Although Viking lore is not usually in my reading wheelhouse, I was tremendously pleased to read this epic tale from J.A. Bullen. The world he crafts is huge in scope, not just visually - and that part is stunning - but in emotional scope, as well. He has internalized the old Norse myths and made them his own, with a flavor that is distinct, yet familiar.
The first of a series... and thank goodness for that!... this is a tale that you'll want to savor. I'm usually a person who reads multiple books simultaneously; yet I found that difficult to do with Unbound. This was not because it's difficult subject matter, complicated characters (although they delightfully are complicated), or stylized in a way that is not easily read. The reason I put all other reading material aside while reading Unbound is specifically because the story was so wonderfully crafted that I wanted to immerse myself fully in that world, with those characters, and distract myself with nothing else.
The characters are intuitively designed. You understand so much of who they are by what they do, and how they do it. The conflicts go back ages; and you understand it completely, even though the full history isn't yet revealed. The flow of the story from one location to another - both physically and emotionally - is easy to follow, and a wonderful journey. And that's exactly what this book feels like. It's a journey, an adventure, and it's visceral. You feel all of it... see all of it... hear all of it.
The aspect of Bullen's writing that makes reading his imagination most memorable, for me, is the way he conveys time. He doesn't mark the passage of time the way many books in the fantasy genre do... sunrise, sunset, moon cycles. That stuff is far too basic for his storytelling style. Instead, Bullen uses specific aspects of character and their environments to mark time. Footsteps observed by another. The change of the aroma of a healing wound. The mastering of a foreign language. All of these rich details give you a sense that you are marking time WITH the characters, rather than watching them from afar.
Also, his transitions from one perspective to another are excellent. Bullen is quite skillful at leading you along one subplot, and then shifting perspective to another, all without making you feel that there are empty holes in the main story line. He may leave out details, but he always knits them into the plot later down the path... except for the ending. But that's to be expected, after all, it is the first book in a series.
My only regret is that there were a few editorial notes that kept me from getting fully lost in the story. They were not insurmountable, nor overly distracting. But as an editor, I'm a little persnickety that way. :-) However, the author assures me that he has noticed these inconsistencies, and they will not prevail in the coming works.
I highly recommend you read Unbound... even if this genre isn't something you normally read. It's a diversion you will enjoy. And, if you are a writer, there is much you can learn about storytelling technique from this book.
Learn more about this author at his website.
Watch our interview with the author on Indie Reads TV!
This will be a book I gift to little ones as they enter my world... and to my adult friends on their birthday, when the traditional "pep talk" is too much ingenuous repetition. A gift of this book, to the reader of any age, will stand as a reminder of my belief of who they are at their core being... even on the days when I can't be there to reinforce that understanding in person.
I am grateful to have met Ms. Schimmel, and to have been given the gift of her reminders. Her book will be pulled from my shelves frequently.
Visit the author's website at https://rbschimmel.com/
Watch our interview on Indie Reads TV with R.B. Schimmel!
An observation from my writing desk while perusing writing forums on the Internet…
It seems to me that many writers are engaged with a full measure of devotion to the “entitlement program”. Many feel that their work is so stupendous that a publisher should not only “discover” them and their book, but also court them and offer to publish their writing with absolutely no author investment or participation in the risks. It’s a little disconcerting. Remember, the definition of a publisher is any person who decides that a book is likely to be profitable, finances its printing, distributes it, and takes the risk of a loss if it does not sell, or the profit if it does.
What many people don’t realize is that Benjamin Franklin, often revered as the father of American Publishing, did it all on his own. He worked hard to create his writings… long nights with pen and ink by candlelight after his regular workday was done. He spent his own, hard-earned money to buy the paper and ink for the press, and added his own sweat equity into the process, tugging at the machinery to get the pages bound. In the end, he reaped the rewards of his creative labor. Franklin didn’t submit his writings to some publishing house in New York, Quebec, Great Britain, or Australia, waiting to be “picked up”. He just went out and did it. He was the first self-published author in America.
So often I hear from writers at various festivals or conferences, or read on blogs and in writing forums, “You should NEVER pay to have your work published!” That statement is usually followed by a highly volatile lecture about why self-publishing is the devil’s tool; and how, if you want to be respected as an author, you should NEVER self-publish! When did we, as a writing community, become so full of ourselves that doing it ourselves, with the assistance of professional guidance and advice, is no longer respected?
I wonder if Benjamin Franklin would have lived to see his work published if he had taken the same attitude? Imagine the conversation… “No, John, I’m not going to publish my book on my own, that’s a lot of work, and it will cost more than I should spend. After all, I took all that time to create it. This is damn fine writing, John; I should be paid to offer readers the privilege to enjoy my work! I’m just going to send it off to London and let them do it for me. Surely, my writing is so wonderful that once they read it, they will see how readers will clamor to buy it. I’ll make millions!”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure the conversation didn’t happen that way.
Here’s what I think the conversation actually sounded like: “You know, John, I spent so much time and took so much effort to create these words, that they feel sacred to me. I think I should retain control over who gets to publish them. I mean, let’s face it; England hasn’t established a great track record for helping us without bleeding our purses dry in the process. No, John, I’m going to publish it myself, my way. Sure, I’ll consider the advice of other writers in the community – to make my book the best it can be – and I’ll pay them, just as I would want to be paid for my expertise. Yes, it’ll be a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it in the end. I’ll be in control if it’s appearance and who gets to sell it, and at what price. And in the end, John, I’ll keep all the profits. This is what I deserve. After all, I’m doing the work.”
Now, that’s a conversation that sounds a bit more realistic.
Somewhere along the way, through all the decades that passed since the days of Benjamin Franklin, writers lost sight of this founding father’s understanding of what literature should be… writers taking the risk to put their creativity into the world and hope that readers enjoy it. Now, too many writers are so full of themselves that they can’t accept that writing is both work and risk.
A writer isn’t entitled to be published. A writer isn’t entitled to the paycheck they think will be generated by their astounding words showing up on the page. Sometimes, if you want to see a dream fulfilled, you have to take the risk, invest the sweat equity, and pay to make it happen.
Remember, you’re going to pay for it, regardless.
If you choose to self-publish, you pay for the experience and expertise of professional guidance along the way… Information services like ISBNs and copyright registration (because the government always takes their cut if you want your work protected); editors (because we’re all smart enough to understand that we should NEVER edit our own work); interior layout designers… whether print or e-book, it’s important to get it right (yes, this is indeed a task many of us are capable of taking on ourselves, but most shouldn’t); cover designers… because, let’s face it, the cover makes the biggest impression on the reader – whether in print or e-book – it’s the first impression you have toward gaining a new reader and fan (some of us are artistic enough to do this… most of us aren’t).
The point is, even before you get to promotion and sales, there are a lot of expenses involved when creating a book that readers will someday read and share with their friends. Yet, after all this investment of time and money, you will enjoy the pleasure of not having to share your royalty checks with anyone else. In the end, you will reap the greatest reward, a full share in equity and complete ownership of the creative process and the finished work. What could possibly be more fulfilling than that?!
If you choose to wait until a “traditional” publisher picks up your book… you still pay for that privilege… just on the back end. First, you’ll have to find an agent, because traditional publishers don’t take manuscripts without one. The government still wants their cut of your creative endeavor, so your publisher will send them a check. Their staff editors will make changes to your book, and they get paid for their time. Their cover designer and interior layout designers will contribute their skills to your manuscript, and your publisher will pay them, as well.
So far, no money has come out of your pocket. That’s a good thing, right? Well, not really. You see, after your book actually hits the shelves, you’ll still have to pay all of that back. It’s called “recoupment”. It means that you won’t see one thin dime until your publisher makes back every cent they put into creating your book. Oh, and once your book does hit shelves, you will also owe your agent a cut of each book that sells, which again, you won’t be able to pay until the publisher has enjoyed full recoupment first. So, it may be five, ten or perhaps fifteen years until you see a penny’s reward for your creativity. Oh, and you’ve lost ownership of your work, as publishers won’t give you the rights back until they have realized full recoupment. Some never give you back your rights.
So, to those indignant writers reprimanding other writers who have chosen to self-publish, independently publish or partnership publish, rather than waiting for the windfall of a traditional publisher… and to those of you who try to strip us of our status as a “legitimate author” simply because we wanted more creative and economic freedom and control… you, my friend, are a PUBLISHING BIGOT*.
I can understand and support your decision if you feel that traditional publishing is the best choice for you and your writing career. We all must make the best decisions for our creative lives. However, the fact that you feel it necessary to degrade other writers for choosing a different path is NOT your right. There is no “wrong” or “right” path to pursue as a writer. And, for you to humiliate other creative souls because you don’t agree with their chosen path is at best, rude. At worst, it’s completely offensive. This behavior needs to change.
Please, support your fellow authors. Regard their creative spirit in the same way that your creative spirit wants to be understood, as sacred. Support their choice to follow the path that is right for them and their writing career, even if it’s not the decision you made for yourself.
Our goal as writers should be to create excellent books for readers to enjoy, not quibble over and ostracize others about how that goal is accomplished.
*Bigot: A person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
Once again, I have been thrilled to read the imagination of Andy Lockwood!
House of Thirteen is the first of a series, written around the curious circumstances of an old house run by the Delaney family... an even curiouser group of women who know more about life than you might think.
Once again, Andy has given us characters that are vibrant and a bit unsettling. From energy we can't truly perceive to the literal incarnation of the words... some will become fast, loving friends; and others pull us from the couch, force us to lock the doors, and flip on an extra lamp. Throwing another log on the fire might be a good plan, too.
This book is filled with lead magnets... story that envelops you and includes you, while dangling bait just out of reach. Each new chapter is akin to a meal where the dessert is a surprise, you'll want to have the holes filled, but you're satiated with the palate cleansing end. Slowly, you sip your wine, savoring the anticipation of the next course.
Andy does something especially wonderful with this book. His hero, Ren, isn't a typical hero. I read her as an "unrequited hero"; one who is pulled into the role not because of an overwhelming sense of duty or ego... but because of a strong onus of altruism. This, to me, is the best manifestation of a hero character, and especially unusual in a paranormal/horror novel. Not much in this book is as it seems - except for that which is - and even that, you shouldn't take for granted. Andy's dexterity in storytelling draws you in, eases the tension, then pulls you in tighter for the scary hug you didn't know you needed. His "word-smithery" is ideal for the genre. The emotional yo-yo you become is the best kind of reading adventure. When you open this book, you will leave your real world behind... and you'll be glad for the experience.
Huzzah Andy! Thank you for introducing me to intelligent horror stories.
Watch the interview I had with The Lockwood Literary Team (Andy and wife Bailey) on Indie Reads TV!
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
* To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
* To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
* To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
* To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
* To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio visual work.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use," which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a "compulsory license" under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright law or write to the Copyright Office.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, first-time copyright infringement cases can carry a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. If you get caught more than once in a copyright-infringement case, you could face additional fines of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT. Ideas and facts are not protected by copyright. – it is the tangible expression of facts and ideas that copyright law protects. Subsequently, titles, slogans, names, and short word combinations are not generally eligible for copyright protection.
In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In practice, if you're only quoting a few lines from a full-length book, you are most likely within fair use guidelines, and do not need to seek permission. Most quotations, because of their short size, are not considered copyright infringement because they fall under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law. But to emphasize: every case is different. If you're at all concerned about infringement, check with an intellectual property attorney before you publish.
A work that is “in the Public Domain” is a work that is completely free for anyone to use in any way they like. It has entered the Public Domain either because the term of the copyright expired or the work was never covered by copyright in the first place. An example of this would be the works of William Shakespeare.
If a book, song, movie, or artwork is in the public domain, then it is not protected by intellectual property laws (copyright, trademark, or patent laws)—which means it's free for you to use without permission. The general rule is that any work published before 1923 is in the public domain. However, works published after 1977 will not fall into the public domain until 70 years after the death of author, or, for corporate works, anonymous works, or works for hire, 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.
In case you're wondering, the "Happy Birthday" song is indeed, in the public domain.
Generally, you can publish and sell public domain eBooks. ... For example, to sell on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you typically must add original content to the public domain book, such as illustrations or a study guide. Quotes are considered intellectual property, which is protected under the law. ... When a quote passes into the public domain, it's almost always because it's old enough that its copyright has expired.
It is a good practice to discuss your copyrights with your attorney and add them to your will or trust. Even though the copyright doesn't expire until 70 years after the death of the author, your life may be prematurely cut short, and then your heirs will need to have access to your copyright. Ask your attorney to draft a simple codicil to your will or trust which assigns all your copyrights of published and "works in process" to either a specific individual, organization, trust, or in general, to your future heirs. You can't predict if your work will become more valuable after your death... but you can protect your interests long after you've "shuffled off this mortal coil."
Learn more at the US Copyright office website: https://www.copyright.gov
It was near midnight on a night in late December. The madness of the holiday season was nearly over... just the ball drop to go... before the New Year began. I was at home, alone, reading. I was curled up on the couch with a book by one of my favorite Indie Authors, Andy Lockwood. I was finally getting around to reading his novel, House Of Thirteen. Our dog, Charlie, was snuggled up nearby. My husband was away for the weekend; spending time at our cabin with his guitar, and our other dog, Finnigan.
As I turned a page and sipped a bit of cocoa, I heard a faint mumbling voice emitting from the bookshelves to my left. Filled with my most treasured things; family photographs, stuffed ducks, books signed by Indie Authors, and a Snoopy music box - a gift from my husband - I was startled by the noise. There wasn't anything on those shelves, let alone in the whole house, that could have produced such a sound. Charlie hadn't stirred. The room became silent again, and I shook my head; surely I'd imagined it. After all, being deaf in one ear, I spend a lot of time hearing things and not hearing things differently than the rest of the world. I went back to reading.
A few more pages and sips of cocoa later, I heard the sound again. A muffled, mumbling voice. The words weren't clear, but it was definitely a voice. Then, the room became quiet again. Andy's writing was messing with my head. His story was getting into my brain. He's done that before. I got off the couch, reached over, and turned on the other lamp. Of course, extra light would eliminate the problem.
I sat back down, turned the page, and reached for my cocoa. As the cup drew close to my lips, I heard it again. A bit louder this time, low and rumbling, insistent in the expectation that I respond. No discernible words, mind you. Just a tone that required my full attention. I set my book and mug on the coffee table, and walked closer to the bookshelves. Charlie perked up his ears at my movement, but remained comfortable on the couch. The muffled voice persisted. I lifted the music box, thinking perhaps its mechanism was stuck. Nope. Snoopy was silent and perfectly still. Not even the slightest vibration. Then I heard it again. A low rumbled whisper, and as I bent to the lower shelf, it became louder. I reached for the leather-bound journal I bought a few weeks earlier. I hadn't used it yet... I was waiting for the right time, the new year, creatively important things to record...
I pulled the book from the shelf and it vibrated in my hands. I reached for the leather strap and unwound it from the clasp. The parchment pages fell open to the near-middle of the book, and a faint whiff of the scent of burning wood from a campfire lofted up from the binding. "I am the Genie of The Book," came a voice from somewhere inside.
I dropped the thing on the couch and ran across the room. Charlie yelped, raced into the bedroom, and crawled under the comforter. This was not normal behavior from a book, certainly not a blank book, even Charlie knew that. I glanced at House of Thirteen, still sitting next to my cocoa mug, and whispered, "Thanks, Andy."
The journal, still sitting open on my couch, puffed out a little bit of grey smoke and said again, "I am the Genie of The Book." I hesitated... but then, curiosity acting instead of intelligence; I picked up the book. "I am The Genie of The Book," it intoned yet again. It was nothing if not persistently redundant.
"Um, okay," I said. "What do you want?"
"It's not about what I want," it said. "It's rarely about what I want... It's about what you want. What do you want?"
Completely gobsmacked - and that is not a word I ever use, but nothing else fits here - I sat down on the couch, held the book in my lap, and replied, "Uh... I don't know what you mean. Can you rephrase the question in a form that might make sense to me, because right now, nothing is making a lot of sense to me. I've got a book talking to me - for which I blame a nightmare of Andy's courting, - and perhaps sour milk in my cocoa. So..."
The voice cleared it's throat, sounding much like a disgruntled Harrison Ford as it replied with exasperation, "I am the Genie of The Book..."
"Yes, you said that..."
"And, I'm here to grant you three Writing Wishes."
"Writing Wishes?" I asked
"Yes, Writing Wishes... what other kind of wishes do you think a Book Genie would grant?" Another small puff of charcoal smoke circled up to my nose. I swear, if it had eyes, the journal would have rolled them at me. The disgruntled Harrison Ford voice was not pleased.
"Ah... alright... Can you make my book a NYT Bestseller?"
"Why not?" I said, a bit frustrated and beginning to doubt the validity of the Genie. "That's a wish every writer has; I'm sure you've encountered that request before, haven't you? I'd think it would be an easy one."
"Of course, it's what every Indie Author wants. But that's not writing. That's selling. Two different things. One's controllable, the other one's SOOOO not."
"Oh. Well then, I'll need a little bit of time to think about this. How many wishes do I get; is it the standard three?"
"Well, sure," said the Genie, now with more of a soothing Tom Hanks voice. "Everything's got to have it's standards. Wishes are no different."
"Got it. And I'm guessing that asking for the annihilation of an author I don't like or getting Neil Gaiman to attend my next book signing is out of the question, too, right?"
"Now you're catching on. See, this isn't that hard. And don't forget to begin with 'I wish'; you should at least know that part, right? Everybody knows that part. You've seen Labyrinth." The voice shifted into a condescending Prince Humperdink. The changing voices thing was beginning to get a little unnerving. This thing would be so much easier to believe if the stupid Genie had an agreeable Robin Williams voice... something that at least made sense.
"Okay, three Writing Wishes." I thought for a minute. What would make writing better, easier, more fun... what did I need to improve my craft? I'd always been told - and told others - writing didn't involve magic - so this was a bit of a stretch for me.
Finally, after about fifteen minutes of thought, throughout which the book emitted silent three inch tall mushroom clouds of wispy smoke with an exasperated wheeze on every puff, I made my requests. "Okay, I think I'm ready."
"It's about time. I could have yellowed with age from all your procrastination." The Book Genie's Harrison Ford impersonation was really quite impressive. "Can we get on with this, please?"
"First, I wish for perfect grammar and spelling. That would eliminate the need for at least one editorial pass; but you've got to keep it current... none of this Canterbury Tales Olde English nonsense. Chaucer's nice, but he's dead. Let's keep him that way, okay?"
"Done," said the Genie, returning to the much more calming Tom Hanks voice. A green puff of smoke emitted from the middle of the binding, and a page magically turned. Did I say magically... well, okay, there really isn't a better way to describe it. The page turned by itself... I didn't touch the thing. The windows were all closed, no breezes in the room, magic was the only reasonable explanation. Okay, perhaps not reasonable - but it's an explanation... sort of. "What's next?"
"Okay, um, thank you." It seemed odd to be talking to a book... but I thought that if I was talking to it, and it was talking back, the least I could do was be polite. Who knows how this stuff will come back to bite you if you aren't respectful. "Second, I wish for one-click instant cover formatting and interior formatting with pagination so I'll never have file upload issues with the print house ever again. You can't even begin to imagine how frustrating it is to receive email after email from robots telling you that something is wrong with the formatting, but never being quite specific enough with the details so you can fix the problem on the first pass. Avoiding that headache would be magical, indeed."
"Sounds like a reasonable request to me." There was a yellow puff of smoke, more like a jet stream, than a mushroom cloud this time, and again the page turned. The tingling sensation that moved from my right hand to my left was small but perceptible as the page flipped. Also, this time, a little woosh noise happened as the pages changed position. Did a formatting wish take more energy to grant? Logically, it made sense. It was a heartier wish than spelling and grammar, after all. "You got it. Now what?"
"Wow, that's great. Thank you." I was down to one wish. What was a writer to do? You would think that with all the imagination stored up in my little brain, and the vast number of stories I can concoct on a near-hourly basis, this would be easy, but it's not. Wishes are difficult - more so when you know that there's a better than excellent chance they're actually going to come to fruition. You don't want to be wasteful, but you don't want to be ordinary. You don't want to wish for something you know you could accomplish without the help... but you don't want to miss an opportunity to make the writing craft easier, either. This wishing business was an arduous task. Who would have thunk?
It took a few more minutes of contemplation to decide on my final wish. It was a conundrum. The book was softly humming the theme from Jeopardy. It was a little distracting. After two choruses of the theme, the Book Genie said, "Can we move it along here... I've got places to be, stories to tell." The exasperated Harrison Ford voice was back.
"Alright," I said with a sigh, "I think I've got it." I took a deep breath and spoke my final wish. "I wish that the book reviews I receive from readers are honest, and that I learn to handle them with grace, without frustration, and without ego." The book was silent for a long moment. I knew that I was asking for something big... but really, if I had only one Writing Wish to have granted, this would be the one. Was it within the realm of what the Book Genie could accomplish? I didn't know. The book remained silent... two small puffs of alternating blue and magenta smoke, like smoke stacks, emitted from the middle of the binding.
After about three full minutes, the book spoke, and this time, much to my delight, with the intonation of Robin Williams. "Wow!" it said. "That's never been wished for before. "Whew! That's a big one." With a final, simultaneous puff of blue and magenta smoke, and a sound that resembled the crashing of waves upon the northern Maine coastline, the page turned and the Book Genie said, "Your wish has been granted." The book quivered in my hands for a brief moment, and then fell silent and still.
I felt Charlie's tiny, wet tongue licking my eyelashes and my nose. I opened my eyes. I must have fallen asleep on the couch. Andy's book and my now cold cocoa mug were on the coffee table, my journal was open on my lap to the first page. Written in my handwriting was a single entry:
Thank you is the best you can do,
and the greatest honor you can bestow upon any reviewer.
Don't Screw This Up!
There's been a trend in recent years to gift books at a baby shower in lieu of cards. I think it's a fantastic idea, and something I've been doing long since before it became a trend. I've always been a firm believer that a child should have as many books - as they have toys... and preferably more books. When you gift a book to a child, what helps you make that final decision? Do you focus on the book's message or lesson? The characters? The pictures? When I gift a book, be it to a child or an adult, I always think first about how that book touched me, and I make a gift hoping the recipient will enjoy it in the same way I did. I hope it will build the same memories for them.
These are the top three children's books that created the most lasting impression on my childhood. This list is so much greater than three... and the books I discovered when I had my son would go on a completely different list... but this is a good start. If I was limited to share only three titles with the children in my life forever, these would the books I would choose. I hope you'll take the time to discover and share their wonderment with a young person in your life.
Santa Mouse by Michael Brown
This is one of my first memories of literature. I think I was about four when I first had this book read to me during the holidays. I can't remember if it was one that already lived on our shelves, or if it was a gift; but I remember the story very clearly. This is a wonderful tale of altruism demonstrated by a tiny little mouse thinking of someone far bigger then he, Santa Claus, and how perhaps Santa doesn't receive gifts on Christmas. The story, written in a simple rhyme that I had memorized by the third or fourth reading (and can still recite almost perfectly today), is about how the little mouse sets out to make it right. When Santa encounters the gift and is touched by the gesture, he asks the mouse his name, to thank him properly. But, the mouse doesn't have a name. So, Santa adopts him. He gives him a tiny little suit, and shiny black boots, and even a tiny little beard. In that moment, he is officially Santa Mouse, and spends the rest of his days spreading the joy of altruism throughout the holiday season. I remember that this book made a terrific impact on me because it made me clearly understand that no matter how small or inconsequential I thought I was... there was much good I could do, and the good I did wouldn't go unnoticed. This book had such an impact on my life that I shared it with my son and have given it as gifts more times than I can count. We still have a copy on our shelves to this day. When I was a child, we didn't have Elf on a Shelf to remind us of why kindness was important during the season; we had Santa Mouse!
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
I love this book! In this story, a steam shovel, named MaryAnn becomes the center of attention as she digs the basement for the new city center/courthouse. As the story goes, the more people gather around to watch MaryAnn dig, the faster she digs. The result: she dug the basement in just one day! But... she dug so fast, and so well, she forgot to leave a ramp to get out once the digging was done. What to do? Retire, and become the furnace to keep the courthouse warm. A perfect solution. I love this story because it reminds us that tenacity is important... stick to it and get the job done. It also reminds us how important it is for us to be aware that we are always doing things that are an inspiration to others - even when we make mistakes. The mistake made doesn't need to hold us back from a comfortable and successful life. We get to choose how to realign our priorities and our understanding of the future. Even as a young child, these messages were well received. The trick, of course, is following through on them as an adult! I was crushed when this book was out of print for a while; but now it's back, and I will continue to gift it to children and adults alike. The message bears repeating, even in our older years. Tenacity is a trait to be embraced... and so is flexibility. Both hold outcomes that will enrich our lives.
The House At Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne
This is by far the one children's book that has stuck with me throughout all of the adventures (and misadventures) of my life. It was the first story I read to my son the day I brought him home from the hospital, and a small Pooh stuffed bear sat in the bassinet with him at the hospital just after his birth. He still has it. I love the Pooh stories because of the characters. They are rich and vibrant, and show us that simply being ourselves really is enough in this world. Pooh is simple, but wise. Owl is wise but needs nurturing. Eeyore is quiet and strong, even when alone. Tigger is filled with joy and still finds ways to learn. Kanga is tender and playful. Roo is eager to learn and always loyal. Rabbit is quick to take charge, and also quick to humility. Piglet is very tiny but more brave than all the rest; more brave than me, even. Christopher Robin was the key that allowed us into the secret forest. After that, it was out of his hands... and he was okay with that. Christopher was okay with not being the spotlight, he was ego-free; and happy because of it. Whenever I feel dislocated from my place in the world, I read a little bit of Pooh and somehow reconnect and become at ease with my insecurities and frustrations. Whenever anyone asks what book I'd like to be stranded with on an island in the middle of nowhere... this is the one I will always choose. These are my best friends.
Literacy is such a wonderful gift. Be sure to give your favorite books whenever you have the opportunity... to mark the milestones of birthdays, anniversaries, and graduation. Remember too, that books are the best "just because I was thinking of you" gift. Gift a book today. No excuse required.
What are your top three memorable children's books? Leave your list in the comments below.
It's a dilemma I face every year... buying a new journal/planner. I have a lot of stuff going on in my life, personally and professionally, and I have always needed a place to keep it all in order. Years ago, I only kept a daily journal in a basic "blank" book that I bought at the local bookshop. I had friends who used a really basic spiral notebook... but I liked the hardcover for durability. I found that simply writing in it every day, with reminders at the end of an entry about what needed to be done the next day, was sufficient. I was able to take my daily emotional and intellectual inventory, track goals, and remind myself of what I needed to do the next day. Super simple. It worked great for two and a half decades.
Then my son was born, and I began pursuing a more ambitious writing career. Time to find a better tool. I discovered the Franklin Planner, while working at a newspaper, and it worked quite well for several years. I was able to keep track of interviews, writing deadlines, family obligations, and my son's extra activities at school. My daily journal still worked well to keep track of emotional components, personal inventory, and goals. Two books to keep my life well ordered didn't seem excessive, especially because I generally used one during the day, and the other only at night.
Enter computers into my daily life, college, and the adventure of building my own businesses; three of them, over the years. Carrying around a laptop computer, AND a daily planner book, PLUS my daily journal felt like doing the work three times. I'm not a fan of redundancies, so, I shopped and shopped, trying several different styles of planners. Some worked, others didn't. I went digital for a while, and then back to paper. But frustration lingered because I still felt like I had too many tools, doing the work too many times over, and never truly finding an effective solution.
It's now 2019, soon to be 2020, and let's face it... I'm getting older. My tolerance for extraneous nonsense is dwindling. I have a husband whom I love to spend time with, books to read, books to write, a business to grow, my family is a constantly changing component to my existence... and I have dogs! At this point, I'm all about simplifying wherever possible and only focusing energy on what I really want in my life, not doing the work three times!
In October, I began shopping, again. The planner that I found and used last year worked well... but it was still too much work, and it didn't really have the daily emotional piece I was looking for. It was nice, just not perfect. I wanted a planner that would combine my daily journal work, daily personal inventory trackers to eliminate the need for long-winded entries, a system to track goals and progress on those goals, and a daily calendar to keep my professional responsibilities and appointments in a format that reduces stress. I searched both digital and printed formats for nearly a month... I couldn't find anything that met all of my needs and requirements.
Frustration can sometimes be the wizard of invention. Out of sheer shopping overwhelm (and a desire to spend as little money as possible), I sat down one weekend, and I made my own planner. From my experience with the Internet "window" shopping I did on Amazon and other websites beforehand, I figure I saved about $35.
Using Microsoft Excel, I made a monthly page, a weekly page, and a daily page. Each one contains all the aspects of recording, tracking, and managing my emotionally undulating, very busy life. I have a comb binding machine, which I obtained years ago when I was making training manuals, and bought some plastic "month tabs" from the office supply store. I grabbed a couple of pages of card stock and plastic overlays, and created my own cover... something that would remind me that I am in control and responsible for my own destiny - a mini vision board, essentially (see above). I put it all together, and was extremely pleased with the outcome.
The vision board piece is another thing I try to do every year, so it was helpful to have everything pulled together in a single resource that I could always carry around with me.
In December, I began my beta test. I wanted to start a month early on the off chance that I hated it and needed to actually buy something else. Just like with writing a new book, you never can tell how it's all going to turn out until you beta test it. It's printed on standard 8.5" x 11" paper, and fits neatly into my tablet briefcase or laptop backpack, so I can take it to meetings and events. No, it's not digital, and yes, I still keep my appointments in my Google calendar synchronized on my tablet, phone, and computer... but the simple fact that it allows me to contain, track, and reflect daily in a single book, is a huge step forward in stress reduction. The best thing about having DIY'd this project is that after using it for a year, I have the ability to tweak it... move things, eliminate things, add things, in any way that I find most effective. And, I don't have to spend a lot of money doing it!
Yup, frustration is indeed sometimes the motivator of creation.
Click the images below to see the detail of my planning pages.
I wasn't as interested in this one as I thought I'd be. The synopsis suggested that there would be more of a creepy factor than there was; yet still, the overall story was okay.
The layers that authors add to psychological thrillers is what draws me to the genre. Although this one has a couple that caught me off guard, it was a bit anti-climactic. The tension just wasn't there for me. The secret from the main character's past that I was hoping would be tremendously revealing, was that... but the problem was that it was revealed in the beginning of the book. A bit of a let down. Throughout the story, I suspected what was happening, and so when it turned out I was right, I wasn't as impressed as I wanted to be.
There was a particular subplot character, who I thought would be instrumental in the big reveal at the end, but that character wasn't explored or woven into the story line with the kind of depth that would have required. His character and underlying creepiness was there... but just peripherally. I would have liked to have him more involved with the final twist. In the end, he was an obvious red herring. The secondary characters were also less dynamic that I would have liked... they felt more like filler than impact - even the one that was supposed to be the motivational history.
The best thing about this story... The dog doesn't die!
According to GoodReads.com, this author is a popular writer, and I seem to be in the minority. This was my first read of her; and I'll give her another chance; but I'm guessing this novel isn't her finest work.
Treat yourself to to this book. It's a ghost story that well defines the genre.
This book was sincerely, "un-put-down-able". I was pulled into the story and didn't want to leave. The characters were rich and vibrant, even those who were more than a hundred years old. The storytelling was full in it's detail - and when necessary - just as strong in its withholding. There were times I felt precariously dangled from a cliff and other times I felt snuggled up warmly with the comfort of canine sentinels. As a Michigan resident, I felt quite at home with Halcyon and her family's house. I have a very strong urge now, to visit the island to seek out the places... emotional and physical, real and imagined.
I listened to the audio book version. The narrator was exquisite in captivating story, character, and the intent of the author. Her cadence and rhythm were spot on... the only error I found was the single mispronunciation of 'Mackinac' (she's probably not a Michigan native).
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!