Sunday, March 31, 2013

Roll Back the Rock: For He is risen, Alleluia!

Spring, especially the Lenten season, is a time for reflection -- of waiting and anticipating the miracle of renewal, rebirth, and redemption.

Not only humans wait with hope in their hearts -- our furry and feathered friends also wait, patiently and faithfully.

Every time my husband runs an errand, our black Lab Harley lies on the rug at the front door, his nose pressed against the etched glass. When hubby comes home, Harley bounces like a furry yoyo with a wagging tail. Talk about unconditional love!

Last spring, a pair of mourning doves and robins built nests out front. The robins made their nest in the lilac bush, which didn't offer a lot of shade. With the extreme heat last spring, momma robin disappeared; her faint blue eggs left unhatched. I thought she must've perished in the heat or been killed by a predator.

The mourning dove laid her eggs in a hanging planter on the porch, which offered a bit more shade. Despite soaring temperatures, momma dove did not venture far from her nest, and the male dove stood guard on the roof and in the maple trees, warning her when someone ventured too near the planter. Their faithfulness was rewarded with two hatchlings.

A few weeks ago two mourning doves paced across our rooftop and flittered on the front porch near a dirt-filled basket that was going to be seeded. To make their nest building easier, hubby hung the planter on a hook. Days later, the doves began making a home.

Now, another momma dove, or perhaps the same one from last year, is nesting in the plastic hanging basket. Last week's snow storm did not deter her from her perch. Neither do humans. When someone leaves or approaches our front door, her head pops up and she watches, with dark eyes --- curious, cautious, ready to call out or dive if someone ventures too close.

I didn't want to scare her off by taking this photo, so I stood at a safe distance and adjusted the lense to capture her sillhouette in the planter.

I'm hopeful that her patience and faithfulness will be rewarded.

Spring is a time of promise and hope for better days filled with life and love. 

Roll back the rock, dry up your tears, set aside your fears. For He is risen. Alleluia!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Be Beautiful, Be You . . . And the Winner Is . . .

Thanks to all the beautiful souls who dropped by last week and left a comment on my Easter giveaway post about the two inspiring books from Liguori Press.

I'm so encouraged by visitors to my blog who continue to support me and leave comments. I'm always learning something new from you all!

The name of the winner selected to receive a copy of the inspiring book, Be Beatiful, Be You by Lizzie Velasquez is . . .

So, Rebeca, if you would please e-mail me at dvolkenannt (at) charter (dot) net, I will make arrangements to get the book to you. 
Happy Easter, everyone. You are all beautiful--inside and out!
I'll be back next week with some submission call outs. Hope to see you then. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Special Announcements: Free E-book and a Call for Submissions

Because of the time-senstive nature of these announcements, I didn't want to wait until Monday to share them with my blog readers. 
The first announcements comes from Pat Smith, publisher of Welkin Press.
For a limited time, Pat is giving away copies of Shadows After Midnight e-book through the Amazon Kindle store. The promotion runs through Tuesday, March 26. The anthology features "12 spooky tales," including my short story "Stairway to Heaven." 
The second announcement comes by way of Colleen Sell, former editor ofthe Cup of Comfort Series.
Although Colleen is not involved in this project, she is helping spread the word about a call for submissions for Grammy-award winning songwriter Gloria Gaynor's anthology, How I Survived.

The editors are looking for "personal narrative essays that tell the story of how you survived the experience and how the song influenced your life. We’re looking for real-life stories that read like fiction—similar to the stories in the Cup of Comfort book series, compiled and edited by Colleen Sell."
The book will include 50 real-life stories of 1,000-1,500 words each.
Contributors whose essays are selected will receive a payment of $75, a complimentary copy of the book signed by Gloria Gaynor, and a signed photo of Ms. Gaynor.
Note the short deadline: April 20, 2013.
Send submissions to: or

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Inspirational Books from Liguori Publications and an Easter Giveaway

The recent selection of Pope Francis and the approach of Easter has been for me a time for prayer, reflection, and reading of inspirational texts. Those thoughts have led me to spotlight two inspirational books I received from Liguori Press -- and to host an Easter giveaway.

A bit of background: At a meeting of Catholic Writers of St. Louis last summer, I met Mary Brockgreitens, Publicist for Liguori Publications.  Mary talked to Catholic Writers of St. Louis about pitching ideas for books to Liguori and also mentioned a few books in their catalog.

During the same meeting I met Maury Prater, Advancement Director for the Missionaries of the Holy Family. Maury spoke about a book Liguori is publishing from his organization. The book is the Holy Family Prayer Book: Prayers for Every Family.

The purse-size Holy Family Prayer Book is just over 100 pages, and includes a Foreward by St. Louis native, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.

The description of the book on the Liguori website is: "This simple prayer book, devoted to the Holy Family, offers traditional and original prayers dedicated to helping families today."

The book is dedicated to all families in the world and includes prayers to the Holy Family, traditional Catholic prayers, and other prayers. In his foreword, Archbishop Dolan endorses the book as deserving "a place in every family home." My copy sits on my reading table so I can pick it up and read when I need inspiration or to feel peace.

The second book from Liguori, and the one I am giving away to one of my visitors who leaves a comment, is Be Beautiful, Be You by Lizzie Velasquez, a communications major at Texas State University in San Marcos.

Velasquez is a remarkable woman, and one of only three known people in the world with a medical syndrome that doesn't allow her to gain weight or create muscle. After an Internt video calling her "The World's Ugliest Woman" went viral, she set out to discover what truly makes us beautiful.

Her inspiring book encourages readers to recognize their own unique gifts and blessings. Each chapter includes prayers and reflections. The back cover describes her story as one that "will inspire anyone who has ever felt singled out, misunderstood, or afraid . . ."

If you would like to receive a copy of Be Beautiful, Be You, just leave a comment here between now and Tuesday, March 26th. I will select one name at random from everyone who leaves a comment and announce the name of the winner next week.

Do you have a book that inspires you?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring into Action: Enter Writing Contests from Saturday Writers and the Arkansas Writers' Conference

The past few days have been gray and dreary, but I don't need to look at the calendar to know that spring is just around the corner. Daylight comes earlier and lasts longer; daffodils are sprouting green leaves out of the brown earth; robins, cardinals, and mourning doves are busy building nests.

What better way to spring into the new season than by entering these writing contests?

The first group of colorful contests is from Saturday Writers.
Full disclosure: Although I'm no longer on the board, I am a founding member of SW. The current board has boundless energy and is full of fresh ideas, like their 2013 contests. Each month has a specific theme related to one or more colors. 

Saturday Writers 2013 Contests
Besides being colorful, here's what I like about the Saturday Writers' contests:

Anyone can enter
You don't have to belong to Saturday Writers to submit
The entry fees are modest ($5 for members $7 for non-members)
Although most contests are for short stories, others are for poetry and nonfiction
Judging is blind
Judges are from outside Saturday Writers (so everyone gets a fair shake.)
If you are a winner and want to be published, your work can be published in the Saturday Writers anthology. (Note: I'm not sure what happens if you win and don't want your work published, but I'm sure you can inquire about that.)
Deadlines are monthly
If you miss one month, you can plan ahead and enter another

To learn more about these colorful contests, visit the Saturday Writers website.

The second group of contests are part of the 69th Annual Arkansas Writers' Conference.
Several years ago I attended this conference with a friend. The organizers were welcoming and friendly, and the conference was informative, entertaining, and a lot of fun. I even won a few contests--woo hoo! What I like most about this group of contests is the variety of contest categories. Here's what else I like:

Anyone can enter
You don't have to attend the conference to win (although more categories are open to attendees)
One entry fee of $15 allows you to enter more than 20 contests (you can enter as many as 40 if you attend and are from Arkansas)
There are lots of generous prizes
Categories include poetry, essays, articles, and stories (mystery, children, humor, romance)
Categories are judged by sponsors or groups (Variety of judges makes for better chances for winning.)
Deadline is April 25, so there's still time to gather some entries
All entries are to be mailed to one address, so there's no confusion as to where to mail each entry. (Unlike some organizations that require separate checks and entries to be mailed to several different locations.)

To find out more, visit the AWC contest website.

Good luck if you enter. I'm thinking of entering a few contests myself.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

From St. Peters Basilica to St. Peters, Missouri: We Have a New Pope

Yesterday afternoon I was talking on the phone with my friend Lou when a news alert pinged my e-mail inbox shortly after 1 p.m. I read the headline that white smoke had risen from the chimney at the Vatican -- the College of Cardinals had elected a new pope.

Lou and I cut our conversation short, and I turned on television.

As a Catholic, I have to admit that I was excited to watch the live shots of the crowds standing in the rain, waving flags and thumbing rosary beads, awaiting the appearance of our new pope.

I flashed back to my one and only trip to Italy, when I visited the St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel with my friend Ligaya in March 2004. It was an amazing trip to a beautiful country.

Yesterday, from the comfort of my living room--in St. Peters, Missouri--I waited for our yet-to-be named Pope to appear on the balcony at the Vatican. 

As the wall clock clicked off minutes and the grandfather clock chimed twice, I wondered how long it would take before the identity of our new pope was revealed. I hoped it would be before I left at 2:25 to pick up my grandson from school.

Even the announcers on news stations sounded excited as the Swiss Guard assembled, a band began to play, and everyone watched for movement behind the balcony curtain. I switched from station to station to see which camera had the best angle and which commentary was most interesting. I settled on two channels, the primary being EWTN, the "Catholic" channel.

Minutes before I had to leave the house, a cardinal, dressed in scarlet, stepped from behind the white curtain and announced, "Habemus Papam Franciscum." Memories of Latin class kicked in, but still I wondered, did he just say, "We have Pope Francis"?

Yes. That's right. Our new pope selected the name of Francis, which brought to mind St. Francis of Assisi, the gentle saint, and patron saint of animals.

As I stood at the door, keys in hand, I took time to listen to Pope Francis' blessing. In the car, listening to the radio, I heard him recite the Our Father and Hail Mary in Italian, although it sounded like Latin to me.

On the parking lot of All Saints, while I waited for my grandson to come out of school, the church bells began to chime, celebrating the selection of a new pope.

When my grandson got in the car, I told him about our new pope, and he told me he already knew because his class watched it on TV in their classroom.

I read this morning that Pope Francis has already sent his first Tweet. I pray for our Church and for Pope Francis -- the first pope from the "new world"-- while I wonder what changes lie ahead.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Steve Wiegenstein Sheds Some Light on Writing Historical Fiction and Nonfiction

Earlier this month I attended a meeting of the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild. The guest speaker was college professor, journalist, and author Steve Wiegenstein, who spoke about writing historical fiction and nonfiction. Steve's historical fiction novel Slant of Light, published by Blank Slate Press, is set in the Missouri Ozarks during the Civil War.
Visitors to my blog know what a voracious note-taker I am, especially when I hear someone who knows what they're talking about give advice on writing. They also know how I like to share what I've learned with other writers, so here are a few notes I jotted down during Steve's talk.
* In historical fiction, details and specifics matter, but they do not matter as much as the story.
* Goals for writing historical nonfiction (which were shared with Steve by another historical novelist) are:  Entertainment and Empathy, not education (although it may become a side effect).

* In historical nonfiction, focus on the human drama of the characters.

* Nonfiction – bound by facts.

* Fiction – author has some wiggle room. For example: in Steve's book he did not mess with dates of a Lincoln-Douglas debate, but he did alter some dates and events of some non-signal characters to make the narrative more dramatic and exciting.
* Purpose of historical nonfiction: to tell a STORY.

* Avoid “Research Rapture," when a writer can’t bear not to share results of research.

 * Keep in the compelling parts of research.

* Small details matter a lot (e.g. clothing - zippers or hooks in 19th century).

 * EMPATHY separates rewarding historical fiction from throwaway books.

 * He didn’t put the emotion in the first draft, but in subsequent ones.

 * Lesson Learned for the sequel:

-- Don’t put your manuscript out for people to read too soon.

-- Let it lay for a couple weeks.
Hope my notes help shed some light on writing historical fiction and nonfiction. If you want to learn more, visit Steve Wiegenstein's blog.
P.S. In addition to all his other busy activities, Steve is the current President of the Missouri Writers' Guild.
Before his presentation at CCMWG he talked about the MWG conference, which will be Apr 26-28 in Maryland Heights. The MWG conference has a long list of speakers and topics of interest for writers. Unfortunately, a family event that weekend prevents me from attending the conference, although I might try to make it to the awards banquet on Saturday night. To learn more about the MWG conference, click here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Special Guest Interview with Gloria Loring on "Coincidence is God's Way of Remaining Anonymous"

I'm thrilled today to have Gloria Loring as my special guest, as part of the WOW Author Blog Tour. Gloria is author of Coincidence is God's Way of Remaining Anonymous.
Gloria is the recording artist of the #1 hit song Friends and Lovers; co-composer of television theme songs Diff’rent Strokes and Facts Of Life; an audience favorite as “Liz Chandler” on Days Of Our Lives; spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; the author of five books benefitting people with diabetes; a keynote speaker for corporations and non-profits; and one of few artists to sing two nominated songs on the Academy Awards.
Gloria has taken time from her busy schedule to answer some of my questions about writing, and she's shared insight on her incredible journey as a writer, an actress, and a mother.
DV: Your spiritual autobiography Coincidence Is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous is thought-provoking and inspiring. What inspired you to write it? And who inspires you?

GL: The stories themselves inspired me, compounded by Albert Einstein’s perspective that “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” And then I read in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way that we must share the gifts we’ve been given. And even though I felt I must, I put off writing for years due to uncertainty as to how I would achieve a “real book” out of my stories. It was a gradual process of excitement, immersion, retreat, contemplation, recommitment, and then finally, twelve years after I’d begun, completion!
DV: The Artist's Way is such an inspiring book for writers and other artists, and it is so true about sharing our gifts. The story about finding a card titled “Expect a Miracle” in your dressing room is fascinating, especially how it led you to help raise a million dollars for diabetes research. Will you please elaborate on it?

GL: The “Expect a Miracle” card did foreshadow my meeting the benefactor for the Days of Our Lives Cookbook, but more importantly it was like a tap on the shoulder from Life/God/the Universe that I was not alone in my efforts.

DV: You are right; it is important to recognize we are not alone. Talk about perseverance! It took twelve years to write Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous. Why did it take so long? And what would you do differently if you started writing it now?

GL: Before this book, my writing was either in the area of living with diabetes (six books) or songwriting. Now that I have gathered confidence in my ability to express the esoteric in practical ways, I think I’m ready for my next book!

DV: I agree! I’m impressed by the variety of references listed in your Bibliography and the wonderful quotes included in your book. What can you tell other writers about your writing and research processes?

GL: Research for my book was like a treasure hunt. Once I started, each piece I found egged me on. I think the most important aspect of writing is an enormous enthusiasm for the subject matter.

DV: That's an apt analogy about research being like a treasure hunt. While coincidence is the centerpiece of Coincidence is God’s Way of Remaining Anonymous, after reading your book, one word that comes to mind is wisdom. What can you say about the role wisdom has played on your spiritual journey?

GL: We stand on the shoulders of the great beings who have done the deep work. We can read and study, and then try living by their teachings. We can observe how that changes our perspective and our practical experience of each day. Wisdom is everywhere, in all traditions. We have the opportunity to find which way of wisdom is most helpful to us.

DV: That is very true. You have met so many famous and fascinating people, including President Ronald Reagan. I love the story about dinner at the White House. Of all the famous people you’ve met, is there one who stands out from all others?
GL: Jimmy Stewart. I had watched his movies as a child and always loved his gentle ways. I became so tongue-tied in his presence, I could hardly put a sentence together.

DV:  I love Jimmy Stewart! I can't imagine what it would have been like to meet him in person. Next question: Growing up, what books influenced you? Who are some of your favorite authors now?

GL: By the time I was twelve, I had read the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie series. Twice. I love historical books by David McCullough, anything by Pat Conroy or Jodi Piccoult, historical novels like Loving Frank, The Paris Wife, and memoirs that sing of truth and recovery like Angela’s Ashes. Our book club, “Women, Words and Wine,” has introduced me to some wondrous books I might not have read otherwise - Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Cutting for Stone, Sarah’s Key.

DV: I love the glimpse into your life through the photographs in your book, and the cover photo of you is lovely. While this question isn’t related to writing, I have to ask: What’s your beauty secret?

GL: I have made a conscious effort to be healthy. It began with whole grains in my twenties, lots of veggies in my thirties, and my forties brought me Ayurvedic medicine and a very balanced lifestyle. I am in bed at 10 and up by 6 or so each day, except when I’m traveling. I know which foods feed my body’s balance and which don’t. And I know that twenty-four years of meditation has been essential to my well-being.
DV: What is the best way for readers to find out about your books, CDs, author events, or personal appearances?

GL: My site, Facebook and Twitter:

DV: What are you working on now, and what’s next for Gloria Loring?

GL: Lots! Dr. Alvin Jones is helping me develop a CD set of “Twelve Lessons of Coincidence.” I just recorded an audio version of my book for, which will be ready in a month or so. I have a few songs I want to write, and jazz singer Hilary Kole and I are looking for a duet. Plus, with each chapter having its own song, I’m looking at developing a one-woman show based on my book. And there’s another book, a followup, I have on my mind. Fun!

DV: That sounds like fun--and very exciting! Last question: Anything final thoughts or words of wisdom you’d like to add?

GL: Just a thank you for the chance to share my book with your readers.

DV: You are so welcome, and thanks so much for stopping by Donna's Book Pub. To all my readers: Feel free to leave questions or comments, and if you're looking for an inspiring book, check out Gloria's book, Coincidence is God's Way of Remaining Anonymous.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Save the Date: March 8 Read My Interview with Gloria Loring on "Coincidence is God's Way of Remaining Anonymous"


Please mark the date of Friday, March 8 to read my interview with Gloria Loring, actress, singer, writer, speaker, and spokesperson for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Oh, and in an one of our e-mail exchanges she mentioned she's also an Erma Bombeck fan!

You probably recognize Gloria as Liz Chandler from the soap opera Days of Our Lives, or as the mother of Robin Thicke, or as the singer of the chart-topping hit "Friends and Lovers." She is an amazing woman with an abundance of talent -- and wisdom.

In our interview, Gloria answers questions about her inspiring new book "Coincidence is God's Way of Remaining Anonymous: Reflections on Daytime Dramas and Divine Intervention."

If you can't wait until Friday to learn more about Gloria -- and for a chance to win a copy of her inspiring book -- visit the WOW! Women on Writing blog today, for the launch of Gloria's book tour.

Hope to see you Friday!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Whee, It's Free: Fifty Shades of Santa Kindle E-Book is Free Until March 5

Why wait until Christmas? 
From now until March 5, you can download for free Fifty Shades of Santa, a collection of "nice not naughty" humorous romantic stories from twelve award-winning writers. 
The collection includes my short story, "Time To Get Your Jingle On."
Pat Smith, publisher of Welkin Press, describes the anthology as "romance for the rest of us--the rest of us being readers whose idea of love doesn't include implements of pain.The stories range from laugh-out-loud-funny to warmly humorous to poignant, but all will leave you feeling uplifted."

I don't have a Kindle, but I was able to download the book on my iPhone, using a free Kindle app.
There's that word free again.
PLEASE NOTE: This book is NOT explicit.
And did I mention, it's free --until March 5.
Happy reading!

Friday, March 1, 2013

In Like a Lion

March came in like a lion this morning, so I'm hoping it will go out like a lamb.

This morning did not get off to a good start. There was an overnight dusting of snow, which looks lovely, but the ice beneath is treacherous.

School was not cancelled, although we received a call that busses would be late because of road conditions. Drivers slipped and slid up and down our street. 

The young man across the street slid into a snow bank at the end of our cul de sac and ripped off a fog light from the bottom of his truck. The snow pile was left by the street department after our last snow storm.

Just up the road, my granddaughter slid into a brick mailbox, trying to avoid a parked car. The mailbox won. The rear of her SUV is in bad shape, although the rubber bumpers that got knocked off helped lessen the damage. Thankfully, no one was hurt, although during and after her franctic call many tears were shed.

As our neighbor and I assessed the damage to our teens' vehicles--she to her son's pickup and I to my granddaughter's SUV--a city truck came by and cleared the road.

Hurry, Spring!

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...