The End Times by John E. Stack

We are in the end times and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. What? No, not THOSE end times, but kids are out of school and report cards come out next week.  Teachers are still working.  The end of the year is full of surprises for students and teachers alike.  I do many things like writing, foster parenting, drawing, woodworking, helping take care of a seven-year-old, and the list keeps going.  But, out of the many things that I do, my main job is that of a middle school teacher. 

I have observed many things.  Some kids will find out that they are not as smart as they think they are.  And, some parents will find out that their kids aren’t as smart as they thought they were.  Some will find that their child was smart and could do the work.  Others will find out that their smart child doesn’t work up to their potential.  And, a lot of this will be the teacher’s fault.

Now-a-days, almost everyone gets promoted, whether they need to or not.  Sometimes the child is just too old be with younger children.  I think fifteen is the maximum age for kids to stay in middle school, so off they go to become someone else’s problem.  Sometimes those children have an epiphany in high school and realize that their free ride is quickly coming to an end and making minimum wage is not enough to survive on.  Others never get it.

I was blessed this year and taught some super kids and I will miss them.  I had an unusual assortment of teaching positions this year.  On one day I taught math study skills to multiple classes of middle school boys and on the next day I was the in-school suspension teacher.  At the end of the second quarter, a teacher went out on maternity leave and I was asked to take over her classes.  Job Change!!!  I became a sixth grade math teacher.

I’m in my nineteenth year of teaching math and I have never taught sixth grade more than one day when another teacher was absent.  It scared me to death.  These were little tiny sixth graders, except for the couple of eleven-year-olds that stood over six feet tall.  I was told I needed to tone down my personality.  But, no matter how hard I tried, that 8th grade teacher inside of me (yeah, the loud one) kept sneaking out.  But I made it to the end, and some of the sweet children actually cried when I had to leave.  They were either tears of joy or sadness, I’m not sure which.  I’ve always said that I bring joy into the life of everyone that I meet, some when I come into the room and others when I leave.  I choose sadness.

But, just like children get promoted, so do teachers.  I spent time in sixth grade and next year I get to spend time in seventh grade.  I don’t get to teach math, though, I get to teach Social studies, American History, to be exact.  Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in the social studies classrooms, usually to harass the other teacher, but never to teach.  That is unless you count my student teaching nineteen years ago, when I taught two math classes and two social studies classes.  Maybe it’s because I’ve lived through a lot of US history, not most, but a lot.  In all actuality, a friend of mine retired and my school lost a math position, so in order to keep me at the school I was selected. Therefore, I still have a job.  There are few things better than a regular paycheck.

So, now I’m out for the summer and real work begins.  Don’t start on how teachers are so lucky, because we get two months paid vacation, ‘cause we don’t.  We are employed for 10 months, so we can elect to have those checks paid over twelve months or we have to figure out how to save and pay ourselves for those two months.  Anyway, I will probably work harder over the next two months than I did most of the year.  My honey-do list awaits.

By the way, since you’re reading my blog, click the link and check out some of my other writings.

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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How Not To Write A Novel by Sheila Deeth

The problem with being a published author is that friends sometimes assume I know what I’m doing. I don’t. But I am learning. So here is a list of things I’ve learned about how not to write a novel:

  1. Don’t write what you don’t know. My first novel, written in elementary school, included a woman getting pregnant and giving birth six weeks later. I suspect if I’d had any readers they might have said this couldn’t be true.
  2. Don’t tell your characters to go away. In high school and young adulthood I still wanted to write. But every time I started a novel this character, someone awfully like me, demanded I let her take over. I didn’t want to write about her. I wished she’d go away, but of course, she wouldn’t. Characters rarely obey.
  3. Don’t write about yourself. Hoping to dispel my intrusive stranger, I tried my hand at autobiography. It didn’t work. She  was there again, complaining, “No, that’s you. It didn’t happen that way to me.” I gave up and wrote her story instead, and learned a lot from her. Later she introduced me to someone else, a character in my first-ever published novel, and at last she stepped aside. Thus Infinite Sum was born.
  4. Don’t forget the timeline. But that was later. Before then I gave up on writing novels, assuming they’d need too much time. I stuck to short stories–tons of them–where the same set of characters kept reappearing and meeting over again. One of these turned out to be a murderer, much to my surprise (probably his as well), at which point I decided to stick the stories together into a novel. All went well until my wonderful editor pointed out that one sister aged two years while the other didn’t change. Time for a timeline! Lesson learned.
  5. Don’t expect it to sell. Still dreaming, I still hope that first novel might turn into the start of something spectacular. It’s called Divide by Zero. It’s a tapestry of small town lives woven around a small town singularity. It’s moderately invisible on Amazon. But…
  6. Don’t stop writing, because the more novels you have out there, the better chance you have that one might sell. (That’s the mathematician in me, checking out the odds…)
  7. Don’t write in first person. They told me that long ago and it was easy when I wove Divide by Zero together. With so many characters each chapter clearly belonged to someone else–first person would have been hopelessly confusing. But my second novel was different. My character wanted to tell her tale her way, which meant I had to make sure I wrote in her voice and never mine. Harder work than I expected.
  8. Don’t write from multiple points of view. I didn’t hear this instruction until too late. Divide by Zero was inherently created from multiple points of view. But Infinite Sum enjoys just one narrator (yes, first person), so it’s more straight forward. Then comes my third novel, with two viewpoints warring, and a cat. It’s called Subtraction, and it due for release on August first.
  9. Don’t try to change the time and place. With Subtraction speeding toward release, I’m working on novel number four. In its first life this one was set somewhere else with different characters living in a different time. Now I’m reworking it for the Mathemafiction Series. I have to check up when people started using cell phones, computers, reading online, wearing different clothes… Whatever possessed me to think I could do this? (The characters, of course. They insisted I’d got everything wrong first time.)
  10. And finally don’t rewrite before rereading. Sadly, I needed that piece of advice before Imaginary Numbers took over my life. I don’t even remember where the plotline is meant to go. But the characters aren’t concerned. They assure me they’ll take the right way this time, implying, of course, that I got it so terribly wrong before. They’re bossy, my characters. And they really don’t care one jot about my flagging self-esteem.

So those are my ten don’ts. And now for my dos.

  1. Do read.
  2. Do write.
  3. Do listen.
  4. Do let someone else read what you’re writing.
  5. Then listen well to their advice. It’s sure to be better than mine.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction Novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Her first novel, Divide by Zero, weaves a tapestry of small town lives around a singular death. The second book, Infinite Sum, presents the story of a wounded woman finding a path through the infinite sum of troubles in her past. Book three, Subtraction, will be released on August 1st. It tells how a man who’s lost everything might seek a missing child and find himself. And in Imaginary Numbers… Who knows? The novels explore guilt and forgiveness, and Sheila begs your forgiveness for her inability to tell where Imaginary Numbers will go.

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Medicare Redicare

For the last three years, I’ve had the same Medicare company and so this year I assumed my healthcare appointments, coverage, providers, etc. would probably remain pretty much the same as in previous years. However, I’m finding changes and they’ve kind of surprised me. A couple of days ago, I received a letter from my company stating they are “making it easier to take charge of my health.” Are they saying it’s going to be easier for ME to take charge of my health, or that they are making it easier on THEM to take charge? Hmmm.

I decided to continue reading to see if the answer lay further on. Ah, ha! The very next sentence stated my company was working with another company to bring a mobile clinic to my neighborhood in order to give me preventative health screenings close to home. And these screenings would be custom geared to my specific health needs and could be completed in one appointment. Then to top it all off, these screenings would be provided to me at no extra charge. Gosh, I feel as though I’ve won the lottery! All I needed to do was call a certain phone number and I could get scheduled. Wow, huh?

I couldn’t decide what to do with the letter, so, like Scarlett O’Hara I left it sitting on the counter in my kitchen and went on with my day. Then the next day, I received a phone call from a cute sounding young man from my company (we’ll call him “Brad” since he may have called you, too) who asked if I’d gotten a letter from them recently about this screening company. I told him I had and he said he was calling to get me signed up and scheduled for an appointment. How efficient! “Brad” explained that when the results came back from the different tests conducted, they would be sent to my primary doctor and she would discuss the results with me in a subsequent visit.  I told him I thought that would work out well since I was already scheduled to see her for a checkup in early August.

I secretly was thinking it seemed strange to me to have this company schedule screenings this late in the year since each Medicare year begins in January. I may have already had these screenings because I see my primary doctor for a checkup about three times a year, as it is, and each time she covers a screening or two—but what do I know.

I asked “Brad” where the location was of this screening place and he told me it was a mobile unit near my local Winn Dixie grocery store. Then he asked me if I was able to climb a few steps. I told him I was old, but not too old to get into a trailer. I guess it must have been the way I said it, because “Brad” burst out laughing, which caused me to get tickled, too. I was becoming fond of “Brad.” He told me I had a good sense of humor and suddenly I thought of him calling seniors all day who were likely seriously obsessed with their own health issues and probably not much fun to talk with. Poor kid. I asked him if his job was tedious and he said, not at all. He was helping people get the care they needed. Okay, his reply may have been scripted, but he answered so quickly, I felt he was being sincere. Now I was ready to adopt “Brad!”

So I can honestly say I spoke with someone today who seemed to sincerely care. How often do we feel that way these days? I hope all you other seniors out there get a call from “Brad.”

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Not My Time to Go by Thornton Cline

A Rambling Man (Part Two) from Chapter Eight

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Psalm 107:4  KJV

 

Thornton Cline, author

I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences.

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It Was All a Big Misunderstanding by Steve Hagood

I experienced a nightmare the likes of which only a middle-aged man can understand, and somehow, by the grace of God, I survived.

I went shopping with my lovely wife, Jenni, to Victoria’s Secret. I know women think that that should be a dream come true, but I’m here to tell you, it’s not.

Deep down, all guys know they’re perverts, but we don’t really want anybody else to know this. Walking into Victoria’s Secret is like a crack head walking into a crack house. We enter the store like there’s going to be Victoria’s Secret models walking around in bras and panties. It’s never like that though. It’s more like finding a thong in the laundry basket and learning it’s your daughter’s. Awkward and embarrassing.

Jenni and I were at the mall – I must have been there to get a pretzel or something – when Jenni remembered that she had a coupon for a free pair of panties.

“Let’s run in there and grab these real quick,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, with dread. I had done this before. I knew there weren’t any scantily clad Victoria’s Secret models in there. I knew it was a store full of my daughter’s thongs.

We entered the store and Jenni went to the panties bins. In a normal store, I’d help her find what she was looking for to hasten our departure, but I wasn’t about to go digging through a bin of women’s panties, in public, in front of a store full of women. I already felt like the women in the store thought I was a pervert, I wasn’t about to give them evidence.

And then a thought occurred to me. The previous Christmas we had found a pair of Detroit Lions sweatpants for my daughter there and she had really liked them. I wondered if they had anything new that she might like for that Christmas. So I wandered, looking for Detroit Lions gear.

Before I knew what was happening I found myself standing outside the changing room, just as a lady was exiting. The look on her face screamed, “STRANGER DANGER!”

While totally innocent, I was the pervert hanging around outside the changing room in Victoria’s Secret.

I hustled back to Jenni’s side, my face burning with embarrassment.

“Where have you been?” she asked, not looking up from the bin.

“I…um…”

She looked up to my face and shook her head. “Just stay with me, please.”

“Okay,” I said, “Are you ready to go?”

“Not yet,” she said, looking around. “I want to find a pair of yoga pants for Chelsea.”

We found the yoga pants, but Jenni wasn’t sure which size to get. I could help with yoga pants, they were like sweatpants. It was the perfect opportunity to redeem myself, and maybe earn a cookie before we left the mall. I thought I could find someone in the store about the same size as Chelsea, and ask her what size she wore.

So, I started scanning the other shoppers.

I found a clerk about the same size as Chelsea, just as she turned around and caught me checking out her legs and butt.

Again, I was innocent, but probably not getting a cookie.

“Can I help you?” the clerk asked, her eyes drilling into my skull.

I stammered, “I…um…you’re…my wife…Jenni!”

Jenni turned to see the angry clerk and me with an embarrassed look on my face. “Why don’t you go wait for me out in the mall?” she said.

I thanked her for her mercy and exited the store, looking at nothing but the floor the entire way.

It was the last time I’ve ever been in Victoria’s Secret. Jenni and I now have an unspoken agreement that she will not go in there when I am with her, and I…well, I don’t really have a side to the agreement. I’m just not allowed to go in there anymore, which is fine with me.

Steve Hagood is the author of the newly released Cold, Dark Places from Indigo Sea Press, as well as other novels and short stories. To learn more visit his website http://www.stevehagood.com

https://squareup.com/store/michael-simpson-2/

 

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A Year Of Change – by Maribeth Shanley

My year, 2017 began in November of 2016.  It began with the election; one where our country had the grand opportunity to elect a formidable, caring and genuinely ethical woman to lead our country.  Instead, our country, driven by what I still consider an obsolete, Electoral College, elected the most uninformed, lazy, crude, rude, secretive man in history to become the leader of our country.

I spent the rest of 2016 and well into 2017 mourning the death of a dream.  I’ve been through all the stages of grief which began with severe sadness and evolved into anger and action of that anger.  It’s interesting and oddly ironic that along with a change in myself, the investigation of this grossly inept president is heating up as connections to our country’s arch-enemy, Russia under a cruel and cunning dictator, Vladimir Putin is discovered, and people are unmasked.

As I was experiencing the multi-stages of grief, the loss hit again.  This loss was intimate and unexpected.  My little male fur child, Pooker died.  Diagnosed as being diabetic, Pooker continued to experience complications as they became more severe and frequent.   As I stood on the precipice of a new stage of grief, on February 4, 2017, Pooker died in my arms.  This time, I fell harder than ever back into the first several stages of grief:  shock, denial, pain and guilt.  I experienced destruction as my heart felt like lumps of rubble.

elvis-has-left-the-building

Time has passed; and, with that passing, I am recovering.  I no longer feel the anger I did over the election; and, I no longer feel the complete devastation I felt when Pooker left us.  I am experiencing a rebirth.

Bob_Chopper[2293]

Today, Friday, June 2nd, my husband, Bob, officially retires.  We’ve lived in Myrtle Beach for three years, and I have experienced the area on a limited basis.  I have one friend I met at the gym Bob, and I visit three times each week.  Except on weekends, the time at the gym gives Bob, and I time together.  I’ve been grateful for that together time.  However, I have craved more.  Bob is not only my husband of 46 years; he’s the light of my life and my best friend in the world!  Beginning tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to spend as much time with Bob as will be possible.  Plus, we will use much of that time, at least in the beginning, exploring the surrounding areas of North and South Carolina into the coast of Georgia.  Prime on our list is Savannah, Georgia.  Since the book turned movie,  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’ve wanted to visit Savannah.  

Next year, we hope to cross the country to the Pacific coast.  I’ve traveled by land as far as Greely, Colorado.  I only experienced a glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.  On multiple occasions, I’ve seen them from the air as I traveled back and forth with the company I worked for.  Bob has seen the entire western portion of the U.S.  The trip will take two and possibly three weeks to complete as we travel out to the west taking the northern route through the Rocky Mountains and out to the Seattle area.  We will then travel down the coast to San Diego.  From there, we will travel back home via the southwest route.  Such a trip will enable us to experience the full beauty of our country.  

We’ve discussed traveling outside the country.  I’m not sure we will be in a hurry to do that.  I’m not interested in Europe.  Other than our continent, the only continent I’ve wanted to visit is Africa. 

Senufo mask

At 29 and when I began my senior year at the University of Illinois, I enrolled in what I thought would be an easy class.  I enrolled in a Western Africa Art Appreciation class.  It actually turned out to be the hardest class I had taken.  In fact, after the first quiz, I talked to the professor.  She informed me that I had enrolled in an advanced class and counseled me that I still had time to drop her class and pick up something else.  However, by that conversation, I had fallen head over heels in love with Africa.  I loved the different cultures and the idea of all the wonderful animals.  I stuck with the class as I spent extra hours reading literature at the University library.  I managed to get a C from the class, the only C of my four years at the university.  However, it was a C I was extremely proud of.  To this day, I can look at a piece of Western African art and know which tribe created it.  Thus, Africa is definitely in our future. 

I only recently became aware of my change.  The emotions of that transformation are calm with a hint of excitement.  Humans work all their lives beholden to companies and individuals with those companies while they are never able to imagine how retiring feels.  For most, it’s a frightening proposition.  Many people don’t prepare for it.  We’ve been preparing for five years.

Five years ago we agreed that I would retire and Bob would continue to work.  I left the corporate world in 2004 to run my clothing company, Iron Cowgirls.   In 2008 when the market crashed, and I was forced to sell the business, it quickly became evident that I had little to no opportunity of re-entering my old profession at the same salary with which I had left.  There were too many people with my talents competing for the same jobs; and, most of them were younger than me.  Thus, after trying the commission only world, I realized it wasn’t a good fit as I lost more than I gained.  So, I retired and took on the continued task of managing the finances with a focus on enabling Bob to retire debt free.  It’s been a daunting task, especially since the sale of my company didn’t clear out all the debt it acquired over the four years I managed it full time.  However, never shrinking from a challenge, I managed to knockout, one by one, every single debt Iron Cowgirls and we had acquired.  When Pooker became ill, we had a slight setback, but even it will be gone as, tomorrow, Bob files his last expense report.

During this entire process, I’ve come to recognize that working toward Bob’s retirement has been cathartic.  I feel a flush of excitement and a sense of peace as I anticipate the rest of our lives.  This process made itself evident when, yesterday, as I was dressing, I had an overwhelming feeling which culminated in my saying out loud, “I no longer have anything to prove to anyone.”  I have no one to prove myself to, and that includes me!

I will continue to write because I love writing.  Too, it’s simply exciting to know I have a talent I never dreamed I had.  I am currently working on an anthology of short stories.  I also want to finally write that memoir which will include my entire family.  I have other books as well that I’ve begun and left hanging.  The one thing I will not do, however, is hold myself to a time table.  I will write when I want to believing that approach will encourage me to write more.  No pressure, the sheer enjoyment of writing will push me naturally.  Now it’s Bob’s opportunity to discover what he likes to do. 

I have no doubt he will find something and maybe he will find multiple somethings.  Bob is brilliant, funny and very talented in so many areas.   The one thing I do know, he will enjoy his retirement.  So many people sink into depression feeling they are now worthless.  Not me and not Bob!  We will continue to thrive individually and together.  With all my heart, I look forward to our future and the many adventures I know we will have.

 

 

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The Woods – 6 Inspecting The House (2015) by LV Gaudet

1The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

5 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

2015

 

The realtor enters first, staring in fascination at the outdated furniture and décor.  The air feels heavy with dust and it tickles the back of his throat.

Awkwardly, he remembers and steps aside to let the other man in.

He steps inside after the realtor and, like him, stops to take it all in.  He scans the room, absorbing the old furniture, the layer of dust covering everything like a shroud. The dust in the air is heavy and gives his throat a dry tickle that makes him want to cough.

With a distracted nod to the realtor, he steps further into the house, feeling a momentary pang of regret for not taking his shoes off. “You are supposed to take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home,” he thinks.  He looks around taking it all in.

“It’s eerie how the house feels like the family just left it moments ago, like they are about to come back at any time.  The house looks lived in, except for the thirty years of dust coating everything and the vague feeling of abandonment.”

The mostly green cover of a comic book left laying open on the floor catches his eye.  He picks up the comic book and looks at it, trying not to disturb too much of the dust clinging to it.  It’s unavoidable, his fingers rub smudges in the dust coating the old comic book.  The Thing, an orange blocky comic book creation made of stone, part monster and all hero.  On the cover, The Thing appears to be battling a many-armed green wall, the green arms surrounding him in a barrage of punching fists.  Marvel Comics, The Thing issue #21 dated March 1985.  The price on it is sixty cents.

The top front corner is curled from a boy’s rough handling.

He puts it down with a frown, wondering if it’s worth anything on the collectors’ market.  He can’t take it, though.  It belongs to the municipality, along with the property and its contents.  At least until after the auction.  He hopes the realtor didn’t notice it.

“How often do realtors scoop up gems like this without anyone ever knowing?” he wonders.

Against the wall on a stand, a tube T.V. with its faux wood exterior box, two front dials, and bent rabbit ears poking up from the top at the back, sits darkly silent, a haze of dust coating every surface.

He walks through the house, past a pair of socks discarded on the floor, and into the kitchen.

“Did you say they still lived here after the boys vanished?” he called to the realtor in the other room.

The realtor is studying the spines of books in a bookcase on one wall.  It’s made of the old particleboard that expands and crumbles when it absorbs moisture, which it inevitably does over time.  The shelves have some warping and bubbling, crumbled on some edges.

“Yes, I don’t know how long.  They lived here while the search for the boys was going, and for some time after the search was given up.”

“And the husband moved out, leaving the mother alone?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“I don’t know. Months? Years? They locked the place when they took her away. Like I said, we’re the first to set foot in the house since they institutionalized her.”

He leaves the bookshelf and starts for the kitchen.

In the kitchen, the buyer walks around, taking in the two tea towels carefully hung on the oven door handle, yellowed and rotting with age.  The teakettle on the stovetop. On the countertop, a measuring cup sits next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Two bags he guesses are flour and sugar bags sit next them. The bags are faded and stained with age, the paper brittle with age, and even the larger print words hard to read.

“Looks like someone was going to make a cake.”

He turns away, circling the table, studying the place settings set with care.

An old tan rotary dial phone hangs on the wall not far from the kitchen table, where the person on the phone can sit down at the table while they talk, the coiled cord stretched from them to the phone on the wall.

The realtor walks in and looks around, his footprints in the dust coating the kitchen floor joining those following the buyer’s trail across the room.  “Weird, the table is set for four.”

“For her family.” It is said with a dull gravity that makes the realtor turn and stare at him.

He breaks the awkward moment.

“I’ll show you the bedrooms.  There’s three bedrooms, I think.”

 

 

* *   ***  **  ***  **  ***  **

Author’s Note

While writing can be a panacea for stress, finding the time for it in a busy schedule can be a seemingly insurmountable challenge to circumvent.

Our backyard treesThings get hectic and perhaps you feel like you have lost control of even the little things (like your unread emails!).  It’s well worth finding that little niche of writing time.  Even writing these little bits, like the very short chapters of The Woods, can help keep that inspiration alive to feed the bigger stories brewing behind your hectic day of everyday life.

Some of my blogs are woefully neglected.  I try to find the little ways I can contribute and keep in touch with the world.

I am still plugging away when I can at those other writing projects.  Always in hopes of making significant progress.

Then again, the best progress could be sitting on the deck with a large glass of wine and looking out at those marvelously spooky trees.

Follow The Woods installments

 

 

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

 

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

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Its been a While

Good afternoon to everyone!

It’s been such a long while since I last visited this site. Almost a year actually if I’m correct. I’m about to make 10 months in the Army, 10 long months in which a lot has happened and in which I have been able to change and grow as a person.

I’m about to graduate from AIT training from Fort Lee on the 31st of May. I’ll be MOS certified and will officially be a 92G in the army. Yes, its culinary specialist and yes its basically being a cook. But even though people may look down upon this MOS I’m proud of my accomplishments.

I’ll be stationed in Alaska, which gets me super excited. I’m eager to finally be able to get out of this training environment and into the real army. I’m ready for the next step in my military career and see what’s in store.

No, for those of you wondering, I have not forgotten my passion for writing. I have all my writing material with me, all my notebooks and pens and folders. Whenever I have personal time I draw and write more on my stories and songs. I will take my writing with me to Alaska and everywhere else I may go. It works wonders to be able to take out stress after long days.

I’ll be visiting home for a little while to spend time with the family before I’m off to Alaska. I have a high chance of being deployed so that is as exciting as it is a bit scary.

Well, enjoy your day guys!

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If a Picture Paints a Thousand Words by Sherrie Hansen

An almost full moon reflected off a pond hugged by beds of flowers in blues, yellows and violets of various heights. In the center, a fountain trickled down the neck and breasts of a stone statue of a woman with full hips and voluptuous curves. The scene was framed by walls of stone and brick etched with pink climbing roses and lavender wisteria. This is what they were going to destroy? (from GOLDEN ROD by Sherrie Hansen)

GR Blog - Wisteria.jpg

As Mark and I head off on another trip to indulge our love affair with Great Britain and research settings of future books, I’m anticipating the release of GOLDEN ROD, the book inspired by last year’s journey to Scotland.

One of the things I most love about writing is the chance to scope out new locations – and with them, the likeable qualities and legends that give the place its charm. When we get home, my pleasure is doubled when I get to sit down with my thoughts, reminisce about our experiences, and craft a story with word pictures about the places we’ve seen.

GR Blog - Goose bench.jpg

Although Rod MacKenzie’s exquisite walled garden and the unique castle pictured on the front cover of GOLDEN ROD are fictional in the sense that they’re not located along the shores of Loch Carron, many of the other spots mentioned in the book are as real as you and me. In the text below, I’m going to share a snippet from GOLDEN ROD followed by a photo of the real life image that inspired it. Craigievar Castle, Leith Hall Garden and Crarae Garden, which I magically transported to the Lochcarron and the Wester Ross area of Western Scotland, are actually located to the east in Aberdeenshire and Argyll. Enjoy!

GR Blog - bluebelle garden   GR Blog - Castle   GR Blog - Bleeding hearts

The blue waters of Loch Carron disappeared, then reappeared. The road widened. Katelyn glanced out the window and caught sight of a rusty old gate surrounding a cemetery. The stones were all but covered with moldy-looking splotches of who knew what and some sort of green slime that looked straight from the pages of a horror flick.

GR Blog - Cemetery

A few blocks later, a large white building appeared. The huge black letters on its side wall spelled LOCHCA, followed by an R dangling precariously from what looked to be one nail, and a tenuous RON. Which is exactly what she wished she’d done the second she set foot in Scotland – run. Rod might have fanciful – make that delusional – images of the town where he’d been raised, but all she could see was a place that needed a good PR person to improve and update its sad, sorry, broken down image.

GR Blog - Lochcarron Hotel

The town was comprised of a long row of houses on one side, with a sidewalk, a greenbelt, and the lake on the other.

GR Blog - Loch Carron park

Rod pulled into a parking spot and came around to open the door for her. The sign on the front of the whitewashed building with blue trim and a slate roof said Waterside Café, Tearoom Takeaway. There were round picnic tables with bright blue umbrellas over the top in front. Rod straddled the bench of one, and motioned for her to have a seat.

GR Blog - Waterside Cafe

“Ye can go in and look at the menu board on the wall if ye like, or wait. They’ll bring ye a menu in a minute.”

“You don’t need one?”

“Nae. They know what I want.”

“How could they?”

“I’m a regular.”

“And you have the same thing every time?”

“For lunch, Stornoway Black Pudding Stack. It’s layered with apples and Stilton cheese. Pure dead brilliant.”

GR Blog - Stornoway

 “M’Lady? M’Lady? Are ye here?” Valan MacKenzie stood at the window where his wife had fallen to her death 500 years earlier and started to sing her favorite song in the hope she would come to him.

When bluebells start to bloom each spring, I’ll come to ye. My love I’ll bring.

My heart for ye, it always breaks. But sadness will nae overtake.

For hope lives on in each new day. My love for ye will find its way.

GR Blog - bluebells

Rod was holding two large china plates. “I took the liberty of getting some essentials since ye were asleep when we reached the grocery. I thought ye’d enjoy trying a full Scottish breakfast – eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast. I skipped the haggis and the black pudding on yer plate since ye seemed a bit squeamish about them yesterday, but the rest should be-”

Her stomach had started to roil at the word eggs. It wasn’t that she disliked eggs, but the thought of eating such a huge breakfast when she was stressed out and in an unfamiliar place and it wasn’t even breakfast time where she was from…

GR Blog - breakfast

They walked through the laburnum archway he and his da had planted a decade earlier. The slender yellow fronds were just starting to fade.

GR Blog - Laburnum Arch

A minute later, Katelyn came flouncing down the steps of the blue and white house where Colin’s office was located. He’d never met anyone – man or woman – with so much attitude.

GR Blog - Blue House

The taller one smiled. “Is Sea Worthy booked for the rest of the afternoon or are you free? We were hoping to see Kilt Rock and Portree from the sea.”

GR Blog - PortreeGR Blog - Portree Harbor  GR Blog - Kilt Rock

“Do ye like fish? I’ve two nicely smoked haddock filets that I picked up in Portree this afternoon. My mother used to make something called Haddock Mornay. It’s been years, but I think I can remember how to make the sauce.”

Katelyn looked up and smiled faintly. Aye, the lass was warming up to him awright.

“My mum would make a roux and then stir a wee bit of garlic salt and some buttery, soft white Cheddar from the Isle of Arran into the cream. If ye’re a fan of fish, the taste of the Mornay sauce, o’er a bit of mash, is pure dead brilliant.”

GR Blog - Haddock Mornay

Rod tried to put Katelyn out of his mind as he walked back to the cottage. The deep, mossy scents of the forest floor, the sun-warmed pine needles, and the last remnants of the bluebells filled his nostrils with the familiar scents he loved so much. He could have spent all evening in the woods.

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Katelyn twirled slowly, not willing to miss a single degree of the panorama spread out in front of her. “Thank you so much for bringing me here. I can’t imagine a place more beautiful than this one.” She peeked through the lacey fronds of Scotch pines and Douglas firs that stretched from blue waters to bluer skies.

    GR Blog - Loch Carron

Rod put one arm around her shoulder and pointed with the other. “See the big white house on the other side of the loch? That’s Stromeferry, where my grandpa’s ferry used to operate.”

GR Blog - Stromferry

Katelyn looked past the feathery fir trees and the hillside covered in bluebells, and the buttercups in bloom, and caught a glimpse of the sky. Moody, grey, towering clouds cast shadows into each valley, every fold of the hillside, turning sunshine to gloom. She felt as unsettled as a changeling, which she might as well believe in now that she’d met a pair of ghosts and God.

She could have stood with her neck arched, looking up at the roiling clouds, forever. It wasn’t because they were beautiful, or even captivating. They were on the move, ever-changing. They were frighteningly unpredictable. They were out of control, so various and sundry that one couldn’t be sure what was going to happen from minute to minute say nothing about tomorrow. Just like her life.

GR Blog - Clouds

I hope you’ll read GOLDEN ROD when it comes out next month! Although you’ll see a few familiar faces from my first four Wildflowers of Scotland novels, it’s not necessary to read any of them to enjoy GOLDEN ROD.

The only way Katelyn O’Neal can save her niece’s life is to ruin Rod Mackenzie’s. One 600-year-old Scottish castle. A rightful heir. A legal heir. Two desperate ghosts. GOLDEN ROD by Sherrie Hansen. Coming from Indigo Sea Press in June 2017.

Golden Rod Front Cover Final

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-five years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now share homes in 2 different towns, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Golden Rod” is Sherrie’s tenth book to be published by Indigo Sea Press.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Wildflowers of Scotland Novels by Sherrie Hansen (3)

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Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel

Bill – Not Quite the Last Chapter by John E. Stack

 

Well, it finally happened.  Bill has been placed in his forever home, and he now lives several hours from us.  His new parents said that they will stay in touch, but you never know.  Even though we still have a seven-year-old, the house is so quiet.

 

A week after I wrote my last blog, Bill went to visit for four nights and the following weekend we delivered him for the final time.  Unlike all the other transitions we have ever done, we did a parking lot transfer.  In other words, as we unloaded his things from our car the social worker brought the final paperwork and told us we could go.  We had hoped to talk for a few minutes and say good-bye, but we quickly hugged, said our good-byes and left.  She made a visit a week later and couldn’t figure out why he was having a tough time – clueless.

 

The only thing I can compare the feeling to is the loss of a loved one.  Bill lived with us for two years and nine months.  The loss feels tremendous.  Everything we do, everywhere we look and most everything we see reminds us of that laughing little boy.  He was such a lively part of our lives.  But that time is now over. 

 

We pray that Bill comes to accept his new mom and dad.  We pray that his new mom and dad have fallen so much in love with him that no matter what manifests, they will love him enough to keep him.  (Yes, adoptive parents have the option of returning kids if things get too tough.)  And, maybe one day they will re-establish contact with us and at least send us updates with a few pictures.

 

Many have asked us if we will continue to be foster parents and we always answer that we do not know.  That decision belongs to God.  We do need time to heal and for our family to reconnect.  We will renew our license, but we will wait to see where God leads us.  That will sound strange/weird to some people, but many will understand.

 

********************

 

I hope that this first Mother’s Day was the best for his new mom.  I know that she has anticipated this day for years.  Today was a dream come true.  We are so glad we had a hand in this.

 

Being a mom is not instinct, it has to be learned.  Girls learn to be moms from watching their own moms.  Pretty much any lady can have a baby, but it takes someone special to be a mom.  Blessings to all the moms that happen to read this. 

 

 

 

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

 

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Filed under John Stack, writing