Eyes of Fire Now Available #Catholicvampire

Eyes of Fire by Mina Ambrose

Synopsis: Now available on Kindle and in paperback! The third in the Shadows of the Sun series. 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?

An Open Book – August #openbook

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

Eternal Light of the Crypts by Alan Van’t Land

Synopsis: 890 AD France.

The last imperial heir of Charlemagne is dead, and every duke is proclaiming himself king. Egilolf, a former soldier, could care less. He needs to steal bones. A saint’s bones.

With the prospect of a large payout, he recruits the scribe Aristeus, a refugee fleeing Viking invasions. Perhaps he should have told his new companion the true reason he’s pilfering saints. Together the thief and scribe must dodge bandits, Vikings, and warring lords—not to mention their own lies—only to find unearthing bones the easiest step.

Yet Egilolf’s fiercest battle is the one within. How can defending the weak be just, when God abandons him when he has to kill? And when Vikings become more than a faceless enemy to Aristeus, will he, like the ancient martyrs he’s always extolling, risk death to convert them?

Reviews:

I really enjoyed the sneak peek. A wonderful story well-told.”  A.K. Frailey, author

“Eternal Light of the Crypts is one of the best-written debut novels I’ve ever read. Painstakingly researched, beautifully written, and engaging from start to finish. This tale of two relic hunters is both comic and substantive.” Carolyn Astfalk, author

A Church in Crisis by Ralph Martin

Amazon Synopsis:

Nearly forty years ago, Ralph Martin’s bestselling A Crisis of Truth exposed the damaging trends in Catholic teaching and preaching that, combined with attacks from secular society, threatened the mission and life of the Catholic Church. While much has been done to counter false teaching over the last four decades, today the Church faces even more insidious threats from outside and within.

In A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward, Martin offers a detailed look at the growing hostility to the Catholic Church and its teaching. With copious evidence, Martin uncovers the forces working to undermine the Body of Christ and offers hope to those looking for clarity.

A Church in Crisis covers:

  • polarization in the Church caused by ambiguous teachings
  • initiatives that accommodate the culture without calling for conversion
  • Vatican-sponsored partnerships with organizations that actively contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church
  • and the recycling of theological errors long settled by Vatican II, Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Powerfully written, A Church in Crisis reminds all readers to heed Jesus’ express command not to lead His children astray. With ample resources to encourage readers, Ralph Martin provides the solid foundation of Catholic teaching both Scripture and Tradition to fortify Catholics against the errors that threaten us from all directions.

My review: Ralph Martin has written an excellent book on the state of the Catholic Church at the present time. And he does not mince words. He lists the reasons why the Church is in its current crisis and the ways to improve this awful situation. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 5/5.

All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family by Erin McCole Cupp

Amazon Synopsis:

It’s time to break the cycle.

Not every family is the perfect model of Catholic family life. Some of us approach parenting still wounded by childhood experiences that were less than ideal. When we start our own families, at best we feel a bit unprepared, and at worst we feel paralyzed with fear that we will repeat our parents dysfunctional, abusive behaviors.

In All Things New, Erin McCole Cupp draws on her own and others experiences to discuss how to develop a joyful family life when our own experience of being parented was damaging. Erin wrote this book for moms and dads who want to parent better than they themselves were parented.

Drawing on the Holy Family as the model of family life, and distilling practical lessons from the Two Greatest Commandments and the Beatitudes, All Things New shows readers that, while change isn’t easy, God has given us all the ingredients we need to create a holy, joyful family.

My review: I just finished this book and I can’t say enough good things about it! A longer review coming, but I highly recommend this book for anyone who had had to endure abuse in any relationship.

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner

Amazon 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: I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller that had me guessing constantly who was a good guy and who was a bad guy. Excellent story and characters. Warning: language. Highly recommend! 5/5.

Falling by T.J. Newman

Amazon Synopsis: You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

My review: This novel has everything I could ask for in a thriller. A plane that’s about to crash, a pilot who’s been blackmailed to crash the plane in order to keep his family alive and great characters. And the short synopsis alone reeled me in. If you’re looking for a non-stop ride, this is it. Highly recommend. 5/5.

My #MeToo Moment in the House of God: Lifting the Curtain on the Other Side of the Clergy Sex Scandal, Young Adult Victims of Predator Priests and Bishops

by S.B. Zak

Amazon Synopsis: When I came forward to report the abuse, it should have stopped. But it did not. When the perpetrator was about to be promoted and once more I made a report to competent authorities, he should not have been advanced. Nonetheless he was. Proper and effective measures should have been taken so that others would have been spared his assaults. However they were not. Similar incidents should not still be a problem today. Yet they are. Current leaders should be dealing with this situation in an open, transparent manner. Regrettably they are not. This is the story of my #MeToo moment in the Church, both the actual events that took place more than thirty years ago when I was in the seminary, and what is happening today as I seek to have church leaders address this often overlooked aspect of the clergy sex scandal, adults — whether younger or older — who are targeted by predator priests and bishops.

My review: I’ve been downloading and reading about clerical sexual abuse for the past six months as research for my work in progress (which is loosely based on the effects of the abuse my father suffered at the hands of a priest when he was a freshman at a Catholic high school.) I wasn’t surprised that there was a plethora of books on that topic, but I was surprised that there aren’t more books like this one, from the point of view of a seminarian thirty years ago. It’s not a story for the faint of heart, but it is well written. It could’ve gone through a few more edits as there were typos and grammar errors, but overall, it’s a great book. 4/5.

Sexual Violence and the Violence of Silence

by Jewel Lee Herder, Ph.D.

Amazon Synopsis: Sexual Violence and the Violence of Silence takes a candid look at the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia from a historical and cultural perspective. The author reveals the five veils of silence—the actions or inactions of the church hierarchy, congregation, law enforcement, media, and general public—that shrouded these cases of clergy sexual violence and exposed the internal maneuverings by administrative officials to silence all those involved or who knew about the abuses. This violence of silence had a profound effect on the victims by adding to their pain and suffering and interfering with their ability to heal and obtain justice. The author begins with the history of the founding of the Roman Catholic Church in America and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and leads the reader through the confession and testimony of Father William Hogan, a nineteenth-century priest who acknowledged his role in grooming parishioners in the confessional, attested to the sexually abusive behavior of many of his colleagues, and argued for the pervasiveness of clergy sexual violence in the church.

The reader will also be exposed to graphic grand jury testimony of the victims of a small representative sample of accused sexually violent priests from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia—Father Gerard W. Chambers, Father Joseph Gausch, and Father Nicholas V. Cudemo—who targeted their victims based on race, class, and gender. The author includes the historical context in which each priest lived and served by presenting these priests to the reader in chronological order based on their date of ordination. To assist the readers in their understanding of the scope of the cover-up by the leadership of the church, the author examines the administration of the bishops or cardinals supervising the archdiocese during the tenure of each of these predator priests.

My review: This was a difficult book to get through, not just because of the topic and the testimony of witnesses (now adults), but because the author was clearly anti-Catholic. And while in many respects, the author is correct when she speaks of moving abusive priests from parish to parish was clearly wrong, her own anti-Catholic bias shone through too strongly for me and I had to skim over sections. Only recommend this book for those with a strong stomach. 3/5.

The Cross and the Godless by Joseph Mauck

Amazon Synopsis: 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, many 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!

Interview with Joseph Mauck, author of The Cross and the Godless

Joseph Mauck is the author of The Cross and the Godless.

Where did you get the idea for this story?

The first inklings of The Cross and the Godless came to me as I followed a news story way back in 1981, when increasing numbers of political refugees from Nicaragua and El Salvador made their way across the US/Mexican border.  I lived in Southern California at the time, when the ongoing violence in those two countries alarmed a great many Americans.  For me, the horrific murders of nuns and priests was particularly troubling.  But I also read about magnificent acts of  courage and sacrifice on the part of Christian volunteers who helped thousands of people. And yes, there were horrific murders along the border. Some were attributed to death squads. Helping destitute immigrants in those days was a dangerous undertaking. As a dramatist I couldn’t resist writing a story that reflected that same Christian courage.  At first, it was just a one page outline.  But with careful thought and a lot of research over the years, I pulled the story together between other projects. 

The big jump forward came about seven years ago, when I finally got fed up with all the filth and hedonism in mainstream American culture.  Fortunes have been made by the constant appeal to our greed, lust, and all that we think of as the “dark side” of human nature, and those who create these ugly stories don’t care whether children are exposed or not.  These are the same people who say they never have enough fresh stories for books, movies and television, but always seem to ignore Christians writers with great stories, both fiction and true-life.  Add to that Planned Parenthood’s growing influence, and I realized I had to do my part to fight back. Writing The Cross and the Godless  –  a suspense-thriller with a solid pro-life love story  –  became my way of  taking sides in the cultural wars.  Yes, it has its share of violence and contemptable behavior, but it only reflects what we find in the darker parts of a  fallen world.  Overall, I’d have to say The Cross and the Godless expresses the determination of good people trying to survive dangerous circumstances, and fight a persistent, unmerciful evil.  I’m proud of this book.  It’s a good read.     

The truth that each person is a unique and beautiful creation of God runs throughout this book. Why was it important that your reader understand this fundamental truth in the context of the story?

For the past several decades, mainstream crime fiction has gradually become increasingly harsh and brutal in its depiction of human behavior. Certainly one can say this gradual degradation only reflects today’s headlines. But that doesn’t explain why the counterforce of Christian writing—through the depiction of heroic characters, such as teachers, extended family, neighbors, and the like—has not taken root and grown at a similar rate.  The arguments of “profit margins” and “the bottom line” can’t explain it; stories with less violence and happy endings can be profitable too.  Nor can we simply write it off as a kind of “secular cynicism”; our current social debasements are the result of failings far more complex than that.

On the other hand, at the heart of your question, we see a way of turning things around, a way out of the morass of ugly depravity and its seemingly constant surrender to evil intent. We need only remind the reader that even the worst among us was born of God’s love. In other words, all children are born innocent. This “fundamental truth” not only allows for the broader development of an antagonist’s motives (such as the emergence of childhood trauma) it provides for the exploration of the deepest thought and behavior of all characters. More importantly, by reminding the reader “that each person is a unique and beautiful creation of God” we inspire hope, which might be the only way to survive a fictional crisis. Moreover, in the real world of increasing degradation, hope is a powerful antidote to real-life cynicism.        

Writers tend to include aspects of themselves in their characters. Do any of your characters possess your strengths or flaws?  Or are they all based on others?

My central protagonist, Steve Rodriguez, has a few quirks I see in myself. He’s a bit too hard on himself when he makes mistakes, and he’s especially cautious when it comes to self-pity. Like me, he knows self-pity can slow him down, discourage him, or distract him from the task at hand. In real life, I guess that’s one fault I have wrestled with from time to time, and that certainly made it easier to write about when I fleshed out Steve’s character. 

Charlie Bregetti, too, comes to mind.  As Steve’s second in command on the FBI task force, Charlie’s tough exterior tends to obscure his love for God and country, and it takes a while before we see his fondness for children, his respect for the meek and suffering of the world. Especially strong is Charlie’s compassion for the innocent victim. It’s there, all right. But it emerges slowly. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of my father in Charlie.  Deep down, a lot of love for humanity. Bill Mauck—to know him was to love him.       

What writing projects are you currently working on?

A few things right now. But it’s too soon to talk about. Maybe after the second or third draft. I’m sure there’s other writers who, like me, feel uncomfortable talking about new work in the early stages. The way I see it—the way I feel it—describing unfinished work can only hinder one’s creative engines.  

On the other hand, I have a new project that’s set to go.  I’m searching for a producer of my new play, Quinn’s Gift, a contemporary two-act drama about a black middle-aged widower who, with God’s help, finds justice for a murdered white father and daughter. 

Do you have any favorite authors or books you can recommend to my readers? I enjoy reading James Lee Burke.  His characters carry on despite their inability to correct enormous, self-destructive faults. Sometimes his supporting characters are too patient, too forgiving I think, but always colorful and interesting. Even in the darkest prose, Burke’s love for humanity shines through.  


Buy The Cross and the Godless here on Amazon.

An Open Book – July #openbook

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

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

Amazon Synopsis: To the outside world, they seem to have it all. Cassie Barrett, a renowned anthropologist, and Alex Rivers, one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, met on the set of a motion picture in Africa. They shared childhood tales, toasted the future, and declared their love in a fairy-tale wedding. But when they return to California, something alters the picture of their perfect marriage. A frightening pattern is taking shape—a cycle of hurt, denial, and promises, thinly veiled by glamour. Torn between fear and something that resembles love, Cassie wrestles with questions she never dreamed she would face: How can she leave? Then again, how can she stay?

My review: Jodi Picoult tackles a tough topic with this book: spousal abuse. This is one of those books that I read every few years because Picoult expertly creates and develops her characters. When the abuser is pleading with his wife to allow them to reconcile, part of me was saying, “Tell him yes!” That’s a great author who can have the reader cheering for the abuser. That being said, since this is one of her early books, I noticed a few writing errors and typos that wouldn’t normally be in her later books. Regardless, I have enjoyed every Picoult book until about ten years ago when she became politically correct (the Christians in one of her more recent novels are seen as the villains). But this particular book is excellent. 5/5.

Victoria’s War by Catherine Hamilton

Amazon Synopsis: In Victoria’s War, Hamilton gives voice to the courageous Polish women who were kidnapped into the real-life Nazi slave labor operation during WWII. Inspired by true stories, this lost chapter of history won’t soon be forgotten.

POLAND, 1939: Nineteen-year-old Victoria Darski is eager to move away to college: her bags are packed and her train ticket is in hand. But instead of boarding a train to the University of Warsaw, she finds her world turned upside down when World War II breaks out. Victoria’s father is sent to a raging battlefront, and the Darski women face the cruelty of the invaders alone. After the unthinkable happens, Victoria is ordered to work in a Nazi sewing factory. When she decides to go to a resistance meeting with her best friend, Sylvia, they are captured by human traffickers targeting Polish teenagers. Sylvia is singled out and sent to work in brothels, and Victoria is transported in a cattle car to Berlin, where she is auctioned off as a slave.

GERMANY, 1941: Twenty-year-old Etta Tod is at Mercy Hospital, where she’s about to undergo involuntary sterilization because of the Fuhrer’s mandate to eliminate hereditary deafness. Etta, an artist, silently critiques the propaganda poster on the waiting room wall while her mother tries to convince her she should be glad to get rid of her monthlies. Etta is the daughter of the German shopkeepers who buy Victoria at auction in Berlin. The stories of Victoria and Etta intertwine in the bakery’s attic where Victoria is held the same place where Etta has hidden her anti-Nazi paintings. The two women form a quick and enduring bond. But when they’re caught stealing bread from the bakery and smuggling it to a nearby work camp, everything changes.

My review: On my “To Read” shelf.

The Lacemaker by Anne Faye

Amazon Synopsis: St. Zélie Martin (1831-1877) is best known as the mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, one of the most-loved saints of modern times, but she is also a saint in her own right. In this work of historical fiction based largely on St. Zélie’s letters, a compelling portrait of a working mother who always put God first comes to life.

St. Zélie is a saint many women can relate to. She suffered from anxiety, struggled with work-life balance, grieved the loss of children, cared for aging parents, had a child with special needs, and dealt with personal illness. Above all, she loved God and her family and had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother.

In this intimate portrayal, you will come to know a complex woman who achieved holiness while living in the world and dealing with the stress of modern life.

My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful book based on St. Zelie Martin’s life. It’s written in a journal format and easy to follow along with the events, joys and challenges of a woman in the 19th century. Highly recommend.

A Song for the Road by Kathleen Basi

Amazon Synopsis: 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: I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book that on the surface seemed like it might be depressing. But I was pleasantly surprised. This is a beautifully written journey of grief but one that ultimately becomes a journey of joy and discovery. Rich, well-developed and believable characters make this a book that you won’t forget. Highly recommend. 5/5

The Handy Little Guide to Prayer by Barb Szyszkiewicz

Amazon Synopsis: God knows what’s on our minds and in our hearts, but we still need to verbalize our innermost thoughts, feelings, and intentions. That’s prayer.

In this easy-to-read, down-to-earth introduction to conversation with God, you’ll discover, or rediscover, what you need to be able to “pray without ceasing.”

In this brief booklet, author, mom, wife, and Secular Franciscan Barb Szyszkiewicz helps you strengthen your connection to God through prayer. You’ll learn:

  • How to pray alone and establish an intimate connection with God
  • How to pray with the whole Church
  • What the saints teach us about prayer
  • When to pray, including formal and informal times for prayer
  • Different styles and methods of prayer, including the prayers of the Church, adoration, meditation, music, art, and journaling

Your connection to God in prayer can happen anywhere, at any time. No special equipment is needed, and no dress code, no reservation, no admission fee. All you need is an open heart and a willingness to engage with our Creator.

My review: As a short person, I was always told “Good things come in small packages.” This wonderful little prayer book is also an example of that saying. It’s small enough to carry in your purse or to have on your nightstand. It’s also ideal for taking to Adoration. It’s short and to the point. Highly recommend. 5/5.

If Today You Hear His Voice by Irene Lynch

Amazon Synopsis: Throughout our rich and inspiring Catholic history, many saints have proclaimed to have had a conversation with Christ or the Blessed Mother. I believe that everyone can hear the voice of God! He is as alive and involved in our lives today as He was when He walked the earth over two thousand years ago! God wants a loving relationship with each one of us. I believe that through the Holy Spirit, God prompted me to write this book. My complete trust in His endless love and mercy has given me blessings beyond my greatest dreams. My prayer is for you to seek God in all things, walk with Him in your life journey, and listen to His voice. Come walk with me and let me show you how!!

My review: I enjoyed this lovely book. It’s self-published so the writing is not as polished as it can be, but I can definitely feel the author’s joy through her journey. Recommend. 4/5.

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby by Bonnie Way and Anna Eastland

Amazon Synopsis: Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby is a friendly, conversational book about pregnancy, birth, and your first three months as a new mom. With respect and honesty, authors Bonnie Way (mom of 5) and Anna Eastland (mom of 9) share their experiences, walking expectant moms through some of the questions and concerns they may experience from conception to colic. This book includes tips on dealing with first trimester exhaustion, dressing your baby bump without breaking the bank, choosing the best care provider for your pregnancy, whether or not to write a birth plan, dealing with pain during labour, and taking care of yourself and baby after birth.

My review: On my “To Read” shelf.

#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

An Open Book – May #openbook

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

Here’s what I’ve been working on or reading.

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

This is a moving and powerful story set in the 1950’s. Life was different, and society was very different. But the story is of great value for readers today. I mentioned at the beginning that the book landed on my desk at a critical time. I had just found out I have a 25-year-old daughter I did not know about. Reading this, I could not help but think about this daughter and her mother. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literatureSteven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

Synopsis: Parkland (originally titled Four Days in November) is the exciting and definitive narrative of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The film—starring Paul Giamatti, Zac Efron, Jacki Weaver, and Billy Bob Thornton—follows a group of individuals making split-second decisions after this incomprehensible event: the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital, the chief of the Dallas Secret Service, the cameraman who captured what has become the most examined film in history, the FBI agents who had gunman Lee Harvey Oswald within their grasp, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson who had to take control of the country at a moment’s notice. 

My review: This was on sale on Kindle, so I downloaded it. I needed something to read (our internet wasn’t working and we only have live streaming television.) Bugliosi can write compelling narrative (he’s the author of my favorite crime novel, Helter Skelter). I know most of what went on during those four days in November of 1963, but I didn’t know much about the murder by Oswald of Officer J.D. Tippitt. Like many, I don’t believe Oswald did it alone. However, I don’t believe Oswald was “just a patsy.” I believe Oswald murdered the police officer and fired some of the shots at President Kennedy. Highly recommend. 4/5.

The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau

Synopsis: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1965, The Keepers of the House is Shirley Ann Grau’s masterwork, a many-layered indictment of racism and rage that is as terrifying as it is wise.

Entrenched on the same land since the early 1800s, the Howlands have, for seven generations, been pillars of their Southern community. Extraordinary family lore has been passed down to Abigail Howland, but not all of it. When shocking facts come to light about her late grandfather William’s relationship with Margaret Carmichael, a black housekeeper, the community is outraged, and quickly gathers to vent its fury on Abigail. Alone in the house the Howlands built, she is at once shaken by those who have betrayed her, and determined to punish the town that has persecuted her and her kin.

Morally intricate, graceful and suspenseful, The Keepers of the House has become a modern classic.

My Review: I downloaded this for sale on Kindle a few weeks ago and just started reading it. Review coming.

Synopsis: Have you ever wondered who you are? Or how you became who you are? Or what is it that defines you as a person and, more specifically, what were some of those defining moments in your life?

Forever Thirteen documents a Sunday morning newspaper headline that read, “Boy Scout Camper, 13, Drowns as Raft Sinks.” This is the true story of a family tragedy as recounted by the nearly twelve-year-old brother who writes this story some years later. It is a story of a mother’s nervous breakdown and a father’s inability to provide comfort to his children at this critical period. It is a firsthand account of unintentional abandonment, suffering, sadness, detachment, guilt, and recovery.

As a youth, the author struggled through this experience, maintaining his faith in God and continuing to hope and pray for the rebuilding of his family, while maintaining love for those who were letting him down.

This is a story that can help others in their personal journeys through those tragedies that we all eventually face.

My review: FQP just published the Kindle edition of this book. It’s a heart-wrenching memoire of the author’s experience of the tragic death of his thirteen-year-old brother. Beautifully written and only .99 on Kindle.

Synopsis: Coming next month from FQP! 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 set aside her dream of becoming a clothing designer to take care of her great-aunt.

Mibs had not realized that opening a sewing shop would also open the door to experiencing the loss of two new friends, Jennifer Morris and her sister, Jasmine Hornsby.  At first, Jennifer’s death appeared to be an accidental poisoning.  A short time later, Jasmine’s death was declared a suicide.  When authorities claimed that grief 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 Mibs realized that 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.

Virtual Attendance #cartoon

copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Back in 2013 when we created this cartoon, we had no idea how close this would be to the truth eight years in the future.

I never thought we’d be attending both weddings and funerals virtually. After all, the idea for this cartoon was supposed to be a joke, not real life.

However, our new normal seems to be here to stay.

We now teach marriage preparation virtually via Zoom. Sometimes the only way to attend Mass is via Zoom. We visit with family and friends via Zoom and FaceTime. Just about everything we used to do in person, we do via Zoom. Yes, it’s more convenient. Yes, it’s safer. But I do miss the face-to-face interaction and the hugs.

However, if we can’t find some humor in social distancing, virtual weddings and funerals, mask-wearing and sanitizer, then it’s going to be challenging finding it elsewhere these days.

Stay safe. Take time to smile, laugh and be happy about your blessings, even in these challenging circumstances.

Copyright 2021 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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.