Summer & Books: Coming this June!

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Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website. Stop by every day to learn about a different book!

www.CatholicTeenBooks.com provides teen readers, parents, catechists, homeschool co-ops, youth ministers, teachers, and others with direct links to exciting, well-crafted books that raise the heart and mind to God and reflect the fullness and beauty of the Catholic faith.

The site is organized by genre and includes a wide range of books in the following categories:

  • contemporary
  • historical
  • mystery
  • speculative
  • saints
  • dystopian

Among those, you’ll find suspense, romance, coming of age stories, and lives of the saints with age-appropriate themes including the power of intercessory prayer, the communion of saints, the Rosary, virtue, Theology of the Body, and respect for life at all ages and stages.

“Today more than ever, teens need to know they are beautiful and valuable creations of God,” said author of the contemporary Bird Face series Cynthia T. Toney. “Catholic fiction and nonfiction can show them.”

Rather than stuffy, dry stories of saccharine piety, readers will find lively stories that appeal to the modern reader addressing difficult issues such as suicide, abortion, grief, family relationships, disabilities, and dating, all informed by the light of faith.

“A growing number of Catholic authors are producing high quality fiction, as well as riveting non-fiction or fictionalized versions of historical people and events,” according to Stephanie Engelman, author of A Single Bead. “The goal of these authors is to teach as Christ taught – through stories. They take ordinary people, with ordinary lives and challenges, and write extraordinary stories meant to change hearts while teaching minds. While avoiding being preachy or didactic, these authors impart wisdom and support Catholic moral and social teaching.”

Many of the books included have been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild’s Seal of Approval. Several have also received awards from the Catholic Press Association as well as secular organizations. Some books are currently used in schools throughout the United States. All are available in both paperback and electronic format through Amazon.com and other retailers.

“An incredible amount of excitement surrounds this new website,” said Theresa Linden, author of the award-winning Roland West, Loner. “We hope to see it grow into something wonderful for God, helping young readers find books they will thoroughly enjoy and that support, rather than tear down their faith. And also, helping authors of Catholic teen fiction reach their audiences.”

CathTeenBooks

CWG Book Blast: Ornamental Graces

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After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend.

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After his duplicitous girlfriend left, Dan Malone spent six months in a tailspin of despair and destruction: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Just when his life seems to be back on track, he meets Emily Kowalski, younger sister of his new best friend. Emily’s the kind of girl he’d always dreamed of—sweet, smart, and sincere. But he’s made a mess of his life and ruined his chances for earning the love and trust of a woman like her. Could Dan be the man Emily’s been waiting for? How could he be when every time they get close he pulls away? And will he ever be free from his shady past and the ex-girlfriend who refuses to stay there? A Catholic Christmas romance that spans all seasons.

Read for free anytime on Kindle Unlimited or in the Kindle Lending Library with your Amazon Prime membership.

“This is a truly inspiring contemporary Christian romance. Dan Malone comes into the story with some baggage. Mistakes from his past and rejection from the woman he thought he loved has built a wall around his heart that blinds him to the possibility of a happy life. Then he meets Emily.

Smart, strong-willed and virtuous, Emily Kowalski is tired of waiting for life to happen to her. After learning that the only boy she’s ever loved is about to marry—and after a quart of ice cream and a prayer–she’s ready for a change. Dan and Emily meet in a Christmas tree lot. And Emily’s heart knows at once that this man is special. But it takes Dan awhile to feel worthy of another chance, especially when his past keeps coming back to remind him of his failures.

With flawed but loveable characters, this story delves into the real-life consequences of the choices we make in relationships. It brings out the importance of offering and accepting forgiveness, and gives hope to those who find it hard to let go of past mistakes and to forgive one’s self. Ornamental Graces is a story of love, faith, and passion that you won’t want to miss. This story will take you on an emotional rollercoaster and leave you with hope.” ~Theresa Linden

Website:

http://www.carolynastfalk.com/carolyn-astfalk-author/books/ornamental-graces/

Buy Link:

https://www.amazon.com/Ornamental-Graces-Carolyn-Astfalk-ebook/dp/B01M60UCQB/

Excerpt:

It had come to this. Daniel Malone sold instruments of torture just to keep food on his crappy Formica table for one. Of course, that probably wasn’t how others saw it.

They were bringing home a piece of the outdoors, a symbol of the season, a reminder of Christ’s nativity and resurrection, the eternal— evergreen—promises of God. Dan had seen things that way too before the past year took everything he had and shredded it with a mulcher. Mustering his remaining whit of self-respect, he’d succumbed to desperation and now sat in a drafty shack waiting for the next giddy Christmas revelers to select a fresh-scented, needle-dropping nightmare.

Okay, so maybe the trees weren’t exactly torturous, but he’d had enough of rough bark, sticky sap, and sharp needles to last a lifetime. After this, he’d be an artificial tree enthusiast—if he bothered to put up a tree at all.

Inside his small, weather-beaten shack, the one he’d assembled mostly from leftover wooden pallets, Dan couldn’t smell the fresh, evergreen scent, the only trait of Christmas trees he still enjoyed. Instead, the odor of burnt coffee lingered though he hadn’t made a pot in days. He never cared for the taste, burnt or not, but he had needed something to keep him awake during the long, boring hours when no customers visited his lot.

The space heater at his feet gave a death rattle, and its electrical hum ceased. He kicked it with the tip of his boot. Nothing.

Great.

Dan folded his large frame under the wooden table that served as his desk and jiggled the wire where it entered the cheap heater. It knocked against the laminate floor remnants and hummed to life. A blast of warm air hit his face and then penetrated his boots. As he sat upright, he glanced out one of the two square windows and spotted a young couple beneath the lights in the rear of the lot.

The man had lifted a Douglas fir from where it leaned against the rope Dan strung across the lot. He stamped its trunk on the frozen, dry ground a couple times and then twirled it around so the woman could see every side. It was a woman, wasn’t it? No telltale pink gloves or hand-knit, sparkly scarf. No expensive boots designed for gawking rather than walking. Just a puffy, navy jacket and white tennis shoes. It could be a skinny dude.

The person spent less than three seconds observing it before planting hands on hips and signaling disapproval with a shake of the head. Yeah, definitely a woman.

Dan rolled his eyes. Another one. If nothing else, this job had given him an unforgettable real-life lesson in male-female dynamics—a lesson that would’ve been helpful a couple of years ago. The man would ferret out the best-looking tree, well-shaped and full, and the woman would turn up her nose, forcing them to cycle through four to seven more trees before one met her approval—sometimes the same tree the man had first shown her.

Poor sap. He had at least three more trees to go.

carolynCarolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where it smells like either chocolate or manure, depending on wind direction. She is the author of the inspirational romances Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters and a CatholicMom.com contributor. Formerly, she served as the communications director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public affairs agency of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops. True to her Pittsburgh roots, she still says “pop” instead of “soda,” although her beverage of choice is tea. You can find her online at www.carolynastfalk.com.

 

 

New Book Release by Susan Peek

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The King’s Prey: St. Dymphna of Ireland

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An insane king.

His fleeing daughter.

Estranged brothers, with a troubled past,

both fighting to save her life.

Who can be trusted?

 

I discovered this saint years ago when praying for someone with mental illness, and I am so glad to be able to get to know her better through Susan Peek’s story.
THE KING’S PREY is filled with emotionally-charged moments, humor, and high action; never a dull moment.

Dymphna’s story is a difficult one. Her mother was a Christian and taught her the faith, but her father was a powerful pagan king with evil Druid advisors. Once Dymphna’s mother died, her father’s mental health deteriorated. He wanted his wife back and his confused mind saw her in his daughter. The teenage Dymphna, wanting nothing to do with a sinful arrangement—though it would provide all the comforts of life a king could offer—fled with the saintly Father Gerebran and others that you will meet in this story.

This story brings the ugliness of evil and sin (in the King’s actions and his Druid advisors) up against the beauty of faithfulness, self-sacrifice, and bearing all for the kingdom of God.

I am a fan of Susan Peek’s saint stories. And so are my boys. Every one of them touches my heart and increases my devotion to the saints. I am thankful that she has dedicated herself to bringing these little-known saints to life for us. St. Dymphna is so needed today as a role model for purity and an intercessor for all those who suffer from mental illness. Privileged to read an advanced copy of this book, I highly recommend it to teens and adults.

The paperback is available now!  Kindle soon to follow.

Follow Susan Peek on Facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads. She is also one of the authors featured on CatholicTeenBooks.com

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Catholic novelist Susan Peek is a wife, mother of eleven children, and a Third Order Franciscan. Her passion is writing novels of little-known saints and heroes, especially for teens and young adults (and anyone young at heart). She is an active member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, teaches creative writing in her spare time, and is currently continuing work on her series “God’s Forgotten Friends: Lives of Little-known Saints.”

Susan Peek’s books include “Saint Magnus,The Last Viking,” which was awarded the Catholic Writers’ Guild Seal of Approval in June 2015, “A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of St. Camillus de Lellis,” having gone through three editions and translated into Spanish, and “Crusader King”, which made it onto the list of the Top 50 Most Popular Homeschooling Books in 2013. All of her books have been implemented into the curriculum of numerous Catholic schools worldwide and continue to be a favorite with young adults and homeschooling families everywhere.

A Bit About Angels

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Look around you. How many are in the room with you? I propose that the actual number is more than double.

We all believe in things we can’t see: air, wind, electricity, gravity. But invisible spiritual realities surround us too. Each of us has a guardian angel. Take the number of people with you now and double it for a good guess as to how many beings are with you at this moment.

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By Nheyob – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36041219

I studied angels for a book I wrote (Battle for His Soul) and I’d like to share what I’ve learned. Most of my information came from St. Thomas Aquinas. Do you know who he is? He was a philosopher and theologian, now considered a Doctor of the Church.

 

In grade school, we all learn that there are 3 kinds of substances: animal, vegetable, and mineral. These are all physical substances, but we know that humans are so much more. We are made of both body and soul. So Aquinas believed that to round out the order of things there must be something that is purely spiritual with no body. We call pure spirits angels.

There are also far more angels than any other material thing.

We classify and sort all material things. Since angels have no matter in them, they can’t be sorted in the same way. While angels share the same spiritual nature (so they are of the same genus) each angel is the only one of its kind. Each angel is a species that is essentially different from every other angel.

Each angel is unique. Each represents the goodness of God in a unique way. I like this detail because it allowed me to give a different personality to each of the guardian angels in my story.

angel-595033While I portrayed angels with bodies, wings, and cool weapons in my story, angels actually have no bodies or physical matter. So they can’t die, decay, or change.

Do angels ever assume bodies? We know from Holy Scripture that they do. Angels appeared in bodily form to Adam and Eve (when they were kicked out of the garden) to Abraham, Tobias, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the shepherds, to name a few. You or I may have seen our guardian angel.

Aquinas believed angels can move quickly. Our guardian angels are in the world with us, so they move in time. They can’t be in two places at once. But they can move at the speed of thought.

Angels are highly intelligent, more so than any person, and they can grow in knowledge but they have no need to learn. They were given their knowledge the moment they were created. Angels do not all have the same intelligence either. There are higher and lower angels. Each one has the knowledge they need for their particular status and the work they will do.

Just as we have free will, so do angels. They exercise it more perfectly than us partly because they don’t have the temptations of the flesh.

Angels love. Love is something a person chooses to do freely. Angels have free will, therefore they have love. In fact, while it involves choice, love is a natural tendency for angels. They love themselves, each other, and God most of all.

Angels were not created before the physical world, but at the same time. They were created in heaven, but they did not originally possess God in the beatific vision. That requires grace. This explains how some became fallen angels. Each angel had the choice to love God or to put themselves first. Those who chose God merited the beatific vision.

It’s different for humans. We take steps and move through stages, growing in holiness. We can fall and get back up. We sin, repent, and are forgiven over and over. But they had one choice. The choice of a pure spirit is final and unchanging. Those who chose God, the beatified angels, cannot sin.

Before beatification, they could sin. And some did. Those are the fallen angels, or demons. Demons try to lead people to commit every kind of sin, but they have no bodies so they can only commit two kinds of sin: pride and envy. Lucifer, now called Satan, wished to be equal to God though he knew that it was impossible for a creature to be equal to the creator. He wanted to create by his own power, to achieve beatitude without God’s help, and to have command over others in a way proper to God alone.

Sin is contrary to the natural order, so it occurs less frequently. Therefore, there are fewer fallen angels than faithful angels.

Fallen angels did not lose their knowledge or intellect. They also have sorrow. Not the sorrow of repentance but sorrow of knowing that they will never attain beatitude and that, despite their efforts, we might still get to heaven. That’s why they are so busy battling against our salvation.

Back to the good angels…. Each of us was given a guardian angel from the first moment of our existence, so at conception.

What can angels do for us? They can enlighten us by strengthening our understanding or making us aware of something. Angels can deliver messages from God to us or from us to God. Angels can guard us.

They cannot act upon our human will. God alone can do that. But they can influence us by stirring up images in our imagination. They can also work upon the human senses, as is the case when one assumes visible form.

Have you recognized the actions of your guardian angel in your life?

I’ve been in several terrible car accidents and never came to harm, including when I crashed my Nova. The steering wheel was up against the driver seat but somehow I got out of the car without even a tear in my pantyhose.

I lived on the tiny island of Guam when typhoon Pamela hit. The island sustained an incredible amount of damage but only one person died.

I don’t know specifically how my guardian angel has helped me. But I know he has. And I am thankful to God for him and for all the angels. And I truly enjoyed researching for and writing about them in Battle for His Soul.

Writing Tips for Young Writers

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I started writing when I was in grade school. It all sprang from a role-playing game that my sister and I made up. We used to pretend we were various characters from television or movies, then we made up and acted out our own stories. Because school kept getting in the way of play, we started writing our stories out–yes, during school. I’m not recommending that to students. Please pay attention to your teachers.

My sister and I took turns writing chapters in an ongoing story, each of us writing the characters into a cliffhanger that the other had to write them out of.  It was incredibly fun and really sparked our imaginations! We ended up creating many of our own characters and the most exciting, albeit bizarre, story lines. Some of the characters are in my stories today. I’m sure my sister recognizes them.

I recently created six newsletters packed with writing tips for young writers. I sent them weekly to students in our homeschooling group as they prepared for a Young Writers Day, where they presented books they wrote.

I am getting ready to send these Writing Tips newsletters out again, opening this up to anyone who is interested. Here’s what they cover:

Week 1: Genre, Theme, Story Problem
Week 2: Characters, Point of View, Opening Lines
Week 3: Conflict, Plot and Structure, Checklist
Week 4: Setting, Details, Strong Closing
Week 5: Dialog, Emotion, Tense
Week 6: Editing your work

If you are interested in receiving these for the young writer in your life, just let me know! You can comment here or send me an email: theresalinden@oh.rr.com

The first one goes out Wednesday, May 3rd. The others will come out weekly, on Wednesdays.

At the end of the six weeks, if anyone would like to share their story or part of their story, I would love to see it!

Happy writing!