August 30th, 2021

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.

Till’ Next Time

Jim

July 27th, 2021

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!

Until Next Time,

Jim

June 11th, 2021

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.

Till Next Time,

Jim

May 3, 2021

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.”

Till Next Time,

Jim

March 22, 2021

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.

February 26th, 2021

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!

Till Next Time,

Jim

January 24th, 2021

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!

Till Next Time,

Jim

January 10th, 2021

Hey there! I bet you are wondering what in the world is going on. Well, I have recently found out that none of my blog updates were being sent to those of you who had subscribed to the website. My sincere apologies to you!!

As I mentioned in my very first post, I am doing all this web stuff on my own and there is a mighty steep learning curve! So, I finally figured out what the issue is. A setting was incorrect along with one other item and I believe I have it now. I have reposted the updates for October and December and January to catch you up.

To make it up to you, I am going to post one of the illustrations that Samantha has given me that will be in The Sneezing Toucan. I hope you like it as much as I do! The colors are just fantastic!

Keep drawing those toucans so I can post them on the Children’s Book page! Thanks again for your support and encouragement!

Till next time,

Jim

January 9th, 2021

Happy New Year! I guess I am about 8 days late but better late than never! I sincerely hope that the new year finds us all in a better place. I would love to hear from more of you and please tell your friends and family about the website and the upcoming publication of The Sneezing Toucan!

Last night we watched the final Jeopardy episode with Alex Trebek. Certainly seemed like the end of an era. Final Jeopardy is still available to be viewed on the example page. Several new poems were added over the last few weeks. Larry D was written for a Navy shipmate. His lovely wife commissioned the poem and I was certainly honored to write. Being a Navy veteran, I wait each college football season for the traditional Army-Navy game. Please read the The Land vs The Sea in tribute to this Fall classic. A number of years ago, I wrote The Eternal Salute and posted it to Facebook. I know many of you may have seen it there, but I felt it needed to be here and have placed it under the military section. The Empty Saddle was written in memory for the Reverend Paul Dupree. My sincere condolences to Miss Carole and their entire family.

It seems I have been writing a number of memorials lately and that certainly gives me pause. Life is short no matter how long you are here on earth. Whether you are here for a short time or a long time, it’s still too short. A high school friend of mine named Mark writes every Wednesday on Facebook, it’s Hump Day! I love his positive attitude and we should all be grateful for each day and make the most of it. Caring for others in word and thought and certainly in deeds, is what Mark tells us each week and I, for one, welcome the reminder.

Finally, The Sneezing Toucan is moving forward as Miss Samantha continues her work on the illustrations. So, please stay tuned and check out the toucan drawing submissions on the Children’s Book tab! If you like to draw, paint, doodle, then grab a pencil or pen or brush and get busy! Grab your children, grandchildren, aunts and uncles and anyone else you can think of and submit those toucan drawings!

Thanks to those who commissioned me this past month and I will look forward to more in the future. May 2021 be your best year! Be like Mark and lend a helping hand to those in need and make the most of each day. Remember, if you have a wedding, birth announcement or any other special occasion, I would be honored to write for you!

Till next time,

Jim

December 3rd, 2020

Hello Everyone! Well, this is blog number 3 and I hope it finds you happy and healthy. It certainly has been an interesting year to say the least. We all have covid stories and at times it certainly has been extremely stressful. How about trying to plan for a wedding and the groom and some bridesmaids end up with the virus mere weeks before the event!

I hope you had a chance to read Final Jeopardy on the example page. I have added several more this week. One is a wedding for Eric and Jessica and another is the birth announcement of Miss Emerson Tate Fitzgerald. Don’t miss High Flying which is an 80th birthday celebration! That poem was based on a story from Chicken Soup for the Soul, Age is Just a Number! I love writing these poems and I want to give a shout out to a special client of mine. She has encouraged me from the start and is anxiously waiting for her copy of The Sneezing Toucan. Thanks Bridgett Grisham (Luttenbacher) and Happy Birthday!

Two big pieces of news to share with you. I received my first request for a poem through the website and another commission through word of mouth! I am super excited and I can’t wait to share with all of you once the poem has been delivered. The second piece of news is that Samantha, my illustrator, has given me a great tutorial on how to draw a toucan! If you go to the Children’s Book page, you will find the file there and guess what? Rhymes4life wants to see how well your kids and grandkids can draw a toucan. So submit your pictures to rhymes4life@gmail.com and they will be loaded up to the website for all to enjoy! There is going to be a contest and some lucky boy or girl is going to receive an autographed copy of The Sneezing Toucan, hot off the press!

With Thanksgiving now in the rearview mirror and Christmas coming faster than a freight train, I wanted to take a moment and just give thanks. Thanks to my family, friends, coworkers past and present and so many others who are making this all possible. I am so glad you are on this ride with me through the publishing process and while we wait, I still have a chance to write these personalized poems. Thanks again and God bless.

Till next time,

Jim