Saturday, December 31, 2011

For this Writer, 2011 Has Been a Good Year

It's hard to believe 2011 has come to an end. In my little writing world, 2011 has been a good year, but the year hasn't been so great for some of my writing friends.

My heart goes out to the people from Joplin who were affected by the tornado last May. But out of the tragedy, hope arose. It was gratifying to see how many members of the writing community rolled up their sleeves and uncapped their pens to help.

After the tornado, Claudia Mundell, president of the Joplin Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild, came up with the idea for an anthology as a way that writers could help our Joplin neighbors. Thus, the Storm Country Anthology was born, under the leadership of  Deb Marshall and Kelli Allen of the Missouri Writers Guild, published and copyedited by Linda Fisher from Mozark Press, with special guest editor Dianna Graveman from 2 Riverscommunications.

I was fortunate to have my short story "Golden Lilacs Under the Worm Moon" included in Storm Country anthology, and I got to attend the book launch in November, where I was able to read and hear several of my writing friends read their works included in the anthology.

In addition to Storm Country, my work also appeared this year in the following anthologies:

    "Read Away Vacation" in Flashlight Memories  from Silver Boomer Books
    "The Night the Circus Came to Town" in Mysteries of the Ozarks IV from Ozark Writers
    "Look Back, But Don't Stare" in A Shaker of Margaritas: Cougars on the Prowl from Mozark Press
    "Bridie O'Shea's Golden Haired Visitor" in Cactus Country from High Hill Press
    "Under Grandma's Bottle Tree" in Voices IV from High Hill Press

In 2011, my work was recognized for some awards:

   * Short story  "Criminal Minds" received First Place in the MWG President's Award for Short Stories
   * Limerick "Summer Help Wanted" awarded Honorable Mention in the Summer Poetry Contest by the Missouri State Poetry Society
    * Personal essay "Sweet Memories" received First Place in the Dan Saults Awards Category from the Ozarks Writers League
    *Short story "The Window Washer" received Third Place in the Dr. Doris Mueller Poetry and Fiction Contest

Two of my short stories have been nominated for awards:

    * My short story "Bridie O'Shea's Golden Haired Visitor" has been nominated for a Spur Award
    * My short story "Under Grandma's Bottle Tree" has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize

In 2011 I reviewed almost 40 books and wrote interview questions for more than half-a-dozen writers for the Bookreporter network.

In addition to my acceptances and wins, I received my share of rejections and non-responses to submissions, and I didn't win anything in several contests I entered. But rejections and near misses are part of being a writer.

This year I've had several new followers on my blog, had numerous giveaways, and a few special guests. Those feats are something I hope will continue in 2012.

All-in-all, 2011 was a good year, and I'm hoping 2012 will be good for me --- and for you!

Happy writing and reading--and I hope to hear from you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday Club of St. Louis 86th Original Poetry Contest for Local Poets

Founded in 1890, the Wednesday Club of St. Louis has a long history of supporting the arts and intellectual pursuits in the St. Louis area. The club's goal is "to provide a center of thought and action for the advancement of education, science, philanthrophy, literature, and the arts."

If you are a poet who lives within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis, the Wednesday Club of St. Louis has a contest you might want to consider. The club has invited poets to enter its Eighty-Sixth Original Poetry Contest. The submission deadline is Feb 1, 2012, and the awards reception is April 11, 2012. Acclaimed poet Mark Halliday is this year's judge.

Entrants must be over 18 and live within a 50-mile radius of St. Louis. Prizes range from $400-$100. The submission guidelines are quite specific. If you want to find out more about the contest, here is a link to the contest guidelines.

The Wednesday Club of St. Louis also is sponsoring a Junior Poetry Contest for local high school students in grades 10-12, who must submit through their school's English Department. That contest will be judged by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Here is a link for the contest guidelines for the Junior Poetry Contest.

The Wednesday Club's 86th Original Poetry Contest is a great opportunity to showcase the talent of local poets. If I were a decent poet I would enter, but with my limited poetry skills I wouldn't have a chance. But I hope that some of my visitors who are poets will check out the contest. If you do enter, good luck!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Early Bird Gets the MWG Discount and Woo Hoo, I'm a Winner!

Now that Christmas is over, I'm looking forward to the new year. I've already come up with goals for 2012. One biggie is to exercise more: my physical muscles, my writing muscles, and my spiritual muscles. I've already signed up for the MWG Confernece which will be next April. I'm organizing a writing group at my local parish, with our first meeting scheduled in early January, and I'm going to eat less and start walking more, starting right away.

If one of your resolutions for the new year is to get serious about writing and you're thinking about attending a writer's conference, here's one that local, regional--and by golly--even national or international writers can attend.

Tricia Sanders, the Missouri Writers' Guild Vice President and Conference Chair, has been hard at work planning the 2012 MWG Write Time! Write Place! Write Now! Conference which will be April 20 through 22, 2012 at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center of St. Louis. The hotel address is 16625 Swingley Ridge Road; Chesterfield, Missouri 63017.

Attendees who register by mail on on line by Dec 31 can save money. I'm all about saving money, so I mailed my registration yesterday to take advantage of the early-bird discount. MWG members and Chapter members can also attend at a discounted rate. 

The scheduled presenters  on Apr 20-21 are impressive and include authors, poets, editors, agents, and publishers. Claire Cook, Jane Friedman, Susan Katz, Susan McBride, Debra Hess, and Walter Bargen are among the speakers. On the additional day, Sunday, Apr 22, attendees can sign up for smaller group optional Master Classes at an additional cost.

Attendees can also reserve a table to sell their books and sign up to pitch their works to agents and editors--and, depending on membership status, attendees are eligible to enter all or most of the conference contests for modest fees.

If you miss the early-bird deadline, you can still sign up to attend; it will just cost a bit more.

Pop over to the MWG Conference blog to read an interview MWP Publicity Chair Sarah Whitney had with  Highlights Editor Debra Hess. Leave a comment and you could win a conference tote bag.

Now for a bit of good news: Deb Marshall, President of MWG e-mailed and told me my short story "The Window Washer" won third place in the Fiction category of the Dr. Doris Mueller Poetry and Prose Contest. The contest judge was Harvey Stanbrough.

Congratulations to all the winners in the all three contest categories! There were nine winners in all. Texas poets cleaned up in the Poetry category. The Children's category was mixed with winners from Kansas and Missouri. But in the Fiction Category, the Show-Me State showed it was all Missouri, baby!

I'm excited. Not only that my story won third place, I made a little money, and the judge is awesome, but because "The Window Washer" is a story I feel strongly about and didn't give up on. So, I'll continue working on my story until it gets published. That reminds me; I need to work on some entries for the MWG conference contests.

So, there you have it. Two ways to kick your writing into high gear in 2012: a writer's conference with great speakers and a chance to win by entering the contests. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Call for Submissions of Prose, Poetry or Artwork from KC Voices (Paying Market)

Christmas Day was lots of fun and over too quickly. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and is ready for the new year.

If one of your goals for 2012 is to publish your prose, poetry, or artwork, KANSAS CITY VOICES has the mission to "discover, encourage and promote creativity and communication through literature, art, and other forms of cultural expression."


The editors are seeking unpublished works which are "exceptional written and visual creations from established and emerging voices" for their magazine which is published in November of each year.

While the payment is modest (ranging from $20-$30, plus contributor's copy), publishing in regional magazines is a good way to support small press and build a writing portfolio.

Here are a few highlights of their submission guidelines:



* Online submissions only
* Submissions need not relate to Kansas City or the Midwest
* DEADLINE: March 15, 2012
* Unpublished at time of submission
•  Notification by  June 15, 2012

The above are just highlights. The actual submission guidelines are very specific. Here's a link to Kansas City Voices with complete guidelines.  

Good luck if you submit!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Carols -Too Much of a Good Thing?

I love listening to Christmas music, and, even though I'm not a good singer, I love to sing along.

When Christmas rolls around, I drag out our special musical wreath and hang it on the front porch. The wreath has a string of lights imbedded in it and a music box attached. It plays six Christmas tunes in a continuous loop. The music is catchy. The music is loud. If you're any where near the front of the house, you can hear the songs. I love it.

I hit the play button every evening when I turn on the Christmas lights. Shortly thereafter someone else in the house hits the stop button.

"Why do you like listening to the same songs all the time?" Grandchild #1 says. "Don't you get tired of it?" She's the one who blasts the same CD in the bathroom while taking a shower at 11 p.m. each night.

"That is so annoying," Grandchild #2 says. "The whole neighborhood can hear it." I want to tell him that he and his friends are also annoying when the whole neighborhood can hear them playing outside.

"Turn that crap off," Husband says, grabbing the TV remote. "It's time for O'Reilly."

Away from home, I sing along with the radio and hum as I'm buzzing through stores. It puts me in a festive mood as I try not to think about how much I'm spending.

Yesterday while I was at Macy's I was enjoying the music and getting energized listening to the upbeat song, "All I Want for Christmas is You."  Every time that song comes on the radio while I'm driving I turn it up and sing along. The lyrics give me chills. Sometimes the lyrics make me cry. People in other cars give me strange looks.

Apparently not everyone shares my love for that song. While I was paying for a gift, two Macy's cashiers were discussing Christmas music, oblivious to the fact that they were waiting on a customer, I guess.

"I'm so sick of that song," says Cashier #1 as she folds a sweater.

"Me, too," said Cashier #2 as she rings up my order. "I'll be glad when Christmas is over so we don't have to listen to it any more."

By the time I left the Service Counter I was bummed. "Bah, humbug," I mumbled. Then another song came on and I was humming along again.

How about you? Do you get tired of listening to Christmas carols? Or do you love the way they make you feel and are a bit sad when it's time to take down the tree, bundle up the lights, and turn off the music?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reading Roundup III - Some Favorite Children's Books for 2011

To complete my reading roundup, here are some of my favorite children's books for 2011. The links are to books with my reviews for Kidsreads.

BLESS THIS MOUSE by Lois Lowry is a charming story for animal-loving readers of all ages.

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos weaves twentieth century American history with wacky scenes and memorable characters.

PAINTINGS FROM THE CAVE: THREE NOVELLAS is Gary Paulsen’s dark and gritty collection of stories about three children who use the beauty of art and/or the unconditional love of dogs to survive troubled childhoods.

THE CHRISTMAS VILLAGE by Melissa Ann Goodwin is a sweet and suspenseful tale filled with surprises.

THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIS BURDICK: FOURTEEN AMAZING AUTHORS TELL THE TALES, Chris Van Allsburg. Stories written by children’s and adult authors: Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka and Chris Van Allsburg, with an introduction by Lemony Snicket.

WARP SPEED by Lisa Yee is a touching story about belonging, being unique and standing-up to bullies.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas filled with wonderful books.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas to "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" Commenters --You All Are Winners

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on my post and asked for their names to be put in the hat to win a copy of my story "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" which appeared in A Cup of Comfort for Christmas. In the spirit of Christmas, I decided that rather than just selecting a few names at random I would send a copy of the story to each person who left a comment.

So the winners are

 Bookie (Claudia)
Sally
Linda
Sioux
Melissa
Val
Janet
Carol




If you all will e-mail me at dvolkenannt (at) charter.net with your name and mailing address I will get your copy in the mail right away.

Merry Christmas, and thanks for continuing to visit my blog and sharing your thoughts and encouraging me to continue writing.

Donna 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reading Roundup II - Some Favorite YA Books for 2011

In Reading Roundup I earlier this week I shared a list of recommended adult books I've read in 2012. If you have a young adult on your Christmas list --- or you enjoy reading young adult books --- and are thinking of giving them a book as a gift, here's a list of some I've read this year that you might want to check out. You can find reviews of these books on Teenreads.com

BETWEEN by Jessica Warman is a fascinating ghost story with a haunting message. From the cover to the last page, this is a memorable book. Highly recommended.


LEGEND by Marie Lu is an intriguing futuristic thriller with touches of romance.

MERCY by Rebecca Lim is an intelligent, supernatural mystery with touches of romance and suspense.

STRINGS ATTACHED by Judy Blundell is an elegantly written story of courage, sacrifice, neglect, redemption and the brutal power of secrets to shape and ruin lives.

THE ANTI-PROM by Abby McDonald gives a glimpse into the dark side of the glitz, glitter and glamour of prom night, the perennial American teenage right of passage.

Next week I'll post my recommendations for children's books.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reading Roundup I - Some Favorite Books for Adults from 2011

Books make great Christmas gifts, so if you're thinking of buying books for Christmas, here's a list of some books I've read this year. This list is for books for adults. I'll post my suggestions for children's and young adult books in the next week. You can find my complete reviews of most of these books on Bookreporter.com

ON CANAAN’S SIDE by Sebastian Barry is an elegantly written, touching story of love and loss, sorrow and joy, secrets and surprises.


KILLING LINCOLN: THE SHOCKING ASSASSINATION THAT CHANGED AMERICA FOREVER by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard is a suspenseful historical narrative that chronicles events that changed America.

THE PRIEST’S GRAVEYARD by Ted Dekker is a fast-paced thriller that doesn’t shy away from dark and bloody scenes, while at the same time being surprisingly tender.

THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAE ALCOTT by Kelly O’Connor McNees imagines the summer of 1855, a summer that would change the course of Louisa Mae Alcott’s writing career.

THE MAID: A NOVEL OF JOAN OF ARC by Kimberly Cutter is written with vivid details and lovely prose, portraying the range of emotions of Jehanne (Joan of Arc), an uneducated peasant teenage girl who struggles with the destiny she must fulfill.

Monday, December 12, 2011

"Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" Story and Giveaway

Several years ago my story "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" was published in A Cup of Comfort for Christmas (Adams Media). The story is about the Christmas my husband, children, and I spent in Southern Arizona -- and the lesson my nine-year-old son Erik taught me about the real meaning of Christmas.

Earlier this year I gave permission for the story to be used as a handout at our parish Advent Candelight Service, which occurred two weeks ago.

The finished product is lovely. It's a full-page booklet printed on both sides on pink-tinted paper.

After the service I called the Parish Office to see if I could get some extra copies, and they graciously made extras for me. I'm going to include some copies in Christmas cards but am keeping a few to give away.

So, to celebrate the season of Christmas and as a special remembrance to my son, I'm giving away a few copies of the one-page booklet with the story "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" on my blog.

To win a copy of the one-page booklet:
* Become a follower and leave a comment between now and Friday, December 16
* OR - if you already are a follower, just leave a comment
* I will announce the names of the winners one week from today, on Monday, December 19, at which time I will request mailing addresses for the winners.
* Winners must have mailing addresses in the USA, or if military service or family members overseas, must have APO addresses.

To be clear, I'm not giving away copies of the Cup of Comfort for Christmas book, but I am giving away copies of the one-sheet, double-sided booklet of the "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" story that is in the book.

Good luck!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas Bus Trip - Lights, Trees, Nativity Scenes, Candy Canes, and More

Last evening our parish (All Saints in St. Peters) sponsored a bus tour to several local Christmas light displays. After eating a simple, but filling, meal in the Parish Center, more than 100 brave souls, including my sister Kathleen, some of my friends from my old work, and I hopped on two large tour buses and headed out for Tilles Park in St. Louis County to drive through their Winter Wonderland light display.

Because of rush-hour traffic it took some time to finally get there, but the non-religious displays were bright and sparkly, and so much to see. There was a jumping frog, skaters, trees, carriage rides, Santa, a toy house, a Peace on Earth sign, and lots more.   The driving tour took about a half hour, and is something kids of all ages can enjoy. Admission fees range from $9.00 for a family vehicle to $75 for a bus.

After once again braving rush-hour traffic, we rode across the Mississippi into the Land of Lincoln. Our second stop was the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, IL, for the Way of the Lights display, which runs until Jan 1.

After climbing off our bus we headed inside, where we were greeted by a group of children performing Christmas carols. As Kathleen and I walked down the hallway, we admired the decorated wreaths on the walls. The wreaths were donated for a silent auction. Some were simple, others ornate, but almost all were elegant.

The fun part of the tour was a walk through the Christmas tree display room.

The theme was children's books. What a delight!

The room isn't too large, but it was crowded and took about 15 minutes to walk through. I stopped a few times to snap photos of most of the trees on display.

Trees were decorated like The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Toy Story, Cinderalla (my favorite), The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and several others.

The display sponsored by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, called ONE,  included handouts for a 2011 Christmas Tree Blessing.

After leaving the Christmas Tree room, we peeked into the Children's Room, where there were a variety of activities for children, including a puppet show.

We wandered down the hall and visited the gift shop, which also had some lovely displays, most notably was a Nativity scene under the tree at the entrance.

Another highlight of our visit was a portrait of the Blessed Mother carrying the Infant Jesus and being serenaded by three angels.

What's remarkable about this portrait is that it's made out of Legos. Isn't it amazing?

I was told there is another, larger, portrait made out of Legos in the hotel at the center.

The suggested donation for the outside tour varies depending on the size of the vehicle. For a car it would be $10. Our bus paid $50, and with each $10 donation came a cute and cuddly stuffed animal--this one was a goat. Oh, the tour also offers camel and donkey rides. It truly is a sight to behold, and one I highly recommend for children of all ages, and anyone who is looking for displays with a spiritual message of Christmas.

After leaving Illinois we headed back to Missouri and took in a glimpse of downtown St. Louis City Park, then on to a special treat on Murdock Lane called --- Candy Cane Lane in the St. Louis Hills section of St. Louis. John Kuehner, the brother of Patti Niestat, one of our tour organizers, plans and produces this annual event. If neighbors can't afford to decorate, John foots the bill. All the houses on both sides of the street for a few blocks are brightly decorated. Red and white lights circle the bases of large oaks lining the streets, giving it a candy cane appearance. This brief drive was a delight, and a sweet way to finish up our evening before heading back to All Saints.

I hope they have this bus trip again next year, because I definitely want to go!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December 7 - Pearl Harbor Remembrance and a Special Birthday

Today is a special day for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that 70 years ago, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It was a day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed would "live in infamy."

My dad enlisted in the Army right after the United States declared war on Japan, and he served in the Army's 96th Infantry Division in the Philippines and Okinawa. After the war, Dad was a disabled veteran, but growing up he didn't talk about being in the war a lot. I have one photograph of him with two other soldiers. Dad is shooting a machine gun, flanked by the other two soldiers. I wonder what he was thinking about when that photo was taken. The war was over years before I was born, but when December 7 rolled around every year, Dad did open up a bit about World War II.

In September 1970 I traveled to Honolulu to meet up with my husband for his R&R during his tour in Vietnam. While we were there we toured the USS Arizona Momument. Maybe it was because my husband was serving during the middle of another war, but touring the memorial brought the reality and sadness of the war to me.

December 7 is special for another, happier, reason: On December 7, 1961, my baby sister was born. I remember that day very well. Dad was at work, so our upstairs neighbor drove Mom to the hospital. My dad wanted to name my sister Pearl, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day. During her preganancy, Mom wanted to name her Christine if she was a girl, but then a cousin named her daughter Christine a few months earlier, so mom named our new sister Bridget Mary, which fits her perfectly. Thank goodness mom got her way on that one. Bridget was such a happy baby, and she still has a joyful personality and an easy laugh.

Today Bridget is 50. My sister Kathleen and I are going to take Bridget out to lunch.

So, today is a special day of remembrance for those lost in Pearl Harbor and the day that changed the lives of so many Americans of the "greatest generation." It also is a day of celebration for our family. The circle of life continues.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Traditions of St. Nicholas Live On

Today is the feast day of St. Nicholas, who was the fourth-century bishop of Myra, a city in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor.

In grade school we learned about how Nicholas was very generous to a poor man in his diocese who had three beautiful daughters. The man couldn't provide money for his daughters to marry and was worried they would be forced into a life of sin. Nicholas secretly gave the man bags of gold to enable the daughters to be married. As the legend of the generosity of Nicholas grew, the custom evolved of gift-giving on the saint’s feast day. In many countries, like America, he became known as Santa Claus.

When I was young we put our shoes out so St.Nicholas could leave treats inside. A few other customs we followed was we always found oranges and candy canes in our stockings on Christmas morning, and of course before Christmas we donated canned goods for the needy--which one year was us.


In the Bavarian area of Germany, where my husband grew up, the custom was a bit different. Sankt Nikolaus day was a holiday, with a parade in the city and the children got visited. If you were good, you got visited by St. Nikolaus. If you were bad, Ruprecht came a knocking on your door to box your ears. Guess which one visited my hubby most years?

In the early and mid 1980s, when I lived and worked in Germany, the local nationals (or LNs as we called them) I worked with, got St. Nicholas day off, but the day before we all had a luncheon feast at work. On December 5th The LNs stayed late after we left. The next morning the desks of the Americans (or the Amis as they called us) had special treats on them. Of course, the day before Thanksgiving, we treated them to a feast. It was a nice exchange of customs.

I am fascinated by customs of other countries and like traditions and try to instill in my grandchildren a sense of the past.

My granddaughter says my husband and I are "old school," which I consider a compliment. But, even though our grandkiddos are teenagers now, I know their shoes will be outside their bedroom doors this evening. One of them will also make sure Harley, our black Lab, will get a treat. So, it's a trip to the store today to get some goodies for them all.

For the past two weekends one of my grandkids has helped carry gifts from the giving tree in church to the parish center after Mass. I'm hoping that by volunteering even in a small way they will understand that Christmas is more about giving than receiving.

Here's a link to a site with customs about St. Nicholas. How about you? Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day or any other feasts or have family traditions during the Advent or Christmas season? Cookie exchanges, maybe or Secret Santas?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturday Afternoon in Kimmswick, Missouri

Last Saturday afternoon several friends and I (12 in all) celebrated a Christmas lunch at the Blue Owl Restaurant and Bakery in the historic town of Kimmswick, Missouri.

Located in Jefferson County, the Mississippi River town was founded in 1859 by a German immigrant and successful St. Louis businessman named Joseph Kimm.

The town bustled with activity on Saturday. Our lunch reservations were for 1 p.m. Seven of us left around noon from St. Charles County in two cars and met the other five ladies there. In our car of four, we drove for a while looking for parking then found a spot a few blocks away. The walk wasn't bad because it was a lovely day--in the upper 50s-- there were lots of folks walking and driving and hunting for parking spots. I even saw a few cars with Christmas trees on their roofs.
When we arrived at the Blue Owl, several groups of people waited outside. The restaurant won't seat guests until the entire party is there. One of our group had a hard time finding a parking spot, so we didn't get inside to get seated until about 1:15. While we waited for our table to be set up, one woman told me she had a two-and-a-half hour wait for a table for two, but the weekend before when they drove their motorcycles to town they got right in. It was a busy weekend because of the Christmas Cookie Walk--and probably because of the lovely weather.

By the time we left a little after 3 p.m., there were tables available. So, if you want to eat lunch at the Blue Owl, especially on a weekend, call ahead for a reservation or get there after 3 p.m.

One of the specialties of the restaurant and bakery is their apple pie, which is an Oprah's "favorite things." We ordered our lunch , but by the time we ordered dessert, the bakery had sold out of apple pie, so I had a slice of chocolate cake, which was eight layers and included Amareto, almonds, and fudge in the ingredients.

My cake was so rich I could only eat a forkful, so I got the rest of it to go. My lunch was strawberry salad and spinach and artichoke quiche. Both were wonderful. The crust for the quiche literally melted in my mouth.

It was great to visit with my old friends from work and catch up on what's been going on in their lives. We even had a visit from Santa, who stopped by our table.

After lunch we hit the streets and did some shopping, and I managed to find a couple of Christmas gifts. One store called the Latest Craze had good prices on costume jewelry and bric-a-brac.

We ended the day with a trip to Marie's Sweet Shop, which also was a busy place. I was searching for a Christmas tree light necklace. The colored lights blink of and on--so I thought it would be fun to wear to my Bunco party on Friday night. I saw several ladies wearing the necklaces as I shopped. They told me they bought them at the candy store. But, alas, the store was sold out of the necklaces by the time we got there. Two ladies in a back room who inquired about the necklace for me were hard at work decorating cake pops and other candies to put in the display cases while other workers served up scoops of ice cream.

All-in-all my visit to Kimmswick was a fun and relaxing afternoon. I guess you could say my trip was a sweet treat.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day - Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tomorrow marks the second annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

The idea for this annual event came about because writer and blogger Jenny Milchman noticed she was taking her children to bookstores around this time of year for story times and other events. 

Her idea took off, and now more than 250 bookstores in 45 states, three Canadian provinces, England, and this year, even the Gold Coast of Australia. Click her to see the stores participating in the site's interactive bookstore map

Just shows the impact that one person with a great idea can make.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Update on Last Night's Author Open House at Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library

The author open house at the Middendorf-Kredell branch library in O'Fallon last night was fun and rewarding in unexpected ways.

Because of extended carpool duty, I arrived an hour after the official starting time, so all the tables were taken, except for the long table up front that had been used for registration. The other authors had already arrived--most of them more than an hour and a half before I got there. I felt like I was sneaking into church late on Christmas Eve. No empty spots and no chance to blend in with the crowd.

Sara N., who spearheaded the event, offered me the head table and even moved it back a bit so I wouldn't look like a Walmart greeter welcoming patrons as the entered the library. It was kind of cool because I was able to observe a lot.

It appeared there were around 30 or so eager authors sitting behind tables spread out all over the library, mostly talking to other authors, family members, or friends. I was happy to visit with some writing friends and reacquaint with a few writers I hadn't seen in some time.

There were healthy and yummy snacks and tasty lemonade, which came in handy when I got a coughing fit. At the snack table, I stepped aside to make room for some cute kids who cleaned out the chocolate chip cookies. After the cookies were gone, one blond haired, blue eyed toddler walked over to my table to see what I was eating. I offered him a carrot stick. With a  chocolate-smeared face he made an immediate grimace then ran to grab some cheese and crackers.

A little later, an older boy asked if he could have one of my books, just as his mom told him he couldn't buy anything. He asked if I'd be back some other time because he really, really wanted a book. I felt bad but didn't want to come between a mom and a child begging for her to buy him something. Before she could tell him she didn't have any money, I gave him a one-page, double-sided printed copy of a story of mine called "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" that was published in A Cup of Comfort for Christmas several years ago.

At our parish's Advent Candelight Service on Monday night, copies of my story were given out to attendees, and I grabbed a few extras and brought them with me to the library as giveaways. The middle-grader (I'm guessing) seemed happy to have something--anything of his own--to take home.

After he left I remembered there is a sentence in the story about how my then 12-year-old daughter Julie no longer believed in Santa. Hope the young man is already past the believing in Santa stage. If not, I nominate myself for the Grinch award.

As usual, Sara did a wonderful job planning and organizing the annual event. The only complaints I heard were from a woman who wondered why she got a tiny table when she arrived at 4:30, and a gentleman who complained about traffic. No matter how great things are there always will be someone who will complain.

At the end of the evening Sara told me she was pleased that so many authors donated copies of their books for a silent auction sponsored by the St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers for Artists and Authors next week.  Since most of my stories appeal primarily to women, I wasn't sure what to donate, so I gave Sara a signed copy of A Cup of Comfort for Military Families, with my story "Welcome Home," which would be appropriate for either a man or a woman.

My writing and critique group friend Marcia kept me company for the evening. I also was in shouting distance of Joy, a writing friend I've known for several years but hadn't seen in quite a while. Mary, one of my IVV (in vino veritas) group pals, was there briefly but had to leave for a school event. Before Mary left, Joy asked us for comments on a book cover she is contemplating, and we gave her some suggestions. It was just like old times.

Although these events aren't always profitable from a monetary standpoint, they are fufilling and rewarding in other important ways: supporting the library, sharing stories and snacks, catching up with old friends, meeting library patrons, but most of all being surrounded by books and book lovers.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Free Author Open House - Tuesday, November 29 (I'll be there from 6-7:30 p.m.)

If you live in the metro-St. Louis/St. Charles area and want to meet a passel of local authors (including me) and eat some free snacks, check out the Author Open House sponsored by the St. Charles City-Country Library District.

The open house will be at the: Middendorf-Kreddel Branch Library 2750 Hwy. K, O'Fallon,MO 63368

Here's the shameless plug portion of this post: While I can't be at the entire event, I will be there from around 6-7:30 p.m., along with a few of my writing friends and several other writers.

This year I've been a busy girl and have been fortunate enough to have stories published in several anthologies. I will have copies of the following books with my stories in them available for purchase and will gladly sign copies.

"Read Away Vacation" in Flashlight Memories (a true story)

"Look Back but Don't Stare" in A Shaker of Margaritas: Cougars on the Prowl (pictured above, bottom right hand corner) (Me? A Cougar? This one is definitely fiction!)

"The Night the Circus Came to Town" in Mysteries of the Ozarks (Vol II) (Ozarks mystery short story)

"Bridie O'Shea's Golden-Haired Visitor" in Cactus Country (Western short story)

"Golden Lilacs Under the Worm Moon" in Storm Country Anthology (funds go to the Joplin Libraries)

"Under Grandma's Bottle Tree" in Voices Anthology (nominated for a Pushcart Prize)

If my back isn't hurting from hauling copies of all those books to the library, I might also bring a couple copies of A Cup of Comfort for Military Families, A Cup of Comfort for Women, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Gift of Christmas and other anthologies my stories have appeared in over the past years.

The event is FREE and registration is not required, but I believe the library wants people to register to get an estimate of how many will be there so they can purchase enough refreshments. Check out the list of other writers appearing at the event.

Even if you're not in the mood for shopping, I hope you will stop by and visit tomorrow night, Tuesday, Nov 29. I'll be there from 6 till 7:30 p.m. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thoughts on Thanksgiving and a Quote from Ferris Bueller

This time tomorrow the turkey will be roasting in the oven and I'll be buzzing around the house doing who knows what.

Thanksgiving dinner is at my sister Kathleen's, but I'm making a turkey so we will have plenty of leftovers at our house. Plus, turkey is good for you, right? It's all those extras like dressing and gravy and marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes, and green-bean casserole, oh and the pies that pack on the pounds. The stuff I really like.

So, since no doubt, I won't be able to post tomorrow, I want to take time today to wish all of you a happy, safe, and joyful Thanksgiving Day. When I count the many blessings I've received this year, I count you among those gifts for which I am thankful.

If you're one of my blog followers, someone I've interviewed, someone whose book I have reviewed, a long-time reader, a first-time visitor, a blogging buddy, or a writing friend, I am grateful our paths have crossed and wish you many blessings.

Oh, and please if you have a slice of pie or cake or anything else scrumptious tomorrow, I hope you savor every bite.

If our family tradition at Kathleen's holds, we might even watch Ferris Bueller, one of the Duly Clan's all-time-favorite holiday flicks.

So, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Ferris, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Blessings,
Donna

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Weird of My Weekend in Overland Park Kansas

Here's a snapshot of this weekend's soccer tournament in Overland Park, Kansas.

The Good:

The room at the Hyatt Place was huge.

Free healthy breakfast. Yum. Home-made oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar.

Saturday afternoon shopping with Cari and some friends at an indoor mall, which had an American Girl shop, a Noodles and Company, and a Forever XXI store to mention a few.

Got a parking spot near the door.

The soccer banquet honoring all the girls, especially the seniors, was fun!

The girls passed the ball a lot and showed good teamwork.

Watching re-runs of "Say Yes to the Dress" in the hotel room with my granddaughter.

Watching Mizzou beat Texas Tech on a 46 inch TV in our hotel room.

Last soccer tournament of the season.

The Bad:

Last soccer tournament of the season.

Sitting in traffic near Columbia Friday evening for almost an hour on the drive to KC.

Stopping at a sketchy gas station outside of Columbia to go to the bathroom after being stuck in traffic.

Sitting in the wicked and cold wind in Kansas on Saturday and Sunday.

No wins.

My poor frozen toes and hands after sitting in the cold, wicked wind.

Listening to the Rams game on the way home--the Rams lost again.

The Weird

Filling up at a QT outside of KC, my granddaughter saw a girl she went to PSR at All Saints about ten years ago. The girl moved to the Kansas City area several years ago. 

More Good

Making it home in four hours by eating lunch in the van, one stop for gasoline and one potty break.

I love trips like this weekend's but I'm always happy to come home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Winner of Melissa Ann Goodwin's The Christmas Village

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left a comment or question for Melissa Ann Goodwin.

The winner of Melissa's charming Christmas book, The Christmas Village is:

BOOKIE

Congratulations, Bookie! I have forwarded your e-mail address to Robyn at WOW! Women on Writing, who will be contacting you soon.

If my other blog visitors would like another chance to win Melissa's book, Margo Dill at Read These Books and Use Them, is hosting Melissa until Nov 20.

Check out Melissa's post: " Every Town Has A Story: Ways to Encourage Kids (and Grown-ups) To Write" for some great tips to come up with ideas for stories or essays.

The contest on Margo's blog ends at 8 p.m. on Nov 20, so hop on over and leave a comment or share your favorite Christmas tradition for a chance to win a copy of The Christmas Village.

Thanks to Melissa for her generosity and wisdom and to Robyn at WOW! for inviting me to have Melissa as a guest blogger on Donna's Book Pub.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Now We're Talking Turkey: Deadline Extended for Goldminds Publishing Embrace Romance Anthology Until Thanksgiving Weekend

Now we're talking turkey:

Pat Smith, Romance editor at Goldminds Publishing, has announced the deadline for the call for submissions for romantic short stories for a new anthology to be published by Goldminds Publishing's Embrace Romance imprint has been extended through Sunday, November 27th.

According to a recent blog post: "No more excuses. Use the time when your family has passed out from their turkey dinner to polish up your favorite romantic short story and email it to: pbsmith (at) goldmindspub.com. Authors of stories selected for the anthology will be paid $50.00 per story."

I had wanted to submit to this one but didn't have anything written, but now that the deadline has been extended I might be able to pull something together.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post from Melissa Ann Goodwin - "The Two Techniques that Improved My Writing the Most" and Special Giveaway

I am pleased today to welcome Melissa Ann Goodwin to Donna's Book Pub as part of the WOW! Women on Writing author's blog tour.

Melissa and I have been blogging friends for quite some time and have gotten to know one another through her friendly and helpful posts. She also has been a frequent visitor to my blog, always leaving uplifting comments.

So I was so happy to hear about publication of her book, The Christmas Village, and even more excited when Robyn from WOW! asked if I would like to host Melissa on my blog.

"Of Course!" was my immediate answer.

Melissa is author of the charming children's book, The Christmas Village. Here's a synopsis of the book: "Jamie Reynolds wished that he could live in Grandma's miniature Christmas village, and now that wish has magically come true. But is the village really what it seems? What stunning secrets does it hold? And how will Jamie ever get back home? Join the fun, come along on the adventure, and find out!"


Here's what Melissa has to say about the two techniques that helped improve her writing the most.

***
As writers, we’re always looking for tips and techniques to make our writing better. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Some people are naturally adept at creating realistic dialogue; others paint us vivid pictures with their words. I’ve realized that I’m naturally pretty good at dialogue and plotting, but I have to work hard on description, and I have to be careful to avoid redundancy. There are two key activities that have helped me strengthen my writing and I’d like to share them with you.


Reading Your Work Aloud

The first activity I use to tighten my work is reading it aloud. The brain is a funny thing – when you think of a word that fits perfectly, your brain likes it so much that it wants to use it again – two sentences later! Reading aloud helps you to catch redundancies when silent reading does not. It also clearly shows up words or sentences that don’t flow smoothly and it helps you catch missing words and errors. Poor dialogue is especially highlighted when you read aloud – if it doesn’t sound realistic when you say it out loud, it won’t sound real to the reader either.

Including Description of All Five Senses

The second activity I recommend is making sure to use descriptors in all five of the senses. It’s pretty easy to describe sight and sound, but we usually have to dig deeper to effectively convey touch, smell and taste. The effort is well worth it though, because including a broad range of vivid descriptors is one way that we achieve “showing” versus “telling” - which is what makes our story come alive for our readers, and helps them get lost in the worlds we’ve created for them.

To illustrate, let’s take these sentences excerpted from page one of my book, The Christmas Village:


“ … They had been driving all day through gloomy weather, stopping only for bathroom breaks and a greasy hamburger at a place called Red’s Diner … The overly warm car smelled like stale air and leftover fries. Jamie’s eyes had grown weary from reading the book that now lay face-down in his lap. The monotonous thunk thunk thunk of the windshield wipers made him drowsy. To amuse himself, Jamie squinted so that the lights whizzed past in a kaleidoscope of streaks and swirls.”

I wanted to show that the characters have been driving for a long time on a dreary night. But more importantly, I wanted to show that Jamie’s mood is gloomy too. Using descriptors that crossed all the senses helped me achieve both those goals.

I found that using these two techniques tightened my story and brought it to life in a way that I’d never achieved before. I hope that you’ll find them helpful to your writing process too.

***

Thanks for sharing those tips, Mellissa. Using examples from your book is especially helpful. And thanks for generously donating a copy of your wonderful book to one lucky visitor who leaves a comment on my blog about your post. The Christmas Village makes a great gift for a child or grandchild--or anyone who loves the magic of Christmas. 

If you would like to win a copy of Melissa's charming Christmas story The Christmas Village, leave a comment here by November 17. The name of the lucky winner will be announced November 18.

Monday, November 14, 2011

St. Louis Catholic Writers Guild Meeting

Last Saturday I attended my first meeting with the St. Louis Catholic Writers Guild. It was the second time the group has met. My friend Dianna Graveman forwarded an e-mail to me about the group, and we both decided to check it out. The logo below is from the national organization's website.


Denise Montgomery led the meeting at the Saint Charles Coffee House (in the back room) on McClay Road in St. Peters. About ten people attended ranging from teenagers to senior citizens. Both writers and illustrators were in attendance. Among the goals of the local group is to encourage writers through prayer, as well as networking and discussion and possibly critiques.

Right now the group is an unofficial chapter of the CWG. Denise, who is writing a women's contemporary fiction novel,  began the meeting with this prayer from the Catholic Writers Guild:

Holy Family, Guide our minds, our hearts, our hands,
as we write, speak illustrate --
help our words to live in union with the Word.
Teach us discipline and skill to use the talents God gives us.
Give us also insight and courage to convey God’s love through
our craft, and humility to be open to His divine will, shaping
our lives, in loving loyalty to His Church. In Christ’s name,
Amen.

After going around the table and introducing ourselves, we had an open discussion. Denise shared with us details about the conference she attended in August and next year's conference which will be held in Dallas, TX. We also heard a bit about Michelle Buckman and Sophia Instutute Press.

Denise also told us about the publication The Messenger from the Missionary of the Holy Family and gave out beautiful photographs of the Blessed Mother holding the Infant Jesus.

Dianna Graveman shared her experiences with the group about the magazine St. Anthony's Messenger, where she has published fiction (and won awards), as well as Liguori Press, where she served as an editor. Dianna also asked for suggestions for the Spring courses she will be giving through the St. Charles School District Adult Education Program.

What I liked about the group was the enthusiasm, yet sense of peace, of the members. Maybe it's because, as Denise put it, "our hearts are coming from the same place."

The next meeting of the St. Louis Catholic Writers Guild group will be Saturday, January 14 at 10:00 a.m. at the Saint Charles Coffee House on McClay Road in St. Peters.

If you decide to attend you might want to get there a few minutes early because the line to order beverages was long last Saturday. Also the tables we sat at were high and had tall chairs I didn't have a problem sitting on a tall chair, but people with short legs or mobility issues might.

Denise asked us to pass the word that any area Catholic writers are welcome to attend. If you are interested in finding out more about the group, e-mail Denise at dymontgomery (at) gmail.com.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Memory Tricks and Saying Thanks to Our Veterans

When I was younger I prided myself on my good memory, which helped me do well in school. My memory is still pretty good, although sometimes I'll walk into a room to get something and by the time I get there I'll forget what it was I was going to get. I attribute that to getting older and having too much on my mind.

To help me remember throughout my life I've used what I call "memory tricks," which I found out actually have a name. They are called  mneumonics. 

In grade school my classmates and I learned to use HOMES to remember the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior) and A Rat In The House Might Eat The Ice Cream to spell (ARITHMETIC). In music class, it was FACE and Every Good Boy Does Fine. For spelling, there was: "i before e, except after c or when sounding like A, as in neighbor or weigh." And what child doesn't remember jumping rope to "Thirty days have September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31 except February with 28, but leap year makes it 29." And the list goes on.

My own birthdate helped me remember my multiplication tables. That's because the day of my birth, multiplied by the month of my birth, equals the year I was born in. Guess I'm lucky that way.

I still use dates to remember numbers. If someone tells me an address or a phone number and I don't have pen and paper I'll convert the numbers into dates. For example, if someone says their phone number is 699-0408, I'll make a mental note it's June 99, April 8. Might sound confusing, but it works for me.

Today is 11/11/11, a day that will be easy to remember for birthdates and wedding anniversaries. It also is a special day because it's the day to say thanks to our veterans, and those who wear the uniform. Yesterday my husband Walt (a Vietnam Veteran) was surprised when he received a text from the dad of one of our grandson's friends. The text thanked Walt for his service.The man knew Walt would be out getting ready to deer hunt today, so he texted him a day ahead of time to say thanks. What a thoughtful gesture!

I was pleased to see the list of local businesses who are saying thanks to veterans and active duty servicemembers with special discounts, and even free giveaways. Restaurants include: Applebee's, Chili's, Hooters, Krispy Kreme, Golden Corral, Subway, Arby's, Texas Roadhouse, TGI Fridays, Outback Steakhouse, and several others. Here's a listing I found in the Steals and Deals Blog of the St. Louis Post Dispatch online.

So, whatever way helps you remember, please take a few minutes to remember to say thanks to our vets and active duty servicemembers. Here are the family member veterans I am thankful for: James P. Duly, Sr. (deceased),  Walter Erik Volkenannt (deceased), Walter Volkenannt, and James P. Duly, Jr.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Remembering Basketball Legend Ed Macauley

I was sad to hear the news that Ed Macauley passed away last night.

"Easy Ed" Macauley was a star basketball player at St. Louis University, later for the Boston Celtics then the St. Louis Hawks. In 1960 he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Outside the basketball court, he was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather and a man of faith. Late in his life he became a decon in the Catholic Church and co-wrote a book on homilies titled Homilies Alive.

Several years ago, while writing an article for Sauce Magazine, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Macauley. He was very humble, gracious, easy to interview, and generous with his time.

So, rest in peace, Mr. Macauley. You left your mark on the world; you truly were a star.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fairy Tales are Hot, So Why Not Write One?

Once upon a time, life was very grim.

In case haven't noticed, fairy tales are hot. In the fall television line up alone I've found two network programs that are about fairy tales.

NBC has Grimm on Friday nights. I've watched a few episodes, and I find myself strangely attracted to the show. One of the main characters is a St. Louis native, so that got my attention. David Guintoli plays Nick Burckhardt, a detective and "Grimm-creature profiler." So far in the series, we've seen Little Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and a Jagerbar. Okay. That's one I hadn't heard of before. The program is scary and so far interesting, but with some violent scenes. When those come on, I cover my eyes and peek through my fingers.

Over on ABC, there's Once Upon a Time. It's a modern-day adaptation of Snow White, Prince Charming, and the Evil Queen. The action takes place in Stonybrooke, where the mayor is a controlling, evil, well - witch. Then there's Mary Margaret, the sweet teacher, and Emma Swan, the stranger who comes to town, and don't forget Jiminy Cricket and Rumpelstiltskin. The series is more sugar-coated than Grimm, but so far it's been entertaining.

If you're into writing fairy tales, here's a call for submission for adult writers from Vestal Review that caught my eye (it didn't really catch my eye; my eyes are still intact, but you know what I mean). 

* Theme - A twist on classic fairy tales. "About the yet unheard adventures of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, Snow White or any other well-known fairy tale character. Interpret the theme broadly and imaginatively, but incline toward a literary story."
* Flash fiction (limit 500 words)
* Deadline November 30, 2011
* State the source tale’s name before the title.
* No more than two submissions per author.
* Pay rates vary, depending on story length.
* "Stories of great merit receive up to $25 flat fee; 3 cents a word is a minimum pay in any case.”

** For complete details and to submit your story, click on their submission guidelines.

Good luck.

The End.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Writing Coach Christina Katz Interviewed on MWG Conference Blog

If you get a chance pop on over to the MWG Conference blog and check out the interview of Christina Katz, who will be a keynote speaker at the MWG conference next April.

Sarah Whitney's interview with Christina includes a preview of  her keynote speech on “Never a Better Time to Be a Writer." She also discusses when the right time is to launch your writer's platform.

While you're there, leave a comment for a chance to win one of Christina's books from Writer's Digest Books--"Writer Mama" (which I have a copy of and can recommend) or "Get Known Before the Book Deal."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November 2, All Souls Day: A Day to Remember the Dead

In the Catholic Church, the day after All Saints Day is called All Souls Day--a day set aside to remember loved ones who have died.

When I was a kid, I liked All Saints Day because we got a day off of school, which was really neat because after going out trick or treating on Halloween night, having a day off of school was an added treat.

But on November 2, All Souls Day, I thought it was kind of creepy to pray for dead people.

As an adult I've learned how important it is to remember loved ones who have passed away in prayer. For me it creates a connection between my loved ones who have died and a way to remember their lives. 

Some Latin American countries and communities in the United States commemorate All Souls Day (Día de los Muertos) with parades and festivals, candy skulls, and special prayers.

Here's a prayer I use to remember loved ones who have died:

Eternal rest grant them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May their souls and the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Got Romance? Goldminds Publishing Call for Submissions - Short Deadline

Now that the World Series and Halloween are over, it's back to writing.

It's hard to believe it is already November. I've been reading posts about National Novel Writing Month lately. I tried it a few years ago and only made it through a few days. While I don't have the stamina for National Novel Writing Month, I'm trying to focus on shorter works. I'm not a romance writer, but here's a submission call out that got my attention. I read this call for submissions a few days ago and thought it might be of interest to my readers.

Editor Pat Smith, from Goldminds Publishing, is seeking romantic short stories for its first Valentine's Day anthology, which will be published in January 2012.

Pat is a smart, witty, and warm writer I met several years ago at a conference in Texas. I've heard Pat speak at writing events a few times since then, and she was a featured speaker at the Missouri Writers' Guild conference last April. Pat is now an editor at Goldmines Publishing putting together their first Valentine's Day anthology. She is looking for "vibrant, smart, heart-warming contemporary romances featuring modern men and women meeting and falling in love."

Word Count: 3,000-10,000

Setting/Characters: According to Smith, "We don't want every story set in Paris, New York City or London, featuring a billionaire or royal heir falling for his gorgeous but shy secretary. Try something different and a little more believable."

Heat index: "Moderate...warm, romantic and sexy...We definitely want to feel the chemistry between your lead characters, but don't make your descriptions OB/GYN explicit, so, not chaste, but not erotica either."

DEADLINE: Close of business on Friday, November 11, 2011.

Submit to: pbsmith@goldmindspub.com

Be sure to put "Embrace Valentine's Day Anthology" in the subject line of your e-mail.

Payment:  Writers whose stories are selected for the anthology will receive a one-time payment of $50.00.
For more information about Goldminds Publishing, visit their website.

Good luck!

Friday, October 28, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals Prevail in Game 6 of World Series: In Baseball and In Writing - Never Quit

Last night's Game 6 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers was thrilling!

My teenage granddaughter and I stayed up and watched the game after hubby and grandson called it a night. I was bone-tired after cleaning the house for Bunco--which is at my house tonight--and at one point I told Cari I was going to bed, but she convinced me to stay up till the game was over.

Boy, am I glad I did. It is a shared memory Cari and I will have for years to come. The game didn't start out pretty for the Cardinals--not many hits, three costly errors. Winning Game 6 wasn't look promising. But the Cardinals never quit.

When David Freese tied the game with a triple in the bottom of the 9th, I got a glimmer of hope. Then Texas shot ahead. When Lance Berkman tied the game in the 10th inning, I stood up and cheered, "Lance, Lance. He's our man. If he can't do it, no one can." Then hometown hero David Freese struck again, toppng off the evening with an 11th inning home run. Cheers. Chills. Tears. Unreal.

No matter what the Cardinals do tonight in Game 7, last night's game--and this season--will be one I will always remember. At one point late in last night's game the Cards were down by three runs. They didn't quit. They fought back. To quote Dylan Thomas, they refused "to go gentle into that good night."

Flashback: In 1964, when I was around Cari's age, my sister Kathleen and I and some friends skipped school (with our parents' permission and the good nuns at our high school not disapproving) and camped  overnight outside the old Sportsmen's Park for Game 7 of the World Series between the underdog St. Louis Cardinals and the favored New York Yankees. That October night was cold as we huddled beneath our blanket. But it was an experience I have never forgotten.  Bleacher tickets cost $2. I had saved money from babysitting to pay for my ticket. We were able to buy two tickets each. A friend of Kathleen's paid us $5 for our extra $2 bleacher ticket, which paid for our own ticket, plus snacks at the stadium. What a deal!

A lot has changed since 1964. The Cardinals have moved stadiums twice since then. I heard this morning the least expensive available ticket cost around $400 for standing room only. In 1964, when Bob Gibson pitched the Cardinals to beat the New York Yankees, I climbed down the bleacher wall and followed other fans onto the field while my sister stood in the bleachers holding our blanket, yelling for me to be careful. How crazy was that?

Crazy, but well worth the memory. Yep. Baseball fans and writers have a lot in common; we're dedicated and a little bit crazy.

The resilience, persistence, and never-give-up attitude of the Cardinals is a lesson for me as a writer. In spite of rejections or close-but-not-quite-there placement in contests, I'll keep on plugging away, doing what I love to do--write--oh, and root for my hometown Cardinals.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Imo's, Good Pizza and Good Business

About a month ago I complained about getting "Ripped Off by J.C. Penney" after an incident at a local Penney's store. Since then I've received several coupons in the mail --- one if I spend $10 they will take $10 off my bill. Although that $10 coupon was very tempting, I haven't budged. Instead I've been shopping at Kohl's.

Today I want to share a story of a situation where Imo's, a local chain restaurant, took an opposite approach when one of its employees made a mistake.

A couple weeks ago, after one of my granddaughter's soccer games, my family stopped to grab lunch at a local pizzeria. Imo's pizza is a local brand known for its thin crust as a "square beyond compare."  For lunch, the grandkiddos (and granddaughter's boyfriend) ordered pizzas, 20 hot wings, and sodas. I opted for pasta and salad.  The tab came to $44 plus change.

I put the order on my credit card and we all headed for a table. While I ate my salad, the cashier came out and told me he had charged me for 30 wings rather than 20 and asked me to sign a new credit slip, which came to about $38. As I signed the second charge slip, he insured me the first charge would be voided.

A couple days later when my husband was checking my credit card charges on line he noticed both charges appeared on my card. My pizza/chicken wing/pasta/salad lunch bill was now over $80. Yikes!

"Get me that receipt," he said, "and I'll take care of it."

After I dug the receipt out of my cavernous purse, hubby called the restaurant and explained the situation. The manager apologized and promised to take care of it right away.

Two days later hubby checked again and both charges were still there. He called the restaurant again. By that time it was too late for the restaurant to adjust the charge and he suggested hubby call the main office, which he did. Because it was too late for even the main office to remove the charge, the supervisor there gave the option of getting a credit at the restaurant that made the mistake or receiving a check for the $44 plus change. Hubby opted for the check.

A few days later a check arrived in the mail, along with a written apology and a gift card for $20.

So, while the Imo's restaurant made a mistake, they corrected it right away. They not only refunded our overcharge, but also sent a gift card and an apology.

Now, that's the way to do business and keep customers coming back--and their pizza really is a "square beyond compare."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Memories of Memphis

Our trip to Memphis this weekend for Cari's soccer tournament was an adventure. Saturday morning a group of six of us hurried from our hotel to Beale Street and hunted for the Peabody Hotel.
With the clock ticking for the 11 a.m. duck show, we hurried from the parking lot and made a left and found what we thought was the Peabody. We dashed up about twenty concrete steps then found out it was not an entrance to the Peabody.  We should've taken a right.

After jogging back down the steps we found the entrance to the hotel and saw a mass of people crowded around a large fountain.  The famous Peabody ducks had already made their appearance, but at least the girls got to see them swim in the fountain.

Next we headed for the Memphis Redbirds baseball stadium, where we were surprised we were able to enter. On our way inside we encountered a self-described "unofficial City of Memphis greeter." He said, "I'm not begging for money. I just want to point out some of our city landmarks."


He trailed behind us and told us how the Chicago White Sox play in the stadium. That's when we got our first hint he wasn't realy a city greeter and was, in fact, trying to get some money out of us.  

After losing our city ambassador and visiting the stadium, we trekked to the FedEx Forum. The rows of colorful balls (and one fishing bobber) outside were whimsical.

Surprisingly, the sidewalk and street were almost deserted, so it gave me a great opportunity to take lots of photos. Arriving before noon must be the right time to avoid crowds.

After leaving there we headed for the main attraction, the blues and barbeque area center of Memphis, on Beale Street.  

The few cars we saw driving around were memorable: a souped-up red Mustang driven by our friendly "unofficial Memphis greeter," a blue Bentley, an Audi, and a BMW to name a few.  We also saw a street performer who did about a dozen back flips down the brick street, accompanied by a partner who passed around a plastic jar for tips.

All-in-all it was fun, and a memorable way to spend a Saturday morning before the soccer tournament.

One of the highlights of the evening was getting updated about the Cardinals victory during the last soccer match Saturday night.

After the match a group of us drove around looking for a restaurant. Driving around Memphis is an adventure. While the locals are known for their Southern hospitality, it apparently doesn't extend to their driving.  After witnessing a few near wrecks and watching emergency vehicles at the scene of a car wrapped around a telephone pole, we drove even more cautiously.  Eventually we found a Steak n Shake, where we saw an Elvis impersonator and a man whose face was covered with tattoos.

Sunday it rained before the soccer match then let up for a bit, although the sun never did make an appearance. On the drive home, Cari remarked that Saturday morning was a lot of fun. The rain let up for the drive home. As we drove north on I-55, I noticed the cotton fields of Northern Arkansas and Southeast Missouri made the ground look snow-covered. It was quite a sight.

Our trip to Memphis was lots of fun, and a weekend of special memories.

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