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A Spielberg Masterclass

This week I have been hit by the cold and was forced to actually take Sunday as a proper day of rest. Therefore I was found on Sunday morning at about 9am watching “Bridge of Spies” , huddled on my sofa, fighting to breathe properly through my nose (yes, those are violins you are hearing).

Bridge of Spies DVD cover


Now I have to say I am a fan of the spy genre, Len Deighton and John le Carre being authors I love but this was a rather unknown story to me. However it was more than a spy movie, rather it was a masterclass in telling a story.


What struck me about this film was not Tom Hanks’ acting (although as the main character he was superb) or that of anyone else in the film (Alan Alda was sublime). It wasn’t the terrific locations, especially Berlin in its coldness, snow on the ground and lawlessness breaking out. Rather it was the way Stephen Spielberg can hit your emotions from the blindside.


At one point Hanks character is crossing from East berlin to West Berlin after successful negotiations and looks out of the train to see the recently built wall. So far all has been fairly pleasant in the film but at this point you see the hopeful escapees brutally shot down off the wall and it hits you hard. The shot is brought back to mind as Hanks is back in the USA having completed the mission successfully and is somewhat warmed by the response he receives on a train. But looking out the window he sees a backyard wall with kids jumping over it and you are immediately taken back to that sucker punch.


A story would not be true to itself if it didn’t show that uneasiness we all have with finished results, knowing that despite success there is more evil or unfairness left in the world. Unless it’s a child’s movie the platitude does not really sit well with us.


Having watched the film, I found myself thinking about how Spielberg sets his audience up, rolling them through those confusing sides of life, of every person, so we end up with a rounded picture of what is happening whether we like it or not. And seeing it on film only makes me want to do it on paper. In a world where characters are often one dimensional or simply purporting one side, depth of writing that can enhance our world view with all its complications can only be a good thing.


Watching this film made me remember why I love films to be begin and why I love reading. The challenge made to ourselves as viewer and reader is surely what makes it all worthwhile.

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Better to tell a Story or Write a Story 

In the forthcoming year there’s going to be a slight change in the way that I produce my books. Actually it’s a pretty fundamental change. Various authors have seen the benefit of dictating their books in a rough first draft before then editing. But the amount of writing produced has increased and enabled them to produce more whilst not sacrificing quality.

I have prepared for this step change by purchasing a dictation machine with software for my computer which will translate the dictation into written format. So far I have completed some tests with the device and have started training it to my Northern Irish brogue. And I have to say that first results are pretty good.

I still remembering having dictation on the computer some 20 years ago when the results made my words look like Yoda was on speed. Despite creating a whole new language, it was a disaster and I abandoned the idea of “talking” to the machines. But technology has moved on and hopefully it will move on my writing this year.


Last year I produced 2 novels, “The Darkness at Dillingham and “Surface Tensions”, both early in the year. Things got a little delayed after that but I also have my 3rd Austerley & Kirkgordon novel in the final drafts as well as a short story to go with it. There is also a totally new venture, “Dark Wen” awaiting more editing.


The thing about using dictation is that my writing habits need to change. I need quiet to dictate, so for the first drafts the coffee shops will not be so prevalent (this is a major disappointment). Even in the house it will require getting up early to dictate so as not to be disturbed. This will hopefully also fit better into the daily workings of our household but there is definitely a suck it and see aspect to it all.

The grand plan is to produce 8 books next year. This is ambitious but then we need to aim for the heights or we stay in the valleys. So look forward to more intrigue, fantasy, action and adventure, as well as some new characters, including a Scarlett O’Meara and a myriad of mythological beasts.

So this is a sign-off for this old year and hopefully bounding into the new year to bring novels aplenty!


Happy reading in the New Year and as always thanks for your interest!

Gary

G R Jordan

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Writing Update and a Sneak Peak at a new cover!

So last time I was explaining that Book 2 of Austerley and Kirkgordon’s adventures, “The Darkness at Dillingham” was with the editor for a final pass and should be available pretty soon. But what else am I doing?

I have a mermaid fantasy based around a Scottish Island at second draft stage. The concept is that mermaids arrive on the shores of the island causing many different reactions ranging from hate to joy, wonder to disgust. A media circus ensues and the normal island life is upset as greed and then rumour cause many to fear the creatures. Meanwhile, a young islander finds and then protects one of the mermaids causing some comedy moments as he involves a woman of his dreams. All in all it’s a fun romp with some serious tones.

I have also embarked on another urban fantasy series but this time with a female protagonist. Scarlett is a bored call centre clerk who gets involved with a race to explain the signifigance of a prized glass which seems to be wanted by evil hands. It’s early days but it is fun to have to see everything from the other sex’s perspective.

Also in the mix is an allegorical piece set in a fantasy land, a world war one ghost story and the tale of a Singaporean bin inspector. Yes, I know, how rock and roll!

But back to Austerley and Kirkgordon. Book 3, with a working title of “The Nether Lands” is first draft complete. And when I say working title, I do mean working title as so far none have made it onto the final cover. But also at first draft stage and rapidly advancing is a novella piece to accompany Book 2 and which will be available in the hardback edition of “The Darkness at Dillingham”. It’s entitled “Cally”, and guess what, it’s about Calandra. Providing a more detailed back story to the characters is fun and certainly “Footsteps” helped bring Austerley and Kirkgordon’s relationship in “Crescendo!” to life for me.

And as promised, here is a cover reveal and it’s for “Cally”. Personally I think this is one of the best covers my artist has compiled for me. Jake has really grabbed Cally’s persona for me and the essence of the story in one picture. So I’ll leave you with the cover and look forward to talking more next time!

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If you haven’t got into the joy and wonder that is the Austerley and Kirkgordon series then you can find the first book “Crescendo!” here in all formats. The “Cally” cover was designed by Jake Clarke and you can see more of his work here.

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Crescendo update

Well everyone after the excitement of making my Kickstarter it has been back to work. Currently the ebooks are being prepared, as are the PDFs for the distributor. Making the book in all formats has been quite hard work but I can’t wait to see them all. Bookmarks are being designed but something has arrived. The T-SHIRTS!

It was quite a labour to find what I thought would be good quality at an affordable price but the proof t-shirt seems the business with the print feeling excellent. Photos below (unfortunately without the Lara Croft-like model who cancelled at the last minute.)

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So part one of the rewards is well on its way. Can’t wait to see the book proofs though.

G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!

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The Publishing Thrill

How is it that in the middle of such a busy time, finding a moment to sit back and enjoy the excitement has become a priority? It should be note by all self-publishers to take a moment during the manic dash around blogs, tweets, postings, editing, cover design and blurb writing to just stop. Grab a coffee or something stronger and take a look around you at how much you are doing in such little time. See yourself in action and garner that belief. Do it now, please. You are too good to miss. See yourself at your best.

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Cresendo! launching in mid October with a kickstarter coming this weekend! Work hard my fellow authors!

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G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!

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Crescendo Update!

“Crescendo!”, my novel about two paranormal investigators, Austerley & Kirkgordon, racing round the world to stop a cataclysmic event, is still on track for an early October release. Currently I am in final editing stages and have 7 chapters of the 31 to send back to my editor for a final going over before the manuscript is complete. Watch out for a Kickstarter starting within the next week!

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G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!

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Arse, Ass and Backside:- Drafting at the Sharp End

I imagined there would be deep technical discussions about the style I had used in my sentences. Back and fro, we would pick out nuances, refining the meaning of words and searching out the real underlying gems of my novel. My masterpiece would be broke apart and reassembled, pristine and glorious, changing the world’s view for ever about, well, everything. Okay, so maybe not quite all that. But there was something that came along that I didn’t expect.

I am in the final throes of editing my manuscript for my first novel, Crescendo!, working into the night on my editor’s comments and generally it has been fun, tiring, thought-provoking and eye opening. However, one thing has made me laugh. When writing for a world audience, one has to think about those words which can be misunderstood, or seem quite foreign. Coming from a British perspective, this means that American readers may not get my meaning. So what words have been causing a little trouble.

Arse, ass, backside. When to use which one. The character would usually refer to “arse”, a north american audience understands “ass” best and on occasions, the moderate and all encompassing “backside” is used. It’s not the glamour I was expecting! When I got to the “fag” that Austerley, one of my main characters, was smoking, I pre-empted the editor’s emergency delivery of “cigarette”.

The choice to keep language true or to open it up to others is an awkward one. At times I have used Russian with no translation to keep the reader in view of a character. Each situation is unique and requires full attention. Providing a manual may in this case be counter-productive. But I have learnt that keeping the voice of a character and making that voice understood is a dynamic situation due to the variety in our English dialects, never mind when a book is translated into a completely different language.

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G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!

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Getting the professionals – Dealing with the dreaded editor!

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When writers talk about editors with each other, it always makes me smile. Why? Because the testimonials run somewhere between people who rank just a touch lower than your mother to the awful beasts who didn’t understand and wrecked my manuscript. Usually there is a severe bias from ourselves, the authors, but then you must appreciate, we are handing our baby over to these people and they need to take great care with it.

My experience so far has been an enjoyable one. I scoured Reedsy (an online hiring post for editors and graphic artists) and put forward my proposal to receive several replies announcing desire to copy-edit my manuscript. There were several excellent bids and I put out a test edit piece for the bidders. After much thought I choose Caroline Orr to work with. From the off, Caroline was professional, courteous but also keen to seek a way of working between us. One point I would say, to my fellow authors seeking to engage a professional editor, is that you should feedback not just your opinion on any editing made but also the way in which that editing is explained to you. Early on in our collaboration, I fed back to Caroline why her method of explanation worked for me.

Following through the editing is fierce for a writer. You see changes and deep inside is an animal screaming that this is your novel and your style, how dare they suggest any change. But then why are we paying for these services. Some changes are easy. Punctuation (hand is up, I am in dire need!). Bad phrasing (hand up again). But then there are moments when sentences are reconfigured, your audience nationality is questioned, and at times pointers that your entire paragraph is struggling to make sense (my hand is getting sore!).

I am still working through my novel’s edits but already I am convinced of the need of a good editor. They cannot write your story for you (well maybe they could but they’d probably want to publish it themselves) but they certainly polish up the car, get the engine running smoothly and make sure the driver finds easy access to all the necessary controls. However, do not underestimate the work involved or the occasional knock to your ego. But then it’s not about us, is it? It’s about that novel. Who cares what the parent looks like on prize day? But our child needs to be ready for presentation!

By the way Caroline hasn’t proofed this blog, all errors are my very own!