Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Divine Mercy

A short reflection on God's Divine Mercy, in the aftermath of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks.

As a Catholic, I seek a proper response to the vicious and unprovoked attacks and the subsequent deaths of hundreds of victims. Obviously, the attacks must be condemned. I am outraged by the brutality, the careless killing, the disrespect for the dignity of human life. Bloggers and reporters worldwide (and closer-by Catholic friends) clamor for retribution, for justice to be served. Many want ISIS (and Syria, etc.) to be bombed back to the Stone Ages.

Yes, eye-for-an-eye retribution certainly feels good as a knee-jerk reaction, but is is just?

I keep thinking of our Lord, unjustly accused, tortured, crucified and killed. I don't recall any instance in the New Testament where He said to His Apostles, "Avenge my death!" That is not the Lord's way. In the Garden of Gethsemani, Peter takes up his sword and strikes one of the guards wanting to arrest Jesus, but note that Jesus rebukes Peter and heals the guard's lopped off ear. Reminiscent of Mary and Jesus, I'm also reminded of the episode narrated in 2 Maccabees 7.1, where a mother watches all seven of her sons tortured and killed for not renouncing their Jewish customs and accepting pagan rites. Of course she had to be dying inside. What mother could watch her own flesh and blood killed in front of her eyes? But what did the woman do? Instead of wasting her breath trying to convince him to accept pagan ways, she implored the last one to look to Heaven, and to acknowledge his creator, the Creator of the universe.

As Christians, this is not the time to let pride and hurtful feelings come between us and the Lord. C.S. Lewis commented, "One certainly does not become a Christian for the easy life." Christ already told us we would not have it easy if we took up our cross and followed Him. A cursory glance at the Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of the end times, which have been ongoing since the death of Jesus. With lots of plagues and comets destroying the Earth, St. John does not paint a pretty picture.

One of the lines in the Anima Christi prayer states, "Within Thy wounds, hide me." Some people imagine themselves up on the Cross with Jesus, hidden in one of His wounds, looking down at the world's injustice. But maybe, before we climb up on that lofty place of Holiness in Calvary, we might consider that we (as the Catholic Church teaches) are all part of Christ's Mystical Body down here on earth. Maybe His wounds are the wounded Syrian parts of His Body attempting to save their lives by escaping their country. Maybe we should hide in those wounds, and seek to help them start a new life, instead of creating yet more difficulties to immigrate to our countries.

But one could argue that this attitude of ours won't stop ISIS! No, of course not. But to those who insist on answering violence with violence, I ask: Since when have bullets and bombs ever destroyed hatred? It's been twenty years, a whole generation now, that we've been bombing Afghanistan. What has that accomplished? The creation of ISIS. We should also remember that just as we believe that the blood of martyrs sows the seeds of the Church, extremist Muslims also believe that credo.

We are called, as Christians, to pray and to trust in Almighty God. Blessed Pope Pius IX said, "Give me an army saying the Rosary, and I will conquer the world!"


I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year. Thank you for reading my blog and my fiction.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Artist's Dog: A Shadow the Black Lab Tale #3

My new Fine Form Press release is here! It is a new short story called The Artist's Dog: A Shadow the Black Lab Tale.

The Artist's Dog is the third in my Shadow the Black Lab series. Although this story is also written for middle grade readers, it features a Catholic-themed subject, namely the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo, and the making of the Pietà, his famous sculpture of Mary and Jesus. Fine Form Press has placed the new Catholic Fiction sticker on the cover to promote the Catholic theme.

The Artist's Dog: A Shadow the Black Lab Tale 
In this historical fiction account, Michelangelo suffers from a creative block that is preventing him from completing his famous Pietà sculpture. Luckily Shadow helps him, and the rest is art history!

I hope readers will enjoy this heart-warming story!

My Catholic and other-genre fiction is available from AmazonSmashwordsB & Nitunes or your favorite e-book retailer. My middle grade children's fiction is also available in print on CreateSpace.com and at Amazon.ca.

The Artist's Dog will soon be available in print!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

If it's Fall, I must be SAD

From the archives:

Albrecht Durer: Weeping Angel
Yes, I'm one of those people who gets SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) I get depressed in the winter, especially at Christmas. Last year I ruined my streak of I don't know how many successive years of being depressed by actually enjoying (that is, finding it more than tolerable) December, Christmas, and winter. This year, it looked like I was going to tank a few weeks ago, but my spirits have been buoyed by all this wonderful sunshine (and infusion of vitamin D) we've been blessed with so far.

Normally, the cold sets in some time in late November, it gets darker earlier, and I (mentally) take a deep breath and hold it in through Christmas until March or April. I feel like screaming, just like Durer's Weeping Angel above. I keep a framed copy of this pen-and-ink angel where I can always see it and I'm grateful for every day that I don't feel as if that represents my soul. But every once in a while during the winter months I point to it to remind my wife that this is how I feel. Yep, I've been known to basically spend two-three months in bed, unable to write. And then one spring day my mood suddenly lightens, clearing up all by itself, and I can function again.

Because of this unpredictable day-to-day existence, I don't usually plan any releases during the winter months, since this entails edits which I am unable to do. Not to mention all the social/promo work involved with new releases. This year proved to be no exception. Last month I was forced to postpone the substantial edits required to get my novella Down By Contact ready for a January release. So that project has now been placed on hold indefinitely, until I can find a spot in my schedule to return to it. I truly appreciate Darlene, at Still Moments Publishing, accommodating me.

So, this is just a reminder that while most of you enjoy the busy cheerfulness of the Christmas season, some of us, through no fault of our own, are unable to fully participate in the joyous season, as much as we wish we could. Do not take it personally. It's not you. We'd much rather be enjoying ourselves than feeling as if we could scream our lungs out for no reason whatsoever.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Teresa's Garden Update

Fine Form Press has now placed a designation seal on all of my Catholic fiction!
Catholic Fiction Seal
I welcome the designation, because even though these are fictional works I still strive to stay faithful to the Magisterium's teachings regarding the doctrines of the Catholic faith. If I could find a benevolent Bishop who would give my fiction the official Imprimatur of the Catholic Church to show that the work conforms to Church teachings, I would welcome him with open arms. Alas, our local Bishop is quite busy these days...

I hope that Catholic (and non-Catholic) readers will enjoy my Catholic-themed works. They include novellas and novels: Teresa's Garden, St. Nicholas, The Wedding Scheme and Down By Contact.

My Catholic fiction and other genre fiction can be purchased from AmazonSmashwordsB & Nitunes or your favorite e-book retailer. My middle grade children's writings are also available in print on CreateSpace.com and, soon, through Amazon.ca.


Friday, September 25, 2015

New Release: Teresa's Garden

I am pleased to announce the Fine Form Press release of my new middle grade short story: Teresa's Garden!

Teresa's Garden

The inspiration of the story was a homily by our parish priest, Father Stanley, who discussed Mother Teresa and her analogy of the spiritual fruits of her garden.

Mother Teresa quote:
The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.

Teresa's Garden blurb:
A bomb suddenly detonates on a Kolkata street. Veronica and her friends scramble for safety, arriving unexpectedly at the Missionaries of Charity hospital. When Mother Teresa invites them into her garden the children are in for quite a mystical afternoon!

Besides featuring endearing Mother Teresa, this Catholic-themed story is loaded with allusions to many well-known Bible characters. I hope that readers will also find it edifying.

I hope parents will read Teresa's Garden to their young children, and that older children will also enjoy reading it.

As with all of my other middle grade fiction (Shadow the black Lab series) Teresa's Garden will also be available in print in the near future. Stay tuned for more details!

Teresa's Garden can be purchased from Amazon, Smashwords, B&N, itunes or your favorite e-book retailer and it is also available in print on CreateSpace.com.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Meditations Before Mass

Meditations Before Mass Meditations Before Mass by Romano Guardini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a well-written, beautiful treatise on the Catholic Mass and the wealth of theological significance - written by the man known as "Pope Benedict XVI's Theologian".

These meditations also include a practical guide to liturgical worship along with meditation before the Holy Eucharist, as well as during Mass.

This book is must-reading for Catholics.
I look forward to reading many more of Fr. Guardini's insightful writings.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Review: Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this sequel to The Shining, although I had to get over the new Danny Torrance as a grownup, drunk, lousy human being.

Alcoholics Anonymous figures prominently in the story, and at times it reads like King wrote the novel to fulfill one of the Twelve Steps.

But the story is well-plotted (as always with King) with memorable characters, and the idea of the True Knot, with the evil Rose the Hat as their leader, was frightening.

I found the story to be an entertaining read. Like most Stephen King novels, you don't come away any smarter, but you're rarely disappointed with the time you spent in his company.

View all my reviews

Monday, August 31, 2015

My TOB-Based Fiction

Today I thought I'd share with you my TOB-based fiction. These works range from novella to novel length, and the degree of TOB (Theology of the Body) content varies from work to work.

For those who might not know what the TOB is, I'll try to sum it up as simply as I can: the TOB is a theology developed by Pope St. John Paul II in the 1980's through a series of Wednesday Audience addresses (the traditional day that the Pope addresses the faithful in St. Peter's Square, in Rome. Usually, the Popes deliver a series of lectures on a specific topic. Pope Francis is currently discussing families.

But back to John Paul II. With an inspired look at the Gospels, JP II developed his Theology of the Body a couple of decades ago. The theology is only beginning to be understood by different clerics and theologians. Part of the problem stems from the fact that JP II was a philosophy student back in his college days, and his favorite style of philosophy was, as it happens, the same as my own field of study: Existential Phenomenology.

This is a difficult type of philosophy to understand and to use and a tool: it mainly uses the dialectical method, (cf. Hegel, et al) and it involves positing the existence of the real world objects (not an obvious thing in philosophy) and trying to find Truth by examining the subject's interplay between concepts and their corresponding real world entities.

As Edmund Husserl pointed out, this is most easily done by using a process of "enframing" where the object studied is framed, set apart from its everyday relations in/with the world, in order to better understand it. I applied this theory to works of art, since my major was Phenomenological esthetics.

Pope JP II did the same with the theological implications of the relations between men and women, in order to better understand (and develop) a more authentic understanding and way of being in-the-world. He later referred to this theory as the Theology of the Body. It is a beautiful, Bible-based examination of human relations, with a special emphasis on the sacrament of marriage, using the Phenomenological method for analysis and exposition.

In my fiction (particularly in my romances) I use a very rudimentary understanding of the TOB to show how men and women can, and should, fall in love with each other, while respecting each other's body and soul. So, premarital sex and one-night stands and hookups are verboten, since a person does not show basic fundamental respect for one's love interest in acting/using them in that way.

Do my characters show passion? Emotions? You bet they do. They love each other! Do they desire each other? Yep! But they also respect themselves and their loved ones. In fact, one of the Amazon reviewers of Down By Contact, my sports-themed romance novella, complained that I've misleadingly presented the story as a Christian romance, but that the characters' physical interaction gets pretty hot. Of course they are excited to be in each other's company! They're human, after all. And they're physically attracted to each other. But they use restraint and decide to get to know each other before getting more intimate. One of the characters explains why, and the other one eventually accepts his decision. And she can't help but feel more loved, instead of simply being used for sex.

So, having gone into such a lengthy explanation, here are my current TOB works.Check around at different retailers, some of them might be free (although, due to regulations out of my control, none of them are free at Amazon. Kindle readers can download them from Smashwords):

Down By Contact (a football-themed romance)

St. Nicholas (a Christmas-themed short story)

The Betrothal (an art-based novella on van Eyck's The Betrothal painting)

The Well (not directly a TOB work, but an inspirational story)

Sprainter (a young adult, sci-fi, art-based, dystopian, romance novella)

The Wedding Scheme (an art-based romantic comedy novel).

These are all available here and everywhere e-books are sold:



I hope people will take a look at some of the stories and let me know what they think.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread

Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread Make Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Up front, I'm a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan, so it's no surprise that I loved this eclectic collection of short stories.

The collection features the "typical" Palahniuk heart-wrenching plots and odd characters.

I especially loved "Romance" which is available online, read by Palahniuk himself. I think it should be considered for an O. Henry award.

For readers who have never read Fight Club or anything else by Palahniuk (my favorite novel is Rant), I would recommend this sampler. If you like these stories, you'll love just about everything else he's written. And if you've read everything else by Palahniuk (and love his edgy writing), then you'll love these stories too.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: The Sea

The Sea The Sea by John Banville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, the Man Booker Prize selection committee does not disappoint!

I loved this wonderful story about a tortured man trying to cope with the depth (and breadth) of his anguish. I'm also thankful to Banville for introducing the artist Bonnard to me. Impressionism is not my favorite style, but I would love to see some of these paintings in an exhibit. Like Banville's story, the paintings present indecipherable slices of ephemeral dreams, gossamer realities, where the interloper wonders about her place in the world, as does narrator Max.

And lovers of language will re-read many of Banville's beautifully crafted sentences.

The Sea was my first John Banville novel, but I look forward to reading many more!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis : On Care for Our Common Home

Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis : On Care for Our Common Home Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of the Holy Father Francis : On Care for Our Common Home by Pope Francis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I understand that the Church (and especially Pope Francis, taking his name from St. Francis) has to make a formal statement about the Church's social doctrine and this is the optimum time to say something about the pastoral care of our planet and its varied cultures and denizens, but I question the efficacy of disseminating this message in an encyclical.

First of all, Laudato Si' could use an edit. It is at least twice as long as it needs to be. I found it repetitive and tedious.

Also, the Pope's message is intended for everyone, yes, but he mostly addresses the issues of two social groups: the disenfranchised poor and the consumer/capitalist-oriented rich; the haves and the have-nots; first-world and third-world peoples. The main problem is that these two groups have different lived experiences and so speak different languages. For example: what do people in North America know about digging through mountains of garbage to find the day's food? What do third world people know about shopping at Wal-Mart and being faced with the "choice" of thirty different chewing gums?

I fear that each group will only be able to relate to their own situation and, as the Pope warns, the poor (who have no political clout) will continue to suffer for the rich's selfish consumerism.

The text had barely been released and critics (American media) were already criticizing the encyclical's communist-leaning themes. So much for the worldwide collaborative effort to eliminate the problem at the geo-political level.

The Church does not need yet another document outlining its social doctrine, or bemoaning the destructiveness of miss-used technology. The track record speaks for itself, especially in Gaudium et Spes - the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World.

Sadly, as far as the issue of the Earth's care is concerned, no dire words of warning issued from the Vatican (a moral voice that even many misinformed Catholics are ignoring more and more these days) will create the necessary economic or social revolution.

Consumers will simply not delay instant gratification for a 'possible' environmental change to be enjoyed by a 'possible' future generation.

Pope Francis, and all idealists, welcome to the future: it is now.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart

Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart by Jacques Philippe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book doesn't crack my Top Five Essential Catholic Books to Read, but I would put it in sixth or seventh spot. This is the first book/treatise by Father Jacques Philippe that I've read, but I will be reading many more. Searching for and Maintaining Peace is a book that does exactly what it says it will do. I enjoyed Fr. Philippe's straightforward commonsense, yet profoundly theological, style and approach to finding peace and maintaining it both in everyday life and in a Catholic context. Explaining and understanding the issue of sin is fundamental to his treatise. Fr. Philippe is not a Carmelite, but he draws time and again from St. Thérèse, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. I highly recommend this short treatise to anyone who might be interested in deepening their Catholic spirituality.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review - The Hidden Treasure

The Hidden Treasure: Holy Mass (with Supplemental Reading: Novena of Holy Communions) [Illustrated]The Hidden Treasure: Holy Mass (with Supplemental Reading: Novena of Holy Communions) [Illustrated] by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this book St. Leonard argues against the common view expressed in the sentiment: "What's one more Mass, more or less?"

He presents numerous arguments why it does make a difference, and why the believer should attend as many Masses as possible for the safety and care of his/her soul.

Along with these arguments, the small book contains prayers and acts, along with a novena.

Besides prayers to pray during the Mass (Chapter IV) there is also a chapter on spiritual exercises in preparation for Holy Communion and Confession (Chapter V). Chapter VI lays out a program of rules for living well.

This book is definitely worth reading, but if you don't already attend Mass every day, St. Leonard probably won't convince you to change your ways - although, who knows, the reader might be convinced to attend more than once a week on Sundays.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Where Were You, Lord - Prayer

I've been inspired lately to write some prayers. Here's the first:

Where Were You, Lord,

I asked,
when I knelt for hours and prayed for your guidance?

The Lord answered:
Did you not feel me in the cool breeze I sent you?

No, Lord. I got cold and went inside.

The Lord replied:
Did you not hear me in the Robin's song?

No, Lord. I found the birdsong distracted my prayer and
I shut the windows.

The Lord replied:
I sent the warm rays of the sun to shine on your face.

But, Lord, I got uncomfortably hot.
So I closed the blinds and turned on the air conditioning.

The Lord replied:
I am here now, and always will be.

No, not right now, Lord.

I've too many things to worry about.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Covers!

Fine Form Press has redone several of my novella and novel covers!


Down By Contact
Faith: A Cautionary Tale
Look for these new fabulous covers (and fiction) at itunes (iBooks), Smashwords, B&N, Amazon and all ebook retailers.
~ JT ~

Friday, June 12, 2015

Why I Wrote Sprainter

Today I'd like to share my reasons for writing my inspy young adult novella Sprainter.

Sprainter, Young adult fiction
As I wrote Sprainter, I realized that I was being given a great opportunity to teach along the way. My background includes teaching Philosophy (with an interest in aesthetics) and Art History. Most of my fiction deals with some aspect of art. By the time I finished Sprainter I had written a 100 page novella that spanned five genres: art-themed, young adult, romance, dystopian, and inspirational. Let me say a bit about each genre and how/why they fit into Sprainter.

Dystopian: I thought it was important to show what the future might look like if we allow individuals and organizations to curb or take away our religious freedoms and to close down our churches. This can only happen if we allow it to happen. Regardless of denomination, Churches are integral to one's spiritual development. I thought it was important to create a setting of extreme religious oppression to get that message across.

Art-themed: I believe that true artworks are an important medium to convey revolutionary ideas. Street art, because it is a genre of art that is particularly propaganda/revolutionary, fit perfectly with my characters' use of art to fight against oppression. The point I want to make is that no one is ever powerless. Yes, evil exists in the world, but we must always seek out a way to fight it. Even teens, who oftentimes feel so powerless in the complicated world of grown-ups, should be empowered political/religious activists.

Romance: Sprainter initially began as a teen romance between my two main characters, MrE and OZone. As their relationship evolves, I discuss the topic of intimacy by setting the issue against the backdrop of religion-based chastity. It isn't that I think teens will read this and think: "Oh, Therrien's right! We won't be intimate with each other until after we're married!" But I did want to present another point of view. As the story develops, my characters fall in love with each other, but they have important decisions to make, and one of them is whether they can commit to an ideology that promotes mutual respect among individuals. Yes, it's preachy, but where else will teens be preached to?

Inspirational: I want teens to read a contemporary story that inspires them to action, to hone an attitude of vigilance about fadish trends in the world that could one day (soon) affect their freedom to worship in a religious institution. I want teens to learn to say Grace before meals, I want my readers to look up the Bible passages that MrE and his band of rebels spray paint on the city walls.

Young adult: I want teen readers to have an inspirational story to entertain them and which they can also relate to. There isn't enough young adult inspirational fiction out there to inspire our teens to action and to deepen their (Catholic) faith.

Sprainter is at times what I would call a gritty story. One of the reviewers summed up the story: "Escape from New York meets the Holy Bible." This is in part true; I included some violent scenes because I also wanted to show that even good intentions can lead to bad results, especially when they are taken out of context. There is a fine balance between being devoted to a cause (or a religion), and being fanatical about it.

I hope that I've given you a taste for reading Sprainter. As you can see, there's something in it that will appeal to everyone!

You can buy Sprainter at Amazon, Smashwords, and most e-tailers.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Book Review: Bought with a Price

Bought with a Price: Every Man's Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic CultureBought with a Price: Every Man's Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic Culture by Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent resource for anyone either struggling with pornography addiction or for helping someone you know who is struggling. Bishop Loverde offers sound spiritual, scriptural, and pastoral advice for individuals, priests and families who are affected by this disease. His approach is one of warm understanding and forgiveness.

In this short, accessible book Bishop Loverde argues against four popular misconceptions that pornography is acceptable and even 'normal'. His practical advice is designed to help individuals, families, parish men's and women's groups, and priests. The text includes advice, prayers, a study guide and suggestions to seek professional counselling, if need be. And the Bishop even provides an action plan to further challenge society and its casual acceptance of pornography.

This is an important text for anyone wanting to understand, combat and counteract the insidiousness of pornography.

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Monday, June 08, 2015

Book Review - A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of DuncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For fans of farces, Boethius and Don Quixote, this is a must read!

Otherwise, readers might want to pass on it. Although I am not a Boethius scholar, I enjoyed the convoluted plot and subplots, and the main reason I continued to read was to see how they would all be resolved.

The main premise can be summed up as: an obese man, Ignatius J. Reilly, living by Boethius' ethics (The Consolations of Philosophy) cannot seem to (physically or spiritually) fit into the 'modern world' of 1960s New Orleans.

I've never liked the cover, which is one reason for my not having read Toole's novel until now. I had trouble with the datedness of the text: Ignatius' Quixotic attitude toward 'corrupt' civilization and its 'corrupt' denizens, the social situation (read stereotyping) of gays and blacks, activism, Freudianism and the odd motivations of some of the characters. I also had difficulty, on only one quick read, understanding the role of "Fortuna" and how Toole uses this Medieval concept in the application of justice to his characters.

Having said all of that, I would re-read this novel, since I think it does have an important message about the individual and her interaction with her social setting.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Free Reads!

I currently have three free reads from Fine Form Press for people to sample my writing during these summer months.

They are:

Dr. Farkas
The Well
The Neighbor

These stories are available for free from all ebook retailers - except Amazon. Kindle readers can obtain their Kindle-formatted free copies from Smashwords.

I hope readers will enjoy these short stories/novellas. If you do, I encourage you to leave a review.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review - Crossing the Threshold of Hope

Crossing the Threshold of HopeCrossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Be not afraid! (to read this book).

I loved this Q & A between an Italian journalist and St. John Paul II, but it did present some challenges. This book is unique in that the style is informal, yet the content ranges from deep philosophical theories (JP II's patented phenomenological background) to theology (in his replies he refers to many of the Church's Encyclicals and the Magisterium's documents issued after the Second Vatican Council).

The range of topics covered (the renewed Marian devotions, human rights, abortion and the culture of death, ecumenism, attitudes regarding Muslims and Buddhists, the Church's relevance in the modern world, the problem of good and evil, etc.) offers a goldmine of information on John Paul II's own personal views and those views are complimented with the Church's official position. The answers provided are succinct, yet complete.

Although it is clear that this interview takes place at the close of the twentieth century, most of the topics covered have been debated and explored by the faithful since Jesus' time.

Be warned, however, that one will walk away from reading Crossing the Threshold of Hope with a fairly extensive reading list.

This small volume of insights is essential reading for Catholics who take their faith seriously and for readers interested in further exploring Catholic theology and social doctrine.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 08, 2015

New Short Story: The Neighbor

I've got a new release! The Neighbor is a very short story about a very evil neighbor. It's free on my website (in .pdf format) and also at Smashwords (all e-book formats, including .mobi for Kindle).

The Neighbor

Ray's neighbors, Suze and Danny-Boy, experience a calamitous series of events.

I hope you enjoy the story.


Friday, May 01, 2015

The Power of Words - Part 3

Please enjoy the third installment of The Power of Words, one of the literary short stories included in my Guppy Soup collection.

The Power of Words - Part III

Mom woke up when I entered her room. The oxygen mask lay around her neck, a garish oversized plastic necklace that was almost the size of her whole tiny face. The night nurse walked in and slipped the hissing mask back on, as she presumably had done a number of times before. She was no sooner out of the room when Mom slipped it off again. I stood off to one side, watching this scene play out. I still hadn't taken off my coat.
Mom's big brown eyes turned to me. She smiled dry cracked lips in recognition.
"Hi Mom," I whispered. I sat on the edge of the bed, leaned over and kissed her waxy forehead. I slid the mask back on her wrinkled face, not prepared to kill her just yet.
"So, what's going on?" I took her cold hand in mine, knowing there wouldn't be too many more opportunities to feel a beating pulse.
She pulled the mask off again. Dark circles rimmed her clear eyes. Doe's eyes. A peaceful look on her face erased some of the smoker's creases around her eyes and mouth. For the first time in a long, long while she looked like my mom again.
"I'm tired, Honey," she whispered before drawing a raspy breath. Long-time smoker. Just like Dad.
I reclaimed her hand and sighed deeply. Could I do this, even for her? I didn't know. Wasn't suicide a sin? Wasn't letting someone suffer also a sin?
"Are you sure about this, Mom?"
"I'm tired. In pain. I'm tired of it all," she repeated weakly.
Another nurse came in, clipped an oxygen sensor to Mom's nicotine-stained finger. Took a reading.
"Mrs. St. Jean has less than fifty percent of the oxygen she needs in her blood. The mask has to go back on and stay on."
"Thank you. I'll look after it. Um… Do you have any morphine… for her pain?"
She nodded and looked away. We understood each other. Do nurses take the Hippocratic oath? My godmother was a retired nurse. I'd have to remember to ask her.
The nurse left us alone. I didn't put the mask back on when Mom removed it again. Who was I to stand between Mom and Paradise? Had she not suffered enough in her lifetime? Had she not given me life? This was the least I could do to return the favor. We had both prayed during the week. Obviously, she had either used the right supplications, or her words were directed to a stronger deity.
So, this was goodbye, then.
"Will we see each other again?" I asked as I gently stroked her hand. My throat squeezed so tight I could barely breathe. I could have used some of that oxygen escaping all around us in the room.
She nodded. Smiled.
A nurse came in to give her a shot of morphine. It must not have been very strong because later, she awoke and asked for another. The pain was apparently unbearable. I guess. When you're asphyxiating yourself so slowly, I could see how your whole body might be craving oxygen. I went in search of the floor nurse and her handy ampoule of morphine.
I explained my mother's request. They knew. At least, with the morphine, I told myself, Mom wouldn't suffer at the end, or she wouldn't know she was suffering.
After she received another shot, she stayed awake for a few minutes and squeezed my hand.
I pushed aside the ceramic angel figurine, a gift from her nephew, moved two flower vases off the marble window ledge, and opened the drapes. She looked out the window at the cold snowscape beyond the parking lot seven stories below. The sun shone brightly beneath a band of grey snow clouds in the east. A beautiful day to die. Barely a week before Christmas.
"What time is it?" Mom asked, for what seemed like the hundredth time in two hours.
"Almost seven," I reported.
She lost consciousness and fought for each breath for an hour after that. I gasped right along with her. I held her cold, bony hand. At some point it stopped squeezing back.
Even though my eyes never strayed from her face, I couldn't tell you when she actually drew her last breath. I suddenly realized that she had died, yet I kept seeing her chest rise, as if she were still breathing. When the day nurse came in I told her I thought it was over, that Mrs. St. Jean had died a short while earlier.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, and quickly left to get Baby Doc. The vascular surgeon happened to be making her morning rounds. In her case, I guess they were mourning rounds that day.
After Dr. Genet officially pronounced Mom dead and offered me her sincere condolences, she repeated that she couldn't quite understand my mother's odd case. If she thought those words would console me in my grief, she was mistaken. She left me to deconstruct what I was doing in that hospital room in Sherbrooke. What I had been doing there all week. What I was going to do now, after I left the room.
Ten years later, this is my latest attempt to understand the situation and I still don't know what to make of it. I feel as if all I've accomplished has been to put another layer of words between myself and those tragic events.
Maybe someone will read this account and understand.


* * *

Thank you for reading the third and final part of "The Power of Words". I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you. 

Guppy Soup can be purchased from itunes (iBooks)SmashwordsB&NAmazon and all ebook retailers. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2015


My new release is the third part of my Dr. Farkas paranormal romance series. This one is historically-themed and reveals Dieudonnée's origins.

King's Daughter: Dr. Farkas III

The year is 1663 and newly-engaged Dieudonnée de Lourdes volunteers to chaperone a group of orphaned girls to New France as part of King Louis XIV's King's Daughters new immigration program. Aboard ship she undergoes a transformative experience that throws her life into an unexpected direction.

A hundred years later, Dieudonnée is New France's strongest weapon in fighting the English on the Plains of Abraham. And, unless she gets a bayonet through the heart, her thirst for blood will never be quenched.

Here are the blurbs for the first two novellas in the series:

Dr. Farkas: Part I

Abigail Andrews is a phlebotomist who has terminal leukemia. The good news is that her oncologist, Dr. Jakob Farkas, might be able to heal her, since (he claims) he's a vampire! But there's one small hitch, tired of his lonely existence, Farkas has not fed in over 100 years and needs to be brought back to health before he can help Abigail, with whom he has fallen in love.

Abigail doesn't believe the crazy doctor's story, but she doesn't have much else going on at the moment besides dying. So she leaves her boring life in order to join Dr. Farkas on his travels around the world in search of a mystical cure.

As they await the arrival of the spring equinox in the legendary caves in Lascaux France, Abigail wonders if she can overcome the greatest obstacle to her cure: her mortality.
Blood Work: Dr. Farkas Part II

Newlyweds Jakob and Abigail lead an active social life: they party late into the night in after-hours dance clubs, devour tasty amuse bouches, and travel the world seeking fun and adventure. Life is good, until one day when Abigail starts throwing up. Not a life-threatening issue, unless you're a vampire.

When Abigail's mysterious illness spreads to Jakob, and then threatens an entire lineage of vampires, the couple is summoned to old Quebec City to meet with Jakob's maker. Abigail is introduced to Dieudonnée de Lourdes and quickly finds herself caught between a lethal illness and a jealous, vicious vampire.

Part I is currently available for free at all ebook retailers - except for Amazon - but readers can get their Kindle-formatted story from Smashwords.

 * * *

A word about the Dr. Farkas paranormal romance series. The project should comprise five novellas by the time the last one is written.

The next installment will be narrated by Dr. Jakob Farkas. The story will add details to his history with Dieudonnée and continue the contemporary narrative with his wife, the pregnant Abigail. Since she conceived while being human we wonder, will the baby be a vampire or human? And how will that direct how Dieudonnée exacts her revenge?

The final part of the series will once again be narrated by the sassy former oncologist and cancer patient Abigail.

King's Daughter can be purchased from Amazon, Smashwords, itunes or your favorite e-book retailer.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Saint Odd

Saint Odd
Saint Odd by Dean Koontz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After having invested a number of years reading this series, and mostly liking the characters and the books, I found this last and final one disappointing.

Koontz wraps everything up somewhat nicely, although the book ends up posing more questions than it ultimately answers.

The story and plot felt padded and the novel would have read better at 200 pages than it did at 338. Luckily, it was a quick, painless read.

Sadly, it will also be unmemorable.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Power of Words - Part II

Please enjoy the second installment of The Power of Words, one of the literary short stories in my Guppy Soup collection.

The Power of Words - Part II

Mom went under the knife three days after my meet-and-greet with Dr. Genet. On a Monday. I gotta tell you, I've had better Mondays. So had she, in retrospect. She suffered complete paralysis when "an artery as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen" closed up, as a result of her blood pressure suddenly plummeting during the operation. The dreaded aneurysm she'd feared so much. Maybe. Somewhere in her spine. Again, maybe.
"Can you re-operate?" I asked the shaken surgeon. Mom's poor showing after the surgery seemed to have upset the good doctor, set her confidence level plummeting… like Mom's blood pressure?
"Out of the question. There's no way to tell where to find the damaged artery," Baby Doc replied, her voice infused with just the right amount of contriteness and sorrow. She held my eyes a bit too long, the botched effort costing her some sincerity points.
She didn't want to admit any personal fault, of course. But still, she needed to convey something, some emotion. "Nothing else to do except wait. There might be some physiotherapy… later." Lips tight, she shrugged.
Oh well, the shrug seemed to say, live and learn.
"On the bright side, we cleared the arterial blockage!" Dr. Genet actually smiled when she said that.
I could've slapped the smile off her face. Had she received her medical training in a call center? Always smile when talking and leave 'em with something positive?
Right. Hey, thanks for giving it the old college try, Baby Doc. You did a hell of a job crippling my mother…
Mom's depression set in about ten minutes after she woke up from surgery and realized she couldn't move her legs. She couldn't feel her ankles; her feet; her toes… confirming her greatest fear in the world: paralyzed from the waist down.
She rents an apartment on the second floor of a house. Correction: rented. She was never stepping foot in that apartment again. What was she going to do, fly her wheelchair up there? And then pop wheelies all the way back down?
Following the botched surgery, I stood at the foot of her bed each day, all day long, urging her, nicely, to please, pretty-please, move her toes as I silently screamed and swore. It was just a matter of willpower. She just had to want it enough. Damn it! How difficult could it be to wiggle those ten little piggies?
Can you picture us? I'm sure we made quite a pair. She, ninety pounds, lying in that huge hospital bed, so small and afraid, and getting smaller by the day. I would see the fear return to her eyes the second the morphine wore off. And me, at the other end of the bed, my hands on her traitorous feet. We hoped and prayed: Me, for her legs to smarten up and get to work again. She, for a quick death.
A couple of days later she got some sort of lung infection. Pneumonia. The nurses literally tried to squeeze it out of her. It was a horrible spectacle to watch. My mother's whole upper body turned black and blue from the bruising. They'd put her on anti-coagulants and blood thinners after the surgery. You just looked at her and she bruised. Imagine a two-hundred pound gorilla squeezing the life out of a rag doll and you start to get the picture.
"Exhale Mrs. St. Jean!"
SQUEEZE… followed by a weak groan.
"Exhale harder, Mrs. St. Jean!"
The squeezing didn't work. Well, they did manage to ring some tears out of her when the pain became unbearable. So I guess that was something of an accomplishment.
Then, one day, Mom couldn't breathe, she had too much fluid in her lungs. They ordered more medication. They set up an oxygen mask by her pillow and jammed translucent plastic tubes up her nose. A constant hiss in the hospital room—similar to the sound of disapproval she made when I was younger. Like the time I turned our driveway into an ice rink in the middle of winter and our neighbor almost drove his car into our living room when he came home from work. Lots of hissing that night, let me tell you.
After that, her kidneys shut down. More IVs and meds ordered. A new batch of specialists, drafted into action by the ever-present, but rarely seen, vascular surgeon Baby Doc. Yet more medical interventions. Nothing worked. Of course nothing would. As far as Mom was concerned, if she wasn't going to walk out of that hospital on her own two feet, then she wasn't going to walk out.
So we stayed in our private worlds and prayed. I massaged her swollen feet, her lifeless toes. She worked on making her peace with God and drawing her last breath. One day she begged Dad to come and get her. She was ready.
A few days after the begging, with no improvements in sight, the nurses moved Mom from the four-bed post-op recovery ward to a semi-private room. Every hospital has a room for dying patients. Obviously, they won't tell you which one it is, but you just have to spend enough time on a ward to figure it out.
The very next morning after the move, the ringing telephone woke me up at five-thirty. I'd been dreading this call for days. Or nights. They didn't have to look too hard to find me during the day. I was stationed at the foot of Mom's bed. My hand was the one massaging her feet. I was the one commanding God to put life back into her tiny varicosed legs. I wasn't asking Him to move a mountain, or for world peace. Just get my mom's legs moving again. I had enough faith to accomplish that.
Didn't I?
I picked up the phone. Sure enough, the hospital was calling. "You should make your way to Mrs. St. Jean's room." If you want to say goodbye, the anonymous female voice didn't add. I already told you I deconstruct language for a living. If you pay attention to context, the meaning usually comes in loud and clear, even silences. Especially in silences at five-thirty in the morning.
"I'm on my way," I replied, waking up, feeling nauseated as buckets of adrenaline poisoned my body after only a few hours sleep.
"Don't rush. The roads are slippery after last night's snowfall. She's in no danger… for now. It's just that she keeps pulling off her oxygen mask."
Ah… So Mom had finally figured it out. Or maybe God had answered her prayers and he'd dispensed some of that Divine wisdom. After all, God helps those who help themselves, right?
I showered. I cried bitter tears and washed them down the drain. I dressed and then drove carefully, unable to do the speed limit if I wanted to keep the car on the icy roads. I slowly made my way to the hospital to say goodbye.

End of Part 2

* * *

Thank you for reading the second part of "The Power of Words". I look forward to sharing Part 3 in the near future.

Guppy Soup can be purchased from itunes (iBooks)SmashwordsB&NAmazon and all ebook retailers. 


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Review: Lord of the World

Lord of the World
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not a fan of fiction written at the turn of the twentieth century, and this novel, written in 1907, epitomizes what I dislike most about the period: all tell, no show; long descriptive paragraphs that neither set the mood nor add to the story, quaint British expressions that mean nothing to a modern reader, etc.

I read it because Pope Francis has mentioned it a couple of times in recent interviews, and Catholic writers are saying that if we want to understand the pope's interests, we should read this novel. After all, when the leader of the largest Christian religion on Earth starts being concerned with the end of times, followers should listen.

And that is the subject of this plot-driven novel: the rise of the antichrist and the onset of Armageddon.

I have to admit that Monseigneur Benson was quite prophetic in his pronouncements. The glorifying of the cult of individualism, praised and worshipped to the level of a religion, is reflected in today's contemporary society. Picture, if you will, the antichrist as a cross between Damien, from The Omen movies, and Galt, from Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and you'll get a feel for both the tone and subject matter of Lord of the World.

People should definitely read it, but only to find out what all the fuss is about at the Vatican. For those who are neither interested in Armageddon, Pope Francis, or the Catholic Church you can probably spend a week reading something better written and more entertaining.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Power of Words - Part 1

Please enjoy the sequential release of another one of the literary short stories from my Guppy Soup collection. Throughout last summer I posted "Summertime" in four installments. I think "The Power of Words" will be complete in three posts over the next little while.

The Power of Words

We go through life and become educated. Unlike our parents, most of us not only went to, but actually graduated from high school. Many of us have gone on to university. A few maybe even have a Masters degree. Leaving those two insane world wars behind, we've been taught to change the world with words instead of using our fists and bullets. That's also how we alter reality, make some sense of chaos that surrounds us. Create order.
And the logos was made flesh…
But were not God. Mere mortal words are no match against the ultimate chaos.
Death looks us squarely in the eyes and laughs at our impotent incantations. Maybe it laughs. We have no idea what we're dealing with, but once in a while Death lets us peek into its world, where it has decorated its living room walls with decaying flesh and finality.
Fighting this relentless march toward the end of existence, does the correct spelling of a word really make any difference? When it comes right down to it? "Color" instead of "colour"? Oh, Structuralists and Semioticians of the world, what kind of weapon is the alphabet against that unblinking, unforgiving, annihilation?
Magical words. Prayers. Promises. Wishes.
Will to Power.
The willpower behind the words we use. Whose words win out, when two people wish for opposite results? Who decides which person has the best sentence structure to deliver their intentions?
And does it really matter? I mean, really?

* * *

"It's a fairly simple procedure. You've had these arterial grafts done before, Mrs. St. Jean." The vascular surgeon spoke to the elderly woman in a tone normally reserved for five year olds. And not very bright five-year olds at that.
These words were spoken a few winters ago, back at the CHUS in Sherbrooke, Quebec, so the conversation was in French, most of the English who once populated the area having been made to feel unwelcomed enough to seek greener linguistic-friendly pastures out west, to Toronto and beyond. It doesn't matter. Politics don't matter. The words might've been different, but the meaning would have been the same.
Mrs. St. Jean, "Mom" to me, didn't say anything. Her brown eyes shifted to her hands, knotted in her lap, then down to the scuffed floor. She pursed her lips.
I knew she had her doubts, but she'd never questioned any of her doctors—Mom had a bunch of them during her lifetime of chronic aches and pains—and at seventy-three, she wasn't about to start asking if this one had graduated at the top of her class in Med school. As far as Mom was concerned, even though Dr. Genet was young, maybe twenty-eight, thirty tops, she must've known what she was doing. After all, her framed diplomas hung right there on the wall behind her desk, displaying very impressive proofs of her abilities.
Mom nodded through her mounting discomfort, her arthritic fingers twisting themselves further. I'd seen those fingers contort into pretzels over the past three years, whenever the subject of Dad's lung cancer had come up.
She shrugged a bony shoulder, resigned to whatever fate the young surgeon bestowed on her. The medical explanation was all too technical for someone with only a grade six education. She didn't have to know the proper medical term for the deep pain she felt in her legs or to know how they were going to fix her clogged arteries. She just wanted the procedure over and done with.
We'd buried Dad two months before, just in time for Halloween. Trick or treat? We weren't asked, but I guess we'd been tricked that year. Now, Mom was just killing time until she could join him in Paradise, or in the ground, or wherever it is we go after we've suffered enough here on earth. She knew her fate. I knew it, too. She had been putting off this needed surgery for over a year, too busy looking after Dad to look after herself.
All the while Dad wheezed himself closer to death with his own untreated lung cancer. He had been resigned to his fate too, declining any chemotherapy. I wondered if my parents, both cradle Catholics, were supposed to act like such fatalists, why they were such Calvinists at heart. Had they exchanged faith in a Living God for faith in determinism? What did the priest call it in his homily? Providence.
What did I think of Providence? Nothing. I'd never been to Rhode Island.
Without any comments or follow-up questions from Mom the interview seemed over. Dr. Genet closed the thick manila folder and forced a smile at me and Mom. My cue.
"Hey, Mom. Can you wait for me in the waiting room while I ask the doctor a few insurance-related questions?"
Mom knew I was lying, everything was paid for in socialist Québec, but she was too worried and tired to care.
"Okay." She stood up on stiff legs.
The door gave a tiny pneumatic wheeze as it closed behind her.
I smiled. The doctor smiled back. Her eyes darted meaningfully to her watch. Yeah, yeah, I know. Important doctor. Busy, busy, busy. I was almost twice as old as she was. Unlike my parent's generation—people born in the nineteen-twenties—I'm a Baby Boomer and I hadn't been brought up to respect too many people. My teachable moments were la crise d'octobre, Vietnam, and Watergate, with hours of Ollie North thrown in for comic relief. And my respect was never based solely on people's job titles. So I was unwilling to be as generous as Mom was with the wunderkind sitting in front of me.
Me? I teach Sociolinguistics in a small university English department. Basically, my job is to listen to what people say in popular media discourses, things like movies or books or the news, and then to explain either what they really said or what they meant to say, by using a grab bag of language theories derived from current deconstruction, post-structural, and applied psychology fields.
Although I'm by no means that smart, I've been around geniuses my whole life. Guess what? I've learned that even so-called geniuses are human. I've also learned that not everyone finishes first in their class.
"So, what are we looking at, with Mom?"
I'm busy. Doc's busy. I wanted some answers before her beeper went off and she had an excuse to escape.
She cleared her throat and looked away.
Nervous… and engaging her imagination. Interesting.
She glanced at the door and then remembered who the surgeon was in this room. This was her world. I was the civilian interloper—someone to be dealt with as politely as possible and then quickly dispatched so she could resume her important doctor duties. She turned a pair of serious dark eyes on me.
"Well, as I explained already, we're dealing with something called Peripheral Vascular Disease. PVD can result from a condition known as atherosclerosis, where this waxy substance forms inside the arteries. To fix this condition, I'll be cutting into Mrs. St. Jean's groin—"
"I don't care how you're going to do the procedure," I interrupted. "I want to know why my mother is so afraid of going through with it. She's had it done four times already, so why is she suddenly worried about this particular arterial blockage?"
Every couple of years, like clockwork, Mom had to get arteries unblocked. She could barely walk anymore, the pain in her legs becoming so severe. Dr. Genet couldn't believe she didn't have gangrene from the poor blood circulation in both legs. The right leg especially. The doctor could hardly feel a pulse during the pre-surgery examinations. I'd read the report.
Dr. Genet, to her credit, didn't look at me when she lied. Still. A lie's a lie. She sniffed petulantly and stared at her manicured hands, patiently folded on the desk. She probably didn't get cut off in mid sentence too often. Finally, she shook her head.
"I don't know. You could ask your mother."
When I just stared at her in silence, she cleared her throat and tried a new tack. "We've decided to use a peripheral vascular bypass procedure instead of doing a transcatheter intervention… Again," she resumed, "Since her blood pressure is so difficult to control, the risk of an aneurysm occurring is…" Her voice trailed off.
I remained silent, waiting to hear about this so-called risk. These were all by-the-book treatment methods one could find online in ten minutes of Googling. Besides, I heard variations of it every night on the phone during Mom's daily health update. Meanwhile, Baby Doc still wasn't saying anything.
"I simply don't know," she conceded, shrugging beneath her white lab coat. Again, her eyes addressed her folded hands. I deconstructed her pose: was she unconsciously praying? To whom? A delicate gold cross swayed around her neck, moving to the pulse of her artery.
Who was the patron saint of vascular surgeons, I wondered.
We stared at each other in silence. Apparently, she was done talking.
Useless. She wasn't going to commit to anything. I would mentally replay this interview two weeks later.
During Mom's funeral.
End of Part 1

* * *

Thank you for reading the first part of "The Power of Words". I look forward to sharing parts 2 and 3 in the near future.

Guppy Soup can be purchased from itunes (iBooks), Smashwords, B&N, Amazon and all ebook retailers. 

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