Posted on December 3, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
The Bible uses another word for a donkey, but since the world has sullied that word, I’ll stick with donkey. In Bible times, having several donkeys was a sign of wealth. Donkeys aren’t worth much these days.
My parents bought a donkey because they took in a stray dog with a penchant for herding their cows. Their cows were right where they were supposed to be and didn’t need herded. So, they bought a donkey because donkeys would just as soon kick a dog witless than to look at them. Dogs know this and being the smart animals they are, dogs don’t go near donkeys.
It worked pretty good – instead of their dog herding the cows, he stands at the fence and barks until we all go insane – but he doesn’t go near the donkey. My parents decided the donkey was so cute, they’d get a male and have a donkey baby. Soon after one male donkey baby was born, mommy was expecting again. When they separated mommy and daddy, daddy hee hawed until we all really went insane. So they took daddy donkey to the sale barn. They paid more in fees to the sale barn for selling the donkey than they made from the sale.
When dogs aren’t around, donkeys are serene, gentle, and reliable, but they’re also known for being stubborn when it comes to being ridden. I’ve been to a donkey basketball game and trust me, donkeys don’t like to be ridden. Yet the donkeys God used did exactly what He told them to do.
Back in Numbers, he used Balaam’s donkey to teach Balaam a lesson, save his life, and He even gave the donkey the power to speak. In Judges, God used Sampson and a donkey’s jawbone to slew a thousand men. Later, Jesus sent two disciples to find the donkey and her colt for him to ride into Jerusalem and fulfill prophecy before everything went downhill.
Before Jesus’ birth, Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. No, the Bible doesn’t say that. It says, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (Luke 2: 4-5)
No details of how they got there. But the trip from Galilee to Bethlehem was 70 to 90 miles and most scholars believe Mary rode a donkey. Even if Mary didn’t ride a donkey to Bethlehem, I bet there was one in the stable where Jesus was born. The inn owner was probably wealthy and owned lots of donkeys.
Whether there was a donkey at the Nativity or not, God used donkeys in the Bible. I guess I identify with the donkey because if God can use a donkey, surely He can use me.
Posted on November 19, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Several years ago, when I was still trying to get published, I saw a movie trailer about a writer. He worked in his bathrobe, slept on his couch, never got dressed, and let his housekeeper take care of everything. All he did was write. I thought it was awesome. As the movie trailer continued, he had problems. Lots of problems. But the bathrobe and uncombed hair in pursuit of his passion–I got that.
Since I got published, I do get dressed and function in the outside world. And I do take care of lots of other things besides writing. But because writing is my job–I get away with a lot of fun stuff.
1. Working in my jammies. First I was a hairdresser, then I worked at a bank, then in corporate offices. I had to show up looking presentable. But with writing, I wash my face, brush my teeth, and go to my computer. But don’t come to my house before 2:00. I won’t answer the door until I’m presentable.
2. Working my job around my family. During the school year, I write during the day. In the summer, I write after everyone’s in bed. When they’re around and awake, I focus on them.
3. Flexible hours. On most days, I send my family off to school and work, then write while they’re gone. But if there’s a school function in the middle of the day, a Christmas float to decorate, or a church member in the hospital, I can take the day off without worry.
4.Having a job that requires daydreaming. All of my life, I’ve tried to listen and pay attention, but my mind would wander. With writing–having a wandering mind is encouraged, an active imagination is required, and daydreaming is allowed.
5. Making my characters do whatever I want them to. I’ve always thought I could solve a lot of problems if my friends and family would just take my advice. My characters listen to me and do what I say. It’s the ultimate control freak job.
6. Hearing voices and having imaginary friends. Oh the wonderful people who live in my head. And everyone thinks it’s okay and normal since I’m a writer.
7. Meeting authors. I love going to the bookstore, scanning the names on book spines and counting how many I’ve met. They may not remember me, but I remember them. I’ve talked to Denise Hunter, hugged Lenora Worth, laughed with Mary Connealy, and rode in the elevator with Terri Blackstock—just to drop a few names.
8. Sleeping in fancy hotels with women I barely know. There for a while I was sleeping with someone new at every ACFW conference. The friendships I’ve made through our common pursuit of publication are priceless. Isn’t that nice alliteration?
9. Having writing buds who really get me. There are friends and then there are writing friends. Writing can be very lonely, but not with friends to share the valleys and summits, highs and lows, thrills and spills. When I have writing news—good or bad—I share it with my family, then my writing buds.
10. Connecting with readers. Either in person or online. It’s exhilarating to know someone is actually reading what I write, enjoying it, and appreciating my efforts. Through books, God has blessed me with the ability to witness to more people than my mouth will ever meet.
It worked out for me to be a stay at home mom before I got published. We’d already given up my income, so anything I make now is just a bonus. My hat’s off to the published authors who have a full time job and still manage to write books. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
And to those still seeking publication–don’t give up. Keep writing. Persistence + Patience = Publication. I hope you get to work in your jammies someday soon.
We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s Wedding on the Rocks. Comment to enter – deadline Nov 30th.
When she traded small-town life for the bright lights of Chicago, Jennifer Edwards yearned to discover a world beyond Faith, South Dakota. So when her father’s illness calls her home to run their cattle ranch, she tells herself it’s temporary. Then why is she even thinking about a future with archaeology professor Brett Lange—the boy she left behind—whose life’s work is digging up the past?
Twelve years ago, Brett had a crush on Jennifer the size of the T. rex that put his hometown on the map. Now she’s a citified magazine editor who prefers designer duds to dungarees. Except that’s not the real Jennifer. Brett needs to make her see how a little faith can go a long way in uniting two perfectly in-sync hearts.
Posted on November 17, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Posted on November 5, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’m celebrating my new release, Rodeo Queen by giving away two print copies. Answer the question at the end of the post or comment daily for the next two nostalgic weeks to enter the drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.
No, I was never a rodeo queen. But I’ve been feeling nostalgic about my latest release, Rodeo Queen. Why would my recently released book make me feel nostalgic? Because it formed in my head as a teenager. It was the story that wouldn’t go away until I finally realized it was a book around 1996. Then it took me three more years to get a hand me down computer and write it.
That’s me in 1999 writing my first ever book about a interior decorator with a stalker and the private detective who protects her. My husband took the picture and it’s my favorite. I was so involved in my story, I didn’t even know he’d taken the picture until we got the film developed. Yep, back then the pictures actually got out of the camera and you didn’t know how they looked until you picked them up from Walmart. I love the picture because it reminds me how supportive he’s been of my writing–from day one. He didn’t complain that I was ignoring or neglecting him, he just took a picture of me doing what I love.
Back to the story, after fifty-two rejection letters on that first book, countless others on six more books–I stopped counting at 200–fourteen years, and seven published books later, that first book I ever wrote releases this month. Rodeo Queen is a reworked version of my first story.
The original version was set in rural Arkansas. Rodeo Queen is the 5th title in my Texas rodeo series and is set in Aubrey, the Fort Worth Stockyards historical district, and Medina, Texas. My heroine morphed into the owner of a blingy western clothing store and a rodeo queen–which lent itself well to the stalker angle. The hero became a Texas Ranger. And in the new version,they were high school sweethearts.
The Medina part was originally in there and it makes me nostalgic too. My hero and herione visit his grandfather’s ranch in Medina twice during the course of the story. The ranch is based on my father-in-law’s ranch in Medina, near San Antonio. My father-in-law passed away, but we still visit his wife–Texas mom–once a year.
I’ve heard countless authors say they have their first awful manuscripts moldering in a drawer, that they’ll never see the light of day, and they shouldn’t. I wasn’t willing to let my story die. I didn’t go back and try to fix that original manuscript with all the knowledge I’ve gained from countless writers’ meetings and conferences, I started from scratch.
And I like the new version better. Readers often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I’ve never really been able to answer that question. It’s like picking your favorite child or pet. I love all of my books–otherwise I wouldn’t have written them.
But I think I’ll play favorites now–Rodeo Queen–hands down.
CAITLYN WENTWORTH LOVES BEING A RODEO QUEEN
Until she starts receiving threatening letters from a stalker. The good news is, the Texas Ranger assigned to her case is none other than her former sweetheart Mitch Warren—the man who chose his career over love.
Mitch vows to focus on protecting the woman he’s never forgotten. But Caitlyn stirs up memories best left in the past. When Mitch insists on hiding Caitlyn away on his family’s San Antonio ranch, will he keep things professional or seek out a second chance?
Remember to enter the drawing daily with each new post from all the inkspers. And if you can’t wait or don’t win, here are a few purchase links for your convenience
Question of the day–for readers or writers. Have you ever had a story in your head that wouldn’t go away?
Posted on October 22, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’ve probably touched on this story before, but never focused on it. Back in 2005, I went to my first ACFW Conference in Nashville. I didn’t know a soul there. My husband and son came with me and toured the city while I learned I knew nothing about writing. Even after five years of attending local conferences and writers groups. Okay, I take that back, I knew the basics. But after one day of ACFW, I felt like I knew nothing and everyone at the conference was either published or in the process. Everyone but me.
Don’t get me wrong. Everybody was really nice. It was all me. I’m an introvert and I was way out of my comfort zone. By breakfast of day two, I was really overwhelmed. Since I’m not a morning person, I considered staying curled in a ball with my family in my room all day. But no, I had to pull up my big girl boots and face those 400 or so writers who knew so much more than I did.
I went downstairs, got my plate, and sat down at a large table by myself. But I didn’t stay alone for long. This pretty blond came up and asked if she could sit by me.
Her, shaking my hand: “Hi, I’m Lenora Worth.”
My jaw hit the floor. And stayed there. I’d read several of her books. She was one of my favorite Love Inspired authors. But I couldn’t think of a single title or character. Complete brain freeze. I did manage to tell her that I loved her and her books. She probably didn’t believe me since I couldn’t come up with any facts to back me up. But she was very gracious as every person who sat down after that introduced themselves, while I gestured wildly to Lenora and repeated over and over, “This is Lenora Worth.”
She must have avoided me after that. I don’t remember seeing her in 2006. But in 2007, I finaled in the Touched By Love contest and attended the Faith, Hope, and Love Conference in Dallas. Lenora was there and congratulated me when I won 2nd place. Congratulated me!
In 2011, I won the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award and when I got my award in the mail, the return address was Lenora’s. I was as excited about that as I was getting the award.
Every year after that, when I saw her at ACFW, she hugged me. She congratulated me when I finally got published and in 2012, after Harlequin bought the Heartsong Presents line, I stood next to her at the Harlequin author reception. And to top things off, she loves shoes as much as I do. She even has her shoes on her website. Yep, I knew I loved her.
She’s always so gracious and encouraging. But I always wonder if when she sees me, deep down, she thinks, Oh dear–there’s that nut again. If she does, she certainly doesn’t let on.
Posted on October 8, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)
I’ve never been much of a laborer or harvester. I grew up in suburbs of large cities – Chicago and Atlanta. When I was twelve, I moved back to the small town where my parents grew up. Where there are more cows than there are people. This was my first brush with gardens, crops, and farm animals. Though the peacefulness of small town life and wide open spaces grew on me, farming did not.
In the labor department, I’ve caught chickens. In the harvest department, I’ve picked strawberries, okra, and peaches and dug potatoes. Ugghhh to all of it, especially the chickens. Okra and peaches itch the harvester to high heaven. And none of the harvesting is easy on the knees or back even during the teen years.
Since my grandfather had a peach orchard, before the harvest, I used to take a paring knife and walk through the orchard—picking, peeling, and eating peaches—with juice running down my elbows until I couldn’t eat another bite. The orchard is long gone, but I’ve still never tasted a peach that good. Not even fresh from an orchard.
As an adult, my laboring and harvesting ended. I’ve never even planted a garden. Since several of my family members have gardens, they keep me in fresh veggies. And trust me, those things you buy in grocery stores are nothing like the fresh, homegrown variety.
I know, Jesus wasn’t talking about vegetables or fruit. He was talking about souls. But laboring and harvesting veggies is a lot like laboring and harvesting souls. It’s not fun. Or easy. It’s hard to witness to someone you know couldn’t care less. It’s hard when you’ve done it before and they’ve shut you down. It’s hard to witness to strangers. It can prickle your nerves like a fuzzy peach or okra. Prayer can be hard on the knees. It’s not necessarily hard on the back, but it can hurt your heart. The burden of not witnessing—when you know you should—can be hard on the heart. Trust me. I know.
It’s been at least three years ago. I was in Walmart in Little Rock in the makeup aisle. There was another woman there—probably in her late twenties or early thirties. We scanned the makeup, acknowledged each other with kind smiles, and tried not to get in each others way.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walk by. A few seconds later, he came down the aisle and struck up a conversation with the woman. They were around the same age. She knew him, but I don’t think they were in a relationship. Yet, the talk soon turned casually raunchy about plans for the weekend including a party, drinking, and worse. It made me mad that they thought nothing of talking nasty with me right there listening. I left and went several aisles away so I couldn’t tell what they were saying.
After what seemed like eons of me stewing, the talking stopped and I saw the man pass the aisle I was in. Finally, safe to go back and get my makeup. On the way, I realized this girl needed help. My anger toward her disintegrated as the Holy Spirit convicted me, she needed to know there’s more to life than parties, drinking, and worse. And I needed to tell her. I hurried back to the aisle. She was gone. I searched several aisles and women oriented departments. But I never saw her again. My heart still hurts from that burden.
I’ve thought about her often since then and wondered if she’s still on that self-destructive path. I’ve prayed she ran into a better laborer than me. And that maybe she’s been harvested by now. I’ve even prayed for the man. I also determined that I would never let another opportunity like that pass. And I haven’t.
Posted on September 24, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’m always behind on social media. Blogging originated back in 1997. I started blogging in 2010. Facebook originated in 2004. I joined in 2010. Twitter originated in 2006. I joined in 2010. Pinterest originated in 2010. I joined last week.
Each time I join a new social network, I become obsessed with it and it cuts into my productivity. That’s why I don’t just jump into everything. If I did, I’d never get any writing done. So, all you wonderful writer friends who keep inviting me to join Google +, I’m sorry, but I’m dancing as fast as I can with all my other social networking.
Back to my latest obsession–Pinterest. This is a must have for an author. I’m in the process of cleaning out all my files stored on my computer. I have pictures I used for inspiration in my published books, future character pictures, pictures of houses, cars, trucks, and pets that belong to my characters. It’s all getting transferred to my Pinterest boards. So far, I have a board for character inspiration, a board for each of my most recently published books, and a board for upcoming releases.
Along with book stuff, I created a board for furniture my husband made, crafts I made, my office, my husband’s man cave, and our son’s Bass Pro Shop themed room. I also have a board for nifty craft ideas for future use. I’m planning a recipe board even though I try really hard not to cook much. With Pinterest, I don’t forget things or lose them. The possibilities are endless.
My favorite pin so far – the memory jar I made. When my son was younger, he loved collecting unique things. Crystals, colored rocks, crawdad pincers, empty wasp nests, fools gold, arrowheads, seed pods, and countless other oddities we found or bought. When he was ready to get rid of his collection, I wasn’t. I put it all in a jar and display it on a shelf. It’s pretty and makes me smile every time I look at it. I still have his collection of feathers too. I’ve been trying to find a really tall jar to put them in. I thought about a vase, but with a lid, you only have to dust the jar. And I’m not a fan of dusting either.
In the meantime, I gotta go. I’m working on a new board on Pinterest. Since my name never fits, I’m stvannatter or search Shannon Taylor Vannatter. Come check out my boards.
Posted on September 10, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
When this topic came up, I wasn’t sure if I could come up with ten guilty pleasures. But the more I thought about it, there’s way more than fifteen. I’m doing a countdown to number one to stir things up.
10. A dollop of caramel in my coffee. I’m not even going to list coffee, even though I put three creamers and three sugars and hummingbirds would love my sweet brew. It’s the dollop of caramel syrup that puts my fave beverage over the top.
9. Hallmark movies. They’re so clean and sweet. Why do they make me feel guilty? Because there’s always something else I should be doing other than watch them. But I have gotten book ideas from them. If you take a thread from five different movies and put them together, it’s not plagiarism.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia. I started reading the books back when the first movie came out in 2005. Why? Because I never read them as a kid. I finished the final book just today. Now why do I feel guilty? Because they are children’s books and I really shouldn’t be enjoying them so much. But there’s such an innocence about them, they take me back to a child’s view of the world. I think I’m going to start reading them over again. With writing books and reading inspirational contemporary romances in between, it took me so long to finish, I don’t remember what happened in the first few books.
7. Chocolate covered coffee beans. I consistently pop three at a time at least twice a day. I’ve gotten immune to regular coffee, but the beans rev me up. Plus, there’s chocolate involved.
6. Nabisco Chips Ahoy cookies. Especially dipped in a bowl of milk until they’re so soggy they almost fall apart.
5. Cedar Cove. It’s been a long time since I got hooked on a TV series. But this Hallmark series is based on books by Debbie Macomber. I looked forward to it all summer. Then as the school about to start frenzy got underway and final summer guests visited, I forgot and missed the first episode. But I’ve recorded every episode since. It’s a chick flick, so I have to wait until the roosters are gone to watch. And when the roosters are gone, this hen should be writing.
4. Lunch or dinner with friends. I have one friend I try to eat out with monthly. When we do, we linger for hours just catching up.
3. Reading inspirational contemporary romance. I should be writing it instead. But I’m studying my genre
2. Ice cream. I don’t know why something so delicious has to be so loaded with fat and calories.
1. Shoes. I try to keep my collection down to 60 or less. I even gave some away to the Rotary Club a few years ago when they were asking for donations for teens who couldn’t afford prom attire. I only have two pair I paid more than $15.00 for. And most of my shoes were less than $10.00. Last weekend, I bought a cream-colored satin pair of heels for $4.00. I couldn’t just leave them there, now could I?
Notice how many items on my top ten list involve food.
Posted on August 27, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
I’ve said here before, I don’t usually buy a book because of the cover. I buy because I’m familiar with the author. That said, the cover sure doesn’t hurt. And a few covers have made me pick up the book. And twice, the cover made my buy.
Covers, I usually pick up: Karen Witemeyer. She seems to have a magic potion for great covers. If I read historicals, I’d read her, based on covers alone. My favorite of her covers: A Tailor Made Bride.
Covers that made me buy: Mary Connealy’s Over the Edge. Mary seems to have the market cornered on hunks gracing her covers. It was the guy that made me buy Mary’s book and his eyes weren’t even green. And yes, it was historical. And yes, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
So here’s my list of covers I’m looking forward to. And yes, part of the attraction is I already know and trust these authors to give me a great contemporary romance with a toe-curling happily-ever-after.
Topping my list is Denise Hunter’s Dancing with Fireflies. I read the first book in this series, this summer and I knew the elusive Jade had a story. I can’t wait to read it. And since I’m Facebook friends with Denise, I usually see her covers unveiled and I always love them. I love the fireflies and the peacefulness of this embracing couple.
My interest in Becky Wade’s Undeniably Yours is totally based on the cover. I haven’t read any of Becky’s books. And Brenda actually got me hooked on this cover in a previous Inkspirational post. I love the color. I love the pink shoes. It’s my firm belief that every female should have a pair of heels in every color she can possibly find. So of course, those shoes grab me. Other than that, I love the embrace that promises fun romance and I love her kicking up her heel. And it’s set in Texas which I love. I haven’t bought this book yet, but I will.
Beth Wiseman caught my attention because she usually writes Amish, but while browsing I found a not Amish book with her name on it. Huh? I bought Need You Now and thoroughly enjoyed it. So when I saw another not Amish title by Beth, it got my attention. The House that Love Built intrigued me again with the colors. I love the aqua summery dress. The guy looks good. And the house in the background–I’m a sucker for big old houses that have stood the test of time.
But the cover I’ve waited for–for fourteen years? Wait for it. Back in 1999 when I started writing, I dreamed of seeing my book on store shelves. In 2001, I got a book published Print on Demand. I didn’t even know what that meant. I soon learned it meant there were no books in stores–anywhere. Only online.
In 2010, my dream of traditional publishing came true. But again, Heartsong Presents were sold in very few stores–mostly through the book club or online. In 2012, Heartsong was acquired by Harlequin and Walmart agreed to carry the line for six months and see how it went. I got to see one of my titles on Walmart shelves and it was a dream come true. But I guess Walmart wasn’t happy with the sales and no longer carries the line.
All this time, I knew–someday, my titles acquired when Barbour owned the line would be compiled into a three in one collection and sold WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD. And finally, my waiting has paid off. Arkansas Weddings releases September 1st. This collection includes my first three traditionally published titles: White Roses, White Doves, and White Pearls. You can find it–I have to say it again–WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD.
And I love the cover. All three stories are set in Romance and Rose Bud, Arkansas. These real towns are seven miles apart, tiny, and about twenty-five minutes from where I live. Couples go to Romance to get married and mail their Valentine cards, and wedding invitations with a romantic hand-stamped postmark.
There is a natural waterfall there which I incorporated into all three books. Each couple has a pivotal moment in their relationship at the Romance Waterfalls. I was thrilled to see the waterfall on the cover. The online copies have my name wrong. But the real thing includes Taylor in the middle.
And remember, you can find Arkansas Weddings WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD. Sorry for the shouting–but I’ve really wanted to say that for a looooooonnnnnnnnnngggggggg time.
Posted on August 13, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
I found these statistics several years ago:
Government Records show that top 7 leading problems in our schools ranked in order from first to seventh, 1940 and 1990. Notice the differences in type and seriousness.
1. Talking out of turn 1. Drug abuse
2. Chewing Gum 2. Alcohol abuse
3. Making noise 3. Pregnancy
4. Running in the halls 4. Suicide
5. Cutting in line 5. Rape
6. Dress-cod violations 6. Robbery
7. Littering 7. Assault
So my simple prayer:
Dear Lord, we need prayer back in school. In Jesus name, Amen.