Walters’ Holler

Stock Photo-Hyner Run State Park

Photo Credit: Hyner Run State Park Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons from Flicker – Author Nicholas A. Tonelli

In my first exploration of the Missouri Ozarks, I was looking at a charming underground house that I thought I wanted to buy.  They wanted $39,000 for three acres including the underground house, a barn they remodeled for a rabbitry (cages included), and a cabin.  It was a sweet deal.  However, the owner and I couldn’t meet eye to eye on it.

We checked other properties; there just wasn’t the “right fit” for what I was looking for. Even in Missouri, my $40,000 dollars wasn’t going to buy much from the dilapidated places we visited.

I had written my attorney a year before musing that I wanted a place with 5-10 acres, a creek on the property, and a little house/cabin that was at the end of the street for privacy.  As the week progressed on the real-estate expedition, my time was running out, and I realized then that I might be moving a little further than one county from the Wilder place where I wanted to be.  Nothing was showing any promise for purchase.

When the underground house fell through, my realtor said, “If you want something bad enough, you’re going to have to fight for it.”  My reply? “That’s not my karma.”  The realtor’s eyes lit up, and he ran to the file cabinet, came back, and threw a picture at me.  “This place isn’t for sale yet. The couple is here to clean it out and get it ready to list. Back in the 70’s, the area started out as a hippie commune, but reality struck when they ran out of money and had to go to work.  Some really nice people own it now.  They are lawyers from California.”  Well, he was a little bit off with the “lawyer” bit but continued to jaw about the place on the thirty-minute drive through hill and dale.

We bounced along down a really bad dirt road.  The dirt disappeared and was replaced with waist-high weeds.  Doril got out of the car to open the cow gate hindering our passage.  Down a steep hill, we went.  The car leaned far to the left.  I was losing my grasp on the dashboard that I grabbed to steady myself and started to slide on top of him, all the while thinking—Where is he taking me? Is the car going to topple over?  It was a scary and exhilarating ride down to the cement bridge that covered a gorgeous little brook, shimmering in the July sun.  “Sometimes this creek dries up in the hot weather, I think,” Doril chattered on.

We pulled up to a garage in the middle of the forest.  The owner had the doors open.  I saw the woodworking bench that ran almost wall-to-wall.  I was in love at the sight of it.  I tapped Doril on the shoulder and whispered, “I want this place.  Tell them I want to buy it.”  I hadn’t even seen the house yet.  But, the shimmering brook with the bugs playing in the daylight, and this magnificent garage where I could fix-up my fixer-upper, just melted my heart.  It was a place I knew from my heart.  I just knew I was home.

I went back to Greenwater, Washington, just 17 miles from the entrance to Mount Rainier, and wrote to my attorney as to what I had found.  She sent back that original email I had sent to her a year ago, explaining my hopes and dreams for my retirement.  And, it was exactly what I had found, my private little house in the woods with five acres, and a little creek in the forest.  This was going to be Walters’ Holler.

Note: Holler—a holler is a deep depression in the earth, like a small valley, but could also be enclosed on all sides.  Up North, in some places, it is called a hollow.  In the South, to my knowledge, it is a holler.

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At-Risk Youths

images year up

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections report for 2012 – 2022, “Occupations that typically require post-secondary education for entry are expected, on average, to grow faster than occupations that require a high school diploma or less.” About 20.4 million new jobs will be available over this period. The report goes on to say that wages are higher for those with bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees — averaging about $60,000 a year. Yet, it is estimated that 14 million of these higher-level positions will go unfilled due to the post-secondary educational requirements.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a large part of the population that is being neglected and ignored in our society.  It is common knowledge that low-income, urban young adults will never have the chance that their middle- to upper-class peers do when they graduate high school. Problems dealing with violence in school, problems at home, money issues, hunger, suicide, gang-related killings and substance abuse all weigh in heavily on these children in America. Sometimes just surviving day to day is all they can manage. Possibly one in three of these youths could end up with hood disease — a moniker given to inner-city kids with PTSD. If they do survive school and graduate, the employment prospects are pretty grim. According to Huffington Post, “Almost 6 million young people are neither in school nor working.”

It’s almost ironic that so many jobs will be available, but many young people remain unemployed for lack of qualification and/or training. So many are hungry for a chance, eager to make a place for themselves in the world, yet there is so little opportunity afforded them.

However, there is a chance for some through the social entrepreneurial company Year Up.  This organization understood that these young people could rise to higher expectations if the right situation presented itself. Flyers were sent out, inviting at-risk youths to apply.  The offer was this: Have a high school diploma or GED, show up for one year, learn skills in the financial field or in IT, get up to 23 college credits, and a stipend for expenses, work one-on-one with a mentor, and possibly hold an internship with a major company.

Social workers are on staff to help with private issues that may be insurmountable for someone so young; social skills in the workplace are taught so that the students will be able to function in a business social environment with grace and diplomacy.

The company has had spectacular results since it opened in 2000. They have served 8,500 young adults, and have provided interns for 250 corporate partners. Eighty-five percent of graduates are employed or attending college within four months of completing the program. Employed Year Up graduates earn an average of $15 per hour — the equivalent of $30,000 per year, and go up to $50,000 a year or more.

Companies like JP Morgan, which were once reluctant to take on these newly trained interns, are now eager to have them on board, and pay up to $23,000 for each intern at their company. Other corporate partners include Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Boston Children’s Hospital, American Express, The Huffington Post, Twitter and many others.

The Owl Wrangler by William Vaughn

The Owl Wrangler Front Cover

Seldith Chronicles–Book I

Tiny elves, a ‘uman’ mouse, and a wicked wizard overpowering all—this book will grab your interest and your heart.  It has all the magic of a good fantasy read.  So, sit back, grab a cuppa tea and a plate of cookies and follow Hisbil, the young forest elf, on his adventures to find his father–the owl wrangler, who disappeared days ago on one of his missions, and was never heard from again.

Young Hisbil is caught up in a tangle of emotions at this time in his young life.  Family and friends are pushing him to make an important decision on whether or not he is going to follow in his father’s footsteps.  He had planned to do this one day, but he never had expected that today would be “that” day.  He was too young, too innocent, too scared, too insecure—well . . . just “too everything.”  Granted, he was the only one who knew the spells that his father taught him, but he had no idea if he could remember everything.  It was a very scary and lonely time for this young Seldith.  If he declined, the village would end in ruins.

As many experiences in life happen (as we all know), one thing led to another and before Hisbil had any more time to think about his options he was off on the adventure of his life. There was no other choice but to keep moving forward—one step in front of the other.  His sweetheart Kassie, and his little sister Anasta, both, were mixed up in this mess, and he knew that he had to not only protect them but find his father, too. The further along they travelled the more unusual the characters became, and each tagged along, until there became a small posse of unlikely friends.

For me (an old forgetful curmudgeon), with all the minute detail that a good trilogy will start with, the beginning was hard to snag a catch.  It was slow going, and I had my doubts.  After a while, though, I started to be sucked into the storyline without knowing it.  Then, I realized that I was thinking of Hisbil during the day and all the trouble he was getting into.  I was thinking of Kassie, his girlfriend, and was worrying about her mother.  And, I was hoping that Hisbil’s father wasn’t dead, after all, as I turned page after page.  So, my closing thoughts are . . . don’t give up, because this story is well worth the effort of learning about the first few chapters in this new world.  It has all the intrigue and magic and fantasy and even a touch of romance that every really good story has, and you won’t be disappointed.  By the end of the book, I am sure you will be in love with all the characters as I am.

My thanks to the author for this lovely copy of The Owl Wrangler, and to Review the Book for allowing me to do just that!

 

THE OWL WRANGLER–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 1627 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Beta V; 4 edition (April 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004UVQ7M0

Tales of Tremora–The Shimmering by William Westwood Jr.

THE SHIMMERING–FUN!  The Best Fantasy Book I’ve Read This Year!

Shimmering6coverI nominate this as my “Book of the Year!”

“The Shimmering” is a wonderful fantasy story of fourteen year old Michael who, on his birthday, strikes out into the forests of the Cascades to search for his father who has been lost for a year.  By accident, Michael wanders into a “ripple of time,” which is called a shimmering, and lands into the magical world of Tremora.  People have compared this to “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.”  I say, “Phooey! And, Phooey again!”  There is no comparison—because, this story is delightfully unique in its own right.  And, I just can’t wait for the movie!  (Hollywood?  Are you listening?)

Michael’s free-loving, gypsy-type mother slips a note into his backpack the day he leaves.  When he finds the note he learns that his mother has been to Tremora many times.  She isn’t at all the normal housewife Michael thought she was.  She’s been an important figure in Tremora . . . actually, she’s been many, many important figures in Tremora—for a long, long time.  She also knows that this is exactly where her husband is.  She just hopes that Michael doesn’t accidentally kill him.

On Michael’s arrival to this special place he is greeted by a little green man named Tracker.  (No, he’s not from Mars.) This Tracker fellow was sent by high order of the king to escort and protect Michael on his journey.  From the very beginning, Michael is warned to “Be careful—there is danger everywhere.”  He wants to know why, but Tracker tells him he will find out when they get to the wizard’s meeting.  It’s driving Michael nuts that he doesn’t understand all this.  He doesn’t want to go to the wizard’s meeting—he just wants to find his dad!  Tracker presses on and tells the kid that before they can do anything about his father Michael has a serious job he has to perform.  He’s got to save Tremora.  And, of course, like you or me . . . the boy is thinking, ‘Me? Yah, right!  This guy has some serious mental problems.’ But, he has to humor Tracker so that he can find out more about this land and where his father might be.

The characters in this book are alive, exciting, and just plain fun.  There are no copycats here.  (To my knowledge there aren’t.)  I mean, who has ever heard of camelops, wazalops, shape-shifting friendly trolls, or fluster birds. Speaking of fluster birds, Michael actually gets to meet one, and that is special because they are believed to be extinct in most parts of Tremora.  Now, check this out—even the prose is creative and fun.  “The bird went berserk. It waved its wings wildly, turned summersaults, blustered, and sputtered—feathers flew everywhere as it chirped, whistled, and spun like a spinning wheel firecracker. It then plopped down with a thud on Michael’s upturned hand, legs splayed, eyes crossed, and small tongue hanging to the side. Even so, in the midst of it all, it still managed to grab the twig with one small foot (p. 131).”

I say, “Bravo, William Westwood! Bravo!”  This book should be in every home and school library in America. And, I can’t wait for the movie. . . . (Are you listening, Hollywood?)

Although, I do read books for the purpose of review–that in no way has any bearing on my opinion about this story.  I, like the fluster bird, am spinning and wildly waving as I run through the streets screaming, “Hey?  Have you read this one yet?  You gotta read it!  It’s really, really good!”

My thanks to the author for this lovely copy of “The Shimmering,” and to Review the Book.com for this opportunity to share my thoughts on what I believe is the best fantasy book of the year.

P.S. On the latest news . . . “The Shimmering” has won the Mom’s Choice award for friendly-family content and has been chosen for recording by the National Library Service audio books division and by Audible.com.  (Psst.–Hollywood . . . any takers?)

 

Bill Westwood Word Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SHIMMERING–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 894 KB
  • Print Length: 343 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1935359797
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Book Publishers Network; 1 edition (May 1, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005C2CLYO

The Best Place by Tyler R. Tichelaar

974510_10151663791848201_608006594_n COVERWhat do King Arthur, Lyla Hopewell, and Marquette, MI have in common?  (Answer to follow)

Lyla Hopewell is full of spunk, spitfire, and is as tough as they come.  Sometimes growing up in an orphanage will do that to someone.  And, sometimes, when the pain is really deep, from let’s say . . . losing your family, that spunk and spitfire can burn inward until there is nothing left but empty bitterness.  Lyla’s journey to finding herself and learning the mysteries of her past is a long one.  People think that when you reach a certain age that you can no longer learn anything.  Lyla can tell you a different story because she doesn’t stop learning in 2005 when she is 77-years-old.  That whole year blossoms into something beautiful from one single, quiet closed-up life.  And, all the time that Lyla is learning to live her best friend Bel is experiencing her own difficult times, and this sets a bit of a small wedge between the life-long friends.

Now, I can’t tell you what happens between the girls because I’ve still got about 40 more pages to read.  I didn’t want to spoil the ending for anyone and I knew I might just do that—so I stopped short.

What I can tell you is the character development in this story is excellent.  Each person has strong definitive lines that are kept within in their own personality traits.  And, I don’t understand how the author can live inside a little girl’s head, go through the pain that this woman went through for 77 years, and then little by little as that magical year of 2005 passes by, all the bitterness starts to melt away, and she finally realizes what her life has meant and what wonderful possibilities she has in front of her.  How can someone who is absolutely crazy about King Arthur, and Marquette, MI possibly know what goes on in the life of an old woman?  Wait!  I forgot . . . it’s not one old woman–I forgot Lyla’s friend, Bel.  Not only that, but he absolutely nails the personality of the snippy, smart aleck 14 year old, and the 25 to 35 year old who is in love with the son of Lyla’s one-and-only pitiful romance from year’s past.

Now, no one gets murdered in this book, there’s no bloodshed to speak of, and really no violence going on—well . . . there would have been if Lyla could have gotten her hands on that little smart aleck, Josie.  She sure tried hard enough to catch her—and, for a 77 year old woman she sure gave that little girl a good chase.  So, if you don’t mind missing all the gory stuff and would just like to cuddle up with a really good story—then, this is your book.  Look at it this way–anyone who can write about King Arthur and Marquette, MI and still write a really great book about a woman’s life has got to be a very well-rounded, talented author.

Thank you Tyler Tichelaar for this lovely copy of your book “The Best Place,” and for the opportunity to give you my honest opinion of what I read.  I can’t wait for what you have in store for us next time.

 ♥  Read an excerpt from Tyler’s book. . . .

THE BEST PLACE–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 738 KB
  • Print Length: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Marquette Fiction; 1 edition (June 10, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DFKMUHS

Spirit of the North by Tyler Tichelaar

1291646_10151663792218201_1120710923_n SPIRITIt’s time for bed and I’ve been reading a bit of this story every night.  I just reached for the book and realized I finished it.  What a letdown.  The characters were part of my bedtime routine, but they are all busy in their own world within the pages of the book.  I wonder how Barbara and Adele would be doing now.

This is the second book I’ve read by Tyler Tichelaar.  I have to say, that it was as equally charming and quaint a tale, of days gone by, as “The Only Thing That Lasts,” which was the first book I read.  What really caught me up in the story was the daring and tenacity that these two girls showed by trying to live in their uncle’s abandoned Michigan cabin for a winter.  There’s something that touches my heart about women who brave the odds and stick out the hardships of surviving against nature as if it were no more difficult than missing a bus and walking to work.  However, for Barbara and Adele, it was not very easy—yet, they did survive.  Of course, they had a bit of help from time to time from some local loggers who turned out to be a bit more intriguing than the first blush of fascination young girls have for young men when they meet.

Somehow this story reminded me most of “A Girl of the Limberlost” by Gene Stratton Porter, and I’m trying to figure out why.  The two stories had nothing to do with each other except perhaps the years the stories were set in.  I think, that maybe it was the comparison of Elnora in “Limberlost” with Barbara in “Spirit of the North.”  They were both fighting battles, and in a slim way, both were fighting to stay alive and succeed with nothing more than their wits and good common sense.  Elnora had to survive her mother’s mental illness and the two girls, Barbara and Adele had to survive their dead uncle’s mental illness and how it affected their survival and happiness.   The women had grit and spunk and determination—so much so—that nothing was going to stop them, not illness, not love, not isolation/fear/money.  These are all the traits women had to have to survive around the turn of the last century.  And, I think, this is why I’m so drawn to that time period.

Overall, the story was a fun read and I really enjoyed it.

My thanks to the author for this lovely copy of “The Spirit of the North” and to Review the Book.com for this opportunity to review the book.

 

SPIRIT OF THE NORTH–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 686 KB
  • Print Length: 314 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0979179068
  • Publisher: Marquette Fiction; 1st edition (March 19, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007MTPFDE

The Only Thing That Lasts by Tyler R. Tichelaar

1080472_10151663791618201_1297244887_n ONLY THING

An Endearing Tale of a Simpler Time

 “A true library inside a home!  To possess a library was the only reason I could think of for why anyone would want to be rich.”

Okay . . . I’m hooked!  How could I not fall in love with a boy (or anyone) who loves books that much?  Just getting to page 85 to see the excitement on Robert’s face as he sees all those beautifully embossed books lining the shelves in that massive library and knowing that as a solid defining moment in his life is worth the five stars to me.  Life was so different around a hundred years ago, and without television, telephones, computers, gadgets–I imagine to a young boy who wanted to find adventure and the mysteries of life, books would seem to hold the magic keys to the world.

Some people have compared this story to Twain’s scallywags Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  I don’t see that here.  This reminds me more of a story like  Little Women with all the homespun charm of the Little House books, except from a boy’s point of view. For this, I’d like to thank Tyler Tichelaar’s brother for requesting an “old fashioned story.” (Dedication page)  And, I’m a sucker for this type of tale.  It is so refreshing to not have all the people being murdered, being put into jail, doing drugs, or plotting revenge tactics.  This is just an easy story about a young boy’s fictional life in historic Marquette, Michigan.  Robert has more than his share of hardships and emotional adjustments for a young teen during the war, (and, as a young man) yet, he always seems to find the bright spot in things even if it is only for a short period of time as is evidenced in this passage, “And so, whenever life has felt close to falling apart, I think back on that day and think of the blue and the green, the two colors that made my soul leap up in me, that made me feel like I had a deeper, inner life I was only beginning to understand.” (P. 139)

Sprinkled throughout the book were historical facts about Marquette and Mackinac Island. It was so much fun to look up these places on the Internet.  I have to agree with the author that the Grand Hotel is the most impressive hotel I’ve ever seen.  It looks like an amazing place as does the island itself.  All this history added so much enjoyment to the story and made it really come to life.

The Only Thing That Lasts was such an enjoyable read that I’m certain I’ll be enjoying other works by Tyler R. Tichelaar.

I’d like to thank the author for this lovely copy of his book and also Review the Book.com for this opportunity to review this book.

 

THE ONLY THING THAT LASTS–AT AMAZON

  • File Size: 881 KB
  • Print Length: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Marquette Fiction; First edition (March 31, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0023RRRJU