Analyzing your own writing

Analyzing your own writing

IMG_4104Pictured here is the entrance to our tiny apartment in Winnipeg where we will be completing almost a year’s residence by the end of May. This display of three of our published books is our small attempt to advertise our publishing efforts of the past. Getting settled in after our move from British Columbia last summer and re-adjusting to apartment living and a return to a city we left eleven years before, finding time to celebrate being with family and friends we had left behind, plus the daily struggles of adjusting to Ian’s disabilities have taken their toll on keeping up this blog.

Our previous reblog, “Is the first sentence the charm?”from  Take Five Authors inspired Gayle to go back to our previously published writings and take an analytical look at our opening sentences, both the stories written by Ian and the articles we have shared written by Gayle. Did our opening sentences do their job of grabbing the reader’s attention. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. Here’s how we think they add up:

Ian’s how-to book Metal Machining Made Easy. metal-machining-made-easy-cover-largePreface: “Congratulations, you’ve finally decided that you are going to make full use of that lathe that’s sitting idle in your workshop. Or maybe you are just thinking of buying a little lathe, and wonder if it would be worth your while, as you don’t know much about machining steel. You think it looks too technical and complicated. Well, it isn’t nearly as difficult as it seems. All that is required to do some exacting machining is the ability to read, some common sense and a little patience.”

How does this measure up? I think, for a how-to book, it certainly would grab the attention of anyone who would be looking for a book about machining metal – a rather select group of do-it-yourself types. It would encourage someone who has the right equipment but lacks the no-how to get some valuable pointers on how to use the equipment. This first sentence in the preface adds some personal interest to a factual subject.

Ian’s adventure/time travel novel Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie.Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie

Chapter One. Engulfed in the Phantom Battle: “Calan and Malcolm McKinnon were twin brothers. Both were twenty-two years of age and just an inch less than six feet in height. Calan was the studious type, always wanting to get to the bottom of things and happiest when he had problems to solve. Malcolm was just the opposite–carefree and always ready with a joke or a quick remark no matter what the situation. But most important, they were the best of friends and, like most twins, were in harmony with each other.

“The brothers had traveled north from their home in Edinburgh to Inverness, Scotland, to witness the strange phenomenon of a phantom battle. This so-called ‘battle’ was slated to happen just after dawn during the month of May at the small Loch Ashie, just east of the much larger and more famous Loch Ness. Their adventures began after Calan read a story written in the August 1999 issue of The Scots Magazine describing the battle and quoting witnesses who saw the battle during the month of May. He decided he just had to be there to see it, anything of a mysterious or historical nature certainly interested him.”

How does this measure up? Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Boring!!! Editor Gayle is hanging her head. How did this get by me? Perhaps it was even me who arranged the beginning to read as it does. (Sorry about that, Ian.) In retrospect, I wish I had come up with something a lot more exciting by bringing in the phantom battle in the first sentence such as “Calan and Malcolm could hardly have known that simply trying to witness a phantom battle would have put them into the thick of it.” Perhaps it is time for a second edition/printing. (Would that I had the time.)

Ian’s memoir From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada. Cover full size

Chapter One. The Cold and Hungry Early Years. “Thinking back on my early childhood, the most miserable over-all time was when it was evening, dark outside, middle of winter, clothes damp and cold from the rain, no oil for the lamp, no candles either, which meant no light of any kind in the dump we lived in, no fire to warm me a wee bit and no food. As a wee boy of six years of age, I was just sitting all alone in a dingy one-room flat. My hair was wet and water was still running down my face from the rain. I was shivering and my teeth were chattering, as I sat hoping that maybe someone would come and light the oil lamp. Maybe that someone would have a few lumps of coal and there would finally be a nice, warm fire started. If I got too hungry I could always fill my belly with cold water; then I didn’t feel so bad any more–well, for maybe an hour.”

How does this measure up? Brilliant (too quote an over-used British expression that Ian heard way too often on his last trip to the old country). Ian paints a woeful picture of his early surroundings that have had such an impact on his life of striving to overcome the negatives of an impoverished childhood. It certainly grabbed my attention and had me wanting to read more, especially since my childhood was such a contrast.

Ian’s children’s chapter book Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie.  JLJBL Book Cover

Chapter One. Jake Wants a Pet. “Every kid needs a pet; at least that’s what Jake believed. Jake was 11 and would have loved a puppy for company–something he could have fun playing with when he got home from school. But he knew that his wish would never happen because of the scare his mother got when she was a little girl. She had been bitten by a dog and, since that attack, had always felt nervous and uncomfortable whenever any dog, big or small, happened to come close to her. Even tiny dogs upset her.”

How does this measure up? It immediately establishes the conflict that Jake wants a pet and, for some reason, hasn’t got one yet. As a child reader I would want to find out how Jake solved this conflict, especially since “every kid needs a pet.”

Ian’s short story The Moonlit Meeting. Leprachaun

“A big full harvest moon had risen high in the sky the evening I climbed to the top of Mary’s Mountain, a steep hill close to the edge of the small town in the Scottish Highlands where we had recently moved. There were strange stories about the place. Some said it was haunted by a ghost named Mary who had been murdered up there many years ago by a jealous lover, and that her ghost still roamed the area, especially on full moon nights. Others said an old sea captain had hanged himself from a tree up there after losing his sweetheart, his ghost wandering around looking for her. I didn’t believe in things like that and wanted to prove to myself it was all a lot of nonsense.”

How does this measure up? The first sentence alone sets the scene but I think the second sentence is needed to really grab one’s interest. Better yet, would be the last sentence of the paragraph. The rest of the sentences flesh things out. To get the full impact with the first sentence, perhaps it would have been better to turn the sentences around thus: “I didn’t believe all the strange stories that I’d heard about Mary’s Mountain and decided to prove to myself that they were all a lot of nonsense. A big full harvest moon had risen high in the sky the evening that I climbed that steep hill close to the edge of the small town in the Scottish Highlands where we had recently moved. …”

Gayle’s short story “An April Swim in Paradise” Flora around swimming pool

“With the sun’s rays a bit deflected as the clock nears four, it is finally time for my daily rendezvous with my beloved pool at our new home in Mexico. I don my orange flowered swimsuit to contrast with the turquoise pool walls and lavish on some sunscreen. My swim shoes await me at the brick steps that surround our upstairs bathtub; but first I need to shake them out in case any wee scorpion has decided to take refugee in one of them. (Thankfully, one hasn’t.) Grabbing my sunglasses and a towel from the clothesline downstairs, I descend from the terrace to the front lawn and down the steps into the pool. Scotty, my husband, has already moved the solar blanket off the water, skimmed the water’s surface with the pool net and turned on the pump so the water is shimmering fresh and turquoise in the sunlight.

How does this measure up? It’s harder for me to analyze my own work. The first sentence is descriptive and sets the scene. But would it have been better to begin with trying to shake out a scorpion from my swim shoes? That would have started with a possible conflict situation. 

Gayle’s blogpost: “All Moving Companies Are Not Equal. Let the Buyer Beware!”100_0726

“We called it ‘The Move From Hell.’ Okay, we didn’t literally move ‘from Hell’ but from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, more like Paradise than Hell. Yet, our move proved to be ‘hellish.’ In May and June 2015 we made what we sincerely hope is the last major move of our lives from Vernon, British Columbia to downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two moving companies contributed to making our move less than ideal: Two Small Men With Big Hearts (TSM) in Kelowna, BC and AMS Transportation Ltd. Inc. headquartered in Dundalk, Ontario. The latter company was the most “hellish.”

How does this measure up? I’m satisfied with the opening sentence and wouldn’t change it.

Gayle’s short story: A Scorpio versus Scorpion  ScorpionVectorImageVP

“Scorpio may be my sign of the Zodiac, but that’s really all I ever wanted to have to do with the creatures!”

How does this measure up? I’m also satisfied with the opening sentence. It establishes my sign of the zodiac and relates it to a real life scorpion which I sincerely hope I never again encounter. I think most readers would be curious to read further.

Gayle’s magazine editorial “Life’s Lessons Reinforced”  

Gayle-Editing at Esprit Magazine, Winnipeg-2004

“Beginning to write this column brings me full circle since the last issue of Esprit. Then, my horrendous fall and seven breaks in right leg and arm bones resulted in the need for someone else to write this column. Now, after 14 weeks in hospital (most of it in rehabilitation), I have two more days before going home and this editorial is due. What a place this has been to glean ideas for the topic, “Body and Spirit!” I would not have chosen the classroom, but every minute in this environment has reinforced some important lessons in life.

How does this measure up? The first sentence isn’t very dynamic, however, since it is a regular magazine column, it is probably an ok beginning and sets the scene for writing. The rest of the paragraph is more interesting and attention-grabbing. I probably should have reworded the opening by starting out: “What a  place the hospital has been to glean ideas for this issue’s topic, “Body and Spirit!”

OK. I wrote this blogpost almost two months ago, intending to expand on it when I got time. However, time has g0t away from me. We are in the throws of another move and I’ll probably not be able to come up for air again for awhile unless I find time to blog about the glorious 84th Birthday Party I threw for Ian a few days ago. On May 31st we will move to a bigger apartment in our same Winnipeg life lease apartment house (and to the penthouse floor!!). Tonight may be the only free time I can take before that move is over so this blogpost is finished. The process of analyzing some of our published writings has been fun and educational. I hope it will encourage me in my future editing to put more emphasis on the importance of effective opening sentences to a piece of writing. Thanks to Take Five Authors for the blog that got my analytic juices started.

Gayle Moore-Morrans

 

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

STORY INSPIRED BY A PET BIRD

The following article appeared in the Vernon Morning Star newspaper, Vernon, British Columbia, posted February 8, 2015 in the Lifestyle section. Gayle has made a few deletions and additions for accuracy. The original article is at

Story inspired by a … pet [bird]

by Cara Brady

Gayle & Ian - JLJBL interview-Morning Star

Gayle and Ian Moore-Morrans sign copies of their new children’s book, Jake, [Little] Jimmy & Big Louie. they will have a book signing Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. at teach and Learn. (photo credit: Cara Brady/Morning Star)

When a writer meets and marries an editor, the result is books. Ian and Gayle Moore-Morrans have just published their first book written together, a children’s book called Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie.

Their previous books, written by Ian and edited by Gayle, are From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada, a memoir, and Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie[, a novel].

The couple included members of their extended family, great-grandchildren Leland German, then 11, as reader, and Hannah German, then [seven], as illustrator.

Jake, Jimmy & Big Louie is a book to appeal to anyone of any age who has ever loved and raised a pet. Ian draws on his own experiences raising a cockatiel to tell the story of a boy who takes on a budgie with a disability and an at-first unwanted raven, and follows their adventures and growing friendship.

Ian, 82, still has vivid memories of the first time he ever saw a book. He grew up in poverty on the West Coast of Scotland.

“I must have been about four. My brother brought home a book from school and it had pictures in it. It was such a temptation. I went to school until I was 14 and got good marks in writing. My teacher told me I should be a journalist but that seemed too far beyond me,” he recalled. “I joined the air force and it was the first time I had sheets on my bed and three meals a day.”

He later became a blacksmith, then an industrial machinist and has written a book, Metal Machining Made Easy.

Gayle also showed an early aptitude for writing and wrote for church papers and magazines while she was a parish worker, [secretary, social services director and program and magazine editor]. She married a pastor and lived in Germany for [eighteen] years, keeping up her writing and editing and detailed scrapbooks. She was widowed [after she moved to Canada] and met Ian, who had lost his wife, in 2003 in Winnipeg. They made their way west and decided they liked Vernon after performing here as Mr. Scotland and his Bonnie Lassie, a singing duet, at a Kelvern Celtic Society Ceilidh.

Ian said [he] started to write the book [many] years ago [at age 63]. “I had a dream about this little budgie and thought if I’m ever going to start writing this story, I better start writing it now.”

Gayle added, “We dedicate this book to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Ian and Gayle are now working on a new book, Came to Canada, Eh? Continuing a Scottish Immigrants Story. Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie is available through http://www.createspace.com/5114278 or Amazon. Their blog is at http://www.ianmooremorrans.com and their publishing company is Moomor Publishing.

Ian and Gayle will have a book signing Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. at Teach and Learn in Vernon.

In addition, Gayle and Ian will host two book launches for Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie at their home, Sunday, February 22. Information from the poster follows:

Announcing
Book Launches for 
“Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie,”
the adventures of a boy and his two pet birds
set in Vernon, British Columbia
(a children’s chapter book for ages 7-12 and for older people, too)
Sunday, February 22, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (take your pick)
Book readings and signings, a “bird hunt,” and refreshments
At the home of authors Ian & Gayle Moore-Morrans
House #69, 6688 Tronson Road, Vernon
(just west of the airport)
250-275-1446 (you may call ahead to reserve a place)
also
A Book Reading & Signing
Saturday, February 28 at 2 p.m.
Vernon Teach and Learn Ltd.
3015-30th Avenue, Vernon

 

ANNOUNCING PUBLICATION OF OUR LATEST BOOK: JAKE, LITTLE JIMMY & BIG LOUIE

 

 

JLJBL Book Cover

Finally the day has arrived to announce that our latest book is now available for order. We are proud of the product and hope many of you will be anxious to read it. We think adults will enjoy the book as much as children or teenagers will.  The book is written on the pre-teen reading level. You can order a copy online at the following link: https://www.createspace.com/5114278.

Signed copies will also be available from the authors at a Book Launch and subsequent book readings in Vernon, British Columbia, probably in the month of February.

Sometime in February 2015 the book should also be available for order online through amazon or from book stores. Unless you want to take advantage of free postage through amazon by placing an order at a minimum of $25, we request that you place your order through Create Space as listed above as we get a larger royalty and you receive the book at the same price and same shipping and handling fees as through other methods of online ordering.

For those who want to read the book in an e-book format, we will be listing it on amazon as a Kindle book shortly.

Below is the information from the book’s back cover:

Has a pet ever held a special place in your heart?

Though written for children, this book will appeal to pet lovers of all ages. It tells the story of Jake, an 11-year-old boy who adopts Little Jimmy, a budgie bird, born without wings. Jake learns to help Little Jimmy live and feel like a very special bird.

Later, a rescued baby chick is literally dumped into Jake’s hands. “Thing,” as Jake originally names him, soon insists on his own name, becoming “Louie.” Eventually Big Louie grows into a huge and very smart raven. Though he didn’t want the raven at first, Jake soon realizes that Big Louie has become an important part of the family who comes to the rescue when Little Jimmy gets into dangerous situations. One adventure follows another and the three become fast friends who really love each other.

Author Ian Moore-Morrans had ample experience raising his own Jimmy, a cockatiel, from newly-hatched to adulthood. Ian has used that knowledge in portraying realistic characterizations of both birds, including intelligence, comic actions, dependence and independence, plus an ability to “talk” and a knack for finding a very special place within a family.

Co-author Gayle Moore-Morrans, also Ian’s wife and editor, has added her own touch to the story, giving a spiritual dimension to Jake’s family and his decisions in caring for and loving his pets.

For that special “kid’s touch,” Ian and Gayle invited two of their great-grandchildren to collaborate on Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie. Great-grandson Leland German was their age-appropriate consultant and Great-granddaughter Hannah German served as the illustrator. They are pictured at the top of the following collage.

Wee Yins' collage-2014

TO OUR ‘WEE YINS’

Our book,” Jake, Little Jimmy & Big Louie,” is dedicated to the eleven children in our lives, three of them born since we first started blogging a draft of the book  almost two years ago. They are our youngsters (or “wee yins,” as Ian would call them in his Scottish vernacular).

In the center is a picture of Ian signing a stack of his books and one of Gayle busy at one of her Location Writing sessions. We are surrounded by photos of these very special children who make up our blended family: from top left and clockwise, Leland, Hannah, Logan, Eva, Gustav, Haylee, Brayden, Alex, Lexi, Madison and Caleigh. We love them all!

 

 

Celebrating Mothering and Grandparenting

As Mother’s Day approaches I’m enjoying so many uplifting and poignant messages on Facebook regarding motherhood, as well as savouring the sight and smell of flowers that were just delivered to me from my daughter who lives with her husband and children in Norway. I’m also anxiously awaiting a call from my son who lives in California and hearing from my step-daughters in Manitoba. Yes, they are all too far away from our British Columbia home, but I guess that is a common situation in present-day life. Thank God for the modern convenience of Facetime so that we can regularly communicate and even see each other on my ipad and their iphones. (My son and I regularly go for a “walk” in the garden he maintains for the house he lives in and down to the nearby beach to check out the sand and surf.) Since Ian and I live in a popular retirement spot, many of our friends here also have children and grandchildren who are residing in other corners of the earth. Through Skype, Facetime and the like, they also manage to communicate and keep up with distant family members with the occasional long-distance flight to touch base in person.

I’m sharing a Pic Collage photo I compiled on my ipad to commemorate our great-grandchildren and two youngest grandchildren – the youngsters (or “wee’uns,” as Ian would call them in his Scottish vernacular) – the children in our lives who live far away from us (in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Norway) for whom we are Grandpa and Grandma and to whom we will be dedicating our children’s chapter book, “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie,” for which I am presently doing the layout. Here they are: going around clockwise from the top center: Leland, 13 (our age-appropriate consultant for the book); Hannah, 8 (who did the drawings for the book); then Logan, 4; Brayden, 2; Lexi,2; Eva, 9 months; Gustav, 3; Caleigh, 6; and Madison, 4.  (We also are expecting two more great-grandchildren later this summer. The two photos  in the center show Grandpa Ian at his 80th birthday party in Winnipeg with six of the great-grandchildren and one grandson (Calan) whose daughter wouldn’t pose without him; plus the bottom photo of Ian and me on our 7th wedding anniversary at home in Vernon, September 7, 2010 (on the day he had his heart attack, mind you!)

photo (2)

My husband Ian (the author) just turned 82 last week and is presently in a local care home for a 2-6 week “short stay convalescent care program” to help him regain some strength, balance and walking ability after over five years of serious illness and lots of medications which have saved or bettered his life but also are essentially poisonous and have lots of nasty side-effects, the worst of which has been neuropathy in the feet. I’m happy to say that a set of new orthotics plus the exercises, physio- and occupational therapy he is receiving daily is helping. I’ve seen a lot of progress in just a few days that he has been there.

In the meantime I’m enjoying some time alone at home with only the dog to take me away  from gardening and layout duties. Misty supervises me as I plant flowers in boxes and pots on our front porch, prune the shrubs in our front and back xeroscaped gardens, get the gazebo canopy and curtains set up and hire a worker to come in and clean out our pond and waterfall. I did the latter for the first time last year and could hardly stand the sight and stench of an about-two-inch layer of rain worms that had crawled into and died in the pond at the end of last autumn, during part of our mild winter and then so far this spring. I realize they are also God’s creatures, but they are ones I’d just as soon not encounter. I’ve also included some photos of our back yard from last year to share some of the beauty of our surroundings. The first photo is of my “Benjamin memorial” to remember my infant grandson who died in 2011 in Norway at 13 days old, the day after I had arrived there. The other photos show our xeroscaping, gazebo, pond and waterfall. Hopefully, Ian will be home soon to enjoy it all as well.

Benjamin memorial 1 in my garden

Backyard-Another view Patio-pond and Waterfall

We also wish to remember and honour our own mothers who passed away in 1995 at the ages of 86 (Ian’s) and 96 (mine) in 2001. Their birthdates were within a day of each other but a few years apart: Chrissie’s on June 15 (1909) and Mil’s on June 16 (1905).

Chrissie Morrans Moorhead

Ian’s mother, Christina Morrans Moorhead, known  as “Wee Chrissie” and to her grand- daughters as “Campbeltown Gran.”

                   OUR MOTHERS

Mildred Nelson Moore at 20 and 90

Gayle’s mother, Mildred Nelson Moore at ages 20 and 90, known as “Mil” and to her grandchildren as “Grandma Mil.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers on your special day on Sunday, May 11th. After church, my friend Jean (whose children are also far away) and I plan to drive up to our neighbouring Davison’s Orchard Farm, have Mother’s Day luncheon at Auntie May’s Cafe and enjoy a walk through the blossoming apple, pear and peach trees before our dog, Misty, and I go to visit Ian. Sounds like a fun day!

Gayle Moore-Morrans