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.

Interview with Allison Wajert Venini, author of Authenticity

Allison Wajert Venini is the author of Authenticity, which was published by FQP last Fall.

EG: Where did you get the idea for Authenticity?

AWV: I had an idea of a well-known and working actor asking an ingenue why she was compelled to be involved in the craft of acting.  Sometimes, stories come to me, although there is a point of entry before I find it in whole.  There had been much attention brought to certain celebrities, particularly young actors who were prominent in the eighties.  Several turned to substances and subsequently became addicts.  I am speculating, but I think some of them were exploited.  They were surrounded by people who used them. 

EG: Your book focuses on a close friendship between a famous actor and a background actress.  Do you have any experience in the acting field?

AWV: I have experience in acting in several mediums.  I have a degree in theatre acting, as well.  The body of work, if you could even phrase it as such, has been broad, but on a small scale.  I do not think you would recognize me from anything.  I would hate getting typecast, but if I was typecast as anything, it was the victim.  I consider myself as being a quiet person, but I know how to scream. 

EG: Have you always been interested in literature?  What drew you to writing a story with Theology of the Body themes?

AWV: I am a bibliophile.  Growing up, I read novels instead of interacting with my peers at recess.  The books were more inviting and inclusive than my classmates, I found. I wanted to write a story of faith, primarily.  Theology of the Body has far-reaching applications; one experiences life through the body.  Our decisions, often realized physically upon ourselves or upon others, impact our souls.  Chastity is a virtue prevalent in the story.  The protagonist’s virtue is challenged, tested, and even attacked. I believe in platonic love, and did not find it depicted between opposite sexes in literature very often. 

EG: What do you hope the reader will take away from Authenticity?

AWV: What a lovely question!  I am grateful when someone invests the time to read Authenticity.  Hopefully, he or she will have learned a little bit about the arts, and that the people behind the art are not automatically pedantic and aloof. 

EG: Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

AWV: Growing up, I read quite a bit of Torey Hayden, who is a non-fiction writer.  She taught children who were deemed unfit for a regular classroom setting, often because of disability or psychological disorders.  She was remarkable, and so were the children who had to, with guidance, make better lives for themselves.  With children, their circumstances are out of their control, so you hope that they are in a place where they can thrive. My tastes are broad, but I have read a lot of apocalypse fiction, so Michael O’Brien’s Children of the Last Days, especially Father Elijah, captivated me.  I read Steven King’s The Stand.  I did read Left Behind at the peak of its popularity, but I was disappointed that Catholics were among those “left.”  I found it to be unnecessarily divisive.  The last book I read that I truly loved is The Buried Giant by Sir Kazuo Ishiguro.  It is a love story between an elderly married couple.  There are many books devoted to young love, but not nearly as many touching upon sustained love.  Sir Ishiguro writes in a range of genres, so he has the ability to reach many. 

EG: Are you working on any other writing projects?  If so, what are they?

AWV: It all depends upon having time to write!  If I do not complete it, then I hope someone puts out a novel regarding souls in Purgatory.  They are too often ignored, and that is reflected in the novels being published.

Click here to read an excerpt, reviews and a synopsis of Authenticity.

Authenticity is available via Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

An Open Book – August #openbook

An Open Book 800W

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

Though War Be Waged

Though War Be Waged Upon Me:

A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection

by Carol Puschaver

Blurb: Make no mistake. Satan is very much alive — and hellbent on revenge. He is waging war against humanity, and indeed against all creation, with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose. Cast out of heaven; crushed at the foot of the Cross, he is multiplying evil and outrage and scandal to unprecedented effect as he “strikes at [the] heel” (Gen 3.15) of “fallen mankind” (St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition, 9).Without question we are living in a time of increasingly brazen evil. That is to say, a time of extraordinary and abundant grace also. Christ has already won the final victory over Satan. By His grace, we stand strong against the forces of evil. By that same ineffable grace, we stand in the company of holy angels — most especially the glorious Warrior Archangel Saint Michael.And the high ground belongs to us!

My review: This is a beautiful booklet dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.  If you thought the only St. Michael prayer was the one we sometimes say at the end of Mass, then this book will be an eye opener for you.  Included is a history of the St. Michael prayers as well as a chaplet and reflections. Highly recommend.

Unspeakable Beauty

Unspeakable Beauty by Joshua Elzner

Blurb: When Adam awakes without a past, he is impelled to ask the question, “Who am I?” and yet this question itself is already cradled in the awe of first discovery, in which his heart is stirred to childlike wonder and playfulness at his contact with a beautiful world that he had almost lost forever. But whenever his memory comes flooding back in, and his whole being is shaken by the trauma of a painful life, will he be able to retain his childlike wonder, and will he be able to answer this question, both for himself and for others?

His only hope lies in letting himself be buoyed up by what has gone before him, carries him now, and will always remain—a mystery greater than himself and yet enfolding him in his uniqueness, a mystery knitting his life together with the lives of so many others in a tapestry that, while composed of light and darkness, of joy and sorrow, of profound hope and inexpressible anguish, is nonetheless a masterpiece of unspeakable beauty.

My review: The author can write well and the story is engaging.  My only criticism is that it’s very, very long.  For those who can handle lengthy books, this is a good read.

Jazz

Jazz and Other Stories by Dena Hunt

Blurb: Like jazz music, these singular life stories play out in an improvisational current of tragedy, comedy, drama, and discovery. A little girl in rural Georgia, a young woman in Germany, a Floridian priest, a history professor in New Orleans, and others all contribute verses of experience—some with joy, some with sorrow, and some with shock, or even violence. Written over a period of many years by an award-winning author, these stories and their characters make up a varied collection of life’s jazz-like rhythm, its recurrent refrain of surprise, its terrible and beautiful crashes against the cymbals. Not one of the stories is about love, but they are all, in their different ways, love stories.

My review: This is a new book by my favorite author, Dena Hunt.  I’ve read some of the stories and they’re wonderful.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

Peace Among Brambles Front Cover for Kindle

Peace Among Brambles by May Akonobi

Blurb:  Mma loves children. Preoccupied by this love and the desire to have her own children, she rushes into marriage with Joey, throwing overboard her mother’s wise counsel to pray and seek God’s will. The honeymoon is a dream come true for Mma and her new husband. But when they return home, Mma finds that Joey’s mother and sister have moved in. What follows is a challenging time for Mma. How will she face her new situation? Will she ever realize her dream of having her own children?

My review: This is a beautiful story of a young Nigerian woman, who yearns for children. She  marries quickly without praying to God for guidance. What follows is a series of life lessons for Mma, who eventually learns to trust in God.

Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A St. Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection

Though War Be Waged

Since that most dire moment when “war broke out in heaven” as Lucifer rebelled against God, the war between good and evil has always raged, and our present time is no exception.  To the contrary, the forces of good and evil are locked in a battle that appears to be escalating, growing more ominous by the day.   And it hardly seems any exaggeration to feel that evil has the upper hand – and Satan is not about to pull any punches.

So what is the average layperson to do?

Though War Be Waged Upon Me:  A Saint Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection is a book written by Carol Puschaver as one answer to this pressing question.  The reader can draw hope and remember that grace is at work as he/she appeals to St. Michael, starting with the Prayer to St. Michael that was composed by Pope Leo XIII.  As the book makes clear, however, there is much more not only to the Warrior Archangel, but also the many other prayers, including the especially powerful St. Michael Chaplet.

Also in this book:

St. Michael in Salvation History
The Vision of Pope Leo and the Original Prayer to St. Michael
St. Michael Chaplet
Prayer Treasury
Ways to Love and Honor St. Michael

The blurb: Make no mistake. Satan is very much alive — and hellbent on revenge. He is waging war against humanity, and indeed against all creation, with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose. Cast out of heaven; crushed at the foot of the Cross, he is multiplying evil and outrage and scandal to unprecedented effect as he “strikes at [the] heel” (Gen 3.15) of “fallen mankind” (St. Joseph Edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition, 9).Without question we are living in a time of increasingly brazen evil. That is to say, a time of extraordinary and abundant grace also. Christ has already won the final victory over Satan. By His grace, we stand strong against the forces of evil. By that same ineffable grace, we stand in the company of holy angels — most especially the glorious Warrior Archangel Saint Michael. And the high ground belongs to us!

My review: This is a beautiful booklet dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel.  If you thought the only St. Michael prayer was the one we sometimes say at the end of Mass, then this book will be an eye opener for you.  Included is a history of the St. Michael prayers as well as a chaplet and reflections. Highly recommend.

About the Author: Carol Puschaver earned her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English from Kent State University, Ohio, and lives in Upstate New York. A lifelong scholar, amateur historian and world traveler, she has a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Michael the Archangel.

To purchase the Kindle edition at only 1.99, click here.

To purchase the Paperback edition at only 5.99, click here.

Virtual Book Tour: Moonchild Rising by Mina Ambrose

Beginning on Monday and for a week, my blog and other blogs will be hosting author Mina Ambrose for a Virtual Book Tour:

Moonchild Front JPG Final

Synopsis:   Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…

For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.

Keywords:    Religious inspirational,  vampire fiction, clean historical, Catholic fiction fantasy, Vampire conversion

Info Link:   https://www.fullquiverpublishing.com/our-publications/shadows-of-the-sun-series-by-mina-ambrose/

Buy Link Kindle:    https://www.amazon.com/Moonchild-Rising-Shadows-Sun-Book-ebook/dp/B087JY8X4C/

Buy Link Print:   https://www.amazon.com/dp/1987970152/

Categories:   Fantasy Fiction, Vampire Romance, Religious Inspirational Fiction, Catholic Romance Vampires, Supernatural

Goodreads link:   https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53398004-moonchild-rising

 

Virtual Book Tour Stops

June 8   Patrice MacArthur

June 9  Steven McEvoy  Book Reviews and More

June 10  Ellen Gable  Plot Line and Sinker

June 11   Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

June 12  Karina Fabian

June 13   Theresa Linden

June 15  Sarah Reinhard, Snoring Scholar

 

Advanced Reviews:

A fast-paced, engaging book that draws clear lines between Good and Evil, leading the reader on a great adventure through the darkness we cannot see. I loved the story—and I’m not even a fan of vampires!”  Michelle Buckman, award-winning author, Rachel’s Contrition and Turning in Circles

“Can a vampire’s soul be saved? With beautiful imagery, Moonchild Rising pairs a redeemed vampire and a skilled huntress battling both the undead and the desires of their hearts.” Carolyn Astfalk, author, Come Back to Me and All in Good Time

Interview with Linda Etchison, author of Sister Aloysius books

Today I’m interviewing the author of the Sister Aloysius books, Linda Etchison.

Linda's Photo

What inspired you to write the Sr. Aloysius series?

After my father passed away, the idea came to me to create a character in a children’s book and name her Sister Aloysius in honor of my dad, Aloysius John Winka.  I cannot remember anything other than the idea popped into my head, and I knew my dad would like it.  I guess I just let the idea rest in the back of my mind, pondering it for a few years as other ideas began to come along.

What do you love most about writing these stories for children?

As I write them, I like thinking of parents reading them to and with their children.  I like to think that the stories will help people love Jesus, his Blessed Mother, and the wonderful Church that he has left us. As I write, in a small way I am able to share my own faith through the character of Sister Aloysius.

Where do you get your inspiration for the Sr. Aloysius stories?

I have to say that my inspiration must come from the Holy Spirit.  I look back on the stories and reread them and think to myself, how did I think of that?? I have to give God the credit.  Most ideas pop into my head when my mind during adoration.  Many of the little things in the stories come from my own life.  I attended a Catholic school in my early grade school years before it closed.  It was staffed with sisters from the Adorers of the Blood of Christ.  My first-grade teacher was a wonderful woman named Sister Benedict who remained a family friend until she died.  She loved everyone and was full of joy and cheer.  Later, I was also a teacher in the public schools for 18 years, so I have my own teaching experience to use.  My dad was a wonderful inspiration as well.  He never missed an opportunity to talk about his faith and the Catholic Church to anyone in the coffee shop or on the job.  He loved it and spent many evenings sitting on the couch, studying and reading, trying to learn all that he could about the Church.  He had many stories of faith to share with us. He prayed as he worked.

Have you always loved stories and reading?

From the time I could ride my bike, I would ride to the public library and check out books to read.  I didn’t always enjoy reading things that were assigned in school though until I was older.  My first job was actually working in the public library.  I loved working there. I started working part time after my sophomore year in high school and worked there until I finished junior college.  My love of books carried through to my studies.  I chose junior high education with fields of English and library science as my major.  After college I taught junior high and high school English coupled with being a school librarian. After 18 years working in public schools, I became a homeschooling mother. Reading was a big part of the Seton Home Study Program that we used.  Using the Seton program gave me an opportunity to read many wonderful books that I hadn’t had the chance to read before.  I have to admit that through the years I have collected many books, though, that I haven’t yet found the time to read.

What message do you hope the children and parents who read your books will bring away after reading these books?

Sister Aloysius wants everyone to love Jesus as a best friend.  I think that my hope is that everyone will come to know Jesus and realize that he is the very best friend anyone could have.  For many years as a PSR catechist, I have watched children pass through class seeming engaged and learning the material only to have them leave the Church once they were confirmed.  It breaks my heart.  My hope with these books is that children and parents will all come to know Jesus as their very best friend and come to love the wonderful Church that he left to help us get to heaven.

How can families explore the themes in the Sr. Aloysius books?

Included on the parent pages in the books are references to the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  The stories are a great way to launch into Bible study.  Other bits of information are also included that can be used to help parents jump-start a discussion.  My hope is to have stories that parents enjoy reading along with their children, stories that help parents share their own faith, and stories that parents and children can possibly learn from together.

Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and books?

Narrowing down to favorites is nearly impossible.  I could go on and on. There are so many great books that I’ve enjoyed.  There were books that I read as a child, though, which I definitely made of point of having so that I could read them to my children.  They were fun stories to read aloud.  Some of them are The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins, A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer, Dr. Seuss books, and the Berenstain Bears books by Stan and Jan Berenstain.  Also, favorites that I used with my own children were the St. Joseph Picture Books by Rev. Lawrence G. Lovasik.  My children and I both loved reading the Magic Tree House chapter books by Mary Pope Osborne. Two favorite sets of books from Neumann Press I discovered while homeschooling were Catholic Stories for Boys and Girls: Stories written and compiled in days long past by Catholic nuns in America and dedicated to Mary the Mother of God our dear lady of the Miraculous Medal (Volumes I-IV), and Angel Food for Boys and Girls: Little Talks to Young Folks (Volumes I-IV) by Father Gerald T. Brennan.  I guess my all-time favorite book as a child would have to be Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.  I say that because it was the only book I read and reread multiple times.

Which is your favorite Sr. Aloysius book and why?

That is a hard question to answer, but when I read the question, the second book, Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows, flashed into my mind.  I think it’s a very important book because I think that the world desperately needs Mary now.  I don’t think that she is loved and appreciated as much as Our Lord wants her to be.  She is the Queen of Heaven and our Mother as well.  She cares so much for all of us and has willingly suffered for us along with her Son.  She is the dispenser of graces.  She has appeared over and over again throughout time to warn us and try to draw us to her son.  It’s her Immaculate Heart to which we need to turn in order to save the world and the many lost souls in it.

Purchase links for the Sister Aloysius books: they’re available in hardcover or paperback:

Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville

Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows

Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for School

Interview with the Hollywood Times

Interview with Hollywood Times photoI was recently interviewed for the Hollywood Times.  Special thanks to Jules Lavalle! Here is a short excerpt:

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 4/4/20-  When she joins the war effort during the Great War, American nurse Ella Neumann doesn’t see allies or enemies. The daughter of German immigrants, all soldiers — Allies or Axis — are human beings in need of care. A promise to herself and a promise made to her by an enemy officer become the catalyst for the life she plans to lead after the war. But a handsome Canadian soldier may complicate her plans. In this third installment of the Great War – Great Love series, join Ella in a tale of promises, betrayal and unconditional love.- Ella’s Promise (Great War Great Love Book 3)

Did you always want to be an author?

English, Creative Writing and Spelling were the subjects I loved most in High School and college. As a small child, I enjoyed telling stories and making up stories. When I was a young woman, I married my husband, James, and raised five sons. For me, that was a vocation in itself.

It never occurred to me to be an Author, however, until my husband suggested the idea twenty years ago after I found out some disturbing information about my great-grandmother. “You should write a novel and base it on the stories of yourself and your great-grandmother.” So that’s what I did.

There are several recurring themes in your books. One theme is that every human being is unique and irreplaceable and should be treated with charity and kindness. What are the other themes?

St. John Paul II said, “ Human life is precious because it is the gift of a God whose love is infinite; and when God gives life, it is forever.” Human beings from the moment of conception to natural death are eternal gifts, and that is another theme that flows through my novels.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” My faith and love for Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother are important to me, so self-sacrifice is also a theme in most of my books.

St. John Paul II also said: “Love that leads to marriage is a gift from God and a great act of faith toward other human beings.”

Another recurring theme is that husband and wife are called to love as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. This is why all of my publishing company’s books are called “Theology-of-the-Body Fiction.”

To read the entire interview, click here.

 

Interview With Carolyn Astfalk

Come Back to Me FrontWhat inspired you to first start writing fiction?

Looking back, I’ve always had a rather cinematic imagination that allowed stories to play out in my mind. However, I wrote strictly nonfiction until 2010, when I gave National Novel Writing Month a shot. That manuscript, after many years and much revision, became Rightfully Ours. Once I started writing, the stories flowed more easily, and I enjoyed the challenge of taking all of those words and making something meaningful out of them.

What inspired you to write a sequel to Stay With Me?

Initially, I was looking for something new to write, and the characters from Stay With Me were still active in my imagination. I knew there was more to Alan and Jamie’s story. Initially, I’d considered that Alan may have had a problem with pornography, something I ended up developing with different characters in All in Good Time.

Tell us about Come Back to Me in one sentence.

A separated couple and their mutual friend must master their selfishness and immaturity to find purpose and grace enough to start over.

Are Alan and Megan based on anyone you know or are they totally fictional characters?

Alan and Jamie were inspired by the experience my husband and I had with Catholic Engaged Encounter. In 1996, on the weekend retreat we attended in preparation for our own marriage, we were one of only three couples who weren’t already living together. Oddly enough for a church-sponsored event, the six of us were put on the defensive about it by the other couples and bonded pretty quickly. When we later got involved with Engaged Encounter as volunteers, most of the couples coming through the program were living together already too.

Statistically, couples that live together before marriage, especially those living together without plans to marry, are more likely to divorce. So the couples on those weekends, though they desired happy, long-lasting marriages, were putting themselves at a disadvantage. Alan and Jamie let me explore why couples in those situations are more likely to struggle.

Megan is entirely fictional although I’ve observed a family implode much like Megan’s did following the death of a child. Everything and every member of the family was turned on its head.

Do you have specific rituals when you write?  A certain place or time?  Music that you listen to?  A special beverage?

I’ve always had to write whenever I could grab a few minutes either while babies were napping or kids were otherwise occupied. Lately I’ve been less inclined to write amidst constant distractions, so I’m grateful that I now have some quiet time to write—when I can discipline myself to do it. We’re pressed for space in our house, so my writing has always been done on my laptop at the dining room table, sometimes with a Spotify playlist to set the mood. Though I’m naturally a night owl, I prefer to write earlier in the day and read at night. I typically have a mug of hot tea next to the computer.

Of the now five novels you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

Ornamental Graces is my favorite. Dan and Emily had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but their intentions were good, and though it took time for Dan to get to a place where he could be the man Emily needed, their love never really faltered, even when they tried to fight it. Though the book spans every season, I think the Christmas setting that bookends the story makes it that much sweeter.

What do you like to read?  Who are some of your favorite authors?

I read a variety of genres, but I always come back to character-driven contemporary Catholic and Christian romance. I enjoy reading books by the many Catholic authors I consider friends, such as Theresa Linden, Leslea Wahl, and yourself. Elizabeth Byler Younts, Courtney Walsh, and Denise Hunter are a few of my favorite Christian authors. I also try to slip in some classics, though not enough. Willa Cather is one of my favorite classic authors.

Tell us more about yourself and your family. Are you working on any more novels?

My husband and I have four children ages 7-16. We try not to overextend ourselves with activities, but even so there is plenty to keep us busy with Scouts, 4-H, sports, musical instruments, and other extra-curricular activities. I’m chairperson of a national pro-life organization based in Pennsylvania, and now that the children are all in school, I’ve been able to volunteer more often at our school and parish and attend a Bible study. I should probably be spending more time cleaning house.

I have two novels in progress that I hope to complete in 2020. One, which I call Lost and Found, is a contemporary romance set in the New River Gorge of West Virginia involving an adventure guide/amateur Bigfoot hunter and a girl who’s defined her self-worth and others’ by their weight. The other is a second-chance contemporary romance between a man and woman whose paths cross time and time again in ways they are sometimes unaware. I’ve been calling that one The Light Between. After that, there’s a Young Adult novel I’ve been developing in my mind that I’ve yet to put on paper.

An Open Book – January #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for “An Open Book.”  Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month (and will be reading this month).

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The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt

Amazon Synopsis: Is love ever wrong?Paul Meyer has never let anyone get too close.Until Max.The Lion’s Heart is a heart-rending story about love and sacrifice. The emotional struggle of Paul’s same-sex attraction, the guilt he feels, and his ambivalence toward his Catholic faith all come together in this look inside the heart of a tortured man. “Dena Hunt is a consummate story-teller who does not shirk or shy away from the difficult questions about life and love that her story raises. The Lion’s Heart contains not only the loves of lovers, spouses, parents, and children but also the demons and dragons that selfishness unleashes. The Lion’s Heart is not for the faint-hearted, nor is it for the hard-hearted. It pulsates with a passion that will bring true hearts to their knees.” Joseph Pearce, author of The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, co-editor of the St. Austin Review

My review: I reread a few weeks ago in preparation for a radio interview.  The interviewer wanted to ask me about a “Catholic novel that impacted me.”  I know I am slightly biased because I published this book, but even before I published it, I knew it was an extraordinary book.  The author brilliantly illustrates the Church’s teachings on sexuality through the story and characters. Highly recommend.

Barron

Letter to a Suffering Church by Bishop Robert Barron

Amazon Synopsis: The sexual abuse scandal has gripped the Catholic Church for the past thirty years, and continues to wreak havoc even today. It’s been a diabolical masterpiece, one that has compromised the work of the Church in every way and has left countless lives in ruin. Many Catholics are understandably asking, Why should I stay? Why not abandon this sinking ship before it drags me or my children under? In this stirring manifesto, Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, explains why this is not the time to leave, but the time to stay and fight. Reading the current crisis through the lenses of Scripture and Church history, Bishop Barron shows that we have faced such egregious scandals before; that the spiritual treasures of the Church were preserved by holy men and women who recommitted themselves to fighting evil; and that there is a clear path forward for us today. For Catholics questioning their faith, searching desperately for encouragement and hope, this book will offer reasons to stay and fight for the Body of Christ.

My review: I received this book for free from a local parish and read it one Sunday afternoon in December.  Bishop Barron gives a lot of excellent insight and guidance regarding the Church scandals.  Highly recommend (and only .75 on Kindle!)

 

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The Book of Jotham by Arthur Powers

Synopsis: For 23 years the completed manuscript of The Book of Jotham sat in the author s desk drawer typewritten collecting dust and time. On an early autumn day in 2012, the manuscript arrived at Tuscany Press, and we discovered this compelling and moving story.

Jotham is a mentally challenged man-child who, like the other apostles, follows Jesus as Christ carries out his ministry and experiences death by crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Yet the other apostles the dedicated Mary, Peter, Thomas, and the rest while they care for Jotham and look out for him, don t understand why Jesus loves him so. Thomas even says, after Jesus offers a parable, I don t see why all the pots can t be strong and beautiful.

Jotham may be different, but through him, we come to see Jesus and Jotham not just with our eyes, but also with our hearts.

My review:  I read this again in preparation for FQP publishing the second edition of this book (hopefully before June!)  This is another book that is brilliantly written through the eyes of a mentally challenged man who follows Jesus. It’s a short read, but is very powerful.

 

Rule

Mortal Danger by Ann Rule

Amazon Synopsis: Featured here is the case of a Southern California family man who lured a beautiful flight attendant into a passionate and dangerous relationship. Other cases include that of the woman who masterminded her husband’s murder to gain his inheritance…the monstrous sadist whose prison release damaged a presidential candidate’s campaign and ended in a bitter double tragedy in a quiet neighborhood three thousand miles away…the shocking DNA link between a cold-blooded crime and a cold case…and inside the horrific case of the man who crossed an ocean and several countries to stalk the Eurasian beauty who had fled from him in desperation.

My review: Every now and then, I enjoy reading about true crime cases and Ann Rule is never a disappointment.  She takes the reader through cases with great attention to detail.  Recommend.

 

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Five Days in November by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin

Amazon Synopsis:  Don’t miss the New York Times bestseller Five Days in November, where Secret Service agent Clint Hill tells the stories behind the iconic images of those five infamous, tragic days surrounding JFK’s assassination, published for the 50th anniversary of his death.

On November 22, 1963, three shots were fired in Dallas, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and the world stopped for four days. For an entire generation, it was the end of an age of innocence.

That evening, a photo ran on the front pages of newspapers across the world, showing a Secret Service agent jumping on the back of the presidential limousine in a desperate attempt to protect the President and Mrs. Kennedy. That agent was Clint Hill.

Now Secret Service Agent Clint Hill commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy with this stunning book containing more than 150 photos, each accompanied by Hill’s incomparable insider account of those terrible days. With poignant narration accompanying rarely seen images, we witness three-year-old John Kennedy Jr.’s pleas to come to Texas with his parents and the rapturous crowds of mixed ages and races that greeted the Kennedys at every stop in Texas. We stand beside a shaken Lyndon Johnson as he is hurriedly sworn in as the new president. We experience the first lady’s steely courage when she insists on walking through the streets of Washington, DC, in her husband’s funeral procession.

A story that has taken Clint Hill fifty years to tell, this is a work of personal and historical scope. Besides the unbearable grief of a nation and the monumental consequences of the event, the death of JFK was a personal blow to a man sworn to protect the first family, and who knew, from the moment the shots rang out in Dallas, that nothing would ever be the same.

My review: My parents were devastated at President Kennedy’s assassination. I was only four years old at the time, but all I remember is seeing my parents cry and the beating of the drums during the televised funeral. Ever since then, I’ve read many books on the assassination.  This one was particularly interesting in that it tells the story from the POV of the secret service agent assigned to Jackie Kennedy.  Compelling read.  Highly recommend.

 

Ella’s Promise VBT

We’ve come to the end of my new book’s Virtual Book Tour and I’d like to say thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who took part!

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Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links

November 3  Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

November 4  Steven McEvoy Book Reviews and More

November 5  Theresa Linden Catholic Books Blog

November 6  Therese Heckenkamp

November 7 Patrice MacArthur

November 8  Amanda Lauer

November 9  Sarah Reinhard

November 10  Jean Egolf

November 12 Leslea Wahl

November 13  Trisha Potter

November 14   The Yeoman Farmer, Christopher Blunt

November 15  Plot Line and Sinker

The book is available on Kindle and in Paperback.

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