Book Marks: The Pilgrim by Davis Bunn

The Pilgrim book coverWhen I read that The Pilgrim was the story of Constantine’s mother, Helena, I was eager to read it. As I got to know Anthony and Cratus and some of the other characters, I enjoyed it even more. Add in a perilous journey through enemy territory being chased by a massive brute who is eager to kill – I’m in!

As always, Bunn’s book is well-written and draws you in from the beginning. But for all the action and adventure in the stories in the Bible, I rarely feel like I’m sitting on the edge of my seat biting my fingernails with historical Biblical fiction, so I don’t read a lot of it. Since this story isn’t actually from the Bible, I’d hoped it would be closer to the nail-biting end of the reading spectrum. (I figure some Biblical fiction is somewhat sanitized so as not to offend.) But there was only one (really good!) scene when I wondered who would live or die.

The other scenes where I expected more action and anxiety faded off into nothing bad happening to our protagonists. Not just that the enemy didn’t attack, but also without any clear indication that the people believed God intervened, that it was faith that made the difference. Why didn’t the enemy attack? Why did they think the enemy didn’t attack? If I was supposed to see their faith growing as they prayed for deliverance and were delivered, it was too subtle for me to gather from the text. Instead, I felt like I didn’t know what was going on, like I was missing something. (Yes, I saw their faith growing over the course of the book, but it didn’t seem to be very linked to being saved over and over.)

And the book ended like that for me – like I was missing something. I expected the vicarious thrill of victory over the enemy and the joyful glow of feeling God had delivered them as promised. I expected to hear even the briefest mention of how Helena and Anthony and Cratus saw a change in their lives. But instead, the end gave me an arm’s length description of how Helena’s work changed a nation.

That’s great, but that’s the history side. I wanted the more personal side of how Helena was changed, but I never got close enough to her. Almost like a friend who never really lets you in, and eventually you give up and realize this person will never be the close kind of friend. That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what I look for in fiction, so that’s the disappointing part of the story for me.

If you already like this genre of fiction and/or if you like Bunn’s other books, you’ll like this one. But for me…well, I felt like I tried to make a new friend and ended up knowing her as little in the end as I did in the beginning.

[I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]

3 1/2 stars

My 6-Item Checklist for Positive Thinking

Emoticon with big toothy smile

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of material on self-help, building a business, and spirituality. At some point in each of those topics, there is talk about the power of positive thinking. If you know me or have ever met me, you know that in general I am a pretty positive kind of girl. So I haven’t spent too much time trying to learn more.

But one thing I very much dislike about some of the more spiritual theories is the idea that if you don’t get what you want, you didn’t pray hard enough or you have a secret sin that God is holding against you. Either of those things may be true (God always forgives but wants you to acknowledge what you’ve done wrong), but sometimes God’s answer is “no” for reasons we don’t understand at the time. Complete repentance, Spirit-filled faith, and hours of prayer don’t always result in the answer we want. Don’t believe me? Read about the heroes of the faith in the Bible. There are numerous miracles, but there are also instances of faithful prayer resulting in “no.”

Additionally, I don’t believe a theory is true if it can’t be applied in all circumstances. If a positive thinking theory works in most Western cultures, which are more affluent than many other cultures, but it won’t work for a poor woman in a third-world country, I doubt its validity.

So when I listened to a podcast last week about positive thinking applied to building your business, I was interested but wary. I’ve been praying for weeks about positive thinking in business because I wanted to get God’s take on some things people had been telling me that I didn’t fully believe.

When I was listening to this speaker, I suddenly remembered two Bible verses. I looked them up and laughed in relief! God had answered my prayers to show me His way of positive thinking. Even though I’ve memorized these sections in the past, and thought I knew them well, I hadn’t applied them to this problem before. Read them and see what you think.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi)

And…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23, Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia)

Depositphotos_7310221_originalMy new 6-item to-do list: Rejoice. Don’t worry. Be grateful. Talk to God. Focus on the good. Look to see if “the fruit of the Spirit” is growing in my life.

I know from experience that those things work. God has transformed my heart and mind over and over when I allow myself to focus on what’s not working in my life, what I don’t have, what I’m afraid of. (He’s doing it right now as I type this post.) This is the kind of positive thinking power that I can believe in.

It’s Biblical, straight from the source, without unintentional mangling by human teachers. Don’t trust me. Go look it up, read the surrounding verses for context, read several translations. (You can read from over a dozen translations at http://www.biblegateway.net.)

I’ve been searching and learning a lot in the Bible about how to build a great life and a great business. I’ve read a lot of books and articles on neuroscience – the science of the brain – and much of it underscores what God tells us in simpler terms in the Bible. Focus on the positive, be grateful, bring everything to God, and you’ll find peace. Or in more worldly terms, what you focus on is what you will find more of.

I’m super excited that this all came together for me. Finally! 😀 Now I have a much better idea of how to move forward in growing my business. I’ll work on being grateful and joyful regardless of whether God answers specific prayers with “yes” or “no.” I’ll focus on the positive, on what’s working, and take the problems to God without worrying about them. (That will be hard, but I’m going to keep trying!)

This will even work for decision-making. Not sure if you should buy that new item for your business? When you think about buying it do you have peace, or is there some doubt that today is not the right time? Is it true that you need it today, or can you wait? Which is the more admirable choice?

Trying to filter a decision through the above, I decided to wait a month before deciding if I’m going to sign up for a comic book convention I really want to go to. Yes, I’ll sell books and promote my work, but it will cost more money than I’ll make. Much as I want to go, I feel more peaceful about putting off the decision for a month, even though it’s possible all the tables will be gone by then.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying I’m right and other teachers are wrong. (Well, I’m not saying all of them are wrong.) But I can’t just blindly believe things because someone else says it. I don’t think you should either. Give this some more consideration. Think about what you believe and why.

I hope you find a way to move forward into a happier, more peaceful life. And perhaps both of us will find greater success in business because of it.

S’more Romance in Little Miss Lovesick – Free This Week

If you haven’t picked up Little Miss Lovesick yet, it’s free today through Saturday (August 18-22, 2015) on Amazon in all countries. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 3. I chose this portion because it’s the scene with the s’mores. 😉

My friend Rachel visited last week from Melbourne, Australia, and my friends here threw a s’mores party in her honor. Here’s a picture of her eating one of her first s’mores. You can just see her smiling around the bite. I, on the other hand, am getting melted marshmallow all over my hand. 😀

Rachel and Kitty eating smores

From Little Miss Lovesick, Chapter 3:

“Seriously, Sydney, our cute fishing guide was definitely hitting on you.”

“Which is precisely the reason I don’t like him already.” Technically, I was lying. He seemed nice enough. But I needed to put a stop to Em’s ideas.

“Yeah, right, I forget how that works. Only flirt with guys who ignore you. I always get that one wrong.”

I threw an orange peanut butter candy in her direction. “I didn’t come up here to flirt, I came up here to heal. Rebound relationships rarely last because they’re rarely healthy. I’ll get healthy, then start…you know, dating.” It felt weird to say it. When I moved to Traverse City, I assumed I’d never have to date again.

“Quoting another Internet guru? I’m telling you, flirting is a healthy way to move on. Trust me.”

Listen to her, urged Little Miss Lovesick.

I’ll admit, it did feel good to have the attention of a seemingly nice and definitely attractive man. And we were only here for the weekend. If Emily was wrong, we’d be safely home again in three days and I’d never see him again.

I sat up on my bunk and stared hard at Em. “You really think it’d be good for me?” Even though she didn’t have a boyfriend right now, she always seemed so confident when it came to relationships.

“Healthy and harmless.” She crossed a finger over her heart. “I swear.”

I ate some more of my candy, pairing up the brown ones with either an orange or a yellow and eating them two at a time. After a minute, I said, “Okay, I guess.” I looked up at Em again. “But don’t get pushy, okay?”

She grinned. “You’re going to feel so much better. Come on, let’s go outside.”

We wandered out and sat on the porch swing. It was in good shape, but it looked old. I liked that.

“This is the life, huh?” said Emily.

“Mmm,” I said as we set the swing in motion.

We both leaned back and closed our eyes. The breeze tickled the leaves and rustled them like quiet wind chimes. I smiled. I just might have to sit here the whole weekend.

Footsteps sounded down the porch. They got closer until they stopped and I heard another chair creak nearby.

“Ah, this is the life, huh, girls?” Patty’s voice floated over and we giggled without opening our eyes or changing the rhythm of the rocker.

“I just said those exact same words,” murmured Emily.

Creak, swish, creak, swish. The rocker lulled us into a lazy peacefulness. It felt soo wonderful. A few minutes later, more footsteps sounded on the grass, getting closer. I opened one eye and saw Matt coming toward us.

Patty waved. “Matt, this is wonderful. You and Ted have outdone yourselves.”

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” Matt said as he turned toward us and stopped. “I guess you were right about the swing.” He put one foot on the bottom step and leaned against the railing, nodding toward Em and me.

His wavy dark hair was tousled and messy. His eyes and his mouth always seemed to be smiling. I liked people who smiled a lot. Normally, I’m one of them. I thought about Em’s suggestion that I do a little flirting. How do you start again? I noticed his biceps and forearms were tanned and covered in muscle. Nice, but I couldn’t really say, hi, so how’d you get all those muscles?

Little Miss Lovesick by Kitty BucholtzHe is so sexy, crooned Little Miss Lovesick.

I closed my eyes again. Too relaxed to argue. Especially about that.

Patty laughed. “I didn’t unpack quickly enough.”

“Did you want to sit here?” I asked. I turned toward Patty, poised to get up.

“I can trade with you if you want,” Emily volunteered.

Matt grinned and Patty laughed. “No, no, no. You girls enjoy it. I’m fine for now.”

“Patty and my uncle argued all winter about whether he should bring up this swing. He insisted no one would sit on it, but it looks like he was wrong.”

“It used to be in my backyard. But we got a new one and I couldn’t think of a better place for that one than up here. Worst case, I’d sit in it every time I came up.”

“You all know each other then?” Emily finally opened both eyes.

“Oh, where’re my manners? Matt this is Sydney Riley and Emily Dodson.” The three of us murmured our acknowledgements. “Matt’s mother and I were best friends all through school.”

“And you still are?” I said.

“Well, she died when Matt was a boy.” Patty smiled in a motherly way at Matt and he smiled back. Smiles tinged with a bit of sadness. It made my heart ache a little. Seemed I was sensitive to anyone losing someone they loved.

“Are you going to build our little fire?” Patty asked, eyeing the bag in Matt’s arms.

“I can’t build a little fire. I can only build towering bonfires.” Matt’s eyes sparkled and Patty laughed. Her eyes widened and she said, “I know!” like there was a story there somewhere.

“What’s in the bag?” Emily asked.

“Hot dogs, condiments, s’more fixin’s, napkins—” Matt peered inside as he listed the contents.

“S’mores?” Emily interrupted. She stopped rocking and we looked at each other and smiled. “Hey, I know you probably need to get that fire started and, you know, watch it and all. We’ll set up the supplies for you, if you like.” She elbowed me.

The supplies Emily referred to were, of course, the s’mores makings. If you haven’t eaten s’mores on a summer’s evening, you haven’t lived. A big fluffy marshmallow toasted over an open fire until it was golden brown, then pressed between two graham crackers with a big square of Hershey’s chocolate. Yum. So good, you always wanted “some more.”

For s’mores, I could pretend to flirt. “We’re very good at setting up supplies,” I said in a mock serious tone. “We set up supplies all the time, don’t we, Em?”

“All the time,” she echoed, standing up. “Patty, don’t you think he needs help setting up the supplies?”

Patty waved her hand at us and laughed. “I’m sure he’d love your help. You all go start dinner”—she got up from her chair—“and I’ll reintroduce my seat to that old rocker.”

“Well, if you want to.” Matt looked at me like he wondered if I was going to play nice or not. I smiled brightly at him, hoping that was the right amount of flirtatiousness. He smiled and made a manly grunting sound, then led the way to the fire pit.

“Are you ladies enjoying the U.P. so far?” Matt asked as we walked along.

If you’re not familiar with Michigan, it’s surrounded by the Great Lakes so both land masses are called peninsulas. The Lower Peninsula is where Traverse City is, where I live. The Upper Peninsula is bordered by Canada on the north, and it’s mostly just called the U.P.

“Oh, it’s wonderful,” said Emily. “The flowers and the scenery — and we saw a bear on the way here! Very cool.”

Matt smiled at her contagious enthusiasm. (Everyone does.) “What about you?” He turned to look at me. His expression was kind and gentle. For a second, I wanted to put my hand in his and walk for a very long time. Not Little Miss Lovesick. Me. I wondered what Patty had said to him. Why else would he look at me that way?

I mentally shook myself and decided to go the witty route. “Hmm, I’ve found it to be”—I looked away—“damp and sticky.” I looked back to find the tug of a grin beginning around his mouth. I felt a bit of a tug around my mouth, too. I was tired of being mad at people. In fact, the little relaxation I’d gotten on the porch swing had helped a lot. There was no reason not to be friends. Or at least friendly. We’ll see about flirtatious later.

“Damp and sticky, huh?”

I noticed below his lovely blue eyes, a day or two of whiskers covered his cheeks. I never had to push Dirk to shave every day because he’s the kind of guy who wants to look professional seven days a week. I like kissing a clean-shaven man better than one with whiskers. But there was a certain charm to Matt’s unshaven state.

“Any chance of improvement in the forecast?” he asked.

I tried to act like I was thinking. “Mm, I think tonight is expected to be a vast improvement. A fire, food, fun — and s’more food.” I couldn’t help but laugh a little.

“Definitely, s’more food is in the forecast,” Emily chimed in. “Which will likely lead to s’more fun.”

Matt laughed. “Okay, point taken. I’ll get that fire going.”

We’d walked down a wide trail in the woods and into a small clearing. A firepit the size of a small car was in the middle. There were huge logs around it that I assumed were for sitting on because a piled of chopped firewood waited to one side. A couple picnic tables made up the balance of the man-made objects. The simple setting was perfect.

Matt dropped the bag of groceries on the nearest picnic table and walked over to the pile of wood, grabbing some smaller pieces. “Either of you know how to start a fire?”

Emily pulled the hot dog buns out of the top of the bag. She looked at me and grinned as she answered. “Sydney knows how to build a great fire.” My eyebrows rose. We had a gas fireplace at my parents’ house. You flipped a switch and had a fire. “She used to be a Girl Scout,” Em finished.

“No, I, uh, that was a long time ago.” I made a what are you doing? face at Emily. She nodded her head in Matt’s direction. Thankfully he wasn’t looking our way. Stop it! I mouthed with a glare. Building fires was one of the many things I did not learn how to do in Girl Scouts. This smelled like an Emily setup to me.

“Come help me get this thing going and you’ll have your s’mores in no time,” he said as he arranged the kindling in the bottom of the pit.

This is the point in the movie when the audience yells, “No! Don’t do it!” But like all movie heroines, I blindly moved forward, not knowing that this moment just might be the beginning of the end.

I walked over to Matt, feeling a little stupid, and stood there watching him. He took a long-nosed lighter like people use to light their fireplaces and started dry leaves and grass burning under some twigs.

“Hand me some more of that kindling,” he said. He pointed behind him to a little pile of sticks. I squatted down and handed them over, and he fed the growing fire.

What is it about a T-shirt and jeans that is such a turn-on? Twice in one day, I was admiring this man’s very fine rear end. Women complain about being ogled like a sex object, but we do a pretty good job of doing the same thing to men.

Matt backed up a couple steps as the fire burned higher. I nearly fell over in my haste to get out of his way. The contact I was trying to avoid happened anyway when he reached down and clasped my wrist, pulling me up. “Why don’t you move back a step. The fire’s going to be hot soon.”

Soon? The calluses on his hand tickled the inside of my wrist. I think the fire is too hot already. I was torn between trying a little flirting per Emily’s suggestion or backing up and getting away, far away. My not-yet-healed heart made the decision. I pulled back.

“Looks like you’ve got it going, so…I’ll just see if Emily needs any help.”

The words were barely out of my mouth before Emily called, “Oh, I’ve got it under control here. Matt, you need Syd to help you with anything else?”

Matt tossed another couple pieces of wood on the fire and backed up a little more. He looked over his shoulder at me and said, “Wanna help make some hot dog skewers?”

“Sure. What do you want me to do?” I tried to sound cheerful, easy-going, not at all intimidated by his presence or the fact that he was asking me to help with something I was clueless about. Hot dog skewers. How hard can that be? I could keep a comfortable distance between us. It’d be fine.

He pulled a pocketknife from his jeans and took a long, green stick from a pile on the ground. Unfolding the knife, he grabbed the end of the stick and, with a few clean hard swipes, had a perfect skewer for hot dog roasting and marshmallow toasting.

“Okay?” He smiled and handed me the knife and another stick.

I gulped and took the knife very carefully from him. Concentrate on the task at hand. Don’t think about his smile. I have a task. I can focus. This is good. I took a swipe at the stick. Not bad. I can do this.

I glanced up as Matt happened to look my way. He smiled. I smiled back. If a butterfly flaps its wings in your stomach, will there be a storm?

I looked back at the stick I held and took another swipe with the knife. Yes, concentration is good. The stick is looking fine. Just have a little knot here. Careful. I’ll cut it the other way.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Matt lean over, grab another log, and toss it onto the fire. The muscles in his arms were amazing.

I pressed too hard with the knife. It hit the knot and went flying along the wood toward my hand. Matt turned to me just as I nearly cut my thumb off.

“Whoa, there!” He jumped toward me and grabbed both of my hands in his, holding the knife hand away and looking closely at the thumb I nearly lost. “You okay?”

He’s quite a bit taller than me and he’d bent down to examine my hands for blood and missing digits. His face was very close to mine. I looked for the telltale ring around his irises that would prove he’s wearing blue contacts.

“Fine. I’m fine.” I felt like I was stuttering. “There was a knot.” I held up the stick, but I was still looking in his eyes. No contacts. Real blue eyes. I felt his hands holding mine. That was contact. I pulled away. After all, I didn’t know this guy. He could be a total lunatic.

He’s not a lunatic, he works here, said a Voice.

Remember The Shining, said another.

Patty knows him, so he must be safe.

But I don’t feel safe. I feel like I’m being slowly electrocuted. That Voice certainly had the right of it.

Matt let go of my hands and stood to my left, explaining to me how to safely sharpen the end of a stick with a knot in it. But there were too many other Voices and I couldn’t concentrate. I pulled the knife down the end of the stick and hit the knot again.

“Hold on, you’re going to hurt yourself.” Before I knew it, his right arm was around my back and holding my right hand. His left hand covered mine and he moved the knife smoothly over the wood.

I’d always wanted Dirk to teach me something in a romantic gesture like this. Like what you see in the movies. A man’s arms around the woman he cares for, showing her how to swing a golf club or swing a tennis racket or…

Or sharpen a hot dog stick. Oh geez, he smells good. I closed my eyes for a moment. Like sunshine and spices and…and fire. Matt shifted his weight. I could feel his entire body behind me. His breath moved my hair, which tickled my ear.

“You see?” he said. He moved the knife again, my hand still held in his.

Should I say no so he’ll stay? The Voice in my head seemed logical to me.

I know he was just helping me sharpen a stick without cutting my hand off. I know that. But it felt like being held. And I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been held. I don’t know if I moved closer or he did. But as the knife continued to move up and down the stick, I felt his body wrap around mine. I closed my eyes again, feeling content for the first time in months.

The knife stopped moving. I opened my eyes and turned my head to look at him. A bolt of electricity raced through my body. He must’ve felt it, too, because he pulled away suddenly with a surprised look in his eyes.

He cleared his throat. “And, uh, that’s how you, uh, yeah…”

Book Marks: The Little Paris Bookshop – Book Review by Carrie Kurtz

Little Paris Bookshop coverThe Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Summary From Goodreads

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

My thoughts on the book

It took me absolutely forever to read this book.  I can’t remember the last time I took this long on one book.  I just couldn’t seem to get into it!  There were so many 5 star reviews so I was surprised that I just couldn’t get with it.  I’m really disappointed…I so wanted to love this book.

The description of this book is absolutely lovely.  The owner of the bookshop “prescribes” books like a doctor prescribes medicine.  As a book lover, I was so enchanted by the very thought.  When the book arrived at my house I was like a kid at Christmas.

The beginning of the book seemed wonderful and I thought that I would be in heaven but then the more I read, the more uninterested I became.  I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, the storyline about the books “healing” people had already faded away, and I found myself becoming bored and kind of annoyed.  It no longer felt like the book that I had read so much about.  So disappointing.

I kept on reading, even though I really wanted to quit this book.  I rarely quit a book before finishing, but man…I really wanted to!  I actually started counting down the pages just wanting to be done with it.  Once again, so disappointing.

I’m not saying that this was a horrible book.  It just wasn’t a good fit for me.  Obviously, with all of the 4 and 5 star reviews, some find this book to be wonderful.  I just couldn’t connect with it.  And that really makes me so sad!  I desperately wanted to love this book.

*Note: I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Carrie Kurtz

 

Carrie Kurtz is a full-time mom and wife who can’t help but make time to explore new worlds in between carpooling and laundry loads. She’s trying to encourage a similar obsession with reading in her two children, and she’s grateful her husband supports her habit. She can be found at Carrie K’s Book Reviews

7 Steps to Building a Great Business and a Great Life

Where is my life going?I think about my purpose in life with some regularity, but particularly when I’m starting something new. “Am I doing the right thing, going the right direction?” is a question that comes up regularly when I’m on a new path. I think about those questions on my own, ask God to give me guidance and wisdom, and ask other people questions about purpose and direction to get their thoughts.

I was having some of those conversations last week. The question came up “Can you be great in the world if you’re not trying to be, if you’re not focused on trying to do great things?” On the one hand was the valid argument that your thoughts do a huge amount to guide what actually happens in your life, positively or negatively. On the other hand were all the stories of great men and women from a variety of circumstances across time who ended up doing something amazing without trying to BE amazing.

My question became: do I have to visualize being a great teacher and speaker and writer in order to be one, or might I find when my life is over that God used me in amazing ways that I couldn’t have orchestrated on my own anyway?

The answer to both questions – to a degree – is yes. Visualizing the accomplishment of concrete goals often opens up your subconscious to seeing things you hadn’t seen before that will get you to your goal faster with better results. Researchers have found that the brain uses muscle memory as much as any other muscle in the body.

But we all can think of times in our lives when things worked out in a way we didn’t expect and couldn’t have forced to happen by force of our will and actions. Sometimes it’s absolutely divine intervention. Sometimes the unexpected happens because of dozens of tiny actions (driven by your beliefs) over the course of time. If you hadn’t been visualizing your goal, you wouldn’t have noticed the opportunity that led you to the circumstance that suddenly gave way unexpectedly to something amazing.

Nevertheless, in my experience pursuing greatness as a goal will almost never lead you there. Pursuing money seems to be the same. And if that worked for you – great. But I have tried pursuing both and ended up farther away from them than when I started. Who knows? Maybe that’s divine intervention, too, so I won’t get distracted my actual purpose for my life. :)

What I do know is this. I talked to several people in the last week or two about whether you have to believe you’ll have an amazing impact for good on the world, or if just focusing on doing what you believe you should be doing is enough to end up at the same place. In the end last Sunday, I decided I would bring the conversation back to God and ask him to help me figure out how/where to focus.

Bible 1 Peter 5 picThe next morning the Bible app on my phone blinked the verse of the day. This time I felt like opening my actual Bible rather than the app. And I got my answer.

In 1 Peter 5, I had highlighted verses 2-4 and written in the margin, “My writing career! :) Nov 12, 2010.” In 2012, I’d underlined part of verse 2 and wrote “June 12, 2012” in the margin.

I read and re-read the first eleven verses. With a little bit of thought, and without taking things out of context but trying to apply the intention to my own situation, I saw a prescription for building a great business there.

1. Serve not because you must but because you are willing.

2. Don’t be greedy for money, but be eager to serve.

3. Listen to those with more life experience.

4. Be humble before God and men, and God will reward you in time.

5. Cast all your anxiety on God to free yourself from that wasted negative energy.

6. Be self-controlled and alert.

7. Understand there will be hard times, but God will give you strength.

I could go into each of those steps in greater detail, showing you how exactly I’m implementing them in my business. But I don’t want this post to be longer than you want to read. :) And you might get more out of it by thinking about how you can use these steps to build your life and business.

This passage in my Bible now has a new notation in the margin. “Reiterated Aug 3, 15.” I can’t wait to see what great things happen next!

BOOK MARKS: New Release Today – TRIAL RUN by Thomas Locke

Trial-Run-Thomas-LockeI’m thrilled to be part of the street team for Davis Bunn, who also writes speculative fiction as Thomas Locke. Today, his new book TRIAL RUN is out! Here is the teaser:

Where does perception end and reality begin?

Can your mind actually cause something to happen in the “real” world?

What happens when we throw out our conception of the limits of space and time?

When science, government, and big business clash, who will ultimately have control of our information, our privacy, and even our very thoughts?

One thing remains clear:

What you don’t know can kill you.

Personally, I think the book is far more interesting than the above promo copy makes it sound. :) It’s all of the above plus some really interesting characters who make you want to know what in the heck they’re doing and why! You can read a free sample of Trial Run here. There is even a video trailer for the book! And here is the review I wrote on Amazon:

I was hooked on the concept as soon as I read the short story prequel, Double Edge. I’m a complete neuroscience nerd and love the fringe science intertwined with known science in this story. The characters are all different and compelling, and you really get into why everyone is doing what they’re doing. Maybe the bad guys are a little too “bad-guy-like” but the other two groups of people make up for it.

By the last page of chapter 32 (almost halfway through the book), I was gasping at what I thought was happening! New and different and really exciting concepts!

The reason I gave it four stars instead of five was that it seemed to me – just my opinion – that the excitement kind of leveled off. It kept getting more intense till about three-quarters through, and then seemed to be the same level of excitement to the end. It was good but… I like it better when it just keeps getting worse until the last few pages, and you can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen. Also, there were some things brought up in the story that were SUPER INTERESTING and you didn’t get a good explanation, just an okay explanation, like you would find out more in the next book. I know it’s a series, but I like a book to feel finished to me, and I felt there were a few things left out.

All that to say, I LOVE this kind of psychological thriller! And I definitely want to read the next book! I’ve got to know what happens next! Haha!! I hope you like it, too. :)

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.DoubleEdgeQuoteGraphic_02-700x366

Double Edge is a free short story prequel, so you should definitely check it out. They also wrote better promo copy for it.  :)

Discover how it all began in this explosive prequel to Trial Run

There isn’t much that can throw Charlie Hazard off balance. But the mystery woman with the striking eyes and the intense request to follow her—now—just might accomplish it.

Knowing little more than her beautiful name, Charlie leaves his post as a guard at the Satellite Beach community center for what he thinks is just another risk-containment job.

But Gabriella, an experimental psychologist, has far more in store for him than protection duty—if the two of them survive the test.

Leave behind your perceptions of what is possible and race into the unknown corridors of human consciousness in this breakneck prequel to Thomas Locke’s Trial Run. Click here http://tlocke.com/fault-lines/ to download “Double Edge,” free from your favorite online bookseller.

And if you’re interested, this is my review of Double Edge:

I just finished this psychological neuroscience thriller and I can’t wait to read more! Thank goodness this short story is just the prequel to Thomas Locke’s new book, Trial Run, which is waiting on my bedside table. (Is it bedtime yet? Please say yes so I can go read it!)

I am a complete nerd when it comes to brain science and this story has got me reading as fast as I can. The characters are diverse and interesting and are leaving me with a dozen questions I hope are answered in Trial Run. If you are at all interested in what might happen the more we learn about how to manipulate the brain, you’ve got to try this short story! I think you’re gonna love it!

As you can see, I really enjoyed both stories. Try them out!  😀

Davis-Bunn-2015

 

Thomas Locke is an award-winning novelist with total worldwide sales of seven million copies.

His work has been published in twenty languages, and critical acclaim includes four Christy Awards for excellence in fiction and his 2014 induction into the Christy Hall of Fame.

Thomas divides his time between Florida and England, where he serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College at The University of Oxford. Visit Thomas at http://tlocke.com.

 

More 2015 Summer Movies I Can’t Wait to See

Here’s another edition of “More Movies I Can’t Wait to See!” Haha! I hope you’re enjoying watching all these trailers and planning your movie-watching calendars. (I am!) Click on the movie title to see the trailer. Enjoy!

PixelsPixels – opened July 24
This movie looks so ridiculous and hysterical! John and I laugh when we see the trailer every single time! A whole new take on alien invasion. This is going to be so fun!

Fantastic Four – opens August 7
I wasn’t a big fan of the last Fantastic Four movie, and I have read very few of the comics, but this trailer makes me want to see this version. Plus, I haven’t seen a Marvel movie I haven’t like in a long time, so I’m kind of an automatic buy with them right now. :)

Ricki and the Flash – opens August 7
You know how some trailers really make you want to see a movie and when you do, you realize the movie is nothing like the trailer? Well, we’ll see. It’s got Meryl Streep in it, so that’s a big plus. And there’s a great line: “It doesn’t matter if your kids love you. It’s not their job to love you. It’s your job to love them.” For now, this trailer has got me interested. Of course, I know I’ll be seeing it alone. Not a John kind of film! Haha!

ShauntheSheepShaun the Sheep – animated – opens August 7
I was practically jumping up and down in my chair when I first saw this trailer! I didn’t realize they were making a movie. Our friends in Australia got us hooked on Shaun the Sheep. The cartoons are hysterical. Same people who did Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. It’s gonna be great!

The Intern – opens September 25
I first saw this trailer accidentally back in mid-May, and I’ve been all but foaming at the mouth waiting for it to come out! Robert de Niro is the intern and Anne Hathaway is the boss! How’s that for a turn-around? Watch the trailer. You’re going to want to see this one! I’ve already got chick-flick plans with a girlfriend – woo-hooo!!

 

Are You Interested in Becoming a Self-Published Writer?

Hi friends! I know most of you are readers and not interested in writing, but I know a few of you are writers. So I wanted to tell you that I’m finally getting my online teaching going again. First up, I’ll be teaching and/or hosting several webinars over the next few months.

webinar; interaktiv; ausbildung; computer; e-learning; chat; voip; download; internet; learning; lehrender; educational; business; innovation; auskunft; isoliert; knowledge; konzept; lektion; lernen; network; online; weiterbildung; lehrer; training; workshop; kommunizieren; bildung; schule; schulung; web; seminar; moderator; studieren; symbol; tagungen; laptop; piktogramm; logo; technologie; text; wei§; wort; abbildung

The first two are this upcoming Monday, July 27, 2015, and Thursday, July 30, 2015. Both will run from 1:00-2:30pm Pacific time. There will be 60 minutes of quality teaching followed by 30 minutes of Q&A, all live via a webinar service. They’ll be both fun and informative. :)

If you’re interested, you can get more information from this post on my new website, Writer Entrepreneur Guides. If you have friends who are writers or who have been talking about it, I would love it if you would click the share buttons to your left! I so appreciate you helping me spread the word. :)

2015 Summer Movies I Can’t Wait to See

I already told you about a lot of the movies I’ve seen this year, but when I was watching Tomorrowland, there were so many trailers for more movies I want to see! Some look amazing and I know I’m going to love them. Others have piqued my curiosity enough to want to try to see them if I can.

Click the movie title to see the trailer.

AlohaAloha – Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, Emma Stone
I couldn’t decide if it was the Emma Stone storyline or the Rachel McAdams storyline that made me want to see this movie more. But I decided to use some of my birthday gift-cards-for-chick-flicks to see it. It was definitely a Cameron Crowe film – his stories have a unique touch all his – so it wasn’t really a romantic comedy. But I enjoyed it. Good story, great acting.

Poltergeist – Sam Rockwell
I’ll just start by saying, John will see anything with Sam Rockwell in it, and I’m right there with him. We had to see this movie. Unfortunately, we got busy with a bunch of things when it came out and when we finally had a minute to see it, it was out of the theaters. We’ll either catch it at the discount cinemas, or at Redbox. Bummer. I would’ve loved to get scared in the movie theater!

Entourage – based on the HBO TV series
I love Jeremy Piven. That’s part of why I let John convince me to watch the TV show with him years ago. But then all the other characters were so weird and funny and interesting that I just kept watching. Since we watched the entire six seasons of the show, how could we not want to see the movie? Again, it was playing for a few weeks, we were busy, we finally decided to see it the next Saturday, and it was already gone. Argh! So…we’ll have to see it at the discount cinema or via Redbox.

Jurassic World – Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard
I’ve been dying to see this since the first trailer!! Luckily, the timing was right and we saw it opening weekend. Awesome!! If you liked the first Jurassic Park, I think you’ll like this one. I heard it was written as if it were a sequel to that one. (I wanted to watch Jurassic Park again before seeing Jurassic World, but I couldn’t find it for rent.) Seriously, if you haven’t seen this yet, see it! (And if you’re not interested in dinosaurs, but you loved Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, see it!)

InsideOutInside Out – a Pixar film – need I say more? 😉
Another trailer that has me laughing every time I see it! There’s always a little fear that I’m going to expect more from a movie than it can give due to an excellent trailer, so I tried to keep my expectations moderate. But when we saw it, we both laughed out loud a lot. It was just plain lots of fun! Of course, for me in particular, I’ve found the concept funny from the beginning because it’s like my book, Little Miss Lovesick, with all those voices that are given their own names! Hahaha!!

Max – Thomas Haden Church
I’d never heard of this film, but the trailer played before Tomorrowland and it looked really heartwarming – and heart-wrenching. It’s about a dog who worked with a Marine and the Marine died. And then…well, watch the trailer. It looks great, doesn’t it? Much as I’d love to see this in the theater, I can’t go to the movies all the time, right? Haha! So I’ll probably have to rent it sometime. Alone. Because I’m sure it will make me cry. 😉

Terminator Genisys – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke
I loved Terminator 1 and 2. I had mixed feelings about the others, but I like the idea so I watched all of them in the theater. This one looks especially good! Here’s hoping! Because I am definitely going to see this one. I just have to find the time!!

Minionsso many great actors doing voices in this one!
All I can say is – watch the trailer! This is going to be one funny film. I can’t wait! And since it’s a prequel, we can then all go home and watch Despicable Me 1 and 2! (Again with trying to think of what day we can go. We need a weekend to just camp out at the theater!)

Ant-ManAnt-Manopens tomorrow!!!! Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas
I’ve been waiting months for this movie to come out! I only know a little about Ant-Man from reading The Ultimates, but Paul Rudd plays him in a way that is entertaining to me at least. Looks like another Marvel success! I can’t wait!

I’ll post another summer movie list with more these-look-awesome films for your consideration. Until then, enjoy all the great flicks! 😀

Book Marks: Go Away Home – Book Review by Carrie Kurtz

Go Away Home coverGo Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner

Summary from Goodreads

Liddie Treadway grew up on a family farm in Iowa where options for her future were marriage or teaching. Encouraged by suffragette rhetoric and her maiden aunt, Liddie is determined to avoid both and pursue a career.  Her goal is within her grasp when her older sister’s abrupt departure threatens to keep her on the farm forever.

Once she is able to experience the world she’s dreamed of, Liddie is enthralled with her independence, a new-found passion for photography, and the man who teaches her.  Yet, the family, friends, and life of her youth tug at her heart, and she must face the reality that life is not as simple, or the choices clear-cut, as she once imagined.

Go Away Home is a captivating coming-of-age novel that explores the enduring themes of family, friendship, and love, as well as death and grief.  This novel will resonate with anyone who’s confronted the conflict between dreams and reality and come to recognize that getting what you want can be a two-edged sword.

My thoughts on the book

I really enjoyed this book!  There were times that I laughed and felt butterflies in my stomach right along with Liddie.  Then there were times when I couldn’t believe what I was reading and I couldn’t stop crying as if I actually knew the people I was reading about!  Go Away Home was such a wonderful, beautifully written novel.  I couldn’t put it down!

In all honesty, Go Away Home could have been split up into at least three books and made into a series.  And, yes, I would have read all of them!  There is so much I want to say about this book but I am having trouble finding the words without giving spoilers.

Liddie Treadway is such a good character.  During her life, she makes a few poor decisions and some wonderful, smart decisions.  She goes through major hard times and still remains the strong person that you grow to love while reading this book.  Carol Bodensteiner created a lovely character in Liddie Treadway.  I recommend reading Go Away Home to anyone who enjoys reading historical novels.

*Note: I received a copy of this book from Lake Union Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Carrie Kurtz

 

Carrie Kurtz is a full-time mom and wife who can’t help but make time to explore new worlds in between carpooling and laundry loads. She’s trying to encourage a similar obsession with reading in her two children, and she’s grateful her husband supports her habit. She can be found at Carrie K’s Book Reviews