Golden Heart Spotlight – Cat Shield!

Cat Shield ventured into the world of writing romance fiction while still in high school. It has been her passion ever since. Thirteen years ago she put her dream of getting published on hold in favor of motherhood. She spent a couple years working two jobs, saved money, and adopted a little girl from China.  Cat’s other passion is sailing.  Five years ago she embarked on a sailing adventure in the British Virgin Islands with friends.  The trip inspired an article that appeared in International Yacht Charters & Vacations magazine. Getting published in a national magazine revived her desire to see her books in print.  Four years later, she has won numerous writing contests, received a bunch of requests from editors, and achieved one dream: a final in the Golden Heart. To learn more about Cat, visit her website at 

Cat’s Golden Heart manuscript is FAKE FIANCEE, REAL LOVE – a finalist in the Series Contemporary category:

Pursued by his brother’s fiancée, Simon Holcroft, needs a pretend fiancée to accompany him home for Christmas.  When circumstances place his maid, Caroline Sampson, in the right place at the right time, he persuades the law student to help him out.

Without any family to call her own since her mother’s death ten years before, Caroline longs to spend Christmas with Simon’s family, but she believes in total honesty when it comes to those you love.   Her discomfort with their deception puts them at odds, even as every sizzling kiss makes her forget that she and Simon aren’t getting married.

Acting as if they’re in love feels less like pretending with each hour that passes, but Simon isn’t only keeping secrets from his family, he’s keeping one from Caroline.  If the truth comes out, he risks losing her and any shot at future happiness.

And now a little more about Cat… 

1)  How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing since I was eleven.  Writing for publication since my late teens.

2)  Did you always want to be an author or is this something you fell into later in life?
It’s what I always wanted to do.

3)   What do you do in your “other” life? (Day job, family, etc.)
In my “other” life, I have a wonderful eleven-year-old daughter.  She is my ray of sunshine during those dark days of writer’s block and rejections.  For my day job, I work in finance.

4)  Who are your favorite authors?
This list could go on and on.  I read a lot of genres besides romance.  Mystery:  S.J. Rozan, Nevada Barr, Robert Crais.  Fantasy:  Lois McMasters Bujold, Lynn Flewelling, Katherine Kerr.  Since my daughter has started reading, I’ve branched out into YA.  Favs include Tamora Pierce and Garth Nix.  Romance: Susan Mallery, Elizabeth Boyle, Stephanie Laurens.

5)  Do you have an agent?
Yes.  Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  She’s awesome.

6)  Where do you see yourself in five years?
Happily writing and getting paid for it.  I’d love to be able to support myself with writing full time.  It’s been my dream forever.

And now, in Cat’s own words…

The Internal Editor

I’m supposed to end this blog post with a question.  Instead, I’m going to start with one.  Do you have a healthy relationship with your internal editor?

By that, I mean, are you able to turn that voice in your head on and off at will, or does it drown out the melodious murmur of your muse until you approach a blank page filled with dread rather than delight?

When I first started writing for publication in late 2006, I was very productive.  I’d been away from the business side of writing long enough to forget how frustrating trying to get published can be.  I wrote two books in four months, entered them in a ton of contests, and knew if I worked hard, I’d be published.  Meanwhile, I polished those books and started a third that I finished in record time.  It was a blissfully creative, highly productive time for me.  Then reality hit.

Contest judges tore apart my writing.  The line I was targeting underwent a radical change, and my stories no longer matched their guidelines.   I lost my direction and my focus.  I began to wonder if I’d been kidding myself to think I could ever get published.

I knew I could write, a string of contest finals and a couple of wins got me requests from editors, but I’d lost confidence that all my hard work could land me on the bookshelves.  See, I wasn’t quite hitting the mark.  This is when I started a series of first chapters.  Some I tossed into contests, hoping to figure out what the editors were looking for.  Others never got past 2500 words.   I wasn’t writing a story I loved.  I was listening to that voice inside my head that was telling me I’d never get published unless I wrote historical or paranormal or anything other than what I wanted to write.

And suddenly.  I couldn’t write at all.

Frustrated and desperate, I signed up for National November Write Month or NaNoWriMo.  Write a book of 50,000 words in a month.  Word count is all that matters.  You must write an average of 1666 words per day for 30 days.  You have permission to write crap.  All the pressure is off.  And guess what?  Your internal editor gets locked in a closet by your muse.  Whoohoo!

Since November, using this fast writing technique, I’ve produced three short contemporary novels and a 90,000 word single title.  Are the books any good?  I have no idea, I haven’t read them.  In my mind they’re lumps of raw clay waiting to be shaped.  To quote Nora Roberts, “You can’t fix a blank page.”

The other tool to silence my internal editor is meditation.  I start out every morning listening to a fifteen minute guided meditation that Stacia D. Kelly did in her Breath. Focus. Achieve. workshop at the 2009 Nationals.  Starting out each day with my thoughts focused on what I can control (my writing) has helped when those negative critiques and rejections hit.

Now, when that little voice inside my head whines at me that I’m never going to get published because my stories suck or I’m not writing what an editor wants to buy, I hit the mute button and write 200 words.

Are you plagued by an internal editor?  What do you do to turn down the volume?

48 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight – Cat Shield!”

  1. Lexi Connor
    July 22nd, 2010 at 5:16 am · Link

    Yay, Cat! Sounds like you know exactly what works for you to succeed. Can’t wait for the day you announce “The Call”!!!

  2. Gillian Layne
    July 22nd, 2010 at 5:59 am · Link

    Whoa! Now that is what I’d call proficient, lady! 😉 Honestly, I’d snatch up your book in a heartbeat; I love those “pretending” story lines.

    My internal editor, at its very worst, is pretty evil. She starts with “it’s not bad, it’s just average” and moves into “but there are hundreds of others who can make average into golden” and then “maybe your true talent is great ideas, but you have no ability to actually translate them into a coherent story” followed by “and if you spent more time with your day job and children the house would look better!” See? Evil.
    I shut her down, at least for a while by physical movement–getting away from the keyboard does help–and pulling out a file of every encouraging word I’ve ever received from all the generous, supporting people who make up the romance writing community.
    I love your picture! And congratulations on connecting with your sweet daughter.

  3. Anne MacFarlane
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:05 am · Link

    Yes, I struggle with my internal editor and I haven’t really found a way to shut it off. It sounds like you’ve found some good techniques that I should try.

    Congratulations on finaling in the GH!

  4. Abigail Sharpe
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:11 am · Link

    Not only am I plagued by an internal editor, Cat, but I’ve not yet found my muse so I’ve nothing to overpower him! I have a picture of him, too – cartoon characters hort with a big nose and glasses, plus balding on top. He’s awful.

    When he takes over, I send an email to writer friends and they tell me to snap out of it. It works. Usually.

  5. Edie Ramer
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:28 am · Link

    Sounds like you’re doing all the right things. I used to meditate and need to go back to it.

    I don’t have problems with my internal editor but I need to write up some writing-related stuff that I’ve been putting off. I’ve just decided I’ll do them this morning.

    Good luck at National! I like your blurb a lot. I hope you sell it!

  6. Kenneth Zak
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:33 am · Link


    Wonderful post. For me, the struggle is to trust it will come out and lead me. Its like a long swim in La Jolla Cove, sometimes I glide though the water like its a pool, other days are so choppy with so much swell I ponder turning back. But with each stroke I never know when a school of shimmering fish, or a large ray, or even one time a rare (in the Cove at least) sea turtle might appear in the very next instant. In that moment I know I am “write” where I want to be. My experience with the internal editor and getting it on the page is quite the same. Whenever I’m done with a session, be it at the laptop or in the water, I know I’ve done what I’m meant to do and served my highest purpose in some small or grand way in my life, and I grin and collapse. For me its choosing love and wonder over fear, time and time again that keeps me creating. I often sign off “Peace and Angst” to my writing pals, and where that line meets is a dangerous and wonderfully creative place.

    Good luck with everything!

  7. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:49 am · Link

    Thanks Lexi! You’re the best. My fingers are crossed for you too!! Can wait to see you in Orlando!

  8. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:52 am · Link

    Gillian, you bring to mind what I did when I was first submitting to contests. I used to pin up the email announcing that I was a finalist. It’s hard for the IE to get a foothold when someone’s congradulating you on a success.

    My daughter is my biggest fan. She tells everyone that her mother is writing a book. What a promoter.

  9. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:55 am · Link

    Anne, thanks for stopping by. You are well on your way to being published. You just need to believe that’s true.

  10. sandy
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:56 am · Link

    Good luck with the GH, Cat.

    My internal editor can’t be stopped. I keep thinking there must be a better way to write this. lol

  11. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:58 am · Link

    Abigail, I love how you have formed a picture of your internal editor in your mind. Imagine your muse as an Amazon with a big club and go bash him into a pulpy mess.

    Once Nationals are over and we can get the crit group up and rolling, you’ll have lots of love and support to keep your muse happy!

  12. Lynda Bailey
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:02 am · Link

    Awesome post! Your experience is quite inspiring for me. And adopted motherhood to boot. Damn inspiring. (Wanna adopted a 21-year-old? LOL!)
    My internal editor is a nasty little bugger who makes me labor over one freaking word at a time. There are days when ten pages flow from my fingertips and others when I can’t get ten words on the page that please me. And that, I guess, is the rub. You might not be able to please yourself at that exact moment when you’re writing. Bummer.
    A former CP said she had to “massage” each word repeatedly until it was “right.” I not only have to massage my words, but take ’em out to dinner and get ’em drunk. And they probably STILL won’t “put out” for me.
    I’d be interested in learning the meditation routine you use. Anything to shut my internal editor away in the attic, or cellar, or, hell, even run the dastardly little creature over with a Mac truck.
    CanNOT wait to meet.

  13. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:05 am · Link

    Edie, glad you liked the blurb. I love meditating. Quieting my mind is like a mini vacation. There’s an Australian meditation group with a website that has free downloads. Nothing quite so wonderful as having an Aussie accented voice telling me to focus my mind.

  14. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 am · Link

    Kenneth, that was so beautifully put. I can’t wait for you to get your book published so I can read it. You have a gift for capturing a moment and bringing us into it with you. Best of luck!

  15. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:08 am · Link

    Sandy. Oh, I know that feeling. I read and reread my posts before I make them, not trusting my words. Then after it’s posted I worry that it wasn’t the right thing to say.

  16. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:11 am · Link

    OMG Lynda, that is hilarious. “Put out.” I’ve never quite thought of it that way, but it sure makes sense. I know all about not being able to write those 10 words. I think sometimes we face so much pressure to do those 10 pages. What has helped me is setting a word goal for the day then I say, write ten words. That’s all you have to do. Then ten more. The next thing I know, I’ve written 500 and I have no idea how.

    Can’t wait to meet you in Orlando! We’re gonna have a ball.

  17. Tamara Hughes
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:16 am · Link

    Hi Cat! Congratulations again on your Golden Heart final. So cool.

    I can usually brush off my internal editor. When she says my work sucks today, I throw it off with – there will be days when nothing looks right and that’s just fine. Tomorrow it will probably look better. During summer, the problem for me is guilt. My kids are home, and I’m torn between writing as much as I can and spending time with them. Usually the kids win out, which on one side of my brain is okay (they’re not going to be kids forever) and on the other side of my brain is the fear that I’m not disciplined enough to be as productive as I should be. I know I can write when I put my mind to it, but I’m struggling with finding a balance between home and work now that work is in the home.

    Wow, nuff said. I feel like I should be lying on a couch.

    Good luck next week,

  18. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 7:56 am · Link

    Tami, thanks!

    I know all about trying to balance writing with kids. My daughter is the princess of after school activities and most of these require me to sit around for an hour or two waiting for her to get done. Sometimes I bring my laptop and write. Sometimes I read. Once in a while, a girl just needs to go shopping.

    These days my daughter is old enough that she likes to spend time in her room drawing or out in the neighborhood socializing. I get lots of uninterrupted weekend hours for writing. It’s heaven.

  19. Nan Dixon
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:30 am · Link

    Great post Cat!

    It’s interesting how many writers have “numbers” background.

    I’m a schizophrenic writer. One week a month I participate in Book-in-a-Week an awesome community where you set a weekly writing goal and shut down that editor and write. One month I wrote 112.5 pages. Everything just flew from my brain to the page.

    These were the #’s for July.
    Top Ten Producers for July:

    1. Molly: 133 pages Stupendous!
    14. Kathy P.: 118 pages Marvelous!
    20. Carolyn Ann: 82 pages Excellent!
    6. Don: 78 pages Thrilling!
    8. Elaine: 71 pages Outrageous!
    32. Yachana: 57 pages Fabulous!
    13. Edie: 51 pages Superb!
    16. Carol: 50.5 pages Amazing!
    35. Nancy E.: 47.5 pages Great! (I was really busy that week sigh)
    24. Shona: 45.5 pages Nice!

    Then the remainder of the month I edit, submit or query always on different manuscripts. Makes lots and lots of characters dance in my head – but then I’ve always loved dancing!

  20. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:47 am · Link

    Nan, aren’t numbers grand? I have a spreadsheet that charts my progress through the book. As I go through the day, I update my number and it calculates how many words I have let to write. It has a lovely graph with a line for my goal and bars for my current progress. Am I scaring anyone?

    What amazing numbers for the book in a week. I have considered trying it, but worry I’d be worthless for the rest of the month. Instead, for me, it’s slow and steady. In fact, sometimes even when I have time and energy for more words, I quit and go do something to fill the well.

    See you in Orlando!

  21. Nan Dixon
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:51 am · Link

    Numbers and graphs – way cool! I track my hours and # of words in a massive excel spreadsheet kind of like punching a time clock. (With tabs when I revising to see what percentage of the book I have left as I’m editing.) I’ve got to create some graphs!!

  22. Lizbeth Selvig
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:55 am · Link

    Hey Cat!
    This is a subject so near and dear to my heart, you have no idea! I worked as an editor for years (what would that be, an external editor?) So I trained my internal editor very, very well to take over whenever I became the writer. Others here have said it best: i have to polish and placate every word or I’m convinced (by said IE) that it’s crap. (BTW, Lynda–I almost died reading your description–get the words drunk! LOLOL.)

    So, I actually named my IE — she is Lucy. Named after the Lucy who always got Ethel into trouble AND after the Lucy who always pulls the football out from Charlie Brown’s kick. (Yes, my names many days are Ethel and Charlie.) Surprisingly, being able to confront Lucy by name has made a lot of difference. I’ve started to think of her as a real person who needs to be directed. Her naughty habits, it turns out, are because she is bored. So, I’ve given her tasks. She is allowed to point out a wrong word, or a dangling participle, or a glaring mistake. That means she can watch over my shoulder if she sticks to her job. She’s allowed to tweak the last two paragraphs of writing from the day before–she has fifteen minutes to play and change–that’s it, and only the last two paragraphs. Then, before sending a chapter or two off to critique partners, Lucy is allowed if she wants to, to spend a whole day tweaking the section. Guess what? She doesn’t always want to.

    So, there is hope. But this is not to say that I don’t have to be vigilant. Lucy is ever gleeful on the days my discipline isn’t in place–then she still yanks that football away and cackles like a maniac as she tells me how poorly I write sometimes.

    Great post–congrats Cat. We’re going to have a ball in Orlando.

  23. Elisa Beatty
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:59 am · Link

    Hi, Cat! The conflict in Fake Fiance seems fabulous…what a good use of that plot device!

    I’m AMAZED at your output…I had a great time with NaNo last year, but haven’t been able to match that level of output since. Your advice about meditation sounds terrific.

    See you in Orlando!

  24. Jacqui Nelson
    July 22nd, 2010 at 10:56 am · Link

    Wow Cat! Two books in four months? I can’t even imagine writing that quickly.

    I’m impressed by all the comments posted here on how to wrangle the Internal Editor, especially the playing with numbers.
    My writing process is incredibly slow — and that’s all due to my Internal Editor. So I’m definitley interested in trying all the tips and tricks posted here. Thanks for the ideas!

    Looking forward to meeting you in Orlando.

  25. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:16 pm · Link

    Liz, how fun to name your IE. I think personifying them gives them so much less power. As if it’s someone outside ourselves and that’s a lot easier to walk away from.

    I’m ready for a Disney sized party in Orlando!

  26. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:20 pm · Link

    Elisa, thanks for the nice comment about my blurb. If you want to learn about tight writing and conflict, try short contemporary. It forces you to really concentrate on what’s going on between the two characters.

    I’m really amazed at my output as well. When I first tried NaNo, I was so intimidated by the daily output. At the time I was struggling to write 500 words a day. Once I saw I could do it, my confidence increased. That’s all it took.

    Can’t wait to meet you!

  27. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 1:27 pm · Link

    Jacqui, glad the topic helped you out. Hopefully you’ll find something that will help you wrangle that IE into submission.

    See you in Orlando!

  28. Erik Westgard
    July 22nd, 2010 at 5:39 pm · Link

    You can and should ignore your internal voice that says no.

    My absolute worst writing experience was recently when I had a pretty much sure thing on an article that I sent in a query on.

    The pressure, knowing the piece was a near sure thing and the need to make it good and creative was unbearable. Six drafts later it was a wreck and so was I.

    The that you can just have fun is ideal.

    I know now how authors under contract for second books must feel.

  29. Cat Schield
    July 22nd, 2010 at 5:59 pm · Link

    Erik, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for the picture. You make me look good.

    Writing should be fun. We tend to put pressure on ourselves and that only makes things worse. I’m glad you got that article done. I can’t wait to read it.

  30. Erica O'Rourke
    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:53 pm · Link

    Cat, your story sounds amazing — you can feel the tension in the blurb. I can’t wait to read it!

    My internal editor doesn’t show up until I revise, at which point she just keeps finding fault, and I can’t stop revising. Fortunately my critique partner will make me focus on my next project, and eventually I can let go of the old one.

    I would love to hear more about the meditation you do. Perhaps we can talk more at Nationals? So excited to see you again!

  31. Helen Brenna
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:54 am · Link

    Hi Cat! Congrats on the GH nom – I’ll be cheering you on in Orlando!

  32. Heather Snow
    July 23rd, 2010 at 5:58 am · Link

    Hey Cat! Sorry to be late to the party, but I just got back in town.

    Lovely post…it so resonates with me. I have yet to figure out how to conquer my internal editor, in my writing or in my life. I like the visual of a muse locking it in the closet. Now, if only I could find my muse… 🙂

    Can’t wait to see you soon! And I totally dig the sailing pic!

  33. Cat Schield
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:44 am · Link

    Erica, I’m really worried that my IE is going to start showing up now that I’m going into revision mode. Because that’s the point where you analyze the story and make it all pretty. My muse and I will just have to keep her on a very short leash.

    Can’t wait to see you and to celebrate all your wonderful news!

  34. Cat Schield
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:45 am · Link

    Helen, thanks and congrats on your final as well. I’ll be cheering for you as well. We should have a good loud showing with all the MFW and WisRWA attendees.

  35. Cat Schield
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:47 am · Link

    Heather, I’ll bet your muse will show up after Nationals. It was so hard to be focused on being creative with all the distractions from the “business” side of things.

    Glad you like the sailing pic. If I could have had my laptop in the photo, it would have completely captured how I spend my free time.

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    February 8th, 2012 at 6:17 pm · Link

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