Happy Halloween and Happy Reformation Day!

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“This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Halloween! Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!
Halloween! Halloween!

Tender lumplings everywhere
Life’s no fun without a good scare

That’s our job, but we’re not mean
In our town of Halloween.”

-Nightmare Before Christmas

Happy Halloween everybody!  I love this holiday because it’s not only fun to dress up and be silly well after dark, but it’s the gateway holiday to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Halloween is the start of the holiday season!  Yay! I hope you have lots of fun tonight!

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“I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept…the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.” – Martin Luther
Today is also Reformation Day. Almost 500 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to a church door sparking the Reformation and the breaking away from the Roman Catholic church. I’m so thankful for this man and how the Lord used him, and I’m thankful My Church gathers together to celebrate this historic event.
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A Texas Cousins Adventure: Fan Fiction: Space Cowboys and Cowgirls (Part 3)

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

“Aunt Abby! You have to finish the story,” Ellie said. “We need to go rescue Bruce and Jude.”

“Yes, we need to rescue me,” Bruce said.

“I guess you’re right. It wouldn’t do to leave Bruce and Jude captured by the Flies.”

“No it wouldn’t,” said Jude.

“Okay, are you ready?”

“Yes!!” screamed eight cousins not using their inside voices one bit.

“Once upon a time . . .”


Once upon a time, the brave crew of the Texas rescued a group of settlers from the clutches of the evil Flies. But! Bruce and Jude were captured. Now, Constance must lead a rescue mission.

“Everyone gear up,” Constance said reloading her umbrella cannon.

“We’re going to save them, right?” Jules said.

“Of course we are,” Joshua said handing her a gun. “We are right?”

“We wouldn’t leave them to the likes of the Flies,” Rook said checking to make sure his potato cannon was loaded and he had plenty of potatoes.

“Everyone ready?” Constance said.

With grim faces, they all nodded.

“Aunt Abby,” whispered Imogene, “what’s a grim face.”

“It means they’re serious, not smiling.”

“Why aren’t they smiling?” asked Jules.

“Cause they’re worried about Bruce and Jude and fighting the Flies.”

“We are too,” said Ellie. “See,” she pointed at her face, “no smile. I’m grim.”

“You folks stay here and guard the ship. We’ll be back shortly,” Constance said to the settlers they rescued before she jumped on their four-wheeler. Joshua jumped up beside her and cranked it to life. Rook, Jules, Imogene, and Ellie piled in behind them. Imogene pulled on an oversized pair of goggles and held on.

Joshua drove out onto the planet in the direction of the Flies. The four-wheeler kicked up a great cloud of dirt as he drove faster and faster. Constance held up her hand and Joshua pushed the break. The four-wheeler stopped.

“What is it?” whispered Ellie. “The Flies?”

“Yes, everyone out,” Constance ordered.

They tumbled out of the four-wheeler and slithered on their tummies up a little hill. When they reached the top, they peeked at the swarm of Flies. In the middle of them sat Bruce and Jude all tied up and blind-folded.

Jules pressed her hand to her mouth and Rook patted her back. “Don’t worry, we’ll get them back.”

“Listen up,” Constance whispered. “Jules and Imogene, you go back to the four-wheeler and you keep it safe. If the Flies take it, we’ll have to walk all the way back to the ship with them chasing us.”

The girls nodded and slithered back.

“Rook, you and Ellie take the left side, keeping your aim high so you don’t hit Bruce and Jude. Me and Joshua will take the other side. As soon as we reach Bruce and Jude, we run. We’re not here to fight the whole swarm, just to get our cousins back.”

Splitting apart, they stood up and yelled. All the Flies turned to them. Constance led the charge around to the right with Joshua right beside her. Constance fired her Umbrella cannon over and over into the swarm while Joshua used his Dragon’s Breath Flame Thrower on the Flies. Rook and Ellie charged the other direction firing the potato cannon and Lego guns. They caught the Flies completely off-guard. Flies fell this way and that way from the flying bullets, fire, and potatoes. In just a few seconds, Joshua, Constance, Rook, and Ellie reached Bruce and Jude.

“About time,” Jude said as Ellie took his blindfold off and cut the ropes around his wrists and feet.

“Let’s get off this planet,” Bruce said.

While the others freed Bruce and Jude, Imogene and Jules guarded the four-wheeler.

“What if some Flies come?” Jules said.

“We’ll shoot them.”

“Are you sure we can?”

“Of course,” said Imogene. “Their big and ugly Flies.”

Just as she said this, a small group of angry Flies flew right up over the hill and straight for them. Jules’ raised her gun. Imogene copied her. The Flies came closer. Jules fired and missed. She fired again and one Fly dropped from the swarm. Imogene closed her eyes, smiled, and fired five more shots. When she opened her eyes, the flies were dead.

“How’d you do that?” Jules asked.

“Practice,” Imogene said. “No power in the ‘verse can stop me.”

Aunt Abby stopped and giggled to herself.

“What’s funny?” Rook said.

“Nothing,” Aunt Abby said. “I’ll tell all y’all when you’re older.”

“Are we older now?” asked Jules.

“I am,” said Bruce.

“Not old enough yet,” Aunt Abby said.

Bruce, Jude, Constance, Joshua, Rook, and Ellie came charging over the hill. Behind them came an angry swarm of Flies.

“Go, go, go,” yelled Bruce.

The girls jumped on the four-wheeler and Imogene pulled on her goggles. Everyone else piled on and Joshua roared back towards the ship.

“Shoot them!” Bruce said.

Everyone, but Joshua, turned and fired at the following swarm. Flies dropped left and right as umbrella and potato cannons tore through them. Flies littered the ground as Lego guns fired.

“There’s the Texas!” said Joshua.

“We can make it,” said Jules.

The raced across the planet with the black swarm behind them. Without slowing down, Joshua plowed right onto the ship. The settlers they rescued dove out of the way. Bruce took a flying leap off the four-wheeler and hit the button to close the ramp and the doors.

“Get us out of here,” Bruce said.

Joshua rushed up to the bridge and cranked the Texas to life. Three Flies darted past the closing doors into the ship. Imogene fired one, two, three. The Flies died.

“Good shot,” said Constance.

“Thanks.” Imogene smiled.

The Texas rose in the air leaving the Flies behind on the dusty planet. They returned the settlers to their ship and made sure they were safe and well on their way before heading back out into space.


“The end,” Aunt Abby said.

“Wow, I’m glad I was rescued,” Bruce said.

“Yeah, I don’t like flies,” said Jude.

“Imogene,” Jules said. “You’re a good shot.”

“Okay, everyone go play, story time is over. Aunt Abby needs some coffee.”

“Let’s go play we’re Space Cowboys,” Constance said scooping up her frog umbrella.

“We need some Lego guns,” said Rook running towards the Lego boxes.

“And a space ship,” said Ellie said.

“I get to fly it!” Joshua hurried off after everyone else.

“I need a gun and goggles,” Imogene yelled.

Aunt Abby smiled, watching the cousins run off to play in a small world she’d opened to them. Grammie put her arm around her shoulders.

“Starting them young, don’t you think?”

“Of course.”

The End

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Welcome to the gang, Rook!

Welcome to the gang, Rook!

Failure

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

This is a statement without any Biblical basis. It is a statement without grace.

Sometimes I spend an evening, generally while my husband unwinds with a video game, wandering around Pinterest. I enjoy looking for new recipes to try, new cleaning tricks, fashion inspiration, decorating inspiration, writing inspiration, things that make me laugh, things that creep my out, or geeky things centered around my own particular fandoms. As I scroll through pins, I’m sometimes amazed at the level of narcissism and the lack of mercy shown to other sinners gathered around us. You see pins about rejecting the negative people in your life. You see pins about getting rid of those people who don’t just think you’re the greatest. Heaven forbid they don’t think your life dream is amazing. Heaven forbid they hurt you. Well you know what to do right? Throw those people away. You don’t need that kind of grief in your life.

Really good friends are perfect. They are perfectly loyal. They are perfectly focused on you. They are perfectly supportive of everything in your life, both good and ill. Good friends, and good Christians never fail.

Do you ever scroll past these types of quotes and feel like a failure? Do you every feel like you must just be a horrible person for honestly telling someone that while their dream is nice, they need to count the cost of the choices they’re making. Do you ever feel like no matter how hard you try something things just don’t go right? Do you ever remember with horrible guilt the time you were that person who wasn’t loyal and lost a friend because of it? Do you ever remember with terrible pain the time you were failed by a friend and were broken by it?

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I'm not god. I'm a failed and failing human being.

Yes you were, because you made me your god. I’m not god. I’m a failed and failing human being.

Guess what?

You are a failure.

You will fail and the people around you are going to fail.

You’re going to miss someone, look back later, see how they slipped out of your life, and you’re going to regret it. You’re going to say something about someone and regret it. You’ll believe the worst about someone only to realize you misunderstood them. You will be disappointed. You will have regrets. You will disappoint others and have regrets.

You will fail and you will be failed.

Some of us are overcome with sadness when we see all the ways we’ve failed, especially if we admire and appreciate loyalty and friendship. The weight of disloyalty and failure can almost break us.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn't anyone notice how much pain I'm in. Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice anyone elses pain.

Oh how I remember being trapped in this feeling as a young person. Why doesn’t anyone notice how much pain I’m in? Yet, I never stopped picking at my pain long enough to notice the  pain of others.

Where do we find comfort?

1) Find comfort in the truth and not fiction. We all fail. We all sin. We are all sinners. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord that He saves sinners. If He didn’t I’d be lost. Knowing we all fail gives me peace because God saves sinners. I’m only perfect in Christ and the same goes for you. We are only faithful by grace. Knowing that gives us the strength we all need to forgive those who have failed us. It gives us the strength to resist being paralyzed by fear of failure. Grace! Grace!

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

Again, vindictive and void of grace. You continue down this path and you will have no friends.

2) Find comfort in He who is faithful. God is faithful. Look at the parable of in Luke 11/5-13. We are all the annoyed neighbor who is already tucked in bed. God is never tucked in bed. He is never annoyed. He is holy. He watches for the down trodden, the broken, the least of the least. Cry out to Him with your needs and fears. Don’t put your faith in your fellow-man, that is far too big a burden for any of us to bear. We aren’t God. We are weak. We have to sleep and eat just like you do. God doesn’t. God isn’t bound by the time, space, and corporeal weaknesses we are tied to. God is faithful. (2 Tim. 2/13)

Knowing we are failures isn’t a license to fail as much as we want, but a reminder that we are all sinners and only God is faithful. I can turn to my fellow church members and forgive and be forgiven. I can ignore the pins of people who hope in this life, build little gods of others, and try to find their satisfaction in a broken world. Better yet, I can pray for them. My sins are covered by Christ. He is my perfection. Remove that burden from your heart and from the hearts of those around you. Realize you are going to be hurt and you’re going to hurt others. Instead of finding perfection in fellow sinners, look for it in Christ, forgive, show grace, and help each other along.

Remember Iron sharpens Iron. Does that sound comfortable to you? Sparks are going to fly. Remember the wise man heeds rebuke. That means you have to endure and apply the rebuke of others. Remember that we are called to be a body in our church and not everyone is going to get to be the eyes and ears, but that doesn’t make them any less important. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of removing people who suck from your life–people!–maybe look beyond the end of your own nose to serve them instead.

Hope in this life isn’t found in being unbroken. Hope in this life is found only in the Triune God.

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God!

Oh the mercy and grace of a kind and holy God! Here, oh soul, you may take your rest.

Quote of the Weekend

“So much for communism–it’s simply the thieving of everything by everyone from everyone.”

– The Pastor’s Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand

(Not only is this book encouraging to your faith, it also shows the hollow lies of Communism. It shows the state of fear and betrayal it creates, the even vaster class distinctions, and the removal of all freedom.)

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters under the Bed (Part 13)

SpecialAgentsPart 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Rachel wiped a tear from her eye. Lauren squeezed her hand with her scale-free one. Scales covered her face now and climbed down her arm. But at least her one hand was still skin. Were her eyes the same color? Or had they changed too?

“He was our friend,” Rachel said. “Our friend. Did you hear him laughing? He sounded so . . . ,” she searched for the word.

“Evil,” Peter offered.

“And happy,” said Rachel.

Lauren studied the inside of the tree house. She climbed to her feet and poked at windows, the door, and the floorboards. She checked her tablet again, and again it showed heat signatures below the tree house. What was going on? What did Sam want? He had them trapped, what did he plan to do? Realization, or the worst of the worst, jumped out at her.

Peter gasped. Lauren spun around. Did he suspect the same thing?

“Carmichael Agency,” he whispered.

“NO!” Rachel shouted.

Lauren pointed at her tablet, trying without words to argue with Peter even though she suspected the same thing.

“He planted something. He planned this from the beginning. It wouldn’t be hard, didn’t he help design all your equipment?”

“You don’t understand,” Rachel said. “The Agency is under our house. He can reach our parents. They’re still asleep. They won’t even know.”

Lauren sensed Rachel’s fear. She felt it herself. Her heart raced. She wanted to run, scream, fly home. Her parents lay helpless in their bed and the worst of the monsters was coming. How could she have been so blind? How could they not know Sam was the Woman’s son?

A rustling noise broke through the anxious thoughts. The scrawny cat jumped in the room.

“What?” Rachel said scrubbing at her tears. “We can’t get out, how can he get in?”

Peter stepped closer to the cat. He puffed up his hair and hissed showing his sharp teeth. Peter touched the window.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he whispered.

Lauren ran her fingers around the edge of the window behind her. Rachel dug in her pack and brought out a small bag of snacks. Tearing free a piece of beef jerky, she held it out to the cat. It meowed and inched closer. Lauren gave her a thumbs-up and scanned the window with her tablet. She pulled out her lock-picking tool and tried to pry up a corner. Nothing.

Rachel ran her hand down the back of the cat stroking it. The cat chomped on the jerky and purred. Rachel paused, something shifted in the scruff of the cat’s neck. Done with its snack, the cat bound onto the chair and up on to the top of the entertainment center. The chair tottered and leaned back against the wall. The doors of the entertainment center opened revealing a slide going down into the depths.

“That doesn’t exactly answer how the cat got in, but I’m good with it,” Peter said.

“I know,” Rachel said, “not that it really matters. There’s some kinda chip under his skin.”

Lauren scrunched up her nose.

“They put a chip in the cat?” Peter asked her question.

“The real question is,” Rachel said, “how’d they make it look like no one’s been here for so long?”

Lauren ran her fingers through the dust on the floor. The top layer wiped away revealing footprints in the next layer. She stared pointedly up at Rachel.

“Sam, I mean the Son, invented a dust can that lets you cover your tracks if you have to break into an old haunted house. The Extraction Team used it when they had to deal with a bad case of the boogeyman up north last winter. I can’t believe he betrayed us. He always looked after everyone and made such good inventions.”

Lauren pointed at the cat and then at the slide. Right now, they didn’t need to focus on Sam’s betrayal. They needed to find a way out. Their parents or Carmichael Agency might be in grave danger and only they knew it.

Rachel nodded, tempted the cat off the top of the entertainment center with another piece of jerky, scooped it up, and put him it her backpack. The cat hissed and settled down.

“Taking the cat with us, huh?”

“The chip might be for more than just letting him in and out of the tree house,” Rachel explained. She peered down the slide. “And I don’t really care where this goes, it’s better than just sitting here hoping to be rescued. I want to go make sure my parents are safe.”

Lauren nodded.

“I’m good with the slide.”

The three kids jumped onto the slide and shot down into the dark.

Down, down, down, around, around, and possibly upside down. The twins and Peter shot out into a large open space.

“Well, well, well, that didn’t take long. My Son was right: Put everything in place and you would literally fall right into our hands.” The voice rang out around them. Rachel and Lauren never expected to hear that voice again except in their nightmares. It was the voice of the Woman.

Lauren opened her mouth. The siren gave off a weak, muffled wail. Rachel screamed clutching Lauren. Peter, unaware of who the voice belonged to, of what it signified, felt out in the darkness.

A light flooded the room driving away the shadows. Bars sprang up around them. A terrifying sight came into focus as they squinted in the light.

Their parents were tied to a bar in the middle of the room. Their heads rested on their chests and they snored peacefully. Their mom’s hair stirred as she breathed.

Lauren went silent shutting her mouth. Rachel’s tears dried. The Woman stepped from the shadows with Sam at her shoulder. The twin agents stared out from behind the bars and glared at their arch nemesis.

“And now I’m going to do to you what you did to me,” Sam said.

“Sam, don’t!” Peter shouted.

Rachel and Lauren said nothing. They just glared and glared.

A wrench high over their heads lifted their parents up in the air. They spun slowly.

“And now to wake them up,” Sam said. The Woman smiled down at her Son.

Lauren ripped off her mask. The eerie siren flooded the room booming and echoing.

All the lights went out.

Black-Cat-8

Marriage and Writing: Truth and Lies

JaneEyre625

I watched as many Disney movies growing up as the next girl. I read several ‘Christian’ romance novels and watched/read Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice religiously. Plus of course, the obligatory watching of Titanic and other such movies. None of these are bad in and of themselves. None of them are evil. But, I am one of those girls who went into my marriage expecting my husband to think I hung the sun, moon, and stars. I wanted him to look in my eyes and lose himself in their beauty. I wanted Prince Charming at my beck and call.

A husband should think his wife is special, otherwise, why marry her? But when she thinks it’s his obligation to think she is always right, adorable, and pretty much infallible, there’s a problem.

I was one of those girls. I was trapped in a relationship where I treated my husband as a god and expected to be worshiped in return. Isn’t that normal? Normal, maybe. Right? No.

The only person I should ever worship is God, the Triune one, the one who became man so that I might draw near to Him. He is the only one I should worship. And he is the only one my husband should worship. It is completely unfair, and downright egotistically to expect your husband to worship the ground you walk on. Not only are you unworthy of that worship, you can’t live up to that standard. And you worshiping him does the same thing. I became a slave to his every whim. I became susceptible to his every mood swing. I was trapped in the worship of a man who is sinful instead of safely resting in the worship of God who is perfect.

It almost destroyed our marriage.

Once identified, the real fight for our marriage began. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been smooth. It’s been hard. It’s required us to be hard on each other. My husband has had to help me watch for times I’m caving to him, and I’ve had to watch times when I mistreat him because he’s just not treating me how I feel like I deserve to be treated. Thankfully we’ve won, by God’s rich grace alone, the big battles. The small battles still creep up now and then in the most unsuspecting ways.

A while back, I found myself mentally complaining that my husband didn’t take a greater interest in my writing. Woman after woman out on social media praise their husbands for his encouragement and support in their writing career. (Especially the romance writers. Go figure.) My husband asks me not to make it my focus in life but something that I do in submission to the Lord as an encouragement to my church. Many men go out of their way to take care of kids, clean house, and do the shopping, not to mention working to support the family, so their wives can write. My husband says limit your writing to a few hours in the morning before you start your day. Many husbands are their wives first readers. Mine only reads my stuff if I go out of my way to ask him.

Woe is me.

Wait. Is that my desire to be worshiped kicking back in? Yes.

It took me such a long time to realize that. (See what I mean about that unsuspected creeping?)  It took me forever to realize what other women share about their lives on social media isn’t my standard of perfection. God is.

Is my husband caving to my desires or is he looking out for the well-being of my soul? Wow. Maybe, just maybe, he’s looking out for the well-being of my soul. Maybe he isn’t so interested in what makes me happy—knowing how skilled I am at finding things that make me happy. Maybe he’s more worried about what will help me seek after Christ. Maybe I should stop looking at the world and start looking at the Word.

Does my husband encourage my writing? Yes. When I look back over the years I’ve been writing, he is responsible for my biggest moments of growth. He is the one who pushed me to take it seriously. He is the one who pushed me to embrace my action flick writing style. He’s the one who encouraged me to start a blog. He’s the one who encouraged me to write for children. At every turn, he is the one who has shown an interest beyond just surface cheering and focused on the harsh realities that really push a person. Maybe I misjudged him.

Does my husband inhibit my writing gift by demanding I give it a place of lesser priority? No. Instead of letting me sit for hours and hours on my butt in a fake world, my husband demands I regulate myself so that my house doesn’t crumble around my ears. He demands I spend the majority of the day in the real world. He realizes that I am his helper and that he isn’t mine. And then he demands I seek to fill that slot while giving me space and grace to learn. He doesn’t cut me any slack, but he does treat me with great forgiveness and grace. Isn’t that like the Lord? Christ doesn’t indulge our sin, but he does give us grace. My husband doesn’t try to make things that are difficult go away, he tries to make sure I have the tools and the support to deal with them.

Instead of sitting by and letting me indulge every selfish desire I have to hide from the world, my husband challenges me to use my gift to serve my local church and the church at large. Does that not mean that he believes in my gift? What greater evidence could I ask for than his encouragement to write for my church family?

I have a huge group of very loyal fans who love everything I type. Just because my man doesn’t read every word with adoration doesn’t mean he doesn’t support, love, and enjoy this gift. He’s not a fiction reader. He works from six in the morning until three as a computer programmer and then from three until six or seven studying for his Wednesday night class on Systematic Theology. Can I really blame him if me exclaiming over a fictional character doesn’t rate as high as the truth of God? Maybe I need to examine my priorities.

It’s so easy for us as women to evaluate our husbands by the world, movies, and books. It’s so easy for us to lust after something and complain when we don’t have it. Sometimes, many times, we need to reevaluate our standards based on the Scripture and the Word. If you feel the pull of the desire to be worshiped take it to the Lord. He is your friend always. Stop complaining about being unloved or alone and put your eyes on Christ. He is your true friend. Then, reevaluate your that lack of love and friendship. Is it truly there, or do you have a wrong understanding of love?

prideprejudice02

I’ve started a new practice, since our pastors have been working through prayer, of not only praying about my writing during my prayer time, but praying about it specifically before I get started. Right now, more often than not, I remember at the end of my writing time, but I’m working on creating a good habit and that takes time. This has helped me keep my writing in the proper place: a part of who God gave me, not the entirety of my being.

When I feel the desire to grumble because my husband isn’t showing me the attention I think I deserve (which makes me feel so small when I type it out. Who do I think I am?) I remember a few things: my husband is a sinner, not God. God is my friend, the most perfect friend I could ever have. Then I ask a few questions: Is it just me feeling neglected? Am I really being neglected or is that old sin of wanting to be worshiped raising its ugly head? Am I being discontent? Am I being thankful?

I love my husband more than I can put into words and I know he loves me. We’ve learned the hard lesson of divesting ourselves from the worldly notion of lovers and embracing the Biblical notion of being fellow pilgrims, of being a picture of Christ and the Church, instead.

It’s not a relationship devoid of romance by any means, but it is not a relationship based on romance or happiness. It is much deeper and more fulfilling than that. It’s a friendship, it’s an adventure, it’s support every day, all the time.

Quote of the Weekend

“It was as if God, knowing what lay before us, gave greatest comfort before gravest trouble.”

The Pastor’s Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand

(Despite theological differences, I have greatly enjoyed this book. Her faith in the Lord through all her struggles is joyful to behold.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Fan Fiction: Space Cowboys and Cowgirls (Part 2)

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Part 1

Still snuggled in close around the fire, the remains of their hot chocolate gone cold, the eight cousins stared pleadingly up at Aunt Abby.

“Please,” said Bruce. “Please tell us more of the story.”

“Are you sure?” Aunt Abby said. “I’m not sure if I like this story.”

“We like it,” Jules said grabbing her arm and giving it a gentle tug. “We do!”

Everyone else echoed her pleas.

“Well, if you’re sure you like it, I guess I could tell you the next part. But, it’s gonna cost you.”

“What’s it gonna cost?” Joshua asked.

“A big bear hug from everyone,” Aunt Abby said.

Eight little cousins jumped to their feet and eight cousins threw their arms around her squealing with delight as they knocked her over into the pile of pillows.

“Okay, okay,” Aunt Abby said, coming up for air. “Enough hugs.”

They settled back in their pillows and blankets with their stuffed animals.

“Once upon a time…


 

Once upon a time, brave Bruce and his crew aboard the Texas discovered a broken-down ship just floating through space. They boarded the ship but found no people. Joshua scanned the nearby planet and much to his horror found the lost people surrounded by flies.

“Gear up,” shouted Constance reloading her Umbrella Cannon while Jude got his high-powered BB gun and two more Lego guns.

“What about us?” Jules said.

“I want Jules, Rook, Imogene, and Ellie to stay here with Joshua,” Bruce said.

“It is mathematically unlikely that only three of you will be able to take out the Flies,” Imogene said dancing in a circle around Bruce, Constance, and Jude.

“That’s reassuring,” Jude said.

“I want the three people who fight the best down there first,” Bruce said.

“I can fight,” said Jules.

“That’s why you’re staying here,” Bruce said. “I may need you to come rescue us.”

“I have everything ready to take those people in,” Ellie said holding up her med-kit filled with brightly colored gummy vitamins.

“Good. Joshua, you drop us down on their heads and then stay close by to pick up those people.”

Joshua hurried off to the bridge. “Starting descent down through the atmo now.”

“What’s at mo?” Jules asked.

“Yeah? What is it?” Bruce said.

“At mo!” Ellie yelled.

“Atmosphere,” Aunt Abby said. “It’s what surrounds a planet that protects us from space debris. It’s high, high over our heads.”

Jude looked up. “I don’t see it.”

“It’s out past the sky.”

“Wow, that’s really far,” Constance said.

“Yep. You can only reach it in a space ship.”

“Like the Texas?” Imogene asked.

“Like the Texas.”

Texas shook as Joshua drove her, like a leaf on the wind, down to the planet below.

“Ready?” Bruce asked cocking his laser revolver.

“Locked and loaded,” Jude said grinning as he hefted his BB gun up on his shoulder.

Constance matched Jude’s grin and pointed her rifle at the ramp, ready as soon as it opened.

The Texas touched down, the ramp opened with a groan, and Bruce, Constance, and Jude rushed out. The spread out keeping each other covered. Ahead the Flies buzzed and bobbed in the air. The people from the other ship huddled in the middle scared and crying.

“Are we going to rescue them?” Ellie said.

“Listen and see,” Aunt Abby said.

“Of course we are,” Constance said.

“Get them!” Bruce yelled, leading the charge.

Constance came up on his right and Jude on his left. They shot the flies swatting them from the air, one, two, three. The people from the other ship cheered as they rushed forward.

“Get to the ship!” Jude yelled waving the people towards the Texas.

No one moved.

“Come on,” Bruce shouted.

The people were too scared to come. More Flies flew towards them.

Bruce, Constance, and Joshua fired again and again until all the Flies around the people had dropped dead on the ground. They grabbed up mommies and daddies and little kids rushing them towards the Texas. More Flies were coming.

“Hurry, hurry,” Jules said holding out her arms to bring in all the people.

“We don’t have much time, Bruce,” Joshua said over the radio.

“Doing the best we can,” Bruce said.

“I was thinking a picnic would be nice,” Jude said joking.

“Constance, get them inside,” Bruce ordered. “Jude, help me protect them.”

Jude stopped and turned with Bruce beside him. They pointed their guns at the coming swarm of flies. There were so many.

“Constance?” Bruce said over the radio. “You on board?”

“Just about!”

“I don’t have time for just about,” Bruce said.

The swarm reached them. Bruce and Jude fought very bravely firing at all the Flies. They fired and fired their many guns. Bruce reloaded while Jude pulled out two Lego guns and shot seven Flies died.

“I’m almost out,” Jude said grabbing his last gun.

“My battery’s running low,” Bruce said.

“We’re all on board,” Constance voice crackled over the radio.

Bruce glanced back at the Texas. It was too far away. A Fly grabbed him and flew off with him. One got Jude.

Constance watched from the Texas now full of frightened people.

“They just got Bruce and Jude,” she said.

“What do we do?” Jules said pressing her hands to her face.

“We rescue them,” Rook said.

“I like how you think, cousin,” Constance said. “Can you track them, Josh?”

“Got ’em,” Josh said over the radio.

“Come on,” Constance said to Ellie, Imogene, Jules, and Rook. “Let’s plan a rescue mission.”


 

“Dun, dun dun,” Aunt Abby said dramatically.

“No,” Jules said. “I know what that means.”

“What?” said Ellie on the edge of her pillow.”

“It means,” Bruce said. “That Aunt Abby needs another break.”

“But I’m captured,” Jude said.

“Don’t worry,” Constance said, “I’m going to save you!”

“Me too!” said Ellie.

“Do you need a hug?” Bruce asked.

“No, I need a hot chocolate refill.”

“Let’s hurry then!” Joshua said.

“Hurry, hurry,” Rook chanted.

“Stop that chanting,” yelled Grandpa.

“Grandpa’s funny,” Imogene said.

…to be continued…

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Welcome to the gang, Rook!

Welcome to the gang, Rook!

Writing Journal: A Character Interview

Inspired by Bethany Jennings, I decided to do my own character interview. In the past, I always thought these were dumb. Most of my aversion stems from the fact that I write in a very visceral manner. My stories are quick, painful, bloody, and over. I don’t really have a strong sense of my main characters until the third or fourth rewrite. I’m a pantser and one of the failings of writing without an outline is that you don’t get a real sense of worlds or characters until after the book is finished. Then you polish polish polish and attempt to herd cats into a basic plot.

I’m not sure why reading Bethany’s character interview inspired me to do one as well, but it did. So, I’m going to roll with it. We’ll see what happens.

 

Abby Jones’ Interview of Ralph

Ralph

Ralph sat in his chair kicking his feet. He’s even shorter than I pictured him. He’s not a dwarf, just not a boy blessed with long legs. His green hair is the brightest point in my gray and brown office. It shines like a beacon of joy and oddness.

I sit down opposite him and hold out my hand. He shakes it with a shy smile that pulls down the right side of his face. We exchange a few pleasantries while he continues to swing his feet back and forth since they can’t reach the floor. After getting over the shock of his bottle-green hair, I notice how strong his arms are for a boy his age. I notice the gentle shape to his beautiful brown eyes. They’re going to melt a lucky girl’s heart some day, I find myself thinking. A sense of sadness softens my smile. No, they won’t. I, even as I interview him, know his fate. I know no girl will ever have the opportunity to love the twist of his lip, or his brown eyes, or his green hair. I shake it off. Now is Ralph’s chance.

Let’s start with the basic’s okay, just to warm up. What’s your name?

Ralph.

Just Ralph?

Well yeah. Unborns like me don’t get last names. It’s not like we have fathers.

What’s it like to be an unborn?

Not much different from being a born, other than the last name thing, and the skills.

Skills? (Yes, I’m playing dumb to draw him out.)

You know: skills. Each unborn is harvested with skills. I guess it’s the King’s way of making sure someone wants us. I knew this guy once in Gang White (he leans in and his legs stop swinging) with the most useless skill ever. It’s amazing they didn’t just shoot him. His skill was whistling. He could whistle like his lips were some crazy flute. You should’ve seen Colin’s—that’s Gang White’s Master—Colin’s face when the boy just lit up and started whistling like a wild little bird. (Ralph shakes his head.)

What happened to him?

He got sent to the scroungers. Died I think. I don’t remember now.

And what’s your skill?

My skill? Well, it ain’t whistling. (His mouth dips down at the right with every word.) My skills metals. Iron specifically. I can work it real well, least that’s what Kent and Gil say.

Kent and Gil?

Gil salvaged me and Kent’s his brother. They’re Greenhome’s blacksmiths.

Salvaged?

Yeah, you know, salvaged. I broke the law back when I was part of Gang White. They were going to throw me in the Prison. Gil paid the cost of my crime for me and they sent me to Greenhome instead. He’s my salvager. I, I owe him everything.

Do you like living in Greenhome?

Like? Of course I like it. We have food, clothing, and Christmas. I never even knew about Christmas until I came to Greenhome. Can you imagine? All those years on the Street and never knowing about Christmas. Seems sad now. Besides, if I wasn’t at Greenhome, I’d be in the Prison or I’d be dead . . .or both. The Prison isn’t a place you want to be. I heard (again he leaned forward) that they’re all crazy in there and they do things like sew weapons into their skin and stuff. I even heard that they eat each other when they die. (He shudders believing the stories boys tell each other after the lights go out. His legs start swinging.) I’m more thankful than I can say that Gil salvaged me. I just hope, I hope I can live up to that someday.

It has to be pretty amazing to have someone willing to do that for you.

Yes it is. (His face reddens. He wipes his eye the back of his hand and sniffs.)

So, let’s change the subject. Tell me about your green hair.

Well, it’s green cause I liked the color. When I made my first lantern with Gil and Kent’s help, I smashed a green piece of glass and embedded it in the metal. It was really neat to see the glass melt and then harden. I gave it to Gil. He hung it on his door. I’m going to make him another one and give it to him for Christmas, but this one will be a lot better. I’ve learned a lot since then.

No one thinks it’s strange for you to have green hair instead of brown or blond?

Brown? Brown hair would be strange! That new kid Jonah has brown hair. He stands out like a sore thumb, so does that girl Adele. Her hair is gray. It’s not like silver or something, just gray.

So, everyone in Greenhome has hair like yours?

Yep. Some of us just stick with one color, like my green. But other kids, mostly the girls, change their hair color almost every month. It’s crazy. Who needs a new hair color that often?

How old are you, Ralph?

Twelve, I think. I’m short for my age, but I’m strong. I can beat most of the older boys in an arm wrestle. Even the one’s in training with Duke.

Training with Duke?
Yeah, every kid trains with Duke when they turn sixteen to learn basic fighting skills and how to shoot a gun. If you want, or if he wants, you can stay in and join up with Greenhome’s army.

Are you going to join Greenhome’s army?

Naw. I’m going to be a blacksmith like Gil and Kent. I’m gonna make the guns, not shoot them so much.

Don’t you think it’s strange for Greenhome to have an army, especially one filled with sixteen-year-olds?

Are you crazy? Have you seen the Streets? Look around. (He swings his arms wide.) The world isn’t a safe place. Why last summer, I heard that there was this place out west that couldn’t harvest kids, so they sent a gang to go steal other people’s kids. You think Soul and Duke are just going to let some people come steal us? You think we’re not going to help them fight that gang? Besides, Duke always says we’re safer for the training than we are without it. At least, he always says, “we ain’t in danger of shooting ourselves with the wrong end iffen we know which end the bullets come out”.

And it’s not like it’s the little kids learning. Only the older kids get trained.

I can’t help but smile at his impersonation of Duke. It’s almost spot on. Well, Ralph, I think we’re just about out of time. Any last thoughts or something you’d like to say?

I don’t think so. I just want to make sure I did Greenhome, and Gil and Kent, proud. They gave up everything for me. An unborn from Gang White? I want to make sure I don’t say anything that might get them in trouble.

I think you did just fine Ralph.

Okay, good. Thanks for talking with me.

 

He vaults out of the chair and tares out of the room running and whooping like a boy on the first day of summer. I can’t help but smile at my dear brave Ralph, smile and hope he strong enough for what’s coming. He was right about the people with no harvested unborns. He was right about the gang coming for children. I fold up my paper and put away my pen. I’m glad I had this time with a twelve-year-old blacksmith apprentice because I’ll never have it again.

 Ralph is a character in my Gentle Magic Fairy Tale, Icicle Rain.

So, how’d I do on my first character interview?

A Thousand Words is Worth One Picture: Cruise

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I didn’t anticipate the sheer giddiness that overcame me when we put out to sea in August on our first cruise. I had spent the last four weeks trying to make sure everything was packed just right, passports came through, evening wear was not super wrinkled, that I had enough motion sickness blockers to cover me the whole week, and all the other planning that goes into a cruise the first time. When those giant engines roared to life and the ship put out to sea, I laughed. I laughed for joy.

Hearing the words ‘International Maritime Law’, seeing dolphins and flying fish, and finally, finally sailing out past all that is mankind to only ocean awoke a part of my childhood I had long forgotten. Memories of Peter Pan’s ship, the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Horatio Hornblower, and the Pirates of the Caribbean, and other books and movies where they sailed the seven seas in search of treasure flooded me as the wind hit my face tasting of salt. I wanted to sing “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me.” I wanted to sail by the stars in Her Royal British Navy. I wanted to re-live childhood dreams.

I only then realized how much time me and my siblings spent reading and watching movies about the days of sailing around the world in clipper ships. I only then realized that while I had always loved the ocean from the shore, I had never loved the ocean on the ocean. It is truly something that grips you and never let’s go.

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We’ve all seen pictures of the open ocean, or the moon gleaming on the water, but a picture can’t tell you about the open feeling of only sky and sea. Nothing as far as the eye can see but sky and sea. It can’t tell you about sailing through storms. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing north, east, west, or south. Turn in a circle and only sky and sea. Weight lifts from the shoulders, burdens seem small in the beauty of open ocean. Mixed with this beauty, akin to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, is the tiny drop of horror. You look around and nothing. On a cruise ship filled with enough food to feed a small nation the horror of emptiness lies remote, buried. But, a well-read home-schooler remembers tales of ships lost at sea. All that water and not one drop of it safe to drink boggles the mind. The beauty mixed with just a drop of fear draws you to stare out into the empty space. And it’s not just the lack of food and water, it’s the life below the surface.

Dolphins raced through the waves created by our massive ship, flying fish, tiny and almost impossible to see, flew out across the ocean, and sea gulls called in our wake, but you look for the shadows under the waves. Imaginations can run wild when you know an unexplored world lives below what you can see. This is what is captivating about the open ocean. Beauty and fear.

While we were on the cruise, there was a super moon. It shone out across the water pulling along a bright golden tail and lighting up the ship. It looked like a cheesy ocean post card and I kept waiting for a dolphin to leap through the moonbeams. We watched the moon until our eyes were heavy with sleep and bed called in an inescapable lullaby.

The sun rose over blue oceans turning clouds pink and lavender. What a glorious way to wake up. Sleeping on a ship was some of the best sleep I’ve ever had. The gentle rocking, the sense of nothing, the going on forever lulls you down into the depths of unconscious dreaming.

Formal night delighted me with finery and laughter. Movies from the twenties came to mind and I half expected Hercule Poirot come around a corner with his perfect mustache.

In a picture, you see the open ocean, you see the blue water with hints of purple and bits of green, but you don’t really see the open ocean. You don’t see how your eye instinctively looks to the horizon, that far distant line of blue meeting blue. You don’t see how the ocean is the perfect shade of denim with just enough dark wash and just enough light. At the corner of your eye dances the sparkle of the sunshine slipping across the top of little waves. Above, the sky is a very clear blue with a strong white under tone too strong to be a baby blue. It is a true and real sky blue broken by a wisp or poof of cloud here and there.

The voices of the other guest sound out, excited children call out to each other, breaking through the soft, muffled woosh of the ship cutting through the water. A gentle sway reminds you you’re not on solid ground and the smell of coffee delivered to your door reminds you you’re on vacation.

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I could dedicate a whole other article to the storms we sailed through. They were spectacular. After one we almost missed due to dinner, we saw the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. The rain trailed from blue clouds like beards off an old man’s face. The sun turned the sea and sky pink, orange, orange, and pink. A double rainbow arched across the blue expanse.

The sea is a dangerous thing and someday I’ll return to her again.

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This article is dedicated to my Husband, the Coles and the Garricks. It was wonderful to spend so much time with all y'all!

This article is dedicated to my Husband, the Coles and the Garricks. It was wonderful to spend so much time with all y’all!