The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square

War! Adventure! Boring desk jobs! Drinking! Compulsions! Evil paranormal enemies?

A week ago Monday, I got a very long-anticipated book in the mail.

I met Stephen Black way back when he followed my blog as part of growing his. He’s moved on to securing 11,000+ followers, finishing his manuscript, and finally (FINALLY!) publishing.

Even though I’m deathly envious of his success, I’m also freakin’ proud. Great job, Stephen!

But what about the book??

Skelly’s Square is only my second or third experience with reading a newbie author’s work. Plus, I’ve known Stephen through his blog’s awkward teenage years. Plus, I’m a …bit of a spelling and grammar fiend.

-Which didn’t matter in the slightest. To me, an excellent book is one I get lost in. Somewhere along the way I’m part of the characters and story; we’re seamless and it’s beautiful. Skelly’s Square became just such an experience for me.

Colonel Augustus Skelly is the name of a man the main character, Kirkwood Scott, sees in very realistic visions. Skelly is a demon of sorts. He preys on Scott’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by making him follow a series of routines determined by dice rolls. These routines are called The 49. Scott knows storms, tempests, abductions, and death around the world will happen should he refuse The 49.

In the midst of a life ruled by this and periods of blackout drinking to avoid it, Scott stumbles across a homeless young woman, Meredith Starc. Starc also practices alcoholic numbing because of a depressive event in her past.

The two, and cosmic forces interested in keeping them down, cross paths. Why? What is their importance? How can they possibly mean anything toward …the fate of the world?

Stephen Black’s delivered a doozy of a first novel. Skelly’s Square is a creation to be proud of. Plus, it’s an engaging fantasy adventure to boot!

Go, visit Amazon and pick up your own.

Do it!!

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©2019 Chelsea Owens

Picture Books Are Always in Season

“So …have you read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub?”

“No.”

“Hmm. What about The Stinky Cheese Man?”

A sound of polite, incredulous aversion comes from the backseat. “No….”

I’m driving my male horde home from elementary school, plus the three children of a family friend. Their children and mine share a few interests, the main one being a love of reading.

The older girl pipes up, “We don’t read picture books.”

Her sister: “Yeah; I’m reading chapter books now.”

Which is fine, of course, seeing as how she is in second grade. She is the baby of their four children and they are all precocious. The only boy has already moved up a grade and is 2-3 grades ahead in mathematics.

Still….

Our Books

“I love picture books,” I say. “There are a lot of really good ones out there, so I like to go back and read them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” the older girl acquiesces. I often feel I’m sitting at a British tea party with her, although she’s midway through fourth grade.

My boys, meanwhile, are each immersed in reading something educational like Captain Underpants or Magic Pickle. I’m not a fan of the graphic novels, but am fine with their perusal if mixed with a range of literature. That, and graphic novels include everything from less-than-desirable illustrations and potty humor to really well-done works like The Cardboard Kingdom.

I drop the friends off. Their mother comes out for a quick chat. “Your girls say you don’t have any picture books around anymore,” I say, in a friendly way.

“Oh. Yeah.” She laughs. She’s extremely intelligent, an excellent quilter, and one who does not seem to mind being a stay-at-home mother. I’m always in awe of her. “I unintentionally donated ours to the classroom and haven’t replaced them.” She sighs a bit, which is usually her way of segue. “They don’t really seem interested, so I probably won’t.”

To each her own, of course, but a little bit of me cries inside to hear it. Like my music preferences, my reading tastes cover many genres. -Except romance. Ugh.

Besides that, my collection of books is …sizeable. When I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, I wanted to be the old lady with the enormous library. I would feel torn between saving myself or my books. I …have a bit of a problem with control whenever I shop the book department in thrift stores.

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After a recent thrift store trip.

Which leads me back to picture books. I love picture books. I cannot imagine not having any in my house. I read to my children from them, and then from novels as they age (time permitting).

I also enjoy reading to other children. Last year I offered to read to my son’s fourth grade class once a week, to give the teacher a few minutes of preparation time at the end of the day. What did I read? The Jolly PostmanThe Sweetest FigBark, George; and Oh, Were They Ever Happy!

I remember visiting with the teacher once after we finished up. “Thank you for coming in every week,” she said. “It gives me time to get ready and I really appreciate it.”

I smiled. “Oh, you’re welcome.” Then, I hesitated, knowing most of these kids were beyond the target age for the books I shared. “Are you okay with me reading picture books? I know they might be a little young for them.”

“Of course!” she said. “They love them! I don’t think they’re too young for them at all.”

Our Picture Books

Most of our picture book library.

You may think I will ask whether you agree or disagree, but I know you are all smarter than that. Instead, what are a few of your favorite children’s stories? They can be picture books, graphic novels, beginning chapter books, or Harry Potter-sized novels. Which do you love, and why?

—————-

After fondly reminiscing, read what I posted this past week:
Wednesday, April 3: Encouraged cathartic ranting over bad bosses in “Just Another Perk of Working.

Thursday, April 4: “The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 5: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly Stevens!

Saturday, April 6: Announced the 21st Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is parodies of famous poems. PLEASE ENTER!

And, answered Peregrine Arc’s writing prompt with “Smells Like Reanimated Spirits.

Sunday, April 7: “Olympic Achievement,” a poem response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, April 8: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine.”

Tuesday, April 9:  An inspirational quote by Jodi Foster.

Wednesday, April 10: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. Highlights were “Just Don’t Buy It?,” “Moderate Momming,” and “Bedtime, a poem.”

 

Photo Credit:
Me

The Power of the Word

I love words, and I always have.

Whilst pregnant; my mother swallowed Agatha Christie and James Herriot and Ogden Nash, sending their formatted prose intra-umbilically to my formatting body. After I was out and able to lay still; the fare included A Child’s Garden of Verses, Shel Silverstein, Ramona Quimby, and Twig. Once literate by my own merits (and from my mother’s example); I devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder, Arabian Nights, Bruce Coville, and Anthem.

I vowed to read every book ever written. I thought my goal an attainable one.

In the meantime, my literary diet supplemented my grammatical learning. Unlike many writers, I do not have a degree in the craft. My teachers were Charlotte Brontë, Mary Shelley, and Douglas Adams. They taught me by example and expanded my lexicon to precocious measures.

In this way, I blame them for my problem.

I love words and am not afraid of them. I play with adjectives, verbs, and nouns like a small child with a treasure chest of his favorite playthings. Yes, I sometimes smash them together and finger paint a Jackson Pollock-worthy story. Yes, I sometimes roll terms into shapes like Play-Doh and end up with noun-verbs and adjective-nouns.

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Every now and then I step back from my mishmash meter, sigh with contentment, and behold a magnificent mural.

Between times, however, my words have a tendency to cause mischief. I’ve used strong words to accurately describe my feelings, and inaccurate words in feeling ways. I’ve intentionally poked and stabbed to incite a reaction. A handful of times, I have drawn on The Power of Words to move a people to action.

I am, naturally, a novice at wordweaving. I worry at trying a spell when I haven’t passed all the levels. I tell myself not to dabble until I become a master.

I have also ticked some people off.

And yet, I cannot stay away. The bubbling brew of prosaic verse simmers warmly, invitingly, lovingly. Come hither, it tempts, I will not harm thee

What say ye, wordspellers? How do words speak to you, how do you listen, and how (in turn) do you release the power that builds as you chant your incantations?

—————

We’ve crafted for another week. Here’s what I created:
Wednesday, February 20: Is Harry Potter a good book? Read what I thought and what many insightful comments determined in “To Potter or Not to Potter?
Thursday, February 21: “The Cure for Depression: Don’t Be Hatin’ on Medicatin’,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 22: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Peregrine Arc!
Saturday, February 23: Announced the 14th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. We’re doing parodies of pop songs. PLEASE ENTER!
Sunday
, February 24: “Dot on the Brown,” my poem response to the famous Frank Prem’s “speck on the blue.”
Monday, February 25: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Three.”
Tuesday, February 26:  An inspirational quote by Maya Angelou. Smile at home, everyone.
Also, noted that I now have 500 Followers! Thanks again, everyone!!
Wednesday, February 27: Today‘s post.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. My favorite (and the internet’s) was my poem, “A Poem About Socks.”

And, I wrote a piece for Kids are the Worst titled “12 Fun and Easy Cabin Fever Fixes.” Don’t worry; there’s plenty of my good, old-fashioned sarcasm to keep things interesting.

 

Photo Credit:
Amaury Salas

To Potter or Not to Potter?

It’s time to really let the fur fly around here, because I am going to ask the question no one ever should: Is Harry Potter a good book?

If you have been living in a bubble or under the age of twenty for the past 21.5 years, you might not know what I am referring to. In that case, I speak of a book series published by an unknown woman (at the time) that EXPLODED into ultimately selling more than 450 million copies worldwide.

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I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone at the recommendation of my former sixth-grade teacher. I really liked the book. It had interesting characters, magic, an unseen parallel world, and enough British elements to tickle my anglophiliac bones.

I purchased and devoured each subsequent book as it came out, and cried on opening night of the first film.

A few years after that point, however, my English professor in (my return to) college ran us through an interesting exercise. “What makes a good book?” he asked, and wrote our responses on the white board. After looking over the items listed, he announced, “Harry Potter is not a good book.”

Since I do not live in a bubble and am not under the age of twenty, I was also not completely ignorant to the idea that others didn’t love Harry Potter as much as a large pocket of Potterheads. As a consequence, I was not floored at my teacher’s conclusions.

I instead experienced a wider perspective. His announcement released me from the godlike worship I had for authors everywhere and allowed me to acknowledge the series as one written by a human, with flaws. It was written by the first and only billionaire author human, granted, but still had flaws.

In turn, I was able to grasp the hope that someone like me could write. Someone like me could even write something that another person might read, or purchase.

Which is all very interesting, but doesn’t answer the main question of this post.

Is Harry Potter a good book? Why or why not?

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My own husband dislikes that J.K. Rowling neglects a basic rules structure for her magic system, that Dobby exists, and that most of the stories are just not interesting.

For myself; I notice some literary no-no’s in her writing like adverbs, POV changes, and …say, a rule she introduces about non-verbal magic spells that she seems to abandon in later novels. I also think (and thought) that it’s really not feasible for a young wizard who can shout two spells to consistently beat someone who literally murdered older, gifted wizards.

But maybe I’m being nit-picky with that last one.

Ever the devil’s devil’s advocate, though, I say that J.K. Rowling’s series could be considered perfection. She hit the sweet spot across age, race, gender, nationality, and class. She wrote characters REALLY well. I’m just a medium-level admirer and would gladly jump on a train, attend Hogwarts, marry one of the Weasley twins, and go out to lunch with Tonks.

As a final thought to any still in the haters camp: last year, my son’s doctor complimented my son because he was sitting in the waiting room reading a novel. I believe it was Magician: Apprentice. “When Harry Potter first came out,” the doctor noted, “I used to come out and find kids’ noses stuck in books. I haven’t seen that since.”

Say what you will, but I’d love to bring that sort of book love back. Wouldn’t you? Perhaps there’s a spell for that.

Until then, do you say it is a good book? Do you only say so because you love it?

Do you only disagree because you hate it?

—————

I solemnly swear that you may read below to see what I wrote for the last two weeks:
Wednesday, February 6: We discussed the deep subject of baths vs. showers in “A Serious Question Concerning Hygiene.”
Thursday, February 7: “The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid MEDICAL Friend,” the slightly-third suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.
Friday, February 8: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest involving Nursery Rhymes. Congratulations to Violet Lentz!
Saturday, February 9: Announced the twelfth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, with a prompt of love poems.
Sunday
, February 10- Thursday, February 14, plus Sunday, February 17: Various terrible poetry contributions of my own on the subjects of my backup camera, my absent appendix, black clothes, a first date, Costco, and Half-Price Chocolate Day.
Thursday, February 14: Wrote “Freddy and Teddy’s Valentines” for Susanna Leonard Hill‘s Valentiny contest.
Friday, February 15: Posted the WINNER of the love poem Terrible Poetry Contest: Geoff LePard.
Saturday, February 16: Announced this week’s Terrible Poetry Contest prompt. PLEASE ENTER IT!!
Also re-blogged Peregrine Arc‘s creativity contest.
Monday, February 18: Shared a quote from Joseph B. Wirthlin about finding a direction in life.
Tuesday, February 19: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Two.”
Wednesday, February 20: Today

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“We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things, and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort.

“And that is why we write.”

-Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medal acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book at the annual conference of the American Library Association in Chicago, July 12, 2009.

The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Me

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Actually, mice have very little to do with it, and not because they are, in actuality, hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings trying to compute The Answer. I simply do not own any mice, nor have the desire to.

The point?

I’ve had a bit of a revelation regarding my serial stories. I began the first, Wilhelmina Winters, years ago on Facebook. The second, Skinwalkers, I began right here on the blog.

Wil was written in the past and is re-posted with editing each week. Nathan enjoys the in-your-face action of whatever comes to mind the midnight of each day I need to post it. His time stamp is often changed in a cheating fashion.

I’ve been writing them assuming that everyone else wanted the same thing I did: to keep reading their stories forever.

However, a few other blogs I follow also run serial stories. As I’m reading theirs, I keep thinking, When is this story going to END? What’s the resolution?

D’oh!

So, sorry about that.

Not sure where to go from here, though, because chopping the stories off where they are would make for a very lopsided balance of story arc. I guess I could just tell everyone the ending the way most readers cheat and look at the last few pages…

I’ll keep ruminating. In the meantime, I’ve got your back. I’ll stop writing The Neverending Story and instead work on tying things up.

I’ve learned some things for next time, too. Like, I’ll either write a serial story like TV episodes, or begin with a plan of only …twenty stories or so.

In the meantime, thanks for the loyal following.

This Blogging Thing

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Guess what?!

We are super close to my one year anniversary as a blogger. I’d like to thank The Academy, the search engines, my husband -but, really, all you people with eyes and fingers who help me believe that my writing’s worthwhile.

A year seems hardly that much older, yet I feel more comfortable about the whole blogging thing than when I first started.

I’m sure you know the questions I had when first starting: What if no one reads what I write? What if no one likes me? What am I going to write about every day? Will a talent agent ask me to publish right away, or do I have to wait a few months? What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

So, yes, I have learned the answers to these questions. The short answer to all but the last is that people will read you if you read them, and no one on this ole internet thingie gets anywhere without a lot of work.

As part of being all experienced and whatnot, I decided to create a WordPress site solely on the topic of the book I hope to one day publish: I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother. This, right here, is a self-promoting blog post to get you to check it out sometime.

….I’d better go write some more entries over there.

Until then; thanks again, and keep reading!

Line Prompt

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“Oh, Gustavo! I love you so. Tell me you love me in return.” She batted her long, dark eyelashes.

“Felicia,” he passionately answered, “How can I not? You are heaven to my Earth!”

Sighing, she succumbed to his embrace. He kissed her deeply, tasting a forbidden passion. They pulled apart, then… turn to the author.

Gustavo clears his throat. “Line?”

“What?” The author asks, startled. She looks down at her fingers, poised over the keyboard. “Oh. Sorry, guys. I got caught up in the moment.”

“How about:” Gustavo and Felicia became lost, for a moment, in each other’s eyes…

 

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction