Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sisters of the Last Straw author Karen Kelly Boyce: Avoiding the Preachy and Boring

Posted in this week's Trenton Monitor:
“When I read the books I was buying for my grandchildren, they were preachy and boring,” Boyce said. “I wanted to make them laugh. People have faults. I wanted to teach the kids to forgive.” In response and recalling the Sisters of Mercy who schooled her as a child, she created the Sisters of the Last Straw series of mysteries for children ages six to 12.

...“With hindsight, I now realize the wonderful education and faith that the Sisters of Mercy gifted me. Most of the sisters were kind, hard-working and faithful. I remember them with great delight and I am grateful for them,” Boyce wrote. “I realize now the sacrifices they made… As an adult, I understand that nuns are human beings with virtues and flaws. Perhaps that is why God inspired me to create characters who work hard to overcome their human failings. In Sisters of the Last Straw,…all of [the nuns] are good, all of them human. I can present the sisters and the faith with truth, humor and gratitude. It goes to show that what they taught me must be rubbing off.”

As described in the book synopsis, the fictitious order of nuns in the series is so named by their bishop because they had been dismissed from other convents for their bad personal habits. All have strong faith…. and foibles. Mother Mercy is a born leader who struggles to control her temper; Sister Krumbles loves all God’s creatures, but is disorganized and clumsy; Sister Shiny is vain but keeps the convent spotless; Sister Lovely struggles with cigarette smoking but is kind and generous; Sister Lacey is rough-and-tumble who fights her impulse to curse with silly rhymes and exclamations, and Sister Wanda is always getting lost but never loses her gentle personality.

The series, published by Chesterton Press, details the nuns’ exploits in three novels thus far: The Case of the Haunted Chapel, The Case of the Missing Novice and the The Case of the Stolen Rosaries book which garnered the CPA award.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Introducing our picture books! The Monks and the Story of Job

I am very pleased to let you know about two picture books we have recently released, the first ones ever published by Chesterton Press. The Story of Job is my retelling of the book of Job which I told to my own children, and which my friend Ben Hatke kindly illustrated. It's been a family favorite which I've shared with audiences when I speak on suffering. After years of audience members requesting their own copy, I am pleased that it's finally in print. I hope it will help other families the way it helped ours. As for the other book...

Several years ago, I was acquisitions editor for Sophia Institute Press, and The Monks' Daily Bread manuscript by my friend Sylvia Dorham found its way into my inbox. I was charmed by the concept, delighted by the Dr. Seuss-like rhymes, and wanted to see the book get into print. But although publisher John Barger shepherded Sylvia through several grueling rounds of revisions which made the book better and funnier each time, Sophia Press ultimately decided not to publish the book.

So when I went back to working full-time for my own company, Chesterton Press, and I found that Sylvia hadn't yet found a publisher, I couldn't resist offering... Sylvia's response? "Ok, twist my arm! Harder!"


The final piece of the puzzle arrived in the form of a clever little art portfolio tucked into an envelope which I found in the mail later that year, featuring an accordion of original superhero trading cards, three original tiny comic books, and a handwritten card from an artist I had never heard of: Christopher Tupa. At some point, it occurred to me that he would be the perfect artist to illustrate this funny story.

So it is with much pleasure that I introduce to you the first picture books from Chesterton Press: I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed helping to create them! 

Peace and good.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Regina's Reading Table: Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life

I began as a C.S. Lewis geek and I still am. I was a Lewis geek before I was a Tolkien geek, a Chesterton geek, or even a fairy tale geek. If there is a writer I self-identify with, it's Lewis. He writes as I would like to write.  I've heard some Chestertonians say of Lewis, "Oh, everything you can find in Lewis, you can find in Chesterton." If you're only looking at Lewis's apologetic works, then perhaps that might be true (but I feel Lewis is different in tone and emphasis and tactic from Chesterton), but I feel that Lewis is superior to Chesterton when it comes to writing fiction.

Chesterton is Chesterton, no matter what he writes: but Lewis morphs. Narnia is quite different from Mere Christianity, and the Space Trilogy and The Pilgrims' Regress are each its own creature, written for specific audiences and I suspect it might be difficult to imagine the author of Narnia as the author of a book as brutal as Till We Have Faces.  I also love Lewis's literary works, although I have not finished English Literature in the Sixteeth Century, Excluding Drama (but maybe I'll read it next).   Last time I checked, I think I had about three books to read before I could say I'd read the entire Lewis canon, but I'm sure there's a few more pieces of unpublished work they've dug up since then. And I used to have read every published book about Lewis, but as his fame has spread, I'm afraid I'm far behind in my Lewis studies.

That being said, I'm familiar enough with the life and work of C.S. Lewis to be a fairly good judge of biographies about him, and this old one, which I just finished reading, was excellent. I found it in a stack of someone's giveaway books, and picked it up because, you know, Lewis. But it's taken me several years to actually read it. And even though it was published in 1986, Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life was worth reading: after a while, I enjoyed it so much that I made myself stop before I'd read more than a year's worth at a time, so I could savor the experience. That's high praise of any book, and particularly a book about Lewis. Even though the title is awkward: Lewisians know C.S. Lewis hated the name "Clive" and insisted on being known as "Jack," the book is much, much better than its title and dated cover might lead you to guess.

I'm intrigued in the storytelling techniques that biographers use, and I admired Griffith's structure of using years instead of chapters, and instead of using a strong narrative voice, letting the subject and those who met him speak for themselves. For instance, one chapter might begin with a snippet from a New Year's letter Lewis wrote to a friend, and then next section would be a recollection from Tolkien's diary about a meeting he had with Lewis in their favorite pub. There were copious and interesting quotes from the near-thousands of letters Lewis wrote to people all over the world over the course of his life, as well as recollections from others who knew or met Lewis, such as T.S. Eliot and his fellow professors at Oxford.  This fascinating collection must have been quite a task to amass, but it has the overall effect of letting the subject and his contemporaries present the man, while the narrator recedes into the background.

I appreciated that, since the last biographies I happened across of Lewis took adamant sides in the various controversies surrounding Jack Lewis's life. Some hate his Protestant Christianity (Humphrey Carpenter): others find him lacking as a person (A.N. Wilson). Others (usually those who knew Lewis such as George Sayer) have a bone to pick with other biographies. And then there's the controversies, a lot of inside baseball. Most prominent is the Warnie Lewis vs. Walter Hooper spat, which sometimes transmorgifies into a Protestant vs. Catholic spat.

The short version: Lewis's older brother and close companion Warner Lewis struggled with alcoholism, leading to Jack needing to hire a private secretary--Hooper--the last year of his life.  After Jack's death, the two apparently quarreled, leading to a fight over the unpublished papers and memorabilia Jack left behind, and a regrettable subsequent muddle over his legacy. Hooper allegedly found Warnie Lewis trashing a huge cache of Jack's papers and took (stole? rescued? depends on who you read) them from the burn pile, later publishing them in various collections. Warnie responded by donating nearly everything else to a Protestant college in America, Wheaton College, which today houses the Marion E. Wade Collection, containing much material about Lewis and his fellow "Inklings."  That Walter Hooper later converted to Roman Catholicism and has opined that Lewis himself might have been close to conversion embittered the already personal controversy.  I won't go into the nastiness, and I'm grateful that Griffith sidesteps it.

Griffith also manages to be fair and sympathetic to both the controversial women in Lewis's life: Minto and Joy. Paddy Moore's mother, "Minto," was an older woman whom Lewis adopted as his own mother shortly after Minto's son, a friend of Lewis's, was killed in WWI (Jack Lewis had lost his own mother while still a child and missed her terribly). Jack supported both her and her daughter Maureen, even when Minto grew old and crochety and unpleasant. Warnie Lewis and Minto came to hate one another: Jack Lewis managed to love them both. Biographers tend to believe either Warnie's version or Jack's version of Minto's character. Griffith does an admirable job balancing the two and graciously omits the scurrilous speculation of later biographers who are unduly influenced by Warnie.

And then there's Helen Joy Davidman Gresham, the American poet exiled in England and dying of cancer, who began as a charity case and ended up marrying Jack Lewis, bringing him incredible happiness the final years of his life. Warnie liked Joy, so she gets a fair shake in most biographies. But some biographers suspect she seduced Lewis with her pushy American ways. (I personally find her endearing and funny: among her last words were, "Don't get me a posh coffin. Posh coffins are all rot." and "I am at peace with God.") No one can help but be moved by their late-in-life love story, which will I think, stand the test of time, and the canonization efforts of bad movies like Shadowlands. However, some Catholic admirers of Lewis suggest that it was her influence that stopped Lewis from converting to Catholicism. I find this unconvincing, and Griffiths gives evidence to the contrary: he reports that the Bishop of Oxford told Lewis that he could not marry Joy in the Anglican church because she had been previously married, and the Anglican Church was not permitting second marriages at that time (the 1950s). Lewis pleaded that Joy's previous marriage was to a man who was already married, so wouldn't that make her previous marriage invalid anyhow?  Bishop replied that while the Roman Church might give him an annulment on those grounds, Canterbury would not.  Griffith also cites Lewis's growing distress with Anglican theological dissent: in one case, Lewis even told an Anglican priest that if the Anglican Church ceases to believe in the miraculous, he would be forced to leave, and become a Roman Catholic.

I admit that the controversy of whether Lewis might have become Roman Catholic doesn't interest me as much as might be supposed. It doesn't affect my love for him as a writer, and although I sympathize with his friend J.R.R. Tolkien's frustration that Lewis didn't convert while alive (apparently Lewis was a very prejudiced Northern Irish Protestant--talk about baggage!), I find many reasons to value Lewis despite his non-conversion to my own church. Mere Christianity is one of the most important books I've ever read, outside of the Bible, and That Hideous Strength remains my favorite fictional work ever.  Plus I share Lewis's periodic experiences of mysterious phenomenon which he called "Joy" which still unsettles and enriches my life, and his autobiography Surprised by Joy, affected me deeply. When an author is able to help you make sense of a highly personal spiritual experience, you never cease to value them. Lewis connected the dots for me, and I will always be grateful.

So even though I did not read this biography until now, I highly recommend it, especially in the light of more polemical and personal biographies that have been published since that time. It's a most enjoyable read, and an excellent first biography for those who know the author's works but not the person of the author. Sometimes Lewis as a person will frustrate you, sometimes he will shock you, but in the end, his suffering and his abiding love for Christ and belief in Him overcome all the rest.

Clive Staples Lewis: A Dramatic Life: Harper & Row, 1986. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Kids & Teachers: Back-to-School Sale - 25% off on $75 or more purchase.

Back-to-School Sale!  Now through Labor Day!
25% off when you buy $75 or more!
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Back-to-School Sale! 25% off when you buy $75 or more!

Back-to-School Sale!
Now through Labor Day!

25% off when you buy $75+

Here's some ideas...
Get the first 5 Fairy Tale Novels at the discount price of $79 and get an additional $25% off!Only $59.25 for all five!

Or get the first 5 John Paul 2 High books at the discount price of $66 plus The Ball and the Cross ($20) or The Truth is Out There ($12.50) and get an additional 25% off your purchase!


Or get Catholic Philosopher Chick 1 & 2 plus I Am Margaret and The Three Most Wanted for $75 but with the 25% discount it's only $56.25!
Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut - by Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Regina Doman  I Am Margaret - by Corinna Turner 
Remember, with your purchase of the Fairy Tale Novels, John Paul 2 High, Catholic Philosopher Chick or the I Am Margaret series, you get the eBook versions FREE AUTOMATICALLY.

We now have some of our books organized by grade level.

We also have several Educator Resources available.  Some are FREE.

The Princess in Disguise Entries and Winners slide show:  View it on YouTube.

Wishing you a happy new school year!
Andrew & Regina
Chesterton Press
Shop Chesterton Press's Sale Now!

At a Fiction Writing Intensive I gave last month, some of the attendees asked about the Fairy Tale Novel Fan Forum.  I wanted to let folks know that the Forum is still around and doing well!  The Fairy Tale Novel Fan Forum was started by fans of my books over seven years ago and is a private moderated forum. To join you need to sign up and get approved, but it's a wonderful place for fans of Blanche, Rose, Bear, and Fish to discuss the books, play games, and get to know one another. So I hope you'll consider joining!

Here's the link.  
Coming soon: The Monks' Daily Bread!
And other new offerings from Chesterton Press: stay tuned!
Read Later
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Reviews and More: The Three Most Wanted - Corinna Turner - I Am Margaret Book 2

"These books are so good it took every ounce of self-control to not pick up book 2 until after writing my review of book 1 I Am Margaret It was worth the wait. This book continues immediately after book one. The story in some ways has a very different pace than book one. But it is a very tight story. A story about resistance, about friendship, betrayal, faith and a journey of 2000 kilometers and above all hope." Read More...Book Reviews and More: The Three Most Wanted - Corinna Turner - I Am Margaret Book 2:

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See all our Contest Entries!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

#5Faves: Contemporary Catholic Fiction-Writers Edition | Carolyn Astfalk

Carolyn Astfalk mentioned me in the company of some other really good Catholic authors in her blog post today!

#5Faves: Contemporary Catholic Fiction-Writers Edition | Carolyn Astfalk:

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Monday, August 24, 2015

"One of the Best Books I Have Read This Year..."

Steve McEveroy writes: "Sometimes it really pays to follow authors you really like. Regina Doman recently posted about this book, and it caught my attention. To be honest I had never heard of the author or the series. I am so glad it did. This is one of the best books I have read this year and the best new Catholic fiction author I have discovered in years! This book was incredible...." Read More

Book Reviews and More: I Am Margaret - Corinna Turner - I Am Margaret Boo...:

Price: $19.50 Now on sale for $14.50 at Chesterton Press.

Friday, August 21, 2015

And the Contest Winners!

Great Pictures, Wonderful Princesses!
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Celebrating 20 years of Fairy Tale Romance - Get 20% off your order today!
We were amazed by the many creative and beautiful and clever outfits posted or sent in by the fans of the Fairy Tale Novels as part of the first PRINCESS IN DISGUISE Contest. So a big THANK YOU to everyone who entered, and who put such love and effort into your effort. I'm afraid you made judging VERY difficult. 

There were some pictures that were not marked as public and thus not searchable which we didn't discover till after the deadline had passed, so sadly we were not able to include them in the contest. But the good news is that I think we had so much fun seeing the entries that we'll probably hold the contest again next summer, so those who were too late for this year's contest can have a jump on next year's!

If you'd like to see a full list of all the entries (including the ones who were not eligible including entries by my daughters Rose and Marygrace and by one of our contest judges Elenatintil) click here.

We selected three winners: a First Place Winner, a Second Place Winner, and a Third Place Winner, all of whom will win prizes.  

And since we had such a great selection, we wanted to call attention to the following entries who, although not prize-winners, definitely earned the title of Best in Category.  So, before we announce the winners, scroll down to see the description of each category and the outfit which we thought best exemplified that category.... 

Reading Poetry at Night:

At evenings at home, the Brier girls read poetry, drink tea, practice piano or violin, or just chat with their new friend Bear. What would you wear for a relaxing evening in the Brier apartment/cottage?
@shutupandreadwithme choose a comfy leather chair in cozy surroundings while wearing an earth-tone ensemble. She got extra points from us for reading a very "Brier" book of poetry. Great job!

Going to the Opera:

A surprise night out with a good friend -- what to wear? This is the dilemma Blanche and Rose face when Bear shows up on their doorstep with three tickets to the Met. What could you throw together for a surprise nighttime outing to an artistic destination?  Bonus for doing it in five minutes like Rose does! :)
Anna C.B. put together a number of wonderful ensembles but we loved this lacey red blouse for a surprise outing. @ayeseabee

Thrift Store Outing:

A trip downtown to browse flea markets and thrift stores in search of the perfect prom dress: what would you wear to go out shopping? What sort of outrageous outfits would you try on at a thrift store?  (“Remember, it’s no fun unless you try on something you know you won’t buy.”) Bonus for doing this category at an actual thrift store!

We received barely any entries for this category, but @hannah_whimsy had two entries, and we loved the blue sweater and colorful bag in this outfit, plus the mirror selfie.

The Unlikely Cinderellas:

Rose and Blanche both end up going to the senior prom - and have completely different adventures! What would you wear for a special occasion?  You can emulate Rose or Blanche’s prom outfit, or do something completely different!
There were a number of great entries in this category but we decided to go with Gina M.S. who looks stunning and statuesque in a red velvet dress and silver flowered necklace.

Saving Your Prince:

On the last day of school, the girls can wear whatever they want…but their last day of school ends up being a big adventure as Rose tracks down a murderer and rescues Fish, and Blanche makes a lonely journey to try to save Bear’s life… If you had to go on a sudden quest to save a life, what would you want to be seen wearing while doing it?
It was truly a dilemma to pick from all the creative entries in this category (including a very fun outfit by Jillian), but we agree that Emily Byrd S. has put together an outfit that is very "Blanche" (down to the signature key necklace). She also showed she knew how important it is to bring a good purse on a rescue mission.

Roses in Bloom:

At the end of the adventure, Rose and Blanche have a chance to dress up like princesses NOT in disguise to meet with their princes. If you had to show your true self as a princess, what would you wear?  What significant colors or items would you choose? Bonus for dressing up with a sister or friend!
Again, this was a hard choice, but we decided to choose Marya S., who selected a thrift-store find in royal blue-and-black, with a handmade wire-and-jewel crown. A princess no longer disguised indeed!

Ongoing Adventures:

What other outfits might Rose and Blanche wear that don’t fit into these categories? Post your own inspirations and creations here! Extra points for using thrift store finds or homemade items, just like Rose and Blanche did!
@hannah_whimsy's sister looked ahead to Rose's further adventures in Waking Rose ("I shall have twenty cats and talk to them all") by wearing a cat-print tunic with a very "Rose" scarf. 

And Now The Winners.

Third place: 
Miss Rose T. was inspired by "Roses in Bloom":
she is wearing a handmade Civil War-era ball gown. Truly all roses!
Second Place:
Inspiration: "Going to the Opera." Hannah reasoned that when you only have a few minutes to change, you can't go wrong with an elaborate brocade satin gown with simple accessories. A real inspiration!
First Place:
Inspiration: "Going to the Opera"
Sarah and her sister are ready for a night on the town in black velvet and red satin: we loved their complementary ensembles: truly theatrical with a "rose" signature! Congratulations Sarah!
View all Entries
So thank you again to all of you who entered, and watch for our video trailer of all the entries, finalists, and winners, which should be posted some time next week!

And don't forget that today is the LAST DAY of the Chesterton Press 20% off sale! You can get the Fairy Tale Novel eBooks for as low as $4.00 and the novels for as low as $12.00!  The 20% discount is automatically added to your order at checkout.

Thanks for reading about the winning entries in our Princess in Disguise contest, and happy browsing! 
Shop the Chesterton Press Sale!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Fairy Tale Novel Forum

Recently someone asked me if the Fairy Tale Novel Fan Forum still existed, and I answered: Yes! I wanted to post the link so that folks could find it again.

If you've never heard of the Forum before, the Fairy Tale Novel Fan Forum was started by fans of my books who wanted to connect and keep in touch.  It's a private, moderated forum staffed by wonderful young adults, where fans can discuss the books, play online games, and just get to know one another.

You need to sign up and be approved in order to join, but the link is here if you'd like to start the process. If you're a fan of Blanche, Rose, Fish, and Bear and the rest, I hope you'll consider joining!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Finalists in our Contest

We received so many amazing and delightful entries in the #PrincessinDisguiseFTN contest (and you can browse them all here) but today the staff of Chesterton Press voted on their favorites. While we still haven't picked our winners yet, we wanted to share the list of the finalists -- those contestants whose outfits received one vote or more.

We've enlisted a judge off-site to break the tie, and hopefully within the next 48 hours we'll be announcing the First Place, Second Place and Third Place winners, as well as Honorable Mentions for each of our seven categories from the entries below.

Stay tuned!  And congratulations to all our finalists!

Stay Tuned for Contest Results!

We are compiling the posts for the Princess in Disguise Contest and our judges will be making decisions soon... You can see all the entries we have collected so far here: if your entry is missing, email me ASAP and let me know!

In the meantime, enjoy this long blog post from one contestant showing all her entries in the Princess In Disguise Contest!

winged writings, feathered photos: to live is an awfully big adventure: Entries for the Princess in Disguise Contest #PrincessInDisguiseFTN    “Every once in a while you just have to decide to do something very...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Video Trailer of our Princess in Disguise Contest!

This video trailer features photos of some of the outfits already submitted by fans! Submit your own and join our contest!

Contest Entries so far!

We have nine days left in the #Princess in DisguiseFTN contest (click here to find the parameters and prizes!), and I wanted to post the entries we've found online so far!  If you've entered and your picture isn't up there, let us know.  You can also email entries to me, or post links to them in the comments section of this blog.

*Remember that although this is a photo contest, it's also a fashion contest, so we'd really love to see the outfits as well. So keep that in mind when deciding what photo to pick!*

Thanks so much to everyone who's entered, and remember you can enter as many times as you like, so keep on posting!  And please share this contest with a friend!

  Follow Regina's board Princess in Disguise contest on Pinterest.