Friday, December 31, 2010


(This is a busy month for me, so I'm re-running this blog. I think it's one I needed to re-read, anyway. Just FYI, I met my goal of ramping up my efforts and targeting agents and publishers, I did not meet my desire of finding a home for Live and Let Fly. I did find homes for three of the DragonEye, PI, stories, however. Next year, I'm looking for a small press home. Guess DragonEye, PI does not appeal to the big NYC publishers.)


Oh, bleah! Can you imagine a less original topic for Dec 31? Tell you a secret: I don’t make resolutions. I set goals. Here’s how I do it:

1. I think about where I want to be in the far future, and what I want to be remembered for.
2. I think about the past year—what didn’t work and why, and what did advance me toward my ideal life.
3. I think about what I can do differently (or continue doing) in order to keep advancing.
4. I write those as my goals, assigning them appropriate time frames.
5. I break them down to tasks and deadlines.
6. I get to work.

So, let me give you an example.

1. I would like one day to have my DragonEye, PI books be sharing the spotlight with Discworld and Myth, Inc.
2. This past year, I published Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, got good reviews and regular sales. However, I’ve not been able to sell Live and Let Fly yet, nor did I achieve my goal of writing Gapman! Also, my stories on my website are not selling well, though my newsletter is getting thousands of hits now that I publish it on
3. This next year, I will ramp up my efforts at shopping L&LF, sending out queries more often. I will make some modifications to my newsletter to draw folks to the website and stories. I will consider new venues for selling the short stories.
4.& 5. Deadline to finish Gapman: June 2010. Deadline for shopping L&LF to agents and big traditional publishers: October 2010, after which, I will return to small press. Have a new story written and on the website or being submitted each quarter. I will send out a query a week minimum. I will not wait for a rejection before moving on.

Still not enough for you? Want more information, tips and ideas on making resolutions, setting goals and getting organized? I’m going to post a link or tip every day in January, then have the whole file for download on my website in February.

Working toward making your life better is not a matter of a single night of resolution setting. Take your time, learn, tweak your ideas and build your habits.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How many of these classics have I read?

Right now, I'm up to my assets in alligators (and my brain is my best asset, so you can see how deep that is). So I was glad to snag this post for blog fodder:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions: Bold those books you've read in their entirety.
Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt.

If you put this on facebook: Copy this into your NOTES, and put your own answers in. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses! Feel free to add comments too.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 1984--George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch-22 --Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy--Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (All 7 of them!)

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (and Seamonsters?)

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazu Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.

Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wisemen. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen.

Prayer from Catholic Online

Monday, December 20, 2010

Roundup of Reviews for Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator

First, thanks to everyone who participated in the Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator book tour. I had a lot of fun with the interviews and the articles and enjoyed seeing the responses. Here are some quips from the reviews I've received as a result.

By Caprice Hokstad

This book is so full of comedy, it’s hard to believe there’s room for anything really can suspend disbelief and accept this world where the “shambling undead” have become a frightening menace. Beyond that, the plot really works. There’s lots of action, plenty of drama, and even some romance... This is the brilliance. Karina doesn’t feel the need to knock you over the head with every little joke. She’s put out such a sumptuous buffet that she can afford for you to miss a delectable item or two.

By Kat Heckenbach
"Hell's Kitchen" with heart. Pretty much sums it up :). Neeta's got to whip her students into shape, so they can learn to slice and dice zombies. She's not the heartless terror that Chef What's-his-name is, but she can't afford to be soft when dealing with the undead. I laughed SO hard while reading Neeta Lyffe. But humor is not Karina's only strong point. The book has an actual plot and real characterization--two things that often lack in parody and humor writing.

By Nicole Langan
Fabian shines in her ability to create believable supporting characters. Each participant on the show has a distinctive personality full of their own idiosyncrasies and quirks. It is a difficult enough for an author to mold a strong, multi-faceted protagonist, but Fabian succeeds in bringing an extensive cast to life as authentic individuals, not cliched stereotypes. Fashioning scenes of dialogue with eight people requires a skilled writer, and Fabian delivers with clear, precise conversations.

My favorite line: "Overall, Neeta is to zombies what Buffy is to vampires."

I made a new Buffy! SQUEE!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Questions about Neeta Lyffe, not asked in interviews

How do you pronounce Lyffe? Is it a pun? Yes, it's pronounced Life, as in Need A Life. (Honestly, don't you know me by now?)

That's What were your parents thinking? Neeta was names after her maternal grandmother, and like I think happens with some parents, they didn't put the first and last name together until it was too late. She will, however, consider seriously whether hyphenating her name when she marries is good for business or just too silly. (If I write the sequel. No promises.)

How do you become a zombie exterminator? First, you study to become a regular exterminator. You take the tests, pass the background checks, etc. Then you have to pass some preliminary psychological and physical tests. If you make it that far, you get a temporary license to re-kill. Then you apprentice with a regular exterminator.

How do you re-kill something that's already dead? That's why it's re-killing, and not murder. Zombies aren't alive, but they aren't fully dead, either. Brain activity has been restored on a rudimentary level. So there had to be a new classification for taking them out.

Why did Neeta choose this career? It's a family business.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Zombie Death Extreme Website is up!

OK, dirty little secret time: I played with some formats in Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator in part because I didn't want to write some of the background scenes. Rather than slowing down the story with a lot of background and explanation, for example, I would put up a forum announcement by a fan saying, "Whoa! Check out this article about Neeta's lawsuit! Did her really sue her for $500,000?!" or I could refer to a previous episode of Zombie Death Extreme with only the words, "Goldie's responding well to medication--right?"

But when you have an ambitious publisher with a sense of fun, shortcuts can backfire.

Kim contacted me last week withe the suggestion that we build a website and fake forum with all the reference stuff I'd put in the book. I told her I thought it would be fun, then I went back and realized just how much background stuff I had. By then, however, she'd bought the domain name, set up a strawman, created a forum, and even made a subdomain for Lyffe Undeath Exterminations.

Oh! uh, guess I'd better fill that up then. So I looked at some reality tv show sites and some exterminator business websites and created

The Zombie Death Extreme website is full of fun stuff. I didn't put in all the references--I can't afford to hire actors for the video blogs, and haven't gotten to the articles yet--but I do have the characters and all the episode summaries, and a little bit of fun about zombie extermination. There's a forum up, too, and I already have at least one friend willing to play crazed fans (he's multi-tasking) and post for me. Go join in the fun.

I'll go back and add stuff later, too. Shortcuts are nice, but sometimes, the long scenic route is fun, too!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Squee! My Sister Poses as Neeta Lyffe!

I was days away from book launch and had no ideas for photos for Neeta Lyffe for my book trailer video. I thought about posing myself, but well, I'm fat. So I decided to call one of the most fit and beautiful women I know--my sister, Regina Koske.

She was thrilled. She vowed to find the biggest, toughest chainsaw she could and make very good use of those cardio-boxing classes she was taking. A few days later, seh sent me 50 photos taken from her iphone by her husband, Chuck. Thought I'd share a few with you:

Here's Neeta meaning business. (Go ahead and guess Gina's actual age. Bet you're off by 10 years.)

She and Chuck had a lot of fun doing some action shots. Chuck even suggested they take the chainsaw to the refinery where he works. I'm thinking "What a great place for a zombie attack!"

This one, of course, made the video. I think I laughed and squealed like a crazed fangirl for 20 minutes over this one. Gina said Chuck was egging her on, "Come on, Babe, give me the look!"

I so love being able to include my family in my creative fun. Glad I have a family willing to play with me! Thanks, Gina!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Neeta Lyffe Zombie Exterminator Book Tour

By the 2040s, the shambling dead have become and international problem. While governments and special interest groups vie for the most environmentally-friendly way to rid the world of zombies, a new breed of exterminator has risen: The Zombie Exterminator. When zombie exterminator Neeta Lyffe gets sued because a zombie she set afire stumbles onto a lawyer's back porch, she needs money, fast. So she agrees to train apprentice exterminators in a reality TV show that makes Survivor look like a game of tag. But that's nothing compared to having to deal with crazy directors, bickering contestants and paparazzi. Can she keep her ratings up, her bills paid and her apprentices alive and still keep her sanity?

The workout room had a weights set and an elliptical in one corner, but Neeta ignored them. She needed more vigorous exercise than that if she wanted to burn off her emotional funk.

None of the plebes had done the routine she'd just set for herself. It didn't really reflect the reality of zombie movements, either. Although the crew had designed the targets to look much like actual undead, they moved too quickly, changed direction too suddenly, lunged and retreated in ways zombies couldn't imitate. They zigged and zaggged, dropped from the ceiling to zoom back up, flung themselves from the ground to trip the unwary. For once, this wasn't about training.

Neeta steeled herself, found an opening and dove in with a roar. She swung high, tagging the first zombie with the edge of her blade just as it got within her reach.

This was about reflexes,

She jumped over the arm that sprung up in front of her, doing the splits as she brought down her chainsaw to slice the hand off at the wrist.

…about burning aggression,

She spun a full circle, moving the saw in a sine wave. She took one target out at the knees, sliced another sideways across the chest, beheaded a third.

…about moving beyond thought and planning and negotiations with writers and directors and people who cared more for ratings than lives,

She lunged, spun, kicked and swung, her battle cries a perfect accompaniment to the pounding music.

A buzzer sounded, and the lights brightened and steadied. The targets stopped their frenetic motions and presented themselves for her to examine. She dropped the saw where she stood and braced her hands against her knees to catch her breath. Her arms felt like lead. A good feeling. She moved among the grimacing targets, noting the strikes that would have severed limbs, the ones that would have beheaded... When she came to the long-haired one with the pot belly, she gave a feral grin.

She's landed the blade in perfect position to slice Dave's manic smile right off his face.

Want more fun? Check out the Zombie Death Extreme show website!

Check out the Tour!

Dec Interview in newsletter
4-Dec interview
6-Dec Guest post: why write about zombies?
7-Dec Guest Post: what do you do with a zombie novel
8-Dec interview
8-Dec Guest Post : Building Neeta's World
9-Dec blog--why zombie fic
10-Dec Guest post
10-Dec interview
11-Dec review
12-Dec interview
13-Dec feature
14-Dec Character interview
15-Dec review
17-Dec Character interview
17-Dec Catholics and Fantasy
18-Dec interview
19-Dec review + interview
19-Dec review + interview
20-Dec Review

Order it now: (Print coming soon!)

From the publisher:

From Amazon: KINDLE:

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Reviews of Infinite Space, Infinite God II (so far)

Haven't had a lot of reviews yet on ISIG II, but here are the two that resulted from the book tour:

"In Infinite Space, Infinite God II, the creativity of science fiction is merged with the morality of Catholicism. The result is a collection of 12 short stories edited by the husband and wife team of Rob and Karina Fabian. While fun and imaginative, the anthology forces the reader to confront some serious issues. Would a human clone have a soul? Would aliens be considered a part of God's creation? Would religious vocations continue to exist beyond Earth's gravitational pull? These thought-provoking issues are explored in a way that satisfies both the techno-geek and the religious philosopher." --Nicole Langan, Scranton Examiner

"…these are stories about people–ordinary people of faith thrust into extraordinary situations. Their faith guides their actions, and it makes a difference in their world. It’s a practical faith that guides them to serve others, sacrifice their own ambitions, and endure suffering with patience and hope. This anthology is also unique in that it showcases the Christian faith from a Catholic point-of-view. This means that you will encounter a Church whose structure and practice remain intact and consistent into the future, adapting to change while tenaciously preserving and applying the lessons of its heritage. Human frailty and divine intervention meet in the act of prayer, and wonderful things happen….a nice variety of imaginative tales, serious and lighthearted, introspective and action-packed, from near-space to the other side of the galaxy. Some could happen tomorrow, others are set thousands of years in the future. There’s something for everybody here." --Fred Warren, Frederation


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why We Chose the Stories in Infinite Space, Infinite God II

I already talked about why I liked the stories in ISIG II in Sara Reinhard's blog, so today, Rob talks about what impressed him. Please keep in mind that he's not read these since we put this anthology together almost two years ago.

The Ghosts of Kourion: Professor Robert Cragg thought that he could escape the grief of losing his wife and daughter by traveling back in time to study a city soon to be destroyed by an earthquake. He felt safe in the fact that he could do nothing to save these people, but when he befriends a local family, however, he realizes he must try. In the end, he cannot save them, but he learns that if he cannot save the ghosts of Kourion, he can at least ease their sufferings.

Rob: I was captured by the main character. The author made Professor Cragg come alive; you could empathize with him and the struggles he was going through.

An Exercise in Logic: An ancient alien satellite has diverted an asteroid toward a human colony planet. The people who built the satellite refuse to veto programming logic installed by their ancestors. Can an Ursuline sister who is also an alien contact specialist change their minds?

Rob: In a lot of ways, it felt like th old pulp sci-fi. I just really enjoyed it. In some ways, I could see Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry walking around in the same universe.

Cathedral: Katarina's kind were engineered to love scientific research and dedicate themselves to bettering mankind until their jumped-up neurology caused them to die an ignoble death while in their twenties. Perhaps Katarina could have lived with this, but when she discovers the medicines she created were actually drugs to control the population, she spends the last of her tortured days righting her wrongs.

Rob: I found the concept of an engineered human who "burned more brightly" an interesting approach to human intelligence and creativity.

The Battle of the Narthex: What do you get when you mix a royal assassination, alien militia and the Saturday night Mass-and-Spaghetti dinner? Battle of the Narthex tickels the funny bone and touches the heart!

Rob: Alex always writes a good, rousing story.

Tenniel: Bishop Tenniel must fight the leader of the Wolfbane clan to win the conversion of the tribe to Christianity, saving their lives as well as their souls. Another exciting tale from Colleen Drippe's Lost Rythar universe.

Rob: I've enjoyed all of Colleen's Lost Rythar stories, which are always well written. Again, it had a "pulp feel," though more reminiscent of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe.

Tin Servants by J Sherer: Father Paul's desire to serve his people in war-torn Ghana that he allowed himself to altered to resemble the androids sent to provide medical help. Once there, however, he finds himself limited in the comfort he can offer, and embroiled in a conspiracy to convert the andorginacs into soldiers.

Rob: Well-written and in some ways, cut a little close to home when it comes to modern politics; which is good, because science fiction is often at its best when it comments on issues of the day.

Basilica by John Rundle: A Navy buddy needs help fixing up an old clunker of a spacecraft and Father Carpizo arrives to do his old friend a long overdue favor. As he turns wrenches, however, Carpizo finds a mystery to whet his appetite: a riddle deep rooted in the history of the Church. The scholarly priest unwittingly uncovers a dark secret which others have paid for with their lives. He is suddenly confronted by unspeakable evil and now Carpizo must make the ultimate sacrifice to destroy it…if only there is enough time.

Rob: I can't remember anything deep or specific. It was just a fun read. You know, the thing I looked for when reading these was if I would have liked to have read it when first exploring science fiction. "Bascilica" fit that bill quite well.

Cloned to Kill by D Mak: The power of Baptism helps a clone programmed to kill find her humanity--but to what lengths will Father Markham have to go to protect his new ward?

Rob: I liked that one because it really played at the definitions of what it means to be human and to have a soul.

Dyads, Ken Pick and Alan Loewen: Father Heidler's latest assignment takes him to Cathuria, where the Catholic Church and all of Earth are blamed when a failed missionary's desperation boils over into terrorism. With the planet in the midst of riots and the Archbishop/Ambassador to Cathuria severely injured in a retaliatory strike, Father Heidler negotiates a delicate maze of politics and religious convictions to find a way to restore peace and reconcile the two worlds.

Rob: This is another one that gave me the feel of old, classic science fiction. I also have a preference for non-dystopic futures.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My stories in Infinite Space, Infinite God

Today for the Infinite Space, Infinite God II tour, I thought I'd share with you a little about the stories I wrote for the anthology.

Antivenin: Three nuns from the Order of Our Lady of the Rescue offer help to a ship that is off-course and not answering hails. They find the ship crawling with venomous snakes who have killed their handler and bitten the pilot. When one bites her partner, Sister Rita must conquer her phobia and snatch the antivenin from their nest.

This is probably one of the creepiest stories I've ever written. Like Sister Rita, I hate snakes. Although I have handled pet snakes, I get very nervous about walking in the prairie for fear that I'll disturb one. I don't even remember how I came up with this story, but the research was grueling. I had the heebie-jeebies for weeks. I still get the heebie-jeebies thinking about it.

Otherworld: Father Jonas is haunted by the loss of his mother, who died while in a virtual reality world. As a priest, he's driven to evangelize to the players in Otherworld--to remind them of reality and the God who cares about what they do on both worlds.

"Antivenin" was supposed to be the only one of my stories for the anthology, but we really wanted a story with virtual reality or cyberpunk, and we didn't get any we liked. I had recruited my friend, Frank Creed, to write one in his Flashpoint universe, but he wasn't able to complete it; I don't remember why now. However, with the extended deadline passed, and no prospects in sight, I tried my hand. I really liked how it turned out. (BTW, check out Flashpoint; it's very cool.)

Frankie Phones Home: Sixteen-year-old Frankie was kidnapped by aliens who wanted to understand the mysteries of her human religion. Now, as they return to Earth to make First Contact, Frankie calls her family.

This is a flash-fiction piece, written in a script format, as a sequel of sorts to "Interstellar Calling" in Infinite Space, Infinite God I. I wrote it because I'd been scolded by a friend of mine who said no well-raised daughter would just up and leave her family with nothing more than a note on the dashboard, even if it was to preach the Gospel to aliens. So Frankie calls home to apologize and try to explain.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tom Turkey and the Redcoats by Liam Fabian

My son Liam is in fifth grade, and they're learning about Tall Tales. I remember doing the same thing in fifth grade, so I had a lot of fun going over what they are and finding a few on-line to read to him. He had to write one of his own, and it's so cute, I wanted to share it. The italicized part is the teacher prompt:

Tom Turkey and the Redcoats
by Liam Fabian

Tom Turkey was a big turkey. Now, I don't mean an ordinary big turkey. No, sir! I mean an extraordinary, gigantic, big turkey. In fact, Tom Turkey was so big that if he stretched his wing, he could touch the moon. He was so smart, he learned to speak human.

One day during the Revolutionary War, the Redcoats came. They wanted to take the farm as a base. Tom Turkey said, "Stop!" The commanding officer said, "Kill the bird. Three thousand men shot him. It tickled.

Tom started to step on them.. That day, he invented tap dancing.

Ben Franklin soon heard about it and nominated him for the national bird.

The End.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's the Infinite Space, Infinite God II Book Tour!

Twelve science fiction stories featuring Catholic heroes. Meet a time traveler who sacrifices his life to give a man a sip of water, and the nun who faces venomous snakes to save a friend. Share the adventures of priests who battle aliens and machines in order serve the greater good.

Infinite Space, Infinite God II spans the gamut of science fiction, from near-future dystopias to time travel to space opera, puzzles of logic to laugh-out-loud humor and against-the-clock suspense. A great read for any science fiction fan--a must-read for the Catholic sci-fi lover.

Tour places and dates:
18-Nov Tour schedule, info
20-Nov Writing Faith-Filled Fiction
21-Nov Interview
22-Nov Interview
23-Nov Review
23-Nov Interview
24-Nov Interview
25-Nov Interview
26-Nov Interview
29-Nov Interview
29-Nov http:// About Karina's stories
30-Nov Karina Talks about the stories
1-Dec Interview
2-Dec Interview
2-Dec http:// About Contributors' stories
3-Dec What is Catholic Fiction?
3-Dec Interview
4-Dec Interview
5-Dec Interview with Contributors
6-Dec Information
6-Dec http:// Reviews

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

My novel's Journey: Inventing a sport for Discovery

JK Rowling had quidditch. I have splat.

I needed a zero G ball game for the crew of Discovery--something that Sister Ann would be very good at, so it's something that takes a lot of maneuvering skill, but not necessarily a lot of strength--oh, and a stable middle ear and a strong stomach.

Last week, I came up with splat.

Splat is played in a dodecahedron in zero gravity. Four sides have goals—holes into which you toss the ballast. The holes are in the center of a side, which have magnets on a switch. The softball-sized ball carries a positive charge. The players wear suits and helmets that are positively charged and have a paddle that is also positively charged. They can use the paddles and their bodies to move the ball, but they can't touch it. They can also use their bodies and paddles to move other players. (Remember similar charges repel.)

The object of the game is two-fold: to get the ball into the goal and to be nowhere near the goal when that happens. That’s because when the ball goes through the hole, it activates the magnets on that side, which are negatively charged. If you’re too close to the side, you get stuck on the wall! Every team gets points when they make a goal and when someone on the other team gets stuck on the wall. People who vomit on the field are disqualified, and their team doesn’t get a replacement.

Still working out the details of how many on a team. I also need a good team name for the nuns on the St. Joseph of Cupertino convent. "Flying Nuns" would have been taken ages ago, so don't suggest it. :)

Who knows? Maybe they'll be playing splat in a hundred years. That would be cooler than quidditch!

Monday, November 08, 2010

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Last week, I saw this headline on Yahoo: Nicest Canadian couple in world dole out lottery winnings.

I remember a writing assignment from when I was in third or fourth grade: What would you do with a million dollars. Our family was living on a thousand dollars a month at the time, so I had no concept of a million. I was giving away a thousand here, a thousand there to friends and family before I gave up and wrote, "It's hard to spend a million dollars!"

Now, I'm an adult, and our family makes six figures a year, and I'm pretty certain I could spend a million without thinking. Occasionally, Rob and I play the lottery--when the winnings pass a hundred million. We dream about how we'd spend the money, and have a basic plan of action in mind. (Thus, I'm sure, ensuring that we never win.)

First, the Must Do:

100,000,000 (Assumed winnings for this exercise)
- 35,000,000 (Taxes as calculated online)
- 15,300,000 (Social Security)
59,700,000 That we can actually spend

Next, the No-Brainers:

59,700,000 to spend
-32,000,000 to charities (And any that call me on the phone get told NO)
- 500,000 for dream house
- 400,000 for kids' college
- 12,000,000 for parents/siblings/children/nieces and nephews
- 7,000,000 for godchildren
- 5,000,000 to pay off friend's bills (We have a list--don't call me.)
- 2,000,000 into savings as a nest egg
800,000 to play with

I'm just about back to my writing assignment in third grade. However, times have changed; prices are higher, and our toys are more expensive:

800,000 to play with
- 500,000 for cars for the family
- 30,000 computers for the family
- 100,000 dream vacation(s) for the family
- 30,000 mad money spending spree for the family ($5000 each)
- 20,000 new furniture (We keep talking about a bedroom set and our living room furniture is piecemeal from when we first married. Our dining set is drop-dead gorgeous, but I'd like to get new seats for it.)
- 50,000 for marketing my books (obviously to be spent over many years)
$70,000 that I have no idea for. If some other insane expense doesn't pop up, like paying for the hospital stay when I have the heart attack over winning a 100 million dollars, then it will go to charity.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Change of plans

Man proposes; God disposes.

When I teach classes about the writing life, I try to emphasize two points: (1)If you want to succeed as a writer, you have to make time to write, and (2) if you're not depending on this for your income, you need to remember life comes first.

This month, I've been challenged to learn my own lessons.

2010 was an amazing year for writing. The kids were in school, and I had a great schedule that worked. I wrote two books, and will have three published. I also wrote two school planners and three new workshops, as well as a couple of short stories. I was averaging over a thousand words a day just in new writing on a novel or story, and up to 10,000 in other venues. In addition, I got my housekeeping down to a habit, which has done wonders for our home and I'd figured I was finally on my way to a nice, regular, long-term schedule.

Then Liam started having problems at home and school, and moving to Utah has not made it easier as we'd hoped. We're in for a long haul of getting him the help he needs. The schools here have been wonderful--much better than in California--and they're working with us, but right now, he's studying at home and will be for awhile. Even when he returns, there will be a lot we need to work on. Rob has been wonderful in taking time off, coming home early and doing what he can, but he con only do so much before his work suffers--and when you work with nukes, that's a Bad Thing.

I want to write. I need to write. But it doesn't put the food in our mouths. My first job is to nurture my marriage and raise my children to be intelligent, compassionate good citizens.

So, time for a new proposal...

DISCOVERY isn't going as smoothly as I'd hoped. It's serious sci-fi, and with all that's happening, I don't have the leftover mental or spiritual energy to tackle it by year's end as I'd hoped. However, I have a dear friend who has agreed to look over my mess of a manuscript, kick the tires, poke the holes, and give me some suggestions. It's off to him. I'm not giving up, but it's back in the percolating stage to be dinked with as I get inspired.

In the meantime, I will concentrate first on marketing the books I have coming out, and selling my short stories, which I concentrated on this week. Then, I'm going to write something else that I've been wanting to do, but which is light, easy and makes me laugh--maybe Gapman or Redcap. I'm not sure yet which. I'll only work on them in spare time, however; this is now at a thousand words a week kind of goal, and a loose one at that. I may even cut down to "one sentence before bed" if necessary. The key, as I've told my workshop students, is to have a consistent writing practice, even if it's a tiny goal.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Because it's been that kind of week...

Here's something my daughter helped me discover on the Failblog:

Funny Tattoos - Cause This is THRILLER!
see more Ugliest Tattoos

What gets me is the expression. I'm sure it was inked during the last presidential campaign.

As long as we're in pop art... Got to love Post-It. Think the NEA gave them a grant?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

my Novel's Journey: Mind Over Mind Edits

Three's a charm?

Got the third round of MIND OVER MIND edits, and still had a couple of issues to work out. One was making tomato soup. Gabrielle wanted the tomatoes mentioned at the beginning, and I wouldn't do it because you put the tomatoes in last. What I finally understood this edit was that she didn't need them in the pot, necessarily, just mentioned--stick the can of tomato sauce on the counter or something. It's the same idea as putting that gun in scene 2 if you fire it in scene 6. I'm facepalming.

The other issue was one where I was too subtle in showing something. I think a couple of phrases fixed it.

The last thing was a rewrite, changing another flashback into a present-time event. It was one she'd asked me to do before, but I had two flashbacks in one spot (I think. It's fuzzy now.) and missed the second one. So I rewrote it, which was fun, because I got a little more of Josh's reactions in. Josh really is a fun character.

So, now that's off, and I spent the rest of last week and this finding homes for all the stories I'd had languishing in my files. I also went back over Coyote Fires and need to find a home for it. It's been a difficult time at home, so I've not had much heart for DISCOVERY; however, that isn't stopping me from my other writing.

Know what I need for DISCOVERY? An editor like Gabrielle. Maybe I should start asking myself WWGD?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bless Me, Father, For I Have Kids by Susie Lloyd


The uninterrupted life is not worth living! Lifelong Catholic, devoted wife, diligent homeschooler, and mother of seven, Susie Lloyd is too busy to give advice: busy giving home haircuts and finding missing socks; busy teaching her teen girls to drive, cook, and diagram sentences; busy praying for divine protection while she races off to church (late) in her full-size van. But every so often, Susie finds a few moments to record the shananigans of her family in a Dave Barry style that will have you chuckling from the first diaper to the moment her daughter remembers to put the car in "park."


You don't need seven kids to appreciate Susie's humor. Her misadventures and funny but touching insights into the busy family life, especially the busy Catholic family life are bound to resonate in you. Mixed in with the anecdotes and the irony ("God makes you go to church with all the kids to keep you humble") are bits of wisdom and the comfort of knowing that Mom's you are not alone.

I often advise parents (and myself) that you know you'll laugh about that child's misadventure in a couple of years, so why wait? Laugh now. Susie does a great job in helping us see, though her family, the virtue of laughing now.

Attention Government Regulators: I saw Susie handing a copy of her book to another person at the Catholic Writers Conference Live in promise for a review and jumped in to get one, too. The title was too good to pass up.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Rediscovering Discovery

Last week, I attended the MuseOnline Writers Conference.

This is a totally free, totally online and totally awesome conference, and my favorite thing to do there is take Devon Ellington's classes. Her exercises are basically the same each year: specific writing challenges that push some writing skill. They're the same each year, but I always go in with a plan to use them on a specific project and always come out with something great. This year, I used her storybuilding class to write a story about Grace and Coyote that I'd been meaning to do for awhile. (Love Coyote--he's so fun to write!) I used her dialog workshop to build on Discovery.

As you know, I've been having a lot of trouble writing this book. It's "done" as far as word count, but there are holes and logical inconsistencies and not enough character development. One thing in the back half that I've struggled with is the finding reasons why certain people can't be at x or y at a critical time.

One exercise that really challenged me this year was the "multi-task" exercise. The protagonist has to do something while talking, it has to be important, and things have to keep getting in her way. Of course, I'm trying to build up the front half of Discovery, but I didn't have anything to for my characters to do that hadn't already been done. So I decided to let Rita check the rover they needed for the mission.

By the time I was done, she discovered the rover had been sabotaged! It was wonderful! It gave me the perfect reason to leave people safely on ET while a small team (including, unbeknownst to them, the saboteur) goes to the Discovery on an urgent mission and gets in serious trouble.

So today's lesson: take advantage of workshops or writing exercises, and when you have a problem in your story, sometimes it helps to attack it obliquely.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Cover Art! Perfect Ten!

This is the month for cover art.

Here's the cover for "Perfect Ten," done by the talented Denise Clark. (See more of her stuff here.) Perfect Ten comes out in March from MuseItUp. It's the hilarious story of a first date gone terribly wrong.

Insurance actuary Sheila Mars just wants a quiet sheltered life, but her program for assessing health risks wins her a trip to Vegas, and her life coach talks her into going--and into trying new adventures. One of those adventures includes a blind date with the Faerie Kyle Lote. Gorgeous, sweet, attentive--could he be a Perfect Ten? Kyle, however, turns out to be Coyote, the Trickster, and as his true nature shows, Sheila realizes Ten might not be so perfect after all!

It's a short story, but full of Coyote fun!

Too early for pre-orders yet, but contact me and I'll let you know when it's out--or just stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review of Creative Calisthenics by Terri Main

No Novel's Journey today. I'm at the MuseOnline writers conference, teaching, learning and having a great time. However, I've been meaning to review this book for a long time, and I can't think of a better time than during the MuseOnline Writer's Conference. For you MuseConners: Terri is teaching. Go check out her forum workshop!

About the Book: (Taken from Creative Calisthenics, page 8)

Unlike physical training which is often boring and always painful, training your creative muscles can be fun. That's what this book is all about – pumping up your creativity and having a good time doing so.

Most writing books tell you how to write something. They give you information about sentence structure, passive versus active construction, plot elements, characterization, organization, research, writing a query letter and the list goes on. Creative Calisthenics is different in that we don't tell you how to write. We give you prompts and let you write. These prompts may help you learn some of those other things, but that is not as important as the fact that it is helping to get you to writing. To switch metaphors for a moment, these exercises are jumper cables for the brain. Don't know what to write about today? Flip to any page and you have an exercise to help you. With over eighty articles detailing more than 175 different exercises, writing prompts, story starters and idea generators, there is always something that can shake loose those mental cobwebs and get you writing.

My Review:

I highly recommend this book for beginning writers, writers who struggle with finding or pursuing an idea, and anyone who teaches creative writing. I recommend it for any writer looking for a way to freshen up their writing life or who feels they need some fun challenges to spice it up.

This is not a workbook. This is a book to play with. Terri has come up with fun ideas and story starters that you can use to warm up your brain, break through writer's block, find a unique angle to your article or scene, or just toy with when you have 15 minutes of writing time and no pressing things to write. I didn't try to read it front to back; I just picked exercises at random. I found all of them interesting and potentially fun. A few ideas, i'd seen elsewhere, but others were new to me. Even though I didn't do them all, they all caused a firing of creative synapses in my brain.

Check it out--and while you're at it, go visit Terri's Creative Calisthenics website, where she posts more fun ideas.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyberthieves by Regina Doman

Summary (from Amazon)
: When his computer hacker dad discovers a secret website, Alex O'Donnell and his girlfriend Kateri become embroiled in a mystery that leads to sudden wealth, and murder. A modern retelling of the classic Arabian Nights tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.


My teenage daughter and I love Regina's Fairy Tale series, and 40 Cyberthieves doesn't disappoint. Although Regina calls it a technothriller, it's a refreshing change from the over-adrenalined, constant danger, singles-only novel you usually associate with the genre. The characters are ones you can relate to on an everyday level. In fact, I was feeling very in tune with Kateri as I cleaned house that day. However, the adventure is still engrossing, the romance strong, and the heroes just enough larger than life that you can enjoy a happy escape from reality.

Attention Government Regulators: I bought this book, and I'm not even counting it off as a business expense. It was entertaining and I want people to know it. So there. Nyah!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Rediscovering Discovery

I'm asking Santa for one month of NO DRAMA in my life.

As I said Monday, this was a hellish week on big and small levels, but I still got some writing done--not a lot, but still a few thousand words, which, given the amount of time taken away from my writing to handle problems, is about as good as I was going to get. This also doesn't count the two writing workshops, the newsletter and the blogs I wrote, which I consider part of the "business" of writing and not the creative art of writing.

But you can imagine, this week was tough for writing, and I was not only fighting a lot of distractions, but also a lot of self-doubt and the "why should I bother?" attitude. There's only one way for me to handle this, and that's slog through, giving myself permission to write stupid drafts if needed and trusting that my characters will talk to me.

I also had the challenge this week of killing a scene I really liked in favor of one that moved more slowly, because the old scene no longer fits the logic of the story. This was tough to do! And, unlike the first chapter, which I scrapped, I cannot remake this into a short story. So it took a lot to just make myself junk a great group dialog-and-action scene for a couple of small scenes of one-on-one conversations. However, it did give Sister Ann another chance to shine in her own many-faceted way.

The next scene, the fire rescue, was pretty easy to mesh back in, but here I re-experienced grief over the manuscript I lost in December 2009 when the computer died, taking the backup with it. I'd melded two characters into one, which gave a lot of energy to the story, but I could not remember much about the new character but general details. In the fire scene, Sister Ann meets OvLandra for the first time. I only needed two lines of description, but I was stymied because I could not remember what I'd written and loved.

Finally, I whined over IM to my best friend, who gave me a virtual pat on the back. Then I told myself that whatever was good before can be better now, but not unless I write it. I'm not sure it's better, but it is written. I can move on and I can make it better in the edits.

Rather than post a before-and-after snippet, I'm going to post a scene I added a few sentences to, with the new sentences in bold. Ann is going to be having a lot of visions of saints and angels during this trip (more than she ever has in her life), and I wanted to start introducing them slowly.

She peered in, saw the flames arching and dancing on the bed and broken table, climbing across the walls, arching along the ceiling. She reached into a belt pouch, pulled out a grenade and pulled the pin.

"Father, Son, Holy Spirit!" She tossed the grenade into the room.

A pause, then a THWOOM! that she felt more than heard.

She peeked back in.

Droplets of fire-suppressant foam dotted the room, expanding quickly, snuffing the fire as they grew. Still, there were pockets of flames merrily fighting for dominance. She'd bought herself some time, that's all.

The door was scalding hot. She grit her teeth and set a gloved hand on its edge and one on the threshold and pushed it apart. Even through the gloves, she felt the heat on her skin. She pulled away with a frustrated hiss.

St. Florian, patron of fire brigades, help me! She pushed her hands against the reluctant door again. Again the heat seared through her gloves, but this time as she was about to pull away, she felt a pressure on the backs of her hands. She knew St. Florian was helping. She leaned in with her legs, and
the door at last gave way.

She ran across the room to the bathroom door and pounded on it.

PS. I'll be at the MuseOnline Conference next week, so I'm posting some reviews of terrific books I got to read over the summer. Please check in and if you're going to MuseCon, I'll see you there!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Even on the road to hell, we see little glimpses of heaven.

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions," is an adage that goes back to the 1600s, but it still applies today, and in several ways. My life last week got pretty road-to-Hellish because of things I did with the best of intentions. I don't want to go into details, but it's been one thing after another and has left me feeling like anything I touch is going to turn to dust. (or something more foul-smelling, but that's not as poetic. :) )

It's been very tempting to sit around the house, crying and alternately trying to convince myself that it's all my fault and that I can't do anything right, or believing that the whole world is against me. When I was younger, I probably would have. But I had the good fortune, the tangible blessing, to marry Rob Fabian. Not only does Rob love and support me, he also watchdogs my bad habits. After many years of patient (and sometimes not-so-patient) chiding, he broke me of the habit of spiraling into self pity. Now, too, we have four FABulous children that I need to be strong for, writers (friends and students) who depend on me--not to mention, a whole lineup of imaginary characters who resent the time and emotional energy taken away from them! Finally, I have grown in my faith and realize more than ever that not only can I take things to God, I need to.

We live in a new state, and I don't make live friends easily. I'm not good on the phone. So I sent out an SOS via Twitter and Facebook, asking for prayers and love.

I have received well wishes, and prayers and hugs and Mass intentions and rosaries and offers of support (even some practical help from those I could explain one of the situations to). Each one has been a little bit of heaven on this road to hell.

I may be on the road to hell, but that doesn't mean I'm going there. I have too many angels in my life preventing that from happening. Thanks, everyone! You are more than I deserve and I will do my best to be worthy of you. I love you all.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Mind Over Mind Edits

One of the best parts of getting published, I believe, is having a thorough editing of your manuscript. I learn a lot about my writing style and the mistakes I make, and how they impact the readability of my books. I'm always a better writer for them.

Such is the case with Mind Over Mind. This was my first novel, sold to Dragon Moon after 10 years of making the rounds. I was thrilled that they wanted it, but I'm even more thrilled with the attention the editor, Gabrielle, gave the manuscript.

One of the biggest things she noted, content-wise, was my tendency to start with a present-time action, then go back into a flashback of some past event not mentioned before. I knew I did that, and I always had a reason. Usually, I considered the flashback event too minor to mention except in how it impacted the present scene. However, Gabrielle felt that most of the time what I was doing was slowing down the pace of the action, where with some rewriting, I could indeed address the flashback as a real-time event, improve the pace and make the present scene I was writing flow more easily. Reading her comments, I saw that she was right.

She made careful note of which scenes in particular could benefit from the real-time approach, and as I worked them, I started to understand her logic and how it applied. Plus, she fired up my imagination--something I was a little afraid about at first, because it had been so long since I'd been with these characters.

As a result, not only is Mind Over Mind a better book, but I am a better writer.

Here's an example. Please keep in mind that there may be further revisions before the final product comes out:


"Hey, Ydrel, are you awake?"

Ydrel grunted without looking up. He didn't have the energy to move from the reclining lawn chair where he’d been dozing for the last couple of hours, and he knew that the slightest movement would send daggers of pain into his side.

The Master had called him again the night before, breaking though his weakened shields as if they weren't there. He hadn't even spoken, had just set new monsters upon him. They were mostly human, but had only depressions where their eyes, noses and mouths should have been. At first, he'd fought mostly a defensive battle. His shields were weakened and he had no ley line from which to renew them. The hits soon broke through, painful blows that he knew would reveal themselves in the waking world, He began to fight back then, growing more and more desperate. When one monster smacked his arm hard enough to make him drop his sword, he reacted by reflex, striking out with his mind rather than his body. The creature arched and fell.

"Yes!" the Master shouted.

Startled at what he'd just done, Ydrel dropped his guard. Another creature plunged his blade deep into his side.

The pain threw him into the waking world.


Ydrel found himself in the land of mists, disoriented, shivering, his sword in his hand and a cramp in his side. He turned a slow circle until he saw the Master
"Let me go," he moaned. "I don’t want to fight today."

The Master didn't even answer, simply faded into the background as the monsters approached. Gray things, with depressions where the facial features should have been. Alien but weirdly familiar. This time, instead of their arms ending in blades, they had hands which held swords. I can knock the blades from their hands, he thought. Then when I have a safe minute I'm using all my power and leaving--

The sword was gone from his hands.

"What?" he breathed, then felt the Master's command: YOU DO NOT NEED THIS PROP. YOU ARE THE ONLY WEAPON YOU NEED.

The monsters advanced.

"No!" he shouted to the Master. "I don't want to do this. I want to go home.Leave me alone!" He cast about for a ley line. Were there such things in this world?

One of the creatures swung and he ducked. The others waited, but not from some cliché of honor. There were letting him warm up; soon enough, they would come at him at once, and not in some choreographed demonstration fight.

He couldn’t find a line. Again he ducked another swing then stepped to the right just in time to avoid a blow. The movement made the stitch in his side flare.

"Just let me go!"


If only he had his sword. There was energy in it. Anything else? Not the sky, the fog, not even the barren ground.

But the monsters?

Energy flowed from living things, Joshua had said. His mother had poured out her energy to heal him once. Could he work it the other way around?

One jerked forward with a stabbing motion and he grabbed its arm. Instead of tossing it aside, however, he imagined himself a sponge, pulling, absorbing. When he felt the first energy, like cool water, he suddenly thirsted as he never had. He grit his teeth, pulled on the energy, felt it swirl around him, it filled his head, dizzying and glorious.

Ydrel came to himself and found all eight monsters collapsed in the mist. Why were they there still? Always before, they faded when he'd struck the winning blow. He knelt and shook one, lightly at first, then harder.


He whirled and saw the Master, shining as if he'd absorbed the life energy of the beasts.

"Are they dead?"

The Master smiled at Ydrel with pride.

"Were they alive?" Ydrel demanded, even though he wasn't sure he wanted to know. "Were they real?"


Suddenly, twelve monsters replaced the eight.

"Were they real?" he demanded. Had he done it again? Had he killed? A sob escaped his throat.


"No!" He didn't care if he got lost, if he died. He was leaving this place. The creatures had sacrificed their life energies and he was going to put them to good use. Ignoring the advance of the new enemy, he closed his eyes and chanted. "I'm going back to my body. Back to the asylum. Back to Joshua and Sachiko and safety--"

One of the creatures scored on his side as he faded out of existence.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Writing and the Clean House

Last week, I talked about my writing schedule in very general terms. This week, I'm going to give you some principles and tips for balancing writing and life--or more specifically, the house.

These are just the things that worked for me. Results vary and everyone's situation is different.

CUT THE CLUTTER: Nothing makes a house harder to handle than an overabundance of stuff. Storing it, cleaning it, moving it, wading through it to find the important thing among the stuff. Dealing with the memories and emotions contained in the stuff. I've talked about cutting clutter before. Here are three ideas:
--Take it in steps--one closet a day, or 15 minutes a day, or 15 items a day
--Evaluate: does it have positive sentimental value? Do you use it? Do you fit it? If not, toss it.
--Get rid of duplicates and things that bring back hurtful or sad memories.

FLY LADY: teaches you how to keep your house clean on a regular basis. Now if you let her, she can take over your life, but here are the three things that I find keep my house reasonable on a daily basis:
--Swish and Swipe: once a day wipe the bathroom sink and toilet. Use the toilet brush and wipe the inside. It takes 60 seconds; I usually do it while I gargle.
--Daily laundry: one load a day and only one load a day. There are 6 in our house, and we all have a laundry day, plus a day for towels and linens
--Kelly's Missions. Kelly, one of the FLY Lady team members, breaks down deep cleaning chores into 15 minute chores a day. I follow her, and the house stays nice without much effort.

HOUSE MINIONS: This is easier for some than others, of course. Each child in my house gets 2 chores a day. The morning chore is like the swish and swipe: a quick wipe down of the sink and toilet or cleaning the catbox or picking up the Wii and videos in the living room. The afternoon chore takes about 15 minutes: vacuum a room, windex the bathroom mirrors, dust the basement bookshelves. All simple and small, but when 4 kids are doing them, the house stays very nice.

HIRE OUT: Not everyone can do this, I know, but sometimes, it's worth the money. For example, I hate yard work, but I've done it all our marriage. This year, I discovered a landscaper who will mow, trim and take care of the weeds for $25 a week plus chemicals as needed. It's worth every penny to me.

REASONABLE STANDARDS: It's nice to have a clean house, and things do run more easily when the house is clean, but that doesn’t mean a clean house is the ultimate goal. It also changes according to your life. My house was a lot messier when I had younger kids. I let it get crazy when I'm on a big writing assignment, and then take a day to "reset it."

Review of Rachel's Contrition by Michelle Buckman


After her daughter’s sudden death, demons from Rachel’s past cause her to lose her husband, her son, and even a place to live.

As Rachel drifts ever closer to insanity — and perhaps oblivion — help arrives from two unlikely sources: a tattered Holy Card depicting Thérèse of Lisieux and Lilly, a troubled teenager battling demons greater even than Rachel’s.

As Rachel grows closer to Lilly — and to Thérèse — unbidden memories reveal fearful mysteries of seduction, madness, and murder.

And a truth that will haunt Rachel forever . . . but enable her fnally to be healed.


I've been impressed with Michelle's work since I got to review Maggie Come Lately. Michelle has a wonderful style that is simple yet profound, characters that you can believe live right next door, and stories that grab you even when the genre isn't your favorite.

I read Rachel's Contrition in the airport, which probably wasn't such a good idea, as I kept having to stop to wipe my eyes. Any mother--possibly every woman--could emphasize with Rachel's pain. I'm not sure how any mother who lost a child to accident could ever read it without bawling, but I can tell you this: they will be tears of healing.

There is a lot of Catholic imagery and culture, which makes it especially wonderful for Catholic readers, but you don't need to follow that faith to understand that her struggle was spiritual as well as mental, and that her healing followed the same path.

This is Michelle's best work yet. I'm so excited to see what comes next!

Purchase from Sophia Institute Press.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

my Novel's Journey: Mind Over Mind Edits

Once again, Discovery takes a back seat to a more pressing writing need; this time, the first round edits to Mind Over Mind.

This is the revision of the first novel I'd ever written, the story of a young man who develops psychic powers, and has aliens communicate with him. The experiences drive him insane, and at the start of the book, he's been in an asylum for five years when a young intern decides to help him by pretending to believe him and teaching him to control his powers. In the meantime, the aliens--representatives of warring factions--each think he's their savior and try to get him to fight on their side.

I've loved this story for a long time, but knew the manuscript needed some work, so I'm very pleased to have Gabrielle Harbowy, editor of DragonMoon give it a very critical eye. It's the most invasive editing I've ever had, with scenes that need re-written and some changes in the placement and flow of the text. Overall, however, I've loved her suggestions. Revising has been an exciting experience.

It's been a couple of years since I've seen this manuscript, so my first run of edits is really more of a read-through. I'm approving all the changes I agree with and writing new scenes as they come to mind. Where a change is needed that doesn't immediately hit me, I make a note and move on. Most of the scene changes so far have been to alter point of view switches within scenes. This has been fun because I get to live the book with my characters all over again.

I've gotten through 214 pages in three days, and figure I'll finish it this weekend. Then, I'll go through it looking for the bigger issues: Is my character flawed enough? Are the chapter sizes more even? Did I chop up flashback, or change some to flow in real time?

In the meantime, I am still working on Discovery. I'm trying to write 500 words a day. So far, Sister Ann is taking center stage. A couple of days ago, she came up with a very interesting quote about pain and fear, faith and knowledge and how sometimes you need all four for an epiphany. The next day, I wrote a scene where she declared someone a genius because he just skipped straight to the epiphany. The fun thing about Ann is going to be that none of the characters are going to understand her, but the reader is going to be able to see all the connections.

Writing Schedules!

I got asked today about my writing schedule, which is ironic since it caused me to notice that I did NOT follow my blog-writing schedule. Sorry, folks. I'll pick it up tomorrow, promise.

In the meantime, let me tell you how schedules work for me. Each January, I think about the past year--what worked, what didn't, what I want to do different--and I make a schedule accordingly. Working around the school schedule. I always devote a couple of hours to just writing, then divide the rest according to tasks, usually assigning dedicated time each week, whether I have definite plans for the week or not.

Then, when the new school year starts, I revise the whole thing to suit the new schedule.

So, for September-December 2010, my schedule looks something like this:
5:30-8:30: Get older kids ready for school.
Do household chores and one load of laundry. Make chores list for the kids.
Pray Divine Mercy Chaplet and read daily Gospel
Wake younger kids, get them to school

8:30-10: Write my current novel
10:15: exercise (haidung gumdo or go on rosary walk with the dog)
--12:30 e-mail and other chores
Mon=website work/marketing
Wed= 30-minute marketer/marketing
Thurs=Dragoneye Newsletter/marketing

--1:00 lunch
--3:00 write

Friday is simply errand day and blog day. If I write, good. If not, I'm taking care of my family. Last Friday was birthday party prep day and we were coming off a very bad week, family-wise, so blogs got forgotten.

That's the ideal, of course. Right now, for example, I am editing Mind Over Mind, and a lot of stuff is getting tossed by the wayside in order for me to get it done. Other days, I might be dealing with a child issue, or Guild work or whatever.

Next week: Principles and tips for managing writing and home

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Rediscovering Discovery

One difference, I think, between a professional writer and a hobbiest is that the professional writer writes whether she's "in the mood"or not. I try to keep this in mind when I have bad days or feel uninspired, like I felt last week.

It's been a tough week for me and my family. My husband didn't make the commander's list--he's in the Air Force, and after some discussion, we've decided the best thing for our family is to get back to Colorado Springs where he can finish his career doing what he loves in Space Command. That may mean a move in the middle of the school year; it might mean another summer move; it might not happen if they can't find a replacement for him here. (If they don't, we're staying three years so the older kids can finish high school then probably retiring.)

Getting a crown on my cracked tooth was not stopping the pain, so after two weeks on pain killers, I finally got a root canal. It went well, and as I write this (Friday the 10th), I'm a little achy but not so bad I need ibuprophin.

So, between that, the 3-day weekend (during which I was sick) and some discipline issues with my youngest, I've been pretty tapped emotionally and physically. Probably not the best time to try to rewrite a novel that's been evading me for three years.

Funny thing is, there never seems to be a good time for this novel. The more suspicious part of me wonders if someone has it in for this book. ("Could it be…Satan?")

The more logical part of me says, "Give me a break! This is not that important a book." However, it is important to my heart and stuck in my mind, and I swore to myself that this year, it gets done for better or for worse.

Plus, this is my job. Do carpenters take a week off working someone's house just because they're "not in the mood"?

So, even aching and distracted, I write.

I'm up to chapter six now. I've killed off some subplots because they weren't working and frankly, had nothing to do with the second half of the book which really works. I'm a little afraid of it turning back into "Love Boat in Space," but I'm going to trust my characters to be more diverse than that. Sister Ann is starting to show some spunk, and even better, I've found a lovely site that not only posts the daily Gospels, but also snippets from books and sermons by saints. I'm gathering materials for her encyclopedic mind. It also looks like some of Sister Thomas' past will show up, too, which I like because she was such a side character before.

I got only a few thousand words done, maybe an average of 500 a day, and I also hacked a lot of stuff that's no longer relevant. It's not my best work, quantity-wise, but reading it over again, I'm actually pretty satisfied with the prose.

An author I'd read (Dean Wesley Smith, perhaps) said you can't judge the quality of a book by the mood of the author when she was writing it. I think he's right.


I'm into Chapter Six. I had to rethink several threads in the book based on the new occupations of the characters. The videographer threw in a whole new wrinkle to a subplot, which helps me tie the two halves of the book together. Ann and Capt Addiman's relationship is going to be stronger, too, and I have an idea for a new wrinkle there, plus the chief engineer turned out the be the son of some friends from Tommie's past. So more interweaving of characters, which always strengthens a book. Here's a snippet from right after they have a service to bring the Host to the chapel in the Edwina Thomas:

"Doesn't Captain Addiman have the most beautiful chapel?" Ann exclaimed as people exited behind her.

The ship's captain stopped and laughed a deep, booming melody. "Not mine, dear sister."

"You're right. God's house is for everyone. Catholic, small c, from the Greek words kata and holos--according to the whole . Universal. Still, the Catholic--big C--chapel is so pretty!"

Addiman laughed again as he took her arm and led them out. "I thank you. This particular program was designed after the chapel set in Lola Quintain VI: Quest for the Papal Crown--"

He stopped mid-sentence and tapped at the communicator on his ear. "Addiman. Yes? I see. Yes, that is fine. We will be there shortly."

"Is it time to talk about the alien ship?" Ann asked eagerly.

Addiman smiled at her, bemused. With his height, he looked like a father beaming at a precocious child. "Past time, I think Dr. Thoren would say. They await us in the small auditorium."

"Then we should go!" She started down the hallway toward the auditorium as if she'd traipsed the halls hundreds of times already. The rest trailed behind, Tommie deliberately slow, with a hand on Andi to slow her as well. Rita stayed with them.

"The ship is of the universe," Ann pondered aloud to the captain. "But it's not of the whole, so it isn't really catholic."

"In either sense of the word," Addiman suggested. "I think Dr. Thoren will find that comforting."

"Caesar, too. Control is comforting. When we control, we find comfort; when God controls, grace…"**

Their voices became a murmur as the two rounded the corner.

**This is a quote from St. Gillian of L5, a saint in my universe. Ann often communicates in quotes.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Review of The Handbook for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey


Drawing from the deep tradition of the Catholic faith, Lisa Hendey coaches Catholic moms in how to care for themselves—heart, mind, body, and soul—so that they can better love and care for their families, their neighbors, and their Church.
With warmth and wisdom, Hendey creates an environment where Catholic moms can reflect peacefully upon often-competitive topics like parenting style, types of schooling, and working outside the home. By sharing her own story, Hendey inspires readers to better balance their own needs with the demands of family life and faith commitment.

Lisa shares stories from her personal life as a wife and mother, as well as stories contributed by Catholic moms and families from around the country. Each chapter of The Handbook for Catholic Moms contains relevant scripture passages, Church doctrine, and quotes from the lives of the saints. Noted Catholics such as Danielle Bean, Father James Martin, Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle and Phil Lenahan contribute their expertise and wisdom to make this a tremendous resource for Catholic mothers. "Mom's Homework" reflections at the conclusion of every chapter help the reader apply the book's principles to her real world challenges as a Catholic Mom.


This is not a parenting guide, despite the title. Reading Lisa Hendey's Handbook for Catholic Moms is like having lunch with a group of Catholic friends who share their personal stories, well-thought wisdom and practical tips for living as a Catholic woman who is a mother. In her 22 chapters, she covers everything from keeping physical health to creating a home where the Catholic faith is present and vibrant in our home.

I have to admit, parts of it intimidated me. Sometimes I felt like the shortfalls she shares were at the level of my aspirations, but as she says several times, each home is different; each family is different, and God calls us to do our best. The information in her book provides not a blueprint of the perfect Catholic family, but a road map to help Catholic moms find direction to improve themselves as moms, as women and as Catholics.

I read this on the airplane in about two hours, and frankly, that's not the way I recommend doing it. Rather, I suggest treating it like a study, taking a chapter at a time, reading, considering and executing some of her tips. I think it would make a great guide for a Catholic mom's group. Regardless of how you read it, if you're a Catholic and a mom, you'll find a lot of great information and inspiration in Handbook for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey.