Girls Write Out
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We're in Nashville, Indiana which is a lovely, little, quirky town not unlike Smitten. We're staying in a luxurious cabin and brainstorming our next Smitten book. It's not the same without Di, but she's not feeling well enough. We're getting kind of desperate, I just heard "amnesia" spoken so maybe we haven't had enough coffee, but I promise you, we have one stellar idea and I now after more coffee, something else will bloom.

Great minds don't think alike, but they certainly can spur one another on to a fuller storyline. We can't wait to let you know what it is...wish us luck!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. A hurricane hadn't taken direct aim at the Outer Banks in quite a few years. I've been writing the first book in my new Hope Beach series, Tidewater Inn. I thought it would be fun to write about a Cat I hurricane hitting. Nothing TOO bad because I didn't want the focus taken from the main story conflicts, but I wanted to show the small island all pulling together.

Well, guess what. Hurricane Irene took aim. A Category I with a strong storm surge, just like I'd written into the story about a month ago. Sorry, OBX! I wouldn't have done it if I'd thought I was being prophetic. It's enough to make me hesitate to write a disaster from now on. LOL

I have the cover up in honor of the VERY fun next few days. Denise should be in around 1:30 and we'll go pick up Kristin from the airport then head to Brown County where we've rented a gorgeous log home. Our editors Ami McConnell and Natalie Hanemann are going to meet us there. We will be brainstorming the next 2 Smitten books, and if there's time, some of our other upcoming books. We are so stoked! The only disappointment is that Diann is too sick to come. :( Please pray for her. This chemo is really whamming her hard. She's going to call in though and get us laughing. :)

So back to the original thought. Any of you ever have an instance where something you said or did turned out to be prophetic?

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Colleen Coble  
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Friday we left our oldest son at college. I have to say, nothing in life prepares you to take your child 4 1/2 hours away, unpack his belongings, and drive away.

I expected the on-and-off tears and the flashbacks of his younger years. What I didn't expect was the overarching feeling of loss, almost a feeling of depression--punctuated by freak outs about what I may have forgotten to teach him in our 19 years together.

I keep telling myself it's not too late. He's only a text away if I remember that I never told him about ATM fees or separating darks and lights or the use of colons verses semi-colons verses. (Hey, he's a journalism major.)

This letting go thing isn't easy, but the best piece of advice I received came from my dad. (See? After all these years, he's still helping ME through the tough stuff. This is comforting.)

He pointed out that when you take a flight and keep your luggage with you, that bag is your responsibility. If someone steals it while you're sleeping in your uncomfortable chair at the gate, or if or you leave it at the Cinnabon stand, the airline is not responsible for its loss. However, if you check your bag, it's in their hands, their safekeeping (such as it is). They're responsible for its recovery.

As I think of my son so far away, I'll try to remember that I've already checked him with God. Unlike the airlines, He'll never misplace Justin, and He sure won't charge an extra fee for keeping him in His care.

Is there a piece of luggage you need to check?

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Denise Hunter  
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Well, this has been a year to forget. Anyone else? With Di's cancer battle, and the economic downturn, it can be easy to forget that we are truly blessed.

If you have your health to pray for Di, you're blessed! If you have a full stomach this morning, you're blessed. If someone (especially a little person) told you they loved you today, well, you have HIT the jackpot!

It's been a hard couple of years for us as a group, but I think the main reason we're put here on earth is to connect and love as Jesus did. So if you look at our years from that standpoint, we've done pretty good.

Today I'm grateful that school starts tomorrow. I'm grateful for my book, A Billion Reasons Why, in large print for other fans of the 40's. I'm grateful that I found my Joe's Jeans (two pairs of which were falling off of me they were so old) at Nordstrom Rack. I'm grateful that the family knows not to take Mommy's pens (Pentel EnerGels) and I'm grateful that this morning, I can afford to start my workday at Starbucks. Sure, it would be smarter to put it into a 401k, but I guarantee you, I would not have the same amount of joy. Even later.

Seize the day! What are you grateful for today?

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Di's h-pylori test came back negative so the treatment won't be antibiotics. She was so weak that they quickly admitted her to the hospital up in Zion Cancer Treatment Center. Love that place! Dr. Williams came in to see her. There is something about that doctor that just encourages all of us when we see her. Di was so uplifted when the doc came by.

Di has to get a feeding tube tonight and she's so upset about it. She hates something in her throat. It will go through the nose and down the throat to the small intestine. Her poor stomach needs a break. Dr. Williams promised that by Friday they'd have a new plan of action to kick this cancer in the rear end!

Thank you so much for all your prayers! Di is so appreciative of your love and support and so are the rest of us!
Colleen Coble  
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Monday, August 15, 2011
Thank you all SO much for your prayers for Di. It's been a rough week for her and those of us who love her so much, but the good news is that she's now in Zion at the Cancer Treatment Center. She sees a doctor tomorrow about her MALT lymphoma in her stomach, then her primary ovarian cancer doctor later in the week, unless that gets moved up. While we would have liked for the thing in her stomach to be nothing, the next best thing is this MALT. If it's caused by the h-pylori bacteria, it will be cured with antibiotic! And there is much good news on the horizon with ovarian cancer treatment as well. God isn't through with Di yet, and we will get on the other side of this beast yet!

Di's constant faith and love for God is such an inspiration to me personally. Denise and I went to see her on Thursday. We laughed so much I know the nurses were popping in just to see what was going on. Unfortunately there was no morphine button for me to push, but Denise was on her guard so she could stop me from touching anything I wasn't supposed to. LOL I kept my hands folded in my lap, really! :)

We were sitting there talking and all of a sudden, Di says, "No stinkin' way!" I think she yelled loud enough to blow out the door. There stood her son Aaron and his family. During the course of the visit, the family was talking about why this was all happening. son-in-law Kyle said, "I know why. God said, Have you considered my servant Diann?" When I heard about that, I knew it was exactly right. We may not understand why God allows this pain into our Di's life, but God knows. And with her faith and spirit, she is advancing the kingdom of God. She is an example to all of us who watch her steadfast heart and love. Of course my husband is such a joker that he said Kyle was trying to score brownie points but still. :) He was totally right!

I felt so much better after seeing her. I called our friend and editor Ami McConnell to tell her what was going on so she could keep up the prayers. She said, "You sound better today." And the weird thing was that I DID feel better. I got to talk to the doctor, find out what exactly was going on and what was being done. I felt like I was DOING something, even though I wasn't. LOL It's all in the perception.

So what helps you when you're going through a trial like this? Feeling like you're doing something? Praying? Taking in soup? When someone you love is in the middle of the battle, what kind of help fills your well and empowers you?

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Colleen Coble  
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Sunday, August 14, 2011

One of my earliest memories is standing on a step stool helping my mom make Nestle Tollhouse cookies. I couldn't reach the counter, but I knew how to crack an egg.

I never helped with the mac n cheese or the fried Spam sandwiches, but when Mom pulled out the flour and chocolate chips, I was there. Okay, so it helped that she let me lick the beaters.

Fast forward a couple years, I received the best gift ever (to my way of thinking). A Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. Now, I don't remember a single other childhood toy I owned, but I remember my Easy Bake. Not only did I get to bake goodies (with a lightbulb!), but I got to eat them too. What could be better?

Things haven't changed much. I still don't like to cook, but the very thought of whipping up a homemade pie or three-layer cheesecake and I quiver with excitement. I'm pretty sure Mom created a monster.

Did you have a favorite childhood toy?

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Denise Hunter  
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Friday, August 12, 2011
Aren't these birds beautiful? They look as if they're having fun, and just looking at them can make one smile.

Okay, I haven't smiled much the past month. You girls were so supportive when my mother had her surgery. Her dementia is still bad on some days, but other days she's pretty good. At least her doctor at the hospital thinks she's good enough to be released. They want her to go to a nursing home to recover.

My mother spent a couple of months in a nursing home when she had knee surgery, and it was not a pretty sight. I decided she needs to stay here with us until she recovers. I'm not sure how well she'll recover. All I know is that multiple nurses, techs and therapists, even doctors, have remarked about how much better Mom responds to treatment when I walk in the door. She might be refusing to eat, and I'll walk in and she'll pick up her fork. She may be refusing to exercise (she hates physical therapy) but then I'll walk in and she'll suddenly grab the walker to show me how much she can do. And if that's not enough, when Mel walks in he can actually make her laugh. He's the first one to say "I love you" and that heals something inside her.

So what does that have to do with flamingoes? The other day I was sitting in Mom's hospital room, which has a window that overlooks the roof of the rest of the hospital building. Not far from her window there was a poor ol' pigeon hunkering down under the sun, head drooped, wings drooped, tuckered out. Suddenly it began to rain hard. What a beautiful sight after the drought we've had! I looked back out at that bird and showed Mom. He was dancing! He wasn't skittering for cover from the rain, he was jittering his wings and dancing in the rain. I think that bird suddenly felt the love of God touch him with what he needed worst--water.

I think that's what keeps us going when we're sick or depressed or struggling under a great load--love. Just the way Mom perks up when someone who loves her walks in to see her, just the way we perk up when someone reminds us we're special to them.

Gotta tell you, girls, you're special to me. Please pray, and if you have any advice, send it on. I want to care for my mother well and get her back on her feet. You're a praying group, and so filled with goodness from God. Please keep praying for our beloved Diann. Pray hard. Please don't stop. We need the strength of your love right now. Bless you all.

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Hannah Alexander  
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011
We know you all love Diann too so I wanted to bring you up to date on what's going on with her. She's in the hospital. They did tests this morning and found her stomach is totally ulcerated. Poor girl hasn't been able to keep anything down in 2 weeks! They also found some kind of growth or "something" that didn't look normal down by the opening to her small intestine. The doc took a biopsy and we'll know more soon. But at least we know what is going on and they will come up with a plan to fix it!

She's in good spirits and is eager to get well. So pray for her and for the doctors to figure out how to help. Love you, Di!

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Colleen Coble  
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Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Before I talk about Lonestar Angel, I have to tell you what a great husband I have. He hates to paint. Now I don't understand this aversion because I think it's great fun to see a dramatic transformation. But he's good natured about it. In fact, I was going to help him paint the dining room on Saturday but he thought I needed a day off to go see Punky so he offered to do it by himself yesterday (I'm in deadline mode so working hard on Tidewater Inn.) He did it all by himself in this Lenox Tan color and it looks GREAT! What a guy!

Last night we met some friends from high school down at Twenty, a VERY nice restaurant in Wabash. It's part of the Charley Creek Inn boutiques. I just love it. In fact, I loved it so much I set the first scene of Lonestar Angel there. So in honor of my friends, I decided to share a bit of Lonestar Angel with you. It's available for pre-order now and will be shipping in early Oct. :)

Silverware tinkled in the dimly lit dining room of Twenty, an upscale restaurant located inside a classy boutique hotel. Eden Larson smiled over the top of her glass of water at Kent Huston. So intelligent and kind. His blue eyes were filled with intent tonight, and she had known what he had planned from the moment he suggested this place for dinner.

The piano player’s voice rose above the music as he sang “Waiting for a Girl Like You.” Kent had spoken that very phrase to her often in the year they’d been dating.

“Warm enough?” he asked.

“It’s a perfect night.”

“In every way,” he agreed. “I want to—”

“Kent.” She reached across the linen tablecloth and took his hand. “I need to tell you something.”

Before he asked her to marry him, he needed to know what baggage she carried. She’d intended to tell him before now—long before. But every time she tried, the pain closed her throat. She wasn’t ready to talk about it then, and maybe she wasn’t ready now, but he deserved to know.

Kent smiled. “Are you finally going to tell me what brought you to town? I don’t really care, Eden. I’m just thankful you’re here. I love you.”

She wetted her lips. It didn’t matter that he said he didn’t care. She owed it to him to tell him about her past and the demons that had driven her here to Wabash, Indiana. “Kent . . .” The sense of a presence behind her made her pause.

“Eden,” a man said.

Her heart seized in her chest. She’d recognize the deep timbre anywhere. It haunted her dreams and its accusing tones punctuated her nightmares. The deep vibrancy of that voice impressed a woman before she ever saw him.

She turned slowly in her upholstered chair and stared up at Clay Larson, who stood under the crystal chandelier that was the centerpiece of the intimate dining room. “Clay.”

How could he be here? He hadn’t changed a bit. His hair was still just as black and curly. His dark blue eyes were just as arresting. And her pulse galloped the way it had the first time she’d set eyes on him.

“I need to talk to you,” he said, stepping toward her. “It’s important.”

Oh, she should have told Kent before now. This was the wrong way for him to discover her past. He was beginning to frown as he glanced from her to Clay, whose broad shoulders and vibrant presence loomed over their table. It was going to come out now. All of it. Her pretend life vanished into mist. What had made her think she could escape the past?

“Who are you?” Kent said. “And what right do you have to interrupt a private conversation?”

“The right of a husband,” Clay said, his gaze holding her.

“Ex-husband,” she managed to say past the tightness of her throat.

“No, Eden. Husband.” He held up a sheaf of papers in his right hand.

“What are those?”

“I never signed the divorce papers,” he said quietly, just to her. “You’re still married to me.”

She heard Kent gasp in the silence as the song in the background came to an end. “That’s impossible.” She stared at Clay, unable to take in what he’d said. “We were divorced over five years ago.”

“You sent the papers over five years ago,” he corrected. “I just never signed them.”

She stared at the blank signature line he showed her. Why had she never followed up? Because she’d been too busy running. “But why?”

He shook his head. “I had my reasons. Right now, there’s something more important to discuss.”

“What could be more important?” she asked. Fingers clutched her arm and she turned her head and stared into Kent’s face. “I . . . I’m so sorry, Kent. I was just about to tell you.”

“Tell me that you’re married?” Kent’s eyes held confusion and hurt. “I don’t understand.”

She shook her head. “I’m divorced. Or at least I thought I was. I haven’t seen Clay in five years.”

Kent’s frown smoothed out. “I think you’d better leave,” he said to Clay. He scooted back in his chair.

She laid a hand on his arm. “Let me handle this,” she said. Anger was beginning to replace her stupor and shock. “Why are you here, Clay?”

“Would you like to step outside so we can continue this in private?” Clay asked, glancing around the room.

Heat flamed in her cheeks when she saw the interested stares from the two nearby tables. “Just go away. We can talk tomorrow.”

His firm lips flattened but he stayed where he was. “I’ve found Brianna, Eden. She’s alive.”

She struggled to breathe. She searched his face for the hint of a lie but saw only implacable certainty. She shook her head. “That’s impossible. She’s dead.”

Beside her, Kent jerked, his eyes wide. She half rose.

“I never believed it,” Clay said. “Her body was never found so I kept looking. She’s alive, Eden.”

She wanted to believe him, but it was impossible. Had his grief made him delusional? Clay was the most logical, practical man she’d ever met. But what he was saying couldn’t be true. Their daughter couldn't be alive. Could she?


Colleen Coble  
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Monday, August 08, 2011

Saturday night found us at a Foreigner/Journey concert in Indianapolis. We were just taking our seats in the outdoor venue when I scanned the thousands of aging fans in the crowd.

I nudge Kevin. "There sure are a lot of middle age people here."

Hey, wait a minute . . .

Kevin claimed all those other fans were much older than him, so I felt a smidge better. After all, he's four years older than me. If he's not that old, I sure can't be.

The bands were great, and though I did leave my big hair at home, the music took me right back to the good ol' 80s. Still, there's nothing like a concert from back when to make you feel your age--unless it's a photo . . .

Here I am in 1984 (10th grade), looking like an 80's advertisement with big hair, puffy sleeves, argyle vest, and a tie.

What were you doing in the 80s? And please don't tell me you weren't born yet.


Denise Hunter  
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Friday, August 05, 2011
It takes so many things to build a novel from the ground floor up. To me, the thing I need most in order to visualize my novel is to know my characters--and I need a hero and heroine. Somewhere, someway, during the novel they are attracted to each other, they have some misunderstandings, they are drawn even more closely, and they come to a place in their relationship when they're sure they'll have to go their separate ways. But in the end they know they're in love. They belong together, and all is right in their world, and in the reader's world.

I've never been a true romance writer. I mean, I know some romance writers who can draw me into their worlds and keep me reading. I like to read a good romance. Unfortunately, I can't write straight romance. I bore myself to death, and would probably bore the poor readers who had the bad luck of trying to read one of my romances. If I write a good suspense with romance and some medical characters, I know I'll be engrossed, and then so will my readers.

My editors have recently asked me to write half romance and half suspense, so I'm digging more deeply into the romance and find I actually enjoy it. I have fun putting hero and heroine personalities together, draw them closer, let the reader see how much they belong together.

Even though I'm not a romance writer, I typically prefer to read a novel with romance in it. It gives the story more flavor, and draws me to the characters more completely.

If you write romance, or include romance in your writing, or in your reading, what are some of your favorite hero-heroine combinations? Movies? Books? Where do those characters come from for you?

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Hannah Alexander  
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Thursday, August 04, 2011

I'm on another writer's loop that occasionally talks about first sentences. That all important grouping of words that hopes to snag the reader and reel them in. I love reading through them. Many of them do pull me in, and I want them to hurry up and write their books so I can read them!

Opening lines can set the tone. Many times it lets you know what sort of genre you're reading (suspense, horror, women's fiction). It can let you know writing style: lighthearted, serious, comedy . . . .

Let's take a look at a first sentence by one of my favorite writers: Snoopy.

"It was a dark and stormy night."

Okay, that's a bit telling instead of showing, but that's a topic for another time. It does, however, conjure up a few things for me. Since it's not a picture book I'm wondering how that dark and stormy night affects the main character (MC). Is she in trouble? Has she locked every door and window in the house but there is one window with a broken hinge that refuses to close entirely? We're not just worried about the rain getting in, but maybe there's someone lurking in the bushes.

Or maybe the MC is happy that it's a dark and stormy night. Dad is a farmer, so the rain forces him inside. Brother can't ride his motorcycle, so he's inside. Mom bakes some goodies because they're all together and as they've done on so many other rainy nights, they have family game night.

See what I mean? That opening line can take you many places and you want to know where it will go.

So if you're a writer, share an opening line. If you're not or if you're too shy to share one of your own, share an opening line from a book that you've read.

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Diann Hunt  
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Wednesday, August 03, 2011

When you tell someone you're a writer, almost daily, you'll hear, "I was going to write a book."

That's just it. It has to be more than intention. You have to sit down and write it. Don't worry about the rules up front. Tell your story the way it comes to you. If that's with a plan you follow, do it that way. If that's a first line that comes to you (ie., J.R.R. Tolkien) do it that way. If the character speaks to you and you just follow. Follow. Only write until you're done with that first draft. Don't be bogged down by rules and fear. You probably won't do it right the first time. I don't, and I have written nearly forty books.

Ask my editor if I don't need some major help at the end of every book. The fear in writing never goes away. You always feel inadequate (and some reviewers will be happy to tell you that you are) but the important thing is perseverance. Writing will always be an elephant that you eat one bite at a time. Perfectionism will get you nowhere fast.

Write one chapter. Now another. One more, you can do it. Keep writing until you have a skeleton manuscript. That you can work with. That you can fix. I can't tell you how many things will stop you. I've heard every excuse under the sun. "Oh I homeschool."

So do lots of other writers. Writing isn't your priority if you don't do it. I think it's very easy to say, "I'm going to write a book someday."

But to actually do it? That takes something. I've been writing since I had two kids under two. I have four now: 11 to 16. They go to three different schools. They play soccer and take dance. But as I said, writers write. Push the fear and the haters out of your mind. I cannot stand Josh Groban, but my disliking him hasn't hurt his career any, so don't expect to be loved by all , but write anyway.

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Monday, August 01, 2011
Before I start my topic, I have to give a shout out to Cindy Woolard. She reads our blog faithfully and I got to meet her at my daughter-in-law's company picnic on Saturday. I was standing around waiting for the plant tour to begin, when this lovely lady came up to me and asked, "Are you Colleen Coble?" I said I was and she told me I was her very favorite author. She started reading my books after hearing me on the radio (WBCL) and talking to her just made my day! :)

See this picture? This is where it all REALLY started. You think I'm talking about our friendship but I'm really talking about my coffee addiction. I recently took one of my very early books and took it apart, then reconstructed it into a very different romantic suspense story instead of the simple sweet romance it had been. As I was working on it, I realized it was written in my pre-coffee days. Yes, they really did exist! Lucy hated coffee just the way I did back in the day.

You're not half as shocked as I am when I realized there had even BEEN a pre-coffee time. I'd forgotten. Truly. Here is how it all began. See that sweet face on the left? After getting to know her via email, I roomed with her at Glorietta Christian Writers Conference. Her addiction was so great that she rented a car only so she could go to Santa Fe after a mocha. I informed her that I despised coffee. (Oh the horror!) She assured me I would like an iced blended mocha. She insisted I take sip of hers. I liked it so well she bought me one of my own and the rest is history.

A mocha is a introductory drug. It sucks you in with its sweet taste. It's like a milk shake. Then you get to where you like that taste of coffee that you can just barely taste under the sugar and whipped cream. Before you know it, you're asking for the barista to cut back on the amount of chocolate so you can taste the coffee. The next thing you realize, you're actually drinking coffee. It's a slow, insidious slide into sin. LOL

So in honor of our friendship and how it all began, we're going to change things up a little on the blog. The first week of every month, we're going to talk about the writing process.

The first thing that is necessary is coffee. No, Diann, not instant coffee. The real thing. When I'm planning a new book, I first decide where I want to set it. Yes, that's right. I don't even think about a character yet. Just the setting. I've found that picking the setting is the base of everything for me. The people who live in the U.P. are different than the people who live in California. I'm writing a new series set in the Outer Banks right now. Lots of watermen out there. I like just saying that word. Waterman. :) My hero is in the Coast Guard. My heroine is an architectural historian. Lots of old buildings out east. Researching the setting usually leads me to my plot too.

So my first piece of advice is to think about a place you know and love. Or would like to learn more about--then go do that. Research the history. Read newspaper archives to see what kinds of problems are going on there. See how a character you could care about could fit in. What did you come up with?

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Colleen Coble  
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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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