Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why I Use British Spelling in My Writing

Last Tuesday evening we were going over a story of mine at my writers’ critique group. The other members had all kinds of great things to say about my story and gave me really helpful advice as usual. So I'm very grateful for their help. The exception was when two of these members criticised me for using British spelling. I’m not the least bit British, but I told them it was my preferred style of writing. They said they understood that but that my American audience would hate it. I told them I don't write for an American audience; I write for an English-speaking audience (meaning any readers who speak English regardless of country of origin or residence). And that's where I put my foot down and said that I personally believe U.K. English is the most correct form of English as far as standardisation goes because it originated in the British Isles and not in the United States. I said that there are many American authors who have used British English, authors such as Edgar Allen Poe, T.S. Elliot and H.P. Lovecraft. One of the two members said that if I send my manuscript with U.K. spelling to an American publishing house it would be returned with red marks all over it. I told him that that's why I go the self-publishing route. Overall, self-publishing only has two basic requirements for written language: audience comprehension and author's voice.

I’m Not a Business Man

So, if British English is the more standard of English dialects then why has the U.S. deviated from it? A simple answer to this question goes back to the 19th century when Noah Webster wrote his version of the American English dictionary. According to BBC America, he wanted to make the English language simpler. Well what the hell is so much harder about writing “humour” as opposed to “humor”? Shit! So, unfortunately, we in the U.S. look for the lazy way to write all in the name of practicality. That’s a practicality that the internet age has demanded more of. Yet it’s a practicality that this country’s capitalism has been behind; practicality in the U.S. equals whatever makes money. So another reason I use British spelling instead of American: I’m an artist, not a business man.

I'm a Purist

I'm also a purist when it comes to certain aspects of culture. (Race and ethnicity is in no way one of them.) Not that I don't believe in innovation; if I didn't, I wouldn't be the writer and artist I am. But modern culture, especially here in the U.S., tends to trash the old when the new comes in. Do bring in the new; I'm not saying don’t. If things were kept the same all the time we'd be bored to hell. But don't neglect the old. I can go for movie remakes and even TV series remakes; there are many remakes that I like, especially when it comes to films. But I can't stand it when society pretends the original work never existed. It happened that way with Battlestar Galactica. When SyFy Channel's revived version of the '70s space opera series came out, it was the big talk among sci fi fans (myself being one of the fans who didn’t hype about it; I didn’t even like the revived series). And hardly ever did the original series get mentioned or was given credit. I'm the same way when it comes to music and books: I prefer the original recording and the original edition because it's closer to the original creator and is representative of the period that made it.

Writing In Your Own Voice In the Proper Place and Time

I'm not saying to anybody that they should like originals better than remakes, or the original and standard dialect of a language better than its offshoots. It's everybody's right to like what they want. Which is basically what I am trying to say: every person has the right to express their beliefs in their own voice, at least in the proper place and time, and that goes for the author and artist too.

What do I mean by proper place and time? As far as writing goes, I mean who you are writing for and when. For example, when the one member in my critique group told me that the British spelling in my manuscript would get slashed with a red pen if I sent it to an American publisher, I told him that if I submit to an American publisher then I'm going to use standard American English. But if I'm self-publishing, I'm going to use the standard English I prefer and that I believe in, and that has for a long time been British English.

Self-Publishing Allows More of the Author’s True Voice 

Now, many people will say that even in self-published work I'll annoy my American audience with British English. Well, to that I say if it annoys them then they don't have to read it. I also say that the average American reader isn't stupid. They will know what an English word is referring to when they come across it even when it has a slight variation in spelling, especially when they see that word in its surrounding context. So, if the audience understands the writing and if the author communicates what he or she wants, it works. Big publishing companies maybe don't see it that way, so that's why there's indie and self-publishing. It's those two routes that I plan to continue to go with my writing.

So I gave you my reasons why I write using British spelling: 1) I believe British English is the more standard English; it is used by almost every nation but the U.S., whether as a first language or a second. 2) I am a purist when it comes to certain items of culture, and that includes the standarisation of language. Using the spelling of English from the country of origin is part of my voice and style when it comes to my writing. Maybe this nation’s big publishing companies prohibit that style or voice like they so many times do with other voices that are variants of standard American English—including certain ethnic and racial dialects--but self-publishing doesn’t. Do you believe self-publishing allows an author to publish in his or her own writing style more than traditional publishing? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Update on the Short Story

I'm just finishing up outlining the cover illustration for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. I hope to have the whole illustration done by next weekend but the work will probably go into the following weekend. As I said last time, I'm working a seasonal day job, so that holds me back in my missions of my alter ego as fiction author.

Until next time . . .

Stonehenge at sunset.
Photo Credit:

Sunday, March 20, 2016

How a Book Cover Illustration Can Market While Conveying Author’s Vision

Top portion of a woman's face, the left side rotting.
Photo Credit:

Daylight savings started last Sunday in my area and it took me nearly all week to adjust to the change in my sleep schedule. On top of that, I returned to a seasonal day job and so had to adjust to my new sleep schedule for that! It was a big pain in the ass since one night I did not sleep a single blink. So, every day last week I ended up having to go to bed earlier than usual just to catch up on missed rest. A couple of those days I went to bed before the sun was down! So you can say I was a semi-vampire those days. Because of that weird sleep schedule, I hardly got any writing done and much less book cover art for “Circa Sixty Years Dead”. In fact, I didn't get any of the book cover illustration done. So I'll have to further delay the cover reveal by another two weeks. I apologise. But my daylight savings insomnia isn’t the only reason for the further delay. You’ll be glad to know that the other reason is that I’m using one of you readers’ suggestions that I asked for two posts ago. To this particular reader (who I won’t name because I didn’t get his permission to) and all of you who commented on my concept sketch whether in words or Facebook Likes and such, I thank you all greatly.

The reader's suggestion was that the skull behind the statue's face and the mask breaking off from it in the sketch was cliché. The skull was actually supposed to be a rotting corpse’s face overall, but it still came too close to a death's head which is one of the oldest images on horror book covers. So I'm going to make the face within the statue reflect more of that of a rotting corpse's than of a skull. Yet, I will leave a few skeletal features in the face so people will better recognise it as a zombie-like figure.

Sketch of a giant Hindu statue with a skull-like face.
I will make the skull's face resemble more of a rotting corpse's. 
Photo Credit: the blogger

In making a decision such as this, I have to weigh my use of marketing against my use of artistic aesthetics. While I’m definitely for marketing strategies that sell books, I also believe that the graphics and packaging are part of the art of the book itself. This is particularly so if the author is serving both as designer and illustrator. Although I'm mostly the second of these two (I'm using a template for the design part), I feel I need to reflect the unique vision of the story in the book cover illustration as much as possible.

Often marketing requires use of the latest trends, some that get old really fast regardless of popularity (thanks a lot to mainstream commercial media). That’s the case with zombies. But zombies are a much newer popular icon than the death’s head. While using these over-rated trends may be necessary for selling a book, a self-publishing author should convey his/her unique vision in as much of the book as possible including its packaging (digital or print). After all, many indie authors go the self-publishing route because their work is too unique for traditional publishers who, because of that, often turn it down.

So what will I do about the breaking mask? I thought that over heavily but decided that to get rid of it would take away the illustration’s conveyance of the story’s basic theme. That theme is liberation of self.

I want to thank the reader again who suggested those specific changes. While I can't make them too much, I can make them enough to modify the illustration so it will come as close to a new idea as possible. Again, it's all about balancing marketing strategy with artistic creation in which both are needed, especially the second. Artistic creation is why we're writers to begin with.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Writing for a Living Vs. Writing for a Passion

Dr. Death: A ghoulish head wearing a top hat
Photo Credit:

I apologise, but I have to postpone the cover reveal to my horror short story by two weeks. It’s been a total burn-out week, mostly from writing--particularly from writing technical subject matter. So that’s held me back. I was so burned out one day that I hardly even wrote at all. I don’t just write imaginative, high-soaring fiction. I don’t even just write fiction. Many of us freelance writers are “forced” into writing for sources that we would prefer not to. Many of those sources are ones that require technical writing. That’s what I call writing for a living as opposed to writing for a passion.

Generally speaking, there is rarely a job opening for a fiction writer, much less a fiction writer of a particular genre. There are very few ads that read “Science Fiction Writers Wanted” or “Horror Writers Wanted”, “Fantasy Writers Wanted”, “Thriller Writers Wanted”, etc. The establishment controlled by the corporate head honchos and even the head honchos of smaller businesses that are modeled after the big ones can give a shit less about who’s looking for a position as fiction writer, unless you count the many deceiving advertisements out there. They want what’s going to bring them the money. The corporations and wanna-be corporations are most in need of us freelance writers because they don’t have the time to write themselves. So we take the writing jobs we can get. Many of these jobs pay insufficiently, but we take them because if we work enough of them the payment will add up to pay off at least one of our expenses.

So that’s writing for a living, in particular. This is much different from writing for a passion (which may cross over into writing for a living, but it makes up only a small portion of our income for most of us). When you write for a passion, you write your art, not somebody else’s; you write according to your vision, not your client’s. You create your own product instead of your client’s. You create your worlds, not your clients’ whose are, more often than not, basic duplicates of this world.

But no matter what we’re writing for, we still put in our best work. Even if we get paid very little for it. Why do we do that if we’re getting under-paid? Because the very act of writing itself is ours. And when we’re using our time, energy and talent our image will be in our work when we submit that work to the client. So we want to give the best impression possible, regardless of who owns the rights to the work after we sell it. Our basic enthusiasm to write is very primal. It is an energy that is battling to get out of us, after having been locked inside our heads for so long, and put itself in front of the world regardless of subject matter. Harlan Ellison talks about doing your best writing regardless of pay in a video that I mentioned in a post a little over a year ago. He gives really good insight on the subject, so I suggest you check it out.

I apologise again, for the delay in the cover reveal and, yes, this will move the release of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” to a later date as well (probably to the week after the reveal). However, if I happen to complete the cover illustration by next weekend then I’ll definitely post it here and then will be back on schedule. The best way you can receive an update on this is by subscribing to the blog and you can do that in the form below to the right.

So, do you feel that you can write for a passion no matter what the project is or who it’s for? Or is your writing divided into passionate writing and writing for a living? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book Cover Concept Sketch for My Upcoming Horror Story

Despite the short blackout from this evening's storm, I just finished the concept sketch for the cover art to my book, "Circa Sixty Years Dead":

Pencil sketch of a six arm goddess statue with a partial skull face.
Click on the image to see details.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

The statue on the pedestal in the picture is coming to life, or more like death if you prefer. Therefore it's a walking dead, or in this case a sitting dead. As you can see, it's based on Hindu myth and so its a sculpture of a six arm goddess, but, no, it's not Kali. I'm going to colour the statue gold since it's made of gold in my latest horror story. ("Circa" is actually a mix genre of horror, dark fantasy and even some adventure.)

The statue is basically a tomb for the corpse that has been interred in it for thousands of years. A giant's corpse as you can see. So you might be thinking that my story is about something as corny as a giant zombie. Well, that's not quite what it's about. Story titles are not always literal and neither is book cover art. I will tell you what is literal in the story, though: the statue's size; it's more than 16 stories high. Now whether it does anything or not, you'll have to wait until "Circa" releases, which will be about two weeks from the writing of this post. The guy looking up at the sculpture is supposed to be holding an old Polaroid camera which is too hard to tell, I know. I drew this on a 5.5- by-8.5 inch paper pad, after all. Of course, the final sketch will be done on a much larger sheet.

I'll have a more specific idea for the book's release date next week. If you're that eagre to see what role this gargantuan statue plays in the story to the point where you don't want to shell out even just 99 cents to find out, then you can find out for free! That's because, as I mentioned last post, I'm giving  away copies of the book for free. But it's only for one day, its release day. The best way to be the first to get the news of "Circa"'s release date is to subscribe to my blog. You can do that in the Subscribe box toward the bottom of the right-hand sidebar.

Let me know what you think of the sketch. If you have any suggestions or questions then please leave them in the box below.

Until next time . . .