Wednesday, September 19, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - Alumni: In The Spirit

It's WIPpet Wednesday again. :)

I've been staying at my mum's for the past week, looking after/being looked after by this fine chap. Now I'm home, and my dogs don't care one way or the other. The cat seems pleased I'm here, though.

I didn't get much writing done this week, more focused on audiobooks and getting everything in place for the release of Goth of Christmas Past next month. I've almost made a video trailer, and preordering is in progress. I also managed to add a little bit more to Alumni.

Brief story info:
Alumni is Season Eight of Hiding Behind The Couch, and obviously has some elements of the characters coming face-to-face with old acquaintances from university and the like (readers of the series might recognise a name or two in the snippet).

This follows from last week's snippet; Genie has called on Xander—a long-term friend who purportedly sees ghosts—to get to the bottom of strange goings-on in her home.

WIPpet maths for 19th September:
19x12=228 words.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
“Can I get you a drink, Xander?”

“Scotch, no ice.”

“Of course. Come through to the drawing room.” She moved off, glancing back to check he was following. “I haven’t seen you in years. It would be nice to catch up.”

“Nice,” Xander repeated. “Yes, it would be nice, but you asked me here to look into your…”

“Poltergeist?” Genie opened the drinks cabinet and eyed the line of bottles of Scotch. “Do you have a preferred brand?”

“Ardbeg. You won’t have any.”

“No, you’re quite right. I’m a wine drinker myself.”

“I drink wine.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ve done so before. Many times.”

“But if you’d rather have whisky…”

“Choose me a drink and pour it. Please.”

“As you wish.” Genie picked up the bottle of red she’d opened at lunchtime and retrieved two clean glasses, watching Xander out of the corner of her eye. He was soundlessly clicking his fingers and circling, inspecting the room.

“When did you move into this house?” he asked.

“Thirteen years ago. It belonged to my grandmother. When she died, I bought it from my father.”

“You didn’t inherit it from your grandmother?”

“No, I—”

“Did she die here?”

“No. On the way to the hospital. Why? Do you think—”

“She’s not your…poltergeist. How old is your daughter? Seventeen?”

Genie had already answered the question, but confirmed it again.

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?
WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Audiobooks coming soon: The Great Village Bun Fight; Of The Bauble

Today, I've been playing around with different video editing programmes, both on and offline, and in the process made a trailer for the audiobook of Of The Bauble even though we (the narrator and I) are still finalising the recordings.

So I won't be sharing that trailer just yet.

But!

I figured it was time to announce the audiobooks. :)

The Great Village Bun Fight is somewhere between ACX's file storage system and the retailers, so it should appear on Audible, Amazon and iTunes with the next couple of weeks.

Of The Bauble (as mentioned) is undergoing a few final tweaks before we submit it to ACX for approval.

My narrator for both books is Jack Hardman, who describes his accent as "[not] so northern that it is difficult to understand, but is common enough sounding that it isn't alienating to people outside of the London area."

I'm inclined to agree, which is why he is the perfect narrator for both stories.

I'll post again when the audiobooks are available. In the meantime, you can get the ebook/paperback editions to both by clicking on the titles above.

Once these are out, I'll have three audiobooks available, the other one being When Skies Have Fallen, narrated by Tim Hilborne (again, perfect for the story).

Download/purchase links can be found on the Beaten Track Publishing listing for each title.

Thanks for reading (and listening),
Deb x

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - Alumni: Discretion

Two WIPpet Wednesdays in a row, woohoo! I'm on a roll and snippeting from Alumni again.

Brief story info:
Alumni is Season Eight of Hiding Behind The Couch, and obviously has some elements of the characters coming face-to-face with old acquaintances from university and the like (readers of the series might recognise a name or two in the snippet).

This follows from last week's snippet; Genie has called on Xander—a long-term friend who purportedly sees ghosts—to get to the bottom of strange goings-on in her home.

WIPpet maths for 12th September:
12 paragraphs for the 12th.

And the WIPpet Snippet:
“You will keep it to yourself, won’t you?”

Xander marched across the room and stopped a few feet from her location. No eye contact. She remembered now. He’d been just the same when they were children.

“His Lordship doesn’t speak to anyone,” Jonathan assured her on Xander’s behalf.

“But you do,” she pointed out.

“I am contractually obliged to keep His Lordship’s confidence.”

“I won’t tell anyone about your…poltergeist.” Xander smiled grimly and took another step towards them. “Excuse me. Please.”

“Sorry.” Genie moved aside, and Xander marched past, out of the room and along the hallway to the top of the stairs. Jonathan raised his eyebrows at Genie and strode after Xander. Genie had to jog to catch them up. “Where are you going?”

“To fetch the equipment.”

“Equipment?”

“Meters, cameras…” Xander reached the front door and waited for someone to open it.

“Hang on!” Breathless from the chase, Genie slid past and stood between him and the door with her arms outstretched. Xander startled and took a step back. “Take the car around to the side of the house,” she instructed Jonathan.

He bowed his head. “As you wish, Your Ladyship.”

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?
WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, September 10, 2018

Lie back and think of England: a quick, not dirty guide to British vs American English

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the differences between British and American English. Most of us know, for instance, that crisps are to Brits what potato chips are to Americans, and so on. We're also aware of the differences in spelling - colour vs color, realise vs realize etc. - although in UK English both -ise and -ize are acceptable, and there are exceptions in both forms of English.

If it's lists you're after, here's a Bored Panda list of common differences in vocabulary. See also this more extensive list on Owlcation. There's also Luke Mastin's very comprehensive list of US/UK/Canadian spellings.

I decided to put together this brief guide for the benefit of my fellow editors, proofreaders, authors and others who work with the written word on both sides of the Atlantic, as questions about what is 'correct' come my way quite often, and I like to think I know a fair bit about this stuff. OK, I do know a fair bit about this stuff.


For the past seven years, I've worked with authors from the USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Jamaica and Australia, all of whom bring to the editing table their unique version of English influenced by nationality, regional dialect, upbringing and their linguistic abilities. Being as how I'm a bit of an English language geek, I love all those little foibles that manifest in each author's work, like birth marks on our stories that make them distinctly ours.

Here are a few of the differences that have been highlighted most often during those seven years. Feel free to add any others in the comments.

blond vs blonde (also brunet vs brunette)
In US English, the adjective form is 'blond': she had blond hair; he had blond hair.
In UK English the adjective form is 'blonde' in all cases.

The noun form in both US and UK English is gendered: she was a blonde, he was a blond. However, UK English does not rigidly apply the gender rule.

While the same rule theoretically applies to brunet/brunette, it is rare for UK English to use 'brunet' (I don't recall ever seeing it).

got vs gotten
In general, formal UK English does not use 'gotten'. There is some regional variation (many people in the south-east of England use it), but a safe general assumption is that 'gotten' is a valid past participle of the verb 'to get' in US English but not in UK English.

spit vs spat
In US English, the past participle of the verb 'to spit' is 'spit'.
e.g. I saw what he did. He spit on the floor.

In UK English, the past participle is 'spat'.
e.g. I saw what he did. He spat on the floor.

In both forms of English, a spat is also a minor fight.
e.g. They had a spat about which way was the correct way to hang the toilet roll (or toilet paper).
(Clearly with the end of the roll facing outwards.)

fit vs fitted
Again, this is a difference in past participle of the verb 'to fit'.
US English: It fit her like a glove.
UK English: It fitted her like a glove.

pry, pry and prise
In both forms of English, the verb 'to pry' means to stick one's nose into other people's business.

In US English, 'to pry' can also mean to pull apart.
In UK English, the equivalent is 'to prise'.

US English: They pried open the treasure chest.
UK English: They prised open the treasure chest.

couple vs couple of
I've asked quite a few US authors what the rule is for when 'of' is dropped after 'couple'. So far, no-one can tell me.

Whatever that rule is, it doesn't exist in UK English.

collective nouns such as staff, team, family and government
In UK English, collective nouns can be both singular and plural, generally pertaining to the context.
e.g. The government has responded to the threat (working as a single entity).
The staff are at loggerheads (working as multiple agents).

In US English, these nouns are always treated as a single entity.

There's really no hard and fast rule for this in UK English. Personally, I try to edit out any plural use of these nouns in my own writing as I have readers from the USA and UK, but a few instances might sneak through.

(the) hospital, (the) hospice
In UK English, 'the' is often dropped before 'hospital':

I took him to hospital.

but not before 'hospice':

She's staying in the hospice.

To my knowledge, the reverse is true in US English.

weights and measures
A few times over the years, American friends have converted distance to metric for my benefit, which...means I have to convert back to make any sense of it. How far is 50k in English? :p

In the UK, the metric system was imposed on us by the EU (but that's STILL not enough to warrant 'Brexit'...in my opinion). The outcome is a mixed system of metric and imperial weights and measures.

Pre-packaged food and drink (including alcoholic beverages) is labelled with metric weights/quantities. Other produce (deli counter, for instance) often comes with a conversion rate (e.g. £4 per 1lb/454g). Motor fuel is sold by the litre; road signs and GPS measure distance in miles; speed limits are in miles per hour. Body weight is in stones and pounds (1 stone = 14 pounds) but most people also have some idea of the meaning of kilograms. In pubs, beer is sold by the pint but wine and spirits (liquer) are sold by the centilitre. It's, surprisingly, not as confusing as it seems.

- - -

I'm going to leave it there for the time being and add to this list as and when. Feel free to add your examples in the comments and I'll incorporate them.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Saturday, September 08, 2018

My love-hate relationship with M/M Romance

This probably isn't going to be the kind of post you're expecting, and, in fact, it has relatively little to do with M/M Romance per se. Had I reached a particular point in my writing life ten years earlier, this blog post may well have been titled 'My love-hate relationship with YA Fantasy'.

I can write in both genres incidentally, although perhaps not as well as other authors. I am (or I was) most comfortable writing contemporary realist fiction, so even when I'm attempting to write within other genres, the outcome is somewhat of a crossover.

Contemporary fiction is broad and not that descriptive as genre titles go. Indeed, it is not really a genre at all—it doesn't even have an entry in Wikipedia! :o It is, in effect, a catchall for any fictional story set in our time and space, and which doesn't fit neatly in any other genre.

Anyway, that's what I write. Wrote? I don't know. I'm still hopeful for a present participle...that's what I'm writing. Alas, I'm not really writing anything, hence my literary existential crisis, and I doubt it's uniquely mine. It's not writer's block—I know I could dump words onto the page, as I've been doing for much of the past four years. Sticking plasters.

So what happened?

Back in 2013, I began preliminary research for my PhD (which I've since set aside). Beaten Track had been up and running for two years, with the goal to publish diverse fiction—LGBTQ+ fiction for the most part. I was working with a couple of authors of gay literary fiction, both of whom include sufficient romantic elements in their work for it to be picked up by romance readers, specifically, M/M romance readers.

At that point, I knew nothing about the sub-genre, but I was intrigued by how it attracted so many female readers. I joined the Goodreads M/M Romance group and posted in the forum to ask if any of those readers would be willing to talk to me—initially just to answer the question 'Why do you read M/M Romance?' from which I put together the very basic first draft of my PhD proposal.

In 2014, I was still a member of the M/M Romance Group (I still am now), and saw the posts go up regarding the Don't Read in the Closet (DRitC) event whereby readers post story prompts and writers claim those prompts, from which they create a story that is then given away for free. And I figured...I write LGBTQ+ characters; I write stories with romantic elements; I could write an M/M Romance.

So I did. Two of them, to be precise (for that event—it was only the beginning).

The first...well, it turned out to be a bit of a double-edged sword. It is far and away my most successful work (in terms of downloads/sales).

Lest I upset anyone who loves Checking Him Out...I love it too. I love the characters, and I love writing about their world. The story means so much more to me than its popularity (76,000 downloads/sales so far, not including those via the MM Romance Group website).

However, it is also THE story that changed the way I write, possibly forever.

Prior to Checking Him Out, I wrote quickly—most of my first drafts were completed for NaNoWriMo—but I spent a lot of time rewriting and editing, and only once had I published a book immediately after finishing it. I've since withdrawn it until such point as I can fix all the stuff that's wrong with it. :p

I also wrote Checking Him Out in first-person perspective, which I'd never done before.

My second DRitC 2014 story was Sugar and Sawdust, which I picked up towards the end of the event, so it's much shorter, far less serious, far less polished—intentionally fun/funny (I hope).

Sugar and Sawdust didn't go down especially well with the M/M Romance readers on Goodreads, but I was a 'novice' in M/M, so I made plenty of rookie mistakes—in both stories. Admittedly some of those were intentional, but that's by the by.

Long story short (LOL), I wrote Sugar and Sawdust in two days, and it went straight to the editor, from there to the proofreaders and quality assurance readers, and then it was out in the world. No time for tweaking or refining or reconsidering the wisdom of some scenes. There again, I'm not convinced I'd have changed anything if I'd had the luxury of time to do so.

Notwithstanding some reviews that I found incredibly painful (live and learn), I loved being part of the event, and I made some amazing friends—people I'm still friends with now, many of whom I still get to 'work' with (this publishing malarkey rarely feels like work).

For those reasons, in 2015, I did it all over again, this time picking up a prompt that led to what may well be the greatest achievement of my writing career: winning a Lambda Literary Award.

I've said it every time someone's asked me in an interview—When Skies Have Fallen is the hardest story I've written to date, mainly because I kept it as true to life as I could, and tracking the history was traumatic. Re-enacting that history with my characters...it hurt. I cried. Never mind giving readers a happy ending, I needed it myself.

I'm still wowed by my Lammy, and I'm still proud of the novel, but this was the point where my change in approach began to impact on my writing process. I could no longer 'just get the words down' and tweak them later. I had to edit as I went along, which was why it took me seven years to finish my first novel, and also why I had found NaNoWriMo so liberating.

Throughout 2015, I was also co-writing the Seeds of Tyrone series with Raine O'Tierney, and again, these were M/M Romance novels, written and published very quickly by my pre-2014-DRitC standards.


Truthfully, the only way I got the words down was through collaborating. Raine wrote one chapter, I wrote the next, and we were always encouraging each other, giving feedback... Without it, I'd have reached my current point of struggle much sooner.

To complete the list, here are the rest of my M/M Romance titles:

Three are part of the Checking Him Out series; two are part of the Hiding Behind The Couch series. All are either first- or third-person narrative.

And therein lies the other issue caused by my foray into M/M Romance. I used to write omniscient narration naturally. I didn't have to think about it, at all. Yet, as soon as I started writing in limited perspectives, my omniscient narration nosedived close to head-hopping, and even when it didn't, I was ultra-conscious of how readers would receive the story. Most modern fiction is first- or third-person and limited to the perspective of one or two characters. Most modern readers therefore find it a challenge to switch to omniscient or even multiple, clearly demarcated perspectives.

Ultimately, if I had never embarked on writing M/M Romance, I'd have missed out on having a long-term bestseller, which has led to me picking up readers for my other books too. And, of course, I'd never have won a Lammy or had the opportunity to write and work with some brilliant, talented authors.

If I could go back in time, I'm fairly confident I'd still write those stories (and maybe I'll write more in the future), but what I wouldn't do is succumb to the pressures of writing in a popular sub-genre—the urgency to get another book out there before readers forget who I am, and the need to create something that meets reader expectations yet is somehow, impossibly, unique.

Whether we write crime thrillers, romance, cosy mysteries, YA fantasy—whatever the genre—those traps are there, and while some authors make a lucrative living from churning out one novel after another in their chosen genre, this author is not a one-woman book factory. My singular goal right now is to get back to how I used to write—omniscient, fast process, slow publish—incorporating what I've learned from writing in a popular sub-genre.

But first, I need to re-establish contact with my oppo in the other dimension...

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

#WIPpet Wednesday - Alumni: There's Something Here

It's Wednesday, and I haven't posted a WIPpet since April - if it sounds like some kind of --- Anonymous admission, well, it sort of is. I love my work, so that's what I do. Work. I think I even use it to procrastinate on writing, and I've been...too busy to write, never mind post to my blog.

Brief story info:
Alumni is Season Eight of Hiding Behind The Couch, and obviously has some elements of the characters coming face-to-face with old acquaintances from university and the like (readers of the series might recognise a name or two in the snippet).  I'm hoping posting will kickstart my brain into writing some more.

WIPpet maths for 5th September:
12 - 5 = 7 mentions of Xander by name (yeah, yeah).

And the WIPpet Snippet:
Standing dead centre of Genie’s daughter’s liquorice-all-sorts-inspired bedroom, Lord Xander Etherington-Bowes flapped his hand—palm up, palm down, palm up, palm down—and hummed a monotone melody.

“What’s he doing?” Genie whispered, watching from the doorway with Xander’s personal secretary, Jonathan, her entrance barred by his arm. It was entirely unnecessary; with all the strange goings-on, she had no intention of setting foot in that room.

“Checking for changes in temperature.” Jonathan gestured with his head, returning Genie’s attention to Xander, who had moved off, his steps spiralling out from his starting point, still humming and flip-flapping his hand.

“Does it work?”

“If there’s anything here,” Jonathan confirmed.

“There’s something here,” Xander said. He stopped both walking and flapping and stared at a point somewhere above the queen-size bed. “Where is she?”

“The poltergeist? That’s what you’re here—”

“No,” Xander cut her off.

Genie looked to Jonathan in query.

“Your daughter?”

“Oh, she’s at a friend’s. Why?”

“We will stay here tonight,” Xander stated.

“Yes, that’s…fine,” Genie agreed. The entire situation was utter insanity to begin with and certainly couldn’t be made any more so by having Xander Etherington-Bowes sleep over.

* * * * *

What is WIPpet Wednesday?
WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Wrayburn - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x