Check This Out: Chasing Bedlam

Return to the Shattered States
for a tale of love between a woman & her jeep!

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Cover Art by Jon Hunsinger

Lloyd and Cassidy’s last adventure was to honor a life. This time they are out to end one.

It was a normal, violent mission to Texas that should have had nothing more than beer-induced hiccups. That is until an old enemy makes off with Cassidy’s jeep and most of their gear. Needless to say, she’s pissed off and challenging Lloyd for the psychopath of the month award. With the mouthy serial killer by her side, she is going on the warpath from Dallas to Miami even if it means declaring war on the drug cartels.

So strap in for another wild ride through the Shattered States and learn why you never mess with Cassidy’s jeep.

Available on Amazon for 99 cents!

Want a taste?

“So your boss thought she could send assassins to kill the Riflemen,” the black-haired leader says, earning a cheer from his men. A firm smack to the prisoner’s head silences her gurgling attempt to deny the charge. “Nothing you say can prevent the inevitable. Don’t go thinking that pet serial killer will save you either. The idiot brought a paintball gun to Texas and thought he’d win a gunfight? I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did. All we need to do is find the body and we can collect the bounty on him too. Guess you’re lucky that he’s wanted dead and you’re wanted alive by that warden up north.”

“I’d be careful, boss,” a sword-wielding gang member warns. She leans away from the angry glare, but rolls up her sleeve to reveal a sloppily stitched wound. “While this one isn’t as tough as her reputation says, she can still hit hard. Lost two men before we restrained her and three more are nursing broken balls. Maybe we should use some of our tranquilizer stash and keep her sedated.”

“No reason for th-” Top Hog begins as he runs his hand across the prisoner’s forehead. He rubs his fingers at the sensation of something sticky between his fingers and looks closer to figure out what he has touched. “This scar is fake. Made from glue or something. Are you sure this is Cassidy?”

“She was with Lloyd Tenay at the bar,” a one-eyed man replies in a shaky voice. He shifts from one foot to the other when everyone else takes a step away from him. “You told us to look for him and a blonde woman. She had the denim jacket, the forehead scar, cursed a lot, carried two pistols, and even has the correct tramp stamp. Everyone was calling her Cassidy after she drove up in the blue jeep too. We made sure that everything checked out, boss. Even bribed the bartender and two waitresses.”

Sweat beading on his face, Top Hog draws his large gun and presses it to the prisoner’s temple. He leans around her, his eyes repeatedly darting toward her hands to make sure they are still bound. Lifting her white shirt, he sees the unique tattoo that the widespread stories mention Cassidy getting a little less than a year ago. The design is two pistols back to back with vines of bone curling around and binding them together. A strange discoloration catches the gang leader’s attention and he rubs his thumb along the woman’s side, pushing his weapon harder against her head to prevent wiggling. He swears that he feels a seam, so he gets a dirty fingernail beneath what turns out to be a flesh-colored sticker. Top Hog yanks it off and shows it to his men, the prisoner biting her lower lip to avoid screaming. He can already see that the tattoo is smeared from where he has touched it with his meaty fingers.

Enraged and embarrassed, the gang leader is about to kill the fake Cassidy when he hears distant rock music. Within seconds, he realizes that the source is getting closer and is soon joined by maniacal laughter coming over a crackling megaphone. With a snap of his fingers, Top Hog orders one of his men to take the prisoner to his office while the others run for the exit. Nobody gets very far before a blue jeep, which has been outfitted with a wide battering ram, smashes through the front of the warehouse. The vehicle leaves a gaping hole in the wall, which is made worse by hooked chains on the rear bumper that catch and tear more of the obstacle down. The jeep continues at full speed through crates, shelving units, and the slower gang members whose deaths are celebrated by honks of the horn. Tires screech as the driver hits the brakes and gets the car to spin, the move appearing to have no purpose beyond making those inside dizzy. With an embarrassing thud, the vehicle hits the back wall and hisses to a stop.

The gang have already drawn their weapons and are cautiously approaching the jeep when the sunroof opens. Bullets fly at the blonde figure that leaps out, the projectiles creating so many holes that the top half of their target falls off. The legs of the cardboard cutout are casually tossed to the floor before the shriek of a megaphone makes everyone cringe and cover their ears. With the tattered remains laying face up, the frustrated criminals realize that they have destroyed another Cassidy decoy. They are about to inch closer when the jeep briefly roars to life and a man inside begins making engine noises. The sounds change to the exaggerated screams and detailed begging of those whose parts are still stuck to the scuffed battering ram.

“So that was your plan, Cassidy?” Top Hog asks with a chuckle. He turns to see their prisoner is trying to roll away and fires his gun into the air to stop her. “Two decoys, so that you could get the drop on us. Guess you thought more of us would get run over. You still have thirteen of my crew standing and you’re cornered in that jeep. Now, the only question is if I send a piece of you back to the Duchess as a message that she should stay out of my business. Damn northerner needs to stay out of Texas’s business.”

“Actually, that young woman was the bait and I was the distraction,” Lloyd announces from inside. With a gleeful laugh, he opens one of the doors and yanks it back when the gang shoots at him. “Well shit. That was my favorite power window button. Anyway, people make that mistake all the time. You see, bait draws you in and, at least here, allows the real predators to follow you back to the previously hidden hideout. Not even a sign to help us out, which is very rude and unaccommodating. Now, the distraction’s job is to keep you looking in one direction while a mischievous maiden of mayhem prepares her new toy somewhere else. Don’t bother running, boys, because she’ll take that as an insult.”

Top Hog and his men turn toward the hole in the wall, which has exposed them to the large parking lot. The sun forces them to squint at the lone figure standing behind a loaded mini-gun, the weapon glinting in the midday light. Clouds move across the sky, which makes it easier for the gang to identify the denim jacket and blonde hair of their enemy. They take a few shots at the distant woman, but their bullets either miss completely or bounce off several riot shields that are strapped to the weapon. A slamming car door causes them to jump, but they turn in the wrong direction and are unable to stop Lloyd from racing toward the prisoner. Wearing orange pants from his time as a prisoner and a red shirt with a lightning bolt, the black-haired serial killer seems like an obvious target as he scoops up the young woman and dives behind a box of grenades. Suddenly afraid for their lives, Top Hog and his men attempt to scatter and hunt for cover.

“I hate moving targets,” Cassidy growls.

And don’t forget how it all started in
CROSSING BEDLAM!
Also on sale for 99 cents!

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About the Author:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
Twitter: @cyallowitz
Facebook: Charles Yallowitz
Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com

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You’re a Mean One, Miss Kitty

The following poem is my version of Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, with a bit of inspiration from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss. It explains what Kitty’s been up to lately, which I’ve hinted at a couple of times. (Yes, I know this is more appropriate for Christmas Eve. But you don’t want to wait that long, do you?) So, if you stopped by to learn who won the books in the latest giveaways (click here and here for the author interviews), check the end of the poem.

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, save Kitty—that louse!

While the children drew close to the warm fireplace,
Kitty took herself up the stairs to rob the place.

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But a child crept upstairs to observe her at work.
Yet Kitty heard her creeping, and turned with a jerk.

“Are you Santa Claus?” asked the sweet little tike.
“I’d like a Nintendo, and some kind of bike.”

“A Nintendo what?” asked the grumpy fake Nick.
“Nintendo’s a company. Please be specific.”

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“You’re not St. Nick!” cried the suddenly wise child.
“You’re grumpy and harsh; he’s sweet and warm and mild.”

“He sounds like a hot drink,” the would-be thief sneered.
“Take my advice. This Santa Claus? Well, he sounds weird.”

Kitty shooed the child off with a ten-dollar bill.
She returned to the sack she had hastened to fill.

But suddenly outside, there arose such a clatter.
To the window she raced. What on earth was the matter?

Sirens squealed in the distance—what a kerfuffle!
The window was shut; but the noise would not muffle.

She would be caught with the stuff she had stolen.
What could she say about a large sack so swollen?

So, she threw off the disguise, and then she made haste
Down the stairs with her usual cupcake at her waist.

“Oh children,” she said, “I’m a neighbor so near
I stepped through the window to visit you here.”

The child with the ten, not a word did she say.
She felt keeping mum made life better that way.

So, they gave Kitty cocoa and showed her a chair.
And soon, Kitty realized, she was better off there.

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Now let’s turn from a larcenous “Santa” to the winners of the books. As a reminder, I am giving away a copy of How to Share with a Bear and How to Build a Snow Bear by Eric Pinder, as well as Hard to Die by Andra Watkins and Our Justice by John Howell.

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The winner of Eric Pinder’s picture books is . . .
Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Jennie!

The winner of How to Die and Our Justice is . . .
Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Andy!

Winners, please confirm below. Jennie, please email your snail mail information and phone number to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com. (Amazon will not deliver without a phone number.) Andy, when you email, please include the email address you use with Amazon.uk. I believe you can only get the Kindle versions of Hard to Die and Our Justice through Amazon.uk. Hope that is okay.

Thank you to all who commented!

Book covers from Goodreads. Photos by L. Marie. The Happy Places Shopkins Happy Home is a registered trademark of Moose Toys. Hello Kitty is a registered trademark of Sanrio Co., Ltd.

Deck the Halls with Three Good Books (Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la)

santa 9Ho ho ho! Santa’s got a brand-new bag. (If you’re a James Brown aficianado, you’ll have “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” in your head now. Mwahahaha!) Today on the blog, I’m thrilled to welcome three great authors and fellow VCFA alums: Melanie Crowder, Caroline Carlson, and Skila Brown. They agreed to a quick interview without any coercion from moi or that cupcake-wielding supervillain, Hello Kitty. If you’re totally confused by that last statement, go here.

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Melanie, who also wrote Parched, is here to talk about her upcoming young adult historical novel-in-verse, Audacity, which will be coming to a bookstore near you on January 8, 2015 (published by Philomel Books/Penguin). Melanie is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Caroline is here to discuss The Terror of the Southlands, book 2 of her middle grade series, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, published by HarperCollins. If you were around last year, you’ll remember that Caroline stopped by just before the first book of her series debuted. (See here and here.) Good times. Caroline is represented by Sarah Davies.

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And last, but certainly not least, Skila is here to talk about her middle grade historical novel-in-verse, Caminar, published by Candlewick Press. Skila is represented by Tina Wexler.

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After our discussion, I’ll talk about a holiday giveaway that I hope will be an annual thing.

El Space: Greetings and welcome to the blog. Could each of you provide an elevator pitch for your book to bring readers up to speed about it?
Melanie: Audacity is the inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history.

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Caroline: Hilary Westfield is a full-fledged pirate now, but if she doesn’t prove her boldness and daring by rescuing a kidnapped Enchantress, she’ll be kicked out of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates for good.
Skila: Set in 1981 Guatemala, this novel-in-verse tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.

El Space: Awesome. So, tell us what inspired you to write your book.
Melanie: Clara’s story just wouldn’t let go of me. I first discovered her in 2010, while looking for topics to try my hand at picture book biographies during the second semester of my MFA at Vermont College. But the more I read about Clara, the more I was captivated. I began to suspect that this would turn into a novel-length book. And then her voice showed up—in free verse, no less! I had to follow. . . .
Caroline: The Terror of the Southlands is a sequel to my first book, Magic Marks the Spot. I wanted to continue the story of Hilary’s adventures on the High Seas, explore more of her world, and learn more about the characters I’d created for the first book. Also, I love detective stories, and this book, while not a traditional mystery, is absolutely swarming with detectives. Pirates too, of course!

pirate_clipart_ship_2Skila: I spent a long time reading and learning about Guatemala’s Armed Conflict and the role that the U.S. played in that violence. It made me angry—angry about what happened and angry that not many people know about it. There are so many things I can’t do about so many issues in the world. But one thing I can do is tell a story. So that’s what I did. I told a story about a boy who survived. I think survival stories are the best kind of stories to read.

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El Space: You’ve all intrigued me! If you had a choice of educating, astounding, amusing, or challenging a child or a teen with your writing, which would you choose? Why? You can pick a combination of two if you wish.
Melanie: Challenging. Definitely. This is a book for teens, and Clara was a teen when she became an activist. I absolutely want readers to find her story and to know that they, too, can change the world.
Caroline: I love reading and writing humor, so one of my main goals every time I sit down at the keyboard is to amuse both myself and my eventual readers. That said, I hope that while kids are laughing, they’re also being challenged, astounded, and only very occasionally educated.
Skila: Challenging. I was the kid who loved to be challenged and also who loved to challenge. There’s always that one kid in every class, right? Raising her hand in class to say, “I think you’re wrong,” to the teacher. I would love the idea of my book challenging what you might believe about war, or the way you think about the world, or the capabilities of a child. I love books that make me think. I hope Caminar is a book like that.

El Space: If your main character had a Christmas stocking or made a Hanukkah wish, what would this character wish for? Why?

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Melanie: Books! Clara loved poetry, and she loved learning—languages, social theory, literature—all of it!
Caroline: Hilary’s Christmas stocking would probably include a sword-polishing kit, a packet of homemade cookies from her governess, and a good book she could read aloud to her gargoyle.
Skila: Carlos would probably wish for food, for obvious reasons. But on a lighter note: candy! And maybe a radio.

Thanks, Melanie, Caroline, and Skila for stopping by! I’d love to have you guys come back again!

And if you’ve popped over to check out these authors, thanks for stopping by. There are other places where they can be found. Looking for Melanie? Look here. Looking for Caroline? Look here. Looking for Skila? Look here. You can find each wonderful book by clicking on its title:

Audacity (preorders only)
The Terror of the Southlands
Caminar

You can also find each book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. If you’ve been wishing for more books this holiday season, your wish is about to be granted. I’m giving away a preorder of Audacity and a copy of The Terror of the Southlands and Caminar. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winners will be announced on Monday, December 22.

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Jordie and his archnemesis have agreed on a truce during the holidays. Each is hoping Santa will bring him/her books by Melanie, Caroline, and Skila. Um . . . yes, Jordie and Hello Kitty still believe in Santa. Don’t you?

Christmas ornament from realestateyak.com. Hanukkah menorah from tucker-tribune.blogspot.com. Christmas stocking image from dryicons.com. Santa bag from its-so-cute.blogspot.com. Pirate ship from free-clipart-pictures.net. Strike photo from historymatters.gmu.edu.

Testing . . . 1, 2, 3

Call me silly, but I sometimes take quizzes or watch videos like this that tell me what my car color, sleep habits, or choice of donut allegedly says about me. (I’ll bet you thought I was kidding about the donut. Look here.) Do you look at quizzes or videos like these? I didn’t learn as much about myself as the above video promised I would learn. If you don’t care to watch the video or can’t for some reason, it’s all about sleep positions. In case you’re wondering, I start off on my side, but somehow wind up on my back when I wake up in the morning. I’m not sure what that says about me. That I have commitment issues?

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This is my donut of choice: a chocolate cake donut.

Side sleeping is what the majority of people do (54%). At last I’m part of the in crowd. According to the doctor on the video, you can train yourself to sleep in a particular position. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like too much work. Yet I can see the benefits to it, especially if snoring is involved.

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I’ve also seen videos and blog posts where experts state that you can train yourself to dream a certain way. My natural bent toward laziness rebels against that.

gryffindor_crest_print-r92608dde23aa4bca82f74baab045c6a5_geub_8byvr_512And then there are quizzes that tell you which fictional character you’re like or which fictional environment or faction best suits you. Like this or this. (No training is involved.) I don’t know about you, but I don’t always tell the complete truth when I take a quiz like this. If I know the desired person, environment, or group (Dauntless; Batman; Wolverine; Black Widow; Gryffindor; Aragorn; Rivendell; Harry Potter), I’ll tailor my answers to fit that person or group. Hey, I don’t want to end up in Slytherin. And I’m too selfish for Abnegation. But for some reason, no matter how many answers I fake, every time I take the superhero quiz, I wind up as Superman.

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That’s me for both. (The fiery symbol is the symbol for Dauntless.) I’d better get used to the color yellow.

One test I’m tempted to lie on but don’t is the Mary Sue Litmus Test for fictional characters. You can find it here. Unsure what a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu is? Go here. The test is to help you gauge whether or not your character is too idealized. It also provides tips to help you develop stronger characters.

Mary Sue

A Mary Sue. But if your characters are fairies or angels, don’t let this stop you. Just keep on truckin’.

My natural writing bent is toward the convenient, so making the effort to go beyond a Mary Sue has been challenging. It mainly involves letting my characters suffer instead of protecting them like a Mother Hen. That’s not pleasant. But I know that in the end, my novel will benefit from the effort I put into making my characters strong. Now if I can only figure out their sleep positions/Divergent factions/Hogwarts houses, my work would be complete.

Donut from Wikipedia. Woman asleep from theaustintimes.com. Gryffindor crest from zazzle.com.Dauntless symbol from first-jumperr.tumblr.com. Christian Bale as Batman from comicvine.com. Superman logo from thehummusoffensive.blogspot.com. Mary Sue image from lydiakang.blogspot.com.

Supervillain Preparedness Plan

robots_incrediblesBefore I reveal the winner of Don’t Touch by the awesome Rachel M. Wilson, I have to pose this question: Would you know what to do if supervillains or giant robots took over your city or town? Watching movies like Megamind and The Incredibles and also watching a slew of superhero shows made me realize my lack of preparedness. Usually when supervillains attack or send surrogates (like killer robots), many people run helter skelter or drive their cars while screaming. Eventually those drivers crash into each other or into stationary objects (like plate glass windows) and cause even more chaos. Those who aren’t running and screaming just stand there waiting for the superheroes to show up and fight on their behalf. They offer no assistance when the heroes show up. My guess is they don’t quite know what to do, especially if they haven’t been bitten by a radioactive spider or are sadly lacking a power ring.

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Archvillains Megamind and Lex Luthor

While you wait for the Avengers, Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, or Spider-man to show up, you can be proactive. Think of how proactive you are when you learn about a storm heading your way. You either take out an umbrella or a shovel (for a snowstorm). (In the advent of a storm of locusts, well, you do what you can.) With a supervillain takeover, here are some ways you can be proactive.

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1. First, determine the threat level. Check out the news reports to assess the imminence of the threat. How far along in the nefarious scheme is the villain and his or her henchpeople? Are they still at the threatening stage? (“Unless I’m given one meellion dollars, I will . . .”) If they are, you still have time to get packed and get going with the next tips.
2. Practice your self-defense. While you’re waiting for the villains to make their move, make yours by practicing your kung-fu, archery, knife throwing, or even your tai chi. Supervillains usually come with loads of henchpeople. You may be able to conquer at least one or two with your fighting skills. Also, while everyone else panics and races about, you can chill with tai chi.
3. Keep hydrated. You might have to hide in sub-basements or caves for a long time when the fighting commences. If so, you’ll be thirsty. Start stocking water now, so you can keep hydrated. Try to set up more than one water cache in your town, in case you have to move around.

Horrified_Man_Running_Fast_clipart_image[2]4. Make your relationships betrayal proof. Can you count on your family and friends to avoid selling you out or eating you if they turn into zombies, thanks to the evil gas the supervillains released into the ozone? If not, make your relationships betrayal proof by making things right with friends and relatives while everyone is still human. Offer forgiveness and affirmation. Keep reminding them that friends and family stick together.
5. Keep vaccines on hand. Speaking of zombie-producing gas, you’ll want to stock up on vaccines and other medicines. Again, have more than one cache of these—preferably someplace cool and dry.

VACCINE-VIAL6. Keep off the bridges and high floors. Everyone will be attempting to travel across the available bridges as they flee the city. That means time-consuming gridlock. Look for alternate routes (sewer tunnels, trees [squirrels manage to go from tree to tree at a good clip]), mailing yourself via UPS box). Also, avoid hanging out on high floors. They’re usually the first place enemy drones crash through.
7. Learn how to use a machete. You’ll know why when the time comes.

No need to thank me. Just doing my civic duty. Feel free to pass along any other tips you would add to the list.

And now, let’s get to the winner of Don’t Touch by Rachel M. Wilson.

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That person is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

Is . . .

The lovely and vivacious Brickhousechick!

Congrats, Brickhousechick! Please confirm by commenting below!

And for the rest of you out there, keep safe. A gas mask might be the only fashion statement you need to make.

500fullThe Incredibles Omnidroid 10 from gonewiththetwins.com. Vaccine from daiasolgaia.com. Lex Luthor from youngjustice.wikia.com. Megamind from worldsoforos.com. Man running away from paulsjourneytolife.blogspot.com.

More Valuable?

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, all you needed to do to make my day was to hand me an inflated balloon. Didn’t matter what color. Just hand me one and I’d be happy. And when it would pop, as inevitably it would since I was the kind of kid who quickly popped balloons or broke things because of my less-than-gentle grasp, I would be devastated. But for those moments of having that balloon, all was right with the world.

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What is it about a balloon that brings such joy? The fact that they float? Their roundness when inflated? I dunno, but I’m done trying to analyze the appeal. Let’s just leave chalk them up to fun, okay?

While pondering the issue with balloons, I couldn’t help segueing to the issue of humor in a story. I’ve pondered this issue many times, because I’ve had conversations about the subject over the years. These conversations raised the following questions: Are serious stories more valuable than humorous stories? Is the entertainment factor of a humorous story equal to that of the entertainment value of a balloon—here today and probably popped tomorrow? In other words, not long lasting?

By now, you might be calling for my head for daring to equate humorous writing with balloons. Rest assured—that is not my assessment. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I’ve been thinking about the subject. Part of the reason for my pondering comes from conversations in which I’ve heard unfavorable comparisons made between humorous writing and writing of a more serious nature with humor writing deemed as the lower life form. I’ve also been told that you’re not a “real” writer unless you write War and Peace, Antigone, or something else of a serious nature.

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I’ve heard similar thoughts uttered about graphic novels and picture books—basically that their brevity of text and higher ratio of pictures (the nature of both types of books) make them entertaining but not as valuable as, say, Ulysses.

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I think we all know that such comments are subjective, rather than constructive. Anyone who has ever written a graphic novel or a picture book knows how difficult it is to write a good one. Because of the marriage of text and images, every word has to be chosen carefully.

Same with humor. Don’t believe me? Then read something by Dave Barry, David Sedaris, or Tina Fey.

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The funny thing is (and yes that pun was intended) humor is sometimes discounted, because the value of laughter is discounted. But you have only to Google laughter is good medicine to find many videos on the medicinal value of laughter.

I’ve had bouts of depression over the years. At those times, I often turned to books written by this guy:

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Sir Terence David John Pratchett or Terry Pratchett

At those times, books with a somber tone would have gone over like the proverbial lead balloon. Even when the cloud lifted, I turned to Terry’s books. Many have a gorgeous combination of humor and pathos—not an easy combination to get right.

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Don’t get me wrong. I love a good tragedy. Macbeth is one of my favorites. And I’m totally loving Babylon 5, a series created by J. Michael Straczynski that I somehow missed in the 90s and can now see, thanks to Netflix. It has a wonderful combination of humor and agonizing tragedy. Season 2 is heartbreaking!

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I’m reminded of this passage from Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: . . . a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

Sometimes a heartbreaking story or angsty poetry “speaks” to me. Other times, a laugh-out-loud-funny book is just what I need. So I can’t value one over the other, because they both meet a need at a particular time.

Getting back to the balloon, there’s a time for them too. While recovering from an illness or surgery over the years, nothing heartened me more than a cheerful balloon floating above my bed. There are some things, you never let go of. Balloons are one of those joys I never outgrew.

If you like John Cleese, click here for a great video on laughter. (And no, it’s not a Monty Python video. Sorry.)

Balloons from happypartyidea.com. Terry Pratchett photo from Wikipedia. Book covers from Goodreads. Babylon 5 image from brainstomping.wordpress.com.