All posts by James R. Barnes


I read a lot of indie/self-published books. Many of them are great stories that I am glad I took a chance on, whether for the very interesting plot, some cool characters, finding an original idea or even a great take on a classic idea. One thing that has never been a real deal breaker for me is grammar. I always hope that the author took the time to proofread, had someone proof/edit it for them or even had the book professionally edited. It is something I hope for, but I can work around it. I go through the reviews before buying a book, just to see what others are saying about the story. Sometimes I find some info in there that turns me away from the book, even if it has had mostly favorable marks. For me, this is usually when a reviewer reveals a bit about the book that just does not agree with me.  I will not go into specifics, because there is not a set of rules that I go by. It’s just more of a feeling I get when I am going through what others thought of the book. I never know what will turn me away.

One thing that I have never let discourage me is the reviews mentioning grammar or editing. There are plenty of readers out there that this is a real showstopper. They are completely turned off by a book that has not been edited, especially when it seems that the writer did not even proofread their own work. It pulls them out of the story, ruins the flow or just plain disgusts them. I can understand this. I don’t let it bother me that badly, but even I have read books that I remember getting frustrated about. There is no way that the author proofread what they had written. Very simple mistakes: where instead of were, their for there, words missing. Homonym, Homophone, Homograph. I did not really remember these or the other common errors from my high school English, but it was something I have always been able to pick out when I am reading. These are things that seemed to jump out at me as I read, so there is no possible way the person writing could have missed them if they had just went back over what they had written. They must have been in such a hurry to publish that they did not bother. Very amateurish. Yes, I know I am an amateur at writing, but still…

Then I turned my finished book over to someone else to edit. I knew that they would be busy with corrections, because I was struggling a little with certain things. Mainly dialogue, comma placement and when to capitalize a particular word; simple fixes. I got the story back and started on revisions. Talk about an eye opener. The book was littered with these same amateurish mistakes. Six in the first chapter alone, and I had reread the first half of the book fifty times (no exaggeration). Silly mistakes that should have jumped right off of the page, but I had passed over them multiple times. It was a very humbling experience, to say the least. So now I have even more tolerance for those people that have these types of errors in their writing. Not everyone is as fortunate as me to have someone that can act as an editor, and it is likely that the majority of us self-published (or soon to be) writers can not afford the professional services available. I am trying to be more vigilant in my second book, but I know there will still be some of these errors present (there are probably plenty in this post). I can only do my best, and use this as a teaching moment to help me improve my writing.

I would love to hear your thoughts, or about similar experiences. Just reply below or click on the ‘contact‘ page.


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The Written World

Fantasy is the greatest genre to write in. Yes, I know. That is an only an opinion, and therefore subject to debate, but since it is my opinion and I am the one writing this, I will just go with it (feel free to make your case, too). I am not a professional, so you can take this with a grain of salt. I have only recently self-published my first book, but I have played around with many stories. Most of them were very short, and very short lived. So, I am not basing this on loads of book sales, or even a survey of successful authors. I am merely expressing how I feel about it. What other genre can you create whole races of beings, and fabricate whole new realities completely from your imagination.

What about sci-fi, you ask? Well for me, the science part of that term should bind you a little bit more strongly to reality. I know it is not always the case, but I believe beings and places in that genre need to be based (at least somewhat) on known qualities. You can speculate to your hearts desire, but you should still have to conform to what could actually be possible. If not, if you decide to make your aliens with a characteristic that completely defies any sense of reality… well, then you have moved into the realm of fantasy.

This, of course, still leaves near infinite possibilities. I am sure there are countless people who could tear this theory apart, but as I already stated; we are talking about an opinion. In fantasy the only thing that can hold you back is your own imagination. Your characters can be as normal, or as abnormal as you want. As long as you provide a frame of reference, then not even the sky is the limit. If you want your fierce male dragon to sing in a falsetto, while he breathes venomous peanut butter and jelly all over the enemy (and no, this not a character I would put in a book… probably), then go for it. Weird, but it’s fantasy. You can do that. Your worlds can fly in the face of logic or reality. They can have magic and technology at the same time. The hero can be larger than life, or as small as a thimble. Your world can be any time, any place, and anywhere… or none of these as we understand them in the real world. As long as you provide context, everything is possible.

My first book is in a traditional fantasy setting with many recognizable character and scene types, so this sentiment is not so prevalent. However, there are many stories that I have played around with this concept, and if you just let your imagination have free reign, then it can be a lot of fun. Hopefully, I will be able to let some these stories see the light of day in the future. At the end of the day, that is why I am doing this. I enjoy making stuff up, and would like to share with you.


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Starting Somewhere.

I have been told, and have told myself, that “you have to start somewhere”. I have always loved to read. Losing myself in a story, whether it was an epic fantasy or modern thriller, has been a favorite pastime since I was a teenager. I loved the idea of creating new worlds, new adventures, and new characters. I have toyed with the desire to be one of these creators myself, but just could not take that final step. There was no way I could create something worthy of my favorite stories, so why even try. After playing around with short stories I wrote and discarded just as quickly, and living with certain characters in my head for years, I read something that finally gave me that extra push. It was nothing I had not heard before, so I do not know if it was just the right time or circumstance, but I realized there was really nothing stopping me. So I started to “write the story I wanted to read”. I had no idea if I could keep going or even come up with a storyline that could be novel worthy, or even something that would make sense to another person. I just wanted to write. So I did, and the next thing I knew, I did not want to stop writing. Ninety thousand words later, I am getting ready to self-publish my first book in a series, and have already started on book two. I still have a lot of work to do, and I have no idea if I will be successful from a published author standpoint, but personally I have already achieved a sense of accomplishment. My first book is called ‘A Soldier’s Honor’. It is a traditional fantasy with heroes and villains, swords and sorcery, and lots of character(s). I hope that others will read and enjoy, but as for me… it is my Somewhere, and I have enjoyed every minute.


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