Defining Catholic Fiction – Dominic de Souza

I can’t think of a better way to end this series on defining Catholic fiction than an interview with Dominic de Souza, an author who has written a book on exactly this subject!

Dominic de Souza is a Catholic, American dad and novelist passionate about world-building, visual design, and epic fun. He writes, blogs and offers editing services at . He is also the author of several children’s books, including Sense of the Sacred: Illuminated Book of Catholic PrayersAnd now for Dominic.


Do you have a favorite Catholic fiction author?

I bit into Chesterton in my first year in college, and formed a fast friendship with his rambling, intense style. He has written a number of stories that break open the heart of a true Catholic soul rapt with the transcendent and the darkly human, and how grace works with both. While his language is certainly more Victorian, it’s a mental hauling up back to his level to enjoy the richness of his vision.
What qualifies an author’s fiction as Catholic fiction? How do you identify a novel as Catholic Fiction?


In a sense, any author, atheist or Christian, can write ‘Catholic fiction’. Let me explain. If we understand that Catholicism is religion instituted by Christ, and as God, it therefore encompasses every atom and attribute of this universe, whether of the world of angels, demons or men. Any story that is ultimately grounded in a universe as understood by God and expressed through the ordinary medium of His Church, counts as Catholic fiction, in a loose sense.

Obviously, this opens the door wide to a multitude of books and stories, and in the spirit of St Basil’s address to Youth on Greek literature, anything that praises the good and condemns the evil should be preserved, for this is a fundamental sigh of our souls, stemming from Heaven. The Church has always celebrated the good, true and beautiful wherever it is found, regardless of culture, time or place. So a book written by a modernist that inspires a deep appreciation for family, or honor, or some good value, can be more efficacious in the growth of goodness in the world compared to a poorly invented miracle story filled with Catholic religious.

Within the Catholic world, there is obviously a tighter definition of ‘Catholic fiction’, as something that can be overtly and – perhaps immediately – understood to be in support of our Creed and the culture in which the story is written. The Catholic convictions of the author guarantee for us that the story we are embarking on, or sharing with our children, is one that is safe, and won’t challenge our deeply held beliefs.

Flannery O’Connor is quite emphatic that good ‘Catholic fiction’ may well not be readable, or enjoyable by most Catholics. The idea that fiction written for Catholics should be less challenging is not necessarily accurate. While a Catholic author should always have a clear audience in mind, not everything written by a Catholic author should be readable by every Catholic. A reader has as much responsibility to be prepared to read what an author may provide him.


Do you think a book that doesn’t mention religion or Catholicism can be Catholic fiction?


Absolutely. In fact, in today’s world, with anti-Catholicism as the norm, Catholic authors may make far better headway in sharing the goodness of the Gospel by dramatizing evil and virtue, grace, goodness and the messy, sticky haul from sin to salvation. Some of the most popular shows on TV today are so popular because the heroes grapple with what are essentially Catholic understandings of goodness. ‘How do I matter? what should I do with my life? What is the meaning of family?”

Catholic Fiction is not dramatized evangelization. Leave the apologetics to the apologists. Fiction is an area of creative art where authors sub-create worlds, events and people to communicate an idea. Catholic authors have a greater responsibility to communicate the beauty of goodness and the detestability of evil, however they may choose to.

While a non-Catholic audience may be interested in stories of saints and nuns, priests and popes, they see them as strange artifacts of a dying super-religion. Perhaps that’s not the best starting point for a discussion. As always, a Catholic author must have a pretty clear idea of the audience he/she is writing for, and tailor their story accordingly.
What do you think separates secular fiction from Catholic fiction?


More often than not, secular fiction is similar to a sailor waking up alone in the middle of a shipwreck, sitting on an uncharted beach and surrounded by a wealth of washed up, disconnected artifacts, unintelligible scrolls, and remnants of ancient cultures. As he tries to create some sort of life and meaning, he pulls together random elements as they speak to him. Over time, trying to guess at the ‘real’ meaning behind these things, he tells himself stories based on his experiences and assumptions.

If the captain of the ship was around, he could tell him that this was one of many convoys from a great, Catholic empire. He could explain how all the pieces worked together, and read to him from the wealth of literature feeding his fires. Secular fiction is often in love with certain virtues, and rejects certain vices, but everything is unmoored from a single theology that makes sense of the world. Obviously, misunderstanding is rife, wrong assumptions become popular memes, and often misinformation goes viral because it fits the story that an anti-Christian culture is being told.

Secular fiction doesn’t know where to draw the line between good and evil, because it can’t decide on those definitions. Because of that, heroes, anti-heroes and villains are a confused mix of tropes, themes and theologies. All that being said, there are many excellent, excellent secular storytellers out there. We have only to look at the most popular stories in books and on television to see that they well know how to captivate an audience.

Good, Catholic fiction is grounded in an authentic understanding of the world, stemming from a deep familiar with the lure of sin, laments of lost graces and grappling for redemption. On the surface, Catholic fiction may not seem any more religious than secular fiction. It does quietly, or aggressively, advocate universal truths, delve into the core of the commandments written in all our hearts, and ultimately start a discussion, plant a seed, change a paradigm.
Do you identify your own novels as Catholic? What makes them so?


All of my novels are ‘Catholic’, in the sense that they are all born in a world built on Catholic theology, or dreamed up in a fantasy world inspired by our Faith. The spiritual war between goodness and evil is the foundation of all books, and a desire to learn more about the truth, to love goodness and promote beauty is the backbone of everything I write.
Are your books explicitly Catholic, or are they secular stories with Catholic themes?


Most of the material that I’ve been sharing is of the overtly Catholic kind, meant for an expressly Catholic audience. Some of the larger novels that I am working on will try to step away from such explicit Catholicism, to try to reach other audiences with the building blocks that make up our worldview.

I well may write ‘secular’ seeming stories in the future, and embrace the opportunity, but I believe that a Catholic author can write anything, and shouldn’t feel restricted to writing happy endings, fairy tales and Frank Capra-esque ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ riffs. So much of the light and beauty of Catholicism has been exorcised from popular culture. Modern culture is ripe for dark stories, and a Catholic author is the only kind I trust to tell those stories well without getting lost in the darkness.


how-to-be-a-catholic-author-3d-500-1 You can find How to be a Catholic Author free on Dominic’s blog. Look to the sidebar. And check out his children’s fiction while you’re there, including the companion coloring book for Sense of the Sacred!
 Thank you for joining us for this series. We would love to hear your thoughts on what makes Catholic fiction.

Defining Catholic Fiction – Amanda Lauer

Today we hear from author Amanda Lauer.

amanda-head-shotLauer is the co-author of Celebrate Appleton, A 150th Birthday Photo Album, and contributed to the books Expressions of ITP…Inside Stories, and Living Virtuously — Keeping Your Heart and Home. In addition to her writing career, Lauer has a passion for spreading the message of true health — physical, mental and financial.

Her first novel is A World Such as Heaven Intendedwhich is also the name of her blog.


Do you have a favorite Catholic fiction author?

That’s going to be a tough one because I have a lot of Catholic friends who are authors! But I will go with Ellen Gable (Hrkach), who is not only a very talented writer and copy editor, but is also my publisher. She and her husband James Hrkach own Full Quiver Publishing.

What qualifies an author’s fiction as Catholic fiction? How do you identify a novel as Catholic Fiction?

To me, any fiction novel written by a Catholic author could be considered Catholic fiction or a novel written by a non-Catholic could be Catholic fiction if there is some thread of Catholicism in the book, they’ve done their research on the Church and the faith, and Catholicism is painted in a positive light.

Catholic fiction novels can be identified if they are published by a Catholic publishing house, if they have received the Seal of Approval from the Catholic Writers Guild or another Catholic entity, or if they’ve won recognition such as the CALA award (Catholic Arts and Letters Award).

Do you think a book that doesn’t mention religion or Catholicism can be Catholic fiction?

Absolutely! Catholicism can be woven into a book without the word Catholic being used at all.  Look at The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series.

What do you think separates secular fiction from Catholic fiction?

For me, there are guidelines I follow writing Catholic fiction and lines in the sand that I will not cross. My books are historic romance novels but are not “bodice rippers.” While the trilogy I’m finishing is set during The Civil War, I don’t go into graphic detail about the horrors of war. My goal is to write novels that reflect my Catholic faith, are in line with Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teachings, can entertain and inform my readers, and that I would feel comfortable having my children and grandchildren read.

Do you identify your own novels as Catholic? What makes them so?

My novels are Catholic because that’s my perspective on life so it comes out in everything I write. The main characters in my books are Catholic but aren’t holier-than-thou. Like every Catholic, in any era, they struggle to stay true to their faith and to become the best version of themselves.

Are your books explicitly Catholic, or are they secular stories with Catholic themes?

a-world-such-as-heaven-intendedMy books aren’t explicitly Catholic — they are heart-warming stories of people who happen to be Catholic who are caught up in events going on around them in the course of history. While countless books have been written about these particular eras, like the Civil War, not many have been written from the Catholic perspective. Hopefully people learn more about the roots of the Catholic faith from reading my works. Perhaps this will inspire non-Catholics to study the Catholic faith to really learn what it’s all about after — it may change their perspective of Catholics and the Church.



What are some Catholic themes?

One particular Catholic theme that is near and dear to my heart is respect for life. But in general the books show how Catholicism is woven into everyday life for my characters — they go to church, go to confession, receive Communion, pray, have a devotion to the Blessed Mother. They acknowledge they are sinners but are looking to better themselves with the hope of getting themselves and the people they care about to heaven someday.

Tomorrow we hear from author Dominic de Souza. 

Defining Catholic Fiction – Jane Lebak

Today, we turn to author Jane Lebak for an answer to that question: What is Catholic Fiction?

Jane Ljane-lebakebak writes books and knits socks. She lives in the Swamp with her Patient Husband, four kids, three cats, and several fish tanks. She also blogs for, a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers.




Do you have a favorite Catholic fiction author?

My favorite currently-writing Catholic fiction author would have to be Karina Fabian. She creates in-depth characters whose faith is seamlessly woven into their lives while at the same time positioning these characters in fully-realized worlds.

What qualifies an author’s fiction as Catholic fiction? How do you identify a novel as Catholic Fiction?

I think Catholic fiction has elements of hope that are frequently lacking in secular fiction, plus an element of recognizing goodness in creation which sometimes is missing from mainline Christian fiction. Because the sacraments all have a material component, Catholics seem more embracing of all the physical aspects of our faith lives.

In fact, I think an awareness of the sacramental element of God’s plan is very definitive of Catholic fiction. Catholics tend to be very “sensual” in terms of relating to God because you can’t get much more physical than bread-become-God, putting it into your mouth and tasting it. God-made-flesh, or water that removes original sin, or any of the physical aspects of the sacraments fuel the Catholic understanding of God as inherently a part of creation. To some extent, all Catholic writers are going to imbue their fiction with an understanding that God is with us not just in spirit but in the world we inhabit.

Do you think a book that doesn’t mention religion or Catholicism can be Catholic fiction?

It can, and sneaking it in the back door definitely has its place. “Stealth evangelism” is mostly seed-planting. All the same, when I write secular fiction, I don’t try to market it as Christian even though there’s usually some moment when the characters are examining their belief system or intersect with someone who is Christian.

What do you think separates secular fiction from Catholic fiction?

An awareness of the moral components of our daily decisions. Catholics believe that our everyday decisions do matter: whether because they shape us for eternity or because they affect other souls. This isn’t absent from secular fiction, but in secular fiction, you’re more likely to find fiction that’s hopeless about the human condition or where the characters are fully self-centered. And in secular fiction, there isn’t always the sense that there’s something greater to be achieved than just personal fulfillment or personal growth.

Do you identify your own novels as Catholic? What makes them so?

Some of them, some of the time. Other times people are surprised, and I get reviews along the lines of “I’m an atheist, but I liked God the way she wrote Him.” Those are the best moments because I feel kind of like God used my story to show Himself to someone who doesn’t know Him yet. And if God used my story to plant seeds regarding the Church, then that’s wonderful.

Are your books explicitly Catholic, or are they secular stories with Catholic themes?

a-different-heroism-200x300-200x300The angel novels and the Father Jay novels are definitely Catholic, but that’s because the characters are angels and priests. Pickup Notes is not Catholic even though a Catholic wrote it, but I was specifically intending to keep that one for the secular market (and yet you have a Catholic character whose faith infuses her opinionated self, and a sense of connectedness to the world, and so on.) In the middle you have Honest And For True,, which while they have an angel and do raise spiritual questions, are primarily about fun and one person’s growth. That series straddles the line, and I’d hope anyone could enjoy it.


What are some Catholic themes?

Finding goodness in the world around us. Hope. Making a great impact with our small daily decisions. Staying true to our duties as a means of being malleable to God’s design. Mercy.

Tomorrow, we will hear from Amanda Lauer.

Defining Catholic Fiction – Tim Speer

Today we continue to answer the question: What is Catholic fiction? 

img001Tim Speer lives in Midland, Texas, with his beautiful wife. They have two grown children. His hobbies include hiking, photography, mineral collecting, and astronomy – essentially enjoying all of God’s creation from crystals that come from deep inside the earth, to celestial objects in the deepest regions of outer space.

Tim Speer’s highly rated first book, Return To Paradise, was published in April 2015.

Do you have a favorite Catholic fiction author?

Unfortunately, prior to writing my first book, I was unaware of the diverse amount Catholic fiction that was out there. As a result, my reading had been sadly lacking in this genre. I now have read several works of Catholic fiction and am continuing to read more. And although I have enjoyed all of them so far, I have not progressed to the point of having a favorite author.

What qualifies an author’s fiction as Catholic fiction? How do you identify a novel as Catholic fiction?

Catholic fiction should in one form or another present and promote Catholic beliefs and values.  If a novel presents Catholic beliefs, either through the direct actions of the characters, or through the events that take place, then it could be identified as Catholic fiction.

Do you think a book that doesn’t mention religion or Catholicism can be Catholic fiction?

Possibly, but I think it would be hard to do. It would have to convey Catholic belief systems in some manner. It’s possible this could be done through the actions of the characters or the events that take place, but again, I think it would be difficult to do without mentioning religion or Catholicism in some way.

What do you think separates secular fiction from Catholic fiction?

Secular fiction does not have any need to contain Catholic or religious elements. It could contain a certain amount of religious material; however, as soon as it promotes religious ideas it becomes religious fiction. And if it promotes Catholic ideas and beliefs, then it becomes Catholic fiction.

Do you identify your own novels as Catholic? What makes them so?

Yes. Both of my books contain characters that are Catholic. But beyond that, they introduce and present several Catholic beliefs such as: the real presence in the Eucharist, Adoration, the intercession of Mary, Confession, the Crucifix vs. the empty cross and other aspects of the Catholic faith.

Are your books explicitly Catholic, or are they secular stories with Catholic themes?

Seventy Times Seven

My first book, Return To Paradise, could have been written as a purely secular story. However, as written, it contains numerous Catholic themes. My second book, Seventy Times Seven, is definitely a Christian-based and themed story. It would not necessarily have to have been Catholic-based, as it is, but I think it would take away from it significantly if the Catholic content had not been included.

What are some Catholic themes?

General Christian themes include following God’s will, prayer and answer to prayer, forgiveness and redemption. As mentioned above, specific Catholic themes include the Eucharist, Adoration, the intercession of Mary, Confession, and the crucified Christ.

Tomorrow, we’ll hear from author Jane Lebak.

Defining Catholic Fiction -Carlos Carrasco

The question is asked at every Catholic writers’conference. What is Catholic fiction?  What qualities does a book need to qualify for that genre?

My own experience is with writing mysteries. While there is the obvious theme of good conquers evil, could these novels qualify as Catholic fiction? The characters are all lapsed Catholics who begin to recognize their faith throughout the series, even my pet psychic. That character raises eyebrows among Catholics, but I asked my parish priest before I took on the project, and his response was, “Well, we don’t really know how St. Francis communicated with the animals.”

I’ve asked several Catholic authors to help define the term. In this series, each author will respond to survey questions. My hope is that aspiring Catholic fiction authors will receive confidence and clarity from the answers!

carlos-carrascoWe begin our series with author Carlos Carrasco.

Carlos  was born in Havana Cuba in 1963. Since 1968 he has lived in the US, aimlessly bouncing from state to state and job to job. In 2013 he gave up his heathen ways and humbly entered the Catholic Church. At last he has come to rest on a five acre patch of South Carolina where he farms by day and writes by night.

Do you have a favorite Catholic fiction author?

Walker Percy. (Author of Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book)

What qualifies an author’s fiction as Catholic fiction? How do you identify a novel as Catholic Fiction?

It is set in an open-ended universe, even if its setting is limited; its outlook is hopeful even if the story ends in tragedy.

Do you think a book that doesn’t mention religion or Catholicism can be Catholic fiction?


What do you think separates secular fiction from Catholic fiction?

The author’s treatment of faith. A secularist would either dismiss or deride faith in his tale.

Do you identify your own novels as Catholic? What makes them so?

Yes, my works are explicitly Catholic. They contain Catholic characters pursuing and exploring Catholic themes and doctrines.


The House of War: Book One of The Omega Crusade, is a political thriller set in the near future. It is the story of a coup which topples the US Government and sets Christendom, Islam and Secularism on a cataclysmic collision course!

What are some Catholic themes?

Redemption, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, defending truth and beauty, evangelism, combating evil…

Tomorrow, we’ll hear from author Tim Speers. 

New Releases from Indie Catholic Authors!

Here are just a few of the new releases from Indie Catholic Authors!

Who are we? We are Catholics who have self-published or are considering self-publishing. Our fiction and non-fiction books are written with a Catholic worldview.

And now, for a sampling of our member’s new releases!


From Grief to Grace: The Journey from Tragedy to Triumph

From Grief to Grace“Grief touches all of our lives, but it does not have to paralyze us with fear or inaction. God allows suffering because He knows how powerful it can be to our spiritual lives and to helping us fully embrace His love and mercy. In this insightful and practical book, you’ll learn how to live a life of redemptive suffering that will draw you through grief into a state of tenacity, meaning, holiness, and joy.”

Author Jeannie Ewing is no stranger to suffering. Her family has long struggled with bipolar disorder and depression, and her baby daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder that caused her bones to prematurely fuse together. Despite the many layers of sadness, loss, confusion, and anger, Jeannie responded to God’s calling and transformed her life into one with profound purpose and joy.

Available from Sophia Institute Press

See Jeannie’s recent appearance on EWTN’s At Home with Jim and Joy.



ROSA SOLARosa Bernardi, an only child living with her Italian immigrant parents in 1960s Chicago, often feels alone, or SOLA, as her parents would say. But after she holds her best friend AnnaMaria’s baby brother for the first time, Rosa is sure that if she prays hard enough, God will send her a brother of her own. When Rosa’s prayers for a sibling are answered, she is overjoyed—until tragedy strikes. Rosa is left feeling more SOLA than ever, and wondering if her broken family will ever be whole again.

ROSA SOLA is a novel for ages 9 and up, 2015 recipient of the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval, and was named a BOOKLIST “Top Ten First Novel for Youth”.

Other acknowledgements include:

• Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2005
• Baltimore County Public Library Great Books for Kids, 2005
Booklist’s Top Ten First Novels for Youth, 2006
Chicago Tribune Read & Write 100 Great Books for Summertime or Anytime, 2006
• Chicago Public Schools 2007 Summer Reading List
• Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval, 2015

Links to buy this and other books by Carmela A. Martino are here.

Carmela is a published author and a writing teacher. She writes short stories, poetry, picture books, nonfiction, and novels for children and teens. Her first children’s novel, Rosa, Sola, is published by Candlewick Press.  She teaches at College of DuPage and Mayslake Peabody Estate (and will soon offer writing classes through Waubonsee Community College) and blogs at Teaching Authors.

Shattered Walls

Shattered WallsIt’s twenty years after the Resurrection, and rumors coming out of Hell are that Satan’s got a new weapon in development, only no one knows what it is. When the archangels Remiel and Zadkiel infiltrate Hell to learn the truth, they discover that new weapon only to unwittingly set it off. The weapon maims Belior, one of Satan’s highest-ranking demons, but also leaves Zadkiel blind and Remiel disabled.

The angels have a limited time to reverse the effects of the weapon, assuming it can be done at all, but that means sneaking back into Hell and confronting old enemies…old enemies who were once even older friends.

Remiel and Zadkiel seek refuge on Earth among the early Christian community and must at the same time avoid or disarm Belior, one of their deadliest enemies. Because like any predator, a wounded demon is twice as dangerous. And Belior knows they hold his only chance to save himself.

In the newest novel of the Seven Archangels saga, Jane Lebak packs action and heart into every page as the angels struggle to save their comrades, even at great personal cost.

This is book three in the Seven Archangel series and is available here.

Pickup Notes

Pickup NotesPlaying viola in her string quartet is the only joy in Joey’s life. It’s the reason she can tolerate her toxic family and her day job as a tollbooth operator. But the only reason Joey isn’t a “starving musician” is that peanut butter is cheap, and you can buy day-old bread for a dollar. Her quartet needs to start making money, and soon.

When a bride gets so drunk she forgets she hired a classical string quartet, Shreya stuns everyone by ripping off a guitar riff on her violin. Suddenly Harrison sees dollar signs in the air: they can fuse rock music with classical quartets, even if it means changing their entire repertoire.

But changing their playlist starts twisting the friendships the quartet members have formed with one another. Harrison promised that no matter what, they’d always have their music. But as the relationships begin cracking under the strain, it’s going to take a lot more than promises and a new repertoire to save the quartet.

In her newest novel, Jane Lebak explores the forces that keep a sensitive person silent and how the voices around you can help unleash the song of your heart.

Jane Lebak talks to angels, cats, and her kids. Only the angels listen to her, but the kids talk back. She lives in the Swamp, writing books and knitting socks, with the occasional foray into violin-playing. You’ll also find her blogging at,a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers.

Pickup Notes is available here.


Seventy Times Seven

Seventy Times SevenAfter first playing a hero and rescuing Amy from imminent danger in the wilderness, Michael agrees to help her again. This time providing legal help to try to save the Life Center that Amy manages. However, it may be Michael who is the one most in need of help. And however daunting his rescue of Amy may have been, Amy now faces an even more challenging task. She soon finds that Michael is haunted by a troubled past. And that he has undertaken a mission that she knows can only lead to darkness. While Michael saved her life, Amy must now try to help save Michael’s soul. To do so she will have to get him to face his past, to find and accept the forgiveness that not even he is willing to give himself, and more importantly, to forgive those who are the objects of the hatred he holds deep within him.

Tim Speer lives in Midland, Texas, with his beautiful wife. They have two grown children. His hobbies include hiking, photography, mineral collecting, and astronomy – essentially enjoying all of God’s creation from crystals that come from deep inside the earth, to celestial objects in the deepest regions of outer space.   

Available for purchase here.


Ebook Art on the Cheap with SketchbookPro

All those emails, “How to make money being an independent author,” I put into the trash. My metier is discussing science and Catholic teaching, and as editors have told me when they reject my submissions, “sorry–no market for that sort of thing.” Accordingly, I’m going to frame my first royalty check ($0.56 from Smashwords) and invest future royalties in do-it-yourself software for my ebooks. It will not be cost-effective to hire an illustrator for my book covers (the forthcoming royalties from the Kindle editions might just cover a stock cover).

So, I’ve explored software for graphics, and based on web reviews, decided to go with Sketchbook Pro, yearly license, $29.00. (There’s a free version with more limited function, Sketchbook, also available.) So far it’s worked well–I’m not an artist, nor a designer, but I’ve been able to use it for covers, illustrations and animations, all of which are useful in an ebook that deals with scientific stuff.

Here’s an analogy–someone skilled in computer graphics could really make Sketchbook do tricks, as you can see if you go to the YouTube demonstrations, like a lion tamer in the circus; my status is more like that of the guy who finally housebreaks his Pomeranian, after a month of cleaning-up.  (In other words, if I can do it, you can do it too and probably better.)


This is not going to be a how-to post; I’m not that expert and there are all the YouTube videos that can be explored. Rather, I’ll try to show how it works for  the cover of my forthcoming ebook, Top Down to Jesus, Book 3: Truth Can Not Contradict Truth, which discusses the non-existent war between science and the Church.   I’ve also used it for animations in the iBook edition of The Quantum Catholic.


Sketchbook works in layers, which is good for the tyro–you can goof up one layer and delete without having to scrap all the rest. The starting point is then a background layer. Here’s the one I chose for the third book of my series, Top Down to Jesus. 

IMAGE1 (2)
Background Layer for Cover

It uses several of the tools available in Sketchbook: color palette, radial gradient fill, cropping and image sizing.


Since I’m not an artist, I use free images, ones in the Public Domain, available either from Wikimedia Commons, obtained by doing a search, Wikimedia Commons image ???? (replace the question marks with the image subject).

My third book is on science and the Church,  so I wanted a cover that would show that God comes first–whence the hand of God creating DNA.   I took as one image Michelango’s “The Creation of Adam”…


IMAGE2 (2)
Michelangelo’s :The Creation of Adam”


and the other a DNA molecular model image of DNA.


IMAGE3 (2)
DNA Model from Wikimedia Commons


Each image is  put into a separate layer, placed, sized, cropped and trimmed with the Sketchbook tools to get a superposed image


The final step is putting title and author onto the cover.  Sketchbook has a number of font styles and sizes available, so there’s an embarrassment of riches… what to choose from!    I’ll show below two different styles;  I’ve not yet decided which I’ll use.



Any comments?

So, here are some very simple examples from a not-too-talented amateur.  I’m sure there are many of you readers who can train this dog (Sketchbook Pro) to do many more tricks.



Robert Kurland blogs at Reflections of a Catholic Scientist. His previous books in this series are Pascal Was Right! and The Quantum Catholic. He is a retired physicist, Extraordinary Minister of Communion, lector, and musician.He has also written for Catholic Stand.




The Product Funnel

Start a sales funnel for your books. (Photo courtesy of

Why do readers buy books? Someone who picks up your book, after all, is agreeing to invest hours of time in your universe, your language, and your vision. Most of us are short on time, not even to mention money, and there are millions of books. How to bring readers to your work?

I’ve been reading Write. Publish. Repeat. (which, by the way, I’m enthralled with. I love their approach) and the authors have an interesting proposition: the product funnel.

Most of us have heard of “loss leaders.” In retail, that’s when your local grocery store drops the price of milk below cost so they can lure you in the doors to buy overpriced hamburger meat and overpriced butter. The loss leader is commonplace in retail because it works: people will travel to get a perceived bargain, and then while they’re in the store, they pick up a few extra things to save time. The store is happy because it has your money; you’re happy because you saved a few dollars; you’re also happy because you saved a trip to another store.

A product funnel is similar to a loss leader in that you the author put it out there to get your reader in the door. Then once you’ve gotten the reader to look at your work, you’ve got a chance to convince the reader via your stellar writing and excellent storytelling to stick around and buy your other products.

First book free

The way this seems to work in publishing is for a writer to produce multiple books, usually books in a series but sometimes books linked by subject matter (category romances, for example.) The author then lists the first book in the series as a free book and promotes the heck out of the freebie.

Readers who have never heard of you might be willing to take a chance on a free book. Ideally, though, they’ll love your free book enough that at the end, when you show a picture of your next cover and a brief description, they’ll head over to their favorite retailer and pick up a copy of the next one.

Or, as the Write. Publish. Repeat. guys suggest, you could link them to a bundle of your entire series, available at a discount. See, you liked one volume. How about getting the next five books?

They also advocate running your first novel at $.99, since that’s cheap enough for an impulse buy but also is going to self-limit potential readers to people who are already okay with spending money on books.

I’ve begun trying to leverage this style of marketing for my own books. For example, my publisher for The Boys Upstairs has published a short story about the main character and made it free. (We also have a nifty cover and a cool title, which helps.) Every so often I drop by the forums for freebies and promote it there. I’m still releasing my Seven Archangels novels, but once every few months I try to make one of those titles cheap or free to attract new readers.

(Please note: I haven’t been doing this long enough to see an impact on sales. If you have been, let me know in the comments.)

The product funnel is, in effect, the free sample plus coupon combination you’d get at your local wholesale club. You’re giving a reader a risk-free chance to sample your work, and in return, the recipient may be giving you a longtime reader.


headshot smallJane Lebak talks to angels, cats, and her kids. Only the angels listen to her, but the kids talk back. She lives in the Swamp, writing books and knitting socks, with the occasional foray into violin-playing. You’ll also find her blogging at, a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers.

A Review of An Eye for Others: Dorothy Day, Journalist 1916-1917

The timing for An Eye for Others: Dorothy Day, Journalist 1916-1917 couldn’t be better.

On April 19, 2016, the Archdiocese of New York announced a canonical inquiry into Dorothy Day’s life. Currently a Servant of God, she is on the next step in the formal process of Sainthood. There are many ordinary people whose names we will never know who lived as saints, but Saint with a capital “S” would lift Dorothy to the role of an acknowledged example of how to live as a disciple of Christ. This inquiry will include a theological examination of her writings with an eye for doctrine and morals, and An Eye for Others is a good place for the curious layperson to start.

The book, written by Tom McDonough, covers Dorothy’s articles for The New York Call  and The Masses from 1916-1917. McDonough puts the articles in context by reporting on what Dorothy and New York were going through during the year leading up to World War I, sometimes in Dorothy’s own words from her later writings. This gives the reader a unique and personal perspective of an important moment in history.

A dedicated advocate of the poor, Dorothy lived a bohemian life with a string of lovers, an attempted suicide, and an abortion before she converted to Catholicism. Through her writings, the reader can understand the basis for her attraction to Socialism and similar ideologies as well as the disillusionment that caused her to later abandon them.

For one who is unfamiliar with her writings (and too familiar with the vitriolic rantings of many activists today) one of the most surprising characteristics found in her “voice” is the humor and wit with which she attacks her subject, often through a “Silly me, I should have known better” viewpoint that borders on comedy. One such example arises out of her time spent on the The Call’s Diet Squad, when she tried to live on $5 per week (about $100 in current money) in sympathy with the poor. She despairs of having spent $2.40 on weekly groceries — $0.58 more than the amount recommended by the Organized Charities:

“You are too extravagant,” said the Organized Charities…”You should not eat so much fruit, you should not eat so many potatoes, and you should eat butterine instead of butter…you have been gormandizing as much as four rolls at a time.”…

I left the office chastened. Yes, such reckless extravagance must cease.   

(from “Call’s Diet Squad is Accused of Gluttony by Experts” by Dorothy Day,  Friday, December 16, 1915)

The articles also bring to light some shocking reflections of the time, such as the amount of money the wealthy Astor family spent on their baby, while children all around New York were starving: $75 per day for baby Astor (almost $1,800 by today’s standards) as compared to $0.33 per day for the poor.

The poor were struggling to find work and to eat, while controlling corporations focused on price-gouging for profits, especially as the U.S. geared up for war. Dorothy passionately called out the hypocrisy embedded in the responses of politicians and the wealthy.

It was disheartening to find that some things never change. Workers were being left without jobs, having been replaced by machines. Today, those jobs go to computers or overseas. The left was committed to abortion as a solution to the poor, as if eradicating them would make their lives better. Mainstream media channels weren’t trusted, though, ironically, it was the left that feared they were controlled by the right. The media’s agenda for the most part has flipped from right to left these days, but the root fear that corporations controlled the message remains the same.

In the end, Dorothy realized that the various ideologies that first attracted her were in love with their way of thinking – without any real love for the person.

“I either want to retire from the world and study for the sake of acquiring wisdom or else I want to do something simple and useful.”

           (from The Eleventh Virgin by Dorothy Day)

Fortunately for us, she chose the latter and went on to join forces with Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a charity dedicated to the Works of Mercy and the God-given dignity of every human person.

Reading An Eye for Others won’t give you a full picture of Dorothy Day’s life, but it’s a great start to understanding the woman Pope Francis recently praised as an example of “a great American.” By the end of the Church’s investigation, I think we’ll find she was much more than that.


HeadshotJackie began her writing career in Illinois at a single-digit age when her favorite dog died in an accident. Though her focus is mystery novels, she also writes children’s books, short stories, the occasional non-fiction piece, and screenplays. She’s even turned a short story into a play, “Streetcar Named Death”, which she secretly hopes to see produced by community theaters around the world. She blogs at

Last day to register for Catholic Writers Guild Conference Online

Have you registered for next week’s Catholic Writers Guild Catholic Writers Conference Online? You need to register by midnight (Eastern) tonight!

Indie Catholic Authors members Connie Rossini, Jane Lebak. Ellen Gable Hrkach, Nancy Ward, Jeannie Ewing, Dennis McGeehan, Dawn Witzke, and A. J. Cattapan are all presenting.

  • Live conferences with video and slide presentations, via AnyMeeting.
  • Open chat between each pair of sessions, so you can get to know your fellow Catholic writers.
  • Pitch sessions with Catholic and secular publishers.
  • Everything will be recorded in case you miss a session.
  • Attend from your own home (in your p.j.s, if you like).
  • Only $40 for all 3 days–$25 for CWG members.
  • Sessions on fiction, non-fiction, general writing tips, self-publishing, promoting your work, and more.

March 4-6, 2016, morning to evening

A detailed schedule will follow your registration.

Register now!

A Catholic community for successful self-publishing