Girls Write Out
Thursday, May 31, 2012
I'm so proud. We have rose bushes around our house that are bursting with blooms. I've seen the same thing all over town. Must be a good year for roses.  I know it's nothing I've done. Those same rose bushes have been weather-beaten and bone dry in years past--thus (does anybody say "thus" anymore?) reflecting my true hand at landscaping.

I'm all for watering at the start of the year, throwing on some mulch and forgetting about it the rest of the summer.  I don't mean to do that, it's just how it is. I don't think about it. I pass the living plants as I rummage through mail and they're all but clawing me with their thorns as I pass by, and still I don't notice.

So how do YOU stay on top of the whole summer landscaping thing? I know some of you are naturals. You like to play in the dirt and pull weeds. Your yards are beautiful and make me want to binge on chocolate.

Maybe I'll do like my mother did and plant fake flowers out front. Yes, she truly did that. Maybe that's where I inherited my landscaping skills . . .
Diann Hunt  
posted at 12:48 PM  
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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

IMG 0554

Air conditioning was the kiss of death for connection with neighbors. No, really it was

The truth was revealed one day last week. It was a gorgeous day, and we went for a drive at about 6 pm to look at landscaping. We are overhauling our entire yard, including putting on a new porch. The above pictures is the front of our house before Dave tore out those high maintenance bushes. :)

I wanted some ideas of what to do in the yard. And I was taking pictures because we have a landscape designer coming to help us. So the window was down as  snapped pictures with my phone of yards I liked. In just a few minutes that evening, I spoke to four different people. With the window down, they turned, smiled and spoke. I did the same thing. I also stopped to talk to someone from our church who hadn't attended in a while. None of those things would have happened if I'd had the window up and the air conditioning on. 

And take air conditioning in the houses as another example. Before we had our lovely, perfectly controlled indoor temperatures, people went outside on the porch or under the shade tree when the mercury climbed. They spoke to neighbors and passersby. I think that's one reason camping is popular. We went to our son's camper at Jellystone on Saturday and talked to so many people that I lost count. Everyone is outside, interacting and having a great time.

Now I'm not about to give up my air conditioning, especially when we hit 98 degrees yesterday! But I am going to make an effort to get outside more, to ride around with the windows down, and to connect with the world out there. How about you? Are you with me? Let's change the world in small ways right in our neighborhoods. 

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 7:06 AM  
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for the opportunity to live in a nation that fights for freedom and allows for all the chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I pray for those who mourn a hero lost: a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a grandchild, a cousin. May God give them peace, and may we all appreciate the unspeakable sacrifices suffered on our behalves.

Father God, I pray your blessings on all our military, serving locally and abroad. Protect and guide them daily. Remind them of your love. Protect and direct their loved ones, left at home to work and wait. Grant them peace and safety, and may they all know how much we appreciate the high cost of their selfless service.

Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:00 AM  
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Thursday, May 24, 2012
I know you've all heard the exciting news that my PET scan was negative and I'm feeling so much better. Thank you for your prayers!!

Now in light of all that, my subject today is fish.  I heard those groans. Some of you are stepping away from your computer as we speak. I admit just talking about it makes me want to get a clothespin for my nose.

But here's the thing--they're telling me fish--get this--is good for you! Not chocolate, not coffee, not peanut butter.  Fish.

So I'm doing research. Which fish is better for you? One that everyone seems to agree on is salmon.  I'm not a seafood lover but I can tolerate salmon and tilapia. Does anyone know if tilapia is good for you?

I'm in search of recipes. Got any good ones for fish?  I saw one that used garlic, sea salt, black pepper, paprika, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.  And it recommended asparagus (not French fries) as a side. Does that sound good to you?

Do you like fish? Can you please tell me how to fix it so that it doesn't smell "fishy"? Any ideas that will help me get fish in my diet will be greatly appreciated!

Diann Hunt  
posted at 9:22 AM  
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Wednesday, May 23, 2012
This week, we received a very kind letter on Smitten and how it reminded one reader to invest more in her friend relationships.  I think that's a lesson everyone needs here and again.  Friendships take work at first.  When Colleen and I met, our connection online was instant, but we edited back and forth for each other for years.  We invested in each other.  We made a commitment that YOUR publishing is as important as MY publishing.

As I got more kids, I became less reliable.   (We met when I had two -- now I have four and my youngest is 11.)  Colleen got busier publishing a bajillion books a year.  LOL  But the friendship stands because of its solid foundation in God.  I know her heart.  She knows mine.  Even though we are totally different animals. I used to say Colleen is a Golden Retriever and I am a Siamese Cat (and I don't even LIKE cats, so that tells you something!)

The investment and foundation of friendship is so important.  A relationship is a living, breathing thing. It takes time, commitment and love.

Friends always seem to have something in them that you don't possess and you honor this part of them.  For me, in Colleen it's her endurance and her ability to go on when I would have long since given up.  

 In Denise, it's her organization and the way her mind works.  It's so linear and beautiful and I wish for one day I could run my life like she runs hers.  She'd be a Beagle.

With Diann, it's her strength of character.  There are so many days I want to wimp out and give up on success.  Then, I look to Diann who is always happy even when she's complaining about chemo, she's funny.  If she were an animal, she'd be a Labradoodle.

In Cheryl, it's her compassion.  She has so much compassion on those who are in dire straights.  She has walked some tough roads and because of it, she can empathize and help people through really dark times.  She'd be a St. Bernard in a rescue.

So what do your friends possess in spades that you'd like more of in yourself?  What have you dont to invest in your relationships lately?

posted at 6:52 PM  
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Monday, May 21, 2012
 Gump n lennon
I can watch Forrest Gump over and over again and never get tired of it. Every time it's on, I have to watch it. Here are my favorite reasons for loving the movie.

1. The gorgeous music score. Music transports us to another place and time, and in the case of Forrest Gump, it takes me to my teens. Love it!

2. Forrest's love for Jenny is unchanging, no matter what she does. It's a little picture of God's love for us, and how we should love others.

3. I love the cameos where Forrest is inserted into historical events. All those little slices of my past life bring back so many memories and it's just plain fun.

4. Forrest is an overcomer. No matter what bad circumstances life threw his way, he didn't let them change his attitude. You just have to love that about him.

5. Forrest realized his own shortcomings. So many of us dismiss our own failures and shortcomings, but he clearly knew he wasn't as smart as other people. But he didn't let that alter his life's course.

6. I love how he falls in love with his son from the moment he meets him.

7. I love the way faith if portrayed in the film. God is a constant in Forrest's life, and he assumes everyone feels that way. He's shocked when Lieutenant Dan doesn't seem to believe. God just is to Forrest.

8. I love the growth we see in Lieutenant Dan. That moment when he shows up with new legs and a content expression is wonderful.

9. I love the way Forrest is faithful to his friends, even after they're dead. He takes care of Bubba's mother even though he wasn't required to give her a cent. He's faithful to Lieutenant Dan even when he rails against him. He doesn't let anything deter him.

10. "Life is a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get." I just love that line. It's so true. And no matter what is in the middle of our chocolate, we can move forward with life.

How about you? What did you most enjoy about Forrest Gump? And don't tell me you hated the movie because I'll have to wonder about your taste in movies. LOL I just love it!


Colleen Coble  
posted at 4:52 PM  
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Tuesday, May 15, 2012
It's all Kristin's fault that I'm obsessed with the perfect cup of coffee. She got me hooked on my entry drug, iced mochas. LOL But now I like the flavor of coffee so well that I don't even want chocolate in my coffee. So I thought I'd share with you all how to make a cup of coffee so good you won't believe it.

There are several things you need for the perfect cup. Coffee is everything. I have bought coffee from everywhere you can imagine, but I recently discovered some coffee that is so far above other coffees. It's infrared roasted coffee by Toomer's. The infrared roasting extracts the full flavor of the bean and it doesn't  make your body more acidic and it's easy on your stomach. The difference is very noticeable! The 2nd thing you need is a good grinder. I have a Capresso. You need a burr grinder to grind it properly. A few months ago, I would have said you also needed a Cuisinart coffeemaker but I've since discovered how wonderful coffee is that's been made in a French press like this one of mine.

So here's how you do it: heat water until it's nearly boiling. For this size of French press, I use 4 scoops of COARSE ground coffee. It's very important that you use coarse ground for proper results. Pour the water over the coffee in the glass carafe and stir with a wooden spoon. This is my favorite part because the aroma is just heavenly. Then put the top on and let it steep for at least 4 minutes. I let it go for 8. Then press the plunger to get the grounds out of the way and enjoy! I add heavy whipping cream, a tiny bit of KAL stevia and some cinnamon. Heaven!

How do you like your coffee? And if you try this, let me know what you think! My writer's brain runs on coffee!
Colleen Coble  
posted at 8:23 AM  
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Monday, May 14, 2012
I love my job. If I could hand-pick any career in the world, I'd choose the one I have now. Writing romance is my sweet spot, and the people I work with only make it sweeter.

That said, every job has its moments, right? For me, that moment is now. This month has been the most challenging of my 15 year writing career. To start with, due to some difficulty with my work-in-progress in February, I'm running a few weeks behind schedule on it. May was supposed to be my re-writing month since it's due June 1, but I only just finished the first draft. Enter working weekends and evenings, but manageable, right?

Except Secretly Smitten edits also came due in May. Then a contest I'd agreed to judge sent me the entries--20 of them! About 15 more than I expected (Why didn't I just ASK how many???). Of course, these are due in May too.

I'm just hanging by a thread when I get the galley for The Trouble with Cowboys (Oct release). This is my last chance to see it before it goes to print, so I need to read it with a red pen in hand. These are due--you guessed it--in May.

Add to this all the normal running of kids, chores, adrenal fatigue flareups, plus two weekends of house guests (looking forward to that part--really!), and you can see why I've affectionately named the month Manic May. No offense, Manic May, but I'll be so glad when you're gone.

What are your work challenges? How do cope when you have more than you can handle?
Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:13 AM  
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Friday, May 11, 2012
One of my dreams has always been to go to the island of Catalina, but I'm not talking about that kind of dream here. I'm talking about an honest to goodness REM sleep dream in which freaky things happen and leave you confused, weirded out or just plain frightened for days afterward. Have you had dreams like that?

I had one like that last night. It was actually set in a place like one of the houses pictured above. Mel and I were moving into a different house (in the dream), but the people who had lived there left their furniture, and it was old and dusty and ugly, and the people weren't even gone yet. One might gain some insight into what's going on in our lives just by knowing that much. So why am I confused? Yes, we're having some major life changes, and being one of those creative types, I tend to make whole ranges of mountains out of anthills. So I've thought about this dream all day. It seemed to me that there were some interesting possibilities for interpreting this dream, but I'm not getting much out of it. Care to take a stab at it? Moving new furniture into a house that already has furniture, making room for sleeping comfortably and in privacy, taking the bedroom out of the living room...that kind of thing.

And how about you? Do you have a particular dream that recurs and confuses you? Oh! Oh! I have a great dream every so often in which I realize that I'm dreaming, and that I have the ability to make myself fly. I love those dreams! Anything to share? And if you would like to try to give me a hint about why my dream was so weird, give it a try. I'd love to hear it!

Hannah Alexander  
posted at 1:10 AM  
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

First off, I want to thank you for your prayers and rejoicing with me over what the Lord has done and is doing in my life! I praise Him for His grace and mercy!!

Now, on to the matter of my hair . . .  I am getting it colored and cut (well, shaped really, it's not long enough to cut!) next week.  I can hardly wait. 

Here's the deal. It's about three inches long and it's starting to fill in.  Do I dare go out in public with my own hair after it's colored and cut or should I wait a few months until it fills in more?  I've been wearing a hat in public (so tired of wigs!), so I can continue to do that--and probably will since vanity sometimes takes over--but I was curious as to your opinions.

What would you do if it were YOU?  Would you be brave and go out like that or would you continue to wear a hat or wig when you went out?  
Diann Hunt  
posted at 10:00 AM  
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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

We have news that is just too good not to share! Diann had her checkup at Zion today and she's going to maintenance! Her CA-125 is TWELVE!!! TWELVE! And the scans showed no cancer, just scar tissue. An amazing, stupendous result of all your prayers and God's graciousness. Thank you, Jesus!

She'll be getting Avastin every 3 weeks but she has never had any side effects from it so she should be getting stronger and stronger.

Thank you SO much for your prayers and continued prayers, friends!
Colleen Coble  
posted at 2:07 PM  
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Monday, May 07, 2012

Our little Alexa Grace spent the night with us Friday night. The picture above is at our mother/daughter tea (I spoke and she listened intently which was kind of fun.) I've come to the conclusion that storytelling is an inherent gift. I think Alexa is going to be a novelist like her Mimi! I usually sleep with her so she doesn't wake up frightened. Okay, maybe it's really for me because I get all kinds of wonderful snuggles in the night. They make the LACK of sleep well worth it! :)

We were snuggled in bed with the lights out and she demanded a story so I began to weave a yarn with her as the hero, and she teaches her best friend how to swim. And she's such an amazing swimmer (in my story) that everyone at school wants her to teach them too. At first this was a perfect story. She asked me to tell it again so I obliged two more times. About three sentences into the fourth retelling, I'm informed that I'm telling it wrong. And she proceeds to tell me how it REALLY happened. LOL Her story involved her riding her bike all by herself (she's 3) to her friend's house and swimming in THAT pool instead of hers. She got downright irate that I wasn't telling her the story that was running in her head after I got her creative juices flowing.

I'm still chuckling over it and it's four days later. I so want to nurture that creative spirit in her, but I don't really remember my own two kids having such a vivid imagination. So I'd love some advice on how to nurture this. Maybe write her stories down for her as she tells them to me? Or does art help nurture that as well? If you have any advice, I'd love for you to share it with me!

Colleen Coble  
posted at 7:09 PM  
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Friday, May 04, 2012
I've been a romantic ever since I was three years old. I have no idea why. My first "boyfriend" was Mike. Then when I was five it was Johnny. So when I started writing my first novel, fourteen years before I was published, guess what kind of story I wrote...

Suspense. Yes, and romance, of course. I was on the second page of long-hand legal paper when I realized this romance wouldn't work without a spiritual plotline. Of course, I wasn't sure the novel would work at all, because I'd never before written a novel. And now I'm digressing. I'm trying to explain about the importance of having a wonderful hero in a romance.

As I said, I wrote for a very long time before I was published. The thing that changed my mail from rejection slips to eager interest from several publishers was actually having a hero to write about. He wasn't the typical overbearing macho male model I had been focusing on for so long. He had a great sense of fun, he respected me as a woman, he was kind and protective without being a jerk. I began to base my hero in my books on Mel, my new husband sixteen years ago.

Romance readers really went for this new man in my life. He wasn't a womanizer, he had a sense of honor that bonded his heart to one woman--that was a new type of man for me, too. His counterpart in the books I wrote at the time was Dr. Lukas Bower. After the series ended they wanted more of Lukas and Mercy, the love of his life.

What kind of hero do you like? Don't tell me about his beautiful blue eyes or his sexy smile or how tall and muscular he is. Tell me what kind of man he'll be to you five, ten, twenty years down the road. Tell me how happy the relationship will be when others have tarnished and rusted and died. Any good details you can share?

Hannah Alexander  
posted at 2:07 AM  
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Thursday, May 03, 2012
You've heard this a million times, if you want to be a writer, it has to be your passion. It's so true. Your passion, the magnetic pull that draws you to words on paper, will get you through the hard times. After you've sweated hours over a manuscript, you spend the next two weeks telling yourself it's trash. What were you thinking? You're not a writer! Just when you're on the verge of professional therapy, your critique partner tells you how much she loved your story. Convinced once again you can write, you zip the manuscript in the mail and wait. And wait. And wait. You begin to think the U.S. mail system is on the blitz! Maybe your manuscript was lost! Maybe it went to the wrong person. Maybe it was intercepted by a federal agent and now it's tied up in a drug/murder case. It's passion that will get you through those days of waiting, hallucinating, and eating chocolate until you think you'll explode. Passion. I'm not an early morning person. But when I was working full time, I had to get up from 4-6am to write. That's passion (or stupidity, whichever you prefer). One other thing I did was whenever I had to wait on something, I made lists of colorful adjectives and verbs. Sound like fun or does it make you want you want to hurt me? Passion. Do you have it? If not for writing, what has your passion?
Diann Hunt  
posted at 8:31 AM  
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Wednesday, May 02, 2012
We, as people, have been faced with the same temptations as those characters of the Bible. One time, I remember having a conversation with a writing teacher, and she said that I couldn't write a Bible story set in a different time because people of 1850 California weren't the same as Biblical people. Times were different. I'll admit, times were different. Rules were different. But that is setting. People don't essentially change. 

We can identify with the characters of the Bible because their emotions are timeless-- How would you like to be the dull-eyed sister married to a man in love with your hot sister? Yeah, being Leah doesn't get any easier with time. If you put it in modern times, your husband is cheating with your sister. Think of the betrayal there, the emotions. They don't get easier.

 I like to ask the question of my characters, what would make her act out of character? What could break her?

 This weekend, I watched "Jude the Obscure" -- Thomas Hardy is my favorite writer, but if you don't know this story, it is pretty dark. Jude Fawley (Folly) is a religious man of character -- who falls prey to the neighborhood harlot, then ends up living with another unconventional woman he loves, without the benefit of marriage. He does all of these things because he's a man of character who wants to do "the right thing." 

For years, he and his false wife are chaste, though no one believes that and Jude knows it -- he doesn't care what people think, only that God knows his truth. Hardy makes us believe in the character of Jude and his slow demise is believable because of the small steps that lead one into sin -- even when done with the right intentions.

 If you're writing your current book, what would make them do something totally against type? How do you get them there? A lot of times it's the way God gets us to a different place. Life breaks us apart, and we must build back up.

 My current book I started with the feeling that so many young people have today. They don't want to be married because they've watched their parents divorce. Marriage scares them. I wanted to take that a step further. What if you grew up in an abusive household? What if your parents never did divorce, but your mother thought God hated divorce, so she kept you in dire circumstances? How does that shape your view of marriage? Your view of God?

 Don't be afraid to tear down your character to show what they're made of. Break it down into emotions. What is her biggest fear? What would make it worse for her? cruel to your characters. They're made of more than you think.
posted at 11:28 AM  
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Tuesday, May 01, 2012
One of my favorite parts of writing is making sure my reader is fully immersed in the WHERE of my story. Details make all the difference in this area. Just how very different things can be in another state was brought home to me when we visited Boston. I'd seen my friend Kate at say "wicked" on Twitter. She's say things like she was "wicked excited" to read my new book, for example. I thought it was just an adorable idiosyncrasy. But no. When I went to CBD in March, I heard it around. It's a common term up there. Cute, isn't it? And of course there was lots of seafood restaurants and all that history. It totally got my story juices flowing!

No, this picture isn't of Boston. it's Kauai of course, from our last visit in early March. Hawaii and Boston are both on the water but what a world of difference. In Hawaii the water sports are centered around diving, snorkeling, sunning, and just enjoying the beautiful beaches. In Boston, I heard more about fishing and lobstering, watermen type professions. Loved it! And the history of course is very different and that plays into the type of people you have in the different states.

I always try to visit a place before I write about it for this very reason. How about you? If you're working on a book right now (or just finished one) what was the thing that surprised you the most about the locale where you set your novel? I'll go first. I'm working on Rosemary Cottage (Tidewater Inn ships in about 6 weeks, yay!) and they are set in the Outer Banks. I've been to other places on the Atlantic like Myrtle Beach so I was expecting lots of golf and miniature golf and a ton of tourists and crowds. But the Outer Banks is very different. I was surprised how windy it is. And there are kites everywhere! Children flying kites and people kiteboarding. And there are wild horses (bankers) that run free there. We went to Ocracoke and loved it. My little town of Hope Beach is patterned after Ocracoke. It wasn't as packed (of course we were there in late April) and it was beautiful and quant. We loved it!

So now it's your turn. What telling detail can you bring into your novel in a way that helps set the reader in your story?
Colleen Coble  
posted at 7:00 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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