fiction

An Open Book: Beach Reads, Teach Reads

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

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Dying for Revenge by Dr. Barbara Golder

An Open Book Linkup: Dying for Revenge (murder mystery)

This book rubbed the salt in the wound of what’s wrong with our culture today, publishing and otherwise.  Here we have a slick but gritty, sharp-edged murder mystery better than most secular crime novels I’ve read, but just because the main character side-eyes liberal culture and is struggling with/considering/reconsidering Catholicism, it’s going to be looked over.  It really shouldn’t be.  Don’t YOU people pass it by, anyway.

Okay, now that I have that off my chest, Dying for Revenge is the first book in a (hopefully well-populated!) series focusing on the work and struggles of Dr. Jane Wallace, a medical examiner and lawyer who has faced crime in her own past and come to hide from it in the mountains and canyons of Colorado.  I finished it in the space of three days and would have taken less time if I could read in the car without getting car sick.  Part cozy, part police procedural, part woman-in-peril (though Jane is so no-nonsense, that when the actual peril comes, I was almost blindsided), and with an enticing, mature, exile-from-The-Troubles, will-they-won’t-they-can-they? love interest in Eoin Connor, Dying for Revenge kept me on the edge of my seat in every possible way.  The climax was perhaps the most surprising–and surprisingly satisfying–part of the plot.  In the end, it’s just as much a mystery to solve as a progression of soul for the main character.  Look for more about this here on June 5, if you’re not already convinced to buy Dying for Revenge.

From Grief to Grace by Jeannie Ewing

An Open Book Linkup: From Grief to Grace by Jeannie Ewing (non-fiction, self-help)We all grieve in some way, because it’s a fallen world: we all need to cope with things not going according to plan, in ways both big and small.  From Grief to Grace is a manual on how to navigate that pain, from simple disappointment to world-changing heartbreak.  Ewing does not focus merely on death-related grief but on any kind of soul-pain that knocks us down to depths we’d much rather not visit.  Instead of looking at grief as something to just “get through,” she gives us tools and the gift of her own personal experiences with grief, so that we can see our own suffering not as something to fear but as rungs on a ladder to God.  How a book like this manages to be both practical and spiritually weighty is a testament to the author’s skill.

At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett

An Open Book Linkup: At the Crossroad by Amy M. Bennett (Black Horse Campground Mystery #4, cozy mystery, suspense)I am so excited to read this next book in The Black Horse Campground Mysteries.  I can’t rightly say that I’ve read this and can give a review yet, but it is loaded onto my Kindle and it’s what I plan to have in my waiting and recovery rooms while I’m in the hospital for tomorrow’s gallbladder eviction (in fact, if I can steal a moment today to start reading, I most surely will).  Amy Bennett has the dual gift of writing with a tender touch and a light heart.  Each book is filled with characters facing believable struggles and everyday events but turned in an extraordinary way.  The plot of each book keeps you guessing until the absolute very very very last minute.  In this latest installment, we’ll get to see which direction the love UST triangle takes.  I love JD, but I think I might be Team Rick?  Maybe.  Maybe?  Maybe.  I mean, a man who bakes is pretty difficult to resist…

This month’s audiobooks:

Anne of Avonlea (narr. Mary Sarah) by L. M. Montgomery

An Open Book Linkup: Anne of Avonlea (classics, audiobook)I’d read Anne of Green Gables in college for kicks and giggles but never read any of the other books, so this was a first for me as well as for my children… and husband.  We listened to part of it on the way home from a Memorial Day road trip, and he said it made the trip go a lot faster than it would have otherwise.  We even giggled together over Davy Keith’s mischief, the tragedy of the blue hall, and I think hubby laughed louder than I did over a certain package being obediently yet quite reluctantly tossed into the school woodstove.  So far I still like the first installment of this series best, but Avonlea is still well worth visiting, even in this perhaps more episodic tale.  The narration on this one is nice but seems to have less wonder and perhaps too much whimsy, and the different voices of the characters were barely distinct from one another.  All in all, though, it was a well-done production, and I’m glad we got to enjoy it.

Anne of the Island (narr. Barbara Caruso) by L. M. Montgomery

An Open Book Linkup: Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery, narrated by Nancy Caruso (classics, YA, audiobook)This version has my favorite narrator of the three Anne books we’ve listened to so far as a family.  Caruso’s voice has a timeless quality, and she gives each character a different voice but manages to avoid making any one of them a caricature.  The story itself was typical, delightful Anne, again more episodic than narrative as Green Gables is.  The narration in this production, however, really made it work for me best of the three Anne books we’ve heard.

Have you read/heard any of these yourself?  

What did you read this month?  

Don’t forget to linkup your reviews with Carolyn Astfalk!

An Open Book: May the Fourth Be Bookish

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

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Ugh.  I know, I know.  That post title is pathetic, but I’m running on fumes here.  What kind of fumes? The kind that broke me enough to give in to… audiobooks.  Audiobooks have been around longer than books, actually, because hello? Storytelling around the fire while digesting the freshly roasted mammoth meat?

I, however, just never got into audiobooks, because:

  1. I can get to the end of the story so much faster in my head.  Why would I wait around for someone else to read it for me?
  2. All my time available for audiobook listening, if I could get past that first issue, is spent in the car with kids, and you can’t listen to grown-up audiobooks if you have little pitchers and their big, giant ears in the backseat.

Why did it never occur to me that it’s not just contemporary pulp on audiobook but literary classics as well?

So that library trip when I stumbled upon this on our weekly trip to the library:

The Adventures of Odysseus by Hugh Lupton & Daniel Morden, Illustrated by Cristina Balit

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This was my very first audiobook, and since it wasn’t packaged as an audiobook, I was cleverly tricked into picking it up.  I didn’t even see the CDs in the front and back of the gorgeously illustrated covers until we were in the car and headed for our next task.  The Odyssey was one of my favorite reading assignments from college, and I was pretty sure there wasn’t anything completely untoward for both shifts of kid to hear (I’m more comfortable with kids learning of the horrors of war than the seduction of the flesh, frankly).  I was not disappointed in this version: there’s nothing immodest, and the retelling of the tale does not skip over the violent parts (Polyphemus and Scylla aren’t tidied up, for instance).  The narrators never use syrupy voices-for-the-kiddies.  I loved hearing Second Shift cheer when Odysseus sent the arrow through the axe handles.  All in all, I highly recommend this version.  Everyone can listen to the story while those who aren’t driving and can’t even read yet can appreciate the gorgeous, stylized illustrations.

Once we’d enjoyed that, I tried thinking back to literary classics I’d tried to get First Shift to read but which they’d eschewed because they prefer non-fiction so blastedly strongly.  The first one that came to mind was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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I’ve struggled to get my older kids to read fiction, because their interests are limited, and they don’t see the point in fiction.  Even if they never, ever enjoy fiction (sniffle!), fiction-reading is still a part of learning how to be human–seeing how characters face conflict and deal with it, for good or ill.  Then there’s the ability to follow along with literary allusions without getting lost.  Both of those tasks can be conquered adequately (perhaps not well, but adequately) through audiobooks–force-fed to unwilling brains while on long car rides.  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of those books that my kids just did not want to read but that we enjoyed listening to (maybe not as much as the next one, but more on that in a bit).  Narrator Jim Dale handled the ridiculousness with the exact right amount of wryness but still kept it whimsical.  I enjoyed this version immensely, moreso than I ever enjoyed the text version or any movie version (Sorry, Mr. Carroll).

Lastly, a book I read only once in my college years: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

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The story, as always, is wonderful: the tale of an unwanted orphan who finds family in the most unlikely pair of brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.  The example of a flighty but well-meaning girl who gets into particularly feminine adventures, who in turn learns from each hilarious mistake she makes, is a precious example I really wanted to share with my three young ladies.  Hearing the story now as a parent myself was that much more poignant than it had been when I was a childless college student, struggling to pass her own exams and such.  I love how much of a family story this is, with appeal across the ages.

As for this production in particular, the editing in this one could use some smoothing out, and I think the narrator went a little too far on the wry side and not far enough on the wonderment side.  That said, we had a great time listening to this one.  Second Shift loved it as much as I did; as Cordelia Chase would say, “Overidentify much?”

Adding audiobooks to our homeschooling has already been such a boon.  First Shift has phenomenal reading skills, but they shy away from personal stories; Second Shift loves fiction but struggles mightily with reading.  Audiobooks have given us the opportunity to share literature with each other, discuss it, talk about conflict and description and language.  I can’t believe I’ve let us miss out on this rich resource for so long.

In the time I’ve had to read books rather than listen to them, I’ve started in on From Grief to GraceFrom Grief to Grace coming out next month by Jeannie Ewing.

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I’ve also read another Chime Travelers book by Lisa Hendey, but that one won’t be out until Christmas, so look for a review in, say, November.

Do you have reluctant readers?  How do you tackle their challenges?  Do you use audiobooks?  What are some of your favorites?  And don’t forget to link up with Carolyn!

PSA: New Release from Annie Douglass Lima

Hey there, readers!  Please welcome longtime blogfriend and Clean Indie Reads writer Annie Douglass Lima as she shares her latest publishing news as well as offers a free copy of one of her books.  Take it away, Annie!


I’m excited to announce that my young adult action and adventure novel, The Gladiator and the Guard, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach.

First Things First: a Little Information about Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?


The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  


Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!

 

And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

 

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

 

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 

for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30!



Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and
later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.


Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

 


Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or find the giveaway at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad2fd99a3/?

 

March on and Grab AN OPEN BOOK

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

We read. We talk.  We talk about what we read.

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Soulless Creatures by Katharine Grubb

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With every sentence, Soulless Creatures kept me guessing. And while the story itself was surprising, the biggest surprise of all was the vital role the setting played. Who knew Oklahoma had so much to teach us? Not this East Coast girl. I love how the author took each character to the brink (or what “the brink” would be for a college freshman) and let him/her grow. The ending was unexpected and yet deeply satisfying. Highly recommended!

 

Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard

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Slowing down is not my favorite thing to do, which makes a book like this so vital. Filled with valuable reflections and fresh but faithful takes on some of the most repeated words in all of Catholicism, Word by Word filled me with hope, made me smile, and, yes, slowed me down so that I could learn something. It’s a versatile book that’s worth reading straight through and worth keeping handy for quick prayer times. Break out the highlighter!

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

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What’s it about?  In case you didn’t know, “From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.”

If you’re wondering if this book is as good as it looks, wonder no more.  It is.  It’s even better.  It has hitherto for unknown bits about the making of the movie, yes.  The bigger surprise for me though was seeing the creative process through the eyes of immediacy as well as the eyes of memory and experience.  The Princess Bride was, initially, a flop.  Now it’s a classic.  Creatives? We’re in it for the long haul.  We have to be.  If we’re not, we’re going to remain mostly dead.

And some readalouds for Second Shift:

Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco

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I got this from the library as a St. Patrick’s Day readaloud.  It would’ve been a lot easier to read if I hadn’t been crying my eyes out from the second or third page.  This is the story of a family that had to leave hardships in Ireland only to show up in Chicago just in time for the Great Chicago Fire.  Young Fiona is a gifted lacemaker, and her skills just might be what her family needs to rise out of immigrant poverty, but when a terrible fire separates the family and destroys not just their home but their entire neighborhood, how will Fiona and her family ever find each other again?  You have to read to find out.  But do keep your tissues nearby–better yet, a lace hankie.

Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman (Illustrations by Susan Gaber)

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It’s a Purim Cinderella story! Orphan Raisel is raised by her Zaydeh (grandfather), who gives her a rich, scholarly education, even teaching her the Talmud.  When Zaydeh dies, Raisel must strike out on her own.  After much wandering, the rabbi in the big city makes his cook take Raisel on as her assistant, but Cook is not happy about this.  The story that follows echoes the Cinderella story, but instead of great shoes making the match, Raisel’s prince finds her because of her great mind.  I’m sure some feminist somewhere has something to say about how a smart girl shouldn’t get her happy ending by working in a kitchen and marrying a prince… but I’m not some feminist anywhere.  Raisel’s Riddle shows that a girl’s greatest gifts are kindness and wisdom, and by being clever and kind and generous, her true beauty stands out from even the loveliest Purim costumes.

3 Reasons the Faithful Writer Needs a Secular Writing Life

Call this post my Ode to Sisters in Crime, an international organization for women crime writers.

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Moar Marketing Ideas!

This past Saturday I was able (at last!) to make it to my local chapter of Sisters in Crime.  Our guest speaker was Nicole Loughan.

I’m posting both pictures, because in the first, Nicole looks lovely but blurry and I just look like me, while in the second she looks lovely and clear, while I look like I’m plotting to kill hamsters.

AAAANYway, Nicole gave a great presentation on how to sell 10K books in one year.  Yes, this is the kind of marketing topic that gets covered at CMN/CWCL, but this had the benefit of being local (or, for me, local-ish, now that we live in a cornfield) and only took a morning rather than most of a week.

There’s also something I’ve noticed about secular  marketing strategy talks, and it’s a good thing: if you’re marketing secular fiction, you only have to worry about bad reviews.  You don’t have to worry about people mocking you personally for being a person of faith.  I don’t know about you, but I move past my fears better when I have someone who loves at least one thing I do (or three: writing, books, and writing books) giving me a to do list, even if I have to read that list to myself as, “Baby steps get on a bus.  Baby steps get on a bus.

Nicole had some great tips to share, and she’ll be sharing more at the 2016 Annual Winter Writers’ Weekend in Lambertville, NJ.  Maybe you can attend?  Check out her branding, too! Oh, and she has a Philly-based novel coming out next about an old North Broad landmark, the Divine Lorraine.  Look at this cover!

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::drool:: Gorgeous stuff. Thanks, Nicole!

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Moar Research

Through SinC, I’ve met a local mystery writer who also happens to be a prosecuting attorney, watched cadaver dogs train (and incidentally got to smell what a cadaver smells like to humans–an unearthly stench unlike any other), met a state trooper who worked on the Johnston Gang murders, found out about ways to connect with readers instead of just writers, and on and on.  If you write in a genre, and you want to enrich your writing, your nearest genre-based writing group can be a bottomless resource for you.

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Moar Humans

There’s a certain danger in being a writer in any faith-based genre, and that’s the danger of wanting to circle the wagons.  In a faith-based writing group, I can really let my hair down. I can talk about the pope as he is and not how the media portrays him.  I can talk about 10KLAD over Chipotle and have nobody bat an eye.  I can relax.  I don’t have to hold my breath and feel the sweat bead on my palms as soon as everybody starts talking politics.  I don’t have to answer the unspoken question, “But you’re not like those Catholics, right?”

However.. Jesus?  Not the wagon-circling type.  If you circle the wagons, though, you won’t ever reach your destination.  The hard thing to remember is that the destination is not the cross, it’s the resurrection.

So I go to a secular writing group as often as my time allows.  My life is enriched by the marketing tips and the research opportunities and the fresh ideas both spawn, but my heart and soul are enriched by getting out of my little Catholic bubble, by having my them-against-us tendencies challenged.  “Them” are just folks, just like me, and in the scheme of eternity, I’m not that much closer to God than anybody else.  I’m reminded once again that, no matter what we believe, not a one of us gets out of this alive, and we’re all in this together.

3 Reasons a Faith Writer Needs a SECULAR Writing Group

Have you found great resources and wonderful people in your secular writing group?  Do you know of any secular writers’ organizations that might be helpful to others?  Or do you need help finding one for your genre?  Comment below, and let’s talk about it!

AT THE CROSS ROAD: New from Amy M. Bennett

I am so excited to read the latest installment in the Black Horse Campground Mysteries, a series of cozies from Oak Tree Press author and fellow Catholic Writers Guild member Amy M. Bennett.  This series has characters that really come alive, the kind who make you cheer and cry and laugh and laugh and laugh.  I can’t wait to read this latest tale, At the Cross Road, which is an intriguing title given how the last book in the series, No Vacancy, ended: the mystery was wrapped up, but the relationships were only getting messier!

Without further nattering from me, here’s what you can look forward to from Amy and At the Cross Road!

At the Cross Road: Book 4 in the Black Horse Campground Mystery Series by Amy M. Bennett (Oak Tree Press)Trouble often comes in threes. It’s no different at the Black Horse Campground.

On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously… or even properly investigated them.

Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he’s about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn’t be worse, since he’s finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up… someone who’s hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him… business that has to do with digging up a painful past.

When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.’s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women… and is prepared to kill again?

When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?

And now for an excerpt, this one from Chapter 14 of At the Cross Road.

J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato’s words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn’t get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn’t going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.

He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie’s apartment light was on but the store’s lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.

He started out, following the path he’d taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that… he’d have to wait and see.

He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he’d be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he’d probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.

Unlike most small cemeteries he’d encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.

The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.

Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.

J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he’d left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.

He’d been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.

He hated it when he was right.

Don’t know Amy? Get to know her!

IMG_6271Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel End of the Road started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by No Lifeguard on Duty and No Vacancy, both of which have been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. At the Cross Road is the fourth book in the series.

When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at www.amymbennettbooks.com and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com

“IT’S STILL CHRISTMAS” CATHOLIC EBOOK SALE

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Is that gift card burning a hole in your stocking? Spend it on Catholic ebooks!  

A number of independently published and small press Catholic authors will hold an “It’s Still Christmas Sale” December 26-28. This sale will feature no fewer than 16 Catholic ebooks all priced at $.99 or FREE.

[Ahem.  One of the featured books is “Working Mother,” a quick bargain read all about the Holy Family, specifically, “What if Mary had to get a job?“]

The “It’s Still Christmas Sale” gives readers a chance to make the most of gift cards received for online purchases.  More importantly, this sale is designed as a reminder that Catholics celebrate Christmas beyond December 25 and well into the Octave of Christmas, the first eight days of the Christmas season.

The “It’s Still Christmas Sale” will feature work from Catholic authors John C. Connell, Jeanie Ewing, Ellen Gable, Melanie Jean Juneau, Theresa Linden, Gil Michelini, Erin McCole Cupp, Connie Rossini, Marianne Sciucco, Tim Speer, Thomas Tan, Jacqueline Vick, J.I. Willett, Gloria Winn, and John Paul Wohlschied.

The featured books include something for every reader, both fiction and non-fiction, adult and YA.  Regarding this sale, participating author Connie Rossini notes that, “You can get a whole library for about $10!”

To take advantage of these offers, visit the Indie Catholic Authors Blog or join the event on Facebook.

TESTING LIBERTY AVAILABLE NOW #mondayblogs #dystopian

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 about the searing new release TESTING LIBERTY, sequel to CHASING LIBERTY, both by Theresa Linden.


Testing Liberty ~ book two in Theresa Linden’s fast-paced dystopian trilogy came out November 7th. Take a trip into the future and into the past with Liberty. Sneak peek: https://theresalinden.wordpress.com/excerpts/

Liberty bides her time in a cell in Aldonia’s Re-Education facility. Flames leap among billowing black clouds in her mind, consuming all other thoughts. Houses of the once-secret Maxwell colony burn. Faces flash in her mind, faces of the men, women, and children who had shown her freedom. The all-controlling government has captured them. This is her fault. Liberty will not rest until she repairs the damage.

“Testing Liberty is an action-packed thrill ride that’ll have you rooting for freedom, self-determination, and Liberty.”       ~Carolyn Astfalk, author of Stay with Me

“Testing Liberty never disappoints as it treks through the wild, the underground, and sordid inner-city slums to prove that freedom isn’t free.”      ~Don Mulcare

Theresa Linden, author of the Liberty TrilogyTheresa Linden 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.

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.

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.