Early Feedback

Image and Likeness

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensWhile we remain a few days out from our official release day on October 22, the feast of St. John Paul II, two readers have mailed in some early thoughts on Image and Likeness.

I’m about 30% in.

This is a powerful book. Makes me want to look for more by the contributing authors.
I’ll say the same when I do my review. But meanwhile, just wanted to give you two TWO THUMBS UP.
Barbara Szyszkiewicz, blogger at Franciscan Mom, editor at Catholic Mom
I’m still working my way through the TOB collection, but I want to tell you how impressed I’ve been with the stories. Honestly, as much as I enjoy the TOB-centered books I’ve read in the last few years, I’ve always felt that parts of them come across as slightly heavy-handed. I look past it easily, but I always have a feeling that…

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Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach Please do not use without permission

October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance.  James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 17-29). I also think about the seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven    (This article was written 21 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart
beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach  (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach  (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach  (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)


Amazing Results With the Rosary

Rosary“The holy Rosary is a powerful weapon. Use it with confidence and you’ll be amazed at the results.”
St. Josemaria Escriva

Although I grew up in a Catholic family, I learned how to say the Rosary at Catholic school. My father often said the Rosary privately, but we never recited it as a family and I rarely said it on my own before the age of 11. One evening, however, my parents were involved in a violent argument. It was my first experience at being “amazed at the results” of the powerful weapon of the holy rosary. The following is another excerpt from my novel, Emily’s Hope. It’s based on actual events and is a true illustration of Our Lady’s powerful intercession.

I listen as my parents are fighting again, fighting over bills they can’t pay. Each time my mom yells, my dad yells louder. Dad starts to throw things, not at Mom, just throwing things. I’m scared. It makes me feel anxious to see the two people I love most in the world screaming at each other. Don’t they love each other, I ask myself. Why won’t they stop yelling?

Dad just said something about moving out. Oh, God, please, I don’t want my dad to move out. Mom says good. Oh, please, Mom, don’t say that. I look at both of them but they don’t seem to see me or the panic in my eyes. They only glare at each other.

Dad goes upstairs. I run after him and watch as he gets a suitcase out and starts putting clothes in it.

God, why won’t you stop him? I pass by my bedroom and notice my rosary sitting on the bedside table. I grab it, sit down on my bed, and begin saying the rosary. As I say each Hail Mary, I plead with Our Lady, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” Please, Our Lady, don’t let my Dad walk out.

As I’m saying another Hail Mary, Dad walks by my room and doesn’t notice that I’m even there. He stomps down the steps. I can’t hear if he says bye, but I hear the door slam shut.

“Oh, God, please, make him come back.” I continue saying the rosary, each Hail Mary becoming more fervent than the last. I pray until my heart is bursting. Please, God, listen to my prayer.

I begin saying the Hail Holy Queen prayer and suddenly, I hear the door open downstairs. Without finishing, I stand at the top of the stairs and I see that my dad is standing at the doorway. Mom walks over to him. At first, they’re silent.

Then, my dad starts to cry. “I can’t leave you. I can’t leave my family.” He and Mom embrace.

I begin to cry. Thank you, God, and thank you, Our Lady, for bringing my daddy back.

My parents remained married until my father’s death eight years later. He was buried with his rosary in his hands.

Emily’s Hope is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. The novel’s website includes reviews, an excerpt, a synopsis and a radio interview.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Feast of the Holy Rosary – Prayers of Love

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Since today is the Feast of the Holy Rosary, I’d like to share an article I wrote and that has also been published on Catholic 365. “When lovers are together, they spend hours and hours repeating the same thing: I love you! What is missing in the people who think the Rosary monotonous, is Love.” Sister Lucia of Fatima

I have been a Catholic for my entire life, but it is only in the last 30 or so years that I have had a devotion to the Holy Rosary. I attended Catholic schools until seventh grade. As a teenager, I would have identified myself as Catholic, but between television and secular influences, I didn’t totally embrace my faith until after I was married. This was only because my husband insisted that we refrain from using contraception during our marriage.

As we dialogued back and forth in those few months before our wedding day, I didn’t know or understand why the Church taught that married couples shouldn’t use contraception to avoid pregnancy. In fact, I remember thinking that the Church just ought to come out of the Dark Ages and get more in line with the modern world.

In the end, however, I decided to trust my husband (and the Church). In the next year, we read Humanae Vitae, as well as other church documents, and I became fully convinced that the Church was indeed speaking the truth when she declared that contraception was a grave sin. Before we were married, we learned Natural Family Planning and we are now a CCL NFP Teaching Couple Specialist (and have been teaching NFP for 33 years).

During that first year of our marriage, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door. My husband and I welcomed them and dialogued with them. Most of their questions centered on Mary: “Why do Catholics worship Mary?” “Why do you say such a monotonous repetitive prayer?” “Why is Mary so important to Catholics?” First, we gently explained to them that Catholics don’t worship Mary; we honor her. As for the other questions, I realized that I didn’t really know the answers, so I did some research.

To the question “Why is Mary so important to Catholics,” what I found out could probably fill an entire book. However, my own thumbnail answer is this: Jesus honored his mother. We, as Catholics, are called imitate Christ. He honored his mother and we should do the same. Also, as Jesus hung on the cross, He gave his mother to the whole world when He said to John, “Behold your mother.”

Mary is indeed our mother and, as our mother, she desires us to be closer to her Son. The Rosary is the ideal way for us to become closer to Him, because as we say the repetitive prayers (with love), we are meditating on His life.

I have found that saying the Rosary has brought me closer to my husband and to Christ. Even after 34 years of marriage, we continue to say “I love you,” just as we continue to say the rosary together, with love.

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – October #openbook

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.  Here’s what I’ve been reading this month:


Most Highly-Favored Daughter by Janice Palko

I really enjoyed this romantic suspense novel.  It was engaging and interesting and kept me turning the pages.  It especially touches on the topic of sexual trafficking and mentions St. Josephine Bakhito, who, like so many young women/girls in the Middle East and all over the world, was kidnapped and sold in sexual slavery.  It’s a difficult read at times because of the topic, but well done.


A Travel Guide to Life by Anthony DeStefano

This book has been on my “To Read” shelf since CMN of 2015.  But I’m finally glad I started reading it. This is a beautifully written, how-to manual on what’s important in our lives and to focus on our heavenly goal.  I was pretty surprised to see this celebrity’s review about this book, but I totally agree with her review: “Move over, Dr. Phil! Anthony DeStefano’s advice on how to turn your problem-filled life into something to celebrate is bare-bones, no-holds barred, no bull and spot-on brilliant.”  Kathie Lee Gifford, Co-Host, NBC’s Today show


A Pilgrimage of Hope: A Story of Faith and Medicine by Mary McArthy

Beautiful story of how cancer impacted one family’s life. From the author: “The memoirs capture the frightening details in a crash course with cancer and the possible treatments for this disease. Despite the cancer diagnosis, I found myself being called closer to God. I wanted to share my physical and spiritual journey with others so that when they are challenged, they will have some guidance in how to respond. With recovery in mind, my spiritual growth deepened as I aligned my will with the will of God.”


Day by Day for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: 365 Reflections by Susan Tassone

I met the enthusiastic and feisty author, Susan Tassone, at the CMN recently when I picked up her new book, the St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.  Susan has been called “The Purgatory Lady,” and for good reason. She asserts that when we pray for souls to get out of purgatory, they will return the favor and pray for us when we need it. The blurb for this books says: “Every day we have another opportunity to pray for the holy souls in purgatory – author, speaker, and purgatory expert Susan Tassone gives you a unique tool to do just that. God has given us the duty, power and privilege of praying for the release of the holy souls. Now Susan Tassone has given you a powerful way to accomplish that mission.”

Interview with Karina Fabian, Author of Discovery

karina-fabian-headshot-aug-20131. It’s interesting that your novel, Discovery, is spiritually minded but also firmly positioned within the world of science. Was it a challenge to integrate the religious and scientific aspects of your book?

Not at all. Catholics have always been involved in science and exploration. It seems logical to me that they’d be part of the colonization of space, too. Harder for me was just learning enough science to make all the characters sound like they are experts in the field. I had a few very intelligent friends help me out. It’s so good to know people who are smarter than me!

2. Discovery’s plot follows over 10 important characters and many other secondary characters. What would you say are the pro’s and con’s of writing so many personalities, or personal stories, into an epic adventure such as yours?

I remember the movie, Amadeus, where Mozart said, “In a play if more than one person speaks at the same time, it’s just noise, no one can understand a word. But with opera, with music… with music you can have twenty individuals all talking at the same time, and it’s not noise, it’s a perfect harmony!” I wasn’t intending to write music, literarily speaking, but I do feel Discovery has a certain harmony.

The thing is, it’s a big mission and a big ship. Not populating it with a large cast of characters would have been a greater challenge, if only because I’d be going nuts trying to justify the interplanetary navigator as also a reputable researcher in propulsion systems. Then, the characters all had stories and secrets that affected each other. I couldn’t leave them behind or I’d have had a lot of strawmen propping up the couple of main characters.

It helped, too, that this book was written and rewritten, torn apart, revised and written again over the course of eight years. They had time to test out relationships, find their harmonies, and create their own music.

In the end, I think the bigger challenge was my editor’s, helping me see which character stories could be cut without gutting the book. I think James Hrkach did an excellent job.

3. Without giving away too much, what kind of faith challenges do Discovery’s Catholic characters encounter in the novel?

In many ways, it’s all the same challenge, manifested in different ways, and it’s the same challenge we all face: How do we get beyond ourselves to live the life God intended for us. Some of the characters must conquer insecurities; others, pride; still others, their own selfish will. Those that are able to do so find great rewards – love, peace, the secrets of their past – while others that cling to the fullness of their human flaws put the mission in jeopardy.

4. Would you say that between the focus on religion, space travel and the diversity of so many characters in different occupations, that Discovery was a ‘research heavy’ writing project?

Yes! Especially, Sister Ann. It took me more research time just to enable her to have a simple conversation than it did to get the Edwina Taggert to Pluto! It’s a little intimidating writing a supergenius mystic whose also what we’d call Asperger’s. For most of the characters and situations, the research is more background, influencing but not directly shown. With Ann, it’s all right there, tied into complex crazy knots that actually do make sense, though sometimes in retrospect.

However, I will add that I don’t research nearly as much as many authors I know. My modus operandi is to learn enough to get started, start writing, and research to fill in the blanks as I go. For example, I needed to know how the VASIMR drive worked, but only enough to approximate the acceleration and travel time and give a basic engine room design to describe. I know some friends who use Minecraft to actually build their ships.

I have a friend writing a novel right now, where a science fiction writer has to stop aliens he’s imagined from destroying the earth. But he’s having a hard time sabotaging their ship because he didn’t clearly imagine exactly how the engine room looked like. That would be me! (The book, Immortal Creators by Jill Bowers, comes out sometimes late next year, I think.)

5. Tell us about how you dealt with imagining what daily life, recreation and work would be like so many years into the future…and so far away from earth.

Artificial gravity took care of a lot of the problems of daily living, so that was a little bit of a cheat. Some of it was playing with trends – video games became virtual reality, but with physical and emotional stimulation; thus the Edwina Taggert hologames, which is VR Lora Croft. The cruise ship, Edwina Taggert, is basically a Disney Cruise ship that goes to Saturn. Incidentally, there is a Disneyland on the moon – LunaDisney.

Splat was fun to come up with. I wanted a sport that was a true zero gravity sport, not just basketball or quidditch with microgravity. The idea of its zerog origin helped me come up with some new rules and the challenge of making it competitive and cooperative was fun to work on.

One thing I loved about Firefly was the mixing of languages plus new words and repurposed old ones through slang. While I didn’t use Chinese, I did grab some words from 2001: Space Odyssey, and 2010.

6. Speaking of the future, do you see yourself continuing as a sci-fi author? Does the world of Discovery offer more adventure in future novels?

discovery-front-finalRight now, I have a dragon detective who’s tired of being neglected, so I need to get at least two books written for him. The DragonEye series has at least a 12-book story arc, plus stories and novellas. I just need to get cracking!

But I would love to explore more with the Rescue Sisters. The world is complex, with at least one interstellar war, a human subspecies to add intrigue, huge political and economical things to consider. Then you have the 20-plus characters whose stories we just touched upon.

I’ve already got a short story about Sister Thomas meeting up with her former fiancé, Reece, who she thought was killed in the Ring Wars. He’s going to get bruised jaw when he shows up calling her, “Taxi.” OvLandra need to return to her people, and Sister Ann has to help her. I’ve been thinking about bilocation for that. James has to decide the direction of his life. Oh, and we still have an entire alien ship to explore!

Right now, it’s all whisps and whispers, but it’ll percolate. I’d be interested in hearing from readers, too, about what stories resonated most, what questions the felt need answers and who they most want to see again.

To check out the other interviews, reviews and posts for this Virtual Book Tour, click here for all the stops and links!

To buy the book on Kindle, click here.

To buy the book in print, click here.