Contests and Extras


New writers or aspiring authors sometimes ask me for advice on getting started, so I’ve added this page of tips to my website in the hopes that it might help you along the road to writing and publishing your own novel. If there were a magic formula for publication, I think it would be this:

Discipline plus persistence equals success.

Here are some specific tips to get you started.

  • Write the book you want to read. Don’t write Amish because it’s hot right now. Write the genre that speaks to you. Your passion and heart will come through in your writing.
  • Don’t stop learning. Read books and articles on writing. Some of my favorites are: Stein on Writing, and Writing the Breakout Novel. Brush up on the basics with Self-editing for Fiction Writers or this classic: The Elements of Style.
  • Reread your favorite books and dissect them. What do you like about it? What makes it work so well? What does the author do right? Go and do likewise!
  • To be a writer, you must write! Schedule time, set attainable daily or weekly goals, and meet them. Don’t be discouraged by your early efforts. Writing is a craft, so you will get better with practice.
  • Go to writing conferences to learn, network, and pitch your work to agents and editors. If you write Christian fiction I recommend you join ACFW and attend their annual fall conference. I go every year, and it’s always a highlight.
  • Join a local writers group for support. You’ll meet like-minded friends and perhaps find a critique partner, which I highly recommend. I’ve had the same crit partner for 19 years, and she knows my work as well as I do. We also brainstorm our books together, which is very helpful.
  • If you want to go the route of traditional publication, highly consider seeking an agent. Most publishers do not look at unagented manuscripts unless you pitch your story to them at a conference and they ask to see it. A good agent is just about as hard to get as a publisher! There are many good websites to direct your search. Here are a couple of reputable agents who blog about the business. You will learn a lot just by browsing their sites.

Chip Macgregor:
Rachelle Gardner:

  • Indie publishing (publishing your own works through Amazon, etc) is very popular, but I’m no expert on the subject. The only thing I’ll say on the matter is that every writer needs an editor. So if you go that direction pay for a good editor to edit your book. There are a lot of good web articles and blogs on Indie publishing.

Aunt Lola’s Blue Ribbon Apple Pie


  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 3 cubes ice
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  1. Measure butter & shortening onto a plate, put into freezer for about 20 minutes.
  2. Measure cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into large bowl. Mix.
  3. Take 1/2 of the cold butter and 1/2 of the cold shortening, add to dry ingredients cut together with a pastry blender.
  4. Take remainder of the cold butter & cold shortening and cut in very briefly leaving visible pea-sized chunks. Do not over process at this stage!
  5. In a measuring cup, mix egg yolk and vinegar together, add ice cubes and water. Let this get chilled, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle approximately 4 to 5 tablespoons of this egg, water, vinegar mixture, a little at a time, over flour mixture, mixing gently with a fork. The key to this is, you do not want a wet dough, and you do not want to over mix. You will not use most of this mixture.
  7. Place this dough into plastic wrap or plastic bag, chill in refrigerator for a few minutes. Remove from refrigerator and roll out on well-floured surface to 1” larger than pie dish., using as little flour as possible to prevent sticking.
  8. Place dough in pie dish, turn under edges and flute dough. Set aside.


Dutch Apple Topping
  • 1/2 c. Brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. Cold butter
  • 1 c. Flour
Apple Pie Filling
  • 6-7 c. Sliced and peeled Granny Smith apples
  • 1 t. Cinnamon
  • 1 t. Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 T. Flour

Mix all ingredients for filling and place in 9” unbaked pie shell. Top with Dutch Apple Topping. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes then 350 degrees for 40-50 min.

PJ's Wildberry Cheesecake

  • 2 c graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 lbs cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 c sour cream
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1/3 c seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1 c strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • 1/2 c raspberries
  • 1/2 c blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Crust - Mix together crumbs, sugar, and melted butter until the crumbs begin to stick together. Press firmly into the bottom and 2" up the sides of a 9" springform pan. Wrap aluminum foil around the outside of the pan to catch leaks. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool. Leave oven set at 350˚F.

Filling - In large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Using an electric mixer set on medium, beat until well blended. Add the eggs, beating after each addition just until combined. Poor the filling into cooled crust. Bake until the edges are set but the center still quivers slightly when the pan is shaken--about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Topping - In a bowl stir together sour cream and sugar. When the cheesecake is done, spoon the mixture over the top and return to oven for 5 minutes.

In a pan over medium heat stir preserves until melted. Remove from heat. Add berries and mix until coated. Mound berries atop cheesecake just before serving.

When cooled, run a knife around the edges to loosen. Remove the foil from the pan and release pan sides. place pan on a plate and cut into wedges.

Serves 12

Granny's Perfect Peach Crisp

  • 4 cups sliced, peeled peaches (frozen are okay)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped pecans



1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray 8x8 inch baking dish and arrange peaches in it.
3. Mix flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and butter in a bowl with a pastry cutter until crumbly.
4. Fold in oats and pecans.
5. Sprinkle topping over peaches.
6. Bake in a preheated oven until topping is lightly browned, about 30 minutes.


From the Bluebell Inn series by Denise Hunter
Makes 12 muffins
  • 1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (chopped walnuts (or pecans)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners.
  2. Mix all of the streusel ingredients together. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. Beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract until combined. Add the dry ingredients and milk into the wet ingredients and beat until well mixed. Fold in the blueberries.
  5. Spoon the batter into liners, filling them all the way to the top. Top with streusel, gently pressing it into batter. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for an additional 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer muffins to a wire rack.
  6. Muffins stay fresh covered at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Denise’s Award-Winning Chili

Nothing says autumn like a pot full of chili simmering in the kitchen! This is a hearty family favorite we’ve enjoyed for years and which won favorite chili at our church cook off. I hope you enjoy it too!


  • 2lbs cooked ground beef, drained
  • 3 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 t minced garlic, crushed
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • Heaping tablespoon brown sugar



Combine all ingredients except brown sugar in Crock Pot. Cook on low 10 hours or high for 5. Add brown sugar in last hour. Serve with favorite condiments. (We like shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, and Fritos or oyster crackers.)

Denise’s Devilled Eggs with Candied Bacon

Whip up a batch of these deliciously tangy deviled eggs that has a sweet bacon finish! This family favorite is my own special recipe.

Devilled Eggs:
  • 12 large eggs
  • ¼ cup Hellmann’s Light Mayo
  • 4 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 teaspoons sweet gherkin pickle juice
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke (found in condiment aisle)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 finely chopped sweet gherkins
  • Paprika for sprinkling
Candied Bacon:
  • ½ cup bacon pieces
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon water

1. Place eggs in large pot and cover with water. Put on stovetop over high heat. Boil for 1 minute. Cover with tight lid, remove from burner, and let cook for 17 minutes.

2. While the eggs are cooking, combine remaining devilled egg ingredients (except paprika) then refrigerate mixture.

3. When eggs are done, transfer them to ice bath until cooled. Peel eggs.

4. Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and transfer to medium bowl. Use a fork to mash well, then add mustard mixture to the yolks and combine.

5. Add mustard mixture to egg halves with teaspoon. Refrigerate.

6. Add candied bacon ingredients to a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until mixture sizzles for about a minute. Cool.

7. Sprinkle filled egg halves with paprika then spoon candied bacon on top.