How to Find Good Catholic Reads

Copyright 2018 A.R.K. Watson. All rights reserved.

Last summer at the Catholic Writers Guild conference, I met two dynamic young Catholic women, M.S. Ocampo and A.R.K. Watson, who had just started up a new service, This website features a FREE email service that spotlights Catholic books (often, but not exclusively, by indie authors) and even tells you when those books are on sale. It’s my privilege to interview A.R.K. Watson about the team behind this unique and very helpful service. I’m a subscriber, and if you love to read, this free service is for you. Sign up today!

Tell us your story! What was your inspiration for starting this service?

We started Catholic Reads because as readers of fiction and genre books like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror we were tired of reading books where people of faith were poked fun at. As we began to find books by Catholic authors that explored our favorite themes and genres we had the natural book-nerd desire to share these stories and bring some much-deserved attention to the literary geniuses in our own age. Too often do people decry the current state of Catholic literature, longing for the glory days of Tolkien and Flannery O’Connor when they fail to realize that those never ended. People are still writing creative Catholic literature. Today it is just harder to find because those authors are often published through small presses or independently. We seek to correct that imbalance.

Who’s involved? Tell us about your team.

M.S. Ocampo covers our romance & YA books. If you want an explanation of the communion of Saints using almost entirely Marvel Superhero analogies you’ve got to read her blog.
S.Leigh Hall is a photographer and covers our memoir, nonfiction and children’s book categories. As a former teacher, she has a passion for making sure our church and school libraries have content for everyone, from the grade school student to the Ph.D. theologian.
Lori Wilson covers our fantasy genre and has an unusually strong intelligence for dissecting a book’s themes and symbolism.
Eric Postma is a recent addition to our team. He is a professional editor at and even edited one of the books that earned our Best of 2017 Award, Comet Dust. He covers our horror genre specifically but reads a wide range of books.
And then there is me. ARK WatsonAt a writer’s conference in an Ivy League campus, I was told that I could not have priests on my Martian landscape doing things like scientific research. Ever since I’ve been driven to change the rhetoric. I cover the sci-fi genre specifically.

Are your team members geographically close or is this a remote-team effort?

Catholic Reads grew out of the local Catholic Writer’s Guild here in Houston Texas and three of us are still located here but being an online business we have grown to include editors across the United States.

What genres/age group(s) does your service focus on?

Our group promotes books of all types, though we have a particular love for genre books like sci-fi, fantasy, YA, and horror. Too often these genres are decried as not literary enough but some of Catholic literature’s best books come from these. We also seek to correct an imbalance we see in the Catholic publishing world. Catholicism is a minority religion in America, so it makes sense that Catholic publishers would want to focus on theology, apologetics, and education, but this makes it hard for Catholic creative writers to find a platform. And often when bigger Catholic publishing houses publish fiction books they don’t always seem to know how to market them since much of their efforts are geared towards promoted nonfiction. Again, this is a good and positive thing, but we would like to help fill the cracks on this issue.

Is your service free of charge?

Our services are free of charge at the moment. We do not feel it is fair to charge authors until we have garnered enough subscribers to make their sales with us a more reliable investment. However, we are trying to find other avenues of income. We have joined Amazon associates, so any books bought through our website earns us a very very small commission. All of us have day jobs and are doing this simply because we love our faith and we love books and we want to give Catholic authors an advantage they sorely lack in the world.

How can readers sign up to find out about the deals?

Readers can sign up by going to and clicking the “subscribe” button at the top. We send out emails no more than once a week, each with a book that is marked down at least 50% off to free. It’s a cheap way to find great books and support Catholic authors.

What else would you like readers to know?

I would like your readers to know that they can be as nerdy as they like and still invest their life in Catholic culture and imagination. We might be a minority community but we still have a vibrant growing culture and there are practical affordable ways to support Catholic artists who do as much to change our culture as Catholic apologists. You can argue with someone until you’re blue in the face trying to prove that the Catholic Church is fair to women for instance but it’s much easier, much less preachy, to give them an adventure book about Rescue Sisters in Space and challenge them to come up with a book that breaks the Bechdel Test better than that. (That’s Discovery by Karina Fabian if you’re interested.)

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS


Be a Missionary: There’s an App for That!

Learn about a brand-new way to help the Church’s missions in far-off places, and TWO prizes you can win! I’ve got some swag to give away, and if you sign up soon, you can win a trip for two to Rome!

MISSIO, a unique new Catholic crowdfunding platform designed to make a difference for the poor and forgotten around the world, is now live at and on the MISSIO app. MISSIO’s revolutionary concept uses technology to directly connect people with a mission project they’re passionate about.

Originally launched by Pope Francis, MISSIO was created by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, the Pope’s official mission arm, which has been engaged in building up the Church and serving the poor for 200 years.

“Pope Francis has urged Catholics around the world to maintain a close and personal connection with the poor, just as Christ did,” said Oblate Father Andrew Small, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. “MISSIO helps you do just that.”

“MISSIO makes the Mission Church visible on your mobile phone or computer screen,” Father Andrew continued. “In a world where everything is so accessible – from deliveries to the sports scores – why shouldn’t your faith, your Church be that visible? MISSIO provides that space, one that is safe, trusted, transparent, reliable – and effective.”



Missio has a social-media presence as well as an app for iOS and Android. You can use Facebook Messenger to participate in a chat with Pope Francis! On Twitter, follow @1missionfamily.

Would you like to win some Missio swag? Just visit the Missio website or download the app, then leave a comment telling me what Missio project most interests you. You’ll be in the running to win a Missio coffee mug and T-shirt!

Giveaway open through 11:59 PM Eastern, February 1. Winner will be chosen by random drawing and notified by email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. If prize is unclaimed, alternate winner will be chosen.

Some content from this post was provided by All rights reserved. Images used with permission.

Tech Talk: Permission NOT Granted

Back when I was on Team Android, I used an app called SleepCycle as my alarm clock.

The idea behind this app is that you tell it what time you wake up, put the phone on your bed, and then it analyzes your sleep pattern based on movement, using the phone’s accelerometer, waking you up sometime in the half-hour before your target wake-up time, at a point when you were less likely to be in deep sleep. Hitting the snooze will cut the difference between current time and target wake-up time in half. Then you’d see a spiffy display showing your times of deep sleep and light sleep.*

I switched back to Team iPhone last winter, because diabetes-management software for iPhone is several months ahead of the same software for Android. Since I liked the app, I downloaded it to my new iPhone.

When I started up the app, it requested permission to use my device’s microphone. I found that puzzling. The app was really pushy about that, too. It will work with the accelerometer, but “recommends” microphone use. If you use the microphone you can leave the phone on your bedside table instead of on the bed.

"Tech Talk: Permission NOT Granted" @Franciscanmom
Via Pixabay (2016), CC0 Public Domain

I’m just not OK with granting access to my phone’s microphone to an alarm-clock app. How do I know that someone’s not on the other side of that microphone listening to what is said in my house–or anywhere else I happen to be with that phone in my hand? It creeps me out.

My friend Christine shared an article at Aleteia that shows that this issue isn’t limited to just alarm clocks. Facebook is listening in as well. Now, I don’t use the Facebook app on my phone or tablet. I look at it in the browser.

But the idea that any of my apps can eavesdrop on things? That’s disturbing.

To see who’s potentially “listening” on an iPhone, just go to Settings>>Privacy>>Microphone, to view the applications that have requested access to the microphone in your device. If you don’t like the idea of apps having access to your microphone, you can turn them off until needed.

To learn how to turn off your Facebook app in an iPhone or Android, click here. (Aleteia)

Check your settings, and think twice about what permissions you grant when you install an app.

*And about that display: I tested it once. I turned on the app during the day and left the phone in the bed, which was empty all day. It still showed an up-and-down pattern. So much for that super-duper analysis of my sleep.


This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Wrong-Number Rant

This week I’ve gotten 6 calls on my cell phone. Normally I use it as a texting and Internet machine, so when it actually rings,Image I’m always startled. And I always worry, because the only person who calls my cell phone is the school nurse, and that’s never good news.

6 calls, 6 wrong numbers.

Now, wrong numbers happen. But with so many, I was starting to wonder if someone deliberately gave out the wrong phone number to throw someone else off their trail…

My real issue with the whole thing is that no one is polite anymore when they dial a wrong number. What happened to, “I’m sorry for disturbing you”? What happened to, “I was trying to reach <insert number here>” which gives the person answering the opportunity to confirm that you misdialed?

Instead, you get Deny, Deny, Deny.

You get “OK.”

You get hung up on.

So parents, please teach the Cell-Phone Generation what polite people do when they dial a wrong number.

Don’t Put It All Out There

iphonefamilyios6_72Everybody with an Apple product is all about iOS7 right now. I’m waiting a bit–partly because I don’t have time today to babysit the new OS as it downloads, partly because I don’t feel like dealing with the learning curve that comes with it, and partly because I figure that if I wait a bit, everyone else will learn things the hard way and write articles about the things you should NOT do when you prepare to download the OS.

Plus I’ll get to play with it a bit, as Hubs put it on the iPad. (For the record, he already doesn’t like it, and he only used it for 5 minutes.)

In the meantime, I’m going to clean up some old stuff on my phone–and back everything up. That’s always a good place to start.

Whether your smartphone is Apple, Android or Windows, though, I’m Talking Tech over at today–on the subject of the kind of data we share online.

Bottom line:  be just as careful as you want your children to be.


Beat the Clock

Beat_the_Clock_logoWhen I was a little kid, I used to enjoy watching the game show Beat the Clock, in which teams would have to accomplish silly tasks within a certain time limit.

And I always wanted the game “Perfection.”

It’s all about a race against time.

In the past few weeks, I’ve started using the principles behind those games to my advantage when I’m working at my computer. Read more at…


R.I.P., Google Reader

Heads up! Tomorrow is the last day you can export your Google Reader feeds into another feed reader. Find out how!

feedly logoI think this is the third feed reader I’ve used since I started using readers around 2006. So maybe I’m the wrong person to advise you on this, but I’ve transitioned (more or less gracefully) to feedly.

That’s actually a topic for another day; I’ll be weighing in on the subject of feed readers in a week or so over at’s Tech Talk.

But if you use Google Reader right now, make sure to export your feeds so that whole list isn’t gone…forever…like Google Reader itself will be, very shortly.

Breaking up is hard to do.

Not User-Friendly

And now it’s time for my annual Re-Registration Rant.

It’s time to sign up Middle Sister for her senior year of high school. (All together now:  “She’s a senior ALREADY?”)

When registration time comes around, the school emails me a link to her account. (Full disclosure:  This account is not maintained by the school, but by the tuition-management service contracted by the diocese. None of the issues I encountered were things the school could have remedied or prevented.) In the email, it said that that if I signed in using this link, it would display my student’s information. So I signed in at the link, fortunately remembering my username and password.

I should have known I was in for it when I was asked to enter my returning student’s name, despite what the email from the school told me. After filling in that form, I came to a screen that instructed me to click the button labeled “Add Student”–this despite the fact that I’d already filled in the student’s name, and that a little link labeled “Start” was next to my daughter’s name. I followed the directions, though. Doing so took me back to the ADD screen, which I did not want.

Trying again, I clicked that “Start” link and continued registration.

The form remembers none of the information from previous registrations. Everything must be entered again.

Although I checked the box for “Married” after “Parents’ Marital Status” and then the box for “Child lives with both parents” I still could not go on until I filled in Custodial Parent Information. The form is set up so that I would have to designate one of us as Custodial and one as Non-custodial.

I called the customer-service number of the management company that handles the registration website, but I’d have had to wait 12 minutes to (maybe) speak to a person. That’s way too long to listen to cheesy “on-hold” music punctuated by smarmy messages reminding me how important my call is to them, so I bailed. I considered calling the school, as I’ve had to do at least once before when filling out this form and reaching this step. The whole process comes to a screeching halt because the system cannot deal with a child in a traditional two-parent household.

Then I noticed that underneath the boxed for “Name of Custodial Parent” and “Name of Non-custodial Parent” there was a check-box labeled “Not applicable.” The same was true for the addresses (and phone numbers) of the custodial and non-custodial parent. Several checked boxes later, I was able to proceed with the next step.

I’m quite sure that it’s not very hard to have those “Not applicable” boxes automatically fill in when the box “Child lives with both parents” is checked.

I was asked to fill in my student’s religion in two separate places. Similarly, I had to fill in the names of both parents, and our address, several times throughout the process.

If all this is tied to an account that I created years ago, why doesn’t it remember any of that information?

I did notice at the end, however, that it had my bank account number on file so it could easily and automatically deduct the registration deposit of $490. That was the only convenient part of the whole process.

That’s right:  it doesn’t remember my kid, my address, my phone number, my religion, or what to do when both parents live in the same house, but it’s got access to my checking account. That’s more than a little unsettling.

Guess What!

I totally forgot to talk about this, and I really should have said something TWO WEEKS AGO when it first happened, but I am one of a bunch of new contributors to the “Tech Talk” daily feature at!  (How cool is THAT?) 

I’ll be writing every other Tuesday about techie topics that are near and dear to my heart as a Catholic, a mom, a Secular Franciscan, a parent of teenagers…

I never considered myself a “Techie,” though I suppose the signs were all there.  My younger brother got a computer when I was in high school (a Radio Shack TRS-80, and if you’re old enough to know what that is, you’re close to my age).  I used that computer as much as he did, learning to write BASIC programs that would print my name 50 times and other useful things like that.  Senior year, I suffered through a half-year of trigonometry so I could enjoy a half-year computer class.  Never popular, I suddenly found myself in demand as students teamed up to work on projects and I was one of the few who knew how to make a computer print my name 50 times.

There wasn’t much wiggle room in college for me to take electives, but I took Intro to BASIC as my math requirement (more making computers print my name 50 times) and found room for a one-credit course on computer applications in education.

After two years of teaching, my career path took a turn for the educational-software industry, where I was paid to break software and tell non-English-speaking programmers what I did to break it so they could make the software student-proof.  (I rocked at that job.)  Eventually I freelanced for that company as a software author, writing lesson “scripts.”

Down the road, I learned about Internet message boards, blogging, Facebook, Twitter and more.  My husband (who’s been a computer programmer since 1995) has kept me in gadgets starting with my very first Palm PDA up through a Kindle, iPad and iPhone.

I enjoy using technology in a variety of ways and look forward to sharing my favorite apps, websites and more, every other Tuesday at  I also look forward to reading what the rest of the “Tech Talk” team shares, and am extremely grateful for this opportunity.

Today’s feature is Digital Prayer, in which I talk about the apps you can use to pray the Liturgy of the Hours.