An Editor’s Musing: Why do some writers “let it all hang out” instead of editing their posts or comments? How can comments be helpful?

Gayle as Esprit Editor    Gayle'e retirement party presentAt left  you’ll see a photo of “editor me” at my desk on one of the last days before retirement (in 2004) as Editor of Esprit magazine and Program Director for Evangelical Lutheran Women at our office on the second floor of Portage Place in Winnipeg. In addition I’ve included a photo of the gift I received at my retirement party in July 2004. As Ian and I were preparing to take off  for a retirement adventure driving down to Mexico in our newly acquired 35-foot motorhome, my boss chose to wrap an assortment of “helps” for that trip inside or underneath a large box decorated to look like our motorhome – complete with photos of Ian as driver and me as passenger.

After several years in Mexico, with trips up to Manitoba to maintain our Canadian residency, we returned to Canada for good. I hope to start blogging about our Mexico sojourn in the near future. Time will tell if I ever get to it. While there in Mexico I began editing Ian’s writings and am continuing that in our present home in British Columbia, as well as now contributing to his writings. Here my desk is in our little den and I look out the window at the low mountains surrounding our part of the Okanagan Valley. The desk is different from the one at ELW, but just as messy. That’s the way I work. I do not like a messy final product, however, and decided that it was time for me to have an editor’s rant about what I am seeing on some web blogs and in many comments that come into our site.

I don’t think I’m unique in claiming frustration when reading some comments on web blogs or even some particular web blogs which are so full of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or just plain English that I feel compelled to edit them as I’m reading. Sometimes even understanding them is impossible, so I quit reading and trash the comment or close the web blog.

As I routinely check out other web blogs, I am more-often-than-not impressed by so many varied topics and excellent writing, but am also occasionally appalled by the lack of English writing skills by some bloggers. In those cases, I cross those web blogs off the list of ones I want to follow, no matter how interesting the topic might be. I find it painful to read something when I feel a need to correct practically every sentence. (As an aside: I lived in Germany for 18 years and ended up speaking passable German but would never in my life think of hosting a blog in German! I wouldn’t feel confident enough to do a decent job of it. My late husband who worked in a profession there, could easily have hosted a blog in German. Obviously his language skills were much superior to mine.)

My motto is: “check, double-check and recheck anything you post”, for it is easy to miss a word here or there if one doesn’t do so. I always try to self-edit any of my blogs and usually have Ian read through them before posting. That isn’t to say that I might not post a small grammatical or spelling error from time to time. It happens to the best of us. Almost inevitably after checking and re-checking the magazine I edited and having our executive director and a professional copy editor go over everything before publishing, I would find some little thing wrong when reading the issue after publication.

In the past I’ve found myself editing a lot of comments that come in on this web blog so that they can be understood. I conclude that quite a few of those who comment on posts do not have English as their first language and are obviously using an English-to-another-language dictionary when they make their comments. Perhaps they are taking an ESL course and have been given an assignment to comment on specific web posts. (Comments often come from the same site with different email addresses.) If that is the case, how I wish the instructor would at least give them some help in making the comments understandable. It is nice to get compliments or constructive criticism, but not if the comment cannot be readily understood and if the blogger receiving the comment has to edit it extensively in order to print it. WordPress usually identifies these type of comments as “spam”; in the past I’ve looked at every comment and sometimes chose to “un-spam”a few because I’d like to honour the intent. I have edited them for comprehension, though. I’m wondering if other bloggers have chosen to do this or if these type of comments simply get trashed. Here’s an example of one comment we recently received, showing the places where I have cut out more than half of the words and added clarifying words in order to get what I think the commenter intended.

“Attractive section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your [web blog.] augment and even I achievement you access consistently fast.”

Another recent commenter asserted that, though our blog’s content was good, many of the posts were “rife with spelling issues.” Well, that got my dander up! I did, however, calm down and try to address what I thought might be the problem. Here’s my answer:

“We’re surprised to hear that you find several of our posts ‘rife with spelling issues’. We are wondering if you might be pointing out our use of the British way of spelling English words, as opposed to the American way. (An example would be the use of “ou” in place of “o” as in “neighbour.” We are Canadians and so use the British way of spelling. I (Gayle) am the blogger and, though American-born, changed my way of spelling sometime after I emigrated to Canada and became editor of a Canadian magazine. I’ve kept up that way of spelling in retirement and, as Ian is British-born and I edit his writing, that method has worked out well for us. Then, too, Ian speaks Scottish-English so when he writes about Scotland in either his novels or memoirs, he uses what I call “Scottishisms.” Some of those words are only found in Scottish-English or may mean something entirely different in Scotland than they do in other countries where English is spoken. We’ve pointed that out in some of our posts about his memoir, “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada.” I had quite an education in “Scottishisms” when editing that book! In addition, I had to turn off the spell-check as my word-processing program gave up on providing corrections! Of course, even editors sometimes need to be edited; however, I try to double-check whatever I post. We’d be interested in hearing from you further so that you could point out some examples of those spelling issues. Looking forward to hearing from you.” To date, we have received no further communication on this subject.

That brings up the challenge when commenting on web posts of exactly what to say. Sure it is nice to have affirmation that someone “enjoyed” a post or found it “awesome” or “educational” or “informative.” But does that really help the blogger to know how they are connecting with the reader? In haste I, too, sometimes choose to just give kudos by checking the “like” button on a post; but if I take the time and REALLY like or dislike something I try to comment on it. How did I feel when I read the post? Intrigued? Scared? Amused? Why and how? Perhaps the blogger was promoting a book, a picture, a poem or a piece of music that he/she had written, drawn, photographed or performed. Did the blog catch your interest so that you plan to order the book or picture, quote the poem or obtain the recording? Did the post remind you of a happening in your own life or a person you met or an emotion you felt? Then describe that connection. You might wish to reblog the post, giving credit to the writer and quote your reaction to it on your own blog or on Facebook, Twitter or the like.

Conversely, if a post draws a negative response from me and I think it can be constructive, I’d like to think that I would be willing to document why I had that response. Although I didn’t post the following comment on a novel writer’s blog but instead posted it on Amazon after reading the novel, here is an example of how I could make both a positive and, I hope, constructive negative response to the novel on a writer’s blog:

“You have written a well-rounded story about a group of characters, each flawed in a unique way, all seeking redemption. Your background in counseling is evident throughout; perhaps that is what makes your story so believable. Your prose is clear, yet poetic. Your descriptions of both characters and scene are captivating. I would have given this book five stars had it not been for the unnecessary profanity which I felt cheapened the narrative, especially those instances when the name of Jesus was invoked through cursing.”

I send a challenge to bloggers and commenters alike: If you can’t edit your own postings, please, please find someone who can do the edit for you.

Please and thanks in a spirit of kindness and mutual understanding. Keep the relevant and understandable comments coming!

Gayle Moore-Morrans
P.S. In the meantime we have recently received a comment (perhaps sent in error?) which went on for several hundred words.  The comments were obviously a multiple choice list of helps for would-be commenters who needed guidance on how to word comments they wanted to make on various posts. In the past the comments we received from that particular commenter had included, solely or partly, promotions for his web blog that included little or nothing about the post he was supposedly commenting on. Many of the multiple-choice comments he included sounded similar to many of the comments we have received from a number of people over time. Thus, in the future I intend to honour Word Press’ use of Akismet to check incoming comments and rate them as “spam”, then delete the spam comments without reading them. Most of us writers and editors who blog find it difficult to have enough time to do our writing or editing what with all the other duties and distractions of life. We don’t need 276 comments in our “Spam Comments” section. That is the number I encountered last week after not checking the comments for about a week’s time. For the first time, I chose to permanently delete all those spam comments without even looking at them.  I truly appreciate the efforts a number of commenters make in sending in compliments or kudos on our posts, or even criticisms when they are constructive. However, I’m trying to promote our books or share views on writing, photographing, reminiscing or life in general and am hoping to glean relevant information from other bloggers instead of spending valuable time reading, rewriting, replying to or trashing umpteen comments a day. I am sharing these words in hopes that others will understand my frustrations and those of other bloggers who are surely having similar problems with unwarranted comments. Perhaps some of them will attempt to correct their comments or have them edited by someone else or those who just want to advertise their own blogs will cease and desist. At least I won’t have to relate to them if I trust Akismet’s weeding out those comments.

Editor’s Review of “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada”

I (Gayle) thought it was about time I got around to reviewing Ian’s autobiography, volume 1, for the Goodreads site. I listed it, recommended it and gave it 5 stars some time ago, but, with developing this blog, I haven’t had time to get a review written until now. It is posted below.

*****”I highly recommend “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” to anyone interested in: 

Biography 

• Scotland during the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war years

• A teenager’s life in the Salvation Army in the late ’40s

• Music making, especially Scottish folk music, brass band music and tunes of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s

Life of a common airman in the Royal Air Force of the early ’50s

• British military life in Egypt during the pre-Suez crisis days

• Emigration from Scotland and immigration to Canada in the mid-’60s

The writing style is folksy, humorous and honest. Ian tells it like it was!”

Gayle Moore-Morrans, September 2012

 

“WOW!” – A RECOMMENDATION FOR IAN’S BLOGGED BOOK: “JAKE, LITTLE JIMMY AND BIG LOUIE”

Calan, Leland, GrandpaWe’ve mentioned before that the children’s chapter book we have been blogging, “Jake, Little Jimmy and Big Louie” is also being sent to two of our great-grandchildren for their comments as to the appropriateness of the writing for children ages 7-12 and also to perhaps receive some pictures they’d like to draw for the book. Just today we received some real affirmation that we are on the right track. Here is the message received from our 12-year-0ld great-grandson Leland along with a photo of Leland with his dad Calan and great-grandpa Ian taken last summer in Winnipeg.

“Hey grandma and grandpa i just finished reading the first six chapters of that book you sent me and it was one of the best books I’ve ever read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

‘and im also starting to draw  the  picture for the second chapter, but i just started it because i was reading for about an hour so my eyes are really stressed out right now so im going to go to bed and i will continue tomorrow!

‘but it is a really good book so-far “

Thanks to Leland. We don’t think we’ve ever had such a great review! 

Watch for the next chapter to be blogged tomorrow.

SHARING AN AUTHOR INTERVIEW PREPARED FOR “THE AUTHOR SHOW” AUDIO PRESENTATION ON: the authorshow.com

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS prepared for THE AUTHORS SHOW, recorded on Thursday, February 14, 2013 and first aired on March 4, 2013.Cover full size

Interviewer: Don McCauley of The Authors Show, an internationally-acclaimed professional book marketing audio program in which selected authors are interviewed.

Interviewee: Ian Moore-Morrans, Scottish-Canadian author of an autobiography entitled: “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada”

The recorded version is presently being aired for 48 hours (March 4 and 5, 2013). It  will be available on this blog as soon as we receive and upload the MP3 copy. The Authors Show audio version is much shorter and less detailed than these prepared answers; in addition, several of the questions were not asked in the recorded version which very soon can be accessed on-line 24/7 for 12 months. The website is http://theauthorsshow.com. (Access to the audio version of the interview is on the “Non-fiction writers” page.)

I, the interviewee must admit that I became a bit flustered when the interview was taking place and being recorded. Instead of following the carefully prepared answers to the questions which the interviewer had furnished ahead of time, I scrapped my notes and “ad-libbed” the answers. My editor wife, who worked alongside me to formulate the answers and carefully rehearsed me through the scenerio several times beforehand, was a bit disappointed that I didn’t follow the script a bit better. Ah well, listeners will be able to hear my Scottish burr and hopefully understand the sincerity, if not the clarity, in my answers.

Q. Tell us about this book.

A. “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” is the first volume of my autobiography. It begins with my childhood in Scotland during the 1930s and ‘40s—years of the Great Depression and World War II. I’m certain that my fatherless family was the poorest one in Campbeltown, a small fishing town in the Scottish Highlands. I describe our level of poverty as “abject” meaning “utter, hopeless, miserable, wretched, dismal and horrible.” Four of us lived in a 10-foot-by-10-foot attic room—Mother, Granny, my older brother and me. Life was a constant struggle to find food and keep ourselves warm. Often there was no money for both food and coal so we had to choose between the two.

My schooling was finished when I turned 14. Around that time my mother married a man from Northern Ireland and our lifestyle became a bit better. We moved from the lowliest of slums to a slightly-less-lowly slum. My teenage years were spent working as a blacksmith’s apprentice, joining the Army Cadets and playing in a Salvation Army band—and sometimes quitting the band because I got tired of not being able to go to movies or dancing.

At age 18, I joined the British Royal Air Force and served as an aircraft engine mechanic and bandsman in Britain and Egypt. My time in Egypt coincided with the first rumblings of the Suez Canal crisis and I was one of those unfortunate enlisted men who was ordered to learn how to make decent drinking water from the inaptly named “Sweet Water Canal”—after the Arab workers who had been treating the water for the entire British military force walked off the job.

After I returned to civilian life as a machinist in Scotland, I married and fathered two daughters. Then, I got itchy feet and considered immigrating to Australia. However, encouraged by two of my wife’s relatives who had earlier immigrated to Canada and misled by an unscrupulous Canadian official, my family and I immigrated to Canada in 1965. A promised job didn’t materialize and, naive me soon found out I’d been told a boldfaced lie about how inexpensive it was to buy a house in Canada. Misadventures in finding and keeping jobs and suitable accommodations lead me to conclude that we had only moved “from poverty to poverty.”

Q. Who did you write this book for?

A. For my descendants, friends and anyone who wanted to know what made me tick. My principle reason for writing my autobiography was that I had met so many people on the Canadian side of the Atlantic whose backgrounds were Scottish, Welsh, Irish or whatever, who had no idea who their grandparents or great-grandparents were, what they did or how they lived. Thus I decided that my descendants, friends and even strangers should get to know me, if they so desired.

Several times I had found myself checking out through a grocery counter and spoken a few words to the clerk. Upon hearing my Scottish “burr,” she would invariably ask me if I was Scottish and then tell me that her grandfather (or grandmother) was Scottish. When I asked her where the grandparent was, she would then tell me the relative was dead. When I inquired where in Scotland they came from, she didn’t know. She didn’t know anything about him or her—and that happened more than once. On arriving home one day from a little bit of grocery shopping, I told my wife, “I’m going to write my life story for my descendants to read—they should know who and what their grandfather did while he was alive.”

Q. Is there a central message in the book?

A. Yes, I think so. I’ve found that it is possible to overcome a negative lifestyle like poverty but, in order to do so, one has to have a lot of grit, perseverance, sometimes luck and even humor to get through it all.

Q.What is the most important idea you share in your book that will add value to the reader’s life?

A. Perhaps it is that one must look for humor in each and every situation. When all else fails, a good laugh and then, determining to pick yourself up and start anew, will help you deal with most things that life throws at you.

Q. If you could compare this book with any book out there we might already be familiar with, which book would it be and why?

A. When I first submitted my manuscript for critique by a few people in my Writer’s Group, several remarked that it reminded them of “Angela’s Ashes” by Frank McCourt. I had not even heard of McCourt’s book at the time so quickly bought a copy. They were certainly right  in that we both had appalling early lives of poverty—he in Ireland and me in Scotland. One could also say that we each, in our unique ways, were able to overcome our impoverished beginnings.

Q. Why did you choose the title “From Poverty to Poverty” for your book?

A. When my story started, I described living in appalling poverty in Scotland. Thirty years later I found myself again in poverty because of the misinformation about the opportunities of immigrating to Canada that I received from a Government of Ontario official in Glasgow. (Yes, by the time we had finally settled in Canada, we had a lot more “possessions” but they sure weren’t paid for! We were in debt up to our eyeballs!) I chose the title “From Poverty to Poverty” as I found it a perfect description for my life’s journey from 1932 until my first years in Canada. There I certainly found myself right back into poverty and, to make matters even harder to overcome, I had added three dependents!

Q. For readers of your book who have not experienced poverty in their lives, what one word do you think they would choose to describe your book?

A. (On the audio recording, Ian used the word “horrendous.”) “Eye-opening.” That’s the word my present wife and editor used after she first read my story before we were married almost 10 years ago. She was not brought up in poverty and was astonished and taken aback by all that I had experienced.

Q. You claim this book is an autobiography. Are all the stories in it true and all the characters taken from real life?

A. Yes, all of the stories are true. They, of course, are filtered through my own eyes and my own experiences so another person may interpret happenings from a different perspective. I’ve told of my own observations, experiences and occasionally things told to me by others or that I learned from school or research. In certain instances, I’ve chosen to change the names of people because I felt it necessary to protect their identity or maintain their privacy.

One prime example is the character I’ve chosen to call “Jock Campbel.” (In Britain, “Jock” is perhaps the most popular nickname for a Scotsman, just as “Mick” is for an Irishman.) As far as I know there never was a Jock Campbel who lived in Campbeltown during my time there or any other time. However, when I was a wee lad and our financial situation at home was even more dire than usual, my mother would occasionally ask me to go to that man and ask him to lend her ten shillings. This was about a dollar and a half, but it had a lot more buying power then than now. But before I would go she always cautioned me to wait until he was on his own. There never was any hesitation from him. Out would come his wallet and a ten-shilling note would be handed to me. As far as I know, my brother was never sent on a similar mission and I never thought to discuss it with him or even ask Mother why. That man was an upstanding member of the community and a married man with children. I never thought much about this strange mission until years later when some things my mother said about the man led me to wonder whether he could have been the man who sired me. I deal with that wondering in the sequel to this book which I call “Came to Canada, Eh?”—not yet published but in the editing process.

Q. You describe your early family life as rather disfunctional with no one showing affection to the others. How has this affected your adult role as husband and father?

A. I know my mother and grandmother cared very much for both my brother and me. We lived on welfare and Mother worked at degrading odd jobs on the sly to get a wee bit extra. She also put our hunger ahead of hers when there was little food to share. But none of us showed or spoke of any affection or caring toward the others. When we were growing up my brother was almost always either ignoring me or beating me up until I got big enough to defend myself.

Perhaps Mother and Granny had never been shown affection and didn’t know how to do so. And if they didn’t know how, my brother and I didn’t have a chance to learn by example. I don’t know where I learned it, maybe showing affection was something that just was innate in me and eventually came out when I had my own wife and children. As an adult I’ve made special efforts to tell my family members that I love and honor them and have always been ready and willing to take care of and help them to the best of my ability. I’m pleased to say that my brother and I were able to enjoy a cordial, though distant, friendship later in life.

Q. What role did your membership in the Salvation Army play in your early life?

A. It taught me how to live a respectable and God-fearing life. It gave me a place where I knew I belonged, was respected and valued (although I rebelled off and on at a lot of restrictions it placed on my choices of entertainment). Most importantly, it gave me an opportunity to learn to sing and play several instruments. Because of that I can truly say that my real avocation in life is music-making.

Q. Who influenced your early life the most and why?

A. A man called Jock McMillan. He was the band leader and music instructor at the Salvation Army in my hometown. Along with two of my pals, including his son, George, Jock taught us to read music and to play instruments. I learned to play the trumpet and trombone and spent a lot of time in my youth playing with the Salvation Army brass band. Then, after I joined the Royal Air Force, I played trumpet in military bands wherever I was stationed. For a period of almost sixty years (in Britain, Egypt and later in Canada) I played in military, dance and concert bands as well as in combos. I’ve continued singing Scottish folk songs for various festivals, parties and competitions even into my eighties, although my voice isn’t anywhere near as good now as it used to be.

Q. What was the greatest single decision in your life that started to lift you out of a life of poverty and how did it do so?

A. Quitting my apprenticeship to a drunken, cruel blacksmith and enlisting in the British Royal Air Force. Overnight I had three decent meals a day, a decent-paying job, a bed with sheets on it, all the decent clothing I needed and future prospects. Plus that, I could continue to play in a band and had money left over to send home to my mother to help her out a wee bit.

Q. I understand you use humor in your writing. How does this connect with the tragic circumstances of poverty?

A. Poverty is bad enough. If you can find anything humorous in whatever day-to-day happenings you encounter, then you should celebrate those things. Laughter can elevate you from the depressed hole of poverty – at least a wee bit. If you really look, there are comical aspects to a lot of things, even those that are essentially negative.

Q. What is your favorite humorous story in your book?

A. Soon after we immigrated to Canada, my wife Mary and I were at a dance in Toronto. A group of us were standing and chatting at the edge of the dance floor when I announced that I was going to the bar for a drink. When I returned, a young, good-looking woman put her arm through mine and I understood her to say, “I like the way you roll your arse!” (What we call “arse” in Britain is referred to as “ass” or rear end in North America.) I hesitated a little and looked down at one buttock and then the other, wondering what it was I did with my “arse” that got her attention. It wasn’t until I thoroughly thought about it that I realized that she was saying that she liked the way I rolled my “RRRRs!” I guess she enjoyed the Scottish accent. Boy, what a relief!

Q. You claim that musicianship is integral to your life. How is that reflected in your book?

A. When my wife/editor first read my story, she was struck by how much music was woven into the narrative. She encouraged me to expand on those instances, leading me to quote from songs or to fill out descriptions of the song connections with my own story. For instance, when I am describing my hometown Campbeltown, I mentioned the folk-song made most popular in the ‘60s by Scottish folk-singer Andy Stewart: “Campbeltown Loch, I Wish Ye Were Whisky.” We were unsuccessful in getting permission to quote the whole song in my narrative. So the next best thing was to show how it impacted my life and then paraphrase the verses.

I eventually wrote the following: “As we were growing up, three or four of us boys would go arm in arm down the street singing the first few words—‘Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky’—that’s all we knew at the time. I like to think that Andy (Stewart) heard those few words sometime in Campbeltown and created a song around them. ‘Oh, Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky, Campbeltown Loch, och aye! Campbeltown Loch I wish ye were whisky, I would drink ye dry!’

“The verses cleverly have the singer imagining how nice it would be if the loch were full up to the brim with whisky and he could anchor a yacht in the whisky-filled bay to go in for a nip and a dip ‘by night and by day.’ Clan gatherings would feature wading into the loch with toasts of ‘slainte bva’ (meaning ‘good health’). The only problem would be the police showing up in a boat and shouting, ‘Time, Gentlemen, please!’

“I find this a fitting tongue-in-cheek ode to a town that once boasted of 30 distilleries and still produces at least two very fine brands of single malt whisky – Springbank and Glen Scotia.”

 Q. Your book is permeated with “Scottishness.” Why would someone who has no Scottish connection want to read this book?

A. Lots of people like to read biographies or hear stories of other people’s personal experiences, especially if they are out-of-the-ordinary. It also seems to me that a lot of non-Scots show a curiosity about and interest in Scottish things like tartans, kilts (or what is or isn’t worn under them!), bagpipers, Robbie Burns suppers, Scottish parties called “caleidhs”, Highland games and the like. I hope they’d enjoy a first-hand account of one Scot’s unique experiences. We Scots are known as folksy and sometimes blunt people who put our own colorful slant to our language. I attempt to reflect that in my writing.

Q. I understand that you didn’t begin to write down your stories until you were age 63 and nearing retirement from years spent as a machinist.

A. Yes, I was too busy trying to make a living or playing in some band somewhere so I never took time to sit down to write until I was close to retirement. I quickly realized then that I’d have to learn to type and use a computer if I wanted to get anywhere with my writing. So I bought a used computer and a “teach yourself to type” tape and went to town on it. That’s me, though. I usually get enthusiastic about something new and go whole hog, plunging right in and damn the torpedoes!

Q. Have you always been a storyteller and what made you think you could be a writer?

A. When I tell about my early schooling, I bring up a memory of my English teacher, Miss Sharpe, telling me a couple of times during my school years that I should become a journalist after I finished school. (She had remarked often about the quality of my essays and compositions.) Huh, I thought at the time—‘me a journalist—me who had just about no clothes on my back! What a picture that would be—me in an office with holes in my shoes and no underwear!’

After I left home I always liked writing letters, telling of my latest experiences. I’ve always enjoyed relating stories and jokes— to anyone who would listen—most of which somehow related to something Scottish. Many people over the years have remarked, “You should write a book, Ian.” So now I’ve written several.

Q. Other than selling your book, what do you hope to accomplish with it?

A. I hope to give my own unique spin on understanding an impoverished life in the Scotland of the 1930s to 1950s; of the pre-Suez Canal crisis atmosphere in Egypt; of the joys of learning to play an instrument and joining a band. I hope that the reader will move from seeing me as a victim of poverty to seeing me overcome that life and also overcome the challenges that an immigrant faces.

Q. Who should buy this book?

A. People of any age from teens to seniors, especially those with interests in Scottish history, Scottish life, music-making, biography, and understanding the causes and consequences of poverty and immigration.

I might also add that lots of people enjoy books with pictures. “From Poverty to Poverty” is full of old photos taken by myself or others during the period of which I write. I’ve also added a few simple maps and drawings of the slum accommodations in which I first lived.

Q. Where can people buy your book?

A. Online at Amazon, or Friesen Press. – Links to these sellers are on my WordPress blog (ianmooremorrans.com). The book is also available for sale at the Highland Scottish Gift Shoppe in Calgary, Alberta, and at the Gallery Vertigo in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada or from most book sellers by special order. I also offer signed books for sale at book readings. The book is available as an e-book in PDF or Kindle format, as a paperback and also in hard cover format. The photos and maps are included in all versions.

Writing Dialogue isn’t Easy

Writing Dialogue isn’t Easy. Please check out the referenced posting from Francis Guenette on her blog: “disappearing in plain sight – writing about writing”. I’ve also added the following comment with reference to the difficulty of writing dialogue.

Thanks for this post. It’s very true that writing dialogue isn’t easy. The particular “problem” I’ve encountered in writing dialogue in both my novel: “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” and my autobiography: “From Poverty to Poverty: A Scotsman Encounters Canada” was writing in the Scottish vernacular, as both books were set in Scotland (the latter partially so).

My editor, who is not Scottish-born, had quite a workout learning the spelling and nuances of my attempt to record written Scots-English. In fact, one computer program sent us the message that there were so many errors in spelling that we could not use the spell-check!!! In the novel, which uses the vehicle of time travel, I also had to try to convey that the Scottish persons my 21st Century heroes encountered when they found themselves somehow transported back to the 12th Century spoke in the Gaelic but the heroes, who didn’t speak or understand Gaelic, heard it as Scots-English and vice-versa. I chose to show the Gaelic, not by using that language, but by eliminating all contractions from their speech and using old-fashioned words or sentence structure whenever possible.

One reviewer remarked that he found the dialogue stilted and old-fashioned at times, not recognizing why I chose to use the differing speech patterns. On the other hand, another reviewer remarked that the dialogue read realistically for the most part and added, “Character personalities come through well in their speech, and you’ve managed to suggest the Scottish ‘lilt’ without overdoing it. I don’t know how you do it, but there’s a cadence to some of the speech that just seems to work. Very nice.” I can only conclude that some reviewers “get it” and others don’t. That probably goes for general readers as well. I now realize I should have addressed the difference in speech patterns in a preface to the book.

Having learned my lesson, I noted in the preface to my autobiography: “The reader will notice that I’ve used the Scottish vernacular when Scots are speaking amongst themselves and normal English when they are speaking with non-Scots. That reflects my own speaking pattern. When among Scots, my speech becomes increasingly ‘Scottish-sounding.’ For example, ‘Ah’ (I); ‘tae’ (to); ‘ye’ (you); ‘no’ (not); ‘canna’ (cannot);’ ‘oor’ (our); ‘widna’ (would not); ‘aboot’ (about); ‘aye’ (yes), etc. I’ve also used British words for the period before I emigrated from Scotland (such as ‘lorry,’ ‘chap,’ ‘bloke,’ and ‘cheerio’); and changed them to North American words sometime after I immigrated to Canada (such as ‘truck,’ and ‘guy’). My editor and I had a disagreement about allowing ‘Scottishisms’ (as she calls them) into my narrative. I insisted on leaving them in, however, for that’s how we (Scots) speak. Thus you’ll find the occasional sentence such as ‘So, there’s me, the great boatbuilder.’ instead of her ‘cleaned up’ version, ‘So, there I was, the great boatbulder.”

Editor’s Review of “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” in Goodreads

This posting is being done by Gayle Moore-Morrans, Ian’s wife, editor, publicist, etc. as Ian is hospitalized at present and waiting for an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiogram and Pancreatogram, better known as an ERCP. Tests have indicated a possible blockage or stones in a liver duct and this ERCP should be able to extract the stones or insert stents to clear the blockage. Yesterday he was in good form, joking and visiting with his roommates and also selling copies of his books to hospital staff and visitors. Today he was not feeling as well and actually fell asleep as I was visiting. At least he’s getting a rest.

Since I’m the one who has developed this blog for Ian and do most of the manual labour to put this on the website, I’ll take the opportunity of his absence to post the review of his novel that I recently entered on Goodreads, a great site for readers. I recommend it to anyone interested in reading and passing along or getting book recommendations. I’ve found it a great way to connect with the world’s largest community of readers.

*****Review of “Beyond the Phantom Battle: Mystery at Loch Ashie” by Ian Moore-Morrans. Posted by Gayle Moore-Morrans on Goodreads.

*****A tale of adventure, time travel, fantasy, historical fiction and romance set in the Scottish Highlands. As I’m married to the author and have edited the book myself, perhaps I’m a bit prejudiced. However, I don’t think you’ll find a better read that will take you from the 21st Century back to the 12th Century when Vikings were invading the Scottish Highlands. The author grew up and lived in Scotland, in some of the area of which he writes. Geography buffs will enjoy his knowledge of the highland area from Inverness south to Argyll. Historical fiction buffs will enjoy his depictions of 12th Century Scots and Vikings. Fantasy buffs will relate to his turning the historical claim by “witnesses” (to have seen a ghostly conflict taking place over the years around the first of May at Loch Ashie near Inverness) into a tale of two brothers from Edinburgh traveling to that lake and attempting to witness the battle for themselves. Adventure enthusiasts will thrill to the battles, intrigues, trials, discoveries and voyages the brothers endure. Fans of the supernatural will relish the character of “Ancient One” or “Aeoh” as the brothers call him – a wizard-like being with both good and evil powers which he uses with gusto. There is also a wee bit of romance as the brothers fall in love with two 12th Century lassies. Mystery buffs will speculate if Aeoh will really succeed in helping them to return to the 21st Century. Readers invariably mention how they enjoyed the surprise ending.