Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ask Cheryl a Question: Overcoming Fear

Sometimes fear keeps me from writing. How do I overcome it?

Great question. In one form or another fear is probably the number one culprit that keeps us from going after our dreams. Fear is often insidious, disguised as procrastination or poor time management, but it can be debilitating in any form. I guess the first thing is figuring out what are you afraid of.

For the beginner: Are you afraid of trying to write because you might find out you’re not very good at it? Are you concerned you might give it your all and never get published? Recognizing that something is holding you back is a huge step. Now take another one and figure out exactly what it is you’re worried will happen.

First, understand this: The first thing you write won’t be publishable. Neither will the first book, most likely (okay it does happen) and maybe not the second. But you will never learn, you will never grow, you will never know that you can, until you put the words on the paper. It took me a long time to figure this out, so if I can teach you this and it sticks, I’ll consider my job done: They are only words. You can write more.

Repeat it: They are only words. If they’re not great, you can toss them out and write more. There are plenty more words where those came from. Thousands, millions, in all sorts of combinations and patterns. You don’t have to get them all right the first time.

Whenever a new member joins my RWA chapter or my critique group, I understand their nervousness. I was in their shoes once. I make it a point to tell them: We all started out in the same place. Years ago my brother knew I was writing, and he brought me a newspaper article of a published author whose husband had been transferred to the air force base in my city and she was starting an RWA chapter. I’d never heard of RWA. I was too inexperienced and uncertain to even call the contact number. Another year or more went by and one of the chapter members was featured in the Sunday paper. My brother brought me that one, too and said, “You have to get with these people.”

It took me weeks to get the courage to call. And when I did, I got an answering machine and hung up without leaving a message. I felt completely out of my league. I knew I’d be stepping into a world of English majors and professional people, and I was just little old me making up stories on my old electric typewriter.

Well, I finally did it. I made the call and left a message. The woman called me back and she was warm and welcoming and delightful. I went to my first meeting with my knees knocking and learned everyone there was someone like me – someone just making up stories for the pure love of it. It was months later when I finally showed a manuscript to that founding published author and she Xed out page after page and wrote “nothing happening” in red in the margins. That hurt. She also showed me the things I did well, and showed me how to change and fix and rework the story. She was the first person who said to me, “You can do this.” Her name was Diane Wicker Davis, a warm Southern lady who mentored other writers and shared her knowledge. She passed away last year and everyone who knew her remembers her laugh and her encouragement.

I pushed on after her critique, learning, studying, rewriting, until a few years had slipped by and a stack of rejections had piled up. I can remember becoming frustrated and being so hungry for someone to tell me I could do this thing.

No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to sell a book, publish fifty more or be a success. As much as we’d love for there to be, there’s no writer’s crystal ball to foretell the future. We all wonder if we have the stuff it takes. As beginners we wonder if we have an inkling of talent. Once other writers and readers validate our talent, we still wonder if it’s good enough, if we have what it takes. It’s good to acknowledge that we don’t know it all and to have a desire to learn and grow. But sometimes doubt holds us back. We shoot ourselves in the foot by creating and feeding feelings of inadequacy, by being unwilling to stick our neck out there and show our work. Submission requires opening ourselves up to criticism and rejection. I know a few writers who don’t even submit for fear of rejection.

Confidence comes with practice and with maturity.

Consider an athlete. He might have a desire to run a hundred meter race. So he goes out and gives it a shot, but he doesn’t do very well. Why not? He didn’t practice! He didn’t study how other runners achieve endurance through diet and exercise. He doesn’t know how good he really is until he’s trained by learning all he can, eating properly for energy and muscle and all that -- and after he’s ready, after he’s prepared, stretching to limber up and then RUNNING. Then running again and again and again until he’s fast and he knows he’s fast, and he’s ready to compete.

In many ways submitting a book is a lot like that. Your manuscript will be compared to all the others that cross an editor’s desk. It will be scrutinized for its ability to make the publishing house money in the marketplace. The only way you can have the confidence to know you’re submitting something with a chance of making it past that test is to learn your craft and practice, practice, practice. Work at writing and work at it until you get better, until you hit your personal stride.

Sure, sometimes self-doubt is much deeper, it’s inadequacies we’ve carried with us from childhood and relationships and past hurts and experiences. But there’s help for those things, too, in recognizing it and getting help if need be and working on it. You’re a valuable person. You’re worth it. You deserve to give yourself the gift of improving yourself and reaching for your dream.

What else holds you back?

Fear of Embarrassment
Honesty time. This is actually your pride getting the best of you. We all had to start somewhere. We all wrote crap when we first started--well most of us anyway. When babies first learn to feed themselves and walk, we don’t make fun of them; they don’t know any better. You didn’t get on a bicycle the first time and smoothly take off.

Training wheels aren’t embarrassing to a four-year-old. Why do we think our first attempts at writing are humiliating? You have to be willing to make mistakes.
You have to be willing to be bad. You can fix bad. You can’t fix nothing.

Sometimes we’re just our own worst enemy!

Fear of Failure
What if I do the very best I can, give it my all, and fail? Failure means to fall short; failure is a lack of success. This is where your thinking needs to change. Set realistic goals, which is another entire subject. If we go back and look at the realistic goals we planned for ourselves, we can see where we didn’t fall short in our commitment or resolve or our mission. If you take the steps you planned to reach your goal, you succeed in doing the things that are within your control. Taking that action reduces fear and increases your options. Since failure is defined as an omission to perform an expected action, you haven’t failed if you’ve taken the steps to reach your goal.

Failure is not in being rejected; it’s in not taking the steps.
You can succeed by changing your thinking and your self-defeating behaviors.

And here’s the question I’m famous for asking. I ask it of myself and then I ask if of others who hesitate: WHAT IS THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?

Okay, people, we’re talking about writing a book here, not jumping the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle! The worst thing that could happen?

Your first three chapters could suck bilge water and need to be thrown out. Remember, I said there are more words where those came from.

It could take you three years to sell a book once you know how. This is my story – it is so bad?

You could write four books over twice as many years, not sell a one and give up. So? You met wonderful people, you had a great time, you learned a lot, and you stayed out of the casino. What was the worst thing about that?

I’m giving you things to think about. I’m asking you to face your fears. I’m suggesting you take steps to put doubt and lack of confidence under your feet and stomp on them a few times -- then don’t pick them up and resuscitate them!

Fear is a lack of knowledge. Learn all you can about yourself, about how you work and the things that get you motivated or the things that hold you back and then take the menace out of them by taking positive action to put them behind you.

How do you want to do things differently to see better results?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Just a nomal Saturday morning

So, I saw this picture in a magazine and I had an idea....

All we have to do is cut the tops off these gargantuan pumpkins.

We can save the seeds and grow our own giant pumkins next year!

Ah ha! How cool is that?

I bought a lavender mum and a purple mum to plant inside. Had a couple spikes and black sweet potato vines.

They are WAY heavier filled with dirt. (Dirt is heavier than seeds - duh.)

Then they have to be set just so....

Ta da!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall Meals: Hearty Crock Pot Stew

3 medium onions, cut into thin wedges
2 pounds meaty chicken pieces, skinned
1 1/2 cups diced cooked ham (8 ounces)
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14 ounce can chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon bottled hot pepper sauce
1 10-ounce package frozen sliced okra (2 cups)
1 cup frozen baby lima beans
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

In a 3 1/2- to 4-quart crockery cooker place onion. Top with chicken and ham. In a small bowl combine undrained tomatoes, broth, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, thyme, pepper, and hot pepper sauce; pour over chicken and ham.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

If desired, remove chicken; cool slightly. (Keep lid on the crockery cooker.) Remove meat from chicken bones; cut meat into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to crockery cooker; discard bones.

Add okra, lima beans, and corn to crcokery cooker. If using low-heat setting turn to high-heat setting. Cover and cook 45 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Makes 6 servings.

welcome to my world

How I was awakened this morning

Yes, it IS Batman with a lazer light.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Hi, I’m Holly Jacobs, and Cheryl graciously invited me to blog this week in honor of the release of my first Harlequin Everlasting Love book, THE HOUSE ON BRIAR HILL ROAD, and its accompanying tied, short story “The Moments.” Both stories center around the Conway family and follows them through the sweet moments in their lives together, as well as through the bittersweet.

The short story was inspired by my daughter, who’s a nurse. She called me one morning, a few years back, as she came off her shift at a children’s hospital, complaining about an intern at work. Everything is fodder for a writer. And her complaint germinated, and...well, if you pop over to to read the free short story, you’ll see how her annoyance inspired my character’s fictionalized experience.

It’s one of the questions I’m asked the most. Where do your stories come from? Well, I write fiction, so all of my stories truly come from my imagination. But they’re also all inspired from snippets and incidents in my life. I take them and turn and twist them into fiction. That’s what all writers do. They take pieces of conversations overheard in a waiting room, a song on the radio, things we love, things we hate, things and people who inspire us, situations that break our hearts...all of them go in our books.

The HOUSE ON BRIAR HILL ROAD’s inspiration is very straight forward. It was inspired by my mother-in-law and her experience with breast cancer. I wish you could have known her. Dort was a loyal, loving wife to Don, the mother of three children, and a grandmother. She was a teacher. She was a loving, kind nurturer of her students. She was devoted to her church. She was Irish, and reveled in her heritage. Her trips to Ireland were highlights. She loved to read, loved to laugh, was a wonderful friend and sister... Everyone who knew her still feels her loss at our very core almost four years later.

I wish you could have known her.

The thing is, I could go on and list all of these things and more, but they won’t let you really know Dort. I guess the best way to sum up her life is she loved deeply and was loved just as deeply in return. She was my mother-in-law, because I married her son. She was my friend and mentor because we shared that bond of love. Breast cancer took her from us too soon. Far too soon. The fact that this book comes out in October, in breast cancer awareness month, gives me a forum to remind my readers, my friends, my family, to practice BSE...breast self-examination. You can find more information on how to do it at It’s a great organization, and such a small thing that could save your family going through the pain mine did. As a small homage to Dort, I’ll be donating part of my royalties from the book to Susan G. Komen in her name.

Of all the books I’ve written, this one was the most difficult. It hit me so very near to my heart. And though all the characters and their reactions are fiction-- my husband and I only drew closer throughout Dort’s illness--you’ll see some of Dort in Kathleen. Oh, the character is totally fictional, but her’s Dort’s. That’s the best eulogy a writer can give a loved one. And believe me, Dort was loved. So, when you read the book, you’ll reach the essence of Dort. I guess, in the end, that’s as close as I can get to truly introducing you to this amazing, very missed, woman who enriched my life in so many ways.

~Holly Jacobs

The House on Briar Hill Road, Harlequin Everlasting Love, 10/08
“The Moments” a tied short story,


Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Yes, I know this is not a picture of a cookie. It's a gift for you, my blog buddies.

Delectable baking aromas are an unmistakable sign that Christmas is near. I love to bake year round. I'm always excited to try something new, but at Christmas I get nostalgic and fall back on the old reliable recipes that have become traditions.

A favorite in our family is Grandma Violet's Cookies, named after my husband's grandmother who always had a batch to pull from the freezer when we stopped by. On my yellowed index card, in Grandma Violet's distinctive handwriting, she called them Aunt Myra's Cookies. I think someday my grandchildren will call them Bama's Cookies, since it's a special treat each time I make them for the family. Whatever they're called, they don't last long! I always bake a double batch and have been known to take heart-shaped variations to booksignings on Valentine's Day as a treat for my special readers.

The recipe is included in A Western Winter Wonderland where Marvel whips up a batch with her young guests.

You know, there are a couple things I've been meaning to mention, because I just don't think you're paying attention. Remember a lo-o-o-ong time ago, I collected all of your pet names? How many of you recognized your pet names used in The Preacher's Daughter this summer? That was just for you, my blogger lovelies.

And -- remember the contest to name the hero for the Christmas novella? He is none other than SETH PAXTON, the hero of Christmas Day Family in A Western Winter Wonderland - named by WDMCuz.

Oh, and there are no reviews posted on amazon yet. You could be the first!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Guest Blogger: Jenna Kernan

From Jenna:
I might be the only author in history to begin a Christmas story with the hero shooting the heroine.
Let me explain about that (and possibly apologize). Those of you who have read my stories know I mostly write fast-paced action with details that my editor politely calls ‘gritty’.

When I was asked to join the Christmas anthology A WESTERN WINTER WONDERLAND, I was so thrilled I momentarily forgot that I’ve never tried feel-good, warm and fuzzy, home and hearth story in my life. My characters seem to be pretty much homeless for most of the book as they pursue for whatever (or whomever) it is they are hunting for.

The dust hadn’t settled from my happy dance before I recalled my shortcomings. I admit to being concerned (panic-stricken) about how to create a tender story that glowed with holiday cheer in 120 pages. Thinking of the Gift of the Magi and repeating my yoga chants did not help.

Shooting Abby in chapter one of FALLEN ANGEL might not seem like the logical first step, but it did help in two ways. I got that ‘gritty’ stuff out of my system and created a situation where Abby needed to convalesce. And what better nurse than the bounty hunter that clipped her? Okay, I hear you out there thinking, I can think of about 100 better choices and she can too, but her limited resources restrict her choices to one surly hero. Her injury forces Ford and Abby to spend a lot of quality time together (120 pages to be exact).

In defense of my hero, let me explain the shot was accidentally. She stepped between the shooter and the Ford.

So, instead of Santa with his sack, Ford clomps into town carrying a wounded woman, a crying boy and a dead body tied on his horse.

And you think your holidays are chaotic.

It gets warm and cheerful after that…I promise.




It's 7 - what are you doing here????

Name This Book

The square gift was surprisingly heavy. Dan tugged the ribbon free, peeled off the paper and opened the box. Inside was a brass apple paperweight. Engraved on the crest were two linked hearts and the words, "Two Hearts That Beat As One."

Dan looked up. Lorraine's cheeks were pink. The words were from a song they'd danced to as newlyweds. "Corny, huh?" she asked.

Shame, like a rusty blade, carved a ragged crater where he'd once had a heart. She had entrusted him with her heart, her children, her livelihood. She'd given herself unsparingly and without reservation or question. She was the most beautiful woman alive, the most precious creature who'd ever breathed.

And he had defiled her love and trust with lies.

She deserved more. She deserved better. She deserved. . .the truth.

The truth.

His throat grew tight with the paralyzing thought. A numbing fog wrapped around his brain and filtered out all but the terrifying concept. He had to tell her.

He couldn't go on like this. He couldn't live each day, each hour, each minute waiting for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, if Tom didn't regain his memory first, Dan would lose his mind. The idea whirled around in his head and left him pathetically void of anything but the tormenting thought of losing Lorraine—and her love.

"You don't like it." She lowered her eyes.

He placed a knuckle under her chin and raised it until her eyes met his. "I love it."


"Really." He couldn't tell her right now. He would tell her tomorrow. He'd find somewhere for the children to go for the day and he'd tell her then. While they were alone. With plenty of time to talk. . .and what. . .?

All he knew for sure was that he couldn't survive any more days and nights like these.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. Leaning to place the gift and wrappings on the floor, he pulled her into his arms and lay back. She turned and plunged the room into darkness. She ran her palms across his chest and down his belly. He caught her hands in one of his and brought them to his lips.

"Tom?" she asked.

He let go of her hands and covered her lips with his fingers. "Sh-h-."

If only he could hear her say his name one time.

Just once.

For fourteen years in the throes of passion while he pleasured her with his body, loved her with his heart and soul, gave her his seed and children, she'd cried his brother's name.

He knew his lack of response puzzled her. He was always ready for her touch, eager for their lovemaking. But tonight he just wanted to hold her. "I love you, Lorraine," he whispered. "Don't ever forget how much I love you."

She snuggled her head under his chin. Moonlight seeped through the half-closed mini-blinds and cast silver bars across her slender, bare legs and feet. Her wonderful fresh jasmine scent stabbed him with sorrow. With reverent fingers, he stroked her thick, silken hair and knew when she fell asleep. Sleep, my love. You need your rest.

He needed to have her close now. While she still needed him, still loved him, still thought her life was secure and happy. Sleep, my sweet, Lorraine. Tomorrow I'm going to tell you something that will hurt you more than anything you've ever known. Tomorrow I'm going to break your heart.

Frozen Lemonade Squares

Frozen Lemonade Squares

18 squares low fat graham crackers, finely crushed (about 1-1/4 cups crumbs)
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
1 qt. (4 cups) frozen vanilla yogurt, softened
1 can (6 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup thawed Lite Cool Whip

MIX graham crumbs and margarine. Press firmly onto bottom of 9-inch square pan.

BEAT yogurt and lemonade concentrate in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Spread over crust.

FREEZE 4 hours or until firm. Cut into squares. Top each square with a dollop of whipped topping. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs and lemon slices, if desired. Store leftover dessert in freezer.

A Western Winter Wonderland

A Family For Christmas


Book trailer for Western Winter Wonderland Anthology...

CHOCOLATE 101: How Chocolate is Made

Looking at a cacao tree it's hard to imagine that the world's favorite treat starts out here. It's a really funny-looking tree. It has colorful, rugby ball-shaped pods which sprout from the trunk and hang on the branches. The pods are so big it looks as if they defy gravity, jutting straight out of the trunk and suspended from the tree's thin branches.

But inside those pods is where chocolate magic begins. Each pod houses about 40 cacao beans, also called cocoa beans. Inside the pod the beans are covered in sticky, white, sweet and tart tasting pulp which looks odd but actually is critical to the ultimate development of the bean's flavor.

Growing cacao requires skilled labor and dedication. The tree needs shade to thrive so it must be planted next to taller trees whose leaves will protect it from direct sun and high wind. Pests and disease can be a huge problem and account for a loss of nearly one-third of the world's crop every year.

A tree must be five or six years old before it will bear fruit. Even then, it is not exactly a production machine. Each tree bears about 30 usable pods a year, which translates to roughly 1000 beans a year. It takes 500 beans to make 1 pound of bittersweet chocolate — so in the best of circumstances, each tree produces beans for only 2 pounds of chocolate.

Read about harvest, fermentation, drying and the market by clicking here.

Info from

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday Morning in My Garden




It clouded up and sprinkled after I shot these, so I took these at the perfect time with just the right muted morning light.

Premiere Week - what's a viewer to do?

Wouldn't you know, just to make the choices more difficult, Hallmark Channel is running western week against the new season premieres! So, okay, those of you who have read my blog long enough know that the new fall season puts a writer in a quandary. Can't miss your old favorites, want to make sure you don't miss anything new that might be fabulous, but there's just not enough time - and I don't TiVo. This season they've really made a couple of the nights difficult, moving around shows against each other...

I never like the shows everyone else goes gaga over - Lost, Desperate Housewives - I watched the first several eposides and finally went, "Whaaa?"

<-- Brad Womack, season 11 bachelor
Mondays aren't too bad for choices. I'm not a Bachelor fan, but I know a lot of you are.

I may have watched one episode of Prison Break.

I will have to see the premiere of Journeyman tonight, however, where a reporter travels to the past.

Over time I've probably watched a total of four episodes Dancing With the Stars and it was okay. This season, however, I'm drawn to the celebrity dancers for a look-see. Marie Osmond? Wayne Newton? Scary Spice? Jane Seymore? I confess I want a peek at Albert Reed.


The glitsy costumes, the music, it just looks fun.

God bless whoever gave me a subscription to this oversized TV Guide! I love it!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dancing With the Stars

Need a reason to watch the THREE EPISODE premiere of Dancing With the Stars this week?

Will Albert Reed do?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Drawing Announcement from Liz Flaherty!

I want to thank you all for being so welcoming this week. I did the drawing for the two copies of THE DEBUTANTE’S SECOND CHANCE and the two of ALWAYS ANNIE today, and believe me when I say I didn’t want to--I’d rather have just sent everyone a book. However, I think the object is to SELL books.

The winners are:

Jennifer Y
Mickey (Brenda)

If you’ll email me your addresses (and your real names; I mean, I CAN address it to LuckyLou, but...) to

I’ll get the books sent out right away, and I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Caramel Crunch Bars

4-1/2 graham crackers
1 pkg. (11 oz.) KRAFT Caramel Bits
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 cup cocktail peanuts
1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup coarsely crushed pretzels
4 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted

LINE 8-inch square pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides of pan. Spray with cooking spray. Place graham crackers on bottom of pan, cutting to fit if necessary.

MICROWAVE caramel bits and milk in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until caramel bits are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring every 30 sec. Pour over graham crackers; top with peanuts, marshmallows and pretzels. Drizzle with chocolate.

REFRIGERATE at least 1 hour. Use foil handles to remove dessert from pan before cutting into bars to serve.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

PHS Hugh Jackman Tour 2007

This month's highlight at The Pink Heart Society is the annual HUGH JACKMAN TOUR. All the category writers in the blogosphere post their favorite Hugh Jackman photos and then visit each other's sites to see who has the best ones. I personally find him revolting as that wolf character, so any pics with neck hair do not get my vote.

Of course I'm really partial to this one in a cowboy hat since I discovered he's starring in a production with Nicole Kidman called Austrailia. CANNOT WAIT. Yee haw! Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat (Kidman) who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a cattle driver (Jackman) in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.



I'm blogging at Petticoats and Pistols today!
Please mosey on over and jaw with me for a spell.
You will, won't cha? Yeah, you're my pards.


If you haven't already entered the drawing for the BIG FALL BONANZA, do it while you're there! Lots of awesome prizes!