Wednesday, March 31, 2010

30 Days of Superhero Posts

Here are the posts I did on superheroes during March.

1. There are real-world superheroes--costumes and all! Find them here:
2. Which superhero are you? Take the quiz:
3. The museum of Black superheroes:
4. Who can forget that superhero--Daffy Duck (Duck Dodgers)?
5. Here's a list of male superheroes, courtesy of Wikipedia. How many DON'T you recognize?
6. And now the list of superheroines:
7. Definitely my favorite superhero movies: and
8. A rant on movie superhero costumes. I agree--why put nipples on Batman's suit? What does he need to compensate for?
9. Speaking of really bad superhero costumes...
10. Ah, what I love to twist and snap: Superhero clichés:
11. More clichés: (ROFL--all superheroes are expert tailors)
12. This is different--a comic style review of Jews and Superheroes, discussing the Jewish origin of the superhero genre?
13. Why am I thinking Superheroes? Gapman is in the making! Here's a teaser:
14. Superheroes: Where they really are now:
15. Real life superheroes have a website--vids, how-tos, events...
16. Don't believe it? Here's CNN reporting on real superheroes.
17. Superheroes Anonymous is filming a documentary on real life superheroes:
18. Very funny movie about regular people becoming superheroes. (Bowler is exception--she's spooky!)
19. Love it! Superpowers ruined by science! Gotta consider these for Gapman:
20. You'll find anything in Wiki--even a list of superpowers:
21. So should superheroes be a little paunchy? Tell me your opinion:
22. Gapman's tummy tire? Survey taker says: "That's not fat, it's super-hero insulation and storage." Give your opinion:
23. Have you seen Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog? Love it!
24. Gapman fen say: "Gotta have something to hold on to in my fantasy of Gapman!" Give your opinion:
25. What's a superhero month without mentioning the Evil Overlord Don'ts List?
26. More on Gapman's tummy tire: "Try a muumuu, man! The spandex is NOT working." Give your opinion:
27. Need a name for your superhero persona?
28. Want to "go super" but can't decide on the details? The Superhero generator does it for you:
29. Mysterious Superhero surfaces, strikes fear into the heart of no one.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pitch Session Feedback: How NOT to impress a publisher

Let's talk about how to hurt yourself in a pitch.

Natalie Hanemann made this comment that every author should write out, stick on their computer, and refer to before sending out any piece of correspondence to an editor:

Publishers are looking for authors they can partner with.

A pitch session, even more than a query letter or proposal, is going to give that publisher the sense of how easy you are to work with. I already talked about the importance of reading the instructions and following the guidelines, practicing and polishing your pitch. These are the basics for any writer-editor relationship. Today, let's get into some nitty-gritty about professional attitude.

1. You are offering a product to a publisher; they are not providing a service to you. It is up to you to make sure your product is the highest quality you can make it and that it fits their needs. If you don't want to compromise and revise, then there are "independent publishers" and presses out there who are glad to publish your book for a fee.

2. Don't assume the publisher will be so impressed by you they will make an exception to their practices. They are not going to accept books outside their established genres or topics; they are not going to bend their guidelines to suit their needs. No matter how impressive you are, there are hundreds or thousands of authors out there with equally quality stuff that does meet their needs and specifications. Unless you are a major celebrity, don't expect special treatment.

3. Be patient with the process. We had one person who was in a hurry; however, he kept jumping the gun and moving back and forth between the two rooms, which only delayed the process more and added to the frustration of the group at large.

4. Don't expect the publisher to follow a link.
In one pitch, the person gave a link and then asked the publisher to refer to it while they posted their pitch. Fortunately, this publisher was savvy enough to be able to open two windows. However, many don't know how to do this. Further--the point is to sell them with what you offer there.

Incidentally, I saw an interview with an agent who said a pet peeve of his was e-queries that thought a website link was a good substitute for a well-done bio. "I don't have time to follow a bunch of links." You may offer it as "For more information..." but you must sell with what they see in the letter.

5. Don't get presumptuous. Just because you have the chance to pitch, does not mean you've gotten a contract.

One author asked in pitch if he could point out key insights in case the publisher "had to read the manuscript too fast." It doesn't matter how politely you try to word this, it still comes off insulting. First of all, the publisher had not accepted the manuscript or given any indication that they were interested. Second, how rude is it to assume that a publisher needs to be hand-held through the reading? Third, if you need to point out insights for the reader, then you have failed to make them clear in the text.

6. Don't get insulted by suggestions. Many of our publishers used some of the pitch time to give advice to those people whose manuscripts they didn't want or which they could tell needed some work. Most people took these with good grace. One person became irate at the thought that the publisher could suggest revision when they hadn't even read the book.

First, almost all manuscripts need revision. Second, this was a previously-published book written decades ago--the market and audience expectations have changed. Third, it's the editor's job to recognize problems in plot, approach, and audience. We had one author last year who told us her five minutes talking with a publisher gave her more insights into her story than hours with a paid (non-publisher) editor. These people know their business. And the publisher in question is one of the top in the field.

We had some issues with this in the critique groups, too. One person feeling she was torn apart; another arguing with the critique giver. None of our editors are there for a glory trip. They are genuinely trying to help. (Incidentally, the person who felt ripped apart is a new writer. She shared her concerns with us privately--the right way to handle the problem. Then, after she calmed down, she considered the critique and saw the editor's POV. Crits can hurt, but that's how a pro handles it.)

7. Keep your cool!
You can harbor all these attitudes in your heart, but if you let them take control of you in the pitch and lose your temper, you have burned a bridge. Don't scold or insult your editor--or the conference organizers who got you this opportunity. This more than any other mistake is going to hurt you the most.

Two things I want to add about conferences:

1. If you are pitching for a conference, don't pressure the coordinators to "use their contacts" to get you something or to make exceptions for you. Even if we are friends with the editors and agents in question--and usually we are not--we want to maintain a professional relationship.

2. If you don't plan to attend the conference outside of the pitch session, then don't bother. There are other people who are serious about learning about the craft who deserve the opportunity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Speed Bumps 2

I managed 850 words on Neeta Lyffe: Zombie Exterminator this week. They've come up against a zombie in the park--but wait! It's just a geeky fanboy. Neeta is not pleased. This weekend, if I get time, she's going to show him just how displeased she is.

Part of my slowdown is that the location wasn't working, but I think I got that worked around. Roscoe, my sensitive, high maintenance character, doesn't want to go in the thick underbrush, and after some consideration, Neeta decided it looked like a nice place to get ambushed. So they gas the area. Writing moral for the week: If you come across a snag in your story, it helps sometimes to just write anyway and see if your characters can figure it out for you.

Anyway, the rest of the week has been spent with sick kids, putting in the suggestions for Why God Matters and going through the final edits on Infinite Space, Infinite God II. Yay! I was starting to sweat getting that in time for the projected launch date. I still think it will be later in April, which is a bummer, because it messes up my chance for a launch party at Godspace. Maybe I can do it in late May or early June.

I also managed to get my DragonEye, PI newsletter done. Someone reminded me the March issue hadn't come out yet. You can read it at or if you're registered on my website, you can download it in PDF. This time, Grace talks about meeting Vern for the first time. He didn't make a good first impression.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pitch Session Feedback or How to Make a Good Impression wiht and Editor

We had a wonderful experience at the Catholic Writers Conference Online pitch sessions. We gave 66 authors seven minutes alone in a chat room with an editor to convince them to publish their book. Of those 66, only 12 got outright rejections--usually because the topic or genre isn't something they publish, or the angle or approach isn't right. We were blessed this year not only with some big-name Catholic publishers, but also some secular publishers and an agent.

This is a nerve-wracking process under the best of circumstances, but these authors did it in the new--and often unfamiliar--technology of the website chat room. We are very proud of them.

I'd like to share in a small series what people did right and what people did wrong, in hopes that some of you may learn from them should you ever have to the opportunity to pitch. First some rules of thumb:

1. Meet deadlines. Do I really need to say more? Well, one thing--if you don't get what you want because you missed a deadline, don't keep coming back asking for an exception to the rule.

2. Read and follow directions and guidelines: This really causes headaches more for the people organizing the pitch sessions than the editors, but it can put you in a bad light. Quite often, the biggest reason for rejection was the book did meet publisher's guidelines. Some were close--a few were far off.

Biggest problems in following directions this year:
--Fiction that is not complete. We stated this in our directions, yet many people registered then told us later that it wasn't done. It was too late to get more people, so we let them pitch, but it took a spot from someone else and is a no-no for the author without a track record.
--Already published books (self published, esp.) Despite the occasional success stories, publishers are not interested in a self-published work, unless it has a good track record (5000 is the rule of thumb.) Again, we allowed exceptions. They did not work well, and we won't do that again. If your book is previously published with another press and out of print, be sure you have all rights and a sales record to back it up.
--Not what the company publishes. Do not think that a publisher, however small or Catholic or kind, is going to make an exception for your book. Publishers have buyers with specific expectations--unless they are branching out (and they will say so in their guidelines), they will not accept something outside their area no matter how wonderful it is. For example--your spiritual handbook will not sell to the fiction publisher.
--Make sure you can attend. Pitch sessions were scheduled ahead of time. Emergencies are one thing, but asking if the publisher can reschedule for you is a no-no. They are giving us time from their busy schedule, and while we're all busy, too, they are the ones doing us the favor.
--Word count is outside the genre norm. Way too many of our books this year were too small or too large. The average novel is 80,000 to 100,000 words. After 100,000, it gets more expensive to produce.

In the CWCO's case, and I think for most pitch sessions, the editor, publisher or agent were very kind in making suggestions, but sometimes it meant a slot was taken that another author that did fit could have used.

3. Practice: Because we are dealing with an unfamiliar technology, we held several practice sessions so people could get used to chatting, copying and pasting, and even get critiqued on their pitches. The people who attended made significant improvements, were less nervous and sold their books more readily. It was also very obvious who did not attend.

4. Prepare: get your pitch critiqued. Check to find out what the publisher is interested in--and have some replies ready! We had some people who had answers ready for common questions (quick bio, experience, etc.) Some read up on the person or publisher they were pitching to. They rocked their pitch session.

5. Be receptive to what the publisher has to say. When the book was not right for a publisher, the person hearing the pitches (editor or the publisher himself), often took time to give advice. This is a golden opportunity to talk to someone in the trenches specifically about your book. One year, we had someone who didn't get accepted take that advice, applied it to his query letter and sold it to the next publisher he submitted to.

What if you don't do this? Check next Monday and find out.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Best Kind of Speed Bumps

Oops! Missed a post on my novel's journey with Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator. The book hit a speed bump last week, but the best kind. I was working on another book with my dad.

Most of you know that I was blessed with a quick deadline contract to write a small book called "Why God Matters and How to Recognize Him in Daily Life." It contains 14 stories of events from our lives and what those events taught us about faith.

I had decided to recruit my dad, Steve Lumbert, Deacon in the Catholic Church to help me because I thought the book needed a male POV. I figured since he wrote so many homilies, he'd have an easy time coming up with seven stories.

What I hadn't thought of was how different a 10-minute homily is from a 500-word story and lesson. He had some wonderful stories, but needed a lot of help on the format. So we spent an intense week on Yahoo IM, with him writing, me critiquing and offering different ideas, and him rewriting. I think he must be sick of me saying, "This is good, but what's the faith point you're making?"

Following the format given to us by the publisher, we started each story with a quote. Mine were quips from saints and celebrities; his were paragraphs from encyclicals and the Catechism. So we spent some time cutting down or finding new quotes for him.

However, I loved his idea of incorporating the Catechism. I think too many people think it's inaccessible, high-brow or for catechesis only. So we spent several hours combing the Catechism together to find paragraphs that fit our stories. We did the same thing with the Bible.

Dad, of course, wrote the prayer that opens the book.

It's done and edited and in the hands of my wonderful writing friends for critique. Dad is getting some folks to read it over as well, and his asking his friend Deacon Diteqwig, to write the forward. Hopefully, it will all be done in time for the May launch date. That means two book published this year: Infinite Space, Infinite God II (no set date yet, sorry!) and Why God Matters.

Next week, I go full-bore on Neeta Lyffe. I want to have it done by May. I also have school planners to write (need 10 Bible stories. Then Gapman. Then Discovery. Somewhere in there, I need to edit Mind Over Mind (waiting on the contract and editorial direction). Oh--and let's not forget we're moving to Utah! Where did the year go?

EEK! Not going to think about it. This weekend, I'm going to rest and recharge, happy in the fact that I got to write a book with my daddy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wrap-up of the Catholic Writers Conference Online

Short report of the Catholic Writers Conference Online.

First, some general stats:

--394 attendees
--49 presenters giving 20 forum workshops, 46 chats
--12 publishers hearing 66 pitches--54 of which were asked to submit more
--seven totally action-packed days (We took Saturday off)
--$460 in donations
--one person signed up for the live conference; several others have asked about volunteering


Monday morning exemplified the spirit of the conference. Our first four presentations were no-shows, for various reasons, but that was not why this event sticks with me. Rather, it was the way other people in the audience jumped in with "I know something about that topic!"and took the place of the scheduled presenter. We were able to still have informative chats. Even better, the presenters made up their chats later, so people who attended both got extra info from several points of view. Through the whole week, this spirit of giving of time and talent infused both chats and forums.

The crit workshops went very well. People got some expert advice, and in some of the groups, also critiqued each other's work as well.

Poets found kindred spirits in Dr. David Craig's crit workshop, and have asked if there's a way to continue their fellowship. I've set them up a forum in the CWG website, but they may decided to do something else instead or as well.

Lessons Learned:

Pitch sessions didn't go as smoothly as last year, perhaps because we had more people and because of the non-Catholic publishers, which I think confused some folks. Next year, we'll have a checklist people must turn in when they want to register to pitch asking specific questions regarding guidelines, directions, and procedures to ensure they read the material and gave it some thought. Also, I am blogging about the sessions and will post them on the CWCO website for people to read in preparation next year.

Again this year, forum workshops got small attendance. Most people said they didn't have time with the chats. Next year, then, we'll extend the conference, but separate the chats and the workshops:

Friday-Tues: Chats
Monday-Friday: workshops (and pitch sessions)
Note that there is overlap on Mon and Tues. This allows presenters who are doing chats and workshops to do both, and keeps people from forgetting the forums when the chats are done.

Presenters and authors giving pitches had trouble with the chat room software if they used a Mac computer. We are working on a how-to document for next year. (This is a Java issue, so changing chat room providers will not help.)

Thanks to all:

Once again, the CWCO was a success, not only in numbers and education, but in the camaraderie and spirit. More than once, I had someone tell me that they'd never known such a group of writers existed, or that they'd felt alone until they discovered this conference, or that the conference has given them much-needed encouragement. That's our goal in the CWCO, and we're so glad that we succeeded.

However, we know we didn't do it alone: presenters, moderators and attendees made this the fabulous experience it is. Thank you!

Karina Fabian
Ann Lewis

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator:Getting back to Writing

Some people a really good book is a roller coaster. Personally, I hate roller coasters. I prefer log rides: big buildup, exciting drop, a lot of really cool things to look at... The really good ones give you pyrotechnics toward the end that you have to "escape" by the long drop into the cool water at the end. I feel that way when I'm really into writing a book, too.

Now imagine how it feels when the ride stops in the middle, and the attendant makes you get out to ride the merry-go round and the tilt-a-whirl awhile before bringing you back to the ride, right where you left off, to finish your ride.

That's kind of how I'm feeling about Neeta Lyffe. I had to stop cold a couple of weeks ago in order to get ready for Rob's promotion, Amber's quinceanera, and of course the Catholic Writers Conference Online. All fantastic events that frankly, mean more to me than the book, but now they're done and it's time to get back on the log ride and the momentum is lost.

So how do I gain it back?

Reread. Going back will let me re-experience some of the excitement and remind myself where we were going.

Lots of authors do this--go back over the past couple of scenes of chapters and make tweaks or redo a scene. Not only does this get you back into the story, but (especially when you've been away awhile), you have a fresh perspective.

Re-imagine. I've gotten out of Neeta's Lyffe for a couple of weeks. I need to spend some time walking in her shoes, or rubber waders as the case may be, and swinging her chain saw.

Talk about it. Just sharing this with you is making me excited to write again. Time to get back into the log!

Pyrotechnics? Bring it on!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Worldbuilding and the Post-Apocolyptic story

I'm on vacation this week, so here are some thoughts on worldbuilding. BTW, there's still time to sign up for my worldbuilding class:

Every now and then in a worldbuilding class, or when people talk about their sci-fi, you'll hear a story that postulates a "mad Max" world. There's been a nuclear war (or some environmental catastrophe) and the entire world has degenerated to a pre-industrial state with horribly mutated humans and people again having to relearn technology...

I tend to cringe at these stories from a worldbuilding point of view, because I don't think the logic fits. Yesterday, Rob (my sweet husband) sent me some photos that show exactly why:

Hiroshima 64 years ago, when we dropped the bomb:

Hiroshima today:

Genetic mutations from radiation? Here are two articles from a 3-minute Google search:

More apparent in Chernobyl than Hiroshima (see last couple of paragraphs at

Here's a nice in-depth look at the effects of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What I got from it was that the effect was devastating for those exposed to the radiation of the blast and fallout--including the unborn. However, later generations were not affected.

The human race bounces back--technologically and biologically. "Blast them into the Stone Age" really is just a saying, IMHO.

My point here isn't to dis someone's story--Mad Max can be fun--but if you're writing a post-apocolyptic world that you want people to believe in, you're going to need to do some serious research and some real thinking about what it would take to knock us so low.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Playing catch-up on news

Playing Catch-Up on news

Wow! What an incredible 10 days I've had. Computer and company, party and promotion, and writing and learning! Here's the scoop:

Rob is a Colonel!
Rob got promoted to Colonel on Friday Feb 26. The ceremony was wonderful. His mom, my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, Chuck, my Aunt Margo and Uncle Dave attended. We also got a last-minute surprise when his Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary Ann were able to come, too. The kids and I had never met them--very sweet people. His friend Gerald "Crusty" Goodfellow officiated, and told all kinds of funny stories about our family--things he remembered Rob talking about at work years ago. It was a touching counterpoint to my blog about why we took the kids out of school to attend, and just hit home how important family is to my man.

Of course, the most touching part was when his mom pinned on the colonel's rank that had belonged to his father. Felix (now deceased) gave those eagles to Rob on the day of his commissioning, telling him he'd need them one day. More than that, though, he wrote to Rob every day of his Academy years, encouraging and advising. After Rob graduated and got commissioned, he called his father every time he had a problem or question, and even today, when faced with a challenge at work, he wonders, "How would Dad handle this?" Felix died shortly after Rob and I married, but he remains at Rob's side--and now, on his shoulders!

Amber's 15! Amber's quinceanera was a blast. As some of you know, she wanted a Steampunk theme for her party, and wanted everything low key--video games and movies rather than a big fancy dance that is traditional. We're just not a traditional family. Much of my time the week prior to Feb 27 was spent decorating tophats with gears, ribbons and feathers; making Amber's dress (Japanese style with a cumberbund for the steampunk look), and Victorian dress for my mother, sister, and myself. The night before the party, my mother-in-law decided she'd like one, too, so we adapted a prom dress I got at Goodwill for her. (We'd hoped she'd like the idea.) I also made a bustle for myself, which embarrassed Amber so much that I made one for my sister, too. She was Aunt Fanny and I was Momma Fanny. We couldn't get our husbands to entertain her friends by singing, "We like big butts," though. As Chuck put it, "Just who are we embarrassing?"

Most of her friends are not Hispanic or Catholic, and we did not click with the Church crowd this year, so we figured it'd be a small ceremony with family. My father, a deacon, did the blessing; Amber's godmother came and played the keyboard for the opening and closing hymns, and she and her daughter sang a special song for Amber. My mom brought a garden arch which we decorated with lights, flowers and fabric for the blessing area. The dog even attended, sitting by Amber at one point, and greeting the guests.

The big surprise, however, was when most of Amber's friends showed up for the blessing ceremony! We filled our living room to capacity and filled with song. (This is an arts school, so most have had singing classes.) Passing of the Peace took 10 minutes as everyone hugged everyone! Amber was beaming like a new sun. Afterward, we old folk dressed in our costumes (The men had vests) and everyone else donned hats. As the ladies bustled about the kitchen cooking Chinese food, the kids played video games, shared YouTube, and just had a great time. (At one point, the men hid in Rob's study.) Amber's cake was a series of gears that took up half the table. As Amber unwrapped her gifts, squealing over each one, her grandmother remarked on how well her friends knew her.

The next day, her friends told her how awesome her party was. I know she'll remember it for a long time.

The Catholic Writers Conference Online is another huge success! Overall, things ran more smoothly, and when something unexpected happened--like a guest missed a chat--people in the audience jumped in to take their place and share their knowledge. Our presenters were awesome as usual, and I learned some interesting things. The crit groups, a new addition to the conference, proved a hit. We'll do those again next year. Next year, I also plan to extend the conference, but concentrate on chats at the beginning and forums at the end, with two days overlap. That way people can enjoy the chats and still have time to work the forums. There's just not enough time to do both simultaneously.

Next week, I'm going to start a series on lessons learned in the pitch sessions. We'll talk about Do's and Don’ts and what kind of things editors were looking for. Check back each Monday.

With all this, Neeta Lyffe has been getting the short end of the stick. I'm back to writing today. I'm also editing all of my dad's stories--he finished them all here!--and finishing off my own. Watch on Thursdays for that. I hope you all enjoyed Heidi's book tour. The book is amazing and perfect for kids. My goddaughter is reading it on her own and referring to it as well!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Novel's Journey: Neeta Lyffe, Zombie Exterminator: Format Fun

The fun thing about writing a parody of television is that you can play with the different formats the entertainment industry employs. Woven in with "living" scenes of Neeta's experience, I have blogs from her trainees, forums from the fans, even snippets from the radio. Today, however, I'm talking about documentaries.

Advantages: The documentary "The Zombie Syndrome" by Gary Opkast (writer for the reality TV show Zombie Death Extreme) has been a great way to weave in background information without the character Q&A. By scripting video clips with narration and interviews, I'm able to tell the reader about my world without telling them about my world.

Disadvantages: I'm going to need to brush up on my scriptwriting format, then decide how much to adapt it to narrative so I don't lose my reader. Also, I'm not always interested in the actual script as much as a portion--like my interview with Dr. Hansen. I've also got the challenge of making the visuals interesting enough while staying true to the minimalist format.

Here's a little from The Zombie Syndrome, which Gary is writing in the book:

Footage from movie of human ducking the swinging arms of a zombie.

NARRATOR: and the idea that they are slow to react? You can't count on it, as Darwin Award Winner Henry Stephens demonstrated.

ROY STAPLES, DARWIN AWARDS CHAIRMAN in his office. Pan room of different news articles of people dying stupid deaths, focus on "Man, 19, loses game of zombie tag; returns on the other side." As STAPLES speaks, segue over to video footage of 2019 AFEHV Winner.

STAPLES: Stephens and a couple of his frat brothers got drunk and decided it would make a great entry for America's Funniest Exteme Home Videos, the Danger Edition if they filmed a couple of them playing tag with zombies. After eating a garlic-and-anchovie pizza, they donned necklaces made from used sweatsocks they stole from the university football team and headed to the local cemetery, danced on a few graves, and managed to wake the dead in true FRAT fashion.

Stephens' partner in the game, Ed Grisson, developed stomach cramps and bowed out, saving his life. Shortly thereafter, Stephens tagged a zombie on the shoulder and dashed away--but not fast enough. The zombie, former quarterback for COLLEGE, tackled him and bit his neck through the sweatsocks. Stephens lost the game of tag, but he did win the 2019 Darwin Awards for using his stupidity to remove himself from the gene pool.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Review of My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories by Heidi Hess Saxton, illustrations by Natalie Carabetta

There's only one thing I don't like about My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories, compiled by Heidi Hess Saxton and illustrated by Natalie Carabetta:

It came out after my kids were older.

This is a compilation of 175 of the most important stories in the Bible, along with prayers and activities. Granted, there are plenty of Bible Story compilations out there. Several things set this one apart, especially for Catholics:

1. The stories are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Catholic Bible. This means you'll find stories from the Deuterocanonical books, like Sirach.

2. The stories are pulled verbatim from the Bible. While summaries or interpretations are okay for children, it's nice to see a Bible stories book that recognizes that children can understand the actual language of the Bible, and gives them the chance to appreciate the beauty of the language and the details of the story outside of Mass.

3. After each story, you not only find an activity idea but also suggested readings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church that apply to the story. Even better: if the story is one read during Mass, Heidi tells you what Sunday and what other verses are read that day. She also includes traditional Catholic prayers, sometimes with the story and sometimes with their own special page.

I know Heidi personally from our work on Catholic Writers Conferences Online, and have read her book, "Behold Your Mother." She was also editor of Canticle Magazine, a well-respected Catholic Women's online magazine. I know that she not only lives her faith, but thinks about it. She's also a very thorough researcher. I feel confident in the introductions she wrote for each story, as well as the extra facts dotted throughout the book.

The illustrations are marvelous: bright and simple enough to attract toddlers, yet realistic and interesting enough that parents won't feel like they're reading yet another "kiddie book."

Finally, Heidi set this compilation up for study as well as reading: in addition to the other Scripture readings and the Catechism, the prayers, and the suggested activities, it has indexes for topics, readings, and Catechism references. I would have adored this book for homeschooling.

I'll be honest: I didn't read the whole thing. My goddaughter was coming over to visit and I gave it to her. I am also planning on buying another copy for my other goddaughter and a copy for myself (to have for future grandchildren should I be so blessed.) I highly recommend this book for any Catholic parent or godparent of kids 2-10. (After 10, I recommend the Breakthrough Bible for Young Catholics.)

DISCLAIMER: The publisher sent me this book. It was a complete surprise, and as far as I'm concerned, a real blessing. I'm actually getting out of the book reviewing biz', but this one was so lovely and so well done, it deserved a review.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Interview with Heidi Hess Saxton

Heidi’s Bio

Heidi Hess Saxton is an adoptive mother, author of five books, and founder of the “Extraordinary Moms Network,” an online resource for parents of adopted, foster, and special-needs children. Heidi became Catholic in 1994 after thirty years in the Evangelical tradition, and has combined her love of Scripture and Church Tradition in her latest book, My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories (Thomas Nelson).

There are so many Bible Story Books out there--why did you want to compile this book?

Thomas Nelson approached me to do this project because they felt the book in which these gorgeous illustrations originally appeared had run its course, and they rightly believed that the images were too beautiful to keep out of circulation.

I was interested in the project because I saw it as an opportunity to integrate the richness of our faith – how layers of truth may be found in the stories of the Bible, layers that can enrich the souls of entire families. St. Jerome, quoted in Dei Verbum, spoke of the “senses of Scripture” – of all the layers of meaning found in the Bible. I wrote this book to help Catholic and other Christian families go on their own spiritual “treasure hunt.” When pondered through the lens of the Catechism and other writings of the saints, and saturated in prayer and liturgy, the Scriptures really come alive!

I love the links to the Catechism, the Mass, and daily living. How did you come up with the idea to include that?

Mackenzie Howard, the amazing and hardworking editor who approached me to do the project, suggested that we might include sidebars – although she wasn’t familiar with the particular resources available to Catholic Christians, or understand how we use them in understanding Scripture. However, she quickly saw the potential for including them in the book. I’ve also included a number of helpful online resources on a special page on “Extraordinary Moms Network.” Just click on the link on the upper right side on that site, and it will take you right to the page.

What was the easiest part of writing this book?

The easiest part was selecting the stories. I grew up with most of these stories, and was eager to showcase those that are especially meaningful to Catholic sensibilities – images of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and the communion of saints. These were old friends, arrayed in light and color and ready to visit!

What was hardest?

Honestly, the hardest part was for poor Mackenzie – after I created the index and table of contents using the special functions of Word, it turned out these functions didn’t translate into Mac for layout. So everything had to be checked and rechecked after the book was poured! (I helped, but I’m afraid she bore the lion’s share of the work on this.)

The other challenge was finding ways to illustrate stories that had not been included in the original book. The original book (compiled by someone who wasn’t Catholic), didn’t include all the stories that would be most important to Catholics, and so we had to “recycle” images from other parts of the book (or stories that were omitted for space). Overall, I think the publisher did a fantastic job!

What's next for you?

That’s hard to say. Our local paper recently asked me to become a contributor to their online paper, which is a great opportunity for me to cultivate a local readership. I’m also in the process of applying for a post-baccalaureate certification program, to become a teacher. This past year I’ve been spending a lot of time at my children’s school, and I’ve realized how much I enjoy interacting with children. This project was a broad “hint,” I think, of what God has in store for me!

My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories gave me an opportunity to reflect on how God led His people along many diverse paths: soldiers and leaders and teachers and parents and writers and musicians and doctors/healers. The lives of the saints also demonstrate that God uses people in all walks of life! I’m hoping that as families read this book together – the younger ones absorbing the stories and characters, the older ones applying the life truths to their own situations – many will take to heart the gentle whispers of the Spirit, and allow God to guide them in every area of their lives.

My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories
is available through your local bookstore, and Barnes& Autographed copies are available through my website: Be sure to check out my online resources for the book at EMN:

Monday, March 01, 2010

Touring My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories by Heidi Hess Saxton

Like I said when I closed my book blog, Virtual Book Tour de 'Net, I would now and again review or tour a book if it really caught my interest. This is the first time this year.

I received My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories in the mail from Thomas Nelson. It was a complete surprise. My friend and fabulous author, Heidi Hess Saxton, had requested I get a copy. I'm so glad she thought of me! The book is wonderful--a must for Catholic parents of young children. This week, I'm touring Heidi and her book. Today, I'll tell you a little about the book. Tomorrow, Heidi will tell us about writing it. Wednesday, I'll review it. Hope you stick around!

From the Thomas Nelson Website:

My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories is a Catholic family treasure!

With almost 200 stories, this book is an excellent resource for children and families to grow together in their faith and knowledge of Catholic tradition. It uses selections from the actual text of the highly respected and readable New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, including stories from the Deuterocanonical Books.

Along with stories from actual Bible text, My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories includes additional elements. Each of these elements will help encourage the child to talk to God, to understand the meaning of new words from the passage, to learn quotes from saints and other important figures, and to go deeper in their faith by cross-referencing the CCC and applying the lesson to their lives. With its thorough teaching of Catholic faith, Bible stories, and classic art, this Bible Storybook will be a welcome addition to Catholic homes, schools, and churches.