Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey


Welcome Author Lori Virelli

loriToday I’m thrilled to welcome writer, blogger and friend, Lori Virelli. If you loved the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ll want to read her post below, and order a copy of her debut novel, Whit’s End. On Amazon, the e-reader version is on sale for .99 cents beginning today and running through Sunday, the 22nd.


Greetings and Happy New Year! Is it too late to still say that, or is it okay until January is over?

I’d like to thank Jill for offering me this opportunity to talk about my debut novel, Whit’s End. She said to share a bit about me and my writing process. I have a blog and even a short memoir published, but I still get uncomfortable talking about myself. The stories I write aren’t meant to be about me, but to bring out in the open our common experiences in life, hopefully with a bit of inspiration to bring us together.

So, I’ll share where I came up with the idea for my novel. Early in my marriage, as a newlywed, I had difficulty integrating into my husband’s family. I came from loud, expressive Italian-Americans with a flair for flavorful food. My husband’s family was similar to the groom’s in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Good, quiet all-American people who enjoyed bland meats and potatoes. When I introduced pasta to their Thanksgiving meal and brought focaccia bread in place of rolls, they thought their son had married a woman from outside of this galaxy.

Here we are, happily married thirty-one years later. When you love someone, you learn, you adjust, you grow.

In Whit’s End, you’ll find some minor influences from my life in the character, Ava, like her Italian background. The two main characters, Meg and Ava, marry into the dysfunctional Whitaker family. Do they learn, adjust and grow? Both have difficulty adjusting and struggle for years. As their marriages suffer, other men come into the picture. Each woman has to make a choice . . . work on their marriage or fall into the arms of another. Each makes a different decision, which deeply affects their lives and the lives of their families.

I’ve also written a memoir anthology, Home Avenue, with four short, humorous tales about growing up an Italian-American girl in the 1970’s in suburban Chicago.


As far as my writing process goes, it’s a bit boring. I write the beginning, and then each chapter comes together as I go along. I take notes for the next chapter as I write the one before.

I’m honored that Jill has given me this space to tell you about my books. I hope you enjoy them.

Jill here. Thank you so much for visiting today, Lori. To those of you reading, I’m curious, do you have any family members who could star in your own version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding?


nye2016d-ldrv-337x640Bio: I enjoy figuring out (and sometimes over-analyzing) the human psyche, people’s motives, and finding ways to come together. This is why I like writing about relationship dramas. My husband and I recently moved back to our hometown in the burbs of Chicago with our Australian Shepherd, Max. It’s great to be near family again. I’ve written short stories for the magazine Angels on Earth and the anthology, Dogs and the Women Who Love Them. You can find me on line at my blog.


What’s wrong with yellow?


Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. ~  Abraham Lincoln

My mother taught me; if you didn’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I’ve carried those words of wisdom with me throughout my life. At the suggestion of my friend and fellow writer and blogger, Pam Wright, I’d like to share a recent experience where my mother’s words were put to the test.

It was a couple of days before Thanksgiving. After work, I headed to the grocery store. My mood was exceptionally good as I looked forward to time off from work and a quiet holiday with my family.

As I entered the store and  strolled toward the shopping carts. A high pitched, scratchy voice stopped me in my tracks.

“Oh my God! You’re blinding me! I can’t see. Oh—I can’t see a thing!” The whiney voice shouted.

Dressed in my bright yellow, albeit fluorescent blazer, I turned to see a woman in her mid-sixties shielding her eyes.

“I’m blinded!” Her prickly squeals echoed throughout the market.

She continued her rant while I stood dumbfounded.

“I just came from another store where I was blinded by a woman in a bright color. What’s going on today?”

The day was cloudy so I calmly responded with a smile. “I guess we’re trying to brighten things up.”

It was then that this complete stranger, dressed in a drab colored jacket and gray slacks, launched her attack.

“That’s not your color!” she snapped.

I stood speechless.

“I’m a wardrobe consultant and I’d never recommend that color for you.”

Was this her way of getting new customers? My feet remained planted, despite my urge to run my shopping cart over top of this crazed woman, who in a matter of seconds was squashing my good mood.

Perhaps my expression told her I didn’t appreciate the attack on my love for the color yellow. Or maybe she realized how ugly she sounded. She lowered her voice and spoke again. “You’re such a pretty girl; I’d just never pick that color for you.”

 The offender

The offender

At that moment, my mother’s voice echoed through my mind. So many words danced on the tip of my tongue. Instead, I held my peace, refusing to allow her to steal my joy. I walked away with no response.

Has a total stranger ever taken you by surprise?


Welcome Sheila Hurst

100_1226Today I’m excited to welcome my friend, Sheila Hurst. We met several years ago through Word Press and during that time we discovered we have a lot in common. One big commonality is that both of our first published books were a result of participating in NaNoWriMo. She’s here today to share her experience and some terrific advice. Mention in your comment that you’d like to be entered in the drawing for a free e-copy of her book. The contest will close December 10, 2016.


Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog to talk about the writing process for Ocean Echoes. I’ve always loved visiting here because your posts cause so many smiles, laughs, and memories.

Anyone who has ever participated in NaNoWriMo knows all about the beginnings of my writing process. It was fueled by chocolate, coffee, take-out food, and insanity.

Unfortunately, I must not have had enough leftover Halloween candy because I didn’t make it to 50,000 words back in 2010. Still, by the end of the month I’d probably written more than ever, and that’s saying a lot because I used to be a reporter. Ironically, I left that job because I didn’t want to feel like a writing factory and there wasn’t enough chocolate involved.

I loved the wild ride of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t outline beforehand so I had no idea where the story might take me. There were rough character sketches, but that was about it. The NaNoWriMo craziness made me throw twists and turns and a few silly things into the book, things that I probably wouldn’t have done in any normal writing situation. That’s really something to embrace about NaNoWriMo, because if you’re not having fun while writing it, then reading the book isn’t going to be all that fun either.

Writing partners cheered me on through it all. We checked in with each other and commiserated often. At one point, it felt like another character should be introduced but I had no idea who that person should be. Instead of stopping to think about it for too long, I asked friends on Facebook to suggest a character.

A friend from college told me that a character based on her brother would be perfect because he’s always been interested in science and likes to wear a gorilla suit. Amazingly enough, that character is still in the book and he’s one of my favorite characters.

After NaNoWriMo, I researched and revised for years. My novel is about a marine biologist who studies jellyfish. I work at an oceanographic research facility, so a lot of that research naturally happened at work. I also made sure to read books, newspaper articles, and anything else that would help to add more details. Sometimes I’d simply be reading the newspaper and an article filled with needed facts would start waving at me. Through it all, I kept revising.

It’s true that by the end of NaNoWriMo, you just might end up with a crazy draft. But it’s also true that you’ll have a huge chunk of writing that can eventually be developed into a book. So to any NaNoWriMo writers out there, whether you made it to 50,000 words or not, keep going, keep revising, and remember – you can do it!


Sheila Hurst grew up in Michigan and Massachusetts, contributing to a split personality involving a love of farmlands and the ocean. Early influences include Harriet the Spy, Bozo the Clown, and the books of Judy Blume and Laura Ingalls Wilder.

She received a journalism degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and worked as a reporter while writing fiction on the side. Her short stories have been Glimmer Train and Writer’s Digest finalists. All-time favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, John Steinbeck, and Carl Sagan.

Sheila’s book is available on Amazon.com.

A percentage from the sale of this book will go toward nonprofit organizations working to protect the world’s oceans for future generations.


NANOWRIMO: Love it or Hate it?

NanoSome writer’s cringe when they hear the acronym NaNoWriMo, while some get excited. The non-writers might be left scratching their head and asking, what the heck is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s a writing competition held every November. It challenges participants to write 50,000 words from November 1 until the deadline on November 30th. In others words, you write like a crazy person for thirty days, often ignoring family, friends, laundry, etc.

Of course, 50,000 words isn’t considered novel length, but it can be a great start to a very rough draft.

For those of you who’ve stuck with me all of these years, you know the first book I ever wrote was during the 2010 competition. I wrote 1667 words a day, sometimes more on the weekend. By November 27th, I had 50, 655 words. Was it hard? You bet. Was I cranky those twenty-seven days? Ask Derek.  But in the end I met the challenge and was awarded with this.


The working title was CAPTURE THE DREAM.

The working title was CAPTURE THE DREAM.

Although the characters never left my thoughts, the book sat on my hard drive virtually untouched until March of 2015. After months of work and a generous contest, that book turned into this, with a different title.


After a complete rewrite, my second book is currently with my editor. Whether it’s purchased by Harlequin is yet to be determined. It’s my 2012 NaNoWriMo book.

On November 1st, I will participate in my third competition. You won’t see much of me, until I meet the challenge.

 For those of you who think I’m crazy…maybe I am. 🙂


Welcome, Kourtney Heinz

Highway-Thirteen-to-Manhattan-4-mod1-AmazonToday I’m thrilled to have award winning author Kourtney Heinz here to talk about the challenges of writing a sequel. I met Kourtney several years ago and since our meeting, her writing career has taken off. I’m so happy for her. She’s a hard worker and deserves great success.

The Five Unexpected Difficulties of Writing a Sequel

1) What did those curtain look like?

The curtains in Aunt Ines’s kitchen had a daffodil print in book 1 and in book 2 they were daffodil embroidered. The copyeditor missed it. I missed it until I was working on the revisions to the first book. I have a story bible that I checked to make sure those darn curtains had daffodils. I just neglected to remember they were print, not embroidered. And then I had to fix it in Highway Thirteen’s final ebook and paperback.

Being specific has its pitfalls. Those little details will trip you up. Make sure you check and double-check them.

2) Did I really say that in book 1?

Despite having a story bible, it’s really hard to remember everything in my worldbuilding. So much is inferred and not directly stated in the book. Sometimes I get tangled up in my worldbuilding, and I forget what I said in book 1. My editor had to remind me that Oliver called Caleb to help Kai during her previous mental breakdown.

But I had a little wiggle room because Oliver didn’t know Kai dreamwalked and talked to Caleb. So sometimes it’s what the character didn’t know the other character did that trips me up. That stuff that is only in my head and not recorded anywhere yet. Also, a character can be certain he was the reason something happened when he really wasn’t.
I have to remember all the things unsaid and make sure my next book doesn’t conflict in an way that cannot be explained away.

3) Being Goldilocks when it comes to recaps

In my second draft of book 2, my beta readers demanded more context and background. This meant recapping things that happened in book 1. But then how much recap is enough and where should it happen? It’s been 3 years since the first book came out. Do I assume readers have forgotten everything?

That was my next approach and my editor told me there was too much recapping and background.  First version had too little, second version had too much. She slashed a lot of it. Hopefully this version is just right.

Sometimes you have to underwrite, then overwrite, and finally come to a happy medium with recaps.

4) Being boxed in by book 1

When I wrote the first book, I could create anything and there was no worry that it might conflict with something else. It was all new. Now whenever I want to create a character arc, plot thread, or character action, I have to check back and make sure it doesn’t conflict with what I set up in the previous book.

Kai drinks wine in NYC and she drank rum in the hot tub in Butternut in book 1, but then in book 2 she mentions how hard liquor messes with her telepathy. When she’s in the city she doesn’t drink much—maybe 1 glass of wine because she can’t afford to lose control of her shield and her telepathy. But in Butternut, where her shield was under much less stress, she could drink a little hard liquor.

Make sure there is consistency in character’s actions or a clear explanation for why they are doing something they normally wouldn’t.

5) Fear of readers’ expectations

This led me to write a very timid first draft. I was so afraid that readers wouldn’t like what I was doing that I didn’t do much. My poor beta readers were terribly bored by the version they read.

They pushed me in the correct direction. My editor made sure there was oodles of conflict and that the pacing was right and every scene built upon the previous one.

Sometimes you have to write a bad draft to get to a good draft. Sometimes you have to let your fears dictate a terrible draft because then you realize that letting them go is the only way to get to a better book.



I also wanted to let your readers know, the first book in the series, The Six Train to Wisconsin, will be free on Amazon in October. I hate jumping into a series without reading book 1 first, so if they’d like to try the series out, they can read the first book free: http://www.amazon.com/Six-Train-Wisconsin-Book-ebook/dp/B00CJIXKG2

Back Cover Summary:

His secrets almost killed her. Her secrets may destroy them both.

Kai is recovering from a near-death experience when she realizes something isn’t right. Her body is healing, but her mind no longer feels quite like her own. Her telepathic powers are changing, too. She can’t trust herself. The darkness growing inside of her pushes her to use her telepathy as a weapon.

Oliver clings to the hope that he can save their marriage, even though he was the one who put her life in jeopardy. As his wife slips further and further away from him, he becomes increasingly obsessed with bringing the man who ruined his life to justice.

The sequel to The Six Train to Wisconsin is a genre-defying tale of love and consequences. Once again, award-winning author Kourtney Heintz seamlessly weaves suspense and paranormal intrigue into a real-world setting, creating characters rich in emotional and psychological complexity.


Kourtney Heintz is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Six Train to Wisconsin (2013), the first book in The Six Train to Wisconsin series. She also writes bestselling young adult novels under the pseudonym K.C. Tansley. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

She has given writing workshops and author talks at libraries, museums, universities, high schools, conventions, wineries, non-profits organizations, and writing conferences. She has been featured in the Republican American of Waterbury, Connecticut; on WTNH’s CT Style; and on the radio show, Everything Internet.

She resides in Connecticut with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and three quirky golden retrievers. Years of working on Wall Street provided the perfect backdrop for her imagination to run amok at night, envisioning a world where out-of-control telepathy and buried secrets collide.

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