(Amen to this…and I’m for sure a hobbit.)
Once upon a time, when dinosaurs walked the earth, Shannon was last. She wasn’t the last last, but she was the Latest Last. And she hated it.
To her siblings and cousins, being last meant she was the baby, the favored one. Spoiled. To Shannon, it meant she was always too-slow, too-young, and left-behind.
Being a bit stiff-necked and slightly strong in the backbone, Shannon, the Latest Last, became a Stinker who Startled. She had to put her littleness to good use after all.
In the morning, she would jump out at Mommy from under her covers:
In the afternoon, she would pounce out at Daddy from behind a big rock:
In the evening, she would wait so still and then:
grab Constance or Joshua’s leg from under the bed.
When her cousins came it only got worse.
From behind doors, out from under big leaves, off the backs of triceratops, Shannon sprang with a wild shout, frightening Imogene, surprising Jude, and making Remi cry. Jules, Constance, Bruce, Joshua, and Ellie—the older kids—chased Shannon away for causing such an annoying ruckus.
Shannon frowned as she plopped down beside the brachiosaurus herd. No one wanted her around. They didn’t let her play and they didn’t want to be startled. She crossed her arms with a grunt.
A large, long-necked brachiosaur lowered its mighty head to look at the little pouting girl. Shannon stared into its soft brown eyes. She smiled slowly to herself.
She sprang up, waved her arms, and shouted as loud as she could.
The brachiosaur leapt straight up in the air.
Then thud again!
Its tail fell off and flopped to the ground. Away the brachiosaur ran, leaving it behind.
Shannon’s mouth gaped open as she stared at the giant, writhing tail and the disappearing brachiosaur.
Laughter erupted from the bushes behind her.
Out spilled her siblings and cousins.
“Did you see that?” Joshua shouted.
“It lost its tail, it was so frightened.” Bruce held his sides and doubled over with giggles.
Jules pointed at the rest of the herd in the field. “Let’s do it again!”
Ellie and Constance gave Shannon a big hug.
“You’re ridiculous.” Imogene declared and even Remi laughed.
Jude put his arm around Shannon. “Show us how to do it.”
Shannon, the Latest Last, led the way out into the field. Every child sat so quiet not even a mouse noticed them, then:
They all shouted at once.
THUD! THUD! THUD!
Tails dropped and giant dinosaurs raced away from the scary things in the grass.
Shannon had found where she fit and felt much less left-behind, too-young, or too-slow. Maybe being the Latest Last wasn’t so bad when she could be a Stinker with everyone.
That night, Mommy made a wonderful dinner of dinosaur tail, and everyone reenacted—over and over again—how Shannon had startled the first brachiosaur.
Next time you chase down a lizard and it loses its tail, remember Shannon the Stinker who Startled.
“And so we tell stories that reveal the deep longing of the human heart for redemption from sin, for a life that’s meaningful, for love that lasts. We tell stories about warriors overcoming impossible odds to save the world. Stories about how true love can make the soul feel complete. Stories about horrific, prowling villains carrying out a reign of terror, only to be vanquished by an unexpected hero. Stories about friendships that don’t fall apart. Stories about marriages that last. Stories about life, death, and resurrection.
We tell other stories, too. The world is like a fade beauty who looks in the mirror remembering her youth, mourning the long-gone glory of Eden. She is now battered and scarred, not nearly by age, but by tragedy, war, and defeat. She feels all too heavily how far she’s fallen, and in her sadness she tells mournful tales of glory lost. Of heroes who fail and unravel. Of sin and consequences. Of evil that triumphs and prowls. Of darkness that swallows all who draw near.” – The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper
This is such a wonderful description of stories.
Happy Birthday Constance! I love you so much! I love to listen to you sing. I love talking to you and watching you play. I love watching you take are of your younger cousins and I know you will just love being a big sister to Shannon. You are so pretty and so special to me. I hope you enjoy being six years old. It was one of my favorite ages. Thank you for being a inspiration for many many stories. I love you!
13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi
By Mitchell Zuckoff
For a long time, I’ve wanted to know more about what happened in Benghazi. Good reviews of the movie pushed me to go see this exhausting 2.5 hour battle. From it, I learned there was a book, which I wanted to read right away trusting it to provide more details and the facts. I’m happy to report that this book was truly honored by the movie. The movie didn’t follow it perfectly, but very closely. In fact, it may be one of the closest book to movie adoptions I’ve ever seen.
This book doesn’t seek to make a political statement. All it does is recount, from the perspective of the men there, what happened in Benghazi. It shows their doubts and their courage as they seek to do the right thing even while they’re cut off and without any support.
Much of what they said reminded me of similar situations in Lone Survivor and American Sniper. If you enjoyed those books, you’ll enjoy this too.
This is an event in American history that can’t be lost or forgotten. Read the book. See the movie.
I thankful these men spoke out, told their story, set an example of American courage in a time where that seems to be fading. I thankful I got to read the book.
Rated R: Language, violence, intense situations.
The Importance of Being Ernest
By Oscar Wilde
Many of the books I’ve been reading are heavy in their subject matter. I needed a break, something lighter. In dances this delightful play by Wilde. I’ve seen the movie before and loved it. The play is no difference. It is a tale of love, mistaken identity, a lost child, and well… the importance of the name Ernest.
I highly recommend this clever fun story.
Rated G: General hilariousness.
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
By Nathaniel Philbrick
I’m not a huge fan of Moby Dick, but I like the ocean, ships, whales, and history. Most of the reviews I’ve heard about the movie say that it’s boring, but since it includes some things if find interesting, I decided to read up on a bit. That’s when I discovered the truly interesting thing about this story isn’t the whale attack… its the cannibalism.
This is an easy to read re-counting of the horrors of survive by a group of men. The captain fails them and the first mate proves the stronger man, but his life ends with him going insane.
If you enjoy some of the more unique situations in history, you should check this story out. It’s a true story with plenty of horror and an interesting study of humanity when all that lies between you and death is the body of a friend.
If your teen is working through Moby Dick, this would be an excellent companion piece.
Rated: PG-13: intense and gruesome subject matter.
Dachau 29 April 1945: The Rainbow Liberation Memoirs
By Sam Dann
I read a lot of WW2 related books and have always been interested in the history of the war. Because of this, I’ve wanted to include different aspects of it in my own stories. I have part of the plot and scene where some men come across a holocaust type setting. As I worked on it, my sister suggested I read this book as research to get a sense of what it would be like walking into a concentration camp and liberating it.
This book is a series of short memoirs written by the Rainbow Division that freed Dacha on April 29 1945. Because each memoir is about the same event from a different soldiers perspective, there is a lot of overlap. This did require some plowing through as you read and reread and reread about the same events with very little new information. I did feel like it was important to read each individual account. The terrible atrocities that happened shouldn’t be made light of or forgotten.
If you are a studied of WW2 history, I highly recommend this book.
Rate PG-13: Subject matter.
The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War
By Richard Rubin
Richard Rubin has done us a great service in his collection of stories from the last of the doughboys. He spent several years interview men and women well into their 100s, recording and researching the times they spent fighting WW1.
I read this through Audible and really enjoyed the narrator.
What a huge amount of history these people experienced and what a wonder to listen to them talk about it. I can’t recommend this book enough. From men who got in right before the end, to African Americans, women, and men who went on to live very colorful and amazing lives, this book covers it all.
I was struck intently by their stories, especially the man who at one point couldn’t remember his Father’s name. Heartbreaking.
There are stories here that will make you laugh, cry, and cringe.
READ this BOOK!
Rated PG: real life, war, history
One Ranger: A Memoir
By H. Joaquin Jackson and David Marion Wilkinson
I think this quick and easy read should be mandatory for every Texan, and probably every teenage boy.
It tracks the life of Joaquin Jackson, one of the last of the real frontier Texas Rangers from his early life as a ranch hand, to watching his son be convicted of murder, and several of the high-profile cases he worked, and some of his more interesting ones.
I think what I loved most about it was his love for Texas and the honor and respect he paid to the Rangers he served with and who came before him. It is also fascinating to here his perspective on some of the troubling times in the 60’s and 70’s with race and drugs. More than that, it’s nice to read of real men with guns and spurs. 🙂
The part where he goes through the list of guns he always carried was amazing. He could easily qualify as World’s Most Interesting Man.
Rated PG-13: mild language, some intense descriptions of crimes and murders
Through the Valley of the Kwai: From Death-Camp Despair to Spiritual Triumph or To End all Wars
By Ernest Gordon
I’ve wanted to read this book for a very long time and I wasn’t disappointed. The subject matter is rough ( death-camp run by the Japanese) but the payoff of hope and Christianity is so beautiful that it is well worth it. A wonderful biography.
And yes, I almost didn’t return my Library’s 1st Edition copy.
And yes, this book will greatly influence the plot of my own book.
Rated PG-13: Gruesome details about death camps.
Heart Cries to Heaven: A Book of Payers
By David Campbell and Sara Leone
I used this book during my morning devotions and found it very encouraging to read a Godly man’s prayers. Writing down our prayers is not something that I think many of us think about, but it can be an excellent source of hope and also educational.
(Remember, if any of these books catch your eye, just click on the link to head over to Amazon. I receive a small kick back for this, so you can think of it as supporting me if you enjoy this blog. THANK YOU!)
“Britain has a long tradition of taking young soldiers overseas; what was different in the First World War was their sheer number. Among all those serving in France by the end of 1915 were more under-age soldiers than the entire force that Wellington took to Waterloo exactly one hundred years earlier.
The connection to that event is stronger than one might imagine. A veteran who died at the end of 2002 remembered that in 1905 he had met a former boy solider who had served at Waterloo. His mother had impressed on him how remarkable the meeting was, and the memory had stayed with him all his life – a twenty-first-century link to the great battle of 1815. – Boy Soldiers of the Great War by Richard van Emden
(This kind of blew my mind.)
March #WIPjoy (Part 3)
Moving on to the third part of the March #WIPjoy created by author Bethany Jennings. If you want to join in the next go around visit Bethany’s Twitter profile (@simmeringmind) to be updated on the next #WIPjoy!
In January, I used my WIP The Cost of Two Hands (Book1). This month I’m using The Sparrow and The Star (unfinished Book 2). I will try to refrain from huge spoilers.
Line Love Week
- Share a line about a cool setting.
They trooped out the door into an orange and pink sunset, a soft warm breeze, and a view Sparrow could hardly comprehend: Metropolis. A city that wasn’t bones but bright, polished metal stacked up in row upon row before her all copper, gold, gunmetal grays, and silver. Tall square buildings with round caps, thin curved buildings, large windowed globes standing on thin stalks, spiraled buildings like sharp curls, and unusual shapes she’d never heard of made a unique skyline as far to her left and right as she could see, dotted with bright hot-air balloons.
- Share a line (or several) that makes you smile.
“Well, well, well, by the beautiful Sundance’s golden hair, I must have struck a chord with that one.”
“Who’s Sundance?” Sparrow ran her sleeve across her face.
“Who is Sundance? Do you not know the stories of the Guardians of the Material World?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“No idea!” the snail huffed. “No idea!? Genesis? Quinn? Ronan? The Justicar? Crow and Olive? Please tell me you’ve heard of Crow and Olive?”
Sparrow shook her head wanting to get back to the Sons of the Dragons.
“Jack? Have you heard of Jack the Wolf and his Unlit Companion?”
Ebenezer groaned. “I have suffered a mortal wound.”
- Share a line that makes you feel the pain.
A keening wail came from just ahead. Royce’s hair stood on end. He’d never in his life, even as his parents died and his siblings were taken, even as the leader of the Dragons, even when they found Tom-ears’ boy among the Clowns, heard a sound like the breaking, ripping of a soul. He rushed forward. In the gloom and smoke with the fire burning to their right stood Skip. His gun hung from the tips of his fingers and fell. Ash shifted into the air as it struck the ground and bounced. The horrible sound continued to rise from Skip. Pink’s face drained of all color. Malarkey, Shifty, and Babe hurried to his sides.
- Share an intense line.
Girls with faces wrapped in scarves, hair shorn, and round wide eyes, poured from the Mall and raced towards the battle.
- Share a line about love.
“Yes, you do.” Mrs. Cummbers broke in. “You surely do, child. But, you aren’t saved, Adele, by what you did or didn’t do, or by what you will and will not do.” Mrs. Cummbers took Adele’s hand. “You’re saved by my salvage. I already took your punishment for you. You made the choice to do what is wrong and you will have to bear the consequences of that, but I already took your punishment.” She pointed down to her legs which no longer worked. Very gently, she pulled Adele into her arms. “Now it’s time to do what’s right.”
“‘Not to earn my salvage, but because of my salvage’. That’s what Jonah said.” Adele’s eyes glistened in the lights gleaming in the night.
- Share a line that amuses you.
“Genesis save me,” Ebenezer swore. “I’m not ready yet, Sacrifice. She can’t communicate very clearly.”
“Okay, okay.” Sacrifice disappeared then returned. “I’ll be back. You know how Heart is.”
“Silly boys, give a snail a chance.”
- Share a line that wrings your heart. (SPOILER ALERT)
The body. Soul looked at the body. He saw gray skin, scarred. He saw disheveled brown hair and a pointed nose.
“Oh King!” He rushed towards Cry of the Storm. The disk Jonah meant for him to have at Christmas thumped against his thigh as he ran. Dead. Dead. Dead, it said with each strike. Soul pulled Jonah’s cold body off the back of the horse who danced to the side. Soul gathered Jonah’s body close, rocking his boy, trying to warm him. Haze bent down one hand on his shoulder.
“It’s my boy, Haze. They killed my boy. They killed him.”
All the Feels Week
- What kind of relationship is at the heart of your WIP?
Love in many different forms is at the heart of my WIP. I have a handful of romances, but I have many more elements of friendship, brotherhood, loyalty, parent/child, and love as a choice made, not so much a bubbly emotion.
- If you could enter your WIP for a day, what would you do there?
I would split my day between riding Cry of the Storm through the snow, and curled up somewhere in Greenhome with a hot apple cider and Lazarus at my feet with all my heroes around me.
- How do you feel about your WIP right now?
I vacillate between absolutely adoring it and feeling overwhelmed by how much work is still left to be done.
- Have you ever cried about this WIP? Why?
Funny enough, I was just working on a single sentence and started crying…so yes, I’ve cried over this story. You should know, I cry pretty easy. Commercials can make me tear up. This story takes place after the apocalypse for a handful of people. The worst thing that could happen, did happen to them. That’s how Book 1 ended. Book 2 starts with the aftermath of the loss of families, homes, and friends. Added to that is the upswing of the story into a little bit of hope. Sometimes hope is as painful as loss. Lots of tears. Some happy. Some sad.
- What makes you the proudest about this WIP?
I’m not really sure how to answer this question, so I’m going to reword it. The things I’m most thankful for about this WIP are how far it’s come even with all my health issues which sometimes keep me from writing at all, or limit me to only a few minutes here or there. (50,000+ words) I’m also thankful I get to work around so many Christian themes, Christmas, and that at some point I will get to introduce a group of characters that I love, who I thought would never see the light of day.
Thank you so much for reading about my WIP. I love sharing it with the world!
The sun hitched up her trousers and soldiered on up into the sky. September squinted at it and wondered if the sun here was different than the sun in Nebraska. It seemed gentler, more golden, deeper. The shadows it cast seemed more profound. But September couldn’t be sure. When one is traveling, everything looks brighter and lovelier. That does not mean it IS brighter and lovelier; it just means that sweet kindly home suffers in comparison to tarted-up foreign places with all their jewels on. – The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
March #WIPjoy (Part 2)
Moving on to the second part of the March #WIPjoy created by author Bethany Jennings. If you want to join in the next go around visit Bethany’s Twitter profile (@simmeringmind) to be updated on the next #WIPjoy!
In January, I used my WIP The Cost of Two Hands (Book1). This month I’m using The Sparrow and The Star (unfinished Book 2). I will try to refrain from huge spoilers.
- What fears do your characters overcome?
My characters overcome Fear himself:
“What have you done!?” Fear screamed at the children who should be huddled in servile slobbering masses at his feet.
Christopher raised his rifle. “We stopped being afraid.”
Fear fell dead in the Streets.
- Share a cliffhanger!
(For some reason this was very hard for me.)
The world spun. The lights marring her vision from the slapping expanded into whole suns flashing, blinding her. Her head dropped to her chest. One more. She had one more thing to say to Purity. Forcing her tongue to work, Sparrow said, “You want to know what happened in Greenhome. Soul’s boy killed your Clowns. He armed kids with big guns and they destroyed your precious Clowns. You take them from their homes, but these kids fought back.”
Purity spun around. Another brighter light flashed across Sparrow’s vision and everything went black.
- What scares you most about writing this story?
Mostly, I’m terrified I won’t be able to draw all the strings together into a satisfying tapestry. But, in reality what scares me the most is that I’ll fail my characters and that I will fail to communicate the idea of a just war. We live in a day and age when all war is thought of as evil, but there are things worth fighting for and things worth dying for, there are things worth standing up to.
- What scares you the most about sharing your story with the world?
There are two things that scare me. First, gracefully and confidently handling negative critiques. I have to remind myself that not everyone has to love it even if it is my soul exposed. Second, watching the meaning I intended it for be turned into different meanings for other people. One of the great beauties of art is how personally it applies to others, but that’s also one of the scary parts. Watching people read into your work something you didn’t intend will happen. I just hope I can refrain from letting that get to me, instead embracing it as something amazing.
- Share a line about fear.
Fear’s mark on Jonah’s face had been a child ripped from the arms of a woman. Born and unborn, had they all not been ripped from the arms of their mothers. A vile hatred of all that was killing, all that was war, all that was what Jonah was best at overwhelmed him.
(These questions about fear are a hard for me because in my story Fear is an actual person who feeds on the fear of the children around him. They deal with him in externally, not internally.)
18. Are your characters brave in any way you wish you were?
I hate conflict and would rather sacrifice what I want in order for everyone to be happy than stand for what I want. This can be a great asset because I think of others before myself and I can enjoy a wide range of people. But, there are times when I think it can be cowardly. There are times I wish I had spoken up for what I believe instead of keeping my mouth shut for the sake of peace in a relationship. My characters are not as adverse to conflict as I am and more willing to stand up for the truth.
- Has writing this book made you braver?
Writing this book has given me more confidence in my voice and it has given me more confidence in the concept of the Just War. I don’t know that that has made me any braver. I do hope that someday it will give boys and girls, young men and women, a chance to practice being brave.
This is an extra thought I had when thinking about my MC’s fears:
Jonah’s main fear is friends dying because of something he does. Two of his friends have already paid this ultimate cost for his decision and more may have to. He overcomes this fear reminding himself that if they don’t fight, even more children will die. He clings to the fact that the King (Christ) put him on the Streets and made him the one in charge. Jonah trusts the King didn’t make a mistake choosing him. It’s hard to say if he ever overcomes this fear. I don’t think he does. I think as long as he has to order his friends into battles, he will always struggle with the knowledge that he’s sending them to their deaths.
A very happy birthday to my newest niece Shannon Abigail Hannah! She finally entered the world on March 31st! We are all pretty sure she will be quite the stinker if the last two weeks of waiting are any indication. 🙂 But, she’ll be a beautiful stinker, I’m sure. I can’t wait to hold you, get to know you, and add you to the Texas Cousins Adventure Stories!