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.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018


I read two outstanding historical fiction books set in South Carolina and had to hurry up and send in my picks to our local newspaper. Aren't the covers gorgeous? I've been paying a lot of attention to book design, what attracts me, for we do judge a book by its cover.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about the bonds of family. It’s how we know who we are. This book begins in present-day Aiken, SC, with Avery Stafford, born into one of South Carolina’s wealthy, privileged, and political families, who comes across a resident, May, in an ordinary nursing home who grips her wrist and asks, “Fern?” May takes Avery’s bracelet, a gift from her beloved grandmother, who is in a different and posh nursing home. When Avery discovers the theft, her federal prosecutorial sixth sense tells her something more might be going on with May and she goes digging for the truth. Interspersed with Avery’s investigation, we get to know the Foss family as they are in 1939. They live a happy life aboard their shantyboat until the parents have to take an emergency trip to the hospital with the mother in danger of dying birthing twins. The children, five of them, are kidnapped from their shantyboat and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home where Rill, the oldest tries valiantly to keep everyone together, but loses one sibling after another to adoption. The abuses and travails the many children suffer are taken from historical accounts of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis, which stole poor children and sold them to wealthy families, under the direction of Georgia Tann (from 1920 to 1950). At the end of the book, Wingate shares many of her resources.
I've always believed that a child has a right to his or her own mother and father. Only if they cannot care for them and relinquish custody should the children be taken away and placed in loving homes. Alas, there are so many abuses, from telling the new mother her baby died to having illiterate parents sign away their rights to the baby by lying to them. And with the birthrate going down, I fear that children will become a commodity. It's already happening, with some people thinking they have a right to a child and doing all sorts of unnatural things to have one. I still remember learning about the first test-tube baby and wondering if we should be doing this just because we can. Now there are babies made with even three parents. And the saddest thing is when the parents decide they don't want the baby after all. Have mercy, O Lord.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is a richly imagined life of Sarah Grimke and Hetty Handful. Sarah is a woman raised in a wealthy family in Charleston, who fought to abolish slavery and who also fought for women’s rights. The story begins when Sarah is given her own personal slave, Hetty, when they are both children. They become close and Sarah flouts the laws of the time teaching Handful to read, incurring a severe punishment for both girls. The real Handful dies soon after but in this book, Handful gets to live and we see their lives entwined. Told in alternating chapters in the voices of Handful and Sarah, we see how the two grow up into the women they are meant to be. Kidd is a masterful storyteller and at the end of the book shares her inspiration and some of her research.
I have read only a few slave accounts in their own words and Handful's voice is authentic. The sorrows they've endured breaks my heart. Man's inhumanity towards another man shocks me to the core. I hope we never forget our history, never forget that you cannot put a price on a man's head. Each and every life is infinitely valuable. All the arguments for abolishing slavery also work for abolishing abortion. It is evil. And just because something's legal doesn't make it right.
I've lived in Charleston for seven years and have never heard about the remarkable Grimke sisters. So I had to go digging. I highly recommend Sisters Against Slavery: a story about Sarah and Angelina Grimke by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson (illustrated by Karen Ritz) for young readers. It is beautifully illustrated and gives a good overview that will whet kids' appetites to know more.

And for those who want to dig deeper, check out the original writings of The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina: Pioneers for Women's Rights and Abolition by Gerda Lerner.

What great books are you reading this summer?


Monday, July 9, 2018

On Migraines, Death and Dying

A few years ago, when the migraines were really, really horrible, and I knew that the risk of dying from an aneurysm very high, I sent a polished copy of BOUND to Nancy Butts. She knew the story and more importantly, had also published a little book for a writer's revival: Spontaneous Combustion. Don't you just love the title? I told her that if I died, to please publish BOUND and send the bill to Michael. I figured he'd have many other things to arrange, like my funeral. I still haven't made an appointment with our pastor about it but Michael knows I want a simple Gregorian chant High Mass. 

Yesterday after Mass, I met the widow of a man I've been praying for a couple of years. He was a friend of a friend and although I cannot do many things, I can always pray. It struck me to the core, learning of his death, just a couple of months ago. The family is doing okay. They are so brave. But it warmed my heart to know that he wrote two memoirs, one about growing up, and another of raising their son. What a treasure his words must be for this beautiful family. 

I write this so that if you have a project of your heart that you've been sitting on for months or years (as it was in my case) that you evaluate it. If it's good enough, share it. Do not let perfection be the enemy of the good. We are not guaranteed the next day, even our next breath. Carpe diem. 

I have so much peace knowing that BOUND is out in the world. If I were to die tomorrow (I'm still at a very high risk for aneurysm), I know I've done my best to bring Rebecca and Joy to you. And I am sure I will hear the words: "well done, good and faithful servant." I did the work; the rest is in God's Hands. 

I know how to write. I know how to publish. I still need to learn how to market. I'm taking baby steps. My health is better these days without the monthly cycle (yay manypaws :) I've weaned off the preventative medicines (low dose beta blocker and antidepressant) that I've been taking for more than three years. Pain is easier to manage and when it spirals out of control, I let go of the day's plans and crawl into bed. Having the pets nearby helps. I take a daily supplement that helps with maintaining good brain health (it's got all the vitamins and herbal additives that have shown to help reduce migraines. I've tried several supplements over the years and Migraine Max has given the best results but what a terrible name--they should've called it Migraine Min.)

ETA: A couple of links for pain relief that don't involve taking medicines with all their side effects. I discovered Biofreeze at the chiropractor's last year. The massage therapist would use it on my neck and shoulders. I rub it into my scalp and even my forehead--but you have to be careful not to get any into the eyes. Menthol burns. I bought the biggest bottle I could find and now my whole family uses it for any aches and pains. The other menthol based product is Therapain. It's a spray and it cools the head instantly to reduce the pain. I've also used it on my knees. And I always have a Migrastick in my purse and choir bag. Never leave home without it. Of course, you can always use an old-fashioned ice pack or a bag of frozen peas :) 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

BOUND Cover Reveal

This is a long time coming but I am insanely happy to see this gorgeous cover of BOUND designed by Derrick Alderman. It's finally available to anybody who wants to read it and so close to our Independence Day!!! So much to celebrate, including the right to publish stories. July 4th plays a major role in my book so the timing is perfect.

Here's the description: Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Joshi, an adopted girl from India, burn survivor, and primary caretaker of her intellectually disabled sister, Joy, has one dream—to be a physician. Her traditional Indian father relies upon Rebecca to care for Joy while he buries himself in work to drown his grief over his wife’s death. Leaving home is the only way Rebecca can envision reaching her goal. She helps Joy develop greater independence, and is devastated when Joy becomes pregnant. Rebecca tussles—with her father and with herself—over who is responsible for Joy and her baby. When Rebecca discovers the truth of what happened the day she was burned, she struggles to hold onto her dream while wrestling with questions of life, love, and responsibility.

Set in the beautiful Palouse, the little town of Pullman, WA, home of Washington State University, where I spent 14 years of my life as a high school and college student. When people ask me why I stayed so long, I always say, I never mastered English 101 :) 

Click on this link for a free preview.

I just love this country, how many opportunities we have, how free we are to live and pray as we wish. I can't get over what a privilege it is to be an American (I got my citizenship at 19). Here are some pretty fireworks from our celebration last night. I think even the gators of Smythe Park were in awe. God bless America!


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

On Writing...a Bestseller

A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from my old friend David (he actually makes an appearance in my novel, haha). He wanted to talk about writing and publishing. You see, he's just published his first book: Comprehensive Applied Mathematical Modeling in the Natural and Engineering Sciences. And yes, it's a best-seller. He's pictured here at his retirement party with his co-author Bonni Dichone, who is a former graduate student, and her husband (gosh, won't these two make beautiful babies?)

David has always talked about writing a book, even when I knew him way back in college. But he's always had a heavy teaching load, along with his own research and students to think of, plus family. When I met him, I was looking for my own instructor, a graduate student who was teaching linear algebra, but he wasn't to be found. It was early in the morning and I'd hurried through my dishwashing at the lab so that I'd have some time before classes started. Walking through the empty hallway, I saw David sitting in his office, looking off into space. I said, "Since you aren't doing anything, you can help me with this." I've always been this direct and tactless most of my life. He could've lambasted me for interrupting whatever equations were going through his head or for being so presumptuous, but he very kindly helped me and no surprise, he was better than my instructor. So I went to see him whenever I was in a mathematical quandary and over many interesting discussions we formed an unusual friendship. I lived with him after my mother died--in the best room of his house, his library, with my pet chicken. (long story). He made sure that I ate (not the chicken, lol). But I digress.

Fast forward. After 45 years of teaching and research, David retired. That was three years ago. He told me he wrote every single day for 14 months for 5 hours. That's how long the writing took. Now, most nonfiction is sold based on a proposal. Everybody told him that writing a book first was not the way it was done. But David is David and he knew what he was doing. He brought half the manuscript to an academic book fair and although many editors didn't show any interest in his work, the one who did wanted it right away. Smart woman. "There is nothing like this." And so Springer published his book. David has put everything into it he knows about mathematical modelling. Anyone interested in this topic can now learn how to do it. Sadly, all that he built up at Washington State University is gone. But the world has this book. And he's writing another book with a much better title. And no, I'm not spilling any secrets :)  

I just finished a very good book: The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo. And it confirms my observations on the creative life. Some stories can come in a flash and others can take years to make some meaning of. It might have taken David 14 months to write the book, but he's been writing parts of the book for the past 45 years, continually refining his ideas. Anything worth doing takes time and you have to stick with it.  

Years ago, a dear friend and mentor, Mel Boring (may he rest in peace), reminded me to keep on writing what I love. "Success will follow," he assured me. And he was right. I am so delighted that David retired from teaching to write the book of his heart. He's followed his passion and the world is richer for it. And so is he :) May we also cultivate discipline to focus on the books of our heart. You'd think it'd be easy when we love what we do, but oh well I procrastinate. 

A happy Independence Day to all. We're going to watch fireworks on Daniel Island tonight. Tomorrow, cook out. We have a ton of fat jalapenos and tomatoes so we're going to make ABTs (bacon wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, onions, garlic, and pulled pork) and roast them on the Big Green Egg. Yes, we do love our pig products :) We've made mango-jalapeno kombucha and it's sooooo refreshing on these hot summer days. And I hope to share all the details on BOUND in my next post. Squeeeee!!! I hope you all can make me a best-seller too.