The Writing Life

Open Book: Book Recs for December 2019

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

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I realize everyone else is doing Christmas book recommendations, but here I am, being the rebel! Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

TheHidingPlaceCoverYeah, I’m just now reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the author’s family was involved in the Dutch resistance during WWII and was the hub of hiding places and other survival-related services for their Jewish neighbors as well as others who needed protection from the invading Nazis, such as young men who were in danger of being conscripted for munitions labor. Eventually Corrie and her family were captured, imprisoned, and Corrie and her sister Betsie were shipped off to Ravensbruck, where Betsie succumbed to illness at the cruel treatment. Throughout, ten Boom delivers an indefatigable message of hope in the darkest of the dark places, not just physically but within the human heart.  I had a hard time getting through Eli Weisel’s Night (and still haven’t finished it), but now that I’ve been dosed with the hope and love of the ten Boom family, I think I could retackle Weisel. A1PlaceHolder

 

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The Bride Ships, Book 1: A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund: if you’re looking for a bittersweet romance that’s honest about harsh circumstances but delivers hope and joy along with the heartbreak, A Reluctant Bride might be a good fit for you. Mercy Wilkins is forced out of her home in the London slums and the only baggage she can afford to bring along is her fear of marriage, after the miserable example her parents and others set for her. When she accidentally catches the eye and heart of the ship’s doctor, she has to face her fears and the deepest desires of her heart. Recommended by Carolyn, our Open Book host. A1PlaceHolder

 

GileadCover.jpgRhonda Franklin Ortiz recommended Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. So far, it’s oddly reminiscent of Black Bottle Man without the creepy supernatural factor (so far). It has more of a literary bent than the stuff I’ve been reading lately, which has been good for my mind, frankly. Not that leisure reading is bad, but leisure reading with some complexity to it is good as well. Just a different kind of good. Fathers. Sons. Struggle. Tough farmland with tougher farmers. That’s what I’m getting so far, and I want more. A1PlaceHolder

ParacordCover.jpgFrom the sublime to the ridiculous, Second Shift of Kid and I are working our way through Paracords! by Todd Mikkelsen. I keep trying and utterly failing to do our homeschool Charlotte Mason-style, but the failure comes from having kids who just hate transitions, which makes the whole “many short lessons throughout the day” thing just blow up in my face with alarming consistency. Anyhoo, I have been wanting to add more handicrafts into our day to improve coordination, and I figured paracord might be easier for clumsy hands (ahem, including mine) to manage. I wasn’t wrong! We were able to make a Solomon bar bracelet yesterday and are now planning to make red-and-green collars for our dogs for Christmas. Whee!A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book: Book Recs for November 2019

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

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I am so excited that I have the time to participate in Open Book not one but two months in a row! Having the time to blog is elusive these days, but I’m in a quieter season for the moment, so I’m making hay while the sun shines!

I’ve even had some time to chip away at the beloved fiction section of the TBR pile.

BlackBottleManThe Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell is wonderfully, WONDERFULLY WEIRD!  It has been a long time since I’ve read something this kind of weird–creepy, honest, detailed, believable! There’s so much to love in The Black Bottle Man, whether it’s the heartbreak of the story of a long and very drawn-out battle for good over the forces of evil, the delicate failings and impossible triumphs of the characters, and the proof of the power of symbolic thinking. Russel’s eye for language and imagery is an excellent sauce to the meat of the storytelling. HIGHLY recommended! (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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SecretsSecrets: Visible & Invisible gives readers a taste of the work of several Catholic YA authors. There really is something for everyone in this anthology, and it does well what anthologies do best: give readers an opportunity to expand their options and get out of reading ruts, such as, “I only read books by Author So-and-so.” The other thing Secrets does well is show examples of relatable characters facing their own options to face the truth or keep hiding, a choice that teen readers must face every day. It’s a quick read for the reluctant reader but also series of thrill rides for the book-devourer. I am looking forward to the next anthology in the series! (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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EllasPromiseEllen Gable has her third installment out in her series, Great War, Great Love. This latest is my favorite out of all three: Ella’s Promise. A sweet romance where the main character seeks to live truthfully in a world where everyone has something to hide, Ella’s Promise delivers thrills and satisfaction. I loved the tension and the pacing, not to mention how the characters captured my heart. (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)A1PlaceHolder

AllInGoodTimeAll In Good Time rocketed to the top of my TBR pile, and it did not disappoint. Carolyn Astfalk‘s latest became my new favorite of hers, and it took less than 24 hours for that to happen! The mounting suspense matched the perfectly paced romantic tension. I’m looking forward to another day soon when I can read it again. A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book:October 2019

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

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RoyalDiariesIsabel-resizeIt’s the start of a new school year, and for history, we are doing Story of Civilization, Volume III: The Making of the Modern World from TAN books. So far, I have to say SOCvIII it’s not as robust in activities as was SOCvI (the ancient world up through the Christianizing of the Roman Empire). However, it’ll do, and as before, I’m using this year’s history to assign literary study. My 4th grade daughter is thrilled that this means we will be reading a lot of Royal Diaries series. We started with Isabel: Jewel of Castilla–Spain, 1466. It was okay. Not our favorite, but it was a great introduction to book reporting on main characters versus minor ones, as well as setting.

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MarianConsecrationForChildren-resizeWe also are working our way through re-upping our Marian Consecration. 4th grader received this book for a First Eucharist gift, and we did the consecration that year for the Feast of the Immaculate Heart… which is great, but it’s also a moveable feast, so I lost track of when it was this year, and we didn’t renew in time. For good or ill, I’ve moved our consecration date to Our Lady of the Rosary, which I can put in my calendar as ALWAYS being on October 7.

As for this Marian Consecration for Children by Carrie Gress, it was great for a second grader. Gress uses stories from children’s literature to illustrate virtues and our relationship with God and Mary. That said, I think 4th grade is getting a little too old, and I will probably look for a new book for next year.

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Trying to read ahead for appropriateness, I picked up Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. This is the story of a young girl who lives on a well-to-do ranch in Mexico during the Great Depression. It’s billed as a reverse-Cinderella story, and it delivers. I know it sounds corny, but through her reversal of fortune, Esperanza really does learn the true meaning of worth and value. I’d say a third-grader with good reading comprehension could tackle this. There’s ample opportunity for discussion on classism, racism, prejudice, the Dirty Thirties, and even where our food comes from and who gets it to us. There is some death in the story, but there’s nothing graphic/nightmare-inducing.

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MyQueenMyMother-resize  ForgivingMother-resizeI’ve also read both My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena as well as Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace. These are great books for those of us working on healing the oft-neglected mother wound. My Queen approaches Mary as someone with power to influence even temporal events, living among us still, especially among the poor and needy. Forgiving Mother shows us Mary’s role as ideal mother, someone who hurts with us and for us when the people who are supposed to love us most fail us.

Keep your eyes peeled over at Catholic Mom for a book club on My Queen, My Mother, starting October 5.

A1PlaceHolderABoundHeart-resizeAnd as I wait for my edits on Broken Grown-up’s Guide to come back to me, and since we are in a slower season for the Shakespeare play I direct each year… I have time for leisure reading! So I scrolled through Carolyn Astfalk’s previous months of Open Book, and I thought I’d start with this one: A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz. I really wanted something light and sweet, given how heavy my real life has been of late, and A Bound Heart does not disappoint.  It is quite slow to get started, so much that I almost gave up, but I hung in there, and I’m enjoying it.

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An Open Book: Boundaries, Classics and Dead Critters [Feb2019]

Books for high school students, wounded people, and a classic readaloud where somebody probably dies: I join  Carolyn Astfalk with Catholic Mom for a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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Turning my eye to non-fiction this month for the most part, for writing purposes. ICYM, I’m working on a book for Our Sunday Visitor. I’m writing about parenting spirituality for survivors of child abuse and family dysfunction. If this is news to you, that’s because you haven’t had the chance to subscribe to my newsletter. Oh, do, dear reader, and thus receive your free copy of Get Moving With St. Dominic’s Nine Ways of Prayer.

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BoundariesCover BoundariesInMarriage Now that I’ve done most of the heavier research for the OSV book, I’m working my way through this series: Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Not gonna lie: this series is helping me less with the book and more with my own relationships. These books are Christian in the truest sense of holding Christ’s example up for us as something to emulate in order to live peacefully with the truth.  I tend to take on more than I can handle, both professionally and personally, and either let people get away with almost-murder or cut them out entirely. These books are basically telling me things I kind of already knew, but the examples given and the scriptures backing them up make me feel like setting healthy boundaries is something I can do effectively without as much hemming and hawing as I usually do.

I hope to list these in the “Resources” section of my book. I have noble plans to “leak” a few of the books I’ve used for more specific research in the upcoming Open Book linkups, so if that sort of information is useful to you, keep an eye out here. A1PlaceHolderA1PlaceHolderSeparatePeaceOresteia School assignments over here for First Shift of Kids.  I read A Separate Peace in high school… I think. I may have “read” it, as in let the words swim before my eyes while I listened to The Cure.  All I remember is that there’s a broken bone in there, and the day after I was talking to the child reading this book about the grossness and pain and obscure dangers involved in setting broken bones 100 years ago… the kid up and breaks two bones.  They were small bones. She did not fall out of a tree to break them.

The Oresteia I did not read, even in college, even as a theatre major in college. Another win for end-of-20th-century education in America.

A1PlaceHolderYearlingCoverAnd yet another book I haven’t read: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I’ve not read the book. I’ve not seen the movie. I know there’s a deer. I’m assuming something and or someone will die, and I’ll have to read while crying, which I find embarrassing, even in front of my kid. Dear Lord, please help this sort of thing be a cherished memory to her of her softie mom’s sentimentality, and not a source of annoyance at mom’s weakness.

I picked this for our read-aloud because it’s a used book sale find, and we’ve had it sitting on the shelf unread for a couple of years. I’m up to Chapter Nine or Ten reading this aloud to Second Shift of Kid, and we’ve yet to meet the deer. That said, it’s a fun read-aloud if you like reading dialect, and in this case, I do, since I’m not reading for an audition but to just my one youngest kid who hasn’t quite reached the disdain-everything-mom-does stage–yet. It’ll come. Probably the day I have to cry-read in front of her.   A1PlaceHolder

That’s it for February! Want more details on An Open Book? You can also sign up for An Open Book reminder email, which goes out one week before the link-up. You can also check out the archives of An Open Book!

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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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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.

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Check out the reading list for all of 2018.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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

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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

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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!