Save Thyme & Avoid Common Mistakes — The Beginning

In my first article, Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes, I discussed the importance of attending writers’ conferences and a common newbie mistake — pitching a book that was not written. This next article will focus on the beginning — the beginning of your book, your writing career, and essential tools of the trade.

Save Thyme & Avoid Common Mistakes — The Beginning

If you don’t take into consideration the two years my story brewed in my mind, this first writers conference was my beginning. If you can get into a clinic at a writers’ conference, I highly recommend it. It’s intense, and you get one-on-one assistance with an experienced writer, agent, editor… . This input is invaluable.

Because your application for a clinic typically includes the first 15 pages, you want to make sure those 15 pages are the absolute best they can be. Write, rewrite, and write again. Have others read it and see if you have a writer friend who can also give you input (more on writers’ groups and critique groups later). When you think it’s there, set it aside for as long as possible (I prefer a week) so that you see it with fresh eyes, and read it out loud. It’s amazing what your ears catch that your eyes miss.

CCWC: Estes Rock Banner 2016

Although my manuscript was not written, I did write the first 15 pages to apply to a beginners fiction clinic that was team taught by two well-known authors. The beginning is always critical to capture your audience, whether it’s an agent, publisher or your reader. I realized during this particular clinic that I was chosen not because of my story (the first 15 pages did not reveal much), but because of the mistakes I made in the beginning. Nothing I had grabbed my reader — not the title nor the first sentence, first paragraph, or first page. Nada.

supernatural, fog, night, writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference, tools, titles
The Supernatural – Fact or Fiction? Night Fog …

This first clinic got my act together. At the start of this clinic, we went around the room reading our first sentences. The rule — NEVER begin a book with the weather. Most of us did. Think about how you choose a book, whether it’s your next library choice or book to buy.

Most people:
  • Check the title. Does it sound interesting?
  • Read the back cover copy. Still interested?
  • Open the book to the first page and read the first sentence. Still interested?
  • Read the first paragraph, and maybe even the first page. Getting it?
Writers’ Tools
writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference, tools, titles
The Author Toolbox


This first conference also gave me a glimpse into what type of tools of the trade would make my life easier. Instead of sharing what I learned here, I recommend a more comprehensive source that’s tried and true — The Author Toolbox by Candee Fick.



The Title
Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines


I needed a catchy and unique title. First, I brainstormed a list of 10 titles. Next, I did the research necessary to assure none of those titles were already taken in previously published works. I created survey sheets and waited outside each service at my church one weekend and asked people to choose and rank their top 3 titles. An overwhelming majority chose Hidden Bloodlines as their top choice.


I threw out my first chapter and started over. My first sentence went from the weather to:  “Victoria prosecuted the wrong man.”

What captures your interest?

Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes

So many mistakes … so much time wasted. Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes is the first in the Common Mistakes Series geared to help you save precious time getting that book published. I have first hand experience on making most if not all of them. With this new year upon us, my goal is to share my journey to make yours smoother and easier with quicker positive results.

The Story
writing, publishing, story, fiction, novel, mistakes, writing mistakes, Thyme for Writers, journey, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, agents, editors, craft, skills, writers conference
Save Thyme and Avoid Common Mistakes

As I mentioned in my article, Never Give Up!, I am a writer by profession. Although I have more than 100 published articles (most of which were ghost written), my heart’s desire was in the story. I yearned to write that novel and see it published. Even though I was an experienced writer, I quickly learned that fiction writing was a totally different “animal” and I set out to garner the necessary skills.

Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

Hidden Bloodlines started as a story triggered by a stay at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. After this story brewed in my mind for two years, I decided that the time was now and I attended my first writers conference.

A Conference Mistake

I successfully pitched my story to agents and publishers during that first conference, but made my first mistake as an conference newbie — I pitched a story that wasn’t written. It was in my head, but not on paper. Every single one of the editors and agents I pitched to, wanted to see a manuscript that did not exist. By the time I wrote it, revised it (I can’t remember how many times) and had it ready, 5 years had passed. Oops — a little late for that group of agents and editors who were either with different publishing houses or made career changes.

Colorado Christian Writers Conference

During those 5 years I worked on learning the craft and developing my skills as a fiction writer — essential if you want to be taken seriously and get published. I highly recommend attending writers conferences even if that story is not written. There are workshops and sessions geared toward honing your skills. Appointments are usually available with not just editors and agents, but writers, and other writing professionals. If you want to pitch a story idea, let the agents and editors know that it’s not written yet, then get on the horn and write it. They may be interested now, but not a year from now.

Do you have a story brewing?

The Stanley’s Infamous Room 217 and the Ghost of Mrs. Wilson

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Room 217, side view of Stanley Hotel
Stanley Hotel Outside Room 217, Estes Park, CO

The Stanley Hotel’s Room 217 is one of the most popular rooms in the hotel, after all, the ghost of Mrs. Wilson will keep your clothes nice and tidy. Four presidents and Stephen King were among the many prominent guests who stayed in that room. Although Stephen King did not pen The Shining there, his stay did inspire it.

Mrs. Wilson
Stanley Hotel, Room 217, Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley Hotel Room 217

Who is Mrs. Wilson? She was the chief chambermaid in 1911. On the day the hotel opened for the season, the hydroelectric plant went down. By the way, this hotel was the first hotel to have electricity. Mrs. Wilson was lighting the gas lamps when she was almost killed. Acetylene was pumped into the rooms, and in

Room 217, Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado
Room 217 – Stanley Hotel Estes Park, CO

Room 217 there happened to be a gas leak. When Mrs. Wilson went into the bathroom, it blew out the front of the hotel. She was blown through the floor into the MacGregor Room and survived. Almost forty years to the day, she died of a heart attack in that room. According to the tour guide, Mrs. Wilson is a permanent visitor here who will fold and put away your clothes.

Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado, Room 217, Bear-Clawed Tub
The Stanley Hotel
Room 217 Bear-Clawed Tub

My husband and I had the opportunity to stay in that room. Except for the bear-clawed tub and the view, it struck me as an ordinary room with an extraordinary history. Shortly after arriving, we had a few visitors just wanting to see it and take photos. We took a few photos of our own. One visitor who was clearly absent was Mrs. Wilson. I had to fold my own clothes and keep them nice and tidy.

Hidden Bloodlines, romantic suspense, Colorado Rockies, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Hidden Bloodlines

You may find some similarities between Room 217 and the honeymoon suite described in my book, Hidden Bloodlines. Check out Chapter 2 of the book and let me know what you think!


(C) 2016 Karen  Van Den Heuvel Fischer

Mr. Bugs Had It Right — Carrot and Cashew Soup

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Fall Harvest — Carrots

Mr. Bugs had it right! It’s the end of harvest season — at least in Colorado, and this Carrot and Cashew Soup recipe is delicious!

bunny, carrots, healthy, antioxidant
Mr. Bugs Had It Right — Carrots — A Healthy Choice

Before we get to the recipe, check out the skinny on carrots, a very versatile vegetable. It’s commonly eaten steamed, roasted, boiled, raw, and as an ingredient in many stews and soups. They are easy to grow and can be bought canned, frozen, fresh, and pickled.

Carrots – A Healthy choice

The carrot is a crunchy, sweet, aromatic vegetable that is a very healthy, popular vegetable high in Vitamin A (it provides 210% of an adult’s daily needs). Carrots also contain vitamin E, folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and fiber. Evidence exists that vegetables and fruits high in antioxidants (carrots included) reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Vision will also be restored by correcting Vitamin A deficiencies.

If you have an over abundance of carrots, you may ask, “What should I do?” A neighbor who has a garden of carrots shared a delicious soup recipe — Carrot and Cashew Soup (this is a favorite even of those who are not crazy about carrot soup).

colorful carrots, carrots, Carrot and Cashew Soup, recipe
Colorful Carrots
  • Carrots — 3 pounds chopped.
  • Chopped onions — 1 1/4 cup.
  • Cashews — 3/4 cup unsalted, unroasted.
  • Olive Oil – 2 TBS.
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves.
  • Vegetable stock or water (you may substitute with 3 cups of low sodium chicken broth and 3 cups of water) — 6 cups.
  • Soy milk (or what you prefer) — 2 1/2 cups.
  • Ginger root — 1 Tablespoon grated.
  • Black pepper to taste (optional).
  • Add the water or stock with the carrots to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
    onions, carrot and cashew soup, recipe
    Onions for Carrot and Cashew Soup

    Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

  • Sautee the onions, garlic, and cashews in another pan in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are soft and translucent.
  • Place the contents of both pans in a blender and puree until very smooth.
  • Return the puree to the saucepan and add the ginger, soy milk, and black pepper.
  • Garnish with toasted cashews, parsley, and yogurt.
Colorado, fall, Karen Van Den Heuvel
Karen Van Den Heuvel — Fall in Colorado

You may salt and pepper to taste (although I avoid the extra salt since Americans consume too much).

Let me know your thoughts after you try this delicious recipe!