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BOOK SIX Cover Reveal

For your viewing pleasure, I give you the cover to FULL CIRCLE:  Book Six of the Adventure Chronicles:

ebook Cover6

The book officially releases on August 26, but you can pre-order the Kindle ebook now.  The pre-release price for the ebook is only 99 cents, which will go up after the release date, so jump on it now!

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Preview #3 of Full Circle

The courtroom was cold.  Jamie guessed that the temperature was set low to battle the intense, August heat.  He took a seat next to Mr. and Mrs. Brown in the front pew.  He prayed silently for Shawna as she made her way to the podium where she would speak.

The town council consisted of a number of business owners, including the town’s only resident physician, Dr. Zimmerman.  Notably a pro-life doctor, Jamie knew that he was interested in what was going to be said.

Madeline Sarrandon, the only outspoken atheist on the council, owned a bar on the outskirts of town that lay on the opposite side as Jamie’s house.  She scowled as Shawna took her place at the podium.  “Why do we have to listen to an adolescent in this case?  Aren’t we capable of coming to a decision on this issue with the facts we have?”

Dr. Zimmerman looked at the councilwoman and replied, “The petition requested Ms. Weston specifically to argue this case.  As the valedictorian of her class, we feel that she’s educated enough to present the con side of rebuilding the clinic.”

Shawna set her papers before her.  After calmly adjusting her notes, she looked toward the council and met each member’s gaze.  Her eyes settled on Mrs. Sarrandon, who returned Shawna’s stare with an icy glare of her own.  Jamie was heartened to note that Shawna’s gaze did not waiver.

Finally, the valedictorian began.  “Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I stand before you today—as a registered voter—on the issue of morals.  I have been asked to refrain from mentioning my religious beliefs to you, so I will not discuss Jesus Christ, the Messiah Who gave His life so that all who believe in Him can have eternal life.”

Madeline tensed visibly, her eyes glaring flaming daggers at the teen.  Jamie could barely note a quiet snicker from Mr. and Mrs. Brown.

Shawna’s face remained passive as she continued.  “Of the 824 registered voters in this town, 743 have signed this petition,” she held up a stack of papers, “stating that they oppose the reconstruction of the abortion clinic.  Many of these same people signed the initial petition and were told that it was too late to back out of the project at that time.”  She set the papers back on the podium.  “We know about it in advance this time.”

She stepped out from behind the podium, her hands clasped behind her back, and continued.  “Those of us who signed this petition—over eighty percent of our town’s population—did not appreciate having the abortion clinic snuck into our town under our noses.  We feel, rightly so, that abortion is not health care.  It is sacrificing the most innocent of us to the deity of Convenience.  We expect you, dear members of the council, to take this opportunity to correct a mistake . . . a mistake that has cost the lives of too many innocents.”

Jamie was truly amazed by the reaction that Madeline Sarrandon was having to Shawna’s speech.  The councilwoman’s face was stern.  Her eyes flared.  The veins in her temples bulged and her right hand squeezed her ink pen dangerously.

Shawna cleared her throat.  “In short, ladies and gentlemen, anyone who votes to rebuild the abortion clinic will find a new person occupying his or her place on the council after the next elections.”

The deafening quiet that followed Shawna’s final proclamation was broken by the hard snap of a breaking pen.

 

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Legacy Blog #34: Senior Trip and Graduation

My Beloved Daughter,

My senior year was the first time that I had done much travelling.  Up to this point, I had gone with your grandparents to Mississippi to see family, Alabama to visit my great-grandfather after he had a stroke, Tennessee to take Grandpa Chuck to catch the boat and pick him up, and Arkansas when we moved there for the last part of my eighth grade year.  Other than that, most of our family that we visited lived in Missouri—St. Charles and its surrounding areas—so we didn’t really leave the state that much.

For my senior class trip, I went to the Bahamas for the first time.  We had our (admittedly forgettable) Senior Prom at a hotel in Poplar Bluff, where we were the first class that was served roast beef, rather than steak (we even stopped at Dominos and got a pizza on our way home).  This was the Saturday night after finals.  I got home at just after midnight, climbed into bed and closed my eyes.  The three hours that I slept seemed like nothing before your Grandma Pat was waking me up to get ready to leave.

Grandpa Chuck dropped me off at the school at around 4 AM, where I caught the bus with your Uncle Evan and the rest of our class.  It was the same bus that picked me up for school every morning and it drove those of us who were going on our class trip to Lambert airport in St. Louis.  We caught a TWA flight to Orlando, where we took a chartered bus to the port in Cape Canaveral.  I don’t recall us having to wait too long to board.  And so it began.

Our boat was the Mardi Gras.  Interesting history, this ship has.  It was the first ship of the Carnival Cruise line and was smaller than the one that you went on with us this past February.  The doors to the cabins had a raised door jamb that was, I think, to block water from crossing the threshold.  Our trip was the last voyage of this grandfather of the cruise line.  It was moved to another location after this, where it was given a different name and served a few more years before being scrapped a few years later.

Originally, your Uncle Evan and I had the only room with just two students.  Another student, Steve, found himself sharing our room, however, when his roommates all picked up girls that they wanted to entertain in their cabin.

The first day, Monday morning, we awoke in Freeport.  The three of us found a cab and did some exploring.  Your Uncle Evan and Steve rented some jet-skis and Evan lost his hat in the ocean.  I remember the man who rented the skis, in his Bahamian accent, telling Evan that, if he wrecked the jet-ski, he would kick his . . . well, you get the picture.  Our class sponsors—the teachers who went with us—were Mr. and Mrs. Hager.  We even ran into them on the island while they were out exploring, sharing a limo with them on our way back to the ship.

We got back to the Mardi Gras later in the day to discover that our friend, Candy, had explored the island alone, even having some stranger propose to her.  We asked her to join us the following day.  We tried to pass it off as being protective of her but, in all honesty, it was just cool to have a pretty girl in our group.

Nassau was much different in the early nineties than it was when you were there.  The thatched-roof market was a different one than the one we visited this year.  Sometime between then and 2012, a hurricane had wiped out most of the island and many of the people had to rebuild.  I bought the first bamboo recorder that I had ever owned.  I still have a pic of it in a scrapbook somewhere, with me playing it and wearing a neon yellow cap that said “HEY, MON!!!!” on it.

That night was the captain’s cocktail party.  We all had to dress up.  I wore a blue blazer and navy tie.  I have a picture in that same scrapbook.

Come to think of it, I hope that scrapbook didn’t get damaged the last time our basement flooded.

That night, I tried wine for the first time.  I ordered a nonalcoholic wine, only to be dismayed to find that it contained .004% alcohol content.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I ordered it.  Truly nonalcoholic wine would just be grape juice.  And I wouldn’t have needed to pay fourteen bucks a bottle for that.

The following day was the sea day, as the boat slowly made its way back to the States.  We just kind of explored the ship, played some games, and even went to the gym.  I rode an exercise bike . . . worst twenty seconds of my life.  Heh.

We had two women who were with us as chaperons.  I think they were the mothers of two of the girls in our class.  Now I’ve never been much of a social person, although I have, admittedly, come out of my shell quite a bit since I was a teen.  But I definitely was having a good time on this trip, even if I didn’t show it in the way that others thought that I should.  But these two women decided to do something to liven up my trip.  So they told our waiter, at some point when I wasn’t at the table, that it was my birthday.  Imagine my shock to have a birthday cake brought out and to have the wait staff serenade me—two months after I had turned eighteen—during our last dinner.  The entirety of my class gathered around the table, including my high school crush (who shall, at least in writing, always remain nameless).  Having all of those eyes on shy little me absolutely MORTIFIED me.

It even made it into the yearbook.  Ugh.

The next morning, we roused ourselves from bed and had a continental breakfast on the Lido deck before disembarking and heading back to the airport, where we wandered around for three hours before catching our flight home.  They used to have a Universal Studios store in the airport, where I bought your Grandma Pat a pack of “Bates Motel” matches as a souvenir, since she loved the original Psycho and had watched it in the theater when she was thirteen.  I think she actually used them, too, not grasping the point of a rare souvenir.

We got back to Van Buren late on Thursday night and I was so sleep-deprived from the trip that I slept all day on Friday.  Jack stopped by after school, since everyone but the seniors still had class.

Saturday—one week after my Senior Prom—we had our graduation.  I walked out with your Uncle Evan and I remember your Grandpa Chuck finding a good place to take pictures.  The Music/Math teacher, Greg Bruton, sang a song (I wish I could remember what it was).  The valedictorian gave an incredibly moving speech, followed by the salutatorian’s poem.

And then it was over.  I was no longer a student at VBHS in Van Buren, MO.  The Dare club sponsored “Project Graduation,” which was intended to keep us from going out and getting drunk, by taking us bowling and roller skating.  We each were allowed to bring one friend, so Evan and I brought Jack and Josh King, respectively.

I can’t really explain the emotions of that time, other than to say that I found myself missing high school.  It’s strange that I started out my freshman year loathing the place, only to grow to miss it.  I’m confident that it had much to do with the friendships that I gained during that time.  I still keep in touch with some of those friends.  As I’ve gotten older, living in the Greater St. Charles area, I also find myself missing Van Buren, itself.  Funny that I wanted to leave it so badly until I had done so.

But I have much more to tell you about my time after high school before I can tell you about leaving my hometown.

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Preview #2 of Full Circle

Fishing the house key from his pocket, Jamie walked past his friends and cousins and unlocked the door, pushing it open.  Stale air poured out, surprisingly hotter than the August air outside.

“Whew!”  Jamie backed up from the door.  “I hope the power is still on.”

Buster stepped past Jamie and walked inside.  A flipping of the light switch inside of the front door turned on the light in the center of the living room.  Looking at Jamie, he said, “I guess that answers that.”

The teens entered the house, standing just inside the front door and looking at the mess.  The drawers in the entertainment center had been thrown open and all of the VHS tapes and Super Nintendo cartridges had been scattered in front of the television.

Jamie’s eyes narrowed.  “What happened here?”

“Dude,” muttered Dave, “Star never kept a messy house.”

Glancing toward Maria’s bedroom, Jamie said, “Spread out and check the other rooms and see if they’ve been trashed, too.”

He headed for her bedroom.  The dresser drawers had been dumped onto the floor and her jewelry box had been ransacked.  The mattress and box springs had been thrown off of the bed and now stood leaning against the far wall, next to the bed frame.

“What in the world happened in here?”

“Dude!” he heard Dave call.  “The bathroom looks the same!”

“The kitchen, too!” yelled Buster.

Then, an unfamiliar man’s voice yelled in terror as Jamie heard something heavy roll down the stairs.  Charging into the living room, he found an unconscious form lying at the base of the steps that led to the second floor.  A ski mask covered the man’s head and he wore a black sweat suit, despite the muggy, summer heat.

Yoshi stood over the man.

“What happened?” Jamie asked her.

“This man attacked me at the top of the stairs,” she responded.

Dave, Buster and Pete regrouped in the room with them.  Apparently noting something on the prone man’s back, Buster leaned over and pulled the man’s shirt up to reveal that his back was covered in tattoos.  Ranging from dragons, to Japanese demons, to samurai, the ink covered all parts of his skin.

Yoshi’s eyes widened in shock.

“What, dudette?” asked Dave.  “What is all’o this?”

She looked up at him and said, “This is big trouble!”

“Is he . . . Yakuza?” asked Jamie.

Buster’s eyes narrowed in confusion.  “What?”

“Japanese organized crime,” explained Yoshi.

Jamie looked at Buster.  “And I doubt that he was alone.”

“He wasn’t,” came a woman’s voice from the hall that led to the bathroom.

The teens all whirled around to find six men, dressed similarly to the first.  With them was a woman who was dressed in a ninja suit.  “We’ll be taking our comrade, now,” said the mysterious kunoichi.

“Why are you in our friend’s house?” demanded Yoshi.

The woman looked at her and, as her eyes settled on the dove pendant that she wore, she let out a barely audible gasp.  “Take them!” she yelled.

 

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Legacy Blog #33: The Beginnings of ADVENTURE

My Beloved Daughter,

I’ve always been a storyteller.  As a child, I would tell stories to my friends on the bus while we were on our way to school.  When I had free time, I’d handwrite stories, illustrating them with my own, unique (okay, terrible) artwork.  I even drew my own comic books about my characters.  I had notebooks filled with these stories and comic books about my action team known as Adventure.

By the time that I was in high school, some things had changed.  My love of ninja movies had molded these characters from generic fighters into individual martial artists.  Jamie, being my main character, became a ninja.

Also, I realized that my artwork just really . . . well, SUCKS.

My junior year of high school, my study hall was fourth hour.  My math class, which gave me the majority of my homework, was fifth hour.  I just couldn’t bring myself to wait until the next day to finish it, so I generally didn’t have anything to work on in my fourth hour.  Your Grandma Pat had bought me a binder that came with a flip-over notebook.  I decided to write stories in it.

First of all, I plotted out a more realistic story than what I had written as a child.  Flying cars, headquarters that transformed into giant robots, dimensional blasters . . . things like these were all removed.  The plot of the first book was still pretty silly, though.  The ninja clan that take over Jamie’s school do so because they’ve been hired by a strange cult of cat worshippers (their god was called Morris, after the cat from the 9 Lives commercials) to clear the town so they could build a society there.  As I wrote this story, I would allow my friends Terry, Josh, and J.D. read it.  They would give me input as I continued the story.

In addition to that story, I wrote two more.  The second story was about a ninja summit in Japan where the villain clan, at the time named the Togakura, sought their revenge.  In the third story, I created the street gang known as the Renegades.  Out of these two stories, I kept some things for my published novels.  The beginning fight scene of the second story, where Adventure fights off some men who are trying to rob George’s parents’ home, made it into Book Four . . . heavily changed to where only George fights the men.  The beginning fight scene of the third book, where Adventure battles the KKK to save an African-American family who are going to execute them, became the basis of Book Two.

Halfway through my junior year, I became a library assistant during my fourth hour.  While working in there, surrounded by all of those books, I mentally worked through plotlines.  I continued working in there during my senior year, which was the same year that I finally took a typing class.  Once I would get my work done, the librarian, Mrs. MacDowell, would let me practice my typing on the library computer.  She even gave me a 3.5 floppy disk to which I could save my writing.  It was at this time that I created Yoshi.  She started as a female clone of Jamie.   I also developed the backstory of the villain clan—still called the Togakura—being enemies of Jamie and Yoshi’s clan.

By the time that I had graduated from high school, I had finished the prologue and the first chapter of the book.  But that was only the beginning.  As we continue in this blog, I’ll also discuss more of my journey to become a published author.

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My Spoiler-Filled Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’ve had the privilege of getting to watch more movies than usual this summer.  I haven’t reviewed all of them, as I’m not a professional—or even amateur—movie reviewer.  Wonder Woman was my favorite of those that I’d watched.  Last night, I watched Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Spidey has been my favorite super hero since I was in the third grade.  So, you might ask if this movie dethroned Diana’s film.

*****SPOILERS!!!*****

I’m going to break this down into things that I liked and didn’t like.  Kind of like a “pros” and “cons” list, understanding that what I don’t like, some others may not mind.

THINGS THAT I LIKED:

The prior two Spider-man actors each nailed one aspect of the character.  Tobey Maguire was a perfect Peter Parker.  He nailed the nerdy Parker perfectly.  When he put the mask on, however, he just couldn’t manage to be Spider-man.  Garfield was the other way around.  He nailed the humor that defines Spidey perfectly.  But his Peter was too “cool”.  Tom Holland manages both parts very well.  The geekiness, from Peter’s incredible intelligence to the geekiness of helping to put together a Lego Death star, is shown awesomely.  Spidey’s humor is there, nailed in particular when he interrupts the ATM heist.

Seeing Spider-man involved in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe was a treat, and Iron Man’s inclusion played an important part.  As much as I hated how much Peter idolized Tony Stark in Civil War, this movie went a long way toward correcting that.

Peter’s relationship with his Aunt May was heartwarming.  While it didn’t mention Uncle Ben, it paid lip-service to the death when he tells his friend that, with everything else that his Aunt has gone through lately, he can’t put her through the pain of revealing his identity as Spider-man to her.

We also see, in more than one case, how being Spider-Man screws up his social life, affecting school and his time with the pretty girl.

THINGS THAT I DIDN’T LIKE

To start, everyone was spouting off about how this movie did such a great job of including minorities.  I’m not racist.  I think that having minority super heroes is a great thing.  Falcon rocks.  Black Panther is awesome.  If you made either of them white, there would be heck to pay.  Granted, they didn’t make Peter a different race but they made Liz, MJ (see below), and even Flash Thompson a minority.  If you want to include more minorities in the movie, create new characters for them, like Peter’s friend, Ned.

Flash Thompson is supposed to be the jock who torments Peter for being a nerd.  Here, he’s presented as Peter’s intellectual rival and it just doesn’t work.  Further, making him a minority actually kind of defeats what the filmmakers were trying to do.  “Hey, let’s make the mean bully a different race!”

They made Liz Allan the daughter of the Vulture because . . . plot, I guess?  Ugh.

Zendaya plays Michelle, who really has not reason to be there, other than being a total downer in the movie and to make an obscene gesture at Peter for no apparent reason.  On top of that, she tells us at the end of the movie that her friends call her “MJ,” leading us to the conclusion that, while her first name is not Mary, she is going to fill the role of Mary Jane in the MCU.  Another UGH.  MJ is lively, playful and passionate.  Michelle is none of these things.  If she were removed from the movie, you wouldn’t even miss her.

The movie had way more adult language than any of the prior Spidey films; compounded by the fact that some of it comes from the Web-head, himself.  There is a joke about Ned telling a librarian that he’s looking at internet porn.  Tony makes a flirty comment about Aunt May, inappropriate because it’s right in front of Peter.

The new suit was . . . well, a plot device.  It looks close enough to the original to appeal to those of us who are old fans.  But making it almost a clone of the Iron Man suit (minus the invulnerability) felt really out of place.  The talking computer, to whom he gave the name of Karen, had a pleasant enough voice.  But Peter being a financially-struggling super hero is one of the staples of the character and all of the tech in the suit kind of worked against this.  How many web shooter combinations did she say that he had?  Hmmm . . ..

To answer my question about whether this movie dethroned Wonder Woman, I enjoyed watching this movie.  I really did.  I would probably put it somewhere below the first two Raimi movies and just above the two Webb movies (and WAAAY above the third Raimi movie).  But I question many of the decisions that they made.  So WW remains my favorite of the summer.

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Legacy Blog #32: The Mobile Home

My Beloved Daughter,

My junior year of high school was more of an extension of the previous year than a year of its own.  The only thing that was really special about that year was that I took Speech II/Debate, in which more of my views began to move from the left side of the political spectrum to the right.  As mentioned in my last post, we had to learn to deal with Bridgette’s departure.

Mostly, it was just another year of waiting to see if my father would be legally declared disabled.  Senior year found us seeing him finally approved.  We didn’t see any payment, however, until the summer after I graduated.

We did see a payout, finally, from the long-awaited settlement regarding my father’s claim against the towing company that had fired him four years earlier—a paltry twenty thousand dollars, which seemed to me an insult, considering the condition of his lungs by this time.  However, my parents accepted the settlement so that they could purchase a mobile home to place on our land and get us out of the house that we had been living in that was, quite honestly, falling down around our heads.

Although the trailer wasn’t new, by any means, it was a million times better than what we had lived in before.  It was a single-wide with an extension that could be pushed out from the living room and kitchen to give it a small dining area and to make the living room a bit larger.  My parents put the family television there.

The master bedroom, obviously taken by my parents, had a bathroom connected to it.  The bedroom was a small, being large enough to hold your grandparents’ full-size bed, your Grandma Pat’s dresser, your Grandpa Chuck’s chest of drawers, and little else.  The bathroom was also pretty small, although it did have a bathtub and shower.

The kitchen was the nicest part of the trailer.  With the extended dining area, the kitchen was spacious with the stove and refrigerator on different walls and the sink in a counter that separated the kitchen from the living room.

The spare bedroom was tiny.  It was just large enough for a full-sized bed and nothing else.  A sliding closed door at least gave it the ability to store some things.

My bedroom, on the opposite end of the trailer, was about as large as your grandparents’ room.  I only had a twin bed, so I had plenty of room for other things.  I put my old TV in here, connected to my Super NES.  I covered the walls in Spiderman posters and Black Cat posters, as well as cut-outs of provocatively-dressed super heroines that I had cut out from various comic book magazines.

I know . . . PREREDEEMED MIND.

I gave up the trunk that had been used as a table in the old house, as it fell apart when we were trying to move it.  So, for gaming nights (which were, quite honestly, almost EVERY night), we all just sat around the room, creating epic tales that would entail entire generations of characters.

These games inspired me to take my writing to the next level.  More on that in the next post.

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