weigh them based upon their trust of the person offering them. Vastly different reviews of the same work will be written based on individual subjective interpretations of the art. Perceptive readers know to read more than one review and use a synthesis to form an objective opinion of whether or not to read the reviewed work.

The point is not a defense of dishonesty, but a glimpse at reality. Responding obsessively to a reviewer potentially causes far more career damage than the review ever could. I am not challenging your right to defend your work, only to consider if that is what you are truly accomplishing. Allow the novel speak for itself.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 14:50
You are an idiot. If something is true, it is true; if it is false, it is false. A reviewer cannot read Romeo & Juliet and then call it a Comedy. A reviewer cannot call a character a "stereotypically clueless police detective" when he's the exact opposite. This is NOT a matter of opinion or interpretation. Objectivity is the opposite of Subjectivity.

Where for godsake did you learn to support and value dishonesty? Your values are upside down, man!
Michelle  2014-09-03 12:26
Who do you think you're talking to when you say things like "Note, yet again, folks,..."?

You fail to understand that NO ONE is on your side. Everyone is laughing at you. Self aware, you are not.
Clara Cow  2014-09-03 17:56
You're right. The stereotypically clueless inspector is not a teddy bear. And there's likely a reason we don't see many teddy bear "detectives."
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 07:59
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  2014-09-02 07:58
Another troll hiding behind anonymity...and stupidity.

Sorry if this disappoints you, troll, but I have lots of intelligent, thoughtful folks around the world who agree with me.
ThatLibraryMiss  2014-09-02 10:40
The lurkers support you in email, I'm sure.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:44
ThatLibraryMiss - Surely someone as educated as you are can come up with something more pithy.
Michelle  2014-09-03 12:31
And? Where are they? Please don't say that this is one of them, because we all know this was you:
ThatLibraryMiss  2014-09-02 22:51
I don't see the need. I feel it got my point across in few words. Perhaps you could explain how my comment could have been made terser and more meaningful.
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.
Rowley Birkin QC  2014-09-02 02:44
Serious question: Is the book a shaggy dog story that ends with the line "Today's the day the teddy bears had their pics nicked"? If not, this strikes me as a frightful missed opportunity.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 07:56
Only the untalented and unaccomplished are cringing because they know they could never stand up to the scrutiny UNDER THEIR OWN NAME. However, when you know you are right, words from yahoos and trolls just roll off your back.
Puddin  2014-09-02 06:15
This thread's a train wreck
Your response to double down
Makes stuffed bears seem smart
C Baudburn  2014-09-02 11:06
Clearly, Stephan is letting this all roll off his back.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:42
Clearly, troll. Best interactive writing session I've had in a while. You, however, are not keeping up. Can't you write something of interest?
Clara Cow  2014-09-03 18:00
Were you "fucking around" before? How do we know where you're "fucking" and when you aren't?
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!
C Baudburn  2014-09-02 11:06
So, where exactly on the autism spectrum do you land?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 14:56
Keeping your internet troll persona alive and kicking, huh? Your stupid, uninteresting and lame attempts at insult compliment your mediocrity. Tell us, accomplish anything lately? What have you given the world? We're listening...
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
Andrew  2014-09-03 13:46

And I like your haiku!
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.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 07:40
Yet again we hear from a troll who fails to back up what he says.

Troll, wouldn't it be more persuasive to take one of the passages I used to refute Reviewer Cohen's mischaracterization and explain to us why it is "at the level of third-rate teen fiction." Surely you can put a single paragraph together that would demonstrate your superior intellect. Or perhaps you could do something even simpler: explain to us the examples of "cliches, poor characterisation, turgid clumsy prose."
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???
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 07:33
Thanks for your comments Catalina Capri. You express well some of my most deeply held beliefs.

Yes, yes...I know it is a failing of mine, not liking beets and all. When I was young, I was forced to consume them, as I remember vividly, in large quantities. I love kale - though it is rather a late addition to the dinner plate.
C Baudburn  2014-09-02 11:10
If you're going to make sock puppets, at least attempt to make them believable. Or is this just more bad writing?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:39
Catalina Capri  2014-09-02 23:36
Not exactly sure how one would go about proving it, nor quite frankly am I completely sure WHY one would wish to go about proving, but I certainly am not a sock-puppet of Mr. Harper.
I still haven't bought or read his book, so I can't really comment on whether or not I like it. What I can comment on however is the simple fact that so far he is decimating folks here.
Here's what I observe. Somebody gave him a fairly negative review. This review was essentially a subjective review that seemed to come from a place of snobbery against self published authors. In his review he also made several declaritive statement about the book. He really didn't back up any of his comments with objective facts however. If he subjectively dislikes the book and wishes to say so, that is fine. That's not what he did however. He instead made a bunch of specific comments without really providing much (any?) evidence...(continued in next comment due to character limit in comments).
Catalina Capri  2014-09-02 23:42
Mr. Harper took exception to this and posted (a perhaps ridiculously long, though highly entertaining)a defense of his work. Unlike the reviewer, he put forth objective evidence to support his claims and demanded the reviewer either do the same or retract his comments. Whether one likes Mr. Harper's writing style or not is not the point. What is the point is that if one is going to say stuff like "Your writing sucks. It is blatantly obvious to me why it sucks." It is not unreasonable for Mr. Harper to demand "If it is blatantly obvious to you why it sucks, then please in details explain to me exactly what about it sucks."
The best he has received in reply has been more and more subjective "It sucks because I say it sucks" drivel much like a parent who tells a child "because I said so" when trying to justify some policy that has not objective rational support. It is nothing more and nothing less than a display of bullying....again continued in next post.
Catalina Capri  2014-09-02 23:49
If you want to say, I don't like it and I don't really have a specific reason I can point to, I just subjectively don't like it, well then I think that is reasonable. If however, you want to say phrases like "His writing is obviously workmanlike" (whatever the heck that means anyway...I've never take a creative writing class, so I suppose maybe "Workmanlike" is an accepted term of art with which I am not familiar. To me however it sounds a lot like a B.S. made up term of snobbery, not unlike a lot of the B.S. that spews from the mouths of would-be wine snobs when describing the delicate aromas of honey-roasted reticulated python droppings that eminate from the bottle) Anyway, if you are going to use this so-called term of art and say his writing is obviously "workmanlike" then it is not unreasonable for him to demand that you provide specific objective evidence. Show him exactly what he has written that fits the definition (and please provide that definition for us non-writers)...
Catalina Capri  2014-09-02 23:57
He has openly and repeatedly asked for somebody here to do this. He has openly and repeatedly said "Without a bunch snobbish subjective ad hominen poppycock, show me specifically where my writing fits the criticisms levied against it."
The closest I've seen to anyone doing that in this thread was somebody laughing at a line about an eye falling from the page and out the window.
If that is all anyone has got then I can only conclude that the only real Sin Mr. Harper is guilty of is refusal to yield to groupthink peer pressure and bullying. He has commited the mortal sin of self publishing, and then compounded that grave indescretion by daring to stand up to a reviewer.
At what point in our society did reviewers suddenly attain the status of some sort of Spanish Inquisition Days Church Elder? Thou shalt not dare to question them, else thou shall be cast into purgotory.
Bollocks on that crap.
....continued again....
Catalina Capri  2014-09-03 00:06
If one chooses to write something at put it out there for public consumption, then it is fair game for anyone in the public to comment on it, positively or negatively, as they see fit.
That is the treacherous ground tread by all would be writers.
Why in the hell should that same standard not apply to Mr. Cohen or any other reviewer???

The conventional wisdom of "Dear Writer, don't you dare ever even think of responding to a negative review" is the equivalent of any other mob following and supporting a tyrant bent upon oppression.

As a writer perhaps it isn't a good financial move to dare defy the mob by calling a reviewer out, just as if you live in North Korea and value your life you better not dare to say anything negative about the dear leader. That said, any North Korean who has the guts to stand up and defiantly say "F.U. Dear Leader" has my respect.
In that regard Mr. Harper has my respect and the mob here has my disdain similar to that I feel for the North Korean mob.
Catalina Capri  2014-09-03 00:16
Oh, and please, make sure to call me a sock puppet again. That'll be sure to prove that Mr. Harper is a bad writer and by extension it'll be sure to prove that all self published writers clearly must suck and need to admit this to themselves so they can get on to some more useful task that is more appropriate to their proletariat status.
Daniel Ross  2014-09-03 11:38
A negative review = A North Korean regime. Totally equal comparison. Got it.
Andrew  2014-09-03 11:44
Sock puppet!
Catalina Capri  2014-09-03 16:02
Straw man much? Or is it just that your reading comprehension really is that terrible?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 12:46
No, no, no Andrew, I assure you! Thank you so much Catalina...I am blown away by your support.
Michelle  2014-09-03 13:05
I bet this is his wife Peggy.
Packrat  2014-09-03 16:11
Yeah, I'm calling sock puppet on this one, too. Note the use of the ellipsis (...) between words without spaces between it and the surrounding words. It is more common, and usually regarded as correct to include spaces.
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.
Dr John Watson  2014-09-02 02:34
Oh Holmes wouldn't bother with such 'trivial' matters. Mind you, Conan Doyle had to put up with a HUGE backlash when he killed off Holmes. Can you imagine that comment thread? Not that he would ever have responded but still, more authors should have comment threads like these. They are more entertaining than some of the drivel which pertains to be fiction - I'm looking at YOU Mr Dan Brown and everyone on Wattpad .
Just wanted to post to be a part of this. Have spent about an hour and a half reading all the comments.
For anyone interested in a psychological profile of Stephan, I'd check out the review he wrote of his own book, in which he describes it as "brilliantly conceived, endlessly inventive and beautifully written" as well as "a wonder". And then he spends hundreds of comments accusing a reviewer of dishonesty? Truly beggars belief...
Neville Addison-Graves III  2014-09-02 02:20
Everybody needs to STOP all of this right now!!! Stephan is a literary gENIUS and one day when that fact is recognized ALL of you WILL regret mocking him! It's almost like there's some big conspiracy here, with all of you determined to drag him down!! To see a completely UNBIASED review, look at my website:
Augustus Ursor Minor  2014-09-02 02:31
He does have a very high opinion of himself and his abilities as a writer. One could say he has an obession with this book which is a very crude stitching together of a number of genres. As I said in an earlier post, a simple children's tale might have worked. Bears are cute. What's not to like! Yogi, Baloo, the Honey Monster. Basil Baker will not make that list of great literary bears. A review of the cover described it as "incomprehensible and slightly creepy". Hard not to agree. How I've found myself looking at his website and reviews I'll never know. What can I say. I am a journalist and easily distracted by this modern form of bearbaiting. Chin up though Mr Harper from Calfornia. You could become famous for 15 minutes.
Christopher  2014-09-02 07:32
I think you meant "infamous"
Andrew  2014-09-02 02:32
Er. I don't mind poking at what he says here, but I think the in-character review was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Like how the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell supposedly posted in-character reviews of her book.
Maybe you're right. =\
Puddin  2014-09-02 05:51
Fitzgerald and Keats
Were self-published lunatics?
Huh! Today I learned
A Sterling  2014-09-02 06:51
Mr. Harper, please seek psychiatric help. This isn't trolling, this isn't a joke. You're being obsessive, obtuse, and deeply irrational in your comments as well as your decision to keep making them. What has arguing gotten you? Wouldn't this time be better spent on new writing?

Please, find someone who can help you with the issues that lead to such tragic displays as this. Not only for your career's sake, but for your life's. I cannot imagine this temperament leading to anything resembling a good or happy end.

I wish you all the best.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:31
You just don't know what fun is, do you?

I'm not arguing. This is the best interactive writing exercise imaginable.

But, please, enlighten us all and point out where I've been "deeply irrational" in any of my comments. Oh, but you can't, can you? Besides, there MUST be something wrong with me to ask you to BACK UP WHAT YOU SAY, right?

Another idiot troll, folks...and he wants ME to seek help! Such a "tragic display."
Michelle  2014-09-03 13:14
Anyone with an iota of social intelligence can see where you have been deeply irrational. No one needs to point it out. We can all see this. It's too bad you are so sadly unaware of your own behavior.
This is great! I love it when people are so adamantly "It's not me, it's everyone else!" in public.
Christopher  2014-09-02 07:43
Holy Crap on a Cracker, Batman. The author has completely gone of the rails!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:34
You must be referring to the rails you are riding on with your fellow sheep, asleep, peaceful in your cluelessness to the mediocrity you've settled for. Revolt sheep!
Signs of narcissistic personality disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration [regularly fishes for compliments, and is highly susceptible to flattery].
5. Has a sense of entitlement.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling [or, I would add, unable] to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty [rude and abusive] behaviors or attitudes.

I'd say at least 6 of those characteristics apply to Mr. Harper based on his posts, which I suppose qualifies him as having this disorder.
Dr John Watson  2014-09-02 09:30
I'm ever so slightly uncomfortable with the author's mental health now being publically analysed by unqualified psychologists.

I much preferred it when everyone was just taking the Michael.

What does that say about me I wonder? I really must see a doctor.
Hank Johnson  2014-09-02 10:42
Dr. Watson,

I'm not going to link it here, but an author (Patrick McLaw) was involuntarily committed and his home searched because two of his novels contained a school shooting.

Without deeper research I can't speak to the appropriateness of that response, but that particular action of unqualified psychologists should probably concern you more than watching someone self-destruct over slights real or imagined.

Mr. Harper,

Please consider that your potential customers can plainly see how you treat people on this thread, and that it may affect both how people consider you and your sales numbers. While it is possible your numbers will spike after this, it wouldn't be for your writing itself, and would diminish your skills as an artist, and you'd be forever remembered as "that guy who blew up."

It's your call if you think this is the best course of action, but the advice here on stepping back is very good advice.

Best of luck in your future endeavors.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 12:36
You just don't know how the long-game is played, do you?

I assure everyone that I am a well-adjusted, quite happy writer who is enjoying this discussion way more than I ever thought the gods would allow. Has it occurred to any of the trolls and idiots that this venue has provided me with a great opportunity not only to express my displeasure at the lowering of standards in our society but to practice clear writing? Have I in anyway been unclear? The criticism is that I dared to object to deliberate mischaracterization in a dishonest review of my latest work. Some seem to think I've spent too much time in here. These are the really lazy people who can't imagine a writer working 12 to 14 hours a day with occasional in here!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 12:41
And as for dear, deluded buddy up there who casually lists personality disorder traits, lets examine his foolishness:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance. WRONG! Defending my work and objecting to dishonesty are rather RATIONAL responses.

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love. WRONG! I've been alive for almost 64 years and writing for the last 18 of these. I can say quite confidently that I've admitted more mistakes than most others in here. As a writer, I depend on correcting my errors when my editor points them out. As a human-being, well, making mistakes and admitting them is the only road to personal growth.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 12:53
3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions). WRONG! That I am well-educated, well-reasoned and well-spoken is wholly due to my superiors. I just paid attention, that's all. I'm nobody special. But I will defend myself!

4. Requires excessive admiration [regularly fishes for compliments, and is highly susceptible to flattery]. WRONG! If I were seeking flattery, why would I be willing to say the things I've said in here! Besides, I hate fishing...

5. Has a sense of entitlement. WRONG! You only deserve what you've worked for - unless you are indigent, then charity and kindness must lead.

6. Is interpersonally exploitative. WRONG! I live a quiet, rather, secluded life (albeit in Silicon Valley, but still). My biggest "fault" is that I've sometimes been overly generous to strangers and my wife wants to know where all the cash went.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:01
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling [or, I would add, unable] to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others. WRONG! (see #6)

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her. WRONG! The success of others is my guiding light that tells me I can achieve something too. I will admit, however, that the thought of some Hedge-Fund Manager making several hundred million dollars in a year while the homeless outside his office are routinely rousted - well, that raises some ire.

9. Shows arrogant, haughty [rude and abusive] behaviors or attitudes. WRONG! Returning tit-for-tat with idiot trolls is just conversation.

buddy is one of these idiot trolls practicing medicine without a license (see his "I'd say at least 6 of those characteristics apply to Mr. Harper based on his posts, which I suppose qualifies him as having this disorder.")
Christopher  2014-09-02 13:33
Dude, you are delusional. Don't quit your day job.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:36
Ok, idiot troll, I'll bite...just once: explain yourself rationally, if you can manage it.
Anyone who has read your words here can see that you are obviously delusional, Mr. Harper. Trying to explain such to someone in that state is pointless, though.
Christopher  2014-09-02 13:48
Please go back and read your comments on this unreal thread. Try to be objective. Seriously, go back and read what you wrote. As for the second half of my post, I assume (could be wrong here) that the two books I can find by you are the whole of your published work. Two doesn't seem to be much income based on the reported sales of said books. So I have to believe you have a separate source of income. My advice is don't throw it away just yet.

Oh yeah, I bought "Venice Under Glass" yesterday. You're not as clever as you think you are. Even my 12 year old nephew rolled his eyes at the name "Basil Baker". Good afternoon, I wish you peace.
Christopher  2014-09-02 13:51
Hank Johnson  2014-09-02 14:09
No, Mr. Harper, I write fiction recreationally, not professionally. I suppose the long game must be different than other businesses if this is successful.

But as far as expressing displeasure in lowered standards, this isn't a blog. While I appreciate that this was a review of your work, and you certainly have the right to discuss it, it's hardly the place to try to point out our failing educational standards and the general lack of study on the part of the individual.

The way you are unclear is how you jump from point to point instead of simply disagreeing with the review, pointing out why (which you most certainly did) then leaving it at that (which you did not).

I'm trying to help you here, but if you'd rather fight, then I guess I'll be on my way.
Your response has actually proven my point quite well:) Thank you sir!
You compare your sad attempt at literature with that of Fitzgerald and Keats. That is not rational.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:10
Hi Hank. I didn't mean that question to be insulting; so I hope you didn't take it that way.

The long-game I referred to known as "the pervasive mobile platform." Now, I realize not everyone wants to play this game; but most are only fearful because they just don't know where to jump in. All it takes is a single entry point - like this one - and the tenacity to stay with it, meeting all comers, for about 90 minutes a day, all told.

I appreciate your comments. I really do. But I knew that if I was going to make my case and then bail, well, I chose to stay with it for several reasons: integrity, passion, interactive writing exercise, commercial interest being the top four.

I'm not fighting; I've said this earlier. This is pure non-fiction writing joy. It's actually quite amazing...I've learned so much. So, please, don't be on your way. Let's crank this up a notch.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:29
Oh, shut up, buddy. You have no point. I destroyed your "psychoanalysis" upstream. Learn to take defeat like a man!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:26
I did not! That sentence was directed to the Reviewer to illustrate my literary influences to refute his ridiculous comparison of my work to Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew prose - a comparison that is objectively false. Read the comments on this I made above. If you are too lazy to do that, don't blame me for not wanting to repeat myself. And when reading, try engaging your brain's comprehension.

The sentence is not to be taken literally: how can something literally be from two dead authors' work? The passage shows my literary influences. That is all.
Hank Johnson  2014-09-02 17:44
No problem, it's an issue with how impersonal text can be.

I can see the mobile platform as a game changer in a lot of ways, as my ability to share highlights between platforms and search through them has been of amazing benefit for my writing (again, rubbish at fiction, pretty good at non). The systems which allow you to have character sketches and the like linked to the book really help when you put a book down for a month and try to remember what minor character they just mentioned.

If you're getting what you wish out of this, then by all means continue. I know my field relies on my customer trusting my judgment and analysis being the difference between their success and failure, but I don't get the game plan here.

In any case, your decision to keep at this for your integrity and passion is not something I'll second guess. I will, again, question commercial interest, but you're more successful than I am at writing fiction, so I'll trust your judgment.
Yes, that's exactly what a true narcissist would say. I remain vindicated :)
jhammerwhich  2014-09-02 11:42
SJH is now cutting and pasting his righteous indignation. This is illustrated in his reply to Rowley Birkin's suggestion of an alternative final sentence; "Today's the day the teddy bears had their pics nicked".

Steve's non sequitur is somewhat disrespectful. Birkin's suggestion of an alternative ending to the teddy bear story is perfectly valid and made in good faith, writer to writer.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 13:19
No, no, no...that was a reply to Birthday Boy. Mr. Birkin's question didn't really relate to my book and I saw no reason for a response.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 13:53
Author's Big Mistake
Steve makes Anne Rice look saner
but that's relative

Seriously Steve, what on earth are you hoping to achieve by this epic frothing rant? You need to step away from the keyboard.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:19
You need to learn how to mind your own business. I have my reasons for being here and I've stated them quite clearly. You are the one frothing with anger or emotional unsettlement or some such disturbance that makes you seek out opportunities to contribute...what? Nothing.

Anne Rice is rather like ME on steroids, don't you think? She went right after a cliquish group of reader/reviewers at Amazon. I would never do such a thing (not that Ms. Rice didn't have a legitimate complaint). Like I said, I would never tell a reader that they should like anything I've written. That's a personal preference for a reader. My argument was with a dishonest review of my work by a PROFESSIONAL REVIEWER.
You need to learn how to write.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 15:18
But you are posting on a public forum. You are not minding your own business, you're shaking all your dirty laundry out. Because this isn't private, I get to comment on it. If you don't want me to, stop being a twat on a public site.

Seriously man, get a grip. And perhaps google the phrase Author's Big Mistake.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:30
Again, comment from an idiot troll who can't back up his snide, drive-by insult. SHOW me!!!!!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:35
You can comment all you want; but don't presume to tell me you know what's best for moi! That's what I meant.

WHAT dirty laundry?

And why would you suppose I would value anything the idiot trolls have to say when they can't put a coherent paragraph together explaining WHERE my refutation of the Reviewer failed?
Show you? You've already done that by posting excerpts. You can't seem to be at all objective about your work, though.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 15:37
Her, darling, her. And way to edit yoru post after I answered. Point is, you are acting like a pillock. If you want to carry on and always be remembered as That Dude That Went Mental...fine. No skin off my nose.

Also lolling at the thought I am frothy. At least I'm being rational...

PS: Dirty laundry? Ever heard the phrase "better to stay silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt"? Your dirty laundry is what you are spewing all over this thread.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:38
You're babbling. SHOW me!!! One example would do. Just one!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:39
You're an idiot!

And yes, writing is re-writing.

SHOW me where my argumentation has been irrational. One example from the top of the thread would do. Just one!!!
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 15:43
Show you what? Sorry, I haven't turned on my telepathy today, you'll need to actually say.

ETA: If you mean refutation -- the reviewer posted a subjective opinion. How do you prove that? It's like asking someone to prove why they like blue. Although for my money, you proved that the reviewer was right about workmanlike. And he was being kind.

The point is you CAN'T refute a subjective opinion with proof. You can only disagree. Maybe you should look up subjective while you are looking up Author's Big Mistake.
Examples have already been shown. Go back and look at your excerpts. Each is a fine example of how not to write well.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:46
TFB: OH my god, you ARE an idiot!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:46
Don: Coward! I challenge you: take a passage and explain why it sucks. Can you do something as simple as that? You seem so sure of yourself; surely you can put a few sentences together.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:49
C'mon, Don. Think for yourself. Be a man; not a sheep. My writing is terrible; all you have to do is take the most egregious passage and SHOW me WHY it sucks. Be courageous!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 15:52
Now watch this carefully folks!

Have you ever seen ANYONE put himself on the line like I just did? Would any of you have the courage to do it. It's actually easy to do IF you have the ace-in-the-hole.

So, watch carefully as, yet again, NO ONE will meet my challenge.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 15:54
Do you really want me to? Because I will. And I am not as gentle as the poor reviewer in this case. And in case you are wondering, my credentials include 8 published books, three on contract, with big publishers.

If I critique you it will not be pretty (I've seen worse if that helps). So, I am unwilling because you seem to have a clear problem with critique and what's the point if you aren't going to listen? Waste of my valuable time.

But I have taken my time to try to explain to you that you are doing yourself a MAJOR disservice here by acting like a total bell end. It may well be too late -- this has gone so viral it's untrue -- but please, PLEASE, step away from the keyboard. Take a deep breath, think dire thoughts if you need to, but don't do this. All you are doing is digging yourself a bigger hole.
Stonecipher Beadsman  2014-09-03 12:22
If we are to understand that you are using this forum as a "writing exercise," doesn't any one of your, I don't know, billion comments suffice as an example?
As cited earier: "My eyes fell lazily from the paper and out the window..."

Horrible. Laughable.

(And I suppose I should be sure of myself. I've been making my living as a writer for over 30 years. I never once had to self-publish.)
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:04
Sorry for the delay. Had to check with a few folks on my end....

Do I not sound serious to you? Have at it, my dear. Take any of the referenced passages above that I used to justify my remarks to the reviewer; deconstruct it; tell me why it sucks and how it could be better.

But since you are issuing warnings, I feel it is only fair to tell you that this book has "been through the gauntlet" (as a published author you should be familiar with that process) and your critique had better be good and it had better be thorough because a few university professors will be judging YOU.
You grossly overwrite nearly everything, and the more overdone, the more you seem to be in love with it. You show no objectivity when it comes to your work, though, so it's really quite pointless to try and explain. You either cannot see, or an obstinate part of you refuses to see. You are in denial. And if someone once told you you write well, they did you a disservice.
Puddin  2014-09-02 16:09
Soaked with gasoline
Career funeral pyre waits
Stephan strikes the match
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 16:14
Uh huh. Add in vague imagery/imagery that doesn't make sense, inconsistency of tone/voice, needless repetition, swathes of telling us things that would be better shown (I am not a die hard Show At All Costs person, a good tell can works wonders. Here it's just passive meh. Would be better shown) and overall blandness of prose. Fitzgerald it is not -- he used pinpoint accuracy with his telling details, not a diffuse and vague mass. Unsure how passages move story forward but that could be a context thing I suppose. Author is clearly in love with his words and needs to learn to kill his darlings. I have tied to be kind here.

On the plus side, the author knows how to use an apostrophe? I've critted stuff where they didn't...

Oh, I'm being judged on a five minute perusal of the pieces you posted as your "best"? I await with bated breath....

However I think I can cope without going into a meltdown all over the internet.

ETA Is anyone else thinking Dunning Kruger?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:13
Ok, folks - look away TFB - I admit this is way too much fun and so exciting but, please, don't judge me for what's about to happen. She volunteered and should be commended for her courage. Let's just wait and see what she's got.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 16:17
I'm all atwitch. Is it a puppy? Or a horse? A DRAGON! Please tell me it's a dragon.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:18
Wait, are you telling me that's it? Your cursory remarks, which you do not support with textual reference, is to be taken as serious critique. You are laughable. I made many lengthy, considered remarks way upstream just off the top of my head and supported each with reference. I expected a serious author who offered a serious critique to take, oh, at least 30 minutes to put some ideas down. You're a writer and won't do that AFTER YOU OFFERED a critique.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:21
Here, I'll make it easy for you. Tell me what's unclear in this:

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.'

Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 17:02
Is that it?

Dude, I told you it would be a waste of my time to do anything indepth because I knew you wouldn't listen. Why do a line by line when you'll just come up with some other excuse

Besides, it didn't TAKE thirty minutes to see the problems with it. And your lengthy shit up top? Lengthy yes, Just no.
And here was me, waiting for my dragon. I'm sad now AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT! I shall now go and invade Europe, because, because! *lays hand on fore head in show of artistic temperament.*

The text speaks for itself -- isn't that what you say? In this case, the text speaks very poorly.

PS what happened to these learned people looking at what I said? I was looking forward to that.

PS _ I was attempting to be kind, If I gave a full would not be. So be grateful for what you get.
Runs from silly, to boring, and back to silly, while being oddly flat throughout. Oh, and it should have read "The howls and growls of derision would replay..."
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:30
You are a fraud and a coward. Tell me what you have written and I will give it an honest critique. I will download the opening chapters and get back to you asap. After I show you how it's done, perhaps you can do the same?

EDIT: And you are a liar: I was open and honest and told you I welcomed your critique knowing that THOUSANDS would be reading it...and you come back with something your university professor would never let you get away with and lied saying I wasn't really interested in what you had to say?
Puddin  2014-09-02 16:29
Overly wordy. Cleaner to say "...drag him..." than to awkwardly toss his full name in there. And get rid of "back up onto the dock." Just "onto the dock" dude. Don't need the "back up." That's the first sentence. And any beginning writing group would tell you that.

You don't REALLY want to do this, do you? This is why you don't have an editor. Because you're going to disagree, vehemently, with every critique. (See: everything you've written thus far.)
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 16:34
Well I would. But I don't want my name being associated with "fucking fruitloop author". I'm sure you, as a professional, understand that.

But hey, dude, I usually charge for my crits. You got a five minute freebie. Maybe you should listen to it. I suspect you'll stay in your own delusional land of "I am awesome" which is why I'm not bothering to do a more indepth crit, because what the feck is the point?

PS I Demand these learned people come and refute my crit! PS not one of your sockpuppets please. They are painfully easy to spot because the voice is the same.

PPS I never had a university professor, You don't need one to write well. But I can see how that MFA program really helped you...and I didn't lie, because you have no interest in what I actually said. Do you?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:37
Puddin is... off the list
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:34
So, there you have it folks! No substantive critique; lies; innuendo; and repeated insult.
Puddin  2014-09-02 16:39
So my two flaws in your opening sentence don't count because of ... reasons. :) List related reasons. Noted!
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 16:37
NO, there you have it, delusional author refuses critique because he is a special snowflake and the world does not understand his genius!


Get over yourself. You're not a god-awful writer. But you're not great either. Why not at least try to improve? If you don't well...

PS I have not lied. Or used innuendo. Do get your facts straight
How about me, am I off the list? I see you chose to ignore what I told you.
Christopher  2014-09-02 16:39
why would he start now?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-02 16:39
You are pure bullshit, lady, without a shred of integrity - or courage. Total fraud!

OFF the list and unworthy,
Christopher  2014-09-02 16:40
you're not deep enough yet?
Puddin  2014-09-02 16:41
Ahh! I think "off the list" = "dead to me." Whew! You'd think a genius writer could be a little clearer regarding his intent!

Why'd I get put in the special pile, Stephan? I offered you that critique you begged for!

You are a complex man, my friend!
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 16:42
I am honoured. Do tell me why. Because I have tried to talk you off this cliff and you have given me nothing but insult.

SO all bets are off

Go on then.

PS where are these learned people to refute my crit? Were you lying about them. *is shocked* *not really*

*waits for obvious sockpuppet to appear*
Still no reply to my last couple of posts...
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 16:57
Shocked, Don?

Can't say I am. I'm sure he's just composing his best "cutting" response

I was promised a
special something. Instead a
shitty response. Sad.
Not shocked, just disappointed. I was looking forward to being put in my place. Heh.
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 17:07
Gosh, you too?

We could have a little "waiting to be insulted" party. I have tequila. You?

Alternatively we could have a cosy chat about something that isn't SJH. I mean, it;s not like he's the centre of the universe. What genre do you write? I'm mostly fantasy though I dabble in both historical and romance. Kind of tempted by thriller and lit fic as well.
Puddin  2014-09-02 17:04
Critiqued one sentence
Stephan took me off his list
Keats would have done that!
Single malt scotch. Cheers!
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 17:09
Now that sounds like a party waiting to happen!

Cheers, Don!
I was labeled as an idiot more than once as well as "just plain stupid." It seems an "Off with his head!"... I mean "OFF the list!" pronouncement is in order.
Horror/dark fantasy, mostly. (In response to TFB.)
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 17:14
Oh I am an idiot, I freely admit that.But I'm an idiot wit Big Five contracts and award noms. I'm an idiot for everything, except writing.

Would you care for a snifter? As we're partying?
Teddina Fforbes-Bearington (Mrs)   2014-09-02 17:18
Ohh I love a bit of horror. And fantasy is my first love.

P speaking of which, on this side of the Atlantic it's probably time for bed. But it was lovely to meet you both, even if it was under such odd circumstances.
Back at ya.

Sleep well in the knowledge that you've done a fine day's work.
Mattydor  2014-09-02 16:39
See that Bears game last week? Hell of a game. Hell of a game.
Puddin  2014-09-02 16:43
Did those bears have eyes that rolled over the page and out the window? Cause I'd Tivo the shit out of that!
Misclanius  2014-09-02 17:30
Can't. Stop. Laughing.
What a well played callback. Bravo.
Daniel Ross  2014-09-02 16:48
I don't care if this book is the greatest book in English canon. The way the author has responded to comments has guaranteed I will never buy one of his books.
All these comments, and no one's pointed out the bad Italian yet? "Maladora" isn't a word, and even if it was, the definite article should be "la" (feminine) not "il" (masculine).

Seriously though, this is one of the best examples of how not to respond to a review I've ever seen.
Christopher  2014-09-02 18:36
Bad Italian is the least of the issues. I bought the book for my nephew (only 2.99 murican) and this morning he called me and said as soon as I answered the phone he said "What did I do to you?" and hung up on me. Kid has a wicked sense of humor.
From SJH's self review on his website(regarding the Italian): "Mr. Harper also flubs a little Italian (e.g. una momento should be either un momento or uno momento); but when first reading "Il Maladora di Venezia" (what the local press has named the Venetian crime spree), I thought he had erred here as well. However, later in the story, prima ballerina Natalia Navritolova translates this as "Venice's misfortune" and I realized the author's intent. Of course, Sfortuna di Venezia would be the correct Italian translation; but Harper is writing for an English-reading audience and chose Maladora (to indicate "Malady") taking liberty with the language: the closest Italian word would be Maleodore, meaning "foul-odor" which was clearly not the author's intent. In this context, then, the author took a bit of poetic license to make things clearer; and clarity of intent through language is always the high mark of literary art."
Puddin  2014-09-02 18:55
What's Italian for sock puppet?
Stephen- your pursuit of your reviewer is based on what seem to be two fundamentally mistaken precepts-
1) The belief that said review was liable to be a net negative for your enterprise. It was not. The enemy of authors in the nether reaches of the publishing ecosystem is obscurity, not imperfect receptions- and this review is on balance favorable. You are assailing a party that had enhanced your prospects.
2) That the description of your styling as passable was inaccurate. There is a distinct tinge to writing from those who have come to appreciate adjectives, often great literature, but have not mastered restraint or creativity in their application- rendering it 'overheated' or 'purple.' It is not an incurable condition- but it generally requires one to empty their cup and consider the opinions of other readers at face value. That quiet, stoic consideration is tremendously painful, and it is often the barrier between the hobbyist and the professional. Kill your darlings, as they say.
Barely Here  2014-09-02 23:45
Ya know, even if every one of Mr. Harper points here is completely true, and they aren't, it wouldn't make any difference. You can't argue a book good.

If you find yourself in a position where you have to explain what makes your work high art, then it isn't. You did not reach your goal, even if you have the elements of it.

Simple as that.
Andrew  2014-09-03 00:15
I still find it hilarious that Stephen dismisses criticism as unfounded ad hominems, then continues to insult the posters with unfounded ad hominems.
Christopher  2014-09-03 06:43
Hey dood, back off. Keats did it too...
Duane Trilby Jr  2014-09-03 04:40
What's wrong with this doofus, anyway? I mean besides being fixated on teddy bears and being a poor author?
Zilveren Griffel  2014-09-03 08:39
So I read through the whole comment section (it was a great way to waste some time) but skipped the writer's comments based on the fact that I couldn't stand his prose.

I guess that shows that I shouldn't bother with the book either.

Thank you guys for the entertainment though. I loved the haiku's and some of you were very good in pointing out shortcomings, but also gave advice on how to improve such things. I'll keep that advice in mind for when my own book is ready to be published.
Andrew  2014-09-03 12:39
I love the haikus
My greatest accomplishment
Though they sound snarky
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 12:09
Ok, let's try this again with something simple and straightforward:

"When I came home to dinner my uncle had not yet been home. Still it was early. I sat staring at the clock for some time and when its ticking began to irritate me I left the room. I mounted the staircase and gained the upper part of the house. The high cold empty gloomy rooms liberated me and I went from room to room singing. "
Bemused  2014-09-03 12:13
It's James Joyce. Are you comparing yourself to him now too?
Christopher  2014-09-03 12:20
subjective opinion: verbose and a bit ponderous. When read aloud it sounds like a bad "Guy Noir, Private Eye" satire. But then again I'm just a consumer, the guy with the dollar.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 12:44
BEMUSED: No, of course not. It was a test. You passed! Now let's see if you can be objective and recognize the merits of just one of my arguments against dishonesty.

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?

A reviewer cannot call a character a "stereotypically clueless police detective" when he's the exact opposite. This is NOT a matter of opinion or interpretation. Objectivity is the opposite of Subjectivity. ROMEO AND JULIET is a Tragedy NOT a Comedy. Again, FACT not open to interpretation.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 12:39
Christopher writes about James Joyce's excerpt (from the UNIVERSALLY acclaimed short story ARABY):

"verbose and a bit ponderous. When read aloud it sounds like a bad 'Guy Noir, Private Eye' satire. But then again I'm just a consumer, the guy with the dollar."

Now watch how fast his comment disappears.
Here's what I learned from my writing group.
What you write and what others read is not always the same. Books take on a life of their own in the hands of the reader. No two individuals read the same book, and no person reads the same book twice.
If you intended Marcello to be worldly, but a reader (just one) ends up reading him as "stereotypically clueless," that's not necessarily a lie or wrong. That's how he read it. Misinterpretation is a risk we take as writers. Frankly, if someone managed to so badly misread one of my characters, I'd take it as a lesson that my characterization needs to be improved, or at least re-evaluated.
Look at other reviews. If others have said the same as Mr. Cohen, the fault is with you and your characterization. If other reviewers have not said the same thing, then it's just a quirk of Mr. Cohen's reading, and can be dismissed. Same with your other complaints of incorrectness against his critique.
Bemused  2014-09-03 12:54
Dude...stop. Do you think anyone else on earth cares about this, except you? Do you think that you are the subject of four Reddit threads, one Absolute Write thread, multiple Livejournal posts and a French newspaper article, all about ridiculous author meltdowns, because the characterization of your police inspector matters to anyone but you?

Obviously somebody told you once that your work was good and you have been clutching that to your little writerly breast. Good for you. But you cannot cling to that as if it were--ha--an ace in the hole forever. You have to constantly improve. You have to write harder and better. Otherwise you stagnate. And I gotta tell you, even though you'll scream I'm wrong, I'm seeing a lot of stagnation here.

You have clearly been obsessed with this story since the game company went down. That is a long time to spend with one story. Write something else. Write something better.

Move on.
Daniel Ross  2014-09-03 12:46
Or maybe it's possible he doesn't like James Joyce?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:42
DANI: No, no, no...some things are are just objectively true and have NOTHING to do with the author's intention. Basil Baker is a sleuth; he's not a burglar. Cordelia Pembridge-Howl (who helps Basil) is an Art Historian turned tour-guide; she's not a waitress in a bar. Loredan Marcello is a respected official; Mayor Vincenzo Gritti (who had failed to protect Venice) is not respected. Lady MacBeth is a murderous psychopath; she's not your Aunt Matilda.

Edit: Again, no, no, no: DISHONESTY CANNOT BE DISMISSED. Anyone defending such a position is not a decent human being. I seriously doubt you put up with dishonesty in your own life. DISHONESTY is not a matter of opinion...if something is true, it's true - and if you lie about it you are dishonest.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:42
DANIEL ROSS: Liking James Joyce is beside the point. While that may lead Christopher to steer away from Joyce, it doesn't mean his 'judgement' of Joyce's prose is valid. Some of Shakespeare's plays are difficult; but no one in his right mind would say he wasn't THE GREATEST WRITER IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
Your examples are inconsistent. 1, 2, and 5 are in fact objective. They indeed are facts. But, any fact the author intends won't be fact until he puts it in the reader's mind.

3 and 4 are about how the people in the book, and therefore how the audience, view the characters.

"Respect" is subjective. You've given us an example of how disrespected the Mayor is. Show us one where the people respect Marcello, defer to his opinion, ask for his advice, tip their hats to him on the street. Some contrast to the Mayor AquaOrso example.

Again, you may see it as fact in your mind, but if you didn't put it in the book properly, it's not going to be fact in the reader's mind.

And no, the quote about how he started as an attorney and got sick of it all doesn't count. SHOW me the respect he's earned from the people during his time on the force. Show me his cynicism in action.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:46
BEMUSED: You really haven't read this thread have you. I am not in the least interested in the book. I am interested in dishonest reviews polluting minds like yours. Believe it or not, I'm on your side.

EDIT: Hey, fool, I've been writing for 18 years and have done much more than VENICE UNDER GLASS with two more MultiTouch Fiction titles coming out this season alone. So stick your pious advice...THIS IS ON PRINCIPLE if your simple mind can comprehend such a notion. Oh, yeah... it's great fun and a challenging interactive writing exercise, too. So by all means, keep the material coming!

EDIT2: as usual with Internet Idiots and Trolls, they never do want to address specifics. I asked you a specific question about whether it was right for Mr. Cohen to insert falsehoods and you just passed right over it. What, not a thought in your head about a professional reviewer's journalistic ethics. SPEAK UP, MAN.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:30
DANI: Read the book...for chrissakes! You think I'm making this up when anyone who wasn't a lazy-ass could easily check for themselves?

Hey, here's a fact the author "wants to put in your head": VENICE UNDER GLASS has 58,000 words over 168 double-landscaped pages. That's right, it's a fact, WHETHER IT GETS IN YOUR HEAD OR NOT.

Who the hell is teaching you your nonsense literary theory?

And while we're on the subject, who taught you to value and defend dishonesty?
Bemused  2014-09-03 13:56
Real authors write the next book, Stephan. They don't wank about how lyrical their last book was on four month old reviews.

The only way you should be seeing this book is in the rear view mirror. You have two new books coming out? Great. When's the release date?
Like it or not, for most of us, truth is relative. It is subjective. Ten people can see the same fender bender and walk away with ten different "truths." Ask any policeman and he'll tell you how unreliable eye witness testimony is. We create our reality around us and that shapes what we see as true. There might be a universal "truth" but no one knows it. Not you. Not me. Not Mr. Cohen. Not any commenters or anyone. We all see the world through biased eyes.

I think you're out of line accusing Mr. Cohen of lying, when you have no proof that HE saw your characters one way and intentionally lied about them.
Of course you're not making this up. And no, I'm not going to spend the money I don't have (grad student here). But you presented a challenge. I answered and presented my own. You don't have to accept it. That's your right.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:14
BEMUSED: READ THE THREAD! My motivation is clear. I've explained it now three times. And book sales have spiked!

Btw, thanks for asking about the new titles. "Arabella" comes out end of September/Early October. "Hawaiian Remembrance" comes out for Christmas. Both titles include music; "Hawaiian Remembrance" however has six separate recording artists to negotiate with and is a bit more complicated on the licensing front.

EDIT: Hey, spend $0.99 and get my first book IN HIS IMAGE on the iBooks Store. "It's Jonathan Swift meets Richard Dawkins in a 'biblical' tale set in the not too distant future." A real thought provoker.

Mark Twain had this to say: "Of course, it's pure blasphemy...and I agree with every word in it."

Others were not so kind:

"While we find IN HIS IMAGE consistent with biblical teaching and Papal instruction, the author should be burnt at the stake, your Eminence." - Tomás de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor

"Repent!" - John the Baptist

“Save yourself!” - Jacob Marley
To the literary theory:

That is a fact that exists outside the book. When you write, you create a world inside your book. There, all things must be presented to the reader, otherwise, we won't know them.

To the honesty:

I believe in speaking and living truth. I also believe I cannot dictate what other people see, hear, or read. I believe that recognizing different perspectives and respecting those that see things in ways other than we do is essential to our growth as a race, and is the first step on the road to empathy.

Your assertion that I defend and value dishonesty is hyperbolic and based on the assumption that Mr. Cohen's review was dishonest, an assumption I do not share.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:30
DANI: Truth is relative? You're kidding, right? Ok, here's two truths (my favorites) that are ABSOLUTE:

1. The Earth revolves around the Sun.

2. ROMEO AND JULIET is not a Comedy.

Oh, and one more in case you forgot: you are a human being. Use your brain and start acting like one.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:31
DANI: Then download the Free Preview Sample. It contains the first six of twenty-four chapters and clearly shows the characterization we've been discussng. Do I have to hold your little hand through all of this? Jesus!
Bemused  2014-09-03 14:04
So when is the release date of these new books?
How do you KNOW I'm a human being? We have not met. I could be an alien from Mars who is experimenting with human emotions.

Also, I'm sure some, sick, unhinged person actually does see Romeo and Juliet as a comedy, and finds teenage suicide antics hilarious. For his reality, it's a comedy. Which is a tone, incidentally, backed up by the funny moments in the first half of the play. You could talk to him all day about the tragic nature of it, but he'd still be just as entertained by Juliet killing herself.
Hahaha. Just as you see this as fun, so do I. This is an interesting thought experiment, which is actually proving my point. I'm not going to bother reading it for a fun little thought experiment. Not when I have Terry Pratchett's books waiting at home for me!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:39
DANI: Do I sound stupid to you? Have I in any way been unclear? You on the other hand appear to be rather stupid at this point. You tell me that my examples of TRUTH are 'outside the book' yet YOU MENTION A FENDER BENDER WITNESSED IN THE REAL WORLD?

BTW, if your lazy-ass actually read this thread you would see I provided ample evidence of Mr. Cohen deliberately stating falsehoods about VENICE UNDER GLASS. In other words, he deliberately lied about the content of the book.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:31
Mercutio  2014-09-03 13:28
Romeo and Juliet is not a comedy? I'd beg to differ.
Christopher  2014-09-03 13:33
Nope. It's amusing that you cribbed Joyce; I said pretty much the same in a high school book report. But surely you aren't comparing yourself to Mr. Joyce.

edited to add: please refer to the first part where I said "subjective opinion"

Rant on, kind sir, rant on.
You sound stubborn and prideful, but not stupid. And while I disagree with your argument, you've been clear enough about it. Why do you ask?
Daniel Ross  2014-09-03 13:38
Is it just me, or is using a fact that was, until very recently, regarded as blasphemy (that the Earth revolves around the sun) exactly proving our point?
Mr. Harper: How are those two examples connected?

One is about the subjective nature of what we see vs what other people see.

One is about the world created inside a work of fiction.

They were used in two different parts of the argument, on two different points.

Mr. Ross:

Totally agree. Good point.

How is the high life in Verona these days?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:58
CHRISTOPHER: Read the comment above. You're still on the list...but close to banishment.
I have read the thread.
Are you referring to your list of comments up at the top? Where he called your style "juvenile" and you confused it with juvenile content? The drunken debauchery pantomime may have been mature in topic, but its style is another matter.

Or where you tried to refute his "stock" character assessment by describing an old ladybear? Because I definitely read her as a bear version of Lady Catherine de Bourgh from Austen's Pride and Prejudice. So, stock character, I'd have to agree on at least that one example.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:56
DANIEL ROSS: You are being deliberately disingenuous. If you want to stay on the need to do better.
And Christopher got a warning, too? Where was my warning about the list?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:55
DANI: Oh, so now you want me to take you seriously? After you've just shown your schizoid personality above? I don't mind spending time; I just hate wasting it. Grad school is wasted on you; you won't learn a thing.

Unworthy...and off the list.
Daniel Ross  2014-09-03 14:09
Do I win something if I stay on "the list?" Or does that threat mean absolutely nothing at all?
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 13:59
MERCUTIO: says the dead guy so 'comically' skewered in the play.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:33
DANIEL ROSS: if you stay on the list, I will enlighten you. But you have to ask the right questions? Do you know any questions?
Oh, and I had the perfect example about truth vs. lying vs. fact and colorblindness all ready!

And at what point did I invite you to not take me seriously?

Since you set the precedent for non-diagnosing:
" lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, and apathy."

How do you know about my relationships or lifestyle? And if anything my discussion with you should have proved I was the opposite of apathetic.

Truth be told, I was hoping for more from you. More logic, perhaps. More willingness to discuss instead of insult. We were really getting somewhere.
Hey, why did Daniel Ross get a warning and I didn't? I was just suddenly off the list! I call foul, Mr. Harper.
Michelle  2014-09-03 14:03
The detective is not a real person. He was written by you in such a way that led the reviewer to see him as a stereotypically clueless detective. That is how he can state this. It is not a fact that your fictional character is worldly or cynical. Just as it is not a fact that he is clueless. The reviewer made those conclusions based on your writing of him.

Your comparison to tragedy vs. comedy makes no sense. We are not discussing overall literary style/form. You failed to describe the detective character in the way you imagined him to be, plain and simple.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:43
MICHELLE: Sorry, I don't remember if you are on the list or off...but after this show of stupidity and cluelessness, you are OFF THE LIST!

OBJECTIVE FACT: Loredan Marcello is written as a worldy, serious, cynical and competent character - and the most widely respected public official in Venice. ACTION in the novel SHOWS this. This is not subject to interpretation. The reviewer lied. I am not lying. Check out the free Preview Sample yourself...and see for yourself. How the hell do you know that I "failed to describe the character in the way I imagined" if you haven't read the book. Oh, yeah, it's because you are a blind fool who fears challenging the authority of a reviewer on the INTERNET. You and your ilk are pathetic...and UNWORTHY of my attention!
That's what I tried explaining to him earlier. He didn't get it. Welcome to the "off the list" group. You're in good company.
Daniel Ross  2014-09-03 14:44
Yes, that internet reviewer has been such a present and ominous force in this series of comments, hasn't he? We wouldn't want to step on his toes in case he strikes us off his very own list!
(Also, no, that's not an objective fact, but if you haven't learned that by now, I certainly won't succeed in convincing you)
I certainly hope you're using "ominous" sarcastically.
Daniel Ross  2014-09-03 14:51
I used "present" sarcastically as well
Why didn't Michelle get a warning? And are you not actually keeping a physical list? Because I totally imagine you viciously scratching names off as they begin to out-maneuver you. That's a disappointment.
Christopher  2014-09-03 15:11
Please note that I was only giving a personal subjective opinion. Not a literary criticism at all. I'm not a writer, but a professional musician; I will stay away from from the literary criticism and stick with how it personally comes across to me. As I said previously, I'm just the guy voting with my dollar.
The book is valued at $2.99. Enough said.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 12:41
I refer you to this FREE multimedia book (DIGITAL DUBLINERS) produced by Joyce scholars: />

Price $0.00: Quality: fantastic. Enough said!

To confuse PRICE and VALUE is REALLY ignorant, is it not?
Mercutio  2014-09-03 13:52
So, I have gathered my thoughts and my haiku. You can find them here:
Mercutio  2014-09-03 13:54
And for the record, yes, I am Andrew. I am Spartacus. I am everyone.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:22
...and off the list! But before I banish thee:
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:22
ANDREW: Of course you can name a new genre you fool:

Although the term "abstract expressionism" was first applied to American art in 1946 by the art critic Robert Coates, it had been first used in Germany in 1919 in the magazine Der Sturm, regarding German Expressionism. In the United States, Alfred Barr was the first to use this term in 1929 in relation to works by Wassily Kandinsky.
You're being inconsistent with your list policies, Mr. Harper. It's almost as if you're making it up as you go.
I believe the idea put forth was that one should not apply new genre's to one's own work. In both your examples, the genre was applied by someone who was not the creator of the work.

I would suggest that this is because, in general, creators are likely to prioritise their intention in creating a work over other's reading of it. Since categorisation is generally an organising principle which helps with the discovery and understanding of works by others, the non-authorial viewpoint tends to have more utility.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 15:03
Okay, if I MUST repeat myself for the lazy-asses who don't want to read, let's talk about DISHONESTY and Deliberate MISCHARACTERIZATION in Mr. Cohen's review of VENICE UNDER GLASS.

#1 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  2014-09-03 14:52
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.
How was he supposed to know the reasoning behind your decision? All he had to go on was your book, which was divided into chapters, but did not use the ToC as would be expected. Did you include a note that explained your stylistic choice, that Mr. Cohen ignored in favor of lying about your iBooks skill?

If you're expecting him to revise his review, the proper thing would have been to e-mail him privately, and explain (not go on a comment rant). He might have been willing to do an edit if you'd handled it professionally. But without outside explanation, his judgment of the ToC choice is reasonable.
There's a difference between how chapter headings are presented in the body of the text and in the table of contents.

The reviewer's issue is that the table of contents did not work as he expected; your response seems to be about the way chapters are presented in the body text.

Is it impossible to present the body text as you wish and retain a detailed table of contents? That sounds like a limitation of iBooks Author.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:53
#2: 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.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 14:56
#3: 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?
Are you just re-posting your comments from above? Can we get a moderator on this?

Edit: okay, he's being actually original now. Never mind.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 15:03
Now, let’s look at three profound misunderstandings in Mr. Cohen's review.

#1: "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."

This clearly marks the reviewer as an unqualified literary critic : all the reviews of children's books and YA lit that appear in The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal etc, are written by adults who are not members of those demographics and these professional reviewers are not hazarding guesses.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 15:11
#2 & #3: "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."

Here’s where Mr. Cohen shows he is simply out of his depth.

On one hand, my friends might support me; but VENICE UNDER GLASS will not appeal to them BECAUSE they are my friends. My best friend loves Dystopian Fiction. He might say, “Well, done.” But he is wholly uninterested in a book featuring teddybear characters.

On the other hand, my friends are no different from your friends. In fact, it is likely that at some point, some of my friends (or their friends) might meet you or some of your friends. So Mr. Cohen simply does not understand human psychology when he says that only MY friends etc, etc.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 16:15
Now, here is where things start to get interesting and show Mr. Cohen's true colors. Note where he says:

"[He] limits himself mostly to static artwork placed on the page, and occasionally indulges in a short (2-5 second) video."

Another reviewer stated "The book contains illustrations and plenty of animations."

However, Mr. Cohen was being disingenuous and perverse: there are 20 animations (one for every 8 pages of the book) and 17 of these are animation loops showing the characters and scenes of Venice (including the MOVING canal waters). Animation loops that require only 48 to 96 frames are NEVER described as 2 to 4 second videos. They are looped animations!

Note also, Mr. Cohen's use of the word INDULGE to indicate that the 20 animations were kind of, oh, just thrown in there for no particular purpose, when in fact THEY ARE CRUCIAL TO THE SCENES AND THE STORYTELLING.

Mr. Cohen's contempt is showing.
When the sentence quoted is read in the context of the entire paragraph, it takes on a different meaning than you have presented. Paraphrased, he said you chose well and provided a visually attractive book without extraneous clutter. He did not say you should not have used the animation or images that you used, or that they were inferior or unnecessary.

"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 you wanted to convince us that this review wasn't entirely honest, this would have been the place to start, as it is actually the most objective complaint you've leveled. But then someone would have pointed out Anton's very logical counter argument.
I'm pretty sure he was honestly praising your restraint.

Just as websites which only occasionally indulge in the tag are more palatable examples of the emergent use of hypertext, so your good taste in using static artwork and occasional short video is being pointed out
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 16:09
Now consider that Mr. Cohen also inserted personal remarks that had no place in a review:

"...turning the stock characters (possibly based on friends and acquaintances) into stuffed bears as an in-joke."

Who cares how a writer comes up with characters or who they are based on? Note how insulting the tone is about these wholly ORIGINAL creations!

The review drips contempt. It's a masterful use of damning with faint praise, even in the begrudging final paragraph:

"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."

Thx for a kick in the ass out the door, Cohen.
Mr. Harper, I've gotten worse critiques from my friends. To me, there's no contempt in here. It reads more like the review equivalent of a shrug. He's neither damning nor praising your book. This would probably be a 3/5 star review on Amazon.

And he called your book attractive. That's not contempt.
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 16:13
Mr. Cohen's contempt is elsewhere demonstrated:

"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."

YET, that 'stakeout' map has three other iterations in different formats, one of which expands full-screen! So, he picked out the one thing he would have done but failed to mention the 40 other instances of advanced widget use.

And this is a guy who’s written a book on iBooks Author!?!
Stephan J Harper  2014-09-03 15:47
Now, the final two pieces of the puzzle:

#1. Note in two posts above, Mr. Cohen's phrase:

"“Venice Under Glass” is hardly a masterpiece..."

That is an odd construction, is it not? Why would it occur to him to use those words? Why indeed! Reference the PRESS RELEASE link at the top of the review, the Press Release he is given by his editor. The Press Release starts out:

--"Venice Under Glass ushers in a new era in literary fiction with a book created on Apple's iBooks Author multimedia publishing platform and represents a singular achievement in contemporary fantasy destined to sit alongside Alice In Wonderland and Gulliver's Travels.--"

"That's the shelf I was aiming for," says Stephan J Harper, the book's author and illustrator.

Mr. Cohen, decided to take me down a peg...simple as that.
I'm not seeing a press release link at the top of the review. Could you please provide it?
Christopher  2014-09-03 16:03
I'm not trying to be mean or even critical here, but to be honest we as artists, writers, musicians, etc. don't get to decide when we have produced groundbreaking masterpieces. Only those that come after us get to make that pronouncement. If in say 10 years readers point to "Venice Under Glass" and say "that's da bunny!" you will have been successful with this book. For example, we look back at Nirvana's "Nevermind" and point to it as a pivot point that changed rock music for decades. Personally I can't stand Nirvana, but I won't try to deny that they shook my world when I was just getting started in the industry.
I suspect that this is the reason that press releases rarely state that the work in question is destined to sit alongside great works - it invites negative comparisons, and is likely to instil prejudice in reviewers
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-09-03 16:24
Greetings, all. I'm the publisher of TidBITS, and the guy who first passed that press release onto Michael, since he has worked in the ebook world longer than just about anyone (starting at Voyager in the very early 1990s) and he had written our own "Take Control of iBooks Author," so he had experience with what it was possible to do in iBooks Author. Plus, I both edited and published Michael's review, so the buck stops with me. I stand behind what he wrote, though it was certainly Stephan Harper's right to disagree with Michael's opinions.

We have been shocked by how this comment thread has gone viral, and we've been watching it closely, because many of the posts have crossed over the line of civility we require of commenters. It was so unusual, though, that we let it grow organically despite the vilification that Harper continually heaped on Michael's review and increasingly on his person.

Until now. Harper's most recent abuse-laden post - which I have deleted - drew in details about people in Michael's personal life that I won't allow to appear here. There are discussions about this situation elsewhere on the Internet that will undoubtedly continue, but I'm closing comments on this article.