Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Guessing Games, Imagination, and Shaker Book Winners

"Imagination has rules, but we can only guess what they are." ~Mason Cooley

I love games that take imagination. Guessing games can be fun too. So thank all of you who have played along with my mystery photos to enter my giveaway for Orchard of Hope. I'll be drawing for the two winners on Saturday, November 2, so you can get in an extra entry by commenting on this post or one of the other mystery photo posts before Saturday. Each guess or comment on a new post gets you another entry. Do you know what this one is? Remember, it's more fun if you make your guess before you read everybody else's.

I'm not quite as mysterious as I'd hoped to be with these photos.
I thought the one last Wednesday would be a real puzzler and what did all of you say? Flower. And all of you were right! However, only a few of you knew what KIND of flower. It is a passion flower. They are strange little blooms. One of Mom's sitters brought it show Mom one night this summer. I'm totally amazed by the bloom from its strange little skinny petals to its merry-go-round center.The amazing gifts of nature.

I really didn't plan to do any more mystery pictures, but since I'm not drawing for the winners of Orchard of Hope until Saturday, I said why not. You may be bored with the game, but I'm determined to stump some of you!! I probably won't. You guys are just too smart and good at figuring things out.  

I did finally contact the winners of the Shaker books which was the bonus prize I offered during the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt. I hope if you took part in that you had fun and maybe won a prize on one of the posts. My winners are Pam of CA and Katie of FL who both chose The Believer. The third winner was Linda of CA who picked The Gifted. I do appreciate all of you telling me what you liked about the scavenger hunt and leaving comments on Lyn's guest post here on the 18th. I read every comment, but was unable to answer every one after the 400 plus message started giving my computer a headache. :) Computers with headaches are not nice to be around. 

"I guess I'm just quite observant and I pay attention to a lot of things. Human behavior really fascinates me." ~Ellie Goulding

So let's see how observant you are. And I promise. This is the last mystery photo for a while.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

There Has to Be a First Sentence

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
That's a famous first sentence from George Orwell's novel 1984 published in 1949. The sentence lets you know at once that this story is no ordinary story. 

Every story has to have a first sentence. That first sentence needs to not only pull the reader into a story, but it needs to grab the writer too. I've written a lot of first sentences over the years. And rewritten them a zillion times before anyone got to crack open that book to read my story. 

I'm at the first sentence stage now. My new story has been percolating in my head while I've written hundreds of other sentences that have nothing at all to do with the story I'm ready to write. Lots of sentences have spilled out of my fingers for blog and Facebook posts and newsletters. I've also been doing edits on Love Comes Homemy Rosey Corner book scheduled for publication July 2014. That meant deleting sentences and rewriting sentences and a few times writing new sentences, but the first sentence stayed the same. 

The news was good. 

A short and to the point sentence that probably means nothing at all to you reading it without the following sentences flowing away from it like a story river. But right now, we're just talking first sentences. The story river is a post for another day.

But yesterday a first sentence for the book I'm getting ready to write popped into my head. I haven't done my character work. I need to do more plotting. But out of the blue, the sentence showed up and so I'm hanging onto it. Whether I actually use it remains to be seen. But here it is. 

When she saw the two men coming, she took the shotgun down from over the door.

What do you think? Would that make you want to read sentence two? Would you want to float out on the story river after that? It's sort of making me want to know what happens next. That's where that plotting work comes in.

But for fun here's some of the first sentences from  my books.

Christmas at Harmony Hill.
Heather Worth sat propped against her washboard, listening to her husband's light snores.

Small Town Girl
It wasn't a good thing to be in love with the man your sister was going to marry.
Words Spoken True
Adriane Darcy's heart pounded as the darkness settled down around her like a heavy blanket.

The Outsider
The harsh clang of the meeting house bell shattered the peace of the night.

Scent of Lilacs
Some days David Brooke didn't know whether to count his blessings or to hide from them.

The Gifted
 "Sister Jessamine, where on earth are you taking us?" Sister Annie asked as she held on to her cap while ducking under a low-hanging branch.

The Blessed
 Isaac Kingston didn't think his Ella would really die.

The Believer
 Ethan Boyd didn't like loud voices. Bad things happened when there were loud voices.

Those are some from my inspirational fiction books for adults. Here are some from the young adult books I wrote a long time ago. 

Bridge to Courage
When I reached the beginning of the bridge which stretched away from me into the darkness, I stopped.

The Look of Eagles
I was thirteen years old when Dancer came into my world.

Secrets to Tell
Just when Emily Garnette was sure things couldn't possibly get any worse, thunder rumbled overhead.

Two of a Kind
"It won't last," Birdie Honaker whispered to herself when she spotted her aunt waiting for her at the airport. "It won't last."

Only in Sunshine
I never planned to be a champion of butterflies.

Which ones are your favorites? I was surprised that Only in Sunshine's first line seemed to grab my attention best of the YA books. Of the adult books, I liked the first line in Scent of Lilacs. But every story calls for a different approach and a different first sentence. Writing a good one is a challenge for all writers.

I found the first sentence from 1984 at this link I haven't read all those books, but reading the first sentences was interesting. Some were very short. Some were very long. Below is an opening sentence I found compelling even though I haven't read the book and have no idea what sort of story it might tell. So I'm not recommending the book. Just the first sentence.

It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not. ~Paul Auster, City of Glass (1985)

Now it's time for me to type that first sentence for my new book and hope someday readers will find it compelling - after I rewrite it those zillion times.

Thanks for reading. As a note, I haven't heard from the three winners I picked for my Shaker books. If I don't hear from them by Tuesday midnight, I'll pick new winners. I posted the winners on my FB page last week. Here are the names again, Pam Fresno, Mary Koester, and Rose Marie Kelly. Pam, Mary or Rose Marie, if you're reading this, please leave a comment with a way for me to contact you or send me a message from my Facebook page

Thursday, October 24, 2013

One More Puzzling Picture

"Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle." (Lewis Carroll) 

So to twist the quote a bit, what in the world is it? Are you tired of mystery photos yet? I hope not. I thought I'd do one more to let you keep guessing to perhaps win that copy of the newly packaged Orchard of Hope. I think Jocie and Wes would have had fun guessing on these mystery pictures too. Maybe I'll let Jocie come up with some sort of puzzle for her Hollyhill Book of the Strange blog. Jocie likes puzzles. Did you see her post about Beatlemania. Do you remember that? I do. I never swooned or screamed, but I sure did like singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand." Not exactly the greatest song ever written, but it grabbed our attention, didn't it?

But here is the rest of the picture of last Wednesday's mystery photo. Several of you were right on the money with your caterpillar guesses. You even told me exactly what kind of caterpillar and that they were tomato horn worms that becomes a sphinx moth. The bubbles that I thought were so neat were actually deadly to the poor caterpillar according to the info Kathleen found for us. Here's the last bit to explain the bubbles. (Not sure about her source.) "Here's this handy tidbit, if needed: Find out what kind of bug you have: Is it a good bug or a bad bug? Keep a look out for little caterpillar/worm like pests and spray or squish them. The only exception that I can bring to mind would be a tomato hornworm (green caterpillar) -- if it has a bunch of bubbles on its back, it is infected by a beneficial wasp that will eliminate a few generations of the hornworms. Leave them. They are on the way out anyway." 

You readers teach me so much. But now let's see what you teach me about the mystery picture up top. Oh yeah, and I loved your guesses on the last one - garden hose, cabbage leaves, lime halves, cactus leaves.  You were using your imaginations. Thanks for giving it a try. 

If you want to be in the drawing for a copy of Orchard of Hope, just make a guess on the mystery photo or any comment will do. If you've already guessed on one of the other photos, you'll get an extra entry for guessing on this one too. I'll pick three winners on November 1. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Can We Be Too Busy?

"It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The questions is: What are we busy about?" (Henry David Thoreau)

I used to have that quote on my desk calendar because I think it's a great question to ask ourselves. I get busy. Lately I am often way too busy and I have to stop and think am I busy about the right things? I don't know if you are like me or not, but when my kids were young, I was always busy then too taking care of them, making sure they got to school and to their ballgames and church. I thought when they grew up that I'd have so much time. I haven't found that extra time. It seems that somehow we fill our hours or somebody fills our hours for us. I like being busy. But there are times when I think I need to slow down and enjoy the moments. 

I did some of both of that this week. I was busy, but I took time to let the grandkids who live close come spend the night. I had promised one of them that before the summer was over I'd walk with her to this creek and cliff area on my farm. She reminded me that summer was over last month, but before the winter snow started flying, we did get to take that walk. It was still warm and she did get to splash in the creek. She caught a frog. She ran down the creek like a surefooted deer. Promise kept even if it was a little later than planned. 

Then I took part in the Christian Fiction Fall Scavenger Hunt. Wow!! That has been quite an experience for me. Over 1,300 people (so far) popped in here at One Writer's Journal to read Lyn Cote's guest post about the "real McCoy." And a lot of my visiters left comments. I love getting comments from you readers and I usually try to answer each comment personally, but hundreds of comments has overwhelmed me and my blogspot memory here too. It keeps telling me I have to reload the comments. So if I haven't answered your comment, it's not because I haven't read it. I did and I appreciated each and every one of them and I love that so many of you are checking out my Facebook page. I hope you'll chime in on the conversations there in the days and weeks ahead. But I may not get every comment here answered. I will have your name in the giveaway when I have the time to double check to make sure I have all the names in my hat before I do the drawing. 

To top off my busy week, I had my Hometown Book Launch party for Christmas at Harmony Hill today at my local library. Here's some of the beautiful reading friends who came to hear me talk about writing my Shaker Christmas book. They ate my brownies too even if they were a little crumbly. 

But it's past sundown on the week now. A new week is about to start. Time to slow down and think about what's next. And that's coming up with a new story so that somewhere down the road I can get busy again and maybe take part in another Scavenger Hunt and have another one of my book parties!! 

What do you like best to be busy about?

Oh, for those of you guessing on my blog post mystery picture that I posted on Wednesday, I love your guesses. I'll reveal the rest of the picture Wednesday and let you know if you guessed right, but you have until November 1 to leave a comment on any of my blog posts other than the Scavenger Hunt one (those people have the chance to win a Shaker novel). The mystery picture comments are to perhaps win a copy of Orchard of Hope. I'm hoping I can keep all these giveaways straight. Wishing you all great luck in the many drawings in the Scavenger Hunt.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

2013 Fall Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt - Stop 17

Welcome to the 2013 Fall Scavenger Hunt! This hunt (which begins at noon Mountain Daylight Time) has 25 stops and runs October 18 through October 20, 2013. You can make the loop, reading unique content from 25 different authors, and after you complete the loop and fill out the Rafflecopter form at the final stop, you’ll be in the running for the prizes. And what prizes! Two runners-up will receive all 25 books in their mailboxes, and the grand prize winner will get an iPad Mini 16GB! Besides those great prizes, many of the authors taking part are offering additional prizes. Check below to see my added prize. Collective prizes total well over $1000! What do you have to do to qualify for those prizes? Just have fun going around to all the stops, read some great never before published posts from the authors taking part and gather the clues. Great news for our international readers. The contest is open to you too!

If you’ve JUST discovered the hunt, you might want to start at the beginning, Stop # 1, Lisa This is Stop #17. But you can also begin here, and then backtrack to the first stops to gather all the clues so you have the complete secret phrase. You'll need that to enter for the big prizes at Stop #26.

Ready? Let's go!  Here at Stop 17 I'm hosting the award-winning and multi-published Lyn Cote. Lyn has visited here on One Writer's Journal in the past and I've been a guest over on her wonderful blog, Strong Women. Lyn writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, historical romance and family sagas and has nearly 40 titles to her credit. She lives in a lake cottage in the northwoods of Wisconsin with her real life hero and four cats. Find her at her website; on Twitter or  Facebook. Lyn's newest release and the book you'll have a chance to win in the Scavenger Hunt is The Baby Bequest.  

Let's see what Lyn has to say about her research for this book. Welcome, Lyn. So good to have you here. Tell us about your research for The Baby Bequest.

Historical Research is Fun

It is always so interesting to research the language of a time period. For example, I had wanted to use the phrase “the real thing,” in my latest book, The Baby Bequest, but after some research, I discovered that phrase came into use much later than when this story takes place. I don’t like to use phrases that aren’t historically grounded.

The Real McCoy

So I substituted “the real McCoy,” and discovered that this phrase came into use because of Elijah McCoy, an African-American born in Ontario, Canada, in 1844, the son of runaway slaves. Educated in Scotland as a mechanical engineer, Elijah McCoy settled in Detroit. Unable to get a job as a mechanical engineer because of racial prejudice, he worked for the railroad as an “oiler.”

You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down

While working there, he invented a cup that would regulate the flow of oil onto moving parts of industrial machines, first the train engine. This invention distributed oil evenly over the engine's moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without pausing for maintenance.

The term “real McCoy” refers to Elijah’s oiling device. It became so popular that people inspecting new equipment would ask if the device contained “the real McCoy.”
How about that?

For more information, go to

Lyn's newest release, The Baby Bequest, is available in bookstores or online at AmazonBarnes & Noble,, or wherever great books are sold. 

On to the Next Step in the Scavenger Hunt:

Write down this clue: you are

Now you're ready to head over to Lyn Cote's blog, Stop #18 for the next great author post from Judith Miller and to find your next clue.

My Bonus Giveaway

As a bonus, I'll draw 3 winners who can then have their choice of one of my Shaker titles, The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, or The Gifted. Just leave a comment here on this post telling me what you like best about taking part in a Scavenger Hunt. Get an extra entry by "liking" my Facebook page. If you already "like" the page, thank you. Just tell me you have, and you'll get that extra entry in my bonus drawing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A New Mystery Picture for Book Giveway Fun

"Vision - It reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be. Imagination gives you the picture. Vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own." ~ Robert Collier

I love taking pictures. I got my first camera when I was twelve. It was a Christmas gift and I took as many pictures as I could afford. Back then you had to buy film and flashbulbs and then pay to have the pictures developed. I didn't have the means to keep the camera loaded all the time, but I did enjoy using up the film when I had that extra cash. Now kids can grab a camera, or more likely a phone, and take photo after photo.

Several years ago when I still had a regular film camera and was taking pictures of my Sunday school kids, they kept wanting to "see" the picture right away the way you can with the digital cameras. I did finally come into the modern age and I do enjoy the freedom of shooting all sorts of pictures without having to think about the developing costs. 

"Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art." ~Ambrose Pierce

I like sharing things I spot on my walks with you on my Facebook author page. I enjoy capturing fun times with my grandkids. And I like playing around with the photos to make mystery photos to have fun here on One Writer's Journal. 

This is the mystery photo from my last blog post. You made some great and poetic guesses. Loved them all. And most of you figured out what the photo was or at least were very close. Here's the "rest of the picture." The drops are dew drops. Thanks for your guesses. You're entered in the drawing for the newly packaged Orchard of Hope. Thanks also to those of you who said you liked the cover.

Now you can guess on the new photo at the top. If you made a guess on the Knockout rose picture and decide to give the new mystery picture a guess (or say you have no idea), you will get another entry into the giveaway. Remember, it's more fun to guess first and read the comments with the other guesses after that. But you can leave any comment here between now and November 1 to enter the giveaway. I'll pick two winners on November 3.

"Everyday we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and if possible, speak a few sensible words." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Remember to check back here on Friday, October 18 for the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt. My guest is going to be Lyn Cote. It is going to be fun chasing around through the blogs, reading about all the books and authors, and collecting clues. Great prizes too. Who knows? You might get a chance to read a good poem or see a great picture or hear a few sensible words. :)

And if you're in the area, you're invited to my Christmas at Harmony Hill Hometown Book Launch on Sunday, October 20th at 2:30 p.m. at the Anderson County Public Library. We'll talk books and laugh about me actually looking at Christmas stuff here way before Halloween. That has NEVER happened before! But I bought a couple of Christmas door prizes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mystery Picture and Orchard of Hope Giveaway

Guess to Win a Book

Let's have a little fun with another mystery picture. Leave a guess, but don't read the other comments before you guess. It's more fun that way. But leave any comment on this post or one of my other posts before the end of October to be in a drawing for a copy of Orchard of Hope. (Exception - Comments on the October 18 Scavenger Hunt post will be for the great Scavenger hunt prizes only.) I know some of you may already have the book from its first printing, but autographed books make wonderful Christmas presents or stocking stuffers. Or maybe you would like to donate a copy to your library. So make a guess or join the conversation this month and see if you can win a book. I'll pick two winners on November 1.

Orchard of Hope's new cover

How do you like it? Jocie is at the Hollyhill Grill enjoying a strawberry shake. That has to be good! For my Hollyhill stories, I looked back at the way I remember my little town being in the 1960's. That was a time before Wal-Marts and before the main highway bypassed Main Street. Back then, if you wanted a new toaster, some nails,a prescription filled, a new dress or shoes, a loaf of bread or that strawberry shake, you went downtown on Main Street. 

And a lot of people did, especially on a Saturday afternoon. All the farmers put down their tools, stopped plowing or planting or harvesting and brought the family to town. It was a time to stop on the sidewalk and talk to your neighbors because you knew everybody you met. The teenagers got to do a little flirting while sipping a soda at the drugstore soda counter. But it wasn't all good. Our schools weren't integrated until the middle of the Sixties. The fight for Civil Rights was ongoing.

I took some of all that and mixed in my characters and their imagined lives and Hollyhill had a new story to tell. Many readers have told me that one of the final scenes in that story - a revival scene in the small country church - touched their hearts. I won't tell you more because I wouldn't want to spoil the story for you if you haven't read it yet. 

Great Chances to Win

So lots going on this month with books and prizes to give away. There's a Goodreads giveaway happening for Christmas at Harmony Hill. You have until November 1 on that one too. Then the fun Scavenger Hunt starts on Friday, October 18. I'll be posting one of the clues and a new posting from Lyn Cote. My post will be on a different site. There are 25 bloggers and writers taking part in the fun. Besides the main prizes of an iPad and 2 winners of all 25 newly released novels, many of the bloggers are offering prizes on their individual blogs. I'm offering a copy of one of my Shaker novels, but you have to wait until October 18 to leave a comment for that.

Meanwhile you can guess on the mystery picture and perhaps win a copy of Orchard of Hope. Remember, to make it more fun, don't read the other comments before you guess. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Scavenger Hunts and Books by the Banks

Ever been on a Scavenger hunt? That's where you have to find things. I used to try to think up some fun scavenger hunts for my Bible School kids. I think it's more fun when you do clues. Like something a squirrel would love. (Lots of acorns at our church.) Or the pastor's favorite verse. (Going to have to ask him that one.) And on and on. I was in a group once where we had teams that competed to get the items first. I remember one of the items was a sock with a hole in it. Okay, so how many of you thought about the fact that all socks have a hole in them where you stick your foot in? Not many of us rushing around to gather our items thought of that. 

When we were kids we sometimes made a different kind of scavenger hunt. We had clues. You looked where you might be in hot water and then in the teakettle or perhaps the bathtub you found the next clue and on until at the end there was the prize. Fun games that took a little thought. 

Well, I'm going to be taking part in a Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt beginning on October 18. I've heard about these where readers chase around to all the different blogs where they can read some new and fun things about the authors or their books. Then they gather the clues and put them together for the answer. That qualifies them for the prizes. And there are some neat prizes. One is an iPad. And then a couple of people are going to get copies of all twenty-five books. On top of those prizes, a lot of the individual blogs are offering extra prizes. I'll be offering a choice of one of my Shaker books. 

I've never taken part in one of these before, but I've heard they're great fun. So on October 18, not a normal blogging day for me but Scavenger Hunts are not normal times :), I'll post an article written by my guest blogger while another writer will be posting the article I sent her. And on and on. Some great writers in the mix including several writing friends, Laura Frantz, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Lyn Cote, and Judith Miller, to name a few. I hope you'll mark the date and come take part in the fun. 
It's been a busy time for me this week with the edits due for my 2014 release, Love Comes Home. I had to cut over 13,000 words. My delete key stayed hot from overuse all week. I've had a few of your sweet people say you'd like to have those extra words. So here are a lot of them - was, just, and, that, said. Not too interesting so far, are they? lol. I did cut a few paragraphs here and there too, but I think the story is better for it. 

I'm headed up to Cincinnati to Books by the Banks this Saturday, October 12. If you're in the area, please come out and join in the fun. And don't leave without saying hello. I'll be there somewhere! The organizers do a great job of having fun things for the kids and always have a full room of writers eager to talk to you. Here's a photo I took on the way out of Cincinnati last year. My husband was driving then. I'll be driving this year, so no pictures of the drive. But maybe I'll get a picture with some of the other writers. Always fun to meet new writing and reading friends. For more information about events that day and the authors go to Books by the Banks.

Thanks for reading. Check back Sunday. Maybe I'll do some of those mystery pictures and let you guess to enter for a chance to win a copy of the newly packaged Orchard of Hope

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Banana Croquettes, a KY Church Dinner Treat

Have you ever eaten banana croquettes? Chances are if you've been to a church dinner in Kentucky, you've had the opportunity to give them a try. 

My little country church had Homecoming Day today. Once a year we invite everybody who has spiritual roots in the church to come "home" for a special service. That can be a lot of roots since our church was celebrating 201 years. In years past, we've invited former pastors back to speak to us, but since we've now had the same pastor for around thirty years, we don't have a large pool of former pastors to pick from. So the last few years my husband's Southern Gospel group, the Patriot Quartet, have been delivering the Gospel in song during the morning service. 

My husband has been singing in groups for forty years. When he started singing, most all the country churches in the area had Homecomings. They'd have preaching in the morning and singing in the afternoon. Sometimes there would be four or five singing groups. That could get looonnnggg! Especially when you had three kids to make sit quietly the way I did then. Over the years, the attendance at afternoon services shrank and shrank until most churches quit having the singing services in the afternoons. Now the group generally sings in the mornings and then enjoys the church dinners. Oh, those wonderful church dinners. You can see a couple of our church youngsters loading up on desserts here and that was just one of the dessert tables!

But those dinners have changed too. Now you see a lot more dishes cooked at Kroger and the chicken nearly always is Famous Recipe or Colonel Sanders or sometimes Kroger too. But when I first got introduced to Homecoming dinners, the chicken was skillet fried before church on Sunday morning and the cakes and pies were homemade. Country cooking - yum!! 

One of the dishes you could always find at a church dinner was banana croquettes. I love banana croquettes. I used to make them, but making banana croquettes is a lot of trouble and messy. Now I skip the salad dressing and just dip my banana in peanuts in an individual serving just for me. But at a church dinner you can sometimes find the real thing. Some people make a fancy salad dressing, but most people just slice the banana into sections. Sometimes lengthwise too. Then they coat the banana in salad dressing. (That's the messy part.) Last, they roll them in chopped or crushed peanuts. (More messy part.) They don't keep well, so you have to eat them all right away. I'm usually up to the challenge if I make it through the dinner line in time to snag any of them. We have a member now who always makes banana croquettes for our dinners. But today her dish got mistakenly put on the dessert table and most people missed it. But a couple of those peanut covered bananas were the perfect dessert for me. 

Have you ever made or eaten banana croquettes? Been to a country church dinner? If so, what was the dish you liked best? We had some great desserts, besides those banana croquettes. One an old fashioned chess pie. That's what my son ate and he told his kids it had no food value, just sweet and good. But the value of food is not always nutrious. At a country church dinner, sometimes the food makes you remember. Like the wonderful lady gone on to celebrate homecoming in heaven now who used to always make two chess pies every homecoming day. 

Ahh, the memories food can give us. Hope my grandkids will have some good memories of Goshen Homecomings when they get older. My oldest granddaughter here did try a piece of cake that she said was the best chocolate cake she'd ever eaten. So there's one good memory! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Winners, Bicycles and Birthdays

My birthday month is over. September has slipped away too soon. No more birthday stories in my e-mail box. :( It's been a crazy month down here on the farm with Christmas at Harmony Hill out in September and Orchard of Hope coming out in its new package on October 1. Add in one of Mom's caretakers being sidelined with cataract surgery and a deadline for editing my next Rosey Corner book that included the need to snip out 13,000 plus words and you can see why I needed a few more days in September. Only 3,500 words to go! I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hope it's not a train. 

But before we head out on a new trail, we've got a few more birthday noise makers to blow and one more story to share. 

Did you ever have your own bicycle? I didn't. I had a hand me down that needed tires, my inspiration for Jocie's old bike in Scent of Lilacs.Tara left this story in a comment on a post here, but I wanted to share it again. 

"My best birthday memory. As a second child I spent a lot of time in hand me downs. Clothes, shoes, bicycles. My older sister had a very different style than I did, so her old blue bicycle with a banana seat was not my favorite. Every trip to town for groceries would see me at the Western Auto adjacent to the grocery store, riding around and around a little yellow BMX bike. Every year, I participated in (and rocked!) the St Judes Bike-a-thon in our tiny, tiny town and I wanted nothing more than to NEVER have to ride that hand me down blue bike again to do so. I have NO idea how many miles I logged on that little yellow bike just riding up and down the aisles until Mom was done at the grocery store. I will never forget Mom telling me to take out the trash or some equally unpleasant chore, on my birthday, no less, only to discover it was a ploy to get me to go around back where that little yellow bmx was waiting for me. I continued to ride it in those Bike-a-thons for years to come. One year, I earned enough pledge money to provide every participant with the t-shirt prize after it was all divvied up."

When I read Tara's story I was doubly touched, by her mother knowing how much she wanted the bike and finding a way to get it for her and by Tara's eagerness to raise money for St. Jude's even as a child. You may remember that my great-niece was treated for cancer at St. Jude's and one of my Facebook posts about her went viral a year or so ago. You can read that old blog post, Honk, Honk for Good News if you're interested. Anyway, when I asked Tara about using her story here, this is what she said, "Oh please go ahead and use it :) My best friend had cancer, she passed away when I was 11. She was treated at St Jude and it is still the charity that gets 99% of my charity dollars."

In November I'll be taking part in the St. Jude Walk in Louisville because Tara is right. Once you've seen how St. Jude wants to cure every child, you want to keep helping them have the money to find those cures.

But now get all those birthday noisemakers ready. It's time to announce winners. You may have already seen the names since I sent out a newsletter on Tuesday with the winners and the news that my book Words Spoken True was/is a free download. Only a few more hours for that so if you have an e-reader and haven't read my story set in 1855 Louisville with political intrigue, lots of romance and even a serial killer on the loose, you can download it today for free. (And yes, I know this is Thursday and that I'm a day late posting. I was in such a frenzy of editing out words last night I forgot to post.) 

Oh yeah, back to the winners of my Christmas at Harmony Hill Giveaway Celebration. Donna V. wins 1st prize, the Shaker hand ornament and her choice of one of my books. Sue B. won 2nd prize of the quilt hanging and her choice, Christmas at Harmony Hill. Rachel L can't say she "never wins" anymore since she wins the Tea book, Melody Carlson's The Christmas Shoppe and she also picked Christmas at Harmony Hill. As as extra bonus, Peggy C is my "just because" winner. Angel Sister is one of her favorite books, so she picked Small Town Girl. (I haven't heard from Donna, so if I don't by next week, I'll pick a new winner.)

Thank you all for taking part in my giveaway fun and for sharing your birthday stories. I enjoyed reading them so much and in my very unscientific survey, I discovered surprise parties make great memories, especially if you're turning 50, that grandkids are cute blowing out candles, and that everybody loves a birthday cake with chocolate the favorite there.

Out of room for this post, but check back Sunday (or maybe Monday. lol) I'll have to celebrate Orchard of Hope being back out for readers somehow.