Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Yesterday, the idea of expectations was brought to my attention several times. In reading Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass, he stated:

“Start with each scene, chapter, or other unit you use to break up your manuscript. Rate the following: external actions, expectations vs. what happens, discovery, and change. Making a scene “better,” “tighter,” or “punchier” is an okay intention, but it’s imprecise. A more reliable path to high impact is to focus on the effect you seek. You’ll get it by directing expectations, building an emotional roadbed, working out what your characters will discover about themselves, and making sure that at the end something is distinctly different.” (page 57)

Because I had read this and managed to go through just a few scenes of my current manuscript, the idea of expectations was on my mind. Several moments throughout the day surprised me.

At Lowe’s, my youngest daughter said, “I want my new room to look like a princess room, a castle!” A slight pause, “Or like the Avengers headquarters.”

We rented the movie Into the Woods. By the cover, it looked like the typical broken fairy tale. Just the kind of movie I love. With several well-known actors cast, I actually drove a little further to rent it from a Redbox because for two weeks, the Redbox nearest us hadn’t carried it. Turns out, it’s a musical. You probably knew that. I hadn’t a clue. It wasn’t a goofy Mary Poppins style, but a little dark, fast-paced musical. Twists in the plot, unexpected deaths, and a Prince Charming who was “more charming than sincere,” I was surprised by the vast emotions it stirred. I laughed so hard I missed several lines, I cried at the lyrics in the songs sung by the mothers in the story, and I wondered if this was a waste of time or if watching the movie would improve my life. It was so unexpected, so gritty and yet so musical, I was entranced. Finding something entrancing is rarely a waste.

That is the trick to being effective – delivering the unexpected. I’m not advocating springing something unexpected just for the sake of shock or surprise (I picture reality TV, and I picture it in a mostly negative nature), but to strive to be effectively unexpected.

As a mother, I can create a unexpected and memorable memory for my children by setting aside the school work and household chores and spending the day on a city-wide exploration for the best playground. As a friend, I can surprise loved ones with a fully prepared dinner. As a writer, I can turn a character’s behavior on its head with a simple unexpected line, gesture, or decision.

As a blogger? I don’t know. This is a new concept for me. Give me time :)

A word of caution. Throwing the unexpected out – in writing or any other art form – can be a very distasteful flare if not done well and will class. The world is full of entertainment that casts out bits of surprises for shock value. Shock value never has moral value. Moral values are what the world is thirsty for. Let’s give the world what it needs instead of what sells. How’s that for a twist?

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The entire world wants something. Peace. Money. Fitness. Beauty. Happiness. True Love. Family. Joy.

What is it that you want more than anything? Write it down. Don’t just think it. Thoughts are fleeting and easily lost in the breezy whims of life. Seal it onto paper with ink.

Do you really want that? I mean REALLY want it? Is that the something that wakes you up during the night? Does thinking about that cause you to daydream? If you so, keep reading. If you aren’t sure, keep reading anyway. If you want it but don’t feel like it’s something you can achieve, then you definitely need to keep reading!

Let me preface this with a disclaimer–I want something too. I’m learning how to reach my dream by studying people who have already reached theirs and are onto their second, third, fourth or tenth dream levels.

What do I want? I want everything listed in the first line and Perfect Faith. I don’t ever want to doubt God’s plans for me. I also want to be the most successful Independent Author who walked the earth. Lofty? Sure. Possible? Absolutely! I mean, somebody has to be the best…why not me? Am I there? Certainly not today, but tomorrow, if I live today correctly, I’ll be closer.

As I’m learning from mentors and as I read books on success in business, leadership, and faith, I am continuously finding a common theme: Not everyone is capable of competing for what they want.

Competing for that ‘one thing’ doesn’t necessarily mean that people are in a race to ‘get there first’. My greatest opponents in that competition is usually me. I am my greatest naysayer, the perfect enemy, the one who really knows what I have and have not accomplished. If I talk myself into something, I can talk myself out of it just as easily. That’s why I believe that not everyone is capable of competing for what they want. It’s also why I don’t want to be in that incapable group.

When I think of the word capable, I think of ‘having the ability’. But my friend Webster describes it differently: “competent; gifted; skillful.” To have capability means to “have power”. My definition is weak, but seems to be accurate for today’s culture. According to my old thinking, to be capable means that I have the ability. There are many people in the world today who are capable of doing great things. We hear that often, particularly from frustrated teachers and parents: “I know he/she is capable, but he/she just doesn’t!”

I much prefer Webster’s definition. It’s forward in its meaning and implication. Taking each of the words in the definition, here is what it breaks down into:

Competent = properly qualified

Gifted = possessing natural talent

Skillful = expert, dexterous

Do I feel competent as a writer? Sometimes. There are days I write scenes that just drip from my fingers onto the keyboard as if it takes no energy at all. Other days, I claw at the words, digging them out of my brain and pasting them to the page where they stick into gooey clumps.

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Write BIG, write little, just write!

Do I possess a natural talent for writing? Nope. Everything I’ve written has been toiled over, rewritten, thrown out and resurrected through several edits. In fact, a college professor told me that I had no natural ability whatsoever. I was furious. And as my mother can verify, when I am furious about something, I work diligently to prove that person wrong. I’m still in the process of following the map toward the treasure of great writing, but I’m better than I was a year ago. Next year is looking golden.

Skillful writing is not writing like an expert, although there is certainly a place for that. Skillful writing is more of a dedication to a skill, devoting time and energy to the practice of, to find mentorship, to grow thick skin in order to perfect it. Skill comes to those who want it and work for it over a period of time.

My first manuscript was a massive collection of sentences with no clear focus or destination. I spent over a year working on that story, but I didn’t heed the advice of the experts. When I did, I could see the gaping holes in my story. I had no natural skill. The intense amateur status of my writing was blinding. There was only one thing to do: throw it out and start over. And I did. I deleted every copy on the computer and shredded every paper copy I had.

The greatest gift I received from that ‘do-over’ was the freedom to start fresh. I read every book on writing I could find. I read other novels in the genre I loved. Years went by before I had a manuscript that was even worth sharing with someone else. My days were (and still are) filled with caring for my children and homeschooling, so the only times I had to write were early in the morning, late at night, and during nap times. But, I found that my capabilities to do that were tied to my motivation to make that dream of becoming an author a reality. That gave me power.


My first book. I still feel goose bumps when I look at it :)

I told myself: I will write until I have a complete and well-written story.

Then I said: I will polish and submit this manuscript until I find a publisher.

Then: I will continue to write until each story idea is taken to its fullest potential.

The “I will…until” concept was only recently put into words for me, but as I look back over the last decade of writing, it’s exactly what I did. Now, with that motto in my head, I feel more motivated than ever to continue forward with new and bigger goals. More books, more stories, more speaking opportunities. More books to read, more people to meet, more abilities to uncover.

The “I will…until…” phrase is an attitude. It’s a frame of mind that creates a willpower fueled by ability that grows into expertise.

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Awaiting Inspiration?

Have a Dream? Don’t wait for Inspiration. Dreams are reached on the wings of determination.


Let me preface this post with a statement: If I can do it, so can you.

That’s what I tell people who express awe when they learn that we home-school our children and that I write books. If I can do it, so can you.

It’s not that everyone should write a book (although everyone should keep a journal), or that every parent should home-school their children. The idea behind the statement is that if there is something you really want to do, figure out how to do it. (Some days my greatest goal is to finish the laundry. Other days, my family would love it if my life’s ambition was to cook dinner.)

Here’s a formula I learned from Bob McEwen (CD, Freedom Matters, Life Leadership) : S = I + A

Success = Information + Action

The success I have achieved is a direct result of information I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources which I then put into action. I will follow that statement with this: The greater success I am striving for is from specific information I am harvesting from other who have the success I desire which I will put into action.

That’s all I’ve done: uncovered success by putting action behind information. My information was about writing, the time period I write about, the language of storytelling, and even the nature of marketing. Success in writing is not a result of inspiration, but dedication to a schedule.

To await inspiration is to die a dusty death.

To hunger for success is only step one. Satisfying that hunger requires a recipe (S=I+A, in case you forgot). It’s that simple.

As soon as I say that, the excuses start pouring in: But I have children. I have a full-time job. I don’t have a job, so I can’t afford to work toward my dream. I’m too old. I’m too young. I have a disease. I’m not smart enough.

Inspiration never comes to those with excuses. If you believe something is true, then it is. If you believe you are too old to do something, you are. But don’t tell that to the octogenarians who climb mountains or start new businesses, or to the teenagers who launch multi-million dollar ideas (think Facebook).

If you set a goal and work to meet it, the excuses fall away like winter coats in spring. I had a goal of writing a book. In the process of meeting that goal I had three children, adopted a fourth, and chose to home-school them all. In that span of fifteen years, I’ve not written one book, but fourteen. Some have been published, others will be, some will never see a reader. Regardless, each and every word I have written or typed has brought me closer to my goal.

That’s the side-effect of not awaiting inspiration but going out and making something happen…it will. Then what will you do? Make a new goal. A loftier goal. A seemingly unachievable goal, until you set aside the naysayers and just go and make it happen.

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Ready for something fun? Sandra Bennett is it. Her book, Gingerbread Aliens, is wonderfully crafted to draw even the most reluctant reader into the literary world. I am thrilled to introduce to you, a great lady fro Down Under, Sandra Bennett!

Sandra Bennett

Your book, Gingerbread Aliens, had my son in a fit of giggles! He loved it. You clearly have a talent for sparking joy and laughter in the young at heart. Where does this wisdom come?

I have always felt laughter is the key to encourage children to develop a love of reading, so that makes me delighted when I hear that my book has tickled someone else’s sense of humour. Our own house has always been full of laughter and entertainment with my boys and all their friends. I notch up a lot of my ideas from the wonderful experiences they have all brought to my life. I believe it is being constantly surrounded by my family that has enriched my ideas and kept me young at heart. I also regard myself as lucky in that I taught Primary school children for many years, my favourites were always the Kindies and year ones. In that respect I always considered myself like a “mother hen,” all clucky, wanting to embrace and cherish them all. I began writing stories for them and about them in a bid to engage them in the learning to read process. Having also taught English as a Second Language and Literacy Assistance I have a strong belief that stories need to be easily relatable to children if you expect them to want to learn to read and that we only have a small window of time to turn them into life-long lovers of reading.

Cover Gingerbread Aliens

I was particularly impressed with the illustrations. Who is your illustrator? How did you connect?

Hayley Welsh was the illustrator for Gingerbread Aliens. She is a young artist living in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. At the time we were introduced she happened to be working for my husband on an oil and gas project. He saw some of her drawings and asked if she would be interested in reading my manuscript and the rest as they say, is history.

 What was your greatest moment in your writing career?

Two memorable moments come to mind quite quickly. Firstly, the moment I opened the email from The Australian National Eisteddfod requesting the use of Gingerbread Aliens in their 2013 Championship Section of Speech and Drama for Ten years and under, to when I was finally able to watch the performances of the children on stage reading from the book. I feel it was a great honour to watch the children perform exerts of my book. It gave me such delight to see they were obviously really enjoying themselves onstage reading my words, that truly was a great moment. The other great moment was the time when I arrived at a school for a book reading during book week to discover one of the students dressed up as my main character (David Bradberrie), complete with a cardboard cut out of a gingerbread alien and his copy of my book. It was such a lovely feeling to see that a reader had decided to choose one of my characters to dress up as instead of a more famous character.

 As an educator, what are the top three things you suggest to parents who have struggling or reluctant readers?

First and foremost relax! The more stressed you are, the more stressed they will be! All children learn to read at their own pace but with a little encouragement, motivation and time spent reading together they will eventually get there.

Find books that will pique their interest or curiosity. Provide a wide variety of genres, including non-fiction, magazines as well as science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, especially books that have great hooks at the end of each chapter and make then laugh so that they want to read more.

Play lots of word games with them, simple things like memory and scrabble to begin with. Even Karaoke on the console may seem like just a game, but as they sing along they are reading the words and having a whole lot of fun and learning along the way. Mix it up a lot but keep it interesting and fun. For an extensive list of ideas you can visit my blog “Raising Awesome Readers.” Here’s the link to two of my blogs to help get anyone in need started.

http://gingerbreadaliens.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/the-awesome-value-of-picture-books.html  http://gingerbreadaliens.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/how-do-i-turn-pages-on-my-reluctant.html

Sean with his homemade Gingerbread Aliens


Describe your writing community, your typical day, what you do to enhance your writing output, editing, and revising.

I live out in the country amongst the kangaroos, native birds and other wildlife and I don’t drive a great deal these days so my writing community has to be online. I joined writing.com several years ago where I was encouraged to further my writing career when I won several competitions I entered and received amazing feedback from many other wonderful writers. It really is a great community to develop your skills, receive reviews and helpful hints. Through Linkedin and Facebook I have become friends with some other wonderful authors as well that continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm and motivation. This year I also joined another group of wonderful writers online that encourage one another with their writing, revising and editing through an author magic spreadsheet where we are encouraged to list our word count each day. It keeps track of your weekly and monthly output helping you to strive to stay on task. Authors can seek advice from each other and generally tend to be quite helpful. I usually try to squeeze in a couple of hours writing during the afternoon after taking care of the usual house hold routines, any work I may need to do for my husband’s company and chasing around after tradesmen working on the building of our home. (This is a long term project that is taking much longer than I ever anticipated.) I am also spending quite a bit of time away from home while my husband works in Darwin, I am hoping this will provide more opportunities for longer hours on my laptop without as many daily interruptions from home.


What recommendations do you have for other writers? (this can be a mention of a few books about writing, blogs, habits, conferences, frame of mind…)

Writing is like any craft it takes practice, lots of practice. I use to tell my students that it is ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them, writing is the same. Don’t worry too much about how a first draft reads, just write, you can always go back and edit later. The key is to get your ideas down on paper (or computer) fast, before you lose the thread of an idea. Too many of my students would worry about grammar and spelling and then stumble on the main idea or plot. It is more important to form good writing habits than to be concerned with perfection. Also read a lot. Whether you read books on how to write or you read books in your chosen genre you can still learn so much from studying other author’s techniques. Look for a style and flow that suits you, search for what you feel works or doesn’t work in a story. Observe their use of intrigue, adventure, chapter hooks, climaxes and resolutions but it is also important to take the time to develop and find your own voice. In fact I only recently read a great article on this subject, the link is below.


Reading to an intrigued class

In the world of marketing, what habits have brought you success? How do you find readers?

In the world of children’s books most of my book sales have come from school visits. As a former teacher I have had the opportunity to be invited to do readings at various schools throughout Canberra where many of my former colleagues are still teaching. Once introduced to a class of students it doesn’t take long for them to become hooked readers. I have been planning to add to my blog a series of classroom activities to enhance the reading experience. Hopefully these will start to appear soon to build on the marketing through the use of my books within the classrooms. Word of mouth has always been good for me as well, parents spreading the word when their children enjoy the story. I encourage parents and children alike to write to me on my website or Facebook page with a review or a photo of them cooking a batch of Gingerbread Aliens, this always seems to help.


As a published author, what were some of the lesson (good, bad, and memorable) that you learned in the process?

As it is all such a huge learning curve, especially as children’s books have illustrations to include, I decided to enlist the aid of a small self-publishing company here in Canberra to show me the ropes so to speak. While I would say in many ways they have been very helpful and supportive they still leave all the marketing up to me and have not managed to gain a great deal of access to bricks and mortar book shops leaving me wondering if it has been worthwhile having a middle man? My other issue is that they control the price of my book on Amazon making it difficult for me to sell it at a sale price. When I asked the self-publishing company to reduce the price of my e-book, they made a separate link on Amazon which I can’t seem to link back to the original page where you can see the reviews and my author profile. This has not helped with sales at all. I would much prefer to be in control myself. Most of my sales come from hard copies via my website.



The book launch they organised at a local bookshop was fantastic though and as a result Gingerbread-aliens stayed number one on the sales chart here in Canberra for over month when it was released. I hope the second book in the series Alien Shenanigans does as well when it is released in the coming months.

I am currently in the process of editing the illustrations for Alien Shenanigans, the Bradberre Brothers Alien Adventure continues. Also book three Brussels sprouts and Alien Brains, is in the final editing stages. To top it off I have just completed a collaboration with a wonderful illustrator here in Canberra on a picture book, Emma the Eager Emu. It was one of the short stories I originally won an award for that encouraged me to pursue my writing career. Now the gorgeous illustrations are complete and the Australian birds have come to life so beautifully, I look forward to it being published soon.






Peter as David Bradberrie

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Lois, please start by telling us a little about yourself. You know, the typical first date conversation :)

Probably the most fun way for your fans to learn about me is by watching this little video I made called: My Life In Pictures, posted at: http://tales2inspire.com/?page_id=79

But here’s a little ABOUT THE AUTHOR snippet taken from my Tales2Inspire™ books:

After twenty years as an active educator, I continued to pursue my love of writing, soon becoming co-editor of a popular Long Island web-zine. As I created and authored my column Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, I solidified my special niche of investigative journalism and put those same talents to work while writing Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery. I followed up with my second book, Tick, Tock, Stop the Clock. Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour to address many of the less invasive paths to beauty.

You can Watch this candid interview of me on The Writers Dream Show to learn more about these books.

Tales2Inspire™ began a whole new chapter in my life. . . . Another story for another time.

Lois W. Stern

Lois W. Stern


Your story collections, The Topaz Collection, The Emerald Collection, and now, hot off the press, the Sapphire Collection remind me a little of Chicken Soup of the Soul. What is the story behind your desire for this project?

I’ve gotten that same comment from a couple of people, and I guess in a way it’s true. Oh, if only one day Tales2Inspire would be the new Chicken Soup of the Soul. That would be a dream come true. I’m working on it!

I created this project as an Authors Helping Authors Project and also a contest. I wanted to help talented authors (including me) get some recognition for their talents and help them build their author platforms. It has become a passion truly, one to which I devote hundreds of hours a week.


Is there an ‘Opal’ Collection in the works?

Opal? I hadn’t thought about that stone although I do love Opals! But the one I’m working on right now is the Ruby Collection ~ Gifts of Compassion. I’ve already received some smashing, unbelievably inspiring stories for that one. Ruby might just top them all, but then again, as I publish each new collection, I think that’s my best one yet. I think I just fall in love with so many of these stories.


How would someone submit to you? What types of guidelines and suggestions do you offer?

Here are a few things they should know right off the bat:

  • There is no submission fee. it is free to enter.
  • Each submitted Tale must be an original, non-fiction story.
  • Authors are encouraged to include author owned, relevant images (Note: The impact of the images is factored into the final scoring.)
  • Each submitted story must have an inspiring or motivational message.
  • Each author must include a signed release form granting me first North American rights to publish their story.
  • All of the specific guidelines to submitting a story are on my website. Just click on the word CONTEST in the top left of screen. Since information such as entry and deadlines dates and wanted themes do change, the best way to keep updated is GUIDELINES, named Steps-to-Success.

T2I Poster_new


It’s clear from your work that your goal is to offer inspiration to people. What specifically do you hope for these books? Describe the perfect reader of the Tales2Inspire™ series of books.

People who are tired of picking up the newspaper or turning on their TV only to be bombarded with the latest uprising, rape, murder or other calamity. I want my books to give hope and optimism to those who need that perspective and simply feel-good messages to those who enjoy a good, uplifting read.


Is there one story in particular from these collections that really struck you?

Oh, my, I’m always afraid people will ask me that question and the short answer is, “Yes, I do.” But I’m really more interested in learning about my readers’ favorites. As a matter of fact, at the end of each Tales2Inspire book you can find a letter I have written to my readers asking them that very question. I hope some of them take the time to respond.


Suppose you were speaking to a group of writing hopefuls…what are some gems of advice you would offer?

Write because you love writing and think you have something important to share.

Don’t fall in love with your words.

Join a critique group and listen, listen, listen. Keep an open mind and you will learn from your peers.

Writing a well crafted book takes enormous energy and skill, so authors tend to think they have done their deed once their book is published. If only that were so. Be prepared for stage to: Marketing with a capital ‘M’.


What types of resources have you found useful in this career of writing/editing?


On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMott

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White

My critique group


Want to learn more about Lois W. Stern? Do you have a story to submit to The Ruby Collection, visit:


My website for Tales2Inspire: www.tales2Inspire.com

My Inspiring stories YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WinningTales

My websites for my beauty books: www.sexliesandcosmeticsurgery.com


LinkedIn page:http://tinyurl.com/qyoj73q

Amazon Author page: http://tinyurl.com/q2qlzg5


Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/tales3inspire/beauty

Twitter page: http://www.myfabbeautyblog

My beauty blog: https://fabulousbeautyblog.wordpress.com

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Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.

If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!

2Apprentice Cat Toby with mysterious eyes

1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What changes have you made to your life-style, your career, and your passions that open up the 24 hours to more writing time?

I learned a lot during my time in ministry about what it means to be Called into God’s service. Sometimes others see our hard work and think, “Wow! She really has a heart for (fill in the blank). She should do it full-time.” If we’re not aware of what our true purpose is, then we might go along with their well-meaning suggestion and then suffer because we’re not doing what God planned for us to do. It took me the better part of seven years to figure that out and another four years to understand what doing my particular ministry meant in terms of what I spent time on.

I’m still learning and evolving as a servant writer, and sometimes I fail miserably, choosing to do something as mundane as doing a marathon watch of a particular television show instead of spending that time working toward the goal of producing another book. However, I now divide my work days between writing (and all those things involved in being an indie author) and the daily tasks I need to do in order to live like anyone else, such as going to my part-time day job. No matter what self-imposed deadline I have, though, I make sure to spend the evenings with my family and force myself to leave writing in my office during the weekends, especially Sundays. I take my Sabbaths seriously, because without that rest, we can’t accomplish what God has planned for us.


2. Tell us about your novels, Apprentice Cat, Journeyman Cat, and Huntress of the Malkin.


When I was in seminary, trying to find ways to make a little extra money so we could survive, I was naturally drawn back into writing. Although I wrote several short stories (none of which ever made me any money, btw), one stuck with me. The story was about a young tom who had entered a Harry Potter like magic school and was paired with a human that never wanted to do his homework like he was supposed to. This human always wanted to race ahead of what he was being taught and it constantly got the pair into trouble with the head masters of the school. It was just a scene, really, nothing very deep or meaningful went on in it, but for some reason, Toby and his partner Lorn kept coming back to me whenever I sat down to write anything new.


Flash forward a few years to just before my eldest was born and I decided to dive into this new thing I’d heard about — self-publishing. It was no longer a vanity thing. People were actually making money. Ereaders were starting to become a big thing and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Still, I didn’t know what I could write about and I was still trying to figure out how to blend my desire to write with the Call I felt on my heart to serve in ministry. The first book I wrote was actually a Bible study, something that came about from a need my church had for an adult VBS class. I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I was left wondering if I would ever find that balance.


Then one night, as I was going through some old stories, Toby padded into my life again. Why couldn’t I expand his story? Of course, the original didn’t have any of the Christian hallmarks. It was straight fantasy. But who was to say it couldn’t become a Christian fantasy? So I started working on it. It took a year and a half to finish, but when it was done, the pieces sort of fell into place. Now I knew how to blend my Calling with my passion.


Since then, I’ve worked toward weaving Christian themes into each of my books. For instance, Toby’s story is ultimately the story of learning forgiveness. This tom has a lot of tragedy to deal with from the disappearance of his father to the terrible thing that happens to his mother. Add to that the things he himself must do in Journeyman Cat, things his very soul rebels at, in order to complete his mission and you have a cat that has much to learn about forgiveness — for himself and others. In Master Cat, we get to see how all this weighs on him and what he must ultimately do for his own spiritual peace.


Nadine’s storyline is about taking a timid she-cat and showing her how to follow the path God has planned for her. She’s expecting someone else to solve the problems she sees around her in the post-plague world. God, on the other hand, has a different idea of how it should be dealt with.


In many ways, both these characters are living out and working through issues I’ve dealt with myself. I wish I could say I’ve come out on the other side of these challenges and now I know exactly how to face all the problems life throws at me, but I’m still learning. I think that’s part of this whole ministry. While I’m serving God and, hopefully, helping others find a way to work through their own life challenges, God is working in my own life, changing me in ways that make me more like the person God knows I can be, the one God wants me to be.


3. The pool of Christian Fantasy writers is sadly, quite small. Does this fact provide an obstacle or a boon to publication and marketing success?




I don’t write what’s considered typical Christian Fantasy. Generally speaking, magic is frowned upon in Christian literature, so what I write isn’t always deemed acceptable in those circles. However, fantasy, with magic and all the other bits of wonder it includes, is what I love to read. Growing up, it was nearly impossible to find Christian Fantasy with those fantastical elements in it that didn’t seem childish at best. Yet, the regular fantasy lacked the positive world-view I yearned for. It wasn’t until I read about how C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their wonderful stories and called them Christian that I began to see that there was something more.


I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings labeled as Christian Fantasy, but, according to Tolkien, it is. I think it’s a disservice to Christian Fantasy as a whole not to call a story what it is, but often, for one reason or another, what would otherwise be labeled as such is simply stuck in the pot with all fantasy. I know other writers who do that because they fear they won’t sell as well with the Christian Fantasy label, which is a shame.


The niche I’ve chosen is smaller, but so are the sales. That means that, while it might be easier to find in the CF category, most of my sales will be primarily from people who are acquainted with me or that niche.


As with all things in life, you thank God for the good and ask God to help you meet the challenges.


4. Imagine you are standing in a room of young people that have just read your book. One of them asks who inspired you to write. What is your answer?


I’ve always been a story-teller, so I don’t know who my original inspiration was. However, every author I’ve read and movie or television series I’ve seen has influenced the progression my writing has taken.


In high school, I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Her book , By the Sword, particularly inspired me to write in strong female characters. I don’t create shrinking violets or male-dependent love interests. My characters have their flaws, yes, but it’s usually not the screaming meemies or the weeping willows.


The Christian turns in my writing were heavily influenced by Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both of these books scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved the depth and reality of the spiritual forces, as well as the nail-biting “will he/she survive this encounter” as the characters faced the opposing human force. The best part of either of those books was the enduring hope you’re left with at the end. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It’s a message I hope readers pick up in my works, too.


The mystery elements of my writing come from various mystery books and shows from the Joe Grey mysteries to Sherlock on BBC television.


And I have to admit that Toby’s story originated from my fascination and love of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. That’s not to say I tried to mimic her wonderful world, but I did borrow a few things for Apprentice Cat, like the magical boarding school idea and the beloved head master taking a student under his wing.


5. What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? Speaking personally, I’m always looking for new ideas and am eager to learn from those who have succeeded. What have you tried, what didn’t work, and what does work for you?


At first I tried to cram everything into whatever free time I could carve out for myself. That’s a recipe for frustration and procrastination. After my eldest was born, I tried squeezing it all in a scheduled hour or two before spending time with my husband just before we went to bed. That led to being over-tired and cranky.


After my daughter started half-day’s in preschool, I was able to get four solid hours of work done before I had to go to my day job. This, so far, has worked best, especially since I pretend that I’m going to a regular 9 to 5 job as soon as I walk in my front door after dropping her at school. On my days off from my day job, I spend the mornings doing the highest priority work, like drafting or editing the next book, and the afternoons on more business tasks, like marketing and administrative tasks, and research.


The next step I took was purchasing a Galaxy Tab 10.2 in 2012 with a bluetooth keyboard. That has been the best business purchase I’ve made to date. I can now extend my writing time to the afternoons at my day job and kill the down time between customers with some massive productivity. In fact that’s what helped me win the 2012 and 2013 NaNoWriMo. Combined with my smartphone, I can work on both writing and business anywhere, anytime.


As for the actual drafting of any of my books, it wasn’t until I read James Scott Bell Plot & Structure and Conflict & Suspense that I really got the hang of it and the process got faster. I’m a plotter by nature, so Bell’s various ways of plotting made getting my ideas down so much quicker and efficient. And while the old adage “chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him” might be one way of creating suspense and conflict, it just didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t logical. When I read Bell’s Conflict & Suspense the “ah-ha” moment arrived with a giant Acme lightbulb. It’s not just throwing your character into challenging situations; it’s about finding the tension point — the “what’s the worst that could happen” moment — and then building the next scenes from that. I highly recommend both these books to anyone wanting to stuff some more tools in their writer’s toolbox.


6. Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?


I sort of had this “If you build it, they will come” image in my mind. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing because if I’d known then just how much work getting in front of an audience is, I might not have finished Apprentice Cat.


Since then, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that goes on for an indie author to succeed that has nothing to do with writing or editing. The writing and editing, for me, is the easy part. It’s the marketing and social networking that’s tough. Over time, though, I’ve managed to make some great friends who have helped me figure it all out and who continue to inspire me to greater things.


7. You also have written two bible studies titled, Simply Prayer and Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Who would benefit from these books? Why did you write them?


Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives is a basic Bible study I put together when I was asked to teach an adult vacation Bible study class several years ago. Someone wanting to get a deeper understanding of the scriptures might find it useful, especially after doing the meditation exercises, which I designed with different learning styles in mind. I’ve posted several of the lessons on my blog for people to use for free.


It’s part of my mission to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, and I believe accessing the scriptures is an integral part of doing that. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Fear Not! and later Simply Prayer, which is a guidebook on different methods of prayer and what real prayer looks like. When it comes to knowing God, people often see not a loving Being wanting to have a close relationship, but rather the white, bearded man on the Sistine Chapel. I would like to help others realize there’s more to God than a wrath-filled judge or magic genie.

8. Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!


Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10


In our hurried lives, we so often forget to breath. I love this scripture because it reminds me that stillness is part of balance, that to hear God, we only need to quiet ourselves and listen. I suppose that’s why I love the labyrinth my husband mows into our backyard every year. It offers me a chance to find a moment of quiet in the middle of the rush of life. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could find a quiet place they could retreat to every day.


9. You blog is a eclectic collection of thoughts, scripture, writing and marketing tips. I noticed you do a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post, which I really enjoyed! How has blogging contributed (or not) to your writing, marketing, and in building a platform?


My blog has evolved over the years as I’ve worked to discover how my Calling could reach out to others. As my tagline suggests, it is a glimpse into the heart of one of God’s servants. For a while, I spent so much time on the blog, I lost valuable time producing books. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy I was that I decided to slow down and re-think the direction I was taking.


About two years ago, I decided to switch gears and blog irregularly, focusing mostly on book reviews, as a way for my readers to find good books to read and as a service to other writers. I struggled during that time with a desire to do what would be called sermons in an church setting. I didn’t know how to go about it or even if it was worth doing, not to mention the fear of letting the world hear my voice outside the pages of a book or blog post.


Then this year, I decided to take the plunge. I researched podcasting methods and drew up a plan for a once a month inspirational message. I also added the monthly Bible study. I don’t know the exact numbers for my audience on those particular posts, but the number of downloads have been promising. To me, that says I’m on the right track for building a platform that will help me reach out to others who are hurting or simply want to see God in a slightly different way.


I’m always looking for new ways to show God’s love to people, so I’m sure my blog, as well as my newsletter, will continue to change and grow. I think that’s what’s important. Do what you’re Called to do and the rest will follow in God’s time.


Connect with Virginia!

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When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.

Not so with stories.

I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.

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Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story captivated me, and it will do the same for you.

Nikki, thank you for writing! Your story, In the Eye of Deception, was a heart-wrenching and beautiful roller coaster. With a website titled Write 2 Empower  you clearly have a message and a mission. Would you share with us the birth of your writing and what you are accomplishing with your work?

I never met to write and publish a book. Something happened that threw me back into the memories. I wrote to get the images out of my head. Strangely, I connected with an award winning author who believed in my writing and in my story. She wanted me to publish but I didn’t want to at the time. Her and I went back and forth for six months before I decided if I were to write my story, it has to be something that would give hope to others who are where I was, living in the darkness, with no hope of anything ever changing for the good. I found that writing gave me my voice, a way to ‘speak’ what I hadn’t been able to say.


Not only am I amazed by your story, but your writing style is obviously an incredible gift. What kinds of resources or training did you have in preparation (or to improve) for writing?

I had no training to write. I just wrote my heart. I wrote what I couldn’t speak. Now however, I discovered how much I love writing and have taken a few online courses and also a few locally. I also try to read everything I can on the craft. Especially from writers I adore like Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel.


In the Eye of Deception won the The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention of The Grace Irwin Award. First of all, congratulations! What was the process to submit to these awards and how has this boosted your writing and your platform?

Thanks Jessica. A friend nagged and pushed me to submit the book for an award. I struggled with that b/c I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. I actually submitted it the night before the contest closed. The process involved submitting the full manuscript (2 or 3 copies) and paying something like $40.

It boosted it in that many members of The Word Guild, immediately bought the book and although the book had already been selling well, I think it gave credence to my writing.

It didn’t change my platform as I already had established one and knew who the book was aimed at – women who had a history of abuse, or/and trauma and needed hope.


What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? 

Writing process – I usually like to write early in the morning when the house is quiet. But the place that pumps me the most and inspires me to write is when I’m in the woods. It’s there my heart speaks the loudest. I need emotions to write and images. And when I’m out in nature, I’m not afraid. I feel alive and free. After I listen and hear, I run home and type it all up. Then I agonize over edits. I’m also part of a writing group now. We’ve been meeting for three years once a month. I value their input on my work.


Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

When I started writing, I had no method. All I wanted was to get the memories out of my head. Writing became a way for me to have my voice. I wrote all day, late into the nights. I sometimes forgot to feed the kids. I felt compelled. Looking back now, it was very cathartic. And very healing. What shocked me in the beginning was people, women and men, young, middle-aged and older identified with my story. They told me my book came to them as a message of hope and that if I could overcome, they could too. I loved that.

I self-published my book through my university. Once I got it in my head I wanted to use what I lived to give others hope, I wanted it out as quickly as I could get it out. There was a lot of negative talk about self-publishing but the book has done incredibly well. It’s sold throughout Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Hawaii and India.


What has been your greatest moment in your writing career? To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment?

Winning the award was a definite wow for me. But I also won a couple of short story contests and have been published in a number of anthologies (5).

Another couple of highlights – December 2013, someone donated $5000 to put my book into a small pocket sized edition and distribute it free to women in prison or living on the streets. 5000 copies were printed and have been shipped across the country and overseas.

A few months ago someone approached me to have it translated into Russian for the women there. That’s happening now with the goal of getting it to the Ukraine by Christmas.

The most difficult moment was when I was at a writing conference and a well known editor who didn’t even know my story, told me memoirs don’t sell and my book will never sell. I wanted to go home and give up. My friend was there at the conference and she wouldn’t let me. I’m very grateful to her for that. One person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. A great learning looking back.


Do you attend writing conferences? If so, which ones do you recommend? What internet or book resources can you recommend?

I’ve only attended one writing conference – The Word Guild 2009 – in Guelph, Ontario Canada. I’d love to attend more but it’s been hard to get away as I still have kids at home and my kids are my priority.

My absolute favorite writing book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love her style of writing and love what she says.

I used to read through Rachelle Garner’s page a lot. http://www.rachellegardner.com. There’s a ton of other sites but can’t think of them right now.


Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

Okay…..here’s a couple of favorites.


  1. “Every little thing wants to be loved.” Sue Monk Kidd.
  2. “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” Eli Wiesel
  3. “I spent five years suffering from writer’s block. Then it came to me…just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. I needn’t worry what anyone else thought. I needn’t even worry if it was published. All it needed to be was written.” Louise Penny


Looking for more from Nikki? Check out her other books:

my books1


Connect with Nikki:









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Do you remember gym class? Outside of the horrifying gym uniforms (think green polyester shorts and a t-shirt with my last name written across my chest with a black permanent marker), the exercises we did at the beginning of each class prepared our muscles for the real work to begin.

These exercises serve the same purpose. Before you start the long haul of working on your latest, soon-to-be best-seller, warm up your creative muscles with one (or all) of these:

1. Go back to the beginning:

Write about the first chapter book you ever read. What do you remember?

Was it a good read or did you not finish it?

2. Take a step into a great challenge:

Imagine you are a first grade teacher and have been asked to include a 68-year-old illiterate man in your classroom. What might come of that situation? Make notes, write a few scenes, or run with it.

3. Go back to the basics:

Print the first two pages of any story you are writing. Circle the first word of each sentence. Are those words similar? If so, re-work the sentences and re-print.

Make these writing exercises more fun – get out of the house, order a cup of hot something (it’s below zero here in Michigan) and write the way you imagine all writers do…over coffee, in the middle of a cute café, capturing the essence of your next character from the personalities walking by your table.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of being an author of a picture book…listen up!

I copied this right from the website so to give you the best explanation:

 For less than the cost of a single conference, picture book writers and illustrators can become members of 12 x 12 and get access to all the benefits of a writer’s conference — learning from experts, craft advice and assistance, the fellowship of community and the opportunity to submit completed, polished manuscripts — without having to travel. You’ll get the motivation and accountability you need to get those drafts finished, all with the support of the friendliest writing community on earth.

The 12 x 12 offer has three different levels of participation: Margaret Wise BRONZE level (write only), the Shel SILVERstein level (write and revise), and the Little Golden book level (write, revise, submit).

Here’s the link to the website:


Why you should consider this:

On any level, the accountability to put your butt in the chair and write is increased through the motivation you gain from the other members. If you only write 12 picture book manuscripts, that is 12 more manuscripts you will have to polish up by the end of the year. If you register for the GOLD level, you have input from other writers and the opportunity to submit those manuscripts to agents/publishers.

This is the cover from my first picture book. If all goes as planned, Frog will have many more adventures this year!

This is the cover from my first picture book. If all goes as planned, Frog will have many more adventures this year!

I’m going to go for it. Take a few minutes and read through the website (above). If the idea is intriguing, join me. If you aren’t sure, think about it for a few days. If the lure is too strong to refuse, join me.

Happy Writing!

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You are invited to join a new blog carnival geared toward
parents who are writers

    folks who raise little souls,
    who sacrifice sleep for cuddles,
    who are insanely addicted to the written word.

parents and writers icon

Themes for this Blog Carnival can include: Writing amongst legos, tools and strategies you use to find time to write, resources you’ve discovered, writing for children, writing while children run amuck, and any recipe that is easy to assemble thus giving us more time to write (I’m a huge fan of my crock pot).

For more details, visit the Parents and Writers Blog Carnival Page. Deadline for submissions are the 15th of each month. The Blog Carnival will be posted at this blog on the 20th.

If you have any questions, please email me at JessicaSchaubWrites@gmail.com

Happy Writing!

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