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!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Canadian West Saga



I am always on the lookout for a good book, aren't you? I am a fan, like many "Hearties," of the When Calls the Heart tv series, even after the season five finale ;-) but have you ever read the books that inspired the series?

I recently became engrossed in the Canadian West Saga by Janette Oke. It is quite different from the tv series in terms of characters, but still has that heartwarming charm of a budding romance that blooms into marriage and family life. 

The four novels are When Calls the Heart, When Comes the Spring, When Breaks the Dawn, and When Hope Springs New. There are two that follow, but they are not part of the original four. I have not quite finished reading them, but so far each has held my attention as a light and easy read to relax at the end of the day. 

What draws me the most is the Christian aspect, where the characters turn to God often and how they strive for morality and virtue amidst hardships out West. The plots are not like a mystery novel, where you turn every page in suspense, but there are aspects about the story that you don't always see coming. It reminds you of a life that was simpler and could still remain if we only put down our electronics and let books take us back!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Ultimate Gift


This is the first movie I've seen in awhile that was truly moving. A movie that does not seek merely to entertain but to focus on the concept of what are authentic gifts in our lives. We are introduced to a young man named Jason who has always had easy access to money, pleasures, and the things of the world. With the death of his grandfather, Jason is forced to go through a series of discovering certain "gifts" in order to receive his inheritance. 

The Twelve Gifts in the Ultimate Gift: the gift of work, money, friends, learning, problems, family, laughter, dreams, giving, gratitude, a day, and love -- these are the ordinary parts of anyone's life that we take for granted or don't see in the right light. 

We are also introduced to the character of Emily, whose spunk and frankness will charm anyone. Emily gives Jason a reason to appreciate the gifts in a completely different way and seek to fulfill the requirements of his grandfather regardless of money. Jason must also face the reason for his father's death, but there may also be a little romance thrown in there for Jason.

Although the movie deals with some serious questions, it is still filled with enough laughter and light moments to make the film both heartwarming and a tear jerker. Most memorable quote: Emily: "My dream? My dream was the perfect day....and I'm just finishing it. My dream is to be with people I love, who love each other, and who love me."

Wish I had seen this ten years ago when it first came out ;-)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Scapular Stories

Available on Etsy in custom sizes!

July 16th is the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel! Our Lady said to St. Simon Stock: “Take this scapular, it shall be a sign of salvation, a protection in danger and a pledge of peace. Whosoever dies wearing this scapular shall not suffer eternal fire . . . wear it devoutly and perseveringly. It is my garment. To be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of me, and I in turn, am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.”

Sabbatine Privilege:

1. Wear the scapular devoutly and continually.
2. Observe chastity according to one’s state in life.
3. Recite daily the Little Office of Our Lady, or abstinence on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or the rosary with permission from a priest to substitute.

Our Lady promised to liberate the soul from purgatory who fulfills these requirements upon the Saturday after their death.


Here's just one miraculous story of Our Lady's protection of those who wear her scapular: "A French priest on pilgrimage was on his way to offer Mass, but realized he forgot his scapular. He knew he would be late if he went back for it, but he could not accept offering Mass at Our Lady’s altar without wearing her scapular. The priest returned with it and was in the middle of offering Mass when a man approached the altar with a gun. He shot the priest in the back, but somehow the priest continued to say the Mass prayers as if nothing happened. The faithful thought the bullet miraculously missed the priest; however, they discovered afterwards the bullet had been found ADHERING TO THE BROWN SCAPULAR, which the priest had refused to be without." While this story is truly amazing and inspiring, most importantly, Our Lady helps those who wear her scapular receive eternal life.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Parents of the Little Flower


July 12th is the feast of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese, the Little Flower. If you are looking for good reads on them, the books above are excellent! Both parents originally wanted to enter religious life, but God called them to marriage. They raised up a family of saints and became saints themselves! Their heroic virtue in family life is an inspiration and example of how we are to live.

"To the love of God, to the spirit of faith and hope was joined in my father's character an immense charity toward his neighbor. That was his outstanding virtue." ~ Celine Martin

"Our mother was abnegation personified, gifted with great courage, and an extraordinarily energetic character. She had a very sensitive and very generous heart, turned always to God, in whom she had a truly heroic confidence." ~ Celine Martin

"My parents always seemed to me to be saints. We were filled with respect and admiration for them. I sometimes asked myself if it were possible to find their equals on earth. Around me I could see nothing like them." ~ Pauline Martin (Mother Agnes of Jesus)

"God gave me a father and a mother who were more worthy of heaven than of earth." ~ St. Therese Martin (the Little Flower)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Precious Blood Chaplet



Check out this sacramental available at handmadecatholicshop.com for the feast of the Precious Blood of Jesus!

PRECIOUS BLOOD CHAPLET


The 33 beads symbolize the 33 years of Our Lord’s life. The seven mysteries honor the seven principal sheddings of the Precious Blood of Jesus. Pope Pius VII granted a plenary indulgence to those who recite this chaplet daily for a month.

Begin with the ejaculation: “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.”
One Glory Be.

First Mystery: The Circumcision
Pray for chastity of soul and body.
Five Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Second Mystery: The Agony in the Garden
Pray for the spirit of prayer.
Five Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Third Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
Pray for the grace of mortification.
Five Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Fourth Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
Pray for the grace to despise worldly honors.
Five Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Fifth Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross.
Pray for patience.
Five Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Sixth Mystery: The Crucifixion
Pray for true contrition of your sins.
Five Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Seventh Mystery: Piercing of the Side of Jesus
Pray for the grace of perseverance.
Three Our Father’s and one Glory Be.
V. We beseech Thee, therefore, help Thy servants. R. Whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.

Conclude with: 
“Almighty and everlasting God, Who hast appointed Thine only-begotten Son the Savior of the world, and hast willed to be appeased with His Blood; grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate this Blood, the price of our salvation, and so to be defended by its power upon earth from the evils of this present life, that in Heaven we may enjoy its everlasting fruit. Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.”

“The more you shall have contemplated My Painful Wounds on earth, the higher shall be your contemplation of them in Heaven.” ~ Our Lord to Sister Mary Martha Chambon

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Need a Quick Dish?


This has to be one of the simplest dinner dishes that actually appeals to the sweet tooth. Get two or three chicken breasts (cut into 1 inch cubes) and cook in a frying pan. Cook a cup of rice in a separate pot. Use a cup of riced frozen broccoli to heat up. Mix all together when chicken is cooked. Add some salt, pepper, garlic salt, and (a lot) of brown sugar. 



A colorful arrangement awaits your dinner table, fit to serve five hungry mouths. And I might add, that a root beer float doesn't hurt to accompany it (or any dish). :-)



Hope you enjoy this easy meal that can be accomplished in 15 minutes! 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Pray for Priests


One of the most noble tasks we can accomplish in this world is prayer. Prayer is our direct link to God. When we pray before the tabernacle, it is better than being granted an audience before a king, for we are beholding the King of Kings. He is ready to hear our every request and answers them all, even if not in the way we expect. 

We forget though that this privilege of praying before our King is brought to us only by His priests. Without the priest, we would not be able to adore Jesus in the tabernacle, nor receive Him at Mass, nor attend Mass at all. A priest is another Christ and as such holds such a great dignity in his vocation. These days it is hard to find truly holy priests, but that is where prayer comes in.

Today is Fathers' Day and our priests fall under that title in the spiritual sense because they guide us as children to reach Heaven. We must pray for them that they may be holy and that there may be more priests who give their lives to such a praiseworthy mission. There is no greater goal than winning souls for Christ. Let us support our priests and be grateful to them for helping us in our path of sanctity by remembering them daily before the tabernacle, especially today as our spiritual fathers. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Stroll in the Park


What is your favorite form of exercise? There are so many ways to rejuvenate yourself by spending time in exercise. Lots of people enjoy hiking or running on trails, some bike riding or kayaking, others with indoor equipment. I'm certainly not one for "working out", but I think getting a daily half hour of recreational exercise is really good for you. It's healthy for your body and your mind and lets out some of that extra steam. 

Thoughts on weight loss? Well, to me that's secondary. I mean who doesn't enjoy feeling more fit and going down a size in clothes? But I think the experience of the exercise (especially outside in nature) is much more satisfactory than the results or lack thereof. 

Personal favorite: I really enjoy bike riding, kayaking, and walking. Each offers a unique setting. Bike riding can be stationary, kayaking on a beautiful lake, and walking down your home street are all pleasant in themselves. There's nothing like the feeling of accomplishing something when getting where you want to go, and a healthy life brings much content.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

More Blessed to Give


They say it's more blessed to give than to receive and if you've never had the opportunity of volunteering, let me just share how amazing an experience it can be. You think that you are going into something trying to make a difference in someone's life by giving your time, but you realize very quickly that in making that sacrifice you are receiving so much more yourself than you could ever imagine. 

When we give our ourselves it takes us out of ourselves and let's us focus our energy on other people. Our problems seem so small when we see what others have to go through. And even if you are going through more than others, it at least makes the burden lighter by alleviating someone else's pain for a day. Volunteering doesn't take away your suffering or someone else's suffering but it reminds us that "life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."

Some great volunteer ideas are perhaps at your church, nursing homes, crisis pregnancy centers, soup kitchens, schools...the opportunities are limitless if you are really looking. On a personal note, I've really enjoyed volunteering at a horse farm that teaches children. I love both horses and kids so it's the perfect combo for me, and you see clearly that what truly matters in life is serving God and serving our neighbor.

You may say that there just isn't time to volunteer if you're working full time and taking care of a family, but maybe if it's only just once a month on a Saturday that you give a couple hours to something, it would be possible. Believe me it makes all the difference to them and to you.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Families of Heroes


Every year I make a point of writing something for Memorial Day. This year I want to focus on the families of the heroes who fight for our freedom. Sometimes I think that even more than the sacrifices of our solidiers, we should be grateful for the sacrifices of their families. It can be harder to be left behind than to go out into the fight. The grandparents, the parents, the siblings, the spouses, the children, and friends all see their dear loved one defend our country, and they know the solider may never return and if they do they may never be the same.

The wait for those families must feel like an eternity. The worries must nag at them every day. The pain of longing to be held in their arms once again must fill their heart with sorrow at each moment they are not with them. These military families deserve our greatest gratitude for their sufferings. Without the support of the families, the solider would not have the courage to go out in the first place. 

I've said this before, but a great way to help these families is to send care packages to either them or the soldiers. A site that provides ways of assisting is operationgratitude.com. Even hygiene items are needed overseas...things we take so easily for granted. 

And let's say a special prayer for the solidiers and the families of those who have given their lives for our country. May we never forget the ultimate sacrifice that made them heroes. Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Where is the Next Book?


I'm just days away from it being a whole year since I published a book. Hard to believe it's been that long since one of my stories hit the shelves, but life has a way of carrying you along and one day you look back and realize how much time has really passed. It's been a year of much change, hence being absent from publishing, but I'm happy to announce that the two books you have been waiting for will finally be ready this year. Act of Hope is set to be realized in late Summer 2018 and The Amanda Case Files #3 with it's exciting continuation of the double agent mystery for Christmas 2018.

Act of Hope focuses on a fallen away Catholic actor who is injured in a limo accident. He is forced to think about his life with the help of an eight-year-old fan who is always ready by his bedside. There is a letter writer, Penny, who sends messages of encouragement to the actor, Matt Snow, and the reader is left to question if she is a new romance or his long-lost fiance. Other characters are a Fr. Charles who is the hospital chaplain and lots of interesting characters in the nursing home where Penny works. Where is Matt's brother whom he hasn't seen since his career took off? Will the actor get better and more importantly will his faith return? How will Penny fit into the actor's life? Find out in a couple months!

The Amanda Case Files # 3 takes place in Maine right where you left off in the sequel. Uncle Riley is kidnapped and Liz and Sam must discover how that connects to the mysterious double agent. As Liz works more closely with Fred, will he continue to be her friend or foe? What other secrets will the Henley's discover about their parents and their investigation? What does the key open that the stranger gave Liz in the basement? Find out at Christmas!

Check out my four books on Amazon!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Our Lady as Mother


May is traditionally dedicated to Our Lady. A beautiful devotion to her is the Litany of Loretto. She has so many wonderful titles that we can honor her by. One of my favorites is "cause of our joy." She gives us so many reasons for joy when we pray to her. Her greatest desire is to lead us to her Son, who is the source of all joy. It is fitting that Mothers' Day and the anniversary of Fatima fell on the same day this year. At Fatima, Our Lady truly reminded us that she is our Mother and desires that we be in Heaven with her. A devotion to Mary is so necessary for the spiritual life and can only bring about an increase in virtue. 

A great quote by St. Bernard: "In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal."