Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Holidays

This Christmas is lovely. Dinner parties, puzzles, a movie, a trip to the aquarium and cookies! My daughter has become a baking fiend. These Russian teacakes rival Grandma's.






I hope you're all enjoying the Christmas season. Here's wishing you a most sparkly and beautiful New Year, filled with God's abundant graces. May you all be refreshed and renewed for 2012.
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Touched by God


 An excerpt from Msgr. Charles Pope:

A magnificent mystery is before us. The infinite is an infant. He who looks down upon all creation now looks up from a cradle. He who spoke worlds into existence, now sounds forth with the cry of an infant. Another old Latin hymn captures mystery and the warmth of the moment: Alpha et O, matris in gremio (Alpha and omega is sitting in mommy’s lap). And from his mother’s lap he beckons us to approach and touch him. This day, we touch our God, and God touches us.God bless you all.

We desperately need this touch, this contact with our God, this hand is stretched out to heal and save. We had grown old in our sins, and this infant child draws us back to the joy and innocence of our youth. This outstretched hand of our God will heal the sick and the leprous, raise up the paralyzed and the dead. This hand will drive out demons and rebuke the storm tossed waves. This hand will be nailed to a cross to save us.


Please go here to read the full reflection.


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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the Bodachs. I'm posting some creative work from my son:

The Reason for Christmas

Searching, searching, all night long,
for a sleigh that will never come.

Parents creeping down the stairs,
avoiding curious children's stares.

Wrapping, wrapping, an hour straight,
fulfilling children's sleepless wait.

Oh joy, oh joy, it's Christmas morning!
Ripping, tearing, shouts of delight.

But through the hubbub, promotion, and noise,
they forget the real reason, those girls and boys.

A Child was born under a star so bright.
He brought peace, hope, and light.

So this Christmas, ponder my thoughts,
and keep the real reason for Christmas inside your hearts.

                                                                                        -- mkb


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Sunday, December 18, 2011

MuttCracker

Friday night we got to see the Nutcracker. Sharing the stage at the very beginning were three dogs. This is the first time for my daughter to see the Nutcracker and she was delighted. I will forever think of it as the Muttcracker from now on. Adopt a mutt from the shelter if you're thinking of getting a furry companion.

The music of course, is wonderful, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, marvelling at the pirouettes, the jumps and the beauty of the dance form, and remembering my own days taking dance classes during graduate school. Nope, it wasn't part of the biochemistry curriculum and I even had to have a talk with the head of the department to okay it, but it was great fun.

The last time I'd gone to see a ballet was nearly twelve years ago. My neighbor had an extra ticket because her husband was travelling out of town. My son was just a few months old and I was still nursing him every 2-3 hours. I thought I'd be fine. I'd pumped milk beforehand for the baby. I was excited to go out without a diaper bag. However, after intermission, the top of my dress began to strain to the point I feared the buttons would pop. And to my horror, I was leaking milk. My neighbor wanted to take me out to eat since I didn't get out much, but after seeing the state of my dress, we came home. I don't think I ever went to any ballet after that.

Until now ...

Methinks we'll have to do this again sometime.

Here's a video of our sweet mutt (thanks to my son).

video

The video gives me a taste of what I missed. My husband took the kids to the beach on Saturday so that I could finish up a work-for-hire project. And as my friend Marcia would completely understand, to reward myself for finishing, I'm going to spend some more time writing! And baking, cleaning house, and putting up more pictures on the wall. And let's not forget singing Christmas carols.

So tell me, what are you doing this last week right before Christmas?
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coloring Books

I have a new critique partner -- Dominic De Souza. We met at Church a couple of months ago and discovered our passion for children's literature. I feel incredibly blessed to talk about books and works-in-progress critically with another children's writer, especially one as talented as Dominic. Please check out his website. And while you're at it, please think about buying his coloring book -- a beautiful Christmas gift to inspire children to Truth.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Another Treasure


This book along with Mystic Monk coffee arrived in the mail yesterday! Haven't brewed the coffee yet, but read a few pages and it is marvelous. Quintessential Fulton Sheen. Scripture, reflection and prayer. Reflection for Day 1: God walks into your soul with silent step. God comes to you more than you go to Him. Never will his coming be what you expect, and yet never will it disappoint. The more you respond to his gentle pressure, the greater will be your freedom.

This is a busy season for many, including us. It's all too easy to become distracted by the things of the world. Archbishop Fulton Sheen is a wonderful companion to our little Advent village -- inside the cubbies I tuck in chocolate kisses, little animals and selected Scripture passages for the children.

So much for staying off the Internet, but sometimes I just have to share all this goodness.

Tell me, how do you maintain the spirit of Christmas in the midst of all the secular noise?
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Treasures

I love this time of year, even though it's always busy. For some reason, I've always been on tight deadlines for the past few years. All self-inflicted of course, but I do enjoy the work and I can focus better on short projects at this time than the novel, so it all works out in the end.

Congratulations to all those who wrote entire novels or skeletons of novels in Nov.

Here are some treasures for you:





I won't be online much (except for work) so here's wishing you all a beautiful and blessed Advent.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful

One thing in particular: a choir for the traditional Latin Mass (TLM) at our parish. We will have a Midnight Missa Cantata for Christmas. Can we do it in a month? Except for a couple of families, the rest of us are a ragtag bunch of untrained voices. We begin practice next Sunday. God help us!

Next Sunday is a big week for the entire Catholic Church with a new translation of the Roman Missal. It is a more accurate translation, words that preserve the original richness and meaning. I was struck by the differences when we first went to the TLM in Seattle. I will never forget that it was the Feast of Christ our King and the prayers I read were so beautiful, truly fit for the King of Kings.

Here is a link to a video that my son watched in school explaining the reason for the change.

I have a grateful heart and am thankful to God for everything -- for family, friends, work and Church. God bless you all. And have a happy Thanksgiving.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Mediocre Books

I was thinking of how a really, really good book makes me feel inadequate as a writer. I keep thinking if I had a fraction of the talent or discipline or perseverance of that author, that I'd be orders of magnitude better. I am simultaneously inspired and defeated. I find myself asking if the world needs another mediocre book written by me.

Then I come across books that are poorly written or don't grab me. I used to finish each and every book I picked up, but no more. I simply do not have the time to waste on books that I don't enjoy. But one of the things that a poorly written book does is boost my self-confidence. If that twaddle could be published, I can definitely write something better and get paid for it.

I'm not going to name books or authors that I do not like because frankly, I do not want to hurt anybody's feelings on what is a very subjective matter, but I was wondering whether others feel the same as I do.

Confess!
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Dark, Dark House

When my husband travels, I walk the dog in the evenings as well. Often it gets dark on my way home and let me tell you, it can be rather creepy as I walk towards the house. We are at the end of a dark, dark lane and all the sounds are magnified. I can usually recognize the rustle of leaves as the deer run away. But the worst sound is a low-to-the-ground croaking. I am convinced that's the alligator.

We didn't have any tricksters coming to our house, but this was the pumpkin my daughter carved. The location of our home and Ruth Brown's picture book A Dark, Dark Tale was the inspiration. We love that book, especially the ending. I wish I'd written it. My daughter has a little scene in her dollhouse that reflects it. I discovered it when I was tidying up her room. Yes, these are the hidden treasures of housework. 

What books do you not just admire but wish you'd written?

Spill ...

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Free Books

Kristi Holl just posted that Writer's Digest is giving away free writing e-books until Nov. 12th. Go get yours now and read them later. You can read them on your PC if you don't have a Kindle.

Happy reading and writing.
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Requiem Mass

Yesterday evening we had the pleasure to experience the Requiem Mass at Stella Maris. The priest said the names of the dearly departed as the bells were rung. And then the music composed by Gabriel Faure started. Listen to the Introit and Kyrie. Doesn't it just transport you to a more holy and peaceful place?

Although I know that in every Mass, heaven and earth are joined, I feel it down to my bones during High Mass. I can imagine my mother and the brother and grandfather I never met joining in hymns of praise. I long to join them as well. I was especially touched that when we pray the Agnus Dei, we do not ask pardon for ourselves like we usually do, but for eternal peace for the dead.

Twenty five years ago, when I was singing in my college choir, we sang Verdi's Requiem. My mother had just died and I came down with pneumonia the week of the concert. So I went to Spokane on the choir bus and got myself a ticket to sit in the back. It was truly a blessing for me to be sick at that time because I could appreciate better the music for what it was -- a Mass for the dead. And now, as a Catholic, I understand it even more. 

If you are interested in the entire text, scroll down at this site.

After Mass, we had a potluck and I'm happy to say I met another fellow children's writer. What joy! A kindred spirit. I hope we can read for each other. I miss the weekly meetings with my writing partner Jen so very much because she always asked me questions and kept me true to my characters.
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween

We have the perfect Halloween cat sunning herself, the witch-child carving her pumpkin and my husband cooking chicken wings on the baby Green Egg. Sigh of contentment.


As you can see I've been playing around quite a bit with all the blog settings. I think I finally have it at a place where I can leave it alone and just use it for sharing my jumbled thoughts and pictures -- I love the new interface because I can select the size!

Isn't this mossy oak tree marvelous? We have lots of squirrels that distract the dog on her walk. I wonder where the pumpkin will drift to ... 


And now I must direct all this energy I have towards my book! Not everything has to be in order.

For those of you who are doing Nano -- may your fingers fly across the keyboard. My shiny new idea needs to percolate some more, gain some structure before I begin to write. I wish I could be like the people who can just write without a roadmap, but the one time I did it, I ended up with a mess that I still don't know what to do with. I need to have a solid structure before I write a single word down.

Happy writing, all.
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Monday, October 31, 2011

In Progress

As you can see, I'm monkeying around. My husband says this is a giant procrastination tool and he's ... right. But I do need to update my website and thought the easiest thing to do would be to transfer some of the stuff to the blog. I'm having a bear of a time copying my book covers and placing them in an aesthetic manner instead of just a row of book covers. So, pardon the mess ... my house is worse, I promise :)

And what of the revisions? I'm having a terrible time immersing myself in the book enough to really write. And I don't trust myself to make the right changes either. It would be so much easier to write a first draft of a book that's been percolating in my head, but I don't want it to be a royal mess like my second book (I still haven't done a thing with it because it lacks the basics -- a strong structural foundation).

What to do? Clean house, monkey around, try to work on revisions and steal time to work on the shiny new idea. Yup, I'm procrastinating.
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A Day at the Market

We went downtown Charleston for the first time this weekend. Of course, we hit the Saturday market to look at the various arts and crafts. These sweetgrass baskets have got to be my favorite. I see them all along Highway 17 but I've not stopped to examine them. When I was a child, I learned to make baskets from flax, but aside from the basic alternating pattern, I wouldn't know how to make a basket anymore. I am seriously tempted to take a class in basketweaving with sweetgrass.



Local painters. Isn't the blue crab gorgeous? I see these large crabs all over the island and they really are pretty.




This butterfly display was beyond beautiful. They said they only use butterflies that have died naturally. Most live only a few weeks. Long ago I had a poster with all the letters of the alphabet represented in the wings of these loveliest of insects.






Relaxing ... it's windy and chilly even with the sun shining.






Ravenel bridge. It is a modern gem.






Cobblestones. I learned that these came all the way from England. They used them as ballast for the ships and then would dump them in exchange for cargo.






Rutledge: One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence! I can't wait until I can go on some proper tours and soak up all this history.





We went to the evening Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. So grand and beautiful. I would like to come here for a big feast day when they have a full choir. There are lots coming up. But this week we will celebrate High Mass at Stella Maris for All Souls Day.









I love the beautiful artwork. It lifts my spirits high, towards the holy. I remember being in Rome at a time when I professed to be an atheist and yet I fell to my knees when I saw the Pieta. I have been accused of being the world's worst atheist by my friend Molly, but I think great art points to Truth.




Do churches fund artists and artwork anymore? Throughout history the Catholic Church has supported artists for music and paintings and even books. I would love to see that again.





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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Revising

I wish I could say that I were revising like a madwoman, but the truth is, I'm only doing a little bit. Writing new scenes in my notebook, making some minor changes for clarity, but mostly getting to inhabit my characters again. I see three or four big things I need to change, and although I would've tackled the big things first because they involve some structural changes, I find that too daunting to do right now. It's easier to focus on the smaller things. I still have a household to finish organizing (because we have too much stuff) and what's really dumb is that I actually want something -- like a swing-bed for the back porch! Talk about being extravagant, but like my manuscript, it's a big thing and I'm not even going to think about tackling it. I'm doing the small things -- tidying up a corner, reorganizing the kitchen so that everything I need is within reach, etc.



When I was at Ruth Schiffman's blog, I came across a very helpful article on revising. Having seen La Buffadora in Mexico myself, I connected with the analogy immediately. The idea is that you let your analytical mind take turns with your emotional side so that when you are revising, you are again in that zone of wanting to tell the story. The author, James Scott Bell (author of Plot and Structure and many other books), says far more than that, but this is what I realize is missing in the way I'm attempting to do my revisions. Too clinical. No heart. Just a faint pulse. Onwards.


Today, help arrived in the way of Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. I already want to sit down and scribble down some things in my notebook in response to some of the questions she poses. I have enjoyed the books she has edited immensely and have read her blog on a regular basis, so I am thrilled to have this book, to have her talks all in one place, to help untangle some of the spaghetti mess in my head. What's funny is that even though I've never met her, it's like curling up with a good friend to talk about books we love.




Here's my cat sitting on the hard copy of my WIP, chirping at a bird that makes its home on the oak right outside my window. As you can see, my feline writing partner plants herself exactly where my attention is, and meows at the appropriate times.


Do you have favorite revision tools? Do share.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Reading




Growing up, history was my least favorite subject, yet, now I am hungry to learn all that I missed. I've been reading books on the history of Charleston and Daniel Island, but the best book so far has been Bury Me Not in a Land of Slaves by Joyce Hansen. And wouldn't you know it -- it's a children's book.


Ms. Hansen brings to life this period of Reconstruction of the South through the former slaves' own voices and adding historical context. You begin to see that freedom and equality were destroyed by violence and laws that oppressed the newly freed slaves.



But courageous African men and women persevered and of many we get a glimpse through the brief biographies that Ms. Hansen provides. The narrative is peppered with photographs and drawings and quotes of the time. It is sure to pique any child's interest to learn more about this hopeful and tragic period in our history. This is what I love about children's books.



The abolition of slavery makes me hopeful that one day we as a nation will also bring an end to abortion. Pray, pray, pray to stop the assault on our most vulnerable and defenseless members of society.



Thank you, Joyce, for this gift.


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Thursday, October 6, 2011

A is for Alligators ... Pictures :)



They do, indeed!






I see lots of pretty Halloween decorations. I am more in favor of the harvest variety (pumpkins, hay, etc.) than ghouls and goblins, but I was charmed by this little broom amidst the pansies.



Have a good day, y'all. Time for me to put in that promised hour on the book.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A is for Alligator

Pardon me if I can't stop talking about the alligators here. I'm still a transplant and am fascinated and a little bit frightened by these creatures. Yesterday my dog jumped into the pond and got chased by a five-foot gator. Boy do they swim fast! Then he lay in wait by the cattails as I put the lead back on. No more off-leash work with the dog (since she was so very disobedient and almost got eaten by a gator).

I should've taken my camera with me this morning because I saw a mama and ten babies sunning themselves near the banks of the pond. Temperatures have dropped (it is balmy and reminds me of Seattle summers) but gators are cold-blooded so they love to bask in the sunshine. What's odd as I circled the pond is that the dog doesn't see them at all, even when they slither into the water, making a few ripples. They are lovely to watch as they swim swiftly to the other side and look rather evil when they are still in the water with only the top of their heads poking out, just waiting ... waiting ... for a fish or a silly dog to jump in.

Here's a great link if you want to read something about alligators. And Guji Guji is a darling picture book that I couldn't bear to part with when we moved. I need to pull it out and read it again. It's about a family of ducks that has the odd egg that hatches into an odd creature. If you guessed gator, you're correct.

I have started reading and making notes on my novel. What's funny is that at the really good parts, I think, I wrote that? Wow! Then when I get to the crummy parts, the red pen comes out and I scribble away. I already know how I want to change the beginning so that I don't spool out the plot threads all at once. Jay Asher had given a great talk a couple of years ago on maintaining suspense and the trick is to have the highs and lows of the different plot threads weave in and out so that it's not all gasping action and then a lull. The pacing is too fast in the beginning of my book. I need to slow it down and trust my reader to stick with me.

I spend an hour a day. It is enough. I just hope I can continue.
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Friday, September 30, 2011

Settling In

Life is good. This is the view when I go on my walks. Clear, blue skies, magnificent oaks, squirrels to distract the dog, anthills, marshes, flying fish and even alligators. Today I saw a baby (not sure -- it was about 1-2 ft long) sunning itself by one of the ponds. It crawled into the water and kept watch. Once my eyes adjusted, I saw three more alligators in the pond and a few turtles too. We watched each other :)





I love coming home to vibrant milkweed and daisies planted by the side of our house. So pretty. Lots of butterflies and birds too.




All these pictures up above were taken by my daughter. She's getting good, no? My son isn't the only one with a good eye.


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We had such a fun time at the pumpkin patch last weekend -- hay rides, corn maze (hard to believe how tall the corn was), giant jumping pillow and gloriously orange pumpkins. We need to get some to decorate our front porch.










We are so blessed to have the final assembly for the Boeing 787 here in Charleston. Everyone here is so pleased to have the factory here as well because a big company like Boeing helps develop a lot of the supporting industry in the area.






This is my office (finally a room of my own!) and although there are plenty of boxes still left to be unpacked, I have all the important stuff -- my novel, my laptop, space and time. It's been two long months since I touched it and I will begin next week, if only to read and make notes. My goal is to get is polished to send it out by the end of the year.






The dog has a bed beneath my desk and she's sleeping there as I write this post. My old black cat hasn't yet discovered the blanket yet. She's meowing upstairs.



Can you give me tips on how best to dive back into writing and revising while there is still a ton of household stuff to be taken care of? Am I crazy to try to attempt this or should I just let it be until I can spend a couple of hours on it daily? It's probably going to take me another month to get settled enough where I'm not worried about lost school forms and what else did I forget to do. What do you do to get back into your work after a long hiatus and how do you write when life is still chaotic? I'm all ears.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Moving In

It seems that every time we've moved, we have accumulated more stuff than what we've given away. We're finally in our new home and now the real work of making this house into a home begins. I had complained to Marcia H. that I had a month when we were pretty much living out of a suitcase in an apartment, that I was squandering the free time I had instead of diving into revisions, and she was spot on in her reason -- we'd be moving again -- and my brain knew it.

We moved into our semi-permanent home this weekend and I've been trying to get the kitchen set up, with space for the children to do their schoolwork. It's box-city though and very messy. I cannot write like this at all, and although I want to, I simply cannot focus. The priority is to get the house in order. I wish it would all happen magically, but there is joy in seeing gradual progress.




I take the dog out for long walks. It is beautiful here, with trails and paths and ponds. This morning we explored a marshy area by the Wando river and the dog kept snapping at the fiddler crabs. I'm surprised she's not gotten pinched yet. I take my breaks on the back porch. This is the view. A piece of heaven, no? It is quiet and I love listening to the bugs and birds chirp. I see eagles and vultures soaring up above.



The previous owners left this little Manneken Pis statue. My daughter thinks it's disgusting, but we lived in Belgium for a few years so I have a soft spot for this little boy.




So, there you go. I took a longish break for this post, and I must get back to my boxes. Pray that we get settled soon, so that I can get back to my writing.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lord's Prayer in Aramaic -- Again

For some reason, I get a lot of people visiting here who are interested in the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic. As much as I loved the song, the translation that I pulled off the website is incorrect. I didn't realize this, but apparently there are several lovely (mis)translations floating around on the Internet. I should've done my research before posting, but better late than never. I will be deleting my previous post on the Lord's Prayer.

If you scroll near the end of this post, you will see a translation by Steve Caruso, a scholar, and I urge you to read the entire text.

As you will see, what we pray in English is good and well.

I am sorry to spread bad information, but I hope I have redeemed myself.

To a commenter who was interested in Aramaic, I hope you are reading this, and find the links useful.

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Warm Water

I couldn't get over how warm the ocean was. They said 80 degrees. Felt wonderful. We were in there for a couple of hours just before high tide and the sound of waves crashing and engulfing us much too quickly was sheer delight. My memories of being in lakes and rivers and the Pacific ocean are not associated with warmth. Only cold. We'd go camping and after 2-3 days feel so grubby, we just have to walk into the icy waters. Refreshing. And then towelling off quickly and sitting by the fire to get the blood circulating again.

Here, I didn't even realize how hot my skin was until after we came home. The kids and I are turning into toasty little brownies. My husband, alas, is turning pink. If it hadn't been for him, we'd have gotten sunburned as well. But he made all three of us get out because he didn't want us to burn. I'm thankful for that.





Can you believe that my kiddos were as far out as my husband even though this was their first time to be in the Atlantic? The waves were way over their heads. We swallowed plenty of salt-water. The good thing is that whatever bug my son was just beginning to harbor in his sinuses is gone!


We definitely need to join a swim club so that we can become better swimmers and ride those waves.


I hope you all had a restful Labor Day and had some fun too.

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