Tag Archives: Christmas

Author Spotlight no.134 – Terra Hangen

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-fourth, is of non-fiction author and interviewee Terra Hangen.

Terra Hangen lives with her husband in California and enjoys gardening and writing while her cat helps by taking a nap. She is co-author of two books “Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts: Stories to Celebrate and Wisdom to Bless Moms” 2012 and “Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts” 2008.

Her articles are published in magazines including Victorian Homes, Lutheran Digest, Family Digest, Dog Fancy, Hobby Farms, Back Home, Elks Magazine, Mature Living, etc. She often writes about gardening, growing vegetables, favorite recipes and wrote about how Karelian Bear Dogs save Grizzly Bears for Dog Fancy Magazine.
Terra invites you to visit her blog and say hi at and connect with her on Facebook.

And now from the author herself:

I find it very exciting to hold in my hands the first copy I receive of the books I write. Each of my books has exquisite full color art work on each page and is hardcover so the excitement to actually see the book is palpable. Of course my words were already familiar to me, but the art really enhances the text.

If you have the opportunity to co-author a book, do consider doing that. My two collaborations thus far have yielded two books, and my co-authors have become dear friends of mine. We cheer each other on in solo projects too. Also, we have complementary skills in writing and in marketing so I don’t have to do all these tasks on my lonesome.

My first article “Coffee for the Birds” combined my love of nature and selecting coffee beans to help in conservation, and I was paid $100. That made me think wow, this writing life is easy and fun. Ha ha! Little did I know how much patience and perseverance are required in the business side of writing, as we wait and wait some more to hear from editors, agents and publishers.

There is bound to be a lot of rejections in your email inbox. Even J. K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers. My advice is that when an article or book proposal is rejected, see if it needs improving and then send it out again. Just tell yourself it has not arrived on the right desk yet.

I recommend being published by traditional publishers. It is wonderful to be paid an advance and to have the publisher provide the artwork, cover art, much publicity and get the books in online and brick and mortar book stores. I do as much as I can to promote my books to augment the publisher’s efforts, and much of my PR centers on social media, where I enjoy blogging, Facebook and Twitter.

I feel the joy of being published, I treasure friendly comments on my blog, and I even get paid to write. Sometimes writing is so much fun, I get up and do the “happy dance” around the house as I celebrate good writing news.

My most recent book is being bought by “seasoned” moms to give to new moms, often at baby showers. A recent review of “Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts” on Amazon says “Packed with great tips, sweet humor, lots of wisdom, and a punch of faith, this book makes a wonderful gift for every mom, no matter what stage of motherhood she may be in.” The book is selling on Amazon for $11.00, which I think is a bargain considering all the art work in it.

Another reviewer wrote “A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts is a must have for mothers-to-be, those who are in the thick of it, and us grandmas. Not only is this well written book filled with practical advice, wisdom, and honest confessions but the cover and the unique interior design are a piece of art–each page is visually stimulating.”

Writing is an occupation that can be lonely, since much of our work is done alone, and that is why I treasure my co-authors and all the other writers and readers I meet out here in social media. Thank you Morgen for turning your author spotlight to shine on me here.

You’re very welcome. I’ve bought a lower watt bulb since our interview. 🙂

You can find more about Terra and her writing via… her blog She also has recipes at and her books are available on and


The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with historical author Barbara Peacock – the five hundred and forty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books and I also have a blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.


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Short Story Saturday Review 004: ‘The Best One Yet’ by Kelley Hunter

Welcome to the fourth in the Short Story Saturday review series. This week’s review is of ‘The Best One Yet (a holiday short story)’ by Kelley Hunter.

Recently I helped a customer in my Red Cross shop try to find a third book (they’ve been ‘buy 2 get one free’ for a while) and another customer suggested a novel that happened to be Christmas-related. The original lady refused, saying that she couldn’t read Christmas stories at any other time of the year. She has a point but sometimes it gives you the fuzzy feeling that those festivities evoke and we could all do with a bit of that. And this story is no different.

Right from the introduction I warmed to the author. She donates all the proceeds to charity and says that if the book is sampled or borrowed then she’s still grateful because “A story is nothing but sorry little words on a page unless it’s allowed to come to life by being shared and read”.

Great hooks are often the shortest and there can’t be many shorter than this one, at two words: Five years. We then get to meet a couple who we know have a conflict between them but the story unfolds slowly and it’s almost half-way through before we find out the details – a laugh-out-loud moment for me. We are then lead along on the husband’s (our main character) journey, a pivotal point where he’s presented with a challenge from one of his neighbours.

Like Sean’s story Mercy, which I reviewed last Saturday, there isn’t much dialogue (which I’m usually a fan of) but the description is so finely tuned that it carried me along rather than bogged me down.

Kelly has chosen a very ordinary setting (a close-knit community), a season of (normally) joy, but given it a really quirky scenario.

The only pick I would have (and I had to pay attention to find it) was a tense slip in one of the sentences but unless you’re looking for it, it would likely pass you by.

At c.1,200 words it’s a very tight little story and I just loved the ending… the beginning and everything in between.

Kelley’s story is available via and and the latter’s synopsis reads: This Christmas is going to be different. It really will. Or so poor Clark promises his wife. He just never counted on Old Man Finnegan calling his bluff… The Best One Yet is a hilarious and quirky holiday short story about love, commitment, and keeping your hands off other people’s property.

Kelley’s Amazon author page says: Kelley Hunter came to live in New Hampshire as a disgruntled teenager. She got older, grew wiser, and can’t imagine ever leaving it now. Besides writing short stories and novels, she’s also a mom, wife, and lackey to three cats. Oh, and she likes cannoli too much. Way too much. But she’s good with that.

Cannoli’s not something we have in the UK (to my knowledge)… mmm, I’m going to have to investigate. 🙂

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) for review take a look here.

Later we have author spotlight no.68 with poet, novelist, memoirist and children’s author Judy Light Ayyildiz then the blog interviews return as normal tomorrow with sci-fi / fantasy writer Agron Shehu – the two hundred and twelfth of my interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at


Posted by on March 17, 2012 in ebooks, novels, short stories, writing


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Guest post: ’Tis The Season To Write Short Stories by Helen M Hunt

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of writing seasonal stories is brought to you by short story author Helen M Hunt.

’Tis The Season To Write Short Stories

Women’s magazines all want stories that mark special events and occasions – both annual things such as Christmas, and one-off events such as the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. It means they get the chance to offer their readers something relevant to the season and topical which will chime with what their readers are thinking and talking about.

For the writer there are lots of positive opportunities here, as well as a few drawbacks. Let’s start with the positives.

Writing a story to fit in with a season such as Christmas gives you an opportunity to add an extra element to your writing that will make your story sparkle. A very simple ‘boy meets girl’ plot can be lifted out of the ordinary if they meet in Santa’s grotto. Or maybe they meet in a shelter for the homeless where they’ve both given up their own Christmas to help others. Or maybe they’re both nurses and they’ve pulled the short straw and got night duty on Christmas Eve. The possibilities to add poignancy and raise the stakes of your story are endless.

If you’re going to write seasonal stories, you need to remember that magazines work well in advance. How far in advance depends a bit on the magazine, so you’ll need to read their guidelines, but typically several months. This means one of two things. Either you write your Christmas stories in the middle of the summer when everyone else is sunning themselves and drinking lemonade by the pool, or your write your Christmas stories now while you’re still eating your way through the leftover turkey and picking tinsel out of the carpet, and then sit on them for a few months. Different writers work in different ways so the choice is yours.

There are some drawbacks to writing Christmas stories, or stories written for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day or Easter. What happens if you don’t place your seasonally sensitive story?

Don’t worry; all is not lost. If you don’t sell your Christmas story in 2012, you can hang on to it and send it to a different magazine in 2013. Don’t forget, in women’s magazine writing selling a story can sometimes be a very long game. In fact, last year I sold a spring story just as spring was coming to an end. The story had missed the slot for spring 2011, so now it’ll be published in spring 2012 – getting on for eighteen months after I wrote it.

But what if you don’t want to wait that long? Or even worse you’ve written a story for a one-off event, such as the London 2012 Olympics, that isn’t going to happen again?

In that case your only option is to see if you can deconstruct your story. How integral was the event or season to the plot? Would it work if you pegged it to another event? Or what about if you can find a more universal activity or theme to pin it to? Could you rewrite your spring story, taking out the daffodils and replacing them with autumn leaves? Sometimes a bit of ingenuity is required to rework a story that might otherwise have reached the end of the line.

The other thing to remember is that if you’re going to write a Christmas tale, or any other seasonal stories, you need to avoid the clichés and well-worn themes around that event. Magazines are looking for a new take on the subject, so try to avoid being too predictable. We’ve all read stories featuring the turkey being burnt, the dog eating the presents and the fairy lights fusing, so see if you can come up with something a bit different. It’s often useful to jot down all the ideas you can think of that fit in with your theme, and then discard the first six or so. The more obscure ones you’ve come up with are much more likely to produce a story that is fresh and different.

Last year I sold a ‘Christmas’ story called ‘A Second Christmas’ which was set a few days after Christmas. Setting it just after Christmas took it out of the normal run of seasonal stories and made it different enough for the Fiction Editor to accept it and run it in the first issue of the New Year. Try to think laterally and it might just pay off!

But whatever you do, try to keep your short story writing fun, and above all inventive, that way you’ll be coming up with stories that are a pleasure to write and also a pleasure to read, no matter what season it is!

If you’re interested in writing short stories for women’s magazines you may find some of my courses helpful.

New for 2012 is my online short story writing course, the ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ course. You can find details on my website

You might also be interested to know that I run workshops for people who are interested in writing for the women’s magazine market. (Dates for 2012 will appear on my website soon.) And I also offer email short story critiques.

You can read two of my stories, along with stories by other writers including novelists Cally Taylor and Tamsyn Murray and women’s magazine favourites Kathleen McGurl, Bernadette James and Karen Clarke, in the ‘Tears and Laughter and Happy Ever After’ anthology which is now available Amazon for Kindle.

Thank you Helen, lovely to have you back!

Helen Hunt writes short stories and features for magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, People’s Friend and Take A Break Fiction Feast in the UK, and That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia. She also writes articles for Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. You can find her website at

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with women’s / contemporary romance author, story development consultant and animation producer Shannon Muir – the two hundred and thirty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords.

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Posted by on December 27, 2011 in events, short stories, tips, writing


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