REVIEW: The Creatures | Lily Alex | PublishAmerica

Title: The Creatures
Author: Lily Alex
Date Published: 2004
ISBN: 1-4137-1356-4
Format: eBook (also available in print)
Length: 85 pages
Genre: Supernatural Horror

Reviewer: Clayton Bye

Authors who submit their books to me for review are usually warned that the work must be excellent. The main reasons for this are: my reviews are based on a complete cover-to-cover read, I always speak my mind, and I believe “bad reviews” should be posted right along with “good reviews.”

Lily Alex did not receive my warning. And the following review is a “bad one.” I shall therefore attempt to offer up useful criticisms...

The Creatures is a book in two parts. The first is about the experiences of people who come into (oftentimes dangerous) contact with different kinds of creatures, some from our “real world” and some from the supernatural realm. The second part of The Creatures, entitled Robert Noirson, appears to be an excerpt from Alex’s novel Lost On Earth. Noirson is the son of The Devil, and the stories in this section involve people who have given their soul to him.

Okay. The first criticism I’ll make has to do with the author’s decision to use part of a novel to increase the length of her book of short stories. I understand why she did this: without the novel excerpt, the book would have been just 42 pages in length. But, I believe a better choice would have been for Alex to lengthen her short stories, add more stories and/or make one of the stories into a novelette or novella. Tacking on the Robert Noirson story muddied the overall theme of the book and was, at best, a confusing read. Good examples of authors who have used creatures or the natural world quite successfully in similar short story collections are: Scott Thomas (The Garden of Ghosts) and Casey Wolf (Finding Creatures and Other Stories).

The second area of improvement can be found in the structuring of Alex’s short stories. In general, they’re too short for us to get involved with the main character(s). This means, even in the few stories that describe a significant change in the main character, it’s hard for the reader to care. This is basic story writing: 1) The reader must care about the main character(s), or at least understand them. 2) Something must happen that brings the protagonist to a realization about himself, an understanding of herself or the world she inhabits, even a difference in the physical—something that produces a fundamental change, no matter how small it might seem. From the writer’s point of view, this is the purpose of the conflict in the story. The character faces a problem, deals with it and is left somehow changed by the happening. Alex would be much better off writing short stories using this simple formula.

The third area of improvement I will focus on is technical. Sentence structure; the use of point of view, plot and setting; the development of atmosphere, theme and more—an author must bring to the table the skills and ability to create a world the reader can believe in. For example, in one of Alex’s stories, a woman is attacked in her bedroom. In the course of minutes we see her use a pistol, an axe and holy water to pour over the axe. She lost me at the axe. Why? I’ve never met a woman who keeps an axe in her bedroom: have you? And the author didn’t explain such a doubtful occurrence; she failed to maintain the suspense of disbelief so necessary to all fiction.

Now, rather than go through the book counting errors, let me make one last point... While reading The Creatures there were a number of instances where I thought “this feels like a first draft.” There would be paragraphs that shone only to be marred later in the story by an obvious composition error. A story idea would capture attention, then throw it away. It was at these junctures that I figured out what I wanted Lily Alex to take away from the review. Self-publishing authors are notorious for trying to edit their own work. I don’t know if this is what Alex did. I do know that what The Creatures needs is: a content edit, a structural edit, a line edit and a solid proofread, all in that order.

 Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2010

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  1. Thanks for your thoughts as usual Claayton... I came away from this with some thoughts as welll...

    P.S. While I dont know Ms. Alex reference point for the woman with the axe, I actually keep a rather large sharp implement in my bedroom, but I get your point of reasoning....

    Thank for putting across your point so well...


  2. Thanks for your comments. Another example from the book would be gun toting monks. Again, the unexplained anomaly jarred me out of the story.

    An interesting note: I spoke to the author (via email). It turns out that English is not her original language and she paid for an edit. I think she deserves some understanding and should ask for her money back from the so-called editor.

  3. Great review, and yes, I agree - the editor definitely failed the author in this instance. What a shame.

  4. Actually  I have never claim that my book is great, and more so it was the first review that I ever received. PublishAmerica is a scum, they take any kind of writing, print books, making the author believe that their work is good. I'm very sorry about it. This is why I did NOT refresh my contract with PublishAmerica, and this book is out of print now.

    Thank you for the honest and VERY helpful review!!!

  5. Hi Lily, I am sorry you had to go through this with PA. Thank you for taking the time to come back here and share your views on this matter. All these comments (and of course the review) will hopefully help other authors make a decision on whether to go through PA or not.


Thanks for taking the time to leave a sassy comment. It's truly appreciated. I aim to get back to you as soon as possible -- Sassy :)