Monday, March 30, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and his schoolmasters called him Scrubb."    
(Published 1952)

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

(Note: The Classics - Opening Lines returns in May. 
Breaking for the April A-Z)

Sharon M. Himsl

Writer/Author. Blogging since 2011. 
Published with Evernight Teen: 
~~The Shells of Mersing

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: Happy (March) Birthday Grandson

Some "cool" cats driving by to say "hi"

Just wanted to wish my grandson a  

Very Happy Birthday this month.


With two younger brothers, he works really hard at being 
the #1 son. We are all so proud of you, Elisha.

Have fun today!

Didn't post on time for the Celebrate post yesterday, but I think this works. 
I'm gardening and still getting ready for the A-Z next week. How about you?

Have a great weekend everyone! 

Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting one of the 
best Blog Hops ever; And co-hosts:
 L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Click on Lexa's link to join this hop. You will love it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Battle Heroes: Voices from Afghanistan by Allan Zullo: Book Review

Battle Heroes 
“10 True Tales” series
Battle Heroes: Voices from Afghanistan

Author: Allan Zullo 
Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2010
Age: 10-13, Middle Grade
Pages: 159


U.S. air strikes on the Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan began in October 2001, following the September terrorist attack on American soil that killed 3000 innocent people. Called Operation Enduring Freedom, the search was on for the main perpetrator, al Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden. Zullo tells the stories of ten (male) brave American war heroes who fought in Afghanistan during the period 2001 to 2006. 

Told in vivid, action-packed language, readers are taken into the battlefield where they witness firsthand the events. Dialogue is interspersed throughout to keep the pace lively and real, and readers are not spared learning about the injuries the soldiers endured (some fatal) and the hand to hand combat they encountered. Zullo emphasizes the loyalty of the troops in supporting each other, and also the Afghan soldiers and innocent bystanders who were sometimes injured in battles. 

There is the story of Captain Jason Amerine and his fellow Green Berets, who along with untrained Afghans, made a daring stand against the Taliban when outnumbered ten to one. There is Master Sergeant Sarun Sar, who as a boy had endured living in Cambodia under the Communist Khmer Rouge. He lost his family and later immigrated to the U.S., where he joined the military and became the leader of a twelve-man Special Forces team in Afghanistan. He was known for his agility and bravery in battle. There is the story of Brendan O’Connor, who survived a two-day battle and fought bravely, receiving the Distinguished Service Cross for his service. 

Readers learn that many Afghans fought alongside the Americans, even though they could not speak English. Other Afghans supported the Taliban, who were known for their oppression and cruelty to the locals, when fundamentalist teachings were disobeyed. There are interesting descriptions of Afghan scenery and other conditions as well. A timeline would have been helpful in understanding the war itself, but a glossary at the end helps with war terminology. 

Much has happened in Afghanistan since 2006, in particular, the death of Osama bin Laden, but Battle Heroes is more of a soldier's story. Readers interested (boys especially) in finding out what modern day warfare is like, will take away a new understanding of the risks and hardships involved, and a respect for the heroes portrayed. 

Copyright 2015 © Sharon M. Himsl

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway"He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. The mountainside sloped gently where he lay; but below it was steep and he could see the dark of the oiled road winding through the pass." 
(Published 1940)

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

Friday, March 20, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: Behind the Lens

Dog reads book Stock ImagesWhat did you celebrate this week?

How about good eyesight? I wear reading glasses with a little correction in the mid and top range of my glasses (we call them progressives), but to be honest, if I were to lose them in the wilderness and get lost, I could probably read a map in the daylight and possibly find my way home (barring also being somewhat directionally impaired). Has anyone actually experienced this?

 But my main point here is I try not to take vision for granted. At my last exam I had the beginning of a cataract in one eye, and my husband has worn glasses most of his life. He has dealt with more eye issues than I likely will ever have.

And here's another thought. What we see behind the lens of an eye is not all we see in life. We also see with our hearts, our minds and our souls, but the vision gets foggy sometimes and out of whack. When I get too busy and attempt to do more than I should to maintain a healthy balance physically, mentally and spiritually, that sometimes happens to me, and I forget the beauty of the moment. I have to slow down . . . and you should too if that happens to you.

Some food for thought by the famous:

"Eyes for Invisibles"

"I have walked with people whose eyes are full
of light but who see nothing in sea or sky,
nothing in city streets, nothing in books. It
were far better to sail forever in the night of
blindness with sense, and feeling, and mind,
than to be content with the mere act of seeing.
The only lightless dark is the night of darkness 
in ignorance an insensibility."   --Helen Keller

 "The man who cannot wonder is but a pair of
spectacles behind which there is no eye"  --Thomas Carlyle

"Auguries of Innocence"

 "To see a World in a grain of sand,
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, 
And Eternity in an hour."  --William Blake 
Happy Weekend Everyone! 

Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting one of the 
best Blog Hops ever; And co-hosts:
 L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Africa Mercy - It's Over Now: One Nurse's Journey

Hi....this is Marilyn's parting post, ending her service as a volunteer nurse on the Africa Mercy, which takes place a week from now. Thank you for stopping by when you could and for all your comments. I for one will miss her adventure but look forward to seeing her again. Hopefully she'll wander up my way from Boise after she gets settled. I include her email at the end in case any of you wish to send a personal message.

"It's Over Now"
14 March 2015

Yesterday, we did our last cataract surgeries for the year. Next field service, the ship will return to Madagascar, but they won't be doing cataract surgeries. For Madagascar, the program is finished. It has been a difficult year, trying to find the patients that God would bring to us, but somehow, more than 300 people received the gift of sight. I am pleased for them, and only wish we could have done more.

My patient for the week, the one that lingers in my mind, is a diminutive 72 year old lady who had light perception, but no vision, in both eyes. Usually, we only operate on one eye at a time, but for her, the surgeon did both eyes at the same time. Coming out of surgery with both eyes patched and eye shields in place, she looked like a very happy bumblebee, or one of those insects with big, multi-faceted, protruding eyes. Being completely blind for the day was not a big change for her, though, and the anticipation of vision to come lit her face with smiles.

When the patches came off the next day, she could see 6/12 in both eyes--almost perfect vision. Can you imagine what that would be like, after years of blindness?

I will be headed home a little over a week from now. We'll spend this last work week doing data entry, pack-up, and whatever we can to leave the eye program neat and tidy for the next team, in whatever country comes after Madagascar in the fall of 2016. It feels a little like writing your last will and testament, leaving your treasures to your successors, whoever they might be. I want to do a good job--but it is a little sad, this letting go of something so precious that I have been doing for two years.

What lies ahead for me personally? I don't know. I plan to move to Boise to live with my friends Deb and Dave. I'll need to buy a car, pay my taxes, sort through a year's worth of mail, and...well, I don't know what I'll find to do to stay out of mischief. I've faced these times of "the great abyss" before, and eventually, the Lord opens another door to a new adventure...or at least, he has, so far. What will it be this time?

It has been a wonderful two years, working with Mercy Ships--not
always easy, but wonderful. This past week was pretty stressful for
various reasons, and I had some days of discouragement and feeling totally inadequate to the challenges. One of my stress relievers is to watch the lights of the harbor dancing on the waters, sometimes scintillating sparkles, sometimes swirling little streaks darting in and out of the swath of light, sometimes a smooth patch that looks like a quilted, rumpled blanket. So, I was watching the lights, half apologizing to the Lord for mucking up his work here, half asking why he didn't just send someone more qualified instead of me. He brought several Scriptures to mind, including:

1 Cor 3:7 “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes it grow.”

2 Cor 4:1 “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. ..for we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord... we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

2 Cor 12:8 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In other words, it's not about me. He does his work through broken, weak, inadequate people--and he's doing it just fine, thank you. At Mercy Ships, the lame walk, the blind see, and many people encounter a God who loves them enough to get involved in the details of their healing. What an incredible privilege, that he has included me, and what a relief, that it doesn't depend on me.

Thank you all for journeying with me and for encouraging me these past two years. It has been an adventure, and a ringside seat to watch God at work, hasn't it? I have been blessed beyond all measure to be here--and my patients have also been blessed by the Lord, both directly, and indirectly through us. Thanks to those of you who have prayed for our patients--you also have a share in this great work.

Blessings to you all,

Love, Marilyn


Marilyn Neville

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do. Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversations?'" (Published 1865)

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

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: New Growth

Grow box is planted with Spinach and Swiss Chard
A spot for my new rose, a gift from new friend. 

My garden pots are ready.

The ducks are too.

New daffodil starts reaching for the sun

A deer that Mom gave me and I 'dearly' love.
A burst of pink this morning, its big debut.

A showy forsythia in full bloom, the best of all.
The color of spring and new growth are everywhere. Welcome spring. Just 2500 words left to cut in my novel; I wrote eight posts for the April A-Z; and this afternoon I take my first golf lesson. What a lovely week this has been.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Thank you Lexa Cain for hosting one of the 
best Blog Hops ever, And co-hosts, too:
 L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge  
and Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

NEW-Native-American-Medicine-by-Tamra-Orr-Library-Binding-Book-English-Free-Sh “Native American Life”
Native American Medicine

Author: Tamra Orr
Publisher: 2014, Mason Crest 
Ages 10-up, Middle Grade
Pages: 64


Throughout history religion has been an important part of Native American life, Orr explains, which varied a lot, but there were some shared characteristics. For one, religious leaders were mostly men, rarely women. A leader’s main responsibility was to heal the sick, ward off evil, prophetize, and bring good fortune to the tribe. 

They were generally known as medicine men, but sometimes called shamans, or Sacred Helpers (Crow) and Buffalo Doctors (Omaha). All shared a belief in the Great Spirit and had a vast knowledge of nature and the earth. Because of this knowledge, they learned how to treat wounds and illnesses with all kinds of plants, including dance rituals and special ceremonies. They believed in a natural remedy for all physical, mental and spiritual conditions. 

Orr describes the philosophy behind Native American medicine and the different practices among the tribes, as well as the legends that fostered such beliefs. For instance in the Pacific Northwest, the tribes believed that babies came from a special place called “Babyland.” Readers learn about actual rituals and the importance of dreams and visions, and how a person became a medicine man. It was not an easy process, nor was their life as one. Some even lost their lives when failing to bring positive results. 

Other means of healing are also described, such as the sweat lodges used for cleansing the body and soul. Orr lists the various herbs that medicine men used, many of which are used in some form today, such as cherry bark for cough medicine and willow bark for aspirin. Traditional medicine is slowly regaining importance and respect today and reservations are growing. Native American Medicine is a good general source for young researchers, complete with photos, illustrations, glossary, chronology and index.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Africa Mercy - Poverty: One Nurse's Journey

Some reflections by Marilyn on poverty in Africa. Imagine being turned away from much needed surgery because your blood pressure or blood sugar readings are too high, and you can't afford the medicine to treat these conditions? Imagine sleeping on the street with your family after your home has been washed away in a flood? Her thoughts leave me with a "big gulp" inside when I think of all we have in the western world and take for granted. I'm thankful the Africa Mercy (and other volunteer groups like it) has brought hope and real help to those in need. .......Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

07 March 2015

Remember the young man I talked about last week? He was initially rejected for surgery because of uncontrolled diabetes, but he got it under control and took the initiative to come from Tana to try again for surgery. His first surgery went very well--his vision in that eye is almost perfect now. He was scheduled for the second eye a week later and given a place to stay in the Hope Center while he waited. He came on surgery day, but his blood sugar was 598. (Normal is 70-120. The machine won't even read above 600, it is so far out of range.) It turns out that he'd run out of insulin, and they had no money to buy more. I had to turn him away. It was hard to dash his hopes like that, but what choice did I have? The surgeon won't do the surgery with a blood sugar above 300, and for good reasons. It really isn't safe.

Back at the Hope Center, it turns out that they really didn't have the money to buy insulin. It wasn't just a matter of rearranging their priorities to buy insulin instead of something else--they didn't have any money for anything. We're not supposed to give money to our patients, but one of our crew slipped them some money, and they bought some insulin. We rescheduled him to try again for surgery the next day.

This time, his blood sugar was 154, and he got his second eye done. Hopefully, his supply of insulin will last at least long enough for the eye to heal properly. Hopefully, now that he can see again, he can get a job and continue to buy the insulin he needs in the years to come.

Even though I see the shacks where people live, even though I see people every day who haven't been able to afford the medical care that they have needed for years, I sometimes forget what it means to be poor in Africa. To think that the lack of one bottle of insulin could stand between you and a surgery that would restore your sight, and that you could not afford even that one bottle of insulin...I guess this young man's plight has reminded me of what desperate poverty looks like.

I wonder how many of the patients that we have turned away due to high blood pressure, with instructions to see their doctor and get on medication, are not returning because they couldn't afford the doctor or the medicine, not even for long enough to try again to qualify for surgery? I wonder how many of the patients who arrive on the day of surgery with high blood pressure because they didn't take their medication that morning actually failed to take it because they couldn't afford to refill their prescription between the time they qualified for surgery and their actual surgery date? Perhaps the high rate of noncompliance isn't a matter of language barrier or lack of understanding, but is plain old poverty making compliance impossible. I have counseled many people on the importance of continuing their medications for glaucoma, diabetes, or blood pressure for the rest of their lives. For how many of those people did my advice sound more like a death sentence, since they couldn't possibly afford to do that?

It has been raining a lot for the last week, flooding the streets and houses, both here and even more so in Tana. Another tropical storm is headed this way, threatening to increase the flooding, especially in Tana. Many people have already lost their homes or possessions. In Tana, our team saw many homeless families sleeping on the streets even before these rains came. I can only imagine the suffering of those cold, wet, hungry people now. I suppose that this happens every year during the rainy season--but that doesn't make it more bearable. I am thankful for my warm, dry bunk with the promise of breakfast tomorrow, and even the availability of a hot shower before bed tonight. I grieve for the people around me whose lives do not include such luxuries, and even lack the essentials of food, shelter, and medical care. It can be overwhelming to think about--how much more it must be to have to live in such poverty.
Marilyn Neville 

[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy.]

Monday, March 9, 2015


Just wanted to sneak in another post today and 
wish my brother Bob a

Very Happy Birthday. 

We don't see each other all that often but he means the world to me. And although he's getting older, I happen to know he's still pretty young at heart. 

Enjoy your day, Bob! 

Bob at Lake Entiat a couple years ago.

The Classics - Opening Lines: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort." 
(Published 1937) 

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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Celebrate the Small Things: Old Letters and Postcards

Letters and postcards are such a thing of the past, that I find it refreshing to come across old correspondence tucked in a drawer or in the cover of an old book.

Does anyone remember the Griffin and Sabine books by Nick Bantock? He wrote a love/friendship story using only the couple's correspondence. It's beautiful to read if you've never read the series. You turn the pages and one by one each page has a pasted letter, an envelope with one inside, or a postcard stamped "Air Mail Par Avion." It's clever of the writer, but truly effective because the text is so engaging and on the adjacent page the art is gorgeous (Bantock is also the illustrator). 

My daughter-in-law from Singapore shared the series with me and I'm so glad she did. Check out the opening lines (Griffin is in London and Sabine is in the Simon Islands, South Pacific):

Postcard 1:

Griffin Moss, 
 It's good to get to touch
with you at last.
Could I have one of your 
fish postcards?
I think you were right--
the wine glass has more impact
than the cup.

Sabine Strohem

Post card 2:

Thank you for your exotic

postcard. Forgive me if
it's a memory lapse on my
part. But should I know
I can't fathom out how you
were aware of my first
broken cup sketch for this
card. I don't remember
showing it to anyone.
Please enlighten me.

Griffin Moss

Anyway, was looking for something to post, and thought of this old favorite. Here's the full title:
Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock (1991, 1992, 1993 Chronicle Books)

Have a Nice Weekend Everyone!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

IWSG: No Show, No Go

IWSG BadgeThe Insecure Writers Support Group meets online every first Wednesday of the month. Founded by  
Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG was created to support and encourage all writers in every phase of their work, from writing to marketing. Click here to join, and for more information. The website has writing tips and much more. 

Hosted in March by: 
Chemist Ken, Suzanne Sapseed, and Shannon Lawrence!

This month my focus has been on making a public commitment to pursue publishing and all that involves: researching agents and publishers, polishing, polishing, polishing my novel, formatting the manuscript, reassessing if a previous synopsis works (it didn't), and sending out queries. I haven't sent out one query yet! Okay, deep breath, deep breath. Maybe this is normal. You think you're ready, but then you discover half a dozen things you haven't finished. 

The big thing is I've reduced the word count from 96k to 84k. The goal is 80k, which is more in the ball park for this genre (contemporary adventure mystery-YA). I decided that I wasn't following the so-called rules for a first time novelist. No sense shooting myself in the foot with a higher than normal word count. 

In other words, I didn't want an agent to think I didn't do my homework. I saved the original just in case I'm asked to flesh things out more, and I didn't cut any scenes, just a whole lot of flab. One thing that stood out to me, since this is a novel for young adults, is that I had adults dominating scenes too much in spots. I can't write this story without the help of adults, but where kids step up to the plate, I gave them more to say, and adults less. I used contractions more, which also reduced word count.

But the lurking ever present worry is that I will not finish.....and this process will drag on forever. I've had similar starts out the gate, and I don't want this to happen again. I no longer have an outside job and haven't for awhile, or other time-threatening interferences, so no excuses this time. No excuses!  

No Show, No Go, as the saying goes. 

On a brighter note, I'm still at the start gate, digging my toes in the sand, trying to ignore the phenomenal talent on my right and left (focus, focus, focus), and waiting for the gun to go off. I haven't given up (another pattern in my past), and God willing, I would really like to believe that this time is different.  

Also, I like what editor Cheryl B. Klein (who was continuity editor for two Harry Potter books) has to say about the submission process. (Anyone else read her book?). It's really about finding "the right match," she explains. "It's like dating."

"But in fact we editors are just people, readers, like you, looking to make connections just like you. And that led me to the comparison I'm going to make today: The submissions process is like dating--an intensely personal endeavor where everyone is looking for the right match."  
(Cheryl B. Klein, Second Sight, 2009)
And again, my thanks to the IWSG community. I know it takes great effort and time on your part to pull away from your desk and busy life to share your writing journey, whether it's to seek encouragement and answers or to offer some yourself. I hope others debating the merits of this group will stop hesitating. But mostly, I wish everyone well.....Stay the Course _/)

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Classics - Opening Lines: Moby-Dick by Herman Melville"Call me Ishmael. Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing in particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world." (Published 1851)

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

About Me

My photo
You could call me an eternal optimist, but I'm really just a dreamer. l believe in dream fulfillment, because 'sometimes' dreams come true. This is a blog about my journey as a writer and things that inspire and motivate me.