Merry Christmas and have a NEW SHORT STORY! (And there’s a free AUDIO version!)

My Christmas gift to you: a new short story! “Teeria Rigoff; Age–over 50”.

Teeria Rigoff short story cover

This was actually a “deleted scene” from Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World. I took it out because it wasn’t quite fitting the pace. But Teeria Rigoff is one of those minor characters you just really grow to love. She’s solid and reliable, and because of that, often doesn’t get the credit she deserves.

Well, I wanted Teeria to get her day. So I took the “deleted scene” and developed into a full short story which you can find only here.

But I tried something more: I read it out loud and recorded it, meaning you can LISTEN to me reading the whole story! (Still not sure if that’s a good thing or not.) Click here for the audio format.

Huge, huge thanks to the lovely Jason and Bethany Cousins of Numinous Band for editing and converting my audio file. (Really, I have no idea if any of that jargon is correct. All I know is that I sent them all of my hiccups and coughs, and they beautifully put it together with bits of music that makes me sound half-way competent.)

Many friends have said they don’t have time to read my books, but would listen. So I took a random scene from far into the series and turned that into audio. Not sure if that’s what you were expecting, but there you go. My students like it when I read out loud to them, but I think it’s because it puts them to sleep.

(I’m really not selling this well at all, am I? Good thing I’m just giving it away for free.)

So THANK YOU all for your support and emails and reading my books. Here’s what I can give back: A short story that I hope you’ll like, even if you are age 50 or older, like me.

Short story pdf: CLICK HERE Teeria Rigoff–age, over 50

Audio book: CLICK HERE

 

FREE .pdf file of Book 7: The Soldier in the Middle of the World–available now!

Book 7 FRONT coverAs with my previous book, Book 7 is HERE now, for free, available as a .pdf. Click right here for the page that will give you the link. 

Why do I do this, give away my books for free? As I’ve written before when I published Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti, I feel I was given this series, like a rough blueprint, along with a pile of supplies, and told to “Go for it.”

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a clumsy builder, but writing and rewriting has brought such joy, and I want to share it. I don’t want a few bucks to come in the way of someone accessing it, and while the paperbacks cost a bit, I literally do not make anything from them. The prices are set to the barest minimum I’m allowed to set them to.

Years ago the phrase, “Freely given, freely shared,” came to me, and this blueprint and supplies were “freely given” to me by our Creator. I feel He wants me to “freely share” these books with you.  If you’ve read Book 5, you know what I’m talking about. Yes, I’ve put in a ton of labor for about eight years, but I’ve been compensated in other ways, if not monetarily.

No, I’m not independently wealthy. My husband and I are both in education and we have nine kids. Do the math. It’s dismal.

But this series hasn’t been about making money–it’s about sharing an idea that can improve our world for everyone.  

So share freely and get the word out: “There’s this slightly mad woman giving away her books. Snatch them up, quick, before she comes to her senses!” (No worry there; I’ve never come to my senses. I have no idea where they are, and they aren’t too worried about looking for me, either.)

Need a new read for the New Year? Here’s Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World!

As if the headline doesn’t say enough, I’ll say it again: IT’S ALIVE! Here’s the link! The download is only .99!

Book 7 release

Thanks for your patience and thank goodness for Christmas vacations, giving me time to get this finished and published.

Book 8 is up on my laptop right now, and I have fantasies of getting it done sometime next summer. (Ahh, summer fantasies . . .)

In the meantime, I’m going to release a barbaric yawp in celebration and swagger around the house like this today because BOOK #7 IS OUT THERE!

(Now I need a nap. School starts again on Tuesday. Sigh.)

The semester in which Mahrree Shin suddenly became my mentor

I haven’t been too active on my blog since September, as I’ve mentioned before, because I was offered to teach 10th grade English at a local high school when a teacher suddenly had to leave.

The strange thing is, I’d forgotten that I’d given up on the idea of teaching a couple of years ago. Burned out by grading and freshman college students’ attitudes, (“Wait, college is hard?! No one told me college would be hard!”) I had pursued a small business and my writing.

Then why was I suddenly agreeing to teach high school in a matter of days?!

I still don’t know why, except that, strangely, I really, really wanted to.

The adjustment has been immense—working full-time, learning how to teach high schoolers, reading their novels rapidly to be two days’ ahead of them. I’ve never worked harder in my entire life. I’ve never been so drained and depleted and exhausted.

And, shockingly, I’ve loved it.

Well, most of it.

Because there’s 2nd period.

Everyone at this school of 400 students and teachers knows about my 2nd period. A senior that I have in 4th period stopped by last week to turn in something, glanced at the back row of boys I teach, and exclaimed, “Whoa—you’ve got ALL of the rotten ones!”

Yes, yes I do. Out of 20 students, 17 are boys. One-fourth are retaking the class because last year’s teacher failed them (and yes, I’ve heard all about THAT injustice from them repeatedly). A couple are retaking English 10 for the third time. They’re juniors who are feeling a bit panicked.

As you might imagine they have attitudes. Disrespectful, bitter, bratty, insolent—yep, I’ve got the full gamut. This has always been my biggest nightmare: a classroom where half of the students are the school’s known bullies.

And, for the strangest of reasons, I love each one of them.

No, it’s not a strange reason, really; it’s an absolute gift. The first day I faced them—and I had been warned about them by the assistant head of school, the head of the English department, and their current substitute teacher—I gazed over their scowls and cynicism, and I was filled inexplicably, wholly, with love for them.

Realize, this is NOT my nature. I can be rather nasty and cynical myself, as anyone whose read my books can attest. But not right then, and not since then. I was filled with pure love.

It wasn’t my love, but God’s love for them. I felt at that moment such a profound sense of, These are my children, and they need someone to care for them. This is your task, and here’s how I feel about them.

Staggering. Absolutely staggering.

I never before realized how immensely God loves each of His children–even the rotten ones. So much so that He’ll send anyone He can find to help them.

weekly meme Not too far gone

He’ll use anyone willing. Even me, as inadequate and unprepared as I am.

The head of the department had suggested that what these kids needed most was someone to “mom” them, and since I have nine kids she assumed I knew how to do that.

I didn’t, but God does. And daily He’s tutored me in what to do when someone acts up; when a student etches poorly drawn male anatomy into the desk; when another student wanders the classroom in search of the garbage can to toss his breakfast sandwich into from fifteen feet away (the sandwiches tend to fall apart in flight, just fyi); when a frequent-failure, who is failing yet again, lays down on the floor and announces that he’s no longer writing but is listening, so keep talking and don’t mind him when he starts snoring; when another student, smelling strongly of marijuana that he claims is his parents’, looks at me with his bloodshot eyes and hazy expression and says, “What was the assignment again?”  

And I’ve been tutored as to how to handle the other half of the class which is frustrated with the ding-dongs on the back row and yell, “She told us eight friggin’ [at least, I think he shouted friggin’] times what we’re doing! I counted! Shut up and listen for once!”

And I’ve been channeling Mahrree Shin, when she was teaching the delinquents of Edge. When I first drafted books 3 and 4 and described Mahrree’s experiences with her troubled students, I borrowed examples from friends who taught, and also my limited experience in once teaching English composition to the auto shop students at a local community college. They, too, were insolent and boorish. The college had thought that teaching them a humanities class might instill in them some humanity. That’s material for another post, but I’m happy to report I did have some success with them.

But that was long ago, and these are very different boys. And nearly every day I’ve thought, “What would Mahrree do?”

I’ve been taking her advice, which is also the Creator’s advice:

I never yell, although many of my front half of the class have told me to shout at the back half. “Just let them have it!”

But I never felt that was right; Mahrree never lost her temper. She’d stand in front of the class, smiling sweetly (sanctimoniously?) while waiting for the noise-makers to lose some steam. She’d stare at the worst ones intently until they squirmed and blurted, “What?! What do you want?!”

“To begin class. Are you now ready for me to talk?”

“Yeah, talk already! You’re creeping me out!”

Mahrree would never lose her cool, even when a handful of boys, upon hearing they could throw away their homework, crumpled the pages into balls and started hucking them, a dozen at a time, toward the garbage can. No, Mahrree would critique their terrible shots, exclaim loudly that she’s glad none of them are on the basketball team (while knowing that two of them were) because they couldn’t make a shot to save their lives. Then she’d pick up the balls of paper and chuck them back at the boys, demonstrating how to properly hit a target.

Mahrree wouldn’t insist on absolute silence or obedience, knowing that these boys trapped in her classroom were counting down the minutes until they could break free and run home to their four-wheelers, or their lobster boats, or their shotguns which beckoned them all day long. She’d play games in the class with vocabulary words, knowing that the teachers on either side of her classroom were forgiving of their volume because, “It’s 2nd period,” and even their students know about Mrs. Mercer’s 2nd period.

Mahrree would bring in the occasional treats, feeding them pomegranate seeds when they discussed Persephone and Hades, giving them “bird poop” cereal mix when we discussed Poe’s “The Raven,” and tossing Smarties to the students who won the last round of vocabulary Bingo.

Mahrree would worry about the students’ need to be heard, to be engaged, to feel like their 80 minutes in the classroom wasn’t an exercise in frustration.

Mahrree wouldn’t care about her ego, or her students’ lack of respect, because she knows she’s there for them, not for herself. It’s about the kids; it’s never about her.

Mahrree, by the way, is NOT like me in the least bit.

But she’s been tutoring me; God has been teaching me–daily, hourly, and every minute–how to cope.

And I’ve never learned more about teaching, about myself, and about God’s love for every one of his children—EVERY last one of them.

Mahrree would, however, count down the days until the semester was over. That, we have in common.

Eight days. Eight.

And I suspect that right after I do my Happy Dance on January 12th, I’ll shed a few tears as well, because this mom will have lost a lot of her children who she learned to love.

Because God showed me how much He loves them.

(By the way, Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World? I’ve nearly finished proofing it. It’s coming, friends–it really is!)

Book 7 Cover is here! And “The Soldier in the Middle of the World” is nearly ready!

I promise, dear friends, that I have NOT been neglecting Book 7. In the spare minutes I can squeeze out here and there, I’ve been formatting for printing, and this glorious long Thanksgiving weekend I neglected my teaching job, forgot all about Black Friday shopping, and instead MADE A BOOK COVER!

(Again, I used family members because they know I won’t feed them unless they dress up. I forced the jacket on to another son whose reluctant and stiff stance wasn’t acting; it’s how he really felt to be cajoled into his mother’s obsessive hobby.)

This means Book 7 is close–VERY, VERY close! Once I get the proof back and fix last-minute errors, The Soldier in the Middle of the World will be published!

Before Christmas? Maybe, maybe . . . I don’t dare make any promises, but I would love to be able to deliver that gift to you. In the meantime, my entire series can be downloaded for less than $2. Now THAT’S a cheap awesome gift to give!

Book 7 FRONT cover

Book 7 back cover

(I didn’t realize making the back cover white would mean it looks HUGE on my website.)

 

When’s Book 7 coming? Umm . . .

This is what I published on my “When’s the next book being released” page:

When’s the next book being released?!

How about OCTOBER 2017? I’ve been tinkering with this one (and Book 8) for about five years now, and they’re rarin’ to go! I’ll keep you updated with teasers and the book cover soon, but until then . . . hey, it’s not too far out!

So, the above didn’t happen, obviously. Book 7 is ready–fully edited and rarin’ to go. But since this is a one-woman production, this “one woman” is responsible for formatting and cover creation, then review of the printed product, then revisions . . . all of that takes about 24-36 hours of work.

Hours I don’t have.

Because I’m teaching high school full-time, I find myself doing 3-4 hours of homework each night to be prepared for the next day. (More homework than my students will ever do; something’s unbalanced here.) That leaves me just enough time to feed my family and give them a hug goodnight before I fall asleep at 9pm. (I used to do my best work from 10pm–11:30pm.)

I’m hoping Christmas vacation may offer me the time I need to polish up Soldier in the Middle of the World. In the meantime, other priorities are keeping me from sharing Young Pere and Perrin and Mahrree with you. We all feel badly about that.

By the way, book 8, the final in the series, is also very close to completion, but it will likely come out during summer vacation.

Thanks for your patience. I’m still thinking about you . . .

Book 7 Teaser: The best beginning, the ones who change the future

There’s the notion of the family-changers, the cycle-breakers, the ones who look at a long line of behavior and/or abuses and decide, “This is not a legacy I will continue. My children’s lives will be markedly different than mine.”

It’s the realization that just because you were treated one way doesn’t mean you have to perpetuate that behavior. It doesn’t matter what your parents, siblings, or grandparents do; you can choose something better. You don’t have to resort to the feeble excuse of, “Well, that’s how my father/mother/sibling treated me!”

You can be something much more.

You can change the future for those who follow. 

Those are the most awe-inspiring people I’ve ever met, those who won’t allow the filth to continue one generation further.

And those are also some of the happiest people I’ve ever met.

“Versa,” Peto said, “you are like a filter. All the filth the Thornes possessed, you’ve cleaned from the water. Their influences can go no further than you. Your mother says you’re like the general, but you’re nothing like him. You’re strong and solid in ways he’ll never be but wishes he were. The destruction of the Thorne line ends with you and your sister Delia. Your mother ended the muck of the Snyd line herself. Your descendants will look to you as the best beginning, as the women who changed their futures.”

Versa scoffed. “Rector Shin, you Salemites are far too optimistic.”

“I grew up in the world, Versa,” he reminded her. “I still possess a great deal of its cynicism, but not about you. You belong in Salem.”

~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017 (Or at least I’m doing the best I can to get it ready. Suddenly teaching school full-time and coming up with lessons nightly has taken all but a few minutes of every day. But this book is rumbling in the background, and I’m working on formatting it in random moments here and there as quickly as possible, because Book 7 is impatient, clawing to break free, and it’s beginning to hurt.)

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No, I haven’t dropped off the earth, but here’s a Really Bad Book in the meantime.

Last week I suddenly was blessed with the opportunity to move into a new rental house, freshly remodeled.

At the exact same time, I was also blessed with the opportunity to teach high school English full time, taking over Sophomore English and Creative Writing, and told that I needed to come up with lessons–quick!

All the while trying to move out of the house we had been renting, but which had sold. Another blessing.

If I encounter any more blessings, I will collapse from the marvelous stress of it all. Last night I was so exhausted I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. like I’m 92 years old.

So I promise Books 7 and 8 are still on their way, once I get lesson plans for three classes secured and read a handful of novels. No biggie. (insert sarcastic whimper of despair) I’m frantically running to catch up, and my own books and web page have to take a back seat for a few weeks.

But in the meantime I had a stroke . . . of brilliance, that is. (A real stroke will surely follow, though.) In prepping for my Creative Writing class in less than an hour, I remembered a horrible short story I wrote once a couple of years ago. I’ve decided to make it available as a .pdf, and I’m requiring my students to read it as a textbook as to what NOT to do. 2016 Really Bad book

I wrote the entire thing in three days a couple years ago. Cover, formatting, editing–everything. I couldn’t be prouder. Or more humiliated.

So until I publish Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, you can sink your teeth into this. Enjoy. (So to speak.) A really bad book FRONT cover

Book 7 teaser–Are you being forced or are you allowed to choose?

I’ve discovered the easiest way to decide what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”: by asking, “Am I being forced to accept this?”

If someone lays out the facts, then takes a step back to let me ponder and evaluate, then I’m much more inclined to accept their position.

But if someone tries to force their ideas on me, I dig in my heels and refuse to budge, because something is fundamentally wrong with the argument if it must be forced to be accepted.

And it doesn’t matter who or for what cause they’re forcing. I’ve known very religious people try to force their children/spouses to obey them. I’ve known agnostics and atheists do the same thing.

Force is always wrong, because it takes away a person’s agency: their God-given right to choose for themselves. And it IS God-given. That’s not a nicety, but a reality.

No ideology, political group, religious organization, government or family member has the right to force their opinion and will upon another. If someone is trying to control another, you can be sure they are acting devilish. That’s not an euphemism, but a fact: Satan is all about control, about force, about taking away freedoms. Lucifer is real, and his influence is very easy to spot. If someone’s trying to control you, there he is.

God, however, is not about control or force. Many religious groups and zealots, however, will hijack the notion of “god” and appropriate it as their own, pretending that their cause is god-driven and therefore you must follow. But the only god they’re following is the one they made up; they’re worshiping themselves and want you as a follower.

God, on the other hand, sent us to this earth as a testing ground. He wants us to choose right or wrong, good or evil, and He so values our freedom that, when we make mistakes, He’s even given us a way to fix them. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins so we could come back to Him.

BUT–and this is a big BUT–only if we want to.

God is our Father, and like any good father He wants His children back home. But He will never force us back, never force His will. He sets out His terms, His promises, His hopes, then takes a step back and lets us choose for ourselves.

That is love.

Satan is not.

And every last argument in the world plays into either of these two courts: Are you being forced, or are you allowed to choose?

“You can’t force your will on someone,” Peto would say as he hauled the flailing teenager to the barn, “and demand they do what you want. That’s the Refuser’s way, not the Creator’s way. The Creator allows everyone to choose their way, even if it’s the stupid way. But the Refuser wants to control everyone’s lives. That’s not our way!” ~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017

weekly meme background The Creator's way

 

Book 7 teaser–Everyone prepared?

I had different posting for today, but seeing that southeastern Idaho has been plagued with earthquake swarms (116 as of today, Wednesday), and that there are literally hundreds of wildfires in Montana, Utah, California, Washington, Oregon  (let’s just say nearly the entire western United States can see smoke in the sky), and that there’s another major hurricane headed inland (Irma, like Harvey, will likely not be a popular baby name), I’m worried about you, wherever you may live.

Are you prepared?

Not just for the next disaster, but ALL THE TIME?

Doesn’t it make sense to ALWAYS have a week’s supply of water? (You can save your juice and soda bottles, wash them out, and store water in those.)

Shouldn’t we ALWAYS have a FEW WEEKS worth of easy-to-open-and-eat canned and packaged food? (Yes, you can live on cold baked beans and canned peaches for a few days, especially if you can’t get to a store, or the store is emptied.)

Shouldn’t we ALWAYS have an escape route planned? (Where would you go, how would you get there if you had an hour to evacuate?)

Shouldn’t we ALWAYS know where our important documents are? (Stick your birth certificates, insurance papers, vehicle titles, etc. in a waterproof tote today.)

I had a friend who said she didn’t like preparing for a disaster because then she felt she was “bringing it on,” and that made her nervous.

But here’s something I’ve discovered long ago: If you’re prepared, you no longer fear. 

Yes, prayers are good, but preparation is better.

Get ready, friends. For anything and everything, because it looks like it’s coming.

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“Salem is fantastically ready, Guide Zenos! You and Rector Shin have done all that is humanly possible to prepare. We have reserves, we have plans, we have a place of escape—everyone is ready.”

~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017 (unless I’m wiped out by a tsunami).