Girls Write Out
Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Early Christmas shopping? Don’t do it!

I tried it once. Got my list all organized in January (I was kind of bitter about it, by the way, because I had spent my life savings the December before, and now I had to mortgage the house to buy presents early). The list was ready to go by the second week in January, and off I went feeling rather Martha Stewart-ish.

As I drove through town, I couldn’t help but notice the rotting Christmas trees on the side of the road. Colored lights that framed rooftops now had missing bulbs looking every inch like a bad set of teeth. Lawns were littered with scraps of wrapping paper and stray tinsel. The song “Turn Out the Lights the Party’s Over” came to mind. Melted snow lined the roadways causing a dirty slush to flip onto my car. I tried to focus on holiday cheer but couldn’t get past knowing that street salt was eating away at my car’s exterior. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” bellowed from the radio speakers.

Something was missing here. Yeah, I know, I’m quick. One would think I’d have turned around and gone home, but I didn’t.

I pushed the sights behind me and struggled to muster a happy attitude as I made my way to the stores. Once I stepped inside, employees stared at me through wild, bloodshot eyes, suggesting that if I had a complaint, they could go postal.

Somehow I managed to get through the day and tucked my purchases safely away for the following Christmas. When Christmas finally came around again, I had totally forgotten that I’d purchased anything early, and went shopping in the rush of December all over again. I found the moth-eaten packages five years later and decided then and there that I would never bother to go early again.

So if you’re ever tempted to get organized and shop early, indulge in coffee or read a good book instead. Been there, done that, and I’m telling you, it’s just not worth it.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 10:22 AM  
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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Have you seen that commercial for the iPod in a cell phone where a girl is walking along but her shadow is dancing to the beat of the music she's listening to? I had an experience like that this week. I'm in Hawai'i. I know, I know, someone has to suffer and do research here and it might as well be me. Anyway, my daughter and I were coming in from snorkeling so I could check out the underwater life for the book I'm working on, DANGEROUS DEPTHS. The rocks were slippery, and I lost my balance and fell in a foot of water. Have you ever tried to gain your feet when waves are tossing you in just a small amount of water? I'd just chuckled at an older woman the day before in the same predicament as I found myself in. Now here I was, at the mercy of the waves.

When did I lose that flexibility that would have allowed me to clamber nimbly to my feet? When did what little grace I had disappear in a body that had lost the ability to simply STAND? I'm still 19 in my head and spirit. Why can't my body keep up? It was just like that commerical--in my mind I saw myself leaping to my feet and barely skipping over the water to the shore. The reality was I thrashed in the waves like a beached whale.

Though I was laughing hysterically, I was a little chagrined to realize just how much the body has changed. But that's okay. Really. You're only as old as you feel, and I'm still young enough to look at the ads for sky diving and long to tr it. Or maybe try a zip line or rent a sea kayak and paddle along beside a pod of spinner dolphins. Or maybe even try parasailing. Anything is still possible in my head. And maybe that's really the reason I write the kind of books I write. It's the shadow of a younger Colleen who still believes she can do anything. And I can. It's all in the mind.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 1:04 AM  
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Monday, November 28, 2005

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Have someone difficult to buy for on your Christmas List? Who doesn't? So, today I thought I'd try to be helpful by naming some of my very favorite things (Hey, Oprah does, why not me?) Who knows, you might find just the thing for that sister-in-law who has everything.

Denise's Favorite Things

Favorite Chocolate - Hands down, this local gourmet chocolatier is my favorite. You won't find better truffles or candy anywhere. I should know, I've tried. Best of all, you can buy it online and ship it anywhere. It's pricey, but it makes a great gift.

Favorite Place to Buy Writer Doo-Dads - Levengers has writer gifts you never even thought of. Great for editors and booklovers.

Favorite Robe - Land's End Calf-Length Turkish Robe. Soft and plush, you'll feel like you're staying at a five-star hotel.

Favorite Novel - It's really hard to narrow this down, but Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers has moved me more than any other novel I've read.

Favorite Bible Study - Any of the Beth Moore Bible studies would be a great gift for your Christian pals.

Favorite Place to Buy Gift Baskets - For those who really have everything, Harry and David gift baskets, boxes, and towers make really nice gifts.

Favorite Book on Writing - I can't narrow it down to one here. For that writer on your list, Stein on Writing by Sol Stein and The Breakout Novel by Donald Mass are real winners that I keep going back to.

Favorite Perfume - It took me a long time to find a perfume that I didn't find sickeningly sweet. I can't stand florals or those heavy expensive perfumes. I love the fresh citrusy smell of So Pink by Gapscent (in eau de toilette--whatever that means) at, you guessed it, The Gap.

Favorite Gift for Friends and Family - I love to make candy for Christmas. It's the perfect gift when you want to show someone appreciation and don't want them to feel guilty if they didn't buy for you. I like to make Buckeyes, Almond Florentines, Fudge, and Pecan Logs. Put individual pieces in candy wrappers and put on a pretty plate, in tins, or in small Christmas gift bags. This is also a great way to say thank you to teachers.

Favorite Magazines - My favorites are Good Housekeeping and Writer's Digest, but a magazine subscription that fits the person you're buying for will be appreciated.

Please post a response and name some of your favorite things. I need help too!

Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:57 AM  
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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Well, it seems my friends are AWOL, and not one to shy away from a chance to talk, I'm going to blog again! I saw Pride & Prejudice. Um, no. I thought it was Darcy I wouldn't care for, but I thought he was really good. I didn't like Keira Knightly's giggly Elizabeth, and I thought it was a little feminist rendition. In the book, LIZZY is wrong too. And I didn't think the movie did that justice. Plus, they cut so quickly into storylines, I didn't think they fulfilled the feel of the story. Wickham is just barely touched upon in terms of Elizabeth. And the Gardners are barely introduced -- and suddenly, Elizabeth's at Pemberley.

There was no build-up for me -- and the weird kiss on the moors was like someone read half P&P, half Wuthering Heights. I did think it was beautifully shot, and I loved the secondary characters, and everyone was gorgeous to look at. Though you know what I missed most? I LOVE where Elizabeth tells Catherine de Bourgh to stuff it, I was a little letdown at that scene. I came home and watched the A&E version.

I also watched the beginning of Gone with the Wind with my daughter (she's five and I wanted to show her the dresses at Twelve Oaks). Well, Scarlett starts calling, Ashley and my daughter gets this weird look on her face. "That guy has a girl's name!" She says in disgust.

Everyone's a critic.
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 12:04 PM  
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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hotties & Hollywood & Men, Oh My

So this week's people with the "Sexiest Man Alive!" is here. And do you know what? I haven't even picked it up. Matthew McConnah..whatever. Can't spell it, don't care to learn. I know I'm getting old, but even in my younger days when Tom Cruise burst onto the scene in his choneys in "Risky Business", I didn't like the pretty boys. What happened to the real men? Cary Grant, John Wayne, William Holden. Now there were some men! These men look like they have everything waxed and sprayed with fake tan.

Insider secret coming: Seth Greenwood in the Ashley books is based lookswise on a young Fred Astaire. Now before you think I'm crazy, you simply MUST see him on the big screen. Go find a theatre that shows old movies and watch how unbelievably charming he was. Now he was swoon material. And have you seen John Wayne kiss Maureen O'Hara? Or the best screen kiss ever: Cary Grant kissing Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious". It was romance people! Romance!

I feel for Hollywood because it must be hard to get those raunchy sex scenes in by scene two and make the viewer believe it's love. That's really a dilemma. I kid you not, I watched this movie on the plane (didn't watch it, just saw it on the screen when I'd look up from my laptop) I swear, everytime I looked up Salma Hayak's chest was doing something different; shimmering, shaking, etc. She didn't even STAR in that movie, her chest did. And what actor these days is good enough to play across from a great set of Hollywood implants?

On a lighter note, I will be seeing "Pride and Prejudice" this week, and can't wait. I wonder if they'll get a clue that actual romance doesn't need a sex scene.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. I hope you'll take the time this year to spend some time in reflection about all of your bounty. This is a great verse, both for the above and this week:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Phil 4:6 - 9
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 12:26 AM  
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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

Have I mentioned I’m back from my vacation in Florida with my sisters-in-law? Reality hits me every time I look at my manicured nails that are now chipped and saying, “It’s over. Adjust.” (My nails can be so rude.)

Still, things could be worse. I could have a root canal scheduled today, but instead I find myself decorating for Christmas (remember, I’m one of those), and the Carpenters are crooning in the background (yes, I’m really that old).

After decorating, I will clean house--aren’t you thrilled I’m sharing all this with you?--and then I may start pre-Thanksgiving preparations. The kids are coming here this year. So we’ll have six adults and four little ones running around in our small home, and I will love every minute of it!!

Grandmas are just like that.

Honestly, I know the holidays can be stressful. So much to do, so little time. And I have edits coming the first of December, which is why I’m rushing to get everything done ahead of time.

Still, in the midst of all this chaos, I am striving this year to stop and smell the chestnuts roasting over the open fire--well, okay, would you believe the cider simmering in the crock pot?

Life is short. I want to make every effort to enjoy the days God has given me, living each day to the full. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But not always possible to do. I know. Yet, it doesn’t stop me from trying to enjoy the moments, every one of them, because they are a gift. Course, when the kids are scattering toys about, crying to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” for the hundredth time (Jim Carrey just scares me), and our blind dog has bumped into my legs enough to cause permanent damage, I might have to be reminded about the gift of moments thing.

Until then, I’ll just swirl around my kitchen, playing June Cleaver, and look forward to the kids’ arrival. Hey, I’m delirious, but I’m happy.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:21 AM  
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Monday, November 21, 2005

I have a confession to make.

I hope you won't think badly of me. I'm pretty sure my friends and family already do, but that hasn't changed anything because I feel pretty strongly about my decision.

It has to do with Christmas and that lovely tradition someone three hundred years ago with too much time on their hands came up with. Somehow this tradition has survived years of progress, growth, and ever-increasing busyness. What I can't figure out is WHY?

I'm talking about the sending of Christmas cards, of course. That annual chore that's on the must-get-done list of every American woman--and let's face it, it's the women who do it. We go out and buy three boxes of cards, spending 35 minutes and fifteen bucks on the just the right one. Then we add it to our to-do list, and later squeeze the chore into our already jam-packed seasonal schedule of shopping, baking, wrapping, and decorating. Fa la la la la.

We sit down with The List. Every woman knows what that is. It's the list of friends and family who've sent you a card in the past five seasons. And each year when we get a card, we scan The List to see if they're on it. Because if they sent us a card and we don't send them one , we are on their Blackball List, heretofore stricken from their List forevermore.

So we spend time keeping The List up-to-date, we spend time addressing and licking envelopes, affixing stamps, running to the post office and breathing a sigh of relief when we get to cross the chore off our 3-page holiday to-do-list. In defense of our ancestor who started this ritual, I'm sure it actually meant something at the time. The holiday correspondence likely included a long, thoughtful letter that some distant family member was grateful to receive. But let's face it. These days in our rush to get everything done, we've whittled the correspondence down to a greeting card with our names on it. (And don't think Hallmark doesn't appreciate it.)

Now let's advance two to three days. The recipient receives your card in the mail. She opens it and reads (maybe) the card. She sees your name at the bottom. She smiles. She throws card in trash--or maybe, if you're lucky, she sets it out somewhere with the other 68 cards she's received and waits until after Christmas to toss it.

My confession? I don't participate in the annual tradition. So go ahead and string me up with ropes of Christmas lights, flog me with strands of garland, and whack me with a giant plastic candy cane. Or better yet, give yourself permission to cross this one holiday task off your list now. The world won't end, your family and friends won't shun you, and who knows? You might just find yourself with a few extra minutes to sit and contemplate the real meaning of Christmas.

Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:28 AM  
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Friday, November 18, 2005

My friends say I'm crazy, but they're wrong, at least about this issue. In fact, to prove it to them, I asked other writers on a loop we're on. I'm not the only weird writer who loves the revision process. The majority of us DO love it. We crave the feedback from our editors that tell us what we got right and what we need to work on.

I just got my revision letter from my fabulous editor, Erin Healy. She is a MASTER at what she does. I was telling her when we talked the other day that a gift like hers can only be God-given. This letter was long--14 single-spaced pages--and she was worried I'd freak out, but I said "bring it on." I love seeing how the manuscript can grow and get better. A good editor is the difference between an okay book and a great book. Ami McConnell has the same gift as Erin, so I'm doubly blessed. I'm still waiting on Ami's comments with bated breath.

The reason I wanted to bring this up is that I want to tell you that though we published authors may SEEM hard on an unpublished writer when we critique for them, the reality is that this process NEVER stops. When you get published, your work will be scrutinized even more than it is now. And to grow as a writer you have to be willing to EMBRACE the suggestions that come your way. I know it sounds about as appealing as hugging a porcupine, but it's all in the attitude. Writing should be a partnership with your editors and publishing house. As a writer, you don't always know best. The quicker you learn that, the more you'll grow as a writer.

Erin rightly pointed out that Leia's goal seemed a little fuzzy, that I could use her artistic outlet of making kapa as more of an integral part of the inward process that's taking place in her life, that there were places I could deepen the emotional impact of a scene--all things that will take Dangerous Depths to the next level.

I don't know about you, but I want to climb the levels high enough to get a nosebleed. I say, "God bless my editors. May their number increase and spread to bless other authors."
Colleen Coble  
posted at 1:35 PM  
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

I'm doing my first booksigning this weekend at a real life store. (Sam's Club on Camino in Sacramento from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. if you want to come point at the lonely girl!) A few years ago, I went with my mother and waited two and a half hours in Los Altos to meet Mary Higgins Clark. I had never actually read her, but my mother was gushing and pathetic. I'd never seen my stoic mother in such a frenzy, and I remember my mouth agape watching her.
"I love your stories!" is what she managed to get out.

Anyway, Ms. Clark was everything you want an author to be: She was elegant, dripping in ginormous jewels with a coiffed hairdo. She was fabulous! And watching my normally flatline mother stammer, sort of brought up the star power. That, and the 300 people in line. My signing won't be like this. I know that, but as I stood in the Clark line, I thought to myself, I wonder why she does this? Clearly she doesn't have to.

But I do have to. And trust me, I'm grateful that my publisher would have me do this, I'm just worried that no one will actually care. I write beach reads with cartoon covers. Do people, trying to get the lowest-price-per-pound on a turkey, really care?

Plus, booksignings let people know that I may be a chick lit author, but I'm no longer a chick! It's a bust -- my secret is foiled! I don't have Mary Higgins Clark's's nothing but a farce, a farce I tell you!

Even my beautiful convertible Volvo in the picture (that Colleen lovingly pasted in for me) is gone now . . .sucked away with my beloved, native Bay Area for higher, quieter ground. Camp grounds in a lot of ways. My new life is...well, it's not my life. Five minutes ago, my cat brought me a mouse. Earlier today, we came within inches of hitting a deer, the other night two raccoons. Last night, there was a centipede in my bathroom. There's a skunk living beside my driveway -- and I know how to get rid of him. We've done battle with rattlesnakes, wolf spiders and insects galore.

And the worst of it all--my shame and misery that I must confess. It's painful, but I feel I must be forthright. I, Kristin Billerbeck, am driving a minivan. Where, oh where, did my life go? When did I turn into Marlon Perkins? (Or the Crocodile Hunter for you youngins!) When did my house become a setting for Wild Kingdom and most importantly, when will it all end?

Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow, and I'll be living in the Presidio in San Francisco. Yeah, and I'll be driving a 645i convertible and I'll have a view of the Bay and I'll eat in North Beach, and feast on sauseetz and tiramisu and guzzle real espresso...I'm clicking my heels as we speak!! There's no place like home. There's no place like home. Crap. Still here. Maybe I have to concentrate really hard like Christopher Reeve did in Somewhere in Time.
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 12:46 AM  
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tropical Vacation

Remember I told you I would be going to a tropical place for a week with my sisters-in-law? Well, we’re here! How scary is that?

Today we went to a mall and ate lunch at Johnny Rockets. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a diner type place, complete with hamburgers, French fries, and a juke box at every table. Not only that, but the waitresses performed a little choreography number to the tune of Night Fever by the Bee Gees.

Now while the waitresses attempted to enhance our dining experience, most customers continued to concentrate on their meals--but let me just say, we middle-agers have been confined for far too long. We whooped, hollered, clapped our hands and jived from our seats in a way that my muscles haven’t been worked in years. I had planned a massage at a day spa, but I’m thinking I don’t need it now. One sister tried to crawl on the table, but we held her down. Even we have our limits.

Okay, maybe that’s a teensy exaggeration, but let me just say, the spirit is willing but the body is, well, not gonna go there.

Instead, I took a trip on the wild side with the purchase of two hats--one turquoise, one straw--and both definitely making a statement. Okay, so the statement says, look at me, I’m having a midlife crisis, but still.

So, there you have it. Four women cut loose in the sunshine state. We’re having the time of our lives--eating, sharing and laughing our brains out. Does it get any better than this? I’ll let you know. The trip isn’t over yet.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 7:00 AM  
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

What is it with the age reminders lately?

Kevin and I took the boys to a high school football game Friday. Now it's been almost twenty (ACK!) years since I was spinning a flag on the field at half time, but I'm looking forward to it all. The chill in the air, the smell of popcorn, the sound of football pads colliding. I remember sitting on the stands, cuddling closely with my favorite guy. Ah, the memories.

On the way to the game, Kevin and I are talking about our blogsite, and I refer to my "aging eyes" blog (Oct 20). This is where I'm lamenting about how my eyebrows have slid down my face, leaving an awning of saggy skin in their wake . So Kevin, trying to assure me he remembers the post I'm referring to says, "Oh, yeah, the blog about the bags under your eyes."

Bags? Did he just say bags? Now, mind you, I might have a little puffy, pre-bag thing going on, but he says this as if I'm toting a 5-piece set of Samsonite under there.

I let it slide (just like my eyebrows). We are going to have a fun, reminiscent evening.

So we grab our bundle of blankets and stadium gear and find seats high in the stands. The sounds and smells are just as I remember, and I'm smiling as I flip open my hard-backed stadium seat. I plunk down and find Kevin staring at me.

"What?" I ask.

"We know we're middle-aged when we're planted in one of those babies," he says, looking pointedly at my chair.

Only problem is, we are not planted in one of those babies, I am. Nice of him to include himself. I brush it off, determined to have a fun, reminiscent evening.

My family watches the game while I watch people. Hey, that's what writers do. I notice that the teeny-boppers are as skinny as the mannequins at the mall that I point at and say, "Who's that skinny?"

By the end of the loud game, I have a headache, so I reach into my purse for relief. I'm opening my pillbox when I see Kevin staring at it with that irritating little smirk. I dare him with my eyes to say one word. Wisely, he turns to watch the end of the game.

Our evening? It's reminiscent all right. I'm distinctly recalling my fresh-faced, skinny, pain-free self of 20 years ago. But one thing is still exactly the same as it was back then: I'm still sitting in the stands, cuddled up with my favorite guy. And I wouldn't trade that for all the collagen in the world.

Denise Hunter  
posted at 8:49 AM  
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Monday, November 14, 2005


I'm the motherly type. Oldest of four children and the only girl, I learned early to nurture. It's as natural to me as breathing. I can't help myself about offering advice, as evidenced by the fact that I've been awarded Mentor of the Year two years running by the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Now I'm the first to admit I'm not always right. Unlike most men, I have no trouble saying I'm sorry or I'm wrong. But I have been down the road a bit and I'm fairly long in the tooth as an author. I've written 19 novels and 9 novellas and have learned a lot from my awesome editors, Ami McConnell and Erin Healy, so I do know SOMETHING. So I'm a little puzzled by the attitudes of some aspirng writers.

Since my rep as a mentor is well-known I get approached a lot by writers asking for advice. I would have killed for resources like we have today when I was first starting to write. I knew NO other writers and wandered in a wasteland all my myself. If some published author had been willing to offer me advice, I would have jumped on it! But I sometimes find that not only is the advice NOT appreciated, but some writers almost act mad when we published authors advise about writing guidelines, plot conflict, developing of characters, etc. At least we're willing to share what we have learned! I would have done anything to get my hands on that kind of information.

When you want to break in, you need to follow some set formats. Once you've sold, it's easier to break some of those guidelines if you feel strongly about something. But learn the basics first and don't blame us when we tell you the story isn't perfect or ready to submit yet. In most fields, you won't find people who are willing to help their competition, yet we're doing just that. And willingly. I LOVE mentoring young writers, especially when I find an eager student who drinks up everything I have to say. I've been lucky enough to help some of those authors find publishers, and it's primarily the writers ATTITUDE that makes the difference between being a published author or an unpublished writers. If you're willing to learn and stick with it no matter how long it takes, I believe you WILL be published.

The most exciting thing about the writing life is the opportunity I have to grow in my writing. I never want to think I've arrived and can never write a better story. Writers who aren't willing to entertain the thought that they might be--gasp!--wrong about how the scene is perceived are never going to get anywhere. One reason I've been thinking about the subject this week is I'm awaiting with bated breath my substantive edits from my editors this week.

I LOVE the editing process because it's an opportuntiy for me to learn. They're undoubtedly going to tell me I did some things wrong. And that's exciting because those suggestions will help me become a better writer. And that's what it's all about.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 11:48 AM  
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Social Terrorism

In childhood, we are taught not to stare. Not to point. Not to laugh. But what of the new society? The one where social terrorists want our attention. They break the "rules" on purpose to garner our discomfort and revel in it. They challenge humanity by forcing us to act properly while they act as they wish. They are not crazy. Oh, you might think so by looking at them, but if you look in their eyes, they is well aware of what they're doing -- and they like it.

In contrast to social rules, there are things in life that are inherently funny. Just as we were taught not to point and stare, we were taught that men in dresses are humorous. It started with Tony Curtis in "Some Like it Hot", then Flip Wilson as Geraldine, Dana Carvey as the church lady, Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire. Face it, men in dresses make us laugh. Perhaps I'm a simple person, easily amused you might say, but my local, social terrorist is a six-foot-four inch, linebacker sized man who dons full makeup, dresses, size twelve heels and walks through Target, the health food store, Safeway -- feeding on our reactions.

Children act in fear. They cower at the sight of the bad wig that doesn't match the eyebrows. The great, big Frankenstein giant with the lipstick strewn around the mustache line and the pancake makeup slathered over the stubble. "Mommy?" They say, as they stare while clinging to your legs. How do I explain this? I have no idea why the guy is in a dress! (In the summer, he's in a denim mini.)

To each his own, I say. You want to wear a dress? Have at it. (He can have mine, I hate dresses!) But it's the public challenge that makes it about more than his fetish. He is forcing himself on society, forcing us to "accept" him without laughter and chiding. To be "normal". Recently, a group called "Breasts not Bombs" tried to rally at the state capital topless to show their protest of the war.

I got news for you, gals. Guys hear breasts? And they don't hear a thing after it, so your point is totally moot. "Breasts not...breasts! Yes, I am ALL for breasts!" My kids are going to the State Capital for their field trip. I'd rather they not be subjected to your "protest".

So while I'm not ready to go back to Victorian times when my ankle was shocking, can we give it a rest? Isn't Hollywood's social terrorism enough for us?
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 1:11 PM  
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Friday, November 11, 2005

I got the phone call last night on the way to the booksigning. Colleen and Diann and myself were to speak and sign books at a Barnes and Noble, and I am feeling pretty excited, if nothing else, to see my two buddies. We figure, even if no one shows up, we'll still have a great time, right?

So I answer my cell phone and it's Colleen. "Uh, D-- how far from home are you?" are her first words, and not encouraging ones I must say. I've done my share of signings with no glitches thus far, but I have heard the horror stories, and I have a sneaking suspicion I have just stepped into the pages of one. Still, I ask. "Why?"

"They forgot to order your books, and the store only has two copies on hand."

Now, mind you, I wasn't expecting to sign a hundred copies. I count it a blessing to break into double digits. But two copies? I'm barely going to be on time as it is, we're scheduled to speak right away, and someone might actually show up. Going back home isn't an option. I remember I have two copies in my van, so I guess I'll make do. After we hang up, I remember there is another bookstore on the other side of the mall. I make a quick stop, grab their last three copies, then rush toward B&N, wobbling all the way on my sexy new heels. I'm laughing at my pathetic self all the way. One must keep a sense of humor.

I'm thinking someone might actually show up to hear us speak because of a newspaper article that ran the weekend before. Well, not so much because of the article, but because of our photos. They are stacked on top of one another and are--ahem--candid shots. Each one is the size of a paperback book, and you know how they don't always line the ink up just right in the paper? You're getting the picture. Kevin calls them our "See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil" photos. I just call them embarrassing, and I figure we'll get a few people show up just to see the freak show. Diann got the only nice photo, so it was only fair that she was on the fold and only her teeth could be seen when you picked up the paper. (I've included a link to the photos at the end of this just so you can see I'm not exaggerating. Hey, the general public has already seen them, what more do we have to lose?)

As I enter B&N, I see we are set up at the entrance, and there are chairs set up--chairs filled with real live bodies. Sure they're all Diann's friends, but I'm not complaining. You can't appreciate the way I feel at the moment until you've promoted a speaking event and had one person show up. Really. Ask Colleen and Diann.

I take a seat and Colleen starts us out. More people come in and stand in the back and actually listen to us for an hour. The audience is gracious, and I can say something I've never said about a booksigning before. I sold out. So it was only 7 copies. Who's counting? Diann and Colleen sold a bunch of books, and we had a great time. They only thing missing was Kristin. Well, and my books.

Our Candid Photos:

Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:10 AM  
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

My name is Diann Hunt, and I’m a coffeeaholic.

When this happened, I have no idea. I mean, twelve years ago, I would have snubbed my nose at the mere mention of the bitter brew. But then someone had to go and add chocolate to it. Then as if that weren’t enough, they dealt the final blow by adding whipped dream. I mean, who can walk away from that?

I should have seen it coming. The fact that my car automatically turns into a Starbuck’s parking lot is a clue. Lingering in a coffee shop from, say, opening to closing, might be another indication. Then of course, there are the mocha and hazelnut candles flickering from every room in our house. The coffee air fresheners in the car. But the truth hit me like a blast of espresso when my husband came in the bedroom as I was getting ready for church last week and caught me dabbing latte behind my ears.

“You need help, Diann.”

“I know.” I tried to look appropriately ashamed, then I raised my mug to him. “You want some?” He walked away. I was glad.

I didn’t have enough to share.

Okay, so I had a problem. I could do without it, right? No big deal. It was only coffee. For four days I ignored the cat calls coming from my espresso machine. For a while I even ignored the jackhammer wrecking havoc with my head.

But just before the SWAT team was called in as I tackled the barista into handing over all her coffee beans, a wise friend called out that my head would get better if I eased off coffee. Which is another way of saying, go back on the caffeine.

I brushed off the barista, threw in an extra fifty cent tip for the Americano, and now my world is right once again.

One word of advice. Never, never, NEVER come between a menopausal woman and her mug of coffee. Trust me on this one. Things just get ugly.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 12:10 PM  
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'm now home in Indiana. I got in at 3 A.M. and crashed in our waterbed. I'm still lazying around the house just smiling at the great time I had in Arizona.

It was a back to the beginning time in many ways. I got to spend some real quality time with my daughter. She used to love to lay her head in my lap and have me caress her hair. Since she's a grown woman now, that hadn't happened in many years, but every night I curled up on the couch with Kara's head in my lap and just ran my fingers through her curls. It was a comfort to her and to me both as we grieved for Harley. I'm so glad I went. Though we've always been close, it was a reconnecting time for me and Kara.

It was also a back to the beginning time for The Three Amigos. Way back in the days when we only had one or two Heartsongs under our belts, me, Kristin Billerbeck and Carol Cox roomed together at the Glorieta Writer's Conference. Kristin touched on the weekend, but I'm going to tattle on the full story. Our room was tiny and painted a hideous green color we dubbed "Aqua on Steroids." All our families were appalled that we were rooming with women we'd met "on the Internet." I think they imagined axe murderers lurking in the bathroom. The reality was much funnier as three women from different parts of the country and with a different culture experience became friends.

Getting together with Kristin and Carol on Monday to brainstorm brought back all the old memories of that conference. Our weekend started with Kristin demonstrating what it means to be a princess. First thing upon getting in the room, she announces she's taking a bath. No big deal, right? There are three towels in the bathroom. She uses one for her hair, one to step out of the bathtub onto and one to dry with. We can always get more, right? Wrong. Think CAMP. We were each given ONE TOWEL for the weekend. So we had to shake the dirt off one towel and let the others dry, then use them the rest of the weekend. That's when you know you're true friends. LOL!

Then we all began pitching our projects in earnest. I met Erin Healy for the first time at the conference,though I'm sure she doesn't remember. Now years later, here she is as my freelance editor that I adore. Carol had a request for more of a proposal from a bigger house that weekend. I think it was from Bethany but I can't remember. Anyway, due to some computer glitches or something (my memory is fuzzy on this), she had to redo a huge synopsis. Kristin was a fast typer so she sat on the floor with a laptop computer on the end of the bed and retyped Carol's entire proposal.

My espresso addiction was born that weekend. Kristin HAD to have her mocha so she had a rental car delivered to the camp and we drove to Santa Fe where I got my first taste of a blended iced mocha. In one sip I knew I was lost forever! That was our first trip in search of the perfect shot and the first time we had our picture taken in a coffee shop.

We've come a long way, baby. We're still friends and the journey has been worth it all.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 1:02 PM  
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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

So this is what it feels like to relax...

Well, I'm in Phoenix -- which I can never spell. Does our country not realize our school system is in trouble? What were they thinking when they named our cities? That everyone could afford private school? Oh speaking of which, my darling son wrote a creative writing paper, and it took place at the gasstayshun (gas station). Seth, what a dreamboat.

I got off track, sorry. So I'm in this city I can't spell and staying with Colleen Coble's daughter. Colleen, Carol Cox and I brainstormed yesterday and I really started to get fired up again about writing. I have a new idea that I think will really work. It's a little over the top. A lot of fun and I'm anxious to get working on it after the last Spa Girls book.

We went to Barnes & Noble yesterday and there was a magazine put out by "Writer's Digest" called "Spiritual Writing" and inside is an article on writing for the Christian market by Debby Mayne and under the heading DEVELOPING STRONG CHARACTERS is a mention of Ashley Stockingdale, my character! How exciting is that when you're not expecting it? At BN, we also met their fabulous fiction manager Phyllis. What a great gal, with LOTS of knowledge and recommendations. You just can't beat a fellow book lover. We waxed poetic on the beauty of the hardback.

So I have found the cure for writer burnout if anyone is interested: Take one pedicure, lots of fattening meals out, espresso until you want to be sick, and stir them with a really, really, really bad TV movie about the earth ending -- which is actually a very poorly- written religious tract for how global warming is ruining our planet and we will all die because of it. (The four of us: Colleen, Colleen's daughter and friend hated the characters so much we were rooting for the storms.) Now that was fun.

I'm ready to hit the keyboards again. I'm setting my next book in Orange County, so Jeana, my lovely agent, if you're reading this it means you can scare me again with your L.A. driving! South Coast Plaza, here we come!

Oh I'm doing a booksigning in Sacramento if anyone's in the area. I think it's the 19th, I'll have to look it up when I get home. But I'll be in the Camino Sam's Club signing "She's All That". Please come by and say hi, and get a vat of pickles while you're at it! : ) Kristin
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 11:12 AM  
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Monday, November 07, 2005

Subtext. It's such an elusive concept it's not even in my dictionary. (Ok, so it's a 1995 edition, but still.) Like sugary sweets, this covert form of conversation was absent from my life in my early years. In my family, we said what we meant--unless it was mean, and then we just didn't say it at all.

But now that I am well into my thirties, I'm learning what is said isn't necessarily what is meant.

Subtext. Even worse, I'm learning that my husband is gifted at this elusive don't-say-what-you-mean speakese. I discovered it last night.

"I'm finally buying a lap-top, Honey," I say.

He nods slowly. "Hmm. I didn't know you had that much money in your writing account."

"Oh, yeah, I do." I proudly tell him the account balance.

It takes about ten seconds. I'm a little slow.

I clear my throat. "Um, was that way your way of making sure I was going to use my book money?"

He chuckles. Caught. And I wonder. Has he been doing this our whole 16 1/2 years of marriage? How many other subversive messages have I missed? In this case, it was harmless enough, but have I missed important hints? I point this out to him and explain my mind just doesn't work this way. I only hear what's said, and maybe that makes me a little dense, but I like to think of it is as, well, honest. I'm suddenly sure I've missed hundreds of subtle "suggestions" from friends and aquaintances, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

Call me crazy, but I'm thinking this is not a good way of communicating. Half of us are completely oblivious and never get the Real Message. And the other half knows exactly what was meant, so why bother hiding it?

Me? I think I'll stick with hearing exactly what was said. I have a feeling this is definitely a case of ignorance is bliss.
Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:06 AM  
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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Have you ever tasted a memory? I did. Tonight. My husband and I went out for dinner, and when I took the first bite of my chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes--don’t tell Colleen, because she thinks I was starting my diet today--I tasted a memory.

It was like I was transported back to our family kitchen where my husband and I and our two kids were eating chicken and noodles, one of our family favorites. I guess it’s no surprise that the meal conjured up such a memory, but what surprised me was the emotion that came with it.

Sitting in the comfort of the Amish restaurant with the man I have loved for over thirty years, I was once again filled with a rush of overwhelming thankfulness--for this man I married, for our daughter, son and four granddaughters.

Oh, it’s true that since our children have grown and moved away, my husband and I are like a couple of dating teenagers--only now we can stay out as late as we want. J But there’s also no denying that once in a while my thoughts turn all Ma Walton-ish and I have to see my kids again, hug them once more, let them know for the hundred millionth time that I love them.

So tomorrow we’re headed up to Michigan to see our son and his family. We’ll stay all night, go to church with them, have lunch together, then head back home and visit our daughter and her family. And by the time my head hits the pillow on Sunday night I will be reminded once again of my many blessings.

For crying out loud, I think all this family Christmas music is really getting to me . . . .
Diann Hunt  
posted at 8:41 AM  
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Friday, November 04, 2005

I'm still in Phoenix with my daughter. I'm loving the time with her, but there's a problem: I can't connect my laptop to her cable modem. She has no wireless router. I'm seriously considering buying her one so when I come I can sit on the overstuffed couch in comfort and still get my fix. As it is now, I have to physically get up, set aside my laptop and come to Kara's office to check my email. That sucks!

How many of you out there are email junkies? I'm waving my hand high. I think we should form a group to help with our addiction. Okay maybe not. The first thing you have to do to overcome an addiction is WANT to kick the habit. I don't want to. Sad isn't it? Think of how many books I could get written if I wasn't checking my email constantly. When I'm on a tight deadline, I adjust Outlook to check every half an hour instead of every minute, but I find myself obsessing after about fifteen minutes and clicking over to see if anything has come.

What is the nature of this obsession? I've been pondering it a little this week, and here is what I've come up with: I'm a mom. I worry about my chicks. I mentor and mother some other writers and subconsciously I think if I don't "fix" things, my friends will suffer. Ridiculous isn't it? It's not like I'm advising on something earth-shattering. I'm talking about writing, for pete's sakes! The other thing is I adore hearing from my family at WestBow. What if one of them emails me with some exciting news or even just a "hi we love you" sort of email? I want to be accessible to them too. WestBow is a fabulous house, and I love my family there. My goal is to be the easiest author they work with. I want to get the emails from them as quickly as I can get them! The other thing is that writing is a lonely business. I'm lost in another world, one I'm creating, and my email anchors me back to real life. It gives me community right in the comfort of my own living room.

So on second thought, maybe I don't want to form a group to conquer my addiction. Email junkies of the world, unite! No more will we take slurs on our favorite pastime, no longer will we hide our heads in shame and mumble about how much time we spend on email. Spending time with friends is never wasted.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 12:33 PM  
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Writer Burnout

I never thought I'd see this day. Never imagined it in my wildest dreams of getting published, but I am officially and utterly burned out on the writing biz. It's not the writing. It's the constancy of all the business stuff that goes along with it: edits, interviews, endorsement readings. None of those things on their own are bad, but together it really does nothing for the creative mind, and it makes me want to paint again so I can get my juices flowing again.

I have written six full length books in the last two years. And that's just too many. I have four kids, and I'm missing out on life! I want to remember what my friends look like. I want to spend the day at the mall and not feel guilty that I should be editing or what have you.

Keep in mind, I'm not complaining. I'm thrilled about my work, but no matter what you do, if you do too much of it, it starts to turn into drudgery. My new office has been in a shambles since I moved in, so I am officially taking a sabbatical. Granted, it's only two days, but it's two days I absolutely need. My house is non-stop chaos, with kids over, and houseguests, and soccer a billion times a week, and homework that never seems to end.

So this Sunday, thanks to my wonderful husband -- after a full day of a soccer, a few in laws in town, and an in-law reunion (ooh can't wait for that!) I am hopping on a plane and going to sunny Phoenix to play and brainstorm with my close friends, Colleen Coble and Carol Cox. The three amigas started together way back when in Glorieta, and I can hardly wait to reuinite with the women who learned what it meant to room with the princess. : ) And here's the thing: they still like me! Talk about long-suffering.

Anyway, the secondary stuff of writing is taking a backseat and I am grabbing my creativity again!! I'm taking up my cross people! Kristin
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 8:21 PM  
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005


10. You can trace each male's daily journey through the house by the clues left behind.

9. You are no longer grossed out by sitting on a wet toilet seat.

8. "It's humid and my hair will expand like a helium balloon" is not a valid reason for leaving the car windows up.

7. No one can find anything (books, shoes, nailclippers . . .) even though it's in the correct spot, and YOU are the finder of all things.

6. Your house smells like testosterone. Really.

5. Your family vacations are planned around sporting events.

4. Your daily life is planned around sporting events.

3. When you cried during the Hallmark movie, they stared at you as if you were a curious mold growing in their sour milk experiment.

2. You are aware that there are three different ESPN channels, and your TV is always tuned to one of them.

2. You have yet to make it through a day without hearing various bodily functions. (Yes, there are two #2s, but someone reminded me I forgot this one--thanks Jamie! Not sure how that happened.)

1. The soft kisses you plant on their faces are swiftly wiped away (by the children. If your husband does this you need a different top ten list.)
Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:07 AM  
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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Okay, I know I’m utterly pathetic, but yesterday I sent in my completed manuscript—WHOOHOOOO!!!!--and today I’m listening to Christmas music and whiffing the scent of cinnamon from a nearby flickering candle. I’m ducking here, because I know SOME of you strongly disapprove of people like me who rush the season, but please let me say in defense that I needed a little “happy” in my day. I mean, this past month has been the pits and a looming deadline didn’t help, okay? You do what you gotta do.

You will be happy to know, however, that I’ve managed to hold off on the California Raisins. It’s my tradition to play the California Raisins Christmas CD (hey, I have culture) with the first snowfall. Since it hasn’t snowed yet, I’m refraining, but it’s hard. To me, they’re a party waiting to happen. Nothing puts me in a better mood than the Raisins.

Okay, so I need a life.

Still, I haven’t watched It’s a Wonderful Life, and I don’t have my tree up yet, so that should count for something. Course, the video is worn clear through and there’s no room for a tree. While I feverishly wrote to deadline, deadly diseases formed underneath our furniture. Clutter and rubble moved in like annoying relatives.

And for the record, let me just say that I do love Thanksgiving too. But let’s be honest here, how many good CDs are out there that enhance the Thanksgiving holiday? Exactly.

So while the rest of you go about your normal routine, I’ll be in my little Christmas world, listening to happy music, breathing in the soothing holiday scents, making my list and checking it twice.

Besides, as many of you know, I need to get a head start on that whole naughty and nice thing.

Have a great day and Merry—no, I won’t say it. Not YET.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:24 AM  
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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

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