Most Memorable Books 2015


Most Memorable Books 2015

Natalie Bright

New York Times Bestselling author Jodi Thomas tells her students to set aside time to write every day, and that reading works by other writers is just as important. Just as we can recognize the musical strains of jazz or bluegrass or hip hop, so too must writers be able to recognize and learn from reading brilliant prose.

Here are a few of my most memorable reads of the past year:

RANSOM CANYON by Jodi Thomas. (Harlequin) Not because she’s a local Amarillo author and a friend, but because she’s done it again with this new series set in the heart of Texas. The cast of characters in the world of West Texas ranching makes for good entertainment.

WHITE STALLION OF LIPIZZA by Marguerite Henry. (Aladdin) Engaging story about a boy’s dream to work with the world famous Lipizzaner horses. Many of Marguerite Henry’s books have been reissued for today’s readers. It is my deepest inspiration to be able to write with as much emotion and clarity as Ms. Henry. At first glance they seem like simple stories, but as writers we can appreciate the complexities of her talent.

FIRST BLOOD by David Morrell. (Hachette Book Group) In 1982 Rambo hit the big screen. I have to admit that I was over my crush by Movie #3, but now my boys are huge fans. I heard the “father of Rambo” speak at a writers conference and he signed two copies of FIRST BLOOD for my boys. They were so thrilled with his autograph, they refused to loan me a book to read and I had to settle for an eBook version. The writing blew me away. It’s a vivid, often times violent tale, with a great lesson in how to write suspense. I’m forever more a huge fan of Mr. Morrell.

GIRL ON A WIRE by Gwenda Bond. (Skyscape) Unique twist on the age old Romeo and Juliet scenario set in the fascinating grit of a traveling circus. The tight wire scenes are fantastic writing.

WILD RAN THE RIVERS by James Crownover. (Five Star Publishing) Told in the unique style from the point of view of a young women and her young brother, their story pulls you in from the beginning. The imagery of the old west proves a well-researched historical story. I love books that make we want to learn more about the time period and place. The scenes involving the New Madrid earthquakes (1811-1812) are edge of your seat storytelling. Well-deserved winner of two prestigious SPUR awards from the Western Writers of America for best historical and best first novel.

SAILING WITH IMPUNITY by Mary E. Trimble. (nonfiction, Shelter Graphics) Sailing the Pacific is something I can’t foresee doing in my life-time, so this book is the next best thing. If you’ve ever dreamed about sailing the high seas, you will love this book. Learn about the prefect sail boat, the preparation, maritime regulations. Experience the isolation, details of daily living, the islands, and the people. An unforgettable read.

ALL FALL DOWN by Ally Carter. (Scholastic) If you’ve ever wondered about the young adult genre, start with this one. Set in Embassy Row the main character is the grand-daughter of a powerful ambassador. Filled with a teenaged world-view of complications and angst, there’s also a mystery to be solved.

GEORGE WASHINGTON SECRET SIX by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger. (Penguin Group) Another standout nonfiction book for me about “the spy ring that saved the American Revolution”. The book flap indicates that this story is based on extensive research and there’s no doubt. It inspired me to keep writing on my story idea set in pre-revolutionary times and made me realize how much more research I need to do.

TEXAS MAIL ORDER BRIDE by Linda Broday (Bachelors of Battle Creek Series). (Sourcebooks) Also from an Amarillo author and friend, this is a new series about cowboys, the old west, and sweet romance. What more could you possibly want in a story?

We’d love to know about some of your standout reads in the past year.

Thanks for following WordsmithSix!

 

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SPIRIT


SPIRIT

By Sharon Stevens

 

February is such a short month. So many anniversaries, so many birthdays, so many celebrations, how do you choose just one to write about. Mardi Gras, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, St. Valentine, George Ferris of the Ferris wheel, and now Pope Benedict. Amazing what you can find if you just stop, look and listen.

They all have one thing in common, one specific agenda they refer to, and not just an inward strength, but an outward resolve. They all have spirit…and strength…and passion…and dedication in some fiber of their being. Their faith may be different, their homeland, their families, but, one by one, they simply have one common path that leads them to their next destination.

Today Mary Badham visited the campus of WTAMU to talk about her role as Scout in the Harper Lee story of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. What an impact this movie has had for over fifty years! We had just seen, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln” at the Varsity Theater here in Canyon, two powerful stories from two different centuries, and two separate wars. The message will always be the same. The resolve to tell the story will remain strong no matter how far apart the witnesses are.

And the spirit then leads me to the Steven Spielburg and Debbie Allen movie, “Amistad”. John Quincy Adams advises that “in court, the side with the best story usually wins.” This leads the abolitionists and the lawyers to try to find the story, the true story of their plea, and this eventually leads to the Mende’s freedom.

As writers we can pick and choose thousands of stories on millions of topics or maybe it’s the other way around. How lucky we are to go through life with an eternal link to every tale we want to tell. Ecstatic or crestfallen any of us can weave the ultimate experience and use myriads of words to do it with. Turning right or left the case can be stated, the arguments debated, tabled, stricken, laid to rest.

But the spirit still remains.

In “Amistad” Cinque, along with his fellow countrymen on trial for their life and their freedom. He told John Quincy Adams that…“If one can summon the spirit of his ancestors then they have never left. The wisdom they fathered and inspired will come to my aid. Then I will reach back and draw them into me. Then they must come, as I am the whole reason they have existed at all.”

Today is Valentine’s Day!  You can choose chocolates, flowers, stuffed animals, cards, or countless other tangible expressions to express your sentiments. It is your spirit alone that helps you to choose what best conveys the spirit of love to your loved ones.

But I would like to leave you with a simple thought that brings up the spirit of love to me. Paul Stookey wrote, “The Wedding Song (There is Love) in 1969 for the wedding of his friend Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary. This beautiful song was sung at our wedding when we married in 1972 and sung at both our daughter’s wedding as well. Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweet husband for not only this day, but for all the days to follow!

“…The union of your spirit here has caused you to remain, for whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name, there is love!”

DESTINATION


DESTINATION

by Sharon Stevens

“Destination-The purpose for which anything is intended or appointed; end or ultimate designs.” 1890 Webster’s Dictionary

I just love pageantry, don’t you? I love everything about it… the colors, the music, the fanfare, the camaraderie, the life stories, what’s not to like? I am amazed how people can pull together thoughts and families and turn them into visions and images for the whole world to view.

There is so much pageantry going on this weekend. To name just a few, the Olympics begin, the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon will be displaying a lock of George Washington’s hair, and last but not by any means least, Linda Broday, Phyliss Miranda and Jodi Thomas are in Anaheim California for the Romance Writers Conference and Awards.

There is enough inspiration in just one moment with any of these events to carry an average observer for an entire year.  I was reminded of this when I was cleaning out the trunk of my car and came across the May 2001 issue of the local magazine ACCENT WEST. In it was the article by Liz Cantrell, “The Power Of A Dream,” about Brandon Slay and the story of his memories with the Olympics.

I had forgotten there was so many connections to our area so I stopped by the Canyon Public Library and picked up a copy of “Pride Of The Plains, 50 Years of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame” by Mike Haynes and Dave Wohlfarth. The first story was about Joe Fortenberry, the Olympic basketball player from Happy Texas who attended WTSU. The last story was about Brandon Slay and his commitment to youth and sports all around the country. One of the many stories in the book was written about Merry Byers from Canyon, and her journey in basketball, all written by Jon Mark Beilue.

Every story I read is pageantry. I can’t help it. My heart doesn’t need to hear the “Star Spangled Banner” to explode with pride. It swells with everything I read in every publication with each word printed, and every photo posted no matter what country is represented. I can celebrate every single second all the way from the Opening Ceremonies to the last fireworks bursting in the skies over London. And this leads me to the connection with destination.

Diane Sawyer interviewed Apolo Ohno for the 2010 Olympics. He said something so interesting and deep I have carried this in my writing ever since.

Ohno mentioned that most of the other kids were there to win a Gold Medal, but he said he was living his destination. He had come to enjoy and celebrate the experience of just being among competitors and athletic friends.

So this weekend if you watch the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, or travel to the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum to view the lock of George Washington’s hair, or google the awards at the Romance Writers Convention in California of Jodi Thomas, Phyliss Miranda, Linda Broday and DeWanna Pace, embrace the joy and excitement and pageantry each represents. Wish them God Speed as they travel to their destinations, and don’t forget that they cherish these wishes as they return home.

As always I am living my destination. Happy trails as you journey to yours.

Sharon Stevens

TENDER


TENDER

by Sharon Stevens

I found two one dollar bills in my dryer this morning. To find these meant they had been washed in our washing machine and cleansed by the water from our own well. This water was unquestionably drawn from the Tierra Blanco Creek flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer underneath our land. The electricity for the washer and dryer may have been supplied by Excel Energy, but as God and John Wayne are my witness I know the power was provided by the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

Yep, these are my dollar bills. I know this because one is I picked these out of the dryer myself, and I know my husband never has any ready cash on hand. And two, I was washing MY clothes and not his. So I claim them lock stock and tender.

What to do, what to do. This money instantly began to burn a hole in my pocket with possibilities galore. I could use them to buy my daily soft drinks or powdered sugar donuts at Marks Chevron across the street from our Buffalo Bookstore. Maybe I can save it for popcorn at the Varsity Theater down the block. Naw. What about if I use it to purchase gee gaws at the Hideout next door or maybe I could travel down to Dollar General to buy Ginger snaps for the cookie jar in our business or candy for the goodie bags. What if I pay for printing at Hayley’s Printing on the Randall County Courthouse Square or to find some treasure at Stevens Flowers or H.R. Flowers down the road. Or there is coffee at the Palace, or ice cream at the Rock and Roll Soda Shop.

Agony! Endless possibilities! Glory be!  After pondering my dilemma and contemplating the consequences of my actions and reactions I formulated a plan. I will first put one of these precious bills in our cash register, and get change to buy both the Canyon News and Amarillo Globe News. Who knows where those quarters will go.

The other dollar I will tuck among those who have found their way into my pocket. Without a glance I will pull it out to pay for something, and send it on its maiden voyage from me to some unknown destination around our big blue marble.

I may never know, can never know where this money came from, and I have no clue where they will travel in the future, or how they will be used. Perchance they may have originated at a local bank, or a banking institution millions of miles away. They could have come from a tourist or a tramp, a child or child at heart. The combinations are not only endless but timeless.

Each time I glanced at these bills before they went into circulation, no matter how hard I tried, George Washington wouldn’t and couldn’t share any clues of his travels, and I know for a fact he had no way to document his path. I couldn’t find a “Where’s George” anywhere on his person.

So his appearance in my dryer will have to remain a mystery forever and ever Amen.

As writers we string words together and send them out the door, or the internet, or facebook, or twitter. We have no clue who or whom will pick them up and settle them in their hearts or pass them on to the next destination. This is why we write. I take this back, this is why we SHOULD write. For when we focus on connecting to one certain individual or a single interest we have lost the journey and sacrificed the story. And if we spend all our time worrying who we can link to, or who it will offend we can never fully set ourselves free to write. We just cannot choose who receives the message.

Besides imagining the other is way more fun. Happy Trails!

Sharon Stevens

TENDER


TENDER

I found two one dollar bills in my dryer this morning. To find these meant they had been washed in our washing machine and cleansed by the water from our own well. This water was unquestionably drawn from the Tierra Blanco Creek flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer underneath our land. The electricity for the washer and dryer may have been supplied by Excel Energy, but as God and John Wayne are my witness I know the power was provided by the sun during the day and the moon and the stars at night.

Yep, these are my dollar bills. I know this because one is I picked these out of the dryer myself, and I know my husband never has any ready cash on hand. And two, I was washing MY clothes and not his. So I claim them lock stock and tender.

What to do, what to do. This money instantly began to burn a hole in my pocket with possibilities galore. I could use them to buy my daily soft drinks or powdered sugar donuts at Marks Chevron across the street from our Buffalo Bookstore. Maybe I can save it for popcorn at the Varsity Theater down the block. Naw. What about if I use it to purchase gee gaws at the Hideout next door or maybe I could travel down to Dollar General to buy Ginger snaps for the cookie jar in our business or candy for the goodie bags. What if I pay for printing at Hayley’s Printing on the Randall County Courthouse Square or to find some treasure at Stevens Flowers or H.R. Flowers down the road. Or there is coffee at the Palace, or ice cream at the Rock and Roll Soda Shop.

Agony! Endless possibilities! Glory be!  After pondering my dilemma and contemplating the consequences of my actions and reactions I formulated a plan. I will first put one of these precious bills in our cash register, and get change to buy both the Canyon News and Amarillo Globe News. Who knows where those quarters will go.

The other dollar I will tuck among those who have found their way into my pocket. Without a glance I will pull it out to pay for something, and send it on its maiden voyage from me to some unknown destination around our big blue marble.

I may never know, can never know where this money came from, and I have no clue where they will travel in the future, or how they will be used. Perchance they may have originated at a local bank, or a banking institution millions of miles away. They could have come from a tourist or a tramp, a child or child at heart. The combinations are not only endless but timeless.

Each time I glanced at these bills before they went into circulation, no matter how hard I tried, George Washington wouldn’t and couldn’t share any clues of his travels, and I know for a fact he had no way to document his path. I couldn’t find a “Where’s George” anywhere on his person.

So his appearance in my dryer will have to remain a mystery forever and ever Amen.

As writers we string words together and send them out the door, or the internet, or facebook, or twitter. We have no clue who or whom will pick them up and settle them in their hearts or pass them on to the next destination. This is why we write. I take this back, this is why we SHOULD write. For when we focus on connecting to one certain individual or a single interest we have lost the journey and sacrificed the story. And if we spend all our time worrying who we can link to, or who it will offend we can never fully set ourselves free to write. We just cannot choose who receives the message.

Besides imagining the other is way more fun. Happy Trails!

Sharon Stevens

WORDS


WORDS

by Sharon Stevens

“If we want their attention to tell them stories,we need to shout something riveting in the first few words.” – Nandy Ekle

Post Cards From the Muse – Wordsmith Six Blog


When I read Nandy’s blog regarding “underwear” I was instantly jolted back in time to a memory that jogged my heart.

When our daughter, Andrea, was attending WTAMU she worked part time at In His Hands Preschool at the United Methodist Church in Canyon. Her group was studying the alphabet and each day was devoted to a different letter. One day the class read U and the accompanying image had to do with underwear. Of course the kids hooted and snickered. They didn’t know why, they just knew it was funny.

I have no idea what the symbol for V was the next day, but I remember quite clearly that the letter for W represented Washington…George to be exact. The kids didn’t really care as much for this visualization as they did the underwear until Andrea connected it locally. She asked them if they knew what color George Washington’s hair was. Of course they all thought it was white, representing his age as well as the powdered wigs they saw in the picture books. Andrea informed them that the actual color of his hair was closer to a strawberry red and she could prove it.

Our daughter had been volunteering as a Girl Scout at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum for several years. She knew that the archives housed a lock of George Washington’s hair along with a letter of authenticity and also the provenance.

Andrea arranged with the preschool and the museum for a field trip to check out not only this, but some of the other treasures housed there. I don’t know how many kids remember this almost twenty years later, but doubtless there are some who can connect the trip to the museum to Washington himself.

Andrea has led hundreds of tours in her teaching career since then. Just like any other teacher she loves to recall bits and pieces of those who have touched her life, brightened her heart, and strengthened her path. And with her years in Girl Scouts she has become creative in using any item as a teaching tool.

We again used the story of Washington’s lock of hair when Andrea asked us, her parents, to come speak to her class at Stipes Elementary in Irving Texas as part of her Flat Stanley project. (She is now at the Sally Elliot Elementary School). After years of volunteering at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum we knew the history of our area and loved to share our heritage. My husband and I were in our costumes from the 1890’s and encouraged to talk about pioneer life in the panhandle of Texas.

To our delight several other classes came to hear us speak, and it was wonderful to have input from Margie Stipes. We learned from her the true meaning of a “Baptist Pallet.” Stipes Elementary was named after Margie and John Stipes. They were both long standing members of the school board and influential in supporting teachers and schools.

But back to our visit…that year celebrated the 275th year of Washington’s birth, and I presented Mrs. Stipes and principal Marty French a George Washington dollar coin along with the story from the museum about his lock of hair and a picture of Flat Stanley showing it off.

This past Monday we celebrated Presidents Day commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. When this holiday rolls around every year I remember the time that our daughter who was going to college to become a teacher arranged a field trip of young children to visit our local museum to see a lock of history.

Andrea was able to take a letter of the alphabet and give it meaning and make it tangible. She made it just as real for the kids as the image of the U in underwear. Like every teacher from time immemorial she helped those students to take this symbol and make a word, and then connect it to an idea, and turn it into a story.

Isn’t this what we as writers try to do?

Several years ago I found a quote from George Washington on the back of a medal presented from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge that I think says it all.

“Impress on the mind of every man from the first to the lowest…the importance of the cause and what it is they are contending for.”

Sharon Stevens