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Dialogue–for fun and function

If you love reading conversations between people (and listening to them, enjoying the repartee, the back-and-forth of banter), then you probably also love writing dialogue. I’ve learned a few things about that, but one that really stands out in my mind is not to write conversations the way they go in real life. Such dialogue is usually filled with “er… um…well, yeah, I think, maybe…” and other hesitations. Like this:
He looked at the array of tools on the hardware store wall and said to himself, “Hmm. I think I’ll probably need, er, want, the whatchamacallit, um, there, the one with those little prying dealies on one side and a banging part on the other, oh, yeah, a claw hammer.”
Unless you want your character to sound indecisive and a bit dull-witted, try to avoid writing the way he might have said it, even to himself. Instead, give him some initiative. Have him stride up to the wall, reach out and grab down a claw hammer of the right size and weight. He knows what he needs. He’s a hero.

Another problem many writers have is their having been told not to repeat words. But when you take that to mean even words such as “said,” you can get into trouble. The fact is, you need not struggle to find alternatives for “said” because most readers simply let their minds glide over the word unaware. The struggle to find alternatives sometimes comes across as ludicrous. You can end up with a lot of silly sentences.
For example, “he cooed”, “she purred,” “he rasped”, “she warbled.” Unless he’s a pigeon, she’s a cat, he’s a file, and she’s a songbird, avoid using such words to tell how the voice sounded. Instead, use other words to show. “Ah, come here, honey, let Daddy help.” Or Martha picked up the abandoned newborn. “Aren’t you just the sweetest little thing.” If you use a thesaurus to look up “said” and pick a dozen or so of the many synonyms, then pepper your manuscript with them, your work can look amateurish.

Of course, if someone shouts, it’s fine to say “Stop!” he shouted, but remember to use an exclamation point at the end of what they shouted. Remember, too, that’s about the only time you get to use that particular bit of punctuation. If another person screams his words, your reader might like to know, but often, there’s no need to use any of those descriptives for speech because the words themselves should be plenty of indication.
For example: “You stop talking!” Cole slammed his fist on the table. “Give me a goddam chance.” His voice grew louder. “You never let me get a word in edgewise and it’s my turn to be heard, so shut the hell up!” Spittle flew from his enraged mouth. Beads of sweat dotted his bright red forehead. He attacked the table again, sending dishes dancing as Pete tried to speak. “No! Not another word until I’ve had my say.”

Ellie wiped angry tears from under her eyes and spoke through trembling lips. “They fired me.” She drew in a tremulous breath. “One false accusation from a disgruntled customer, and it’s out the door. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m already behind on my rent, and now this, on top of my mother’s illness.”
Carla frowned. “I’m so sorry, El. If it’s a matter of a short-term loan…” She let the suggestion hang.
No one used the word “said,” yet we know who said what and in what tone of voice. (I should have rewritten that bit where I have too many exclamation points, found a way to use only one, but I leave it as an exercise for the student to fix that paragraph if desired. Editing someone else’s work is always fun. It gives me great feelings of superiority—until I realize how wrong I was and that the original writer was quite correct.

Then there are the danger-combos which, in my opinion, every writer needs to watch out for, especially when writing dialogue. One example of what not to do is have the character speaking while doing something else. Like this: “You look cute in that bunny outfit,” he laughed. Really, try saying those words while also laughing. Instead, make it two sentences. He laughed. “You look cute in that bunny outfit.” Whenever I catch myself making that particular mistake, I mentally thank one of my first editors who set me straight on the issue. Then there’s this one:
“No,” she said as she carried in the groceries, bag after bag, emptying the car’s trunk and setting the provisions on the counter and giving the dog a treat. She put the baby in the high chair, gave him a sippy-cup of milk, and sat the toddler on a booster seat to serve him lunch. “I don’t want to.”
Really? She said those few words while busy with her other activities? By the time she gets to “I don’t want to,” the person she’s speaking to will have forgotten what question prompted the response. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but when you’re proofreading your work, try to watch for such cases and correct mistakes like that.

Dialogue should be clear, crisp, and informative. It can often be funny or poignant, but always it must drive the scene forward and provide bits of action and snippets of description of the surroundings as well as some thought from the POV character so the reader can build a mental image of who, what, where, and why. It can allude to things either in the past that impinge on the story or hint and things to come.Happy writing! And remember to enjoy your dialogue. It’s the most fun part of creating living, memorable characters. And the best part is, six hours later when you think of what you should have said (or had your character say), you can go back and change it. It’s like controlling history.

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Audible? Laudable!

I just had the most amazing experience–listening to one of my own books narrated by a woman who got all the subtle nuances just right. If I’d been asked to narrate Forbidden Dreams, the story of Shell Landry and Jase O’Keefe, I couldn’t have done it better than Darlene Roberts. Correction–I couldn’t have done it as well as Darlene.

When Jason O’Keefe blows in on a wicked, west-coast storm, bloody and battered and looking oddly familiar, Shell Landry is intrigued but wary. She has good reason for both reactions, the first is the secret she must protect, the second, her instant attraction to him. When he explains that they did meet years ago and far away as children, her wariness grows, turning nearly to panic. Why has he come? What does he know? What will he do if he learns her secret?

Shell has knowledge that must be kept from any stranger, a secret she has held for most of her life, information which, if revealed, could destroy a person she holds very dear. Jase poses a distinct threat to the sanctity of that confidentiality, but when he reveals his reason for coming to her, not by accident as she thought, but because he needs her help, she is torn. If she doesn’t do as he asks, someone else she loves could be harmed. But still, Shell must walk a careful line.

In contrast to Shell’s reticence Jase finds himself unwillingly revealing a great deal about himself as he tries to convince her to do something she clearly feels is wrong. But the need for immediate action is great. It is so urgent that he presses hard, citing reason after reason, all valid, why he needs her assistance. When she finally agrees, Jase knows that should be the end of it. He’s accomplished what he came for. It’s time to leave. But… He’s as intrigued as she was, and more deeply attracted than he thought possible.

When, after providing him with the help he’d come for, Shell learns exactly who and what Jase is, she finally understands the familiarity she sensed in the beginning. It had nothing to do with their distant, childhood connections and his deliberate seduction was a result only of his greed. Feeling betrayed, she breaks off all contact with him. But, had he seduced her, or had they seduced each other? She’s forced to recognize she’d wanted him as much as he wanted her. As her misery grows so do her doubts. Has he actually perpetrated any of the cruelties she suspects him of, or… has he only told the truth, which is what he always claimed? Worse, though, are her doubts about herself.

Who, exactly, has she been protecting all these years? Whose fears have guided her every action? If the answer is “her own”, then she clearly has to admit it because, unless she can forgive him—and herself—for keeping secrets, the love she’s long dreamed of will continue to be forbidden.

To find an audible version of this book go to https://adbl.co/30LdTWV

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Reviews 23, 24, 25, & 26 of 30 for 2017

Winning Casey, by January Bain ****

Free-spirited Casey Madison loves finding buried treasure and hidden artifacts from times long in the past. What she does not love is all the university protocols she must, as an associate professor of Archaeology, abide by. The story opens with Casey in a cold, damp cave outside Dawson in Yukon Territory, where she finds an old hoard of Klondike gold, with which she barely escapes alive. Her sorority sisters, a group of like-minded women, are as cheered as Casey over the great find. But she still has a bit of vacation time left and wants to use it before buckling down to work—and meeting her new department head, whom she knows will be another one of those nit-picking, protocol-loving, stuffy professors she’s learned to despise. CaseyWith approval finally granted for the new class syllabus she’s proposed, “Mysteries and Lost Treasures of the World”, she flies to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, to see what she can learn about the famous Money Pit.

There, a handsome hunk falls nearly at her feet when he stumbles into a deep hole dug by other treasure hunters on the island. Still, as attractive as the man is, it doesn’t take long for Casey’s interest to turn to dust. He is no other than Professor Truman Harrison, the newly appointed head of the Archeology department where she teaches. Nevertheless, she’s not about to give up her opportunity for gaining first-hand knowledge of one of the prime sites she means to use in her new course. Besides, the professor smells good…

Truman can understand Casey’s determination to hold him at arm’s length. After all, he’s her boss, but everything about her intrigues him to the point he must know more, so he’s not about to give up. His permit to explore on Oak Island is a strong drawing card and he doesn’t hesitate to use it to his own advantage, knowing how eager Casey is to do that.

As the two explore together, and talk of past exploits each has enjoyed, Casey comes to see she’s found a fellow adventurer in Truman, but he’s still the head of her department and she knows she must proceed with caution. Ms. Bain delivers a tale of mystery, romance, and danger. Highly recommended, but too many incorrect word choices and typos drop it from 5 stars to 4.

 

Race the Rising Tide, by January Bain ****

Cole McClintock, a recent hire with the TETRAD Group learns his new partner in an undercover operation is a woman who sends him into a tail-spin at first sight. She tangles up his emotions like no one else ever has. The best he can do is ignore the situation and get on with the job. At least, he has every intention of doing just that…

Gabriella Banks doesn’t hesitate to admit she’s a complicated woman, and one of deep inner strengths, firm opinions, and strong beliefs, which may, in her opinion, be responsible for her main problem. She doesn’t like to admit , but her total lack of a sex life troubles her. TideWhen she and Cole McClintock are teamed up to go undercover in Vancouver’s Chinatown, she resents him for reminding her of what’s missing from her life. He also makes her want something she knows she shouldn’t want under present circumstances.

While the two of them race to rescue a kidnap victim before it’s too late, they both know this is no time for hormones to get in the way, but they find themselves powerless in the fight against their mutual attraction.

This author is very good at making location as much of a character as the living beings in her story. Her descriptions are sharp and well-envisioned. Ms. Bain’s writing showcases her use of the language and her knowledge of how to choose words to create the effect she wants. But a note of warning: if strong language is not your thing, there is a great deal of it. While I have no objections, when and if appropriate, to the four-letter words liberally peppering this book (I suspect editorial demand for them), perhaps in an attempt to make the characters seem more “contemporary” and “edgy”. I’ve read other novels by Ms. Bain and know she has an excellent vocabulary and is more than capable of get her point across without the gratuitous use of “fuck”, which brings me to one of the worst books I have ever read…

 

 Scrooge McFuck by May Sage *

Despite the feminine author name, I was left with the impression this book was scribbled in a hurry by a seventeen-year-old boy from the UK, in love with four-letter-words and gleeful in his desire to shock and make fun of romance novels. I’ve been reading (and writing) contemporary romance, some of it humorous, most of it sexy, for many years. My novels have been published in the UK and the US and translated around the globe with many good reviews, which frequently mention humor as well as a believable love story. This book, however, doesn’t make the grade for either humor or romance and despite it’s catchy title, is definitely not a Christmas story.Scrooge

The author faithfully adheres to the “formulaic” rule so many detractors believe must be  followed in a romance—writing the once-typical (1960’s) wealthy, bad-tempered, rude, crude boss as a “hero”, a more-or-less “feisty” heroine in desperate need of her job, so she takes his bad manners like a lady. The heroine is equally crude, though mainly in her thoughts, not words. Unrequited lust builds within each, though neither character acts upon it… Then… Wow! Wouldn’t you know it? She gets sick, he learns she and her sweet little five-year-old daughter (who has the vocabulary of your maiden aunt–“my mother is ‘feeling poorly'” and other such unlikely phrases), are living in a New York tenement building. Hero-Boss magnanimously moves mother and daughter into his palatial home and immediately becomes a nice person, looking after the sick woman and the unbelievably well-spoken little girl, which suggest the author has no knowledge of kindergarten age kids.

It seems all the adult protagonists can think of is fucking, being fucked, and wishing they could fuck. I don’t object to the word. I have used it in my writings, as well as in my  casual speech, but this would-be romance author seems to believe that mere physical attraction to curves, green eyes, a “great rack”, and tattoos must lead inevitably to sex, which act is, in the writer’s mind, equivalent to romance and “lo-o-ove”. Never mind there has been little if any prior indication the story might bring the reader the Happily-Ever-After ending customary in the romance genre. Instead, at first chance, the adults leap into bed together and the author writes THE END. Not my kind of writing, little boy. Please go paddle in some other genre pool.

And now, to get out of the romance genre entirely, here’s a well-founded book from a newbie I do admire…

Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos ****

A fast paced book, TERMS OF ENLISTMENT introduces Andrew Grayson, a kid from the public housing slums of the next century, where the North American Alliance stretches from the N. Pole to the S. border of Mexico. In Basic Training, which will bring smiles of familiarity to anyone who’s gone through any similar mind-numbing course, he meets another recruit, Halley, and the two begin a relationship. Terms of EnlistmentFollowing graduation, Halley is allocated a berth in the Space Navy, and slides easily into the Officer Track while Andrew gets stuck as a grunt. His first real task, helping put down a welfare riot is a horror-show in which Andrew is injured. As a result, he’s allowed to change career directions and, still missing Halley, gets himself assigned to the same ship she’s on.

Humanity now occupies—if precariously—many far-off planets orbiting stars similar to Sol. Not all, of course, are particularly Earth-like, but with the need to deplete the home-world’s vast overburden of population, terraforming is necessary. Andrew and Halley find themselves bound for one such planet and, while it first appears things are going well, they soon learn different…

This is clearly book One in an ongoing series. Undoubtedly, many readers will follow it, though it’s not a five-star read.  The author may further develop his “voice” as the series progresses. The rapid pace of the novel works well with its  present tense delivery and his  firm grasp of military jargon.

 

I apologize for having fallen short of my promised number of review blogs for this year. My companion blog, Just Asking Why, may explain in part. It appears later today.

 

 

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Today’s reviews are Books 18 & 19 of 30 for 2017. IRREPARABLE HARM, and AFTER: FIRST LIGHT.

While out riding the waves aboard La Niña our little cabin cruiser, I didn’t get in as much reading as I’d intended. Instead, I downloaded a large whack of Robert A. Heinlein books and spent my vacation partly on Earth, partly on Secundus,  and ended up on Tertius with the other members of the Long Family, which I joined years ago. Now, well rested by my vacation, I’m home again and ready to read, review, and write. Hope everyone else had as satisfactory a break from normal as I did.

Anyway, here are a couple I read just before leaving…

IRREPARABLE HARM ****

By Melissa Miller

This legal thriller captured my interest in the first page and held it all the way through. Sasha McCandless is a lawyer, small, smart, and dangerous. When she finds Federal Marshall Leo Connelly in her apartment, poor Leo wishes his current investigation hadn’t been responsible for what Sasha considers a B & E. Sasha, in eager search of a partnership with her law firm, is willing to do almost anything to achieve her goal… Even teaming up with Leo, whatever the cost, even when he insists she’s in danger and he’s the only one qualified to keep her safe. Safe from whom? Herself, him, or the bad-guys he’s certain want to do her harm–irreparably.
This well-written book has only one problem in my view—it’s too short. I was ready to read on and on, but then, there was no more. This seems to be a common thread now, so I’ll have to look for book 2… and 3… and 4… and so on–and believe me, I will. Sasha McCandless is a character easy to follow.

 

AFTER: FIRST LIGHT ***

by Scott Nicholson

I always enjoy a good post apocalyptic story that keeps me reading until well after bedtime. AFTER: FIRST LIGHT is written as a prequel to the series AFTER: — and didn’t keep me up long.

 

In this prequel Nicholson delivers a short-story with some well-defined characters and a credible threat. Following a solar storm of unbelievable ferocity, all electric and electronic devices on Earth are rendered useless. Billions die worldwide. This leaves the dwindling numbers of survivors wallowing in fear and disbelief, certain the “government” will fix everything soon—they need only wait. Those who do understand what’s happened know there is no government, there are no effective armed forces, and people are going to have to fend for themselves.  Those who do survive the panic-riots and the inevitable, zombie-like “Zapheads”.

The author’s concise method of introducing the problem, the aftermath, and those who try to survive—as well as those who can’t—are mostly likable enough for the reader to root for. This quick, but fairly good read dropped several points in my estimation by the author’s introduction of another danger that, to me, is not at all plausible.  Things were dire enough without his giving into the immature and creating zombies to please the kiddies. Too bad, Mr. Nicholson. I’d have enjoyed the series if you hadn’t tossed in something out of comic books.

 

 

 

 

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Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves, Living life as it comes, What writing's all about

Reviews #13 & 14 of 30 for 2017 Kena the Good Hyena / Kena la hiena buena, Books 1 & 2, by Gabriela Arellano

I’m delighted to feature these two bilingual children’s picture books, KENA THE GOOD HYENA / KENA LA HIENA BUENO.Kena Hyena

Similar in tone to the ever popular Berenstain Bears books, Books 1, Being The Best, shows how good behavior can make any child’s life run smoother, and that being selfish and boastful can lead to unhappiness at school.

The second book, When Dad’s Away, illustrates the way a child mKena 2ight feel abandoned and unloved when Dad has to go far away to work. But it also reassures the child that distance is no barrier to love.

But, more important to me, as a writer, is that the author has aimed her work at young children and their parents of two different linguistic groups. During my years in Costa Rica I was struck (unfavorably) by the small number of people of all ages I saw reading for pleasure. On buses, on park benches, on beaches, it seemed few read anything but school texts or newspapers. Even large bookstores featured little fiction—especially for children. This may not be the case in other Spanish speaking countries, but to find a book like this is a real pleasure regardless of where it might be read and enjoyed because not only does it encourage adults to read to their children, it will surely help English speakers learn Spanish, and perhaps vice versa. Though in my experience it was the “Gringos” (myself included) who needed to learn, far more than the “Ticos.”

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Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves, Living the Writing Life

Review # 12 for 2017 A Merciful Death ***** By Kendra Elliot

Merciful DeathA Merciful Death *****

By Kendra Elliot

Mercy Kilpatrick, an experienced FBI Special Agent, is called upon to return to the community where she grew up to investigate the murders of two men she once knew. She was raised to be prepared for the worst that could happen to society, but the society of her own family deserted her when she most needed their support. Fifteen years before, she left town at the age of eighteen and built a life for herself, apart from those she loved. Mercy hides her estrangement from her parents and siblings from her FBI partners, making her return doubly awkward because she’s on edge, nervous about being recognized and probably shunned. When she meets the new Chief of Police, Truman Daly, they begin to work together comparing notes of past and present. It soon becomes clear that the very events that drove her away in the first place have an intrinsic connection to the current victims, one of whom was Chief Daly’s uncle. Mercy has never told anyone the full truth behind her reasons for leaving home and family. But knowing Truman Daly has as much at stake when it comes to solving the mysterious links, she wants to come clean with him, but he’s a lawman, too, so she doesn’t dare.

Ms. Elliot paints a vivid picture if life in a “prepper” community, and the attendant stresses that lead to inevitable conflicts between different factions with the same goal in mind, but whose methods are at odds. Set in the countryside if eastern Oregon, this story brings to life the sights, sounds, and smells of an area she clearly loves. Highly recommended for fans of both mystery and romance novels, though the romance plays second fiddle to the crime-solving,

 

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Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves, Living the Writing Life

Reviews 8, 9, & 10 of 30, for 2017

Preserving Hope *****

Book 2 in the Aliomenti Saga By Alex Albrinck Preserving hope

Book 1 Reviewed this site

Suspend disbelief—and enjoy!

 

In Preserving Hope, Will Stark, a 21st Century man is carried forward in time beyond his own era, then taken back to the historical period one thousand years before his own birth. There, his task is to infiltrate an Aliomenti village hidden in a forest in medieval northern England. The Aliomenti had once been normal human beings, serfs, living on and farming the land, when a small group of men believed they could, with the right diet  of herbs to enhance mental abilities in their laborers, produce more intelligent, stronger, and better workers, thus increasing the profitability of their lands. This proved true, and the Aliomenti came into being. As a newcomer, Will must try to fit in with the villagers as well as help them toward their goals of mental, physical, and financial superiority. Though Will has been imbued with many of the strengths known to the Aliomenti as Energy, he must conceal this fact while helping improve their lot.

His main focus, though, is the security of a young woman, motherless woman, Elizabeth. Her safety is key not only to Will’s personal survival, but to that of an entire line of her descendants. Elizabeth’s father, Arthur, the highest-ranking man in the Aliomenti village, is cruel and his determination to maintain dominance over the others endangers Elizabeth’s life. All Will can do is protect her in secret, and help nudge the Aliomenti along the path he already knows they must travel. With his knowledge of future technologies and methods, he tries to guide them into becoming better traders and better builders, which will add to Arthur’s profits. If the village leader sees what can be done with hard work and ingenuity, Will hopes to reduce a portion of Elizabeth’s misery of some of her agony,

Arthur, however, is a selfish, stubborn man with no feelings at all for his only child…

 

Mason ***

Book 1 in the Remington Ranch Series Mason

No way to run a relationship.

 

Gina Delaney, successful photographer whose work is being shown in a posh, New York art gallery, needs to go back to Montana to help her elderly father move east to live near her. There are two major problems—her dad, Al, doesn’t want to sell the ranch he can no longer run, and Gina fears when she returns to make things happen the only way she sees possible, she’ll inevitably run into Mason Remington, the man who broke her heart ten years ago.

When Mason learns Gina’s back in town, he knows he won’t be able to stay away from her. It’s a small place. They’re bound to meet. When they do, of course things heat up like they always did before. Mase has no problem with this. He wants her. He’s spent the last decade wanting her. It’s clear her body has no problem with the desire springing to life between them, but she will not give in.

Gina can’t let herself succumb to the physical attraction she and Mason share. It would be wrong. She’s engaged to marry Liam, owner of the NY Gallery. Not only that, she cannot bring herself to trust Mason. What she heard him say about her just before she went off to college preys on her mind. Even if he does think he loves her now, what about his actions all those years ago? He claims not to know what he did to break them up, but she’s not buying that one.

When Gina’s engagement to the NY man falls through, Mason sees no further impediment to him resuming his affair with her, but again, she refuses to talk things out with him. As the story winds on, both Mason and Gina realizes they have a long way to go before than can reach Happily Ever After—but are they both adult enough to take the chance of accepting the person each other has become during their time apart?

I could have awarded more points but for Gina’s childish intransigence and Mason’s inability to understand he didn’t have to control everything.




 

Code Name: Money Man ***

By Mark Arundel Money Man Cover

 

“We want you to kill someone.”

 

The former elite SAS trooper has been kicked out of the army, the only real life he knows. He has no home, few friends, and no money. When the offer of employment comes from what might or might not be the Foreign Office, the ex-trooper is taken aback. Yes, he has killed before. But not the way an assassin might. He killed in combat, not in cold blood. However, the money sounds good, and he doesn’t have many options. Still unsure if he can do as he’s asked, he accepts the position and flies to Tenerife in the Canary Islands where the job is to be done.

From there, things go sideways. The action bounces from one cliff-hanger to another. None of the opposition that continues to crop up is who or what he thinks they are. With the truth cloaked in shadows and lies, the trooper only slowly begins to catch on: He’s part of a plot to expose a mole deep inside the British Secret Service.

This book would have a higher rating if the punctuation hadn’t been so lacking. Too few commas and periods created a tough trail for a reader accustomed to knowing who’s speaking, when he finishes a sentence, and when he begins another.

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