Friday, May 30, 2014
Monday, May 26, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
- Bring your own mug. It's much less expensive to brew your own coffee and pour it into a travel mug than it is to purchase it at an expensive coffee shop. If you crave the ambiance of the shop and the flavor of coffee brewed by someone else, cut back to a once-a-week treat.
- Bring your lunch to work a couple days a week. Brown bagging is one of the most cost effective ways to save money. If you typically eat out every single day at lunch, you probably don't even realize how much money you're spending. Try preparing something for dinner that can be microwaved in the break room at work. You might discover some extra cash at the end of the week…and you may even start a trend among your coworkers. A bonus is that you'll have time left over from not having to walk or drive to the restaurant, wait in line, and wait to be served.
- Stay away from vending machines. If you must have snacks throughout the day, bring your own in zip-lock bags.
- Bottle your own water. What was a trend 20 years ago is now considered wasteful and bad for the environment. Purchase a sports bottle that you can fill with water from the cooler throughout the day. You'll save money and keep a boatload of plastic out of the landfill.
- Comparison shop for cable or satellite TV. You may discover that you're overpaying for services and stations that you don't use.
- Plan meals a week in advance. Pull out your local grocery store's sale paper, make a list before your weekly grocery-shopping trip, and only use coupons for things you use. This can help cut back on impulse spending or purchasing something just because you have a coupon for it.
- Go to a matinee. If you're a movie buff, cut the price by going at a time when the tickets are less expensive.
- Turn off the lights. When you leave a room, make a habit of turning off all things that use electricity.
- Shop your closet. Before you rush out to buy a new outfit, see if there's a way to repurpose something in your closet. Perhaps you have a suit that can be split up to create a whole new ensemble with other pieces. For example, if you have a black suit, you can wear the jacket with other slacks, skirts, and dresses. The pants can be worn with that shell and cardigan you purchased last season. Dress it up with something from your jewelry box, and you'll have a whole new outfit.
- Invite friends over. Instead of meeting your pals somewhere for dinner, invite them to your house for a potluck and game night. You might discover that it's just as much fun, and everyone will save on entertainment. This might even become a regular event for you and your pals.
- Have a spa night in. Load up on some of your favorite products – facial masks, bubble bath, and manicure products. Put on some soothing music and pamper yourself. The products most likely cost less than one spa session, and you'll have enough to use the next time you need a little TLC.
- Have a garage sale. Purge everything you don't need or want by having a garage sale. This requires energy, but if you get the neighbors to participate, you'll have more traffic and a chance of selling more of your unwanted stuff that takes up space in your home.
- Volunteer with your family. This is a multipurpose activity that will teach your children the value of doing something good for the community, making good use of time, and saving money by not spending lavishly on something that doesn't bring long-term happiness.
- Stay healthy. Eat foods that nourish your body and only treat yourself to junk food on rare occasions. Go for long walks after a big meal and try to find ways to comfort yourself that don't involve spending money.
Monday, May 19, 2014
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, was awarded the Will Rogers Medallion for Excellence in Western Media for Fiction.
Maggie's Journey, book one in my McKenna's Daughters series, received the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for Historical Fiction.
Mary's Blessing, book two in the series, was a Selah Award Finalist for Historical Romance.
Catherine's Pursuit, book three in the series, has already been awarded the NTRWA Carolyn Readers Choice Award for Inspirational novel.
These are exciting times for an author. But what does all this mean to a reader?
If you see a gold sticker on a book announcing an award, or read about a book receiving an award, does it make you want to read it? I'd really like to know.
Answer this question in the comments, and next Saturday, I'll choose a winner to receive a copy of Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico. Even winners in foreign countries are eligible to receive an ecopy of the book.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Readers, do you know the theme of the last book you read?
I want to wish all moms a very happy Mother's Day. If you're blessed to still have your mom with you, treat her to something nice - dinner out, a home-cooked meal, a tea party, a massage, or whatever makes her smile.
Monday, May 5, 2014
There is a memory I cherish of a young boy, age 8, walking across a dusty, hot playground. I was that boy and I led a single file line of my classmates towards a small, wood framed house perched on the back corner of our elementary school property in rural Blanchard, Louisiana. It was an old house with worn wooden steps and only one door and one window. As I walked up the stairs, my heart raced and my hand trembled. I opened the old, wooden door and a warm, redolent breeze flowed over me. From inside this house the fragrance of paper and ink and glue; the very blood of books filled my nostrils and I sighed in utter contentment. Here was the universe: here was magic and fantasy; here were worlds and geographies for me to explore; here were men and women and children from the past and all their brave and terrible deeds; here were Books.
In the corner sitting behind a wooden desk was a slight woman with short, dark hair and a ready smile. Mrs. Asbhy stood up and motioned to a nearby shelf of our local branch of the Shreve Memorial Library.
“Bruce, I found a special book for you. You should try it. It is science fiction.”
She handed me the book and on the cover were the words “Tunnel in the Sky” by Robert Heinlein. On the cover, an image of a young man, probably 12 stepping through an open doorway onto an alien world beckoned me to follow. I had just held my first science fiction book. I devoured it in one day crouched in the hot cab of my father’s old green truck at the end of our driveway along a major highway in Blanchard. In the back of the truck were watermelons. A sign on the windshield advertised them for fifty cents. No one stopped on the lonely highway but I didn’t care. I was transported to another world where young people had to survive in a hostile environment after they were accidentally sent on a field trip to a planet no one knew existed and then forgotten. The doorway to my school library opened and I stepped into a new world of adventure as I inhaled book after book. But, as the school year came to a close, I realized the tunnel would soon be blocked and the doorway sealed. Living miles away in the isolated countryside I would not have access to the library. I would have no new books to read.
Growing up on a 62 acre farm of mostly pasture and wooded forest, I had no playmates. I was born late in my parents’ life much to the dismay of my brother and two sisters who could not stand the idea that their “mature” mother was “pregnant”! By the time I was a young boy, my sisters had married and moved away and my brother was raising his own family on the same property. For years my nephews were too young to play games and I spent my time wandering through the pastures and piney woods creating stories and playing out scenarios filled with monsters and aliens and creatures of the night. My imagination was fired by books. My sister, Sue taught me to read when I was five. My parents read voraciously. My mother loved romance novels. My father was a huge fan of Zane Grey and his westerns. I read some children’s books, but these small, childish stories did not fill my heart with the adventure I longed for.
One day while re-reading one of my few Superman comic books in my father’s truck, I heard a roaring noise. Over the far hill a huge vehicle lumbered through ripples of heat down the hot asphalt highway. It pulled into my driveway and behind the huge steering wheel sat the diminutive Mrs. Ashby. On the side of the vehicle were the words, “Shreve Memorial Library Bookmobile.” The library had come to me!
Mrs. Ashby had brought the universe to my house! I will always remember that moment as the door opened and the tunnel yawned deep and long into the world of Imagination. I hopped out of the truck, my comic forgotten and stood on the edge of forever. Mrs. Asbhy smiled and waved her hand toward the interior.
“I have some special books for you, Bruce. Welcome aboard.” With tears in my eyes, I walked up the stairs into the hot interior of every tomorrow; of infinite worlds and possibilities. It was then, I knew I wanted to take all the stories I played out each day; all the stories I had heard from my parents and relatives; all the stories I whispered out loud to myself as I fell asleep each night — yes, all of them — and write them down so I could keep them forever in books!
On my 11th birthday I asked for a portable typewriter. I wanted to write.
My senior year I was elected as the Student Council President and was faced with something my parents and siblings never had to consider. Being the number one student in my class, I could have had any scholarship in the state. But, my parents never told me to try out for scholarships. My high school counselor called me into her office in January of my senior year. She scolded me for not applying for scholarships as the best were already gone. I had no idea what she was talking about. I thought you just went to college. It never dawned on me I had to find one and apply to one and then figure out how to pay for it! I told her I wanted to be a writer and she just shook her head. No money in writing, she said. You need to find a real job and write on the side and maybe one day break into the publishing market. She found me a meager scholarship to Northwestern University in central Louisiana, well known for its “humanities”. When I left her office, I realized how cloistered and naive this country boy was. I had a lot to learn.
Little did I know that just weeks ahead, there would be a huge change in my life and great and wondrous things would happen. You can find out more about this at my blog.
One last thought from C. S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles. On a midnight stroll through a garden in England, C. S. Lewis confronted his atheism at the request of his dear friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had tried to persuade Lewis to renounce his atheism and embrace Christianity and his final argument stated what Lewis lacked was imagination. After becoming a devout Christian and writing numerous books defending the truthfulness of the Christian faith, Lewis said, “Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”
Imagine that! Why do you write? What motivates you to sit before a blank page and fill it up with story?
For more information on how to order books in the Chronicles of Jonathan Steel including my latest book, “The 11th Demon: The Ark of Chaos” use this link.