Tag Archive | purpose

The suffering of children

Imagine if you will that you are a child living in a beautiful location, rolling hills, lush greenery, ancient trees that have been around for many centuries. The hills and valleys are scattered with all manner of wild flower and animals both wild and farm.

Because your government hasn’t invented welfare and support for young families yet and also hasn’t regulated wages, your parents can’t earn enough to keep you all in food and clothing let alone lodgings. The only answer is for you to work as well.

On a hot summer’s day, the fourth of July, the sun shining across that playground of nature all around you, instead of running out into the fields with your dog, your outdoor toys, your sporting goods, whatever you would prefer to be playing with, you head for the mine down in the valley.

You’re working away, shovelling the coal dug out by the menfolk into trestles hooked to a small, steam-driven transport engine to carry the coal back to the surface. You don’t hear the rumble of thunder above the surface, you’re so far under the ground and the work is noisy.

Around 3pm the alarm is sounded. The engine has ceased to work because water is leaking into it from somewhere above. Everyone is told to head back down to the tunnel away from the shaft. You’re a child. You’ve already worked since sunrise and you’re confused. You know it’s a long way to walk so you decide to wait until the engine is restored.

The engine does not seem to be getting fixed and you know that work has ceased in the mine. There are 40 of you together down there. You look to one another to figure out what to do. There is another way out that doesn’t rely on the engine. It will bring you out in the woods not far from the mine. That seems like the best idea.

Together you make your way along the tunnel towards that exit. You don’t know that the water coming in near the engine is the first hint that the stream flowing through the woods near the exit you’re heading for has burst its banks under the torrential rain that came with the storm clouds.

You’re making your way as quickly and carefully as you can because you know you’ll have to give account for yourself and quickly. You open a trap-door that serves to regulate air flow and go through. You get closer to daylight when the weight of water becomes too much for the structure at the surface to hold. It rushes through in a raging torrent and you’re knocked from your feet by a wall of surging water, washed back all the way to the trap-door where the water just keeps coming and gathering where it can’t get through the door, which opens upwards.

26 of you bear the brunt of it. It takes the breath from your lungs, it’s dark, you can’t see what’s happening but you can feel the force of water crushing the air from you and refusing to let you keep your head above it. Your small form cannot physically fight it. When the water clears and the adults return to the mine, they find the tragic remains of all 26 of you, drowned in darkness when you were so close to regaining the daylight.

The exit never reached by 26 children.

These events occurred at Huskar’s Mine, Silkstone, Barnsley, 4th July 1838.

I learned of this recently thanks to information made available by Daz Beattie on the Durham Mining Museum website.

So moved by the story and the spirit of those 26 children, I was compelled to go to the site of the memorial erected to them in the grounds of the parish church of Silkstone. I wanted to visit the place where there memory is strongest and bring them flowers to let them know I wish them love and brightness now they no longer have to face the darkness of the pit; Red, yellow and bright pink sweetheart roses tied by my own hand into a bouquet.

I would urge you to read the page on the DMM website. View the photographs of the memorial and on-going remembrance of the children who paid the ultimate sacrifice. A sacrifice that moved Queen Victoria herself to become involved in ensuring the welfare of women and children and that they no longer were forced by poverty to work in the mines. A silver lining to the darkest of clouds.

The inquest that followed showed some prejudice, almost placing blame upon the children for what was simply a terrible and utterly tragic natural event. It causes me to question why the mine wasn’t better protected against such an incident when the stream was known to be there.

Survivors told their tale as best they could. James Garnett, father of George aged 9 and Catherine aged 8 returned to the mine once the water had subsided and found his children but could not return them to the surface until all of them could be brought above ground.

Benjamin Mellow, a superintendent of the mine, stated at the inquest that the water could not have been more than six inches deep by the marks left. When I close my eyes and feel for those children, I can see a lot more than six inches of water. I can imagine only part of the terror they must have felt however brief it might have been.

On the monument in the cemetery is the following inscription:

“This monument was erected to perpetuate the remembrance of an awful visitation of the Almighty, which took place in this Parish on the 4th July 1838.

On that eventful day, the Lord sent forth his thunder, lightning, hail and rain, carrying devastation before them, and by a sudden eruption of water into the coal pits of R.C. Clarke Esq., twenty six beings whose names are recorded here were suddenly summoned to appear before their maker.

Reader remember:-

Every neglected call of God will appear against thee at the day of Judgement. Let this solemn warning then sink deep into thy heart and so prepare thee that the Lord when he cometh may find thee watching.”

Most importantly, here are the names and ages of the children as inscribed:

George Burkinshaw aged 10 years.
James Burkinshaw aged 7 years. (brothers).
Isaac Wright aged 12 years.

Abraham Wright aged 8 years. (brothers).
James Clarkson aged 16 years.
Francis Hoyland aged 13 years.
William Alick aged 12 years.
Samuel Horne aged 10 years.
Eli Hutchinson aged 9 years.
George Garnett aged 9 years.
John Simpson aged 9 years.
George Lamb aged 8 years.
William Womerfley aged 8 years.
James Turton aged 10 years.
John Gothard aged 8 years.

Catherine Garnett aged 8 years.
Hannah Webster aged 13 years.
Elizabeth Carr aged 13 years.
Anne Moss aged 9 years.
Elizabeth Hollin aged 15 years.
Ellen Parker aged 15 years.
Hannah Taylor aged 17 years.
Mary Sellars aged 10 years.
Elizabeth Clarkson aged 11 years. Who was buried at the feet of her brother.
Sarah Jukes aged 8 years.
Sarah Newton aged 8 years.

Heartbreaking memorial created more recently for the children of Huskar’s Mine.

We couldn’t find any marked graves for these children in the churchyard. But the monument refers to grave one and grave two. Mass pauper’s graves and nothing to mark them that we could find. Poor parents could not have afforded individual grave or headstone no doubt. Had I been the mine owner, I know for certain I would have paid for a respectful burial for each and every one of them.  Poor parents, this time in the sense that I feel their heartache both for their loss and how their beloved children’s remains were treated.

Unable to identify any other definite location to pay my respect, I lay the roses on the steps of the monument itself instead. As I walked back towards it to do that, I could barely make my feet take each step. I ran the tips of my fingers over each inscribed name and offered my heartfelt sorrow and genuine pain at their suffering under their seniors’ direction for the sake of money. It pains me now to think that it was a preventable tragedy had someone taken the time and paid the small costs of reinforcing the banks of the stream. Walking back towards the car the tears streamed down my face and I ached to my core for the merry band of bairns who were washed away from us.

I cannot help but feel for every single one of those little souls, toiling in the darkness only to be swept away from this mortal coil by a summer’s afternoon storm. When I think how children are so excited by the thunder, lightning and unusually heavy rain from such storms, the sadness only grows more poignant. Had I been alone there, I would have sunk to the ground and wept.

What upsets me too is the inscription telling that it was an almighty act of God and very nearly if not actually implying that those children were judged and smote from the earth as a result. That written by a religious leader. What comes to my mind is “suffer the little children to come unto me”. (Matthew 19:16, Luke 18:16).

So I still pray for their spirits that they continue to have a new life filled with light and complete absence of darkened tunnels, toil and hardship. We can never let society regress to the point where children live in such poverty again. And yet we seem to be doing just that.

Because I didn’t have the opportunity to meet them in the physical life, I suggested a carvery dinner and ate so much I could barely move, offering each taste and the enjoyment of a hearty meal to the children, just letting them know how grateful I am for the privilege of living in 2014 England, all the time knowing there are still many children the world over that don’t ever get a meal like that. We must steer towards change. Without the children, what future do we have?

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Remembrance

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Remembrance Sunday is upon us and like many the world over, I shall observe a moment’s silence to pay my respects to all those who fought and died or fought and were forever changed to preserve a way of life.

But I see an argument springing up over the colour of the poppy we should take as our symbol on this day. Some say we should abandon the red and instead wear white as a sign of peace. I think that misses the point entirely.

On Remembrance Sunday and every day of the year besides, we should take care to remember the horror of war, the death and pointless waste of life it brings. The red poppy was chosen because it grew in the face and in the place of such tragic bloodshed. If we do not take the time to remember the violence, what meaning has observing peace on this day?

I will not abandon this symbol of hope born out of hatred, of life born out of so much heinous bloodshed. Remembrance Sunday is about finding that place in our hearts where all those fallen ancestors and contemporaries now reside. It is about carrying that forward and seeing that we still have not learned the lesson that Flanders’ fields tried to give – that in the face of horror great beauty can emerge.

The beauty of courage, of sacrifice, of sheer humanity at its most fragile and vulnerable point should never be forgotten. The red poppy is not a symbol of war or of violence. It is a symbol of the utmost, laid-bare reality of being human and it needs to stand out, to be worn with pride and honour. We owe that to the fallen, past, present and future. We owe it to them to show as much of that courage and humanity in life as they did in death.

While there is still a fight of any sort, anywhere, we need that symbol to remind us of what we must never allow to happen again. We must never allow fields be so ploughed by bombs and so nourished with blood that they flourish with aptly blood-red blooms again. When there is nothing left in this world that places a single thing under threat, then we can wear a white poppy alongside the red. The sacrifice made to bring about peace must always take equal if not greater precedence to the result in the minds of all humanity.

It’s red for a reason. Remember that whilst remembering how lucky we are that so many laid down their lives in the hope of a better world to come. Bow your head at 11am today and again tomorrow and whisper your gratitude for that lasting memory of hope against hope.

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Taking literacy to a whole new level

It’s not often a project comes along that captures my imagination quite so much as the one I’m about to describe. I’ve recently had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of Steve Monosson, Creative Director at Borne Digital, based in New York. Now, Steve’s a nice guy, very talented, makes me laugh and then I asked about the project he’d mentioned in another context.

Stylus screeches across the vinyl, my eyes grow wide and I think “whoah”.

This is not some little creative venture. This is ground breaking stuff taking literacy education to a whole new level. Borne Digital produce books for reading on a tablet. eBooks. But these eBooks are created with multiple layers of content and the level of difficulty adapts to individual learning ability. Kind of like a level-up when you reach a certain stage in the game.

Read MSNBC’s article about this and vote for Borne to get a very important chance to be heard.

We all know how kids thrive in an interactive environment. We all know they’d rather be on the iPad than reading a dowdy old paperback. And quite importantly it is now known that many people with dyslexia are better able to read from eBooks. What Borne have done, are doing, combines all of these factors and more.

Imagine if, when you were learning to read, your books had adapted to meet your ability. Imagine how much less pressured that would have made reading aloud to the teacher. Imagine how rewarding it would have been to see how far you had come in the space of just one book.

Now put yourself in the place of the teacher who, with Borne’s technology, is able to focus more on what matters and less on how to make reading fun and engaging no matter what level individual children are at. Have you breathed a sympathetic sigh of relief yet?

Key quotes from founder Daniel Fountenberry carried in the MSNBC article:

“We want to use technology in ways that empower teachers and that allow all children to reach their full potential.”

“Reading is fundamental to learning, and learning is fundamental to human development. Reading is the basis of all learning, and we all know the impact of not being able to read–what it does to a person’s self-esteem.”

I urge you to read the article if you haven’t already and see what this is all about. And check out the Borne website too.

There are so many benefits to Borne’s work. Most importantly, it changes reading from something children feel they ought to do into something they love to do. That has lifelong positive repercussions. And as if that wasn’t enough, Borne Digital seek to bring reading to the most impoverished areas where it can be of most benefit.

But there are so many potential applications beyond the classroom too, which I’ve no doubt Borne have already anticipated. This is brilliant, potentially world-changing stuff. I can’t help but be 100% behind it and so much hope it finds its way to the UK.

Please vote for Borne to have that all important opportunity and spread the word. Share this blog, share the article, do what you can to make this project the enormous success it deserves to be. If you are, or have contacts that could be, of influence in education, in literacy organisations, in government, in big business that might like to support the project, please let me know and I will pass details on immediately. This is huge. Let’s make it huger!

Automatic Writing

One minute I was tired but couldn’t sleep, the next I’d written several thousand words and by some subliminal means become convinced I needed an X5 steam cleaner, an X-Hose and an Octaspring mattress. I switched the background TV off when Victoria Principal started trying to sell me something to put on my face. She does look pretty amazing for 63 so maybe I’ll regret that later. In thirty years or so.

I don’t clearly remember what I wrote. It was another one of those sessions of switch off conscious thought and let the story write itself.  Of course it still has to use my fingers to tap out the words but when I come out of it, I feel as rested as if I’d been in a deep sleep. That makes me wonder if it is a sub-conscious thing altogether and while it goes on my conscious mind is indeed asleep. I know I killed people. I should probably hope I was here writing the whole time and not in fact in the throes of some psychotic break brought on by stress and an accidental overdose of pills. I’ll keep an eye on the local news just in case.

There was an entire sub-plot that I didn’t like which I think I completely deleted and replaced with something totally different. So I killed three minor characters there too. Well, they served no real purpose. I can remember writing their pitiful part in proceedings and remembering is never a good thing. Remembering means I had to try too hard to write it. Not remembering has its own inherent problems of course. I have a lot of reading back to do before I go on or I won’t know what’s going on in my own story. Might be pleasantly surprised or might be horrified. Although if it’s supposed to be horrific and it is, that’s a good thing, right?

The more I think about it, it has to be a sub-conscious thing. I didn’t so much as move except to type in all that time. I’m someone who always has to have a drink to hand, usually a cup of tea, and not only did I not take a sip but there was more than half a cup of stone cold lapsang souchong beside me when I stopped. Wasn’t aware of any aches and pains but it turns out my back is killing me and I didn’t notice. I was in effect not really here.

I’ve read about automatic writing as a means to contact the hereafter. To do it you must enter an altered state of consciousness. How different then is it from this? And if it isn’t any different, which of these is true: that people for hundreds of years have scribbled from their own sub-conscious believing it to be a spirit, or that I am not in fact writing this novel but am channeling the spirit of a writer?

Now I must make breakfast before my state of consciousness becomes easily defined as ‘un’.

Thank you William Walker!

Yes, he’s a fictional character and one of my own creation, so technically a figment of my imagination, but think he’s my new best friend.

I knew where I was taking things. I knew who would do what. I just didn’t know where the key point would fall. Now, William is a favourite of mine and I was reviewing his thread because I thought there needed to be more of him, and wouldn’t you know but he told me what to do.

Whatever I’ve done in my life, whichever field I was in at the time, I’ve always written. Only recently have I started to share what I write, but I think I’ve explored all of that in past posts. Never, in all the years I’ve spent scribbling away at one thing or another has a character ‘spoken’ to me like William Walker.

Maybe I’ve just never been quite so close to insane before. Maybe it took being broken right down in myself to come back with more clarity. Maybe it’s just time. Whatever the cause, I’m very glad of the effect.

Now, I can almost hear people saying I’m in reality thanking myself, because Walker only exists in my head. But I’m not so sure. When I’m writing, especially writing Walker, I’m quite apart from myself. I don’t know what’s coming next. I certainly don’t know what anyone will say next. I’m nothing but a conduit for the story and if I didn’t know better, I’d say William had tapped me on the shoulder and said “Look, here, this is where you hide the key.”

I’ve heard that other writers have these experiences sometimes and that makes me feel somewhat less inclined to call the doctor. In fact I’ll probably not mention it to him at all. I don’t want the phenomenon to go away. Walker is a good influence, quite clearly, and I’m oh so thankful because now I see the way clearly and nothing can stop me finally finishing this piece.

Inkredible was initially a Max Markham novel, but I think it just became a William Walker novel. And he’s an older guy. There’s room for a thousand prequels in his life and a couple of sequels before he retires. I’m so happy he gave me the answer!

Do we still need daylight saving?

My sleep pattern is as messed up as it gets so it really shouldn’t matter to me, but my body clock is still very confused. I seemed to remember being taught that it was something to do with agriculture so I typed into Google “why do we have BST?”. This article from the museum at Greenwich came up explaining it.

So basically, some guy named Willett a long time ago now liked to ride his horse early in the morning and didn’t like that people were still asleep. I bet those people didn’t much like his horse clip-copping by while they were trying to sleep either! It appears he was a builder and businessman; an employer who no doubt wanted his employees up and at it as early as him. Did he not overlook that when mornings are lighter, so are nights? And if everyone was up and working to earn money for him, did he not lose his treasured horse rides?

These days, though, with a 24/7 world and the whole planet lit up all the time, do we really need to change the clocks? Life doesn’t stop when the sun goes down anymore. In fact I’ve noticed when I’m up through the night that there’s only a gap of about two hours – those between 3 and 5 in the morning – when there’s no-one up and about. Otherwise, I see people online, I hear traffic on the roads and the railway is also only silent for those two hours.

I’ve heard it said that, come October when we fiddle with time again, it’s much safer because it means the lighter part of the day happens when people are heading out. So they were heading out anyway, light or dark and besides that, October shifts us back onto GMT where we moved it from in the first place. No-one relies on the cockcrow to wake  up anymore. We all have alarm clocks, most of us on our mobile phones.

So does it still come down to agriculture? Does it still take from sunrise to sunset to bring in a field of harvest? We have huge armies of machines now that make short work of these things. And we have portable lighting. I ask because I’m not sure, being a townie with abnormal sleep patterns. We survived a hell of a long time without clocks never mind changing them backwards and forwards. We’ve since way surpassed the need to follow the sun, so can we not survive again without messing around with the measurement of time?

I suspect there’s no need for it; that it’s just another attempt by humanity to control their world and of course to make every last penny out of it.

Now all this has put me in just the perfect mindset to write all day. Or at least until the next overwhelming daylight sleeping time. Mr Willett would no doubt be appalled!

Take responsibility for your typos!

Lately I’ve read a few reviews and comments on Amazon and elsewhere that seem to explain away horrendous volumes, and I mean that in more than one sense, of bad grammar as a glitch in the ebook conversion. Yes, that’s right. When you upload your ebook file, it is immediately transferred to a team of howler monkeys with keyboards and between them they may or may not reproduce your file in the perfect, error free state it was in until then.

From where has this myth arisen? Well, it has to be writers who can’t own up to a bad job. ebook publishing systems are fully automated. They copy, byte for byte, what you submit. If the formatting is ‘squiffy’, guess what? You’ve missed something in the guidelines they all provide. If incorrect words appear, yeah, you’re with me now, you put them there.

I make typos. I miss words out that I don’t intend to. I can make a pig’s ear of a paragraph just as easily as anyone else. Sometimes software does ‘helpful’ things that mess up your code or corrects typos to something with an entirely different meaning. But if you don’t spot them, someone else will and when they do, it’s no good saying the computer did it. You didn’t check that it hadn’t. The computer really isn’t clever enough to know what you mean. Only what you entered.

The difficulty for anyone publishing an ebook now is the reputation that others have spread to us all by means of this myth. I’m reading one at the moment and for the first ten percent, I really wasn’t sure English was the guy’s first language. But apparently it is and he’s been writing for years. It really bothers me, not least because of this OCD grammatical nervous tic of mine, but mostly because it gives everyone publishing to ebook a bad name by association. Perhaps the process is too easy. Perhaps we need to crack down by means of review and stop worrying whether someone might take it badly to get two or three star ratings. It’s why we’re given grades in school. It’s why we have appraisals at work. It’s why it used to be very hard to get published.

Writing is art. Art will never exist without criticism. Artists must learn to take criticism and use it to improve their work. But we must stop molly coddling one another and tell it like it is. Everyone is allowed to write, but not everyone can. I can pick up a paint brush but I can’t produce a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt and if anyone tried to tell me I was good, they would be doing me a disservice by encouraging me to keep coming out with the same shoddy workmanship. Would you tell the department store their clothes were wonderful if the first thing you noticed was the buttons hanging off and a sleeve set upside down? You’d let them know it wasn’t up to standard and they’d do something about it or the reputation of their entire chain is at stake.

You must see what I’m getting at by now anyway! Writers must take responsibility for their writing. Readers, among whom will be writers because we can’t only ever read our own work, must regulate the system and help each other out with realism. If we don’t this brave new world of publishing will quickly collapse as people grow tired.

Note: I’ve read this back several times and run spellcheck as well. The first one to spot a mistake wins a JAM point and will make me laugh for at least an hour. JAM points have no pecuniary value, cannot be redeemed at any retail outlet in the known universe and are worth only as much as you attribute to making someone smile.

Punctuation saves lives…

…and prevents law suits. Saw a sign today. Not a mystical sign. A public information sign, and on the news otherwise I’d have to have left the house. It read “KEEP OUT DANGEROUS CLIFFS”. So, I thought, I can go in there but anyone named Cliff with anger management issues can’t. Or perhaps it means Cliff Richard, it being almost Christmas and a cheery single no doubt approaching. I don’t think it does mean him though as it’s nowhere near a tennis court. I can’t imagine it means actual cliffs because, well, they aren’t likely to be wandering by to be told keep out.

No, the instruction is definitely for the public warning them to keep dangerous cliffs out.

As a friend pointed out it’s along the lines of “SLOW CHILDREN PLAYING”. How much more would it cost and how much more sense would it make if they’d only put a simple colon or even a dash to delineate instruction and reason?

I wonder if I could fall off a large rocky structure and claim compensation because my name isn’t Cliff and even if it were I posed no threat and so didn’t think the warning applied to me?

If you want your meaning to be clear, punctuate it properly. There are stupid people out there who’ll misunderstand if you don’t. And facetious, pedantic, OCD ones like me who will deliberately misunderstand just to make a point.

Change of perspective

So, I hit that delightful brick wall that sometimes materialises like a TARDIS in the middle of writing.  It’s quite a high wall and you can’t see over the top.  You try to chip away, writing a bit here and a bit there but when you read it back over you see it has no effect.  It blocked my view of the immediate path.  I could see the end though, because it’s at the top of the hill and somewhat distant.  What I knew for sure was that I did not by any stretch of the imagination, however vivid and bloodthirsty it might be, want to give up.

I realised what I needed to do was change my perspective.  Alter the view-point.  Side-step the wall for a time.  Did I pack a bag and go on holiday?  No.  No, I stayed right here with the laptop and thought about how I could take the writing into a different arena.  It occurred to me that when I read on the Kindle or from a paperback, I spot every single glitch with ease and see the story unfolding much more easily.  With other people’s work at least.  Might it work for my own?

Not having a printing press in the attic, it had to be Kindle.  A bit of converting to html later and processing into a Kindle book, I was ready to read it as though it was someone else’s work.  It took longer than I anticipated.  I’m used to reading it one part at a time for edits.  Sitting down and reading the first half of my own novel as a single entity was a curious experience and swallowed time voraciously.  I used the Kindle to highlight any issues to address at the end and it put quite a smile on my face that there really weren’t any horrible, glaring errors and very few typos.  There wasn’t much to highlight and that was a huge relief.

That reading Inkredible swallowed time even for me was no doubt a good thing.  It didn’t feel like a chore either, which was definitely a good thing!  What reading it through in this way really did for me as the writer though, was open the story up again so I could see that immediate path.  Side-stepping the wall put a slightly new perspective on things.  I now know exactly what I need to do and it feels right.  I’m smiling again and I can feel the intensity of the story burning through my veins on its way to the page.

If you’re hitting walls with your writing, I cannot recommend enough the idea of formatting up what you’ve got, taking it out of the writing field and into the reading, then sitting down and taking the whole thing in as one piece.  It’s too easy when you’re writing to lose sight of where you are because you’ve been so entrenched in the process.  Approaching it as a reader and not as a writer for a brief time gives you the ability to view your work as a whole and see where it needs to turn next.  You don’t have to transfer it to Kindle.  You can print it out, view it on a different computer or even in a different room to normal, as long as you’re looking at it in a different light.  The relief is tremendous.  Try it – it just might help!

Reviews, critiques and objectivity

Was just reading a blog about the Amazon review process and its make or break influence.  It’s unfortunately true that a bad review in the early stages can do great harm to the success of a book.  Whilst it would be nice to think everyone might consider this when posting a review, we haven’t yet reached Utopia and everyone is not going to rate more highly than they’re first inclined out of sympathy.

What rattles me about Amazon reviews is the helpful and unhelpful rating scheme attached.  Now, from my perspective a review is helpful if it presents the reading experience of the reviewer.  However, many people will rate a review as unhelpful simply because they also have read the book and don’t agree with what you felt about it.  A die-hard fan will rate you unhelpful if you rate 4 stars and say it lacked a certain spark but was otherwise great.  Where is the room for objectivity in writing a review in that case?

A review needs to be objective.  It needs to describe your experience of a book and nothing more.  A review is neither a synopsis or a critique.  Synopsis is for the author and/or publisher; critique is for the literary circle meeting or the classroom, maybe some broadsheet literary pages.  In a review, by all means say whether the language was brilliantly poetic and maybe give one example, but do not write an essay about it.

But how do you retain objectivity when you’re conscious of helpful and unhelpful ratings on your opinion?  Well the simple way to look at it is this.  If it would stick in your throat to say it to the face of the author, don’t write it.  If 4 stars makes you swallow your pride, don’t rate it.  As much as I might be hurting my own future ratings by encouraging honesty, I see no point in dishonesty.

Amazon have huge power over the self-publishing world.  But who has power over the quality of what we Indie authors put out there?  The reader.  It’s now up to the readers to ensure the good books thrive and the bad ones wilt.  The reader must enable the cream to rise to the top.

Now, am I that confident about my own writing?  Of course not.  No-one is.  It’s a simple fact for me though that if I write something and publish it, the reviews should tell me whether I’ve hit the mark or not.  I should read reviews and see what readers like and dislike about my work, take it all onboard whether positive or negative and use it to my advantage for future work.  If you walked into a door and everyone laughed but it didn’t hurt, you’d keep on walking into doors for the comedic value without realising you were slowly destroying yourself.  Feedback in any respect is a gift that we can’t afford to dissuade anyone from giving.  It might hurt sometimes, but how can we avoid the same mistake in future if it doesn’t?

So write your reviews, give your star ratings and if you’ve been completely honest, you’ve done it right.  If you choose to bear in mind the harm a three stars or below rating might do to an author, then you have an altruistic heart and you’re very kind, but have you been honest?  A little white lie can do as much harm as a hurtful truth because you’re withholding the means for someone to become better.

Be objective.  No two people read the same book, so they say.  Your experience will of course be subjective in that respect.  But your review should have no agenda other than to share your experience and that is wholly objective.  That then, is my objective take on the subject!