Thursday, January 28, 2010

Win Free Books on Patricia Stoltey's Blog

Today in St. Peters, MO: Partly cloudy, high 25 degrees. Brrr. It's cold outside, but the sun is peeking through my office window and I can hear birds chirping.

One way to chase away the winter doldrums is to read a good mystery novel. Well, how about a contest where you can win several mystery novels?

The other day I found a contest on Patricia Stoltey's blog where you can do just that. Patricia Stoltey is a Colorado mystery author who blogs about writing, social networking and publishing. Her books include The Prairie Grass Murders (2007) and The Desert Hedge Murders (August 2009).

Patricia has a contest going on until January 31st on her blog, where she will give away several books in a mystery/thriller package, some of which are signed first editions. If you love to read mysteries--and frankly, I don't know any of my blog visitors or writing friends who don't--pop on over to Patricia's blog to find out how you can win.

One other note: My friends and regular blog visitors know know how annoyed I get with pesky and complicated contest rules. My philosophy is KISS. Well, I'm very happy to announce that the rules for Patricia's contest are few and simple. That reminds me, I haven't entered yet. And what's that saying, "You can't win if you don't enter."

So good luck! Even if you don't win, visiting her blog is worth the trip. Lots of good stuff there.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Poets & Writers Turns 40 in March

Today in St. Peters, MO: Overcast, 33 degrees.

If you're like me, you subscribe to writing magazines to keep abreast with what's going on in the world of writing and publishing.

One magazine I've subscribed to for some time is Poets & Writers. I also receive their newsletter in my e-mail. Their newsletter contains markets and writing contest information, including deadlines for submissions, plus some educational and inspiring articles.

In this article, Galen Williams, founder of Poets and Writers, tells the story of how the organization was born forty years ago, in March of 1970. Here's hoping Poets & Writers will be informing and inspiring writers for another 40 years!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yipee! I've Got Some Good News to Share

Today in St. Peters, MO: Snow showers, high 35.

Last month over on Cathy C. Hall's blog I read about a flash fiction writing contest with no entry fee. Cathy is a funny and generous writer from Georgia who shares contest information and whose posts generally are a hoot.

The theme for the contest Cathy posted about was "Snow." The contest was sponsored by Elizabeth Guy on her ReadingWriters site. Talk about timing, that was right around when our record-setting low temperatures appeared to accompany our snowstorms and blizzards. With snow on my mind, I dashed off an entry, just shy of the 100-word limit.

Last week Cathy e-mailed that our stories made it through the first round. Along with about 80 others we made the cut for "Excellence in Milieu, The Ambiance of Snow." That was out of 388 total entries. Yipee!

When I checked the site I noticed the names of two more writer/bloggers I know, Claudia (aka Bookie) and Linda. Yesterday I checked again and discovered all four of us were among the around 40 finalists who made it through to the second round. The second round was for "Excellence in Storytelling, The Structure within the Snow. " So, what better news than finding out that not only I made the cut, but so did three other of my writer/blogger buddies. The winner will be announced on February 1.

To top that off, last week I received an SASE with results of a contest sponsored by the friends of the Decatur, Illinois Public Library. Some months ago I submitted "Santa Wore Cowboy Boots" in their essay contest, which permitted previously published works. I was pleased to find out my essay received an honorable mention and a commendation. What was neat about their contest was the judges provided comments for the top 10 winners in each category. The bad news is that at the top of the sheet which provided the names of the winners the words "Cancelled for lact of interest" was printed. So, I'm not sure if they will have the contest again next year.

My lesson from all this is to keep on submitting and share good news with your friends!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Redbook and Cup of Comfort Love Story Contest Announced

Got a love story? How about entering it in a no-entry fee contest about LOVE with a nice payoff?

Today in St. Peters, MO: Fog and mist, high 40 degrees. Today's weather reminds me of a Clint Eastwood movie with a twisted kind of love. It's a "Play Misty for Me" kind of day.

Now, back to the contest: REDBOOK magazine is co-sponsoring another story contest with the folks from Cup of Comfort. This time the topic is LOVE. (LOVE Image courtesy of Flickr).

The Cup of Comfort/REDBOOK Love Story Contest will be announced in the February 2010 issue of REDBOOK, which should be on newsstands by January 26. Meanwhile, the Contest Rules will be posted on the Cup of Comfort site today. The top 50 (or so) submissions will be published in A Cup of Comfort for Couples.

New new submissions for the contest/book will be accepted through April 20, 2010.

Adams Media, the Cup of Comfort publisher, will award one $1,000 grand prize as well as three runner-up prizes of $150 each. The grand-prize winner and runners-up will also receive a full run of all Cup of Comfort books, including A Cup of Comfort for Couples. The remaining stories selected for publication in A Cup of Comfort for Couples will receive the standard $100 stipend, plus a complimentary copy of the book.

For more information as the contest and book progess, tune into the Cup of Comfort blog. They will also post updates in the Cup of Comfort News Forum and future issues of their newsletter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Margo Dill Interviews Clara Gillow Clark on Her Blog

Today in St. Peters, MO: Rain showers, high 45 degrees.

Yesterday and today Margo Dill is interviewing Clara Gillow Clark, a great historical fiction author. Clark has donated a copy of all three of her Hattie books to give away as prizes to lucky winners who comment today (or yesterday) on Margo's blog. You can leave a comment about the book or a question for Clara. You can also discuss historical fiction for middle grade or YA and/or recommend any good historical fiction books you’ve read.

I didn't get a chance to comment yesterday, but I left my comment earlier today. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll win a copy of one of the books. Even if you don't have young ones who might enjoy one of Clark's books, you can donate the book to a library or school--after reading it, of course. But act fast because today is the last day to leave a comment or question. And, good luck!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Foggy Days and A Chance to Win a Book on Becky's Blog

Today in St. Peters, MO: Foggy, high 40 degrees. With all the fog we've been having, I feel like I'm in San Francisco again.

Like God, the human mind works in mysterious ways--well, mine definitely does. The fog we've been experiencing lately has spun my mind in different directions. The past few days I've been quoting the Carl Sandburg poem FOG to my grandkids, who look at me like I've lost my mind, but actually I think it's just taken a brief vacation.

"THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on."
Carl Sandburg

The foggy weather also makes me think of San Francisco, which reminds me of the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" movies with Detective Harry Callahan.

So, here's a Dirty Harry quote, which is one of my favorites: "You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I
feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

If you're visiting my blog you're probably more of a poet than a punk, but I'm hoping you are feeling lucky. Lucky enough to win a book.

Over at Becky Povich's, one of my writing buddie's blogs, you can win a free book. Becky is giving away a copy of "Time to Write" or "Thinking Write" by Kelly L. Stone to one lucky winner who posts a response on her blog by midnight CST, January 23. I have never heard of Kelly L. Stone, but her books look interesting, and I love the titles.

Back to Becky and her contest: The good news is she wants to hear about books you've read that you fell in love with. The bad news is there are several rules--oh, those pesky rules--please read them carefully. I posted about "Mudbound" by Hillary Jordon, a book I fell in love with, but I think I missed one of the rules. (Forgot to include the copyright date).

So, how about it: Do you feel lucky?

Monday, January 18, 2010

American Library Association Announces Award Winners

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly cloudy, high 45 degrees.

Today at its midwinter meeting in Boston, the American Library Association announced the top books, audiobooks, and video for children and young adults. Presentations include the John Newbery Medal, the Caldecott, King, Andrew Carnegie, and Printz awards.

A minor controversy occurred after Random House released the winners on Twitter before the official announcement was made but was taken down immediately after the mistake was pointed out. "When You Reach Me," written by Rebecca Stead, is the 2010 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books.

Click on this link
for the complete list of winners.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Got Flash? Enter the Pike's Peak NLAPW Contest

Today in St. Peters, MO: Areas of fog, high 40 degrees. The foggy weather makes me want to write a mystery.

Here's an announcement from an organization sponsoring a contest that I entered last year-- and won the Judge's Merit Award! Woo hoo!

The organization is Pike's Peak Branch of the National League of American Pen Women. They're looking for complete, but very short stories of no more than 100 words for their 2010 Annual Flash Fiction Writing Contest. All genres welcome. No poetry. This year's theme is: "The Power of Three"

1st Place Story $75.00
2nd Place Story $40.00
Judge's Merit Award $20.00
Entries must be postmarked by March 1, 2010

In addition to cash awards, all entries will receive brief feedback from members of the Pike's Peak Branch of National League of American Pen Women.

Entry Fee is $10.00 per manuscript. Submitters need not live in Colorado or be a member of Pen Women to enter.

Here's a link to the submission guidelines.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I Need Advice on Getting Organized

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly cloudy, high 50 degrees.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know one of my goals for 2010 is to get organized by eliminating clutter--or as I indelicately put it, "stop *itching and start pitching."

I'm already making some headway around the house. This week I've gathered up a bag of clothing to donate to the Vietnam Veterans of America, which will be picked up tomorrow. My husband Walt (himself a Vietnam Veteran) even added several of his things to the pile.

Another thing I'm doing is running a contest on my blog to cull my bookshelves by giving away a copy of "Mysteries of the Ozarks." Note: If you post on my blog this month you will be in the running to win the book, and I plan to run several more contests this year.

Okay. But what I really would like from you all are ideas and suggestions on how to better utilize (sorry about the split infinitive) my time by organizing my writing day and work space.

Does anyone care to share tips on ways you've found to meet deadlines, track submissions and contest entries, perform research without losing track of time, and finish projects that are hanging around waiting for the words, "THE END" to appear?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Recipe for Five-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 30 degrees. Sunshine, lovely, wonderful sunshine!

It may be cold outside, but there's nothing like hot chocolate to keep warm. And how about Hot Chocolate Cake? Here's a recipe (complete with photos) e-mailed to me by a friend. I don't know where the recipe originated and haven't tried it yet, but it sounds yummy. It's been called "the most dangerous cake recipe in the world." Read on to find out why.

Five-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake

4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
1 quick splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to the mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil, mix well again. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again. Place mug in the microwave and cook for three minutes at 1000 watts.

The cake will rise over the top of the mug.

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate.

EAT! (this can serve two if you want to share).

And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world?
Because now we are only five minutes away from home-made chocolate cake.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Interview of Mary Burton on

Today in St. Peters, MO: Snow flurries, high 31; it's a heat wave compared to last week.

When I'm not working on my own writing, one source of income I have comes from interviewing authors and writing reviews for the network.

A benefit of being a book reviewer is receiving free copies of books and being introduced to authors I otherwise might not have heard of before. In addition to making a small income, interviewing other writers is fascinating because it's a great way to gain insight into the writing process and find out how successful writers approach their craft.

I recently interviewed Mary Burton, author of more than a dozen thrillers and historical romances. DYING SCREAM is her latest thriller. Click on the following link if you would like to read my interview of Mary Burton.

In the interview, Burton covers many topics, including:
* how she performs research to get details right
* why backstory is important when creating characters
* how writer's groups have helped her career
* the best piece of writing advice she has ever received.

While you're visiting the Bookreporter site, you can also read my review of Burton's latest thriller, DYING SCREAM.

Note: To comply with FTC guidelines issued last Fall, I think it's fair to let you know that I was paid by for my interview of Burton as well as my review of DYING SCREAM. I also received a free copy of the book; however, I was not required to write a positive review.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Today in St. Peters, MO: Snow flurries, low -3 degrees. Okay, the snow is lovely, but the frigid temperatures aren't so great.

2010 Stop/Start Update: It's only been a week since the beginning of the new year, but I'm already making headway on my "Stop *itching and start pitching" goal to eliminate clutter and get more organized. Yesterday I put away Christmas decorations and finished taking down the tree, ran several errands, and read a few chapters of a book written by the author I'm writing interview questions for by Monday--and reviewing by Thursday.

But, what have I done for You lately? How about a contest to win a copy of Mysteries of the Ozarks (Volume I)?

The anthology has nineteen short stories from writers with a connection to the Ozarks. It was published several years ago and includes "The Shape of a Heart," a short story of mine. I was paid cash (a check, actually) for the story when it was published--and even received a royalty check later on. The publisher (Skyward) has since gone out of business, but as the company was selling off assets, Ellen Gray Massey, the editor of the Mysteries of the Ozarks series, purchased several boxes of the anthology. She called to tell me she was selling contributors' copies at her cost--but I would have to come get them. Ellen lives in Lebanon, Missouri. So, the summer before last, Walt, the kids, and I stopped by Ellen's while returning from a vacation in Branson. I bought (actually Ellen was almost giving them away, it was such a deep discount) several copies of the anthology--which, except for the ones I have already donated to charities--are sitting in a box in my bedroom.

So, here's what I'm going to do that will help us both. I will give away one copy of the Mysteries of the Ozarks (Vol I) to someone who posts on my blog between now and the end of the month. That way I'll get more organized, and you can win a book with 19 wonderful mystery stories. The winner's name will be picked at random. Good luck!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Advice on Self-Publishing

Today in St. Peters, MO: Drifting snow, high 11 degrees. Both kiddos are home from school today. It's cold and snowy.

If you've ever considered self-publishing but are not sure if it's right for you, read Margo Dill's interview of Joy Wooderson on today's WOW blog.

Joy answers questions about why she chose to self-publish her memoir Finding Joy: One Woman's Journey Back to Faith. She also discusses how she chose Amy Harke-Moore of The Write Helper as her editor, how she was able to remain true to her "South African" voice, and how she has benefited from her self-publishing experience. You can also read my review of Joy's memoir here.

Oh, and if you noticed that Joy's shirt in the photo is the same as mine--the photo was taken by Jerell Swingle, another member of Saturday Writers, at a Cup of Comfort book signing that Joy, Candace Carrabus Rice, and I participated in a few years ago.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Articles on Synopsis Writing

Today in St. Peters, MO: Chance of snow, high 25 degrees.

Synospis--now there's a word that strikes terror into the hearts of many writers. I've found a link to help demystify the synopsis writing process. It's Footnotes: the Guide to Literary Agents Editor's blog by Chuck Sambuchino.

The articles posted on the Footnotes blog are written by agents, authors, novelists, and other writers. Agent Caren Estesen discusses why you need a good summary and agent Nathan Bransford shares his guidelines for writing a synopsis. Chicago Crimewriter Beth Anderson discusses five questions to ask yourself to write a tight synopsis The blog also gives examples of fiction synopses.

So, if you're trying to gain insight on writing a synopsis, check out Footnotes.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Kudos Writing Competitions Link

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly sunny, high 16 degrees. It's 3 degrees outside now, so button up those overcoats.

Here's a link to the Kudos Writing Competitions Link. I received an e-mail from Kudos editor Carole Baldock, who is also the editor of Orbis magazine. She asked me to pass along her request for suggestions and submissions for their next issue of Orbis, the big 150, her 30th issue as Editor. Here is a link to the submission guidelines for Orbis.

Good luck, and stay warm!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Blue Mountain Arts Seasonal Submission Dates

Today in St. Peters, MO: Mostly clear tonight, low 3 degrees. Brrr.

On the weekends I generally don't post on my blog, but while cleaning my office space last night I discovered a copy of some writer's guidelines with a very short deadline. (I'm really trying to get organized in 2010.)

In an envelope from Blue Mountain Arts, Inc. I found guidelines with a list of seasonal poetry submission dates.

One of this month's deadlines is tomorrow. Yikes!

The deadlines for January are:
Easter - Jan 4, 2010
Mother's Day - Jan 25, 2010

The publisher wants contemporary prose or poetry written from personal experience that reflects the thoughts and feelings people want to communicate to one another but don't always know how to put into words. The poem length does not matter, so long as it can fit on a card. They publish long and short pieces.

They do not want rhymed poetry, religious verse, one-liners or humor.

Try to avoid words or phrases such as "special," "gift," "sending you a hug," and "angel."

Mail postal submissions (typewritten, one poem per page, your name on every page, SASE). Be sure to include your name, address, telephone number with your submission and e-mail address if you wish periodic e-mail updates of their current needs to:

Blue Mountain Arts Editorial Department
P.O. Box 1007
Boulder, CO 80306


e-mail to They DO NOT accept attachments or website links. Type and paste text into the body of your e-mail. Submit as many different works as you wish in the same e-mail, but include your name, address, and telephone number. E-mail submissions will receive a reply as receipt of submission.

They respond within 2-4 months, but do not respond to e-mail submissions that are not chosen. So if you do not hear from them within 4 months, assume your work is not under consideration.

They pay $300 per poem for worldwide, exclusive rights to publish on a greeting card or other products and $50 per poem for one-time use in a book.

If you have questions, e-mail

Good luck!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year - My Motto for 2010

Today in St. Peters, MO: Flurries, high 21 degrees.

Wow! It's hard to believe that it's already a new year --- and a new decade.

This year I'm going to take a different approach to making changes in my life. I'm not making any resolutions, mostly because I rarely keep them, but I do have a motto I plan to use as a guide this year.

My motto for 2010 is: "Stop *itching and start pitching."

So, rather than complaining about things in my life that cause stress, I'm going to take actions to elminiate stress and make some positive changes.

Here are a few ways I plan to follow my "Stop *ithching and start pitching" motto:

* Stop complaining about being overweight. Start pitching junk food and buy more fruit and vegetables. For fast food, I might even check out that Taco Bell Diet I've been hearing about.

* Stop worrying about being out of shape. Lace up those Nike's, strap on those headphones, and start walking.

* Stop wondering when I'll get time to write. Start getting up earlier or staying up later. Write during the quiet hours when everyone else is asleep and inspiration beckons.

* Stop complaining about clutter. Start cleaning out my desk, recycling old manuscripts, and cleaning out closets monthly. Donate more unused clothing and household goods to charity.

* Stop worrying about the future. Start enjoying the present.

So, while I wish you much joy and many blessings in 2010, I also wish you all a wonderful day today. Carpe Diem!

Donna Volkenannt

Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V - Interviews with Lonnie Whitaker and Dr. Barri Bumgarner

Here is the second installment of interviews with contributors who have stories in Mysteries of the Ozarks, Volume V , from Ozark Writers, I...