James and I were recently interviewed by the folks at Archangel Radio.
Click below to listen! (45 minutes in)
James and I were recently interviewed by the folks at Archangel Radio.
Click below to listen! (45 minutes in)
Close to the Soul by Mary Jo Thayer (to be released on May 1st by FQP!) is #1 in New Releases on Kindle!
Synopsis: Through grit and grace, Carolyn Fandel survives being raped by someone she knows and trusts. She will not accept defeat—even when confronted by her rapist a second time. Instead, she uses her tragedy to help hundreds of others, some of whom she will never meet. Set in the era of the Vietnam War and the new feminism, this book will have you crying and cheering for Carolyn as she navigates the challenges of life after sexual assault.
Close to the Soul is a beautifully written novel that weaves the story of redemption through every character on every page. Edith Schafer once wrote that our lives are a tapestry, we are looking at the backside which is often messy and confusing, but God sees the beautiful work of art, each thread precisely woven together. I have spent my life grappling with the questions this novel boldly addresses. Pam Stenzel, M.A. Enlighten Communications
With equal measures of heartbreak and joy, Close to the Soul is a gripping novel that strikes every emotional chord. Fans of Francine Rivers will flock to this one! Lori Nelson Spielman, best-selling author
When I started reading Close to the Soul, I wasn’t sure how Mary Jo would approach this difficult topic, especially from a young woman’s point of view. What I found was a beautiful and inspiring story written in such a refreshing way that celebrates life, faith, love, redemption, strength of spirit, and family amid a devastating challenge. I felt honored to read Close to the Soul’ and pray that many readers will share this story. Jim Sano, author of the Fr. Tom Series
What an uplifting and hopeful story! I have to admit that it brought tears to my eyes more than once while I was reading it. I loved the solid and unwavering faith displayed by the Fandel family. The story definitely brings out the truth of God’s wonderful and mysterious ways and his constant care of us even when we are going through rough times that we cannot understand. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Linda Etchison, author, Sr. Aloysius Comes to Mercyville
Mary Jo Thayer has written an uplifting tale, dealing sensitively at each step with the challenges and trials faced by women raising their children alone. Mary Jo’s deep faith is obvious, shining through her main character, Carolyn Fandel. Carolyn’s resignation to the situation she finds herself in, along with the decisions she makes in the wake of her trauma, would certainly provide encouragement to any Catholic woman in any state of life, and indeed to anyone who picks up the book to read it. Veronica Smallhorn, author, A Channel of Your Peace
Wow! What a powerful and moving story set in the 1950’s. The story is of great value for readers today. This is an amazing read. And an incredible debut novel. Christian fiction at its best. Excellent Catholic literature. Steven McEvoy, Book Reviews and More
To preorder the book on Kindle, click here.
A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn is currently on sale on Kindle for .99 (until Tuesday, April 20) and is this month’s Catholic Writers Guild Bookblast!
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!
My latest at CatholicMom.com:
“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent. Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl! Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation! Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent. Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.” Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents
There are so many things to be thankful for during Advent this year. Yes, it’s 2020, and many would prefer to rush to the end of this eventful, stressful year.
I don’t agree. During this challenging time, we can use these beautiful weeks to prepare for and to be thankful for Our Savior’s birth and for Mother Mary’s “yes” to carrying Jesus.
I was blessed to be pregnant during five Advents, and during each one, it was easier to understand this truth that “every pregnancy sings of the first Advent.” However, the Advent before my January baby (number-four son) was probably the most impactful, given that I was exceptionally large, and I had suffered more during this pregnancy than in the previous three healthy ones combined. I had debilitating migraines every two days until four months along. I’m four feet nine inches tall and, before pregnancy, my weight was typically 95 pounds. I had already gained 65 pounds with that pregnancy, and the baby measured at seven pounds during December. (He would be born a month later at nearly ten pounds). While I didn’t love the difficulties and challenges of childbearing, I was filled with joy when I was pregnant because it was a time when the fruit of our love was growing and kicking inside of me.
And growing and kicking this baby did. A lot of it! Because of the excess weight, I could barely walk, let alone move. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting on a stinky donkey and traveling in warm weather, far away from home, then giving birth in a damp, smelly stable.
Needless to say, that was the first time I understood with greater clarity what Mother Mary endured that first Advent. I continue to be in awe of Our Lady’s yes to carrying Our Savior. Mary was – and continues to be –a beautiful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors, and discomforts.
Mary also acted as my consoler when I lost seven babies through miscarriage. There is no other woman who could so completely understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross, her heart pierced by the sword of watching her own flesh and blood, the very Savior of the world, die in agony.
Let us embrace this Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind. And let us pause, remember, and pray for all those who carry a precious child in their wombs, that they will understand with great clarity the unique and everlasting gift of carrying an eternal, human soul.
Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach
This is the end of NFP Awareness Week but better late than never!
Natural Family Planning
It’s about love. It’s about life. It’s about freedom. It’s about gift.
“Celebrate and reverence God’s vision of human sexuality.”
I 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.
Today, I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about social distancing and being home all the time is the extra time I’ve had to read. I usually work from home anyway, but James and I take part in several ministries for the diocese so I don’t usually have that much time to read. Now that all of our out-of-home activities have been canceled, I’ve been able to get through many of the books on my “To Read” Pile!
Synopsis: Come for the Killer, Stay For the Fair. Anonymous death came early and often. Each of the thousand trains that entered and left the city did so at grade level. You could step from a curb and be killed by the Chicago Limited. Every day on average two people were destroyed at the city’s rail crossings. Their injuries were grotesque. Pedestrians retrieved severed heads. There were other hazards. Streetcars fell from drawbridges. Horses bolted and dragged carriages into crowds. Fires took a dozen lives a day. In describing the fire dead, the term the newspapers most liked to use was “roasted.” There was diphtheria, typhus, cholera, influenza. And there was murder. In the time of the fair the rate at which men and women killed each other rose sharply throughout the nation but especially in Chicago, where police found themselves without the manpower or expertise to manage the volume.
But things were changing. Everywhere one looked the boundary between the moral and the wicked seemed to be degrading. Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued in favor of divorce. Clarence Darrow advocated free love. A young woman named Lizzie Borden killed her parents.
And in Chicago a young handsome doctor stepped from a train, his surgical valise in hand. He entered a world of clamor, smoke, and steam, refulgent with the scents of murdered cattle and pigs. He found it to his liking.
The letters came later, from the Cigrands, Williamses, Smythes, and untold others, addressed to that strange gloomy castle at Sixty-third and Wallace, pleading for the whereabouts of daughters and daughters’ children.
It was so easy to disappear, so easy to deny knowledge, so very easy in the smoke and din to mask that something dark had taken root.
This was Chicago, on the eve of the greatest fair in history.
My review: So far, this has been my favorite of the three Larson books I’ve read. I could not put this book down. Larson weaves the story of H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial killers and the story of how the Chicago Fair was organized. Outstanding read and I learned so much as well. Highly recommend.
Synopsis: The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels.
But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror
My review: This was also another compelling read, and again, I learned a lot, especially about the early days of the Nazis when they were in control of the country. Dodds, the American ambassador, tries to warn others about the diabolical Hitler, his SS and the Nazis in general. He saw firsthand the persecution of the Jews and other unspeakable acts even before others outside Germany. Highly recommend.
Amazon Synopsis: ON NOVEMBER 22, 1963, THREE SHOTS RANG OUT IN DALLAS, PRESIDENT KENNEDY DIED, AND THE WORLD CHANGED. WHAT IF YOU COULD CHANGE IT BACK?
In this brilliantly conceived tour de force, Stephen King—who has absorbed the social, political, and popular culture of his generation more imaginatively and thoroughly than any other writer—takes readers on an incredible journey into the past and the possibility of altering it.
It begins with Jake Epping, a thirty-five-year-old English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching GED classes. He asks his students to write about an event that changed their lives, and one essay blows him away—a gruesome, harrowing story about the night more than fifty years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a sledgehammer. Reading the essay is a watershed moment for Jake, his life—like Harry’s, like America’s in 1963—turning on a dime. Not much later his friend Al, who owns the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to the past, a particular day in 1958. And Al enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination.
So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine (where there’s Dunning business to conduct), to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. Time-travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.
My review: I absolutely loved this book. It has something for everyone: time travel, great characters, someone trying to stop the Kennedy Assassination, a love story, interesting plot. It’s a LONG read (900 pages), but after I finished the book, I immediately ordered the DVD of the 2016 mini-series with James Franco. Highly recommend both the novel and the DVD!
Synopsis: Edgar Award-winning mystery novelist R. D. Rosen tells the story of the hidden children who survived the Holocaust through the lives of three girls hidden in three different countries—among the less than 10 percent of Jewish children in Europe to survive World War II—who went on to lead remarkable lives in New York City.
Only one in ten Jewish children in Europe survived the Holocaust, many in hiding. In Such Good Girls, R. D. Rosen tells the story of these survivors through the true experiences of three girls.
Sophie Turner-Zaretsky, who spent the war years believing she was an anti-Semitic Catholic schoolgirl, eventually became an esteemed radiation oncologist. Flora Hogman, protected by a succession of Christians, emerged from the war a lonely, lost orphan, but became a psychologist who pioneered the study of hidden child survivors. Unlike Anne Frank, Carla Lessing made it through the war concealed with her family in the home of Dutch strangers before becoming a psychotherapist and key player in the creation of an international organization of hidden child survivors.
In braiding the stories of three women who defied death by learning to be “such good girls,” Rosen examines a silent and silenced generation—the last living cohort of Holocaust survivors. He provides rich, memorable portraits of a handful of hunted children who, as adults, were determined to deny Hitler any more victories, and he recreates the extraordinary event that lured so many hidden child survivors out of their grown-up “hiding places” and finally brought them together.
My review: I just downloaded this for .99 so this is in my “To Be Read” pile.
Amazon Synopsis: The well-known and very popular Catholic couple, Scott and Kimberly Hahn, have been constantly travelling and speaking all over North America for the last few years about their conversion to the Catholic Church. Now these two outstanding Catholic apologists tell in their own words about the incredible spiritual journey that led them to embrace Catholicism.
Scott Hahn was a Presbyterian minister, the top student in his seminary class, a brilliant Scripture scholar, and militantly anti-Catholic … until he reluctantly began to discover that his “enemy” had all the right answers. Kimberly, also a top-notch theology student in the seminary, is the daughter of a well-known Protestant minister, and went through a tremendous “dark night of the soul” after Scott converted to Catholicism.
Their conversion story and love for the Church has captured the hearts and minds of thousands of lukewarm Catholics and brought them back into an active participation in the Church. They have also influenced countless conversions to Catholicism among their friends and others who have heard their powerful testimony.
My review: I’ve read the original of this book three times in the past and enjoyed it tremendously. I picked it up again the other day and still found it as compelling as the first time I read it. Highly recommend.
On this Feast of the Annunciation,
here are the FQP books that are on sale for 1.99 until March 30th.
O’Donovan Family Series by Ellen Gable
In Name Only (Gold Medal winner, 2010 IPPY Awards)
A Subtle Grace (Finalist 2015 IAN Historical, Romance)
each regularly priced 4.99
The Father’s Son by Jim Sano
regularly priced 5.99
The Lady Doc Murders by Barbara Golder
Each regularly priced 4.99
Discovery by Karina Fabian
Regularly priced: 4.99
Looking for some cheap but quality reading during this time of social isolation?
FQP has reduced all its books for this one week sale to take place today through Monday March 30 at 11:45 p.m.
The following books are on sale for .99
(Tomorrow’s post will list the books on sale for 1.99)
Emily’s Hope by Ellen Gable (2006 IPPY Awards, Honorable Mention)
Great War Great Love Series by Ellen Gable
Heaven Intended Series by Amanda Lauer
A World Such as Heaven Intended (CALA Winner)
Stay With Me Series by Carolyn Astfalk
(Come Back to Me will be on sale for .99 early tomorrow morning)
Stay With Me (IAN finalist)
I’m participating in the Virtual Book Tour for A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn. Today, I have an interview with the author!
This is your first novel. What inspired you to write a Catholic novel?
When I was ten, I wrote a story for my school’s ‘Book Week’ writing competition. I worked hard on it, and remember feeling quite thrilled and exhilarated when I finished it. I handwrote the title page before stapling it together — putting my story title, name, and a copyright symbol for good measure, and decided that one day I wanted to be published for real!
But as for writing something specifically Catholic, your own books, Ellen, were what inspired me. I always thought it would be unlikely I could ever publish the type of fiction I wanted to write. I didn’t realise it was possible to publish Catholic stories in our day and age. The first of your own books that I read were Emily’s Hope and In Name Only, and it wasn’t until then that the idea to write a Catholic story – one that focused on the Church’s teachings on marriage and family – started to form.
Tell us about A Channel of Your Peace in two sentences.
A Channel of Your Peace is a story about love — not only the love that can exist between a man and a woman, but also, and more importantly, the love of God for each and every one of us. It is also about that wonderful virtue of hope; hope that God can, and will, draw good from evil if we put our trust in Him.
How much of you and your husband are in the characters of Katrina and Emilio (Erin’s sister and brother-in-law)?
While I didn’t base Katrina and Emilio on myself and my husband Pablo, I did draw a bit on the experience of our life together which made them easier for me to write — it’s something that I know. When I was in the early planning stages of the story, I knew Erin would need some convincing to make a long flight to Mexico. Having her family help her along seemed like a good way to get her there.
I really didn’t base Katrina on myself, but when I was choosing a profession for Emilio, I did draw on Pablo’s expertise – he has a PhD in philosophy. It was fun to give Emilio a position as a university lecturer in philosophy!
Your description of the Cathedral in Mexico and the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe are very well done. Have you been there before and, if so, what has been your experience?
Thank you! Yes, I’ve been to the basilica four times, back when Pablo and I lived in Mexico when we were first married. We were very blessed to live only about three hours’ drive from Mexico City, so we used to make our own little pilgrimages. While I never experienced anything as obviously miraculous as Erin did, I can honestly say that each time we went the experience was most touching. Notwithstanding the crowds and tourists (on weekends and feast days it’s standing room only!) I always experienced a wonderful peace and joy in the basilica and found myself drawn irresistibly to the image of Our Lady. She really is present there. I always wanted to get as close as I could, so I would go back and forth on those travelators again and again.
It’s true that even the authentic replicas don’t quite do the original image justice. Seeing the real tilma is really quite an experience in itself, if you have faith. I think that’s what draws so many people there every year. In addition, I’ve always found it fascinating that this Marian apparition site is unique among her other apparition sites. At Guadalupe, Our Lady left something of herself behind on Saint Juan Diego’s tilma; that piece of fabric made from a cactus plant which shouldn’t have lasted more than a few years. And yet, here it still is, almost 500 years later. Extraordinary!
How would you describe the target audience for your book?
When I started writing the novel, I set out with young women in mind as my target audience, more or less around the age of my lead character Erin, who is about 27. It’s a love story, in large part, and we girls love a good romance! Although, it’s my hope the book may reach a wider audience. I was surprised at the positive reaction I received from the men who read the manuscript prior to publication, ranging in age between 30 and 80. The story carries a strong theme about the freedom we experience on embracing God’s teaching, which is essentially for everyone, even if the book may not be everyone’s preferred genre.
Tell us more about yourself and your family.
My husband Pablo and I have been married for 14 years. Pablo is Mexican, and we lived in Mexico for three years when we were first married and had our first child there. We now live in Canberra, Australia (my home city) and have three children; two boys and a girl. Pablo is an academic – he has a number of degrees and completed his PhD by way of multiple publications which appeared in journals all over the world. In terms of formal education, I’m the exact opposite to him as I never attended university. But our joint love of writing, albeit different forms of writing, is something that has been a lovely common ground in our marriage. I’m sure I would never have finished my novel if he hadn’t been cheering me on.
Our family life is pretty busy — anyone who has raised a family, or is in the midst of raising one, knows how intense a job this is! It seems to get more intense with each passing year as the kids move further along in their studies and interests. We have a fairly interesting, culturally-mixed family life and all our children are bilingual. I still don’t speak Spanish, but I do understand a lot of what I hear around the house; enough to be able to join an exclusively Spanish conversation – speaking in English, of course. It makes for entertaining listening (downright hilarious, actually, if I misunderstand something!) Pablo and I combined the names of our countries early in our marriage and often refer to our home as ‘Mextralia’!
The one thing that transcends all the cultural intricacies and differences is our faith. Weekly, or more-than-weekly Mass, regular Confession and the daily Rosary are pillars in our family life. Pablo and I try to present to the children the perfect example of the Holy Family of Nazareth as the one we should all be striving to imitate each day – though some days are definitely better than others! We’re just muddling through the best we can, just like everyone else. Which is all any of us can do, I think.
Download or purchase the book at this link.