The Eagle's Quill

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The voice behind Eagle Shadow



“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.

Need Help Getting Motivated Creatively?

“God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation.” ~ Thomas S. Monson

Isn’t that a marvelous quote? Doesn’t it just make you want to go create something?

At our house creativity often strikes in the middle of the night. Not sure why, except I have read that creative people tend to be night owls. Here’s my son burning the midnight oil doing filmmaking in the backyard studio.

Burning the Midnight Oil

My husband has done some of his best painting during all-night sprints, and I would venture a guess that 90 percent of my book writing is done between midnight and 2 a.m. Whenever the mood strikes you, don’t resist! Creativity rules!

More Cool Treats

Eagle eye

We’re still in a heatwave here and in need, more than ever, of cool, delicious drinks. If that describes you, here are some good ones. Again, we’re eyeballing all amounts. It gives you more reason to taste as you make them!

Lemon mint refresher–mix up some lemon juice, sugar, and water (think basic lemonade at this point). When sugar is dissolved, add a few drops of mint extract and lots of ginger ale. Serve over ice. This is a family favorite of many years.

Berry fizzle–I do this with fresh or frozen blackberries, but you can also do blueberries or raspberries. Boil the fruit with some sugar and water, and maybe some cinnamon and cloves. Let it cool, then strain it and discard pulp. Mix the resulting juice with lemon-lime soda for a unique flavor.

Homemade rootbeer–we make this every 4th of July. It is such a fun tradition. Mix around two pounds of sugar with around two gallons of water and around two ounces of rootbeer concentrate. Taste and adjust till you get the flavor just right, then dump in a couple pounds or more of dry ice. Now you can add carbonation with club soda, but that’s not as fun. If you have a local store that carries dry ice, it’s worth it to make this, the best all-American drink ever!

Happy 4th of July!

Cool Off With Creative Frozen Treats

Pina Colada Smoothie

It’s 100 degrees in my neck of the woods, and the mule is gettin’ tired treading round and round the circle to keep the A/C going. So I’m gonna share some of my cooling-off secret recipes with you. First, let’s get one thing straight. There are no amounts listed here. That’s because you’re supposed to eyeball everything so you can make it taste exactly right.

Let’s start with the best and simplest banana shake ever. If you have some bananas you want to save before they turn black, chunk ’em up and put ’em in the freezer. Then add ’em  to your blender with sugar and milk (2% is fine). It’s thick and cold and tastes decadent. It’s fine without anything else, but you can add vanilla extract, cinnamon, and nutmeg if you want to, or anything else that sounds like a good idea to you.

Here’s one that our family experienced at the Peace Tree in Moab, Utah. Just put however much watermelon, peaches, strawberries, and pineapple sherbet you want in your blender. We call it a Moab watermelon smoothie (name can be changed), but it’s a top-notch refresher.

And you know the Dole Whips for which Disney World is famous? Well, the first time I ever had one was at home, made in my blender. By the time I had my first real Dole Whip at the Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom, I actually thought mine was better. And it’s a lot cheaper too. Cut up some fresh pineapple (don’t even think of using canned for this), and blend it with sugar and little bit of lemon juice. Freeze that, and when it’s just partway frozen and slushy, fold in some whipped cream. Not till it’s all the way mixed, just when it’s sort of marbled. I just saved you a few thousand dollars on that one. You’re welcome!

More next week!

 

 

Gleaning the Most from Technology

ID-10034425

I’ve heard plenty of people express their opinions of Facebook, as well as the internet and television in general, some good, some bad. I thought I’d tell you on which side I fall. As I use the internet to do so—there’s a hint for ya!

I’ve been privy to several group conversations where some swear off of Facebook, stating that it has led some people to improper relationships. (Frankly, so has going to church.) Yes, there are time-wasting games on the internet. It’s the modern-day doodling, or idly twirling a pencil, or playing with a slinky. If people want to waste time, they’ll find a way to do it regardless of internet access.

My feelings about all of technology (Facebook, internet, television) are that those things are inanimate objects. They can be used for good or bad depending on the person using them. It’s just like drugs. There are dangerous and illegal ones, but does that mean we swear off all drugs because of the bad ones?  No, because there are many good medications that help us regain health and feel better, sometimes even imperative to stay alive.

I believe having our free will and learning to use it wisely is a very important thing to God. To ban TV or internet from a home takes away our responsibility to practice making good choices. We may avoid some bad, but we miss out on much more good. We’re throwing the baby out with the bath water. Children who grow up in such a home, with rare exception, will have and use those things at some point in the future. And when they do, they’re likely to binge like a toddler turned loose in a candy store for the first time. My personal MO is to search out that which is good, wherever it can be found. It’s my job to learn self-discipline in the candy store, but don’t deny me some chocolate.

As a dyed-in-the-wool list maker, I’d like to list the many benefits for homeschool (to name just one arena) that the internet has provided me.

1) Research into teaching methods, ideas, and tips

2) Newsletters I’ve subscribed to which give information

3) Curriculum reviews

4) Online ordering of books and supplies

5) Research for the kids’ schoolwork

6) YouTube videos that supplement our science and history classes

7) Online typing courses and scientific calculators

8) Library’s online catalog

9) Research content of movies to find appropriate ones to show

10) Yahoo groups email lists connecting me to nearby homeschoolers which has led to competition opportunities, field trips, used curriculum purchases and sales, information on area happenings and discounts, clubs, and parties.

Yes, the internet and television are wonderful inventions for keeping us informed, educated, and for increasing our individual talents. I love living in the 21st century!

(Image by graur razvan ionut, used with permission from freedigitalphotos.net)

Disabilities vs. Abilities

 

Stolen ideas

In recent years, there seems to have been a rise in the occurrence of mental and emotional disability labels on children. Whether that’s due to a changing, unhealthy environment, or an increase in those seeking professional diagnoses, or both, is unclear. I tend to think it’s some of both, but I also think we as a society have become sort of mental hypochondriacs. Since the advent of the internet, I know I’ve diagnosed myself with all sorts of maladies, some real, some imagined! Time was, we used to receive a doctor’s diagnosis and trek around to other doctors getting second, third, and fourth opinions. Now sometimes we trek around to different psychologists until one does diagnose something that placates us.

But the concern I have is for those children out there who may be, as it were, held back by some label of “abnormality” placed on them by well-meaning adults, an abnormality that, but for the label, they would never know they had. “Treat the disabled normally. They don’t want to be singled out,” the labelers beg of us, when they themselves have already singled them out by placing the glaring label on them for all to see.

Consider my analogy, simplified I know, but it makes sense to me. Suppose half the people of the world prefer blue as their favorite color; the other half likes red as their favorite. It’s been that way for centuries with no notice, but then, during our “enlightened” 21st century, some highly degreed doctors get together and decide that liking blue best is what they’re going to call “normal”, and liking red best is now “abnormal”. The sad news for red-lovers is that there is no cure for their condition. The best hope doctors have for the families of red-lovers is that, perhaps with some medication and/or ongoing therapy, they might get those so disabled to at least like purple, then they could have some semblance of a productive life.

Blue-loving families everywhere demand equal treatment for their unfortunate red-loving family member, but those who haven’t watched the news didn’t even know there was a blue-red debate going on.

And color preference is relative. What about the family made up of all red-lovers, except for that one single blue-lover? Might “normal” have a different definition to them?

Now I’m not saying that “abnormal” doesn’t exist. Genes can go awry. If a person is so obsessed with the color red that they paint every visible object red, the lamps, the carpet, the TV, the dog, then yes, they need some intervention, especially before they go painting the neighbors’ house, lawn, and dog red. But don’t let such persons give all red-lovers a bad name. Most likely, there are a commensurate number of painters whose work has gone unchecked during their blue period.

But if you look at history, you’ll see that it’s been both the blue and red-lovers who have made progress in our world. A worried someone once told me their child had the same disorder as Einstein, Isaac Newton, Mozart, Bill Gates, and Steven Spielberg. “And this is a problem why?” I sorely wanted to know. I submit that if those illustrious figures had not possessed such a, so-called, abnormality, we would not have the scientific discoveries, inventions, and profound cultural arts that we have today. Oh, they may have been trying at times to their mothers, but thank goodness they weren’t medicated and therapied into some ordinary human’s definition of “normalcy”.

We have a family member who no doubt could’ve been diagnosed with a certain disability. I’m not sure because we never took him to a doctor. We bought him a video camera instead so he could give form to his creativity. And our home has often been a hangout for several friends with varying degrees of disabilities. We’ve never noticed anything abnormal about them…I guess because we’re just a bunch of red-lovers over here, happily ignorant of the box we’re thinking outside of. And for the record, my favorite color really is red…..and green, but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog post!

 

Bringing the Arts Home

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

As a child, I loved ballet. I attended a performance of “The Nutcracker” every Christmas with my school and listened to my LP of music from the same all year long. And I took ballet classes at the nearby rec center every Wednesday for six years. Becoming a professional ballerina was on my short list of things I wanted to do when I grew up. I progressed to a point where there wasn’t much more to learn, except pointe, where the dancers go up to their tippy toes. It’s a very hard-learned technique, requiring specially fitted shoes and long-term specialized training. I wanted to learn pointe technique, but my parents were dissuaded by the cost and the drive across town to the professional dance school where it was taught. So my dance career sort of dissolved away by high school when my interests turned to other things, one of which was writing. Probably just as well. I doubt I would still be a ballerina now, but I still have many words to be written.

My family has all found, or is in the process of finding, their niche in the arts. One son recently said that it was of prime importance to him that his future children be involved in the arts. That got me thinking about what we’ve done to point him in an artistic direction, and what he might do someday to similarly inspire his children. (And while homeschool is ideal for this, it isn’t required.)

1) Start children young, I mean as toddlers, in introducing them to all forms of the arts. If they don’t know what all categories of the arts there are, they won’t know what they’re good at and what they would enjoy.

2) When you see an interest, feed it with resources and instruction. Many fun things we’ve used are detailed in other articles on this blog.

3) If you’re afraid that it might be difficult or expensive to find resources, be creative (that’s what this is all about!) and find a way. Check with libraries, community resources, recommendations from neighbors. We spent very little to encourage our children in the arts. There are no good excuses!

4) If they lose interest in something you thought they would like, or that they seemed to like at first, it’s perfectly okay. Some things won’t stick. You have to experiment and acquire a taste for some things. A deep and burning passion cannot be forced.

I must close now and get to bed. We have an art museum field trip tomorrow.

Focus on Poetry: “The Elk”

The icy, cold gray post-holiday winter season can be made so much more warm and beautiful with a cozy blanket and a powerful, gracefully written poem. To that end, I bring you “The Elk”, a brand new, original poem by my husband David Davis, who goes by Harley Davis. It’s a fine example of using alliteration and lilting rhythm to conjure up a serene, wild setting and a frozen, magical moment in time. I love how the final stanza brings the reader into the ‘now’, almost making one wonder, did it really happen or was it a dream?

 

Bugling elk in Yellowstone

“The Elk” by Harley Davis

The breaking of crusting snow
and the chill of rushing wind
the clatter of brittle leaves below
I pulled my wrap tighter in.

The frozen moisture of my deep breath
obscures my stealth uneasy walk
it forms a veil upon my chest –
like a winter scarf where warmth is not.

I steal around the weathered wood
too close as a snag takes my arm
now gray from days it has long withstood
in the woods near my grandfather’s farm.

The snag gives a snap and me a start
and a jabbing finger is the thump in my chest
adding threat upon threat to my now racing heart
and angst in this challenging quest.

Yet I find the majestic creature there
and my deep breath is held within
while a snort from the beast parted the air
as a loud unpleasant din.

He raised his massive head my way
I raised my lens to meet his glance
and shuttered to think would spook him away
and lose my stealthy wooded chance

to capture the beast and there mount him
on the wall in the hall of my home
but I shifted my weight on a weathered limb
and at once stood in the deep woods alone.

He sprang into life and targeted me
as the clattering shutter fired on
the view in my finder of him running free
as my words condensed on the air, “he’s gone”

I put two fingers between my teeth
and placed my tongue the way I was taught
the shrill whistle arose beneath
and stopped the beast where he did not

advance deeper into the thicketed wood
and spoil my last and rarest and best
I took aim again and frozen stood
brought the lens slowly down on his chest

and fired the trigger that shattered the air
with shutter-clatter that day in the wood
when I stole the creature’s majestic heir
the image is silent but the memory was good.

That memory now hangs in the hall on the wall
of my cabin near the home of my kin
the beast still reigns and bugles his call
inviting me to come back again.

 

Good Reading for Christmas

Poinsettia card

For those who enjoy my numerous classic book recommendations, here’s one more–Christmas classics, a whole category unto themselves! We’re all familiar with the smorgasbord of inspirational and entertaining holiday movies, so I don’t need to address that, but the holiday season can be an especially fun time to enjoy read-alouds as a family, or private reading as well. And some of these Christmas-themed books are great for catching the Christmas spirit and maintaining it throughout the season. Here are some our family has enjoyed in past years.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg – the book that inspired the movie. It’s a keeper.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson – Let the Herdmans endear themselves to you.

Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge – Does anyone even know about this story anymore? My first introduction to it was when my class performed it for the parents when I was in fourth grade.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Of course, everyone knows this story. Besides live action films, dozens of cartoon characters have performed it as well, but have you ever read it in Dickens’ original words? It’s pretty entertaining. My kids liked it.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry – Okay, this one’s my personal favorite–a short story with a beautiful and memorable message.

Little House Christmases by Laura Ingalls Wilder – my other personal favorite. You can search through all the Little House books for stories of her Christmases, or there is a book in which they are all collected. I love Laura’s humble Christmases and how, despite their simplicity, they were just as fantastic and magical as any Christmas you can imagine.

The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke – especially appropriate to set the mood for the season.

The Christmas Sweater by Glenn Beck – My husband read this to all of us a few years ago. He doesn’t usually do the reading, so it was a good time with a good story.

The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans – a sentimental favorite for many.

Happy reading, and Merry Christmas!