At last, today is the day I’ve had in mind for nearly three years, when Ellen Gable first asked me if I had anything that might work for an anthology of Theology of the Body short stories.
As I’d warned a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending most of my time on the Image and Likeness page. Here, however, is where I get to speak not as an editor representing the whole work and all the authors whose pieces appear within the collection. Here’s my author page, where I get to speak as just another author who has stories to tell, two of which got caught up in this anthology.
I’ve been working pretty hard. I’m wondering if, in the world’s eyes, I’m working “smart.” Am I working in a way that will give me some sort of return on investment? I’ve poured a lot of time into this anthology, maybe even a bit of my health. Will it be worth it? Will I break even in some fashion?
I don’t know. I’ve done as many of the supposedtas as I possibly can, just as I have for all my other books. Only this time I also have a troupe of other authors reminding me of all the supposedtas, giving me more, and correcting me when I fall short. (BTW, that was not a type of pressure I anticipated coming into this project. It’s been humbling, which is never a bad thing.)
Am I just selling stuff very few people want to hear? Nobody wants to hear that birth control might actually kill you. Nobody wants to hear that we shouldn’t farm people. And people aren’t exactly lining up to read that Mary, the Mother of God, was so much like us that it gives us very few excuses to pity ourselves. Why should they hand over their cold, hard cash to find out that abortion just might be destroying people, that our definition of “love” might be pretty badly tweaked, that marriage is so bloody difficult even when your bodies do have corresponding shapes?
I mean, seriously, why? Who’s gonna fork over the Washingtons and the Lincolns to have someone point out that… they just might be wrong? And hurting other people? And hurting themselves?
Man, life is hard. Writing is even harder. Writing warning signs, “HEY, YOU ARE ABOUT TO DRIVE OFF A CLIFF INTO THE VERY MAW OF HELL, SO STOP DRIVING THAT DIRECTION, OKAY?” is hard: making the signs good, and true, and beautiful, knowing they’re so very likely to be ignored. Every day as a Catholic writer is a bit of the Agony in the Garden. I’ve heard it said that Jesus wasn’t sweating blood because he was afraid of the pain of the crucifixion. No, he was sweating blood in Gethsemane because he knew, he knew and loved every single soul who would know of His sacrifice… and who wouldn’t give a crap about it and prefer to just die anyway.
It’s so easy to get sucked into that maelstrom, to stay in that garden and keep sweating blood. It’s a heck of a lot harder to look for the consoling angels and listen to them and focus on those who will listen and care and let their own hearts break, too.
But broken hearts let in so much light.
If you have let your heart be broken along with mine, if you have been one of my consoling angels, I thank you. From the bottom of my broken, tired heart, I thank you. Let’s keep writing the good fight.
If Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, lifted His head and carried His cross, then I have no excuse not to do likewise. Thank you for walking with me. Thank you for reading my signs. Thank you for standing behind me in the garden, helping me to go on.
That return on investment isn’t on this side of the cross, anyway.
Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body is officially available today.
You are invited to attend the IAL Launch Party on Facebook on October 27, 2016 from 8-10pm Eastern Time.
Hey there, readers! Please welcome longtime blogfriend and Clean Indie Reads writer Annie Douglass Lima as she shares her latest publishing news as well as offers a free copy of one of her books. Take it away, Annie!
I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?
The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences. One is that slavery is legal there. Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).
Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil. It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge. Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades. You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30!
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30!
later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.
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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.
Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!
With every sentence, Soulless Creatures kept me guessing. And while the story itself was surprising, the biggest surprise of all was the vital role the setting played. Who knew Oklahoma had so much to teach us? Not this East Coast girl. I love how the author took each character to the brink (or what “the brink” would be for a college freshman) and let him/her grow. The ending was unexpected and yet deeply satisfying. Highly recommended!
Slowing down is not my favorite thing to do, which makes a book like this so vital. Filled with valuable reflections and fresh but faithful takes on some of the most repeated words in all of Catholicism, Word by Word filled me with hope, made me smile, and, yes, slowed me down so that I could learn something. It’s a versatile book that’s worth reading straight through and worth keeping handy for quick prayer times. Break out the highlighter!
What’s it about? In case you didn’t know, “From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.”
If you’re wondering if this book is as good as it looks, wonder no more. It is. It’s even better. It has hitherto for unknown bits about the making of the movie, yes. The bigger surprise for me though was seeing the creative process through the eyes of immediacy as well as the eyes of memory and experience. The Princess Bride was, initially, a flop. Now it’s a classic. Creatives? We’re in it for the long haul. We have to be. If we’re not, we’re going to remain mostly dead.
And some readalouds for Second Shift:
I got this from the library as a St. Patrick’s Day readaloud. It would’ve been a lot easier to read if I hadn’t been crying my eyes out from the second or third page. This is the story of a family that had to leave hardships in Ireland only to show up in Chicago just in time for the Great Chicago Fire. Young Fiona is a gifted lacemaker, and her skills just might be what her family needs to rise out of immigrant poverty, but when a terrible fire separates the family and destroys not just their home but their entire neighborhood, how will Fiona and her family ever find each other again? You have to read to find out. But do keep your tissues nearby–better yet, a lace hankie.
It’s a Purim Cinderella story! Orphan Raisel is raised by her Zaydeh (grandfather), who gives her a rich, scholarly education, even teaching her the Talmud. When Zaydeh dies, Raisel must strike out on her own. After much wandering, the rabbi in the big city makes his cook take Raisel on as her assistant, but Cook is not happy about this. The story that follows echoes the Cinderella story, but instead of great shoes making the match, Raisel’s prince finds her because of her great mind. I’m sure some feminist somewhere has something to say about how a smart girl shouldn’t get her happy ending by working in a kitchen and marrying a prince… but I’m not some feminist anywhere. Raisel’s Riddle shows that a girl’s greatest gifts are kindness and wisdom, and by being clever and kind and generous, her true beauty stands out from even the loveliest Purim costumes.
Call this post my Ode to Sisters in Crime, an international organization for women crime writers.
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!
::drool:: Gorgeous stuff. Thanks, Nicole!
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.
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.
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!
I am so excited to read the latest installment in the Black Horse Campground Mysteries, a series of cozies from Oak Tree Press author and fellow Catholic Writers Guild member Amy M. Bennett. This series has characters that really come alive, the kind who make you cheer and cry and laugh and laugh and laugh. I can’t wait to read this latest tale, At the Cross Road, which is an intriguing title given how the last book in the series, No Vacancy, ended: the mystery was wrapped up, but the relationships were only getting messier!
Without further nattering from me, here’s what you can look forward to from Amy and At the Cross Road!
Trouble often comes in threes. It’s no different at the Black Horse Campground.
On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously… or even properly investigated them.
Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he’s about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn’t be worse, since he’s finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up… someone who’s hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him… business that has to do with digging up a painful past.
When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.’s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women… and is prepared to kill again?
When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?
And now for an excerpt, this one from Chapter 14 of At the Cross Road.
J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato’s words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn’t get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn’t going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.
He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie’s apartment light was on but the store’s lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.
He started out, following the path he’d taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that… he’d have to wait and see.
He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he’d be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he’d probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.
Unlike most small cemeteries he’d encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.
The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.
Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.
J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he’d left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.
He’d been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.
He hated it when he was right.
Don’t know Amy? Get to know her!
Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel End of the Road started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009. It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by No Lifeguard on Duty and No Vacancy, both of which have been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. At the Cross Road is the fourth book in the series.
When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!) She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso. Visit her website at www.amymbennettbooks.com and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com