Monday, March 31, 2008

Author Interview with Joan Hochstetler

I'm so pleased to have author J. M. Hochstetler in the Blog Studio with me this morning. J. M. Hochstetler is the author of One Holy Night, a modern-day nativity story set during the Vietnam War that retells the story of Jesus’ birth for today’s readers. Her previous books are Daughter of Liberty and Native Son, books 1 and 2 of the American Patriot Series set during the American Revolution. Book 3, Wind of the Spirit, will release in January 2009.

Hochstetler graduated from Indiana University cum laude, taking a degree in Germanic languages. In the mid 1990s, she worked for The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, assisting with the development and production of Freedom Speaks, a weekly television program devoted to First Amendment rights, broadcast nationally on PBS. She was subsequently an editor with Abingdon Press for twelve years before founding her own independent small press, Sheaf House Publishers, in 2006 to publish extraordinary fiction by fresh new voices.

Born and reared in central Indiana, the daughter of Mennonite farmers, Hochstetler currently resides near Nashville, Tennessee. Her interest in the American colonial and Revolutionary War eras grew out of the experiences of her Anabaptist ancestors who immigrated to America from Europe seeking religious freedom. With her cousin, author Bob Hostetler, she is writing a novel titled Northkill that is based on the massacre of three of their Amish Mennonite ancestors on the Pennsylvania frontier during the French and Indian War, the Indian captivity of the attack’s survivors, and their eventual return home.


CAROL ANN: I am so pleased to have you with me in the blog studio this morning. **CAROL ANN HOLDS UP A BOOK COVER**

CAROL ANN: Thanks for sending in a copy of your latest book cover. Tell us a little about ONE HOLY NIGHT.

J.M.: My latest release is One Holy Night, which retells the Christmas story through the discovery of a baby abandoned in the manger of a church’s crèche scene. The story is set in 1967, when the military build-up in Viet Nam is undergoing a dramatic surge. The resulting explosion of anti-war sentiment tears the country apart, slicing through generations and shattering families. In the quiet bedroom community of Shepherdsville, Minnesota, the war comes home to Frank and Maggie McRae, whose only son, Mike, is serving as a grunt in Viet Nam, and to their daughter, Julie, and her husband, Dan Christensen, the pastor of a growing, independent Christian church.

Although One Holy Night is at heart a modern-day nativity story, it isn’t a story just for Christmas. It deals with all the gritty issues that impact our lives every day—intergenerational and interracial conflict, violence in various forms, addictions, war, illness, death, divorce. Brokenness of one kind or another affects every family and individual. And the more I thought about it, the more I questioned how we can make sense of our lives and find reconciliation in our relationships. Where can we find purpose, strength, and healing?

I first started tinkering with the idea for this story back in the late 1980s. Then the Gulf War came along and shaped my thinking some more. Life happened, and the story lay fallow until 9-11. Right around that time a young woman in our church was diagnosed with intestinal cancer, and then died within a year. Shortly thereafter, both my parents died as the result of a car accident. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were in all the headlines, and opposition was growing along with the casualty count. Commentators were beginning to compare the war in Iraq with the quagmire of Viet Nam—a conflict I was well acquainted with since I was in high school and college during those years.

So all these elements started to find their way into this story about a family facing life-changing issues while the son is away serving in Vietnam. The conclusion I came up with is pretty well summed up in the blurb for the book:

As on that holy night so long ago . . . in a world torn by sin and strife . . . to a family that has suffered heart-wrenching loss . . . there will be born a baby . . .

CAROL ANN: This sounds wonderful. What do you find is the hardest thing about being a writer?

J.M. For me it’s all the promotional stuff you’re expected to do—and need to do—to promote yourself and your books. I love to write, but at times it seems like actual writing is the least part of being an author. With so many books on the market vying for readers’ attention, you have to find a way to set yourself apart from the crowed, and that simply takes hours and hours of work. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance all of it, including time with my family.

CAROL ANN: Yes, it is hard to find that happy medium. What stumbling blocks have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

J.M.: My biggest stumbling block has been getting book contracts. Zondervan published the first two books of my American Revolutionary War series, Daughter of Liberty and Native Son, then I lost my editor and the new editor cancelled the series. It’s a depressingly familiar scenario in the publishing business.

After a considerable amount of soul searching, I finally gave in to the prompting the Lord had been giving me for some time to found my own small press. I realize not everyone can come up with such a drastic solution, but I happened to have qualifications and resources that enabled me to take that step. So I founded Sheaf House specifically to publish extraordinary inspirational fiction.

My biggest resource, of course, is the Lord. If I didn’t feel strongly that God’s hand is in this venture, I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m already amazed at how many excellent projects the Lord is bringing my way. But although it feels overwhelming at times, doors keep opening as I keep on taking each step forward in faith. I’ve discovered I truly have a heart for working with new authors to help them make their work excellent, and then to get them published.

CAROL ANN: On a personal note, do you collect anything?

J.M.: Oh, goodness, at any point in time, I’m open to collecting just about anything. I have a chicken/rooster thing going right now, among others. I acquired a small, old landscape painting done by an unknown artist that I’d love to expand into a collection of similar works. I just haven’t found anything yet I like well enough to buy. At one point I was collecting barns—ceramic, wood, paintings, whatever. I grew up on a farm in central Indiana, and I love old, weathered barns.

I have a great Stars and Stripes collection going. My office at home is crammed with all sorts of things with that motif, including an afghan, a lampshade, curtains, decorative boxes, and wall hangings. Very natural since I’m writing a comprehensive historical fiction series about the American Revolution, so the patriotic level is high!

For some time I was also collecting those cardboard coasters many restaurants put on the table for your drink. I have a stack of interesting ones, but I have no clue what to do with the silly things. Don’t anybody get me started on anything else!

CAROL ANN: Perhaps they'll show up in a book one day! Do you believe the pen is mightier than the sword?

J.M.: Absolutely! For example, the American Revolution would never have started if writers like James Otis, Mercy Otis Warren, John Adams, Joseph Warren, Thomas Jefferson, and many others hadn’t expressed their objections to British policy in writing. Just look at the effect God’s written word has had on the world. If you don’t have people’s hearts and minds on your side, your cause isn’t going to prevail no matter how many weapons you employ.

CAROL ANN: Which inspires you more? A brisk walk in the autumn with the leaves changing color, or in the spring when the flowers are and trees are budding? Why?

J.M.: That’s a hard one. Autumn has always been my favorite season, but since I moved to Tennessee, I’ve come to love spring almost as much. When the flowers and trees begin to bloom on the hills and in the hollows, the colors are so heartbreakingly lovely it almost hurts your eyes to look at it. And of course, the sense of new life is intoxicating.

Still, there’s something about the flame colors of autumn that holds my heart. I love the cool misty mornings and evenings, the scent of wood smoke and moldering leaves in the air, the soft patina of the pale sunshine that softens all the edges. There’s a feeling of melancholy suspense, as if the earth is holding its breath waiting for the winter snows, and then the springtime beyond that begins the cycle of the seasons again. It’s a time for thinking deeply and for writing intensely.

CAROL ANN: You are sitting in a restaurant with several friends when someone walks up to you and thrusts a microphone in your hand. You have one minute to tell the world something....what will it be?

J.M.: The first thing that comes to mind is: Jesus lives! God loved his people so much that he came down to earth to live among us, to bridge the gap that sin placed between human beings and the divine. By his grace and mercy God restores us to a personal relationship with him through Jesus’ death on the cross.

CAROL ANN: Thank you so much for joining me today. Before we leave, where can readers learn more about you and your books?

J.M.: You can find more information about me and my books at, where you’ll also find many links to historical sites and resources. More information about One Holy Night is at You’ll find Sheaf House at, and you can follow the process of building the business on my Publishing Dream blog at I also manage the reviews on the Favorite PASTimes historical fiction blog at Readers can contact me at

Friday, March 28, 2008

Laptops and Cats

Last night I took my laptop down to the family room so I could work on my latest novel (during commercials), while keeping my hubby company and watching Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. Much to my amusement, my furry friend, Wilbur, perched on the chair arm. You’ve heard that cats are curious, right?

Have you ever seen a cat interface with a computer screen?

Ever wondered what is going through the cat’s mind? I believe our interface last night went something like this:

“What is this thing on my human’s lap? Purr, purr. I’ll rub my chin against it…purr, purr. Oooo, that feels good. Purr, purr. Oh, look at that bright window. Tap, tap. Purr, purr. Yippee, a new toy. Tap, tap. Hey, stop. Tap, tap. I’ve got big paws, but I can’t seem to catch those moving thingies. Mewr, meow. Tap, tap. Why is my human getting annoyed with me? She’s the one who put the toy on her lap where I should be. That’s where I want to lay now. I’ll just rub against her hand and she’ll pay attention to me. Rub, rub, purr, purr. Rub, rub, purr, purr. Meow.”

Score one for the cat. I closed the laptop, allowed Wilbur to possess my lap, and we both enjoyed the television show.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My Beef Today: Stumbling over Cats and Husband

On my refrigerator is a magnet that says "husband and cat missing...$100 reward for cat."

I love my hubby dearly, but it is very annoying in the morning when he decides to get up at the crack of dawn with me when I'm trying to get ready for work. I have a lot of things to cram into that hour and a half: shower, wash, dry & style hair, fix breakfast, fix dinner and put crockpot instructions on frig for hubby, write blog, get dressed, feed feral cats, and leave on time for work!

It's bad enough when I stumble over the three cats who have to know everything I'm doing, but now I have to avoid hubby, too. He is looking over my shoulder to watch me prepare dinner, but never will lift a finger to cook. He uses the upstairs bathroom where I keep my makeup and hair products, so I have to wait for him to finish. He is talking to me and asking questions...from the other room where I can barely hear him. I especially love it when he stands outside the bathroom and talks while I'm brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush that sounds like a helicopter circling.

So, what's your beef today? Care to share?

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

What a glorious morning! May you all be blessed today.

©Carol Ann Erhardt, 2000

Whenever life may get you down,
And you want to smile, but wear a frown,
And burdens heavy on you lay,
Your headache just won’t go away,
Just fall upon your knees and pray.

Beaten with a lead-tipped whip,
Skin laid bare in criss-crossed strips,
Fists of iron struck His face,
They mocked to put Him in His place,
A crown of thorns to add disgrace.

A wooden cross He bore alone,
Stumbling through the streets of stone,
They nailed Him to the cross that day,
He, who was born in a bed of hay,
“Forgive them Father,” he was heard to say.

They laid Him in a tomb so dark,
And rolled a stone upon its mark,
To seal His tomb would be in vain,
On Easter morn He rose again,
Leaving behind the earthly pain.

So when your life you start to dread,
Remember the whip with tips of lead,
The crown of thorns upon His head.

And when your heart is full of pain,
And you feel your life has been in vain,
Remember how He rose again.

And when your burdens heavy lay,
Remember the cross He bore that day,
Then fall down on your knees and pray.

God bless, and thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

In the Dark...Waiting...

Today I look out my window at the gray dreary view. A fitting scene for this is the day Jesus remained sealed in the tomb in preparation for the glorious Easter morning when he rose.

The scene from my window depicts a universe in waiting. Symbolism? Certainly.

I, too, am in the if I'm holding my breath until the stone rolls away. Perhaps it's the season, the weather, or my spirit tuning into the sadness the disciples must have felt at His death.

Whatever is keeping me in my cave, I remain. Silent, staring at a blank screen, words elusive.

I wait for tomorrow, for the celebration of Jesus conquering death, for the celebration that I "am" because of Him. Because he died for me, I live. I believe.

And I wait...

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Author Interview with Sharon Dunn

The Blog Studio band is playing when the camera pans across the audience. Everyone is smiling in anticipation of today's show. With a clash of cymbals, the song ends, and the burgundy curtains part. The audience applauds as Carol Ann walks center stage.

"Good morning, Blog Studio! It's great to see so many smiling faces today, and thank you for braving the roads this morning. It's typical Ohio spring weather. Two days of rain without ceasing, followed by snow! My hubby is pretty handy, but I never know whether to have him build a small ark or a sled."

Audience laughs.

"Today we have a wonderful author coming to talk about her books and share a bit about herself. Sharon Dunn is the author of five books, all of them humorous who-dun-its for the Christian market. Her second book in the Ruby Taylor mystery series, "Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante," was voted Book of the Year by American Christian Fiction Writers.

When she isn’t writing or being the mom taxi for her kids, Sharon works part time at a university. She lives with her hubby of twenty years, three kids and three cats. She loves the first sip of coffee in the morning, the timelessness of C.S. Lewis’ writing and feeling sunshine on her face.

Please put your hands together and make her welcome. Ladies and Gentlemen, Sharon Dunn!"

Carol Ann claps as Sharon walks onstage and takes a seat on the set.

CAROL ANN: Sharon, thank you for joining me today in the Blog Studio.

SHARON: Thank you for inviting me. I'm so happy to be here today.

CAROL ANN: I've been looking at your book cover.

Carol Ann holds the book up and the camera pans in.

CAROL ANN: Will you please tell us a little about your book?

SHARON: Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear is book two in the Bargain Hunters mysteries. Book one is called Death of a Garage Sale Newbie. My books have been called humorous who-dun-its. They are fun, follow-the-clues mysteries with a focus on relationships. You won’t find excessive blood or violence in my books.

The Bargain Hunters series features four women from different walks of life and different ages who are bonded together by the need to clip coupons and be first in line at doorbuster sales. The main character is Ginger; she and her husband Earl are recent empty nesters. Ginger’s heart beats a little faster when she gets close to a clearance rack. She is the senior Bargain Hunter in the group.

In Death of a Six Foot Teddy Bear, Ginger and her fellow bargain hunters head down to the fictional town of Calamity, Nevada to do some outlet shopping and attend the world’s largest garage sale. A man dressed in a bear suit (it was a publicity stunt) gets killed at the hotel where they are staying. Ginger and Earl are among the suspects (of course they are innocent) but they have to figure out who did it to clear their names.

CAROL ANN: Sounds wonderful! Something readers might not know is that it is really difficult to write humor. I admire any author who tackles that, and I love to read humorous mysteries. Tell me, what do you find isthe hardest thing about being a writer?

SHARON: The hardest thing is the isolation. I love working alone and setting up my own schedule, but a while ago, my life got a little out of balance. I was on deadline and so anytime I wasn’t working at my part time job at the college or taking care of family things, I was writing. I had to take deliberate steps to get back in the world and re-connect with the rest of humanity. It feels like I have better balance now. I moved my hours around at work so I could attend a Bible study and I get together with friends for coffee once in a while, which involve shutting off that voice that says “you should be writing.”

CAROL ANN: I know that voice. Sometimes it's hard to find the balance needed when you are a writer with other commitments. What stumbling blocks have you encountered and how have you overcome them?

SHARON: The biggest stumbling block for me is learning that my writer’s journey is going to look different from other writers’s journeys. Some writers work really fast and can write a book every four or five months; eight months is comfortable for me to finish a novel. Other people are able to put more time and money into promotion or are able to attend more conferences or can write in several genres or do both fiction and non-fiction. Some writers have a breakout novel that puts them on the map and others build an audience one book at a time. Some writers work for eight and ten hours at a stretch. My mental energy and schedule allow for three or four hours at the most.

I have to take deliberate effort to remind myself not to compare or to feel like I am not doing my writing career “the right way.”

CAROL ANN: That is an important thing to put into perspective. Good for you. How about a personal question?

SHARON: **grin** This might be scary, but go ahead.

CAROL ANN: **laughs** Okay, do you collect anything?

SHARON: I collect dust bunnies. With my writing schedule, I found it was easier to make pets out of them then to hope to ever find time to clean underneath the furniture.

**Audience Laughter**

I also collect fabric and patterns and some day I will have time to sew.

Before I had children, I collected dolls, Barbie mostly. I have a straight leg Skipper in her original outfit and a bubble head Madge. I have lots of other dolls, but those are the ones I am proudest of.

CAROL ANN: I've never thought of making pets out of dust bunnies, but that sounds like the perfect way to come to peace with them.

Okay, I have a serious question I like to pose to some authors. Do you believe the pen is mightier than the sword?

SHARON: I believe in the power of words to change things. On a big political scale, but also the power of words to change an individual heart. I think that is one of the reasons I write fiction. Fiction gets at the truth of the human heart by giving readers characters they identify with. Also there is something approachable about fiction. A lot of people who maybe don’t see themselves as Christian or who love God but have a hard time with church will pick up Christian fiction simply because they are looking for a good story.

When I am struggling with my own writing or I just don’t want to work on a hard section of my book, I picture that reader curling up in her chair with one of my books and for a few hours she gets to escape to a different world and may be see her own life in a new way. That makes me want to write even on my bad days.

CAROL ANN: What a wonderful way to push past those hard writing days. I may borrow that tecnique. Which inspires you more? A brisk walk in the autumn with the leaves changing color, or in the spring when the flowers are and trees are budding?

SHARON: I don’t care what season it is, walking inspires me period. We have a walking trail just down the road from our house. I have worked out and discovered plots and prayed through hard situations by walking it out. The hardest time of the year for me is when the trail gets too icy to walk. So winter is the only season that is not inspiring. Now, it’s March and the snow is starting to melt, so pretty soon, I’ll be able to walk again.

CAROL ANN: Many famous authors walk while they are plotting their books. I believe walking clears the mind. I've had many conversations with God while walking. I have one last question and you'll have to use your imagination to answer. You are sitting in a restaurant with several friends when someone walks up to you and thrusts a microphone in your hand. You have one minute to tell the world something....what will it be?

SHARON: Please, let me finish my dinner first because eating a good meal and being with friends is really one of the most important things in life. What matters most in life is the person sitting next to you at any given moment.

CAROL ANN: Sharon, it's been an inspiration having you join us in the Blog Studio today.

Where can readers learn more about you and your books? Website address, blog, email???

SHARON: You can find me on the web at and you can email me through the web site by clicking on “guestbook” on the home page.

CAROL ANN: Blog Studio, I encourage you to check out Sharon's website.

**The women hug and wave, then walk offstage amid a standing ovation from the audience.**

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Please Don't Give Away the Ending...

My hubby, who never reads books, surprised me last night. He told me he'd read part of the book I was reading. (I have three that I'm reading at the moment.) I asked him which one, and he responded the one on the coffee table.

"Oh, you mean A SOLDIER'S PROMISE." (by Cheryl Wyatt, Steeple Hill Love Inspired)

He said, "Yeah. The one where the soldier gets the girl, Amber, to skydive with him. I started to read a page and wound up reading about six or seven."

"Stop!" I held up my hand. "I didn't read that part! Where did you start reading?"

"I opened it to where your bookmark was and started reading from there."

My hubby is notorious for telling me the good parts and the ending of a movie before I get a chance to see it. So I guess I now have to worry about my books, too!

Thanks for stopping by!

Paul McKenna, I Think I Love You

Day two of using the four golden rules that Paul McKenna introduced on I Can Make You Thin on The Learning Channel Sunday night, and I'm feeling great! I really have made no changes except to follow the four golden rules. I am eating much less and feeling satisfied! It's a fantastic feeling to know that I can eat whatever I want. Wow, what a concept. I'm not denying myself anything, but I'm not feeling the need to snack either.

Woo hoo! Can't wait to see what he adds next week. I do believe I finally found the solution I've been seeking for years.

Tune in on Sunday night at 9pm EST if you want to get in on this great program.

As for writing, I've pulled out an old synopsis which is calling me. We'll see where it goes!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Ark?

Just as a wall of snow traveled from the west to the east, dumping twenty plus inches of snow on Ohio, we now have a wall of rain taking the same path. The weather man is saying flash flooding will occur...not might occur, but WILL occur. I hope the waterway beside my subdivision doesn't cover the road, preventing me from reaching home.

My hubby is very handy with a hammer and wood, so I'm thinking of having him build small ark. It should come in handy, especially with the rising cost of gasoline! And it would keep the poor feral kitties feet dry.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Four Golden Rules

Tonight I watched a new show on The Learning Channel which is guaranteed to help anyone lose weight. Hey, I'm game to give it a try. No cost. Nothing to buy.


This first night focused on the four golden rules:
1. When you are hungry, eat.
2. Eat what you want.
3. Eat consciously.
4. When you are full, stop!

This isn't a diet. It's a mindset. It's getting tuned into your body. So, first step is to not deprive yourself. When you're hungry, then you should eat, and you should eat what you want, not low fat, diet foods that you may hate. Eat anything that you like. The key is to eat without distractions--no television, no radio, no reading. Take a bite. Put your fork and knife down. Chew your food twenty times. When your stomach tells you that you are full, then stop eating. At first you may not know when you are full. To get in touch with this feeling, try closing your eyes while you eat and "listen" to your body. Your stomach will signal when it is full. Stop! If you are hungry ten minutes later, eat.

Depriving your body of food slows your metabolism and leads to binge eating.

Next week, we will learn how to stop those cravings permanently. I can't wait. For this week, I will do what he has instructed. I'm not depriving myself of pizza any longer.

If you are interested in watching this show, it is on The Learning Channel at 9pm on Sunday night.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Smile Brightens The Day

The change to daylight savings time always throws my body into a refusal to cooperate. I've gotten used to rising when the sun lights the morning sky, and now I have to get up before the sun. Some days it's a struggle. Especially on Saturday. Today I had to get up because I had so many things planned for the day, including a writing chapter meeting.

Heavy footed and heavy lidded, I made my way down the stairs and grabbed my coat to go out and feed our feral cat colony. I stepped outside and there waiting for me were several of our dependent semi-ferals. Once they were skinny and bedraggled. Now they have full soft fur coats and fat tummies. They've become dependent on us for food, shelter, and water. But they give back in return.

There is nothing like the "smile" on a cat's face when you give them pets of love and a nice breakfast.

That smile from one of my favorites is still warming my heart.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Author Interview with Leanna Ellis

The band plays a lively rendition of an Elvis classic, "All Shook Up." The audience is clapping and singing along. As the music fades, the curtain rises, and Carol Ann walks center stage and stands in front of the two chairs arranged for an interview.

"Audience, I'm so happy to be here today. It's been a rough few days and I owe everyone a big apology. Due to illness and a rare snowstorm that dumped 20.4 inches of snow in my yard, I haven't been able to interview my guest today until now. I'm sure your anticipation level has been high, because she is an awesome Christian author. Instead of wasting any further time, please put your hands together and welcome LEANNA ELLIS!"

The audience hoots, stomps and applauds as Leanna joins Carol Ann and takes a seat center stage.

CAROL ANN: Leanna, thank you so much for being patient and adjusting your time schedule to join me in the Blog Studio today.

LEANNA: It's my pleasure to be here with everyone today.

CAROL ANN: Leanna has one of the most unique titles and book covers I've seen in a long time.

Camera pans in on the book Carol Ann is holding in her hand.

CAROL ANN: Leanna, please tell us about your book.

LEANNA: In Elvis Takes a Back Seat, a young widow, determined to fulfill her husband’s last request, hauls a three foot bust of Elvis strapped in the back seat of a vintage Cadillac from Texas to Memphis to return it to its rightful owner. The road trip with her eccentric aunt, who knew the King of Rock n’ Roll, and a temperamental teen, hits roadblocks and detours as the three women uncover pieces of their own past along with the bust’s mysterious history. The discoveries change the course of their lives forever.

CAROL ANN: This sounds like a fun book. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

LEANNA: I was a teacher, looking for something else to do, and my sister suggested I write a book. “You’re always writing in that journal of yours,” she said. I’ve always loved the creative process whether it was choreographing dances, writing stories for classes or creating interesting ways to teach reading. So without knowing anything about the book business, I quit teaching and started writing. (I don’t recommend that!) I discovered it was definitely my passion. It took me about three and a half years to sell that first book.

CAROL ANN: Three and a half years is a pretty good track record. I admire your courage in changing your career path. Something I always find fun is asking the authors I interview what we would see if we could peek into your writing space. Would you feel comfortable sharing?

LEANNA: A mess! Seriously. I’m finishing up a book, and by the time I get to this stage of a writing project my office is a mess. Books everywhere. Notes scribbled on post it notes. It’s definitely a creative, scattered, crazy mind at work. There’s also usually a kid working on homework on the floor beside me and sometimes a cat or one of my dogs under my desk.

CAROL ANN: **laugh** Sounds a lot like my writing office! What is one thing about you that might surprise the audience?

LEANNA: That I was on TV yesterday! I know this is lame, but I’m tired from my trip to Indiana and I can’t think of anything surprising except I have leftover mascara under my eyes and a packed suitcase lying in my bedroom floor. **big grin**

CAROL ANN: Traveling is always exhausting and there is no place like home. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

LEANNA: I love to travel, see new places, experience different cultures. I love to see beautiful scenery like the ocean and mountains. There are so many places I’d like to go where I’ve never gone: Australia, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Africa. But there are a ton of places I’d love to go back and visit: Hawaii, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Scotland, England, New York. Honestly, anywhere with my family is always fun.

CAROL ANN: Many members of the audience are aspiring writers. What advice would you give?

LEANNA: Put your bottom in the chair and write. Just write.

CAROL ANN: Great advice! How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many edits before you are "satisfied?"

LEANNA: I usually write a fast first draft to get the story down on paper. That can take two to four months. But then the real work begins. I revise and edit for a longer period of time, adding, revising, rewriting, deepening.

CAROL ANN: Do you believe in writer's block?

LEANNA: To some people it’s a very real stumbling block. I personally haven’t experienced it. I usually have a story idea kicking around in my brain. But I will say I hit publishing exhaustion at one point, just plain ol’ burnout. I still had story ideas but needed to take a break from publishing. I do think one way to avoid writer’s block and burnout is to continuously refill the writer’s well. Sometimes that’s going to see movies or reading great books. Sometimes that’s going on vacation or getting a massage. Take a week off of writing. Enjoy life.

CAROL ANN: If you could speak on national television, what would you tell everyone?

LEANNA: Yesterday I did speak on a television show nationally and internationally. It was such fun! What did I say? Go buy Elvis Takes a Back Seat! **grin** Honestly, I’d answer the interviewers questions as best as I could. One thing we discussed in my interview yesterday is that writing is hard. It takes perseverence. There are down times for every writer. To me, the key is to take those hurts and complaints, grumblings and heartache to the Lord. Pray about it. Writing is a journey. There will be bumps along the way, hills to climb, but you have to persevere. I remember about six months before I sold Elvis Takes a Back Seat, I was down in the dumps. So once again, I asked God, “Do you want me to write?” A couple of days after that, I was flipping through a book I picked up off a friend’s table. There was a chapter called, “If you feel called to write.” I did. So I read closer. It was talking about ‘many are called, few are chosen.’ That made me very uncomfortable. I thought, did I do something to cause me not to be chosen? But actually what it said is many are called, and right after the calling there is a period (often long) of testing and trying, learning and growth. This is a time of preparation. But many give up during this time. Many fall by the wayside. God was telling me to hang on. So, I suppose, that’s what I would say to an audience. No matter what your dream is, hang onto it, keep pursuing it, don’t give up.

CAROL ANN: Leanna, that is wonderful advice that all of us should take to heart. I know many times I've found myself questioning the journey. But God always provides an answer. Thank you so much for joining us, and I wish you well with the sale of your book.

LEANNA: Thanks so much for having me here, Carol Ann.

CAROL ANN: To learn more about Leanna and her books, please visit her website.

Carol Ann and Leanna hug and walk offstage while the audience gives Leanna a standing ovation.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Animal Planet Addiction

I'm hooked on all the shows on Animal Planet. Well, not all, but I love the Animal Cops, Animal Police, Chimp Eden... Some of the stories I see are heartbreaking and some heartwarming. Being an animal lover, these programs draw me like a magnet (pun intended).

Guess that explains why I drive a car with lots of muddy cat prints on the hood. Caring for fourteen feral cats is a heartwarming, heartbreaking, and wallet breaking undertaking. These animals go through twenty pounds of cat food a week. But they are dependent on us. All our neighbors complained about the cats but no one would do anything. If we hadn't taken action, there would be a lot more than fourteen. I'm happy to say that all our ferals are becoming friendly to us. They are very fat and have thick and healthy coats. One of ours has baby blue eyes and looks much like a ragdoll.

Tomorrow is our primary election day. I'll have to get my umbrella out since we are supposed to get a huge dump of rain. They moved our election spot back to the high school and I hate that. There is no place to park without walking a loooooooong way. And we have to contend with buses and all the kids who drive. **sigh** Still, I'll get up an hour early in order to hit the voting booth before work.

Hope you all have a good day! Thanks for stopping by.