Summer is flying by as we all know it can. I hope you took advantage of some time off and made it to a beach or river or lake somewhere. My brother Mike and his son Thomas rented a couple houses at Topsail Beach, here in North Carolina. We spent a Saturday and Sunday with them and our cousin Val was able to come up from Fayetteville with her two kids as well. We had a great time of eating and sharing and of course plenty of time in the water and sand.
When I did my book launch last year for The Sneezing Toucan, some of you asked how I got started writing these stories. Well, you are about to find out! I went Christmas shopping many years ago and had stopped by a wonderful gift shop in downtown St. Marys, Georgia. As I went to the counter, standing there was a Dept 56 collectable. It was an alligator with trees and presents all down the spine. BUT, what really caught my eye was that the alligator was wearing red high heeled shoes! I went home that afternoon and just couldn’t get that gator out of my head. Here is a picture of the collectable I found on Ebay and an ornament I bought years ago.
So, I went to the computer and just started typing and out came the first story, The Alligator’s Red Shoes. I read the story to the girls, who were little at the time, and they laughed and said “Dad, that’s funny!”
Well guess what my friends!! The Alligator’s Red Shoes is on the drawing table with Samantha Bell as illustrator again! I can hardly contain my excitement! She has sent the first batch of sketches and I want to share a couple with you. Just like The Sneezing Toucan, I will be asking young students to submit drawings for the website, so be on the lookout for that announcement soon. Here are a couple of the first sketches Samantha sent.
Recognize that boy in the window? Wait and see what’s in store as The Alligator’s Red Shoes makes it way through all the sketches and changes and then finally heads to the printer. A new character will be introduced to all of you and only The Shadow knows who it will be!
This second book will definitely have ties to the first and will also have future connections to book number three. Yes, book number three has already been written and is undergoing a review process and will be in the queue in a very short time. I must give credit to my daughter Bailee, who inspired me to build these books around a fictional town. After much thought, it hit me the other night as I was trying to get to sleep, Harpersville. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
That’s all for now my friends! Send me your requests for a Meet the Author event so I can get you on the calendar. Enjoy the rest of your summer and if you are already back in school, have a great year!!
Where on earth does the time go? I mean seriously! School is nearly out in so many parts of the country and Harper Lu has already got a head start on summer vacation by taking a trip to New Hampshire. I remember that Kenny Chesney song, Don’t Blink. Man, he ain’t kidding!
The Sneezing Toucan continues to fly around the country and we did some local flying too! Dixon Road Elementary School, along with hundreds of other schools, participated in a Scholastic Book Fair event. The Sneezing Toucan made an appearance and did a book signing and reading for Family Night. Shout out to Miss Holly Mangum for coordinating this terrific event at Dixon Road!
Not long after the Scholastic Book Fair event, The Sneezing Toucan winged his way to Raleigh and the Sycamore Creek Elementary School. This was the schools first author visit in 2 years and I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to come and share with all six kindergarten classes! We packed the library’s reading corner with 2 classes each and those children asked some really terrific questions! I want to thank Miss Andrea Lyons and Miss Tammy Mims for all their assistance and coordinating all those classes! Great library, great staff and great kids! Those Crocs Rock!
Now if you will kindly indulge me a few moments of your time. I meet once a month with a writers group and our fearless leader is Linda Loegel. Linda is a gifted writer and author of several historical fiction books which are terrific reads and I would highly encourage you to check one out. I said she is fearless, but it wasn’t tongue and cheek. She has been hot air ballooning, skydiving, parasailing and flown in a glider and a bi-plane with a leather helmet and all. Almost all of that was done later in life and some after the age of 60 and more. Then, she recently got married, pushing the age of 80! It is with sadness that I write that her husband of only 2 years, Stewart Hemby, died of heart attack this past week.
Now Linda had always encouraged me to write and challenged me every month and then some, to write, even if it wasn’t a rhyming story. So, many months ago, the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) issued a bulletin that was calling all writers for a unique opportunity. Godwin Books, an imprint of MacMillan Publishers was putting together a collection of short stories to be included in a book title The Haunted States of America. They were still looking for stories from North Carolina and about 15 other states. I said, “Well, why not?” I looked up several stories about ghosts and goblins and legends in NC for some inspiration and one really stood out, the ghost of Mako. After some more research, my fingers started flying. The story was for young readers and could not be more than 1300 words. I took the story and made some modifications, writers liberty, LOL, which was perfectly ok with SCBWI, and after a couple weeks and before the deadline, submitted a story.
Back to Stewart. As I was writing the draft, of course I sent updates to Linda for her keen eye on grammar and punctuation and she told him I was writing a ghost story. He said “He needs to write about the ghost of Mako!” Linda about fell over and said “He is!” Little did I know that Stewart had been in Wilmington in his younger days and took several dates out to see the ghost. I immediately called Linda and talked to Stewart. Turns out, Stewart had seen him several times and gave me incredible details. Fast forward. I submitted my story and waited. Competition was fierce, but alas, the story was not selected. Yes, I was a little disappointed, but it felt pretty cool to write something out of my comfort zone and stretch my writing a little bit. I will not forget Stewart and Linda’s contribution to the story, as you will read.
I want to leave a couple of last thoughts. What do YOU want to do? Write a book? Go skydiving? Travel overseas? Go back to school? Design clothes? The list is endless. What are you waiting for? Just go do it, don’t wait any longer. Every tick of the clock is a second you cannot bring back. Challenge yourself, push yourself and let others push and challenge you too.
Thanks for indulging me. In memory of Stewart, here is my story….
Tar River Trestle
The late summer sun shone through the windows of the State History 101 classroom and J.B. was bored out of his mind. The testosterone flowing through his body and his short attention span didn’t help matters either. He could hear Mr. Patterson babbling on about ghosts and goblins along the North Carolina coast and all the folklore that passed from generation to generation. “Ghosts my ass,” he thought. At the sound of the bell, he bolted out of his seat and quickly walked through the halls and out the front door of Bunn Middle School. After a short bus ride home, he entered his grandparents’ garage, grabbed his fishing rod, some bait and his ten-speed mountain bike, and headed down to the abandoned railroad trestle that spanned the Tar River. He knew those big catfish hung out near the pylons in the middle of the river and J.B. was determined to snag one before sunset. Ignoring the old danger sign, he pedaled carefully over the rotted ties until he was halfway across the bridge directly between two pylons forty feet below. Baiting the hook with some chicken liver, which his grandfather always kept in the garage fridge, J.B. dropped his nylon line into the river and waited for that familiar tug of a monster mud cat. This was his favorite place to come when he wanted to get away from the pressures and drama of middle school. He had even left his phone on the kitchen table so he didn’t have to listen to the constant alerts of Instagram and Snapchat and all the TikTok wannabes making ridiculous videos. He reeled the line back in and found the hook empty and grabbed another liver. The sky above was changing from clear to overcast and way off in the distance he heard a small rumble. “Ah, perfect fishing weather,” he said aloud and eased the line down next to the other pylon below. J.B.’s mind began to wander as he watched the river flow gently by. His eyes closed briefly, mesmerized by the sparkling water. The sound of a whistle blaring in the distance caused his eyes to fly open. He looked around and realized that his surroundings had dramatically changed; the sun had fallen behind the trees and now the clouds appeared ominous. Through the woods on the east side of the bridge, he could see a small light. As he peered into the maze of trees, he heard the ticking of his reel and then the rod began to bend with a huge mud cat on the hook. “Holy crap!” he shouted pulling up the rod quickly to set the treble hooks. A quick look back into the woods and J.B. was sure he saw a small bright light making its way through the trees. His mind was whirling now as the whistle became louder and the light even brighter. “A train? There is no way it could be a train, this line has been deserted for years.” His mind continued to race and then from the end of the bridge he saw a figure emerge onto the tracks but something was different about it. As a brilliant flash of lightning rippled above, the figure came into focus, and it was running, arms flailing and legs pumping. At that moment, J.B. realized what was different and let out a hair-curling scream. The figure’s body didn’t have a head! But as frightening as the figure was, even more frightening was the headlight of a train behind it, smashing through the overgrown trees and thundering down the old steel rails approaching the Tar River trestle. Completely terrified now, he dropped the rod and jumped on his bike and started pedaling like a mad man. He glanced back over his shoulder and screamed again as the train whistle blew and the distinct sound of the powerful locomotive filled the night air. The decapitated torso was still running wildly across the tracks with its arms reaching towards the sky as though he was trying to grab the stars above. J.B. felt the entire bridge shake and tremble as the oncoming train roared and bellowed toward him. He didn’t see the railroad tie sticking out and as the front tire hit, the bike suddenly veered to the right, heading over the rail towards the cold dark river below. With one last look back as he began to fall over the edge, he saw the headless apparition in the bright lights of the oncoming train. It was only a few feet away and in the blink of an eye, he noticed that the missing head was severed clean and there was a trace of blood on his old denim jacket. His blue bib overalls had stains of grease and mud and his rubber boots reminded him of a pair of worn Wellington boots his grandfather had. The blast of the whistle snapped J.B. out of his trance and in slow motion, gravity took over. As he fell with the bike, his arms flew up. Looking heavenward, he felt two hands reach down for him, tightly grabbing his wrists. He suddenly stopped falling and instead of landing in the water, was lifted in the air by the beheaded man who threw him over his shoulder. The chilling sound of the black locomotive howled as it raced onto the trestle. J.B. kicked, screamed, and pounded the back of the decapitated man, trying to free himself from his grip. He even took a swing at what should have been his head but hit nothing but air. It was then that he noticed on the back of the denim jacket in bright red letters against a dirty white background, a logo of the Atlantic Pacific Railroad, and right above the red R.R. were three scrawled letters. J…o…e. “Joe” was now nearing the end of the trestle and the pounding, screeching, and churning of the train’s wheels and engine was deafening. J.B. was bouncing from shoulder to shoulder since there was no head to hold him on one side or the other. The angry locomotive barreled across the bridge and was only thirty yards behind them when Joe leaped from the tracks, gently landing on a soft patch of grass. J.B. looked up in time to watch the train roar by, blasting its whistle and shattering its way through the trees on the west side of the trestle, finally disappearing into the night. J.B. saw the headless man standing over him then collapsed back onto the soft grass. J.B.’s eyes fluttered open as a gentle rain splashed his face. There in the grass next to him was his bike and fishing rod and the biggest Tar River catfish he had ever seen. He grabbed the rod and fish, jumped on the bike, and raced back to his grandparents’ home. His grandfather was on the porch. “I was just about to go looking for you. Are you all right? Come inside and get out of this rain. Hey Linda, come look at the size of this catfish J.B. caught!” As his grandparents stared at the monster mud cat, J.B. quickly told them what had happened, every detail etched in his memory. His grandparents looked at each other incredulously. His grandmother said with a quivering voice, “Tell him the story, Stewart.” His grandfather left the room and in no time returned with a well-worn denim jacket and slowly sat in the kitchen chair next to his grandson. He fingered a fraying patch and taking a deep breath, said, “Let me tell you about my great great uncle, Joe Baldwin, the Ghost of Mako.” (C) Jim Munroe, rhymes4life.com 3/2022
Hello Toucan Nation! First and foremost, I believe I owe all of you an apology for not keeping my blog updated. As so many of you know, life comes by in a blink and the next thing you know, months have passed. My Facebook account was hacked many months ago and I am still in the process of trying to acquire all my friends back. IF, you received a new friend request from me, listed as James Munroe, not Jim Munroe, please accept it and tell others about it too.
I wanted to thank you all for your tremendous support in 2021 with the successful book launch of The Sneezing Toucan. I have officially went over the 500 mark and although it may not sound like a lot, I think it’s pretty dang good. There is still much more work to do as I push towards my goal of 5000. There are @5-600,000 books published every year and fewer than 5% of those will sell more than 250 copies. You have helped me double that amount and I really appreciate your support and encouragement.
I was able to present The Sneezing Toucan via zoom to the kindergarten classes at Laurel Park Elementary School in Raleigh and a shout out to Heather Millsaps for her efforts in setting those up. The Toucan also flew to Polenta Elementary here in Johnston County. Special thanks to Sayonna Grace Adams and her outstanding children there. They asked some really great questions!
If you are a teacher or know a teacher that would like a visit from The Sneezing Toucan, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My off time is starting to fill up and summer will be here before we know it and all those kids will be on vacation. I am willing to travel anywhere in NC, SC, GA, FL and VA. Let me hear from you! Any school attended will be given an autographed copy of the book for their school library.
I have some pretty exciting news to share with you! Yes, I am working on a new book for publication and I hope to let you all know more about that soon. BUT, that is not what I want to share. As most of you know, I have been writing for a long time now and I have written hundreds of poems and last year published a children’s book called The Sneezing Toucan. BUT, what if I told you that I have also written a few songs? Last year, a friend of mine in Alabama, Rocky Lucas, shared a post on Facebook. A friend of his, Troy Jones, a Nashville songwriter had passed and Rocky had written a tribute to him that included these words, “I’ll see you when I get there.” I was so moved by those words that I wrote a song and sent it to Rocky. He has been working on this for awhile and just about a week ago, he messaged me and sent a studio recording. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you for the first time “When I Get There”
Thanks Rocky for the amazing job and I truly hope one day it can be heard on the radio!
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you all are having a good start to 2022. Hopefully we are free of masks and can see each others smiling faces once again! Thank you again for your incredible support!
It’s amazing to me how quickly time passes. Summer is winding down, still hot as heck, and Miss Harper Lu started 4th grade last week. I turn around and blink and four or five weeks have just blown by. I am sure all of you know that same feeling and we have no way of stopping or slowing down that clock.
The Sneezing Toucan continues to fly off my shelf and has landed in some familiar places as well as some new ones. As school opens back up, I am looking for opportunities to share the book with many classrooms here in Raleigh and anywhere else an invitation is extended. Book sales have been steady and my latest order has arrived, although it wasn’t the full amount. For some reason, I ended up with Pastor Cummings new book that was suppose to be delivered to him in Illinois! The publisher is trying to figure that one out. I have a number of books in stock, so contact me and I would be thrilled to send you a copy!
I have continued to seek new ways of promoting and advertising and I asked a friend of mine in Charleston who has been in the radio and television business for awhile, if he had any suggestions. His first thought was podcasts. Of course I have heard of podcasts but have never really listened to that many. I have found Andy Andrews, but that’s another story altogether. Raymond suggested contacting family oriented podcasts that may have children’s books as a focus. So, I dove in and found hundreds and hundreds of podcasts. It was a whole new world! After narrowing down to just a few, I made some contacts. Well, one of those contacts responded! It was SleepTightStories.org. Their stories add a little happily-ever-after to your bedtime routine and their podcasts have been downloaded millions of times by children and their families all over the world! Sheryl and Clark have given me an opportunity to have The Sneezing Toucan read on their podcast on September 7th! The podcast can be heard on Spotify, Google and Apple podcasts as well. Thank you Raymond Owens for a great suggestion and I am super excited to have the book broadcast on the “airwaves”!
On a personal note, my heart has been heavy these past few days after losing thirteen service members in Afghanistan. My blog is not a political one and will not become one. My thoughts are with these families and cannot fathom the sense of loss and grief. I would just ask that you pray for them and that somehow they can find some measure of comfort and peace in the midst of the storm.
Here is my new business card. If you would like some to pass out, shoot me an email and I will be happy to send a small package to you!
Please send me your pictures! I will be loading pictures soon of children reading The Sneezing Toucan. I want to have at least 50, one for every state represented! So take that picture and send it to me please. Thank you all again for your continued support.
Hello Toucan Nation! How is your summer going? Vacation to the beach or mountains or some foreign country? We managed a couple days off and went to Carowinds and got a little wet and wild. Harper was tall enough to ride a few coasters and I think that girl will be riding quite a few more in the future. As for Boppa, he stayed on the ground for the most part and enjoyed some awesome funnel cake!
As most of you know by now, the hardbacks came in and would you believe, I am almost out? Ya’ll are the best!! I have a great friend that I served in the Navy with and he purchased a number of them and is distributing them all over Maine and other parts unknown. Thanks Gary! Your support is just absolutely mind blowing. If I have been keeping track correctly, The Sneezing Toucan has made its way to half of the country! So, we have some work to do to make sure it flies to all 50 states. If you know folks in Alaska, Hawaii, the Dakotas, Vermont, Rhode Island, pass the word and get that book out there! On the local scene here in Raleigh, the toucan has gone mobile. Special shout out to my old high school friend Debbie and her Maui Wowi stand and my pool buddy Austin and Lina’s Grub Shack. You guys rock and I look forward to making other food truck connections. Look them up and support their business!
I am so excited to tell you about this next bit of news! As many of you know, when I did the book launch, I committed to donating to a couple of great organizations. This past week, I stopped by Read and Feed here in Raleigh. All I can say is wow. This is a great organization and I simply cannot wait to become more involved with them. Shout out to Miss Lisa who showed me around the place and those RVs. Thanks to all of you, they received a nice check along with several copies of the book. I hope to become a mystery reader soon!
In case you were wondering, I have more hardbacks on the way. So please continue to share with all your social circles, email lists, company memos, newsletters and any other forms of communication you may have. Also, if you have a picture of your son, daughter, niece, nephew, granddaughter, grandson or friend or neighbor, that is reading The Sneezing Toucan, I would love to post it here on the site! Who knows, maybe a best picture with a caption could land you a free copy of the book!
That’s all for now. Check the Children’s Book tab for order information. So much more is coming down the road and rest assure that I will be keeping you updated as fast as I can. According to the publisher, I have sold well over 100 online and that means I should have over 100 reviews! Thanks to all of you who have taken a moment and left a few words. I sincerely appreciate it! According to a teacher in Florida “It would be great to use as an example of the use of rhyming in our poetry unit and also during our persuasive writing unit. I think it will keep the students interested from beginning to end and make them smile too.” Now that makes ME smile!
Hello Toucan Nation! I hardly know where to begin. As you all know, launch day has come and gone and in a matter of days, I sold out of the softbacks. I am absolutely thrilled beyond words. So, I immediately ordered the hardback version through my publisher, Parson’s Porch. Once again, using a different format, this was sent to the distributor. I can announce today that the hardback edition of The Sneezing Toucan is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers! However, I do not have my copies yet and anticipate them arriving next week. Many of you have already pre-purchased some copies and just as soon as they arrive, I will be sending them on their merry way.
As a reminder, if you didn’t see the launch live, you can view it on Youtube and just look for The Sneezing Toucan. There have been well over a 100 views and I hope if you haven’t already, leave a comment and as Harper says, mash the thumb. I don’t expect to have a million views anytime soon, but you gotta start somewhere. I was so happy to distribute copies of the book to all the drawing contest winners in Nebraska and North Carolina. If you didn’t see this already, here is a picture from Dixon Road Elementary. I hope in the Fall when school starts again, I can make it to the other schools that participated and meet those great kids and their incredible teachers.
I have a new book project in the works and will share that with you at another time. Some of you may know that I have a few more books already lined up in the queue and I believe many of you saw the “easter egg”, as it’s called, on the boys bedroom wall. I am in hopes that sometime this year, that project will start and a new book launch would take place in the near future.
On the poem side of things, I do not have anything new. So, how about helping me out and letting me know if you would like me to create something special for you or a loved one. Maybe there is a significant birthday or anniversary to celebrate or what about a new baby or a wedding? I would love the opportunity to write for your special occasion, whatever it may be.
In addition to all the poems I have written, I have also dabbled in song writing. I wrote a Christmas song a few years ago in Sylacauga, Alabama, titled Life Interrupted. It was composed and performed by Chris Phillips, the Music and Worship leader. Chris is a phenomenal singer and composer and it was a joy to hear him sing that song. It was awesome every Sunday singing in the choir under his leadership. I met Rocky Lucas there as well as Joe Swindall and the two of them played gigs all around the area. Papa Joe passed in 2017 and Rocky lost another great friend and award winning songwriter, Troy Jones in 2020. Rocky wrote a moving tribute to him that included the sentence, “I will see you when I get there.” Those words hung on me for days and I wrote a song titled When I Get There to honor their memory. I sent the lyrics to Rocky and he went to work on composing the music. I simply cannot wait to share that with you here.
My apologies for the delay in getting this out, but I was really hoping the hardbacks would be here and we could celebrate a lot sooner. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Life interrupts us all. Sometimes the interruption causes great joy and happiness and other interruptions are tragic and filled with grief. We all respond differently and for me, I respond by writing. It could be a poem or a children’s book or even a song. I believe we all have talents and abilities, God given gifts, to use for helping one another. I never set out to be a writer and certainly do not claim to be a good one. I just write in response to a movement of spirit and my hope is that however you are called, when that spirit hits you, that you will respond.
How can it possibly be May already? I know I mentioned this in a previous post, but dang, where did April go exactly? I was in such a hurry to hear news about my book but as each day passed, I moved on to other things, like playing pool again! I have been playing since I was 10. My Mom’s good friend invited us all down to her house on a hot summer day and they had a pool. I wasn’t that great a swimmer at the time, still am not, but I can stay afloat! However, after a few hours in the pool, I wanted something else to do. I discovered in their basement a table with green felt on it and some balls with numbers. I asked one of the kids what it was. A pool table! After some quick lessons, I was hooked. To heck with that other pool with water, this was my jam as the cool kids say nowadays. So fast forward 50 years and I am still playing the game. I enjoy league play here in Raleigh and hope to make it to Las Vegas one day and play in a national tournament. I love the game and trying to figure out angles and …………. HOLY CRAP BATMAN! I BECAME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!!
The big box came in on Thursday and my heart was pounding as I opened the flaps. There inside was a stack of books, my books, with my name on it, as well as my illustrator Samantha. I knew the story, wrote the story, rewrote the story, tucked the story away for years, brought the story out again, rewrote it again and again and again. When Samantha got it, we changed it again several times, honing, refining, reading, re-reading, reading out loud over and over until the cadence was right. Then the drawings came in one by one. Imagine this process of sketching and doodling and drawing, putting flesh and muscle on a set of bones that were the words. Bit by bit it came together, sketch by sketch, color after color, adding, changing, erasing and smoothing, night after night, day after day. In the book of Ezekial, there is a valley of dry bones and one day those bones got up and they walked around!! That’s kind of how I feel about the story. It starts out as just letters and words and phrases, but inside there is a story dying to be told. Then once you add pictures full of color and movement and expressions, those words, that story, it takes on life. For this Samantha, I will always be thankful and grateful for your talent and time.
I am beyond blessed and humbled by your incredible support. I really hope you like the story about The Sneezing Toucan. I hope you read it to you kids, your niece or nephew, or cousin or friend or your grandchildren or great grandchildren! Heck, just read it to anyone who will listen and especially to those who have a hard time reading. I read it to Harper, my granddaughter that same Thursday night. She had heard the story before and had seen some of the illustrations but this was the first time seeing it “as a book”. She stopped me once and asked me if I was going to get some money for this book and I said yes, people will pay me for the book. I thought, just like a woman, she wants to know about the money!! But seriously, she stopped me several more times and looked me in the eye and said, “You wrote this book!” “You wrote this book Boppa!” I said “Yes. Yes I did Harper. Boppa wrote a book.”
Time is flying by again and here we are pushing the end of March and Easter right around the corner. It seems like I wake up and another week has just blown right on by. My granddaughter Harper just turned nine! NINE! She is getting harder and harder to keep up with. Between skateboards, rollerblades, jet cars, bicycles and an electric minibike, she is constantly on the go. No wonder when her head hits the pillow at night, she is out like a light. I still remember the first day she crawled up the stairs in our house in Alabama. I should have guessed then what was coming down the road.
Also coming down the road is The Sneezing Toucan! The publisher has sent back the galleys to review and Samantha and I are making adjustments as needed. This is just another step in the publishing process. Once the final galleys are approved, then they will be sent to the printers and then we will set a launch date! Does anyone know of a giant inflatable toucan? Each day brings me one step closer to the reality of having a published children’s book and I am so excited about sharing it with you.
Do you want to see some toucans? Holy Cow, or I mean holy Toucan Sam! I almost lost my Fruit Loops! Check out the submittal page and you will see what I mean. We have surpassed the 100 mark thanks to our friends at Dixon Road Elementary and their art teacher, Miss McIsaac! The kids did a great job using markers, crayons, pencils and paint! So a special shout out to all the Dragonflies and their incredible staff led by Mr. Bennett! I look forward to the day when I can share The Sneezing Toucan with all of you in person!
I recently had the privilege of writing for a friend of mine whose daughter was turning eighteen and getting ready to graduate from high school. What made this special was eighteen years ago I wrote a birth poem for Miss Lucy Grace and here she is, eighteen years later and getting ready to leave the nest. Thank you so much Heidi for asking me to write for such a special occasion. You can see Lucy Grace on my bio page where I share Rhymes4Life pictures. Also, in my last blog, I wrote about Johnny Major Hill, an Army Ranger, who had passed away at the age of almost 99. I wrote Valor in his honor and now you can see the poem here on the Examples page. I hope to shake his hand one day and thank him for his service and his sacrifice on behalf of this nation.
So, what’s your story? What are your dreams? I encourage you to chase them. Despite all that has happened this past year, there is always hope. Hope springs eternal they say and Spring has certainly sprung. We have been planting bulbs over the last few years and about this time, they are fighting their way through the soil. They are reaching, stretching, and growing each day until they finally kiss the sun and burst open in an array of incredible blooms. I don’t know what kind of flowers you have, but I hope you see their beauty and take time to smell them. Just make sure no bees are in there when you do.
Wait! How can it be possible that a month has slipped by? I must apologize for keeping you in the dark. My daughter Bailee lives in Austin, Texas and like so very many others, was in the dark too for awhile. When I called on Valentines Day to let her know I was buying her dinner, the roads were already getting bad and no deliveries were being made. I asked about her provisions. She was suppose to have a food delivery on Monday but that was not going to happen obviously. She said “I have 5 english muffins and a half bottle of wine and some oreo cookies”. We talked about rationing the muffins with a shot of wine. She said “Well, if I have a muffin for breakfast and lunch and drink the rest of the wine for dinner, I will just fall asleep and save a whole muffin!” Well, fortunately one of her managers came to her rescue and provided a warm place to sleep and finally a cup of hot coffee. Oh, she said “Dad, you still owe me a Valentines dinner!” Hopefully, no more shivering for awhile in Texas.
Speaking of getting the shakes and shivers and goose bumps, ladies and gentlemen, it looks as though Monday will be the day I submit the final illustrations and final draft to Parson’s Porch! Samantha has put on the finishing touches and I am so happy. It has been a back and forth for months with drafts, revisions, sketches and changes and tweaks and adjustments. But we have finally arrived at this point and Monday looks like the day! Of course, I will be keeping you all posted of the progress! And I am so happy to report that another school is working on more Toucan drawings and just as soon as they are done, I will be posting them on the submittal tab.
On a poem writing note, a great friend of mine, Kenny, just lost his uncle. His name was Johnny Major Hill, from Lebanon, South Carolina. He was almost 99 years old. I doubt any of you would know or recognize that name. But, in June of 1944, Army Ranger, Major Hill and his battalion stormed the beach at Omaha on D-Day. Can you even imagine? I was moved when I read about his story and found a few articles and videos of him online. He was laid to rest yesterday and I wrote Valor in his honor. I will post the poem here soon. Day by day we lose men like Mr. Hill and I truly hope if you ever have an opportunity to sit down with a hero, please do. For one day, they will all be gone and their stories will go with them.
Our writing group met again this month and our fearless leader, Linda, just found out that her latest book titled Redeeming Rob has been accepted and will be published by Parson’s Porch as well. Her books are wonderful and so well written and I am so very happy for her. Congrats Linda and we cannot wait until it’s in our hands! Look for her books on amazon and read her latest blog as well. It’s cuckoo!
I hope you have read the poem 44. I submitted the poem to Miss Susan who was Mr. Aaron’s executive assistant for many many years. She graciously accepted the poem and requested a number of copies to be distributed. I think that’s pretty cool. I just took a chance. What are you doing? Maybe it’s time you took a chance too. I know I waited a long time to submit one of my stories for publication. But I finally got to the point where I was saying, what are you waiting for Jim?
Well that’s it for now. Do you have a birthday coming up for a special someone? Someone just have a baby or maybe getting ready to tie the knot? I would love to write for you for any occasion you might have. It would be an absolute privilege. Thanks again for all of your support. You have no idea how encouraging it is!
The new year is off to quite a start. So much is happening all around us and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the changes. There are a few updates to share so I will get right to them.
Samantha continues her outstanding work and I wish I could share all of the sketches she has done but then you would know everything in the book! She has provided a great link on her website www.samanthasbell.com/art-contests-for-kids/. If you have children who love to draw, this is a great way to have them involved and I will post this link on the Children’s Book page as well. She is still on track to complete the illustrations for The Sneezing Toucan by the end of January. We are getting closer and close my friends!
I am adding a new poem titled 44. If you are a baseball fan then you know exactly who that is and more than likely, even if you are not a fan, you know Hank Aaron. I was reading through all the tributes online and those I happen to see on Facebook. One really caught my eye from best selling New York Times author Andy Andrews, www.andyandrews.com. The title was One Last Shot Over The Left Field Wall. As I read the article and you really should too, I could see that scene unfolding and really felt compelled to write. My friend Mike Metts is a huge baseball fan. We use to work together back in our power plant days and every Spring some conversations always led to baseball. Mike was a Reds fan and he could quote starting lineups and batting averages like nobody’s business. In October of 1991, Mike called me and said “Jim, I am leaving for Atlanta for the game tonight against the Twins. I don’t have tickets but I am going. Are you with me?” Our wives thought we had lost our minds, but we left that afternoon. Hours later we were pounding the pavement like thousands of others in search for tickets. After a brief interview with Charleston sportscaster Warren Pepper, a van pulled up beside us and we jumped inside. A woman and her daughter had 2 tickets they were trying to sell. She said they were from the office of Hank Aaron. Yeah, right. She told a story about her ex-major league pitching husband. Uh huh, right. But Mike knew exactly who he was, who he played for and started quoting stats. It took every dollar I brought with me, but Mike and I had just acquired 2 World Series tickets! To confirm it all, after we took our seats looking down the third base line, a young boy came and sat right next to us. As we introduced ourselves, he said he played tennis with Mr. Aaron every week! It’s a small connection to be sure but I knew after reading Mr. Andrews article that I had to write. RIP 44.
I have added a number of great submissions from my friends out in Nebraska! Special shout out to Mrs. Bolan’s class from Lincoln Elementary! Please continue to submit your toucan pictures so I can get them posted. I have created a new tab just for the Submittals and hope to receive at least 100 before the book is published. Get those pens and pencils and crayons busy people! I am seriously going to call some of you or text you if I don’t see some action! LOL. Remember that someone is getting a free autographed copy of The Sneezing Toucan! I have added a new picture as well from a very happy customer in Virginia, congratulations Valeria!
Some great news from a long time friend and recipient of a rhymes4life poem 18 years ago, more on that next blog! Hope your new year is off to a good start, heck, January is almost over! Thanks again for all of your support. You have no idea how encouraging it is!