Through A Glass Darkly

Describing Myself in Four Words

By Jeff Salter

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” [KJV]
— 1 Corinthians 13:12

Our Wednesday Fox gave us a tough assignment this week: Which four words best describe us?

As others here have noted, people and their characteristics / personalities are (generally) not static — rather, they change over the term of their lifetimes. One certainly hopes those changes are for the better!

The cited verse from 1 Corinthians was one of the first things that came to my mind — though I think it has been misunderstood by many. This is not the place or time to analyze this scripture, but let me say that (to me) the most secular interpretation conjures the image of peering into a mirror and being not quite able to discern clearly (at present). In other words, maybe the image will be clearer… LATER.

As I was thinking about this topic, I realized – as have others this week – that descriptions of myself in earlier decades were not necessarily the same as they’d be in current times.

When I’ve (previously) looked back on my 70 years, there is one period – fortunately relatively brief – in which I occasionally behaved like the kind of person I would NOT wish to be around. There were lots of factors: I had chips on my shoulder about not being able to afford to return to the university where I’d spent my freshman year, I knew I was going to be “called up” to serve in the military (in the first lottery… fall 1969), and I had a part-time job at a local newspaper that gave me an inflated notion of my sophistication.

Most of the unfortunate characteristics I’ll list below were exhibited in the local college classrooms — to other students and the professors. At times, I’m ashamed to admit, I behaved insufferably. But when one is 19 years old with several chips on his shoulders, he can be a bit of a stinker (without even trying to be).

So here are some terms I’d use to describe the 19-year-old Jeff… with those unwieldy chips on his shoulders:

Impatient

Cocky

Risky

Know-it-all

Yes… that was me, especially on the campus (that I’d determined was too “inferior” for me). I like to think I kept those worst characteristics under some degree of control elsewhere (like, work, church, home, etc.). But it’s also possible people in those other environments saw bits and pieces of that insufferable stinker. If so, I’m grateful to those who were able to overlook my immaturity and hold out hope for my future.

So, fast-forward through the decades… through my marriage, my Air Force hitch, our two wonderful babies, completing my bachelors and masters degrees, and working nearly 30 years in the library profession.

In these retirement years, I think I’ve finally shaken loose of those four undesirable characteristics. Now, the counterparts to those same terms would be:

Patient

Polite

Careful

Learning

Not pretending that I’m perfect — far from it. But definitely recognizing significant progress from that immature, self-absorbed jerk with the chips on his shoulders. And making positive transitions as we age is likely what living a life is all about.

Question:

Which four terms would describe you now?

Which terms would describe you at your worst… whenever that may have been?

[JLS # 524]

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Harder to Do Than I Thought

What four words describe you? I’m the fox who came up with this idea, and it’s turning out to be hard for me to do. People change over time, but as of today here are four words that describe me.

Loyal is my first word. I guess I’m like an old dog. If you’re my friend or I’ve made some type of commitment to you I’ll be loyal. You don’t have to worry about that. It doesn’t matter if it’s convenient or not. I’ll be there for you no matter what.

My second word is acceptance. When I was much younger I had an idea of how life ought to be, and if someone didn’t live up to my expectations I was very disappointed in them. But now I don’t expect everyone to do life the way I do. I’m more accepting of behavior and beliefs that are different from mine. That doesn’t mean I approve of destructive behaviors, and sometimes I’ll express that view. However, I can still love a person who has disappointed me.

My third word is determined. If I set my mind on something I work diligently until I achieve my objective. Obstacles are no more than temporary roadblocks that i have to navigate around. There have been a few situations that I couldn’t conquer, but I’ve won more than I’ve lost.

My last word is really two words: family orientated. I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with two fine sons and three grandchildren. They all live nearby so I can see them often. One of my greatest joys in life is getting the family together for a meal or some other activity. I hope to be a continuing example for my family, especially my grandchildren. I cherish their love. I hope that one day when I’m gone they’ll remember me with fondness and remember the good things I’ve tried to teach them.

What about you? What are your four words?

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Four Little Words

When asked what four words I would use to describe myself I draw a blank. I’ve never liked to describe myself. I honestly never know what to say. I’m not the same person I once was, not even from last January. This past year has changed so many people and so many things. I feel like I am discovering myself once again but let’s give this a shot.

Devoted: No matter what I try to be there for my family and my friends. I want to be a constant. I never want them to wonder if I will be there for them when they need someone. I know what it is like to feel that you are all alone in the world and I never want anyone that I care for to ever feel that way so I do what I can to let them know that I am here. Sometimes it is by taking the trash out, making a phone call, sending a letter in the mail, sneaking over to shovel their sidewalk, or baking some cookies; just a little something to let them know I care.

Eclectic: I have such an “odd” way of looking at life and doing things (or so I have been told). My style comes from so many different areas. My life and personality are like a patchwork quilt. So many different pieces that wouldn’t appear to fit together but once you see it as a whole it works beautifully. If I find something that I like I find a way to make it work. This ranges from my household decor, my clothing style, my library, even my own style of writing. I refuse to fit a mold, that would be boring.

Dreamer: I’ve always dreamed of going to different places, seeing different people. Every time I think of a new place that I want to go or get the hankering to move my youngest and I will look at each other and say “It’s time for new places and new faces.” We both love our home town. We love the people who are here but long to go out and explore the world. Meet new people and see places we have only ever read about. In the past year I have dreamed of so many trips that we will take once it is safe for our little family to travel.

Matriarch-in-training: I love hosting family gatherings. I thrive on family time. When I was young my grandma was the glue of the family. A few years after she passed the extended family seemed to begin to drift away. My mom is the glue to our immediate family. She hosts the most amazing Halloween gathering. We have so much fun. Christmas Eve is always a great time together. It is my goal to bring the entire family back together. I want my kids to know and be able to rely on their cousins the way I was able to. There were 21 of us on my dad’s side of the family alone and about 17 cousins on my mom’s side. My kids do not have as many first cousins but when we add in all of the second cousins and on down the line the family is huge. Right now I can’t host large gatherings, I don’t have the space for it. However, I can do smaller events. Cousin night is a fun one that we have planned for after the pandemic. One or two of my cousins will come over for the night and bring their kids. We will stay up like we used to, talking, laughing, playing, baking cookies and catching up while our kids get to know each other. I have bigger reunions planned as well. I want the extended family to be together once again.

I guess those are the four words that I feel best describe me at the moment. Do you have a hard time describing yourself? If you could only pick one word for yourself what would it be?

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Looking in the Mirror

Image from Depositphotos.com

Our Wednesday Fox asked, “What four words best describe you?” I took some time to mull this over. Ten months ago, I might have chosen different words. These days, I’m learning to stay at home more and making do with what we have. If I were to look at myself in the mirrors above, what I see in each would be different due to the way they’re curved. Life is all about curves, twists, and turns, so what I see could well depend on the day and time I’m looking. I tried to choose four words that apply to me most of the time. Though others might see me differently, these are the four words I chose:

Curious: This word has applied to me for as long as I can remember. From the time I learned to read, I loved to learn about people and places outside my own world, and I devoured books and films that took me everywhere. I’ve also loved to learn new skills, try new foods, and learn languages. This definitely hasn’t changed as I’ve aged, and with so much information on the internet I’m taking advantage of my retirement to indulge myself even more.

Content: Despite my curiosity, I’m happy with who I am, where I am and what I have. I’m relatively healthy, I’ve had a good education and career, and all of my children are gainfully employed. I honestly can’t think of anything I would change if I could. No, it’s not perfect, but I’ve learned that sometimes the things we wish for aren’t any better than what we already have. And since what I have is enough, I’m not going to wish for more. 

Distracted: I think this is a side-effect of my curiosity. Since I have so many interests and hobbies, it’s sometimes difficult to get things done in a timely manner. While I’m working on one thing, my mind has already moved on to the next thing I should be doing. Sometimes I’ll get up and go on to the next thing, leaving the first thing unfinished. Normally, the “must do” items on my list are finished when they need to be done, but it usually takes much longer than it should. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t need much sleep. 

Disorganized:  This refers to the things in my life; the stuff that’s accumulated in my house. My daughters are convinced that they’re going to see me on an episode of Hoarders someday. Not every part of my life is disorganized. I have little pockets of space where items are always put away in their designated places so that I can find things I always need, like food, clothing, my phone and purse. But most of my hobbies require lots of stuff in order to participate in them. These long months of staying at home have been good for me in that I believe I’m making progress organizing stuff I need to keep and getting rid of stuff I don’t. I’m also more conscious about not bringing new things into my house unless I can take the same amount of items (or more) out of it. Of course, I’ve had to take in some of my mom’s stuff that she couldn’t bear to toss out or give away, but fortunately that’s all contained in one room in the basement. I’ll deal with that when I have to – but in the meantime, I’ll keep chipping away and hoping that by the time hubby and I are ready to downsize, my stuff will be pared down to a manageable amount. 

What words would you use to describe yourself?

Posted in blessings, careers, Daily life, Dealing with stress, decisions, experiences, Family, hobbies, Life, lifestyles, Patricia Kiyono, Random thoughts, The Author Life, time management, using talents | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Guest: Author Iris Chacon

I knew that I had to ask Iris Chacon in as a guest as soon as I read her “Schifflebein’s Folly”. It was one of the nicest experiences I have had all year; a charming story so amusingly well-told that I wish that I could simply sit and read her whole catalogue, but that is not possible right now. (I have made a start.)

Of interest to most of us here, Iris touches in some works on serious subject matter, but it is all ‘clean’ reading; I can’t recommend her more highly.

Iris has received many awards for her writing (with no surprise from me). She’s had many careers and experiences, which are certainly reflected in her work and with whom many of our people here can relate: teacher/professor, musician and librarian, to name a few.

Iris is a native Floridian, considered a “Southern Humorist” by some, but her stories are not so ‘southern’ in speech or situations that they aren’t easily relatable to people from all over. In fact, some of Iris’ family traces directly back to when Florida was a Spanish colony (other ancestors fought in the American Revolutionary War). With all of the genealogy going on, we whose families have been here more than two generations can generally claim happily that we are proudly diverse, and Iris makes the most of it.

I ‘friended’ Iris on Facebook and found her warmth and humor comes through in all of her life. Let me introduce you to her.

Welcome, Iris!

            Hi, Tonette! I’m honored and excited to be here and to get to know one another better.

First of all, “Iris Chacon” is your pen name, please tell our readers the moving story of why you chose to use that name.

When I began writing my first novel, my greatest fear was that the book would be so bad, my whole extended family would be embarrassed. I thought I’d better not use my real name. (Also, I wanted plausible deniability; I could always claim I had no knowledge of that silly book. Blame that “Iris” person, whoever she is.)

            When I began writing my first novel, my greatest fear was that the book would be so bad, my whole extended family would be embarrassed. I thought I’d better not use my real name. (Also, I wanted plausible deniability; I could always claim I had no knowledge of that silly book. Blame that “Iris” person, whoever she is.)

            Therefore, I needed an alias, er, I mean “pen name.” My husband and I had adopted a beautiful baby girl from Guatemala a few years earlier. The birth mother was a rape victim and one of many children being raised by a single parent in a poor village. The new baby was abandoned simply because her mother and grandmother could not feed another mouth. Miraculously, God put us together with that precious baby. (That’s a whole other story.)

            Without knowing it, and at a terribly sad time for that Guatemalan teen, she gave us one of the greatest gifts possible — and undoubtedly saved the baby’s life. That teenager’s name was Iris Chacon, and I thank God for her every time I hug my daughter or see that pen name on a book cover.

            Not only did Iris Chacon give me a daughter and a pen name, she gave me lots of background for my adoption novel, Schifflebein’s Folly.

Iris Chacon’s daughter at age 5

Were you aware at the time of the famous Puerto Rican entertainer, (and former “bombshell”), with the same name? Do people ever confuse you with her?

            I learned about the other Iris Chacon from a Puerto Rican friend after the first books had been published. Then I googled the entertainer-Iris and saw pictures of her. The word “bombshell” is exactly what comes to mind whenever I see the beautiful singer, Iris Chacon. Pretty sure nobody in this world would ever get the two of us confused!

Our guest Iris Chacon
The picture our guest sent of the other Iris Chacon

However,THIS is the reason why I said “former bombshell”.I will not allow ‘our’ Iris Chacon to poke fun at her own looks!

Speaking of names, the way nearly everyone in the story gets “Schifflebein” wrong is done so naturally that it had me in stitches, since my first name and my (unused-here) married name is also one that almost no one gets right. Without revealing your private life/name, does that happen to you, (besides few people getting “Chacon” pronounced or spelled properly, I am sure).

Tonette, you know too much about me! Have you been stalking me? (If so, thanks! I’m flattered!)  Yes, like Lloyd Schifflebein, I grew up having to spell and pronounce my name at least twice to everyone I met.

            That’s probably yet another good reason for using a pen name, come to think of it.

            As a shy kid in school, it was a tremendous embarrassment to have a weirdo name that nobody could say. This led to other children giving me creative, not always desirable, nicknames.

            I’m emotionally, intellectually, and psychologically scarred forever from all this.

            Iris the writer, however, is calm, self-assured, and mentally healthy. Fortunately, she’s the one writing the books.

Schifflebein’s Folly is a warm-hearted story about a young man who plans his entire life to be a foster father of special-needs kids, despite so much being against his case, and of the special help he gets along the way.

It isn’t fair to ask a writer where all of their ideas come from, but this one is special: where did Schifflebein come from, and how did you decide how all of his Heavenly Help took such unusual and adorable forms?

            Lloyd Schifflebein is a real person, and he is every bit as kind, smart, and handsome as the Lloyd in my book. I haven’t seen my friend, Lloyd, in many years, and I know he got married. I don’t know if he eventually became a father, but he would have been a fabulous one. I added a few fictional touches, of course, but Lloyd, himself, truly created this wonderful character.

            As I hinted earlier, my experience adopting a special needs child involved many heavenly interventions. As I thought about the fictional Lloyd adopting several special needs kids, I knew he would require extreme supernatural help.

            So, naturally, I thought of God speaking through cookware.

            I can’t cite Biblical references for this, but I’m sure over the centuries, God must have spoken through stranger things than, say, teapots. (There was that time with Balaam’s donkey, remember?) 

            Once I began to imagine strait-laced, mild-mannered Lloyd’s reaction to a talking tea kettle — and a brash, intrusive one, at that — the story was off and running. All I had to do was multiply my own tragic-comic child-adopting experience by six, and Lloyd was in a world of trouble guaranteed to make us laugh. 

I had adopted bunnies, also, like Lloyd did in the book, so I had plenty of house-rabbit horror stories to draw on.

Other of your books also contain handicapped or special-needs people.  Do you try to include these factions of life or do the characters just come to you?

            I do include people with disabilities as often as possible, because I think most of us unconsciously believe we are somehow superior to them. I read Joni Eareckson Tada’s book, Joni, many years ago, and it affected me deeply. Joni is paraplegic and a world-traveling, book-writing, inspirational and motivational speaker. She is also a fine singer and marvelous painter.

            A person is not defined by their disability.

            It would be a mistake, when passing Joni Eareckson Tada on the street, to think of her as simply a woman in a wheelchair. Yet, we encounter people every day and label them by their visible disability and nothing more.

            Joni taught me that every person is dealing with handicaps and disabilities, often in desperation; but most of the time those handicaps and disabilities are invisible to the rest of us.

            Sometimes we can see a disability.

            Sometimes we can’t.

            Either way, we are in danger of making grave mistakes in judgment when we presume to know person based on what we view from the outside.

            It’s ironic, but the recurring theme in my books seems to be “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Do you also always include animals/pets in your stories?

I can’t imagine life without animals! I love them all (though I confess a lesser affection for reptiles and amphibians, especially those of the snake-y persuasion).

            I think God gave us pets in order to show us what unconditional love means. Jesus showed us, but we forget. Pets remind us every day.

            Except cats. Sometimes cats want us to worship them, not the other way around.

            I also believe that animals are much wiser than we humans are. Maybe they just seem wise because they don’t speak, but even that is a good lesson for us. The Bible tells us, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keep silent.” (I consistently recall that verse a few seconds later than I should have.)

            Those are a few of the reasons Finding Miranda could not exist without Dave the dog, The Mammoth Murders had to include Zeus the cat, Lou (Lou’s Tattoos) tolerates Conan the Destroyer Rabbit, and Lloyd (Schifflebein’s Folly) could not live without his bunnies.

            Animals add a vital dimension to our lives. Without thinking too long, I can’t name a book I’ve written that doesn’t include at least one animal, in a small role if not a large one. Even Mudsills & Mooncussers has a cow!

In Finding Miranda, there is a ‘surprise’ reveal that you very skillfully wrote around. I would not have seen it coming if I had not had to stop reading, and when I picked it up again, I saw the synopsis. (That is saying something; I usually see everything coming!) Does it bother you that your hard work to keep the ‘should-have-been-obvious-but-wasn’t’ part of the plot is revealed prematurely outside of the story?

            Tonette, you are an insightful person. Only another writer would conceive such a question. You are absolutely right, I sometimes do have pangs of regret that Shep’s disability is revealed in the synopsis.

            I realize some people will pick up the book because they are intrigued by Shep’s disability versus Miranda’s problem of “invisibility.” Still, it might be much more satisfying for the reader to learn the truth at the same time Miranda does.

            By the way, Shepard Krausse is based on a real friend of mine, also. (Not Lloyd, though. My blind friend’s name is Bill.) I just want to assure readers that none of Shep’s abilities are exaggerated.  In fact, I probably have only scratched the surface. People with Shep’s so-called “disability” accomplish more amazing feats than most of us can imagine.

This series is a mix of madcap humor with serious and tragic mystery. You have several other series that are mostly light-hearted. Are they all set in Florida? Do you only write of places where you have visited?

            I read every book ever written by Louis L’Amour — both westerns and non-westerns, fiction and non-fiction. I learned many things about writing from observing his style and skill. One thing I especially remember was that he never wrote about a trail, a boulder, a river, or a mountain that he had not seen for himself — usually on horseback.

            Writing about a place I had never seen felt like cheating, somehow, even though I realize there are many ways to know a place without physically being on the site. I determined to write about places I knew (or at least had traveled to), and the only place I or my family have lived (for a very long time) is Florida.

That isn’t the only reason my books are set in Florida, though. There is a not-so-subtle wordplay involved. Since I write from a Christian worldview and a Floridian location, I wanted the hallmark of my books to be both Sonshine and sunshine. I know how corny that sounds, and if you tell anyone I said it, I’ll deny it. Authors have much more sophisticated rationales for their prose, as we all know.

For Mudsills and Mooncussers you did extensive research on the American Civil War; I had no idea how Key West got its lucrative start.  How do you do your research for your works?  I know that you had experience with communications for Miranda, what are the other real-life experiences you have used in your stories?

            Who doesn’t love Key West? I learned a lot about the island by traveling there frequently, since I was living only a couple of hours away. I could go to Key West for a weekend or a short vacation, and I could spend time in the library there, reading diaries of people who lived there during the time about which I was writing. I walked to the fort and the old houses.

            I learned a lot about writing historical fiction, too. First of all, it takes a lot of research! Altogether, I spent about three years doing the research — and probably three months writing the first draft of the book. I didn’t write any more historical fiction for a while. Life is too short!

            Eventually I did write Lou’s Tattoos, which was set in 1995. I didn’t think of it as historical fiction until I realized how many of my readers were born after 2000! So, it was back to the research in order to help readers understand what 1995 was like. I can tell you the Internet sped up the process!

            Personal experience has been invaluable in lending realism and depth to my books:

Working in radio helped me to know exactly what Shepard Krausse’s job might entail in Finding Miranda.

Adopting a special needs child taught me things about Lloyd Schifflebein’s trials in Schifflebein’s Folly.

My life as a tattooed lady with the circus contributed to the reality of Lou’s Tattoos — just kidding! I was a photographer, like Lou in the book.

            If I’m being honest (and that’s what we’re going for here, right?), I’d have to say that using my personal experience proves I am basically lazy. Otherwise, I’d have to do all that research on stuff I have no clue about! 

            (Am I the only novelist who responds to skeptical fact-checkers by insisting, “It is fiction, you know!”)

Despite your catalogue, you called yourself a shameless, cowardly procrastinator. I should have wondered what that makes me, but somehow, that gives me hope. I also read that you, like me, have written plays. Do you write in any other genres as well?

I enjoy writing song lyrics, especially parodies of well-known songs.  Who can forget, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Lawyers”? (Sure, Willie Nelson says “Cowboys,” but what mother would caution her child to avoid becoming a western hero? Cowboys are universally loved and revered. Lawyers, not so much.)

            I have written short documentaries for missionaries in the US and Latin America, and I assisted in editing and producing missionary videos.

            I wrote screenplays on a freelance basis, but the format of video was very different, and I enjoyed learning both styles. 

            Some of my screenplay stories that were never made into movies are now incorporated into my novels. I wasn’t going to let any good plots go to waste!

Thank you for being my guest, Iris. I read that the novelists you read are an influence on you, and you certainly have had an influence on me.

What a wonderful thing to say! You know how to win a writer’s heart, for sure. I have enjoyed meeting you and having a new sister in Christ. Secular authors talk a lot about feeling isolated and alone, but Christian writers and readers know we are part of worldwide family of believers and encouragers.

Please tell our readers how they can learn more about you and your works.

Sign up for the Iris Chacon In-Crowd newsletter at https://www.ProlificWorks.com/free/zFcM1.  (New members receive a free ebook of Schifflebein’s Folly.)

            Connect with Iris on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/Iris.Chacon137 – FACEBOOK

https://www.twitter.com/IrisChacon1371 – TWITTER

https://www.linkedin/in/iris-chacon-author – LINKED IN

https://www.instagram.com/stewart.delia/ – INSTAGRAM

            Send email to IrisChacon137@gmail.com.

            If you just want a quick Amazon link to pick up a book, here they are:

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Welcome Back, Charles Salter

Author, Co-Author, and My Brother

By Jeff Salter

It’s always great to have my big brother drop in on me for my Hound Day blog, but I’m especially pleased to be able to feature his newest novel, The Flight of the Schimmerplotz — released last month by Dingbat Publishing.

As Charles explains in his dedication, the primary characters of this new novel were born out of one of his short stories in our collection – Death Do Us Part – released a year ago, also by Dingbat Publishing. Our publisher so enjoyed the interplay between Dr. Brains and Mr. Brawn, that she suggested Charles feature them in a further adventure… a complete novel. And the result is the title I’m spotlighting today.

Back Cover Blurb

The Flight Of The Schimmerplotz

            When a shimmering, threatening window suddenly opens in the park and envelopes his young daughter Sara and partner Brex Herndon, what’s a secret agent to do? Brex, alias Dr. Brains, is the smartest human in the world, while Agent Jack Rigalto, alias Mr. Brawn, is his bodyguard. Both work for the recently opened United States Space Force in its top secret Cosmic Intelligence Group.

            Soon they uncover the most ghastly plot ever to conquer the world, one which has been in the works for thousands of years, since the Tower of Babel. The shimmering Schimmerplotz window carries them back and forth in time where they must unravel the conspiracy, unmask the diabolical creatures behind it, and save civilization, battling primitive savages, humanoid giants, and monstrous creatures along the way.

            Can Brains and Brawn succeed?

            The most exciting and funny new buddy action team of heroes in years!

Author bio

Charles Salter has been a writer all his life. A professional member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, he has published about two dozen books and hundreds of articles in magazines and newspapers, as well as numerous U.S. Government Technical Reports. His adult mystery novels and juvenile non-fiction books have earned excellent reviews and won various awards. Currently retired, he served for 28 years as a Medical Service Corps officer in the United States Army.

Excerpt

Suddenly I saw them both staring into some kind of void. I don’t know how it happened, or even what happened, but there was something suddenly hanging in the sky in front of them.  

I looked up and made out a vague shimmering, like a mirage in the desert, but with a defined border. A large window in the sky which suddenly appeared, displaying something within which had caught their attention.

I was 25 or 30 yards behind them and could not see into the window, but I tried to angle around behind it and see what lay on the other side.

There was no other side. Behind it I saw only the same trees, bushes, and sidewalk as before, only from a different angle. I watched in astonishment as both of them appeared to be standing there, just staring into empty space — mesmerized, totally engrossed in what they saw through it and on the other side.

Then a strange but loud and angry voice emanated from the void. “Ur dicto bhaggrot.”  

At least that was the way my ears perceived it. I had no idea what the voice actually said, but my brain picked up the signals from my ears and tried to translate them into English lettering. I also had no idea what it meant, if anything. For all I knew, it held no more significance than a dog’s bark, a walrus’ grunt, or a clap of thunder.

I heard Brex answer back, “Nidrasan per geblin! Nid!”

Then Sara screamed.

Brex shouted, “Run, Sara! Run to your daddy! I’ll stop this guy.”

I bolted to the front side of the window and saw humanoid hands, dirty and covered in coarse hair, emerging from it and grabbing Brex around the neck in a chokehold.

Crying, Sara flew towards me and leapt into my arms.

My Review

As one of my brother’s frequent beta readers, I had eagerly read one of the earlier drafts of this manuscript… back around a year ago, I guess. I think many readers enjoy a great “buddy” story and this one features two individuals who could not be LESS alike. Polar opposites, as a matter of fact. Yet, throughout their lives – since childhood – they’ve been best friends. Each knows the other almost as well as the other knows himself… and their opposite strengths are a superb complement to deal with each unique situation they face. Now, “Dr. Brains” is something of a national resource… and “Mr. Brawn” has been engaged – 24/7/365 – to protect him.

This novel also features Agent Jack Rigalto’s loving wife, Sara, and their daughter… plus their wonderful family dog.

Brex Herndon [Dr. Brains] is currently single, and sometimes wonders if his superior intellect and inferior physical attributes might prevent him from ever finding a female match. Are there any ladies out there who could love Brex for his brains and personality (despite his scrawny appearance)?

My second reading of this story was the finished novel and I had forgotten enough from my earlier exposure that most of it felt fresh and new. This is a fast-paced mix of action, intrigue, science, and humor… with LOTS of history! [There were times – as I read the earlier draft – that I’d come to a historical reference and contact my brother with the question, “did that really happen?” In every instance I can now recall, his answer was YES it DID!]

The creative fight scenes are vivid and intense… and the reader can legitimately wonder how on earth will Jack’s brawn and Brex’s brains work together to enable them to survive?

In contemporary times with so many dysfunctional family situations in view, it’s refreshing to witness Jack’s devoted relationship with his loving wife and their precious daughter. His wife’s twin sister is also on hand to baby-sit occasionally and her presence sometimes creates other interesting situations.

To me, it’s also heartening to see the deep patriotism of this dynamic duo. Next to their loved ones, they are most devoted to their nation, America — and they’ll sacrifice nearly everything to come to its aid.

I think it’s a normal part of growing up (among many young boys) to crave to BE the heroic alpha male who stands tall and firm when others quake and falter… even if the closest you ever get to it will be through viewing an action film or reading an adventure tale. But there’s also something quite captivating about being the “smart” guy in the mix… the one who can think faster and better than the bad guys and come up with strategies and devices that work in concert with the buddy who has all the brawn.

As a flesh-and-blood person, I have neither brawn nor brains — at least not to the level of these two terrific characters, Jack and Brex. But in reading this tale, not only do I root equally for each of them… but at times I can imagine what it must be like to BE either one.

Amazon Buy-Link

https://tinyurl.com/y5z9lmbe

Previous Visits

I’ve hosted my brother, Charles, at least twice on my 4F1H blogs and at least once on “Take Two on Romance.”

His previous appearances were:

https://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/special-guest-charles-a-salter/

https://fourfoxesonehound.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/new-series-for-children/

http://taketwoonromance.weebly.com/jlrsquos-blog/guest-author-charles-salter

Charles’ Question for Readers

“Do you like a buddy team of heroes who can make wisecracks as they face mortal danger? In real life crises you have faced, do you appreciate someone who can break the tension with humor?”

[JLS # 523]

Posted in Miscellaneous | 26 Comments

Review: The Christmas Town

Blurb:

Traveling home for Christmas, two women get lost in a snowstorm. They cross a covered bridge and enter the past, finding themselves in a small picturesque Vermont town in 1943. They meet two handsome soldiers who are about to be shipped off to war. They fall in love while struggling to find a way to return to their own time.  

With the soldiers’ help, on Christmas Eve, the two women get one chance, but they’re caught between their love for the soldiers, and their desire to return to the present. At the last moment, they must make a difficult decision and, because it is Christmas, a miracle happens.

Review:

Imagine the adjustments you’d have to make if you ended up 1943 and belonged in the present. No cell phones, microwaves, computers, or cars with a GPS. 1943 was a simpler time for sure. Our two main female leads do a good job of blending in, but everyone is aware that something is up with them. They use unfamiliar phrases and don’t seem to understand one things about 1943 that everyone knows about.

Due to the help of their landlady that meet two soldiers on leave from World War II. Their names were Jeff and Danny and conveniently each man falls for a different heroine. Love blooms between them so what will the girls do when they have a chance to go back home? Will they go and leave the guys behind, or will they stay in 1943.

There were some things I liked about the book. First, there were some good descriptions of life in 1943. It was a simpler time with different attitudes, and the author showed this very well.

I also thought the plot was good. I wanted to know how things turned out The characters could have been fleshed out a little more. Since we knew so little about them it was sort of hard to connect with them at first.

The ending was unique. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and I’m not sure I liked it, but this is a romance so there was really no other way to end the book.

All in all I enjoyed it and am glad I read it. If you enjoy time travel or World War II stories you’ll probably like this one.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments

Guest Author: Daryl Devoré and The Last Dragon

In the author support groups to which I subscribe, many different genres are represented and many, many stories are told. Recently, a post piqued my interest when Daryl Devoré, already a multi-published author of spicy romances , stated that she had a new sweet fantasy romance, and that the lower heat level was a change from her usual writing. I’ve enjoyed a few dragon stories, so I got a copy of her book, and now that most of my Christmas stuff is done, I’m carving out time to read it. I’ll share my Goodreads review later in the month, but for now I asked Daryl to share a bit about the impetus for that switch, and she kindly agreed. Please welcome Daryl!

****

The Evolution of a Writer

Hi, I’m Daryl Devoré, originally a hot romance writer. I’ve been told that my hot scenes are some of the hottest readers have read.

So why am I here on a sweet romance blog? Evolution.

I wrote a hot medieval romance several years ago, and someone mentioned they expected to see a dragon appear at some point in the book.

The thought nestled itself in the back of my mind. Several other books were written, then a dragon started flying around in my head. So, I sat down to write the story.

But, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like where it was heading. I loved my female MC, Derry, so beautifully sweet and innocent. My hero, Prince Hawkyns, the definition of nobility. A hot romance was just wrong.

I put the book away. Several years and a couple of new books later, I sat down and tried again. I ripped out parts of the beginning and suddenly found I was enjoying what I was writing. It’s been a long time since I was happy with that. Don’t get me wrong. The other books are good (personally, I think they’re great!), but it wasn’t my true voice.

Problem is, once you are labelled a certain type of writer, your readers expect that in every story. I said, “Forget about it. I don’t have a lot of readers, so who’s going to care.”

Then I settled back and let the story unfold the way my writing voice and characters wanted it. I was no longer bound by the expectations of the heat level. The result – The Last Dragon – a book I am truly proud of.

Excerpt –

The men’s gazes fixed on the crimson glow of the embers. Twilight too feeble to ward off the soul-freezing sounds drifting out of the woods, weary travellers sat around a campfire with heads bowed and huddled deeper into their cloaks. Strangers to each other, but linked at this shared moment by the need for companionship and the illusion of protection.

The evening grew darker. Clouds blanketed the sky, erasing the stars, dulling the moonlight. A breeze rustled the leaves of the bushes.

Or was it a breeze?

Heads lifted and gazes searched into the darkness for danger. One of the horses tied to the trees reared its head, whinnied and stomped the ground. The wayfarers pushed their hoods back and peered past the startled beast. Two men reached for their swords.

A log dropped deeper into the fire and raised a shower of sparks. Crackles and hisses erupted and faded as the blaze settled. A gust of wind blew curls of smoke meandering around the men, stinging their tired eyes.

Silence fell once more on the huddled group as the travellers shifted their focus back from the world outside the campfire to the one inside their thoughts.

A bard raised his hands towards the heat of the flames, cleared his throat and lifted his voice. “The Legend speaks―in whispers―of an evil dragon who flies in the dark of the moon. The heat of its breath will melt a man’s soul and kill ye alive. Alive yet dead. Never again to taste, touch, love or be loved. Those who obey its commands; their fire burns a man’s flesh and turns his bones to ash.

But, they say, there is a dragon the colour of the sun and a brave prince. When their hearts become one only then can the devil dragon and all loyal to it be slain and their souls banished into the depths of Hell.”

Blurb and Buy Links –

What do dragons, knights and romance have in common? Grab a copy of multi-published author Daryl Devore’s medieval fantasy romance – The Last Dragon and discover the answer.

A sorcerer craving dominance merged with a dragon, the power overwhelmed him causing him to split into three dragons. Demora ruled thought, but was lost in time. Yidithe offered protection, shining like the light of the sun. Ayrradex craved chaos, revelling in destroying souls.

Many knights died, attempting to slay the devil beast. One knight, Prince Hawkyns, did not fear death. He’d lost everything. Away on a mission when Ayrradex attacked his father’s kingdom, Penrythe, Hawkyns returned to find his noble father – feeble and defeated. His wise mother – crazed. His beautiful wife and unborn child – dead. Only a pile of ashes remained for him to bury. He knelt before his King and vowed to slay the devil-beast or be slain.

Derry was born with powers that terrified her parents. They delivered her to a nunnery to be raised in secret. Jathe, a wise sorceress, discovered the young girl and trained her to one day use the secret hidden in her soul.

Legends spoken around campfires hinted the sole way to destroy Ayrradex was when the hearts of a knight and a golden dragon became one. But after a vicious battle with Ayrradex, the golden dragon was thought to be dead.

Can Prince Hawkyns’s bravery and Derry’s powers end the reign of the devil-beast’s terror?

Amazon – ebook

Amazon – print

BookSprout – read and review – link pending

Pinterest

Bio and Social Media Links

Two writers in one. Daryl Devoré writes hot romances with sexy heroes and strong heroines and sweet romances with little to no heat. She has several published books available on Amazon in ebook or print book and available at other book retailers via Books2Read.

Daryl (@daryldevore) lives in an old farmhouse in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and 2 cats. Daryl loves to take long walks on her quiet country road or snowshoe across the back acres, and in the summer, kayak along the St. Lawrence River. She has touched a moon rock, a mammoth, and a meteorite. She’s been deep in the ocean in a submarine, flown high over Niagara Falls in a helicopter, and used the ladies room in a royal palace. Life’s an adventure and Daryl’s having fun living it.

Blog – Romance – Sweet to Heat

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Posted in decisions, fantasy, Guest, Guest author, Patricia Kiyono | 22 Comments

Oh, Brother! Try This On For Size.

Question of the week, in this time of COVID:

Once it’s safe to do so, what’s the first thing you want to do that you haven’t been able to do in the last 10-12 months?

This is too easy: I want to visit my brother.

I think that all of us brought up visiting with family this week, which is no surprise, since we are all very family-centered people here.

My life has been quiet, especially after The Husband retired and I had some surgery a few years ago, when things got very quiet.

My grandkids grew to be teens and went to different schools, away from the ones near me. Even when one or two stayed here, it was quiet. It wasn’t the constant stream of friends of theirs as it was when their fathers were teens.

Even when they were older, my sons would bring guests in, and Son#2 would often bring in some from college to stay, but that has also been years now. That son has been moving around to other parts of the country, so no more of that; times like those will not come back.

I’ve seen The Grandkids, but not often. Our communication is down to basically text messaging and an occasional call. It drives me  NUTS, but beats no communication by a longshot.

My sister, a niece and another niece’s son live not far from me, but The Sister and I text and talk on the phone…a lot. My mother said that she started talking  very early and she never stopped. We stopped visiting for some reason. We drop things off with each other but never stay. My niece there has been unwell. Odd, but I can’t say that it is much different now than it has been for a number of years.

The other niece and her husband live out of town, yet we would often go out of the way when we would see my brother to visit her, and meet up with him, at the restaurant that she manages. We have not been able to do that since March.

My brother, as you no doubt know by now, is a troubled Vietnam vet. He has been unwell for some time. When he was living at home, he would run hot and cold about me, with little to no provocation. When my sister found herself unable to visit him as continually as she used to in the nursing home, (which has been 40+ miles from us), The Husband and I started making weekly trips there to stay and visit for around 3 hours. I’d take whatever he needed from home, (clothes, etc.), extra drinks, specialty foods, and one home-cooked meal.  The men would speak more than I would, (having more movies, geography and history in common). It also gave my brother less reason to find to be bothered by me, since we could never see his change toward me coming. We’d watch old westerns and he’d remember every minor bit player and what other movies or shoes that he had also seen them in, but he would also rewrite family history…and his own. He has no recollection of receiving a Purple Heart, let alone the battle and the injury. He doesn’t believe that it happened, even though he told my mother and me, which was one of the few times he spoke of battle.

Since March, we have been dropping off boxes for him, when we could. When he has to go to the hospital, he is put into quarantine and no boxes are allowed in. There was a few-month stoppage of all incoming boxes, which is kind of crazy, since the staff goes in and out and all of their supplies, food, linen, and anything else  you can think of is delivered. (They also keep the boxes away from the patients for a few days, so I can send no meal or perishable foods.)

I would also say that I’d like to go and get my hair done, but since I gave myself a better cut than all but two I have ever had, I can’t even say that I am champing at the bit anymore for that one.

What I really  could do with is doing some clothes shopping. Not being able to try things on has stopped me cold. It is difficult for me to find clothes that fit. Suffice it to say that for one good reason, (and one that I am not so happy about), the assumptions that if you gain weight, all of your body parts gain weight proportionately is a major misconception on the part of clothing designers/manufacturers. To get pants to fit in one area without being baggy in another is a real trial, (and tell me why they think that if those who wear an extra-large blouses, dresses and nightwear are all buxom?)

So, after visiting my brother, I am going quickly to go try on slacks!

I don’t know if I will be ready for the excitement.

Posted in big plans, Daily life, decisions, experiences, Family, food, memories, shopping, Tonette Joyce | 7 Comments

Straining at the Leash

Things I’m Good and Ready to Resume

[when that’s finally allowed again]

By Jeff Salter

DISCLAIMER: It’s beyond the scope of this column to parse exactly how much more “risk” to overall health and safety is the CoVid-19 (and its mutating strains)… than were previous pandemics — such as the H1N1 “Swine” Flu of 2009-10, which were handled (at least here in America) with considerably LESS drastic measures and requirements. Please note: I’m not debating whether stricter measures were or were not justified for this newest pandemic — I’m merely observing that the reactions / restrictions (from governmental entities at ALL levels) have been considerably different in this current crisis.

And it’s those differences – mandates handed down from CDC, through Governors and local political leaders – which have formed the restrictions that have made some of our citizens chafe. Again – please re-read this disclaimer – I’m NOT focusing this column on WHETHER these measures are justified… I’m simply noting that our current pandemic is attended with vigorous restrictions on gatherings, businesses, shopping, dining, schooling, and just about everything else. [And this is the first time in about 100 years that we’ve faced these type widespread restrictions.]

I’ve only laid out that background to explain how I FEEL about those experiences which have NOT been possible during these 10 months (or so) that we’ve so-far journeyed through our current pandemic. In particular, this week’s topic involves things that I’d want to do again… once it’s declared “safe” to resume normal activities.

The three restricted (or eliminated) activities which have most impacted me are these which were among my regular weekly schedule prior to mandated shutdowns:

* I have not been able to visit my mom in the nursing home since March 10 last year. In those 10 months, I’ve SEEN her once – from about 40 feet away (and through a glass wall) – on her 98th birthday… and I was allowed one supervised visit (late October) in which I could not get nearer than six feet. [Yes, I understand the REASONS for those restrictions, but I still don’t like them.] My normal pre-pandemic schedule included three weekly visits to mom.

* for the first two or three months of the “shut-downs” our church was among the many which were closed on the mandate of the KY governor. I felt awful about not being allowed to gather for Sunday worship… even though I was able to view those services through a streaming feature of Facebook. After churches were later allowed to re-open, we had very strict parameters on seating, masks, and the numbers of people who could gather in the sanctuary. Later in the autumn, attendance for the service was again suspended, due to fears about a new surge related to fall breaks and Thanksgiving get-togethers. Since middle-December, we’ve been allowed to return to the sanctuary, but we still have the seating restrictions and must wear masks.

* another emotional blow was no longer being able to work with the kids in our church programs like summer’s Vacation Bible School, and our weekly AWANA sessions during the school semesters. Each of those involves a LOT of energy and effort – which, at my age is already significantly waning – but they are functions I believe I was “called” to do… and I found it a blessing to work with some of those kids.

Specific Examples

As I’ve aged, I’ve become more and more an introvert… and less and less do I enjoy / endure large gatherings (of whatever type). But I do still enjoy very small fellowships. I’ll give you two examples of times during this year of restrictions, when I sorely missed the ability to go with friends to a restaurant and sit down together.

* During early August, we were saying farewell to some good friends who were leaving KY for a farm in distant Connecticut. We had to meet in a parking lot and stand around our two vehicles as we chatted, reminisced, and fought back our disappointment that we’d likely never see those folks again. What we all four wanted to do was to sit around a table somewhere and share a final breakfast and coffee. Not possible!

* During late November, we’d been to a small indoor concert by four area musicians, whose music I’ve grown to love. After the event had concluded, we were invited to share a late supper with the husband-wife duo who are the heart of that group. Alas, that very day the KY governor had mandated that all eating establishments close – AGAIN – to in-person dining.

* For Thanksgiving last year, we dined with our Daughter and her family — OUT-doors, six-plus feet apart. Yes, that’s better than not seeing them at all… but it felt entirely un-natural!

These kind of disappointments – and the cookie-cutter restrictions that created them – are the type things I’d like to avoid in the future. These are the kinds of things I’d first want to resume when/if the current restrictions are ever lifted in a way that approaches “normality”.

Question:

Give us an example of something YOU want to resume as soon as you are allowed.

[JLS # 522]

Posted in Miscellaneous | 10 Comments