book review

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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Find Ellen on:

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.

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Open Book/Sabbath Rest Book Talk [Sep 2017]

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

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The aforementioned Carolyn also joins me and Rebecca Willen every month for Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

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

Our selections for September were:

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Adult Book: Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch

YA Book: The Good Master by Kate Seredy

Children’s/Readaloud: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

And here’s what we had to say about them:

And big congrats to Barb  S., who won the signed paperback copy of Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch!

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!

Remember, all SRBTs here on out, I’ll continue announcing the book selections and focus ahead of time, so you can read along and join the discussion a little more easily and thoughtfully. Voila, for October:

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Adult Book: Specter by John DesJarlais

YA Book: Angelhood by Amy Cattapan

Children’s/Readaloud: Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert

That’s it for September! While we’re here, gentle reminder: To keep on top of each month’s SRBT selections (and for an exclusive subscribers-only video update), do sign up for my monthly newsletter. For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

What’s your #OpenBook?

Don’t forget to link up YOUR #OpenBook reviews over at Carolyn’s!

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: Where Fiction is Good for You! Join us for a monthly video exchange on how fiction makes us more human.

 

September’s Open Book & Sabbath Rest Book Talk

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

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

In the interests of being as efficient with my time as I possibly can, I’m killing two birds with one stone.  In addition to reviewing books for #OpenBook, I’ve started a monthly event on Facebook Live over at my author page.  It’s called Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and in it I’ll talk about a few of the books I’ve read in the past month in terms of how they, as fiction, help us grow in humanity.

This month’s focus was on meaning, or how fiction uses meaning to convey layer upon layer of experience, understanding, and dimensionality of the human experience.  When we humans use symbols to communicate meaning, we give flesh and bone and substance to the invisible.

September’s SRBT Featured Fiction:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

(Click here for my more detailed review of The Lion’s Heart)

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

Other stuff I’m reading:

It is Right and Just by Rev. John Cunningham, OP & Rev. George Cardinal Pell [nonfiction]

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

Night by Elie Weisel [narrative nonfiction]

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

And here’s September’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk video:

Fiction is Good for You: Sabbath Rest Book Talk meets An Open Book book review linkup bit.ly/SabbathBooks

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

Open Book: June reads for July Reviews!

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

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One thing can be said for having a couple of complications dragging out weeks after super minor abdominal surgery: there’s lots of time to do nothing but sit in bed and READ!   Perhaps that’s the only thing to be said for it, though; being unable to work on one’s own writing and publishing is pretty frustrating.  That said, today is the rescheduled release date for UNCLAIMED, Book 1 in The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan.

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Unclaimed cover art Copyright 2016 Fiona Jayde Media

I was chomping so badly at the bit to get that up and running by June 24, but instead I was propped up in bed with my iPad and this guy for my reading buddy.

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Funny story: five days after I came home from  the hospital, Siggie (above) suddenly started sniffing around my belly and instead of making me take his tennis ball out of his mouth to play fetch, he just gave it to me.  The two days later I was back at the doctor, and lo and behold! I had an infection developing.  Of course, if he were really intuitive, he wouldn’t have kept trying to jump directly onto my belly… but he’s still a good recovery companion.

Okay, let’s look at what I got to read in June…

Testing Liberty & Fight for Liberty by Theresa Linden

I really cannot rave well enough about the Chasing Liberty trilogy.  If you took The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, and 1984, wove them together with a fresh, deeply human sensibility and gave it just the lightest sprinkle of holy water… you might come close to getting a series as fast-paced, powerful and satisfying as Liberty’s three-part tale.

I loved Chasing Liberty, butTesting Liberty Brown Red in Testing Liberty, Linden really ups the ante.  It was like in Chasing we got to see the veneer of Aldonia’s oppressive deep green culture scraped painfully off, and then in Testing, we dive down deep, deeper into the hearts and lives threatened, destroyed, and changed for good or ill by the conflict between the Regimen’s culture and the inner drive for freedom and independence that some of the colonists live out for themselves… and are getting ready to share with Aldonia on a wider and far more risky basis.   Usually the middle installment in a trilogy is the most difficult to keep spinning on a lively axis, but Linden turns that idea on its head and somehow makes Testing even more heart-rending and engaging than its predecessor.

FightForLibertyAnd then in Fight for Liberty, it all comes so satisfyingly full-circle.  Something Linden does so powerfully in this conclusion(ish) to the series is that the encourages us to look at the future of freedom (and, frankly, the present) through the lens of our history.  The way she approached a renewal of personal freedom as a rebirth of the ideals and courage of the American Revolution is a tack we don’t see often taken in speculative fiction.  It works.  Fresh, engaging, honest and uplifting, we can see our future as fraught with danger… but also promising courage and hope and the best humanity has to offer.

Fight for Liberty dropped on July 4! Keep an eye out here for an in-depth interview with Theresa Linden later this week.  

The Tomb by Stephanie Landsem

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It’s the story of Mary and Martha illuminated in a way you’ve never imagined.  In this conclusion (I think?) to the Living Water series, Stephanie Landsem gives us a rich backstory on why Martha is the way she is–a controlling, put-upon, neat freak who’s never satisfied.  I’d never before considered the kind of heartbreak that might have gone into making a Martha.  Landsem took my preconceived notions of a picky, spoiled, overly pious Jewish daughter and made her into someone who’s been through just as much as any of us has in on our way to becoming the fragile, cautious creatures we can be… until we let Christ come in to our lives and change us.  This third book has just as much delicious angst as The Well but just as much sweet satisfaction as The Thief.  For readers who like a good ends-tied-up series, this last book makes that happen but infuses the ending of the trilogy with great energy; it left me happy for the characters (each in his/her way) but still sad to see it end.  Highly recommended.

At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett

At the Cross Road: Book 4 in the Black Horse Campground Mystery Series by Amy M. Bennett (Oak Tree Press)

People, I just adore this series.  It’s really so much fun to read.  Okay, I realize I just said that about a series with a body count, but hey, take me as I am.  In At the Crossroad, Corrie, Rick, and JD all have to face the past–their own and the ghosts of others.  The mystery is fast-paced, crisp, and richly human.  The storytelling is clean, and the violence and relationships are never gratutitous.  All these characters have come to feel like family to me over the years, to the point that, yes, I’ve declared myself #TeamRick (and Crossroad makes that seem even more possible than No Vacancy did… but I’m sure Amy will keep us guessing).  In fact, I kind of know who I want to set JD up with, but Amy would pee her pants if I told her, because it’s so outlandish… Anyway, I hope that the fact that these characters have taken on their own lives in my imagination (am I writing Black Horse fanfic in my head?!?!) is endorsement enough.

After the Thaw by Therese Heckenkamp

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A sequel to Heckenkamp’s Frozen Footprints that yet stands strong on its own, After the Thaw is a story of courage, healing, redemption, self-sacrifice, and the value of honesty.  The plot was fast-paced and kept me well invested in the future of heroine Charlene, the people she loves, and the people who sought to use her for their own ends.  Serious and tragic but with a great touch of humanity, Thaw kept me turning the pages and caring about the characters.  Should Charlene really marry Ben?  I mean, he’s a good guy, but is he the guy?  And what is going on with Clay and that pregnant girl?  For all the angst of the beginning and middle, the end is super satisfying with a touch of just-right sweetness.  Tough but still clean, this would make a great beach read.

Sunflowers in a Hurricane by Anne Faye

Sunflower Front CoverA sweet, touching story of healing, forgiveness and closure, Sunflowers in a Hurricane weaves together the lives touched, smote and healed by an unlikely friendship. When single-mom Cheryl must clear out her estranged mother’s house, daughter Ruth becomes the garden help and Mass companion of elderly widower George next door.  The move brings Cheryl face-to-face with her difficult past, a past she’s been evading ever since Ruth was conceived, as well as with her fears for her own and Ruth’s future.  Meanwhile, George stands courageously and compassionately in the face of his own past losses resurfacing in ways he hadn’t expected. The two households mirror each other in ways that make us think more deeply about the nature of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption.  Faye turns a tale with an honest kindness often missing from family drama fiction these days, while keeping readers hooked on the story.  This was an uplifting and enjoyable read you’ll want for your beach bag!

Don’t forget to link up YOUR reviews over at Carolyn’s!

7 Quick Takes with Chasing Liberty Author Theresa Linden

7QTlogoIt’s time for Seven Quick Takes Friday, a Friday linkup over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Today I’m delighted to bring you an interview with author Theresa Linden.  TLindenHeadshot

Theresa resides with her husband and three boys in northeast Ohio. She was born in San Francisco, California. Her father was in the Coast Guard, so the family moved every three years. This probably accounts for her love of traveling and desire to see the world. Living by the ocean and under the palm trees in Guam and Hawaii spurred her imagination. She began writing illustrated short stories with her sister in grade school, borrowing characters from favorite movies and shows. Now, writing is her passion. Her favorite genres include Fantasy, Western, Contemporary, Supernatural and Futuristic. Other interests: acrylic painting, drawing with ink, hiking, traveling and American History. Theresa is a member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild  and the Elyria Library Writers’ Group. She has an Associate’s Degree in Electrical/Mechanical Drafting and a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University. She is currently working on the last book in the Chasing Liberty trilogy.

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Tell us about Chasing Liberty.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication?

CHASING LIBERTYcoverChasing Liberty is the story of a young woman who seeks freedom in a society where the government controls every aspect of life. Nature is elevated above man. Developments in science and technology are not balanced with developments in morals and ethics. Faith, family and freedom have been lost.

The idea for this story came directly from the news. We used to watch Glenn Beck when he was on TV, and my jaw would drop at some of the stories on that show . . . disturbing things about the government watching you, about deep-green movements that think of humans as little more than parasites, about scientific advancements that cross ethical boundaries. Beck encouraged viewers not to take his word for it but to do their own research. So I did. The more I discovered, I kept thinking, “Wow, this can’t be real. It seems like fiction.” I wondered what our world, our country would be like if all this came to pass. As a writer, I don’t just wonder . . . I write!

From start to publication, Chasing Liberty took 2-1/2 years.

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Idea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite?

Favorite – I love developing characters and their relationships, thinking of ways to make them unique and bring them to life, giving them strengths and weakness, habits and quirks. I wanted Liberty to come across as strong and courageous, a person who doesn’t blindly go along with the culture but who is willing to stand against it. Even if she stands alone. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, even knowing the government is always listening and has programs that tag phrases considered “hate speech.”

Least favorite – While I enjoy all the different stages of writing, my least favorite part was the research, only because it opened my eyes to many evil ideologies in our world. I discovered how influential special-interest groups have been in our government and in world governments. Scary stuff.

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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like?

If an author wants to have a publisher, I have learned, there is a lot of waiting involved. It took me one year to write the story, beginning in the summer of 2012. Then I spent several months looking for a publisher, several months waiting. Wanting to get my story out there, I decided to self-publish, and that was when World Castle Publishing offered me a contract. There was more waiting after that. Almost a year later, November of 2014, Chasing Liberty was released. My first published book! I am excited that the second book in this trilogy, Testing Liberty, will come out this fall.

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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

I am a homeschooling mother of three teenage, adopted boys, one of which has autism. During the school year, homeschooling takes up the bulk of my day. And of course there are all the daily chores which I am learning to share with my boys. At the end of the day, I try to do something related to writing whether re-reading a section I’ve written, or critiquing a friend’s work, but it’s often hard to focus on actual writing. So I look forward to the weekends for that. Most of my writing takes place over summer. This summer, I am working on the third book in the Liberty trilogy, Fight for Liberty. I have set myself some unrealistic goals in order to finish the first draft before school begins. Amazingly, have been keeping them!Testing Liberty Brown Red

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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?

I enjoy developing characters, so I hope that is my greatest strength. I want my characters to feel real. Sometimes I do character interviews toward the beginning of developing a story, so that I can really get to know them. I even write scenes that will never make it to the final story, just so I can experience their past or moments in their lives that made them who they are.

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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why?

This is a hard question to answer because I feel like my writing style changes with each book I write. I write constantly, and I often read articles and books on how to improve. By the time I finish writing a story, I can always go back and find things that I could strengthen or do differently. I hope my writing style gets stronger and stronger over the years, but I know there will always be room for improvement.

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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash?

Chasing Liberty is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your preferred online bookseller.

If you like book trailers, check out the trailers for Chasing Liberty and for Testing Liberty.

I have a summer blog, Virtual Tour of America, for anyone who enjoys reflecting on the early history of our country.

And I can be found on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

WWRW: Catching Up

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!  It’s not too late to post those pics

Let’s link up with What We’re Reading Wednesday over at Jessica’s Housewifespice Place.

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It’s been months since I read these.  Now I’ll finally get around to reviewing them!

Shadow in the Dark (The Chronicles of Xan Book 1) by Anthony Barone Kolenc

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Here’s what it’s about:

The Shadow passed through the midnight chill, dark and silent. Two small boys peered down at it in terror. “It’s back,” one of them cried in a faint whisper.

Bandits attack a medieval village. A young boy is injured and loses his memory. He wakes up at a Benedictine monastery and is given the name Xan—short for Alexander. But when the monastery is raided and a monk is accused of a violent crime, Xan must uncover the truth. Could the raid be related to the one that destroyed his village? And what about the shadowy figure Xan has seen lurking on the abbey grounds at night?

Mystery. Danger. Adventure. It’s all here. And true forgiveness and courage too.

“A well-done mediaeval mystery, laced with plenty of action and a bit of downright spookiness.”-Colleen Drippe, Hereditas literary magazine.

“A brisk-moving and suspenseful tale. Kolenc has penned a masterpiece.”-Dan Flaherty, The Scholar.

“This could be the future standard for sound adolescent literature!”- Leo Madigan, The Weka-Feather Cloak.

I had fun reading this, and so did First Shift, a pair of eleven year-old girls who “aren’t girly,” for those of you who don’t know.  This little gem offers and more than delivers mystery, adventure, a richly imagined other world (after all, isn’t the past another world?), and characters who live and breathe in all their dimensions.  The red herrings even threw me off, which is a high compliment for a YA mystery novel.  The faith-related piece is handled organically and breathes along with the characters, feeling more like a part of the setting than of the plot.  I can’t recommend Shadow in the Dark enough!

Next up, confession time: these days I just wait around for authors to send me review copies.  It’s a very economical way of keeping one’s reading list affordable.  Specter, however, by John Desjarlais, I was not willing to wait.

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I preordered the darn thing.  WITH REAL LIVE ACTUAL MONEY. You’re welcome, Professor Desjarlais.  Your question, though, Reader, surely is, “Was it worth it?”  HECK YES!!!!

Selena De La Cruz would like to leave the past behind as she plans her wedding … but the past no longer sleeps. In 1993, a Cardinal was murdered in Mexico at the Guadalajara Airport. Nearly twenty years later, the Vatican revisits the case … and finds that Selena’s family might have played a key role. Selena is forced to confront her family’s ghosts … in more ways than one…

This story deals with ghosts of all things–ghosts!–in a totally credible manner. One of the ways Desjarlais makes this leap believable is through the eyes of Selena’s skeptic fiance, Reed Stubblefield, whom we also first met in Bleeder (which you should also go read).  Selena’s family (both living and otherwise), personal history, and culture are depicted so naturally that I felt like I was sitting at the table in her godmother’s house, watching it all, remembering it all with them and wanting to protect my own heart, not only from the danger I could see coming but from the surprises lurking around the corner of every page.  The red herrings in this one got me, too, which I don’t mind one bit.  The pace was lightning-fast, the conflicts heart-racing and heart-rending, and the ending… well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.  If Amazon offered a sixth star, I’d give it to Specter.

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!  It’s not too late to post those pics

WWRW: Liberty & Virtue

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Long time no review!  Let’s link up with What We’re Reading Wednesday over at Jessica’s Housewifespice Place.

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I’ve had it for months, now, but I finally got around to Chasing Liberty by Theresa Linden.

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Once I got started, it didn’t take me long to finish it, either.  If you’re looking for characters you can love, love to hate, or hate to pity… you’ll find them in Chasing Liberty.  

Here’s what it’s about:

Liberty 554-062466-84 of Aldonia lives in a responsible society that cares for the earth and everyone on it. They have learned to balance resource consumption with replacement initiatives, unavoidable pollution with clean-environment efforts. Science ensures that every baby born is healthy. The government ensures that every baby born is needed. All are cared for, taught, and given a specific duty to perform, their unique contribution to society. Why is Liberty so unsatisfied? In less than two weeks, Liberty must begin her vocation. Every girl in Aldonia wishes she had Liberty’s vocation. Liberty would rather flee from Aldonia and live on her own, independent of the all-controlling government, the Regimen Custodia Terra. The high electrical Boundary Fence crushes any thought of escape. The ID implant imbedded in her hand makes it impossible to hide. She has no choice but to submit. Liberty is slated to be a Breeder. As vocation day draws near, a man with an obsession for Liberty attacks her and injects her with a drug. She’s about to lose consciousness when someone comes to her rescue, a man in a mottled cape and dark glasses. She wakes in an underground facility where people watch over Aldonia with an array of monitors and surveillance equipment. These people are full of secrets, but she discovers one thing: they rescue a man scheduled for re-education. They rescued him. They can rescue her.

I love how Linden handles the suspense in this one.  She knows how to end a chapter, that’s for sure.  She also has a good hand with the dramatic irony, which uses the two points of view (first-person Liberty vs. 3rd person subjective with the bad guy) to play off of each other, one cranking up the tension on the other in one scene, and then vice-versa in the next.  Another thing the author handled well was the Liberty’s motivation for putting into action the final sequences, hurtling the characters into their point-of-no-return.  I was not left wanting for why things were happening, but neither were things ever dragged out.  The conflicts were clear and engaging.  The numerous characters were so clearly drawn that I never felt there were too many, which is a hard thing to manage.  Kudos to Theresa Linden for Chasing Liberty.  I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel!

I’ve asked Theresa for an interview here, so check back for that.  In the meantime, go buy her book and you’ll be in for a rip-roaring thrill ride that will rip out your heart and stomp on it!

Today’s second book is The Virtuous Jane Austen: Short Reflections on Character by Rhonda Ortiz.

The Virtuous Jane Austen: Short Reflections on Character by Rhonda Ortiz

What a charming little book! Yet it’s still a bargain at 99 cents.  Why?  Because it offers something sweet but new.  I’ve seen Austen often discussed as a writer of manners, but when seen as a writer illuminating virtue, Austen’s work takes on greater life, depth, and import. Well done!  Come back next week when author Rhonda Ortiz shares her own story about character building… through NFP?  It’ll make sense next week.

What’s on your summer reading list? 

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

WWRW: Unleashed by Sonja Corbitt

It’s baaaaaack!  It’s the What We’re Reading Wednesday linkup over at Jessica’s Housewifespice!

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I’ve had the distinct honor to be part of the CatholicMom.com Unleashed book club.  And guess what book we’re reading!  No, seriously! YOU’LL NEVER GUESS!

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Why, yes, it’s Unleashed by Sonja Corbitt! What’s it about, you ask?

Sonja Corbitt was an evangelical Baptist before she converted to Catholicism. In Unleashed, she shares her passion for the scriptures by weaving the Word of God with her own experiences to show readers how the Holy Spirit flows through their lives in relationships, prayer, and even in times of suffering.

Sonja Corbitt’s passionate faith and natural storytelling ability combine to create a refreshing message of how God, in his continual pursuit of us, speaks to us through the positive and painful circumstances of life, relationships, and his Word.

In Unleashed, Corbitt testifies that prayerful and regular study of the scriptures is the key to hear the voice of God, to see the Holy Spirit at work even in times of suffering, and to receive all the graces God wants to give.

Corbitt has been captivating Catholic women across the country with her message about God and his desire to know them in a deep and personal way. Endorsed by her bishop as a “credit to her faith,” Corbitt inspires Catholics everywhere to engage with the scriptures with renewed vigor and energy.

This is another one where I wish Amazon had six stars to give.  I admit I took this book on with great trepidation.  Part of that is because Snow Crash has freaked me out about anything charismatic (not AT ALL the fault of the charismatic movement but the fault of a buttkicking fiction story).  So a book dealing with the Holy Spirit?  I was a bit, “Um.  Okay.  Deep breaths, Erin.  We can DO this!”

First, I have to clarify that Unleashed is not about the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Rather it is a step-by-step guide for discerning how the Holy Spirit is speaking to us without words but through repeating patterns that not only spring forth from our own hearts but from the hearts of those around us.  In this book, Sonja gives us sort of a listening device for making out the guidance of the Holy Spirit more clearly, more thoughtfully, with greater peace and confidence.

It’s tackles complex issues with deep-cleansing-breath simplicity.  It holds a mirror up to the soul behind the face in the mirror and says, “Yes, you have work to do, but you don’t have to do it all today. Still you can do something today.”

Do something today.  Get to know the Holy Spirit, not as an abstract monstrosity but as a solid, loving friend.  Perhaps picking up your copy of Unleashed will be that something you do today.

WWRW: A World Such as Heaven Intended

I don’t think she’s been doing it lately, but Jessica over at Housewifespice used to do a weekly book review linkup called

WWRWbuttonShe’s a busy lady, though, and still blogging otherwise, so go on over there and pay her a visit, even if WWRW isn’t available today.  She’s got some good stuff and some belly laughs.  Worth your time.

Anyway, I am super duper excited. I don’t often say things like “super duper” unless it’s to my children and followed by the words “messy in here.  Please clean up.”  So why am I deviating so greatly from my usual modes of speech?  Here’s why:

This is A World Such as Heaven Intended, the fabulous, charming, action-packed, engaging Civil War romance by new author Amanda Lauer and recently released by Full Quiver Publishing.

The Civil War tore the United States apart and many friendships and families as well. In A World Such as Heaven Intended Amara McKirnan and Nathan Simmons share a devotion to their Catholic faith but their loyalties lie on opposite sides of the conflict. Dedicated to the Confederate cause, Amara offers to help out at her uncle’s makeshift hospital in Atlanta. Fate brought Nathan to their doorstep and into Amara’s life. Little does Amara know that the wounded soldier she cares for harbors a secret that will not only jeopardize his life but hers as well.

Follow Amara and Nathan’s story from the heart of war-torn Atlanta to the Northern Georgia battlefields to the plains of East Texas as their lives become intertwined in a way that shatters the separate worlds they once knew.

Lauer brings us a well-developed setting, a neatly paced plot, and characters that live and breathe whom I couldn’t help but love.  In fact, instead of an Atlanta debutante, our heroine Amara is, well, kind of a nerd… which I LOVE! The reality of the shared faith of these two characters is completely organic, never obvious.  Their Catholicism is not flagrant but just a normal part of who they are and what makes them make the choices they must.  The settings are detailed without being burdensome or boring.  The action builds to a great pace.  The ending is sweet and satisfying.  All in all, I’m going to go ahead and call A World Such as Heaven Intended… heavenly!

 

WWRW: Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman

It’s Wednesday!  What are we reading?  What is Jessica reading?  What are all the WWRW readers reading?  Make with the clicky to find out!

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I just finished Fatal Rhythm by R. B. O’Gorman.

Sweet cover, right?  Fatal Rhythm is a medical thriller.  From the back:

In the pre-dawn hours of the graveyard shift, the ICU at the Houston Heart Institute is quiet, and quietly, patients are dying. Surgery resident Joe Morales must survive a two-month stint in an ICU rife with land mines—unexplained patient deaths, rival faculty, fellow-resident saboteurs, a cost-slashing administrator, a ruthless insurance executive, a seductive head nurse, a jealous wife, a critically ill son, an overprotective mother and an orderly distraught over his daughter’s death. Joe knows that an outstanding performance will secure a coveted cardiovascular fellowship. He must determine the cause of the suspicious deaths to salvage the career he’s always wanted.

Another powerful character is Dr. De La Toure, the head of the Houston Heart Institute and Joe Morales’s hero/nemesis.  Okay, nemesis is too strong a word, but you know how humans tend to pick someone to look up to and want approval from?  Yes, I just ended two phrases with prepositions.  Get over it.  I’m trying to.  Anyway, you know how we do that, humans?  Dr. De La Toure is that person for Dr. Morales.  Much of the plot is enriched by the interplay and complexities between these two characters: without spoiling much, Dr. Morales is shown in all the important facets of being a man–as son to a father-(figure), husband and father.  That piece was handled particularly well and came to a very heartwarming finish.

Speaking of finish!  This one had me guessing “whodunit?” up to the very last minute.  There were clues all over the place, and as soon as I thought, “Aha!  I know who’s the murderer!” that person would be exonerated, and then when we finally did discover the antagonistic forces behind the deaths, it was the kind of surprise that had me kicking myself for not having figured it out already.  All this makes for a satisfying ending.

I also loved the relationship between Morales and his wife.  I practically cheered out loud when the very things that would look like flaws, failings and imperfections in our characters were the very things that came to the rescue in the end.  I found this a lovely illustration of how humans may not be perfect, but we are valuable–a living tenet of Catholicism.

Speaking of Catholicism!  Our Lady of Guadalupe and the traditions around celebrating her played a prominent part in Fatal Rhythm.  This was done with a gentle hand steeped in culture, and the contribution this made to character development throughout the story was powerful–and believable.  Frankly, you don’t get that with most faith-based fiction.

If you’d like to read more about the author, I interviewed him on this Seven Quick Takes post.