<![CDATA[ - Author Blog]]>Fri, 03 Nov 2017 02:14:09 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[All Hallows Eve]]>Wed, 11 Oct 2017 10:06:20 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/all-hallows-evePicture
I'd like to share with you a story, written as a narrative poem, about Halloween on the North York moors. I was going to leave Halloween until the end of the month, as is traditional, but considering that this Friday is Friday the 13th, I felt that posting it on that particular day was more fitting. So for my author blog this month, here is a piece of halloween-themed narrative poetry called All Hallows Eve. I hope you enjoy it. Have a Happy Halloween, and best wishes, Chris

All Hallows Eve

In the cold, barren, North York Moors, where 'it never rains but it pours', the mist was thick and low.  
As far as the eye could see, all the way to the bleak North Sea, the place seemed full of woe.
It was a two-tone landscape, and there seemed to be no escape, from the desolate terrain.
The endless rocky moors were grey, the same color as the day, and then it began to rain.
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But invisible to the eye, was a small valley nearby,
though it was more of a 'hollow'.
In this valley was a stone house, the front of which faced the south; from inside there was a glow.
The valley was covered in heath; a small stream existed beneath,
and an icy wind blew.
T'was a pitiless place to live, your life you would happily give,
if the devil asked you to.

It was the day of All Hallows, and in this valley of shadows, evening came early.
But inside a man was waking, much time he seemed to be taking, his expression rather surly.
His eyes were yellow, his skin was white, and he lived his daily life by night; he didn't like the sun.
Some said he had 'anemia', he filled the children with fear; they called him 'the strange one'.

His teeth were even scarier, were no dentists in the area, and his 'canines' were like fangs.
His tall body looked rather thin, like it were only bones and skin, and he suffered hunger pangs.
A window banged against its sill, and he was fixing it until, his ears caught a cry for help.
He discerned a foreign accent, his nose picked up a female scent; then he heard a kind of yelp.

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She was a Los Angeleno, who had divorced in Reno,
and loved rugged hiking.
She had been hiking there for days, and had totally lost her way,
and now her heart was spiking.
Stumbling upon the moors, exhausted she fell on all fours,
fearing she could not cope.
Suddenly he was beside her, which startled and surprised her,
and her heart filled with hope.

Long a fan of 'Wuthering Heights', she traveled there to see the sights, and her name was Catherine.
His appearance seemed like magic, but his expression looked so tragic, yet full of seduction and sin.
Irrational love is blind, and he seemed to read her mind: 'was this love at first sight?'
He held her warmly in his arms, she was seduced by his charm, and dark became the night.

Her romantic heart began to race, she felt so warm in his embrace, although he felt quite stiff,
As he bent down to her ear, he then whispered, "Do not fear, for it is me, Heathcliff."
His yellow eyes like moons, in them she felt herself swoon, around her fell his cape.
She wanted him so badly, she fell in love suddenly, madly, with no desire to escape.

He carried her back to the hollow, to stay the night until the morrow; his door closed with a thud.
And then before an open fire, they ignited their desire; a sudden rush of blood.
The last words he said to her that night, as he extinguished the fire light, were "Happy Hallowe'en",
They gave up searching the moors, when they could find nothing at all; never again was she seen.

Copyright  ⓒ  Chris Ryall  2017
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<![CDATA[Hideki's Diary: Chapter 10]]>Sat, 30 Sep 2017 12:53:39 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/hidekis-diary-chapter-10Picture
The next morning Hideki oversaw an important operation.  There was too much gold on one ship, and it needed to be distributed evenly in case of attack.  So following breakfast he supervised the ‘operation’, which consisted of dividing the gathered gold and jewels into three equal shares aboard Hideki’s ship, the Yamato and the Musashi.  Afterwards, everyone involved felt relieved that the treasure was protected more securely.
 
His next port of call was to be George Town, Penang, just off the coast of Malay.  This would turn out to be one of his strangest missions yet, and as Jack discovered upon reading it, Hideki went back to being a gangster for a brief time.  His contact’s name was George Peng, a Chinese man.  The problem with the Chinese population on Penang, as far as the Japanese were concerned, was whether or not they could be trusted.  Despite Penang being a British protectorate, over half the population of Penang were Chinese residents.  The rest of the population was made up of Malayans and Indians that were brought in to help with the burgeoning rubber industry at the time.  
 
Hideki’s ship arrived off the coast of Penang late that afternoon, and anchored just north of George Town.  The next morning, Hideki Tanaka double checked his officer’s pistol and strode down the gangplank to the docks at George Town feeling confident and ready for anything.  His contact was waiting there for him, and they bowed and exchanged greetings in the Japanese style, and then the contact introduced himself in Japanese.  He spoke like a native Japanese, and happily explained that he was fluent in Chinese, Japanese and English.  Hideki was not surprised at his confidence with English of course, as Penang had been under British control for quite a long time.

After organizing a truck for his men Hideki climbed into an army jeep with his most senior officer, Peng and his Chinese driver.  They drove into Georgetown and Peng introduced him to the Japanese commander, who handed Hideki some papers of authority with his personal seal on them.  The commander informed Hideki that Penang has a lot of tin and rubber, as well as some oil and timber, and that supplies had been arranged for shipment back to Tokyo.  Hideki thanked the commander, shared some green tea together, and then said farewell before stepping back outside with his Chinese contact. 
 
Peng pulled Hideki aside, and informed him that he knew of his reputation as the ‘gold man’.  He added that he knew where that could be obtained, too, and that it was a well kept secret.  The Japanese had conquered the island in December 1941, and the British authorities were forced to flee.  In their panic to get out before the arrival of the Japanese, they left behind a fortune in gold, jewels and local currency.  George Peng said that he’d explain the details along the way, and ushered Hideki and his most senior officer into a waiting jeep, the other men getting into the truck behind them.  He gave his assistant directions, and they drove off, the truck with Hideki’s men following closely behind.
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After being ambushed by Chinese guerrillas on Singapore, Hideki was extremely wary of trusting his Chinese contact.  Like a lot of the Singaporean Chinese, many of the Chinese men on Penang were rumored to have sent funds to support the Chinese forces when they were fighting the Japanese Imperial Army on main land China.  Hence much caution would be required on this sudden unexpected mission, Hideki knew.
 
George Peng explained that when the British won the war against the Dutch on Malaya, in 1824, the Dutch surrendered all their possessions to them.  This included a number of secret vaults hidden under the city that still contained a hoard of gold and treasure, accumulated by the Portuguese before them and by Muslim kings before them, dating back to the 1400’s when the Muslim kingdom of Malacca was established on Malaya.  The British were thrilled, never knowing that it was only half of what once existed, and whisked the hoard of gold and valuables back to Georgetown, on Penang Island.
 
Over the years it was used to finance their administrative capital on the island, as well as developing the island’s rubber and mining industries.  Hideki noticed that they had turned into a narrow street in the business district, and he looked around for any hint of sabotage or ambush.  Seeing no signs of danger he turned back to Peng, who was explaining that the British authorities hid the treasure in a basement vault when they learned of the planned Japanese invasion.  They then sealed the vault with a solid steel door, and had a Chinese locksmith secure it with a new style combination lock.  Finally they bricked in the entrance to the vault to conceal its existence.  Agents shot the locksmith several days later, to ensure that the British were the only ones with the combination, but they didn’t know that the locksmith had already confided the numbers to his friend, namely Peng.
 
George Peng wanted the building’s current tenants out of the way, so they could retrieve the riches hidden below ground.  He needed Hideki and his men to help him do that, and also to provide military explosives in order to access the vault.  They stopped and picked up the necessary explosives from a Japanese military depot on the way.  Peng wanted to split the treasure evenly between himself and Hideki, but Hideki scoffed at this and asked why it should be an even split when he and his men were doing most of the work.  Peng argued that he had provided the information of the treasure’s existence, along with the location, and that he also knew the combination of the vault door.  Hideki was impressed but by the time they had arrived at the location, he had used his skills of persuasion that he had learned as a gangster to convince Peng to take just a 25 percent share and ‘life’.  Peng was wise enough to know that 25 percent and his life were better than nothing.
 
The jeep stopped and they jumped out onto the busy sidewalk.  It only took moments for Hideki’s soldiers to storm the building and order everyone out, on the pretense that there was a bomb inside about to explode.  Chinese company workers occupying the building put up an argument until they were walked out into the street at gunpoint.  Hideki then took some more men inside, Peng leading the way.  They looked around carefully, but the interior was deserted.  All the windows had their curtains closed and they detected no movement.  Hideki’s men uncovered the false floor and placed explosives on the bricked-in entrance to the basement vault.  They all took cover in preparation for the explosion.

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Moments later a huge boom was heard outside on the street as the explosive charges were detonated.  After the dust cleared, Peng and Hideki were happy and relieved to see a stairway leading down into the vault.  As they descended, the steel door securing the vault gradually became visible, and it was the largest door that Hideki had ever seen.  However Peng, who had memorized the combination, walked up to the door and began spinning the dials on the huge locking mechanism.  After a few moments, an audible click was heard and the heavy solid steel door slowly opened on its massive hinges. 
 
Like a band of thieves, they grinned and entered the spacious underground vault.  Peng turned on the lights and Hideki gasped as he looked around.  Peng had not lied - the room glittered with gold.  Amongst the gold and valuables were many historical artifacts, paintings, sculptures and so on.  There were half a dozen crates full of ancient treasures, jewelry from the Malaccan era, gold coins showing both Portuguese and Dutch engravings, old British coins made of silver, and a myriad of other colorful gems and valuables.  Peng reminded Hideki about their agreement, and received a chest of unidentifiable gold nuggets and a box of cash in current Malayan currency.  Hideki knew that the Malayan currency was useless to Japan anyway.   He asked Peng what he would do with the money.  George Peng turned to Hideki and admitted that he ran a gambling den and a brothel, and that he bought and sold girls on the black market.  The money would be used to expand his business, set up a new brothel and stock it full of girls. Hideki couldn’t believe that the loathsome man bought and sold girls and turned them into sex slaves!  He was disgusted and decided to change the topic. 

Joshua laughed out loud reading this, and then quickly looked around, wondering if anyone had heard him. He strained his ears for any sound, but he only heard silence.  He looked back at the diary, grinning widely. He was bemused to read Hideki’s thoughts on people who sold girls for money, and tried to imagine his opinion of his grandson who was right now engaged in the human slave trade – all young Asian females. It also amused him to think of Tetsuo Tanaka’s reaction when he read these words in his grandfather’s diary at a later stage. But Joshua knew that he would probably rationalize it as a ‘sign of the times’.
 
The treasure was amazing.  Hideki’s soldiers covered the crates in cloth found in one of the boxes, and carried the concealed treasure up to the waiting trucks.  The bed of the truck sat a few inches lower over the wheels with the weight of it all as they drove back to the docks.  There, Peng and Hideki exchanged farewell greetings after it was loaded. 
 
Later that night, after the crates of valuables from Penang had been split up and loaded onto the ship and the two accompanying warships, Hideki had time to reflect with the captain on the day’s events.  Hideki was still angry with Peng for buying girls on the black market and forcing them to work in his brothel, but he admitted in his diary that the Japanese Yakuza had historically dealt in prostitution, and that young girls had often been bought or abducted to be raised and trained in Geisha houses in Kyoto.  However in Peng’s case, he felt complicit.  That night, Hideki wrote that he struggled with those thoughts in his sleep, and felt more troubled about that than all the people he had killed. 
 
Joshua heard a knock on his door, but he relaxed as he understood the word for breakfast and listened to the sound of fading footsteps.  He thought about the latest saga in Hideki’s Diary for a moment, ran through the highlights in his head, and then got dressed and went up to breakfast.  It was a beautiful day, without a cloud in the deep, blue sky.  For a moment, it was hard to tell where the sea ended and the sky began, but after a second or two, Joshua discerned the horizon.  And sitting before him at the table in front of that horizon was Hideki’s grandson, Tetsuo Tanaka, Yakuza boss, slave trader, drug runner and murderer.

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<![CDATA[John Grisham]]>Wed, 16 Aug 2017 07:22:37 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/john-grishamPicture

​​John Grisham is a writer synonymous with legal thrillers. I have just finished reading The Whistler, one of his most recent novels, and I loved it. It has a heady mixture of organized crime, legal drama, corruption, murder, American cultural references and a whole lot of money. It is realistic and has intriguing characters. Like Stephen King, John Grisham has the ability to let you into his character’s heads, and make them appear familiar to the reader. These are people whose lives you can relate to, and you can’t stop reading what happens to them when they are put into tense situations and life-threatening scenarios.

​I grew up watching police dramas on television, or ‘cops and robbers’ as I used to call them, but eventually I became more interested in the next step of the law – courtroom dramas and lawyer stories. I remember seeing old legal-drama movies such as ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ (James Stewart), ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (Gregory Peck), ‘The Verdict’ (Paul Newman), ‘Legal Eagles’ (Robert Redford), ‘Suspect’ (Cher), ‘And Justice for All’ (Al Pacino). However, apart from the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, I hadn’t read any good novels about lawyers and courtrooms until John Grisham came along and released his debut novel.
 
I became a John Grisham fan from reading that very first novel, A Time to Kill (1989). A few years later, I saw the movie, but the book had a much deeper impact on me. Not only did it hit right at the heart of the civil rights movement, but the hard-hitting story itself as well as the writing style of the author inspired me as a writer. I went onto enjoy reading such thrillers as The Firm, Pelican Brief, and The Client, all of which became hit movies with famous actors such as Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon.
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​More best-selling novels were to come: The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, The Summons, The King of Torts, The Last Juror, The Broker, The Appeal, The Confession, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row and many more. Recent novels include Rogue Lawyer (2015), The Whistler (2016), Camino Island (2017) and his soon-to-be-released novel, The Rooster Bar (October, 2017).

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​While Grisham is best known for his legal fiction, he occasionally writes non-fiction and books not related to the law. I thoroughly enjoyed his book about Ronald Keith Williamson, titled The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006). It’s the true story of a minor-league baseball player who was sent to death row for a crime he did not commit.  Fortunately, he was exonerated and released in 1999 thanks to help from the Innocence Project who submitted new DNA evidence.

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In addition to his novels and books, John Grisham has also released several collections of short stories. I particularly liked Ford County, containing 7 short stories about the residents of Ford County, which was the setting for his first novel, A Time to Kill. Various themes are explored in each story, such as revenge, evolution, acceptance, justice and so on.
 
John Grisham has won many awards for his writing, and his books have been translated into over 40 languages. Writers often say, ‘write what you know’, and before he was a novelist Grisham was a lawyer. Born in Arkansas in 1955, he moved with his family to Mississippi when he was just four years old. Graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law, he practiced criminal law for about a decade, and was also served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi for six years. He is passionate about justice and baseball. He retired from law and politics when his writing career took off after the publication of his second novel, The Firm. Thankfully for those of us who love reading his books, he has been writing ever since.


See you on the shelf!

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<![CDATA[Jackson and the Dog (A post-apocalyptic excerpt)]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/jackson-and-the-dog-a-post-apocalyptic-excerptPicture
The post-apocalyptic scenario fascinates me, although I'm not really into the idea of zombies at all. However the concept of a lone character walking through an empty world intrigues me. Of course others may exist, but until trust is earned and friendships are made, this guy walks alone. I'd like to share an excerpt from a post-apocalyptic story I'm writing along these lines. (Set in the U.S. after the end-of-society.)

​As Jackson continued walking along the old bitumen road, what seemed to be a town began to emerge in the haze of the dust storm. The wind picked up slightly, and an old McDonalds grease wrapper bounced past his feet. McDonalds! How long had it been? Buildings started to appear on either side of him, and he instinctively reached for the gun on his hip.

That grease wrapper was a tumbleweed, he told himself. Here I am, the outlaw with no name entering town against the sheriff’s orders, six-shooters on both hips, cowboy hat just back far enough on my head to scan the windows on the second floor. He could almost hear the old western music in his head. Suddenly the wind died down, the dust was gone, and a McDonalds restaurant was visible just thirty meters ahead. The western vision vanished.
 
It was a small town, but large enough for the fast food giant to place one of its franchises there. As he walked past the burger restaurant, he saw the usual buildings that one expects to be in a town this size: the petrol station, the garage, the bank, the post office, an old supermarket, and a corner convenience store. One peek inside the super market showed it to be completely cleaned out. He continued on to the convenience store, where at least there would be a toilet. All the food was gone. The fridge was also empty. Strangely, there was still money in the open cash register, which had definitely rung up its last sale.
 
Turning and making his way down the aisle towards the toilet at the back of the store, he walked past the magazine rack. Most of the covers showed naked girls in sensual poses, many with large breasts and seductive smiles. Bizarrely, the magazine rack had not been ransacked. But then, who needs girlie mags in an apocalypse? He laughed at this thought, and the sound of his own laughter surprised him in the midst of the all-encompassing silence. He spun and headed to the bathroom, before turning around again and grabbing a magazine to take in with him.
 
Emerging from the toilet after about twenty minutes, he threw the magazine back on the rack and looked at the other covers. His lust now spent, the images of the nude girls no longer turned him on, but rather reminded him of how populated this empty world used to be. So many girls, guys, workers, colleagues, friends, family… people. Then something moved in his peripheral vision and he realized that he was not so alone after all.

​The wild dog poked its head in the door, perhaps picking up on his scent – something new in town. It looked a little like a wolf, and fearing it could be feral or rabid, he slowly reached for his revolver. The dog looked at him, but the animal’s eyes only portrayed a passive innocence mixed with a slight wariness. There didn’t seem to be any aggression evident. Its lolling tongue signaled thirst, and it didn’t run off as Jackson slowly moved toward the front counter. The fridge was empty, but he knew from his days as a part-timer in a Seven-Eleven store that spare water was kept out back near the office. If he was lucky, looters might not have known about it or bothered to search for it when the shit hit the fan.
 
He lifted the section of the service counter which workers used to access the cash register, and walked through the door labelled ‘Office’. The room that was once the manager’s office was in complete disarray, and he exited through a side door into a kind of small store room. Against all expectations, there were two large plastic barrels of water up against a wall. There was also some canned food on shelves, which he immediately piled into his backpack. Then he opened one of the barrels of water, and dipped his finger in. It tasted just fine, and he filled up his ceramic water bottles. Then he poured some into a bowl off one of the shelves, and went back to the dog. The animal backed off a little, but eyed the water. Jackson slowly put it down in front of the dog with his left hand, his right hand on the handle of his gun, just in case the wolf-like creature decided that he would be an easy meal.
 
The dog didn’t move. Jackson stepped back, but the dog just looked at him, a hopeful look in its eyes. Jackson removed his hand from his gun, and gestured towards the bowl. He also read somewhere once that if you blink, as opposed to maintaining a stare, it lets the dog know that you are a not a threat. Some people smile, a human custom, but showing one’s teeth to a wild dog is not the right message either. Jackson blinked, and relaxed his body.
 
“Go on boy, drink. It’s okay.” Whether it was his tone, or his unaggressive stance, the dog barked appreciatively and moved forward and began to lap frantically from the bowl. The whole time, Jackson stood still and observed the only living thing he had seen in days. As the dog kept drinking, Jackson looked up and scanned the street outside. Nobody. Nothing. No sign of life at all, apart from the dog in front of him. The wind picked up again and more refuse blew down along the road. The wind whistled between the buildings, but the dog’s ears didn’t indicate that anything was amiss.
 
“What should I do next, dog?” The animal glanced up at him before continuing to lap from the bowl. “Should I try and find a place in town to hole up for a while?” The dog looked at Jackson. “And what about you? Should I leave you here, abandon you, take you with me?” The dog barked once, seeming to answer the question.
 
At that moment, he saw the dog’s ears twitch and it raised its head. Jackson strained his ears but didn’t hear anything over the wind. The dog looked around, back out through the store entrance. Then Jackson heard it. A scrape… then a step! The dog emitted a very low growl, and Jackson grabbed the gun on his right hip. Removing the gun from its holster, he waited silently for another sound. After a moment, however, the dog turned back to the water bowl, dipped its head and continued drinking. Had somebody been out there? In this dead world? He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know or not. Damn it, I need to know.
 
He stepped outside the store and quickly realized that the dog was beside him. Jackson looked in all directions before walking out into the street. Amazingly, the dog stayed beside him, his ears pointing forward. Jackson proceeded to the nearest intersection and looked down each street. He saw nobody, but beside him the dog began to growl again. Somebody or something is here! Was it an animal or a human? The dog barked and Jackson almost jumped out of his skin. He followed where the dog was looking, and walked in that direction. When he reached the corner, he saw the intruder… a deer with an injured leg!
 
Jackson ran to it and the dog kept pace with him. The deer didn’t even try to run. Its leg was broken and it was in pain. It bayed at him, but Jackson knew there was nothing that he could do. Meanwhile, he and the dog were hungry and had no fresh food. The dog sat obediently next to Jackson, eyeing the deer but keeping its distance. Jackson looked around while trying to figure out what to do. Shit, there’s nothing else I can do, he thought. He raised his gun, apologized to the deer, and shot the wounded animal through the head.
 
That night, Jackson and the dog ate venison together and became a team. He named the dog, ‘Radar’, for obvious reasons. The dog’s sense of hearing and smell was much better than his and would detect anyone or anything before he could. A dog such as that could be life-saving in this new terrifying world. A kind of relief washed over him as he knew that he could relax a bit more than usual. Radar would be a good watchdog, Jackson realized, and he was also aware that it just felt good to have a living companion next to him at night.
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<![CDATA[Hideki's Diary: Chapter 9]]>Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:58:04 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/hidekis-diary-chapter-9Picture
        Hideki’s ship, accompanied by the warships, left the port of Rangoon and sailed back into the Andaman Sea. On the evening of the following day, they anchored off the southwest coast of Thailand. Until recently the locals had referred to the their country as Siam, but after a public revolt against the king in 1938 that resulted in a constitutional monarchy, the new Prime Minister formed a military government and in 1939 renamed the country Thailand. However the Japanese referred to the country simply as ‘Tai’.
           
           Japan invaded Thailand in 1941, but in order to avoid losing their country and freedom, Thailand’s Prime Minister Phibun and his government reluctantly agreed to cooperate with the Japanese military. Thailand’s railroad system, airports and harbors immediately fell under Japanese control, and the country was used as a Japanese base from which to launch attacks on Singapore, Malaya and Burma.
           

           Despite the government’s approval, many Thai people showed resentment towards the Japanese. A secret group consisting of anti-Japanese Thai government officials, calling itself the ‘Free Thai Movement’, had been operating since 1942. It was also widely believed that these men might have been covertly working together with the allies. The Thai government in Bangkok had assured him that there was no need for concern. They had been informed of Hideki’s mission and had made the necessary arrangements. However, although the Thai government and the Japanese authorities were situated in Bangkok, the place where they would be docking and carrying out their mission was to be Phuket which was over five hundred miles to the south. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and the country’s door to the Indian Ocean.

​            The next morning Hideki’s ship docked at the port on the southeast tip of the island of Phuket. When Hideki disembarked, his Thai contact introduced himself as Taksin. In the papers that were handed to Hideki by the captain there was a small history section, which mentioned a powerful warlord by the name of Taksin. In the eighteenth century this warlord led an army of Thai warriors against a foreign enemy and won, driving the invaders out of the country. Hideki asked the contact why he chose that name for the purpose of this mission. The contact seemed surprised, and so Hideki politely suggested that perhaps it was because his official Thai name was extremely difficult to pronounce. The contact refuted this and replied that he revered Taksin because he drove out ‘foreign invaders’, and restored peace and prosperity to Siam. His disdainful tone and expression made Hideki feel uncomfortable, and he was immediately distrustful.
 
            As Joshua read further, he learned that Hideki’s suspicions proved correct.
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           Taksin did indeed lead Hideki and his men into a trap. Their trucks were fired upon as soon as they reached a rural area, but no shots were fired at the cabins where Taksin and his men sat. Bullets tore through the canvas sides of the truck and some ricocheted off the metal frame of the back of the truck. Hideki and most of his men survived the ambush by diving to the floor of the truck, the low metal sides providing protection from the hail of bullets. However, some of his men were not fast enough to seek cover and were killed.

            Hideki vowed revenge, and he and his men began returning fire. In the ensuing shootout, the more experienced Japanese soldiers quickly annihilated their unskilled attackers, although two more of Hideki’s men died. The shocked look on Taksin’s face was sweet indeed, Hideki wrote. He then pointed his pistol at Taksin’s chest, and the Thai fell to his knees and begged for his life. Hideki gave him a minute to collect himself, after which he accused Taksin of ordering the ambush. He raised the gun to Taksin’s forehead but the Thai man boldly forced a smile and told Hideki that he’d never find the gold.

            Under the threat of torture though, Taksin admitted working for the “Free Thai Movement”, and offered to trade the gold for his freedom. Hideki agreed, and getting back in their trucks, Taksin directed them off the main road. They drove for half an hour along a dirt path to a derelict little mud brick house in the middle of an open field. It looked like it used to be a farm, but seemed overgrown and untended. Yet there were three Thai men with rifles standing out front, disguised as farmers, guarding the structure. Taksin yelled at his men to surrender.

            The gold was actually buried in a cavity beneath the floor of the hut. In addition to the gold was a small pile of precious stones – rubies and sapphires from central Thailand. Taksin’s plan was to kill Hideki and his men that day, and to keep the treasure that he had been entrusted with to pass on to the Japanese. Taksin confessed that he had planned to give most of the wealth to the “Free Thai Movement”.

            Hideki Tanaka told Taksin that as part of their deal, he would let him and his men live, but they beat them badly and then left them stranded there in the middle of nowhere. Hideki watched them disappear in the truck’s rear view mirror as he and his men left and headed back to the dock at Phuket. Night fell as the gold and stones were loaded aboard the ship. Despite the tragic loss of some men, the mission was considered a success.

​           Joshua became aware of the shock he was feeling, and whistled softly through his teeth, amazed at the ‘close shaves’ that Hideki had endured, and the lives that had been lost during his perilous mission. He decided to stop there for the night and go to sleep.

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<![CDATA[Matthew Reilly]]>Sun, 28 May 2017 07:23:49 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/matthew-reillyPicture
​Sometimes you just want to read a book for the fun of it, one of those novels that start with a bang and don’t let up. Let’s face it – there are times that we don’t want to be burdened with a heavy literary plot, a long emotional backstory, or characters with lots of baggage and personal dramas. We simply want to be entertained and enjoy a thrilling, fast-paced story with some intense action and a few unexpected twists. The author you need at those times is none other than Australian best-selling action novelist, Matthew Reilly.

http://matthewreilly.com

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​Initially, what intrigued me about Matthew Reilly was not a book, but rather reading how he as a first-time, unknown writer became a successfully published author. It was an article in a magazine about how this author managed to ‘get himself out there’. The article was partly written in support of his second novel, Ice Station. Soon after reading that, I saw the novel in an airport bookshop and picked it up. I loved it. When you’re traveling, you just want something light and fun to read, and it delivered in spades. After finishing the book, I wanted to know more about the author and I looked up his bio on the internet.

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​Matthew Reilly hails from Sydney, Australia, and studied law at university (not something usually associated with pulp fiction writers, unless you’re discussing John Grisham), during which time he wrote his first novel, Contest. To be honest it wasn’t that great a book, and being a first-time effort from a previously unpublished writer it was rejected by every major publisher in Australia. Undeterred, Matthew borrowed some money from his family and self-published his debut novel. He even went to the trouble to produce advertising material, and personally asked bookstores to help him promote his book. Some of them obliged and it caught the notice of an agent from Pan Macmillan. The publisher then offered Matthew Reilly a two-book contract (including Contest) and so the author wrote his second book, Ice Station. This was a well-written, fast paced thriller and was immediately picked up in the United States, the United Kingdom and in Germany. A fascinating start to a stellar career.

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​I was truly inspired by reading how Matthew Reilly had ‘cracked the market’ on his own. He didn’t let rejection stop him from achieving his dreams of being a published author. His grit and determination to succeed won through and with the help of Pan Macmillan, he was on his way to becoming an internationally renowned thriller writer. Many critics panned his literary style, writing that Ice Station lacked substance and depth. If critics want depth and perhaps a historical background, then they need look no further than Matthew Reilly’s period piece, The Tournament (2013) – a great novel with a skillful blend of fact and fiction.

What Ice Station didn’t lack was amazing action sequences, a frenetic pace with plenty of thrills and spills, and terrific characters such as the popular ‘Scarecrow’ otherwise known as Captain Shane Schofield. Shane Schofield, a kind of a James Bond character although more of an action figure rather than a spy, has become so popular that he even has his own Wikipedia page (see link below), and currently appears in six of Matthew Reilly’s novels.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_Schofield

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After Ice Station Matthew Reilly went on to write Temple, one of my favorite novels of his and a book that provided much inspiration for my own writing ideas. I particularly love how there is a book within a book, a technique that I have incorporated within my own debut novel, Gold of the Rising Sun.
http://cjryall.com/gold-of-the-rising-sun.html

Matthew Reilly then continued writing novels in the Shane Schofield series with the blockbusters Area 7 and Scarecrow. (Later came two more: Hell Island, and Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves.) He also invented another popular character, Jack West Jr, who has appeared in some of the best adventure stories ever written such as Seven Ancient Wonders (also titled Seven Deadly Wonders), The Six Sacred Stones, The Five Greatest Warriors, and his latest novel, The Four Legendary Kingdoms (2016).

Matthew Reilly has since gone on to sell over seven and a half million copies of his books, including novellas, as well as short stories, film scripts and the movie rights to some of his novels. He is finally being given the recognition he deserves, and his success is being acknowledged not only in Australia (where in 2011 his book Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves was the biggest-selling fiction title that year) but in America, England and around the world. Despite being Australian, he currently lives in Los Angeles and likes to play golf. 

One of the things that shines through in Matthew Reilly’s books is his child-like (and I mean that in a good way) love of adventure and his enthusiasm for all things Hollywood. His novels are fun and exciting because his own excitement of telling stories drives his writing. He loves movies, enjoys going to Hollywood events and collects movie memorabilia; he is in fact the proud owner of the DeLorean DMC-12 (the car in the Back to the Future franchise) and the life-size ‘Han Solo in Carbonite’ display (from the original Star Wars trilogy). 
Matthew Reilly is an inspiration to other writers, especially new writers who dream of emulating his success, and his novels are a joy to read. If you haven’t read any of Matthew Reilly’s books as of yet, I highly recommend them. You’ll love the pure escapism.
 
See you on the shelf!
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<![CDATA[Dan Brown]]>Sat, 29 Apr 2017 06:29:16 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/dan-brownPicture
In my previous blog, I wrote about Stephen King, who has without a doubt been my greatest inspiration as a writer. If you haven’t read that blog yet, you can check it out here:
 
http://cjryall.com/author-blog/stephen-king
 
Another dazzling inspiration for me was Dan Brown, an American author who has so far written seven novels. I had already read his two stand-alone novels, Digital Fortress and Deception Point, when his best-selling blockbuster The Da Vinci Code came out. I was gob-smacked by this amazing thriller. It made me restructure my own debut novel so as to start with an assassination, rather than a historical prologue or ‘back story’ that I had planned.

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​The Da Vinci Code started with action, and then kept up the high tension and pace continually throughout to the end. It inspired me to try and do the same with my novel. Another thing that fascinated me was reading in one of his subsequent interviews that he ended up using only about 10 percent of his historical research in his finished novel. One of the areas in which my debut novel lagged was in the large amount of historical background that I included. I have since cut that right down. Thank you, Dan. 

Dan Brown and I were born in the same year, 1964, although he was raised in New Hampshire, America. Interestingly, Dan began his career as a pop singer / songwriter, focusing on piano and synthesizer – so popular in the 80’s. I must admit that I was a big fan of Gary Numan in my youth, popularly known as the ‘father of the synthesizer pop / rock movement’, but I had never heard of Dan Brown at that time in my life. I was actually in a garage rock band that played cover songs from bands like AC/DC, KISS, CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival), the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Later, while in Shizuoka, Japan, I played rhythm guitar in a band that played the same kind of songs, and we even performed at a live event in a jazz café / music hall. A live CD was made but it is not ‘easy listening’ by any stretch of the imagination! Still it was a dream for me to do that, and I ticked it off my ‘bucket list’. "Been there, done that!" LOL.
​Ironically, there is yet another similarity between Dan Brown and myself – we both became English teachers, Dan in America, and me in Japan. However, he went on to teach Spanish, and then later became an internationally best-selling novelist. I can only dream of achieving that honor one day. It was renowned novelist Sidney Sheldon who inspired Dan Brown to write novels, and the rest is, as they say, history. The Da Vinci Code went on to sell over 80 million copies, making it one of the most popular novels of all time. Another inspiration for both Dan Brown and myself is Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Trilogy. I quote Dan Brown:
 
            “Ludlum's early books are complex, smart, and yet still move at a lightning pace. This series got me interested in the genre of big-concept, international thrillers.”
Personally, I loved the Bourne Trilogy, and thoroughly enjoyed the movies (with Matt Damon as the lead) as well. For me, great fiction requires both a strong protagonist and a gripping plot. Any less is just literary grandstanding. One of the reasons I admire Stephen King so much is due to his marvelous characters and incredible storylines. Dan Brown has achieved that with his main character, Professor Robert Langdon, and his fantastic stories.
 
I eagerly anticipate Dan Brown’s new novel, due this year, titled Origin. And in my next blog, I will discuss an author from my own country, Matthew Reilly. He is one of the most exciting Aussie writers to come along in a long time, and although critics complain about his lack of depth and cardboard characters, nobody can argue that his books are fast-paced page turners that are almost impossible to put down. See you on the shelf!
 
Best wishes,
 
Chris
 
http://cjryall.com/index.html

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<![CDATA[Stephen King]]>Thu, 30 Mar 2017 10:47:17 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/stephen-kingPicture
​I have written generally before about some of the novelists that have inspired me to become a writer. Today I’d like to focus on one of them in particular, probably the author who has most inspired me to write, Stephen King.
 
King is one of the most successful and prolific fiction writers in the modern era, his books having sold in excess of 350 million copies. Including his works under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman, King has written more than 50 novels and over 200 short stories. Most of his novels have reached number one on international bestsellers lists, and he has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the Bram Stoker award, the Hugo award, and the National Medal of Arts.

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​However, it wasn’t King’s success as a writer that got my attention, but rather his
​ability to tell a story. As a teenager, being intrigued by the concept of vampires and so forth, I picked up the book, Salem’s Lot. It fascinated me, not just the story but the style in which it was written. The author had a way of pulling you in, made the characters seem familiar to you, and wrote it in a way that made it very difficult to put the book down. I truly admired that.

As I prepared to graduate from high school, somebody mentioned the book, Carrie, as it was about a girl who unleashed her amazing powers at her high school graduation. Immediately I sensed that same style of writing and characterization, and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. 

​A good friend of mine recommended Nightshift, a collection of short stories by Stephen King. I didn’t usually read short stories at the time, but I was really impressed by both the stories and King’s ability to pack such a punch in what was a relatively limited format.
 
When I entered teachers’ college, I read another Stephen King book; this one was about a young teacher who suffered terrible injuries in car accident, was comatose for a few years, and then awoke with visions of the future. Dead Zone had me hooked from the beginning.

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​Following that, I considered myself a Stephen King fan, and then read what was perhaps his greatest novel (at that time), The Stand. After that came other favorites like Christine and ‘It’.  I devoured these books and searched for any other books that he had written, including The Shining, Firestarter, Cell, Different Seasons, Misery, Insomnia, The Dark Tower series, the Green Mile, Duma Key, the Richard Bachman books, and so on. I also enjoyed many of the movies based on his books, especially ‘Shawshank Redemption’.

​So, as a reader, I was and still am a fan of Stephen King, but I am also greatly inspired by his humble beginnings and the story of how he became a successfully published author. King began his professional career by writing short stories. Like almost every writer, he had many rejections from magazines and publishing companies. In fact, his first book Carrie was not his first book at all, but his fifth. And after reading back over it, he crumpled it up and threw it in the bin. His wife later retrieved it, read it, and urged him to send it in for publication.
 
His grit and determination to be a successful author leaves no excuses for other writers in their attempts to be published. There have been times when I made excuses for my lack of writing, such as ‘being tired after work’, or not having the desired circumstances or tools (whether it be typewriter, computer, laptop, software, etc.), or a special place to write.
 
King worked as an English teacher (the same as myself) and hence was also tired after work. He didn’t have a computer, but banged out his stories on an old typewriter. He didn’t have a special place in which to write, but simply put the typewriter on his lap as he sat (hunched over his latest story) in his caravan. He was extremely talented of course, but it was his persistence that eventually brought him success. The rest is history, as they say. 
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​Stephen King’s non-fiction book, On Writing, details some of the hardships he initially went through before becoming a best-selling novelist. It was thrilling for me to read how excited he was to receive a $2,500 advance from Double Day for Carrie, and then what a huge thrill it was to sell the rights later for $400,000. He kept teaching (at University) for a while until he had published more books, making more than enough money to leave his job and write full time. This continues to inspire me in my dream to be a published author one day.
 
I continue to work full time, but have completed my novel, and am currently editing it for the fifth and final time, as well as trying to reduce the word count. I also try to read as much as I can, when I can, as this not only provides further inspiration, but also fuels the brain and helps build my vocabulary. King is quite adamant that one must read and write for several hours daily in order to be a good writer, and he should know – he’s the master.
 
See you on the shelf!

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<![CDATA[Witch is the Write Word? (Part 2)]]>Sun, 26 Feb 2017 08:32:26 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/witch-is-the-write-word-part-2Picture
G'day folks! This is part 2 (and the last half) of a two-part series focusing on oft misspelled words, and words which we sometimes find confusing. Part 1 can be found here:

http://cjryall.com/author-blog/witch-is-the-write-word-part-1

Please join me now as we finish our quest in Witch is the Write Word? Part 2...

Imitated vs intimated (Verb)
 
The actor Alec Baldwin imitated Donald Trump on the TV show, Saturday Night Live. Some say that he looked like ‘the real thing’. Alec Baldwin later intimated that while he likes to parody the President, he in fact does not like the man.
 
Imitate means to copy, to parody, to try and resemble someone or something.
Intimate (verb) means to hint at, suggest, state, make known, imply something.
 
In one fell swoop vs in one fowl/foul swoop
 
Both ‘in one fowl swoop’ and ‘in one foul swoop’ are incorrect phrases, having been mistakenly derived from a very old phrase, ‘in one fell swoop’.
 
I first came across this line in high school, while studying Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth (my favorite play from the Bard). It can be found in Act 4, scene 3, and simply refers to things happening suddenly and all at once.
 
The police managed to arrest all the members of the drug syndicate, in various states, in one fell swoop.

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Its vs it’s
 
You could write a whole chapter of a grammar book about the use of apostrophes. However, to put it simply, the word it’s is a contraction for it is, whereas its is a ‘possessive determiner’ meaning ‘belonging to something’ or ‘associated with something’ previously mentioned or identified.
 
It’s a nice day today = It is a nice day today.
 
I bought this electronic dictionary. Its case is over there.

 
Lie / lay / lain / laid
 
Okay, take a deep breath – this one is going to get a little confusing. First, let’s talk about lie as in to lie down. The word lie also means to say something that isn’t true, but that has no relevance to laid, lain or lay, nor can it be compared to those words. So, the word lie in this case means to set your body down and rest, for example. Okay? Now stay with me on this.
 
To make things simple, let’s first compare lie and lay. Lie is a present tense verb without an object. E.g. I need to lie down and rest after running a marathon. Lay, on the other hand, is a present tense verb referring to an object that you lay down. E.g. I lay my tennis racquet down flat after playing tennis. i.e. There’s an object involved.
 
Lay is also the past tense of lie (as in lie down), and laid is the past tense of lay (as in to lay something down). Using the examples above, but in past tense, we get these sentences:
Yesterday, I lay down after running in the marathon.
Yesterday, I laid my racquet down flat after playing tennis.
 
Still with me? Be careful now, because lain is the past participle form of lie, and laid (in addition to being the past tense of lay) is also the participle from of lay. Alright?
So, using our same examples:
Yesterday, I had just lain down after running in the marathon when the phone rang.
Yesterday, I had just laid my racquet down after playing tennis when the phone rang.
 
Phew! There we go: lie, lay, lain and laid explained! Okay, now I need to go and lie down!
 
Also check out this blog by Brian Klems at Writer’s Digest if you want more clarification.
 
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/lay-vs-lie
 
 
Lead vs led
 
Once again, we need to clarify the meaning of ‘lead’ in this case. We are NOT talking about the heavy, grey and dense metal called ‘lead’ (a noun which rhymes with head).
Lead, in this case, a word which rhymes with mead (an alcoholic beverage) or knead, is either a noun (the Australian runner took ‘the lead’) or a verb (as in ‘to lead students into the classroom’). And led is the past tense of lead in that sense. i.e. The teacher led the students into the classroom. I hope I didn’t lead you astray on that one.
 
 
Loose vs lose
 
This one annoys me because I sometimes see someone erroneously calling somebody else a ‘looser’ (i.e. loser) in written comments on the internet. One has to wonder who the real ‘loser’ is!  LOL. 
 
Loose is usually an adjective to indicate that something is not tight or fitting, or that it is not tied down or clear or exact.
 
Lose on the other hand is a verb, which can mean to be defeated (as in ‘to lose a game of chess’), or to not know where something is (i.e. to lose one’s wallet, for example), or to be deprived of something (e.g. ‘he lost money on the stock market crash’) and so on. Sadly, for some, it may also refer to someone who is down on their luck or is not considered ‘cool’.
 
Passed vs past
 
Not to confuse you, but passed is the past tense of pass.
“Pass the ball!” (In sport).
“We just passed our exit on the highway.”
Ken passed his university entrance exam.
“I almost passed out when Bruce Springsteen came on stage”, the young female fan said.
Past, however, refers to that which has gone before.
“Don’t worry about that – it’s in the past.”
‘Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it!’
 
Principal vs principle
 
This is an easy one, the confusion being with the spelling rather than the definition for most. A principal (noun) is the head of a school, or (adjective) the most valuable / important / highly ranked thing. E.g. Principal objective.
Mr Jones had been the principal of Westville High School for over a decade.
Honesty is seen as the principal quality in new recruits at the local police academy.
 
A principle (noun) is a belief, a theory or a kind of rule.
He was a man of integrity, and refused to compromise his principles for the sake of power or money.
Trust, honesty, friendship and loyalty were the basic principles of any long-lasting relationship, he always said.
 
Then vs than
 
While the word ‘then’ is often used to indicate actions in time, ‘than’ is used in comparisons of people and/or things.
 
We returned from our short hike in the mountains, and then had lunch.
Needless to say, my lunch was much larger than hers.
Then she criticized me for over-eating.
 
There / their / they’re
 
There – a reference to a place or location.
Their – a possessive determiner referring to another person or other people.
They’re – a contraction of ‘they are’.
 
They’re going to go over there and retrieve their belongings from the landlord.
 
To / too / two
 
These are another set of words that are often seen erroneously used / spelled in blogs or in the comments sections of online articles and so forth, which can be rather irritating. Just the other day, one of my friends on Facebook wrote, “I ate to much!” PLEASE – get it right! LOL
 
To is a preposition indicating a direction, or used as an infinitive (to imply an action, purpose or outcome for basic verbs), too is an adverb referring to either an excess of something or an additional thing or situation, and two of course is a number (the sum of one plus one).
 
I’m going to Cairns in Australia next year to see the Great Barrier Reef.
I ate too much for lunch at the hotel buffet. My friend said he overindulged, too.
On two consecutive days, two teachers caught two students cheating on two of the tests.
 
It shouldn’t be too difficult for anyone above grade two to use these words correctly!
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Who vs whom
 
This is actually quite tricky, but luckily there’s also an easy trick to decide which is correct.
 
(The word who refers to the subject of a sentence whereas as whom refers to the object.)
 
Use the word ‘who’ if you can replace it in a sentence with ‘he’ or ‘she’. But if you have to use ‘him’ or ‘her’ to replace it, then use the word ‘whom’ instead.
He / She = Who
Him / Her = Whom
 
Who would like free tickets to see Bruce Springsteen this weekend?
 
Office Boy: A parcel was delivered to our office. Boss: To whom was it addressed?

See more examples of this at Grammarly:

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/who-vs-whom-its-not-as-complicated-as-you-might-think/

Your vs You’re
 
It’s the curse of the apostrophe again, but at least the existence of the apostrophe should alert everyone and anyone to the fact that the word you’re is a contraction of “you are”. Hence it is not to be confused with your, which is a possessive determiner referring to the person that the speaker is addressing.
 
“Is that your Ferrari parked outside, Joe?”
“I hear that you’re planning to travel to Japan again.”
 
I hope that your week is a good one, and that you’re not confused by any of these words.
 
Best wishes,
 
Chris

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<![CDATA[Witch is the Write Word?  (Part 1)]]>Sun, 29 Jan 2017 11:06:46 GMThttp://cjryall.com/author-blog/witch-is-the-write-word-part-1Picture
​All too often, while reading internet news or an article online, many readers come across frequently misspelled words or words that are wrong altogether. There are numerous words in the English language that are easily confused with other words that have a similar spelling but which mean something totally different. Desert versus dessert for example.  

​I’m not a ‘Grammar Nazi’, but I am an English teacher, and it frustrates me to see people spell common words incorrectly such as ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’, or even ‘to’, ‘too’ and ‘two’. Seeing these mistakes in school is to be expected, of course, but to see these same errors made by so-called ‘journalists’ (usually freelance, but not always) writing for professional news organizations and/or on internet blogs is sometimes infuriating. 

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​One thing that people forget is that simply doing a spell-check when proofreading one’s article won’t always work, as the words ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’ are in fact correctly spelled, but are actually incorrectly used in various cases. Today, I’d like to shine a light on the most frequently misspelled words/phrases that I regularly find on the internet.

Accept vs except
 
Accept means to receive something, whereas except means to exclude something. You can’t except an invitation, but you can accept it.
 
Even though you may have been able to tolerate every politician except Donald Trump, you have to accept that Donald Trump is now the 45th President of United States of America.
 
Affect vs effect
 
These words are quite tricky, and explaining the differences between the usage of these words can be rather complicated. However, ‘affect’ is mostly used as a verb, meaning ‘to impact’ something or to make something change in some way. ‘Effect’ is most often used as a noun, and refers to the result or outcome on something from a cause, action or force.
 
E.g. Tourism has been affected by recent acts of terrorism.
            Recent acts of terrorism have had an effect on tourism.
 
Emily Brewster (Associate Editor at Merriam-Webster) explains it well in this video:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaMSVBuwJLI
 
 
All intents and purposes vs all intensive purposes
 
“For all intents and purposes” is the original phrase, meaning ‘for every functional purpose’ and/or ‘in every practical sense’. It can be traced back as far as the 1500s, where it was originally stated in English law (under King Henry VIII) as “to all intents, constructions and purposes”. The phrase ‘all intensive purposes’ is an erroneous derivative of this original phrase, used in the same situation with the same meaning.
 
A lot / alot / allot
 
Let’s state outright that ‘alot’ is an incorrect spelling of ‘a lot’. The word ‘alot’ does not exist. So, that leaves us with ‘a lot’ and ‘allot’. The former of course refers to quantity, meaning much or many. The latter means to distribute, to hand out, to provide or to apportion.
 
Allusion vs illusion
 
An allusion is a reference to something without mentioning it explicitly. It can be direct or implied, often used in an article or book, or a song or a speech or in something visual.
 
An illusion, however, is a false or mistaken perception of reality. It may refer to the deceptive appearance of something, or a false idea or vision.
 
Alternately vs alternatively
 
Alternately is an adverb that refers to switching between two different things, one after the other, or in turn. Alternatively means ‘on the other hand’; to do something different. I.e. choosing another option or possibility.
 
Recently Kellyanne Conway infamously introduced the concept of ‘alternative facts’, when talking about the size of the crowd at President Trump’s inauguration. This referred to two (mutually exclusive) sets of facts, those issued by the media as opposed to those issued by the White House. One could believe the ‘alternative facts’ put out by President Trump’s team, or they alternate between the two if they weren’t sure, until they saw the evidence.
 
Awhile vs a while
 
‘Awhile’ is an adverb meaning, “for a time”. ‘A while’ however is a noun phrase referring to a ‘period of time’. Grammar Girl explains it well in this video:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDge0XsULPs
 
Beside vs besides
 
Beside is a preposition meaning, ‘next to’. Besides can be used as a preposition but is more commonly used instead of ‘anyway’ when introducing an additional idea. I.e. ‘in addition’, ‘also’. “It’s nice having a friend walk beside me. Besides, I feel lonely walking by myself.
 
Breath vs breathe

Breath is a noun referring to the air that is inhaled or exhaled.
Breathe is a verb meaning to inhale or exhale.
 
Cache vs cash (Noun)
 
Cache may refer to computer memory that can be accessed quickly, or a collection of hidden goods and provisions or even treasure. Cash on the other hand means ‘money’, paper-money in particular. Both are good to have in large quantities these days!
 
Cite / site / sight
 
Cite is a verb meaning to quote or refer to something. In legal terms, it can also mean to summon someone before a court or to issue a notice of violation.
 
Site is a noun, meaning a place or location. This can be a physical place such as a building, or an electronic location (on the internet for example). Customers can visit the building site where their house is being built, or view the progress being made on the company’s website.
 
Sight, of course, refers to our sense of vision. It would be terrible to lose one’s sight.
 
Complement vs compliment
 
Complement has many definitions depending on whether you are talking about math, grammar, geometry and so on. However, it most commonly refers to adding a thing to something else in a way that improves it or adds quality. A red wine, for example, often complements Italian (tomato-based) food.
 
Compliment can be a noun or a verb and means to praise something or show admiration.
 
Compose vs comprise
 
A rugby (union) team is composed of fifteen players.
A rugby team comprises fifteen players.
 
Comprise means to ‘be composed of’ or ‘to include’. The difference between these two terms has to do with whether one is referring to ‘the whole’ or ‘its parts’. Whereas comprise refers to ‘the whole’, comprise refers to that which is ‘a part of something’.
 
The company comprises seven departments.
Seven departments compose the company.
Hence the company is composed of seven departments.
 
The whole comprises the elements or parts, and the elements or parts compose the whole.
 
N.B. Not to be confused with the verb ‘compose’ meaning to create or write as in music.
 
Desert vs dessert (Noun)
 
This is an easy one, yet often misspelled. The word ‘desert’ can either be used as a verb (to abandon) or a noun (place). ‘Dessert’ is a noun, and refers to sweets eaten after a meal.
 
A desert is a dry, barren place, usually devoid of water or vegetation, and often associated with sand and a hot climate.
 
Dessert is a course to be enjoyed at the end of a meal.
That restaurant has a great dessert bar.
 
I much prefer dessert to the desert! Don't you? 
 
Elicit vs Illicit
 
Elicit is a verb meaning to evoke or to draw out. I often try to elicit the correct responses from my students before giving them the answers.
 
Illicit on the other hand is an adjective referring to that which is forbidden by customs, rules, or law. It was rumored that there were illicit drugs found inside the house.
To be continued... 

See you next time! 

Kind regards,

​Chris
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