June 30, 2011

The Mirror - Guest Writer

This is a story that I plan to work on soon. It's an idea my brother gave me... he's such a great writer. He wrote up a whole chapter to explain the idea he had. I'm looking forward to writing this story... but I've got to let the idea soak for a bit (and I can usually only work on one new project at a time).

      The whole world looked muffled.  If you’ve ever lived within a University dormitory and had to put your head under your pillow to try and get sleep or if you’ve ever heard a conversation through a wall you would know the feeling.  However, Devlin blinking hard at the hazy surroundings, noted that the world did not sound muffled, it looked muffled.
    Devlin was perplexed.  He was standing in the middle of an open space.  A foreign and unknown open space.  Yet not a moment ago he had known exactly where he had been.  He had been in his hotel room getting ready for the last leg of what had already been an overlong journey home. 
    Slowly, it seemed his eyes were adjusting.  The fog that was either filling this space or filling his head seemed to dissipate.  And yet he remained motionless.  Frozen to the spot in which he had been standing.   It was as if he had woken up only to realize he was still dreaming.  He had been awake he thought to himself. 
    “You’re not dreaming you know.”
    A quiet voice filled Devlin’s head.  Devlin remained motionless.  Then he started.  That had not been his voice.  Nor had it been the voice he often heard within his own mind.  Finally he moved, whirling around on the spot where he had been planted.  There, not five feet behind him, stood another man.  He had his hands behind his back and was looking very relaxed.  However, his gaze was fierce.  It seemed to awaken something within Devlin.  It was as if those flashing gray eyes were the only real things in this place.  It suddenly seemed that this were indeed no dream.
    Devlin spoke hoarsely.  “Wh-What is going on?  What happened to the hotel?”
    The man stood there.
    “Did I fall?” Devlin ventured, rather unnerved at the lack of response.  “Did I pass out or something?  Why can’t I… I mean what is this place?  I MUST be dreaming, no?”
    The man smiled, though it held no comfort for Devlin.  Finally the man stepped forward and held out his hand.  “I am called Olecksander.  If that is too long, you may call me Oleck.  Indeed, our time is too short for lengthy formalities.”
    None of this making any sense, Devlin tried again.  “Well I am Devlin.  Devlin Dukart.  I’m wondering if perhaps you can tell me what’s going on here.  I mean to say, what’s really going on.”
    “I will tell you,” Oleck said firmly.  “But you must not ask any questions or interrupt me in any way for as I have said, our time is too short for this to take any longer than it must.”
    Devlin blinked.  “Whatever, just tell me,” he said quickly in a voice that only thinly masked his growing tension over the oddness of his situation.
    “You stepped through the glass.  You are no longer here.  You are no longer you.”  Oleck’s words were spoken softly but bluntly.
    “What? What are you saying?  In English ple - ”
      “Silence! There is no Time!”  Oleck did not look like one who would suffer another interruption.  Devlin bit his tongue.
    “As I said, you stepped through the glass.  In the world you knew, there are so many of these glasses.  They are everywhere and everyday just about every person steps through one for a period of time.  You know these glasses as mirrors.”
    Devlin, who so wanted to slap himself awake, stood motionless, staring open mouthed. 
    “Tell me something Devlin, wanting only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ of course, have you ever looked in the mirror and not recognized the person you saw?  Or have you ever, upon occasion, had someone, perhaps someone close to you, tell you that you didn’t seem quite yourself?”
    Devlin, still speechlessly confused, only managed a slow weak nod.  He had.
    “Those were all instances of your spirit stepping through the glass.  However, it is usually only a fleeting experience.  Usually the spirit finds its way back to its owner in a short amount of time.  So short an amount of time that the experience of being in this world is so fleeting as to be hardly even noticed.  Sort of like being in the gray of life.”
    Oleck paused, thought for a moment and then continued.
    “You, however, stepped through a very rare glass.  You stepped through the glass of the Vescoranimus.  Now this is very serious.  For this means that when you walked away from that mirror you became the reflection, you became the shadow.  Your physical self is still out there, interacting with the “world;” however, it does so as a mere spiritless reflection of who you truly are.  Have you ever wondered what happens to your reflection when you walk away from the mirror?  Did you think that its world simply goes black?  Wonder no more, for now you know.  Now you have become the reflection and when you walked away from that glass it was your world that went black.”
    Devlin coughed violently.  “So you're telling me I’m in some kind of a realm of the soul or something?”
    “No,” said Oleck emphatically.  “You are not.  This is not a world of soul but of spirit.  But listen carefully, for it is most assuredly your soul that is at stake.  This is the land of shadows, the land within your world.  What you don’t understand is this: the realm of the soul, say heaven and hell in your world’s eyes, is of a truer nature than your physical realm.  But this world is a step down from yours.  To put it simply, our world is to yours what your world is to Heaven.”
    “What are you supposed to be then?” Devlin’s interjection seemed to irritate Oleck less this time.
    “We will get to that,” Oleck said in a measured tone.  “First, I must convey to you what is most singularly important: your very great and urgent need to find yourself.  You see, you are not here on accident.  The Vescoranimus have lured you here for one purpose and that is to destroy you.  Before you ask,” Oleck said acknowledging the questioning look Devlin was giving, “the Vescoranimus are quite simply the devourers of the soul.  They are but shadows themselves of greater terrors.  They lure the spirit, the happiness, the courage, and the heart, indeed the very essence of man into this world; for here it is but a simple task for them to destroy the spirit.  And if the spirit of a man is destroyed, the man himself may follow closely after.  I know this is all very quick.  But I must go fast for, and don’t be alarmed, they are already hunting for you.”
    Devlin stared blankly.  He felt as if a great fog of numbness had enveloped him.

~~~ Written by Grantland Walker ~~~

June 28, 2011

Poetry Corner Tuesday

Snow Phantoms
Under the moon on a clear night
Silhouetted in the starry light
Phantoms spring up, out of the ground,
I tarry, haunted by the sight.

Wraith-like wisps dancing to and fro,
Sliding through the darkness they go
Flitting through imagination;
And prancing patterns on the snow.

Voiceless words hanging in the air,
Phantom cries catch me unaware,
Howls fill the sky, riding the wind
Echoing all around, a dare.

They enchant me, tempt me to stay,
But they also warn me away;
Lean and hungry, the green eyes glare,
 I leave the phantoms to the day.

June 21, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

This is the first paragraph of a story that's been floating around in my head for a while now - it's a fairy tale ... a bit different for me... though I'm not sure yet just which fairy tale. Anyway, I don't have time to write it right now, as I'm pretty busy with various other projects, but I thought I'd put it out here and maybe you, dear Reader, could leave some sort of inspiration in the form of a comment?


I believe that all this nonsense started with my christening, although some might argue that I was doomed from the day of my birth. I was the youngest child and only daughter of the Chieftain of Alagonia. I had three elder brothers, the youngest of which was fully ten years my senior, and they all doted on me from a young age and probably did their best to spoil me. Had I been any more inclined towards vanity, I probably would have soaked up their attention and been quite intolerable. As it was, I took their regard for granted, but never allowed it to go to my head.

June 16, 2011

Dragons: Legends and Lore of Dinosaurs - Fantastic Read

Of all the books that I've gotten through the blogging review program, this one has to be up near the top of my list. Some of you may remember the blog post I did a while back concerning why I believe dragons once actually existed? Well, apparently I'm not the only one. This book combines all sorts of facts from history with many legends about dragons with verses from the Bible that indicate the existence of dragons at one time (many of those verses are the same ones I used in my post, which you can read here).

However, all that is not why I love this book. I love this book because it is so cleverly constructed. With text at an elementary or jr. high reading level it clearly explains that dragons and dinosaurs may have been one and the same type of creature, making dinosaurs seem even more intriguing than before. It boasts amazing illustrations that even a very young child will be fascinated by. Beyond that, this book has something fun and "hands-on" to do on almost every page.

Page two boasts a page covered in six little envelopes, each with the name of a different country or realm on it (Babylon, Greece, China, America, United Kingdom, and South America). Inside each envelope is a folded piece of nice, glossy paper. Unfold this paper and you can read about a dragon legend that exists (or existed) in that part of the world.

Turn the page and you get to unfold the page and look behind the flap at some pictures of dragons depicted in ancient art. On the other page you can open a small book-within-a-book and read "Eyewitness Accounts and Encounters" - humorously labelled "Open with Caution."

This trend of opening things, lifting flaps, and unfolding pages continues throughout this short, 22-page book.

The true test? My 2.5 year old daughter loves this book. And although I don't let her play with it unsupervised, it is interesting enough that I love reading it to her. (Even if I just read her a paraphrased version, or narrate the pictures for her).

Many thanks to New Leaf Publishing Group for providing this book for review. They did not ask for a positive review, just an honest one. Many thanks to them for their patience as well, as this review should have been up months ago.

June 14, 2011

Bittersweet Moment

As of yesterday morning, The Dragon's Eye has been pulled out of circulation (there are, of course, still copies available for the moment through amazon, but only a limited number of copies). I went to my account and changed its status to "incomplete" in preparation for the new version.

It was an oddly bittersweet moment. I mean... the version that is out there is nowhere near as polished. It's not as well thought-through. Certain characters are not as well developed. What I've done in the past year and a half with re-writing and editing has really changed the feel of the book. It's still the same story, but there's a lot more depth there now. There's a direction to the book, which makes sense, since the first version was written before I knew the book would turn into a quadrilogy. I did no outlining for the first book, I had no idea where it was going, I just wrote 10 pages every day and let the story lead me wherever it wanted to go. It was a great ride... and it taught me a lot about writing. It taught me the value of outlining... a great author (I can't remember who it was, it might have been Terry Brooks) once said that you'll either do the work at the beginning of the writing process or at the end... but you'll do the work either way. I love the surprise of letting the story twist and turn on its own, I love the not-knowing exactly where I'm going to end up... but I don't love the re-writing that inevitably follows that sort of writing.

I've since learned that your story can still surprise you, even with an extensive outline to follow. In the midst of the writing process, a character may show up where you didn't expect him to be, and you decide on the fly that it's better this way than the way you had it in your outline, and that's just fine.

If I'm honest with myself, now that I've done all this re-writing, I'm a little embarrassed of the first edition. And yet, it's my first edition. The first truly book-length novel I ever wrote. The first book of mine I ever saw in published format. A lot of hard work went into it getting it written, having a friend design the cover and edit it. I will keep a copy of it on my shelf. But it's time to say "good-bye" to The Dragon's Eye, because I've moved on as a writer. I'm no longer a 19-year old college freshman, and I no longer write like one. This book is the first of a quadrilogy, a series of four books in which my writing style improved and grew and in which I found that all-important writer's "voice." I had to do the re-write to get it up to the standard of the rest of the series. Perhaps if it were a stand-alone I could have let it be. But it isn't, so I can't.

I know it's silly. You're sitting there reading this and scratching your head thinking, "Um... am I missing something? Didn't you just edit your first book? It's not like it's gone."


But it is gone, sort of. Although the characters and the story are the same, so much of it is different inside now that it feels brand new to me. The book isn't The Dragon's Eye anymore, it has truly become a totally different book: King's Warrior.

So keep an eye out, because my goal is to get King's Warrior published this fall and into circulation in time for the holidays! (And maybe a mid-West book tour!) I'll keep you posted on the details of all that, never fear.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings. :)

June 11, 2011

Second Picture Story Saturdays


“Oh come on, Gwenny! Please!” We chorused convincingly. “We promise we’ll be right behind you.”
    “Cross your hearts and hope to die?” Gwenny glared at us fiercely, binding us to the deepest oath we knew.
    We nodded and promised. After a few more moments of hesitation in order to make certain of our earnesty, Gwenny grinned and headed carefully down into the darkly yawning chasm. When she reached the bottom she whispered the news of her success back to us and we began our cautious descent. One by one we let ourselves down; the older cousins helping the younger cousins reach the floor without incident. Muffled giggles and suppressed laughter filled the little laundry room and woke up Annie and Dannie, the household Labradors. Eager to join in the fun they wriggled and writhed, wagging their tails and pressing their cold, wet noses into our faces.
    After a few minutes of giggling and playing with the dogs, we turned back to the lower end of the laundry chute. What had been our escape route from the orphanage now became our secret tunnel out of the Nazi concentration camp (at least one of us had seen “The Great Escape” a few too many times). The laundry room with its concrete floor and the dog cages and the “instruments of torture” (the washing machine and dryer) was the perfect spot for our new scenario.
    Going up was much harder than going down. It was like climbing up a tunnel slide that was far too steep, and the sides were perfectly flat and straight and offered no purchase to little fingers and toes. Once again the older ones helped the younger ones clamber up the chute by boosting us up into the opening, and then we younger ones reached down and helped pull the older ones up and out of the laundry chute and back into the closet.
    At long last, only valiant Gwenny was left downstairs. Thinking only of her cousins, she had remained below at the very end to help everybody back up the chute. Now she began her own precarious climb. She got up on the washing machine and tried and tried without avail to pull herself up into the laundry chute. It was all but useless, however, with no one left to give her a boost she could not quite pull herself inside. One of the older cousins, Gayle or Wendy, lowered me down headfirst into the opening by my legs and told me to grab Gwenny’s hand. Terrified of heights as I was, I would have walked through fire and jumped from a plane to help save our courageous Gwenny. We could leave no one behind for the evil orphan keeper or the strict Nazis to find and flog! However, even with my five year old body stretched the length of the laundry chute, precariously being hung head-down by my feet and stretching my arms as far as I could, I still could not quite reach Gwenny’s hand. Our fingertips touched for an instant, but that was all. It was then we realized that it would never work.
    Heads older and wiser than ours would have at that point lowered bed sheets down through the chute to pull our stranded friend up the laundry chute; however, we had watched “Annie” that night, not “Anne of Green Gables.” There was no other choice. In order to return to us, Gwenny would have to walk across the basement, climb the stairs, and run the gauntlet: walking directly through the living room where our parents were gathered. There was no other way around, no way to avoid it, and nothing left to do but accept our fate.
    There were no tears. Gwenny lifted her chin and squared her shoulders bravely as she prepared to face this most terrifying fate. Whispering words of encouragement and support, we watched and waited until we heard Gwenny leave the laundry room. In fear and trepidation we listened and imagined we could hear her climbing the wooden steps on the other side of the basement. Then we heard a stir in the room next to us and the voices of our parents grew louder. We heard Gwenny attempting to explain and then we heard the awful footsteps in the hallway approaching the room where we were supposed to be sleeping. The door opened and our parents looked in on seven little girls lying in bed in a semblance of angelic and innocent slumber.
    Afraid for our very lives, we were more than willing to abandon our valiant comrade to her sad demise. With a stern reprimand, Gwenny was told to get in bed and go to sleep, and then the door closed once more. With a quiet sigh, we cautiously cracked our eyes open and peeked at our beloved cousin. She was glaring at us fiercely.
    “Well,” Kim said timidly, “at least it was an adventure!”
    Gwenny and I often fought and sometimes held grudges, but no one could ever stay mad at Kim for long. Gwenny tried to hold a glower for a moment more, but then she began to shake with badly concealed laughter and broke into a wide grin and bounced onto the bed where we whispered and giggled excitedly until one-by-one we drifted off to sleep, exhausted by a full day of daring exploring and dangerous adventures.

June 09, 2011

June Joke Letter

I used to send out a JokeLetter once a month via e-mail to my family and friends. It was so much fun, and I miss it, so I'll be doing a monthly joke-blog for your entertainment, starting today.

This month's jokes are for anyone who has ever had a college roommate. I remember these used to make me and my college roommate laugh and laugh... I hope they amuse you as well.

Ways to Confuse Your College Roommate
1.Make brown-bag lunches for your roommate every morning. Give them to him/her before he/she goes to class.

2.Every time you enter the room, sit in a chair, lean back too far, and fall over backwards. Laugh hysterically for about ten minutes. Then, one day, repeat the falling-over exercise, but instead of laughing, get up, look at the chair sternly, and say, "It's not funny anymore."

3. Read with a flashlight when the lights are on. Pretend to read without one when the lights are out, remarking every so often how great the book is.

4.Get a surfboard. Put it on your bed. Stand on it, and pretend to surf for about fifteen minutes. Then, pretend to "wipe out," and fall off the bed onto the floor. Pretend you are drowning until your roommate comes over to "rescue" you.

5.Keep a hamster as a pet. Buy a blender, and make milkshakes every day. Then, one day, get rid of the hamster. Make a shake using a lot of ketchup. When your roommate comes in, look at the shake, look at the empty cage, and tell your roommate, "I was curious."

6.Make toast for breakfast every morning, but don't plug the toaster in. Eat the plain bread, looking at the toaster angrily, and complain that the toaster doesn't know what it's doing. If your roommate suggests plugging it in, go on a tangent about fire-safety hazards.

 7.Pack up all of your things and tell your roommate that you're going away to "find yourself." Leave, and come back in about ten minutes. If your roommate asks, explain that you're not a hard person to find.

8.Never speak to your roommate directly. If you need to ask or tell him/her something, go to another room and call him/her on the phone.

9.Every night, before you go to bed, beg your roommate for a glass of water. When he/she brings it, dump it on the floor and immediately go to sleep. If he/she ever refuses to bring you a glass of water, lie on the bed and pretend to be dying of dehydration, making annoying gagging sounds, until he/she does so.

10.Every time the phone rings, turn on the stereo at full volume and throw yourself around the room. If he/she asks about it, say, "Oh, that doggone hypnotist...."

11.Hang a picture of your roommate on the wall. Throw darts at it. Smile at your roommate often, saying things like, "How nice to see you again."

12.Every time your roommate falls asleep, wait ten minutes, and then wake him/her up and say, "It's time to go to bed now."

13.Insist that your roommate recite the "Pledge Of Allegiance" with you every morning.

14.Recite "Dr. Seuss" books, all the time. Eventually, think up melodies for the words and sing them, loudly, directly to your roommate. If he/she tells you to stop, act offended and spend the day in bed.

15.Put up traffic signs around the room. If your roommate doesn't obey them, give him/her tickets. Confiscate something your roommate owns until he/she pays the tickets.

16.Wear glasses, and complain that you can never see anything. Bump into walls and doors. Put your clothes on backwards. Say, "Who's that?" every time your roommate enters the room. When you're not wearing the glasses, act like you can see fine.

17.Buy a lava lamp. Stare at it for hours, imitating its movements with your face. Explain to your roommate that you have established a connection with the spirit world through the lava lamp. Tell your roommate that "Grandma said hi."

18.Keep empty jars on the shelf. Tell your roommate that this is your collection of "inert gases." Look at them often. One day, act surprised and angered and accuse your roommate of having released one of the gases. Cover your nose and mouth and run out of the room.

19.Rollerskate up and down the hallway. Every time you see your roommate, crash into him/her and knock him/her down. Apologize, and say that he/she looked like "the enemy."

20. Get a pet rabbit. At a designated time every day, take the rabbit into the hallway and engage in loud shouting matches. If your roommate inquires, refuse to discuss the situation.

21.Offer to shake hands, all the time.  Immediately afterwards, go to the bathroom and wash your hands for about half an hour.  If your roommate inquires, tell him/her, "Better to be safe than sorry."

22.Use your VCR as a toaster, stuffing bread or pop-tarts into it every morning.  When you eat them, complain that something doesn't taste quite right.  Adjust the tracking on your VCR, and from then on rave about how good the food is.

23.Keep a plant by your telephone.  Every time you enter the room, ask the plant if anybody called.  Complain to your roommate that the plant has been making up wild stories about important phone calls.

24.Get a Pet Rock.  Sleep with it, and read it bedtime stories.  Every night, as soon as you turn out the light, start screaming at the top of your lungs.  Explain to your roommate that the rock is afraid of the dark.

25. Stuff yourself into a big plastic bag.  Tell your roommate that you've contracted a rare case of the Bulgarian Measels, and you're now being quarantined by the Health Center. 

26.Get a sponge and draw a face on it.  Take it to class with you.  Let the sponge help you with your homework.  Leave notes to your roommate from the sponge, accusing your roommate of not living up to his/her academic potential.

27. Trash the room when your roommate's not around. Then leave and wait for your roommate to come back. When he/she does, walk in and act surprised. Say, "Uh-oh, it looks like, THEY, were here again."

28. Set your roommate's bed on fire. Apologize and explain that you've been watching too much T.V. Do it again. Tell him/her that you're not sorry because this time, they deserved it.

29. Bring in potential "new" roommates from around campus. Give them  tours of the room and the building. Have them ask about your roommate in front of him/her, and reply, "Oh, him/her? He/she won't be here much longer."

30. Pile dirty dishes in your roommate's bed. Insist that you don't know how they got there.

31. Buy a plant. Sleep with it at night. Talk to it. After a few weeks, start to argue with it loudly. Then yell, "I can't live in the same room with you," storm out of the room and slam the door. Get rid of the plant, but keep the pot. Refuse to discuss the plant ever again.

32. Complain that your elbows, knees, and other joints have been bothering you. Get a screwdriver, and pretend to "fix" them.

33. Wear scary Halloween masks. Look in the mirror and scream hysterically for about five minutes every time you put one on.

34. Dress like a military officer. Insist that your roommate salute you upon sight. If he/she refuses, insist that he/she do 100 push-ups. Keep saying things like, "Your momma isn't here to take care of you any more."

35. Spread toothpicks all over the floor. Stare at them, acting like you're trying to read something. Tell your roommate it's a message, but you're not sure whether it's a warning about a loved one in danger or a recipe for really great chili.

36. Keep a goldfish in your room.  Watch it for hours, writing down all of its movements and actions in a notebook.  Then, one day, stuff the notebook in the fish bowl, and write down all of its movements and actions on the fish.  If your roommate asks, explain that the notebook is a lot easier to keep track of, and doesn't eat nearly as much.

37. Set your alarm for any time during the day.  When it goes off, immediately go to bed, letting the alarm clock continue ringing or buzzing until your roommate turns it off.  When he/she does, get up and go about your normal daily business.

38. Put an umbrella up, over your bed.  Sleep underneath it at night.  If your roommate asks about it, respond by saying, "A storm's a-brewin'." Then, one night, get a bucket of water and dump it on your roommate while he/she is sleeping.  Get back into bed.  If your roommate asks about the incident, claim that you don't know what happened.

39. Every time your roommate walks in yell, "Hooray! You're back!" as loud as you can and dance around the room for five minutes. Afterwards, keep looking at your watch and saying, "Shouldn't you be going somewhere?"

40. Draw a tiny, black spot on your arm. Make it bigger every day. Look at it and say, "It's spreading, it's spreading."

41. Collect hundreds of pens and pile them on one side of the room. Keep one pencil on the other side of the room. Laugh at the pencil. 

42. Remove the door to your room and mail it to your roommate's parents, postage due.

June 07, 2011

Progress Report

About a week ago I finished my second-to-last edit of the rewrite of "King's Warrior."

I have been doing a happy dance ever since. This was the edit where I one of my editors was going through and checking for redundancies, awkward wording, anywhere I used the same word or phrase too often, and just general clean-up of the re-written story - also, he went through and made sure that everything fit with the other books in the series, made sure that my characters and story were consistent with their future selves.

Next steps:
1. hand my book to my other editor, and have her go through checking for typos/grammatical errors/punctuation mishaps.
2. Go through and fix anything she finds.

Meanwhile: approve the final cover art (not the art, actually, more the text on the cover... the art is SPECTACULAR, I can't wait for you all to get to see it!!!!)

Goal Date: Ready for publication by August 26th. Can we make it? Only time will tell!!!

In other news: our production company FINALLY has a name!!! Woot! Will reveal the new name shortly.

June 04, 2011

Second Picture Story Saturdays

It's time for another excerpt from SECOND PICTURE STORIES...

The Laundry Chute

It had been a long day, and eight little girls who should have been tired were being put in their pajamas and told to go to sleep. Our parents lined us up lengthwise on Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s four-poster bed, and left us with two very simple decrees: go to sleep, and do not, under any circumstances, slide down the laundry-chute. This latter mandate may seem odd, but not when one understands the nature of Grandma and Grandpa Walker’s laundry-chute.
    It was a secret tunnel, a slide, a doorway into the magical lands of…. The Basement. Ok, it was little more than a hole in the floor of their closet that dropped down on top of the washing machine in the laundry room, but to eight little girls all under the age of ten, it was a portal to new and exciting worlds. Sometimes we pretended it led to Narnia, on other days it might lead to another dimension, but tonight it looked even more perfect and tantalizing than ever. The laundry chute must have been somewhat larger than most others I have seen since then, or perhaps we were just that little, but the laundry chute made the perfect sized-slide for us… if you didn’t mind breaking both your ankles upon emerging at the bottom and landing on the washing machine. We never slid down it with reckless abandon; you had to have at least some sort of caution on these sorts of adventures… quests… things.
    As soon as the door closed on us and our parents crept down the hall to go sit around the fireplace and chat, mayhem ensued. We had been allowed to watch “Annie” just before bed, and the story had ignited our imaginations.
    “I get to be Pepper!” Gwenny shouted excitedly (it’s amazing we never alerted our parents to the fact that we were not “going to sleep,” we must have been loud enough to wake the neighbors at least, if not the dead).
    Her announcement was met by more than a few groans and “not fairs!” but she had called it first and there was not much we could do about it. A chorus of little voices chimed up quickly as each of us picked a different character. Nobody really wanted to be Annie, living in a nice house and being taken care of by people who love you? We all had that already; the true adventure was living in a dirty orphanage with an evil orphan keeper and a dozen other rowdy orphans. Starving to death, working our fingers to the bone, dreaming of escape… it seemed quite a romantic existence to our childish opinions. Spurning the idea of being Annie, each of us secretly wished to be just like Pepper: rough, tough, and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
    We danced around on the bed for a while singing, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” at the tops of our lungs. We pushed and shoved and tickled each other and after a very short amount of time our antics erupted into a full-fledged pillow fight. Eventually we collapsed on the bed and the floor giggling hysterically and gasping for breath.
    I don’t remember whose idea it was, but in less time than it takes to say we all became reverently silent. Someone had audaciously suggested that we try to climb down the laundry chute. The closet door was tantalizingly cracked open. Sliding off the bed and pushing the door open even wider we quietly gathered in solemn wonder and gazed at the gaping black maw of the abyss.
    Kimmy and Keri quickly caught onto the idea, “We could pretend it’s a secret passageway leading out of the orphanage!” One of them said.
    “Yeah!” We agreed heartily, the idea seeming far too perfect to be real.
    “Gwenny could go first and then…”
    “No! Oh no.” Gwenny said adamantly, bringing our dreaming to an abrupt halt.
    I couldn’t really blame her, and neither could anyone else. Being the most daring and adventurous of all of us, Gwenny was often talked into doing quite dangerous and risky things merely on the promise that “if she went first, we would follow.” However, we had failed to hold up our end of the bargain too many times for her to be talked into breaking the trail for us without question. On a similar occasion at a previous date, Gwenny had braved the laundry chute by herself, only to find that she had no followers. We could understand her reluctance to repeat such a venture.


Will the cousins venture down the laundry chute? Will they get caught by the evil orphan keeper? Will someone break a leg?


June 02, 2011

Two Book Reviews

I posted this over at my other blog, but figured I could post them over here as well:

Two book reviews

Heaven is For Real - Todd Burpo
Safe in the Arms of God - John MacArthur

I told you a few weeks ago that I had read “Heaven is For Real” by Todd Burpo. It’s a story about Todd’s 3 year old son whose appendix ruptured and who almost died. While in surgery, Colton experienced 3 minutes in Heaven. It was months before his parents realized this, months of hearing their son say strange things, thinking that his Sunday school teachers were really doing a truly exceptional job, and finally realizing that their son had experienced something extraordinary.

He claimed to have met Jesus, John the Baptist (who, apparently is “really nice”), his dad’s grandpa (whom he had never met and never really been told about), and his sister who died before she was born (his mom had a miscarriage they had not told Colton about).

Sounds crazy, right? That’s what I thought. Then I read the book. Skeptically, of course. It is an amazing story. I don’t know if it’s a true story. I don’t know if I believe it. But I’d like to. I’d like to believe that this pastor is not just making this story up. The Scripture throughout the book is sound. The story presents the Gospel, as well as many amazing thoughts about Heaven, as presented by a very young child.

Am I still skeptical? Yes. Do I want to believe Colton’s story, presented in this book by his father? Yes. Does the book make me look forward to Heaven more as a truly “real” place? Yes, in fact, it does.

I recommend it. If you have lost a child, or anyone close to you to Heaven, I’ll warn you now, it’s a tear-jerker of a read. But it is also an encouraging and uplifting read.

The other book I’ve read in the wake of Hope’s death has been “Safe in the Arms of God” by John MacArthur.

While I want to believe the story in “Heaven is For Real” - I find “Safe in the Arms of God” to be far more encouraging. It reads more like a Bible study, although it isn’t. It’s John MacArthur’s personal Bible study that he has done to find Scriptural evidence that babies who die before they are born, stillborn babies, babies who die shortly after they are born, very young toddlers, and people who never mature mentally past early childhood go to Heaven and are safe in the arms of Jesus. It is a short read, it is an easy read (though not as easy a read as “Heaven is For Real”), and it is theologically sound as far as I can tell from what I’ve looked up and read as I studied MacArthur’s study.

This book is the Scriptural evidence for something I have always believed, but didn’t know (because I hadn’t done the Scriptural research) WHY I believed it. Presented clearly, honestly, and with a vast number of Scriptural references (most of which I have looked up myself now and read commentaries on in order to make sure I wasn’t just taking for truth something that wasn’t), this book is definitely something I would recommend to anyone who has had a miscarriage, lost a baby or very young child, or anyone who has a child with a disability that makes it so they will not mature mentally past the capabilities of a young child. All are included in this book (though it focuses primarily on parents who have lost a child). I would also recommend this to you if you know anyone who is in the above categories.