Synopsis: Erick and Addie Comghan have a good life in Boston. When the baby they have longed for is born, the unimaginable happens—Elizabeth goes missing the day after her baptism at St. Francis Parish. Father Tom and Angelo are pulled in to help solve the mystery of her disappearance in a race against time and the complicated dynamics of the relationships involved. Stolen Blessing is the third book in the Father Tom Series and is a story that offers suspense, intrigue, and a journey of love, redemption, and forgiveness.
What a great read! I loved the plot, I loved the ending. This story speaks to all of us about the depth of the human spirit and our capacity to love and forgive. Like every human family, our imperfections make us who we are and will help to shape who we ultimately become in the future. This is a moving story of faith, hope, love, and forgiveness that will resonate with every reader! Andrea D. Hoisl, Director of Office of Faith Events, Diocese of Norwich
Stolen Blessings kept me guessing – who did it? why? how? But beyond the mystery, it offers a prescription for the familial wounds that threaten to steal the peace we all crave. Carolyn Astfalk, Award-winning Contemporary Catholic fiction author of All in Good Time
Jim Sano’s Stolen Blessing provides more than just an entertaining whodunnit with endearing characters. His story gives us rich layers of humanness, moral failings, grace, and a few subtle messages that are there for us —if we are paying attention. Margot Hill, Deputy Superintendent, Ret. Boston Police Department
Stolen Blessing is a wonderfully written mystery and the third story of the excellent Father Tom series. The characters will draw you in and keep you hooked throughout this deeply moving story and make you stop to think about life. Father Tom is an amazing character, and I hope we get books featuring him for years to come. Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews and More
Today, I’m participating in Amanda Lauer’s Anything But Groovy Virtual Book Tour.
What was the inspiration for Anything But Groovy?
I was inspired to write Anything But Groovy because I have vivid memories of my growing up years in the 1970s and wanted to craft a story about how someone back then was able to overcome adversity during her junior high school years. This evolved from a memoire to a time-travel story because I wanted this to be a book that would be enjoyed equally by teens in this day and age and those people who were children of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
This book is very different from your previous books (Heaven Intended Series: historical romance) because it’s a time travel book set in current times and in the 1970s. Are the characters based on real people and is this story based on actual events that happened? Or are the characters and events mostly fictional?
Like any book I write, characters are based loosely on people that I’ve known throughout my lifetime. The events are based in part on things that I experienced in my growing up years. That being said, I’ll stick with the disclaimer from the front of the book: This book is a work of fiction. Although the setting for this novel takes place in the 1970s, some of the names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Real events and characters are used fictitiously.
I really enjoyed the TV, music, toy and food references that really transport the reader back to those days. Do you have a great memory or did you use a diary/journal to write about all those 70s references?
Thank you, I enjoyed reliving the pop-culture references myself! (Man, we watched a lot of TV, considering we only had three channels to choose from!) I do have my diaries from my growing up years, but, to be honest, I did not reference even one of them when writing the book. For some reason, my experiences from my junior high years are seared into my brain. Maybe I tucked them away because I knew in my heart that some day I’d write a book about that critical time in my life.
What do you hope the reader will take away from reading Anything But Groovy?
I hope this book will be an enjoyable blast-from-the-past for people who lived through those years, an eye-opening read for teens in this day and age to see what life was like for their parents and grandparents growing up in the “Wonder Years,” and that this will be a book that different generations will read together to create some conversations about the joys and challenges of growing up, no matter in which era.
You are a contributor to another book just released titled Treasures: Visible and Invisible. What is the name of your story and can you give us a brief synopsis?
My story is Lucky and Blessed which tells the tale of two teens, Ambrose and Honora, living in 1540 during the Reformation, and how they help each other make it through a difficult time. There’s a good chance that this will be a full-length novel somewhere down the road.
Who are some of your favorite authors and what do you like about their books?
As a huge fan of history, historic fiction is my preferred genre, and I was first introduced to it by some very talented authors who specialized in “bodice-rippers.” I’ve always preferred clean romance, so I was so happy to be introduced to the Catholic Writers Guild. There are some outstanding authors in that group. It would be hard to name every author that I admire from that group, but here’s a shout out to one of my favorites, Ellen Gable, who writes the style of books that I truly enjoy reading.
Are you working on any other writing projects? If so, what are they?
There’s always something on the drawing board! I just finished writing the fourth book in my Heaven Intended series called A Freedom Such as Heaven Intended. A Faith Such as Heaven Intended will be next up. Right now I’m in the beginning stages of a time travel book where a teenage girl working at a golf course is hit by lightning and travels back in time to the oldest golf course in the world, St. Andrews, and has to learn to navigate life and love during the late 1600s. Lucky and Blessed will be expanded when time permits. In addition, I’m working on a screenplay for a movie and pursuing turning the Heaven Intended series into a set of movies or a limited-run television show on a streaming service.
Today, I interview RL Martin, author of Refreshing Jutta, published recently by Full Quiver Publishing.
EG: Where did you get the idea for Refreshing Jutta?
RLM: I was listening to Al Cresta one day on Catholic Radio talking about the possibility of medicine reaching a point where people will not have to die. I wondered what would prevent the really wealthy from keeping the treatments to themselves. What life would be like living under these transhuman people who are 150 years old or so. How far would they go to live indefinitely? Would they kill others to keep themselves alive? This kind of thing is happening in China right now. Organ harvesting is a big business. So, I created a world where the common people like you and I are given a near perfect environment. We don’t have to work much or suffer. We can spend all our time playing and doing pleasurable activities. Nothing sexual is taboo. The only catch is that when we start to wonder if there’s more to life, we get in trouble. Our transhuman leaders don’t need us asking pesky religious or philosophical questions. Those questions just make us unmanageable. Better we spend our time playing games and otherwise being distracted from anything at all that matters. Kind of like the world we’re in today. We have these smartphones that are with us now 24 hours a day. So, I imagined the evolution of the smartphones as being PASbots that monitor our moods and make sure we’re not thinking anything too deep or questioning why we’re here. I think our technology has pretty much done that. It’s distracted us from our true purpose, which is to be in relationship with our Creator.
EG: Have you always been interested in science fiction?
RLM: I’ve never been a huge science fiction buff. I’m not into science fiction just for the sake of science fiction. I prefer stories that are kind of thought experiments about what might happen if humans do eventually get certain technologies. In other words, the best science fiction, in my mind, provides cautionary tales about what might happen if we keep going down whatever path we’re on. That’s what Bradbury was doing with “There will come soft rains,” you know, thinking about what will happen as a result of our nuclear weapons obsession in the 50s. Or Huxley’s Brave New World and of course Orwell’s 1984. Very prescient, I might add, looking at what’s going on these days with censorship and our media. It’s Newspeak and Big Brother, for sure. I wouldn’t consider myself a real science fiction buff. I never really got into Asimov or the like. But I do like it if it’s a good cautionary tale. I believe the original Star Wars was really good. George Lucas used the “Hero’s Journey” that Joseph Campbell came up with. And I tried to follow that pattern with Refreshing Jutta as well.
EG: What do you hope the reader will take away from Refreshing Jutta?
RLM: The literary criticism class I took in college would say that we shouldn’t be concerned with what the author intended but with what meaning we make of the text. I do believe that the reader works with the text to create their own meaning. And great writers, like Faulkner if I remember correctly (or was it Hemmingway?), refused to say what they meant by their writings. They were interested in hearing what others made of their work. Well, I won’t pretend to be a Faulkner or a Hemmingway, so I’ll just tell you what I want readers to get out of the book. What I meant to say with Jutta is that I believe the world is a sort of saint factory. It’s not meant to be comfortable and we were not meant to live here forever in this current body. We’re meant to be on this Earth to learn to love God. It reminds me of the poem “The little black boy” by William Blake.
And we are put on earth a little space / That we may learn to bear the beams of love, / For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear / The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice. / Saying: come out from the grove my love & care, / And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.
Any attempt to change the true purpose of creation, which is to make saints who will commune with God eternally, always ends up being destructive, no matter how good our intentions are.
EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
RLM: Flannery O’Connor. I don’t know why. I always loved her stuff. She was weird and quirky. I read her Violent Bear it Away in college and thought she was cooky, but in a good way. At that time, I had no idea what Catholicism was all about. It wasn’t until I became a Catholic almost 20 years later and was teaching Literature at the community college that her work had a full impact on me. When I taught her short stories, like “Revelation” I just couldn’t help but get excited and even laugh at the ending. The students thought I was weird. They were probably right.
Others: TS Elliot, JRR Tolkien (see why I use my initials?) Ursula K Le Guin, John Steinbeck, Dostoevsky…I guess the writers I like most are the ones who give me something to think about. Le Guin’s story, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” inspired the opening scene of Jutta.
EG: Are you working on any other writing projects? If so, what are they?
RLM: I started a new book before Covid hit, but I never could get back to it. It was going to be a love story between a white woman and a Chinese man in 1883 Tacoma, leading up to the expulsion of the Chinese from Tacoma. But when Covid hit, it just didn’t seem like such an important topic, and I’ve been more concerned with blogging about current events. Oh, and I teach full-time now at a middle school, so there’s not a lot of time to write creatively. I did finish a book after Jutta about a kid who gets thrown overboard in the Pacific ocean and ends up surviving on all the trash out there. I think it turned out pretty good but probably needs edits.
To purchase Refreshing Jutta, click here. It is available as an ebook and paperback.
Allison Wajert Venini is the author of Authenticity, which was published by FQP last Fall.
EG: Where did you get the idea for Authenticity?
AWV: I had an idea of a well-known and working actor asking an ingenue why she was compelled to be involved in the craft of acting. Sometimes, stories come to me, although there is a point of entry before I find it in whole. There had been much attention brought to certain celebrities, particularly young actors who were prominent in the eighties. Several turned to substances and subsequently became addicts. I am speculating, but I think some of them were exploited. They were surrounded by people who used them.
EG: Your book focuses on a close friendship between a famous actor and a background actress. Do you have any experience in the acting field?
AWV: I have experience in acting in several mediums. I have a degree in theatre acting, as well. The body of work, if you could even phrase it as such, has been broad, but on a small scale. I do not think you would recognize me from anything. I would hate getting typecast, but if I was typecast as anything, it was the victim. I consider myself as being a quiet person, but I know how to scream.
EG: Have you always been interested in literature? What drew you to writing a story with Theology of the Body themes?
AWV: I am a bibliophile. Growing up, I read novels instead of interacting with my peers at recess. The books were more inviting and inclusive than my classmates, I found. I wanted to write a story of faith, primarily. Theology of the Body has far-reaching applications; one experiences life through the body. Our decisions, often realized physically upon ourselves or upon others, impact our souls. Chastity is a virtue prevalent in the story. The protagonist’s virtue is challenged, tested, and even attacked. I believe in platonic love, and did not find it depicted between opposite sexes in literature very often.
EG: What do you hope the reader will take away from Authenticity?
AWV: What a lovely question! I am grateful when someone invests the time to read Authenticity. Hopefully, he or she will have learned a little bit about the arts, and that the people behind the art are not automatically pedantic and aloof.
EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
AWV: Growing up, I read quite a bit of Torey Hayden, who is a non-fiction writer. She taught children who were deemed unfit for a regular classroom setting, often because of disability or psychological disorders. She was remarkable, and so were the children who had to, with guidance, make better lives for themselves. With children, their circumstances are out of their control, so you hope that they are in a place where they can thrive. My tastes are broad, but I have read a lot of apocalypse fiction, so Michael O’Brien’s Children of the Last Days, especially Father Elijah, captivated me. I read Steven King’s The Stand. I did read Left Behind at the peak of its popularity, but I was disappointed that Catholics were among those “left.” I found it to be unnecessarily divisive. The last book I read that I truly loved is The Buried Giant by Sir Kazuo Ishiguro. It is a love story between an elderly married couple. There are many books devoted to young love, but not nearly as many touching upon sustained love. Sir Ishiguro writes in a range of genres, so he has the ability to reach many.
EG: Are you working on any other writing projects? If so, what are they?
AWV: It all depends upon having time to write! If I do not complete it, then I hope someone puts out a novel regarding souls in Purgatory. They are too often ignored, and that is reflected in the novels being published.
Click here to read an excerpt, reviews and a synopsis of Authenticity.
Today I’m participating in An Open Book with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom.com. Here’s what I’ve been reading or working on this past month:
Amazon Synopsis: In 2018, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released an 11-page testimony that rocked the world. In it, he called out the corruption of the Church, especially with regards to its handling of the sexual abuse crisis—addressing most specifically the case of disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick—and stunningly called for the resignation of Pope Francis. And then he was gone . . . at least physically. In these pages, longtime Vatican journalist Robert Moynihan, publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine, brings to bear his vast experience in the corridors of power in Rome as well as his longstanding friendship with Vigano to produce a book that both provides an incisive look at the content of the Testimony itself, but also, through interviews conducted in-person with Vigano at undisclosed locations, a personal look at the man whose conscience compelled him to speak out about the “filth” in which the Church he loves and to which he has given his life, has been mired for years. Part thriller, as when Moynihan details his efforts to reach Vigano and makes his way to their meeting, and part personal memoir as both men reflect on their lives, families, and the state of the Church in the world, Finding Vigano has something for everyone. Readers familiar with the Vigano saga will appreciate the insights into the man provided through the interviews, while those unfamiliar with the drama of the Testimony will, after reading, have a better understanding of the key issues and players involved.
My review: This is a compelling book and, as the description says, it’s part-thriller because of Vigano’s unknown location. It’s also a disturbing book with allegations from someone who knows what’s going on inside the Vatican. Moynihan also takes Vigano’s testimony and gives reflections on it. This book is difficult to read, but I highly recommend it. My only criticism is the more-than-a-few typos (I’m guessing that is because the book was published quickly). It could’ve used more fresh eyes. 4/5.
Synopsis: A guide to entering into the mystery and celebration of Lent and Easter
Catherine Doherty leads us into the riches of God’s boundless mercy as she teaches us the spirit, the liturgy, and the customs of the Lent and Easter season, including:
Practical guidance on preparing for the internal spiritual pilgrimage that is Lent.
Meditations on the meanings of the many holy days preceding and following Easter.
Traditions and customs which will help your family live the holiness of the Easter season.
After-dinner talks by Catherine Doherty, spiritual readings around the dining room table — on the spirit, liturgy and customs of Lent, Holy Week, the Easter Triduum and Paschaltide.
Catherine speaks on such topics as how to Prepare for Lent; Why Fasting; The Motive is Love; Sin, Repentance, Conversion. Also on Palm (Passion) Sunday; Holy Week; Holy Thursday: Priesthood and Eucharist; Good Friday; Holy Saturday: Christ’s Descent into Hades; and Christ is Risen! Then Paschaltime and Christ’s Ascension, Pentecost. A rich tapestry of scriptural reflections and Customs and Traditions to bring it all to life!
Excellent for personal and group study.
A wonderful resource for preachers and teachers!
My review: This is another excellent book by Catherine Doherty and one of my favorite books to read during Lent. Highly recommend!
Amazon Synopsis: St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) immersed herself in a vision of Christ s Passion that became a predominant theme in her famed Diary. In Praying with Jesus and Faustina During Lent and in Times of Suffering, award winning and best-selling author Susan Tassone presents the Diary’s words of Christ and St. Faustina on his sorrowful Passion. The book will engage you in Jesus horrific sufferings, giving you grace, light and strength to bear your own sufferings.
The book opens with daily Lenten meditations featuring the words of Jesus and St. Faustina on the Passion. Each day also includes both special reflections for times of suffering and a prayer. In the following chapters, St. Faustina will lead you through heartfelt prayers on the Way of the Cross, Christ’s wounds, and on the Blessed Mother’s sorrows. Susan also includes chapters on unique litanies, the Divine Mercy devotion, and confession.
My review: Susan Tassone has done it again. “The Purgatory Lady” truly loves the Holy Souls in Purgatory but she also loves the souls on earth and wants to be able to see everyone in heaven. I am blessed to know this beautiful soul and I highly recommend this and all her books!
Synopsis: New from FQP! Morgan is looking forward to junior high school and all the adventures it holds in store for her. But after a collision on the volleyball court, she wakes up on the first day of school trapped inside her mom’s teenage body circa1974. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to discover that living life as a seventh-grader in the ‘70s and dealing with everything going on in her mom’s life back then — from uncool parents, to annoying older brothers, balancing friendships, and ultimately doing what she can to survive bullying at the hands of the school’s biggest jock — is anything but groovy.
Amazon Synopsis: Ashlyn may finally have her life under control. Abandoned by her own mother when she was a kid, Ashlyn found a home when the Castletons embraced her as their fourth child. Nowadays Ashlyn plays viola in the Castleton String Quartet. She’s got a family and rent money. What more could she ask for?
After months of searching for his biological family, Michael has just seen his DNA results. Astonishingly, he has a full sister–violinist Lindsey Castleton. One frenzied drive later, Michael finds Lindsey performing with her string quartet, alongside the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.
The Castleton siblings insist the report is wrong because their parents weren’t even in the same country when Michael was born. Is this a scam? The deeper they dig into his story, though, the more Ashlyn wants him to be a Castleton. Michael seems stable, strong, and reliable. Not to mention his gorgeous eyes and dusky voice.
As each answer reveals another question, Michael and Ashlyn are drawn together by the brokenness of their past. To achieve the potential of their future, Ashlyn will have to trust Michael enough to open her heart, but with trust comes the risk of betrayal.
Heart of the Violist is the first novel of the Castleton String Quartet romances, a story about the families we’re born into and the families love can make for us.
My review: I really enjoyed this clean read by Maddie Evans. Great story and characters. My only criticism is that there were more than a few typos. Overall, though, highly recommend. 4/5.
Amazon Synopsis: Research and experience tell us that children who are hopeful, purposeful and goal oriented do well in and out of school, build successful futures and are happy. The author uses the metaphor of sailing to explore this concept in parent-friendly ways. The rudder of the sail boat is a hopeful, purposeful outlook that the parent helps the child acquire. The centerboard represents the practices and habits that the parent helps the child internalize that despite challenges, adversities and loss, help the child build a successful future. The author’s Nine Winning Practices model is presented with numerous anecdotes and stories that a parent can use in helping a child develop a success oriented perspective. Using the rudder and centerboard, the sailor can arrive at the desired destination regardless of the winds that are confronted. So also, a child who is hopeful, purposeful and goal oriented and who also embraces success oriented principles and habits will be enabled to build a future that is chosen and planned regardless of the life challenges encountered along the way. This book is the third in the author’s Raising Successful Children Series. The author brings many years of experience in this series of books for parents. His experience includes that of educator, counselor/therapist, lecturer, consultant, parent and grandparent. Parents are shown how to help their child keep their rudder in hand and their centerboard in the water so as to arrive at the desired destination and future despite the confronted challenges and adversities.
My review: This is a book that I edited and helped the author to publish. It’s an excellent parenting (and grandparenting) book that seeks to help parents bring out the best in their children. Highly recommend!
Synopsis: Three tragic events happened during my lifetime. First there was the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese in 1941, when I was eleven years old. This was followed by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki when I was fifteen. The third event was the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon when I was 71. These three events are part of my history, as they are for many of you, and are very much the motivation for writing this book and what led me to stand in conscience against the use of weapons of mass destruction while still a member of the USAF. God changed my heart of stone to a heart of flesh. Our hearts have been hardened and wounded by these tragic events and by the painful events of our own personal lives. We desperately need to face the nuclear age with the heart of God, not with our own thinking but with God’s. Only then can we experience an age of peace upon the earth.
My review: This is another book that I edited and assisted the author in publishing. It’s a heart-wrenching memoir of a former Air Force Major who changed his stance on the use the weapons of mass destruction and was discharged from the Air Force for doing so. The author gives a spiritual solution to the many issues that plague us today and connects the use of weapons of mass destruction to widespread abortion. Fascinating read. Highly recommend.