faith

Revisiting: How to Destroy Your Writing Career

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It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday, hosted by Allison Gingras and Elizabeth Reardon–did I get that right?

In my quest to cut stress from my life before it takes another organ (and one I can’t live without), I’ve had to give up my volunteer position as chair of the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval Committee.  Of all the things I do in my life, that was the most stressful, conflict ridden thing.  I plan on blogging about what that’s like, having the Catholic writers cause you stress.  For now, though, you can take a look at this post from 2014. How to Destroy Your Writing Career.

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3 Reasons the Faithful Writer Needs a Secular Writing Life

Call this post my Ode to Sisters in Crime, an international organization for women crime writers.

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Moar Marketing Ideas!

This past Saturday I was able (at last!) to make it to my local chapter of Sisters in Crime.  Our guest speaker was Nicole Loughan.

I’m posting both pictures, because in the first, Nicole looks lovely but blurry and I just look like me, while in the second she looks lovely and clear, while I look like I’m plotting to kill hamsters.

AAAANYway, Nicole gave a great presentation on how to sell 10K books in one year.  Yes, this is the kind of marketing topic that gets covered at CMN/CWCL, but this had the benefit of being local (or, for me, local-ish, now that we live in a cornfield) and only took a morning rather than most of a week.

There’s also something I’ve noticed about secular  marketing strategy talks, and it’s a good thing: if you’re marketing secular fiction, you only have to worry about bad reviews.  You don’t have to worry about people mocking you personally for being a person of faith.  I don’t know about you, but I move past my fears better when I have someone who loves at least one thing I do (or three: writing, books, and writing books) giving me a to do list, even if I have to read that list to myself as, “Baby steps get on a bus.  Baby steps get on a bus.

Nicole had some great tips to share, and she’ll be sharing more at the 2016 Annual Winter Writers’ Weekend in Lambertville, NJ.  Maybe you can attend?  Check out her branding, too! Oh, and she has a Philly-based novel coming out next about an old North Broad landmark, the Divine Lorraine.  Look at this cover!

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::drool:: Gorgeous stuff. Thanks, Nicole!

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Moar Research

Through SinC, I’ve met a local mystery writer who also happens to be a prosecuting attorney, watched cadaver dogs train (and incidentally got to smell what a cadaver smells like to humans–an unearthly stench unlike any other), met a state trooper who worked on the Johnston Gang murders, found out about ways to connect with readers instead of just writers, and on and on.  If you write in a genre, and you want to enrich your writing, your nearest genre-based writing group can be a bottomless resource for you.

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Moar Humans

There’s a certain danger in being a writer in any faith-based genre, and that’s the danger of wanting to circle the wagons.  In a faith-based writing group, I can really let my hair down. I can talk about the pope as he is and not how the media portrays him.  I can talk about 10KLAD over Chipotle and have nobody bat an eye.  I can relax.  I don’t have to hold my breath and feel the sweat bead on my palms as soon as everybody starts talking politics.  I don’t have to answer the unspoken question, “But you’re not like those Catholics, right?”

However.. Jesus?  Not the wagon-circling type.  If you circle the wagons, though, you won’t ever reach your destination.  The hard thing to remember is that the destination is not the cross, it’s the resurrection.

So I go to a secular writing group as often as my time allows.  My life is enriched by the marketing tips and the research opportunities and the fresh ideas both spawn, but my heart and soul are enriched by getting out of my little Catholic bubble, by having my them-against-us tendencies challenged.  “Them” are just folks, just like me, and in the scheme of eternity, I’m not that much closer to God than anybody else.  I’m reminded once again that, no matter what we believe, not a one of us gets out of this alive, and we’re all in this together.

3 Reasons a Faith Writer Needs a SECULAR Writing Group

Have you found great resources and wonderful people in your secular writing group?  Do you know of any secular writers’ organizations that might be helpful to others?  Or do you need help finding one for your genre?  Comment below, and let’s talk about it!

Flip to The End: Using the Magnificat to Find Meaning in Suffering

Flip to End PinterestThis past Sunday, December 13, Gaudete Sunday, I was honored to have the opportunity to talk with the women at the St. Pius X Parish in Bowie (pronounced BOO-ee), MD at their Advent Women’s Dinner.  Folks, this was a lovely event.  For the past 17 years, the ladies of St. Pius have put together an evening of music and prayer and teaching for 200-ish women, followed by a catered dinner served by the men of their parish.  Great idea, huh?

This year, I was asked to visit for their teaching time, and so we talked about Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55).  Because their clergy has been preaching on this whole canticle one section at a time all Advent, I felt led to focus specifically on the last four words: HIS CHILDREN FOR EVER.  In effect, I made us flip to the end before their last homily in the series.  Is that a bad habit, flipping to the end?  Getting spoilers?

The day after the talk and dinner, an attendee emailed me (Hi, you-know-who-you-are!) and asked if I could make the talk available for folks who couldn’t be there.  Here’s my attempt at solidifying my talk notes.  I hope that those who read (and those who listened) receive this as another tool in the toolbox of making sense of suffering.


 

When the dinner coordinator contacted me about choosing a topic for this talk, she mentioned that their parish was focusing on the Magnificat this Advent.

“Well, that’s interesting,” I replied, “because I have the Magnificat up on my computer right now.”

Kinda hard to deny the Holy Spirit when He’s literally staring you in the face.

Anyway, as the coordinator ran down the four titles their clergy would be using–Blessed, Strengthened, Filled, and Promised–my eyes were drawn to the very last words of this canticle: HIS CHILDREN FOR EVER.  As she described for me the audience of 200-some women of a wide variety ages, that solidified for me what the talk needed to be about.  Some of us are mothers, some of us are wives, some of us are grandparents… but not all of us.  However, we’re all children.  His children.  His children for ever.

I’ll admit I worried, however, about leapfrogging over the pastor’s planned messages, jumping to the end, throwing all those spoilers out there.  Would that upset anyone? Was God asking me to flip to the end, or was this impatience, arrogance on my part, like I do whenever I pick up a new book to read?   

Wait a sec–who said those words, “his children for ever”? Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.  If God picked someone who flips to the end to be the mother of His perfect Son, then in this context, flipping to the end can’t be bad.

But why would our perfect Mother need to look ahead to the end?  Well, what were Mary’s plans before Gabriel showed up?  No matter what kind of Christian you profess to be, you’re probably pretty confident Mary’s initial plans did not include unwed motherhood.  And then along comes this angel telling her not to be afraid–of the accusing looks, the gossip, the stones that would careen toward her and destroy her body until she breathed no more.

Nope, that was not her initial plan.  How about you?  Have you ever had plans that got frustrated by God’s plan? How did you react?

How did Mary react? Mary trusted in God’s goodness.  She acted as if THE BATTLE IS ALREADY WON! The end is already decided. She knew the end before it began; that’s how she was able to walk into the danger of single motherhood.

So let’s do that.  Let’s get spoiled for the eternal story.  Let’s flip to the end of God’s plan for us.  Let’s look at each word in turn and find those spoilers Mary is leaving for us.

HIS

“His” is a possessive pronoun.  If we are His, then we belong to Him.  He possesses us. Now there are two ways to belong to someone: you can be needed or you can be chosen.  I remember, very early in my walk as an intentional Catholic, visiting my Granny in the hospital.  It was Easter Sunday, and it didn’t look like she was going to make it.  In fact, she didn’t seem all that invested in making it.

“God don’t need me,” she said, not bitterly, just peacefully, with confidence.

I was appalled.  “Of course God needs you!”

“Nah, He don’t need me.”

It wasn’t until later, after she did come home from the hospital, that I realized what she was saying: God doesn’t need us, but He wants us.  He could have done anything, but He, the creator of the universe, chose to make us and call us His own. God then generously gives us images of what it means to be chosen: by a spouse, by a parent, by the captain of the playground basketball team, by… a pet

Anyway, we are His.  We are chosen.  Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.  However, belonging to someone else isn’t a guaranteed easy path.  I have a friend who lost her middle child when that child was only 10.  I remember her saying, “God, I’ve seen your plan.  It sucks.”

It’s hard to argue with that take on suffering, because, at heart, we’re all still…

CHILDREN

What are some words used to describe children?

  • Innocent
  • Vulnerable
  • Needy
  • Stuck in an eternal now, now, NOW!!!!!
  • Have a lot to learn 
  • Inexperienced
  • Still developing
  • Compare to each other badly: There is a six year difference between First Shift and Second Shift of Kid in our family; imagine the comparing they do with each other and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Don’t come out knowing how to serve others
  • Too small to see the end goal
  • Can’t see others perspectives
  • Don’t do the planning
  • Don’t get to make all the choices: if you doubt this, give a five year-old the job of planning and executing your next big holiday dinner. Then let me know how long into it you needed to call the fire company.
  • Sometimes there are things a child must learn without the parent doing it for her (ever feel like God abandoned you)?
  • Can choose to fight back against the parent
  • Seeking purpose: everything they do is for some reason

So we can see that some aspects of being children–the childlike ones, like innocence and vulnerability–help us in our striving for God.  Others–the childish ones, like the comparing and the now now NOW!–hinder us.  Either way, we do ourselves no favors when we deny the fact that we are, compared to God the Eternal Father who made us, just little children.

That’s not all on the word “CHILDREN,” however. Our fallen world has complicated things further yet.  Sure, for some of us, childhood was this delightful romp; for some of us, less so.  Thus the idea of being anybody’s child for ever is terrifying.  Especially when the Father’s goodness is colored by lenses forged in a fallen world, a world damaged by death and sin.  What  does that even mean?

Well, remember that friend who’d lost a child? “God, I’ve seen your plan.  It sucks.”

Hard to argue with the perspective of a mother who’s lost her son.  What was the point of that, God?  What’s the great plan with that kind of suffering?  What’s it all for, anyway?  

Which brings us to our next word…

FOR

“For” is a tiny word, but it says a lot.  It indicates purpose.  God has a reason for each one of us to exist.  Do kids always know the reason that things happen to them? No, and that’s usually because they’re just too small to see the endpoint (check our “CHILD” list above if you need a refresher on that).  “For” also indicates a plan.  Humans were created for relationship with God and each other–for whole relationship.  We were designed to delight in reality, not suffer from it.    

Again I say, our world is fallen. The prince of this world doesn’t want us to be any of those good things that children are; he’s going to do everything possible to convince us that we aren’t even children, that we don’t belong to God, and that we weren’t chosen to be exactly who we are–that we need to be something else… that God’s plan is wrong.  

But is it?  It sure feels wrong sometimes.  It’s easy to understand the friend who says God’s plan sucks, because we’ve all been there.  So what would it take to convince us that God’s plan is right and good and worthy of trust?  Why should we trust God to turn our suffering around?    

Because of the evidence:  

    • Abraham: Through decades of infertility, God planned for us to be the faith descendants of Abraham before time began so that we could be adopted as His children.  
    • Joseph (Jacob’s son): If his brother’s hadn’t left him for dead and sold him into slavery, he wouldn’t have been around to save not just those brothers and their families but the entire nation of Egypt and all who came to that land in that time of famine.
    • Esther: If she had not been orphaned in a foreign land where her people were in danger, she would not have been in a position to save them from the deadly dangers of calumny.
    • How many saints do we have again? Read the story of just one and you’ll see how God turns suffering around.
    • Examples from our own lives, like how God used infertility to change my agnostic husband’s heart, or like how I was bullied as a kid but through that experience learned to love and forgive and wrote a novel illustrating the power of forgiveness.

So we see all these examples… but let’s face it: sometimes even millenia of examples of God’s plan at work is still not enough to convince us in the here and now of our suffering.  It is always hard to argue with the friend who lost a child when he was 10 and her phrase,“God, I’ve seen your plan.  It sucks.”  

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.  After all, what is the one thing that phrase forgets?  It forgets the last word of the Magnificat, the easiest word to forget:

EVER

The Creation account tells us that we weren’t designed for death. We were designed for eternity.  God chose us to be His forever. God made us to be children so He can be active in our lives and so we can still choose Him back.  Best of all, God’s plan pretty much revolves around us.  

WHY?

LOVE

That image we have of God as Father falls a little short if you forget God is outside of the Fall.  God is perfect love, unending relationship.  You don’t have to look hard to find reminders of the Trinity everywhere. God is so much relationship that He’s three whole people in just one God.  

Mary, the perfect woman, trusted all of these things, all that is involved in being God’s child for ever, but being a child is HARD.  It’s hard not knowing the plan.  It’s hard to be powerless. It’s hard not knowing the end of your story…

BUT YOU DO! MARY KNEW THE END OF HER STORY, AND SO DO YOU! YOU CAN FLIP TO THE END ANY TIME YOU LIKE!

How do we know our current plot point as suffering children is a good one? Because God himself chose it for himself as well.  He did not exempt himself from our pain–in fact, He chose it all, accepted the worst of it, to show us that this world is not the end of the story.  He became a child born of woman. He became the child of a woman who would lose her Son.  In response, she would not declare that God’s plan sucks.  She would forever be captured in God’s word, stating plainly:


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and

his

children

for

ever.

Mary proclaimed the end of the story to Elizabeth.  She proclaims it to us today.  We as Church proclaim it every day at every Mass, in every Vespers.  In the Great Commission, God asks us to go tell the whole world the Good News, that this world is not the end of the story.  

We all face the cross.  We all look like we’re gonna die and not come back.  But that’s not the end.  The beginning looks like a disaster. The middle is veiled from us. But the future?  The future is right there waiting for us–complete union with the Body of Christ FOR EVER.

When in doubt, be like Mary: Flip to the end.  Just as knowing what that last page of a book says motivates me to keep reading, let a flip to the end motivate you forward to Christ’s forever with you.  


 

Four questions for you to consider as you head into Christmas or whatever the next part of your story is:

  • Where have you been in your story?
  • Where are you right now?
  • What are some things you can do to proclaim the end of the story to yourself?

  • Who is one person in your life who needs to hear the end of the story? How will you help that person flip to the end?  

Flip to End Twitter

The Sisters and I! A Guest Post from Karen Kelly Boyce

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Karen Kelly Boyce.


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The Sisters and I!

Last week I found myself sitting with a group of fallen Catholics. We were instructed to go around the table and talk about our faith in God. The first woman announced that she was an atheist – an intellectual. She claimed her education did not allow her to believe in a fairy tale-like God. Then she went into a tirade about how the nuns in her grammar school abused her and were responsible for her loss of faith. Her cover of intellectualism quickly turned to a revelation of anger as the true source of her lack of faith.

As we went around the table, the theme continued as an attack on the nuns. The poor Sisters were blamed as a cause or excuse for not attending church or believing in a Supreme Being. Years ago, I might have been hesitant to reveal my deep faith in God and my devotion to the Catholic Church. Luckily, that is no longer the case. I silently prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and found myself announcing that I was sure there was a God because He has worked so many miracles in my life. Looking around at the shocked faces around me, I told them that I read my Bible and meditate on His word for an hour each morning and that I can hear Him talk to me in my heart. I told them that I have a great peace and sense of love since I have the tenets of the Catholic Church to guide me in all my decisions. I thought the people there would fall off their chairs when I announced that I credit the kindness and loving teaching of the Sisters of Mercy who taught me the deep foundations of the Catholic faith for the joy in my life. After a few minutes of stunned silence, the last man spoke. Apparently a fundamentalist, he reddened with anger and shouted something about man-made laws and eating fish on Friday. Spitting his hatred of the Catholic Church across the table, he attacked me personally and my faith especially. I think my smile made him even angrier. I had to smile. My faith gives me peace and trust in the Holy Spirit to reach those who lack faith. His faith made him angry and more intolerant of Catholics than the atheists around him.

On the trip home I thought about the Sisters who taught me, the Sisters who wore heavy veils and clothing without air conditioning. The Sisters of Mercy packed sixty rowdy children into a small classroom and taught us the wonders of God and His Mother.  They taught us about the saints and the teachings of Jesus. They taught us that we were blessed to be Catholics and in the meantime threw in advanced teachings in English, math, and history. Was I grateful then? No, but I am now.  I was one of those rowdy kids who took every opportunity to be a class clown. I even wrote songs about each nun, singing them to my classmates delight during recess. One day, as I was singing about the flaws of the roughest nun, Sister Mary Jean (the kindest nun) was standing behind me. She quickly corrected me and that was the last song I ever wrote about my teachers. However, God has a sense of humor and knew that I would be writing about the Sisters again!

With hindsight, I now realize the wonderful education and faith that the Sisters of Mercy gifted me. Most of the Sisters were kind, hard-working, and faithful. I remember them with great delight and I am grateful for them. I realize now the sacrifices they made. Yes, they were human and got weary, uncomfortable, and sick. As an adult, I understand that nuns are human beings with virtues and flaws. Perhaps that is why God inspired me to create characters who work hard to overcome their human failings. In my children’s series, Sisters of the Last Straw, Sister Krumbles loves animals and all of God’s creatures but is disorganized and clumsy. Mother Mercy is protective and a born leader but struggles to control her temper. Sister Lovely struggles with addiction but is kind and generous. Sister Lacey is rough and tumble a hard-worker who fights an impulse to ‘cuss’ with silly rhymes and exclamations. Sister Shiny is vain and fussy but keeps the house spotless. Sister Wanda is always getting lost but never loses her gentle personality. All of them are good, all of them human.

I hope the books teach children to be forgiving. I know the series make children laugh. It makes me laugh to think about God’s sense of humor. I’m a senior citizen now, but I haven’t changed much. I am still writing about nuns. However, with an adult faith and trust, I can be much kinder than I was as a child. I can present the Sisters and the faith with truth, humor, and gratitude. It goes to show that what they taught me must be rubbing off.

KBBheadshotKaren Kelly Boyce lives on a farm in New Jersey with her retired husband. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. When she retired as a registered nurse, she rekindled her love of reading and writing. She has written for Canticle and Soul magazines. She has four published novels– According to Thy Word, Into the Way of Peace, Down Right Good and In the Midst of Wolves. The first three have received the Seal of Approval from the Catholic Writer’s Guild. Down Right Good received the 2012 Eric Hoffer award for commercial fiction and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal. In the Midst of Wolves has just been published.
When her grandchildren were born, Karen started a children’s series. The Sisters of the Last Straw is a series of humorous mysteries that are solved by a group of misfit nuns. There have been three volumes published by Chesterton PressThe Case of the Haunted Chapel, The Case of the Vanishing Novice, and The Case of the Stolen Rosaries.
Karen is a columnist for the CWG Blog and her column “Writing Tips” appears every Monday. Her personal blog can be found at www.karenkellyboyce.com.

She is currently working on future books while enjoying farming, camping, and road trips with her husband.

The Desires of Your Heart: A Guest Post from Allison Gingras

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Allison Gingras.

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

SeekingHeartLogoWhat a promise – I am not sure which intrigued me more when I first read it?  How one delights themselves in the Lord or what desire I would want fulfilled.

The first part was easier than I thought to accomplish because the Catholic faith is so rich in ways to encounter Christ in our everyday life.  I could not imagine my life not filled with prayer, the Scriptures and the Sacraments.  St. Paul exhorted us to pray without ceasing, so whether folding laundry, driving the car or reading a book, I do everything with a prayerful heart.  I will say a Hail Mary for each member of my family as I put their dishes into the dishwasher, say the rosary on my way to an event, or give thanks for the author’s talent as I read their book.

My introduction to scripture, only 10 years ago, has transformed my faith life, providing me this amazing gift of learning how Jesus spoke, and therefore having a better sense of His voice in my life.  Scripture good for all teaching and reproof has become the center of my faith and my hope, not a day goes by I don’t take a moment to ponder a verse or two.  It was also important for me to memorize a few special verses to embrace on tough days when I need encouragement, particularly helpful when writer’s block strikes or my teenage son is teetering on that last nerve!

Lastly, the Sacraments are where I go to dip into God’s well-spring of grace.  Grace is that undeserved yet freely given gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us (that is the simplified “Allison abridged” version of grace – by the way).  When I am feeling distant or discouraged, the remedy is always found in participation in the sacraments – particularly for me daily Mass, time spent in Adoration or making a really good confession.  Gifts are best when they are used, and I try my best not to waste the grace present, promised and abundant, in the Sacraments!

So, what about the desires of our heart?  How do we discover those?  That is where God is the most generous – since He has given us our brains (and even our heart’s desires), He is well aware of them.  He knows them long before we, so focusing on delighting in the Lord is truly all we need to concern ourselves with.

Last September, I received a phone call inviting me to host my own radio show.  Reluctant but curious, I asked for a few days to pray about my answer.  Off to Eucharistic Adoration I went with a notebook and pen.   I sat before Jesus and asked for inspiration – if I said yes, what on earth would the show be about?  As I sat pondering, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had a degree in English, a passion for books (especially Catholic books), and had lead book/Bible study for nearly 10 years – that was to be the foundation of my show.   From that time in prayer, A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on Real Life Radio was born.  Each week, I focus on just one book.  Monday-Thursday we discuss the themes, contents and inspirations gleaned from the book and then on Friday, I am blessed to spend an hour with the author.  It is not a review show but an on-air book club – it is interactive, interesting, and truly fulfills one of my heart’s desires.  I love connecting people and books, especially when I know it will change lives and grow faith.

So how do you delight yourself in the Lord, and what desire of your heart can He fulfill?

AGingrasPicAllison Gingras is founder of  Reconciled To You and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison blogs, writes and speaks about living an every life of faith.  She created the “Words with” daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus.  and offers presentations on Forgiveness; Trust; and the Blessed Mother.

A Body in Prayer: A Guest Post by Neil Combs

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Neil Combs.

Neil Combs

Why Write A Body in Prayer?

Prayer. What is it, really? Am I doing it right? Am I doing it enough? Do I pray with just my words, or can I pray through my actions? These were just some of the questions I was asking about 5 or 6 years ago. I was still a fairly new Catholic and I was struggling with prayer. I recalled the verses in the Bible that said “…pray always…” (Luke 18:1) and “…pray continually…” (1 Thes 5:16) but I could barely find the time to say a morning and night prayer. I did a lot of soul-searching at that time, but more importantly, I did a lot of information searching; books–The Catechism of the Catholic Church, CDs, and Scripture–to find out what I could about prayer.

What began as a personal quest for a better prayer life became something I never would have expected… a book. See, I wasn’t an author, I was just a pharmacist who had an idea and insights I wanted to share. I started by sharing it with a men’s group I belong to. They encouraged me to write it down, and a journal slowly became a book. As I shared more, I realized there were a lot more people like me who wanted a better prayer life but just didn’t know how to get there.

A Body in Prayer first defines prayer, and then it helps to identify and break down the common barriers to prayer, like the ever popular “I just don’t have enough time to pray!” But then it talks about the many different ways we can pray. You see, I always thought of prayer as talking to God, but in reality, it is so much more. It’s a conversation between two people in a relationship, and if you think of your own relationships, you know much can be said without a word being spoken. My wife has always said “actions speak louder than words,” and the same is true in prayer, maybe even more so, because God sees all our actions!

It was that realization, that by including Christ in all the daily activities of life, I could pray more and pray better. I could use my whole body to pray, by focusing everything I did (work, fasting, or appreciating a sunset) on God. Suddenly my actions could say more than my occasional words of prayer ever did.

A Body in Prayer challenges readers’ perception of prayer, yet is written in a light, conversational style. It uses ten chapters based on body parts – hands, eyes, mouth, even stomach – to give simple, real life examples of how we can use our bodies, and our actions, to pray and truly become A Body in Prayer!

BodyInPrayerCoverNeil Combs grew up as a Lutheran, but was confirmed into the Catholic faith, along with his children, in 2004.  A Pharmacist by profession, he was drawn to working with youth, and has been involved in the Youth Ministry program at St Le’s church in Hilton, NY, where he lives with his wife, Mary. He is also an active member of the Knights of Columbus. Learn more about A Body in Prayer on Facebook.

STAY WITH ME romance by Carolyn Astfalk

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Carolyn Astfalk, whose novel Stay With Me is hot off the presses–and when I say, “hot” I do mean “HOT!” A hot Catholic romance?!? Read on for more….


As I make the rounds on my virtual blog tour promoting my brand-new novel Stay With Me, Erin has graciously offered me a spot here in her absence. Since she’ll be sharing another post of mine later in the month, I’m teetering on squatter status at this site. And I intend to take full advantage before an eviction attempt is made.

STAY WITH ME, spicy but clean romance from Carolyn AstfalkStay With Me is my first published novel, and I’d like to share a little about its genesis. It all began with the perfect meet-cute. Wikipedia defines the meet cute as: “a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.”

The opening scene in Stay With Me is the meet cute between Chris Reynolds and Rebecca Rhodes. It  takes place in a grocery store where Rebecca’s attempts to pacify her young niece while Chris restocks dairy products.

While grocery shopping myself, I’d encountered an extremely helpful, handsome young employee who inspired this scene. Being that I’m married and this man was likely almost young enough to be my son, there was no meet cute here, only a springboard for a fictional romance.

In many ways, writing a novel is like designing and fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Another part of the Stay With Me puzzle was a column about abstinence education written by Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher in which she highlights the destructive messages about marital love that can be conveyed through well-intentioned but misguided sexual abstinence programs.

At the same time, in an effort to read more in the genre I’d been writing, I’d been consuming a heavy dose of Christian romances. While I enjoyed many of the books, overall, I’d found that most glossed over the realities of sexual temptation. Despite developing love relationships that relied heavily on physical attraction, there seemed to be little temptation to move beyond a heated kisses before the starry-eyed couple made it to the altar.

The only authors I discovered who did more than hint at the real struggle that maintaining pre-marital chastity presented for young, healthy, loving couples in a secularized society were Tammy L. Gray and Julie Lessman. I knew I wanted Stay With Me to tackle the issue head-on in as realistic (but non-pornographic) a manner as possible.

Over many months, as I developed Chris and Rebecca’s characters, their back stories, and the arc of their relationship, I added a smattering of decadent-sounding desserts and an ongoing thread about the Dave Matthews Band. My jigsaw pieces firmly interlocked, a novel was born.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest about Stay With Me. It’s available from Full Quiver Publishing through Amazon.com.  Thank you, Erin, for hosting me.  I hope I’ve left the blog in as good a shape as I’ve found it.


Carolyn Astfalk, author of spicy clean romanceCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart, and her debut novel, Stay With Me, is available from Full Quiver Publishing.

Beyond My Comfort Zone: A Guest Post from Barbara Hosbach

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Barbara Hosbach.

BarbHHeadshotI’m working on my first novel and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve been blogging twice a week for several years. I’ve had two scripture-based books and a number of magazine articles published. But this is different. This is fiction.

Fiction seems harder to write than non-fiction—at least to me. For one thing, non-fiction writers have a head start—reality’s already been created. Fiction writers have to start from scratch. It’s been said they’re like sculptors who have to make their own clay. More than that, the world fiction writers create has to be—or at least seem—more credible than the real world. Reality, no matter how implausible, has automatic validity. It really happened. Not so with invented stories. But most of all, when you’re making things up, the sky’s the limit. That can be intimidating.

It can also be exhilarating. I’ve already finished my first draft. That feels good, but it’s just the raw material. Now I get to shape that clay, to build up some parts and pare down—or even eliminate—others until the story’s just the way I want it. To guard against intimidation, I’ve given myself permission to take all the time I need with this process.

There’s a lot to consider in revising fiction. What’s working best for me is focusing on one thing at a time. The story I want to tell begged for a certain point of view and voice. So far, so good. I’m happy with the characters who presented themselves, but I’ve learned that characters acting at random doesn’t make a story. Their actions need consequences that lead somewhere. Shaping the overall plot and making sure the chapters and scenes lead from one thing to the next is taking some time. I’m letting that be okay. Fine-tuning and proof-reading will come later. As I said, this is my first work of fiction, so I’m no expert. Other writers may work differently, but if I tried to do it all simultaneously, I’d get overwhelmed. Then, instead of wondering what I’ve gotten into, I might be looking to escape. And there is no way I want out of this adventure—even if it is beyond my comfort zone.

Barbara Hosbach, writer, speaker, and retreat facilitator, blogs about scripture at www.biblemeditations.net . Her articles have appeared in a number of Catholic periodicals. Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament, her latest book, explores what happened when Jesus healed and what it means for us today. Both this and Hosbach’s first book, Fools, Liars, Cheaters, and Other Bible Heroes, received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.

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Eucharist: A Guest Post from Michael Seagriff

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Mr. Michael Seagriff, OP!

What Is Impossible For One Man to Accomplish By Himself Becomes Entirely Possible With Your Help!

ND ChapelYOU HAVE GOT TO DO SOMETHING VITALLY IMPORTANT!

At the end of this post, I am going to ask you to help get the poignant reflection of Father Mark set forth below into the hands of every Bishop and priest in this country. We can do it!

But first I want to share a few thoughts that have long been embedded in my heart.

That which is most essential for our sanctification and salvation is that which we most frequently ignore  – The Eucharist.

The late Apostle of the Eucharist, Father John Hardon, S.J., realized “that everything, everything, EVERTHING of our faith (indeed the virtue of faith itself) depends on our faith in God being really present with us today in both His human and Divine nature, united in His Divine Person in the Holy Eucharist”.

The time for mincing words is over. Current polls, as well as what we observe with our own eyes, make it clear that a majority (an overwhelming majority of those identifying themselves as Catholic, perhaps as much as 80 percent, including 80 percent of those few Catholics who bother attending Sunday Mass) no longer believe that our Lord is really, truly and substantially present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. The sad but truthful reality is that in far too many of our churches we have lost the sense of the sacred and an appreciation for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that are essential for fostering and maintaining a belief in the Real Presence.

“The sanctity of the Christian people,” Pope Pius X wrote, “depends in large measure on the holiness of their priests.”  Neither we nor our priests can ever be holy if we fail to make the Eucharist the center of our daily lives. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen so candidly observed: “The moral rot of the priesthood starts with a want of lively faith in the Divine Presence, and the sanctity of the priesthood starts there too.”

We do not need any more study groups or committees or commissions in the Catholic Church. All lukewarmness toward or outright opposition to the promotion of Eucharistic adoration and spirituality must cease. We need Bishops, priests religious and laypeople to get on their knees before their Eucharistic Lord. It is He, not any of them, Who will gift us with a deep, abiding, life-changing, sanctifying belief in His Real Human and Divine Presence here among us. Everything else we need or think we need individually or as Church will flow from Him.

Any notion that the answer to solving the myriad social and financial ills of our nation and world rests on political activity, social justice programs and governmental largesse must be jettisoned. The long-standing pattern of many Church leaders remaining deafeningly silent while increasing numbers of “self-proclaimed Catholics” publicly misrepresent what it means to be Catholic must change. The hesitancy and fear to clearly inform Catholics that they will lose their eternal souls if they persist in advocating, engaging in, supporting or voting for any one who supports such intrinsic evils as abortion, contraception, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning, and homosexual marriage, has to end.

So what can we simple people do about all of this? Listen to the prophets among us. Among those voices resonating in the Church today is Father Mark whose love for our Eucharistic Lord and his brother priests know no bounds. His blog, Vultus Christi, is a must read for any one who loves God and wants to take His call to personal holiness seriously.

With the good Father’s indulgence, I am setting forth one of his reflections, one that I am asking everyone who may read this column to copy and give to your Bishops and priests – every Bishop and every priest in this country. Impractical and impossible goal, you say? You are right unless God wills it!

The simple man writing this blog entry is convinced that there is nothing of more value that any of us can do today than to pass the following reflection on as requested. Let everyone you know on Facebook, Twitter, Google+1, other social media, and all those who visit your blog know of this request. Add a link to this post to all the other blogs you visit. Let’s see God do the impossible because one humble priest has the courage to speak the truth and we simple people responded. God is counting on you!

Love’s Invisible Radiance

(By Father Mark – September 1, 2012 |

There are so many tabernacles on earth
where I am, for all intents and purposes,
like one buried, hidden, forgotten, and out of sight.
My divine radiance is diminished
because there are so few adorers
to act as the receptors of My radiant Eucharistic love
and to extend My radiance through space
and into the universe of souls.

Where there is faith in My real presence,
there will be adoration;
and where there is adoration,
there will also be an efficacious radiance of My presence
drawing souls to My Eucharistic Heart
and surrounding them, even at a distance,
with the healing influence of My Eucharistic Face.

In those places where I am exposed upon the altar
to receive the adoration, the reparation,
and the companionship of My friends
— and, first of all, of My priests —
My radiance is powerful and strong.
Faith, adoration, and love act as receptors;
thus is My power drawn out and made effective,
invisibly but really, in space and in time.
It was the same with My Sacred Humanity during My life on earth;
the faith and love of My friends
drew out the virtue of My Divinity,
and an invisible radiance acted in souls, and upon them,
bringing healing, holiness,
and many graces of conversion.

When I am adored in a place,
My hidden action upon souls is wonderfully increased.
The place where I am adored becomes a radiant centre
from which love, and life, and light
are diffused in a world in the grip of hatred,
and darkness, and death.

Chapels of adoration are not mere refuges for the devout.
They are the radiant, pulsating centres
of an intense divine activity
that goes beyond the walls of the place where I am adored
to penetrate homes, and schools, and hospitals;
to reach even those dark and cold places
wherein souls are enslaved to Satan;
to penetrate hearts, heal the infirm,
and call home those who have wandered far from Me.

For these reasons, the work of perpetual adoration,
or even of prolonged daily adoration,
is intensely apostolic and supernaturally efficacious.
Would that My bishops understood this!
But, alas, they put their trust in human schemes,
in plans devised by the worldly-wise,
and in programs drawn-up along shortsighted human principles.
And so they go, and they will continue to go
from failure to failure, and from disillusionment to disillusionment.

I have not set bishops over My flock
to govern, and to teach, and to sanctify, out of their personal abilities
and by making use of the wisdom of this passing world.
I have set them as lights upon a lampstand
to shine in every dark place,
and I have equipped them with supernatural gifts and divine power
to accomplish that for which I chose them
and set them over My Church.

Woe to those bishops
who trust in purely human solutions
to the problems that beset My Church.
They will be grievously disappointed,
and many souls will fall away
because they have neglected to take up
the supernatural weapons I have prepared for them
in this time of spiritual combat.

My presence in the Blessed Sacrament
preached, and confessed,
and surrounded by adoration, love, and heartfelt reparation
is the single greatest remedy for the evils that afflict My Church
and for the sorrows that weigh so heavily upon My priests.

My ways are not your ways,
nor do I act according to the principles of worldly success.
I act in the silent, humble, hidden reality of My Eucharistic presence.
Adore Me, and the radiance of My Eucharistic Face
will begin to change the face of the earth,
even as it heals My priests, calls sinners home to My Heart,
and enlivens the hearts of those grown weary and sad
(like the disciples on the road to Emmaus)
with a spark of divine vitality and with the fire of My Eucharistic love.

I speak to you in this way not only for you,
beloved friend of My Heart,
but also for those who will receive these words, ponder them,
and out of them draw the inspiration
to love Me more generously, more fruitfully, and more joyfully.
I speak to you for the sake of My priests.
You will be astonished at the reception given to these words of Mine.
Many souls of priests will be quickened and consoled by them.
Many priests will be moved to spend time
in the radiance of My Eucharistic Face,
and to abide close to My pierced Heart.
This is My desire for them.
I want to draw all My priests into the radiance of My Face
and, then, into the sanctuary of My open Heart.

(From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of a Priest)

About Our Guest

MikeSeagriffHeadshotMichael Seagriff practiced law for 30 years, as a general practitioner,  prosecutor, criminal defense attorney and Administrative Law Judge. His vocation as a Lay Dominican created an insatiable desire to learn, study, live and share his Faith. He has authored  five books: Forgotten Truths To Set Faith Afire! – Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct, I Thirst For Your Love, Fleeting Glimpses of the Silly, Sentimental and Sublime, Pondering Tidbits of Truth (Volume 1) and Pondering Tidbits of Truth (Vol. 2). When not writing, pursing a newly discovered interest in photography, or spending time before the Blessed Sacrament, he enjoys experiencing the pleasures of this earthly life with his loving wife Lonnie, their three children, their spouses and four grandchildren.

He blogs at Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation.

The Homeschooling Writer: A Guest Post by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur.

Finding Time to Write as a Homeschooling Mom

I am the mother of three children, two boys ages 14 and 12, and a 4 ½ year old daughter. I started writing on a professional basis over ten years ago, when my boys were both very small. I had a Masters Degree in Applied Theology and through the process of working with a spiritual director discerned that God was calling me to write. Eventually, God called me to be not only a work-at-home writing mom, but also a homeschooling mom.

I will soon be starting my eighth year of homeschooling. My oldest is starting high school this year. I feel almost as scared about homeschooling high school as I did when I first took the plunge and began homeschooling my second and first grader so many years ago. If you feel so inclined, please say a prayer for me. I can definitely use the help.

So, that being said, how do I find time to write, given that so much of my life is spent taking care of my children? Here are some tips that work for me:

1) Start every day with prayer

There are people in this world who can wake up before their children and spend quality time in prayer before their day kicks into high gear. I’ve been blessed with children who are light sleepers and have supersonic hearing. If mom’s up, they are up as well. (Note: this is no longer true of my teenagers whom I frequently have to drag out of bed.) I know that I need that twenty minute prayer time in the morning. If I don’t get it, the day will go downhill quickly. I’m not above allowing my daughter some screen time first thing in the morning so that I can have some relatively uninterrupted time. Once I’ve prayed, I’m ready to be a better mom and to deal with whatever they day is going to hand me. One of those prayers is that I do the work I should each day. I’m not always satisfied with the amount I accomplish each day, but I have to trust that I’ve done what God wanted me to.

2) Take advantage of every available minute

Over the years, I have worked in many unusual places while waiting for my children at an activity. I have written in the car, in the hallway of a social center, sitting on a stairwell, by the side of a soccer field, and in a gymnastics gym. I write many book reviews, so I always have a book close by in case I get a few minutes to read. I carry one in my purse. I have one on the kitchen counter. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read utilizing five and ten minute windows of time. I do the bulk of my computer work after my daughter goes to bed at night. The teens entertain themselves. I work for a couple hours and then go to bed around 10 p.m. It probably goes without saying that I don’t watch television. I also don’t spend a lot of time on social media.

3) Keep a to-do list

I have one notebook on my kitchen counter for my household to-do list. I have another for work-related items. If I get an idea for an article, I write it down. If there is a deadline to meet, or an on-going project, it goes on the list. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to cross items off that list. Every Sunday night, I start fresh with a new page of the notebook, carrying over items that still need to be completed. This keeps me organized and on task.

4) Keep a Sabbath rest

This probably seems to disagree with taking advantage of every available minute, but I have found it to be a great blessing in my life. From 5 pm on Saturday to 5 pm on Sunday, I don’t do any work-related activities. I don’t check my email or Facebook. I watch a movie with my husband and teenagers on Saturday night while I work on quilting or scrapbooking. We go to Mass on Sunday morning. I might read during the day, but I read purely for pleasure. This day of rest gives me a much needed mental break. God made it a commandment for a reason. Yes, we moms never truly get a day off from our mom duties, but we can try to take it at least a little easier on Sundays. I have found that God allows me to accomplish more in my other six days since I began this practice a few years ago.

How do you balance homeschooling and whatever outside work you may do? Please share. I’d be happy to hear your tips.

MacArthur PhotoPatrice Fagnant-MacArthur is a homeschooling mom of three. The editor of todayscatholichomeschooling.com, she blogs at spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com. She has been a longtime columnist for Catholicmom.com and is the author of “The Catholic Baby Name Book.”