Thursday, March 14, 2019

Learning Never Stops

A bit of a change of pace...A real-life Lesson I learned today. Hope you enjoy and comment. :)


Never Stop Learning

Our local news station does a segment every week called, "Never Stop learning'. As an Educator, I understand that phrase perhaps better than some. When I was a kid of maybe five, I heard my (at the time) favorite teacher say, "When we stop learning, we stop growing. When we stop growing, we stop living. It doesn't matter if your heart beats and brain functions. You are dead the minute you stop learning."
I pondered that and remembered it. I still do. I believe it. I try to live by it.
As a young teacher, just fresh out of the house from being a full-time mom, my mentor teacher gave me charge of a boy with autism. He was 'different', and twenty odd years ago, the research into what made him different and not the dreadful 'r' word had barely begun. But he taught me more in that year than any experience in my life. He taught me to grow, to see people not as society demands, by as he/she really is. 

In the times I grew up, in the South, racial tensions were high, feminism was just budding, and everyone was coming off the glow of the wild sixties into the volatile seventies. No, I'm not THAT old. The seventies, to me, were my older sister fighting with my parents to wear miniskirts and go-go boots and stay out past ten o'clock while I played with dolls under the dining room table. It was the last, perhaps, gasp of the 'innocent' age, when kids left the house at dawn and mothers never worried, because they knew, with certainty, their child would race home seconds before the porch light flipped on.
I learned, in those growing up years, and the eighties that followed, all the 'academic' things kids learned and the values of my parents, staunch conservative Baptists. My father was known for being even-tempered and honest; in all my years with him, I saw him in a temper only twice. His best friend, from childhood, was an African American man.
We lived in Southern Small Town America. It doesn't come much smaller than a one stop light town only on the map because of the railroad which ran through it. Men were very much 'Sons of the Confederacy'. My family roots grew deep there, nine or ten generations back, depending on who you asked. 
I watched, at the age of eight, the KKK, known as 'The Boys', burn a cross in my Father's Best Friend's yard one night, and try to hang him in front of his wife and children. I saw my father step between them, push the guns away, and quietly say, "Get out of here. And may God send you back to hell for this." I learned Courage that night. I learned Honor. I learned how to Stand. And I learned how to use nonaggression against aggression.
I learned it again a few years later, as the Klan marched through our town. Amidst the hate and unbelievably vile shouts, an African American policeman stood guarding those very ones calling for his death simply for the color of his skin. He was the son of the man my Father saved. 
I decided to never let hate win. It's been hard, and that determination has been tested numerous times. Fate laughs at humans who make determinations. Ever notice that?

But today....today I learned To Never Stop Learning.

I teach children with autism. Or rather, they teach me. I have students across the spectrum, from you would-never-guess to you-know-right-away. Each has touched something in me I didn't know was there. Each has taught me something, and more than I feel I teach them.

I don't have favorites. Really. But one, I'll call her 'Amy'. Amy is on the lower end of the Spectrum and rarely uses conversational language. She speaks, clear and often very LOUD, just not in the way others do to communicate. She uses 'cues' and songs, game and words that represent other things. English that's a foreign language, in the world where she lives and we don't. She's sixteen, as tall as me, almost as big, and adores Sesame Street. Amy will never live independently, a very hard fact her family had to accept. But Amy has a laugh that makes a room glow. That makes everyone around her smile. 

And she has a huge chunk of my heart.

Her mom told me, when I arrived for our private session, that Amy's PT (physical therapist) had told them yesterday, "She's as far as she's ever going to be. I can't help her. So I'm releasing her." In essence, the PT gave up on Amy making further progress.
(Let me add, I don't know this PT. I'm going on what Amy's Mom said. PT is different from learning. I understand that. But from the tears in Mom's eyes, she felt deeply betrayed people who should help her child aren't willing to accept painfully slow progress and prefer to release (or as Mom sees it, give up).
The PT claimed Amy had stopped learning.

Afterward, my heart heavy, Amy and I went on a walk around the town. I pointed out the different flowers blooming, the men working on a roof, the airplanes in the sky. Amy responded by not responding, by being in the place she dwells: in her world. 
But as I watched the gray clouds in the sky, beside me, she spread her arms, laughed joyously, and spun in circles. She laughed and laughed, uncaring if people stopped and stared. She loved the air, the scents, the feel of the breeze, the warmth after the cold winter. She was demonstrating, at least I believe, her joy in being alive. 
I envied her that freedom. That absolute confidence to simply LIVE and BE and to heck with what anyone thought. No boundaries or constraints. LIFE. JOY. 

I wish so much all of us could live that freely, that joyfully, that open.

On impulse, I started singing, 'Frere Jacques'. I've never sung this song with Amy before. She stopped, stared at me. I kept singing and she listened intently.
And after almost 4 years of working with her, when I stopped singing, Amy looked me in the eye (something few children with autism will do), smiled, and said my name. "Sing more. Please."

CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS! AND MY NAME!!! I almost cried. But I sang it again.
And Amy sang it with me.

She was growing. She was learning. Never Stop Being Alive and Never Stop Learning.

I grew today. I learned to stop caring so much what people think and LIVE. I learned to take time to see the flowers and watch the birds. I learned, most of all, sing a song when I feel like it and smile for the sake of smiling.
When we walked back to Amy's house, I told her Mom what happened. I added, "Amy won't ever give up on me. And I'll never give up on Amy. Neither of us will ever stop learning."

Never Stop Learning. So you can Live in the World you create. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Thursday, August 2, 2018

One of the most important things a writer can do, to me, is to create characters we care about, that we want to see more of, and read more and more about long after their story ends. In that vein, I'm reviewing a movie that does exactly that and helped me inject more life into the series characters I created for Weddings by C &C. Enjoy!


Review: Mamma Mia!!! Here We Go Again

WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS MOVIE! DO NOT READ IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW!

My daughter dragged me to see Mamma Mia 1 way back. She literally came to my workplace, where I was putting in dozens of unpaid hours for an upcoming huge monitoring review and said, "We are going to the movies. Now."

I'm glad she did. It was fun, silly, and just what my overworked brain and body needed at the time.

So when Mamma Mia 2 was announced, there was no question my daughter and I would go see it. Only this time, with my granddaughter, too. Three generations, just like in the movie.

I'm glad we did.

Let me also say we were the youngest in the theater. It was filled with senior type couples. A group of senior ladies, obviously doing a 'girls afternoon out' sat about three rows behind us. They were almost better than the movie! The SANG (one was WAY off key, and made me feel better about my shower-only singing) and laughed, gasped and cried. I loved their reactions.

But to the movie...which upfront, is fluffy, fun, and not plot heavy. It's not going to win 'serious film' awards. And it's not meant to do that. It's meant to reunite us with our favorite ABBA performing megastars. And give us a whole lot of fun.

And damn if it didn't make me also sob like a bloody baby and leave the theater with my face a mess.

There are several inconsistencies from the first film, such as the order in which young Donna meets her three young lovers. There are definite variations from the pictures MM1 Sophie was shown of the three men in MM1. 

The young Donna, Rosey, and Tanya are PERFECT. They play the roles so well they could actually BE themselves 20 years younger or older. It's truly incredible and a delight to see.

Many characters return, including the stick bearing older woman from MM1 and the cameo piano playing actual ABBA band member. Almost all the main characters are there, in their 5 (actual 10) yr older appearances but I missed Tanya's young suitor, Harry's Greek paramour, and especially Sophie's two best friends from MM1. And I missed the 'big' hits...though I do love how the movie plays the instrumental songs from MM1 in the background as we see the older versions.

The 'present day' story picks up around five years after the ending of Mamma Mia 1. Sophie and Skye have traveled the world and now she's back on the 'little island'. Skye is in New York, training at the 'finest hotel' available (it's not named, probably a wise diplomatic intentional move). Sam lives on the island as well. Bill is in Sweden receiving and award and Harry is contract negoiating in Japan. Sophie has worked hard to make the hotel Donna bought with money Aunt Sophia (and Sophie's namesake) left her. She's made it the perfect 'romantic getaway' discussed in the first film. It's really gorgeous and made me want to take a Greek vacation.

And during a breakup phone call between Skye and Sophie, we learn a shocking twist that literally made our entire theater scream, "NO!" MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD>>>>>

Sophie and Sam especially, are in deep mourning. Sam plays this so very well, to the point you feel his pain. Sophie plays her grief and reasons for staying on the island forever, fulfilling her mother's dream, also very well. Some at the start, in the middle, and particularly at the end. We see Tanya and Rosey experiencing and dealing with their sorrow with Rosey crying anytime a certain name is mentioned.

Donna, you see, has died about a year ago. And Sophie is determined to make her proud and finish the work Donna began making the hotel all Donna dreamed it could be. As Sam recalls his 'dancing queen', we go back 20 years, to the very young Donna, Rosey, and Tanya at their college graduation.

The ceremony is a HOOT. Shocking, surprising, and would never be allowed now. We hear the song, 'I Kissed the Teacher", a lesser known (at least to me) ABBA hit. Then Donna decides to go off and see the world, with a bit of reference to finding places for the girl band to perform.

Paris is first, where she meets young Harry. The scene where they perform 'Waterloo' in the middle of a Paris cafe made me giggle. Waterloo didn't go so well for the French as I recall, so singing a song about it in Paris...well. The inclusion of all races, genders, and abilities is shown in the dance scene, with a solo of a woman in a wheelchair (which to me looked way too modern to be in a 1970's cafe, but that's nitpicky). 

Second is Greece and the 'little island' where Donna finds the 'old farmhouse' (which is literally falling apart) that will become the hotel, a trapped horse, plus Bill and Sam. Bill she meets after she misses the ferry and he sails her to the island, doing his best to 'score' and failing. There's an adorable scene of 'true love' with another couple who come back later in the movie.

Donna and Sam have instant chemistry, and she ends up spending his week with him. Then Sam leaves to fulfill his engagement and she's broken. In every way. She finds Sophia, Sophia's bar & band owning son,(they are...not great, and funny as heck) and wrangles a gig for the girl band. 

Rosey and Tanya arrive for the gig and do their best to cheer up broken hearted Donna, including Tanya shoving her toward Bill (who has returned) even as Rosey lusts after him for herself. We learn here Rosey wanted Bill from the start, and only stepped aside for Donna. THAT's a TRUE friend. Rosey solution to disappointment and heartbreak? CAKE. 

Did I mention I most identify with Rosey? She's a writer, after all, and she thinks a cake is an answer to everything. I love that woman.
(See, I think of them as people, as a reader/viewer should, not as a 'character' even as my logical mind tells me they are simply characters, I still feel I KNOW them. THAT, my dears, is the mark of great writing).

Bill is her 'rebound'. It's obvious, but she also likes him, in a friend type way. I was disappointed Rosey didn't get her chance, to be honest, but then that would have been a huge deviation from MM1.

Donna learns she's pregnant as Sophie, present day, learns she is, too. Present day is a mess, with the planned huge re-opening Gala for the hotel canceled and ruined by a huge storm. All seems lost...then Bill and Harry arrive with dozens of local fishermen. The scene with the two of them recreating the iconic scene from Titanic is one of the funniest of the movie.

Here is 'Dancing Queen' and it's spectacular. The hotel folks are bobbing and dancing and the those in the ships are moving and grooving. Those in the hotel join those from the boats on the dock, where Sophie and Sam reunite with Harry, Bill, and Skye. Rosey and Bill are on the rocks: she just can't abide his roaming eye any longer.

The party is on...and an unexpected visit from Grandma (Cher) makes it complete, with tons of music, a lost love found, 2 characters on the rocks achieving smooth sailing again and Skye declaring Sophie is more important than anything, and the announcement of Sophie's pregnancy.

As Sophie gets her lifelong chance to be part of 'Donna and the Dynamos', we see young Donna giving birth aided by Aunt Sophia. It's powerful, tear-jerking, and really makes the movie more special and less 'fluff'.

Cher performs 'Fernando' aided by epic fireworks.

But the best scene to me, though I sobbed through it....

As Donna in the past walks to the little chapel on the top of the hill to christen baby Sop, Sophie and all in the present do the same for Sophie's son. It's powerful and absolutely heartbreaking as Donna, from MM1 appears seen only by Sophie. She and Sophie sing together as mothers.

Oh. My. God. Tearing up again as I type this.

Stay for the end scene song, with the whole cast, including Cher and Meryl S. There's also an end fo credits scene that is cute and funny.

So all in all, go see Mamma Mia 2, and take tissues. 

Now I'm off to create characters who make my readers feel they are real.....

Friday, June 8, 2018

Featured Author Today: In her 'real life', she's battling cancer. Please help support her fight and enjoy some great stories at the same time!

Lorelei's Lyric (Southern Elemental Guardians Book 1) is currently free on Amazon:






Blurb:

If Lorelei sings, someone will die.

Her beautiful voice once cost a life. Still, music is her passion. What’s a mermaid to do? Runoff and live vicariously through mortal musicians!

Unfortunately, gorgeous rocker Vance Idol almost succumbs to her siren call after his show in Nashville. Not that Vance cares—not since his girlfriend’s fatal overdose left him with a supersized death wish. Lorelei makes it her mission to undo the damage and help this talented and charismatic man on the eve of his band’s big break.

But saving a mortal man is a dangerous proposition. Lorelei could far too easily lose her heart, and quite possibly her immortality, during her American holiday. Bad boy Vance might be worth the risk.

Can their love survive his attitude, her fins, and an evil Pixie with a grudge against them both?

***

Winner of InD'Tale Magazine's 2016 Recognition of Novel Excellence Award, Paranormal Romance

Honorable Mention in the 2017 North Street Book Prize Competition

Lorelei’s Lyric is brilliantly clever with its unique blend of Southern humor and poignant mermaid mythology. Modern-day Siren, Lorelei, traveling to The Music City of Nashville? One helluva great premise that hooked me at page one! I fell in love with this shape-shifting Siren and her romance with aspiring rocker Vance Idol. One of those rare books that will have you laughing and sighing and crying, touching your heart just as great music touches your soul. A must read!

—Debbie Herbert, USA Today bestselling author of the Dark Seas series (Siren’s Secret, Siren’s Treasure, and Siren’s Call)

Lorelei's Lyric made me swoon! A perfect blend of mermaid magic and rock-star grit, Sieders' charming, irresistibly sexy tale gives us a love story to believe in. I can't wait to read more!

—Jeri Smith-Ready, Award-winning author of Requiem for the Devil, the WVMP Radio series, and the Shade Trilogy

***



Chasing the Dead: is a 99c UF story


Blurb:

SHORT STORY OF THE SOUL BROKER SERIES
The Reaper Hungers Like No Other.
An old enemy from the other side of afterlife management cheated him out of his last soul. Now the Reaper seeks an ordinary meal of desperation, anguish, and despair from the next human on his docket. Unfortunately, interference in the way of a meddlesome mortal woman thwarts his plan.
Naturally, this woman must pay. But Vivian Bedford is no ordinary mortal. Her interference in his reaping is decidedly supernatural. Lazarus Darkmore has been on the hunt for a challenge, an exquisitely damaged soul from whom he can siphon darkness. Vivian could be that soul.
Then again, if she possesses the power of a Soul Broker, she could prove more valuable—if she survives the Reaper’s gauntlet.
***

Lazarus Darkmore is a Reaper and is looking for a meal of desperation, anguish, and despair by a mortal woman called Vivian Bedford gets in the way. He is intrigued and looking forward to finding out more about her as she appears to be useful with the power of a Soul Broker.

This is a short story prequel to the Soul Broker series. It very nicely sets the scene for what is to come and having read the first two books in the series it was nice to have a bit more of the background. It was well written and I think gave a great taster for anyone who is new to the series. If you enjoy this you will definitely enjoy the series.

—Mandy Parmenter, MP Book Reviews





Thursday, May 31, 2018

Book 4 in the 
Weddings by C & C Series!

TAKE ON ME

It's with great pleasure and delight I introduce you to the next Weddings by C & C book. These two found their way into my heart and patiently bore with me through the months and years, a complete rewrite, and several twists and turns to their tale being told.

And they tell it well if I do say so myself -s-

While Books 1-3 in the series focused on the Founders of C & C and their children, the next few books are focused more on friends and families. 

In 'Take on Me', you meet six very handsome cowboys and a landscape much different from tiny Abbyville, NC or Hilo, Hawaii. You'll also meet one determined 'runaway bride' and the World's Sexiest Man.

Cowboy, anyone?


But I jump ahead...

Tom Williamson defines 'megastar'. At the top of his field, his face, body, and lifestyle is known to millions. He appears to have it all, and more. It takes a literal woman falling into his lap to realize all is not what it seems.

Tom just needed a brief dip...


Kirsten is Tom's ultimate fangirl. His face decorates her fantasies, sleeping and awake. Him, in the flesh, asking her for dinner is a dream come true. The undeniable chemistry between them leads to a series of spiraling events that charts the globe and could, maybe, possibly, lead to the love of a lifetime.

Tom and Kir's story is, I admit, partially grounded in real life, as all good stories are. Don't we wish the object of our dreams would look at us, talk to us, give us an unforgettable night? Maybe, just possibly, a kiss or a LOOK?

My fangirl crush. One of them -w-


For me, it's the actor who plays Sherlock and Doctor Strange. If he EVER turned those eyes on me....*fans*. The odds are greater for me to win the Powerball lottery than for that ever to happen.

But for Kir...it becomes all too real, all too fast. And it's not a dream.

I also have a big family. It's rewarding, loving, infuriating and hell on earth sometimes. For Tom, who has never truly known what 'family' is, meeting Kir's 6 brothers is eye-opening. And when events turn tragic, Family is created in ways no one could foresee.

Bit of a subtle (as a brick) hint...


Like Tom, I reinvented myself to escape a pain I couldn't face. It takes courage to start fresh from nothing. It takes compassion to understand a person who could.

And I may not be a 'megastar' but I realize how life on the 'other side' of the spotlight is NOT fame, glory, and gold. It's intrusive, it's demeaning, and it can be deadly. Many relationships can't survive the glare of the media. Tom and Kirsten will be tested in ways neither could imagine.



And I have dreams and goals. Don't we all? I freely acknowledge what I saw for myself at age 20, even age 30, is FAR from where I actually am. Dreams and Goals can, and really should change. 

As one of my favorite Doctors says, (sorta paraphrasing here) "We all change, move on, become different people, and that's okay. As long as we don't forget the people we used to be."

I'm not who I dreamed I would be. I'd like to think I'm better. I didn't meet all my Goals (yet!) but I also took paths and found people, experiences, places, LIFE I never expected. And I'm a better person for it all.
But I never forget that girl who once lay on a hot Summer ground under a Carolina blue sky and dreamed. Because even if she grew up, she's still very much alive and kicking inside me.

I'll always seek the Love Story -s-


And that girl is jumping up and down screaming with delight at giving you 'Take on Me' to read. Let me know what you think of Tom and Kirsten's incredible journey. 

Now...find a quiet place, fix the pillows, have some chocolate nut clusters at hand, and take a wild flight with Tom and Kirsten. We've got a story to share with you.





Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal Wedding!!!!!

It's the Day after THE Wedding of the Year! 

Is there anything as spectacular as a Royal Wedding? As one commenter stated, "This will be the last Royal Wedding of this scale, and this close to the throne for many years to come". The next 'close to the throne' Royal Wedding will be when William and Catherine's kids get married... or when Harry & Meghan's do. (Yes, Princess Eugenie gets married in 5 months, but she's 8th in the line, and unlikely to be Queen). So we all HAD to enjoy this one, right?

Just a few of my thoughts on the Royal Wedding:


·         William and Harry are really Thor & Loki in disguise. 
Seriously, think about this a second:
                ~~ William is going to be King, just like Thor
                ~~ Harry is a jokester, just like Loki
                ~~ They are both sons of the King
                ~~ Heimdall (Idris Elba) was at Harry/Loki’s wedding



·         William looks most like Diana but Harry has the most personality like Diana

And she would be so, so proud of her boys


·         Harry is going bald the same way William and Charles did!
See?

·If Your Groom/Husband/Boyfriend/Partner doesn't look at You like THIS, get rid of him:

· If You don't look at your Husband/Groom/Boyfriend/Partner THIS way, you should leave:



·         LOVED the flowers and the tributes to Diana



· The Queen and Prince Phillip...wow. In their 90's and the LOOKS:
Married 70(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and a half years and the way she looks at him like he hung the moon just for her. Bodes well for the new royal couple, doesn't it?
England has a Class Act in their Queen. 

·         It’s a WEDDING, not an ‘event’ and they made it a WEDDING not an event

Whether you like the address from the Minister or not, whether you liked the informality, or venue, or order of service, or the way the bride walked herself down the aisle, or anything else, it was first and foremost Harry & Meghan's Wedding. And it ROCKED because they made it theirs.

·         OMG Princess Charlotte is a total doll!!!

How can anyone not go, "Awwwwwwww"?

·         Keeping the small kids in a separate room probably helped them behave so well
They were in the back room, not the front venue, and probably allowed to fidget and talk and move...all the things young kids naturally do. If you have young kids in the wedding, this is the way to do it.


·         Everyone should have a moment that makes them look like the pageboy when the trumpets played

Just look at his expression! He's delighted and surprised and amazed and happy. We ALL deserve a moment like this, don't you think?
         
·Horses are like kids and they don’t always do what they ‘should’

"I ain't gonna do it and you can't make me! Come on, let's party a little, shall we? I've been standing at attention for two %^&* hours!!!"


·         GINGERS RULE!!!
Always :)

I didn't like her dress. Sorry, folks, but it was plain, and to me, sort of ugly. Not at all 'Princess-y', but if she liked it, that's all which matters :)
I didn't like the cake either. It looked like someone forgot how to make LAYERS and so they had to be separated. NOT my idea of a wedding cake at all. And where was the topper???
I sorta liked their 'real' names were used only right at the beginning and then their 'go by' names were used after. It was 'them'.

What did You Like/Dislike about the Royal Wedding?