Writing Dialogue

I  met someone new at a friend’s house and when she found out I was an author, we chatted a great deal about writing.

It seems a lot of people have a book in them or something they need to get out and onto paper and I want to encourage that. We all have a unique experience to share and if nothing else, I think a lot of our loved ones would like to know more about us, how we see things.

I’m digressing a bit; she made the comment that although she has most of a story draft, she finds dialogue difficult to write. I thought that was funny, because I think it’s some of the easiest bits to get down. 😉

I think one of the first things to remember is that people seldom speak off the cuff in grammatically perfect sentences. I do my best to keep non-dialogue as grammatically correct as a non-English professor can, but think more ‘authentic’ sounding dialogue shouldn’t have that precision. People use ‘um’ or ‘you know’ or any number of imperfect things in their speech and depending on whether they are rushed, thoughtful, surprised or whatever, the cadence and construction of their sentences will be different.

So think of an imaginary scene where your heroine is surprised. “Oh! Well, I mean…” sounds like the beginning of a sentence that shows that emotion.

What if she was annoyed? “Hmm. I’m not sure…” implies thoughtfulness, frustration.

So if you’re writing a particularly difficult scene, try to think of what the first thing out of your mouth would be, and then tailor it the character.

People speaking extemporaneously about a subject they are passionate about will have emotional and cohesive thoughts because they’ve mulled over the subject a bit, so I tend to notice their speeches are less fragmented. Someone lying or caught out and trying to conjure up a story might be evasive or try to deflect attention, so how can you express that in words and a few short descriptive clauses? After a while it becomes fun, especially if you know there is a meta there – that not only is the character surprised but she’s trying to not show it, or perhaps she is charmed by the gesture that surprised her.

Another key thing is developing an idea of how your main characters speak. Everyone – even people in the same family – have speech patterns, preferred words and unique ways they express themselves. If you have any Brit friends you might have heard colourful phrases like “Bob’s your uncle” or “Taking the piss”, so do your characters have a background you can draw from? I don’t mean just a bunch of apostrophes and butchered words that are supposed to pass for some sort of accent and end up being a distraction if there’s a wall of dialogue; based on their background, hobbies, profession and where they grew up, can you pull in little words or turns of phrase that make that character feel a bit different? Pick a few  that you think fit your H/h and sprinkle them in. You can even do this with an ordinary word, like ‘Terrific!’ or ‘Right!’; it doesn’t need to be much deeper than that, although it is nice.

Also, think about the way men and women use words, how their speech is tailored. Women often intersperse supportive or emotion-laden words and phrases, whereas men tend in similar circumstances to see something as a problem solving opportunity, or feel the desire to express strength and confidence. I’ve listened to many girlfriends moan that their boyfriends aren’t great listeners and offer advice to solve problems, when sometimes they just want support or understanding. I think that sums up the differences simply. =)

Probably the last thing I would suggest is to write the dialogue and go back and reread it, but only after you’ve moved well past that scene. See how the lead up, exchange, and subsequent story feel with the dialogue you’ve written. Sometimes in context of the larger scene or narrative it feels appropriate, other times you realise that it’s not as emphatic, (or it’s too strong!), for what you had in mind.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post a comment. =) I’m not always quick in responding, but I do reply eventually. Happy writing! =)

All the best,

Holly

 

 

Yoga and Habits

So I started up with yoga again. I wish it wasn’t quite so expensive, especially since I found a studio I really like with an amazing instructor on Wednesdays, but they are a little pricier than other places. =(

Exercise is difficult for me for a number of reasons. My parents really encouraged academic excellence, so aside from riding a bike with my brother and throwing a baseball around with him too, I didn’t develop any athletic-inclined habits.

I also have several injuries, including being born with flat feet. I have arches but they’re not that great, so running or long walks aren’t very comfortable and can hurt. Add on a broken leg and shoulder and some neck sprains, and it seems I get sore really easily. I am intrigued by weightlifting, but worry about doing it wrong and triggering an old injury.

I also get bored; I need something to engage my mind too, so when I do exercise I try to read, if possible. Luckily yoga engages me on that level, so I am really grateful for that.

But probably the biggest impediment I struggle with is myself. I was brought up with a mentality of ‘number one is expected’, and I am very critical if I don’t do well. So I can’t run very well because of the aforementioned issues? Let the self-recrimination and lectures begin! Other people have it worse, after all! Can’t do an arm bind because bad shoulder doesn’t really work that well? I should be able to loosen it up and at least do better than where I am at! I’m so weak!

I know I shouldn’t think this way about exercise – because part of it is actually NOT doing well, because you need to challenge your body – but it is a difficult adjustment for me. I’m the type of person who can have a perfectly lovely conversation with someone, but ten minutes later I am second-guessing a phrase I used, or whether I lingered too long. I always want to improve, and think everything about me CAN be improved, that I am a very fallible person.

So when I go into yoga classes, see twenty-somethings, (unfortunately no longer me), with great bodies who move more easily then me, I think ‘I will never get there’ and therefore I have failed before beginning, why bother? Luckily in yoga most teachers are very supportive and remind you that every day with your body is different, and it’s important to be there and do something for yourself. This helps me break through my personality flaw of analyzing to a fault and sabotaging something that is potentially good for me.

If I can get to class, it is definitely a reset. I focus on slowing down, watching my breath, and the time goes by pretty quickly. I also end up feeling a little sore but also more flexible and I move more easily and feel a little confident. So why is it still so difficult to break through those bad habits? It’s something I continue to struggle with.

 

 

Website

So I really dislike my website design.

Although WordPress has a lot of ‘free’ templates, it’s tedious to troll through them. Many don’t offer a lot of customisation unless you purchase them, and I would really like to know that I can customise it the way I want to before I needlessly spend money on a theme only to have to switch to another.

I’ve been trying to find a web designers, with little luck. I don’t know HTML; when I I had a Moveable Type site ages ago I was able to figure out how to change things after a spell, but then they had several updates I didn’t like and I moved to WordPress after having it recommended by other people and seeing it used by blogs I like.

I don’t really want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out pretty web design; I’d prefer to write. So if you come around and see a bunch of change on the site it’s probably me just dinking around trying to make it prettier. =)

Sine Qua Non Cycle

Right now I am writing book two of the Sine Qua Non Cycle and doing a little revision of book one, “And Laugh at Digital Butterflies”. (Taking out the archaic to-day, fixing some formatting).

I really enjoy the sexual awakening aspects of this tale and others – the excitement of trying something new with an adventurous partner, the anticipation, the curiosity, even the apprehension. I really enjoy the powerful CEO (Stuart and Dyson), or warrior, (Tristan), as the hero, I love that archetype of the powerful man.

It’s also fun building new worlds; as much as I love the Pacific Northwest and enjoyed writing Lily and Stuart’s story in my contemporary setting, moving forward, creating a futuristic world where virtual reality and space stations exist was amazing. Trying to make a ‘history’ when there’s no history there, (like the crash of the Splendor, the Indentured Servitude Act, etc), is a challenge. Thirty years ago, who could have imagined cell phones and the net as they are today? Trying to come up with something that is futuristic but not too off the hook lends the story a more authentic feel I believe, and I’ve tried to do that with this series.

If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll give it a try!

Warm wishes,

Holly

 

Christmastime

This is usually a difficult time of year for me. My birthday is Christmas Eve and it always makes me think of my mom and the fact she used to send me cards, and we had talked about her visiting for Christmas once she got better (she used to come around Thanksgiving).

This year it’s also difficult because I have a damn sinus infection that has been plaguing me for about ten days and the doctor was reluctant to give me any antibiotics, saying they are so overused, (yep, I know, but not by me), they can cause digestive issues by killing good bacteria, and not every sinus infection is caused by bacteria. So I am on another day of rinsing my sinuses, using sprays and Sudafed hoping my body can shake it off – if I am not showing progress, he will probably call something in, he said.

But it has made getting excited for Christmas – and ready for it – difficult. (Then there’s also the neighbourhood association that has decided now is the best time of year to get on people about their yard. Sigh). That being said I did make cookies last night, much to the boyfriend’s delight, and I only have a few more presents to wrap – so I’m not a total slouch.

To make it even more interesting… the boyfriend was born on Christmas DAY, so it is a bit crazy. =) We’ve been together a while, and have had to merge our traditions and find the right balance. On Christmas Eve I make Chinese food, (what his family used to do), and on Christmas Day I make a rib roast, which is a nod to the roast beef and scallop potatoes for Christmas Eve my mom would splurge on. We also have a friendly argument of who was REALLY born on God’s birthday – it’s a silly, meaningless fake argument we have every year. Each time we try to think of a new point to prove our side – it’s actually pretty funny!

Even though the double birthdays on a holiday are chaotic, he’s the only one who understands what it’s like to never have a birthday party, what getting shafted on birthday gifts at Christmas means, how you can never get that ‘free birthday meal’ from your favourite restaurant and all the other weird things associated with a Christmas birthday. And you know what else it means? We both try very hard every year to give each other a special day – thoughtful gifts or a little surprise. I do ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’  for him by getting an inexpensive present (usually $5 or less per day), putting them in festive bags and for the twelve days prior to his birthday, he gets to open one every night. They’re sometimes silly, like a plastic dinosaur – he loves dinosaurs – or a mini grow your own Venus flytrap kit. He opened the bag with the dinosaur in it the other day and when he saw what was inside his face lit up – it made the extra planning worth it, and the velociraptor has joined Gwar, (our first plastic dinosaur), and his family on the kitchen table next to the boyfriend’s place setting.

Whatever traditions you have – I would love to read about them – I hope you have a lovely Christmas and if you don’t have any traditions, it’s never to late to start one! Donate food to a pet shelter or vow to hand write your Christmas cards, (when I send them off that’s what I do), or bake a spice cake for Christmas Day dessert. It’s lovely to have something to come back to year after year, to remember fondly, to make the holidays seem more intimate and well, yours.

I wish you all the best for the remainder of this year, and hope 2017 is a banner year for you and yours.

Love,

Holly

Book Blitz!

The book blitz is on and in honour of it, the Compendium is on sale for $8.99. For some reason Amazon has discounted several books in the series so the anthology wasn’t as good of a ‘deal’ as I meant it to be, so I will keep it at $8.99 until I sort out this with Amazon, unless they have decided to permanently discount the books.

Links:

Amazon

Lulu

ITunes

Kobo

Barnes & Noble (waiting for update to pricing, still at $9.99)

Holly

Compendium

I am currently editing book five in Lily’s story – hooray! – and then I’ll be ready to put it all together in prep for a book blitz Dec 4-10. More details to follow! =)

After that I need to do a little cleanup of other books, and then I will be back to writing, which I miss! The next book is my ELEVENTH, which I can hardly believe! There are two more installments in the Sine Qua Non Cycle, and one more in the main storyline for the Void Chronicles, and then a side novel, which deals with some issues the conclusion brings to a head.

I also have some ideas for other stories, and requests from several readers for a little insight into Lily and Stuart after marriage, and what happened with Janet, which I am considering. =)

Hope autumn is going well for everyone. =)

xoxo,

Holly

 

What’s Up, Pussycat?

Hope everyone is doing well!

Right now I’m editing Lily’s series – getting rid of archaic forms and words, and I’m on “The Air I Breathe”, and have uploaded books one and two to Amazon and Lulu already.

I’m also trying to get ready for autumn. I need to make a final pass on my garden, bring some plants in from the deck, get some more firewood… batten down the hatches and get ready for, (what I think), might be a rather dramatic autumn and winter season.

A few years ago there was a short power outage during winter, and I was grateful for the stockpile of wood I had because there was none to be found in any store. I closed off rooms I didn’t need, boiled some water to send steam into the air and lit my fireplace/wood stove. (It’s inset like a fireplace but clean burning, with secondary combustion, so it acts like a stove.) I hung sheets to help keep out the chill and slept on cushions in front of the fireplace. It was cozy – everything lit by the fireplace or dozens of candles – and even though I missed the net and being able to play video games with the boyfriend, I also liked the peace. We played board games, read, chatted and played with the kitties.

We haven’t had snow here in the PacNW much the past few years and this summer was very mild, so I think there’s a decent chance it might make up for it during winter. I remember as a kid my parents always got down ‘winter clothes’ in September, and put up our summer togs, and I guess that tradition (?) or sense of a distinct break in seasons remains with me.

On Stalking – Liliana, Nathan and Real Life

(may contain some spoilers)

In ‘The Liliana Batchelor Series’, one of the story lines is how Lily is harassed by her boss, Nathan. He does his best to try and make her life difficult, make her dependent on his good graces, and when he is no longer her boss, he resorts to other means to disrupt her life.

I have been stalked twice in my life; once somewhat casually by a man who I now realise wanted to groom me and was testing the waters, (I was a sophomore in High School, he was in his late 20’s), and later on, after I moved out to Washington, by someone who threatened me with physical harm. I am sometimes asked if I use real life events in my books and I don’t, although my experience definitely influenced that portion of Lily’s story.

As you may know from reading my bio, I moved to Seattle when I was eighteen. It was rough – I had no support system and only two acquaintances out here. I also had bills, as it was difficult to get a job when all my references were in New Jersey, and I rapidly went through the savings I brought with me. After several years and a few jobs things were looking up; I was a receptionist/office assistant at a small software company in north Seattle. For a while I rented rooms in homes, then shared an apartment with a roommate, and finally was able to rent one on my own – a little one bedroom within walking distance of the aforementioned job. I still had a backlog of bills but I was paying them off, albeit slowly. I still had power, gas or phone, (in one case two of the three), turned off once in a while, but things were improving on the financial front. My relationship with my mother could still be described as fractious, but I was pleased to finally capture a bit of the stability that had eluded me since my father died, even if things with my mom were still strained. I was given a loveseat, bought an inexpensive table, moved in my futon, (I slept on the floor for six months after I moved here), and settled into having my first ‘home’ on my own. It felt good to have done it by myself – difficult, but good, empowering. I finally felt I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

I answered the phones at work, (let’s call the place ‘RTI’), and one day after reciting my greeting to a caller I was hit by a voice I didn’t recognise. I actually have a really good memory and had a knack for remembering voices – so that often just by a person’s hello I would realise who they were. “How are you Sonja? Are you still seeing that issue you mentioned yesterday?” People began to expect that which was a problem sometimes, especially during a busy spate when my attention was a bit scattered.

Anyway, that day I didn’t recognise the voice, and thought it was perhaps a prospect for the sales manager, but the brief return greeting was followed by something ominous: “I watch you walk to work.”

It could be a joke, a prank, and go no further.

But it did.

I could hear noise in the background as he told me he was going to rape me, although he called it fucking.

I hung up, but it shook me. I’m tall for a woman – 5’8” like Lily – and fairly tough, but I’m still the average height of a man and I know no match for the strength of a man. And of course there was that chilling fact he knew – I did in fact walk to and from work most days, even sometimes going home for lunch.

Perhaps it was a one off – a guy who did it on a dare, or whatever – but that wasn’t to be the case. After a few days he called again.

So I started walking to work less, usually sticking to bright days and times when other people were around the small building, because of course I didn’t know who he was. I would probably recognise his voice but by then it would be too late, right? I am a fairly cautious person with regard to my safety but that increased – I was even a bit nervous walking to my car which was parked in front or on the side of the building because maybe he was hiding in between the vehicles. I had my keys out when I did walk home, but that was a more and more difficult thing to do because he continued to call sporadically. I told my manager and she seemed alarmed but there was nothing she could do. I called the police but – and I’m not kidding – they couldn’t do anything because he didn’t call regularly enough. Sometimes he’d call once a week, sometimes three times, or skip a week entirely.

I started to hate it when the phone rang. Our clients liked me – during a survey of the company they said I was their favourite thing about the place! – and I had begun to settle in, feel welcome and make friends with some of the people who called as well as my coworkers. This harassment cast a pall over everything – my newfound security, my sense of my job, everything. At one point I briefly wondered if it was my fault in some way; my mom always said I answered calls like a phone sex operator, that my voice was too sexy and I thought, did I in any way encourage it? Luckily I was able to shake that off immediately – I had done nothing to deserve this.

As the weeks went by he got more bold, and his descriptions of what he was going to do to me became more violent. I would sometimes say something back to show him I wasn’t afraid, thinking that perhaps he wanted a cowering victim but it didn’t matter. Sometimes if I hung up straight away he would call back quickly and be angry, or wait for a few minutes or a few days. I called the police again, as what he said became more threatening, but still the calls weren’t specific or regular enough. It was often the same officer who was there when I called, and he genuinely seemed regretful that the situation didn’t allow him to tap the phones. It was surreal.

Then it got more surreal. I think my boss, ‘Judy’, didn’t really ‘get’ how bad these calls were but she definitely got an earful when he left a message on the answering machine. One of my jobs was to check the answering machine for messages and he fucking left one on there. Fairly brief, and to the descriptive point. When Judy heard it, she turned pale and was shocked. I called the police again – aha, proof! – but no. Still no help.

I won’t get into specifics and exact descriptions but I will say this – he promised to repeatedly rape me violently, to the point of injury.

So I did what I had to do; I got a gun.

My father used to hunt and I had fired a gun on my great aunt’s farm with him – he had grown up on a farm himself, and was a good shot. One of his exercises for me was to shoot a watermelon and I remember it was mangled afterwards. This was a reminder to never shoot unless you mean it, because the damage is horrific – you could easily kill someone, so do not do shoot lightly, he said.

I never thought I might actually NEED to protect myself like that until those calls, and until the police would do nothing about them. I had endured the harassment for about two months – two months of every day going to work and wondering who was watching me, which building he lived in… could it even be mine, and he was biding his time? Two months of hating when the phone rang, because the PBX didn’t show a caller ID on the phone a lot of the time – it could be a client, it could be him. Two months of breathing easily when he didn’t call for four days, only to be unpleasantly surprised on the fifth, perhaps, or the sixth day.

During one of the phone calls to the police, the officer I spoke with several times – let’s call him Officer Nelson – said something interesting. He had asked if I recognised any sounds or distinguishing features and I said it sounded like there was a cartoon on in the background. (!!!) He didn’t seem surprised, (I’ll paraphrase what he said).

“A lot of times these men are ones who feel impotent. They might have lost their jobs or whatever and are now the ‘wife’ and they are looking to gain control in their lives and this is how they do it. Sounds like this guy is home alone with the kids and these calls are how he is making himself feel important again.”

None of this made me feel any better – sure he was home with the kids now but he leaves the house sometimes. Could we shop at the store and he’d pass me and I would never know it and he would? Would I walk outside one day and find my tyres punctured? Could I go out with my girlfriends and unknowingly meet him at a club? His recitations of what he was going to do to me as I said were getting more violent and descriptive, despite any stand or attitude I gave him or how many times I hung up on him, so would it progress to the next step?

I don’t think I scare easily, but I was worried.  I hope to God you never have been or ever will be in this situation, but no matter how brave you think you are it gnaws as you – he knows me but I don’t know him, and I have to be vigilant.  I felt it was clear he was watching me by comments he made, so I wondered if it was only a matter of time until something broke, until he escalated, until he learned some pattern or saw a hole he could exploit.

So I had a gun at home and that helped, because I could even the playing field if he tried to force his way in, since he knew where I lived. I didn’t answer the door to people I didn’t know, speaking through it instead when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by, for instance, and I looked into getting a concealed weapon permit after I found out a friend had one.

Then, thank God, there was a break. I called the police again – it had been a bad week for calls – and Officer Nelson suggested something.

He told me it might not work, but it was a trick that could scare the stalker.   Nelson told me next time the stalker called, I should tap the disconnect on the phone, as if I was switching to call waiting but not actually do it enough to hang up, and say something to the effect of, “Officers, this is the call to trace.”

So simple, yet it worked. The minute I did that HE hung up and never called again. To be honest I felt guilty a little because it didn’t solve the problem – he wouldn’t call me, but was he still a threat to someone else? He could have been calling other women too, or moved on to an easier target.  It took a while before I finally believed he wouldn’t call again, and for things to return to some semblance of normalcy; after a while I once more felt that bit of security I had captured when I got my job and apartment, constructively taking control of my OWN life.

Even though the worry is gone and it’s been a long time, the shadow of those feelings remain, even as details – like the name of the Officer – have faded. It felt good to exorcise those demons through Lily and for Nathan to get his comeuppance. As I said early in this post the situations aren’t the same, but I definitely drew on my experience when I created Nathan and that situation.

Holly