Today I caught up with Jonathon Mcelhaney, the author of The Set Stealer – a project I worked on with Jonathon a few years ago. He told me about his new release, a short story called Definition of Insane.
Currently, on discount for the epub version, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to see how his writing style had grown and evolved – especially for free.
I’m going to start with surface details, then break down the writing itself and then finish with a full review for everyone.
Listed at 15 pages, this read goes quick and I’m not sure it’s worth the 9.99 list price that it will return to in a few days when the current promotion ends, but it was WELL worth getting for free. I’d call a happy medium at saying this publication is a good buy at $0.99-$1.99, and decent at $2.99 but we’ll see how he and his team decide to move forward when it comes to cost. I am also ignoring the fact in this analysis that you are helping support a retired member of the United States Armed Forces, as well as an author with superb potential in his genre if he can continue to write. So factor that in as your doing your own analysis of the material and its cost.
The cover is aesthetically appealing if a little cluttered. I believe this was most likely intentional, as the cover reflects the activity within the story itself. Glancing over this cover is easy to do, however, as it feels like it may blend into the background if someone is scrolling the page. The font of the text does help offset this slightly, but I worry it will fade if someone doesn’t know exactly what they are looking for.
Now the story itself was a bit of a trip. From a technical perspective, it holds its own in today’s world of self-published stories and novels. There are a few grammar and spelling issues but I’m an editor and finding those is what I do (except when I choose to ignore them, Courtney). I feel like this story is hard to review though, as everything I can point out wrong with it seems and feels almost intentional. The pacing of the story is very quick with little time or explanation to understand what’s happening. Yet for a psychological thriller / suspense story, this makes sense. There is little in the form of a “story structure” which feels very unsatisfying at the stories conclusion, yet as a journey through the mind of Emily (an institutionalized woman) this makes sense and feels satisfying at the same time.
And I also would be remiss to not mention the growth of the author personally. Reading The Set Stealer, then a draft of another full-length novel he’s working on, and now this I can easily see the growth. It’s like he’s not the same writer he was just a few years ago. The progress is truly staggering, and I would like to reward someone who tries and corrects their own mistakes in the hopes of perfecting their craft.
In its totality, this is a 15-page thriller written to leave you with a sense of unease or confusion, and it succeeds in this matter. For that reason, I’m going to recommend this story. A free journey into the mind of someone you can’t quite understand is worthwhile, and if you’re not impressed, you will almost certainly be able to appreciate the growth that this author has shown in just a few short years.
I’m going to give Definition of Insane a 7/10 for these reasons. Is it everything it COULD have been? No. But rarely do things live up to potential. And it IS difficult to limit this story into 15 pages. This could easily be a 5/10 or a 9/10 if it were longer, so I think a limit here was probably the smartest choice that could have been made.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and will be publishing a group of dialogues that I get from you guys on it. Check out the book here and let me know what you thought at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!