Do you know who I am?

Last week, I had the opportunity to show my published and soon-to-be published pieces to my work colleagues. Some of them were aware of my writing through reading this page, while it was news to others.

I don’t talk about my fiction writing much when I’m doing my day job. Although it certainly isn’t a secret, I believe there is a time and a place for promotion, and I was given that time and place on Thursday lunchtime, so I took advantage of it.

On Twitter and Facebook, it’s particularly important to keep a balance between ordinary updates and promotional copy. How often have you seen an account post exactly the same message four or five times a day? It makes people switch off, like that one individual you avoid at the party as you know they’ll talk about their pet subject ceaselessly. Besides, if you say everything upfront, what is there left to have a conversation about?

Two great places for advice about promotion – and there are dozens of others – include the writer Rayne Hall, and the marketer Wilco Wings whose advice can be adapted for writers.

And now I have your attention through our implied conversation, it’s time to launch into the self-promotion.

To date, three of my short stories have appeared in the following anthologies: Because of What Happened by The Fiction Desk, FourW Twenty-Four by Booranga Writers’ Centre (I’m not credited on the website, only in the book), and Alternate Hilarities by Strange Musings Press. While looking out materials for my work event, it seems I’ve misplaced my copy of Because of What Happened, so I’ll have to hunt it down like JR Hartley and his book about fly fishing.

 

I’m also due to have two poems published in an upcoming anthology called Seagate III when the last tranche of funding comes through, and one in a promotional leaflet for the MLitt Writing Practice and Study programme at the University of Dundee.

By coincidence, I received an e-mail last week from Giovanni Valentino, editor of Alternate Hilarities. In each of his anthologies, he likes to run a reprint from the magazine of the same name from the 1990s, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find the authors.

To this end, he’s asking the Internet for help. On the off-chance that you’re one of the following people, or that you know their whereabouts, please e-mail him forthwith at giovanni.valentino@strangemusingspress.com.

Issue 2

  • Alex MacKenzie, The Elvis Wars
  • Dana Cunningham, The Man Who Could Communicate with Animals
  • Buzz Lovko, The First Dinosaurs (a near Myth)

Issue 3

  • Dan Crawford, X-0001
  • Ken Goldmen, The Devil and Myron Rabinowitz
  • Michael Eugene Pryor, Irreconcilable Instructions

Issue 4

  • E. Jay O’Connell, Until the Tuna Runs Out
  • Alex MacKenzie, The Real Me

Issue 5

  • Tomas Canfield, Learning the Ropes
  • Leonard Jansen, Old ’99

Issue 6

  • Greg Costikyan, They want our Women!
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L’étranger.

For those of you who enjoyed the main event in November, we’re now nearly a week into Camp NaNoWriMo. This is an offshoot project where you have a free choice of what you want to work on, and you can set your own word target from 10,000 upwards. However, this is not what I want to discuss today.

One of our group members keeps a WordPress blog about her experience of moving to Scotland, from eating ice cream on a cold day to voting in last September’s independence referendum. Indeed, we boast a number of members from other countries.

There’s a joke often repeated that there is no such thing as American English, there is English and then there are mistakes. Joke or not, I find it difficult to agree with this statement, as there are so many variations of English even as you travel within the same country. For proof of this conjecture, just ask people on your favourite social media site what they call the end slice of a loaf of bread and watch the arguments come to a head.

The Stranger (collection)
The Stranger (collection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Regular readers will know that I’ve so far been published in three countries: England, Australia, and the USA. Sometimes when I send to US publications, I change the spelling and grammar appropriately, with guidance from Microsoft Word and my own knowledge of Hollywood movie dialogue. This isn’t, I admit, a perfect system. And yet the one story published there is written in British English, and that’s because the protagonist is obsessed with acronyms, and changing the location would mean rewriting those acronyms, so the Britishisms stayed accordingly.

I know virtually nothing about Australian English, so I stick with my usual spelling and syntax. Here’s where to buy FourW Twenty-Four containing my story, although they’ve omitted my name from the website. I made reference to a motorway, whereas a quick Internet search suggests that highway or freeway might be more appropriate. The type of road is not a major plot point in this piece, nor does the action take place in a specific locality, but I know a few expats who can advise me for next time.

While looking up these links, I discovered that another Gavin Cameron wrote a non-fiction book in 1999 about the threat of nuclear terrorism. So if that’s a subject that interests you, it’s the other guy you want to speak to.

Diagnosis: Literature.

I’d never been a fan of diagnosing fictional characters with mental illnesses until I started on Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Septimus seems to have some combination of what we would now call schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism. As this was 1925, before treatments became available, his doctor merely recommends rest as remedy.

Mrs Dalloway
Mrs Dalloway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mentioned this to a friend who also writes, and she told me that OCD runs in her family. Having thought about the stories I’ve written, I’ve realised I’ve created characters who probably have this particular condition.

For instance, one of my published pieces, Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, focuses on a man who is obsessed with acronyms. Every day, he scours the newspapers looking for acronyms. When he discovers one that he considers incorrect, he writes to the person or company concerned. Another features a woman who carries out set tasks at set times every week, and can’t cope with any change to it. Even the example piece I knocked up on 1 September to demonstrate editing techniques concerns a man who needs to repeat an action over and over again.

Tonight, I’m heading to an event in town where Life Sciences students from Dundee University will be performing factual and fictional pieces based on their studies. Their work has been edited and guided by students on the MLitt course.

My student is Greek, although she has an excellent grasp of English. Once we’d worked out the story structure, I only needed to change some of the grammar, particularly the tenses. I’ve realised that tenses in English are not always straightforward. For instance, If I was is sometimes correct, while If I were is sometimes required.

If I were able to, I’d tell you in this entry how it went, but I’ll come back to it next week.

Alternate Hilarities Released by @Strange_Musings Press.

I’m pleased to report that my short story Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse has been released today by Strange Musings Press in its Alternate Hilarities anthology, along with a number of other comedy pieces.

It’s available in both paper and electronic formats. You can buy a copy from Amazon UK, from Amazon US, or from Smashwords. Find out more about the book, and enter their Rafflecopter gift card giveaway, at the official website.

I’d also like to give thanks to the editor, Giovanni Valentino. Book publishing takes months of work, and throughout it all, he has been in regular contact with the contributors, and kept us up-to-date with its progress.

The Update to The Update.

Alternate Hilarities
Alternate Hilarities

Over the last few entries, I’ve posted that Strange Musings Press would be printing my story Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, subject to raising enough money through their Kickstarter page.

I’m pleased to report that the $1,100 target has been reached, and the anthology will absolutely and definitely be going ahead.

The Kickstarter campaign is still open, and there are extra bonuses for reaching $2,200 and above.

An Update on @Strange_Musings, and Some Transatlantic Translations.

Alternate Hilarities
Alternate Hilarities

Around three weeks ago, I was pleased to report that I’ve had a third short story accepted for publication. Strange Musings Press of New York will be printing Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, subject to raising enough funds through their Kickstarter page.

There’s still around a week left to raise the $1,100 required for it to go ahead. You can donate at several different levels from $1 to $150, each of which buys you into the project with increasing levels of reward, including electronic and/or paper copies, autographs, and your name in the Contributors’ section.

My story is called Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, and it’s about a man who wants to rid the world of badly-constructed acronyms. Although I’m Scottish, my dialect is British English so that’s how most of my stories are written, including this one.

If I’m sending to an American publisher, I often change the grammar and spelling to suit; at least, I have a decent stab at it. In one case, I even wrote the whole story in US English because the character was so strong in my head: a cross between Jason Gideon from Criminal Minds, and Adrian Monk. In Amending…, I took the decision to keep it in my natural dialect as there are a number of references to British places and companies, and I felt it would look odd if I, “translated” it.

A couple of weeks ago, I began reading The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks. The narrative is written with a curious mix of dialects. For instance, the title is spelt with two Ls and there’s a reference to a pub, but the colour gray and an SUV appear in other parts. The SUV would be known as a 4-by-4 in Britain. The story is set in several countries so I expect it’s difficult to settle on one standard spelling, yet it’s not a distraction here, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the story.

Conversely, my mentor Zöe Venditozzi released her debut novel Anywhere’s Better Than Here in 2012. When a US edition hit the shelves, she told me there were no spelling changes made. When you buy a copy, watch out for the character whose initials match mine.

So is it important to adapt your dialect depending on which side of the Atlantic you’ll be published? I expect most Internet users will be accustomed to reading both, but at the same time, people will still write in whichever they feel comes most naturally.

Perhaps one day in the future, the two will merge and we’ll have one way of spelling each word, one form of grammar for all. It would be more practical, but probably rather dull.

Can you help @Strange_Musings fund an anthology?

Alternate Hilarities
Alternate Hilarities

I’m pleased to report that I’ve had a third short story accepted for publication. New York publisher Strange Musings Press will be printing Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse. However, it will only go ahead if enough people contribute.

To this end, a Kickstarter campaign has been set up to raise $1,100 by Tuesday 25 March. You can donate at several levels from $1 to $150, each of which buys you increasing levels of acknowledgement, privilege, and general bragging rights.

I wouldn’t ask you to do something that I’m not prepared to do myself, so I’ve donated $22 under my legal name Gavin Cruickshank. That amount includes $10 overseas postage for a copy of the book, due out on Thursday 1 May. You can see my contribution on the backers’ page.

I would be most grateful if you could give whatever you can, and the editor Giovanni Valentino will be delighted. Don’t forget to share this blog post on WordPress and/or your preferred social networks.

If this comes off, I’ll have been published in the UK, Australia, and the US. Canada, I have my eye on you.