Review of Strange Highway, by Beem Weeks

The Blurb:

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy–don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.

You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,

  • A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
  • A winged man, an angel? Demon–?
  • Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
  • Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
  • Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
  • Dead brother, open confession.
  • First love, supernatural?–family becomes whole!

You can exit the Strange Hwy  and come back any time you want.

See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

My thoughts:

I won this wonderful collection of short stories some time ago, but only recently had the time to crack it open.

Strange Hwy is comprised of nineteen stories that range from the supernatural, to the earthly. Some ended in tragedy, while others made me smile, happy for the outcome.

There were copious servings of poignancy, situations that seemed all too real, but that’s a sign of great writing. One in particular, had me scratching my head as to what really happened to a young girl.

Each tale is unique and there’s no distinguishable pattern that I could detect, for me, that’s a good thing.

I’d highly recommend taking a journey down this highway.

Five Stars for Strange Hwy!

About Beem:

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Review of The Cracked Mirror, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, by Billy Ray Chitwood

Hello again! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here but with the kids home for summer holidays and all the activities that come with that, my time has been limited. I also apologize for not keeping up with my reading of other blogs. I did, however, manage to write a guest post for a talented author and fellow member of Rave Reviews Book Club,  D.L. Finn.

But this blog is not about me, and I wish to move on with a review that is a well-deserved five stars. The synopsis is written just below, followed by my thoughts on the book.

 

Cracked Mirror

Synopsis:

When Prentice Paul Hiller enters the senior care facility he brings with him not only a hip surgery gone wrong, but a mirror of his past, cracked with the stress of all his memories: a family broken apart by their Appalachian circumstances and the ‘great depression’; a childhood tainted by a father’s abusive nature; an impetuous marriage and a sorrowful divorce; a subsequent search of ‘isms’ and for love and meaning in California bars; a tableau of horrible events, including a senseless murder and a desert survival.

THE CRACKED MIRROR, Reflections of an Appalachian Son, is a search for some semblance of legacy by PP Hiller as he feels the weight of aging and a perceived inconsequental life, In an Arizona senior care facility he bonds with Greta Fogel, herself a patient and a former clinical psychologist. Encouraged by Greta, PP writes of his life, his heritage, his mistakes, the events that have shaped him, and the demon within that he cannot dispel. He gives his passionate views on criminal justice, love, politics, religion, war, and his favorite writers. Greta gives her insight and support, telling some of her own life’s secrets. There is pain in the writing of his memoir, but there is also closure and a guarded inner peace. This short stay in the care facility brings more clarity to PP’s life and yet another memory to store away… to take with him to the ‘Sea of Cortez’.

“In the end my story must be like so many others, the story of a simple kid who grew up eating some emotional soup and spending a lifetime trying to digest it.”

My Review:

Prentice Paul Hiller is a deep thinker who has a strong opinion about everything. Aging and suffering from a hip injury, the man is forced to spend time recovering in a senior nursing complex. At first, he judges the staff he dubs, ‘the greenies,’ with a cynical mindset. He is plagued by painful memories and guilt over past mistakes, his view of life is pretty dim.

That all begins to change after he meets Greta, a temporary resident and former clinical psychologist who encourages Prentice to talk and write about them. The story runs in a dual narrative style, each chapter alternates between the distant past and his current life in the nursing home. I appreciated this style, as it linked his life experiences as the possible cause for his mental and emotional anguish. An abusive father, the murder of a beloved uncle, a failed marriage, and a child who developes a drug addiction, are only a few of the ghosts that haunt this poor man.

The reader cannot help but be drawn into the drama, joy, trauma, mischief, and heartbreak that makes up the life of Prentice. The personal growth and healing that takes place during his stay at the home is encouraging, and character growth is what makes a story great! He comes to an undertsanding, not only about himself, but others, as well. His abusive father had his own demons, and there is both dark and light in almost everyone and everyplace. He learns to forgive those who have trespassed against him, including himself. He sees the world with new eyes, including those meanie ‘greenies.’

The only issue, and it might be just a personal pet peeve, is the frequent use of parenthesis in the writing. It’s just not my thing, so others may not be as opposed.

Despite this one quirk, I highly recommend this book. If you are into interesting life stories where the main character comes to personal growth and understanding, this is a must-read.

To purchase your copy, you can do so at Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

#RRBC 2018 WC&BE SPONSORS BLOG HOP! Featuring Jan Sikes!

Please welcome my special guest today,  #RWISA Jan Sikes Author #RRBC

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Blurb:

The epic love story begins here!
A hot Texas summer, dim-lit honky-tonk bars, a young naïve fledgling go-go dancer and a wild rebel Texas musician set the stage for this story.
1970 in Abilene, Texas finds young Darlina Flowers trying to figure out how to fit into the world she is most attracted to – the nightlife, live music and go-go dancing. Luke Stone, a veteran Texas Musician believes he’s lost all reason to care about his music career, his health and most especially his heart. A chance meeting with Darlina changes everything. But, is it too late? Has fate already determined the outcome? Join Luke and Darlina on a passion-filled journey up and down Texas roads while Luke and his band entertain crowds along the way.

Can Darlina Flowers ever hope to fit in to this strange new world and even more important, can she trust Luke Stone with her heart?

Luke Stone, a good man who has made a career of bad decisions, falls as completely in love with Darlina as she does with him. But is it too late?

Will their eternal unyielding love survive the test of time, distance and iron bars?

A bit about Jan:

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An award winning author who was featured on a talk show Good Morning Texas , her talent extends to  music.

She calls North Texas home, where she loves spending time with her five incredible grandchildren.

 She is also a member of these organizations: The Texas Association of Authors, The Academy of Texas Music, Writer’s Guild, Non-Fiction Writer’s Association, National Association of Professional Women, International Women’s Leadership Association, Goodreads, Author’s Den, Texas Musicians Museum, Texas Authors Institute of History and DEAR Texas.

To learn more about Jan, or to purchase a copy, or copies, of her works, please visit these sites.

Amazon: Jan Sikes on Amazon

Website: www.jansikes.com

Twitter: @rijanjks

Follow the Tour at: #RRBC 2018 WRITERS’ CONFERENCE & BOOK EXPO SPONSOR BLOG HOP!

 

A Call To Mission Work. An Interview With Madison Wicklam.

Today I have the privilege of hosting Madison Wicklam. A few months ago, she embarked on a journey that would take her on a worldwide mission of mercy that was made possible by an organization called YWAM (Youth With A Mission). I have included a link to YWAM at the bottom of this blog, for those interested in learning more.

The experiences this young woman had were unforgettable. While serving others, she gained valuable personal growth and close friendships.

What places have you traveled to, and served in, while involved with YWAM? Which one was most memorable?

The first place on my long journey with YWAM was Las Vegas. The actual school part of my discipleship training school was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. While in this school, we were involved in a diverse community where we all grew closer to God and served Him there. Ministry in Las Vegas involved handing out self care packages and talking to and praying for women on the most popular prostitution “track” in Vegas, working with Nevada Child Seekers to bring missing, young women and men home and simply going to the most tourist populated areas to raise awareness about human trafficking. These are just some of the many ministry aspects that YWAM Las Vegas is involved with.

The one part of YWAM Las Vegas is that they have a mini outreach (mission trip) to Mexico halfway through their school. In Ensenada, we worked with boys and girls rehab centres, we delivered coats and prayer to women and men in the red light district of Tijuana, and we spent time at a migrant camp playing with children and encouraging the women who were in less than ideal circumstances.

On our two month outreach, we stayed in Kathmandu, Nepal for a month doing slum ministry, teaching English, dance bar ministry, cabin bar ministry, and lots of prayer/intercession over the city. For the second month, my team split up and my half of the team went to Thailand while our other half went to Uganda. In Thailand, we spent most of our time in a village where young girls are taken into the city of Bangkok to be put into slavery and being human trafficked. Our ministry consisted of loving on young kids and showing them that Jesus gives them hope. We also had the opportunity to minister to some of the young children’s parents which was very important in saving these children from being sent into turmoil. The most memorable place for me was Nepal. I fell in love with the children and all of the ministry we did with them. Their need for love was so apparent and me being a carrier of the love of the Father, I wanted to love on every single one of those precious children. Working with these children will always be my most memorable part of my outreach. They will always be in the back of my mind and I hope to go back to visit these kids who really changed my heart.

 

Any particular life-changing experience(s) you want to share?

Pretty much my entire time in Nepal was life changing. During our time there, I experienced God in so many new ways and I really had to rely on Him daily to get me through some pretty hard times there. Every morning we would go to the slums which was a small community of little shacks and tents right off of a busy highway. We took our team to a little shed and as the children saw us come in, they would join, and we would sing songs about Jesus, share a bible story, and teach English to them. In this group of kids there were about three or four girls around the age of twelve to fourteen that expressed they did not have parents. I do not know the circumstances in which caused them to have to raise their siblings, but my heart absolutely broke for these strong young women. They are also very much at risk for being taken out of this slum and put directly into a dance bar, cabin bar, or brothel where they will be sexually exploited for money.  In a situation like this it is hard to see God’s hand but He has surely protected them this far and I have so much faith that He will continue to shield them.  These girls really influenced me in how their lives were less than ideal but they found so much joy in praising God and taking care of their families. I really grew during these difficult days in Nepal as God significantly grew my faith in Him.  There were multiple times where I could have lost hope or been discouraged in a situation where He did not give me the answer I was makes all things work together for my good in HIS timing and not mine. Having Him reveal this to me, really made the rest of my outreach a lot easier and I completely leaned on Him when I felt overwhelmed or discouraged.

Why should other youth consider joining YWAM? Or become involved in the fight against human trafficking?

Other youth should consider joining YWAM for so many reasons.  The major reasons I can think of are to grow their relationship with Jesus, fight for a cause they are passionate about, learn more about the word and God’s calling on their life, travel the world, meet new people, get introduced to new cultures/ways of life, build life long friendships and set a fire in their own life to see their lives transformed. Through YWAM youth have an amazing opportunity to follow and work for a passion that they have including human trafficking. YWAM Las Vegas offers young people a chance to explore the harsh realities of human trafficking by bringing in special speakers who were once trafficked themselves, parents of trafficking victims, police officers working on the front lines and others in the community working tirelessly to prevent human trafficking. During the school, my team and I would go out into the most high risk areas for human trafficking to pray for women, hand out care packages and ask them some key questions in indicating if they are involved in human trafficking or not. This was a hard task but so rewarding when we were able to help out one of these young women.  I believe youth who have a passion for anti-human trafficking should definitely check out YWAM Las Vegas.

 Have you made lifetime friends?

I definitely have made lifelong friends. During the course of the discipleship training school I became very close with a lot of people. When living in community, being open and vulnerable with the people around you is necessary because during the course of the school, you go trough a lot personally and spiritually. It is essential to talk things through with people and the small community around you can understand what is going on and it makes it easy to confide in them. Living with the same group of people for 5 months has its ups and downs but it is definitely a life-changing experience and I believe it will better prepare me for life at post secondary and even for when I have my own family some day.

Has this experience influenced your career decision? 

This experience has influenced my career choice indefinitely. I never would have thought I would want to be the type of person to pursue missions but I can definitely see myself continuing with intercultural ministry. I am also hoping to continue in social work/human services at post secondary in attempts to eventually work with young women involved in human trafficking in a professional setting. My heart has broken for missions and helping victims of this modern day slavery so I am excited to see how God uses me in these areas. I am ready to go where He sends me and I know He has big plans for my walk with Him.

Madison Wicklam is an 18-year-old from a small town hoping to reach the nations.  She has a passion for children living in less than ideal situations and those enslaved by human trafficking. Madison has recently come back from a five-month missions trip that she describes as life changing.  She now thrives to spread the love of God that she has experienced so deeply in her own life.

Get Involved! Learn More at YWAM ! 

Interview With Up And Coming Musician, Thomas Mastin

Woah, we’re half way there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer – Bon Jovi

These catchy lyrics by Bon Jovi could well describe my guest today. Meet Thomas Mastin, a young man of eighteen who is pursuing his dream of becoming a musician and a singer/songwriter. I’ve known Thomas since he was a child, from the time he started swinging those drumsticks in our church’s worship band. I’ve watched him grow as a musician and become what he is today. He’s a talented, dedicated artist who’s boldly stepped out from the comforts of quiet rural life and into the challenging, nomadic lifestyle of chasing a musical career.

Recently, I conducted an interview with Thomas and I’m going to share a snippet with you here. I admire anyone who has the courage to go after their dream and wish Thomas all the best in his pursuit.

It’s great to have you here today, thanks for taking the time away from your busy schedule to tell us a bit about yourself. The first question I have and that I’m sure others are wondering about, is how it all began. What inspired you to pursue this avenue?

Thomas: Growing up my dad was a farmer who also worked full-time at the local Good Year plant, and my mom was a teacher at the school I went to. I was brought up in a home where no one else had an interest in music. When I was around three or four, they noticed me drumming on pots and pans, or the floor, to music, so they would put me in lessons, but I didn’t like them. Around eight years old, my youth pastor, Dusty (Dustin) Crozier put me behind the drums at church and I took a liking to them.

You’re saying that Dusty was a major influence?

Thomas: Most people expect you to mention someone famous, but for me it was Dusty. And it wasn’t just drums, he taught me to sing and play guitar, even write my own music.

You mentioned several instruments, which one do you play the most?

Thomas: Well, that’s a tough one. My main instrument, at first, was drums, but I grew to hate playing them, so I switched to guitar for three or four years. Right now, I’m playing drums in a band in Florida, called Arbour Season.

So, you left home and began to play with this band. Can you tell me a bit more about it and the genre of music?

Thomas: They’re a married couple named Shane and Emily and when they were a two-member band, they played Pop. When I joined, they switched to Indie Folk and changed their name to Arbour Season. Getting a drummer helped them make the switch. Indie Folk, it’s very nostalgic. You hear it and you just want to drive through the mountains.

We’ve played summer festivals at Busch Gardens in Florida, gigs at Splitsville in Disney Springs, and Mother’s Restaurant in Tampa.

The plan is to, in February, hopefully go back to Florida for a month and then go on a full tour for a year across America non-stop. We want to stay on the road for a full year, just doing house shows, not even as many bar gigs, just singing in people’s living rooms. What we do is, well Shane does it, is message people and see if they want us to play in their homes, the only thing we ask is for a small donation.

Wow, that’s fascinating, I wasn’t aware that house shows are even a thing. What about you, personally, are you planning an album?

Thomas: Actually, they’re quite popular in America. Until I met Shane and Emily, I really didn’t know about much about them.

When on tour, I want to be writing the whole time. I want to have 100 songs done that I can pick five of. It’s a weird number, because usually it’s a four song EP (Extended Play). I want to put out a five or eight song EP, which is sometimes called a Freshman’s Album. That’s my biggest goal right now.

An EP is a step to an album. For instance, Shawn Mendes put out a four song EP and that was his introduction to his album. So, the next year, he wrote 100 more songs, picked ten and put it on a big album, and that was how he got out there.

I never realized the amount of labor that goes into an album. Unless you’re in the music industry, I don’t think you can appreciate all the background work. It has to be stressful. Do you have any routines that you do to help you relax?

Thomas: There are definitely things you do to deal with nerves, especially for a bigger show. One thing, for me, is that even though we may not be playing worship music, it helps me to know that this is still a ministry. I have certain people I will call, or Shane, Emily, and I will just talk or pray before we go on. Or sometimes I watch the show, The Flash (laughs). These just help me go on the stage relaxed.

Any inspirations for songs? Things that have happened in your life?

Thomas: I’ve written a couple of songs about how my past year has gone, with a duo that I was in called Compass North, that just came to an end. I think that if I put out an album in the next year, I think it will be focused on my faith in that situation, in the way that I’ve been guided through with God’s strength, my parents and my friends. That’s one of my inspirations, but even things that go on in my family and how my parents have been so supportive.

Just one last question before I let you get back to your music. Any advice for those following their musical aspirations?

Thomas: The whole thing with music, is that there are endless opportunities. You see all the famous people who have made it . . . I don’t think that should define how good of a career you have. It was hard for me to understand, but my parents keep reminding me that it shouldn’t be my main goal. Your main-focus should be on your love of music, not whether you are making a lot of money. Keep at it. I’ve been fortunate with the supportive people in my life. Get great people behind you.

Thomas Mastin lives on his family farm near Napanee, Ontario, Canada. He attends Roblin Weslyan Church and is committed to music, friends, family, and his Faith. In his spare moments, he enjoys playing and watching basketball.
If you would like to find out more about Thomas and Arbour Season, or would like to listen to and/or purchase their music, please visit one of the links below.

Thomas Mastin on Instagram

Thomas Mastin on Facebook

Arbour Season on Facebook

Arbourseason.com

Arbour Season on Youtube

Arbour Season on Spotify

Arbour Season on iTunes