Month: October 2015

The Desires of Your Heart: A Guest Post from Allison Gingras

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Allison Gingras.

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

SeekingHeartLogoWhat a promise – I am not sure which intrigued me more when I first read it?  How one delights themselves in the Lord or what desire I would want fulfilled.

The first part was easier than I thought to accomplish because the Catholic faith is so rich in ways to encounter Christ in our everyday life.  I could not imagine my life not filled with prayer, the Scriptures and the Sacraments.  St. Paul exhorted us to pray without ceasing, so whether folding laundry, driving the car or reading a book, I do everything with a prayerful heart.  I will say a Hail Mary for each member of my family as I put their dishes into the dishwasher, say the rosary on my way to an event, or give thanks for the author’s talent as I read their book.

My introduction to scripture, only 10 years ago, has transformed my faith life, providing me this amazing gift of learning how Jesus spoke, and therefore having a better sense of His voice in my life.  Scripture good for all teaching and reproof has become the center of my faith and my hope, not a day goes by I don’t take a moment to ponder a verse or two.  It was also important for me to memorize a few special verses to embrace on tough days when I need encouragement, particularly helpful when writer’s block strikes or my teenage son is teetering on that last nerve!

Lastly, the Sacraments are where I go to dip into God’s well-spring of grace.  Grace is that undeserved yet freely given gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us (that is the simplified “Allison abridged” version of grace – by the way).  When I am feeling distant or discouraged, the remedy is always found in participation in the sacraments – particularly for me daily Mass, time spent in Adoration or making a really good confession.  Gifts are best when they are used, and I try my best not to waste the grace present, promised and abundant, in the Sacraments!

So, what about the desires of our heart?  How do we discover those?  That is where God is the most generous – since He has given us our brains (and even our heart’s desires), He is well aware of them.  He knows them long before we, so focusing on delighting in the Lord is truly all we need to concern ourselves with.

Last September, I received a phone call inviting me to host my own radio show.  Reluctant but curious, I asked for a few days to pray about my answer.  Off to Eucharistic Adoration I went with a notebook and pen.   I sat before Jesus and asked for inspiration – if I said yes, what on earth would the show be about?  As I sat pondering, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had a degree in English, a passion for books (especially Catholic books), and had lead book/Bible study for nearly 10 years – that was to be the foundation of my show.   From that time in prayer, A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on Real Life Radio was born.  Each week, I focus on just one book.  Monday-Thursday we discuss the themes, contents and inspirations gleaned from the book and then on Friday, I am blessed to spend an hour with the author.  It is not a review show but an on-air book club – it is interactive, interesting, and truly fulfills one of my heart’s desires.  I love connecting people and books, especially when I know it will change lives and grow faith.

So how do you delight yourself in the Lord, and what desire of your heart can He fulfill?

AGingrasPicAllison Gingras is founder of  Reconciled To You and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison blogs, writes and speaks about living an every life of faith.  She created the “Words with” daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus.  and offers presentations on Forgiveness; Trust; and the Blessed Mother.

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DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME Gets a New Cover!

We interrupt this blogging hiatus to bring you the snazzy new outfit for DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT MEDon't You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp, TOB romantic suspenseLovely work by James Hrkach of Full Quiver Publishing.

What’s that? You want to see the whole thing, including the back? Oh, okay.

Don't You Forget About Me by Erin McCole Cupp, TOB romantic suspense

Love it! Rookie mistake: suggesting a cover that just gets attention.  Honey, spitting in someone’s eye will get that person’s attention.  A book cover has to do a LOT more than just draw eyes… and I’ll write a blog post on that once I finish this book’s sequel.  Thanks to James & Ellen for working with me on this new, more descriptive cover.

Registration Still Open: Harrisburg Diocesan Women’s Conference This Weekend

Thanks, Carolyn, for letting me share space with you. Harrisburg locals, come visit us and get some spiritual food for the journey this Saturday!

Carolyn Astfalk

Erin McCole Cupp and I will be selling and signing books at the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg’s Conference for Women on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg.

It’s entitled Sanctity & Sanity. I don’t know a woman who couldn’t use a bit more of both! For more information including registration visit the diocesan registration site.

If you’re attending, please stop by our table and say ‘hello’! Free fudge samples included!

Hbg Diocesan Women's Conference

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Romance Writer Manifesto: A Guest Post from Carolyn Astfalk

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Carolyn Astfalk.

My Romance Writer Manifesto

For the last decade, I’ve answered “What do you do?” with the simple reply, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” My novel addition to that response is, “I write.”

The natural follow-up to that response is now not only, “How many children do you have?” but also, “What do you write?”

The first answer comes easily: four children. The second part . . . not so simple. I typically flail about, trying to articulate a concise, accurate answer. More often than not, I launch into a wordy, nonsensical narrative that skirts around the edges of what my debut novel Stay With Me is: contemporary romance.

StayWithMeCoverDepending on my audience, I might qualify it as inspirational, Christian, Catholic or even Theology of the Body fiction. If I want to be vague, I go with “chick lit,” which hits my target audience with a brush the size of a barn side.

I’ve realized this problem is not unique to me, but is common to writers who are often (1) more comfortable with the written word than the spoken word, and  (2) better at expressing themselves in 100,000 words than 100 words. Both of these suppositions are true in my case, but there’s something else in play. In a word: romance.

I didn’t set out to write romance. Heck, I didn’t even read much of it. When I began National Novel Writing Month in November, 2010 with nothing but a newspaper clipping and a blank screen, I intended to write an adventure novel for teens.

As I forged ahead, spewing the required minimum 50,000 words on the page, I discovered that I’d written a romantic love story.

I studied the craft of novel-writing and took to heart the ubiquitous advice to read in my genre. For the first time in my life, I sought romance novels. My manuscript had Christian moral themes, so I immersed myself in contemporary Christian romance—Catholic, where I could find it.

I discovered many uplifting, entertaining, well-written, romantic books. So, why the discomfit with admitting I write romance?

First, the admission that I’m enamored by love transports me to my teenage years when being attracted to a boy was an embarrassment making me vulnerable to all sorts of disappointment and hurt.

Second, bodice rippers. Until I looked up the definition in preparation for writing this post, I thought of it only in terms of book covers. You know the ones—a bare-chested man with ripped abs nuzzling a buxom woman with ample décolletage whose expression suggests she’s deep in the throes of passion. Merriam-Webster defines bodice ripper as “a historical or Gothic romance typically featuring scenes in which the heroine is subjected to violence.”

Violence? The Atlantic quotes Beyond Heaving Bosoms in describing bodice ripper heroes as “rapetastic.” To my way of thinking, the word “rape” and the suffix “-tastic” shouldn’t be within a million miles of one another and on a separate planet from any character filling the role of a hero. Read the whole article and you’ll discover a half-dozen reasons why I’m hesitant to classify my book as “romance.”

Finally, the snob factor my lack of humility plays a role. Despite its popularity, romance may be the least-respected literary genre, at least by academia, if not pop culture. Even the fairy tale “happily ever after” ending is under fire. Admitting I write romance is like admitting I drink boxed wine or buy my clothes at Wal-Mart (both of which I’ve done).

Just as I reject twisted modern notions of feminism, I reject a narrow definition of romance as something akin to “Mommy porn.” I choose to embrace my penchant for romance for what is.

Romantic love is a good, God-given thing. After all, God is love. (1 John 4:16) My worldview, like that of any author’s, underpins my writing.  For me, that’s going to put me on the edgy end of the Christian romance spectrum.

Inspirational author Julie Lessman, who also classifies her Christian romance as edgy, says it well: “In truth, romantic passion gives us a glimpse into the very heart of God. After studying the Song of Solomon in the Bible, I’m convinced that the God who created passion and int.imacy did so to mirror the intensity of His own love for mankind.”

On the last page of Stay With Me, the heroine Rebecca is reflecting on the love she and Chris share. “She prayed their love, like God’s, would abide from this day forward through all seasons, all travails, every high and low. An anchor when the world threatened to throw them off-course.”

That’s the kind of love I write about. Heart-pounding attraction, weak knees and the excitement of new love—check! But also the enduring, abiding love that points us to the unfailing, unwavering, all-consuming love of God.

This brief reflection from Tom McGrath, author of Raising Faith-Filled Kids, was part of the parent portion of my daughter’s religion curriculum: “Think of all the books, movies, TV shows, songs, and soap operas that gain dramatic tension by observing two people on the verge of falling in love. They capture and convey a longing that seems universal, as if the whole world is holding its breath, waiting for love to erupt in their lives. This great longing is holy. It’s a manifestation of our desire to know and to experience God’s love for us. God placed this desire to know, love, and serve him deep in our hearts.”

That’s why I can say with pride, “I write romance.”

Carolyn Astfalk LR SepiaCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart, and her debut novel, Stay With Me, is available from Full Quiver Publishing.

A Body in Prayer: A Guest Post by Neil Combs

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Neil Combs.

Neil Combs

Why Write A Body in Prayer?

Prayer. What is it, really? Am I doing it right? Am I doing it enough? Do I pray with just my words, or can I pray through my actions? These were just some of the questions I was asking about 5 or 6 years ago. I was still a fairly new Catholic and I was struggling with prayer. I recalled the verses in the Bible that said “…pray always…” (Luke 18:1) and “…pray continually…” (1 Thes 5:16) but I could barely find the time to say a morning and night prayer. I did a lot of soul-searching at that time, but more importantly, I did a lot of information searching; books–The Catechism of the Catholic Church, CDs, and Scripture–to find out what I could about prayer.

What began as a personal quest for a better prayer life became something I never would have expected… a book. See, I wasn’t an author, I was just a pharmacist who had an idea and insights I wanted to share. I started by sharing it with a men’s group I belong to. They encouraged me to write it down, and a journal slowly became a book. As I shared more, I realized there were a lot more people like me who wanted a better prayer life but just didn’t know how to get there.

A Body in Prayer first defines prayer, and then it helps to identify and break down the common barriers to prayer, like the ever popular “I just don’t have enough time to pray!” But then it talks about the many different ways we can pray. You see, I always thought of prayer as talking to God, but in reality, it is so much more. It’s a conversation between two people in a relationship, and if you think of your own relationships, you know much can be said without a word being spoken. My wife has always said “actions speak louder than words,” and the same is true in prayer, maybe even more so, because God sees all our actions!

It was that realization, that by including Christ in all the daily activities of life, I could pray more and pray better. I could use my whole body to pray, by focusing everything I did (work, fasting, or appreciating a sunset) on God. Suddenly my actions could say more than my occasional words of prayer ever did.

A Body in Prayer challenges readers’ perception of prayer, yet is written in a light, conversational style. It uses ten chapters based on body parts – hands, eyes, mouth, even stomach – to give simple, real life examples of how we can use our bodies, and our actions, to pray and truly become A Body in Prayer!

BodyInPrayerCoverNeil Combs grew up as a Lutheran, but was confirmed into the Catholic faith, along with his children, in 2004.  A Pharmacist by profession, he was drawn to working with youth, and has been involved in the Youth Ministry program at St Le’s church in Hilton, NY, where he lives with his wife, Mary. He is also an active member of the Knights of Columbus. Learn more about A Body in Prayer on Facebook.

STAY WITH ME romance by Carolyn Astfalk

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Carolyn Astfalk, whose novel Stay With Me is hot off the presses–and when I say, “hot” I do mean “HOT!” A hot Catholic romance?!? Read on for more….


As I make the rounds on my virtual blog tour promoting my brand-new novel Stay With Me, Erin has graciously offered me a spot here in her absence. Since she’ll be sharing another post of mine later in the month, I’m teetering on squatter status at this site. And I intend to take full advantage before an eviction attempt is made.

STAY WITH ME, spicy but clean romance from Carolyn AstfalkStay With Me is my first published novel, and I’d like to share a little about its genesis. It all began with the perfect meet-cute. Wikipedia defines the meet cute as: “a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.”

The opening scene in Stay With Me is the meet cute between Chris Reynolds and Rebecca Rhodes. It  takes place in a grocery store where Rebecca’s attempts to pacify her young niece while Chris restocks dairy products.

While grocery shopping myself, I’d encountered an extremely helpful, handsome young employee who inspired this scene. Being that I’m married and this man was likely almost young enough to be my son, there was no meet cute here, only a springboard for a fictional romance.

In many ways, writing a novel is like designing and fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Another part of the Stay With Me puzzle was a column about abstinence education written by Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher in which she highlights the destructive messages about marital love that can be conveyed through well-intentioned but misguided sexual abstinence programs.

At the same time, in an effort to read more in the genre I’d been writing, I’d been consuming a heavy dose of Christian romances. While I enjoyed many of the books, overall, I’d found that most glossed over the realities of sexual temptation. Despite developing love relationships that relied heavily on physical attraction, there seemed to be little temptation to move beyond a heated kisses before the starry-eyed couple made it to the altar.

The only authors I discovered who did more than hint at the real struggle that maintaining pre-marital chastity presented for young, healthy, loving couples in a secularized society were Tammy L. Gray and Julie Lessman. I knew I wanted Stay With Me to tackle the issue head-on in as realistic (but non-pornographic) a manner as possible.

Over many months, as I developed Chris and Rebecca’s characters, their back stories, and the arc of their relationship, I added a smattering of decadent-sounding desserts and an ongoing thread about the Dave Matthews Band. My jigsaw pieces firmly interlocked, a novel was born.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest about Stay With Me. It’s available from Full Quiver Publishing through Amazon.com.  Thank you, Erin, for hosting me.  I hope I’ve left the blog in as good a shape as I’ve found it.


Carolyn Astfalk, author of spicy clean romanceCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She blogs at My Scribbler’s Heart, and her debut novel, Stay With Me, is available from Full Quiver Publishing.

The Librarian Who Writes: A Guest Post from Sherrie Palmer

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s meet today’s guest, Sherrie Palmer of Sherrie’s Scriptorium.

How Does Being a Librarian Inform My Writing?

Sherrie at the library putting DYFAM in its library suit.

Sherrie at the library putting DYFAM in its library suit.

I’ve been giving it some thought and I’ve come up with a few things.

First I have to disclose that I am not a certified librarian; I’m a library assistant. Working in a library influences me the same way working as a bookseller did. It can be good and bad.

I’ll start with the cons which aren’t many.

The main one is looking at all those books and wondering why the world would ever need another one. Also, while reading great writing by amazing authors I can lose confidence about ever coming close to the talent that is already in print. I mean who do I think I am? Battling paralyzing fear and lack of confidence are probably the biggest negatives.

Then there are the pros.

Having access to unlimited writing in every possible style and genre is awesome. As they say, knowledge is power, and what better place to become informed than the material available through libraries? I’m pretty sure that I can learn about anything by using a library. No matter what I’m writing, I know how to find the answers to the many questions that may come up, and if I can’t, I know there is a reference librarian who can.

Another benefit to working in a library is reading. A lot. Reading everything and anything. We never stop learning, and that helps our writing.

Reading something that isn’t very well written is a great ego booster and motivates my writing like crazy! We’ve all read something and thought we can do better, right? Few things make me feel better than realizing that if something that bad got published so can I! (I know it’s a little catty and I’m not proud of feeling that way, but I do. I’m being honest.)

I love being surrounded by all those books, words and writing. It makes me feel like I’m absorbing knowledge just by spending so much time in a library. That is motivating.

If I’m having a dry spell all I have to do is find an interesting topic and start reading. The next thing I know I’m filling a page with notes for a story and I’m off and running.

I think the best thing that influences my writing is the people. Each of the patrons that use my little library are entire stories themselves. It would be easy to judge people but instead I am absolutely fascinated by them.

I’m basically a curious creature, so each person I meet pings my interest. Everything from the books, movies and music they check out to the stories about their lives that they share with me are gold to store away in my imagination vault. And just when I think I’ve seen and heard it all, something new comes up.

I don’t think I will ever run out of things to write about while working in a library. Many days I stop, take a deep breath, look around at all the books and people and think how lucky I am. Then I say ‘What if’ and I write.

I’m Sherrie Palmer and I love to write and share ideas. I facilitated the Wordwrights Writing Group for ten years. Check out theWordwright’s Blog for more information about the group and writing.  I have been a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and worked as a bookseller for nine years. Now I work as a library assistant. I write mostly fiction, leaning towards fantasy and science fiction but I dabble with essays and very bad poetry. I have written a YA fantasy novel called Two Worlds, a middle grade chapter book called The Vegetarian Vulture.I’ve been focusing on short stories and hoped to be published soon. When I’m not writing I love reading and discussing books. I love RVing, playing Wii, gardening and going to Renaissance Faires. I have a lot of interests, so you never know what will show up here!