Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review: "Pirates of Lobster Cove" by S. E. Toon

“Pirates of Lobster Cove” can be purchased on here:

I just finished reading the young adult pirate adventure novel “Pirates of Lobster Cove” written by local author S.E. Toon. Overall, it was very enjoyable to read. The story is about a group of young teens who come across a curiosity shop manager in an old ship, and learn that he is actually in fact a pirate. They find a Manifest which contains the exploits of this and other pirates. The main character Ty, in a creative spurt, decides to erase some of the contents of the manifest and rewrite them. What him and his loyal friends come to learn is that when someone changes the story in the manifest, changes reality. Eventually the whole town is in trouble when the changes to the Manifest, summon a whole legion of undead pirates and other nasty creatures. Ty's girlfriend is kidnapped by the undead pirate LeBouche, and Ty and his still free friends, must enlist the help of Billybones the Pirate and other crew to rescue her and turn the town back to its normal self.

This book is volume one of a projected 5 part series. It definitely is geared towards a young adult crow, but adults can enjoy it too. I personally enjoyed the plot as it developed and the characters as they interacted with and helped each other in many haphazard and deadly situations. It is essentially an adventure novel, with lots of action and swashbuckling scenes, as the “good” pirates, face off with the evil creatures of piratedom. I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys adventures, and pirate stories.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Interview With S.E. Toon of Ocean Village Bookstore (Marshfield, MA)

Ocean Village Bookstore is located at 1831 Ocean St, Library Plaza, Marshfield, MA.  Their winter hours are Tues-Sat 10am-4pm.
They can be found on the internet at

I visited Ocean Village Bookstore in Marshfield, MA in order to interview the store manager Stacey Toon. Asked how she got started in the field as bookstore manager, she told me she was a lifelong reader. For 6 years she managed and published a music and art magazine called Cheeseball. She worked in corporate but because of the need to care for her mother, she had to work as bookseller due to better hours. After her mother died, she worked at Borders in Braintree, where she worked as manager for 6 years until the company went under. Queried about why they went under, Stacey replied that although people liked the bookseller setting and feel of Borders, they did not keep up with the times and such things as eBooks, whereas Barnes and Noble did.

Today she manages Ocean Village Bookstore, and has written and published a young adult adventure novel titled Pirates of Lobster Cove. It is part of a 5 book series, the second volume of which, Syrens of Lobster Cove, is aiming for an April 2015 release.

Describing the process of writing the series and stories, Stacey told me that the book tells you what it is. “Characters tell you who they are,” Stacey said. As the writing goes along, decisions characters make, and how they interact with each other is fleshed out. The backstory and character history are there, and gets out of your mind onto paper as you edit. The backstory is already there and doesn't change. As Stacey repeated a couple of times, “Writing is rewriting.” Creative writing will reveal the story as one writes and rewrites.

I asked Stacey about her sources of writing inspiration. “Writers are like sponges, they are the great observers,” she replied. She told me about having an “idea box” where she will write down an idea and put it in a box, for later perusal to see how the idea develops. One instance of a character idea developed from one of these scraps in the “idea box”. Over and over for a time, the phrase “accordion pants” recurred in her thinking. She put it in the idea box. Later, the thought of a character who was a retired policeman turned out, where she thought of him wearing ragged old pants that were so folded and creased that they looked like “accordion pants”.

Stacey holda sessions called “Story Circles” where a group will gather and start telling a story from scratch. She has theatrical experience, and these Story Circle sessions are like frantic improvisational storytelling brainstorm sessions. They will ask rapid fire questions like “Who did what?” “What next?” “Then what happens?” And in 20 minutes the group will have a rough sketch of a story. Stacey will immediately go and write down as much as possible to get it all on paper and written out before it is forgotten. She reports that anything that can be thought of can be used in a story. Even nonfiction can be observed too. Persons writing about country life, for example, are absorbing experience, where it reads like fiction but is factual.

Stacey's favorite aspect of doing this kind of work is the ability to promote literacy in the community. According to her, it is “too easy not to read.” She loves the experience of getting children excited about books. Watching TV or a movie is a cold medium, where it is passive, and it dulls one mentally and emotionally. Books are a hot medium, where you have to actively imagine what is going on, including setting and the details. This is why someone will often say a book version is better than the movie, “because you worked through it, you imagined it, it was yours.” With books, you can have a cineplex on the coffee table or bookshelf, and you can go anywhere between the covers of a book. Stories allow one to think big and go anywhere. Stacey recommends that all parents of young children spend at least 15 minutes a day reading with them.

As advice to local writers trying to publish, Stacey urged “Write and rewrite. Don't just write, read a lot too.” She encourages reading a lot within one's own genre as well as other subjects and also reading nonfiction books about creative writing. Also, she advises trying to find someone else who writes, and read and discuss each others' writing. Try to find a social network of writers and make writing social. Writers can be introverted and have self-defense mechanisms against being rejected. So a writer needs to make writing a social activity and receive and give constructive criticism, and also learn from others. “The audience completes the work,” says Stacey.

Stacey recommends everyone engage themselves in the “process of writing”. The process of writing and reading on the page is therapeutic. It is like getting a good look in the mirror which calms and validates oneself. Sharing a piece of oneself calms and relieves, and is actually used in the treatment of PTSD and other mental issues. Eventually, says Stacey, “you write because you cannot not write.”

My last question to Stacey Toon was “Who are your favorite writers and books?” Stacey claims she “grew up on Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and John Irving.” She absolutely loves Charles Dickens, especially Great Expectations. She mentioned Sue Cooper, whose Dark Is Rising about a 13 year old who doesn't understand his powers, is a precursor to the Harry Potter stories of J.K Rowling. Stacey also was influenced by Madeleine L'Engle. But one of Stacey's favorites is S.E. Hinton who wrote The Outsiders, because she realized she could write a book she would want to read. Stacey Toon loved that idea and as mentioned before, has written a series of young adult novels which I hope to see published soon that I may read them.

I have started reading her already published Pirates of Lobster Cove, and am enjoying it so far, and I can't wait to see where this story goes. I have been interested in writing stories myself, and after interviewing Stacey, I am now more so inspired to start the process of doing so.

Ocean Village Bookstore is located at 1831 Ocean St, Library Plaza, Marshfield, MA.  Their winter hours are Tues-Sat 10am-4pm.
They can be found on the internet at

Prayer is my Religion

People talk often about religion, claiming they are, or are not, religious. I personally don't think of myself as being “relgious” as most people would think, according to my external acts in a religious context. For example, I go to Mass, I pray the Rosary, I read spiritual and theological books and writings, etc. Most people would look at me and say that I am religious. But really when it comes down to it, my religion is prayer. There are multitudes of ways to pray, and I have my own personal favorite devotions, but what prayer comes down to is speaking with and listening to the God who created all of us.

 My personal God can be boiled down to the Being who created me and is the source of all our being. No matter what faith or religion or rituals or practices, or none of these you have, if you have some sort of dialogue with the Creator of all, regardless of what else you think, believe or know of that God, then we share a common faith. My personal devotion mostly consists in going to Mass, praying the Rosary and performing acts of charity and love for others. But religion ultimately comes down to wanting to know your Creator, and wanting to know what He wants from us, and for us, and asking for the grace to do what He would like us to do. As we begin to pray, bits and pieces of wisdom will be given us, and there is so much to the Creator, that we all make different discoveries of what we should believe, know, do, and love.

 If someone wants my spiritual advice or direction, my main tip is to start praying, however you can. Speak to your God, whoever you think God may be, and listen for answers. I personally do things like go to Mass, pray the Rosary, and do other Catholic devotions, but those came about in my life because I asked God what He wants me to do, believe, love and worship, and the path He led me down brought me to the Catholic Church and Her teachings and sacraments. If you want to include these forms of prayer and belief and doctrine in your life, I heartily encourage. But ultimately I want you to do something because you have asked and God has somehow told you to do these things, rather than that you should do them because I myself or some other human person should tell you to. It is all about following the personal calling your Creator has made you for.

 From my own experience, I believe that all who engage God in prayer and dialogue, will come to find these devotions fruitful and true, and will decide to engage Jesus Christ, in a dialogue. My ultimate goal is to know, love, and serve Jesus, and live my life in such a way that it reflects positively on Jesus, whom I regard as the one who saves me from sin, and gives me the grace and virtue to spread and increase God's love in the lives of myself, my family and friends, and through acts of love, small and large, to spread this love through ripples of charity and grace, as our actions create immense waves of simple acts of love and kindness. I don't have to save the world, and neither do you or anyone else. Jesus my Savior and Lord has saved us all. I hope I can live and pray in such a way that you might come to the same conclusion. But ultimately, it is between you and God, and is more a matter ofpersonal interior prayer, than public external religion.

Why This Suffering?

We all endure suffering to one degree or another. Some people suffer more than others. And we all know someone suffering more than ourselves. If I can do anything in the world, it would be to be there for those who are suffering. I have close relatives who go through suffering everyday, and often there isn't much that can be done to lessen the physical pain of another person. We are not all medical doctors. But we can be there for those who suffer, and let them know they are loved. I know people who suffer, either physically, or mentally, or emotionally, or spiritually, and the only thing we can do is be there for them, whether spending time together, talking, giving a hug, praying for them. It is painful to see someone suffering intense physical pain and all you can do is hug them and pray that the pain ceases. Sometimes the prayers seem to work. Sometimes they don't. And I have to look at suffering through the experience of my own moments of being in some kind of intense suffering. There were people in my family, among my friends, even complete strangers, who have been present for me.

But what about when no one is there. I have been in places that I thought no one could be there for me. I even felt severed from God's love. I always recommend asking for God's help in every situation, but at those moments in my life, I felt utterly alone. I literally thought I was either in Hell or going to die and go there. If my family weren't there for me, I don't know if I would've recovered from the effects of very severe mental illness. Mental suffering can be the worst sometimes. I think the greatest epidemic is feeling alone, feeling like no one loves you, that you are pointless. Those of you who read this, try to think of something you can do or say to let people know they are valuable, and share God's love with them. Just do something that will make someone's day brighter. It doesn't have to be huge, and it doesn't have to impact everyone throughout the world. As Mother Teresa would say, work with the person right in front of you. Do it one on one. When we are faithful in doing small things, God will possibly give us greater tasks for some of us. But love people around you, and let that spread and be shared to other people. Love occurs one person at a time. Inspire one person at a time.

Loving Is Evangelism

I want to write something about evangelism, which is a touchy subject amongst many in our diverse human populace. When I first started to become interested in Jesus, I was very excited. Here was a person whom I could be sure, was the solution to all problems. This was someone who claimed to be God, the Creator of all, and the perfect human being, without sin, without fault, flaw, or blemish. In the record handed down to us by His first followers and the Church that preserved and passed on His public revelation, He asked us to bring Him to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As I studied more theology about Jesus and His followers, the more excited I became to share Him with others.

The problem is that many people don't want to hear about Him, and I can understand that. After a period of trying to share my faith with everyone, I basically hit a brick wall. I decided for a time to keep to myself, and just focus on doing acts of charity and committing myself to loving others, especially when they are suffering, troubled, or in pain. To me, at the beginning of my Christian career, it was all about Jesus, and that is true, but so many people are not at the point where they can understand that. But if you treat them kindly, respectfully, and lovingly, they will remember that. And when I try to be kind, compassionate, loving, etc it is because I want to share Jesus' love with them, and I want people to know Jesus. But if they are not interested, I will still love them anyways. I am irked by people who say that if you don't believe such and such or so and so about Jesus, you can't get into Heaven or be saved. Personally, if my dead friends and relatives who were not Bible believing Christians are not save or eligible for Heaven, then I would abandon the faith and tell God if they are not welcome than neither am I. If you think that I am trying to share my faith in Jesus because I believe that you will go to Hell if you don't believe what I believe, then don't. I would rather spend eternity in separation from God, than live with a God who would punish those I love with eternal damnation. I don't really worry so much about what people believe. That is between you and God, and if you are not interested in what I believe, then I will not be offended. In fact, I presume that a lot of “believers” have multiply times offended you and your beliefs if this is the case. Chances are you have been offended by me is some way. I am not a saint, although I am trying to treat everyone like a saint might do so.

So I have come to the point in my Christian “career”, that I believe what I believe, but I let my actions, my concern, my loving be my tools of evangelization. If this is not enough, then I hope God will give me some other ways of sharing Him, which will not offend anyone, or drive people away. In the long run, it is Jesus who I want to share, and not some doctrine or theological principle. And if you are not interested, I won't push it.

To Follow Jesus

Deciding to follow Jesus has been one of the most important things I have ever done. This is just something that has kept me going throughout the years and all the difficulties and trials I have gone through. I try to make Jesus and His teachings the priority and main authority in my life through which everything I believe, think, say or do is measured. In brief, I want to do what pleases Jesus and I want to avoid whatever offends or saddens Him. The greatest gift I can give to another person is to lead them to friendship, knowledge, and love ofChrist Jesus. Jesus will never let you down, even when everyone, including ourselves, lets us down. Jesus is there when we fall, make mistakes, hurt ourselves or others, or otherwise suffer. When it is hard to love others, it is Jesus who pushes us to do it anyways. When we feel weak, it is Christ who strengthens us. There are many diverging ideas of who Jesus was and what His role is in our lives and in human history. I believe Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and our Lord and Savior. I want you to know Jesus, and follow Him. But I want Him to be your best friend, your guide, your teacher. Whatever you do, invite Jesus into your life. Don't waste a minute not knowing Him. You lose nothing by following Christ, and have everything to gain, for yourself and for others, if you choose to do so. And don't hang yourself up on what everyone else says about Jesus. You can meet Him for yourself. He is here with you, right now, just waiting for you to start a dialogue. He is God, and hears and sees all you live through, and He hears your prayers, and answers them when you are ready for the responses. Say hello to Jesus, and get ready for a life full of God's love and joy.

Love Will Save Us

Love alone will save us. It does not matter how much faith or hope you have, without love there is no salvation. What does it mean to have love? One should ask God to help them to love others without ceasing. There is so much suffering around us, that we can get overwhelmed. My recommendation is to ask oneself whom God has put in our lives to be the recipients of our personal love. None of us can take care of the whole world and all people directly. God has put in our lives family, friends, and others who are within our reach to love and lift up. You are doing the most you can when you make those whom God has placed in your life the ones you should love. It is best to love greatly one person or a few people, than to spread oneself extremely thin through haphazardly trying to rescue and console everyone whom is suffering. There is a tendency among altruistic people today, to try to save the whole world in one fell swoop, to try to construct some sort of global scheme for helping and taking care of all the world's suffering and poor. But really, without theclose love within families, everything falls apart. Some people can help more than others, but God will put those whom He wants us to love in our everyday lives. Don't go looking for people far and wide to help. Look to your immediate surroundings, and ask God who He is putting in your path to be a recipient of His saving love through you and your actions.

In the beginning...

Hi everyone.  I have been wanting to write a regular blog for some time now.  I had a lot of different ideas on what to write about, and have decided to buckle down and just pick something to write about and then go with it.
The most important thing to me is the salvation of souls.  What salvation ultimately boils down to, is whether we are in communion with the source of all happiness, which is God, our Father and Creator.  There has been a lot of debate, fighting, and arguing over who is saved, how we are saved, who saves us, what we should do when we are saved, whether one can lose salvation or not, etc.  My simplest answer to how to find salvation is through prayerand charity.  One must pray, initiate a dialogue, a relationship with the God Who created each and every one of us.  We have to be in connection with the source of our existence.  It doesn't really matter how you start praying, but that you say Hello to God, and listen for His instruction.  Even should every source of support and love in your life abandon you, God never will, and He will shower His love on you as you grow in love for Him and share His love with others.
I personally love praying for others.  It gives me a chance to help others who are suffering, and to grow in love for the people who I pray for.  I pray better when someone asks me to pray for them or someone specifically.  Ask me to pray for anyone, anytime, anywhere. My prayer of choice is the Rosary, but I know the Rosary is difficult for people.  I used to hate the Rosary, and today it is my favorite prayer.
I am not very focused in this first blog post.  But whatever you do, pray!  Talk to God, listento God, and God will begin to lead you places you never would have dreamed of.