Sunday, September 16, 2018

An Interview from A. J. Avila


Ever wanted to know what it's like behind the wall of writing? I was recently interviewed by fellow author, A. J. Avila! She wrote four supernatural Christian novels: Rain from Heaven, Amaranth, Cherish, and Nearer the Dawn. All net profits from sales of these books are donated to charity. You can visit her website here and her books are available on Amazon. A truly wonderful and generous new author friend! Here is the repost from her blog . . . interview questions from A. J. Avila to Therese J. Roberts.

What are you books about? 

I am both a Catholic fiction and mystery novelist. I have written four books, The Story of a Sailor, The Christmas Picture, and The Amanda Case Files No. 1 and No. 2. My next novel, Act of Hope, will be available soon, followed by the third installment in The Amanda Case Files mystery series. My Catholic books are stand alone novels and focus on characters in need of redemption, while my mystery series are lighthearted and fun puzzles that keep you guessing to the end.

Where do you get the ideas for your books? 

The ideas for my Catholic books I really believe are the fruit of prayer. I find inspiration before the Blessed Sacrament and ask my guardian angel to help me write! As far as the mysteries, I grew up reading the Boxcar Children and graduated to Agatha Christie, as well as followed Nancy Drew, Hitchcock, pretty much every Hallmark movie mystery, so I have had my share of inspiration to create my own puzzles and clues!

What inspired you to write your first book?  

I have been writing stories ever since I was eight years old. My love for writing grew over the years, particularly after studying literature at Christendom College. Once I graduated, I realized there was a real need for solid Catholic fiction that should be at the same time both enjoyable and relatable. Books have always been a major part of my life, and I wanted to write stories that encouraged readers in their own lives to go after their dreams.

How do you incorporate your Catholic faith into your writing?

In my Catholic stand alone novels, I like to create likable dynamic characters, who also have a great love for their Faith. There is always a character who is a priest, and you can find characters who pray and attend Mass. These novels focus on the big questions about what truly matters in this life and how that helps you reach eternal life in the next. At the same time, the stories are meant to be easy to read and applicable to anyone.

How did you come up with the main characters for your series?

Liz Henley in The Amanda Case Files has a brother and a sister, just like myself. Her father was a detective and my father was a police officer. I wanted a character who had a strong motivation for finding answers, as Liz's father mysteriously died while investigating a case --a question that carries through all three books. So as my father was also a cop, it makes mysteries more real to me.

Do your characters seem to “take over” when you write?

Definitely! I am never positive how the story is going to end and find that my characters usually decide that for me. As you compose dialogue, it is easy to imagine your characters as real, and coming up with how they will act starts to make more sense as the story progresses. A character will develop certain habits when you write and I am often surprised how that influences the outcome.

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? Why would you choose that person?

I think I would choose Sam from The Amanda Case Files series. He is the main character's brother and is always good for a laugh. He tries so hard to help Liz with her mysteries, but more often than not can get in the way of investigations. At the same time, he is very dependable and likable, and loyalty to his family comes first in his life.

Which of your books is your favorite? Why?

The Christmas Picture is by far my favorite because it touches on important themes of family, life, love, and sacrifice, as well as addresses the question of suffering. This novel also flowed on the pages very easily, and the story seemed to write itself. The main character, Lucy Harris, is given the chance to go back in time and stop an event that caused her brother's death. Jim Harris, her loving brother, is a dedicated doctor, faithful friend, and staunch Catholic. He would be the type of person who would come through for anyone anytime. I think his likeableness is what makes the story so suspenseful as the reader can't put the book down before finding out what happens to Jim.

Thank you, A.J. Avila, for the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by you!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Introducing Teddy


Guess who just joined Therese? Hi, my name is Teddy and I love nothing more than laying in the grass outside or chilling on the couch indoors. Therese has a theory that I'm a mix of a flat coat retriever and border collie. My fur and shape is definitely a retriever, but I have different ears and white spots on my feet, as well herd my owner when she walks me. 

I really like chewing bones, tennis balls, ropes, rubber toys . . . and rugs and t-shirts. Don't be too hard on me though because I'm a rescue dog and was surrounded by all these crazy animals at PetSmart. I didn't belong there. I needed a nice comfortable home where someone would love me.

Then I met Therese. It's a little cheesy to say it was love at first sight, but there you have it. I saw her from my crate and she looked at me and said "Teddy!" and I knew we were meant to be together. Now I have a shiny blue color and leash and a black and white tag with my name on it (just like me!) 

I love other people and dogs and kids. I'm a real family dog and like to keep my owner company. She likes having me around when she taps those buttons on her square box. (She says she's typing up the end of the next big story, shh!!) Maybe one day that story will be about me!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Top Five Things to Do in Pittsburgh

#1 St Anthony's Chapel

Little known secret is Pittsburgh houses the largest reliquary in the world after the Vatican! St. Anthony's Chapel has over 5,000 relics to treasure. Here you can light candles and pray before St. Anthony's tooth!


# 2 Duquesne Incline

Take a trip to the top of the city and see some of the most breathtaking views of Pittsburgh! The stunning skyscrapers, classic yellow bridges, and beautiful rivers are amazing. You may even find a souvenir or two to take home from the heights!


# 3 PNC Park

Home of the Pirates! If it's baseball season, you have to go to a game! A beautiful stadium with views of the city and the river, PNC Park is perfect to satisfy your sport needs. Watch fireworks go off with every home run, taste delicious refreshments, and enter a 50/50 raffle!


# 4 Point State Park

See the Ohio, Monongahela, and Allegheny Rivers come together at the gorgeous fountain "where the three rivers meet", a battle site of the French and Indian War. You can even ride a riverboat to tour the famous waters and see the Steelers stadium.

# 5 Klavon's Ice Cream

If you are looking for a sweet treat, this old time parlor is a must see! By far the best home made ice cream I have ever had with real whipped cream and hot fudge. You have to try the turtle sundae!

Thank you to my dear friends for showing me all of Pittsburgh! A trip to remember forever!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Orange Leaf


On a recent road trip, friends took me to a delightful little gem called Orange Leaf. I never knew that frozen yogurt could taste so delicious! You can choose from 80 flavors, including classic vanilla, chocolate, and fruity tastes, as well as more interesting flavors like birthday cake, brownie batter, and cookies n cream. Then add toppings to your heart's content!

Having dealt with a tree nut allergy most of my life, a place where allergens are clearly labeled is a breath of fresh air. Each flavor's picture/caption tells you the ingredients and items to be careful of if you suffer from allergies. There are nut free, gluten free, and dairy free options! 

Plus, did I tell you that you can get free samples? Try a number of flavors before filling your cup! And it's self-serve, so there's no limit to how high your swirl goes in your container. (jk!)

I sure hope Orange Leaf opens a location near me soon!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Marian Shop Design


It’s that time again, when websites need a little TLC. My shop is getting a new look and I’m excited to share it with you! What inspired this change? I’m looking to take the shop to a new level, bring additional items to the storefront, and reach more customers out there just in time for sharing Christmas gifts with your loved ones.



Our products are and will remain sacramental gifts of scapulars, rosaries, veils, crucifixes, and chaplets handmade just for you! The hallmark is knowing your special item was created for you as an individual and that you were thought of specifically and prayed for by name.



Every now and then a little change is a breath of fresh air. With crisp photos, easier navigation, and a more behind the scenes look, we hope this new design will be just that! So check out my happy place at handmadecatholicshop.com. Hope to see you there and send you a one of a kind gift!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

And Then There Were None


And Then There Were None is one of my favorite Agatha Christie stories. I prefer the way the movie presents the ending, rather than her novel, but both have their unique story-telling magic. And there is nothing like a good mystery!

If you are not familiar with the story, ten people are lured to a deserted island by a mysterious person to stay at a manor house. A record is played that accuses each person of a murder they were involved in. One by one the guests are killed off and everyone is trying to figure out who and where the mysterious person could be that is committing such crimes . . . or if it is one of the guests themselves. 

I find this story so unique and well crafted because of its originality. It is not your ordinary murder mystery. Usually you are trying to figure out one murder or one type of puzzle, but this plot moves so quickly and keeps you guessing that you can't seem to keep up with it to discover who is the murderer.

The cast of course is excellent and the dialogue witty. I also like how there always seems to be a flaw in the mastermind's plan, one of which being is every character truly guilty of the crimes of which they were accused? If you've never seen it, this film is a real classic!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Confirmed in Christ

Tyburn Convent England

Today I witnessed the beautiful Sacrament of Confirmation received by the confirmandi at my parish! It was a wonderful reminder of the importance of this Sacrament where one receives the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I had never been to a Confirmation other than for family members, where you are more focused on the special person in your life receiving the great Sacrament. So upon observing the ceremony apart from having anyone I know be confirmed, I could focus on the actual prayers and rites more closely. What stuck me the most was the emphasis on being a soldier for Christ. The above quote not only should resonate with all Catholics, but especially those who receive Confirmation because they are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to fight for the truths of the Faith.

St. John Houghton spoke those words as he stood in the cart with the rope around his neck. He was the first English martyr to die under Henry VIII. As he was dying, the executioner was about to tear out his heart and St. John said, "O Jesus, what wilt Thou do with my heart?" St. Thomas More was in prison when St. John was being led away from the Tower to be martyred and Thomas said, "Lo, dost thou not see Meg, that these blessed Fathers be now going to their deaths as cheerfully as bridegrooms to their marriage?" May we all have such motivation to give our lives to Christ!