Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Conversations: A Prairie Christmas

While preparing for Christmas, and all the whirlwind activities coming up in the next couple of days, I started to think about the Christmases of the past. Not as far back as the first Christmas -- Christmases from my past.                                                            
Living in a small town on the prairie, in the 1970s and 80s, had it's advantages. We had sledding hills that only the bravest would dare venture; and in some cases not the brightest bulbs on the tree -- but that's a different story. Everyone in town knew each other and celebrated Christmas as a community.

The main street was lit up from one end to the other - a total of four blocks, but it was the most amazing four blocks. I remember the clothing store window with the dressed up manequins wearing their finest Christmas offerings; the grocery store with displays of holiday delicacies and treats of every kind imaginable, the locker plant had meats and cheeses; the Rexall Drug store with all the perfumes and delicate gifts; but none of these compared with the hardware store - at least not from a kid's point of view.

For all the things we had, we did not have a toy store. The hardware store, this one time of year, morphed into something other than the lawn and garden, or snow removal department. It became Santa's shop so to speak. There were toys of every kind imaginable from sleds to dolls and doll houses.

Santa Saturday was the best. It was the one day out of Christmas vacation we kids looked forward to the most; other than Christmas Day. Santa came into town - mysteriously. We were always told that he was picked up at the small airport, all his stuff loaded into a farmer's truck and driven downtown to where the hoards of kids were waiting. I always wanted to go to the airport to see his sleigh and elves, but we will never know for sure what may have been behind the hanger doors. He handed out bags of peanuts and candy with a healthy orange or apple <-- I suspect to please the parents. There was a free Christmas movie in the City Hall. We had a theater, but there weren't enough seats to fit all the kids. There was a parade and a drawing for a new bike; one for a boy and one for a girl. It was a great day.

Christmas Eve was a different sort of day and night. All the commercialism of the holiday was neatly tucked under the tree and forgotten for a few hours. Family arrived from all parts of the state, and some from other states, congregating at the home of my grandparents. Hugs and smiles were passed around with the egg nog and other holiday treats my aunts and grandmothers had made. Men patting each other on the back with hearty hellos. Women racing to the kitchen to join the others in catching up about kids, work and other 'news' in the family. Us kids, we went outside and had our greetings - snowball fights, snow angels, fort building and sharing secret hopes for gifts we might get.

After all the family was gathered together, the true meaning of Christmas would descend upon the house as we made ready to go to Candlelight Services. We caravanned to the church at the top of the hill and went to celebrate with a different sort of family. His family. On that one night of the year, there was no distinction of who had what or didn't. There was no distinction of who gave more than another or who was what color or of what ethnic origin. We celebrated Christmas, the birth of Christ, as one family.

As a small child, holding the hand of my mother in the dark, I always wondered if it made God as happy as Grandma and Grandpa, to have all the kids home for Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Saturday: Camouflage, Coffee and Christmas

I am a coffee-a-holic. I admit it. I belong to a select group of individuals in the world who live for the next delicious, aromatic cup. It is a wonder I enjoy writing. Coffee shops and writing have been coupled together since time immemorial.

I have been following a certain coffee related group on FaceBook that reminds me daily not to take my freedom to drink coffee, at will, for granted - Green Beans Coffee.

Green Beans Coffee Cafes are located on the bases where our troops are deployed. It is an amazing way for anyone to brighten the day of a soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or coast guardsman (ahem...person) who is stationed far from home.

Here is the gist of how the program works:

You log onto Green Beans Coffee <--- Handy link for your convenience.

You choose the amount you want to sponsor:

$2.00 - One Service Member

$6.00 - Three Troops

$10.00 - Five Troops

$60.00 - Thirty Troops

Or, any other amount you choose.

The program doesn't end with an anonymously purchased cup of Joe. The site has a developed a means for you to write a letter of encouragement to said Service Member(s) via email, which, when they pick up their well deserved cup of Joe, will be delivered with said cup of Joe.

As we busy ourselves with Christmas, here at home, we need to remember those who have chosen to wear the uniform of freedom.

When my grandfather, who also served as my dad, would talk about his years in the African and European Campaigns of WWII, he would say receiving a letter from home was the highlight of his day. It made all the difference in the world, and it didn't matter who the letter was from. It was the mere idea that someone back home took the time to remember he was in a foxhole somewhere, praying to live to see the next day.

We all have family members, past and present, like my grandfather. Fortunately, today we have technology that allows letters (and coffee) to be delivered in an instant.

I encourage you, if the spirit moves you to do so, take two minutes of your time to remember our men and women who are deployed around the world and buy A Cup of Joe for a Joe!

Nollaig Shona Dhuit one and all.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunday Conversations: Merry Christmas Around the World


Nollaig Shona le mo theaghlach agus lena chairde. Bealtaine bhfianaise na Spéartha a bheith in éineacht leat i gcónaí. Bealtaine Dia teacht i gcónaí agat cá bhfuil tú, agus a bheith sásta é a cruinniú idir é agus an leat. Is féidir do bhliain nua a líonadh le sonas grá, agus áthas!

Nadolig Llawen i fy nheulu a ffrindiau. Mai ngoleuni'r Heavens fod gyda chwi yn wastad. Mai Duw bob amser yn dod o hyd i chi ble ydych chi a boed yn cyfarfod yn hapus rhwng Ef a thi. Efallai y bydd eich blwyddyn newydd yn cael ei lenwi â, hapusrwydd cariad a llawenydd.

God jul till min familj och vänner. Kan bakgrund av himlen vara med dig alltid. Må Gud alltid hitta dig var du är och oavsett om det är ett lyckligt möte mellan han och dig. Må din nya året fyllas med kärlek, lycka och glädje.

Merry Christmas aan mijn familie en vrienden. Moge het licht van de hemelen altijd bij je. Moge God altijd vinden waar je bent en of het nu een gelukkige ontmoeting tussen Hij en thee. Moge uw nieuwe jaar worden gevuld met liefde, geluk en vreugde.

Frohe Weihnachten an meine Familie und Freunde. Möge das Licht des Himmels sei allezeit mit euch. Möge Gott dich immer finden, wo du bist und sei es ein gelungenes Treffen zwischen ihm und dir. Möge dein neues Jahr mit viel Liebe, Glück und Freude erfüllt sein.

Hyvää joulua perheeni ja ystäväni. Toukokuu valossa taivaan kanssanne aina. Jumala aina löytää missä olet ja olla se onnellinen tapaaminen Hän ja sinun. Olkoon uusi vuosi täynnä rakkautta, onnea ja iloa.

God jul til min familie og venner. Måtte lyset fra himmelen være med deg alltid. Må Gud alltid finne deg hvor du er og bli det et lykkelig møte mellom han og deg. Måtte din nye året bli fylt med kjærlighet, lykke og glede.

Glædelig jul til min familie og venner. lyset af Heavens være med dig altid. Må Gud altid finde dig, hvor du er, og hvad enten det er et lykkeligt møde mellem Han og dig. Må jeres nye år være fyldt med kærlighed, lykke og glæde.

Veselé Vianoce moja rodina a priatelia. Môže byť s ohľadom na nebesá, vždy s Vami. Boh mája vždy zistíte, kde ste, a nech už je to šťastné stretnutie medzi ním a tebou. Môže si na Nový rok bude plný lásky, šťastia a radosti.

Feliz Navidad a mi familia y amigos. Que la luz de los cielos estén siempre con vosotros. Que Dios siempre te averiguar dónde se encuentra y sea un feliz encuentro entre él y yo. Que tu nuevo año sea lleno de amor, felicidad y alegría.

Merry Christmas to my family and friends. May the light of the Heavens be with you always. May God always find you where you are and be it a happy meeting between He and thee. May your new year be filled with love, happiness and joy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Saturday: A Few of My Favorite Things

I have never been a huge fan of The Sound of Music. There I have said it for the whole world to see. Truth be told, I am not a big fan of musicals in general. Although, I must say, I will forever love Mary Poppins and Popeye (Robin Williams).

As the Christmas season is upon us in full vigor, I thought it appropriate to list some of my favorite things and people from this year.

Lady Gaga - I am a strong proponent of anti-bullying strategy development. I admire Lady Gaga's continual support of anti-bullying groups and her determination to create change in this regard.

New Babies - I like babies, especially new babies, and babies that go home with their parent(s). Several new babies have entered my life recently and they make me smile everytime I see them. I absolutely adore my grandbabies - although they aren't really babies anymore.

My Young Mothers - As many of you know, I am a mentor mother for the Young Mothers Network in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN, one hundred and five young women who are making a difference in their own lives, by leaps and bounds. These young women have made me very proud this year. There are some pretty spectacular dads in this group too, who love and take care of their families.

My Mother - My own mother has been such a wonderful support for me this year with all the changes that have happened. She has always been my mother first, but most importantly my best friend for years. I am so thankful that she is still a part of my life. Love you, Mom.

My Friends - This year has been a really difficult year full of obstacles, challenges and changes. My friends are among my favorites, because I know they are people I can count on when I need them and we love each other just the way we are.

When we talk about our favorite things in life and seriously sit down to consider what those things are, invariably it comes down to the people who share our lives. Things and money come and go like water, but the people in our lives stay with us forever. So this Christmas, my favorite things are those who travel on my journey of life with me - yesterday, today and into tomorrow.

Happy Saturday and may your life be filled with love, laughter and all the joy your heart can hold.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thursday Treasure: Incident Report: Claus 12/24/Infinity

The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking ~ Author Unknown

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House,and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Respectfully Submitted, s./ The Grinch, Esq.

For other versions of Twas the Night Before Christmas visit:

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fractured Friday: Unfaithful

Story of my life, searching for the right, but it keeps avoiding me. Sorrow in my soul, cause it seems that wrong really loves my company. He's more than a man, and this is more than love; the reason that the sky is blue. The clouds are rolling in because I'm gone again. And to him I just can't be true. And I know that he knows...I'm unfaithful...And it kills him inside ~ Rhianna, Unfaithful

After many years behind the fortress walls, I grow cold deep down inside. I've lost all reason for love. I've lost the meaning of the word, only to have it replaced by artificial gratification to pacify a needful soul. A gaping emptiness exists where love was once housed in my heart of hearts; if ever I really knew what love was. I can no longer remember.

Even after it has been offered, I cannot seem to accept it. I do not know what it is that comes after.

I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to be the reason why, everytime I walk out the door, I see him die a little more inside. I don't want to hurt him anymore. I don't want to take away his life. I don't wanna be...a murderer.

Creeping around the fortress, night after night, with visions of the possibilities haunting my every moment. The tugging at my heart won't let won't release me to endure the fate that surely lies ahead. I know what comes after the artificial gratifications of the world in which I live. I know and understand the contract well. Although the thought frightens me to the very core of my soul, at least I know when they come for me, I will reap what I have sown, and somehow have always known; I am destined for hell.

And yet, there he stands, unwilling to move, unwilling to let me go. Why can't he see I do not understand this love he offers? I do not know what it is, from whence it came, nor where it will take me. The fear of being loved is almost greater than the fear of losing my soul. I understand the ends to one and not the beginnings of the other. Surely, all the dark and insidious guilts that create the cavernous holes in my being, slowly eating me away, cannot be erased; cannot be healed. What are the possibilities? What does it mean?

And yet, I don't want to hurt him anymore. I don't want to take away his life. I don't want to be...a murderer.

Lyrics: Unfaithful ~ Rhianna

I've added 'Fractured Friday' to the Butterfly Phoenix Blog for the purpose of collecting my thoughts. I am working on a new project that my muse has decided to force upon me, so bear with me and my fractured thoughts. This summary is a chapter from earlier in the manuscript.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thursday Treasure: Remembering to be Thankful for Those Who Serve

Happy Thanksgiving! I want to give a special shout out to some very special people and their families. The United States Military Personnel at home and abroad. Thank you for your service to our country.

To my family currently serving: Thank you and I am so very proud of each and every one of you!

Valerie H. - United States Air Force
Sean N. - United States Army National Guard
James H. - United States Army National Guard
Bobbie S. - United States Navy
Robert M. - United States Marines

To the family who has given their service in the past; Thank You.

Charles M. - United States Air Force
Michael W. - United States Army National Guard
Bruce C. - United States Navy Veteran
Robert S. - United States Army Veteran - Korea
Hazel S. - United States Women's Army Corp. WWII Veteran
Elnora J. - United States WAVES - WW II Veteran Deceased
Robert S. - United States Army WW II Veteran Deceased - European Campaign
Ken J. - United States Army WWII Veteran Deceased - European Campaign
Spencer S. - United States Army WWII Veteran Deceased - African and European Campaign

Please remember the brave men and women who are not celebrating Thanksgiving with their families. Remember to offer a kind word, a hand of assistance and a listening ear to family members of a service person on this day and throughout the holiday season.

46 days missing

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sunday Conversations: 10 Positive Commandments

I am a collector of old books. I do not collect them for their monetary value, but for the value they contain between the covers. Before she passed away, my grandmother gave me a box of books she said she no longer needed. I was filled with gratitude for the books because they were mostly from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. My grandmother had also been a teacher. Among the books in the box was a 1922 edition of A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens, an old Bagster's & Sons Bible with concordance from about 1896 (uses words like unicorn, dragons, satyrs etc very interesting), and Elbert Hubbard's Scrapbook.

I am not, and never have been a transcendentalist, but it was all the rage at the turn of the century, especially in literary works. Elbert Hubbard was no exception to the rule, as set by the likes of Emerson and Thoreau. Elbert Hubbard was born in 1856 and died tragically with his wife, Alice, on the Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine in 1915.

As I was packing more boxes today, to be moved in the coming week, I came across a sheet of paper on which I had copied Elbert Hubbard's Ten Positive Commandments, from his book.

Ten Positive Commandments

1. Thou shalt think well of thyself and well of thy neighbor.
2. Thou shalt add to the health, wealth and happiness of the world.
3. Thou shalt be on good terms with sunshine, fresh air and water.
4. Thou shalt get eight hours of sleep a day.
5. Thou shalt eat moderately, and exercise every day in the open air.
6. Thou shalt love the memory of thy mother, and be true to the friends that have done so much for thee.
7. Thou shalt recognize the Divinity in all men.
8. Thou shalt remember the week-day and keep it holy.
9. Thou shalt remember that thee can only help thine by helping other people, and that to injure another is to injure thyself, and that to love and benefit others is to live long and well.
10. Thou shalt love the stars, the ocean, the forest, and reverence all living things, recognizing that the source of life is one.
 Although they are not THE Ten Commandments, they seem to be some pretty good rules to live by in addition to the original ten.

42 days missing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fractured Friday Part II: Holding Out for a Hero

Up where the mountains meet the heavens above; out where the lightning splits the sea; I can swear there's someone somewhere watching me. Through the wind and the chill and the rain. Through the storm and the flood. I can feel his approach like a fire in my blood. ~ "Holding Out for a Hero", Bonnie Tyler

There are no heroes among men. From inside the fortress walls, this thought becomes reality. Placing faith and hope in mankind is a grieves error that leads to disappointment and hurts beyond measure. We were created to be imperfect, yet from each other we refuse to expect anything less than perfection. Where does that leave the wearers of the scarlet letters sewn from imperfections, mistakes and regrets? We seem to be left in that area of the battlefield known as 'no man's land', caught in the middle hoping for a rescue, but preparing for the worst.

Outside the garden gate, a light shines day and night, begging us to come to investigate the perpetual source. From what lamp post shines this light and to whom does it belong? Who gave them permission to shine their light at the perimeter of all that is ours?

Upon further investigation, stepping outside the gate, the light seems to have no source; there is no lamp post. There is no visible, apparent source, and yet shine it does. It shines into the deepest, darkest recesses of the human soul.

It cannot shine inside the fortress walls, nor illuminate the garden of pain and hurts, born of mistakes and regrets, but it sparks the human soul that dwells within the walls built by human device.

Sometimes heroes don't ride in on fiery steeds, they don't wear armor made of chain mill, or carry heavy swords; they just are.

I can see it on the horizon, and someday I will get there. But, I have learned that man is not my source of help in getting from the fortress to the light. No, there are no heroes among men. No guides, no helpers and no friends.

I'm holding out for a hero. He's gotta be sure, he's gotta be fast, and he's gotta be larger than life.

Fractured Friday had to be done in two parts as last week's post (Someone Like You) had to be postponed due to Veteran's Day.

Fractured Friday: Someone Like You

"Nothing compares, no worries or cares. Regrets and mistakes, they're memories made. Who would have known how bittersweet this would taste. Nevermind, I'll find someone like you. I wish nothing but the best for you. Don't forget me, I begged, I remember you said, sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead." ~ Someone Like You ~ Adele

We are all unique, yet, none are special in our burdens or cares in the world. We walk alone, no matter the circumstances. We live every day with our regrets and our mistakes, ever seeking a simple gesture of humanity. Seeking something that will lessen the weight of our world resting on our shoulders. The search is a long and exhausting endeavor.

From our frosted view of the world, where hearts have grown cold, we wonder is there a sun? Will we ever feel its warmth on our face? Is there a place in the world where people see past the scarlet letters sewn upon our breasts; a place where forgiveness lives? Is redemption something real, or only a hopeful fantasy carved out in centuries of literary prose?

Within the walls of the fortress, there is at least a sense of security. The fortress built stone by stone, through labors lasting years and years; a security where hurts cannot reach our hearts and souls.

The walls begin to crumble, in the hopes that someone will make it 'ok' to step outside, to trust the world is not covered with ice. Time and time again, we make the mistake of letting someone in, only to find all they see is the scarlet letters of past mistakes, on which regret feeds. Stones are replaced as quickly as they crumbled. Self-preservation overtakes the need for anything the outside world has to offer. The fortress secure once more.

I hate to turn up out of the blue univited, but I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it. I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded, for me it isn't over. Nevermind, I'll find someone like you. I wish nothing but the best for you. Don't forget me, I begged, I remember you said, sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead.

Someone Like You - Adele - 2011, XL Recordings

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day 2011

The United States of America is now preparing for the annual Thanksgiving feast. Families are planning their menus, seating charts, and sleeping arrangements. On that day, we will all sit around a table preparing to offer thanks giving for those things that are near and dear to our hearts.

Tomorrow, November 11th, is a different sort of Thanksgiving day. It is the giving of thanks for those who took the oath of service knowing full well the cost of freedom. Our Veterans, and current serving military personnel, are among our national treasures, to be treated with respect, compassion, and love.

As United States Citizens, it is our personal obligation to show Loyalty to those who bear the true faith and allegiance; our Duty to fullfill this obligation without hesitation; our expectation to Respect those who treat people as they should be treated; to offer Selfless-Service to those who are, or have been wounded - physically or mentally; to Honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation and their comrades in arms who grieve such losses; to act with Integrity through doing what is right - legally and morally; and to exhibit Personal Courage to assist those who face fears, danger, or adversity (physical or moral) before, during and after their service.

Thank you to all those who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces - at home and abroad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Saturday: The Better Angels of Our Nature

"Let triumph 'the better angels of our nature'." ~ Abraham Lincoln

In the early morning hours of the day, I sit to write. The sun has yet to creep over the horizon and I am already clicking away at the keys.

As the words begin to flow onto the page, I wonder; what good will come of this? How will it make the world a better place than I found it?

Coming off Halloween and racing headlong into the holiday season, thoughts of humanity come to my mind. I wonder if the great classic authors and poets had the same thoughts when they wrote their stories and poetry. Did they think about humanity? Humanness? Or, more importantly, the impact their prose would have on society? Did they wonder about their legacy?Every genre, in the writing world, has the opportunity to triumph the better angels of their nature.

The authors who write romance triumph the better angels of their nature through the propogation of what is it to be a human being in love. It doesn't matter in what sub-genre of romance they are writing, it's all in the perspective of the reader. Hundreds of years from now, when 'old' romance novels are downloaded from the e-libraries, the world will know exactly what it was to be in love, in the 21st century.

Fantasy, Science-Fiction, and SteamPunk writers triumph the better angles of their nature through the wonders of imagination. Carefully building worlds where strength, courage, endurance, and sometimes love prevail over the darkness of evil, the world will know these authors had hope for the future; hope for the continuation of the human existence.

And let us not forget those authors who craft stories of the horrific and terrifying. Yes, even they too triumph the better angels of their nature through exposing the true fears of the human being. When the world has morphed into something we cannot fathom, in our 21st century mind, they will know what it was that frightened us the most.

The list of genres is long and comprehensive. It is the wholeness of the human existence. Each printed word, sentence and paragraph, tell the story of the human being; the story of Earth in the times of each author. Today, we look back on those we consider the greatest authors of all time and find comfort in the words they left for us; their stories and recordings of the days in which they lived, loved and laughed.

The people of tomorrow will look back on those they consider the greatest authors of all time and read the legacy we have left for them - the better angels of our nature.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Losing the Icon - Steve Jobs

I remember being in the 5th grade when we were called down to the principal's office to participate in a moment of history. The school had just purchased its very first computer - an Apple IIe.

At that time, we, my classmates and I, had no idea who Steve Jobs was, or what a significant impact his invention would have on our lives. We weren't allowed to touch it, just look at it. The monitor was huge, at least to a 10 year old like me. None of us showed any great thrill in the sight of what amounted to a TV screen that produced green numbers and letters. To us, it was something old folks found exciting. It was a machine we didn't know anything about.

At some point, in every living person's history, we have been touched by a man the majority of us never had the pleasure, or opportunity, to meet. He was a living Icon. I don't have to give you a biography of Steve Jobs, you can just Google it, knowing without his influence in the world, the internet may not be what we have today.

He was the I-Man, father of all the I-Family products: ITunes, IPad, IPhone etc.

Steve Jobs was more than just a CEO, a suit, a player, or whatever corporate title you want to give him. He was a son, a husband, a father. He was someone who was loved and adored by his family. A family he protected from media infiltration on a daily basis.

His immediate family was very important to him, but his other family was also important. He didn't want to leave us without saying goodbye - in his own way. And that, is something no one can ever discount, everything he did, he did it his way.

So, to my old friend, Steve Jobs, who has lived in my house through I-Family products, I bid you a fond farewell. Thank you for all your wonderful contributions to the world. May you find peace and rest.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fan Feedback: Sticks and Bones

I absolutely love receiving feedback from my readers. Definitely feeling the love from the Young Adult Reader community. You guys are awesome! Keep the comments coming! I read each, and every one, of them.

I'd like to give a special shout out to my fans across the pond! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know what you thought about "Sticks and Bones"!

Five Star Review on in the Nook store:

"It's an awsome read I would recommend it to all my friends

As a young adult just out of high school I could really connect with the characters. She really got the cliques right. A real emotional ending. A wonderful book for young adults and parents alike."

From my email and other sources:

"I don't see many YA crime books around, and this was an absolute delight. A far cry from the good old days of Nancy Drew, we have an intelligent and thrilling read. You treat the violence with care, making it realistic, subtly horrific without painting the scene red, and strong characters make this a brilliant read."

"Absolutely brilliant story. You know how to tell a good story and pull the reader along for a thrilling ride. The murder scene was excellently executed (oops excuse the pun!!) Spot on character developement makes this an all round exciting MUST read."

"Marcia's character comes across well and her reflections to her youth paint a picture of her personality. I liked the part where she entered the barn and recollected her brothers prank. I think the little touches you write make her a character that young adults can relate to. Your style is good and the tention builds at a good pace."

"WoW! This is a page turner. You got the suspense with the missing girl, Leah, and the body with half a tongue missing. You have all the facets, details, approaches neeeded to pull of a thriller murder plot. Great writing to back it up. One hell of a a book! Damned good."

"There is something real about a crime thriller and your book has 'it' ."

"Very good read and one of the better YA stories on site - doesn't talk down to the audience. :)"

"Your use of short paragraphs and crisp, realistic dialogue keeps the flow of your story moving well. Your work is character rich, I especially like how you build Marcia, and your descriptive writing is sure to appeal to the YA audience."

"Relentless pace and polished writing kept me reading - and reading."

And then I received this; thank you so much for your insight:

"The Teenscene website is a nice introduction, different and very much ‘of the time’; as an IT writer (in my day job) I know that online is the first place I’d look for information about a missing teenager.

I like the way that Marcia easily identifies with high school. Personally, I think for us all it’s such a defining time of our lives that it’s one that’s easy to go back to. You mix this well with her lack of understanding and confusion about how catty the girls can be online.

Her character develops well, and you raise some interesting questions about why she turned her back on a career in law for the forensics.

I like the way that you segue from her internal dialogue into the conversation on the phone, but also tell us salient information about the force. This is a neat trick to pull off. It’s easy to get bogged down in one person’s narrative and forget for the MC to interact with other, a trap you don’t fall into.

The tension builds well at the crime scene. I love the way that we see her elated at the discovery of a body and then repulsed by the reality of the scene. You tease us with what has actually happened, just enough. Similarly, you don’t give too graphic a description, but my imagination has already done the job for you - nice work.

There’s also a nice contrast between her and Jonathan, which lets us see her softer, sympathetic side, again this is nice character development."

Again, thank you to all my readers! Feedback matters. You matter. Look forward to my next novel, "Dance with Me", a paranormal romance. And due out in 2012, "The Malakai Chronicles" a science fiction trilogy.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Call of Duty - 9/11 Remembered

In light of the 10th Anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I am going to speak to the subject of America in all her glory and majesty; all the truths we hold as self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

As I sat in the little cubicle, in the software company where I worked, in Middle-America, an exasperated exclamation came from the cubicle next to mine, "An airplane just hit the World Trade Center in New York!" The chitter chatter of the support representatives in the room ceased into a deafening silence. Moments later it was announced another plane had hit. The clicking of mouse buttons could be heard in the quiet of the room, as each representative made their way to their favorite news sites on the web.

On that day, we became Americans; together. All our ancestral knowledge of what our country was, and is, came flooding to the forefront of our minds. In our little room, we had people descended from Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Germany,and immigrants from India, among others; just like the people who were now under attack a thousand miles away.

We didn't notice it at the time, but planes were taking off, from our little airport in Middle-America, streaking their way across the skies at Mach speed. They were our boys, answering the call of duty. Each of the pilots knowing this may be their last flight. The planes were fully locked and loaded ready for battle. They had no idea what they were flying into on the east coast, but they donned their flight suits just the same. Years later, while touring this little airport, I learned that these young men were among the pilots of the planes that circled over Washington, DC that fateful day in American history. God bless the North Dakota Air National Guard. I no longer have the disk containing the official flight photo from that day, it belongs to a young boy who was on that tour - who now serves in the United States Military. 

Firefighters, police officers, emergency personnel, and even clergy were dispatched, from throughout the nation, to the heart of the battle that raged in our port city of New York. They descended upon our capitol in DC to ensure that all was made right in the world - as right as it could be in the heat of the moment. They gathered on a field in Pennsylvania to assess the situation and bring a sense of comfort and security to those who were distraught with disbelief of what had happened.

Citizens, from all across the land, rose up in a unified front to serve and protect our nation, alongside those who were sworn to do so. They caravanned to the pits of hell bringing food, water, clothing, and a spirit of patriotism unlike any we have seen in our living history.

5,000 people gave their lives that day. They did not lose their lives. Their lives carry on, each and every day, as a rememberance that Freedom is NOT free. Freedom is not guaranteed by the simple fact America exists. These 5,000 people were global citizens from America, and all around the world - but on that day, on 9/11, they were Americans. They were one of us.

On Sunday, when all the fanfare will commence, to recognize, appreciate and memorialize those who were affected by the attacks of 9/11, remember - you also were affected. You are a citizen, or resident, of the United States of America. You answered the call of duty on that day through your tears, your sorrow, and your spirit of patriotism.

On that day, we put aside our differences and answered the call of duty as a one nation, standing together, for the common goal of letting freedom ring.

My deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones on 9/11. They are gone, but live on today as the spirit that drives the call of duty.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Sticks and Bones Now Available in Paperback

$9.99 in the Butterfly Phoenix
E-Store on
a division of Amazon.
After a long awaited debut, "Sticks and Bones" is now available in Paperback.

West Fargo, ND - The body of missing, Leah Jackson, was discovered late last night on the old Jordaine farm, on County Road 17, north of West Fargo, ND. The office of Kim Vanderhorn, District Attorney, has released a statement indicating foul play is suspected. According to Detective Marcia Grant, lead investigator, there are currently no suspects. More details to come. ~ Robert Andrews, Reporter.

Detective Marcia Grant never thought much about high school, until the body of missing Leah Jackson is discovered on an abandoned farmstead. The discovery launches Marcia into a world she had left behind years ago; the world where the social ladder must be climbed, or clung to, at all costs; or risk social suicide.

Officer Jonathon Drake worked hard ensuring his next step on the professional ladder would be to Detective. He never thought his career would be derailed by a woman. Especially the woman he secretly planned to marry - one day.

The holiday season is upon the Midwestern city of West Fargo. The school year is in full swing, when Halloween night, high school sophomore, Leah Jackson, will leave her home for the last time. The gossip mill begins to grind in the school system, the police department, and throughout the metropolitan area.

Who killed Leah Jackson? Was it Clyde Jordaine the abusive, alcoholic widower who owns the abandoned farmstead? Was it Sasha Davis the high society girl, and best friend of Leah Jackson, in a move to become Queen Bee of the tenth grade? Was it a Satanic Halloween ritual propagated by Sean Dorian and his minions?

As Marcia moves her inexperienced team forward through the investigation, a time bomb is ticking in the city. The tension is running high in the department and in the streets. Caving under the pressure of the investigation, Drake inadvertently lets Marcia know how he feels about her and disappears into the night; igniting suspicious minds within the department.

There are no real suspects in the case, only speculation and hearsay, until a primetime news show develops into a new theory. A new possibility that even Marcia, with her degrees in behavioral science and forensic psychology, had not considered. It wasn't possible. Or, was it?

"Sticks and Bones" promises a journey through the underbelly of the American High School like no other. Love them or hate them. The characters leap off the page, into the memories of the reader, taking on the forms of ghosts from the past. Do you dare journey back to high school? Just one more time?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sticks and Bones Trailer

Don't miss the back to school special for Kindle and Kindle Apps. 99 Cents on Amazon. Paperback coming soon!

Sticks and Bones Re-Released!

Click the Cover to get
yours on Amazon today!

The formatting of "Sticks and Bones" has been fixed for Kindle users. It has been re-released on Amazon on Friday, August 13, 2011.

Having great on-line connections is incredibly valuable in these days of racing down the information highway. Thankfully, I had a great connection and friend on FaceBook and LinkedIn, who was a Godsend in helping with the editing.

If it hadn't been for the negative review on Amazon I might have never known, or at least not soon enough, that the formatting wasn't correct for Kindle Readers. I apologize to all the readers who purchased "Sticks and Bones" in its crippled format. 

Speaking of negative reviews, I don't look at them as a personal insult, but an honest assessment. Something to be learned from and corrected. After reading the review by KindleAddict, I re-read the story and realized the reader had made some valid points. To make the story better, approximately 3,000 words have been added to "Sticks and Bones."

"Sticks and Bones" was, and still is, intended for the young adult audience - with a word of caution regarding harsh language and difficult scenarios in the book. There is no graphic content in the book.

"Sticks and Bones" will be available for 99 cents on Amazon for Kindle and Kindle App users for a limited time. When the paperback is released the Kindle price will increase.

It is my greatest hope the message in "Sticks and Bones" will stick with the reader for a lifetime. It is a tragic reality of the world we live in today. Only we can change that reality into something more positive - if we are honest with ourselves. The characters weren't meant to be the lovable 'unicorn and rainbow' type. We all have our inner-selves that we hide from the world -- most of the time.

Children learn what they see and live. What we do everyday is more significant in the life of a child than anything we say. Our actions, as adults, are speaking loud and clear in the adult world; and reflected back to us with blatant honesty among our youth.

"Sticks and Bones" requires thick skin to read. Although KindleAddict felt the characters were unbelievable and 'not likable', they are our friends, neighbors, and community members that we can all identify with from our past, or even present.

Sometimes authors use exaggeration as a means  to make a point. Such is the case with a few of the adult characters in "Sticks and Bones." The real question is: Are you brave enough to read "Sticks and Bones" with an open mind and hear the message from the young people of our world?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Imagine if You Will

Outrageous! Deplorable! Scandelous! Shame on you; shame on me! I read with great interest the article in the Wall Street Journal regarding young adult books and the content therein.

It seems the author, and a few of the author's sources, are unhappy with the content of the young adult books of today. Their opinion, of which they are duly noted as entitled to, is one of which believes the content of young adult books today are: too graphic, violent, degenerative in nature, smattered with vulgar language, and contain what could be conceived as nothing more than soft-core porn smut.

This conversation is a double-edged sword for any YA author; truly - you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. On one hand if you fill your novel with the aforementioned offending content you are perceived as contributing to the degradation of the world youth; on the other hand if you don't include even a smidgon of the aforementioned offending content you will be selling your wares to primarly family and friends - mostly out of obligatory support of your chosen career path. So what is a YA author to do?

Today's youth - worldwide - are subjected on a daily basis to the aforementioned offending content through video games, television (primetime and daytime), reality TV, movies, youtube videos, and the list goes on and on. A simple truth of the matter is this: with all these venues readily available to our young people, they are slowly losing some of their ability to imagine on their own.

Let's go back to first grade, or even Kindergarten when the average child is first beginning to learn to read. Or, even further back to storytime as infants and toddlers. Pictures are readily available on each page of the storybook to allow the child to identify the world around them in relation to the words on the page. Association.

As the child advances in their ability to understand the world around them - what a rabbit looks like, what color the grass or sky is etc., the child begins to read with fairly good comprehension skills and moves into the chapter books - you know the ones with pictures only on the first page of, or between chapters. The child is able to imagine the world painted in words and becomes personally involved in the story as the child understands it.

At a certain age, it varies with each individual child, the book becomes less and less desireable in favor of the rich color and cinematography of television and movies. In our world of a 24/7 lifestyle, the book becomes less and less desireable in favor of the 'moment of peace' television or movies for the parent or caregiver as well. And here begins the child's first experiences with losing their ability to imagine the world painted in words. He or she cannot fathom the exact shade of the blade of grass without it being defined in a plethora of adjectives culminating in the definition of the shade of sage. This becomes the necessitating factor requiring full movie action book trailers to allow the child to get the general gist of the story beforehand.

By the time the young person reaches the age of twelve, give or take a year or two, they have not only been influenced by the Disney Kids who have gone on to bigger and greater things - like what appears to be pole dancing during concerts that are broadcast worldwide via the internet - they have witnessed many things they will never admit to in front of their grandmother. They have used language they dare not repeat in the sacred and holy houses of worship by threat of eternal damnation. They have visited websites in the solitary seclusion of their bedrooms in hopes Mom or Dad won't come knocking on the door whilst enjoying their secret pleasures. They have commited vile acts of cruelty and violence narily escaping discovery and protected by the tween and teenage code of silence. Despite all of this, our youth are in grave danger of being corrupted by YA authors who have to create detailed imagery in an effort to ensure the young person understands exactly what is happening; for better or worse.

It is my humble opinion, and feel free to correct me if I am wrong, that YA authors do not set out with the intent of having to describe every minute detail of a story -graphic or otherwise - to sell a few books. Many would love the opportunity to let the young person imagine the scene in their own comprehension. But, alas, the author must compete with the visual based world of animated videography. A world that leaves nothing to the imagination. A world where graphic detail is presented by default; the pure nature of seeing a story in two dimensions and sometimes three. A world that can be interactive through gaming software or passive through television, videos, movies, etc.

There are scenes in Sticks and Bones that I wish I could have done differently, but I know in my heart of hearts, it had to be in detail or the story would be lost on the younger reader. The impact of the message in the story would be lost. I knew I had to compete with all the visuals in the world and that meant making it as real as possible to the young reader through the use of their language, their activities, and defining their world as they see it.

I can't speak for other authors. In fact, I won't speak for other authors. But, I know this: Our children are more mature at earlier ages than we were due to the age of information. They know and understand things we never conceived of knowing at the ages they do today. I know that young people will choose movies or videos over books in most circumstances. I know that what I write is no more degregrading than what they already know to be real in the world. Some call it progression in the world; others call it outrageous, deplorable and scandelous. We will never come to a happy medium because we all base our opinions on our core values, cultures, traditions and the beliefs we hold near and dear to our hearts. We can, however, acknowledge our differences of opinion and agree to disagree.