Girls Write Out
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Everyone has been talking about e-books. Christmas is over and we've heard it was a record breaking year for Kindle and Nook as well as myriad others in the e-book wars. I have a Kindle and love reading on it, especially when I'm traveling since I can load tons of books on it.

I received several gift cards for my Kindle in the past few months which is super fun because I can browse and get whatever I want. I was doing just that today and realized something.

I don't even like to look at the cheap e-books anymore. . .

I barely glance at the freebies before I delete the email that tells me about them. If a book isn't at least $2.99, I'm not interested. The $5 -9 range is better. I've found when it comes to e-books that you get what you pay for.

Today when I was browsing at Amazon, I was annoyed to see that the bestsellers included free Kindle versions and books that were very inexpensive, even though I told it to look at only print versions. I did that deliberately to sort out Kindle books so I could make my choice on quality THEN see which ones were available on Kindle. So I can't rely on their filter to help me figure out what books are worth buying. So as we enter this brave new world, if you want to call it that, it's going to be more and more difficult to find good books.

That's my main beef about the self-publishing trend. We need good editors! Getting a book to print takes a village. :) And it especially takes top notch editing. I'm not talking about just typos but the substantive edit that makes a story bigger and better. By the time my books hit the shelves they have gone through myriad readings by more people than I even know. But even more importantly, my editor has deemed them good enough to put on the shelf.

Do you have any techniques for finding books in a genre that you like that are well written AND actually edited? What has been your experience with buying e-books? My daughter is at the same place--she has found so many of the free or cheap books are only worth that. Are you finding it hard to find books you actually want to read for your Kindle or Nook?

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 7:05 PM  
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Sunday, January 29, 2012

You may remember when we Smitten girls went on our retreat in the fall. Besides brainstorming the second Smitten story, we were also there to shoot a video which our publisher had arranged for.

Here you'll see we were able to capture a whole 5 minutes of worthwhile material from over an hour of nerves and giggles. We were lucky to get that. Our editor Ami McConnell was there, giving direction--and believe me, we needed it.

Kristin laments a goof that made it into the final cut, but listen, when you're nervous and a camera's rolling, there's no telling what will slide off the tongue.

Last week in an interview, I encouraged listeners to buy Smitten on audio and listen to it during their commute instead of the radio--did I mention this was during a radio interview? Fortunately, they couldn't see me beating my head on the fridge at my stupidity, even as the words were leaving my mouth.

So, be amazed that the video crew managed to salvage five minutes of film. All I can say is, I wouldn't want to see the cutting room floor.

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:07 PM  
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

With so many changes happening in the publishing industry, writers and publishers alike are nervous. What will happen if eBooks continue with the art department for the beautiful covers and selected fonts inside of the book? What will happen to editing? How will a reader know if something has been edited or thrown out there by someone who claims to be "published" and has just thrown their book on the Internet? It's all a lot of the unknown and we all wait with bated breath.

I'm sure things will sort themselves out soon enough. I own a Kindle, but I still prefer a real book. I like the "pretty" of a book. Its cover and its design interior, so I'm not wanting to see this industry completely go electronic. Although I will say, it's easier to read the Kindle in the bathtub, but then again, I haven't dropped it yet.

My biggest concern is for the publishing houses and my editors. I don't think a non-writer can understand the beauty of a good editor. She knows your voice and she can fill in things for you. She can remind you where you haven't tied up loose threads and she will make the book 100 times better than it could have been. This is my biggest concern. For them and for the quality of the books. You don't want to see my books without editing.

As a reader, what concerns you about the brave new world of books?
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Kara and I have been on a Downton Abbey kick all week. We watched all the first season episodes and have one final episode to watch tonight to be caught up. Being so enthralled in these characters' lives was in sharp contrast to another movie we watched Sunday afternoon. We watched The House of Sand and Fog. There was not one likable character in the whole movie. I wouldn't have watched it for more than fifteen minutes but my daughter left it on so I watched it with her. I complained all the way through the movie about how weak and stupid Kathy, the main character, was.

But in Downton Abbey, even when the characters do things that I think are wrong or stupid, I'm still rooting for them because they are displaying some kind of action and strength. I want to throttle Mary for tossing over Matthew and being so petty with Edith. And Edith needs a throttling as well for what she's done. But in spite of their shortcomings, they are strong. They take action. They are admirable for that reason and I'm invested in their lives now. They are movers and shakers. Unlike Kathy in The House of Sand and Fog. She is weak and whiny and lets the wind carry her to the next mistake.

So that's my opinion of a likable character. He/she has to display some kind of strength. I didn't even feel sorry for Kathy. I wanted to kick her to the curb. LOL How about you? What makes you like a character?

And P.S. Blue Moon Promise is shipping to stores this week. I hope you LIKE Lucy!

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Colleen Coble  
posted at 2:16 PM  
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Monday, January 23, 2012
Some seasons are declared the warmest on record, others the coldest. I'm not sure if they keep track of these things, but I think this winter should be declared the weirdest on record.

It started around here (Indiana) with a big snowfall way before Thanksgiving then led right into the holidays which featured mild springlike weather. Santa got disoriented when he visited Christmas Eve and thought he was in Georgia.

We were stunned after Christmas to drive into Vermont for skiing and research and find--no snow. We prayed, however, maybe too much, because the next day 10" fell. :)

New York was springlike on New Years Eve and so was Indiana when we returned home. We finally got a decent ground covering last week. I should mention, by mid January, most Hoosiers are usually sick to death of snow. Not this year. Especially the kids, who haven't had a single snow day.

Then last night, the ground covered with snow, I was awakened by two unexpected sounds. One, some of the loudest thunder I've ever heard. Two, Daisy, giving a sharp bark somewhere in the vicinity of my ear. She's not fond of storms.

All this during a winter that was supposed to include more snow storms, high snowfalls, and extreme temperatures. But winter isn't over yet, and if there's anything I've learned about Indiana weather, anything can change at a moment's notice.
Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:19 AM  
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Friday, January 20, 2012
I'll tell you right now, I hate competing, especially if the competition is against a friend I wouldn't want to hurt. And that's not to say I'd win any competition. Some, of course, are a no-brainer. I could eat my weight in maraschino cherries, and Mel can't stand them, so I'd win that contest without even a showdown.

My mother has a caretaker, Bonnie, who comes to our home every day to help us with Mom. I discovered a sad part of her character the other day--she loves sour balls, sour suckers, sour teas. That's not so bad, I don't suppose. We all have our weaknesses. I'm champion maraschino cherry eater (and cherry seed spitter, but that's a more romantic story about how I won Mel over during our courtship.) But when my husband AND Mom's caretaker compete against one another to see who can suck on a sour sucker the longest without making a face, I can't help wondering what this world has come to.

My favorite source of food competition is hot stuff. Not only hot Mexican sauces of some kind, but horseradish or wasabi sauce that can take the skull right off the top of your head and set it back in place backward.

You can take your ball games and your races and your speed writing. Give me a good ol' eating contest any day until the smoke is catching your hair on fire or your jaw is splitting from the tartness of a cherry sucker.

What's your pleasure when it comes to food competition?

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Hannah Alexander  
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Birthdays are such fun. No matter how old I get, I still look forward to my birthday. These days, I'm just happy to have one! :-)

So in honor of Colleen's Birthday, I thought we might share a favorite birthday memory. I can't say I have a particular favorite, but my best memories are of our family gathered around a table laden with cake and candles, napkins, balloons, and remembering our kids' wide-eyed excitement as they gave me their gifts. Special bonding time. Tradition. That's what birthdays are all about. Letting people you love know that you care about them and you are happy they were born.

So let's have a party in honor of Colleen!! Share your birthday memory. Maybe it was someone else's birthday that you want to share. That's okay, too. Let's have fun!

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Diann Hunt  
posted at 8:11 AM  
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Confession: I LOVE a good Gothic romance. HEATHCLIFF!!! The latest Jane Eyre was really good, too. Now, there's a new movie coming out and I saw a trailer for it last night. It's called, "The Woman in Black" and my son was in the room when the commercial came on and said, "Oh Mom, that looks like your kind of movie."

It's English. It's creepy. It IS my kind of movie. Jane Peart once did a fabulous Gothic series in the CBA . She was the author of "The Montclair Brides" series and one of my very favorites when I started reading Christian fiction. She's gone to be with Lord now, but I always remembered how she transitioned and it worked.

I really liked "Her Fearful Symmetry" by the author of "The Time Traveler's Wife" for the same reasons. It was set in an English cemetery, and just had that element of the outer-worldly combined with day-to-day living. I have always loved the Gothic novel, but then I remember so did Jane Austen, and that resulted in "Mansfield Park" (which is not a great book.) And I think if Jane couldn't do it, what makes me think I can?

Do you have a genre that you really enjoy, but doesn't seem to fit your character? Do you know of any great Gothic novels I may have missed?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I have a new book shipping to stores this week! Don't you love the cover? :)

But it made me think about how tastes change in the readership. Every few years things switch between historical being popular and then swinging back to contemporary. Historicals have been popular for several years now and I have to say I'm not tired of them yet. I've been craving historical movies too. When Kara was home for Christmas we had a marathon of historical movies.

I'm especially fond of turn of the century stuff and what goes on in manors. LOL I love the ins and outs of relationships. The drama, the turmoil of secrets coming to light. Love it!

How about you? Do you have a favorite genre in movies or books right now? If so, why does it draw you?


Colleen Coble  
posted at 11:46 AM  
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Sunday, January 15, 2012
I hate grocery shopping. That's no surprise to anyone in our household where, "When are you going to the store?" is the most common question uttered.

I love it, on occasion, when Kevin makes a grocery run, say 1 or 2 times a year. (He says 3 or 4--and I'm bad with numbers so who knows?) He leaves, and I settle on the sofa, pull out a novel, and wallow in the fact that I'm here, on my comfy sofa, with a lovely book in my hands, and he's milling through aisles and aisles of products that he'll pay through the nose for, products that will evaporate from our shelves in 12 minutes flat.

While I'm lounging in luxury, I always forget what comes next. I don't know why, but I always do.

See, there are certain items I never buy. Never. They are too tempting for my weak self. Oreos. Twinkies. Fritos. Cheetos. Doritos. Any kind of Tos. Hostess cupcakes. Those pink snowball things. Circus Peanuts. Totino's Pizza. Sweedish Fish. The list goes on.

Kevin, not knowing my numerous achilles heels, brings them home, unloads them into our pantry. Then off he goes to work, far away, where he can't see the food, smell the food, or hear the food murmuring sweet nothings, and leaves me to fend off the yummy treats all day. I, with said treats in the house, am like a dog in a room made of peanut butter. I do not win this battle.

So, next time I must get in the car and run the hated errand, I will remember that at least I'll get to choose which foods will be calling my name for the next week. I will win the Hostess battle at the grocery so I don't have to fight the war at home. That is the only way I'll win.

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 10:35 PM  
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Downton Abbey is back, and with it, inspiration for all who write. If you're not familiar with Downton Abbey, it's on Masterpiece and very much like "Upstairs, Downstairs." We know the goings-on in the great house for the servants and the masters and it's most entertaining.

It's such a great metaphor for how life is -- how there is the home life that is presented and then, the reality. The reality is people create a lot of their own drama. It reminds me of the first line in "Anna Karenina" which is "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I notice when a family is happy, the media will do its utmost to tear that apart. Case in point: Joel Osteen was on Oprah's new show on the OWN network. Joel is a generally happy person. The kind of person who is so happy, you almost don't believe it, but I think that's who he is. Naturally, Oprah had to bring up Scripture and what he thinks about gay people.

In the end, his hour-long interview and the discussion on running the biggest church in the world is curtailed by his view of what Scripture says. It's really hard to have an opinion that doesn't gel with society's. Modern-day McCarthyism. But what struck me about the interview is that we as a society, really hate to see a happy family. And what a terrible crisis that is for our country. The desire to tear others down is a natural, sinful instinct and how sad for us.

Drama is great in fiction, but wouldn't it be nice if we could leave it there instead of tear others apart? I vote that we all watch "Downton Abbey" instead!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I've gone to Kansas City to brainstorm with some fellow authors for years now. This is a pic of our 10th year. From the back left, Stephanie Grace Whitson, Nancy Moser, Deborah Raney, Judith Miller, Me, Doris Fell (Till) and Rene Gutteridge. We had a great time and I had some super ideas for the book I'm working on. We always go to Nancy's house, and one of the most fun parts of the weekend is cooking dinner together on Saturday night.

One of the most, um, interesting things that happened this past weekend was a fire alarm blaring at one a.m. It was LOUD. Excruciatingly loud. So loud I had to cover my ears. We smelled no smoke and heard no one shouting or anything. There was no accompanying intercom message about this being not a drill so Dave got up and went to check it out. I stayed in the room because we were on the first floor anyway so we could get out the window if we needed to. We found out it was a false alarm but they couldn't get the stupid thing shut off. It went on and on. I got more and more annoyed because we were going to get on the road to AZ the next morning.

I got up and sat on the sofa with my hands over my ears. The blaring just wouldn't quit. It went on for an HOUR. While I was sitting there, the thought occurred to me about how similar this was to hearing the gospel. People get so used to hearing a warning about eternity that they ignore the alarm just like I was ignoring the fire bell. How many times have I ignored other nudges from the Holy Spirit too? I was so convicted I went to the lobby. LOL

What about you? Have you gotten so used to ignoring nudges from God that you've gotten hardened? What has God been trying to tell you lately?

Oh and I love Springhill Suites in Overland Park, KS. They were so apologetic to everyone that they didn't charge us for the night!


Colleen Coble  
posted at 11:24 AM  
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Sunday, January 08, 2012

This is a billboard we saw as we were driving into NYC over the holidays. I'm not here to bash Herman Cain; I don't know what he has or hasn't done, but well, OUCH.

When I saw the sign I couldn't help but think about  everything the man lost for the cost (presumably) of some sinful pleasure. He had a shot at the presidency of the United States, but that's all gone up in smoke now. If he'd known the cost, would he have made different choices? 

The thing is, the cost is always higher than we think it will be. Sin is not our friend. It will take us further than we ever wanted to go, keep us longer than we ever wanted to stay, and cost us more than we can ever pay. 

Just ask Herman Cain . . . or any of us for that matter. 

If we could only count the cost before we fall for the lie--and it IS a lie. I have a good imagination; I should be able to dream up some pretty awful consequences--I do it for my characters all the time. And we can all thank God that when I do fail, our sin isn't posted on a billboard for millions to see. 

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 7:23 PM  
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Thursday, January 05, 2012
I know we've talked about where we get story ideas on here before but yesterday something was so real to me I just have to share.

I've been reading a book on what's going on in Israel right now. I know the conflict is over land, but I just didn't get what it was all about until I started reading this book.

My heart aches for civilians (women and children!) living in a place of constant turmoil and fear.

Okay, so all this has been on my mind lately. I took my grandson yesterday to school with me to pick up my granddaughters. While we were waiting in line to pick them up, we noticed two men on the roof of the school, sweeping. They were wrapped in woolen scarves, gloves, hat and thick coats. My grandson said, "Are they soldiers, Nanny?"

I thought that interesting. From a distance, they did look like soldiers. The broom handles resembled rifles. For a fleeting moment, it was scary. It caused me to whisper a prayer for those in war-torn countries. It also sent ideas swimming around in my head. But then I don't write those kinds of stories. No soldiers in romantic comedy (unless he's a hero). :-)

Well, I just had to share my soldier story, it was so real. Have you ever had anything like that, something you saw, read, or whatever, spark your imagination?
Diann Hunt  
posted at 8:45 AM  
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Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Every story needs conflict, and often that calls for a villain or two. Maybe your villain isn't out murdering people (Colleen!) Maybe they're only a catty bridesmaid at a wedding who gives your heroine the stink eye -- they still have to be believable.

What makes us believe a person could inflict evil on another? Usually, it's some internal wounding that the villain carries around with them, but you've got to find that motivation to make your villain or antagonist, multi-dimensional. For example, let's take a man who is a huge presence on the forefront of Christian Evangelicals. He is a master preacher. People are moved by his words to love God more and one day, he leaves his wife and five kids for a beauty queen. Without explanation or any sign of remorse.

There are two multiple ways you could go with his motivation for inflicting such evil on the people he is called to love and cherish. (Keep in mind, this would be the kind of villainy that could have a lot of collateral damage.)

1. He realizes his faith has never been more than a show. He is a fraud, and he wants to get away, but doesn't know how. So he takes the coward's way out because he doesn't want people to tell him that he can come back. He's been preaching the Word for years, he knows what it says. He no longer believes it, and feels it's more honorable to give his wife a chance with someone who can love the Lord and her.

2. Or...the teenager could have been in danger from a trafficking ring, and he has taken her as a bride to protect her because he knows the group would not dare come after the girl when he is under surveillance for the huge scandal.

3. He has attachment issues from a lifetime of being passed around from foster home to foster home and though he wants to be there for his kids and give them a different life, his need to matter is bigger and he can't fight it anymore. He's given his kids more than he ever had, and rationalizes that his wife can sell the house and live for years on the profits.

You get the idea. Find a reason your antagonist acts the way they do. Don't just make them villains. We ALL have the ability to inflict evil. The question is, what would make us do it?

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posted at 7:39 PM  
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Sunday, January 01, 2012

The opening of a story has many jobs. It should connect the reader with the protagonist, establish setting, set the tone of the story, and pique the reader’s curiosity.

Of all those jobs, the one I enjoy most is piquing the reader’s curiosity. When most beginners are starting out, they tend to pour all the information they know into the first chapter—that was me 15 years ago. This is a sure way to kill your story from the get go.

Instead of dumping out everything you think your readers need to know, dole it out slowly, sprinkling in just enough to make them curious. This is what will keep them reading. If there’s a past event that's causing your protagonist to behave oddly in the first chapter, your reader doesn’t need to know every detail of that event—yet. Hint at it with a line or two here and there, each time giving another clue.  Save the full reveal for later in the book when the reader is invested and dying to know to whole story.

This takes some practice. How much do you hold back? How much do you tell and when? The best way to get a feel for this is to be aware of it when you’re reading others’ books. When your opening is finished, find a critique partner and see if you got it right or if it needs some tweaking. 

Below is first chapter of “The Accidental Bride” which releases on Tuesday (YAY!). See if you can spot the lines that pique your curiosity.

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Denise Hunter  
posted at 9:39 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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