Girls Write Out
Friday, September 28, 2012

This trail is a long one, wide enough for a vehicle, but I don't drive it, I walk it so I can enjoy it more completely. I have begun to take my time to listen to the birds, and for the rustle in the brush that could lead me to a live armadillo rooting for food, or the cry of an eagle overhead. I couldn't hear those things from a car with an engine running. I have met with God here so many times in the touch of the breeze and the feel of the sun and shadows sliding over my skin, even in the rain that once drenched me and had me shivering and numb all the way back home.

There are hardships on this trail. The rocks and potholes could break an ankle or sprain a knee if I'm not careful, and if I touch the wrong bush I could get poison ivy. Copperheads and rattlesnakes have greeted me on this trail from time to time, and ticks and chiggers are vile and vicious creatures that frighten me more than the snakes because there are so many more of them. I carry protection against anyone who might be guarding their marijuana harvest or meth lab.

I learned long ago that enjoyment and suffering, laughter and tears are two parts of the same package. You can't feel joy quite so exquisitely unless you've felt its opposite. In our journey through life, we will hit the proverbial potholes and rocks--some of which are dangerous boulders that can knock us sideways: illness, the loss of a beloved, a church split, rebellious children, abusive people with power over us in our jobs and homes. The more deeply we delve into life, the more easily we can be wounded, but with those wounds, we grow.

At the end of the journey, as at the end of each hike I take, I believe what matters is not so much what happened to us during the journey, but the choices we made in response. Inevitably, those choices are what will determine what we become. What choices have you made lately, or what has happened to you that will have an impact on your choices?
Hannah Alexander  
posted at 12:34 PM  
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Romance is a universal language for women.  After all, God's love for us, His sacrifice for us, is the greatest gift we can receive.  Our human version is admittedly a pale version, but it's all we have, so we embrace it.  Both in story and in life. It offers hope and the closest approximation to being loved unconditionally, though we as mere humans aren't capable of unconditional love -- we probably come closest as parents. : )

I'm in the process of searching out a cover for my new book, and it does have an element of romance in it, but that isn't the primary storyline.  I came across this photo of Antonio Sabato, Jr. and his new bride in Kauai.  Now, I have no idea who Antonio is, nor his bride, but the hope and joy in their faces reminds me why we love romance.  Why we still believe in it, despite the world's desire to corrupt it.

My dad's cousin just celebrated her 57th year in marriage to her husband and the joy on their faces (didn't want to share it without her permission) shows me that love is the greatest gift God gives us here on earth.  She posted this picture on Facebook the day of her wedding.  My Nana is on the left (she was married for over 60 years to my Papa.)  My godmother Mabel is in the center and she too was married to my Papa's brother forever until cancer took her.  Who makes you celebrate romance? 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Colleen and Dave ACFW 2012

Both times I've spent a considerable amount of time in Texas have resulted in me getting sick. The first time was when I was in the Big Bend area research the Lonestar series (and Lonestar Angel just won a Carol award for Best Romantic Suspense!) I had a terrible case of bronchitis. As soon as I hit the hotel in Denver, my chest started feeling heavy. Now here I am down in Austin coughing again. I think it's bronchitis again.

When our son was small, he got bronchitis all the time from allergy. So I think I might be allergic to something down here. I've decided it's worth getting sick though because I really love Austin! I'm setting the 3rd book in my Under Texas Stars down here. I've always said I wouldn't want to live in a city, but after being here, if I ever lived in a city, I'd take Austin (sans the bronchitis.) It's got a really great vibe, and people are really friendly.

Yesterday we had lunch in a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant. I've never eaten in one before. Today i want to eat something else I've never eaten before. Any ideas what it might be? I'm thinking if I'm adventurous enough, I'll get rid of this cough! ;) 

And anyone have a suggestion for getting well? I'm usually the health guru but I am at a loss with this. Whenever my ibuprofen wears off, I start coughing. Very weird! When I had this before, nothing I took helped either. We start for home tomorrow. Maybe it will get better then.

Colleen Coble  
posted at 10:15 AM  
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Monday, September 24, 2012
Denise and Colleen, ready for the Carol Awards at ACFW
After God created man he said, "It is not good for man to be alone." Then he created woman, and the first human partnership was formed.

At the ACFW conference over the weekend, I was thinking about how many people I've been blessed to have around me. People to support me in life, family, and business.

My husband, my friends, my small group, my team at Thomas Nelson, my agent, my extended family, my website administrator, writing groups . . . the list goes on.

It's kind of amazing and a little overwhelming how many people it takes to make my life work right! If I subtract any of the above from my life, the wheels are going to wobble. So I'm just feeling thankful right now for all the people that hold me together and keep me driving down the path God has set for me.

Who's holding your wheels on tight?

Speaking of partnerships . . . a shout out to Colleen who won a Carol Award for Lonestar Angel! So proud of you, friend!
Denise Hunter  
posted at 8:08 AM  
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Unlike our own, Colleen Coble, I'm not a big fan of the editing process.  I do not get all excited about seeing all that red on my paper -- no more than I did when I was in the fifth grade.  Yes, I know it makes the book better.  No, I cannot live, nor would I publish without it.  But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Plus, the Chicago Manual of Style keeps changing, so there are constantly new rules about where a comma should be, and I don't care to keep up.  Make up your MIND already!  My friend and editor Nancy Toback is a tough editor.  I did a screen save on page TWO Of my current manuscript and I think we can see that I have a lot of work ahead of me.

There are weeds in the field as we toil.  I  understand I edit.  But I do not have to like it.  What's the one part of your job that you could do without?
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Sunday, September 16, 2012
With the ACFW Conference this week, I thought I might offer some timely tips on packing:

1. Decide in advance what you're wearing. A few days ahead, try on lots of outfits with shoes, heels, jewelry and belt. Take photos on your phone with you in each outfit. Seeing the photos helps you view the looks objectively and quickly, allowing you to choose the best. This way you pack only what you'll wear.

2. Once you've decided what to wear each day, take a photo of each ensemble (like the photo at side) to remind you what goes with what once you get to the conference. Roll each item tightly, minimizing wrinkles. Or:

3. For super easy unpacking, put each outfit (pants, shirt, jacket, necklace) on its own hanger. Set it in the bottom of your suitcase, smoothing out wrinkles. Layer each additional outfit on top, leaving arms outstretched. Put cosmetics, hair dryer, shoes, etc on top, then fold excess clothing around the top, like your outfits are giving them a hug. :) When you arrive, hang them in the closet and you're done.

4. If you're flying, put a tiny square of plastic wrap under the lids of flip-up liquids like shampoo. Aircraft pressure can make these pop up. Been there, done that. Never again!

5. Put all liquids in a zip top bag to protect everything else if a spill happens.

6. Use the smallest suitcase possible. Objects packed tightly don't shift and create wrinkles.

7. Make a list of things you can't pack until the last minute so you don't leave anything critical.

8. Bring Melatonin or your favorite sleeping aid. It's hard to wind down after a busy day, and you'll need your rest.

9. Along the same line--bring earplugs. Your roommate might snore or (even worse) be a morning person. Yes, Colleen, talking about you. :)

10. Bring a carry on for anything you can't live without in case of luggage loss: Laptop, meds, one-sheet, bare minimum makeup, etc.
Denise Hunter  
posted at 8:51 PM  
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Friday, September 14, 2012
Need Input! As most of you know, we're in the middle of building Mel's clinic and trying to get by on a shoestring so we'll be able to pay our employees when we start seeing patients in December. Anyone who has experience setting up an office or business of any kind, what advice can you give this struggling country doctor to get by with as little overhead as possible?

We'll wait for advice!

Hannah Alexander  
posted at 4:34 PM  
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Paleo on the Cheap

You all know I'm a big fan of paleo eating. I want to introduce you to a friend from the hcg forum where I hang out: Harmony Grace. She's going to tell you how to save some money while eating paleo.

Colleen tells me that many of her readers are fans of the HCG Diet and the Paleo Diet. Me, too! I’m Harmony Clearwater Grace, the author of HCG Diet Made Simple, The HCG Diet Book of Secrets, and most recently, Paleo on the Cheap.

After finishing the HCG Diet, the next problem most of us encounter is figuring out the best way to eat for the rest of our lives, so that our new slim and trim figures will stick around. Going back to eating the way we did before losing weight is not an option, given that eating that way is exactly how we got unhealthy and overweight to begin with. Usually, that old way of eating was the mainstream low-fat mentality that does not maintain health or even a healthy weight, contrary to current conventional medical wisdom that we hear from doctors, nor does it cause weight reduction as so commonly promoted by TV commercials and other mainstream media. In fact, going back to the way that we ate BEFORE that whole “healthy low-fat” myth was created, is a much better choice. But the best option for many, is to go ALL the way back to eating the way that our ancestors ate before processed food existed.

Unfortunately, however, the next problem that folks run into when switching from processed and refined foods to whole foods such as those eaten on the Paleo Diet, is the cost of real food. Those real, whole foods, especially organically grown produce or pastured eggs or grass-fed meat, often cost more than you might be used to paying for your food. I’ve seen many get discouraged when making the switch, wondering if they can really afford to eat this way. But when you think about the cost of disease and unhealthy conditions caused by eating cheap processed food, not to mention the decreased quality of life from being unhealthy, the real question becomes—can you afford not to?

As for me and my house, we are absolutely certain that eating real whole foods is worth it, given the health improvements that we’ve seen from that one crucial change. And so I set out on a personal mission to find ways for all of us to obtain Paleo foods at better prices, and to find secrets for saving money in other areas so that the extra savings could be used for getting good Paleo food. Being healthy by eating healthy shouldn’t be a budget-breaking way of life, and it turns out that it doesn’t have to be. Little-known strategies and largely unpublicized sources for better and healthier foods at lower and more reasonable costs really do exist. For example, have you ever gone to a local Farmer’s Market just before they are ready to close up shop and head for home? That’s when you can pick up some bargain prices on locally (and probably organically) grown produce, because those farmers don’t want to have to haul that unsold food back home. It’s a win-win for you both! And that fresh produce can stay fresh without spoiling for much longer than you might imagine, just by using some simple , non-toxic, and truly healthy substances to treat them, such as apple cider vinegar diluted in pure water. Simple strategies for storing food differently can make a huge difference in the spoilage rate, too. For instance, did you know that storing apples near your lettuce will make it turn brown much faster? Those are just a few of the surprising tips and tricks I learned while researching my newest book, Paleo on the Cheap. My fondest wish is that it will help you to become healthier and happier, now and forever.

Any tips you've found on eating healthy on a budget?

Colleen Coble  
posted at 8:03 AM  
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Monday, September 10, 2012
The Trouble with Cowboys (Oct 2) is now shipping to book stores, so I'm giving away 3 copies to our friends here on Girls Write Out!

Just leave a comment with your email address to be entered. I'll notify winners directly on Wednesday (Sept. 12).

Annie Wilkerson is contracted to write a lovelorn column--only trouble is she's never been in love.

Enter smooth, ladies' man Dylan Taylor. His expertise in matters of the heart is just what she needs, but with all those skills trained right on her, is Annie in for more trouble than she bargained for?

Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:50 AM  
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Friday, September 07, 2012

I was single once when I was a senior in high school, and in college, but then I married. It would have been great had I actually tried to make a wise choice, but no, I just wanted to get married. It seemed so vital. When I decided it was time to have babies, hubby screamed like a little girl and ran for the hills. I needed a man in my life, so I remarried quickly. I got my children, though they belonged to another woman. I loved those kids. Little did I know that they would always be all I had. I eventually ended up a single woman again, and this time I was determined to stay that way. I could get away with it if I didn't spend much money, if I continued to live in the apartment in Mom's garage after Daddy died, and  kept working my day job and writing at night. But along came Mel two years after my second husband screamed and ran like a little girl when I wanted to work on the marriage.

But you know what I discovered? Living single isn't for sissies. I knew a lot of other single women at that time, and many had to share apartments because they didn't make enough money to live alone. Those who did live alone--out of fear that common courtesy would not prevail and they would be labeled mean names--struggled to get by constantly. They still do. When one chooses to make it on her own, she's got a hard road. Often, women don't make the income men do, so they struggle financially more than most men. They can't do the hard work men often do to make more money.

So I'm proclaiming this Help a Single Woman Day. If you have a female friend who is single, take her out to lunch or give her a gift certificate for a mani-pedi or a new blouse or a good meal. Treasure these ladies who struggle to keep their heads above water much of their lives. Show them love and acceptance, and never let them feel like second class citizens, because they aren't. Being married doesn't make us better than single folk, it just means life is often easier financially and relationally for us. Count you blessings, and bless a single woman.

Hannah Alexander  
posted at 12:44 AM  
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Thursday, September 06, 2012
So good to be home and mending. Thank you for your prayers!! I get my staples out today. Hubby tried to come at me with a staple remover, but I ran--well, okay, I walked really fast. Can you believe the doctor actually said hubby could remove my staples? Unless we're talking about staples as food, it ain't gonna happen. I love my husband dearly, but please, let's save the medical procedures for the health professionals.

Other than that, life has been fairly calm around our house this week. It's been hard for me to read through the fog, but looking forward to reading Colleen's "Rosemary Cottage" (not yet released) soon!!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you! I went to a Qigong class while at the hospital. It's sort of like Yoga in slow motion.  You move very slow, and learn important breathing techniques. I don't get into the New Age thing at all, but I like learning about how to help my body cope through the stresses of life, you know?  I bought a CD of it so I can continue after my staples are out. :)

So have you ever tried a class like that? Pilates? Yoga? Does any of that work for you? I really want something that isn't so much strenuous as it is breathing new life, hope and encouragement into my body. Make sense? What does that for you? Chocolate? Starbucks? Pilates? Pictures of Matthew McConaughey? Okay, not sure where that one came from . . . ;-)

P.S. LOVE Kristin's new book cover!!  Can't wait to read it, K!!

Diann Hunt  
posted at 11:36 AM  
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Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Somewhere in every one of my books, I get caught up in the characters and I need them to speak to me, to tell me their ending.  That's a rough time in our household.  The laundry sits a spell too long, the dinners are haphazard and worst of all...Mom isn't really present.  You can tell this by the blank look on my face as you speak to me.

I feel for the children of authors.  Their parent is usually there, but perhaps not all there.  Last night I was up from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. because I had to know how the story ended.  This morning, my critique partner told me, "One chapter at a time.  You'll get there."

It's true, I will.  I do wish I was one of those authors who could leave their work at their desk and let it go.  I wonder what that's like, actually.

What things obsess you to the point of taking you out of the game?  Do you have a friend/partner who brings you back?

posted at 2:02 PM  
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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

ACFW Girls STanding 2010

People always ask me how I learned to write. The stock answer is that I read a lot of books on writing and go to conferences, but that's not really the base of learning to write. READING is the base.I love to see how other people put a story together: likable character, compelling circumstances, intriguing setting, all the things that makes for a tasty read. The ACFW conference is in two weeks, and I'll be totally immersed in learning more about the business. That's the fun thing about writing--you never arrive. There's always more to learn.

I've been gorging on books, refilling my well, for several weeks. I'd love some recommendations of a good book you've read lately. Doesn't have to be Christian fiction, by the way. I read a ton of general market as well. Here is what I've read lately.

Heiress, by Susan May Warren--fabulous book set in a time period I love. Rich detail and characters.

Glamorous Illusions by Lisa Bergren--Was so good and I was bummed the 2nd book isn't out yet. Again a time period I really love with a different sort of plot and setting.

One Second After by William Forstchen--I love apocalyptic type fiction and this one is about an EMP that ends civilization in the US. The book pulled me in from the first page.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddy Ratner--story set in Cambodia during the time of the Killing Fields. More literary than I usually read but very good.

Slammed by Colleen Hoover--Denise loaned me this one and it was terrific! It's a YA with a really compelling storyline and characters.

How about you? What have you read lately and what did you love about it? Or NOT love about it? 

Colleen Coble  
posted at 10:43 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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