Girls Write Out
Saturday, December 31, 2005

No Shoes...No Shirt...No Kristin

I have a new rule. When a restaurant has to put "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" in its doorway, combined with the infamous "Restrooms for Customers Only", this is not a good sign. My family loves Pho. Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup, my Vietnamese friends have told me it's the "McDonald's" of Vietnamese cuisine, but that's not important now.

We went to this pho restaurant with all the healthy warning signals (the above signage) blocking our path...yet still, we ventured in like we were completely ignorant of what awaited us. Here's my favorite part -- my kids get up to look at the fish tank and my son Jonah comes back with this horrified look on his face, "Mom, Mom! That is the grossest fish I ever saw in my life!" He's waving his hands in front of him as if to say, Go Back, Go Back! "It's missing an eye and a fin. There's just a hole where the eye was! I think I'm gonna be sick."

Of course as my meal arrives all I can think is where is the eye? It's not in the soup is it?

We eat our meal in silence in homage to the eye, and I vow No Shoes, No Shirt, No Kristin because really, if you have to tell your clientele that it's inappropriate to dine barefoot, that about says it all.

This is my cousin Kevin's baby Kylie. : ) Happy New Year!!
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 10:50 PM  
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2006 is going to be a great year! I can feel it. Coffee shops are popping up all over America and they’re finding new creative ways to put chocolate into their drinks.

Life is good.

Okay, admittedly, I struggle just a tad with remembering to write the new year on my checks. However, my check writing days are at a minimum now. I just zip in that debit card and I’m good to go. No date line where I goof up more checks than my salary can cover just to get the right year put in. So is that good news or what?!

Things are looking up in my world.

Let’s see, in 2006 more people will turn fifty, and that just makes me happy. Misery loves company and all that.

My husband and I will hit 31 years (yikes!) of wedded bliss!

Our daughter will turn 29 and our son will turn 27, doggone ‘em.

Our granddaughters will grow another inch or two and THEY will teach ME new things on the computer.

I’ll have more gray hairs to cover. But the good news is I still have hair--and when that’s gone, I’ll have my red hats.

More diet plans will come and go from my life with little or no effect.

I read a quote somewhere that said, "The difference between who you are now and who you will be in five years depends on two things: the people you meet and the books you read."

It is my prayer that I will not only read something that will change my life this year, but that I’ll write something that will encourage another on her journey.

Honestly, I feel confident about 2006. After all, as far as I know, there’s no shortage of chocolate.

Oh yeah, it’s gonna be a good year.

Diann Hunt  
posted at 7:44 AM  
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Friday, December 30, 2005

I'M A TECHNO JUNKIE
My name is Colleen Coble, and I'm a techno junkie. I admit it. I love new technology gizmos. I use a Palm Pilot. My laptop is a Sony Vaio that is the envy of everyone who sees my less-than-two-pound-baby-that-fits-in-my-purse. I like tinkering with my own website instead of turning it over to a professional. (Okay, maybe that's because I also have control issues.)

The newest gizmo that I've added to my arsenal is the Canon digital camera my husband got me for Christmas. It's a Powershot A610 and I LOVE it! I've been snapping pictures of everything from my new daughter to be to candid photos of my husband in the shower. Okay, not really, but I thought about it just to be ornery. (He tried to do that to me but forgot to open the lens--may the heavens rejoice!) Anyway, I did a ton of research before putting this camera on my list, and it's everything all the reviewers claimed. Super easy to use, fabulous pictures, small and sexy. So if you're in the market for a new digital, check it out.

If only writing a book were that easy! Wouldn't it be cool if there was some gizmo we could plug our fingers into and it would read all the wonderful scenes floating around in our heads and transpose them into a cohesive story that wowed everyone? Hmm, on second thought, that's the real fun of writing. Teasing out the story bit by bit and getting those flashes of inspiration we know can only come from God. It's just. . . magic. I don't think I could give that up for the newest, cutest little piece of technology to sashay down the runway.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 9:32 PM  
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Thursday, December 29, 2005

FAMILY CHANGES
I'm going to get a new daughter-in-law! Bane, the male protagonist in DANGEROUS DEPTHS, has a macho exterior but inside he's a romantic and very family oriented. He's based on my son, Dave. When I was writing that book, I wondered how someone like that would propose so that he could prove how much he loved the girl. I decided it would be in public because that would be stepping outside his comfort zone, so I had Bane propose to Leia in front of her family. And wouldn't you know that's exactly how it came down in real life on Christmas Eve at my house!

Dave had bought Donna a new Harley Davidson leather jacket. Inside the pocket he'd tied a string to an engagement ring. The other end of the string hung out of the pocket and said PULL ME. Donna tried on the jacket and my husband said, "What's that in your pocket?" Donna found the tag and said, "What's this?" She looked at Dave with real trepidation because she thought it was going to be a piece of beef jerky. He'd been trying to get her to taste it, and she thought he'd stuck a piece in there and was going to tell her she couldn't have any more presents until she tried it.

She started pulling on the string and kept eyeing Dave. When she finally held the ring in her hand, she stared at it. "Oh my gosh," she said. She looked at Dave then back at the ring. "Oh my gosh," she said again. She looked up at Dave and screamed "Oh my gosh," and LAUNCHED herself across the living room and into his arms where she buried her face in his neck. "I take it that's a yes?" he asked, laughing so hard he could hardly stand. I think she mumbled some kind of incoherent yes. When she finally unburied her face from his neck, she was shaking so hard I could see it from across the living room. She shook for a good half hour.

It was a night I'll never forget. We LOVE Donna and her boys! The wedding is June 10th. Grandkids are now so close I can almost feel them in my arms!
Colleen Coble  
posted at 9:29 AM  
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Last night I figured out what's so fun about Christmas. When I was a child, it was tearing off the paper of a present and finding the surprise inside. As an adult who gets few, if any, presents at Christmas, the fun is a little different. Instead of presents, what you get is the entertainment value of twenty different personalities from around the country in one living room. And that's never boring.

Everybody is a little odd in his or her own way. We have quirks and peculiarities and differing ideas that make family gatherings extra fun. Add to that the fact that half the group is blood related and the other half is what my family affectionately calls outlaws, and what you have is an unscripted sitcom waiting to happen.

Any time you get a group of people together, there is what Pastor Rick Warren calls an EGR. Extra Grace Required. I know what your doing right now. You're picturing that person from your own family who qualifies as the EGR. Every family has one. And I have it on good authority that if you can't figure out who that special person is . . . it's you.

As for my family, I have a feeling I'm married to the EGR. I guess that makes me Mrs. EGR, and I have a feeling we're raising a whole passel of jr. EGRs, but that's okay. Our family will never be boring. And with the variety of personalities in my extended family, holidays will never be boring either. And that's what makes Christmas so fun.
Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:29 AM  
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Monday, December 26, 2005

It’s hard to imagine another Christmas gone by! Did you get that fruit cake you wanted? How about the sweater that was two sizes too big from Aunt Gerdie? Spastic singing Christmas tree that shakes and rings its decorative jingle bells every time someone laughs too loud? Look at it this way you have more options for white elephant gifts next year . . . .

But as we all know, it’s not about the presents. Who cares about those checkered socks Uncle George gave you? The fact is after his heart attack this year, you weren’t sure you’d get to see him again. And then there’s Grandma Matilda. She drives you crazy with her loud talk and clacking dentures, but today you remember how she used to bake cookies with you when you were a kid.

What about your daughter? She’s caused you more grief this year than ever before with her rebellious ways, but today you see remnants of the little girl you once knew, the one who actually wanted to be with family.

Your son has pushed his deafening music aside and you watch as he laughs and cuts up with his cousins. He’s looking more like your husband every day. He’ll be a man soon . . .

Our Christmas isn’t over. In fact, we haven’t had it yet with our kids/grandkids. We’re headed out of town for a couple of days. We’re treating the kids to an overnight stay at an inn in the heart of Amish country. The inn boasts a swimming pool and all the amenities of a hotel, but the décor is much more warm and inviting. Charming quilts, lanterns, rocking chairs, big, knobby beds with thick comforters and bedding, soft lamp light, rocking chairs--everything is so cozy. We can hardly wait to get there!

We’ll eat and laugh until we’re ready to puke, probably fuss over board games, and share gifts. I’ll look around the circle of our little family and thank God once again for the blessing of time together to reflect on what’s important.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and you’ve made memories that will get you through until the season comes round again.

And just for the record, if I get a fruitcake, I ain’t eating it.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 7:16 AM  
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!! This is the newest member of my family: Olivia Skye. Don't you just want to grab her and pinch those cheeks? She's only the youngest by a month. Both my cousins (who are like my brothers) had these beautiful little girls recently, and nothing makes a holiday a holiday, like baby holding.

This is Olivia at her great grandfather's 90th birthday party. Doesn't that face just give everything a tinge of hope? May your Christmas be full of cheer and joy!!
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 12:25 AM  
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Friday, December 23, 2005

WHAT DOES NEW YORK KNOW?
I got my first really bad review this week. It was from Publishers Weekly,a publication hardly known for being kind to Christian fiction. It was for a book that I thought was my best and it really rocked me at first. But when you read the context of the what they didn't like, it was obvious they don't like Christian romance. The reviewer criticized the fact that the heroine had to become a Christian before they could commit to marriage. I don't know what kind of faith walk, if any, the reviewer has, but it's obviously not one that follows what God says about that. Romance is all about a HAPPY ending. There can be no happy ending if the one you love most in the world isn't going to heaven with you. I've seen marriages like that, and it's always a source of conflict and great heartache.

The other things the reviewer said made it clear he/she hadn't really READ the book. They mentioned the cliche of a city girl learning something in small town life, unattractive non-Christians or sexually provocative ones. Now there was NONE of that in Alaska Twilight. The city girl HATED the wilderness and the romance is only resolved with compromise, which is what real love is all about. The unattractive women in the book were CHRISTIANS and there was no sexually provacative non-Christian.

I'm writing for the people who treasure commitment, and hold to the same hometown values I have, and that's what I'm going to continue to do. I'm not going to change my type of book just because some reviewer who is out of touch with the Heartland gave it a quick, contemptuous glance through and blasted it for things that it didn't even have just because they were biased against Christianity. Now I kind of feel like I've taken a lick for Christ and it feels pretty good.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 2:43 PM  
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

I HAD NO IDEA MEN WERE SO STUPID.

I grew up with a very intelligent father and step-father. My boyfriends and male teachers never gave me an inkling of a hint that the male species was really so, well, dumb and clueless.

I didn't realize this until the last ten years or so of TV. I grew up with the Brady Bunch, and Growing Pains, and Little House on the Prairie. The father characters were strong leaders and, even if they made mistakes along the way, they led me to believe they at least had a few marbles rolling around in their heads.

But apparently this isn't the case, as I'm reminded every time I turn on my TV. Men on today's sitcoms are little more than pot-bellied, beer -holding lumps on a couch. Everybody may love Raymond, but it sure isn't for his intelligence. In Still Standing, Bill is a poster child for incompetence and laziness. King of Queens is really not a king at all, but rather a wimpy slob of a guy whose wife drags him around by the ear. Call me old-fashioned but I woudn't want a pushover husband like that.

Yes, men must be stupid. And lazy and incompetent. If our little boys growing up today didn't realize it before, they will once they tune in to American sitcoms. And don't even get me started on the commercials.

Denise Hunter  
posted at 8:12 AM  
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What if when we give an account before God, none of our twenty-five years as a missionary or ten years as a hospice worker counts?What if we get up there and find out, it's not on the test?

That the only thing we're being graded on is how we treat those closest to us. Granted, it's a long shot, but think about it. Who you are in your home, is who you are: it's your character and your very being.

I figured this out watching two reality shows this week. "Wife Swap" had a spoiled, socialite, former beauty queen and mother to two teenage mini-me's. She swapped with a Christian charity worker with a bajillion kids who spent all her time with "Habitat for Humanity" and other good works. When I first tuned in, I thought, "Oh the beauty queen is going down. This oughta be good." But the more I tuned in, the more I realized, beauty queen had a lot right. She managed her household (with help, but still), took care of her temple (worked out), and provided for her family, albeit with the help of take-out.

In contrast, the Christian mother emphasized discipline, and her children all had various chores. As the mother of four, I will say chores are very important, and they do teach solid life skills. But I'll tell you, her Christian household was chaos. It was filthy, smelled like urine and none of the household items that needed to be done (like painting, putting switchplates on, etc.) had been done. To an outsider, and a non-Christian, this house was disastrous. The mom and dad spent so much time caring for others, that they had not managed their household well. I think that's why 1 Timothy says that a man who cannot manage his household is not fit for deaconship.

On another show, "Nanny 911", the father was a Christian pastor of six small children. The mother was obviously near a nervous breakdown, and he hadn't even noticed. He was off to nightly meetings at the church and was just not part of the home at the beginning. What kind of witness is that? To a non-believer, is that anything you'd want to emulate? And why isn't there a senior pastor saying, "Dude, you need to get home to your family."

My point is that "normal" people without faith do not identify with good works when the home is being ignored. If we're to be salt and light, don't you think we should live a life people might see something worth living? I mean, here that beauty queen mother had herself a beautiful home, brilliant girls and an adoring husband. The other mother had a chaotic, dirty house and was too busy to fix it. It's not about appearances, it's about the heart, but there's something very prideful about doing something that everyone sees and gives you credit for.
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 5:37 PM  
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

GIFTS
I've got a last minute shopper for a husband. Any of you have the same predicament? I generally have NO opportuntity to snoop among the packages, to shake and rattle anything under the tree until Christmas Eve. What's up with guys who wait like that? Is it genetic or learned behavior?

I'm a big kid when it comes to presents. Dave probably knows this. He probably senses I'd unwrap it while he was gone to work and carefully wrap it back up so he doesn't know it, then act shocked and surprised on Christmas. But I'd like the CHANCE to battle to do what's write and just look at it. He actually surprised me this Christmas and bought something already. It's under the tree now, but it's very light and I have no idea what it is. So far I've resisted the temptation to unwrap it, but it's been a struggle. I'll admit if there were more presents under there for me, I'd have to peek at at least ONE.

I got addicted to peeking when I was a kid. My parents used to hide our gifts in their bedroom closet and my brother Randy and I would check it out whenever we got the opportunity. My most vivid Christmas memory is of the one when I was about 13. I wanted white go-go boots. Don't laugh. Really, that was what I wanted in the WORST way. I checked out the closet. No boots. But I held out hope that my mother wouldn't disappoint me. She always tried to get what we wanted most. Christmas Eve came and the four of us tore into the packages. When the paper quit flying, there were no go-go boots. I started to cry (disgusting isn't it. At 13!) They should have kept them back since I was such a spoiled brat about it, but they brought out the boots. They'd saved them until last and hidden them where I couldn't find them.

God is just like that sometimes, isn't he? He gives us gifts we don't deserve just because we ask. My writing career is like that. It's all from his hand and because of his goodness. The best gifts are often the ones we deserve least. I think today I'll celebrate again his goodness to me. I'll put on some Christmas music, light a pumpkin candle and rejoice in the new series I'm starting. Then maybe I'll check out that package under the tree and see just how strong I am!
Colleen Coble  
posted at 7:41 AM  
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

“Let’s sit in the front row.” These words sprang enthusiastically from the lips of our middle son, Chad, a 10 year old who likes to be right at the center of the action. It was almost time for the Christmas production of a local mega-church to start, and all the good seats were taken, as they say, except the very front row.

Now, just the fact that they were still empty should have been a clue. I guess we’re a little slow on the uptake, so we go along with our son’s needling and slide up to the front just as the lights begin to dim. The stage is three feet from our noses. Maybe closer since our 7 year old discovered he could prop his feet up there and make himself quite at home. I’m just giving him the stern shake of the head when the automatic spotlight in front of Kevin springs to life and shines 4,000 watts into his face. I’m guessing he’ll see spots the rest of the show.

The beam finally finds another home, and we have a laugh and settle back. The music is amazing, and I’m fully appreciating the talent and time that went into the production when the robed choir comes out. Moments later, I’m staring face to toe with a dozen pair of black, shiny shoes. Even if I wanted to look the shoes' owners in the eyes, which I didn’t, it would have put a kink in my neck the size of the thick black cords knotted at my feet.

The choir moves toward the back of the stage, sounding glorious, I might add, but I’m happy for a little distance. The view from the front seat is not as great as you might think. But apparently everyone else knew that already. That’s why they were empty.

I look over at Chad. “Great seats,” I mouth to him.

He shrugs. “I like it,” he insists. He would.

Just when I think we’re in the clear, another group comes out. Interpretive dancers. Now, no one enjoys interpretive dancing more than I, but again, distance is good. One should not have to duck to avoid getting kicked in the face. I look at Kevin and his back is flattened against the pew. I’ve never seen such good posture.

Chad looks at me, his clamped lips holding back a giggle.

“Thanks a lot,” I mouth. He’s getting just a little too much enjoyment out of this, so when a line of pajama clad kids lined up three feet from our noses—kids from his own class at school—I just had to look and see if Chad still thought so highly of our seats.

I’m pretty sure the red on his face wasn’t from one of the spotlights, and judging from his friends’ faces, they weren’t too thrilled either. When the kids sashayed their way off the stage, I just had to flash Chad a great big smile.

Awkward seating aside, the production was wonderfully, expertly done and did what it was supposed to do—allow us to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Next year, though, if we show up just before curtain call, I think we’ll take our chances with the back pew. And I don’t think we’ll hear a word of complaint from our middle child.
Denise Hunter  
posted at 4:48 PM  
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Friday, December 16, 2005



GREEN ACRES
"You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl." These were my husband's words the other day when it finally clicked that I am NEVER going to enjoy life in the middle of nowhere. The people are fabulous here, the school terrific, the house perfect, but I cannot stand being in the middle of nowhere (which for me is 25 minutes from a Starbucks, and 45 minutes from Nordstrom.)

One of my best friends called me tonight, and said that her husband was going to buy a Mercedes. She called to vent. To me!! This was her first mistake. Baby, go out and buy the man a car! Because I have been hearing him talk about that car for years!!
You can take the car away from the boy, but you can't take the dream away of how he sees himself. He can afford it and he is a truly generous man who deserves the car he's dreamed of. We just are who we are.

I am a typical, shallow American housewife. I like Whole Foods, where they prepare healthy meals FOR ME. I like a minivan with all the creature comforts of a REAL car, restaurants that EVERYONE goes to, and corporate coffee. So sue me.

And don't bother telling me you live three hours from a Wal Mart. I'm glad for you. Pleased as punch there are people who enjoy the quiet life. It's just not ME and it never will be! I miss different cultures, and tattooed, pierced people. I miss food I can't pronounce and bubble tea. So I'm here to say, the hunt for our future begins... As Captain Picard would say, "Make it so."

P.S. To Bethanie: my attempt at a Pavlova was pathetic. I bought a premade angel food cake, and dumped cool whip and kiwis on it. My son had to explain how it wasn't even CLOSE to a Pavlova in his report.
Kristin Billerbeck  
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I'm so excited!!!!

I got a note from my editor at WestBow yesterday. They’ve decided since Hot Flashes & Cold Cream is doing well, they would like for my third book, Hot Tropics & Cold Feet, to be a sequel to Hot Flashes!! Whoohooo!!! Maggie’s back in town!

For those of you who write, you know what I mean when I say I’m excited to revisit my Maggie character. It’s sad to say goodbye to our characters at the end of the book (well, if they’re characters you like anyway), and that’s exactly how I felt about Maggie. Hot Flashes is the book of my heart (I can so relate to women in Maggie’s phase of life, since I am one!), so it’s been hard to say goodbye to her. Now I’m sure this sounds totally lame and even a little weird to non-writers, but hopefully, most of you will understand.

So tell me I’m not weird--okay, maybe I am a little, but about this character thing anyway--tell me you understand. You’ve been there, done that with your own characters. If you don’t, I’ll have to drown myself in chocolate, and you know I ate the last bag only days ago, and it’s snowing outside right now which means it’s unsafe to drive to the store to buy more. And let’s face it, if I had a wreck, you wouldn’t want that on your conscious now, would you? You wouldn’t, right? Hello?
Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:19 AM  
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A TRUFFLE A DAY?
I think we've all been on a diet at one time or another, right? My husband and I have been on the Michael Thurmond Six Week Makeover Diet. He's lost 20 pounds and I've lost 15. We might have lost more if it weren't for DeBrand truffls.

When they came, my initial reaztion was a mixture of glee and dismay. A friend had sent them as a thank you after I spoke to some editors at the ACFW conference on her behalf. I could have given them away since I was on the diet, but there was no way I was going to let those mocha truffles out of my hands. I briefly contemplated eating them all in one sitting, but rejected the idea since I wasn't too fond of emergency room visits.

I stared at the box sizing up the situation. It's a food group, right? I'm sure I've seen that on the food pyramid. If they aren't they should be, and I can prove it. The diet calls for eating 2 oz of lean protein and a carb. Chocolate is a carb, right? A least the sugar is. So what would happen if I doled out one or two truffles in place of rice or fruit or baked potato? I decided it was worth a try.

My husband pooh-poohed the idea, and I almost decided not to give him his share if he was going to be a party pooper about it. But my more gracious side took over and I grudingly gave him his share. And you know what--it worked! We actually still lost weight that week. Goes to show you just how far an obsession with DeBrand truffles can take you.
Colleen Coble  
posted at 4:07 PM  
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You'd think someone who uses a computer for a living might actually be on friendly terms with her instrument. And usually I am. If the computer's working right, hey, me and my friend are like that. (Imagine two fingers twisted together here.)

But just let things go wrong or bring in a little (ACK!) change, and just watch the relationship disentigrate. I'm the sort who dreads moving because I'll have to re-hook up my computer and pray I can get all the plugs in the right slots. Thank God they've begun making programs easier to install. I can now do that on my own! But normally, when anything needs fixing or changing, I end up on the phone with a foreign tech support who speaks computerese in a heavy accent. Like I need an additional hurdle. And God love 'em, they're always so patient when instructing me, even when I'm sure pulling my teeth out through my nose might be less painful.

I've noticed the computer experts calling themselves geeks (or geek squad, etc.) these days. But I've come to think of these geeks quite affectionately. It's hard not to when they rescue a manuscript that has disappeared into computer space or managed to get you back online where all your friends are waiting for you. (Oh, what a sad life I lead.)

More than once, I've wished I could download. No, not a program into a computer, but all the knowlege of one tech support into my non-tech brain. But I'm pretty sure, even if I could download all that knowlege into my head, I'd get an error box. And then then I'd have to call tech support, and we all know how I feel about that.

Denise Hunter  
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

FORE!!
I live on a golf course. So naturally, I bought some clubs, and had delusions of grandeur. Let me emphasize the word "delusions". This week, a willing friend and I played golf. On the course. With a real golf cart and everything! To say, we provided a lot of entertainment for the clubhouse would be putting it lightly.

Golf is one of those games with a secret code (like on my son's Playstation). The thing is, everyone seems to know the codes except for the new golfers, who clearly need to go to golf charm school or something. But they don't tell you the rules because it's so much more fun to have entertainment laughing at the newbies.

First of all, there's a dress code. (And Lilly Pulitzer does make golf wear, so if I get any good...) I call it brunch wear. You have to dress like you're going to a brunch -- with slacks, a collared shirt, golf shoes. I don't dress this nicely for church! I thought about wearing some great Marc Jacobs' denim slacks, but I thought better of it, maybe that won't do. It wouldn't have. No denim on the course. You have to seriously wonder about a sport where your appearance is such an issue. Especially when you can look so incredibly stupid regardless of what you're wearing. The dress code is just one way they try to keep those "not in the know" off the course. Here's a few of the others.

"We adhere to the three-quarters rule," the golf kid says in all severity.
"Right. Right." We both nod our heads, but when we get to the cart, we realize neither one of us has any idea what that means. Turns out, it's the way you park the cart while you're chasing this stupid ball down the fairway. (Oh and you can't go off the little road on a 3 par.)

So we think we're set. But there are little yellow poles, little white poles, and little red poles on the course. I did find out the red pole means you can't park the cart on that fairway. Some nice man came and yelled it to us.

One thing I learned is that if you are easily humiliated, you need to find another sport. When we drove up to the clubhouse, they were LAUGHING at us. I kid you not! Talk about rude. But you know what? I liked it. I liked being outside. I liked the hollow clunk sound of the ball FINALLY going into the hole, and that one day, I too might be worthy of Lilly Golf attire.

ONE MORE VERY IMPORTANT THING!
Happy birthday to my fabulous Grandpa. He is 90 today!!! This is the man who wanted to buy me a green dress in kindergarten, and was I thankful? I would have none of it. "The purple one!" I stamped my feet.

Later, as I matured, he would meet me at "Burger King" for a date during my high school years. I knew I was the luckiest girl there. Ah, perfection. Nothing like it, and found in the arms of a grandpa! (And his 95 year old sister made it to his party from San Francisco!!) I got some good genes, I hope my hubby likes me. : )
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 1:18 AM  
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Monday, December 12, 2005

WHAT? NO CHOCOLATE??!!!

I have to tell you before it’s too late. Before there’s no turning back. Before you hurt yourself--or worse--someone else.

Research can be hazardous.

It’s true. I’m working on edits for my next book. One of my characters is a chocolatier. My editors want me to “beef up” her job. That means doing more research on making gourmet chocolates.

So I roll up my sleeves and get to work. I read how the cocoa bean is dried out, how the cocoa butter is squeezed from the bean, how eventually chocolate is born. My mouth waters with every paragraph. And you know what they say about writers needing to actually “experience” what they’re writing about? Well, who am I to argue?

I heave myself out of my recliner and walk into the kitchen in search of chocolate. I’m pretty confident I have some chocolate chips in the cupboard over the stove. My hand gropes around the shelf in search of the sweets. To my shock and horror, there are none. Okay, no big deal, I’ll try the other cupboard where I sometimes keep them. Not there. Biting my lip, I check the last cabinet. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Sweat forms over my brow, and my mood definitely dips here. I root through the freezer like a mole digging for a home. Nothing. Heart slams into chest. I’m running out of options. As in, none left.

With fleeting hope, I dig through my cupboard one last time and there--looking every inch like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow--sits one lone bag of AGED chocolate chips. I hear wine gets better with age. Well, let me just say, the same is not true of chocolate chips.

These gray little dots—aren’t they supposed to be dark brown?--are hard as pebbles. And the taste? Well, it’s just wrong, that’s all.

Still, I eat them. My husband starts to come over to share in my treat, but I stop him in his tracks with one glance. I finish them. Every single one (I know this because I stick my face in the bag to make sure they’re gone).

Have I mentioned that I have to do more research? I won’t even tell you how many chocolate mints I’ve eaten while writing this blog.

Like I said, every job has its hazards. Maybe I’ll get a Curves gift certificate for Christmas . . .
Diann Hunt  
posted at 6:55 AM  
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Friday, December 09, 2005

A GRINCH?
I don't know when it happened. I swore it never would, but it must have sneaked up on me in the middle of the night sometime. I looked in the mirror this morning, and sure enough, I saw a hint of green under my skin. Did someone zap me with a Grinch gun, or maybe it was a pod from outer space that cozied up next to me and changed me overnight. But sure enough, I'm a Grinch.

Here it is December 9. I have no tree up,I haven't even gotten a good start on Christmas shopping, at least six inches of snow blanket the ground outside, and I should be in the Christmas spirit. But I'm not. I've got edits to finish, another book to get started on, and it feels like it should be January rather than December.

To be honest, going to Hawai'i so late this year contributed to it. Who can get in the Christmas spirit when palm trees are swaying overhead and you hear the tinkle of a 'ukulele? We came back to an eighty degree difference in temperature, and I wasn't ready for the shock of it all.

I'm the eternal optimist. Call me Pollyanna if you want to, but I look for the positive in everything. So I'm sitting here in my chair wondering how to turn this green tint in my skin to good use. If only it were Halloween--at least I'd have a costume no one would recognize. But I think a better option is to beat back the Grinch by reading the Christmas story this morning, lighting a pumpkin candle and buying some Christmas presents. If only I could make some Christmas candy--that would be sure to send the Grinch running for cover. But blowing my diet would only depress me, so I'm going to settle for sniffing the pumpkin candle and trying to remember what chocolate tastes like. Shh, don't tell Di. she's on a chocolate binge right now.
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Colleen Coble  
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Thursday, December 08, 2005


I have an illness.

No, it's not a virus, I'm not contagious, and I don't need treatment (though Kevin has suggested otherwise). It's something I was born with or picked up somewhere along the way. At times it serves me well, but usually, I serve it.

This illness is known as perfectionism, and those who have it know exactly what I mean by that last sentence. The affliction is so popular, there is a game named after it. ("Pop, goes Perfection . . . ") They sing it as if the stress of fitting little pieces of plastic into their slots before the time runs out and the board suddenly pops, scaring the ba-jeebers out of you, is actually fun. Please. As if life isn't stressful enough. Still, it's an apropos reflection of real-life perfectionism. I should know.

I was the child whose dolls were lined up shortest to tallest on the shelf, the one whose socks had to be exactly straight (there's a line across the toes, you know), and who had every bobby pin and barrette in individualized compartments. Advance 20 years (okay, 30) and I'm the one whose spices are alphabetized, whose face is always made up, and whose sofa pillows must always be in place. I will read this blog at least three times before posting and probably three more after I post it, checking for mistakes. I have been known to remove guests' plates from under their noses (he said his fork was halfway to his mouth when this occurred, but that is heresay) in my effort to restore my kitchen to it's spotless appearance. My name is Denise and I'm a perfectionaholic.

I don't know how I came to be this way, but there it is. My illness. During my early adult years, God sent three remedies to help fix me. They're named Justin, Chad, and Trevor. I admit, their appearance partially healed me. Boys don't put things away. They don't line things up and sort clothes by color. At least mine don't. Apparently the illness is not hereditary.

And I should be glad, because this illness is a pain. The pieces rarely fit, and in my focus to do it right, I'm completely caught off guard when life goes "Pop!" It's frustrating to lose, and when perfection is the goal, let's face it, that's what happens. At times like this, I realize my Milton-Bradley existence is a crazy way to live, but I'm pretty sure there's only one cure. Heaven. And I have a feeling we perfectionists are going it appreciate it a little more than everyone else.

Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:20 AM  
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

For a happier post, I'm visiting with Marilynn Griffiths, author of the great new chick lit novel, "Made of Honor" published by Steeple Hill Cafe. It's hilarious and fun, and deep at times. I do hope you'll get it soon. Here are some questions, I asked her for fun!

1. This book, "Made of Honor" is such a gem! I read it in one sitting, and while I laughed out loud, I was more surprised by some of Dana's profound views of "life on the outside". Tell me, how does a wife and mother of seven know what it's like to be a continuous maid of honor?

I have no clue. I have a vivid imagination to be sure, but I also have a lot of single friends and big family where someone was always getting married. I was engaged several times... (blush, cringe) and I have a thing for weddings so that may be part of it.

2. What's the ugliest bridesmaid dress you ever wore?

I was a junior bridesmaid for my mother's 2nd wedding, but that's the only one I actually remember whose wedding it was. :X The rest is a pastel blur. I do remember a particularly bright peach that made me feel like a walking fruit, but I can't remember for the life of me whose wedding it was.

2b. Looking back, was yours ugly too?

I didn't have any bridesmaid's dresses! Believe it or not, I got married in a bank parking lot. My husband surprised me. We were engaged and he realized that I was the kind you had to take by surprise so he did. I thought he was kidding at first, then I freaked out. My best friend say us and pulled over. I guess she's the closest thing to a bridesmaid I had.

3. The humor in "Made of Honor" reminds me of "Pride and Prejudice", it's so intelligent and subtle. Tell me how you developed your sense of humor. Was there a relative? Life circumstances?

Jane Austen? I'm going to pretend you didn't put she and I in the same sentence and try and answer your question. I come from a very funny family. I thought everyone was funny though, so when I kept getting comments about my humor in my rejections, I was confused. My mother, brother and I together is pretty much a sit com. Add in the extended family and well, it's a crackup. Beneath the laughs though, there are tragedies and pain. I learned early in life to laugh at myself.

4. What I especially loved about the book is how girlfriends can be so abusive to one another and yet still walk out the other side as friends. What's something you and your friends have survived.

Oh man. So much. Me having a zillion kids without consulting anyone. People moving away. Life just happening. This year, a close friend moved away and I missed some important news and her new house and all sorts of good stuff. But I think about her all the time and talk about her. She's always with me.

How can readers check out more about the book and/or reach you.

I'd love to have the Girl's WriteOut crew come over to MarilynnGriffith.com and read an excerpt, check out my blog or just say hi. Come on over!

Thanks for being a guest on GirlsWriteOut. People, RUN to get this book, if the darling pink cover doesn't grab you, the first line will!

Thanks Kristin, you're too kind. The same can be said for all of your fun books. Thanks for having me.
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 12:05 AM  
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Monday, December 05, 2005

The writer's life is filled with despair. I don't know why that is, but I really don't know many writers who aren't dealing with something that is so sucky in nature, I can't think of a better term. A lot of the depth of emotion must come from somewhere I suppose.

The thing I noticed is that everyone's life from the outside appears to be something it's not. Why do Christians perpetuate that myth? Yes, we have eternal life, yes, we have hope and Someone to bear our cross. But we also have hard lives. We have horrible diseases in loved ones like cancer and Alzheimers, people we love who wrestle addictions, abusive marriages.

I hope if I do one thing in life, I help my fellow Christians tell the truth. A long time ago, a friend of mine came to me to confide she wanted a divorce. I bought the party line, and gave her such horrible support lines that she would choose divorce for her kids, blah blah blah. I never had mercy on my friend, nor her husband. When I found out the truth of what was going on in their marriage, I was humbled to my core -- I also gave up marriage counseling for those of you interested in my services. : )

But I learned that though a line of Scripture can be like pure gold. It can also be like a knife through the heart of someone hurting. The truth is, we don't know everything. The Bible does not entitle us to be all-seeing and all-knowing, that's God's job. So I hope, friends, that when you hear a friend suffering, you are there to be a shoulder to cry on -- and if you are a writer, think about how someday God has used that very moment so that you might carry His word out to another. Kristin
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 11:53 PM  
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And people think a writer’s life is glamorous, why?

On Saturday my husband and I drive two hours to a bookstore in another town for a book signing. We stop at a quaint restaurant, but it’s too busy and we don’t have the time. So with a growling stomach, I make my way to the little bookstore in a building filled with lots of festive shops. The air is electric (and cold). My spirits are high.

The people at the bookstore are very kind. They give me a table to set up out in the hallway where lots of shoppers pass from one store to another. We cover the table with a pretty cloth, stack on the books and colorful candy bowl for chocolate treats.

Women pass, pointing and laughing at the title of my book (Hot Flashes & Cold Cream). An hour goes by. No sales. The woman at the bookstore comes out with two books for me to sign for her (I think she feels sorry for me). People come and go, all the while smiling, pointing, laughing.

A man comes and asks me to move across the hall so some musicians can take my spot. I move and settle in to enjoy the mountain dulcimer music across from me.

Another sale. Life is good. The clock ticks. My smile stays in place. More ticking. Lots more ticking. Finally, another sale. More ticking. My stomach howls. A man asks me why everyone is ignoring me. Smile waning here. More people than I can count ask me where the bathroom is. Another sale. Tick, tick, tick. I consider pulling off my watch and throwing it away, but it’s powder blue with white polka dots just like my book cover, so I can’t part with it.

My husband checks in from time-to-time. Brings me a drink (non-alcoholic). Though if I were a drinker . . . Okay, I’m kidding, but let me just say at one point I consider smearing on cold cream just to get someone’s attention.

All in all, I sell seven books and pass out more promotional fans and bookmarks than I can count.

Still, the day is good. Glamorous? No. Good? Yes.
Diann Hunt  
posted at 11:50 AM  
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Sunday, December 04, 2005


VACATIONS
Okay, I've finally come to the conclusion I'm weird. Here we are on a fabulous trip to Hawai'i. It's to research a new book of course, but there are no rules that say I can't enjoy the week, are there? Of course not. And I have done just that. But now I'm heading home in the morning and you know what? I CAN'T WAIT! I'm eager to get back to my edits, my email, my own bed, my writing recliner, and my own coffee, in that order. Yes, you heard me right. The EDITS are at the top of my list, even ahead of my own bed.

After talking to the fabulous Ami McConnell yesterday and getting her ideas for the manuscript, I cannot WAIT to get back to it! Even the palm trees, the lure of the blue Pacific and the sound of Hawaiian music fail to hold my attention after her call. I found my attention wandering back to the story at every turn, and now I'm about to pick up life again.

What is there about routine that's so compelling? I love change. I really do. I like to see things shaken up, which is another reason I love edits, but I crave routine. My morning espresso by nine, my computer fired up and on my lap by the same time. Listening for the mailman, eyeing the pile of research books heaped beside my chair, the friendly chime of Outlook announcing a new email from one of the girls, the soft embrace of my waterbed (yes, that's right, we have slept in a waterbed for nearly 30 years now). Much as I'd love to stay under a palm tree forever, the lure of routine keeps calling me back. Maybe I'm just getting old. LOL
Colleen Coble  
posted at 12:52 AM  
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Friday, December 02, 2005

I guess I'm not a Sam's Club kinda girl. I'm not sure why, but I always imagined the place as a big cement-floored warehouse filled with super-sized boxes. Which is why I felt so out of my element yesterday when I entered our local Sam's.

Why am I going there you ask? Simple. I need to buy a membership for someone else. So, I walk into this enormous building, and it's just like I imagine. Cement floor, wide open spaces, and yes, big boxes everywhere, stacked as high as a serving of Paul Bunyon pancakes. I feel like a third grader at a new school where everyone knows what's what except me.

I take in the whole environment. If I were a gift card, where would I be? After wandering around, I find the membership gift cards located near the check out counters, so I take one from the display and move toward one of the many lines, all of which are snaked clear back to the actual merchandise floor.

I wait patiently, more or less, for a long time. I'm next in line when it hits me. Do I have to be a member to buy someone else a membership card? I'm not certain, but all of a sudden, I'm feeling like there are rules here, and I'm about to break one of them. I snag a young-looking manager (why does everyone look so young these days?), who's rushing past me and ask the question. Yes, you do in fact have to have a membership to buy someone else a membership. Did I mention I've waited a long time already?

My Christmas spirit sinks, and I begin to slip out of the long line. I can almost hear the customers behind me rushing up to take my place. I must have a pout on my face or something, because the manager offers to allow the transaction. I thank him and squeeze back between the two shopping carts just in time. I'm first in line! I feel like I've achieved something here, and almost turn around and wave in excitement. "Hey everybody, I'm first in line!"

The nice manager shows up to give the cashier the Special Membership number. He leaves, and she finishes the transaction, but something is wrong. She's not sure if she's activated the card, and she needs to void out the transacation. By now the manager is halfway across the store--and that's saying something. She calls him back to the register. I hear a lady 4 customer's behind me sigh.

The manager comes back (he's still smiling, though I don't know how) and voids it out, then punches in the Special Membership number again. This time he patiently shows the cashier how to do the transaction. It goes through. I smile too. I swipe my Visa card, see the $35.00 charge on the screen, and prepare to sign. However, something is wrong and the cashier looks at my card and shakes her head. The manager shakes his too. I'm back in 3rd grade and the teacher is telling me I've broken a rule and must go to the principal's office. "We don't take charge cards from that bank."

There's no time to scratch my head and question this strange policy. I'm feeling the pressure from twenty rushed women armed with loaded shopping carts. "Fine, fine, I'll write a check," I say.

The manager and cashier speak simultaneously. "We don't take checks from non-members."

I'm suddenly afraid they're going to send a note home for my mother, and I feel a little anxiety building. I give the young manager a quick look hoping he'll take pity and offer the Special Member number again, but no such luck. "Okay, cash then. " I unzip my wallet and remove all the bills. I quickly count. $31.00. I'm digging through coins now, and that's not easy considering there's a hole in the bottom of my change section that eats quarters, nickles, dimes and pennies. That doesn't stop me, though. I just force my hand through the gaping hole and scrounge around the entire secret interior of my purse. I promise myself I'm going to buy a new purse. Not here, though.

I pull out a fist full of coins, and about the time I hear coins plinking down on the cement floor at my feet, I hear a woman somewhere behind me say, "Why are the shortest lines always the longest?"

I'm also realizing there aren't enough coins in my entire purse to make up the 4 dollars difference. I'm starting to feel a little warm under my turtleneck.

"There's a cash machine at the entrance," the cashier offers.

Ah, thank God. I retrieve my cash card and look back at the Cobra-sized line, which, I swear, is actually hissing at me. The cashier promises me I won't have to wait in line when I come back. But just then the manager notices the Visa emblem on my cash card and tells me I can probably use it right there at the register. I swipe the card, punch in my PIN, and hold my breath.

"Card Accepted" flashes on the screen. I've never been so relieved. Neither have the women behind me. I take my gift card and slink toward the door. I have survived my first day at school--er, Sam's Club, but I don't think I'll be showing my face again around here anytime soon. And something tells me everyone here is just fine with that.
Denise Hunter  
posted at 8:58 AM  
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

BJ Hoff, writer and woman extraordinaire has come up with a few questions on her blog, and I'm obliging Angela Hunt, and answering them. : ) Kristin


BJ Hoff's GRACE NOTES

Has these questions on her blog. Join in!

Seven Things to Do Before I Die (Lord willing): 1. Love on grandchildren (oldest child is 11 so I'm asking for some time!)
2. Drive a Lexus Convertible
3. Visit Italy and Interlaken, Switzerland again.
4. Live in San Francisco (preferably Pacific Heights)
5. Get a phone line! Okay, MOVE!
6. Write a book as fabulous as "The Thorn Birds"
7. Enjoy the moment!
Seven Things I Cannot Do:1. Stand up with my eyes closed
2. Board games, unless it's Trivial Pursuit, count me out!
3. Team Sports
4. Sit still
5. Go without espresso
6. Play in the ocean (again the equilibrium)
7. Refrain from stating an opinion.

Seven Things that Attract Me to My Spouse [romantic interest, best friend, whomever](not necessarily in this order!):

1. His calm.
2. The way he looks at me across a soccer field
3. His intelligence.
4. His clean-cut appearance
5. Our chemistry -- wow!
6. His ability to sit through chick flicks.
7. His love for our family.

Seven Things I Say (or write!) Most Often:1. Um, no.
2. I don't think so.
3. Yeah, right.
4. Okay
5. Alrighty then.
6. Not happening.
7. LOL
Seven Books (or series) I Love:1. Proverbs (the Bible in general)
2. The Thorn Birds
3. Pride and Prejudice
4. Far from the Madding Crowd
5. Camille
6. The Count of Monte Cristo
7. Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:1.Moonstruck
2. You've Got Mail
3. Bridget Jones's Series
4. Notorious
5. It's a Wonderful Life
6. Pride and Prejudice
7. Gone with the Wind
Seven People I Want to Join in:

1. Colleen
2. Diann
3. Denise
4. Robin Miller
5. Marilynn Griffiths
6. Jane Orcutt
7.Tracey Bateman
Kristin Billerbeck  
posted at 6:34 PM  
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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.

www.KristinBillerbeck.com

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.

www.ColleenCoble.com

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.

www.DeniseHunterBooks.com

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.

www.DiannHunt.com

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.

www.HannahAlexander.com

 
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