Monday, 11 February 2019

Writing Hints and Tips - The Apostrophe

There are effectively two ways to use the apostrophe

To show Possession.

That means, to indicate that something belongs to someone/something.  For example, "John's pen" means the pen belonging to John.

The very general rule of thumb is that if the word ends in s the apostrophe comes after the s, if it doesn't the apostrophe comes before the s.

Examples

The child's book, which is a children's book is currently at the parents' house.

The musician's flute is currently in Lewis' locker.

The exception with regard to names are circumstances where you would naturally pronounce the s, for example "It's Charles's pen"

One key exception is where the word itself denotes possession, for example, ours, theirs, his, hers.

There are other, less usual exceptions, so if you're not sure, check.

To Indicate an Ommission

Sometimes it is possible to run two words together or shorten a word by taking out letters. In those cases the missing letter or letters are replaced with an apostrophe.

Example "I should have" can be shortened to "I should've" the h and a are taken out and replaced by the apostrophe.

Again, in the words "It's" "That's" "What's" etc the apostrophe replaces an i "It is" "That is" "What is"

In the words "They'd" We'd" "You've" "They've" the apostrophe replaces h and a "They had" "We had" "They have" "You have"

If you're wondering whether a word should have an apostrophe, then check if you can expand it into two words or more.

Common Errors

It's and its. Ask yourself is the word a contraction of two words (it is) or is it a word that denotes possession (belonging to it)? "It's (It is) unlikely the chicken would have noticed one of its eggs  (The eggs belonging to it) was missing."

Your and you're "You're(you are) wrong if you say your eyes (the eyes that belong to you) are not pretty."

Their and they're "They're (they are) in no hurry to get their arses (the arses belonging to them) out of my way."

I hope this has made the apostrophe's role a little clearer. Remember, there will always be exceptions and if anyone has any further pearls of wisdom please feel free to drop them in the comments. I love to learn.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

New Release and Thoughts on the Writing Process




With the release of Lab Rat tomorrow, I've been thinking about my process of writing, and how much writing a book is like writing an English essay (and it's been a long time since I've written one of those).


For me, writing goes in phases. Sometimes it flows and I can't type fast enough, my heart speeds up and live each moment with the characters. At other times each word is torn painfully from my fingers and I count and re count on average about every fifty words, disappointed there aren't more. It's like writing an essay at school when you take to rambling, repetition and filler words. Then again are the periods when I can't write at all.


Thankfully I have emerged from a pit of black despair to the point where the words are flowing again. I almost worry about how easy it is and wonder, am I waffling and filling for word count, or are the descriptions a riveting and the conversations as witty and meaningful as I think they are?


This brings me to the second part of the process - the revising. This is where the magic happens. The first time through, the story is fresh, the characters are talking and there's a flow that will never come again, at least not with this book. This time you're looking at every word, the construction of every sentence, everything the characters say or do. Like that English essay you're revising and reviewing (a phrase my old English teacher drummed into us and I, of course, ignored as I was lucky to finish the essay in the time alloted, let alone have time to revise and review) It also brings some unwanted friends to whisper in your ear. It's not good enough. The characters are wooden. The plot is too thin. It will never be good enough. You will never be good enough.



However, by the time you get to the end, when you've rewritten chunks, deleted chunks, got bored, got scared, got depressed, you come up with a masterpiece. This work is polished until it's shiny, with the best characters, speaking the best dialogue, in the best situations. The writing is smooth, the characters are well rounded, the grammar is perfect. You hand it fearfully over to a publisher who accepts it, thereby confirming it's the best thing ever written.



Then the editors get their hands on it, once again tearing down those oh so carefully constructed walls of faith and optimism. Yet again you're plunged into the pit of despair and are sure you're the worst writer ever. The very nature of edits means they generally point out only the flaws, and just like that English essay, it comes back covered in red.




You read the comments and come to the conclusion the editor just doesn't "get" you or your characters. You dig in your heels because how dare they criticise your work after all the sweat blood and tears you put into it. They don't understand your characters like you do. They don't understand the context like you do. They don't understand the way you work, the way your voice sounds. They're trying to change you. They don't know what they're talking about. You blow off steam, rant a bit, then realize they're probably right and get on with it.


The very best editors are those who suggest, not demand, who explain themselves when they make a suggestion--it was at least three books in before I knew what "show not tell" actually means and I was tearing my hair out by then because what the hell else was in that scene I could show you? I described everything down to the colour of the tablecloth--and who intersperse the occasional positive remark. Amongst all that red it is a HUGE relief to see a smiley face after a piece of dialogue or a significant paragraph, and comments like "This made me laugh" or "I needed a tissue here" mean the world


After three rounds of edits and the galley, you start to hate the damn book, and then you're presented with the cover and told "this is it whether you like it or not." Sometimes they'll change the font, if you beg, or tweak something a little, but they leave you wondering if they ever actually read the Cover Information Form. or actually know anything about the content of the book Okay that doesn't always happen but this is one of the most stressful parts of all for me. I've been known to have a full autistic meltdown ater a first glimpse of a cover.I'm a very visual person, and the cover is the most important part of the book for me I've hated more than one, like this one.



And I have loved many, like these,



and of course, Lab Rat




Finally, finally the book is done, finished and out there. But that's not the end of the process because then comes the marketing and promotion. From my point of view, the least said about that the better and it's matter for another post. I'll leave you all with a parting thought.


Why the hell do I bother? Because at the end of the day writing is in my blood and despite everything, when I hold that book in my hand and see my name on the cover, every painful second is worth it.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Coming Very Soon - Lab Rat

Lab Rat


Coming Very Soon From eXtasy Books


Lab Rat finally releases on Friday 8th and I'm excited for my lovely Gabriel. Lab Rat is probably the most angst-ridden book I've ever written, as it's the first person perspective of a tortured character who thinks himself entirely unworthy of love, and is running from a tortuous part of his past that just won't leave him alone, and is about to rip him apart for the second time. I had such fun torturing and tormenting Gabriel, then sticking him back together with Laurie's love - to the point that Laurie wasn't speaking to me.

Blurb

You can run, but sometimes the farther you go the closer you are to where you started.

Gabriel’s life ground to a halt some time ago, but he’s still running—from his past, his family, and now the new man in his life. A man who just won’t get the message that Gabriel isn’t interested in love anymore.

Laurie won’t give up on the beautiful man who is broken and intent on running away. Even though he doesn’t know what Gabriel is running from, he’s determined to be at his side no matter what.

When Gabriel’s past finally catches up, they both stop running and find themselves plunged into something Laurie could not have dreamed of, and Gabriel never stopped having nightmares about.



Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of attempted suicide.

Excerpt

Life sucks. I mean really sucks. I’m a good person, so why do bad things keep happening to me? While I’m not the type to help old ladies across the road—I’d probably scare them into a heart attack—I don’t go out of my way to hurt people either. And yet…

My family has pretty much disowned me, and I don’t blame them. They can’t cope with me, never could. Hell, I can’t cope with myself. They kind of tried for a while, in their own way. The thing is—it wasn’t my way. It wasn’t a good way. It wasn’t the right way.

When I was thirteen, something bad happened to me—really bad. They never got over it. Neither did I, but that didn’t matter. I got into drugs and alcohol in a big way. I became dark, too dark. Then, when I was fifteen, it all got to be too much. I couldn’t hold it all in anymore—the memories, the pressure, the…problems it left me with.

They say I had a breakdown. I don’t know what that is, but I ended up in hospital. I don’t know how long I was there or what happened to me there. I only know that I felt safe. For the first time since it happened, I felt safe. I didn’t want to come out. I wasn’t ready to come out, but they pronounced me cured because I could string sentences together and go for days without screaming or hiding under the bed.

My parents knew, though. They knew I wasn’t cured, that I never would be. They tried for a while, but they couldn’t cope. Not with the screaming in the night. Or the staggering in at three in the morning, either high or pissed—to stop the screaming in the night. They couldn’t cope with the physical conditions, the mental problems, the attitude, the violence. They couldn’t cope with watching the child they loved change into a monster.

When I was sixteen, I moved out and went off the rails. Surprisingly, I still managed to go to school now and again, and I got decent results in my exams. This led to the headmaster persuading me to go back for my A levels, and even more surprisingly, given what I was doing to my body by that time, I got three A levels in one year. And thus ended my academic career.

There was talk about going on to university, but to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered. I still had the nightmares, and I was afraid to go out into the world. I felt vulnerable and exposed in unfamiliar places and situations. I guess I was—I am—a complete nut job.

At the moment, I’m living in a grotty room, in a grotty house, on a non-descript street, in a second-rate town, that is…nowhere. I have two housemates who are used to me and know when it is and isn’t safe to talk to me, and who ignore the screams.

Tonight, I’m going out. It’s Saturday night. I always go out on Saturday nights. I go to the same place, see the same people, and do the same things. You’d think I’d get bored, but it’s safe.
I give myself a last look in the mirror and am reasonably satisfied with what I see. I need a haircut, and I’m way too pale, but at least the shadows around my eyes are camouflaged by the kohl, and where I’m going the vampire look is par for the course. The black lips in the mirror smile at me, but there isn’t any humour in them or in the piercing blue eyes that stare coldly at me when I allow myself to catch their gaze.

Ah well. This is the best it’s going to get tonight. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I don’t feel up to going out. I’m not myself at the moment, mentally or physically. It’s not as if I can even get pissed anymore. I learned the hard way that alcohol and my meds don’t mix, or do mix. Blegh.

But then, today hasn’t been a good day. If my head’s anything to go by, it’s not going to be a good night either, so what’s the point in being good? What’s the point in trying to look after myself? Fuck it.

I check my wallet to make sure I have enough for taxis and plenty of booze. Then I flick my hair over my shoulder and stalk out of the room.

I intimidate people easily, and I don’t know why. I’m a nice person—to everyone but myself. Okay, I’m not the most sociable. I have friends, but I don’t let anyone get too close. What’s the point? I’m not a good friend to have. I try, but good friends don’t turn cold for no reason. They don’t run away, don’t get so angry they have to hit the wall so they don’t hit you, for no reason at all. Real friends can be relied on, can give, can communicate and don’t drag you down.

Surprisingly, I do have real friends. Even though I’m such a bad friend, there are people who somehow seem to like me despite it all. I’m a shit to them. I spend all my time trying to push them away, and they spend all theirs trying to save me. I wish they wouldn’t. Although…sometimes it’s nice to have someone hold my hand when I wake up in hospital, or on the floor, or…worse. 
Sometimes it’s nice not to be alone. But it’s not safe.

Monday, 28 January 2019

January Newsletter

I would be delighted if any of my readers would comment with questions, observations or any suggestions on what you'd like to see in my newsletter.

To be entered in the January Giveaway all you need do is comment. You can comment about anything or simply leave your email address. As long as I have a way to contact you, you're in the raffle.


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Lab Rat - Coming Soon


With an estimated publishing date of 8th February, Lab Rat is finally about to see the light of day again. It's on pre order with Extasy Books right now.

The cover is finalised and I'm delighted with it. It so encapsulates my poor little Gabriel. To whet your appetite, here is an excerpt. Gabriel is rembering something that happened when he was thirteen.

It’s the lights. I hate the lights—they’re so bright. I don’t like bright. I want to go back to my room. It’s not bright in my room. It’s dim and cool and safe. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to think. I don’t want to…

“Good morning, Gabriel. Are you going to be a good boy today? You weren’t yesterday, were you?”

“I want to go home.”

“All in good time. We have work to do today, and the sooner we get it done, the sooner you can go back to your room. One more day. Just one more day.”

“Can I go home then?”

“We’ll see. Relax now, Gabriel. You know it’s easier when you relax. I’m going to give you an injection, and I want you to relax and let your mind open. Relax now, Gabriel. I’m going to start now. Remember to relax.”

The lights. I hate the lights. I hate the lights. I hate them. I hate… I hate…

It’s the screaming that wakes me every time. This time, though, it’s different. The screaming is still there, the absolute panic. But this time I’m not alone. There’s someone here with me. My housemates never come near when I’m screaming—they know better. It scares them. It scares me.

I prise open my eyes, and shock stops the screams. It almost stops my heart. I try to push him away, but he holds on. He’s in my bed. He’s…dressed, but I… I’m not. What the fuck happened last night? 
Was I that drunk?

“Get away from me.”

“When you stop shaking.”

“Fuck that. Get away from me.”

I manage to push him back, and he stretches out like a cat, propping that head with its glorious hair on one hand.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“That’s okay. I wasn’t expecting thanks. Not from you.”

“Thanks? What do I have to thank you for?”

“Well, I could have left you unconscious on your doorstep, but I thought you’d be more comfortable in bed.”

“I… What? I… You undressed me?”

Laurie shrugs. “You threw up.”

I groan. I’m not worried about passing out or throwing up—that’s not unusual for me, especially after alcohol—but the thought someone saw it, saw me, and took off my clothes… I’m horrified. No one sees my body. No one.

“Get the fuck out of here.”

“Just as well I wasn’t expecting thanks, isn’t it? Otherwise, I might be feeling crushed right now.”

“I don’t give a shit. Get the hell out of my room.”

Laurie’s face turns introspective. He reaches out and runs his finger over my arm. The touch sends shivers through me, and for a moment I freeze, staring at his hand. It’s been a long time since anyone has touched me, especially there.

Stunned, I raise my eyes and gaze into the deep blue orbs. “Is it because of that?” he says softly. “It’s 
all right. It doesn’t bother me.”

My heart is pounding. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t cope with this. I shake my head. “Get out of my room. Get out…get out!” I’m acting unreasonable, but I can’t help it. I’m getting hysterical, but I can’t help that either. By the end, I’m screaming at him.

Looking completely shocked, he does what I ask.

I collapse back on my pillow, shaking…and not because of the alcohol or the fits. What the hell just happened? No one, no one, sees me naked. No one sees. But Laurie…Laurie is… I turn onto my side and hug myself. I’m hardly aware of the tears until they overwhelm me, and I sob until I’m exhausted.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Great Savings at Dreamspinner


Ward off the winter cold with some hot reading. There are some great sales coming up at Dreamspinner Press


ALL 3 IMPRINTS: From January 18 to 23, all paperbacks are 30% off.

For readers attending Livre Paris, use code PARIS19 for free shipping to the book fair.

(Sale is set to begin and end based on Eastern Time.)

Keep watching for more great savings.





Thursday, 17 January 2019

Evolution of Language



I have been getting very frustrated lately. As an autistic person, I have real issues about accepting when things are "wrong". I also have obsessions! I've had a tough time adjusting to "house rules" which don't always make sense to me.

Another thing I've had a tough time with is adapting to the American version of English. Until I started writing, I'd not really been aware of how different the two languages are. (I know American is not technically a different language, as officially it's a dialect, but it is to me). Initially, I reacted very negatively to insistence that I learn to write the American way. In particular, written American simply looks wrong and I hate to see my own words on a page spelled wrongly and expressed wrongly. For example, the words color, theater, realize all look very strange to me, and my teachers at school would have marked them wrong if I'd spelled them that way. I would also have been corrected for using all right to mean okay instead of all correct. It's been quite an uncomfortable process, and if I'm honest, it still is.

My latest obsession is about the fact that certain things are becoming acceptable merely because they're used wrongly so many times. My pet peeve (yes, I am going to mention it AGAIN) is the misuse of the verbs to lay and to lie. No, you do not either lay down or have a lay down or go for a lay down. No, you were not laying on the bed and neither was anyone else. I appreciate it has become an obsession of mine, but that's what my autistic mind does and I'm not going to apologise for it. Sadly, this is rapidly leading me to the point where I'm having to abandon books, even my favourite series, because it's become a trigger.

On the bright side, all this has led me to an interest in the development of language, and I'd like to share that with you.

1. Early days

From the days when most of the inhabitants of the British Isles spoke a common Celtic language until the Rennaisance, the Engish Language changed mainly through -

Immigration/Occupation

Over the centuries the British Isles have been invaded/settled many times. First by the Celtic races (thought to have come from Asia), then by the Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Romans,Vikings and French. After each occupation, the Language of the invader/settler became either the primary language or absorbed into the language, with many of its words and phrases being adopted.

Some of the invaders also brought elements of other languages, for example, the Romans introduced not only Latin (which was the first language, in Britain, that was written down to any great degree) but the language of their scholars, which was Greek. While Latin words and phrases dominate many disciplines, Greek also has its place. For example, Latin is the primary language used in Law and Politics, especially the making of laws. Words such as affidavit, prime (as in prime minister), testament, etc come from Latin. Latin is also used almost exclusively in naming plants and animal species. On the other hand, many Greek words have found their way into disciplines such as Medicine (words such as oestrogen, carcinoma, dysentery, and even doctor), as well as Engineering (arch, aeronautics/aeroplane, median etc) and mathematics (parallel, parameter, arch, graph, logic etc)


Filtering Down

Along with their language, invaders such as the Romans brought with them their ideas of a strict class system, with the upper classes speaking a different, more refined version of the language, while the common man spoke a coarser version that lagged behind the aristocracy in absorbing new languages. Those with access to written material had a far wider and more refined vocabulary.

Divisions also arose between the secular population and those who chose to study professions (such as philosophy, law, medicine etc) or became involved with the church.

The French invasion in 1066 brought another wave of massive change across the board. After the war, William portioned out a great deal of land to those who assisted him in the war. These French landowners, who became the new aristocracy, clearly spoke French, and in order to find favour with the new power, the upper echelons of English society quickly adapted to the use of French, which then filtered down to the general populace, although Latin still retained its hold on the professions. An example of French words would be languor, encore, deja vu, matinee, souvenir, fiance.


2 Middle Ages

A major revolution in the language occurred when Mr William Shakespearem, along with his contemporaries, swept in and owned it. Many common words and phrases were simply made up by him. Examples of words are critic, discontent, eyeball, negotiate, premeditated, swagger. Examples of phrases are "break the ice", "method in his madness", "naked truth". "pitched battles", "the course of true love never did run smooth" and "the milk of human kindness".

3. The Navy

Britain has had an effective martial and merchant navy since very early on, trading with places as far away as China and the Americas. Sailors have developed their own language, and were often the first "ordinary" people to make acquaintance with the culture and language of the lands they sailed to, often needing to quickly find a means to communicate, at least on a basic level. Many words and phrases passed down into common usage. Some fascinating examples are -

Freeze the balls off a brass monkey - A monkey was a brass tray where cannon balls were kept. Extreme cold would cause the tray to contract and the balls would fall off.

Over a barrel - Sailors were often strapped over a barrel to be flogged for wrongdoing.

Long shot - Refers to the range of a cannon. Successfully firing beyond their range didn't happen very often.

Above Board - On the deck and therefore clearly visible.

Pipe down - In order to extend the range at which commands could be heard, a whistle (or pipe) was used as the clear, high notes carried further than the human voice. At the end of the day, the pipe would sound the command to stop whatever you're doing, turn off the lights out and sleep.

Phrases that don't need explanation include - All at sea, Between the Devil and the deep blue sea, Close quarters, Give a wide berth, High and Dry, Know the ropes, Panic stations, The cut of your jib etc

4. The British Empire

As well as being influenced by invaders, further major developments in the English language came about with the expansion of the British Empire, when words from the languages of those places invaded by the English were absorbed. Examples are jungle, swastika (which ironically came from the Sanskrit word for inner peace and harmony), juggernaught, loggerheads, cage, commando etc


5. The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought a host of new words, simply because it brought new things that needed to be named. For example telephone, lightbulb, steamboat, ship, electricity, camera etc


6. American

The development of English in the US clearly did not begin until the seventeenth century. The first known British settlement was Jamestown. Virginia in 1607. They would have been exposed to the likes of William Shakespeare, but as many of them were escaping religious prejudice and were highly religious, it's by no means certain they would have been exposed to his culture.

The US was not as involved in exploration and expansion as Britain so the influences of the British Empire would have been muted, if they happened at all. On the other hand, they would have been infuenced by the previous settlers, mainly from Western Europe, principally Italy and Spain. Naval influences would also be present, although the US didn't develop its navy formaly until the end of the eighteenth century,

In the US one of the most sudden and drastic changes in language was with regard to spelling. This was largely the result of a unilateral decision - to make the language look more like it sounds - by Noah Webster who published his first dictionary in 1828. He is responsible for things like the replacing of "ph" for "f" in many scientific terms eg sulphur/sulfur, the omission of letters eg aluminium/aluminum, colour/color etc and completely changing words such as aeroplane to airplane.

7. The Printing Industry

Another significant influence came from the printing industry who charged by letter and encouraged their customers to shorten words and phrases when they could eg aniseed/anise, press stud/snap etc.

8. Modern Times


In modern times, the internet had led to a far closer relationship between peoples of many different countries and cultures. Language has, again, become fluid and dynamic. The innovation of texting and things like twitter that limit the length of comments, have also led to changes in the way language is used and the introduction of new words and phrases (lol). Slang has been alive and well since earliest times and has, again, become more influential since the internet opened up the world.

It would seem there has been an almost about face in the way language is developing. Whereas before it was the upper echelons of society who, on the whole, had the greatest connection with peoples of other countries, resulting in changes filtering downward, today such contact is universal, with young people being the most dynamic in the adoption of new trends, slang etc, and the development of language appears to be moving, rather than upward or downward between classes, but rather sideways between young and old.

9. The Future

Language will continue to grow and develop as we move forward but I have to wonder about the future. Whereas in the past, changes have mainly been brought about by the introduction of some new culture or language, with the world opening all its doors and moving toward a truly global existence, surely there will come a point where there is no culture or language that is new anymore. At that point, will the development of language simply stop and language become fixed?