Meeting Robert E. Lee

When I was in 1st grade, I got up at 4:30 every morning. I put on my barn clothes, and after a quick bowl of Cream of Wheat, went off to milk cows with my parents. My teacher was also my neighbor, so when I put my head on my desk in the afternoon for a little nap, she let me rest. It didn’t harm my education. In fact, I often revived the technique during my college years to get through boring lectures.

I sometimes slept through the bits of free time we were given, but when I didn’t, I discovered two things that shaped my life.

The first was a puzzle of the United States. I practiced that puzzle until I could put it together without having to consider the pieces. The entire world became a puzzle to me; I studied maps until I could put the different colored pieces together in my mind. Unfortunately, this never helped me in a Spelling Bee, where I always found myself sitting down after the first round. Geography Bees weren’t a thing yet.

The second was a book: Meet Robert E. Lee, hardly the reading material you’d find in a 1st grade classroom these days.

I expect 1st grade book collections have changed since 1973.

It’s hard to pinpoint when love affairs begin, but the fact I remember this hints that it had something to do with kindling my interest in history. I wanted to know more about long-gone people and the lives they led. More than that, I wanted to read.

I checked out of the library a book called Rogers’ Rangers and the French & Indian War. It was a middle school book, and despite my not comprehending it very well, I read the whole thing. It inspired me to play French and Indian War games in my Cap’n Crunch – the yellow pieces were the French and the Crunch Berries were British. The milk was a reminder that I had to get up at 4:30 next morning.

I doubt this cover will be featured on the front of next month’s Scholastic catalog.

Why do I mention these things? Partly, it’s because I don’t have anything more interesting to mention this week. It’s also because all our boys will be in elementary or preschool next year. I’m hoping each of them will find something in school that makes his little synapses crackle and fires him with a hunger for knowledge.

It would be nice if whatever excites them inspires them to read, but maybe they’ll learn in different ways. The boys like maps and Big Brother has revered Mr. Lincoln since he was three, but it doesn’t have to be Geography or History that sparks them, though it would be nice to raise children with an appreciation for what came before them.

Speaking of what came before, I’m grateful General Lee lived a fascinating life that drew me into the past. I’m happy his team lost, but I don’t think he would harm today’s children any more than he harmed me. Rogers’ Rangers on the other hand, those guys were rough, firing off all their long words at a 6th grade reading level. They almost took me down.

 

 

One day in Berlin

I have a new favorite author. So far, he only writes short stories, but that’s fine with me, as he has already established himself as a favorite visual artist of mine. The kid is multi-talented.

Here is one of his latest literary offerings.

Berlin

Since the original may be difficult to see, I’ll type it out:

One day in Berlin there where [sic] nine people playing football. Then uncle Bob acsadentliy [sic] therw [sic] the ball at a ponty [sic] fence and the ball went pop! They went to a store but the footballs were all gone. Then they went home to look for a pump and patch but the stuff was lost. They where[sic] in bad luck. Then they went to Jakes house and they played catch. the end

In honor of discovering this new talent, I will now hold an impromptu book club meeting regarding this work. Let’s dig deeper into the text.

There’s a surprising amount of mystery surrounding this episode. For example, why is it set in Berlin? Well, actually, that’s not so much a mystery if you have followed this artist and seen the pickelhaube and Prussian flag requests in his Christmas letters to Santa, like I have. Berlin is the capital of Germany. That says it all.

Were they playing American football or European football (soccer)? We can’t be sure, but the fact that uncle Bob threw the ball indicates that, unless he was goalie or was throwing the ball in from out of bounds, it was likely American football. Also, the fact that he threw it at D-fence, or in German, Die-Fence, indicates he probably owned a cardboard cutout of a picket border which he took to NFL games.

Also, all the footballs being gone from the store lends evidence to it being an American football, as the German sporting goods shops would less likely be out of soccer balls.

Who misplaced the pump and patch? This is the question a father asks every time something goes flat. No one ever takes responsibility, and no one ever will.

Did Jake have another ball at his house, or did they make the best of things and play catch with the flat ball? I like to think Jake demonstrated admirable character development by showing his eight comrades that inflation is just a state of mind. The world thinks you can’t play catch with a popped ball. You can submit to that kind of limited thinking, or you can change the world. Way to go, Jake! You are a true football hero.

Sometimes the answer to great problems (global strife, world hunger, playing sports with an uninflated ball) are all about shifting the perceptions of the major players.

This is an uplifting story of human triumph. It shows that you can do anything your mind allows you, like playing with a popped ball, or even hyphenating and splitting single-syllable words onto multiple lines.

I think I’m going to be a fan of this guy for a long time.

 

Our usual boyhood shenanigans are interrupted for this important announcement

It seems like it’s taken forever, but it’s finally here. I can now hold in my hand a copy of A Housefly in Autumn that doesn’t have the word PROOF stamped in bold letters across the last page. This is the real deal. The book is live.

Now all I have to do is sell it. There should be a richer reward for writing, editing, formatting, and generally coordinating the production of a novel than the big prize of having to persuade people to buy it. I mean, yeah, there’s the sense of accomplishment, but writers are dreamers. They have big, glorious dreams about their work. Rarely does the dream culminate with nobody buying the book. The reality may end that way, but not the dream.

So let’s not worry about reality for a minute; let’s focus on the dream. The dream is that all kinds of people, from all over, get behind the book and spread the word to other people I could never reach on my own.

If you are inclined to help with this dream, I am grateful for any assistance. Whether it be through social media, word of mouth, or smoke signals, I’ll take it. I need all the help I can get spreading the word.

My baby can read!

Big Man is first in line to get his copy.

Here is some information about the book.

Title: A Housefly in Autumn

Genre: Young Adult and up. I’ve tried to create something that both young adults and adults could enjoy while attempting to do some things that are different from the current trends in YA fiction. Time will tell if different is a good thing in this instance.

Synopsis: At 17, Anders Christiansen was a young man overflowing with potential. All his teachers believed he was destined to blossom into a leading man of letters, enjoying a life of rich rewards.

That was before the accident.

Now, Anders’s great talent lies fallow. He can’t produce the complex ideas he once did. His thoughts are slow and his words simple. The world holds little promise for him anymore.

Struggling to build a meaningful life out of the wreckage of his dreams, Anders learns the value of simple treasures. Loyalty, devotion, and even sacrifice hold rewards of their own to renew hope after tragedy. Love can cause hurt, but he who gives love when he hurts the most will reap a joy outweighing the pain.

Anders gives meaning to his life in the way he spends it. He will face grave danger to spare those he loves, and though his gifts be diminished, he will share them freely with even the humblest of children. Though never sought, Anders’s reward is immense and enduring, showing the millions of reasons to go on sharing even the simplest of gifts.

Purchase Links:

Paperback

Amazon (U.S.A.)

http://www.amazon.com/Housefly-Autumn-Scott-Nagele/dp/1502492954/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434470691&sr=1-1&keywords=scott+nagele

Barnes & Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-housefly-in-autumn-scott-nagele/1122120147?ean=9781502492951

Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Housefly-Autumn-Scott-Nagele-ebook/dp/B00ZPQ05AO/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1435071078

I haven’t told you how good the book is because you should never trust the author to tell you about the quality of his product. You can trust that I’ve poured years of hard work into this book. Whether that’s enough is for the reading public to decide. Thank you for helping me reach them.

It’s Absolute Mayhem! And this time, my children are not the cause

When fellow blogger, Kelly Suellentrop, first asked for help spreading the word about her new children’s book, Absolute Mayhem, I vacillated. I’m playing catch-up on my own writing these days and I didn’t want to commit to something if I lacked the time to follow through.

Then, I remembered how daunting it is to navigate the process of self-publishing your first book. How do you take a stack of paper with words or drawings on the sheets and turn that pile into an actual book that people can buy? (And I’m not talking about a comb-bound course packet from the Kinko’s copy center.) It’s not an easy process the third or fourth time you do it. The first time, it’s a mind-blowing mystery. To borrow from Kelly’s book title, it’s Absolute Mayhem.

It’s a lonely, confusing process, and anyone who makes it through deserves congratulations and support from the independent author community.

I signed up to help.

And then I had that moment. If you interact with writers at all, you know that moment. It goes like this in your head: “Oh my God! What if I don’t like the book? I’ve just agreed to blog about it, but what if I hate it? How will I get out of it? I know. I’ll tell her my blog is busy washing its hair.”

Before I opened the electronic proof file Kelly sent, I crossed my fingers and pleaded, “Please be good. Please be good. Nobody ever buys the hair washing excuse.”

Then, I opened the file and forgot all about making excuses, because Absolute Mayhem is an awesome children’s book. I don’t have to mince words. I don’t have to finesse anything. I get to relax and tell the truth, which is simply that I really like this book.

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Absolute Mayhem is the story of Lulu and Milo, siblings who dutifully do their schoolwork and chores all week long in anticipation of the fun they expect to have on the weekend. During the week, they rely upon their imaginations. But on the weekend, it’s Absolute Mayhem as they live their dreams.

I love the artwork in this book – not for any technical reasons, because I have no artistic talent, so I wouldn’t know a technical reason if it bit me in the deep lower back. The art here has an endearing playfulness. It’s the funny, little touches, like the rabbit spraying air freshener around the doggy doo in the back yard, that make the illustrations special.

The story is relatable to both kids and adults, a target that many children’s books miss. As a parent of three, I’ve been exposed to approximately 3.2 metric tons of children’s literature and this one is up there with the best of them.

Absolute Mayhem on Amazon.com

Kelly Suellentrop’s author website

Kelly Suellentrop’s blog: are you finished yet?