All We Need Is Love

As someone who’s made a living for decades as a writer (i.e. Paperback Writer), there aren’t too many times when I’ve been at a loss for words. That being said, my husband and I spent five days over Memorial Day Weekend at Abbey Road On The River in Jeffersonville, Indiana (the largest Beatles festival in the United States) and when we walked away from a couple of concerts, in particular the Beatles Love set, the only phrase that I could utter was “Mind-blowing.”

John and I are lifelong Beatles fans, but this was the first time we’ve attended this event which draws Beatles fanatics from everywhere looking to enjoy top-caliber Beatles cover bands from around the globe. We had no idea what to expect, but we were mesmerized from the first concert to the last.

The bands and singers covered everything from the early Beatles to deep album cuts, Paul McCartney & Wings, George Harrison and John Lennon. Some bands performed entire Beatles albums front to back, which was nothing less than amazing. Then there was the stellar abbreviated version of the Get Back documentary which came out earlier this year. 

Our favorite concert was the Love show, which featured several bands showcasing the Beatles at various stages in their career. Seriously, the lead guitarists would give Eric Clapton and Prince a run for their money back in the day.

It was gratifying being part of an event where people, young and old, from all walks of life, found common ground over the course of five days relishing their love of Beatles music. Over the course of the weekend, we didn’t witness any poor behavior or even hear any foul language. When the Beatles said, “All you need is love,” they weren’t kidding. This was a time for aging hippies to relive their teen years, for teens to enjoy modern-day flower power, and for a whole new generation of Beatles fans to experience Beatles music up close and personal.

The surreal part of the event was standing directly in front of the stages dancing and singing along with the bands with the other diehard fans who chose to be in the thick of things rather than watching from lawn chairs. I felt as though I was had VIP seating as the Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show, rocked out Shea Stadium, crafted songs at Abbey Road Studios, or as Paul McCartney & Wings were making their way across America.

I’ll bet every person at AROTR has their own unique story of why The Beatles are so special to them. Here’s why Beatles music has been so instrumental In My Life…

  • The Beatles had their first hit in 1962, the same year I made my initial appearance on this planet. My dad tells me that he bought each of their albums as they came out and had their entire collection, so I was raised on this music.
  • My late brother Rodney was a talented singer and guitar player and had a Wings songbook that he played from a lot when I was in grade school, thus my fascination with Paul McCartney & Wings.
  • When disco became all the rage around my senior year in high school, we’d go to the local disco, and, much to the dismay of my disco-obsessed friends, I always requested Beatles songs.
  • I met my husband John at the aforementioned disco and discovered and soon discovered he was a huge Beatles fan as well.
  • On our wedding day 41 years ago, we had our guitar duo play two Beatles songs (Here, There & Everywhere and I Will) at church before the wedding ceremony (apparently Beatles songs aren’t approved wedding Mass hymns, LOL). 
  • Made a mix tape including Beatles songs to listen to during labor and delivery of our first child.
  • John and I blasted Photograph by Ringo Starr on repeat all the way to the hospital when I was in labor with our youngest child.
  • We raised our four children on Beatles music (and numerous of our grandchildren are fans now too).
  • Our oldest daughter chose the song Blackbird for the father/daughter dance at her wedding.
  • Our son chose In My Life for the mother/son dance at his wedding.
  • We’ve seen Paul McCartney in concert eight times, including our dream concert with VIP seating (Row 8, vegetarian meal beforehand, and sound check) at Lambeau Field. 
  • Had a chance to see Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band perform a couple years ago.
  • We ordered a streaming service just to watch the phenomenal Get Back series.
  • Most recently was our incredible Abbey Road On The River experience.
  • And someday, when our time on this plane is done, we’ve requested Beatles music for our funerals… What is Life? (if John goes before me), Photograph (if I go before John), In My Life for me either way and I’ll Follow the Sun for John either way.

For those of you who love The Beatles, dig watching live performances, reliving the greatest times of your life, dancing like no one’s watchin, and singing songs that define your life, make it a priority to get to Abbey Road On The River in 2023. In addition to all things Beatles, you’ll get to enjoy the music of The Monkeys and The Rascals (with headliners Micky Dolenz and Felix Cavaliere), plus see outstanding sets featuring other mega bands throughout history such as the Queen and Pink Floyd shows we saw this year. See you at Abbey Road!

www.arotr.com

Facebook: Abbey Road On The River 2022 Group

Our first Abbey Road On The River 2022!
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Our first time at AROTR but our second time on Abbey Road…

The real Abbey Road with our four kids crossing this amazingly busy street. Our youngest daughter chose to go to London for her 17th birthday when she was granted a wish through the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2009 f. This was one of our many adventures in the city. All four kids are still Beatles fans and now they’re raising the next generation of Beatles fans!

Upping Our Lenten Game…

We’re in the middle of the Easter octave. If you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it through Lent. Halleluiah!

Of course, for those of you who either don’t observe the Lenten season, or chose not to do anything out of the ordinary or give anything up for Lent, this may not be that big of a deal. But, for those of us that did challenge ourselves this Lent — and made it faithfully through 40 days of prayer, almsgiving and fasting — kudos to us!

The older I get, the more I’m interested in diving further into my Catholic faith. Back in the day, the thought of giving something up for Lent made me dread that seven-and-a-half week stretch of time that started during Wisconsin’s never-ending winter season.

Something happened along the way and now I actually find myself looking forward to Lent. Maybe because it’s the harbinger of spring. Or what should be spring, I say, as I look out the window at the snow falling… again. Those poor robins came back way too early this year. They never learn!

But, there’s more to it than just the light-at-the-end-of-the-winter tunnel. For some reason, I’ve really grown to enjoy embracing the three pillars of Lent. During this season of the year, in the spirit of almsgiving, we try to give more generously to the various organizations that reach out to us in need of funds.

As far as fasting goes, apparently, my husband and I have reached the age where fasting is no longer mandatory during Lent. Regardless, we still felt compelled to do that this year.

Last year for Lent, we committed to fasting two days per week. A zero-calorie liquid fast (think tea and coffee with no creamer, which is hardly worth the effort of making it, if you ask me). We decided to do that again this year. To make it a bit more challenging, I quit weighing myself during Lent. I didn’t want losing weight to be the focus of the fast. I wanted to offer up my hunger pains for people and souls in need and to reflect on Christ’s Passion on my fast days.

Ramped up my prayer game too. On Ash Wednesday, I started a 54-day novena for our nation. John and I also did the nine-day Surrender Novena. The biggest challenge I undertook this year was committing to attend Mass six days a week, doubling my normal schedule.

Working from home, I usually try to schedule two days each week with no outside appointments. Giving those more-leisurely days up was trying, but the joy I got from attending Mass at eight different parishes in our area during that timeframe was totally worth it.

On Mondays, weather permitting, since it’s a half-hour drive from our house, I attended a small wayside shrine for Mass. The church held maybe 40 or 50 people and there was a full house every week. I was particularly touched by the heartfelt prayers that attendees said out loud during the general intercessions.

When the roads were in poor condition, I attended Mass at noon at an older church in our downtown. We’re told that Blessed Solanus Casey said his very first Mass in that building. The large, older church is packed every Monday. Even parking was at a premium.

On Tuesdays, I attended the church where my husband and I were married 41 years ago. Not to be biased, but this traditional European-style church is one of the prettiest spaces in which I’ve ever worshipped. They have a deacon and priest team who take turns doing the homilies and I’ll tell you what, those men are on fire! And they incorporate traditional Catholic practices into their Mass including offering Adoration an hour before Mass starts, praying The Sanctus (Holy, Holy) and Angus Dei (Lamb of God) in Latin, and ending each Mass with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer.

Wednesdays I have a commitment to my own parish to lector and lead the rosary after Mass, so I was there each week. It’s a smaller crowd, but we’re dedicated. I enjoy our priest’s unscripted sermons on the week days.

Thursdays found me at the sister parish to the Tuesday parish, so it was the same pastoral team. Those parishes feature a kneeler in front of the sanctuary so people may kneel to receive Communion in the hand or on the tongue. When I was there I took advantage of that and did the latter. Another nice feature at those churches is that they pray the rosary before Mass and the Divine Mercy Chaplet for Life after Mass, so it was worth the drive to be there at 6:30 a.m. to catch everything.

Year round, on Fridays I attend a Catholic Bible study with my dad at 6:30 a.m. After the class ends at 7:30, I walk next door to the parish for 7:45 a.m. Mass. The church is a modern style, which wouldn’t normally be my preference, but the priest there does an incredible job of preaching short and memorable sermons so the Masses there are very meaningful.

First Saturday found me at a parish in another local community. The priest there happens to teach our Bible study and is a dear friend, so I always enjoy attending his Masses. I tried to go to confession there during Lent, but the line was surprisingly long, so I went to one of the other churches, making sure to be there fifteen minutes before confession stared to secure a place in line.

Sticking to Lenten commitments isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. My husband and I are already starting to consider what we’ll do next year. But, in the meantime, we are enjoying Eastertide. Blessings to you and yours as we all journey through this next liturgical season.  

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire!

One of my favorite movie scenes is from the movie Liar, Liar which, according to Wikipedia, tells the story of a lawyer who built his entire career on lying, but finds himself cursed to speak only the truth for a single day, during which he struggles to maintain his career and to reconcile with his former wife and son who he alienated with his pathological lying.

Police officer: You know why I pulled you over?

Fletcher Reede: Depends on how long you were following me!

Police officer: Why don’t we take it from the top?

Fletcher Reede: Here goes. I sped, I followed too closely, I ran a stop sign, I almost hit a Chevy, I sped some more, I failed to yield, I changed lanes without signaling while speeding.

Police officer: Is that all?

Fletcher Reede: No. I have unpaid parking tickets.

Obviously, this guy is a pathological liar. You know who else lies on a regular basis? Pretty much every human on the planet. One study in particular showed that the average person lies 100 times a day. The study went further and noted that we lie in 25 percent of all our social interactions. (Note, politicians and news pundits have been excluded from this survey so as not to skew the numbers. Not really, but they probably should be.)

Think I’m fibbing? For the next 24 hours, pay attention to everything you say. How much of what you say isn’t totally factual? How often do you fudge the truth?

Lies run the gamut from white lies to exaggeration (or embellishment as we writers like to say), plagiarism, lies of deception, lies of fabrication, broken promises and bold-faced lies. We lie to keep ourselves from getting into trouble (children are pros at this), we lie so as not to hurt other people’s feelings, we commit sins of omission (something to think about as you work on your taxes, especially for those folks getting paid “under the table”), we don’t admit things when we should (what percentage of people plead “not guilty” in court when they most certainly know they are guilty?), we lie to save face. The list is endless.

We’re not just lying to other people; we’re lying to ourselves on a regular basis as well. “I can get one more task done before I leave the house and still be at my appointment on time.” Or, “I’m just going to eat one Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg.” (Like Lay’s potato chips, you can’t eat just one.)

Lent’s just around the corner (Ash Wednesday falls on March 2 this year.) How about giving up lying for Lent? Think through every word you say before it leaves your mouth. Sound easy? You’d be surprised. If it turns out to be a struggle, the good news is that Lent is the ideal time to go to Confession. You can wipe the slate clean and do your best to go forward and tell the truth and nothing but the truth. So help you God.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

As they say, books can transport you anywhere. While that certainly is true for book readers, it can be equally true for book writers as well. When my first novel, A World Such as Heaven Intended, was published in 2014, I had no idea of the adventure on which I was embarking.

It started out with short trips, like driving to my hometown in Northern Wisconsin for book signings. Then it was to Chicago to attend the annual Catholic Writers Guild / Catholic Marketing Network convention where I was able to connect with other Catholic writers. More conventions followed in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Chicago again.

Then, as I delved further into the world of writing by co-writing a screenplay (The Islands for which my team earned the 2020 Best Writer Award – Red Letter Awards), there came my dream trip to Hawaii to watch the premiere. Working with the director of that movie brought us an invitation to attend the premiere of another of his movies at Fox Studios in Los Angeles.

Researching for books currently on the drawing board took us to Ireland and Civil War battle sites including Gettysburg, North Carolina and obscure battlegrounds in the Tennessee foothills.

Our latest trip was to Washington, D.C. where we met His Excellency, Archduke Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, Hungary’s ambassador to the Holy See and Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

So, how exactly does a writer living in America’s heartland get such an honor?

In a word — Twitter. One of my fellow Catholic writers tweeted this, which I retweeted:

After some thought, I composed my own tweet using Eduard’s original tweet and threw it out to the universe. You’ll never get anything in life if you don’t ask:

Which brought me this follow:

Eduard sent me a message saying that he would buy his daughter Sophie the Heaven Intended series as he wanted to support writers. Lo and behold, she loved the series and declared that I was her favorite author. Sophie and I began corresponding via e-mail and I sent her a copy of the manuscript that I was working on at that time. She read Anything But Groovy and gave it a glowing review which is now one of the reviews on the inside of the book.

Then one day I got this DM from Eduard:

It turns out that Eduard is an author himself. He had written a book in his native language of German (translated by his older daughter who was studying English literature in college) based on a bedtime tale he’d told his children as they were growing up. Dubbie: The Double-Headed Eagle was the sweet story of this little double-headed eagle (which happens to be on the Habsburg family crest) who was on the search for any other double-headed eagles like himself.

Eduard had a dream of having this book published in the United States. By chance, I had the ideal publisher who could help make that happen. Full Quiver Publishing had published all my books. Ellen Gable Hrkach and her husband James Hrkach, who is a professional artist and musician, were delighted to take on the project. I copy edited the book with Ellen, James illustrated it and Full Quiver published it.

Earlier this year, Eduard mentioned that he would be in Washington, D.C. in October for a Mass honoring his relative Blessed Karl of Austria. He invited my husband and me to attend the Mass at St. Mary Mother of God Church. We drove out there the day before to meet privately with Eduard and take him to lunch. We introduced him to his first taste of Buffalo chicken and pastrami. (I’d say he’s a fan for life.) I presented a gift to him from writers in the Catholic Writers Guild and Catholic Teen Books — 14 books to take home to his three youngest daughters in Rome.

Who knows where this writing journey will take me next? If it’s in God’s plan, it will be to Hollywood or Georgia to begin filming a movie or limited-run television series based on my book A World Such as Heaven Intended. Only time will tell!

My advice to budding authors? Dream big and keep asking. You’ll be surprised how often the answer will be “yes!”

40 Years – The Half-Way Mark!

Seriously, some days I don’t even feel like I’m 40 years old, yet here John and I are, marking our 40-year wedding anniversary. Who knew that September 11 would turn out to be such a memorable day? At least no one forgets our anniversary date anymore!

In honor of this momentous occasion, John and I took two weeks off of work and celebrated in 40 different ways. From day one, here’s the list…

  1. Started out September 10 with dinner at George’s Supper Club in Appleton and not only had a great meal but also a pretty tasty Brandy Alexander to top things off.
  2. Attended a Menasha High School football game — John’s alma mater.
  3. Strolled College Avenue for Appleton’s weekly downtown farm market.
  4. Watched our 5-year-old grandson play his first game of soccer — he scored four goals. Nice start to his soccer career!
  5. On September 11 we had our marriage blessed at our home parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.
  6. Went out to eat that night in Milwaukee at The Branded Steer. Not too bad for a restaurant in such close proximity to an airport.
  7. Flew to Savannah, Georgia, on September 12 and accomplished items 8-23…
  8. Walked the Riverwalk.
  9. Ate dinner at Lizzy’s on the Riverwalk.
  10. Did the hop on/hop off bus tour of the city.
  11. Ate lunch at Treylor Park’s Double Wide Diner – Fried Chicken Biscuits and grits don’t get much better than that!
  12. Walked Savannah’s Historic District.
  13. Had a snack at Leopold’s Ice Cream. Their peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream was amazing, no wonder people rave about this place!
  14. Explored the historic Forsyth Park.
  15. Took the nighttime Savannah ghost tour
  16. Attended Mass at The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist.
  17. Grabbed donuts from Rise.
  18. Ate the lunch buffet at The Pirate’s House.
  19. Went for a horse-drawn carriage ride.
  20. Viewed the Kessler Collection (dinosaurs, geodes, art) at the Bohemian Hotel in the Plant Riverside District.
  21. Enjoyed a brew (expensive but refreshing) on the Riverwalk.
  22. Took the water taxi across the Savannah River.
  23. Ate lunch at Corleone’s Italian restaurant. Excellent food and crème brûlée for dessert.
  24. Back home, we walked to Sunset Park in Kimberly to take in the beautiful river view and picked up donuts from Mom & Pop’s Bakery.
  25. Enjoyed music by Bazooka Joe at Jones Park in Appleton.
  26. Attended a varsity volleyball at St. Francis Xavier High School (the Lady Hawks swept the series)!
  27. Golfed nine holes at Hickory Hills Country Club in Chilton. Intended to golf 18, but the mosquitoes got the better of us!
  28. Had lunch at Mihm’s Charcoal Grill in Menasha. Best burgers in the Valley!
  29. Attended Irishfest at Jones Park.
  30. Enjoyed the Lion’s Tale Oktoberfest celebration in Neenah.
  31. Took a morning stroll along the Fox River through Telulah Park in Appleton.
  32. Enjoyed a cup of coffee/smoothie at Tempest on the riverfront, John’s first coffee shop experience.
  33. Had dinner at supper club #2, Michiel’s Bar & Grill in Menasha. Impressive food and service!
  34. Drove to Lake Geneva to relive a portion of our honeymoon from 40 years ago.
  35. Walked several miles of the Shore Path that circles Lake Geneva. Amazing mansions built by some of the wealthiest folks in the Chicago area back in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  36. Had dinner at Mars Resort (another supper club, go figure) on Lake Como.
  37. Spent the day in Warrens at the world’s largest cranberry festival. We have more respect for cranberry farmers after seeing what life is like on the cranberry bogs!
  38. Drove to Green Lake to attend their Harvest Fest, came home with some new fall décor and a bottle of cranberry wine.
  39. Watched the Irish of Notre Dame beat the Wisconsin Badgers in college football. While we love both teams, our heart belongs to Notre Dame as our oldest daughter is an alumnus.
  40. Topped our two-week vacation off with a huge last-minute win for the Packers over San Francisco on Sunday Night Football.

To be honest, every day spent with John feels like a holiday to me, but those two weeks were incredible! Such a great time to reconnect with each other, eat amazing food, shop, do the tourist thing, and bask in gratitude for the abundance of blessings we’ve been given in our lives together.

Here’s to the next 40!  Love you, John! Wouldn’t want to do this journey with anyone but you!

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Give me a head with hair, long beautiful hair…

Our middle daughter and her husband got married in June of 2020, smack dab in the center of the pandemic. Consequently, the wedding at their parish was a small affair for immediate family, 13 of us total in the church. The reception was postponed until two weekends ago, July 10, 2021.

Two days before the 2020 wedding, I had my hair cut to shoulder length. Getting my hair done after months of the stay-at-home mandate was a nice experience, but I didn’t enjoy wearing a mask during the whole process. I made the decision that I wouldn’t get my hair cut again until after the 2021 wedding reception.

Even as a child of the ‘70s, I’d never grown my hair long. Looking back at photos from my middle school and teen years, I wish I had gone with the Jan Brady look instead of taking my mom’s suggestion of going with the Mrs. Brady look — the shag.

What was I thinking? After that it was the infamous Dorothy Hamill bob (circa 1976), the Farrah Fawcett feathered do (late 1970s), the gravity-defying high bangs in the ‘80s and then perms for about a decade after until I finally came to my senses and let my thick hair just do its own thing — parted on the side (as opposed to the ’70s center parts), no layers, just straight-ish (or absolutely straight with a little help from a straightener when I was motivated).

Regardless of the era or style, my hairdos ranged from chin-length to shoulder-length. Since I hadn’t ever let my hair grow, I had no idea of how fast or far it would grow. It didn’t take long to discern that my hair not only grew rapidly but showed no indications of stopping by the time we got back from the wedding weekend.

This past Thursday I went to my hairdresser to have my hair cut to a reasonable length. While I really liked the long look, I realized it’s more work to take care of than shorter styles. Washing it took longer (but thankfully seemed to need washing less, so I dropped from two washes a week to one), it needed to be conditioned, and brushing it and putting into my go-to messy bun style was a good five- or ten-minute process each morning (since it was so warm when I wore it down, especially this time of year). Not only that but I was surprised how much my hair seemed to get in my way (sitting down on a couch, I’d find my hair trapped between me and the couch cushion, it wasn’t constantly falling into our granddaughter’s reach when I was holding her and she has a pretty strong grasp for a three-month old).

I had mixed emotions as I got ready for the hair appointment. Yes, it’s true that long hair is more maintenance and can be a bit bothersome, but people really seemed to like the look on me and were amazed at how long my hair had grown over the past year. I’ve never had so many comments on my hair in my life.

Even though my husband’s in charge of vacuuming our house (not only is my hair thick, but I have an abundance of it and it sheds like crazy — the amount accumulated in the vacuum canister each week was somewhat remarkable), he was a big fan of the look (as seems to be the case for most men I know). He’d have been more than happy for me to keep growing it, even though it was already half way down my back.

The hardest part about going under the knife — make that scissors — is that the 10 inches of hair that was chopped off was my original shade of brunette hair that had such pretty reddish blond highlights when I was in the sun. Now I’m left with the infamous salt and pepper-colored hair, or ash-colored hair as my hairdresser refers to it.

Obviously, I could do the thing that 95 percent of the other woman that I know do, and dye it, at this point in my life, that’s just not my thing. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, and I’m not a fan of soaking my skull in chemicals. Maybe in time I’ll join the crowd and jump on the hair-dying band wagon and start coloring my hair, but for the time being, I’m going the natural route.

One thing that made me feel better about the whole process of going back to having hair in the chin-length to shoulder-length style is that all the work of growing it out last year was worth it. Not only did I get to have an amazing updo for the wedding weekend but I was also able to donate the hair that was cut to an organization (ChildrenWithHairLoss.us) that takes hair donations even if there is a bit of gray in it. Because my hair is so thick, they’re getting three 10-inch ponytails for the price of one!

Remember the adage about women and bangs? “Why do women cut their bangs? So they can grow them out. Why do women grow out their bangs? So they can cut them.” It’s pretty much the same with hair in general. Why did I grow out my hair? So I could cut it (and donate it). Why did I cut it? So I can grow it out again. Who knows how longs I’ll let it grow this time around, only time will tell!

2020 Haircut:

2021 Wedding Reception

2021 Haircut

Anything But Groovy Blog Tour

Morgan is looking forward to junior high school and all the adventures it holds in store for her. But after a collision on the volleyball court, she wakes up on the first day of school trapped inside her mom’s teenage body circa 1974. It doesn’t take long for Morgan to discover that living life as a seventh-grader in the ‘70s and dealing with everything going on in her mom’s life back then — from uncool parents, to annoying older brothers, balancing friendships, and to ultimately doing what she can to survive bullying at the hands of the school’s biggest jock — is anything but groovy.

Check out my newest book, Anything But Groovy, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. I was honored to be interviewed recently by Ellen Gable Hrkach, who’s not only a talented writer, but an outstanding publisher and someone whom I’m honored to call my friend…

Where did you get the idea for Anything But Groovy?

The idea for Anything But Groovy came from experiences I had as a junior high school student growing up in a small Midwest city. Those years were so pivotal in my life that I was able to clearly recall countless events and places that served as the background for this story. 

This book is very different from your previous books (Heaven Intended Series: historical romance) because it’s a time travel book set in current times and in the 1970s.  Are the characters based on real people and is this story based on actual events that happened?  Or are the characters and events mostly fictional?

Like any book I write, characters are based loosely on people that I’ve known throughout my lifetime. The events are based in part on things that I experienced in my growing up years. That being said, I’ll stick with the disclaimer from the front of the book: This book is a work of fiction. Although the setting for this novel takes place in the 1970s, some of the names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Real events and characters are used fictitiously. 

I really enjoyed the TV, music, toy and food references that really transport the reader back to those days.  Do you have a great memory or did you use a diary/journal to write about all those 70s references?

Thank you, I enjoyed reliving the pop-culture references myself! (Man, we watched a lot of TV, considering we only had three channels to choose from!) I do have my diaries from my growing up years, but, to be honest, I did not reference even one of them when writing the book. For some reason, my experiences from my junior high years are seared into my brain. Maybe I tucked them away because I knew in my heart that some day I’d write a book about that critical time in my life.

What do you hope the reader will take away from reading Anything But Groovy?

I hope this book will be an enjoyable blast-from-the-past for people who lived through those years, an eye-opening read for teens in this day and age to see what life was like for their parents and grandparents growing up in the “Wonder Years,” and that this will be a book that different generations will read together to create some conversations about the joys and challenges of growing up, no matter in which era.  

You are a contributor to another book just released titled Treasures: Visible and Invisible. What is the name of your story and can you give us a brief synopsis?

My story is Lucky and Blessed which tells the tale of two teens, Ambrose and Honora, living in 1540 during the  Reformation, and how they help each other make it through a difficult time. There’s a good chance that this will be a full-length novel somewhere down the road. 

Who are some of your favorite authors and what do you like about their books?

As a huge fan of history, historic fiction is my preferred genre, and I was first introduced to it by some very talented authors who specialized in “bodice-rippers.” I’ve always preferred clean romance, so I was so happy to be introduced to the Catholic Writers Guild. There are some outstanding authors in that group. It would be hard to name every author that I admire from that group, but here’s a shout out to one of my favorites, Ellen Gable, who writes the style of books that I truly enjoy reading.  

Are you working on any other writing projects?  If so, what are they? 

There’s always something on the drawing board! I just finished writing the fourth book in my Heaven Intended series called A Freedom Such as Heaven Intended. A Faith Such as Heaven Intended will be next up. Right now I’m in the beginning stages of a time travel book where a teenage girl working at a golf course is hit by lightning and travels back in time to the oldest golf course in the world, St. Andrews, and has to learn to navigate life and love during the late 1600s. Lucky and Blessed will be expanded when time permits. In addition, I’m working on a screenplay for a movie and pursuing turning the Heaven Intended series into a set of movies or a limited-run television show on a streaming service. 

Lucky & Blessed

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, on March 1, 2021, the book Treasures: Visible & Invisible was released. I’m one of eight Catholic Teen Fiction authors who collaborated to create this story that starts with St. Patrick and a shamrock-shaped stone that he found. This stone travels through the centuries, and my story, Lucky and Blessed, picks up in the year 1540. “A friendship formed over a hidden relic helps Ambrose and Honora survive persecution during the Reformation.”

This was my first attempt at writing a short story and it was truly enjoyable. A bit of a challenge as well, trying to convey a compelling story in the span of just 30 pages or so. I was very pleased with how the story turned out. Apparently, the reviewers were as well. Check out the reviews below. At the moment, I’m giving serious consideration to turning this into a full-length novel. Feel free to give me your opinion in the comments below.

Order your copy now! Teens through adults will love these stories! We’re giving a copy away free too, see the link to enter your name into the drawing!

by Theresa Linden, Susan Peek, Antony B. Kolenc, Amanda Lauer, Carolyn Astfalk, Leslea Wahl, T.M. Gaouette, and Corinna Turner.

About the Book:

  • A teen boy sets out to save a friend from pagan druids, but maybe he’s the one who needs saving.
  • Between a baffling scripture verse and a visit from Heaven, a young monk is in for the surprise of his life.
  • A young girl seeks a mysterious treasure that holds the key to granting a nun’s dying wish.
  • Honora is desperate—then a peculiar clover and a mysterious young man change everything.
  • William’s weekend job is a little gift from heaven, but now his family needs a real miracle.
  • When threatened by mobsters, Grace receives help from a surprising source.
  • Alone and afraid, a young girl finds friendship in a stranger. But could this boy be trouble?
  • Kyle was determined to save the precious relic – but now his whole family is in danger.

From the early days of the Church, objects touched to holy men and women have been linked to the miraculous, such as described in Acts: “when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 19:12

https://kingsumo.com/g/p38bo3/catholic-teen-books-treasures-launch-giveaway

Here’s my review on GoodReads: Feb 22, 2021 Amanda Lauer rated it, it was amazing  · I really enjoyed the theme of this book, with a relic from St. Patrick being passed down through the generations. Eight authors teamed up to create this anthology and each story is so unique and intriguing. If you want to try reading stories in genres different from what you normally read, this book is for you, there’s everything from historical fiction to science fiction. Treasures: Visible & Invisible is a great read for teens through adults!

Advance Reviews:

“In a world where today’s young adults are constantly surrounded by media that is trying desperately to tear them down, it is a blessing to have books like this that reaffirms our Catholic faith.  Not only does each author give us a great story to read, they also challenge us to think about things like: the hardships of people in our ancient church, putting Grandma first on our social calendars, praying to God when in the midst of fear and suffering, staying strong in our faith while looking death in the face, listening to unlikely friends who lead us on the path to Christ, and ultimately realizing there is sacredness in the relics of our church.  You only find stories that build our faith like this in very special books.  The “building-up”of today’s youth is at the very heart and soul of what the authors are trying to do here, and they have done an amazing job.”

Beth Ruggiero
Lit by the Tree, Literature reviews from the Catholic side.
Litbythetree.com 

“I invite teens, and readers of all ages, to stand on the craggy wind-swept cliff of your imagination, and experience the collection of stories called, Treasures: Visible and Invisible, created by the talented team of authors from Catholic Teen Books. With a shamrock as our touchstone, this book takes us on a journey through an expanse of time from ancient to modern. Be inspired by the holy greatness of heroism rooted in the spiritual treasures of the Emerald Isle.”

Cathy Gilmore,
Creator and advocator of stories that inspire heroic virtue. VirtueHeroes.com

“We thoroughly enjoyed this cleverly written book about the intercession of St. Patrick throughout the ages. The combination of dynamic characters and intriguing stories kept us hooked from start to finish. A valuable addition to your St. Patrick’s Day bookshelf!”

Jennifer & Kate Waldyke, 
Co-hosts of Catholic Mom and Daughter 

“This is the third collection from the authors of Catholic Teen Books. It was an inspiring read. Some stories are of miracles and others about change. Two contributors from the previous collection did not contribute and two new ones have joined the fray. In this collection are 8 stories from the 14 authors who currently compose the collective. My first thought was wow! What an amazing collection of stories around Saint Patrick! I am aware that not everyone likes short stories, but I love them, and this collection is amazing! Short stories are a different art form than novels, and not all novelists have mastered the craft. For a short story to be good, the writing needs to be tighter, cleaner, and crisper. And each of the 8 in this collection is extremely well written…”

Steven R. McEvoy, BookReviewsAndMore.ca

“What a gift to Catholic teens and their families! Each piece in this collection of stories revolving around St Patrick is a beautiful portrayal of the faith. These are wholesome, engaging, and inspiring tales from a variety of genres that will both entertain and spiritually nourish every reader who picks up this book. “

Amanda Lauer is the only contributor whose works I am unfamiliar with. But this story is so well written that even though Lauer writes primarily in a genre I tend not to read I am itching to pick up one of her books. I have read a lot of non-fiction set during the time period of this story over the last few years. Many biographies and histories. This story could easily be from real life. And if a novel with these characters is published, I will be picking it up the day it is available.

Katie Fitzgerald, ReadAtHomeMom.com

The Blog Tour:

March 5           Bonnie Way, The Koala Mom                      

March 6           Leslea Wahl, Ministry Thru Mystery

March 7           Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart

March 8           Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, Spiritual Woman

March 9           Erin Broestl, Eight Hobbits

March 10         Corinna Turner, UnSeen Books Blog

March 11         Amanda Lauer, AmandaLauer.com

March 12         Sarah Damm, SarahDamm.com

March 13         Barb Szyszkiewicz, FranciscanMom                      

March 14         Theresa Linden, Things Visible & Invisible

March 15         Steven R. McEvoy, Book Reviews and More

March 16         Lisa Hendey, LisaHendey.com

March 17         Catholic Teen Books, Catholic Teen Books

About the Authors:

THERESA LINDEN is the author of award-winning Catholic fiction, including the West Brothers contemporary series and the Chasing Liberty dystopian trilogy. One of her great joys is to bring elements of faith to life through a story. She has more than a dozen published books, three of which won awards from the Catholic Press Association. Her short stories appear in several anthologies, including Secrets: Visible & Invisible, and Gifts: Visible & Invisible. Her articles and interviews can be found on various radio shows and in magazines, including EWTN’s The Good FightThe National Catholic RegisterCatholic DigestToday’s Catholic Teacher, and Catholic Mom. Her books are featured online on Catholic Teen BooksCatholic ReadsFORMED, and Virtue Works Media. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in northeast Ohio with her husband and children. You can learn more about her at TheresaLinden.com.

SUSAN PEEK is a wife, mother, grandmother, Third Order Franciscan, and bestselling Catholic novelist. Her passion is writing stories of little-known saints and heroes. All her young adult novels have been awarded the coveted Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval and are implemented into Catholic school curricula not only across the nation, but in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as well. Saint Magnus the Last Viking and The King’s Prey: Saint Dymphna of Ireland were both Amazon #1 Sellers among Catholic books. The King’s Prey was also voted one of Catholic Reads TOP 10 BEST CATHOLIC BOOKS OF 2017 and was a Finalist for the 2018 Catholic Arts and Letters Award. Crusader King was featured as one of the 50 Most Popular Catholic Homeschooling Books in 2013. Susan lives in northeastern Kansas, where she can usually be found with her nose in a book, researching obscure saints to write about. Visit her at SusanPeekAuthor.com.

ANTONY BARONE KOLENC is the author of The Harwood Mysteries, an exciting historical-fiction series for youth published by Loyola Press. He is a long-time member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and his novels all have the Catholic Writers Guild’s Seal of Approval. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps after 21 years of military service. A law professor who’s had his works published in numerous journals and magazines, Kolenc now speaks at legal, writing, and home-education events. He and his wife, Alisa, are the parents of five children, and have been blessed with three wonderful grandchildren. To learn more about The Harwood Mysteries and its author, visit AntonyKolenc.com.

AMANDA LAUER loves writing books—particularly Young Adult Historic Fiction—that portray the Church in a positive light and depict God’s children endeavoring to become the best version of themselves every day. A journalist and proofreader by trade, Amanda embarked on her novelist career with the award-winning and best-selling Heaven Intended Civil War series. A World Such as Heaven Intended earned the 2016 YA CALA award. Currently Amanda has several more books in the process of being published. 

In addition to writing novels, Amanda works in the film industry writing and copy-editing screenplays. She was awarded Best Writer 2020 (Red Letter Awards) for her work as a co-writer on the movie The Islands. To learn more about Amanda, who’s lucky and blessed to be living in a world such as heaven intended, visit her web site: AmandaLauer.com

CAROLYN ASTFALK writes from the sweetest place on Earth, Hershey, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and four children. In addition to her contemporary Catholic romances (sometimes referred to as Theology of the Body fiction), including the young adult coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours, she is a Catholicmom.com contributor. She is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Pennwriters. When she is not washing dishes, doing laundry, or reading, you can find her blogging about books, faith, and family life at CarolynAstfalk.com.

LESLEA WAHL is the author of the award-winning Catholic teen mysteries The Perfect BlindsideAn Unexpected RoleWhere You Lead, and eXtreme Blindside. The characters in this short story, Luke, Celia, Austin, and Grandma Grace, appear in her newest adventurous novel, A Summer to Treasure. Leslea’s journey to become an author came through a search for value-based fiction for her own children. She now not only writes for teens but also has become a reviewer of Catholic teen fiction to help other families discover faith-based books. Leslea lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and children. The furry, four-legged members of her family often make cameo appearances in her novels. Leslea has always loved mysteries and hopes to encourage teens to grow in their faith through these fun adventures. For more information about her faith-filled Young Adult mysteries, please visit LesleaWahl.com.

T. M. GAOUETTE is the author of the Faith & Kung Fu series for young adults, as well as The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch and For Eden’s Sake. She also contributed to the last two Catholic Teen Books anthologies, Secrets: Visible & Invisible with her short story “Sister Francesca” and Gifts: Visible & Invisible with “Just Jesus.” Her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Born in Africa, raised in London, England, Gaouette now lives on a small farm in New England with her husband, where she homeschools their four children, raises goats, and writes fiction for teens and young adults. A former contributor for Project Inspired, Gaouette’s desire is to instill the love of God into the hearts of her readers. You can find out more at TMGaouette.com.

CORINNA TURNER is the author of the I Am Margaret and unSPARKed series for young adults, as well as stand-alone works such as Elfling and Mandy Lamb and the Full Moon (for teens) and Someday (for older teens and adults). She has just released The Boy Who Knew (Carlo Acutis) the first book in her new Friends in High Places series about friendship with the saints. All of her novels have received the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval (except new releases for which the seal may be in process). Liberation (‘I Am Margaret’ Book 3) was nominated for the Carnegie Medal Award 2016 and Elfling won first prize for “Teen and Young Adult Fiction” in the Catholic Press Association 2019 Book Awards. Several of her other books have been placed in the CPA Awards and the Catholic Arts and Letters Award. 

Corinna Turner is a Lay Dominican with an MA in English from Oxford University, and lives in the UK. She has been writing since she was fourteen and likes strong protagonists with plenty of integrity. She used to have a Giant African Land Snail called Peter with a 6½” long shell—which is legal in the UK!—but now makes do with a cactus and a campervan. You can find out more at IAmMargaret.com.

Under God the people rule…

The South Dakota state motto, Under God the people rule, seems fitting for such a beautiful and independent state. We had the good fortune to spend five days there on vacation recently and couldn’t get over the amazing scenery and how nice the people of South Dakota are.

Before we left, we asked friends who’d been there before for advice on things to visit. The itinerary we chose turned out to be ideal and the last week of September, first week of October happened to be peak season for the fall leaves on the western side of the state.

Monday: Drove 8 hours from Wisconsin to Mitchell, South Dakota. Toured the Corn Palace, which was worth the stop. It’s free to tour and we were able to watch varsity girls volleyball, which was a treat since sports have been cancelled for the most part this fall in our state. Had a nice meal at Whiskey Creek Woodfire Grill in Mitchell that evening.

Tuesday: Drove to the western part of South Dakota, about 278 miles, but at 80 mph, it goes fast. On the way there we stopped at Wall Drug. Didn’t buy anything but just wanted to check out the city of Wall and walk through some of their shops. On the way to The Badlands we came to a little stop that featured super cute prairie dogs. You could visit and take pictures for no cost.

The Badlands is a definite must-see when you’re in South Dakota. There’s a loop to drive through them where you can see the desert-like terrain and the rock formations. Lots of spots to hike but you’re advised to stay on the path and keep your eyes open for rattlesnakes.

The crème de la crème in South Dakota is Mount Rushmore. It’s only $10 to park your car in the lot and walk up closer to the monument and hike on the Presidential Trail. This is a testament to the adage, “What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” It’s amazing how Gutzon Borglum’s vision was brought to life and since that time, millions of people have viewed his artwork.

Crazy Horse was next. This is something that you can view from the highway for free. We paid the $12 each to go to the visitor’s center and learn more about this unfinished monument to the Oglala Sioux chief Crazy Horse, which, at the rate they’re going (only his head and arm are finished) may take another 50 years to complete. That being said, it is worth seeing.

We stopped at the serene Horse Thief Lake and found a way to hike around it (which meant going through a campground, but it was closed for the year, so we didn’t disturb anyone). If we were into camping, this would definitely be a spot we’d go back to and camp sometime.

Dinner Tuesday night was at the Firehouse Brewing Co. in Rapid City. The building is a vintage firehouse and full of firefighting memorabilia. The Gorgonzola Ale Soup (beer cheese) was excellent, some of the best I’ve ever had.

Wednesday: We took off early to drive Needles Highway. The scenery is gorgeous. There are several stone arches that you drive through that are a tight fit for busses and RVs but everyone made it through in one piece. Sylvan Lake is just off Hwy. 87. It was breath-taking. You can easily hike around the lake and see it from all angles.

Custer State Park is nestled in The Black Hills and is amazing. You drive through the park surrounded by wildlife, including bison, deer, and coyotes. While we saw random bison here and there, the majority of the herd had been rounded up for an annual health check and were contained in one area off the beaten path, but worth the trip down the dirt roads to see all of them.

We stopped in other cities that day including Keystone (Carrie Ingalls info at their museum, but we didn’t stop in), Hill City (home of the Prairie Berry Winery and the tasty Red Ass Rhubarb wine, which can be purchased cheaper there than other outlets), Lead and Deadwood, which is the 1800’s version of Las Vegas, with casinos, bars and shopping areas lining the street. With its close vicinity to Sturgis that holds an annual biker rally, there was no hiding their political allegiance.

Thursday: Drove from Rapid City to De Smet, a town dedicated to the remembrance of Laura Ingalls Wilder. If you’re a Little House on the Prairie fan, this town is worth visiting. There are all sorts of buildings and spots where Laura lived or frequented. We chose to do a self-guided driving tour, using a map provided at the visitor center.

That night we stayed in Sioux Falls. I’ve known about this town for years but never knew it got its name from the falls in the middle of the city. Falls Park was stunning, especially in the glow of the setting sun.

Friday: made the trek back home with a stop at the Queen of the Holy Rosary Mediatrix of Peace Shrine in Necedah. What a surprise South Dakota turned out to be for us. It’s remarkably pretty, especially on the western side of the state, the people were some of the friendliest that we’ve met on our travels, and there is so much to offer for tourists. It was definitely worth the drive. And, since the temps hit the mid-70s with sun while we were there, compared to rainy and 50s back home, it turned out to be the perfect time to see the state. This is a trip we’ll always cherish!

A Slice of Heaven

Is it just me, as does anybody else have a strong desire to put the whole Covid-19 situation behind them and get back to our previous lives? Well, if that’s not possible, the next best thing is to make a getaway to somewhere that you’re not reminded of the pandemic 24/7.

That place for my husband and me was the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin. You want social distancing? A 1.5-million-acre forest gives you plenty of that.

We spent a week up there this summer and it was one of our best vacations yet. That might sound like a bit of a stretch, considering that we’ve traveled to Japan, England, France, Hawaii and Ireland over the last decade or so, but this time away from the craziness of 2020 was just what the doctor ordered.

The weather that week was phenomenal. We had one rainy day, but that gave us the perfect excuse to kick back and relax in the cabin and spend a whole day reading. After a relentlessly hot summer, we had seven days of 80-ish degree weather, which felt amazing. The one disadvantage was the break in the heat brought out the mosquitoes, so it was a bit tricky going for early morning walks when they were out full-force.

Evenings up north, watching the sun set over Round Lake, were some of the most peaceful times I can remember. We grilled out either over the campfire or on our gas grill just about every night. I had my fair share of s’mores, probably enough to last me until next summer.

Northern Wisconsin is called God’s country for a reason. The forests, the lakes, the wildlife, including an eagle which resided on the property next to ours, are stunning.

Disconnecting from work and the day-to-day grind refreshed my soul. It usually takes me a couple days to unwind and get comfortable doing nothing, other than lounging in a lawn chair and staring at the lake or the fire, but once I got in that mode, I didn’t want to get out of it.

But, like all good things, our vacation came to an end. What we brought home with us was a new-found love for being outdoors. We’ve officially become “patio people” and are enjoying weekends reading outside or spending cooler evenings sitting around our new fire pit.

We’re refreshed and recharged for the fall and all the challenges and adventures our careers will bring us over the next few months (including the publication of five books that I either wrote or worked on with other authors). When stress creeps back into our lives, we can think back to those peaceful summer days and relive those beautiful memories. What a blessing!