Heart of a Lion by Stephen Zimmer: Book review and Blog Tour

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Recently we met Stephen and shared his views on his heroine Rayden Valkyrie. This girl has a huge reputation as a warrior with the heart of a lion and the moral compass that keeps her busy getting rid of the wicked and corrupt. Let’s learn more about her and I will share my thoughts on the book Heart of a Lion.

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  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Seventh Star Press; 1 edition (February 2, 2015)
  • Publication Date: February 2, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00T44R6LE

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

My Review:

Heart of a Lion is a powerful fantasy story that has a lot of heart of its own. The characters are really well written with strength and courage that is totally befitting the name.  Rayden Valkyrie is such a lovely and intelligent woman with a code of honor. She is led to a life of wiping out corruption and she does a great job with her calling.

I found the story to be really well told. The characters are bursting with life.  You see her from an Avengers point of view and it is powerful to read.  The way that Stephen brings her to life, is a beautiful process.  I can see why this is being turned into a tv series.

The book follows Rayden as she sets out to take care of the wrongs in her land. Thoughtfully written and Stephen makes you fall in love with her sense of right and her character. She has strength but she is not one of those mindless hulks that are all brawn and no spirit. She is a very well rounded heroine.

You will enjoy this book if you like to find the heart of the character as well as the action and adventure in a well-crafted land.

Where to find Heart of a Lion: This Fantasy and adventure novel is available at Amazon.

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About the author:  Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).

Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Author Links:

Twitter:  @SGZimmer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7

Instagram: @stephenzimmer7

Website: www.stephenzimmer.com

The benefits of baking and cooking for children by Robbie Cheadle: A Featured Fun Guest Post

The benefits of baking and cooking for children

Most children love to spend time in the kitchen either cooking or baking. It is a fabulous bonding experience with Mom or another caregiver and they always enjoying eating the results of their hard work afterwards.

I love to bake and both my sons have travelled the cooking, baking and eating road with me. Michael, particularly, loves to cook. He prefers to make more practical things than I do such as savoury and/or sweet pancakes, French toast and even stews and curries which he makes with his Dad. I like to make all sorts of fancy sweet treats and cakes.

I remember baking with my small boys. Gregory used to love to measure and pour the ingredients into the bowl. Funnily enough, Greg also loved to wash up. Sadly, this has not continued into his teenage years. I used to strip him down to his nappy and stand him on a few chairs lined up in front of the sink [so that he could not fall off] and set him free in front of a sink of soapy water. He used to splash around happy with a cloth washing up the bowl and wooden spoon. I kept the washing of any sharp implements and breakables for myself.

Michael, on the other hand, has never been a fan of any kind of cleaning up. He likes to measure, pour and, especially, to mix. He also likes to “lick” out the bowl. I have photographs of Michael covered from head to toe in chocolate cake mix with the bowl upside down on his head. What fabulous fun.

Other than the obvious fun and bonding factors, there are a list of other great benefits to baking with your children. I did some research on this and this is what I found:

  1. Maths skills: Baking helps children to learn maths concepts, in particular, measurement and simple fractions (half a cup, a quarter of a lemon). In addition, multiplication and division are involved if you half or double a recipe. Other kinds of cooking may also involve patterning (for example with salads and kebabs) and simple addition (how many people are you feeding? how many cupcakes do you need for the class?);
  2. Art skills: Decorating cupcakes, cutting out biscuits and making animals and people out of fondant (sugar dough). All of these activities encourage creativity and develop design abilities. An element of construction can also be involved if you are making a gingerbread house or a marshmallow tower and children learn how to fit pieces together and get a tower to stand up;

Cupcakes decorated for charity by the children of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church Sunday School – Parkview, South Africa

  1. Comprehension skills: Baking and cooking teaches children how to read and interpret a recipe. They learn to follow a sequence of steps and how to organise the required ingredients. Baking also teaches children techniques and vocabulary such as folding, beating, kneading and blending;
  2. Science skills: Contrary to popular belief, baking is a science. Children learn the scientific effects of raising agents such as yeast and baking powder. They learn about the interaction between certain substances such as salt and bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and milk, yeast and warm water. If they make a mistake and/or leave out an ingredient, disaster often follows which helps enforce these learning points;

Giant marshmallow made by Michael – the scientific effects of gelatine

  1. Life skills: Baking and cooking with your children teaches them lifelong skills. In the future, the job of feeding themselves and their future families will become theirs. Baking and cooking skills will stand them in good stead when they leave home; and
  2. Self-esteem: Baking and cooking helps increase children’s self-esteem as they see and taste the results of their efforts. It also teaches children to work together with someone else in a team and that hard work pays dividends in the end.

I am not an occupational therapist but I found the following additional benefits listed on an OT website for children:

  1. Bilateral coordination;
  2. Eye-hand coordination;
  3. Hand strengthening; and
  4. Spatial perception and planning skills.

These four benefits make perfect sense to me in the context of baking and cooking with children.

So, what are you waiting for, get cooking. An easy way to start is with mini pizzas. You can buy the bases ready made from most grocery stores and you can also buy the tomato paste source to spread on the bases. Grate some cheese, cut up some mushrooms, pineapple, ham and anything else that you fancy and let the kids have fun assembling their own pizzas.

Thanks to Robbie Cheadle for this delicious and delightful post. Robbie, you are welcome to share a post any Friday. You can follow Robbie at:

Blogs: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com and Goodreads.com

Facebook: @SirChocolateBooks

Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Giving Your Character to the World Guest Post by Stephen Zimmer for the Rayden Valkyrie blog Tour

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Rayden Valkyrie, as a character, rose up during a time of trial in my own life. She served as an inspiration to me, even as her story and the world around her began to take form in my mind. I have mentioned many times how I would love to see her become a source of inspiration and encouragement for others going through hard challenges.

A sense of honor, self-empowerment, self-determination, and confronting the evils in the world without having that darkness consume your own heart in the process are just some of the characteristics intrinsic to Rayden. She is a very positive figure of strength on all levels; in mind, body, and spirit.

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Bringing her into the world, through the stories on page and on screen is a wonderful process, but it is a process that sets her free to the audience. The manifestations resulting from that process are very individual in nature.

I have been very honored to receive a number of messages from readers who have also found a very special connection to Rayden. They have shared their own stories of trial and how Rayden resonated with them. These are the kinds of messages I find most rewarding of all, in terms of hearing the positive influence and impact Rayden has had in their lives. Rayden has become something special to each of them, in an individual way.

Rayden’s first fan art has begun to show up in public, created by some extremely talented individuals. It is really exciting to see the visual interpretations of Rayden by these artists. They have their own take on Rayden, and their view of her might have some noticeable differences from the Rayden that I have in my mind and heart.

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Then, there is the TV Pilot that is now in post-production, starring Brock O’Hurn and Sol Geirsdottir. Sol portrays Rayden for the first time on screen. For a great many, the TV Pilot will be their first encounter with the Rayden Valkyrie character. The TV show will shape their perception of the character and what Rayden is about. The collaborative process of visual storytelling in movies and TV shows also introduces some elements that have some differences with the way that I see Rayden. From books, to art, to the TV Pilot, Rayden is going from books, to art, to the TV Pilot, Rayden is going farther into our world.

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Readers, artists, and TV audiences alike are going to have their own view of Rayden and what she represents. The character, in a way of describing it, has been given to the world, and Rayden will be walking on her own in hearts and minds everywhere.

I have lots of Rayden Valkyrie stories that I would like to tell in the future. I want to tell them on the page, on screen, and even in other mediums such as gaming. Yet at the same time, I see that she is taking on a life of her own and being adopted by audiences of all kinds, and those individuals will have their own bond with Rayden in a manner that is unique to each of them.

That is a sobering thought, as it brings in all manner of expectations and hopes from the audience out there while I engage in revealing more and more of Rayden’s story over time. Will Rayden’s full story meet all those expectations and hopes? For some, yes, and for others no, as those expectations and hopes will be anything but uniform in nature. Everyone is different. But overall, it is my hope that no matter what audiences might expect in the future, they will always see that Rayden is true to herself and ultimately lives up to the principles that guide her.

Giving your favorite character to the world is not as easy as it seems on the surface, but it is the only path to take. A character is meant for an audience, and they must be set free through the creative arts to grow and thrive in the hearts and minds of individuals everywhere.

Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.

Teaser Trailer Link for Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot:

About the author:  Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).

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Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.

Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Author Links:

Twitter:  @SGZimmer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenzimmer7

Instagram: @stephenzimmer7

Website: www.stephenzimmer.com

The Path of the Child

It is good to see The Path of the Child is still receiving love. A 5 star review!

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I love the story of The Path of the Child; it is a well thought out story with sweet ideas. While the story is fiction, many people could learn from this story; learn about kindness, honesty, friendship, and simply just how you should or rather should not treat people, including parents.

I love how Melanie starts finding who she really is with the help of her newfound friends; one particular, Robert.
This is has become one of my favorite books I have and will read again and recommend it to any and all who love sweet stories with life changing outcomes, for both caricature and reader.

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Ground Owls by Bryan Pentelow: A Featured Fun Guest Post

Ava paused at the mouth of the cave to take in the panoramic view of Dragon World spread out before her. Cupcake, her bull terrier sat beside her and looked around as well, she also sniffed the slight breeze which tickled her nose. Scents of vegetables being roasted and spicy sauces cooking wafted up from the meeting camp below making Cupcake lick her lips in anticipation of tasty snacks and titbits to come. She yapped and wagged her tail vigorously, though Ava was quite aware of the dog’s wish for her to stop wasting time and get down to the kitchen as quickly as possible. Ava looked around for the small Scrap dragon who always accompanied her on trips to Dragon world and found him licking at an orange streak of iron oxide in a large pebble by the cave mouth.
“Come on Sprocket, Cupcake’s hungry for snacks and you can find plenty of tasty minerals when we get down to the bottom.”
They hurried down the path and while Cupcake followed her nose to the kitchen area to become best friends with the dragon in charge of the cooking, Sprocket scampered over to a promising pile of boulders. Ava walked over to the large red dragon standing at a writing desk carefully sorting and signing a stack of scrolls with a large flamboyant quill pen. “Good morning Llewellyn. You seem to be very busy with papers to sign. Do you have time for a chat?”
“With you Ava, I always have time to chat.” The huge dragon dropped a bundle of scrolls into a sack hanging from the side of the desk and placed a glass paperweight containing the image of a dragon breathing out a sheet of blue-white fire on the remaining stack of papers to prevent the breeze from scattering them far and wide.
Ava climbed onto a high stool and Llewellyn sat back on his haunches folding his arms across the top of his white scaled belly and resting his elbows on his knees. The girl felt totally at ease being close to the towering beast despite his sharp talons, mouth full of far too many sharp fangs and the spirals of smoke and steam rising from his nostrils. When she had first come through the portal from her world with her cousins and her parents she had been petrified of the fire-breathing monsters that had swooped down from the sky to greet them but the kindness and calmness of their telepathic greetings which had tickled her mind and made her laugh had completely overcome her fears. Now she felt confident and comfortable with dragons of all shapes and sizes and visiting their world was as natural as going to the shops with her mum.
“I’m glad you came today, I’ve something new to show you,” said Llewellyn, rubbing his hands together and causing his claws to click like castanets. “A group of Ground Owls has moved into the edge of the wood down by the river where the milk palms grow and the dinosaurs sent a message to say the young ones have just started leaving the nests. I thought you might like to see them.”
“Yes, please. What are Ground Owls? Can’t they fly?”
“They can fly but usually hunt their prey by running along the ground though they do nest in holes in trees like other owls. Their wings are quite small and only good for gliding not for flying and they climb up to their nests using the sharp talons on their feet and a claw on their wing joints.”
“How big are they and what do they eat?”
The Adults are about thirty centimetres tall but over a third of that is leg length so they are no bigger than sixteen centimetres when perched. The babies are no larger than a tennis ball when they first leave the nest. They hunt and eat beetles and their particular favourites are the Rino beetles, the large grey ones with the two horns on their heads.” “But they are nearly as big as my dad’s hand; surely the baby owls can’t catch them?”

“Oh, they can catch them but are not strong enough to kill and eat them so have to start with smaller beetles.” “I would love to see them. Will you take me over there?”
“I’m afraid I have too much work to do today. But the wind is in the right direction so you could get your Tri-ley and sail over. One of the young dinos will tow you back when you’ve had enough.”

“Good thinking. Thanks for the idea. See you later.” With that Ava jumped down from her stool and whistling for Cupcake and Sprocket hurried off to get her Tri-ley from the shelter.

Within minutes she had unfolded the three-wheeled vehicle, rigged the mast and sail and with Cupcake sitting at the front like a ship’s figure-head was bowling across the lilac coloured grassland following the dinosaur trail to the milk palms by the river. Sprocket was ahead and above riding on the twin jet flames from his tail ducts. He performed loops and spirals enjoying the lower gravity of this world and leaving a pink vapour trail to mark his passage. She was careful to give the woods a wide birth as she approached the area where the dinosaurs lived and sent a thought to Cupcake not to bark and frighten the gentle creatures. Ava applied the brakes and furled the sail then walked slowly over to where one of the long-necked herbivores was stirring a huge vat of palm milk with a long wooden paddle.

“Hello, have you come to see the owlets or to try our latest batch of cheese?” The dinosaur lowered its head to look Ava in the eye as it laid the paddle on a long smooth wooden table.

Ava smiled and reaching out rubbed the top of the creature’s head which she knew they liked, while Cupcake rubbed her head against one of its thick, scaly legs.
“I’ve come to see the owls but if there is cheese to try I would love some after I’ve seen them. I will be hungry by then as I had breakfast rather early.”

Sprocket had gone looking for his friends among the young dinosaurs and returned at that point with one who knew where the owls were roosting.
“Follow my son and your dragon and they will lead you to the owls.” said the large dinosaur and the four friends set off. They moved slowly and quietly through the trees of the wood till they came to an open glade with three old rotten logs laying in the middle. Sprocket signalled for them to lay down and inch forward right to the edge of the clearing. For some minutes nothing happened and there was no movement in the clearing, then a fluttering blur dropped from one of the trees and there was an adult Ground Owl perched on one of the rotten logs.

The bird stretched as tall as it could, its head turning right round till it faced backwards then back the other way full circle to check for danger. Satisfied that all was safe it gave a high pitched screech then began running on the spot on top of the log.

The wood was obviously hollow as the bird’s efforts produced a low drumming sound and soon three other owls fluttered down and joined in the strange running dance and increasing the drumming sound.

To say that these birds flew down would be stretching a point, what they did was more of a slow and controlled fall. Their stubby wings flapping so fast they were like a blur on each side of their bodies but did not enable them to gain or even retain height.

More screeching and chirping could be heard from overhead and suddenly a small fluffy ball dropped from the tree which overhung their hiding place, hit the grass, bounced twice and rolled to within half a metre of where they lay. Two large black eyes appeared in the fuzzy ball and blinked twice then two legs with clawed toes spread sprouted from the top of the ball and with a quick flip an angry owlet stood before them. It ruffled its feathers, spread its short wings and hissed loudly. The bright yellow, hooked beak was clearly visible as were the sharp climbing claws on the wing joints. Having declared its dissatisfaction with its landing and, the world in general, the chick turned and ran off towards the logs and other owls.

Ava found it almost impossible not to laugh out loud at the sight of the tiny owlet running. Its wing stubs spread for balance, its short tail wagging from side to side head thrust forward. The long stick thin legs high stepping rapidly as it covered the ground at an amazing speed.

Other fuzzy balls were dropping from trees around the glade till eventually a dozen of the comical fluff balls were darting and zig-zagging across the clearing. Finally, four adult females joined their chicks and began to herd them towards the fallen logs.

Ava slowly rolled to the left so she could get her small digital camera from her pocket them rolled back and raised the viewfinder to her eye. Adjusting the zoom and focus she was about to take a picture when a tiny flashing icon caught her attention. She quickly lowered the camera and pressed the button to engage silent mode then raised it again and proceeded to record the chick’s antics.

Through the powerful zoom lens, she could see the effect that the adults drumming feet were having on the rotten log. Out of one end of the fallen tree was pouring a stream of worms, grubs and beetles which had been disturbed by the bird’s actions. The chicks and female owls fell upon this feast, stabbing with beaks and talons and running after the faster insects. One chick pounced on a large Rhino beetle and began pecking at its armoured shell. The beetle reared up on its hind legs and the chick losing its balance and grip rolled off in a flurry of legs and feathers. Before the small owl could regain its feet the beetle turned, charged its foe and began to toss the fuzzy bundle about with its two horns. The chick was squeaking pitifully till its mother dashed up, flipped the belligerent beetle onto its back and plunged a lethal talon into its soft under parts. As her chick righted itself she tore off the beetle’s under-casing and shared the feast with her young one.

They watched the chase and feeding for another quarter of an hour then carefully backed away from the clearing and returned to the milk palm plantation.
The long table was covered with wooden plates and dishes containing a wonderful selection of cheeses, dips and piles of crisp dried leaf crackers.

“Find yourself a place and tuck in. There is a bowl or double baked hard biscuits for your dog and some tasty mineral rich rocks for Sprocket. So help yourselves. They had a long slow lunch followed by paddling in the shallows of the river to collect fresh muscles for the dragons who particularly liked the shells to crunch. As the red sun began to sink toward the horizon Ava tied two ropes to the front post of the Tri-ley and a pair of young dinosaurs harnessed to the vehicle and Sprocket and Cupcake aboard she set off back to the camp by the cliff.

On arrival at the camp, she released and thanked the young dinosaurs who nuzzled her with their scaly noses then galloped off home. Cupcake helped her pull the Tri-ley back under cover then she spent half an hour showing Llewellyn the pictures and movies she had recorded of the Ground Owls and laughing at their strange ways.
It began to get dark as the sun set and Lanterns were being put up all around the camp by small dragons, so Ava wished the large red dragon goodbye and accompanied by dog and dragon climbed the path and returned through the portal in the cave.

When she came out of the lift door into the pithead yard it was still early afternoon. Sprocket flew off to Pudding founders Lane while Ava and Cupcake headed for the museum.

She found Dave in his workshop/office at the back of the building and asked him if he would print some large copies of some of her shots and copy the movies onto a flash drive so she could watch them on her TV at home. This he did while Ava made tea and passed some broken ginger biscuits to Cupcake. That sat sipping tea and munching biscuits while the printer wired away producing the colour images which Dave laminated for her to protect them from damage. Clutching a cardboard tube containing the prints under her arm the girl and her dog made their way back home and arrived just before her dad and in time for tea.

What an adventure and the prints would look great on her bedroom wall.
Do you want to know more about Bryan Pentelow and his Sprocket Sagas collection? Then reach out to him at his favorite haunts.

https://www.facebook.com/bryan.pentelow.author

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13623813.Bryan_Pentelow

https://niume.com/profile/97066#!/posts

amazon.co.uk/Bryan Pentelow

penworkspublishing@gmail.com

Special Feature: Sunday Stroll in the Gallery: featuring Kyra Leary

Sunday Stroll in the Gallery is a feature to bring new eyes to artists. Welcome to the Gallery and enjoy the view. Let’s meet Kyra Lyra.

My name is Kyra Leary and I live visually. I am not a professional photographer. I snap on impulse, capturing whatever pleases my eye or makes my heart skip a beat. In my world, a sunset is a sunset not a “colorful spectacle of light and hope”. It’s a photo and if it’s done right, it needs no description. All my nondescript photography can be viewed at www.kyraleary.com.
In addition to photography, I am the author of the Earth No. 105 series by Ame Terra. The series is a mix of science fiction, dystopian, paranormal romance. In short, a mutt. A lovable mix with something for everyone. Want to see the lovable mix for yourself? Everything Earth No. 105 can be found at https://kyraleary.com/www-whoisleader-com/.
In additional to photography and writing, I enjoy traveling, reading Indie novels, spoiling my son and dog and splurging on expensive wine. Read my “weird and witty” book reviews at https://kyraleary.com/book-reviews/.

Time to enter the Gallery: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All my photos are free to Indie authors to use as they wish – marketing, promotions, covers or simply for inspiration. A listing of some that might inspire can be found at https://kyraleary.com/photo-listato/ but Indies can request any photo I’ve posted anywhere by shooting me an email at ameterra@comcast.net.

My books are free to anyone who follows my blog simply by emailing ameterra@comcast.net. Shop for my books at https://kyraleary.com/shop/. They are also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and ebooks.
Here’s some other places I hang out:
Twitter @LearyKyra
Instagram beckettleary

If you are an artist and want to share your artwork, photographs, pottery, modern sculpture. comic or anime, then contact me here.  I’ve brought Sunday Stroll in the Gallery over to The Page Turner and welcome new, upcoming, established artists that want to have their work seen. Contact me at vicgoodwin@gmail.com to learn how.


Exciting Giveaways each week! Join in Weekly and Win!

If you like children’s book and middle-grade books or just family friendly books, then join us for our new feature.  The Feature: We’re Sharing with You is live now.

In the Facebook group, Parents, Find Children’s Books and Authors here, you can sign up for a chance to win a variety of prizes.  Children’s books, merchandise from participating authors, special bling, and swag will be issued to the weekly winners. With just a few hours notice, we already have authors lined up with prizes. Prizes will be drawn on Friday, August 18, 2017, and every Friday after that while supplies last.

We're Sharing

If you have never been on Facebook this is a wonderful way to begin. Sign in at Facebook.com and create a profile. Add a nice profile picture and you will be on your way. click the link and you will find yourself surrounded by authors, readers, parents, and more. We will show you the ropes.

One thing is for sure, these authors love to share with readers. Take a moment to meet the authors, meet the other parents, and other readers. It is a welcoming group what will love having you with us.  As readers, we love books as much as you do.

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This is the fabulous prize this week.  A signed copy of The Adventures of Nick and Billy by Michael Hoard.  By the way, if you are in Poughkeepsie Saturday, drop in at Barnes and Noble and meet Michael in person.

We can’t wait to see you in the group!

 

 

Guest Post: How Theatre Saved My Life, by Deborah Baldwin

 

My imagination (and later, theatre specifically) saved my life. When I was a child, my mother was quite ill and consequently to show respect to her, I controlled my emotions. so I didn’t want compound her stress.

I was the youngest in my family. With ten years between me and my next closest sibling, I rarely had anyone to play with or talk to. I depended upon my imagination to comfort me and take me away from loneliness I felt but wouldn’t admit to anyone. I learned how to slap on a smile and pretend everything was good with me.  I was quite a little actress.

When I saw movies, I would act them out and sing very dramatically while sequestering myself upstairs on the east porch of our house. It had no heat and I remember freezing to death for my “art”.

I thought I was crazy, though. I never told my friends about my make believe playing and when I would visit their houses, they never played make believe. So I decided I wasn’t like everyone else. I played make believe until I was twelve.

My father was a physician and my mother was raised in Japan when she was a child. Consequently, her wander lust was difficult to satiate and we traveled to many countries when I was quite young.

If it wasn’t hard enough being the youngest, my world view was very different from my fellow classmates. Just another thing to make me an oddity, at least in my mind.

My mother wasn’t at all supportive of my interest in theatre. She intimated I could end up like Elizabeth Taylor, “She’s been married seven times. Look at her…”Something was mentioned about me ending up on a “casting couch.” I didn’t know what that was, but by my mother’s attitude, I knew it must be bad.

Trying to be the good daughter,  I left behind my imagination and became a cheerleader in junior high school. It makes sense if you think about it. That worked for two years and I loved the performing aspect of it.  I was a rotten jumper.  No one taught me how to do a round off or cartwheel, so I taught myself.  But I could yell loudly and lead the crowd in cheers.  At least I could do that!

When I was in high school, I found exactly what I was seeking –the stage! I was cast in my first play as Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit”.  Since I had no previous acting experience, but lots experience playing the piano, I notated my script as if I was playing the piano. I used fermatas for pauses and crescendo and decrescendo signs when I wanted to speak louder or softer.

To this day, I grow nostalgic whenever I step backstage. The scent of sawdust, newly painted flats and the warmth of the stage lights are a magical elixir to me. I brush the back of my hand across a velvet grand curtain and immediately I feel I’m home.

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In college, I experienced an epiphany. It was the early 1970’s, and society impressed upon me to hide my negative feelings or only express those feelings most accepted by others. I realized by sharing myself hiding behind a character, I could express all my feelings and thoughts. I felt accepted universally.

That’s a heady experience which made me come back for more. Nearly forty years later, I’m happily stuck here.

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I became a director for a community theatre production of The Miracle Worker because there was no one else willing to do the job. Ha! I have a leader type personality and directing fit into my life.
I was quite young to take on such a challenging production but I took to it right away. I saw the potential of affecting people through stories that I created in my own manner.

Now, I adore making a statement through words and actions.

As of this writing, I have directed over 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike.  I chose to direct and act at the community level for most of my career.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy professional theatre.  On the contrary. I’ve appreciated the professional positions in which I have been employed.

It’s just not where my life’s journey has taken me.  I’m always open to work in whatever venue needs me.

I’ve portrayed many beloved roles–Maria in “The Sound of Music”, Marion Paroo in “Music Man”,  Dot in “Cricket on the Hearth”, Penny in “You Can’t Take it With You” and many others. Above all, more than any particular role or any special production, I have learned about myself. 

Theatre saved my life.  It has given me great joy, creative challenges and great friendships (I even met my husband while acting in a show). 

I don’t know where I would be without it.

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Bio

Deborah is an award winning author, teacher and director.  Recently retired, she taught drama to elementary through high school students for thirty-eight years.  Among many other theatrical experiences, she has directed over 250 plays and musicals with adults and children alike.  Recently, she and her husband of thirty-four years moved from the Colorado Rockies to Kansas to be grandparents to their first grandchild.  When Deborah isn’t writing, reading or cooking she enjoys seeing movies and traveling.  Lastly, she serves as hand maiden to her two quirky cats who really run the show.

The Revisit of Arizona Highways by Sojourner McConnell

 

Revisiting the Arizona Highways

My grandmother, Mama Kate, always had copies of the magazine Arizona Highways on her coffee table and in her magazine racks. It was one of those magazines that she taught me you never tossed out. It was the magazine I could look through time and again. The sky was different than the ones we had back home in Alabama. The colors were more vivid and the clouds stood taller in the sky.

A November Desert Sky

The one thing that always stood out to me was the Reds. The reds of the dirt, the red of the Grand Canyon and the reds of the sunsets. The towering white clouds edged in red, contrasting with the turquoise sky between. Now I realize the photographer took the pictures of those tall massive clouds because they were rare.

In my mind that was Arizona. Arizona was a state with places like the Indian Children’s School on Indian School road. This was the school that my grandparents supported with financial donations all while I was growing up and we would receive little Indian dolls. These dolls were the gift my grandmother received for her devotion to the little school that helped the Indian children learn English, math, and science. As an adult, I have learned that they were not all happy to be here, but my grandparents helped both out of the goodness of their hearts and the faith in the beliefs of the times.
These memories provided the components in my mind that made Arizona special.

Today all those emotions and memories came flooding back when I saw a woman that had taken the time to get out of her car on the side of the busy four lane road during rush hour traffic in order to take pictures of the sky. The towering glimmering white clouds with the little touches of turquoise between were demanding attention.

Oh, did I mention the reds? Because each massive white cloud had just the faintest hint of red.

At that moment in my mind, I had just sat down on the floor with my back propped up against the cold marble coffee table with my grandmother’s Arizona Highways magazine propped against my knees. Turning the pages and dreaming of the day I could see this for myself. Forty years later, I am on that very road.

I remember this exact cover. Mama Kate kept her Arizona Magazines stacked in neat piles all her life. 

Today, I found myself wishing that I too could pull over on Indian School Road in Phoenix, to watch the sunset melt into the ribbons of red. It was then I realized I am living my own issue of Mama Kate’s Arizona Highways magazine.

 

As an aside:

I am sharing this story as a reprint,  as I wrote it several years back while living in Arizona.  I was thrilled that Arizona Highways shared it on their WordPress site several years ago. My love for the reds of Arizona has not diminished. Neither have the emotions that the reds conjure.

The Siege by James Hanna: A book review

The Siege by James Hanna

The Siege

  • File Size: 1488 KB
  • Print Length: 276 pages
  • Publisher: Sand Hill Review Press; 2 edition (February 27, 2014)
  • Publication Date: February 27, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00IPROD3U

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

My Review:

The Siege is told in a gritty and realistic manner. The story is told in time sequence so you could see the event unfolding one hour at a time.

There were plenty of characters to meet and try to understand. I found likability to be missing for the most part. Everyone was tainted, jaundiced, or hardened by the system they worked and lived in. I did find the personal relationships between some of the characters to be interesting and hopeful.  The storyline is interesting as you see the corruption, bad decisions and what can come from those.

The darkness of the material kept me from loving this book. When I read the book I found that I needed breaks due to the harshness of the environment. If you enjoy realism and reading about a dirty, corrupt, and seedy prison underbelly this book will be perfect. It is well written and interesting.

 Where you can Find The Siege:

This thriller is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.