DOG BONE SOUP – A BOOMER’S JOURNEY, BY BETTE STEVENS

DOG BONE SOUP Launch Banner

DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but those waters run deep.

Bette Stevens is a class act, an author who knows how to tell a story. Her characters are real, so true to life, they practically leap off the page. In Dog Bone Soup, style and the story are blended to perfection.

DOG BONE SOUPI’ve read a lot of books about rural poverty and for some reason, all those stories are set in the south. This is as far from south as you can get and a timely reminder that poverty is not regional. It’s everywhere, from the biggest cities to the hidden hamlets where tourists never go.

Shawn Daniels’ story is wonderful story. It’s growing up and coming of age for a poor kid in a dysfunctional family. His world is cold and hardscrabble. A drunken father, a vanishing mother. Foster parents with no love to share, teachers who can’t see past patches and poverty. Yet somehow Shawn forges a road of his own. Armed with courage, humor, and grit, he grows into a strong young man with solid values. And a future.

Sometimes, very little is enough.

No matter how it sounds, there’s nothing depressing about this story. How come? Because Shawn Daniels hasn’t a shred of self-pity in him. Despite the challenges he faces, Shawn is never down. Not depressed, discouraged, broken, or beaten. This kid has grit. Determination. A solid grip on his own worth.

Where does it come from? Mom, sometimes. A few others who see Shawn’s value and give him a hand along his path. A personal, hard-wired toughness that lets him see past the life he is living it to the life he wants — and for which he is willing to work. Mostly, it is Shawn’s own sharp intelligence which enables him to understand his world. It lets him trust his judgment without bogging down in unearned guilt. He makes smart decisions.

It’s a great story — and it’s far from over.

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.

BETTE A. STEVENS, AUTHOR – PURE TRASH AND DOG BONE SOUP

dog bone soupAnd now, there’s the rest of the story. DOGBONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels and his brother. Bette Stevens novel is now available for your reading pleasure. And it is a pleasure.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but watch out. Those waters run deep.

This author knows how to tell a story. Her style and the story are a perfect blend. Like the clear water, this author runs deep.

If I hadn’t come down with the flu, I’d be writing my review. In the meantime, here’s a good one from Barbara Ann Mojica’s Blog, GROWING UP MUCH TOO SOON.

DOG BONE SOUP is a wonderful story. It’s a coming of in a hardscrabble world, armed only with courage, determination, intelligence, and grit. Sometimes, that’s enough.


PURE TRASH: BETTE STEVENS – The Prequel

There are so many television shows and movies, not to mention sappy posts on Facebook and other social media sites about “the good old days” … kind of makes me a trifle queasy. As someone who grew up in those good old days, I can attest to their not being all that great. There were good things about them, but it was by no means all roses.

Good is a relative term, after all. If you were white, Christian and middle class … preferably male and not (for example) a woman with professional ambitions … the world was something resembling your oyster. A family could live on one salary. If you were “regular folk” and didn’t stand out in any particular way, life could be gentle and sweet.

The thing is, an awful lot of people aren’t and weren’t people who could blend in. If you were poor, anything but white or Christian, or a woman who wanted to be more than a mother and homemaker, the world was a far rougher place.

Bette Stevens

Bette Stevens

Pure Trash: The Story: Shawn Daniels in a Poor Boy’s Adventure: 1950s Rural New England is set in rural New England in the mid 1950s. It’s a sharp reminder how brutal our society could be to those deemed different or inferior. Not only was bullying common, it wasn’t considered wrong.

I remember how badly the poor kids in my class were treated when I was going through elementary school. How the teachers took every opportunity to humiliate kids whose clothing was tattered and whose shoes were worn. I remember feeling awful for those little girls and boys.

Not merely bullied by their classmates (who oddly, didn’t much notice the differences until the teachers pointed them out), but tormented by those who were supposed to care for and protect them. Bad enough for me and the handful of Jewish kids as Christmas rolled around. For them, it was the wrong time of year all year round.

In this short story, Shawn and Willie Daniels set off one Saturday in search of whatever they can find that they can turn into money. One man’s trash can be a poor child’s treasure. Bottles that people throw away could be collected and turned into ice cream and soda pop. Shawn is excited. It’s going to be a terrific day. Until the real world intrudes and Shawn is sharply and painfully reminded that he’s different … and not in a good way.

The story is about bullying, but more important, it’s about being different and being judged without compassion, without understanding or love.

It’s a very fast read. Only 21 pages, the story flies by. I was left wanting more. I want to know how the boys grow up. I want them to become CEOs of big corporations so they can thumb their noses at their whole miserable society. An excellent short story leaving plenty of room for thought.

Though set in 1955, the story is entirely relevant today. Despite much-touted progress, we still judge each other harshly based on appearance and assumptions. Everything changes … but maybe not so much.

For lots more information about the book and its author, stop by the authors’ website: 4 Writers and Readers. Pure Trash is available on Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon.

DOG BONE SOUP — BETTE STEVENS

DOG BONE SOUP Launch Banner

THE REALITY OF RURAL POVERTY 
A RIPPING GREAT TALE OF GROWING UP AND TRIUMPH OF THE SPIRIT!

DOG BONE SOUP is not only the title of Bette A. Stevens’s debut novel; it ranks high among the paltry meals that the book’s protagonist, Shawn Daniels, wants to forget. Plodding through mounting snow and battling howling winds, Shawn is ready to leave it all behind — living in poverty, Dad’s drinking, life in foster care, the divorce, the bullies….

Travel with Shawn Daniels through the guts and the glory of life. It’s all in DOG BONE SOUP, a Boomer’s coming-of-age saga. Available now at AMAZON.

From the Reviewers

“Dog Bone Soup is the poignant tale of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive in America in the 50s and 60s, when most others were on the crest of a wave. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. But most of all it will make you glad you read it.” ~ Charlie Bray, founder of the Indietribe

“In Dog Bone Soup, Bette Stevens captures the feeling and images of growing up in hardscrabble times perfectly.” ~ John Clark, librarian and author

DOG BONE SOUP

READ the opening Excerpt from Chapter One right here…

DOG BONE SOUP BW Border 2015The postcard arrived four days before my eighteenth birthday. All I had to do now was sign the final papers and light out for basic training. I could hardly wait to leave this place behind.

There were six of us ready to become soldiers. The other five guys were headed to Fort Dix. Soon as we were inducted, the sergeant who swore us in started calling us a bunch of lily-assed bastards and worse. When the jerk marched the other five guys off, I was happy as hell I wasn’t one of them.

Lieutenant Richards called me into his office. “You’ll be heading out tomorrow, Private Daniels. Here are your tickets.”

We sat in his office and talked about my future with the U.S. Army. Then he handed me a schedule for the next day’s journey and we went over every detail.

“Now let’s get you home so you can get a good night’s sleep before you fly off to serve Uncle Sam, soldier.”

“Good luck Private,” the lieutenant said when he dropped me off at the house. We saluted and I stood there watching until his car disappeared over the hill.

I’d always liked army people. They called me Mr. Daniels and even sir sometimes. Now I was officially a private in the U.S. Army and I was ready to start a new life. I pictured myself in an officer’s uniform one day—a lieutenant, a captain, maybe even a general.

Mum and I didn’t get much more than a few winks of sleep that night. I don’t know how many pots of coffee she perked while we sat at the kitchen table and talked the night away. Of course, it was Mum did most of the talking. Once she opened her picture books, I felt like I was drinking in the life I wanted to leave.

Mum took all of those pictures with her Brownie—that camera was her pride and joy. None of us kids was allowed to touch it unless she supervised a picture-taking every now and then. If Dad wasn’t around, it was me peeking through the lens. Mum was fussy about taking pictures just so.

Five books were piled on the table and we went through them one page at a time. Mum had a story for every snap shot. Some made me laugh so hard that I doubled over.

It was two minutes shy of three when she closed the last album.

“Thanks for staying up. I’ve got the alarm set for six and I know that won’t give us much sleep.” Mum pulled out her hanky, sniffled and hugged me before we turned in. My leaving would to be hard on her.

Willie was snoring away, likely dreaming about cars. I slipped in next to him and pulled away some puffs and huddled under them.

The minute I closed my eyes I started dreaming about my new life. No more freezing to death up north. I was headed for southern sunshine and I saw myself soaking it all in.

Bzzzzzzz. I jumped out of bed, threw on my clothes, grabbed the suitcase and headed for the kitchen. Mum already had breakfast on the stove, so I ran outside to do my business and came back in to grab a hot biscuit and down it with a cup of steaming coffee.

I was half-frozen and snow was whipping around me in circles when I headed out on the three-mile walk into town to catch that bus.

I shook flakes big as quarters from my jacket when I climbed the steps of the Greyhound. Two hours and I’d be boarding a plane headed to Fort Jackson. South Carolina was sure the place to be, especially in February.

### end of excerpt

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.

Find out more about the author and her books right here on “YOUR AMAZON”

VISITING WITH BETTE — AN AFTERNOON IN SKOWHEGAN

Bette’s new novel, DOG BONE SOUP has just been released. I’m about half way through it and I can hardly wait to finish it so I can review it. It is wonderful. She has a writing style so pure, it’s as if the story tells itself. It’s a story of coming of age in a hardscrabble world. Trials and triumph in northern New England.

72-skowhegan_04

This seemed a perfect time to remember the wonderful afternoon we all spend last October in Skowhegan. We were staying at an inn in Jackman, Maine. It’s just up the mountain — about 85 miles via route 201, from Skowhegan. In rural New England, that’s “just around the corner.”

72-skowheganGA_39

Down the mountain we drove. Around 85 miles down, same mileage back.

We met Bette Stevens, of 4 Writers and Readers. She was in the middle of a round of editing her next book, but she took a bit of time off to spend the afternoon with me and Garry.

Bette Stevens

Bette Stevens

A great lunch and Ken’s Family Restaurant, a trip to the Magaret Chase Smith Library, and a brief sojourn to see the world’s tallest Indian (statue), created by Bernard Langlais (1921-1977), a sculptor from Old Town who attended the local art school.

Marilyn and Bette

Marilyn and Bette

Garry and I were wearing our matched pair of Serendipity sweat shirts. You could hardly tell us apart!

Garry and Bette

Garry and Bette

We had great conversation at lunch, then spent some time taking picture of each other, visiting the library and admiring the statue, which is oddly located next to a Cumberland Farms.

View from the Margaret Chase Smith Library

View from the Margaret Chase Smith Library

We know each other on the Internet, yet there’s always some nervousness when finally, we meet in person. Will we really like one another?

The Margaret Chase Smith Library

The Margaret Chase Smith Library

No problem. It was love at first sight. I think we are officially best-friends-forever. I don’t know when we will be back this way, but I’m sure we will come again. Maybe next year or the year after that. But we will come back. How could we not return to so much natural beauty and great people?

World's Tallest Indian (Statue)

World’s Tallest Indian (Statue)

And down the mountain we drove. Around 85 miles down, same mileage back. We met Bette Stevens, of 4 Writers and Readers. She’s in the middle of a round of editing her next book, but she took the time to spend the afternoon with me and Garry.

Bette Stevens

Bette Stevens

A great lunch and Ken’s Family Restaurant, a trip to the Magaret Chase Smith Library, and a brief sojourn to see the world’s tallest Indian (statue), created by Bernard Langlais (1921-1977), a sculptor from Old Town who attended the local art school.

Marilyn and Bette

Marilyn and Bette

Garry and I were wearing our matched pair of Serendipity sweat shirts. You could hardly tell us apart!

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Marilyn and Garry by Bette Stevens

Garry and Bette

Garry and Bette

We had great conversation at lunch, then spent some time taking picture of each other, visiting the library and admiring the statue, which is oddly located next to a Cumberland Farms.

View from the Margaret Chase Smith Library

View from the Margaret Chase Smith Library

We know each other on the Internet, yet there’s always some nervousness when finally, we meet in person. Will we really like one another?

The Margaret Chase Smith Library

The Margaret Chase Smith Library

No problem. It was love at first sight. I think we are officially best-friends-forever. I don’t know when we will be back this way, but I’m sure we will come again. Maybe next year or the year after that. But we will come back. How could we not return to so much natural beauty and great people?

World's Tallest Indian (Statue)

World’s Tallest Indian (Statue)

BETTE, GARRY, AND MARILYN — IN SKOWHEGAN

Another Ready, Set, Done free write morning with WordPress

The sky is bright and blue and the last of the autumn leaves are clinging to the birch trees across the path in front of the cabin. There’s quite a breeze and the leaves are shimmering. I can’t catch that shimmer with my camera. That would need video and I don’t — haven’t done — video. I’ll have to try it someday, but this isn’t that day.

Bright Jackman morning

Bright Jackman morning

Garry and I are driving 90 miles down the mountain today to have lunch with Bette Stevens in Skowhegan. We are going to meet one of my favorite bloggers — alive and in the flesh. It’s a big deal! We know each other so well in some ways, yet often never get to physically meet at all.

Garry and I are going to wear our matching Serendipity sweat shirts — it’s chilly out there — and besides, I’ve been looking for an excuse. I’ve even put on some earrings and make up. This is an occasion!!

This is one of those times I don’t mind the Daily Prompt being totally without structure. I’ve got something I wanted to say anyhow … Our little day trip should be fun. Yesterday, with all the on-again-off-again rain, we rested and even did a bit of Jacuzzi and I think we are surprisingly frisky … for us.

I’m bringing cameras, so expect pictures tomorrow.

Mountain Morning

Down the mountain, lunch, visit a park, maybe a museum. Talk and laugh and drive back up the mountain again. If we are lucky, we will be coming home in time to catch that late afternoon sunset and maybe this time, even better sun on the mountains.

I need a picture. Be right back. Does stopping to take a picture count in my 10 minutes? Well, whether or not it does, I’m doing it! Wait for it …

And I’m back. Going to put the photos in and move on. We have miles to drive and places to go. See you-all later.

DOWN THE MOUNTAIN TO SKOWHEGAN

THE NOT-SO-HALCYON DAYS OF YORE – PURE TRASH, BETTE A. STEVENS

There are so many television shows and movies, not to mention sappy posts on Facebook and other social media sites about “the good old days” … kind of makes me a trifle queasy. As someone who grew up in those good old days, I can attest to their not being all that great. There were good things about them, but it was by no means all roses.

Good is a relative term, after all. If you were white, Christian and middle class … preferably male and not (for example) a woman with professional ambitions … the world was something resembling your oyster. A family could live on one salary. If you were “regular folk” and didn’t stand out in any particular way, life could be gentle and sweet.

The thing is, an awful lot of people aren’t and weren’t people who could blend in. If you were poor, anything but white or Christian, or a woman who wanted to be more than a mother and homemaker, the world was a far rougher place.

author-bette-a-stevens

Pure Trash: The Story: Shawn Daniels in a Poor Boy’s Adventure: 1950s Rural New England is set in rural New England in the mid 1950s. It’s a sharp reminder how brutal our society could be to those deemed different or inferior. Not only was bullying common, it wasn’t considered wrong. I remember how badly the poor kids in my class were treated when I was going through elementary school. How the teachers took every opportunity to humiliate kids whose clothing was tattered and whose shoes were worn. I remember feeling awful for those little girls and boys. Not merely bullied by their classmates (who oddly, didn’t much notice the differences until the teachers pointed them out), but tormented by those who were supposed to care for and protect them. Bad enough for me and the handful of Jewish kids as Christmas rolled around. For them, it was the wrong time of year all year round.

In this short story, Shawn and Willie Daniels set off one Saturday in search of whatever they can find that they can turn into money. One man’s trash can be a poor child’s treasure. Bottles that people throw away could be collected and turned into ice cream and soda pop. Shawn is excited. It’s going to be a terrific day. Until the real world intrudes and Shawn is sharply and painfully reminded that he’s different … and not in a good way.

The story is about bullying, but more important, it’s about being different and being judged without compassion, without understanding or love.

It’s a very fast read. Only 21 pages, the story flies by. I was left wanting more. I want to know how the boys grow up. I want them to become CEOs of big corporations so they can thumb their noses at their whole miserable society. An excellent short story leaving plenty of room for thought.

Though set in 1955, the story is entirely relevant today. Despite much-touted progress, we still judge each other harshly based on appearance and assumptions. Everything changes … but maybe not so much.

For lots more information about the book and its author, stop by the authors’ website: 4 Writers and Readers. Pure Trash is available on Kindle and as a paperback from Amazon.

“VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD” – An honor and a privilege …

Very Inspiring Blogger award

First of all, thank you to Bette Stevens of  4WRITERSANDREADERS who has honored me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

This means a lot to me. As I go about my daily life, paying bills, figuring out how we’re going to get through another month that contains more bills than money, as I watch my family struggle and grope toward solutions … and nobody is the interested in anything I might have to say on the matter … I ponder how the people who know us best are the most likely to ignore us.

Not like this is unusual or rare. It probably wasn’t a new concept when it found its way into the gospels.

Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown: John 4:44. 

I guess it’s not especially surprising if we are taken more seriously by virtual strangers than we are at home, in the bosom of our family. Or at least in the bosom of mine.

It is the great gift of blogging that we can give our best to anyone willing to read our posts. In the semi-anonymity of our cyber lives, we offer everyone the things we love, the things that excite and fascinate us … as well as what we’ve learned, knowledge painfully learned … and hope someone will benefit. I’m sure I’m not the only one who began blogging as a way of sharing with a larger community. Maybe someone can benefit from our mistakes and avoid the missteps that have cost us dearly. Perhaps we’ll make someone laugh, open a window on something beautiful, inspire someone to read a book, take a picture, watch a movie or just think about something they’d otherwise never consider. A single idea, an unexpected image or concept can change a life and a changed life can change the world. We hope. And so, we share.

Inspiration is strange, unpredictable. A book I’m reading, a TV show, blogs, current events, sunlight filtering through leaves, watching snowflakes drift by my window, knowing my car is stuck at the bottom of the driveway until the snow melts. Being grateful we shopped yesterday and didn’t put it off another day. Glad I have a computer and a high-speed connection so I can remain part of the world when just a few decades ago, our age and my disabilities would have condemned me to isolation.

Being told that I’m an inspiration is an inspiration. It means someone hears me. I’m infinitely grateful. It’s a validation and a reward. We all need that, at least sometimes. It keeps us going when so often if feels like we are shouting into an empty space.Guy Williams as Zorro

All of you in my blogging community inspire me. I read your stories. Your pictures make me think about new ways to capture my world. I marvel at the complex lives we’ve lives, the obstacles we overcome, the problems we deal with every day, how strong we are and how amazing it is that we find reasons to rejoice despite hard times and harder choices.

The rules of this award are:

  • Display the award logo on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell us at least seven things about yourself that you would like to share.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. I am not going to set a specific number. I know how difficult it can be to keep coming up with dozens of new nominees and rather than burden you all with the requirement to find in a single batch quite so many bloggers to whom you have not already passed on a variety of awards, I will suggest that as you find worthy blogs that you would like to honor, that you pass the honor to them and allow them to also pass the honor along as they find honor worthy recipients.
  • Notify your chosen bloggers of their nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself are:

  1. I am a born researcher. If something catches my interest, I will keep digging at it until I feel I’ve learned everything I can about it, whether it’s breeds of dogs, building tepees, or medieval history.
  2. My hair started to turn gray when I was 20 and was almost completely great by the time I was 30.
  3. I’ve always had a lot of dogs, cats, ferrets, parrots and occasionally even stranger critters in my world, but love them though I do, I never got to own a horse.
  4. I have a “thing” for masked men and had a massive crush on Zorro when I was a teenage girl.
  5. When I gave up on Zorro, I fell even more passionately in love with Marlon Brando.
    Marlon Brando in a screenshot from the trailer...
  6. My first car was a 1977 Ford Pinto in British Racing Green. I thought it was very hot.
  7. I used to be able to recite the entire family tree of the British Royal Family from Willy the Conqueror to Queen Liz II.  I thought it was quite an achievement, but no one was impressed but me.

My nominees (the envelope please):

Chiquero: Nothing But An Induced Epidemic

A barbaric YAWP across the Web:  A tale of life, love and laughter; sometimes poignant, sometimes funny but always meaningful.

THE WORD ON THE .NET ~ Writer T. James’ Exploration of Words, on the Internet.

Sunday Night Blog:  A WordPress.com site by Rich Paschall

Cowbelly Pet Photography: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Woofs

Top Secret Writers

I know a couple of you are repeat awardees. It is not my fault that I like your stuff. If you would stop inspiring me, writing so well that I feel obliged to improve my work, making me think, laugh, and want to take better pictures, I’d stop giving you awards.

For my friends to whom I’ve already give several awards (you know who you are!) and who live in fear of getting another, well, you will be hearing from me. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. Just because I skipped you this time doesn’t mean I’m not gonna getcha on the next wave! I’ve got a lot of awards to pass along, so you all know who you are. Start collecting nominees … you will need them!