An Open Book – October #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading and working on for the past month!

Eyes of Fire by Mina Ambrose (Shadows of the Sun #3)

Synopsis: Now Available on Amazon from FQP!

Ancient legend comes to life: the prophecy that Charon, master vampire, has long dreaded, continues to unfold.

Jude has finally accepted his destiny as the hero who must foil Charon’s plans for world domination, though he has only just begun to understand the powers he possesses. Nevertheless, he sets out on his quest.   Halloween is just around the corner when Jude arrives in the small town of Sylvan and lands a renovation job at a nearby mansion—the very one that sits atop Charon’s underground lair, as it turns out. He also encounters Phaedra, whom he recognizes as the “damsel in distress” from his recurring dreams. As he interprets it, he has been sent here to protect her, but she will have none of that. Meanwhile, Tim the VK (Vampire Killer) breezes into town, armed to the teeth, his vampire-tracking wolf-dog Sarge at his heels. His announcement that he is here to clean out a nest of vampires shocks Phaedra and her friends—vampires aren’t real! Or… are they? It’s all fantastic fun—until Phaedra has a terrifying encounter one night, and Jude comes to the rescue. She reluctantly admits she may need his protection, after all.   Tim is not so sure—Sarge takes Jude for a vampire, and Sarge has never been wrong about vampires! Now, while Tim must single-handedly confront the whole crew of the undead, must he also guard Phaedra from her own heart?

A Freedom Such as Heaven Intended (Heaven Intended #4)

Pre-Order Available on Kindle Now!

Synopsis: Despite her royal heritage, Alice is the third generation of women in her family to be enslaved — and the last, if she has any say in it. The only thing standing between her and freedom is a certain Confederate soldier, First Lieutenant Marshall Kent. Follow Alice and Marshall’s story as suspicion turns to trust and a sense of admiration turns to something more as they navigate life during the last year of the Civil War.

Reviews:

Amanda Lauer’s latest ‘Heaven Intended’ book follows a group of runaway slaves as they begin a perilous and uncertain journey to freedom. Plenty of historical detail leaves the reader immersed in the world of Civil War-era Georgia, as characters struggle to discern whether to risk their lives in the service of others. Faith plays a role, in often surprising ways, in the twists and turns of the plot of this compelling novel.

Barb Szyszkiewicz, author of The Handy Little Guide to Prayer

My favorite of the series. ‘A Freedom Such as Heaven Intended’ is the first of Lauer’s acclaimed Civil War YA novels to feature an African American: Alice, the mysterious fugitive discovered by Brigid in ‘A Life Such as Heaven Intended,’ tells the story of her own enslavement, a tragic-but-royal past, and the tiny infant she must care for as she attempts the heroic journey to freedom. Catholic, law-abiding First Lieutenant Marshall Kent must choose between his religious beliefs and his sworn duty to defend the Constitution of the Confederate States.”

Jeanie Egolf, author, publisher

The Heaven Intended series continues with this fourth tale of intrigue, deception, compassion and love. I have been a huge fan of this series, so I anxiously awaited the newest book. It was worth the wait. Lauer seamlessly intertwines fascinating bits of history into her compelling story. A Freedom Such as Heaven Intended adds a captivating new dimension to this hard-to-put-down novel.

Leslea Wahl, author

Once again, a great Civil War novel: lively and lovable characters, an engaging plot and just the right amount of history and romance. The honest and true Catholic faith of Alice and Marshall makes their storylines interesting and enjoyable. An amazing read!

Sophie Habsburg-Lothringen

Synopsis: A young mother, blond and pretty, vanishes from her South Boston home, leaving behind only one witness—her four-year-old daughter—and one suspect—her handsome, secretive husband.
 
From the moment Detective Sergeant D. D. Warren arrives at the Joneses’ snug little bungalow, instinct tells her that something is seriously off with the wholesome image the couple has worked so hard to create. 
 
With the clock ticking on the life of a missing woman and a media firestorm building, D.D. must decide whether Jason Jones is hiding his guilt—or just trying to hide. But first she must stand between a potential killer and his next victim—an innocent child who may have seen too much.

My review: A real page-turner, compelling read. The story and characters were well-developed. 4.5/5.

Synopsis: Jenna’s Journey is the first book in The Hope trilogy. Jenna, a disabled orphan, finds herself in a chapel where she asks Mary if she will be her mother. Instantly, she is transported to a land where she begins a quest to find the answers she seeks. Along the way, she encounters a rosary tree, a protective bread, and a new spiritual friend. Her greedy aunt and whining cousin bring some comic relief to this adorable story for middle-grade children, teenagers, and adults alike.

My review: I enjoyed this sweet story about a disabled orphan. Recommend for middle graders. 4/5.

The Good Priest by Tina Beattie

Amazon Synopsis: Father John is the parish priest of Our Lady of Sorrows in Westonville UK, but when the ordered tranquility of his life is shattered by a stranger walking into the confessional on Ash Wednesday, he finds himself on a Lenten journey of increasing dread and horror. And when he is confronted with memories of his historic abuse, John discovers that what he thought to be forgiven and forgotten still lurks deep in his memory.

A pattern of murders unveils terrifying associations between the stranger’s appearances, John’s own past, and the murders. Could the stranger be the cardinal who abused him during his time in Rome, and who is rumoured to have died in the 9/11 attacks? Is he a ghost emanating from the same world as Sarah, the ghost of a little girl whose benign appearances are a protective presence in John’s life? Or is the man in the confessional not really dead? Through the increasing traumas of Lent, John struggles with the temptations and fears that begin to assail him wherever he turns.

The Good Priest is a story of faith and doubt, of real and imagined hauntings, of the epic dramas that lurk beneath the surface of an ordinary Catholic parish, and of the devastating power of violence and terror to rip apart relationships, friendships and loyalties. At once a thriller and a theological exploration, the book takes the reader into a world of altered realities where nothing is quite what it seems…

My review: This was better than I thought it would be, but it could’ve used another proofread. The story was engaging, the characters real, the plot compelling. I enjoyed the read and finished it in a few days. It had a liberal slant (the ultraconservatives who want to bring back the Latin Mass are described in a negative manner), but on the whole, it wasn’t over-the-top liberal. Recommend. 4/5.

Amazon Synopsis: Of the four horrific hijackings on September 11, Flight 93 resonates as one of epic resistance. At a time when the United States appeared defenseless against an unfamiliar foe, the gallant passengers and crew of Flight 93 provided for many Americans a measure of victory in the midst of unthinkable defeat. Together, they seemingly accomplished what all the security guards and soldiers, military pilots and government officials, could not — they thwarted the terrorists, sacrificing their own lives so that others might live.

The culmination of hundreds of interviews with family members and months of investigation, Among the Heroes is the definitive story of the courageous men and women aboard Flight 93, and of the day that forever changed the way Americans view the world and themselves.

My review: I bought this book fifteen years ago and recently read it again after watching the movie United 93. The writing is solid and polished and the author helps the reader get to know each passenger of this flight. What these passengers accomplished was beyond heroic. I wish they had been able to land the plane safely, but that was not meant to be. Highly recommend, 5/5.

The Cross and the Godless Review

First the summary: 1979—Terror reigns in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas have seized power. Julian Mendero, leader of the Christian opposition, is arrested for stealing a national treasure—the Valdivieso Cross. But not before his son, Pedro, flees to the Sanctuary underground and begins an arduous journey to the US border.

Months later, FBI Agent Steve Rodriguez enters the murky world of the border killings, a series of inexplicable murders. When evidence points to a foreign death squad he enlists the help of Carol Shannon, a Sanctuary activist searching for Pedro. But Carol is reluctant to help. Trauma of a recent sexual assault has left her fearful and suffering nightmares. Yet Steve’s compassion—and Carol’s commitment to end the killing and find Pedro—gradually builds trust, while mutual attraction soon gives way to passionate desire.

Mysteries unfold when Steve consults notorious ex-patriot Hector Rone. He learns Rone’s lover, Claudia Haas—antiquities expert, thief, and femme du monde—has joined two militant priests in their search for Pedro and the Valdivieso Cross. Tensions rise when Steve learns the death squad leader may be the father of Carol’s unborn child. Time is short. Steve must find a way to stop the death squad, find Pedro and the precious Valdivieso Cross, and save the woman he loves from making a terrible mistake.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this work of fiction from Joseph Mauck. The story is compelling and the characters are well-developed and believable. It’s a difficult read because there’s a sexual assault, murders and the nature of the antagonists in this story, but it’s well worth it. It’s for mature readers so it’s not for the fainthearted, nor for children. Highly recommend!

Buy The Cross and the Godless here on Amazon.

Interview with Joan Kelly, author of A Thread of Evidence

  1. I love the title! What was the inspiration for A Thread of Evidence? Where did you come up with the idea?

When I decided to write cozy mysteries, I knew that the setting would have something to do with sewing.  Besides making an outline for my story, I wrote down a list of sewing terms: needles, threads, notions, etc., and used them to develop titles.  With any mystery, there needs to be clues and evidence to solve the crime.  So, why not make a simple piece of thread a clue–a piece of evidence?

2. You’ve written young adult fiction before, but this is your first venture into adult fiction. What drew you to writing adult fiction?

When I wrote the inspirational adventure stories for YA (Wow! That was a few years ago.), I had just given up my position as a teacher.  Writing for younger people made me still feel close to them.  It was my way of still teaching without being in the classroom.

Now, I’ve been retired for several years and have the time and desire to start writing again. So, I decided to write something that would draw on my life experiences–sewing, home remodeling, trying new recipes, etc.  My bookshelves are filled with a plethora of different genres, but one of my favorites is mysteries.  I enjoy the cozy mystery because it brings adventure from the viewpoint of the average citizen. 

3. Mibs is an amateur sleuth who happens to be an expert seamstress.  Are you or someone in your extended family an expert seamstress?

I had been a professional seamstress.  While raising my five daughters and taking classes part-time to earn my teaching degree, I ran a small craft and sewing business.  I made everything from children’s clothing to wedding dresses.   I also made the clothing for the mannequins in the fabric section of the local Wal-Mart store. 

I learned to sew at an early age with guidance from my mother and my aunt.  My grandmother taught me how to embroidery and make lace with a tatting shuttle. Then, when I was older, I took sewing and quilting lessons.  Now, I only make quilts for myself and my family–sew on a button or mend an item if one of my grandkids asks me for help. 

4. What do you hope the reader will take away from A Thread of Evidence?

First, I hope the reader will enjoy the story and spend a few hours getting lost in the town of Havendale with Mibs, Jace, and Aunt Bernie.  As far as what I hope the reader will take away from A Thread of Evidence and all the books in the series, is the feeling that the ‘good person’ can win!  They can face the criminal, solve the crime, and meet any challenge thrown at them while still keeping their faith and moral bearing.  Even when life’s problems pull them to a dark and challenging place, they can find God’s love, strength, and forgiveness to light their way.  Hopefully, even Jace (Detective Sergeant Jace Trueblood), who’s buried his faith under a cloud of pain and anger, will eventually kneel down and ask God for grace to face life’s challenges.

I want to write stories that are not ‘preachy’ but let the characters’ faith be an everyday part of their lives.

5. You’re working on additional books for the Mibs Monahan Mysteries.  Please tell us a bit about Books 2 and 3 (and 4, if you have it!)

The second book in the series is called Notions of Murder.  Monahan Sewing Shop has been open for a while, and business is increasing.  Mibs is happy with the growing relationship between her and Jace. But, when at the local community theater working on costumes for an upcoming play, Mibs becomes the only witness who can identify an assassin who’d killed one man and wounded another.  Now, the shooter wants to silence the seamstress.  

The third book, Stitch in the Ditch, includes forgery and murder.  A continuing question throughout the series has been about Mibs’ true identity.   Information about her past has the usually self-assured and determined young woman conflicted.

The fourth book is still in the outline stage.  So, I’ll save the previews on that one until later. 

6. Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

I grew up before the internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc., so books were my soul food.  My childhood home was filled with authors that would not necessarily be recognized today– James Fenimore Cooper, Gene Stratton Porter,  Essie Summers, Louis L’Amour, Jules Verne, Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, and Arthur Conan Doyle–to mention a few.  I loved them all.

Moving to more current authors, I would list some of my favorites as Mary Higgins Clark, Debbie Macomber, David Baldacci, and James Patterson.  These are on my list because I love mystery stories, and these authors do the genre justice with their writing. 

I also enjoy good Christian adventure authors.  They bring the story, mystery, adventure, drama, romance to life and at the same time are not afraid to let the reader know that their characters have God as the center of their lives.  Some of my favorites are Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series,  Barbara Golder’s Lady Doc Mysteries, Ann Lewis’s Watson Chronicles, and Ellen Gable’s Great War series.

A Thread of Evidence is available here on Amazon!

An Open Book June #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading and working on for the past month!

Now available from FQP!

Amazon Synopsis: Twenty-two years after Mibs Monahan was adopted by her great-aunt Bernie, it became apparent that the woman who had raised her was suffering the frailties of old age. Mibs did not hesitate to set aside her dream of becoming a clothing designer to take care of her aunt.

Mibs hadn’t realized that opening a sewing shop would also open the door to experiencing the loss of two friends, Jennifer Morris and her sister, Jasmine Hornsby. At first, the death of Jennifer appeared to be an accidental poisoning. A short time later, the death of Jasmine was declared a suicide. When authorities claimed that grief over the loss of her sister drove Jasmine to take her own life, Mibs confronted the staunch, self-assured Detective Jace Trueblood and told him that was not possible. Even when the detective’s alluring blue eyes and disarming smile were changing her first impression of annoyance to undeniable attraction, she still insisted that following the thread of evidence would lead to the hidden truth.

Balancing the challenges of opening and running a new business and contemplating the tragic deaths of two sisters has Mibs wondering what tomorrow will bring. Being brought up on love, kindness, and sacrifice gave Mibs Monahan a kind heart, but it also gave her determination and a desire for justice.

A Thread of Evidence is available at this link.

Amazon Synopsis: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets Katherine Center’s How to Walk Away in Kathleen Basi’s debut novel about an unconventional road trip and what it means to honor the ones we love.

It’s one year after the death of her husband and twin teenagers, and Miriam Tedesco has lost faith in humanity and herself. When a bouquet of flowers that her husband always sends on their anniversary shows up at her workplace, she completely unravels. With the help of her best friend, she realizes that it’s time to pick up the pieces and begin to move on. Step one is not even cleaning out her family’s possessions, but just taking inventory starting with her daughter’s room. But when she opens her daughter’s computer, she stumbles across a program her daughter has created detailing an automated cross-country road trip, for her and her husband to take as soon-to-be empty nesters.

Seeing and hearing the video clips of her kids embedded in the program, Miriam is determined to take this trip for her children. Armed with her husband’s guitar, her daughter’s cello, and her son’s unfinished piano sonata, she embarks on a musical pilgrimage to grieve the family she fears she never loved enough. Along the way she meets a young, pregnant hitchhiker named Dicey, whose boisterous and spunky attitude reminds Miriam of her own daughter.

Tornadoes, impromptu concerts, and an unlikely friendship…whether she’s prepared for it or not, Miriam’s world is coming back to life. But as she struggles to keep her focus on the reason she set out on this journey, she has to confront the possibility that the best way to honor her family may be to accept the truths she never wanted to face.

Hopeful, honest, and tender, A Song for the Road is about courage, vulnerability, and forgiveness, even of yourself, when it really matters.

My review: On my “to read” shelf.

Amazon Synopsis: Marita Mercer has no intention of losing custody of her daughter to Jim and his perfect little wife. So what if Charli’s father is successful, established and respected now? Does that make up for the fact that he never wanted their daughter in the first place? But in the battle of Marita the single mother vs. Jim and his perfect little church-going wife, Marita is almost certain she will lose. Angel Alessio’s life with her husband is missing only one thing – the very thing Marita has already given him. And although Angel loves her stepdaughter, that love does nothing to ease her longing for a baby of her own. Both women are determined to keep their families together…but at what cost?

My review: I enjoyed this novel that centers around a custody battle between a single mother (who had her twelve-year-old daughter at sixteen), the father of the twelve-year-old who for most of the child’s life has not been in the picture, and the father’s new wife, who is a practicing Christian, who wants to please her husband but does not agree with him that they should seek full custody. A lot of dialogue and the character of the father could’ve been developed a bit more realistically, but an overall pleasant read. 4/5.

The Cross and the Godless by Joseph Mauck

1979—Terror reigns in Nicaragua. The Sandinistas have seized power. Julian Mendero, leader of the Christian opposition, is arrested for stealing a national treasure—the Valdivieso Cross. But not before his son, Pedro, flees to the Sanctuary underground and begins an arduous journey to the US border.

Months later, FBI Agent Steve Rodriguez enters the murky world of the border killings, a series of inexplicable murders. When evidence points to a foreign death squad he enlists the help of Carol Shannon, a Sanctuary activist searching for Pedro. But Carol is reluctant to help. Trauma of a recent sexual assault has left her fearful and suffering nightmares. Yet Steve’s compassion—and Carol’s commitment to end the killing and find Pedro—gradually builds trust, while mutual attraction soon gives way to passionate desire.

Mysteries unfold when Steve consults notorious ex-patriot Hector Rone. He learns Rone’s lover, Claudia Haas—antiquities expert, thief, and femme du monde—has joined two militant priests in their search for Pedro and the Valdivieso Cross. Tensions rise when Steve learns the death squad leader may be the father of Carol’s unborn child. Time is short. Steve must find a way to stop the death squad, find Pedro and the precious Valdivieso Cross, and save the woman he loves from making a terrible mistake.

The Cross and the Godless will be available soon on Amazon and other booksellers.

My review: I’ll be helping this author with his promotion so my review is coming!

#Prolife Grandparenthood

child’s hand in adult’s hand © Pavelvasenkov Dreamstime.com

My latest post at Catholic Mom: “Human life is precious, because it is a gift from God whose love is infinite, and when God gives life, it is forever.”  Saint John Paul II

Our grandson was born nearly two years ago.  I don’t remember ever being that excited for an impending birth (except for those of our children, but I was preoccupied during their births!) When we held our grandson – our baby’s baby – there was overwhelming joy and thanksgiving to God.

Still, none of us are perfect and we can struggle with our attitudes towards children and grandchildren. From an unplanned baby to a disabled child, to finding out the unborn child is the “wrong” sex,  to conflicting philosophies on how to raise children, parenting – and grandparenting  –  can present its share of suffering.  We can use Saint John Paul II’s prolife message to remember that each and every human being is an unrepeatable gift from God, whether he/she is planned or not, whether he/she is healthy or disabled and whether he/she is a boy or girl.

A few years ago, in speaking about her daughter who got pregnant at sixteen, a pro-choice celebrity spoke about how she tried to get her daughter to have an abortion (the daughter went on to have her baby). I know one grandmother who responded to the impending birth of her fourth grandchild in this way: “When are you going to stop having kids?”  More than a few grandmothers have said, “Don’t expect me to babysit. I already raised my own kids. I’m not raising yours.” 

These examples sound negative and perhaps our first instinct is to criticize. But all of us have anxieties about our children and grandchildren. We know a grandmother who said to her adult son with many children, “Every time you have a child, it just gives me one more thing to worry about.” Because of the way she was raised, this attitude was something that she could not control initially. As time went on, thankfully, she joyously loved each and every one of her grandchildren anyway, despite her initial comments.

My husband James and I are still newbies at grandparenthood, but we’ve discovered that there are things we can do to help us (and all grandparents) to focus our/their attitudes toward the truth that every human being from conception to natural death is an unrepeatable and unique eternal gift from God.

  1. Be supportive!

Even if our adult children are prolife, that doesn’t mean they will never need our support with regard to parenting and decision making. I know a young couple with many children whose in-laws continually criticize them for having such a big family. Conversely, another young couple has two children, but one of the grandparents is pressuring them to have more.  Keep in mind that the decision to have a child is between husband, wife, and God.  Grandparents, technically, do not have a say, and should always be supportive, despite parenting disagreements. Our adult children need to discern their parenting style/decisions like we did in the previous generation.2.Generosity in Service

Admittedly, we like when we are called upon to babysit our grandson. We may have had something else planned, but we always try to be available if we are needed. Even so, it can be challenging trying to keep up with this energetic miniature human being, especially when we, as his caregivers, have had little sleep. .

2. Theology of the Body

St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a beautiful way to teach your adult children, in-laws and grandchildren about the beauty of human life.  Through the Theology of the Body – the study of God through our bodies – we can help our grandchildren understand that everyone is a gift, and that God made us to love. Recommended reading: TOB for Tots from Ascension Press, Angel in the Waters by Regina Doman, and Before You Were Born by Jennifer Davis and Laura Cornell.

3. Have Fun and Play

If you’re able, don’t be afraid to get down on the floor and play with your grandchildren! Some of the best moments come from being on their level and playing with their toys.

When we were babysitting one day, the power went out.  Our grandson’s parents were on a mission to help him gain weight, and sometimes he would only eat if his favorite toddler show was on TV.  With the electricity gone, we had to be creative.  I sang nursery rhymes from my own childhood. James joined in and our grandson finally returned to eating his meal.  Even now, when we start singing, he dances and sings with us.

4. Remind Them (Out Loud) They Are Loved

There was one particular night that our grandson (around 16 months old) would not go down to sleep.  So after he fussed, I picked him up and rocked him in the rocking chair.  I sang to him, told him how blessed he was. I told him I love him. Then I listed all the people who love him (not a small list if you count all the grandparents, the aunts, uncles and cousins). At one moment, he sat up, put his hands on both sides of my face and kissed me.  Then he lay down against my chest and he finally fell asleep. 

5. Pray  

It’s not easy to be ‘fully’ prolife with the culture of death surrounding us on all sides. Pray for yourselves, that you can always have a prolife attitude. Pray for your children and grandchildren that they will realize the blessing of life as it truly is: an unrepeatable, unique and eternal gift from God.

Copyright 2021 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Close to the Soul #1 in New Releases on #Kindle

Close to the Soul by Mary Jo Thayer (to be released on May 1st by FQP!) is #1 in New Releases on Kindle!

Synopsis: Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault.

Reviews:

Close to the Soul is a beautifully written novel that weaves the story of redemption through every character on every page.  Edith Schafer once wrote that our lives are a tapestry, we are looking at the backside which is often messy and confusing, but God sees the beautiful work of art, each thread precisely woven together.  I have spent my life grappling with the questions this novel boldly addresses. Pam Stenzel, M.A. Enlighten Communications

With equal measures of heartbreak and joy, Close to the Soul is a gripping novel that strikes every emotional chord.  Fans of Francine Rivers will flock to this one!  Lori Nelson Spielman, best-selling author

When I started reading Close to the Soul, I wasn’t sure how Mary Jo would approach this difficult topic, especially from a young woman’s point of view. What I found was a beautiful and inspiring story written in such a refreshing way that celebrates life, faith, love, redemption, strength of spirit, and family amid a devastating challenge. I felt honored to read Close to the Soul’ and pray that many readers will share this story.   Jim Sano, author of the Fr. Tom Series

What an uplifting and hopeful story! I have to admit that it brought tears to my eyes more than once while I was reading it.  I loved the solid and unwavering faith displayed by the Fandel family. The story definitely brings out the truth of God’s wonderful and mysterious ways and his constant care of us even when we are going through rough times that we cannot understand. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.   Linda Etchison, author, Sr. Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

Mary Jo Thayer has written an uplifting tale, dealing sensitively at each step with the challenges and trials faced by women raising their children alone. Mary Jo’s deep faith is obvious, shining through her main character, Carolyn Fandel. Carolyn’s resignation to the situation she finds herself in, along with the decisions she makes in the wake of her trauma, would certainly provide encouragement to any Catholic woman in any state of life, and indeed to anyone who picks up the book to read it.  Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace

Wow! What a powerful and moving story set in the 1950’s. The story is of great value for readers today. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literature. Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

To preorder the book on Kindle, click here.

A Channel of Your Peace #bookblast #sale

A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn is currently on sale on Kindle for .99 (until Tuesday, April 20) and is this month’s Catholic Writers Guild Bookblast!

Synopsis:

Would a God who truly loves you allow things to get this bad?

Lapsed Catholic Erin Rafferty has the life she always wanted. Or at least she did, till the moment her fiancé of five years announces he’s leaving her for another woman. Heartbroken and humiliated, a further devastating development leaves her wondering if she can ever live a normal life again.

Mark Ashcroft is a devout Catholic looking for an equally devout Catholic wife. A chance encounter with Erin leaves Mark completely captivated, yet deeply unsettled, knowing Erin is not in a place to accept him, nor is she the model Christian woman he’d hoped to start a life with.

A tentative friendship begins, and Erin finds herself questioning her long-held rejection of her faith, while Mark finds himself healing from memories of his own wounded past.

But as love grows, further tragedy in Erin’s life threatens her burgeoning faith and her hope for a future with Mark.

What follows is a difficult journey of love, surrender, trust, and faith in the ultimate knowledge that Christ is always in the midst of our sufferings.

Excellent debut novel. I was very impressed with the writing. The story is masterfully written and was very hard to put down.”

Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Download A Channel of Your Peace for only .99 on Kindle!

Interview With RL Martin

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.