In Name Only #FREE on Kindle

My gold-medal winning novel, In Name Only, is FREE today through Thursday (April 18-20) on Amazon Kindle. In Name Only is a Catholic historical romance, and is not a formulaic or Harlequin-type romance. It is the first in the O’Donovan Family Series.

Synopsis: Caroline Martin’s life has finally taken a turn for the better. After years of hard work, she has met a virtuous and wealthy man whose love seems to promise the kind of life realized only within the comforting novels she keeps on her night table. Tragedy, however, will teach Caroline of the complexity with which God Himself authors the lives of those who turn towards Him. Gold Medal Winner in Religious Fiction, 2010 IPPY Awards, Amazon Kindle #1 Bestseller (February-March 2012).

Reviews:
“If you love romance but hate smut, pick up this beautiful story and let it carry you away. The characters are believable, layered, human and humorous even in the midst of tragedy. The reader never loses hope and is rewarded on every page with little gems of character behavior, dialogue, plot twists and romantic intrigue. I was so very sorry when it ended!”
Lisa Mladinich, author, True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life

“This is the best book I’ve read in a long time. It has all the qualities that make for an outstanding memorable novel – and it’s Catholic as well. I highly recommend it!”
Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints, Traditional Catholic Novels.com

“There aren’t too many historical romance novels that appeal equally to men and women, but Ellen Gable pulls it off admirably with In Name Only. It’s great to read a Catholic novel that’s not overly “sanitized,” realistic enough to make you wonder if it’s really fiction, and yet not at all offensive. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!” Gerard Webster, author, In Sight

“Gable has skillfully crafted this intriguing novel… which conveys the beautiful Catholic teachings on conjugal love, and shares both a pro-life story and a conversion story.”
Jean Heimann, author, Seven Saints for Seven Virtues

To download the book for free on Kindle, click here: In Name Only, free on Kindle

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!

Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk Now Available for Pre-Order

Rightfully Ours, by Carolyn Astfalk, Kindle edition is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com before its release date of April 1, 2017.

Sixteen-year-old Paul Porter’s relocation to Pennsylvania is a temporary move during his dad’s deployment. Or so he and his brother think, until devastating news lands on their doorstep.

Paul’s new home with the Muellers provides solace, especially in the form of Rachel, his friend and confidante. Their abiding friendship deepens as they work side by side to uncover what could be lost treasure.

Will they acquire the strength of character and virtue to take only what rightfully belongs to them or are they in way over their heads, with more than a few lost artifacts at stake?

(NB: That’s my youngest son on the cover!)

To pre-order the Kindle edition, click here.

Building a Long-Term, Successful Joy-Filled Marriage

Photo courtesy B & K Hrkach, Photography by Tim Baklinski

Photo courtesy B & K Hrkach, Photography by Tim Baklinski

My recent article at Catholic Mom:

Recently, when we were at a restaurant celebrating Valentine’s Day, we asked our waitress to guess how long we’ve been married. She guessed 20 years. I responded, “35 years.”

“Wow! How is that possible in this day and age? And you guys look so happy. Well, good for you.”

 She didn’t wait to hear our answer for how it was possible, but as I reflected on the reasons, it became clear that the most of the long-term successful and happy marriages we know about have the following practices in common:
  1. Pray Together and Attend Mass Together

Marital prayer is an ideal way to keep a couple emotionally, spiritually and physically close. We also try to say a daily Rosary together for our children (one decade for each son.)

The conjugal embrace is itself a prayer. With their bodies, husband and wife renew their wedding vows. Becoming one with our beloved spouse is the ultimate spiritual, physical and emotional experience. We become one flesh…so much so that sometimes, nine months later, we must give the representation of that oneness a name.

  1. Use NFP (and throw away the contraception)

No, I’m not saying that couples should have as many children as possible. But what I am saying is that for the marital embrace to be honest and life-giving and joy-filled, it must be free, total, faithful and fruitful. Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. NFP couples chart the wife’s fertility signs and, if avoiding pregnancy, abstain in the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are giving themselves fully and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

See my previous post on the Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.

For more information on NFP, check out my previous post on NFP.

  1. Treat Each Other With Respect and Kindness, Communication

I know a few couples who fight constantly. These same couples brag that they have a great sex life. Well, they may have a lot of “good feelings” but when a couple is not getting along in their day-to-day life, sex, even ‘good’ sex, is not going to fix that. What about the husband who treats his wife in a condescending, critical manner, then expects her to be ready and willing to engage in the marital embrace . . . or a wife who constantly nags her husband, then wants him to be affectionate to her? Communicate deeply with one another; treat each other with kindness, respect and love.

  1. No Pornography

Some secular marriage counselors recommend that a couple use porn to “spice up their sex life.” Instead of “enhancing” a marital sex life, viewing sexually explicit videos has the potential of destroying a marriage. St. John Paul II said: “. . . the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Porn trains people to be selfish about their sexuality, not selfless. It teaches them to think about sex as something they take, not something they give. Any behavior that causes a person to be self-centered or selfish is never good for marriage. And . . . pornography can be highly addictive. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of PA’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today. . . . pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever.”

  1. Date Night and Romantic Dinners (And Have Fun Together!)

I enjoy romantic, candlelit dinners with my husband. Getting out and enjoying each other’s presence is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy time together. We’ve always tried to have a date night even (and especially) when the kids were small. When we were younger and had limited finances, sometimes our date night would occur in our own kitchen or at a park for a picnic. We often played board games together. And I have always enjoyed my husband’s strange sense of humor (he still makes me laugh!)

Why candlelit dinners? Candlelight represents sacrificial love (a light burns brightly while destroying the candle). Some Renaissance painters used to put a single candlelight into paintings to symbolize Christ’s presence.

  1. Focus on Your Spouse/Sacrificial Love

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” This quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta is an ideal quote for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about “me.” It’s about “us.” Marriage is all about sacrificial love. What are your spouse’s needs? Think of his/her needs in all facets of your relationship. One thought I try to have when I wake up every morning is “What can I do to make my husband’s life easier today?” If he’s thinking the same thing, one can only imagine how much easier life will be for both spouses. Also, notes in your husband’s lunch, special messages left on his workbench or on her desk, daily texts are all ways to intimately connect during the day and let your spouse know you are thinking of him/her. The important thing is to focus on the other in all things.

  1.  The Importance of Marital Intimacy

Marital intimacy can seem impossible when a couple’s children are small. A couple must be willing to “think outside the box.” Attachment parenting and the family bed can usually be challenging. Consider another location for marital intimacy. Mom too tired? Perhaps Dad can take the kids out to the park while Mom gets a well-deserved rest after dinner. Dad too stressed? Mom can have a hot relaxing bath waiting for Dad when he arrives home. Even when the couple gets older and children are teens are adults, it can still be a challenge to find time for marital intimacy. The spontaneity of early marriage eventually gives way to planning for intimacy.

  1. Always Try to Give 100%

A joy-filled marriage is not 50-50. As Christian spouses, both should try to be reaching for 100%. When we were dating, my husband asked me, “Ellie, how hard do you try to be perfect? In other words, what percentage are you aiming for?”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Oh, I guess I’m shooting for 80%. After all, no one’s perfect.”

His response surprised me: “Ellie, if you’re only trying for 80%, do you think you’ll ever get there? You may only reach 60%. But if you try for 100%, you may get to 80%.” After a while, it made sense to me. Neither of us are perfect, but we are trying our best.

Do you want to have a long-term, successful and joy-filled marriage? While there are no guarantees, couples who pray and attend Mass together, use NFP, treat each other with respect and kindness, avoid pornography, have frequent romantic dinners/date nights, have fun together, are self-sacrificial and try their best will have the greatest chance of having a joy-filled marriage.

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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An Open Book – February 2017 #openbook

Open Book

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

the-tree-cover

The Tree by Denise Mallett

Synopsis: With only two months to save his country, Josiah believes he has been dealt an impossible hand: he must find a myth… if a myth can be found. Setting out into hostile wilderness with a man who serves the queen–but is the King’s man–Josiah begins crossing into the wilds of his own soul… and into a realm beyond reason.

As masks begin to slip, Rianne’s aristocratic life is revealed as all but secure. Believing herself to stand alone against a master thespian and murderer, caught between the treacherous past and a bleeding future, she is forced to wonder if darkness has the power to consume the light

Review: I was given this book by the author’s mother a few years ago and I must say, it was not what I expected.  The story is engaging, the characters well-developed and the writing is more like that of a seasoned professional than a debut author.  Highly recommend!  Look for more books by this talented author soon! (Not available yet on Amazon, but it is available at the author’s website above).

broken-brain

Broken Brain, Fortified Faith (Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness) by Virginia Pillars

Synopsis: Broken Brain, Fortified Faith is the story of one family’s journey through schizophrenia, navigating the uncharted waters of mental illness to find help for their daughter, Amber, and support for their family. This memoir is an honest look at the stress, anger, education, and finally, hope experienced through eyes of a mother. Along the way, she questions her trust in God as their family encounters setbacks, inadequate treatments, and additional family health crises, but with the help of trusted family, friends, education, and support groups, author Virginia Pillars learns to rely on her faith as she faces the challenges that often accompany mental illness.

Review: This was an excellent read, well-written and compelling.   Thankfully, we are moving away from the stigma of talking about mental illness.  Back in the sixties, my father (now deceased) suffered from schizophrenia as well as manic depression.  But it wasn’t something he could share with either employers or anyone outside of the family. In this book, the author takes us step by step through her journey of, at first, disbelief, then frustration to — finally — hope and recovery.  Highly recommend!

love-letters

 Love Letters of the Great War

Synopsis: From the private papers of Winston Churchill to the tender notes of an unknown Tommy in the trenches, Love Letters of the Great War brings together some of the most romantic correspondence ever written. Many of the letters collected here are eloquent declarations of love and longing; others contain wrenching accounts of fear, jealousy and betrayal; and a number share sweet dreams of home. But in all the correspondence – whether from British, American, French, German, Russian, Australian and Canadian troops in the height of battle, or from the heartbroken wives and sweethearts left behind – there lies a truly human portrait of love and war. A century on from the start of the First World War, these letters offer an intimate glimpse into the hearts of men and women separated by conflict, and show how love can transcend even the bleakest and most devastating of realities.

Review: I enjoyed reading these letters and purchased this book for research for my work in progress entitled, Julia’s Gifts (Great War – Great Love #1).  It’s a sometimes heart-wrenching read, especially since some of the authors of the letters died after writing these beautiful notes to their wives, girlfriends, fiancees. There are also letters from the women to the men.  If you enjoy history, this is a wonderful nostalgic read.