Seven deadly sins of punctuation

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Source: Seven deadly sins of punctuation

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Heavy Lifting -Scottish Style

Highland Games 56 pound weight throwAye, The 2016 Victoria Highland Games and Celtic Festival  was a braw celebration. The skirl of the pipes from a dozen or more bands mingled with the grunts, groans and yells of the ‘heavy events’ athletes. These days, the heavy events are in the spirit of sportsmanship but their origins date back centuries to the Scottish highlands. When they weren’t  fighting a neighboring clan, or joining forces to fight the English, the crafty highlanders devised imaginative ways to challenge each other. The modern iterations are the ‘heavy events’. It used to be that the heavy events were just for the lads – but nae mair! Modern lassies, proving themselves just as daft as the lads, take their turns, too.

Heavy events include shot-putting a big rock, in highland games jargon imaginatively enough called ‘the stone’. Then there’s the weight throw. Kilts fly high as competitors twirl  at dizzying speed and then launch the implement. It soars high in the air, bruising the ground with a thud and leaving a small crater. Not an event appreciated on manicured lawns.

The ‘hammer’ doesn’t actually look much like one. It’s an iron ball attached to long shaft.  Competitors wear shoes with long knives protruding from the toes. They dig these into the ground to keep their feet in place and use their arms and torso to rotate the hammer several times before letting go. A chiropractor is on hand for spinal re-alignments.

The ‘weight-over-bar’ event is a one-handed effort. The thrower assumes a crouched position, legs apart, and swings the weight back and forth to build momentum and then heaves it upward and backwards to clear a crossbar. It’s a risky venture if the competitor doesn’t angle it just right – and it comes down on his – or her head.

Heavy events are among the most popular draws at highland festivals, and ‘throwing the caber’ is the most popular. The caber toss an improbable looking endeavor where  competitors hoist and balance a large pole, run with it and then try to ‘tun it over’- flipping it end over end. Another uniquely Scottish invention.

Heaving an empty beer keg down the field is usually the final event – the full keg saved for aprez- games camaraderie.

Yes, I write fiction, but improbable as these events seem, I’m really not making them up. Click on the u-tube link for a video of the ‘heavy events’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28QFio97Nnk

Next post – Bagpipes – a weapon of war.

Crime fiction meets reality

RCMP Dive recovery team

A friend, similarly inclined to pen nefarious fictional crime plots, e-mailed me about a RCMP open house. Always striving to make scenes realistic, it was an opportunity not to be missed. As a former diver, I was drawn to the recovery dive team. Their  display showcased state of the art diving gear, and a command van complete with a compressor for refilling air tanks. Working in pairs, the divers wear helmets fitted with cameras linked to surface monitors, providing extra eyes  on search areas that often have poor visibility. In my soon to be released book, The Douglas Document – Betrayal, a police dive team recovers a body from the Inner Harbor in Victoria.

At 33,000 pounds, the Tactical Armored Vehicle (TAV) is used for hostage and armed standoff situations. It makes a Hummer look small. The TAV houses eight Tactical Team (TAC) members in a compartment that rivals a bank vault security. The friendly TAC team member on hand to answer questions, advised that just the arrival of the TAV at a scene often results in a quick resolution. Yeah, that would do it for me. When the eight guys in the back of the TAV come out, it’s a big problem for whoever is unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end. In my second Douglas Document book – Retribution – there is a hostage situation, but no TAV or TAC team – just Scott Rockland,  my stalwart detective, his crippled partner, Liz Bailey, and an RCMP Sergeant.TAV RCMP

 

 

 

The police dogs and their trainers were amazing. To the dogs, it’s all play – fun and games. Police dogs are German Shepherd specially bred for police work. The first  was a young dog in training. The second was a three year old animal with that classic police dog look – sleek and powerful. The ability of the dogs to focus in the midst of multiple distraction is truly amazing. Police dogs don’t appear in any of my stories yet – but it could happen.

police dog

Nice puppy!

Forensic identification is always of interest to me. There was a finger print display, and an exercise at matching. The RCMP member explained crime scene examination and techniques for collecting evidence and taking foot imprints. DNA evidence figures prominently in crime investigation – guilt or innocence may depend on a single hair. Items carefully collected at crime scenes are sent to the RCMP forensic laboratory for analysis.

If you have thoughts or information about crime scene investigation, stories you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Homemade Soup

I like soup – all kinds of soup, but especially the thick, hearty home-made soups like Mom used to make.  I had a hankering for some the other day. From my childhood days, I envisioned an old favorite – vegetable beef barley. I could almost smell the delicious, steamy aroma flooding the kitchen. My wife didn’t exactly share my vision, as I proceeded to assemble the ingredients.

“That soup is for fall or winter – not spring,” she said, but my mind was made up. I checked out a few recipes, and found that it was really quite basic – if you don’t make your own stock. In my childhood, I remember the pot boiling away all day, with beef bones and various magic ingredients (which I now know were herbs and spices)  that Mom would add at various times during the cooking process. I was feeling experimental – and willing to compromise.

An hour and a half later, the pot was filled with a thick, aromatic broth. It wasn’t as good as I remember Mom’s – but then again, memories, especially old, emotion tempered memories, have no equal. The acid test came when my wife took her first tentative, sip- and gave a smile of approval. It really is a very good soup – and filling. Here’s the recipe in case you’re inclined to give it a try.

Ingredients

One (1) cup each of chopped onion, celery and carrots.

Half a pound or so of stewing beef cut into one inch cubes (you don’t have to measure them unless you’re so inclined).

Two 900ml. containers of beef broth. I used salt free.

One 796 ml. can of diced tomatoes – or fresh.

One cup pot barley.

Two tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.

Pepper and salt to taste.

Directions

In a dutch oven or large pot, cook the onion, celery an carrot in the olive oil for six minutes, stirring frequently. Add the meat, and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through (seven or eight more minutes).

Add the tomatoes, including liquid, and mix in. Add the beef bullion and bring to a low boil. Add pepper (if desired) and add the barley. Cover, cook at a rolling boil for an hour. For thinner soup, add more bullion or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

If you have comments about this recipe – or have other favourites, I’d love to hear from you.

If you’re looking for a good read while your soup percolates, The White Limousine is now available as an e-book on Kobo. (www.kobobooks.com/‎)

Start Writing your Bestseller!

This inspirational post shows that it’s never too early – or too late to start writing!

Nicholas C. Rossis

I came across this inspirational infograph by Essaymama on Shannon A. Thompson’s blog. We get to see where our favorite writers started, and how long it took them before they found success in the form of a bestseller.

Some authors started out as young as 13 and others as late as 65. Virginia Woolf started writing at 27 years, but only become popular at 43. Haruki Murakami was a bar manager till 29 years, and Charles Bukovski a postman ’till his 40s. The moral here is clear: it’s never too late to start writing your bestseller. Just don’t give up!

Oh, yeah. And it’s obvious why everyone hates E.L. James 😀

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

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Book Review: Encounters on the front line Cambodia: A Memoir

Encounters on the front line: Cambodia: A Memoir
Author: Elaine Harvey, 2014

Publisher: Promontory Press

ISBN: 978-1-927559-66-6
The year is 1980. Years of civil war, the brutal regime of Pol Pot, the Vietnamese occupation, and starvation have claimed the lives of 2 million Khmer people – one of the greatest human tragedies of our time. Author Elaine Harvey’s book, Encounters on the front line Cambodia: A Memoir, is a historically accurate, thought provoking account of her front line experience as a young nurse working with the Canadian Red Cross in the Cambodian refugee camps.
Harvey holds nothing back. Her writing chronicles the formidable challenges of working in primitive conditions, lacking sanitation and basic supplies, often in life-threatening circumstances. Her feelings and reactions to witnessing such horrible suffering and despair is a testament to her compassion and dedication. Through the tragedy, Harvey sees glimmers of hope in the resilience of the Khmer people that she met and worked with. They truly give testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
Thirty years later, Harvey returns to Cambodia. The country is still healing from the wounds of the past but dealing with present day enemies – poverty and Aids. She takes us inside an orphanage and a hospice and introduces some amazing young people. You won’t want to put this book down – and it’s not one that you will soon forget.
Purchase Encounters on the front line. Cambodia: A Memoir on the author’s face book author page: (url) or, on Amazon.com

Stephen King on Writing Tips and Oy Buy My Book Done in Style!

It’s a short clip but well worth a look. King has some good tips – and a great sense of humour!

Jo Robinson

And he draws a mean scary thing too.

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My 4 Golden Rules of Writing

Nicolas Rossi’s post provides an enlightening and liberating look at some of the ‘rules’ of writing.

Nicholas C. Rossis

Found on pieroblog-citta.blogspot.com Found on pieroblog-citta.blogspot.com

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now. The main reason is that I keep coming across several writing rules that make little sense to me. Then, I came across a gem of a post by Constance Hale, “When Shakespeare Committed Word Crimes” on TED.

Constance confirmed what I long suspected: when there is tension in a language between what comes naturally and the rules, it’s because someone has tried to shoehorn the language into their idea of conformity.

Does this mean there are no rules? Not at all. It just means that the ones we are taught in workshops and classrooms are not necessarily the ones that matter to actual readers – as opposed to teachers, agents and editors. So, here are my golden rules; the ones no fiction writer should ever break, in my view:

Rule #1: Don’t let your writing get in the way of your story.

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Word on the Street

word on the street logoWow! It’s October 7th. already. The changing colors of tree leaves, cooler mornings and shorter days, confirms the calendar. Fall is indeed happening, but I feel a bit like Fred, a character in my novel The White Limousine – like I stepped into a time machine at the beginning of summer and was transported to today. I have vivid memories of places and events from summer. I think they’re all real – but are they? Were they just dreams or a false memories? Maybe I’ve been reading too much Steven King. Speaking of The King of the horror genre, I’m just finishing one of his new releases ‘Joyland’. I’ll share my thoughts on that book in a future post.
One of my more recent memories, which I’m sure was real, was a trip to Lethbridge in Southern Alberta. Lethbridge is my hometown, and over the past few years, I’ve been back many times. I’ve become re-acquainted with my old digs. Lethbridge is a vibrant, modern city, but many of the landmarks of my youth; the big bridge, the clock tower downtown, the main library, the train station, the modest house where I grew up are all still intact, and the beauty of the coulees and the Oldman river valley is timeless. I still feel a strong sense of connection and belonging amid the many changes.

September 20th, 2015 was a beautiful, sunny day, a perfect day for Lethbridge’s fifth annual Word On The Street Book and Magazine Festival. The festival evolved from the Toronto Book and Magazine Fair, becoming Word on the Street in 1994.  Word On The Street Festivals are now held in seven cities across Canada. Sponsored by the Lethbridge Public Library, the event provides authors with an opportunity to showcase their work, meet and talk with other writers, take in a variety of talks and workshops and hopefully sell a few books.  My table display featuring The White Limousine garnered considerable attention. The experience was a memorable success and one I hope to repeat again next year. By then, my next novel, The Douglas Document – Betrayal, will also be on display, but it will be available long before then. Stay tuned!

10 Reasons you stop writing your book and why to ignore them

A good blog for writers at all stages of the journey.

Suffolk Scribblings

Writers block copy

There isn’t a writer alive that hasn’t stopped writing, whether as a planned break or simply because they got out of the habit. It’s happened to me in the past and I’m sure it will happen again in the future. When it does, we often come up with excuses as to justify why we’ve stopped writing, but the majority of the time that’s all they are, excuses. The trick is recognising them for the lies they are and dealing with them. Here are the ten most common reasons people stop writing and why you should ignore them.

1 Your writing isn’t very good

You’ve just read back what you’ve been slaving over for the past few weeks/months and are horrified at how poor it is, so much so you’re questioning whether you’re a writer at all. I’ll let you into a little secret, every writer does this. OK, there may be a couple…

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