Why You Should Never Use the Google Translator by Anna Mocikat

Today I welcome author Anna Mocikat onto my blog, who is discusses just why you shouldn’t use Google Translator if you want to include any other language within your novel.

Big thanks to Anna for being today’s guest poster, please make sure to check out her links and details at the end of this post. 

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The Time Tunnel-1966


I took a stroll down memory lane recently. I love writing because of this show. And I love history because of this show. When I was a boy watching this show I didn’t notice the plot holes you could drive an eighteen wheel truck through. But I did notice the story.

The Time Tunnel was the third television series created by Irwin Allen. First came the film Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea on July 12, 1961. A television series based on the film and utilizing the same name ran on the ABC network from September 14, 1964 to March 31, 1968. Just after the series began to air Irwin Allen turn his attention from inner space to outer space. Lost In Space aired on the CBS Network during the televisions seasons of 1965 to 1968. But in 1964 Irwin Allen started writing a forty-five page outline for a series that would eventually be called The Time Tunnel.

Irwin Allen commissioned Shimon Wincelberg to write the pilot script for the series. Wincelberg also wrote the script for the pilot for Lost In Space so Irwin Allen knew what to expect. Wincelberg also wrote for other series of the era such as Have Gun – Will Travel and Route 66. Only a handful of Allen’s original ideas would survive the re-writing process. He also added a number of new characters that would survive the re-write process and make it to the series, however still another re-write would take place.

The ABC Television network was interested but requested some changes before they would commit to the purchase of the series. The ABC television network was in a three way race and they were in third place. They wanted 1966 to be the year color came to TV. Up till then almost all the shows on TV were filmed in black and white and broadcast in black and white. But with the special effects the script called for the series would be very expensive to produce. Enter Jack Bloom.


Harold Jack Bloom spent most of his life writing scripts for TV. He wrote for The Man From U.N.C.L.E, 12 O’clock High, and Have Gun – Will Travel. He occasionally dabbled with film scripts. The Last of the Pharaohs, and the James Bond film You Only Live Twice are just two of the films he worked on. If you are a James Bond film fan you may be wondering where his credits are. Harry Saltzman and Cubby Brocolli would initially ask Bloom to write the film, but would find the script lacking. Roald Dahl would be brought in to spruce it up. He decided that many of Blooms ideas were worth keeping. Bloom did get some credit – “For additional material”.


Harold Jack Bloom

Shimon Wincelberg only had one time traveller by the name of Peter Phillips. Bloom added a second traveller whose name was Tony Newman. Bloom also changed Peter Phillips first name to Doug. He made other changes too. General Kirk was originally a doctor. The bigwig from Washington who came to kill the super secret project was originally a woman. But by the time Bloom was through making changes this hatchet wielding person was now a man. He also added Dr. Ann MacGregor and Dr. Ray Swain. With these changes the budget could be met, and the series produced. He added Dr. MacGregor and Dr. Swain because as Wincelberg had it “Dr” Kirk would be doing all the work.


With the script now settled on it came time to cast the show. James Darren(Gidget , The Guns Of Navarone , City Beneath The Sea ) was cast as Tony Newman. Robert Colbert (Colt .45, Maverick, Death Valley Days) was cast as the second time traveller.

James Darren      Robert Colbert     Whit Bissell

      James Darren                        Robert Colbert                            Whit Bissell

                John Zaremba     Lee Meriwether

                           John Zaremba                               Lee Meriwether

TT Logo Drawing 07 7-11-4

Whit Bissell ( I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, The Creature From The Black Lagoon) was cast as General Kirk while the roles of the scientists went to John Zaremba (Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers) and former Miss America (1955)Lee Meriwether. This show was fantastic entertainment for a child of nine or ten years of age, but it was also obvious that the show didn’t place a great deal of emphasis on accuracy. In the pilot episode that was aired (the original pilot episode ran too long but was included in the DVD set that finally came on the market) the name of the captain of The Titanic was Malcolm. History tells us his first name was actually Edward and went by the nickname “E.J.”. The Time Tunnel introduced kids to the RMS Titanic, Halley’s Comet, and the island of Krakatoa. The cancellation of the show is still a matter of debate in some circles. But the fact remains that by early 1967 The Time Tunnel was just scraping by in the ratings. And for one unnamed ABC executive scraping by just wasn’t good enough. He wanted to cancel The Time Tunnel and replace with it with a show called Custer (named after the United States general who did so well at the battle of Little Bighorn). One day in the spring of ‘67 Time Tunnel was renewed. The next it was dead and replaced with Custer. Custer died a quick death, doing far worse than The Time Tunnel and lasting only a handful of shows. But the damage had been done. The Time Tunnel had been cancelled and all actors had moved on. The sets had been struck (demolished), and The Time Tunnel would remain a glimmer in Irwin Allen’s eye. Of all the series he created (there were four) The Time tunnel was his favorite. In the seventies he tried to breath new life into the failed series. Even after his death his wife tried to reboot the series in 2002. Again, the attempt failed. The Time Tunnel will remain a cheesy series with really lousy writing. But it will remain a gem in the heart of its many fans.

Just in case you think the music sounds familiar well…it should. The Time Tunnel was one of his first major jobs. John Williams, the man who wrote the scores for Star Wars, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind wrote the music for The Time Tunnel. Only as Johnny Williams.


Chapter 2 – The Next Plain

It was a very strange sensation floating above my own body. And I was very anxious to hear Morgans reply to Dr. McCallum’s question. While I looked down at the proceedings I could swear I could hear footsteps but nobody I could see was moving. And the bedroom floor was carpeted and would have muffled any such sound. Still, the sound became louder then stopped.

“Enjoying the view?” said a voice I’d never heard before.

The words came from behind me. A man wearing a white suit was standing behind me licking an ice cream cone.

“Sorry, don’t mean to intrude. The name’s Oscar”.

I turned my attention back to my bedroom. Morgan started talking but hearing him soon became harder. It was strange but it looked like a fog bank had entered my bedroom. Soon I couldn’t see Morgan or Dr. McCallum at all. I turned to Oscar only to find him behind me.

“Is this normal or is there something I should know?” I asked.

“Oh, I assure you, this is quite normal. You’ve got to remember you’re no longer flesh and blood. Your body is but I assure you are not. And you’re not a ghost. At least not yet. Right now you’re what you mortals call the spirit”.

Oscar was wearing a white suit. His shoes were white. Even his socks were white. Everything was white. The walls, the ceiling, and the floor were white. I wanted to find out more. But with nothing to differentiate between the wall ceiling and floor, it made navigating a bit dodgy. Oscar did look a bit familiar. I looked in every possible direction and everything was white. Telephones looked like telephones when I was much younger. Phone books were back too. Except that the yellow pages were now white. Oscar’s expression was one of amusement. I looked at Oscar and tried to place the face. I had this nagging feeling I had seen him before, and was quietly going around the bend. Finally, I simply asked him the question I needed an answer to.

“I don’t mean to be rude but have we ever met?” I asked.

“Oh goodness no. I have this particular face because it’s similar to that of a person you knew when you were much younger. It was felt that if you saw a familiar face it would make the transition easier. You must be wondering where you are” he replied.

“I was. Is this heaven?” I asked with a certain amount of trepidation.

“Nope” answered Oscar

Surprised I asked him the next logical question.

“You mean this is the other place? The air feels rather comfy. I thought it would be a tad warmer if you know what I mean”.

“Nope. This certainly is most certainly not hell whatever that is”.

“Then where am I?”

“You humans think in absolutes far too much. For some reason, you seem to think there are only two possible places you could be. This is neither of those places. When a person dies it’s not the end of life. It’s quite the contrary. You seem to think that if you can’t see or breath that your existence has come to an end. All this is is a place where you can rest for as long as you like. When you’re ready to begin the next stage, the stage of transition, we’ll continue. But I have a feeling you’d be more comfortable wearing something else other than your pajamas”.

Oscar snapped his fingers and I was suddenly wearing a white suit too. He adjusted my tie. “Would you care for a hat Norman? Homburg, Fedora or Bowler?”

I declined the offer as politely as I could. I never really could stand hats. I never could put my finger on the particular reason outside of the fact they made my scalp itch. I was surprised when he used my given name.

“Why did you wait until now to call me by my name?” I asked.

“Sometimes when a person dies it can be most unexpected and a tad traumatic. Let’s use the example of a person crossing the street. When they start walking across a street the thought of being hit by a beer truck is pretty far down on their list of possible outcomes. So when it happens, and it happens far more than you know, the person can rather upset. Let’s look at you now. You knew you were going to die and you had time to prepare for it. You more or less said let’s get this show on the road”.

It’s true. I did think of those very words. But why did he wait so long to use my name?

“Somebody who experiences a death that was unexpected and or traumatic can very flustered when they get here. I’ve found that it’s best not to use their given name until they’ve made the transition from dying to being here. Too much change, fast change, can cause a great deal of trouble. You, on the other hand, made a very smooth transition and you were ready to meet me”.

I did my best to understand Oscar but there were some subjects he was avoiding quite deliberately. I wanted to know where my wife Mary was. He declined to answer and that angered me. He answered questions that corresponded with his agenda and nothing else. He also seemed to enjoy hearing himself talk.

“Would you like to see your apartment?” asked Oscar.

“I have an apartment? Who is paying for it?”.

“You most certainly have an apartment. As to your question about who is paying for it is another matter altogether. Here, the system of economics is somewhat different from what you’re used to. Those who choose to exist in this realm are free to collect wealth if they wish, but most of the population is no longer concerned with the accumulation of wealth”.

As we walked through the front door of the apartment I had a sudden desire to see color. Any color other than white.

“Fine, your economic system is different. But if I understand you you’re saying a person has living quarters is assigned. Is that correct?”.

“Norman I’m not easily surprised. I think the last time it happened was about five hundred years ago. But you have just surprised me and I thank for that feeling” he said to me in an excited tone.

I stopped walking around the apartment. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I leaned on the stove, which was white, and asked some more questions.

“I’m sorry if I’m breaking any rules but just how old are you? You look like you’re in your thirties” I asked not expecting him to give me any kind of meaningful response.

“I was an old man when I died one thousand and thirty years ago. That’s how long I’ve been a transition conductor” he answered.

My head dropped and my jaw dropped.

“I didn’t mean to pry but try to look at things from my point of view. If you had just died and you found yourself here you’d be asking all manner of questions. Then if some fellow told you he was one thousand and thirty years old you’d be wondering about a great many things. Everything here is so white. Would it be possible to ask for a splash of color? After all, if this apartment is mine, some color would be greatly appreciated” I pleaded.

Oscar thought about what I had said.

“I can request on your behalf, but I must caution you not to expect a quick response. Politics is the same everywhere in the universe”.

“If you mean slow I’m used to that” I added.

“I shouldn’t say this but this place suffers from political constipation”.

Marooned–The Movie


Ok, this film has a few faults. To be honest more than a few faults. But this film gets a bum rap, and based on sci-fi films of the sixties I can’t figure out why. Sure, the book was ho-hum so the source material was far from fantastic.  But the author of the book did not write the screenplay. If anything this is your atypical sci-fi film from the sixties. It’s an Academy award winner. It won for having the best visual effects of any other film in 1970. The novel the movie is based on originally depicted a single astronaut marooned in a one man Mercury capsule. That book was released in 1964. The movie, after many significant alterations, was released on November 10 1969, with its Los Angeles opening one month later.


Original Novel(1964)

The acting in this film is pretty bad most of the time. Gregory Peck, who plays Charles Keith, is either having the early onset of rigor mortis or he’s trying to emulate a tree. He’s so wooden and ridgid at times his performance is laughable. His primary job is to save three astronauts stranded in orbit. Three astronauts have just spent several  in the Apollo Applications Lab and it’s time to come home (this same lab would later become known as SkyLab). They are 280 miles up going 17,500 miles per hour. They have to fire the engine attached to the service module to slow the orbit  just enough for re-entry to begin. There’s just one problem. It refuses to work. The flight is designated as Ironman 1. For the movie the author, Martin Caidin, re-wrote sections of his original novel and expanded the crew from one man to three men, and he  added biographies of the crew which thankfully did not make it into the film. He kept the original premise – engine failure. A lot of Caiden’s dialog made it into the screenplay which was written by Mayo Simon. Some of the dialog is dry and cryptic. Unless you know what they’re talking about you’re going to be lost. But that’s was the language of the manned space programme in the sixties. The men that orbited the earth were test pilots and scientists.

             Richard Crenna   Gene Hackman  Jame Franciscus 

               Richard Crenna         Gene Hackman       James Franciscus

are the men stuck inside one of the most complex machines ever constructed, and they only have 43 hours of breathable oxygen and they’re dying. The chief astronaut,Ted Dougherty, played by David Janssen sticks his neck out and becomes a thorn in the side of Charles Keith. He helps organize a rescue of his three friends. Unknown to the Americans the Russians are organizing a rescue too. This movie was prophetic in that it correcting forecast the peaceful cooperation of space by the two countries. What a great many didn’t know was if anything went wrong with any American spaceflight in the sixties there was little, if any, hope of rescue.

Of all the space vehicles used in the film only one is fictitious. The American X-RV was created for the movie. The Russian vehicle is a Vostok/Voskhod. The movie tie-in book states its a Soyuz. The Russian government had yet to disclose to the west what it really looked like.

Cover_of__Marooned_,_the_1969_novelization_of_the_motion_picture_of_the_same_name,_by_Martin_Caidin       9780552083706-us

                              American print                British print

You either like the film or you hate it. Columbia pictures spent 8-10 million dollars and barely broke even get only 4.1 million at the box office. It became more successful when it went to video.

The following is from the American Film Institute catalog. The links work I hope.


G | 133 mins | Science Fiction | 1969

Gregory Peck

, Richard Crenna, David Janssen [ More ]


John Sturges


Mayo Simon


Mike Frankovich


Daniel L. Fapp


Walter Thompson

Production Designer:

Lyle Wheeler

Production Company:

Frankovich Productions, Inc.

Give it a try. I’ve read the American and British movie tie in books, had two VHS copies of the film, and I’ve ordered the remastered version of the film on DVD. I can’t get enough of this film.

Finding the #Write #Words? No.1

This post was written by one of Britain’s greatest wordsmiths Stuart Aken. For the last few years he has taken us on a journey about words that are difficult to pronounce, misused, abused, or simply misunderstood. Of all the titles mentioned my favorite is “The Grouchy Grammarian”. He has used this title among others in search of “just the right word”. Take it away Prof. Higgins…

Stuart Aken

For a few years I’ve been posting about word choice here. It seems timely to let you know the sources for the information and ideas I’ve presented. Before I started writing seriously, which preceded mobile phones, personal computers, and even electronic typewriters, I developed an interest in words: a fascination for the huge variety of words available and the way in which the English Language has stolen from other languages to form a vocabulary capable of great subtlety. I then began to buy books that took word usage and choice as their topics.

Below, is a list of books I now own
on the subject; a small personal library. 36 titles are listed here. They range
in size from the petite softback ‘American English English American’, at 47 pages, to the weighty,
hardback, two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary with its 3,743 pages. In
price, the cheapest was the free Reader’s…

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Chapter 1–The Next Plain

I wrote this to try and deal with my own mothers death. Some the things in it reflect some the thing my mom believed and requested take place after her passing.

The setting is my bedroom. The décor was picked out by my late wife Mary. My son Morgan is sitting in one chair and my doctor, Dr. McCallum, is in the another. My lungs are failing and I’m dying. I just don’t believe death is the end. I want to find out what’s on the other side. I just told Morgan of my plans and he is none too pleased. Well, I really don’t care. I just don’t believe death is the end.

“Are you nuts? Father McNulty will have a fit if he heard this hair brained scheme of yours”

My son Morgan is not the most receptive person in the world to new ideas. At the bank, his place of work, he is known as “The Old Man” for his rigid and somewhat archaic attitudes. Right now, he is the chief mortgage officer who hopes to become president of the bank one day. Right now he’s seated in a chair near my bedside and we’re chatting. He has this rather annoying habit of pinching the top of his nose when he speaks which only serves to make him appear far older than he is. At 33 Morgan has ascended the corporate ladder at a far greater speed then I could have imagined. I am very proud of him. I am also concerned he will grow old and feeble at a far greater speed than I had.

“I really don’t care what Father McNulty does or says. The concepts of heaven and hell are nothing but concepts perpetuated by the church and dogma used to scare the socks off little children. You know that I don’t believe in either of those places. You also know that I don’t believe death to be the end of our life. I want to find out what happens next. I know I’m dying. Dr McCallum has confirmed that. In a couple of weeks I’ll slip into a coma and in a short while  I’ll be dead. -”

Morgan decided to interrupt me. Something he knows bothers me greatly. When I’m talking I like to finish what I’m saying. With these infernal breathing problems I have to pick my words very carefully. Morgan sat forward in the chair. Looking frustrated he ran his fingers through his hair. He pointed at Dr. McCallum who was seated in another chair content to let him drone on.

“You don’t know that for sure dad. You don’t know for sure what’s going to happen. Doc McCallum could be wrong. Maybe we should get a second-”. This time Dr. McCallum interrupted Morgan. Dr. McCallum and I had being friends for almost fifty years. In that time I had learned he rarely spoke while seated and at this point in his life took some time getting to a standing position.

“I don’t wish to burst your bubble Morgan but your father is suffering from an extreme lack of oxygen in the blood. And the timeline of his degeneration and demise is almost word for word what I told your father. Concerning what you were about to say you would be wasting your time, money and what little time your father has left getting a second opinion. Any first year medical student would give you the same diagnosis. As for calling me “Doc” I have asked you time and again not to call me that. I am a doctor of medicine. I have been your doctor for thirty-three years. However, if you persist in calling me that particular appellation you may have to start looking for a new doctor. I worked very hard to become a doctor and I will not stand for anybody belittling that achievement. Do we understand each other?”

Morgan was not in a mood to be talked down to, but he had to understand his particular brand of humour did not tickle every bodies funny bone. Dr. McCallum looked in on me everyday. During that time I wrote my wishes for my funeral and I am very glad I did. Two weeks later my lungs gave up the ghost and shortly afterward I became one – if they exist.


What happened next might best be described as an out of body experience. I remember floating near the ceiling. I could see the entire bedroom. Morgan was there as was Dr. McCallum and a few relatives. My cousin William was one I could have gone without seeing. He had only one interest in life and that was the accumulation of wealth. His obsession ruined his marriage and drove most of his friends away. He was a rather lonely person with no one to share his life. But that was his by own doing and he gave no indication of changing his ways. When William came near the bed I fully expected him to take the pennies from my eyes. William was on one side of the bed, my body was on the bed in the middle, and Morgan stood like a guard dog on the other side of the bed opposite William. He knew of my dislike for William and why I disliked him so. I don’t know why Morgan informed William I had died. Maybe it was Mary. William and I competed fiercely for Mary’s affections. Near the end of her life Mary confided to me that it was Williams love of money that killed all romantic feeling between him and Mary. William loved money more than he did Mary. When anybody spoke it was always in hushed tones.

Shortly before I shuffled off this mortal coil Morgan and Dr. McCallum finally put the gloves on.

“Is the old boy dead yet?”

My son Morgan, had just entered my bedroom to check on my mortality. Dr. McCallum, a man who always wore a three piece suit and wire frame glasses, a man who always tucked them into his vest pocket when he wasn’t wearing them, and a man who I think was born with white hair, finally reached his breaking point and lost his temper.

He turned and faced Morgan while cleaning his glasses.

“Morgan, only you could so tactless. The man you so callously called “the old boy”, a man who has been my friend for almost sixty years, a man who is your father is dying and there’s not a blessed thing I can do about it. You caused me to break a vow I made to myself when I graduated from medical school and that was to never loose my temper in front of a patient. Out of plain simple curiosity why are you so anxious for your father to be dead?”

The flap over flapping

Right Hand

The following is a combination of what I can remember, what I think might have happened, and what I know for a fact did happen. I lived this hell.

It was somewhere after 9:00 AM that my own personal hell began. I didn’t know what to call it then, and still don’t. But it was hell. My own personal Hell.

It was early in school year. Mr. Stoynoff, my grade 2 teacher, was having parent-teacher consultations. If you’re an adult now you know what I’m talking about. Your mom or dad talks with the teacher about you. The following is a theoretical transcript of what I think might have happened.

Mr. S. – Glad to meet you Mrs. Austin. May I ask you a question?. From time to time Toms shoots his arm  and he waves his hand in front of his face. Does he do this at home?

Mom – His father and I have noticed this too. We’re taking him to our family doctor to see if he can shed any light on this.

Now, Dr. Cox was a great doctor. His prowess at giving injections was second to none, however his ability to communicate verbally with some of his more diminutive patients stank. The parents were told what was going to happen and it left to them to explain what was going to happen. I don’t recall either of my parents actually telling me anything. All they might have said was something like this.

Mum: “You’re not going to school tomorrow. You and I are going to accompany your father when he goes to work. And in few hours we’re all going to see Dr. John Stobo Prichard at Sick Children’s Hospital”.

There are few words in the English language that strike fear and terror into a kids heart and “Hospital” was #1 or near number one. That’s were vampires lived and nurses gave you four foot long needles. When we met Dr. John Stobo Prichard I noticed he talked strangely. I quietly asked mum why he sounded funny. She said it was because he was English. He wasn’t. He was Welsh. When I was growing up few adults had genuine interest in what I was doing. Most feigned interest. When I was 7 I was in my dinosaur phase. I couldn’t get enough of them. Dr. Prichard and I talked about dinosaurs for what seemed like hours. He asked me (remember….I was 7) if I would consent to some tests. I consented on the basis that any doctor who liked dinosaurs couldn’t be all that bad. A nurse, who was about as attractive as The Phantom Of The Opera, took so much blood out of me I think I shrunk. And at seven years of age you can’t afford to lose any height. After Vampirella was through with me Dr. Prichard asked me to have an E.E.G. I said “okay as long as there are no needles”. The E.E.G. machine was about ten feet long (Remember….this is the fall of 1964). Today, in 2019, E.E.G. machines are about the size of the first laptop computers. My first E.E.G. had this light which strobed at different speeds. After all was said and done it turned out I was allergic to an unseen wavelength of light. And that I was borderline epileptic. I learned a whole more after my first seizure when I was 13 but that’s another post. Dr. Prichard and Dr. Cox put me on orange flavoured goop called phenobarb. My hand simulated the strobing of a light source and I….well, sort “zoned-out” for a few seconds. I became different and a prime target for some of the worst teasing and taunting imaginable.

Kids can be really cruel and some can be really nasty. And at school some kids teased me when ever they could which was most of the time. I remember many a lunch when I would trudge home crying and miserable from all the teasing. When kids tease they can be really creative. They teased from nine in the morning till 3:30 in the afternoon. Even after school I wasn’t safe. They would taunt me all the way home. But the absolute worst insult was they called me a “retard”.

I decided to call this hand waving flapping. It sounded and looked like a bird flapping its wings. And they’d taunt me. I didn’t know I was doing it. All I know there were less and less kids to play with. I was so unhappy I wanted the earth to eat me alive. During my entire childhood I was only invited to only one birthday party. My brothers weren’t quite sure what to do with me and life  became lonelier and lonelier. Grade three was awful. Miss Smuckler was a real piece of work. She only wore black (at least it seemed that way), and had horn rimmed glasses. There were 45 pupils in my class with half of us in grade 3 and the other half in grade 4. At Blythwood Public School life was miserable. My friends became fewer and fewer until I only had a handful. The teacher didn’t have a clue what to do with me, and the flapping was getting worse and worse.

My teacher in grade four was Mrs. Kerr. She was neat. She got a kick out the Charlie Brown comic strip. She was able to look past the flapping which was now happening with alarming regularity. At recess there was this one kid named Fred who liked to get his jollies by teasing me. One day he went too far with his “retard” comments. I went ballistic in the extreme. Fred was too busy flapping his gums and getting me furious. With no warning I lashed out. I gave him three shots to his abdomen which made him double over. When he bent over to prevent further pummeling to his stomach I slugged him as hard as I could in the side of his head. He went down. I knocked him out cold. After this experience Fred gave me a wide berth and was a little more conservative with his teasing. Grade five was horrible. The staff didn’t know what to make of me. The French teacher really had it in for me. Whenever she called on you you had to stand. And one day she called on me when the flapping was really bad. She asked me this question. Nervous as hell I started to flap. Then she got under the collar about my flapping and not answering her. Then she really lost it and called me a fool. Well, the rest of the class came to complete stand still. No student had ever been called a fool before and slowly the class looked at me. I was so embarrassed, so humiliated, I pulled the neck of my turtle neck sweater over my head and sat down. The teacher went on to pester someone else. I knew I soon be going to Glenview Senior Public and there was no way on gods green earth this private hell was going to follow me there. I started looking for something to weigh my arm down. I experimented with lead. Too little wouldn’t work at all and too much…well, I might knock myself out. I needed to secure it to my wrist too. The only good thing about grade five was leaving it. That summer (1968) I went to Kilcoo Camp. For a month the flapping wasn’t much of a concern. I felt relatively relaxed. And for once I finally felt like I fit in. You couldn’t tell if I was flapping or brushing away mosquitoes. Grade six was mildly informative when the teacher, Mr. Legge, wasn’t salivating about his car (a Dodge Charger) or using his wife’s hairspray to slick down his hair. I have never seen a guy so obsessed with his appearance. That summer (1969) two things happened that helped me form a plan. In July mankind landed on the moon for the first time. The papers covered every conceivable angle. I saw the kind of strap I would need to hold the lead in place. At Kilcoo a counselor-in-training (C-I-T) had an ankle injury and was required to wear a lead ankle bracelet to strengthen a tendon. When I came home I bought a five pound ankle bracelet of lead shot. I wore that ankle bracelet on my wrist the entire time I was in grade 7. If anybody asked why I wore it I’d say it was to strengthen a weak arm muscle. The only time I didn’t wear the bracelet was when I was asleep or in the shower. I wore the bracelet for an entire year. In August 1968 I took the bracelet of lead shot off my wrist and I haven’t flapped since.

I chose lead because it’s a soft metal, mailable, and it’s inexpensive. And because another year of hell simply wasn’t an option.

Should You Hire a Professional Editor?

If you write for a hobby or maybe a living (we should all be so lucky) read this article by Milly Schmidt. It took a lot of courage to write this. Can anyone offer some words of wisdom?

The Cat's Write

All self-published authors must face this question at some point in their publishing journey. I am no exception. I have toyed with the idea of simply going through a few beta reader rounds and utilizing a program like Grammarly premium before finishing off the process with a proofread from a professional.

I have also contemplated hiring a professional editor for every stage of the process – copy/line editing, structural editing, proofreading etc…

In the end, it comes down to budget.

How much professional editing can you afford?

I would bet that most writers (if they had the money) would jump at the chance of hiring an expert – you would be crazy not to. But what if you will never be able to afford a professional editor? Should you throw in the towel and return to submitting your manuscript into that void filled with silence and a litany of…

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First draft completed–86,655 words – Holy Cow!

I finished “Blue Cottage” a couple of weeks after my mother passed away. After she passed I will admit there was a period of time when I wanted to chuck the whole thing in the nearest garbage can. But my mum got a kick reading about Cassie Carter and Peter Christopher so I decided to soldier on. In order to improve it I enlisted the help of a friend. She suggested I collect all the chapters I published on WordPress, put them in chronological order from Chapter 1 to Chapter 13B, so I could better see the problem areas. After doing all that I discovered two things about my first draft. First it was 86,655 words long (single spaced) and secondly it was 291 pages long. Up to then I had no idea it was novel length.

To honour my parents, who both got a kick out of my stories since grade school, I’m going to write a second draft. I conducted an experiment when I was writing “Blue Cottage”. I usually try and do some sort of outline but “Blue Cottage” I decided to write to write by the seat of my pants. I found the experience mildly liberating but I soon found myself mired in a sea of details. Some people may be able to write by the seat of their pants but I can’t. I said to another friend this morning that writing without an outline is akin to Herman Melville writing Moby Dick completely without an outline.

I already know a number of things. The second draft will not appear on WordPress. I want this draft to be ready for a publisher. I think its a real loss that publishers will not touch anything that has appeared on-line. I also find this attitude puzzling because Andy Weir, author of the book “The Martian”, originally had “The Martian” on his web site long before he had a publishing deal.

Not only will there be an overall outline but there is going to be an outline for every single chapter. I don’t intend to make the mistake of having someone being 5’ 5” then two chapters later have them be 5’ 8”. I’m going to work on one chapter at a time meaning I won’t go to chapter two until I’m positive chapter 1 simply can’t any better. And if takes until doomsday to get story ready for publication I’ll wait. I’m not going anywhere. And there won’t be any of this chapter “13B” nonsense. All chapters will have numbers. To paraphrase actor Charlton Heston they’re going to have to pry this laptop out of my cold dead hands before I begin my final sleep.

Chapter 13B – The Beginning


The first month was the roughest. We had to arrange three funerals and get Chez Willowby ready for sale. And it was toughest on Kenny. Thank goodness for Mr. Langtree.

One day shortly after the last funeral Kenny came home from school with a slip of paper Peter and I to sign. It was your standard parental permission slip for a school trip. You know the kind. You probably brought dozens home. As Kenny’s godparents, we didn’t give the matter a second thought. We should have. The school recognized Trina’s letter to us and her signature. However, godparents are not legally recognized as parents or guardians. Godparents are simply a religious or spiritual concoction. Godparents have no legal standing at all. After meeting with my aunts’ lawyer, Mr. Langtree, he explained our options to Peter and me which were next to non-existent. Trina wanted us to raise her son. A godparent has no legal standing to do anything for the child. To sign a simple parental permission slip, we had to adopt Kenny. We wanted to adopt Kenny but first, we had to grapple with a daunting question – did he want us?

Trina helped a lot by naming us specifically, but a godparents role is largely ceremonial. We wanted to change that.

We met in Mr. Langtrees office. We didn’t dress formally. He asked us to dress casually and for Kenny to do the same. As we entered his legal office Kenny’s eyes went incredibly wide.

“Wow, he sure has a lot of books”. Kenny was right. There were hundreds of legal tomes on shelves which seemed to be everywhere. There were some computer terminals but Kenny was impressed with the books which seemed to stretch on forever. As Mr. Langtree came out of his office he saw the fascination and awe on Kennys face.

“And you must be Kenny. How many books do you think there are?”

Kenny looked at all the books studying each one. “A thousand?”

Mr. Langtree chuckled. “No, good guess though. Three times as many”

Kenny took that information and did what he could with it. “Wow, you have three thousand books?”

Mr. Langtree laughed, tussled Kennys hair then put his hands in his pockets. “Not quite. Would you believe me if I told you I have three thousand and ninety-seven books?”

His eyes just about popped out of his head. I gently pushed him towards the formal looking office. He looked at every inch of the office and saw more books. But the part he liked best was the leather chairs. He climbed into one and looked very comfortable. The bankers light on the desk somehow looked out of place. So did the rice paper wallpaper.

As Mr. Langtree sat down he pulled out a small file folder and a large yellow legal pad and put them on his desk. He made a few notes, tore the pages from the legal pad and placed them inside the file folder. He then tossed the legal pad beside his inbox. He looked right at Peter and me.

“Okay, let’s see if I’ve got this right. Trina Willowby, deceased, asked you both to raise her son. She asked you in a letter. But right now you’re not the legal guardians. So you’re looking at adoption. Have I got that part right?” Peter answered.

“I know we’re only godparents, but I think we should make it legal. We can’t do anything a parent-” Kenny suddenly gave Peter the eye. Peter put his hand up and told him to relax. “Relax Kenny. Nobodies trying to take the place of your mom or your grandparents”. He then continued talking to Mr. Langtree. “As I was saying we can’t do anything a parent or guardian can. Cassie and I would like to legally adopt Kenny. Its fine with us if he wants to keep his surname or he wants to take my name. We just want him to be safe and have a home. A home with two people who love him and can act as his guardians till he’s of age. His mother asked us to raise him. Not Children’s Aid. Us.”

Mr. Langtree made some more notes on his legal pad then looked up at us.

“Normally what you want to do would be very difficult. But Trina made things much easier. She put her wishes on paper and specifically named both of you. The court will rule it what it believes are the best wishes of the child. But right now I would like to talk to Kenny. Alone.”

As Peter and I shuffled out the office Mr. Langtree asked to see the letter from Trina outlining her wishes regarding Kenny. I reached into my purse and handed it to him.

“Is this the only copy?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“I’ll have ten copies made that will be certified and notarized. You’ll need every copy until the court awards you full custody. It’s not a sure bet but the court rarely changes the wishes of the mother. But before it does grant you custody a home check made by the court. They just want to make sure its a safe and happy home.”

Mr. Langtree closed the door to his office. I had no idea adoption could be so involved. And a home visit. I don’t know why but idea terrified me.


A few weeks later a young woman knocked on the door of Casa Christopher. As soon as I answered she pulled out her identification.

“Hello, Mrs. Christopher. My name is Lucy Singh. The court has appointed me to make out a report concerning the home life for the minor named Kenny Willowby. Is he at home?”

“Kenny is still in school. He won’t be home for another half hour.”

“That’s just perfect. I’ll just look around and make some notes. This is the sort of place my husband and I are looking for. We don’t have any children yet but we want to change that.”

Miss Singh looked in cupboards and made notes. She looked at what I was wearing and made notes. She went over to Peters study where he was working on the latest batch of rewrites requests from Random House. She went right into his study without being invited. Then she started pestering him with questions.

“I understand you had throat cancer a year ago. Does that affect the way you and Kenny communicate?”.

“Not really. He knows my voice has good days and bad days. If he can’t understand what I’m saying he hands me the iPad. Typing out what I’m saying almost always takes longer than saying it but sometimes ordinary words can’t convey the emotion behind the sentence. And that’s where confusion can set in.” said Peter.

“How does Kenny react when this happens?”

“Kenny knows that not being able to say what I want to say is very frustrating for me. If he doesn’t understand what I’m saying verbally he usually hands me the iPad and I “dumb it down” for him using much more simplistic language. He’s become more patient with me and will do his best to make things easier for me. Right now if we go into a restaurant and the radio is blaring away he knows my voice can’t compete with that and speaks for me.”

“Where does the boy play?”

Peter took exception to Miss Singh referring to Kenny as “the boy”.

“I believe you meant to say “Kenny” or “your godson”. I know you’ve probably got dozens of these reports to fill out but how would you feel if somebody called you “the woman.”

“I understand your anger. If-”

“Miss Singh, I don’t think you do. Firstly, I’m not angry. What you’re hearing in my voice is simple frustration. It’s not anger. What you may not understand is that our relationship with Kenny didn’t begin until last Christmas. First, he drafted Cassie as his “hot looking” aunt. Then he realized that when Cassie and I married I would be his uncle. Then four months later when his mother and grandparents passed away and Cassie and I were on our honeymoon we discovered we were now his godparents. I went from friend to uncle to godparent in a dizzying number of months. So I’m a bit touchy about titles you give anyone.”

Miss Singh adjusted an armload of case folders, and Peter showed her the basement where all Kennys toys were. She was surprised by the size of the slot car set.

“I can remember my brother having one of these only it wasn’t so big! He never let me use it.” Peter saw her eyeing it and offered her the chance to fulfill a childhood dream.

“I really shouldn’t…”

“I won’t tell him if you don’t”

“Oh, what the heck. What do I do?”

At this point, I came down the stairs. Miss Singh was holding a hand controller. That’s when I spoke up.

“Peter and Kenny spend a lot of time down here. This game is great for sharpening eye-hand coordination. And they’re always changing the track configuration. Sometimes is easy and sometimes it’s not. And it’s never the same shape two weeks in a row.”

After a short race (which Peter let her win) she was off.


Three weeks passed between meeting Miss Singh and our next phone call from Mr. Langtree. We were close to chewing furniture we were so anxious. So when the call came I pounced on the phone in the kitchen and Peter answered from the study. More revisions. More detail. More clarifications.

“Hello” I bellowed into the phone by accident. I didn’t mean to be so loud. I was just nervous when I looked at the caller ID.

Because of the damage done by the cancer, Peter developed his own rather unique way of answering the phone. It was based on the advice Dr. Willowby gave Peter not long ago. “When you are using your phone try to use words of one or two syllables. You’ll put less stress on your vocal cords” Over time through a great deal of experimentation Peter settled on “‘ lo, yes?”.

“Great, got you both. I got news and a question. Which do you want first”

We hadn’t heard from him in some time so I barked the word “news”.

“Well, the news is that the judge was all set to rule in your favor. The home visit report was as good as it could be. Miss Singh was more than satisfied your place would provide a safe, happy, loving home for Kenny.”

“But…” uttered Peter from the study.

“Some fellow named James Wilson is challenging your petition to adopt Kenny. He claims he is Kennys biological father.”

“Oh shit!” I said. I thought I said it quietly but not as quietly as I hoped.

“That exactly what I first thought. Then I remembered Trina had him declared legally dead. Despite what the movies tell you it’s bloody hard to come back from the dead. Now before either one of you get your stomachs in an uproar I’ve finally located Kennys birth record. He was born in Lindsay Memorial as we suspected. And James Wilson is listed as the father. Can both of you be in court tomorrow?”

“What’s going to happen?” asked Peter a millisecond before I could.

“I’m going to take this nasty little troll apart. I’m going to expose him for the money-hungry bastard he is.”

“How do you know he’s money-hungry,” asked Peter. Mr. Langtree then put forth a litany of reasons he doesn’t care for James Wilson.

“When all three wills finish going through probate Kenny is going to be rather wealthy. James Wilson was barely making a living working on a steamer in France. But this character has more strikes against him than he knows. First, he abandoned his family. Then he didn’t pay a cent in child support. To make matters worse he left the country illegally. His record of bad decisions doesn’t stop there. He flew to France under a false passport. When he surfaced again he became employed under a false name. He was never legally employed in France. In the past ten years, he’s incurred some rather significant debts while in France. This guy must be a product of swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool. This guy hasn’t paid taxes in France and France wants their money. With interest!  And the Feds want tax money too. If he gets custody of Kenny he’ll be in charge of all Kenny’s money till Kenny comes of legal age.”

Not quite sure what I was hearing I stopped Mr. Langtree dead in his tracks.

“Maybe I’m missing something but why do you want Peter and me there?”

Mr. Langtree sounded winded. And a little frustrated with me.

“Cassie, I want you and Peter there for moral support. Plus if the judge can see your faces it could go a long way to gaining custody. Right now you’re nothing but faceless names. It’ll help a helluva lot if the judge can put a face to a name.”


The judge came into the courtroom and it was obvious she was not happy. The bailiff called the court to order.  The judge started speaking.

“Anyone seated in the visitor’s gallery will notice I’m not wearing a smile. I was all set to make my ruling and write my judgment when I got a surprise. And anybody that knows me will know I don’t care surprises of any kind. James Wilson, are you represented by counsel?”

A man in an ill-fitting suit stood up.

“No madam judge.”

The judge closed her eyes and started muttering. She turned and looked right at him.

“For future reference whenever you address me you will use the words, your honor. Is that understood?”

“Yes Ma’am”

The judge was clearly upset by this response and started shaking her head.

“I fear I already know the answer to this question but where is your lawyer?” asked the judge looking very drawn and tired.

Mr. Wilson picked up some papers and appeared to shuffle them. It looked like he was hoping for his lawyer to drop out the pages he picked up.

“I don’t have one ma’am”.

“These are adoption proceedings Mr. Wilson and not traffic court! You cannot represent yourself! You have a choice before you. You have one hour to get a lawyer or you can withdraw your petition to assume the guardianship of the minor Kenneth Willowby. Will you have a lawyer in one hour?” the judge demanded.

Mr. Langtree approached the bench and a slowly simmering judge. The two spoke in hushed tones. The judge raised her eyebrows then cradled her head with her hand. When they were through talking he rushed to where Peter and I were sitting.

“If it’s alright with you two I just volunteered to be Mr. Wilson’s lawyer. There won’t be a conflict of interest. I just ask him questions. Hopefully just enough to hang himself and get this matter settled today. I can do this but the judge wants me to get your permission first so it’s up to both of you. But before you decide I’d like one of you to get Kenny. He should be here. I want the judge to see him and him to see his biological father.” I held on to Peter’s hand so tightly there was sweat on his brow. Peter nodded and simply said “GO”. I was a little more eloquent. “Destroy the little twerp”.

The judge had a glass of water, composed herself, then addressed Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson, the lawyer for the Christopher family has graciously volunteered to be your lawyer. All he is going to do is ask you a few questions to see how if you are fit to be a parent. But before we proceed this court will adjourn for one hour.”

As soon as the judge went into her chambers Peter bolted. He went to get Kenny. He knew the school would object but when they found out he had been asked to appear in family court but they would have to let him go. Mr. Langtree even provided a summons for Kenny if needed. I cooled my heels in the hall of the courthouse. I was as nervous as I was the first time I knocked on Peters door. Mr. Langtree sat beside me and tried to calm me down.

“Relax Cassie. I’m just going to ask him a few questions”.

I turned and grabbed the lapels of his jacket. There were tears in my eyes and I started crying.

“I love him more than you can know. I just want this to be over and take him to home. Is that so much to ask?” He turned his head and started looking down the hall for Peter and Kenny.

“I’ll wait here. You go into the ladies room and compose yourself. When we go back in I want the judge to see what a close, loving family you are. As god is my witness I’m going to do my best to make sure Kenny is your son by dinner time.”

Peter and Kenny came running up the stairs. They went into the men’s room to make themselves presentable. Peter mopped the sweat from his brow then from Kenny’s forehead. Peter put on a new tie and Kenny put on a permanent press shirt and tie. When they emerged Mr. Langtree gave them both another inspection.

“OK, you’re to go”. Then the chimes outside the courtroom went off. Our hour was up.


We entered the courtroom and took our seats. We reminded Kenny not to say a word. Mr. Langtree came into the courtroom and placed his attaché case on the tabletop before him. Then the judge came back in. The bailiff swore us in. Mr. Wilson was nowhere to be seen. Then the judge spoke.

“Mr. Langtree, do you have any idea just where Mr. Wilson might be?”

Mr. Langtree rose from his seat, buttoned his jacket, and addressed the judge.

“No, your honor I don’t.”

“He is now testing the patience of this court. If he is not in this room in ten minutes a bench warrant will be issued for his immediate arrest and his petition for guardianship of the minor know as Kenneth Willowby tossed out.”

I started looking at Kenny and my watch. After five minutes had passed Mr. Wilson oozed in mildly intoxicated. Not a good thing to do at all. The judge addressed Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson. Are you intoxicated?”

“To the gills babe, to the gills”.

The judge was already simmering but Mr. Wilson’s answer brought her to a fast boil.

“That’s it!. You have reached the limits of my patience. I find you in contempt of this court and its proceedings. I’m fining you twenty-five thousand dollars and dismissing your petition for guardianship. You have the option of paying the fine now. If you cannot pay you’re looking at a jail term. Which is going to be?”

“Which way to the dungeon?”he sang melodically.

“One last thing Mr. Wilson. You are not to contact Mr. Christopher, Mrs. Christopher, or their son in any way, ever! Do you understand me?” she said slowly.

Mr. Wilson pulled a bottle from his pocket and took a drink.

“Keep your hair on. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Don’t say anything to those folks over there. Gotcha. Mums the word.”

A bailiff walked over to Mr. Wilson and led him out of the room where he was handcuffed, fingerprinted, and photographed. A boy should never see his father handcuffed. The judge then spoke directly to us.

“On behalf of the Family Court of Ontario, I must apologize to you for what you have witnessed. I also welcome you to the family of parents. It gives me great pride to grant you full guardianship of Kenny. Kenny, have you decided what your last name will be?

“You bet. I’m a Christopher like my mom and dad!”

I started hugging my son and bawling my eyes out. Then the judge spoke at Peter and me.

“Mr. And Mrs. Christopher. As a parent I can tell you they grow up fast. So make the most of it.”


We had a celebratory dinner at Gelert Gardens. On the way back I was in the back seat. I noticed that Kenny smelled a bit ripe. No doubt it was from all the tension. I laid down my first parental edict. “You, master Kenneth, are going to have a bath when we get home. You smell”. Kenny tried protesting but it was to no avail. “Aw Gee Mom!” I’ve never heard words so sweet.


I’m going to recharge my batteries, bury my moms ashes, and take a rest. I’ll be back at the end of September or early October.