March Madness in the Bluegrass

As soon as the sun warms the earth in the spring, I open my windows and it’s time to clean house. This year, I’m clearing out stuff. You know that stuff you keep hoarding because someone might need it? Well, it’s four years later, and no one needed it, so it’s headed for another life somewhere else.

What does that have to do with March Madness? Think about it. Madness. Spring cleaning. Definitely related. And while I’m marathon cleaning, hubby is marathon potato-ing. You see, basketball is practically a religion in Kentucky.

But don’t dare mention Kentucky and basketball in the same sentence if you’re in the vicinity of a red-clad Louisville native. Rivalry is alive and well in the state of Kentucky. It’s between the Red and the Blue. And this year, you have to admit the Blue is awesome. But families have been literally torn apart by this rivalry.
Me? I don’t have a choice. I live with a rabid Kentucky fan. But here’s a secret–I’m proud whether the winner is wearing red or blue–I’ve got friends and family on both sides. Shhh! Don’t tell on me.
Do I watch the game? When I have to. Truth is, I get so nervous, I have to leave the room and guess what I’m doing? Cleaning. But I’m peeking at the TV every few minutes, just to check the score.
So now you know the connection between March Madness and spring cleaning–for me, anyway.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll come back next week, when I welcome a very special guest. Many of you may already know Lynn Mosher. Who better to write an Easter/Resurrection post? If you’ve never read her awesome devotionals, you can check out her website here. It is most excellent.
First March winner of my book, Amelia’s Legacy is Jessica Weibel.
If you would like a chance to win a print copy of Amelia’s Legacy, let me know either by commenting on this post, or send me a message on Facebook. You can also use the “Email me” tab at the top of this page. Just mention the name of the book and you’ll be entered to win.
Coming in April: My next Authorview guest (3rd Tuesday of the month) is Cara Putnam. If you have ever attended an ACFW conference, you are familiar with that name. I hope you’ll pop back in around that time. Watch my Facebookauthor page for more information.

Victoria Bylin – Authorview

Victoria Bylin

 Welcome, Victoria!

I am:  Victoria Bylin
My best trait:   Loyalty
My bad habit:   Ugh. It’s kind of gross.  Picking at my dry cuticles. 
Qualities I admire:   Courage.  Endurance in the face of trials.  Generosity.  A good sense of humor.  (I think I just described my husband!)
What I like to read:    Inspirational romance, both contemporary and historical.  My favorite devotional is My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I’ll occasionally read Dick Francis, Lawrence Block, Michael Connelly and other “crime” writers. It’s a nice change.
What I write:  Currently: contemporary inspirational romance. In the past: western historicals
What I watch:  Very little, though I’ve gotten hooked on Dancing With The Stars. 
My family:  Married to my husband for 34 years. Two sons, both married.  Two adorable granddaughters–twins!  
My favorite food, snack, or beverage:  Pistachios.
What I love to do:  Write. Chat with friends. Take in the Kentucky skies. 
What I admire:   Blessed are the peacemakers.  
What makes me happy:  Sunrises. 
What makes me sad:  Violence. 
I believe:  I’m a Christian. The story is on my website under “Personal Journey.”  

Victoria Bylin is a romance writer known for her realistic and relatable characters. Her books have finaled in multiple contests, including the Carol Awards, the RITAs, and RT Magazine’s Reviewers Choice Award. A native of California, she and her husband now make their home in Lexington, Kentucky, where their family and their crazy Jack Russell terrier keep them on the go.

Learn more at or find her at one of the links below:

Writerly Connections

I haven’t really gone fishing. Not in the usual sense. 

As a writer, I need to make connections. One of the best ways to do that, is to attend conferences. You meet all sorts of people at writers conferences. Of course you meet lots of writers from the novice to the expert, unpublished, published, multi-published. You meet agents, editors, publishers, teachers, speakers, and everything in between.

I attended my first writers conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, several years ago. Excited and more than a little nervous, I walked into a classroom and sat down. After it started, I realized I was in the wrong class, but the speaker was so funny and interesting, I decided to stay. And besides, there was chocolate.

After that, I attended every class she taught. Ginny Smith, author of numerous novels in several genres, became my first “writerly” connection. Ginny encouraged me to keep working. She suggested I join a writing organization that offered critique loops where I could meet other beginning writers and improve my craft.

But most important of all, Ginny became a friend. There were others along the way, who also encouraged me to keep working at my writing. I met Fay Lamb on the main critique loop at ACFW. She encouraged me to form my own group, where I met my long-time crit partner, Amy Blake.

After a while, Amy got busy with home-schooling and other responsibilities, and had to move on. I joined two other small groups and met Nike Chillemi and Jennifer Hallmark. Nike (AKA Crime Fictionista) is a constant encourager, and in return, I get to read her crime/suspense stories in progress. Jennifer and I work together on a blog she started with another of our critique loop members, Christina Rich (Writing Prompts & Thoughts & Ideas…Oh My!).

As I got to know Fay Lamb better, we discovered so many “odd” coincidences in our lives, we’ve decided we’re long-lost siblings. And yes, “odd” is the correct word. She even named her latest dog “Audrey.” Another weird coincidence, since my middle name is Audrie. By the time many of you read this post, I hope to have met Fay, face-to-face for the first time. Ever. But we have so much in common, will it seem we’ve known each other much longer?

Fay linked me up with Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press. I was invited to contribute to a multi-author novella published this past February–A Dozen Apologies–a humorous “caper” of a romance. Jennifer Hallmark also worked on that novella. What fun we had. I’ll also meet Tracy this weekend. Later this year, Write Integrity Press will publish my novel, Amelia’s Legacy, the first of three in the Legacy Series.

At a local gathering of authors, I met Hallee Bridgeman and her husband, Gregg. Hallee is busy making quite a splash in the Indie publishing market. I had self-published a couple of fantasy-adventure novels several years ago. They lacked “pizazz” — Hallee and Gregg helped me get them spruced up. I’m working on some final details that will (huge sigh of relief) make me proud of those two books. I could not have done this on my own. God knows exactly what we need, and when we need it. Along comes the connection at the precise moment of need.

Are you beginning to see the pattern here? Of connections made over the years, one after another? Though many times, I’ve been tempted to give up, I kept moving forward, and now I’m a published author. I’m still attending conferences, because you still need to make those connections.

I have worldwide connections now, as my connections multiply.

We cross-publicize, pray for one another, encourage one another in the craft of writing and in life. What greater pleasure is there? So dear reader, are you discouraged, thinking you’ll never make it? Have you done everything possible to improve your craft? Have you put yourself out there? Found and attended local groups and conferences?

Life is a series of connections, both public and private, whatever field or calling is yours. Where you are right now came as a result of some sort of connection.

I thank God for all my connections. I’ve met wonderful people along the way, who took the time to express encouragement to a newbie. I learned from some of the best among them. Never forget, you may be someone else’s most important connection.

“Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Philippians 2: 2-4, The Message

photo credit: Sifter via photopin cc

A Writer’s Life–In Pursuit of Dreams–Ann Gabhart

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.–Harriet Tubman

I’m finishing out the month of March and my “Dreams” theme with a writer who continually inspires me to dream. She makes it look easy, but I know it’s not. It’s hard work and she’s never been afraid of that. Every time I’ve been privileged to hear her speak, I know dreams can come true. They may not be the big, overblown dreams that garner the media’s attention, but I never wanted to be a meteor. I want to be the twinkling star that lasts. Kind of like Ann Gabhart.

1.   Would you consider yourself a dreamer?

Ann: There are so many ways to be a dreamer. You can be a dreamy dreamer and maybe walk around in a fog all the time. You can be a focused dreamer and fix your eyes on a goal in that dream and reach for the stars. Or you can be a Walter Mitty type dreamer and just have fun imagining adventures.
Probably, over the years, I’ve been all those types of dreamers. I certainly dreamed of being a writer when I was a kid and imagined my stories finding their way into readers’ hands. Then, as I got older, I tried to figure out ways to make those dreams come true. My dreams became my goals. I didn’t just say someday I want to be a writer. I wanted to be a published writer right then. It took a few years of working toward that dream, but I did see it come to reality. I’m still dreaming now. I think it’s important to keep dreaming. And of course, I think I’ve always been the Walter Mitty type and enjoyed living in my dreams and turning them into stories. 

2.   Daydreams or night dreams? How else do you come up with ideas? 

Ann: I do dream at night and did a pile of daydreaming when I was a kid. I don’t daydream as much now unless you count writing fiction as a working daydream. I often dream elaborate adventures when I’m sleeping, but even though I can remember that the dreams were very involved, the actual happenings in the dreams vanish once I open my eyes and get out of bed. A few times, when something has jerked me out of sleep in the middle of a vivid dream, I’ve wanted to hit a pause button so I can rejoin the dream when I go back to sleep. That never happens. I just plunge into a whole new dream.
That question about coming up with ideas can be answered in dozens of ways because ideas come from so many sources. Everything a writer experiences, remembers, reads about, or imagines can inspire an idea. Even other people’s memories can be the idea instigator as my mother’s stories of growing up during the Depression years were the idea beginnings for my book, Angel Sister. That story led to my other Rosey Corner books, Small Town Girl and Love Comes Home (releasing in July). On the other hand, my own memories of growing up in a small rural town were the inspiration for my 1960’s setting in my Heart of Hollyhill books, Scent of Lilacs, Orchard of Hope and Summer of Joy. Then my Shaker books were inspired by the Shaker village near my house and the many historical accounts I’ve read of their Society.
Research can light a creative fire and make ideas spring up in my mind. That’s how Words Spoken True came about. When I read about the dramatic events in 1855 Louisville, I wanted to drop my characters down into that era and see what happened next. And then, of course, sometimes I just dream up an idea with no idea of where in the world it came from. Wes and his Jupiter stories in the Heart of Hollyhill series were like that. He just showed up in Scent of Lilacs. A gift, but who knows from where? Jupiter perhaps?  

3.   What steps do you take to bring your dreams to life?

Ann: If you mean my dream to write and be published, then the steps I took were writing and more writing and never giving up even when I was walking through rejection valley. I just kept writing. I kept trying to tell a better story. I kept bringing characters to life in my imagination. I kept researching for story ideas. And I kept reading to grow my familiarity with words and stories.
The first book I wrote was a gothic romance. That got me the interest of an agent, but she said gothics were a waning genre and why didn’t I write a historical romance? And so I did. I took the step of being willing to try something different. I’ve done that throughout my writing career. I’ve written in several different genres for both adults and kids. When one thing wasn’t working for me, I tried something new.
Now I try to be continually working on a new idea, a new story. And I’m still dreaming about writing a story everybody wants to read and that lands on the New York Times Bestseller list. Wouldn’t that be something? A person needs to dream big and to look forward with new goals.
I love this quote from Michelangelo. “The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”
I want to aim high and not limit my dreams.  

4.   Filling in the middle: How do you keep yourself moving forward?

Ann: I’ve always been a goal setter with my writing. In the beginning, it was just to write something every day. When I was a young mother with very little free time, I found that keeping a writing journal helped me stay focused and accountable. Too many days with no entry of time spent writing would make me try harder to find those extra hours needed to move toward my goal of completing a story or whatever project I was writing. Then later, after I began to concentrate on writing novels, I set goals of when I wanted to have the book completed. I made my own deadlines as a way to motivate myself to write and move forward with my stories. That doesn’t mean I’ve always met my goals. Often, I did not. Life happens and there is always something going on to pull you away from your desk when you have a family. But at the same time, I didn’t give up even when time to write was hard to come by. I just set new personal deadlines for my writing goals. Now I have contracts for my books with publisher imposed deadlines that keep my fingers on the keyboard.
While goals and deadlines can help you stay on track, they don’t make the writing any easier. With most every story, I hit what I call the writing doldrums somewhere along the way when I wonder if the story is worth writing. I’ve found I just have to keep plugging along with my writing. Generally, the creative winds will pick back up and I can keep the story going.
Writing can be hard work. That’s something that many people don’t understand. They think writers are doing what they love–and we are–but that doesn’t mean that it’s not work. Getting the story down in the first draft is the hardest part for me. It can be exciting to have a great idea and think about writing a book, but it takes perseverance to see the story through the middle and end.       


5.   Do you have any advice for other dreamers?

Ann: Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. (Harriet Tubman)
When you think about what Harriet Tubman did, guiding so many slaves to freedom with danger stalking her every step, then you can get a vision of her dream. Our dreams won’t be like hers. My dream won’t be like yours. But we all have God given talents the Lord wants us to use. He gave us the capacity to dream. He wants us to dream big and use those talents to bring sunshine and joy into the world. While He doesn’t promise pursuing our dreams will be easy, He does promise to always be with us through the good and bad times, and sometimes He blesses us with stories.
So dream big, work hard, pray harder, and never give up.  
“Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in.”(Louise Brown) 
ANN H. GABHART, the author of several bestselling novels, has been called a storyteller, not a bad thing for somebody who never wanted to do anything but write down stories. She’s published twenty-six novels for adults and young adults with more stories on the way. She keeps her keyboard warm out on her Kentucky farm where she lives with her husband, Darrell. They have three children and nine grandchildren.
To find out more about Ann or her books visit Check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, or Jocie’s Heart of Hollyhill blog You can follow Ann on Facebook,, Twitter, , or

Summer of Joy, the third title in the Heart of Hollyhill series is now in stores and available on-line dressed up in a brand new cover. Come visit the 1960s and enjoy some true-to-life family drama, refreshing humor and lovable characters.

Welcome to the Bluegrass!*

Whether you’re coming into Kentucky from the north, south, east, or west, or southeast, like Mara Adkins, you’ll notice the horses right away. After all, Kentucky’s logo “Unbridled Spirit,” boasts a racehorse. Kentucky produces more thoroughbreds than any other state. 
But that’s not all. There are over 450 horse farms in the region and most are working farms. These are not all race horses, but saddlebred as well. The Bluegrass Region lies in the heart of Kentucky, and includes Shelbyville, Frankfort, Lexington, Georgetown, Harrodsburg, Richmond, and Berea. 
From its earliest days, Kentucky has supported the horse breeding industry. Daniel Boone introduced a bill for “improving the breed of horses” at Kentucky’s first legislative assembly. And it’s not just thoroughbreds. Shelbyville, Kentucky is known as the saddlebred capital of the world.

I love to drive Old Frankfort Pike between Lexington and Frankfort. The narrow road winds beneath a canopy of maples and is often flanked by hand-piled rock fences. The beauty of the gently rolling green pastures is only outdone by the animals who graze there. It’s part of the Bluegrass Country Driving Tour. If you take this drive, be prepared to stop often. The roads are narrow, so do be careful, but don’t worry about the horses, they’re used to gawkers.
Mara visited the Bluegrass during July, so she missed the gorgeous daylilies in bloom. They line the drives of some of the well known horse farms, as well as the entrance leading into Keeneland, Lexington’s racetrack. 
She didn’t get to see much beyond the inside of the barn she worked in, thanks to July’s bachelor. But if you plan to visit, I can suggest a few sights not to be missed, if you’re a horse enthusiast.
The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington is the place to go if you love history and want to see the horses up close and personal. Or you might want to book a couple of nights at a bed and breakfast that’s also a working horse farm. You can do that.
There is plenty to do in the Bluegrass region. If your pockets are deep and you plan well ahead, you can book a night at the Storybook Inn in Lexington. But if you visit in spring, you probably won’t get a room. There’s the Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland in April, and that other big race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, the first Saturday of May.
There is even a burial place for horses at Normandy Farm in Lexington. Normandy was part of the historic Elmendorf Farm, owned by Daniel Swigert. Fair Play and Mahubah, sire and dam of Man O’War are buried there. 
Many of the horse farms do allow visitors, but don’t just show up. You have to call ahead. And if you decide to visit a farm, here’s a little-known fact (or horse country etiquette). When visiting a horse farm, it’s customary to tip the groom or farm representative who shows you around, five or ten dollars, depending on time spent with you. On guided or private tours, always ask if the fee includes tips.
One thing you’ll notice and it’ll be abundantly clear after the drive, many of these horses live better than we do. Their stables are state-of-the-art. Some are air-conditioned and they even have hot tubs and swimming pools. Those are for exercise and rehab, of course. And don’t be surprised if you find a television or a dog or a goat in a horses’ stall. Horses seem to like those things. There are divas in the equine world, oh yes.
I hope you’ll stop in, next time you’re in the area. Cruising down I-75 or across I-64, you can’t miss it. You’re bound to fall in love with the scenery and the animals, but if you wander into Lexington, sorry about the traffic. With all the horse farms, and the world famous University of Kentucky, it’s a fact of life there.

So, I’m off to check on Mara. I know she left out of here in a big hurry, but I’m wondering…will she be back? I hope so. I’d sure like to meet her.––Betty Owens

Read Mara’s story, A Dozen Apologies, beginning Monday, January 20th at or “Like” my Facebook author page to keep up with Mara’s antics. 

*Originally posted at