Goodreads Giveaway – Rightfully Ours by Carolyn Astfalk

FQ Publishing is hosting a giveaway for three paperback copies of Rightfully Ours.

Enter here to win a copy!

Young Adult Religious Fiction. A coming-of-age story of first love, buried treasure, and discovering some things are worth the wait.

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.

Reviews:

When Carolyn Astfalk unearths a newspaper clipping about a treasure hunter who struck gold, she turns it into a young adult romance novel. That took some doing, but as Edison said, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” A keen observer, Astfalk soaks her written pages with reality. Rightfully Ours, like her other romance novels appeals to the senses, especially those associated with food. You can smell the baking cookies and feel the bite of a January freeze. Her understanding of human emotions transports her readers into the minds of her characters as they experience blessings in the guise of disasters and conflicts. The reader cannot take for granted that a happy ending awaits in the last paragraph. (Don Mulcare)

Rightfully Ours is a fast-paced, exciting book that will hook you and keep you reading. It is not just for youth, but is a great read for adults, too. If you have a teen, read this book first before you give it to them. I recommend it for older or more mature teens, due to the intimate scenes described in the story. It is filled with non-preachy messages about the beauty of authentic love, which Pope St. John Paul II defined as the “theology of the body.” This does not mean that the book contains theological terminology, but it does mean that it deals with the issue of sexual temptation and assists teens in handling that. It also helps them understand the meaning of true love. I highly recommend Rightfully Ours for both teens and adults. (Jean Heimann, author)

Enter here to win a copy!

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!

 

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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