Sunday, December 23, 2007

Your Opinion, Please

During the next couple of weeks we're going to be revamping Pix-N-Pens, and we want to hear from you!!!

We want to know what you'd like to see here at Pix-N-Pens. What do you like about this blog? What do you dislike? What would make it better?

I've created a small poll, but it is by no means all-encompassing. If you don't see an answer you like, please feel free to add your own, or even send me an email sharing your opinion. I'd love to hear from you!!! Email tracyruckman @ gmail. com (remove the spaces please)

Merry Christmas, my friends. May God fill your homes and your hearts with His love, joy, and peace.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Entry: The Bean Seed Grows Up

THE BEAN SEED GROWS UP
By Debbie Roome


It was cold and wet under the dark brown soil and the seed shivered. There must be a mistake. He was supposed to be a tall, green beanstalk. “God.” he cried out. “What’s happening to me? I’m supposed to be a tall, green beanstalk”

God whispered back. “Wait.”

And so the seed waited. He waited all day and all night and all that changed was his skin became loose. “God!” he cried out. “What’s happening to me? I’m supposed to be a tall green beanstalk.”

God whispered back. “Wait.”

And so the seed waited. He waited all week. Seven days and seven nights and all that changed was his skin fell off and a root started to grow. He liked the root for it pushed him up through the soil, closer to the warmth of the shiny, yellow sun. But he was still worried. “God!” he cried out. “What’s happening to me? I’m supposed to be a tall, green beanstalk.”

God whispered back. “Wait.”

And so the seed waited. He waited another week. Seven days and seven nights and all that changed was the root pushed him above ground and he grew two small leaves. He was happy to be in the sun, but he still wasn’t a beanstalk. “God!” he cried out. “What’s happening to me? I’m supposed to be a tall, green beanstalk.”

God whispered back. “Wait.”

And so the seed waited. He waited two weeks. Fourteen days and fourteen nights and all that changed was he grew some more leaves and roots. He knew he was getting stronger as the rain watered him and the sun warmed him, but he wanted to be tall. “God!” he cried out. “What’s happening to me? I’m supposed to be a tall, green beanstalk.”

God whispered back. “Wait.”

And so the seed waited. He waited another two weeks. Fourteen days and fourteen nights and at last his dream came true. He looked down at himself and he was tall and green and strong with healthy leaves and small white flowers which nodded in the sun. “God!” he cried out. “Thank you for making me a tall, green beanstalk.”

God whispered back. “You’re welcome.”

Submitted by
Debbie Roome

Monday, December 17, 2007

Do You Write for Children?

We're pleased to welcome Marti Kramer Suddarth as our guest judge this week. Marti has written a new book entitled Ping Pong Words and 30 More Children's Sermons.



"Children's time" - a brief lesson specifically targeted for preschool and elementary age youngsters - is an important part of the Sunday morning worship service in many churches today. But many of those who are called upon to provide these lessons feel too intimidated to write their own material. For pastors, children's ministry leaders, and Sunday school teachers who need fresh, exciting messages that captivate their young people, this collection of easy-to-prepare lessons is just what the doctor ordered.



Geared toward the typical age range of the "children's time" audience - toddler to age thirteen - "Ping-Pong Words" is a valuable resource for anyone who presents children's sermons or devotionals. Each of the 31 lessons is scripture-based and runs three to five minutes in length, and many include demonstrations using simple visual aids such as ping-pong balls, family pictures, a flashlight, and clothespins to illustrate common precepts in ways that clearly communicate God's word to young ears, eyes, and hearts. The lessons are flexible and can be incorporated into a variety of churches and ecumenical settings. Appropriate for Sunday School, worship services, religious schools, and day care programs, Bible clubs, and anywhere else where children gather to learn about God, this volume is certain to earn a trusted place on the bookshelf.



This week, our contest will focus on children. Submit a story geared with children as your target audience. Please keep submissions under 1000 words, and get your entry to me at tracyruckman @ gmail. com by Friday, midnight, for your chance to win an autographed copy of Ping Pong Words by our guest. Because of the upcoming holidays, the winner will be announced on Saturday afternoon.


Marti Kramer Suddarth is an elementary schoolteacher and freelance writer who lives in Corydon, Indiana. Her stories and music reviews have appeared in several publications, including Heart-Stirring Stories of Love and Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul, and she is the author of Mini-Musicals for Special Days (Contemporary Drama Service). Suddarth is an active member of Community of Hope Nazarene Church in Corydon, and she is a graduate of Oakland City University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Lies Within by Karen Ball

Today, we're having FUN FRIDAY! I'm so pleased to present the following review for talented author Karen Ball's latest release. Karen is one of my very favorite authors, and What Lies Within is on my Christmas wish list - I can't wait to read it! Karen's books are always fun, rich, and carry a few surprises. (And they usually have a doggy or two in them - if you're a dog-lover like me, that's an added bonus!)



If you haven't read any of Karen's books, I urge you to check her out - you won't be sorry.








This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
What Lies Within
Multnomah Fiction (November 20, 2007)
by
Karen Ball



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karen Ball , bestselling novelist, is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. Her love for words was passed down through her father and grandfather - both pastors who shared God's truth through sermons and storytelling. Blending humor, poignancy, and honesty, Karen's writing style is a powerful force for revealing God's truth. She lives in Oregon with her husband, Don, and their "kids," Bodhan, a mischief-making Siberian husky, and Dakota, an Aussie-terrier mix who should have been named "Destructo."



ABOUT THE BOOK:



Nothing’s going to stop Kyla…


until the ground crumbles beneath her feet.




Kyla Justice has arrived. Her company, Justice Construction, is one of the most critically acclaimed, commercially successful companies in the Pacific Northwest. And yet, something is missing. Not until she’s called on to build a center for inner-city kids does she realize what it is: her sense of purpose. Now nothing can stop her, not the low budget, not supply problems, not gang opposition, not her boyfriend’s suggestion that she sell her business and marry him–and most especially not that disagreeable Rafael Murphy.


Rafe Murphy understands battle. Wounded in action, this Force Recon Marine carries the scars–and the nightmares–to prove it. Though he can’t fight overseas any longer, he’s found his place as a warrior in the civilian world. So he soldiers on, trusting that one of these days, God will reveal to him why Rafe survived the ambush in Iraq. That day has arrived.


Kyla and Rafe both discover that determination alone won’t carry them through danger and challenges. When gang violence threatens their very foundations, there’s only one way to survive: rely on each other, be real–and surrender to God. In other words, risk everything…

Sunday, December 9, 2007

How To: Nonfiction Book Proposals

This week, we are pleased to welcome Mary E. DeMuth as our guest judge and guest blogger.

Mary helps people to turn their trials into triumphs. An expert in Pioneer Parenting, Mary enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow. Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005). Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, including Watching the Tree Limbs (nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing on Dandelions (NavPress, 2006).

A pioneer parent herself, Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, where they planted a church.

Mary has created a new product to help us writers, and I asked if she'd share some of it with us. She also offered to give one away as our prize this week! Read the details below.


Are you ready to write a nonfiction proposal
that grabs attention?
by Mary DeMuth


First things first: You need to know a few things before you start.

1) Know your passion. I’ve alluded to this earlier. A good book proposal emerges from a passionate idea. Examine yourself. Think about the topics you get passionate about when you talk to folks. Talk to others who know you well. Share your book idea and see if they catch your passion for it. It’s a huge undertaking to write a proposal, so be sure you have the passion to carry an entire book.


2) Know your book. What genre is your book? Where it would be shelved in a bookstore? How well do you know what the book will be about? Do you have access to good research, great interviews? How unique is your book? Will a pub board find it unique?

3) Know your immediate audience. The first audience of your proposal is actually the agent or publisher you’re querying. Find out everything you can about the agent or publisher. Do they specialize in the genre you’re writing? Do they take new authors? How many? Have you attended a writer’s conference and spoken directly to the editor or agent? What kinds of books are they looking for? Purchasing a market guide is a great first step. Analyzing books already represented or published is another great step. (If an agent already represents three mom authors, chances are he/she won’t want to take on another mom author.)

4) Know the bookselling industry. Do you know what is selling in the industry? What has oversold? What trends are up and coming? Go to bookstores and walk the aisles, sign up for newsletters and updates from the publishing industry, go to conferences, talk to booksellers. It’s absolutely imperative that you know what you’re getting into before you embark on this journey.

5) Know yourself. Writing a proposal is the first step in a very long journey. Do you have what it takes to count the cost of bringing a book to fruition? Can you take constructive criticism? Do you have the time it takes to not only write the book, but to edit it in a timely manner and promote it when it releases? Do you have a critique group to support and help you through the process? Author Jan Winebrenner says publishing a book “is like giving birth to an elephant—only more painful.” Are you ready for that?


Excerpted from Nonfiction Book Proposals that Grab and Editor or an Agent by the Throat (in a good way!) by Mary E. DeMuth.
You can purchase the download for only $10!
Or, you can win one this week, with our contest.

Since Mary writes a variety of genres, and a variety of topics, AND she is also a talented photographer, our contest this week is WIDE OPEN. Submit any type of writing (short story, article, essay, letter, poem - your choice) or photography for your chance to win Mary's designation of BEST OF THE BEST! Just limit your written portion to 2000 words or less, and your photographic submissions to no more than 4 photos per entry.

Email your entries to me at tracyruckman @ gmail. com by Friday, December 14th for your chance to win! I'll post the entries as they arrive and Mary will judge them over the weekend. The winning entry, announced on Monday, December 17th, will receive a free copy of Mary's download, and all the regular promo perks.

You can learn more about Mary DeMuth at:

Urgent Call to Prayer and Fasting

We had no contestants this week - where is everyone? Hope you'll come back and play very soon! We miss you!

I've posted previously about fellow writer Kristy Dykes. Her husband Milton posts the following:

Kristy has been diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme stage four tumor. According to all reports, except the Word of the Lord, this is terminal and without a miracle she will not live long even with radiation and chemotherapy.

We believe God works miracles. We are not kooky, foolish people. We just believe God's Word is for today, for our lives, and works to help meet our needs. Is anything too hard for the God of all creation?

He has called all of us to pray for Kristy specifically on Monday, December 10th, 3:30 p.m. Eastern time - Kristy will receive her first radiation treatment. Milton has also posted the following:

How shall I pray for a MIRACLE on MONDAY for Kristy?

I will pray first with worship and honor to His Holy Name.

I will prepare my heart through repentance and fasting to remove any hindrance or distraction.

I will confess His faithful Word and its precious promises.

I will humble myself before His mighty greatness.I will agree with the thousands who will be praying today for a miracle for Kristy.I will remember the marvelous works that He has already done for us.

I will anoint with oil and pray the prayer of faith.

I will speak in accordance to the words of the Spirit He gives.

I will prophetically proclaim His glorious Word over Kristy.

I will believe in His faithfulness and call on His mercy if I have missed any point of significance.

I will give thanks for God is good.I will stand back and see the salvation and healing of the Lord.

I will rest Kristy in the arms of our Savior and Redeemer.

"The horse is made ready for battle, but the victory rests with the Lord." Proverbs 21:31

Will you join with us?

I am not asking for hours of prayer.

Just pray with humble, faith-filled, fervancy.

Share the Opportunity for a Miracle on Monday for Kristy Today!

A Miracle on Monday 3:30 EST, Dec. 10, 2007

Please share her website so caring believers can follow up in prayer.

Please join us as we all pray for Kristy.

May God send Kristy a miracle, this side of Heaven.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Small Groups - Do You Belong to One?

We have a unique contest this week, with an equally unique guest judge. Pix-N-Pens is pleased to welcome Teena Stewart as our guest this week.


Teena Stewart is married to an ordained minister and is a published author, ministry consultant and coach. She works in collaboration with DreamBuilders Ministry in Motion , an organization that equips church leaders.


Her book, Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice is available through Beacon Hill, November 2007 or on her small groups page . The Stewarts are in the process of starting a coffee shop ministry in North Carolina.


And this is where YOU come in.


Teena is looking for ideas about small groups and for her coffee shop, Java Journey. Enter this week's contest one of three ways: submit an essay or article related to the theme of Small Groups--An Intimate Environment Where People Can Linger, Learn and Latch Onto Christian Principles OR submit ideas for Java Journey - these ideas can include recipes, artwork, suggestions for forming small groups, or ideas on how best to utilize the coffee shop for small group formats. We're open for any and all ideas and suggestions, but please keep your submissions to 2000 words or less.


This contest will only last one week, so get your entry to me at tracyruckman @ gmail. com (remove spaces please) by midnight Friday for your chance to win! We'll choose one winner from all entries received, and one winner from anyone leaving comments below. The entry winner will receive COFFEE from Java Journey, and an autographed copy of Teena's new book Successful Small Groups. The comment winner will receive a beautiful china COFFEE MUG and a copy of Teena's book.












Wednesday, December 5, 2007

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR GRAND PRIZE WINNER!

We had a slight delay in announcing the winner of our Grand Prize Drawing - I had to touch bases with the winner - but now I'm thrilled to announce that

CAROLYN KENNEY

is the winner of our Grand Prize for December 2007.

Carolyn has become a regular around the Pix-N-Pen blog, winning several contests, and referring people to our newsletter.

You can get acquainted with Carolyn and read about her books on her website, Meditations of the Heart.

Congratulations, Carolyn! And thanks to everyone for participating!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program - submit your entry for this week's contest to win COFFEE!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Contest Theme: Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy



Pix-N-Pens is pleased to welcome Rebecca LuElla Miller as our guest judge for this contest. She is a free lance writer and editor who has sold stories and articles to various online or print publications, including Victorian Homes Magazine. Her editing assignments include books in Bryan Davis’s Dragons in Our Midst series. Her current work in progress is the third book of a fantasy trilogy, The Lore of Efrathah.



Our contest this week is totally out of my league, so I'm hoping some of you will educate me - be glad we've got an expert judge!

Submit a Christian SCIENCE FICTION and/or FANTASY short story - 2000 words or less - to me by email at tracyruckman @ gmail.com (remove the spaces please). Send your story by Friday, November 30th, for your chance to win your choice of selected fantasy titles such as Bryan Davis's Raising Dragons. We'll have more details of prizes later in the week, but for now, get writing!!!

Be sure to stop by these websites to learn more about Rebecca and SFF happenings.

Author Blog: A Christian Worldview of Fiction
Team Blog: Speculative Faith
Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour : CSFF
Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Newsletter: Latest In Spec Classifieds

Friday, November 16, 2007

Entry: Romance Short Story

The Magic of Midnight
by
Sally Chambers


Alexis worked hard each day to help create the gowns her father sold to the well-to-do ladies of the town. The young daughter of the proprietor, she’d taken her place in the sewing room after her mother died. Her father hadn’t objected, enjoying her company and admiring her talent. And every Saturday since her sixth birthday, for twelve years, she awoke at twelve minutes until midnight and descended the circular staircase into the emporium.


Tonight will be different—magical, Alexis decided, peering down the mahogany staircase. She stood still, listening, but no sound came from papa’s bedroom. In the foyer below, the grandfather clock chimed the stroke of midnight then resumed its methodical timekeeping duties with a reassuring “tick-tock.” The tiny candle she carried cast flickering light as she steadied herself, holding onto the smooth wooden banister. Her footsteps were silent, their sound lost in the plush carpet that spilled down the circling steps.

A wash of pale yellow moonbeams illuminated the old emporium, scattering light across the polished floor at the foot of the staircase. Lexi set the candle atop a tall chest and made her way between racks full of gowns and fancy dresses, to the side entrance. She took the brass key from her pocket, unlocked the French doors, and pushed them open.

Will he be here tonight?

Lexi stepped over the threshold and into a floral paradise of buds and blossoms and for a few long moments, the garden became a wonderland bathed in moonlight. Taking a deep breath of fragrant air, she allowed herself a twirl of joy then turned to go back inside, securing the doors behind her. The ritual had begun.

She drew the heavy velvet drapes across wide display windows that faced the cobblestone street, cocooning herself within the spacious room. Now it would be safe to light all the candles. She took the one from the chest and went to the first of twelve brass lamp stands, lifting each crystal globe to light the taper beneath. She couldn’t help smiling, thinking of how her father always shook his head on Monday mornings. He’d look at her and say, “How quickly the candles seem to burn away these days.”

Patience, Lexi. Her hand shook a bit with anticipation, but she’d made herself a promise. She wouldn’t steal a single glance at the hundreds of beautiful garments until she’d lit every lamp. Savoring the moments it took to light eleven others, at the twelfth, she replaced the globe and rewarded herself with the “first look.”

The lovely old-fashioned shop never failed to take her breath. Shining gilt frames, brass fixtures, and lustrous wood graced the interior. The entire room seemed to pulsate and glisten in the candlelight.

A draft scented with lily of the valley surrounded her. Lexi loved the delicate flowers. They bloomed in lush abundance in the garden, and she would take a walk there after wandering among the gowns tonight . . . hoping to see him.

So that’s how it went—down the staircase, into the garden for a moment, then weaving through the proper displays of linen, polished cotton, gingham, and dotted Swiss—roaming in and out between the rows of laces, velvets, organza, silks, and taffetas.

Then she would choose a dress that suited her mood, holding it, staring at it, dreaming of where it might take her. Sometimes she imagined she was a renowned ballerina at a party in her honor, another time a princess with ladies-in-waiting at her beck and call, and still other times, she’d be a busy mother attending a tea with her daughter . . . or on his arm. On and on the dreams would go. But tonight . . .

A glimpse of shimmering blue caught her eye and drew her. The gown was exquisite. It hung—featured for the day—against the creamy pearl and peach blossom pink of the wall covering.
Entranced, Lexi studied the dress that seemed a work of art, wondering where it had come from. Her fingers hadn’t touched this silken material—and if not, then whose had? She’d never seen it before. Would fit her? The nipped waist, the tucked bodice, the . . .

She reached up and removed it from its soft hanger. Mesmerized, she stood in front of the mirror. The three-paneled looking glass reflected her on every side as she whirled, pressing the satin dress close against her body. Sky blue ruffles caressed her neck; silken fabric skimming her waist, flaring out around her.

Oh, what if I really could wear this dress tonight? What if I was in his arms, dancing?

She could almost hear the music; she could almost feel the polished floor beneath her slippered feet.

Maybe if I close my eyes it will happen! Maybe, if I pray hard enough . . . The thought took her breath—dizzy as she was with her imaginations. And Lexi closed her eyes with a deep sigh.
Mm . . . the fragrance again. This time borne on a cool zephyr; had she left the French doors ajar—where had it come from?

A rustle, a sound; there was someone else in the room! She had to open her eyes.

“Am I dreaming?” Is it truly him? Walking to her side, the tall young man placed a bouquet of miniature white bells and greenery into her arms. He smiled at her, offering his arm.

Oh, could he hear her drumming heart? “I must be dreaming.”

“Perhaps,” he said. “But now—will you dance with me?”

“Dance? I . . . but . . . but I’m not dressed for a . . .”

“Shh,” he whispered, placing a finger lightly across her lips. He gave her a gentle smile and turned her toward the mirror. The glass echoed something different, and her eyes widened.

“See, you have on a beautiful dress—perfect for our dance.” The elegant blue silk gown enveloped her slender figure and flowed outward from her waist, cascading to the floor. Instead of straight and night-brushed, her hair was swept up with blue ribbons and fell about her shoulders in curls, and on her feet—blue satin slippers.

“Ohhh . . . the dress . . . it’s all so . . . lovely.”

He took her hand and led her through the double doors, outside into the moonlight, into the fragrance, into the music of the night. He held her close, tenderly, her feet barely touching the floor as they danced.

Am I dreaming? Am I imagining all this? Maybe, but tonight instead of admiring the twirling gown in front of the mirror, she was inside the twirling gown—in the garden—with him.
“Happy birthday, Lexi,” he whispered, his cheek against hers, the warmth of his breath moving through her hair, the sweet words blending with the breeze.

The grandfather clock chimed, and Lexi counted. One . . . two . . . three . . .
“No, please, not yet!” Four . . . five . . .

Opening her eyes, she sat alone on the marble bench. Glancing down, she saw only her long pink kimono. Where was it . . . the blue gown! Hesitant, she rose and walked toward the doors. Inside, everything was in order as if it had never been touched—just as when she first descended the staircase. The satin gown was safely on display, but tucked into the sash, a spray of lily of the valley. Deep in her heart, a knowing: one day he would come again . . . perhaps this time to stay. Lexi smiled and turned to blow a whisper toward the garden, towards the starlit sky.

“Thank you.”

Submitted by
Sally Chambers

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Urgent Call for Prayer

Since there are currently no entries for this contest, I'm going to post a special request.

Author Kristy Dykes needs prayer. Thursday morning, she will have surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor discovered only last week during a routine eye exam. Kristy is posting her journey on her own blog, and I urge to to visit and read her story. She is one amazing woman - her faith, her life, her attitude are an encouragement and inspiration to us all.

Many of us - writer friends, acquaintances, fellow Christians - are holding special times of fasting and prayer for Kristy the next couple of days, asking God to perform a miracle and remove that tumor from Kristy's brain. We're asking everyone to spread the word, and pray.

Will you please join us?

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Theme: ROMANCE!

Pix-N-Pens is honored to have prolific author and "romance guru" Lena Nelson Dooley as our guest judge this contest.


Our theme is ROMANCE! Submit a short story 2000 words or less, with a romantic theme. You have two weeks to get your entry submitted - stories should be emailed to me at tracyruckman @ gmail. com no later than midnight, Friday, November 16th. I'll post the entries as they arrive, and Mrs. Dooley will judge them the weekend of November 17th-18th. The winner will receive an autographed copy of her book Minnesota Brothers.



Lena Nelson Dooley is a multi-published, best-selling author of Christian romance. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the vice president of the local chapter DFW Ready Writers. Her releases earlier in 2007 were The Spinster Brides of Cactus Corner, Carolina Carpenter Brides, and Montana Mistletoe. Her romantic suspense, Who Am I?, will release in the Heartsong Book Club in November. Mrs. Dooley enjoys helping new authors. She has hosted a critique group in her home for over 15 years. She also promotes other authors on her blog . To find out more about her books, go to her web site or visit her Shoutlife profile .


Come, share your hearts with us!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Entry: CHALLENGES

God Can Do Anything
By Debbie Roome

I have glimpsed the passions and frustrations of Moses as time after time he went before Pharaoh. ” Let my people go.” was his cry. In a similar fashion, I spent months begging the South Africa government to “let my son go”.

Our story started in March 2005 with our decision to leave Africa and seek a new life in New Zealand. The problem was obtaining a passport for Timothy, the third born of our five children. Tim was born in Zimbabwe but as he had lived in South Africa from the age of seven months, Zimbabwe would not give him a passport. Unfortunately, neither would South Africa.

All South Africans have an identification number which is issued at birth. Immigrants over sixteen are assigned a number when they apply for an identification book. This number is central to life in South Africa and without it, you cannot get a job, open a bank account or cash a cheque . Nor, as we discovered, could you apply for a passport. Because Tim was only fifteen at the time, local government staff refused to issue him with a number.

So started a nightmare of being referred from one office to another, racial undertones and flat refusals to help. The system is renowned for its slowness and bribery and corruption is rife from top to bottom. Queues of several hundred are common and the premises are dirty and dilapidated. The location in the central city is a hot bed of crime and armed robberies.

After a month, a belligerent woman eventually accepted Tim’s application for an ID number. I suspect it was filed in the trash as soon as we walked out. Regular phone calls bore no results but we weren’t too worried as it was several months before our departure date.

In October 2005, my husband left to start work in New Zealand and prepare a home for us. With him gone and our tickets booked for January, I became more and more worried. In November, I decided to take Tim up to Johannesburg as we had heard the office there was more efficient. They accepted the application but said it could take months to process.

As December loomed, I called in back up. Friends, family and our church prayed for favour with Tim’s application. I approached our local newspaper and they printed the story of our plight. A helpful reporter supplied me with an unlisted number for management and so my quest continued.

The last two weeks of December were the worst I have ever experienced. In the midst of the pain and trauma of packing up our lives. Of farewells to family and friends, winding up my business, the sale of our house, settling accounts, closing bank accounts, dealing with floods and a swimming pool deluged with dirt, I continued to struggle against the government. My efforts included another trip to Johannesburg, the submission of applications three and four and extended visits to government offices. I did things I would not have thought I was capable of including pushing my way into management offices and paying a bribe to try and get a passport through the black market. It was all to no avail.

Six days before we were due to leave, I called the office as I had been doing twice a day for weeks. I was told the manager was busy with the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs who was touring their department. I dropped everything, grabbed Tim and drove into town. Along with hundreds of other people, I stood in a filthy hall in temperatures of over 100 degrees. Everyone was pushing and shoving but I was determined to speak to this man.

God honoured my determination and after half an hour, I got his attention and was able to explain the situation to him. He apologized for the treatment we had received and promised to authorize the issuing of an ID number and a passport. We went upstairs and filled out application number five and again submitted all the documentation, photos and fingerprints.

I continued to call them two or three times a day but still nothing happened. On Friday, 13th January 2006, Tim and I once again pushed our way into management offices. I told them I would not be leaving without his passport. We were booked to fly out at 6am on Monday 16th so this was our literally our last chance. The day passed in a blur of lies, insults, refusals and frustration until finally I threatened to call the deputy minister direct. (A compassionate staff member had slipped me his number.) Finally some action. After 2pm, the long awaited ID number popped up on the computer system. It was rushed through to the passport section and we submitted more forms, more photos and more money. Five minutes before the offices closed for the weekend, we were handed Tim’s temporary passport.

The victory of holding that passport in my hand remains one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was the culmination of an immense battle that stretched me in more ways than I thought possible. It was also tangible proof that God answers prayer and still performs miracles. Obtaining it was a shocking, terrible experience, yet looking back, I have no bitterness or regrets. God used it to show me that when the battle is the fiercest, the hardest and the most intense, the triumph is the greatest, the victory the sweetest.

That temporary passport has expired now but I’ve kept it as a reminder of what God did for us. As a trophy of the victory that God gave me. As evidence that He truly can do anything.
Submitted by
Debbie Roome

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Theme: CHALLENGES

This week, I'm pleased to welcome author Lauralee Bliss as our guest judge at Pix-N-Pens. She is a published author of twelve novels as well as an avid hiker. I first became acquainted with, and a great admirer of, Lauralee as she conquered a lifelong dream.

In September, she and her son finished a six-month hike of the Appalachian Trail.

An amazing feat. It's a dream Lauralee had for over 30 years, and this year she accomplished it. To say the journey was not easy is an understatement. You'll want to read about this amazing woman on her blog - she journaled her experience with honesty, depth, and passion as she met one challenge after another.

Our contest this week centers around challenges. What challenges have you faced in your own life? Have you overcome them? Conquered them? Have your dreams become reality? Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Submit a 1,000 word essay or 4-6 photos with captions that tell a story about one of your own challenges. Entries are due by Friday, November 2nd. Submit them to tracyruckman @ gmail. com (delete the spaces please.)

Lauralee will judge the entries over the weekend, and the winner, announced on Monday, will receive one autographed book of his/her choice from her three latest books.

Her latest books are Virginia Weddings, Colonial Christmas Brides, and a novel in Kentucky Brides. To find out about her books as well as her six-month adventure on the Appalachian Trail, visit her web site.

When someone accomplishes a lifelong dream, it's a great achievement. Celebrate Lauralee's achievement with us, and leave comments for her here and/or on her own blog to show your excitement! Everyone leaving a comment will be entered into a special drawing for an autographed copy of one of Lauralee's out-of-print books - your choice!

And look for Lauralee in the upcoming issue of the November Pix-N-Pens newsletter - she's written a great article for us to utilize in our writing and in our ministries. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Congratulations to our MYSTERY winner!

I'll let our guest author Brandt Dodson announce the winner of this week's Mystery Short Story contest in his own words:

"Thank you for allowing me to read the entries. They were all actually quite good. It was difficult to choose.

But, using the criteria for a 'traditional' mystery, I have selected Amy Barkman’s 'Hercule Poirot’s Little Grey Cells.'

I was pleased to see that your readers are also fans of the mystery. Each of the writers of the entries did a magnificent job of capturing the character of their chosen detectives. Each of the writers did a great job of telling a concise, yet engaging mystery in the short span of 1500 words or less. No easy task. And each writer did a superb job of revealing the source of the crime. But in 'Hercule Poirot’s Little Grey Cells,' Amy also included clues as well as the all-important red herrings. Her ability to divert my attention off of the true facts was well done, a strong indicator that she recognizes the essentials of the traditional mystery, and her ultimate revelation was prolonged to a suspense-building conclusion. All-in-all, a great job!"

Special thanks to Brandt Dodson for taking time out of his busy schedule to be our guest this week. If you haven't read THE LOST SHEEP yet, or any of his Colton Parker mysteries, you're missing a real treat!

Congratulations, Amy! And thanks to all of you for participating and for making the judge's job so difficult!

Amy, an autographed copy of Brandt Dodson's latest novel THE LOST SHEEP will be shipped to you soon.

Now, let's get acquainted with our winner:

Amy Barkman is the Founder/Director of Voice of Joy Ministries created in 1979, pastor of Mortonsville United Methodist Church since 1998, and member of the American Association of Christian Counselors since 1987.

She's a happily married mother of three daughters, stepmother of two daughters and proud grandmother of 13 grandchildren.

Amy loves to study the Bible and digging into Hebrew and Greek word studies. She enjoys prayer counseling with people who truly want their freedom to be one with Jesus Christ.For fun, she loves reading cozy murder mysteries and traveling, especially to England where she's been twice. She belongs to a Tudor interest e-mail group centered on Anne Boleyn and collects fiction and non-fiction about this second wife of Henry VIII as well as about other English monarchs.

She is also a writer, publishing a variety of pieces; she wrote a newspaper humor column for three years.

Amy says, "Above all I love Jesus and think of myself as one who 'loves much because she has been forgiven much.'"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Entry: Mystery!

Hercule Poirot’s Little Grey Cells
by Amy Barkman


“Use your little grey cells, Watson.” Poirot looked at me with that enigmatic stare that always makes me uncomfortable. “And use your eyes too.”

I looked at the scene before us. The woman was clearly dead. A knife protruded from the side of her neck. Other than that, she lay peacefully in her bed dressed in a lacy negligee.

A pocket calendar with today’s date circled in black ink lay on the bedside table. Inside the circle a single name, Montgomery, was written. Beside that were an empty teacup and saucer. On a table under the window, two trays were placed, each with a teapot, one with a cup and saucer. On the dresser was a pot of ivy.

Lord Dillingham was in the chair beside the window with his face in his hands, weeping loudly. A few years ago I would have believed his behavior unmanly. But the thought of something happening to my wife, Cinderella…well, it put a whole new face on that sort of thing.

Poirot was questioning the husband. “And where were you last night, Monsieur?” There was a gentle tone in his voice that was not there when he spoke to me.

The man looked up at him with red rimmed eyes. “I was at my club. If only I hadn’t gone!” He shook his head. “I came in around two a.m. and went to my own room, not wanting to disturb Celia because she had been under the weather.”

“And who can witness these times for you?”

The man straightened suddenly.“Oh, of course. Let me see. I had dinner at seven with that Irish fellow, Craig. Then we went to the smoking room for a while before he left.
Lord Byrom and I discussed the political situation at length over brandy from around nine until I left shortly before two. The taxi takes about fifteen minutes. And of course the staff at the club can vouch for all that.”

“And when you arrived home?”

“Childers had locked up but I roused him when I couldn’t find my key. He let me in and when I asked how her Ladyship was, he said she’d sent for her chamomile tea around eight and he’d not talked to her since.”

“Do you recognize the knife?”

“Yes. It’s one of a collection housed in a cabinet on the wall of the library downstairs.”

Poirot spoke briefly with Childers. He said her Ladyship appeared to be stronger than she’d been for days. The butler professed great shock at the stabbing and death. “No one sought entrance and there is no sign of a break-in. I’ve checked all windows and doors.”

He and the rest of the staff played Mah Jong from shortly after eight until eleven when they all retired. The servant’s wing was locked and Childers had the only key. Whenever the bell in his room sounded, he answered or dispatched another servant at his discretion.

He discovered the body when he brought the morning tea to her Ladyship and immediately awakened his Lordship who sent him to telephone Poirot and Scotland Yard.

The only other person in the house last night was Colon Baker, Lady Dillingham’s son by a previous marriage. Baker was notorious around London, his name frequently in the Times for getting in one scrap after another. Poirot asked that the young man be informed to join us in the library.

Colon Baker looked young, around twenty, and his face was quite pale, whether with shock or fear I couldn’t discern. After making sympathetic noises and getting the man seated, Poirot began questioning him.

“When was the last time you saw your mother?”

He scratched his head. “You know, one doesn’t expect to be asked these things so one doesn’t make notes of times. The mater had been sick for the last week, some sort of flu I expect, nothing serious.” Then he caught himself and shrugged. “We thought it wasn’t serious but it must have been since she’s dead, what?”

“Has no one told you the cause of your mother’s death?”

“No, Childers just came and woke me up and said that the mater had passed out during the night.” He chuckled. “At first I thought he meant she’d had too much to drink. Which would have been truly astonishing since she never allowed liquor of any kind to touch her lips.” He smiled up at us with what appeared to be an attempt to charm.

Poirot did not smile back at him, nor did I. He repeated his question. “When was the last time you saw your mother?”

“Oh, blast. Let’s see, today is Wednesday.” He paused and closed his eyes as though studying a calendar tucked away in his mind. “Perhaps Sunday afternoon?”

“And what did you discuss at that time?”

A red flush spread up Colon Baker’s neck to his face. “Oh, the usual mother-son kinds of things. You know.”

“No, I do not know.” Poirot’s tone of voice was not gentle with this one as it had been with his stepfather.

“Oh, blast it! She was berating me about money. I’d gone through my allowance again and had some notes out so I went to ask her for more. She has complete control of my father’s estate. And she does whatever he tells her to do.” His voice was filled with bitterness.

“You mean your stepfather?”

“Yes.” Colon’s eyes were narrowed and his mouth sullen.

“And was she going to give you the money?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I thought she was. She fussed at me for being a spendthrift, especially for gambling, but she always came through. And this time, I thought from what she said, she was going to cough up the money and maybe even the control.”

“What did she say to make you think that?”

He gave a little grimace. “She said that responsibility was either going to make or break me and my future.”

To my surprise, Poirot stood up and walked over to young Baker and patted him on the shoulder. “I’m sorry you’ve lost your mother. I hope things look up for you in the future.”

Superintendent Battle walked in as Colon Baker was leaving so I didn’t get to question Poirot about his change of attitude toward the boy.

“Glad to see you on the job.” Battle greeted Poirot with his usual polite solemnity. He nodded to me. “And you too, Mr. Hastings.” Then he turned back to Poirot. “What brought you here?”

“Lord Dillingham phoned my flat about an hour ago and we came immediately.”

“And have you discovered the murderer?” A slight smile hovered around Battle’s lips as he surveyed his colleague in detection.

Poirot nodded. “Yes.”

I waited for the denouncement of Colon Baker, although I couldn’t understand how he could prove it and was puzzled by his last words to the young man.

“She, of course, was not stabbed to death.”

“Of course.” Battle nodded in agreement.

I said nothing but Poirot turned to me. “There was no blood. It was obvious that the knife was thrust in hours after the real death.”

I nodded in agreement, as if I had recognized this fact from the beginning.

Poirot turned back to the Scotland Yard Superintendent. “I expect you will find traces of the poison in the pot of ivy. He would have emptied the pot when Childers was phoning. There will probably be some of this morning’s tea missing from the second pot where he rinsed the first one out with it.”

“His Lordship?” Battle was a man of few words.

Poirot nodded. “The motive was money of course. I think you will find the trust fund left by the late Mr. Baker greatly depleted. Today her Ladyship was going to discuss turning the fund over to her son with a barrister, Mr. Montgomery, and it would have come out. You’ll find the proof.”

“How did you deduce all this?”

“The boy was an obvious dupe, bad reputation, supposed anger and frustration motive. His Lordship wanted us to find the poison and think the boy did that and also the later stabbing intended to point to His Lordship having committed the crime. He thought the boy is stupid…as well as the police. But you will track down the taxi driver who brought his Lordship from near his club shortly after eight last night when he poisoned the tea.” Poirot pulled out his handkerchief and bent to buff away a smear on his patent leather shoe. “He should not have involved Hercule Poirot.”

Later, of course, it all turned out to be just as Poirot had said.

I told him that I was impressed at his quick understanding of the solution.

“The Bon Dieu does not gift all men alike, mon ami,” Hercule Poirot said with a slight lowering of his head that I assume he thought was a gesture of humility.
Submitted by
Amy Barkman

Friday, October 19, 2007

New Entry: Mystery!

Murder on Redwood Lane
By Carolyn Kenney



“Goodbye Jack!” said Colleen contemptuously. In one swift motion, she raised the gun and pulled the trigger with no thought of sympathy or regret.

The shot echoed and reverberated off the walls in the stillness of the ornate home. The stricken look on Jack’s face would stay forever etched in Colleen’s memory. It was done, complete. She would never have to share a bed with him again. Their marriage, if one could call it that, was finally over. Jack Carter, who was worth millions, had returned from a night on the town celebrating his 60th birthday with Colleen, their family and friends. He now lay at the feet of his beautiful young wife, forever in silent repose, with one bullet hole piercing the center of his forehead. The shot had been perfect because Colleen practiced for weeks with her lover, Sam Thompson, Jack’s lawyer of twenty-three years.

Sam walked up behind Colleen and said ecstatically, “Good job. I can see you paid attention to my instructions.”

Colleen turned around and placing her smooth, elegant hand on his chest said, “Well, how could I miss? I have an excellent teacher. Now, let’s go downstairs while I call 911. Remember,” she said to Sam as though speaking to a child, “I’ll tell the police that Jack and I returned from the party. We came upstairs and surprised the burglar who was taking my jewelry. You did pry open the bedroom safe, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I put on the gloves first,” said Sam with exasperation in his voice. “Then I threw some of your jewelry on the floor by the window to make it look like the burglar was in a hurry to leave. The ladder is leaning against the outside of the house. My gloves are already in the briefcase.”

“Wonderful,” said Colleen. “Here are my gloves and the gun. Are you sure that you can dispose of this gun?”

Sam looked at her with piercing eyes and said, “I have friends who can dispose of the gun quite easily; it will never be traced. I think we have everything covered.”

“I certainly hope so,” said Colleen with a light tap on his right check. “You know I’m not the type to spend time in jail. Now get out of here before anyone sees you; I’ll call you later. I have to call the police while the body is still warm.”

Sam picked up the briefcase, gave Colleen a long and passionate kiss and walked out the door. Colleen heard the door of his jaguar shut and roar down the driveway. Calmly she picked up the receiver and dialed 911. When the operator answered, her voice immediately became hysterical as she described the “burglar” and killing of her husband. Minutes later, she clicked off the telephone and walking into the living room, sat down on the soft leather recliner.

Ten minutes later, two police cruisers with lights flashing and sirens blaring pulled onto Redwood Lane. The street was lined with mansions of well-to-do doctors, lawyers and accountants. Lieutenant Columbo whistled softly and said to the officer driving, “Do you think you’ll ever live in one of these places? My wife would love it here.”

At that moment, the cruiser screeched to a halt in front of the Carter home. Lieutenant Columbo and five uniformed officers quickly exited the vehicles and ran up the marble steps to the mahogany door. Lieutenant Columbo rang the doorbell and they walked inside with guns drawn. Columbo was a man in his late 50’s with brown hair, bushy eyebrows, cigar hanging from his mouth and wearing a raincoat that looked as if it had never been ironed. Pulling identification from his pocket he announced, “Mrs. Carter? I’m Lieutenant Columbo, Homicide.”

“Oh, Lieutenant Columbo, thank you for coming so quickly.”

“You have a beautiful home ma‘am. My wife would love to live in a house like this. How many rooms are there?” Eyes wide, he turned and walked into the dining room.

“Lieutenant Columbo,” said Colleen hurrying to keep up with him, “my husband was just killed! All you want to know is how many rooms we have in our home?”

“Mrs. Carter,” replied the Lieutenant turning in her direction, “forgive me that is a bad habit of mine.” Walking over to the nearest officer he said, “Be sure to dust everything.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.” the patrolman replied hurrying off.

“Now Mrs. Carter,” he said gently. “Tell me what happened.”

With a trembling voice, Colleen said, “My husband and I just returned from his 60th birthday party with friends. The house was dark, but nothing was out of the ordinary when we came in. The door was locked, as usual and only the living room light was on.” Beginning to cry she said, “We walked upstairs and that’s when we saw him - the burglar! He had a dark shirt, black pants and a ski mask on his face that covered his hair. I was behind Jack when I heard the gunshot. The burglar ran into the bedroom and out the window. I guess that’s how he got in.” Suddenly Colleen fainted on the floor at the lieutenant’s feet.

Turning to an officer he said, “Joe, tell your men to check outside for any witnesses. But, first help me to put her on the couch.”

As the two men lifted Colleen to the couch, she began to mumble something. “Sam, Sam,” she murmured. “I love you, Sam.”

Lieutenant Columbo looked at the officer standing beside him and said emphatically, “Find out who Sam is - now.”

“Yes, Lieutenant.” He was off as the Lieutenant, cigar still hanging from his mouth, walked upstairs to examine the crime scene.

Fifteen minutes later, Joe walked up the winding stairs to the second floor calling, “Lieutenant, Lieutenant Columbo.”

“What is it Joe?” he asked poking his head around the corner of the master bedroom.

“Lieutenant, we have an eye-witness,” he answered excitedly. “And, we know the identity of Sam.”

“Good, let’s go!”

Once downstairs, Joe led the way into the back of the house where a woman in her 70’s sat at the large kitchen table. A white terrier huddled by her side.

“Lieutenant,” said Joe, “this is Mrs. Doris Kelley. “Mrs. Kelley was walking her dog when she heard the gunshot. Minutes later, she saw a jaguar tearing out of the Carter driveway. Fortunately, she got the license number and it belongs to Samuel Thompson, who has been Jack Carter’s lawyer for many years. I put out an APB on Mr. Thompson.”

“Good work, Joe,” said the Lieutenant. “Mrs. Kelley, I’m Lieutenant Columbo. Is everything the officer told me true?”

“Yes, Lieutenant,” answered the older woman. “Every night at this time I walk Misty. Although the Carters have a long driveway, there was no question I heard a gunshot. I was stunned and started walking home as quickly as I could when I heard Mr. Thompson’s jaguar coming down the driveway. He barely stopped before turning and driving right by me. His license plate is “LAW 1.” I’ve seen it leave the Carters home many times in the past. Did he kill Mr. Carter?”

“We don’t know who killed Mr. Carter right now,” answered Lieutenant Columbo. “But, we will find out. Thank you ma’am for your help. Please don’t leave town because we’ll need your testimony. The officer will see you have a ride home.”

Walking towards the living room, he said to Joe, “When you find Thompson, bring him here instead of the station.”

“Yes, Lieutenant,” said Joe as the Lieutenant walked into the living room.

Entering the room, he found Colleen Carter pouring herself a drink from the bar. She looked up and said, “Lieutenant would you like a drink? I need something to calm my nerves.”

“No thank you, ma’am.” said Columbo. “But, I would like to ask you some questions.”

“What is it, Lieutenant?”

“Did you know Sam Thompson was seen leaving your property moments after the shot was fired that killed your husband?”
“W-W-What?” asked Colleen. “Sam was seen leaving here? I didn’t see him anywhere on the property. It must be a mistake.” She took a sip of her drink, her hand shaking slightly.

“Ma’am, I’m afraid it’s true. Sam Thompson was seen driving away in his jaguar. Do you want to tell me anything?” Columbo stood inches away from Colleen with a look on his face that let her know he meant business.

At that moment, Sam Thompson walked through the door with a police officer behind him. Columbo smiled to himself and said to them both, “Do either of you have anything to say before we take you both downtown for booking?”

Without hesitating, Sam exclaimed, “It was her idea. She wanted the money. She couldn’t stand Jack so she killed him and I have the gun to prove it.”

Columbo turned to the officer standing behind Sam and said, “Book them both, first degree murder.”
Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Entry: Mystery!

Thoreau and Poirot
By Karri Compton

Darkness descended on the fine suburban landscape as Saturday drew to a close. I flipped on the floodlights and peered out the back door’s window, searching my sprawling yard for the hundredth time. Nothing.

Fall leaves whirled and crackled as the wind relieved our poplars and maples of them, whipping them into a frenzied dance on the deck. I didn’t want to panic, but I tried in vain to push down the gurgling fear in my stomach. My cat Thoreau went outside every day, and sometimes he didn’t come home until dinner time. But it was nine o’clock and no Thoreau. Where could he be?

It was time I did something drastic. I had told an illustrious neighbor I would never take advantage of his celebrity status in order to solve a mystery, but tonight it was personal and I knew the rotund, eccentric man would be settled into his favorite chair, drinking an exotic drink, marveling at his neatly arranged bookshelves. Would George, his valet, allow me, the widow down the street, an audience with the once-famous detective? There was only one way to find out. And besides, anonymity and retirement are both overrated. I should know. I’ve experienced both.

I arrived and rang the bell, George appearing immediately to invite my entrance. He didn’t seem surprised that I had come.

“Monsieur Poirot has retired to the library. He’s not in the best of health nowadays, so you’ll state your business quickly, I presume?”

“Why yes, of course,” I answered. “So sorry to bother him, but it is quite important—at least to me.”

“Madame.” With a flourish of his hand he directed me to a large room crafted with dark wood. I detected the scent of wax and pomegranate. He’s not the only sleuth around here. George promptly left me alone with the icon.

“Madame Guerney, welcome. I take it you have need of my assistance. My weakness is the desire to show off, and I am afraid you will give me a chance to do just that. Pardon, I shall let you speak.”

After marveling at his thick accent, I explained that my beloved Thoreau was missing and how horrified I was. Of course, he could see that. He didn’t need to be a detective to ascertain that. “Please, sir, could you help me find my cat? I’m afraid something terrible may have happened.”

“Un chat. Mais bien sur. I do not believe there is cause for alarm.”

“But I’ve called him and searched the next few yards around my house and he’s nowhere to be found.” I told myself that Thoreau had probably chased a squirrel up a tree or some such nonsense. On second thought, Halloween was around the corner, and who knows what could happen to a black cat! I gulped—not visibly, I hoped.

“The new neighbors. The Valentino’s. Have you met them? Lovely people.”

I kicked myself, mentally jotting a reminder to take them cookies. “What do they have to do with Thoreau?”

“You see, Madame, they are Catholic.” He nonchalantly twirled his black moustache.

I’m Protestant. Who cares? “Yes? And?”

"The Valentino’s have a fish fry every Friday night. The bones of these fish are contained in their trash cans beside their garage. You will find Thoreau there, feasting on the remains.”

Kicking myself was becoming an all-too-often occurrence. “Amazing.” I’ll take you at your word and look there. Thank you so much, Monsieur Poirot. Truly, you have a gift.”

He gave me a satisfied and rather haughty look. “It is the brain, the little gray cells, on which one must rely. Bon soir, Madame.”

I exited his home, in awe of his powers of deduction. Would my fluffy baby really be all right? Had he just been pigging out on fish bones? I ran-walked as fast as I could to the Valentinos’ home, expecting any moment to spy bright yellow eyes belonging to a ten-pound ball of black fur.

A faint scraping-scratching sound emanated from around the corner of the house. I spied two trash cans—one knocked over and one upright with the lid still intact. The stench assaulted my nose. Torn open bags littered the sidewalk with wrappers, cans, fish bones and other debris. A muffled “meow” emerged from the second garbage bin.

“Thoreau?” I said, gingerly lifting the lid of the can, allowing a floodlight to illuminate it. There sat my now scraggly baby, in a menagerie of fish bones and burnt hush puppies.
Relief flooded me and I smiled. “Whew, you need a bath. Bad kitty.” My tone must’ve sounded brasher than I meant it, because Thoreau looked severely chastened. Having drawn Thoreau up out of the refuse, I grasped his collar to prevent a further escape.

Conscience pricked, I strode to the Valentino’s door and rang the bell. An olive-skinned lady in her 40’s opened the door. “Ms. Guerney?”

“Why, yes, how did you know?” Flabbergasted, I stared.

“We got a call from Mr. Poirot that you may be stopping by.” Her genuine smile lessened my embarrassment.

I stammered, “Oh. My cat turned over your garbage. I’ll be back right away to clean it up. I’m so sorry—it won’t happen again.”

“It’s not a problem.” She smiled the disarming smile again.

“Mr. Poirot is quite a gentleman, isn’t he?” I said as I turned to leave.

“He certainly is. I’m afraid we won’t have any secrets in this neighborhood.”

“I believe you’re right, Mrs. Valentino. I believe you’re right.”
Submitted by
Karri Compton

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Theme: Mystery!

Guess y'all thought I'd disappeared! Sorry for getting this contest started late - we had a bit of sad news today so I'm running behind. But this contest is worth the wait!


This week, we are thrilled to welcome prolific mystery writer BRANDT DODSON as our special guest judge. Brandt's newest novel THE LOST SHEEP is 4th in the Colton Parker series, so he's the perfect judge for this contest. Here's the back cover blurb from THE LOST SHEEP:


After closing a high-profile case, Colton Parker's life is beginning to turn around. His detective agency has money in the bank and a growing clientele. His relationship with FBI Agent Mary Christopher is beginning to blossom. Things are looking up...until his daughter, Callie, vanishes.
The search for Callie leads Colton to Las Vegas - and a world where light is exchanged for darkness and the truth is sacrificed for a lie.

If Colton is to save Callie in time, he will need to confront evil where it dwells - a confrontation that will affect both father and daughter for all eternity.



The Lost Sheep is part of a series, but it also stands alone. As I was reading it - my first Colton Parker book - I never felt lost, so you can start anywhere in the series! If you like fast moving quick reading stories - you'll want to get your copy today!

And...

Try to win your own AUTOGRAPHED copy!

Here's the contest for the next two weeks:

We want a MYSTERY short story - fashioned like your favorite OLD mysteries! Use your favorite detective in your story, using 1500 words or less. Of course, don't use the same stories they've been in before - just place the characters in your own story, time, setting. And use a detective no longer in circulation by the original authors. (For example, Sherlock Holmes, Perry Mason, Miss Marple, Nero Wolfe - all of these detectives are "retired" and available. Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, Colton Parker - these are all detective still on the case, so leave them alone!)

Submit your entry to tracyruckman @ gmail. com by Friday, October 26th for your chance to win an autographed copy of THE LOST SHEEP. The winner will also receive entries into the Grand Prize Drawing in December, and all the usual promo perks.

Brandt will read the entries, and a winner will be announced on Monday, October 29th.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Winners: Christmas Flash Fiction

I'm sorry for the delay in announcing the winners of the contest. Our special guest judge Lynette Sowell has been dealing with a sad family ordeal, and her co-author Carrie Turansky has graciously stepped in to judge our entries this week.

Carrie sent the following:

I enjoyed reading the the entries for the the Christmas Flash Fiction contest. Thanks to everyone who entered. It is amazing you all could create such touching stories with only 99 words!

Here are the winners:

First place: Christmas Coffee by Debbie Roome

Second Place: My Christmas Swarm by Patty Wysong

Honorable Mention: The Christmas Painting by Carolyn Kenney

Debbie will receive an autographed copy of A Big Apple Christmas, and all three entrants will receive some other perks that Carrie will be contacting you about. Congratulations!!!

Thanks so much for your participation, and special thanks to Carrie for pinch hitting. Please remember to keep Lynette and her family in your prayers - during the next few days especially.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS Contest!

Allison Bottke has returned from her speaking engagement and judged the entries for REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS. She sent me the following information, and I've contacted the winners for their bios, but I wanted to share with you Allison's list and letter. Check back shortly to learn more about our winners!

First Place = Patty Wysong – Daring to Dream

Patty Wysong is a wife, a home school mom of five, book-keeper for their remodeling business, an active member of Faithwriters.com. She's a teacher in the children's ministry at church--and she loves all the hats she wears. You can also find her on Shoutlife at http://www.shoutlife.com/Peej4me


Second Place = Lauralee Bliss – A Trail of a Dream

Besides her adventure of hiking the Appalachian Trail,Lauralee Bliss also loves the adventure of writing agood Christian romance. To date she's had over a dozenbooks published. Lauralee enjoys books that arereminiscent of a roller coaster ride for the reader.Her desire is that readers will come away with both anentertaining story and a lesson that ministers to theheart. Besides her love of the outdoors and writing,Lauralee also enjoys traveling, gardening, and roaminga good yard sale. Lauralee resides with her familynear Charlottesville, Virginia.For more information about her hike and her books,visit her website: http://www.lauraleebliss.com


Honorable Mentions:
Debbie Roome – Dreams of a Hope and a Future
Angela Meuser – Chasing my Dreams Without Leaving my Family Behind
Jonathan Bolton – Let the Dream Live (Poetry Entry)
Carolyn M. Kenney – In His Time

From Allison Bottke:
I was thoroughly impressed with all of the entries in your REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest. Wow! It’s amazing how God works in our life—orchestrating the desires of our heart. When we get in tune with His plan for us…things just seem to fall into place! Thank you for your thought-provoking and truly inspiring entries.

Tracy mentioned some “Promo Perks” in her “Call for Entries” and I’m excited to share that along with autographed books from me, the top two winners will have their stories published in both of our online publications for baby boomer women (even though the writers may not be baby boomers.) Daring to Dream by First Place winner Patty Wysong and A Trail of a Dream by Second Place winner Lauralee Bliss will appear as blog entries on the acclaimed blog: Boomer Babes Rock, as well as published in a future edition of our monthly Dream Zine called: Boomer Babes with Brilliant Dreams. Congratulations to our winners!

(From Tracy: Christina Berry's name was chosen from the commenters during the week, so she too will receive some autographed books!)

Visit our blog at www.BoomerBabesRock.com/blog

Saturday, October 20
Patty Wysong – Daring to Dream

Saturday, October 27
Lauralee Bliss – A Trail of a Dream

Sign up to receive our monthly Dream Zine at:
http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/dreamzine.html

Thanks again for sharing your dreams and thanks to Pix-n-Pens Founder, Tracy Ruckman, for following her dream to bring us this fabulous blog and online community. You inspire all of us, Tracy!

God bless and keep you,

Allison Bottke, Author/Speaker
http://www.allisonbottke.com/
http://www.boomerbabesrock.com/
http://www.sanitysupport.com/
http://www.godallowsuturns.com/

Special thanks to Allison for being our guest for this fun contest, and for awarding such great prizes!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Entry: Christmas FLASH FICTION

The Christmas Painting
By Carolyn Kenney

Christine and her mother sat side by side looking carefully through the museum catalog. “I love this Monet print,” said Christine.

“Wonderful! I’ll buy you that for Christmas,” her mother replied. The painting was of a woman seated amidst an array of flowers while a child played happily nearby.

Christine thought to herself, “This painting represents our relationship and all the times we spent together.”

Christine’s mother died of cancer a few years later. Years passed; whenever Christine glanced at the painting, she thought of her mother and joyful memories touched her heart.

Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

Entry: Christmas FLASH FICTION

My Christmas Swarm
By Patty Wysong

They arrived like a swarm of bees, all 22 this year. Each year there were more as kids married and had babies, and I marveled that they still insisted on coming.

“It wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't come, Aunt Julie! Did you make fudge for me?” I didn't have time to answer before the next one pushed through the door.

“Forget the fudge, man! You made muffins, didn't you?” That one was elbowed out of the way, too.

“Baby coming through.” After a bear hug I found our newest family member in my arms.

Christmas had finally arrived.

Submitted by
Patty Wysong

Entry: Christmas FLASH FICTION

Christmas Coffee
By Debbie Roome

It was a snap decision. He spotted the man gazing hungrily into the coffee shop and for a moment, time stood still. The biting cold as snow swirled down the street. The warmth of cinnamon and coffee spilling from the doorway. The glittering lights of the tree and harmonious carols.

The man was a tramp. A stained mess of whiskers and tattered clothes. He touched him on the shoulder. “Come in with me. We’ll share some coffee and cake.” The tramp’s eyes glistened as he remembered family, love, acceptance. He stood a little taller.


“Thank you. I’d like that.”


Submitted by
Debbie Roome

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Theme: CHRISTMAS IN OCTOBER FLASH FICTION

We're celebrating Christmas in OCTOBER this week on Pix-N-Pens, because we're excited about the release of a new book by four authors.



Vasthi Reyes Acosta, Gail Sattler, Lynette Sowell, and Carrie Turansky teamed up to coauthor the novella anthology, A Big Apple Christmas, a contemporary romance collection that captures the sights and sounds of Christmas in the Big Apple:

Moonlight and Mistletoe (Carrie Turansky) -- Christmas plans are set askew when schedule-bound professional organizer Sarah Montgomery meets free-spirited poet Justin Latimer. As they work together on a project for her neighbor, romantic sparks fly - but will new revelations douse them?

Shopping for Love (Gail Sattler) -- Holiday bustle is the means two tourists try to use to get lost in the crowds. But when Bryan Evans literally knocks Emily Jones off her feet, her heart's secrets are spun even more off balance.

Where the Love Light Gleams (Lynette Sowell) -- Christmas in Rockefeller Center puts a widow's spruce tree on center stage. Professor Theophilus Stellakis volunteers to host Gwynn Michaud, and they both find new dreams in the glow of the holiday lights.

Gifts of the Magi (Vasthi Reyes Acosta) -- The gift of the Magi comes full circle for two lonely Latinos when Cecilia Montes takes time out of her busy schedule to help an old friend with youth group activities. But can she trust her heart to Elias Perez?


Sounds like a GREAT book, doesn't it? Well, you can win an autographed copy of A BIG APPLE CHRISTMAS this week with our FLASH FICTION contest. Submit your best 99-word or less FLASH FICTION piece, with a Christmas theme, to tracyruckman @ gmail. com (please delete the spaces in the address) by Friday, October 5th for your chance to WIN!!


Lynette Sowell, and some of the others if she twists enough arms, will be our guest judge this week, so get your entry in soon!


Along with an autographed copy of the book, the winner will also receive 5 entries into the Grand Prize Drawing in December (includes a $300 gift card and MORE), and all the regular promo perks to promote your books, websites, business, etc. (And don't forget, if you sign up for the newsletter, or refer people to sign up, you'll also be entered in that Grand Prize Drawing!)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Important Contest Update - Please Read

Our guest judge Allison Bottke was called out of town on a speaking engagement that had not been previously scheduled. Allison looks forward to judging the entries herself, so instead of calling in a substitute, we are going to delay announcing the winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest until she returns.

This contest will still end at midnight tonight, September 28th, and a new contest will start Monday morning, October 1st-October 5th.

The winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest and our next contest will both be announced on Monday, October 8th. All winners of the REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS contest will be chosen from entries and comments left September 17-28th.

Thanks for your understanding and participation!

Have a blessed weekend - and get those entries and comments to me by midnight!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

Daring to Dream
By Patty Wysong


I was too afraid to dream. If I dreamed I risked failure and that possibility froze me in my tracks.

“What do you want to do, Hon? What are your dreams?” My husband, Jim, asked me, pen and paper in hand ready to add my dreams to his so we could start working toward them.
“Umm. I don't know. I'm content right where I am.” I was puzzled by my lack of dreams and Jim was frustrated.

“C'mon, there's got to be something you want to do!”

“No, not really,” I replied, embarrassed because I couldn't come up with a single thing—well, something other than my closely guarded and locked away secret. In my mind that one dream was unattainable, and I didn't dare dream of anything else. One unattainable dream per lifetime was one too many. It ate away at my confidence, as well as my enthusiasm for life, and I didn't have enough left of either one to waste any on another dream.

“What'cha got written down?” I asked, hoping he had something I could adopt as my own.

“Skydiving.” Jim said with a smile. My dear, darling man knows me well.

“Ah, not me.”

“I know. These are my dreams, remember?” He was smiling at me, letting me know my attempt didn't work. He shot me another one. “Cross Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad.”

Ugh. I hate snow. I hate cold. So much for tagging along on that dream.

“Scuba diving.” Jim quirked a questioning eyebrow at me.

Tempting. If it's warm enough to scuba dive it should be warm enough for palm trees, and I absolutely adore palm trees. Only one snag: I hate swimming. Hmmm. Could I pull it off enough to convince him?

“That one sounds interesting.” I tried to put the right voice inflection in there.

“Right. You'd rather sit under the palm trees reading than dive.”

Rats. Didn't work—but maybe it could.

I hedged, “You can't dive all day, can you?”

Jim studied me, speculatively. “No, you can't.”
I thought of the under-water pictures I'd seen and tried to remember why I didn't like swimming.
Would the scenery out-weigh my dislike for putting my face in the water? Would wearing a mask, fins, and having an air supply take away my fear? Without stopping to think too much more I plunged in.

“Let's do it.”

Jim's eyes widened in surprise, but only briefly. He circled scuba diving and I gulped. What on earth had I just gotten myself into?

Six months later I lay on the bottom of a swimming pool with an air tank buckled on my back, a regulator in my mouth, and a mask snuggly covering my eyes and nose. I looked around and would've smiled if I could've. Jim's dream turned into a dream of my own. 'I can do this!' echoed inside my head, and with that thought the seed of my dream began to sprout.

Four weeks after that first time in the pool I went on my open water dive for my certification.

While we geared up, we watched the catfish surface and beg for treats like pets.

“They're huge, but they're so tame!” My dive buddy was fascinated by them; I was intimidated. Would I be able to step off the platform and swim with those beasts?

When my turn came I turned my back to the water, not sure if I was running away or getting in place for a back-roll entry.

“That's the easiest way,” my instructor called to me. “Just sit down and let yourself roll back.”

I automatically put my left hand on my weight belt and the heel of my right hand went to the regulator in my mouth, with my fingertips resting on my mask, holding them all in place, just as I'd practiced so many times in the pool. Before I could start panicking, or maybe because I was panicking, my knees bent and I sank into a squat. My air tank pulled me back and I gently rolled into the water. I barely went under but I was euphoric. I was in the water with those huge catfish and I was fine.

We only went down 10 feet that first time, but the blue gills were there in force. We quickly learned that shiny things like wedding rings and earrings attract their attention and they would try to nip the sparkly tidbits. As I batted those blue gill away and kept my eyes peeled for the giant, but gentle, catfish my sprouted dream grew. It grew enough that I could no longer ignore it.

Learning to scuba dive boosted my confidence. It broadened my horizons. It made me realize that just maybe I could attain at least a part of my own buried dream. My enthusiasm for life and living bloomed into a beautiful thing that I didn't want to ignore it anymore. I wanted to chase after it and I determined there, while batting the blue gills, that I would find a way to pursue that one dream I had been too afraid to even utter. I would pick up my pen and begin to write.

“Lord,” I prayed in the silence of the water, “I've run away from writing for years and it's made me miserable. I want to start living. I want to do something with my life, not just go through it holding on to Jim's coat-tails and following his dreams--although this one is wonderful. If I can learn to scuba dive, and enjoy it this much, then I can learn to write. Whatever You choose to do with that writing is up to You. I'm willing to learn all I can, and to practice, so that if You ever choose to use my writing it will be there for You. If You don't use it, that's ok, too. I only know You've put this dream inside me, and You haven't let me run away from it. It's Yours to do with as You wish.”

My heart was finally free. Just as I felt safe and comfortable in the water with my mask and air tank, I felt safe and comfortable dreaming about writing--with God as my safety factor. By giving Him my dream I was free from the fear of failure. It no longer mattered if I succeeded or failed, as long as I did my best. My dream was simply to write. It was up to God how He used it.

Back up top I reached for my journal instead of the novels I had been burying myself in, in an attempt to hide from my dream. My pen flew over the page, capturing my thoughts and resolve, as well as the wonder of diving.

As I wrote, I prayed and planned. For the first time in years I felt fully alive, excited. I hadn't realized how hopeless I had become by locking my dream of writing in a closet, and I decided to never again give up like I had.

I got my scuba diving certification that day, but more importantly, I picked up my pen. Failure, as some people might see it, isn't an issue for me any more. Doing my best, learning and growing and being available to be used by God are the important things to me. The seeming failures along the way are simply stepping stones to my future. Even if God doesn't use my pen, this time of writing in my life will be used for some purpose. I am confident of that.

From the dream of writing has sprouted other dreams. Dreams that I'm free to dream and to pursue. Dreams that have added a richness to my life that I once pretended didn't matter to me.

Do I want to cross Siberia? Not really, but I'd love to take the Euro-Rail through Europe and see the Alps. We're planning on diving some coral reefs, maybe even yet this year and I'm excited about that. Someday I hope to dive the Great Barrier Reef. This spring I rode a big roller coaster as well as a huge ferris wheel and I survived them by conquering my fear--that same fear that had me locked up and frozen in place for so many years. If I can do that, than maybe I can even sky dive—because I want to.

Submitted by
Patty Wysong

Entry: REACH FOR YOUR DREAMS

A Trail of a Dream
by Lauralee Bliss


Have you ever contemplated a lifelong dream? One you conceived perhaps as a child but wondered as an adult if it would ever come true? You begin to ponder the dream. Consider the possibility. Fantasize a little. Do a little research by buying a book or two. Take a few steps of faith. Allow the life God has planned for you to unfold while the dream lingers in the background.

At last the day arrives, many years later, the dream once conceived in ages past, now ready to be experienced.

Here’s mine… Thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.

What is a thru hike? Hiking the entire trail in one long, continuous trip. Over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Fourteen states. Carrying your house – a loaded pack with sleeping gear, food, water, clothes - on your back for six months. A backbreaking, knee-buckling, grueling but rewarding adventure that takes you along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains spanning the eastern United States.

It was the essence of a God-given dream of mine that never diminished, despite the passage of time. Thirty years of time, to be exact. It began as a small seed through family camping trips we took to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. As a young teen I used to stare at these white rectangles neatly painted on the trees and read the concrete posts bearing the words “Appalachian Trail” etched into them. I asked what was so special about this particular trail. A ranger explained, “It’s a trail that starts in Georgia and goes all the way to Maine. And there are hikers who hike the entire route. It’s the longest footpath in the world.”

Wow! What a great thing to do one day. Travel all the way from Georgia to Maine. Not by car, by bus, by plane but by my own two feet that the Good Lord gave me. Putting one foot in front of the other, walking the entire route, crossing state borders, seeing new places and meeting new people.

From that moment on I was hooked. Soon after, I used my babysitting money to purchase material about the trail. A journal written by an older man, one of original hikers who did the entire trail back in the 70’s. A small gray data book put out by a trail organization that gave the mileage points to significant crossings along the route. Not much to hang on to but good enough to keep the dream alive. Then came the pleas when we visited Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania and a place where the trail crossed. “Mom, Dad, can we please hike part of the trail?” And they take a snapshot of me, at age fifteen, standing by an Appalachian Trail sign with my candy striped day pack on my back.

Then there were road maps. I studied maps all the time to see where the trail meandered and if the road we were on would intersect it. My nose would press against the car window, staring for a white blaze, a trail marker, an Appalachian Trail sign at the many road crossings. At the crossing of Route 17 near Harriman State Park, New York. Along a footbridge spanning the Massachusetts turnpike. In many state parks. And of course, within my beloved Shenandoah National Park where we made yearly pilgrimages.

Fast forward to many years later. I am no longer a child but a grown Christian woman with new plans and dreams. I am married to the man I dreamt about for two years (but that is another story). I have a son named Joshua. But that other dream of long ago, that one conceived as a child, still lingers in the background. One day I shared with my husband these immortal words – which I’m not sure he truly understood amid the frenzy of parenthood and mounting responsibilities.

“When Joshua is of age, like seventeen, we are going to hike the Appalachian Trail together.”

“Hmmm, uh, huh,” he responded absentmindedly.

I smiled to myself and let it lie while buying more books about the trail. Data books. Journals by other hikers who have completed their dream. And I reread the book every year that I bought at age fourteen, the book an older gentleman wrote about his hike on the Appalachian Trail in the 1970’s. The cover has become creased and ratty but the contents continue to fascinate me. Meanwhile I home school my son who is the only child the Lord gives me. I write novels of adventure that are published. And patiently wait for my own personal adventure to come to pass. I know too, as a Christian, that if this is not God's best for me, this dream of mine will fade into oblivion. But it never does grow faint with time. It only seems to grow stronger.

In 2003 I finally decide to put feet of faith to my dream and begin walking. I set a date for the start of the hike and create an online trail journal. The hike will be in 2007. Joshua will be 16 and in-between high school and college. A perfect time to do the trail, or so it would appear.

It is now 2005. Two years and counting. The time is drawing nigh and I need the support and blessing of loved ones if this dream of mine is going to happen. I must somehow convince both husband and son that the year to do the full hike is approaching, and I need their support.

First, my husband. He listens as I explain how I would like to start the Appalachian Trail in Georgia in March and that 2007 looks to be the year. “You can’t leave in March and be gone for six months. Why don’t you do it over several summers, then I can come along.”

And from my son. “Why do I need to go? I don’t want to be gone that long. I’ll miss my friends. Band. The computer. It’s your dream anyway, Mom. Not mine.”

Sigh. I say nothing. I hold fast to the belief that – “God, if this is from You, it will work out.” So I decide to begin at least part of the hike, inviting my loved ones along for the trip and see what happens. We will do the section of the Appalachian Trail closest to my home and, yes, my heart. Shenandoah National Park where the dream first took root. And being a lover of the outdoors like I, my husband wholeheartedly agrees to the hike. We complete this section of the Appalachian Trail over several weekends. Husband and son hike the trail, meeting other long distance hikers along the way. My son is given the trail name “Paul Bunyan” from a fellow hiker after trying to break up tree limbs bigger than he. My husband laughs and jokes with fellow hikers at the trail shelters where we find refuge in the midst of spring storms.

Both husband and son arrive home, thrilled by the experience.

One day my husband says to me, “If you were to leave for the trail in March, I can probably join you for several weeks during the summer.” His support was solid for my hike from that moment on.

And from my son. “I guess I’ll come, Mom. But we have to do it from Georgia to Maine.”

Thank you, Lord! I didn’t have to suffer anxiety attacks over it all. Or feel stressed. I allowed God to change people’s hearts and minds. And it was only the beginning of answered prayers. God did the convincing. I stood by and watched in awe. I stepped forward with baby steps toward my dream, and He paved the way.

I then tell friends and church leadership about my dream. I believed in the covering of prayer and the wise counsel of leaders. One friend calls it the thing. “Are you really going to do that thing?” Then she gives me money so I can buy supplies for my thing. The pastor’s wife listens, nodding her head, then reveals her own personal dream of one day hiking Kilimanjaro. Another gives me a book for my birthday, having never heard of my personal dream until the moment I received the book. The title is - “Live Like You Were Dying.” All confirmations. All pointing to that thing, that dream planted long ago and now growing by leaps and bounds.

Time is quickly growing short. There is gear to purchase. Food to dehydrate. So many plans to make. And book editors to notify and who give their wholeheartedly support for the endeavor. Everything appears to be falling into place. I am amazed yet terrified. This is a huge undertaking. Dreams can also be nerve wracking. They challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. They test your faith to the limit. And this is a huge test of faith to venture out into the virtual unknown with my teenage son, putting our lives and our livelihood in God’s hands. But He would not have it any other way. He wants us to trust Him. To allow Him to care for us. To allow our dreams to become His dreams so He is glorified. And so we do. We finalize plans, boxes of food and supplies to be mailed to us. I call family and friends for their prayers.

And the journey begins. Almost. Our start date was March 1st down in Georgia. I catch a cold. Joshua has a fever and a bad cough. The rain pours down in Georgia. We are delayed until March 5th when we finally begin. But only a mile up the trail, called the Approach Trail that will lead us to our first steps on the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, the trials are mounting. My knees and feet hurt. Joshua can barely move and falls far behind. The wind is so strong on Springer Mountain my tent collapses three times, and in my confusion, I lay on my glasses and break them. I begin to panic, wondering if I have made the biggest mistake of my life.

And then we meet two other hikers who are also beginning their quest of a long distance hike. They give all kinds of encouragement and support to our family. They were sent by God to help us in those early days. And we make it that first day, the beginning of many days to come. Days of trial, of pain, of nearly wanting to quit, of rattlesnakes and rocks and sickness and fatigue, and mountain terrain so steep one can barely climb them. But days of glory. Of mountain views and sunlight streaming through the woods. Of snow-covered pines and mighty rivers. Of blue tinted ponds and people with smiles, offering food and rides and ice for an injured ankle when I needed it.

And then the victory lap. September 18, 2007. The mighty Mt. Katahdin in Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Grasping the hand of my son as we stand by the sign marking the end, having completed all 2, 174 miles of trail, it truly is a miracle of miracles. But it is also a dream that has come true to the fullest, marked by days, weeks, months, years. A dream realized on that spectacular day atop Mt. Katahdin in northern Maine.

We, the dreamers, who dare to dream big. And God, the Giver, for whom no dream is too large.


Lauralee Bliss is a published author of twelve novels as well as an avid hiker. You can read about her day-by-day adventure on the Appalachian Trail and see photos at – http://www.trailjournals.com/blissful
To find out about her novels, visit http://www.lauraleebliss.com/