Friday, February 26, 2016

We Are Not Traveling Alone

I'm on the road today, but it's a little different than usual: I'm traveling alone, for one thing.
Normally, my husband and I are driving or flying off somewhere together, most often to visit with our kids and grandkids.  But today I'm going solo, heading across the Atlantic--and my better half is not going to be the pilot up front, which makes the experience a first for me.  [Bites fingernails nervously.]  Unfortunately, he'll have to travel to other destinations in the days/weeks to come.  (Work can really get in the way, sometimes, can't it?)

I was privileged to go along on some working trips with my favorite captain--to Nice, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, and twice to San Juan--back when we first became almost-but-not-quite empty-nesters (our youngest son was still in college during those jet-setting days, so he was back home with us during his breaks).  I haven't accompanied my guy on any trips to exotic locales for the past few years, however, as our brood of grandbabies has been growing exponentially and going to see them beats anything Europe has to offer.  (By a mile, truly!)

So why the trip, you ask?  Well, I've been having a rather difficult time lately dealing with the fact that my baby--who really did leave the nest in earnest, when he graduated from college in May of 2015 and shortly afterward reported to military training--will call Germany home for the next few years.  I know it's easier to stay connected despite long distances in this modern era of technological wonders like Skype and FaceTime; but the bottom line is that it will be much tougher for him to spend the kind of time he's always enjoyed spending with family while he's over there.
A little over a month ago, when we were staying at our Oyster Haven house on the lake, working to get it ready for its VRBO opening, I woke up from a deep sleep one night (something that almost never happens to me; I mean, I pretty much always sleep like a rock).  I was chilled to the bone, but at first I was too tired to get up and get another blanket.  As I lay there shivering in bed, for some reason I couldn't stop thinking about my youngest son.  I knew he was out in the field at the time, and I found myself worrying about whether he was warm enough.  And over the past few weeks, I've been feeling blue at random moments.  It's as if a little gray cloud follows me sometimes, and I know it's because I miss him so much and have a bit of separation anxiety (something I've always had a problem with when it comes to my boys!) because he's so far away from us.  (No matter how big or how old they get, moms can't really ever let go of that primal urge to take care of their chickies.)  So I thought that if I just went over there and saw where he lived and what his life was like, I could finally relax a bit.
This son of ours has always looked up to his older brothers.  We had our first four in four years, and then after a five-year break, he came along.  And all he ever wanted to do was be like them.  He was in such a hurry to grow up and feel like "one of the guys."  I know he misses being able to see his brothers, whom he considers his best friends, on a regular basis now; and I don't want him to feel as if he's traveling alone.  So this former white knuckle-flyer is doing what would have been unthinkable even five years ago: I'm traveling across the ocean, alone.

By the time I board my international flight in less than two hours, I will have spent about ten hours in the Atlanta airport today.  I had to fly here early this morning, as there weren't a lot of options out of the VA city where sons #3 and 4 live. I had to break away [rip that Band-Aid off fast, Grammy!] from all the cuteness at our middle son's home, where my husband and I have been staying for about a week, offering what help we could as he and Preciosa transition to having two kids under two (make that two kids 16 months and under!).  It was tough to leave all that cuteness, I'll tell you.  Not just the wee ones, but my cute boyfriend of 42 years/husband of 35 as well. 
G-Man and his newborn baby sister, Princesa.
I don't mind long waits at the airport, though.  What can I say?--I am not easily bored!  And I was thrilled to hear this announcement over he PA system at about 11:25 a.m.: "There will be a Catholic Mass at 11:30, at the chapel located on Concourse F."  I quickly shoved all of my various gadgets, which I'd been charging up for the trip, into my carry-on bag and ran to the train that would take me from Concourse C to Concourse F.  I arrived at the small chapel late, but made it in time for the gospel--and soon afterward, about eight others joined me (including an angelic one-year-old girl holding a chunky wooden toddler Rosary).

I cannot even tell you how thrilled I was to be able to attend Mass before getting on that plane tonight!  I was tearing up throughout the service, so filled with emotion was I.  And I was a little sad that I'd been chewing gum when the announcement was made and would be unable to receive Communion.  BUT--the priest gave all of us a dispensation, since we hadn't been given enough notice to properly fast before receiving the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.  What joy!  What a wonderful experience that was for me!  As many times as I've been in this airport, I didn't even know that Masses were held there!  (I only wish I'd known I could have gone to Confession, too!)
So--to tie this post up as neatly as possible, I'm not traveling alone today, because I have a family that loves me and God is with me always, watching over me.  And I'm making this trip to remind my boy that he never has to travel alone either.  (And who knows?  The fact that I'm actually coming over all by myself, without my favorite travel buddy, indicates that he might be seeing a whole lot more of his dad and me than he ever thought he would when he was given this assignment!)

Now in closing, a prayer of thanksgiving. Thank you, God: for these five wonderful boys whose care you entrusted to my husband and me; for the many blessings you have bestowed on our family; and finally, for air travel (and giving me a husband whose job makes it affordable for us!).

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Daddy-Daughter Love

My husband and I are getting on the road today, heading south to spend a week and a half or so helping out son #3 and his wife Preciosa, who became the parents of a new baby girl about a week and a half ago.  With the birth of their sweet Princesa, they have two under two (big brother G-Man is 16 months old).

Right now, our oldest son has four daughters and our second-born has one small son. So we told our middle son that he and his wife will always have the distinction of being the first in our family to have children of both sexes (something my husband and I know nothing about, having raised only boys).  As everything was (is?) a competition in our all-boy house, he can claim that he's the winner at breaking that particular barrier.  His brothers may do it in the years to come, but he will always be the first.

It will be fun to watch yet another of our sons who grew up without sisters interact with his little girl.
So far, it appears to be a love match.
I know you're filled with the warmest of fuzzies looking at this precious image of daddy-daughter love, and saying to yourself, "That is without a doubt the sweetest picture I've ever seen!  How nice of Laura to share it!"  I know.  And you're welcome.

When I think of son #3 now, this saying comes to mind:
He will be G-Man's hero (I daresay he already is); and though she may grow up and find her own Prince Charming some day, he will always be Princesa's first love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Grace-filed Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #15): Second of a Four-Part Series

At last Tuesday's "meeting," I re-ran an old post from 2013, all about Finding Grace, that was the first in a series titled "Where Fiction and Real Life Intersect."  (If you couldn't attend last week and would like to see what you missed, you can click here.)  The reason I decided to write this series in the first place was that I know people are always curious about whether or not authors use people and/or incidents from their real lives in their fiction.
Today, I'm going to give you the second installment in the "Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect" series.  So grab yourself a cup of coffee (I've got mine!), sit down in your comfiest reading chair, and join the club.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Where Real Life and Fiction Intersect (Part 2)

It's day 2 of 7 Posts in 7 Days--and so far, so good!

Over the weekend, I got some exciting news: Finding Grace was chosen as one of three finalists in the Young Adult Fiction category for an award called the Catholic Arts & Letters Award (or CALA). I was a bit blown away by the announcement, never believing when I sent in five copies of the book to the contest reviewers that it would make it this far.  The winner will be announced at a Catholic Writers Guild conference in NJ in a couple of  weeks--and it just so happens that I have already signed up to attend the first two days of the event, having been encouraged by both my husband and an author e-friend of mine that I should bust out of my shell of shyness and fear of all things new and just do it. On Sunday, I was laughing with my oldest son about pulling a Zoolander move--you know, preparing a big acceptance speech, jumping up on stage when they announce another author's title, starting to thank everyone...and then having to slink away in shame.  (Like I would EVER let that happen!) Really, though, winning would just be gravy at this point.  Or frosting.  Take your pick.

The news did make me feel like talking about my baby, though, so I thought today I'd give you another peek into "The Making of Finding Grace."

In the first installment of this series, I told you that like Grace, I lived right in the heart of Plattsburgh, around the corner from the college, and like Irene, my best friend lived out on the lake in Cumberland Head.  My house was an old two-story with a covered front porch (and a front porch swing!) and my best friend's was a one-story modern ranch.  But aside from where we lived and the type of homes we inhabited--and the fact that we had countless giggle-filled sleepovers--the two girls are not like us at all. Not physically or really in any other way.
The old homestead (note the swing at the porch's far right).  
I stopped my car when in town recently and snapped this, 
hoping the current owners wouldn't come out and
think I was some sort of creepy Internet stalker.
I do share Grace's shyness and lack of confidence, and the way she feels horrified if she knows she's hurt someone's feelings or put her foot in her mouth.  And like Grace, I was not given a middle name (and neither were my two sisters), and my dad's reasons for giving them to his sons but not his daughters were exactly the same as Jack Kelly's.  That first conversation in Chapter One between Grace and Jack was inspired by several similar discussions I had with my father during my formative years.  Particularly after a nasty run-in with my 6th grade teacher, Sister Juliet, who accused me of lying when I told her "Laura Harding" was my full name. "Everyone has a middle name!" she cried angrily.  (I'd go into the gritty details for you, but the incident left a sting that lingers to this day!  I was accused of being a liar in front of all my classmates. Someday I'll get over it!)*

Want to read more?  Click here for the rest of this post!

Peace and grace, dear readers!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day (One Day Late)!

Over the weekend, our newest grandchildren Junior and Princesa (three months old and one week old respectively) met for the first time, when their moms attended a baby shower in honor of one of their dads' cousins.

And love was definitely in the air.
There were kisses.
And there were hugs.
Junior's mom Ginger and Princesa's mom Preciosa (who's also G-Man's mom) have been great friends since college.  Back then, I'm sure they never imagined that one day, they'd marry brothers and have children who share the same blood.  Life is so full of unexpected blessings!

And those wee kissin' cousins were together for a few hours on Saturday, cuddling on the couch, showing each other lots of day-before-Valentine's-Day love.

Fast-forward to the day after these sweet, love-filled photos were taken:  My husband and I had an interesting Valentine's Day.  We spent most of the holiday traveling home from a four-day visit with our VA gang (which includes three out of our five sons and their families).  We had planned to have a romantic dinner out last night but were so tired that instead, we decided to order take-out dinners from Chili's and eat them in front of the TV (our homebody version of a dinner and a movie date).  My gallant husband drove over to the restaurant to pick our food up.  When he got home, we realized they'd given him someone else's order by mistake, and he had to go back and get the mix-up squared away.  They almost gave him the wrong order again, believe it or not.  But we finally had a delicious dinner and soaked up the latest episode of "Downton Abbey," so things were looking up.  But then before we went to bed, we realized that we had some sort of major plumbing issue involving a clog or a frozen pipe in our septic system, and that we couldn't run any water whatsoever until we got someone over this morning to assess the situation and make things right--or there would be catastrophic consequences, if you get my drift.  So...not the most perfectly idyllic Valentine's Day.

But you know what?  I'd rather spend Valentine's Day dealing with dinner delays and septic crises with my guy than sitting by candlelight at a fancy restaurant with anyone else.  So when I think of it that way, it was a perfect Valentine's Day, as always.

I hope yours was happy, too!

(P.S. If you didn't catch yesterday's post, with Junior's fashion photo shoot, you might want to check it out.  It's just about guaranteed to make you smile.)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What I Wore Sunday: A Royal Ensemble

I used to link up from time to time with other Catholic bloggers, for a fun little fashion show called "What I Wore Sunday."
But I don't think they're doing the link-up anymore.  And in fact, I don't believe the blog called Fine Linen and Purple--at least the one I knew with that name--even exists anymore. 

I was a tad disconcerted when I went to check on this blog and it was nowhere to be found; it makes me wonder if it's true what I've been hearing: that the blog is a dying breed.  Oh well...I really feel like doing a What I Wore Sunday post anyway.  So here goes.

But never mind what I wore Sunday, dear readers.  I'd rather show you what my three-month-old grandson wore!

Junior sported a classic look befitting a wee royal such as England's little Prince George: a navy blue velveteen "Jon Jon" romper that I stitched up for him (remember this post?), along with a matching Grammy-made boy's bonnet.  (In spite of the fact that Junior's dad, my second-oldest son, doesn't believe that the words "boy's" and "bonnet" belong in the same sentence.  Ever.  Ever ever ever.)
When my husband saw his dapper little grandson in this get-up, he exclaimed, "He's Little Lord Fauntleroy!"

My daughter-in-law Ginger was hoping to complete Junior's "Sunday Best" ensemble with some white knee socks and saddle shoes; but she was unable to find socks in his size, and the shoes she bought are still a bit big for him.  Having seen superblogger and fashion trendsetter Grace Patton's little guy Bosco sporting tights with short pants in an Instagram photo, she decided that they would work with Junior's romper as well.  (Two other words my son doesn't believe belong in the same sentence are "boy's" and "tights"--or as he called them, "nylons."  If I could insert the laughing-so-hard-it's-crying emoji here, I would.)
Can you even stand it?  Isn't this about the cutest thing you've ever seen (said Junior's besotted Grammy)?

What I wore Sunday was not nearly as noteworthy as what he wore, but I guess I'll show you anyway.  I wore a polka-dotted black and white knit Dress Barn frock that I've worn about a bazillion times already (it's practically a uniform for me, especially when I'm traveling), with a black cardigan, black tights, and black ballet flats.  I also wore my purple lace mantilla, a Christmas gift from my husband a few years ago that's a liturgically correct color to wear to Mass during the Lenten season.  My only accessory, besides the veil, was my always-worn gold Miraculous Medal.
And speaking of Miraculous Medals, I am hoping to give away 500 of them during Lent, to aid the Association of the Miraculous Medal with their goal of distributing 1,000,000 medals by the feast of Mary's birthday in September.  If you're a teacher, religious ed instructor, homeschooler, parent or grandparent who is interested in getting some of these medals for your class, group, or loved ones, you can contact me and I'll send them to you.  (Just go to the "EMAIL ME" button on the side bar.)  I am thrilled to report that I have already gotten requests from some schools and have found homes for about 250 of the medals I have.  But there are plenty more where those came from.

Have a great week, everyone!  (Now one more dose of cuteness before I sign off...)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Miraculous Medal Giveaway

The Association of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville, MO, has begun a Million Medal Campaign.  They hope to distribute 1,000,000 blessed Miraculous Medals by September 8th, the feast of Our Lady's birthday. To help them with this mission, they were looking for volunteers who wanted to "do something more this Lent" and support them in their work.

I am a strong believer in the power of this medal, a sacramental that Mary promised would give many graces to those who wear it with confidence.  Nothing would please me more than doing even a small part in making the Association of the Miraculous Medal's campaign successful, and to know that more hearts might be brought to Jesus through the intercession of His Mother.  So I contacted them and volunteered to distribute 500 blessed medals.
If you are an interested Catholic school teacher, religious education instructor, homeschooler, parent, or grandparent, let me know if you would like some of these medals for your class, group, or loved ones (and how many you need/where to send them).  Just go to the "EMAIL ME" button on the sidebar and contact me, and I will mail the medals out to you as soon as I can.  I intend to bring some to my own parish and local Catholic schools, but I have plenty to spare!

I'm giving some things up this Lent; but I'm also taking up the challenge posed by the Association of the Miraculous Medal and "adding something on."  Please help me as I help them to succeed in their goal of distributing 1,000,000 medals by Mary's birthday.
God bless you, this Lenten season and always.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Birthday to Son #2

It's a two-fer today!!  Yes, we already had a "meeting" of the Grace-filled Tuesdays Book Club this morning  here at the blog, but I'm back again (even though lately, I can hardly get myself to produce two blog posts in one week, let alone one day).  Because this Tuesday, there are more important people to celebrate than fictional characters in a novel. 

On this red letter day, 31 years ago, I gave birth to my second son.

There are not enough words to express how infinitely improved and enriched my life has been because he's been in it.  From the time he was very small, he had the gift of reading the feelings of those about him and having empathy for others, when often so many of those subtle vibes go over the heads of spirited little boys careening through rooms like speeding cars or flying superheros.  Although he was just as rough and tumble as any little fella, he also was--and is to this day--so very in tune with what's going on in the hearts and minds of those around him.  (Here's a tidbit that could have been added to today's book club post: the character of J.D. Kelly, one of Grace's older brothers, was very much inspired by this particular son.)

I know these traits have made him a wonderful son.  They also make him a wonderful high school teacher.  And now a wonderful husband and father.  I love him so much that when I think about him, I feel as if my heart will burst.

He's a new daddy now, with a son of his own; and my dearest hope for Junior is that he grows up to be as fine a man as the one he was named after.
Sr. and Jr., rocking the same sailor suit--31 years apart!

Happy Birthday, to the son who is my favorite on this date! 
He gives the best bear hugs!
I think we're practically twins.
Love you to the moon and back.

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #14): First of a Four-Part Series

Back in 2013, long before I decided to start an on-line book club, I wrote a four-part series called "When Real Life and Fiction Intersect," wherein I discussed different aspects of my first novel, Finding Grace.  Since it's Fat Tuesday today, and I plan to spend most of my free time preparing a special dinner feast for my husband and myself, I thought I'd resort to re-posting the first segment of that series today.

(Originally posted in July of 2013, about a year after Finding Grace was published.)

An author e-friend of mine named Amy M. Bennett* (who was kind enough to leave an endorsement of Finding Grace on my Amazon page) recently posted the above quote on her Facebook page, and I just had to share it here.  It's so true! Although there can't help but be some autobiographical elements in works of fiction (particularly in an author's first novel), my main character, Grace Kelly, is definitely not me, and her story is not my story.  I'd tell you one glaring difference in the way our stories turned out right now, but that might spoil the book for those of you who haven't read it yet.(Hey, if you haven't read it and you'd like to get your hands on a copy, e-mail me and we'll talk.  I can send you a signed copy for lower than the Amazon price and I'd love to hear from you!)


I thought it might be kind of fun to do a little series here on the blog, outlining the characters who were inspired in part by people I actually know or knew, but over the course of the four-and-a-half-year writing process completely took on a life of their own, as well as the places, events, and other elements in the book that come from true experiences I've had, versus the things that are completely made up (as well as the things that sort of happened, but were tweaked and used in a different way to fit my story).

It can be like one of those "The Making of" extras that come with DVD's sometimes--those short films that give the viewer a better idea of the process the writer, director, actors, and producers went through to create the movie.  It will be a "The Making of Finding Grace" blogumentary (is that a word?), in installments, for those of you who are interested

Would you like to keep reading?  If so, click here for the full post.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Supreme Gift of Marriage (Welcome, Princesa!)

Here's what the Catholic Church teaches about the sacramental nature of marriage:

Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents (Vatican II).

It couldn't be more clear that the primary purpose of marriage is to bring children into the world, and to raise these children--who are a gift from God: the supreme gift!--to become future saints.  That's not to say that new life is the only purpose of marriage; spouses are also called to help each other grow in holiness, and to be a light for Christ in the world.  But the supreme gift of marriage is not the earthly happiness that comes from being madly in love and going through life with your perfect "soul mate" (as wonderful as those aspects are); the supreme gift of marriage is children created from that love--created in God's image and likeness.

Our middle son and his wife Preciosa have answered a hearty "We will!" to the question of whether or not they would accept children lovingly and willingly from God.  Married in December of 2013, they welcomed their bright-eyed, round-cheeked, funny, spunky, sweet, and adorable G-Man (who is all boy, let me tell you!), into the world only 10 months after they exchanged their wedding vows.  And on Saturday, G-Man (now 16 months old) became a big brother to a stunningly beautiful baby sister, whom I've decided to call "Princesa" here at the blog.

Grammy's being a bit biased, you say?  "Stunningly gorgeous--are newborn babies ever stunningly gorgeous?"  Ummm...yes, yes they are.  This mild-mannered little lady (who came into the world a good deal smaller than her big brother and thanks be to God, gave her mommy a much shorter and less painful birth experience) has the tiniest face, with the tiniest, most perfectly proportioned features.  She looks like a porcelain doll come to life, she really does.

But why tell you when I can show you?
The hospital provided the hat, with the bow added for the
little girl babies.  Don't you love it?!
Preciosa is glowingly happy, totally in love with her
new daughter.  (Her new favorite hashtag: #2under2.)
Daddy is besotted as well.
I hopped on a plane early in the morning, about the same time Princesa's mom and dad got checked into the hospital.  I two-legged it down to VA, and when I landed just before noon and took my phone off airplane mode, she'd already arrived.  I went straight over to son #3 and Preciosa's house to take over for son #4 and his wife Braveheart, who'd been babysitting for G-Man since dawn.  So I got to spend some time with my little buddy; then I was able to go over to the hospital that evening to meet my newest granddaughter when Preciosa's parents arrived from FL to take over.
A family of four now!
It was a whirlwind trip!  Sunday morning I went to an early Mass and then visited Princesa and her giddy parents at the hospital for a little bit, before heading to son #4's house for brunch and then back to the airport to catch my first flight north.  I ended up getting stuck in Atlanta for almost as many hours as I spent visiting down in VA (such is the life of a non-revenue stand-by traveler); but luckily, I did catch the last train out of Dodge last night, and was back home a couple of hours after midnight.

It was a lot of traveling for just a few precious moments of holding that wee angel and staring at her perfect little face.  Was it worth it?  You bet it was!
Preciosa is on cloud 9.  Her cup runneth over, she said more than once, with the birth of this second child.  I'd say mine does, too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #13): Reader Feedback, with Some Spoilers

Okay, before I begin, I thought I'd share a new meme that I'm working on for the book club.  I've still got some kinks to work out (because I don't really know what I'm doing!), such as inserting the blog address into the image.  But for now, this is how it looks.
Many of you who read this blog are probably well aware that this is Catholic Schools Week.  So in honor of celebrating these fine institutions and the good work they do in helping to form the minds, hearts, and souls of our youth, I thought I'd share some snippets from an email I received from a young Catholic school student not too long ago.  She is an 8th-grader at one of the Tampa Catholic schools I visited in January.  She was able to get in touch with me because I handed out some business cards with contact information on them, in case any of the kids wanted answers to any questions that hadn't been asked during my presentation.  (I wrote briefly about the experience of speaking to my nieces' and nephew's--the triplets'--class, as well as several other 5th through 8th grade classes, here, if you'd like to read that.)
The incredibly articulate young lady who wrote to me had read Finding Grace, devouring it during a four-day stretch, and deemed it her "favorite book by far"--something that was both gratifying and humbling to hear.

I have been fortunate to receive a good deal of positive feedback since Finding Grace was published in 2012--people have in general been very kind.  But some of the comments from this satisfied reader touched me more than any I'd heard before; her insights were so sharp and so well expressed, especially coming from such a young person.  (Reading through her email just made me more convinced than ever that Catholic schools are doing an amazing job and are worth every penny that parents sacrifice to spend on them!)

My young pen pal aspires to be a writer herself, so I was especially thrilled to be able to correspond personally with her, and to share a bit of information about how the story and characters for this novel came about and then evolved over the years that I worked on the book

[Before I proceed any further, I should warn you that there are some spoilers for my novel Finding Grace coming up.  So if you plan to read it and don't want any hints about how it ends, you should probably stop here.]

I loved her comments on the various characters, who had become dear friends to me during the writing process.  It pleased me enormously that she not only liked Grace, Tom, and Jimmy, who aren't perfect, but are basically very good and relatively uncomplicated teens who never go too far astray; but she also identified with/had empathy for Irene and Kate, two sisters with very human flaws who commit the same grave sin, but then make different decisions afterward--with life-altering consequences.  Although I loved Grace, with her shyness, lack of confidence, and desire to mimic the saints, I loved the misguided Pomeroy sisters, too.  Kate changes so much in the course of the book that in the end, it appears she has won the heart of one of Grace's brothers.  (And I couldn't love those Kelly boys more, as they were definitely inspired by my own five sons!)  Of Kate, my young reader had this to say: "As she matured into a responsible adult, I felt pride, because she became selfless and accountable for her actions."  Yes!  That is exactly how I felt about Kate, and the way the book ended for her was almost as important to me as the way it ended for Grace.

One of my favorite comments in this young reader's email was, "Don't get me started on Tom and Sully!"  She said that they were the type of friends she hoped to make in high school next year, because "They were able to have fun, but follow God's teachings at the same time, a true talent!"  She loved those "two trouble makers," and I did, too.  I always knew which one Grace would end up with (that much, at least, never changed, even though the plot ended up going in different directions than I'd thought it would at the outset); but it was funny to me how many readers early on (including my publisher!) said they secretly hoped she was going to end up with the other guy.

My husband and I have always been strongly Team Tom.  If you've read the book, do tell: which team are you on?  Team Tom, or Team Sully?
Tom My husband (also my high school boyfriend) and I, on his 16th birthday.
As I typed away in my basement office, from August 2007 through December 2011, I kept telling myself (and my husband) that if this book helped even one impressionable teen to grow in the Faith or to make a better decision than some of my struggling characters, then I would die a happy author.  "In a way, it has shaped my decision making and thoughts on the Church as I've read it," wrote this young reader.  "Subconsciously, I found myself asking, 'What would Grace do in this situation?'" Thank you, God, for this concrete evidence that the one goal I had in mind when I set out to write my first novel has been accomplished!

In closing, this thoughtful 8th-grader told me that Finding Grace is "a model for what I want my novels to do: impact young readers and bring them closer to our Father."   The idea that someday, this budding future author will write novels with that purpose in mind, and that she will do so in part because she was inspired by Finding Grace...well, dear readers, my heart is so full thinking about this.  I feel that any purpose for my own books has already been fulfilled--and then some.

I thoroughly enjoyed corresponding with this reader, and I would love to answer any questions you have for me as well.  Just look for the "EMAIL ME" button on the side bar, and send me a message.  I promise I'll get back to you!