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Sunday, 28 February 2016

What a Beta Reader Does. Apart from running and hiding.

Well, it's done, and the Bronze Age book has gone off to my beta reader to be thoroughly scruitinsed.  For anyone out there who doesn't know about beta readers, here is a quick rundown of their very special nature and relationship with An Author.

Firstly, they must live far enough away that they do not have to fear the author (me, in this instance) coming after them with a breadknife or pushing poo through their letterbox, should they find a lot of mistakes.  I know some people who use family members as their beta readers - they are clearly far more stable and accepting of criticism than me, because any of my family would not dare say anything other than 'I really enjoyed it' for fear of spending the rest of their lives under an assumed name in a safe house in Walsall.
Yes, yes I am, thank you for asking

A beta reader should either be another author or someone well grounded in structuring your type of fiction.  There is absolutely no point in having your romance book beta tested by someone who last read a book in 1975 or who only reads books about military aircraft.  They can read your book, but they will only say 'I really enjoyed that', which is not really any help, or they will criticise the fact that there are no Junkers in it.  Unless there are, in which case they will tell you the fusilage is the wrong colour.

They should have a reasonable grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar and not write things like 'I dont no wot u r on about heer, m8' in the margin.  If they do, you are allowed to kill them, apparently, although I haven't tested this yet, so don't quote me.

Your beta reader should be a critical reader.  That doesn't mean that they go through your book tutting, shaking their heads and making cryptic notes about the colour of Junkers fusilage in every Christmas card you receive from them - it means they should have the ability to flag up mistakes or plot holes.  Some readers just read straight over glitches like this, and it's only when your editor gets their hands on your manuscript and emails you to say 'what happened to the dog in Chapter Ten?  And how come your hero is an IT consultant in Chapter Four, but by Chapter Eleven he doesn't know how to log in to Facebook?' that you realise you never noticed this, and feel a burk.  Your beta reader should already have berated you about these things and enabled you to put them right before Editorial Embarrassment ensued.
Seriously.  Keep track of the dog. Editors hate that sort of thing.
They should know how to tactfully tell you that your book is...shall we say, lacking a certain amount of detail.  In other words, they should be able to criticise the words, without the author feeling as though they are ten and the school bully has just told them that they smell of wee.  Unless either of these things are the case, of course, and if you ARE ten and smell of wee then I think you might not be quite ready for a beta reader yet anyway.  This is a knack that some people don't possess, and if YOU feel you have been attacked by your beta reader and need further information, then there is a helpline number coming on screen after this programme...

I love my beta reader....
but I keep the breadknife and poo on standby. Just in case...

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Silent Witness Syndrome... otherwise known as 'Why the hell are you there?'

Should any of you find yourselves in the fortunate position of being in my company, never (and I cannot stress this too strongly), NEVER sit next to me whilst watching television.

It has come to my attention recently - through the medium of someone shouting 'WILL YOU SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!' - that I have a slight tendency to yell at the screen.  I am going to call this 'Silent Witness syndome', because, with an excess of irony, I can never silently witness Silent Witness, but must leap to my feet several times during each episode and yell 'why on earth are you going with the police to interview witnesses?  You are a FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST, not a police officer!'
Forensic pathologists need to attend each and every instance of crime. Well known fact.

For someone who writes fiction, I have a complete inability to suspend my disbelief, and will spend large portions of any narrative drama telling anyone who will listen about inconsistency of character behaviour (Endeavour, I am looking at you here, in a squinty-eyed fashion) and unnecessary escalations (Midsomer Murders, it is really not essential to kill every single person in a village to cover up the fact that you once lost a teaspoon down the waste disposal unit).
Midsomer Stretchy - after the genocidal Spoon Murderer wiped out all the inhabitants during a particularly productive twenty minutes
Please agree with me here, everyone....

Sunday, 14 February 2016

A Valentine Dialogue...

As a Romance author (not a romantic author, the two are very different...), I have to work out a relationship from both sides, a kind of His and Hers dialogue about the situation.  So here's one for Valentine's Day...

HER:  It's Valentine's Day tomorrow...he's been distracted, asking me odd questions, have I looked under the couch lately... I just KNOW he's planning a surprise!  What could it be, I wonder?

HIM:  I can't find the TV remote. Bugger.

HER:  Yes, he's definitely up to something, when I asked about our plans for tomorrow he was all vague and 'we'll see'...I wonder if he's booked a table at the new restaurant I was raving about?

HIM:  There's a match on.  Wonder if Amazon can send a new remote by tomorrow?

HER:  He left his laptop open on his AMAZON page!  He never goes on Amazon!!!  Tempted to look and see what he ordered... jewellery????

HIM:  They can't.  Well, that's bollocks.  I know, her dad will be watching the match, won't he?

HER:  He's suggested we go to Mum and Dad's!!!  He's going to propose, isn't he?  Wants them to be there to witness our joy!! I am SO EXCITED!!  Better dig out something special to wear, and that nice perfume...

HIM:  Better take some beer.  Her old man can put down the Fosters when there's a match on.

HER:  And now he's gone to the Off Licence... He'll have gone to buy some of that Moet Chandon they do; otherwise he'd just have gone to the supermarket....

HIM:  Bloody lucky the offie has a 'special' on... ten cans for nine quid, bargain!  Hope United put up a better performance than last time, mind you, that ref wants shooting.

HER:  Should I get him a card with 'To My Love' on?  Or 'To My Fiance'?  No, that's a bit previous, better pretend I don't suspect a thing, he'll be disappointed if he realises how transparent he is, bless him!

HIM:  Oh, there's the remote!  Great, can watch the match and drink the Fosters myself, don't have to move all afternoon.  Why does she keep on about tomorrow being special?  She doesn't even SUPPORT United....

Apologies for the sexism, footballism and general cynicism...

(PS, I know it's not always true, some men are romantic, some women aren't, and not all men like football...)

Monday, 8 February 2016

News about the new book - in pictures!

I'd just like to take this opportunity to announce...

I have signed the contract for my eighth Choc Lit book!

It's about this...
and this...

with a bit of this...
and some of these (well, sort of)

I think it's due for release around October, and I can't wait to find out what you all think of it!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Picture- perfect history...duvet covers and horse drawn wagons.

Yesterday I found myself taking a photograph of a duvet cover.  It was perfectly reasonable and all that, but it made me stop and think...

In the 'olden days', (ie when I was young and technology was younger), taking a photograph was something that nobody did without forethought.  For a start, a camera was the size of a breeze block, and taking one around with you in its case was like carrying a small shed.  So we only took cameras to 'destinations'.  Like on holiday, or days out, things like that.  Plus, when you'd taken a picture you had to wind on the film until it clicked (something I was rubbish at, I'd never wind on far enough, I was responsible for some hideous 'double exposures', where my family looked like they were haunting themselves).  Then you had to make sure the film was finished (again, something I wasn't good at, thus often exposing the entire film by accident), get it out of the camera and take it to Boots (other chemsts were also available) to spend a week being developed.

Believe me, in the olden days, you only took pictures of things you really really wanted to remember.

Now most of us have phones on which you can take pictures (my 'olden days' self still boggles at that.  What, phones?  In your pocket?  That you can take pictures on??  What strange, science fiction world is this?).  My children take about a million pictures of everything.  Dogs jumping around?  Take a hundred shots. Night out?  Another hundred pictures of people they don't even know and won't remember come morning. 

I am still old school and take one (maybe two, if I'm feeling daring). I can't get over the feeling that this is all costing me money (see olden days, taking films to Boots).

Remember photo albums?  I've got one that belonged to my Uncle, who was born in 1914.  Look...
In the days when horse and carts were transport, and aeroplanes (that's one, in the bottom picture) were strange war machines.  These pictures are from the late twenties.  Moments so long gone as to be almost historical.  And now, my daughters send me messages with pictures attached of them trying on clothes in changing rooms - what do I think of this dress?  It's just all!

I've got pictures of my uncle's grandmother, which were shot in those studios where you had to sit very, very still for ages to get a decent shot.  And now I've got pictures of a duvet cover.  And cats.  And cake.  What would we have thought of our forebears if we'd opened one of these leather-bound albums of heavy pages carefully screened with tissue paper, to find pictures like this?
 I think we would conclude that they, and their shed-sized cameras, ought to get out more...