Sunday, December 25, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: The Friendly Beasts

A 12th Century French Carol

(Author unknown)



"Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow, all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for a bed;
I gave Him my hay to pillow His head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"Cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel."


Words of Old at Christmastime: "Ring Out, Wild Bells to the Wild Sky" by Alfred Tennyson

"Ring Out, Wild Bells, to the Wild Sky" (excerpt) (1850)

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore

(First published 1823)

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas

"One Christmas was so much like the other, in those years around the sea-town corner now, out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve, or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."

(Published 1952)
Click here for full story


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime:A Christmas Tree" by Charles Dickens


"I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects.

 There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; and there were real watches (with movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs, as if in preparation for some fairy housekeeping; there were jolly, broad-faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men — and no wonder, for their heads took off, and showed them to be full of sugar-plums; 

There were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, and all kinds of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets and pincushions in all devices; there were guns, swords, and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation-cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whispered to another pretty child, her bosom friend, “There was everything, and more.” 

This motley collection of odd objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the bright looks directed towards it from every side — some of the diamond-eyes admiring it were hardly on a level with the table, and a few were languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses — made a lively realisation of the fancies of childhood; and set me thinking how all the trees that grow and all the things that come into existence on the earth, have their wild adornments at that well-remembered time.

(paragraphs added for clarity)

Published 1850
Click here for full story


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Words of Old at Christmastime: "Beggar Boy at Christ’s Christmas Tree" by Fyodor Dostoevsky

"I am a novelist, and I suppose I have made up this story. I write “I suppose,” though I know for a fact that I have made it up, but yet I keep fancying that it must have happened on Christmas Eve in some great town in a time of terrible frost.  

I have a vision of a boy, a little boy, six years old or even younger. This boy woke up that morning in a cold damp cellar. He was dressed in a sort of little dressing-gown and was shivering with cold. There was a cloud of white steam from his breath, and sitting on a box in the corner, he blew the steam out of his mouth and amused himself in his dullness watching it float away. But he was terribly hungry. Several times that morning he went up to the plank bed where his sick mother was lying on a mattress as thin as a pancake, with some sort of bundle under her head for a pillow."

Published 1876)
Click here for full story 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: The Christmas Monks by Mary E. Wilkins

All children have wondered unceasingly from their very first Christmas up to their very last Christmas, where the Christmas presents come from. It is very easy to say that Santa Claus brought them. All well regulated people know that, of course; but the reindeer, and the sledge, and the pack crammed with toys, the chimney, and all the rest of it — that is all true, of course, and everybody knows about it; but that is not the question which puzzles. 

What children want to know is, where do these Christmas presents come from in the first place? Where does Santa Claus get them? Well the answer to that is, In the garden of the Christmas Monks. This has not been known until very lately; that is, it has not been known till very lately except in the immediate vicinity of the Christmas Monks. There, of course, it has been known for ages. It is rather an out-of-the-way place; and that accounts for our never hearing of it before.

Published 1892
Click here for full story

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "Christmas at Orchard House" by Louisa May Alcott


“Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

"We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

Published 1868

Click here for full story 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" by Arthur Conan Doyle


"I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack withing his reach upon the right, and 

a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner for the purpose of examination."

Published 1892. Click here for full story

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastine: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry


"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. 
That was all. And sixty cents of it 
was in pennies. Pennies saved 
one and two at a time by bulldozing 
the grocer and the vegetable man 
and the butcher until one's cheeks 
burned with the silent imputation 
of parsimony that such close dealing
implied. Three times Della counted it.
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. 
And the next day would be Christmas."

Published 1905.
Click here for full story.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" by L. Frank Baum


"Santa Claus lives in the 
Laughing Valley, where stands 
the big rambling castle in which 
his toys are manufactured. His 
workmen, selected from the 
ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, 
live with him, and everyone is 
as busy as can be from 
one year's end to another."

First Published 1904.
Click  here for full story. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: Christmas Greeting from a Fairy to a Child by Lewis Carroll

LADY dear, if Fairies may
For a moment lay aside
Cunning tricks and elfish play,
'Tis at happy Christmas-tide.

We have heard the children say---
Gentle children, whom we love---
Long ago, on Christmas-Day,
Came a message from above.

Still, as Christmas-tide comes round,
They remember it again---
Echo still the joyful sound
"Peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Yet the hearts must child-like be
Where such heavenly guests abide;
Unto children, in their glee,
All the year is Christmas-tide.

Thus forgetting tricks and play
For a moment, Lady dear,
We would wish you, if we may,
Merry Christmas, glad New Year!

~Lewis Carroll

Published 1884

Below is a special holiday treat from Germany, 
by composer and Lewis Carroll fan Carson Braun.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: Cock-Crow at Christmas, William Shakespeare

Excerpt from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare (1603)


"And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine: and of the truth herein
This present object made probation."



"It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: The Little Match-Girl by Hans Christian Andersen


"It was so terribly cold. Snow was falling,  and it was almost dark. Evening came on,  the last evening of the year. In the cold and gloom a poor little girl, bareheaded and barefoot,  was walking through the streets."

First published 1845.
Click here for full story. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "Is There a Santa Claus?"

Excerpt from letter to the editor, The New York Sun, 1897:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street

"Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see."

(Click here for full story)
Excerpt reprinted from editorial September 21, 1897, The New York Sun.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Words of Old at Christmastime: "Christmas Every Day" by William Dean Howells


"The little girl came into her papa's study, as she always did Saturday morning before breakfast, and asked for a story. He tried to beg off that morning, for he was very busy, but she would not let him. So he began:

"Well, once there was a little pig--"

She put her hand over his mouth and stopped him at the word. She said she had heard little pig stories till she was perfectly sick of them.

"Well, what kind of story shall I tell, then?"

"About Christmas. It's getting to be the season. It's past Thanksgiving already."

"It seems to me," her papa argued, "that I've told as often about Christmas as I have about little pigs."

"No difference! Christmas is more interesting.""

Click here for full story
First published 1892

Wild at Heart by Terri Farley: Book Review

Wild at Heart
Author: Terri Farley
Photographer: Melissa Farlow
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Ages: 10-14, Middle Grade nonfiction
Pages: 196

Velma Johnston of Nevada (some called her “Wild Horse Annie") developed a special love of wild horses in her youth. In 1950, she witnessed the roundup of wild mustangs for slaughter on state land. Horse meat for dog food had become a profitable business. The roundups were bloody and vicious, with no regard for horse families and nursing foals. Having suffered from crippling polio as a girl, Velma understood pain and couldn't bear to see the wild mustangs she loved mistreated. She spoke out against the practice, and as a result, a new state law protecting the horses was passed, but horse hunters simply moved the practice to public lands where the slaughter continued. Cattlemen in particular supported roundups because they freed up grazing land.

Seeking new support, Velma requested help from U.S. schoolchildren nationwide. Students began writing letters to the U.S. Congress, exposing the plight of wild mustangs. Successful once again, a law was passed in 1971 to protect the mustangs and burros. Henceforth, they would be “living symbols of the historic pioneer spirit of the West” forever and free to roam public lands under the protection of an agency called the Bureau of Land Management. However, the agency failed to protect the mustangs when a later decision was made that drastically reduced the acreage on which the animals could roam.

Today, wild mustangs continue to suffer in roundups and are considered an endangered species, but a steady group of horse-loving youth have followed in Velma's footsteps to carry on the fight. Farley shares their stories and shows the positive influence the wild mustang has made on their lives personally. Readers learn the history of horses in America and more about wild horse culture. The pages are filled with gorgeous photography throughout, making this a lovely book for horse lovers everywhere.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Signing Off Till Further Notice

Dear Blog friends,

Well, it has finally come to this. I've let life take over and it is time to give my writing a more serious look. 

The challenges before me: Continue the submission process of my completed novel and finish (or scrap) the projects I've started. 

"Looking for Balance"
My "perfect more balanced world" (blending all I hold dear) would be to return with news this spring. I might do a book review or visit your blogs every now and then, but must say goodbye for now. I wish you well in your writing and life endeavors, and want to thank all of you for your kind support and friendship. You are the best of the best!!

Till further notice......Sharon

Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: End of Summer Thoughts

Funny how seasonal weather can be invigorating in the beginning and an energy drain in the end. I love the advent of the seasons, don't you? It's a wonderful time to reflect on the next leg of our journey.

Vince and I have one final job before completing this summer's landscaping project, the installation of colored rock over the new berm. If we finish by Friday, I'll post an image. 

Salmon-colored rock over the berm is coming soon. Whew! What a lot of work shoveling dirt and planting everything. The rock garden in the middle and shrubs next to the house were planted by the previous owner. We did everything else. Slowly the gravel is disappearing....

We also planted two new trees, an Amur Maackia and Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. 
Amur Maackia - I love this tree. The leaves look tropical.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. Off to the right....out future deck!
The Serviceberry can only be described as hopeful. It doesn't look like much sitting alone in the gravel, with most of its leaves gone. I'm told the tree will fill out beautifully in time and pictures online all agree, but for now, it's a version of Charlie Brown's little tree. Remember the one with the single Christmas ornament? That's ours!

The serviceberry is a good reminder that all good things (and endeavors) come in due time if we persist. Kind of where my writing projects are at the moment, but I haven't lost hope. I'm attending the the Rivers of Ink writers' conference next month in Richland, WA. I'm excited to learn more about the field, and in particular, the writing software, Scrivner, one speaker's topic.

We passed the following restaurant while driving to Spokane recently, and decided to stop. We now have a new favorite. Check out the neat sculpture in front.
A great place to eat, Ritzville, WA

Across from the restaurant, just off I-90
Have a nice weekend everyone!!

Celebrate the Small Things: To join, visit Lexa's Blog for the rules. We post every Friday about something we are grateful for that week. It can be about writing, family, school, general life or whatever. Originated by VikLit, co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

(Scroll down for more 'Celebrate' bloggers)

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Classics - CLOSING LINES: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith


"Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you." 

(published 1949)


I love the classics and plan to share more "CLOSING lines" over the coming months. Comment if you wish, or read for inspiration. Writing styles were different then, or were they really? 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: A Kayak Lesson and a Good Laugh

Funny thing happened at the dock the other day. It was one of those U-tube moments too, but of course we didn't think to ask someone to record our latest adventure. I have always wanted a kayak and I wasn't about to let age deter me this birthday (I'm usually too practical when it comes to big splurges), but I defied commonsense and bought a two-person kayak online. Vince, being the sweet husband he is, and with nothing better in mind for my birthday, went along.

"Hmm....okay, I got this. Just put the connectors on and pump away."

"Success! Notice the seat behind me."
Okay, onward to the marina we went. At the dock we pushed off full of confidence, life jackets on, and our paddles in perfect sync, "Left, right, Left, right."  

Then...."SPLASH," over we went. We came up laughing. 

Turns out my new kayak isn't very stable for two people. Guess that video online was a bit deceptive, but with one person, balancing was no problem at all. We both took turns paddling along the shore and got thoroughly hooked. Vince's kayak is now on order. I can't wait to get out and explore the shoreline together. We have pelican here and I've been dying to get an up close look. 

Below is a photo of the darling puppy my friend picked up during her visit last month. For you, Birgit!!


Celebrate the Small Things: To join, visit Lexa's Blog for the rules. We post every Friday about something we are grateful for that week. It can be about writing, family, school, general life or whatever. Originated by VikLit, co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

(Scroll down for more 'Celebrate' bloggers)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Celebrate the Small Things: Always Something Good to Celebrate

Hi. It's been awhile since I've blogged officially. April, to be exact, but a little nudge from Lexa, our fearless "Celebrate" leader, gave me the incentive to turn on the computer, place my fingers on the keyboard and type. 

So what have I been doing since April? I could list all the things I haven't been doing in rather boring detail, like not writing my next novel or sending out a quad-zillion query letters, but that would depress you, as it has me. More on that in another post... Meanwhile, I do hope to attend a writer's conference in October.

But here, here. There is always something good to celebrate. Don't you agree? Here is a small sampling:

---Gardening, gardening, gardening!! Slowly but surely, our large property is taking shape. The sandy loam soil is full of rocks. For every bucketful of soil, I swear I get half as many rocks...but they are nice River rocks, nicely varied in size and color. So here is my mantra: Got rocks? Make a rock garden! Photos someday I promise.

--I re-connected with my college roommate after many, many years (we think 40). Is that possible? She was traveling my way to pick up a new puppy....a darling toy collie, and spent the night. She was still the nice girl I remembered :) We talked and talked.

--Visited good friends at their farm and river ranch. Vince and our friend played guitar in an old grain tower and the acoustics.....absolutely incredible! They played "Amazing Grace," so you can imagine how beautiful it was.

--Vince restored an old Holiday 1985 speed boat and I mended the Bimini. We have been taking lovely moonlight rides on the lake. I'm surprised at how much cooler it is on the lake. It's been in the hundreds here and it doesn't cool down that much at night, but it feels at least ten degrees cooler on the water.

--Family reunion. I got to know a side of the family I rarely see. I spent time talking to six kids in one family, encouraging them in their life pursuits. I remember those who encouraged me as a girl. It felt good to do the same.

--Two nieces tomorrow, actually. Boy, weddings aren't what they used to be. Tomorrow's wedding is at a campground and was organized by word of mouth (the other one, on Facebook). Seventy or so are supposedly coming. Being more traditional (i.e., a formal invitation), hubby and I almost backed out. But of course, we are going. Family will be there, and that's what weddings are about.  

Our friends and neighbors made this video of our new boat. 

There is always something 
good to celebrate.

Celebrate the Small Things: To join, visit Lexa's Blog for the rules. We post every Friday about something we are grateful for that week. It can be about writing, family, school, general life or whatever. Originated by VikLit, co-hosts are: L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

(Scroll down to see 'Celebrate' bloggers)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Friday Barnes Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt and Phil Gosier: Book Review

Friday Barnes: Girl Detective
Author: R.A. Spratt
Illustrator: Phil Gosier
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2016 
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age: 8 to 12, Middle Grade
Pages: 255


Possibilities soar when spunky eleven-year-old Friday Barnes solves a bank robbery and receives fifty thousand dollars as reward. Emboldened, she announces she’s sending herself to a boarding school with the money, Highcrest Academy. “But why,” asks her father. “Because I want to do something different,” Friday replies. 

Friday’s parents and four adult siblings, all of whom are geniuses, have devoted themselves to studying theoretical physics. They only assumed Friday, also a genius, would do the same. Friday was born to her mother late in life, and with the exception of a doting uncle, often fends for herself alone. She even made an electric bicycle once when her parents failed to pick her up from school events. Friday’s vast knowledge from reading books and learning how things work has made her into a good debater—and a detective. Friday uses her gifts to convince her parents. Now the plan is to attend school unnoticed, so she can quietly observe and learn. 

The first day at school goes wrong when a car accidentally bumps into her in the school parking lot. She is only slightly hurt, but word gets out she is different. Not only does Friday dress weird in brown cardigans, she is extremely smart. Acceptance comes from her equally geeky roommate Melanie, and oddly, from Friday’s ability to solve mysteries at school, one being the strange swamp yeti. 

She ends up solving a diamond smuggling operation, but Ian Waitscott, the smartest and cutest boy in class remains her enemy. Unfortunately, Ian’s dad went to prison as a result of the bank caper Friday had solved earlier. When police arrest Friday at the end, readers may wonder if Ian played a role. The next edition reveals the outcome. A rollicking read overall, Gosier’s cartoon illustrations are entertaining and a good match. A cute story, and one I would give my granddaughter. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Classics - CLOSING LINES: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

"Only two more things need to be told. One is that Caspian and his men all came safely back to Ramandu's Island. And the three lords woke from their sleep. Caspian married Ramandu's daughter and they all reached Narnia in the end, and she became a great queen and the mother and grandmother of great kings. The other is that back in our own world everyone soon started saying how Eustace had improved, and how "You'd never know him for the same boy," everyone except Aunt Alberta, who said he had become very commonplace and tiresome and it must have been the influence of those Pevensie children." (Published 1952)

I love the classics and plan to alternately share more "CLOSING lines" over the coming months. Comment if you wish, or read for inspiration. Writing styles were different then, or were they really? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Classics - CLOSING LINES: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

"Lieutenant Berrendo, watching the trail, came riding up, his thin face serious and grave. His submachine gun lay across his saddle in the crook of his left arm. Robert Jordan lay behind the tree, holding onto himself very carefully and delicately to keep his hands steady. He was waiting until the officer reached the sunlit place where the first trees of the pine forest joined the green slope of the meadow. He could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest." (Published 1940)

I love the classics and plan to alternately share more "CLOSING lines" over the coming months. Comment if you wish, or read for inspiration. Writing styles were different then, or were they really? 


Friday, June 24, 2016

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos: Book Review

The Scar Boys
Author: Len Vlahos
Publisher: Egmont USA, 2014  
Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Age: 14 to 17, Young Adult
Pages: 237

Len Vlahos captures the angst of a shy teen boy who is isolated from his peers because of his ugly appearance. Set in the 1980s, Harry tells his story with a measure of humor and witty sarcasm. Harry feels like a “monster,” but truth be told, if appearances count, he is, at least physically. Bullied at age eight by classmates and tied to a tree in a thunderstorm, lightning strikes the tree, leaving Harry with hideous facial scars. Harry endures years of physical pain and emotional damage, but learns to cope with the help of a psychiatrist. 

Friendless for the most part in school, Harry is surprised one day when Johnny, one of the popular kids, befriends him. Life takes a dramatic turn. Harry discovers a vast love of guitar music and finds acceptance among his peers. Together he and Johnny form a rock band called the "Scar Boys." Life in the band is great at first, until the summer of high school graduation, when the band goes on tour. Harry is shocked to learn that Johnny plans to quit the band in college. Devastated, Harry could care less about college. Guitar and the "Scar Boys" have become his life--and identity. 

Harry’s world topples. Adding to complications, he has fallen in love with band member, Chey, who doesn’t seem to mind his scars. Problem is, she has fallen in love with Johnny and Harry is jealous. In a flare up, Johnny abandons the tour midway. Driving home, he's involved in an accident and permanently loses a leg. For the first time, it is Johnny who feels like the “monster.” He even pushes Chey away, to spare her the agony of seeing him permanently disabled. Harry, who has long been on the receiving end of the friendship, swallows his pride and reaches out to Johnny. He convinces him he was wrong about Chey, and possibly about the band. Music can heal him too and so the friendship matures.  

Written as Harry's college admissions essay initially, Vlahos digs deep into the hearts of these teens, sharing a story partly based on personal experience. Chapter titles are songs from the 1980's period. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

2016 A-Z Reflection: Pioneer Women in Aviation

I survived! My thanks to Arlee Bird and the April Challenge team for another successful year. I am proud to say this was my fourth A-Z. 

As was the case last year, I nearly backed out, and perhaps should have this time. When you live in the desert, April is your best gardening month. I wrote most of my posts the night before and gardened somewhere in between. Each post took 6 to 8 hours to research, write and edit, which meant a few all-nighters, and believe me, I’m getting too old for all-nighters. Talk about brain drain! Although not physically exhausted in body and limb, I sure slept a lot afterward.

Once I made the commitment, I stayed the course and focused on that 'waving raised flag' at the finish line. I have always been motivated by deadlines imposed by others apparently, but not so much when self-imposed. This brings up an interesting discovery about myself as a writer. I am not very self-motivated when writing toward a goal I have personally set. I don't know why. A flaw of mine (yes, I have my share) and one I regret. But I think I need a more tangible goal, one that spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

Accountability to the publishing community, which for me, the A-Z certainly qualifies, has a tangible finish line. Success awaits me! A work-for-hire writing experience is another case in point. I wrote and had a book edited over a four-month deadline once, for the educational market. I had an editor cracking the whip the entire time. Today, I still hear her voice in my head: ”stay focused, don’t go off on tangents.” It has helped me tremendously in writing nonfiction for the A-Z. The jury is still out on whether it has helped my fiction. I need to ponder this some more.

I loved my topic this year, almost as much as last year’s “Inventions by Women.” Why, you may ask, do I write specifically about women? First of all, I enjoy history and learning about the different events that have shaped our culture and world, but to be honest, most history is based on male achievement and told from a male perspective. I knew from college that women did indeed contribute a lot to world history and culture, but you had to sign up for the right history class to discover this, none of which was a required course. This is not to say that male achievement is any less worthy or important!! I could have just as easily written about “Pioneer Men in Aviation” and thoroughly enjoyed the process.

However, given the history of women with low self-esteem (my family included) who felt oppressed as girls (and adults), blocked from their full human potential, and as late bloomers struggled/struggle, I wanted to show that realization of dreams is possible at any age. I wanted to show that others have struggled in their pursuits and made a lasting mark on history. I wanted to inspire and encourage both young and old that they could too. 

My niece Jammie joined the Air Force and achieved her dream to fly at a young age, and has made aviation history as the first female F-22 pilot. We are all so proud of her. Today she is home raising two young children, another great feat in her list of achievements.

2008. First Female F-22 pilot Capt. Jammie Jamieson
with husband Capt. Kevin Jamieson

Despite the craziness of the April Challenge, I am retired from my day job, so trying to garden and write on the fly certainly had their perks. Ten arborvitaes are now in the ground and the vegetable garden is fully planted. I visited a large number of blogs too, but unfortunately, most were ones I knew. There just wasn’t enough time to strike up new blog friendships. I hope that those visiting for the first time will return. I regret not having more time.

Below are some photos of my husband and me in the RV8. I guess you could say we are the latest pioneer aviators on the list. Vince built our plane over a twelve-year period in the garage, and took several months more to paint it. (I take credit for the upholstery). He is the first member in our family to build an airplane. He was inspired to fly by the old “Sky King” TV series in the 1950s. We laugh sometimes, because the geography of our new home and location looks very much like Sky King’s ranch land. Vince never stopped dreaming, even when it meant building a plane himself to bring the dream to realization.