Category Archives: General

I (Don’t) Want Your Sex

I’m not even close to being an uptight prude, but really I could do without graphic sex scenes in books. And no, I’m not talking about 50 shades of erotica. I’m talking about otherwise good books with too many gory details.

I’ve been married for over fifteen years and have two biological children, so I’m hardly a veiled virgin. I’m fine with sex scenes if they serve a purpose even if they’re not within the confines of what I consider moral. However, it doesn’t mean I want a recap of sex education with or without anatomical slang.

What are my boundaries? Like I mentioned, sometimes things need to happen. Not long ago I read a Christian novel where an unmarried believer had a sexual encounter outside of marriage. I had one of those “oh no they didn’t” moments, but it was so perfect. It was a well-played plot twist that showed how God can redeem sin. While there was no question of what transpired between these two, it wasn’t described in graphic detail. Edgy in inspirational circles but tame by most people’s standards.

On the other end of my spectrum is the Song of Fire and Ice series (the books that the HBO series “Game of Thrones” is based upon). I’m a huge fan, but the author can make me blush. I would say his scenes are the absolute edge of my tolerance and sometimes cross over to cringe-worthy in description. I’ve been listening to this series on audiobook, which makes it more noticeable since I would skim from the words “untied his breeches” to “retrieved his small clothes” (these aren’t direct quotes, but you get the picture). Listening you don’t have that luxury. Although the 15-second forward feature can be well-employed here.

One book that had me muttering, “TMI” was The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’m a sucker for any book related to time travel, but that’s a blog post unto itself. I just finished listening to the audiobook version. The story had so many things that I loved about it: The idea that Henry’s time travels are a genetic condition. The non-linear storyline. Clare is not much older than me, so I related to her timeline. In one scene, Clare and Henry attend a Violent Femmes concert about the time I was listening to them in my dorm room.

That said, while I like rock and roll, I could do without so much sex and drugs. Especially the former. When the characters describe their experience in so much detail, that I feel the need to wash my hands, it’s too much.

I appreciate when an author can bring you into a scene. That’s great when you want to know what the hero thinks about a piece of music or the sensation of time travel. But when it’s a play-by-play of what happens between the sheets, I’m fine with glossing over what happens from “unzipped my pants” to “put my shirt back on” (again not direct quotes).

What about you? Is it a line in the sand? Do you only read “clean”? Or is it that “I know it when I read it” feeling?

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I Want Candy

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I love candy, but I’m kind of picky. One of my all time favorite candies are Wild Cherry Nerds. They were discontinued sometime in the 1980s. Before then, you could get a Wild Cherry Nerds Blizzard. That was ice cream heaven and my size 5, teenage body could accommodate such indulgences.

Last summer we visited a specialty candy store and I scored these babies. I’m not wild about watermelon, but Wild Cherry Nerds – SQUEE!

I’ve also been a dark chocolate fan from my very first Hershey’s Special Dark miniature. From then on, I fought my dad for them. And my sister for the Krackle bars. I also love Nestle Crunch and supplemented more than one high school lunch with a crunch bar and Coke Classic. Back then the First Lady focused on keeping a different type of coke out of the schools. Just Say No.

I’d like to say my adult taste buds have matured. And they have. Belgian truffles have been under my Christmas tree more than once and I’m a sucker for anything marzipan or salted caramel.

But I still have an inner seven-year-old and she needs to be fed. Her favorites are cotton candy flavored rock candy, Nerds, and Sweet Tarts. She also likes it when I score February 15 bags of conversation hearts at $0.50 per bag.

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What was your favorite candy as a kid?

What about as an adult?

Stormfront

This blog post is shameless self-promotion at its best. My short story, “Detention” was released in the Out of the Storm anthology. The book is a collection of stories that placed in the ACFW Writers on the Storm contest and is published by HopeSprings Books with all proceeds going to the ACFW Scholarship fund. You may have noticed my tagline is “A Different Kind of GEKE: From steam punk elves to the dystopia of high school. “Detention” is a take on the Cinderella story that features steam punk Elves, and the heroine’s school is rather dystopian. If you’re a fan of steam punk and/or fairy tale retellings, you’ll love “Detention”. You’re not? There are eleven other stories in this collection. That’s what is cool about this anthology, there is something for everyone. Never read Amish, western, romance, or speculative fiction. Pick up this book and read stories in genres you’d never try otherwise.

I read the entire collection. I liked some better than others, but all were solid and well-written. Here’s the list of stories in the order they appear with my brief description.

Contemporary category:

1st place: “Squall Line” by Jim Hamlett (Contemporary) – The story of a flight instructor and his student.
2nd place: “Dorothy’s Carol” by Terrie Todd (Women’s Fiction) – Two very different women are thrown together by circumstance.
3rd place: “A Rumspringa Storm” by Steve Hooley (Amish) – An Amish woman learns God’s purpose for her life.
4th place: “Tempest Tossed” by Annette O’Hare (Women’s Fiction) – A young woman makes peace with her family obligation.

Speculative category (Fantasy / SciFi):

1st place: “The Grumpy Chronicles” by Susan Lyttek (Fantasy) – Like “Detention” this story involves Elves, wicked stepmothers, and a famous fairy tale princess. Except this time it’s about seven Elves mistaken for Dwarves; and one is not happy about this mix up.
2nd place: “The Great Storm” by Karla Rose (SciFi)  – A young girl and her family seek shelter from a storm of invading enemies.
3rd place: “Oddman” by Carla Hoch (SciFi) – A man of mixed race is not fully accepted in his community, but may be the only one who can save it.
4th place: “Aperture” by Linda Kozar (SciFi) – A mysterious girl and her teddy bear show up looking for the previous owners of the home.

Other Genres category:

1st place: “Just West of Clovis” by Ralph D. James (Western) – A witty story about a man who finds a foot in a boot connected to a man who is very much alive.
2nd place: “Husband Hunting” by Crystal L. Barnes (Western) – A man steals a woman’s wedding dress and tries to make off with her heart too.
3rd place: “Detention” by Gretchen Engel (YA / Fantasy) – When her visa is denied, a young woman seeks another way home.
4th place: “Fire in a Storm” by Angela K. Couch (Historical) – Set in 1930s USSR, a man is conflicted between doing his duty and what is right.

I hope or more of these stories appeals to you. If it does, then pick up this book and read them all. You won’t be disappointed, and you’re helping support a great cause.

What genres do you like? Which genres are ones you don’t normally read? Which story appeals to you most?

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Tale as Old as Time

I had to choose a song from Beauty and the Beast in honor of book-loving Belle for this post. Another goal accomplished – 100 books read or listened to in 2014. I actually read 111 plus or minus a couple I either read at the end of 2013 or forgot to log because I couldn’t find it in my search histories. You can see my Books Read in 2014 board on Pinterest.

I’m not doing a traditional Top Ten (or whatever number) favorite book but rather highlighting ones that particularly captured my attention. For one, I had three friends publish their debut novels and picking a favorite from these diverse novels would be second to choosing which of my kids I love best.

My favorite book was The Night Circus. It’s sort of a double win because not only is it a fantastic read but also because it’s narrated by (swoon) Jim Dale. That man could read the ingredients list to Pop Tarts and I’d be enthralled. Of course, he’s better at speculative fiction novels as he is the voice of the Harry Potter audio books. It was my favorite because it was an absolutely unpredictable flight of fancy. The only negative was an f-bomb planted in the first chapter. Language isn’t a huge deal with me but I despise gratuitous profanity.

Fellow Scriblerians Cynthia Toney and Vanessa Morton published their debut novels as did one of my oldest writing friends, Nancy Kimball.

Cynthia’s Bird Face is a hilarious book about junior high aged Wendy. It touches serious topics with the best humor. I absolutely died laughing during parts of it. A hilarious reminder of those awkward years. When I began writing, I prayed for critique partners. Tim and Cynthia formed the group that would become known as The Scriblerians. I was so happy because Bird Face had me from the first chapter.

Vanessa has been with us from the beginning and her book Moonfall captured my attention in a totally different way. It’s part Biblical fiction part fantasy as she tells a fascinating story of the woman we know as Rahab. But her Rahab who is named Rachav, is an identical twin prone to visions. Intrigued? How can you not be? Vanessa has a passion for archaeology and it’s obvious in the rich details of ancient Jericho.

Nancy and I bonded over our love of heroes and we have mutual crushes on our own creations. Then again what is there to not love of Jonathan Tarquinius from Chasing the Lion. From the “man of twelve” running through the streets of Rome to the hardened on the outside, tender in the middle gladiator of the end. Chasing the Lion is an at times gritty story that honors the redemptive power of Christ. I actually “read” it twice once in print and once in audio. Joseph Narducci is another swoon-worthy narrator.

I didn’t read as many classics as I normally read with two of the three Divine Comedies being the only non-twentieth/twenty-first century books I read this year. I did tackle a few modern classics: Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace, Fahrenheit 451, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.

I don’t include Bible studies that I do but there were two Christian non-fiction titles that I read. Both are excellent and quite different. My mentor and I discussed Grace-Based Parenting and I read the short but weighty The End of Christendom.

I “reread” the Harry Potter Books in audio form. More Jim Dale. I also started the audio series A Song of Fire and Ice, more popularly known by it’s television show title “A Game of Thrones”. This is another well narrated story.

Of course, I had to read some dystopian because I love that genre. I knew this year would be bittersweet. One of my favorite series by Jill Williamson who is one of my favorite authors published her third and final book in the Safe Lands series. Rebels ended the series in a most satisfying way.

Alas I didn’t have to mourn the end of a good series because Nadine Brandes put out the first book in her Out of Time series. A Time to Die has a cool concept that pulled me right in and makes me impatient for the next installment. Everyone wears a clock with their death timed to the last second. Katie Clark debuted with Vanquished the first in her dystopian Enslaved series. Another one that pulled me in and made me crave more.

It’s the fifth day of the new year and I’ve already finished two audio books and started my third. I’m also deep into my first e-book and I’m almost finished with Unbroken which I’m reading in print. Here’s to a new year of good books.

What was your favorite book of 2014?

Happy reading.

Seize the Day

Carolyn Arends’s “Seize the Day” has been my anthem since my days traveling through the Midwest for my first job out of college. As I wrote in my post last week, I already try to live like my days are numbered. Because they are; some will live to 100  and some will die tomorrow. Or today. I write this post with a heavy heart. A young woman I’ve been praying for passed away this morning. While there is joy she’ll spend eternity in health, I mourn for a vibrant life numbered with barely two decades on earth.

As part of the launch of A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes, we are writing about what we would do if we only had a year to live. This isn’t something I’ve spent much time pondering. My grandmother lived to one hundred and my grandfather just turned ninety. My other grandparents lived long lives too. My parents are in their sixties and plan vacations around Rails to Trails bike paths.

But I was recently touched by someone who didn’t have a long timeline. Last year, I lost a friend who left behind a husband, children, and a model of how to make the most of your days. She showed me in real life how to spend days, hours, and minutes with the utmost abandon. Her intentionality to leave a legacy for her family was inspiring.

So how would I spend my last year? My infinitely practical mind went to what I would have to do: work, shuttle the kids, do laundry, and keep the kitchen from becoming a chemistry experiment let alone the bathrooms [shudder]. Not to mention making sure my husband and children would be taken care of after I was gone.

But what would I want to do? That’s where I had to go with this.

If I could choose my last year like Parvin does, it would involve being able to have financial provisions for my family to take off the entire year. I’d travel the world. I would want to have as many new experiences as I could with my family. I’d make sure I visited my extended family, especially my parents, my sister, her family, & my grandfather. I’d visit aunts and uncles. But mostly, I’d travel with my husband and kids. We’d try as many exotic foods as we could. We’d visit as many places as possible. And have as many experiences as we could. My dream experiences would be:

  • Taking my family to Yellowstone. We’d have to camp at least one night, stay in a cabin, and spend a night each in Lake Lodge and the Old Faithful Inn.
  • Go on an Alaskan cruise and visit the interior of the state, Kenai Peninsula, and Dawson City, Yukon.
  • See a Broadway play; this might be the only time I’d consider leaving the kids. It would be special time with my husband but the thought of days without my kids with such a limited timeframe is painful.
  • Visit Prince Edward Island (the only Canadian Province I haven’t visited).
  • Go skiing with my sister’s family, probably in Colorado but I’m not picky.
  • White water raft and water ski – two of my bucket list items
  • I would travel to South America – Machu Pichu is the top of my list, and I’d want to visit hot springs in Chile because I wrote about them
  • I want to spend time in England, Ireland, and Scotland because London is all I’ve seen of the UK and never visited Ireland. And haggis is a bucket list dish.
  • Spend a few days in Paris then take a train to the French Riviera. I’d spend those days in France eating, eating, and eating some more. And I’d do nothing but lie on the beach once I hit the Mediterranean. Well, I’d eat.
  • I’d also make sure to go to Germany. Because if there’s anything I love more than French cuisine, it’s German cuisine.
  • Which brings me to the next stop, Japan. I’d have to visit Okinawa where I spent the summer of 2003 as well as the mainland. Another place that I’d fuel up on awesome food. And visit an onsen (bathhouse) something I didn’t do when I stayed there the first time.
  • I want to go to Greece, Turkey, the Holy Land & Egypt (so I could say I visited Africa). To visit where Paul spread Christianity. Walk where Jesus walked. And if you know me, the pool at Bethesda would be one of my Jerusalem stops. I have a bit of an obsession with hot springs.
  • I’d travel to Australia to make sure I visited all continents. Also, who doesn’t want to go to Australia? I might even get up the courage to SCUBA dive. I’m kind of claustrophobic, but if I’m going to die anyway why not expire seeing the Great Barrier Reef.

I’m pretty sure I have more days planned than a person could do in a year but maybe it’s because the thought of such a limited time terrifies me. There’s so much I want to experience, that I feel limited by a lifetime that could easily span forty, fifty, sixty years. Or I could die tomorrow.

If I do die tomorrow I have two wishes, someone scour my hard drive and shape up my stories so they can be published posthumously and play The Newsboys’ “Breakfast Club” at my funeral. I’m sure the older people will be horrified, but it’s the message I want to leave.

SIDE NOTE: I told my 10-year old about the assignment. He said: Break the clock and live longer!

Both my son and I know our eternity is secure, but we want to make the most of the time we have here on earth. And it’s not just eating exotic foods and crossing items off a bucket list. It’s living each day for God. It’s being Jesus to those around us. Being His hands and feet. And with that, I hope to leave this world a little better place whether or not I ever see Machu Pichu or eat haggis.

What would you do if you only had one year to live?

You-Have-One-Year

How would you live if you knew the day you’d die?Parvin Blackwater believes she has wasted her life. At only seventeen, she has one year left according to the Clock by her bedside. In a last-ditch effort to make a difference, she tries to rescue Radicals from the government’s crooked justice system. But when the authorities find out about her illegal activity, they cast her through the Wall —— her people’s death sentence. What she finds on the other side about the world, about eternity, and about herself changes Parvin forever and might just save her people. But her Clock is running out.

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Connect with Nadine Brandes on her website (http://nadinebrandes.com)
Facebook (http://facebook.com/NadineBrandesAuthor)
Twitter, (http://twitter.com/nadinebrandes)
Goodreads (http://goodreads.com/nadinebrandes/)

And speaking of limited time: There’s less than 10 days left in her prize giveaway!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/N2MyNDRlMzE3YWMwNTQ2MWU4N2M2MzJkYzY2N2IzOjEy/

 

New Year’s Day

Can’t go wrong with a little U2 to start of 2014. So I’ve set some goals for this year. Not resolutions but goals. I’m working toward being a better me. I’ve set goals in nearly every facet of my life. Ones to make me a better wife, mother, engineer, writer.

About 6 months ago, I decided to food journal and lost a few pounds (about 5) and gained them back. Curses to the South and it’s deep-fried yumminess. On top of the extra holiday food from Thanksgiving through New Year’s we drove through the Southland on our way home from vacation. One simply does not travel through North Carolina without eating BBQ or Louisiana without eating fried oysters. Although I consumed mine in Mississippi. Close enough. Anyway, this normally consumer of healthful fare enjoyed one too many things dipped in batter and only one run in 16 days.

Oh right, I neglected to mention the same girl who has a “Running Sucks” pin on her Pinterest fitness board took up running somewhere around Thanksgiving. I went from 0 to 5K in about 3 weeks. A few weeks earlier, God blessed me with a workout partner through a “random” (yeah right) Facebook post. We’ve been going strong for a couple of months now. And just last week, I got an invite to join a fitness team with a bunch of fellow teleworkers. Sweet! I’m working on becoming a leaner, meaner me. And loving it. Who knew?

Another blessing last year was a mentor through my church. My mentor is a perfect match for me.

In October, I went to a work conference.

In November I did NaNoWriMo.

The highlight of my year was going to the ACFW Conference in September and meeting all but one of my fellow Scriblerians. We even picked up a new member. When I thanked my husband for spending the money and time for me to go, I asked what I could do to thank him. He told me. It’s G-rated, I promise!

This is where you scratch your head. So what does this have to do with goals?

Well, all of these aspects of my life have quantifible goals. I have set goals and have accountability partners. There’s the request my husband gave me that ensures we spend a certain amount of time together. I have similar goals for time with my kids.
There are my fitness goals. Did I mention the teleworker team is for a competition in various categories like number of steps? I also have my fitness partner. I can’t let her down by not showing up.

There’s the work conference that inspired me to set professional goals. Ones I control.

I have writing goals for writing, editing, and social media.

My mentor from church gives me inspiration to spend time in God’s word whether or not I share with her my struggles and/or triumphs. Also, I chose to be in a Bible study so I’ll have homework for daily study.

Check back with me in December to see how I did. Judging by the way I use my Fitbit, I’m wired to meet and beat goals. But also have days and weeks where, I don’t do so well. The good thing is, I can mentally reset and go forth and do better. And that fried oyster weight better go away!

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I love Christmas presents. Giving. Receiving. Shopping. Wrapping.

One of my fondest Christmas memories was my annual trip to the mall with Dad. I saved my allowance to buy my parents and sister Christmas gifts. We usually ended up at Osco to buy Mom a bottle of Cachet cologne. Don’t judge. It was the early 80s.

I used to make presents for my grandparents. Painted sun catchers, salt dough ornaments, and later counted cross-stitch towels. I’m pretty sure Grandpa’s nativity scene still has a lopsided, multicolored clay star sculpted by moi, circa 1979.

My love language is gifts and truly it’s the thought that counts. Over the years I’ve gotten big presents – a bicycle, opal ring, tennis racquet, SLR camera, and iPod Touch.

But it’s the sentimental ones that make me the happiest. The study Bible my parents gave me when I was in college. Last year for my birthday, Dad compiled hundreds of pictures of the first 40 years of my life, made a Ken Burns effect slideshow and burned them onto two DVDs.

My maternal grandmother gave me her mustard seed necklace. It was the one item of hers I wanted because it reminded me how she showed Jesus to others and to me. My paternal grandmother gave me an egg separator that was a promotional item from the store where my grandfather worked. It was a utensil I didn’t have, Grandma didn’t need, and tied me to the the grandparent I lost in my teens. These are two of my most-prized possessions.

One year, my husband gave me pearls for our anniversary. It was an extravagant gift but that he conspired with a co-worker to get them was what made them even more precious.

And this year we did Christmas with my in-laws early. Twice they nearly brought me to tears with their gifts. My son wanted a floor pillow like his cousin had. When my mother-in-law found out it wasn’t available, she made one.

My son's super-soft custom made floor pillow

My son’s super-soft custom made floor pillow

The other item was one of my gifts. One that spoke her love more than words. She made a binder (lime green, of course) and printed out my blog posts. Not only this one but The Scriblerians and Samie Sisters where I also blog. For her to take the time and honor my writing is better than any material gift. Although, I’m beyond happy with those gifts too.

My blog binder

My blog binder – The cover is my avatar for The Scriblerians

As we approach Christmas and reflect on the gift God gave us, His Son, think about gifts you can give of yourself to others. A random act of kindness to a stranger. Taking the time to sit down and watch Christmas shows with your family. Include your kids in your Christmas baking. Go caroling. Volunteer. Part with an item of special significance to someone.

Baking with a 5-year-old isn't efficient or tidy but it's totally worth it.

Baking with a 5-year-old isn’t efficient or tidy but it’s totally worth it.

What is one of the most meaningful gifts you have received?

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