Book Review – Dreams of Steam 3 (Gadgets)

A few weeks ago I talked about how I had lost a book I had just finished reading and was unable to review. Well, today, I found said book in the most unlikely place and decided to go ahead and take care of the review.

This is the third Dreams of Steam anthology, and I thought the collection of stories was excellent. I was familiar with some of the authors, and some of them were new to me. All, though, did a great job within the steampunk genre. Some of my favorite stories included: “The Survivor” by M.B. Weston which I would love to see a sequel to, “The Last Frontier” by H.David Blalock, “The Constance of Memory” by Stacy Tabb, and “Steaming Cherry” by Tyree Campbell.

The world building and character development were particularly well-done, and I thought each story teased the imagination with possibilities of how history could have gone. There were a few minor grammatical errors, but overall, these were not enough to detract from my enjoyment of the book. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the steampunk genre.

Thank You

Two simple little words, but how often do we really say it and mean it. I know all of us have people in our lives who are important to us now and have been important to us in the past. But, have you made a point of saying thank you lately? No, I didn’t think so.

I thought of this today when I was reading a post on another site about people who were cruel and sat in judgment of someone’s family when that family did everything they could to serve them. (It was a pastor’s wife) Now, why do people do that? Sometimes, I just have to shake my head, but then I realized I know why. It’s because all of us are self-focused. Focused on what we can get for ourselves and not what we can do for others. Focused on the shields we put up to pretend that we are someone we are not. God doesn’t want us to be like this as Paul writes in Ephesians 1:16.

“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

Paul was writing to the Christians in Ephesus, but I believe you could take it one step further and apply it to everyone in your life, regardless of their faith. So, that’s what I’m going to do today. I know I will forget someone, and I apologize in advance, but these are the people I feel led to give thanks for today. First, my homeschool friends on Facebook and HSR. Even though we will probably not meet until we are in heaven, you bring laughter and love to my life. Second, my Crossbridge family. I am so grateful for this community of believers I am now a part of and for the ways they help me to see God in everything. Third, all of the people in the writing community I have met (either online or in person) over the past few years. You have taught me so much about writing and about caring for people. And finally, to the people who mean more to me than anything, my husband and sons. I love you more than life itself. You keep me grounded, but encourage me to reach for the stars. Thank you.

Here’s to saying thank you to the people in your life today.

Writing Prompt Wednesday

I was trying to think of some things I could use as categories to write about each day so I wouldn’t be cruising the endless variety of things to write about for this blog. Then I thought about what day of the week it was, and my title fit perfect with the day so, on Wednesdays, I will find a writing prompt to write about.

Today’s writing prompt is: Write the story of your life in five minutes.

Ready, set, go! When I think about my life, I think about all the places I have lived. For the first five years of it, I lived in the Norfolk/Portsmouth, VA area. Then, when my father finished college, we moved to Arlington, VA. Two and a half years later, we moved to St. Petersburg, FL. Two years after that, we moved to Columbia, SC. We stayed in SC for a while, but six years after we moved there, my father had the opportunity to move to Dayton, OH which he took. The following year, we moved to San Diego, CA where I spent my last two years of high school. After I graduated, I went back to SC to go to college. When people ask me where I’m from, I usually ask if they’ve heard of the term military brat. They usually have so then I tell them I was a computer brat since my father worked for several computer companies.

When I finished with college, I ended up staying in SC where I met and married my husband. Our children were also born in the same city. We have moved several times during our marriage too. Once, to another town in SC, once to MI where we spent four years. Then, back to SC where we lived in two towns. And finally, we made the move to AL where we are now.

A lot of people would tell the story of their lives differently, but for me it was all the different places where I’ve lived. And that’s five minutes.

Until next time, be real!

Words

All of us can choose the words we use. We can choose to use words of kindness, words of affirmation, or we can choose to use words that harm, words that hurt. If you look at the two parts of that statement, you would think it would be obvious which ones we would use. But, in our society, things are usually not that obvious. So, back to the question, why would people choose to use words that harm or words that hurt. I think it comes down to three reasons.

The first would be that words that harm or hurt have been used by others towards the person that uses them, and the person uses those words to retaliate. It’s hard to “turn the other cheek” as the Bible says and use words of kindness instead of words that harm. Human beings have a natural tendency to protect themselves, and I think lashing out when people are cruel with their words is a part of that.

Another reason would be that people just don’t care. They are focused on themselves and whatever is right for themselves and other people are just an obstacle to that self-focus. There’s no reason to be kind to other people when that person is only seen as a stepping stone.

Finally, and this would relate back to the second reason, people have not been taught how to use kind words. When a person comes from a background where their parents are self-focused, it’s not hard to figure out they would not be taught to use kind or affirming words.

So, with all that, would there ever be a chance that people could be kinder to one another? I believe so. As I’ve shared in previous posts, my Christian faith is helpful to me in that regard. I believe other faiths have a tenet of treating people kindly as well. But, most of all, I’m not willing to write off the human race. I do believe we have the capability of using words of kindness and affirmation. We just need to be willing to do so.

Until next time, be real!

A Writer’s Training

I read this quote by William Faulkner this morning in my writing inspiration book, and it spoke to some of the thoughts and feelings I have had about writing recently.

“A writer needs three things: experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times, any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”

Each of us has the ability to observe and imagine, and I would also add to that, the ability to research what we don’t know or can’t observe. I believe having those abilities can definitely supply the lack of experience. If someone who wants to write just starts writing using their ability to observe and their imagination, the experience will come with time.

What do you think a writer could do with this picture? If it was me, I could do a lot.

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The Joy of Living

I was going to write a book review this afternoon of an anthology of short stories I had recently finished reading. But, ask me if I can find said book now. No, the book is nowhere to be found. If I find it, I will eventually write said review, but since I can’t, the writing topic is changed. To what, you ask?

Well, this morning I worked in my church’s Vacation Bible School. I helped in the kitchen making sure that the children got snacks and drinks. Because of this, I didn’t get to see a whole lot of what they were doing until the very end when I walked in the auditorium. First, you have to understand it’s been a long time since I’ve worked in a VBS, and it’s been a long time since my children have been young enough to be in a VBS. With them being thirteen and sixteen years old now, they’ve exited that stage and entered the stage of adolescence. I say all that to say it’s just been a long time since I’ve spent time with younger children, and I realized something today. Young children don’t care who’s watching them. They have a lot of joy in living and demonstrate that to those around them. They dance and sing and laugh and giggle and jump up and down. When did we, who are adults, lose that? Probably when we started caring about what other people thought of us.  I think I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon remembering how to have joy in my life.

Until next time, be real!

Falling on Your Face

I’ve done this one literally as well as metaphorically. Back in April, I fell at the ballpark and scraped myself up pretty badly. The worst part was how I fell. I fell up the steps of the dugout. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that, but I managed to.  I had gone into the dugout to leave some stuff for my husband as he was helping with our son’s team. On my way out, I tripped on one of the steps and went sprawling upwards much to my humiliation. It took a couple of weeks before I stopped feeling so bruised and icky and for my fingers to un jam themselves. I also had to replace my eyeglasses as a result of this incident.

This got me to thinking on how we all fall on our face metaphorically. There’s not a one of us who hasn’t failed at something, myself included. In fact, I have failed at more things than I can count. Why is it hard to admit to failure? For me, I think it’s because succeeding is so emphasized in our culture. Doing something for the sheer fact of doing it is not recognized at all. Even when I’ve told people I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for the last three years, the questions from those who are not writers usually consist of whether I intend to publish or not. While I do have the eventual goal of publication, the fact that I wrote 50,000 words in 30 days is not celebrated as the achievement that it is.

I liked what Dani Shapiro had to say about falling on your face in writing.

“My internal life as a writer has been a constant battle with the small, whispering voice (well, sometimes it shouts) that tells me I can’t do it. This time, the voice taunts me, you will fall flat on your face.”

I know, as a writer, I will have plenty of rejections, and that’s okay. Putting words down on paper or on the screen is a big achievement for me in and of itself.

 

Gratitude

With the conspicuous consumption that is part of our society today, it is harder and harder to be grateful for what we do have. It seems that we are always chasing after the latest version of the newest technological fad. And combined with the consumption is an attitude of worry about how we are going to pay for it.

God does not want that for us. He wants us to be grateful, to be grateful for what He has given to us. Keeping an attitude of gratitude also lessens the worry in our lives, replacing it with a feeling of peace. I had never understood how all the things in Scripture are intertwined until now. Here are a few examples of Bible verses that talk about this.

John 14:27-“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Colossians 3:15-16 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Psalm 147:7 – “Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.”

Am I saying this is an easy thing to do? Most certainly not. We are all immersed in the culture that gives us these messages, and it’s hard to change our focus to where it should be which, for Christians, should be on God. I remember going on mission trips when I was in college. Being in places where the people had much less money than me was always an eye opener. And these places were in the United States. I’ve been told that mission work in international destinations would be even more of an eye opener.

So, how do we foster gratitude? Well, for me, it’s a matter of doing several things like lessening the messages that encourage me to consume, meditating on what God has to say to me about being grateful, and seeking out opportunities to help others less fortunate than I am.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Getting the Words Down

I read a story in my writing inspiration book this morning that caught me off guard this morning.  The author was talking about hearing a disturbing story about a relative. She later tried to write it down and had trouble until she told herself that she was not trying to publish the story, that she wanted to write it down. That gave her the freedom to write the story as it needed to be written. It took many drafts before she was satisfied, and the story turned into something that was publish worthy.

I think it is hard sometimes, especially for those of us writers who haven’t been published yet, to think beyond the goal of publication. It’s important though to get the stories down. I learned so much from my grandmother’s autobiography–about her life and the beginning of mine. These are things I wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t written them down. I am writing things down that are only meant for my children. It’s important to preserve history.

The thing I need to remember though is that all of my stories are important whether they are ever published or not, and I need to give myself permission to get the words down; to get the story down, and then it will be preserved for future generations to read.

Until next time, be real!

Book Review–In the Eye of the Storm

Time for a change of pace in my book reviews. Last week, I talked about how my focus on this blog was changing. This will also include the types of book reviews I write. I will continue to review science fiction and fantasy books, but will also add books of different genres.

Today the book I’m reviewing would be considered a Christian or religious book. The title is In the Eye of the Storm, and it is authored by Max Lucado. Most people who are Christian or know anything about Christianity know that God’s Son Jesus Christ became completely human so He could die for our sins on the cross. When people consider Jesus’ humanity, they usually think of when He was born or when He died, not the times in between. This book considers one of those in-between times. Lucado interweaves what he calls “the second worst day of Jesus’ life” with accounts of storms that we are all familiar with to help us realize that because Jesus experienced storms in His own life, He knows how we feel. I had never thought of it in quite that way before. During this day, Jesus finds out about the death of John the Baptist, finds out He is wanted by King Herod, welcomes home His disciples with joy and celebration, ministers to the crowds of people who have come around them, tries to get rest, but is still asked to minister, and asks for assistance, but the disciples are unable to give it. I don’t know about you, but any one of those things would send me over the edge, and all of them happened to Jesus on the same day.

I gained insight from this book because it felt real to me. Why would Jesus have not experienced human emotions? He was completely human and at the same time, the Son of God. If He didn’t understand how His creation felt, the faith I have would be a cold one, and it is not. I would recommend this book to anyone going through their own storms of life.