The Writing Life

Open Book: Book Recs for August 2020

I’m nose-deep in edits on Broken Grown-ups Guide to Joyful Family Life, but we have had two beach days, which means two beach reads.

One Last Thing by Rebecca St. James & Nancy Rue

Tara Faulkner and Seth Grissom grew up next door to each other in Savannah’s historic district. Their parents are best friends. They finish each other’s sentences all the time. Their fairy-tale wedding is a foregone conclusion . . . until Tara discovers another side to Seth three weeks before the wedding. Reality has crashed in on Tara’s fairy tale—but hope will lead her to a future she couldn’t have planned for herself.

This one is an emotional suspense that will have you laughing, crying, screaming and cheering. I read this in one day, much as I did with All In Good Time. Similar themes. A clean read but for grown-ups only.

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

When the Great Depression takes almost everything they own, Ellie’s family is forced to leave their home in town and start over in the untamed forests of nearby Echo Mountain. Ellie has found a welcome freedom, and a love of the natural world, in her new life on the mountain. But there is little joy, even for Ellie, as her family struggles with the aftermath of an accident that has left her father in a coma. An accident unfairly blamed on Ellie.
 
Determined to help her father, Ellie will make her way to the top of the mountain in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as “the hag.” But the hag, and the mountain, still have many untold stories left to reveal and, with them, a fresh chance at happiness.
 
Echo Mountain is celebration of finding your own path and becoming your truest self. Lauren Wolk, the Newbery Honor– and Scott O’Dell Award–winning author of Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea weaves a stunning tale of resilience, persistence, and friendship across three generations of families, set against the rough and ragged beauty of the mountain they all call home.

Loved it. Good, solid YA, clean and challenging.

What are you reading these days? Don’t forget to link up with An Open Book.

Open Book: Book Recs for February 2020

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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I skipped last month, and I’m late for this month, which pretty much sums up my life in many ways: plenty off-kilter, but filling things in just enough to keep going. Just enough.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

try_softer_3dTry Softer by Aundi Kolber is a gentle, faith-friendly synthesis of a number of different approaches to healing from both “Big-T Trauma” (physical, sexual, verbal, & emotional abuse, neglect) as well as “little-t trauma” (experiencing a family environment where your needs for attachment simply were not consistently met). Kolber covers how the brain handles Trauma/trauma, how to approach healing from a place of peace rather than “pushing through” or “white-knuckling it.” She covers boundaries, approaching openness without destroying the self, balancing vulnerability and self-preservation… so much good in this book for ANYBODY facing any emotional disconnect.

I know I need a reread. I had been trying to start an online, real time, videoconferenced book club to go through Try Softer together during Lent. I thought it would help me and give me a place to form community with others in processing through the exercises at the end of each chapter. However, the lack of response to that has given me an opportunity to reexamine my own desire to connect with people, how my own weak boundaries make it easier to share with others but harder to form relationships that are mutual rather than connective… anyway. Lots of stuff. So, no book club, but LOTS of praise for this book. I’d give a sixth star if Amazon would let me. Get your copy, and get to know Aundi.
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How many chances do you give someone to change for the better? That’s the question asked in Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischoff, first in a series (new, I think?) focusing on the Norgaard family, immigrants from Norway. Aven, a workhouse orphan, is very suddenly widowed by her alcoholic husband, and she accepts an offer to come take care of her late husband’s cousins… only to find out that these cousins aren’t children in need of minding–at least, not in age–but are three full-grown men. While that might seem comical at first glance, Aven finds herself unable to avoid confronting the pain her husband’s death left with her, especially in the Norgaard middle son, Thorvald–who has been soothing his isolation as a deaf man by drowning himself in the family’s cider business, and I don’t just mean in the workings and accounting.

In Sons, Bischoff gives us a story of redemption in a place where all our senses tell us there could be none. Highly recommended. Recommended by Carolyn, our Open Book host. A1PlaceHolder

 

A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book: Book Recs for December 2019

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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I realize everyone else is doing Christmas book recommendations, but here I am, being the rebel! Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

TheHidingPlaceCoverYeah, I’m just now reading The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the author’s family was involved in the Dutch resistance during WWII and was the hub of hiding places and other survival-related services for their Jewish neighbors as well as others who needed protection from the invading Nazis, such as young men who were in danger of being conscripted for munitions labor. Eventually Corrie and her family were captured, imprisoned, and Corrie and her sister Betsie were shipped off to Ravensbruck, where Betsie succumbed to illness at the cruel treatment. Throughout, ten Boom delivers an indefatigable message of hope in the darkest of the dark places, not just physically but within the human heart.  I had a hard time getting through Eli Weisel’s Night (and still haven’t finished it), but now that I’ve been dosed with the hope and love of the ten Boom family, I think I could retackle Weisel. A1PlaceHolder

 

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The Bride Ships, Book 1: A Reluctant Bride by Jody Hedlund: if you’re looking for a bittersweet romance that’s honest about harsh circumstances but delivers hope and joy along with the heartbreak, A Reluctant Bride might be a good fit for you. Mercy Wilkins is forced out of her home in the London slums and the only baggage she can afford to bring along is her fear of marriage, after the miserable example her parents and others set for her. When she accidentally catches the eye and heart of the ship’s doctor, she has to face her fears and the deepest desires of her heart. Recommended by Carolyn, our Open Book host. A1PlaceHolder

 

GileadCover.jpgRhonda Franklin Ortiz recommended Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. So far, it’s oddly reminiscent of Black Bottle Man without the creepy supernatural factor (so far). It has more of a literary bent than the stuff I’ve been reading lately, which has been good for my mind, frankly. Not that leisure reading is bad, but leisure reading with some complexity to it is good as well. Just a different kind of good. Fathers. Sons. Struggle. Tough farmland with tougher farmers. That’s what I’m getting so far, and I want more. A1PlaceHolder

ParacordCover.jpgFrom the sublime to the ridiculous, Second Shift of Kid and I are working our way through Paracords! by Todd Mikkelsen. I keep trying and utterly failing to do our homeschool Charlotte Mason-style, but the failure comes from having kids who just hate transitions, which makes the whole “many short lessons throughout the day” thing just blow up in my face with alarming consistency. Anyhoo, I have been wanting to add more handicrafts into our day to improve coordination, and I figured paracord might be easier for clumsy hands (ahem, including mine) to manage. I wasn’t wrong! We were able to make a Solomon bar bracelet yesterday and are now planning to make red-and-green collars for our dogs for Christmas. Whee!A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book: Book Recs for November 2019

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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I am so excited that I have the time to participate in Open Book not one but two months in a row! Having the time to blog is elusive these days, but I’m in a quieter season for the moment, so I’m making hay while the sun shines!

I’ve even had some time to chip away at the beloved fiction section of the TBR pile.

BlackBottleManThe Black Bottle Man by Craig Russell is wonderfully, WONDERFULLY WEIRD!  It has been a long time since I’ve read something this kind of weird–creepy, honest, detailed, believable! There’s so much to love in The Black Bottle Man, whether it’s the heartbreak of the story of a long and very drawn-out battle for good over the forces of evil, the delicate failings and impossible triumphs of the characters, and the proof of the power of symbolic thinking. Russel’s eye for language and imagery is an excellent sauce to the meat of the storytelling. HIGHLY recommended! (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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SecretsSecrets: Visible & Invisible gives readers a taste of the work of several Catholic YA authors. There really is something for everyone in this anthology, and it does well what anthologies do best: give readers an opportunity to expand their options and get out of reading ruts, such as, “I only read books by Author So-and-so.” The other thing Secrets does well is show examples of relatable characters facing their own options to face the truth or keep hiding, a choice that teen readers must face every day. It’s a quick read for the reluctant reader but also series of thrill rides for the book-devourer. I am looking forward to the next anthology in the series! (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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EllasPromiseEllen Gable has her third installment out in her series, Great War, Great Love. This latest is my favorite out of all three: Ella’s Promise. A sweet romance where the main character seeks to live truthfully in a world where everyone has something to hide, Ella’s Promise delivers thrills and satisfaction. I loved the tension and the pacing, not to mention how the characters captured my heart. (I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)A1PlaceHolder

AllInGoodTimeAll In Good Time rocketed to the top of my TBR pile, and it did not disappoint. Carolyn Astfalk‘s latest became my new favorite of hers, and it took less than 24 hours for that to happen! The mounting suspense matched the perfectly paced romantic tension. I’m looking forward to another day soon when I can read it again. A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Open Book:October 2019

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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RoyalDiariesIsabel-resizeIt’s the start of a new school year, and for history, we are doing Story of Civilization, Volume III: The Making of the Modern World from TAN books. So far, I have to say SOCvIII it’s not as robust in activities as was SOCvI (the ancient world up through the Christianizing of the Roman Empire). However, it’ll do, and as before, I’m using this year’s history to assign literary study. My 4th grade daughter is thrilled that this means we will be reading a lot of Royal Diaries series. We started with Isabel: Jewel of Castilla–Spain, 1466. It was okay. Not our favorite, but it was a great introduction to book reporting on main characters versus minor ones, as well as setting.

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MarianConsecrationForChildren-resizeWe also are working our way through re-upping our Marian Consecration. 4th grader received this book for a First Eucharist gift, and we did the consecration that year for the Feast of the Immaculate Heart… which is great, but it’s also a moveable feast, so I lost track of when it was this year, and we didn’t renew in time. For good or ill, I’ve moved our consecration date to Our Lady of the Rosary, which I can put in my calendar as ALWAYS being on October 7.

As for this Marian Consecration for Children by Carrie Gress, it was great for a second grader. Gress uses stories from children’s literature to illustrate virtues and our relationship with God and Mary. That said, I think 4th grade is getting a little too old, and I will probably look for a new book for next year.

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Trying to read ahead for appropriateness, I picked up Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. This is the story of a young girl who lives on a well-to-do ranch in Mexico during the Great Depression. It’s billed as a reverse-Cinderella story, and it delivers. I know it sounds corny, but through her reversal of fortune, Esperanza really does learn the true meaning of worth and value. I’d say a third-grader with good reading comprehension could tackle this. There’s ample opportunity for discussion on classism, racism, prejudice, the Dirty Thirties, and even where our food comes from and who gets it to us. There is some death in the story, but there’s nothing graphic/nightmare-inducing.

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MyQueenMyMother-resize  ForgivingMother-resizeI’ve also read both My Queen, My Mother: A Living Novena as well as Forgiving Mother: A Marian Novena of Healing and Peace. These are great books for those of us working on healing the oft-neglected mother wound. My Queen approaches Mary as someone with power to influence even temporal events, living among us still, especially among the poor and needy. Forgiving Mother shows us Mary’s role as ideal mother, someone who hurts with us and for us when the people who are supposed to love us most fail us.

Keep your eyes peeled over at Catholic Mom for a book club on My Queen, My Mother, starting October 5.

A1PlaceHolderABoundHeart-resizeAnd as I wait for my edits on Broken Grown-up’s Guide to come back to me, and since we are in a slower season for the Shakespeare play I direct each year… I have time for leisure reading! So I scrolled through Carolyn Astfalk’s previous months of Open Book, and I thought I’d start with this one: A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz. I really wanted something light and sweet, given how heavy my real life has been of late, and A Bound Heart does not disappoint.  It is quite slow to get started, so much that I almost gave up, but I hung in there, and I’m enjoying it.

A1PlaceHolderWhat are you reading?  Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

An Open Book: Boundaries, Classics and Dead Critters [Feb2019]

Books for high school students, wounded people, and a classic readaloud where somebody probably dies: I join  Carolyn Astfalk with Catholic Mom for a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!

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Turning my eye to non-fiction this month for the most part, for writing purposes. ICYM, I’m working on a book for Our Sunday Visitor. I’m writing about parenting spirituality for survivors of child abuse and family dysfunction. If this is news to you, that’s because you haven’t had the chance to subscribe to my newsletter. Oh, do, dear reader, and thus receive your free copy of Get Moving With St. Dominic’s Nine Ways of Prayer.

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BoundariesCover BoundariesInMarriage Now that I’ve done most of the heavier research for the OSV book, I’m working my way through this series: Boundaries by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Not gonna lie: this series is helping me less with the book and more with my own relationships. These books are Christian in the truest sense of holding Christ’s example up for us as something to emulate in order to live peacefully with the truth.  I tend to take on more than I can handle, both professionally and personally, and either let people get away with almost-murder or cut them out entirely. These books are basically telling me things I kind of already knew, but the examples given and the scriptures backing them up make me feel like setting healthy boundaries is something I can do effectively without as much hemming and hawing as I usually do.

I hope to list these in the “Resources” section of my book. I have noble plans to “leak” a few of the books I’ve used for more specific research in the upcoming Open Book linkups, so if that sort of information is useful to you, keep an eye out here. A1PlaceHolderA1PlaceHolderSeparatePeaceOresteia School assignments over here for First Shift of Kids.  I read A Separate Peace in high school… I think. I may have “read” it, as in let the words swim before my eyes while I listened to The Cure.  All I remember is that there’s a broken bone in there, and the day after I was talking to the child reading this book about the grossness and pain and obscure dangers involved in setting broken bones 100 years ago… the kid up and breaks two bones.  They were small bones. She did not fall out of a tree to break them.

The Oresteia I did not read, even in college, even as a theatre major in college. Another win for end-of-20th-century education in America.

A1PlaceHolderYearlingCoverAnd yet another book I haven’t read: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I’ve not read the book. I’ve not seen the movie. I know there’s a deer. I’m assuming something and or someone will die, and I’ll have to read while crying, which I find embarrassing, even in front of my kid. Dear Lord, please help this sort of thing be a cherished memory to her of her softie mom’s sentimentality, and not a source of annoyance at mom’s weakness.

I picked this for our read-aloud because it’s a used book sale find, and we’ve had it sitting on the shelf unread for a couple of years. I’m up to Chapter Nine or Ten reading this aloud to Second Shift of Kid, and we’ve yet to meet the deer. That said, it’s a fun read-aloud if you like reading dialect, and in this case, I do, since I’m not reading for an audition but to just my one youngest kid who hasn’t quite reached the disdain-everything-mom-does stage–yet. It’ll come. Probably the day I have to cry-read in front of her.   A1PlaceHolder

That’s it for February! Want more details on An Open Book? You can also sign up for An Open Book reminder email, which goes out one week before the link-up. You can also check out the archives of An Open Book!

NEWS: Working Mother Interviewee Alumnae Launch New Journal Project

Working Mother Final-1I’m so excited! Yeeeeears ago, when “Working Mother” was first released, I did a series of interviews with real live working mothers here, chez moi, on this humble blog. This was so long ago that the blog was still called, Will Write For Tomato Pie! Anyway, that’s when I first met, Tiffany Walsh, The Catholic Librarian (here’s Tiffany’s own blog-home).

Over the past nearly four years, Tiffany has been busy with many projects, but her latest is a contribution to the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women.  This series, spearheaded by another working mother interviewee Allison Gingras, aims to “help women build a closer relationship with Jesus. Each Stay Connected journal explores a different path to spiritual growth in short, easy-to-complete chapters—perfect for busy, on-the-go individuals or small faith-sharing groups!”

Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women: a preview of Exploring the Catholic Classics by TIffany WalshI was invited to take a look at one of the journals and share the results with you, dear readers. It was a tough choice, but, given the focus of this blog on reading and writing, I picked Tiffany’s Exploring the Catholic Classics: How Spiritual Reading Can Help You Grow in Wisdom.

From the Stay Connected website:

In Exploring the Spiritual Classics, you will:

    • learn about seven inspiring historical and modern works of spiritual literature;
    • read selected passages from the writings of St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Pope John Paul II; St. Francis de Sales, Thomas à Kempis, and more;
    • study these spiritual works in light of the Scriptures;
    • reflect on significant spiritual themes and chronicle your own thoughts and experiences.
    • apply the wisdom of these spiritual writers to your own life.

The spiritual classics are full of wisdom, advice, and inspiration to enrich the lives of modern women, and Exploring the Spiritual Classics is a great way to access that wisdom and apply it to your life. Tiffany Walsh introduces readers to carefully selected excerpts from each spiritual classic, offering her own insights before inviting you to respond to reflection prompts. You can record your responses right in the journal, then bring those thoughts to your small faith-sharing group for further discussion. And as with all the Stay Connected journals, guided prayers and space to journal your own prayer helps you forge a deeper, living connection with Jesus.

My take: Because it’s designed to serve as guide and collector through a series of deep spiritual reading, I admittedly haven’t finished it yet. That said, I can see from its attractive design, inviting reflections, and clear purpose, Exploring the Spiritual Classics promises to make those sometimes intimidating classics accessible and fruitful subjects for study, even to the busiest Catholic woman.  I can also see this being a personable way to form a study group of women who, perhaps, aren’t even Catholic… yet!  Give the Stay Connected journals a look, and see how well they could fit in your life!

Catholic Librarian

Tiffany the Catholic Librarian

About the Author: Tiffany Walsh is a wife, the mother of two children, and a college librarian with a background in law. She is a cradle Catholic who rekindled her childhood faith as a law student in New York City via her love of books and rediscovery of daily Mass. She writes monthly for CatholicMom.com, and contributed to The Catholic Hipster Handbook, published in 2017 by Ave Maria Press. She hosts book clubs and offers weekly musings over at lifeofacatholiclibrarian.com.

New Sweet WWI Historical Romance from Ellen Gable: CHARLOTTE’S HONOR

Would the latest addition to Ellen Gable’s historical romance Great War, Great Love series hit that sweet spot in your TBR pile? Read on for more about Charlotte’s Honor.

Charlotte's Honour Front Cover smAfter receiving news that her brother – and only relative – has been killed in action during the Great War, 21-year-old Charlotte Zielinski enlists as a medical volunteer. She eventually begins working in the death ward of the field hospital near Soissons, France, holding dying men’s hands and singing them into eternity.

Dr. Paul Kilgallen is a Canadian surgeon working at the field hospital. During a siege by the enemy, everyone evacuates except for Paul and Charlotte, who volunteer to remain in the basement of the chateau to care for the critically ill soldiers.

During those three days, Charlotte sees a side of Paul that very few have seen and finds herself falling in love with him. Before Paul leaves for the front, he abruptly tells her that he cannot love her, and it would be best to “forget him.”

Just when the war is coming to a close, Charlotte is surprised by two events that are destined to change her life forever.

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Excerpt

May 1918

Vauxbuin Field Hospital

Near Soissons, France

The air was thick with the mineral stench of blood. Inside the canvas tent that served as Barrack Number 48, Charlotte searched for a place in the unconscious soldier’s body to insert the hypodermic.  The poor gentleman had burns and wounds everywhere, but she managed to find a one-inch diameter spot on his thigh in which to plunge the needle.  The man didn’t flinch, and Charlotte suspected that his injuries were too grave for him to survive.  She recited a silent prayer for this man’s soul, then moved onto the next soldier.

The large canvas tents that were part of the field hospital covered the lawn in front of the chateau. Most volunteers referred to it as a chateau because it looked the part with its high ceilings, plentiful rooms and marble floors. However, it wasn’t a castle. It was a 19th century country manor.

A tendril of dark brown hair slipped from her headscarf, and she tucked it back in. Charlotte Patricia Zielinski didn’t care much whether her unruly hair was tame, but she did care about keeping healthy. She wasn’t a large girl, nor was she small.  However, roughhousing with her brother Ian for so many years made her strong.

After preparing another soldier for the operating theater, she took a short break and sat on a bench near the tent.

She glanced up at the dark sky, enjoying the quiet. After the sunrise, she’d hear the distant booming that came with being ten miles from the front.

After her bout with influenza last month, she’d felt fatigued for weeks.  In the past few days, she had enough energy to move a mountain.

Sister Betty, the medical volunteers’ middle-aged supervisor, called to her from the barrack beside her, Number 49.  She was a big-boned woman who seemed taller because she always stood so straight.  Charlotte wasn’t sure whether it was because she was British or because she was a big woman, but she also had a booming personality and a loud voice.

Charlotte stood up to speak with Sister.

“How many more men have to be prepared for the O.R., Miss Zielinski?”

“Four, Sister.”

“Maybe you’d be of more use in this barrack.” She pointed toward Number 49.

“Certainly.”  She turned to alert her co-worker in 48, when Sister yelled, “Wait.”

Charlotte stopped. “Yes?”

“Perhaps you’d better stay where you are. If there are only four left to prepare, finish that duty, then report to this barrack.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

It took a bit of getting used to, but here in Europe, nurses were referred to as sisters.  And all sisters – and most medical volunteers – wore headscarves that looked like habits.

She approached a soldier on a cot, noticing the maple leaf on his collar. Canadians tended to be an agreeable bunch.  He pursed his lips as she stripped his clothes, wincing as bits of skin came off with his pants.  The poor fellow tensed, but Charlotte could only offer, “I’m so sorry.  I am doing my best not to hurt you.”

The dark-haired man attempted a smile.

An ear-piercing explosion caused the world around Charlotte to vanish, and she reflexively collapsed on the cot, falling across the soldier lying in front of her. Ears ringing, she remained still for what seemed like an hour but was likely a few minutes. Blinking, she opened her eyes and stared at the metal side of the cot in front of her and felt the soldier moving underneath her.

As she lifted herself up, not one but three large drops of blood splattered the white sheet below her. Her head seared in a flash of pain.

When the Canadian soldier took hold of her hand, he said something she couldn’t hear.

His warbling soon became words. “Are you all right, Miss?”

Her mouth was open, but she couldn’t speak.  Nodding, she raised her hand to her headscarf.  When she pulled her hand to her face, it was covered in blood.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

“Are…you all right, sir?”  Charlotte asked the man.

“Yes, no worse than I was.  Thanks to you, Miss.  You shielded my body with yours.” He paused. “You have a bad shrapnel wound on your head.”

“Y…yes.”  Charlotte winced but forced a smile. She turned and picked up a bandage from the side of the overturned cart. She pressed it to her head.

By this time, the entire ward was awake and bustling with moaning soldiers.

Standing up, her surroundings seemed to shift and sway, so she reached for the soldier’s hand. “I’m so sorry.”

“Think nothing of it.  I’m happy to reciprocate.”

Glancing just above the soldier’s head, she spotted five or six holes the size of watermelons blown through the side of the barrack’s canvas wall and hundreds dotting the rest of the walls. Following the holes from the side wall to the ceiling, she stared upwards at the roof of the tent, now shredded in many places.

A few soldiers near the wall had sustained minor injuries, but no one appeared to be mortally wounded.

Panicked and fearing the worst, Charlotte rushed outside, the bandage still to her head. As she turned toward the adjacent barrack, she stopped and gasped. The influenza ward was no longer there.  Body parts, blood, torn-apart furniture, and bits and pieces of the barrack were all that remained.  The realization that she had escaped death made her knees buckle.

She blessed herself and lowered her head. “Requiescants in pace.”  Her hearing had not yet fully returned, but she could hear someone call her name.


photo credit: Tim Baklinski, Two Trees PhotographyEllen Gable is an award-winning author of nine books, editor, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. Her books have been downloaded nearly 700,000 times on Kindle and some of her books have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and French. The mother of five adult sons, Ellen (originally from New Jersey) now lives with her husband of 36 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada.

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More about Ellen & Charlotte’s Honor

What was the inspiration for Charlotte’s Honor?

Since one of the themes of Charlotte’s Honor is preparing and being with soldiers who are close to death, the inspiration came from being with two close people in my life in the hours before their deaths. These experiences served as inspiration for Charlotte’s Honor.

Eleven years ago, when my mother was close to death, my sister called me in Canada and urged me to come right away (to New Jersey, my home state), that Mom didn’t have much time left.  I arrived before she passed, but by the time I got there, she was unconscious.  My sister and I prayed the Litany of the Saints (which she requested) as well as the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the middle of the night, I got up to sit with her. I held her hand and prayed for her, talked to her and told her she was loved, and that it was okay to go.  When she did pass away, I was grateful and honored that I was present at the moment of her passing. And an interesting experience happened. My stepdad, siblings, and I were all sitting by my mom’s bedside and all of a sudden, I felt like my mom was on the ceiling staring down.  I lifted my head to look up, but at that point, my brother patted my arm and said, “Hey, El, I have this strange feeling that Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”  I believe that we were given a great grace at that moment.

Last year, my mother-in-law passed away. She had both dementia and cancer.  She was surrounded by those she loved and, although unconscious, we prayed the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and other prayers for her in the last few days of her life.  It was a good death, a holy death. It’s the kind of death I hope to have: others praying the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for me as I’m close to death.

Why World War 1?

I’ve always been interested in history and I knew very little about this war.  I decided to focus the bulk of my research on the last year of the War (after the United States entered).  Because I am American, and my husband is Canadian, the female protagonists in this series are American and the male protagonists are Canadian. So for Charlotte’s Honor, Charlotte is American, and Paul is Canadian.

Why is the name of the series Great War Great Love?

I owe my gratitude to the son of a friend of mine, Ian, for coming up with the title. The reason for the title is that World War 1 was called the “Great War” by the Allies before the USA entered the war, and is still often called the “Great War,” by the British, Canadians and Australians. And Great Love because there are many examples of how couples met and fell in love during times of war.

Can you tell us about the first book in the series and next book of the series, Ella’s Promise?

Julia’s Gifts (Book #1 Great War Great Love) As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will Julia’s naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.  Julia’s Gifts is now available in Italian and French and will soon be available in Portuguese and Spanish.

Ella’s Promise (Book #3 Great War Great Love) The daughter of German immigrants, Ella is an American nurse who, because of the time period, was discouraged from continuing her studies to become a doctor.  During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France, to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own “Great Love” in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.

This is very different from some of your other books in that it is a very clean romance and can be read by young teens to elderly women to middle-aged men.  Was that a conscious choice?

Yes, it is very different and no, it wasn’t a conscious choice at first.  When I came up with the story and as I was gradually developing the characters and plotlines, it made the most sense to keep this a “sweet” and “clean” love story that anyone can enjoy.  It is, however, a war novel, so there are descriptions of war injuries.

Are you working on any other writing projects?

I’m in the process of writing Ella’s Promise, which is book 3 in the Great War Great Love series.

I’m outlining another novel, tentatively entitled Where Angels Pass, based on my father’s life and experience as a clerical abuse survivor. Since he never saw justice in his lifetime, I’d like to create a story where there is justice for him, even if fictional.

I’m also working on a non-fiction project that will offer guidance in coping with loss (I’m still in the outline stages of that project).

Who are some of your favorite authors?

My favorite Catholic author is Dena Hunt (author of Treason and The Lion’s Heart), but I also enjoy reading Willa Cather’s books (Death Comes For the Archbishop, One of Ours).  Dena’s books are incredibly well-written and moving.  Cather’s books are well-written and rich in imagery and meaning.

And while this may seem biased, I enjoy reading books by all the Full Quiver Authors.  I also enjoy the books of the authors who are fellow members of the Catholic Writers Guild.

One of my favorite secular authors is Nelson DeMille (author of the John Corey series).   I also enjoy reading Kathleen Morgan’s Christian historical novels.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk (Apr 2018) FORGIVENESS

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships

Sunday, April 8 @ 7pm Eastern

Theme: Forgiveness

Joseph Pearce, author of RACE WITH THE DEVIL, host of EWTN's TOLKIEN'S THE LORD OF THE RINGS - FACES OF FANTASYFeaturing Special Guest Joseph Pearce. A native of England, Joseph Pearce is senior editor at the Augustine Institute; the editor of the St. Austin Review, an international review of Catholic culture; series editor of the Ignatius Critical Edition; and executive director of Catholic Courses. Joseph has hosted two 13-part television series about Shakespeare on EWTN, and has also written and presented documentaries on EWTN on the Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He is also a regular guest on national television and radio programs.

 

GIVEAWAY! Comment on the video by April 30, 2018, and be entered to win your own copy of King of the Shattered Glass!

 

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Discuss FORGIVENESS in KING OF THE SHATTERED GLASS by Susan Joy Bellavance #live #video #bookclubKing of the Shattered Glass by Susan J. Bellavance

Beautifully illustrated in color for young elementary school readers, King of the Shattered Glass is a gentle parable about asking for forgiveness and receiving God’s mercy!

GIVEAWAY! Comment on the video by April 30, 2018, and be entered to win your own copy of King of the Shattered Glass!

 

Discuss FORGIVENESS in THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL on Sabbath Rest Book Talk #live #video #bookclubThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel narrates the story of a rich English baronet who rescues French aristocrats facing the guillotine. He also taunted his enemies after each rescue by leaving behind a card that has a small flower on it – the scarlet pimpernel. It is a brilliant adventure story set at the time of the French Revolution. The plot is fantastic and rarely lets the readers pause for breath as it oscillates between London society and the dark night in Coastal France.

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Discuss FORGIVENESS in THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare on Sabbath Rest Book Talk #live #video #bookclubThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

This bewitching play, Shakespeare’s final work, articulates a wealth of the playwright’s mature reflections on life and contains some of his most familiar and oft-quoted lines. The story concerns Miranda, a lovely young maiden, and Prospero, her philosophical old magician father, who dwell on an enchanted island, alone except for their servants — Ariel, an invisible sprite, and Caliban, a monstrous witch’s son. Into their idyllic but isolated lives comes a shipwrecked party that includes the enemies who usurped Prospero’s dukedom years before, and set him and his daughter adrift on the ocean. Also among the castaways is a handsome prince, the first young man Miranda has ever seen. Comedy, romance, and reconciliation ensue, in a masterly drama that begins with a storm at sea and concludes in joyous harmony.

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Check out the reading list for all of 2018.

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Plus, click here to check out our NEW GOODREADS FEATURE!  It’s a list! On Goodreads! Vote for books we’ve already featured and add any books you think we should discuss in the future!

Fiction is Good for you! Watch Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and never feel guilty for reading fiction again!

Who writes short-shorts? I write short-shorts!

DYFAMCoverFrontForFlyer I’m back to working on Never Let Me Down Again.  For those of you who’ve hung on lo these many years, waiting for The Sequel That Refuses To Be Written, you deserve a treat.  I have a short-short (<1500 words) off at the beta readers right now.  Once it’s ready for consumption, I’ll be gifting it to my newsletter subscribers (you know, those folks who are still waiting for their free St. Dominic book, which is at an actual editor right now).

Anyway, if you want to see what happens at the end of Cate & Gene’s first date, sign up for my newsletter.  I’m anticipating you’ll get it before the month is out.