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A Ground Zero Chaplain Tells His Story

Announcing…

the publication of Triumph Over Terror by Chaplain Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck.

How do we triumph over the hard things in our lives?

Firefighter, paramedic, and ordained chaplain, Bob Ossler spent 45 days at Ground Zero comforting families of victims who died in the 9-11-2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. His observations and memories of those days along with his interactions with people he met in the worst circumstances of their lives make compelling reading.

In Triumph Over Terror, Chaplain Bob Ossler shares how he conquered the continuous recycling of tormenting memories of events and sights that assailed him during and after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

What do Ossler’s insights reveal about finding meaning and purpose in the thick of chaos and personal tragedy? Ossler chronicles the best of humanity–acts of courage and goodness in the midst of overwhelming devastation. While some scenes may make you cringe, the overpowering message of this book is positive: with God’s help, we can overcome.

From the broken fragments of glass, steel, and men, Chaplain Ossler’s mosaic of God’s grace unveils the outpouring of generosity, heroism, and unity of people who stepped up to do something…anything… to help restore New York and America’s hope, pride, and will.Bob Ossler 1 001

Ossler’s stories will bring tears to your eyes and smiles to your lips, and in the end, you will feel encouraged by the stories of ordinary people serving in extraordinary ways during the aftermath of that never-to-be-forgotten day.

But this book is not just about the events of 9-11. It is a book of life’s lessons learned through tragedy and chaos. In the process of comforting the mourners, the frightened, and the heartbroken laborers sifting through millions of tons of carnage, Ossler learned about the indomitable human spirit in the midst of unimaginable horror and how that spirit can conquer chaos.

As terrorist attacks continue to assault humanity, Triumph Over Terror reveals how your spirit can triumph over terror, chaos, or heartache of any kind.

Here’s what Tim Shoemaker, author of Super Husband, Super Dad and The Code of Silence series and public speaker at family conferences, had to say about Triumph Over Terror. (Tim Shoemaker at www.timshoemakersmashedtomatoes.com.)

Triumph Over Terror by Bob Ossler can be summed up in one word: Powerful. I intended to take just a minute to glance through Bob’s book, but I got hooked on the first page and just kept reading. Triumph Over Terror isn’t just a history lesson; it’s a book full of life lessons.”

Take a few seconds and order Triumph Over Terror from Amazon here.

Superman to the Rescue: The It’s and Its Problem:

It’s and its confusion consistently hits the top of the most common error charts. But wait, Superman can help you remember when to use the contraction it’s.

It’s is a contraction of a pronoun and a verb:    it’s  =  it is

Using contractions in our speaking and writing makes our language flow more naturally. Without contractions, our language sounds more formal, rigid, stilted, and unnatural. If you want to sound conversational in your writing, use contractions but remember to use the apostrophe correctly.

Here’s how Superman sees it:

Artwork by Mandy Heck, 2015
Stop and think about Superman when you use the contraction it’s. Superman loves apostrophes.

Special thanks to Mandy Heck for her artwork.

Rubber Ducks and Poetry

It’s Rubber Ducky Day and National Poetry at Work Day! Celebrate!

credit: Missy Meyer at Holiday Doodles  holidaydoodlesdotcom

credit: Missy Meyer at Holiday Doodles

Other holiday posts (capital letters):

C is for Calendar Quirks

Happy New Year’s Day 

 

 

Its and It’s: Church Steeples and Dog Collars

Of all the possessive pronouns, the simple its causes the most problems. It is most commonly confused with the contraction it’s (it is).

its = possessive form of the pronoun it
it’s = contraction of it is

Artwork by Mandy Heck, 2015

Use these clues for using the possessive pronoun (its) correctly:

  1. Possessive pronouns work as adjectives to limit nouns.
    my          our     your      his        hers       it       their
  2. Possessive pronouns never use apostrophes to show possession or ownership
    my         our     your       his        hers       its        their
  3. A noun follows a possessive pronoun:
    its sign       its steeple       its collar
  4. An adjective may follow the possessive pronoun:
    its yellow sign    its big sign   its tall sign  its white steeple
  5. The possessive pronoun its is usually not found at the beginning of a sentence.

The poodle lost its pink diamond-studded collar.

The maple tree lost its red and yellow leaves.

The gray kitten lapped up its cold milk.

The cow chewed its cud.
Artwork by Mandy Heck, 2015

See also: Play Monopoly with its and it’s 

Play Monopoly with Its and It’s

It’s and its are commonly confused words in writing. You see examples of this confusion on signs and social media sites every day; yet this common mistake can be easily checked and fixed.

It's and its photo by Janice Heckits = possessive form of the pronoun it

it’s = contraction of it is

Three clues for using the possessive pronoun (its) correctly:

  1. Possessive pronouns never use apostrophes to show possession or ownership (my, his, her, its, our, your, their).
  2. The possessive pronoun its is usually not found at the beginning of a sentence.
  3. A noun (possibly with an adjective) follows a possessive pronoun:  its sign   its yellow sign    its big sign   its tall sign

Which one: its or it’s?

Check 1: Does the sentence make sense using the contraction it’s (it is) in place of the possessive pronoun its?

It’s Monopoly Time.  (It is Monopoly Time.)

McDonald’s sign makes sense with the contraction it’s for  it is.

Therefore, McDonald’s made a mistake on its yellow sign. The sign needs the contraction it’s (it is) and it’s (it is) not the possessive pronoun its.

Check 2: Position of its in sentence:

The possessive its is not usually found at the beginning of a sentence.

  • McDonald’s made a mistake on its yellow sign.

More sentences with the possessive pronoun its.

  1. The dog chases its fluffy tail while the kitten chews its paw.
  2. The tree lost its yellow leaves in the windstorm.
  3. The members of the church painted its tall steeple and its white front door.
  4. The store advertised its January sale in its display window.
  5. His truck lost its extra wheel.

Do you see the position of its in these sentences?
Do you see the adjectives tucked in after its and before the nouns?

Both of these clues help you identify the possessive pronoun its.
These sentences make sense using the possessive pronoun its.

Here’s a tricky one:

  • This is my dog. Its name is Blackey. It’s chewing its tasty bone.

The second sentence begins with the possessive pronoun its (an example of a sentence that does start with its.)
The third sentence uses both it’s (contraction for it is) and its (possessive pronoun).

Use these clues to help you use its and it’s correctly.

Happy New Year’s Day

Happy New Year – 2015!

May your new year be filled with joy and blessings. May you be comforted in any sadness.

free images photos dot com

photo: free images-photosdotcom

Did you stop and think about using an apostrophe for this New Year’s Day?

Apostrophes on holidays can be confusing. Some holidays use them; some do not.

If you say “Happy New Year,” don’t worry about an apostrophe. You don’t need one.

But if a noun follows “New Year,” use an apostrophe:

  • New Year’s Day
  • New Year’s Eve
  • New Year’s presents
  • New Year’s wishes
  • New Year’s parades
  • New Year’s fireworks
  • New Year’s celebrations

Other holidays that use apostrophes:

  • Valentine’s Day
  • Saint Patrick’s Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day.

If you have a holiday with plurals, remember to put the apostrophe after the s.

  • Presidents’ Day
  • April Fools’ Day

Tricks and Traps on holiday apostrophes: some holidays do not have an apostrophe:

  • Veterans Day
  • Armed Forces Day
  • United Nations Day

And now that you have rested up from your New Year’s Eve celebrations, what do you have planned for New Year’s Day?

Worst of the Week: Writing Errors in Everyday Life: Your, You’re

This trash can owner is obviously annoyed with some of his dog-walking neighbors.

OC Shout, fall 030

This error is so easy to avoid.

You are = you’re.

Omitted punctuation doesn’t help this frustrated person’s message either.

 

First Five Pages: Love, Hate, and Murder and Mendelssohn

Have you ever read a book you loved and hated at the same time?Kerry Greenwood, Murder and Mendelssohn: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Kerry Greenwood’s, Phryne Fisher Mystery, Murder and Mendelssohn, fell into that category for me.

I picked up the book from the new-book shelf at our local Mays Landing Library and decided to read it because I loved its exquisite cover: an exotic damsel wearing an elaborate, colorful, parrot-hibiscus-fern fringed shawl.

And I loved the title. Murder and Mendelssohn. Mystery and music. Nice alliteration.

As soon as I got home from the library, I snuggled down in my cozy reading chair all set to be enthralled by a mystery with musical overtones.

Disaster. But only at first.

Being an editor myself and a fan of Noah Lukeman’s book, The First Five Pages, A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, I read the first five pages of Greenwood’s book, unfortunately, with a critical eye.  (My bad habit: I can’t separate editing and reading!)

Here’s what grabbed me.

1. First Five Pages: Too many characters

Perhaps I am too much of a critic and not enough of a story line follower, but I got lost in the shuffle of at least eleven characters sprawled on the first two pages. Thirty choristers came ten pages later.

The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher; tired-out police detective Jack Robinson (unnamed until page 3); Dot, Phryne’s companion who was set to marry Detective Sergeant Hugh Collins; Tinker and Jane, Phryne’s adopted children; Mr and Mrs Butler, butler and cook (what a handy name!); Ruth, of unknown and unexplained personage; Ember, the black cat; and Molly, the sheepdog.

Why so many people (and animals) on the first two pages? Can all these people be essential to the plot? (No.) Where is the hook to keep me reading?

My initial thought was that this might be a first novel of a self-pubbed writer. I checked the book’s spine. Hmmm. Poisoned Pen Press, an established publisher of mysteries (since 1997) with numerous awards to their credit.  Greenfield is an Australian author so favors different spelling on words like colour and favourite. Perhaps they published an early draft, and perhaps there are more differences between American English and Australian English than I had realized. I will check on that.

Turns out that this book is Greenwood’s twentieth in her Phryne Fisher Mystery series and her 62nd book(!). These characters in M & M join the parade of characters from earlier books. Although series readers might enjoy an update on Phryne’s household menagerie, as a stand-alone book, these characters form a roadblock, deadening the beginning of the story.

But wait. Read on, and you will find a great story.

2. Verb Tense: Overuse of past progressive, with a switch to simple past

Notice the verb tense starting with the second sentence on page 1: the boring past progressive tense. Greenfield uses it to catalog the activities going on in her home, making her writing wordier than need be.

The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher was sitting…
She was wearing…
She was nibbling…
[Ember, her cat} was waiting…(in two sentences of 63-words) …[and] was contemplating…
She [Miss Phryne] was reading an autopsy report…
…the tired-out police detective was eating… [We don’t find out the detective’s name until page 3.]
Dot…was embroidering…
Tinker and Jane were playing chess…
Ruth was in the kitchen with Mrs. Butler shelling peas and discussing ways to cook pineapple.
Molly (the sheepdog) was lying under the table…

The deadly clue: overuse of the word was (seven times in eleven lines on the first page alone) with the progressive -ing form on verbs. This quickly becomes tedious reading because of its repetitive monotone nature.

But then. a switch:

…Mr. Butler sat down on his comfortable chair and sipped his after-breakfast cup of coffee.

What happened? Why the switch to simple past tense? Why not use simple past from the beginning and declutter the opening?

3.  Too much description

A barrage of details of Miss Phryne’s glamorous (ostentatious?) garden, morning outfit, and breakfast fill page one, leading one to believe that the main character is, well, quite a character.

The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher was sitting in her jasmine bower, drenched in scent. She was wearing a pale green silk gown embroidered with golden phoenixes, the symbol of the empress. Flaming pearls of longevity burned their way, comet-like, upon her fluttering sleeves. Her hair was as shiny as patent leather, cut in a neat bob which swung forward as she read. She was nibbling a croissant and drinking café au lait. With her pink cheeks and red lips and green eyes, she looked like a hand-coloured French fashion plate.

Other equally eye-catching and attention-getting outfits throughout the book receive similar mention. But not to be identified as a policewoman or inspector, Phyrne packs her .22 Beretta in her petticoat pocket.

A Queenscliff fisher boy, a minor character who “had attached himself at heel, like a small scruffy terrier” to the Fisher household, receives almost a full-page of description detailing why each member (including the pets) of this extended family likes him. Quite a lot of info for a minor character who occasionally brings fish for dinner. His role in the story: He occasionally asks questions that help move the mystery-solving process along because he is, as Phryne says, “endearingly intelligent.”

4. The Plot (or should I say Plots?)

A lot happens in Murder in Mendelssohn.

For me, the story started on page 2 with Miss Phryne reading an autopsy report. Immediate questions popped into my head that drew me into the story.

The much-hated and maligned choir director, Hugh Treggennis, gets murdered. Twice? Two murderers? Phyne called the murderer “flamboyant” and “with a point to prove.” Subtle humor throughout this book adds to its increasingly delicious flavor.

Someone has stifled an orchestral conductor with really quite a lot of sheets of Mendelssohn’s Elijah stuffed down his throat.

Seems excessive, even as musical criticism, ” commented Phryne.

The antics of the eccentric choir members ring true. They hated Tegennis (caricatured as a pig-in-a-suit by one anonymous chorister) and didn’t mind that he was dead, and all proclaimed their innocence in the matter. Of course.

Miss Phryne takes on the case. Oops. Miss Phryne gives tired-out police detective, Jack Robinson, assistance in solving this musical mystery. Let’s keep the record straight on that. Okay? *wink *wink.

One subplot has our heroine aiding and abetting John Willson, her former and current pro tem lover (complete with clothing ripped off in a frenzy of passion), in his bid to gain the attention of his currently unresponsive heart’s desire, Mr. Rupert Sheffield. This subplot comes with its own complete back story.

Mr. Rupert Sheffield is highly suspect for other possible international crimes, and hit men are on his trail attempting to silence him, that is, until John Wilson inadvertently foils their plans. Phryne unselfishly jumps in to solve the heart-throb problem when she realizes John is hopelessly enamored with Rupert.

Along the way to solving this mystery, you will receive music, etiquette, French cuisine, and French language lessons, all thrown in for extra measure. Phryne had been a poor nude artist’s model in France after the war so she is well-versed in all of these areas. Sorry, no recipes.

5. Overuse of Adverbs

Tinker, the fish boy, may be “endearingly intelligent,” but the adverbs in this book sound a bit high schoolish. Check these examples.

would undoubtedly award
occasionally making
confidingly laying her head
unexpectedly stung
endearingly intelligent
slightly failed
confidingly laying her head
reliably voracious
utterly uninterested
pleasantly free
rather meanly taken
really unsafe to eat
brooding darkly
particularly
extremely bitter
naturally bitter
unusually fraught rehearsal
thinking deeply
really quite a lot

Honest, I found all these adverbs in Chapter One. Greenfield uses “really quite a lot” of them. Treasure-hunting for adverbs added to the fun of reading this book! A sneak peak into Chapter Two tells us that Phryne had a “slightly sprained” ankle causing her to walk a little “gingerly” up the stairs,  dressed in a “decently quiet turquoise dress.” Well, you get the idea. The adverbs march on and on.

Move over Tom Swift!

Reviews

I checked Amazon reviews of this book and found a range of love-hate opinions. Die-hard Greenwood fans love the book; first-time Greenwood readers hate the book.

Personally, I love Phryne’s quirky and flamboyant personality, and I even got to love her adverbs. The solid plot kept me invested in the book from page three to the end.  And, to be honest, I really love those flaming pearls of longevity. I have got to have some for myself!

Obviously after twenty Phryne Fisher books, Greenwood is onto something. She has steady followers who look for the next title in the series despite (my) perceived writing problems in this volume.

Now, excuse me, I’m heading to the library to see if I can find more of Greenwood’s books. Her writing style intrigues me, including her bad habits. But as Novelist Elizabeth McCracken says “A writer’s voice lives in his or her bad habits” (quoted in Ben Yagoda, The Sound on the Page). That’s what makes Greenwood’s book memorable for me. But please, don’t copy her. Go find your own bad writing habits.

Related article: I is for Izzies, Arzies, Wazzies, and Werzies

Janice Hall Heck, retired educator and now nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek. You can also find her at    janiceheck.wordpress.com., on Twitter @janiceheck, and on Facebook at Janice Hall Heck.

Weekly Photo Challenge: It was a dark and stormy night…

Daily Post. WordPress Photo Challenge: Night time

Even though literary critics sharply criticize this line as clichéd, I still like it. Even a dark and stormy night can be exquisitely beautiful.

Janice Heck photo

It was a dark and stormy night. Janice Heck, photo

 

Why Grammar Matters in Your Book

Read this post reblogged from Julie Glover who tells us why grammar does matter! Well done, Julie.

Julie Glover, Young Adult Author

I’ve been called a Grammar Nazi, a grammar geek, a grammar freak, a grammar nut, the grammar police, and a stickler. What they say behind my back, I don’t know.

I’m not that bad. I don’t critique tweets, personal emails, texts, slang, or other informal communication. I am, however, concerned about proper language usage when it comes to published works.

Before you think I’m here waving a red Sharpie and poised to attack your misspellings, mispronunciations, or mistaken word usage, you should know that first and foremost, grammar geeks are word lovers. Just like writers.

I spend one day a week talking about language on Amaze-ing Words Wednesday. Those posts range from grammar advice to etymology to word games. Language is fascinating. The human ability to communicate a wide range of emotion, information, and ideas sets us apart and allows us to accomplish together what we couldn’t…

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