Greetings, New Readers!
If you were one of the many readers who downloaded my book recently…Thank you! And welcome to my author page. I write both fiction and non-fiction, as well as journalism for faith-based publications, but of course my major project right now is the Hard Cider Abbey mystery series. Why did I choose to write mysteries set in a monastery? Because I wanted to see how modern issues—and crimes--would play out in a medieval-like setting. Because, in my mind, an abbey is the perfect place for a mystery, a place overlaid with mysteries, both large and small, mundane and mystical.
My inspiration? Yes, there’s G.K. Chesterton and his Father Brown; also Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael. But mostly, I have to credit Thomas Merton, as well as my personal mentor from college, Father Irenaeus Herscher OFM, a really splendid Franciscan. I worked for Father Irenaeus in his library at St. Bonaventure University—where Merton himself had taught English, briefly. Irenaeus had been a very good friend of Merton’s during his time at St. Bona’s—he’s mentioned in Merton’s early memoir, Seven Storey Mountain—and when I wrote Father’s biography last year (Called to Serve: The Untold Story of Father Irenaeus Herscher OFM; Franciscan Institute Press), I read Merton’s entire eight-volume set of journals as part of my research. Merton mentioned my guy only sporadically, but I found myself fascinated by life in the cloister at Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky, the unique characters of the monks, the odd dramas and rivalries that went on within. It seemed the perfect setting for a long series of mystery novels, and I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the books I’ve written so far.
On occasion, I get the criticism that "priests and brothers don't behave this way," and about my alleged disrespect for the 'holy fathers." If you think this, I strongly suggest you read Thomas Merton's later journals! I've spent a good amount of time in various monasteries and abbeys, and number many brothers and priests among my friends, and I can assure you, they are as human as the rest of us! One of the things I find most interesting is what a monk takes from the world with him when he enters the abbey--not material things, but emotional baggage, unresolved personal issues, quirks, sorrows and fears. It's also interesting to me how each person adapts to the monastic life. It's all part of my own spiritual journey, and thank you all for joining me.
One other note: My recent 'free' promotion was the first, but the very last, for Hard Cider Abbey, and all the other books in the series. It served its purpose, brought in a slew of new sales, but sorry, no more freebies. As of March 30th, everything bumps back up to full retail prices--which, at $3.99 and $2.99, are still relative bargains. You can read the books for free on KIndle Unlimited for now, but there is a limit to how long I'll be in Unlimited...
West Virginia does not have an archbishop...
Which I knew, even though my newest work, Sins of the Father, features a scene with Emerick running into the “Archbishop of West Virginia” in a Cracker Barrel restaurant, which, in itself, would be pretty unlikely in real life. As it turns out, West Virginia comprises only a single un-arched diocese, Wheeling-Charleston, which has come into the spotlight itself these recent weeks, but not in a good way. The actual Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston was asked to step down last year due to moral improprieties, and now the state-wide diocese is being overseen by the Archbishop of Baltimore. But some canon-law fanatic will no doubt call me out on this, so in reply I give the same one my daughter in grade-school gave me when I was startled by a creation of hers called Messy Mom: “It’s FICTION, Mom!”
All of which presages the book I’m working on now, which features an archbishop from New England also charged with moral improprieties, who ends up at the Abbey for prayers and penance, but ends up…Okay, not giving any more away there! It’s a tricky thing, because this is not a roman à clef, or “story ripped from today’s headlines!!!” and I don’t want my character to be identified as any bishop or archbishop or Cardinal for that matter, living or dead. But there are very few archbishops in that geographical area. So, I’m taking literary license—Hey, there’s no such town as Skerrittville, West Virginia, either—and using the term archbishop only because it’s so much more interesting than simply 'bishop'. And they commit not just ordinary sins, but arch-sins, which are always fun for us mere laypersons to read about: If also distressing, at the same time...
Now Available on Amazon Kindle
The mysteries of Hard Cider Abbey continue, as the young, Appalachian-born orchard-master Brother Emerick tries to come to terms with his own family’s tangle of lies and transgressions. He brings his sick and destitute father Bram to the monastery, after retrieving him from state prison, only to be blindsided by Bram’s dubious assertion that Emerick is not his biological son—and that he murdered the man who was. When the new monastery physician suggests that Emerick might be able to save his father’s life with the donation of a vital organ, Emerick struggles to solve this decades-old family mystery to determine if his father’s life is worth saving. Complicating this task is a subplot involving Emerick’s twin sister, Maggy, and Bram’s own difficult, ornery personality: “Of course I love him, as a monk, as a man of God,” Emerick admits to a fellow monastic, “but part of me just wants to kick him down the side of the mountain and into Skerritt Creek.” His friend, Brother Odo, who searched for his own lost parents in Name of the Father, finds his doubts about remaining in the abbey—and his love for Sister Maggy—deepening. Another novella, in the continuing series of Hard Cider Abbey mysteries. Available only on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited; $2.99, but watch for upcoming promotions.
The Hard Cider Abbey series
Hard Cider Abbey: The book that started it all, released in August 2018. A struggling monastery in the mountains of West Virginia, an eclectic collection of cider-brewing monks young and old, and the unexplained murder of the abbey's august librarian: Who dun it? Two amateur sleuths, Brothers Emerick and Odo--the youngest monks at the Abbey and also, the most uncertain about their vocations--team up to solve the case. Recently featured in Appalachian Mountain Book Reviews ("remarkable") and also singled out by Publishers Weekly: "Cecala crafts a quirky mystery with two unlikely sleuths and an exceptionally appealing setting. Readers will be eager for more adventures from the endearing duo." (9/10/18). More adventures to come! Available from Amazon, in e-book ($3.99) or paperback ($12.99); read in Kindle Unlimited for free!
Christmas at Hard Cider Abbey: This 9,000-word novelette--based on characters from Hard Cider Abbey-- was released November 2018, as a lark; and within weeks became Amazon's Number-One Bestselling Religious Mystery--even though it's neither very religious nor mysterious. It's just a gentle little Christmas story, shedding a little more light on life at Hard Cider Abbey. A newborn baby is left at the abbey on Christmas Eve, leaving a profound impression on its youngest monks, Emerick and Odo. Kindle e-book only: $2.99 or free in KIndle Unlimited
Name of the Father: A mystery novella, in nine short chapters. When young Brother Odo experiences disturbing nightmares of his orphanage childhood in northern Quebec, he begins the search for his own identity and family roots. Who were the parents who so callously discarded him as an infant, on the winter streets of urban Montreal? He feels his future as a monk, indeed his faith and belief, hinge on the answers to these questions. With his trusted friend Brother Emerick, and Emerick's twin sister Maggy, he begins a journey into the past and a land nearly a thousand miles away, without leaving his monastery in Appalachian West Virginia. A semi-cozy genetic and psychological mystery, with mild Gothic overtones; and as with the rest of the series, no profanity or excessive violence. $2.99 on Kindle Amazon.