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Ghost Ship (The Illopogas) by LV Gaudet

 

A pall hung over the moon, misty clouds stringing across the sky like the tattered remnants of a ghostly sail.  The endless sound of the ocean forever in motion whispered ceaselessly like the incomprehensible roar of a far away stadium crowd.  Pale light from the moon reflected weakly off the constant gently rolling water, illuminating the upward motion while casting faint shadows on the downward movements of the water’s ceaselessly flowing surface.

A sound moaned softly somewhere in the darkness.  It was the creak and groan of ancient lumber flexing and bending with the pressure of the waves pressing upon it, trying to bend the wood to its will.  With it came the soft lapping of the waves licking against the slowly rotting timber, carrying it on an endless voyage across the sea.

Within the dark confines of the ancient ship’s hull, the air hung heavy and stale.  Dead.  Throughout the empty cargo hold was the rotten wood remnants of long ago stalls and pens for the transporting of livestock.  The spaces between these broken lumber remnants were filled to capacity with tightly packed rows and rows of shelves from ceiling to floor.  Littered among these shelves were shackles.  Some were red-brown with the rust of ages, some seemed black as a new cast iron pan and freshly oiled.  Many lay within the ranges in between.  There were shackles on the shelves and lying discarded on the floor like dead metal vipers.  Still more hung down from the low ceiling, swinging casually with the gentle rolling of the ship on the sea, swinging silently except for the occasional light ching when two touched briefly in their never-ending dance.  A thick gritty and greasy dust clung to everything.

“Is the cargo secured?” a voice called out.  The captain was feeling nervous about the dark clouds looming on the horizon.

“All secure,” called back the first mate.

“Secure the masts,” the captain called out, “bring in the sails.”

The sounds of men scurrying about the deck, voices indefinable and vague, echoed down to the hull below.

On the vacant deck above, the pale light of the moon caressed across the ship from bow to stern.  The sails hung limply, tattered and shredded, stained and rotting.  The planks of the deck lay clean and dry, repeatedly washed by the waves as though by invisible deck hands.  Endless days under the sun had left the timber bleached.

The moans and groans of ill and discontented souls oozed up from the bowels of the ship with the creaking and groaning of the timber, the only sound other than the waves and shifting of what remained of the rotting tack that touched the deserted deck.  Sometimes a terrible scream would be carried on the wind, fleeing the terrors locked within the weeping timber of the ship’s hull.

This is the Illopogas, a cargo ship that was once used for transporting many different types of cargos over the years, the last of which was livestock that was not of the four-legged variety.  Stories of the Illopogas migrate like some of the denizens of the waves, travelling from port to port, whispered in the darkened corners of inns and pubs by sailors who have drunk too much.  Even in the telling of these tales, these drunken louts eye the room suspiciously through narrow slitted eyes, making protective gestures behind their backs, wary of jinxing themselves and bringing the Illopogas across their path when next they sail.

Few sailors have crossed paths with the legendary ghost ship, The Illopogas, and lived to tell the tale.  None has been able to hold on to their shredded sanity.  Some say that the ship is haunted by vengeful ghosts, others that the ship itself seeks revenge.

There is something about ghost ships, forever sailing the seas manned by an invisible crew, which strikes fear into the hearts of men.  None as much as the Illopogas.

Beware the ghost ship.

Beware the Illopogas.

 

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The Woods – 7 Return to the House (1985) 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)

6 – The Woods – Inspecting The House (2015)

 

1985

The boys race back, crawling over the rotting downed tree, and through the woods.  They can see the house through the barren limbs of the trees, branches that stick out, their branching fingers trying to block their view of home.  They push through those branches, some twisted in odd directions, misshapen bony arms that were broken and healed to grow that way. They focus on the house through the trees.  Home.

They break free of the woods into the sudden freedom of their yard. Their boots slip on the snow, sloppy wet from the early spring melt.

A discarded bike lies on the ground, half buried, sticking out of the snow like the skeletal remains of a man fallen in an odd position.

“The grass,” Kevin calls breathlessly as they run for the house.

“We must have imagined it,” Jesse pants.

They charge into the house again, kicking off their boots, racing past the comic and discarded socks, to the kitchen again, calling.

“Mom!”

“Mom?”

“Mom!”

She isn’t there.  They search the house again.

“She’s not here.”

“Next door?”

Jesse frowns.

“Come on,” Kevin urges.

They head to the back door again, pulling their boots on, and going out.  They go around to the side, heading for the front.

“Kevin! Kevin!” Jesse cries.

Kevin blinks, disoriented. It’s hard to breathe, a crushing weight is pressing down on his chest. He tries to move and can’t. He’s pinned down.

Kevin is laying on his back in the snow. He stares at the bare branches of bushes pushing up through the snow around him and the bare branches of trees above.

“Jessie? What’s happening?” His voice is cracking with fear.

He is pinned beneath the rotting fallen tree they had climbed over earlier.

“How?” he croaks.

“Kevin?” Jesse’s voice is shaky.

Jesse takes a step back, staring fixatedly ahead, stopped by a tree behind him.

“Kevin, what’s happening?”

Before him is the rotting old stump, its sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up, soft and crumbly with rot. He feels vertigo, the world seems tilted, and he feels the sickening sensation of falling.  Falling on the sharp jagged edges sticking up from the stump. He imagines himself impaled and his blood oozing out to drip down the stump, staining the snow and rotting leaves.

He turns and staggers away, looking for Kevin.

He takes four or five steps before he spots him.

“KEVIN!”

Jesse runs and falls on him, clawing at the snow and the downed tree, his fingers scratching at the rotting wood, trying to dig at the ground still hardened with the winter frost.

He’s sobbing as he frantically tries to dig his brother out.

 

* *   ***  **  ***  **  ***  **

20170629_174708.jpg

Author’s Note

Summer is here, and with it another year of every night busyness running around officially ends with the closing ring of the school bells.

This weekend we celebrate Canada Day here in the Northern part of North America and it is a big one inspiring a more intense round of both celebrations and protesting the act of celebrating the country.

This year Canada celebrate’s 150 years of Canada’s anniversary of confederation.  Whether that is good or bad depends on which side of that argument you are on.

Across Canada, people are asking, “What is Canada to you?” in an effort to determine that hard to pin down intangible thing, the Canadian identity.

In our new world, this 150 year benchmark celebration also brings the (no surprise) never ending threat which hangs a darker cloud over the world: ISIS’s war against the world and threats of attacks during the celebrations.

While our police and military will stand on guard for us against all threats, including terror, drunk drivers, and possibly the occasional summer spider; and scores will celebrate hugely this weekend; I will have a nice quiet summer weekend with friends, deep fry, wine, and a small local book signing.

Go Canada!  All of us who make Canada what it is: the indigenous celebrating more than 150 years of  making this country what it is today, the immigrants and refugees from around the world who add so much diversity, whether they are new first generation people welcomed to our country, or second or third or older generations,  and the generations born here whose ancestors colonized this great country.  For better or worse, we are all a village.  Together, we are Canada.

 

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

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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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

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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5 The Woods – Return to the House (1985) by LV Gaudet

 

 

The 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)

 

 

1985

 

The boys burst into the house, hurriedly kicking off their boots at the back door before going any further.  Everything looks exactly like it did when they went out to play.

It’s 1985 and the furniture and décor are a clash of pieces mostly from the sixties and seventies, some bought new, some second hand, and some are hand-me-downs.  Nothing has been upgraded in the past ten years, a testament of thoughtful care and financial mediocrity.  The worn couch and dented coffee table, victims of having two rambunctious growing boys in the house, are overdue to be replaced.  A comic book lays discarded on the floor, open as if it is trying to fly away, The Thing is caught forever in an epic battle against a green monster that looks like a rough tree bark wall with many arms surrounding The Thing with flailing punching fists.  The television, an ancient tube set, sits dark and quiet on its stand.  A pair of discarded boy’s socks are tossed carelessly on the floor, and the latest edition of TV Guide sits on the coffee table.

“Mom!” Jesse looks around.

The house is dead silent except for their own breathing.

“Mom?”

Kevin stands there, looking around.

The house is exactly as they left it before they went outside to play.  How long has that been?  An hour?

But not quite.

Everything seems a little muted.  Off.

And more dusty than he remembers.

Jesse runs into the kitchen.  After a pause of a few heartbeats, Kevin follows.

“Mom?” Jesse pauses just inside the doorway, looking expectantly for their mother.

The teakettle still sits on the stovetop, two tea towels hang from the oven door handle where they were hung to dry after washing dishes in the sink, and the table is set for dinner with places for four.

Flour and sugar bags sit on the countertop next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and measuring cup, pulled out in preparation of baking a cake.

Their mother is not there.

They run through the house calling, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  They end their search back in the living room, out of breath.

“She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?”

“Next door, maybe?”

“Let’s go see.”

They pull their boots back on and rush out the door into the backyard, trained not to use the front door because that would somehow make more cleaning work for their mother, and around the side of the house to the front.

They stop, staring around wide-eyed, and turn to stare at each other, their faces full of fear and confusion.

They are standing in the woods next to that old stump.

“What the hell?”

“Don’t cuss,” Jesse says automatically.  There is hell to pay if their mom ever hears them use bad language.  Hell is one of many forbidden words.

Kevin turns to him, appalled.

“Seriously?  You’re worried about me cussing? We are back in the woods! How?  This is impossible!”

He stops.

“Jesse.”

“What?” Jesse is sulking now.

“The grass.”

“What about it?”

“Wasn’t there grass in the yard?”

“Yeah, so?  There’s always been grass in the yard.”

Kevin narrows his eyes, wondering if Jesse is just being dumb or is messing with him.

“It’s early spring.  Look around.  There’s still snow everywhere.”

“Yeah, so?” Jesse isn’t getting it.

Kevin’s shoulders sag with the futility of it.  Do I even bother? He sighs.

“Jesse, do you remember what the yard looked like? Just now, when we went back to the house.”

“Yeah, your bike was laying on the grass. I almost tripped on it.”

“Where was the snow?”

They both just stare at each other.

 

 

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

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Out With the Old by L.V. Gaudet

where the bodies are

It’s the old New Year’s adage, “Out with the old, in with the new.”  It’s the old over-done cliché that seems ageless and inescapable; along with the requirement to have a new year’s resolution.

I resolve to not resolve.  There, is my resolution for the new year.  It’s the same one from last year, and, I found, quite successful.

There will be changes.  The first month after the new year will mean leaving early where possible and dropping the kids to run in to their activities at the YMCA alone, while I spend a good half hour waiting for a parking spot to open and racing the other pacing vehicles for it.  After that, the new year’s resolutioners will have mostly abandoned their new exercise resolve.

We, as in me, also decided to go on a non-junk binge.  An anti-binge, if you will.  This isn’t a New Year thing, but more of a reluctantly waiting a few months after the great Halloween Binge of 2016 until everyone has finished scarfing down their Christmas goodies.  A healthy eating reset is long overdue.

The closest to an actual resolution was perhaps the choice of early December.  After utterly failing at all my writing goals, including miserably failing at NaNoWriMo, I made a decision.

Happy birthday to me, I made the decision on my birthday and it weighed heavily on me.

 

Between the need to earn a living, kids’ activities, keeping house and home in one piece, dog time, and family time, writing is unfortunately pushed to the edges of what everyone else needs from me.

And, once you are published (and even before that), you need to promote.  No one will ever read your work if they don’t know it exists.  You must promote yourself and your writing.  Writing is also a community.  So there is time spent promoting and helping your fellow author friends too.  That leaves gaps of minutes to stop and breathe, or write or edit.

It is a decision I struggled with over the past few years, tried to ignore in the hope it would go away, and found myself repeatedly visiting unhappily.

I’ve hit a roadblock where, once again, I feel I have no choice but to let writing hit the sideline for the next few years or so.  Writing, you have been indefinitely benched.

 

How do you let go?  That’s the next big question I faced.

When I can’t write, I feel more stressed.

Am I the only writer who drifts into something resembling depression when denied the ability to write?  Am I the only writer who is miserable when I feel like by taking time to write, I am taking time from commitments more important to everyone else?

 

Writing is the one passion I have ever allowed myself.  When you take away your only passion, that leaves you empty and hollow.

It is more than an outlet for stress relief.  It is a way of expressing myself.  It is a way of being – me.  It is the one and only thing that is me and me alone, not mother to-, wife to-, sister/daughter to-.  It is uniquely me and the one thing I do only for me.  No one else owns that.  Every other part of me belongs to everyone else.

It is a decision that, like so many others’ New Year resolutions, has failed.   I’m weak.

I cannot not write.

 

So, while the new year will bring little real changes for my life, except maybe trying to force my family to eat a little healthier until summer, I will continue stealing those few loose minutes to write … a word, a sentence, whatever time allows.

And, who knows, maybe I’ll manage to edit one of my finished or nearly finished books into something publishable.  I have a virtual stack of them sitting on a hard drive.

 

 

Resolutions, life choices, self-betterment, decisions, whatever tag you want to put on it.  What are your big or little decisions?  Decisions you felt coerced into (like sidelining writing), yearned for, or life simply put in your path?  How did it go and what are you looking forward to in the new year?

 

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

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

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

 

The McAllister Farm:  book 2 in the McAllister series.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

 

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

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

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

 

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My First Book Signing

So, I had my first book signing this month.  Luckily for me it was a very casual laid back affair.  I would have felt completely awkward with any kind of crowd.  My neighbor and friend, who runs the local lumber store in our small town, graciously agreed to host me in a combination wine tasting and book signing event.

If you are not familiar with small town Manitoba, one of the things that separate it from the urban cities is that small town businesses like grocery and lumber stores can be a licenced Liquor Mart retailer.

Armed with a box of books and boxes of cheese and crackers and some one-bite brownies (that we were fancy enough to serve out of the boxes), I was set up at a table sandwiched between displays, a stack of boxes, and shelves.

Although it was a Wednesday, we failed in advertising it in advance (my printer is DOA), and it is a very small town, we had a fairly steady stream of traffic – for a small town lumber store on a Wednesday night.

We got to visit with neighbors who we seldom see, and I even sold a few books.  Seven books, in fact.  Much more than I thought I would.

I call this first ever Sanford wine tasting and book signing event a success.  I even left signed copies behind on sale on consignment.

We discussed doing a second book signing before Christmas.  Maybe this time I’ll find a way to print up some posters in advance.

It’s small, and it’s a start, but even the writers who are big today started small somewhere.  With luck, I’ll find more nooks and crannies to have book signings over winter.

Maybe I’ll even sell another seven books.

 

Can you handle a little darkness?

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

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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Another Special Day by John E. Stack

Today marks a very special day.  In the doctor’s eyes, this special day was never supposed to happen.  Nor were the six before it.  Today is my daughter’s seventh birthday.  At seven years old, Allie is full of herself.  And, rightly so, because she has come a very long way.

We originally met Allie when she was 4 months old.  We are foster parents and she was in the pediatric intensive care at a hospital over an hour from where we live.  Right after she was born, she developed what is called “short gut” syndrome.  Due to lack of oxygen, her intestines started to die.  Her birth mom smoked a lot so delivery would not be so painful, but it was devastating to the baby.  After several surgeries, the doctors had removed around eighty percent of both her large and small intestines. 

Allie came to live with us at around six months of age.  The doctor at the hospital told us she was very sick and she didn’t expect the baby to live more than three weeks.  I won’t go into what my wife told that lady doctor.  We took her home and treated her as if she were our own – holding, loving, cuddling.

At that time, Allie was on a feeding tube and IV nutrition.  She had not been held or bonded with.  Through time, she has gone through more surgeries for intestinal blockages.   She has gone through occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy.

We quickly fell in love and knew that God had placed her in our lives.  At two years of age her adoption became final.  I became a dad again at the age of 56.

She is now in the first grade (a lot the doctor knew).  She is still in speech therapy but no longer has a feeding tube.  She has always been smaller than her peers, but is now starting to grow and is actually taller than some of them. 

Intellectually, she is doing great. Speech helped her to learn words that she did not know.  She taught herself to read at age three and now is reading chapter books, such as Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Allie surprises us every day with something new.  She is AMAZING.  God has blessed us in our old age with this wonderful little girl.  And, we praise him.   

To Allie:

Happy Birthday, my baby girl.  I love you!

                                                      Dad

***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.  He is also the author of soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

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The Woods – Part 3 (The Woods)

The Woods-3“What is that?” Jesse looks around, alarmed.

Kevin is busy inspecting the object in his hand.  It is rounded with the mud and rotting leaves stuck to it.  He can’t tell what it is.

“Probably a squirrel.”

“I don’t think so.”  Jesse can’t stop looking around.  He feels off.  Something is wrong.

“Kevin,” he hesitates.

“What?”

“It doesn’t look right.”

“What doesn’t look right?”

“Everything.  It’s… off.  The color is off.”

Kevin looks at him.  “You are a goof.”

Jesse’s wide frightened eyes make him pause.  He looks around them.  Jesse is right.  His heart beats faster and his chest feels tight.  Everything looks a little off.  The color.  The light.  But it’s more than that.  Something he doesn’t know how to describe.  It’s just … off.

Slowly, he bends down and puts the unknown object back down, wanting to free his hands.

He stands up and looks around again.

“Now he’s got my mind playing tricks,” he thinks.  There is nothing strange at all about anything.  Everything looks exactly like it should.  Exactly like before.

“It’s nothing,” Kevin says. “You really are a goof.  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Everything’s normal to me.”

Jesse looks like he’s ready to bolt.

“Go run home scaredie-pants,” Kevin sneers.  He turns his attention back to the strange item at the base of the stump.

Jesse backs away, moving back towards their yard.

Kevin bends over and picks it up.  He stands up and looks around.  He feels off.

Jesse is moving away and Kevin doesn’t want to admit he’s afraid to be alone in the woods.  He pockets his treasure and chases after Jesse.

They reach the yard and stop.  They both look around.

It all looks a bit … odd.

The color is off just a bit.  It all feels a bit odd.  Out of sync maybe.

The house is not large, a lower middle-income home, all but the windowsills and doors was repainted last year.  The paint of the windowsills is cracking and starting to peel.  A job their father has not yet gotten to.

The lawn, mowed only three days prior, is only just starting to show the sprout of faster growing grass blades reaching over the others, although the dandelions have already popped their heads up, flashing their yellow flowers to the sky like round smiles.  A bicycle lays discarded on the lawn and a swing set stands on one side of the yard waiting to be used.

It all seems a bit dulled, muted, a bit off color.  Like a television set that someone has buggered with the color settings on.

Jesse broke first, running for the house.

He falters, not watching and almost tripping on the bike laying discarded on the grass. Recovering, he keeps going.

 

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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LV Gaudet, author

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Why Do I Teach? by John E. Stack

As a public school teacher, I take a lot of things personally.  Whether it is hearing how bad our students do on end-of-grade testing, or some bureaucrat stating that paying out teachers more money will not improve achievement, it really bothers me.  Then, you have some idiot that is either a teacher or is someone associated with the school system being inappropriate with a child.  So, all teachers are then identified as being child molesters.  

Most of us really take our jobs seriously, and we work not thirty-five or forty hours a week, but often work sixty to seventy hours a week writing lesson plans, grading papers and attending school functions that many parents are too busy to attend. Why do we do this?  Well, it is not the big bucks that we supposedly make.  We do this for several reasons.  We care about the students and want them to do their best.  We also want our schools to look good.  If our students do well on end-of-grade testing, then our school gets a good grade.  Personally, I feel if they become successful my taxes won’t have to support them.

End-of-grade testing is how the school systems put a value on the teachers.  Teachers do not like giving the tests and students do not like taking them.  Still, we put our all into preparing the students to take the test.

There is also a big push on teacher/student relationships.  It is said that if a student doesn’t like a teacher then they will not do the work.  My dad did not care if I liked the teacher or not, if an assignment was given, then it better be completed.  I raised my girls with the same rule. It was never what did the teacher do, but what did you do?  The teacher was shown respect and looked at as a professional.  It is not like this anymore.

It really starts to weigh on a person when they are told they don’t meet standards, even though they have been doing a great job for years.  Adequate compensation (pay raises) is a thing of the past, which tells us that our government doesn’t respect as professionals.  It is always something that makes many teachers feel inadequate.  Most only want respect and to be treated as professionals.

Our small town publishes a newspaper three times a week and on one day it publishes the court records.  Seldom does a week go by where I don’t read three or four names of students that I taught – drugs, alcohol, assault…  It just adds to the pressure.  You wonder if you could have done something different to change their lives or their decisions.

For me, being told that my scores are not good enough, that I don’t know how to relate to students, plus all of the above really made me want to get out of teaching.  Again, I take a lot of things personally.

Over the last year, things have started to change and my outlook has started to improve.  Over the last year, I ran across a few of my previous students.  One young lady followed some advice and was happy to tell me that she got a book published.  (She started working on it in middle school and talked with me about publishing and what she should do.)  Another was on maternity leave from her corporate job and she just had to show me her newborn son.

This summer I ran across two young moms that I had taught, one of which was a nurse practitioner.  She told me about three other students that I taught that were also in the medical field.  It is so nice and enlightening to see where your kids (yes, my kids – it I taught them then they are mine, no matter how old they get) become successful.  What a breath of fresh air.

Then, my wife went to register our little boy for preschool.  The lady asked if I still taught school and to let me know her son was now a doctor.  Wow.  After eighteen years, the mom remembered I was her son’s math teacher.

Most recently, I received an email from a parent stating her son was going into the military.  They were giving him a graduation/leaving for the military party.  She asked him if there was anyone in particular that he wanted to invite and he said that he would like for “Mr. Stack” to be there is possible.  What a privilege to attend.  I asked him why the Army and he responded that my influence and stories helped point him to what he really wanted to do.  As a middle school teacher I seldom get to hear about the choices my previous students made.  These are some of the bright spots.

Every new teacher goes into the profession just knowing that they are going to change lives.  They are going to give everything they have to try to do this. I have a niece that is a teacher, a niece that is studying to be a teacher, and a young lady that my wife and I mentored that just took a position in the mountains of Arizona to teach in a Christian Indian mission.

Why do I teach?  I feel God put me in this position, but still, I teach to make a difference.  

***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.  Also, soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).

    

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By the Time we got to Woodstock

Woodstock note

 

I was sixteen, pampered and fearless. I took my mother’s car and drove to Woodstock, Dylan’s hometown in beautiful up-state New York, to a Music and Art Fair, an Aquarian exposition. How great did that sound? It was a happening. I folded my coolest clothes, placed them into my backpack, tucked my pillow with its starched white cover under my arm and set off on an adventure.

Anyone who went to Woodstock would probably not describe it as the best time of their lives. It rained enough to make you miserable. The bands were delayed. The sound system was inadequate, guitars probably warped from dampness and it wasn’t even in the town of Woodstock.

The traffic crawled, Leona at the wheel and the rest of us walked along side. I have a vague image of Mom’s shiny Buick passing the poorly parked hippy vans and beat up cars, a blur of happily tie dyed people giving peace signs and policemen who were surprisingly friendly, considering that most of us were openly breaking state and federal drug laws.Woodstock_poster

Miraculously we parked at the base of the hill, slung our back packs over our shoulders and hiked up the path. We arrived as they tore down the fences, gave away posters, the classic ones with a bird on the guitar and the original Aquarian water bearer. If we’d had any brains we’d have taken those precious items back to the car with our tickets intact but distracted by the outrageous level of coolness and the scent of marijuana we moved on.

I do not remember the first sight of that stage that made history. I do remember when my middle-class teenage-girl-mind identified the feeling of hunger and my first sense of lack. There were no burger stands, no ice cream or funnel cakes, no soda. We had plenty of cash in our pockets but, like most of the kids at Woodstock, we were completely unprepared.

A primitive water line assured us we would not die but we had no canteen. So, without food, water or common sense we forged onward, through masses of stoners to get as close to the stage as possible (which still seemed a lightyear away) and we claimed a patch of land.

Richie Havens sang “Freedom” and someone handed me a bottle of wine, I took a sip and passed it on. Someone gave me a gritty brownie I took a bite and passed that on. Magically food appeared from every direction, and magic food it was. One bite made us larger and one sip made us small. Soon a collective level of mind alteration permeated the field as we partook in unknown quantities… mostly psychedelic… and by that time, we didn’t much care.

Intermittent rain of every kind was reported but I clearly remember seeing the stars that first night. Dancing hippies everywhere, young people made love in the open and nobody was offended. Masses of wandering lost found new homes with temporary families.

There were announcements, mostly about our extraordinary coolness. We had closed the NY Thruway, were declared a disaster area and “Welcome to the first Free City in the World!” A Swami had blessed us and helicopters flew over, anti-war messages shouted and everyone agreed politically.

WOODSTOCK 1

Woodstock Festival of Arts and Music at Bethel, New York, August 1969. (AP Photo)

They flew the bands in, ferried them across the sky. Music was everywhere. It was a night that a half a million young people took a collective sigh and melted into the hillside on Yazgur’s farm. Whatever came our way at Woodstock, we best relax and go with it.

With souls I’d never met I felt loved, cradled in the bosom of dear ones. They fed me, gave me drink. Should anything happen to me, this new family would care for me, tenderly as well as they possibly could… probably not very well but they would care for me… and there was a feeling of belonging to something, something much bigger than myself that made me almost tearful.

I folded my white pillow case and put it away when it rained. My quilt was soaked, my pillow ruined and I carried a bag of very cool clothes which I would never wear.

By half past Arlo Guthrie we realized that the need to pee was of greater importance than our land or this family we loved. We’d lost the people we came with, they’d disappeared into the crowd. Not losing Leona became paramount. She was the only one I knew from home and she had the keys to the car. We said good-bye to our loved ones and wrapped in muddied blankies we set off to find a bathroom and a place to sleep.

Cleary the first problem we faced was to simply relieve ourselves. The port-o–potty’s were soon to become their own disaster areas so we peed in the cornfield and relaxed between rows. I’d piled my coolest clothes on top of me for warmth and Joan Baez sang us into semi-consciousness. Then the rain began again.

To be cont..

Watch next Thursday for “Woodstock, the Dawn of Day Two”

http:/jonnaellisholston.com/

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