An Open Book – May 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m also joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners by Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis: “Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy.” — Jesus to St. Faustina.    Throughout her Diary, St. Faustina speaks of Jesus’ call for the conversion of souls. Through prayer and sacrifice, the Lord calls us all to strive for our own conversion, and for the conversion of the whole world. Perhaps you’ve tried everything to draw your friend or family member back to faith in God. In St. Faustina Prayer Book for the Conversion of Sinners, best-selling author Susan Tassone shows you how to place the lives of all you love into God’s merciful hands. Known worldwide as leading the “purgatory movement,” Susan invites you to learn how to live the message of conversion daily, to avoid purgatory, and to become more faithful in praying for others.

My review: Excellent book, as are all of Susan Tassone’s books.  “The Purgatory Lady,” as Susan is known, has written many books about the Holy Souls in Purgatory and the conversion of sinners. This book gives us ways not only to pray for our loved ones who are away from the faith, but it also helps us to grow in faith and to glimpse the mercy of God in action.  Highly recommend!

Heads Bowed by Lisa Mladinich

Amazon Synopsis: Catechetical thought leader Lisa Mladinich offers nearly 300 original prayers that will resonate with every Catholic teacher, principal, DRE, or catechist who has ever uttered the words, ‘Class, let’s bow our heads…’ Every teacher, catechist, or homeschooling parent appreciates a new collection of prayers to start the year. This book enables faith formation and prayer in a way that is easy to integrate into a busy class day. Mladinich provides prayers for the needs of both teachers and students, as well as Scripture verses and suggestions for use. Read these prayers in your classroom, by yourself before the start of the school day, in your religious education class, or in department and faculty meetings.

My review:  Beautifully written and powerful book of prayers.  This is ideal for teachers, homeschooling parents or religious education teachers.  Highly recommend!

 

Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World by Jean Heimann

Amazon Synopsis: Fatima. Few place-names in the Christian world conjure up such powerful images and associations as that of this humble town in Portugal. For it was there that Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children beginning in 1917 apparitions that are intimately linked to pious Catholic practices such as devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the five first Saturdays, daily recitation of the Rosary with the Fatima prayer, as well as miracles attested to even by non-believers, such as the day the sun danced. The Virgin s message, as it always is, was penance. But she also predicted world historical events such as the rise and fall of communism, the second world war, and the attempted assassination of Pope St. John Paul II. She promised refuge in her Immaculate Heart to all who approach her a promise extended, and urgently needed, today.

My review: This is a wonderful book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, just in time for the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance to the three shepherd children at Cova da Iria.  It is well-researched, well-written and filled with beautiful color photos and images.  In 1917, Our Lady of Fatima predicted many world events. After appearing monthly to the three children, devotion to her Immaculate Heart, the recitation of the Holy Rosary along with the new Fatima prayer, and the first five Saturdays were spread throughout the Church and continues to spread throughout the Church even in the 21st century.  Although it’s been 100 years, Our Lady’s message continues to be urgently needed today.  Highly recommend!

 

Interview with Carolyn Astfalk, Author of Rightfully Ours

Special thanks to Carolyn Astfalk, author of FQP’s young adult novel, Rightfully Ours, for answering these interview questions!

Rightfully Ours is a coming-of-age story of first love, buried treasure, and discovering some things are worth the wait.

When did you first feel called to write fiction?  Although I took a noncredit course in short story writing in the early 1990s, I didn’t dedicate any time or effort to fiction writing until late 2010. I’d seen National Novel Writing Month mentioned here and there by online friends and acquaintances and felt a nudge to give it a shot. It came at exactly the right time, when I had a block of time and relative peace to make at least a passable effort.

How did the idea for the story of Rightfully Ours come about?
I came across an article in our local newspaper about the search for gold that went missing while be transported across Pennsylvania to the Philadelphia Mint in 1863. I tucked that article away without a clear idea of what to do with it until I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. I used that as a springboard for the story, developing the characters and the themes as I went along.
How do you come up with names for your characters?
Some names are simply unused baby names that my husband and I tossed around before each of our children were born. Others have more meaning. For example, in Stay With Me, I chose the name Christopher not only because I like it but because the character was to be a “Christ-bearer,” which is what Christopher means.
How does your Catholicity inspire your writing?
My faith infuses my writing very naturally. Just as it is woven into my life, it becomes woven into my stories. While I can imagine writing stories where Catholic themes are less explicitly revealed, I can’t imagine them not underpinning a story because they frame my world view.
Do you have a favorite saint or a patron saint you use to intercede for you when you’re writing?
Long before I began fiction writing, I turned to the Holy Spirit when I had to write or speak publicly about matters pertaining to faith and the Church. That has carried over into fiction writing. I’ll most often say a simple prayer to the Holy Spirit from memory. When it comes to saints, Pope St. John Paul II has inspired me in so many ways. I’m continually awed by his wise and beautiful words. As an author and artist himself and because of his Theology of the Body, which has had a great influence on me, I consider him the perfect patron for my writing.
What message do you hope teens will take from your book?
I hope that teens will recognize the truth and beauty of human sexuality, and that chastity is a virtue that is necessary for all ages and stages of our lives. Jesus’s commands aren’t arbitrary rules made to deprive us of pleasure but rather for the benefit of not only individuals, but marriages, family, and by extension, all of society.
What do you envision as the target audience of this novel?
Because the protagonists are teenagers, I’d expect that teens could most easily relate to the characters and their experiences. However, from the beginning, I saw it more as a coming of age story that I hoped would appeal to adults as well. These days, adults readily enjoy Young Adult novels, I think because we all recognize the unique character of our youth when we are typically more optimistic, idealistic, and first discover the depth and power of love.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Idea? Writing first draft? Editing? Marketing?
My favorite part is completing the first draft, when everything – the plot and the themes – all come together, sometimes in what seems to me almost a magical way. Unlike a lot of writers, I don’t dislike marketing. I only wish there were more time for it.
What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
My least favorite part is late in the editing process. By that time, I’m often eager to delve into a new project, but there are sometimes still critical changes that must be made about what stays and what goes and discerning which suggestions should be adopted and which should be rejected.
Who are your favorite authors?
When it comes to classics, I enjoy Willa Cather’s writing. When it comes to contemporary Christian romance, which is what I read most, Becky Wade, Denise Hunter, Tammy Gray, and Nicole Deese are among my favorites. And then there are all of the contemporary Catholic fiction writers who have inspired me: Ellen Gable, Michelle Buckman, Stephanie Landsem, Erin McCole Cupp, Theresa Linden, and so many more, who I’m privileged to know.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Read as much as you can and make a habit of writing. Be diligent about continuing to improve your writing skills whether by reading books on the craft of writing, frequenting blogs, attending conferences, or listening to podcasts. And then, be patient.
What are you currently working on now?
I have two stories in the works. One is another contemporary romance between a young woman who has struggled to lose weight and a young man who cannot find authentic love – or Bigfoot, which makes it a bit quirky. The other is a story that spans decades as a man and woman’s lives intersect at various points from childhood to middle age. The power of unknown prayers for one another sustain them and eventually bring them together.
Rightfully Ours is available on Amazon Kindle and will be available in paperback soon!
Want to win a free paperback copy when it becomes available?  Leave a comment below (before April 24) to be entered!

An Open Book – March 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m also joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

midwife

A Midwife’s Tale by Delia Parr

From Amazon: Martha Cade comes from a long line of midwives who have served the families of Trinity, Pennsylvania, for generations. A widow with two grown children, she’s hopeful that her daughter will follow in her footsteps, but when Victoria runs off, Martha’s world is shattered.  Worse, a new doctor has arrived in town, threatening her job, and she can’t remember a time when her faith has been tested more. Still determined to do the work she knows God intended for her, Martha is unprepared for all that waits ahead. Whether it’s trying to stop a town scandal, mending broken relationships, or feeling the first whispers of an unexpected romance, she faces every trial and every opportunity with hope and faith.

My review: Forthcoming

canadian-soldier

The Lost Memoirs of a Canadian Soldier

From Amazon: This book is a compilation of letters and diary entries from Len Willans regarding his time in World War 1.

My review: I initially bought this for research for my WW1 novels.  It’s heart-wrenching and at the same time, fascinating to read this soldier’s diary from 100 years ago.

making-faces

Making Faces by Amy Harmon

From Amazon: Ambrose Young was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore. Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My review: This was an entertaining read, although it had more sexual tension than I’m used to in a Christian novel.  Also, there were a fair number of typos. Overall a good read, though.

 

wedding-dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

From Amazon: Four brides. One Dress. A tale of faith, redemption, and timeless love.

Charlotte owns a chic Birmingham bridal boutique. Dressing brides for their big day is her gift . . . and her passion. But with her own wedding day approaching, why can’t she find the perfect dress…or feel certain she should marry Tim? Then Charlotte discovers a vintage dress in a battered trunk at an estate sale. It looks brand-new—shimmering with pearls and satin, hand-stitched and  timeless in its design. But where did it come from? Who wore it? Who welded the lock shut and tucked the dog tags in that little sachet? Who left it in the basement for a ten-year-old girl? And what about the mysterious man in the purple vest who insists the dress had been “redeemed.” Charlotte’s search for the gown’s history—and its new bride—begins as a distraction from her sputtering love life. But it takes on a life of its own as she comes to know the women who have worn the dress. Emily from 1912. Mary Grace from 1939. Hillary from 1968. Each with her own story of promise, pain, and destiny. And each with something unique to share. For woven within the threads of the beautiful hundred-year-old gown is the truth about Charlotte’s heritage, the power of courage and faith, and the timeless beauty of finding true love.

My review: I enjoyed this book very much. It was pure entertainment, not too deep, somewhat predictable.

marriage

Marriage: A Fountain of Grace by Rosalie McPhee and Catherine Doherty

From Amazon: Love, love, love: never counting the cost. The timeless wisdom of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, and Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, is featured prominently in this new series of books. The theme of Catherine’s Little Mandate–a beautiful distillation of the Gospel of Jesus–weaves throughout and serves as an important foundation. Each book also gives an abundance of brief and profound quotations from Holy Scripture, and quotations from some of the great Catholic saints. These books are small enough to carry anywhere–and their wisdom is arranged in bite-size segments that you can read on the run, whenever you can spare time.

My review:  This is one of my favorite little books and I even have a personally autographed copy by Rosie McPhee Douthwright!  This is a perfect gift for a wedding shower, but it’s also an excellent book to give to engaged couples.  Highly recommend.

#FREE on Kindle: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

FREE On Kindle Until Thursday!!

“Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship” contains 12 stories that will inspire, captivate and entertain readers.

The idea for this book came about on Valentine’s Day eight years ago, when several mothers were enjoying each other’s fellowship as our children played and exchanged cards. We began sharing how each of us met our husbands. One by one we recounted our stories. It became evident that God’s hand was truly and firmly present in bringing each couple together. Kathy Cassanto, one of the mothers present, said, “It’s too bad there isn’t a book available with Catholic courtship stories.” My initial response was, “Well, if there isn’t, there should be.”  I immediately went online and discovered that there wasn’t a book containing Catholic courtship stories. So I asked Kathy to be my co-editor, and we set out to find inspiring Catholic courtship stories. We didn’t have to search far. Oftentimes, I simply listened to a small quiet voice prompting me to ask a particular couple, “Would you be willing to share how the two of you met?”

We agreed that the easiest and fastest way to gather the stories was to interview the couples, transcribe the interviews and edit the stories. Most of the stories in this book were from recorded conversations, then transcribed and edited, although some were written by the couples themselves.

As we interviewed each couple, a clear picture was emerging: that true love was far different from the infatuation which is so often portrayed in movies and books.

Each of these courtship/dating stories has its own theme, but all of them illustrate that God is the ideal matchmaker. The stories are uplifting, inspirational, funny, hopeful, romantic.

The complete versions of each story are included in the book, along with family photos of all the couples. Here are excerpts of some of the stories.

David and Posie

Leon and Mary Lou

Robert and Sarah

Chris and Micki

James and Ellen

Mark and Kathy

Andrew and Regina

Michel and Jeanette

Tom and Patty

James and Pati

Damon and Melanie

Mark and Yvette

To download your FREE Kindle copy, click here.

Synopsis: Come My Beloved is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating storiesthat will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Included are the following stories: A widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later, finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “What if we stopped having sex?” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a couple meet through a Christian introduction service; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

To read reviews, more excerpts and watch the book trailer and interview on Son Rise Morning Show, click here.

Text and photo copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Marriage: One Man, One Woman: A Noble Purpose

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

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

“Blessed are you,
O God of our fathers;
praised be your name
forever and ever.
Let the heavens and
all your creation
praise you forever.
“You made Adam and
you gave him his wife Eve
to be his help and support;
and from these two
the human race descended.
You said,
“It is not good for the man to be alone;
Let us make him a partner like himself”
Now, Lord, you know that I take this
wife of mine, not because of lust,
but for a noble purpose.
Call down your mercy on me and on her,
and allow us to live together to a happy old age.”
Tobit 8:7

This beautiful prayer was the second reading of our Nuptial Mass in 1982 when my husband and I were married. When I first read these words many years ago, they affected me deeply, especially when I learned the history of why Tobias said this prayer. After losing seven husbands before she could consummate her union with them, Sarah entered into marriage with Tobias. Tobias knew the history and understood that he could die if he married her. But he trusted God, recited the above prayer fervently and went on to a happy marriage with Sarah.

Nowadays, many Catholic couples live together or are sexually active before marriage. Same sex marriage is now legal in the United States (as it has been for ten years here in Canada). As much as cohabiting and same sex couples may desire to love one another – and most, I’m certain, really do feel love and affection towards the other – they cannot love each other in the way they are called to: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully, truly loving as God loves. Sexual relations are meant to be the renewal of a couple’s marriage vows. If there is no marriage, there are no vows and there can be no renewal.

Essentially, pre-marital sex, contracepted sex and sex between two people of the same gender are all lies.

“God help us to love each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Help us to love and not to lust.”

For more information about the Theology of the Body:
http://thetheologyofthebody.com

For more information on NFP:
www.ccli.org
www.woomb.org
www.creightonmodel.com

 

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

New Anthology, Image and Likeness, Puts Life Into the Theology of the Body

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon OwensMy latest from Catholic Mom:

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply?

Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices, including award-winning authors Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Michelle Buckman, Leslie Lynch, Theresa Linden, and many more. By turns edgy and sweet, gritty and deft, but always courageous and honest, the works contained in Image and Likeness explore countless facets of human love—and human failure. Readers of Image and Likeness will experience in a variety of ways how humanity, in flesh as well as spirit, lives out the image and likeness of a God who created human intimacy to bring forth both our future and to illustrate our ultimate meaning as human persons.

When asked where the idea for the book came from, editor and publisher Ellen Gable said, “I got the idea a few years back after I read a short story from another member of the Catholic Writers Guild.  When I sent out an initial request to other members of the Guild, I only received five stories but one of the authors, Erin McCole Cupp, said she had some ideas for a few Theology of the Body-themed short stories.”

Editor and contributor Erin McCole Cupp, says: “I had two separate ideas I’d been batting around for a while, and I knew they were short story ideas and not novels, but I couldn’t imagine what to do with them. Ellen’s request gave me the kick in the pants to write both “Good for Her” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Sunday Brunch.”  Once I had them written, I offered — okay, I begged — Ellen to let me do some of the legwork on this.  I loved the idea of an anthology, a space where authors and readers could come together to see both the dark and the light side of living TOB in a fallen world.

Ellen Gable continues, “When Erin asked me last year if we could release the book on St. John Paul II’s feast day of October 22, I thought that was a perfect date.  However, I had no idea that that would also be the day my son and his fiancée would choose for their wedding day.  So while we were in the midst of last-minute wedding preparations, I was also trying to get this book ready for publication.”

To find additional contributors, Erin and Ellen took two approaches.  Erin clarifies, “We put a call for submissions on the Image and Likeness Anthology page, but we also asked some authors in our networks if they would be interested in contributing either something already written or something written specifically for this project.”

Damon Owens, International Theology of the Body expert, wrote the foreword.  “I am indebted to the authors and poets of Image and Likeness for their gifted storytelling of real life “ugly.” This book isn’t afraid to hold our gaze into the darkness of sin, doubt, and brokenness before the resolution of redemption. Some of these stories are heartbreaking to read precisely because I know this is true. Some of them I will never forget because of their unexpected turn to redemption. Through and through, this is an artistic instruction in TOB that shows us the wounds needing the balm, the balm applied, and the health and wholeness of men and women healed. And, like every well-told story, its penetrating TOB truths will influence even the most reluctant reader.”

When asked who should be reading Theology of the Body fiction, Erin answered, “Since TOB is just the truth, and all fiction is supposed to be aimed at truth, I think all readers should be reading TOB fiction.  On the flip side of that coin, when it comes down to it, I believe pretty strongly that all fiction should be TOB fiction.  Art, if it is to be any good, must serve truth.  If it’s just a wad of lies in a tasty package, then it’s not art; it’s propaganda.  What drives me most to write and share TOB fiction is that it ought to be nothing more than a candle in the darkness, a light down the dark hall of living in this culture that is so bound up with lies we can’t even tell the difference between love and hate anymore.  TOB draws a clear line between the two, and that line is truth.  As I always tell my kids, ‘You can believe what you want, but that doesn’t make it reality.’  TOB fiction is a window into reality. As the contributors show so successfully, I think, in Image and Likeness, reality is harsh.  Reality is full of tough choices.  Reality is full of consequences.  But reality is true, so we do ourselves no favors if we believe something other than reality.  The fiction we read is a school for reality.  If we school our hearts and souls in lies, then we are not preparing ourselves to live in truth.”

Readers should be aware that the anthology includes mature themes, content and language.

For more information and for interviews and bios of the contributors, check out the Image and Likeness page on WordPress.

It’s available on Kindle at this link and in paperback at this link.

Special thanks to Erin McCole Cupp for writing the synopsis for the anthology!