Spelling Test

Joe’s Post #164

I know I’m not the best speller in the world. I’m usually not even the best speller in a room filled with 2 year-olds. But I do know that spelling is important. So, I’m going to reblog a post from some weirdo I usually read. Spoiler alert, it’s me.

Spelling Test

Spelling maters

Spelling maters

Oh, the joy of spelling.

To be honest, I’m not the best speller in the world. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. It’s why I think that the greatest invention in the world was the spell-checker.

But The-Youngest doesn’t have the luxury of using that, yet. He has to learn to spell the old-fashioned way.

No, ‘not sound it out’ – whoever gave that advice has not read or listened to the English language… spell knight. Sound it out. Nite. No one would ever guess it has a silent k and let’s not even get started on the whole ‘gh’ complexities. Instead, he has to memorize. The REAL old-fashioned way.

But, after getting a 13/18, I decided it was time for me to help out. Kind of like how Hitler helped out Poland, but whatever, I was fully engaged in helping him learn to spell.

Here are the words we had. Amazingly enough, he didn’t actually have to know what they mean. At least he said he didn’t (but then he said the teacher allowed them to eat all the candy they wanted.) So I also decided to use them in a sentence, to, you know, help him understand the words better.

Also. You also have to know how to spell lots of words after also. A-l-s-o.

Him: “I don’t like where this is going.”

Bought. I bought a new game and no one can play it but me. B-o-u-g-h-t.

Him“What? What game? That’s not fair!”

Cough. You have a bad cough, but that doesn’t mean you get to stay home and play video games all day long. C-o-u-g-h.

Him: “I have a cough now, can I miss the spelling test?

Me: “No.”

Almost. You almost had me fooled when you said you ate all your lunch, but you left the apple behind as evidence that you did not. A-l-m-o-s-t.

Him: “Doh.”

False – True or false, you like girls now? F-a-l-s-e.

Him: “False, Joe, False!!!!”

Officer – Officer, I wasn’t speeding, I was checking to see if my speedometer worked past 140kph. O-f-f-i-c-e-r.

Him: “What’s a speedometer?”

I can't drive 65!

I can’t drive 65!

Speedometer. Used to measure speed, but it’s not on the spelling test.

Soft – You hate your eggs when they are soft and runny. S-o-f-t.

Him: “True.”

Stalk – You once ate a stalk of broccoli and threw up on the dog. S-t-a-l-k.

Him: “No I didn’t! It was squash!”

Halt – Before you walk into traffic, halt and have a look around or your mom will never, ever let you walk to school by yourself. H-a-l-t.

Him:“ Joe!!!”

Faucet – Joe, turn off the faucet for the love of God, we don’t want to waste water. F-a-u-c-e-t.

Him: “I hear that a lot, Joe.”

Me: “I know.”

I want to believe

I want to believe

Saucer – Look up in the sky, Mulder, it’s a flying saucer. S-a-u-c-e-r.

Him: “Who’s Mulder?”

Me: OMG!

Caution – You better use caution when you think it may be a good idea to eat your weight in candy. C-a-u-t-i-o-n.

Him: “Hmmm. Joe, could I actually eat my weight in candy?” 

Lawyer – Remember to always ask for a lawyer when you’re arrested. L-a-w-y-e-r.

Him: “Will I ever need a lawyer?”

Me: “You’ll have one on speed dial.”

Him: “Joe!!!!!”

Awesome – It’ll be awesome when you get 18/18 on the spelling test. A-w-e-s-o-m-e.

Him: Joe, did you know I AM pretty awesome most of the time?”

Me: “Yes. Yes, I did.”

Stall – When you park in a handicap stall without a handicap sticker, you’re a douche-bag. S-t-a-l-l.

Him: “Joe, did you just use a bad word?”

Me: “Handicap is not a bad word.”

Him: “That’s not the one I’m talking about.”

Crawl – When you’re too drunk to walk, you can always crawl upstairs to bed. C-r-a-w-l.

Him: “Joe, is this something you’ve done?”

Me: “Uhm, err, no.”

Awful – That dirt you ate because someone dared you to tasted awful, didn’t it? A-w-f-u-l.

Him: “Dirt does taste awful.”

Is stinky bad?

Is stinky bad?

Me: “Thus speaketh the voice of experience.”

Because – Take a shower just because you’re stinky. B-e-c-a-u-s-e.

Him: “Hey!!!”

After we reviewed the words, it was time to practice for realzies. We took out a bag of M&Ms. We emptied them on the table. For every one he got right, he got one. For every one he got wrong, I got one.

After the first run through, I had eaten 8.


This could be the best game ever!

After the 2nd try, I had 4. For me, this was not going in a good direction, but at least he was beginning to nail the word ‘caution’.

The hardest word turned out to be faucet. I mean, look at cough. Why not spell it ghousit? I got to eat about 10 more candies before he finally got that last one consistently right .

But he was ready for the test.

And, on Friday, he got 18/18.

Awesome. A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Awesome.

He got to eat a whole bag of M&Ms by himself.


For me amazing insights into the world of parenting, please check out my other blog.

And thanks for taking time to read our blogs!

Research – what inspires you to write?

Joe’s Post #122

History is People

soylant greenThe idea that history is people came as a shock to my oldest boy. Sort of like Soylent Green is people came as a shock to Charlton Heston. He (my boy, not CH) thought history was terrible. He hated it.

In part, this is because in school history is about facts. When did the beaver traders first invent beaver pelts? What year did the Romulans build Rome? Where did the Egyptians build the pyramids?

Interesting stuff if you like learning about facts. Certainly valuable in trivial pursuit-type games. But history can be inspiring, and inspiring because of the people in it.

Which leads me to my post this week.

I usually research people by reading about them. I have dozens and dozens of books in my library about historical figures, interesting comedians and odd whackadoodles. But this last week, I spent some time with real people who have actually LIVED history.

It was a transformative moment for me.


I’ll get to that in a minute.

rotterdamSo, yeah, here I am, writing a historical novel set in the Netherlands, circa 1940, and I’ve been gleeful to find old photos, gather up books written about the time (mostly during the German occupation), and find the odd link that reveals some amazing fact I didn’t know.

But the real fun has been talking (or emailing) people who’ve experienced it. Not being a journalist, I’m a little rusty at interviewing. It probably takes me a bit longer to get to the stories and details than someone more skilled or socially awesome.

And, I’ve been surprised that there are people who would rather not talk about what happened. Intellectually, I can understand, like I can understand why some people like cats more than dogs. But deep down, I don’t get it. Good or bad, it’s history. It’s part of their story. If you asked me to talk about my childhood, I would bore you to tears for hours. However, I didn’t see people beaten to death before my eyes or have my house bombed.

So I’m sensitive when someone says they’d rather not talk about something.

anne frankBut what people have talked to me about has made me think about this story in a whole different way. It’s one thing to read Anne Frank. It’s another to talk to someone who’s actually hidden people from the Nazis.

Think about this for a moment. You risked everything. If you were caught, you could be shot, maybe tortured, and your entire family would be sent to a concentration camp (even your children) where they would probably die a very bad death. All it would take would be one wrong sound at the wrong time, a light left on when everyone should be asleep, a traitor speaking to the Germans.

How many of us would risk ourselves today?

For me, it’s that simple bravery that moves me. Not that any of the people I’ve spoken to would think of themselves as brave. In fact, they’d be embarrassed to be called that. But they are.

They risked everything to do something good. Everything.

And that’s transformed my thinking about this book.

dutchThose stories need to be heard. They need to be told.

Because history is not just about the famous people. Hitler. Churchill. Matt Damon. It’s about the lives of regular people as well.



Best show last week – Walking Dead wins again. Spoiler alert. Something bad happens. Wait, that happens every week.

Book that I’m reading at the moment – In The Shadow of the Cathedral, by Titia Bozuwa. A good book for researching the Netherlands.

Outlines done – 0

Pages written on new book  0

# of new friends made on Twitter – 3 (but did manage to create a lively discussion on Linkedin about if research was even necessary – based on my blog of the same title.)

# books ordered for research – They’ve all come in. But I found a great site for finding more information. World History at KMLA

Health – Still hanging in there. Cold gone. Happy to breath again.

Best thing last week – Meet with the 5/5/5 Thursday. Set some serious goals. I’ll write more about that next week.

Worst thing – WordPress.org remains largely untouched and this site needs a bit of work. One more thing to do on a very long list of things to do.

Researching characters

Joe’s Post #120 

William "Wild Bill" Donovan, future head of CIA

William “Wild Bill” Donovan, future head of CIA

Researching characters? Say what?

Has anyone ever done research to help create a character?

Well, that’s what I’m doing. It’s because I’m writing a historical thriller. It’s because a character is built from their past. It’s because of what has happened to them,shapes them. Defines them.

It’s how they see the world. All plot flows from their experiences, training, and personality. All descriptions are seen through their eyes, which has seen so many things before. It’s how they deal with relationships, with adversity, with success or failure.

So how can research help?

Well, once again, I’m just me. But once I have an idea of a character, I need to know their past. For this story, I looked at the Great War and how it affected people. I remember talking to my great-uncle about his experiences. I was 10 and he was, gosh, old, I guess. Really old. He got a funny look on his face when I asked him about it. Like he wasn’t there suddenly.

I thought old age. But he came back and told me a horrific story of being gassed. He told the story with intensity, like it mattered that I know it, like it was yesterday, like it still terrified him. When he was done, he was exhausted, his eyes were wet, and he said, “No one should ever have to experience war.”

That war changed him in a very deep way.

Know this fellow? He was deeply affected by WW1.

Know this fellow? He was deeply affected by WW1.

So for this story, I began to read more about that war to end all wars. I knew I wanted my character to suffer. I wanted that war to transform him. So how could I make a horrific, truly horrific war even worse? What role could he have played in the war? How could he have been scared physically, emotionally?

I came up with a flamerthrower carrier. A man who burned other men alive. A man who every German machine gunner tried to kill over all others. How would THAT affect him?

Or, how would he deal with gas or drowning in the water-filled shell holes? Wait, water-filled, what if he couldn’t swim? What if he fell in with a 50lb tank of gasoline on his back and began to sink in the watery mud, struggling, clawing, tearing at the sides of the hole, sinking deeper, going under once, fighting for breath, going under, twice, terrified…

And who could save him who would later reappear in his life? Or would he save himself? Would he learn he could count on people or learn there was only himself?

But no, dammit, the US army didn’t use flamethrowers. History was against me, this time. Next week I’ll talk a bit about fact vs fiction, but for now, dammit, no flamethrowers.

So what if I replace the flamethrower with a wounded friend he was carrying? Hmmm.

Would his parents have been interned?

Would his parents have been interned?

On to other parts of his life. What defined him as a child? As a young adult? Growing up in Chicago, being the son of emigrant?  How could I make his life tougher? How could I make it a vital part of who he became? What if he grew up in a poor area, an Irish area, where there were only 2 choices in life, gangs or cops? And what if both were equally bad?

Then what would motivate him to go to war? What posters would inspire him? What speeches? What articles read in the newspaper? Ah, wait, newspapers, could he read? Did he go to school or did he have to help his father? What if his father was a blue collar worker through and through, but wanted more for his son and pushed him to read? Would that make his closer to the Irish boys? Or more of an outcast, quoting Byron or Marx or Dickens?

Public Service Announcement, Chicago, 1919

Public Service Announcement, Chicago, 1919

Then, when he got back, how could I make his life worse, still? What if the great flu pandemic killed off his wife, his family? We forget that 50-100 million people died. 50 million people!!! Wouldn’t that affect him?

And what would he vow when he got back home, later than the rest, having missed the parades, his lungs scared by gas? What would he believe in? What would he not? What if he vowed he would never kill again, no wait, that doesn’t quite work, so what if he vowed to save people, save as many as he killed? Would he become a gangster? No, probably not. A cop?

Why not? The last honest man in Chicago? A bull fired with determination to help people, even the dead. Maybe, ESPECIALLY the dead.

Then, how would he find the roaring twenties? How would he get through the Great Depression? How would he deal with Prohibition and the massive corruption it created? How would he deal with raising his sister, the only member of his family to have survived the pandemic? What if she became his world, his anchor?

Brücke Nijmwegen, Sicherung durch holländische SoldatenThen what would happen if she left and got in trouble? What if she sent a message from Holland in 1940 saying she needed his help? And what if he arrived too late to save her?

All of this has to be based on history, HIS history – as influenced by the world around him or the people in it.

This all begins with research. I want to read about the letters they wrote home. I want to read about the details of the battle. I want to read the newspapers of the time. I want to find out if mail got to the front lines (spoiler, it did!). I want to know what they wore, the conflicts between race and religion and social status. EVERYTHING!

All so I can know the world that shaped my character(s).

I love finding this stuff out, I really do, but there’s a trap, isn’t there?

I’m not writing a history book.

At some point, I need to get my character onto the page and torture him some more.


Best Show Last Week – Check out “Chicago PD”.  A fast-paced and driven cop drama.

Book That I’m Reading At the Moment – Tamar – Oh I have some things to say about this one!

Outlines Done – 0

Pages written on New Book  0

# Turkeys eaten – 1 but somehow I forgot the stuffing!!!!!!!!!!!

# of new friends made on Twitter – 7 (hmmm, have I neglected twitter? She is such a needy thing, she is.)

# books ordered for research – 0 (But I need to look into Chicago between wars and find me a good WW1 book.)

Health – Better.

Best Thing Last Week – Finding a book about Paris in 1938, a best-selling novel by Alan Furst called Mission to Paris. Who says WW2 books can’t sell?

Worst Thing – Taking classes for the first time in 20 years. Ever had that nightmare about being in class and knowing nothing? Well, that was my experience, but at least I had pants on (unlike my dreams).

How was everyone else’s week?