Girls Write Out
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
It's no secret that I love the classics.  I can't help it, I just prefer the way stories of old were told.  It's a personal preference, and I know not everyone feels that way.  In fact, I wish I liked new books more because then I could see what made them bestsellers.

One genre I really skipped was "horror" of old because I'm a big chicken.  However, as I've gotten older, I've developed a taste for the macabre. (I did read "The Phantom of the Opera" which is as scary as I got.)  It doesn't scare me nearly so much and I've grown to like the sensation of fear.   Experts say it's the closest feeling to happiness. (Go figure -- I suppose that's why Horror movies are so popular, but I'm not going that route -- only in books.)

So I'm currently reading "Frankenstein" and the thing I love abou this book is that Mary Shelley and her friends (Percy Shelley and Lord Byron) held a contest to come up with the "best ghost story" and this was her contribution.  Not bad for a teenager, huh?  As I get ready to embark on a weekend with writers for a brainstorming session, it reminds me what being in the company of good writers can do for a person of words.  Does anyone out there still read the classics?

Oh, and next up, Dracula.  Which I hear I can't read at night like I can Frankenstein.  We shall see.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TColleen and Dave ACFW 2012oday Dave and I have been married 41 years. Hard to imagine that so much time has gone by since I was a bright-eyed nineteen year old and he was a handsome Air Force Tech Sergeant. I love him more now than the day I married him. God knew just who I needed.  So in honor of our anniversary, I'm going to share our tips for having a lasting marriage. And not just one that endures, but one that thrives and gets better with the years.

1. Always put the other person first. My Dave is great at this. He would move heaven and earth to please me.

2. Say "I love you" every day. Not just once but multiple times a day. Touch your guy when you pass him on the way to the kitchen. Just a hand on his shoulder as you pass is enough to let him know you're thinking about him.

3. Don't argue just to win an argument. Sometimes it's better to just shut up, even if you think you're right. Is being right worth any harm the argument might bring to your relationship? 

4. Don't let the kids play you against each other. We've all been there. Enough said. :)

5. Take some time to do things together. Go out to eat, go to a movie or for a drive. Even going for a walk after dinner to talk alone together helps.

6. Praise him when he does things around the house. No one likes to be taken for granted. When he finally fixes the faucet, lavish on the praise. And MEAN it. Don't say, "Well, you finally did it."  And don't immediately point out the next thing on the honey-do list. 

7. Take time to dream together. What would you like your future to look like? Talk about your goals and encourage him to reach for his. Sometimes it's hard. Dave went to college when the kids were small. He worked full time and went to school full time. He was gone 4 nights a week, and I had the responsibility for two toddlers. With working full time, he didn't have time to read all his homework either, so I read it onto tape and he listened to it on his two hour a day round trip drive. Now it's his turn, and he is my biggest encourager with my writing.

8. Every year get away from the day-to-day grind and take a vacation. If money is a problem, plan something close by for a few days.

Now how about you? What's your tip for making a relationship thrive?

Colleen Coble  
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

A lot of people want to write a book someday. I know what that feels like, because 16 years ago, I wanted to write a book too. I didn't have a computer, didn't know a single writer, and had never attended a writer's group. Basically, I knew nothing. All I had was a library card and a deep desire to learn storytelling. So I hit the books and learned the craft, then picked up a pencil and got to work. 

Today's novice writers are blessed with an abundance of writer's resources and easy-to-connect-to online groups. I'm still asked for advice for those just getting started, so here's a few thoughts if you've got a story in you itching to be told.

1. Study and practice. Writing is a craft to be honed, and no matter how much natural talent you have, it takes both of those things to become a good writer. Set a daily goal and stick to it. 

2. Write the book you want to read. If you want to read that kind of book, there will be others who want to read it too.

3. Study the market, not so that you can jump on every trend, but so that you know how your story fits into the market.

4. Join a writers group (in person or online) so you can meet other writers—iron sharpens iron. American Christian Fiction Writers is an excellent option.

5. Once you have a marketable manuscript, go to conferences. The American Christian Fiction Writers Conference is the best out there in my opinion. At conferences, you will learn from some of the best in the industry and get a chance to pitch your work to agents and editors—a priceless opportunity. And who knows, you may just meet some lifelong friends. 

6. E-publishing is becoming huge. If you choose to go this route, don’t put a sub-par manuscript out there where it will only flounder. Hone the craft, write the best story you can, and learn to re-write. Then hire an editor. Every published author has one for a reason.

7. Getting published can be a long, uphill climb, but persistence pays off. 
Denise Hunter  
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Thursday, October 25, 2012

I love finding pictures of my characters. My new story in the next Smitten calls for a young child (at least so far that's in my story's plot). As I was trying to find just the right picture of a five-year-old boy, without much luck, it occurred to me I could use my grandson.

Normally, I don't pattern my characters after anyone I know. It's just too hard to separate my character from the person I know. But in this case, my grandson is perfect for the part. So I will attempt to use him in my story--or at least his outer image. :-)  I need a little kid with attitude. What do you think? Does he fit the need?

When you're reading, do you have a picture in your mind of the character? I think it would be interesting to see the author's picture and the reader's mental image of the same character. Do you prefer lots of description for a character's physical image or do you like some of it left to your imagination?

IMO characters make the story. It's not so much what's happening as it is how that situation affects my character. So I have to find just the right character to put into that situation.

I'm on a Christmas--yes, Christmas--kick right now and I have to say I absolutely love the character Buddy on "Elf." So genuine, vulnerable, lovable.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters?
Diann Hunt  
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Sunday, October 21, 2012
One of the questions I'm asked most frequently is: What inspires you to write?

Two things come to mind. 1. The things that inspire me and 2. the way the writing process actually works for a working writer.

Many things inspire the creative process in me. Romantic movies, romantic novels, newspaper articles, movie trailers, books on writing, and overheard conversations. During any of the above I often find myself jotting ideas that come to mind. (I learned long ago that no matter how perfect the idea is or how sure I am that I'll remember it--I won't. Guaranteed.)

These moments of inspiration are fun and exciting and useful for filling my creative well (and my story idea folder). But they aren't so useful in getting 80,000 words into my document by my deadline.

For that part, my inspiration can only be described as butt-in-chair. Every working writer knows William Faulkner was right when he said, "I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning."

I don't know about anyone else, but if I waited until I felt like writing, I wouldn't meet my deadlines. Then my publisher would become disgruntled with my unprofessional behavior. Then I wouldn't have any contracts. Or deadlines. I guess at that point, I could write only when inspired. Sadly, that doesn't pay. And fortunately, Faulkner's plan seems to work for me.

So, I'm throwing the question back to you, no matter what it is that you do. What inspires you?

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Denise Hunter  
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Love comes in many sizes and packages. Comfort, as well, can be brought to us in different guises. This little darling, for example, our Data, was named after Star Trek TNG's sentient robot. We raised him from kittenhood. At first I thought he was a she, so we took "her" in to be spayed and named her Joy. Well, the tech brought her out with a grin. "Guess you'd better name this little one "Boy Joy," because he's not a she." Data has grown into a mighty hunter, and though we won't go into that, I'm proud of his skills and I appreciate his loving tenderness, his cuddles, his tendency to come and get me if one of the other cats are standing in a window, wanting in. He actually whines until I go let them in. Not only that, but if I'm cooking something and forget and leave it on the stove, he comes and tells me and waits for me to follow him, then stands and looks at the pot on the stove, and the timer beeping. Mama-cat's helper

Whereas I would consider Data to be a phlegmatic personality, taking everything in stride, taking for granted he's the most loved because he was cherished as a kitten, our cat above, Teddy Bear, is exactly the opposite She's choleric. That means bossy. She not only bosses around the other cats, she also tries her hardest to boss us around. She believes she's queen of the roost even if she is getting a little older, missing her top fangs. She still has the longest claws, the scariest hiss and growl. She's also the one who wants to stay inside with us on a beautiful day, holler for us from another room and pretty much make a nuisance of herself. Why does she get away with it? She has class. I made her stay outside yesterday, and when the repairman came to the door, I saw her standing regally beside him, her head raised for him to pet her. And he did. She conned him.

We have two more cats, just no pictures of them on my computer tonight. These pets own us with a kind and loving compassion. When I'm in pain, they seem to know, and they crawl on my lap and purr. They are a gift from God--or at least, I think that way some of the time. What about your pets? We haven't discussed them lately. What animal (or perhaps reptile or other living thing) gives you joy as  you care for it daily? I truly believe that rescuing our strays is an act of service that God honors.
Hannah Alexander  
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Thursday, October 18, 2012
I admit it. I'm hooked. On Pinterest. Please tell me I'm not the only one!  I can spend hours looking at the latest fashions, beautiful scenery and, of course, recipes. My daughter kept telling me about it and I told her I couldn't afford to get absorbed by one more website. I guess you can see who won.

I see many writers on there. They "pin" characters, old period clothes, unusual settings. Any and all of those could spark their imaginations for futures scenes tucked inside delicious novels.

Sometimes it's fun just to escape for a while and enjoy the scenery or find a new recipe. I confess that I absolutely love it. Yesterday was rainy and cold. A perfect combination for hot chocolate and a visit to Pinterest. So I spent the afternoon browsing through Paris, Switzerland, Greece, and assorted main dishes, clicking here and there and tucking away a few morsels in my own files for future use. It's not only a wealth of information, it's just plain fun.

So how about you. Are you hooked?
Diann Hunt  
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The end of a novel needs to be satisfactory to the reader.  Most readers love a happy ending, but there are those endings that feel "right" even when they aren't textbook "happy" in terms of their content.  I think my favorite ending that isn't happy is that in "The Thorn Birds" because it's right.  It's about a love that lasts a lifetime and the book spans a lifetime in its study of generations of families.

I do remember not feeling completely happy at the end of "The Count of Monte Cristo" when Dantes doesn't go after his first love Mercedes (because his character has grown and he's a better person!)  Totally shallow of me, but I wanted to see him get his love back -- even though she's too shallow for him and she's regressed I suppose.

What book, even one that you loved, did you want to fix the ending of?

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Monday, October 15, 2012
Kara  Mom at lighthouse
Kara posted a picture on Facebook the other day when she was in the Lihue airport getting ready to fly home from Kauai. It was of the scene of the great M & M caper. The last time we went to Hawaii together, I had Dave's precious stash of peanut M & Ms in my purse. I was trying to adjust things in my purse, and grabbed what I THOUGHT was the top of the bag. It was the BOTTOM of the bag and I upended nearly a full 56 oz bag of them all over the floor. I was frantically trying to pick them up, and the security guys told me they would handle it. Fifteen minutes later we were sitting at the gate waiting to board the plane for home, and a voice over the speaker said, "Candy cleanup at security checkpoint." We all burst into giggles and laughed again every time we thought about it. :)
Kara said she giggled the entire time she was in the terminal. I know I'm never going to live it down! But you know, that's what makes precious memories, right? If I could eliminate that intense embarrassing moment, I wouldn't because remembering brings us such joy and binds us together in the human experience. All the things we do that connect us to those we love will take on almost a mythic quality at some point. We'll always have that memory to laugh about. So I thought it would be fun to hear about YOUR embarrassing moments. The ones that still make you turn red or laugh. Come on, you know you want to share them! :)
Colleen Coble  
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Thursday, October 11, 2012

I'm not sharing this picture because I particularly like the way I look in it, especially since it no longer looks much like me. I'm sharing it because it was taken by my favorite man beneath a sycamore tree at Jolly Mill, Missouri. The tiny historical mill town--which is now a privately owned park--is the setting for the books I've been writing the past couple of years, with the permission of the park board. The place intrigues me because of the amount of history that has taken place there, including my own. I went to high school nearby, and when I was a freshman, we were initiated by the upperclassmen. Those they could grab, they would drive to Jolly Mill and dump them into Capps Creek from the old bridge. The tradition ended my freshman year because a friend of mine was dropped a little too hard and sprained her ankle in the foot-deep water.

Local residents have built beautiful homes into the cliffs above the old mill and the creek, in a gated community in the middle of the countryside. I love to return to this park whenever I need inspiration, because just listening to the birdsong and walking along the older buildings, strolling beside the creek, can start my imagination jumping into story mode.

What places inspire you? I've always loved the Grand Canyon and hiked it nine times, but since eight of those nine times I've gotten sick, I've kind of lost my passion for it. I do love Branson, which isn't far from us, and we go there quite a bit, but I don't go to shows, I just love to stay there and relax away from home. I love Colorado, but the moose on the hiking trails scare me. Things change. My favorite places change.

Have your favorites changed over the years? Any input you'd like to share with us?

Hannah Alexander  
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I love my grandson's imagination! He is five years old and full of dreams. In one afternoon he can pilot through gray skies over a war-torn area or be on the lookout for avenging pirates on the high seas.

That's what reading fiction does for me. It takes me somewhere, far from the laundry, the barking dog, the effects of chemo.  That's why I read it . . . to escape.

I also like to read non-fiction. But I read it to learn and grow and hopefully reshape my character.

Sometimes I find myself going back to the same author because he or she takes me to that place where I want to go. Maybe I want to be wrapped in someone else's drama besides my own. :-) But most of all, I want a book that will grip me until the very end--where I absolutely cannot put it down.

So here's my question. What do you love about the book you're reading now? What is holding you to those pages and keeping you there to the end? In other words, why do you keep reading?

Diann Hunt  
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Tuesday, October 09, 2012

DSCF0039 retouchedgot to know Michelle Lim at a writer’s retreat in Duluth this past summer. She is an awesome brainstormer and has written Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel. She’s giving away a copy of her amazing book. Comment on the blog, and we will pick the winner!

1.Michelle, you recently helped me brainstorm Silent Night, my new Rock Harbor digital novella coming at the end of next month. Your brainstorming prowess amazed me! How did you learn to brainstorm so well?

First, Colleen thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to brainstorm with you and be a guest on your blog. It is a real treat to brainstorm with the author of some of my favorite books Abomination and the Rock Harbor Series.

The first part of my journey started with the love of stories. My grandmother belonged to several book clubs when I was a young girl and she let us borrow books to our hearts content.

My sister and I had summer reading contests topping over a hundred chapter books from the time we were preteens. Nothing ever can replace the number of stories your mind has encountered.

Then my mom and I brainstormed from the time I began writing. She is absolutely an amazing brainstormer and I learned a ton from her as well.

2.What are the 4 most important steps to brainstorming?

*Don’t censor your ideas. This is probably one of the most difficult things for some writers, but it is vital. It is a bit like fast drafting. You don’t stop to decide which ideas belong, but just let them flow. No matter how crazy they might seem.

*Blurt in a continuous stream. Think of it as playing Pictionary or other blurting type games. Just keep talking.

*Don’t stop too early. You may come up with a great idea, but there may be an even better one. Keep blurting beyond your first great idea.

*Brainstorm in small chunks. Pick one thing to brainstorm about whether a scene, a character, a location, etc. This will help you avoid being overwhelmed.

3.In your experience, how many people are needed for an effective brainstorming session?
Two individuals with a strong sense of story can be enough for an effective brainstorm session, but three to six is probably the optimum range. I wouldn’t go with more than eight or it will just get overwhelming.

4.I loved your fringe plot. Please explain what that is to our readers.

Thanks, Colleen. Fringe plotting is one of my favorite strategies. Fringe plot conflict is simply something that comes from the edges or outside of the story that is unexpected but believable.

Twists are often found in this strategy. It is the moment when a tornado is directly in the path of your crime scene. Believable if you live in tornado alley and that just increases the time conflict.

5.Loved your chapter on secrets. What’s the most important thing to remember about brainstorming them? 

As you are brainstorming secrets blurt like anything else, but when selecting what to use in your story analyze its impact. In order for the secret to matter enough to change a character’s behavior in an unpredictable way, the secret must embarrass them or cause them serious harm if revealed.

6.What is your favorite type of villain?

I haven’t met a villain that I don’t love to write. I suppose that is slightly crazy, but it is true. Unraveling the villain and how they became a villain is something I enjoy.

If I had to pick a favorite, I would probably choose the revenge villain or the dark & twisted villain. These villains allow for a lot of mood setting scenes, spiritual truth parallels, and the slow unraveling of how they became who they are today.

7.How do you create a cliffhanger?

To writing a cliffhanger there are three easy steps:

*Identify the problem the POV character has going forward in the story.
*Stop before the problem is solved.
*Add a line to give it punch.

In Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel I give lots of examples of this strategy and exercises to work on cliffhangers in your own novel.

I loved your book, Michelle! Thanks so much for coming by to visit!
It’s my pleasure, Colleen. I can’t wait to read your new Rock Harbor Novella, Silent Night!

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Colleen Coble  
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Monday, October 08, 2012
Coming January 2013!
Are you an influencer? I have 2 advanced copies of Secretly Smitten to give away! Here's how you enter the drawing:

1. Tell me what you can do to promote Secretly Smitten such as post reviews, blog about it, host a Secretly Smitten book club, make a YouTube video, Tweet about it, etc. Be creative!

2. Leave your email address

That's it! Here's a blurb of Secretly Smitten, cowritten by BFFs Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, and Denise Hunter.

Return to Smitten, Vermont, a quaint New England town where love always finds a way.

While visiting their mother for Sunday dinner, sisters Tess, Zoe, and Clare Thomas discover a pair of dog tags belonging to their grandmother's first love---a soldier who was killed in action years ago. But how had his dog tags found their way to Smitten? The Thomas women are determined to solve the mystery. But will they also be smitten by love along the way?

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Denise Hunter  
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Wednesday, October 03, 2012
It's been 25 years since "The Princess Bride" graced the screen.  This is truly a story that has something for everyone.  If you can't quote at least one line, I don't know where you've been.  There are few stories that have such widespread appeal, and cross genres (comedy, romance, adventure, hero's journey.)

What is your favorite aspect of this movie?  And is there another movie that you think crosses the genres as well?
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Monday, October 01, 2012
Colleen Daisy Carol Award 2012Colleen Carol Award 2012
The ACFW conference was last weekend, and I'm still smiling from it. One thing is clear: writers are weird. No one understands writers like other writers. We look at things in a different way. We can discuss plot and character endlessly, and no one thinks we're weird. When conference times rolls around, we're all out of our cages. Even the introverts among us are talking with animation. And need I say there is much coffee drinking going on? We never book a hotel for conference unless it has a coffee shop. That's a stipulation our conference director Robin Miller knows well. :)

Conference ended with some major news being announced in the publishing world: the HarperCollins acquisition is going to include merging the fiction departments under our own Daisy Hutton as publisher. And speaking of Daisy Hutton, I wish I could get across how terrific she is! It's not only that she's super smart, but she's WISE. She knows books and she knows publishing. She was the perfect choice to put in this position. I love the way she empowers my team--and me! The fiction merger was a surprise to most of us, but it's a logical decision by Mark Schoenwald. Nelson has a team dedicated only to fiction. They live, breathe and eat story. I'm excited about what the possibilities might hold with the teamwork we see beginning! And I can speak from experience when I say it's super helpful to have a marketing and publicity team that thinks outside the box about marketing fiction. Just before conference started, Daisy promoted my wonderful publicist Katie Bond to Marketing/Publicity Manager, and she couldn't have made a better decision. Katie will handle this job better than anyone else I could imagine in that position.

The Middle Grade and children's departments will remain separate, so my Tommy Nelson projects will stay with my current editors. Shew! We don't know what will happen with sales yet for sure. I'm hoping and praying my friends in sales will all still have jobs when this shakes down.

One thing we all know is that there have been some major changes in publishing. Change can be scary, but I'm learning to embrace it. My editor and dear friend Ami McConnell is energized by change. I'm beginning to think she's right. When Allen Arnold announced he was leaving for a ministry position, I couldn't see how we could possibly go on. (A bit dramatic here, aren't I? LOL But I cried for days.) THEN DAISY CAME. And now I see how Ami and the entire department are blooming and growing. And I'm growing as well, growing in faith that God has this all in hand, ready to grow and reach for the next writing goal. I sometimes forget my life's verse Romans 8:28. ALL things work for my good. Not just the changes I like and embrace. God has great plans for us and the new stronger team. Why did I even doubt it? Because I get buried in the day to day and often don't look for his hand in these circumstances. But it's there when I bother to look.

What is changing in your life right now that you hate? Can you take a look at it and see how God might use it?
Colleen Coble  
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The trouble with Cowboys by Denise Hunter "The Trouble with Cowboys" releases tomorrow-Yipppeee! I'm so eager to hear what readers think of my final Big Sky book.

With the release, lots of giveaways are happening. I'm giving away 15 signed copies to random members of my newsletter tomorrow, so sign up now if you haven't already.

Also, I'm hosting a Facebook Party on Oct. 12 at 8pm EST and giving away a Kindle Fire, books, and gift certificates! Details here Click "join" and show up on Oct. 11 to go behind the scenes with me and get a sneak peek at my new series, launching next June.

I hope to see you there!

Denise Hunter  
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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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