Life Outside the Pages

These stories are about my everyday life, which can be as ridiculous from time to time as anyone else's.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Thanks to the Oakwood Register!

    For printing this article on the front page of today’s newspaper! Excellent timing, as “Mary’s Calico Hope” released today for Kindle! It comes out in print on June 1 – just in case you were wondering.

    This is the weekly independent newspaper in the town where I grew up, just south of Dayton, Ohio!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Those who can’t: Collect!

    I have a little problem; I rescue afghans from thrift stores.

    Not Afghan Hounds…though they are very pretty! But I don’t think my house could hold very many of them; they’re biggish.

    I’m talking about small blankets made for cuddling under on the couch while reading a book or watching television. Traditionally made of wool, they now come in more affordable options, such as acrylic and cotton. The debate rages on about which is better when it comes to making afghans: knitting or crocheting. I say either produces a cozy throw you can snuggle under while enjoying some down time.

    I can’t stand to see a pretty one in a thrift store. This may be because I have never made one, so am somewhat in awe of the time and skill it takes to do so.

    In a household with two people and one undersized sofa, how many of these things do you need?

    So I regularly resolve not to buy any more; but then inevitably I find myself standing in a thrift store, gazing in wonder and, yes, pity at a gorgeous, discarded piece of handmade folk art.

    I imagine the time and effort that went into creating each lovely throw, and wonder why it ended up tossed into the donation bag.

    The time consideration, and even the cost of materials, is daunting. But it’s the love that goes into making an afghan that gets me right in the feels. I look at a colorful, intricately-designed little blanket and picture some old auntie or grandma – or hey, a devoted granddad or papa – spending many a winter’s evening, yarn running over her fingers, cat grabbing the ends by her feet, as she creates a cozy bit of comfort for someone she loves.

    How does such a thing get tossed away?

    Maybe there are just too many of them. A prolific crocheter could make a couple dozen a year. I suppose after a while, all her loved-ones are up to their eyeballs in afghans.

    Or maybe the gift went to someone who just isn’t into country kitsch in the first place and it quickly found its way to Goodwill.

    Or maybe the creative lady in question just kept making them as personal therapy long after all her friends, relatives and church charities had all the throws they could use. So she hoarded them lovingly in boxes and bags and bins until she died. Imagine the treasure trove someone discovered upon cleaning out her home! I am grateful that her heirs donated them instead of simply tossing them in a dumpster.

    I have one my grandmother made for my wedding, nearly 40 years ago. It was fashioned from cream yarn, knitted with intricate Swiss dots and cross-hatching in the pattern. I used and displayed it for many years, but now it is old and yellowed. Of course, I’ll never discard it; I wonder if I could dye it a lovely sage green to give it a new lease on life?

    So, back to me standing in the thrift store looking at another beautiful bit of discarded folk art. You know I’m buying it, right?

    Just last weekend I added to my collection. I was at a lovely Christian thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio, when the colorful geometric blanket complete with fringes caught my eye.

    I picked it up and examined it, expecting stains or holes. Nope. It was perfect. I took it up front and asked the price, thinking it had to be at least $50.

    The two young Mennonite women manning the counter looked at each other questioningly. “No price tag?” one asked. I shook my head. They consulted silently again, and the other turned to me and said, “It’ll be $4.”

    I hope my mouth didn’t drop open. “Sold” I said, placing it on the counter.

    And I brought it home, where it will be appreciated and loved for another generation.

    If I get too many, I guess I could rehome them like one does with kittens and doggies.

    But for now, I’ll cherish each one, and wonder who made them and to whom they were originally given.

    I hope they know their art is appreciated and cherished. As one who can’t (or doesn’t have time to lean, honestly) create these handstitched works of art, I’ll collect them! And no apologies.

    Aren’t the giant, blue corner tassles fun?
    My newest “rescue”, from the thrift store in Strasburg, Ohio.
    So cozy! And it pairs well with the ginger cat pillow my son gave me for Christmas!
    The work that went into this piece of art steals my breath! Who made it? Where? When? Why did it end up discarded? I’ll never know, but I love it as if it had been given to me by a favorite friend.
    I simply couldn’t leave this nuanced blue beauty behind when I discovered it in an area Goodwill!
  • Life Outside the Pages

    And the winner is….

    Congratulations to the winner of the Name the Cinnamon Roll Dog Toy Contest! The winner’s name is announced in the video!

    Her name will become a character name in my third “Heart of the Amish” book, “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, which will release from Barbour Publishing next winter.

    And it occurs to me that some of the other sweet suggestions from readers might make really fun names for baked goods in Lizzie’s bakery! So don’t be surprised to see your suggestion for a name turned into a yummy baked good! Thanks to everyone who entered. And if you haven’t signed up for my monthly newsletter yet, you can do that on this website! Or by messaging me on Facebook.

    Cinnamon Roll

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Could You Let Your Dog Eat This Cutie?

    Millie

    Short story long…

    I have a rescue poodle named Millie. She’s a big (around 65 pounds), happy girl who started life making puppies for a living, and is now spending all her time hanging out with me (I take her to the newspaper every day, where she shares the job of official greeter with our cat, Arthur), figuring out ways to get treats, and playing with a ridiculous variety of toys.

    I subscribe to one of those monthly boxes of doggie toys and treats – don’t judge me; my kids are raised and I don’t spend my extra money on vices for myself. Well, not all of it! Does chocolate count? I don’t think chocolate counts.

    Anyway, each month when the box arrives, it’s hard to tell who is more excited, me or Millie. Well, last month, one of the toys that arrived was just way too cute to become a chew toy. Plus, it really seemed to fit in with my Amish romance writing vibe.

    So I liberated it. Now it’s going to be an inspiration for my writing. I mean, look at it! A cinnamon roll, with a happy, smiling face! How could I let Millie, much as I love her, chew the little cutie up?

    So now that I’ve rescued the bun from the rescue dog, it needs a name. I decided to come to you guys to help me choose one!

    Let’s have a little contest. Give me your ideas, and at the end of March I’ll hold a random drawing to choose the new name for my tasty-looking little friend. Please go to my Facebook page, and suggest a name or two.

    The person who submits the winning name will get their own first name in my next book!
    Your name will become a minor character name in my next “Heart of the Amish” story, “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, which will release from Barbour next winter. You can tell everybody that character is named after you!

    So start brainstorming those names! You can submit more than one, but don’t inundate me, please. 😉Obviously, keep them family friendly. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Area Writers to be Featured at Author Event

    The 2023 authors who will be at Writers at the Crossroads March 23 : Alex Erickson, Jacob Paul Patchen, Megan Slayer, J. Paulette Forshey, Beverly Kerr, Bev Justice, back, Jane B. Night, Mike Ghere, J.L. Enger, Susan Gee Heino, Clayton Etter, Saralee Etter and Anne Blackburne

    Writers at the Crossroads has become the place for authors to read and display their latest creations. This year’s event takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 23, at Crossroads Library, 63500 Byesville Rd., Cambridge.

    Fifteen years ago, Crossroads Library was searching for a way to bring more adults to the library. That first year, local authors were given five minutes to read either a section from a book they had written or a short story. It drew a small crowd and was the beginning of a lasting friendship between the library and local readers.

    Cambridge Writers has been instrumental in organizing this event along with the cooperation of the library. This writing group, led by J. Paulette Forshey and Cindy Stonebrook, welcomes all writers to their meetings every Wednesday at noon in Crossroads Library. They provide information on ways to improve your writing skills, and give encouragement.

    Over the years, Writers at the Crossroads has grown and now features well-known authors from not only Ohio, but Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Every author has a table to set up their display of books, which are for sale.

    The event will end with a raffle of items donated by many of the authors and area businesses. All proceeds from the raffle are given to the library to use in their children’s program. So far, the group has donated more than $3,000.

    This article originally appeared on The Daily Jeffersonian: Showcase of authors planned at Crossroads Library on March 23

  • Life Outside the Pages

    I’ve Got a Newsletter!

    I officially launched my very first author newsletter this week, and I think it’s not half bad!

    Looking around, I realized most my fellow authors have such a thing. I thought, meh, I’ll do that when I actually have a book published! Who wants a newsletter from someone who really has no news?

    But now that “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” has been out for nearly three months (and on the Amazon bestseller list most of that time!) and “Mary’s Calico Hope” is set to release June 1, I figured I couldn’t dodge the newsletter responsibility any longer.

    Plus, my fabulous tech genius bro-in-law, Phil, told me if we didn’t launch a newsletter pronto, I was going to lose my domain on Mail Chimp. Well, I couldn’t let that happen, right?

    So, the thing is done. If you’re one of the 91 people who have asked to be included, you should have received the newsletter (which I’m planning on publishing monthly) this past weekend.

    If not, please feel free to PM me on Facebook at Anne Blackburne. Give me your name and email, and I’ll see that you are added to the list to receive my next newsletter in March.

    I’m having fun with this writing journey! I hope you’re having fun traveling along with me.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Winner of a Ginger Snap Original Painting!

    I am a major procrastinator. I apologize to all the people who came to my book signing for “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” at Bookology a few weeks ago, and signed up to win this painting I did of Ginger Snap. All the people whose names I collected will eventually receive my newsletter; I say eventually, because I still don’t have a newsletter! One thing at a time, right?

    We had a marvelous turnout that day, despite frigid temperatures and fresh snow in the morning. So many friends, old and new, braved the weather to come to Bookology in Cambridge to say hello. Many of you purchased a copy of my book, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise”. It was a wonderful day. You all made me feel so very, very special and blessed!

    So now, without further delay, I’ll announce the winner (chosen at random by my daughter using the old-fashioned pick-a-number-any-number method) of this painting! Drum roll please! And the winner is — well, ARE, in this case — Les and Betty Hoffmann! I’ll email you and you can give me your mailing address so I can send you your painting. Thank you so much for coming out to support me in the cold!

    As you may be aware, the next book in the Heart of the Amish series, “The Quilt Room Secret”, by Lisa Jones Baker, is on shelves now. And on or around April 1, the fourth book in the Heart of the Amish series from Barbour Publishing, Mindy Steele’s “Courting an Amish Bishop”, will be out. (Mindy also had book one, “The Flower Quilter”, which I absolutely loved. I want to make my own flower quilt now!)

    After that, it’s only a little while until my next book, “Mary’s Calico Hope”, book five in the Barbour series, will release on May 15 in e-books and on June 1 in print! Here is something else you may not know. The story takes place in the same story world as Ruth’s story! In fact, if you read my first book, you met Mary Yoder. She works for Ruth’s love, Jonas, in his basket shop, and uses crutches to help her walk due to a childhood accident.

    And here is more exciting news! Around this time next year, I’ll have a third story in that story world, which I’m calling my Willow Creek Amish world, even though it is part of Barbour’s Heart of the Amish. Are you confused? I hope not! I signed a contract a couple weeks ago to write “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, about Elizabeth Miller, whom you met in Ruth’s story (she got the little gray kitten from Lydia Coblentz), and who you’ll see again in Mary’s story. I’m pretty excited! I’ll tell you more about Lizzie another day. For now, it’s Mary’s turn.

    Soon I’ll start telling you all about Mary Yoder, and her wishes and her fears. But today is for celebration! Congratulations again, Les and Betty Hoffman!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Happy Ground Hog Day!

    It’s Ground Hog Day! My Favorite Holiday of the Year

    If you follow such things, you’ll know that the fat, furry rodent didn’t see his shadow this morning, so we’re due for an early spring.

    Intellectually I know it’s only February, and we can reasonably expect wintery weather for up to two more months.

    But to me, Groundhog Day is the first day of spring, because it represents the hope of the end of winter. I’m not overly fond of winter, so Groundhog Day ranks right up there with my favorite holidays.

    Even if old Buckeye Chuck had seen his shadow this morning up in Marion, Ohio, thus forecasting another six weeks of winter, it wouldn’t matter. It’ll be over soon enough, and we can get down to some serious complaining about the summer heat!

    The legend of the groundhog predicting winter’s end comes from an old German belief that if a hibernating animal sees its shadow on February 2, winter will last six more weeks. We in the eastern part of this country have simply refined that to specify the groundhog – also called woodchucks and whistle pigs in other parts of the country. Guess groundhogs are easier to handle than bears.

    And I hate to burst your bubble, but I recently read that Punxsutawney Phil’s whole routine is a set-up. That famous groundhog doesn’t even make the annual prediction attributed to him. A bunch of guys in tuxedos and top hats called the Inner Circle do it for him – ahead of time! And if they’re wrong, well, they get off the hook by claiming in Jimmy Buffet style that it’s six more weeks of winter somewhere!

    But all of this is easily ignored in my blissful contemplation of the warm days ahead. I can even forgive my neighborhood groundhogs for eating my Zinnias and Sunflowers every summer. The Dahlias were hard to forgive, but I’m working on it!

    Happy First Day of Spring!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    What’s Next in Amish Romance from Anne Blackburne?

    It’s an exciting time to be me! After 35 years of trying to achieve my goal of becoming a published author, anyone who reads this blog knows my dream became reality in December.

    “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” released on December 1. This is the second book in Barbour Publishing’s new Amish romance series, “The Heart of the Amish”, featuring three authors, of which I’m one!

    What an honor to be included in a series that also includes well-known authors Mindy Steele and Lisa Jones Baker!


    Mindy’s book, “The Flower Quilter” released first in September. And Lisa’s book releases officially February 1.

    My second book in the series, “Mary’s Calico Hope“, which focuses on Mary Yoder, who was introduced in “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise“, will release on June 1.

    Mindy’s second book, “Courting an Amish Bishop“, releases in April.


    And my wonderful literary agent, Tamela, just told me I’ll be getting a contract for a third book in the series this week! I’m on Cloud Nine! That book is tentatively titled “Lizzie’s Little Mouse”, and features another character introduced in my first book. Lizzie has a little gray kitten she named Little Mouse. Her dream is to own a bakery; but not just any bakery – ever since she visited New Orleans, she has dreamed of opening up a French bakery in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country! This will be her story. I’m not sure when it will be released. More on that as I find out more!


    In September, my first novella (a story that is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel) releases from Barbour in a collection called, “A Lancaster Amish Christmas“. This book features four authors of Amish romance, and I am definitely the rookie of the group!

    The other three authors are Amy Clipston, Amy Lillard, and Mindy Steele. I’m thrilled to be included in the collection with these three beloved authors of Amish romance.

    My story is about Lucy, who is raising her tiny little sister, Millie. Their mother died in childbirth, and Lucy is determined to give Millie the very best life she can, despite some disapproval from people who don’t think a single woman should be raising a child by herself. More on this story as we get closer to the release date!


    So that’s what’s next for me. I’m done with the first draft of my novella, tentatively titled “Christmas Sunbeam”. I’m proofreading and cutting words right now. Do you know what they call it when an author is over her word count and has to cut a lot of words from her document?

    They call it killing your darlings! And it’s truly hard. But I’ll say this; I learned in the newspaper business that pretty much any time you edit down your word count, your story ends up being tighter and overall better for it. This book is due to the publisher on Valentine’s Day. And it’s a work of love, so that is quite appropriate!

    If you haven’t read Ruth’s story yet, it’s available on Amazon.com, and wherever fine books are sold! If you have read it and loved it, please leave me a review on Amazon.com, Goodreads, Barbour.com, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, or anywhere else you like. It doesn’t need to be long or complex. A simple, “I read it and I loved it!” will do the trick.

    Thanks so much for being here!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Newspaper Editor Moonlights as Amish Romance Author

    By Lisa McDonald Loos

    (Note: This article recently appeared in the newspaper I work for in SE Ohio. It was fun seeing a story about my book in my town’s weekly paper!)

    I knew I was going to love “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” based solely on the action in the first sentence of the book – an Amish woman is hanging laundry on a clothesline!

    Amish clotheslines are a little obsession I have. I’ve taken a couple dozen photographs of them over the past decade on trips to Amish communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I would rather take clothesline pictures than shop! I enjoy seeing the colored dresses in contrast to the black pants waving on long lines that stretch from large farmhouses to larger barns.

    One of my Amish clothesline photographs appears on the Anne Blackburne website, and also her Facebook page.

    Laundry on a clothesline sets the scene for this Amish romance by your newspaper editor who has chosen to professionally write under the pseudonym Anne Blackburne. Blackburne is Anne’s middle name and her maternal grandmother’s maiden name.

    The protagonist in the novel is Ruth, a childless widow with an entrepreneurial spirit. She meets a middle-aged basket maker Jonas, who is a single father.

    An unexpected marriage proposal, lots of prayer, an adversary, and a blizzard provide some twists and turns through the book along with lots of fellowship, saving a family farm and naming felines.

    A surprise for this reader is realization that a couple of the characters in the book are real-life friends of the author.

    There’s another surprise at the end – an assortment of yummy recipes!

    “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is Anne’s debut novel. It is Book Two in Barbour Publishing’s new series, Heart of the Amish.

    Barbour contracted with three authors for two books each.

    The other two authors are Mindy Steele and Lisa Jones Baker, who have had several previous books published.

    “I think it has helped me to be associated with other, already popular authors,” Anne said.

    Anne’s second book in the series, “Mary’s Calico Hope,” will be published on June 1, 2024.

    “I’ve always been a writer, going back to my elementary school days,” said Anne. “It was in my mid-20s that it occurred to me that I might be able to become a published author.”

    Anne started writing a children’s book series about three 12-year-old girls who formed a pet-sitting business. She queried literary agents and found one in New York who was encouraging about the series. “But it wasn’t long before she got back to me with the unfortunate news that someone else had the same idea, and beat me to the publishers.”

    Over the years, Anne said she came up with other ideas and wrote other manuscripts ranging from middle readers to mysteries to romances. She penned a satirical book called “Lying Letters to Aunt Louise” based on Christmas letters people send bragging about the accomplishments of their relatives. Anne said she had a blast writing it but it did not sell.

    “I read that the average first-time, traditionally-published author spends 10,000 hours practicing their craft before getting that first sale. That would be about right for me,” she said.

    So how did she finally get published?

    A while ago, Anne entered a contest through the Romance Writers of America and won. The prize was the opportunity to work with a mentor – a professional, published author who helped her polish her manuscript over about a year’s time.

    She also learned the ins and outs of querying and submitting to agents and publishers. It wasn’t long after Anne queried her manuscript that one of those agents signed her.

    “This is really unusual. It can take months to hear back from an agent, just to get a rejection,” said Anne. “I was over the moon.”

    Then, within a few months, Anne’s agent sold the book to Barbour Publishing.

    All of those rejection letters finally added up to an acceptance. It took her about 35 years while raising five children to get that sale.

    Anne said she may be more of a “pantser” than a “plotter” when writing. She’s a fast writer with a good idea of where a story is going when writing. She said it took her about three months to write “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise.”

    “I enjoy discovering what happens to the characters along the way, rather than having every little point plotted out ahead of time,” she said.

    Anne is currently working on a novella to be published in an anthology with three other authors this fall. The book is titled “A Lancaster Amish Christmas” and her story in the book is called “Lucy’s Christmas Sunbeam.”