Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Reading



I love having my very first writing teacher--Peggy King Anderson--her voice in my head again. The journey of the Potawatomi's forced removal from their Indiana home to Kansas is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Simu-quah in Two-Moon Journey. What I loved best was how visceral this journey is, how I feel as if I were taking this journey myself (even my feet cramped from the endless walking), tending to the baby and the old and sick, many who die along the way (this is why it's called the Trail of Death), sleeping in strange places and hearing strange sounds, witnessing the violence the soldiers inflict upon her father and others, wondering and worrying about the future. But above all, Simu-quah has her family to guide her, hope, and is able to forgive, to begin her new life in Kansas. 
I am sorry to say I never learned about this in any American history class. I hope teachers will include this on their reading lists. It is a thoroughly researched and beautifully told story. 


Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough is an amazing debut (it is her 10th novel so take heart). Lyrical, it tells the story of the artist Artemesia Gentileschi as a young woman, how she painted, the horrific trial she endured, and the two women from the Bible, Susanna and Judith, whose stories gave her the strength to go on. This book is a masterpiece. Of course, I had to look up Artemesia's paintings and I'm not surprised that many of her works are about women mistreated by men. 
Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser is the one book about Hamilton you can't afford not to have. It's concise and filled with many of Hamilton's maxims. Ex: "'Tis my maxim to let the plain naked truth speak for itself; and if men won't listen to it, 'tis their own fault."  on self-improvement, career, romance, money, relationships and more. However, he had nothing to say about leisure except, "Employ all your leisure in reading." I was particularly fascinated by his facility at writing, how quickly and decisively he wrote. "All the genius I have lies in this...It is the fruit of labor and thought." It's a good guide to the writing life as well.

Acedia & Me: a Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris is a difficult book to describe. I'd never even heard of this word, but by reading this book I've learned not only its meaning but its history, and the role it has played in the author's life. In short, acedia is indifference, and today more people than ever are suffering from it. The front flap says, "left unchecked it has the power to destroy the capacity for joy and to undermine commitments to work, marriage, friendship, faith, and community." The monastic tradition gives an answer on conquering acedia. If you've ever felt depressed or spiritually dead, this book might just give you a lifeline. Kathleen Norris writes like a poet.

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl is a lovely book full of memories of home and travelling. It is also a little bit sad because I realized partway that she is missing her husband, who passed away. She purposely recounts the visits she makes to places where people made leisure their goal. She begins with two Irish ladies who retire in Wales, followed by a visit to Mendel's monastery, and finally to Bordeaux where Michel Montaigne invented the personal essay. I've never read Montaigne but I found a copy of his essays in Max's pile of books. This book reminded me again of Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper. What's stuck with me is how the highest leisure is really that of contemplation and the fruits that arise from it--like music, art, stories. It is such a gift!
I'm happy to say this summer has brought plenty of leisure time. It's what allowed me to learn about self-publishing. I hope you all will steal some time to do what you love if you haven't already done so. Today is our 24th wedding anniversary. So thankful and blessed to be married to a man after God's own heart. I love you, Michael, especially when you make okra and tomatoes from the garden. Yum!
 




 




Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Gregorian Chant Workshop


This past weekend we went down to Florida to drop off Max for his sophomore year at Ave Maria University. Don't worry, they've not all gone mad at Ave to start school in July--Max is working on the orientation team so had to be there early :) And it just so happened that this was the same weekend for the Musica Sacra Florida


What a great blessing to immerse ourselves in Gregorian chant for three days. We listened to the priests chant Vespers on Friday evening followed by Mass of the Holy Cross. We sang two of my favorite Masses--Missa Cum Jubilo on Sat in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Missa de Angelis on Sunday. Heavenly!!! My heart overflows with thanksgiving and joy.

 
 

This was our little women's schola and the young women were so talented, yet humble. Same goes for the men's schola and the instructors. Dr. Treacy (middle, back row) is an amazing teacher, I loved the way she conducted, making it easy to sing without any organ support. How I wish I could go to school at Ave and learn everything I can from her. Given that Gregorian chant is the foundation for all Western music and is to be given a place of prominence in liturgy, I am surprised that many church choral groups do not invest in teaching this beautiful music. It is EASY!!! I had looked into buying A Beginner's Guide to Singing Gregorian Chant but our organist, Steve Collins, had already taught us the basics. We use the Liber Brevior because it has everything we need for all Sunday and Holy Day Masses and includes a section at the beginning on chant.

We had such a good time, meeting up with old friends, and making new ones. I got to see Max in his home away from home and enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine and cloud formations. We had to hurry to unload all his stuff because those big beautiful clouds bring afternoon showers. We made it but it was rain, rain, rain all the way home. I was saddened to see many homes in Immokalee still covered with blue tarp. It'll take them years to recover from Irma, but I'm glad they still had their homes. We came across a little alligator, about 3 ft long, who was missing a front paw, but he crossed the road quickly with his tail snapping from side to side. It's good to be home and back to writing. 







 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

First Reviews Trickling in for BOUND

It is so heartening to see the first reviews trickling in for BOUND. Once you release a book, it no longer belongs to the author, but the reader. Readers bring their own sensibilities to it and make it part of themselves. I still remember that when I was asked to write a biography for the first class I took at the Institute of Children's Literature, I ended up writing about the books that made an impact throughout my life. Oh, this is why I wrote BOUND. 

So without further ado, some quotes from those reviews:

"This book was such a surprise, and is food for thought... It is engrossing and well written, with characters so believable that I wanted to keep up with their journeys into the years beyond the book’s ending. Most of all, it is unlike anything I’ve seen in young adult books in many years." ~ VCarter


"This engaging story is a sensitive treatment of prolife themes including abortion, end-of-life issues, and eugenics. Appropriate for teenagers, this would make an excellent classroom read." ~BarbS

"I loved the way Rebecca's ideas and ideologies change as her character develops in the story--without a touch of preachiness, the author is able to present both sides of many difficult topics that the characters encounter. Look no further if you're interested in reading a story as diverse in its ideas as in its characters." ~ Faith

"Bound is the best fictional book I’ve read in a long time. The author wove a plot that kept me guessing until the end... I highly recommend it, especially for book clubs because it will ignite lively discussions." ~ Janeen

"The author helps us explore the most significant battle of our time – upholding the dignity of all human life from conception to natural death. We are privileged to witness this struggle through the eyes and culture of an immigrant family from India." ~ MichaelS

Read the full reviews on Amazon. And just this week, the paperback on sale so hop on over and get a copy for yourself or your cat :) They love being read to. Free preview here.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

On Making Art


I'm a firm believer of the daily practice. My daughter isn't. Yet, she's grown tremendously as an artist. So proud of her work. And as you can see, she herself is a work of art :) 



Then there's the art of kombucha!!! And kimchi!!! We are enjoying experimenting in the kitchen and having our home-brewed stuff. It's so delicious on hot summer days and makes me think that Bodach Books, Brews, and Barbecue is off to a great start :)
 
I'd not been to Christ our King Catholic Church in many years but they have a noon Mass on Wed. and I really need that mid-week visit with Jesus. I'll be back at Bishop England for lunch Mass when school starts but what a treat it was to visit the garden in the back and see all the additions. Lovelovelove the Stations of the Cross and the benches to sit and meditate. I have a new work I'm pondering using the Stations as a structure and I have a feeling I'll be coming her often to write. Truly a work of art!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

BOUND in the Wild

I love seeing my books in the wild and it's so great when friends share their pictures. I was also tickled to have this series of Instagram pictures complete with emotive cartoons and hearts brought to my attention! So clever!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Writing with Cats

 
My two mews...being petted on the desk is one of their great pleasures (mine too). And sleeping on the very notebook that I'm writing in a special joy...to them. They are the best distractions and also the best motivators because unlike other cats I've had who were total lapcats, these two keep at an arm's length except on my desk. It seems to be a safe space for them and if I'm feeling catless (while watching a movie or reaching a book) all I need to do is go to my office. Jules follows me in a flash. Benny too, though after his pets he'll settle down near my feet with Sunny. Let's just say I'm always motivated to write :) Every writer should have such companions.
 
 
 
 
 



Friday, July 13, 2018

Showing Off My New Book Baby with Formatting Tips

Lookie...my teenage girl is reading BOUND. I received my first set of author copies yesterday and can't get over seeing the product of my imagination in such a tangible manner. It's got weight. I have to share some pictures for those of you who won't get to see the paperback. The kindle version looks good too, but it's just not the same. 

You don't have to fiddle with the formatting as much with the kindle. The software takes care of most of it if you've used Styles to format your Word document. It's a trick I learned way back when I used WordPerfect for writing my PhD thesis. It made the document navigable on the computer. Of course, back then, there were no kindles, but it makes revising so much easier, and when you're keeping track of a hundred details like tables and graphs and pictures and footnotes, being able to link all these things makes life easier. Of course, the learning wasn't smooth. Just ask Michael. I wanted to smash the computer more than once when it didn't do what I wanted it to do. Does anyone here remember Sigma Plot or Corel Draw? I'm getting flashbacks. Anyway. If you have to learn the most useful feature of Word, it's Styles. And if I can do this, so can you.  

I made the kindle version navigable and had chapter titles so that if readers lose their place, they can easily find it again. This happens to me often--I blame the cats--and hate having to scroll. But for the print version, I got rid of anything that might distract from the story. So, no table of contents, chapter titles, headers of any kind. Just page numbers (and what a headache it was trying to number just the main part of the book, lol, but I done did good). I want the magic to happen, for the pages to disappear. I want the reader to be lost in the story, for time to disappear. I also made it easier to read by adding just 0.1 more to the spacing between the lines. There's just that extra breathing space. I love Georgia (the font I use on this blog) for it's roundedness but that would've put the book in excess of 300 pages and page count matters for pricing. So I switched to Times New Roman. The default for many paperbacks is Garamond but it is harder on the eyes. Once I settled on these things, I had so much fun making the pages look good. It's what makes holding the book such a pleasure. 


  


These first five copies will disappear quickly. I just know it. But for now I've placed them on *my* shelf. Don't I look like a new mother with her bookbaby?  It was a tough day with a rotten migraine but it was so great to just hold the book and flip through the pages. I spent a couple of hours reading my favorite bits. I would love to see pictures of BOUND being read by teenagers or even adults, so pretty please share.