March 13, 2015

Jekyll and Hyde Competition - "The Unseen Scene"

*takes HUGE breath and blows dust off of blog*

Hi everybody! This past year has been crazy, leaving little time to blog. Twelve years of collegiate torture will finally come to an end in May, at which point I will gladly activate this blog again. In the meantime, I have a fun contest I need you're help judging!

My 8th grade students have been studiously digesting Robert Louis Stevenson's novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the past couple of months. I ended the J&H unit with a creative writing competition extra credit opportunity.

I would LOVE your help judging this contest! Just read through the following nine "unseen scenes" of J&H (you don't have to know the book to participate), then leave a comment with a vote for your favorite. Thanks!


Story #1
Jekyll slipped through the door crack promptly. He twitched as he trudged towards the window. His face was beginning to morph and fold, suddenly it bounced into Hyde’s face. Hyde took a cautious glance out the window, to see Utterson and Enfield glancing right back at him. Hyde immediately thrust the window down and ran to the cabinet as quickly as possible. As he ran, he yelped and stumbled upon boxes. All he could think of was to hide. He ran into the cabinet door and and gave the handle a twist. The door was locked. He stirred his hands through his pockets and then raised the key out of his pocket. Once he was in the cabinet he searched through his papers. Jekyll was consciously telling him to find the recipe for a drug that Jekyll made himself. Hyde frantically scurried around the room, tripping over himself, bumping into furniture, and throwing papers anxiously. Hyde didn’t know what to do, he wanted Jekyll to handle the situation. Hyde continued to dig through drawers and boxes. “Finally,” sighed Hyde anxiously, “I found the recipe!” He ran over to the testing table and cleared off all the books and unwanted papers. He began to mix substances that popped out colorful gasses. He finally came out with the right mixture. He took the drug at once. Hyde hobbled to the sofa next to the fire and held onto it to keep his balance. He collapsed onto the sofa and stared into the fire. “One, two,” Hyde counted, “three.” Continued Jekyll. Jekyll stood up and shuffled to the testing table and cleaned up the mess around it. He put the books and and all the papers where they belong. When he was done cleaning up the mess that Hyde left behind, he went to a corner of the cabinet and rested his head in the corner. He turned around and slid down the corner on his back. “Hyde, what have you done? I am disappointed with your actions. I am tired of all this, Hyde. I am done. I will destroy you.” Jekyll sat there with his hands covering his face. “ I will destroy this thing that we share. You just cause me trouble. You’re ruining everything. I want a normal life.” continued Jekyll. He sat there all night wondering what was going to happen in the near future.

Story #2
"Hyde remove your childish fingers from my nose!" Jekyll solemnly pronounced. "Only if you stop trying to cut them off!" Hyde replied.

"The minuscule bones connected the human hand are not necessary past 90 years-old, it is a scientifically proven fact!" Argued Jekyll.

"Argh! They may not be necessary for an old man like you but they are needed for a youngster like me." Stammered Hyde.

"Aww poor Hyde, he still needs his baby flanges! Such a child. Anyway, Your stomach is growling at me, why don't you get us something to eat?" Jekyll responded.

"Well I'm sorry, I haven't eaten since that healthy protein drink you made me drink." Explained Hyde.

"It was a delicious vegetable shake, and it wasn't that bad. I added three raw eggs, spinach, grapefruit juice, and beets, just for your sensitive taste buds. " Jekyll said pridefully.

"Jekyll! Ugh, sometimes I wonder how you sleep at night. Anyway, can I pleeaasse go to McDonalds? Their chicken nuggets remind me of the cruelty of mankind. Killing the chicken, grounding up every single part of it's lifeless body and then frying it into a delicious masterpiece." Pronounced Hyde.

"Eww! I just threw up a little inside your mouth! Don't you dare put that garbage into my body, you will regret it!" Jekyll explained.

"Garbage?!?! It's my turn for our stomach so I get to decide what to eat, and I chose McNuggets!" Hyde said proudly.

"Fine you can eat them as long as you promise to go on a run later this evening." Jekyll stated.

"Hahaha, Jekyll! You're such a joker! Since my hunch was placed in your back last week, I have been doing nothing but curl-ups because the curling motion comes easily with my new and improved back. So I won't be doing any running tonight." Hyde said unwillingly.

"Just promise me that you will go on a walk at least, because I don't want to store your calories in my thighs. Got it?" Jekyll explained.

"What ever you say, your Majesty." Hyde responded sarcastically.

“Jekyll,” cried Mr. Utterson, with a loud voice, “I demand to see you.”

Story #3
“All at once, I saw two figures, one a little man who was stumping along eastward at a good walk, and the other a girl of maybe eight or ten was running as hard as she was able down a cross street. The two ran into one another naturally enough at the corner; and then came the horrible part of the thing; for the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground,” explained Mr. Enfield, he continued saying, “I later heard why the little girl was running in the streets that late. It is a horrible tale to tell."

“What happened?” Mr. Utterson eagerly replied.

“Well at this time the little girl's Grandmother was about 88 years old, and was very sickly. She had some type of disease that was eating her up bit by bit, so she needed a doctor, and quick. The little girl's Grandfather had died prior to this incident, and her father was working to support her family. With no siblings, and her mother staying with her Grandmother, she had to go retrieve the doctor by herself. Her mother had no other choice than to send her.”

“Did she get the doctor? Did the Grandmother die? Enfield you must tell me!” Mr. Utterson demanded.

“The fellow who ran her over had to pay them $50,000 so they were able to get a doctor,” Enfield states, “but all I know is that the little girl is okay and not seriously injured, but she was still in shock. Sadly, the Grandmother didn’t survive because they did not get the doctor in time.”

Story #4
My Dear Utterson,- When this shall fall into your hands, I shall have disappeared, under what circumstances I have not the penetration to foresee, but my instinct and all circumstances of my nameless situation tell me that the end is sure and must be early. Go then, and read first the narrative which Lanyon warned me he was to place in your hands; and if you care to hear more, turn to the confession of
Your unworthy and unhappy friend,
Henry Jekyll

Jekyll folded the note. “ Oh where did I put that envelope?” Jekyll moved around papers on the usually organised desk.’ Why is your desk so messy Jekyll ?’ “ Shut up Hyde! What do you want any way?” ‘ Oh come on Jekyll. Why so stiff? I just wanted to talk.’

“ No Hyde. Whenever you want to ‘just talk’ it’s when you want something. And you’re not getting it. Not this time. You’re not getting anything any more.” ‘ Oh we’ll just see about that. So why don’t go ahead and let me out of this silly little brain of ours and let me go and have some fun huh?’ “ No Hyde! I’m not going to let you take advantage of me.” Jekyll got up from the desk and slid the envelope with a note for Poole to give it to Utterson.’ Please Jekyll. Let me out. I won’t do something too drastic. I promise! * I know you want to.*’ “No Hyde. You are not getting out of my… our head. I’m in control. I’m the one who has had enough. I’m done!” ‘ ‘Jekyll, Jekyll, Jekyll. You know me. You know that i can force my way out of your thoughts and make you the thought. This is my last time that I’ll be nice and sweet. So Jekyll. I’ll give you one more chance. Let me out. Now!’ “ Hyde. I’m not afraid anymore. I am done with this life. When you came in, I thought that you were good. Then you stomped on that little girl. I thought ‘All right. It was probably an accident.’ Then we met Carew on the street. I thought that I was doing great controlling you. But somehow, you got in control. I had to watch you beat Carew to death. I had to watch you make him into strawberry jam. But what made it worse, is that you used my cane that Utterson gave to me as a present. I had to watch you commit murder through your… our eyes.

Hyde had finally had enough. ‘ Allright Jekyll. You brought this upon yourself. I tried being nice. But you forced me to take drastic measures.’ Jekyll gave out aggravating scream. “ Hyde. Please. Think about this. You don’t want to do this.” Jekyll opened his mouth again. Only this time, it wasn’t Jekyll’s normal kind voice. It was a raspy voice. It was Hyde’s voice. “ Sorry Jekyll. I told you that I was coming out. I tried to warn you.” Jekyll was fighting back. It was aggravating. It hurt so bad, it felt like he had just had millions of bees and leaches stinging and sucking all the blood from his body. Like the pests were sucking out pain and replacing it with a pain that was so much bigger than before. Jekyll had tried to speak, but what came out was just groans of horrifying pain. Jekyll looked down his hands were starting to look grey and a little sickly. Hyde spoke. “ How much does it hurt Jekyll? Hmm? How much do you want to just pull the flesh from your bones? How much do you just want to crumple into nothing just to stop the pain? Huh? How.... much…. do…. you…. want…. to…. sssstttttooop? Just say when and I will stop your pain.” “No Hyde. I will stay strong.” Jekyll gave another blood churning scream. “ It’s too bad Jekyll. While you were doing your little chemical study, I found a way to increase your pain, while I walk pain-free.”

Jekyll couldn’t take it anymore. Jekyll let go. Hyde walked over to the mirror. Jekyll was discussded by his appearance. Hyde was still wearing his clothes, which were much too big for him. His black, greasy hair was just a mess, placed all over his head in every direction possible. And Jekyll couldn’t remember how, but Hyde’s teeth were sharp. Not even sharp. Sharp did not even began to cover it. They were fangs. Like vampire or werewolf fangs. The area around his eyes were black and tired. Hyde looked young, but had aged and old eyes. He fixed Jekyll’s tie and grinned a horrible smile.” Well Jekyll, you might be a geek, but you have good taste in style. Even if they are a little too big for me.” ‘ Hyde. Please let me go back. I need to do something. It will help you. Please Hyde. I just want to help.’ “ Jekyll, Jekyll ,Jekyll. When are you going to realize that I don’t want your help anymore. You always go out of your way to help, but I won’t listen anymore.”

Then there was a knock at the door. “ A Mr. Utterson to see you sir.” ‘Oh no. Hyde please let me out to talk to Utterson. Please!’ ‘ No Jekyll. You better have enjoyed your last conversation with him. I’ve something big planned for him.’ ‘Hyde, what are you thinking? What are you going to do?’ ‘ Jekyll, do you think that I’m stupid? I’m definitely not going to tell you!’ “ Sir? Are you there?” Hyde had to act quickly. “ Tell him that I can’t see anyone at the moment.” “ Yes sir.” Hyde waited until Poole had left. ‘ Hyde please. if you just-’ “ No Jekyll! You are not getting out of our head! I’m the star of the show now!” Hyde let out a horrifying laugh. “ Sorry Jekyll. But you lost control a long time ago.”

Jekyll had had enough. He tried as hard as he could to make the feet and arms move. Right foot. Left foot. One at a time. Hyde was screaming. “ Jeekkyyll! Stop this mutiny right NOW!” ‘ No. I’m finishing you... us. I will not let you hurt Utterson!’ There was bumping and shuffling all over the room. Hyde was rufless. But Jekyll was determined. Fighting and jerking. Throwing punches towards the same body. Jekyll had to focus in order to win. Fighting Hyde, while also trying to move the body. Jekyll grabbed the vile and the liquid. He tried to fix the poison, but Hyde was fighting back with all his might.

“Jekyll, don’t. Stop this right now!” ‘ No Hyde. You will be SILENCED!’ Jekyll made Hyde’s arm jerk up to his mouth in order to drink the poison. Hyde gave a scream so foul, and yet it made Jekyll heave a sigh of relief and peace.The body fell to the floor with a massive thud still twitching and jerking, like when you cut the head from the chicken and the body still runs around. Jekyll knew that from this decision that he would be at peace, and Hyde would be at peace as well. He knew that by killing the two of them, that it would be the best decision that he had ever made. And that was the end of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Edward Hyde.

Story #5
“Poole, replied the lawyer, If you say that, it will become my duty to make certain” (Stevenson 44). While this discussion was going on with Mr. Utterson and Poole this is what Jekyll was thinking. “Hyde you must let me change back into my regular form!” “Now why would I do that and if I wanted to how, there is not enough of that accursed salt for me to turn back into you!!!” “You need to release your hold on my mind, I believe that if you did this I would be able to turn into my regular form.” “ If I release my hold on your mind and body I may never come back! Is this your plan make me release you and then you could have your old life back!” “no no I would never…” “ I know your thoughts remember I am you, I understand how you think you can hide nothing from me!” “Unless I change my thoughts.” mutters Jekyll. “ I heard that! Like I said you can hide nothing!” “But they will kill us! You won’t be able to hide, do bad things to people, or let your anger out.” “I won’t need to if I’m already dead!” Hyde begins to create a formula for a substance that will kill him and Jekyll forever. “No you mustn’t do that! It will ruin us!” “I know what it will do, I want to be rid of you forever, no more thoughts that will keep me from doing what is right!” “Killing us won’t accomplish anything! It will just make things worse!” “ How would doing this make my life worse and even if it did living wouldn’t make it better!” “I could make it better! I could figure out a way to separate our two figures!” “ No you couldn’t, you have tried before and not succeeded. Why would it be any different now?” “I haven’t tried hard enough, I could do it because of the pressure that you will put on me it will drive me so hard that I will be able to make a cure!” “ You know that you doubt yourself. Why are you trying to save a life that is no longer yours?” “...You’re right.” Jekyll says with unwilling acknowledgement “ But before you do it will you let me write a letter to Utterson to explain what has happened?” “ No, he does not deserve to…” Before Hyde could say another word he was forced into Jekyll’s body by the final swallow of the tonic. As soon as Jekyll had fully taken control he began to write the letter. “ I must hurry before he gets out again. I’m lucky that worked at all.” Jekyll says. He begins writing the letter, “ I was born in the year 18-...”(Stevenson 60) As soon as Jekyll had finished the letter and hidden it in a place that Hyde would never suspect, because he would never expect, Hyde reformed. “You did it didn’t you.” “Did what?” Jekyll asks innocently. “You know what! Don’t you try to hide things from me! No matter anyway, we don’t have time to fix your wrong doings. We must begin creating our last drink.” I’m afraid we don’t have time Hyde” who had begun boiling a pot of water. Then Jekyll takes out a substance and makes Hyde drink it. Hyde shrieks with surprise and falls on the floor dying in a subtle painless death. His last thoughts are “Why did you do it this way?” “So they will know that I died in peace,” Jekyll replies.

Story #6
“‘Jekyll,’ cried Utterson, with a loud voice, ‘I demand to see you’”(Stevenson 46). “Dang it, why had Poole let Utterson in?” Jekyll thought. “Because he’s onto us!” Hyde thought back. Jekyll was stuck in the body of Hyde again, and he feared it would be the last time.

“Hyde! No one that is alive knows. We are safe.” Jekyll stated.

”What about Poole? Hmm? If he’s seen you run to the lab one too many times.”

”You need to stop worrying, no one knows.”

”Well then hurry and drink the potion.” Hyde demands.

”But I don’t want to, it tastes rather awful and people should know its you.” Jekyll replies.

”No! Then they will kill us.” Hyde screams in his mind.

”All the better if you aren’t around.”

”But, you need me, you’re too old to continue living in your mangled body.”

”But everyone is scared to death when they see you!” Jekyll exclaims

”Well then they better die, if they can’t handle all of this!”

”You are a deformed looking man with clothes that are about three sizes too big for him.”

”Yes, everyone else is ugly, all average looking and using clothes that actually fit them.” Hyde sneers.

”You are insane.”

“Why thank you kind sir.”

“That wasn’t a compliment.” Says Jekyll reaching for a knife. Hyde immediately tries to restrain the arm, fighting Jekyll. Jekyll maneuvers his hand and surprises Hyde. Hyde stops trying to force it and Jekyll inches closer to his neck. Hyde continues fighting knocking their body to the floor.

“Give up Hyde, its been far too long I’ve let you control me.” Jekyll states in his mind.

“I can’t and I will never, ever stop. This is my life on the line here too.” Hyde becomes angered, and pauses.

“But, I need to protect other people, not just us.” Jekyll sighs. As Hyde thinks for a moment Jekyll takes this as an advantage and sticks the knife into himself and just lays there, content before his inevitable death.

Story #7
London hummed solemnly all around; but nearer at hand; the stillness was only broken by the sound of a footfall moving to and fro along the cabinet floor. “They have come” a voice sounded with a tone of concern. “Yes I know” replied the other. Voices sounded outside the door and Hyde stopped pacing. “Why have they come?” Hyde muttered with much annoyance. “They have come to help Hyde” Jekyll informed his partner. Poole continued to consult with Mr. Utterson. “Once” he said. “Once I heard it weeping!” “Weeping? How that?” said the lawyer, conscious of a sudden chill of horror. “Weeping like a woman or a lost soul.” Said the butler. “I came away with that upon my heart that I could have wept too.” “Why won’t he treat his master with respect?” Hyde muttered again with anger filling him up. “Because you are not his master.” Jekyll retorted a little ruder than he hoped. “Jekyll.” cried Mr. Utterson with a loud voice. “I demand to see you.” He paused a moment, but there came no reply. “I give you fail warning. Our suspicions are aroused, and I must and shall see you” He resumed, “if not by fair means, the by foul-if not of your consent, then by brute force.” “Utterson,” said the voice, “For god’s sake, have mercy!” Voices outside the cabinet door resumed their quieted talk. “Down with the door, Poole!” cried Utterson. Poole swung the axe over his shoulder, the blow shook the building, and the red baize door leaped against the lock and hinges. “Quickly I must take the poison!” Hyde shouted in fear and panic. “No! Hyde we still have much to do!” Jekyll tried to fight back. Another swing of the axe shook the house, biting at the baize door. Hyde quickly lunged for the chemical on the table, faster than Jekyll could react. “No I won’t let you!” Jekyll cried trying his best to shove the poison. A second swing hit the door. “Jekyll if they find me it’s all over! Just like Lanyon” Hyde threw back using all his strength to defeat Jekyll. A third then a forth swing was breaking the tough wood. “Sorry Jekyll but I am too important to be caught by a butler and a Lawyer” Hyde told Jekyll then drinking the poison. Jekyll stared at his mirror. Such a loyal, but strange mirror.

Story #8
Hyde pulled his coat up to his chin as an icy breeze flew by. As he did, he heard someone stumbling close, and began to get annoyed. He didn’t have time for some drunken lunatic or some other pushy person. The night was wasting away! He only had so long before the accursed Jekyll drank that putrid potion again and then he, Edward Hyde, would have to wait in the dark till Jekyll would lose control of himself and release his evil side. All Hyde wanted to do is make Jekyll submit himself to Hyde. As this thought occurred, The drunken man coughed the rancid smell of alcohol right in Hydes face. Then Hyde got a wicked idea. An evil wicked plan to make Jekyll submit himself. Hyde hoisted up his heavy set cane and with gave the man two quick blows to the head. The man crumpled to the ground and Hyde gave him a furious blow to the leg. Hyde smiled as he slammed the cane into the mans chest, hearing rips crack and break. The entertained killer allowed Jekyll to watch in horror as he then gave the man another blow so terrifyingly hard that his whole body rose off the pavement below. Hyde let out a soft laugh as he felt his prisoners terror. Finished, a smiling Hyde then stood back, panting as he admired his work. The man now was almost unrecognizable. Bones stuck out in various places and blood pooled around the body.. A young maid screamed in the distance as the culprit escaped into the groggy night, smiling at the deed that was done.

Story #9
The pains of the transformation roll over me like a tsunami crashing on the beach. “It will be over soon” I promise my tormented conscience. Soon I will come back to myself and everything will be okay. The pain subsides and I look into the mirror. Relief washes over me as I see my face-the face of Henry Jekyll-reflected in the glass. I hear footsteps below me. I can also make out the voices of my ever faithful butler, Poole, and… could it be…? Why Utterson is down there too! What good fortune; Utterson is just the person I need to see! His company will do me good. I rise and start towards the door. No sooner have I taken two steps when the pains return.

I’m tired of this sniveling fool being in control! His intense guilt and remorse at my actions continually cloud his mind and prevent him from moving on. That was the last time that I will submit of my own accord! I rage forward now, intent on possessing this body on my own, without Jekyll’s influence! He will most likely put up a fight, but I will crush him mercilessly! Coward that he is, I will force him away and make him submit to me, and he will do it. I feel the wracking pains and feel the body-my body-begin to shrink as I return to stay.

I’m on the floor now, groaning and squirming like an infant with a stomach ache. He wants to come back, he wants me gone. That cannot happen! I can hear Poole and Utterson on the staircase now, rapidly approaching. Utterson is calling out warnings, trying to stall Poole, trying to give me time. He must be aware of my condition. If only I could get Hyde back under. He has returned; I see him in the mirror. I must fight him. I sense his amusement at my thoughts. He thinks me a coward! Well I will show him. I struggle to possess my hands. Hyde is too surprised to stop me, and I’m able to mix the transforming draught and swallow it down before he brushes me aside again.

No! This fool thinks to push me back under. Now he feels brave from his actions. The pains start again-I’m getting tired of this-and the body begins to grow and change yet again. I will not let this happen! I fight the drugs that make us change. Looking in the mirror, Jekyll cries out in my voice. His body has returned, yes, but with many of my features. The hands, the mouth, the eyes… Ha! My eyes look truly evil on the face of such a “kind man”. This temporary distraction permits Jekyll to seize control again.

Now I realize that there is no beating Hyde. He will not submit, and I cannot submit. There is too much at stake here for me to let him be the sole controller of this body. And now Poole and Utterson are right outside the door! I beg Utterson for mercy, but in Hyde’s voice. They don’t think it’s me. I hear Utterson say that he hears Hyde’s voice and not mine. Utterson, Utterson it is me! But it is also Hyde. It will always be Hyde. I cannot control him anymore. He has become too strong for me. As much as we both love life, we cannot exist this way. I blame myself for unleashing Hyde. Giving him freedom has led to the ruin of both of us. Well, no more suffering. So great is my conviction that Hyde’s attempts to stop me don’t even bother me. I reach for a phial of some drug. I do not know what it is, nor do I care. It’s time to end this.

I cannot reach Jekyll. What is he doing…? I see what he’s reaching for and understanding hits me like a ton of bricks. He intends to put a stop to everything. I consider struggling, but I realize it will be useless. I cannot break through to stop him. I know why he’s doing this, and while I hate having to end things this way, I have to agree with him. It has become too difficult for us to exist together. There was never really any hope of us existing together.

Our minds seem to merge, and now we share the same thoughts. We grimace, and swallow the phial. A terrible burning rushes through our veins. We can feel our life slipping away. Even now as life is ebbing from us, we are at war with each other. Each feels the feral desire to be in control for those last precious seconds. We start twitching uncontrollably, and foam spews from between our lips. Our vision goes fuzzy and we see black spots. Our heart stops and now it’s really over. We cry out one more time, a bitter cry for the unfairness of life, and the light fades…

January 14, 2015

True Sight's Official Reveal!

Seeing how the new book cover is leaking out, I figured I better jump on the bandwagon. After all, why wait?

Soooo... what's better than one book from the Beholders series? TWO BOOKS! It is with great honor and satisfaction that I officially introduce True Sight, book two of the Beholders series! Well done again with a gorgeous design, Jolly Fish Press!

Seriously folks, if you liked Insight, you're going to LOVE True Sight. I cannot wait for you to read it! Only one more month before it hits the shelf! C'mon, February 17th! Get here already!

Now what you gonna do, my dedicated fans?! Share, share, share! (please, please, please?) If I've learned anything about selling books over the past 4 years, it's that I cannot make them successful by myself. I NEED your help. Word of mouth is still the number one seller of books, by a landslide.

And what are you gonna do, world?! Buy, buy, buy!
If you pre-order now, you'll receive a hefty discount!

(no hardcovers are being printed for book 2...yet... but if we get this book selling like it should, I guarantee them in the future!)

February 6, 2014

What Values Drive You?

About a week ago, I finally finished reading Christopher Paolini's series, the Inheritance Cycle. I have many varying opinions of the series, but one specific concept has recently intrigued me...

True Names.

If you haven't read any of the Eragon-centered books before, let me quickly familiarize you with the idea of True Names. To do this, I must first reference Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." If you don't feel like watching this short, state of the art, edge of your seat production, I have summarized it below.

Plato shows that everyone lives at certain levels of enlightenment. If someone spent their entire life in a cave, staring at shadows of deer projected upon the walls, they would believe that those shadows were "real" deer. If you turned them around and showed them the statues used to project the shadows, the concept would nearly incapacitate them. However, through diligent study and an open mind, they would finally understand the connection between the shadows and the statues. Likewise, the cave dwellers would be dazzled if you brought them out of the cave and showed them deer prancing through fields of grass.

Many philosophers have discussed this concept, arguing that as with Plato's example of the cave dwellers and their limited levels of enlightenment, we would be fools to think that deer prancing through fields of grass are "real" deer. There must be one "true deer," from which all other concepts and creations were developed. Whether or not I believe this logic is a mute point, but it leads us in a direction to better understand Paolini's development of True Names.

Now back to Eragon's story. For every entity in the kingdom of Alagaesia, there exists one True Name. Knowing this True Name enables a person to perfectly understand that entity. It also gives the person absolute control over that entity. These entities encompass everything, from rocks and dirt to creatures and, ultimately, humans. For humans, knowing your True Name was a terrifying prospect. You were forced into a reality check about who you truly were.

Aside from my typical fascination with fantasy-based concepts, I didn't think much of True Names while I was reading the Inheritance Cycle. However, when my wife and I started discussing a Relief Society activity she recently attended, everything I mentioned above morphed into a full circle. (Thanks, Dori!)

Dori made this one simple observation (or at least this is how I understood it through my wife's interpretation of her message). Everyone should take the time to identify the core values that drive us, feed us, and bring us joy. Once we realize these, our control over our own lives will escalate exponentially. We will become self-aware, recognizing the time we waste participating in activities that come nowhere even close to our core values. We will strive to incorporate those values more actively into our everyday lives.

I admit that Dori's idea was snazzy, but I wasn't really hooked until I started doing this for myself. Now, I feel like I'm finally capable of making connections and observations that had otherwise seemed impossible. Perhaps if I share my "True Name" with you, it might spur the thought process within yourself. *deep breath* Alright, here we go!

Core Value 1 - INSPIRATION

I hunger for inspiration, both in giving and receiving. I'm the happiest I've ever been at my current teaching job, because I have daily opportunities to inspire my junior high students to appreciate literature and become better people--to be the change they want to see in the world. Of course, there is a spiritual component to this, as well. It's hard for me to describe the euphoria that washes over me every time I receive inspiration. (Perhaps it's like the addicting endorphin release my wife craves while running--one of her core values being Health.) Inspiration drove me to write this blog post tonight. I was so inspired by my inspiration, I felt inspired to further inspire everyone around me. (That's right, see what I just did there?) Yes, inspiration is definitely one of my top values!

Core Value 2 - HARMONY

If you are familiar with the LDS religion, you might know about patriarchal blessings. Members of the LDS faith believe in seers, patriarchs who can part the veil separating us from God's dwelling. With this gift, seers view our lives temporarily through God's eyes. While doing this, they offer us a glimpse into our past, present, and future. Allow me to share a snippet from my own patriarchal blessing. "I bless you with the ability to champion the cause of justice in troubled times, even when those around you are enraged or very coarse in their mannerisms... for you have the capability to exercise compassion and understanding in behalf of those who need it. I bless you... to be recognized by all for your gentle kindness." I received this patriarchal blessing when I was 13 years old, before I even had a clue who I was myself. Now, I can testify with absolute certainty that Patriarch Spencer, the seer who gave me this blessing, was inspired by God. If you were to ask my 120 junior high students for the two standards I value most, I hope they would tell you trust and respect. If you scooch back a little in your perspective, you will see that these two standards lie at the heart of my core value, harmony. I love deeply, and likewise hurt deeply. It is hard for me to let things go, for better or for worse. Yet, through God's mercy, a good night's sleep always cures me of my daily pangs. I wake up every morning refreshed with a brand new start, concerns and anxieties washed away.

Core Value 3 - RECREATION

For someone who feels so deeply, it comes at no surprise that I value recreation. Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by life, and desperately search for a release. This release most often comes in the form of movies, video games, music, and books. All four are passive ways to escape reality, while at the same time putting myself through an emotional cleanse. Also, my junior high students will tell you that when I play, I play hard. If anyone knows how to have a good time, it's me!

So, now that I've poured out my soul to you, anyone care to share their "True Name?" I promise not to usurp complete control over you (in the near future, at least).

January 23, 2014

KUED Innovative Teacher Nomination

At the beginning of this month, I received an email from KUED explaining that I had been nominated for their annual KUED Teacher Innovation Awards. At first, I thought it was spam, but after digging a little deeper, I discovered that it was indeed a valid email.

I was speechless. I hadn't even heard of the award, let alone ever thought that I would qualify as a contestant (especially during my second year of teaching). It took a couple days for me to process the anonymous nomination. Who? How? Why? The answer finally came when I drafted my lengthy response to the nomination, which I have posted below.

Why am I sharing this? Because I want to create a time stamp on an important event in my life. I didn't win the competition, but that couldn't be further from my mind. The nomination alone was humbling, but even more, my response dropped my jaw. I had never thought through everything that I do to give my 7th and 8th grade students a good Language Arts education. Call me conceited if you'd like, but I'm proud of myself. :)

Dear KUED,

The reason for my last minute response is that I have been spending the past two days contemplating my classroom and teaching methods so that I might be able to give you a fully rounded response.

I assume you have all of my personal information, but I still want to provide the basics of my teaching background. In addition to what I share in this email, I encourage you to read this blog post that I wrote in 2011. It captures the essence of my choice to become a school teacher (Reading Changes Lives).

In 2011, I was a full-time author. I had just been laid off from a failing civil engineering firm. I didn’t begrudge the layoff, though. It enabled me to tour across Utah, providing free instructional workshops/assemblies to students K-12 (tour summary). I visited every school with one central focus, “Inspiring an unwavering passion for reading across the globe, one community at a time.”

During my tour, I spent two weeks at Excelsior Academy in Erda, UT, where my son was attending 1st grade. I tutored the junior high students in crafting competition-worthy personal essays. Of one hundred and twenty student submissions, over half were recognized as high merit essays and printed in a national publication ( In addition, Excelsior Academy was awarded a handsome grant for finishing as one of the top ten schools in the nation.

The next fall (2012-2013), I was hired at Excelsior Academy as the full-time Language Arts teacher for junior high (through USOE’s ARL Program). My students grew in many different areas last year, but their greatest accomplishment revealed itself when we received our CRT results. My students averaged well above the national average, and 100% of my 8th graders had achieved a 3 or higher in Language Arts.

With that background, let me respond specifically to your requests. As an obsessive “techy,” it is only fitting that I begin by listing the technological resources that I utilize every day in my classroom.
• C.O.W. (Computer on Wheels) charging station, with 30 student Macbook Air laptops

• Dual input projector

o Connection 1 = Apple TV (for my iPad and iPhone)

o Connection 2 = rotated between my two laptops (1 pc, 1 mac)

• Classroom surround speaker system

o Wireless microphone

o Multiple wired inputs (Apple TV, laptops)

• Desktop wireless laser printer with auto duplexing (to print emailed essays and reports)

As a published author, it is second nature for me to ramble in written form. In order to keep my response somewhat concise, I will first focus on my innovative and modern instructional techniques during last year’s lesson plan of The Diary of Anne Frank. After this, I will summarize other frequent and innovative uses of technology in my classroom.

I approached The Diary of Anne Frank with two goals in mind: a well-rounded education about the positive and negative events and effects of WW2 on a girl my students’ age, and to inspire them to appreciate the value of reading and writing literature.

Before diving into the book, I wanted my students to have a solid foundation regarding Anne Frank’s life in 1939 Europe. Consequently, students were given individual assignments to prepare a five-minute PowerPoint presentation on historical, religious, political, and military subjects during that time (all of which Anne Frank encountered). My students jumped at the chance to give a report that didn’t involve essays. They researched and presented with confidence, while I filled in any critical pieces of information. I am overly passionate about the events surrounding WW2, and my enthusiasm bled into my students. For three days and without any prompts from myself, they participated in engaging conversations with the presenters and each other. By the time I gave my final pre-reading instruction, they had already become engaged in Anne’s life without even knowing who she was. Armed with a large supply of tissue boxes and emotional music playing through my surround speakers, I had my students close their eyes as I walked them through the experiences of a WW2 Jew—from the moment of their capture to the extraction of their murdered relatives from gas chambers. Everyone was in tears, myself included, and the experience only strengthened our bond with each other and respect for the many sacrifices surrounding WW2.

During our in-class student reading (powered by a wireless microphone), I utilized many different literary strategies to keep them engaged.
• We sectioned off a portion of my white board, where we wrote the life changing dates and events Anne experienced.

• While reading, my class was divided in half. One half hunted for vocabulary words, which we first defined together with inferencing, then they looked up accurate definitions with dictionaries or via on the student laptops. The other half of the class focused on our comprehension packet, helping to identify pages and paragraphs that would help answer their questions which would later appear in quizzes. When either side found the location of an answer, they would share their discover with the rest of the class. Everyone ultimately had to complete both packets.

• During many sections of the reading, I utilized my in-class technology to bring Anne’s story to life…

o My students expected me to interrupt them frequently as I wandered up and down the aisles with my iPad, posing questions and constantly referencing back to their pre-reading presentations and packets. With the iPad, I frequently projected maps, pictures, and 3D models of Anne’s “Secret Annex.”

o We watched the opening air-raid clip from the Chronicles of Narnia on my projector, then used the laptops to research and discuss the concussive power of shock waves and the exportation of children from major cities.

o During an entry when Anne talked about the terrifying anti-aircraft guns and machine gun fire in the streets, I interrupted their reading with those same sound effects roaring through my surround speakers.

Even though it took many months for us to complete our reading of Anne Frank’s diary (due to other vocabulary, grammar, and essay instruction), I never heard a word of complaint from my students. They eagerly awaited their next chance to feast upon Anne’s words. The pinnacle of their instruction unveiled itself during our “Day of Silence” near the end of the book. Every student received a 3” X 3” neon yellow sticker with the words, “I am having a day of silence in memory of Anne Frank,” printed on it. The students wore the stickers over their hearts, and remained completely silent the entire day, unless required to speak by a faculty member. Even during lunch, students refrained from talking. For homework that night, the students wrote a journal response about the thoughts and feelings they experienced while “forced” to remain silent. However, the whole day required zero management from any faculty, and that’s what impressed me the most. Their love and respect for Anne Frank had burned itself upon their hearts.

I encourage my students to have strong opinions. I have a poster hanging at the front of my classroom that says, “Be the change you want to see in the world,” and I push that philosophy all year long. Two podiums sit at the front of my class for just that purpose. We frequently debate over complicated circumstances without clear answers. One of these concerned the two Jews Anne saw fleeing down the street outside her “Secret Annex.” I asked my students what they would have done if they were in her shoes, invite the Jews in or remain silent. The depth of my students’ perspectives and arguments in such circumstances astounded me.

Now, I’ll quickly summarize other frequent circumstances when I use technology in my classroom:

• Every class begins with a bell ringer—typed instructions projected on the board from my laptop, requiring grammar corrections, a written response, or a quiz.

• While students are working on the bell ringer projected from my laptop, I use my iPad to take role directly into our online database, Compass. Parents receive a real-time update of their child’s attendance and grades through this website.

• Through Compass, I also host course blogs that contain important documents and instructions. I also use Compass to communicate with parents, whether as mass emails about assignments or to one specific parent about their child’s behavior or grade.

• The iPad/Apple TV combo has become invaluable to me because it allows me to interact with my class without ever turning my back to them. I can wander up and down aisles, observing student behavior while I manage my instruction with interactive apps on my iPad. One such app is SlideShark. It is used to broadcast PowerPoint presentations, and it’s powerful enough that I can use my iPhone as a remote to run the PowerPoint on my iPad. This is handy when a student needs my iPad for a closer view of the presentation or to see my clarifying notes.

• Another app that has become invaluable to me is Name Selector. While I teach class from my iPad, I keep my iPhone in my front shirt pocket with the Name Selector app running. Whenever I ask a question, I’ll hit a button on the app that randomly generates one of the student’s names. That student is then required to answer the question. This is much handier than being stuck in one spot with a cup of popsicle sticks, or switching between apps on my iPad.

• During poetry study, students are given paper copies while I project the poem onto my board using my iPad. Through an app called pdf-notes, I annotate the poem to help my students extract meaning, while my students model my notes on their own paper.

• Every worksheet and exam is corrected by my students from an answer key projected upon the board from my iPad. Answer keys vary from simple worksheets to interactive pdfs with highlighted notes on how to grade each section.

• During Shurley Grammar study (an intensive Q&A flow to identify parts of speech), sentences are projected on the board. One student will sit at the board and write as the rest of the class asks and answers the questions to label each word with its correct part of speech.

• As with my exams from Anne Frank, any lesson can be bolstered with quick and easy access from mobile internet (through my iPad). I can look up pictures of the types of dogs in The Call of the Wild, trace out the path Huckleberry Finn took on a digital map, instantly look up abstract meanings, etc. All of this is done seamlessly without need to sit down at my desk.

• Once a week, I have a “Computer Day.” Every desk is donned with a laptop from the C.O.W., so each student can work on their own computer without ever needing to leave my classroom. We workshop proper MLA formatting and how to utilize Google Docs. We practice typing through the free, yet powerful, website, in which I manage all of my students’ typing accounts to track their typing speed, accuracy, improvements, and completion of lessons. We also use the laptops to take practice CRT exams through–to study proper techniques for answering Language Arts questions, as well as rotate through important testing strategies with exams designed to push their abilities to the limits. Lastly, I tutor my students on how to track their grades through Compass, and manage their missing work.

• When a class earns excellent homework and test scores, I reward them by turning off the lights on computer day. My students thrill over the opportunity to use their laptop’s backlit keyboard in the dark.

• During Study Hall (our 8th period class designated for students to complete homework and make up missing work), I frequently have students visiting my classroom with questions or requests. It is difficult to manage my own classroom’s behavior while other students are coming and going. I have found the best way to manage this is with I project the website onto the board from one laptop, while I use the other laptop to help other students with their missing work, etc. If I see anyone in my class off task, it’s as simple as shifting my hand to the other keyboard, clicking on their classdojo avatar, and marking the appropriate misbehavior. When that sound pours out of my surround speakers, it silences the class without any word from me.

• I have created an Excel spreadsheet that tracks weekly grade trends for each of my student’s classes. Once a week, I print out these reports for my Study Hall students and have quick interviews with them to evaluate their grades and set goals for improvement.

• My incentive program gives students opportunities to look at funny pictures, listen to entertaining audio, or watch 30-second video clips that I have preselected. These are projected from my laptop and broadcast over the surround speakers.

• While my students take exams or have independent study, I play carefully selected classical music softly over my surround speakers. This has dramatically increased their focus and scores.

• Because I utilize so many electronics in my classroom, I have found the best way to manage my files is through Dropbox. Although my students don’t see it, Dropbox saves me oodles of time because I can simply save a file on one computer, then it is automatically updated on the other machines before I can even walk across the classroom. An example of this convenience came during an exam. I realized I had forgotten to digitize an old paper answer key, so I quickly took a picture of it with my iPhone, which synced with my iPad, then I used the iPad to broadcast the makeshift answer key through the projector.

I could continue with more examples, but I fear I have made this email too long already. Thank you again for your consideration for this reward. I am honored with just the nomination.

Mr. Terron James
Excelsior Academy
Junior High English

December 30, 2013

2013 SLC Comic Con Giveaway!

What better way to to reactivate my blogging bug again than with Comic Con? Below are pics of some awesome costumes I saw from my booth at 2013 SLC Comic Con. (Thanks to Travis and Scott T. for helping me acquire all these pics!)

Now for the giveaway! The first person to leave a comment with the name of every costume will win a free copy of my book, INSIGHT! Make sure that I know who you are and have a way of contacting you. I'd hate for all of your hard work to be for nothing.

Ready, set, go!









































July 12, 2013

INSIGHT Book Blast!

Ever heard of a Book Blast? Simply put, it's when everyone buys a book on the same day, so it jumps to the top of the selling charts, thus increasing its visibility and marketability.

Why do I tell you this? My publisher is organizing a Book Blast for my novel, INSIGHT, on Monday, July 15, and I'd love anyone and everyone to participate! Even purchasing a less expensive ebook will still help! In fact, ebooks will be on sale that day for only $2.99! (a big discount from the usual $6.99)

As crazy as it sounds, I'll even be purchasing a book or two myself. I know many of you have already purchased my book, and I'm forever grateful. To help you justify another purchase, think of a friend or relative who might want it as a gift. Perhaps a library donation? All you have to do is save your money from one fast food meal, and you have enough for two ebooks. Overall, consider your purchase an investment in my my success, because that's exactly what you're doing!

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PLEASE SHARE, SHARE, SHARE THIS EVENT!!!!! Why? You could win a $100 Amazon gift card, plus more!

Share this event via facebook and twitter. Anyone who uses the hashtags #InsightBookBlast or #InsightGiveaway will get ONE entry per post. The more you post and share, the more entries you will get, which increases your chances of winning.

1st Place - $100 Amazon gift card and an Insight t-shirt
2nd Place - 2 Insight t-shirts
3rd Place - Insight t-shirt
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Lastly, PLEASE BUY, BUY, BUY MY BOOK (on Monday, July 15)!!!

If you're wondering if INSIGHT is worth the buy, here are two review links (shortened URL) to help you decide...
Goodreads -
Deseret News -

My preferred purchase method would be through Amazon ( All other purchase links for INSIGHT can be found at the bottom of the page on my website (