Chapter Three of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “DAY 2 ¾ — To Sleep, Perchance to Dream?”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Three of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog.  If you missed the beginning, you can catch up HERE for the first two chapters.


Twas after midnight, before the dawning.

Before sparrows were stretching and sleepily yawning.


Following what seemed an endless day of ostriches picketing and protesting in front of the cabin and with ear-splitting ostrich chants still ringing in our ears (No Ostriches – No Stories!”), a welcome and restful night’s sleep was uppermost in our minds. I looked forward to hitting the sack early and pulling the covers up over my head with the same childlike eagerness and anticipation of Christmas Eve.

With a nightly cup of chamomile tea to soothe jangled nerves, I wished Little Red Bear “good night” and off to bed I went. Mentally and physically exhausted, sleep soon followed as peace and quiet had finally returned to Honey Hill, reassuring that even angry ostriches must rest their vocal chords at some point.

It didn’t seem long before a loud clap of thunder woke me from my slumber.

Sheets of rain mixed with small hail beat against the window, and I found myself bouncing up and down on the bed mattress as the floor of the cabin shook from the impact of a lightning strike nearby, followed soon by the creaking and crashing sound of tree limbs.

Then followed the unexplainable but unmistakable, moaning, groaning whisper of my name.

Jim . . . .”

And again – “Jim . . . . . . .”

I looked around but no one was to be found.  Lightning flashes illuminated the room, irregular strobe light bursts at once nearly blinding to the eyes yet revealing nothing save haunting shapes and shadows.

Jimmm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Was I dreaming, or truly hearing my name being called, as though from both distant and near at the same time?

I rushed to the window, scanning the outside, squinting to focus in the stormy night, searching to see if anyone was in peril and calling my name in distress. The old white oak tree nearby twisted and strained in the howling winds of the storm. But I could see no further thru the driving rains.

Jiiiimmmmmm . . . . . . . . . . . .”

Louder. Clear now. The whispered call was coming from inside the room!

At once turning back around I found myself inexplicably looking upwards. I saw but did not believe. Surely, I must be dreaming.

This is not possible I thought, as a dark and ominous thundercloud, flickering on and off with flashes of internal red and yellow lightning, hovered above my head inside the room where the ceiling should have been.

Though – there was no ceiling, only the menacing and silent thundercloud with clear skies and distant stars shining behind, all while the unabated storm continued to rage outside the cabin walls.

“It’s odd Little Red Bear has not been woken by all of this,” I said aloud. “Wait until I tell him about this dream in the morning.”

“You are not dreaming,” came a sonorous voice from inside the cloud — resonant, deep, and authoritative in tone.

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No, you’re not.”

“Yes – I am!”

“No – you’re not!”

“Clouds thunder but do not talk. Therefore, it’s a dream. End of discussion. Good night.”

“YOU ARE NOT DREAMING!” thundered the cloud as lightning flashed and winds now rushed about the room, sweeping up clothes and papers, hurling them into the air and whipping them about in tornadic bursts. White hot lightning bolts, one after another, blasted the floorboards, causing me to leap and dance about to avoid them striking my feet.

“Dance, storyteller! Dance!” the thundercloud mocked.

“Okay, okay – not dreaming,” I acquiesced, though still really believing it was a dream while simultaneously wondering if one’s foot were to be burnt in a dream about lightning would it still be burnt upon awakening? Unsure of the answer, I felt it best to play along in my dream.

“Who or what are you? And what do you want of me then?” I inquired.

“Muucchhhh. I am the Ghostly Cloud of Untold Stories Passed.”

“Who’s past?”

“Not ‘past’ – ‘passed’. Well, I suppose in a technical sort of way ‘past’, for it is your past of which I speak this night.”

“O–kay . . .”

“So, more precisely then since you seem inclined to quibble and nitpick – You are being haunted by your past’s passed stories never written or told, and lost forever – The distraught man on the train. The sick child in the hospital bed. The boy pirate who became a mountain man. The lonely grandmother sitting alone on the church steps. The red-nosed circus clown running for Congress. The . . . ”

“Oh, get on with you,” I responded in defiance and losing patience.

“You do not believe in me?”

“Nope, not even a tidily bit.”

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your own senses?”

“Haven’t a clue.”

“Why do you doubt your own senses then, storyteller?”

“Because the slightest thing can set them off. An upset stomach. A headache. An over-toasted piece of bread. A moldy bit of cheese. An over-ripe and fermented apple. I’m tired. There’s more pain-in-the-butt than painful memory about you, whatever you are. Hogwash and horsefeathers, I say! Now let me get back to sleep.”

The thundercloud began to darken, rumbling inside and turning an unnerving purple. The very room about me took on an oppressively heavy and cold feel to the point where I could see my breath.

“Someone just picked the wrong mushrooms for the soup last night and I’m hallucinating again. That’s what you are – an apparition. An illusion. A figment of my overly stimulated imagination. A colorful sensory overload of psychedelic mushrooms. I’ve told Little Red Bear to be careful about that. I don’t do mushrooms well for some reason.”

I am not a mushroom!” the cloud thundered.

“There are mushroom clouds,” I countered. “Dreadful, devastating things not to be taken lightly.”

“Do not take me lightly, storyteller!” the cloud raged. “I am the Ghostly Cloud of Your Untold Stories Passed. Do you believe in me, or not?!?!?”

“Look, you can be the Easter Bunny if you want, for all I care. Just let me get back to sleep.”

“I am salvation!”

“For who?”

“You.”

“No time. I have a lot going on right now. I’m dealing with a work stoppage on my next book, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“I am here for your salvation. And for the sake of stories yet untold.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I don’t need to be salvated.  I just need to get back to sleep.”

“Untold stories smolder within you, eventually igniting and burning, stoked by the fuels of neglect and indifference, searing and scorching from the inside out until they are released and told.”

“Yeah, that’s nice. Good night.”

Mark my words, storyteller! You will be consumed by the burning fires of your own imagination. Flames licking at your very soul. But salvation can be yours!”

“Maybe another time. I’m too tired to be salvated tonight. I just want to go back to sleep.”

I pulled down the covers to slip back into bed, wondering that if you go to sleep in a dream, would you then have a dream within a dream, or just start a new one entirely? Hoping for a new one.

“You will be visited by three Ostriches!” the cloud announced authoritatively, it’s prophetic words echoing around the room.

That perked my interest and got my attention. Back up out of bed.

“Come again . . . .”

“Ostriches three, will visit thee!”

“Well, that sounds a little Old Testament. What are you, the ghost of some old street corner oracle, Biblical poet or something?”

“Yes. We had better writing and greater use of dramatic flair back then.”

“Eh, to each his own, I suppose.”

“Enough about me.  You will be visited by Ostriches three.  Their stories to tell, will your job be.”

“Three ostriches. Really? Is that the message? The big chance and salvation you were referring to? That’s why you woke me up?”

“It is.”

“Uh-huh. Right then. Goodnight.”

“You still doubt me storyteller. Why do you continue to doubt your senses?”

“Well, because, it would be ‘non-sense’ to believe I am talking to a cloud? There’s one.”

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled throughout the room.

“You might want to be a little more careful tossing those lightning bolts about so indiscriminately. Not that you care being a rain cloud full of water, but this is a log cabin comprised almost entirely of combustible wood, you know.”

“Rain cloud?!?!?  I am a Thundercloud!

A bolt of lightning struck the floorboards between my feet. The room’s walls shook as though in an earthquake from the thunderous blast.

“Yeah, uh, go on. I’m listening,” I responded, brushing burning splinters from my bare feet and staring down at the smoking burnt spot on the floor, thankful the cloud’s aim had been precise and not a little higher.

I tried to take a further step away only to put my left foot down atop a hot ember and found myself backed up against a wall. The smell of wood smoke filled the room.  With maybe a touch of third degree foot burns.

Mind racing, I nervously searched the twinkling stars in the skies beyond the thundercloud for a happier thought. “Third star past morning or something or other?” I wondered aloud, trying to remember and find any escape, or to switch the dream channel, wishing I had taken that Interdisciplinary Dream Studies Course instead of Advanced Cost Accounting years ago. Do you feel pain in a dream?

Rubbing my seared and painfully burned foot I turned my gaze back to the charred spot on the floor and the burning ember upon which I had stepped, sparks still glowing at the edges and smoke wafting into the room. Was that pieces of me burning or just the floor?

“Look at me!” the thundercloud demanded. “I bear your salvation!”

“Again — wooden building — please do be careful.”

“Salvation from your passed story torments!”

“Yeah, yeah – salvation. Got that part.”

“Do you?!?”

A second lightning bolt shattered an oil lamp on the nightstand, instantly bursting into flames and setting the curtains ablaze, and then just as quickly extinguished by a following gust of wind.

“Yes, yes. Please, do go on. Continue. I’m all ears. Hanging on every word. Waiting to be salvated. You were saying . . .”

“Very well then, storyteller. You will be visited by three ostriches.”

“Yep, ostriches. Three of ‘em. Got it.”

“Expect the first ostrich tonight, when the bell strikes one.”

“Ummm . . . ugh . . . gosh.  We don’t have a bell. I truly hope that’s not a problem. The mantle clock broke last year and we haven’t gotten it fixed yet.  So dreadfully sorry. No bells. But we do have a cuckoo clock.  It cuckoos. Might that work for you?”

“Whatever. Expect the first ostrich then, at the sounding of the first cuckoo.”

“Uh-huh . . . .”

“Look for the second ostrich with the second cuckoo.”

“And expect the third ostrich at the third cuckoo, I suppose.”

“No. That would be too predictable and unimaginative. Are you sure you are a storyteller, storyteller?”

“You’re sounding kind of cuckoo now yourself, cloud, to be honest. But perfectly fitting for the goofy ostriches. So please, go ahead. The last cuckoo ostrich, as you were saying . . .”

“Yes, yes . . . . The third ostrich, more mercurial, will appear in his own good time.”

“Yeah, you’re right. That is better. But, well, here’s the thing, cloud – I got news for ya. The ostriches are already here. They all three arrived together, all at once, two days ago, were upset by an off-paw comment made by Little Red Bear, and then picketed and protested all day long yesterday in front of the cabin. For a prophetic spectral warning cloud, you’re a little late, by two or three days.”

“Weather conditions over Montana unavoidably delayed my arrival.”

“My personal Spectral Early Warning System is subject to the whims of the atmosphere and weather delays? Perfect. That explains a lot in my life, actually.”

“We do what we can.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You have been warned, storyteller. Receive these ostriches well and mend your ways. Release and tell the stories inside and those that come to you, or you will continue to be haunted by the shadows and specters of untold stories passed. The ostriches have their stories waiting to be told. Tell them — or you will be consumed by your own internal creative fires!”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. Got it. I’m tired and now my foot hurts, thanks to you. Anything else or is that about it?”

“Now, look to see me no more.”

The thundercloud rumbled as it faded into the now starless and once again stormy sky above.

“Good. Nice chatting with you,” I muttered to myself, foot burning and limping back towards the bed. “A late warning is a wasted warning, you know. Might as well not even bother. Stupid ostriches already here and you show up three days too late to tell me about it. A lot of bloody good that did.”

Instantly a lightning bolt flashed, striking the old white oak tree just outside the window, mere feet from the cabin. Thunder rattled and shook the cottage to its foundations, repeatedly tossing me against the wall and thrown down crashing upon the floor only to be hurled thru the air and slammed against the walls yet again.

“Sorry,” I offered desperately, finally picking myself up and waving my hands in surrender while gazing upwards to the cabin’s ceiling, now returned to form. “Everybody’s so touchy and easily offended these days. I do appreciate the concern, if ill-timed. We’ll both try to do better the next time. Forgive and forget, yeah?”

The room convulsed and upheaved once again, and back to the floor I went.

“Characters . . . stories . . . untold . . . consumed . . .” – the final whispered reply, fading into the distance.

I awoke what seemed only moments later, but who of us truly senses the passage of time when sleeping, finding myself feeling cold, shivering and huddled in a corner on the floor. Struggling to rise, I used the chair as a prop to lift myself back up.

The first, welcome and comforting early rays of sunrise beamed thru the window curtains, not singed or scarred upon inspection. I was also relieved to find the nightstand lamp undamaged, nor any burn marks on the floor.

Convinced then that it all had been merely a stress-induced nightmare precipitated by the ostriches, I sighed in relief. Tired and feeling beat up and battered, after dressing and then slowly and gently slipping an unexplained aching left foot into my boot, I headed downstairs following a fitful and frightful night of storms and dreams.

Little Red Bear was sitting at the table, already reading the morning’s edition of “Squirrelly World” and appearing much chipper than the day before.

“How did you sleep last night, Red? Storms keep you awake all night, too?”

“I slept fine. And what storms? It was quiet and dry all night. The rain stopped well before dinner last night. Remember? The whip-poor-wills sang all night behind the cabin. Best night’s rest I’ve had in a month. You have trouble sleepin’, Jim?”

“Yeah, some. I suppose it had to be the mushroom soup at dinner then. You know mushrooms can cause problems for me.”

“What are you talking about? I made the spaghetti for us, and you made the salads and garlic bread to go with it for dinner last night. You feelin’ all right this morning, Jim? Why are you limping? You got a sore foot or something? Are those ostriches gettin’ to ya? You look like you already been down a rough stretch of road for someone who just got out of bed. There’s bumps and bruises all over ya. You didn’t go out and try to fight one of those ostriches after I went to bed last night, did you?”

“No, no. It was just a long night. ”

“Well, you look awful.  Maybe you should go back to bed for a while.”

“Not a chance.  But how about you? Any bad dreams or nightmares?”

“None that I recall. I started to have one dream that was a bit strange though, about a cloud talking to me.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me about it.”

“Well, this cloud seemed to wake me up with thunder in the room and started mumbling something or other about ‘Adventures Untold’.”

Little Red Bear now had my full attention. “Really? Tell me everything. What happened?”

“Nuthin’. I reminded the cloud that it’s considered unwise to wake sleeping bears, dogs and babies. It replied, ‘Oh yeah, sorry, I forgot’, and then just disappeared. ‘Poof’ – it was gone. That was the only dream I had. Other than the usual dream about finding a giant ten foot beehive and honey, of course.”

“Oh, how nice,” I responded, recalling my own nightmares and wondering why only bears, dogs and babies seemed to enjoy the “don’t wake” protections afforded them. Well, babies I do understand of course, being the father of four kids. Yeah, never wake a sleeping baby. Doting grandparents dropping in for a visit seem to forget that one now and then. Dogs and bears are on their own as far as I’m concerned.

But, getting back to the story, I had come downstairs this morning half-thinking and half-hoping the ostriches might have called off their unreasonable picketing and protest, having no results to show for all their work and having moved on elsewhere. No such luck. Their voices carried thru the open windows.

Ostriches ready to challenge and put up a fight!
We’re back in the battle and going to rev up tonight!

Gingerly stepping out onto the front porch, there they were, all three of the ostriches energetically picketing and chanting across the front entrance to the cabin, exactly as they had the previous day. Determined birds, these.

The largest ostrich was carrying a new sign – “OSTRICHES HAVE STORIES TO TELL, TOO!”

And the chanting. The endless chanting, chanting, chanting . . . . .

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

We’re picketing to the groove of the Ostrich beat!

Flap your wings and stamp your feet!

We’re makin’ new friends and gonna turn up the heat!

The crowd of spectators is continuing to grow larger and wondering why that is. Not overly concerned about it though, providing peaceful spectators do not become  belligerent participants, of course.

Hey, hey!  Whattaya know?

That writer guys movin’ pretty slow!

Hey, hey!  He’s all limpy!

 That old man’s lookin’ really gimpy!

Having already heard and seen enough, I turned to go back inside the cabin to begin making breakfast.

To the side, mere feet from my bedroom window, I caught sight of the old white oak tree, smoldering and split in two lengthwise from top to bottom, somehow mysteriously burning and being consumed from the inside out while still standing, flames licking at the edges. Smoke rose from the growing pile of ashes at its feet, forming grey and black clouds before the breeze took them off and away into the air.

“Now, that’s interesting,” I muttered to myself, limping back inside with a still clouded mind.

“Are you sure you didn’t hear any storms last night, Red?”

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  This story part was prepared with a little tongue-in-cheek fun from the inspiration of Charles Dickens. Hope he didn’t mind.  Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing weekly serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then.

And please remember — Be the reason someone smiles today!   — Jim  (and Red!)


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Chapter Two of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 2 — Birds On Strike!”

Note to Readers– This is Chapter Two of a continuing Weekly Serial Story freely shared only here for followers of my Writing Blog.  If you missed the beginning, you can Catch Up Here.


As you may recall, three Ostriches who appeared seemingly out of nowhere while seeking story roles in the Little Red Bear stories yesterday, became very upset and offended over some unintentional comments made by Little Red Bear about their being flightless.

During the interview to discuss their inclusion in one or more of the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories and the roles they might play, things became rather heated between Little Red Bear and the ostriches. One word led to another and they threatened to walk out. Which they ultimately did.

But not before several more heated words were exchanged by both sides. Whispered comments I ruefully made to Little Red Bear about ‘sashaying’ and ‘strutting like peacocks’ were overheard as they went back down the path, which only seemed to anger them more.

Leaving the cabin, one of the ostriches had motioned towards a little teddy bear sign which I have hanging on the wall of the cabin, with the message “Don’t Feed the Bears, They’re Stuffed!”

The ostrich laughed and then mockingly implied the sign was referring to Little Red Bear because he was stuffed chockablock full with “Honey Fat” and, well—you can only imagine how that was received by Red.

When they departed and had ventured out of sight around the bend, I figured that would pretty much be the last of it, no ostriches in the stories. We had not been planning to add ostriches anyway. They are the ones who approached us to be in the stories.

To be honest, Little Red Bear and I have over forty Story Character job applications from other bird species wanting to be included, with more coming in daily, what with it being Spring now and the bluebirds, barn swallows, goldfinches, wrens and others arriving back from winter migrations. So, if the ostriches chose not to take part – so be it – and figured that was the end of it – “So long, thanks for coming.”

Heading downstairs to make breakfast this morning, the ostriches were nowhere in mind, having assumed that they would have simply returned to wherever it was they had come from.

I wished a “Good morning!” to Little Red Bear, already seated at the table, but with his head supported on his paws and not looking his normally cheerful self. The only reply I received in return was more of a grumble – “Grruummpphh.”

“What’s up with you this morning, Red?”

“Oh, you’ll see when you step outside.”

As I had been awoken by thunder rolling thru Hopper’s Holler below and it being an overcast, gloomy and rainy morning, I assumed Red’s rather glum response was more of a reflection of the weather conditions than anything else. We had planned an outdoor writing activity for the day, you see.

As every morning, I routinely placed the tea kettle on the stove to heat for breakfast tea, and stepped outside onto the front porch for my morning regimen of deep breathing exercises in the fresh morning air while the water heated to boiling.

And then, there they were – the three ostriches – picketing in front of the cabin – in the rain!

As it turns out, ostriches are not only somewhat difficult to deal with, but also resolutely single-minded in purpose. Angered, doubly so.

The largest ostrich, and most vocal in the meetings, was carrying a large sign, white with bold red letters which read – “ON STRIKE – UNFAIR TO FLIGHTLESS AVIANS!”

The second was carrying another sign which read – “FLY OR NOT – OSTRICHES ARE BIRDS, TOO!”  He was jauntily bouncing the sign up and down as he paced back and forth in line with the others across the yard.

The third, smallest of the three, was not toting a sign, but instead wearing an old-fashioned placard around his neck which on the front read – “LITTLE RED BEAR IS FAT AND SMELLS BAD!” – and when he turned around, on the back – “LITTLE RED BEAR’S MOTHER WAS AN UGLY ROOSTER!”

Now folks, I must admit, we can’t really figure that last one out either. Unless the ostriches got confused about hens and roosters, trying to imply that Little Red Bear is part bird, but that’s absurd.

Glancing around, there were “Don’t Feed the Bear” posters plastered everywhere – on the trees, fence posts and all over the front porch and walls of the cabin.

“Hey, y’all!” I called out, “I’m  fixin’ to put breakfast on. Why don’t y’all come on inside, out of the rain, get something to eat, and we’ll all sit down and try to talk this thing through?”

The only response came from the largest ostrich, again with that same (what I assume to be) obscene wing gesture he threw back at me yesterday. “Okay, then,” I muttered to myself.  “Have it your way.”

Coming back inside the cabin, I now understood why Little Red Bear was rather crestfallen, still sitting dispirited at the table, head in paws.

“Well, it’s raining anyway, Red,” I began, seeking to cheer him up. “Let’s just do our writing work inside today. If we don’t pay the ostriches any attention, I’m sure they will soon get bored and tired of just walking around in the rain, and then go on about their way. Whattaya say? Let’s just ignore them. ‘Don’t feed the trolls’, as they say.”

We prepared breakfast, which we (not being trolls) ate quietly at the table with no disruption. Shortly after, with a nice, quick little breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, blueberry muffins, oatmeal, grits, cornbread, hashbrowns, bananas, half a dozen biscuits with honey, an orange, and two cups of English Breakfast Tea now inside him, Little Red Bear had perked up considerably and we were working on the “Sir Snapsalot” story together, for Red’s first story collection.

Outside, the soft morning rain continued, with the relaxing pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat drips off the porch roof splashing lightly onto the ground in front. On the hill behind the cabin, a song sparrow was singing, despite the light rain, and another distant thunder murmured softly over the holler. All in all, a beautiful spring morning for work and writing.

Then things took a turn. We heard it. There was no point at all in pretending that we hadn’t.

Little Red Bear and I both stopped working and simply looked at each other, each hoping the other might be able to possibly deny what we had so clearly and undeniably heard with our own ears, or at least have something intelligent to offer about it. Dumbfounded, we simply listened.

From outside and thru the half-open window, we could hear the ostriches begin chanting in unison at the top of their voices –

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“Really?” I said out loud. “They haven’t left yet?”

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

“What did we do to deserve this?” Little Red Bear rhetorically asked of anyone who might respond, head tilted back and looking forlornly up at the ceiling. No one answered back of course, as we had requested the resident ghosts to relocate a few months before when it became apparent that they had begun keeping very different sleeping schedules than ours.

“I suppose maybe you should have simply apologized for your ‘flightless’ comment yesterday when they asked for it,” I finally responded, somehow feeling compelled to say something while pointing out the obvious. “Any time that we have a choice of being right or being kind, always choose kind. You know that.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. But they didn’t ask,” Little Red Bear corrected. “They demanded. Neither you or me respond well to orders and demands. And you know that. That’s one thing you and I have in common – a wild, unfettered, independent spirit.”

“Yeah Red, I do know that. And it does sound better when you put it that way. As opposed to simply being prideful and stubborn. But unfortunately, the ostriches didn’t know about our unbridled independent natures.”

Who are we? Just one guess!

Ostriches refusing to be oppressed!

Ostriches live with lions and cheetahs.

So ain’t no way you’re gonna beat us!

“Wanna bet?” Little Red Bear snorted in reply, glancing menacingly towards the window.

I simply looked at him and shook my head. They had merely been unintentional off-paw, off-hand comments, after all. Who could know anyone would be so easily and irreparably offended simply by stating an obvious fact – ostriches are flightless.

Clearly, the ostriches do not embrace the concept of a ‘measured response’.

Who’s got the power? We got the power!

What kind of power? Ostrich power!

What do we want? Ostriches!

When do we want them? Now!

I began to think, and correctly so truth be told, that this could all get pretty old, pretty quick. Which it did.

“What are we going to do, Jim?” Little Red Bear inquired after several more minutes of chanting. “Clearly your strategy of ignoring them and hoping they go away didn’t work. If anything, they’re getting louder. So, what now?”

“Hope they get hoarse from chanting and yelling – and then go away?” I responded with a half-bemused chuckle, but actually having no idea of what to do.

1-2-3-4 – We ain’t gonna take it no more!

5-6-7-8 – We’re gonna set these story folks straight!

The calming pitta-pat of the rain between chants became less and less comforting, calling to mind more of a Chinese water torture, ticking off the seconds until the next verbal barrage from the front yard blasted our ears.

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! This fat bear has got to go!

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! That old writer is really slow!

“Oh, listen, Jim. They’ve included you now, too,” Little Red Bear said rather happily, appearing to perk up again at the new development.

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! This fat bear has got to go!

Hey, hey! – Ho, ho! That old man is really slow!

Still shaking my head in bewilderment and confusion as to how we ever arrived at such a state, I could only and simply reply – “How nice. It’s good to be remembered, I suppose.”

It’s hot!  It’s hot!  It’s very, very hot out here.

It’s Little Red Bear’s hot air, polluting the atmosphere!

Global warming and pollution’s no joke, it’s real.

This bear’s bad breath lacks any civilized appeal.

“Well now,” I observed. “The breath comment aside, that one is both topical and catchy.”

Ummpph!” Little Red Bear grunted.

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

What’d you say? They didn’t hear.

Shout it LOUDER, there’s nothing to fear!

Little Red Bear is fat, stupid and rude.

And we don’t like his attitude!

Little Red Bear pushed back from the table and began to rise.

“Where are you going?”

“Nowhere in particular, just out to strangle those guys! Be back in a couple minutes.”

“Red, you may outweigh one of them, but you don’t outweigh all three of them.”

“You ain’t comin’ along to help?”

“Sticks and stones, Red,” I replied. “Don’t listen to them. We must practice restraint. Ignore them. Don’t let them get to you. They’re merely making stuff up and saying things, throwing anything they can think of against the wall to see what sticks.”

Little Red Bear sighed, shoulders slumped, and returned to his seat at the table.

“Well, it’s easy for you to say – ‘Don’t pay them no nevermind’. They got the whole place covered in ‘Don’t Feed the Bear’ posters. Looks like they got those to stick up pretty well on the walls. And what’s up with that? I’ve been feeding myself as long as I can remember. I don’t need anyone to feed me!”

“It’s not about ‘feeding’ you. They want to cut off your food supply and starve you to death.  A blockade of sorts.”

“Well,  – that’s not nice. What’d I ever do to them?”

“Flightless, rude comments.  Remember?”

“Oh, yeah. Right. Well, it’s still not a good enough reason to starve somebody to death!”

Before I could respond to Red’s concerns again, the ostriches all began to sing. Vigorously. They echoed each phrase as they marched in line one behind the other in mock military fashion, waving picket signs thru the air like battle flags.

I don’t know but I’ve been told . . . .

(I don’t know but I’ve been told.)

That Little Red Bear writer is really old . . . .

(That Little Red Bear writer is really old.) 

I don’t know but it’s been said . . . .

(I don’t know but it’s been said.)

Old writers’ butts are made of lead . . . .

(Old writers’ butts are made of lead.)

Instinctively, I then found myself pushing away from the table to head outside and grab hold of a neck.  Or three.

“Your turn to sit back down now, Jim,” Little Red Bear advised, now doubled over laughing and mind clearly off the ‘Don’t Feed’ posters. “Ha, ha, ha! You don’t even outweigh the littlest one.”

And he kept laughing. “They got you good with that one! Ha, ha, ha, ha!  Haw, haw, haw!”

Little Red Bear pounded on the table in great delight, guffawing and yucking it up. Apparently laughing at another’s misery is great stress relief for a bear.

“Yeah, very funny,” I muttered, pulling my chair back beneath me.

“I feel a little better now, not the only one being tormented,” Little Red Bear managed to say, between laughs.

“Happy to help.”

What Little Red Bear knew and had picked up on, was that without knowing it the ostriches had actually hit pretty close to the mark, just citing the wrong metal. But then, in their defense, stainless steel and titanium are a lot harder to rhyme than lead, I suppose.

The ostriches continued their endless chanting, with both volume and vitriol seeming to swell as the day wore on.

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

Boycott Bear Stories!

No Ostriches, No Stories!

We are left wondering and not knowing where this whole ostrich confrontation may be headed now, but with increasing concern, as they are beginning to draw the attention of local wildlife who have been overwhelmingly supportive of Little Red Bear’s adventures to this point.

Crowds are gathering, assembling in what appear to be small discussion groups off to the sides. Discontent, even unfounded, has a way of spreading like an uncontrolled virus at times, having a way of triggering dormant and unrelated emotions in others over long-ago slights, real or imagined. We certainly do not need a story character walkout or to lose support in the local community.

Hey, hey, ho!  That smelly bear has got to go!

Hey, hey, ho!  That flightless comment was really low!

Hey, hey, ho!  Come join us picketing to and fro!

Hey, hey, ho!  That writer guy shouldn’t write no mo’!

I now find myself dealing with a group of angry ostriches and an ever-growing crowd outside, and an insulted and agitated bear inside. And it now appears that I myself have become a target for their taunts and barbs.

Though unfamiliar with ostriches per se, these birds are displaying all the obstinacy and stubbornness of Missouri Mules, with whom we are fairly acquainted here. And that’s not exactly a comforting thought, given the independent resolve and strong-mindedness of Little Red Bear on the other side.

I am hoping we are well supplied with aspirin and antacid, because this distressing turn of events appears to have the makings of both an onslaught and a siege.

Ostriches are birds and have our rights.

We’re big and strong and willing to fights!

Good grief. “Willing to fights?” And they want me to stop writing?

Off for aspirins. Hurry nightfall. Maybe these ostriches will all wake up hoarse in the morning and go away.

Or not . . . . . . . .

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing weekly serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then!  — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


 

Chapter One of The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis: “Day 1 — How It All Began”

Serialized stories have been popular in literature for a long time, going all the way back to the 17th century.  American writers publishing in serial form over the years include Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Herman Melville. One of the most famous radio program serials was “Little Orphan Annie.”  So, Little Red Bear and I thought it might be fun to bring back the weekly serial story.

Welcome to the first installment of a new weekly serial story to be published only here on the writing blog every Saturday morning over the next several weeks — “The Ozarks Ostrich Crisis.”  This is a story which first appeared in daily serial form on Facebook a few years ago, which we have dusted off, updated for developments in Little Red Bear Land over the years, and are recirculating just for fun.  This serialized story was received so well that it was the actual catalyst for starting this blog in order to share more creative writing and works.

We hope you enjoy and follow along every week as the story evolves.  Sharing with friends and family is not only very much appreciated, but strongly encouraged.  It’s always simply about the fun.

So then, here we go . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Note to Readers–  In the early months of spring 2014, Little Red Bear and I had been interviewing applicants for prospective characters in Red’s upcoming first collection of short stories — “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!”, due for release in the coming months.  Interviews, meetings and writing sessions had been proceeding smoothly and on schedule without incident. 

That all changed upon the arrival of three ostriches who expressed interest in being in the stories, despite the adventures taking place in the Ozarks Mountain Country of Missouri, not on the savannas of Africa. Where the ostriches came from, why they showed up on our front porch that spring morning, how they even heard about our stories underway — nobody knows.  What ensued altered lives and the landscape of the backwoods forever.

As most folk are aware, Ostriches are not native to the Ozarks, but as Little Red Bear and I always try to  keep an open mind for new ideas and suggestions, we decided to meet with them to discuss possible story roles.  But having neither included them in any story character recruiting lists nor having done any research in advance, we were admittedly taken a bit off guard and unprepared for their arrival.  And determination.  Any ground-dwelling bird that exists on the open African plains alongside  powerful lions, hyenas and speedy cheetahs, should not be underestimated or taken for granted.  Turns out, ostriches are born into a world of conflict, do not shy away from it and may even regard it as sport.  Lessons learned.

What follows is taken from the documented, blow-by-blow diary account of the events and developments that transpired over the following days.  The story you are about to read is true, to the best of our recollection, mostly. Only some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent.   


DAY 1– “And So It Begins”

If there were any readers hoping for an Ostrich to make an appearance in the upcoming “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” stories, it’s not looking good after what transpired today.

The stories about Little Red Bear and his friends are generally based in the Ozarks Mountain Country of Missouri — mountains, farms, old mines, beautiful streams, forests, hollers, wildflower meadows, and the like. As such, the stories feature flora and fauna native to the region, as well as some interesting “imports” just for fun.  And education.

Albeit surprised by the arrival of three ostriches intent on interviewing for story character roles, Little Red Bear and I thought it might be nice to go ahead and add them into the stories even though writing work on Red’s adventures was already well underway. Obviously not native to the area but unusual and interesting birds nonetheless, we felt both children and older readers might enjoy having ostriches included in the adventures while possibly learning something new about them along the way perhaps.

And must admit, Little Red Bear and I were both rather charmed and taken in by the happy-go-lucky and out-going natures expressed in the headshot photos they submitted with their Story Character job applications.  Their motivation to appear in the stories seemed genuine, and it’s always easier and more pleasant to work with friendly folk.

To our mutual bewilderment and disappointment, it turned out ostriches may not be the easiest creatures to deal with, after all. During the interview, Little Red Bear made an off-hand (off-paw?) comment about never having seen a flightless bird before, and  innocently asked — “Why do you fellas have wings at all if you don’t know how to use them?”

Apparently, ostriches can be rather sensitive critters, at least about the non-flying thing anyway, and well — let’s just say the question was never answered directly, or at least we couldn’t hear if it was over all the loud clucking and ‘attitude’ that immediately followed.

As so often goes with misunderstandings, one thing led to another and before we knew it the ostriches threatened to walk out if Little Red Bear didn’t apologize for his thoughtless and cruel “flightless” comment.  That was our opportunity — our ‘out’ — if you will.  I can see that clearly now.

But some opportunities are very short-lived, and that one quickly slipped away when Little Red Bear replied that “Walk out” was the only thing they could do since ostriches apparently couldn’t fly, and that even tiny mosquitoes and gnats can fly, and bugs don’t seem smart at all getting trapped on flypaper all the time as they do so where does that rank ostriches on the Smarts Scale if even stupid bugs are able to fly, and he’d never known Mother Nature to be wrong about anything before so it must be something about them if they had wings and didn’t use them and what a creative waste that was, and, and  . . . . . . .

Let’s just say that Little Red Bear carried on a bit more as he and the ostriches thrust and parried insults back and forth across the table, and that about sealed it.  Whatever peace which we had enjoyed in the early morning was shot to . . . . , well — had been laid waste by noon.

Out the door and down the front porch steps the ostriches all went, one following another in line.  Walking — of course.  Rather briskly.  I could say that they “stormed” out, but that would be an exaggeration and hard to apply that term to giant, 9 feet tall birds weighing over 300 pounds, strutting out the door and down the path with white poofy tail and wingtip feathers flickering, fluttering, riffling, and whiffling in the morning’s spring breeze. Sashayed, perhaps.

One could conceivably and more correctly say their exit was closer to a sashaying out than a storming out.  There is a reason that the phrase “strutting like a peacock” is generally not a complimentary term, and in retrospect probably should have kept those thoughts to myself.

As it turned out, we learned that in addition to being hypersensitive and having excellent eyesight, ostriches also have excellent hearing, and having overheard me whisper those “sashay” and “strutting peacock” comments to Little Red Bear, it just seemed to incite them more.  Apparently, they may not be on the best of terms with peacocks either, jealous because peacocks are one of the largest flying bird species, a group that of course does not include ostriches.

I’m fairly certain the peacock comment was not received well, because that wing gesture was clearly intended to mean something other than friendly.  It was the body language of it.  I didn’t need to be able to speak ‘Ostrich’ to understand that.  Some symbols and gestures may be universal, it seems.

The picture taken following the morning’s meeting, by Rusty the Fairydiddle (the red squirrel reporter for the local “Squirrelly World” newspaper)  pretty much sums it up.

We were not seeking to include any ostriches in Little Red Bear’s stories to begin with, but nevertheless, I will try to smooth things over because we never like to see anyone go away mad, it’s just not in Red’s or my nature. And it’s pretty clear — they’re not happy.  And that there may be an understatement, unfortunately.

But, really.  What can they do that would cause any problems for Little Red Bear and I finishing his stories on time anyway?  They’re simply three strange birds in a foreign land, after all.

Three . . . . . giant . . . . . angry . . . . . very strange . . . . . birds.

To be continued . . . . . . . .


Thanks as always for visiting with us!  Be sure to check in next week as events continue to unfold in the “Ozarks Ostrich Crisis”, a continuing serialized free story available only here on the Writing Blog.  See ya then!  — Jim  (and Red!)


Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

~ Think Globally — Act Locally ~


Sharing Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling

With the Little Red Bear stories, I try very hard to straddle the fine line of being engaging and enjoyable for both younger and older audiences. The first goal of each story is to first be entertaining in order to hold interest and have fun, while also then being informative and educational along the way. As such, I am a great admirer of the consistently stellar work produced by the folks at Pixar Animation Studios, making entertainment consistently reaching both young and older age groups.

I happened across this image — “Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling” — and thought it might be interesting and helpful to share with other writers. Those who know me also know that I am not generally a follower of rules, but as rules go, these are pretty good, and agree with many.

But let’s just go ahead and call them ‘Guidelines.’  That works and sits a little better with Little Red Bear and me.

 

Thanks always for stopping by to visit, and wishing you the very best of success in your future storytelling and writing! — Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

 


Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

On Fly Fishing — Teach a Bear to Tie a Fly (And You Will Have Accomplished Something!)

Right off the bat, I must admit that the title may be a bit optimistic and premature, because I haven’t accomplished anything quite yet teaching Little Red Bear about tying flies and fly fishing.  But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

One of my favorite uncles, my mother’s youngest brother, was a first class fly fisherman in the day.  One of his best friends was a conservation officer with the Missouri Department of Conservation at the time, and they would spend every chance they got fly fishing the Ozarks streams. Like my mother, he had grown up in the country and was all about nature and the outdoors.  He had served in the Pacific on Iwo Jima and Okinawa among others in WWII not too many years before, and I always figured maybe the peacefulness of fly fishing is what may have so appealed to him after it all.

Uncle Paul firmly maintained that anyone could catch a fish if they hooked up a worm, used bait and fed them, but it was a true challenge and art to catch a fish on a lure that you had made yourself.  So he taught me how to make and tie my own flies and to fly fish as a boy.  He reassured me that the hungrier I got, the better I would get at making them.

I don’t know whose idea it was that I should learn how to tie flies at the age of nine, my mother’s or my uncle’s (it certainly wasn’t my father’s because he was a city kid, thru and thru), but there I was sitting at his kitchen table one Saturday morning learning all about the different kinds of flies and bugs to imitate. Shiny Mylar strips, tinsels, miniature corks, colored wires, hooks of all sizes, chenille stems, horse hairs, bits of assorted furs, spools of thread, and tools and miniature vices I had never seen before all spread out on the table before me.

And all sorts of wondrous feathers — peacock eye feathers, guinea fowl, pheasant, grouse, quail, marabou, ostrich, ducks, roosters, chickens and others.  Feathers from all over the world from birds I had only seen and read about in Encyclopedias!  All a small boy’s imagination could hope for and a whole new world suddenly opened.

As it turned out, fly fishing is the only kind of fishing I ever really enjoyed, to tell the truth.  And now steadfastly agree with my mentor.  Tossing a worm-baited hook into the water is not only lacking in challenge, but also an insult to the intelligence of the fish.  And since they spend so much time in schools, they do tend to take it rather personally.

There is just something about fly fishing.  The excitement and sudden rush of spotting a flash of silver under the water in the distance.  Working and playing out the fly line, back and forth, back and forth in a relaxing zen-like rhythm imitating soft lapping waves along the shoreline, the heavy line artfully arched over your head.  Cast out and land the lure in exactly the right spot where you just saw a riffle on the water, widening circlets across the way. Being at the water’s edge with the songbirds in the background while water ripples around you.  A turtle pops up to say ‘Good morning!’  and forest critters edge cautiously to the shoreline for a drink. Frogs croak their greetings as red-winged blackbirds cheer you on from the nearby reeds. Simply — magical. Nature speaks to you, if you listen. For myself, I just could never find that same joy in any other type of fishing.

I would spend hours on summer afternoons, just as Uncle Paul showed me, fly rod in hand in the backyard practicing to drop a fly inside a hula hoop target laid on the ground at the back of the yard. Eventually the larger hula hoop was replaced with a smaller metal bucket. I always look back on all that, together with the time my uncle spent with me infusing his love of the outdoors and respect for wildlife, as probably where my life-long love of nature and conservation got its start at an early age.  We never know at what precise moment the stars may align and how a few minutes spent with a child may influence their whole life to come.  And there’s a lesson there in itself.

We would visit my uncle’s home regularly thru the year on Saturday mornings, me in the kitchen learning to tie flies at the kitchen table with Uncle Paul, working side by side each of us with our own vise and every time a different type; while my mother visited with Aunt Laura in the living room. Wrapping and making the Wooly Bugger Worm was always my favorite.

It was Uncle Paul who gave me my first hunk of beeswax and taught me to always wax the sewing thread to keep it from tangling while tying the flies.  A trick I still use today when hand sewing teddy bears and things.

Some of the little tools, grips, vices, supplies and books used back then are still with me today.  We made frequent trips to visit the Culver Lures store on Missouri Avenue in south St. Louis at the time. A somewhat dark little store because the two smallish front windows were cluttered with merchandise, with a white wooden store front and wooden floors too, as I recall, overflowing with every fly tying and rod making item imaginable.  Stand at the counter, tell the man smoking the stubby cigar what I needed and he would go find it and ring it all up on the cash register.  Hand over the cash and away we’d go to make more lures. The store is long gone now and remodeled into a condo. A different time.

Used to have an honest-to-goodness fisherman’s straw hat with flies stuck in all over it, too. Don’t know where that might have went over the years, sadly.  I suspect my mother may have pricked her finger on a hook dusting it one too many times when I was away at college and it was shown the door.  But just a guess.  No one ever seemed to recall its whereabouts or fate later, whenever queried.

flies-3

It turns out Uncle Paul was right — there are few thrills in life to compare to catching and landing a fish on a lure that you have handmade yourself.  Marriage and the birth of children are certainly at the top, but that first fish is right up there on the list, too!

And that all brings me to Little Red Bear.  Being an avid fisherman himself with his assortment of bamboo and stick poles and always up for a challenge, Little Red Bear now wants me to teach him how to make his own lures and teach him how to fly fish.

Red has always been a “throw out the bait and wait” type, as he puts it.  Not my thing, as I said.  So I can readily see his wanting to move up the fishing ladder, so to speak.  The only problem is, with those big bear paws of his, I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge of teaching him.  Showing him how to make biscuits is one thing, and admittedly his are better than mine now (although I still make the best cornbread). But Little Red Bear sitting and tying teeny little fishing flies?  Not so sure.

Still, I’ve yet to see Little Red Bear not accomplish something he sets his mind to, so we’ll see.  There was that time at Perch Lake when he hauled that giant, cantankerous and ill-tempered . . . . .   Well, I really should let you read and enjoy that ‘Sir Snapsalot’ story for yourself.  He even tells folk how to make their own bamboo fishing poles in that one!  Red’s famous for them in these parts.

In the meantime, I wonder what Uncle Paul would think now about the time he spent with a young nephew years ago, teaching him how to tie flies and fish, and who grew up to later write stories about conservation and an uncommonly special bear and his friends in the Ozarks Mountain Country that we visited and fished together ourselves? I like to think he might enjoy them. Time is never wasted when spending it with a child.

Thanks as always for visiting.  I will keep you posted, and we’ll see how this fly tying adventure goes with Little Red Bear, I suppose.  I can’t say ‘no’ to someone looking to learn and try something new.  Even if it seems as though it may be a mighty challenge along the way.  — Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

~ Children Learn To Read on the Laps of Their Parents ~

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

Share the Love and Give a Book on Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines Day!  Did you know that Valentines Day is also International Book Giving Day?  With few large and organized events, Book Giving Day is more of a grassroots movement all about sharing our Love of Reading on that very special day of Love each year — Valentines Day.

Valentines Day is a day dedicated to expressing our fondness and love of others — sweethearts, partners, family, friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors and more.  What better way to show someone how much you care than to gift them a book?

“How?” you ask?  There are lots of ways.  Wrap a book as a present and gift for someone special in your life.  It’s Valentines Day, so lovingly tuck a red rose into the ribbons, if appropriate.  Leave a copy of a book in a doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room for others to share.  Donate gently-used books to your local school, library, hospital, senior center, homeless shelter or orphanage.  Leave a book behind at a coffee shop or restaurant table. Gift a book or eBook thru Amazon or other online services in an email message for friends and loved ones in other areas of the country or world.

Books have the capacity to open new worlds of information and change someone’s life in so many ways.  Here are Ten Reasons Why Books Are So Important.   Books can also be revisited and enjoyed many times in a person’s lifetime.  And can shamelessly be re-gifted to benefit another along the way!

This year, Little Red Bear and I have partnered with a group of wonderful authors to give away copies of our own books.  I encourage you to tap on their names to visit these wonderful writers and their works.

Little Red Bear and I are giving away two eReader copies each of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!” short story collection and the brand new “Pine Holler Christmas: A Little Red Bear Story”.

Our book giveaway runs now thru February 15th.  The more actions completed, the better chance of winning a free book for yourself, family or loved one.  Simply tap on the link to get started — Tap Here To Enter Our Books Giveaway!

The ‘Fine Print’ stuff — Terms and Conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author’s country of origin at their discretion.

Thanks always for visiting!  Please join these wonderful authors and me in supporting literacy and reading on International Book Giving Day.  Share the Love and Give a Book this year on Valentines Day!  — Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

 

 

International Book Giving Day — Why Reading Is So Important!

February 14th is not only Valentines Day, but also International Book Giving Day!  As such, I have partnered with some wonderful author friends from around the world to give away some copies of our books, hoping to inspire you to do the same.

Give a book you enjoy or one that you think may benefit someone — to a child, a loved one, family member(s), neighbor, or friend.  Donate some new or gently used books to your local library, to a local school, civic group, or to a local hospital.  Leave a copy of a book in the waiting room of a doctor’s or dentist’s office, or at a homeless shelter.  There are many ways to help spread the love of reading.

“Why is reading so important?” some ask.  With help from the folks at WhytoRead.com, let’s count the ways . . . . . . .

  1. Reading Helps to Develop Verbal Abilities. Readers tend to have a larger vocabulary and more ways of expressing themselves, while also helping to avoid acting out or remedies of violence.
  2. Reading Improves Focus and Concentration. Sitting down with a book requires longer periods of focus and concentration, developing attention spans.
  3. Readers Tend to Enjoy the Arts and Work to Improve the World. Readers are more likely to visit museums, attend concerts and the like, and are more likely to volunteer and to do charity work.
  4. Reading Improves Imagination. Reading about new worlds and peoples and having to create the images from the written words in one’s mind as opposed to merely viewing on a screen, develops creative and imaginative abilities.
  5. Reading Makes You Smarter. Having books available at home has been strongly linked to improved academic performance.  It’s all about learning.
  6. Reading Makes One Interesting and Attractive. The knowledge base and exposure to the world acquired thru reading allows one to hold their own and meaningfully contribute to conversations, as opposed to slinking off not to embarrass oneself.
  7. Reading Reduces Stress. In a study performed at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, test subjects only needed to read silently to themselves for six minutes to slow down their heart rate and ease muscle tension.
  8. Reading Improves Your Memory.  As opposed to listening to a tape or lecture, reading provides the opportunity to pause for reflection and critical thinking, which also serves to improve memory retention capabilities.
  9. Reading Gives Us The Opportunity to Discover and Create Ourselves.  Being exposed to others’ lives, situations, feelings, opinions and perspectives allows each of us to examine our own life in the light of new knowledge and experience, learn life skills, and to develop who we really are and seek to be.
  10. Reading is Entertainment. Reading is fun, pure and simple. With due respect to all of the above, reading is also wonderfully Entertaining, allowing us to explore new worlds, escape for a mental vacation, and to be absorbed and immersed in a story or adventure for hours and hours. And to revisit as often as we like at no extra charge.  Take “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” for example. Where else can one go on the planet to a place where the animals and humans interact as equals and share hair-raising adventures, while learning about the natural world, kindness and positivity at the same time?

So, that is why reading is truly important.  We have joined together to give away a selection of both Print and eReader books.  Our book giveaway runs now thru February 15th.  The more actions completed, the better chance of winning a free book for yourself.  Simply tap on the link below to get started.

Tap Here To Enter Our Books Giveaway!

Terms and Conditions: There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author’s country of origin at their discretion.

Tap Here To Enter Our Books Giveaway!

 

Thanks always for visiting!  Please join my friends and me in supporting literacy and reading on International Book Giving Day.  The world will be better for it! — Jim (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

Back To Work With Little Red Bear — “The Second Holler Over!”

Hey, y’all.  Thought it might be time for a progress update on the next collection of Little Red Bear stories, to bring everyone up to date on what’s going on behind the scenes as we are into the new year now.  With the the holiday season concluded, we are back at work writing the next collection of Little Red Bear adventures for you — “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The Second Holler Over!”

Bobo and Lily have returned from their Christmas visit with black bear relatives in the Smoky Mountains now, and Red has rounded up Cinnamon Charlie, Albuquerque, Swinestein, “Howdy!”, Stillwater, Bayou Bill and the others back from their holiday vacation trips, as well. Indian John and Aunt Ivy have been dropping by daily, anxious to get back to work on the stories. Even Farmer Turner is here, this being his slower time of year during the winter months until spring planting season arrives.

And naturally, everyone’s favorite little red squirrel, Rusty the Fairydiddle, is back after his co-starring role in the “Pine Holler Christmas” story adventure, with Little Red Bear and Cinnamon Charlie.

Rusty the Fairydiddle, Red Squirrel Reporter on the Job!

The old prospector Packsaddle Pete is back too, with another adventure in mind. That may be a hard sell to the rest of the group since some of  us remain a little nervous hearing things at night, and still looking back over our shoulders following that “Broken Hill Mine” episode in the first story collection.  But he keeps going on about treasure maps and clues to Jesse James’ lost treasure buried around the area.  I don’t know.  We’ll have to see about that one.

Interviews for prospective new story characters are nearly concluded, with only a gopher, a skink, a second interview with a hedgehog, and a rather persnickety peacock remaining.  And, that really is meant to be ‘skink’ there, for those of you who thought that might be a typo.  We have an opening for a Five-lined Skink (also called a Blue-tailed Skink here in Missouri) in a coming story.  All of the available skunk character positions have already been filled.

Neither Little Red Bear nor I can figure out why peacocks seem so intent on being included in rollicking adventure stories set in the backwoods of the Ozarks Mountain Country.  We had peacocks lined up and applying for roles in the first collection, as well.

This new fellow has even gone so far as to declare that he could perfectly play the role of either a hummingbird or a woodpecker, but my leg only stretches so far.  Sometimes it appears peacocks are merely showing off.  See for yourself from the job application headshot photo he submitted to see what you think.  Do you really see him hovering  in place over a flower like a hummingbird, or grasping the bark while drilling a hole in the trunk of a sugarberry tree?

More suited for the red carpet in Hollywood than a backwoods action/adventure story perhaps, but we’ll interview him anyway. Maybe some other role might pop up for him. Who knows, it might turn into one of those cases where he simply plays himself.

And then we still have that troubling interview with a persistent mountain lion to deal with.  Admittedly, Red and I kept rescheduling that meeting over and over again the past few months hoping the mountain lion would cancel all together and just go away, but he seems determined to get into the stories. I suppose we are going to have to finally sit down with him to do the interview or risk incurring the wrath of the ‘Silly Story Characters Guild’.

No one is really excited about the prospect of an unpredictable mountain lion roaming around the woods. But our attorney, Bob the Badger, is already occupied trying to extend the beaver twins contracts, Flap and Slap.  The beavers are represented by a new agent, Reggie the Wood Rat, trying to make his mark and attract new clients.  And the bees are angry and buzzing about something again, so Badger Bob is busy attending to that matter for us, too. Seems like that stuff never ends sometimes.

So, we will interview the mountain lion, not to cause Bob the Badger anymore unnecessary work.  Might call Bobo to come sit in on that one with us.  Just in case.  I already asked Stillwater, but as you may remember from “The Wildwood Jamboree” story,  he doesn’t generally like to interfere or draw attention to himself so preferred to remain undetected on the sidelines.

The last interview we had been planning is with a human character who keeps calling on the phone saying he is lost and unable to find the place.  After the fifth “I’m lost” call and reschedule, Little Red Bear finally decided to go out to search for the guy himself and lead him in for the interview.  Bobo suggested we just sit and wait to follow the circling buzzards.  He can be that way sometimes.  The fellow’s name is ‘Woods’ something or other, if memory serves me correctly.  Hoping he will show up eventually.

So, except for the last few remaining interviews, all the character slots have been filled, with several new colorful story characters assembled and eager to get to work.  Some of them you may have already met.  Early arrivals already introduced in the “Pine Holler Christmas” story include Littleberry Bedford (the new farmer recently moved into the abandoned Longenecker homestead over by Buffalo Crossing) and his family, old Cooter (the leader of the Hoppers Holler Raccoon Platoon), Floyd the House Mouse, Aunt Alma Mason, Myra Cookson and her ‘Pie Pantry & Goodies Shoppe’ over in Butterfield, Doc Adams, and — Goat.

Others new to the stories include an honest-to-goodness old mountain man given to telling tall tales, a far-from-home moose, a worn out old hound dog, a Native American couple searching for a new home, more problematic pigs, dashing ducks, a bothersome buzzard, a pair of owl brothers setting up to compete with the ‘Squirrelly World’ local newspaper, a performing circus bear (as opposed to Lily and Bobo, who are both retired, as you may recall), a frolicking and unconventional family of woodland bunnies, a Little Red Bear “mini-mini-me wannabe”, and others.

There is also an aged possum who has taken up residence in a pear tree behind Red’s cabin on Honey Hill.  He spends all day hanging upside down by his tail, despite Little Red Bear reminding him that possums “really ain’t supposed to do that”.  But he persists.  With good reason, he says.  Although he hasn’t told us what that reason is yet.

If you recall, there was that expansion work going on over at Bobo and Lily’s cabin in the first stories.  Just a brief mention, but I always wondered myself what that was all about.  Did you?  Bobo and Lily never said.

No collection of Little Red Bear adventures would be complete without some old steam locomotives and trains huffing, chuffing and puffing along. Another circus train, perhaps? There were those circus trains so talked about in the “Crossing the Two Forks” story in the first collection.  Could there be another?  As we learned, traveling circuses are very popular in the small towns, so suppose it could be possible another might be passing thru sometime.

There may be some old steamboats and paddlewheels coming into view around the bend, too.  Or is that just the wind whistling thru the pines?  Little Red Bear is adamant that he hears steamboat whistles coming from the big river, but when he looks nothing is there.  So, what could that be about?  These stories do take place in the land of Mark Twain, after all.

And of course, Little Red Bear and Cinnamon Charlie are always on the lookout for honey.  And as we know from the very first “The Rescue of Little Red Bear” story, that in and of itself can be precarious at times.

Little Red Bear and Cinnamon Charlie have both been working hard to learn ‘Pig’ ever since Swinestein came on the scene in “The Storm” story.  But every language has its own varied dialects, so with more new pigs maybe on the way, I’m hoping that is not another issue for them.  Only time will tell on that, I suppose.

Speaking of Cinnamon Charlie, he’s going to be going into his third year now when young’uns start to venture out on their own a bit more, approaching those “teen” years for a bear, and you never know what that may lead to.

And, not to worry you but suppose you should know, there is a rumour going around the backwoods that there is a giant, hulking and brawny brown bear on his way with an old score to settle with Little Red Bear.  Red is not the smallest, but certainly not the largest of bears either.

That is a little worrisome, given that Red is the main character and they are his stories, after all.  Can’t have anything untoward happen to the main character.  But as merely the writer, I honestly don’t have control over everything, dealing with wildlife with a mind of their own in the stories, so that is a concern.  Must see how that confrontation plays out if it comes to pass.  I’m hoping it’s just a baseless rumour.  Probably started in ‘Squirrelly World’.  But, one never knows I suppose, so best to be on the lookout for potential trouble.  We’ll have the medics standing by, just to be safe.

Also, potentially troublesome, word is going around that the weasels have been busy recruiting a “hired gun” of sorts to come in and deal with Albuquerque, the red fox Sheriff.  According to gossip chatter, it’s a notorious and nasty coyote from out west in Colorado.  That would certainly be a mismatch and could be messy. Sounds like the weasels aren’t going away any time soon and the little sheriff may have his paws full going forward.

There are a few other things happening too, that I probably shouldn’t mention yet, not to keep you awake at night worrying.  Just remember the lessons we learned in the “Sir Snapsalot” story and to never venture into Witches Holler, especially after midnight.

And it would probably be best to ignore the ‘Squirrelly World’ newspaper reviews and steer clear of the buzzards’ new roadside café, and you’ll most likely be fine.  Their ‘Raw Bar’ truly is what it says, although the freshness has recently been called into question.

As you can see, a lot of work to do now to keep new characters occupied and sort out these rumours and such.

If you have not yet read the first set of stories, “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The First Holler!”, there is still time to catch up because we are going to be very busy here for a while getting the next collection ready for you – “The Adventures of Little Red Bear: The Second Holler Over!” 

As the stories and characters do kind of build one after the other, we always recommend starting at the very beginning for the most fun and entertainment.  “The First Holler!” is available in both Print and eReader versions on Amazon to get you started, and is always Free on Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks as always for stopping by for a visit.  We’ll keep you updated as work progresses and things develop over the coming weeks.

If you’re looking for us, we’ll all be over yonder under the chestnut tree working on the stories.  If you don’t know where ‘over yonder’ is, just ask the possum hanging from the pear tree.  He’ll point you the way.  — Jim (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

Special Kid Lit Community $500 Holiday Giveaway

Only One Week To Go Before Someone Wins a $500 Amazon Gift Card!

The Special Kid Lit Community $500 Giveaway is still open if you have not had the opportunity to register and participate  yet.  The giveaway is sponsored by a wonderful group of talented kid lit authors working hard to promote children’s literacy.

The Giveaway closes on December 15th and we all know how time seems to speed up as we get closer and closer to the holidays.  Don’t put it off, register today.  Someone is going to win $500 to help with Christmas bills and goodies.  Why not you?

Entering is easy —

  • Simply sign in to Rafflecopter, the service administering the Special Kid Lit Community $500 Giveaway, using your email or Facebook account.
  • Find a list of actions that earn giveaway points to increase your chance of winning the final grand-prize of $500.00.  Actions include visiting an author Facebook page (we hope you’ll ‘LIKE’ it too!) or following an author on Twitter.
  • You can decide which actions to take and how many.  Enter just one or complete all of them at one sitting if you like. You can even enter a few actions daily, and then return at another future time to add more. It’s all up to you.
  • Rafflecopter keeps track of your entries and tallies them.  Be sure to use the same log-in each time to access the giveaway action list.
  • The Special Kid Lit Community $500 Giveaway is open now and runs thru  December 15, 2016, and is  open Worldwide.
  • Rafflecopter randomly selects and notifies the winner at the end of the event.

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Enter HERE to get started!  Remember, the more actions completed the better your chances of winning.  Little Red Bear and I strongly encourage you to enter and support this dedicated group of kid lit authors working so hard to promote children’s literacy and learning.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

— Emilie Buchwald

Thanks as always for visiting and wishing everyone the very best of luck!  The special Christmas Story for Little Red Bear — “Pine Holler Christmas” —  is available NOW on Amazon for Kindle and eReaders. Check below or to the side for a link and free preview.  — Jim  (and Red!)

❊ Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times ❊ 

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Check out the new Little Red Bear Adventure– “Pine Holler Christmas” on Amazon! Tap Here For A Free Preview!

The ‘Unbearable’ Work To Get a Simple Image

Sometimes we try to do something simple, and then the tech folks toss a spanner in the works and before you know it things start bouncing off the walls and we’re running for the aspirin bottle and holy water.

I purchased an online image yesterday morning for the upcoming Christmas Story featuring Little Red Bear. Now, I am just an old guy writing down stories being told to him by a bear, and not into all of the tech stuff.  I still have the old Post slide rule I used in college. So that should tell you something. I merely teach myself what I need as I go along, trying to get by and overcome each new tech hurdle and challenge as I come to it.  As usual, I downloaded what was indicated to be a simple ‘jpeg’ image. No big deal. It arrived, however, all wrapped up nice and neat in an ‘eps’ file.

Of course, my little computer had no idea what to do with it and refused to open the image file, approaching it with the same caution as a robot disarming a bomb.  Next step, research what is an ‘eps’ file, short for Encapsulated PostScript file, which can contain text as well as graphics.  Who knew?  Neat, but I didn’t need or want any text, anyway.  So then, how to open it?  More research to find a free opening app tool, get it to download, and then teach myself how to use it in order to convert the image to the jpeg format I originally wanted in order to include it in the Christmas Story.  One simple step turning into six.

But, it’s all taken care of.  The sparkling new, converted ‘jpeg’ image is ready to go, and the aspirins kicked in after a while, blood pressure returned to normal and Little Red Bear and I eventually got back to work. Just please know that when you see the wonderful opening image in Little Red Bear’s  upcoming Christmas story, there was a whole lot more involved in it than just a simple copy/paste.

We just try to tell stories here and not get involved in all the computer and tech stuff. I try to leave that to the much more skilled and accomplished six-year-olds in the neighborhood. But they were all in school so Red and I had to figure it out by ourselves. Anyway, the situation has been handled, and now we both know what an ‘eps’ file is and how to handle it the next time we come across one.

Remember, if you have not done so yet, be sure to enter the Special Kid Lit Community Holiday Giveaway to have a chance at winning the $500.00 Amazon Gift Card. The event closes on December 15, and your participation will go a long way to help support fellow Kid Lit authors and child literacy efforts.

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Thanks as always for visiting! Best of luck in the Giveaway Contest, and please stay tuned for more updates on Little Red Bear’s upcoming Christmas Story — we’re almost there.  And it will have a really cool, hard-fought and won image in it, you know. —  Jim  (and Red!)

"It's Unbearable" -- Image by cdudak (Available for purchase at redbubble.com. Just tap on image.)

“It’s Unbearable” — Image by cdudak. (Available for purchase at redbubble.com. Just tap on image.)

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

Special Kid Lit Community $500 Holiday Giveaway

November is the traditional time of year when we all pause to reflect on what is important and what we are thankful for in our lives. We have a holiday fast approaching set aside for just that purpose — Thanksgiving.

Little Red Bear and I are truly thankful for you and all you who follow along, read our stories and send us the encouragement and inspiration to keep on going.   In the backwoods, $500.00 goes a long way to help put presents under the tree for loved ones during the holiday season.  So we have joined together with a marvelous group of fellow Kid Lit authors to give away a $500.00 Amazon Gift Card as a special Thank You for followers.

Entering is easy —

  • Simply sign in to Rafflecopter, the service administering the Special Kid Lit Community $500 Giveaway, using your email or Facebook account.
  • Find a list of actions that earn giveaway points to increase your chance of winning the final grand-prize of $500.00.  Actions include visiting an author Facebook page (we hope you’ll ‘LIKE’ it too!) or following an author on Twitter.
  • You can decide which actions to take and how many.  Enter just one or complete all of them at one sitting if you like. You can even enter a few actions daily, and then return at another future time to add more. It’s all up to you.
  • Rafflecopter keeps track of your entries and tallies them.  Be sure to use the same log-in each time to access the giveaway action list.
  • The Special Kid Lit Community $500 Giveaway is open now and runs thru  December 15, 2016, and is  open Worldwide.
  • Rafflecopter randomly selects and notifies the winner at the end of the event.

Enter HERE to get started!  Remember, the more actions completed the better your chances of winning.  Little Red Bear and I strongly encourage you to enter and support this wonderful group of authors working so hard to promote children’s literacy and learning.

Thanks as always for visiting and wishing everyone the very best of luck!  The special Christmas Story for Little Red Bear has passed thru the editing stage and cover design work has begun.  Please watch for more updates soon! — Jim  (and Red!)

give-away-banner

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

The Muse’s Challenge — A Christmas Story for Little Red Bear

Do you recall the ‘Writing Muse’ that I have mentioned before?  The one that awakens me anytime between 3-5am in the mornings with writing and other creative ideas and inspirations?  Well, she paid me a visit this morning right at 5am, with an idea for a Christmas themed short story featuring Little Red Bear.  She openly challenged me to have it completed for the holidays and is really adamant about it.  I have learned over time that one should never decline the challenge or assistance of a determined muse!

So, despite an already overloaded schedule, Little Red Bear and I began work this morning on a Christmas Story.  But a lot needs to be accomplished in a short time to pull this one off. Muses never really give much weight to schedules, working on Celestial time as they do.

As I said, the muse is insistent this be done and the story seems to be coming to mind rather quickly, so Red and I will be very busy to get it all completed in time for the approaching holidays.  Probably need to place some large chocolate and honey orders to get us thru this one!

I mentioned that her name should maybe be changed from “Creative Inspiration Muse” to “Last Minute Muse”, but she didn’t see the humor.  I guess it may have been too early in the morning for that, even for a muse.

Thanks as always for visiting with us.  Please wish us well with so much to do and pull together.  We’re off now to get to work and will keep you posted on our progress over the next few weeks.  — Jim  (and Red!)

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Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.