Monday, April 27, 2009

A Day with Regina Doman

Regina Doman and her husband Andrew were up in my neck of the country this weekend and I was able to spend some time with them. It was a wonderful day. They are such cool and fun people, and over the past year and a half of running Regina's forum I've gotten to know them quite well. They are so godly and creative and kind and intelligent, it is just a joy to spend even a few hours with them.

Some of the other SOTB cast members were also able to meet them, which was very exciting. Regina signed books, and we watched part of the "Midnight Dancers" stage production that was performed this weekend by a talented group of young people. Then Regina and Andrew and a few of us went out to dinner.

It is such a blessing to me to have the chance to get to know this couple and their family. I so deeply love and appreciate Regina's books and it is such a wonderful thing to know that the people behind the books are even better than the books themselves.

For those of you who are Regina Doman fans, I want to draw your attention to some special things Regina had on sale this weekend. I know you have heard about some of them on the website and forum, but I thought I would give sort of a review here.

The t-shirts - You can order these off of Regina's website. I got a "Someday my Bear will come" one and was impressed by the quality of it. The fabric is very soft and durable, and the design is very nicely printed (in addition to just plain being a cool design).

The paper dolls - "Shadow of the Bear" paper dolls are finally for sale! I was able to get a copy simply to have and admire, since obviously I don't play with dolls anymore. The dresses are lovely and very true to the book. I was especially impressed by the school uniforms, and Blanche's prom dress. Regina has taken the drawings and packaged them into a very nice and professional book. One interesting feature is that on the back of every page is the actual text from the book which describes the dresses that the drawings are based on.

Andrew's story - those of you who are on the forum have read the story of how Regina and her husband Andrew met and married, written by Andrew. It is a sweet and uplifting story and now has been packaged into a small book that includes a few pictures of Regina and Andrew on their wedding day! I'm not yet sure how they are going to be marketing this, but if you can get your hands on it, I encourage you to do so. Even if you've already read it, it's just the sort of thing to pass around among your friends for encouragement.

Jewelry - Regina had some jewelry on sale that her aunt had made. Fish earrings, rose bracelets, and bracelets that incorporated the white (light pink, actually) and red roses, the bear's head and a fish. I thought this was a perfect way to show my loyalty to the books, so I picked up one of the bracelets. It really is darling! If you get a chance to ask Regina about them, I encourage you to do so.

Trespasses Against Us - ...will require its own post in the near future when I finish reading it.

Until then!

Thursday, April 23, 2009


So many things to do, so little time. So many posts to write, and yet what to write now?

I'm looking forwards to this summer. How about you? Summer is it's own special time, separated from Fall and Winter and Spring. We can do things in the summer that we can't do the rest of the year. Sports and musicals and mission trips and summer jobs...even those of us who are out of school find summer set apart.

So for that reason I love summer. It's magical. But my favorite season is without a doubt, spring. Birth and rebirth. Water, bound in ice all winter, released at last. Color leaping up everywhere like a painting coming to life. And all around, hope renewing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Page 301

After two and a half years of working on this story...and eight months of intense writing on this draft...I reached page 301 and the end of my epilogue.

What does this mean?

It means that the main structure of my novel is done. I still have rewriting to do, but the important things are all there.

So in a way, I "finished" my book today. It still hasn't quite sunk in yet. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown

One of the many benefits of having a Netflix subscription is that after ordering one movie, the website will bring up a list of other movies that they believe you will like. That is how I discovered this little film, "Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown."

We are all familiar with the image of the widowed Queen Victoria, wearing mourning from her beloved husband's death until the end of her own life. But we do not know how her extreme mourning affected her country, nor what the men around her did to bring her out of it.

"Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown" relates the friendship that Queen Victoria struck up with her husband's former servant, John Brown. Brown, a Scotsman, is honest and blunt and is not afraid to tell the Queen what he thinks. This is exactly what Her Majesty needs to rise above her melancholy and resume her place as monarch of the nation.

This is a charming film, with a well written script and delightful acting. Dame Judi Dench does a fantastic job as the widowed Queen, and Billy Connally an equally good job as the blustering John Brown. Lovers of English history and historical biopics in general will find this an interesting and worthwhile film.

It is rated PG and is fairly appropriete, save for a brief scene in which John Brown goes for a swim in the ocean and reveals some male back nudity. This, however, is easy to spot coming and can be skipped if there are any younger ones in the audience.

Finally, as I know some of you young ladies appreciate the acting of Gerard Butler, I'll reveal that he has a small, but delightful part in this film as the younger brother of John Brown.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Interview with Regina Doman!

A couple of weeks ago I asked Regina if I could do an interview with her on my blog. She very graciously agreed, and here it is! This is especially to promote her visits to the Milwaukee "Celebrate the Faith Homeschool Conferance" on April 24th and 25th, and to the Living Bread Bookstore in St. Paul Minnesota on the 26th. If you live near one of those areas, I highly encourage you to go and meet this really amazing woman.

*On the Fairy Tale Novels*
You recently announced on the Forum that your next novel is going to be titled "Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Hackers." Can you tell us a bit about that?

Well, I'm hoping to begin working on it in May, if possible! But I have no idea how long it will take me to finish it. I picture it as being a very light book, after the heavy issues of Waking Rose and Midnight Dancers. But then again, Waking Rose was supposed to be the light, fun book, so who knows what will happen in the writing? I'm planning to base it on the story from the Arabian Nights, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, which has always been one of my favorites. In that story, a servant girl saves the day, and Kateri Kovach is "playing the part" of the servant girl in my retelling.

Your first three Fairy Tale Novels dealt with primarily Catholic characters. However, in "The Midnight Dancers" you introduced a Protestant family and showed interaction between Protestant and Catholic characters. Was that a challange? What sort of response have you gotten to that?

It was fun to do a Protestant family. I actually could have made the Durhams Catholic, since I know Catholic families who have the same sort of struggles the Durhams have. However, since Durham-type Catholics are so rare, I thought it would take too much time to explain the family environment, so I decided on having them be from a small Protestant church instead. I had several Protestant friends read it, including a pastor, to make sure I was fair and accurate. The response from both Catholics and Protestants has been wonderful. I think that in a culture like ours, it's very easy to become suspicious of beauty, so I don't blame the Durhams for not understanding it. It's something we all have to learn.

Your Fan Forum has over 360 fairly dedicated members and we know you have many more devoted fans out there. What is your reaction to the fandom? How does it make you feel to have so many young people (and older ones too) adore your books in that way?

It's fairly wild. I never really particularly wanted or needed to be famous, so I suppose my reaction is, "Wow. Kind of cool." But I don't really need the attention. That being said, I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that people like my books and my characters. A book to me is like a child -- you raise it, you keep it at home and you take care of it, polish it up, teach it everything it needs to know, and then send it out into the world... Now in many senses, the books belong to you all, the readers. If you find them wonderful and fulfilling, then I'm very happy, because the books have done what I wanted them to do. I just hope I can do it again.

*On JP2H*

You are involved in the new Catholic Youth series, "John Paul 2 High." What is your role in that?

I've done everything but write the books myself, and sometimes I've even helped with that. As a result of being asked to come up with some Catholic teen fiction, I conceived the project as a way to help some talented Catholic writers I know get published, and to satisfy the need that many Catholic teens have for a fiction series they could call their own. I sold the idea to a publisher, Sophia Institute Press, and organized the writers into what became known as the John Paul 2 High team. We come up with the stories together and I assign writers to particular books -- then the writers have to do the tough work of the actual writing. Usually writers are solitary lonely workers, so I think our writers are happy to have a group to support them and encourage them to keep going. My role is to call meetings, hassle writers, edit and proofread and typeset the books -- and do as much promotion as I can. It's been unbelievably hard work, but fun too.

Book #2, "Trespasses Against Us" is due out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Wow, this book is pretty intense. It's probably among the three most intense books we have planned out thus far. It deals with quite a few issues -- everything from kissing to dating to anger to fighting evil. There were two team members who worked together to write this book, Christian Frank #2 and #3, and I think they did a tremendous, tremendous job. I'm trying to get them to write Book 4 for us next. (Christian Frank #1 is hard at work on Book 3.)

What are the plans for the future of this series?

My goal is that, using several writers writing simultaneously, we can publish three books a year. Right now we're far from achieving that, but I'll settle for one a year. I'd love it if Book 3 could come out this year, though. I have ideas for up to 21 books, and we could do more with it. It all depends on how people like the first books. But I love these characters, the John Paul 2 High kids, and I hope readers grow to love them too.

*On Writing*

What is your favorite writing enviroment? Are there rituals you do/things you need to have around to encourage the writing flow?

I'm actually laughing. Now that I have seven kids, I can't be picky about my rituals or the environment. To me the ideal time to write is -- whenever I have time to write! What's becoming clear to me is that I need a comptuer without email or internet access in order to actually write, so I don't get distracted. But I'll write any time I can find time. Early in the morning, late at night... sometimes during the day, if I need to. My husband works from home, so he helps take over the kids if I really need time to work. The reason I write late at night or early in the morning is so I don't have to be interrupted, not because of distractions or noise. I don't need silence to work: my computer is actually in the kitchen area, so I can hear the kids and what they're up to. I don't work on my novels every day: most days I am busy now with email and editing and homeschooling. When I work on a novel, I have to shut down the other things.

What books would you say have been most formative in your growth as a writer? Would you recommend them (or any others) to aspiring authors?

Three: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spiirt by St. Maximilian Kolbe (the latter is a compilation of his writings by another author). For me, philosophy and theology inspires my work more than any other kind of writing. I would definitely recommend them to other writers. For actual writing style, I've been influenced by The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle, and the enormous amount of poetry I've read all my life long. I believe poetry is really important to learning to love language. My favorite poet is the prophet Isaiah, but I also love T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, Chesterton, Tolkien, Keats, and many, many others. For many years, memorizing poetry was my hobby, and I still like to do it, when I have time.

As a Christain writer, but even more as a Catholic one, I'm sure there are a lot of challanges you face that a mainstream author does not. Could you tell us about some of them? What advice would you have for a young Christain/Catholic writer?

Oh, I don't know if my challenges are harder than other author's. Writing is difficult, no matter who you are. There are no easy ways out. My particular challenges are to try to reach a Catholic audience that has no cohesive Catholic culture or identity. Since they are lacking that, I can't use a common subculture ("hey I'm Catholic just like you, so enjoy my book") to entice them to enjoy my book: I have to impress them by my craft. But that's okay: a well-written book should be enjoyable to everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. So that's also my advice to young authors: there is no excuse not to apply yourself and learn how to write well. Don't try to cut corners for your Catholic or Christian readers: work hard to reach them and entertain them. And keep your eyes on Christ as you write. Let Him inspire you.

If you wrote a book that was not based on a fairy tale, do you have any idea what it would be about?

I'm actually working on one -- okay, three -- right now, based on the book of Genesis. I am actually planning a series of novels on the Old Testament: it'll be my next project. I'm very enthused about it. These books will probably be more for adults, but hopefully Fairy Tale Novel fans will enjoy them as well. Pray for me! I know that always helps me.

Many, many thanks to Regina for taking the time to answer my questions!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Household Exercise?

I was browsing through my sister's old "Brio" magazine (by Focus on the Family) this morning and came across some interesting exercise statistics.

Did you know...(because I didn't!)...that these household chores do burn calories?

(from Oct '07)

Making your bed: 68 calories
Changing the sheets on your bed: 73 calories
Dusting your bedroom furniture: 85 calories
Vacuuming: 119 calories
Rearranging the furniture: 204 calories

Washing the dishes: 78 calories
Cooking: 85 calories
Ironing: 78 calories
Sweeping with a broom: 112 calories
Scrubbing the floors: 129 calories
Washing the windows: 102 calories

Yard work: 170 calories
Gardening: 136 calories
Shoveling snow: 204 calories
Raking: 146 calories
Washing the car: 102 calories
Mowing the lawn: 187 calories

Carring an infant (up to 15 lbs) up and down stairs: 289 calories.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

For a laugh at Twilight...


The Normal Mormon Husbands Solve Edward
Posted by Twilight_News - 14/04/09 at 08:04 am

Well, at least they think they have solved Edward. For those of you who don’t remember the Normal Mormon Husbands, they are a group of LDS guys who for lack of a better term are self-described Twilight-Widowers. You’ve heard of football-widows, this is the gender reversal equivalent.

They have their own blog and have talked about Twilight before putting their own tongue-in-cheek spin on it such as The Cold Hard Truth About Edward and their Breaking Dawn spoofs.

Well now they think they finally have Edward figured all out.(*shakes head* guys, guys, guys…)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Plugging onwards...

So yesterday I was in need of some serious writing. Wednesday had been a doctor day, and all the writing I did was more or less editing and restructuring. But Thursday I was ready to plunge on forwards into the tantalizing final third of my book.

I say tantalizing because, really, it's the part I've been writing towards since the beginning. When I wrote out my outline (months and months and months ago) I had put the most detail into what I then thought would be the second half the book. Well, as I wrote things down and realized exactly how much space everything took, it became obvious that this part was going to take longer to reach than I expected.

However, at page 215 or thereabouts I reached the first piece of the extensively plotted section...and zoom da ze zoom. It's flying now.

I'm still surprised that I managed to write 18 pages yesterday. Maybe it was my dedicated mind, maybe it was the knowledge that I was finally getting to the "good stuff", or maybe it was just the coffee (I love the flavor "Irish Cream". It totally rocks). Whatever it was, I got a good portion done. Another hundred pages to go? Maybe. How long will it take me to get it done? Before the end of April, I hope.

And then starts the rewriting.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Water is amazing, isn't it? It can take so many forms- rain, streams, lakes, oceans, dew drops on the window...and it can do so many things: give life, take it away, bear ships across its body, provide inspiration for artists, and change the way we see the world.

I took this picture in the little stream that separates our barnyard from our forest. Actually, it's not really a stream. Technically it's a drainage ditch. You wouldn't think that a drainage ditch could produce something so beautiful, could you? And yet if I had just aimed my camera up at the sky, I never would have gotten the same colors, or twists and turns of lines. It is neither sky nor water, but a glorious, magical, mysterious meeting of the two and something else.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Between the Rock and the Hard Place.

I love writing novels. Like everything else in my life, I can't bear to do small projects. They have to be large endevors that will take me days and weeks and months and years to complete.

With writing in particular, I love stringing out a story, getting to know my characters, giving them space to talk - not just about the deeper matters of the universe, but about Star Wars and ice cream too- stringing out a complicated plot, writing detailed descriptions, and using every creative muscle I have to make my reader care about and understand my characters the way I do.

The problem is, there is always a point in writing a novel when I stop, stare at it, and start questioning whether it is really working. This is usually between the half-way and three-quarters point, which I find the hardest part of the book. A significant portion is already written, which means there is a great deal to live up to, stay consistant with, and remember - but the final action of the climax has not yet happened. As an author, I have to keep building towards the climax, but I can't write something that might upstage the climax. It's sort of like being between the proverbial rock and the hard place.

I'm torn between wanting to go back and whip the existing chapters into shape and wanting to press forwards and get the entire first draft completed. And it's hard to know what to do.

So what is my plan of action? (I rather hate those words, now that I come to think of it, but one must plan action if one is to accomplish something)

I believe I'm going to press onwards and get the book written. I may fuss around with my last chapter and rewrite it for the third time- or I may not. I'm at 200 pages now, with a goal of reaching at least 300. I've got to get about two or three more chapters out before I hit the climax. The good thing is that I know exactly what is going to go into those chapters. The climax was the best plotted part of the book. My hope is that once I get these final 100 pages written, it will give me new direction, focus and encouragement to go back and restructure/edit the middle of the book.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Magnifying God

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,"
~Luke 1:46-47, ESV

"Finally, brothers, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
~Philippians 4:8

I took a walk outside with a friend yesterday and we began to discuss the subject of artistic beauty. It started off as a discussion of colors, but then became an examination of where and how artists can find beauty.

We spoke of Tolkien's explanation of subcreation, and how man (artists) create because we are made in the image of God, and since God is a creator, we cannot help but imitate him by creating things.

And then we talked about beauty. Man cannot create beauty, he can only replicate something that God has already made.

However, I pointed out that sometimes a human work of art can seem even more beautiful than the original. For instance, we were walking around my yard behind my barn. It's spring and it's muddy and the leaves aren't out yet so it's pretty drab. If one was just walking, there wouldn't be much beauty in the sights around us. Yet just the day before, I had taken a camera and managed to find dozens of spots of beauty in the exact same drab places we were walking now.

What an artist really does, we then concluded, is to put a magnifying glass over the beauty that already exists. To draw it into focus, to illuminate it, to magnify God's creation. Whether it is a "Snapshot of random beauty," a painting, a song, or a piece of writing, what an artist does is to draw our attention to and highlight some beauty, truth, or even ugliness of the world.

We do not create these things (although we might create original paintings or clothing or music or stories, they are all based on things that already exist). Yet God gave us eyes, minds and an understanding of his creation so that we might highlight such things. That we might find the beauty in an old chain, the truth in a great tragedy, the ugliness in a life without meaning.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Snapshots of Random Beauty - April 2009 - Black and White

Here is the next installment of my series "Snapshots of Random Beauty" which is my way of finding the beauty in simple things. Something I think we all need to take the time to do more often.

Anyhow, my favorite pictures are the ones that transferred amazingly well into black and white - for some reason there was a lot of dramatic quality around today.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Too Much Snow!

When one wakes up and finds one's backyard completely blanketed with snow, one knows that nature has played the best April Fool's Day joke ever.

We did have some snow yesterday, and last year we were getting flurries up until the middle of April. But it is somewhat shocking to wake up at 8:30 in the morning and find the world completely white.