Girls Write Out
Sunday, April 29, 2012
If you've been writing novels for any length of time, you've gotten stuck. I'm not talking about writer's block, I'm talking about STUCK. When this happens to me, it means 1 of 2 things. Here they are, and here's what I do about them.

1. There's a foundational problem with my plot. (Goal, motivation, conflict, stakes, etc) I try to make sure these are solid before I start writing, but sometimes I'm wrong. This is my least favorite kind of stuck because it sometimes means going back and making major changes in previously written scenes.

a. Diagnose the problem. Go over plot basics and see where the story is falling short.
b. Go to my writing library and pull out books (or chapters) on the subject. Read and weep--Ahem--I mean apply.
c. Brainstorm possible solutions with my critique partner.
d. Once I've decided on the appropriate "fix", either go back and make changes or make a note to do so in re-writes.

2. I have no idea where my story's going next. 

a. Go for a walk, drive; throw in a load of laundry and daydream about what could happen next until I have a plan I'm excited about.
b. Watch a movie or read a novel, keeping an eye out for plot developments that may work for my story--the entry of a romantic threat, an illness or injury, financial setbacks, family secret, etc.
c. Brainstorm possible ideas with my critique partner.
d. Make a list of possible scene ideas.
d. Put the scenes in a logical order. (Complications should go from smallest to biggest). Some writers use scene flashcards, some simply list them in order. My personal favorite is (for lack of a better title) scene bubbles as pictured above. I shade the bubbles when the scene is in the hero's POV and switch the scene order as necessary by changing the arrow directions.

What do you do when you get stuck?


Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:48 PM  
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Friday, April 27, 2012
I'm not saying I've exactly been a bear lately, but I've maybe been a tad bearISH at times. You might have picked up on that from my post last week. Well, nothing's changed. For instance, what's a somewhat not unattractive woman (leave me to my delusions, girls) to think when she walks past a kiosk in a mall and a young man tries to hand her a brochure about wrinkle cream? What would YOU have done? I looked straight ahead and kept walking--to the nearest Godiva shop. Mel was pleased when I saved some for him. He needed it, too.

It had been a long time since the two of us had gotten out for a nice dinner and some play. We discovered we have forgotten how to play, at least, in a mall. Business was slow and there were a lot of parking spaces. That should have been our first clue. Filled with crab legs and shrimp nachos from Red Lobster, Mel was in a chattering mood, and as we entered through Sears he started teasing me about buying a big screen television. There was my second clue. My silence was HIS second clue. It was going to be that kind of night.

We walked into the mall proper without being accosted by a salesperson--when we're together, we're scary. The two of us together can out-chatter a couple of chickadees. If I don't place my hands over both our mouths, no one else ever gets a word in. But I think Mel picked up on my somber mood, and suggested we divide and conquer the mall. He wanted to look at gadgets and I wanted to look for scented things like candles and soaps and do some walking. So he stopped at the closest sports store and I kissed him goodbye and headed toward the scents.

I avoided the cookie kiosk and managed to keep the girl at Annie's Pretzels from sticking a cinnamon pretzel in my mouth, but when I reached the first scent shop, I saw trouble. There were no customers, and there seemed to be three people working. I stopped at the very front edge of the store without stepping inside. I was not in the mood to brave three hungry salespeople. Apparently, however, they are now able to sell their wares outside the store. I saw some interesting items on a front shelf and focused on them. A sales lady, likely a district manager showing the teens how it was done, asked me if she could help me. I shook my head, avoiding eye contact. She crossed her arms and moved closer, asked if I was a member of something, I shook my head. She asked if I'd received their latest email. I shook my head and left. I didn't even go inside. I wanted to sniff and look, I didn't want to push off a pushy salesperson who couldn't read body language. Please don't be angry with me, lots of people have sales jobs. I'm not usually that rude, but last night I was.

Mel, in the meantime, had found something to pique his interest. Someone was setting up a toy helicopter in the center of the mall to fly and entice the men and children. Mel stood far to the edge of the area so the man wouldn't accost him for a sale. The man didn't. He crashed the helicopter three times before he broke it. A saleswoman from the women's apparel shop nearby stepped out and tried to draw Mel inside with her. He took off like a scared bunny.

After walking through several stores in the mall with body language that dared anyone to say a word to me, I finally found my scent shop, hesitated at the entrance, sniffed some candles, eased inside, skin tested some soaps, and was at the far back of the store before a salesgirl approached. She was sweet, didn't push, helped me sniff several new scents. "These are good," I told her, "but nothing beats Warm Vanilla Sugar." She grimaced. "Oh. That's my mother's favorite." I grimaced back and thought, "Honey, I could be your grandmother. Don't talk like that to me."

Mel and I left the city earlier than we expected to, both of us looking like deer in headlights. We still weren't ready to face the real world after a year of major stress. We're still suffering from PTSD. We came home, let the cats entertain us, and watched four episodes of NCIS and Bones reruns. For now, the real world can stay outside our house.  We'll let dear, sweet Bonnie, our assistant, run interference for us while we hide and recover a little longer.

Have you ever had one of those days?

Hannah Alexander  
posted at 8:44 PM  
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Thursday, April 26, 2012
I lose things. Pens. Socks. Glasses. Earrings. Cars.

I try so hard to keep my mind on what I'm doing, but somewhere between the kitchen and the family room, pens are tucked away, glasses slip into cushions, earrings fall under sofas . . .

If I don't purposely make note of where I park my car at the mall, I have to call a taxi to get home.

Hoop earrings are my favorite.  I've had too many pairs to count.  It's so exciting when one pops up out of no where--especially, if I have the matching one.  Currently, they're all hiding from me.  So back to the store I go, hoping I can buy a new pair that will stick together.

I don't mean to pass the buck, but we all know dryers eat socks.

Yes, I'm a loser, but you know, the good thing is it's like Christmas when I vacuum the sofa! Let the good times roll!!  Pens, glasses, earrings, socks!!  Who knew!!

Tell me I'm not the only one!


P.S. For those of you who are interested, I'm writing about my health journey on a blog on my website. Pop on over to and let's talk.

Diann Hunt  
posted at 7:59 AM  
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Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It's very hard for me to care about what's for dinner. My head is creating all day and then it gets tired and doesn't want to cook dinner. When I'm not writing, dinner is just another have-to, but when I am, I often forget about it until the last minute. Food is not that important to me. I know that's blasphemy in a lot of people's eyes, but I just don't care what I eat usually. My espresso? That I'm particular about, but taking the time to think about a meal annoys me. The kids are going to want pizza regardless of how nice of a meal you cook them.
I've taken to going to the grocery store twice a week for healthy snacks and fruit (which they eat a lot of) and going every two days to the grocery store for dinners. That way I'm not overwhelmed. If I have to think out seven dinners, I'm lost and so over it by the time I'm done shopping. Lately, I've taken to getting recipes off the Today Show in the morning. They're are some pretty simple, but tasty recipes on the show. No one brings their "A" game like on the cooking show. It's made for moms who are busy and aren't going to take three hours to flambe something. The only people I don't like on these shows is when they have the overly healthy (read: OCD/health nuts) chefs. Those people never look healthy. Or happy for that matter. It's like their skin has stretched too tightly around their body. Food should be REAL. My grandfather ate real butter, bacon, drank buttermilk (blech!) and he's still here with us at almost 97. How many obsessive health nuts can say that? Do you like to cook? Grocery shop?
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

WARNING:  This is a totally frivolous post. LOL I could make it more spiritual by saying we are ambassadors for Christ and should present our best to the world, but I'll admit that most of us are just plain vain. At least a little!

When you get to be my age (60) most of us are always looking for ways to stop the ravages of time. Having my hormones optimized was a big help and so was losing 75 pounds with hcg. But I like playing with makeup and hair. And I have discovered by being with Alexa that the desire is innate. We kept her this weekend and one of the first things out of her mouth was, "Mimi, can we  play with your makeup?" Too funny! And it didn't even come from me. I'd never played with makeup with her before. So I'm innocent.

Anyway, I thought I'd share some of my favorite products with you and see if you have any favorites. By far my favorite beauty item is Nuskin Galvanic Spa. It's a little device that you run over your face, and voila, your skin looks fabulous! You can use it 2 times a week. It even works on cellulite, though I haven't been faithful with using it for that so I can't report the effects.

My favorite makeup is L'oreal Visible Lift. Love the coverage and the way it makes my skin looks. And I love Telomere Fine Line Cream for my moisturizer. I have brown eyes and am a winter so I usually use eye makeup that has a purple tint to it.

So what about you? What are your favorite products?
Colleen Coble  
posted at 9:36 AM  
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Friday, April 20, 2012
No, this is not going to be a commercial about what a great skin softener coconut oil is--even though that's true. It's also not about the lack of a horn on this rhino. Am I missing something? Does anyone know anything about rhinos that I don't? It wouldn't take much.

What I'm going to mention today is something my assistant told me when I was fretting about my husband's job--she said I've got to give it to God and wait.

I'm not a good one to wait. I'd rather bulldoze ahead and get something done, even if it's wrong, and often it's just that--wrong. Mel was promised certain things about his job when he first signed on at his place of employment. It's the reason he signed on. And now those promises have fallen flat. He's working mixed shifts--half nights and half days--when he was promised no more than two nights a month. He was promised he would get the chance to attend church. No more than one Sunday a month of work. And now he sees the inside of our church much less often than he'd hoped. He was promised a lot, and it fell through. I tend to place blame and hold grudges, especially when my husband has been hurt, and that's just as wrong as lying to Mel to keep him working there simply because they need doctors in the ER. So I bulldoze.

I remind Mel that there are other jobs out there, and he doesn't have to kill himself to earn a living. I also remind him that I'm willing to take the risk of starting a private practice, and even loan him my personal assistant--you know, the one who reminds me to wait and trust God--if he wants to quit his job and start the practice right here in our town. I'm also rushing to get our home equity loan paid off so we will have our house free and clear this year, just in case we need to tighten our belts. I'm also rushing to complete 7 books this year for both print and ebook format. It's time I step up to the plate and carry some of the load for once.

But Mel doesn't move quickly. He doesn't make decisions easily, and the more I nag, the sweeter, yet less moveable, he gets. I'd love it if you, my friends, would pray for me to be able to wait, as Bonnie, the wise assistant, has warned me to do. I know waiting on God can be a very frustrating thing. I also know it's the most rewarding thing we can do in our lives.

Are you waiting for a breakthrough in your life? Let us pray for you. It's important to have support in this valuable exercise. We're in this together, girls.

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Hannah Alexander  
posted at 1:10 AM  
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Thursday, April 19, 2012
This is our grandson.  He's five month old. The doctor recently told his parents that Maddox needed to wear a helmet for about a month to protect the soft spot in his head.  It just melted my heart to see him in the helmet. Looks like a little football player, doesn't he?

It started me thinking how life sometimes gets in the way.  We're going along our merry way and then find out we need a helmet, or surgery, or insulin, or chemo.  These changes can be frightening, life-changing even, but they can be avenues for a new you, a better you.

I'm not talking about a Pollyanna attitude on the outside. I'm talking about a heart change where you allow God to encourage and strengthen you through the process and you learn to see the good in it.  After all, Romans 8:28 tells us He's working all things for our good.

Not always easy to do. Some days are frustrating as we adapt to a new situation, but we'll get through it one day at a time.

I don't know what you're facing right now, but I want you to know that God is with you every step of the way and He will see you through.  If you're struggling with a new situation or problem, ask your friends to pray for you. That's why we're all here, to encourage and help one another. If you'd like us to pray for you, just let us know! Sisters lift one another up!!

So enjoy your day, no matter what it brings, because God is with you!
Diann Hunt  
posted at 10:04 AM  
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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What motivates you? If you're like Colleen, being healthy is a motivation. Getting something you want is a motivation, but the fact is, we're all motivated by different things. This is what makes parenting so fun. No kid is motivated by the same carrot at the end of the stick.

I'm not writing to contract right now. I really wanted to search a story out without a deadline. To find the joy that I used to have when writing. It turns out finishing something with no deadline is freedom-inducing, but not necessary word-count producing.

So Jenny B. Jones and I have established a pact. Just like exercise buddies. We're challenging each other once daily to 1,000 words-an-hour sprints. Lots of writers have done this before, it's not new, but it's working for us. Apparently, my Catholic background makes guilt a very strong motivator.

What do you need motivation for? Can you enlist a friend to help?
posted at 12:40 PM  
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Monday, April 16, 2012
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of primal eating. Some of my readers have asked me to blog about it so I'm obliging. :) I've been gluten free for a long time but truly primal for about nine months.

First off, let's define a primal lifestyle. It's eating what our ancestors ate. Vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and nuts for example. I also eat dairy but some stricter paleo people don't. Just shoot me now if I ever have to give up heavy cream in my coffee! Or my favorite--cauliflower pizza like in this picture. I just had it for dinner. It's totally yummy in spite of the name. I will never go paleo because I like my dairy. But primal I can do. :)

The main thing with primal eating is the elimination of grains and sugar. Yes, you heard that right. No wheat, oatmeal, rice, potatoes or corn. I do have a tiny amount of grains once in a blue moon but it's very rare. So what do I eat? Yummy things like grilled chicken topped with pepper jack cheese, Greek yogurt and avocado. Carne asada made with beef, avocado, Greek yogurt and peppers. Lots of fish which I love. Lots of salads and green vegetables. Greek yogurt with blueberries. Brownies made with almond flour. Chocolate made with coconut oil, cocoa and xylitol. There are lots of great recipes out there that make the transition painless. In addition to cauliflower pizza, there are recipes for cauliflower tacos and other yummy things. :)

The biggest question I hear is why would anyone want to do that? Health is the primary reason. Since going to a primal diet, my C-Reactive Protein dropped from 5 to .1. That's POINT 1. My homocysteine levels are in the normal range for the first time in forever. I'd been trying to get that inflammation down for years without success. Tied in with the Kruse primal eating was the leptin reset I was on as well as having lost weight with hcg. What is the leptin reset, you ask? It's a way of fixing your metabolism. You start with a very large wallop of protein in the morning--50 grams. That's 5 eggs plus steak in an omelet. But it fixes cravings and helps you normalize your metabolism by going a minimum of 4-5 hours between food intake. It only takes about 6 weeks usually, then you can move to a more normal breakfast of about 25 grams of protein. Most people will also lose weight on this regimen. Grains drive bad things like insulin levels, fat storage and heart disease.

All grains cause some amount of inflammation but gluten is the worst. If you want to see what changing your diet can do for you, watch this video by Dr. Terry Wahls. She's a doctor who had progressive MS and she totally reversed it by diet alone. She began eating protein plus 9 cups of greens and colored vegetables and fruit a day. The video explains more and it's astounding.

So how do you go primal? You can do it in small steps and in any order except for the first item. It's primary and should be done first.

1. Give up gluten. This is not negotiable. Read Wheat Belly by cardiologist Dr. William Davis. The wheat we have today is not the wheat of the Bible. It's incredibly damaging to our bodies. Do this for a month and see how much better you feel. If you want to bread something, use ground flax mixed with just a little rice flour. I made fried chicken (fried in coconut oil) last week, and my gourmet son actually asked me how I'd made it because it was so good.

2. Add good fats like real butter, coconut oil and olive oil. Repeat after me: Real fats are my friends. Eliminate fake fats from your fridge like margarine. Again this is non negotiable. Margarine is incredibly bad for you. My diet is about 65% fat (which includes the fats in meats.)

3. Begin adding more greens to your diet. Start with a green smoothie if you hate vegetables. Blend together berries with spinach for example. Set a goal of 3 cups a day, then 6.

4. Add colorful vegetables and fruit like carrots, beets, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli and berries. Choose veggies high in sulfur. The cabbage family is especially good for you. Try to get in 3 cups a day including the fruit.

5. Switch from potatoes to sweet potatoes topped with lots of real butter. Yum! I adore sweet potatoes with salmon!

6. Start cutting back on other grains like rice and corn and legumes. Save them for a special occasion. It's not that you can never have them, but you want to cut out the inflammation in your body the majority of the time. They are higher in carbs so they drive insulin levels and fat stores. I save my carbs for Mexican! :)

7. Begin purchasing quality grass fed beef, as much as you can afford. Many can't afford to use only grass fed beef but it's your best option when you can.

8. Start adding organ meats like liver and onions. I know, I know. But they are super good for you and you'll develop a taste for them. I adore liver and onions. :)

9. Start eating less chicken and more fish. You want to get your Omega 6 levels down and your Omega 3 levels up. As you do this, you'll start getting comments like, "Wow, you look great. Are you using a new skin moisturizer?"

10. Give up fake creamer in your coffee and go for straight heavy whipping cream. You'll never go back! Consider adding some cinnamon to that coffee too--it helps your insulin levels.

Read up on the science behind eating this way. is a good site with tons of information and recipes. His book is great too.

Just to give you a taste of how great primal eating can be, here's the recipe for what we in the hcg community call cocoa crack because it's sooo good!

3T coconut oil
1 1/2 T cocoa
1 1/2 T xylitol or sweeten with KAL stevia to taste (will need VERY little stevia!)
2 T unsweetened coconut
walnuts or pecans

Melt the oil and mix in the cocoa and sweetener. Add the other ingredients and pour onto wax paper and freeze. Break off pieces to eat. It's terrific!

My protagonist in Rosemary Cottage is very into health issues so you'll see her talking about these things too! :)

So what about you? Is there anything in your health profile that's telling you a change in your diet is needed? What change are you going make to get healthier? And if you already eat a primal diet, got any tips?

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 5:34 PM  
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Sunday, April 15, 2012
I'm not a big fan of change. If change were a person, it would be the person that, when I see her coming, I kind of duck my head and change course.

So when Kevin started bugging me about, oh, 2 years ago, to switch to a digital family calendar . . . well, let's just say I stalled a bit. I mean, I've been keeping a paper calendar since I was a toddler. It's a lot to ask. That's a lot of years, a lot of tradition, a lot of engrained routine.

But syncing his work hours with our family plans was becoming a royal pain, and after too many things fell through the cracks, I bit the bullet and went digital.

I decided on Cozi. It's simple (if different) and allows you to view your calendar on your phone with the touch of a button. It's more tedious to fill in than a paper calendar, I'll admit, but it's also more legible (if you have writing like mine). We've been using it a month, and so far so good.

The paper calendar's still on the fridge as my security blanket, but I'm slowly weaning myself away. I do like having my calendar available on my phone when I'm at the doctor's office and setting my next appointment, and I especially like that the whole family can check upcoming events on their own from wherever they are.

So I guess the moral of the story is that all change isn't bad. Some might even good. It's a little too soon to tell with the calendar thing, but that's what I'm telling myself.

What big changes have you made lately?

Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:22 PM  
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Diann Hunt, Carol Cox, Kristin Billerbeck & Judith Miller

I've often said that if Colleen and I were animals, she'd be a Golden Retriever and I'd be a Siamese cat. I'm an introvert and not big on large groups. You have to move me slowly to get into a group of people -- I'm actually very shy, which is hard for people to believe because I'm also very obnoxious. I found this picture today and it just blessed my socks off to see it. This is the weekend I met Diann Hunt. And I'm not going to lie. I didn't like the idea of a 'new' person because I like my quiet time -- the intimate time to connect with friends.

Colleen knew though. She could see the writing on the wall that Di and I were meant to be together. Diann and I are those people that things happen to. (AKA, she gets approached by a stranger telling her she's wearing the devil's colors, my dog is in the country five minutes and gets sprayed by a skunk.)

That weekend, I don't think we ever had such a good time, all of us together giggling like schoolgirls. So when I look at this picture, I just have such heartwarming memories of who were back then. All innocent in our ways, unable to see all the hardships we'd go through together. But that is the beauty of deep and abiding friending. It lasts.

So go make a new friend or tell an old one what she means to you.
posted at 11:50 PM  
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Monday, April 09, 2012
I've been doing a little spring cleaning around here: organizing drawers, cleaning off shelves and the like. You know, making room for more stuff. :)

What does this have to do with you? My library shelves are too full, so I'm giving away 3 copies of "The Accidental Bride".

To enter, sign up for my newsletter here TODAY--it takes all of 10 seconds. That's it! 

I'll contact the winners directly tomorrow. And if you don't win this time, don't worry. I regularly do drawings for free books just for my newsletter friends.

Here's a blurb: 

Shay Brandenberger can't seem to keep her head above water-and now the bank is threatening to foreclose on her ranch. She prays for a miracle, but the answer she receives is anything but expected.

Having agreed to play the bride in the Founders' Day wedding reenactment, Shay is mortified to be greeted at the end of the aisle by Travis McCoy, the man who left her high and dry for fame and fortune on the Texas rodeo circuit.

Then the unthinkable happens. Thanks to a well-meaning busybody and an absentminded preacher, the make-believe vows result in a legal marriage. But before Shay can say annulment, Travis comes up with a crazy proposal. If she refuses his offer, she may lose her home. If she accepts, she may lose her heart.


Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:00 AM  
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Thursday, April 05, 2012
There was a time, long, long ago, when I quit my day job to write. Please don't laugh. I know a lot of people do that but they're too embarrassed to admit it. No, I hadn't sold anything except nonfiction pieces, and no, I wasn't making enough from my writing to live on, I'd simply saved enough money to support myself for quite some time before I had to find another job. I intended to write novel after novel until I sold one. At that time I felt sure I would continue to sell after the first one.

A passion for writing kept me writing from early morning until late evening. I ate and slept with the characters in my head, and sometimes I would even find myself praying for a particular character, they became so real to me. I could write up to twelve pages a day.

Four years went by as I wrote novel after novel, trying different styles, learning to market, attending conferences. Even after all that time I loved my nonpaying job.

Eventually, I did sell--fourteen years, thirteen unpublished novels, two jobs and one marriage later. And true to my expectations, I continued to sell, after I began to base the male lead characters on my husband--and after he started working with me to rewrite everything I'd ever written. I changed publishers, the sales increased. Awards started coming. I even started to earn enough income from the writing that I could have lived on it if I lived very frugally--beans and rice, no furniture, no car...I do have a bike.

These days I'm very content with my writing life. I have editors I love to work with, wonderful friends who also write and understand the peculiarities of being a novelist (this means you, girls), and I still enjoy the love of creating stories, just like my daddy did before me.

The first year I started writing novels, I wrote four. I'm happy to say those are all published after dozens of rewrites. I slowed down after that. Life does get in the way. We've been talking about our writing schedules this week on GWO. Here's a typical day for me lately:

Take huge mug of coffee into sunroom, sit in recliner, place laptop on my lap.

Realize I forgot to put cream in my coffee, get up and do the coffee right.

Sit back down, realize I need to read my Bible, take it down from bookshelf and read.

Set Bible aside after a chapter or two and pick up my laptop.

Read the two pages I managed to complete the day before. Decide I can't really get away with killing that many people in the first chapter, so holler to my assistant to research on computer and find out how much other LIS writers have gotten away with in the first chapter lately.

While waiting on assistant to complete her task, I focus on rewriting some of the other scenes I've done lately. Two minutes later I realize I didn't feed the cats!

Get up, feed the cats, decide while I'm in the vicinity I'll toss a load of laundry into the washer, but first I need to gather more darks for a load, so I go back up the stairs and get to the master bedroom before I realize Mel is off today and he's still asleep.

I decide to finish laundry later and head back for the sunroom when the phone rings. I shouldn't answer it. I'm working. I look at the caller ID number and don't recognize it, but if it keeps ringing it'll wake Mel up.

After I finish with the hour-long phone call from a distant relative, I decide to make breakfast. After all, Colleen did say we have to have a high protein breakfast with tons of eggs and bacon.

I get started on that and while the bacon's cooking I go back to my recliner in the sunroom to work a little more on the book. My assistant tells me she doesn't find anyone getting killed recently in any LIS releases, so I'm going to have to change everything. Rats!

The bacon burns.

I run through the house opening windows and turning on the exhaust fan. I realize it's time to let the cats out of the basement and try to lure them outside.

After a 2 pm breakfast of burned bacon and runny eggs with Mel (the smell of burning bacon lured him out of the bedroom) I settle back to rewrite what I did yesterday. This takes no time at all. I love rewrites.

After two minutes of editing I complete rewrites and settle back into the scene I'd been working on yesterday. The editors want more romance lately, and that's when I realize I'm not even writing a suspense, I'm writing an historical novel this time!

I call out to my assistant (who works in the dining room so we won't spend the day talking) and ask her to check out how much historical detail the latest LIH novels have included. I'm writing an action scene. I hate action scenes. Give me dialogue any day.

I'm well into my third paragraph of the day when Teddy Bear, the obnoxious matriarch of our family of four cats, taps at the window beside me with her paw. I glance over at her. "Not yet," I say. "Enjoy the good weather."

She taps again, this time more insistently. I lower the shade. I hear a cat growl, more tapping, harder and louder. I give up, raise the shade, open the window and let her in. She meows lovingly at me as she hops inside and heads for the kitchen.

Assistant calls to me that there's quite a bit of historical detail in what she's read, but not as much action as I'm planning. I think I'm doing fine with what I have. After all, I've got a wagon going into a flooded creek, several people almost drowning, and because they swallow a lot of water, several will contract cholera and die before the second chapter. Now I just have to find out if they called it cholera or blue death in 1855. Mel tells me the bacteria that gave cholera its name was discovered in 1883. I'll go with blue death. However, my heroine is a doctor, so the medical must be accurate. I make Mel look it up.

I think you'll be ready to strangle me and my cats if I continue with the remainder of the day. I think I've given you an idea about my schedule. When the deadline approaches I resort to a good set of earplugs and my keyboard heats up. Instead of relaxing with Mel and watching four episodes of our favorite shows on Netflix, I come back out to the sunroom and write until well after midnight. The book I'm working on now was due last October, but life happened. My editors understood and encouraged me to focus on Mom for the remainder of her days.

How I wish I could be like Denise and break everything down into logical stretches of time. She has a household to run, a family to raise (and kids aren't as easy to control as my cats) and life to deal with. She still writes amazing stories and gets her work in on time.

I wish I could write a chapter a day like Diann, and make those pages hilarious and uplifting the way she does.

I wish I could smoke the keyboard like Colleen and churn out bestsellers with a huge readership like hers.

I'd love to be able to have the sassy, in-your-face style of Kris Billerbeck.

What I do is tell myself I've done it before, I can do it again, and again, and again, and as the storyline I wrote for my editors in the beginning plays itself out page after interrupted page, I remind myself how blessed I am to have this job, this life, this much fun.

Hey, girls, how do you keep up your schedule?


Hannah Alexander  
posted at 11:04 PM  
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I'm enjoying reading how others meet deadline! I have to say I tend to do things somewhere in between everyone.

When on deadline, I try to write a chapter a day (unedited). Then the next day I reread the last chapter to get my bearings. Once I write my chapter, I put it on the calendar, then I go visit the grand kids. :-)

I'm with Denise, you have to build in "life" time and I also give myself a month to read through and polish.

--a chapter a day (Monday-Friday)
--allow for life stuff
--plan time for edit and polish

When I have plot trouble, I deal with that instead of writing, but I have to figure that in on the deadline schedule.

So that's it. How do you do it?

Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:30 AM  
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Wednesday, April 04, 2012
I see everyone's talking about their writing methods. Denise's makes me itch, can I just say?

My method is a lack of method. I used to have a better one. I had writing "time" -- working it through my kids' naps and everything. I'd prepare my chapter in my head the night before.

Now that they're teenagers and their schedules are all over the place, I find that my writing time is as well. For some reason their schools seem to be off more than they're on and so planning any type of schedule is often a joke. Right now, I'm without a deadline. By choice, but I find I'm not actually accomplishing anything, so that may have been a mistake on my part. And while I'd like to fix it, it's very fun having time to myself to meet the local girls at the coffee shop and make sure that everyone is where they need to be, the bills are paid, there's food in the fridge. You know, normal mom stuff.

When I go back to writing however, here's my process:

I write the first five chapters over and over again. I've tried to plot, plan and make it happen, but the book always bores me and I lose interest. So while I start with a plot and a goal, it somehow changes as the character grows. So I write the first five chapters about six times until I get to the middle and then I finish it pretty cleanly.

When it comes to editing, I read through my edits and then I ponder them until it's in my head what needs to happen. Then I edit straight through as well. That pondering time is what gets me a little insane. To change big things means I have to find the right motive and I would say that's where most of my brain work goes in any book: why would she do this? Why does she feel like this? I always want my fiction to be based on a truth that is universal. I always want to answer a question for myself when I write a book.

In my latest, "The Scent of Rain" -- I wanted to ask the question, "What happens when everything we think we want isn't what we need? How do we get to the truth of who we are?" Add an interest in the perfume industry, a little research and that's how I get to the book. That central question must be there for me to be interested enough to finish it. Apparently, I have all the answers now because I don't have an idea. Bahaha (kidding, I'm kidding!)

So, this begs the question. Is that even a method? You be the judge.
posted at 11:24 AM  
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012
The reason we're talking about deadlines right now is because we're all dealing with them. :) I like the pressure myself. I get more done that way. I know I'm a little weird but the girls love me anyway! And we are all so different but that makes our friendship more fun.

You read yesterday how Denise handles deadlines so I'll tell you how I do it today. Here's what I do. I knew the first six months of the year were going to be crazy. Secretly Smitten was due March 1. Safe in His Arms was due April 1. Rosemary Cottage is due July 1 (it was June 1 until last Friday so I've worked this year so far as if it were June 1.) Now while that looks crazy enough, what you may not realize is that EDITS have to be factored in as well. Edits from Ami for Secretly Smitten are due any day. Edits for Safe in His Arms will come in May.

AND Blue Moon Promise released in Feb so there were radio interviews, online interviews, emails from readers, newsletter mailings, etc. So to say it's been hectic would be an understatement. :)

When I'm writing the first draft, I like to vomit up the story. I know that sounds awful. LOL But I like to get the rough draft down just as quickly as I can. So I shoot for at least 2 scenes a day and I like to have 3-4. But 2 a day for sure. As they are finished, they get sent off to Denise. I get the bones down in about 60-70,000 words. While I'm working on that story, I push that approaching deadline out of my head and focus on TODAY. What I can do today? If I look at everything that needs done in the next few months, I can get overwhelmed which can inhibit my creativity. So I don't look ahead. If life happens and I don't get as many scenes done in a day as I'd like, I try to make it up the next day. I concentrate on THAT day. It saves my sanity!

Right now I'm working on Rosemary Cottage. I want to be at 60,000 words by the end of the month. I set my goal a little high but I also built in a little time on the back end in case I'm a bit behind. I know when my edits arrive, I'll need to put that project aside and work on the edits. But I'm obsessed when I get edits. I can rewrite a book faster than you can imagine because I work 12-16 hour days when those edits come in. So I plan a week out of my schedule for the edits and base the rest of the word count for the month on 3 weeks work. So by the end of May I want the book to be finished so I can reread it in June. But first I'll have edits to do on Safe in His Arms. It will actually be a nice break to get totally away from the project so I can come back with a fresh look before it goes to Ami and Julee.

In July I can catch my breath before I start doing it all over again. LOL But you know what? I love it. I love the hectic pace and I'm energized by having lots to do. I will admit to feeling a trifle overwhelmed the past 2 months but it wasn't as bad as it would have been if I'd let myself look at all I had to do. If I live in the moment, I can sail through.

Isn't it fun to see how different we all are? So how about you? Are you more like or more like Denise?


Colleen Coble  
posted at 7:00 AM  
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Sunday, April 01, 2012

They don't call 'em deadlines for nothing. I'm pretty sure it's because most of us feel half dead when we get there. But if you plan ahead and work steadily, you can reach your deadline (real or self-imposed) with some measure of sanity. Every writer had their own method, but here's what I do to stay on top of mine--I haven't missed one yet:

1. Break down the task. A book is a huge project. Figure out how many pages (or words) you need to write a day to get your ms. finished by deadline. My quota is 6 quality pages per day (I edit as I write). Do the math--if I can do it, anyone can. Desired Page Count divided by Pages Per Day= how many days you need to write for your first draft. (For me: 350 pgs divided by 6= 59 writing days.)

2. Mark it down. Print out a calendar of your writing months and checkmark the days you will write your daily quota. Don't check the days you don't plan on writing (vacation/weekends/etc).

3. Add wiggle room. Add a few extra weeks between now and your deadline for life to happen. It will. It also leaves room for when you get stuck and need to spend your writing time fixing plot problems. This brings my writing time up to 80 days.

4. Add time for rewrites. I like to have a month for rewrites. This brings my writing time to a total of 110 days.

5. Stay accountable. Chart how many pages (or word count) you wrote each day on your calendar and tally up the end of each week. If you fall short one day, try to make it up by the end of the week. If you fall off track a bit, redo the math about 1/2 way through your WIP and adjust your calendar (or daily quota) as necessary.

You can see my sample calendar above for last month. Some days I didn't meet my quota because I was working to fix plot problems on those days. I'm 3/4 through my 1st draft, and I still have a week's wiggle room left. Plus my hubby gave me a spa day for our anniversary, and I was able to take a whole day off guilt-free. :)
Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:02 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.

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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