The Writing Life

NEWS: Working Mother Interviewee Alumnae Launch New Journal Project

Working Mother Final-1I’m so excited! Yeeeeears ago, when “Working Mother” was first released, I did a series of interviews with real live working mothers here, chez moi, on this humble blog. This was so long ago that the blog was still called, Will Write For Tomato Pie! Anyway, that’s when I first met, Tiffany Walsh, The Catholic Librarian (here’s Tiffany’s own blog-home).

Over the past nearly four years, Tiffany has been busy with many projects, but her latest is a contribution to the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women.  This series, spearheaded by another working mother interviewee Allison Gingras, aims to “help women build a closer relationship with Jesus. Each Stay Connected journal explores a different path to spiritual growth in short, easy-to-complete chapters—perfect for busy, on-the-go individuals or small faith-sharing groups!”

Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women: a preview of Exploring the Catholic Classics by TIffany WalshI was invited to take a look at one of the journals and share the results with you, dear readers. It was a tough choice, but, given the focus of this blog on reading and writing, I picked Tiffany’s Exploring the Catholic Classics: How Spiritual Reading Can Help You Grow in Wisdom.

From the Stay Connected website:

In Exploring the Spiritual Classics, you will:

    • learn about seven inspiring historical and modern works of spiritual literature;
    • read selected passages from the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Pope John Paul II; St. Francis de Sales, Thomas à Kempis, and more;
    • study these spiritual works in light of the Scriptures;
    • reflect on significant spiritual themes and chronicle your own thoughts and experiences.
    • apply the wisdom of these spiritual writers to your own life.

The spiritual classics are full of wisdom, advice, and inspiration to enrich the lives of modern women, and Exploring the Spiritual Classics is a great way to access that wisdom and apply it to your life. Tiffany Walsh introduces readers to carefully selected excerpts from each spiritual classic, offering her own insights before inviting you to respond to reflection prompts. You can record your responses right in the journal, then bring those thoughts to your small faith-sharing group for further discussion. And as with all the Stay Connected journals, guided prayers and space to journal your own prayer helps you forge a deeper, living connection with Jesus.

My take: Because it’s designed to serve as guide and collector through a series of deep spiritual reading, I admittedly haven’t finished it yet. That said, I can see from its attractive design, inviting reflections, and clear purpose, Exploring the Spiritual Classics promises to make those sometimes intimidating classics accessible and fruitful subjects for study, even to the busiest Catholic woman.  I can also see this being a personable way to form a study group of women who, perhaps, aren’t even Catholic… yet!  Give the Stay Connected journals a look, and see how well they could fit in your life!

Catholic Librarian

Tiffany the Catholic Librarian

About the Author: Tiffany Walsh is a wife, the mother of two children, and a college librarian with a background in law. She is a cradle Catholic who rekindled her childhood faith as a law student in New York City via her love of books and rediscovery of daily Mass. She writes monthly for CatholicMom.com, and contributed to The Catholic Hipster Handbook, published in 2017 by Ave Maria Press. She hosts book clubs and offers weekly musings over at lifeofacatholiclibrarian.com.

New Sweet WWI Historical Romance from Ellen Gable: CHARLOTTE’S HONOR

Would the latest addition to Ellen Gable’s historical romance Great War, Great Love series hit that sweet spot in your TBR pile? Read on for more about Charlotte’s Honor.

Charlotte's Honour Front Cover smAfter receiving news that her brother – and only relative – has been killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

CH Book Tour Promo 100 (1)

Excerpt

May 1918

Vauxbuin Field Hospital

Near Soissons, France

The air was thick with the mineral stench of blood. Inside the canvas tent that served as Barrack Number 48, Charlotte searched for a place in the unconscious soldier’s body to insert the hypodermic.  The poor gentleman had burns and wounds everywhere, but she managed to find a one-inch diameter spot on his thigh in which to plunge the needle.  The man didn’t flinch, and Charlotte suspected that his injuries were too grave for him to survive.  She recited a silent prayer for this man’s soul, then moved onto the next soldier.

The large canvas tents that were part of the field hospital covered the lawn in front of the chateau. Most volunteers referred to it as a chateau because it looked the part with its high ceilings, plentiful rooms and marble floors. However, it wasn’t a castle. It was a 19th century country manor.

A tendril of dark brown hair slipped from her headscarf, and she tucked it back in. Charlotte Patricia Zielinski didn’t care much whether her unruly hair was tame, but she did care about keeping healthy. She wasn’t a large girl, nor was she small.  However, roughhousing with her brother Ian for so many years made her strong.

After preparing another soldier for the operating theater, she took a short break and sat on a bench near the tent.

She glanced up at the dark sky, enjoying the quiet. After the sunrise, she’d hear the distant booming that came with being ten miles from the front.

After her bout with influenza last month, she’d felt fatigued for weeks.  In the past few days, she had enough energy to move a mountain.

Sister Betty, the medical volunteers’ middle-aged supervisor, called to her from the barrack beside her, Number 49.  She was a big-boned woman who seemed taller because she always stood so straight.  Charlotte wasn’t sure whether it was because she was British or because she was a big woman, but she also had a booming personality and a loud voice.

Charlotte stood up to speak with Sister.

“How many more men have to be prepared for the O.R., Miss Zielinski?”

“Four, Sister.”

“Maybe you’d be of more use in this barrack.” She pointed toward Number 49.

“Certainly.”  She turned to alert her co-worker in 48, when Sister yelled, “Wait.”

Charlotte stopped. “Yes?”

“Perhaps you’d better stay where you are. If there are only four left to prepare, finish that duty, then report to this barrack.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

It took a bit of getting used to, but here in Europe, nurses were referred to as sisters.  And all sisters – and most medical volunteers – wore headscarves that looked like habits.

She approached a soldier on a cot, noticing the maple leaf on his collar. Canadians tended to be an agreeable bunch.  He pursed his lips as she stripped his clothes, wincing as bits of skin came off with his pants.  The poor fellow tensed, but Charlotte could only offer, “I’m so sorry.  I am doing my best not to hurt you.”

The dark-haired man attempted a smile.

An ear-piercing explosion caused the world around Charlotte to vanish, and she reflexively collapsed on the cot, falling across the soldier lying in front of her. Ears ringing, she remained still for what seemed like an hour but was likely a few minutes. Blinking, she opened her eyes and stared at the metal side of the cot in front of her and felt the soldier moving underneath her.

As she lifted herself up, not one but three large drops of blood splattered the white sheet below her. Her head seared in a flash of pain.

When the Canadian soldier took hold of her hand, he said something she couldn’t hear.

His warbling soon became words. “Are you all right, Miss?”

Her mouth was open, but she couldn’t speak.  Nodding, she raised her hand to her headscarf.  When she pulled her hand to her face, it was covered in blood.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

“Are…you all right, sir?”  Charlotte asked the man.

“Yes, no worse than I was.  Thanks to you, Miss.  You shielded my body with yours.” He paused. “You have a bad shrapnel wound on your head.”

“Y…yes.”  Charlotte winced but forced a smile. She turned and picked up a bandage from the side of the overturned cart. She pressed it to her head.

By this time, the entire ward was awake and bustling with moaning soldiers.

Standing up, her surroundings seemed to shift and sway, so she reached for the soldier’s hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“Think nothing of it.  I’m happy to reciprocate.”

Glancing just above the soldier’s head, she spotted five or six holes the size of watermelons blown through the side of the barrack’s canvas wall and hundreds dotting the rest of the walls. Following the holes from the side wall to the ceiling, she stared upwards at the roof of the tent, now shredded in many places.

A few soldiers near the wall had sustained minor injuries, but no one appeared to be mortally wounded.

Panicked and fearing the worst, Charlotte rushed outside, the bandage still to her head. As she turned toward the adjacent barrack, she stopped and gasped. The influenza ward was no longer there.  Body parts, blood, torn-apart furniture, and bits and pieces of the barrack were all that remained.  The realization that she had escaped death made her knees buckle.

She blessed herself and lowered her head. “Requiescants in pace.”  Her hearing had not yet fully returned, but she could hear someone call her name.


photo credit: Tim Baklinski, Two Trees PhotographyEllen Gable is an award-winning author of nine books, editor, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. Her books have been downloaded nearly 700,000 times on Kindle and some of her books have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and French. The mother of five adult sons, Ellen (originally from New Jersey) now lives with her husband of 36 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.

A1PlaceHolder

Find Ellen on:

More about Ellen & Charlotte’s Honor

What was the inspiration for Charlotte’s Honor?

Since one of the themes of Charlotte’s Honor is preparing and being with soldiers who are close to death, the inspiration came from being with two close people in my life in the hours before their deaths. These experiences served as inspiration for Charlotte’s Honor.

Eleven years ago, when my mother was close to death, my sister called me in Canada and urged me to come right away (to New Jersey, my home state), that Mom didn’t have much time left.  I arrived before she passed, but by the time I got there, she was unconscious.  My sister and I prayed the Litany of the Saints (which she requested) as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the middle of the night, I got up to sit with her. I held her hand and prayed for her, talked to her and told her she was loved, and that it was okay to go.  When she did pass away, I was grateful and honored that I was present at the moment of her passing. And an interesting experience happened. My stepdad, siblings, and I were all sitting by my mom’s bedside and all of a sudden, I felt like my mom was on the ceiling staring down.  I lifted my head to look up, but at that point, my brother patted my arm and said, “Hey, El, I have this strange feeling that Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”  I believe that we were given a great grace at that moment.

Last year, my mother-in-law passed away. She had both dementia and cancer.  She was surrounded by those she loved and, although unconscious, we prayed the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and other prayers for her in the last few days of her life.  It was a good death, a holy death. It’s the kind of death I hope to have: others praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for me as I’m close to death.

Why World War 1?

I’ve always been interested in history and I knew very little about this war.  I decided to focus the bulk of my research on the last year of the War (after the United States entered).  Because I am American, and my husband is Canadian, the female protagonists in this series are American and the male protagonists are Canadian. So for Charlotte’s Honor, Charlotte is American, and Paul is Canadian.

Why is the name of the series Great War Great Love?

I owe my gratitude to the son of a friend of mine, Ian, for coming up with the title. The reason for the title is that World War 1 was called the “Great War” by the Allies before the USA entered the war, and is still often called the “Great War,” by the British, Canadians and Australians. And Great Love because there are many examples of how couples met and fell in love during times of war.

Can you tell us about the first book in the series and next book of the series, Ella’s Promise?

Julia’s Gifts (Book #1 Great War Great Love) As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will Julia’s naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.  Julia’s Gifts is now available in Italian and French and will soon be available in Portuguese and Spanish.

Ella’s Promise (Book #3 Great War Great Love) The daughter of German immigrants, Ella is an American nurse who, because of the time period, was discouraged from continuing her studies to become a doctor.  During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France, to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own “Great Love” in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.

This is very different from some of your other books in that it is a very clean romance and can be read by young teens to elderly women to middle-aged men.  Was that a conscious choice?

Yes, it is very different and no, it wasn’t a conscious choice at first.  When I came up with the story and as I was gradually developing the characters and plotlines, it made the most sense to keep this a “sweet” and “clean” love story that anyone can enjoy.  It is, however, a war novel, so there are descriptions of war injuries.

Are you working on any other writing projects?

I’m in the process of writing Ella’s Promise, which is book 3 in the Great War Great Love series.

I’m outlining another novel, tentatively entitled Where Angels Pass, based on my father’s life and experience as a clerical abuse survivor. Since he never saw justice in his lifetime, I’d like to create a story where there is justice for him, even if fictional.

I’m also working on a non-fiction project that will offer guidance in coping with loss (I’m still in the outline stages of that project).

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite Catholic author is Dena Hunt (author of Treason and The Lion’s Heart), but I also enjoy reading Willa Cather’s books (Death Comes For the Archbishop, One of Ours).  Dena’s books are incredibly well-written and moving.  Cather’s books are well-written and rich in imagery and meaning.

And while this may seem biased, I enjoy reading books by all the Full Quiver Authors.  I also enjoy the books of the authors who are fellow members of the Catholic Writers Guild.

One of my favorite secular authors is Nelson DeMille (author of the John Corey series).   I also enjoy reading Kathleen Morgan’s Christian historical novels.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk (Apr 2018) FORGIVENESS

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

Sunday, April 8 @ 7pm Eastern

Theme: Forgiveness

Joseph Pearce, author of RACE WITH THE DEVIL, host of EWTN's TOLKIEN'S THE LORD OF THE RINGS - FACES OF FANTASYFeaturing Special Guest Joseph Pearce. A native of England, Joseph Pearce is senior editor at the Augustine Institute; the editor of the St. Austin Review, an international review of Catholic culture; series editor of the Ignatius Critical Edition; and executive director of Catholic Courses. Joseph has hosted two 13-part television series about Shakespeare on EWTN, and has also written and presented documentaries on EWTN on the Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He is also a regular guest on national television and radio programs.

 

GIVEAWAY! Comment on the video by April 30, 2018, and be entered to win your own copy of King of the Shattered Glass!

 

A1PlaceHolder

Discuss FORGIVENESS in KING OF THE SHATTERED GLASS by Susan Joy Bellavance #live #video #bookclubKing of the Shattered Glass by Susan J. Bellavance

Beautifully illustrated in color for young elementary school readers, King of the Shattered Glass is a gentle parable about asking for forgiveness and receiving God’s mercy!

GIVEAWAY! Comment on the video by April 30, 2018, and be entered to win your own copy of King of the Shattered Glass!

 

Discuss FORGIVENESS in THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL on Sabbath Rest Book Talk #live #video #bookclubThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel narrates the story of a rich English baronet who rescues French aristocrats facing the guillotine. He also taunted his enemies after each rescue by leaving behind a card that has a small flower on it – the scarlet pimpernel. It is a brilliant adventure story set at the time of the French Revolution. The plot is fantastic and rarely lets the readers pause for breath as it oscillates between London society and the dark night in Coastal France.

A1PlaceHolder

Discuss FORGIVENESS in THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare on Sabbath Rest Book Talk #live #video #bookclubThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

This bewitching play, Shakespeare’s final work, articulates a wealth of the playwright’s mature reflections on life and contains some of his most familiar and oft-quoted lines. The story concerns Miranda, a lovely young maiden, and Prospero, her philosophical old magician father, who dwell on an enchanted island, alone except for their servants — Ariel, an invisible sprite, and Caliban, a monstrous witch’s son. Into their idyllic but isolated lives comes a shipwrecked party that includes the enemies who usurped Prospero’s dukedom years before, and set him and his daughter adrift on the ocean. Also among the castaways is a handsome prince, the first young man Miranda has ever seen. Comedy, romance, and reconciliation ensue, in a masterly drama that begins with a storm at sea and concludes in joyous harmony.

A1PlaceHolderA1PlaceHolder

Sign up here to get monthly reminders to tune in to Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

Check out the reading list for all of 2018.

For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Plus, click here to check out our NEW GOODREADS FEATURE!  It’s a list! On Goodreads! Vote for books we’ve already featured and add any books you think we should discuss in the future!

Fiction is Good for you! Watch Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and never feel guilty for reading fiction again!

Who writes short-shorts? I write short-shorts!

DYFAMCoverFrontForFlyer I’m back to working on Never Let Me Down Again.  For those of you who’ve hung on lo these many years, waiting for The Sequel That Refuses To Be Written, you deserve a treat.  I have a short-short (<1500 words) off at the beta readers right now.  Once it’s ready for consumption, I’ll be gifting it to my newsletter subscribers (you know, those folks who are still waiting for their free St. Dominic book, which is at an actual editor right now).

Anyway, if you want to see what happens at the end of Cate & Gene’s first date, sign up for my newsletter.  I’m anticipating you’ll get it before the month is out.

A 7QT?!? I’m as shocked as you are.

Seven Quick Takes: Bits of Blogging Linkup with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum

Bits o’blogging with a bunch of other bloggers, hosted by Kelly over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

-1-

March for Life: I’ve Lost Control Again: The only reason I have time to do this today is because my grade schooler is going to take a sick day (stomach discomfort and a purple-red sore throat… I see a strep culture in her very near future) and my teenagers are on a bus to the March for Life.

Why am I not going? Because I can’t find a bus willing to take me.  I have a life-threatening allergy to peanut proteins, so bad that I have ended up in the ER because someone ate peanuts around me.  Now, since I’ve started taking olive leaf extract, I’ve not had that kind of reaction, but I’m sort of gun shy about getting on a bus on a Friday full of faithful Catholics opting for the PB&J over ham sandwiches, it being Friday and all, and finding out that the OLE decided to stop working, but the only way to get me to an ER is to pull over on a jammed I-95 and hope an ambulance can get through, oh, and who’s gonna take care of my kids while I’m being whisked away?

Anyway, every group I’ve contacted about their bus said there’s no way they can ask people to avoid bringing peanuts, so I’m too much of a liability.  No MFL for me.  But the parish youth group is going, so our teens could go if they wanted to.

They wanted to.

I used to work and volunteer in youth ministry.  I now have kids of my own who are at an age to be involved in the youth ministry.  The other people’s kids I worked with in the ’90s-Y2K are now grown ups… and very, very few of them still practice the faith.

My eyes are open enough to know that where my teens are now may not be where they end up.

Oh, that’s hard.  Oh, that hurts.  It hurts enough when it is other people’s kids.  I don’t care if they don’t agree with me.  I do care if they think they’re escaping the suffering of this world by running into hell.  It’s like Ian wrote in “Decades”:

Joy Division, Hell, Crosses, and Letting Our Kids Go, by Erin McCole Cupp #7qt

*

Where are the young men, the weight on their shoulders?Where are the young men, oh where have they been?
They knocked on the door of hell’s darker chambers.
Pushed to the limit, they dragged themselves in.        

Rather than just keep carrying the weight on our shoulders, asking God questions about it, hoping that if we just hold on, He’ll comfort us beyond our deepest imaginings… we ask to be let into hell.  In our hurt and fear, we trust instead that hell must be better than whatever pain we face now.

This has been breaking my heart a lot of late.  I can’t go into why without telling other people’s stories, stories not mine to tell. I have my own story to tell, of course, but that’s what this blog and my books are for.

But today my kids are Marching for Life.  I say that and then warn myself, “Today is not the end of the story.”  I think of my youth ministry kids, knocking on hell’s door. God, however, the God of all consolation, reminds me that today is not the end of their story, either.

None of them were ever “my” kids, anyway.  They were and remain His.  So I let them go, because that is Truth, and God is WHO AM. In other words, He is not fear. He is not lies.  He is not humans possessing other humans.  He is not control.

He is reality.  Sometimes reality hurts, but I’ll take reality over lies any old day.

-2-

an-open-book

Open Book: Aaaaaand on that cheery note, I initially started this post to let anyone led back here from 7QT/TATL that the best kept linkup secret in the world of Catholic readers of books is Carolyn’s 1st Wednesday Open Book linkup.

It’s a really supportive community of Catholic book bloggers who are on the cutting edge of what’s going on with the present-day Catholic literary scene.  If you haven’t checked it out already, you really should.  Carolyn is a gracious host, and while, yes, Open Book has added to my already sky-high TBR pile, it’s also helped me weed out some stuff that I otherwise would’ve wasted time reading.

It’s not just Catholic books, either.  Admittedly, my time constraints limit my contribution to whatever we’re doing for that month’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk.  Still, several of the linkers blog what the whole family is reading, including the kids, and that’s where I’ve gotten some of the best-loved readalouds for my once-struggling reader.  She’s less-struggling now, in part due to the great recs from Open Book bloggers.

Seriously.  Make with the clicky.

Oh, and if you want links to watch each Sabbath Rest Book Talk as it happens emailed directly to you inbox, I have a handy SRBT reminder sign up here.

-3-

Les Mis: Last year we took the kids to see a high school performance of Les Miserables.  I love that show.  My grade schooler loves it, now, too.  At one point she wanted to have a Les Mis themed birthday party, which led to much hilarity (Let’s play Build the Barricade! No birthday cake, though.  You’ll have to break a windowpane to steal a loaf of bread, then go fetch water from the well all alone in the dark….)

I like to play music via YouTube when I do my morning chores, but I got sick of putting on Les Mis only to turn away from the dishes to find all three kids clustered around my phone screen instead of doing their chores.  So this week we borrowed the Les Miserable 10th Anniversary Dream Cast DVD from the library and had “dinner theatre” on Wednesday night (eating dinner in front of the TV).  It was fun!

-4-

Stained Glass Cookies for Story of Civilization #homeschool #history #medievalStory of Civilization & stained glass cookies: I think I’ve blogged here however briefly about how much we love TAN Books’ Story of Civilization.  We’re on Volume 2, The Medieval World.  Truth be told, I’m not finding it as strong a program as Volume 1, The Ancient World, so I’m filling in a lot of the gaps with stuff I pull off of Pinterest.  Yesterday we made Stained Glass Cookies for our study of medieval architecture.  It was fun, and they were pretty tasty.  For the “glass,” I didn’t have any Jolly Ranchers in the house, so we made microwave glass candy the day before.

If you want to see more pics of what we do with SOC (and more pics of our ridiculous dogs), I post them on Instagram far more faithfully than I get them here.

-5-

Duolingo: I’m dusting of my French.  Anybody want to join a French club? I ended up being “LaMereDeLe” on there, because apparently if you try to call yourself “La Mere de Les Jumelles,” it cuts you off.  Cheese-eating surrender monkeys.  Anyway, I could use other people with whom to practice, in preparation for…

-6-

Pilgrimage: This year, God willing, we will be making a Marian pilgrimage as a family, with stops at Walsingham, Lourdes, and Knock.  I understand that Haut-Pyrenees/Provence are not like Paris, where, not only is the dialect different, but if you ask someone if they speak English, it’s all, “Non, non, je ne comprends,” but if you start out speaking in French, suddenly it’s all, “Ah! I speeek Eeeeenglish. Your, ehn, accent eeez not baaat.”  I speak from experience here.  Still, for my own mental joy, I’d really like to be able to talk to the car rental guy, the housing hosts, the server, etc., without them being annoyed by more ignorant Americans.

Anyway, pray for us, please? Meanwhile, if you have any prayer requests for us to carry with us, we will be setting up something more organized for collecting them, but go ahead an comment below while you wait.

eBook: Get Moving With the Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic

-7-

Get Moving is almost ready!  And here’s a little sneak preview of the cover!  The draft is on the editor’s desk as we speak.  You’ll get the finished product for free if you subscribe to my newsletter, but if you don’t want that annoyance, it’ll just be 99c on Amazon.

Okay, I’ve taken even more time than I planned.  Sick kid is still abed, but my usual dog walkers are on a bus, dressed in layers, heading for DC.  Pray for them.  And me.  And all of us.

 

Seven Quick Takes: Bits of Blogging Linkup with Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum

Have 7 quick things to say? Have 7 not quick things to say? Blog ’em up and link ’em up at Kelly’s place!

*Image credit: Björn S. [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On Putting Aside the Flat Earth Novel

CAUTION: FRANK, MATURE DISCUSSION AHEAD

astronaut-877306_640.jpg

Image by skeeze via Pixabay

People. Between my lectio divina and my lectio ficta*, I think I’ve stumbled upon one humongous reason why Catholic fiction is not flying off the shelves.  Let me see if I can put it into words.

This should be good, since, admittedly, I’ve put precious little into words of late. So, by “should be good,” I mean, “might be pretty bad.”

I used to finish every book I picked up.  It seemed good form.  Funny how having kids forces one to become picky with how one spends every blessed drop of time.  Hence why, as I admitted during last June’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk , I’ve returned Kristin Lavransdatter, Anna Karenina, and not to leave the boys out, those krazy Karamazov kids back to the library unfinished.  Now, I adore Hugo and Dickens, so you can’t say that I balk at thick books just by virtue of their thickness.  Once kids came along, however, if I don’t care deeply about your story within the first chapter, I’m probably going to put it down.

I picked up a book** recently that I gave more than that first chapter, because it was a fun concept.  I put it down around a third of the way through.  Why? Because it was written in a world that totally ignores a dimension of the human experience that I know exists because I have willingly experienced it–but is considered cumbersome to the current culture at large… so cumbersome that most people either act like it doesn’t exist or they don’t even know it’s there.  

I’ve been struggling to come up with an adequate metaphor.  Let’s try this: it’s like someone wrote a book in which we don’t ever need to breathe. I’m not talking about an author keeping out descriptions of breathing because they have no bearing on the story. No.  But imagine an author writes a space opera in which humans go zipping from planet to planet with no actual life support system.  Human characters just go swimming through the vacuum of space, no protection from radiation, no oxygen, no water source, no, um, waste disposal…

Most readers would be all like, “You’re kidding, right? Reality isn’t like that.” We can only suspend our disbelief so far before the story becomes untenable…

… unless, that is, the reader has already written off the necessity of life support before picking up the novel. 

Time to drop the metaphor. In the novel I put down, there was a lot of sex.

“ERIN!” you gasp.  “YOU SCREAMING HYPOCRITE! WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN READING!?!?”

Chill, mes amis.  There literally was nothing graphic in there, which is why I got as far as that first third in the first place. Anyway. By “sex,” I mean there were a lot of genital relationships of various types alluded to on every page.  All operated on the assumption that there is a complete lack of any transcendent dimension applicable in those relationships.  There was only a historic past for these characters and a panting present.  There was no future. There was no eternity.

Now, either you know exactly what I’m talking about or you think I’m rattling off nonsense.

For those of you who know what I mean, you know there’s certain entertainment that just leaves you a teeny bit empty inside, even if you found it, well, entertaining:

  • the show that displays violence like it’s no big deal, completely ignoring how murder shatters the murderer’s soul
  • the movie that tries to tell you that a violent sexual relationship never destroys the characters’ trust in each other, the world and themselves, because, hey, there’s no magic wand like “consent,” and there are no such things as regrets when you’ve waved said magic wand
  • the song that sings the praises of date rape and ignores our current reality of sexual harassment

If you’re in the “Erin is rattling off nonsense again” camp… dude, I have no idea how to reach you.  Seriously, I don’t.  If I knew, I’d have tried it by now.  If you are convinced that the most transcendent thing about utilizing your genitals for your well-deserved pleasure is the c-word (which is “consent,” in case you thought it was something else)… what can I say?

If you’ve already written off the need for life support simply because you’ve never been in space, how can I convince you that that vacuum will kill you, whether you acknowledge it or not?  And why would you want to read any books that tell you, “Hey, you know, if you don’t acknowledge biological reality, you’re probably going to die?”

I mean, who wants to pay cash money for that kind of downer?

Of course, I kind of like you and don’t want you to die.  Still my not wanting you to die has nothing to do with your consent, so you can write that off, too, cantcha?

If you’re in the latter camp… I love you, but I gotta be honest.  You look like flat earthers. You look like science deniers.

Today’s lectio divina for me was the short reading in Lauds.  In it, we’re charged to tell prisoners to escape prison, to tell those in darkness to step into the light.  So.  Latter camp?  You consented to your prison? You asked to be in darkness? I don’t care.  Come out.  Get light. There.  My work here is done. For now.

Speaking of which, there might be some reality I’m missing.  Maybe I should give Tolstoy another chance.

If you want to give some reality a chance that you’ve previously been shy of considering…

Catholic Reads: reviewed Catholic books to be had on the cheap

The Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

Virtue Works Media: Books, movies, etc., all rated for their virtue nutritional content

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body

If I haven’t listed it here, Carolyn has at her place, so go to there.

And, of course, there’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk, starting again in February 2018.

Speaking of which, Happy New Year!


*That’s supposed to be Latin for “fiction reading,” as opposed to lectio divina being “divine reading.” I am not a Latin scholar, however, so… you know.  It’s probably wrong.

**In compliance with this blog’s review policy, since I can’t give this book at least four stars, I’m not going to name it.  SO QUIT ASKING!

New Book Club! And deeeep discounts on Jane E!

Check out this article over at Sabbath Rest Book Talk‘s bestest buddy, VirtueWorks Media, Inc.

Introducing virtue mentoring for teen girls through the Totally Feminine Genius (TM) Generations Book Club!

Virtue Mentoring for Teen Girls through the Totally Feminine Genius(TM) Generations Book Club

I’m honored to see The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan included alongside some amazing book suggestions in the 16 and up range.  If you’d like to get a group discount* on these ebooks for your book club, contact me at e mccole cupp at gee mail dot com (remove the spaces, use an @ symbol, etc.), or if you’re stumped by my super sophisticated spam deflector there, comment below, and I’ll be in touch.

Jane Eyre rebooted: THE MEMOIRS OF JANE E, FRIENDLESS ORPHAN by Erin McCole Cupp

*Group discount: each book at 99 cents for orders of 5 or more per book. Feel free to start with Unclaimed (Book 1), and I’ll keep the discount if you choose to continue with the other two books.  

 

NEW RELEASE: JULIA’S GIFTS!

Julia's Gifts by Ellen Gable (WWI Clean Romance--Great War, Great Love)

Julia’s Gifts

(Great War Great Love #1)

by Ellen Gable

As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will her naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

Excerpt

December 17, 1917

The bustling streets of Center City Philadelphia shimmered with electric lights, heralding that Christmas was near. Julia Marie Murphy lifted her head and gazed upward. The night sky was filled with snow clouds, the air brisk. She pulled on her gloves and buttoned the top of her coat. Her thoughts turned to her future husband. Dear God in heaven, please protect my beloved.

Tens of thousands of American men had already enlisted to fight in this “Great War.” The gentlemen that Julia knew seemed anxious to join, and Julia thanked God that her three brothers were too young to fight.

In a few short weeks, it would be 1918.  All of her father’s friends and acquaintances expected the war to end soon, hopefully before the middle of the year.  But 1918 held far more significance for Julia.  This would be the year that she would turn 21.

She approached Lit Brothers department store, admiring the display windows that were outlined with colored electric lights. Julia was thankful that it was Monday. If it were Thursday, the ban on electric lights (in support of the war effort) would mean the windows would be dark.

Julia stared, transfixed, through the window at the tall display. Shimmery red fabric hung from a back wall, a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch lay on top of a cylindrical pedestal.  Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag: $12.25, almost 20 percent of her annual salary. But it was beautiful and every man needed one. The price notwithstanding, this would be a perfect gift for her beloved. Yes, it was extravagant, especially during wartime. Yes, there were less expensive items she could purchase. It didn’t matter. This was the ideal gift.

After purchasing it, she took it to the engraving department on the second floor. Behind the counter, the tall, lanky middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache smiled. “What would you like engraved on this?”

“To my beloved, next line, all my love, Julia.”

His eyebrows lifted.  “I’m certain the gentleman would prefer to have his Christian name engraved on this lovely timepiece.  Don’t you agree?”

“Well, yes, I imagine he would.  But I don’t really know his name or who he is yet.”

The man’s mouth fell open and he stuttered.  “I’m..I’m…s…sorry, Miss. I…I don’t understand.  You’ve bought an expensive pocket watch for someone you don’t know?”

Julia sighed.  She shouldn’t have said anything.

“Please just use the words I gave you.”

The man nodded and regarded Julia with an expression of suspicious curiosity, a look one might give a person in an asylum.

“How long will it take?”

“For the engraving?  Ten days.  Sorry, Miss, but you won’t have it in time for Christmas.”

“That’s all right.” Julia turned and walked a few steps and heard the salesman mumble, “Now there’s an odd girl.  Buying a gift for someone she doesn’t know. Tsk tsk.”

Sighing, she checked her own wristwatch and hurried out of the store to begin the three-block walk to her trolley stop.  If she didn’t get there in time for the five p.m. streetcar, she would be waiting half an hour.

This year Julia was determined that she would meet her beloved, the man for whom she had been praying these past four years. Why hadn’t she met him yet?  Some of her friends were already married. Her beloved was out there and she would find him.  Yes, 1918 would also be the year that she would meet her beloved.

Each December, Julia wondered what she would buy her beloved for Christmas. Last year, she searched different stores but found nothing special. She finally discovered — and bought — a brown leather pocket journal at a specialty store at Broad and Bigler Streets. She didn’t know whether her beloved would be the sort to write in one, but it seemed like an appropriate gift, especially since it had a delicate leaf embossed on the cover. The year before, she had bought a sterling silver Miraculous Medal because her beloved would be Catholic.

That first year, her mother suggested that she begin praying for her future husband.  After a few weeks of doing so, Julia felt inspired to do more. It had been the week before Christmas, so she decided that she would buy or make him a Christmas gift each year until they met.  With no job and no money that year, Julia knit him two pairs of socks, one blue-green and one green-brown, with finely-made yarn that her mother had given her.

The fact that she had made or bought gifts, and had spent hard-earned money for her future husband, had not pleased her father as he thought it too impractical and sentimental. Her mother, however, had declared that it was a beautiful gesture. Of course, if Mother knew how much she had spent on the most recent gift, she was pretty certain her mother wouldn’t be happy.

Q&A About Julia’s Gifts

What was the inspiration for Julia’s Gifts?

When I was a teenager, I yearned to meet my future spouse.  It was difficult because most of my friends (and all of my siblings) had boyfriends.  Since I looked very young, boys weren’t    interested in me. I felt lonely, especially on Friday nights when all my siblings and friends were on dates, and I was home watching the Donny and Marie Show.

I began praying that God would “send me a man.”  Until then, I prayed for my future husband.  While I never actually bought a gift for him, I did write letters to him.

A few years ago, it occurred to me that it would be a beautiful gesture for a young woman to buy Christmas gifts for her future spouse.  From that small seed, Julia’s Gifts was born.

Why World War 1?

I’ve always been interested in history and I knew very little about this war.  I decided to focus the bulk of my research on the last year of the War (after the United States entered).  Because I am American and my husband is Canadian, Julia is American and her future spouse (Peter) is Canadian. I read and studied many books and researched online for three years before actually sitting down to write the novel.

Why is the name of the series Great War Great Love?

I owe my gratitude to the son of a friend of mine, Ian, for coming up with the title. The reason for the title is that World War 1 was called the “Great War” by the Allies before the USA entered the war, and is still often called the “Great War,” by British, Canadians and Australians. And Great Love because there are many examples of how couples met and fell in love during times of war.

The sonnets/poems in this story are beautifully written.  Tell us a bit about them.

Well, I’m not a poet, but my husband has written songs and poems. So I asked him if he would be willing to write sonnets for my book.  I explained in detail what I needed the sonnet to express and he took it from there.  The sonnets are a beautiful addition to this novel, especially because my husband wrote them.

Can you tell us about the next two books of the series?

Yes. Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and takes place at approximately the same time as Julia’s Gifts, but focuses on a different female protagonist, Charlotte, who finds her purpose in life when she begins working in the death ward and holding men’s hands as they die.  She is attracted to Canadian Dr. Paul Kilgallen. During an advance by the enemy, everyone at the field hospital evacuates, except for Charlotte and Dr. K.  They remain hidden in the basement of the chateau to take care of the terminally ill men and those soldiers who can’t be moved. Charlotte becomes convinced that Paul is her own “beloved.” But when she loses contact with Paul, she fears not only for his safety, but begins to doubt his love for her.  Charlotte’s Honor will be released in late 2018.

Ella’s Promise is Book #3 in the series. It is about the daughter of German immigrants, Ella, an American nurse who (because of the time period) was discouraged from continuing on in her studies to be a doctor.  She works as a nurse for three years in Philadelphia but reads medical books every opportunity she gets. During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own beloved in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.

This is very different from your other books in that it is a very clean romance and can be read by young teens to elderly women to middle-aged men.  Was that a conscious choice?

Yes, it is very different and no, it wasn’t a conscious choice, at first.  When I came up with the story and as I was gradually developing the characters and plotlines, it made the most sense to keep this a “sweet” and “clean” love story that anyone can enjoy.  It is, however, a war novel, so there are descriptions of war injuries.

How do you find time to write?

The question really is: when do I feel inspired to write?  I work for a non-profit organization, and I run a micro-press publishing company.  I also write articles for various websites.  Some authors can force themselves to write a short novel (say, during November, national novel writing month).  However, for me, I need to be inspired.  For some strange reason, January is always a rich writing month for me.  When I’m inspired, writing comes easily.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite Catholic author is Dena Hunt (author of Treason and The Lion’s Heart), but I also enjoy reading Willa Cather’s books (Death Comes For the Archbishop).  Dena’s books are incredibly well-written and moving.  Cather’s books are well-written and rich in meaning.

And while this may seem biased, I enjoy reading books by all the Full Quiver Authors.  I also enjoy the books of the authors who are fellow members of the Catholic Writers Guild.

One of my favorite secular authors is Nelson DeMille (author of the John Corey series).   I also enjoy reading Kathleen Morgan’s Christian historical novels.

Julia's Gifts, clean romance by Ellen Gable (Great War-Great Love)

About Ellen Gable

Ellen Gable is an award-winning author, Marketing Director for Live the Fast, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. However, the roles she loves the most are being wife to her husband and mother to their five sons, ages 18-30. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband of 35 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario Canada.

Find Ellen at:

Blog: Plot Line and Sinker

Full Quiver Publishing 

Amazon Author Page

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Pinterest

Linked In

Google+

December’s SRBT & Open Book

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup! To which I’m arriving typically late, but what of that?

an-open-book

In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone, I link up my video Sabbath Rest Book Talk with Carolyn’s Open Book.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

This month’s focus was compassion, and our featured fiction is…

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

Inspirational Romance that brings the reader the joys of Christmas all year long: ORNAMENTAL GRACES by Carolyn Astfalk

Christmas Hope by Leslie Lynch

Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December 2017 with Erin McCole Cupp

The Strangers at the Manger (Chime Travelers #5) by Lisa Hendey

strangersatthemanger

and as-yet-unread shoutout to Unearthing Christmas by Anthea Piscarik

Sabbath Rest Book Talk for December 2017 with Erin McCole Cupp

See the video here or click on the thumbnail below.

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