Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Please Pray for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Copied from Rorate Caeli:

In solidarity with our Persecuted Brethren in Iraq and Syria
Nun (ن), the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet (the equivalent of letter N in our Roman alphabet), is the first letter of the word Nasara (نصارى : Nazarenes), the way Muslims have called Christians since the beginning of their invasion of the Christian world in the 7th century -- Christians under Muslim rule never called themselves thus, since the intent of Muslims was to portray Christians as a contemptible and disobedient sect.

In their genocidal physical elimination of Christians from the Mesopotamian city of Mosul, Muslim terrorists marked each Christian-owned institution and building with this letter, for the extermination of holdouts and expropriation of their belongings.
Friday, August 1, 2014
This was the day chosen by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) for a worldwide day of Public Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in supplication for our persecuted brethren in Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East:
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter asks all of its apostolates around the world to dedicate Friday, August 1 to a day of prayer and penance for the Christians who are suffering terrible persecution in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
August 1 is the First Friday of the month and the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is celebrated as a Third Class Feast in FSSP houses and apostolates. It is the feast in which we read of the great power of the persevering prayer of members of the Church: “Peter therefore was kept in Prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5)
This feast of our Patron should be an invitation to the faithful to join us in Holy Hours and other fitting prayers to beg the Most Holy Trinity that these members of the Mystical Body may persevere in the faith, and that, like St. Peter, they may be delivered from this terrible persecution. May such a day serve as a reminder to us of the stark contrast that stands between our days of vacation and ease, and their daily struggle for survival as they are killed or exiled from their homes.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer School

I usually try to minimize everything in the summer, but this year I've signed up for Nerdy Chicks Summer School offered by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Kami Kinard. Thank you, ladies, and all the faculty.

Character in a pickle is how my stories start so their workshops on building character sounds like a great way for me to get back into the writing groove before school starts. This is the easiest summer I've had in many ways. My health is good and I've been enjoying the downtime with the kids. We've been reading lots, going to the pool, the beach, and I'm scribbling, scribbling when I get a chance.

So now for a little structure. Class starts Monday! Of course, I might have to play hooky once in a while ... because I'm all grown up! So, who's coming with me? To summer school, silly, not the beach.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Air Academy

Max is involved in First Robotics (an intense competition for high school students -- see their team page). Mentors in the industry help the students build the robots and it's a great learning experience for all -- both for students and mentors (my husband is a mentor). Through this group, Max had the wonderful opportunity to go to Oshkosh, WI for Air Academy. He had a great time learning about the history and science of flight, building airplanes, and flying them! Thanks to our sponsor, who also presented each child a flight log book!

Even though physical sciences cover flying, nothing prepares you for that magical moment when you first lift off the ground. I can't explain it, but I feel the same wonder and awe as I see a bird take flight.



The kids got to see some old planes up close and personal. Fun times. Since we are part of the Boeing family, we've had the pleasure of going to the Museum of Flight many times in Seattle. I wonder whether they will build one here in SC. We are so thankful for the work that Michael has at Boeing. He feels like a small cog at times, but it his work that allows us the comforts of life. A career in aviation is fun too. Just like microbiology allows you to peer into the depths of a cell, aviation allows you to peer at the world through a bigger lens. 



But as always, I'm happy to have my ducklings under my roof. It's great they are old enough to fly away and have an adventure, but there's nothing like seeing your kid flying back home. Thank you, God!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gone Fishing

We went camping and fishing at Lake Wateree. Alas, we didn't get even a single bite, but I had plenty of time to just read and scribble in my notebook. It was a very relaxing trip, not too far from our home ... and for the first time in 15 years my husband and I snuggled together in our tent without the kids. Our daughter was in a hammock and our son was in Wisconsin. It brought back memories of going camping with them as toddlers, how we had to watch them constantly and how sleep was nearly nonexistent. I convinced everybody to do backyard camping because it was so much easier. But a little change of scenery is refreshing for the body and soul.



This little guy left foot prints on our cooler.



Michael and Dagny went fishing again while I played in the fire ... They didn't catch any fish but the corn was sweet. And we had some brats to go with them :)


Fun to swim in the lake. It's been so long I didn't remember that the bottom is muddy. I have a preference for sandy beaches. Good thing we live so close to the ocean. These turkey vultures were busy with a catfish ...


Peaceful ... actually fishing was just an excuse to read, write and pray. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Conversation with Nandini Bajpai

Congratulations on the publication of your historical romance, STARCURSED. I saw your inspiration for this book on your blog and was blown away by how little detail there was about Leelavati. But you ran with the idea … did her character come fully formed to you?

Thank you, Vijaya! Yes, Leela was one of those rare characters that showed up fully formed and started sharing her story. There were many things I struggled with while writing the story but I never lost a sense of who she was. Maybe because I had the idea for the story and had thought about it for quite some time before I started writing it.
I loved how the plot seemed to come organically from the characters. You surprised me many times with the twists and turns in this book, yet everything that happened seemed inevitable. How did you accomplish this? Did you ever make false turns and write yourself into a corner? Did you outline the plot first or just let the characters dictate the story?
I didn’t start outlining until about mid-way into the story, and it did change a little bit in revision. I tried hard to listen to the characters and make sure that the decisions they made felt true to them. Some of them had worldviews very different to mine and I wanted their actions to be authentic for them and not impose authorial choices on people from a different time and place.
I think this is one of the best historical romances out there for teens. Did you know from the beginning the outcome you would have and worked towards it, or did you wrestle with it?
I wrestled with it! I wanted so much for the legend to have a different outcome than what I had heard, but I did not want to impose a deus ex machina that felt alien to the story. I hope the ending works and is both satisfying and believable. 
It is nail-bitingly brilliant! The swayamvara was fantastic!!! My dear readers, go ahead and click on the link ... Aren't you excited to read this book even more now?

Nandini, I loved how well you described everything. The debate was exciting and I wondered whether you had to brush up on any math for this or if you pulled all this out of a hat?
I was a math major in my freshman year of college, but I had to do my research to make sure that the debate reflected the knowledge of the time. It was pretty interesting, actually!
I was also curious whether you ever had a chance to see a water clock in a museum? My readers, I hope your curiosity is whetted even more.
Thanks! I did not see a water clock in person but I saw videos of it during my research.
Many of my readers are writer-mamas like you. Can you share a little bit about how you juggle writing and family life, travelling and book promotion?
It isn’t easy, is it? But it is very helpful to have a supportive writing community. I have been very lucky in my writing friends both online and in my local SCBWI community. When facing rejection, revisions, reviews, and work-life balance issues they’ve always had my back. It also helps to have a supportive family. My husband, kids, parents, siblings, and in-laws have all been great! I try to make a little time for writing and writing related tasks if not every day then at least every week. I was able to bring my kids along for my India book tour last year and it was wonderful to be able to share that experience with them.
You are one lucky lady for having such a supportive family. Reading the acknowledgements made me smile. You and your sisters are just like Indian Little Women. What it was like to share pages with your sisters? Was it hard being separated by time and space?
It’s pretty hard to be so far away from my sisters, but I’m thankful for modern technology that lets us stay in touch in spite of it. It’s great to be able to share pages with them. My sister Padmini is a great taskmaster and insisted on seeing pages every weekend when I was writing Starcursed. If I didn’t have her nagging me I’m not sure I would have finished this ms! My sister Anuja is a bestselling author and was a great sounding board for plot and big picture issues. She also gave me great advice on who to sub to in India. And my sister Rohini is the biggest cheerleader for us and has breathed confidence into me when I did not believe in myself. They are amazing!      
Of course, I have to ask. Do you believe in fate, the stars, horoscopes? Did your parents have a star chart prepared? I know even today many people have birth charts drawn up and they are consulted for important events, particularly marriage.
Not at all. Yes, my parents did have a star chart prepared when I was little, but they pretty much forgot about it. I found it interesting to look at and decipher as a child, in a museum artifact kind of way. Many people do still believe in and plan life events based on star charts and horoscopes even today.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all my questions. What are you working on now?
I have a middle grade novel, Rishi and the Karmic Cat, out soon. I’m expecting revisions for it soon. I’m also working on a YA fantasy about a warrior girl set in an India inspired world. Really excited about that one!
I think congratulations are again in order!!!
Thanks so much for having me here and for reading and reviewing the book, Vijaya!!!
The pleasure is all mine, Nandini. I hope this gem of a book will find it's way into many hands.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


It's high time I shared a few of the books I've been reading. As always, a pattern emerges. For some reason, I've been compelled to study slave narratives: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup; Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself by Harriet Ann Jacobs; and others compiled by state. Many of these are free on the kindle and I am so thankful that this material, this bearing of witness shall not be lost. The language is formal and the writers take great pains to spare the reader their sufferings from the most violent atrocities committed against them. Contrast that with the tell-all memoirs of today. I remember reading Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen and not being able to finish it because it was so harrowing. And I thought, someone has taken the trouble to record this so that we may never forget; how can I be such a coward as to stop halfway?

Some of the things that struck me: Faith in God. These slaves trusted in God; they gave their lives over to Him. They entrusted their children -- who were also slaves and weren't necessarily kept with the family. How many mothers and fathers have mourned the loss of their children? What surprised me over and over is how callous the owners were towards their own flesh. Many beget children through the slave women, but they thought of them as property, not children, and sold them to other plantations. I have a hard time understanding a Christian nation upholding slavery for as long as it did, but I am beginning to see how the Word in the Bible can be taken out of context to suit your own purposes. And finally, how these slaves gave thanks for the most simple joys -- of having a mug of water, or the smile upon their babies' faces, or a warm fire at night. I have always loved the spirituals but reading their stories makes them even more poignant.

In the end notes of the slave narratives, I learned that many were compelled to write so that they could help end slavery. The very first book though, that I ever read on the topic was Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It held me captive. And it goes to show the power of fiction. It is a book that changed the American landscape. This mother of seven, she was passionate about ending slavery and did what she could do! Write a best-selling novel!

Do you think about changing the world with your words? I do. They seem like lofty dreams but I know that even if one life is changed for the better from one of my stories, the effort would have been worthwhile.

So tell me, what are you passionate about?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness

I am always astounded at the wisdom of our founding fathers. Surely the hand of God was upon us because they got all the important things right, about the right to life and liberty. It's true we have horrific stains as well, that of slavery and abortion, but we squashed one evil and we will squash the other as well. God help us. Mary pray for us.

Wishing all Americans near and far a very happy Independence Day!!! I am especially pleased that our highest court has ruled in favor of religious liberty. That's definitely something to celebrate. But what a shock to learn it was won by a slim margin of 5-4. Sobering. Monsignor Pope has an excellent reflection on this: Wake up America: your liberty is on the line.

I love Eternal Father, strong to save and we sing it often at our parish.

Photos from last year, taken by Max :)