Work of the Holy Angels

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Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. AMEN

As a writer, I love to hear from my readers. I love to know what they think of my stories and what they hope comes next. My readers influence me. The themes and story line of my latest release, Standing Strong, were inspired by a reader. You can read all about it on author Cynthia Toney’s blog post about my book.

angel3Recently, a reader inspired me to look into a religious movement that I never knew existed. A professor of theology who read my book Battle for His Soul asked if I had any connection with Opus Angelorum or if the story was inspired by its spirituality.

I was not familiar with this spirituality, however, I wrote Battle for His Soul to draw attention to the spiritual battle that goes on all around us and to increase devotion to our guardian angels. And I researched the Church’s teaching on angels, using Scriptures and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas.

But this reader got me curious. So of course I had to look it up! And I am so glad I did! The group is called Opus Sanctorum Angelorum.

From their “About Us” page:

Opus Sanctorum Angelorum, the Work of the Holy Angels, is an international movement within the Catholic Church faithful to the Magisterium. It is ordered to promoting devotion to the holy angels and a covenant bond with them through a Church-approved consecration, so that the holy angels may lead us more effectively to God.

Their website is packed with information!

  • You can learn about the holy angels on their “Catechesis on the Angels” page, which includes dozens of Scriptural and Catechism of the Catholic Church references.
  • They have a page of commonly asked questions on the Angels, which includes questions like “How do angels communicate with us?” and “Do angels have wings?”
  • As you learn about the spirituality of this association, you will also find beautiful quotes and prayers.
  • And you can read about real life experiences of the intervention of holy angels in people’s lives. Here is one of many testimonies on the website:

After reading your newsletter, I was reminded of this incident and wanted to tell you about it. When my daughter was 21 months old, we were walking on the upper level of a school building. I turned my back for a few seconds and when I looked again, she was running towards a two-story flight of concrete stairs. Before I could stop her, she began to run down them and tripped. She started to fall, but before her head hit the step something caught her and slowly pushed her back to an upright position. When I arrived next to her, she was standing still. There was no possible ordinary explanation for this. Although I could not see anything, I felt a strong presence and I know it was her Guardian Angel that saved her that day.                             ~Erica S.

cemetery-1670233_1920Want even more than you can find on their website, they have a link to their store where you can find books and audio on angels, prayers cards and crucifixes. And they offer something I’ve always wanted to try: Silent Retreats!

I love my guardian angel and feel so very close to him at times. Sometimes when I am too tired to pray, I ask him to say hello to God for me. I know he is ever by my side, praying for me and helping me to follow the right path, step by step.

Angels are God’s messengers and our constant companions. They want us to grow in holiness and to draw ever closer to God through Jesus Christ. I encourage you to visit their website so that you can learn more about angels and increase your devotion to your own guardian angel.

“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”          ~Hebrews 1:14
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~Blog Tour~ New Historical Fiction: Julia’s Gifts

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Final Julia's Gifts Front rev (002)Julia’s Gifts (Great War Great Love #1) by Ellen Gable

Blurb:   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 her 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.

Buy Links:  Amazon Kindle and Amazon Print

Excerpt:

December 17, 1917

The bustling streets of Center City Philadelphia shimmered with electric lights, heralding that Christmas was near. Julia Marie Murphy lifted her head and gazed upward. The night sky was filled with snow clouds, the air brisk. She pulled on her gloves and buttoned the top of her coat. Her thoughts turned to her future husband. Dear God in heaven, please protect my beloved. 

Tens of thousands of American men had already enlisted to fight in this “Great War.” The gentlemen that Julia knew seemed anxious to join, and Julia thanked God that her three brothers were too young to fight.

In a few short weeks, it would be 1918.  All of her father’s friends and acquaintances expected the war to end soon, hopefully before the middle of the year.  But 1918 held far more significance for Julia.  This would be the year that she would turn 21. 

She approached Lit Brothers department store, admiring the display windows that were outlined with colored electric lights. Julia was thankful that it was Monday. If it were Thursday, the ban on electric lights (in support of the war effort) would mean the windows would be dark.

Julia stared, transfixed, through the window at the tall display. Shimmery red fabric hung from a back wall, a beautiful sterling silver pocket watch lay on top of a cylindrical pedestal.  Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag: $12.25, almost 20 percent of her annual salary. But it was beautiful and every man needed one. The price notwithstanding, this would be a perfect gift for her beloved. Yes, it was extravagant, especially during wartime. Yes, there were less expensive items she could purchase. It didn’t matter. This was the ideal gift.

After purchasing it, she took it to the engraving department on the second floor. Behind the counter, the tall, lanky middle-aged man with a handlebar mustache smiled. “What would you like engraved on this?”

“To my beloved, next line, all my love, Julia.”

His eyebrows lifted.  “I’m certain the gentleman would prefer to have his Christian name engraved on this lovely timepiece.  Don’t you agree?”

“Well, yes, I imagine he would.  But I don’t really know his name or who he is yet.”

The man’s mouth fell open and he stuttered.  “I’m..I’m…s…sorry, Miss. I…I don’t understand.  You’ve bought an expensive pocket watch for someone you don’t know?”

Julia sighed.  She shouldn’t have said anything. 

“Please just use the words I gave you.”

The man nodded and regarded Julia with an expression of suspicious curiosity, a look one might give a person in an asylum.

“How long will it take?”

“For the engraving?  Ten days.  Sorry, Miss, but you won’t have it in time for Christmas.”

“That’s all right.” Julia turned and walked a few steps and heard the salesman mumble, “Now there’s an odd girl.  Buying a gift for someone she doesn’t know. Tsk tsk.”

Sighing, she checked her own wristwatch and hurried out of the store to begin the three-block walk to her trolley stop.  If she didn’t get there in time for the five p.m. streetcar, she would be waiting half an hour.

This year Julia was determined that she would meet her beloved, the man for whom she had been praying these past four years. Why hadn’t she met him yet?  Some of her friends were already married. Her beloved was out there and she would find him.  Yes, 1918 would also be the year that she would meet her beloved.

Each December, Julia wondered what she would buy her beloved for Christmas. Last year, she searched different stores but found nothing special. She finally discovered — and bought — a brown leather pocket journal at a specialty store at Broad and Bigler Streets. She didn’t know whether her beloved would be the sort to write in one, but it seemed like an appropriate gift, especially since it had a delicate leaf embossed on the cover. The year before, she had bought a sterling silver Miraculous Medal because her beloved would be Catholic.

That first year, her mother suggested that she begin praying for her future husband.  After a few weeks of doing so, Julia felt inspired to do more. It had been the week before Christmas, so she decided that she would buy or make him a Christmas gift each year until they met.  With no job and no money that year, Julia knit him two pairs of socks, one blue-green and one green-brown, with finely-made yarn that her mother had given her.

The fact that she had made or bought gifts, and had spent hard-earned money for her future husband, had not pleased her father as he thought it too impractical and sentimental. Her mother, however, had declared that it was a beautiful gesture. Of course, if Mother knew how much she had spent on the most recent gift, she was pretty certain her mother wouldn’t be happy.

Ellen Gable is an award-winning author, Marketing Director for Live the Fast, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. However, the roles she loves the most are being wife to her husband and mother to their five sons, ages 18-30. Originally from New Jersey, Ellen lives with her husband of 35 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario Canada.

Find Ellen at her Blog: Plot Line and Sinker, Full Quiver Publishing, Amazon Author Page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, Linked In, and Google+


Author Interview: Ellen Gable

What was the inspiration for Julia’s Gifts?

When I was a teenager, I yearned to meet my future spouse.  It was difficult because most of my friends (and all of my siblings) had boyfriends.  Since I looked very young, boys weren’t    interested in me. I felt lonely, especially on Friday nights when all my siblings and friends were on dates, and I was home watching the Donny and Marie Show.

I began praying that God would “send me a man.”  Until then, I prayed for my future husband.  While I never actually bought a gift for him, I did write letters to him. 

A few years ago, it occurred to me that it would be a beautiful gesture for a young woman to buy Christmas gifts for her future spouse.  From that small seed, Julia’s Gifts was born.


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, Julia is American and her future spouse (Peter) is Canadian. I read and studied many books and researched online for three years before actually sitting down to write the novel.  


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 British, Canadians and Australians. And Great Love because there are many examples of how couples met and fell in love during times of war.


The sonnets/poems in this story are beautifully written.  Tell us a bit about them.

Well, I’m not a poet, but my husband has written songs and poems. So I asked him if he would be willing to write sonnets for my book.  I explained in detail what I needed the sonnet to express and he took it from there.  The sonnets are a beautiful addition to this novel, especially because my husband wrote them. 


Can you tell us about the next two books of the series?

Yes. Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and takes place at approximately the same time as Julia’s Gifts, but focuses on a different female protagonist, Charlotte, who finds her purpose in live when she begins working in the death ward and holding men’s hands as they die.  She is attracted to Canadian Dr. Paul Kilgallen. During an advance by the enemy, everyone at the field hospital evacuates, except for Charlotte and Dr. K.  They remain hidden in the basement of the chateau to take care of the terminally ill men and those soldiers who can’t be moved. Charlotte becomes convinced that Paul is her own “beloved.” But when she loses contact with Paul, she fears not only for his safety, but begins to doubt his love for her.  Charlotte’s Honor will be released in late 2018.

Ella’s Promise is Book #3 in the series. It is about the daughter of German immigrants, Ella, an American nurse who (because of the time period) was discouraged from continuing on in her studies to be a doctor.  She works as a nurse for three years in Philadelphia but reads medical books every opportunity she gets. During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own beloved in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.


This is very different from 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.


How do you find time to write?

The question really is: when do I feel inspired to write?  I work for a non-profit organization, and I run a micro-press publishing company.  I also write articles for various websites.  Some authors can force themselves to write a short novel (say, during November, national novel writing month).  However, for me, I need to be inspired.  For some strange reason, January is always a rich writing month for me.  When I’m inspired, writing comes easily.


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).  Dena’s books are incredibly well-written and moving.  Cather’s books are well-written and rich in 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.


 Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links

November 1  (Open Book)   Plot Line and Sinker

November 2   Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith

November 3   Therese Heckenkemp and Catholic-Fiction.com

November 4  Karen Kelly Boyce

November 5  Christopher Blunt

November 6 Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

November 7  Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire

November 8  A.K. Frailey   Sarah Reinhard

November 9  Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You

November 10  Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom

November 11  Plot Line and Sinker  Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post

November 12  Spiritual Woman   Patrice Fagnant MacArthur

November 13  Mike Seagriff, Harvesting the Fruits of Comtemplation

November 14 Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists

November 15 Theresa Linden

November 16  Barbara Hosbach

November 17  Barb Szyszkiewicz    Catholic Mom

November 18 Cathy Gilmore, Virtue Works Media

November 19 Erin McCole Cupp

November 20 Virginia Lieto

November 21 Elena Maria Vidal  Tea at Trianon

November 22  Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller

Prints of Grace, Trisha Niermeyer Potter


Advanced Reviews:

Can beauty and life survive destruction and death? Vivid writing transports readers to the past, where young love is forged and tested amidst the devastation of war-torn France. Graced with soulful sonnets and life-and-death situations, this is no simple romance. It’s a strong and tender Catholic historical novel about growing in maturity and fortitude while discovering the power of hope, self-sacrifice, and prayer. I read Julia’s Gifts within two days, but this touching story of faith and devotion is sure to leave a lasting impression!”    ~Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author of Frozen Footprints and After the Thaw


“Award-winning author Ellen Gable has created a stunning love story set amidst the backdrop of World War I. Filled with adventure, romance, and intrigue, this gripping tale will keep you on the edge of your seat.  There is so much to treasure in this beautifully-written book: miracles of faith, the power of prayer, the strength of true love, and the grace in using one’s God-given gifts to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles make this an outstanding and unforgettable book.” Jean M. Heimann, author of Fatima: The Apparition That Changed the World


“A sweet romance set amidst the carnage of World War I France, Julia’s Gifts is filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles – great and small – happen all around us.”   Carolyn Astfalk, author, Stay With Me


“Julia’s Gifts is a sweet and touching love story laced with beautiful messages. Well-researched, the dialog and details make the story feel genuine, taking readers back to the WWI era where people shop at Lit Brothers department store, ride on trolley cars, and frequent the Horn and Hardart’s Automat. Following Julia as she works overseas as a volunteer medical aid opened my eyes to the hardships of war and especially the great trials and sacrifices of the nurses and volunteers. This story touched my heart in many ways, but the poems written by the character Major Peter Winslow are simply amazing.”    Theresa Linden, author of award-winning Catholic teen fiction


“In the new Great War Great Love series by Ellen Gable, Julia’s Gifts took me on a poignant journey into the midst of terrible suffering and enduring hope. A young woman volunteers to serve in a war-time hospital in France and encounters, up close and personal, the horrors of war. The descriptions of war-torn France felt very authentic and really helped me to envision actual environment. Julia’s dreams for her future husband face unexpected and ingenious twists and turns. Julia’s Gifts is a romantic drama that unfolds far from home—but takes us to the heart of home along the way.”  A.K. Frailey, author

 

Church Suffering, Militant, and Triumphant!

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I love the month of November and not just because it’s my birthmonth! This month reminds us that we are called to be part of something that transcends space and time: we are called to be part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

What is the Mystical Body of Christ?

St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “You are the Body of Christ, member for member” (1 Cor 12:27), and of Christ “the Head of His Body, the Church” (Colossians 1:18).

So St. Paul compares the Church to a body which has many parts with different functions but are still united. The members of the Church are bound together by supernatural life through Christ. This includes the members of the Church who are in Heaven, Purgatory, and still alive on earth, that is: the Church Triumphant, Church Suffering, and Church Militant.


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Faith or The Church Triumphant, oil on canvas painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1664 – 1665 (public domain)

This November begins with the Feast of All Saints, a celebration of those who have fought the good fight of the faith and have taken hold of the eternal life to which we are all called (1 Tim 6:12). They are our intercessors and our inspiration. “…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

 


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Ludovico Carracci circa 1610. Public Domain.

November 2, we Commemorate all the Faithfully Departed, keeping the Church Suffering close to our hearts and offering prayers on their behalf, for they can no longer pray for themselves. Several Franciscan saints have been great helpers of the Holy Souls.

Padre Pio encourages us with these words: “The souls in Purgatory pray for us, and their prayers are even more effective than ours, because they are accompanied by their suffering. So, let’s pray for them, and let’s pray them to pray for us.

 

If you aren’t sure what Purgatory is or you’d like to learn more, here’s a nice article about what it isn’t.


 

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Knights of Christ in the Ghent Altarpiece. Public Domain

Next, on November 23rd in America, we celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of country, family, and our many blessings from Divine Providence. In a way, this is a celebration of the Church Militant, those who are in the world and actively involved in the great battle between good and evil. As we offer thanksgiving for our many blessings, including our faith, family, and Church, let us find ourselves renewed in zeal to continue fighting the good fight.

I am a Secular Franciscan and for us Franciscans, the themes of this month circle back to the Church Suffering and Church Triumphant, as we commemorate all the deceased members of the Franciscan orders on the 24th and celebrate all the Franciscan saints on the 29th.

No matter how dark the days or how heavy the cross we carry, let us never forget that we are part of something amazing—the Mystical Body of Christ. And we are called to be great saints!


Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen.                      ~Prayer of St. Gertrude

Book Review of A Paralyzing Redemption

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Tomorrow I’ll be sharing the books that I’ve been reading for the past month, but today I am sharing a Guest Post by Susan Peek.

Book Review of A Paralyzing Redemption by Brian Ziegler

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“A Paralyzing Redemption” by Brian Ziegler is an incredibly inspiring Christian memoir that is difficult to put down and cannot leave its readers unmoved and unchanged. Brian tells with raw honesty and gripping emotion of his journey to God in an account which is nothing less than a true-life story of the Prodigal Son. At the beginning of the book, Brian was not much different from scores of young men in any college across the country: twenty-one years old, handsome, a promising future playing basketball–the sport he loved–plenty of buddies, girlfriends, and a loving family. He led a life of partying, goofing around, experimenting with alcohol and nightclubs, and having a rollicking good time with no interest whatsoever in God or saving his immortal soul. One horrific evening changed everything for Brian. Forever.

After waking up in a hospital following an harrowing accident, Brian learned he was paralyzed from the neck down. One instant was all it had taken to shatter his life. But God’s masterpieces are often sculptured from broken pieces. Christ had a plan for Brian.

Of course, Brian didn’t know this. Even if he had, he was nowhere ready to embrace God’s designs in those early agonizing days and weeks and months in the hospital. It would take a lot of suffering and blows to convince him of God’s love. Thus the reader follows him (or rather, holds his hand and joins him) on his incredible and pain-filled path to God.

As if being a quadriplegic at twenty-one years old isn’t bad enough, Brian’s life continues to plunge from one disaster to another. EVERYTHING seems to go wrong for him and I found myself cringing, and crying for much of the story. It was difficult to put the book down, and my own daily problems shrank to minuscule proportions while reading it.

To say the story had an impact on me is an understatement. But I did have a couple issues with it. Firstly, the book is riddled with typos, wrong words, formatting mistakes, misspellings, and other editing issues that kept jerking me out of the story and making me wish Crosslink Publishing had edited it properly. While Brian certainly has an amazing story to tell, his publisher should’ve caught the glaring errors and polished the content professionally. Some paragraphs were so unclear in meaning that I had to read them several times to figure out where the scene took place, what people were present, and what on earth was going on. Many times towards the end, I was unsure if I was meant to picture Brian in a wheelchair or on his feet with a walking aid. He would use terms like “I walked through the door”, and since he did regain some use of his legs eventually, I didn’t know if he meant it literally or not. It really broke the flow and totally threw me. Other times, characters would speak or do something in a scene when I had no idea they were even there. I had to reread whole chunks to get the new image in my mind. It was very frustrating and marred my reading experience. There’s nothing worse than being deeply connected with a heartbreaking scene, crying my eyes out, then suddenly being smacked in the face with a huge glaring editorial error. So if this kind of thing bothers you as a reader, be cautioned. Hopefully the publisher will someday fix these things and release a new edition.

My second problem with the book (and it’s a personal, one as a Catholic) is that while this is a beautiful, heroic and inspiring story, Brian embraced a Protestant belief system. So, again, be cautioned if you are a Catholic picking up this book. However there is no doubt that Brian deeply loves Our Lord, and I recommend this book to anyone who is suffering or searching for answers to the sorrows in their own lives.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program., which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

New Fantasy Series: The Aletheian Journeys

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The Aletheian Journeys

Last summer I discovered The Arrow Bringer, the first in a new Christian allegorical fantasy series by Lisa Mayer.

ARROW BRINGERfrontThe Arrow Bringer tells the story of Evangeline Lewis, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia at the age of sixteen. Before she can catch her breath, a mysterious being called the Arrow Bringer offers her a choice: spend her last days in peace with her family, or save another world called Aletheia from a great evil. She chooses to stay. But then she learns Shawn Lawrence—the closest thing she has to a friend—has gone in her place. His life now hangs in the balance. Now it is up to Evangeline to save Shawn and race to fix her mistake as a shadow falls over Aletheia and the new friends she finds there. Even as her disease consumes her body, a new enemy and more imminent perils pursue her. And she must endure all and save Aletheia while keeping her darkest secret: that all of it is her fault. Hers is a story of Salvation.

Lisa Mayer’s writing style and fantastic character development drew me in immediately. Filled with betrayal, repentance, and forgiveness, this fantasy story has well-developed and interesting characters, beautiful setting details, and fantastic chapter endings that force you to turn the page.

This story is action-packed with battles, conflict, and mystery. The Christian allegory and symbolism appeals to me, the same way as in the Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. I liked reading actual Scripture verses in the story. It is so well done!

“Filled with emotional, moving scenes, this story brings out the beauty of true sacrificial love, sacrificing one’s self for others. And it gives a vivid reminder that God is ever by your side, despite the trials you are going through, and He loves you intensely, even when you fall.” ~Theresa Linden


The second book in this series, Jairo’s Battle,  tells the story of a reformed traitor king Jairo'sBattleFrontCoverwho wishes to prove to everyone, especially himself, that he is no longer a murderer. But that will be hard to do when his past of serving Kotu, the greatest threat to ever overshadow Aletheia, haunts him at every turn. Before he can even try to gain his bearings, a mysterious dark magic user called Stassia banishes him and his friends to the Other-World. Now, Jairo has little time to discern not only how Evie and Shawn’s families fit into all this, but also Stassia’s impossible connection to Shawn. Most troubling of all is Stassia’s certainty that she will corrupt him, and he will ultimately lose the battle within himself. His is a story of Redemption.

“Why does God allow suffering? Why has He given us free will? And how can He possibly forgive a person who has fallen so far? We’ve all grappled with those questions, but nothing compares to watching those ideas materialize through the pages of a gripping story. Great character development, surprising twists, and high tension make this book a page-turner. The powerful messages will resonate with everyone who’s questioned the struggles and sufferings of life and keep reader’s thinking long after the story ends.” ~Theresa Linden


Helper'sBladeFrontCoverThe third book, The Helper’s Blade tells the story of Shawn Lawrence, who once thought he was nothing more than a regular guy. But that all changed when he learned the truth about his past, and that the invisible rapier around his waist isn’t the only secret his father kept from him. But simply saving his father’s legacy is not enough for him—he wants to save his life. It seems impossible, until he discovers that dark magic will allow him to travel back in time. With the help of Kata, a dark magic user, he journeys into the past, determined to kill Stassia before it’s too late. Now, Shawn will have to race against time, despite the fact that doing so will require him descending into the darkness he is sworn to prevent. His is a story of Conversion.

I haven’t read this story but I will soon!


The author was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about her writing. Please enjoy this author interview of Lisa Mayer:

What inspired the Aletheian series?

The Aletheian Journeys was inspired by Narnia. I had always known about Narnia, but didn’t get into them until 2005 when I saw the movie. I now own the books and love C.S. Lewis’ writings and consider myself a Narnian. I thought it would be cool to write an allegory series based on Narnia, which is why I wrote The Aletheian Journeys. I wrote it in honor of Narnia but I also gave it a modern twist so it would appeal to today’s youth.

Why did you write an allegory?

A lot of readers connect with an allegorical story. We all long to know the love of Jesus, even if we don’t know it. Allegories can be meaningful but also exciting. While the books are Catholic-Christian allegories at heart, they also have age-appropriate romance, fantasy, adventure, mystery, suspense, friendship and faith, hope and love. It’s meant to be enjoyable even if you don’t like allegory. It’s meant to help the reader have a deeper relationship with God, but also find themselves in the characters.

How many books do you plan to write in this series?

I plan to write seven books all together. Three are currently available. Readers can contact me at thearrowbringer@gmail.com for a free PDF copy of the first book: The Arrow Bringer. The Arrow Bringer, along with Jairo’s Battle and The Helper’s Blade are on Amazon as well.

What authors inspired you to write fantasy?

 I’m inspired by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, John White and his Archives of Anthropos series, as well as J.K. Rowling. I’m also a huge nerd and I love other world stories and movies, superheroes, sci-fi and fantasy.


15589960_706039216220005_8956142513724993667_n (002)Author Bio:

When not writing, I enjoy hanging out with my husband Rich and our dog Scooby. I spend time with family and friends, work on puzzles, bike-ride, read, watch my favorite shows, and jam out to loud music in the car. I’m a huge fan of superheroes and am proud to be a nerd.

Visit Lisa Mayer’s website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.

FB: https://www.facebook.com/TheArrowBringer/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lisa_Mayer2015

Website: https://lisamayer0125.wixsite.com/thealetheianjourneys/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-mayer-216a05150/

New YA book: Playing by Heart

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New Young Adult Historical Fiction

Emilia Salvini dreams of marrying a man who loves music as she does. But in 18th-century Milan, being the “second sister” means she’ll likely be sent to a convent instead. Emilia’s only hope is to prove her musical talents crucial to her father’s quest for nobility. First, though, she must win over her music tutor, who disdains her simply for being a girl. Too late, Emilia realizes that her success could threaten not only her dreams for her future but her sister’s very life.

Playing by Heart is inspired by two amazing sisters who were far ahead of their time—one a mathematician and the other a composer. At its core, the novel is the story of two teens struggling to follow their true calling, even when it conflicts with their father’s goals. It’s a clean historical romance suitable for ages 12 and up.


I am so happy that author, Carmela Martino was willing to share a bit about her new release. Please enjoy this author interview:

I love the amazing setting details in Playing by Heart. Did you go to Milan to do your research? If not, how did you create such realistic and lovely details?

I have been to Milan only once in my life, long before I decided to write Playing by Heart. As a result, the research for this story almost did me in! I’m a stickler for detail and if I couldn’t verify some aspect of the story, I wouldn’t include it. Even though it’s a work of fiction, I wanted the details to be true to the time and place.

For the events of the story, I relied heavily on the research materials I found about the two Milanese women who were my inspiration: Maria Gaetana Agnesi, a child language prodigy who later wrote an acclaimed math textbook, and her younger sister, Maria Teresa Agnesi, who was one of the first Italian women to compose a serious opera. But the biographical information I found gave me few setting details.

So, I looked for primary documents describing what life was like in Milan during the early 1700s. One of my greatest research finds was an account by someone who had witnessed Archduchess Maria Theresa’s visit to Milan in 1739. The document had been scanned into the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. I was able to download and print the pertinent pages. The document gave me wonderful details that I incorporated into my novel, such as the description of the crowds that lined the streets waiting to greet the archduchess and how she participated in the Ritual of the Holy Nail.


Can you tell us more about the Ritual of the Holy Nail? Is it still performed in Milan?

While researching Milan’s history, I learned that the Cathedral of Milan houses a holy relic purported to be one of the nails used to crucify Christ. I’d had no idea the relic even existed. It’s housed inside a crystal case set in the center of an enormous gold cross that’s suspended high inside the cathedral’s dome. The cross can only be reached by means of a mechanical, cloud-shaped lift called the Nivola, which was supposedly designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself.

Yes, the ritual of removing the Holy Nail from its place high within the dome is still performed annually in Milan. The tradition began in 1576, when Saint Charles Borromeo, then archbishop of Milan, carried the relic in procession during an outbreak of the plague. Originally, the ritual was conducted on May third, the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross in the old liturgical calendar. At some point, the date was changed to September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. There are numerous videos on YouTube depicting the event—they were a huge help to my research. Click here to watch a brief one narrated in English. And click here for one that is a bit longer, but narrated in Italian.


You mention in the Author’s Note to Playing by Heart that you couldn’t find any book-length biographies of composer Maria Teresa Agnesi, only ones about her older sister. How then did you research her life?

Yes, that was a difficult challenge. Maria Teresa is mentioned briefly in the biographies of her sister, but that wasn’t much to go on. While investigating possible sources, I found an analysis of one of her compositions in a book of essays on Italian music of the 17th and 18th century. The article’s author, Professor Robert L. Kendrick, had also co-written an entry about Maria Teresa in an encyclopedia of music. With a little digging, I learned that he was a professor of music at the University of Chicago. He was kind enough to answer many of my questions about what Maria Theresa’s life had been like and to also point me in the direction of additional research resources.


Even though there are book-length biographies of the older sister, Maria Gaetana, you say in your Author’s Note that there are still many myths surrounding her and her family. Can you elaborate?

Gladly! First, some background. Playing by Heart grew out of my research for a nonfiction biography of mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi for young readers; The only published biographies about her are for adults. I first came across Agnesi’s name in an article about little-known women of note. Even though I have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Computer Science, I’d never heard of her before. But when I started to research her, I kept finding conflicting information, both in books and online. For example, some references said that Agnesi wasn’t allowed to enter the convent as she wished because after her mother died she was left in charge of the household and the care of her twenty siblings. In actuality, Agnesi was 13 when her mother died and she had only six siblings at the time. Maria Gaetana may have helped out with those siblings for a while, until her father remarried less than two years later. The reasons for her not entering a convent had nothing to do with her mother’s death. Interestingly, it is true that she was the eldest of 21 children—her father married a third time after his second wife died. But many of her siblings died young.

I encountered so many myths about the Agnesi family that I created a website to dispel some of them. You can read more at www.mgagnesi.com .


How did writing Playing by Heart compare to working on your first novel, Rosa, Sola?

The process for the two novels couldn’t have been more different. My middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola, began as a short story I wrote as an exercise while I was working on my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. The exercise was to write a story based on an event from my own childhood that still evoked strong emotion in me. The emotion I wrote about was the fear I felt at age ten when I thought my mother might die. I called the short story “Rosa’s Prayer.” The feedback I received from classmates and instructors encouraged me to expand that short story into a novel that was eventually published by Candlewick Press.

I have to say, it was much easier to write a novel set during my own lifetime than one set two centuries earlier. For Rosa, Sola, I still had to research some of the setting details, such as the popular songs of the time, to make sure I got them right. That was easy compared to the extensive research I had to do for Playing by Heart. Still, it was an amazing experience. I’m thrilled to see all my work finally come to fruition.


As you can read in my review, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. And I am glad that you shared this fascinating background information with us. Thank you!

Thanks so much for hosting this interview, Theresa. I hope your readers will visit the other stops on the Playing by Heart Blog Tour. I invite them to go to my website for the complete list of tour links and enter for a chance to win a copy of the novel:

http://www.carmelamartino.com/blog/posts/2406

I’ll also be hosting a Facebook Launch Party on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 7-9 p.m. Central Time, where readers can win not only copies of Playing by Heart but other great books and prizes.

www.facebook.com/events/1926037200756000


My review:

Filled with beautiful scenes and heart-wrenching moments, PLAYING BY HEART by Carmela Martino is an absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love.

This story shows the dreams and trials of two talented sisters. Emilia excels in music. But her father’s and the maestro’s attitudes lead her to feel inadequate. So she finds herself envious of the praise and attention given to her older sister. Maria, the older sister, is humble and faith-filled. And while she loves studying languages and philosophy, she longs to enter religious life and serve the poor. But this is an age where the father chooses the vocation of his children. Emilia and Maria’s father, driven to gain the title and status of a nobleman, makes choices that move him closer to his goals but farther from theirs.

The characters were inspired by two historical sisters who lived in the eighteenth century, so I appreciate the author’s faithfulness to research and time-period details. The engaging prose brings the scenes to life in full color! I especially loved how the descriptions took me into the heart and mind of Emilia, a talented young musician who “heard music everywhere—in the whispering of the wind and the rustling of the trees.” I also appreciated the way faith is weaved into the story.

For more early response to Playing by Heart, click here.

Click here for the Amazon buy link!

Author biography:

Carmela_martino-smallCarmela Martino is an author, speaker, and writing teacher. She wrote the middle-grade novel, Rosa, Sola (Candlewick Press), while working on her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College. The novel was a Booklist “Top Ten First Novel for Youth” and received a Catholic Press Association Book Award in the “Children’s Books” category. Her second novel, the young adult historical romance Playing by Heart, will be released by Vinspire Publishing September 30, 2017. The novel took first place in the Young Adult category of the 2013 Windy City RWA Four Seasons Romance Writing Contest. Carmela’s credits for teens and tweens also include short stories and poems in magazines and anthologies. Her articles for adults have appeared in such publications as the Chicago Tribune, Catholic Parent, and multiple editions of the Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market. Carmela has taught writing workshops for children and adults since 1998, and she blogs about teaching and writing at TeachingAuthors.com.

#Open Book: September 2107

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Reading is an important pastime that has the potential to create lasting effects. We can learn life lessons without actually experiencing them ourselves. We can develop compassion for others whose lives are different from our own. Books can take us to new lands or even planets and still teach us life lessons. They can educate and inspire, make us think and help us to grow in so many ways. But they should always entertain!

This is my first time participating in CatholicMom.com and Carolyn Astfalk’s #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve recently read.

img2955552a9b133eda3I didn’t read the first two books in this series, Bleeder and Viper, but I thoroughly enjoyed Specter. I read this book in preparation for October’s Sabbath Rest Book Talk, where the hosts discussed books that deal with the afterlife.

This story opens fast, with gripping scenes of conflict and intrigue that set up the mystery characters will face in the rest of the story. Then we meet Selena De La Cruz, a tough young woman who drives a souped-up 69 Dodge Charger and who knows how to fight. While scenes alternated between point of views, I enjoyed following this character the most, especially when she was with the rest of her family. Their strong Mexican culture influences the way they face everything, from her engagement to a gringo, to the strange dreams and visions of a deceased family member.


TOSOF front cover FINAL (002) I recently blogged about The Other Side of Freedom, but I wanted to mention it again because it will be coming out October 9th! I read an advanced copy of the book and posted my review on Goodreads.

Written for ages 10 to 17, this story is set in the 1920s and follows Salvatore and his Italian immigrant father as they get tangled up in a crime which results in a murder. The author’s descriptive writing style let readers step back in time. In addition to the strong messages of courage and self-sacrifice, themes include the ugliness of segregation and the courage of the immigrant.


22749769Mummy Cat is another book that was discussed in October on Sabbath Rest Book Talks. My library had an eBook version that I could read right away.

I loved the beautiful artwork throughout this book. It looks like water color and pen & ink. And every picture has so much to look at. I would’ve enjoyed the book for that reason alone! But the story was good too. As soon as mummy cat woke up, he immediately pulled at my heartstrings, checking to see if his “lovely friend” came back too. I know the Egyptians didn’t have Divine Revelation to help them understand the afterlife, but they did recognize a universal truth: we were made for more than just this world. Death is not the end.


I absolutely love Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World by Jean M. Heimann. I wish everyone could read it, especially since this is thefatima cover year of the 100th Anniversary of Fatima. It begins with a timeline that sets the visions in context with other historical events. It contains over 50 beautiful illustrations, biographies of the visionaries and of the recent popes, and details about relevant devotions and heavenly promises. And, of course, it explains the messages of Fatima and shows its relevance today. I confess that I felt all tingly reading some of the messages and the popes’ interpretations of messages. And I am determined to pray even harder, not only for my loved ones but for the conversion of sinners.


PlayingbyHeart cover (002)Playing by Heart is Carmela Martino’s newest release. This is a historical fiction inspired by the lives of two talented sisters who lived in the eighteenth century. One sister loves learning (things like philosophy, math, and languages) but she longs to take the veil and serve the poor. The other sister other loves music (playing and composing it). This is an absorbing story of perseverance, the pursuit of excellence, and of sacrificial love. The engaging prose brings the story to life. And I loved to see how the family members practiced their faith.


“Angelhood” is a bit of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “13 Reasons Why” with some Dean Angelhood2 1400x2100-1 (003)Koontz style supernatural elements! Written for young adults, this story deals with the difficult subjects of teen depression, loneness and suicide in a way that offers hope. This book could potentially save lives by providing a new perspective to someone who is suffering with similar struggles.This story sheds light on our fallen human nature and offers a new perspective and hope.

My full review is on Amazon. And this book was also featured on Sabbath Rest Book Talks!


Okay, that’s all I’ve got for this month! If you want to link up to Open Book with the books you read, you are more than welcome to! Click here for details.