The Eagle's Quill

Quill pen

The voice behind Eagle Shadow



What I’m Doing

Time for an update! It’s been a different and unusual kind of year for our family after losing my husband and the boys’ dad last summer, lots of feelings to deal with while trying to find our new normal, establishing new traditions while reflecting on and honoring old ones. I’m quite proud of how our family is transitioning to the new route.

For now, I am working part-time where I used to long ago. But one of my immediate goals is to grow my editing business and provide stellar service to many more clients. (You’ll want to visit the page for Eagle Eye and learn about all the services available.)

I have some fantastic plans for my Eagle Shadow series in the future, but…patience, patience. My current creative project is a Southern Baptist comedy book. My inspiration for this project is a secret only a few people know! But suffice to say (or is it ‘sufficeth to say’ or ‘suffice it to say’? Not gonna research it now. Pick your favorite.) you’re gonna just love Pastor Eugene Romans and his colorful congregation. I have been attending a writers critique group since last fall, and so far they have loved what they’ve heard of it. Their great comments and laughter at all the right parts have been encouraging me—or shall we say egging me on. It’s been a great experience as well to hear their creative works read aloud and to learn how to critique. It makes us all better writers. I highly recommend that all authors find such a group.

I’ve also had the opportunity to read a lot more books than I’ve had in recent years (books of my choice, not for homeschool prep). Some of my favorites have been: a couple Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (you see me advancing in age-level as I go!), Lake Wobegon Days, The Secret, rereading The Jackrabbit Factor, and I’m currently on my way through Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders. My two most favorite and life-transforming books I’ve read this year (for obvious reasons) are: Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander and Talking to Heaven by James Van Praagh, both #1 New York Times bestsellers. What amazing books about the ‘other side’.

And recently, my boys and I realized a bucket list dream when we spent two weeks touring London and Paris. For purposes of this blog, I will just mention a couple of our literary adventures: the Treasures of the British Library exhibit where we saw the Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, and many other historical writings dating to the 300s A.D., and the famed Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris where we squeezed through tight hallways lined with tons of books and saw the tumbleweeds (writers-in-residence) at work. It was truly a wonderful gift for us to have this opportunity together and to make better memories than last year at this time of year. We came home with a bigger-world perspective and new resolve going forward. Till next time…

Reflections on a Full Circle

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about things in my life that have come full circle, and this month saw the conclusion of another very, very significant full circle. We had the last day of our Davis Academy homeschool, EVER, with Tristan graduating from 12th grade. Our last day of school each June has always been a game day and pizza lunch. This year I didn’t even think to get a pizza and I had to leave for work at 1:30, so it was an abbreviated game day. Taylor was to be home in the morning, though, and when I informed him it was the last day of homeschool ever, he wanted to join in. So we played Yahtzee, three rounds of Boggle, and six rounds (two apiece) of Balderdash, a favorite we’ve done every year. We threw together a lunch of canned chili, saltine crackers, and peach smoothie. And after the last game, we yelled our cheer that we’ve always ended game day with: “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s nefarious looks.” Then Taylor quietly said, “And thus ends homeschool.” And that was it, just like that one of the greatest experiences of my life was over.

So speaking of full circles, I remembered my very first day of homeschool, August 21, 2000 in Tennessee when Taylor started kindergarten. I woke up that day with butterflies in my stomach. I had planned and prepared for years (fleshing out a curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade when he was only two!), and now the day was finally here! Of course, kindergarten days were short and very simple—I had just worked myself up psychologically I guess. And I bet after our short first day was over, I probably spent the rest of the day going over it in my head again and again, reliving my little success and eager to do it again the next day. What completely different situations between the first and the last days—different homes in different states, no David here, me going to work every day, Taylor going to BYU, and Tristan doing school on his own. And that first day was so all-consuming to me. It was the absolutely biggest, most important thing in my life that day. I had no other job, I never even made any to-do lists. But the last day crept up on me with hardly any notice. I had to remind myself to squeeze some games onto my to-do list, while my mind was clouded with a million other things.

It seems that the last day should have had more fanfare than it did. I didn’t tell anyone at all about it because I knew it was a big deal only to me. And for that reason I wanted to hang onto the day for as long as I could. Because from recent experience, I knew what would happen. Soon it would become ‘yesterday’, then ‘the day before yesterday’, then way too soon it would seem like long ago. The whole 17 years would seem like a blip that flew by in a second. But don’t good times always fly by?

So it’s time to enter a new phase, to begin a new full circle for all of us, and with the preparation we’ve all had (because I’ve now been educated through the 12th grade three times!), it’ll be exciting to see where our separate and collective circles take us.

 

 

“Into Your Thought” by David Davis

A Valentine’s gem from David “Harley” Davis

If I send you a flower

You can throw it away

But the thought will not wither

Only linger

 I could send you a timepiece

And by your neglect stop its pace

But not forevermore

The thought will keep its own time

Vintage key and letterI could send you a note

And by your hand alone

It lay crumpled in waste

But the thought lay indelibly there

I could send you my heart

And unrequited it breaks

And no thought to heal

And I perish evermore.

“I’m Calm” — Tribute to David “Harley” Davis

Stay in the BoatThe world lost a great poet, photographer, and artist this year when my husband, David “Harley” Davis, passed away in July from complications resulting from leukemia. How I miss his talent and creativity, his uncanny ability to find and bring home the unusual and rare antiques, and introduce the rest of us to ideas and worlds we never knew existed. While going through his many treasures and writings this summer, it was especially touching for me to come across poems he’d written that I’d never read before, including this one, a message directly to me from eternal worlds. What better way to pay tribute on my blog, I thought, than by sharing his own words, written October 3, 2014 from his hospital bed, at the beginning of his treatments. These words have been a secret treasure to me these last few months, but it’s time to share them with others now. I’ll let his own words take it from here:

 

“I’m Calm”

 

I’m calm as a summer morning

A time when dews distill

On ground alert with creatures

That graze on a distant hill.

 

I’m calm as whispering heather

That sing in a highland breeze

I’m calm as a crystal lake

With images that mirror me.

 

No greater peace have I then

Where angels came to tell

I’m calm as a summer morning

When Father found me well.

 

Fear not this sad refrain then

Time goes ever on

Beats warmly rich responding

Our hearts are ever calm.

 

No love is lost forever

No psalm is silent sung

No bells go unnoticed

When they ring together as one.

 

I’m calm to see my Master

Embrace him, linger there

I’m calm to see my mother

And enjoy her perfect fair.

 

I’m calm as a summer morning

Feet dangle in celestial foam

On heavenly beaches lapping

A familiar din back home.

 

At last the stars are sparkling

And brighten my heavenly shore

I’m calm and await my darling

And will love thee ever more.

Creative Accountability Group

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

I have been part of an online creative accountability group for two months. Each day we post our goals for the day regarding writing, art, and filmmaking endeavors, with each person addressing his or her own type of creativity. At the end of the day, we report how we did. We also share work, offer critique, and cheer each other on. The best part? The group consists only of the members of my immediate family. We know what each other is working on, and it’s a delight to share details in an exclusive group of those we trust. Sure, our critique may sometimes be subjective, but it is the steadiest critique we receive. It can be a strengthening, empowering process to have those closest in our lives, who are also knowledgeable in what we’re doing, to be the first to vet a project before it moves on to other non-biased panels of experts. But mainly, our group effort was born out of a need for more accountability and accomplishment. And it has worked to that end. We have each made more progress in two months than we had previously done.

If you want to start such a group, use whatever medium works for you. We use the Facebook private inbox feature. Although we currently live in the same house, we wanted something that felt “official”, yet we wanted it to be simple enough that we would likely stick with it. Accountability is vital in the creative fields where much of our work is done alone. Look for a person or group wherever you can find one, on or offline, and don’t discount those closest to you. You don’t even have to be working on similar projects to gain the benefit of reporting your progress to another.

…bring all things to your remembrance

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” ~ John 14:26

I’m all about lifelong reading, studying, and learning, but I have discovered another really cool reason for doing so. As a spiritual person, I believe that one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit is to bring things to our remembrance when we need them. I also believe we have some responsibility here. Experts say that all the things we read and learn stay permanently in our minds, albeit the subconscious mind. I don’t always believe those unnamed experts, but in this case I do. Our brains are computers that take in information from the moment we’re born, catalog it, and file it away, and thankfully, these computers never run out of memory. Oh, you might think you run out of memory (it does often seem that way), but that’s only because the information has left your conscious mind (the 10% we use) and lodged itself in your subconscious mind (the other 90%). But the information is there, every piece of information you’ve ever taken in, every great (and not-so-great) thought you’ve ever had. The Holy Spirit simply brings things to our remembrance, from our subconscious to our conscious minds, when we need them. BUT, he can only bring things to our remembrance that have been put into our minds to begin with, so the more we study and gain wisdom, and life experience, the more he has to draw from to help us. Like the law of attraction says, every single thing we need, we already have! Is that not exciting?

Book and candle

 

 

“Whiplash”–Disturbing or Inspiring?

Clapboard & cinema reel

As Oscar season approaches us again, I want to draw attention to a fine movie that was nominated last year for best picture, an independently made film that had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to receive critical and box office acclaim. “Whiplash” is the story of a young, talented drummer, Andrew (Miles Teller), studying at a music conservatory, and his merciless mentor, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), whose methods of drawing out the best in his students venture into abusive territory (think Simon Cowell with singing contestants, except add blood). Although audience members may sway back and forth between respect and annoyance, and dare I say, amusement at Fletcher’s extreme personality and methods, I know of several people, myself included, who report that the movie ends up inspiring the creativity in us. We need that toughness, I think, to bring out what simply cannot be discovered in us with just family and close friends telling us, “You’re great. You’re the best.” That kind of biased critique is what leads the unsuspecting to embarrass themselves in front of crowds, or to self-publish books that have not been vetted by the professional world.

I always am in favor of accepting honest and helpful, yes, even brutal critique. Of course, it’s hard, but if you want to be a professional, you will have much harder things to deal with in your career than critique that might hurt. Suck it up and take your medicine!

There is a fine line, though, between helpful critique and flat-out abuse. The kind dished out by Fletcher would break the dreams of the most flimsy creators. I’m not sure that that’s a good thing. Many who might give up under those circumstances may actually be geniuses in waiting who need not only the brutal critique but also some uplifting encouragement. My feelings about Fletcher’s methods can be summed up by addressing one telling scene near the end of the movie. Fletcher famously says, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than, ‘Good job.’” I would say that the seven most powerful words in the English language are, “Good job…but it could be better.”

 

Website Recommendations for Writers

Quill pen and letters

Happy New Year to everyone from the Eagle’s Quill! I trust that we’re all making some writing-related resolutions and plowing ahead with them. Let’s get started this year with some website recommendations. These are just a few of the many out there that are excellent helps for writers. These are my personal favorites, and I bet you will gain fantastic insight from them as well.

Novel Writing Help – novel-writing-help.com – “Writing a novel just got easier” they promise on their front page. Yep, it works as they say. Over 200 articles on everything from craft to industry subjects, and all totally free!

Authors Think Tank – foreverwriters.com – They’re havin’ some fun over there. I love how many of their articles draw on well-known books and movies to teach a concept.

Writers in the Storm – writersinthestormblog.com – Another wealth of great how-to articles, something for everyone.

Live Write Thrive – livewritethrive.com – Novelist/editor C.S. Lakin covers the basics and beyond.

Authors Publish Magazine – authorspublish.com – A free email magazine for writers. Sign up for news regarding the latest publishers accepting submissions, as well as writing help and industry news.

Sprint Writers Central – sprintwriters.blogspot.com – Need some accountability and camaraderie with other writers? Use this site to communicate with writing buddies and set some goals for writing sprints. They tell you right on the front page how it works.

Have a great writing year, and feel free to share your favorite sites with us in the comments.

“Game of Lives” Book Launch with James Dashner

James Dashner book signing

My sons and I attended another book launch of New York Times bestselling author James Dashner, this time for “Game of Lives”, the third book in the “Eye of Minds” trilogy. He was personable and entertaining as always at the end of what must have been an exhausting whirlwind book tour. He’s been putting out a book a year, a good pace for a career author, and a good goal for me I believe.

He addressed those readers who don’t approve of how Hollywood has changed some of his stories when made in movie form. He wisely separates what he calls “book world” and “movie world” and assured fans that they should just enjoy the movies for what they are, that the books will always be there. Hollywood will never be able to change one word of his books. I was impressed with the concept he has. Writers and filmmakers–we are all storymakers, eager to entertain and provide escapism for the masses.

I speak your language, Mr. Dashner, which is why I was slightly giddy when he said he will love to see me at LDStorymakers Conference next year!

“Locks” a Halloween story

Vintage key and letterToday I welcome 15-year-old guest writer Tristan Davis to the Eagle’s Quill. Here is a short Halloween story he wrote entitled “Locks”. Happy Halloween!

Antique books & keys

9:15 at night, a man enters his house, locking the door behind him and putting the key in its designated spot. Just like all the other locks in his house with keys in their own designated spots. He follows a nightly routine that he has had ever since this house became his, which must have been so long ago that it’s as if it has been erased from his memory.

The house never felt like home. It never felt right. He didn’t know why, but it didn’t really matter anymore. A house was a house, his job was a job, and life was life.

It’s 9:30. After reading the paper and eating a small dinner, at 9:45, he prepares himself for sleep. 10:00, the air feels cold tonight, but maybe an extra blanket will help. 10:30 he is lying awake, 11:00 is the same, 11:30 is darker, and 12:00 comes sleep. Nightmares wake him at times during the night, and the sound of his newspaper crashing to the floor downstairs must have been caused by the wind coming through the window last night…wait. Why was the window open last night? This man never forgets to check the windows and doors each night.

Another day happens. The man enters his house, locks the door, puts the key away. Routine again. Now sleep. Late this time: 10:15. The feelings that come during sleep this time are just nonsensical. Sometimes there is that slight change of the air currents which lets a person know of a presence in the room. So why do the air currents tell him there is something blocking the doorway to his room? Something standing in the doorway. Crossing the threshold. No, he can’t open his eyes now; he has to get the needed sleep for tomorrow’s day. But how, when there is company? How can he sleep when there is a small draft tickling his nose? When the draft feels warm, a gross kind of warm, like breath, and starts to feel exactly like breath that maybe it is?

Okay, he opens his eyes and to his surprise is greeted by nothing. Well, of course.

And then a shadow rushes past and the door slams, and why was the door open in the first place?

Another day and he can’t stop thinking. Of his…dream last night. But he knows it wasn’t a dream, that’s just what he is forcing himself to accept it as.

Back in bed at 10:30. Off schedule again. That never happens. Is he losing his punctuality or his mind?

Well, if sleep won’t come then he might as well sit up and read. Scratch that, the lamp is broken. The batteries were replaced three days ago. Maybe he accidentally bought the kind that are only good for three days. And he didn’t know such a battery even existed until now. Wait, not batteries. Light bulbs.

Another day. Not even a blink of sleep last night. He doesn’t leave the house today.

Another night. Now he is constantly shutting that stupid door that keeps opening. He locks it, hurling the key out the window which was already open, but that doesn’t stop this thing that opens the door anyway.

He is losing track of how many days he’s been in this house since he locked himself in, secluding himself from the outside world. But at this point, he can’t comprehend the existence of an outside world.

It’s getting worse.

The man tries to do the unexpected to see how the thing reacts. He unlocks every lock in the house. Doors, chests, cabinets. Then suddenly everything is locked up again, every key back in its designated spot.

Another time (night, day, no difference now), the man hears footsteps running all over the house.

His hair has grown long. He has a full beard and crazy, red eyes that have crusted themselves open.

Eventually the man has turned his whole house upside-down. He has unlocked everything. He didn’t know what he was looking for. Differences maybe? But how can he spot differences now that his house is in complete disorder?

One night, he sees it. The thing is standing right in front of him. Like a person. It is a person, a man who looks unlike anything he had ever seen. Long hair, crazy eyes, and a bullet hole in his forehead. The ghost looks so extremely angry that he would kill someone just to take out his anger.

GET OUT! The ghost is yelling. GET OUT!

The man’s ears are melting, at least he feels like they are. GET OUT! The same words are echoing throughout his brain. His ears are painfully ringing. He is getting cold. He tries to escape his house, but the front door is locked. The key has a designated spot, but it never crosses his mind to look there for it. Maybe the key isn’t even there anyway. Maybe it’s somewhere in the rubble of his house. Or the door is unlocked and he doesn’t have the strength to turn the knob. GET OUT! His head might explode. He crawls his way up to the attic, shutting the door behind him. No time to lock it. The attic reeks of dead bodies. He is focused on only one thing right now. He shuts his eyes as hard as he can while the ringing in his ears continues, takes the gun he grabbed, points it at his forehead, and pulls the trigger.

Everything is gone. The feeling of freedom overwhelms him. He is not a helpless animal anymore, just a ghost. He floats around his attic and realizes he is still in his house. He wanders around, finding that everything is back in order. Everything is locked again and the keys are where they should be. He’s finally alone. Nothing will harm him.

Then he hears someone fumbling with the front door. A man enters, locking the door behind him and putting the key in its designated spot.