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Great Free Ebook on Prayer and Holiness

I’ve been writing and revising my novel, which accounts for the long hiatus from this blog, but also reading things that I’ll eventually want to discuss here. Meanwhile, here is a very nice freebie for you that is worth reading: Connie Rossini’s Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life.

Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life, by Connie RossiniMany years ago, when I was first beginning to learn about prayer, I was drawn to contemplative spiritual writing: St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, The Cloud of Unknowing (as well as Brother Lawrence — not sure if he counts as contemplative, but I suspect he does). Although it has been quite a few years since I have read much of any of these, I must have absorbed a lot, which became the cornerstone of my spiritual life. I say this because when I read this little booklet, which summarizes insights gleaned from the great contemplative spiritual writers of the Carmelite Order, I recognized each point as the key lessons I’ve been learning for more than thirty-five years.

The overall lesson is that we are all called to holiness. Each. And. Every. One. “Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” A daunting task? As this little book points out, it’s not something that happens in a day, or a week, a month, but over the course of years, if we persevere.

If you’ve tried reading St Theresa of Avila or St John of the Cross but found them too intimidating, don’t give up. Start over, with this little booklet. You may find that you are already on the way, and farther along than you thought.

Updated! Freebie Redux and a Preview

free Kindle download, freebie
Get your free Kindle download
February 8 and 9

I’ve been doing more writing than reading lately, but I wanted you all to know that my Kindle ebook
on diatomaceous earth, “Mother Earth’s Best Kept Secret,” will be available as free download again for a couple of days, Saturday, 9 February, and Sunday, 10 February. There is also a paperback version available
, but that’ll cost you. (N. B.: Updated dates are correct!)

One book that I am reading — one of the few that isn’t about how to create a great plot or how to make your novel’s characters jump off the page — is Lorraine V. Murray’s The Abbess of Andalusia: Flannery O’Connor’s Spiritual Journey
(Kindle version
also available). I bought it a couple of years ago at the end of a months-long Flannery O’Connor pig-out, and never got it read. I hope to be giving you my take on Murray’s book later this month.

UPDATED My new e-booklet — please read! Free booklet for the asking!

Naturally Healthy Living with Diatomaceous Earth, cover, Lisa Nicholas, Ph.D.
New cover, print version coming!

I’m a reader and a writer. When I write, I try to write things I’d like to read. I’m a bit of a DIY nut, especially when it comes to my health, and one of the things I’m really interested in is finding ways to use more natural products around the house, to avoid toxic chemicals and to save some money by avoiding brand name products (there are a number of large manufacturers that I am always happy not to buy from). I do a lot of informal research on the internet regarding more natural ways to stay healthy, clean my home, etc., but I find that sometimes some really wild claims are made about things like raw honey, boric acid, etc. I find it rather irritating that reasonable claims about the valuable properties of such things are often all mixed up with really wild claims (cures cancer! pulls viruses out of the air!), so I decided to do a little more research and then write a little book about healthy, natural products for the home, with reasonable explanations of why and how they can safely be used around the house.

I haven’t finished the book (many other projects in hand!), but I decided to publish the one chapter already written as a stand-alone publication for the Amazon Kindle. I’ve done this really more as an opportunity to experiment in various ways to market a self-published ebook than for any other reason. But I need some help to learn how to “work the system,” and this is where you come in, dear readers!

You may know that Kindle users can download free samples of Kindle ebooks; the sample is always the first 15% of the book. Since my little booklet is so short, about the only thing in the sample (beyond the title page) is the first couple of paragraphs of the introduction and the table of contents, so I need some help giving potential buyers a better idea of the book. Therefore, I’m looking for some people to read the booklet, then post reader reviews on the Amazon website. (I’ll be watching to see the extent to which reviews affect sales.) Yes, I hope these reviews will say nice things about the booklet, but more important I hope they will mention specific things that seem good or helpful.

The book is called Naturally Healthy Living With Diatomaceous Earth (Simply Smarter Living).
If you would like to be one of my reviewers, and you are already both a Kindle owner and an Amazon Prime member, you can already borrow my book for free on Amazon (if you’re neither, you can purchase it and read it either on a Kindle or on one of the free Kindle reader apps you can download from Amazon.com). If you would like to get a free review copy (with the understanding that you will, in return, post a review on Amazon), please send a request by email to writernicholas [at] gmail [dot] com (put it in normal email address format, please, as in “joebloggs@fakemail.com”). In the subject line, just put “Catholic Reader Freebie,” and in the body of the email let me know if you would prefer Kindle format, epub (works on Nooks and other non-Kindle ereading devices), or PDF format (which you can read on your computer, or print out).

I will send a free copy in the electronic format of your choice to the first fifteen readers who request it, provided you promise to post a review on Amazon. I’ll also give you some specific questions you can address in your review (if you wish), to help you pinpoint specific things that you find helpful (or not). Later, when I finish the full-length book, I’ll give you credit (if you wish) for having helped me with my editing and marketing research. If you find any serious errors, I’d appreciate it if you would let me know privately and give me a chance to fix the problem, rather than just posting a bad review on Amazon.

UPDATE: To post an Amazon review, you must have a registered Amazon account, and have purchased at least one item. If you are not already an Amazon customer (gosh, why not? I do almost all my shopping on Amazon!), you can set up an account and then download a free Kindle book, which counts as a purchase, even though the price is $0.00. You can read the book in Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader (no software to install) or using their free Kindle for PC (or Mac, Android, etc.) application, if you don’t have a Kindle device. Click here to see a list of books currently free for Kindle.

More Free Catholic Books, from CatholiCity.com

These days, with the proliferation of ebooks, many of us are figuratively wading through heaps of free books. Twenty years ago, however, when the Mary Foundation and Saint Jude Media began giving away books, people thought they were crazy. Of course, Saint Jude Media was giving away actual, physical books, so there was considerable cost involved: typsetting, printing, binding, shipping and handling. Nonetheless, their books (also CDs) were available for free, although they did ask for a donation. I was heartened to see recently that they are still at it, on their CatholiCity web site.

CatholiCity.com is an apostolate dedicated to feeding the minds and edifying the souls of ordinary Catholics. On the website, there is a wealth of resources that serve this end: a number of talks on the Sacraments and the rosary, which can be ordered on CD, downloaded as podcasts, or listened to online; links to the latest Catholic news and commentary, prayers, devotions, the Baltimore Catechism, the new Catechism in “simplified” form, and lots more. If you are Catholic, or just interested in what the Catholic Church teaches and believes, you should take a look at this web site, and take advantage of the free information available there.

I haven’t yet mentioned my favorite things from Saint Jude Media, three free Catholic novels (paperbacks, not ebooks) by Bud Macfarlane Jr.:

  • Pierced by a Sword, recommended by Michael O’Brien, author of Father Elijah, who says: 

Get ready for a journey of epic proportions–rather, cosmic proportions.
This book is a little treasure, a marvel. This is an adventure, a
comedy, a tragedy, a turbulent odyssey and a peaceful stroll. Most of
all, this is a love story like no other I have ever read. A new kind of
love story.

  • Conceived without Sin, recommended by Thomas W. Case, author of Moonie Buddhist Catholic, who says:

One strange and wonderful thing about Bud Macfarlane’s storytelling is
that his people are so loved by the author that they grab you and hold
you. This novel is plainly a story of love and marriage and friendship
and conversion. Supernatural forces weave in and out, as they must do in
real stories of the faith.

  • House of Gold, recommended by John D. O’Brien, editor of Conceived Without Sin and Father Elijah, who says:
You won’t read a more timeless novel than House of Gold — even
if you are reading it one hundred years after it was first published. It
offers suffering. I know that sounds strange, but you will love the
suffering inside its pages. It’s honest, authentic, gut-wrenching. It’s
real. I believe this is Bud Macfarlane’s best work. It offers the Cross.
Can you take it?

 I read all of these years ago (late 1990s) when they first came out, and enjoyed them all. They have “sold” well (someone is paying for them, because Bud Macfarlane couldn’t have afforded to get more than 700,000 copies into print on his own), and reader reviews on sites like Amazon
and Goodreads are very positive. I’m glad to see that they are available in Kindle editions for just $2.00. I wish I’d known that a couple of weeks ago (it is not mentioned on the CatholicCity.com website), because I recently acquired new copies of the paperbacks. I love having my books in the Amazon cloud, and these are big, fat novels (more than 550 pages each) that take up a lot of space. Still, I know I won’t have any trouble finding friends to pass them on to; I might even recommend them to my book club for our 2013 line-up.

I won’t say too much about these novels now, because it’s been years since I read them and I don’t remember them well, except to say that I enjoyed them. However, I will review them here as I read them. Meanwhile, if you have read them and want to offer your thoughts, please click the comment link below!

Apocalypse and Alternate History: the novels of Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson

Now that so many people are reading books on electronic devices, more and more books are being made available in digital format. Since I became a Kindle owner a couple of years ago, I have really enjoyed dipping into the many old, out-of-copyright books that available to be downloaded at no cost. Project Gutenberg, which claims to be “the first producer of free electronic books (ebooks),” has for some years provided digitized versions of books in many formats, including those used on the Kindle and the Nook and other devices. Even more convenient for Kindle owners like myself is the fact that every time Project Gutenberg releases a “new” old (public domain) book, Amazon immediately publishes it for the Kindle at no cost. This provides an extra convenience for Kindle owners, since we can have it downloaded to our device automatically (cutting out a step, compared to acquiring it directly from Project Gutenberg) and we can keep the title in our library “cloud” when we don’t need or want to have it taking up space on our Kindles.

Robert Hugh Benson
Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson,
former Anglican, bestselling Catholic author

One of my favorite out-of-copyright authors whose books are available from Project Gutenberg is Robert Hugh Benson. On the PG site, you’ll find a number of his Catholic novels, written in the early years of the twentieth century. Google Books also has free downloads of his novels and short stories, as well as a fair number of his catechetical, apologetic, and homiletic works; both Project Gutenberg and Google Books also offer biographies of Benson (the Google one is in two volumes).

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Msgr. Benson, who was almost as popular in the early 1900s as Fulton Sheen would be fifty years later. Benson was the son of an (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, and himself was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1895. Within a few years, however, he became a Catholic priest and a very popular writer for both Catholic and Anglican audiences, producing many works of Catholic apologetics as well as novels in various genres — historical, speculative, and contemporary fiction, all with religious themes.


Benson has been enjoying a sort of literary comeback in recent years, with a number of small publishers bringing some of his better known works back to print, and a number of web sites are devoted to Benson & his works. I have read a few of his novels, having begun with his most famous one, Lord of the World (one of his few works still available in print editions). This novel has been described variously as being “dystopic,” “science fiction,” “speculative fiction,” “prophetic,” and “apocalyptic.” The latter is probably the most apt, because Benson presents a vision of the world as it may when the end times arrive, as described in the final book of the Bible (“The Revelation to St. John,” known traditionally to Catholics as “The Book of the Apocalypse”). Benson, writing in the early years of the twentieth century (Lord of the World was first published in 1907), was alarmed at the social trajectory of the modern, Western world, and wrote this novel, at least in part, as a warning of where things seemed to be headed. Projecting his story forward in time less than a century, he foresaw a world that had become radically secularized, a culture of death in which euthanasia has become so common that euthanasia squads, not ambulances, are sent to accident sites and euthanasia parlors have replaced nursing homes. Marriages are sterile, churches are empty, and a demagogue rules over an all-encompassing socialist world government. Most churches have become Masonic temples, and the few churches that remain are all Catholic. I won’t give away the ending, but if you’ve read the Book of Revelation, you probably know where it’s headed.

Strangely enough, Benson’s loyal readers were dismayed by this novel, complaining that it was too gloomy. Despite his insistence that it described the way the Bible assures us the world really will end, his fans urged him to write another end-of-times novel, with a happy ending and, very reluctantly, he did. The result was a novel called Dawn of All. In its introduction, Benson writes:

In a former book,
called “Lord of the World,” I attempted to sketch the kind of
developments a hundred years hence which, I thought, might reasonably be
expected if the present lines of what is called “modern thought” were
only prolonged far enough; and I was informed repeatedly that the effect
of the book was exceedingly depressing and discouraging to optimistic
Christians. In the present book I am attempting — also in parable form
— not in the least to withdraw anything that I said in the former, but
to follow up the other lines instead, and to sketch — again in parable
— the kind of developments, about sixty years hence which, I think, may
reasonably be expected should the opposite process begin, and ancient
thought (which has stood the test of centuries, and is, in a very
remarkable manner, being “rediscovered” by persons even more modern than
modernists) be prolonged instead. We are told occasionally by moralists
that we live in very critical times, by which they mean that they are
not sure whether their own side will win or not. In that sense no times
can ever be critical to Catholics, since Catholics are never in any kind
of doubt as to whether or no their side will win. But from another
point of view every period is a critical period, since every period has
within itself the conflict of two irreconcilable forces. It has been for
the sake of tracing out the kind of effects that, it seemed to me, each
side would experience in turn, should the other, at any rate for a
while, become dominant, that I have written these two books.

Benson also says that he found Dawn of All very tedious to write, because he knew it described a world that would never exist. To convey the idea that we shouldn’t ever expect to live in the world described, he has a priest from our real world find himself transported in a dream to an alternate reality, a world which, having found that socialism doesn’t work and the promises of modern philosophy are empty, has gradually been won back to the Catholic faith and public life has been put back under the influence of the Church. Protestantism has been reconciled to Rome, Ireland is one big religious retreat center (all the laity having been evacuated to America or somewhere), and the Inquisition once again keeps the world safe from heretics. In fact, the novel basically presents an idealized version of medieval Christendom, a world in which trade guilds (not labor unions) are prominent, and people are required in public to wear attire legally prescribed for their state in life and occupation. It’s an odd work of speculative fiction, and best read after Lord of the World.

NuEvan Press, Dawn of All, Robert Hugh Benson

Speaking of odd, NuEvanPress.com offers ebook versions of both these novels that, the publishers say, have been “gently edited” to make the books more palatable to modern readers. A cursory look at the samples available on Amazon doesn’t reveal any obvious updates, so I’m guessing the “gentle editing” was intended to help the edition conform to the Amazon rule that anyone desiring to publish a title in the public domain must provide “added value,” in order to make their edition distinct from the free ebooks that Amazon publishes. In addition to the “gentle editing,”  NuEvan Press also includes helpful subtitles (“A Catholic Novel of the End Times” and “A Visionary Novel of the Catholic Church Victorious”), as well as an appendix in each book, relevant to the content of the novel. The appendix to Lord of the World contains a selection of readings from the Church Fathers on the Antichrist; in Dawn of All, it’s the Fathers on “the preeminence of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”

I recommend any of Benson’s books, particularly the two mentioned here. Lord of the World provides the “Catholic answer” to the Left Behind novels, and Dawn of All presents a nice little fantasy that may provide a tonic in these days of the culture wars and the marginalization of religion. One caveat: the language will sound a bit formal or even old-fashioned, perhaps irritatingly so for some readers, so if that might be you, go ahead and plunk down $2.99 for the NuEvan Press e-editions; otherwise, just go for the freebies.

If you’ve already read these or other books by Robert Hugh Benson, please click the comment link, and let me know what you think!

Celebrate the Year of Faith with Free Catholic Books!

Some kind soul has created a web site for free Catholic devotionals and spiritual reading, available for download in PDF format. When you take a look, just keep scrolling down the page — there are LOTS of books, including some of the Fathers of the Church.

Books= good! Free=Good!! Catholic=GOOD! Free Catholic Books = what more could you ask? In the Year of Faith, plan to do some reading that will help you grow to an even deeper appreciation of your Catholic faith. These free books will help you do that.

By the way, you will also find free holy images (scanned prayer cards) that you can download in zipped folders.

Catholic Writers and the New Media



Catholic Writers Guild

A few weeks back, I took part in the wonderful synergy created by three
concurrent events, the Catholic
Writers Conference
, the Catholic New Media
, and the annual trade expo of the Catholic Marketing Network. I was
able to attend all of the talks of the writers’ conference, as well as the
third day of the New Media conference, which focused on blogging, and also had
several opportunities to stroll through the marketing trade show, meet the
vendors (who had an astonishing variety of products), and pick up a huge
assortment of freebies (mostly books – how could I pass up free books?!?).

I met lots of wonderful people, and got plenty of ideas – too many, really,
and it has taken me a couple of weeks to recover! There was a palpable feeling that we’ve arrived at a new moment in which the Catholic faith can be communicated to the world in a fresh, new way, thanks to modern technology and the new media.

One of the results of this
great experience is that I decided to revive and spiff up this blog – check out
the new banner image. When I got into the blog dashboard, I found that I had
over a dozen drafts of posts waiting for me to finish and post at some
opportune time (the most recent post, on poetic imagination, was one of these).
I’ve also decided to follow through on a project I’ve been considering for the
past six months, which seems particularly appropriate for the upcoming Year of
Faith and the national elections this fall – I’ll say more about that, and
you’ll notice a new page on this blog when I’m ready to roll with it.

Meanwhile, I thought I would simply acknowledge the many books I picked up
at the trade show (a couple signed by the authors,* all except the first two
were free). Click the links to read more from the books’ publishers; I’ll write
a short review of each one when I get a chance to look at them.