Friday, May 16, 2014

Guest Post: Christine Pisera Naman, author of Nine Days

Author Christine Pisera Naman is on the blog today, sharing some of her favorite comforting Scripture verses.
My Bible is worn, dog eared, and very well used. I so often turn to it when I am having a bad day or going through a rough time. Because I read it daily, it doesn’t have time to collect dust. Through my many readings, I have underlined passages, fragments, and sometimes even single words that have touched me. It is in times of trouble that I reach for my Bible. I actually do it constantly. I keep it on my night table next to my bed. But sometimes, when things really seem to be bleak, I actually carry it through the day with me. And throughout these darker days I steal quick peeks at the gems I found throughout my previous readings. They always seem to give me comfort no matter how familiar they have become.

One passage that always comforts me is Romans 8-38-39

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Could there be anything better than knowing that nothing could ever separate us from God’s love? To me, no. Sometimes, this is exactly what I need to hear. When I feel myself growing distant I remind myself that His love is stronger than all and ever present.

I’m not by nature the most confident person and, sometimes I open my Bible for a little pep talk. Philippians 4:13 is short and sweet but does the trick for me.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I think what I like most about the way I read this passage is that it’s not about what I can do or choose to do but instead it is about God’s will and His glory. And that in itself somehow makes me feel strong and confident.

But I think the passage I turn to the most often is Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

As much as I’m always fighting God for the steering wheel I know it is best when He’s driving. I love knowing that He has not only a plan for me but a good plan at that. I know I’m happier and better off when I’m letting Him guide me and I feel an excitement inside of me when I realize the endless possibilities of the wonderful life He has laid ahead of me.

My worn, written in, tattered Bible remains my most precious possession. In it I find passages to turn to when having a bad day or going through a rough time. In it I find serenity.


In NINE DAYS, twenty-three year-old Mary Grace Mastrianni returns home to face her difficult past. She had a lonely childhood after the painful death of her mother, and Mary Grace left it all behind her when she escaped to New York City to attend college and build a new life. When Mary Grace is forced to return to sell the family home, memories of her early years suddenly surround her, making her come to terms with unresolved feelings and desires she had pushed away for so long. 

Mary Grace finds her mother’s tattered sweater that has not been touched since the day of her mother’s passing, Mary Grace slides her hand into its pocket to discover a yellowing square of paper on which a Novena is printed. The prayer promises that any request will be granted as long as the person fervently prays the prayer in church for nine consecutive days. Mary Grace, who often lacks faith, decides to stay in town just long enough to pray the Novena. In her heart she holds a very special request. In addition, Mary Grace stumbles upon the “to-do” list her mother was in the middle of when she died. Mary Grace understands that her mother was the most faith-filled person she ever knew, and Mary Grace decides to not only pray the Novena but complete the “to-do” list as well. She hopes that by walking in her mother’s shoes, her chances of having her Novena request granted will increase.

Mary Grace spends the next nine days completing her journey of prayer, visiting the church each day and following through on the not-so-easy tasks on the “to-do” list. During these nine days, Mary Grace meets a variety of people who help her build her own faith by sharing their faith with her: She volunteers in a hospital neonatal unit caring for a sick baby, reads to children at the local library, visits with a lonely elderly man in need of company, serves food in a soup kitchen, goes to Confession and visits the gravesites of family who have passed. As Mary Grace dutifully proceeds along her nine-day journey of prayer, she feels her faith growing. The beauty of God surrounds her, but she can’t help but wonder if her most private, heartfelt prayer will be answered.


Christine Pisera Naman is the author of six books including, Faces of Hope 10 Years Later (Health Communications, 2011), The Believers (Kirk House Publishers, 2011), Christmas Lights (Random House, 2007), Caterpillar Kisses (Random House, 2005), Faces of Hope (Health Communications, 2002). Christine has appeared on many national television programs including the Today Show and Fox & Friends, featured in a variety of national and local print and online outlets and interviewed on numerous radio shows around the country. Prior to her illustrious writing career, Christine was a Catholic school Kindergarten teacher. For additional information please visit her at

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Guest Post: Cathi Shaw, author of Five Corners

Today we have YA fantasy author Cathi Shaw with us, talking a little about the editing process.

The Secret to Editing

            Editing is the secret to good writing (but if you’re reading this you probably already know that). Editing is also the most skipped over part of the writing process. I always tell my students that 60% of their writing time should be taken up by editing. Unfortunately, most of us hate editing.

            I think one of the ways to make the editing process work best, is if you can take a break from your project before you leap into the edits. We all feel as if it is DONE when we put those final few words on a draft. In reality it is just starting but it’s hard to see that when you’ve just finished your masterpiece.

            My practice is to finish the draft and then take a week or two off. Write something else, take a break from writing altogether, do some spring cleaning – whatever will keep you away from your project (I usually start a new project if I can because there’s nothing so all encompassing as a new story idea).

            After I’ve taken some time away from my manuscript, I sit down with it and start reading it. I try to do this with fresh eyes; to look at the story from the reader’s point of view. And inevitably by the second page I’m making changes (some of them big and some of them small).

            For me, this first stage of editing takes anywhere from a week to several months. It doesn’t really matter how long it takes – the crucial piece to making it successful is that break at the start.

            After I’ve edited my MS to death (at least that’s how it feels at that stage), I send it out to my trusty beta readers. I do it at this stage for a few reasons. First, if there are any major problems with the plotline that I’m too blind to see, I’d like to find out at this stage rather than at the stage when I think the story is actually finished. Second, by this time I really can’t see what needs to still be done with the MS – sometimes there needs to be more character development, sometimes a certain scene doesn’t make sense to an outside reader, sometimes it’s just massive rewording of some sections of the story. So I turn to my readers.

            By the way, if you do have some trusted readers who will give you honest feedback, it’s helpful to provide them with some guiding questions. I keep these pretty general: where did you feel lost in the story, what parts were boring or repetitive, what parts needed more information or description?

            Give your beta readers some time to get through your masterpiece. This is one of the toughest parts – waiting (I’m impatient by nature so waiting for anything is akin to torture for me). Be realistic. For my novels (which are about 70,000 words) I give a month. If you need feedback within a certain timeline, let your readers know. Some of them might not be able to help you out. That’s okay, too. Just move on to other beta readers (you should start collecting as many eager readers as you can early on).

            When you get feedback from your readers, read it. I know that sounds pretty simple but often you won’t necessarily agree with the feedback or it will be a bit negative and it’s hard to read a critique of your own work. It is normal to be hurt by less positive feedback, but if you truly want to improve your MS, you really need to listen to what your readers are telling you. Sometime the advice or suggestions is totally off base, but, more often than not, it actually is the truth. Especially if two or more of your beta readers are saying the same thing, you probably should listen to them.

            I try to read my feedback, give it a few days and then reread it. From there I jump into the next round of edits, making changes as suggested by my readers, correcting an errors they caught and so on. This stage takes me between 2-3 weeks usually but it really depends on how big the edits need to be.

            And then I’m ready to send the manuscript to my publisher! Don’t think the editing is over at this stage … it just reaches a new level. Depending on your publisher, you may have to engage in major edits to the storyline or simple copy edits. I’ve had to do both, depending on project. At any rate, expect to make changes after the publisher receives the book.

            So the editing process is fairly detailed. The best advice I can give is to remember that editing really is writing. It takes up the bulk of your time as a writer and, yes, it can be onerous. But a detailed editing process is what makes a mediocre manuscript into a masterpiece!
Author Bio

Cathi Shaw lives in Summerland, BC with her husband and three children.  She is often found wandering around her home, muttering in a seemingly incoherent manner, particularly when her characters have embarked on new adventure. In addition to writing fiction, she teaches rhetoric and professional writing in the Department of Communications at Okanagan College and is the co-author of the textbook Writing Today.

 Five Corners Book Blurb (from Goodreads)
Growing up in a sleepy village untouched by distant wars and political conflicts, it was easy for Thia, Mina and Kiara to forget such horrors existed in the Five Corners. That is until the dead child is found; a child that bears the same strange birthmark that all three sisters possess. A Mark their mother had always told them was unique to the girls. Kiara's suspicions grow as their Inn is soon overrun with outsiders from all walks of life. Strangers, soldiers and Elders who all seem to know more about what is happening than the girls do. After Mina barely survives an attack in the forest, the sisters are faced with a shattering secret their mother has kept from them for years. As danger closes in around them, the sisters are forced from their home and must put their trust in the hands of strangers. With more questions than answers, Kiara finds herself separated from everyone she loves and reliant on an Outlander who has spent too much time in army. She doesn't trust Caedmon but she needs him if she has any hope of being reunited with her sisters and learning what the Mark might mean.

Contact Links
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blog Tour: Miss Darcy Decides by Reina M. Williams (Review)

Published: January 21st, 2014 (ADS, Inc.)

Pages: 77
Rating: 4/5

Miss Darcy Decides is a light, sweet Pride and Prejudice novella, book two in the Love at Pemberley series.

While visiting a young woman—who was not so fortunate as Miss Georgiana Darcy in escaping the persuasions of a rogue—Georgiana meets Sir Camden Sutton, whose reputation causes Georgiana to wonder as to his motives. Her wondering soon turns to a different feeling when Sir Camden comes to stay at Pemberley, showing himself to be a very different man than was rumored. While Sir Camden struggles with his past and his commitment to his future, as well as the ill intentions of haughty Caroline Bingley, Miss Darcy must decide whether to listen to others, or the words written on her heart.

Jane Austen spin-offs are my cup of tea. They can be done really well or really badly, and thankfully this one was done very well. It’s the perfect little novella for a road trip or an afternoon by the pool.

I feel like Reina did a great job of staying true to Austen’s original characters. This is something that I feel is relatively important to do. I love the addition of Sir Camden. Georgiana’s true forgiving nature and her ability to see the good in others is amplified in the character of Sir Camden. This sweet little romance is a good reminder that a certain amount of forgiveness and forgetfulness is required to make any relationship work.

Through it was short and sweet, I enjoyed every page of Miss Darcy Decides. We the grown-up side of Georgiana as she begins to make bold decision about what she believes and wants. I’m looking forward to reading more stories from the Love at Pemberley series.

Buy the Novella

About the Author
Reina M. Williams loves period dramas, sweet reads, fairy tales, cooking and baking. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her two boys, who hope to someday take a research trip to England with their mom.
For more information please visit Reina M. Williams’s website. You can also connect with her on TwitterGoodreads, and Pinterest.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Blog Tour: Sinners and the Sea by Rebecca Kanner (Review)

Published: April 2nd, 2013 (Howard Books)
Pages: 304
Rating: 3/5

The young heroine in Sinners and the Sea is destined for greatness. Known only as “wife” in the Bible and cursed with a birthmark that many think is the brand of a demon, this unnamed woman lives anew through Rebecca Kanner. The author gives this virtuous woman the perfect voice to make one of the Old Testament’s stories come alive like never before.

Desperate to keep her safe, the woman’s father gives her to the righteous Noah, who weds her and takes her to the town of Sorum, a haven for outcasts. Alone in her new life, Noah’s wife give

s him three sons. But living in this wicked and perverse town with an aloof husband who speaks more to God than to her takes its toll. She tries to make friends with the violent and dissolute people of Sorum while raising a brood that, despite its pious upbringing, develops some sinful tendencies of its own. While Noah carries out the Lord’s commands, she tries to hide her mark and her shame as she weathers the scorn and taunts of the townspeople.

But these trials are nothing compared to what awaits her after God tells her husband that a flood is coming—and that Noah and his family must build an ark so that they alone can repopulate the world. As the floodwaters draw near, she grows in courage and honor, and when the water finally recedes, she emerges whole, displaying once and for all the indomitable strength of women. Drawing on the biblical narrative and Jewish mythology, Sinners and the Sea is a beauti­fully written account of the antediluvian world told in cinematic detail.

Most of us are taught the story of Noah and the ark when we’re young. It usually goes something like this: Noah was a jolly old man, the only good man left on the earth. Everyone else misbehaved. God told Noah to build a boat because God was going to send a flood. Animal couples came and got on the ark with Noah and his wife and three sons and their wives, and it rained and rained and rained. Then it stopped, and everyone got off the ark, and there was a pretty rainbow. The End.

The sad thing is, I think I’ve carried that version of the story into my adulthood. Maybe most of us do. But Rebecca’s novel is nothing like that. Told from the perspective of Noah’s unnamed, virtually unknown wife, Sinners and the Sea is gritty and dark. It delves into the details of Noah’s life, the sin and evil that vastly covered the earth, the flood, and everything in between. It opens up the raw, harsh specifics that you never really thought about before (and maybe don’t want to think about). The character of Noah’s wife is so unique- I love how we see her grow from young outcast to strong woman. I wasn’t quite pleased with how Noah was portrayed at first, but I soon realized that Kanner’s description is probably accurate of who he was. I was kind of surprised at the varying personalities of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Yet through both my disgust and my surprise, I realized that they weren’t perfect, and they weren’t supposed to be. They were humans, part of mankind, sinners. And though God had cleansed the earth of the evil that had inhabited it before, Shem, Ham, and Japheth would continue to sin and their sons would sin and their grandsons would sin, and so on. This sin would lead up to the greatest act in history- Jesus Christ’s death on the cross, to take away sin, to fill the gap. So that there could be a flood of forgiveness, if you will. J


There seems to be a steady trend in entertainment and media recently. There’s a curious focus on the story of Noah and his ark, and the events surrounding the flood. However, I haven’t yet run across a version of the story (whether in movies, books, etc) that has it right. I don’t know why people feel the need to embellish this story. The Biblical text has been interpreted in so many outrageous ways by so many people for so long- but I guess this is the case for the whole Bible, sadly. And yet, with Noah’s story, it seems to be done more often- magical is added, detail is subtracted, whatever the case may be. I feel like for the most part, Rebecca did an excellent job telling the story in its true form. I was a bit skeptical of the giants or “Nephilims” at first, until I checked my own Bible and discovered them to be there as well. The one thing that I feel was highly misrepresented was God. And, well, He’s kind of an important part.

He was seen as an angry God, and even Kanner admits this in her interview here. She even goes so far as to say that the God in her book is “imperfect” and “makes mistakes.” I don’t know which god she’s talking about, but the One I know is certainly not imperfect. He’s a wrathful God, yes. He punishes sin, yes. But that’s not the part I have an issue with. It’s the “imperfect” part I have an issue with. I’d like to also mention that I was disappointed that Kanner failed to mention any part of God’s covenant with Noah: aka the first rainbow. That’s an essential part of the story- it’s a symbol of God’s love and His promise to never flood the earth again. The story is lacking without the rainbow. And without the rainbow, God is portrayed only as an angry God, void of love and commitment. Long story short, this was the sole issue I had with this book, and thus dropped my rating from four stars to three.

Overall, I enjoyed this life-changing story told from the eyes of Noah’s wife. It truly altered my view on the story of Noah, the ark, and the flood, in such a way that I’ll never look at it the same again. It’s not an easy ride- it’s a story full of violence, emotional, and heartache. But it’ll move you, guaranteed.

Praise for Sinners and the Sea

“Kanner animates a harsh, almost dystopic world of fallen people struggling to survive. Noah’s unnamed wife is a powerful, memorable character.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“[Noah's wife] proves her strength and character as she tries to protect her family… from the outside forces that threaten. Kanner successfully undertakes a formidable task retelling a familiar religious story through the eyes of Noah’s wife. The narrative’s well-articulated, evenly balanced and stimulating—but it’s definitely not the familiar tale that’s so frequently illustrated in children’s books” – Kirkus Reviews

“We think we know Noah’s story but he was not alone on the ark; what was the experience of his wife, his family? Rebecca Kanner’s vividly imagined telling recreates the world of the bible, and asks powerful questions about the story and about ourselves.” – Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine (2012). Author of WHY FAITH MATTERS

“First-time novelist Kanner has written an utterly absorbing novel, one that flows seamlessly.” – Historical Novel Society

About the Author

Sinners and the Sea is Rebecca Kanner’s debut novel. Rebecca is a Twin Cities native and holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award, a Loft mentorship Award and a 2012/2013 Minnesota State Arts Board Grant. Her personal essay, “Safety,” is listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2011. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review.

Along with other authors including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks and Ron Hansen, Rebecca will be featured in the upcoming title Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists.

You can learn more about Rebecca, and find links to selected stories and essays, at You can also find her onFacebook and Twitter.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Blog Post Spotlight: YA Contemporaries

Jen from YA Romantics posted a great discussion-starter post about YA contemporaries. It seems like a large amount of contemps are being made into series rather than having them stand alone. Personally, I like a balance (a little of each). I'll agree that it's hard to find stand alone books, especially in YA, and that's annoying. What are your thoughts? Post them below or comment on Facebook. Also, go give Jen some love on her post as well!

Trending Thursday: Will YA Contemps Become the New Neverending Story?