Book Review – Book All The Teachers! by James Bartlett Parry.

James Parry’s semi-fictionalized (10%, give or take) memoir of the last five years of his thirty-year career as a middle school educator is at once, both hilarious and sobering. Hilarious as only middle school (or Jr. High) with all the hormones, awkwardness, and antics can be. And sobering when Parry masterfully lays bare the true plight of teachers everywhere dealing with bureaucracy, poverty, and a lack of parental involvement. However, despite the sometimes heavy content, Parry’s acerbic and occasionally goofy wit, keeps this book readable and entertaining.

The book begins on an average school day in Parry’s twenty-fifth year of teaching. When he arrives at work he finds the head custodian quickly changing a spray painted, “F**k All The Teachers” into “Book All The Teachers” with his own can of spray paint. At first Parry is upset by the graffiti until he turns the corner to find the colorful epithet continued on to say “Excep Parry.” Deciding this is the best possible compliment from a middle school hoodlum, we then watch James “…float through the door, skip down the back hall, pirouette through the gymnasium, and do the happy dance as I (he) enter(s) the public office.”

This first introduction into Parry’s world is a good example of the ups and downs throughout the book. Middle school has always been a roller coaster ride for the kids (as I’m sure we all remember), but James Bartlett Parry gives us a look at that wild ride from the teachers end of things. Due to the nature of the middle school experience, Parry has included a WARNING section before the Contents page. I believe it is worthy of being included here verbatim.

“WARNING – With its adolescent humor, convoluted sentence structure and many asides, the book is best enjoyed when accompanied by a bottle — or box — of cheap wine; or, perhaps Ice-house Beer would be a more fitting compliment. If you like parentheses, em-dashes, commas, and semicolons (and, hey, who doesn’t?), you’ll love this book.”

Honestly, I did. Well done, Parry.

Book review – The Van Helsing Paradox, by Evelyn Chartres

Book review – The Van Helsing Paradox, by Evelyn Chartres

Clara Grey notices things. Things nobody else will allow themselves to see. It is this ability, this willingness to believe, that makes Miss Grey the perfect candidate for training to be a monster hunter.

In Chartres’ story we follow Clara from her early childhood traumas, through years of rigorous academic and religious training in the Tower, and eventually into adulthood with all its temptation, danger, and twists of fate. Inquisitive, intelligent, bold, and brave, Miss Grey ends up traveling the world via the mystical portals of the Tower’s Terminus, seeking out monsters to slay. She’s learned her lessons well and is a force to be reckoned with. Like the books tag line states, “A gal has to look out for herself after all.”

Well written and smart, The Van Helsing Paradox is a fresh take on monster hunting and monster hunters. In it Chartres has built a world simmering with intrigue and violence. A world at war both politically and spiritually. Set around the time of World War 1, the readers are plunged into layer after layer of horror and discovery.

If you are looking for a good summer read (or fall, or winter, or whatever!) pick up The Van Helsing Paradox today! **link below** https://g.co/kgs/fCdyPk

#TBT – Glad I hired a local artist for my book cover!

Down sick for the last few days, I haven’t gotten much writing done. In fact, I haven’t gotten much of anything done other than to wonder when I’d be able to get anything done. Yeah, it’s been like that. Today, however, I began thinking about my current work in progress (wip) – Lilac City Lunacy.

Building a fantasy world full of characters, plot twists, heroes and villains, is not easy. There’s so much to be done, and though I’m still lagging with little energy I figured I could doodle a few ideas for the cover. Now, I’m no artist. Oh, I can do some silly little line drawings but with about as much talent and flare as a duck using a fountain pen. Still, it’s enough to give a real artist a better idea of what I want. I did this with my first book, Waxing is Useless. In fact, I hired one of the local artists I’d previously interviewed for this blog, Shannon Potratz .

His sense of humor, talent, and accessibility made him the perfect choice for my cover. Let me show you what I mean. On my first visit to his office I handed him this.

My line drawing

And after a follow up visit he created this, and I love it!

Image by Shannon Potratz

Close by and easy to collaborate with I am still amazed by and grateful for his artistry, especially as I have NO experience with graphic art. Worth every penny, he made it so easy for me, as a self-publisher, to load everything up and put it to print. If you are a writer / self-publisher with little to no artistic talent, I highly recommend getting to know your local artists. Beside potentially finding someone great to work with, I just think it’s awesome for local authors to support local artists and vice verse.

BOOOOOOKS!!!

BOOOOOOKS!!!

Do you love books? Are you a total bookworm? Love to talk about them and share your favorites? Have you written a book and need another easy marketing opportunity? Well, here it is. I’m going to post a link to my book, and another to my 2 fave authors / series. I invite you to do the same in the comments (They’ll show up on the About page).

Whether you’ve written a book or just want to share fave series, let’s see it!

Here’s mine.  Waxing is Useless  smallwerewolf

Here are my 2 favorite authors / series.

Patricia Briggs’ – Mercy Thompson Series Mercy Thompson (10 Book Series) by  Patricia Briggs

And Kerrelyn Sparks’ – Love at Stake Series Love at Stake (15 Book Series) by  Kerrelyn Sparks

Now tell me and everyone else about yours. 🙂

Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays  story / #BlogBattle entry.

Spokane werew’elves – A happy howlidays story / #BlogBattle entry.

Fresh snow sifted through the forest canopy to dust the sparkling carpet of the previous day’s record twenty-five inches. Low overnight temperatures had created a thick crust on top of the snow making it easier for the pack to get to the designated spot. Stan had chosen the meeting place very carefully. He wanted everything to be perfect for what he had planned.

The Alpha parked his Jeep just off a service road. Normally no one but rangers and firefighters used it, but Sheriff plates came in handy at times. Stan rounded the back of the car and pulled a large bundle and a pair of snow shoes out of the trunk. Time to get to work.

Two hours later, he had everything set. Lifting his nose, he scented the air. Powdery snow was still falling but his nose told him it would stop soon. It also told him his pack was getting near. He checked on his preparations one last time, then cleared the snow off a nearby stump to sit and wait. It wasn’t long before the soft crunching of paws reached his sensitive ears. One by one, pack members began to appear, slipping out of the shadows and into the moonlit grotto. Moving with purpose, they formed a circle around the perimeter of the clearing.

Walt was in charge of bringing their newest pack members, Miranda and Seif, and was set to arrive last. An easy enough task as he lead them in human form while they followed as wolves. This was done on purpose so the two couldn’t pepper him with questions via mind speak. He couldn’t answer them even if he wanted to however because Stan had sworn him to secrecy. Hefting his pack, Walt tightened his snow shoe bindings and grinned in anticipation as he lead them into Riverside State Park. His heart was light; he loved this time of year.

Twenty minutes later the trio entered the clearing and paused at the perimeter the pack had created. Walt stepped through the circle of wolves and motioned his two charges to follow him into the middle where Stan stood waiting. The sheriff, in his street clothes, grinned merrily as he greeted everyone.

“Spokane Guardians, thank you for coming on this beautiful winter night. Tonight we welcome two new helpers into our yearly endeavor.”  He gestured toward Miranda and Seif and the pack reacted with happy yips and chuffs before he continued. “Seif, Miranda, every year our pack adopts families in need and as the holidays approach we collect goods and gifts to deliver to them. This tradition has been handed down, Guardian to Guardian, pack to pack, for hundreds of years and tonight you join our happy band as apprentice elves!”  With his last word, Stan bent over and flipped the switch on a small generator. The pine tree behind him lit up and flooded the snow covered clearing with multi-color light. Bundles of gifts surrounded the base of the tree, as well as one strange pile of fabric with glittery bands. Miranda and Seif, their tongues lolling out in wolfy smiles, stared at the beautiful tableau until Stan began to speak again. “For those of you who’ve done this before, you know the drill. Please line up behind our newest helpers.”

The pack settled in behind Seif and Miranda, chatting happily about their individual holiday traditions while Stan disappeared behind the tree. Walt moved to the forefront to speak to the pack and cleared his throat loudly to get their attention. He was obviously holding something behind his back and Miranda scented mischievous mirth wafting off him. She threw a look at Seif then turned back to eye Walt, tilting her head in question. The old goat chuckled and winked before lifting his voice.

“As the newest members of our Secret Santa Brigade, you two,” he motioned to them, “get to don the honorary head gear!” Pulling his hands from behind his back, Walt approached the duo with red and green striped elf hats with large elastic bands.  He placed one on each of their large canine heads and stepped back. “Behold,” he shouted, “Santa’s newest helpers!” The pack howled their approval, some with obvious laughter, and a few puns were cast to the duo.

Hey, you two look great! You’ve really pulled your ‘elves’ together!

Too bad wolves can’t use phones, you two should really take an ‘elfie’ together!

Good thing we switched to hats. Rudolf noses would have interfered with your ‘elf’factory senses!

While the pack groaned at the puns Miranda and Seif looked at each other and chuffed out wolfy chuckles. They looked ridiculous but it was for a good cause so, grinning, they made a small bow to their fellow pack members. When they turned back around Walt asked them to wait, executed an awkward turn in his snow shoes, and slowly made his way back to the tree where he picked up the strange glittery pile. “All right, come here and let’s get you situated.”

Miranda and Seif padded forward to sit in front of their Beta. He shook out one of the bundles and held it up. It was a large harness with saddle bags attached. In each bag there were several small bundles with names and addresses on them. Moving steadily, Walt attached a harness to each of the 14 Guardians. When he was done they sat chatting amongst themselves as they waited for Stan to reappear.

The time waiting was definitely well spent as far as Miranda was concerned. The Alpha stepped out from where he’d been changing and appreciative sounds emanated from the pack. Stan was now sporting a beautiful old fashioned Santa Suit. The dark red coat that fell to his knees was closed with a sash and trimmed with a light golden fur, as were his thick, black leather mittens and boots. An intricately hand-knit scarf wound around his neck held three small jingle bells at each end. The bells caught the lights and sparkled against his chest. Well over 6 foot 4, with fiery red hair and beard, Miranda thought Stan made an impressive Father Christmas!

Catching her errant thought, Stan smiled. Thank you, Miranda.

You’re welcome. Miranda grinned ruefully. I’m still not used to this mind speak stuff, though.

Neither am I. Seif admitted. But she’s right. You make a striking Saint Nick.

Stan inclined his head to the two of them then the Santa Alpha directed the wolves toward the northern edge of the clearing, across from where Walt had lead them in. A small red sleigh with gold accents and runners awaited them. The Guardians once again formed two lines and Stan moved along them attaching the leads. Miranda couldn’t believe they were going to run around town pulling him like sled dogs, but was so excited to do so! She glanced at Seif and he looked just as thrilled though obviously confused.

How are we able to do this without freaking out the town folk? Seif asked.

People see what they want or expect to see so as far as the town folk go, they’ll just think you all are big sled dogs. The reins, bells, and hats add to the disguise. Plus we’ll be sticking to the shadows as much as possible. Don’t worry, you two. We’ve been doing this for years.

Satisfied by the explanation, Miranda and Seif settled in to wait. When the last lead was connected Stan mounted the small sleigh, picked up the reigns, and with a booming voice called out, “On Guardians, pack members, my family and friends. Let’s make this a merry Christmas for as many folks as possible!”

Before the pack could move, Miranda turned to look back and broadcast a thought to her Alpha. You couldn’t find a rhyme for friends to end that with, could you?

Stan chuckled. Nope, but I did find this.” He pulled his cell phone out of a pocket, ran his finger over it, then held it up and waved it once, sharply. The sound of a cracking whip broke the serene silence and the two new helpers eyes widened in shock.

Are you kidding me with that? Miranda squeaked a split second before the pack’s laughter erupted. She and Seif looked at their fellow Guardians. They’d all been in on this.

“You two should see your faces right now.” Stan chuckled.

Miranda and Seif, now chuckling along, shook their great furry heads and took off pulling the sleigh across the snow, as the entire pack yipped and howled with joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

 

SquidandSquirrel’s Artists & Authors of 2018

This year has been so full of amazing people, beautiful art, fascinating stories, and personal triumphs it’s just a bit overwhelming. I feel so blessed by it all, and by all of you: my readers, and my interviewees, that I just want to re-share some of the fun. So here’s a look back at the artists and authors who’ve made this year great!

Taking a gander at Scott Bassett & his Wild Goose Gallery

scott bassett_in gallery-cropped

Finding beauty using Art & Science – an interview with Photographer, Jerry Mudge.

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Getting Real With Artist, James McLeod

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Stealing an hour with author, Rachael Ritchey

new author pic

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank some folks. 

First, I’m so grateful to all of my interviewees. You are why I write this thing. I love showcasing not just your talent, but how absolutely wonderful you all are.

Second, I’d like to thank everyone at Art Chowder magazine, esp. Dean Cameron for finding me here and inviting me to join your ranks. Interviewing artists and writing for you has been a fabulous experience. I can’t wait to see what this next year holds!

And finally, a big shout out to everyone who helped make my own book Waxing is Useless a reality: the Tin Pencil writer’s group, the St. Francis of Assisi writer’s group, my two besties Kym & Cheryl, and the best friends and editors a writer could ever have, Sue Eller & Kate Poitevin.

Much love and respect to you all! 

A very humble THANK YOU!

So my first novel, Waxing is Useless has been out for nearly 2 months now. It’s still somewhat surreal that it’s out there, but what’s even more surreal is the sweet, positive comments and reviews I’ve been getting!

To all out there who’ve taken the time to visit the Amazon site and leave a review,

You guys make me feel like this. . .