Girls Write Out
Sunday, July 31, 2011

The good news is, I have advanced copies of Smitten to give away! The bad news is I only have 2 copies. Advanced copies are expensive for publishers to produce, and their purpose it to generate buzz, so here's the criteria for the giveaway:

Tell me how you could use a free copy of Smitten to generate buzz for its upcoming (Dec) release.

* Are you a book reviewer for a popular blog?
* Are you a bookstore manager who hand-sells novels?
* Can you publish a newspaper/magazine (or other media) review of Smitten?
* Can you influence your book club to put Smitten on the schedule?
* Can you think of another way to be an influencer?

Leave a message telling me what you'd do with a free advanced copy of Smitten (besides read it!) AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS. I'll notify the winners on Wednesday (Aug. 3).

Here's a blurb of the story:

When a failed logging company threatens their town's survival, four friends devise a plan to turn Smitten, Vermont, into the country's premier honeymoon destination. But little do they know that love is already on the way---for each of them! Enjoy four page-turning romances, written by best-selling romance authors Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter.

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:47 PM  
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Friday, July 29, 2011
Nearly all of us go through this awful time of life at least once, usually twice or more--and that is losing a loved one. I can't actually say yet whether I'm losing my mother, or whether she'll be home next week ready to get back to living. God knows. I don't. The doctors don't. I wish I knew more.

God has blessed me in a very special way by putting an ER doc in my life so when I have questions or am frightened or don't know what kind of decision to make about my mother's care (I'm an only child) Mel can guide me and comfort me. God has also blessed me with you girls, who support and love and encourage. What blessings you are. I do have things for which to thank God, and I need to remember that more often.

The question I have for you today, however, is how do I get the answers I need about my mother's care? I realize her surgeon and the hospital resident can put their heads together for some good ideas. I'm also in awe of the nurses who see Mom more intimately on a daily basis, and they will speak with the docs about her behavior and the need she has to grow strong again and fight the awful contamination inside her body after the tumor surgery.

I've found, however, that even though I have power of attorney about Mom's care, I can walk to the nurse's station and stutter and hesitate and forget what questions I needed to ask about her situation. I need to know if her tumor was cancer. For goodness' sake, it's been a week since the surgery. Why no results of the biopsy? So I depend on Mel to ask the medical questions. I'm too meek.

Any ideas? Mel can get the answers by asking a few questions, where they look at me at times as if I had no right to Mom's medical situation. What do you do to get questions. Are you bashful like me, afraid to offend? Or like Colleen, do you stride into the nurse's station and grab someone by the lapel and squeeze answers out of her? And if you do that, HOW do you find the strength to do that? I mean, catching Mom's surgeon when he comes by to check on her? Ha! It doesn't happen. I could camp out there from midnight to the next midnight, and he would show up for four seconds during my time in the bathroom. WHAT am I doing wrong? Tell me, please, before I lose all control and run screaming through the hallways in a rage?

Any help there? Please?
And while you're at it, would you please pray for my mother, Lorene Cook?

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Hannah Alexander  
posted at 1:16 AM  
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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Well, sadly, my hair is starting to thin, so I've decided to get a new wig. The good news is I like the wig. However, it does look much better on Raquel Welch, doggone her. Doesn't she ever age?

Anyway, I get the thing out of the box, shake it up real good and work with it on my hair. I put my makeup on, and I'm feeling pretty snazzy when I leave the house. Might even say I had a smidgen of pride over my new do.

It's funny how God has a way of helping us with that pride thing.

I go to my daughter's house to show her my new style and we suddenly notice that in the back of my hair, a tag is peeking out--okay, it's not peeking. It's standing at full attention and a huge orchestra is playing, "Turn around, look at me."

Then I meet up with someone I had never met before, a new friend (ovarian cancer survivor), and she's from out of town. I'm wearing the wig. She has her dog with her. The dog is on a leash and somehow gets wrapped around me and she swings the leash over my head, barely missing the wig by centimeters. I could visualize my wig flying through the air and the dog pulverizing it.

Let's face it, I'm not the classy type. Audrey Hepburn can go to Tiffany's for breakfast while I down a burrito at McDonald's. It's my life. And I guess truth be told, I'm okay with that.

Tell me I'm not the only one. Any other brave soul out there care to admit your life isn't always picture perfect? ;-)

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Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:36 AM  
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I'm trying to stay happy. Because when I'm not happy my books get too dark. Usually a good dose of bad reality television and espresso will do the trick.

I woke up with a tooth infection. There are few things in life that wreck your world other than a bad tooth or a killer blister. Try and think about anything else with those two things. It's nearly impossible. I think about Job and the boils, and I think, yeah, but did he have a bad tooth?

Okay, maybe he did. He certainly had his share of garbage, I'll give you that. I have to wonder if it's our turn on the Girls Write Out team. Usually one of us has a time, and we lift the other out. But right now, we're all dealing with stuff, and it's overwhelming.

I'm home from work today to work on my book, and now I have a toothache and I have to go to the dentist. Few people hate dentists more than me, so I suppose spending a little extra time in the Word and focusing on the positives of life will help lift me out of thinking about my molar.

What do you do to reenergize when life is playing Job on you?
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Monday, July 25, 2011
I'm a little sad today with the announcement from Barbour that they are discontinuing their Heartsong line. That's where all five of us got our start in publishing.

I still well remember the day I heard from Becky Germany that she was buying Where Leads the Heart. I screamed so loudly the cat hid under the bed and wouldn't come out for hours. I called my pastor babbling on his answering machine. He thought someone had died and he didn't recognize the voice or know who to call back.

I love that Becky gave me the freedom to not be tied to a romance formula. She was a great mentor to me and I will always love her as a friend and an editor.

So this is the end of an era and I'm just plain sad about it. How many of you started reading our books back in the Heartsong era? I'm curious.

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 1:57 PM  
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Over vacation, I decided to do something I'd never done before. Something I was certain every romance author had done. Something I'm sure my readers had presumed I had already done. I was too embarrassed to admit it but . . .

I had never read a Jane Austen book.

Not Sense and Sensibility, not Mansfield Park or Emma, or even Pride and Prejudice. My only exposure to Jane Austen stories was through--ahem--movies. Yes, hard to believe of a romance author, I know.

But over vacation, I decided I must rectify my terrible oversight. Not only because it was my secret shame, but because the heroine of my work-in-progress is a Jane Austen reader. Oh, the things I do for research.

So after gobbling up Elin Hilderbrand's new book, I dove into--what else?--Pride and Prejudice. As an impatient reader, I always thought the language of an Austen book would get in the way of the story. I presumed that the detail would be overwhelming and that I'd find myself skipping long, boring passages until I, at long last, put the book down, never to be picked up again.

Instead, I found myself turning in early each night--on a cruise!--so I could find a nugget of reading time. There were no long, boring passages, and I found the language quite beautiful. Best of all, I found wonderful parallels between Elizabeth Bennett and my own heroine that I plan on bringing out in my story. I love it when research is fun and productive. :)

So, all you Jane Austen fans--and I know you're out there. Which book should I read next?


Denise Hunter  
posted at 6:58 PM  
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Admittedly, I'm not a foodie. I don't seem to enjoy food like other people do. Unless it's made for me, and I don't have to participate in the actual cooking. Then, I'll pretty much eat anything.

In my office, people are foodies. They start the morning dreaming about lunch, and then they talk about what they had for dinner.
They get so excited, it almost makes me sad I'm not a foodie. But the other night, I was watching "Master Chef" and one of the home cooks was throwing a tantrum. The professional told him that you shouldn't cook angry, you can taste it in the food.

And I thought, then my kids have been getting a lifetime full of bitterness because I HATE to cook. You know what my kids do have? Excellent restaurant manners. From a very young age.

I think I'd like to cook more if I didn't have to do it every day for six people, who would prefer to just have mac & cheese out of the box. Not that I cook that. I make mashed potatoes five times a week, but I don't do it with the joy or zeal they do on "Master Chef" -- I don't wait with anticipation for the kids to say, "Excellent Mom!"

Because they're not really foodies either. So any of you out there who love to cook, what brings you joy about it? The people eating it, or the design of it, or the accomplishment? What makes you NOT cook angry?
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Last night on the Smithsonian Channel I watched a documentary about the Monkees. They were hot when I was in high school and I LOVED them. Almost as much as Mr. Spock and Star Trek. Almost. :)

I was struck by how much music transports us to another place and time. As I listened to snippets of those old songs, I wanted to run out and get a new pair of white go-go boots. LOL I could almost taste the homemade cocoa fudge I used to make and eat when I'd watch it. I could almost feel the texture of our old sofa under me. I hadn't realized before last night how music could do that.

I was in love with Micky Dolenz. And let me just say, ahem, his voice sounds the same but he's changed a bit. But then I have too. The decades between when I was 16 and here where I'm 59 have gone by in the blink of an eye. I don't FEEL any different. But I look in the mirror and I sure am! But the documentary brought the 60s back in all its glory and tarnish.

The cool thing about the documentary was that it showed the behind the scenes stuff. I vaguely remember hearing that the Monkees didn't do their own music. As a teenager, I didn't care. I could tell they sang the songs. That was all that mattered to me. The guitar stuff was nice but I only cared about the boys. So seeing the real story about how the situation was all about ego--on both sides--was interesting to me. As I watched it, I thought about what Jesus tells us to do. To put others before ourselves. If even one side had done that, the situation would have been diffused.

We just got back from ICRS on Thursday night. Thomas Nelson was promoting a new non fiction title though we didn't see the book or what it was about for sure, but Dave snagged a wristband that read I'm Second, meaning God is first. Dave was quick to say, "No, I'm Third. The Bible says God, Others, then Self." Gotta love that guy. :) Anyway, that's so true. Our church has a mantra: Love God, Love People, Serve Both.

What about you? Were you a child of the 60s like me? Do you remember the hullabaloo about the Monkees (had to use that word since it's a 60s word too. LOL) Have you experienced a situation where if even one side had followed a godly pattern, the situation would have fixed itself?

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 8:22 AM  
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you expect. We’re still on our Holy Land trip, which we extended on the front end with a trip to the Alps, Venice, and Rome.

While planning the trip, we had preconceived ideas about what we would enjoy the most. The boys thought they’d like Rome the most of our pre-Holy Land itinerary. I thought I’d enjoy the Alps the most. However, none of us cared for Rome and, though the Alps were amazing, I have to say, Venice was my favorite.

We’ve now seen the Holy Land, and I’m so glad we came. As for the Holy Land, I expected the Via Dolorosa to be the most moving. However (due to the crowds, busy market, and the particular tour we were on), it was not my favorite part.

I’ll carry the images with me always, but most meaningful for me were the Western Wall and the Sea of Galilee. Galilee was quiet and serene, perfect for contemplating what a day with Jesus and his disciples might have been like. Also, the area was much as it must’ve been in Biblical days, not covered by the newer temples and man-made symbols of Jerusalem.

I’m so glad we came, and I can’t wait to get home and read the Gospels over again, picturing it all in a new way. Having driven the areas between Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem, we also have a new perspective on the distances Jesus covered during his life on Earth.

When was the last time something turned out differently than you expected? And yes, that failed crème brulee counts.

PS I've posted pics on my FB page if you want to see more of Israel


Denise Hunter  
posted at 1:40 PM  
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Thursday, July 14, 2011
My husband and I had a wonderful dinner last week in the home of one of his students. This was an Amish family.

We live near Amish and appreciate these gentle folk, but we've never had the pleasure of actually eating in one of their homes. When we walked inside, they had a long table set with heirloom dishes. A guest list of approximately fifteen people included extended family (grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, another couple and us).

They passed around homemade bread, strawberry jam, salad from their garden, salisbury steak, chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy and four different homemade pies (with two of each kind!). Oh, and homemade ice cream. It was like being on an episode of Martha Stewart. I wonder if she was Amish?

I've never seen so much food--and it was delicious!! Made me feel guilty for ordering takeout all the time--I got over it, though.

We had the best time of fellowship with this hospitable people and when the evening came to a close, their son (my husband's former student--third grade) and their daughter (first grade) took us on a buggy ride. I guess there's no age limit on the buggy drivers. Anyway, as dusk settled over the city, we enjoyed a moonlit ride down a lazy country road, compliments of these young drivers. We waved at other Amish folk as though we knew them.

As we drove home that night, we talked of their ways, their kindness, their priority of family. They are amazing people and it was our pleasure to enjoy a moment in time with them.

Amazing though it was, I have to admit that once I made it home, I glanced at my indoor bathroom with all its wonderful plumbing and whispered a word of thanks.

Have you ever eaten with people who live life quite different from you?

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Diann Hunt  
posted at 11:33 AM  
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Sunday, July 10, 2011
If you've been in the writing industry for at least 3 or 4 seconds you've heard of Karen Ball. When she recently joined the Steve Laube Agency, I thought some of readers might be interested in knowing that this publishing icon has switched gears. So here's a bio and an interview with the charming Karen Ball:

Karen Ball has been blessed to use her love of words and story during nearly 30 years in publishing. Karen built and led successful fiction lines for Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and, most recently, the B&H Publishing Group. She’s had the honor of discovering several best-selling novelists, including Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and Liz Curtis Higgs. Karen has also worked with numerous top authors. In addition, Karen is a best-selling, award-winning novelist and a popular speaker. She lives in Oregon with her husband, father, and two four-legged, furry “kids.”

Karen, you've been on the editorial side of the desk for a long time. What made you decide to become an agent?

People have been asking me to do so for a long time, but I always felt my place was behind an editor's desk. But when B&H laid me off in January, my husband and I decided to take a month to think and pray and ask God where I should go from here. I've loved working in-house as an editor, and I enjoy doing freelance editing work, so I knew I didn't want to give up being an editor. But as soon as word got out about my leaving B&H, I had countless phone calls and emails from authors and agencies alike asking me if I'd consider making the move into agenting. And actually, what became clear was that this isn't really a "move." It's an expansion of what I already do. I've always acted as a champion for my writers, and I've always loved to mentor writers on both craft and career. And when Steve Laube, who'd been talking with me about the possibility of joining his agency for some time, asked me if it was the right time, I realized it was. In fact, I realized I was excited at the opportunity.

What skills, talents, and insight do you bring to the table as an agent?
It always seems to me this is a question to ask the people who've worked with me. So I welcome anyone I've worked with to add their two cents' worth! But the most obvious response is that I bring everything I've learned from 30 years in publishing, from working as an editor and from being a published author. I'm familiar with almost every aspect of publishing, and passionate about partnering with authors to take their writing and careers to the next level. I've had the distinction of finding amazing fiction writers for the Christian market, including Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, and Ginny Yttrup. So I know great writing, fiction or nonfiction, when I read it. And I thrive on helping others and championing people and writing I believe in. Plus, I'm an off-the-scale extrovert. That alone sets me apart in this biz!

No kidding! You're one of a kind, Karen. :) With all those editorial--not to mention writing--skills, can we assume you'll be involved in the development of your clients' proposals?
Assume away! I'll be as involved as my authors need me to be. It's about partnering and serving.

What genres are you interested in representing?
Easier to say what I'm not looking for. I'm not well versed in childrens' books or academic nonfiction, so I won't be looking for those kinds of titles. Mostly, I'm interested in powerful writing, in fiction or nonfiction that sings. If you'd like to know more, check out my blog post at

Are you willing to look at proposals from unpublished writers?

Yes, but I don't have a lot of openings for new voices, so I encourage writers to be sure their proposals are as strong as they can be. And it's in their best interests to follow the guidelines at That way I'll have all the information I need right up front.

How might a writer submit a proposal to you?
Once a writer has a proposal put together (following the guidelines mentioned above), email it to my assistant, Michelle Vincent, at

How can our readers learn more about the Steve Laube Agency?
Check out the website (, for starters. But I'd say the best way is to talk to some of our clients. They'll give you the skinny on what we're all about!

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Don't let a rejection, from me or from an editor or from anyone else, discourage you! Something may not be a good fit for me, but another agent will love it. It's all about doing the work and being patient. If God has given you a task to write, focus on doing that task to the best of your ability. Refine the craft, study the market, and be obedient to the work. Write, write, write. If it's in God's plans for you to be published, it'll happen. In His time. In His way. You just focus on being the best writer you can be. Because the quality of the writing is what matters most. It's what changes lives.


Thank you, Karen! I wish you all the best in your new venture!

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:00 AM  
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Friday, July 08, 2011
I know I've told some funnies on Mel before--the spider incidents were especially enjoyable. He loves to play around and joke and have fun, but he's been my hero more than once.

There was the time he covered my body with his when I was slipping down the side of a cliff. He could have fallen instead, but he didn't. He saved my life.

And then there are the times when we go hiking and he stops me from stepping on a copperhead or rattlesnake. On those hikes, he also takes a branch and walks in front of me, holding the branch out to catch spiderwebs--yes, still dealing with the spiders. But he's still the hero.

This past Sunday we had a different experience. Here in Missouri folks are allowed to have fireworks any time, all the time. The pops and whistles and bombs go off constantly the week before the Fourth of July. We were pulling into the garage when we arrived home from church when our neighbor came running out shouting "Fire! There's a fire in the trees across the street!" We looked, and sure enough the flames were leaping head high and crackling. We could feel the heat. Mel calmly walked into the house and came out with a fire extinguisher and walked over to the fire and sprayed it down to bare coals. Then he tried to use our neighbor's hose to finish it off, but she didn't have any water pressure. Finally the fire truck arrived and finished the fire off. Mel came in for dinner.

We had smoked ribs. They were hot. My husband can walk into the hot flames and put out a fire, but when he picked up a rib, he hissed and dropped it back to the plate. "It's hot!" he exclaimed. I just laughed at him. That's my hero.

How about your hero? What are his strengths and weaknesses? I love everyday heroes who are steady, sturdy, loving and steadfast. God bless our heroes.

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Hannah Alexander  
posted at 12:00 AM  
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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Okay, I understand the idea that retail has to stay ahead of the game, but can you believe they're already putting away summer things and stocking the shelves with school supplies? What? Most of us have just gotten out our swimsuits--okay, maybe I just got mine out to look at and dream of being that size again, but still.

Does this bother anyone but me? The day after school starts, we'll see a few pumpkins and Halloween costumes, and before Halloween can come and go, we might spot a few Thanksgiving trays. Christmas? Well, that can show up anytime between Halloween and Thanksgiving! Not that I'm complaining about that one. As you know, I love Christmas all year round. :-)

So does it bother you that we barely have time to enjoy one season before they're pushing the next thing? What ever happened to enjoying the moment? Sigh. Maybe it's just me.

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Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:29 AM  
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Wednesday, July 06, 2011
Now that the Casey Anthony trial is over, I think it's a reminder that God's justice is ultimate and that our laws to protect the innocent, sometimes let the guilty off.

Whether she's guilty or not, to me, she's guilty of extreme neglect (not reporting her daughter missing for two months) and guilty of acting poorly.

I haven't followed the case closely, I admit. It's too painful for me, but this is one of those times when you have to believe that vengeance is the Lord's. But when a child doesn't get justice, it helps to know that God is in charge...

Does that help you?
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Tuesday, July 05, 2011
I just finished the edits for Blue Moon Promise, and you all know how I LOVE edits. So last week was a way fun week for me. I took Saturday off and stripped wallpaper in the dining room so I can paint. I've had the itch to do it for months but no time. So I'm looking at paint samples and trying to make up my mind.

Yesterday was the 4th so we took off to spend the day with Punky and her parents at Jellystone. The place was absolutely packed, but it was really fun. The only troubling time was when I went swimming with Davy and Alexa. There was another little girl in the pool about Alexa's age. She was wearing a life jacket thingy. But here's the thing. Her parents weren't in the pool with her! They were chatting with friends under the arbor and totally ignoring her. She got into trouble several times and I saw wide blue eyes full of panic so I steered her to the steps four different times. There was no lifeguard on duty at the pool either. Parents are supposed to watch their children.

I wanted to say something to the parents, but that old adage against meddling prevented me. But I'll tell you one thing--I didn't leave the pool area until that little girl was out of the water! LOL Then I got to thinking about her. I don't know what other challenges she will face in her life, but I bet she's going to have to learn to be self-sufficient. I have noticed that a lot of kids today have an attitude of entitlement. I'd guess that little girl is going to not have a problem with that, but isn't there a happy medium? There's the overprotective parent and the neglectful one, but I'd sure like to see more right in the middle who know when to step back and when to step up and ensure a child's safety.

What would you have done in this situation? Shut up like I did and watched her myself? Turned in the parents to the authorities? Said something to the parents?
Colleen Coble  
posted at 9:33 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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