Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sell Out Crowd

Some concerts performances draw a larger audience than others. 

Beethovan's Ninth Symphony is one that draws a sell out crowd.

What a treat to sit in the audience for a concert. But this wasn't any ordinary concert in any ordinary place. 

Last Saturday the Detroit Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven's 9th Symphony in the elegant Orchestra Hall. 

Stepping into the ornate room, anyone wearing jeans would automatically feel out of place. Formal apparel is most appropriate to drink in the full experience.

Before the concert began, I slipped into a tourist mode and took as many pictures as possible, even though I grew up in Detroit and have been in this hall at least four times.

I am standing in the aisle. No, I wouldn't zoom the camera to prove it was me, because I wanted to show you the seating area, including the magnificent balcony.

I felt like a child standing in this ornate hall. Not sure what to look at first or second or third. 

The bravado and elegance in then arches rise above the box seats leading the eyes to the carved angels above. Note, even the piece of ceiling in the photo is a masterful work of art. Regal shades of green, gold, cream, and black create the rich ambiance.

During intermission the University of Michigan Choral Group filled the risers behind the orchestra, and four soloists took their seats in front of the orchestra. 

The conductor walked on stage, stepped up on the platform, and raised his baton.

At that moment. The audience silenced.

As you can see from the photo, there was a sell out crowd and every inch of the stage was occupied. Behind me, a standing room only area was filled as well. 

Not a sound. 

In the whole room! 

The baton remained raised. The conductor eyed his orchestra from left to right.

And then he plunged the baton for the first down beat of music.

Powerful, exhilarating music lasting nearly forty five minutes.

My daughter Katy, top row middle, and a few of
her friends who sang at the concert..

The choral group singing with the orchestra was from the University of Michigan. The size of the stage limited the number of singers from the group who would be allowed to perform. Around two hundred were given the honor to sing in these performances. My daughter, Katy, was one.

The standing ovation by the audience called the conductor, choral conductor, and soloists for seven curtain calls. The excited, appreciative applause continued for more than ten minutes. 

Orchestra Hall is one place I don't believe I could ever tire of visiting.

And now for the rest of the story.

A family member had season tickets. Due to an obligation they were not able to go. They offered us the tickets, not knowing my daughter was singing that night. 

The concert had been sold out for months, long before my daughter, Katy, was chosen to be among the singers.

I could not choose a best part. The violins furiously bowing across the strings, the piccolo grandstanding above the entire orchestra in the closing pages, the vibrant sound of the chorus, the impeccable timing of every entrance, the magnificent tenor soloist, the passionate conducting commanding a sincere respect from all performers, the feel of the sound permeating our souls, the unity of orchestra, choral, soloists in a resplendent performance, or the majestic Orchestra Hall setting. Even as I type, I hear the music replaying in my mind and marvel at what I saw and heard. :)

Reader, what enthralling event have you attended? It may have been the place only or perhaps what happened at the place. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Graduation Blessings

Alice graduated this last week. 

She is 89. Yeah. Pretty special.

This lady has my utmost respect. Her twinkle eyes make me feel proud of something I do, yet at times the same eyes spoke to straighten my path when I make a left turn. Her tender voice offers encouragement that can break up any cloudy day.

She is a grammarian who doesn't mind correcting any improper word in her firm, loving way, even the Pastor's. No one minds. That's just Alice.

Alice loves special music during church services. A teen girl and I played flute duets for ten years or so. I moved away. But before I did, we compiled our songs and made a CD. Copies were handed out to many church members. But for some crazy reason, I forgot to give one to Alice. Bad me.

Alice saw me at church the Sunday I left and asked when she'd receive her CD. Immediately after church, I went home, made another copy and ran it over to her house. Ahhh. There the smile came. And the twinkle eyes.

Six years later my hubby and I moved back, and I longed to see people like Alice.

Alice dresses like a First Lady.  Classy. Graceful. Dignified.

She volunteers for programs at church, SS teacher, AWANA direction, listener, and leader. She knows the Bible like wish I did. She asks questions like, "How did the people in the Old Testament know it was God speaking to them?" She digs deep, and searches for the hidden blessings and meanings underneath the words. What an example. I love listening to her when she feels a prompting to speak up about something.

Alice once said, "I have an on-going conversation with God." She doesn't have "prayer times," God is included in all her thoughts and conversations. It doesn't mean she does everything perfectly, but who does? There aren't Sunday refreshers to her time with God, or daily devotional infusions. She walks alongside God. Knowing He sees her bad and good choices.

Our pastor has a saying when the saints finish their assigned program. He says they graduate. Last Tuesday, Alice, full of godly grace and wisdom saw Jesus face to face.

And for some strange reason, I didn't cry. I smiled, thinking about what she might be doing in heaven, right now. She is still the lady I know, just there instead of here.

Reader: Who has been or is a special blessing in your walk with Christ?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature-Pam Hillman

Today, I welcome author Pam Hillman

Pam is currently hopping with a busy blog tour. Her latest book has just been released. And while I have not had the honor of the experience I think it would be likened to preparing for moving a household or a wedding. So many details!

God has certainly blessed her ministry. I asked Pam to share the journey God has led her on to publication. Here is what she said:

God's Blessings

Thank you for dropping in. I'm a farmer's wife, mother, author, pre-school Sunday School teacher, purchasing manager, and ACFW Conference Treasurer. That is WAY too many hats fot one woman!

I agree, Pam!  You are amazing, and yet you continue to write books!

Yes, well, I was born east of the Mississippi and a hundred years too late. I still boast about wrangling calves, milking cows, and putting up hay, first as a child growing up in Mississippi, and later with my own personal hero, Iran, on our own farm.

Even as a child I was a voracious reader and especially enjoyed stories involving the great Westward expansion. When I wasn't reading I watched television shows like Bonaza, Little House on the Prairie and Gunsmoke. The great western writer, Louis L'Amour, kept me mesmerized with his tales of cowboys and Indians, outlaws, prim schoolteachers, hot dry desserts and boom towns.

Fodder beyond belief!

I love the old west. Between my personal experiences of country life and my research, my stories have a flavor of authenticity. My characters will step out of the page, say "Howdie" and tip their hats to you.

Are you curious? Great, well, I just so happen to have my character, Slade Donovan here and he agreed to chat with me about Mariah Malone.

I’ve heard he has a thing for Mariah, but in 1880s Wyoming Territory, I’m sure Slade wouldn’t call it a “thing”, so we’ll need to use language he’s more familiar with (and a bit of subtlety) to get him to open up.

I cornered Slade in the corral, rubbing down his horse after a hard day out on the range. “Slade, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule riding fences and checking cows to talk with me.”

“You’re welcome, ma’am.” Slade fidgets, looking like he’d rather be anywhere other than talking to me, the strange woman from another time period tapping the tips of her fingers on an odd-looking black box making a humming noise.

I smile, knowing the exact thing to put him at ease. “Any calves today?”

“Yes, ma’am. I spotted half-a-dozen new calves in the south pasture. Would you like to see them?”

Mariah Malone heads toward the creek, a bucket in her hand. I lean closer. “Maybe later. What I’d really like to talk about is Mariah Malone.”

“What about her?” He gets that hard look in his eyes, just like I’ve seen him look at Mariah. I barely contain my excitement. I know there’s a juicy tale here if I can just get him to share it with me.

“Well, what do you think of her? You showed up here with full intentions of booting the Malones off the Lazy M, but here it is weeks later, and they’re still here.”

Slade grabs his saddle and stalks toward the tack room. I have a hard time keeping up with his long-legged strides. “Well?”

“You know as well as I do that I couldn’t just throw those women out.” He tosses his saddle on a saddle tree and glares at me. “It wouldn’t be right.”

“But it’s right to take the land—the ranch—from them?”

“Her father stole the gold from mine to buy this land. It belongs to me.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I’d seen the deed to the gold mine that had his father’s name on it. “All right.”

“Lady, you got any more questions? It’s getting nigh on to dark, and I’ve got chores to do.”

“Yes, one more question if you don’t mind.” I take a deep breath, wondering if Slade Donovan might kick me off the Lazy M, but I had to know. “Do you think there might be a possibility that you could learn to care for Mariah, maybe even ask her to stay on a more permanent basis?”
The irritation on his face darkened to a scowl and I knew I’d gone too far. His gaze slid past mine, and I followed his gaze and saw Mariah weaving her way back from the creek, water sloshing over the edges of the bucket as she toted it toward her fledging garden. I cut my gaze back to Slade just in time to see the look on his face soften, his eyes grow warm as his gaze lingered on Mariah.

I smiled, knowing I had my answer.

And what does Mariah think about Slade? The story continues here on Donna Winters blog.

Thank You, Pam for joining us today!

Reader, Did you enjoy meeting Slade and Mariah? It's amazing how the West is still a lot like the movies. Cowboys, ranchers, truck pulls, rodeos, panning for gold. Have you ever wanted to step into the Wild West? What would you like to see?

To contact Pam Hillman for more information here are her sites:

Twitter: or @PamHillman

Pam is offering prizes. If you are interested here is the information:

The Prize Vault is open at Pam Hillman, Author Events. New prizes offered weekly (ebooks, books, gift cards, handcrafted gifts made in Mississippi, bookmarks, etc.) with a grand prize of a Kindle or Nook (winners choice) on March 31st.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cabin Fever

Michigan, Clear Lake

It's bitter cold out.

The wind is swirling across the frozen lake and picking up snow. 

The fishermen I bumped into last night said the lake has eight inches of ice. 

Winter wouldn't be so bad if the sky wasn't stained gray.

Thoughts of eighty degrees and a sandy beach are tempting. Walk with me on the warm sands.

Take your shoes off and let your toes curl between the grains. Let them tickle your skin. Press forward onto your left foot and leave the indented footprint behind. 

A baby's breath sky is dotted with puffs of satin white clouds. Take a breath, a deep cleansing breath. Energizing. Thrilling. Yet, calming. 
Savannah, Georgia, Atlantic Ocean

And now the quandary. Run along the sands or lie on the warm grains forming to the shape of your legs, back, head, and arms. 

Distracted by the white sails of the pleasure ship bopping near the horizon, you choose neither, but stand, anchored to the ground fixated by the mystery. Where is the ship going?  

A balmy breeze propels salt water, spilling it above the confines of the sea. A wave kisses a barrier, sending droplets airborne until they splash against your body. The response shiver causes a tremble and a giggle. The warmth saturates your pores, through the bloodstream to the heart.

Dreams and memories are etched into the mind, forever available to recall on a cold and blistery day.

So Reader? Where are the sands in which you stood?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Family Fun

I went in search of what to write for this post. I have a great advantage. Since my website focuses on stepping into other people's world, I simply have to look at the world and voila, I have a story.

At this minute I am in the pool area of a hotel. 

It is Sunday afternoon. 

A time when families jump into the water, Grandmas sit on the side to care for little ones in need of a break and giggles echo.

To my left, a little toe head girl, about two years old, sits cuddled in pool towels. Her thumb is in her mouth. Grandma sits in the chair next to her with a camera in hand. The flash flickers as she takes pictures of her son, daughter-in-law, and their three sons about twelve, ten and four.

Big brother tosses youngest brother like a football to dad. The little girl pulls her thumb out of her mouth and giggles. The little brother is held up high to look out the window at the steam rising on the other side. And the little girl giggles again.

She watches for one more minute before wanting to climb back into the water. Grandma calls out, "Here she comes." 

Big brother welcomes the little one into the pool of fun. He carries her close to dad and asks if she wants to play. "Yes" her bright eyes blinked. Big brother tosses her to dad. Back and forth two or three times. Dad holds her high. She giggles but quickly tires. Back out of the water she begs. Grandma hugs her close with a towel and lifts her back into her chair.

There she sits, eyes half open. Tired. Thumb slips back in her mouth.  

Grandma clicks her cell phone camera several more times enjoying the family fun and periodically looking at the little two-year-old slipping lower into her chair.

In the meantime, the two older brothers swim under the glass dividing wall to the outside where the temperatures have dipped down to nineteen degrees. They ham up the play as good big brothers do. The little girl perks up, reaching higher in her chair to see her silly brothers outside. 

A spark of energy flares and the little girl wants to go back into the water. She bends over, wanting to imitate a jump her brother did but doesn't hop into her brother's arms.  Big brother coaxes her. "Put your foot here." Big brother swooshes out of the pool to sit by here. "See like this." Instead she teaches him a foot splashing game. He learns quickly.

Big brother stands and walks her to the handrail. He slides down the rail and into the water. She copies him and lands in his arms. Back and forth they teach each other.

In time the energy fades. Mom sits in the whirlpool warming up. Grandma takes the little brother and wraps him in towels. The play has settled to floating in the water until mom is warm. 

The jets in the whirlpool turn off. Mom climbs out of the warmth and sprints to the pool. She leaps into the arms of dad, cannonball style. And the play resumes.

What a fun family afternoon. No TV, no Internet, no technology. Just good ol' family fun.

What do you remember doing for a fun family activity?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature- Rhonda Gibson

Today I welcome an authoress who has become a wonderul friendRhonda Gibson. 

Enter to win an autographed copy of Rhonda Gibson's book: 

As you can see from the smiles in her pictures Rhonda has come to see God's timing in her life. As I spoke with her about the journey God has led her on, she expressed joy.

And so we share with you, her answer to my weekly question: How has God led you on your writing journey:

God’s Timing Is Everything

I started writing when I was very young. My earliest novel was written when I was 12 years old. I loved reading Hardy Boy novels by Franklin W. Dixon and wanted to write one, too. I hand wrote about 400 pages and gave them to my mother to keep. Hey, I was a kid I had no dreams of publishing the book. I just wanted to write it 

Then it was many years later that I decided I wanted to write, again. My sweet husband bought me a typewriter and I started several pieces but with two babies barely 13 months apart, I soon gave up. Don’t get me wrong I did not give up with bitterness; I just felt in my soul that it wasn’t the right time. My babies needed me more than I needed to write.

When the kids were four and five years old, I joined a small writers group. It was mainly composed of ladies who had put off their writing until their families were long gone. A friend, from that group, talked me into going to a Children’s Writing Conference. My friend was 84 years young at the time and her family wouldn’t let her go unless she found someone to drive her. I offered to take her but she’d only let me, if I entered the short story contest. I wrote a short story called, The Legend of Hoowha. Mom took my kids for the weekend and away she and I went. Imagine my surprise when I won second place.

Again, life stepped in and I put the writing aside. My sweet husband was going to school full time and working full time. I was working full time and wanted to spend my evening with the kids. I just didn’t have time to write. How many of you are with me on this? However, I did make time to read and was drawn to sweet romances. I loved the Harlequin sweet lines and dreamed of writing for them, someday.

Time passed and at times I felt like I was going Daffy waiting. I wanted to write, I needed to write! I joined writer’s groups, I made writing friends, joined critique groups but I always had something more pressing going on that needed to be done. I did submit to publishers and as I did all these things, my writing was growing. I was growing. I was learning patience and it took a LONG time.

God has His timing and when it came, I was ready. In 2002 I felt the tug to once again get serious about writing. Thanks to American Christian Fiction Writers, I “met” online one of my favorite authors. She helped me team up with three other wonderful writers and in 2003 I was awarded my first writing contract from Barbour Books at the ACFW conference in Houston, Texas.  

God has been good and I’ve been blessed with more contracts since then. In 2011 He opened the doors at Harlequin, my dream publisher, and allowed me to sell my first Love Inspired Historical to them. My journey took patience but I know His timing is always the best and I give him all the glory for my writing career.

God has been VERY good to me. Not only have I been blessed through my interaction with editors and fellow Christian writers, but my fans as well. Each letter and email I receive from someone who appreciates my work is a God-kissed gift.

Books by Rhonda Gibson:
The Marshal's Promise
The Midwife's Legacy
Groom by Arrangement

To enter the contest for an autographed copy of Rhonda Gibson's book, leave a comment and become a follower of this site if you aren't already. Include email address in your comment. U.S. residents only. Winner announced next week.

Thank you, Rhonda Gibson for Joining us This Weekend!

Reader, Rhonda has shared how God has walked with her, asked her to wait, then encouraged her to renew her love for writing. Are you currently working on your passion? Has God show you this is your time?

You can find Rhonda's at these sites

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentines!


I spill my wish made back at Christmas time.

I wished for 75 followers for this website by Valentines Day. 

And look what God gave me!

He gave me you!

More than I could have ever dreamed.

Since the start of this website last July, I have met more wonderful people, godly people.

I am so blessed. You are all my valentine

Thank you.


I want to show my appreciation to my hubby, Hank, who has supported me in my writing career. He encourages me to write, learn, crit, edit, polish. He cheers the accomplishments and hugs when the rejections come. He is my Valentine.


I want to show my appreciation for my teen daughter, who has prayed during family devotions every single night for over a year that God would bless my writing ministry. She has faithfully shown an interest. She deserves a big valentine.


I want to show my appreciation for my fellow Alley cats at The Writers Alley. We have worked together for three years, growing close together, praying for one another, supporting, cheering, and crying together. We have become a close group of kindred sisters. You all deserve a big valentine.


I want to show my appreciation to my future editor and agent. I don't know who you are, yet, but someday I will. Until that time I am praying for you. You deserve a big valentine.

So reader,
Who would you like to give a valentine to?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Eerie Sounds in the Night

If there is an unexpected sound at night, 
I can't go to sleep until it's identified

It happened last week....

I crawled into bed.

All the house lights off.

The blankets tucked under my chin. And all was quiet.


A humming sound came from outside. It didn't really sound like a machine, more of a choral men's group singing one note, no two. The melody broke into harmony changing pitch.

The source of the sound mystified me. It was a blistery cold winter night. The sky gray all day turned charcoal at night. 

The snow was wet in some places, crunching beneath out boots that day, and dry in others whisking up in the air with the wind.

The tones changed to a ghost like call. The sound the wind can make as he sweeps around the corner of the house. 

The humming increased in volume, still pleasing to hear. The constant nature eliminated the wind. It had to be a motor of some kind, but which one?

After I show you, you may not agree that this could make the sound described above. But perhaps it was the night in question. The quality of the air, the humidity, the very rural location, and the hour.

What made the sound? The next morning I captured it, took the photo out my living room window:

The next time you have an opportunity to listen to a snowmobile from inside a building, see if you can hear a men's choral sound. 

What mysterious sounds have you heard in the night? 
Have you identified them?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature-Gayle Roper

Today I welcome a kind and giving author who is happy to share her experiences to help new writersGayle Roper. 

Enter to win an autographed copy of 
Gayle Roper's book Summer Shadows see below

In 2011 I attended my first big writer's conference. I must admit, I felt pretty nervous. Someone suggested I use my appointment times to speak with a mentor. I did. 

I spoke with Gayle Roper. A wise and gracious lady who never bragged about her credits, but used the time to help me take the next step in my writing career. As a matter of fact, I didn't know about all her writing achievements until doing the research for today's post, be sure to check out her bio at the end.

Gayle had quite an adventure last year. She tells how God led her on her journey. 

200 Days of Wandering . . .
Wondering Why God Picked This Journey For Me

What do you do when your house sells seven months before your new place is finished? You move around a bunch and pray the beds won’t kill your back before you return to your own Sleep Number bed.

At the end of last May, I stood in my bedroom and tried to decide what clothes I’d need for the next seven months, including those I’d need for 2 writers conferences and the evening gown for the ACFW Awards Dinner. I went to Walmart and bought containers into which I packed the items I chose to keep with me and stuffed my selected treasures into the back of my tiny CRV.

The next morning, I hit the road. First stop: the Jersey shore. I sat on my rented porch and watched the ocean every day for four weeks. Very therapeutic after the loss of my home of many years (I can’t tell you how many. It’d make me sound old.).

God took me on a whirlwind trip to Canada, Texas, California, Florida, Kansas with periodic stops at the motel in my Pennsylvania town. I’m now an elite level patron at Marriott. The Pièce de résistance:  four days at Disney World, staying at the Grand Floridian, a bucket list type thing.

photo taken by Gayle Roper
My journey ended as I stepped over the threshold to my new house. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it was to sink into my Sleep Number 35 bed my first night in my new home. Now if I could just figure out my window treatments, I’d be a happy woman.

People ask me if I’m going to write about my traveling adventures. My answer: I don’t know. I’d need a story to go with the various places I visited. I’ve already done five books set at the Jersey shore in my fictitious town of Seaside (Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, Autumn Dreams, Winter Winds and Shadows on the Sand), but they took place in only one setting. I visited seven places on my adventure, counting my motel stops in Pennsylvania.

Should I write a mystery where the clues take the heroine from locale to locale, finishing with a great chase through Disney World as Mickey’s Christmas Parade passes by? 

How about a road trip of three girlfriends who find out secrets about each other that test their friendship and faith and bring them to a tearful hug as Tinkerbelle flies on her wire from Cinderella’s icicle-covered castle to wherever it is she lands? 

Or maybe I should try an invitation to seven people in seven locales to come to the Grand Floridian for a special event that of course turns sinister as the monorail goes off its track on its way to the Magic Kingdom, plunging everyone into catastrophe and confusion.

The beauty of both adventures and stories is that they aren’t predictable. So for the moment I’m shrugging my shoulders about what to do with the tales of my 200 days of wandering. But I do know that I had a great time, and isn’t that enough sometimes?

Gayle is the award winning author of more than forty books.   She has been a Christy finalist three times for her novels Spring Rain, Summer Shadows, and Winter Winds.

Her novel Autumn Dreams won the prestigious Romance Writers of America's RITA Award for Best Inspirational Romance.Summer Shadows was voted the Inspirational Readers Choice Contest Book of the Year (tied with fellow author Brandilyn Collins).

Gayle has won the Holt Medallion three times for The Decision,Caught in a Bind, and Autumn DreamsThe Decision won the Reviewers Choice Award, and Gayle has also won the Award of Excellence for Spring Rain and the Golden Quill for Summer Shadows and Winter Winds. Romantic Times Book Report gave Gayle the Lifetime Achievement Award.

To enter the contest for an autographed copy of Gayle's book, Summer Shadows leave a comment and become a follower of this site if you aren't already. Include email address in your comment. U.S. residents only. Winner announced next week.

Thank you, Gayle Roper for Joining us This Weekend!

Reader, God has led all of us on unexpected journeys, some short, some long. How has your unexpected journey helped your walk with Christ? 

You can find Gayle at her  websiteFacebook

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Frasier Contest-An Opportunity

Last year I did it!

I polished my at-that-time current WIP and decided to enter it in a writing contest. 

I felt my writing had progressed with the several years of training notches on my belt.

My work was not perfect, just ready to put out there. Open it up for a one-on-one look see that a judge could give me.

Before pushing the send button, I looked at the rules to insure I formatted my entry correctly for this particular contest. Each writing contest has different requirements.

I read through the information listing what the judges wanted to see, ingredients like: can the reader see, hear, taste, feel, and smell the scene; is there a clear story question, and etc. 

Oh yeah, I felt all those ingredients were in these pages. Confident with my entry I pressed  the send button. 

While waiting for my scores to be sent, I attended the free online Monday classes at My Book Therapy and learned tips how to add rich components to my story and take my readers to a deeper experience. I upgraded to the team membership and attended weekly Thursday instructional classes. With each class I learned more and realized my contest entry fell far short of the mark.

Weeks later not only did my scores come back from the judges but also phenomenal advise and encouraging comments, helps I would need to improve my writing. The Frasier contest promises to give this feedback, contrary to several other contests.

Last fall I threw off my cocky attitude, applied what I learned from the Frasier contest, judges and the classes, and enter a different writing contest. Shocked and pleased I finaled. 

Because I have a responsibility to do my best in the writing calling God has given me, I am very willing to invest the time needed to hone my craft with contests like the Frasier.

Do I plan to enter the Frasier again this year? Sure am. I am polishing my work even today making sure to incorporate all the components for good writing into my story. The goal? Not to win. The goal is to provide readers a good story, the best story I can write at this time.. 

I hope you'll join me this year in participating in the Frasier contest, here is the basic information you'll need:

Entries for the 2013 MBT Frasier Contest for unpublished novelists will be accepted through Saturday, March 31, at 11:59 p.m. The contest is open to Voices members. The winner will receive a scholarship to a My Book Therapy coaching retreat ($500 value). Final round judges are award-winning author Susan May Warren; literary agent Steve Laube and a TBD fiction acquisitions editor. For more information, FAQs and to enter, visit