Tag Archives: blogging

…sleepless in Hong Kong… shades of ‘Streets of London’…

…the trouble with short, fleeting visits to anywhere with a time zone difference of five hours is the dreaded jet lag… local time in Hong Kong touched 11.00 p.m. when this ol’ Jurassic tried to get some slumber… sure enuff, within minutes, out like a light I went… heavy duty ZZZZZZZZZs… then, bolt upright, owl-eyed, fast awake… the clock had advanced to only 2.20 a.m….the next two hours was an exercise in attempts at every sleeping position known to Mankind and hibernating animals… all to no avail… 5.00 a.m. arrived, and still dark outside the hotel window… and the stomach rumbles demanded food of some sort… NUTHIN to do but get out of the room, clad in typical wannabe-iconic-author-gear of T-shirt, floppy cotton basketball shorts and flip-flops… the accommodation is one-o’-them joints with no restaurant, so where to go?… easy… the ubiquitous open-all-night McDonald’s, not fifty feet away from the hotel front door… a deserted street, save for a couple of mewing cats  and a handful of night-watchmen-looking types on their way homeward… in the Golden Arches premises, nobody in the downstairs dispensing area apart from the server… I ordered the McSausage and Egg and took the tray to the restaurant’s upstairs level… and there, to my surprise I found it almost full of people…only about four tables out of twenty or so were vacant… each of the occupied tables had only a single person sitting at them… and NOT ONE had anything to eat or drink in front of them… some were slumped asleep on their folded arms, leaning forward onto the tables… others sat in bundled clothing in the corner sites, propping themselves up behind hoodies and wrapped assortment of jackets… it felt like a trailer for a Zombie movie… I’ve known rough times of hardship in my life, as prob’ly most of you Lads and Lassies of Blog Land also have, and instantly I felt the connection… these good folks were homeless… and I said a quiet prayer of thanks for the generosity of the McD’s serving staff for allowing a few hours of warmth and comparative comfort to the folks in there… nobody hassled me… nobody panhandled… and nobody really gave me a second look… and I was reminded immediately of sum’thing I’ve repeated several times on this ‘ere Blog over the past few years… EVERYBODY you meet… EVERYBODYis fighting some sort of battle we know NUTHIN about… be gentle, good people… be kind… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

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…Hong Kong visitors… beware… here be dragons!…

…it’s been over four years since my last trip back to the Far East, and a few days of business/pleasure started in Hong Kong today… and NUTHIN much seems to have changed… what a great, thriving, throbbing place it is… chinesethe endless crowds of inhabitants on the streets are the human equivalent of these humongous shoals of fish much-loved by underwater cameramen…fish  …or akin to the sky-darkening flocks of migrating starlings by the gazillion…birds …having lived in the former British colony off and on for more than ten years over the past three and a half decades, I’m inured to the people crush on the streets and on the Mass Transit Railway (the MTR), the local metro system… however, what was unavoidably noticeable on this first re-entry day was not so much the ever-present jammed masses of people travelling on it, regardless of the time of day, but it seemed EVERY SINGLE ONE of them was eyes-glued-fixated on a handheld device of some sort, and more than half had headphones as permanent fixtures to their skulls… I like the MTR for the melange of characters on there—people-watching is a bit of a dying art, I fear in most places, but in Hong Kong, with personal space a non-existent concept, it’s impossible not to observe it all in its infinite, wondrous proximity… however, one moment of humour (at least to me it was humour) occurred when I tried to enter the electronic gate to the metro system with my oyster card, it failed to open… I flashed the card once against the sensor thingy, then twice, three and more times, and still it wouldn’t open… an anti-Scottish thing?… no… I discovered that taking my hotel magnetic key card onto the Metro DOES NOT give you access …well, the oyster card and the hotel plastic key do look similar, Mabel… Hong Kong is the setting for a major part of my first ever Jack Calder thriller, THE VIOLIN MAN’S LEGACY, and in the half day since returning literally to the scene of the crime, I wasn’t disappointed… the buzz, the smells, the kaleidoscope of colours, the mangle of Chinese and English lettering on the deluge of billboards and advertising hustings, the bustle, the people, the speed of movement (most people here walk upstairs on moving escalators!) was there as it seemingly, for me at least, always has been here… and I LUV IT!… Hong Kong visitors… beware… here be dragons!… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

Cover for Violin Man

myBook.to/theviolinmanslegacy

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…it’ll never compete with His Master’s Voice, but…

…in my opinion, the minute yeez stop learning and trying new stuff, it’s time to curl yer toes up and slip quietly off this mortal coil… hence Master Gallacher of late has been dabbling with a new toy… the Quick Time Player app, which permits budding wannabe Alfred  Hitchcocks to produce short video clips like the one above… it’s great fun… licence to be as daft as yeez please… and they don’t come much dafter than this ol’ Jurassic Scots scribbler… but it’s hardly just the zaniness of it all that lends it the attraction… it is a marvellous way to reach out to folk who matter… which in this instance are my fabulously supportive readership… plus other writers and bloggers pals… and add in emb’dy who welcomes a smile or three of silliness… but, hang on a minute, Mabel… there’s more to it than just nascent, beckoning, WURLD-wide celebrity, Legend-In-My-Own-Lunchbox-Syndrome… nay, Lads and Lassies of Blog Land… it also really does help to encourage downloads on the Great God Amazon Kindle for my Jack Calder wee crime fiction masterpieces… which leads neatly into where yeez can find them, thus :

FotoJet Collage

THE VIOLIN MANS LEGACY

myBook.to/theviolinmanslegacy

VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK

myBook.to/vengeancewearsblack

SAVAGE PAYBACK

myBook.to/savagepayback

KILLER CITY

myBook.to/calderkillercity

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…he said, she said… dialogue as ‘voiced’ on the written page by Author pal, Eric J Gates…

…my mate, thriller Author supreme, Eric J Gates, knows more than just a thing or three about great writing… his new book, PRIMED, is launched as I type, a sequel to the maestro’s terrific, the CULL, the first of which series happens to be on offer FREE right now…

Primed.ebookthe CULL bk 1 - Bloodline

…here’s several excellent scribbling pointers for the rest of we quill-scrapers:

eric

 

‘Dialogue, that’s what we need!’ she said

 Now here’s a thorny subject, if ever there was one.

Should dialogue in novels be real?

A definitive answer?

NO!

But first, a word from our Sponsors…

A SUPER, ALL-ENCOMPASSING GOLDEN RULE:

Every scene you write, nay, EVERY SENTENCE, has to do one of two things, at the very least:

It must either move the story forward or reveal character (or both). Never forget this; have it tattooed on your forehead (in reverse) so you can see it in the bathroom mirror every morning before sitting down to write.

And dialogue is no exception.

It can be one of the hardest parts of fiction writing to master. So let’s try to make matters as simple as possible:

Why do we use dialogue?

 Essentially there are four reasons:

  • Conflict: between characters, to perhaps show how they react to one another – a strong domineering personality against a weaker one, for example. Constantly examine if the conflict playing out is advancing the story though.
  • Character: to tell us more about how our characters think and react to the events we create on the page. Care though, you must show this, through speech, not simply tell it (see next chapter). Again, don’t get so involved in developing your character you forget to tell the story.
  • Place and/or Time: writers who produce fiction set in bygone times, or those setting their scenes in some futuristic or alien surroundings do this all the time. As an aside, if you get the chance to watch the excellent TV series ‘Ripper Street’, the dialogue there deserves an accolade for dancing the thin line between authentic English from the Victorian period and modern comprehension – it is so well done, the writers must have had to work very hard at it. This is MUCH harder than it looks, and I speak from experience: In ‘Full Disclosure’ I had to write a convincing US Presidential Address to the Nation – not an easy task for a lad from England. In the first book of ‘the CULL’ series I had to write a book within the novel, purportedly written in the late Victorian era and peppered with jargon and idioms that a military man would use. Both exercises took almost two weeks each, and only occupy a couple of pages in their respective novels.
  • Exposition: to inform the reader about events or knowledge we are not going to show in detail. Watch out for the dreaded ‘Information Dump’ though.

Now, stop reading for a minute, bookmark this blog, go out, find some people and listen to them. (Do not take part in their conversation, just listen).

Pay special attention to what they say, how they say it, and what they don’t say. How much additional information do they convey with body language or gestures and facial expressions? What about idiomatic expressions? Accents? Dialects? Are they just standing there throwing words at one another or are they doing something at the same time? Is one speaking and the others listening (it will be a group of men – we can only do one thing at a time, they say) or is everyone speaking and listening at once (women – it’s awesome – one of Life’s mysteries).

Now come back to your keyboard and try to write a conversation just like the one you have just observed.

It’s almost impossible, but even if you manage it, compare what you have with any piece of dialogue taken from any novel, of any genre, from an experienced author.

What a difference, right?

So how do they do it?

First, dialogue in fiction is nothing like dialogue in real life. We punctuate our speech with sounds (er, hum, humph, tsk, etc – no the last one wasn’t a sound). You should not do that in your novel unless you want to draw attention to it, and then, use very sparingly.

We also interrupt, constantly. Sometimes, if the participants are very familiar with each other, there won’t be a complete sentence!

We raise and lower our voices, give inflections to words that suggest meaning above and beyond the syllables themselves. You can use UPPERCASE to represent shouting, even BOLD UPPERCASE if things get very loud, but again do not abuse. To imply nuances, italicizing a word may help. Again, don’t go mad. Above all, if you do take this approach, be consistent throughout your novel.

Try not to use phonetic speech representation to simulate an accent – the extra work you put your reader through will most often not be appreciated, and you will destroy any pacing you have built. Ah, you might say, I’ve read your ‘CULL’ books and you’ve got an Irishman there and you use phonetics when he speaks! Yes, you’re right (and thank you for reading my novels) but I’ve stuck to a few, repeated ‘ticks’, such as dropping the ‘g’ at the end of a word, and using ‘yer’ instead of ‘your’ thus conveying what I want without making the reader work for it. I chose this form of writing deliberately to highlight that this character is an anachronism. Also, the character in question doesn’t speak a lot. I wouldn’t dream of having pages of dialogue with this character doing this. In my latest thriller, ‘Primed’, I have a Russian Mafia killer and to highlight his use of English I chose to drop whole words from the sentences. Sounds odd, right? But it works!

Regarding idioms and verbal ticks, in ‘the CULL’, again deliberately so in the first book, I had one character repeatedly employ the phrases ‘dearie’ and ‘my dear’ in her speech. It fit with the age and backstory of her persona. When this character does this in book two (twice) she is immediately called on it by another character – you see, it was a devilish plan to highlight the change that has taken place in the life of that particular protagonist. This was an exceptional case, however; normally I would suggest you keep idioms to a minimum. I even play with this in the same series of novels: one character uses the phrase ‘I assure you’ usually when they are lying through their teeth, and I have another character repeat the phrase when they are expressing total truthfulness to someone important – it was a wink within a wink for the observant.

Always be consistent with your colloquial spelling too. ‘Yeah’ or ‘Yes’ but no other variations.

Finally, regarding what’s said in between the double quotes, always read it aloud. Does it sound right for that character?

Now we come to the fun bit. How many times have you stopped reading a novel and had to count lines to work out who said what?

You shouldn’t overuse the name of the person being addressed inside the quotes:

“Well, Alphonse, I’m sure you understand…”

“Sorry, Billy, old chap, but it’s beyond me.”

“Then perhaps our friend, Wilma here can help you out? What do you say, Wilma?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Billy. Alphonse, may be we could talk in private?”

Try to use the content of what is being said to indicate who is saying what to whom.

 

This bring us on to another common error, he said.

Stick to simple tags to identify the speaker, and only when absolutely necessary. Replace the overuse of adjectives, he said quietly, with better verb choices, he whispered.

Flow is also extremely important in speech, as we have noticed in our listening exercise.

Here’s another extract from ‘the CULL’ which I hope will amuse as it illustrates this point:

Gripping her handset, she strode purposefully toward the door that connected with Katie’s office. As she walked through, the older woman gave a small jump in her seat.

“Gotcha!”

“What?”

“SANTA has found the trucker’s route data.”

“How do I make a phone call inside here?”

“I knew if I sent a Helper hidden in an email, they would let it loose on their network.”

“I need to call the hospital in Texas. How…?”

“Now I have the guy’s routing data for the last eight years. Let’s see if there’s a pattern…”

“KATIE!” Amy had raised her voice a little more than intended.

Katie looked up from her monitors.

“What? I…”

“I need to call out but my cell can’t get a signal.”

Notice the complete absence of tags and how the conversation flows. There are two people talking almost simultaneously, both focused on their agendas and ignoring the other person and what they are saying. It is a small vignette that also tells us a huge amount about our two characters – both are driven, but in different ways, and to different degrees.

People do not speak logically, not even Mr. Spock. They rarely respond exactly to what has been immediately said before. Machines do this; we humans are far more dynamic.

Something else to note from the extract too, although it may not be that obvious at first: both people are doing something as they talk. We move, eat, drink tea and coffee, scratch ourselves, drive vehicles, etc etc.

Dialogue is hard to master, as I’ve said, and you will probably work at improving how you have written it even more than on the narrative scenes. It can make or break a good tale, so it is very much worth the extra effort, he said.

…here’s the biz on Master Gates:

author of
Suspense Thrillers with a touch of Strange

Latest: Primed the sequel to Outsourced
What’s the deadliest gift a fan could send to a
novelist? And if that fan was a professional assassin?

the CULL- Bloodlinethe CULL – Bloodstone, the CULL – Blood Feudthe CULL – Blood Demon
(the CULL series books 1-4)

FULL DISCLOSURELeaving ShadowsFacets and 2012,
and the non-fiction

How NOT to be an ASPIRING Writer
available AMAZON (paper & e-book) and bookstores worldwide.

check out  http://www.ericjgates.com to read extracts and discover the inside secrets

follow Eric on Twitter: @eThrillerWriter  and on his Blog http://my-thrillers.blogspot.com/

…thanks for that, Eric… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…Barb Taub… unplugged!… oh, and a wee bit about her book, ROUND TRIP FARE…

…pin back yer eyes, brains, and risible nerves for a terrific Guest Post from my great pal, Authoress Barb Taub

Barb oic

They say…

sicilian“You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia. But only slightly less well known is this. Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.” [Image credit: The Princess Bride, 1987, Writer: William Goldman]

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. —Mark Twain

There are plenty of things our old friends, the Everyones, say:

  • Show, don’t tell.
  • Write what you know.
  • Don’t wear plaid.

And they’re right, of course. Except when they’re not. Sometimes a little tell gets you out of a painful lot of show. Sometimes what you know isn’t nearly as much fun as what you can make up. And sometimes, Scottish writers living in Abu Dhabi will totally rock the plaid.

The trick here is to take the things you do know, the things you do want to tell, and maybe even a bit of unapologetic plaid attitude, and sneak them in under the table where people won’t notice them. At least, not right away. In my new book, Round Trip Fare, for example, heroine Carey Parker is a young Warden working for the secretive Accords Agency. In writing about her office, I might not have firsthand knowledge of paranormal bounty hunters, and the accountants I’ve worked with were not (to the best of my knowledge) were-badgers. But after decades in the human resources trenches, I know some things about workplaces and bureaucracy.

No matter what happens to employees under the full moon, I know their offices will have scribbled threats against people who steal food from the staff fridge, and notices threatening those who take the last of the coffee without making another pot.

HR warning

There will be plenty of policies from Human Resources, most likely collected into a manual that nobody actually reads.

warden

And of course, there will be those random memos from management (which will, for the most part, say exactly the wrong thing).

acciord agency

 

I also know what Carey’s coworkers will be like. In staffing the Accords offices, I’ve added a few that I’ve met personally over the years. They’re the ones who misunderstand directions, exchange endless emails—with half the company copied in—only to raise even more questions about each answer. Despite being completely contradictory themselves, they urge others to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on. And of course, they have a particular gift for spreading disturbing rumors that sound like inside dope.

Sabotage manual

Sound familiar? Admit it—you’ve worked with them too. What you and I may not have realized, however, was that all of this might be deliberate.

Perhaps our guacamole-for-brains colleagues are actually spies working for the CIA. I know this is a possibility, because I’ve read a recently declassified CIA file which contains the training materials for simple workplace sabotage. Using these methods, employees following some easy steps can bring down even the largest organizations. And aren’t those steps eerily familiar?

sabotage text

Sounds like a normal day at the office, right? Well, maybe your coworkers are CIA spies. [image credit: “Simple Sabotage Field Manual: Strategic Services”, CIA, 17 January, 1944]

And by the way, writers—if you’ve already created a workplace that puts the fun back in dysfunctional, the CIA has yet another gift for you. For over twenty years beginning in the 1950s, Modern Art was a CIA weapon.

art

Jackson Pollock, artist
[image credit: public domain]

I could NOT make this stuff up. But I did make up Carey’s adventures in Round Trip Fare. I hope you’ll take a look.

Round trip fare

[click on image for preview and reviews from Amazon]

ROUND TRIP FARE by Barb Taub

Warden Carey Parker’s to-do list is already long enough: find her brother and sister, rescue her roommate, save Null City, and castrate her ex-boyfriend. Preferably with a dull-edged garden tool. A rusty one. 

And then there is… him. For the past two months, a dark stranger has persistently edged his way onto the mental game board behind her eyelids. Well, whatever trouble he’s selling, Carey Parker is not buying.

Carey knows superpowers suck, her own included. From childhood she’s only had two options. She can take the Metro train to Null City and a normal life. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes. Or she can master the powers of her warrior gift and fight a war she can’t win, in a world where she never learned how to lose.

Emerald city

It just would have been nice if someone told her the angels were all on the other side.

  • TITLE:Round Trip Fare
  • Genre:Urban Fantasy (okay and there is humor, romance, a sentient train, a great dog, and bunch of other stuff—but Amazon only gives you a couple of words to pick genre, so…)
  • Series:Null City [NOTE: prequel One Way Fare is now available FREE from comBarnes & Noble and Kobo, and the Amazon UK kindle version directly from Barb) but this book works as standalone.
  • Release date:7 April, 2016

Contact & Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Blog | Facebook | Twitter: @barbtaub | Goodreads

Barb Taub:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.

…there yeez have, it Lads and Lassies of Blog Land… go seek out ROUND TRIP FARE… a terrific offering from a terrific Authoress…

…thanks, m’Lady, Barb…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…look what they’ve done to my boy…

…it’s not very often that this ol’ Scots Jurassic is lost for WURDS, but it happened today… mark the calender, Mabel… some friends and I were at a restaurant in deepest Bahrain… a bunch of terrific people I’ve become pals with over the last year or two… at the end of our meal, to my unabashed astonishment, a large cake was produced… I wondered what the occasion was… who was the cake for?… the waiters cleared some space on the dish-strewn table and placed the huge confection straight plonk in the centre, opposite my seat… here’s what it looks like… have a close look at ‘Mister Brando’…

sg godfather 1sg godfather 2

…I had instantly been transformed from a regular restaurant patron, to the recipient of this amazing gift… these good people know my authorship status, and also that I deem Mario Puzo’s brilliant Godfather books as a great parallel for running successful businesses… yes, yes, yes, I know they’re about the Mafia, but Don Corleone and his family knew a thing or twelve about how to make money… and I’m delighted to tell yeez, that the simplicity of the generosity of the folks sitting around that table touched me… it’s among the nicest things that I’ve experienced in a long time … thank you, my cake-prezzing friends… LUV YEEZ all!… and for the rest of yeez Lads and Lassies of BlogLand… see yeez later… LUV YEEZ, too!…

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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…if Music be the food of LIFE, as well as LOVE, play on, Maestro…

…some of yeez Lads and Lassies of Blog Land may be aware of a wee practice I’ve kinda easily slipped into over the last year or two… toward the weekend (which in the Middle East effectively begins on Thursday evenings, with Friday the official non-WURK day) I tend to pick up from Auntie You Tube and share on Facebook and Twitter… songs, clips, and music ranging from Celtic/Gaelic airs to 1960’s-and-onward classics to Bocelli masterpieces. to flash-mob presentations and such other goodies… those of yeez of a certain age will instantly transport yer minds back to the era in which much of it found vogue… a time when we were young once (yes, Mabel, we were daft growing-ups then, p’raps not fully all-growed-up)… a time when we were finding love, feelings, relationships, spouses, lovers, marriages, kids, and all the trappings that just staying alive bring… every song I play has real mem’ries for this ol’ Jurassic… some pensive, some tearful, some outright f*ck-the world, some joyful, and some just in awe of whoever is singing or playing the particular piece… but each note ties in with my life sum’where, sum’how… I can remember sensitivities, hardships, triumphs, despair, highs and lows throughout all of that… music is part of me… and I think it’s a part of everyone’s psyche… it ties me in with people I knew, friendships, partnerships, marriages, and yes, divorces… the evolution of the prevailing popular music will herald in material I sum’times have no time nor ear for, but the great stuff when I was growing up into the older fella I’ve become, in large part seem magnificent to me… so, when yeez see my wee FB-Jaying and Twitter-Jaying, yeez’ll bear with me I trust… I play them principally for me… but I know it touches many of my good pals around the globe who grew up at the same time as I did… on any given day, I could write yeez a list of my 20 and more favourites, but next day, they’d prob’ly be 20 different clips… if Music be the food of LIFE, as well as LOVE, play on, Maestro… here’s one to keep yeez going… 

…see yeez later… LUV YEEZ!

ALL MY BLOG POSTS ARE FREE TO SHARE OR RE-BLOG SHOULD YOU SO WISH—BE MY GUEST!

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