Month: April 2014

Check out the new togs!

What do you think?  I did some sprucing up around here:  switched to a new format, gave each book a room of its own and added a Wildcard Wednesday category.

I also have a new category appearing this Friday for the brand new First Disciples project, but you’ll have to come back on Friday to learn some more about that.  It involves girl power and toasting Peeps over a roaring fire.


You don’t want to miss it.


“Sensational” Stuffed Shells and Seder Foods

Flashback–A Little Flowers Seder Meal (and bonus meatless recipe–because I’m a giver). Azizen Pesach!

Mrs. Mackerelsnapper, OP

Happy Passover to our Jewish friends & family! Today we celebrated this Good Friday with our Little Flowers Girls Club. Our virtue of the month is Wisdom, and our saint is St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism. What better way to get to know her (and how she felt led into the Catholic faith) than to take a look at the types of foods her family would have had on their seder plate when they celebrated the Passover?

First we had a quick refresher of what Passover means and why our big brothers & sisters in the faith celebrate it. We also reviewed that this was the meal Jesus shared with His disciples when He gave us the Eucharist. As I explained each symbolic food to the girls, I asked them to “find” how that same symbol shows up in our faith life as Catholics.


  • First we made the…

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7 Quick Ways to Destroy Your Writing Career

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Join Jennifer y amigos over at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.

People, I am ON FIRE! Possibly not in the “with the Holy Spirit” sense, but then again, I may be on fire to do one of my least favorite Spiritual Works of Mercy: Admonish Sinners.

People. PEOPLE! People. Writing may seem like a solitary career, but go check your Bible. “It is not good for the man to be alone” comes up there pretty early on. That tells me that God finds our need for community pretty important. Yes, some of us (including JESUS, the Ultimate Introvert) recharged best in solitude…


…but nothing we do echoes out into nothingness, least of all writing. You might start out all by yourself at your keyboard, but what we write is that one tree in the forest that doesn’t make a sound if nobody’s around to hear. You’ll have beta readers, critique partners, agents, editors, art departments, marketing, reviewers and on and on. That is, of course, if you want a fighting chance of having people read your stuff.

However, if you piss off enough of those types listed above, eventually you will fell a tree, and it will be a silent fall, because anybody who could have helped you will have left for another forest. Here’s how to make that happen.

7 Ways to Destroy Your Writing Career (Usually Before It’s Even Started)

  1. Voice your indignant complaints. How dare those reviewers not approve my book for the CWG Seal of Approval! How dare that person give me a three star review? I deserve more attention than that [insert name of other, more successful author here] does! Nobody responded to my presentation at the conference! Wah wah wah. If your expectations cannot be satisfied, nobody will want to bother with you. So when you need feedback to get over some hurdle in your writing, or when you need reviewers or hosts for your virtual book tour, you know what you’ll hear? Crickets, that’s what. Nobody wants to hear you complain any more than they already have.
  2. Be unteachable. You’re perfect. You have nothing to learn. Ask people to read your work and give you feedback, but if that feedback isn’t praise, it’s because the reader is stupid. BONUS: Make sure you communicate that stupidity to your reader. After all, that reader needs to know how stupid he/she is. While we’re at it, don’t forget to…
  3. Be a know-it-all but tell people you’re “helping.” Be super-eager to tell people how wrong they are. Delight in their wrongness. Exult in how glorious your knowledge is above theirs. You deserve a pat on the back for “helping” those people see their abject humility. You’ll have to pat your own back, though, because nobody will want to do it for you.
  4. Insult the people who could help you. Confession time: This is one I’ve actually done. I was given the job of introducing a relatively well-known and successful author at a conference… and I lost track of time and did not start her session on time. She lost valuable minutes because I was being a 7th grader, chatting with a friend in the back of the room instead of watching the clock and doing my job. This author dropped several lead-heavy hints through the rest of the talk that we were short on time. This author gave me several dirty looks throughout the rest of the conference. Deservedly so. Did I initially insult this person on purpose? No, but it doesn’t matter: the results were the same. Now, did this author treat me with compassion or obvious forgiveness? Mmmm, not so much, but if I want to build for myself a reputation as a class act rather than a drama queen, I had better shut my mouth, accept my consequences with dignity, and above all, never ever…
  5. Seek revenge. Has someone dared to give you anything less than a five-star review? Awesome. Go to that person’s Amazon page and rip her work to as many shreds as you can. Feed that conflict. The only thing better than being right is being more right than the person who wronged you. Right? Riiiiight.
  6. Only help another if you’ll get something out of it. Make sure everyone around you knows that you don’t care about them as actual people, for the love of Pete. Only give reviews to people who might be able to further your career. Did that person still turn down your work, even after you gave his/her stuff all kinds of flattery? The nerve! Repeat Points 4 & 5 above.
  7. Be the person whose feelings everyone is afraid to hurt. Trust me, by the time you’ve gotten through 1-6, you’ll already be that person. You’ll be the writer who has ridiculous plots, boring characters, awful grammar & usage, consistently inconsistent point-of-view, jokes that fall flat, pointless marketing plans… all because nobody had the courage to tell you you might need to see your writing through someone’s eyes but your own.

Wait… what? You don’t want to be that writer? Silly you. Well, I guess you’ll have to pray for the grace to have patience, dignity, and class. But good luck with that. If you’re not a jerk, you may have people get close enough to actually help you be the writer God wants you to be.



My April WCW



See here for the rules.  

A Day in the Life of a Hammer

Forty-seven ninth graders found their places against the wall.  One of them, a stranger to all here, had already decided she’d be changing her name.  Here she could recreate herself.  She felt the cool of the painted cinder block wall press through the crisp white cotton of her oxford shirt.  Her wool-blend kilt

“Good morning, darling freshmen.”

The nun’s voice came as a shock.  She had a southern accent?  Up here, just north of Philadelphia?

“My name is Sister Dinah, and I teach seniors.  Why they put me here advising your homeroom I am sure I shall never know. Now, as I am to take roll on this here your first day, won’t y’all humor me as I put your disorderly, immature selves into ascending alphabetical order?”

The newest of the new girls watched her new classmates and waited herself to be called.  Jocks with broad shoulders that practically screamed “JV football” sauntered to their aluminum desks.  They were followed by high-haired girls, their kilts rolled up as high as they could go without getting demerits–at least on this the first day.  Nobody but the new girl seemed to have razor nicks on the knees showed of between the raised hems and the slouchie socks.

“Emanuelle Valcour?”

A tall, slender girl–the only black girl in class–stood away from the wall and took a seat.  Her kilt hem was right at her knee, but she walked as if there were three men walking behind her.  Emanuelle Valcour looked everyone she passed in the eye–and smiled at them as if she knew something they didn’t and she certainly was not going to tell.

A few more names were called, then the new girl’s turn came.

“Mary Whelihan?”

“Mary Cate,” she heard herself blurt.

The nun’s eyebrows shot up beneath the border of her black veil.

Blushing, she corrected herself.  “I mean, I go by Mary Cate.”

Brown eyes glittering.  Mouth contorting into a shape that followed the curve and jut of a hammerhead.

Blushing even harder, she added, “I mean… Sister?”

Everyone laughed, even, unlike Mary Cate’s grade school principal, the nun.

“Have a seat, then, Mary Cate.”

The next seat was next to Emanuelle.

Wildcard Wednesday: It’s Hammer Time


The rules are thusly:  

  1. I post a writing prompt on a sort-of randomly selected Wildcard Wednesday.
  2. In 10 minutes or less, you write something based on that prompt.
  3. Post it to your blog.   After you’ve written your response to the prompt, add the link for your blog post to the list by clicking next to the little blue frog face below where it says “Add your link.”
  4. Please make sure that the URL you submit is to your response to the Wildcard Wednesday prompt, not to your main blog URL.
  5. Include a link back here in the post on your blog.
  6. If it’s PG-13 or better and you don’t have a blog of your own, feel free to enter it as a comment on this post, but please note that this is my house, so if I find your post offensive, it’ll be shorter by the head.  I love free speech, though, so take this as your opportunity to get thee to a bloggery.

I invite you to Tweet the link to your prompt with the hashtag #WCW so we participants can find each other on Twitter.  Another fun Twitter tag to try is #improv, which will connect you with anybody on Twitter doing any kind of improv. #amwriting is another goodie.

PROMPT:  Write a story entitled “A Day in the Life of a Hammer.”

(As I get deeper into writing Never Let Me Down Again, I’m spending more time with song titles from 1987-1991.  Hence, “Hammer time” being on my mind.”  Hence the prompt.  You’re welcome.)

A note on responding to the prompt:  Use the prompt as your first sentence.  Or don’t.  Just use it as a jumping-off point and go from there.  I don’t care.  Just write for ten minutes and share it.  Don’t worry about playing by writing rules, because I don’t have any here, and if you’re looking for rules to follow on improv like this, you’re probably looking for an excuse to not write, in which case, try another hobby.  Scrapbooking.  Quilting.  Swimming.  Anything but this, because writing brings new meaning to the term “hot mess.”

Now, here’s hoping the linkup stuff will show up here:

7QT: A Visit from Ellen Gable

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Join the effervescent Jennifer at Conversion Diary for Seven Quick Takes Friday.

I’m delighted to host my editor and friend Ellen Gable, as she makes her way around the blogosphere promoting her latest book, A Subtle Grace.  You don’t know Ellen?  Let me introduce you!

Ellen Gable (Hrkach) is a bestselling, award-winning author of five books. She is also a freelance writer, publisher, editor, book coach, NFP teacher and President of Catholic Writers Guild. When she’s not writing, Ellen enjoys spending time with her family, watching old movies, playing trivia games and reading on her Kindle. Originally born in New Jersey, USA, the author now calls Canada her home. She and her family reside in rural Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.

Here’s Ellen’s cover:

Book Blurb/Synopsis:

1896, Philadelphia. In this sequel to “In Name Only” (2009 FQP), “A Subtle Grace” continues the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan Family as they approach the dawn of a new century. At 19, Kathleen (oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects. Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match. But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true beloved? A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires.

Dr. Luke Peterson (the family’s new physician) also makes quite an impression on Kathleen. His affection for her leads him to startling revelations: about Kathleen, about his practice and, most importantly, about himself.

Will (oldest son) believes God may be calling him to a religious vocation. Eventually, he discovers the hidden circumstances of his humble beginnings, compelling him to embark on a pilgrimage to Rome.

(Although “A Subtle Grace” is a sequel, it can be read as a stand alone book.)

1.       Thanks for visiting my blog, Ellen!  We have your bio here, but Tomato Pie readers want more.  Tell us about the first moment that you felt a call to write:  Was it a specific moment or did it gradually develop over time?

Initially, I felt a specific call to write non-fiction when my middle son was a toddler.  I had a few articles published  (link: NB: this article was initially published in the Spring 1995 Nazareth Journal).  Later, when my fifth son was a baby, my mother shared some disturbing information about my great-grandmother.  My husband then suggested that I write a novel based on the fictionalized stories of myself and my great-grandmother. I hired three editors to help teach me how to write fiction, both in terms of content and with regard to copy-editing (my spiritual director, who is a writer, was my first reader/editor).  Once that first book was near completion, I realized that I wanted to continue writing novels, most especially fictional stories where I wasn’t restricted in terms of plot or character (since my first novel was based on a true story).

2.       I know your five sons are all growing up before our very eyes, but by my math, when you started your first novel  Emily’s Hope, you still had young children and were homeschooling as well.  Tell us how you juggled your Vocation as wife and mother with your vocation as writer and businesswoman.  What do you wish you’d known then that you know now?

Yes, when I first started writing fiction, my youngest was three (he’s now 14). I now have four adult sons (my fourth son just turned 18) and one teenager. I initially started writing during the day in the summer, after the homeschooling year was completed. One day, I remember feeling “in the groove,” and particularly inspired. I was at my computer, really focusing on writing a specific scene for the book.  My three year old came to me and kept patting my hand, saying, “Mom, Mom, Mom….” And, although I didn’t say it, my attitude was “Shut up kid, I’m writing a novel.”  It was at that moment that I realized I could not write during the day or any time that my children needed me.  However, I felt so passionate about finishing Emily’s Hope that I began writing at night when the kids were in bed or early in the morning before they woke up. Staying up late was a sacrifice for me because I’ve always been an “early to bed, early to rise” type of person.

What do I wish I’d known then that I know now?  Wow, hard one.  I wish I had realized that writing fiction, especially long novels, is HARD work. I wish I had realized that many readers will pick up your novel, something you’ve spent hundreds of hours on, and trash it like it’s not important.  I wish I had known I needed a thicker skin to deal with bad reviews.  In the beginning, when I received a bad review, I would be crushed and on the verge of tears.  (I’m much better now, but bad reviews, especially ones that mock or criticize my faith, are still difficult to read.)

3.       After you’d written your first novel, did you know right away that you wanted to keep writing, or did it take some time?  How did you find yourself writing your second novel, In Name Only?

Yes, I did. Once Emily’s Hope was near completion, I remember feeling like I wanted to write a story that was not based on a true story.  One night in bed, the entire plot of In Name Only came to me and I began writing it even before I finished Emily’s Hope.  I kept a little notebook in my purse because detailed ideas for individual scenes kept coming to me at the strangest moments.   I actually enjoyed writing In Name Only more than Emily’s Hope because I felt freer to create the story and characters.

4.       What is your favorite part of the writing process?  Is it the initial idea? The collaboration of editing?  The marketing?  

My favorite parts of the writing process are 1) research and 2) character studies. I love spending hours on the internet looking up 19th century photographs or film (YouTube is great for that kind of thing).  Writers and authors are so fortunate to live in a time period when we can simply turn to our computer for research…and the information is so extensive.   I also enjoy looking up old census forms and I find it easy to lose track of time when I’m on But I keep telling myself that it’s all in the name of writing a believable, compelling story.   Census forms give me great ideas for possible occupations for my characters. I also write detailed character studies of each character to help me, as the author, understand what motivates each character so I can better tell his/her stories.

5.       Conversely, what part of the novel-making process do you dread?  How do you get through that and still keep soldiering on with a smile on your face? 

I dread editing my own writing and I usually don’t do it with a smile on my face.  I enjoy editing other writers’ manuscripts, but when it comes to my own, it’s not fun.  I don’t mind writing the initial draft, but the editing and polishing are very tedious and I wish they weren’t part of the creative process.  However, I’ve come to appreciate that good editing and a polished manuscript are both essential for the success of my books, so I forge ahead.

6.       You and I are both transplanted Philly girls.  Three of your novels have roots in Philadelphia.  What is it that draws you back to writing about the City of the Broadstreet Bullies Brotherly Love?  Those novels involve not just Philadelphia but Philadelphia specifically at the height of the Industrial Revolution.  What is it about that particular time and place that speaks to you as a writer?

I’ve been fascinated with Philly history since I was a child and my father took me for an excursion to downtown Philadelphia, just him and I (probably 1964, when I was five). We visited the Liberty Bell and the wax museum. Also, I own several books about mid-to-late 19th century Philadelphia history that I devoured when I was younger.   Philadelphia in the 19th century and even early 20th century was quite different from present day Philly.  I figured that, if I’m going to write historical novels, I’m already ahead of the game if I know what I’m writing about.

7.       Before we go, tell us how your spirituality as a Catholic informs your writing life.  If you weren’t Catholic, what do you think your life would be like today?

My Catholic faith is a very important aspect of my writing and my stories.  To me, my faith is a natural extension of my writing.  My stories illustrate good and evil.  I have, however, changed how I illustrate good and evil.  In my first book, the religiosity and preachy message were quite thick.  In my last two novels, less so.  With my first book, I started out by wanting to evangelize regarding NFP and pro-life issues.   Admittedly, I wasn’t as concerned with the quality of writing.  The more I wrote, however, the more I realized that first, the story must be written well  and, second, whatever message is there will come through more clearly if the story is told well.

Thanks, Ellen!  Dear reader, if you’re looking for more from Ellen, you can virtually find her in the following places:  

Ellen’s Amazon Author Page

Ellen’s Blog, Plot, Line and Sinker

Ellen’s fanpage On Facebook

Follow Ellen on Twitter

Ellen’s Goodreads page

Ellen on Pinterest