Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guest Blogger: Christi Barth

Please join me in welcoming author Christi Barth as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Christi’s current release is ACT LIKE WE’RE IN LOVE, a contemporary, single title romance.

Here’s a brief blurb: When two people make beautiful music together onstage, can their love survive once the curtain falls? Linnea Larson is willing to do anything to keep her family's Minneapolis dinner theatre from going under. Anything, that is, besides accepting a date from the Hollywood hunk her father hired to inject a dose of star power into their production of Guys & Dolls. It's a toss up whether his greatest claim to fame is playing a superhero on screen, or a super stud off screen. Neither fact convinces her he's got what it takes to share her stage. And thanks to a life long pact with her best friend, she never dates actors.  

Luke Powell has fame, fortune, and an endless string of women, but also a lingering dissatisfaction with his picture perfect life. Looking for a change, he escapes to his theatrical roots. What he finds are wary cast mates, a nervous best friend convinced the show will ruin Luke's career, and an adorable costar who stubbornly refuses to go out with him. Suddenly singing and dancing aren't the only challenges he'll tackle over the summer. Far from the spotlights of Hollywood, can he find happiness in the footlights of a tiny theatre?   

Despite Luke dragging her into his daily paparazzi nightmare, Linnea can't deny her mounting attraction to his irresistible charm. And even if she's crazy enough to chance getting involved, their fling would have a guaranteed expiration date. He's leaving at the end of the run, and she's tied to her family's theatre. Why risk the inevitable heartbreak? Their job is to act like they're in love, but will they decide it's worth the leap to fall in love for real?

Christi stops by today to talk with us about ‘A Writing Recipe.'

I love to cook. One of my favorite things to do is have people over so I have an excuse to browse cookbooks, come up with menu plans, shop for ingredients and stand over a stove for hours. Every part of the process is fun for me. When I think about trying to describe the process of getting 98,000 words down in book form, it reminds me very much of cooking.

Random browsing: I don't wait for a party to find good recipes. Each month I rip pages out of Bon Appetit and Cooking Light, and bring home cookbooks from the library. Book ideas are the same thing. I don't wait until I'm ready to begin writing the next great romance novel to come up with a plot. One sentence blurbs occur to me all the time. Sometimes I scribble down a fully fleshed blurb, and sometimes it might be no more than a 'what if' scenario. At this point I have about twelve plots ready to go at any moment, with several more possibilities stuffed in a drawer. All I do is browse my idea file, and find the one that's right for the moment.

Menu plan and Ingredients: Writing doesn't begin immediately. The simulatenous process of planning (outlining
the plot) and choosing the ingredients (character development) can take up to a month. First I scroll through lists of names. In a recent book, the heroine's family had a Greek background, so I relied on the web to give me authentic first and last names. I try to select as many minor character names as possible before hand, otherwise I'll get stuck in the middle of writing for a few hours while I look for just the right one. 

Smart Art tools in Powerpoint make outlining the story a breeze. I make a chart for each main character's development, as well as one for the overarching story line. My current WIP takes place in Chicago, and the heroine is a wedding planner. So I have another chart listing iconic Chicago spots I want to work into the story, as well as wedding locations. When I need one, I can just refer to my list and plow ahead with writing.

Chained to the stove: for all of its fun, cooking has a decidedly non-glamorous side. Sautéing is sexy with the sizzle, and baking is magical. But nothing happens without prepping, which usually includes lots of chopping. Last night I made turkey soup, and I still had to shop carrots, onions, mushrooms, turnips, as well as walnuts for a dessert. To quote the great Nora Roberts, as a writer you have to put your butt in the chair. After all the planning and outlining, there comes a point when the dirty work begins, and I simply sit and write.

Since I'm not a mega best-seller yet, I do have a day job. All my writing occurs at night. Sure, there are nights when I find it difficult to pull myself away from my television addiction, but this is a job, and I treat it as such. I have a word count I must hit every week. Occasionally on the weekends I can squeeze out a few pages at my desk during the day. My home office is on the third floor, so I've got a great view of the treetops and nothing else to distract me. But most nights will find me on the couch with my laptop, banging away. 

The exception is outlining. Although I do outline the whole book in a general way before I dive in, I still generate an outline for each chapter, which  can only be created once I start. That can occur on the fly - I do much of my outlining on the elliptical machine, while driving, and at the symphony.  I come home from almost every performance with notes scribbled along the edges of my program. The beauty of writing is that you can commune with your characters anywhere. Stuck in line at the store? Plot the next chapter. Stuck in traffic? Figure out the next big plot twist.  

It is highly recommended to taste while cooking, to be sure the seasoning is right. Far easier to make adjustments as you go than try to fix at the end. In the same vein, I revise as I go. Perhaps I don't churn out as many pages at a time as some people, but I do deliver a final draft of every page each night when I shut down. So in essence, my first draft becomes my finished product. Once I type the end, I don't do much revising. Because once you take a cake out of the oven, there isn't much you can do to change it!

Christi, thanks for guest blogging here today and sharing how you cook up a wonderful story.

For more information on Christi, check out her website at and she blogs at htt://  An e-book version of ACT LIKE WE’RE IN LOVE can be purchased at Eternal Press, while the print copy can be found at

What are your thoughts on comparing writing to cooking?


  1. I love this comparison, Christi! Sounds like you're cooking up some wonderful books!

    I've never thought of using PowerPoint to help with outlining, but it's a brilliant idea. :)

  2. Sounds like a cute story. Might make a good movie!

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting Christie :-).

    Christie - I love that analogy you make to cooking! What a great way to think about creating a story. Thanks! I wish you much success with Act Like We're in Love.

  4. Hm, I'm suspecting that Christi has a contemporary romance yet to write that involves a couple of chefs and a gourmet kitchen! A fun interview, thanks Mason and Christi.

  5. Christi, thanks again for sharing your thoughts on writing. I'd say cooking, reading and writing do go together quite well.

    Elizabeth, Diane, Margot and Joanne, thanks so much for stopping.

  6. Okay Christi, now I'm hungry. . .to sit down and write/ :-) -Teresa H

  7. Your hubby must eat WAY better than mine! I find cooking rather boring, so my mind would drift to plotting while cooking...and the food would end up burnt! I have to be very careful to set timers and NOT multi-task too much, or we'll end up calling for carry-out!


  8. Great story Christi! You write a great blurb btw...=) Best of luck with this one, it sounds awesome!

  9. Hi Christi!
    I can't say I'm a fan of cooking, but I LOVE reading cookbooks, considering the posibilities of a meal not covered in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese!!! And I agree, planning out a party menu is a lot like planning out your book. (Although I'm not a big fan of outlining too much out before hand.)

  10. Sounds like fab romance, Christi. I love the idea of a hollywood hunk being turned down for a date!


  11. The writing / cooking analogy is a good one. The plotline of the book reminds me of those great old classic showbiz movies from the 30s and 40s. Love those stories.

    Tossing It Out

  12. Great post and so true, Christi. I hadn't planned on cooking dinner, but you made me hungry. Maybe I can cook and think about writing.

  13. Thanks to everyone for stopping by. The cooking analogy works because I love cooking - but try to apply it to something you love. I bet you can make it work for everything from field hockey to quilting. And remember, funny romance novels like Act Like We're In Love make great stocking stuffers!

  14. Oh man. I am a terrible cook. Much of this cooking talk reads like a foreign language to me. But I do make some killer desserts. Hmmm. I wonder. Is that why I tend to be a rather steamy to erotic author?
    Food for thought!

  15. Excellent post, Christi, and a timely reminder that I need to check that "blurb" file before I start writing again. Act Like We're in Love sounds like a good read (and using Guys and Dolls as the musical presentation wins me over immediately.

    Thanks, Mason, for this most interesting guest.

  16. Oh dang, now I'm hungry again.

    Sounds like a fun story and thanks for the tip about Powerpoint as an outline tool. Hadn't thought of that.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.