Reconnecting with an Old Family Friend: St. Therese

I have a small bedroom I converted into an office. Against the wall next to the closet is a narrow bookcase. It is about seven feet tall and one foot wide and has seven shelves. It is a great dust collector. Anyway, I had this sudden urge to “straighten up” the mess of papers and supplies I had so “neatly” placed on those shelves over the past few years. So I reached for the stack of old Writer’s Digest and Writer magazines on the third shelf. I placed one hand on top and tried to get my other underneath the stack. As if working together in synchronized dance, they all slid out and landed in a pile on the floor. I shook my head and chuckled. “Typical you,” I mumbled to no one.

Included in my extended Catholic family (besides you and all Catholics) are the saints. Regarding the saints, there are many of these family members I have never even heard of. But, I do know that if I ever hear about one of them and seek them out, they somehow heed my call. For example, recently I “met” St. John of God for the first time and I had never heard of him. After reading about him, suffice it to say that this saint is no longer extended family for me. No sirree, he is now close family. I give him a ‘shout-out’ every day. (You can Google his name and a wealth of info comes up).

But what about an old family member who you were very close to and then, for some inexplicable reason, you more or less ignored them for many years? How do you finally get back together with them? I’ll tell you one way it can happen. They might hit you upside your head with a clear and unmistakable message. Guess who my message sender was? It was St. Therese, the “Little Flower.” Many of you know what I am talking about. There is no subtlety when she is communicating with you. You can do like me though. You might begin to take her for granted and then begin to ignore her. SIGH–I did that, I admit it. Not anymore.

I should explain that my family and I have had some profound experiences courtesy of this great saint. In fact, I could write an entire short story right now about each of several miraculous things that have happened in our lives courtesy of St. Therese’s intercession. (I actually started to do that so I just deleted more than 400 words of “stuff” that was turning this into a novella.) “C’mon Larry, get to the point.” (That’s me talking to me.)

I bend down to begin picking up the magazines which are spread evenly across the floor. The mastheads are all showing as if they were put on display. In the middle of the pile I see a thin box. It does not belong. It is an interloper. I pick it up and see it is an old Xerox box, 8.5 X 11 by about one half-inch thick that held something called transparency paper. I did not even know what that was and then the end of this box popped open and a bunch of photos slid out. Guess whose 8 X 10 photo is on top looking right at me with this satisfied smile that made my knees get weak? Yup–you got it, St. Therese.

Two hours later that photo of my sweet, little friend (and your friend too), was in a very nice 12 X 15 bordered frame hanging on the wall a few feet away. Now I get to see her every day and she still is smiling gently. Since we have reconnected I have seen more ROSES than I can count. I found the booklet, “Mary Day by Day” in the garage (don’t ask me how it got there) which was Blessed Mother Teresa’s favorite book. I received an e-mail from someone named Therese Martin (St. Therese’s real name) and, thanks to the encouragement of Elizabeth Schmeidler, my book is coming out in print in a few weeks. I also am reading Connie Rossini’s book, “Trusting God with St. Therese.” How timely is that? I might add that our stillborn daughter’s name is Theresa Mary and my granddaughter’s name is Theresa Marie.

I shall end this now by simply asking St. Therese to please pray for all of us and by promising her that she can stay smiling at me from up on that wall for the rest of my life.

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Monday’s Writing Tips – The Second Draft


We have been working on one chapter of your novel. Let’s recap.

First, we striped it down to the bones by removing all adjectives and adverbs. Afterwards we checked the validity of our bare bones plot.

Second, we added unique and powerful adjectives as necessary. Instead of adding adverbs we looked for powerful verbs that would make adverbs unnecessary.

 Third, we added to our descriptions of places and events to inspire the reader’s imagination.  Next, we introduced our character’s description with action and unusual adjectives. It was all hard work but this made our work our own.

Fourth, we then looked to the beginning sentences. We are writers and it is about more than telling a story. It is grabbing a reader with words that entice them, words that make your fans think and hunger for more. The beginning of your chapter should be quotable!

Fifth, we checked the end of the chapter for a hook. An action or mystery that would make the reader anxious to get to the next chapter.

Sixth, we checked the rhythm of our words and sentences. Do we use run-on sentences or short choppy sentences? Does the beat of the sentences fit the action or mood that we are trying to convey? Do we mix long and short sentences? The best way to check all of this is the next step.

Now Read the entire chapter out loud!  Reading out loud is one of the best ways to check the flavor of your work. Doesn’t it read more professionally then that first draft? Isn’t it better now that the edits are done?  I fix mistakes on the spot.

Do this with every chapter in your novel and you have created your second draft! I wait until I am done with my second draft to check spelling and grammar. You would be surprised how many writers skip the ‘spell check’ available on the simplest program. Do a spell and grammar check. I have heard so many editors say that they turned down a manuscript because it was obvious that the writer didn’t even take the time to use the spell and grammar check. If you don’t care enough to perfect your work – why should they care about it!

Once you are done with all your chapters, spell and grammar check the entire novel. Again, find the time to read the entire work out loud. It is during this reading of the entire novel that you will find those tiny glitches that occurred during your previous edits. Did you change the character’s hair color in chapter one but miss the change when she tossed her hair in chapter three? Did you change the name of the business in the middle of the novel but miss the change in the beginning? READ THE ENTIRE BOOK OUT LOUD ALL AT ONCE! SET ASIDE AN AFTERNOON TO DO THIS!

Now and only now are you ready to create the third draft. However you can take a break! The next step is to send the manuscript to a PROFESSIONAL PAID EDITOR.  Let’s talk about finding an editor next week.

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: March 1, 2015

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Romans 8:31-34

After saying this, what can we add? If God is for us, who can be against us? Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of all of us, then can we not expect that with him he will freely give us all his gifts? Who can bring any accusation against those that God has chosen? When God grants saving justice who can condemn? Are we not sure that it is Christ Jesus, who died — yes and more, who was raised from the dead and is at God’s right hand — and who is adding his plea for us?

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.

March Intention Prayer

Ezekiel 34:11-13

For the Lord Yahweh says this: “Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness. I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.”

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

From the President’s Desk – Failure Leads to Success

iStock_000017739645XSmall“Has it ever occurred to you that a life without failure is a dead life? Because you learn by failing. If you don’t try things, you’ll never learn anything. You’ll never accomplish anything.” Catherine Doherty, Foundress of Madonna House

Thomas Edison tried and failed on hundreds of attempts to create an electric light. Without failing, he would never have succeeded.

When it comes to writing, failure is necessary to succeed. I took writing courses in college, and I was a court reporter for many years, but I had no experience writing fiction, aside from the creative writing exercises in college. It should come as no surprise that when I first started writing fiction 14 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I just sat down and wrote. I remember thinking, This isn’t so hard. When I asked my husband to read part of my work in progress, he said, rather bluntly, “You’re not going to let anyone read this, are you?” I was crushed and felt like a failure but, in retrospect, my husband was absolutely right. That first attempt was terrible. So I trashed that manuscript, bought a few books on writing fiction, outlined the story, wrote character studies, then waited until summer so I could have uninterrupted writing time (I was homeschooling my five boys at the time). I went to adoration on the days I was writing and took my time drafting the novel.

Four months later, I shared it with my spiritual director and a few close friends. They gave me some helpful feedback. Later, I hired an editor (thinking she was a copy-editor, but she was actually a developmental editor). She eventually offered me a nine-page critique: half a paragraph on what was good with the manuscript and eight and three-quarters pages on what was in desperate need of improvement. There was an edge to her tone and by the time I reached the end of the nine-page critique, I was in tears. I was convinced that I was a failure at writing novels.

My husband, seeing how upset I was, suggested that I put the critique away for a few days. Then he recommended that when the initial shock wore off, I should go back and try to humbly discern if there was any merit in the editor’s suggested changes. When I eventually stepped back and considered all the changes, I ended up agreeing with most of her suggested edits. It took another year, but when I finished implementing the changes and sent it back to the same editor, she praised the manuscript and my edits and encouraged me to keep writing.

I learned a lot from that first experience with an editor. I learned that I need to be humble in accepting criticism. I learned that I need to have a thick skin when someone criticizes my writing. I learned that I will not agree with every piece of criticism. I learned that the editor is not paid to make me feel good, she is being paid to make my manuscript better. Although I initially felt like a failure, these are things I never would have learned without “failing” in the first several attempts at writing fiction.

A few months after that first book was published, the acquisitions editor of a Catholic publishing company read it. I received an email from her asking if I’d like to have a critique of the book. “Sure,” I said, confident that she wouldn’t have much to say, given all the feedback I had from a professional editor and friends. Instead, she shared with me that the book suffered greatly from “telling and not showing.” She advised me to write future manuscripts like they were a play and describe everything that was happening rather than telling the reader. Rather than “He was sad,” say, “His shoulders slumped and his eyes stared at the ground.” She gave me a few other pointers, then encouraged me to keep writing Catholic fiction.

Again, I felt like a failure. However, after humbling stepping back and reading the critique from this editor, I realized that she was right and I began changing the way I wrote.

My next book went on to win the Gold medal in the 2010 IPPY Awards for Religious Fiction, the first Catholic novel to win this award. All of my novels have been on bestsellers lists (Stealing Jenny, my third novel, was #1 in its category for 180 days of 2012). My newest book, A Subtle Grace, has been in the top 30 of Christian Historical Fiction and Christian Historical Romance for over a month and was in the top ten of six categories for two weeks. As of today’s date, the combined downloads of all my novels have just topped 585,000. Many look at those numbers and see “success.” However, without the previous “failures,” I would never have seen this “success.” And I am now also a busy fiction developmental editor and book coach.

For those of you who are still working on novels or non-fiction books, don’t give up! Don’t be afraid to “fail.” Failure can certainly lead to success.

One way to increase your chances of success is to become more active in the Guild (there are many resources within CWG), get to know your fellow CWG members and/or volunteer with the Guild. We could use volunteers for two committees: The Catholic Arts and Letter (CALA) Committee and the Membership Committee are in need of volunteers. If you’re interested, please contact me: president(at)catholicwritersguild(dot)(com).

We have new chairpersons for the CWG Blog: Kathryn Cunningham and Dennis McGeehan. Thank you, Kathryn and Dennis, for stepping forward! Special thanks to Jen Fitz, who was blog chairperson for many years!

Catholic Writers Conference Live: Registration is open for the Catholic Writers Conference Live, to be held July 22-24 in Somerset, NJ. Please consider joining us. There’s much to be learned from our varied speakers. And you will probably enjoy networking and fellowship with other Catholic writers, along with Daily Mass, Rosary and Confession.

Catholic Writers Retreat! Mark your calendars! CWG writing retreat coming soon! Prayer, reflection, writing, critique. What more could a Catholic want in a writing retreat? Oct 25-29 in DeWitt, MI.

As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns, feel free to email me: president (at) catholicwritersguild (dot) (com).

In Jesus and Mary,

Ellen Gable Hrkach
President, Catholic Writers Guild

(Image purchased from iStock)

Posted in Catholic Fiction, Catholic Writers Conference Live, CWG Member News, Editing, Inspirational, Self-Publishing, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ron O’Gorman’s SOA – CWG January Book Blast

This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring Guildie Ron O’Gorman’s book, Fatal Rhythm. It’s an SOA winner as well as an award-winning novel. Check out this medical thriller by a fellow Catholic.

Summary: In the pre-dawn hours of the graveyard shift, the ICU at the Houston Heart Institute is quiet, and quietly patients are dying. Surgery resident Joe Morales dreams of becoming a rich heart doctor. First, he must survive his assignment to an ICU rife with land mines–unexplained patient deaths, rival faculty, fellow resident saboteurs, a cost-slashing administrator, a ruthless insurance executive, a seductive head nurse, a jealous wife, a critically ill son, an overprotective mother, and an orderly distraught over his daughter’s death. To salvage the career he thought he wanted, Joe must determine the cause of the suspicious deaths. In the process, he’s forced to re-examine the ethnic and religious heritage that he had rejected.

About Writing Fatal Rhythm – Faith & Fiction: Before an author puts words on paper, he must define a worldview. For me, it is imperative to write from a Catholic perspective, defined as a belief that both good and evil exist, and that in the end good will triumph. Woven throughout my narrative are characters who are both sinners and saints, repeatedly dealing with love, death, temptation, God, belief, friendship and vocation. My protagonist, Joe Morales, confronts the ethnic and religious background that he previously rejected. In addition, he must determine how to integrate his love for family with his professional goals.

Find it on Amazon:

An Excerpt:

Olive green sheets draped the young woman’s body, except for a small area in the center of her chest. There, the sternal retractor spread apart the two halves of the sawed breastbone to reveal the beating heart. Dr. Joe Morales wasn’t assigned to this room, but he had to check on his cousin Lourdes. So, he’d slipped into OR 19, the Mount Olympus of surgery, and staked out a position behind the curtain that separated the anesthesiologist, Dr. Allgood, from the surgical personnel led by Dr. Jacques De la Toure, head of the Houston Heart Institute.

De la Toure closed an abnormal hole between two of Lourdes’s heart’s pumping chambers. Serious stuff, but on the spectrum of procedures, it anchored the low-risk end, and Joe had encouraged Lourdes to proceed with surgery. She was not only his cousin, but his best friend, his only friend from the neighborhood. She respected him, admired him, adored him. So, when he told her she needed the operation, she acquiesced like a gentle lamb. Joe’s mother prayed to the Virgin for Lourdes’s recovery, but Joe did better. He arranged for her to have the finest heart surgeon in the world

As they waited for the heart to improve, Joe noticed a band of sweat start to form across the front of De la Toure’s surgical cap. Joe shivered as the air conditioning evaporated perspiration from his own skin. Finally, the drugs took effect. The heart began to contract vigorously, flogged by the pharmacological adrenaline.

From under his mask, De la Toure offered a deep, low “thank you,” and his scrub nurse chorused with a soft “Amen.”

Unfortunately, he spoke too soon. Joe watched as abnormally wide EKG complexes filled the monitor screen.

“She’s in a sustained V-tach,” Dr. Allgood said as he turned to his drug cart.

“I can see that,” De la Toure said. “Give me the defibrillator.”

The scrub nurse turned to the stainless-steel stand behind the surgeon.

“Now!” De la Toure shouted.

“Yes, sir.” She handed De la Toure the two long metal lollipops, each connected by an electrical cord to the power source. Carefully, he slid them into the chest, and sandwiched the heart between the two paddles.

“Clear,” he ordered. Then, he pushed the red button on the handle.

Lourdes’s body jerked, knocking a tray of instruments onto the floor. A cacophony of metal against metal. The suddenness and volume of the sound elicited an involuntary gasp from the operating personnel, followed by an immediate embarrassed silence, but, like De la Toure, Joe remained focused on the exposed heart, the bloated muscular pump drowning in a pool of its own blood.

Lourdes’s body lay still now. A sacrificial virgin at the apex of the pyramid, her chest split open, her heart exposed. For what purpose? To appease an unseen Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent? The idiocy that Joe’s Aztec ancestors accepted as fact was indeed as logical as any reason Joe could fathom. Whether you believed in the myth of a merciful savior or a vengeful deity, what difference did it make? Dead was dead.

Piercing illumination from the four OR lights bore down on the center of the surgical field. Each one, like a satellite dish with hun­dreds of mirrors, focused its halogen light source into a unified beam that spotlighted Lourdes’s distended heart. As Joe stared into the cavity, he couldn’t prevent his eyes from watering. Beneath him, a crater with a glob of burgundy muscle plopped into a puddle of crimson fluid. Deep, dark, deathly red overwhelmed his vision. Joe couldn’t look at it for another moment.

He raised his head but was blinded by the overhead lighting. A supernova strobed inside his brain. Reflexively, Joe closed his eyes, but within his cranium, throbbing gray matter threatened to erupt like an overdue volcano. He opened his eyes to look at the monitor, frantically searching for signs of life, but the red, green, and yellow tracings from the plasma screen stretched and twisted and twirled around him like a time-delayed photo of the Southwest Freeway during evening rush hour.

Why had he pushed Lourdes to have the surgery? True, the VSD had prompted the beginnings of congestive heart failure, but there were medications. And now, she might die because of his advice.

Joe started to sway. Stepping back from the table, he stumbled over a cable on the floor.

Allgood took hold of his arm, providing support. “Yo, Joe, you all right? Need me to sit you down?”

Joe looked at Lourdes, sweet and pure. Inmaculada. His knees wanted to buckle, but his mind wouldn’t allow it. He felt Allgood tighten the grip on his arm.

“Joe? Man, you OK?”

Joe pulled away. He had to be strong. Professional.

“I’m fine. Look, I have to get to OR 15. It’s where I’m assigned.”

Without turning back, he rushed out of the room, his hand covering his mask in case he couldn’t control the bitter fluid rising in the back of his throat.

About Ron: R. B. O’Gorman obtained a PhD in Biochemistry from Rice University and studied cardiovascular surgery under Dr. Michael E DeBakey. FATAL RHYTHM is a medical suspense/mystery based on his training experience with Micahel E. DeBakey, called the “greatest surgeon ever.”


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Can What Kills Us Make Us Stronger?

Photo Credit: Judy Klein

Photo Credit: Judy Klein

Lent is a time for unlocking. Unlocking the doors to hope. And unlocking the doors of our hearts that keep us stuck in fear and trembling, imagining what might befall us.

Jesus stands in our midst, saying: “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

But we wonder: How can we possibly have peace in a world that is fraught with dangers and threats on every side? In a world that’s bombarded with news of ISIS, infidels and insurrections? We worry incessantly about our families and our futures—and about how this world’s collective insanity will ultimately play itself out.

“Peace be with you…When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced.” (John 20:20)

The same men who had cowered in fear behind locked doors minutes earlier now rejoiced. And not in spite of Christ’s open wounds, but because of them. Suddenly, they could see clearly that death had not “killed Jesus,” but that it had made Him stronger, freer—and glorious.

The atheistic German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, infamously said, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” Nietzsche also said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” We hear that phrase quoted constantly in our culture. Our idols even sing award-winning songs about it. And there is some truth in the saying.

Yet a deeper Christian truth lies in the mystery that, paradoxically, what kills us can indeed make us stronger.   Jesus said it this way: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (Luke 9:22) Jesus had just made His triumphant entry in Jerusalem, after predicting that He would be rejected and killed. Then came His searing invitation: Follow me.

Twenty-one Coptic Christians followed Jesus down a beach in Libya, where their blood ran together with water, just like His did from the Cross. The men shrouded in black sent forth videos of the massacre as “a message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.” What they fail to understand is that Jesus already sent a message signed in His blood to the entire world. And the message is this: Take courage, I have conquered the world.

Wherever blood spills in His name, life springs up, renewing and re-creating the Church in the power of the blood of the Cross. Death loses its sting, and the very violence that attempts to kill the Cross instead fertilizes parched humanity with an offering of love, sewing seeds of faith that can only be sewn through blood and through water. For, indeed, these are the signs of God’s death on the Cross—and they alone can give true life.

We begin Lent under the banner of the Cross—wearing it publicly on our foreheads—proclaiming that we, too, are terminal. But we also declare that with Christ and in Christ, death becomes the door to life, the passageway through which we enter victoriously into eternity. Twenty-one Christian martyrs who died on a beach in Libya know this now.

Let us begin Lent by unlocking the doors of our hearts and allowing Christ to enter them with the full force His love and His peace. And let us stand together in solidarity with those who have died under the sign and power of the Cross. We remember their sacrifice, and we pray that it makes us stronger.

Posted in Faith, Lent, The Mystery of Suffering | 1 Comment

Freelance Writing – The Owner Never Calls in Sick

In Part One I introduced myself. In Part Two, I introduced the varied opportunities for the Freelance Writer. Now in Part Three, we need to discuss this whole idea of me and you as freelance writers. I put myself first there (even if it is usually reversed) on purpose because everything I am going to say in this article pertains to me in spades.

In a September 12, 2013 article, Forbes magazine quoted the following from Bloomberg Business, “8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn.” The author of the Forbes article states the majority of businesses failed because they ran out of money.

Can any authors reading this article relate?

A recent article in The Writing Life by Kameron Hurley details how much money she has made as a novelist and why she has decided to keep her day job (and she is doing better than many writers).

Most authors I know are in the same boat – they have a separate stream of income that they rely on for their survival while they build their writing career. If you remember from Part One, Freelance Writing can be one of those alternate income streams. Emphasis on the CAN!

As a Freelance Writer you are a self-employed business person. You are part of the group that employees (those with a guaranteed paycheck) call Rich!

I’ll pause for a moment so you can finish laughing or gagging ……

You have to be rich – You work when you want to, you decide what you want to work on …

Pause ……

Back to reality — As a self-employed person you do not make a dime until someone buys your product. As a freelancer your product is that article on Parenting, Homeschooling, Gardening, The Care and Nurturing of Dragons, etc. You can be an excellent writer and an expert in your field but that does not guarantee success. The truth is the only thing guaranteed is work, often arduous, and financial rewards are rare. You are part of that group where 80% will fail in the first 18 months.

This article relates how long it took giant companies to become overnight successes. The hours that startup entrepreneurs work are legendary. Few of us are in a position to work 16-plus hours a day at our craft. We are serious writers and serious husbands, wives, parents, etc. Each of us must decide how we divvy up our 24-hour day.

But if we do not dedicate time to our writing nothing will come of it. You must decide how many hours a week to give to your craft. Then you must treat that time as you would a normal job. A boss wants your butt at work when you are scheduled. As the business owner, You Don’t Get To Call In Sick! (major illness or family emergencies excepted).

All businesses monitor their productivity.  As a Freelance Writer, you need to do the same.

In Part One you were asked to create a list of topics to write on and decide the number of hours a week you were going to write. Now you are going to keep track of your productivity. If you decided to write five hours a week, starting today you must write five hours a week. If you don’t your writing business will FAIL! That is a guarantee. On the other hand, if you discipline yourself and dedicate the amount of time you decided on, your business MAY SURVIVE.

In Part Two you were directed to webpages where Calls For Submissions can be found. You should be visiting those sites looking for work. It is your business and you must drive it forward.

When you find a job, send in a query or submission, whichever that particular editor requires. As you send in queries and submissions, record these on a separate list to keep track of your productivity. I use a composition book. I record the day I sent in the query, the name of the magazine, the title of the article I proposed or some other identifier, and the date I can expect to hear back from the magazine if I know this information. This is the beginning of how you will track your productivity.

If your query list is not growing steadily you are not being productive. You should add one or two per month at a minimum. Take your writing seriously and others may consider you a Serious Writer!

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing, Marketing Your Work, The Writing Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Monday’s Writing Tips – The Beat!


As a writer, I love language! I love when I learn a new word. I love when I find a new poem that touches my heart. I even enjoy commercial jingles that stick in my mind and haunt me throughout the day. There is a magic to language. Let’s face it – the difference between animals and man (besides a soul) is the ability to use tools and create language. I have watched shows that display a lower primate’s skill at using tools, but I have yet to have my dog speak to me.


Language is much more than communicating needs. The basic ‘yes’ or ‘no’ may have directed the survival of our species but it is the art of language that brings us closer to God. And make no mistake, language, like any piece of music or canvas hanging on the wall of a museum is an art form. The author is the artist. He needs to use color, and brushstrokes to create a scene that speaks to his audience. The author is a composer who needs to blend different tones and sweeping musical combinations to call his readers. Being an author is not just about telling a story. It is about painting scenes and composing songs that are filtered through the reader’s mind to touch his soul.


Ha! Does that sound intimidating! Well it shouldn’t. One of the very first things you learned – a skill you don’t even remember grasping – was the ability to talk. Speech is second nature to you. So writing should be natural. The problem often comes when we try too hard, forgetting the natural flow of language. That is what has happened when you read long and difficult dialog that makes your eyes cross. The author is trying to fill his character’s words with oodles of information that just doesn’t flow. In this example of a man talking to his wife we see a really unnatural dialog:

Man: “My darling, you and I married thirty years ago and then had two children. Having a boy and a girl made me so happy. Now that they are grown and we live alone in your dead mother’s house, we have time to cuddle and talk and just enjoy being together.”

It’s not natural, here’s a more natural line:

Man: “Humph! It’s quiet here!”

However, the real magic of prose is not in the dialog, it is in the verses that lie between the speech. Yes, I call them verses because they, like poetry, require a beat. They require a flow that delights the reader as much as their favorite song. The mystery of a pleasing rhythm depends on the length of your sentences, the variation of your words, and the changes that the action of the characters bring to the language.


We all remember the books we loved as children. Remember the books that we used when we were learning to read. They had short, choppy sentences like: “Run John.” “Run Sally.” & “See John and Sally run.” Silly! but is there a place for short choppy sentences in your work? You bet there is! When the action picks up and your hero is in danger. The beat of short sentences denotes that to your reader. Repetition in short choppy lines reflects the importance of the action. A good example is found in Tolkien’s  The Fellowship of the Ring. When Frodo senses danger we read: “And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was the eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of his gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped toward him….”  See how the use of short tense sentences not only tells the story but uses a quick snappy beat to produce the sense of danger. Notice the repetition as each sentence builds on the last.


The use of long, flowing sentences have their place in literature. It can create a mood of reflection and inertia that reflect exactly what the author wants you as a reader to feel. In O’Brien’s novel,  Eclipse of the Sun, his description of a walk leads the mood: “A walk is a kind of art form, a certain school of contemplation. But a father who set out on such a walk for the first time in ages could not immediately remember this.  His motors were still racing, though he had slowed his body with an enormous effort of the will in order to match her pace…..” See how O’Brien lengthens the sentences as the character slows his pace. It reflects the action.


Like an artist creating a symphony, you need to use sentence length and wordage to reflect your tale. All short sentences chop your work. All lengthy sentences bog it down. Your paragraphs should contain both. If all your sentences are long – cut them up. If all your sentences are short – connect them. Find a rhythm! When you deviate from the normal rhythm your reader will feel it. He will feel the action quicken in your short sentences although he may not notice why. He may calm and reflect when your sentences wind and meander, although it is all unconscious. The best way to learn rhythm is to read poetry, listen to music, or notice the paint strokes in oil paintings. Your work should have a beat! After all, you are an artist.

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: February 22, 2015

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

Genesis 9:8-15

God spoke as follows to Noah and his sons, ‘I am now establishing my covenant with you and with your descendants to come, and with every living creature that was with you: birds, cattle and every wild animal with you; everything that came out of the ark, every living thing on earth. And I shall maintain my covenant with you: that never again shall all living things be destroyed by the waters of a flood, nor shall there ever again be a flood to devastate the earth.’

‘And this’, God said, ‘is the sign of the covenant which I now make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I now set my bow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I shall recall the covenant between myself and you and every living creature, in a word all living things, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all living things.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying.



God, my Father, may I love You in all things, and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against  Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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Margaret Rose Realy and Lent – CWG February Book Blast

Cultivating Gods Garden - Feb 2015

This month’s CWG Book Blast is to get you ready for Lent. We’re a little behind, but that doesn’t make Margaret Rose Realy’s book any less applicable. It’s a perfect springtime meditation as well. It has the CWG Seal of Approval and is published by Patheos Press.

Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB

These daily reflections for Lent offer tranquility and simplicity by finding God through nature. Readers who love gardens and woods and find solace in experiencing the Creator through these environments will enjoy these prayerful reflections.


Thursday after Ash Wednesday

 Fast from bitterness; turn to forgiveness

Fast from hatred; return good for evil

It was a relatively small patch that I had dug at the back end of the yard to the rental house where I planned a vegetable garden. As an undergraduate at MSU, and a decade older than my classmates, I knew that growing my own food was a necessity; I did not have parents supporting my education.

I dug a portion of the sod and broke up clumps, picked stones and broken glass from the soil, raked it smooth, and mounded the edges to help direct water. Purchasing seeds, I then planted the early season crops of peas, radishes, kales, and a few herbs. A few weeks later I would purchase starter plants for vegetables that took longer to mature such as eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers.

I returned home rather late after classes one day about a week later and again headed to the back of the yard to water the seedlings before sunset. A few feet away I stopped dead in my tracks, saddened by the state of my garden patch. The mounded edges had been kicked into the lawn. Two-thirds of the patch had been covered over with pieces of hand-dug sod, while the remaining third was trampled. Apparently I had unknowingly encroached into the neighbor’s property.

Disheartened, I cleaned up what remained but knew I did not have enough time in my schedule to expand the now even smaller patch.

Soon afterwards, as weather permitted, I planted starters of tomatoes and eggplants in the remaining section of garden. In another garden area bordering the house I tucked in some bush zucchini seeds.

Throughout the summer when I was studying in my room, I would often hear the neighbor mowing his yard and anxiously hoped my plants were safe. They were often coated with grass clippings but never really damaged.

It wasn’t long until the fruits of my labor ripened and canning and freezing commenced. There is something about tomato and zucchini plants in that I always underestimate their production. Even with the smaller plot I had an overabundance.

While washing the vegetables I looked out the window over the kitchen sink. Sitting in the shade of a large sycamore tree was the woman who lived with the man who mowed the lawn that covered my plants with debris. What I saw was just another woman on a hot August day trying to find a cool place to sit. I had lived next to her for almost a year and never knew her name. After all, I was just another student in the rental house next door.

I carefully laid newspapers in the bottom and up the sides of a small cardboard box. I placed a few small zucchini to one side and then piled several large tomatoes on the other. I took a deep breath and headed out the screened side door.

As I approached the woman I introduced myself and held out the box of vegetables. I could tell by the look on her face she was surprised to see me. I think she realized for the first time that I, the student next door, was close to her own age and not a teenager.

As she accepted my gift she seemed dumbfounded by my presence. She never rose from the lawn chair or told me her name. Avoiding eye contact, she spoke a barely audible “Thanks.”

Feeling rejected, but without bitterness, I turned away and went back to my kitchen to continue putting food by. Looking again through the window I noticed that my neighbor had left her shady area and taken with her my gift.

That September I found a room in a house closer to campus. Before I moved away I kicked the mounded edges of dirt into the little patch that had been my garden, smoothed it over, and dusted it with seeds for new lawn. I patted down my pant legs and “shook the dust from my sandals,” knowing I had already moved on.


Heavenly Father,

Guide me to always reflect you to those around me. Spare me the shame of reciprocal behaviors rooted in personal pride and let me not limit your love to human love. Grant me to be charitable and forgiving in the face of apathy or anger, so that those whom I meet will know it is you that I serve.


Available online at:


Patheos Press,

Barnes & Noble,


Author Central:

Still not sure? Check out this review:

Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent offers daily reflections for each of the days of Lent. These reflections come from the writer’s experience bringing order to gardens both real and spiritual. At every turn of the trowel, every sprinkle of seed, every tug of a weed, Margaret points out to us the rich, loamy meaning that God has for us, just waiting there quietly, if only we will make ourselves still and small enough to see. Margaret does this, shares the fruits of her contemplation with us, and in doing so, invites us to examine our own gardens, wild and weed-ridden they may be. If we stop and look with her, we will see the kind of quiet, luscious adventure that only a gardener can find. This is the first book to ever make me wish Lent could be longer than it already is. The meditations in Cultivating are just the right length to slow you down without dragging it out, and the messages are presented so clearly… I cannot wait to see what sorts of seeds come forth from the read during that time of cold, silent, invisible growth [of Lent]. ~ Mrs. Erin McCole Cupp, OP

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