Gratitude: The Art of Being Thankful – Guest Post

GRATITUDE:
THE ART OF BEING THANKFUL
by
Vickie Phelps
Genre: Non-Fiction / Inspirational / Devotional
Publisher: Inspire Books
Date of Publication: July 11, 2017
Number of Pages: 92, 4.5″ x 6″
 
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This ninety-two-page gift book is a compilation of devotions, poems, prayers, and lists of things to be grateful for. The difference between having what you want and having what you need is a principle some people never grasp. In the reading of this book, you may realize you have much more to be grateful for than you were aware of.  Use this little book as a daily devotional or pick it up at random times to remind yourself that you are a blessed individual.


PRAISE FOR GRATITUDE: THE ART
OF BEING THANKFUL:
This little gem of a book arrived before we left on vacation, so I took it along. It became our shared devotional and ‘thought for the day’ outlook…and colored our time away with gratitude. This unique discovery is one to treasure.” – 5 Star Review, Amazon verified purchase 

 

GuestPost

Guest Post by Vickie Phelps

For the past year and a half, I’ve been putting together a little gift book on the subject of gratitude. It’s a compilation of devotions, prayers, scripture, quotes, and lists of things to be thankful for. Before you think that I did this to teach you something, or because I think people aren’t thankful for what they have, let me assure you that I did this for myself as much or more than I did it for anyone else. I wanted to think about all the things I have to be thankful for. I wanted to remind myself of what I have. I wanted to jot down verses and quotes that I could whisper to myself in the middle of the night or when bad times come. I wanted to list those things that I sometimes take for granted and open this little book once in a while to refresh my memory.

For many years, we have lived in a country that has been prosperous and blessed. But I think we forget just how much we do have. It’s only when we experience some kind of loss or someone close to us does that we tend to think about our blessings. Often we think of blessings as big things, but sometimes it’s the little things that make us stop and think. Like the time a tornado swept through our town and left a lot of people without electricity. Suddenly, we couldn’t brew a cup of coffee, use our hair dryer, or turn on a light. If you’re a coffee drinker, like I am, you were fretting the next morning after the storm because you didn’t have that cup of coffee to start the day. You either had to do without it, drive to a restaurant or fast food place that still had power, or maybe hook up a generator for a limited power supply. And then Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the Texas coast, and we watched those people suffer great loss. And it wasn’t just our state or country, but all over the world, people were losing their homes and sometimes family members as a result of storms or some other tragedy.

All of these situations made me take a second look at how blessed I am, and I wanted a record of it. I wanted to write down my thoughts about these blessings and what I had to be thankful for. And I wanted to share those thoughts with others. The result is a little 92-page book titled, “Gratitude: The Art of Being Thankful.” I hope it will bless you and maybe you will make your own list of what you have to be thankful for.

Vickie Phelps writes to encourage, inspire, and influence. She has published 200 articles, devotionals, and essays in more than fifty magazines and contributed to several anthologies. Vickie is the author of the novels, Postmark From the Past,Moved, Left No Address, Waiting for Joy, and a devotional book, Psalms for the Common Man. Vickie is co-author with Jo Huddleston of the gift book, Simply Christmas, and Writing 101: A Handbook of Tips & Encouragement for Writers. 
 
 
 
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Veterans Day

Military LogosDuty, Honor, Country is not a mere slogan to the men and women who wear the uniform. It is the creed by which they live.

The oath of enlistment or oath of office for commissioned officers states “I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” These are not mere words either, but a promise to serve and protect the country and its citizens in peacetime and war.

Sunday, November 11th is Veterans Day; the national holiday will be observed on Monday. It will be a day in which the President of the United States places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, usually followed by speeches from various dignitaries honoring the men and women (past and present) from all branches of the military. All around the country schools and organizations will celebrate by flying the American flag, singing the National Anthem and renewing the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. And in just about every American city people will observe of the holiday with parades, barbeques and Veterans Day sales.

In quieter moments those that truly understand the commitment and sacrifice required of military families and service members will reflect on loved ones currently deployed in hot spots around the world and those who have died fighting for their country. In many instances the thoughts of aging veterans like me will be of brothers and sisters in arms with whom we had the privilege to serve. These were individuals we trusted to always have our backs and whom we stood beside in good times and bad. Because time erases memories the names and faces of everyone we knew may have faded, but we remember time and place and circumstance and long to rekindle those bonds. I served twenty-four years in the US Army (1973-1997) in assignments that spanned the globe. In each of those postings I was thankful for the men and women, enlisted and officer, who served alongside me. Some became lifelong friends, many I lost track of, while others  succumbed to the passage of time or never made it home.

To each and everyone of you… a heartfelt Thank You. 

 

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen: My Review

Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen Book CoverDaughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird is a remarkable story written by a gifted author. For anyone unfamiliar with the historical figure Cathy Williams, she was a former slave who hid her gender to enlist and serve as Private William Cathay in the 9th Cavalry (the famed Buffalo Soldiers) in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Little is known of her life so it took someone with a great imagination to fill in the gaps. She begins by establishing Cathy Williams’ pride in her African heritage. It will be her strength in all that she endures as a slave, as a contraband who follows the Union Army and serves as a cook for General Philip Sheridan until the war’s end, and as the only woman to have ever fought the Apache on the Texas frontier in an all male unit.

Were the character not plucked from the annals of history, the notion that a woman could hide her femininity over a two-year enlistment period from her fellow soldiers would be incredulous. We know that she in fact did, but pause to consider the lack of privacy she faced living in a barracks with nothing but men or while on patrol in an unforgiving terrain, all the while having to prove herself equal to her counterparts.  How did she do it?

It is a testament to Sarah Bird’s imagination that she is able to provide plausible explanations and even weave a credible love story into the mix. I absolutely loved her description of this period in history. The dialogue is spot on and her characters are flesh and blood people who actually lived or who seamlessly interact with those that did. This is historical fiction at its best.

Sarah Bird establishes Cathy Williams as a heroine that few will have known anything about before reading her novel, but who will resonate and remain with them long after the last sentence in the book has been read.

 

The Guns of August: My Review

Guns of August Book CoverAuthor Barbara W. Tuchman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1963 for The Guns of August. Fifty-five years later her book remains one of the best sources for understanding the prelude and first thirty days of what would become known as the Great War.

We are all familiar with the horrors of World War I – trench warfare, the ebb and flow of Allied and German advances across no man’s land using outdated tactics in the face of barbed wire, withering fire from machine guns and heavy artillery, and the inhuman use of mustard gas. Combat related casualty figures were a staggering 8.5 million killed and 21 million wounded. Civilian casualties exceeded six million from food shortages, malnutrition, and disease. The ensuing influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 even exceeded these figures with an estimated fifty million deaths worldwide.

How this conflagration began is the subject of Tuchman’s book. It suspends what the reader already knows about the war to focus on its genesis. Historians point to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as the event that lead to four years of slaughter, but this was but the excuse to launch the German Army (700,000 men) through neutral Belgium toward Paris. The Germans had put together a timetable for victory known as the Shclieffen plan that they began executing August 4, 1914. The two front battle plan had been developed and proposed by the chief of the German general staff as far back as 1905.

The French also had developed a plan to counter the German attack which was known as Plan XVII. Rather than rely on defense it envisioned a bold strike into the heart of Germany to recapture the territories of Alsace and Lorraine that had been lost in the Franco-Prussian War. It relied heavily on French courage rather than sound tactics. Mounted cavalry attacks and bayonet charges failed to take into account how warfare had changed.

The first twelve days of the war came to be known as the Battle of the Frontier. During this period it was all but certain that Germany would prevail. The next eighteen days would become known as the Miracle on the Marne with retreating allied forces regrouping and turning the tide. However, German forces had penetrated so deeply toward Paris that the war would drag on for four more years.

Tuchman recounts the momentous decisions that lead to the stalemate and the military commanders behind them. It is a testament to her ability to fully humanize these historical persons that we find ourselves fully immersed in the times and events, and learn what really happened as well as what it felt like for the people involved.

This is a great read for any historian or reader who seeks to understand history!

 

 

The Whole Damn Cheese: Character Interview

THE WHOLE
DAMN CHEESE
MAGGIE SMITH BORDER LEGEND
by
BILL WRIGHT
Genre: Biography / Texana 
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 
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Publication Date: October 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 160 pages with B&W photos
Anecdotes about Maggie Smith abound, but Bill Wright’s The Whole Damn Cheese is the first book devoted entirely to the woman whose life in Big Bend country has become the stuff of legend. For more than twenty years, Maggie Smith served folks on both sides of the border as doctor, lawyer, midwife, herbalist, banker, self-appointed justice of the peace, and coroner. As she put it, she was “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. A beloved figure serving the needs of scores of people in Big Bend country, she was also an accomplished smuggler with a touch of romance as well as larceny in her heart. Maggie’s family history is a history of the Texas frontier, and her story outlines the beginnings and early development of Big Bend National Park. Her travels between Boquillas, San Vincente, Alpine, and Hot Springs define Maggie’s career and illustrate her unique relationships with the people of the border. Vividly capturing the rough individualism and warm character of Maggie Smith, author Bill Wright demonstrates why this remarkable frontier woman has become an indelible figure in the history of Texas.
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Character Interview

Inside Maggie Smith’s Mind:

An Imaginary Interview with the Whole Damn Cheese

PART 2 OF 2

Click to read part one featured 10/18/18 with Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Q: Now tell us about one of the weddings you attended and how you conducted that wedding.

A: Well here’s a story that combines a wedding and birth. I was invited to a wedding in Mexico. I was asked to be the “madrina” which is like a best man, except in Mexico, they have a best woman. And well, when we got to the little ranch for the wedding we were told that there was a woman who was real sick. She had rode twelve miles to come to the wedding, and she was expectin’ a child. So I went into this room where they had her and they had her tied up into the ceiling with a goat hide underneath her.

Q: Standing up?!

A: Yes. That’s some belief—I don’t know what—in Mexico. So, I had ‘em cut her down and I delivered a baby boy they named Henry after our 12-year-old Henry who was there that night. Well, the family took the baby home after the party that night. The woman rode the horse twelve miles home with that baby, back to Mexico!

Q: There’s a story about some cattle you saved. Tell us about that.

A: That was at Paisano Pass—a gap in the mountains in Presidio County. I stopped there during a blizzard while moving cattle. It was real bad weather and it took us five months to move the cattle from a ranch below Sierra Blanca, down on the river, to a ranch at Carrizo Springs. I was in my early 20s when I made that trip.

Q: You believe that you have the BEST treatment for a rattlesnake bite because it saved the life of your son-in-law, Madge’s husband, twice. Tell us how that story goes.

A: Well he and my younger daughter, Leila, were getting’ a boat out of the river and he stepped on a cottonmouth water moccasin that bit him twice on the foot—he was barefooted. There was no car—we had taken a part of our cart and sent it to town to have it replaced. So I took powdered alum and kerosene and put it in a five gallon can and packed his foot in that. I kept the mixture ‘til it would turn green, and then emptied it and put more in there. Of course, I had a LARGE sack of powdered alum! It was three days before the pickup came from town and we could git help. He went to the doctor in Alpine and the doctor said that it was perfect—that his foot was all right! He took a blood sample and most of the blood was clear. I guess that saved his life, because they said cottonmouth water moccasins have a deadly bite.

Another time I didn’t have anything like that, and they brought this Mexican in—he had been bitten by a rattlesnake on the back of the leg. They brought him from across the river at Boquillas. That time I took a live chicken and slit it down through the breast—I don’t have a queasy stomach—and wrapped this chicken around his leg. I believe the beating heart pulled the poison out. Anyhow, it worked!

Q: As you said yourself, you were “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. You were also known to be an accomplished smuggler. What did you smuggle?

A: I prefer not to answer. And by the way, I really don’t like talking about myself. Can’t we talk about the country instead?

For thirty-five years Bill Wright owned and managed a wholesale and retail petroleum marketing company. In 1987 he sold his company to his employees and since then has carved out a remarkable career as an author, fine art photographer, and ethnologist. He has written or contributed to seven books, and his photographs appear in Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
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The Encouragement Letters: Excerpt

THE ENCOURAGEMENT
LETTERS
by
SHANNA SPENCE
Sub-genre: Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Date of Publication: November 22, 2017
Number of Pages: 180
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WILLIAM CROMWELL, at age eleven, knew what it was like living with new changes. In 1865, Manchester, England a new textile factory moved into town and after a tragedy that befell him and his mum, they struggled to live. With so many things going on in his young life he wanted to be the encouragement that his father was to him.
As everything changes along with terrible hardships, just maybe the hope he gives to the growing town will find its way to Will…
PRAISE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT LETTERS: 
This was such an uplifting wholesome book! It was so nice to read something positive about a time when people were so willing to step in and help someone in need without expecting anything in return! I couldn’t put it down!– 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

Excellent read!! This story speaks to people in all walks of life. It is encouraging, sweet, and funny at the same time. I would recommend this book to anyone needing to see what it means to “treat others as you want to be treated.” — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

A very inspiring book from a great new author! — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

A charming tale of a simpler time. Yet, the message is ageless. I congratulate Ms. Spence on this her first effort and look forward to more entertaining reads from her in the future.— 5 Stars, Kindle reviewer
Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER TWO

OF THE ENCOURAGEMENT LETTERS

BY SHANNA SPENCE

          Mrs. Cromwell was home cutting up a few vegetables that she managed to get that day. She had a couple of good days of work, repairing some work trousers for an older gentleman and made a few aprons that she sold. Work was getting harder to find. Most days, he thought she would skip eating just to make sure he could get enough to eat. After all, he was a growing boy!

          As she prepared a small meal, Will studied his mother for a moment. She had grown paler and thinner. She had dark circles under her eyes and hollowed cheeks.  Her dress hung from her thin shoulders. He felt a pang of desperation. I just don’t know what to do for her, he thought. Suddenly, a coughing spell hit his mother after she cleared her throat and had a sip of water.

          “Tell me what you are thinking, my son,” Mrs. Cromwell said.

          Will wasn’t good at hiding his emotions. Mrs. Cromwell looked at him and saw what she thought was fear. William’s father died with a cough; not his mother too!

          “Nothing at all, Mum. Why do you ask?”

          “Well, the look on your face is troublesome to me. I know you must be worrying again.”

          “I won’t lie, Mum, you look thinner to me. Have you been eating?”

          “Now, William, you know I do!”

          “You must not be eating much. You look like you have lost some weight.”

          “Tsk, stop worrying about me. I’m fine! Now, go wash up for dinner.”

          With that, he went to the wash basin and washed his hands, still feeling uncomfortable with his mother’s response. I will keep an eye on her.

          As the days passed, Will noticed that his mother took her tea and ate nothing for the mornings. He could not tell if she ate anything for lunch while he helped Uncle Henry. For the evening meal, she ate, but he was unsure if it was enough.

          He had to do something to get more food for them. He could not allow them to starve. It was one thing for his mother to have no work, but not to be able to eat was another thing.

          I know what I can do! I’m going to plant a garden! Will thought. At least we will have vegetables to eat. Let’s see, I have to figure out where to get some seeds.

          Will lay down after reading some of his father’s letters that evening. He knew he had to get another letter out and was wondering to whom he could write a letter. What I will do tomorrow is go to town to scout out some seeds for the new garden and I will look around for inspiration to write a letter. With that as his last thought, he fell fast asleep.

          The morning came early for Will. He jumped out of bed, dressed, and was out the door before the morning tea.

          “Have a good day, William. Don’t forget to pick up your school work for the day!”

          “I won’t, Mum. See you this afternoon!” Will said as the door was closing behind him. Will ran most of the way to town. Again, he stopped from time to time to get the pebbles out of his shoes. The holes in his shoes were getting bigger.

          I’m going to have to try and patch those holes soon.

Shanna Spence is a wife, mother, and registered nurse of over twenty years. She has written poetry since the age of thirteen and always dreamed of writing books. Raised in a small East Texas town, she pursued a career of nursing in Dallas, Texas but eventually went back to East Texas to settle down and raise a family.
Now she finally has found the time to fulfill her dream of writing stories that will hopefully bring out the imagination in others — as well as inspiration. She is currently living in Longview, Texas. 
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Old Buildings in North Texas: Excerpt

OLD BUILDINGS
IN NORTH TEXAS
by
JEN WALDO
  Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 213
Scroll down for the giveaway! 
After rehab, Olivia, a 32-year-old cocaine addict, is required to move back in with her mother and pregnant sister. Having left a promising career in journalism in New York, she’s now working as a sales assistant for a family friend in her home town in North Texas. 
Under pressure from her court-mandated counselor – an old high school friend – to take up a hobby, Olivia decides on “urbexing.” Soon she’s breaking into derelict homes, ex-prisons, and old drive-ins across North Texas, and it’s not long before she’s looting state property and making money off the possessions, fixtures, and fittings that have been left behind.
 
Old Buildings in North Texas is about a modern woman’s search for personal equilibrium and wild adventure — the attempt to find stability in existence without losing sight of what makes life worth living. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, tackling social and moral transgressions with incisive observation and vivid humor.
PRAISE FOR OLD BUILDINGS IN NORTH TEXAS
“A lot of Jen Waldo’s debut novel takes place out on the porch of Olivia’s mother’s house. […] With its casual, confidential tone, Old Buildings in North Texas puts the reader in one of those porch chairs, reclining on a warm evening with a cool drink.” — The Skinny
Old Buildings in North Texas is an amusingly written and well worked book” — Trip Fiction
 
“This novel is an absolute blast. There are serious moments of course, but Jen Waldo looks for the comedy in everything to create a memorable scenario that reminded me very much of the style of Six Feet Under.” — Shiny New Books
 
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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM

OLD BUILDINGS IN NORTH TEXAS

BY JEN WALDO

“What are the twelve steps?” my sister asks.

“Six steps. One, accept that you’re out of control; two, lean on a higher power; three, confide in a sponsor; four, make amends; five, replace the old life with a new one; and six, help others though their addiction recovery.”

“Are you doing all that stuff?” she asks.  “Is it working?”

An honest answer would disappoint her. The stripped-down truth is, I’m a broken-down truck in a country driveway. I doubt my sincerity as regards the recovery steps. I try to communicate with a higher power, but it seems hypocritical when I’m not even sure I believe in one. I’m in debt and I’m stashing secret money. I’m keeping secrets from my mother and my therapist. I’m disingenuous with my parole officer. I’m sneaking and stealing.

Am I making progress? Yes, in my recovery, I am; and it’s slow and it’s difficult.  But my goal is to get better, not to be better. Maybe in the future I’ll be wise, generous, and productive; but at this point, I am what I am—a self-absorbed addict with murky morals. Chloe was right when she said I’ve traded one addiction for another. Slipping into buildings, taking things and selling them, watching my bank account grow—these aren’t things a good person does. But they’re things I do.

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 

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