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Sunday, November 25, 2012

New Writing Resource

I have started a Facebook group called "Darlene's 5 Questions a Day."  In the forum, I will answer the first five questions asked on any given day. Group members are also free to respond. Readers and writers and anyone else interested in the writing life from my perspective are free to join.

Hmm, if you join the group, tell me in a comment below. I will combine all comments between this post and the one on "Something to be thankful for" in choosing winner(s) for this week.


Congratulations to Kathleen, winner of the 6-book Texas Trails giveaway from week. Other winners of one of my books are: Dana W.S., Veronica S., Kris M., Angela H., Maxie, and "Eyeballucy." If you don't hear from me, please e-mail me at

Thanksgiving at the nursing home. I didn't expect much. My son, as I expected, spent the day with his wife's extended family (which involves 2-3 meals throughout the day.) The food would be good, but not the variety I'm used to. After all, state-mandated nutritional guidelines still apply, and they wouldn't have mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls and stuffing all at the same meal. 

Was I ever wrong. On Wednesday night, I expected canned soup and cold cuts. Instead, we had oven-fried chicken with carrot cake. Ten people crowded around my table. We represented four generations: from our 87-year-old Calling bird to me to our 30-something paraplegic to her 10-year-old daughter. 

The meal was everything a Thanksgiving meal should be. There were tears, there was laughter. There were memories shared and friendship and, I dare even say, love flowed among us. We sang songs of praise. By the time the meal ended, we all knew we had been blessed.

In fact, one man said it was the best Thanksgiving he had had for ten years. For me, it was easily the best Thanksgiving since Jolene died, four and a half years ago. 

Jaran and Jordan showed up for a visit Wednesday afternoon as well. That made the day more precious than ever.

All day Thursday we basked in the memory of that meal. We knew we had seen a glimpse of what heaven might be like.

***Normal giveaway schedule resumes this week: 1 book given away for every five comments. Please answer the following question in your comment: What single thing are you the most thankful for? I also must have your email address to send you notification.**

Sunday, November 18, 2012


THIS WEEK WE ARE SPONSORING A GIVEAWAY OF THE ENTIRE TEXAS TRAILS SERIES!!!  Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win. For additional chances, (1) become a follower of my blog (2) tell us about your experience (or dreams) of life on a ranch (3) tell us one thing you learned at the website

VICKIE MCDONOUGH wrote today's post. Her book, Long Trail Home, is on sale in the Kindle store for 99 cents this week. 

           I have loved horses for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching the westerns of the 1960s with my Dad, and my affection for horses and cowboys has never waivered. When I was young, I read every horse book I could get my hands on, from Misty of Chincoteague to all of the thick books in the Black Stallion series. Here’s a tidbit that might make you smile. I grew up in a Christian home, so when I read Son of the Black Stallion and discovered the horse’s name was Satan, I changed it to Satin. I didn’t want to keep reading the other word over and over.
            When I was 10, my cousin decided to sell a pinto yearling colt she owned. I begged and pleaded and talked my dad into buying him for $50. My lofty dreams of training Patches remained only dreams. He had lived in a pasture his whole life and was wild—and mean—and I was a ten-year-old greenhorn who grew up in the city. We didn’t keep him long and sold him after he bit me several times. I guess my dad felt bad about that experience, because he turned around and bought me a bay gelding named Buddy Boy. He was ¾ quarter horse and ¼ thoroughbred. I loved Buddy and rode him all over my side of town. I raced cars down Riverside Dr. and rode through soybean fields that now house a high school. We lived right on the city limits, so I was able to keep Buddy just two blocks from home. I’d walked over everyday and feed and brush him.
            I had a friend named Carl who attended the same school as me, and he raised Palominos. I took Buddy over to his house, and he trained Buddy to jump. Bad mistake. Buddy turned out to be a fabulous jumper, and before we knew it, he was jumping the four-foot fences where we kept him and getting out. After he escaped several times, Dad said he’d have to go. L
            It wasn’t long afterwards, Dad—did I mention he was a softy?—bought me a roan mare named Dolly. I honestly can’t remember how long I had her, but it was a year or two. As I got older, my interests moved from horses to motorcycles. Sad but true. I knew I couldn’t drive a car until I was 16, but I could get a motorcycle license at 14, so I saved up my babysitting money and bought one.
            I never owned another horse after Dolly. I do know that the knowledge I gained from reading so many books about horses and from owning several helped me to be a better writer of western fiction. I certainly don’t know everything about horses, but God has blessed me with writer friends who have greater knowledge and more recent experience to help me when I need it. I never once dreamed as a kid that I’d grow up to become a writer. My dream was to grow up and marry a rancher, but instead, I married a sweet computer geek who’s scared spit-less of horses. My love for horses continues still, and it’s evident in the type of stories that I write—mainly western romances set in Texas. God knew way back then that owning horses would help me to become a better writer, even if I didn’t know it.

Vickie McDonough
Award-winning author of 25 books and novellas

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Weeks like this come maybe once a year.

I met all my writing goals. Exceeded a few. I also finished a complete book edit on Hidden Dreams (coming out from Harlequin/Heartsong in April 2013)--mercifully light. And I even got a lot down on two new book proposals.  All of that, along with having people time . . .

In working on my devotional book, I needed to quote from one of Jolene's poems. Those of you who have followed me from the beginning have seen this before:

Daddy I say as I run to you
I then fall in your arms
As you give me a big squeezy bear hug
I look into your face
A face of love and wonder
I shall find a place called home in your arms
You say loving and comforting words to me
Tell me that I am all right and no harm shall come
And though I close my eyes you put me
on a soft cloud and sing a lullaby
Oh Little One you shall find peace in me

I read it and wept, shaking shoulders, sobbing, tear-giving, grief.  My calling bird was in the lobby at the time, and I called her over. I've held her when she cried. Now it was her turn. She held my hand, and softly sang "Oh, how I love Jesus. . . because He first loved me." A simple human touch can mean so much.

Another morning, one of the perennial bright spots of the lobby was angry, close to tears. I asked an aide to wheel me closer. She'd had a bad run-in with an aide, and by the time we finished talking, she felt better.

Today I learned that man I've never talked to before studied classical piano for thirteen years--a lot like me. We spoke briefly about the grief of not being able to play as we used to.

Yesterday a reader/resident introduced herself to me. Her husband mentioned going to the store. I asked if he would buy me a muffin or a cupcake. . .I had promised myself one when I finished Hidden Dreams  a month ago. He brought me both.

Little things . . .a minute here, a shared concern there. . .these people are becoming family. Not just my work place.

**Cathy Shouse won this week - please contact me at about your book.**
***For every five comments (five minimum required) left, I will give away one book.***

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NO SAFE HARBOR by Elizabeth Ludwig

I thoroughly enjoyed this story about love and betrayal, faith and fear, set against the Irish factions fighting each other in 1896 New York.

No Safe Harbor is one of those books that make me as a fellow writer of historical fiction want to give up; Ludwig’s attention to detail is so well done, her knowledge of 1896 New York so intimate, that I know I can never measure up.

What makes me despair as a writer brings delight to the reader. Any book is as good as its plot, and Ludwig has created a zinger, one that pits Protestant against Catholic (Ireland), brother against sister, father against son. The characters’ faith does not come easily. And for this first of a series, I can’t wait to learn more about the residents of Miss Amelia’s boarding house.

Product Details


Over three months, I have come to know my fellow residents. Or not.

This week, I have seen different aspects to our "characters."

Our mutterer, who repeats "I want my mother, I want my mother. Where is my sister? Where is my sister?" endlessly, had visitors this week. I watched and wondered how much she understood.

Since then, her sentences have changed. "They're going to be married. I'm going." She understood and is clearly looking forward to the event.

Another lady is usually quiet--until she erupts in profanity. She was fussing at the mutterer earlier this week.

Our greeter always talks about himself. Pleasant, sweet. . .nonstop, like listening to water drip in a sink.  Until he heard the one lady speaking profanity to the mutterer. He spoke up several times, "Be gentle with Grandma!" I was so proud of him.

Our songbird adores children. When they came through on Halloween night, she hugged the babies tight, gave them handfuls of candy and announced "God told me too!" (in defiance of directions to give each child one piece. How can the activity director argue with God?)  She ate half-a-dozen packages of Skittles and sang happily for the rest of the night.

Everyone protects their things for the wanderer because she tends to pick up things that are unattached (she keeps a stash of toilet paper in her room and walks off with pens and food and almost anything.). But as I've watched her, I see a little girl. She loves anything shiny and pretty and sweet. She wants to touch and taste (and keep, if she can get away with it).

The storyteller almost always has sad stories--she's had a difficult life. She repeats the same, sad, lengthy stories and we get tired of listening. This past week, I asked, "Do you like hugs? You look like you need a hug." She came over and grabbed ahold of me as if she never wanted to let go.

And then she told me a happy story.

Everyone here is good and bad, difficultand understandable, unpleasant and yet loveable. I pray that God will continue to open my eyes and ears.


Lone Star Trail is available for free on Kindle today!

I expanded an earlier blog, A Tale of Three Fridays, and it's posted at  My articles right after one by Steven Curtis Chapman. I feel like I've arrived!

**We were one comment short of a book giveaway last week (my entries don't count). Once again a free book is up for grabs for every five entries.**