I had no idea how global the e-book market was until I published my first Task Force Iota book, 18% Gray . I’m not talking about translations, I’m talking about ESL (English as a Second Language) readers all over the world easily obtaining English versions and reading them. I have a feeling authors only in print don’t have a lot of foreign fans they hear from (no evidence to substantiate this supposition—I’m just pulling it out of my butt).
After 18% Gray released last August, I started hearing from ESL readers, mostly in the form of reviews on Goodreads. Every single one had the same complaint: there were too many acronyms.
Interesting, no? No? Let me tell you why it is interesting—maybe only to me, but I’ve got control of the blog, today.
Let’s begin with some background. The Iota series is a somewhat humorous look at a serious issue—gay rights. The series is set about a century in the future, and takes place mostly in the United States, which has broken up into Red states and Blue states. The two sides are constantly fighting with each other, somewhere. In Red states, LGBT citizens are arrested and re-educated when they are found out. In Blue states, people rescue Red LGBT citizens and the Blue LGBT troops captured by the Red.
The series is military-heavy, and since I like to (gently?) mock things, I made the military acronym-heavy, because have you noticed they have one for everything? Take snafu, a word that has found its way into English dictionaries—SNAFU=Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. Some people claim the term snafu was created by American GI’s in World War II to mock the military penchant for acronyms.
Let me note that I’m not conversant in any other languages. I can get by in French-speaking countries and in Mandarin-speaking China (although people laugh at me when I open my mouth, there—especially my kids, who were in Mandarin immersion programs at school—but hey, I can ask for a bathroom, order a beer and haggle in a market. Oh, and tell you I have a blue butt). But speaking is different than writing, and writing’s where I’m going with this blog post, which I swear will get back on track any sentence now. Yep, real soon…
And here we are! Back on track. When Lady M reviewed 18% Gray for Jessewave (http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/08/29/18-gray/) and dinged the book for the “gazillion acronyms” I realized how bad the problem really was. I had to change them, no matter how amusing I found it all (seriously fun to make them up, by the way). I started plotting my way out of the acronym situation with the rest of the books in the Task Force Iota series.
My second Iota book, Turning Tricks released May 30th, and I’m happy to announce that I got rid of (most of) the acronyms.
Did I mention I like to mock things? Yes, I did it; I managed to mock the Acronym Snafu (catchy name, no?) in Turning Tricks. It’s one of my prouder accomplishments, actually, and I’m going to share a short excerpt from the book to show you exactly how I did it. I hope you’re taking notes.
Excerpt from Turning Tricks
The set-up: this scene takes place during a meeting with lots of characters—Anais, Lance, Major General Selkirk, James, Matt, Laslo and Captain Torres. The least you need to know is that the book focuses on Matt and James (also the main characters of 18% Gray). Matt’s grandparents, Anais and Lance, are of a “previous generation,” as is General Selkirk. The younger generation is represented by Matt, James, Laslo (Matt’s cousin) and Captain Torres. Oh, and James has an illegally implanted chip in his brain that makes him somewhat psychic.
At Major General Selkirk’s signal, Captain Torres started the digital record upload of the meeting. “I know no one expected me today, but I commed Anais and Lance early to warn them I’d be dropping in, since I have some news. It’s going to affect all of you, ultimately. I’m here in regard to the Psi-force troops given the illegal biocybe brain implants three years ago.” Everyone automatically looked at James since he was one of six people who actually had one of those implants. James looked at the table and then over at Matt. Everyone realized they were looking at James and looked away.
General Selkirk cleared his throat. “I’m going to start with a quick and dirty review. For the record.” He poked at his tablet while he spoke.
The general brought up the table screen for everyone as Torres gave the “excuse me, sir, you forgot something” cough. Did they teach people that in aide-de-camp school? General Selkirk looked at him, part questioning and part annoyed. Then his shoulders fell.
“Well, I’m not reading that damn thing again, Torres. You read it.” He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest, looking just a bit sulky. This was more the General Selkirk Matt knew.
“Sir.” Torres nodded sharply, tapped on his tablet a couple of times, and then began to read. “By order of Lieutenant General William Bry, Vice Chief Commandant of Special Operations Unified Force, Non-combat, the Addendum to this Memorandum immediately replaces Chapter Three of Spoken Communications Protocol and Accepted Acronyms, publication 47-203.
“New Protocols have been developed and are to be immediately implemented in accordance with Special Operations Unified Force Public Relations Division Study 247-78364 regarding PlainSpeak. PubRelate (formerly PR Division) Study 247-78364 conclusively showed that the voting public has a distaste for the exc—”
“Oh, for hell’s sake, they aren’t letting us use acronyms anymore,” General Selkirk spat out, sitting forward once more.
Stunned silence. “What?” Anais asked faintly.
“I never thought those PlainSpeak bastards would take things this far!” Lance pounded the table with a fist.
General Selkirk snorted derisively and rolled his eyes. “Oh that’s nothing, wait until you hear about Attachment Two.”
“What?” Anais was still goggle-eyed and pale.
Clearly, Matt’s grandparents’ generation was attached to their military acronyms.
“But does it affect them, sir?” Laslo asked, trying to be the voice of reason. Something he often tried with the family and often failed at. “They’re private military contractors.”
Torres gave that cough again. At Selkirk’s scowling nod, he read, “Attachment One of this Memorandum—”
“Get to the important part,” Selkirk barked.
“Sir. ‘—heretofore to be implemented immediately by all military personnel and Private Military Contractors.’”
Things got worse before they got better. Attachment Two was an app they all had to download to their com units immediately, which would remind them when they slipped and used an unsanctioned acronym. By the time Captain Torres handed Anais back her com, she had her head in her hands, gripping her hair. “I just never thought….” She shook her head. “Never thought SOUF would sink this far without me.”
“SpecForce,” her com chimed cheerily.
Anais stared at the thing on the table in front of her, unadulterated hatred in her eyes. Then she smashed it to shit with her bare fist and threw it against a far wall.
It pleases me to no end that rest of the Task Force Iota series will be riddled with catchy, PubRelate-concocted names rather than acronyms, and I’ve already read a positive comment on Goodreads from someone who appreciates it. Oh, and it’s as much fun to make up Plain Speak names as it is to make up acronyms. More fun, actually.
On a more serious note, writing for ESL readers is something I think about now, whereas before it never crossed my mind. I can’t get rid of all colloquial language, it would make the prose clunky and uninteresting, and that’s not the business I’m in. Still, I see having ESL readers as an asset; not from a business point of view, but because writing with these readers’ needs in mind forced me to look at what I write in a new way. Turning Tricks is a much different—and better—book than it would have been without this experience.
Now see? Wasn’t that interesting?
James Ayala thought life would be smooth sailing once he escaped from a Red Idaho reeducation camp and returned to Blue Oregon. He was supposed to get answers about the biocybernetic chip that made him empathic, face the man who implanted it, and then ride off into the sunset with his new boyfriend, Matt Tennimore. Life, however, has other plans: the bad guy dies without giving them any answers, they left their horse in Idaho, and Gramma Anais finds a parasite on James’s implant—one that forces James into isolation.
Matt just got James back to Oregon where he wanted him, and extraneous brain hardware or not, he has no intention of letting him go. But James hesitates to move in with him. Despite his hurt, Matt has to man up and do his job, leaving James behind, while the rest of the team struggles to find the real mastermind behind the implant and the parasitic “Trick”—before it takes over James’s brain. But will it be too little, too late to save him?
Turning Tricks Buy Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2959
18% Gray Buy Link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2446
Anne Tenino’s “thing” is writing gay romance and erotica, which tends to take up most of her life. Wondering what she does in her spare time? Mostly she lies on the couch, eats bonbons and shirks housework.
Check out what Anne’s up to now by visiting her site. http://annetenino.com