Purgatory: Mud-Room of Heaven

Non-Catholic Christians often misunderstand purgatory as a second chance at heaven for damned souls. Nothing could be more untrue! Damned souls go someplace warmer. Purgatory is only for folks who have ‘died in friendship with God,’ which is a Catholic phrase that means ‘born again.’

Purgatory is like a mud-room. The mud-room is at the entryway to a midwestern home. It’s the place where you take off muddy boots and manure covered barn jackets, and put on something cleaner. Using the mud-room makes you ready to walk through the home’s kitchen and living room without getting yelled at for tracking in mud. Purgatory is like that, since it is the place where a soul can get ready for the bliss and holiness of heaven.

Many souls are just not ready to meet God, but they are trusting souls who have tried to follow God in the best way they knew how. They may not have known much, like the good thief on the cross. Or they may have been too proud or arrogant or simply lacked insight, so they may have committed serious sins without being aware of them as something they need to repent of, and confess to God (and the priest) about.

My current devotional reading is a devotional book about the ‘holy souls’ in purgatory. It gives another reason for purgatory— to get souls less attached to worldly things. Imagine an older woman who dies, but is constantly fretting over what her daughter-in-law is doing with her house and possessions. She needs to set her mind on heavenly things and not the horrible wallpaper her daughter-in-law chose for the front bedroom!

Some Christian souls, like martyrs, are deemed to be ready for heaven straight off. Jesus said to the good thief that he would be in Paradise that day. So, either Jesus considered purgatory a part of heaven (the mud-room?) or else the thief was given the grace to go direct to heaven or perhaps spend only 20 seconds in purgatory to get ‘ready.’

C. S. Lewis is considered by many an authoritative model of the modern Protestant Christian, but he admits to a belief that ‘something like’ purgatory is needed to make us fit for heaven.

There are Bible verses held to speak of purgatory. An article by apologist Dave Armstrong lists some of these verses. I would suggest that you read the article to understand more about the Bible and purgatory.

25 Descriptive and Clear Bible Passages about Purgatory: https://www.ncregister.com/blog/darmstrong/25-descriptive-and-clear-bible-passages-about-purgatory

The important thing about purgatory is that it is not a substitute for accepting Jesus Christ as your savior now, or living a Christian life now, or avoiding sin now. Purgatory is for the ‘holy souls,’ not for people who want to ‘have fun’ now and worry about their souls later. When ‘later’ comes, in the form of death, there is no more mercy available for the damned soul. No damned souls are in purgatory, any more than they are in heaven.

As a Catholic convert who was not brought up on belief in purgatory, and who once knew a lot of (often silly) arguments against it, I find myself a little behind on knowing the concept. I recommend two devotional books by Susan Tassone and published by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc, for other Catholic converts wishing to gain greater knowledge of purgatory and the Holy Souls. [Where do the ‘holy souls’ get their ‘holy?’ Jesus, of course!]

Thirty-Day Devotions for the Holy Souls – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/809593.Thirty_Day_Devotions_for_the_Holy_Souls

Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23490846-day-by-day-for-the-holy-souls-in-purgatory

#FixThatBlog Your Blog’s Niche

A blog niche is the topic or topics of your blog. A blog about budget travel is different from a blog about celebrity gossip or one based on a Moravian pastor’s sermons. Each of those blog niches will attract a different audience. The fellow jonesing for a fresh Moravian sermon won’t be grateful to read the latest about a transgender celebrity who is featured nude in Playboy!

If you already have a blog with a bunch of posts, check your all-time stats. On this blog, my top posts are my post about the Lutheran rosary and my interview with Moira Greyland, author of ‘The Last Closet’ about her abusive parents, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen. Neither of these is about my blog’s niche, alas. I’m not drawn to writing a blog about Lutheran devotions (since I’m now Catholic) or about sexual abusers of children.

One bit of bad advice about blog management is to pick a niche which can be easily ‘monetized.’ One ebook I’ve read suggests a blog niche about high-ticket consumer goods which you can review, and have affiliate links for. The author even suggests ‘reviewing’ items you have not purchased, owned or used! No one wants fake reviews and ‘monetized’ blogs. Blog readers want content. Interesting content.

What can you blog about that would be interesting, and might relate to your writing work? If you are an Evangelical author of Amish romances, you can blog about Amish culture or Evangelical faith items, but you probably shouldn’t dedicate your blog to reviewing the latest in deer hunting rifles and accessories. Unless you work hunting in to all your romance novels because it’s your thing. (Even though I don’t normally read romances, an Amish deer hunting romance might tempt me, especially from a passionate author.)

‘Author blog’ might seem to be enough of a niche, but there are different types of author blogs. Some are about the writing process. Others are about the author’s genre, and perhaps book reviews of other author’s work in the genre. Authors passionate about their faith or their political perspective might include those things as topics in their blog, especially if those topics show up in their books. Others might have blogs that are neutral on religion and politics, but very keen on cats, pet snakes, or the Boston Red Sox. These topics will attract some readers, bore and repel others.

What do you call your blog niche? Suppose you are a Christian and you write ‘paranormal’ (vampire) romance. Is your niche ‘Christian romance’ or ‘paranormal romance’ or ‘vampire romance?’ Or is it a more widely focussed writing blog? A Christian author of romances might talk about similar secular works, or Christian fiction in other genres. And ‘Christian’ covers a lot of ground. Most of us are not generic ‘mere Christians’ but Lutherans, Catholics, Baptists, Moravians or Pentecostals. Maybe you are going to be reaching out to Christian authors and readers of similar faith backgrounds.

I would recommend using a search engine like Duck Duck Go to research your potential blog niche. Look for ‘Christian fiction blogs’ or ‘conservative romance blogs’ or ‘Neopagan fantasy fiction blogs,’ whatever you conceive your likely niche to be. Are there other blogs with similar niches to yours? What do those bloggers call their niche? Or are they even aware of their niche?

One thing about your blog niche— it can, if necessary, be changed. Each blog post you write, whether a bulls-eye for your current niche or not, is a chance to attract new readers. You can use your blog stats, and the comments on the posts, to see which posts are attracting readers. You can shade your blog’s niche in the direction of what is working for you at the moment.

Think about the things you write about in your books or works-in-progress. And the things you have blogged about, or might blog about. What can you write about in a unique and interesting way? If you have blogged for a while, do you need to narrow your focus? Or perhaps widen it? Or shift it altogether?

Are You Doing Too Much World-Building?

World-building is a topic of great interest to the science fiction and fantasy author. Rebekah Loper’s book, The A-Zs of Worldbuilding, is a workbook on the many things you might consider during your worldbuilding process. There are also other world-building books out there.

But there is such a thing as too much world-building. It can delay you, sometimes for years, in getting your novel or short story written. It can even substitute for actually writing your WIP! And stories can get bogged down by too much world-building, as in my current WIP where I have to keep stopping myself from explaining about the Important Continent, the Five Elements (geographical divisions of the IC) and the misdeeds of evil King Henricus when these are not part of the current story.

Many rich fantasy and science fiction worlds are not the result of sitting down and doing world-building in advance. They grew over time, as the authors wrote stories set in the world. The world of Darkover by ‘She Who Must Not Be Named’ started off as a single novel trying to reclaim some of the author’s juvenilia, and the success of that story cause ‘SWMNBN’s publisher to ask for another Darkover story, and then another. The ‘Free Amazons’ in early Darkover became the ‘Renunciates’ of later Darkover stories.

So when you are world-building for your next WIP, don’t get bogged down in creating the ancient and medieval history of your world and lists of ancient kings. What do you actually need to get that WIP done? Don’t write a 20-page account of your world’s Weavers’ Guild if no one in your story is a weaver! That just wastes your time.

What do you nned to tell your story? If your main character lives in a small town and stays there, you don’t need to flesh out the kingdom next door, or even the capital city of your character’s kingdom. You just need names for the kingdom and the capital city. If there is ‘magic’ in your world, but none of your characters actually can do magic, you don’t need to work out the details of ‘magical’ lore for your world. If there are spaceships or dragons or portals to other places in your story, you will need to work out the details of that.

You need to create just the right amount of world-building for the story before you start the first draft, or maybe you will create things as you need them. You must remember that the WIP you are obsessing about right now may not be your whole writing career. For your next book, you might have an entirely different world. So don’t get too bogged down in this one.

Exercise: If you have a copy of Rebekah Loper’s book, read it or skim-read it with a notebook at hand. Write down the topics that you will need the most in world-building for your next WIP. After you finish, try to narrow down your list to 3 topics. And then decide what aspects of those three topics are the most needed for your story. Work on those. (How do you work on those? Some writers will write little essays on their world-building topics, others will write these things into their scenes. Do whatever works for the kind of writer you are turning out to be.)


I have received a complaint from the country of Pakistan that my blog post ‘Was Mohammed a False Prophet?’ is blasphemy and ‘hate speech.’ I personally don’t think that asking questions about either Christianity or Islam is ‘hateful’ and that a believer’s faith can actually be strengthened by thinking about these things and seeking answers. I do not intend to take that post or my entire blog down as a result of this complaint. I hope WordPress will respect that.

Keto Life: Keto/Lowcarb without a Food Diary or App

What is the most dreaded thing that might happen to you? Having to keep a food diary— a record of every bit of food that goes in to your mouth. And since Keto/Low-carb is a lifestyle not a temporary diet, you might have to do it FOREVER.

Or not. The original Atkins (1972), created by a doctor who had real-world patients, didn’t require anyone to keep a food diary. Look at the original ‘diet sheet’ portion of ‘Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution.’ There were some foods you could eat in unlimited amounts— like meats,  fish, eggs, butter and mayonnaise. Other foods were allowed, but in rationed amounts— 2 salads of less than one cupful, four ounces of hard cheese, four teaspoons of heavy cream. You didn’t have to formally write down even the limited things, so long as you could remember to stay within the limits.

That was in Atkins Induction. Induction was a time for your body to adapt to being in ketosis. Atkins wanted everyone to use urine test strips to see if they were really in ketosis. We now also have the ability to test for blood ketones or breath ketones. At any rate, if you are really on Keto, you should be testing.

Atkins also has levels— in which you could add back small amounts of carbs, so long as you stayed in ketosis. And then when you got to ‘Maintenance’ you could have even more carbs even if you were out of ketosis. On a more modern Keto lifestyle, we know how healthy ketosis can be, so we want to be in ketosis even when we are at a normal weight. So we keep lower in carbs than an early Atkins dieter might have in ‘Maintenance.’

Learning the Atkins way does require study. You need to know, for example, that you can have shrimp but not scallops, and why. That you can have real lobster but not that fake lobster that’s manufactured from fish and has carbs in it. That you can put a bit of heavy cream (or sour cream) in your coffee, but not skim milk.

The great part of Atkins is that there is always something you are allowed to eat. After you have gone through your carb-containing limited foods, you can still have a feast out of the zero-carb foods. During the first few days of Induction, if you are used to the low-calorie hunger diets, you will feel like you are always eating. Go right ahead and eat! Until you get in ketosis, you have to keep eating the allowed foods so you feel not only full, but not-deprived.

Once you are in ketosis, you won’t feel hungry. You may be able to skip meals and fast pretty easily, but don’t go overboard. You will have to be eating food for the rest of your life, and your Keto/Low-carb meals are your way to train yourself to eat your allowed foods when you do eat.

What helps me is that I find allowable foods that I really like— such as baked chicken thighs, or bacon strips, or deviled eggs, or cheese sandwiches on a ‘Diet Revolution’ roll or a low-carb tortilla. And of course a bulletproof coffee or a keto hot chocolate. I have these pleasure-foods every day. Because my body needs me to eat this way for life, and that won’t happen when I’m eating foods I don’t care for.

I recommend that EVERYONE on the  keto and/or low-carb lifestyle own a copy of ‘Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution,’ if only to prove to yourself that the Keto lifestyle is not just a ‘fad diet.’ It also has some good recipes such as ‘Diet Revolution’ rolls or bread. The book is on Amazon in paperback, or you may be able to score a copy at a used-book store. My hardcover edition came from a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. Get one!

Back to the 8-Minute Writing Plan

It’s happening again. Even though I intend to work on my WIP every day, I’m not writing every day. I put that writing task down on my daily to-do list right next to the ‘collect eggs from chicken pen’ and ‘wash dishes’ and ‘tend incubator,’ but I’m not actually doing my daily writing on a daily basis.

I have excuses. I’ve always been inconsistent, I have Asperger Syndrome, and I’ve had a recent stroke that messed up my life bigtime. But I should be able to get my writing habit back on track.

A few years ago, I discovered Monica Leonelle’s book, The 8-Minute Writing Habit. I’ve found it a great inspiration. Why 8 minutes? It’s a tiny block of time, even smaller than 10 minutes. It’s kind of hard to say you don’t have 8 minutes for something that’s important to you. And you can tuck in 8 minutes of anything into your day fairly easily.

Monica Leonelle advises that you do your 8 minutes as a timed writing session, or Pomodoro. Write in flow, don’t stop to ponder or to look things up in a dictionary. You can always go back and adjust those things later, when you have words on a page.

It’s good to write down your word counts for each of your 8 minute sessions. In time, you can see if you are increasing your writing speed.

To write more speedily, it helps to plan certain things out ahead of your writing sessions. Create names for characters and places, and keep these names on a list you can reference if you need to while writing. Even if you are a pantser, writing with minimal outline/planning, a few basic plans/ideas before the 8 minute session begins will help you get going and stay in flow.

You want to stay in flow, writing effortlessly, rather than in the state where you stop and start, look things up, get distracted. Do those things in a planning session beforehand or during the rewrite process. ‘Flow,’ in writing, is where you want to be.

Since I tend to trick myself by writing more than 8 minutes at a session, maybe going as long as 2 hours, I am doing a strict 8 minutes at the moment. When the timed session is done, I stop, I check off ‘8 min WIP’ off the to-do list, I write a ‘W’ on my calendar page, and I go do something else. If I want to, I can add another 8 minute session later. Right now I’m just trying to get the 8 minutes done every single day, no matter what distractions present themselves. Like broken wash machines, pregnant cats, escaped sheep— you know, life.

Now, just because I like and recommend Monica Leonelle’s book doesn’t mean I like and practice everything in it. Monica wants me to use a writing app on my cell phone to write stuff in the grocery store. OK, she hasn’t seen my grocery store, and doesn’t know that such behavior wouldn’t be accepted there. And I don’t feel like writing like that, with witnesses, anyway. I write at home on my computer, I might write elsewhere on a legal pad or composition book if I had to, but I prefer not to as that adds more work. I like to write right in my Scrivener (as I am doing at this moment, yes, I write my blog posts on a Scrivener project.)

Do you ever have problems in making your writing habit into a daily event? What has helped you to make it more regular? What hinders you?

AspieLife: Avoiding Loaded Language

People with Asperger Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are deficient in social skills, and so social interactions often tend to go bad for us and we don’t know why.

I’m hoping that most Aspies have been taught not to use direct insults against other people— like calling someone stupid or a moron for having a different opinion. No one likes to be called a whore or a mother-effer, either. These kinds of expressions are fighting words. Don’t use them unless you want to start a fight.

But loaded language can also cause problems. One kind of loaded language is composed of words that used to have meanings but now are mostly pejorative (insult words.) One loaded word is ‘fundamentalist.’ It used to mean a kind of Protestant Christian who believed in a statement of faith called ‘The Fundamentals.’ Now the word is used to mean ‘a religion, or faction within a religion, that I personally don’t like.’ Calling someone a fundamentalist is an insult and usually meant that way, if only subconsciously. Calling someone a Catholic, Muslim or Jewish fundamentalist is not only an insult, but shows the speaker doesn’t know what fundamentalist means.

Even when someone calls himself a fundamentalist, it’s better to say ‘he calls himself a fundamentalist’ than ‘he is a fundamentalist.’ The term is just too loaded to use casually.

Other loaded terms have to do with politics and social issues. For example, on the issue of abortion. When a news anchor frames the issue as people who are for or against ‘abortion rights,’ he is taking a pro-abortion point of view. On the issue of same-sex ‘marriage,’ when a news anchor says ‘marriage equality’ as Shepard Smith once did, he is taking the side that same-sex ‘marriage’ is a kind of marriage that must be recognized as such by the State.

Loaded language is language that presumes something. Recently online someone accused a political figure of having a ‘hissy fit.’ Now, no one who likes that political figure is going to agree with that terminology, and such people will likely be mad at you for your insult of the person they like.

One loaded language term of special interest to Aspies is the phrase ‘having a melt-down.’ Neurotypical people get angry or afraid, often justifiably. We Aspies are accused of having ‘melt-downs.’ Now, if we Aspies have a reaction that is more intense— or louder or more noticeable— than what a neurotypical person would do in public— that might make the term ‘melt-down’ understandable, if unkind. But if you are an Aspie, and you calmly and unemotionally point something out that another person disagrees with, you may still be accused of ‘having a melt-down.’

The best rule of thumb is to think before you speak. If you felt differently about things, would you avoid certain words? Then avoid them anyway. Try to use neutral and non-partisan terms.

But what about when other people use loaded language that offends you? The rule is ‘forgive them.’ Let other people be wrong once in a while. You are not the language police or the correctness police. You don’t have the burden of fixing all other people. Try to get along with as many people as you can. Social interaction is tough enough for Aspies as it is, don’t make it tougher by being unforgiving or demanding.

The author of this blog, Nissa Annakindt, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome later in life. Earlier I was just diagnosed as crazy or a spoiled child! If you are an aspie, have you had any interesting wrong diagnoses? Do tell (if you want to.)

#Caturday post: Julianne and Norbert

My cat Julianne used to be a very tiny cat. I could always tell her from her brother Derek, who had similar orange-and-white markings, because she was so tiny. But then Derek got Julianne pregnant.

Julianne gave birth to two kittens and got ‘stuck.’ I took her to the vet when no progress had been made. The vet gave Julianne a caesarian section to get the two dead kittens out, and neutered her. She thought Julianne was just a 6-month kitten due to her size, but she was two years old at the time.

I brought Julianne home from her surgery, but her kittens had not taken in food because they would not accept artificial feeding. Julianne was too groggy to get them started nursing, and by the time she was able to be a mommy again, her kittens were already doomed. They no longer thought of mommy as a food source. Both died.

Julianne was very sad about it. I cuddled her a lot. There were no other kittens around for her to expend maternal energy on, except for Norbert.

Norbert was six months old. She was the only-child kitten daughter of mama cat Umberto, who was herself an only-child kitten. Norbert was born on the feast day of St. Norbert, also known as D-Day, June 6th.

I solved Julianne’s problem by showing Norbert to her and saying ‘that’s your kitten.’ Julianne fell for it. She cuddled with Norbert all the time. She still does. She even cuddles with Eleanor, a younger unrelated cat who has similar calico markings to Norbert. (Norbert has a white stripe on the nose, Eleanor has a black nose and bites me to show affection.) Also, since Julianne got neutered she has grown. She no longer can ‘pass’ as a kitten, and sometimes I even mistake her for Derek when they are not together.

What about Derek? He is now the Head Tomcat in Charge. His sister Julianne doesn’t like it when he’s getting romantic with other cats, so she hisses at him when he’s being a tomcat. Derek gets along with all the other cats, now that I’ve started neutering male kittens before they get old enough to be all manly. Derek doesn’t know that if we have a really cute male kitten this year, it’s going to be him instead of the kitten that gets neutered— we need to have a young, vigorous Head Tomcat so he can chase off all the neighbor tomcats that might be coming around to eat our cat food and mate with our unneutered lady barncats.