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!

An Open Book – April #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

The Way of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori

My review: Probably the most popular book for following the Stations of the Cross. I bought it on Kindle so I could have it with me whenever I attended the Stations of the Cross or said them privately. It’s excellent!

Shirley Jones: A Memoir

Amazon Synopsis: From golden-voiced ingénue to bus-driving mother of a pop band, Shirley Jones sets aside her wholesome, squeaky clean image in a memoir as shockingly candid, deliciously juicy, and delightfully frank as the star herself.

“You are going to meet the real flesh-and-blood Shirley Jones, not just the movie star or Mrs. Partridge,” says the beloved film, television, and stage actress and singer of her long-awaited memoir, an account as shockingly direct, deliciously juicy, and delightfully frank as the performer herself.

Sharing the “candid” (Los Angeles Times) and “revealing” (Associated Press) details of her life in Hollywood’s inner circle and beyond, Shirley Jones blows past the wholesome, squeaky-clean image that first brought fame, and gives us a woman who only gets hotter with time.

My review: As a huge fan of The Partridge Family, this was one of those books that I had wanted to read back in 2013 when it was first published. Then I read the reviews and decided to wait until it was on sale. Well, I finally downloaded it. In some respects, I was interested in reading her inside story. And in other respects, there are things I can’t “unread,” like the time she was coaxed into having an abortion several months after she married Jack Cassidy in 1957. The way she tells it, she was dead set against it. After all, they were married. But to her husband and her agent pressuring her, her career was more important. She talks about the abortion like this: “…as I watched him (the doctor) while he worked, finally removing a mass of blood but no fetus as it was too early for one to have formed inside me.” That sounds very much like she was downplaying it. Even so, I give her credit for her resolution that no matter what happened in the future, she would never have another abortion.

There are other things that I can’t unread that I won’t share, but it saddens me that she felt she had to write a “tell-all” book that sometimes focused on the licentious and at times, it was over the top. The writing is okay, but she jumps from time period to time period too much, and she could’ve used an extra developmental editor. 3/5.

Treasures: Visible and Invisible by Catholic Teen Authors

Amazon Synopsis: Treasures: Visible and Invisible is a collection of short stories by eight CatholicTeenBooks.com authors.

  • A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
  • Between an unearthed treasure and a visit from Heaven, a young monk is in for the surprise of his life!
  • A young girl seeks a mysterious treasure that holds the key to granting a nun’s dying wish.
  • Honora is desperate—then a peculiar clover and a mysterious young man change everything.
  • William’s weekend job is a little gift from heaven, but now his family needs a real miracle.
  • When threatened by mobsters, Grace receives help from a surprising source.
  • Alone and afraid, a young girl finds friendship in a stranger. But could this boy be trouble?
  • Kyle was determined to save the precious relic–but now his whole family is in danger.

My review: This is an enjoyable clean Christian fiction anthology with an Irish theme. Highly recommend!

Stolen Blessing by Jim Sano

Amazon 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.

Newest book from FQP!

A Scarlet Cord by Deborah Raney

Amazon Synopsis: In the four years since her husband’s death, Melanie LaSalle’s life has been consumed with managing the family design firm and caring for her five-year-old daughter, Jerica. The possibility of a new relationship is the last thing on her mind. But when Melanie meets Joel Ellington, a new staff member at her church, she is instantly attracted to his warm spirit.
As their friendship deepens, however, Melanie is troubled by something she can’t quite understand or explain. Joel past seems to be off-limits, even to Melanie. Because of her growing feelings for him, Melanie pushes her doubts away. But when Joel disappears, along with the contents of a church bank account, she can no longer ignore her suspicions.
Now, torn between her feelings for Joel and the evidence mounting against him, Melanie faces a heart-wrenching decision: to forget the man who gave her reason to love again or to trust Joel enough to give him her heart.
Exploring themes of the importance of truth, loyalty, and trust, A Scarlet Cord illustrates that who we truly are depends little on outward appearances and solely on our relationship with God, and on the fact that through faith in Him, we can find places of comfort, healing, and selfless love.
This novel was originally published in 2003 under the same title, and was a Golden Quill Award finalist.

My review: I downloaded this for free many months ago and finally got around to reading it. It’s a great story with well-developed characters and a few twists and turns. A page-turner! Recommend: 4/5.

An Open Book – March #openbook

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!

Anything But Groovy by Amanda Lauer

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.

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

Today is the Feast of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr. I knew little of this saint until I read about her during my research for A Subtle Grace. This book was a finalist in Religious Fiction in the 2015 IAN Awards. I dedicated this book to her.

It’s no surprise that St. Agnes’ feast day is so close to the U.S. March for Life (which is, sadly, canceled this year). Agnes’ name in Greek means “chaste, pure or sacred,” and in Latin, it means “lamb.” She is the patron saint of young girls, chastity, engaged couples, rape victims (and others). In past centuries, young girls would recite this prayer/poem to St. Agnes on the Eve of the feast day with the hope they would dream of their future husband.

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.

St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us!

Christmas Blessings

This Christmas is already very different. Of course, 2020 has been a different kind of year. There will be no American relatives visiting us here in Canada (given the fact that the border is closed), and even our dinners will be low key in trying to keep with less than ten at each gathering. But one thing that hasn’t changed is how we decorate our Christmas tree. Over the past nearly 39 years, my husband and I have collected hundreds of ornaments. Placing the ornaments on our Christmas tree is like taking a trip back in time.

The first Christmas we were married, we asked friends and relatives to make or give us ornaments. Not all of these ornaments have survived 39 years, but these are some that are still in excellent condition. Clockwise from upper left: 1) Angel with bell: my mother gave this to me in 1978. 2) Small wreath with grandma: My mother-in-law gave this to us on our first Christmas together as a married couple. 3) An old-fashioned glass ball given to us by my Aunt Flossie and 4) a red sleigh given to us by my cousin Linda in 1984.

Despite the challenges of 2020, let us imitate the Blessed Virgin and open our hearts to the Christ Child!

A Blessed and Peaceful Christmas to All!

Two New Books From FQP!

Dubbie: The Double-Headed Eagle by Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, Illustrated by James Hrkach

On this beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception, FQP is proud to release two new books, Dubbie: The Double-Headed Eagle by Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen (children’s book) and Gus Busbi by Jim Sano (contemporary fiction).

Synopsis: What if the ugly duckling was actually an eagle — an eagle with two heads? It’s not easy being a double-headed eagle. This is something little Dubbie finds out soon after hatching. With his single-headed family being clueless how to raise him, he embarks on a quest to find kindred eagles. On this journey, he makes friends with a runaway girl named Emma, but also encounters villains with a hidden agenda who are intent on keeping the past in the past — particularly double-headed eagles. Will Dubbie find his double-headed family? Will he and Emma be able to outwit their foes? Follow their adventures through the magical city of Vienna and find out for yourself.

This delightful children’s book is FQP’s first venture into the world of children’s books. The author, Eduard Habsburg (Archduke Eduard of Austria) is a direct descendent of the Emperor at the time of the beginning of WW1. My husband James illustrated the book (including the cover).

Until Christmas, the book is only 9.99 USD (after Christmas, it will be 12.99).

Buy: Kindle edition at this link

Buy: Print edition at this link

Gus Busbi by Jim Sano

Synopsis: What can a black teen from the gang-controlled South End projects of Boston and a seventy-year-old curmudgeonly Italian man, who has given up on life, have in common? Jamiel Russell and Gus Busbi live in the same house but they’ve never met. They both would have just assumed it stayed that way, but life often has more in store for us than we plan for. This timely novel is the second story in the neighborhood of St. Francis Parish and shows the power of relationships, love, and forgiveness.

This is part of the Fr. Tom series by Jim Sano (two more upcoming books in the series!) and takes place in the Boston area at St. Francis’ Parish. A timely story about forgiveness!

Buy: Kindle Edition at this link

Buy: Print Edition at this link

Pregnancy: An Advent Eternally Renewed

My latest at CatholicMom.com:

Image by Bartek Ambrozik FreeImages.com

“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent.  Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl!  Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation!  Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent.  Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.”  Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents

There are so many things to be thankful for during Advent this year.  Yes, it’s 2020, and many would prefer to rush to the end of this eventful, stressful year.

I don’t agree.  During this challenging time, we can use these beautiful weeks to prepare for and to be thankful for Our Savior’s birth and for Mother Mary’s “yes” to carrying Jesus. 

I was blessed to be pregnant during five Advents, and during each one, it was easier to understand this truth that “every pregnancy sings of the first Advent.”  However, the Advent before my January baby (number-four son) was probably the most impactful, given that I was exceptionally large, and I had suffered more during this pregnancy than in the previous three healthy ones combined. I had debilitating migraines every two days until four months along. I’m four feet nine inches tall and, before pregnancy, my weight was typically 95 pounds. I had already gained 65 pounds with that pregnancy, and the baby measured at seven pounds during December. (He would be born a month later at nearly ten pounds).  While I didn’t love the difficulties and challenges of childbearing, I was filled with joy when I was pregnant because it was a time when the fruit of our love was growing and kicking inside of me.

And growing and kicking this baby did. A lot of it! Because of the excess weight, I could barely walk, let alone move. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting on a stinky donkey and traveling in warm weather, far away from home, then giving birth in a damp, smelly stable. 

Needless to say, that was the first time I understood with greater clarity what Mother Mary endured that first Advent. I continue to be in awe of Our Lady’s yes to carrying Our Savior.   Mary was – and continues to be –a beautiful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors, and discomforts.

Mary also acted as my consoler when I lost seven babies through miscarriage.  There is no other woman who could so completely understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross, her heart pierced by the sword of watching her own flesh and blood, the very Savior of the world, die in agony.

Let us embrace this Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind.  And let us pause, remember, and pray for all those who carry a precious child in their wombs, that they will understand with great clarity the unique and everlasting gift of carrying an eternal, human soul.

Nearing the end of a challenging pregnancy (1996)

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Veterans Day 2020 #veteransday #remembranceday

My three fathers served a total of 16 years in various branches of the United States armed forces.

My father, Frank Gable, served in the United States Marine Corps from 1946-1950 and in the United States Army from 1950-1954. However, November 11th has always held a special place in my heart because it is my father’s birthday. Today he would’ve been 92. He died suddenly and tragically at the age of 49, just before my 19th birthday. My family and I walked around in shock, trying to get through the days following his death.

Frank Gable was short in stature (around five feet six inches tall), enjoyed watching “Gomer Pyle,” “Hogan’s Heroes” and the “Honeymooners.” He enjoyed playing the card game, Rummy, and Monopoly. His favorite candy was Hershey’s Kisses.  Over the years, he worked as a clerk and mailman. Years ago, my mom shared with me that he is the one who named me. And, when I was 15 or 16, he used to hug me and say, “El, you need to find a guy just about my size because you fit perfectly to me when we hug.” (I did!)

For Christians, the consolation is that we will see our loved ones again. I know that I will see my dad again someday. Until then…Happy Birthday, Dad. Remembering you in a special way today.

My father-in-law, Tony Hrkach (1925-1995) served as a tail gunner in the United States Air Force during the second World War.

Near the end of the war, during a routine mission, Tony’s plane was shot down over Yugoslavia (coincidentally, near his father’s birthplace). Frantically, he and his buddies parachuted out of the airplane. Unfortunately, however, one of his friends hit the side of a mountain and was killed. Tony and the others made it safely to the ground and were captured as soon as they landed.

They were marched for miles until they reached a POW camp. Remarkably, they found the Germans running the camp to be kind and, while it was not easy to be a prisoner of war, they were treated humanely.

When an announcement came over the radio that Germany had lost the war, their captors immediately handed their weapons and guns over to the Americans. Then, in a strange moment of understanding, they exchanged small personal tokens as reminders of their time together.

“I don’t just think of myself as a citizen of the United States; I think of myself as a citizen of the world,” he used to say. His idea was that we should remember first and foremost that we are all human beings, especially in time of war.

Like my own father and many other veterans, my father-in-law enjoyed “Hogan’s Heroes,” the television sitcom from the 1960’s about a German POW camp. The show attempted to put a human spin on such horrific times…the very thing that Tony found in his real experience with the ‘enemy.’  (With thanks to my husband James for writing this account of his father’s experience in the second World War.)

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My stepfather, Joseph Power (1933-2012), trained in Parris Island, South Carolina, before shipping out to Korea. He attained the silver badge in Marine Marksman. Like my father and father-in-law, Joe never liked to talk about his experiences with war.  But he would say things like, “Be grateful for warm showers,” or “If that’s your only complaint, be thankful that you’re not being fired at.”

While we remember all those who fought in wars so that we may live in freedom, let us also remember that the real enemy isn’t necessarily the people we fight against, but the evil circumstances that result from greed, lust and power.

Copyright Ellen Gable Hrkach 2020