Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Latest Reads

Of course, simply because it's the busiest season of the year doesn't mean we stop reading new books. :-) If anything, we read a little MORE in this time of year, since one needs a nice wind-down after running around like a crazed person all day and/or inhaling flour, cocoa, and sugar in generous amounts. So, here's the latest list: --THE PEARL by Angela Hunt, is tough going on some levels, totally absorbing, not touchy-feely by any stretch of the imagination. Great book, though. If you've never seriously considered all the ramifications of human cloning, this one lays out some eye-opening potentialities...and, IMHO, leaves no doubt as to how bad an idea that is. --MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE, one of four delightful stories in an ooooold Regency Christmas novella collection. Just as I haul out certain movies and rewatch them over Christmas, certain books get the same treatment. This is one of them. If you get a chance to pick up a used copy of this book (I believe it's called A Regency Christmas Carol), do so, just for Carla Kelly's wonderful story. Heartwarming, funny, spirited, and pure joy. Reminds me to go look up that woman and see what else she's written! --SHEPHERDS ABIDING, the wonderful Christmas book by Jan Karon, has been taken out during the last three Advents and savored. If you've never been to Mitford, don't wait another minute to go there....start with AT HOME IN MITFORD and don't stop! --THE CHRISTMAS THIEF, Mary and Carol Higgins Clark, was in my Christmas present collection, and so I dove right into it. My take? Not bad, but not great, either. Rather predictable, rather pedestrian, for MHC fans. I agree with those who opine that Mary/Carol's partnerships are weaker than their individual efforts are. At least in MHC's case, that's true. I have never read Carol Higgins Clark--I find it hard to stomach picking up a book by someone so transparently exploitive of her mother's name. (We should all have that foot in publication's door.) But after reading pretty much everything Mom has ever written, I suspect which parts of the book are Carol's...and they're all elements that weaken it. My Christmas wish? That Mary would quit playing with her kids on these things and just do it herself. (!) Still to come, CROSS by James Patterson. I read one Alex Cross book and I'm hooked; I almost feel like I should read all the other Alex Cross novels before I get to this one (!), but I don't know if I'm going to be able to hold out that long! Not for the faint of heart, but nobody can wrap a story around you like Patterson, so this is one of those things to savor like fine chocolate. The only wish I usually have when reading either MHC or Patterson is that I didn't read so fast...so I could make the books last longer! The only solution? Find some more wonderful authors like Hunt, Higgins Clark, Patterson, and Karon, and build an even more absorbing reading list. Heaven knows I need some more to have on hand...my TBR pile is done. (aaaaaah!) Any new authors looming in your TBR pile for the New Year? Paging along, Janny

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to the Drawing Board...er, Writing Desk

Well, I'm at the end of the submissions rope with the last agent. Shortly before Christmas, I got a rejection from the #1 agent choice I had out of New York...or at least an agent I thought would be #1 for me. So it's back to square one with that submission. After something like twelve queries, 4 quick rejects, three or four requests for partials, three requests for full manuscripts...I'm batting .000 again. Time to start the process all over again. And in this same time frame I also received a couple of rejections on the Golden Heart book. This, too, discouraged me, until I realized that I was sending out basically eight-year-old writing for these agents to take a gander at. Eight-year-old writing! Suppose it's probably likely that my craft has improved in eight years? I suspect if I took and rewrote the Golden Heart book the way I write NOW... But of course conventional wisdom says, "Start something new." Only trouble with that advice? I don't have any new ideas. Haven't had any for years. A couple of flickers here and there, but no complete books that really at least worked in draft form have come to me in probably three years or more. Almost leads one to wonder just how long a writer's block can last...if one believes in writer's block. Which I don't. I do, however, believe in burnout. Which is probably what I've been through. Considering that over the past three years I've had enough stresses, changes, and general tumult in *real life* to send me off the Richter scale on those Stress Charts they all have. You know, the ones where they give a numerical value to the stresses in your life, and you're not supposed to go over 100 in a 12-month period or you're severely stressed and will probably need help? I saw those and, when I realized that three months into some very recent years I was pushing 400 points... There have truly been times when I could relate to the old joke: Patient: Well, Doc, how do I stand? Doctor: I've been wondering the same thing. So I suppose I should be gentle with myself for the next few days, weeks, months, or years, at least. Maybe confine my writing to this blog. (hah!) But I'd be blissfully happy, truth be told, if I woke up one of these mornings with six great ideas bouncing around in my head, and the only problem was staying awake long enough to write them all down. Heck, I'd settle for ONE great idea bouncing around in my head. Or half a one. So that's the status at this point. I'm not a "half empty" type of person...but I think there are times when our writing is running at "half empty," and unfortunately, this is one of them for me. How are y'all doing? Janny

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Twelve Days of Christmas...

...have just begun, so you may appreciate these holiday pointers on how to enjoy them to the fullest! 

If you receive any partridges or pear trees, be sure to feed and/or cultivate.  
If you receive two turtle doves, you'll probably need to pick up birdseed. 
If you receive three French hens, teach 'em English, for Pete's sake...then fricassee 'em. 
If you receive four calling birds, make sure they have good cell phone plans. (And that the French hens don't get a chance to bribe them to call home.)  
If you receive five golden rings, spread them out over fingers...or toes. If you receive six laying geese, collect eggs and make quiche. (French hen goes well with this.)  
If you receive seven swimming swans, make sure you stock adequate towels.  
If you receive eight milking maids, watch out for cow pies.  
If you receive nine dancing ladies, roll back the carpets.  
If you receive ten leaping lords, have yourself a basketball tournament. 
If you receive eleven piping pipers, put them to work decorating cakes. (What do you mean, that's not what they're piping?) 
If you receive twelve drumming drummers, you are very fortunate indeed. Bring out the scented candles, have a drum circle, and feast on aforementioned fricassee and quiche. (And the frosted/piped cakes.) 

Whatever gifts you receive, in other words, make the most of them. Soon, we'll be talking about resolutions for the New Year, some things we've learned in this old one, and what to do about both of these things. But for now, it's time to pack up the tents and get ready to go back to work in the morning. So light up the pear tree (white lights are quite the thing), enjoy the company, the food, and the new jewelry! 

Janny

Friday, December 15, 2006

Advent-ures

My apologies for not posting here for awhile, but I'm into preparations for Christmas now, and that's a special kind of delicious madness. :-) And, yes, they're preparations for Christmas, not for "the holidays" or for "the season" or for any other nonsense. Jesus is the Reason, this is His Season, and it's time we stopped apologizing for that and just wished people what we all wish for them...which is more of Him and less of all the other stuff. Of course, the last time I wished people a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, on a secular writers' board, I was pretty much crucified for it. Not, curiously enough, so much because I spoke the plain truth about Jesus...but because my sig line included a wonderful quote from a wonderful Catholic priest who just happens to be the founder of the company I work for. I had been using that sig as my normal signature line for e-mails, didn't think a thing of it...but, boy, all I had to do was mention the Catholic Church and I got this one guy's dander up big time. He couldn't WAIT to lambaste me for belonging to such a horrific organization. Seems we're responsible for everything from mass murders (the Crusades, doncha know) to sexual improprieties and coverups and despicable politics (never mind the Democratic Party gives out chairmanships and presidencies for that stuff)....and on down the line. In short, people, there is NOTHING worthwhile about the Catholic Church, and the sooner it falls, the better. If we don't get this program, we're just not paying attention. Well, this guy doesn't normally pay attention to anything that doesn't already agree with him, so it was a lead-pipe cinch that he was having none of the facts involved in the Crusades (that they were not imperialist aggression or looting, but a self-defense measure taken in desperation after hundreds of years of harassment by those "enlightened" Muslims in the Holy Land)...or of anything else pertaining to the Church. And he was definitely insulted that I refused to apologize for "imposing" this horrible Catholic quote on them all. Funny thing was, he didn't take issue with the Jesus mention...another poster did that, talking about how "dangerous" I was. I thanked him for the high compliment, which only confused and dismayed him. And it started a series of posts by the previous ranter who continued to bitch, moan, and blast faith in general, long after I had blessed them all and said "let's move on." He even continued to do it long after the list moderator had said "let's move on." So obviously, and clearly, I had hit a nerve, disturbed his conscience, and made him feel compelled to "enlighten" and "educate" me....whether I needed his kind of education or not. Which I didn't, and don't. But this brings up another interesting point to the season. And that's that thank heaven, we're still free to say these things out loud, whether they get people riled up or not. And that more importantly...it doesn't matter whether you choose to believe God or not. The fact is, I still know the future, and He still wins. Doesn't change a thing whether you believe it. Doesn't change a thing if you rail, rant, or rave against His Church. Doesn't matter. Because in the end... ...it all comes down to what you do with Him. Not the people who run His Church. Not the people you know who are "hypocrites." Not any of it. When we get to that last judgment, I think God's going to look at us kindly, pause for a moment, and then ask one question: "What did you do with My Son?" And then, all the intellectual, enlightened, progressive arguments in the world ain't gonna matter a whit. All that's going to matter is what you did with Jesus. Himself. Not the people who claim to belong to him. Not the politics of the Church. Not any of it, but Him. I hope that God will look upon my efforts to talk about Him, in this and other instances, kindly. I hope that He will recognize my intentions, honor my refusal to apologize for invoking His name, and enjoy my enjoyment of pricking those consciences that may need pricking. I don't want it to be about me...but if I am the means of someone having it be about Him, what better use can I make of Advent--or of any other season? So may Jesus, the Reason for the Season, let you know He rejoices in you. And may you be courageous in returning the favor in a world that could sorely use Light in its darkness. Happy Advent...and THINK SNOW!!!!!! Blessings, Janny

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Immaculate Mis-Conception

One of the nicest holy days of the Church year, the Immaculate Conception, is coming up tomorrow! So remember to go to Mass either tonight at the vigil, or tomorrow, and honor Our Lady. And while you're at it, do your part to correct the misapprehensions out there about what this phenomenon is--and what it is not. Just for the record: The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary being conceived without Original Sin. It does not refer to Mary's conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit. I wish I had a dollar for every non-Catholic (or, for that matter, ill-informed Catholic) who makes jokes about "immaculate conception" in terms of someone not having sex with an earthly father. The sad part is, I'd be pretty well off right now. The sadder part is, this error occurs as a running joke repeatedly in everything from stage plays to books by Christian authors, who ought to know better (or their editors ought to). Yes, I know many of these people aren't Catholic. All the more reason not to assume you know what that phrase refers to, just because that's the joke that's been made all your life. None of us is a Civil War nurse, but if you're writing a historical novel set in the Civil War and your character's a nurse, you can just jolly well bet that you're doing all kinds of research to find out what that life was like. Well, you need to do the same thing, even with contemporary things you think you "know." More than one thing I thought I "knew," over the years...I actually didn't know. I was actually getting it wrong. Thank heaven I checked--or some very embarrassing errors would go out in books I'm responsible for. And if there's anything I hate, it's errors going out with my name under them, in any capacity. Seems to me when the error comes to something about religion, whether it's our religion or not, we all need to hate errors just as much. So do your part. Don't spread the Mis-Conception about the Immaculate Conception...or anything else you might think you "know." Checking, and double-checking, is never time wasted. While you're at it, even if you're not Catholic...why not stop in to Mass, if for nothing else, just to hear some beautiful Scriptures about Our Lady? That's never time wasted, either. A great book for holiday giving, along those same lines: the Marian Bible Study by Laura Marie Wells...a book I edited, and a beautiful way to honor Our Lady all year. Have a happy and prosperous holy day vigil! Janny

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Vindication...and Rejection (sigh)

First, the vindication: ESPN 1380 out of Warsaw, Indiana...afternoon drive time show host, Eric something--sorry, first time I heard your name, buddy, so I don't have it committed to memory yet--came out with the best rant on the BCS fiasco that I've heard so far. He's point blank said, "Those of you who voted Florida in because you were voting for Anyone But Michigan...you have just fixed college football, and you ought to have your votes taken away from you." AMEN! Preach it, brother! :-) Kudos also to the USA-Today sports writer who said that BCS could just as well stand for "Baloney Cheese Sandwich" for all the effectiveness and success it's had over the years in really giving us the right "championship" game. And as he put it, no year proves that BCS is a failure as thoroughly as this one does. AMEN again! So for those of you who are saying, "All right, Michigan fans, grow up and take your medicine and quit griping," be aware of one thing: it's not just Michigan fans who are upset about this. Far, FAR from it. Out of the potential audience for this big game, probably half of them are fighting, hissing, spitting mad, and they're not even Michigan fans under normal circumstances. But, as one complete stranger said to my daughter at school yesterday after seeing her Michigan sweatshirt, "Geez, I'm so sorry this had to happen to you guys. You got totally screwed." (Note: he used a much stronger word for what happened, but my daughter doesn't say that language normally in front of Mom, bless her heart.) Lost amid this are the Florida faithful bragging about how they're going to put Ohio State away, how dare we underestimate them, how dare we disrespect them, etc. Lost, fortunately, that is. We have a hundred reasons to disrespect Florida, but in the end, it was the coaches we have to disrespect. These men voted, disgracefully enough, on the side of the man who "campaigned" for a team that's a 7-point underdog to Michigan, and one the Ohio faithful WANTED to play because they figure they have a much better chance of beating than they do the Wolverines on a neutral field. As the man on ESPN put it, "Any time you vote in a way that's designed to keep one team OFF the field...you're fixing the game. That's what the definition of a 'fix' is. Rigging the results any way you have to, just so you get the outcome you want." Amen, and amen. Just watch the Rose Bowl and boycott the other one. When the audience numbers go down and the vast CLICK sound is heard from people switching off their TVs, that'll speak the language these people understand. Maybe nothing else will.
==========
Now, unfortunately...back to the writing aspect of this blog. Unfortunately because I received an e-mail rejection yesterday from Bethany House, citing a plot they considered "convoluted." So it's back to the drawing board, essentially, with the book of my heart, because I really, really DID think that this book would be an excellent match for Bethany. Apparently, though, the Lord thinks differently. Time to figure out where else to pitch this puppy. Or, maybe, just let an agent do it...as I still have to get the final word yea or nay from my #1 choice agent in New York, who's still looking at it. Actually, considering it's been two and a half months :-), it's not a matter of them being incredibly slow readers (!)...it's just that they're swamped, as agencies usually are, and they probably have a stack of things to read ahead of mine. Which doesn't make the waiting any easier, but at least leaves me one last hopeful note out there. Hey, I haven't been rejected by them....YET. More later, gotta go do the day job! Janny

Monday, December 04, 2006

#1 versus....#4. Yeah, now there's the BCS at its finest

Okay, I know I can catch a whole bunch of obnoxious comments for this, but so be it. The fact remains, there's NO way Michigan should not be playing in the National Championship game against Ohio State. Oh, yeah, right. Florida had a tougher schedule. By a few thousandths of a percentage point? And how is that computed again, exactly? Oh, by computer. The same computer that came out with Florida and Michigan tied for #2 in the nation? THAT one? Oh, okay. Yeah. I understand. Makes perfect sense then, that Florida should automatically get the bid and Michigan not get it. NOT. Yeah, okay. Florida won their conference, and Michigan didn't. Of course, Florida didn't have to play the #1 team in the nation and knock them off in order to WIN that conference, which Michigan would have had to do. So let me get this straight. In order to earn the right to play in the National Championship game to prove that they are really #1, Michigan would have had to in effect BE #1 already by knocking off the #1 team in the nation so they could win their conference title in the "mediocre" Big Ten. Yeah, that Big Ten. The one that's sending, what, six teams to bowl games? Yeah. That mediocre conference. Yeah, THAT makes sense too. NOT. I will say this just once. If Florida's conference had been the one with the #1 team in the nation atop it, not a SOUL would hold against them that they didn't win a conference title. Not a soul. It wouldn't happen. Because, you see, boys and girls, the SEC is still the best conference in the country. Didn't you know that? If you don't happen to believe it, by the way, you must be from one of those other also-ran conferences and you just don't know football. The PAC-10? Pretenders. The Big Ten? Mediocre. Nah. Never mind that the top two teams in the nation came either from the Big Ten and the Pac-10, or the Big Ten alone. Or that a team from the Big Ten who never even got considered for a national championship game, Wisconsin, also had only one loss. None of any of this matters, because the gospel of college football is that if a Florida team isn't in a major national spotlight bowl game, then the BCS's job is to do whatever it takes to rectify that situation. And what precisely did Florida have to do to climb not one step in the standings, but TWO? Knock off Arkansas. A team that's never been in the top three all year, much less either #1 or #2. Yeah, that proves them to ME. The only thing that kept Michigan out of the National Championship game wasn't losing to Ohio State...it was the coaches' polls. Yeah, the same coaches who never ranked Florida higher than #4 ALL YEAR somehow woke up on Sunday morning and said, "Wait! That team is fabulous! My God, they beat ARKANSAS! That must mean they deserve to play for a National Championship! Let's vote!" So they've got what they want. They've got in effect, a #1 vs. #4--or, if you want to be charitable, #1 vs. #3--game. They've got the national vehicle that will propel Troy Smith right into the Heisman without a prayer for anyone else, and they've restored order to the universe and made sure that an overrated team from the state of Florida has the fun of basking in a national spotlight yet again. Brilliant work, coaches. Brilliant work, pollsters. Prediction: Ohio State 44, Florida 3. Fortunately, there'll be a real barnburner national-championship-caliber football game played earlier than this artificial fiasco. It's called the Rose Bowl. And it'll be a doozy. Watch that one, and skip the other. You'll thank me later. Janny

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Wanderings...

Be sure to stop by Ron Estrada's blog today and read his Friday Top Ten! They're always good, and this one's especially seasonally appropriate. Al Gore, indeed. (ack!) The persnicketyness of search engines being what they are, I was pleased to note that if I Google my full name, I come up with good links such as my website and the Page One mini-site, which I put up years ago when my book first sold. However, if I Google "Jan Butler," it's a whole other story. And not a very pretty one. If you do this, be prepared for some pretty foul language , in that you'll get a good earful of just what some people thought of the RWR letter I wrote. What I'd like to know is how these complete strangers thought they had the right to get personal enough to use a nickname for me...especially since they then proceeded to basically assert that I ought to crawl back under the rock I came from. I also wondered why the RWR editor thought it was okay to print "rebuttal" letters that could very easily be considered personal attacks on me when their official policy is, of course, that no personal accolades OR attacks will be printed. So there'll probably be one more letter I send off to RWR, this time NOT for publication. :-P On a happier subject, however, should you go to my website and look at some of the neato things there, be aware that it's going to be overhauled shortly; I'm getting myself out of the freelance editing business, in order to concentrate more on what God put me on this earth to do, which is storytelling. (Otherwise known as "telling lies for fun and profit.") I will be happy to mentor writers, critique work now and again, and otherwise enrich the writing landscape...but the best way I can enrich said landscape, in the long run, is to get more books out there. So that's where I need to concentrate my energies. There, and of course, on this blog! While you're running around online, don't forget to stop and pray. Kelley Renz's prayerful place is a good starting point, and then you can move on to some others as well. Praise God for Eucharistic Adoration, which I'm lucky enough to do in person every First Friday here at OSV...and while you're at it, don't forget to shop for your Advent Wreath supplies and Advent calendars. This is one of the most wonderful times of the year, and I'm going to make an effort to slow myself down enough to appreciate it and savor the Christmas season. Hope you can join me! Take care, Janny

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The "Soap Opera Syndrome", or, why I'm seriously considering leaving romance fiction behind

...okay, not that I ever really wrote category to begin with, or so some people tell me. Winning the Golden Heart in category was a dream come true--but seeing as how that book hasn't sold YET (8 years later), and the only book I did sell was for all intents and purposes an inspy... But, I digress. I promised to elaborate further on the Soap Opera Syndrome, as I've nicknamed it, most recently encountered via my reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Now, this isn't a diss on SEP. She's obviously found a formula that rings true with lots and lots and lots of people, her writing fairly zings off the page, and I should have her problems of trying to make sure I make the NYT list...again. (tee hee) But reading a secular women's fiction book (something I haven't done a whole lot of in the last year and a half) brought home to me a weakness and predictability that comes straight out of romance and soap operas--something for which we, if we write this kind of thing, are justifiably criticized or ridiculed. It's the simple operating principle of soap operas and most romances: A man and a woman, put together in close proximity for long enough--no matter how incompatible they are in most areas--will inevitably end up being attracted to each other, falling for each other, and having sex. Now in romance, of course, this happens by design. It doesn't make it any more believable to have two characters who basically are snotty to each other for most of a book, but who have an inexplicable physical chemistry that simply cannot be denied, yatta, yatta, but at least within the confines of the genre, it's expected that these two will pretty much hop from snipping at each other, to the bed, and then to the altar. (They've got the order backwards, but hey, it is secular, after all.) What's distubing about this, however, isn't its immorality...but the fact that, despite all logic or reason to the contrary, it's considered the way to show character growth and development between real characters living real lives. Well, I don't know about you, but that's not my reality. We've all worked with the opposite sex in various capacities on intense projects...or been trapped with someone who's a good friend and nothing more in a snowstorm/traffic jam/disaster/service project we couldn't get out of...or been assigned a lab partner of the opposite sex in college and had to do gruesome experiments together which both of us despised...or whatever. Most of us have done all of this without either of us feeling the urge to take off any clothing, much less fall into the nearest bedlike object and "git it on." Even in those instances (and we've all had them) when we may have been tempted to misbehave, the great majority of us are faithful, ignore the temptation, and stay friends or acquaintances, without adding complications of possible adultery and certainly some fornication in there to deal with later. But it still remains not only a viable plot line in these fictional venues--it's become pretty much a requirement, albeit a veiled one at times. Years ago, I submitted a great book (one that's making the rounds now in a different form) to St. Martin's Press, believing it would be a good fit. I received a rejection, however, that asserted that the hero and heroine's relationship wasn't "sufficiently developed" for them. I was flummoxed by this--the hero and heroine were together, if in thought if nothing else, on virtually every page--until I talked to a friend who knew a St. Martin's author, and she asked me, "Well, are there any sex scenes in it?" "Well, no," I said. Because my characters weren't married yet, and so therefore... "Well, that's what they meant by not developed enough," she told me. "They wanted the relationship consummated, and as many times as possible." They could have told me that directly, of course, rather than using this "shield" language. It wouldn't have resulted in a sale, of course...because I wouldn't have put in the sex scenes. But they could have come right out and said it. Why didn't they? Because the ultimate hypocrisy of the romance/women's fiction genre is that these books aren't sex books...they're relationship books. Never mind how farfetched the relationship is from real life. Never mind how many times authors throw people together who wouldn't make it 20 minutes in the real world...and expect us to believe they're going to make it for a lifetime. Bottom line (not to make a bad pun)? What makes that relationship happen is to get that attraction going, baby, hot and heavy as possible--an attraction that will happen, by golly, because it's a man and a woman and every man and every woman ultimately want to have sex with one another, that's the only way they can truly communicate, and if you don't believe this, whatsa matta you, you got a problem with sex? Yeah, it's silly. But it's also a foundational principle of the pap that holds together soap operas and the pap that presently underlies much of romance fiction and even women's "big books." And it does no good to point out that characters can develop outside the sheets...that people get to know each other in thousands of other little ways other than having sex, every day of the week...and that in most cases, even the plot points or character traits they claim are being shown in sex scenes can be just as easily, and more vividly, shown outside the bedroom than in it. It does no good even to point out that out of most people's favorite romantic movies, there are very, very few that have even so much as a shred of nudity in them, much less fully developed sex scenes. And if you make the joke that "My mother always told me there was a nasty word for people who watch other people having sex..." Well, you just don't wanna go there. So there it is. The thing that's bothered me about soap operas for years, that bothers me about the present climate of romance...but the thing that, they tell me, more and more people want more and more of. . Any man and woman, thrown together long enough, will inevitably end up in bed; that's reality, baby. Write it or don't sell. And then writers of these things wonder why they "don't get no respect"? Sheesh, and sheesh again! Janny

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hot diggity! Someone's reading this!

Don't laugh. :-) My son made the comment about the commercial where two guys are talking about blogs and the one guy says, "your blog readers...meaning your mother?" And this was after I'd read and commented on his blog! Didn't even think of it. But I was seriously considering taking this blog down entirely. CWC has been sitting up here for awhile without a great deal of attention being paid to it...until recently. Recently, the site visits have crept up, the comments are starting to show up here and there, and in short, there's actual communication going on. And that's the idea of a blog in the first place! Of course, I did read yesterday about commercial bloggers who are making advertising money in the tens of thousands of dollars per year by posting about various business "inside information" and selling advertising from the people and businesses who post...but quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to work that hard in that direction. Not that I'd mind making money off a blog! (Yes, and how soon do I want to leave the day gig?) But I think I can find better ways to make money off the internet than selling advertising for a writing blog. Maybe this will become the Next Hot Thing on the block, and people will want to line up to be seen on Catholic Writer Chick. It is to be fervently hoped that that happens! And if it starts to, I WILL advertise for help in selling advertising--so any of you who have that kind of bent and background, don't hesitate to comment here. In the meantime, I'm going to begin posting more frequently about writing in particular and the Catholic world view (at least the world view of this Catholic chick) in general. Happy reading and writing! What are we reading lately? FIRST LADY by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Enjoying it, wouldn't necessarily run out and buy every other of her work, but at least I'm not pitching it across the room like the last SEP I tried to read. Jury's still out on whether it ends up being "satisfying," but it did bring to mind an unfortunate (and rather silly) mindset that propels a lot of women's fiction, especially romance, and which I first noticed on soap operas years ago. I'll post about THAT curiosity shortly. In the meantime, have to get back to at least pretending to look like I'm working... More later, Janny

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

One of the best blogs for Thanksgiving you'll ever read...

...and it's not just because my son wrote it.
Check this out.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Makes you glad to be a Catholic, it does

...had this thought, yet again, while on my morning walk. Now, don't get me wrong...I often have this thought. There are just so many darn good reasons why I'm happy to be a Catholic, as opposed to the 4,373 other denominations I could have landed in. But one of them came home to me in a new way while I was reading a very good Christian fiction book, A Stitch In Time by Allison Bottke. http://www.stevelaube.com/authors/allisonbottke.htm/ . Wonderful, wonderful book! Now, I'm not going to put any spoilers in, either. Suffice it to say it's a very real, very refreshing look at very human people, and we'll leave it at that. Chick lit/hen lit with a strong Christian presence. But at one point, the lead character is talking about how much she enjoyed a particular church communion service, with the music, and the spirit, and the "symbolism of Christ's body and blood," and how uplifting it all was. And I remembered thinking, Oh, honey, too bad you haven't had the real thing yet! Yep, that's another wonderful thing about being Catholic. Probably one of THE best things, as a matter of fact: what we call the Real Presence. Jesus present, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity...in the Eucharist. So when we receive, we receive HIM. We don't "commemorate" Him. We don't "symbolize" Him. We take Him in. And for those moments, and for a long time afterward, He is literally present in our physical bodies. We are one with Him. United in a way that no one else on earth can claim. There's a wonderful line in one of the Mitford books, when the bishop is giving Father Tim the Eucharist in a home visit, and he refers to "touching God." Because high Anglicans, Lutherans, and more than a few other mainline denominations believe, as Catholics do, in the Real Presence...we literally ARE "touching God." So Allison...just between us...there's an even better edification than the "symbolism" of Jesus and His Last Supper. Way better. Ain't nothing like the real thing, and we've got it. And it's yet another of many, many reasons I'm--yet again--so glad to be Catholic. Come on and join us. See for yourself. One you experience the Real Presence, "commemorations" and symbolism will never again be enough. Janny

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Da Bears!

Sorry, I just had to do this. (!) http://www.chicagobears.com/ When you stay up until after midnight on a work night, just to see how Monday Night Football turns out, you know you're a real fan. When you stay up until after midnight doing a happy dance, you know you're a Bears fan. Don't know how they pulled this one off. I doubt they know how they pulled it off. Maybe it had something to do with my muttering about the "Little Sisters of the Poor" at halftime! Then again, maybe that ringing phone is the Little Sisters Convent telling me to knock it off, that Rex Grossman doesn't qualify to be a nun. Failed the physical early on. Anyway, rejoice! If anything would make you believe in Da Bears, last night might do it. Janny

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Renew your spirit day!

Those of you who are familiar with FLYlady in all her glory are familiar with the phrase above, but it's worth reminding ourselves every once in awhile that Sunday is supposed to be meant as a day of rest. Rest. Remember that? That's when we STOP our commerce, our "cult of the busy," and spend some time reflecting. Maybe reading the Bible. Maybe even, shock of shocks, going to church. (I know, I know. But this is a Catholic blog, right? Deal with it.) :-)
All seriousness aside, how do you renew your spirit?
I've been taking some time to seriously examine (and yes, I know that's a split infinitive) the ways I spend my computer time versus the rest of my life (otherwise known as Reality versus Virtuality). Seeing as how I'm at a computer for my full time job in addition to being at one when I'm at home, I have to guard carefully that my life does not become that little screen in front of me...limited to that little keyboard that accesses that little screen. And I think it's worth remembering, especially on the Sabbath

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?"

States in which I've been...

Okay...for those of you old enough to remember this lyric line, there's no hidden significance in it anywhere; it's just playtime on a Friday afternoon. But this is a neat way to see for yourself how much of the country (or world) you've covered so far! I'm looking forward to adding at least two new states next year, God willing and the cruise ship sails.

What about you? Where have you gone? Where have you been? Where do you wish you were? What are you planning to do about getting there?

Suppose I was lying about "no hidden significance" here? (hee hee)

 Back to work...
Janny

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Rejoicing in the flak...volume 2

Just got an e-mail last night from a fellow Christian writer who congratulated me on riling up the likes of Nora Roberts, Jennifer Cruisie and Pat Gaffney...saying getting reaction from the likes of these names is probably a feather in my cap. I don't doubt it--after all, Queen Nora spends precious little time penning letters to the editor of RWR, and ditto for the other two. They would no doubt plead more pressing engagements, like deadlines for their latest million-selling books. If I were in their shoes, I probably wouldn't write letters to editors much either. But they made an exception in this case, and it's all about what I had to say. Or, maybe I should clarify--what I believe a great many people in RWA want to say, but are afraid to. Which brings up a whole 'nuther idea, a nagging thought that I've had over and over and have no answers to. Posting about it here will verge on preaching to the choir, but I'm tempted to do it anyway, because even Steve, my buddy, brought up the curious fact that there were no letters printed in the RWR this month agreeing with my position. And this is something I've been wrestling with for awhile. One woman did put up a letter several months back, asking RWA not to mess with the idea of one-man, one-woman romance stories as their foundation. She basically warned of much the same things I did, only perhaps without so strong a connection to pedophilia as I made. (There's a whole 'nuther subtopic we could go into about the recent Church scandals, pedophilia, and homosexuality, and their interconnectedness...but that's another topic for another day. It's just a real curious, and real obvious, connection, one that you're not hearing about in the same liberal media attacking our Church. But, I digress.) But other than that one letter, and one refuting it, which basically I ended up turning around and refuting back... :-) There's been precious little evidence in RWA of not only any Christian presence but even of a more traditional presence and mindset that would have said, "Well, DUH, of course," to the notion of one-man, one-woman being the foundation of modern romantic fiction, and something we might want to stick with, even to the point of defining it if we felt that necessary. Which makes me wonder a couple of things. 1) Is the moral, upright point of view really that rare nowadays? or, 2) If it isn't, where are the other letters? I can tell you a short answer: people aren't writing them because they know what kind of abuse they'll be subject to for doing so. Heck, I had to completely delete one blog of mine from the system, there was so much of this abuse coming in. I despaired of leaving the blog up for Round Two, so I didn't. People don't want to stick out their necks only to see the blade coming down, and I don't blame them. On the other hand, however, isn't right worth standing up for? In public? And damn the consequences? I still think so...and I used to think lots of people would agree with that. But it's a little troubling not to see more evidence of it at the moment. It makes you think, and it makes you wonder. I'm hoping it's not an accurate barometer of where we are as a group of Christian people--that we're only willing to take moral stands where it's "safe" to do so. We wouldn't be here if that was the background of our faith and of our predecessors. So we do have to be very careful, and concerned, if we're passing on the wrong message to those who could most benefit from our being brave. Standing up for right only when we're sure nothing will "happen to us" as a result certainly isn't the legacy we inherited from the Church thus far. In some circles, it's become the legacy of the Church today, but we have to fight against that, too. To my mind, it's a fight worth waging. But I sometimes wonder how many of us really feel that way anymore. And what will become of us, and our faith, if we stop fighting the good fight the minute things get nasty. Pondering, Janny

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Thought for the day!

My new favorite quote.... “Paradise is not made for slackers. Let's get to work!” --St. Ignazio da Santhía, d. 1770
...Not to be confused with the more popular, “Jesus is coming--look busy.” :-)

I'm more than looking busy at the moment, but with any luck at all, I'll be able to get back into posting with the usual elan. Took a few days off to go to ACFW over the weekend, as well as Michigan Football at the Big House (and other things too good to miss!). So, hang in there, read on, write on, and watch this space for further updates!

Janny

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Buy yet another book!!!

Those of you who browse this blog regularly may notice there's a new link in place, one from a certain Kelley Renz (popularly called "Venerable Kelley" around Editorial, but that's a long story for another day!). Go to this blog. Read this blog. And then buy the blogger's book, God Listens to Our Children. It's absolutely wonderful, and a great devotional for ANY age. In fact, I'm beginning to think that if you can write good devotionals for the very young or the very old, you can write great devotionals, period. Because I love our Stations of the Cross for the Elderly as well, and while I'm certainly in the Boomer generation, I'm not...er...exactly elderly yet. (Which beats the alternative, except, of course, for that nice part about going to heaven.) :-) Anyway, ads over for today. Just go to the blog, buy the books, and no one gets hurt. Janny

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two Reasons I'm Glad...

...that the opinions, writings, and principles espoused by the USCCB are not binding! 1) The ridiculous rants they go through on the "just war" theory and how it's painfully obvious that our presence in Iraq violates Catholic principles. Beg to differ, gentlemen. Just war theory is just that: philosophical THEORY. It does not have the rule of law, or even of papal edict, and in this particular case, you guys are WRONG. Yes, the pope said it was a bad idea for us to go into Iraq. Fortunately, he didn't speak ex cathedra when he said it, because he's wrong on that one, too. The pope did not watch 3000 of his countrymen get killed on his native soil by fascists trained, equipped, and subsidized largely by sources in Iraq and surrounding areas. To call what we're doing "aggression" is to fall victim to leftover 60s mamby-pamby peacenik nonsense, and clergymen should know better than that. Or would they rather more American cities get bombed? Weren't 3000 American civilians enough? 2) The immigration question...who's in, who's out, who's legal, who's not, and who we're obliged to take care of. Sorry, gentlemen, but once again, you've bought into nonsense. I don't believe for one second that Jesus thinks we should treat all immigrants--legal or otherwise--the same. I don't believe for one second that, if Jesus were standing before us in human form, He wouldn't be gently turning back many of these people on the basis that they're not here to better themselves...they're here to cheat the system. If they weren't, they wouldn't come in illegally. Period. End of sentence. And as far as accommodating these illegals further by then enabling them to get drivers' licenses and other documentation...without any further obligations? Please tell me it's only because they haven't thought these things through far enough. Or they've had bad advice when they did. Because otherwise, I've got to wonder why a bunch of U.S. Catholic Bishops are so far out of touch with common sense. Feeling feisty today, Janny

Friday, September 01, 2006

More summer reading...

And the reading just keeps on comin'.... Latest reads: THE DEBT by Angela Hunt; after my thorough enjoyment of THE JUSTICE (what an awesome book!) and THE AWAKENING (if anything even more awesome), I couldn't resist going into that murky area well-known as the Back List. (mwah hah haaaah)

THE DEBT isn't bad; it was a real page-turner for me, and she had me, until the last couple of chapters of the book. I won't spoil it for anybody who hasn't read it and still wants the pleasure, but the ending didn't work for me. It seemed...a little too pat. As if she was perking along and suddenly discovered she had a page count to get in under, and so (poof!) the story takes a turn. It's a logical turn in one sense...but to me the book could have been so much more than it turned out to be in the end. Not bad, but not necessarily something I'd buy and keep.

One of the other books on said backlist, I have no interest in: it centers around the Peruvian jungle/rain forest, among other things, and there are very few places on earth I want to spend time in LESS than a tropical rain forest or jungle. So for now, that one's a pass. The other was nonfiction, dealing with a chimp and communication...and that's about the second least favorite interest of mine. (Could never understand, and still can't understand, the fascination so many people have with monkeys and chimps and such. My husband even likes 'em and thinks they're cute. Not me.) So I took a pass on those. Tried to read THE NOVELIST...didn't like it. Set it aside. Which only proves that no one hits a home run every time. (sigh)

Am presently embroiled in James Patterson's THE BEACH HOUSE. No, not inspy fiction, definitely. But suspense? Holy smoke. For years, some of my friends have told me I would love James Patterson. So far, they're right. I may not read everything on his back list, either...but I certainly am enjoying this book to the hilt. (You know when a book is really good--you enjoy your job, but you're reading on your lunch hour and you don't want to go back to work.)  

The other side to the coin is, of course, because I'm supposed to be a Catholic WRITER Chick, I am pushing super hard at this point to pitch the book of my heart. I've been pitching agents like crazy...three requests for partials, two rejects, three submissions with no responses yet. (Not unusual...it's only been a couple of months, and these are for the most part high powered agents at high powered agencies. I'm trying to go for the cream.) Just pitched an editor I think will be a lovely match for my voice, style, and stories...now we just have to see if God's got him in mind for me as well. Time will tell on that one...if I can be patient long enough!

And then I need to finish one traditional romance that's in pieces, one romantic suspense that needs heavy duty work (we're talking major surgery here, folks)...and I still have to sell that @#)%#@&^%$ Golden Heart Book! So...it's after 9:30 here, and time for us munchkins to retire to finish our bedtime reading.

Recommendations, anyone?
Janny

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

So what are you reading lately?

Just when you think you're about to run out of good authors, I've discovered Angela Hunt.

No, not Catholic per se...Christian fiction with a real edge. So far, so good. I read her THE AWAKENING and flat out couldn't put it down.

Other books that have been outstanding: WAITING FOR SUMMER'S RETURN, Kim Vogel Sawyer; A SOUNDING BRASS, Shelley Bates; and JACK AND JILL, by James Patterson (the first Patterson book I've read, after many, many people telling me I should!)....

So what is everybody reading this summer/fall?
Janny

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Thoughts on becoming a "public person"

I had one of those epiphanies this morning; they come every once in awhile, things that take you aback and make you consider something you hadn't before. It happened when one of my friends said to me, "Well, you seem to have become a public person in doing what you did." And I thought, Wow. It's that easy to become a "public person"?

And then I thought, Wouldn't it be wonderful if, indeed, that was true? Well, wonderful in a way. But I won't find that out this time around...because, despite appearances, it hasn't happened yet.

On one level, yeah, my name's out there, all right. My name's on a lot of blogs, a lot of boards, a lot of e-mails, and apparently, a lot of people's minds. So I've gotten a slice of being a "public" personality, for what that's worth.

But am I, really, any more a public person than I was before I wrote to the RWR? I would maintain no. Not at all.

I didn't become a "public person" simply because something I wrote got a lot of knickers in a twist. That didn't do it, for the simple reason that the hundreds of lines of text that are being written about me, invoking my name, or cussing me out now...don't have anything to do with me as a PERSON. They have to do with an image. A straw woman, if you will.

Someone people seized on and are hanging in effigy. But not, really, anyone who resembles who I AM.

They have nothing to do, for example, with this blog.
Or, for that matter, my other one.
Or with the years of experience in the trade that have contributed to my publishing credits, my teaching credits, and the people who can point to guidance I gave them that helped them along the path.

They have nothing to do with the fact that I love to sing, and can die happy because I've seen Sam Ramey sing Figaro. (yes!)
They have nothing to do with the long succession of cats I've owned over the years, who in themselves would probably provide blog material for years to come.
They have nothing to do with my beautiful, brilliant children, and how proud I am of them.
They have nothing to do with the fact that my husband has survived a very early heart attack, has had other complications over the past week, and has still managed to get himself back home for some good old fashioned home cooking and recovery time.
They have nothing to do with my faith...which I prove not only by staying Catholic, but by being a Cubs fan. (Hey, faith manifests itself in all kinds of ways.)

In short, you'll see thousands of words online about "me" right now. But in reality, those words aren't about ME at all. They're about strangers' IDEAs of one aspect of who I am.

And in most cases, who these strangers seem to think I am is a very judgmental, nasty, and biased person, a right-wing nutjob who'd throw them all into a baptismal font against their wills and force them to convert to some form of Christian/fascism that even scares ME to think about.

Of course, that's usually what happens when people don't bother to find out who a person really is. It happens when they prejudge, based on bits and pieces of information. In other words, it's based on bigotry

Interesting, considering that's the most popular term for ME nowadays.
But that is, after all, what happens when people don't want to risk being corrupted by the facts.

Because of this, I have a renewed empathy for other public figures and household names. The amount and kind of press a man or woman receives now has little to do with his or her character, beliefs, actual thought processes, ethics, or soul--and everything to do with what certain media types DECIDE that person is, slanting their comments and coverage accordingly...having the nerve to call what they do "journalism"...and hoodwinking vast numbers of people into believing they're getting "the real truth" about someone.

Balderdash. Of course, it's not the truth. Any more than what you'll see on most sites slamming ME is. How can it be, when it's written by strangers?

Oh, people went to my blogs and looked at my profiles...but just long enough to find something they could pick on. Oh, people took personal preferences, politics, and religious ideas from my sites, things I had deliberately steered AWAY from mentioning in my letter--not because I'm ashamed of them, but because they were irrelevant--and extrapolated them into personal insults in order to discredit what I said. But nothing they said truly discredits me...because it's on the level of playground taunting.

It doesn't take much thinking to call someone names. Nor any courage. So while Janet W. Butler, in some ways, has become a "public person"...Janet W. Butler, the real person--who would have been willing to exchange e-mails with many of these people, if they'd had the guts to do so--is still hiding behind the curtain. Not by choice, but by design: the design of people who don't choose to know a whole, real person with multiple facets, but who instead choose the low road of insults, slams, and name-calling.

This might make for some interesting conversation, some lively blogs, and a lot of mutual patting each other on the back. But has it made for any real public dialogue, communication, or exchange of idea or opinion based on actual ideas and opinions?

Read the blogs yourself, and unfortunately, you'll get the answer.

Paddling away in the water over the bridge,
Janny

Friday, August 04, 2006

Buy this book!!!....correctly this time

It's been brought to my attention that ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN is available in print already! So you can download the e-version...or you can go onto the site and order it in print. My bad, but that was the information I was operating under at the time. Now it's correct. Anyway, BUY THIS BOOK! Tell all your friends to BUY THIS BOOK! Buy lots of copies for presents--hey, Labor Day's coming up, what better occasion to buy a present? You can sit and read it in front of the campfire...er, barbecue. And then there's always the Feast of the Second Tuesday of the Third Month... Never mind. BUY THIS BOOK! (Note subtle subliminal programming.) Thanks, Janny

Friday, July 28, 2006

Buy this book!!!!!!!

Okay, kids, it's time. ANGEL WITH A RAY GUN is out...but for now, only in electronic format. Soooo...go to the site, http://www.bygracepublishing.com/, and scroll down the page until you see the bright red cover. :-) Then click on the BUY links, download whatever version you prefer, and prepare to have a great read. Yes, the author is a friend of mine, so I like promoting her stuff .But also yes, the story itself is worth buying, not letting languish in e-book land like so many of these small press items do (mine being an example, sadly enough). And yes, the book WILL go to print version...but only after it sells enough e-copies. So we need a push, and we need a push NOW. TODAY. Let's give Deb the book premiere party she deserves!!!! Janny

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"By their names ye shall know them"?

Heard an interesting story a few days ago on the news; while it was bad news, and mind-numbing, in that it was *yet another* story of Iraqi casualties in the war, it in a sense "witnessed" to me about something I feel we used to have, and may not anymore.

The announcer mentioned that in Iraq, you can tell which religious sect a person belongs to by their name. So when rescuers come to save the lucky ones, or when the law comes to find those not so lucky, with one glance at their IDs, they can tell how many of which religious group have been involved in a certain encounter.

And that got me thinking...what if we could tell what faith we were by our NAMES alone?

And that got me remembering that there was a time when, for Catholics, that was just about true. And maybe that ought to start being true again.

Think about it. If you grew up in a neighborhood with the proverbial big Catholic families, what kind of names did they give their kids? Of course--saints' names. When I was growing up, in fact, you had to have at least a saint's name for your middle name (if you had one) in order for the priest to be willing to baptize you in the Church.

Not for Catholic kids the whimsical, spacy names of 60s flower children; we didn't get away with baptizing babies Starshine or Astral Joy (that one's for you, T2). And even some of the more popular names of our day--if they couldn't be traced back to a saint's name with a fairly straight line--had to be linked to something that COULD, or the priest would make you add another name to the kid or choose something else.

In those days, amazingly enough, that wasn't considered violating anyone's freedom....it was what you DID, as a Catholic. It was expected of you, the priest said so, the Church said so, and so you did it. You didn't think about how "unfair" it may have been. It was part of your Catholic duty, your identity, and in the end you were proud to do it. If Aunt Sunshine was a little put out because you named your girl Mary Ellen instead...that was just something you dealt with.

But now? Now the Church gently "suggests" or "advises" that your child's name be traceable to a saint's name.

Suggests?

Advises?

Since when does the Church have to feel that the best they can do is "suggest" or "advise"? How about "require"?
Will it drive people away from the Catholic Church? Not in the numbers the Church apparently fears. More people are leaving the Church because it's not taking strong enough stands than because it's "too strict." That excuse used to have some validity. Now? Don't make me laugh.

In the name of "compassion," thousands of grown-up children of the 60s have diluted the Catholic identity to the point now where it's hard to know what a real Catholic looks like anymore. Maybe knowing one by his or her name--and having that name proudly represent and honor a patron saint--would help.

It's certain that at least having a saint in a child's background would be better catechesis than many of them are getting nowadays. And any better catechesis is a step in the right direction.

Thoughts?
Janny