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.