Advent Anticipation = Delays

Advent 2016 Updates from Author Erin McCole Cupp

By Andrea Schaufler (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

 

On-the-ball news

Tomorrow, December 8, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. It’s a perfect day to read “Working Mother.”What if Mary had to get a job? WORKING MOTHER #ebook by Erin McCole Cupp

“Working Mother” is my novelette that answers the question, “What if Mary had to get a job?” It’s only 99 cents, and it’s a quick read, but if you struggle with Mommy Guilt of any variety, “Working Mother” will be a balm to your soul.  I promise.

Updates on Passed Deadlines

Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December has been moved to Sunday, December 11 at 7pm Eastern.  God willing.  Click on the SRBT link at the start of this paragraph for more information.  This month’s focus will be COMPASSION.  This month’s featured fiction will be: Chime Travelers Book 4: The Strangers at the Manger by Lisa Hendey (Children’s); Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch (YA/clean New Adult); and Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk (adult romance).

Vanished, Book 3 (as in third and final) in The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan is now scheduled for a December 28, 2016 release.  We ran into some scheduling snafus with the cover designer… and with the author, if we’re being truthful here.

 

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

Hey, there.  Long time no proper blog! I’m hosting Carolyn Astfalk as she shares the news about her latest romance, Ornamental Graces, so please read on! I’ll be talking about Ornamental Graces at my December 4th Sabbath Rest Book Talk.


Inspirational Romance that brings the reader the joys of Christmas all year long: ORNAMENTAL GRACES by Carolyn AstfalkAfter his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend.

Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her.

Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there?

An inspirational Christmas romance that spans every season.



Ornamental Graces on Amazon

Ornamental Graces on Goodreads

Pinterest goodies, recipes, and other extras for Ornamental Graces


Read an excerpt from Chapter 1: Sortir du froid (Come in from the Cold)

It had come to this. Daniel Malone sold instruments of torture just to keep food on his crappy Formica table for one. Of course, that probably wasn’t how others saw it.

They were bringing home a piece of the outdoors, a symbol of the season, a reminder of Christ’s nativity and resurrection, the eternal—evergreen—promises of God. Dan had seen things that way too before the past year took everything he had and shredded it with a mulcher. Mustering his remaining whit of self-respect, he’d succumbed to desperation and now sat in a drafty shack waiting for the next giddy Christmas revelers to select a fresh-scented, needle-dropping nightmare.

Okay, so maybe the trees weren’t exactly torturous, but he’d had enough of rough bark, sticky sap, and sharp needles to last a lifetime. After this, he’d be an artificial tree enthusiast—if he bothered to put up a tree at all.

Inside his small, weather-beaten shack, the one he’d assembled mostly from leftover wooden pallets, Dan couldn’t smell the fresh, evergreen scent, the only trait of Christmas trees he still enjoyed. Instead, the odor of burnt coffee lingered though he hadn’t made a pot in days. He never cared for the taste, burnt or not, but he had needed something to keep him awake during the long, boring hours when no customers visited his lot.

The space heater at his feet gave a death rattle, and its electrical hum ceased. He kicked it with the tip of his boot. Nothing.

Great.

Dan folded his large frame under the wooden table that served as his desk and jiggled the wire where it entered the cheap heater. It knocked against the laminate floor remnants and hummed to life. A blast of warm air hit his face and then penetrated his boots. As he sat upright, he glanced out one of the two square windows and spotted a young couple beneath the lights in the rear of the lot.

The man had lifted a Douglas fir from where it leaned against the rope Dan strung across the lot. He stamped its trunk on the frozen, dry ground a couple times and then twirled it around so the woman could see every side. It was a woman, wasn’t it? No telltale pink gloves or hand-knit, sparkly scarf. No expensive boots designed for gawking rather than walking. Just a puffy, navy jacket and white tennis shoes. It could be a skinny dude.

The person spent less than three seconds observing it before planting hands on hips and signaling disapproval with a shake of the head. Yeah, definitely a woman.

Dan rolled his eyes. Another one. If nothing else, this job had given him an unforgettable real-life lesson in male-female dynamics—a lesson that would’ve been helpful a couple of years ago. The man would ferret out the best-looking tree, well-shaped and full, and the woman would turn up her nose, forcing them to cycle through four to seven more trees before one met her approval—sometimes the same tree the man had first shown her.

Poor sap. He had at least three more trees to go.

Dan grabbed his gloves from the table, pulled the lined hood of his jacket over his knit cap, and made for the door. He knew from experience that if he wasn’t standing at the ready the moment the woman found the one, he risked losing a sale.

Dan glanced down to kick aside the rags that kept the cold air from creeping beneath the entrance. He twisted the knob and used his hip to shove open the door. The wind nipped at his bare neck, so he zipped his jacket over his beard and past his chin. He strolled toward the couple, expecting to see them examining another tree. Instead, he witnessed a scene that could serve as a death knell for any romantic relationship.

The man leaned toward her, gesturing wildly with one hand while the other clasped the tree trunk. When his hand dropped to his side, the woman yelled something Dan couldn’t quite make out and kicked the guy in the shin. He hunched to rub his injured leg, and she swatted his back with her gloved hand. The tree careened forward, hit the ground, and sent out a small spray of dust and gravel.

The man regained his footing, gave the woman a light shove, and stomped down the row, out of Dan’s line of sight.

The shove hadn’t been forceful, but Dan decided he should probably check to see that she wasn’t hurt. And that his tree hadn’t been damaged.

A small, white puff of breath billowed in front of the woman and then dissipated. Unaware of Dan’s approach, she crouched down and seemed to search for the best place to get a hold of the trunk. She muttered something to herself, the words unintelligible.

Dan stood beneath one of the overhead lamps, casting a shadow on the tree.

She rocked back onto her heels. “I’m sorry.”

Light brown eyes with amber flecks peered out from under long lashes and a worn, gray knit hat. He expected a huffy, controlling glare, not that doe-eyed innocent look that reminded him of his oldest sister, especially with the twin rosy patches blooming on her fair, winter cheeks. She wore no trace of makeup, but by his estimation, she didn’t need any.

She moved to grab hold of the tree.

“I got it,” Dan said. From the kick and the whap she’d given her companion, Dan knew she didn’t need his help, but the scrap of chivalry he maintained required him to at least offer.

“I didn’t think he’d drop the tree. I make one little suggestion, and . . .” She growled. “I should’ve kicked both his shins, the big jerk.”

Dan raised his brows. No way would he interfere in their lovers’ spat. He’d right his tree and head back to his shack. She could stay out here and fume about her boyfriend or husband or whomever he was as long as she liked. He set the tree against the line and brushed the needles from his gloves.

“Did you see which way he went?” She stood and squinted towards the parking lot.

“Uh—” He jerked a thumb in the opposite direction. “Walked off that way.”

Her gaze followed the path he’d indicated. Beyond the tops of the Christmas trees, a neon sign glowed in the narrow window of an aluminum-sided building. The front door swung open and shut as a couple of rotund men in flannel jerseys exited and thumped down the five wooden steps to the sidewalk. The unlit sign affixed to the second floor read: The Watering Hole. Beneath it, a smaller, vinyl sign read: Voted Pittsburgh’s Favorite Hometown Hangout.

The woman huffed again. “I should’ve known. He only told me three times I was keeping him from relaxing with a beer.”

Dan knew it was none of his business, but in an effort to wrap up the uncomfortable conversation and retreat to the relative warmth of his shack, he asked, “You going to join him?”

She let out a scoffing laugh. “I’d sooner army crawl naked over broken glass and a swarm of scorpions than sit in that stinky rat hole with him. I’ll wait.”

Dan suppressed a smile and shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

He retreated to the shack, closing the door behind him, and toed the rags back toward the base. He dropped onto a folding chair and rubbed his gloved hands together. Not feeling any warmth coming from the heater, he nudged it with his boot until warm air circulated at his feet.

He gazed out the window, expecting the young woman to have gone back to her vehicle, but instead she stood beneath the light where thick snowflakes landed on her hat and jacket. She rubbed her hands together and jumped up and down, presumably trying to warm herself. Maybe the guy had taken the car keys with him.

The snow came down harder, sticking to the cold ground. The wind gusted, blowing the flakes against the side of the shack. The woman clapped and did some kind of awkward hip-wriggling, bouncing jig to keep warm.

He didn’t want company, especially female company, but his heart would have to be colder than his toes to let her stay out there when he had four walls and a roof, paltry though they were. He cracked the door and called to her.

“You can wait in here if you want.”

She jogged toward him, her heel sliding on a patch of black ice partially covered with snow. Her arms flailed as if she were making a snow angel in mid-air before she caught her balance and stumbled forward, her cheeks redder than before.

He pushed the door open wider, and she slipped in. A blast of cold air followed.

“Thank you.” Her teeth chattered, and she hugged her arms close to her body.

“You want some hot cider?” He motioned to a miniature slow cooker on the battered table in the corner. The pot and its contents came courtesy of his sister Colleen. The strangely odorless, brown liquid didn’t tempt him, but maybe it would help warm her.

“I’d love some, thank you.”

He stirred the cider, ladled it into two mugs, and handed one to her. Now the spicy, warm scent of cinnamon wafted through the cool air.

She slipped off her gloves and wrapped her hands around the steaming mug. After blowing on the hot liquid a couple of times, she raised it to her lips. “Mmmm. That helps.”

Dan opened a metal folding chair and dusted the cushioned seat with his glove. He set it on the side of the table opposite him. “You can sit.”

“Thank you.” Her pink lips turned up in a small smile. She sipped her cider, draining the mug in no time. It must have worked in warming her because she unzipped her jacket and slipped the hat from her head.

Luxurious auburn-brown tresses spilled onto her shoulders, dark and luminous. His gaze traveled her back as her hair cascaded down. How could he have mistaken her for a man?

Her magnificent hair mesmerized him, but otherwise her features were pretty but not glamorous or beautiful like—

No. He would not allow her to invade his thoughts.

He turned his attention back to the cider and took a sip. Not bad. “I’ll, uh, keep an eye out for your . . . your boyfriend? Husband?”

She sputtered and covered her mouth with the back of her hand.

“You okay?”  He didn’t need some stranger choking in his ramshackle workplace.

She nodded and cleared her throat. “He’s not my husband or boyfriend. Robert is my stupid, know-it-all brother.”

“Oh.” Dan lifted his chin in acknowledgment. “Whoever he is, I’ll keep a lookout.” It explained their unnecessary roughness. He had four older sisters, and he’d admit to having shoved them a time or two. Not that he’d treat another woman that way.

“My name’s Emily.” She extended her right hand. “Thanks for letting me come in out of the cold.”

“You’re welcome.” He took her small hand in his and gave it a firm shake. “Dan Malone.”

She withdrew her hand and laid it inside her jacket, over her heart, her expression pinched.

“Are you okay?”

“Uh, yeah. Just . . . that was weird.”

He had no clue what she was talking about, nor did he want to know. She wouldn’t be hanging around much longer. He hoped. He’d give the guy another five, ten minutes before he went over there and dragged him out himself. Apparently they were no longer in the market for a tree. Another lost sale, and only one day left before Christmas Eve.

“I don’t know how Elizabeth puts up with him.”

Dan raised his brows. Should he have known who Elizabeth was?

“His wife. He can be such a blockhead. Insists it’s ridiculous for me to get a real tree when I’ll hardly be at my apartment for Christmas. But he can’t let it go at that. He’s got to lay into all the old spinster jokes.”

“Spinster?” Dan peered at her through squinted eyes. She couldn’t be more than twenty-three.

“I know, right? I’m not even twenty-five.”  She flung her hair back and pouted.

Dan shrugged. “I’m twenty-eight. Guess that makes me an old bachelor.”

She smiled, and it lit her face. It was a reserved smile intended to be polite and nothing more, but it made him wonder. When would a woman smile for him again? Not at him, at something funny he said or did, but because the joy he brought her couldn’t be contained.

He hoped never.

Dan switched on the radio, wanting to fill the dead air with something other than silence, and dialed through four stations before he found one that wasn’t playing Christmas songs.

The woman’s eyes, Emily’s eyes, glimmered, and her lips turned up as if she were suppressing a laugh.

“What?” It was his shack; he could listen to whatever he pleased.

She shrugged. “For someone selling Christmas trees, you seem intent on avoiding the sounds of the season. I understand passing over ‘Santa Baby,’ and ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,’ but ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘O Tannenbaum’?”

“It’s not Christmas yet. When it’s Christmas, I’ll listen to Christmas carols.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but Dan pointed toward the window to cut her off. “Your brother?”

Robert stood in the center aisle of the lot, snow swirling around him. He called Emily’s name as he turned in each direction.

“I should make him sweat,” Emily said, her eyes narrowed at her brother. She stood, zipped her jacket, tugged on her gloves, and grabbed her hat. “Thank you for the heat and the cider.”

Dan nodded.

“Oh, and I’ll take the tree. The one we were looking at.”

Dan rubbed his hand over his beard. Her brother may be a know-it-all, but she was one headstrong lady.

Chapter 2

L’un est le nombre solitaire

(One is the loneliest number)

Emily rubbed her boot over the blue ice-melting pellets on the sidewalk, crushing the beads beneath her toes. She scanned the end unit apartment building with its nondescript red brick, darkened windows, and green shutters. With her arms folded over her chest, she huffed and waited as her brother untied the twine holding the tree to the roof rack of his minivan. He’d spent the first ten minutes of their ride badgering her about her stubborn streak and her foolishness for—how did he put it?—“getting cozy in some love shack” with a strange man.

“All I’m saying, Emily,” he said as he stepped off the van’s running board, “is you can’t be too careful. You went behind a closed door with a guy you don’t know. He’s bigger, and he’s stronger. He’s got that Grizzly Adams thing goin’ on with the beard. Who would’ve heard you if you screamed?”

“Certainly not you, since your butt was glued to a bar stool in that dive.” Emily clenched her fists at her side. Robert had been smothering her with his overprotectiveness since their parents died seven years ago. If she didn’t know his concern was born of love, she may well have strangled him by now. “If you hadn’t stomped off to the bar, leaving me stranded in a blizzard, I wouldn’t have been forced to sit in that rickety shanty with Scrooge, the tree salesman.” A closed-off Scrooge, who obviously didn’t want her there.

A twinge of guilt stung her conscience. Maybe she wasn’t being fair to Dan. He had been kind enough to welcome her in out of the cold, but even a wallflower like her could tell his invitation was grudging. Sitting uncomfortably in his folding chair, he’d only contributed curt responses to the conversation. He was a man well-practiced in avoidance.

Had Dan not told her his age, she would have guessed older—maybe late thirties? With a hat pulled low over his forehead and a scruffy beard and mustache bristling the lower half of his face, the only clues to his age had been his eyes. Those hazel irises guarded more pain and weariness than a man in his twenties should harbor.

“Earth to Emily. You gonna get the door for me?” Robert stood at the edge of her walk, the tree hoisted over his shoulder.

“Oh. Sorry.” Emily jogged to the door of the three-story building and opened it.

Robert stomped the snow from his boots, dragged the tree inside, and balanced it against the wall.

Emily, fiddling with her keys, rushed past him to get to her apartment door. Jostling the key in the lock, she turned it and held open the door.

Robert trudged by with the tree, trailing green and brown needles. “Where do you want it?”

“In front of the sliding glass door.” Emily walked to the far side of her living area, which extended via the doors to a concrete slab patio outside.

The small apartment, nondescript in its pale walls and beige carpet, had been home for almost four years. Robert and her sister-in-law Elizabeth had protested when she announced she’d be moving out of their house, but she suspected they were secretly relieved. At the time, there had been three adults and three children under the roof of their 1,600-square-foot house. Since she’d moved out, they’d added two more children. While Emily appreciated their generosity, it had been well past time to strike out on her own. She’d moved less than two miles away, but it managed to give her and them some much-needed privacy.

“Okay,” Robert said as he adjusted the tree in the stand. “Hold on and let me tighten it.”

Emily steadied the tree as Robert lowered himself to the floor and slid beneath the lowest limbs. In several minutes, he secured the tree.

“Thanks, Robert. You’d better get home.” Emily glanced at the wall clock. If he didn’t leave soon, Elizabeth would be drowning in bedtime madness getting all the kids bathed and ready for sleep.

Robert groaned. “Yeah, don’t want to miss an opportunity to chase a wet, naked toddler down the hall, strain a turd from the tub, or read How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? for the thousandth time.”

Emily smiled. She knew from experience that his kids were exhausting, but his small home nearly burst with love and life. Will I ever have that kind of life, or am I doomed to always be alone?

She ushered Robert to the door with a kiss to the cheek despite his infuriating behavior at the tree lot. Before she bolted the door behind him, she remembered she hadn’t gotten the mail and padded out to the group of mailboxes in the entryway.

Robert called from the open door beneath the exit sign. “You’re coming for dinner on Christmas Eve, right?”

“Yep. And we’re still doing that seven o’clock children’s Mass, aren’t we?”

“Yeah. Hopefully they all fall asleep on the way home.” The door swung shut behind him.

Emily hugged an arm across her midsection to fend off the cold air and gathered her mail from the metal box with her free hand. As she shuffled back to her apartment, she sifted through the mixture of catalogs, bills, and junk mail, finding two Christmas cards.

She closed and locked the door behind her, then plopped onto the couch. Sliding a finger under the seal of the first card, she pried it open. The photo card showed the smiling faces of her cousin, his wife, and their children in matching red and green scarves, relaxing in front of a fireplace. Twice she turned the envelope of the second card over in her hands, looking for a return address. Nothing. The postmark only said “Pittsburgh.”

Emily opened the envelope and pulled out a card decorated with glittering poinsettias. A three-by-five-inch photo slipped out and landed in her lap. A blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned man in his late twenties stared up at her. The most handsome face she’d ever laid eyes on. The face of the only boy she’d ever loved. His arm wrapped snugly around an olive-skinned woman whose exotic dark hair, dark eyes, and flawless skin made her a natural candidate for Miss Universe. She possessed the kind of looks that made men—and women—stop in the street and take another look.

A text banner at the bottom read, “We’re Engaged! Save the Date: August 3.” Emily scooped up the card and photo along with the other mail and flung them onto her end table. She kicked off her boots and shuffled to the kitchen. Her stomach rumbled, and she realized she hadn’t planned anything for dinner. Scanning the refrigerator, she found only yogurt, fruit, and lettuce. Nothing appealed to her. Celebrating Bryce’s engagement to Miss Universe required carbs, specifically sugar and chocolate. She yanked open the freezer door. Pushing aside a bag of frozen baby peas and a container of leftover soup, she reached for the quart of Moose Tracks ice cream in the back.

Retail therapy befitted the rich or perpetually in-debt. Ice cream therapy? Now, that even an average-looking girl overlooked by men and boys of every age and race could afford to indulge.

“So, you’ve decided to take the plunge, eh, Bryce?” She lifted her spoon and gazed up, as if he stood before her. “You could’ve had the plain but virtuous Emily Kowalski, beloved by small children and dowagers. I see instead you’ve chosen beauty, which I’m sorry to say is shallow and fleeting.” She jabbed the spoon into the ice cream, digging for a hunk of chocolate. “So, boo for you.” She slid a heaping spoonful of ice cream over her tongue, slowly scraping the metal spoon between her teeth. Tears welled in her eyes, and she sniffed. “In your defense, Bryce, I don’t think you knew I could make pierogies from scratch.”

As her spoon hit the bottom of the paperboard container, Emily’s stomach revolted. When would she learn? She pressed her hand to her belly and moaned. This wasn’t the first time she’d drowned her disappointment and envy in empty calories.

After tossing the nearly-empty carton into the trash and the spoon into the sink, Emily plodded to the bathroom, uncertain whether or not her chocolaty meal was going to stay down. She stared in the mirror at her plain, ordinary face. Brownish hair, brown eyes. But her nose was cute, right? She bared her teeth. Perfectly straight (after thousands of dollars of orthodontic work). She wasn’t ugly. She wasn’t!

With a hard swallow to force back the rising tide of Moose Tracks, she breathed deeply and resolved to change. Lord, I’m tired of waiting for life to happen to me. You have a plan for my life, and I’m fairly certain it’s not written at the bottom of an ice cream container.

The nausea settled. She filled a Dixie cup with water and held it up. “Here’s to the new Emily.” She sipped and tossed back her long, thick hair, easily her best feature. She lifted her chin and, for good measure, added, “Amen.”

Get the rest of Ornamental Graces on Amazon today!


Carolyn Astfalk, author of spicy clean romanceAbout Carolyn Astfalk

Carolyn Astfalk lives with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the wind carries either the scent of chocolate or cow manure. She is a CatholicMom.com contributor and author of the contemporary inspirational romances Stay With Me (Full Quiver Publishing) and Ornamental Graces.

Upcoming Event: Day of Discernment

NOTE NEW RSVP DATE!!! NOVEMBER 22

(Extended from November 18)Meet the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, Lancaster PA!The Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary in Lancaster, PA invite single women under the age of 40 to get to know them online as well as in person.  The nuns welcome young women considering a religious vocation to attend a Day of Discernment on Saturday, November 26 from 9:00am-4:30pm at their monastery at 1834 Lititz Pike in Lancaster, PA.

In preparation for this day, the nuns also will be interviewed live on social media on Thursday, November 17, starting at 7:00pm through the Facebook page of Lancaster-area author and lay Dominican Erin McCole Cupp.

Get to know the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, Lancaster, PA!During the interviews, viewers will have an opportunity to meet some of the nuns of the monastery ahead of time and learn about their special charism and prayer ministry.  At the Day of Discernment, young women will have an opportunity to interact in person with this joy-filled community of cloistered nuns, take a closer look at what life is like living in a monastery, and experience the vitality of a vocation to lifelong intercessory prayer.

This event is free, but registration is required.  To register or to receive more information about the Day of Discernment event, or to arrange another time to meet the nuns and discuss a possible vocation, please contact Sister Mary Veronica, OP, at 717-569-2104 or info@opnunslancaster.org.  Additional information about the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary is available on their website.  RSVP by November 18, 2016.Get to know the Cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, Lancaster, PA

My Friends are Heathens

The release of Image and Likeness has me thinking a lot about art as evangelization, perhaps unintentional evangelization, but evangelization nonetheless.

I also finally have a kid who will sing along with me to the radio, and most of the songs I find us both singing are by Twenty One Pilots. (BTW, Disclaimer: their music isn’t mine.  I’m not making any cash off of them. I’m just sharing.)

Is their song “Heathens” art? Is it evangelization? Every time I hear it, I can’t help but think about evangelization, sharing Good News among bad.  Bad? Bad people? Bad news?

Take it Slow

Nobody wants to hear that someone else thinks they’re wrong.  I don’t.  You don’t.  We are wired to defend ourselves, for good or ill. We are social creatures, desiring unity, wound up to shun the one who disrupts it.  If you start off too soon telling someone that you disagree, that bond is likely gone.    Take it slow.

Wait for Them

“True Love Waits,” or so the slogan goes. Do you try to defend God’s love for your “heathen” friends because because you love them or because you just want to be right?

If you love them, you must wait for them to ask you Who you know.

Sudden Moves

Evangelization these days seems like it must take on the flavor of parallel play next to the cage aggressive.  Do you want your friend to associate you with growing trust or a bid for dominance? The former?  Please don’t make any sudden moves.

Abuse

As I work on trying to share Image and Likeness with potential readers, I keep coming face-up against the clashing definitions of love that divide our culture.  Is love the act of making someone feel good? Is love choosing what is objectively good for the person you love, even if it doesn’t feel immediately pleasant? That first definition is so short-sighted that, well… it often drives us into abusing each other, abusing ourselves: mentally, physically, emotionally.

We all live with that short-sighted definition of love.  We’ve all been abused by it.  We’ve all used it to abuse at varying depths.

We are all sinned-against sinners, isolated by the uniqueness of our own experiences.  You don’t know the half of the abuse.

Stay Away

Our culture, which is run increasingly not by objective ideas of justice but by that aforementioned short-sighted definition of love, keeps adding ways to mock into silence anyone who threatens that already shaky definition of love.  They want you to change your mind, to unsee what you’ve seen of objective truth, or at least shut up about it.  If you don’t shut up about it, you’ll make them feel bad, and making someone feel bad is now the antithesis of love.  That’s hate.  Isn’t it?  And hate should be punished.

They tried to warn you just to stay away.

One of Us

To the evangelizers of objective love , all that sounds like pretty bad news.  Not bad people.  Bad news.

Heathen friends are a dangerous place–okay, for themselves, but also for you… but not for the reason you think.  One of the ideas that can creep or take over the mind of someone set on sharing the Good News is this: we have to save The Lost.  Honey, we’re all The Lost.

We’re all behind these bars, bars of our own making.  It looks like you might be one of us.

Please Don’t Forget

But if you knew somebody who knew a way out, even if that way involved hacking away at rocks, bit by bit, then crawling through a sewer… wouldn’t you take it? Wouldn’t you escape?

Wouldn’t you?

You would… but only if you realized that you were in prison in the first place.

Open Book & Sabbath Rest Book Talk (November 2016)

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone.  In addition to reviewing books for #OpenBook, I’ve started a monthly event on Facebook Live over at my author page.  It’s called Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and in it I’ll talk about a few of the books I’ve read in the past month in terms of how they, as fiction, help us grow in humanity.

This month’s focus was on The Power of Story, or how fiction has the power to reach us in ways that real life just can’t.

October’s SRBT Featured Fiction:

Readaloud: Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPuccio

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: THE POWER OF STORY with Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DIPucchio, Illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

YA: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

(Special thanks to Sherrie of Sherrie’s Scriptorium for the recommendation via BookTuber Chelsea Palmer)

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: THE POWER OF STORY featuring A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd

Adult: Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body, co-edited by Ellen Gable and Erin McCole Cupp

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body available from FQP. See St. John Paul II's teachings on the meaning of human love in a whole new way. #shortreads #poetry #fiction #TOB

And here’s the November 2016 Sabbath Rest Book Talk video!

What are you reading?

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Image and Likeness Launch Day

At last, today is the day I’ve had in mind for nearly three years, when Ellen Gable first asked me if I had anything that might work for an anthology of Theology of the Body short stories.

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body available from FQP. See St. John Paul II's teachings on the meaning of human love in a whole new way. #shortreads #poetry #fiction #TOB

As I’d warned a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending most of my time on the Image and Likeness page.  Here, however, is where I get to speak not as an editor representing the whole work and all the authors whose pieces appear within the collection.  Here’s my author page, where I get to speak as just another author who has stories to tell, two of which got caught up in this anthology.

I’ve been working pretty hard.  I’m wondering if, in the world’s eyes, I’m working “smart.”  Am I working in a way that will give me some sort of return on investment?  I’ve poured a lot of time into this anthology, maybe even a bit of my health.  Will it be worth it? Will I break even in some fashion?

I don’t know.  I’ve done as many of the supposedtas as I possibly can, just as I have for all my other books.  Only this time I also have a troupe of other authors reminding me of all the supposedtas, giving me more, and correcting me when I fall short.  (BTW, that was not a type of pressure I anticipated coming into this project.  It’s been humbling, which is never a bad thing.)

Am I just selling stuff very few people want to hear? Nobody wants to hear that birth control might actually kill you.  Nobody wants to hear that we shouldn’t farm people.  And people aren’t exactly lining up to read that Mary, the Mother of God, was so much like us that it gives us very few excuses to pity ourselves.  Why should they hand over their cold, hard cash to find out that abortion just might be destroying people, that our definition of “love” might be pretty badly tweaked, that marriage is so bloody difficult even when your bodies do have corresponding shapes?

I mean, seriously, why? Who’s gonna fork over the Washingtons and the Lincolns to have someone point out that… they just might be wrong?  And hurting other people?  And hurting themselves?

Who?

Man, life is hard.  Writing is even harder.  Writing warning signs, “HEY, YOU ARE ABOUT TO DRIVE OFF A CLIFF INTO THE VERY MAW OF HELL, SO STOP DRIVING THAT DIRECTION, OKAY?” is hard: making the signs good, and true, and beautiful, knowing they’re so very likely to be ignored.  Every day as a Catholic writer is a bit of the Agony in the Garden.  I’ve heard it said that Jesus wasn’t sweating blood because he was afraid of the pain of the crucifixion.  No, he was sweating blood in Gethsemane because he knew, he knew and loved every single soul who would know of His sacrifice… and who wouldn’t give a crap about it and prefer to just die anyway.

It’s so easy to get sucked into that maelstrom, to stay in that garden and keep sweating blood.  It’s a heck of a lot harder to look for the consoling angels and listen to them and focus on those who will listen and care and let their own hearts break, too.

But broken hearts let in so much light.

If you have let your heart be broken along with mine, if you have been one of my consoling angels, I thank you.  From the bottom of my broken, tired heart, I thank you.  Let’s keep writing the good fight.

If Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, lifted His head and carried His cross, then I have no excuse not to do likewise.  Thank you for walking with me.  Thank you for reading my signs.  Thank you for standing behind me in the garden, helping me to go on.

That return on investment isn’t on this side of the cross, anyway.


Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body is officially available today.

You are invited to attend the IAL Launch Party on Facebook on October 27, 2016 from 8-10pm Eastern Time.