Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions (Josh and Sean - An Ordinary Saturday) #amwriting

WIPpet numbers for 22nd February, 2017:
17 (year) - 2 (month) = 15 paragraphs from Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch Season Seven)

It’s done! I think. :D It’s with Andrea - my friend/editor/critic/beta-reader and all-round good egg (I borrowed that phrase from her, but it fits so well). She’s freelance, and you can find her at expresseditingsolutions.co.uk.

The final word count is 237k, or thereabouts, but I’m waiting on feedback on the ending, because…well, I can’t say. Nige read it, and his feedback was very useful (grumble, grumble)… Just kidding. It was useful, and he enjoyed it/felt lost once he’d finished it, which is a good thing. He’s a very honest alpha reader (methinks he also likes that title, seeing as he self-ascribed it today).

So, anyway, this is probably my very last snippet from Reunions, which is sad, but it’s a relief, too. I was starting to think I’d never finish it.

WIPpet Context:
This is from Episode Six (Reunions is divided into six episodes, so this is quite near the end). Josh and Sean are colleagues, friends, rivals and adversaries. They taunt, joust and love each other dearly (you can read more about how they became friends in Ruminations - a stand-alone prequel). Josh has gone round to Sean’s place to talk shop, and Sean has noticed Josh is distracted. The first line is Sean’s.

* * * * *
“I’ve got to say, I expected you to come with armfuls of paper—mindmaps, bullet-pointed lists…”

“There’s this new fad, haven’t you heard?”

“Oh? What’s that, then?”

“It’s called technology.”

Sean loitered in the doorway whilst he waited for the coffee to drip through. “I didn’t think you trusted it to care for your precious things.”

“It’s not technology I don’t trust, so much as technology in the wrong hands.” Josh retrieved his laptop and started it up, typing in his password at the prompt. “I’ve encrypted all my documents, of course, but it doesn’t take a genius to decrypt them.”

“I think you’ll find it does,” Sean argued.

“I couldn’t do it.”

“I rest my case.” Sean made a quick getaway to deal with the coffee.

“Deductive fallacy,” was all he got out of Josh when he returned and handed over a cup of the rich, steamy brew, immediately followed by, “OK. First item on the agenda…”

“Before that, how about you telling me what’s on your mind.”

Josh frowned at his screen. “Apart from taking you through my paperwork, there’s nothing on my mind. What makes you think there is?”

“No ‘thanks for never singling me out for my immeasurably vast intelligence’. Not even ‘thanks for the coffee’…”

“Thanks for the coffee, Sean.” Josh raised his mug in a parody of a toast and drank heartily.

“God, I almost fell for your sincerity there.”
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Monday, February 20, 2017

Sensitivity Reading and the Power of Words

I read an interesting post about sensitivity readers over the weekend, and by interesting, I mean more than a bit offensive and - accidentally, I'm quite certain - an excellent demonstration of why sensitivity readers are important if an author/editor/publisher wants to avoid a public trouncing. (I'll come back to why I have phrased it this way.)

For those reading this post who don't know already, a sensitivity reader is someone a publisher/author asks to read a manuscript to check for potentially offensive/problematic content. This includes the deployment of discriminatory/offensive language, events that may act as psychological triggers and anything else that may be considered a 'sensitive subject' for some readers.

Sensitivity readers have specific expertise, either through professional affiliation and experience (e.g. a nurse in palliative care fact-checking a book dealing with the treatment of terminal illness) or because they are part of the political minority* being written about.

*Political majority/minority refers to the distribution of power, not the size of the population. In the UK, white males are the political majority because they hold more power than any other group, even though there are more females than males (51 and 49 percent of the general population respectively: ONS, 2016).

The discussion I read was, on the whole, against publishers using sensitivity readers, for three reasons:
1. Sensitivity readers are only there to mop up after authors who don't do their research;
2. Sensitivity reading is censorship;
3. Sensitivity reading is political correctness gone mad.
Up to a point, I agree with the first of these arguments. A good author WILL do their research, and if there are persistent and serious errors in their writing - well, they probably need to start over or think about a change of career. Even when they have researched, there is every likelihood errors will sneak past. If the author is publishing independently, then they live and die by their own pen. However, if they've entrusted their work to a publisher, then they should safely presume their publisher has got their back.

That said, no amount of research is going to give an author the necessary insight into what it is like to be a member of a different group than their own, which is why sensitivity reading (but perhaps we need to call it something else) is crucial. One of the comments on the post I read demonstrated this point perfectly:
Like writing about transgendered teens... Having someone [who] lives that particular lifestyle read your work...is not a bad thing.
The comment was arguing in favour of sensitivity reading, although the commenter contended that asking a knowledgeable someone to read should be part of the author's research process, and again, I agree with that. An author does have a responsibility to research as thoroughly as possible - that or pass off their work as fantasy set in a close parallel universe, thereby neutralising factual inconsistencies. And I really don't like the connotation of 'sensitivity reading'. It implies an unnecessary fuss is being made, which trivialises the way language operates as a source of power.

Language as a source of power is the salient issue, and the comment highlights one of the ways this operates. Being a transgendered teen is not a 'lifestyle'. A lifestyle is a set of choices we make about how we live. No-one ever refers to the average white heterosexual male's existence as a 'lifestyle'. There is no choice involved in being white, straight or male. You just are. Needless to say (but I will say it anyway), being black, bisexual, gay, transgender, female, non-binary... is not a lifestyle or a preference. It is who we are.

Othering is another process we authors unconsciously engage in, and it requires more than conscious engagement to tackle. I'm white English, and it is my 'default' character identity. Thus, on an unconscious level, I won't mention the character's ethnicity if they are white English but I will if they're not, and in all probability I'll assume the character is white in another author's work unless they tell me otherwise. I'm not consciously racist, and I kind of hate myself for being unconsciously so, but I accept that I'm a product of my society, and being aware of that gives me the opportunity to constantly critically engage with the way I think and write. I'm going to get it wrong. It's inevitable. But through researching thoroughly and asking for guidance from those I write about, I give my best effort to not causing harm to another.

And that's key, really. Not causing harm.

Reading the comments on that post (and the article that started the discussion), publishers' incorporating sensitivity reading into their publishing process is perceived as unnecessary censorship by authors/readers, but in the age of indie publishing, authors don't have to kow-tow to publishers, so the censorship argument is irrelevant (Amazon and other vendors have content censorship in place, but that's something else entirely).

What's also important here is that publishers are doing this to avoid litigation (the public trouncing I mentioned at the start). The censorship and sensitivity to the concerns of political minorities are by-products only.

When we use terms like 'censorship', 'offensive' and 'sensitivity' we feed into the notion that this is indeed about political correctness and namby-pamby millennial culture. But it's not. This is about the power of words, and how those words cause real harm. If we describe someone's gender as a lifestyle, or their sexuality as a preference, if we posit a character's 'blackness' above all other aspects of their identity, we are exercising power, and we are endangering people's lives, because at the other end of the scale are the extremes of racism, sexism, gender/sexuality and other forms of discrimination and oppression: conversion therapy, psychiatric/criminal incarceration, white supremacy.

We each have our own world view, and whilst it's shaped by and may be shared with those around us, it is uniquely ours. Our individuality is something to be celebrated, both in ourselves and in others. But that requires more than sensitivity. It requires respect and an understanding that our right to freedom of speech comes with a responsibility that we exercise it wisely.

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Office of National Statistics (2016) 'UK population by country of birth and nationality grouping, by sex and age: 2014' https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/internationalmigration/adhocs/005561ukpopulationbycountryofbirthandnationalitygroupingbysexandage2014 (Accessed 20/02/2017)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Reunions - Josh and George: For Art's Sake #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQ

Brief explanation:
This is another snippet from Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch Season Seven), which is currently a little under 230k, and I’m on the home straight! Woot!

I decided to go with six short paragraphs rather than six sentences, because I’d have had to make it seven sentences, and I felt the number was more important (the colours of the Pride flag) than the briefness of the snippet.

In this snippet, George is meeting Gabby—an art therapist and fellow student of Josh’s from their undergraduate days—for the first time, with a view to commencing art therapy to treat his dissociative attacks. Josh has just offered to make drinks in order to give George and Gabby time to chat. Zara Lederman (mentioned in the snippet) is a psychotherapist/art therapist who lives and works in George and Josh’s local town, and she rubs George up the wrong way, so he’s come to this introductory meeting with some reluctance.

Here’s the snippet:
“Be right back.”

George followed Josh’s progress down the stairs and turned back to Gabby. It was safe to say she looked nothing like he’d imagined. Zara Lederman’s presence was affixed to his mental representation of ‘art therapist’, and he’d expected Gabby to be a younger version in tie-dyed tunic and Jesus sandals, hair swirled up in a blondish prezel-shaped mess.

She was nothing like that. Apart from a stray daub of yellow on her sleeve, her wool dress was plain, pale smoky grey, worn over dark pants, and her shoulder-length hair was black and pin straight. Her cheeks rose in amusement, pushing her glasses upwards a little. George smiled, embarrassed for staring.

“Come and sit with me, George,” Gabby invited, gesturing as she led the way to an L-shaped sofa in front of a floor-to-ceiling window, he assumed from the draught sneaking past the blind. “Are you warm enough?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine, thank you, but if you’re not, don’t worry about me. I can always take my shirt off.” George sat down where Gabby indicated, realised what he’d said and clarified, “I’m wearing a t-shirt as well.” He gave her a grin, and she laughed.

“I’m starting to understand why you’re the centre of Josh’s universe.”

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions (Josh and Iris - On Its Own) #amwriting

WIPpet numbers for 15th February, 2017:
1+5 = 6 paragraphs from Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch Season Seven)

The current word count is…225,922. Nearly there…

WIPpet Context:
It’s New Year's Eve. Josh has just dropped Libby (foster daughter) off at her friend’s place and is trying to figure out how to fill the time until George (husband) finishes work. Iris (in WIPpet) is George’s mum. Monty is Iris’s Westie.

* * * * *
As with all days where Josh was at a lonely loose end with a dozen or more thoughts vying for pole position, each driving decision came with the ‘or I could visit Iris’ option, which was not to say she was there only for when all else failed. One of their more salient points of commonality was valuing their solitude, and there was no guarantee she’d welcome the company just because he needed it. Nonetheless, at the next junction, he took his chances and turned right towards Campion House, rather than left towards home. She’d let him know if she didn’t want him there.

“I’m off to bingo in an hour,” she said the second he crossed the threshold.

“Oh.” He dithered to a halt in the middle of the sitting room and flumped like a rebuffed teenager.

She gathered together her smoking paraphernalia and slid open the balcony door. “Put kettle on if you’re stopping.” The balcony door slid shut with her on the outside.

Josh pondered: am I? He thought so, seeing as he was still there. Iris leaned closer to the window and scowled at him. He flashed her a smile; she pointed in the direction of the kitchen. He was stopping, therefore he’d ‘put kettle on’. He almost got away with it, too, until the dropped spoon clattered off the cupboard and onto the tiled floor, waking Monty with a start and alerting him to Josh’s presence.

There was a lot of noise, between the kettle coming to a boil, Monty’s grumbling growl and the murmur of the TV from the living room, and Josh wasn’t aware Iris was back inside until she shouted, “Pack it in, you.” He hoped she was talking to the dog.
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Be My Valentine: Josh turns 40, giveaway and more


In this post:

Anniversaries and Birthdays
When in Paris... from Josh's Journal
Celebratory Freebie
Love Unlocked Giveaway
Coming Soon
Anniversaries and Birthdays

I'm going to cut to the chase in this blog post, because there is SO MUCH to get through!

Ten Years of Hiding Behind The Couch
First up, this year is the tenth anniversary of Hiding Behind The Couch, which wasn't meant to be a series. I wrote the first book (from which the name of the series was derived) to prove I could write another novel. The following year, I was stuck for an idea for NaNoWriMo and wrote No Time Like The Present (Season Two). Long story short (hahaha), as I near the end of writing Reunions (Season Seven), the series consists of 11 novels, 7 novellas and 2 short stories - 1.7 million words!

That's a lot of words. :)

As existing readers will know, the series is about a group of nine (+/-) friends who met at school and university, and with the exception of Breakfast at Cordelia's Aquarium (which was just a bit of fun on my part), the entire series is narrated by one of the characters: Josh Sandison. He is a psychotherapist and confidante to his friends, so he knows pretty much everything that goes on and is (far more) empathetic (than he thinks). Even the stories that centre on other characters are narrated by Josh, who either provides his general observations (semi-omnisciently - like I say, he knows pretty much everything) or through recounting what his friends have told him.

Josh Turns Forty
It's a fairly big deal, therefore, to Josh and his friends (and their scribe, i.e. me) that Josh's fortieth birthday falls within the pages of Reunions (Season Seven). Of course, knowing Josh, the celebration will not be all plain sailing. Well, let's face it; nothing will go to plan. But still.

He's agreed to share a page from his journal to mark the occasion.
You can read it here: When In Paris... (Josh's Journal)

Did you know...Josh's birthday is the 14th of February?

Which also happens to be the book birthday of:

Ruminations - a new adult story of friendship (Josh and Sean) - February 14th 2015
Chain of Secrets - a story of friendship and romance (Josh and George) - February 14th 2016
Love Unlocked - an anthology of seven stories themed around Love Lock Bridge (includes Chain of Secrets ) - February 14th 2016



Celebratory Freebie

To celebrate ALL of the above, I'm doing an epic freebie. Like, seriously HUGE freebie.

Hiding Behind The Couch Box Set One is available for free on Kindle on the 14th and 15th February (thereafter available on Kindle Unlimited).

Get Your Free Copy of Hiding Behind The Couch Box Set One
Amazon UK [Kindle edition]
Amazon.com [Kindle edition]


 

Love Unlocked Giveaway

Also to celebrate the 'book birthday' of Love Unlocked, we (as in the authors of the anthology) are offering a few giveaways.

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning an ebook copy of Love Unlocked, leave a comment on this post.

I will randomly draw a winner on Friday 17th February and contact the winner via whichever profile is linked from the comment.


Love Unlocked is a collection of seven short stories and novellas - unique LGBTQ romances inspired by the Love Lock Bridge.

THE STORIES:
The Trap by Claire Davis and Al Stewart
Writer's Lock by Victoria Milne
Locked in the Moment by Dawn Sister
The Weekend by J P Walker
The Scarlet Lock by Caraway Carter
He Melted Us by Ofelia Gränd
Chain of Secrets by Debbie McGowan

Other birthday blog posts / giveaways from Love Unlocked Authors:
Al Stewart: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/14693201-valentine-s-giveaway
Victoria Milne: https://victoriamilne.com/2017/02/09/valentines-day-ebook-giveaway/
Dawn Sister: https://dawnsister.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/rainbow-snippets-0212/
Ofelia Gränd: http://www.ofeliagrand.com/valentine-giveaway-melted-us/

Coming Soon

It's now almost two years since the release of Two By Two (Season Six), so, Reunions (Season Seven) has been a long time coming, and I'm genuinely contemplating including a 'Previously in Hiding Behind The Couch...' at the start. I'd be interested to hear what HBTC readers think. A good idea? Unnecessary?

Last year saw the release of four character specials: Chain of Secrets (Josh and George), Those Jeffries Boys (Mike, Andy and Dan), The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray, Rob and Will) and Class-A (Simon, Jess and Taz).

I hope that's given you plenty of reading material to keep you going. ;)

Reunions will be released soon. I'm not tying myself down to a date, because Josh doesn't work that way... But it will be sometime in the spring/summer of 2017 (yes, Joshua, it will).

If you would like to keep up to date with my releases, you could, perhaps, sign up to my mailing list.

As always, thank you so much for reading. I appreciate it more than all those 1.7 million words could ever convey.
Deb x

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Reunions - Josh and George: Deflated #RainbowSnippets #LGBTQ

Brief explanation:
This is another snippet from Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch Season Seven), which is currently a little under 220k. I have no defence; I write long stories. I was only writing a novella. ;)

This snippet is another scene with George and Josh, or, at least, it should be. They are having lunch at a restaurant with Vincent, a local jeweller, and Josh is in the toilet/restroom. Thus, this conversation is between George and Vincent. This may give some insight into Josh’s odd behaviour in last week’s Rainbow Snippet. Or not.

Here’s the snippet:
George trained his eyes on the toilet door. “Why d’you think he helped you find your father?”

“Because we are friends. Why else?”

“That’s not how Josh sees it. Although he doesn’t see it for what it really is, either.”

“I am not sure I understand.”

“You have feelings for him.” George slowly turned back, once again fixing his gaze on Vincent, who looked like he’d been slapped in the face.

“My soufflé has collapsed.”

* * * * *

Rainbow Snippets is a group for LGBTQ+ authors, readers, and bloggers to gather once a week to share six sentences from a work of fiction–a WIP or a finished work or even a 6-sentence book recommendation (no spoilers please!).

In this group you'll find anything from romance and historical fiction to mystery and YA. The common thread is that every story's main character identifies as LGBTQ+. The snippets could range from zero flames to full-on sexytimes, anything goes content-wise. The only rule is snippets will be 6 sentences long–one for each color in the Pride flag.

* * * * *

Thanks for reading,
Deb x

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

#WIPpet Wednesday - Reunions (Dan and Adele - The Moving Game Part 2) #amwriting

WIPpet numbers for 8th February, 2017:
2(month) 8(day) 8(1+7) = 288 words from Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch Season Seven)

The current word count is…214,901. :|

WIPpet Context:
If last week’s was my first ever snippet featuring Dan and Adele, this is the second, and it follows directly from last Wednesday’s WIPpet. Dan and Adele are moving house.

* * * * *
“Fine. Whatever.” Dan took the razor and returned to the bedroom—“Oh, for f*ck’s sake”—where there was no longer a mirror, and stomped through to the bathroom. At least she couldn’t pack that room away, or not beyond the toiletries, which was why he was using his electric shaver.

Or not.

“Damn it.”

By some small wonder, he kept hold of it, returned to the living room and put it back in the box.

“That was quick,” Adele called through.

“Needs charging,” he said. He looked over the lines of boxes, shaking his head. “Where’s it all come from?”

Adele didn’t offer any reply, which meant most of it was hers.

“Right. I’ll pack up my ‘junk’, then.” He sidestepped between the boxes to reach the other end of the room and frowned. “You’ve done it.”

“I got sick of waiting.”

“But you said… Never mind. Where’s my laptop?”

“Do you need it today?” she asked.

Dan could think of a few reasons he might, any one of them enough to start a fight. “Right,” he said. “What do you want me to do?”

“Nothing.”

“Shall I put the kettle on?”

“Not at the moment.”

Dan rubbed his chin. The stubble was already itching enough to drive him crazy, if Adele didn’t get there first. “Is there anything left to do in the kitchen?”

“All in hand.”

“Shu’s room?”

“Done.”

“Great. Thanks for that.”

Adele bustled back to the kitchen. “Get your laptop out…if you must.”

The music in the kitchen suddenly got louder.

“Seeing as I’m surplus to requirements…” Dan eyed the boxes, on the lookout for one labelled ‘Dan’s junk’. His phone rang before he found it. “Aitch.”

“Alright, mate?”

“You ever played sokoban?”
* * * * *
What is WIPpet Wednesday?

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop where authors share from their current works in progress - expertly organised/hosted by Emily Witt - and the excerpt has to relate to the date in some way. For links to other fabulous authors' WIPpets, visit: http://www.inlinkz.com/wpview.php?id=355404


Thanks for reading
Deb x