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.

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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!

 

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. . .

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

WIP = Vol. 2 of The Luna Chronicles

Lilac City Lunacy is in the works!
So I’m about ten chapters in and it’s reminding me why a first draft is called rough. Good grief! I’m struggling a bit, but still enjoying the world of the Spokane Guardians.
I’m digging deeper into my original characters back stories (esp. Hank and his mysterious family tree), introducing new characters, and creating a monstrous new menace!

Miranda and the pack will have their relationships and creativity tested, and their pack history, territory, and shoe sizes expanded. 😉

Stay tuned for more news about “Lilac City Lunacy – Vol. 2 of the Luna Chronicles!

**Mini-spoiler** There may also be a bit of romance involved this time. Crikey!

Happy Howl-oween!

Hey everyone,

I hope you all have a Halloween fun enough to howl about! 

Tail wags & shoulder bumps to you all,

M.J. 

P.S. If you are looking for a good, clean Halloween read, check out my first novel in the Luna Chronicles, Waxing is Useless.  What happens when a middle age soccer mom faces adversity? She grows fur and a tail, of course! **Excerpt below. 

Miranda closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing, but the minute she shut them her other senses seemed to explode. Her heart raced, a bass accompaniment to a symphony of dripping water, crackling ice, a light breeze, and somewhere a few blocks away, tires on icy streets. She could feel every blade of mushy grass beneath her hands and feet. She felt the mud and the slight temperature fluctuations in the wind. Even the moonlight felt like waves of mist against her burning skin.

Lifting her face to the sky, she inhaled deeply. Scents she’d never recognized before sifted into her brain. She identified crocus shoots, compost, and weirdly, earthworms. She turned her face north into the wind. Someone was smoking marijuana in a nearby home. The Kollyers had apparently grilled chicken earlier. George burned it a bit. The chemical floral scent of someone’s dryer stuck in her throat, making her gag. She sneezed to clear her nose and continued to explore the scents of the neighborhood. Wood smoke from someone’s stove and beer and cigarettes from the bar four blocks away. She couldn’t believe what all she was sensing!

Miranda opened her eyes. She had spent so much time analyzing scents that the moon had slipped lower in the sky, and the temperature had dropped even further. She knew it was cold enough to become hypothermic but didn’t feel cold at all.

She focused on her surroundings. She could see everything so clearly! Details she’d never noticed during the day jumped out at her in the dark. Despite the strange new clarity of her eyesight, Miranda was finding it hard to think. Her brain felt foggy. She considered calling for help, but she couldn’t work up the energy to vocalize her need.

Fighting the urge to lay down in the now semi-frozen grass, she forced herself to stand, and swayed unsteadily for a moment before she turned toward the house. She’d taken two lurching steps when something metallic hit the cement floor inside the garage. Someone is in there!

Available soon – Waxing is Useless

Available soon – Waxing is Useless

Hey everyone, I promised a while ago that when my book became available I’d let you know. Well, I finally hit that publish button on KDP and it’ll go live in approximately 72 hours!  Look for it on Amazon, and thanks for reading.

Here’s the back cover blurb. – Cover art kudos to former interviewee, Shannon Potratz .09-21 werewolf_bck_cvr

Me. . .

When I noticed today’s date and realized I didn’t have an artist or author lined up for this month. Again.

It’s true. Time really does fly when you are having fun, but also when you are preparing to publish your first novel. That’s right. I said it. I’m close to publishing the first novel in a series, and I’m freaking out.

Sure (beyond the GIF) in real life I look calm, perhaps a tad comatose, slug-like even but appearances aside, I’ve been busy editing (and freaking). Happily so.

My editors are a joy to work with. They’ve put up with me and my weirdness and made my book so much better! Which frankly is a miracle for which they should both achieve sainthood, or at least get a thank you in the acknowledgments and definitely a hug.

That said, I’m just going to beg off on this month’s interview (yes I know, “again”) and get this book business put to bed. Oh and believe me, when it becomes available online you will hear about it. Until then. . .

Stay tuned friends, art lovers, and Urban Fantasy bibliophiles and thanks for sticking with me.

loveya