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Between the Lines with Charlotte Lobb (writing as Charlotte Carter)

November 13, 2011 by in category Interviews tagged as , ,

A multi-published author of more than fifty romance, cozy mystery and inspirational titles, Charlotte Carter lives in Southern California with her husband of forty-nine years and their cat Mittens—an equal opportunity lap cat. They have two married daughters and five grandchildren. When she’s not writing, Charlotte does a little stand-up comedy—G-Rated Humor for Grownups—and teaches workshops on the craft of writing.


Single mom Ellie James has returned to Montana for a fresh start and a new job at a local school. She sure could use the support of hometown rancher Arnie O’Brien, especially when she faces the opportunity to step up as director. But this cowboy still holds a grudge from when Ellie left him behind eight years ago. Can Arnie trust God’s plan and take a second chance on the girl who got away? He and Ellie will have to put aside the past to face the future together.

Q. You’ve written SO many books. How do you keep yourself motivated to write?
I’m compulsive! Maybe it’s because I started late in this writing business, but writing, discovering a story, soothes me (when it’s going well, of course). And there’s always another story to tell lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. So little time, so many stories……
Q. You’ve written in several different subgenres. Do you stick with one genre at a time or do you switch it up and change from book to book to keep it interesting?
The vast majority of my books have been romance novels. Now, however, I’m writing for two publishers: inspirational romance for Love Inspired  and cozy mystery continuities for Guideposts Books. I try to alternate between publishers, which is somewhat dependent on my schedule for the Guideposts books in whatever series is current.

Q. What is your writing process like? Linear or dot-to-dot? Planner or pantser? Do you write long hand or on the computer? etc.
I’m definitely linear and a planner, although the characters have been known to give me a surprise now and then. I start off plotting with a pen and college-lined notebook paper. (You can tell  how high-tech I am – Not!)  I establish who the characters are and their goals, diagram a W plot and  work through the hero’s journey.  At that point I can usually write a synopsis, which I do on the computer as well as the rest of the manuscript.

Q. What is your most reliable “go to” tool when you realize your story is broken and needs fixing?
For many years, my favorite “go to” tool was Mindy Neff and Susan Phillips, my critique partners. More recently I’ve been whining to Karen Leabo (aka Kara Lennox), who is great with the ‘black moment.’ If they aren’t handy, I may take a second look at Save the Cat by Blake Synder, do Debbie Macomber’s list of 20, or let my subconscious solve the problem while I sleep. I will say, by chapter 3 I pretty well can tell if the story is going to work.

Q. How have you managed to brand yourself, given the different genres you have written in?
I’ve never quite understood this ‘branding’ business, but I do have a motto and a promise that I make to readers: Books that leave you smiling….by Charlotte Carter.  When I was writing for Harlequin American (as Charlotte Maclay) I wrote warm, family stories. Now, with Love Inspired (w/a Charlotte Carter) I’m writing warm, family stories but with a more emotional tone and characters who are dealing with serious problems — a heart transplant recipient, loss of family members, and in my current book, Big Sky Family, a hero who is paraplegic.

Q. You have a wonderful sense of humor that serves you well when speaking publicly. How does your humor serve you in your writing career?
I wish I could say my sense of humor allows me to laugh at copy editors, but that would be a lie. In my writing, humor tends to worm it’s way into the story via children, who are always unpredictable, or by creating a ‘fish out of water’ story for the hero or heroine. Often it’s the reaction of a ‘straight’ character to a humorous situation that can make a reader smile.

Q. What authors and genres do you like to read?
I most often read suspense and romantic suspense, single title romance, legal thrillers, and the like. I’ve recently read James Patterson (Alex Cross story), John Grisham, Iris Johansen, and Rachel Lee books. And to my delight, our own Deb Mullins and Tessa Dare (Eve Ortega) have brought me back to historical romance, my first love.

Q. What piece of advice do you consider most important sharing with an aspiring author?
Write! Write! And write some more. I was very fortunate when I joined OCC and RWA that I could come home from a meeting and immediately use whatever information I’d gleaned  in my work-in-progress.. It’s impossible, in my view, to learn to write without having somehow finished a story.  My various critique groups have also been invaluable. (My technique is to be the dumbest one in the group so I can learn the most; so far I’ve achieved that goal..) I continue to learn by attending workshops and taking online classes in the hope of improving my craft. As Susan Macias said at our October Birthday Bash, “The only guarantee that you won’t sell is if you quit writing.”
Find more information about Charlotte and her books at: CharlotteCarter.com 
Interview is conducted by Brenna Aubrey, aspiring author whose first publication, a short story, “The Love Letter” was recently published in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology, currently available.

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Concert in the Park

September 5, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

While much of the east coast was being pummeled by hurricane Irene, my husband, a friend and I were enjoying a concert in the park performed by the Torrance Symphony Orchestra.  Lots of show tunes, a couple of operatic arias by a wonderful tenor and soprano, and a classical violin piece performed by a young lady who is about 16-years-old. (Makes me feel like I wasted my youth!)

If I can make you envious for a moment – picture a clear blue sky, 74-degrees with a light breeze blowing. Music lovers seated in folding chairs on a hillside, some enjoying picnic lunches, toddlers making mad dashes only to be snared up into a parent’s arms before they could get into trouble, and dogs and puppies straining at their leashes.

In the shallow pond in front of the bandstand ducks are swimming in the water or napping on the concrete shore. The alpha seagull defends the ‘best’ perch against all comers.
Overhead, palm trees sway and eucalyptus leaves shimmer silver and green in the breeze. When the audience applauds, a flock of pigeons take flight, soaring over the trees.
What a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon — and to celebrate my birthday!
What do you like to do to celebrate your birthday?
by Charlotte Carter
Big Sky Family, Love Inspired, 10/19/2011
New Beginnings, Guideposts Books, 9/2011
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Writing for Two Publishers

June 23, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,
Available now 

by Charlotte Carter

For a working author it’s often a good idea to write for two different publishers. In my case I write for Guideposts Books and Love Inspired Romance. That gives me an opportunity to write more books and earn more money per year than I might with one publisher, which is generally a good thing.
Here comes the ‘but’ —
Apparently there is some universal rule that when you’re writing for two different publishers, the two editors (who probably don’t even know each other) conspire to request revisions the same week. That’s right. All at once you’ve got two revision letters and week to revise two books. Ack!
To compound the problem, the two editors are now on the same schedule to send you the copy edited version of their respective manuscripts a couple of weeks later.
By the time you finish that double process, it’s a miracle if you haven’t accidently slipped Daniel, the hero from book A, into book B as the local pharmacist.
This phenomena closely resembles my husband’s frequent complaint that every time he starts to back the car out of the driveway, an entire parade of cars arrive to thwart his efforts.
I like writing cozy mystery continuities for Guideposts Books. (Watch for a new Secrets of Mary’s Bookshop series coming out in early 2012; I’m writing book #3, Reading the Clues.)
Writing for Love Inspired Romance gives me a chance to tell my own stories, and that’s important to me. (Big Sky Family is a November 2011 release.)
Now, if I could just manage to keep the editors on alternate schedules, I’d be all set.
Happy writing—
  books that leave you smiling 
 Big Sky Reunion, Love Inspired, available now
 Big Sky Family,  Love Inspired, 11/2011
 New Beginnings,  Guideposts Books, 9/2011
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Contest Judge Tells All

May 14, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Charlotte Carter

Throughout the year, I judge quite a few entries in unpublished writing contests. I’m thrilled when I find a really well written entry. I’ve been known – at least once – to give a perfect score. I’ve even referred one entrant to my agent.

But I dread finding mistakes that drive the score down. Hoping to help others learn what NOT to do, here are a few examples.

One author wrote wonderful, creative, original metaphors. They were great! Except there were too many, sometimes three on a page. I got a bad case of metaphor-itis and had to lower the score.

Actions cannot happen simultaneously. Try to picture what this character is doing: She stood and carried the baby as she followed the doctor down the hall. You cannot stand and carry and follow all at once. These actions should be in sequence. Standing, she lifted the baby into her arms and followed the doctor.

One author had clearly been told to use the 5 senses. Excellent idea. But not all in one paragraph and then totally forgotten throughout the rest of the manuscript. Weave the 5 senses into every scene so the reader shares the same experiences as the characters.

Dialogue is good. Dialogue by itself is not enough to tell an emotional story. It’s talking heads.

Read your entry carefully, slowly, aloud, or have someone else do it for you. Silly mistakes and typos can cost you points.

Commas are your friends. Or rather, properly used commas make your sentences understandable. Leave them out and the reader, or judge, has to continually backtrack. Commas used willy-nilly are just as confusing. Don’t guess. Get someone to help you.

You do not fool a judge by not starting a new page for a new chapter. We know you’re trying to squeeze every word into the limited number of pages that you are allowed. It doesn’t help.

Your synopsis, no matter how short, has to include the ending. Don’t make the judge — or an editor — guess how the story is going to come out.

Books that leave you smiling
from Love Inspired
Big Sky Reunion, available now
Big Sky Family, 11/2011

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Let’s Get Physical!

April 7, 2011 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

Non-writers have no idea how physically demanding being a full-time writer can be.

What? Do I hear you laughing? Not so fast.

Give some thought to what happens to a body when it spends eight or ten or more hours per day in a sitting position. (Granted, I have writer friends who sit curled up in a big easy chair with a laptop all day, but that can’t be too swift on a body either.)

Wrist and elbow problems, and carpal tunnel, are as frequent as typos for writers.

The spine — all those discs and vertebra — can turn on their owner, resulting in serious orthopaedic problems.

Knees and hips are joints that are meant to move, not remain immobile for hours on end. (I assume you’ve heard of the condition called ‘piano player’s spread.’ Same problem for writers.)

And then there’s the foggy brain syndrome which is a result of hours of being sedentary and no blood reaching the brain.

Writers have to get up and MOVE! Deadline or not. MOVE!

Some folks have home gym equipment like a treadmill. (Please note: Treadmills are only effective if used regularly, not left sitting in a corner.)

Some writers take walks. That’s a great way to let your brain toy with your latest plot idea or characters.

I’m a member of Curves, the 30-minute women’s exercise program. I haven’t lost a lot of weight, and I’m a long way from being buff, but it does give me a chance to talk to ‘real’ people, in contrast to those talkative characters who inhabit my brain.

So, writers, let’s get moving!

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