Sunday Snippets – November 24

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets where we share posts from the previous week and answer a weekly question. I won’t be posting to my blog this week as I will be away for Thanksgiving celebrating with extended family in New Jersey.

Not surprising for this time of year up here in the Ottawa Valley, it snowed yesterday. Not flurries, like had been predicted, but eight centimeters of snow. It was treacherous driving, especially since I had borrowed my mother-in-law’s car (no winter tires). Although the roads had been newly-plowed, it was white-knuckle driving for about 15 kilometers. Once home, we were able to enjoy the beautiful white sparkling snow.snow

This week’s question: For what are you most thankful this year?

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.) I’m extremely thankful for my husband. I feel so blessed to have a husband who makes small and large sacrifices on a daily basis and who loves me unconditionally.Smfamily photo2012

“Let love and faithfulness never leave my children, but bind these twin virtues around their necks and write them on the tablet of their hearts.” (Proverbs 3:3) I am also grateful for the love of my children!

What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving week? Feel free to comment below.

Here is my one and only post for this week, “50 Years Later,” my reflections on the anniversary of the JFK assassination.

50 Years Later

Text and photos copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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50 Years Later

copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” John F. Kennedy

Today marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Much like 9/11, many of those who were alive at that time remember the moment they learned of the tragic murder of the president. I was four years old, so I don’t remember the exact moment, but I’m going to guess that I was taking a nap when the news hit our house. I do remember my mother crying and I recall realizing that something bad had happened. Our television set hummed continuously for four days with live coverage of the assassination updates, the replays of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald (the first murder captured live on television) and then the funeral.

What is ingrained most vividly in my memory is the steady beating of the muffled drums of the funeral procession as the caisson carried the casket up the streets of Washington.

Mom and Dad adored JFK: he was charismatic, young and, most importantly, Catholic. My father, an aspiring author, had read (and I believe owned) a copy of JFK’s book, Profiles in Courage. Soon after the assassination, my heartbroken parents hung this framed photo in a prominent place in our living room and JFK became an icon to me; he seemed more of a legend than a president, one who was respected and revered by my parents.

Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the conspiracy theories regarding his death. I do not think all the shots came from Oswald. I still wince when I see the Zapruder film, especially at the fatal shot (WARNING:GRAPHIC). I tense when I see footage of President and Mrs. Kennedy (dressed in the now famous pink suit) emerge from the plane at Love Field in Dallas and part of me wants to shout, “Don’t get in that limousine!”

50 years later, we know things my parents didn’t at that time. My mother, upon finding out about JFK’s illicit liaisons many years afterwards said, “I don’t care what he did behind closed doors. He was still a damned good president.”

His personal immoral behavior aside, no one deserves to die like that. And his death was rather a hard lesson for Americans. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor before it and 9/11 after it, November 22nd, 1963 be will forever etched in our minds as a stark reminder of our vulnerability and mortality.

While we may feel invulnerable; we aren’t. Someday we will die, perhaps suddenly like JFK, or after a long illness. Eventually, we will all have to face God and explain the choices we made in this life.

For John F. Kennedy, his life was tragically cut short by that final bullet that tore his brain apart. However, his legacy and his words live on.

50 years later, I pray for his soul: “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. And may his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.”

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Don’t You Forget About Me: Free Today Through Thursday

Don't You Forget About Me FTcasefrontcoverErin McCole Cupp’s new book, Don’t You Forget About Me, is free today through Thursday on Kindle.

“Don’t You Forget About Me…is a rollicking fun and exciting cozy murder mystery. I found it genuine and fascinating in every way: the characters, the setting, the plot, and the twists. The author’s strong and clever command of the written language makes this book an entertaining page-turner. Don’t You Forget About Me is well- plotted with never a dull moment. From a narrow escape from a window, to a gunfire-in-the-woods scene, this novel will have you reading with bated breath. Fans of Christian fiction will particularly enjoy the elements of faith that add to the richness of the story without hampering the plot. Fallen away from the Catholic faith of her childhood, Cate encounters not preaching, but simple, strong faith in action, even in the face of deadly adversity. I recommend this highly-enjoyable, cozy, clean, lively mystery to all readers!” Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author, Frozen Footprints

“Mary Catherine Whelihan leaves her hometown– and the gruesome memory of discovering a dead body– to become a successful author. When she reluctantly shows up for her class reunion, she finds herself running for her life. Don’t You Forget About Me is a quirky, fun, mystery-romance that will tickle your funny bone while making your hair stand on end.” AnnMarie Creedon, author, Angela’s Song “This captivating murder mystery made me laugh, cry, and crave Italian food; ‘80s pop tunes are still stuck in my head. If you like mysteries that offer a good mix of suspense and science, don’t miss this book.” Barb Szyszkiewicz, “Franciscan Mom”

“As a reader whose preferred genre is non-fiction, I hardly expected to find myself so completely engrossed in Don’t You Forget About Me. The book has all the elements of a good novel, with its principal charm resting in Erin McCole-Cupp’s affable and believable characters. I read Don’t You Forget About Me in a single sitting, and then put the book down with the wistful feeling of someone departing a gathering of friends.” Celeste Behe, writer

“It’s easy to identify and sympathize with protagonist Cate Whelihan as she returns to her hometown and faces not only the classmates who bullied her in school but also her junior high sweetheart and fellow nerd, Gene. But before the might-have-been couple has time to ponder the what-might-yet-be, scary things start to happen. Suspicious deaths. High incidence of cancer among Cate’s classmates. Living in denial by some. Fear of speaking out by others. Should Cate and her ex even bother trying to help the people who rejected them so many years ago? Readers will be chuckling one moment as Cate tries to wisecrack her way through social awkwardness, and biting nails the next as she faces threats, corrupt police, and the business end of a gun.”
Daria Sockey, Author, ‘The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours’

“I could not put the book down! What a fast-paced, intriguing, captivating story line – full of surprises! The characters are so very real … Do yourself a favor …. crack open your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me. You will be glad that you did.” Mike Seagriff, Author

To download Don’t You Forget About Me Free on Kindle, click here.

Sunday Snippets – November 17

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Image copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach

Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at RAnn’s Place for Sunday Snippets where we share out previous week’s posts and answer a weekly question.

This week’s question from RAnn: What religious artifacts (statues, pictures, icons, altars, etc) would I find in your home if I stopped in for a visit?

My answer: We have a huge assortment of religious artifacts, crucifixes in just about every room: pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, icons of both Jesus and Mary that we purchased when in Europe, a picture of Madonna of the Streets and a framed picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Here are my previous week’s posts:

7 Quick Takes Friday – A Subtle Grace Edition

A Subtle Grace Excerpt

7 Quick Takes Friday – A Subtle Grace Edition

7_quick_takes_sm1Please join me and other Catholic bloggers at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday!

Today’s edition? Everything you ever wanted to know about my upcoming novel, A Subtle Grace.

1. Final Cover Finished
James worked hard on finishing the cover. One of the things he changed was the floor (he turned the modern looking carpet into an old-fashioned hardwood floor). Well done!
A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013

2. Synopsis
1896 (Philadelphia)
In this sequel to In Name Only (FQP, 2009), A Subtle Grace continues the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan Family as they approach the dawn of a new century.
When Kathleen (oldest daughter) meets the handsome and charming son of the local police chief, she is convinced that he is the sweetheart for whom she has been waiting. Unforeseen events soon reveal the answer. William (oldest son) believes that God may be calling him to a religious vocation. When he discovers the circumstances of his humble beginnings, his belief turns to doubt and eventually he embarks on a pilgrimage to Rome. Dr. Luke Peterson is the kind, caring – and somewhat nontraditional – new physician in town. His enduring love of a local woman leads him to startling revelations: about the girl, about his practice and, most importantly, about himself.

3. Excerpt!!!
Check out yesterday’s post to read a long excerpt from the beginning of the novel.

4. Villain
One of the big differences between this book and In Name Only is a villain. In Name Only didn’t really have a villain (although some might argue that David and Liam’s father was a villain). A Subtle Grace most definitely has an antagonist.

5. Less Death
Okay, so I do listen to readers. One of the biggest complaints about In Name Only is that there were too many deaths. However, in my defense, I was going for realism and death was an every-day part of life in the 19th century. A Subtle Grace does contain deaths, but not nearly as many as In Name Only and I think readers will be pleased.

6. Mature Themes
Like In Name Only, this novel deals with mature themes. Target audience is age 16 and above. A Subtle Grace deals with the following situations: attempted rape, obsession, stalking, fornication, prostitution. First and foremost, though, it is a love story.

7. Book Three
There will be a third (and final) book in this series and the outline is currently being developed. I hope it doesn’t take another five years, though.

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

A Subtle Grace Excerpt

A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013A Subtle Grace, the soon-to-be released sequel to In Name Only, is moving along in the editing process. The final cover image is completed. The copy-editor, proofreaders, medical expert, spiritual director and gun experts will be helping me with this manuscript in the coming weeks.

The following is an excerpt from the beginning of the novel. To read a synopsis, click here.

I just witnessed another human being coming into the world.

Kathleen’s head sunk deeply into her feather pillow as she stared upward. Her oil lamp, as always, was dimly lit and projected a small yellow circle onto the ceiling. Kathleen had always despised the blackness that surrounded her at night. Keeping the lamp aglow meant that she never had to endure the black night. She wasn’t sure why, but she felt safer when there was light, even a flicker.

She tossed back and forth as sleep eluded her. How could she possibly rest — or sleep — after what she had just experienced? And would she see other births at nursing school?

While she looked forward to college, she wished that her non-marital state hadn’t necessitated her making a decision to attend post-secondary school. She would have been happy to be married at this age, but thus far, no eligible bachelor — at least one with whom Kathleen approved — had shown serious interest.

The clock downstairs struck quarter past three. Her brothers hadn’t wakened during the night – Mama had kept fairly quiet during the birthing – but in the morning, they would all be excited to discover they had a new sibling.

For the moment, Kathleen thought of her own vocation, of which she was certain was marriage and motherhood. At 19, her “coming out” reception early last year was a tremendous success. Two of her friends from high school, Margaret and Anne, had already married. Kathleen was beginning to think she might become a spinster or, heaven forbid, an “old maid.” Therefore, it was essential to meet her future husband immediately. Of course, after seeing firsthand what her mother just went through, Kathleen questioned whether she would have the high endurance for pain her mother obviously possessed.

Turning up the lamp, she got out of bed and sat at her desk. She reached deep inside the top drawer for her journal.

At the front, she kept the tintype portrait of her mother and her “real” father, Papa’s brother, Liam, at his wedding to her mother. Mama had given her the photo when she was 12, explaining that her first husband had died and that she had married his brother. Over the years, she had learned that Liam was a fine, godly man who had died in a carriage accident before Kathleen was born. Staring at his face, she concluded that he was a handsome man with light hair, which Kathleen obviously had inherited from him. When she was a toddler, her blonde hair was so light, it was almost white. Now, of course, her hair was a darker blonde.

She pulled out a small holy card with a picture of St. Agnes holding a lamb.

St. Agnes, where is my sweetheart? Please send him to me soon!

St. Agnes, patron and martyr, had become Kathleen’s favorite saint a few years previous. In the fourth century, Agnes’ virginity was preserved despite the young girl being stripped naked and taken to a brothel to be violated by a group of men after she turned down one man’s proposal of marriage. The saint was saved when most of the men could not go through with the heinous act. The man who wanted to forcibly marry her was struck blind. She was eventually martyred.

Kathleen paged through the earlier entries until she came to January 20th of last year, on the eve of St. Agnes’ Feast Day, where she wrote down a prayer/poem to St. Agnes.

January 20th, 1895
Now good St. Agnes, play thy part,
And send to me my own sweetheart,
And show me such a happy bliss,
This night of him to have a kiss.

On that January day a year and a half ago, she had recited the prayer, then had finally drifted to sleep. Indeed, she had dreamt of a man.

His face was blurry like an Impressionist painting, except with less detail. The man leaned in to kiss her, a soft kiss that gently brushed her lips. Immediately, Kathleen knew that this was her beloved. She couldn’t explain how, but she knew that this man’s heart was pure and true and good. All of a sudden, he vanished. In his place was a blue and green hummingbird hovering above her. How would she recognize her sweetheart if she could only see his heart?

Excerpt from A Subtle Grace, copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Finding Grace by Laura Pearl

Finding GraceAuthor Laura Pearl and I have a lot in common. As she says on her blog, “I wanted to write a book that shows that the Catholic Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex are not only good for one’s immortal soul, but also just make sense and make life simpler and happier.” That sounds a lot like me when asked why I wrote my first novel. As well, we both know the joys of raising five sons. It was my pleasure to meet Laura (and her husband, Tim) recently at the Catholic Writers Conference Live in New Jersey.

Laura’s novel, Finding Grace, is a coming-of-age story of a girl named Grace Kelly and her journey as a teenager of the 70’s in small town America. This novel deals with some mature themes (Roe v. Wade, abortion, pre-marital sex) but it does so with sensitivity and without explicit details so teens regardless of faith background will enjoy it.

For those of us who grew up in the 70’s, I related to much of what Grace went through and the author captures the atmosphere of that decade well. In fact, I knew a Grace Kelly during my high school years. (I also knew a Rudy Valentino and an Elizabeth Taylor and marveled at how parents could do such a thing to their kids…)

The characters and story line were believable and well-defined. If I were to use one word to describe this book, it would be “Epic.” Epic (a word teens use to describe something cool) but it is also epic in size. As other reviewers have mentioned, this is not a short read. Special thanks to the author, who gifted me with a Kindle edition. I was able to read this book in a larger font (I struggled with the print book’s tiny font) and I must say, it was a much more enjoyable experience!

Finding Grace is available on Kindle and in paperback.

Check out Laura’s blog too!

Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach