Friday, August 19, 2022

What We're Writing--Debs on Book Stages

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm halfway through the copy edit for A KILLING OF INNOCENTS, Kincaid/James #19, and it's so exciting. Copy edits are hard, but also weirdly fun. You've had a few weeks break from the book so this is your chance to get a fresh perspective, an idea of how the book is going to read as a finished novel. It's also your opportunity to correct any nagging little nitpicks, adjust dialogue, and fix continuity problems.

And in my case, at least, deal with way too many commas and all the hyphens in the wrong places! My extra commas aren't grammatically incorrect, they just slow the flow of the sentences and can be done without. As for the hyphens, I am hopeless! I never met a compound word I couldn't get wrong!

In What We're Writing Week we REDS are always talking (or moaning) about our different deadlines and where we are in the various stages of the writing/publishing process, and it occurred to me that our readers might not be clear on what exactly this entails, so here's a little mini-tutorial.

Stage 1--Writing the book, with as many drafts as necessary. (Some authors write a really quick first draft, then spend months revising and refining. Some of us write really SLOW first drafts and revise as we go.

Stage 2--Send the manuscript to your editor, who will then make suggestions big (as in 'Cut 100 pages!') and small. Often the editor will give the big overall suggestions to the author in an editorial letter. My editor still edits on the printed page with comments in the margins.

Stage 3--Revise the manuscript according to the editor's suggestions, adding any changes you feel necessary. This is usually a pretty quick (and sometimes very fraught) process. It took me three and a half weeks to turn around A KILLING OF INNOCENTS, for example.

Stage 4--The editor sends the manuscript to a copy editor. (Most publishing houses use freelance copy editors.) The copy editor reads the manuscript for style, punctuation, spelling, continuity, and accurate references, then the manuscript is sent back to the author for review. The copy editor does not usually make big changes to the plot. In the old pre-digital days the copy edit was done on paper, and it was a nightmare. The author had to make changes in the margins, slotting in extra pages if any changes in text were more than a sentence or two. These days it's much easier for both parties! Here's an example. The copy editor's changes are in orange, mine are in red.


The copy edit is another time crunch--I have two weeks to do this one.

Stage 5--The publisher sends the bound copy edited manuscript (or a digital Net galley) out to advance readers and reviewers. That's why the ARC (advanced reader's copy) or what we used to call the galley always has an error disclaimer. It is NOT the finished book!

Stage 6--The book is typeset and loose pages are sent to the author as "page proofs." Here you are strictly reading for typesetting errors. Any other changes are highly discouraged and very expensive! Another tight timeline, usually ten days to two weeks.

Stage 7--Finally, a finished book!! The author usually receives a box of finished books a couple of weeks before publication, hence all those unboxing videos you see on social media. No matter how many books you've written, there's nothing quite like holding that first finished copy in your hand. I can't wait to see this one!



A KILLING OF INNOCENTS will be out February 7th, 2023, and is available for pre-order here!

Lots of other fun stuff going on here, too. I've been working with Laura Maestro, the illustrator who does my endpaper maps, and she's finished her first draft of the map for A KILLING OF INNOCENTS. It is wonderful, as usual, and I cannot wait to share it with you!

And I'm sketching out the plot for Kincaid/James #20. In fact, the next time What We're Writing rolls around, I'll be in LONDON for the first time since November 2019, researching!!! I am beyond excited!

Now here's a copy editing question for you readers--do you know what a zimmer frame is? My lovely copy editor thinks I should change zimmer frame to walker, or substitute cane, because American readers won't understand the reference. (Zimmer is actually a brand of walker, but is used ubiquitously in the UK, like hoover for vacuum.) I really like to stick to British usage in my books but don't want to confuse people unnecessarily. What do you think? Is that a term too far?



93 comments:

  1. I think it’s fascinating to see all the stages a book goes through before it shows up on the shelf . . . I really had no idea. I’m definitely looking forward to reading “A Killing of Innocents” . . . .

    As far as Zimmer Frame is concerned, I do know what it is and I think you should keep it . . . but if you’re worried about confusing people, wouldn’t a few words [like “she steadied herself with the Zimmer Frame” or something similar] make it clear for everyone?

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    1. As long as you define the term somewhere, that will work. It’s fun to see how different the English language can be from one culture to another.

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  2. I am so excited for your book to come out, Debs! I know it's going to be as fabulous as the cover is. I hope Laura Maestro knows how much your fans/readers love the maps, too. It's just such a complete package of wonderful. And, I'm so happy to know that you're already working on #20. #20!!!! How do you feel about that amazing benchmark? I hope there are many more after that. When will you be in England? I have a close friend who is over there now, and I'm so jealous. He told me to just come on over, and how I wish I could. I'm so hoping I get to go next year. I know you are overjoyed to get back there.

    I didn't know what a Zimmer Frame was until you told me, but I still think it should be left as the British term. I like the authenticity, and I would think readers will figure out what it is by context. I loved your little pun, "a phrase too far." Hahaha!

    Thanks for the tutorial on the stages of writing a book. It's a good reminder that we readers need to be patient because there's a whole lot of work going on.

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    1. Some of us more prolific REDS will be juggling stages of different books at the same time!

      Kathy, Laura's map for this book is so charming. I can't wait for you to see it. I was tempted to put a little sneak peak in this post, but decided I shouldn't as it's not the finished version. I will be in London Oct. 11th to the 28th. I know I won't be able to cram in everything I want to do, but I am so thrilled to be going. My daughter's coming for the first week and I'm doubly happy about that.

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    2. Oh, I am definitely in awe of the Reds and other of my favorite authors who are master jugglers, with more than one book in the works. October sounds like a great time to be in England. Which season do you think is the best to be there? And, having your daughter with you for a week will be great. I'm still trying to talk my daughter in taking a trip to England with me.

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  3. Never heard of zimmer frame, but stick to the British term, and like Joan said, emphasize the usage of it.

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  4. I have read accounts of writers back to the 1920s dealing with copy edits and then page proofs. Fun to hear about the updated practice! As for "Zimmer frame," I have only encountered them in the novels of Elizabeth George, but from context I guessed what they were. The pedant in me would suggest capitalizing Zimmer, like Hoover or Kleenex, as it is evidently a brand name.

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    1. Yes, it is a brand name, but it is used so generically in the UK, as is "hoover" which is often not capitalized. I'd leave that decision up to the copy editor!

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  5. Nice layout of the process, Debs. Will share that around. I'm afraid I always spot crucial (but small) things in the proofs stage and ask for them to be fixed - but never something that will cause page ripple.

    I wouldn't understand zimmer frame at all - unless you showed the older/injured person leaning on it with both hands, walking slowly, the rolling of the front wheels, the scritch of the back legs on the pavement.

    Can't wait for the new book!

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    1. The dreaded "page ripple!!" (Where typesetting changes carry over to the next page, and then the next, and so on.) Of course when books were manually type set it was a huge deal. Now that it's all digital you'd think it wouldn't be such a problem.

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    2. I figure it might help my case to get the bit changed if I point out it won't affect pagination. ;^)

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  6. DEBS: Thanks for describing the process. Some steps do sound painful (i.e. cut 100 pages!) but impatient readers (like me) know your new book is worth the wait.

    Like others, zimmer frame is a new word for me but keep it in with appropriate usage for us North Americans to get the meaning.

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    1. Grace, I was very worried about how the book would read after such drastic cutting. I've had to smooth over some transitions, but so far I think it's okay.

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  7. Hello, Debs, and thanks for that outline of the publishing process from A to Z. I'm going through the last steps of it right now with SONS AND BROTHERS, the second book in my Polizei Bern series, and it's interesting to see that your big publisher, HarperCollins, follows exactly the same process as my small publisher, Seventh Street Books--even to farming out the copyediting. You may find this hard to believe, but two weeks ago, my copy editor also requested that I change to the word "walker"--I didn't have zimmer frame (which I know from reading English books) but "rollator," which is the German word for the same thing. I have lived out of the US so long that I didn't realize "rollator" wasn't standard there, as it is here. Oh, and I also overuse hyphens!

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    1. Hi Kim! The British use rollator, too, as technical term, although I've never heard it used in casual conversation. Did you stick with it? I love reading those little differences!

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  8. People who read fiction set in Britain understand what a Zimmer frame is just like they know that the boot on a car has nothing to do with footwear.

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    1. There are those of us who have no problem understanding the boot of a car because we grew up using that term. I grew up in northeastern Kentucky, not in Appalachia but not far from there. There is a strong British and Scottish-Irish influence in Appalachian language throughout the states in which Appalachia runs. I think "boot" must have trickled down to our area of Kentucky because of proximity. However, it didn't make it to western Kentucky as evidenced when I first moved to western Kentucky after marrying. My mother-in-law and I had been out shopping and stopped for lunch. I suggested we put our packages in the boot, and she looked at me confused. Apparently, she had never heard boot used for trunk.

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  9. Debs, thank you for outlining the process. I had no idea of the exact steps, but seeing it laid out, it makes perfect sense. I love commas, so don't remove any of them on my account. I read slowly anyway.

    Leave the term "Zimmer frame." As other commenters have observed, your readers will catch on when you describe someone using one. I think your readers are smart enough to extrapolate the meaning and recognize it's British English. One of the things Irwin loves about your books are the "Britishisms!" Sometimes when he's reading one, I'll hear him voicing them and chuckling.

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    1. Apparently I think in clauses, Judy, and I tend to write sentences the way I hear them in my head. That sounds a bit crazy but they do have a life of their own!

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  10. I was reminded of the scenes in _Gaudy Night_ with Harriet helping her tutor with interminable edits, pinning the new pages to the old knowing it will cause the editor fits.

    My vote is to keep "Zimmer frame."

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    1. Technology does sometimes improve things. Now I can't imagine having to back to the old way of copy editing. Nor can imagine writing and revising a book in long hand! We get very easily spoiled.

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  11. I can't wait for this book. It's so interesting to see how the sausage is made. l 'm biased because my dad was a Yorkshireman, but strongly urge you to leave the word "zimmer" in. One thing I've loved about your books from the beginning is their authenticity to the British experience. I was surprised when I found out you were an American (as I was with Elizabeth George), and that's a very good thing in my opinion.

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    1. Thanks, Gillian! I tend to confuse people because I use British terms all the time in my "real" life!

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    2. That's funny. My mom was the one who always called us "Gillie luv, or Meg luv", or would say she was going to "spend a penny" or "use the loo". Even though she was a total Oregonian, she acquired quite a few British terms.

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  12. Will readers be able to understand Zimmer frame through context clues? I have never heard that term, but enjoy learning new vocabulary. I don’t enjoy having to stop my fiction reading and look things up, however.

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    1. There wasn't much context but I still think readers could figure it out.

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    2. I enjoy finding unknown words when reading. I just google them.

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  13. Love the process tutorial! Getting to the end of the revised draft to be sent to editor is such a milestone, but, yes, hardly the end of an author's work. Acknowledgments are great fun to read, because most authors are grateful for all of the people involved in getting a book in the hands of readers.

    I say most of your readers can figure out zimmer frame given the context. Which is exactly what I did the first time I encountered the term in a book. I like thinking I'm clever enough to figure these terms out. Ditto for rollator, KimHaysBern!

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    1. I always read the author's acknowledgments, Flora, and that reminds me I have to write mine, and the dedication.

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  14. That's a new one, I haven't heard the term Zimmer frame before. But I don't mind, either I can figure it out from the context or I can look it up. If I'm reading a book by a foreign author or set in another country I expect there will be differences and it makes the story more authentic anyway.

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    1. Thanks, Alicia! I think the differences in language usage was part of what drew me to British books in the first place. I had a terrible time with copy editors in the early books in the series. They wanted all American usage and I had to fight for every British term. STET! (Which means "don't change" in editing parlance.)

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  15. Once upon a lifetime ago, I was the editor of a small (400 copy) newspaper, staff of 2 – both unpaid. It was my job to write the editorial which was more musings on the month rather than what was included in the magazine, and either write or edit the copy. I found that no matter how many times I reread my writing, that I would more than likely change it – cut something out, put something in, correct sentence structure, or do a whole about turn. Hence it was better to start the editorial early in the month, and not just the day before, and definitely not write it in my head at 3 am in bed! (oh, and don’t use too many hyphens, brackets and especially no exclamation marks…)
    My best rereading-to-find-the-mistake trick was to either make the Word doc into a pdf – that meant you could not correct as you went along, - or change the view to 200%. For some reason, a lot of the spelling/typing/punctuation errors would then pop into view. Once the paper went to the printer, all we could do was hold our collective breath and wait for my annoying sister to call instantly and point out every error – gloating all the time.
    Now I try to have patience for typing errors, as mine gets progressively worse, and errors in grammar. I do however, always mentally add the ‘ly’ to all the adverbs in the text without one…
    I am constantly amazed at how anyone can read and reread what they have written, and do a good job every time. In my case it would be the case of the speed reading and ‘knowing what I wanted to say’, rather than seeing what is on the page. Kudos to all authors and editors. I am looking forward to my next visit with Gemma and Duncan.
    I am well aware of what a zimmer frame is, and think it should be left as such. It is a part of the British dialect, and as such should be left in a book that is set in Britain. The same applies to ‘pudding’ for dessert, and ‘tea’ for supper, and ‘telly’ for – guess what – the television! Be true to your setting.

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    1. Thanks, Margo! I could say "walking frame" which is the actual description of the Zimmer brand frame, but I've never heard anyone British say anything other than zimmer frame.

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    2. Please keep the English words, that is part of what makes the book believable.

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  16. Definitely use Zimmer frame. It keeps the story authentic. I have heard of them from watching Britcoms on PBS for decades.

    Terrific that you are so far along with Book #19 and already planning Book #20. So glad you get to go to London! I will pre-order my copy of A Killing of Innocents today!

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    1. Oh, thank you, thank you. Pre-orders make the publisher (and me!) so happy!

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  17. I'd say yes to retaining "zimmer frame". And it is far more accurate than cane!

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  18. I do know what a Zimmer frame is because I read authors who use British terminology. So I say definitely keep it in. I have had my pre-order in for months and can’t wait for February 7, 2023 to roll around! Emily Dame

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  19. I know exactly what a Zimmer frame is, and I’d think those who read British mysteries, watch Brit Coms — best scene ever in Britta’s Empire is when he knocks over a pensioner and starts a Zimmer domino effect — have seen the term. So I’d keep it in. Kudos on being almost there with the new book. I’ve missed Duncan and Gemma and company

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  20. Nice outline of the process and I love that cover.

    I had never heard of a Zimmer frame before. If you use it in the correct context I'd probably figure it out. But if you just throw the term out there, I'd be lost.

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  21. I should have clarified the context on zimmer frame. Gemma is feeling quite ancient in a cocktail bar full of twenty year olds and thinks she should have brought her zimmer frame, so it's a little joke not an actual description. I ended up just taking the sentence out, but maybe on reading all your advice, I will put it back in!

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    1. Ah. In that case, it would take me out of the story because I would have to go look up the term. I'd say leave it out.

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    2. Oh, Deborah, now that you’ve revealed the context, I go from you “should” leave it, to you “must” leave it. Thinking back I first encountered Zimmer frame in one of Colin Dexter’s Morse novels. Elisabeth

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  22. Celia - Debs I just can’t wait for the book, so excited. On Zimmer frames, keep it. One of the things I LOVE about your British writing is that I haven’t caught you out yet! The US mystery authors who have series set in the UK so often make one or two tiny errors and it’s a little like sand in the shoe. I know, I should be kinder but it grates. Your stories, style, backgrounds are 100% authentic always. I would love a job as an ARC reader. Thanks again for a treat to savor.

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    1. Thank you so much, Celia. It's very gratifying that you think I get things right!

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  23. Deborah, please do use Zimmer frame! I remember reading it in an article about Brenda Blethyn. She had said she might continue being Vera, in a Zimmer frame. So I had to look it up and then felt a little bit smug whenever I came across it again. Please use the words that would be used in the place you are writing about. I get confused when the story takes place in the UK and people are wearing sweaters! It took me years to understand that jerseys were pull-over sweaters. I also saw in another book where the crime scene tape was yellow! No! If you are in doubt that people in this country could not figure out a word from context, then so be it. It makes for a much better book to use the correct terminology. I am really looking forward to next February!

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    1. Yellow crime scene tape is definitely a big NO NO! Ouch.

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  24. Like everyone else, I learned what a Zimmer frame is from watching and reading British crime stories. It's another nice authentic touch, as others have said.

    What's wrong with Americans figuring out that there are different names for things elsewhere? I did not understand when they took all the charming British details out of the early Harry Potter books, because kids wouldn't understand them. As if they couldn't stretch their imaginations any more after learning about Quiditch or dementors. Insert eyeroll here.

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    1. I bought the British editions of the Harry Potters. I couldn't read them with the Americanisms. So annoying! I buy the UK editions of most of my favorite British authors, too.

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    2. Thanks for that idea, Debs, I'll try to remember to do that too.

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    3. Judi, I think I've mentioned this before, but Book Depository is a great resource for British books, especially when the UK edition comes out ahead of the US. I pre-order my Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves, for instance, from Book Depository. Shipping is free and the books are no more expensive.

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  25. I realized on reading over this post that I left out the very first stage--the proposal. Which I have to write for Book #20 very soon! Trying to corral all the ideas floating around in a coherent page or two is really challenging!

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  26. Keep the Zimmer frame reference. I only know it because I read it in another British mystery series. I like learning new terms.

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  27. I am so excited about the new book. I pre-ordered in March.
    I think you should keep Zimmer frame. I have known what it is for a long time.
    This is Atlanta by the way.

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  28. Such a clear explanation of the wondrous editorial process - mine usually involves sending it to my agent who makes big picture suggestions… Zimmer frame ? I’d find a way to get around it

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    1. My agent is a big help with the proposal stage, Hallie.

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  29. I really enjoyed your tutorial! I didn't know what a Zimmer frame was either, but when I read something set in England I like the references to be authentic. It's another form of travel for me. I learned about metaled roads from reading Sherlock Holmes. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! There are so many wonderful terms that Americans don't use, like tarmac and verges!

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  30. Be grateful you didn’t have a copy editor who wanted to change my miles to kilometers, Debs! Of course keep the Zimmer frame. ( Rhys)

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    1. No kilometers in your books, Rhys!!! That's a real ouch!

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  31. Debs: I am confused. Is a walker in reference to something that involves a storyboard? Or is a walker in reference to what someone. who got out of the hospital, uses to help them walk?

    Regarding editing, I had several interesting experiences. I often read Advanced Copies that are Digital from NetGalley. I see many errors, which is understandable.

    To my surprise, when I read the finished copy, I am surprised that the Errors are STILL there! Yes, I buy many ebooks. And I just learned that some ebooks are published in other countries where people do not speak English. The people who do the editing? put together? the ebooks are supposed to speak and understand English. However, they often make many grammar errors.

    Diana

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    1. Diana, a "walker" is the four-legged wheeled contraption that helps people walk.

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    2. Deborah, thank you! I thought you were still talking about some kind of editing app. Why did I think that? Yes, I am familiar with the four legged wheeled contraption. The word "zipper" makes sense to me. You could zip around on the walker. I often like the British words for the American words like jumper for sweater, biscuit for cookie, nappies for diapers, and so on. I just said something like "donkey years ago", which I picked up from a new online friend at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I said something and my British friends understood this while my American friends were puzzled. LOL

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    3. It's been around here for well, a long time! Sometimes it's donkey's ears. Or maybe that's just the way my old ears hear it.

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  32. I wasn't too familiar with the Zimmer Frame, I understood it a lot better today :) my vote is to keep it, as it provides excitement and much needed mystery for the readers.

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  33. Absolutely leave Zimmer frame! The word “walker” means too many things in American English. Also zimmer frame seems more an assistance to a person, than doing the walking for them. More accurate and more dignified. Elisabeth

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    1. And besides, there is always a dictionary or Mr. Google to look up what a word means. Insert grumpy “huff” here at those to lazy to look it up. Elisabeth

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    2. Oops. Bad proof reading “too lazy”. Shame-faced Elisabeth

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    3. I agree, Elizabeth. It is so easy to look things up now!

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  34. so nice for all the folks ahead of me making my point. Looking forward to happy release date.

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  35. Another vote here for Zimmer frame. And yay I can't wait for this new book to come out. Thanks, Deborah, for all your hard work!

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    1. Thank you, Lorraine, for reading the finished product!

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  36. Leave it in, Debs! It adds authenticity. One of the joys of my iphone is I can google stuff I run across while reading. I can see exactly what the car looks like that our main character is driving. Or where such and so is in relation to London. It really adds to my reading experience. So zimmer along.

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    1. Thanks, Pat! I look things up constantly, when reading and when writing.

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  37. I am getting excited! Can't wait for release date.

    As for zimmer frame - yes, I do know, and as your books generally do use the Brit expressions, stick with it readers will either look it up or figure it out. Do you remember James Clavell's Shogun? By the end of the book, you had a good working knowledge of the Japanese he used in the text, and it was painless. Same with the Britishisms. They flow quickly.

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    1. I do remember Shogun and that I went through quite a Japanese phase after I read that. Obviously the Japanese phase didn't stick as well as the British phase!

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  38. Debs, I literally laughed out loud at your first sentence. "I'm halfway through the copy edit for A KILLING OF INNOCENTS, Kincaid/James #19, and it's so exciting. Copy edits are hard, but also weirdly fun." NO, THEY ARE NOT!!!

    Honestly, I would rather get a mammogram than work on copy edits.

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    1. Julia, that cracks me up! I'm trying to put a positive spin on this!!

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  39. Zimmer frame, definitely! It bothers me to hear a British character use American terminology 🙄

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  40. LOL! I have mixed feelings about copyedits and all the processes of all the books - depending upon how it's going...LOL. Also, I think you should keep zimmer frame because I love learning new lingo especially if I'm reading about a foreign setting.

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  41. Hi Deborah - another 'yes' vote for zimmer frame. Many of your readers are Anglophiles and will know the term; the others are smart enough to figure it out from context. I would love a future post about your research process - how you learned to research, your process, the sources of your information and especially how you record, track, and access all the information you gather. Keep up the great work - love your books!

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    1. Thanks, Angie! I'm copying your comment for future reference!

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  42. Hi! I also vote for using Zimmer frame. I know what it means now but that's because I looked it up the first time I came upon it in a book! Glad to know there's another book coming! I'm almost caught up in the series!

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