Things That Make Me Smile No.193: Steampunk Glasswork

Follow my smiles for a bit, and you might figure out I find blown and shaped glass fascinating. Similarly, I love gears, mechanics, and steam-powered technology. While this video does not show the crafting of the steam engine, the glasswork is described, and because the medium is transparent, you can see how a Stephenson’s steam engine functions. It’s a perfect blend of my interests and a wonder to behold. Be sure to have the volume on so you can hear how it sounds.

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5 Interesting Links for 01-03-2020

Note: Videos may auto start with sound so be prepared.

Assistance (Disability)

The improvements offered by the Americans with Disabilities Act still require better implementation and social changes because the requirement to ask for help carries its own burdens. The strain of approaching strangers, along with the potential humiliation of having to reveal personal details, is often met with resistance even when the legal obligation exists. It’s not a simple act even without considering additional social limitations. (Via EDEN)

History (Science)

Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī, a Persian polymath and prolific writer, recorded an interesting, well-developed theory of evolution some 600 years before Darwin.

Art (Street Art)

Some amazing examples of street art with photographs of the area or building before and after the transformation.

Psychology (Treatment)

The adoption of mindfulness as a treatment for any emotional distress, regardless of the cause, has helped develop a large for-profit market often on the backs of social suffering. One early example is how the Southwark Council in London, UK, offered mindfulness counseling when it evicted people to replace social housing with expensive units sold to foreign investors rather than addressing their housing crisis. It is hardly the only one. (Via David Bridger)

Technique (Writing)

The word “synopsis” often sends terror through the hearts of writers, but writing a synopsis offers opportunities that might be overlooked. This article goes through the ways a synopsis can help you, both before writing the book and after. I know a novel idea is ready when I can put together a viable initial synopsis. It doesn’t have to be polished or perfect, but it shows me the story is now full grown in my back brain and ready to come spilling out.

First Contact Cafe
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Fortune’s Fresh Start by Michelle Major

I haven’t been a dedicated follower of the Fortune family romances, but the ones I’ve enjoyed combine conflicts around economic imbalance with characters trying to find their roots. It’s a strong enough connection that this title caught my eye when I was looking for a contemporary romance to read. Add in two small children, and this book hits one of my sweet spots.

Fortune’s Fresh Start earns its title because Callum Fortune, after failing at his first marriage, has decided he does not have what it takes to maintain a relationship. He’s unwilling to hurt those he cares for, nor does he want to experience that pain himself. Instead, he throws everything he has at making the latest renovation project succeed. This ignores, as he does, all the energy he pours into making sure his four sisters and three brothers are happy and cared for.

In walks Becky Averill with her twin daughters and strong spirit. She is tough, capable, and able to achieve whatever fate puts before her, or so it looks on the outside. Like Callum, she fears any sign of how ragged her life as a widowed mother of two toddlers is will bring her parents or the authorities to rip her away from a town she loves and even take the twins away. She closes herself off from everyone to hide her struggles, but Callum has been the one to step in unasked since his mother needed help with his younger sisters when he was a child.

Their economic disparity is a minor subplot compared to how both need to learn to trust and love again. Becky isn’t aware of how she holds herself separate, friendly, but not friends, with many. Almost without realizing it, she comes to rely on him, the first man to raise feelings since Becky’s husband died in a car accident when she was pregnant. The trust he provokes gives her the confidence to make real friends and accept offers of help as kindness rather than pity.

Callum knows he denies himself. He’s so sure he’s right, he’ll throw away the most important thing to happen in his life, and break one adult and two little hearts doing it. But despite his confidence in this, he is drawn to Becky and her daughters, unable to keep himself away even when he knows he should.

Their relationship develops from instant attraction into something deeper every time they cross paths. But Callum keeps shying away, which confuses Becky and frustrates his siblings. Becky might be intimidated by his wealth and unsure what he sees in a struggling single mom, but with a little help, she could make her own good fortune in helping him come to terms with his past.

This book shows the complications of dating with small kids and an active, involved family. It is set in the welcoming community (with hints of conflicts to come) of Rambling Rose, Texas, and has low detail, but open door scenes. I enjoyed spending time with the main characters, and the way their greater relationships shored them up until they were capable of accepting each other. If you like babies and strong communities, you might enjoy a visit to Rambling Rose.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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Things That Make Me Smile No.192: Maker Faire Mechanicals

Here is a quick, yet perfect, example of the wonder and creativity of Maker Faire to entertain you as the year comes to an end. Welcome to the Age of Innovation…the Victorian Era.

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The Cowboy’s Belated Discovery by Valerie Comer

The Cowboy's Belated Discovery by Valerie Comer

This isn’t my favorite of the Saddle Springs Romance series, but it belongs to a tough crowd. There’s a solid story with growth in both trust and understanding as Garret and Tori come to terms with the fact that they deserve happiness.

Where I called many of the others “inspy lite,” this one pulls strongly on the Bible to inspire the characters to change and grow. With the way the citation followed every biblical verse, and they were numerous, it almost felt like the characters quizzed each other. However, true to the series, this book is not about faithful who had fallen away from God, but rather actively faithful who needed to remember God is active in their lives as well. They already understand God is not causing the tough times but have forgotten He’s there to see you through those times and into a brighter future.

Garret’s past hangs around his neck like a yoke, binding him to a path filled with sorrow, betrayal, and abandonment. He sees a flaw in himself that brings pain to anyone who gets close. Instead of chancing that, he holds himself apart and gives his friends a superficial connection, for their protection, sharing the fun and easy times while hiding his pain. He believes if his friends find out the truth, touch the deeper side of Garret, they will abandon him as everyone else seems to one way or another. Garret’s self-condemnation is understandable, whether or not I agree with him.

Tori feels connected to Garret almost from the start, but he seems oblivious. After five years, she’s about ready to give up on receiving anything in return. That doesn’t mean she’ll abandon him in his time of need, but she needs to figure out her own future…one without him in it.

On some level, maybe it’s instinct that draws them together, sensing how both of their lives were driven by circumstances rather than choice. Their goals are similar, to choose a future rather than drift, but Garret must come to terms with his past, and Tori needs to recognize she is allowed to dream.

Tori caused me the most trouble as a character, and with the heavily traditional message in some scenes, I worried she reflected that theme rather than owning her opinions. She’d never had the chance to pursue her dreams, and by the point of the story, she’s half sure she doesn’t have the right. Circumstances may have made the decisions for her in the past, and I don’t disagree with those choices, but she seems to see love for Garret and love of teaching as a binary equation. To accept or pursue one means the loss of the other. This bugged me in the beginning because, while I’m all for compromise in relationships, a foundation laid in a truth denied is unlikely to last. Not giving anything away, but by the end, it’s clear Tori’s awkward presentation was not author intrusion, but her growth point when Garret’s struggles held the center stage through much of the beginning.

You may have figured out this is not an easy or light read. It digs deep, and more than a few of the events cut a little too close to home for me. Also, while I mentioned the quizzing, all those biblical verses strengthen and focus the characters. Not only that, but as with the other books in the series, there are moments of humor to lighten things up that simultaneously give characters an opportunity to reflect. The presence of a strong community offering support and connection when most needed continues to be a standard as well. Ultimately, though not shying away from the painful moments, whether past, present, or future, this book shows how it’s not too late to act, hope, and/or accept the help of those around you.

The book offered a lot to think about with strong characters facing difficult challenges. While it isn’t my favorite, it still lives up to the expectations I have for the series, and I’m happy to have spent this time with the characters. For those worried the Saddle Springs Romance series is drawing to a close, there is one more book to come, and if I’m not mistaken, at least two spinoff series twinkling in Valerie Comer’s eye.

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