Camping With Cows

>Last day to enter to win Shari Barr‘s OPERATION: EXCITEMENT!
To enter, see contest rules below<

Camping with cows sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Well, maybe not, but let me explain. I grew up on a dairy farm, and my best friend also grew up on a farm, so cows were always in the background. Summers were super busy with picking rock, harvesting crops, baling hay, and other *fun* farm chores, so we had to grab the free time when we could and camp close to home. That usually meant heading to one of two places: the hayloft or cow pasture.

The hayloft / shed was great for the rainy night. I’d head out there with my sister, my friend, and her younger sisters, munchies and boombox in tow. (No boys allowed!) We’d form a stage out of hay bales and pop in the Grease cassette or 8-track (yes, I know that ages me). Someone would blink a flashlight to create cool stage effects (for a hayloft, the effects were cool!) while others sang and danced.

MP900385381[1]For the non-stormy nights, my sister and I would bike over to our friend’s farm. She’d hook a large wagon onto a tractor, we’d fill the wagon with sleeping bags and blankets and pillows and boomboxes and guitars and munchies (we really roughed it!) and head out to a wooded part of the pasture. After getting a fire started, we’d roast hot dogs and make s’mores, then break out the guitars to serenade the cows.

Oddly enough, few cows visited us in that pasture. Wonder what that says about our music …


What’s your camping story? Tell us about it in the comment section below to get your name in a drawing for Shari Barr’s book Operation: Excitement. The more you comment on any Inksper blog posts dated June 23 – July 4, 2014, the greater your chances of winning. The giveaway ends at midnight on July 4, central time, and is open to continental U. S. residents only.

Operation excitement 1Here’s the blurb to Operation Excitement, featuring three Camp Club Girl’s stories (by Shari Barr, Janice Hanna, and Linda Carlblom) in one book:

Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.

Purchase Operation Excitement online:

Parable | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD

So Not a Camper

We’re celebrating the release of Shari’s Camp Club Girls release, McKenzie’s Oregon Operation included in the 3 in 1 volume, Operation: Excitement!

When I tell people I never went to church camp, they always seem shocked. I guess they assume this preacher’s wife grew up in church. But I didn’t start consistently attending until I was twelve. And our church was very small. Small as in twelve members who were all related to me on my mom’s side or my dad’s. There weren’t any kids my age. There were some younger cousins five and under, but I don’t remember camp ever being mentioned. If our church had sent kids to camp, I wouldn’t have gone. I’m not the rough it type.

Gold Hiking SandalsI’ve always said my idea of camping would be a motor home with electricity, great air conditioning, and plumbing. But I like Dawn’s idea better – a cabin with electricity, great air conditioning, and plumbing. With accommodations like that, I probably wouldn’t go outside. I don’t like bugs, heat, humidity, or critters such as ticks and snakes, and I’m extremely allergic to poison ivy. Camping in a cabin in the fall would be nice.

Last summer, I had my first and only brush with camping when my local writers group, ACFW AR had a retreat at a church camp. We slept in squeaky bunk beds with ladders in the middle of one side and the open side against the wall. We all chose the bottom bunks, but the top might have been better. Crawling out the hole beside the ladder was a bit like crawling out of the birth canal. The showers were and toilets were all in one long room in stalls with shower curtains.

I was completely unprepared and never dreamed we’d go hiking. I brought two pairs of wedge sandals–no tennis shoes. But never one to use my shoes as an excuse, I went on the prayer walk in my gold and rhinestone sandals. It turned out to be a mountain climbing expedition and my shoes became forever known as my hiking boots. Those are the intrepid hikers above: Debbie Sheetrum, Rosie Baldwin, Ann McCauley, and me.

This year, our writers group found a Bed & Breakfast used for Christian retreats. Talk about accommodations. Technically, it couldn’t beRustic Retreat called camping, but it was my idea of camping. Nice beds, rustic decor, and very comfy with two bathrooms. The mosquitoes were thick, so I didn’t step outside except when I arrived and when I left. I don’t like the smell of Off. They need to come up with a perfume scented version. I told you, I don’t rough it.

Comment or share your camp experience to enter the drawing for a copy of Operation: Excitement!

Operation Excitement!Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.


Surviving Camp

Summer time. A time for mosquitoes, sunburns, and camp. Today Lorna is out at our church camp, Nebraska Youth Camp in Kearney, Nebraska, serving as a bible teacher, so it is my great pleasure to introduce Shari Barr’s new Camp Club Girls, Operation Excitement! book. In honor of Operation Excitement’s release, we are sharing our camping stories with you.

My idea of camping is a log cabin in the woods with electricity, running water, and inside latrines. Since I never went to camp as a kid, here’s my top 10 tips on how to survive camp from a non-camper’s perspective. (The picture of me was the one time I went to camp to get it ready for the campers, so I HAVE camped, I just don’t like to camp.)

Dawn at camp1. Always take the low bunk. Unless the last one to choose bunks is a girl named Big Bertha. You may want to be magnanimous and take the top bunk instead.

2. Camp mattresses are not Posturepedic. Unless you are a rich kid going to a ritzy camp, which may exist but I’m doubtful it does.  Otherwise plan to bring an extra blanket to sleep on.

3. People CAN tell when you don’t shower. Be kind, lather and shine. (No that doesn’t rhyme, but I’m not a poet, just a spectator whose sense of smell is in perfect, working order.)

4. Do not pack heavy. A common sense tip, however Lorna can tell you I don’t pack light. Ever. There really is only so much room to spread out before your camp buddies start talking revenge.

5. New shoes should never be broken in the same day you go hiking. Unless you like blisters, which I do not. Wear them around for about a week before you take them to camp. Your feet will thank you.

6. The outdoors has lots of bugs and crawly things. If you’re squeamish, don’t bunk with me. Someone has to be brave enough to kill the spiders, and that just isn’t going to be me.

7. Don’t get lost. This may sound simple, but I’ve learned the hard way moss grows on all sides of the trees, and I can get lost in my own back yard if the circumstances are right.

8. Always bring ample socks and underwear. Trust me on this one.

9. Don’t forget to bring a flashlight. That said, don’t forget the batteries for your trusty flashlight. For those of you city slickers, there are no lights (save lightening bugs and moonlight) in the wild. You might find the smooth path you take during the day becoming an obstacle course at night, and it doubles as a weapon when the dark begins to make you ninja paranoid.

10. Booby traps are your best security while sleeping. Especially if you go to bed early and others in your cabin don’t, and you know they’re fond of practical jokes.

Operation excitement 1

What’s your camp story? Tell us about it in the comment section below to get your name in a drawing for Shari’s book Operation: ExcitementThe more you comment on any Inksper blog post dated June 23 – July 4, 2014, the greater your chances of winning. The giveaway ends at midnight on July 4, central time, and is open to continental U. S. residents only.

Here’s the blurb to Shari’s book, Operation Excitement, featuring three Camp Club Girl’s stories in one book:
Join the Camp Club Girls on a series of clue-filled adventures and cheer them on as they crack the case in this entertaining 3-in-1 story collection. Whether the Camp Club Girls are vanquishing vermin in Vermont, searching for stolen sea lion pups on the Oregon Coast, or investigating peculiar elk stampedes in Estes Park, you’ll encounter six charming characters who combine their mystery-solving skills to save the day.

Here’s where you can buy it online: Operation Excitement!

Little Wooden Crosses

On Palm Sunday weekend we did quite a bit of traveling. Over the course of two days, I noticed several small wooden crosses as we drove along the highways. I knew that someone had died at that exact spot and the victim’s loved ones had erected these simple memorials to commemorate the life of the one who had passed. I can only imagine the devastation these families feel every time they drive by.

These roadside memorials got me to thinking about the One who died upon a cross and the devastation the disciples must have felt when they watched their God die a horrendous death. They were meant to follow Him and now their Lord, leader, and friend was gone—crucified.

Though they must have been horrified, afraid, and alone, they surely remembered the words Jesus had spoken earlier at Lazarus’ tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV.

Jesus’s death and resurrection is a sign of hope for all who believe. He died for us so that we may live with Him eternally in heaven.

Easter is like those little wooden crosses—reminders that if our faith is in Christ, death is not the end. It is the beginning.


Breaks, Belief, and Beginning Again

When the Inkspers first decided to add a new category to our blog, I was a little ashamed. A “Slice of Life” is supposed to inform our readers of what’s going on in our writer’s world, and who doesn’t want to share publishing news, signing a contract, or completing the rough draft of a much anticipated novel?

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit it, but the problem with this is that for the past couple of years I’ve done little writing, except for our blog. I rarely put my fingers to the keyboard and at times didn’t even want to think about writing, and for me, that is very weird. I began to wonder if God was taking away my passion for writing.

During this hiatus though, I’ve learned something about myself, writing, and God. Sometimes the good Lord puts obstacles in our paths in order to lead us to where He wants us to go. It’s okay to take a detour or a break–even an extended one.

For the past few years, I’ve had a basic premise for a novel for women—just a tad different than my previous books for middle grade girls. Well, anyway, I knew my main characters for my novel, the voice of my heroine, general plot, setting and time period. But the novel just wouldn’t come together in my mind. No matter how hard I tried, various subplot ideas fell flat. Nothing would gel.

I considered working on other projects (I have a ton of ideas floating around in my head and in note books) but I simply could not focus on any other writing project. If I couldn’t write that particular novel, I didn’t want to write anything. So I didn’t.

After feeling guilty about not writing, finally God thumped me on the head and I realized this was exactly where He wanted me. The novel wasn’t materializing because I wasn’t ready. When I gave it all to Him, the plot finally began to come together, and I do believe I like it.

Yes, the writing has begun again-though slowly. It’s a little early in the game to divulge a whole lot about it, but I will say it is World War II era. Much of the research is done and I really do believe God is telling me something.

It is time.



Enter our WE’RE BAAAAAAACK Giveaway!

Win not one, but FIVE books! In honor of our blog re-launch, the Inkspers are giving away copies of their books. You can win all five of the books below by leaving a comment.  Every time you leave one, 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 at midnight and the winner will be posted here on Saturday.

Prize Package includes:

Rodeo Song by Shannon Vannatter

Chain of Mercy by Brenda Anderson (book release April 22)

The Widow’s Suitor by Rose Zediker

The Prodigal Daughter by Linda Fulkerson

When Love Calls by Lorna Seilstad (book release May 1)

The Christmas Star

All my life I’ve been fascinated by the stars in the nighttime sky. As a little girl I often searched the heavens for the star that led the Wise Men to the baby Jesus over two thousand years ago, wondering if I could still see it.

I imagined walking over hills and valleys following the bright star that would lead me to Him.  I really wanted to go on that journey with the Star of the East as my guide. How cool that would have been to walk into the manger and see the newborn King.

If I could trade places with anyone or anything in the nativity, I would choose the star. It had such an amazing job. Filled with God’s light, the star showed up just when the Magi needed it to lead them to Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus. It doesn’t get much better than that.

How many times have I wished a “light” would show me the way when I have a tough decision to make. Or, when someone comes to me for advice and I don’t have a clue as how to help? Wouldn’t it make life so much simpler if a bright light could point me in the right direction?

Maybe I don’t have the Star of the East to guide me like the Wise Men did, but I definitely have a different kind of star to light my way. Following our King is the greatest light possible. I shouldn’t need a reminder to do that, but for some reason it’s not that easy for me. Unfortunately I need a smack in the head more times than I care to admit.

If I could remember to follow Him always, maybe I could come a little closer to becoming the light that God wants for all Christians.   

Writing Therapy

lastone-therapy-24896392[1]Writing has always been sort of a therapy for me, whether it’s writing fiction or non-fiction. Spilling my emotions through words can put me in a whole new frame of mind. It can energize me, let me escape from everyday problems, or just help put life in perspective—depending on the day. In other words it’s just plain healthy.

Some people run marathons as therapy (though I can only view that as inflicting cruel and unusual punishment upon oneself), some become workaholics, and others—like me—write. Writing with the hope that I might help others is rewarding, especially when readers send comments. It makes me realize that God gave purpose to my writing—that it’s not all about me. Even if I don’t share my writing, it helps bring me closer to God, bringing me one step closer to becoming who He wants me to be.

And for that I am thankful.


We’re giving away a copy of Rose Ross Zediker’s current release, Wedding on the Rocks, to one lucky winner. The deadline runs until November 30, 2013. All you need to do is leave a comment.


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.




Winter Wiener Roast

campfire-burning-nighttime-954241[1]Winter is just around the corner and with it comes a whole new set of jobs on the farm. Like cutting down dead trees and shrubs around the fields and waiting for a calm day to set it all on fire.

I guess I should set the record straight to clear up any confusion. This really isn’t my job but my husband’s. My job when the kids were small was to get the fixin’s ready for the world’s largest wiener roast.

Years ago when my husband came to the door one cold winter brush burning day and asked if I had any hotdogs, I thought he was crazy. A wiener roast in this weather? With two young kids? I was thinking maybe he could roast them and bring them to the house for us to eat in the warmth of the kitchen. But his idea was better.

We hurried into our insulated coveralls, hats, boots, and gloves and crammed into the pickup beside him, a picnic basket wedged between my feet. We bounced across the snowy field in the early dusk, following the orange glow in the distance. After arriving at the bonfire, we clambered out and set up kitchen on the tailgate.

The humongous fire had been burning all day, so by the time we arrived it had burned down enough that my husband and I could find a spot glowing with red coals, perfect for roasting hotdogs. After supper was served, we settled onto our upside down 5-gallon buckets to dine in the warmth of the fire. Of course, we followed up with a dessert of roasted marshmallows.

Soon our faces were hot so we turned our backs to the fire but then our fingers were cold and sticky from marshmallow goo, so we turned back around. As darkness fell we gathered our supplies and crawled back into the pickup, cranking the heat up before heading for home.

For several years our winter wiener roast became tradition, an activity we all looked forward to. But sooner than I wanted, we outgrew our annual trek to the roaring bonfire. Kids and wiener roasts only go together for so long. Burning brush is now simply that and nothing more.

Though our winter wiener roast may be a thing of the past, we’re making many new memories to take its place.

Do you have a favorite memory from way back when (or maybe not so far back) that you’d like to share?


We’re celebrating the release of Shannon’s latest title, Rodeo Queen for the next two weeks. Shannon is giving away 2 print copies. All comments will go into a drawing. Deadline: Nov 16, 11:59 pm central time.


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?


Books Down Memory Lane

Many authors have impacted my life over the years, but the ones I remember most were the writers of my favorite children’s books. Reading was a huge part of my childhood. I absolutely loved to read. I even read the backs of cereal boxes while eating breakfast. During summer break, Mom took me to our tiny town library to get a two-weeks supply of books to keep me from serenading her everyday with the “I’m bored” chorus. Without fail the pile was depleted two to three days later, or less. So much for Mom’s great plan.

The books I remember most were those from my middle-grade years. I suppose those meatier stories hooked me from the very beginning. So much more fun than easy readers.

One of my all-time favori31hIw9e51YL._AA160_[1]tes was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I really, really wanted a peach tree in our backyard that year. Who knew a kid could have that much fun with a piece of fruit.

51TZTMVzH1L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_[1]I also loved series. In early middle grade Laura Lee Hope (a pseudonym for several different authors) created the Bobbsey Twins series. I couldn’t wait to see what adventures and mysteries the two sets of twins would get into next.

While we’re on the topic of series, Nancy Drew (written by several authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene) was my absolute hidden staircasefavorite fictitious teenager. I would have given just about anything to trade places with her for just one day. I was jealous of her, extremely so. She had it all. Little parental supervision, mysteries for her to solve appearing out of nowhere, and a boyfriend who only showed up when she wanted him to. Life couldn’t get any better.

51QLIpmhavL._SL500_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_[1]Since I absolutely adored mysteries I can’t forget to mention my favorite one from way back when—Mystery of the Red Carnations by Mary C. Jane. The author created the most realistic, exciting book I’d ever read in my pre-teen years. This was a book I simply could not put down. In fact, I still read it once in a while and it’s just as good now. Ms. Jane lured me into her story with normal, everyday characters. I could relate to the fact that nothing exciting ever happened in their boring little town. Except those lucky ducks did have something exciting happen. Every October a bouquet of red carnations mysteriously appeared on the grave of a young man known only as XYZ.  Ooh, I can still feel the shivers.

These awesome authors, as well as many others, lured me into the wonderful world of books, showing me how to keep a reader interested and reading until the very last page. Without them—well, I’d still be reading cereal boxes.

A Time for Harvest

combineDo you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)

Harvest is my favorite time of year. The growing season is over and the crops have changed from green to a golden brown. As my husband drives the combine, I sit beside him watching him bring in the corn and soybeans. Another harvest is well under way.

Just as we prayed for rain and sunshine at all the right times this last spring and summer, we pray for good weather now to complete the harvest. An early snow or late season storm is every farmer’s worst nightmare. With every truckload of soybeans hauled to market and every bin filled with corn, we breathe a sigh of relief.

But the farmer doesn’t quit until every field is harvested. His job is only complete after all his crops are safe.

God feels the same way about His children. He wants to keep them safe and sound. He never gives up on them until they’re safe in His arms. Like  a farmer brings in the crops, God expects us to bring others to Christ. Passing up on an opportunity to share God’s love might be too late sometimes. We don’t always have a second chance. Like a storm wreaks havoc on a farmer’s field, God’s heart is broken if His children never come to know Him. As Christians, it is our job to bring non-believers into God’s kingdom.   

There is no time to wait.