Monday, February 20, 2012

How Would You Like to Have a Main Coon Cat for a Writing Partner?

Carla Rossi has written everything from Christmas Pageants and school newsletters, to poetry, stage plays, and Christian music. After another thousand pages of humorous essays about friends and family, she completed a novel. In 2004, she joined RWA and her local chapter, and set about the business of learning to write romance. When she's not squirreled away in her office with her writing partner - a Main Coon cat - she's teaching Bible study or adding piano, bass and vocals to a worship band. Carla has three grown children, one grandson, and lives north of Houston with her husband and the muse cat.
Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog in anticipation of my March 2nd release of Unlikely Praise.  I can’t wait for everyone to meet Candi and Shade and spend some time with the worship team at fictional Cornerstone Fellowship in Texas.   

SKC How did you come to be a writer, Carla?

Carla    I’ve been scribbling notes and essays in pastel notebooks and fancy journals since I was a kid.  I didn’t think I could pull a whole book together.  It seemed like an overwhelming task to create entire worlds and build in-depth characters from scratch.  In 2004, I read about 25 romance novels in a week and started to think I could do it.  I joined some writing organizations and attended every workshop offered until I felt confident enough to just go for it.

SKC How long does it normally take you to write a book? 

Carla   It seems like lately it’s been taking me forever but, when I’m in a good rhythm and focused, it takes me about ten months.

SKC That's good timing. What kind of planning do you do before writing a novel?

Carla  I admit to being a plotter.  I usually have a very general outline of where I’m going and I know my characters pretty well before I start.  However, I am often surprised at where individual scenes end up – and that’s the fun part.

SKC Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft

Carla  I definitely edit as I go.  I write by scene and sometimes chapter.  Once complete, I let it rest for a day and then re-read for self-editing.  After that it goes to my critique partners.  We meet once a week and discuss each other’s work.  I tweak according to their suggestions and make what I call “repairs” (line edits).  Then I move on.

SKC What do you have within reach as you write? 

Carla  I have an office at home and that’s where my cat and I spend our time writing.  I sip tea and he rubs his nose in catnip.  I call him Saber the Maine Coon Muse Cat.  I’m not sure I could do this without him…

SKC In your opinion, what is the greatest danger or pitfall in the life of a writer? 

Carla   It’s easy to get discouraged and stop writing when those first rejection letters come.  We all think we’ve mastered the craft the first time we type “the end” on a manuscript.  Then about ten agents and editors or a contest judge assures us we haven’t mastered anything at all.  It’s hard to get back on the horse, but we must stick with it.  Like everything else, the old cliché – practice makes perfect.

 SKC Practice, indeed, does make perfect...eventually. If you could ask our readers anything what would it be?

Carla   From a personal standpoint, I appreciate everyone who reads my work and often wonder if any of the spiritual lessons I learned through writing the book and shared in the story have helped anyone else.  I also am very anxious to know if they had a laugh or two.  I tend to write funny and nothing makes me happier than when someone says they “get” my humor and laughed out loud.  One of my favorite fan encounters is when a lady actually brought her copy of my book to show me where she’d underlined the phrase that, when she read it out loud to her husband, caused him to snort coffee through his nose.  One of my happiest days as a writer.

In general, I like to hear from readers what they’re interested in.  Keeping up with market trends is nearly impossible.  I heard every agent and editor at a conference say they were all sick of reunion stories.  You know, the ones where high school sweethearts find each other again after twenty years and others like that.  Shortly after, I heard several readers say “Gee, I sure love those stories where people find each other after being separated…”  So who knows?  It’s mind-boggling.

SDC: Thank you for your willingness to donate a book. Please give us a brief blurb on it, and then be sure to leave us the information we need to contact you, and also to find you on your Facebook Author Page.

Contact info:
ISBN:  978-1-61116-142-7

Unlikely Praise:

Candi Canaberry has been the worship leader at Cornerstone Fellowship since the doors opened more than two years ago.   A lifetime church musician and instructor of music at the local community college, Candi has dedicated her life to praise and worship.  When Cornerstone explodes into mega-church territory, Candi is sure she’ll be the one to take her team to the next level…isn’t she the obvious choice?  Apparently not.  Church leadership has other ideas when they instruct her to take on a partner and share her duties.  But a one-time rocker with a metallic guitar and zero worship experience?  God must be kidding.

Recently saved Samuel “Shade” Blackledge is new to Cornerstone Fellowship.  He’s convinced a strong church family is what will help keep his head above water as he turns from things of the past and builds a new life.  An ex-rock guitarist, Shade is shocked when the pastor suggests he might be just what the worship team needs.  But could God really want a tattooed veteran of the club scene?  And what about his other secrets - not the least of which is a baby girl he’s never seen?

Worship practice has never been this eventful as Candi and Shade work their way toward each other… and Unlikely Praise.

From a personal standpoint, I appreciate everyone who reads my work and often wonder if any of the spiritual lessons I learned through writing the book and shared in the story have helped anyone else.

Monday, February 13, 2012

It's All About the Roarin' Twenties.

JoAnn Carter writes stories
that will encourage your faith
through her inspirational romances.
She resides in Vermont with her
wonderful husband and four children.
JoAnn is available for speaking engagements to book clubs, reader groups, library groups, women's ministry events, school events and church retreats.

You can visit JoAnn's webpage by going to

SKC:  Welcome JoAnn. I've been blessed to have had the opportunity to read your recent book. So good. What books or project are you hoping to tell us about this week?

JC:   Thanks so much, Shirley for your kind words. It's a pleasure to be here! Thanks too for the opportunity to tell you about the project that I've been having so much fun with. Mercies in Disguise is the second book in the Roarin' 20's series. Here's the concept:

Abigail Madison, a gentle quiet spirit, has always dreamed of a life away from her mother’s controlling ways. Even more than that, she’s dreamed of finding someone with whom she could share her life with. However, her shyness is often taken as aloofness and no marital prospects were anywhere to be found. What was to become of her hopes?

Stanley Fisher, the Steamboat pilot of the Ticonderoga, was drafted and fought in World War I. The experiences he lived though on the battlefield left him wounded -- but not in a way that the naked eye could see. Yet, when he meets Abigail, he yearns for a love like his best friend and Captain of the Ti, Philip found in Ellie. However, with his recurring nightmares from war, what does he have to offer to this special woman?

SKC:  Sounds really interesting. Tell us about two things you believe are the inspiration behind how you come up with the books you write?

JC: For this particular story, actually a Sunday School class was the catalyst for the inspiration behind Abigail's character. Combine that with a song by Laura Story, "Blessings" and there you have it – all the inspiration one could want. J Both these things made me stop and think. Often it's those difficult times and things we face in life that can bring about the greatest spiritual growth. 

SKC:  Tell us about some of the authors who have given you insight on how to express your own voice, and have taught you the most about development of style

JC:  Writing, at least for me, is a growing endeavor. My writing buddies are a special group of gals. Clare Revell, Anne Greene, and Therese Travis help me see some holes that I might have totally overlooked.

That being said, I think the greatest boost to my own writing skills has been gained by becoming an avid reader. J

SKC:  I could not agree more. When you are in the middle of series and deadlines, JoAnn, would you say it cramps your creativity, or enhance it, and why or why not?

JC: Hmm. This is an interesting question. To be honest, before this historical series, I never contracted a story that wasn't already written. Yet, I believe this new experience was a real Godsend. Had it not been for the contract, I think I would have walked away from writing this year. (Life at home with four boys from the age of 15-11 is busy.) Some days when there's not much time to think, my creativity suffers. But those days are great for the more mundane tasks such as editing, or publicity... that kind of thing.

SKC:  What for you is the KEY to writing a good book?

JC I believe I need to write to the best of my ability and then humbly accept correction and suggestions with an open mind and heart from those critiquing/editing my work. 

SKC:  After you finish your present project what plans outside of writing do you have, JoAnn?

JC: A few things come to mind. I'd really like to clean out our basement. When I'm in between projects I try to do something big that's been put off. J

Another thing is, our church is planning a summer mission trip with our youth group. As one of the leaders of this group, I've been praying and asking God if this is what He'd have me do as well.

And finally, we're home schooling our 7th grader this year. As this project finishes, I'd like to take him on a few year-end field trips to explore things we've studied.

SKC:  As we close, please let us know which book you plan to donate to one of our readers, and share a reflection question that deals with reading material, or writing techniques, or whatever else comes to your mind.

JC I'd love to donate a copy of the first book in the series, The Floating Palace.

Hmm. For the reflection bit... at the end of each story, I've been trying to leave the reader with a little bit of 'food for thought.' I'd love to share it with our guests if you don't mind and then leave them a question. So here it is...

What rich history the Pine Barren's of New Jersey holds. I'm looking forward to sharing more about this area, their customs, and the 1920's time-period with you in the third book in this Roarin’ 20’s series, Shifting Sands. For those of you who are history buffs you may be interested to know that the Fairview sanitarium was indeed established in the early 1920's in New Lisbon, N.J but not by a Dr. Reily, but rather by Marcus W. Newcomb, M.D. It was one of the first of several in the area. They truly believed the air, cedar water, and natural springs in the pines were beneficial to the ill. Fairview was just a few miles from the New Lisbon train station, situated a short distance away from the Burlington County Almshouse, where the Buttonwood Hall Hospital now resides on Pemberton - Browns Mills Road.

As for the town of Brown's Mills, the Pig'n Whistle, where Stanley resides in this story was actually in operation until a fire claimed the facility in 1972. This community has seen many changes since the year 1923. The Springs are no longer in operation, and the tourist population has depleted. Therefore, hotels like the Pig'n Whistle are not available, the sanitarium is long since gone, people are not excited to swim in cedar water, and Camp Dix is now part of a mega base, McGuire-Dix.

However, some things haven't changed over time. The pine trees still grow, scrawny, yet thick in the Pine Barrens. The sandy soil will always make growing grass a challenge, and I imagine that the blueberry bushes will always love to grow there. Likewise, although Abigail and Stanley are fictional characters set in the past, the lessons they learn and the truths revealed within their story remains the same and unchanged. God does often bring us "Mercies in Disguise." We may be tempted to identify ourselves from our experiences rather than who we are in Christ. It is my hope and prayer that this book will give you things to think about and that in some way this story has bless your heart.

So here's my question for A Pen For Your Thoughts followers, in what ways do you, or have you, sought to identify yourself?

SKC: That's a GREAT question. How can our readers find you and also locate your books?

Thanks again for having me here this week. It's an honor to share a spot on your blog!

Okay, readers. You see JoAnn's great question for you. 

We really look forward to seeing your responses. We will draw the winner's name randomly in the next few days. Hope you win!

Thursday, February 9, 2012




Southern Fried Sushi
By Jennifer Rogers Spinola
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-61626-364-5

Back Cover:

Ride the rollercoaster of Shiloh Jacobs’s life as her dreams derail, sending her on a downward spiral from the heights of an AP job in Tokyo to penniless in rural Virginia. Trapped in a world so  foreign to her sensibilities and surrounded by a quirky group of friends, will she break through her hardened prejudices before she loses those who want to help her? Can she find the key to what changed her estranged mother’s life so powerfully before her death that she became a different woman—and can it help Shiloh too?


Southern Fried Sushi is an intriguing combination of Tokyo, with its fast-paced lifestyle and elbow-to-elbow high rises, and the calm and peaceful lifestyle of America’s south. Shiloh’s life is an odd mixture of both, although she’s most comfortable amidst the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Or so she thinks, until a family tragedy sends her to a quaint town in Virginia. The fried food, collard greens, and mushy bread aren’t quite what she expected, but the people she meets along the way add palatability to her trip. Even draw her. This unexpected trip challenges her to see things and people differently, including her deceased, estranged mother.

I enjoyed Jennifer’s spunky writing and I found the dual settings unique. It was also fun to learn about Japanese culture, especially from one of their younger members. However, at times I felt this was overdone and forced. Personally, I found all the foreign words, which were often followed by definitions, distracting, but I imagine those intrigued by other cultures will enjoy this aspect of the novel. My interest wasn’t piqued until about forty pages in as much of the beginning presented conversations over various foods and other details that didn’t seem to contribute to the story. There were intriguing conflicts sprinkled in the early chapters, like Shiloh’s boyfriend troubles and a nearly missed deadline. However, I felt the long discourse offered in between detracted from the story. Once we got to Virginia, I caught a glimpse of Shilo’s true struggles and began to empathize with her.

Those who enjoy lighter fiction that centers on unique locations will love Southern Fried Sushi.



Saturday, February 4, 2012

Motivation? Have you got yours?

  By LoRee Peery

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light upon my path.” —Psalm 119:105

I can thank my mother and early school teachers for creating in me the love of words. Words motivate me to treasure God’s words in my heart. And, words can motivate me to write words of my own.

What motivates me to write? The love of words draws me deeper, and to ask questions. I search for the purpose of life, and a happily-ever-after for the characters I create, based on their spiritual growth as they seek the Lord’s will in their lives..

We hear a lot about motivation, especially regarding our characters. As a romance author, I need to discover what motivates my hero and heroine, what drives them.
So what exactly is motivation?

According to Webster’s it’s “a systematic and scientific analysis of the forces influencing people so as to control the making of their decisions.”

As a Christian, I have scriptural principles regarding motivation. I must serve the Lord wholeheartedly and I sometimes fear I have failed in my productivity due to laziness, my own mediocrity, or my lack of studying craft. But I still strive for the attitude of perfection so I won’t embarrass the kingdom of God. In all that I do, I should believe that I am working wholeheartedly for the Lord (Colossians 3:23), trying to please Him rather than the people I come in contact with.

Rodale’s Synonym Finder, which I use instead of a thesaurus, lists motivation as a synonym for the noun motivate (also incentive, inducement). I could say, “no duh” here.

Motivate as a verb lists many words that pull different mind pictures: move, prompt, actuate, incite, provoke, prick; rouse, arouse, stir up, excite. And the vernacular: turn on, set on fire, kindle, enkindle, inflame, fire up, light a fire under, get going or moving; instigate, start, trigger, bring on, cause; cause to do, make do, impel, drive, force, railroad;  propel, push, shove, give a kick or boot; spur, prod, goad, egg on, urge or urge on, encourage; coax, wheedle, cajole, twist around one’s little finger, manipulate, influence; persuade, talk into, convince, bring around.

Whew! Get the picture of how I can get lost in words?

The most challenging for me as a writer came from If I Can Write, You Can Write by Charlie Shedd. It’s probably one of the first books on writing I purchased. He asks the reader/writer: What are you burning with?

Answer this question for yourself. When you write from a caring heart, the writing is not such hard work. You’ll also write with greater clarity and be more helpful to your reader. Next questions: what is first among my concerns? What do I care most about? What’s number one on my agenda?

John-Roger and Peter McWilliams refer to motivation as a WANT or a Heart’s Desire in DO IT! Let’s Get off Our Buts.

Motivation is the reason why a character does something (no duh again). Motivation must arise from a combination of the character’s personality, physical and psychological characteristics, past experiences, and moral nature, as well as from the specific situation in which he happens to find himself. When the character’s motivation seems real or plausible, his action seems convincing; otherwise, the plot may seem phony or arbitrary. —Laurie Henry, The Fiction Dictionary

I have several more quotes on motivation, a topic often found in writing character-driven stories. For this group of words, I’ll close with another quote from the foremost Author in the world: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock, and My Redeemer.” —Psalm 19:14

Sage and Sweetgrass, book 3 in the Frivolities series, is scheduled for release February 24. (LoRee would love for you to check it out.)