Tag Archives: words

What’s In a Word 2 – by Paul J. Stam

More madness with the English language

Foreign Legion soldier at Keelung, January 1885

A bass drum

So there I was with all this Polish furniture to polish. I didn’t know how I would get it all done so I got a soldier to desert his dessert in the desert to help me. After all his help I felt there was no time like the present to present him with the present I had for him. He did not object to the object I gave him, which was a bass drum with a bass painted on it.

English: Short leg cast

Later I went to visit an invalid friend with invalid insurance. He had a leg injury. When I go there his room was so full I was too close to the door to close it. Before I got there the doctors had to subject the subject to a series of tests. He was in great pain but after a number of injections the leg was number. They didn’t think they could save the leg, but how could I intimate this to my intimate friend?

Now unless you are bilingual, multilingual or super lingual, you’re kind of like me in that the English language is what we have to work with. I do the best I can, and I don’t know about you, but I have never been able to find an egg in an eggplant or an apple nor a pine in a pineapple. And why is it sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet at all, are meat? Why is it boxing rings are square and why is it quicksand sucks you down slowly?

And so I leave you with this, not every word is what it seems to be, or is necessarily so, which brings me to my autobiography which I am writing entitled, “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and which will probably never be published, but at the beginning of it I give the reader fair warning with this.

An Introduction
To Be Read

It has been said that, “History is written by the winners.” Hell, I said that in one of my books soon to be released by Second Wind Publishing, so it had to have been said before me. I am one such winner in that I have outlived any who might be able to refute the things I say in my autobiography.

However, I will, to the best of my ability, be honest except when it suits me to be otherwise. After all, I am a storyteller, and the important thing to a storyteller is to keep the reader interested, not be honest.

I will also warn you that the things I tell you about me, my family, my life, my loves, my hates, my accomplishments (there’s very damned few accomplishments so I’ll have to make some up) and my failures (do you really think I would tell you about those) are things that interest me, or at last did at the time.

Now, having been warned, let us begin. Please feel free to make suggestions. They will be welcomed and ignored, as is the case with any suggestions from close friends.

There, you’ve been warned, exactly what you have been warned about I’m not sure.

Thank you, and May Only Good Come Your Way.

Copyright © 2015 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved


Final MSS Cover frontMurder Sets Sail is available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Another of Paul’s books, The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now also available as an audiobook.


Since everything is copyrighted please feel free to re blog any of my posts but please repost in its entirety and giving appropriate credit.


Filed under Humor

My New Word for Nostalgia

This is the time of year many of us have musings of a bygone time in our lives and we call it nostalgia. I always thought “nostalgia” was a sad word, because it brought to mind events of the past that we could only relive in our memories, of a time already gone that we could not visit again. The dictionary says nostalgia is a longing or homesickness for something far away or long ago for former happy circumstances. That longing is what gives sadness to the word.

To remedy this, I made up a new word. “Hearthy.” To me, hearthy is a happy sounding word to start with, and it illustrates the mood or moods of this time of year. When I ponder on the word hearthy, I think of brightly-colored falling leaves and shuffling through them on the way to somewhere; bobbing for apples; lounging on a braided rug in front of a fireplace all aglow; watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV; looking up at the stars on a still, crisp night; listening to the carols of the season; catching the first flakes of snow on my tongue. These are not just memories of the past, but things that can be experienced year after year. Now, and in the future. That’s what makes hearthy — happy.

In my office, I have bookshelves on either side of my desk that are filled with photos of my family and friends. When I enter each day I am greeted by them and often I find myself thinking about and remembering favorite times with them. Granted, some of those people have passed away, but I have made peace with that, and only think of them in happy terms now. Although they are part of nostalgia, I prefer to think of them when I am doing something hearthy and they become part of my hearthy life rather than my past nostalgia one. I have no idea if that makes any sense to you, dear reader, but for me, it’s a way to remember without being sad.

So, here it is November. I’m probably one of the few who still sends out Christmas cards to almost a hundred people each year and I’ve got them all ready to address and to write a little note in each. I’ll start putting up Christmas decorations soon and make my power company happy for the next couple of months. As I decorate the tree, hearthy thoughts will fill the room as brightly as the hundreds of lights that sparkle on it.

Hearthy holidays!


Filed under musings


Few films have been able to capture my heart as completely as The Book Thief, based on the 2005 prize winning novel by Markus Zusak. This is the story of an illiterate girl sent to live with a foster family that is hiding a Jew from the Nazis.

Max, the young Jewish man, tells young Liesel that his people believe that words create the life of a thing. They are truly alive when there are words for them. I couldn’t agree more.

To see the main character discover words and the power they brought to the human spirit stirred long dormant feelings. I had escaped into words from the time I could understand them. Books were the one thing I was never denied. Reading someone else’s words strung together like lights on a Christmas tree, twisted onto its branches, and reflecting off sparkling ornaments transported me from my troubled existence to a places of dreams and delight. They created stories that didn’t necessarily have to sound pretty or set scenes of beauty and happiness, but took me on a journey, discovering people embroiled in situations far more fantastic or difficult than any I would encounter.

I’ve often wondered about people who didn’t love to read the way I did. I’ve even felt sad that they missed out on amazing knowledge because they never opened the door that is the cover of a book – or in the 21st century, the screen of a digital device. I remember being taught the proper care of a book — how to make a homemade jacket out of a paper grocery bag to keep the cover pristine; how to open the cover for the first time without damaging the binding; and how to handle the crisp pages as if each were one of a kind and carried an ancient secret.

Leisel read far deeper works than I did at her age. As a child I identified with animal stories. Animals, like children, have no choices. I remember falling in love with Elsa, the lioness, in Born Free and seeing a larger Africa than I’d seen on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday night television. Black Beauty and National Velvet took me to England and showed me another side of humanity. Books were my greatest treasure. Still are. Although I’m not the hoarder I used to be. I find more satisfaction in sharing them.

Words gave me a life I wouldn’t have known without reading. Stories freed my mind to travel far beyond my home. Leisel lived during the most atrocious time in our history and words gave her power to survive the unimaginable.

Words give life to our language, our emotions, our history, and our daily lives. Burning them, as they did in Leisel’s time, was nothing short of murder. When she plucked a smoldering title from the ashes, hiding it in her coat, she was saving the lives of the author, his characters, and herself.

Sheila Englehart is the author of Warning Signs, published by Second Wind Publishing, as well blogging on all things paranormal at http://www.sheilaenglehart.wordpress.com


Filed under books, writing

The Power of Words

There’s a reason I prefer to write rather than speak. When I write, I can choose my words carefully, manipulating them ad nauseam to convey precisely the message I want my audience to hear. When I speak, on the other hand, my words tumble from my mouth like clowns from a circus car, each one of them determined to make me look like the fool. It’s inevitable.

Take last night, for instance. I walked into our house, fresh from spending a couple of quality hours on the sequel to The Beast of Macon Hollow and feeling pretty darn good about myself. “What’s that smell?” I asked innocently, wrinkling my nose. It was the smell of a cleaning product, a particularly foul-smelling cleaning product that wreaks havoc with my allergies. That’s all it took. My wife lit into me like a swarm of angry bees.

What I failed to consider, apparently, was that what I smelled signaled the obvious—my wife had been cleaning. And cleaning hard. And I, centered only on myself, failed to give a single thought about the sweat and strain she had lovingly poured into providing a sanitary home. I understand now…believe me, I know.

Ah, words. What impact such small, seemingly insignificant vocal utterances can have.

As writers, we work with words like artists work with clay or paints. We mold them to create just the right picture within the mind’s eye. We’re comfortable with words and often don’t think of the power that lies within them. 

But how powerful they are! Who can dispute a charismatic leader’s ability to sway opinions, command armies, and move entire nations on mere words? Words in the hands of a talented preacher? They can save your very soul!  Yes, the ability to craft words is an awesome responsibility. Yet, we often throw words around carelessly, as if they’re as insignificant as dandelion blossoms on a summer breeze.

A careless comment. A mindless criticism. A sharp word spoken in anger or resentment. How many marriages have been killed one criticism at a time? How many young spirits have been withered by mindless words of condemnation and guilt?  Words hold within them a power so humbling that perhaps we would dare not utter another if we remember their consequences.

Just as our national attention has been focused on weapons recently (the hand-held kind), I propose we should also remember that our words may also be weapons. Whether we mean for them to be or not, they can be just as devastating. While handguns can instantly take lives and cause horrific damage to our national conscious, our words can be silent killers, poisoning the soul in a long, slow burn.

Was my wife right to point out my shortcomings? Perhaps. But the whole ugly escapade could’ve been avoided if I had simply taken a moment to think before I spoke. And I believe that’s the truth we should all practice—to think before speaking. To remember the power of our words. 


Filed under writing

Adrift in the Sea of Words by JJ Dare

Words, words, words. We are in a world of words. As a writer, I’m attuned to the infinite number of words bouncing around the world. Unlike plastic and paper, spoken words are not recyclable. Once a word leaves the mouth, it is done. No turning back on the spoken word.

Written words are a tiny bit more lenient if you catch them in time. By written, I’m talking about word processing. I rarely write with pen and paper anymore except to make a grocery list. Even then, my handwriting has become so atrocious,  sometimes I can’t read what I’ve written.

So, I guess I should redefine “written” as “processed” words. Until it hits the Internet, the processed word is a give-and-take commodity. Unlike the spoken word, the processed word has some flexibility.

A good case in point is this blog entry. I’ve backspaced a few times to correct typos or to reword a sentence. I corrected my cat’s contribution from his walk across my keyboard ([;[plokjhohi908hftsaw) although I hesitated to erase it because what if this is actually cat language in the written form? However, knowing Jackson, it probably means, “I’m still hungry.”

Slang and street words are fun unless you don’t know what you’re saying. I didn’t know “Going Commando” meant something other than Sylvester Stallone or a reasonable facsimile putting the smack-down on an enemy of the state. One of my girls got a kick out of my online cringing once the term was explained to me in great detail.

Another funny use of slang is an acronym from one of those World Wars we were involved in last century. I cringe and laugh at the same time when I hear 80 and 90-year old ladies talking about how the salad they made for the church’s  pot luck dinner was “a complete fubar.”

Words, words, words. Sharper than a knife, stronger than steel and their sting can last forever. It is unbelievable the naivety of some who think their dirty secrets are safe on paper. Especially when those written words fall into the wrong hands. Like mine . . . a writer . . . with a personal agenda.

Anything written is fair game. Just because you tell the recipient to destroy or give back what you’ve written, it’s no guarantee they will. They may be obsessive/compulsive and hardwired to save everything. In the words of Gru, “Naught cooool.”

We need to always be adrift in the sea of words. Without words, we’d still be drawing pictures in the dirt with sticks. Words are full of consequences: good, bad, undecided, but never indifferent.

Each and every word matters. Choose carefully, choose wisely, google street slang before you use it, know your acronyms,  and keep your secrets in your head and not on paper lest they fall into a writer’s lap.


J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under life, musings, writing

The Real Color of a Beautiful Epiphany by J J Dare

There is a little boutique in the middle of town one of my daughters loves. Every time she comes to visit, we end up going to this quirky little dress shop.

Hanging in the window display was a beautiful blue blouse. Well, I’ll correct myself: a beautiful blouse. My daughter argued it was not blue. She said it was a beautiful green blouse.

She wears contacts and I wear glasses, we’re both corrected to 20/20, so it was a toss-up as to who was right. We consulted the dress shop owner, who, though she’s been helpful before, was no help now.

“It says ‘blue-green’ on the invoice,” she said with a shrug and a smile.

My daughter and I looked at it again.

“Blue,” I said.

“Green,” she said.

Impasse, we both agreed.

She saw green and I saw blue. As it turns out, we were both right.

We all view the world around us through different eyes. What I see may never be exactly what you see. It makes it very interesting to know you are viewing life in your own unique way and in a way no one else can.

Within the structure of my novels is the language of normal, every day people. What I didn’t take into account was what is normal to me (y’all back yet, don’t that beat all, how’s it going, you gonna eat that, etc.) may not be normal to others.

My language is common and somewhat regional. However, what is common and regional to me may be foreign to others. The same holds true with writing: what I consider stuffy and stiff may be normal language to some people.

I’m loose and free in my conversational skills and it reflects heavily in my writing. I talk like the everyman. I write the same way.

But, there in front of my face was the type of stilted writing I typically steer clear of. The dialogue between the characters was as if they were putting on airs. Their affected conversation sounded silly and pretentious.

I read a few comments on this little piece of writing and was very surprised to see some people (including two English professors and a linguistics major) were raving about how they loved the writing.

Eh, well, I could see that. These were people who preached “the word is the word” and lived in the world of proper language. Even though I’m an English major, I’ve often thought I was better suited for a Real World English degree.

A few more comments came in and these were from ordinary students. One was in biology, two were business students, and one was aiming for a major in whatever he had enough credits for by the time his funding ran out.

They echoed the education professionals: they loved the style of writing.

What the heck was going on? I looked at the excerpt again and still found the words lacking in warmth, sincerity and realism. I was a harsh critic, blunt where I’m usually kind and sharp where I’m typically gentle. After all, who is the best critic of one’s own writing but oneself?

I had written a short dialogue as an exercise in writing outside of my normal style. I was mimicking the stilted style I found unreal and unnatural. I was mocking what I, apparently, didn’t understand.

Like the real world, the world of writing is subject to the eye of the beholder. While I found this type of writing abnormal and uncomfortable, others did not see it that way.

I learned a lesson. What is not liked by one person is loved by another. Pickled herring is yucky to me, but I know plenty of people who swear by it.

On that day, I learned that green is blue and blue is green and I shouldn’t judge a book, even one of my own, by its cover.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under life, writing

Words Yipping at my Heels

I just finished taking a look at two thrillers, both big, slick, well-touted works. Although they had interesting plots, there were so many point-of-view characters and so many incidents that the stories never seemed to go anywhere. I finally got tired of the words yip-yip-yipping at me and closed the books.

Ahh. Silence.

Three-hundred-page manuscripts used to be common, but the size of books grew along with the influence of corporate booksellers. Not only did large books make people think they were getting more for their money, they were well suited for mass displays. As with other merchandise, perception of worth apparently supersedes true value.

Big books are divided into short chapters and those chapters divided into smaller and smaller segments that make the book easy to put down and pick up at odd intervals for attention-challenged readers, but those small segments make it hard for a reader who wishes to identify with a character and be pulled into another reality.

Some books don’t lose anything by being big and thick. Although toward the end I did get a trifle tired of Stephen King’s latest work, he managed to keep my attention all the way through. No mean feat. But most big books today can do with some serious editing to better focus the plot and give some depth to the characters and stop that incessant yipping.

I used to feel guilty that my own books were only about three hundred pages; obviously something is wrong with me if other writers can churn out words by the hundreds of thousands. But I want my words to signify something, to be worth the time it takes to dig them out of my psyche. And I want my characters to be more than mere types. I don’t know if I will ever become the writer I wish to be, but I know one thing: I won’t be creating overblown, yippy works; the words come too hard. Besides, I would rather readers complain that my books are too short than slam them shut to get a bit of silence.


Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!


Filed under Pat Bertram, writing

Is There Something . . .

Saturday, December 18th, found me sitting in a comfortable chair in the Center Bar at the Hard Rock Casino listening to my friend Alan’s band play amid, above and around the noise from the slot machines and the hubbub of a multitude of people.

I watch situations and reactions, and on Saturday night I was in my element. I was in the middle of a people buffet. What I saw ran the gamut from average to bizarre to just plain sad.

What were their stories? I like to hear about the lives of others, but a good deal of the time the facts are highly glossed. People typically want you to think everything is hunky dory and will give you the impression their life is spent in a ray of sunshine.

I tried to avoid talking directly to a guy wearing Don Johnson’s Miami Vice, but even as  I kept easing away, I was sizing him up as a character in a future book. I did the same with the trench coat-wearing, fiftyish Nicolas Cage look-alike who was hanging all over a girl who was half his size and looked barely twenty-one.

The women and men who were dressed to the nines for a night out on the town were interesting, too, but not as much as the craggy folks mindlessly playing the slots. These were the real people as they wore who they were and what they were about for the entire casino to see. They were the “regulars.”

In the three hours we were at the Hard Rock, I noticed several people who did not move from their allotted slot seats. Now, while I like the slots and love Vegas, I don’t have a problem walking away from Wild Cherry whether I’m up or down. You can tell the ones who do have a problem – they have an invisible name etched on the back of their seats.

Alan’s band, Five Star Iris, played “Is There Something I Can Do,” the song that introduced us to each other back when I was in a black pit of grief. This song is about the helplessness the singer feels toward a grieving friend, but I realized it is more than that: it’s a song about hope amid the chaos of life. It’s Alan’s creed and a lesson he teaches by words and example: we’re all here to help each other.

The people I observed wore masks (except the “regulars”). They looked, for the most part, happy and upbeat and ranged from tipsy to drunk. These people hanging around Center Bar were the fakes, yet, in my opinion, they were in more need of help than the gambling addicts.

After Alan sang my grief song, I wondered how a person could help a total stranger when said stranger is unaware he needs help. How do you help a drowning man when he believes he’s a fish? It was an unusual question to ponder in the middle of a night of music and gambling.

We are all writers of our own fate and the fate of others. Our stories are written by our actions and interactions with the people around us. Our words don’t have to be put down on paper; they can be sung or spoken out loud or whispered quietly into the ear of a grieving friend.

Alan Schaefer’s band
Five Star Iris

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch


Filed under life, music, musings, writing

Respecting Language

My mother died almost exactly three years ago. To understand the humor rather than the pathos behind that sentence, I’ll have to tell you a bit about my mother. She spoke with perfect diction, in unstilted, unaccented English, and she loved words and word games, especially the kind of game where you take a word or phrase and find as many smaller words as possible. For example: in “almost exactly” you can find most, call, cell, yell, exact, alas, etc. (Me? I hate that game, perhaps because I could never win when I played with her.)

It came as a shock to me when I realized as an adult that my mother was a first generation American who grew up speaking a language other than English. I always knew that, of course, but as a child you accept your mother for who she is without seeing her in the broader context of life. We often think of first generation Americans as people who have a rough time speaking English (or who speak rough English), but neither she nor any of her siblings had a hint of that other language in their voices.

She raised her family with a respect for language. No slang at our house. No “ain’t” or “we got no” or any other example of language slippage. My parents were strict, and we children seldom talked back, but there was one thing we all argued about with Mother: “almost exactly.” She claimed “exactly” had no degrees. A thing was either exact or almost. The rest of us knew the truth: there is a world of difference between almost and exact. And therein lies “almost exactly.”

Though occasionally I use “almost exactly” in speech, I try not to use it in my writing. It’s one thing to use such a construction when talking and something else entirely to commit it to the permanency of writing, and I don’t want to meet her on a cloud in some afterlife and have her start in on that old argument with me again.

On the other hand, it might be nice.


Pat Bertram is the author of Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. All Bertram’s books are available both in print and in ebook format. You can get them online at Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, B&N and Smashwords.  At Smashwords, the books are available in all ebook formats including palm reading devices, and you can download the first 20-30% free!


Filed under life, Pat Bertram

Tomorrow Will Come

I don’t want to write today.

I should and I could, but I won’t.

I don’t want to read today.

I should and I could, but I won’t.

My brain is tired today.

The holidays are coming too soon. People are out of work and drowning in debt. Some folks have lost their homes and some are losing their sanity. I spend most of my life careening at a breakneck speed, adding too many things to my “I can do that” list.

I’m not looking at that list today.

Tomorrow, I will still have debt, an unfinished novel, edits to complete, and a to-do list. I will also still have my family, my job, and my house. I will have all of those things throughout the Holidays and into the new year, and hopefully for many years to come.

My brain is tired today, but I will let it rest knowing that tomorrow is another day.

 Claire Collins – Author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny


Filed under life, musings, writing