Archive for the ‘#openbook’ Tag

Recovering Stone-Chucker   4 comments

Feb 18, 2019

What was your best drop the mic moment?

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I guess it depends on how you define a “mic drop moment.”

Those who have followed my discussions on Facebook know that I don’t advocate for shutting down conversations, so quite often, when I could have a “mic drop”, I choose to let it go. I think mic drops are (mostly) arrogantly executed by people who believe they’re right and are unwilling to hear any evidence to the contrary. That’s not me (most of the time). I do believe I know some things a lot of people don’t know (and, I’ve tested that theory a bunch, so I have evidence to support my suspicion I’m right), but I like seeing a broad range of discussions and points of view. Sometimes they change my mind, mostly I’m hoping I can change their minds. If I do a mic drop, I’m shutting down that conversation and that rarely, if ever, changes anyone’s mind.

But I do have them occasionally. Often it’s not intentional. I’m a quippy person in my everyday life and I’ve gotten into some verbal sword-play and I’ve said something that caused the other person to go – “hmm, I can’t think of a comeback”. Since it’s not intentional, I don’t keep track. I don’t glory in it. I kind of think it was a failure because it stopped the discussion. A few times, though, I’ve had that person come back to me and say “You had a point and I changed my mind.” Good, but half the time, I can’t even remember what I said.

I had one to share with people on gun control (it really was a glory moment), but I changed my mind this morning after my pastor’s sermon mic-dropped a bunch of people in the congregation and I thought, yeah, there’s my topic.

The Bible is unequivocally clear that Christians aren’t supposed to participate in sin and I try to live my life accordingly. It’s been 27 years ago in December since I’ve drunk alcohol – not because I have a problem with alcohol. I’ve always been able to stop at one beer, wine, whatever and I’ve never really needed it to have a good time. But I take seriously that if I cause my brother (or husband) to stumble, I am as guilty of his sin as he is, and so, I chose to give it up and I don’t regret that. I don’t judge anyone for their ability to handle an adult beverage or two, it’s just that someone in my household can’t, so I judge myself accordingly. It certainly wasn’t a sin when Jesus turned water in REALLY GOOD wine, but it would be a sin for me to drink it because it stands a good chance of dragging my husband into what is truly a sin for him.

I also don’t cheat on my husband and that includes reading (or writing) books that have detailed sexual encounters in them because I take seriously Jesus’ admonition that if you commit a sin in your head, you’re as guilty as if you committed it with your body. I don’t judge you if you can read (or write) such books and feel fine in your marriage. It would be a sin for me. It might not be a sin for you. If you’re worried about it, consult your Maker, not me.

Lest you think I’m as pure as the fresh-driven snow, I’m not, and I don’t pretend to be. I slammed a lot of caffeine before writing this article, for example, and my heartrate informs me that is not treating the temple of God (my body) with the respect it deserves. I also still have some weight I’m trying to lose and that too is a desolation of God’s temple (my body). My lack of self-control assures me I am a sinner just like everyone else. My sins are just more socially acceptable than some people’s sins, but God isn’t a socialite, so I am without excuse.

Romans 2:1-11 is an interesting passage – I won’t post the whole thing here because it’s long, but it basically says (after talking about non-Christians in Chapter 1) – “Christians, you are sinners too, and you have no excuse for judging those who are non-Christians because God doesn’t see shades of grey when it comes to sin. And you will be judged if you treat non-Christians as if you are better than them because you’re not.”

My overindulgence in caffeine is not better than my husband’s past overindulgence in alcohol … just as an example. The teller of “white lies” is as much a sinner as the murderer. In God’s eyes, we’re the same, sinners one and all. The only thing that separates Christian sinners from non-Christian sinners is that Christians have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf as salvation. He bought out our slave contract, in essence. WE didn’t do that. He did and He did it for the whole world, we’re just the ones who have accepted it. Anyone else wanting to join us is welcome … by me anways and certainly by Jesus … but more on that in subsequent paragraphs.

Now, understand, paired with other passages of the Bible, this passage is not saying Christians are supposed to join the non-Christians in their sin. No, we absolutely are called to be a counter-cultural movement within society. But we are absolutely wrong if we think that makes us better than those who compose the cultural tide we’re swimming against. We’re all wading through the same cesspool, it’s just Christians have heard that rescue is upstream, not down.

The mic drop here is that many many conservative Christians are judgmental stone-chuckers and I’m not really innocent of this charge. I’m a recovering stone-chucker. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can look at people who commit sins, clearly know that they are committing sins, commit to not joining them, and just say “Yeah, your choice, I’ll pray for you.” This doesn’t mean I condone their sins by any stretch of the imagination. Just as I am still working on learning not to make excuses for my own failures, I am not going to white-wash the world around me. There is a lot of crap in my culture that I know makes God’s heart bleed for my fellow humans and so I (try to) refrain from those activities because I don’t want to embarrass my Heavenly Father, but there were a lot of people in the congregation this morning who walked out trying to justify their own stone-chucker behavior. I could see it in their eyes. They were a little pissed at the pastor, but in reality, they were more than a little pissed at the word of God, and that’s on them – that’s their sin and I’m called to not join my fellow Christians in their immorality either.

So, I didn’t do that. It was done to me and to the people sitting around me by a man (our pastor) with an incredibly tender heart and a son sitting in SuperMax lockup. Do I think my pastor might be a recovering stone-chucker? Oh, yeah! And, I know people in my congregation who are WAY bigger stone-chuckers than I am (some of them have recently written letters to the editor so that we know how judgmental they are) — but God doesn’t see it that way. In His eyes, my little tiny pebbles of judgment are the same as the meteors some of my fellow church-goers hail down on secular society. There is a fine line between recognizing that something is a sin that Christians shouldn’t participate in (and choosing not to participate even when there are big consequences for our refusal to comply) and using that knowledge as a bludgeon against an unbelieving world. I AM CALLED to NOT PARTICIPATE in the world’s folly, but I am NOT called to try to make the world conform to my morality. I’m supposed to be a spiritual salmon, swimming upriver, but not trying to change the river’s course. Let the river go where it will. I know my destination.

So, the mic got dropped on me this morning and I am without excuse. And, as with all mic drops, now that I’ve been rendered without defense, I get to decide what I’m going to do about it. Not “What am I going to do to other people about it”. Judgment of others is always the temptation, right? No, I must decide “What am I myself going to do with this knowledge?”

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Posted February 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What Is Truly Important   5 comments

Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and your pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

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The last few weeks’ topics have been hard, but this one is easy. There’s a lot of things I would regret losing in a fire, but I’d move on because those things don’t define my life, even though many of them are one-of-a-kind originals. I’d miss my daughter’s art and my mother’s furniture, the collectible jewelry and milk bottles. But I could live without them.

The one thing I would return for would be a table-top hope box that contains our archives. I’ve digitalized a lot of photos, even from my mother’s albums from the 1940s. Also in the box are my dad’s seaman’s papers (the only photo I have of him before he was 30, along with the only photos I have of my mother’s family (all six siblings and her parents) and Dad’s sister. My husband, who has a few family photos in there as well, included several of my old spiral-bound journals and there are discs of my writing. This winter, I finally got around to adding copies of our wills and important papers to the archives so that if something happens unexpectedly our son knows he can find the important stuff in the box. So, I would grab that because that’s our family history and my fictional worlds.

I’m thinking I might need a bigger box … or more digitalization.

 

Posted February 11, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Knowledge Illuminates   6 comments

If you could make one change in the world, what would it be?

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Good heavens! Just ONE? The world is way more complicated than that and you never know what long-term negative consequences even one small change might have.

It’s tempting as a Christian to say I would go back and have Eve not believe the Liar in the garden. Think of the untold pain we would have avoided if she’d chosen to listen to God instead of Satan. But if she hadn’t of disobeyed God, Adam would have … or one of their children. That’s the thing about free will — it is the capacity to do really stupid things and sooner or later, someone would have disobeyed God because it was the only choice (obey or disobey) they had under freewill, so we’d still be exactly where we are. So, I’m not going to waste my fairy wand moment on betting against humans being humanly stupid.

So, I googled the question and found this is a topic and people have a lot of ideas about what “one thing” they think would fix the world. And as I scanned through those lists most of them were either ridiculous (fix time and gravity, really?) or tyrannical (get rid of guns, free speech, political parties, parents raising children, force everyone to send their kids to public school, etc.) or they had severe unintended consequences that immediately leaped into my mind. These are the sorts of ideas that alternative speculative fiction writers eat up – the stuff of shows like “Sliders”. Change one thing and the world we live in might be utterly different. The difference might be good, and those proposing the change always think it will be, but some of us become speculative fiction writers because we can see the negative consequences nobody else wants to acknowledge. Even if things remain pretty much the same, that’s not a beneficial change, so why do it? Because you can and you’d like to control a few billion people? That’s not a sufficient reason to me. And, then there’s always the reminder that the Alaskan butterfly moves its wings and it causes a hurricane in Puerto Rico. I learned there were a lot of tyrants thinking tyrannical thoughts believing they would make a better world if they could just coerce others to their way of thinking, but I really didn’t come up with what one thing I would change if I could.

I made my own list and I kept crossing things out as unworkable, fraught with unintended consequences or tyrannical. As a freewill and natural rights advocate, I kept running up against the notion that I was violating my own principles with this list. I can’t force other people to do what I want and unless I know what the butterfly’s wings will wrought, I have no business with the power to change the universe. I can play around in my fictional worlds as much as I want, but where there are real-world consequences – take the fairy wand away from me and don’t give it to anyone else.

Still, I agreed to write this topic, so …. If there were one thing I would really want to change in the world it would be ….

I’d turn on the intellectual light bulb for people. I’d make them aware of a few simple principles – actually understand them.

  • There is a higher power above your own personal desires – call Him Jesus-God as I do, or something else, but Man (individual and collectivized into governments) is not the highest order in the universe. We will one day be held accountable by the higher power.
  • Only individuals make decisions and, therefore, are responsible for their actions. We exercise rights and have responsibilities. These are not granted by groups. They belong to the individual. Groups are merely a collection of individuals. There’s nothing special about an idea just because more than one person at a time agrees with it.
  • Order does not need to be imposed by a central authority (individuals acting in groups). Groups have no greater rights than the individuals that compose them. The only rules (as in rule of law) we need are those that protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own way so long as they are not injuring others. (This is termed “the non-aggression principle” for those who would like to study it further.)
  • Recognize that there is a natural harmony of interests among peaceful, productive people in a just society. Yes, there will sometimes be conflict among individual choices that will require individuals to adjust their plans so as not to aggress upon their neighbors. Individuals in conflict can work that out among themselves with reference to a higher power and the rule of law and so long as they are working it out peacefully, it’s none of their neighbors’ business.
  • Individuals must consistently apply these principles in order for a peaceful and just society to work. You can’t hold two principles to be correct at the same time and you can’t force other people to agree with you simply because you believe you’re “right”.

Okay, so that sounds like five things, but they all five must work together, so they’re really one thing. And I merely propose to turn on the light bulb – to grant the knowledge. The knowledge of those principles doesn’t force anyone to follow them, but once the light illuminates your interior spaces, it’s hard not to see the natural outcomes of tyrannical and inconsistent thinking and start acting to adjust your behavior. I’m speaking from personal experience here. It’s how I moved from political moderate, to conservative, to libertarian, to admiring voluntaryists/anarchists. When you become aware of your cognitive dissonance, you modify your behavior to align with the reality you’ve become aware of.

And, that knowledge, without any coercion or force required, I believe, would make a huge difference in our world without a lot of unintended negative consequences. People with the knowledge that they act as individuals and are personally responsible for their decisions and cannot rely on groups to enforce their wills on the unwilling would change their thinking and that thinking would change their actions and those actions would be peaceful because the initiation of aggression is disallowed. And right there – everybody refraining from acts of aggression (even the ones we currently don’t acknowledge as aggression) would change the world completely and for the better. It wouldn’t stop all conflict, but it would require us to negotiate compromise rather than force it.

Ah, can you feel the stress lifting from the world? I sure can!

Now, I’m really curious about what “one thing” my fellow blog hoppers would change.

Creative Destruction   4 comments

Are humans better at creating or destroying?

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What an amazing topic!

As with so many things, I don’t see this in black and white terms. Without a doubt, human beings have a history of destructive behavior. Wars, environmental damage, genocides, infanticide – God must weep to see His creation being so absolutely stupid. He created us to be nurturing and we spit in His face and put ourselves on His throne and started smashing the china.

It would be easy to look around our planet and judge, as some people do, human beings as destructive beyond redemption.

And yet we are the most creative species. No other species creates art like we do. Amazing paintings, music that takes our souls to the heights of heaven and the depths of hell, books that speak words that break our hearts and put them back together again … there’s just so much that shows how incredibly creative we are. We were created by the ultimate Creator, and a part of being made in His image is that we hold an incredible capacity for creation.

Image result for image of creative destruction economics

And then there’s this little-recognized and largely not understood concept of Creative Destruction. It’s an economic term. It means that as new technologies and economic sectors are created, old ones are often destroyed, but in the process of the destruction, the people displaced by that transformation end up with improved lives.

This has application in so many areas, including as a writer. I am currently happily wrestling with my perennial work in progress, “What If Wasn’t.” I think I am on Complete Rewrite #3 and it’s starting to look like a series (no real surprise there, I guess). I’ve killed a lot of darlings in the process – but in the debris of each editing, I find gems worth keeping and making better. Destruction and creativity are symbiotic processes.

I think humans are naturally better at destruction than we are at creativity because, since the Fall, we’re bent and we struggle to access the nature God created us to have. At best, creativity is a vestigial talent left over from when we were whole and complete, in full contact with the Creator. Destruction became our legacy when we divorced from His guidance. But because we are both, we live through this endless cycle of destruction and creativity, using the debris of our destruction as building blocks for our creativity, even as our creativity powers us forward into a future that leaves behind the technologies of the past.

It’s fascinating to view the cycle. In economics, it’s wonderful to see how the process of creative destruction has lifted so many people out of poverty. In history, it is stunning to see civilizations that have risen from the debris of prior civilizations. And, yet, there remains that destructive bent that believes that we must strangle others in order to get ahead. Whether we do the strangling in the board room or the capitol, we so often refuse to see that there is a better way based on individual striving in a society that allows both competition (which makes us strong) and cooperation (which allows for support where we’re weak). I see a lot of my daughter’s generation who are beginning to understand this and adopt a live-and-let-life strategy to live, but there are so many voices today that couch destructive messages in touchy-feely rhetoric. It is hard sometimes to know whether we are improving or devolving, but that too may be a cycle of creative destruction.

And now we should head off to see what my fellow authors think on this subject.

Posted January 28, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Don’t Worry … Write   5 comments

What keeps you up at night?

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Yeah, I maybe think this is a funny question.

The world is full of anxiety and that’s plenty of reason to toss and turn instead of snuggling into your pillow. The government is shut down! A caravan of migrants is storming the US-Mexican border. Nancy Pelosi is a hag! Donald Trump is an idiot! Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to raise tax rates. The national debt is fast approaching $22 trillion (that actually is slightly concerning). The stock market dropped yesterday. Romaine lettuce has e-coli or ghiardia or something. Your cell phone’s battery might blow up if it overheats in your purse. Oh, my gosh, the sky is FALLING!

David said to his son Solomon: “Be strong and brave! Do it! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic! For the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not leave you or abandon you before all the work for the service of the Lord’s temple is finished. 1 Chronicles 28:20

King David knew a thing or two about anxiety. He spent a great deal of his young life trying to soothe a madman and then spent a large chunk of his adulthood running from the wrath of that madman. I’m sure he didn’t sleep well at night under Saul’s roof and I’m thinking the caves he hid in while running from Saul weren’t very comfortable. And, yet, he told his son not to be afraid or panic because God was with him as he planned to build the largest building ever built in Jerusalem at the time. Don’t worry. Get busy.

Of course that is easier said than done. There are so many things in this world that demand our attention, that drag us away from peace with God (if in fact we possessed it in the first place). Certainly the media today wants us to believe the end of the world is right around the corner. I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the media is working to make people more anxious than they’ve ever been or need to be. Why? Because it drives advertising. So I don’t watch a lot of broadcast media anymore and I try to consume other media that are solutions-focused and/or libertarian in view, because the focus is not on anxiety, but on what you can do.

I’ve personally had a lot of reasons in my life to be anxious and afraid. I’ve lived through natural disasters. I grew up in a boom town with less-than-perfect parents and lots of men willing to pay big bucks for sex with young girls (I preferred poverty). I married a less-than-perfect man. Brad’s a great guy, until he starts drinking and then he’s not and he’s given me all kind of reasons to worry about dark and bad things. But all that anxiety never changed anything. It didn’t make those dark and bad things not happen. And when sometimes those dark and bad things didn’t happen, I found I’d wasted a whole night worrying about nothing. You see how that works? And, oddly, when I quit panicking and just started sleeping through the nights, I sent a message to him that his crap no longer stressed me out. There is something really weird about alcoholics where when they think their addiction is no longer the center of your soap opera, they’ll decide to do something about it. Once I gave up trying to fix him (which was what was making me so anxious), he made the decision to save himself not because he thought I wanted him to save himself, but because it was now important to HIM and that’s who it needed to be important to all along. So much for the usefulness of all that worry. I wish I’d discovered loving detachment and sleeping through the night years before I did.

Now I have less-than-perfect children. I love them. They’re extremely talented, intelligent, brave and generally lovely people. They do things that concern me, that make me anxious about how they are living their lives. But, they’re adults and I’m the mom that taught them to be brave and unafraid even when you don’t necessarily feel brave and unafraid, so … Yeah, I don’t have any control over them and that falls under that proviso to accept the things (or people) I cannot change. And someday I’m going to look back on those times when I wanted to worry and chose not to as times when they were actually being sensible and I didn’t know it. How do I know that? I was a young person with a mom once and now that I look back, I see she probably worried more about me than she needed to. She just should have given herself permission to sleep through the night.

So, these days, what keeps me up at night? Random questions about whether my dog brings the ball back because she thinks I enjoy throwing it. The aurora (although not much this winter because we’ve entered a solar minimum). I can spend hours freezing my toes and earlobes standing on our deck watching ribbons of colored light dance across the sky. And I go to bed relaxed and refreshed, having seen the hand of God. I am utterly in awe of God’s creation and even though I live in a disaster-prone state, I am not at all anxious for fear of extreme weather or earthquakes. I’ve prepared for those, you see.

Conspiracy theories keep me up, but only because they inform my fiction (apocalyptic writer, yo!) Writing keeps me up. I stayed up until 2:15 am the other night when I had work the next morning because I was so deeply into a scene for my WIP “What If Wasn’t” (which is totally not an apocalyptic). I let my characters experience the anxiety and I … just don’t. I draw on my own past experiences and just pour those memories onto the page. Anxiety makes great dramatic tension, but I don’t live in a fictional book – thank you, God. There’s no need to hit the panic button in real life – 95% of the time.

And, yeah, that’s easier said than done, but I’ve had a lot of practice, so I’m kind of good at it. And, when I’m not – well, we’re all works in progress.

Posted January 21, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Evaluating the Goods   2 comments

Have you ever been duped by a so-called service to authors? And what is the best service you’ve ever used?

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Let’s face it. There are a lot of services on offer for independent authors. There’s cover services, editing services, advertisement services and so many more. It’s hard to sort through all of them and find the legitimate services from those working a con job.

I am largely immune to straight-up grifts. I grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, land of the gold miner, where miners with hard luck stories would ask my father for loans and my mother would say “no”. So I grew up learning was a con job looked like. If it sounds too good to be true … it is.

Of course, I’ve given some services a chance and been disappointed. I don’t think they were running a number. I think they just weren’t the right service for my book. I’ve had mixed success with marketing groups. As an example, Books Go Social just didn’t get any traction so I dropped them after a year. I have lots of friends who swear by them, but I didn’t see even a blip from my books that was attributable to BGS. I might try them again in the future, however, because I think they’re legitimate and, now that my books are selling better, maybe BGS would push them to a higher level. Sometimes what’s a poor investment at one stage is a better investment at another. You just have to remember that investments are always a gamble, even if the marketing group is a known one. But if what they’re offering sounds too good to be true … yeah. And that has kept me from actually be duped by any services. Thanks, Mom!

I’ve used some really good services of my five-year journey and the best service I’ve used was Dyane Forde’s editing service, which I used for my latest book. She is professional, fast and honest and she addressed my shortcomings in a kind, but uncompromising manner. She’s trying to get her business off the ground, so if anyone is interested, here’s a link. https://deliatalent.wordpress.com/services-and-projects/

Now hop on off to see what my fellow bloghopping authors have to say on this topic.

Posted January 14, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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What To Eat In the Apocalypse   3 comments

January 7, 2019

Share a recipe for a food that comes from one of your books.

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Eating is a fundamental human activity, an activity that is both necessary for survival and inextricably connected with social function. Eating habits and rituals, the choice of dining companions, and the reasons behind these behaviors are fundamental to fostering an understanding of human society.

As such, the characters in my books eat on a regular basis – except the characters of Transformation Project will being going hungry in some future books because that’s what happens in the apocalypse. While they still have resources, however, I do focus on what they eat because eating is a fundamental human activity and food so defines American culture in the 21st century. It will provide a nice juxtaposition to their hunger in later books.

In Day’s End – Book 4 of Transformation Project (published in November 2018), the Delaney clan gathers for breakfast and to discuss what to do about a horde of people headed their way, running from winter without electricity. Although the conversation is deadly serious and heart-breaking for the participants, Jill Delaney makes the quintessential family dish of French toast and so, that is my recipe for this post.

Emmaus French Toast

Bread (preferably whole wheat, but also homemade white or sourdough. It needs to be kind of tough)

Eggs – 1 egg for every three slices of bread.

Milk or half-and-half, about a half-cup per egg.

Sugar – teaspoon per egg.

Vanilla extract – half-teaspoon per 4 eggs

Cinnamon – (optional, to taste)

Warm a griddle to medium hot, coat with shortening or vegetable oil (butter will burn).

Whip the batter into a loose slurry in a wide and shallow bowl.

Soak bread in batter on one side until fairly heavy. (I prefer French toast batter-soaked rather than just coated, but you can adjust to your personal preference) You want the batter to soak into the bread. Flip. Allow to drain somewhat as you pulled it from the batter.

Place on griddle. Allow to cook until you can see the egg mixture on the bottom start to dry. Flip. Remove when the egg mixture on the bottom is starting to dry.

Dress with butter, syrup or whip cream.

As the Emmaus community is running out of resources even as they are eating breakfast, they didn’t have this option, but you can also adorn with fruit or a side of bacon or sausage.

Food is such an integral part of the human experience and what is on the table of my characters can set a mood and say so much about the world they live in. For example, as “French toast” is eaten in France to make use of bread that’s getting stale, you might infer that Jill Delaney might be facing a bread shortage in the near future or that she had a lot of refrigerated eggs to get rid of now that she has no electricity and must rely on her son-in-law’s farm-fresh (unrefrigerated) eggs going forward. There’s reference in an earlier book to not pasturizing the family eggs, only the ones for sale. In building the community culture of Emmaus I tried to think ahead for future books and drop hints that could mean everything in later books.

Posted January 7, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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