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

    Battling the Washing Machine!

    What could go wrong when using a brand new washer and dryer for the first time? Read on!

    Life is about more than books – sometimes it’s about new appliances and doing righteous battle!

    Here’s a story about that. I haven’t bothered to change the names, because I’m the criminal and the name was mine! (Criminally ignorant, that is.) So there is nobody innocent to protect!

    For the past 18 months, my home has been a construction zone as an underused, former TV room was turned into a half-bath/laundry room.

    I could bore you with tales of hard-to-get plumbers and handymen, fluctuating funding, etc. But I’ll fast forward to this past month, when the whole project seemed to be nearing completion.

    My toilet was installed in time for Thanksgiving. With family in town, this, alone, was very exciting! The sink went in the next week due to the fact that I didn’t realize it didn’t come with a faucet. Oops.

    Then there was another delay when the faucet I ordered came with a broken drain, and water seeped across my floor.

    Finally, the stackable washer and dryer that has been sitting in the room for more than a year, blocking the view out my back window, was installed and proclaimed ready to use!

    I have this odd aversion to using new appliances. Seriously, I usually place a new appliance on my kitchen counter and eye it with suspicion for weeks or months before trying it out. I have no excuse.

    But with the old washer and dryer disconnected in the basement I had no choice but to try out the new set a mere week after it was proclaimed ready to go – crazy fast for me.

    My basket of dirty laundry sat on the floor next to the unit, and I opened the lid of the machine with great optimism; only to be greeted by the sight of a foot-thick wedge of Styrofoam blocking my way.

    Hmm, I guess my guy didn’t look inside before calling it done. Or maybe he was just smart enough to think, “Nah”, and quietly close it before driving away. Who could blame him?

    I could not budge it, and resolved myself to having to saw it out of there. But with what? Rejecting manly tools that I didn’t think I could fit into the space, I went to work with my serrated bread knife. It took about 15 minutes of hard labor, but finally I had the thing out.

    Inside the drum were the water hoses my guy couldn’t find – cleverly hidden indeed! I felt like I do when I’m washing out the Thanksgiving turkey and dig out the baggie of innards from the chest cavity.

    I’m telling you, this new appliance thing it NOT for the faint of heart!

    After a hot-chocolate break, I returned with the shop vac and sucked out all the little Styrofoam pellets. Then it was time to load in the clothes and laundry soap and figure out the dials and buttons.

    Smugly I thought, yeah. I’ve got this.

    Finally the machine was running! And then it was thumping. And squealing. And jumping and running into the wall behind it, gouging the new drywall and paint! The dog was barking and my daughter was calling for help.

    I turned it off. I scratched my head. I looked down. What was that red caution sticker down low on the machine near the wall? I squatted down for a look – “Remove packing rod before use!!!”

    Oh-oh. I jockeyed the machine around a bit so I could remove the sticker over a piece of protruding metal I hadn’t noticed before, and then pulled the metal out – and out – and out! It was a couple feet long!

    Offering up a prayer that in my ignorance I hadn’t destroyed my brand new washing machine, I tried again. It ran nice and smooth, with no imitation of a bucking bronc fighting off a cougar.

    Thank you, God!

    Now if I can just get my lights installed, hang up the towel bars and toilet paper holder, and maybe some curtains so I don’t have to use my wonderful new room in the dark, I’ll be ready to call the job done! (Well, after I patch the drywall and repaint, that is!)

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Celebrate Lit Tour for Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise!

    December 9 – 22, Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise will be on a “virtual” tour with Celebrate Lit! Each day during this time, one or more blogger will post about my book. I’ll share the blog posts the following day. There is also a fun giveaway. Check it out!

    To celebrate my tour, I’m giving away the grand prize package of a print copy of the book and a $25 Amazon eGift card!!

    Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

    The first blogger celebrating “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is Vicky Sluiter. Here is what she has to say!

    About the Book

    Book: Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise

    Author: Anne Blackburne

    Genre: Amish/Christian Fiction

    Release Date: December, 2023

    Ruth Defies Authority to Hold on to her Family Farm
    Full of faith, hope, and romance, this new series takes you into the Heart of Amish country.

    Ruth Helmuth has never been rude in her life; trust her to choose the bishop of her Amish community for her first time!

    Ruth has worked hard to keep body and soul together since her husband, Levi’s, death. She tends her herd of goats, making her living from the milk and fiber she gets from them, all while running a farm and household by herself—and very competently, thank you! How could she imagine the bishop suggesting she should give it all up to another family, who will “make better use of the space”?

    Enter widower Jonas Hershberger, owner of a pair of adorable dimples and father of a charming 4-year-old daughter. Jonas is in need of a larger place to house his growing business. Ruth’s big red barn may be just the ticket. Little Abigail is in need of a new mother. Ruth might be just the ticket there, too!

    Can two independent souls learn to work together for their mutual good? And will they be willing to explore what grows between them?  Or will Ruth’s fear over her “big secret” and Jonas’s caution about allowing someone new to get close to his young daughter, kill their love before it has a chance to grow?

    Luckily for both of them, God’s plan involves the stubborn pair getting a little help in the form of a wise, elderly friend; a quirky orange kitten; and a smart little girl who takes one look at Ruth and decides she would make her the perfect new mother! Click here to get your copy!

    About the Author

    Anne Blackburne lives and works in Southeast Ohio as a newspaper editor and writer. She is the mother of five grown children, has one wonderful grandchild, and a spoiled poodle named Millie. For fun, when she isn’t working on Amish romance or sweet mysteries, Anne directs and acts in community theater productions and writes and directs original plays. She also enjoys reading, kayaking, swimming, searching for beach glass, and just sitting with a cup of coffee looking at large bodies of water. Her idea of the perfect vacation is cruising and seeing amazing new places with people she loves.

    More from Anne

    I’m so excited that my debut novel, Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise, will release soon from Barbour Publishing! This is the realization of a long-held dream; 30 years long!

    About 30 years ago I wrote my first book, a middle reader about a group of tweens who wanted to start a pet sitting business. I found an agent who worked hard to sell my series. Unfortunately, someone else came up with the same basic idea and beat me to the bookshelves!

    Of course, I was crushed – I’d been so close!

    I wondered if it was a sign that I wasn’t meant to become a published author. Maybe I just wasn’t good enough?

    Being the tenacious sort, I rejected that idea and buckled down. I looked at each subsequent rejection as proof that I’d been hard at work practicing my craft, and would inevitably, eventually, succeed.

    I read somewhere that it takes 10,000 hours of toiling away at the computer before a new author sells a book. That would be about right!

    Of course, it isn’t the same for everyone. Some authors are lucky – or just that good – and hit a home run their first at bat. Others simply can’t seem to break in.

    For me, the big break came nearly two years ago. I’d been working and polishing my Amish romance for a couple years. I also had a couple of other projects in the works, but I didn’t want to give up on Ruth and Jonas’ story. I queried many agents, being very careful to follow their individual guidelines. And finally – finally! – I got that phone call new authors dream about, offering representation. I’m proud to be represented by the wonderful Tamela Hancock Murray from the Steve Laube Agency. And Tamela quickly sold my story to Barbour Publishing, Inc.

    What a blessing! All those years of work and hope and yes, faith, had finally paid off. I was going to be a published author. I still have to pinch myself from time to time.

    And here I am. I hope you love Ruth and Jonas – and of course, Ginger Snap! – as much as I do. I have another book from their make-believe town of Willow Creek coming out next summer, also from Barbour. Both books are part of a new series called “Heart of the Amish”, and feature three authors. The other two, Mindy Steele and Lisa Jones Baker, are both seasoned veterans with a number of Amish and other Christian books under their belts. It’s such an honor to be included with them in this project!

    Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise is available now for pre-order on Amazon. And my second book, tentatively titled Mary’s Calico Hope, will be available late this winter.

    Be sure to look for Mindy Steele’s wonderful book, The Flower Quilter, which kicks off the series. It is also available on Amazon. I read an early release and boy, was I impressed. I can’t wait to read Lisa Jones Baker’s story!

    My Review!

    by Vicky Sluiter

    “Part of the Heart of the Amish series, each book is a standalone by some of our favorite authors of Amish fiction. Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise happens to be author Anne Blackburne’s debut novel and she is definitely going to become a favorite.

    I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know spunky Ruth Helmuth, who is dealing with loss and struggling to keep her family farm. And then there’s our hero, Jonas Hershberger who is also dealing with loss, and his adorable daughter, Abigail. Add in Ruth’s elderly friend and lots of kittens and you have the makings of a fun, heartwarming story. I highly recommend it! 

    I received a complimentary copy of this book but was not required to leave a review.”

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Season’s Guiltings

    Instead of feeling guilt over what you can’t change, why not change what you can?

    On the First day of Christmas my loved ones gave to me – guilt.

    On the Second day of Christmas my church family gave to me – guilt.

    On the Third day of Christmas the media gave to me – guilt.

    On the Fourth day of Christmas some random guy I saw begging for food gave to me – guilt.

    (Insert eight more guilty situations here.)

    And I really hate feeling guilty!

    Along with the season of joy comes the season of guilt. Everywhere we look, and a lot of places we’d prefer not to look, people are in need. And for some reason – maybe that guilt I mentioned before – it’s harder to ignore at this time of year what we should pay attention to all year round.

    Pleas for help come from every direction, from “giving trees” in churches and businesses to requests for donations from large corporate charities to celebrities on the radio singing songs asking us to “. . . feed the world.”

    And that doesn’t even allow for the requests and needs we find at home.

    The problem is, with the current state of world politics, overpopulation, food distribution networks and a host of other impediments, it is not possible, in spite of what Band Aid tells us, to feed, clothe, or otherwise save the entire world.

    Hey, Jesus told us there would be poor always. It’s an overwhelming problem, even with today’s technology, medical advancements and the desire of good people everywhere who would like to help.

    So what should we do? Should we just shrug and turn away, telling ourselves we can’t save the multitudes of poor, so we might as well not do anything?

    Ebenezer Scrooge asked, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” And if you’ll recall, that didn’t work out very well for him.

    While it’s true that we can’t save the multitudes, we should remember that multitudes are made up of lots of individuals. And each one of those individuals is a person you might know; might like; might, in other circumstances, be.

    Here’s an idea: Why not help one person? Why not make a difference in one life?

    I guarantee that the difference you make in that one life will make a difference; if not to the world at large, then certainly in your own heart.

    So find a way to be of use to someone. Keep it simple and doable. Choose a child from a giving tree at your church. Donate a few cans of food to a food pantry. Slip $10 into a Salvation Army kettle. Drop off a warm coat and blanket to a homeless person. Carry a “give-away” bag filled with a few bucks, non-perishable snacks, warm socks, etc. in your car to hand out the window to the next person you see asking for food or money. Shovel your elderly neighbor’s sidewalk or mow their grass for free. Give someone without a car a ride. Read to a lonely patient in the hospital. Volunteer once a week – or once a year — at the hospital, food pantry, your church, your child’s school, the Veteran’s clinic, the senior citizens center, the Salvation Army, a soup kitchen, a non-profit thrift store, etc. Give blood. Give a darn.

    No, you won’t have solved the world’s poverty problem. Your little contribution will be infinitesimal in the big scheme of things. But what if everyone did the same? We still wouldn’t solve everything – but we’d sure put a good dent in things! And you’ll feel good about what you’ve done.

    Don’t bother feeling guilty this Christmas season. Your feeling of guilt is useless to others. Instead, do something, no matter how small, to make a dent. You might end up entertaining an angel.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Amish Country Adventure Meet & Greet

    Warm Welcome from Admins, Authors and Readers!

    Recently I was fortunate to be invited to join a wonderful group of people in a group called Keeping up with the Amish. They are made up of authors and readers of Amish romance, and people who are simply interested in the Amish way of life.

    What a happy bit of luck or serendipity it was that I joined the group right before their annual Amish Country Adventure Week! This year’s adventure happened to take place in Berlin, Ohio – less than an hour from where I live!

    I don’t have any books out yet (my very first Amish romance releases from Barbour on December 1!), and it was too late to take three days off work. So I shrugged and thought, oh, well, too bad I can’t go this year; I’ll plan to attend next year.

    But the lovely Connie Lynch, an admin of the group, invited me to attend their Thursday evening Author/Reader Meet & Greet. I was able to go! So my buddy Linda and I hopped in the car and headed for Ohio’s beautiful Amish Country! About an hour later, we arrived at the well-appointed Berlin Grand Hotel, and parked in a lot filled with colorful three-wheeled motorcycles.

    Chit-chatting at the Meet & Greet! We sat with lovely ladies from around the country. Photo by Connie Lynch

    Inside, we found the gathering of authors and readers of Amish romance, and they immediately made us feel welcome, giving us swag bags filled with fun items donated by participants in the event.

    There were beautiful items for sale and auction, and I bought a chance on a lovely wall-hanging and table runner made by an Amish woman from the western part of the U.S.

    Linda and I checked out the auction and sale tables, and then found a place to sit with some really nice people, all avid readers of Amish romance!

    We got cold iced tea, and settled down to enjoy an evening making new friends, playing games and feeling most welcome.

    I brought along some very pretty bookmarks made for me by the folks I work with in our print shop, and people seemed genuinely happy to get them. Some even said they’d pre-ordered my book! What a thrill!

    This lovely, Amish-made wall hanging was won by a lucky woman this week!

    At the end of the evening, Linda and I hated to go. Now we’re making plans to attend next year’s Amish Adventure in Shipshewana, Indiana – the third largest Amish community in the U.S. I’ve never been there, and I can’t wait to go!

    I’m booking my AirBnb so I’ll have all year to look forward to the fun. If you’re an author or reader of Amish romance, I highly recommend that you join the group Keeping Up With The Amish on Facebook, and that you consider attending next year’s adventure week in Shipshewana in June. If you do, I’ll look forward to meeting you in person!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    “The Darcy Secret”, a “Pride & Prejudice” Variation

    Author Kelly Miller Delivers Another Terrific Jane Austen Variation!

    I just finished reading author Kelly Miller’s latest Austenesque variation on Pride & Prejudice, “The Darcy Secret”. I love all of Austen’s classic romances, and Pride & Prejudice is in my top three.

    Miller has written a number of variations on this and Austen’s other novels. I recommend checking them out. They’re all available from

    I wish Jane Austen had lived another ten or twenty years and published another ten or twenty books! But since she didn’t, the next best thing is reading well-executed books based on Austen’s works and characters.

    Unlike the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies series – which I loved, I have to admit – Miller’s variations stick pretty much with canon. She takes a few risks and sends the characters down roads the reader doesn’t expect. But for the most part, I’m always happy and satisfied with what happens in each, stand-alone variation.

    In “The Darcy Secret”, the reader begins the story learning about a terrible legacy which Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy will have to deal with. He only learns the terrible truth upon the eve of his wedding to Miss Elizabeth Bennet.

    Can he go through with the wedding? Will Elizabeth still want him?

    Additionally, suspicion is cast upon Darcy’s young sister, Georgiana; is she hiding a violent streak in her personality? Has she even committed . . . murder?

    What happens when an old flame of Darcy’s makes inappropriate, drunken suggestions to Darcy in front of Elizabeth?

    And what happens when an old friend of Darcy’s decides he’d make Elizabeth a better husband than Darcy?

    Finally, our characters have to deal with a terrible tragedy in the loss of a family member. Who is it, and how does it happen?

    You’ll have to read “The Darcy Secret” to learn the answers to all of these questions. You won’t be sorry – it’s a fast-paced, easy-to-read tale that will grip you from beginning to end.

    Once you find out what an excellent storyteller Miller is, be sure to look up her backlist. My personal favorite is her “Persuasion” variation, titled “Captive Hearts”.

    You’ve got some thrilling, satisfying hours of reading ahead of you with Kelly Miller! Enjoy!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    Another Satisfying St. James Sisters Story from Tana Jenkins!

    I love good, clean fun, and that’s what I’ve come to expect from Tana Jenkins.

    I was thrilled to learn Tana was publishing a fourth St. James sisters book, as I loved getting to know the smart and relatable sisters featured in the first three books.

    But wait; there are only three St. James sisters – right? So how does that work? Sandra is a sister-friend to the three St. James ladies, and this is her story!
    An attorney on St. Croix in the Caribbean, Sandra has a heavy secret weighing her down, and keeping her from exploring her attraction to Jim, the very sexy farm boy from Texas with whom she’s worked for the past two years.
    But her bestie, Mila St. James, whose wedding is coming right up, has other ideas, and plots to get Sandra and Jim together as “fake” wedding dates.
    Once again, in “Love is the Treasure”, Tana writes intelligent, realistic characters I enjoyed getting to know. They have humor and integrity in addition to being smokin’ hot! In other words, these are people you wouldn’t mind knowing in real life.
    See if Sandra and Jim can overcome their unfortunate family history and learn to trust that what they feel for each other is no scam. I can’t wait for the next book in this excellent series! Take these to the beach, or read them in your living room; it doesn’t matter, because you’ll soon be lost in the worlds created by the talented Tana Jenkins.

    I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

  • Ruth's Ginger Snap Surprise
    Life Outside the Pages

    Complete: First Round of Edits on my Amish Romance!

    Each Step in the Publishing Process is a Revelation!

    This is me as Sister Robert Anne in Nunsense!

    What a month!
    The musical I directed and acted in, “Sister Amnesia’s Country Western Nunsense Jamboree,” closed a week ago after two full weekend’s and six shows. It was so much fun playing Sister Robert Anne again! But I can’t say I’m sorry to have my evenings back so I can focus on my writing.

    Just as the show was closing, my editor from Barbour Publishing sent me the first round edits for my first book, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise,” which will release from Barbour on December 1! I had a week to complete those, and I made the deadline. It was a challenge at first, because I’m such a rookie. I had no idea how to use Track Changes in Word, for example.

    Now I know a little bit more about this publishing journey. Each step is a new revelation. I’m waiting now to hear back from the editor to see if she needs me to make any more changes.

    She made me feel great though, by telling me she loved my book and my characters! It was her first Amish romance, and I was pleased that she found herself caught up in Ruth and Jonas’s story.

    I’ll be honest: I was secretly afraid she would send me a manuscript full of red ink indicating it was a hot mess! Okay, okay, I knew it wasn’t, but my brain wasn’t being logical. New writer’s terror, I guess!

    I’m finishing up another project currently, an original Sherlock Holmes murder mystery I write every other year as part of a murder mystery weekend sponsored by my area VCB. I’ll direct it this fall, (and play Dr. Joan Watson!) and it will finish up right before “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is released.

    After I finish writing the play, I’ll have time to go through the second book in the “Heart of the Amish” series. I’m one of three authors writing for this series. We each have two books contracted so far. If the series is a success, we could be asked to write more! Fingers crossed on that.

    The first draft of my second book in the series, “Mary’s Calico Hope,” is finished. I completed it at the end of February, and it’s been “cooking” on a back burner since then.

    I’m about ready to dive in for a second look at the manuscript, to find all the things that made sense the first time through, but need to be tweaked now!

    I’ll let you know when “Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise” is available for preorder in the Kindle edition.

  • Life Outside the Pages

    My Secret Delight: Beach or Sea Glass Hunting!

    Scratching in the sand looking for smoothly polished glass can keep me entertained for hours!

    Everyone has something they love to do; something they can keep on doing hour after hour, year after year. Aside from my first love, reading, and my second love, writing, what I love best is looking for glowing treasures from the sea; beach or sea glass!

    Basically the same thing, beach glass comes from fresh water such as lakes and rivers, while sea glass is found on the shores of salt water seas and oceans.

    I can’t remember when this obsession started; I’ve always loved hunting for natural treasurers. As a child, my parents would take my sibs and me to the beach in New Jersey where we’d pick up shells – mostly clam shells, which were legion.

    I didn’t care if they all looked alike; each seemed prettier than the last! It reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder writing about her childhood visit to the shores of Silver Lake, where she picked up so many pretty pebbles the pocket fell off her dress!

    I have bowls and jars filled with beach glass treasures I’ve found on my travels – as I don’t live near big water, alas – and looking at these treasures fills me with contentment.

    Beach glass makes a great souvenir, too. It doesn’t cost anything, you’re cleaning up a beach by picking up what really amounts to trash, and most local governments have no problem with people cleaning up their beaches. Places where you’re forbidden to pick up shells or coral are happy to let you take their beach glass.

    There are some beaches where picking up glass is prohibited, mostly because they are known for their glass, the polished, washed-up remnants of old dumping which has turned trash into treasure. They want it to stay there for everyone to enjoy. People who go ahead and take it anyway are besmirching the spirit of glass hunting, and cheating others from enjoying local tourist attractions. Follow the rules, folks. There are plenty of places you can collect the stuff.

    Get Your Toes Into the Sand!

    Some people are worried that beach and sea glass is becoming harder to find as the world turns more to plastics and also tries to improve trash dumping practices to avoid further polluting the oceans and lakes of the world. Maybe this is true. But since the stuff is still largely regarded as garbage, I’m not worrying about it. My grandchildren will probably be able to collect something that isn’t a “thing” for us today. Who knows?

    So when you get to the shore, cast your eyes to the sand. Pebbly areas are best. Maybe you’ll find a small, polished gem twinkling up at you to remember your trip by. It beats a coconut bra!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    The Dream Becomes a Reality!

    My long-held dream of becoming a traditionally-published author is close to becoming a reality. But the journey has been a long, arduous one. Here’s how I did it.

    Several years ago I started working on a new manuscript. It wasn’t my first attempt at publishing a novel, but it is about to become my first successful attempt! This experience has convinced me that in addition to the obvious requirements of talent and having a good story to tell, two additional items factor into any success story: luck and perseverance.

    I’ve written in several genres over the years, ranging from urban fantasy to middle reader to humor to script-writing to sweet mystery to sweet romance. A few years ago I asked myself what was selling, and one of the answers was Christian romance.

    Since I’m a Christian and I love a good romance, I decided to give it a try. I’ve always enjoyed reading Amish romances, and since I live in Amish country, it seemed like a good fit. So I gave it a shot during Nanowrimo one November and finished about two thirds of the manuscript. After that, it was simply a matter of sticking to the project, and before long I had a completed first draft.

    It’s important to understand that a first draft is not a finished book. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone through that novel and re-written, revised and revamped it! But it is a lot.

    When I was satisfied, I started querying agents. Another very important thing a writer must understand is how very important it is to follow the directions clearly stated by literary agents as to whom they represent and how to submit to them.

    If you’ve written a steamy romance, don’t submit it to a Christian literary agent. If you’ve written a work of fiction, don’t submit it to an agent who only deals with non-fiction. Seems obvious, right? But apparently, agents are swamped daily with emails and snail mail submissions containing work they have clearly stated on their websites they do not represent. By submitting to them, an author wastes her own time and money, and the agent’s, as well as looking unprofessional.

    That’s not the way to get a literary agent. The way to get one is to have your very best work ready to go, free of errors, and submitted in exactly the way requested by each agent. Then you have to be patient. It can take weeks or even months to hear back. You’ll collect an impressive assortment of rejections. But remember, each rejection gets you closer to an acceptance.

    Conventional wisdom in the industry suggests that an author will probably have around 10,000 hours of writing and editing in before selling that first book. Of course, some people get really lucky and sell a book faster, while for others it will take even longer.

    But I’m convinced that if you spend that much time practicing your craft and polishing your work, eventually you’ll sell it.

    I wrote my first manuscript, a middle reader, in 1994. It was pretty good. I secured an agent . . . but unfortunately, another similar series was just about to be released, so I was out of luck!

    A couple of years ago, an editor at Harlequin was interested in my Amish romance. But it hadn’t been written with Harlequin’s publishing requirements in mind. The editor worked with me, teaching me a great deal in the process, for a couple revisions before deciding the book wasn’t going to be able to be hammered into a Harlequin book. But she told me she liked my voice and my characters, and would welcome another submission later. That was both a thrill and a disappointment rolled into one!

    I knew the book was good; almost good enough — so I revised it again, and tried querying agents again. All that hard work finally paid off when I received an offer for representation by an agent in early 2022. She loved the book, and believed it would sell. She believed in me!

    I wrote that first middle reader in 1994, and wrote steadily, book after book, until I finally sold the manuscript in 2022. You do the math.

    Securing agent representation is not the last step in your journey to traditional publication. After you get that thrilling offer, you wait longer while your agent tries to sell the book to a publisher. For me, that took about five months. Was I afraid the book wouldn’t sell? Oh, yeah. But it did, and now I’ve entered into the next phase of waiting; I’ve submitted the completed manuscript, as polished as I could make it, to the publisher’s editor, and now I’m waiting for her to tell me what needs to be cleaned up.

    My book, Ruth’s Ginger Snap Surprise, will be released on December 1. It will be the second book in a new series from Barbour Publishing called Heart of the Amish. The first book by a more experienced author, Mindy Steele, will be released in September. Her book is called “The Flower Quilter”. I can’t wait to read it! There is a third author as well, though I don’t know his or her name yet. And most excitingly, we each have a two-book deal! My second book in the series, “Mary’s Calico Hope”, will be published in the spring or summer of 2024.

    My dream is coming true. And all it took was nearly 30 years of hard work to make it happen.

    So don’t give up on your own dreams. I may not be 30 any more, but success still feels just as good as it did then. And maybe it’s all the sweeter for having taken so darned much work to achieve!

    Watch for my cover reveal on April 1. I can’t wait for you to see it – I LOVE it!

  • Life Outside the Pages

    What Makes me Get off my Tuchus and Write?

    I’m working on the second book in my Willow Creek Amish Kittens series, Mary’s Calico Hope, and I’m pleased with my progress. I like the people in my story – even those who might be hard to like in ‘real life’. After all, they serve the purpose of moving my plot, so how can I help but like them?

    It’s not always easy to sit down and write, though I attempt to hold myself to something of a schedule. I try to write at least something every day…but I’m firm about getting in a good three days a week. What’s made this fairly easy for me is something my writing group does.

    They call it Sprints, and they do it three nights a week. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night from 7 – 9 p.m. anyone who likes can check in to the group’s Facebook page and join the sprints, which are generally led by one of the group’s officers, although we’ve all taken turns leading from time to time.

    You boot up your computer, open your document, find the place you want to write or edit, and when 7:05 hits, off you go on a 20 minute sprint, trying to write as much as you can in that time. At 7:25 there is a 10 minute break, and most people check back into the Facebook page and comment on how many words they wrote in that sprint, or problems they’re having with plotting, editing, etc. The members give each other helpful advice, or maybe just a sympathetic ear. At 7:35 the second sprint begins, ending at 7:55. From 8:05 until 8:25 the third sprint goes on, and the final sprint takes place from 8:35 until 8:55.

    I can churn out a couple thousand words in two hours, and I confess that if I’m on a roll, I don’t stop for the 10 minute breaks. You can do one sprint, or all four, joining in whenever is convenient.

    There is also a document available through the group’s website called the Magic Spreadsheet, which allows members to keep track of how many words they write each day in a particular WIP. The person who writes the most each month wins bragging rights, and if they attend the monthly meeting in person, they get to take possession of the coveted stuffed Emu for a month.

    I’m pretty competitive, and this stuff motivates me. During Covid, when there was little to distract me, I churned out two complete novels by sprinting three times a week and competing for the highest word count. I won a couple times, too – though since we weren’t meeting in person, possession of the Emu remains an unfulfilled dream for me.

    I took a break from sprinting during my querying period, but now that I’ve found a wonderful agent and publishing my first Amish novel, “Ruth’s Ginger Snap”, looks like a real possibility, I’m back at it, writing hard with a self-imposed goal of having a first draft done by Memorial Day.

    I’ve found that if I sit my tuchus down at my computer and start banging out words, ideas soon follow. Sometimes they’re terrible ideas, and I end up deleting whole scenes. But sometimes they work out very well, and I feel buoyed up by my accomplishment, small as it may be.

    Writing is like a job – currently one I’m doing for free, admittedly! You have to show up to work and WORK if you want to get anything done.

    The fact that I work as a newspaper writer and editor all day every day can lessen my thrill in sitting down again to write at night – but I just remind myself that the thrill will be very real should I publish, and especially should I get paid for all this hard work.

    That is my ultimate goal; and it’s looking as if it may be attainable.

    So Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to write I go!