Book Reviews: Good for Travel – Peter Abrahams Collection

Peter Abraham’s Collection Recommended by Stephen King

Yes, I just told you that my goals are to use Always Write for my book reviews and this blog for traveling. Because there are book reviews here already, I am going to repurpose some the posts from time to time.

Here’s my logic to how this relates to travel.

If you’re going on a trip, you need some books to read. Don’t blame me for recommending these books. Steven King included his favorite books in his book On Writing.

After I had read Steven King’s On Writing, I thumbed through his suggested reading list at the end of the book.  Granted he published his book ten years ago, so these are classics.  Probably voracious readers have already heard of Peter Abrahams, but I started at the top of the alphabetized list, so I started reading his books.  He does what I haven’t even come close to mastering.  He writes descriptions, metaphors newer and fresher than clean socks, similes as puzzling as a Sudoku, which I never work out correctly no matter how much scratching I do along the sides.

Lights Out – Peter Abrahams

In Lights Out Abrahams chose a wrongfully imprisoned, vengeful murderer as the hero.  This poor man’s mother neglected him. His older brother set him up, lied to him and abandoned him, leaving “Nails” to serve his entire sentence in prison for something he never did. Of course, he killed a few bad guys in jail that picked on him, which kept him locked up. When he eventually emerged, looking younger and more fit than his outside colleagues, he searched for his brother. Nails seemed dumb, but you had a feeling he would solve the mystery of why he went to prison, and get the sexy woman in the end. You wondered if his brother would get caught, and by whom. He did, but not in any way I would have expected or chosen to read, for that matter, but it kept me reading. No matter what he did, Nails’ brother got an appropriate comeuppance, but not one you’d wish on your worst enemy.

Revolution #9-Peter-Abrahams


Revolution #9, published in 1992, told the classic story of a smart woman marrying a man she thought she knew and finding out on her wedding night that she didn’t even know his name, nor the people who came and took him away. The government thought they could close the twenty-year-old murder case when a counterfeiter blew Charlie’s cover in return for favors he would soon need again. No one had reacted with more surprise than Charlie when the bomb he had built and set under the building exploded, killing the eleven-year-old son of a professor at his college.

Running for his life, abandoned by the real terrorists, Charlie changed his identity and took cover as a lobster fisherman. He had not been discovered. Then he accidentally fell in love. When he married, news of Charlie’s reappearance twenty years later triggered many levels of events reaching into the depths of the government before the reader discovers the true perpetrators. But did they get away with it, and let Charlie live?  Only those who read the book will know for sure.

Abrahams Collection
My old blog with a new name. Tagline: Blogging and Traveling Near and Far

I also read Oblivion.  Such a title that might have clued me into the surprise, but it didn’t.  It’s unclear by the end of the book if it actually has a resolved, happy ending.  It’s sort of happy, but because of the oblivious, I’m not sure.

Petrov is an investigator who wins court cases for his clients.  He’s dramatic and thorough, attacking each case with the tenacity of the locked door on my front loading washer. (That’s another story.)  Somehow along the way, he loses his way, and ends up in the hospital, falls in love with the nurse, and ends up head to head against his past and another love.  Abrahams packs more surprises into each chapter than I have had in my life.  If you read it long ago, you may have forgotten all the turns and twists, but I doubt it.

Abrahams Collection

If you haven’t read this trio of mysteries, treat yourself a few days of good reading this summer.  🙂  What are you reading?

Abrahams Collection
My old blog with a new name. Tagline: Blogging and Traveling Near and Far

 

Help Me Choose a Title for My NaNoWriMo 2015 Novel

Marsha & Kalev
This is me, not ten-year old Jenny, but I love dogs, especially rescued ones. None of Kalev’s toys provide incentive for trying on a new raincoat and hat.

Ten year-old Jenny Hatfield resents her dad for moving her family to the Southern end of the Willamette Valley to take a new job. She hasn’t lived in Pine Forest, Oregon three days before she detests it. Her friends and family live in Portland, Oregon. The kids in the rural logging town are mean. The dreary November weather overshadows her sunny spirit.

Ongoing family problems crescendo after the move. The love she craves the most, from her father, continues to elude her. Born with a double cleft lip, (yeah, that part is me – only.1% of the U.S. population would know what it’s like.) Jenny confirms her unspoken sense that her father’s disappointment in her imperfection drives his constant criticism of her. After spending her life trying to win his approval, she runs out of ideas.

Riding her bike home from school on windy Millwood Drive, Jenny saves an Airedale/Poodle puppy from certain death. She hopes her life in Pine Forest will take a turn for the better. Her neighbor, son of a logger, Todd Paul, happens along to help her. He seems like a promising friend until the class debate begins and Sandy Lassiter moves into their trailer park.

Always fighting for what seems right, Jenny finds herself scrambling to find someone in her class who wants to join her team in the class debate. When choosing sides, she never considered that anyone in the enlightened era of the 1970s would choose not to protect the environment. In the rural logging town of Pine Forest livelihoods hung in the balance over the national debate between protecting the endangered white spotted owl and the local economics of the logging industry. Emotions sparked flames she had not anticipated.

 

Not you , Kalev.
Not you , Kalev.

She finds love and acceptance where it is, and stops struggling to produce it where it is not.

So now the title problem remains. Catchy titles help sell books. Will the title A New Home For Wynn work? I brainstormed another, but what you think?

You can always reach me at tchistorygal@gmail.com, or like me on FB, Twitter or LinkedIn. I’m always listening for good vignettes and ideas to use in my  books. Write me your stories. 🙂

Three Easy Tips To Spice Up Dialogue Elementary Students Can Learn

writing with students

What we don’t teach students – and I did not know to teach – surprised me as I’ve studied how to improve my writing to publish my work.  As a teaching consultant, I wrote constantly.  As a teacher I thought I did a good job teaching students how to extend their thinking into writing.  I taught them general principles that worked for both non-fiction and fiction writing.  But I missed these EASY steps to make dialogue more interesting.

1.  Add body language.  

Body language, facial expressions, and unspoken communication constitute an estimated 70% of what people understand.   But readers can’t see the characters.

Ask students to describe angry, sad, happy or worried.  Include this description before or after the quotation.

Notice how the body language helps make the dialogue more interesting in this scene.  Tani invited her friend Vanessa to move in with her after fire burnt down her house.

“You have problems, Vanessa, but at least you have Jesus.”

“True enough, even if I am not great about going to church.” Vanessa looked down and started picking at her split ends.

Tani changed the subject.  Why don’t you come stay with me for a while, Ness?” She looked around living room, with lace curtains, and colorful couch. Everything was in its place. Tani pursed her lips together in a tight confident smile and tilted her head as she glanced from one side of the room to another.

Vanessa backed away from her a couple of steps.   It’s sweet of you to open your home, but Babe, you would  kill me after one or two nights! I’m not easy to live with. I would mess up your routines!”

“My routines are helpful!” Tani put her hands on her hips. “You’re just jealous because I can find things like my glasses and robe!”

“You got me on that one Tani.”

Twisting her hair, Tani broached the subject Vanessa shied away from.  “We could go to that new senior singles group at church together if you stayed here for a while. You know I hate to go alone, and you are so friendly.”

In addition to the website, I google images and try describing them to get the right emotional effect.

What do these movements mean?

Websites like this help students (LIKE ME) describe body language for various emotions, and remind me what certain movements mean.

silence

  1. Silence speaks louder than dialogue. In counseling, as in the written word, silence carries the heaviest loads. Tension is palpable, and I would bet if you have not read Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune, you will go check it out now.

“Does Eliza mean nothing to you?” Miss Rose rebuked him.

“That’s not the point. Eliza committed an unpardonable offense against society, and she must pay the piper.”

“As I have paid for nearly twenty years?”

A frozen silence fell over the dining room. The family had never spoken openly about Rose’s past, and Jeremy was not even certain that John knew what had happened between his sister and the Viennese tenor…

  1. Add interruptions to dialogue. Barriers and interruptions also add tension to already tense situations. The conversation in the dining room continued. As readers we are still reeling from Miss Rose’s secret revelation when Isabel plays the next dialogue card.

“Paid what, Rose? You were forgiven, and protected. You have no reason to reproach me.”

“Why were you so generous with me but cannot be with Eliza?”

“Because you are my sister and it is my duty to protect you.”

“Eliza is like my own daughter, Jeremy!”

“But she is not. We have no obligation to her; she does not belong to this family.”

“Oh, but she does!” Miss Rose cried.

“Enough!” the captain interrupted, banging on the table with his fists as plates and cups danced.

Interruptions might also be people coming in at the wrong time.  No one was more skillful at interrupting than Kramer.  Dialogue with Kramer around never got boring.

Distractions make keep a long conversation from being boring.
Distractions make keep a long conversation from being boring.

Have students write dialogue as they normally would leaving plenty of room between each speech.  Then have them go back and add one of these three techniques.  They might do the same to another writer’s dialogue.

** History Teachers – try this to spice up a history lesson after reading a piece of non-fiction text.  Have the students create a dialogue between important players in the event they are studying.  Then have them go back and add in these techniques.

If you liked these tips James Scott Bell has many more in his book How to Write Dazzling Dialogue:  The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript. 

The 7 Tools of Dialogue by James Scott Bell, found in Writers’ Digest

Images from Google.

Easy Changes to Spice Up Dialogue that You Can’t Teach Elementary Students

Elementary teacher

After retiring from over twenty years in education, I discovered that I’ve been writing dialogue incorrectly. Not only have I been writing it wrong, I taught it wrong. In my defense, I would not WANT elementary students to know some of these secrets.

Woman and two young children outdoors holding volleyball and smi

  1. To write great dialogue EVERYBODY fights – Yikes! As a teacher, I mediated fights all day. I hate fighting, but as an author, if characters don’t fight or at least disagree, it’s hard to tell them apart. Intensity can vary from teasing to screaming.  I tried it.

no pictures

Tani enjoys arts and crafts, home decorating, and shopping. Vanessa suffers from depression over losing  her home to a fire, and starting over again.

“You need pictures.” Tani declared.

“I had pictures.”

They’re gone, Ness. Your place has no personality. Let’s go shopping.”

This wasn’t a huge fight, but it helped to set the scene, and made it a little more interesting than just saying.  Vanessa had no pictures on her wall, and needed to go shopping.

Hazel

From The Fault in our Stars by John Green, sixteen year old Green Hazel has terminal cancer, and her mother is trying to help her through depression.

“I refuse to attend Support Group.

“One of the symptoms of depression is disinterest in activities.”

“Please just let me watch America’s Next Top Model. It’s an activity.”

“Television is a passivity.”

“Ugh, Mom, please.”

“Hazel, you’re a teenager. You’re not a little kid anymore. You need to make friends, get out of the house, and live your life.”

“If you want me to be a teenager, don’t send me to Support Group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka, and take pot.

“You don’t take pot, for starters… You’re going to Support Group.”

“UGGGGGGGGGG.”

elementary writing

  1. Cut out words especially off the beginning of dialogue. Teachers have to pull words out of elementary students to get efforts like. “I have a cat. My cat is gray.” We struggle to teach them to add adjectives, adverbs and connecting words to make their writing more interesting. Then teacher becomes a writer, and the word on the street is, “Less is more.” I tried this with my character, Sarah, who is always in a hurry. Even Vanessa improved with a few cuts to her tendency to wordiness.

So, I thought it was just a gimmick at first,” she had told Sarah during their daily phone call the next day.

Well, did you even check up on their credentials?” Vanessa had visualized Sarah with one hand on her hip and her eyes rolling.

Of course, I looked them up online. I think they’re legitimate.” Vanessa played Spider Sol while they talked.

“Never mind, don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it tomorrow. I’ve got a call. I’ll talk to you later.”

According to James Scott Bell, shorter sentences speeds up action.  What do you think?

fire
“The fire is raging out of control,” shouted 4’s chief. “Don’t go in there.”  (DUH!)
  1. Use dialogue to reveal the unknown not the known.  Dialogue is not an excuse to be redundant. Eliminate repetitive information. On the other hand, elementary teachers spend all day diverting disaster by repeating known information. I changed from teaching fourth to first grade. I was not ready for all the repetition I needed in my dialogue.

giving directions

“Put your pencils at the top of your paper so I will know when you’re done.” Without this reminder, pencils might work as a drumstick, baton, or a sword.

“Put your pencils, down.” You think they learned it the first time, but looking around, you see papers with extra drawings, drawings on someone else’s paper, and in worst cases, drawings on the desk.

This is not the case for authors. They must not show something that either the readers or the characters already know.  I crossed out “duh” words in my next attempt at dialogue.

Fred, four years Trixie’s junior, could move quickly when necessary, but not fast enough to avoid eight ounces of water that sprayed him from the waist down, when Trixie got mad during her birthday party.

The party’s chatter died suddenly to see how Fred would handle his soaking trousers. He stood up and undid his belt and unbuttoned his top button.

“Trixie, you got Fred’s pants all wet,” Fred’s girlfriend Edith said.

“Guess I’d better take these wet pants off!”

The crowd gasped in unison.

?????????????????????????????????????????

These seem like minor adjustments, but as I read over my manuscript, I found almost every conversation sounded better when I followed these spicy tips: provoke characters into fighting, cut their words short, and don’t use dialogue to repeat information everyone already knows.

Thank you Google for all these pictures.

If you liked these tips, you’ll love the book by James Scott Bell, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue:  The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript.

Dazzling Dialogue

Thanks to my new friends, Catherine and Irene who “liked” me on TC History Gal Productions.  Hope others will join me as well even though there are no prizes that I know of besides getting better acquainted.  🙂

For the Love of Valentine’s Day

Day 44 My Five Hundred Words Challenge.

Prompt:

It’s Valentine’s Day.
Maybe you think this is a manufactured Hallmark holiday, or you might really believe in the magic of love.
Romantic love is the big cliché for today. So let’s talk about a different kind of love, instead. A love that isn’t all Cupid and conversation hearts.
 Write about a time when love meant stepping out of your comfort zone, making a hard choice, or offering up a sacrifice.

As my blogging friends know, I’ve been writing my first romance/comedy novel since November.   Rewrite number five brings me to this episode that my friend Tonia Hurst suggested that I share with you today for Valentine’s Day.  Valentine’s Day knows no gender in love.  In kindergarten you learn that valentines are for everyone in the room.

Three friends, Trixie, Ann, and Sarah, went to Sarah’s condo for the weekend, where a series of misadventures struck. One disaster landed Sarah in the hospital, and brought Trixie’s new love, Nick, to visit from Southern California.   Today Trixie arises at 6:30 am, leaves the love of her life sleeping in HIS room, and drives 15 miles to the hospital to see her friend.

I don’t know that I would have picked this as a romantic moment, but you can decide for yourself.

Characters:

Trixie:  unmarried friend in love with Nick

Sarah:  widowed friend always on the go, collapsed and had to go to the emergency room

Howdy Doody:  The nickname given to the nephrologist (kidney doctor) called in by the emergency room physician to run tests on Sarah.

Howdy Doody 3
Dr. Howdy Doody

Chapter Thirty-four

After Howdy Doody left, Sarah leaned back in the bed and adjusted the pillows.  Trixie walked up to Sarah’s bed, and sat down.

“Can you believe Howdy Doody getting in my face like that?  I’m bushed after that encounter.   He sure thinks he can push his weight around.”

“You sure gave us a scare, Sarah.  No wonder you were tired!  Sounds as though he’s targeting the sodas.  What a cutie.  I wonder if he is married.”

Howdy Doody 2

“Trixie, you enjoy playing Cupid now that he’s shot you in the heart.  Yeah, Sandstrom’s definitely my type.  He’s at least six feet five inches tall, and I’m only five feet tall when I stand perfectly straight.”

Sun streamed in the hospital room window making patterns on the bed.  Sarah traced them unconsciously as she talked.

“I recognize sarcasm when I hear it.  I think he’s perfect.”

“I need to research.  Can you find me a computer to use?”

“Sure, I’ll send my computer with the twins if they stop by.  You can call me and let me know when they are coming, or better yet, I’ll just leave it on the table.  Where are they?  Did they go out for some breakfast?”

“No, they went back to the condo to sleep.   How was your night?  Did you and Ann have dinner after you left?”

Sarah didn’t know that Ann had left.  Sarah wanted to discuss many things with Trixie, but her breakfast arrived, and she hadn’t eaten since breakfast yesterday.

“It is Sunday, right?” Sarah asked.

“Yes, at least you don’t have Alzheimer’s.”

Trixie was glad she had made it to the room in time to talk to the nephrologist.  Now she wasn’t as concerned that Sarah was not going to make it.  Sarah controlled her life. If Trixie had to bet on any of them living forever, it would be Sarah.

“This breakfast is awful, Trix.  Buy me a cinnamon roll and a decent cup of coffee.”

Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach
Old West Cinnamon Rolls, Pismo Beach

“Is there a better way to say that?  Have you ever heard of the word please, or better yet, would you please?  But the long answer is no.  Don’t draw me into your schemes for bringing you contraband.  I need to shove off.  Remember Nick is at the condo.  He’s not expecting the girls.  No telling what’s happened there.”

“Good idea, Trixie.  Hurry back, though.  I understand now when I hear nursing home residents yelling to get out.  I can’t believe I have to be camped out here when it’s seventy-five degrees and sunny outside.”

“Ok, I’ll touch bases with you later today, Sarah.”  Trixie told her.

“You know, don’t come back today.  Enjoy your time with Nick.  I’ll be fine.  Send the girls back as soon as they wake up.”

Sarah waved to her friend then settled back against the pillows and closed her eyes.  She was still pretty tired, and right this minute rest seemed to be the perfect prescription.

Sarah 1

Girls on Fire visits the editor this weekend, and expects to come home with a few band aids, but hopes to avoid major surgery.  Depending on the damages I’ll need to rebuild, this romantic comedy should be ready soon.

So do you agree with Tonia, that this has some merit for Valentine’s Day to fit this prompt?