Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trim Your Novel Like You Trim the Tree!

Merry Christmas, Seekerville!

 Ruthy here, with my buddy Mia Ross and yes, we've got yet ANOTHER writing analogy for you! 

(cue the applause and the tinned laughter!)

I prefer to think of it as a parable, I mean what's good for Jesus is surely fine by me, but any way you want to cut it, I love laying out the principles of writing for folks to see.  You never know when some little thing will be that light bulb moment, that AHA!!!! experience. 

We are surrounded by the beautiful images of Christmas in December. And often we talk of "keeping Christmas with us" throughout the year. If we take those same principles of beauty and joy and apply them to our novels, we can deepen our stories and offer those "Reader Rewards" our friend Vince Mooney talks about. Here's Mia to start us off:

 Merry Christmas, Seekerville! Since this kind of thing is always more fun with a friend, Ruthy and I are doing a tag team this morning. We were chatting recently and came up with the crazy notion that writing a book is a lot like putting up a Christmas tree. Don't believe us? Read on.

In the Ross family, we go for real trees. I know they're expensive, and they need water and drop needles, but we do it anyway because we enjoy the tradition. The first step is to find the right kind of tree. It takes us awhile because this is our main Christmas decorating project and we're VERY picky. We tramp through the tree farm, searching for one that's the perfect shape and fullness, and won't blow through the ceiling. Then we cut it down and bring it home to stand in the living room. Mmm...I can almost smell those fresh pine boughs and hear Charlie Brown Christmas in the background.

Right now, you're probably thinking, "Sure, Mia. Whatever. There must be a metaphor in here somewhere." And yes, there is. When you start thinking about a new story, the first thing you do is figure out what kind it will be. Romance? Thriller? Mystery? That's like picking out the right species of tree. Once you decide on that, you need to find the right shape for your idea. Will it be set in a big city or small town? That choice not only sets up your cast of characters, it also drives the plot. For instance, a murder in a quaint village has a different vibe than one that takes place in Manhattan. Similarly, a towering ten-foot blue spruce is okay in a great room with a cathedral ceiling, but if your ceiling is like ours, a six-foot one is better.

Fullness comes next. Novella or epic novel or something in between? You also need to figure out if it's going to be a taut, intense story with lots of action, or more hearth and home. Even when you've got all that together, the original tree might not be quite right for your living room, so you'll have to do a little trimming here and there to make it work. That's a lot like revising your draft to make sure it's the best book you can possibly write. No matter what anyone tells you, you can't really cover up flaws with garland, no matter how sparkly it is ;)

When you're done with the basics, it's time to make that tree the centerpiece of your holiday decor. That's where Ruthy the decorating elf comes in!

(In comes the elf!!!!)

Mia's anal about her tree... With me, it's the lights. Yes. I am "that person". The person who strings thousands of lights on innocent trees so when they're plugged in they sparkle from within. And when I see this effect in a novel, it makes me smile. 

As you can see, I was not afraid to use the sparkling elements of small children and twinkle lights to sell PUPPIES!!!  How stinkin' cute are these guys????? Yes, shamelessly exploiting kids and small animals is my forte!
A good story sparkles regardless of genre. A great story shines from within, those tiny, intrinsic rewards of poignancy, warmth, sadness, joy and hope. Equate plot-thinning or rushing to leaving off two or three-hundred lights. Out of 1200, it might not seem like much, but the slightly dimmer tree can't light up your characters' paths the same way.

Plot points are our ornaments. Are we going total 5th Avenue glitz... (and I was there last week but my phone died so I couldn't bring you pictures, but just so you know: the lights and displays were GORGEOUS, darling!!!)

Or country barn theme simple? Are they paper like so many of the ones we use on our tree? Precious items my kids made thirty some years ago? Or are you a Hallmark writer, looking for the quaint, cute and quintessential all in one?

As we layer in plot points, each one distinct, we have to thread the characters through, like cranberry and popcorn garland.

 If you drape the garland carelessly, the tree isn't as pretty from across the room. But if you let it rise and fall with the flow of evergreen branches, the red and white pattern offsets the green perfectly. And that's how your characters' journeys need to flow, smoothly.... in an understandable (but not necessarily predictable) line. If you keep them in character, the garland stays where it belongs. But if you suddenly insert a hissy fit into a calm, rational heroine, then you should either make it Mary Connealy funny or Tina Radcliffe cryptic. Jarring the reader out of their comfort zone without the proper tree skirt padding is gonna' hurt someone! 

We don't want readers mad at us or our trees. Wait. Do we want the trees mad at us? 


We want everything just so, scenic and pretty, a range of emotions rising and falling with evergreen branches. 

Of course around here then a dog or a kid is going to come along, snag something on the garland, jump and run when I yell and knock the whole kit and caboodle down.  Which is why I re-enforce the trees with fishing line and cleverly disguised nails in the window frame because Ruthy trees must withstand an activity level just shy of nuclear holocaust. 

I buy REALLY STRONG fishing line. It works!

And when all is said and done, cozy-ing up by the fire, the tree winking at us from its special spot of honor, the feeling is very much like polishing a novel, giving it that last tweak and trim. Satisfied, happy and a little tired.

Hey, we've got some sweet Christmas reads for youse today! 

Mia and I are giving away copies of our December Love Inspired releases!!!

 "Jingle Bell Romance"  (note the CLEVER link for those of youse who simply cannot wait to buy this delightful four-star read!!!!)

and "The Lawman's Holiday Wish"!  (DITTO!!!!!)

Come on in, set a spell, grab some punch or some eggnog and be sure to try the pumpkin roll... it's to die for!  Leave a comment to have your name tossed into the cat dish (freshly cleaned for yesterday's Herne Family Christmas Party!).

Merry Christmas, Village!!!! We love you!

About Mia Ross: I love great stories. Whether the characters are fictional or real, I enjoy getting lost in a different place and time, but only for a little while.  Because my reality is pretty sweet.
My hubby and I met in college and now have two fabulous kids who keep us hopping. We live in Upstate New York where summers are short, winters are long, and the crocuses remind us that, yes, spring is coming. Eventually.  Visit me at www.miaross.com 

Ruth Logan Herne has over half-a-million books in print, she's anything but reclusive although she's tucking in
for a long upstate New York winter with over a foot of snow the past two days! She loves God, her country, her family and dogs and she spends the middle of the night hunched over her laptop, spinning heart-warming stories of faith, hope and love.... Visit her at her website http://ruthloganherne.com or on facebook where she is unafraid to shamelessly exploit small children and pets to sell sweet books!


  1. All right, I've strung some lights all over the coffee pot. Now it's ready to brew!

    Cute analogy. Thanks, girls.

  2. I love the picture of the little one and the puppies. Pure joy. Christmas stories are a favorite. The season is perfect for stories of forgiveness, love, and giving. The perfect setting for a romance or just a story of caring. Both of these books look like wonderful reads.

  3. Helen, making the coffee festive. WAY TO GO HELEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. How a novel is like a Christmas tree.

    Ummmm...well, a novel is like a Christmas tree because if the Christmas tree gets a short in it's wire and catches fire and the house catches fire and a beautiful woman is caught upstairs and is leaning out of the window screaming and a handsome cowboy comes riding up and he whips his lasso off his saddle and swings it over his head and throws it to her....she can tie it off, slide down the rope into his arms and be saved.

    And they both lived happily ever after.

    And had to build a new house.

    The end.

    Merry Christmas

  5. You know I wonder why they call it trim the tree sorry if I glossed over the answer my head pain is bad today. but I think we always say decorate the tree in Australia.
    When I trim a tree thats just it we trim a tree. remove branches to make it a better specimen.

    Would love to read your Christmas book (I have Ruthy's book already)

    oh shameless Plug I have Christina Rich on my blog at http://ausjenny.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/christmas-memories-with-christina-rich.html

    Ps I am adding gingerbread to the table

  6. btw the cowboy and the woman had to build a new house because the old one burned down.

  7. WAIT

    How a novel is like a Christmas tree.

    A novel is like a Christmas tree because first you open a blank book document and that's like a tree.
    Then you fill the blank document with words and that's like lights
    Then you put the tree in a stand and that's like revisions.

    Then you turn it into your editor that's like ornaments
    Then you get revision notes back and that's like wrapped gifts under the tree, hopefully gifts you like but you're stuck with them regardless because these are gifts you can't return, trust me.
    And then you make the revisions and turn it back in and that's like watering the tree.
    And then the tree gets sort of brown and Christmas is over and you haul the tree out and if you live in the country you just drag it over a hill and pretend like squirrels are going to live in it or something 'ecological' when in fact it's going to just lay there for all eternity because 'biodegrade' takes about one thousand years on even the smallest tree and that's sort of like waiting for your book to appear on the shelf of a bookstore.

    So yes, a novel is just like a Christmas tree.

  8. Love it Mary...and yes, I got that the house burnt down! Mia and Ruthy great post. YOU GIRLS ROCK or trim or decorate....Jenny, that's what I do when I trim the tree. Makes sense to me! Hope you feel better soon, friend. Helen what a great way to decorate-the coffee pot. Thanks, by the way. Library pat...little kids and puppies? Irresistible! Have a great day, everyone!

  9. I'm actually a little nervous about the coffee pot. I think Helen strung the wires too close to the burner.

    I hope we don't have a fire in Seekerville before the end of the day when we can pull the plug on this post.


    of course that makes the day exciting, sort of Ups the Stakes you might say...like in a great novel!!!!!!!!

    Will the coffee pot catch fire?

    Will Ruthy be here with the extinguisher?????

    Will Mia get the kids and the pets out in time???

    Will Tina be able to get the insurance forms filed and repairs made in time for Seekerville to be named one of Writer's Digests 101 Best Blogs for Writers in 2014 ???

    Will there be cowboys to save us all??????

    Will Janet Dean once again soften her heart and return all the gifts AND the roast beast to Whoville???

    I hate when she does that every year.

    Will Debby Giusti set aside her security blanket for a moment to recite Luke 2 so eloquently that suddenly a weary little tree, that formerly bent all the way to the floor from the weight of a single ornament, now has a thousand pine needles and stands straight.

    My gosh this is a tense blog post!

  10. When I saw "trim the tree" I immediately thought about cutting back too -- taking out the repetitive words and phrases, all the "thats" and the backstory dump I inevitably put in chapter 1. I call it "decorating the tree" too. And right now I'm trying to decorate a book I wrote back in 2008. I'm also updating it. My heroine has a flip phone. *gasp* How very 2000's! I've been researching the newest iPhone with the fingerprint sensor ID. A successful Atlanta attorney would have that, yes?

    Anyhoo, the kettle is on for those who want tea or hot chocolate. And I have some cookies I brought home from the church cookie walk. I paid 5 times as much for those cookies on Sunday as they asked for them on Saturday. But I wanted to make a nice donation to the Christian hospital in Mungeli, India. So eat up, y'all! I do NOT need all those calories!


  11. Is there a dog in this book Ruthy?
    A story without a dog is like a tree without a, a uh a plaid ribbon garland.
    We are expecting puppies due the 22nd, but they will probably come a couple days sooner when it will be colder.
    Please put my name in the nice clean cat dish I would love to win either of these books.
    Thank you Mia and Ruthy.

  12. I love the analogy that you both painted here today. It really makes sense when you think about it. Thank you.

    Loved all the pictures too!

    Merry Christmas and stay warm!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  13. Oh my stars.


    HELEN!!!! Thank you for the coffee, sweet thing, and I moved the cord just a smidge to ease Mary's chronic virtual worry.... she does it well because it's truly her nature, her therapist is praying for a break through, but never at Christmas.... youse all know what I mean. (tiny sigh here.... Poor Mary!!!)

    Although I'd be slidin' down the lasso rope to that cowboy and would totally be on board with the whisking off to build a new house... I think I'll have Silas build it, Mary, he's like the "fast and furious" of the Old West!

  14. Marilyn, good for you and the donation! YAY!!!!!!

    And hey, it's kind of funny to think about the phone. You could go "anti-techno" and have her see the new wave of phones as a waste of money until they bring them to reasonable price, while using a low-end smart phone or flip phone. My lawyer son is not a big fan of his smart phone, and the more gadgets? The less he loves it.

    But you're right, in some ways there a necessity, so have fun with it. Love it or hate it, they're everywhere in Manhattan!

  15. Mary Cline, there are ANIMALS in this book

    A lot of them.

    The hero rescues anything that walks, quacks, waddles, baa's....

    You'll love it!

    It is really a touch-your-heart story of redemption, and it just makes me smile... and sigh!!!... when I think of Rainey and Luke's love story.

    And that's my son Luke on the cover.... Tall, blonde, really cute. :)

    And the Gospel of Luke, telling the Christmas story....

    And a living Nativity. I love a living Nativity scene, staged outdoors.

  16. Pat!!!! Thank you for your kind words, I think they're both wonderful stories, but then Mia MAKES ME SAY THAT!!!!

    She bosses me around and what else can I do, right???? :)

    And that title, "Jingle Bell Romance". LOVE IT!!!!!

  17. Jenny, good morning here!!! I think the term "trimming" came from the old English way of saying "with all the trimmings!" and just converted to "Trim a Tree".

    So it's the same as decorate, but from a writer's pov, we trim, trim, trim and so your take on it is accurate, too!

    Sorry it's still a rough go, my friend! God bless you!

  18. I have a fire extinguisher handy. It's a must-have in the country with kids and frozen hoses... And Mary, I installed breakers on the receptacles so we should be okay just in case Helen has overpowered the box.

    No worries, dear girl, now toddle off and take your pills, there's a fine lass!

    (Oy, I wonder if she just couldn't sleep or what?????? Oh. Wait. Eggnog season. (Ruthy nods wisely...) 'Nuff said)

  19. And fyi, I do want to add my .02 to Mary's advice on returning editor "gifts" of revisions...

    She is correctamundo. This is a no return policy followed by all editors and we follow the policy if we like being paid for what we do.

    And I love my job so I'm okay with following directions!

    Good call on that one, Mary!

  20. What a fun post. I'm already envisioning drawing a Christmas tree and hanging plot points on it.

    Thanks for sharing!

  21. Awww, cute picture!!
    I like this metaphor. I like how we can compare writing to so many things in life... :-) Thanks for sharing and Merry Christmas!!!

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. You guys are cracking me up here in Seekerville this morning! I don't know what to say about the tree-trimming analogy and my writing because I turned trimming the tree over to DS this year. And he did a very good job, I may say. I'm liking this age of self-sufficiency although there aren't as many kisses as when he was little....:(

    Thank you for reinforcing what Mary said about how it is when editors make suggestions, Ruthy. No returns. Got it. Have a great day, Ruthy and Mia!

  24. You girls makin' me smile! :-) Fun post Mia and Ruthy, that's a good analogy.

    Mary C, you're toooo funny! Slidin' down a rope, escaping a burning house, fallin' in love... my goodness! I'm uh fannin' myself. :-)

  25. Good morning MIA and RUTHY,
    Goodness gracious I wasn't really awake yet and now??? Like MARY H. said. "Fannin' myself" and grabbing the coffee.

    Love the pups.

    Great analogy. I love analogies. Happy day.

  26. I'm here! Of course, our DSL picked today to act up, so if I'm gone for awhile, that's why:(

    JACKIE: Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed this, because we actually weren't sure it would be entertaining to anyone but us :)

    JESSICA: So nice of you to bear with us on yet another writing metaphor :)

    PIPER: Our little boys grow up so fast, don't they? Then again, that's how they get tall enough to reach the stuff on the high shelves for us!

    MARY HICKS: Glad you enjoyed this! We aim to please.

    SANDRA: Good morning! If it's not too much trouble, could you send some of your good weather our way? Thanks :)

  27. OMG, ladies! You make me ready for Christmas! Would either of you like to come and decorate my house??

    Just kidding. My daughter and I did a Hallmark number on our tree and it looks great!

    Wonderful analogies. I love twinkle light stories that sparkle and shine from within. But, if I'm not careful while appointing the lights and garland, I'll get sticky fingers because my sentiments have all gone to sap.

    Can't have that...No matter how many Hallmark marathons are squeezed into a Christmas season, LOL!

  28. Loved this! And you're right—there are many correlations between tree trimming and writing!

    MIA, for the record, we get live trees every year too. I love it! The scent, the beauty, and yes, even a good vacuuming of the carpet after the tree's moved out in January.

    Thanks for sharing this fun post!

  29. If I had it to do over again, I'd put the tree in the stand and water it before I put on the lights.

    Just saying......

  30. Thanks for the coffee pot fix, Ruthy. I can relax now.

    And go to work

  31. AUDRA: I thought we'd come up with all the analogies there were, but you gave us some more--thanks!

    JEANNE: Don't you love how a fresh pine tree smells? The varieties are all a little different, but I love them all :)

    MARY CONNEALY: My hubby puts it in the stand but likes to leave it out in the open to do the lights. Then he just walks around it so it's much easier. For us, watering comes last, after it's in place with the inevitable thin spot turned toward the corner. Also, that keeps the cats out of it 'til we can cover the opening with the skirt :)

  32. I love all these comments about trees! Just like there's more than one way to decorate them, there's a million ways to put a story together. Kinda cool :)

  33. So here in the city, a big part of tree trimming is finding which lot to go to when you're ready to pick out the tree. No roaming pristine, snow-covered tree farms. However, since it was snowing on Saturday, we did manage to tree shop in the snow. Ours goes in a shopping cart and the we try not to mow people down when navigating our way home.

    We did find a lot this year where the owner runs a beautiful organic tree farm in Vermont called Windswept Farms. Love it already. And the tree has the house smelling heavenly.

    Even so, just like my stories, it's not perfect. There are some empty spaces where the branches don't hang exactly right. But those can be filled in with lovely decorations, lights and sparkly things - much like we have to go back and fill in those glaringly empty places in our stories, right?

    Happy Tuesday!

  34. Oh, good grief! Woke up to no electricity this morning. So the lights weren't glowing on the coffee pot.

    But it came back on after about an hour.

    Need to order Ruthy and Mia's books.

  35. Mia and Ruthy--what a pair! Thanks for this fun post! Love the Christmas tree analogy. We used to cut live trees when the girls were young. We've gone artificial now. Less mess, predictable branches. The bad part is when your prelit tree gets a bad strand. And then what do you do if you can't find the culprit dead bulb?

  36. Good morning, Mia and Ruthy! Fun to compare novel writing to trimming the tree. Like our stories, each tree is unique.

    We always had a real Christmas tree until the kids were grown. Guess what? Artificial trees shed needles too and don't smell as nice, but we stay warm putting them up. :-)

    I'm definitely a light person. The more the better! Our trees glow, at least once we toss out about half of last year's strings that no longer light. What's with that? I suspect a villain elf is doing his dirty work.


  37. Wow, Ruthy! A half a million books in print! That caught my eyes. You are rocking it. And I don't mean the cradle.

    Ruthy and Mia, I will come back later and pour over this. Right now I have to get this rough draft finished!!! Really praying I can get it done in the next couple of days so I can spend Christmas focusing on my two amazing girls! But I do have to confess that I was completely wrong about children. Amazing that I so QUICKLY was proven wrong, but when I said the other day that children are not conducive to romance, I obviously didn't know what I was talking about. Because the little 5-yr-old in my WIP was exactly what I needed to move the romance to the next level. Can't explain more than that, but he was just what the story needed. LOL!

  38. Fantastic analogy, ladies.

    (and Mia - I'm a 'real tree' girl too)

    when I read 'trimming the tree', I was sure Ruthy was going to chat about 'overwriting'
    (shoulders slump)
    Too many ornaments and lights take away the natural beauty of a well-trimmed tree. I'm afraid I'm quite guilty of loading up my tree until the branches are droopy.

  39. (and I was relating my comment to my novel more than my tree)
    I overwrite. and have had to learn more about tight writing.

  40. Oh, look at those nice Christmas books.

    Merry Christmas Ruth and Mia.

  41. I've been enjoying all the analogies these last few Seeker posts. Any one of them can/will provide that "light bulb" moment for us unpubbed peeps.

    My little guy helped with decorating the tree this year (4yrs). Daddy put the lights on, the rest was up to us. We went light on amount of ornaments because mommy doesn't want to lose some ornaments to little fingers wanting to play with the tree. We did put up a small nativity scene beneath the tree with figurines Little Man can re-arrange to his heart's content. Still - he cannot seem to resist touching the ornaments HE put on the tree.

    He wants more decorations. Analogy? always leave your readers wanting more, well, only until they read THE END.

    Mary C: you crack me up. i hate it when i have to explain to co-workers why i'm snorting out my coffee *heh*.

  42. oops, forgot. please put my name in the cat dish. i don't ever want to pass an opportunity to receive a Seekerville book. i'm attempting to hook my birth mother on them. She loves to read.

  43. Love this post!

    Ruthy, I put thousands of lights on our tree, too. White ones inside the tree, around the trunk, and colored ones on the outside, on the middles and ends of branches. I think it looks beautiful...all sparkly and glowy at the the same time. Do I write books the same way? I hope so!

    And Mia - We use a real tree, too. But around here the real trees are the least expensive. For $10.00 we can buy a tree hunting permit, and then we have an area 125 miles by 65 miles to go hunting in. Every year we say we have the best tree! Of course, we really only get to choose from a couple species of trees...but writers tend to write in only one or two genres, don't they?

    And of course Mary's house would burn down. Anyone else's house would have a small fire that the beautiful woman puts out by herself. But how exciting is that? Mary's version is much more interesting!

    I have both books, but put my name in the cat dish anyway. I know several people who would love a surprise gift!

  44. Wonderful analogy. So fun! Thanks for the smiles and good advice.
    Merry Christmas and God bless!

  45. I'm doing what I always wanted to do--write a novella at Christmas. Having so much fun. The heroine has a dark secret she's not telling anyone, not even the reader. (I read yesterday's post too.) If her past is revealed she may lose him and he's handsome, kind-hearted and rich. But her nosy prospective MIL is determined to find out what the heroine is hiding, and the hero jumps to the wrong conclusion with disastrous results. All the while God is dealing with the heroine, helping her find the courage to face the truth and possible consequences. As you can tell, I'm loving this. Throwing all kinds of decorations like we used to throw icicles at the tree. Maybe by next Christmas I'll have it trimmed.

    I already have Ruthy's book but would love a chance to win Mia's.

  46. HI THERE!!! I've been blocked from the Internet all morning.

    I hope you've managed to carry on without me.

    I know Ruthy. She's always carrying on.

  47. JAN, now that you mention it. I think the woman should put the fire out herself.

    Hmmmmmm.....or at least shoot someone when she fails, just out of frustration, you know...

    This is what happens when you're not a plotter. You run into trouble like this.

  48. DebH, be careful of your keyboard. Snorted coffee is notoriously hard on them.

  49. MARY CURRY: Windswept Farms--what a picturesque name! And you're right about tweaking our stories to make them fuller. Great explanation!

    HELEN: Thanks so much for the business! Can't wait 'til I can order yours :)

    MYRA: My in-laws have one of those trees, too, and they ended up using regular light strings :)

    JANET: Electric bugs live in all our bins, along with the ones who crunch all those nicely-laid lights into balls of knots. Just another tradition, I guess!

    MELANIE: I know what you mean about the half-million Ruthy books. Amazing, huh? The best part is, they're all SO GOOD! Like you, I often find adorable urchins creeping into stories when I least expect it, with just the right touch. Kind of like in real life ;)

    PEPPER: Droopy branch syndrome--I love it! Of course, admitting the problem means you're halfway to the solution, right?

    TEEENA: Just trying to keep up with you!

    DEB H: Even at THE END, you can leave a thread for what comes next. That's how you write a series that keeps folks coming back for more :)

    JAN: Thanks so much for buying these--we really appreciate it! The way you do up your tree sounds beautiful. You should post some pics for us to admire :)

    JULIA: Same to you! Thanks for coming by.

    ELAINE: Your novella concept sounds fabulous--good luck with it!

  50. Jackie, I love the image of hanging plot points on a tree... as long as we have a partridge or two, LOL!

    And some French hens. :)

    Mary thinks the INTERNET blocked her..... (insert evil laugh track and DEEP, RESONANT, SCARY MUSIC....)

    But it was ME!!!!! Hahahahahahahahaha!

    Secret Blog Blockers!!!!

  51. I keep looking for the "Like" button on all these comments. Is that sign I spend too much time on Facebook?

    Ruthy, I'm a light fanatic too. I usually string my 6 1/2 foot tree with 450 bulbs...correction, My mother usually does this because I'm horrid at stringing lights. I'd have more lights, but mom hates doing it (even though she's awesome at it), and I think she'd mutiny if I added any more.

    This year, Mom was unavailable to help, so a friend came. She strung the lights (because she loves me), but one string didn't work, and we couldn't make it work no matter how hard we tried. I was so bummed, I had to kick myself to snap out of it and have fun anyway. I'm sure I'm the only one who notices the missing lights. And perhaps next year I'll get a pre-lit tree...and mom won't have to do it any more.

    I would absolutely LOVE to win either book (and I wouldn't turn down both, ;-) I was all set to buy them at Walmart the other day, but they were all gone. Talk about bummed.

    Wonderful post, ladies!

  52. I was bummed.

    But sold out is good news for you guys...and no big surprise. After all, you both rock!

  53. What fun!! Mia, I'm with you. The real tree so we can smell it!

    I wonder what that says about my writing?? That it smells?? LOL

    Great, fun post, ladies!

  54. Elaine, love your new pic! A new you!!! And a new Christmas novella. How fun is that!

    Thanks, Ruthy and Mia, for a lovely look at trimming a book...and a tree.

    Mine is artificial. Moderate number of lights. Lots of glitter and gold. Angels, too, which I love.

    Your opening photo stole my heart. Oh my gosh! Is that your hometown, Ruthy? Simply beautiful!!!

    Must deliver Christmas gifts to a dear friend, ninety years young! Plus today is hubby's birthday so we're in a festive mood at my house.

    Why don't you all stop by for a cup of coffee and some birthday cake!

    Ho, ho, ho!

  55. ANDREA: Thrilled that you enjoy our books so much. We love writing them, so it's great to know people like the end result!

    MISSY: Being real is what our books are all about :)

    DEBBY: Have fun playing elf, and happy birthday to your hubby. Thanks for the invite--I'll go pick up Ruth and we'll see you later ;)

  56. Ruthy, you blocked me?

    (Mary, in the persona of Cindy Lou Who)
    But Ruthy, why are you stealing our Christmas Tree Blog Why?

    Ruthy Grinch, "I'll fix it up there and I'll bring it back here."

    Cue the Boris Karloff solo

  57. Where ever you wander
    Where ever you roam
    Be happy and healthy
    And glad to come home

    Now, let's all ask, how is that poem like a novel and a Christmas tree.

  58. A foot of snow, Ruthy? A foot of snow?

    Don't you love that out of the entire post what struck me most was that you've had a foot of snow. I know that isn't much by some standards, but it's way more than enough for moi.

    I'm reading "Running on Empty" now. You 'trimmed' it beautifully :-)

    Nancy C

  59. >> No matter what anyone tells you, you can't really cover up flaws with garland, no matter how sparkly it is ;) <<

    That is such an easily understood way to express a complicated concept. Jotting it in my Seekers & Keepers notebook. Thank you, Mia!

    Nancy C

  60. NANCY: In Upstate NY, a foot is nothing! Glad you enjoyed our post today :)

  61. Wait a minute! I'm on the 19th post and the time stamp isn't even 6 a.m. yet.

    Genius never rests?

    An overage of caffeine?

    Full moon?

    Nancy C

  62. Cute analogy. Gotta get both books since I love, love, love Christmas stories.

  63. Mia, sweetie, when you work with Ruthy, you soon learn there is NO OFF POSITION on the genius switch.

  64. This is way too much fun!!! Love the Christmas tree analogy and all the comments. Let's see...how a novel is like a Christmas tree...

    Back when I had cats they used to like to climb into the tree. Little Meghan was dainty and light and totally graceful. She'd just glide into the tree and we'd pretend her glistening eyes were two more lights on the tree. But ol' Finnegan had a substantial girth and when he jumped into the tree everything came crashing down. So, Finnegan represents back story and how it can bring everything to a crashing stop and Meghan is like sprinkling the back story in throughout the story so everything stays in balance. :-) See, I was listening to Janet's blog on back story yesterday.

    Don't enter me in the draw 'cause I've read both Christmas books and loved loved loved them!!!!!

  65. PATRICIA: I love Christmas stories, too! Writing and reading them :)

    KAV: Our cats adore the tree. They think we brought the outdoors inside just for them. Thanks so much for the kind words on our books!


    But... we made 11 dozen cookies today, frosted cookies and Snickerdoodles and a new recipe from the Food Network for Thumbprints but I added a Ruthy touch by dipping them in egg white and sugared chopped almonds and then using McCutcheon's Raspberry preserves.... OH MY STARS, this is a pastry-ready cookie!!!!

    What a fun day!!!! Mia, don't you hate it when Internet goes whacky??? I'm such an addict, really, I need an anti-Internet pill or I.V. drip. It's ridiculous!!!!

    You know the light thing developed over time, and seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center last week, they have this stinkin' AMAZING periodic display of flashing white lights amid all the thousands and thousands and thousands of colored lights.... and they start blinking (more like "Flashing/exploding") here and there and it's simply magnificent... and the skaters.... oh my stars, this northern girl was raised on borrowed and second-hand skates and we had a pond in the old Maplewood neighborhood and I lived to skate. LOVED IT!!!!

    It amazes me that folks go to see skaters and aren't, well... skating!!!!

    Silly peeps!

    I love that most o' youse really got the analogy, and were able to twist it around (bunch of sickos!!!) to your own version of Ruthy Wants Me to AX some of my work!!!!!


    Which is, of course, accurate!

    Write and edit. Write and edit. Write and... Here.

    Let's have some more coffee and eggnog, I've got a long night ahead of me. A Christmas concert at the high school.... and then some very special out of town things must be properly prepped for shipping!!!

    Read: Wrapped. :)

    But my little peeps are happy that Mommy and Daddy are getting cookies on Thursday and the big peeps will be happy I'm at their concert, and all is well with the world as we know it.

    I'm leaving some cookies which is the LEAST I can do since I've been in and out like a bad battery beacon all day!




    Now I'm singing 'Sunrise, Sunset' and getting a little weepy.

  68. Mia and Ruthy - live the analogy. Love it even more that you two were talking about it. Only writers think like this. Please drop my name in Santa's hat for the drawing

  69. I will add here that if I had a pile of cute puppies, I would definitely put Santa hats on them.

  70. Have I mentioned to anyone that as of today my summer novella A Bride for All Seasons is on sale in ebook format.

    It's got four romance by Robin Lee Hatcher, Margaret Brownley, Debra Clopton and Me



  72. I'm late. It's been a looooong day.
    Love the picture of the puppies and the sweet kid. My Christmas tree/WIP will not be fully decorated by December 25...but I'm okay with that.
    One step at a time.
    Or "Just put one foot in front of the other, and soon you'll be walking out the door..." (Maybe someone recognizes that song. It seems to fit here.)

  73. Great post and analogy, Mia and Ruthy! That very first photo (church, gazebo, snow) is GORGEOUS. And of course the little kiddo with puppies is adorable.

    I do plan on ordering Mia's book, and have read (and LOVED!) Ruthy's! Hmmm....I might eventually need a special bookshelf for only Christmas-themed books (that way I can keep colored lights up all the time--if I string them along the edges of the shelf!). LOVE Christmas lights---the kid in me always comes out, LOL.

    Thanks again for a fun post today!
    Holiday Hugs, Patti Jo :)

  74. We had to re-do our Christmas tree this evening. One of the light strands had a short that was driving us crazy. We took off the one problem strand and replaced it but broke two ornaments in the process.

    Is that like fixing a subplot in a novel?

    Ruthy, I have your book already.

  75. Walt, that's like living my life... Every time we fix one thing in this sweet OLD house (160 years old) we break two others.... And each year I throw away half-a-dozen strings of lights because I love the twinkle Merry Midget lights....


    They clearly form divisive sides in storage and awaken in late November with half of them dead for half- a - string.

    And this year I'd tucked away my extras ones purchased last December 26th that we still haven't found them.


    Off to Walmart and bought six more strings, I'm such a light freak!!!!


  76. PATTI JO!!!! I love the idea of a Christmas book bookshelf festooned with lights and maybe a little garland at Christmas!!!!

    BRILLIANT and so fun!!! Making a note to self but I'll forget so pester me, okay????

  77. I look at that half-million mark and think....


    And then I got an e-mail to humble me, a person suggesting I know nothing and should read the Gospel of John to refresh myself on Biblical truth.


    Ya' can't please everyone in this biz and I'm just always thrilled that God is not only the God of Second Chances but stinkin' smart, not constrained by human frailty.

    But the e-mail reminded me that there are a few in that half-million who might not be in love with my ecumenical approach to faith renewed and endured....

    And the beat goes on.

  78. Our Christmas tree always looks like the children stood back & threw everything on - I know they haven't but still - what does that tell you?

  79. Sorry, Ruthy and Mia ... I'm a day late and WAY more than a dollar short since it IS Christmas, after all!!

    OH. MY. GOSH!!! Love, Love, LOVE your tree/decorating analogies, my friends -- what a clever way to teach a writing lesson and keep the Christmas spirit!!

    Like you, Ruthy, I LOVE a gazillion lights buried in the bowls of the tree to make it magical. We bought a prelit tree two years ago that does this. The only problem is that THIS YEAR, HALF THE LIGHTS WOULDN'T WORK, no matter what Keith did. So ... he went to Sam's and bought me 900 twinkle lights and I'm wondering if I need a few more ... ;)


  80. I really enjoyed your article on decorating the tree. I can't do a book as easily as I decorate for Christmas, though. I take the tree out of the box and plug it in and take the nativity set out and arrange it on a table. Done.

    It's nice to hear from New Yorkers. My mother was born in Brooklyn and I had relatives in the Syracuse area. I remember time spent at Bernard's Bay, NY on Oneida Lake when I was young. Would love to go back even if there are no relatives there. Pat Radaker

  81. Pat, come to NY! I live upstate between Rochester and Buffalo, and it's about the prettiest, greenest, most forested/farmed part of the world. I love it!

    But I love going to the city also. SO FUN!!!! I ♥ NY!!!!

    Glad you liked this, it's so much fun to analogize, but then I have to make a little bit of fun of it, too because we're prone to do it!

    Glad you stopped by and I hear ya: Writing a book is harder than decorating!

  82. Oh, wait, that's not Beth J, she was here and using my computer.

    It's really Ruthy. Me. The Ruthinator.

  83. I wouldn't want a real tree. Sounds like it'd be hard to take care of. My cats would bother the tree. Please enter me in the drawing.