Month: September 2013

Review: Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent


I’ve said it elsewhere, and I’ll say it here.  You know what cracks me up the most about Margaret Rose Realy?  She keeps telling people she is not a writer.  Just in case her beautifully written blog isn’t enough cause for doubt on that,   Cultivating God’s Garden Through Lent goes and flat out proves her wrong.  If Margaret isn’t a writer, then I’m a toasted cheese sandwich.

Cultivating offers daily reflections for each of the days of Lent.  These reflections come from the writer’s (see?  I’m calling her a WRITER again) experience bringing order to gardens both real and spiritual.  At every turn of the trowel, every sprinkle of seed, every tug of a weed, Realy points out to us the rich, loamy meaning that God has for us, just waiting there quietly, if only we will make ourselves still and small enough to see.  The WRITER does this, shares the fruits of her contemplation with us, and in doing so, invites us to examine our own gardens, wild and weed-ridden they may be.  If we stop and look with her, we will see the kind of quiet, luscious adventure that only a gardener can find.

This is the first book to ever make me wish Lent could be longer than it already is.  The meditations in Cultivating are just the right length to slow you down without dragging it out, and the messages are presented so clearly as to engage even the reader who is least likely to enjoy her time in an actual garden.  I know this because I am that reader least likely to enjoy time in an actual garden.  Anyway, I am very much looking forward to re-reading this gem come Lent 2014.  I cannot wait to see what sorts of seeds come forth from the re-read during that time of cold, silent, invisible growth.


Duc in Altum: Working Hard, Catching Nothing, and Going Back Out Anyway


Catholic? Writer? Cast out for a big catch with the Lord in your boat, and come to the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE!3Jun2017 ETA: The Catholic Writers Guild is ALWAYS planning their next conference. Don’t miss your opportunity to draw in a big catch.  Sign up today!



We all know the story, right?  Luke, Chapter 5?  That’s the one where Jesus finds Peter along the shore and tells Pete to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  I love Peter’s response at verse 5.  It’s basically a complaint followed by, “Suuuuure, I’ll do what you ask.  Watch what doesn’t happen!”

And then Pete gets to watch what what does happen.  So does the crowd.

I’ve been there.  I had a novel out, but navigating through the preschool years and then into the school years with a set of twins and their (relatively minor but still consuming) special needs, and then a few health issues of my own, and then financial issues… well, let’s put it this way.  The novel wasn’t doing well.  Hardly any of my short pieces were finding homes at magazines.  Writing sure wasn’t bringing in the extra money our family needed to survive.  I had to take a series of desk jobs.  I’ll never forget the day I told the twins, then three, that Mommy was going to work at a desk at a local fitness center.

“But Mommy,” the younger one said, “I thought you were a writer!”

I don’t remember my response, but I do remember being glad that I was driving at the time, because they weren’t able to see me cry.

Fast forward three years later.  Second Shift of Kid came along, and just in time, God provided financially (foremost, He helped us pay off the minivan, which was a HUGE relief).  I didn’t need to work outside the home anymore, which was good, because with an infant again and two starting kindergarten, I really couldn’t.  I still had the itch to write but was doing precious little to scratch it:  a NaNoWriMo here, a press release for a sister in St. Dominic there.  But I was in the car a lot, toting my kids back and forth, so to make the most of that time I listened to a lot of Catholic radio.

This is where Jesus found me, along the shore, cleaning my net and calling it a day, thinking about dropping this whole fishing thing and picking up something normal, like quilting or scrapbooking, instead.  (Now picture St. Peter at a Creative Memories party.  Hilarious, right?)

That summer, I heard advertised the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show, which was being held less than an hour from my house.  I figured if my husband could take one day off to watch the kids so I could go, then that would be God’s way of saying He had something for me there.  He could, and so I guessed He did, so I went to a training day for booksellers, not because I’m a bookseller but just to find out what the booksellers knew.

They knew that there was a Catholic Writers Guild.

Less than two months later, we scrambled to make it possible for me to attend the Catholic Writers Retreat in Lansing, MI.  One stroke of the oar led to another, and to make a long story short, I met my publisher through CWG, which I would not have done had I not networked at the October 2012 retreat, which I would not have done had I not gone to the CMN show, which I would not have done had I not simply listened to Catholic radio.

This year, unless something amazing happens very quickly, I am unable to attend the retreat. This makes me very sad.  However, maybe it’s so you, dear reader, can go.  Do you still have that itch that won’t go away?  This retreat may be just the balm for that itch.
Are you by the shore, ready to hang up your net?   Listen.  Quietly now.  Do you hear the voice, calling out of the crowd, asking you–yes, you–to put out into the deep?

PR Pics, huzzah!

Do you need to write a press release?  It seems making pictures available to go with your news item may (may) increase the chances of your story being run.

However, most news folks aren’t all that interested in opening large files from strangers.  What do you do?

You post the pics somewhere online…

Author Erin McCole Cupp

Author Erin McCole Cupp (c) Scott Cupp, Erin Hause

Then you include links to those pics…

Author Erin McCole Cupp distributing slices of Philadelphia-style tomato pie at the 2013 Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show

Author Erin McCole Cupp distributing slices of Philadelphia-style tomato pie at the 2013 Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show (c) James Hrkach 2013

… in the emails you send to the various media outlets.


Comme ça! 

My work here is done.


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Join all the most adorable papists in the blogosphere for Seven Quick Takes Friday, hosted by the lovely and talented Jennifer over at Conversion Diary!



Click for the teaser trailer!

Click for the teaser trailer!

This one’s the short, 60 second “teaser” version.  Check back soon for the “full-length director’s cut!”


How did I do that?  I joined the Catholic Writer’s Guild!  Another benefit of CWG membership, and perhaps one not publicized enough, is the guild’s Animoto account. Free book trailers–holla!  Pay your dues and reap the benefits!


NFP Buttons

Thanks to for this awesome pic!

Well, honestly, it’s more like, “We know we’re supposed to do it every night, but sometimes we’re just too tired and wait until the morning before the kids wake up.”


If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.  The lovely Ashley Perez has a blog post cleverly titled “How to plan a book blog tour without going crazy.”  Her recommendation is to get the ball rolling 3-5 months before book release date.  We are, as of today, SIX WEEKS from the release of Don’t You Forget About Me.  Um.  Oops?  So I guess it’s more like “How to plan a book blog tour without going crazy.”


Speaking of book blog tours, if you’d like me to visit your blog and talk about Don’t You Forget About Me, do let me know.  I’ll bring visitors to your blog.  You’ll bring visitors to my blog.  We’ll have scones.  It’ll be a fine, elegant time.


It’s been a while since I’ve written a media release for a book.  The last time was for this book, way back in 2006:

Artwork (C)2006 by Anthony Volpe

Artwork (C)2006 by Anthony Volpe

That was the age of both the rise and fall of MySpace!  Wow.  Anyway, since there have been so many new avenues open up in the way of social media since I took Jane_E to market, I had to brush up on my media relations.  I got a lot out of this article, “How to Write a Press Release for Your Book.”


There is a lot to do, getting ready for a book release.  I’m stressing when I shouldn’t be.  It all seem so important when under the microscope of a deadline, you know?  However, I just have to keep reminding myself that, in the end, compared to the things God has in mind to show us, anything I might write or do to share that writing is so much straw.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

The countdown begins (loosely).

Just a little over six weeks until the release of DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME! Murder? Mayhem? The search for tomato pie? DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME has it all!

This FRIDAY, 9/20, I will be releasing the first of two, count ’em, TWO video trailers for DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME!

History lesson: we showed the actress in the “full-length director’s cut” trailer how to peg her pants, a la 1986.

However… I’ll only be posting that link THIS FRIDAY, September 20, on my FB author page.

This is John at Jackets-n-Things in my hometown of Ambler, PA. I needed a basketball shirt for the “director’s cut,” and he whipped one together for me within half an hour! What a nice guy!

So, “like” my author page, and you, too, can be in the know!

7 Quick Takes Friday: Little Blog–Big City, The Home Stretch, and Several Helpings of Humble Pie

Join Jennifer at Conversion Diary for another fantabulous 7QT Friday!

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Little Blog, Big City: My first (well, first functional) blog, Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP, is going to be featured on every second Friday! If you’ve never gotten to know me as Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP, the short story is that that’s where I post the occasional random Ordinary Time meatless Friday recipe. Additionally, for the last two years, our family has done a Lenten Challenge. In 2012, we made the goal of a completely meatless Lent. For 2013, our goal was a “fast, cheap, and easy” meatless Lent of recipes that did not take more than 20 minutes to prepare on a grocery budget not more than $50/week, in solidarity with the working poor. Check it out on the blog itself, or just keep an eye out on Fridays on Thanks to my friend Franciscan Mom for recommending Mrs. M, OP to the nice ladies at CatholicMom!


Humble Pie a la mode: Lately, things have been picking up for me. I have another book coming out. My little blog that’s been in a dark, neglected corner of the blogosphere for the past two years just got picked up by a majorly popular site. And so on. You know. Things are picking up. However, in the meantime, I’ve had several instances where people who don’t know me from Adam (or Eve, in my case), talk to me like I am an absolute moron who couldn’t possibly have any experience with anything and that they have soooooo much to teach ignorant little old me.

How do I describe these instances? Okay. Let’s see. I’ve had someone who’s never read a word I’ve written give me an unsolicited writing lesson on very basic stuff that I’ve been striving to practice for well over a decade now. I’ve had another person, someone slightly up in the hierarchy of a spiritual family to which I belong, tell me that I should try praying the rosary daily, and maybe make an effort to go to daily Mass (we’ve been doing those things for years now, in spite of having a LOUD infant and then a LOUD toddler and now a LOUD preschooler). Yet another assumed that I needed to be taught–in a public forum, no less–that we are supposed to abstain from meat all Fridays of the year. Gee, I guess I really needed that reminder that pretty much nobody reads my meatless Friday blog…

It’s frustrating to be treated like a moron. In all three of these cases, these people spoke to me this way without listening to (or reading) a word I had said (or typed).

So what’s the takeaway here? (1) You will never be so successful that somebody out there can’t assume you’re not as smart as they are.  (2) It’s disrespectful to the dignity of the people in my life to assume they are idiots. (3) Listen. Really listen. If you don’t understand what’s being said, ask questions. If you assume, you’ll make an as… sumption. Lastly, I’ll leave (4) to Bill Nye:

I’ve let two of those just slide, seeking my own humility in silence. One of those folks, however, is one to whom I owe a reply. I know how to treat the others in my life to avoid treating them the way that this person has treated me. I, however, haven’t the slightest idea on how to respond in loving honesty. I’m inclined to not reply at all, but that seems just outright rude. Any advice you feel like sharing would be helpful. As long as, that is, you don’t assume I’m a moron.


The Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval season is upon us! Are you a member in good standing with the Catholic Writers Guild? Would you like free books? Then sign up to be an evaluator for the CWG Seal of Approval! You’ll be getting books for the cost of reading them and evaluating them for faithful Catholic content. It’s great! I’m not sure if they’re still looking for evaluators for this quarter, but January is coming, and you can at least be a part of it then!


This has been our week of actual homeschooling lessons. All summer long, we did bits and pieces here and there, like tons of field trips and a math facts practice every weekday. However, this week we started in with the real stuff: a full math lesson, our unit on oceanography, composition, sentence diagramming, copywork, even Latin (which I think is cool, but I am a language nerd). This is also the first year that I’m doing lessons for our preschooler in addition to giving her meaningful independent work (MIW). Some MIW tasks that have kept her busily learning while I taught First Shift their Latin and Math: finding all MegaBloks in the house, giving the MegaBloks a bath in the bathtub in prep for their being yard-saled (this bought us a whole hour, man), sorting books into hard and soft cover. Do any other homeschoolers have any suggestions of what we can try? I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see her attention span grow over this week alone.


Another homeschooling idea you might want to try: this week’s Faith Fun Focus has been God the Father as loving lawgiver. So to illustrate the Ten Commandments as being given to God’s chosen people then fulfilled in the person of God the Son, we did secret writing with lemon juice. First paint on a piece of paper with lemon juice.


Let it dry. The acid in the lemon juice will break down the fibers of the paper, making those fibers “toast” quite easily. Then bring it close to a light bulb and watch the secret message appear. This shows us how Jesus, the Light of the World, put flesh on the whole message of God’s law: that we are to give ourselves totally for God and His children. Also, if you don’t let the lemon juice soak into the paper before you try to expose it directly to the light, the message just looks like a bunch of lumps.


God waited to come into the world as Jesus, and He waited for a reason. Also, if you don’t expose the message to the Light for long enough, it doesn’t make sense.

And those are your deep thoughts for the week.


The Home Stretch:  My next novel comes out in 7 weeks.  I am praying that the trailer for Don’t You Forget About Me will be coming very, very soon. It’s been a long wait.


There’s another big writing project for which I need your prayers. Thanks. More on this as it becomes available. St. Catherine of Alexandria, pray for us.

7 Quick Takes Friday: The Teaser Edition

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Join me and Jennifer over at Conversion Diary for 7QT!

I can’t believe we are less than two months away from the release of Don’t You Forget About Me! As we count down the weeks, I’m going to give you a little gift: teasers! Do you have any idea how much fun writing can be? Here are a few of the lines from DYFAM that were the most fun to write. Spoiler-free!



“I am not drunk dialing. I am disappointed-and-embarrassed-and-ashamed dialing.”

–Cate, from Chapter 5, “Kyrie”


“Great googly moogly, Cate!” she shrieked at me the second her thumb hit the “accept” button on her cell. “Are you in jail?”

–Staz, from Chapter 7, “Save a Prayer”


“He’s not sure if he’s married or not, he’s trying to get you to be Miss Crunchy Granola Catholic, he’s got a great right hook, and he’s leading you into mortal danger?”

“Yeah.” I sipped my bland hotel room coffee. “Sounds like a real keeper.”

“Sounds kind of hot, if you ask me.

–Staz and Cate, from Chapter 12, “Danger Zone”


For the first time in my life, I was glad that my behavior was being fueled by a raging case of PMS.

–Cate, from Chapter 15, “True Blue”


“The good and the bad? It doesn’t matter. They all die. There is nowhere you can hide from God, bambino. Your family, your company, they both make widows and orphans. What do you get from this, eh?”

–My beloved Mr. Celli, from Chapter 16, “The Warrior”


I guess you have to have organized crime and Big Pharma on your side to keep a secret from the secretary of a Catholic elementary school.

–Cate, from Chapter 18, “Don’t Stop Believin’”


“Confidence doesn’t come from what is easy. It comes from surviving what is hard. It comes from facing a conflict and letting it teach you, sharpen you, chip off all the stuff that makes you something less than what you’re meant to be.”

–Cate, from Chapter 18, “Don’t Stop Believin'”


The Writer Caught in the Act of Cliche: A Parable

At dawn, Jesus appeared at the writing conference, and He sat down at the table at the front of the room and began to give a workshop on writing good Catholic fiction.  Some other conference presenters–published ones–brought in a woman caught in the act of writing cliches and said to Him, “Teacher, this writer has been caught in the very act of writing preachy prose, poorly motivated Mary Sues, and stories burdened with coincidence.  The publishing industry commands us to mock such writing mercilessly, in order to preserve us Good Catholic Writers from the taint association with bad fiction.  Now what do you say?”

Jesus pulled up the laptop that was connected to the conference room’s projector.  He then brought forth His blogging account and opened up a new post.  In it, he began to type:

Wordy sentences

Writing for a laugh, not for story

Obscure references to serve the writer’s ego

Spending more time on marketing than with the family

Bloated diction

Ridiculous overuse of subjunctive verbs

And so on.  When the other presenters continued questioning Him, He said, “Let any one of you who is without writing sin be the first to mock her in your blog.”

He then began linking each writing sin on His list… to each of the presenters’ blogs.

At this, the accusers went away one by one, beginning with those who had been published for the longest, until the conference room was empty except for Jesus and the sinful writer.

Jesus turned to her and asked, “Writer, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.  “Go now, and continue to improve your writing.”


“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”