Friday, February 25, 2011

Bad Words

As a teacher, I used to get a lot of interest when I told my classes that we would be discussing swearwords. In the first place, I don't think the students thought I knew any. In the second place, most kids don't think much about where such words come from.
Swearing is ancient. It's addressed in the Ten Commandments. (In case you weren't paying attention, it's frowned upon.) People have apparently always had an urge to call other people something really, really bad when they're mad at them. What's interesting is what we consider bad.
Using terms for the Creator "in vain" was and still is to many people the worst sort of language. Oddly, some Christian cultures see it differently: the German "Mein Gott" and the French "Mon Dieu" are seen as expressions, not swearing. We've gone a long way in that direction. Even those nice game shows on TV don't bother to bleep the "Oh, my God" repetitions from joyful contestants anymore.
In addition to terms concerning the Deity, there are lots of other "bad" words, including words that demean another person. In an earlier post, I mentioned that some words did not start out to be insults, like "wench" and "villain". They were terms for the lower class and, since there were only two classes, the upper class took offense when those terms were applied to them.
Different cultures insult each other in different ways. European and Asian insults often liken a person to an animal, like calling someone a "goat" or a "buffalo". The Japanese tend to insult a person by implying that he does not act logically, and they also drag vegetables into it, perhaps calling someone an "irrational carrot". An interesting Jewish insult seems like a compliment on the surface. If a traditional Jew says "may a child be named after you", don't get all warm and fuzzy. In their tradition, children are not named after living people. So he's wishing...well, you get it.
American insults tend to be sexual, which probably stems from our Puritan roots, i.e., sex is bad, so people are insulted by referring to their sexual behavior. Generally, we insult a woman by saying that she sleeps around. Oddly enough, you really can't insult a man that way: “gigolo” just doesn’t have the hurting power of “whore”. You can, however, insult a man’s MOTHER’s sexuality, and the circumstances of his birth. Those are usually fighting words.
Terms that indicate sexual perversion are favorites for insults among males. They come and go rapidly, creating confusion for the uninitiated. I worked with a teacher who went ballistic if students used the word “bugger”. Her background was English, and to her it was a very nasty word. The kids would come to me in genuine confusion to ask why she got so upset. To them, and to most speakers of American English, it was a pretty innocuous word.
Research in some tribal areas in the South Seas found that our worst sexually-based insults seemed humorous to the people living there. The idea that a man would sleep with his mother brought laughter, since it was so far out of their experience. Conversely, a terrible insult in the Maori culture is something like "cooked head", which we don't get at all. (Maybe we don’t want to consider whence that one came!)
It's interesting to note that when so-called "swear words" are over-used, they lose their original potency and even their meaning. Used as adjectives to modify any noun, even nouns the speaker has nothing against, they become brain stutters, fillers thrown into some people’s speech without insult or even intent. The speakers seem unaware of them, but they might insult listeners who object either to the word choice or to the constant repetition. There are frequent arguments among readers and writers about how much swearing is enough or too much in books. For me, language helps to establish characters, and I don’t mind swearing that does that. Craig Johnson’s Moretti, for example, is real to me because she is the perfect example of the unconscious swearer. Foul-mouthed, yes. A bad person? Hardly.
I suppose it comes down to what a person has been taught is insulting.
The Prizes-Weekly prizes (your choice of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in e- or print format) drawn from the names of those who comment on the blogs as we go. Comment once/day, but the first commenter each day gets entered twice in Saturday’s drawing!

The Pathway: The final entry in the February Blog Crawl will be Monday, Feb. 28, at Stacy Juba’s blog at This is your last chance to comment and enter the drawing for a copy of THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY in either paperback or e-book.
The Pitch: THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY, First in The Dead Detective Mysteries, paranormal mystery. Tori Van Camp wakes in a stateroom on a cruise ship with no memory of booking a cruise, but she does have a vivid recollection of being shot in the chest. Determined to find out what happened and why, Tori enlists the help of an odd detective named Seamus. Together they embark on an investigation like nothing she’s ever experienced. Death is all around her, and unless they act quickly, two people she cares about are prime candidates for murder. Read more about this book and the author at or buy the book at
The Perpetrator: Peg Herring writes historical and contemporary mysteries. She loves everything about publishing, even editing (most days). Peg’s historical series, The Simon and Elizabeth Mysteries, debuted in 2010 to great reviews. The second in the series will be available in November from Five Star.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A crime novelist's empty promises...

While on my upcoming vacation in Panama, I hereby promise the universe (and my hubby) that:
  • no time will I diligently seek out a computer with an internet connection
  • ...if by chance I find a computer with internet connection ,I will refrain from writing emails, checking emails, twittering, tweeting, facebooking, scanning headlines, playing Bejeweled (etc., etc., etc.)
  • ...while gazing out across the ocean at sunset, I will not envisage a platoon of marines (pirates, drug smugglers, heavily-armed Americans) advancing toward shore
  • ...while dining out, I will be entirely focused on the company I'm keeping, and the food I am eating, and the conversation I am having--not designing yet another twist to the already-over-complicated plot of my work in progress at home
  • ...I will not conclude that each tiny hint of a military presence means a coup is imminent and our lives are in mortal danger
  • ...I will not spend any time whatsoever trying to create the most imaginative and accurate phrases to describe the Panama Canal (the maid, the river, the ocean, the sand, the waitress, the tall, tanned guy in the yellow Speedo)
  • ...I will not trundle out of bed before sunrise to write in my diary and, lastly...
  • 1 a.m. when we return to Alberta after a 9 hour flight and a two-week vacation, I will not insist we immediately drive the 3 hours home because I'm sure I have a time-sensitive email from an agent (publisher, editor, royal family member) with a contract (royal wedding invitation) attached.
Until next time, it's crime for a holiday!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kidnappings in Canada

While working on my latest thriller, Children of the Fog, I had to delve into an area of crime that no parent ever wants to go into--the abduction of children. Author Amanda Hocking also blogged about missing children today.

I have to tell you, there are a couple of parts in my novel that I had a hard time writing. Not because of writer's block. Not because I couldn't think of what I wanted to say. I knew exactly what I wanted to write, but I wasn't prepared to be hit emotionally with these scenes.

Choking back tears, I waded through Sadie's awful journey, her grief and guilt. I believe Children of the Fog is my best work to date, but I'll let readers judge that when it releases next month in ebook edition, with a paperback edition to follow afterward.

Here are some stats on kidnappings in Canada:

In 1992, Canada was reported to have over 1200 kidnapping victims.

According to The Eighth United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operations of Criminal Justice Systems (2002) (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Centre for International Crime Prevention), Canada had the third highest incidence of abductions out of over 35 countries polled for the survey.

In 2006, Juristat/Statistics Canada reported 535 abductions in Canada.

In 2009, Statistics Canada reports 429 cases of abduction in Canada.

With the implementation of Amber Alerts and a more educated public, the rates of abduction have been steadily decreasing in Canada, and I hope it continues to do so. No parent wants to imagine this scenario, and no parent should ever have to.


Let A Kidnapper Take Your Child, Or Watch Your Son Die.

Sadie O'Connell is a bestselling author and a proud mother. But her life is about to spiral out of control. After her six-year-old son Sam is kidnapped by a serial abductor, she nearly goes insane. But it isn't just the fear and grief that is ripping her apart. It's the guilt. Sadie is the only person who knows what the kidnapper looks like. And she can't tell a soul. For if she does, her son will be sent back to her in "little bloody pieces".

When Sadie's unfaithful husband stumbles across her drawing of the kidnapper, he sets into play a series of horrific events that sends her hurtling over the edge. Sadie's descent into alcoholism leads to strange apparitions and a face-to-face encounter with the monster who abducted her son--a man known only as...The Fog.

Available in ebook edition this March! Watch for it...and keep your windows and doors locked.

In Children of the Fog, I really wanted to dig deep into a flawed character who has to make a very tough decision, one that some readers won't agree with. Does she let the kidnapper take her son, or does she put up a fight and watch him kill her son before her eyes?

What do you think YOU would do in her situation?

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


There are many different ways to categorize motives for murder. After ‘Be in Control’ I break the flowchart down to Power, Passion & Revenge. There are many subcategories after that, with the inevitable crossover between the three main one. I’ve produced charts to cover these for a book on mystery cluetrails that I am writing. The main purpose is to give writers some inspiration on what drives a person to kill. Here’s the chart for Power.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Happens When You Can't Trust the Medical Examiner?

Recently the Fresno Bee (newspaper for one of the biggest cities in California's Central Valley) addressed the fact that many of the medical examiners (the guys who do the autopsies) were incompetent. Some had no training at all for doing autopsies, and one had no medical training at all.

Many autopsies had been botched. The writer didn't really say how the dilemma would be solved. When we watch TV shows it seems that during the autopsy is when all the clues are found that help them catch the murderer. So now I wonder how many murders are going unsolved in Fresno because of this problem.

Light bulb moment! This could be used in a mystery, right? Probably not, who would believe it.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Kind of Blue

Carl Brookins Reviews Kind of Blue

by Miles Corwin

ISBN: 978-1-60809-007-5

From Oceanview Publishing

323 pages, November, 2010

A few years ago, this author wrote a couple of serious non-fiction books about the Los Angeles Police Department. He spent a lot of time with cops in that city and wrote books that became best-sellers, “The Killing Season” and “And Still We Rise.”

Now he’s back with a powerful persistent novel that draws from the same source material. “Kind of Blue,” is not your ordinary police procedural. It constantly reminds readers that the cops involved are no super beings, rising above the worst humanity can offer to save their city; nor are they all thugs, wife beaters and abusers. They are ordinary citizens, sometimes corrupt, sometimes honorable and brilliant, often prejudiced, but too often willing to make the supreme sacrifice for the citizens they serve. And, occasionally they violate the rights of criminals.

Author Corwin bends a keen and discerning eye on this stew of varying humanity to fashion a fascinating novel of human relations. Asher Levine, a dedicated, mostly honest cop, is one of LA’s best homicide detectives. But as the book opens, Levine is a former cop, having abruptly resigned after he was unable to protect a vital witness from being murdered. The death of Latisha Patton, never solved, devastates the detective and causes him to question his abilities, even though it is clear that apart from his dedication, he is a brilliant detective. So he resigns.

A year passes and a decorated officer has died, murdered in his home and the special homicide squad needs Levine’s help solving the case. More to the point, certain key executives in the LAPD hierarchy need the case solved or at least put to rest. Levine has had that year to discover his resignation hurts him more than it does the LAPD. With clearance from the top cops, Levine is fast tracked back to the force and handed the case.

The problem, of course, is that Levine won’t just concentrate on the current case and thus all sorts of actions that need to be buried along with the ghost of Latisha Patton. Traces of other earlier activity begin to resurface as Ash Levine winds his way through labyrinthine police and social structures of the street until he comes to the shocking final solution.

The title is apt, a riff on a 50 year old Miles Davis studio piece, the cover fits the mood and the attitude of the novel. All the elements fit nicely and it was a pleasure to read this excellent book.

Carl Brookins,

Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,

Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Allan Pinkerton Excerpt

Professional Thieves and the Detective by Allan Pinkerton 1880 - Chapter XV Flight Intercepted page 383

"Franssen and the detective having quenched their thirst and their sorrow at parting in the foaming glass, then started for the ferry, where, purchasing a ticket for Buffalo, they went on board the boat, which conveyed them across the river.

Mendelsohn began to grow uneasy; it lacked only fifteen minutes of train time, and as yet he had seen no indication of the parties whom he expected. He was debating in his own mind the course that had better be pursued, when, as they were walking through the long, covered way that led to the cars, Mr. Bangs suddenly stepped out from one of the doorways that opened into the street, and stopping immediately in front of them, addressed the shoemaker:

"Your name is August Franssen, I believe?"

Franssen, thus suddenly accosted, was unable to do anything but stammer out an affirmative.

"Then," said Mr. Bangs, sternly, "I arrest you for the murder of Adolph Bohner!"

Franssen muttered a shrill, frightened and despairing cry, and dropping his sachel, attempted to run away, but the iron grasp was upon his shoulder, and escape was impossible. finding that further efforts were useless, with a smothered groan he submitted quietly and without further effort to the officer, who slipped upon his wrists the badge of dishonor - the shackles of the criminal.

The journey that followed was very different from the one that he had planned for himself, and its destination quite foreign to the locality named upon his ticket.