Two important components of writing explained

This blog post is about something that many writers realize consciously and some realize subconsciously. It is something that all writers should realize consciously so that is at the forefront of their minds as they write.

Here it is: there are two components to writing. There is the technical component and there is the content component.

The technical component includes spelling and grammar. But it is more than that. It is clear, concise, easily understood writing used in properly structured sentences, paragraphs and documents.

The content component includes writing that speaks to your target audience. Writing that conveys your purpose or reason for writing. Writing that captures attention so your reader will start reading. Writing that holds interest so that your reader will continue to read. Writing that influences attitude so your reader will think about acting. Writing that includes a clear call to action so that your reader will know how to, and when to, act.

I teach several writing course for the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. When I mark assignments I correct, when required, the technical aspects of writing. But, as important as strong technical writing is, I do not teach technical writing. I teach content courses (Business Writing, Copy Writing, Journalism Essentials), and when you write you need to keep clear and separate the technical and content components of writing. In fact, I strongly suggest that you put content first.

Why spend time upfront fixing technical errors when your content needs strengthening? You can edit you document to make it technically sound once you have written a solid draft of your document.

When I mark assignments, I place my emphasis on content. Does your content do all that I have outlined above? In short, strong technical writing with weak content is ineffective writing. (Similarly, strong content that is lost in a multitude of technical errors is also ineffective writing.)

Some strong technical writers produce weak content. I have written several books on writing, and teach private online courses, that can help writers produce strong, effective content. Some strong content writers are weak technical writers. They may need a good grammar book or need to take a self-editing course that focuses on the technical aspects of writing.

So now the two components of writing are clearly defined and you are conscious of the need to include both components in your writing. With that in mind, go forth and combine the two components and produce strong writing that helps you achieve your purpose or reason for writing.


Shoot the five arrows in your business marketing quiver

No matter the size of your business, you have five arrows in your marketing quiver. And if you don’t use all of them, it will be difficult for people to hear about your business.

This free 25-minute webinar describes what the five arrows are and it shows you how to shoot them so that you can effectively market and promote your business.

Watch the free video today on YouTube.

Free Business Vision Webinar on YouTube

If you are a freelancer (writer or editor) or an independent practitioner, or if you are the owner of any type of small business, you should create a W5–who, what, where, when, whybusiness vision before you start to market your business.

This free 20-minute business vision webinar will show you how to create your Business Vision so you can start to market your business in a focused and effective manner.

View the webinar today on YouTube:

Drug Dealers Killing Repeat Business

Drug dealers, what are you doing? Selling your customers such bad shit that it’s killing them? Don’t you know, dead customers can’t buy more drugs from you! And that kills your repeat business.

I used to work in advertising for Radio Shack (now The Source). If you ever shopped at Radio Shack, you might remember being asked for your name and address. And then a month later you received an adverting flyer in the mail trying to entice you back into the store to buy something else. In other words, repeat business.

Imagine if you got your stereo system home, plugged it in, and it blew up and killed you… Bye-bye repeat customer because a dead customer is an ex-customer, not a repeat customer.

I mean, what if people died almost every time they ate a Big Mac? McDonald’s would be selling far fewer burgers. Instead of “billions and billions sold” the signs on their restaurants would be “well, we’ve sold a couple dozen.”

Okay, so if you eat too many Big Macs your heart will eventually explode and you will die, but not right away. In other words, McDonald’s has you as a customer for a couple of decades, before their burgers kill you. That’s how drug dealers should be thinking — killing them slowly. Like why should you care if you eventually kill them, as long as you first sell them drugs repeatedly for a couple of decades.

What you should be doing is this: Think about your business in the long term. Get rid of the killing ingredients in your drugs and keep your customers alive so they can return to you repeatedly to by more drugs. That only makes fair and proper business sense.

And hey, if you are not sure if your shit contains killing ingredients, then I have a modest proposal for you: Try the drugs first yourself. And if you are still alive after ingesting them, then you are good to go! And if you are not alive well, aren’t you glad you didn’t sell it to a client and ruin your repeat relationship?

Ontario Premier Supports Sale of Handguns

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he is against a Toronto city council-request to ban the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition within Toronto’s boundaries. “I wouldn’t support a ban on handguns,” Ford said. “There are a lot of legal, responsible handgun owners. We have to refocus all our resources going after the bad guys, not the good guys.”

The big question is this: How does Ford, an ex-drug dealer and overall idiotic schmuck, define “good” and “bad”? Should his ex-cronies who are still in the business of dealing drugs be allowed to carry loaded handguns to protect themselves from, I don’t know, the police who might want to charge them and put them in jail?

The fact is, I don’t have a problem with people collecting guns. I don’t understand it, but I don’t have a problem with it. After all, I used to collect stamps. I’m sure licking stamp glue has caused its fair share of fatalities. Just that the issue has been under reported. But pointing a stamp at someone has, as far as I know, not killed anybody–unless seeing a picture of the Queen of England has scared someone to death!

But let me back up a minute and tell you how I am actually in tune with Ford here.

What I propose is that we don’t ban handguns at all. So in that way I guess you can say that I actually agree with something that Premier Ford has said. (Will wonders ever cease?) Instead what I propose is this: We ban the sale of all ammunition. You know, the bullets that would go into the guns and that do the actual killing when shot into someone.

In that way, the gun owners who wanted to shoot their guns could hold them out, aim them at whatever target they choose, even at people, and shout, “Bang! Bang!” as they pulled the trigger, kind of like kids do. And if you need a gun with bullets well, let’s face it, you are no more than a big baby so shouting “bang!” should come naturally to you. I mean come on, whatever happened to fair fights, you know with bare knuckles? If someone has pissed you off that much, be adult about it and take them on–with your fists, not with bullets.

Guns. That’s the coward’s way out of a problem.

The fact is, if you support Ford and oppose the move to keep people in Toronto safe from bullets, you are, in my humble opinion, no more than a big baby, a bully and a coward. Oh, and an idiotic schmuck. Otherwise known as an asshole. In other words, you are a kindred spirit with Premier Ford.

Thoughts on Buck-a-Beer and Changes to Ontario’s sex ed curriculum

So Doug Ford and his Ontario Conservatives are bringing us buck-a-beer. To that I say how about buck-a-liter of milk? Or buck-a-dozen oranges. Or maybe even buck-a-box of condom, which buck-a-beer drinkers are going to need after drinking all that beer at a buck a bottle, especially if they are graduates of the Conservative new sex-education curriculum, which predates the Internet, and intimate acts of love making itself.

I believe the sex-education curriculum that the Conservatives are introducing involves giving clubs to guys and saying ‘start swinging and go at it.’ It involves what Adam and Eve studied–wear your fig leaves and keep them tied on tight to protect your naughty bits. Oh, and don’t take apples from snakes. You never know what they might really be trying to sell you…

Of course it’s ironic that Ontario’s craft brewers (they are the companies that do more than pass a bit of grain and yeast over a bucket of water and call it beer) are saying they won’t be selling buck-a-beer. In other words they won’t be lowering their beer making standards and the quality of their beer just to sell it at a buck a bottle to, let’s face it, people (as in yahoos) who voted Conservative in the last Ontario election and like to get drunk on cheap beer. And if it sounds like buck-a-beer doesn’t appeal to folks who like to drink beer with taste, the so-called ‘elite’ as it were, then so be it. They know there is more important work to be done in this province than lowering the price of beer, while the Conservatives know they are more likely to get re-elected if people are too drunk to give a shit about any of those things, which buck-a-beer will allow them to do for the next four years, until the next election.

My only hope is that they will be too drunk to remember the date of the election or, if they somehow manage to remember it, they will be too drunk on buck-a-beer to find their polling stations.

11 tips on writing bo-o-oring content

From the blog of That White Paper Guy:

You work in an interesting industry.

And you have an amazing product.

If other companies buy it, they’ll get a great ROI. Your new product might change people’s lives.

Maybe even yours.

If you do a good job promoting it, you might get named employee of the month. Pats on the back. Even a raise! If you are a freelancer, maybe you’ll win more clients!

Who needs that kind of pressure? …

Read the full blog post here: From the blog of That White Paper Guy

Reaction to “cultural appropriation prize” editorial in Write

Here is my reaction to the “cultural appropriation prize” editorial in Write, the Writers’ Union of Canada publication: If the editor hadn’t resigned, he should have been fired! And I still say that after hearing him apologize on the national CBC Radio show that follows Metro Morning in Toronto.

Whatever were you thinking? Or were you not thinking? You are entitled to your opinion, but when you work for an organization that stands for one thing, sorry, you have to support the stance. Want to take a different stance? Feel free, but resign first, not after the fact.
Do you work for the Liberal Party. Don’t think you’d get away with espousing neo-con positions.
Cultural appropriation may be hard to define, and as a straight white male if I were to write a novel and determined that it required a gay character or a character of color, I am free to put such a character in the novel. But would I ever have a main character be a person of color from ‘the hood’ in New York? That would be plain dumb and ignorant. That would be a book that nobody would want to read. It would be a book of cliches and stereotypes. And you want to give me a prize for that? … 
And to the editors who tweeted offers of money for the prize…. Shame on you. Like straight white males don’t have enough taken-for-granted privileges. In addition, we should appropriate the voice of others, and be rewarded for it?
You folks may be editors, but being an editor doesn’t mean you can’t say (write) stupid things. Really, what were you guys thinking? Nobody is calling for stifling politically correctness or the stifling of the imagination. At least I am not. But to appropriate the culture of another and to strut like a peacock for doing so? I’d say that shows a total lack or imagination. If you cannot find something imaginative in your own rather wide cultural sphere to creatively write about, then should you be writing at all… 
And to pen such an editorial in an issue of Write that was dedicated to the voices of indigenous writers… That makes it doubly shameful.
As a straight white male, I apologize for the lack of thinking and insight of other overly privileged straight white male writers. But I seem to be doing a lot of that lately, in my Honorable Men blog. It seems we  straight white men have a lot to apologize for.
But to hear what a much more deserving voice has to say on this issue, do yourself a favor and please listen to this:  Columnist Jesse Wente reacts to the appropriation prize controversy

Hockey Night on Ossington Avenue

To celebrate the Toronto Maple Leafs (finally) making the playoffs, I present my short story Hockey Night on Ossington Avenue from Rebel in the Back Seat … and other short stories

Hockey Night on Ossington Avenue

by Paul Lima

Johnny Bower was my hero. He led the Leafs to victory.

In 1967, the year he turned forty-three, the craggy-faced goal­tender backstopped the Toronto Maple Leafs to their third straight Stanley Cup triumph. Watching him on the CBC, I cheered as he hoisted the silver trophy above his head and I laughed when the cameras caught him in the dressing room after the game, wearing nothing but a toothless grin and champagne-soaked underwear.

Throughout the 1960s, I dreamt of being Bower, of stopping pucks for the Leafs, of being named first star on Hockey Night in Canada, of skating around Maple Leaf Gardens with Lord Stanley’s mug held high.

In 1967, the year I turned eight, I got to wear skates for the very first time …

*          *            *

The Leafs are playing the Canadiens tonight. “Les Pepsi de Mont-real,” Pa calls them. He hates the Frenchmen almost as much as I do. He’s asleep on the couch in the living room. His pre-game nap, he calls it. All the players nap before games, he’s explained to me. Even Bower.

Ma’s at the kitchen table patching holes in the corduroy trousers that my brother, Vito, no longer wears. Lucky me. I get to wear them next. Although I’m six years younger than Vito and a foot shorter, I weigh as much as he does. Ma’s become an expert at shortening the legs and letting out the waists of his old pants.

Vito’s out shooting pool at De Santo’s Billiards on College Street. If Pa asks where he is, I’m supposed to say he’s at the library studying, otherwise he’ll get heck when he comes home. Vito says if I scratch his back, he won’t kick my butt. But my brother’s okay. He pays me back when he can. Mostly by protecting me from my old man’s temper and the way he lashes out at whoever happens to be closest to him when something’s pissed him off. And he gets pissed off easily.

I’m in my bedroom, building a house of hockey cards on my orange-crate nightstand. The cards cost a nickel a pack. You get five player cards and a thin piece of sugar-coated gum that tastes like card­board. I can’t afford to buy cards often because I hardly get any allowance. But I’ve got one hundred and fifty-seven cards. I won most of them playing closies, flipsies, topsies and other card games in the schoolyard. Dewson School is on Ossington Avenue, right across from our house. But there’s a lot of traffic on Ossington and I’m only in grade three, so my mom makes me walk a block south to College, cross at the lights and then walk a block north to get to school. What a drag.

My most valuable cards are my five Johnny Bowers. I don’t play games with them. I got three of them buying cards. I traded four dupli­cates—Keon, Howe, Hull and Beliveau—for one. And I found the other under a heap of yellowing newspapers in the laneway behind our garage while fishing for a tennis ball that Vito shot wide of my net.

I’m a pretty good laneway goalie, for a chubby kid. If you look at Bower, you’ve got to figure he was once chubby too. I flop a lot and throw my boots, arms, chest and stick in front of every shot. That’s why Vito calls me “Kamikaze.” Everybody calls Vito “Stick” because he’s almost as thin as the shaft of a hockey stick. He keeps his black hair slicked back in Brylcreem-coated waves. If I do anything dumb, like let in a soft goal, he shakes his waves and glares at me. It’s like a storm warning. I just hope he doesn’t start to thunder.

I had to play goal with a broom until Vito swiped a hockey stick for me from Danny’s Variety next to De Santo’s. I wish I could’ve seen him shove the shaft down his pants and slip the blade under his arm. Even though I have a stick, I still get stuck hacking in the laneway with the little kids whenever Vito and his buddies play pick-up on Grenadier Pond in High Park. That’s because I don’t have skates.


I’ve got the walls of my card house stacked three-high when the phone rings and wakes Pa. I hold a glass against the bedroom wall, like Vito taught me to do, so I can eavesdrop on my father.

Bene, Antonio. E tu?”

Pa’s talking to his younger brother, Tony, who owns Capelli’s Garments on Spadina. Pa’s worked there since he got laid off from his construction job a couple of years ago. I think he cuts material for socks and underwear. Socks and underwear are the only clothes I don’t get as hand-me-downs.

“Stasera?” Pa asks as I press my ear firmly against the glass. “Con Pietro.”

This evening? With Peter. Peter’s my pain-in-the-ass cousin who’s only twelve but thinks he’s a grown-up and acts just as dumb. Vito only lets our stuck-up cousin hang around us because he always has money for smokes and Cokes. He has skates too and he plays hockey on Grenadier Pond. Vito says Peter’s pretty good, but he hardly ever scores on me when we play in the laneway.

Va bene, Antonio. Un minuto,” Pa says, then calls my mother.

Turns out a supplier is taking Tony and Peter to the hockey game; Tony has two extra tickets—for the freaking ballet. He wants me and Ma to go to the ballet with his wife, Emilia. To the ballet. Not to the hockey game!

“Nicky!” Ma bursts into my room like a tornado. Shirts, pants, socks and underwear fly everywhere as she scrounges through my closet. “We’re going to The Nutcracker. What a treat. Put on your Sunday best. Clean underwear too.”

I turn my back on her and knock over my house of cards. It’s Satur­day night. Hockey Night in Canada is on tonight. Leafs versus Montreal. And I’m going to be at the ballet. Not if I can help it.

While Ma’s in the bathroom getting all powdered up, I plead with Pa to let me stay home. I even speak Italian to him.

Per favore, Papà.”

He shakes his head and cracks open a beer.

“But Pa …”

He chops air with his free hand and says “Nicky!” in the deep voice he usually reserves for when Vito gets home late. I’m not brave like Vito, who would just stand there without blinking. I’m not stupid either. I scramble out of the living room.

In the taxi, I ask Ma why we have to go to the ballet.

“It’s a Christmas tradition here,” she says. “In Italy, when I was your age, I went to ballet and opera whenever I could. How I miss Figaro.”

I don’t ask who Figaro is.

The taxi pulls into a driveway where my aunt is waiting, wearing her long fur coat. Ma straightens my polka-dot bow tie as Emilia squeezes in beside me and almost knocks me out with her perfume.

The Nutcracker is held at the O’Keefe Centre, a huge auditorium named after the beer Pa drinks. The ballet is as dull as I figured it would be, although the Mouse King is neat, especially when he fights the Nutcracker.

Things really get boring when a ton of frilly snowflakes start to prance around, so I close my eyes and pretend that I’m at Maple Leaf Gardens watching Bower take on the Canadiens.

Beliveau shoots. Bower’s gloved hand flicks out, catches the puck quick as a cat captures a mouse. Richard’s in on a breakaway. Poke check—Bower’s master move—leaves the Pocket Rocket shaking his head and cussing the maskless wonder. Toe save. Chest save. Splits. Bower’s ballet gives the Canadiens fits …

I hear applause and open my eyes. The dancers take their final bows and we head for the exit.

“What did you think, Nicky?” Ma asks.

“I wonder who won the game?”

“Hockey.” She sighs.

That night, as she tucks me into bed, she says, “At church tomor­row, remember to thank Uncle Tony for the ballet tickets.”

I thank Tony but keep my fingers crossed behind my back because I’m not feeling thankful. After all, the Leafs beat the Canadiens two to one, even though they were outshot by the Canadiens forty-two to twenty-one. First star? Bower, of course. And guess who brings an offi­cial Maple Leafs hockey program to church? Peter. On the cover, mak­ing a perfect poke check, is Johnny Bower. And scribbled across the cover is Bower’s real-life autograph.


On Christmas morning, Uncle Tony almost makes up for stiffing me with the ballet ticket. He gives me a pair of black skates with steel toes, ankle supports and smooth laces with plastic-tipped ends for easy threading. My folks give me hockey socks they bought at Honest Ed’s on Bloor. And Vito gives me—I don’t believe it—a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey sweater. It’s so new it smells like a warehouse full of fresh un­derwear. On the back of the sweater, there’s a big number one. Bower’s number.

As I slip my new sweater over my head Vito says, “You got skates just in time, Kamikaze. We need a goalie tomorrow.”

“You want me to play? At High Park?”

“I’m on any team you’re not on,” Peter says, “so I can whip your butt.”

I shove a fist in his face.

“Hey,” Vito says, making like a referee and separating us. “Save it for the game.”

I sleep in my Maple Leafs hockey sweater and dream of poke checking the Canadiens at Maple Leaf Gardens while Bower sits in the stands, a huge grin on his face, watching over me. In the morning, Vito, Peter and I ride the College streetcar to High Park. The ice covering Grenadier Pond gleams in the sunshine like our kitchen floor shines right after Ma has waxed it. Clustered around a picnic table near the pond are some familiar faces from laneway hockey and a few older guys I don’t recognize.

“Hey,” Vito calls out.

“Did you find us a goalie?” somebody asks.

“Kamikaze,” Vito says.

He pats the back of my Johnny Bower sweater and I shiver. Holy crap, I’m going to play goal on the ice of Grenadier Pond.

Vito and Ernst, an older guy who is smoking a cigarette, are chosen as team captains. “I get Charlie,” Ernst says. “You keep your brother and pick first.” Charlie is the other goalie. His stocky build is exagger­ated by the shoulder pads under his New York Rangers’ sweater.

Vito picks Alex, a guy who lives a few doors up from us. Ernst points to Peter. I’m shocked that anybody would pick my idiot cousin first. As Vito and Ernst continue to pick, I take off my rubber boots, un­tangle my skate laces and force my feet into my new skates. I tie my laces as best I can and stand up. My ankles buckle and I almost fall.

“It’s Johnny Bow-legged,” Peter says as he skates to shore and breaks, sending a shower of ice shavings in my direction. Of course he’s wearing a Canadien’s sweater. I think he does it just to piss me off.

Once he’s through selecting his team, Vito sits me down, pulls my laces tighter and ties them in a double-bow. I stand, keeping my knees stiff, and take a hesitant step forward. My ankles hold. I shuffle closer to the edge of the pond and stare at the frozen surface.

“Go for a skate,” Vito says. “We’ll build your posts.”

With an effortless push, he glides away while I take my first step on ice. I wobble like a ballerina with a sprained ankle. Thud! I hit the ice. Vito swoops around me like a hawk.

“You gotta stay on your feet, Kamikaze.”

“I’ll be great, Stick.”

Ignoring my bravado, Vito guides me to what feels like the centre of the universe. As teammates drop boots on either side of me to mark my posts, I try to glide forward. Thud. My teammates snicker and skate away.

Peter cuts through my crease. “No fair,” he says. “You’re fat enough to block anything.” He takes off and I stick out my tongue at the back of his Canadiens’ sweater.

Down ice, Charlie dances between his posts as players pepper him with shots. He catches pucks with his webbed glove, knocks them away with his blocker and kicks them out with his shin pads. I pluck woollen mittens from my coat pockets and slip them on over cold, red hands.

As I get up, Peter stick-handles towards me and takes a shot. I tumble back and land on my seat as the puck dribbles just wide of my net.

“I’m gonna have a field day,” Peter says.

“Suck eggs.”

“Calm down, Nicky,” Vito says as Peter streaks away. “It’s just a game.”

Just a game? How can my brother say that? It’s Hockey Night in Canada. I’m on skates. I’ve got a goalie stick and I’m wearing my Maple Leafs sweater with Johnny Bower’s number on my back. It’s not just a game. It’s the Stanley Cup finals. It’s life and sudden-death. It’s every­thing I’ve always wanted, and now all I want to do is throw up.

I get up without help and slap my stick on the ice just like Bower does. The game begins.

Vito wins the face-off and passes the puck to Alex, who feeds a player breaking down left wing. Vito cuts for the slot and receives the return pass. He shoots. Charlie makes the save, robbing Vito point-blank, and smothers the rebound. I manage to stay on my feet as the play remains in the opposition zone.

I haven’t faced a shot on net and already goaltending on skates is a heck of a lot tougher than Bower makes it look.

Peter gets the puck and doodles around several of our players be­fore passing it to Ernst, who breaks in on right wing. I step out to cut down the angle and fall to my knees. Ernst laughs so hard he fans on his shot. The puck dribbles by me.

Please dear God let it be wide.

“He shoots. He scores!” Peter’s voice rings in my ears. “Beliveau on a picture-perfect pass from Richard.”

Vito helps me up. “Do you want to wear your boots instead?”

“No,” I spit through clenched teeth.

“Be cool. I’ll play back.”

Except in goal, the teams are even. We score next—Alex on a wrist shot on a pinpoint pass from Vito. By accident, I belly-flop on a loose puck during a scramble in front of my net. When I get up, Vito smiles and taps my shins with his stick just like in the big leagues.

On the next play, a long shot hits my stick and knocks me off bal-ance. As I spin around like an awkward ballerina, Peter snaps the rebound at my net but the puck hits my ass. I topple over and land on the puck.

“All right,” Vito says. “We’ve got ourselves a goalie.” My team­mates cheer.

“Dumb luck,” says Peter. “Dumb, fat-assed luck.”

Because of my two saves, Stick gets daring and doesn’t play back as much. He gets caught up ice as Ernst feeds Peter a long pass. Breakaway!

Peter’s eyes are as black as two tiny pucks as he moves in on me. I’m frozen in place. How close is he going to skate before he puts me out of my misery? He dekes right. What would Johnny Bower do?

I dive forward and thrust out my stick—poke check—as Peter shoots. The puck ricochets up off the blade of my stick and strikes me in one of the places a goalie really does not want to get hit. I groan and sprawl face-first on the ice.

“Nutcracker,” Peter shouts as I writhe in pain.

Where am I? My face is pressed against something cold and smooth. The Mouse King has my head gripped in his claws and is trying to twist it off. I can’t breathe.

A distant voice calls. “Get up. Skate it off.”

“Protect my net, Stick.”

“He’s delirious,” Peter says.

“He doesn’t have a cup,” Vito says.

“Who won the Stanley Cup?”

Peter snorts.

“You gotta skate it off.” Vito rubs snow across my forehead. “Help him up,” he says.

Strong arms help me to my feet. But standing only intensifies the pain in the place where—evidently—I should be wearing something called a cup. The arms move me towards the shore. I sit in a snow bank and let the cold dampness seep through my corduroys. It relieves some of the pain.

Vito removes one of my mittens and wipes icicle tears off my cheeks and snot from my nose. He could desert me on the shore and go back to the game, but he doesn’t. He waits for my sobs to subside, helps me remove my skates and put on my boots, then takes me home and helps me into bed.

Vito? Vieni quì.” My father’s deep voice rumbles in from the living room.

I look at Stick who shrugs. “Sleep it off,” he says. Then he leaves to answer my father’s call.

Although the pain makes it difficult for me to move, I grab my list-ening glass and place it against the bedroom wall. I don’t hear my father speak. Instead, I hear Uncle Tony.

“Vito,” he says, “the Maple Leafs hockey sweater you gave to Nicky. Where’d you get it?”

Stick doesn’t answer.

“An expensive hockey sweater was stolen from Danny’s Variety,” Tony continues. “Danny è il mio amico, Vito. And he’s very upset.”

My brother says nothing. I imagine him standing before the men, staring them down.

Then Pa’s voice erupts in my glass. “Stupido! Bastardo!” I hear a loud smack, like the sound of a Frank Mahovlich slapshot bruising the backboards.

My head throbs. I can barely keep my eyes open. The glass slips from my hand and I crawl back into bed.

I am naked, playing goal at Maple Leaf Gardens. The Canadiens, in tights and ballet slippers, score and score at will. Johnny Bower, seated in the stands, scowls and pulls his sweater over his face.

“Nicky?” Vito’s whisper rouses me from my dream. I crack open my eyes. “Are you okay?” he asks.

I nod. My head hurts. The rest of me doesn’t feel so hot either. “How ’bout you?”

Pa’s hand print, blazing red, is branded on his cheek. He sits on the bed beside me. “I’m grounded and banned from Danny’s.”

“You’re grounded? For how long, Stick?”

“Two months. Tony’s pissed off at me and that means Pa’s mad too. He wanted to call the cops, the son-of-a-bitch. But Tony talked him down. He’s gonna let you keep the sweater too. I’m gonna pay for it by working at his factory after school and on weekends for the next couple of months.”

“But you gotta play hockey, Stick. And you gotta teach me how to skate.” I tug at the sleeve of my sweater. “Will they let you out if we give it back?”

Vito holds a finger to his lips. “You don’t ever gotta give it back.” My brother fishes my hockey cards off my night stand and shuffles them.

I grab the collar of my Maple Leafs jersey and jerk it over my head. “Tell ’em you gotta play, Stick.” I shove my Johnny Bower sweater at my brother. “I don’t want it if you can’t play.”

He folds it neatly on his lap.

“Sorry I was such a lousy goalie,” I say.

“Are you kidding?” he says. “It was a great save you made. You left Peter shaking his head in disbelief.”

I giggle, which hurts like hell.

Vito tosses the sweater back at me. “It’s yours,” he says. “I’m pay­ing for it. And then we’re gonna play hockey.”

“Poke check,” I say. “I poke checked the snot outta Peter.”

“Poke check,” he says. “A Johnny Bower poke check all the way.”


18 books for the writer in you

Looking for a book for the writer in you or a writer you know? Here is where you can find 18 books on business and promotional writing, article, book, web and social media writing, self-publishing and the business of freelance writing. Most are available in print, Kindle and epub (Kobo) versions:

  • How To Write A Non-Fiction Book in 60 Days. Ideal for those who want to write a non-fiction book.
  • Produce, Price and Promote Your Self-Published Fiction or Non-fiction Book and eBook. “Painstakingly lays out all the information one needs to self-publish a book, including options, pros and cons and caveats.”
  • Say it Right: How to Write Speeches and Presentations 
  • Harness the Business Writing Process: E-mail, Letters, Proposals, Reports, Media Releases, Web Content – Used by University of Toronto adult education business writing students.
  • Harness the Email Writing Process: How to Become a More Effective and Efficient Email Writer 
  • Fundamentals of Writing: How to Write Articles, Media Releases, Case Studies, Blog Posts and Social Media Content  
  • How to Write Web Copy and Social Media Content: Spruce up Your Website Copy, Blog Posts and Social Media Content 
  • Copywriting That Works: Bright ideas to Help You Inform, Persuade, Motivate and Sell! Used by University of Toronto and George Brown College.
  • How to Write Sales Letters and Email: Write direct response marketing material to inform, persuade and sell!  
  • Everything You Wanted to Know About Freelance Writing – Find, Price, Manage Corporate Writing Assignments & Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines.
  • Six-Figure Freelancer: How to Find, Price and Manage Corporate Writing Assignments
  • Business of Freelance Writing: How to Develop Article Ideas and Sell Them to Newspapers and Magazines, Conduct Interviews and Write Article Leads
  • The Query Letter: How to Sell Article Ideas to Newspapers and Magazines
  • Unblock Writer’s Block: How to face it, deal with it and overcome it. With over 70 writing exercises to get you started and keep you writing.
  • (re)Discover the Joy of Creative Writing. Over 50 exercises to get you started and keep you writing.
  • How to Write Media Releases to Promote Your Business, Organization or Event 
  • Are You Ready For Your Interview? How to Prepare for Media Interviews. Prepare for interviews with print and broadcast reporters.
  • Rebel in the Back Seat and other short stories