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Speakers’ Club First Day Back 2019: Welcome Back

Let’s set up the rules. We had four last year. Do we need to change them, add to them, subtract from them, or do they work?

What did you do this summer? Let’s talk about our great summer activities or our not so great ones.

Let’s talk songs: Which would you like to sing? I’m suggesting:

Ducktales:

Gummi Bears:

Chip N Dale’s Rescue Rangers:

Scooby-Do:

Kids Incorporated:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer:

Spider-Man:

Cheeseburger in Paradise

Sweet Caroline

Possible topics and activities: What do you want to talk about this year? Suggest topics and let’s see what you want to know about the U.S., its culture and language. (Or we can just learn things like “Why does this dog smell? Because it’s wet and dirty” if that’s helpful to you.)

Vote and weighting: We have a limited amount of time hanging out together this year, so let’s vote on the topics and cover the most important ones first.

Word Game: Everyone gets letters. The first decision is if the person can make a word of three-letters or more. If so, take the word and keep the letters. Then place a tile in the playing area. If not, place a tile from your hand into the playing area. Each letter is worth a certain number of points. The person with the highest number of points when all the letters are used, wins.

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Stories from an Alaskan Cabin: Chapter One

You can read the preface here and the prologue here if you would like a better orientation to what this is about. Be sure to subscribe to our Patreon to continue the story beyond the first chapter.

Day One

Chapter One: The First Story

When they arrived at the cabin, they set their bags on the porch and opened the door. Inside, the last people who were there had left some firewood. Otherwise, everything was clean. The men claimed their bunks, lit a fire in the stove, and started preparing dinner. After dinner, there was card game, jokes, and beverages. It had been a long day for everyone, and the short trip to the cabin was enough to tire them out. They decided to call it a night.

The men piled the logs into the stove with the hopes that someone would get up and replenish the wood before the fire died. John turned off the lantern and everyone used flashlights to get into their beds. They all got into their sleeping bags, turned off their flashlights, and tried to go to sleep.

Soon, the stove was glowing red, and the cabin was so hot, someone had to open the door. The men all got up because there was no way they could sleep in the heat with their long johns and heavy-duty sleeping bags. They gathered on the porch near the doorway enjoying the outside temperature, well below freezing, tempered by the heat coming from the stove indoors. There was thought of leaving the cabin door open and returning to sleep, but a crunching through the snow drew their attention.

Not 10 feet away, three moose had gathered in the moonlight. They snuffled the snow and the trees looking for something to eat. The four men knew they would not be able to return to their beds without closing the door, and they knew it would be impossible to sleep while the stove continued to heat the cabin to temperatures previously only dreamed of in that neck of the woods.

They would need to stay up. Rather than post one man as sentry near the door, being amiable, they decided they would all stay up to keep each other company. It was a part of the weekend to connect to each other rather than to the electronic devices that ruled all too much of their interactions during their time in the city.

They stood huddled around the door feeling only slightly awkward. “You know what we used to do at camp?” asked George. “At night, before we went to bed, we would tell each other stories.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” said Gerald. “By the time we’re done, the heat will have abated.”

“So, who starts?” asked John.

“The one who suggested it,” said Lee and laughed as he pointed at George.

“I think our writer should start,” said George looking at Gerald.

“Wait, how did I get to be at the front of the line?” asked Gerald. “Shouldn’t it be our fearless leader?” He indicated John.

John’s mouth dropped open. He gestured with his hands toward his chest and looked around. “I think Lee would have the most interesting stories. I bet he could tell us something about his home country.”

Lee smirked. “That’s exactly why I shouldn’t go first. I’d be a tough act to follow. I also nominate Gerald to start us off.”

“Show of hands,” John said. The three of them raised their hands. “Looks like you win, Gerry. Let’s hear your story.”

“Alright, at least I’ll get it over with,” Gerald said. He looked out over the porch, past the dark figures of the trees and beyond to the mountains. The full moon lit the snow on the towering mountains giving them a glowing white appearance. Gerald breathed in the cold air and exhaled. This is the story he told:

It is said that on that mountain just below the tree line lives a creature no man has seen. We’ve only heard whispers of it from Native Alaskans, and campers, who found themselves on that mountain unknowing what awaited them, returned weeks after they had planned and missing days in their memories. The best account of the creature that lives there is from a 1932 biography of Amelia Ambergris.

Amelia Ambergris was an adventuress in every sense of the word. She wasn’t interested in being known for her exploits and only agreed to consult on a biography as she suffered through a life-ending disease that went undiagnosed even after she died. They just didn’t have the technology to see what was wrong, and it could’ve been anything, but in 1933, it was labeled cardiac failure though she was only 58 at the time.

One of her adventures took her to that very mountain we can see from here. It’s one of the reasons why I agreed to come on this trip, and while I know that the mountain is too far away to get from here, I still wanted to see it. After reading about Ms. Ambergris and the other legends of the mountain, I’m not really sure I want to venture out there.

Ms. Ambergris was based in Anchorage in her time in Alaska, and she had learned to speak a little of the native languages. She would collect stories and folklore about specific places and try to uncover the reason for languages that had similar stories about the same area. When she heard about this area, she decided to head out in the winter to find out what made the place so dangerous beyond the normal problems that people faced from the weather and the cold.

She took a sled of dogs and a team of natives and dressed as warmly as she could. With her rifle nearby, they mushed to the foot of the mountain. The Native Alaskans would go no further. They tried to dissuade her from ascending the mountain by point at the weather and the dark clouds above. They tried to dissuade her because of the lack of provisions available. Finally, they mutinied and left her there to her own devices. They were sort of civil about it, at least. They left all the supplies they wouldn’t need as they headed back to Anchorage, but they took her dogs.

Ms. Ambergris headed up the mountain, towing her sled behind her. She found a good clearing with a stream nearby and made camp. She dug out a snow cave and started a fire. As it got darker and colder, she thought she could hear things moving in the snow. Bear weren’t likely to be out that late in the season, and moose would’ve been large enough to see. There hadn’t been any new snowfall, and there was no wind to knock the snow off the trees. It could’ve been rabbits or foxes, but Ms. Ambergris didn’t think so.

Soon it was night, and she decided that she would go to sleep. She hunkered down in her snow cave and closed her eyes. She had her rifle with her just in case. She wasn’t sure how long she had slept, but the embers of her fire were glowing red. It wasn’t the cold that had awoken her, however. There was something rummaging through the supplies on her sled. She put a log on the embers and stepped out of her snow shelter. The fire had died down enough that she only had the faint moonlight to see by.

There was something shaking her sled, but she couldn’t see it clearly. It made snuffling sounds like a moose but was definitely bi-pedal. Ms. Ambergris knew that Alaska didn’t have any apes, and while this particular specimen didn’t seem large enough and it was winter, the only thing she could think of that was sort of bi-pedal was a bear. She raised her rifle to her shoulder and pointed it in the general direction of the sled. “Hey, whoever’s going through my sled! There’s plenty for everyone. Come out with your hands where I can see them, and we’ll share!” She shouted in case it was a human.

The movement of the sled stopped, and when she circled it, there wasn’t any animal around. She thought she would look for tracks in the morning when there was more light than she had with just the moon. She went back to the cave and slept through the rest of the night.

When she got up the next morning, she tended to her fire and put some water on to boil. Then she checked her supplies. The animal had left everything alone but her Bible, which it appeared to have been going through when she interrupted it. The pages were wrinkled, and there were some tear marks. The book was, however, intact.

She thought that maybe the animal was hungry. Since she had stashed all of her food, it couldn’t find anything to eat. Still, it was strange that it was interested in the Bible. She thought that maybe even animals needed the Good Word of God sometimes, like people needed bread. She finished checking her equipment and found a small tuft of white hair on one of the runners of the sled where it stuck out above the snow. She decided to take her Bible to the campfire while she examined the hair.

She set the Bible on a log next to her. The hair didn’t look like fur. It looked like hair from a human. That didn’t make any sense to Amelia, but she could find no other clues as to the identity or whereabouts of the creature. So, she sat near the fire and pondered the situation. As the day wore on, she decided to see what would happen if she left some food out for the animal. Oftentimes, animals would return to the place where they could find food, especially in the winter.

As night descended on the mountain, she placed out small bits of food. She knew that there was an inherent danger in doing so. While bears were in hibernation, it didn’t mean that they wouldn’t come out of their dens to find food. It was rare to see a bear during the winter, but it did happen. Other animals that could be dangerous and attracted to the food included wolves, wolverines, and, to a lesser extent, foxes. Still, she thought the risk would be worth it.

She put the food out, just at the edge of the firelight, and went to her snow cave to see what happened. She said that she dozed off and was awakened by the sound of ripping paper. When she opened her eyes, still clouded with sleep, she saw a group of bi-pedal creatures with white hair sticking up all over their bodies. They were about three feet tall and had gathered around her Bible. She heard one of them grumble and another page was torn from the Holy Book.

She raised her gun when she heard another noise coming from the area of her sled. She decided that she had to take action. She raised her rifle and fired at the group near the Bible. One of the creatures yelped. The rest turned to face her. She ejected her cartridge and put her finger on the trigger, but she was too slow, they creatures overwhelmed her, pummeling, kicking, and biting. She fell unconscious.

The next day, she awoke. Her fire was out, and she hurt all over. When she came to her sled, she found that the animals had rummaged through the sled and didn’t take or damage anything. The food she had left out on the edge of the firelight remained untouched. But she was wrong about the pages being torn out of the Bible. The creatures had torn out specific verses and, apparently, eaten them.

Ms. Ambergris realized that she would need medical attention. She packed up her supplies and headed down the hill with her sled behind her. She wasn’t sure she could make it to Anchorage, but the alternative was to give up. She kept putting one step in front of the other. At the bottom of the hill was one of the Native Alaskans that had brought her out there. He decided that he couldn’t leave her on the mountain by herself, but when he arrived, he couldn’t bring himself to go up the slope.

They went back to Anchorage and Ms. Ambergris checked into the hospital. A couple of days later, the Native Alaskan came to see how she was doing. She told him about the creatures and what had happened.

He said, “Those creatures are trolls, and you should never feed them.”

When Gerald finished his story, there was silence. A moose exhaled loudly from the copse of trees where it decided to bed down.

“And that’s why we don’t feed the trolls,” said George. “Right. Not bad.” He looked at the stove. It was still glowing red. “It looks like we’re going to be out here for a while. Who’s next?”

“I think I should choose,” said Gerald, “and I choose John.”

Our stories will be released one at a time on Fridays through the power of the Internet. They will be available to Penguinators only, those who join our Patreon at any level. For even when the intentions are good, the power of a story is only as good as its ability to attract an audience. We think these stories are ones that you won’t want to miss. This is the last preview available to everyone. Should you wish to read the next chapter, join our Patreon.

Go to Stories from an Alaskan Cabin: Chapter Two.

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Why Did Richard Paul Evans Write the Michael Vey Series?

Upon release of his fourth installation in the Michael Vey series, Author Richard Paul Evans wrote a letter in response to some fans asking why he would write young adult fiction when they want to read something else. In spite of these protests, the number of comic con attendees that call themselves Veyniacs attests to the popularity of Vey and his adventures.

Evans says that Vey bucks the trend of dystopia and pride that much of young adult fiction subscribes to. Vey himself experiences Tourette’s syndrome, but doesn’t allow his disability to define him. He offers a character that others who experience disabilities can relate to.

This positivity combined with the moral aesthetic of Vey conveys hope that the world needs right now. Rather than focusing on the possible outcomes that lead to dystopia, Evans has created a place where people value loyalty and friendship while trying to make the world better.

While the Vey series doesn’t lack for strong female characters, Evans says that he has come under fire for making a male hero at a time when Hollywood has focused on female heroes of The Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight. Yet, male role models, even fictional ones, are important to help keep boys reading and involved in life.

Evans makes an appeal in his letter to all of his fans:

“So even if you don’t think Michael Vey is for you, the cause may be. I invite you to join the cause, because this is one where we can make a difference shaping culture. Introduce Michael Vey to your children, your grandchildren, to a neighbor. Purchase a copy or two and donate it to your school or church. Many schools have library waiting lists for Michael Vey numbering in the hundreds. (Trust me, if you’re 300 on the waiting list, you’re not going to get to read it.)”

By buying the books that deliver a message that is uplifting and important to others, readers can make a difference not only in the lives of others but in culture itself. The success of a certain book will prompt the creation of other stories that are along the same lines. For anyone who wants not only more from a certain author but also more of the same type of story, voting with dollars and social media support is a good way to ensure that publishers and movie makers listen to the demand.

This article was originally published at examiner.com. The links have been updated September 2019.

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Pear Penguin comes to Penguinate!

If you haven’t met Pear Penguin, yet, be ready for a dose of cuteness. Pear Penguin loves fall weather, colored leaves, and fresh fruit – (and fish!) Pear made me type that last part. Pear’s puffy belly always looks full, but it’s really Pear’s heart that is full of love for you.

Pear is looking for a forever family. As one of the few plush black and white penguins available for adoption, Pear is sure to add joy and friendship to your life or the life of someone you care about. Once the adoption fees are taken care of, Pear can be shipped worldwide.

Pear has been listening to Patch and taking Patch’s advice to heart. At about 6 and ¾ inches, Pear is the perfect size to take with you wherever you go.

Pear may be our newest penguin, but we have plenty of other penguins waiting for adoption. For every penguin adopted, $1 goes to the Global Penguin Society. Order your penguin today and have it in time for the holidays. (Only good through October 15 and while supplies last.)

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‘Polly Penguin Wants to Fly’ available now!

Polly Penguin Wants to Fly

We’re so excited because “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” is available on Amazon, right now! You can get it in paperback or on Kindle! This is my 10th book.

When Polly hatches, she sees her father first and then she looks up into the sky and sees the terns. She’s immediately fascinated. Polly Penguin wants to fly, but she’s a penguin. Penguins can’t fly, can they?

I wrote this for parents to read to their older children ages four and above. It’s also for children who are beginning to read. If your child loves penguins, Polly Penguin is a good introduction to reading without pictures. The pictures are formed in your mind.

Check out “Polly Penguin Wants to Fly” now.

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Changes to Penguinate.com Publishing Schedule

This post will mark my 251st consecutive day of publishing on Penguinate.com. For the last 8+ months, I have posted at least one article. I didn’t take any weekends off, and some days I posted more than one article. All of that work, plus what came from the beginning of November 2018, has created less than $2 worth of revenue, and August was the worst month for income, even though views were the third highest. So, I must be doing something wrong.

With this information, I have decided that I probably need to step back from publishing so much on Penguinate.com and start concentrating on the places where I can bring in more money. To that end, a lot more of what I publish here will be accessible by Penguinators (those who are a part of my wifes and my Patreon campaign) only. Not everything, just much of it.

Obviously, I’m not going to try to keep my streak alive. I may or may not publish anything tomorrow. Those 251 articles represent enough material to make a book if it had been written as such. So, I urge you to join my wife’s and my Patreon to help me continue writing and to read all the great content you get here. No matter what level you join at, you’ll have access to everything on Penguinate.com.

If you have a better idea of how to overcome this discrepancy in work versus pay, let me know. Leave your content. Otherwise, thanks so much for reading and through that supporting our creative endeavors.

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‘Stories from an Alaskan Cabin’ Prologue

If you haven’t read the introduction yet, you can do so here. The first chapter to the story will be posted on Friday Sep. 6, 2019. I’ll add a link when it comes on line. The series will then become a Patreon exclusive weekly story until it becomes a book. Join our Patreon, and don’t miss a story, get access to other great content, and find your favorite penguins.

Prologue: The Cabin in the Woods

Gerald flipped open his phone to answer it. He still used an old flip phone because it made him feel like he was on “Star Trek.” “This is Gerald,” he said.

“Hey, man, this is John.”

“Hey, John,” Gerald leaned back in his chair. “What’s going on?”

“So, I’m sure you heard that Susan got deployed to that disaster in the Lower 48.”

“Yeah, it’s crazy down there. Volunteers are heading out as soon as we can get them trained.” Gerald worked with Susan and had met John through her. She had invited Gerald and a couple of new co-workers to go camping on the Kenai Peninsula as a “Welcome to Alaska” trip.

“I know,” said John. “Anyway, we rented a cabin in the woods up north for a romantic getaway, and now that she can’t go, I was wondering if you’d like to go the cabin this weekend.”

“For a romantic getaway? Because I’m not sure Susan would appreciate that,” Gerald said.

John laughed, “No, I’m inviting a couple of other guys along. Maybe we could split the cost.”

“Yeah. Absolutely. What do I need to bring and how much will it be?”

John gave Gerald the list of things they needed to bring including bedding, firewood and food.

“Great! I’ll see you Friday afternoon.”

Gerald spent the rest of the week gathering supplies and anticipating the trip to the cabin. He picked up some firewood and some dehydrated meals that could be made with boiling water. Some of them were actually pretty good tasting, but they were for an emergency.

Each person was assigned to bring enough food to make two meals for the group. He wasn’t sure what anyone else was bringing, but he was pretty certain that John would be making something spectacular. Gerald shied away from eggs because he feared they would break on the way to the cabin. He knew they could be transported safely because he had seen John do it on that first camping trip, but he wasn’t going to risk it. Sandwiches were an easy choice if he could keep the bread from getting squished, and the leftover meat and cheese could be used for another meal or snacking if they needed it. A little lettuce, the right kind of mustard, and some red onions would make it seem like a gourmet meal. The best part is there wouldn’t be a lot of cleanup.

On Friday, Gerald put his gear in his car and went to work. When the afternoon rolled around, Gerald was waiting in his work parking lot. John pulled up in his car with all-wheel drive and unfolded out of it. Gerald always forgot how tall John was. He wore his hat and round glasses and had a soul patch on his chin.

“Hey, Gerald, you ready?” John extended his hand.

“Absolutely. My stuff’s in the trunk.” Gerald popped open the hatchback. “I’m so glad this is a long weekend.” There were two bundles of firewood and a backpack that was about two-thirds Gerald’s size. A rolled-up mat was attached to the outside of the pack.

“These four days are going to be great.” John looked in the trunk. “Is that it?”

“Only bring what you can carry, right?”

“That’s the idea.”

“Well, if I tried to bring anymore, I would fall over.”

“Alright. Let’s get it in the car.” He grabbed the firewood, and Gerald grabbed the bag. He popped up the hatchback on his vehicle and stacked the firewood on top of what was already there.

Gerald leaned in and put his bag on top of the other bags. “Hey, George! Hey, Lee! I didn’t know you guys were coming, too.”

“Hey, Gerry,” George said. “You know, John. He recruited me, and I recruited Lee.” George had a full well-trimmed beard and was stocky.

“Hey, Gerry.” Lee said. He had moved to America from another country and was making bank in Alaska doing some high-tech work that Gerald didn’t even pretend to understand.

“You guys saved the passenger seat for me?”

“Yeah,” said George. “Now shut the back and get in so we can go. We’ve only got a couple of hours until sundown.”

Gerald backed out from under the hatchback, and John shut it.

“Our cabin isn’t that far from the road, so we don’t have to hike too long,” said John. “Still, it’s better to get there while the sun’s still up.”

Gerald locked his car up and got in on the passenger side. John started the car and drove through downtown Anchorage and onto the Glenn Highway.

The drive took them past Eagle River and north. It wasn’t long until they reached the off-ramp and were headed down the access road. When they reached a red and white metal bar blocking the roadway, they pulled the car to the side and stopped.

“Here we are,” John said. “A short hike should get us to the cabin.”

Gerald opened his door and the icy air hit him. Snow crunched under his feet. Trees lined the road as far as the eye could see. Gerald headed toward the back and grabbed his bag and the two bundles of wood. It would be awkward to carry the wood, but he could manage it.

George grabbed his bag and threw a red plastic sled on the ground. “Stack your wood on this. It’ll be easier.”

“That’s a great idea.” Gerald put his wood bundles on the sled. “Do you want me to pull first?”

George stacked his wood on the sled. “No, I got it. If it gets too tough, I’ll ask for help.”

Gerald had his doubts about George asking for help, but he let it go. Lee and John put their wood on the sled, too.

“So, it’s just behind that bar and to the left. We should be there in 20 minutes,” John said.

The four men went around the barricade and hiked along the road for a little bit. Then, they followed a path that went to the left and down into a ravine. It went by a frozen river that had recently overflowed and left ice on the trail. It was slick and crunchy. The pine trees were covered in snow, and the white birch trees were barren of leaves. Their breaths frosted in the wind making it looked like they might have been steamed powered, and they were all dressed in heavy coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and boots made for the Alaskan winter.

#

Deep in the Alaskan woods, the state government has established cabins for rent. In a state where everything is bigger, including prices, these cabins are cheap, especially if you fill them to capacity. There isn’t much to do outdoors in the dead of winter if you’re not a snow enthusiast, but renting a cabin makes for the perfect weekend getaway, even in the cold.

The cabins are made of wood and consist of a single room with bunk beds, typically four. The beds are wood planks. The smart cabin renter brings a mat to sleep on and a sleeping bag rated to minus 40 degrees. There is a wood-burning stove for heat and cooking. There is usually a table with benches around it.

There is no electricity, which means no television, no computer, and often, though not always, no cell phone reception. Rent the cabin for several days, and when the cell phone dies, all you hear is the beauty of nature, the silence of snowfall, the light crackle of the northern Lights, and the popping and sputtering of wood in the cabin’s stove. With only firelight and battery-operated lanterns, it’s easy to adapt to the rhythm of short days.

These cabins allow you to get away from the stress of the workaday world and finally reconnect to your primal self. The four men who partook in telling these stories that I have collected were not survivalists. They had no need to prove their manliness. They weren’t all great at chopping logs, making fires, or cooking meals. Sometimes, they weren’t even very good at navigation. Still, they rejoiced in having a good time, playing cards, and enjoying the freedom that comes when constant communication is cut off.

Read Chapter One: The First Story.

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Introduction to ‘Stories from an Alaskan Cabin’

Preface

As Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” and Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” can attest, our forebears were, much as they were in everything, better at telling stories. For what else was there to do in times before the Internet, television, movies, and radio? While modern man finds the need and the capacity to tell stories, the ability and opportunity is much diminished.

However, it has not disappeared. For, we tell ourselves stories every day to support our world views and our self-perception whether those are based on fact or folly doesn’t matter. What parent has not told his or her child a story about how babies are born or a fairytale remembered rather than read? Which schoolchild has not told a story of what he or she wished to be true? What person has not told stories about what he or she would’ve liked to have done to some transgressor against his or her person?

Indeed, humans are not separated from animals by the ability to reason, which any raven, rat, or baboon can show, nor are they separated from animals by the opposable thumb. Humans separate themselves from the rest of the animal kingdom by their flights of fancy, their ability to create, their ability to build, to imagine, and to tell stories.

So, dear friends, as you read these stories, do not think you have any less ability to compose and relay such as these. Instead, know that you have the capability to tell as good a story or better, with a little practice, and you can take it a small step further and write that story down. Talent is not required as long as you are willing to work hard and long and diligently over the course of time to perfect the craft and art of storytelling.

As long as you have read this far and choose to continue to read, my three friends and I hope these stories told at a cabin in the Alaska wilderness in the dead of winter will entertain you for no few hours. And if they can inspire you to create your own story, in words, actions, or other media – all the better. We would love to read them and include them in our storytelling anthology.

Our stories will be released one at a time on Fridays through the power of the Internet. They will be available to Penguinators only, those who join our Patreon at any level. For even when the intentions are good, the power of a story is only as good as its ability to attract an audience. We think these stories are ones that you won’t want to miss. For the next part of the story go to the Prologue.