Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shady Doings in Singapore

While  we were in Singapore, my husband attended a business meeting, and I was free to see the sights.  My itinerary became my protag's (main character). We were both tourists and that made the writing easier, because I didn't have to know the area like a native.  A lot of my photographs inspired scenes in the book.

My husband's group went on a harbor tour in a boat just like the one in the photo.  They served a pretty ordinary "western" buffet and I was terribly disappointed not to get some chili crab or even Hainan chicken rice, some of the local specialties.  I put the cruise into the book, of course, without editorializing on the food.
Young string musicians played while we ate - very charming. 

A few paragraphs from the novel.

Monday, May 8
Delegates  Dinner Cruise of  Keppel Harbor aboard  a traditional Chinese Junk
Keppel Harbor world’s busiest.   Singaporean buffet and music
A  commercial armada  of ships of every nation at anchor.  So much tonnage in one place impressed all of us, for Information technology people always need to quantify.

  Even now, I recalled a perfectly flawless evening. I wore my thin pink linen shirt and dark pink silk shorts. Tied my hair back with a floppy white bow, and wore those cute sandals with thin gold and white straps. Franz said I looked nice. Wayne had said just wait until those breakfast buffets catch up with her, and made disgusting oinking noises. But I had the last laugh, because his dumb jet lag diet left him too sleep deprived to join us, and he had to settle for a coffee shop dinner.
            Franz told the cabbie  to let us off at Clifford Pier. The skyline was  fantastically modern, a mega-contrast to the men lounging on the sidewalk in their trishaws, one up in travel evolution from the rickshaw. Smoking while they waited for customers. The kind of scene I loved: an old man tried to get his trishaw going with a hefty woman and her paunchy husband in tow. His skinny bowed legs hung  out of baggy yellow shorts, and his head is covered by a conical fisherman's hat. No matter how he pushed and strained, the trishaw wasn’t  moving. He dismounted, hunched his bony shoulders and indicated he could only transport one of them.
            Then I noticed Peter Weber way down the pier, lounging against a post, looking lost in some private joke. We all boarded an elaborately carved red, green and gilt-trimmed junk, reserved just for us. 
When I walked up to him, Peter said, "Pretty in pink.” Flirting as usual. I took his arm and chided him for not taking me to lunch at the hawker center, and suggested it was time for a Singapore Sling, since we’d been here one whole day without a sip. He promised to take me to Raffles Hotel after dinner, where the drink had originated. He turned to Franz and said loud enough for me to hear, “when she got tight, everything was all right so we kept her provided with gin.”
 I rolled my eyes.
The sunset that night was the kind you remember forever--a big swollen ball on fire in the tropical twilight. I stayed on deck while  Peter and Franz disappeared to get drinks. When the musicians came on board, I recognized the girl who lunched with “No English.” When I looked back at the pier, I saw “No English” himself, standing just where Peter met us, scowling and staring at his feet. I yelled “Hallo Luby,” and did I ever get a reaction! Luby dropped his jaw and gaped at the junk, but I was incognito in sunglasses. He crushed his cigarette and stalked down the pier with his rolling, muscle-bound walk.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Shadow Warriors in Asia

Durians in a Hong Kong Market
All the Asia scenes in The Shadow Warriors were framed by a trip I took to Singapore and Hong Kong.  When I traveled there, the furthest thing on my mind was to write about it, but wouldn't you know, on the flight home (and it is a VERY long flight,)  a blurb in the Singapore Airlines magazine caught my eye.  The  International Computer Security Conference would take place in Singapore at Raffles Place in May.  I had such fun with the writing.  No plot and just my little trio of characters, Emma, Franz and Wayne. 

Back then, as a "new" writer, I took chances I wouldn't dream of now, introducing and writing about a character before I had any idea of who he was.  This type of writer is called a "Pantser" because she writes by the seat of her pants.  The other kind of writer is a "plotter," and she figures out some of the plot, at least, before she plants her butt in the chair.  

I have to confess that Lotto Lopaz, the Colombian Drug Lord in my WIP (work in process) came to life more or less in the "pantser" way.  It took a while to get to know Lotto,  and then after a while I did, and he was totally against the stereotype and pretty soon my writing group started to feel sorry for him, and then I knew I was doing an O.K. job. 

Believe me, it is a stretch for a suburban housewife to began channeling a drug lord, but eventually, I think, it worked. 

The Shadow Warriors expanded to 140,000 words (again, a beginner's mistake) and I spent months paring words.  Unfortunately, the durians, delectable and smelly as they were, did not advance the plot and had to go.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Shadow Warriors: Sentosa Beach, Singapore

Sentosa Beach in Singapore- not a body to be found when we visited.

In the "story within the story," the action in the Shadow Warriors gets going when a body washes ashore on Sentosa Beach.   Emma, the narrator, has gone to the beach with bad boy Peter Weber.  Does he recognize whose body it is?  Why is he so paranoid? 

"If you ever change your mind...the world is full of lovely resorts."  He smiled at me, and the invitation was still on the table. 
            "Peter, I'll bet you've been to Phuket under different names and invariably with a new woman on your arm."
            He glanced up at the sky again, and laughed.  I looked toward the water. That’s when I knew something was wrong.  I saw a swimmer, but not swimming, moving, yet motionless.
Grabbing his arm, I gasped, “Jesus, Peter, there’s something--it looks like a body out there.  In the surf.  Look!”
            “Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes, the lady sees bodies wherever she goes.  It’s a porpoise or a log from Indonesia.”
He didn’t even bother to glance in the direction I was pointing.
            I saw a white leg, then a round torso turning over slowly, rolling in the gentle waves.  At last Peter stared at the water. 
unconscious?  Come on.  I'm a decent swimmer."
            I took Peter's hand and tried to plunge into the surf, but he didn’t budge.  While I stood and tugged on his arm, he continued to stare into the water. Finally he said,
              "The body out there is quite dead.  Take my word; you don't want to see it up close and personal. Corpses in tropical waters get ugly almost immediately.  Now, let's go for a walk instead of raiding the snack bar."
"We have to report this. What if some little kid found it?  At least let's tell the lifeguard." 
            Peter looked out beyond the placid waves again.  The body rolled drunkenly, unobserved by the little groups of sunbathers scattered along the long strand. 
"Red tape in this country tends to be very sticky.  Let's just be somewhere else,"