Should authors Americanize their fiction?

I am a British-Australian author with nine novels under my belt to date. All of my fiction has been set in either the Canary Islands, Britain, Australia, or with multiple settings around the world, save for one book: Twerk.

Twerk

Twerk is set in a Las Vegas strip club. The characters are American. Therefore, it stands to reason that the writing should also be American, or should it? Having just been criticised by two book reviewers for using the words ‘fortnight’ and ‘car park’ instead of ‘two weeks’ and ‘parking lot’ respectively, my own perspective on how far authors should go in changing their language to satisfy readers from one particular country is shifting.

In my defence (or is it defense), I did my best to compose Twerk using American English. I switched to the American English dictionary in my Word doc. I paid close attention to the language. Most of my oversights were picked up by my publisher and corrected. For example, car ‘boot’ became ‘trunk’. Except for these two glaring examples of ‘fortnight’ and ‘car park’. Two tiny slips in an otherwise Americanized (or Americanised) novel, standing out all the more because no other slips have been found, and they have stuck fast in the minds of reviewers enough for them to make an issue of it.

I am very grateful to both reviewers for their lovely reviews, for taking the trouble to read my book, and to read it thoroughly enough to notice these words. I am not criticising these reviewers. I am not hurt or upset by what they have said. I am using their remarks to raise an issue and I am endeavouring to do so in a respectful manner.

What interests me is that this has never been an issue for me in the past. I know that my Australian vocabulary creeps into my novels set elsewhere and I have to do my best to weed it out. And vice versa, my British vocabulary creeps into my Australian writing. But British and Australian readers and reviewers have never once made an issue of this or even remarked on it. Readers seem prepared to let it go. The general attitude seems to be more accommodating and forgiving. No one has ever said I absolutely have to write in English English if I am to set a novel in England, or Scottish English in Scotland. With so many regional dialects as well – how far do we take this!

Why are Americans (from the United States) touchy about their language? How far should non-USA authors go to accommodate the assumption that all fiction set in the USA must use American (US) English and never once use a word from another English-speaking country for fear of being dragged over the coals? (an expression that may or may not be understood by those born and bred in the USA and means speaking to someone severely about something foolish or wrong that they have done)

I have not studied American English at school. Is there such a course? What about Australian English? You could fill a term’s worth of curriculum studying that. What about the various forms of English around the world, in Africa, in India and so on? What, too, of authors who set their books in countries where English is not spoken at all?

What do I, as a British-Australian writer, do from now on? I raise the matter here because Twerk is a novel containing about 85,000 words which altogether comprise a story with characters, a plot and themes. Should Twerk be viewed as a lesser book in the USA because it contains the word ‘fortnight’? By the same token, should all novels written in American English and set in other countries be viewed as lesser works for using the word ‘parking lot’ instead of ‘car park’?

You can find the Twerk reviews in question on Amazon by clicking this link

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How Alice Bailey entered my life

I have been told many a time that when a seeker draws near to Alice Bailey, strange things happen and life seems to have a charge to it that it didn’t have before. Here is my story…

Alice Bailey

Finding Astrology

In 1990 I moved to Perth, Western Australia, and within a few weeks of my arrival I stumbled on astrology. I was staying in a cockroach-infested flat and one morning I decided to rid the place of the infestation by setting off an insecticide bomb. Only it meant I had to leave the flat for eight hours. It was summer, I had no money, so where would I go? I walked to the nearest library, and as I entered the air-conditioned cool, my eyes were drawn to some shelves containing the reference section – dictionaries and the like. In amongst the other ordinary books was an astrological ephemeris, a book detailing the daily positions of the planets in our solar system in relation to the zodiac for a period of a hundred years. I took the book and sat down to peruse the pages.

I found I had no trouble understanding the information. I knew all the glyphs and what each meant. It didn’t even occur to me that this in itself was a bit weird. How did I know all this? In the front of that particular edition were instructions on how to cast your own horoscope. I went to the front desk and acquired some scrap paper. A couple of hours later I had my chart, bar the rising sign. It turned out I needed another book to calculate that, so I headed to the state library in the city centre, found said book, and did the calculation. Then, I went home. I thought nothing of it.

Three days later, I was invited by a friend – who had the lease on the cockroach-infested flat – for coffee in town. He introduced me to another friend, a lecturer at a nearby university. This lecturer offered to drive me home and on the way he asked me about my interests. I told him, tentatively, that I had just discovered astrology and told him the story. He swung by his office and directed me to a bottom shelf behind the door. There, hidden away was a row of astrology books! He told me to take what I wanted. I selected twelve books. That night, I didn’t sleep. I was up, with the cockroaches. I didn’t know it then, but those cockroaches were the catalyst for a protracted phase of self-discovery and New Age exploring.

An Alice Bailey Book

Three years passed and I was studying for a diploma in transpersonal counselling. On the course I made a friend, enigmatic Claudio. Our friendship was intense and laced with romance although we both knew it wouldn’t last. He invited me back to his house one evening and while I stood in the hall he disappeared, returning a few moments later with a book proffered on upturned palms. It was dark blue and carried the title “Esoteric Astrology”. I gazed in wonder. ‘A gift,’ he said. He went on to explain how he had packed up his possessions in Adelaide some months before, as he prepared to drive across the desert to Perth, and he could only take with him what he could fit in his car. He saw the book, which he had bought in a second-hand book store, and hesitated. What on earth did he want to keep that book for? It weighed a fair bit, he had no interest in astrology and had never heard of Alice Bailey. But it seemed important and he felt compelled to keep it. When he met me, he realised why. ‘This book is meant for you,’ he said.

Esoteric Astrology

I had not heard of Alice Bailey either, but I took the book home and devoured it. There was something so intriguing and compelling about the writing, even as I scarcely understood a word of what was written. I wanted to know. And that desire, that need to know propelled me forwards.

Alice Bailey marked the end of that part of my journey. My life became very, very hard after that. I endured a decade of struggle and testing. A period of darkness in which I was forced to prove my worth as a human being. At the end of the decade, Alice Bailey unexpectedly re-entered my life. That story is even stranger than this.

Over the years I have bought the whole collection of Alice Bailey’s writings. I have read most. Something changed when I first encountered the Blue Books. I changed. The way I understood reality shifted. I will try to explain that shift another time.

I have always held the Alice Bailey teachings lightly and have never considered myself an adherent, but there is no need to be. All esoteric knowledge  is charged with a certain energy. Only, the knowledge exists behind a veil and to pass through that veil and enter into the realm, you need to have an esoteric disposition. What is that? Well, unbeknownst to me until I met the cockroaches, I had no idea I had one.

Twenty-five years later, and that early interest has culminated in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey

#BookReview: Broken Heart Attack (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 2) by James J. Cudney #CreativiaPub

I am delighted to share my review of Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney, a cozy mystery with a professor for a sleuth!

#CreativiaPub

About Broken Heart Attack 

When an extra ticket becomes available to see the dress rehearsal of King Lear, Kellan tags along with Nana D and her buddies.

When one of them dies of an apparent heart attack in the middle of second act, Nana D raises her suspicions and asks Kellan to investigate the death. With family members suddenly in debt and a secret rendezvous between an unlikely pair, Kellan learns that the Paddingtons might not be as clean-cut as everyone thinks.

But can Kellan find the killer, or will he get caught up his own stage fright?

My thoughts on Broken Heart Attack

I have dived straight into the second book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries without reading the first. While it soon became clear I would have benefited from reading the earlier mystery, I was quickly brought up to speed and settled into the story without any difficulty.

Broken Heart Attack has all the elements of a good cozy mystery, including an amateur sleuth who sets out to solve a suspicious death, in this case Gwendolyn Paddington, a family friend dying while watching a dress rehearsal of King Lear. The narrator, professor Kellan Ayrwick, is a satisfyingly flawed protagonist with a full portion of problems, both personal and professional, on his plate. In true cozy style, the reader is drawn into an intimate world filled with loveable, and well-rounded characters. Even chair of the department, Miriam Castle, the “venomous barracuda”, is sympathetically cast.

As Kellan bends to his grandmother Nana D’s wishes and investigates Gwendolyn’s death, he struggles to deal with the complex matter of his own nuclear family. Cudney has given his sleuth a challenging and heartbreaking dilemma. Cudney’s handling of this theme is sensitive and considered.

There is nothing not to love about Broken Heart Attack. Cudney’s writing style is warm, vibrant, edgy and upbeat, the humour leaping off the page in the opening paragraphs. The first person narration is strong, the use of a modern vernacular style appropriate. Broken Heart Attack is a racy read, the reader kept entertained as the plot unfolds, eager to discover the culprit. The novel ends on a cliffhanger, leaving the reader hungry for Book 3. It is a device that does not always work, but in this case it does.

 

You can find Broken Heart Attack on Amazon

Book review: The Good Messenger by John Simmons

The Good Messenger is the second novel I have read by John Simmons and I have to say I am a fan of this author’s writing style. Here’s why…

John Simmons

About The Good Messenger

1912: Tom Shepherd reluctantly stays for two weeks at Hardinge Hall. Mr and Mrs Hardinge are trying to arrange a marriage for their son Teddy to Iris, daughter of a local businessman. Tommy becomes the innocent messenger who delivers the secret arrangements.

Armistice Day 1918: The First World War has changed everything, especially the closeted world that Iris, Teddy and Tom existed in.

1927. Tom is now a journalist investigating the discovery of a baby’s bones in the woods around Hardinge Hall. Past and present move towards a resolution that might still bring everything crashing down.

My Review of The Good Messenger

The Good Messenger opens with a short and fragmented prologue that sets up a mystery unfolding in the pages to follow – the death of a soldier in WWI, his wife, his mother, a man visiting a prostitute in a doorway. In Part One, Simmons takes his readers back in time to 1912, when nine year old Tommy, the son of a cleaner, spends two weeks at Hardinge Hall. He encounters the benevolent Mr Hardinge and his mean-spirited wife, their son Teddy and his sullen sister, Muriel, along with another guest, Iris, who, if the Hardinges have their way, will be Teddy’s wife. Tommy is bemused, confused, in awe and a little terrified of his new and strange surroundings. An obedient and innocent boy, he obliges when Teddy, Iris and the barmaid Rosie, require him to pass messages back and forth. Part Two introduces Iris as an author, describing through the lens of her protagonist the mixed moods of Armistice Day out in the streets of London. In Part Three we meet Tommy as an adult, Tom, a freelance journalist given an assignment by a newspaper that takes him back to Hardinge Hall. There he unravels the  complex mystery of the Hardinge family, its dark secrets and tragedies, and, he falls in love.

Reminiscent of The Go Between and, in structure, of Atonement, The Good Messenger is a novel to sip and savour. References to Wind in the Willows lends a timeless, magical quality to the first part of the narrative, Tommy making sense of the world around him through comparisons with Mole and Ratty. Tommy’s reality is one of discovery, wonder and enchantment. The reader cannot help but adore the little boy, smile sometimes, feel saddened at others.

The characters throughout the novel are full-rounded and sensitively portrayed. The reader will sympathise with all of Simmon’s cast, even the sour and uptight Mrs Hardinge. The only character that remains somewhat in the shadows for a long time is Tom’s mother. Even when the narrative light shines her way, she remains a background figure, her development perhaps sacrificed to the confines of plot. In my mind, she represents some of the space between the lines of this story, a space for the reader to fill.

The construction of The Good Messenger works beautifully. The novel is at first a story of innocence observing the manipulations and deceptions of others, of class and its barriers, of old money and new, of poverty and its consequences for women, of prejudice, and of propriety and the inevitable antithesis. Simmons conveys well the changing of the times, WWI marking the end of one period of history and the beginning of another. Perhaps The Good Messenger is a novel to read twice, the reader drawn back, particularly to the prologue and Part Two, to reflect and ponder in the light of the revelations that follow, Part Two  especially pivotal in developing the theme of the changing times.

The narrative pace is slow, the storytelling descriptive. Simmons has a soothing style, allowing his readers to ease themselves into the setting and get to know the characters, his voice more a whisper, seductive, spoken with a welcoming hand. In Part Three, the narrative pace shifts up a notch. Simmons makes use of the first person perspective to provide a more intimate and urgent feel. The prose remains soft, but there is a touch more bounce to it. As the plot unfolds and rises to a climax, culminating in a series of shocking revelations, Simmons satisfies his readers and leaves no loose ends.

I commend Simmons for his handling of the trauma of war; his depiction of the soldiers who had witnessed the horrors in the trenches through the perspective of the onlooker, Tom, and the medical profession at the time, are well-researched and insightful.

Simmons’ writing is that of the water-colourist, all muted tones bleeding into each other, the tone never brash or overbearing. The author has finesse, his words seeping into the psyche like balm. Poignant, moving, romantic, and sometimes shocking, The Good Messenger is a lovely book to read, and then to treasure. A classic.

Fuerteventura

Clarissa’s Warning by Isobel Blackthorn

How could I not re-blog a review as good as this! Clarissa’s Warning is already doing its job of entertaining and drawing attention to a serious cultural issue.

Author Anthony Avina's Blog

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A woman’s good fortunes turn dire when her dreams of owning and restoring old ruins leads to a dangerous situation in author Isobel Blackthorn’s “Clarissa’s Warning”. Here is the synopsis.


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The Synopsis

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A lottery jackpot changes Claire Bennett’s life.

She buys an ancient stone ruin on the island of her dreams. Her mystic aunt Clarissa warns her of danger, but Claire pays no heed.

Soon after moving to the idyllic island, Claire is confronted by a mystery. As the sinister story of her home slowly uncovers, Claire enters a world of inexplicable events and ordeals. Someone or something doesn’t want her there.

But is it really a curse, or is there something else behind the events?

The…

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Don’t Let Them Fall! – a desert island protest

The ancient ruins of one desert island paradise

Cofete
Photo by JF Olivares

Don’t Let Them Fall!

I wasn’t planning on writing a novel set on the desert island idyll of Fuerteventura, the Canary Islands’ largest and driest island, with some of the world’s best beaches. Situated some 60 miles off the coast of southern Morocco, Fuerteventura really is an island of beaches. Then I met a photographer native to the island, a man with a grand passion. JF Olivares runs a Facebook group in which he posts his beautiful photos and also educates all who cross his path on the special heritage of Fuerteventura. He posts on the flora and fauna, the geology and archaeology, the landscapes and the changing seasons, and shares his photo-documentary of the many buildings in ruins.

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

Old farmhouses dot the landscape throughout the island, especially in and around the inland villages. Some have been restored, and of course at vast expense, but too many have been left in ruins while new buildings are constructed, sometimes right next door. What is being lost is not only rock and mortar but a whole heritage, a story of a way of life of a people who lived in one of the planet’s harsher climates. These buildings are an integral part of Fuerteventura’s cultural identity.

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

It was images like these that prompted me to brush up on my Spanish and engage with Jf Olivares’ posts. He decries what is happening to the Canary Islands as a result of unregulated tourism. We soon became good friends as I told him I shared his passion. I had a hand in restoring an ancient ruin on Lanzarote back in 1988, purported to be 300 years old, a ruin I partly owned at the time. It was my dream home in my dream village on my dream island and I had to let it go. Little wonder I was drawn to these old ruins of Fuerteventura!

Fuerteventura ruins
Photo by JF Olivares

My own connection to Fuerteventura goes back to 1989, when I visited, staying in Corralejo and Tetir. I was taken there by my local friends from Lanzarote, where I was living. The first time I went, it was for a festival. Corralejo was so vibrant and alive and I met a man, Pedro, a local artist. The attraction was strong, so strong that he wanted me to live with him in a little village called El Time. But I was already being swept up by another man, the highly charismatic Miguel Medina Rodriguez. I was back then like a feather on the wind. I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had stayed, with Pedro, with Miguel, or alone on the islands that had embedded themselves in my heart. They were heady, Bohemian days.

I have dearly wanted to move back to the Canary Islands. Last year I came close to buying an old farmhouse in a tiny village but the sale fell through. So, I did the next best thing and wrote a novel set there, a novel about a woman who wins a lottery jackpot and restores a ruin in a village called Tiscamanita. I love it that my characters can live my dreams!

Clarissa’s Warning was written to help raise awareness of these lovely old buildings slowly falling back to earth. I am indebted to JF Olivares for inspiring me to write this book, and for letting me use his photos. I am now at work on another novel set on Fuerteventura, again thanks to JF!

You can read more about Clarissa’s Warning here

Here is a link to Clarissa’s Warning on Amazon viewbook.at/ClarissaWarning

Clarissa's Warning

Clarissa’s Warning is the third novel in my Canary Islands’ series, which began with The Drago Tree

Here is the link to The Drago Tree on Amazon viewbook.at/TheDragoTree

 

 

Novel release: The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey

I am delighted to announce The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey, will be released by Creativia Publishing on December 4th! I will be writing a lot more about the story behind this novel in the coming weeks, and how it came to me to write it. Meanwhile, here is the cover.

Alice A. Bailey

About The Unlikely Occultist

Librarian Heather Brown discovers the fascinating life of Alice Bailey – a long forgotten occultist.

Back in 1931, Alice is preparing to give a speech at a Swiss summer school. But how can she stave the tide of hatred and greed set to bring the world to its knees?

Soon after, Alice is put on Hitler’s blacklist. What she doesn’t realize is the enormity of her influence on the world, and the real enemies who are much closer than she thinks.

A dynamic and complex figure, Alice Bailey’s reach was huge. She was influential among people and organizations of global power, especially the United Nations, and is widely regarded as the Mother of the New Age.

Yet today she is maligned by fundamentalist Christians, Theosophists, Jews, academics, and above all by conspiracy theorists. Are any of these groups justified in rejecting the unlikely occultist?

The Unlikely Occultist is available on Amazon VIEWBOOK.AT/OCCULTIST