Thursday, August 4, 2016

Stepping Back and Viewing Life Differently
We've probably all heard the old saying countless times about "not seeing the trees for the forests." In fact, we've probably heard it so often that we've forgotten just how true it is. 

If you're like I am, sometimes it is easy to overlook the beauty of things near at hand, because we're far too busy looking at the big, finances, goals, projects, etc. It's easy to miss a birthday party or a child's band performance or soccer game because we're focused on "the forest" instead of the individual "trees" that surround us.  

Then, when we finally bring those close to us back into focus, we realize how much of life we missed because we were too focused on making a living

Sure, goals are important; so is making the money you need to support yourself or your loved ones. But don't lose sight of why you're working so hard. If you're doing it for your family, make sure you're giving them as much attention as you give to the job. 

I'm not saying you have to give them the same quantity of time each day as you give to the office...that would be wonderful, but I know it's not always possible. No, instead, I say give them the same quality of time. 

When you are with your loved ones, be with them. Don't work on your computer when a child is trying to show you the gold star they got on their test; don't watch the news when your spouse is talking to you about his or her day. 

Instead, step back, take your eyes off the far horizon and focus on the individual people in your life who make what you do worthwhile. 

When you do that, you might just find that one breathtakingly perfect tree in the dense forest surrounding you. Or the hidden beauty of a single teaspoonful of beach sand (like magnified picture above). 

You owe it to yourself... you owe it to those you love.

Wishing you the best,

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Groundhog Day

Tomorrow is February 2, Groundhog Day. Do you remember the Bill Murray and Andie McDowell movie by that name?

It's one of my favorite Murray comedies. I loved the premise of Murray's adventures with Puxatawney Phil repeating over and over, but only he is aware of it. However, as I got to thinking about the movie and the whole "Phil predicting the weather by seeing his shadow" gig, I got to wondering about a couple of things.

One is the weather. If it's February in Pennsylvania, why do most of the scenes in the movie have very little snow? Half the people aren't wearing gloves and it appears to be a balmy 40 degree day. Here in Michigan, we're buried in snow, so shouldn't they have more than the spattering shown in most scenes? After all, Murray and his team were supposedly stuck in Puxatawney due to a blizzard. Perhaps it's because the movie wasn't actually filmed in Puxatawney, PA. It was shot north of Chicago in the town of Woodstock, IL, which is near the Wisconsin border. Given the weather around the Great Lakes, however, shouldn't there still be more snow?

Another thing I wonder about is why Murray's character is named Phil. Isn't that kind of confusing since the groundhog's name is also Phil? Did the scriptwriter intentionally do it, maybe to point out how futile life is for the groundhog, too? After all, year after year, the poor critter gets dragged from his warm burrow, sees his shadow then gets put back to hibernate some more. Or did the writer just draw a blank when it came to other male names?

The movie never tells us why Murray is caught in the time loop, anyway. The movie also never says exactly how long Phil (the reporter not the groundhog) is trapped in it. We see him go through denial, anger, suicide attempts, etc. before finally learning from his experience and trying to help others. He also learns to speak French and play the piano proficiently. Those things would take more than a month or two.

According to the DVD commentary by director Harold Ramis, he believes 10 years pass. However, later, in answer to a an email sent to a magazine, Ramis says, "I think the 10 year estimate is too short....allotting for the down time and the misguided years he spent, it had to be more like 30 or 40 years." 

Thirty or forty years? Wow! Wouldn't clothes have worn out? Wouldn't he have aged? Wouldn't the others? There seems to be a lot of unanswered questions.

Apparently the industry didn't think so. The film is regarded as a contemporary classic. In fact, the late Roger Ebert revisited it in his "Great Movies" series. After giving it a three-star rating in his original review, Ebert acknowledged in his "Great Movies" essay that, like many viewers, he had initially underestimated the film's many virtues and only came to truly appreciate it through repeated viewings.

The film is number 32 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies". In Total Film's 1990's special issue, Groundhog Day was deemed the best film of 1993. Pretty wild considering that year saw the release of Schindler's List, The Piano, and The Fugitive. The Writers Guild of America ranked the screenplay #27 on their list of 101 Greatest Screenplays ever written. In 2009, American literary theorist Stanley Fish named the film as among the ten best American films ever.

Okay, I agree it was a cute movie. I admire Bill Murray's talents, like Tom Hanks, Murray can portray comedy as well as drama. But one of the TOP TEN MOVIES EVER? I think that's a bit over the top. But maybe I missed something. I think I need to go watch it again. How about you?

Better yet, I'd like to curl back up in bed and hibernate until Phil (the Groundhog) stops saying we'll have six more weeks of this snowy and cold weather. Florida, anyone, anyone? Buehler? 

Oh wait! That's a different movie... 

See you later, 
~ Stephanie

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Women At Risk - Helping to Unveil a Hidden Evil

As Many As 200 Million Women Are Missing!

Young Girl Sold into Marriage!

Child Abducted and Trafficked into Sexual Slavery!

Female Baby Killed and No One Protests! 

Do these sound like the lurid headlines from some supermarket tabloid or maybe the trailer for some futuristic new movie? Unfortunately, truth is much worse than fiction.

Recently, I stopped with friends to browse at a display of beautiful scarves, jewelry and handmade accessories being sold in the lobby of one of the office building in downtown Grand Rapids. All the items being offered where handmade and absolutely beautiful.

I was initially attracted to the gorgeous, fringed scarves (scarves are one of my new passions) then my eye was caught by a collection of lovely note cards on handmade paper with dainty crocheted medallions affixed to the front.  Since I love crochetwork, especially such delicate examples as these that appeared to have been made with something no thicker than sewing thread, I picked up one of the cards to exam it.

I read the note cards had been handmade in Kosovo, a nation torn apart by war. Many war widows there are living in extreme poverty, trying to eke out an existence for their families and themselves through their handcrafts. The delicate medallions on the card were some of their work.

Then I noticed the red brochure behind the cards. It talked about WAR International, the organization sponsoring this sale. WAR - the acronym for Women At Risk International - is a Grand Rapids based organization dedicated to giving voice to women around the globe, who are affected by slavery, exploitation, abuse, natural disasters and war, and offer protection and training to them in the name of the Lord.

The headlines listed at the top of this article are just the tip of the problem. Globally, there is a hidden genocide taking place against women. According to the US State Department, about 800,000 people around the world are illegally trafficked every year. A staggering 50% of these are children! Of the women taken, 70% are "sold into slavery, chained to beds of horror."

The U.N. Secretary General says: 114 to 200 million women are "demographically missing" due to infanticide, dowry deaths, domestic violence, and all manner of risks.

This isn't only happening in India, Pakistan, underdeveloped countries, etc. Within the United States, human trafficking has become the fastest growing segment of organized crime, according to the FBI.

Babies are sold into slavery for as little as $100.

Then there's the lucrative black market for human organs. Sudanese Human Rights lawyers declare going in for what should be a routine physical is often a death trap if tests reveal the patient has healthy organs that can be "harvested."

What can be done? Women At Risk is working to not only unveil this hidden genocide, but also to offer safe harbor to women, where they teach women not only the skills to help them become independent, but lovingly help restore their battered and destroyed self-image. A typical rescue costs about $200, and WAR raises funds for their work through sales of handcrafted articles at their boutiques and online.

If you'd like to hear more, visit their website where you can read more about their work and see some of the beautiful articles made by the women.

Please keep these people in your prayers, too. They need them!

Thanks -

PS - I bought the the note cards and the scarf.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What an Incredible Month!

Happy Easter, friends (or Happy Passover or Happy Weekend if you prefer),

It's been a busy month around here. 
The first weekend of the month, the first book I co-wrote with Patricia Kiyono, The Calico Heart, was featured at eReader News Today and went to best seller status in two categories on Amazon thanks to wonderful readers like you. Patty and I are very grateful to everyone who bought or read the book. This is also the book that was nominated for the 2013 RONE award for Best Contemporary Romance. Thanks so much for your support. If you haven't read it yet, you can get a copy thru April 30 for just 99 cents. (The buy links can be found on the My Books tab.) 

On April 8, the second book in the series, The Friendship Star Quilt was released by Astraea Press. Patty and I have been blog-hopping like crazy talking to readers, doing promo, and giving away a lot of fun prizes, including books and gift cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 

Now, here it is Easter weekend, and my house has been sorely neglected all month. I'm afraid I may have to do as a poster on Facebook suggests...

What do you think?

Have a wonderful weekend all, and keep smiling!
~ Stephanie

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Welcome, Wendy Knight!

Last July, I introduced you to the wonderful novella, Feudlings in Sight, by #1 best-selling author, Wendy Knight. Since then, Wendy, who has also authored the best-selling young adult series, Riders of Paradesos, has grown the Fate on Fire series to include: Feudlings, Feudlings in Flames,and Feudlings in Smoke.

Each of these young adult stories have enough action, romance, and plot twists to also engage adult readers, but unlike some YA on the book stands, you can rest assured this series is wholesome and profanity-free. In fact you can safely recommend Wendy's books to anyone - teen, best friend, even your prim Aunt Martha.

After I read a few of the Feudling novels, I found I was curious about the background of the series. What set off a war that lasted more than 300 years? How did it all begin? Were you wondering, too?

Well, I am delighted to share some good news. Astraea Press has just released the newest book in Wendy's series this week. Spark of a Feudling, is the prequel story you and I have been waiting to read. And isn't the cover gorgeous?

Here's a tidbit about the story:

Hate can start a war, but a shattered heart can fuel it for centuries.

Everything Ada does is wrong. She’s the daughter of a Duke but she isn’t proper or formal. She prefers the company of her servants—particularly Christian, the boy she’s loved since she was six years old, and his sister, Charity, Ada’s very best friend in the entire world.

Ada isn’t just the daughter of a Duke. No, she’s the daughter of one of the most powerful Edren sorcerers alive, and no matter how strong she is, it isn’t strong enough. Ada will give up almost everything to earn her father’s pride.
Christian has loved Ada since the day his mother became her 
governess. But two societies are determined to keep them apart—the aristocracy who say a groom will never be good enough for a Duke’s beautiful daughter, and the sorcerers who say a Carules and an Edren can never be together. Christian will do anything to make Ada his—even drive himself to madness.

When Ada suspects her father of hurting Charity and Christian in his quest for knowledge, she is torn between loyalty to him, and a fierce determination to protect them. The division tears her soul and breaks her heart.

The pieces of her broken heart will start a war that can only be stopped by the death of the most powerful warrior alive by the hand of the boy who loves her.

The book also includes a bonus excerpt of her new story Feudlings in Peace, so you can join Ari, Shane, Ada, Christian and everyone they love as they chase their happily ever after. 

Spark of a Feudling (and all the Fate on Fire series) is available for download at your favorite eBook seller online: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Astraea Press's website.  

About the Author:
Wendy Knight is the bestselling author of the young adult series Fate on Fire and Riders of Paradesos. 

She was born and raised in Utah by a wonderful family who spoiled her rotten because she was the baby. Now she spends her time driving her husband crazy with her many eccentricities (no water after five, terror when faced with a live phone call, no touching the knives…you get the idea). 

Among the things she enjoys is chasing her three adorable kids, playing tennis, watching football, reading, and hiking. Camping is also big—her family is slowly working toward a goal of seeing all the National Parks in the United States.

You can usually find Wendy with at least one Pepsi nearby, wearing ridiculously high heels for whatever the occasion. And if everything works out just right, Wendy will also be writing. 

You can catch up with Wendy at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter or on Instagram

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Perfect Summer - A Perfect Read on a Chilly Day

Today, I'm pleased to interview, Karen King, author of Perfect Storm, on my blog

Hi, Karen, welcome! Can you tell my readers a little about your background? 
Well, I write children books for all ages and in all genres; story books, picture books, plays, joke books and non-fiction. I've had over one hundred children’s books published.

I've also written for many children's magazines, including Sindy, Barbie, Winnie the Pooh, and Thomas the Tank Engine

Perfect Summer is my first YA, and it was runner up in the Red Telephone books YA Novel 2011 competition. 

That's a wonderful accomplishment, Karen! Congratulations. With all those books and articles out there, I'm sure people ask you all the time about your writing schedule. Do you write in the morning, evening, all day?
I'm most productive in the morning. Often, I get out of bed and start writing right away. I'm full of ideas in the morning. 

How did you get started writing?
I've always written. I had my first poem published when I was 11, but I started my writing career with Jackie magazine, writing articles and photo stories. 

When it comes to fiction, are you a Plotter or are you what's known as a "Pantser"?
That depends on whether I'm writing to a commission or not.

If I'm commissioned, I have to plot as I have to send a synopsis and the first couple of chapters to my editor. If I'm not writing to a commission, I plot some at first-- so I know the basic outline of my story -- but once I get going, I write "by the seat of my pants".

What's one of the funniest things people have asked you?
When I visit schools, the kids always ask me whether I'm rich. 

How do you reply to something like that?
I usually say "No, I'm really poor, so please go and buy some of my books!"

Good move! Would you tell my readers a little about your book Perfect Summer?
Imagine growing up in a society so obsessed with perfection that the government gives people grants for plastic surgery.

Fifteen-year old Morgan can't help being a bit envious of her best friend Summer. Summer is beautiful and rich, her father is a top plastic surgeon and her mother is a beauty consultant with a celebrity client list. Summer's life seems so effortlessly perfect. Whereas Morgan isn't so rich or beautiful and her little brother, Josh, has Down's syndrome - which, according to the Ministry and society in general, is a crime. 

When Josh is kidnapped and the authorities aren't interested in finding him, Morgan and Summer decide to investigate. They, along with another teenager, Jamie, whose sister, Holly, has also been kidnapped, uncover a sinister plot involving the kidnapping of disabled children and find themselves in terrible danger, too. 

Can they find Josh and Holly before it's too late?

Do you have a sample you can share with us?
Yes, here's one from the book's Prologue.

They were on their fourth game of poker. The air was tense; they played in silence, speaking only when they had to.

The burly man glanced at the five cards in his hand, his expression unreadable. “I’ll see you.” He took a drag of his cigarette and waited.

The woman sitting next to him studied her hand of cards and sighed. “I’m folding.” She placed the cards face down on the table, crossed her arms and sat back in her chair.

They both watched the bald man on the other side of the table. He looked at his cards and frowned. The burly man took another drag of his cigarette and sent a spiral of thick smoke into the air. Then a shrill ring broke through the silence, making them all jump. The burly man grabbed his nanophone, and the others waited as he flicked it open. The air was electric with suspense.

“Yes,” he said brusquely. He was silent as he listened, then replied, “We will leave immediately.” He switched the phone off, threw his cards down and stood up. “It’s on,” he said, scooping up the handful of coins in the middle of the table and putting them, and the phone, in his pocket.“Let’s get going.”

The woman left her cards and followed him. They both hurried outside to a dark blue van. The man climbed into the driving seat, the woman sat beside him. She took a slip of paper out of her pocket and keyed an address into the E--Nav. “We’ll be there in a couple of hours,” she said.

“How old’s this one?” the man asked.

 “Three,” the woman replied.

“Shouldn’t be too difficult then.” The man started up the van and they set off.

That sounds quite intriguing, Karen. Where can readers get a copy of the book?
They can buy it for their Kindle at Amazon or they can get it in Nook format at Barnes & Noble or they can buy it in paperback at either place.

If you're interested in finding out more about Karen and her writing, you can visit her at:
Karen's website, Her Author Page on Facebook,  at Goodreads, or  catch up with her on Twitter @karen_king

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Favorite Things

I'm a big fan of The Sound of Music. A really big fan.

I mean, I got engaged during the wedding scene of the original movie then later had my daughter sing the role of Mother Abbess in a stage production, so I clearly have pretty strong feelings about the show and its cast. Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer definitely did not fit my image of a proper cast.

Don't get me wrong, I had nothing against Carrie or Stephen. In fact, I took my daughter and son-in-law to see Carrie when she performed in concert here. I also like Stephen. He makes a wonderful vampire leader on Blood Ties. However, when I heard these two were cast as leads, all I could envision was Southern-fried "Jesus Take The Wheel" meets Louisiana vampire.

Boy, was I wrong!

Carrie Underwood pulled off the role of Maria with maturity, style, and barely a twinge of an accent, and Stephen Moyer owned the role of Captain Von Trapp. Who knew he could sing like that? Wow. The rest of the cast was just as amazing. The seven Von Trapp children were wonderful in their roles, and Christian Borle made a delightful Max. Audra McDonald as the Mother Abbess blew me away with her singing. What an incredible voice she has.

All in all, it was a fantastic three hours of entertainment tonight, and I have now added this show to my official list of Favorite Things!

~ Stephanie