Another year, still no baby.

I love this daughter and her husband. So much wisdom, acquired through so much grief.

Life Less Fiction

Christmas is a tough time for anyone suffering from infertility.  There’s no sugar-coating it; it gets easier, but never easy.  After 5 Christmases, my husband and I have travelled down this road many times.

This year, there is a new baby in the family.  Her name is Alice, or as I like to call her Baby Squishy.  She’s adorable and tiny and precious.  This is my second niece, and this time around I handled it much better.  I’m sure everyone will agree, but I won’t ask them, because they would probably remind me how awful I was last time around.  When my niece Evelyn was born, we had just found out it would be near impossible for us to conceive on our own.  In her first year, we suffered many heartbreaks on our way to parenthood.  And we’re still on that road.  I’ve realized for a while now that I…

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Canada’s Last Executions: Arthur Lucas & Ronald Turpin

As a Canadian, I’ve grown up in a culture that – for the most part – condemns capital punishment.  So it came as a surprise to me to discover that the last person – actually, the last two people – were executed in Canada at 12:02 a.m. on December 11, 1962. Within my lifetime.  Barely. But still.

Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas didn’t have much in common, and their respective murder convictions were unrelated. At the Don Jail in Toronto at 12:02 a.m. on December 11, 1962 the men shared what would likely be the most intimate moment of anyone’s life. Death at the hands of a federally appointed hangman.

Arthur Lucas

Arthur Lucas

Lucas, a fifty-something black American from Georgia, had a reputation as a pimp who beat the prostitutes who worked for him. With an IQ of 63, this career criminal was deemed by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to be  “unsalvageable”.

Ronald Turpin

Ronald Turpin

Turpin was a young, white man abandoned as a child by his abusive mother. He spent much of his young life in the Guelph reformatory for juveniles, before spiralling into an adult life of alcoholism and petty theft. On February 12, 1962 young Ronald Turpin killed police officer Frederick Nash, who pulled over Turpin’s truck on a routine traffic stop. Turpin, who had just stolen $631 of stuff from the nearby Red Rooster Inn, had an outstanding arrest warrant and panicked, pumping a single shot into the 31 year-old officer’s abdomen. Nash died at the scene, leaving behind a wife and four daughters.

Lucas, convicted of the double murder of police informant Therland Crater and his girlfriend Carolyn Ann Newman, maintained his innocence to the end, but conceded that his misspent life of crime was likely to have ended badly anyway. He is reported to have said to prison chaplain Cyrill Everitt,  “I’m telling you I didn’t do it, but I’m ready to go – I did some other things in my life”. Prison chaplain Cyril Everitt would later say that a miscalculation on the Lucas’s weight resulted in the near-decapitation of the convict.

Both men died with the knowledge that they would likely be the last prisoners to be executed in Canada. “Some consolation,” Lucas said in reference to word of this dubious historical achievement.

Capital punishment was removed from Canada’s criminal code in 1976.

You can read more about Lucas and Turpin in Robert J. Hoshowsky’s book, The Last to Die: Ronald Turpin, Arthur Lucas, and the End of Capital Punishment in Canada.

 

Moll Cutpurse: A Famous Master-Thief and an Ugly

Newgate Prison: Open from 1188-1902 AD

Newgate Prison: Open from 1188-1902 AD

First, apologies. Although this post was meant to be filed under Final Meals, there will be no sumptuous tidbit of final choices to consume and ponder. Rather, this post is a nod to my failing as a writer: I’m easily distracted. The upside? I think you’ll be interested in this distraction.

Originally designed in the 18th century to keep the general population apprised of notorious criminals, the Newgate Calendar (subtitled: The Malefactors’ Bloody Register) was a collection of broadsheets detailing the crimes, trials and punishments of nefarious individuals. Peddlers would then hawk these juicy bits of scandal at fairs and executions.

The publication got its name from the prison that provided its material: Newgate Prison. And initially at least, the entries into the Newgate Calendar were penned by the keeper of the prisoner, perhaps the equivalent of today’s warden?

At any rate, it’s believed that the Newgate Calendar was a well-read bit of writing, likely to be found in the average home alongside the Bible, where good Christian folk could indulge in scandals including murder, cannibalism, drunkenness and women of abandoned character.

One such woman of abandoned character was Mary Frith (also known as Moll Cutpurse) whose crimes included “Master-Thief and an Ugly, who dressed like a Man”. Mary’s unusual aka comes from her profession of cutting purses (pickpocket), of which she was well-known and respected for, at least in the questionable circles she thrived in.

An only child, Mary was doted on, particularly by her mother, but to her parents’ distress, Mary’s boisterous and masculine spirit could not be contained. According to the records on young Mary, she didn’t give a rat’s ass – paraphrasing here – for feminine pursuits. And like Arya Stark, “she could not endure that sedentary life of sewing or stitching … and on her needle, bodkin and thimble, she could not think quietly, wishing them changed into a sword and dagger for a bout at cudgels”.

Moll chose to dress as a man, but as noted by her broadsheet in the Newgate Calendar: “Though she was so ugly in any dress as never to be wooed nor solicited by any man … she was able to beat a fellow to compliance, without the unnecessary trouble of entreaties”.

Mollcutpurse

Image from the title page of the play Roaring Girl, written in 1607-1610, about Mary Frith

Early on, Moll fell into a group of fortune tellers and for some time made a good living as a cutpurse, until a nasty incident (she shot a man and killed two of his horses) caused her to look for safer work. She became a broker – a buyer and seller of stolen goods – and a bawdy house operator.

The Newgate Calendar speculates that Moll was the first woman to be “mightily taken with the pastime of smoking … and that no woman ever smoked before her, though a great many of her sex since have followed her example”.

Shortly before her death Mary expressed her desire to buried “with her breeches upwards, that she might as preposterous in death as she had been all along in her infamous life”.

Her epitaph read:

“Here lies, under this same marble,
Dust, for Time’s last sieve to garble;
Dust, to perplex a Sadducee,
Whether it rise a He or She,
Or two in one, a single pair,
Nature’s sport, and now her care.
For how she’ll clothe it at last day,
Unless she sighs it all away;
Or where she’ll place it, none can tell:
Some middle place ‘twixt Heaven and Hell
And well ’tis Purgatory’s found,
Else she must hide her under ground.
These reliques do deserve the doom,
Of that cheat Mahomet’s fine tomb
For no communion she had,
Nor sorted with the good or bad;
That when the world shall be calcin’d,
And the mix’d mass of human kind
Shall sep’rate by that melting fire,
She’ll stand alone, and none come nigh her.
Reader, here she lies till then,
When, truly, you’ll see her again.”

 

Death Row Dining/An East London Dining Event

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No actual inmates were used in the shooting of this image.

Last week an East London restaurant with a novel concept in dining, was guillotined by social media. The event? Death Row Meals.

Diners – or inmates, as they were referred to for the purposes of this experience – were charged, sentenced, and frisked before being seated to a five-course death row feast modelled around the actual final requests of death row prisoners.

Accused on Twitter of “tasteless profiteering” and “being disgusting” the pop-up restaurant soon cancelled their Death Row Dinners, but not without issuing a statement that said, in part:

“On the back of the extreme reaction that has garnered the attention of media outlets around the world, after careful reflection we have decided to go ahead with Death Row Dinners.
The severity of the reaction is not at all surprising in the current world of instant outrage but cancelling the event only supports this short-termism currently infecting the population …

… All over the world there are attractions that have the potential to offend.

Some people go for a walk in the park, others go on a Jack The Ripper walk of London.
Some people go on a tour of the White House, others go to Jefferson state penitentiary for tours of the chamber where executions take place.
Some people stay in the Hilton while others stay in Karosta prison hotel, for that “authentic” prison feel.”

 What do you think? Too far?

Conspiracy Theories: Is an Unborn Child a Threat to Scottish Independence?

When Prince William, Duke of Cambridge announced his engagement to Catherine Middleton in 2010, the world economy was in turmoil.

Over coffee at the nearby Second Cup, my dear friend Diana speculated on the why-now reasons for the engagement. Catherine Middleton’s nickname of Waity Katie was a nod to her long relationship with Prince William, a relationship some doubted would ever culminate in a marriage to the elusive prince.

Scottish by birth, Diana has always had a fascination with the Royals. The engagement, she reasoned, would re-direct the public focus from the state of the economy to the joyful wedding planning.

And now, with the results of the vote for Scottish independence hours away, others are speculating on the announcement of a new royal baby just days before the vote. Think that’s absurd? Many don’t.

Olivia Goldhill, feature writer for The Telegraph, says, “Forget tea time, beefeaters or those derelict red phone boxes – nothing makes you feel more proud to be British than the world’s most photogenic royal couple announcing that they’re expecting a second child.”

It makes you wonder ….

To check out some of the most fascinating conspiracy theories of our lifetime, check out Conspiracy Theories, available from Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

 

How to Use the New Kindle Kids’ Book Creator (Tutorial)

Got a kids’ book looking for a publishing home? Chris Mullen breaks down the how-to of Kindle’s new Kids’ Book Creator.

chrismcmullen

Kids 1

KINDLE KIDS’ BOOK CREATOR

KDP Kids features a new FREE, easy-to-use tool for designing illustrated children’s books. It’s called the Kindle Kids’ Book Creator.

Will this tool work well for your book?

  • If all (or most) of your book consist of illustrations, and some (or all) of the pages also have text, this tool provides an EASY way to create pop-up text for Kindle devices (and apps).
  • If your book reads more like a novel or chapter book where many pages have just text, I recommend creating a reflowable e-book instead.

First, I will tell you a little bit about the tool, and then I will show you how to use it. It really is easy!

BETTER FORMATTING

Kindle Kids’ Book Creator solves a major hurdle in creating Kindle e-books:

  • Pop-up text makes it much easier to read illustrated children’s books on small devices, such as cell phones.
  • As I’ll…

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Death Row Meals: San Quentin

Prison Food

Confession: Research is my favorite thing about writing. Why? Because I get sidetracked.

Today’s shiny bauble is San Quentin, or more specifically San Quentin reviews. With Tripadvisor-like lingo, Yelp reviewers (both prisoners and visitors) give bouquets and brickbats (mostly brickbats) to their prison surroundings. My favorite quote below:

 

Dylan D gives San Quentin 3 stars, justifying his average rating with these comments:

I really wanted to love this place.

<snip>

When I arrived there was a HUGE line for food, so my hopes got pretty high right off the bat.  Everyone seemed really excited for the food so I assumed I was in for a real treat.

<snip>

It was pretty busy, but I was able to find a table.  Again, I understand this is buffet style, but when I asked the gentleman by the front door near where I was sitting if I could sit further from the door he was SUPER RUDE about it.  He just motioned for me to sit back down, but at least the front door led to a hallway and not the outside, so although it was raining, I figured I’d be fine.

NOW THE FOOD.

With the reputation of this place, I thought I would be blown away, but honestly I found most of it to be really underwhelming.

<snip>

The beans were my favorite part.  They had a subtle smoky flavor and the texture was just right.  However, I did not like the viscosity of the broth they were in.  It was so runny it contaminated my other sides and then I wasn’t even sure what I was eating.  But when I focused on the beans I must admit, I did enjoy them.

There is no way that the brisket was grass fed, It was too stringy and when I asked the server what farm the meat was from, he just stared at me like I was crazy.  Way to train your staff, San Quentin.

I also had a side of carrots and peas.  I don’t really like carrots and peas but the colors were so vibrant I accepted when the server gestured with the ladle.  On the plate it looked like a wonderful heirloom salad bringing a nice aesthetic quality to the display.  I must say, again, I was underwhelmed.  The carrots were mushy and the peas were either not very ripe or undercooked, but they almost had a crunch to them.  What are these PEA NUTS?!  I did, however enjoy the cut of the carrot, the ends were rounded so it’s not too awkward of a mouthful.  But really, the peas and carrots’ best contribution was visual, and that is not making the cut.

It seems public tours of San Quentin have been discontinued, but this YouTube video gives you a peek into a cellmate’s lodgings:

Dinner & a Good Book: A Woman of Honour by Marlow Kelly

I regularly post a recommendation read for the weekend and this weekend I’m so pleased to be introducing Marlow Kelly’s A Woman of Honour. Kelly’s writing superpower is the ability to put her reader in the time and place her story is set. She writes strong female characters who challenge their male counterparts.

Below, please find a little taste of both Kelly’s book and Scotland. In the author’s own words:

Dee, thank you for inviting me to Dinner and Good Book. I had a hard time picking just one or two recipes for this post. My novella – A Woman of Honour – is set in Scotland and although Scotland isn’t known for its cuisine the Scottish diet is famous for its whole and hardy foods. Stews, fish, and baked dishes made of oats are satisfying and tasty, and the perfect food on a cold winter’s night. Oh, and we mustn’t forget that it’s the Scots that perfected the recipe for whiskey.

My first dish Baked Salmon with Tarragon is the perfect dish for a warm fall evening. It can be cooked in the oven or on the BBQ.

If its cold out and you want something that’ll warm you all the way down to your toes then I recommend Beef in Claret. It’s a stew that can be cooked ahead of time and frozen in portions. Then you can just pop it in the microwave after a hard day’s work.

And let’s not forget dessert. One of my family’s favorites is Flapjacks. In North America flapjacks are pancakes, but in Scotland they are a delicious, sweet oat square, my mouth waters just thinking about them. My family prefers them with melted semisweet chocolate on top, but traditionally they are served plain.

I’ve saved the best for last, The Whisky Toddy. This is a warm comforting drink for a cold winter’s night, but I use a little less whiskey than the recipe requires. This drink was used as a cure for colds. It calls for a wine glass of whiskey. J If I drank a wine glass of whiskey I’d forget I ever had a cold, but I’m sure I’m remember the resulting hangover.

So there you have it. Some traditional Scottish dishes to flavour while you enjoy a book set in Scotland …

A Woman of Honour by Marlow Kelly

Worldwide Release Date: 27th August 2014  
 A Woman of Honour is available at
Wild Rose Press                                  

Blurb: A Woman of Honour

Marlow Kelly

Marlow Kelly

Duncan Campbell wakes to discover he is imprisoned with a woman in his enemy’s dungeon in the Highlands of Scotland. The disenchanted warrior hopes his last few moments on Earth will be spent in the arms of the sweet-voiced Isabel. If only she will cooperate.

Isabel Douglas has no intention of obliging the crude captive. The penniless noblewoman considers herself too tall and thin to be desirable. She intends to become a nun. But first, disguised as a boy, she must deliver an important letter to Scotland’s hero in hiding, King Robert the Bruce.

Together, the pair make a daring escape that plunges them into the bleak countryside in the middle of winter. In the struggle to survive, they learn the true strength of their feelings for each other. But when Duncan’s animosity towards the king becomes evident, Isabel must decide between her heart and her country.

Excerpt: A Woman of Honour

“And even though we’re going to die, you still can’t find it in your heart to forgive me?”

“Maybe if you were very nice to me and warmed me with your sweet, little body, I could see my way to absolving you.”

She gasped and he couldn’t help but smile at her outraged reaction. He had no idea why he enjoyed baiting her, but he couldn’t seem to stop.

“You’re the most sinful man I’ve ever met. I take it back. I don’t want your absolution. How can you think about your carnal needs at a time like this?” The ire in her voice made him want to continue their argument, but his headache was worsening by the minute.

Marlow Kelly Bio

After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories and her curiosity regarding the lives and loves of historical figures are the inspiration for her characters. You can visit Marlow at www.marlowkelly.com, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest

 

Dinner & a Good Book: Storms of Passion by Lori Power

Every Friday I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Lori Power’s Storms of Passion.

The author, Lori Power, grew up in a small fishing town in Nova Scotia and the storm the book refers to did happen. The story’s heroine – Vivian – is based on Lori’s childhood friend. I’ve chosen two Maritime dishes to go along with this read. From Taste of Nova Scotia, here’s Drunken Nova Scotia Oysters and Rory’s Lobster & Shrimp Lasagna.

And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …

LINKS
Buy the book on Amazon

Purchase the book from Wildrose Publishing

Lori Power’s Blog

StormsofPassion_coverReading about romance and getting swept up in the adventure of those tales is no substitute for the real thing. On a whim, Vivian decides to do something she’s always wanted to do – learn to sail. Flying to the other side of the country, she unwittingly begins a quest to find her real self, the person she set up on a shelf long ago to gather dust.

Tucker MacLean isn’t looking for anything or anyone, any more. His one goal in life has always been to get away from the small town he grew up in and make his mark. But after a failed marriage, a failed business venture and losing everything, he has had to swallow his pride and move home to take his place in the family business where he resumes his role as a reservist rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard.

As thunder always follows the lightening strike, when Vivian and Tucker meet, their passion is an electrical storm.

EXCERPT: Storms of Passion

Someone was singing down on the beach.

He followed the sound of the female voice. The identity of the singer couldn’t be anyone he knew. Surly no one from town would perch below his parent’s house to sing pop music off key.

Curious, he strode to the end of the lawn and glanced over the edge, where grass turned to a rocky ledge leading to the beach. He did a double-take at the vision of the woman from the airport. That was her. No doubt about it. There was no mistaking that long neck and the inky black hair even more spiky than earlier today.

Lowering his glasses down his nose, Tuck watched as she stretched her legs in front of her, crossing her feet at the ankles. What lovely long legs she had. She leaned back as the sun kissed her smooth skin. His fingers ached, watching her weave her fingers through her cropped hair and rubbing the sweat soaked layers from her skin.

Supporting her position with one hand behind her back, she continued to lounge on the rock, as if the beach was her living room. Her head bobbed as she sang. Her feet swayed across the sand.

Tuck looked right and left.

She’s tonight’s main attraction and she doesn’t even know it.

She obviously didn’t realize how close the houses were to the beach, and that there was no such thing as privacy in a small town.

He recognized the song as she continued to sing, slightly off key, and he wondered if she’d give voice to the explicit parts of the song as well.

He smiled, nodding his head, completely amused.

There was no doubt in his mind now this had to be the elusive Vivian.

Vivacious Vivian.

The name absolutely suited her.

Author Bio

Death Row Meals: Aileen Wuornos Prisoner 150924

Last Meal: 1 cup of coffee

Death by lethal injection

Executed: October 9, 2002 at 9:47 a.m.

State: Florida

Last words: “I’d just like to say I’m sailing with the rock, and I’ll be back like Independence Day, with Jesus June 6. Like the movie, big mother ship and all, I’ll be back.”

Related Conspiracy Theory: In her last interview Wuornos stated that she was controlled by sonic pressure to make her appear insane.

150924_Florida Department of CorrectionsThe Florida Department of Corrections lists five women currently on death row, but readers will likely remember one of this state’s most prolific female serial killers: Aileen Carol Wuornos. Wuornos’s story became film fodder in the 2003 movie Monster starring Charlize Theoron.

Wuornos’s life is a litany of abuse and tough breaks, beginning before her conception. Her father was a convicted pedophile who married Diane Wuornos when she was only 14 years old. Diane divorced him nearly two years later, just a few months before the birth of Aileen Wuornos. Aileen and her older brother were adopted by their maternal grandparents after their mother deserted them.

Wuornos was trading sex for food and drugs by the age of 11, later claiming that her grandfather raped her. A sad life indeed. At 13, after being raped by a friend of her grandfather’s, she became pregnant and gave birth to child who would be placed for adoption. In the years before her eventual arrest for murder, Wuornos would often be arrested on a variety of charges: armed robbery, theft, attempting to pass forged checks, assault, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice.

On November 30, 1989, Wuornos would shoot and kill Richard Mallory, a convicted rapist, in what she claimed was an act of self-defense. Wuornos would go on to confess to six more murders.

On October 9, 2002, Aileen Carol Wuornos was put to death by lethal injection. There can be no doubt that she was the victim of a terrible life, and that she became a terrible person.