Friday Fun – Summer Movies

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

As writers, it’s important that we take time and fill our creative well with other artistic forms. Creation is good, but sometimes we just need to consume, to be entertained. I’m pretty sure we ask this question every year, but every year brings a new batch of “SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS”. What movies are you looking forward to seeing this summer?

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13Lee Laughlin: I’m not always a big movie person, but this year there are three, that I was/am looking forward too. My daughter and I saw Pitch Perfect 2 and thoroughly enjoyed it. I definitely want to see Inside Out although I’m told tissues are a must. The last summer movie I’m looking forward to is The Minion Movie. I don’t know what it is about those little yellow dudes, but they just crack me up. I’m curious to see what others post, maybe I’ll add a few more to my summer bucket list.

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: No judgments here, right? I’m looking forward to Magic Mike XXL (Channing Tatum is always a nice distraction, and I’m looking forward to seeing Jada Pinkett Smith’s role – I’ve been loving her in the TV series Gotham this past year and am curious to see her in this movie). I also am planning to see the latest Avenger movie — thankfully it’s still in the theaters! And, I do have to check out The Minion Movie. Those little talking Twinkies (my personal description) have been mesmerizing me since they first hit the big screen.

hennrikus-web2Julie Hennrikus: I love the Marvel universe, so I’ve already seen the Avengers movie. (Really liked it.) I have heard great things about Inside Out, and may see it this weekend. I am a wicked wimp, so Jurassic Park isn’t going to happen. Self/Less looks good too. What do folks think about Ant Man? Again, a Marvel fan, but not sure about that one…

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I haven’t been to the movies since I saw the Planes: Fire and Rescue movie last summer with my sister, my son, and my niece and nephews. I’d love to see Spy, with Melissa McCarthy, but I’ll probably see it after it comes out on video. I am planning on going to the movies this summer. I’m taking my niece to see Inside Out. I saw the Avengers: Age of Ulton movie with my son-in-law while holding my sleeping granddaughter. The movie, and the company, were excellent.


SuddenlyJamie AvatarJamie Wallace: I think that being my father’s daughter makes me genetically predisposed to being a movie junkie. Whenever we get together (which is quite frequently), we always wind up talking about movies – the stories and characters, the sets and special effects, the performances and the behind-the-scenes scoop. We both love the way that film creates new worlds that people can experience together. And, we love retelling our favorite scenes from our favorite movies – over and over again.

The movies on my radar for this summer are a seriously mixed bag, just like the books on my summer reading list. Like many of my fellow bloggers here, I’ve also got Inside Out and Minions on my radar. My daughter and I are thinking about catching Pitch Perfect 2 this weekend, and Jurassic World is also on our list. (I mean, it’s Chris Pratt!) I will also admit to wanting to see Melissa McCarthy in Spy. I loved her in Bridesmaids and the recent sleeper, Saint Vincent, with the inimitable Bill Murray. Oh, and I’ll see Lisa’s Magic Mike XXL and raise her Ted 2.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’m really looking forward to seeing Ian McKellen in Holmes, Lily Tomlin in Grandma (OMG – I LOVE her!), and an entire cast of fabulous folks in She’s Funny That Way. And then, just because watching a good guy kick some ass is fun and good for the soul, I’m going to add American Ultra to my list.

Yep. It’s going to be a busy summer! ;)




Overlapping Timelines – An Interview with Lauren Dane

New York Times Best Selling Author Lauren DaneI’m a huge fan of author Lauren Dane’s books. She creates characters that are strong, but flawed and she never shies away from a challenge. In her latest series for Harlequin, Dane writes about the Hurley brothers, members of the super successful alt rock band Sweet Hollow Ranch. We met Damien Hurley in Lush, as Dane was working on that story, Damien’s brothers showed up. She fell in love with them and knew they needed their own stories. Paddy, Ezra and Vaughn all get their due in The Hurley Boys series. In the first book, Best Kind of Trouble, Paddy meets his one and only, Natalie. Ezra and Tuesday’s story is told in Broken Open and Vaughn and Kelly get their second happily ever after in Back to You.

The books can be read as stand alone stories, but readers of the series get an added benefit. The second and third books have overlapping timelines. As a reader, I found the hints of Kelly and Vaughn’s story in Tuesday and Ezra’s story were enough to make it interesting and whet my appetite, but not so much as to be distracting. When I finally got to read Kelly & Vaughn’s book. It was fun to view events in the story from a different perspective and it never felt repetitive.

As a writer, I read these stories and marveled and all that it took to effectively pull off overlapping timelines. I reached out to Lauren Dane and asked if she’d talk to me about the process of writing these books and their overlapping timelines and she was gracious enough to oblige.

The Cover of Broken Open by Lauren DaneI asked her how the overlapping timelines came about. “Here’s the thing. I did not plan to do that at first. As I was writing [Broken Open] I realized I had totally backed myself into a corner.” Towards the end of Tuesday and Ezra’s story, there is a family medical emergency that perfectly sets up the beginning of Kelly and Vaughn’s second chance. “It’s kind of a pain, but I like how out it turned out in the end. It wasn’t something I planned on. It was just something that happened when I was writing Broken Open and I thought ‘Ok, well, I’m in’. ”

Challenges of writing overlapping timelines

Dane talked with me about two of the challenges she encountered while writing the last two books of the Hurley Boys Series.

The first challenge was staying true to the characters of both the stories without giving away too much of the final story. “The main challenge when you are writing romance is you want to focus on what is happening between your main characters. So the main couple is going through this stuff and normally, given the dynamic between these brothers, they would talk with one another and the reader would know because Vaughn [younger brother] would have gone to Ezra [oldest brother]. I had to figure out how I could keep that communication between the brothers open which was a natural thing and who these characters were, but not give the reader all this information that would render the third book unnecessary.”

The second challenge was maintaining a sense of suspense for the second story. “I mean it’s romance so you know there’s going to be a happily-ever-after but [the reader has] to be unsure of how that’s going to happen. [The reader has] to be going along with those characters and really believing their metamorphosis as a character over the arc of the book.”

What to think about when writing overlapping timelines

The cover of Lauren Dane's Back to YouIt’s worth noting, that the overlapping timelines impacted more than just the brothers’ stories, two of the heroines decided they wanted to be friends, so she had to carefully manage their interactions too! To manage the flow of information to the reader, Dane kept lots of notes of information that had to be shared. “I had a whole lot of notes about things that I couldn’t leave out. Trying to managing all that stuff, I thought ‘ugh I’ve just given myself a huge problem’ but I think it all worked out.” She has developed a special fondness for sticky notes.

The other thing she did was carefully manage the point of view from which a scene was told. She really had to analyze for which character the scene was most important. “I thought, oh she would have said more, but then I thought, well, Kelly can’t say more because she needs to have this conversation in the next book because it is important in her point of view.” Sometimes she’d be going along and realize “This bit of information that we glean here isn’t really necessary until later.” Out would come another sticky note.

“Would you do it again? I asked. “If I did do it again, it would be more purposeful from the beginning. I always say that but I’m kind of a pantser so a lot of the meat of my stories and who these characters are doesn’t come to me until I’m writing and so this is why I get into these situations, so then I think well, it has to be this way.” She thinks it’s possible that if she had thought through the overlapping timelines at the beginning, she might have psyched herself out and written it differently.

Thanks to Lauren Dane for taking time between deadlines and prepping for the Romance Writer’s of America National Conference to talk with me and answer my questions. The Hurley Boys series is available in print and ebook and on sale at all major retailers. To learn more about Lauren Dane and her books visit her website, follow her on Twitter @LaurenDane or visit

As a reader how do you feel about overlapping timelines? As a writer have you ever written overlapping timelines? Would you?

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. You can find her on Twitter @Fearless. She blogs at and she is a regular contributor to the Concord Monitor. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction.

It’s Now a Single-Spaced World

Show of hands. Who learned to type on a typewriter?

TypewriterNow keep your hand up if you double space between sentences.

Wow. Quite a few of you!

I hope this news isn’t a surprise, but double spacing is virtually no more when writing for publication. A single space is all that is needed / required between sentences for most style guides and a majority of publishers.

If you’re publishing your own blog and your own e-books you may retain the double spacing between sentences as a personal preference. But if you’re submitting for publication, a single space is all that’s needed in most cases.

*I’m saying most cases because the American Press (AP) Stylebook did call for the single space, but have gone back to the double space.

Programmers and anyone coding in HTML (for instance) on their blogs, know that it’s an effort to make a double space. Everything defaults to single space unless the special   is entered to add an additional space.

It took me a while to get in the habit of single spacing and I still find old documents that are double spaced. When I first transitioned to single spacing, it was through the find and replace feature in Word. Now it’s just habit to only use one space.

No bad things will happen if you continue to double space between sentences; however if submitting for publication (as is always the case) read the guidelines carefully and if there is a style guide handy, double-check the rule for spacing between sentences. If you can make the best first impression with a publisher, even if it’s single spacing between sentences, you should do it. Right?

I’ve had this conversation a few times over the last couple of months. Some folks are adamant about the double space; others are surprised to hear single spacing is an option; and then there are a few, like me, who have converted to single spacing and can’t imagine double spacing any more.

Where are you in the single vs double space conversation? A convert? Not ever going to single space? Single space on special occasions?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, technology, and realty businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Weekend Edition – An Infinity of Stories

Our Bodies May Be Made of Stardust, But Our Souls Are Made of Stories

made of starsWhen you look into the space between the stars it may at first appear empty, just a void of darkness between bright points of light. But you keep staring, and you realize that the space is actually filled with a subtle, cosmic light that vibrates and shivers at the edge of perception. And then, staring down the barrel of infinity, you catch a moment of clarity that allows you to see – if only for a fraction of a second – that this pale luminescence is actually made up of innumerable, individual pin pricks of light.

Life is kind of like that.

It’s easy to see the stars. Whether they are twinkling joyously, or flaring across the sky in the death spiral of a meteor or comet, they are clear markers in the vast possibility of the universe – bold as day, in plain sight. They form the constellations of our lives – the shapes that tell our stories. These are the parts of our personal universe that are easy to identify and name. There is Virgo and Ursa Major and Artemis/Diana. You are a woman and a mother and a writer.

But what about the spaces between these visible aspects of your life? What about the countless moments, experiences, and thoughts that span the gaps between the stars? Perhaps it is here, in these gently glowing shadows, that you will find the stories only you can tell.

··• )o( •··

Writing helps us feel our way into the undefined place where there are no recognizable signposts to illuminate our way. At first, we may leap from star to star, as if they were stepping stones across the sky. “Safe” above the depths, our words and stories only skim the surface of the sparkling darkness that lies beneath us. And then, one day – either intentionally, or because we lose our balance – we dip our toes into the unknown, and it changes us.

··• )o( •··

Although, on close examination, the celestial landscape appears to be a continuous expanse of wall-to-wall stars, there are actually vast expanses of space between even the most intimate of cosmic neighbors. Proxima Centauri, the star nearest to us, is 4.22 light years (39,900,000,000,000 km) away. Distances can be deceiving.

As it is with the stars, so it is with us. Though we exist side-by-side physically, emotional and intellectual distances lie between us that are as real and immense as the interstellar spaces between stars. But, in the same way that light travels across the darkness to connect one star to another, so stories travel through emotional space and across time to connect one human being to another.

··• )o( •··

Darkness is scary. The uncertain and unfamiliar are scary. But we have the steadfast stars to guide us, friendly points of light that shine out, an invitation to connect with someone else’s world. Stars and stories both serve to remind us that we are not alone in the Universe. We see the light, and we make contact. Eventually, we might find the courage to hold hands and jump together into the seemingly blank spaces, only to discover that we emerge covered in stardust, glittering in the night.

That is the magic of stories. They are beacons in space and time, in hearts and minds, reaching out across indefinable distances to create unique worlds that bring us together in moments of connection and recognition. I am here. I see you. We are alike. We are different. This is my light. This is my darkness. This is my experience. Tell me yours.

··• )o( •··

Look up into the heavens. Marvel at the beauty and majesty of the ancient lights that dwell there, some only memories – long gone, still burning in the night sky. Look harder. Look closer. Look between and beyond and see how much more there is to witness. Sense the infinity of stars and the infinity of stories. Be humbled before the vastness of the distance between the cosmic once upon a time and this moment. Feel small and vulnerable and insignificant. And then remember that you are made of stars and stories. You are made of magic.

universe stories

∞ ♥ ∞


To my regular weekend edition readers, I apologize that I’m posting so late and that I’m not sharing anything about what I’m reading, writing, or discovering on the web this week. This past month has been particularly busy for me (for which I’m grateful), and then last night I was confronted with an unfortunate bit of drama in my personal life. We are all fine, but I find that today this is all I have in me.  Real writers. Real life. That’s what this blog is about. Sending hugs out to each of you – from my star to yours. Thank you for always being such caring, creative, and fun people. You make all that we do here so worthwhile.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Friday Fun – The Art of Group Blogging

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: This week’s question comes from reader Kernan Manion, MD. He writes, “I’d love to hear how you – as a group – have decided to keep to a schedule, decide on a topic, and hold each other accountable.” Great question, Kernan. Thanks!

Jamie WallaceI have had the good fortune to be part of several group blogs and in each case team members take full responsibility for their own schedules, topics, and deadlines. Here at Live to Write – Write to Live, we are all professional writers of one kind of another, so we’re used to working independently, managing our time, and meeting deadlines. That said, one of the best parts of group blogging is knowing you’ve got a team of partners who have your back if you run into a crisis and need some extra support. We’ve all been there, and we’re always happy to help each other out in a pinch.

Our editorial calendar is a simple spreadsheet (hosted on Google Drive) where we keep track of who is posting on which day. Other group blogs I’ve worked with have included additional detail in the editorial calendar, such as topic, keywords, etc.; but we seem to do okay here with just the bare bones spreadsheet. Simplicity is a good thing.

While we do our writing and posting independently, we do come together (usually via email) to discuss any “bigger picture” items such as our recent theme switch. Also, if someone is planning a post that’s a little bit different than our usual fare (such as a survey, contest, or slightly promotional piece), the author of that post will typically run it by the team via an informal email.

So, for the most part I guess I’d say that our “process” is pretty casual, collaborative where it needs to be, and low tech in terms of coordination. And that works just fine for us! ;)

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: Jamie covered the answer quite well. The Google calendar makes scheduling posts easy. When we started we not only picked dates we’d post, but also supplied the topic of the post thinking to avoid duplicate topics in the same week, but that part of the scheduling quickly fell by the wayside, as most of us (I believe) queue up our posts and the topics are decided in-the-moment for the most part.

Now, for me, I’m going to start posting a grammar topic once a month, but the other posts will be whatever I’m inspired to write at the moment.

Knowing the blog is a group effort takes some pressure off — it’s nice not to be responsible for *all* the content, and I’m always curious to see what my fellow bloggers post each week. We have a nice flow going here!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: Lisa and Jamie have covered the topic well, so I’ll just add that I post every other Thursday because that’s what I feel is doable for me right now. I put my name in the every other Thursday slot for as far out as the calendar goes (usually about three months) but in my mind I know it’s every other Thursday for the rest of the year. That helps me plan my time. Also, once the calendar is up, if a Thursday slot is taken by one of my fellow bloggers, I just put my name on the date closest to the date I had planned to post. It works out well for me and I don’t wonder when I’m responsible for posting.

Also, I really appreciate the flexibility of the group and the way we’ve been able to jump in for each other when something comes up that prevents a scheduled post from going up.

Lee Laughlin CU 7-13

Lee Laughlin: We all have active lives outside of this blog, I think the qualities that make it work are realistic expectations, professionalism and respect. We’re all busy, so when life occasionally goes off the rails and the scheduled author misses a post, if someone else can jump in, they do, if not, we recognize, the world probably won’t end. :) We’re all professional writers who are passionate about what we do. We earn our keep via words, so we strive to put forth our best efforts. For all of our similarities, we do have diverse points of view. We work to be respectful of everyone’s efforts and schedules.  How we got here is a little serendipitous, some of us met via an in-person writers group and other members were added via recommendation. In a sense we lucked out that our little writer’s posse is such a strong group, but I also believe that everything happens for a reason.

I’m Going to Camp!

My son is going to camp this summer, and so am I! Camp NaNoWriMo, that is!

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.03.00 AMCamp NaNoWriMo is a spin-off from National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo, or even NaNo.

The best part about Camp NaNo, from my perspective, is the ability to choose my own word count. In order to “win” NaNo, you have to write 50,000 words in the month of November. In order to “win” camp NaNo, all you have to do is complete the word count you’ve set for yourself.

And you can change the word count even after July 1st. (At some point you have to let it stand, but I’m not exactly sure what that date is.)

Since I have always found 1,667 words a day to be daunting, no matter how fast I get my fingers to type, I’ve decided to take the attitude that it’s summer, and the living is easy, so why not cut that 50,000 word count in half?

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.29.15 AMI can do 25,000 words in July, right? There’s even one more day in the month of July than in the month of November, so my daily word count goal is only 807.

If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you know that I love to set goals. And I love the outside accountability of the (Camp) NaNo community. I’ve signed up, committed to the word count, made a small cash donation to keep it real, and now I’m just waiting for July 1st when I can start watching my word count go up, up, up!

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 10.30.00 AMAs an added measure of accountability, I’ve asked to be assigned to a “cabin” with up to 11 other writers who are also writing nonfiction and who have a similar word count. I’ll find out my cabin assignment tomorrow. Can’t wait!

The biggest reason I’ve signed up for Camp NaNo is to put my goal of writing at the forefront of my brain. If I don’t, life will intervene, I’ll do a million other things in July, and I’ll be bummed out at the end of the month when I haven’t done the thing that is most important to me.

Writing is so personal; it’s only for me. It doesn’t benefit my family in any way, so it often gets pushed down the To-Do List until it falls off. Somehow, signing up for something like Camp NaNo helps me keep it at the top of my To Do List, even though it’s still really just for me.

Anyone else out there want to go to camp with me? Camp NaNo, here we come!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, mother, and grandmother. I’m excited to be coming to a time when I’ll have a little more time to write and I appreciate all the support this community has given me. Happy writing, everyone!

Time Is Flying!

It was almost two years ago that I signed my contract for the Clock Shop Mystery Series, which I am writing under the pen name Julianne Holmes for Berkley Prime Crime. Last week, on Wicked Cozy Authors, I wrote about how Julianne Holmes came into being. Today, I thought I’d write about the journey of the book, Just Killing Time, which will be published October 6, 26 months after I signed the contract. In a lot of ways, that is a long time. But in others? Yeesh, it is flying, especially since there are three books to write.

Just Killing Time debuts October 6!

Just Killing Time debuts October 6!

Just Killing Time has taught me a lot about the process of writing and publishing a book. Although other journeys will be different, many of the steps will be part of the process. Here’s what the past year has been like for me:

  • Writing the first draft of Book #1 (Just Killing Time). Seems obvious, but until you write the book, which can be a slog, you can’t move forward.
  • Reading, revising, and editing it yourself.
  • Having someone else read it, to see if it is a book. My friend Jason is my first reader. He loves the genre, reads a lot, is supportive, but can also give me tough love.
  • Take those notes, make changes, and polish it a bit more.
  • Have an editor look at it. That person can help in two ways. First, to make sure the story hangs together logically. Second, with wordsmithing, grammar, and other stylistic choices. There are a number of folks on this blog who are freelance editors. Finding one to work with can be tough. You need help, but you don’t need someone to rewrite your book.
  • Work on those suggestions. Polish, polish, polish. Then take a deep breath, and hit send to your publisher.
  • Wait for comments back. This can days, weeks, or in some cases months. My editor at Berkley is incredibly attentive, and it didn’t take long for her to come back to me with her editorial letter. This is the moment where you really need to get out of your own way. I had to do a massive rewrite on Just Killing Time. The rewrite made it a better book, but my ego had to step aside so that the writer could get to work. I also had to put Book #2 aside, so I could work on Book #1. That has been something that I am still learning how to do, keep two projects moving forward at the same time.
  • Resubmit, and wait for the next round of comments. This dance can go on for a while, but at some point the work will be done, and the book will be accepted. Do not, however, lull yourself into thinking the next time you will see it will be when it arrives as a book.
  • Around this time, I got to see the cover. I love it! I was asked for some ideas for the artist, but left it in their hands.
  • Copyedits are the next phase. These edits are from another source who is looking at consistency, making sure you are following the style sheet for the publishing house, and making clarifying edits. At this phase you can add, subtract, change. But it is a dialogue. Again, there is some back and forth.
  • Ask other writers to read it, and give you quotes that can be used in marketing. I will admit, this was a vulnerable moment for me, since I had to let the public see my baby. It all worked out, and was made easier by my Sisters in Crime relationships. Knowing other writers makes all the difference in so many ways. Don’t wait to find those networks.
  • Proofs are the next step. This is what I am working on now–reading the book again, looking for mistakes. This is not a time to rewrite. One great part of this phase is that I get to see how the book will be laid out, how the chapters look, etc.

These are all the book steps I’ve gone through so far. Next up will be marketing, getting ready for the launch (figuring out what that will be!), and hitting send on Book #2 by July 15.

These days there are lots of paths to publication, but the steps are going to be very similar. I am one of the lucky ones. This is a lot of work, but it is a dream come true, and it is getting more real by the day. Now, back to the editing of Book #2…


J.A. Hennrikus writes short stories. Julie Hennrikus is an arts administrator. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery Series. They all look alike.