Hope for the Hungry + Giveaway

I remember reading an article in a local newspaper roughly four years ago about the rising homeless population in my county … for youth. At that time, when someone mentioned the “homeless”, I had a stereotype in my mind, and it certainly wasn’t sixteen to twenty-one year olds. Back then, the number of homeless youth was estimated at 500 in our county alone. Now I’ve read estimates that put the homeless youth population at around 700!

Reading that article, and then finding several more news stories all talking about the same problem, is what birthed the idea for my new release, Hungry for Home.

And thankfully, that news also prompted others to take action as a group of local citizens banded together to figure out what could be done to serve the youth. The idea for Hope 4 Youth was conceived in November of 2012, and by March 2013, the doors were opened!

Right now Hope 4 Youth serves as a place where homeless teens can drop in to get a hot meal, a warm shower, a place to play, learn, and just be a kid. The facilities also have a food pantry and clothes closet and they provide for all the basic everyday needs most of us take for granted.

They currently don’t have overnight shelter, but that’s in the works. In the meantime, the organization provides resources for the youth to help find shelter, including a host family network that takes in the youth. Otherwise the youth end up on the streets, couch hopping, sleeping in cars, tents, parks, abandoned buildings, sheds, anywhere they can get out of the elements. And you can imagine how severe those elements are in Minnesota during the winter.

Hope 4 Youth has many areas where people can get involved, including meal serving. It’s truly an opportunity to be Jesus’ hands and feet.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Matthew 25:35

One small way I hope to raise awareness about the homeless youth problem is with Austin Lang’s story in Hungry for Home. You have an opportunity to win an autographed copy of this novel by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.

Hungry for HomeHere’s the back cover blurb for Hungry for Home, now available at Amazon | B&N:

Hungry for HomeAfter a troubling encounter with a pregnant teen, Sheila Peterson-Brooks hurries from the crisis pregnancy center into the frigid Minnesota winter where she is mugged and left for dead. After a frantic search, Richard, her husband, finds her, and the police quickly nab the mugger …

A hungry, homeless teen.
The brother of the pregnant girl Sheila had just counseled.

The girl pleads for her brother, and Sheila and Richard choose not to press charges. Instead, they open their home to the boy, a move that could cost them their possessions, and their hearts.

And, in the process, teach them the true meaning of home.

The contest runs from Sept. 14 to 12:00 am on September 26. Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, answering the question:

“What charity (or charities) are close to your heart?”

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Still Riding the Roller Coaster!

Opportunity to win a one-of-a-kind Inkspirational Messages mug + a book surprise bundle!!!
To enter, leave a comment below and / or on any of the Inksper posts dated March 2 – 13, 2015.
Winner will be chosen via Random.org

Wow. Has it been five years already? That’s hard to believe! It’s certainly been a fun and eventful five years. My very first post as an Inksper was From the Front Seat of a Roller Coaster. Well, it’s safe to say I  never got off that coaster!

Here are few things that have kept me busy since 2010:

  • I’ve made THE BEST friends ever through this blog!
  • My daughter graduated high school and college.
  • Two sons graduated high school.
  • My husband and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary in 2012 by spending a week at Animal Kingdom Lodge in Walt Disney World. I wanna go back!
  • In 2012, my contemporary romance, Hearts at Risk, was a ACFW Genesis Finalist. That same year, my now-published, Pieces of Granite, was a semi-finalist.
  • In 2013 my 4-book contemporary family drama series was contracted for publication.
  • Chain of Mercy came out in April 2014
  • In later 2014, my publisher went under, so I went indie.
  • In November, 2014, Pieces of Granite released under my personal imprint Vivant Press.
  • And now I’m preparing to release book #3, Memory Box Secrets, in one month!

Those are just the highlights. I’m looking forward to having another five years on this roller coaster. It’s been a lot of fun!

And what is a peek back at five years without pics? Here are a few I dug up:

Inkspers 5Inkspers 4Inkspers 3Inkspers 2Inkspers 1 -353x210


Oh, Goodie, Goodie!

>>> Last day to enter to win
Rose Ross Zediker‘s
See contest rules below <<<

At Inkspirational Messages, we recognize that chocolate is the most important of the five food groups (said tongue-in-cheek, just in case you’re wondering), so I’d be remiss if I didn’t cap off this hometown series with an homage to one of the greatest candy bars ever invented:

Pearson’s Nut Goodie

Nut Goodie

This delectable candy bar brimming with chocolate and peanuts and a creamy maple center was born in Minneapolis 102 years ago (1912) and has been making mouths water ever since.

The Nut Goodie is created by Pearson’s which originally began as Pearson Candy Company (five Pearson brothers) in 1909. Before this bar’s creation, the company was just a candy distributor. But the Nut Goodie Bar changed that. Until 1933, it was their main creation. That’s when Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll came on the scene. No chocolate, but equally as yummy.

The company has since crossed the river into St. Paul, and it has changed hands. Along the way Pearsons also introduced other candy bars, but Nut Goodie and Salted Nut Roll remain its staples.

Now, unfortunately, the Nut Goodie is not calorie free. I know, you’re shocked, right? So, I treat myself infrequently, but when I do, it is worth every bite!


!!! Book Giveaway !!!

Every time you leave a comment between Monday, August 4 and Friday, August 15 at midnight, central time, you are entered to win a copy of “Sweet on the Cowgirl.”


Since Rose’s new release, Sweet on the Cowgirl features a hometown business, the inkspers are sharing products and companies close to home.

Once upon a time, back in 1982, Miss Patti Upton mixed up a batch of Arkansas native botanicals such as acorns, pine cones, gumballs and hickory nuts just for fun. She added fragrance with spices and oils and called her creation The Smell of Christmas. Miss Patti placed her creation in a friend’s gift shop and decorative room fragrance quickly turned into an overnight success. The Smell of Christmas remains the company’s flagship fragrance.

Many people confuse Miss Patti’s creation with potpourri. But potpourri is mostly dried flowers and wood chips. Decorative room fragrance has large botanicals, so it’s pleasing to the eye and the nose. Numerous scents, candles, and bath and body products have been added to Aromatique’s line of products.

Aromatique SeashellsHow do I know so much about it? I live ten miles from Aromatique and I worked in the corporate offices for seven years until my son was born. The Smell of Christmas is my favorite scent. But  Sea Shells is my favorite display. I mean sea shells, which I love, that smell good. I’m all over that.

During my years at the company, I got to shop at the company store, where the products slightly damaged in shipping and returned from stores landed. My entire house was decorated with containers, candles, and decorative fragrance. I miss that and since my son has allergies, I’m no longer able to have Aromatique products in my house. Not even Sea Shells.

But my characters have enjoyed it. When I was writing my Arkansas series books, I used an Arkansas product in each story. A Walk in the Woods was given as a gift to my heroine in White Doves. That fragrance has been retired since, but scents are often revamped, renamed, and returned to the line later. Aromatique is still going strong with a full line of scents to tease the eye and can be ordered online. Google it and just look at all the goodies.

Don’t forget to enter the drawing for Rose’s book!sweet on the cowgirl2

Laura Barnes Wants to Be a Cowgirl

Laura has always dreamed of being a trick rider in her family’s Wild West show. But her father will only allow her to perform if she disguises herself as Mr. Buckskin Jones. When soda-pop king Guy Roberts shows up to do business with her family, Laura is torn between keeping her identity under wraps and revealing her growing feelings for Guy. 

Guy is drawn to Laura’s poise and beauty, but he, too, guards a secret. As their affection for each other grows, Guy begins to think about a future that includes Laura. When both their secrets suddenly come to light, their romance will face the ultimate showdown.

Every time you leave a comment between Mon., Aug. 4 and Fri., Aug. 15  at midnight, central time, you are entered to win a copy of Sweet on the Cowgirl. 

Order your copy of Sweet on the Cowgirl today!



A Sweet Serenade

>Last day to sign up to win Rodeo Song by Shannon Taylor Vannatter – see contest rules below<

It’s no secret that I love music, so growing up there were a few male voices that made me swoon.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor DreamcoatSeveral Inkspers have already talked about Donny Osmond–seriously, the man’s voice still makes me swoon. No one has matched or come near to his rendition of Close Every Door from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Just WoW! And, yes, I did get to see Donny perform this in the Twin Cities. From the second row. Be still my fluttering heart!

Seven Brides for Seven BrothersAnd then there’s Howard Keel. You likely know him from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Just imagine him serenading you with When You’re In Love… Or maybe he’s singing Make Believe from Show Boat. Oh. My. Goodness, that man had pipes! He was a right handsome man at that time as well.

OklahomaOh, and I can’t forget to mention Gordon MacRae. Can you imagine him serenading you with People Will Say We’re in Love, from the musical Oklahoma? Or how about If I Loved You, from Carousel. Swoon city!


I think it’s time to go listen to some music!

Rodeo Song***Giveaway Time***

Who would you most like to serenade you? Tell us about it in the comment section below to get your name in a drawing for Shannon’s new book Rodeo Song. The more you comment on any Inksper blog post dated June 9 – June 20, 2014, the greater your chances of winning. The giveaway ends at midnight on June 20, central time, and is open to continental U. S. residents only.

Spine Poetry

(Last Day for the Giveaway!!!
See below for more info)

You ask what I’m reading? Well, let me tell you! My bed stand to-read pile happens to be overflowing right now; all I need is a little bit more time to tackle that pile.

So, what’s on that bed stand? Glad you asked! But rather than tell you about it, I thought it would be fun show you in the form of Spine Poetry.

SPRING INKspiration!

(Spring releases by our very own Inkspirational Messages contributors)

Spring Inkspiration

Library Love!

(Note: Every book I read, I order from the library, BUT I also purchase many of those books. I hope that by checking them out at the library too, that’ll help them stay on the shelves. Maybe a library expert could weigh in on whether this is beneficial or not …)

Library Love

And I can’t forget that we have a GIVEAWAY going on yet! One copy of Chain of Mercy, one small box of Fannie May candies, and the Phillips, Craig and Dean Breathe In CD will be given away.

To enter, in the comments section below, tell us what you’re reading now, and if you’re feeling creative, write it out in spine poetry form.

Contest ends tonight (Friday, May 9, 2014) at midnight, CST! Winner will be chosen via Random.org and will be announced here on Saturday, May 10, 2014.


See that guy to your right? That’s precisely how I was feeling earlier this week. I had a ton of blog interviews to fill out, three blog posts to write, one non-blog interview to fill out, ACFW MN NICE President stuff to attend to, a Book Launch celebration to plan (pssst… The launch is May 15 at Northgate Church just in case any of you happen to be around the Minneapolis area then) …

And that’s just in my writing life!

This spring is rather nuts in the Anderson household with (4) major lifetime events occurring within a span of 7 weeks:

April 22 – my debut novel, Chain of Mercy, releases (pre-order <here>)

April 25 – my daughter has her senior recital. It’s just her in concert for over an hour!

May 3 – my daughter graduates from college

June 8 – my son graduates from high school

Along with each of these exciting events comes a wagon load of preparation, and it seemed that I wasn’t doing any of it 100%. On top of that, I’ve been neglecting the family. They’re lucky if they get a warm meal three days a week. The house hasn’t been well-cleaned since … well, I don’t know when. You’re welcome to come visit, just ignore my new pets, those dust bunnies partying in the corners.

Writing RetreatSo, what’s a girl to do?

Arrange a vacation, that’s what! Well, not exactly a vacation, more of a retreat. I packed up my laptop & netbook and my to-do list and made the three-plus hour trek to Wisconsin Dells for two days of uninterrupted quiet. (And yes, Stacy, that is a Fannie May bag on the table. Chocolate is a requirement for retreats, don’tchya know!)

The first thing I did after checking in was head to the local outlet mall to find a new outfit for my book launch. Thanks to Lori at Dress Barn for helping me find the perfect outfit. Actually, she helped me a bit too much because I came home with more than one outfit.

After picking up groceries, I returned to my villa (about 10:30 pm) to tackle that to-do list.

By the end of the next day I had crossed off all but one blog interview. Yeah! I rewarded myself with a little TV–had to watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Can you say plot twist?!!! And then I enjoyed Face Off on the SyFy channel. Yeah, I’m a bit of a geek.

The following day I tackled blog posts, the non-blog interview, the MN NICE stuff, and I started this post.

And then I returned home to my messy house.

Hmm, I booked a vacation to get my writing tasks done, I wonder if that’ll work for housework too…



In honor of our blog re-launch, the Inkspers are giving away copies of their books. You can enter to win all five of the books below by leaving a comment. Every time you comment, you’ll be entered, so make sure you stop back every day. This contest is open to U.S. residents only, due to shipping costs. Contests ends Friday, April 11, 2014 at midnight (CST) (That’s today!!!) and the winner will be posted here on Saturday, April 12, 2014. 

Prize Package includes these fabulous books:

We're Back! Book GiveawayRodeo Song by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Chain of Mercy by Brenda S. Anderson (novel releases April 22)

The Widow’s Suitor by Rose Ross Zediker

The Prodigal Daughter by Linda Fulkerson

When Love Calls by Lorna Seilstad

Toe-Curlin’ Cowboys

I’m rip-roarin’ excited to hold Shannon Vannatter’s new release, RODEO REGRETS in my hand! As her critique partner, I’m privileged to see her books in their early stages, so it’s always fun reading that polished version.

(You can order a copy of RODEO REGRETS at Christianbook.com, Barnes & Noble, or at Amazon.com. And don’t forget, if you’d love to win a copy of RODEO REGRETS, see the contest rules below.)

For those of you who haven’t checked out Shannon’s toe-curlin’ cowboy romance, here’s a teaser:


Natalie once dreamed of finding true love. Then Lane Gray broke her heart. After running wild to fill the emptiness inside her, she heads back to her hometown to heal. But when she sees the cowboy she once loved so much, she finds him hard to resist.

Lane Gray is a changed man. The handsome cowboy wants Natalie’s forgiveness-and more. Natalie has made plenty of mistakes in her life, but so has Lane. Could falling for each other again be the worst one yet? Or the path to redemption?

Undeniably Yours

Doesn’t that just make you want to run down to your local store and lasso a copy? And if you want to read about more toe-curling cowboys, here’s a title you have to check out: UNDENIABLY YOURS by Becky Wade. Becky Wade galloped onto the  Christian fiction scene last year with the widely successful MY STUBBORN HEART. She followed that up with the first of her Texas cowboy series (the Porter Family series). Sneak a peek at this fun romance:

When Meg Cole’s father dies unexpectedly, she becomes the majority shareholder of his oil company and the single inheritor of his fortune. Though Meg is soft-spoken and tenderhearted–more interested in art than in oil–she’s forced to return home to Texas and to Whispering Creek Ranch to take up the reins of her father’s empire.

The last thing she has the patience or the sanity to deal with? Her father’s thoroughbred racehorse farm. She gives its manager, Bo Porter, six months to close the place down.

Bo’s determined to resent the woman who’s decided to rob him of his dream. But instead of anger, Meg evokes within him a profound desire to protect. The more time he spends with her, the more he longs to overcome every obstacle that separates them–her wealth, his unworthiness, her family’s outrage–and earn the right to love her.

But just when Meg begins to realize that Bo might be the one thing on the ranch worth keeping, their fragile bond is viciously broken by a force from Meg’s past. Can their love–and their belief that God can work through every circumstance–survive?

Now doesn’t that sound like a book you’d like to rustle up? Can your recommend any toe-curlin’ cowboy novels? If so, I’d love for you to share their titles in the comments below.

Rodeo Regrets

*** Book Giveaway ***

Shannon has generously offered to give away two copies of Rodeo Regrets to readers who comment during this two week series (beginning July 1, 2013). The contest ends on Friday, July 12, 2013 at midnight. Be sure to stop by every day for a rip-roaring good time, and remember, every time you comment, you’ll get another entry in the drawing. Yee-haw!

Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful?

How many of you have ever watched the TLC show, What Not to Wear? I’m a little embarrassed to admit I thoroughly enjoy the show. What the co-hosts, Stacy and Clinton, do is surprise someone who has no fashion / make-up sense with a $5000 shopping spree and a make-over. (Someone like me who can’t fill a pinhead with her fashion and makeup knowledge. Seriously. Now if you want to talk baseball … Well, I digress.)

The catch is, their *victim* must turn over all the clothes in their closet. Now, while this show can be a bit humiliating for the person being targeted, it’s also often an eye-opener for them. It seems that that many of the people spotlighted share a singular issue: low self-esteem or poor body image. And they hide behind their clothes in one way or another.

They don’t see themselves as beautiful. The don’t see themselves as “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Part of the problem is, we live in an image-driven society where exterior “beauty” is lauded. The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch is on record saying that his clothing line intentionally excludes the not-good-looking, the uncool people: Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Explains Why He Hates Fat Chicks. It’s a disturbing article. I can proudly say I’ve never purchased a single item from A&F, and I never will.

Here’s another perspective from a Christian woman on body image: http://www.prodigalmagazine.com/my-wedding-night/. Can anyone else relate?

1 Samuel 16:7b says,

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Are you seeing what God is seeing?

Recently, Dove released an emotional and very telling video that demonstrated women’s self-image issues. I encourage you to take three minutes to watch this:


How many of you see yourself in that video? I’m slowly raising my hand.

Psalm 139: 13-14 says,

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.”

Do you know that full well?

From what or whom do you derive your value? Who do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you truly believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? Do you see a beautiful child of God? Are you seeing yourself through God’s eyes or the worlds’?

Personally, I’m working on it.


If you struggle with self-image, if you have trouble seeing yourself through the eyes of God, here are a couple of reading suggestions:

INVISIBLE by Ginny Yttrup – LOVED this novel. It’s very relatable, so at times it’s not an easy read, but it’s a very important one.

MOM IN THE MIRROR: BODY IMAGE, BEAUTY, & LIFE AFTER PREGNANCY by  Dena Cabrera, Emily T. Wierenga, with a foreward by Emme.

Here’s a song by Jonny Diaz, More Beautiful You, that speaks to who you are in God’s eyes.

Other encouraging music:

Beautiful by Mercy Me

Mirror by Barlow Girl

Beautiful by Bethany Dillon



Wedding On the RocksRose is generously offering not one but TWO copies of Wedding on the Rocks and TWO copies of her previous release Rose of Sharon to readers who comment during the next two weeks and let us know about their most unusual job or a beauty secret and/or mishap. That’s four chances to win a book every time you post here at Inkspirational Messages in the next two weeks.

Contest closes Friday, May 17 at midnight (central time). It is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada only.

Beauty Tips – That I Can Do

Hello, my name is Shannon and I am a lifetime primper. I love makeup. I love big hair. Oh, if only the 80’s big hair would come back. And since Rose’s heroine from Wedding on the Rocks is a beauty advisor, I’m certain we would bond.

From the time I knew what makeup was, around nine years old, I wanted to wear it. And I do. I don’t go anywhere without it. Not even to the mail box and definitely not Walmart.

My love for makeup and big hair sent me to cosmetology school. Oh, was I in my element training to make women beautiful. It would be so glamorous. But, it wasn’t. I ended up with hair in my teeth, my bra, and embedded in the bottom of my foot. You haven’t felt pain until you’ve had a freshly clipped piece of hair stuck in your foot like a splinter. I worked as a hairdresser for ten years and hung up my non-glamorous scissors.

But I still love hair and makeup. Many moons ago, when I was 7 months pregnant and on bed rest with nothing else to do, I watched a Dr. Phil episode. He had a lady on there that never left the house without her makeup. I saw no problem with that. I decided she was insane when Dr. Phil talked her into taking her makeup off–ON NATIONAL TELEVISION!!!!!

I’ve compiled lots of tips over the years–from experience and cosmetology school and you’re getting them free. I usually share these when I’m the speaker at ladies’ retreats. So listen up:

Beauty Tip #1 – Moisturizer doesn’t work on a dry face. Steps: Cleanse your face. Pat water on. Let air dry and apply moisturizer.

Beauty Tip #2 – Always apply moisturizer every morning and every night. Dry skin causes wrinkles. Seal the moisturizer in with foundation.

Beauty Tip #3 – Dry skin = wrinkles. Tanning = dry skin. Don’t tan your face. If you tan the rest of your body and you end up pale-faced, use a bronzer.

Beauty Tip #4 – Eyeliner defines your eyes. Even if you don’t take the time for eyeshadow, line your eyes.

Beauty Tip #5 – Foundation seals moisturizer in. It doesn’t do any good to moisturize if you don’t seal it in.

Beauty Tip #6 – Get your hair trimmed every 6 weeks. Getting rid of split ends maintains a sleek look and keeps hair healthy.

Beauty Tip #7 – Translucent powder smooths and gives the illusion of perfection. After applying makeup, pat with loose translucent powder.

Beauty Tip #8 – Neutral brown or gray shadow looks good with any skin tone.

Beauty Tip #9 – Skin and hair fade as you age. If you color your gray, go about two shades lighter than your used-to-be natural color.

Beauty Tip #10 – Chlorine and sun dry skin and hair. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.

Beauty Tip #11 – Never pull down on the delicate skin underneath the eye. Not to apply makeup or put in contacts. Causes bags.

Beauty Tip #12 – Bangs soften a long forehead.

Beauty Tip #13 – Hair parted down the middle draws attention to your nose. Which is fine, if you have a pretty one.

Beauty Tip #14 – If your jaw is square, wear your hair in a rounded style to soften angles.

Beauty Tip #15 – If your face is round, wear your hair in a blunt, squared style to soften.

Beauty Tip #16 – Test foundation on your wrist for color match.

Beauty Tip #16 – Test foundation on the inside of your wrist for color match.

Beauty Tip #17 – The secret to great eyeshadow: blending.

Beauty Tip #18 – The secret to great blush: blending.

Beauty Tip #19 – Get your eyebrows professionally waxed. Then pluck what grows back in.

Final Beauty Tip #20 – Embrace your age–whatever it is. If you feel good about yourself, you look good.


Rose is generously offering not one but TWO copies of Wedding on the Rocks AND TWO copies of her previous release Rose of Sharon to readers who comment during the next two weeks and let us know about their most unusual job or a beauty secret and/or mishap. That’s 4 chances to win a book every time you comment here at Inkspirational Messages in the next two weeks.

Contest closes Friday, May 17 at midnight (central time). It is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada only.