And it’s all because of you. You see, I’m feeling rather smug. Why? I’ve just thought of a cozy mystery Christmas present for you. It came to me just now. I’ve got a month to make it, box is up, and put it under the virtual tree. I am rubbing my hands in glee. But I digress.
The Power of TH
Today, we begin the new video series, of reader insights, author tip. Spelling It Out gets down the nuts of bolts of conveying an international or regional accent, converting sound to print. The text has to help you, the reader, hear their voice in your head. The series starts with the easiest and most common difference between an English accent and a foreign accent, and I’ve even thrown in a regional nuance there, which I hadn’t spotlighted, but see if you spy it. Here’s a clue: it’s one of the London accents. But without more ado is Part 1: TH …
Did you notice it? It was ‘v’ for ‘th’? Here in the Metropolis and surrounding areas, you may hear ‘wiv’ for ‘with’ ‘ve’ for ‘the’. Well done, if you got it.
This Week’s Jigsaw
And so we come to this week’s puzzle. This is one of the core members of Sunken Madley, home to covert witch Amanda in the Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery series. I say ‘one’, but technically, it’s two. You may notice that the page is rearranged in reverse order of puzzles so that the most recent is at the top and the oldest at the bottom. Also there’s a ‘Quick Start’ section at the top, in case you’re not sure how to proceed. It’s basically, click OK and drag and drop. And now, over to you ….
How Do I Know?
When I’m asking MJ, the Midjourney AI graphics bot (to create an evocation of a cozy mystery character from the Amanda Cadabra series) it always offers me sets of four possibilities. It doesn’t get it right the first time, and I’ll have to go through various tweaks of the ‘prompts’ I give it. So how do I know when it’s got it right? The answer to this is somewhat profound and deserves its own post. I can only say at this point, that it’s right to me. The question is are they the way you see the characters in your mind?
I’m looking forward to seeing what you think.
Sequel Update and The Author AI Carnival
This week, twice as many words arrived in my head as in previous weeks, and the total word count for the next Amanda Cadabra cozy paranormal mystery so far now stands at 13000. Naturally, I wished to celebrate this with you in a delightful visual.
Unfortunately, MJ has still to learn its letters and numbers. Understandably, it can manage 1s and 0s, but it lapses into bewilderment beyond that. So Microsoft Dall-E over on bing.com to the rescue. It can’t always count its 0s, but it did come up with this. Admittedly, it got a bit carried away with the whole quill thing, but its heart was in the right place.
Next week, a new puzzle, a new video and more sequel news, as I work on your Christmas present …
Happy cosy days,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print
The Complete Video Series and …
First, here is the compiled, completed, concatenated 7-video series, Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction – all in a mere 12 minutes. A behind-the-scenes of creating an international character. Who’s done it, and how to help you, the readers, hear their voice. Now, once you’ve watched them all, whether week by week or all together here, there is something new for your entertainment. But, as I say … first:
A Pre-Christmas Present
And now … (drum roll) here is my post-Hallowe’en, pre-Yuletide offering: a new quiz. Ten questions: How Internationally Cozy are you? Are you a Local Hero? A Regional Ranger? A Continental Connoisseur or a World-Class Wonder? Find out here and proudly proclaim your results to your friends on Facebook or your other favoured place for sharing. I would very much appreciate it, as you know.
The Missing Detective
He wasn’t included in the video The List (of Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction sleuths) because his era was post-golden-age-of-cozy, but he is an investigator close to my heart. HRR Keating’s whodunits featuring Inspector Ghote have influenced my own writing, second only to Miss Christie’s. Ganesh Ghote is a detective with the Mumbai police. A film was made in 1964 of the The Perfect Murder.
Keating was English and wrote in English; however, his books were set there. Interestingly, during the creation of most, if not all, of the novels, he had yet to visit India. Yet Keating’s books were so well received that on his first trip there, the Indian government paid for his airfare. Media company Endemol Shine India has acquired the TV rights to the series, so I look forward to the Inspector stepping back into the limelight. (I’ve written to the company for an update on progress. I’ll let you know!)
How Keating Did It
What is interesting for the purpose of the Fabulous Foreigners video series is that Keating uses syntax to convey the way that Inspector Ghote speaks. So, there’s another precedent for any author who would like to go that route with their international character.
In case you’re thinking that Georges Simenon’s Maigret deserves a mention, I agree. Like the Wallander series, the books we know are translations into English without accent indicators. Nevertheless, I tip my (witch’s) hat to that acclaimed Detective Chief Superintendent.
In the event that you’re unfamiliar with this curiously British condiment, here is a picture. This is how Wikipedia describes it: Marmite is a British savoury food spread based on yeast extract, i. It is made from by-products of beer brewing. Produced by Brits but invented by German scientist Justus von Liebig in the late 19th century. It has an exciting history, but I digress.
The point about Marmite is that it is a great world divider. Between those who love it (including me) and those who hate it. We spread it on bread and add it to savoury dishes. The thing to do, if in doubt, is to use it sparingly, for example in soups, stews and the like.
And so it is with including accents in your book. As with Marmite, you can duck out entirely. Or start in the foreign language and then switch to English with the implication that the characters are still speaking the shared language. Or use the devices described in the videos.
The message is: don’t overdo it. Because it’s a Marmite thing. Some readers love it; others like it less. I’m in the former camp because I love learning something new from every book I read, including international and regional accents and dialects. I love it; it adds texture and richness, just like people with different backgrounds do in real life. That’s why I make the choice to put them in my novels. What’s your taste, and what will your choice be?
Going Where Angels Fear To Tread
In this modern age, when people are more conscious than ever before of being respectful of one another’s heritage, should we even be mentioning an accent in a story?
Speaking as a half-foreigner, the child of an immigrant, I’d be delighted to find one of my heritage language accents in a book. I have neighbours and friends from central, eastern and western Europe, the Caribbean, the Far East, and the Indian subcontinent. As I’d expect in London. And have never heard anyone I know express offence at a depiction of their way of speaking in a novel – as long as the author has made an attempt at accuracy rather than parody.
Should We Be Using The Word ‘Foreigner’ At All?
As most of my friends here in London are of foreign origin, I’ve been able to poll around, and not one of them (nor I) has any problem at all with the word. In fact, most of us think it’s funny that anyone would find it offensive. Some people feel it’s more PC to use the word ‘International’ or foreign national, and we’re fine with that too (some of us find it amusing). We’re also Brits, or tourists, or visitors, or residents. Apples and oranges, but at the end of the day (to quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding by Nia Vardalos), ‘we all fruit’. (It was a stage play before it was a film, so it still counts as literature.)
In conclusion, when it comes to foreign characters and accents, international and regional, here’s the take-home: so as long as you’re well-intentioned, come on in the water’s fine.
Which brings us to …
This Week’s Cozy Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle
Author AI Weekly Circus
For the quiz, as it is celebrating characters internationally, I wanted a map of the world. I sought out MJ, the AI bot on Midjourney, to see what it could produce given the prompt: ‘A map of the world.’ It created four attempts that looked like they’d come out of the British Museum. One was entitled ‘Ted Worl.’ I can at least see what it was going for, (‘Keep practising, MJ’), but ‘Topr OneM.D?’ Fortunately my other bot friend Dall-E 3 was able to help me out, as you will have seen.
Later, I asked MJ for simply ‘Marmite’. This gave it nightmares. I asked Dall-E for its take on the matter and it was much better informed. Knew what a jar of marmite was and how to use it. If only it had understood ‘lid’. And so I abandoned the struggle and went instead to Depositphotos, where I have a package deal (every now and then they do an offer of 100 images for £30. Truly exceptional. I can let you know if you’d like) and downloaded the rather nice photograph above.
The New Video Series
That may wrap up the Fabulous Foreigners in Fiction series, but it is far from The End. A new series now begins, looking at the down-to-brass-tacks of the different ways you can use spelling so that the written word becomes a sound in the mind of the reader.
Sequel Update and What’s Next?
Book 9 of the Amanda Cadabra series is now at 11,000 words plus. It’s growing at its own pace, but the moment will come when the stream becomes a river, even a torrent. You’ll be the first to know.
Next week, I hope to bring you a new puzzle, more sequel news and part one of the new video series. I’m thinking of entitling it ‘Ze Leetle Grey Cells’ …
In the meantime, happy watching, happy quizzing, happy puzzling and, above all, happy reading,
PS If you want to start the series now:
Available on Amazon
and Large Print