Monday, October 29, 2007


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!


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 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

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:

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

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:

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

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


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!)