Saturday, November 11, 2017

What Veteran's Day Means to Me

Good Morning Friends!

Fall is underway and we are rushing into the holiday season. Christmas decorations have been out in stores across America alongside Halloween and Thanksgiving decor. Like many of you, I look forward to the Holidays but, today, I'd like to call your attention to what this day truly represents: Veteran’s Day
Veteran’s Day has always been special to me. My family never failed to stress the importance and honor of living in and serving America. Plus, there was always a parade with marching bands, horses tacked out in the best and most ornate saddles and bridles, and candy. I proudly stood tall with my hand over my heart when the Honor Guard passed. The men removed their hats, some saluted. Many women allowed tears to course down their cheeks.

I knew my father and uncles had served. We had brave, uniformed images of Soldiers and Sailors in the family albums.

Then, came Vietnam. I watched as friends were drafted and served proudly and with honor because they loved the United States of America. Some have their names etched on that long black wall in Washington, D.C.

My husband served in the Navy. Our son retired from the Navy. I was and remain a proud Navy wife and mother.

I hope readers take a moment to consider those who serve our country.

I have included a short story I wrote titled, “Family Legacy” which won Honorable Mention in the short-short category at the 2017 OWFI Conference. The story is about a father’s grief after losing his son. I hope you enjoy the story and the sentiment of it.....

Sam unlocked the door and held the screen to prevent the tell-tale squeak from waking his wife. He dropped into the paint-chipped porch glider to pull on his boots before going for a walk. Any other day the chill in the air, the sounds of birds, and the sweet scent of honeysuckle and roses would have energized him. The past week hadn’t been ordinary, life would never again be the same. Read the entire story HERE.

Hope you enjoyed today's post and that you'll drop by often. Be sure and sign up to receive my newsletter and visit my website.

Until next time, Journey Onward!

Saturday, September 9, 2017


It's been a long time since I visited my own Blog. However, I went to the West Texas Writer's Academy in Canyon, TX again. The class I chose to take this year was Mastering Self-Publishing taught by Bethany Claire. There is so much information out there, but this dynamo of self-publishing was full of confidence and talent. She just wanted to share her knowledge. Look her up at 

I had two lifelong dreams come true in 2016. In May I went to Scotland with my best friend. It was all I imagined and more. 

Mary and me at Melrose Abbey, Scotland

In October I got a mini horse named Flynn. He's feisty, independent, and a bit wild, but what a  treat to look out and see my own four-legged soulful creature. Here he is with me. That's a MacGregor tartan scarf--my family.


And, now, we're back to the present day:

I am currently working on a series I call The Journey Series. Book One--Journey of Honor takes place on the Oregon Trail in 1845. The main character, Rebecca Pierce, is an 18 year-old tomboy, independent girl. Her goal is to reach the Oregon Territory and fulfill a personal vow she made to her father just after he died. She won't let anything or anyone get in the way of that promise. Rebecca is traveling with her mother, Sarah. They decided to go ahead with the family plan to go west.

Zachary Miller is a rider on the trail (meaning he has only his horse and whatever is in his saddle bag). He gets in the way to say the least.

The Oregon Trail was treacherous and tiring. The pioneers were determined, steadfast, and dreaming of a new life.

Journey of Honor is reaching completion of the first draft. Then, of course, I'll begin edits and edits and more edits. That said, I am hoping for a November release followed by a novella titled "Weddings at Journey's End" (hint).
Join me at my website: 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Memories of the Past and Going Home

Earlier this spring, in March, my son and I took my granddaughters back in time several generations. Our first stop was the Chisholm Trail Monument in Addington, Oklahoma. They received a lesson about the cattle drives of the 19th century. My mind went immediately to my history class in 1968 with Mr. Jerald Haynes, Lovington, New Mexico. He taught in such a way my heart opened to the history around me.
Our next stops were the Addington Cemetery and the Waurika Cemetery where they met their great grandparents and great-great grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Teaching moments! That day they learned family history is important.

Our last stop was the Bennett family farm. The home place. In the blink of an eye that falling down, paint peeling, dangerous place became the special small, white house where my grandparents lived. The kitchen window looked out toward the dirt road and my uncle's home. The gray porch was a gathering place. I remember my grandfather sitting there and laughing. He laughed songs. His laugh started in his toes and rumbled out. God, I miss that.   Later, in 1969, my parents moved into the home place. The porch, that porch, the place of gathering was also a place of tragedy.  My father was the youngest of six boys. He died on that porch at the age of 60. He had a heart attack. Years earlier  two other brothers died on that porch. A. W. died on June 11, 1940 of a heart attack at the age of 21. . Dale died on July 14, 1941 at the age of 17 of a gun shot accident. 

I learned to shell peas and snap beans on that porch.

Daddy was much like his father. His laugh was from the soul. His blue eyes literally twinkled when he laughed. I miss him.

As a girl the propane tank became my beautiful horse. We galloped and roamed. Adventure after adventure. A large tree with red berries became a resting place.

Other favorite buildings on that old farm were the old garage with heavy, sliding doors and a dirt floor. It was dark in there and full of stories just waiting to be told. I accompanied my grandmother to the milking shed early in the mornings. And, sneaked into the feed house to grab a handful of cow cake to gnaw on (it's the small round building, the milk shed is behind it). 

The fresh milk was kept in a blue spatter ware pitcher in the ice box. Green bottles of 7-Up sat right along side it. A candy dish of Kraft caramels was always on the long kitchen table. 

My Daddy and uncles learned to drive in the pasture. My brother, cousins, and I learned to drive in that same pasture. I, however, preferred riding on the tail gate so I could touch the cows. My sons and their cousins learned to drive in that pasture. And. on this journey with my granddaughters, they drove on their Daddy's lap in that same pasture. Life is full circle. 

At my age trekking down memory lane is bittersweet. I remember the good times, I remember words. I remember words not said. How can one be sad, yet happy at the same time? I'll remember this day in the spring of 2016 until I take my last breath. I hope my granddaughters will remember it with fondness.
The photo above  includes my grandfather, John A. Bennett, my tiny grrandmother, Cora Blankenship Bennett, my uncle Thurman, and my uncle Obed on THE porch.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ransom Canyon by Jodi Thomas!


Been a while since I visited with you and shared something here but this is something I can't keep to myself!
I am, once again, feeling the awe associated with hosting one of my favorite and most successful authors on my blog. Jodi Thomas is an award winning, multi-published author on the NYT Bestseller List and USA Today. Besides being able to take readers into small Texas towns full of life and history she weaves story lines with characters we all know.

The new series, RANSOM CANYON, takes us out of Harmony. WINTER’S CAMP is the prequel to RANSOM CANYON. Readers meet James Kirkland in WINTER’S CAMP. He has lived his life as a rover and loner. As time passes he begins to yearn for a home. The day comes when he happens to come up on an Apache camp where he is welcome but alert. He notices a young woman standing to the back with her head down. She is still and is covered in mud from the top of her head to her toes. She stinks. She is treated cruelly. When she looks up and Kirkland sees she has blue eyes he realizes she’s a captive. He bargains for her and leaves with her. One day, out of the blue, she tells Kirkland her name is Millie. Trust is slow to come.

As Kirkland and Millie travel they begin to trust. He is taking her to the place called Ransom Canyon where he plans to build his home. After a multitude of hurdles they marry and begin the Kirkland legacy in Ransom Canyon.

Generations later in RANSOM CANYON Staten Kirkland has become a loner after losing his wife and child. He rarely leaves his ranch. There are times when the loneliness and despair threaten to overrule him. He seeks out fellow loner Quinn O’Gradywho was his wife’s best friend. Eventually, friendship becomes more but Staten isn’t ready for anyone to know. When Quinn’s past horror comes back to haunt her it is Staten who pulls her out of the darkness.

Lucas Reyes is a dependable high school kid who wants nothing more than to go to college. He has worked with his family as ranch hands all of his life. One night Lucas and his friends go to a place that is forbidden. An accident happens that injures the girl Lucas secretly feels more than friendship for, Lauren is injured. Another friend, Reid, talks to the police and other authorities about the accident. He blames it on Lucas and tells the story making himself the hero. Friendships shatter.

Yancey Grey walks into Ransom Canyon a free man. Recently released from prison he looks things over and finds a place to stay in a senior retirement community. He works as a handyman for them and lives in the back of an office. Yancey has spent his life in and out of foster homes and other facilities. He is shy and has never had a true friend. The older citizens take Yancey under their wings. He is grateful but can’t understand it. Ellie, almost a nurse (she’s a student), sees to the health needs of the senior community. She’s all business and serious. After a near fatal shooting on Staten’s ranch Yancy and Ellie become friendlier.

I liked every character but as a retired nurse I fell hard for Ellie. I could see me in her. I’m looking forward to being a member of the Ransom Canyon Community.

A fifth-generation Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jodi Thomas chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable. 

With a degree in family studies, Thomas is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics. Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Thomas enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A&M University campus, where she currently serves as Writer in Residence.

Commenting on her contribution to the arts, Thomas said, “When I was teaching classes full-time, I thought I was making the world a better place. Now I think of a teacher or nurse or mother settling back and relaxing with one of my books. I want to take her away on an adventure that will entertain her. Maybe, in a small way, I’m still making the world a better place.”

When not working on a novel or inspiring students to pursue a writing career, Thomas enjoys traveling with her husband, renovating a historic home they bought in Amarillo and “checking up” on their two grown sons.

For more information, please visit Jodi’s website at

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Oklahoma wildflowers and OWFI--post conference thoughts

Each year I try to attend the Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc. (OWFI) conference in Oklahoma City.  It takes place the first weekend in May therefore the drive is pleasant and colorful, unless tornado season kicks in early. Wildflowers and green grass color the landscape. This year was no different except the trip home seemed more vivid. Yellow Black-eyed Susan's blanketed the medians and pastures. They were occasionally interrupted with red-orange Indian Paintbrushes and pale pink flowers. I don't know the name of the pink flowers but I imagine it has to be something dainty and feminine.

My favorite section of the three hour drive is through the Arbuckle's where the sides of the hills have been lain bare. Building the interstate years ago uncovered a geological treasure that is studied by scientists from all over the world. The striae of stone emphasizes several geological eras. Often the layers are almost vertical rather than horizontal. Water trickles down the sides from some hidden sources. Boulders, stones, and rocks hang in the air by some magical force. Some are trapped by other stones on the way down. Others collect on the side of the road. The wildflowers grow amid the stones.

Rocks fascinate me. I don't know why nor do I understand it. Perhaps it is because they hold some sort of magical power. Maybe it's simple and it's just because they are so beautiful.

Following the conference, on my way home, the landscape around me seemed more colorful, more tangible, more welcoming. I think it's because my creativity was open and receptive. The photos above were taken at the scenic lookout. It's a mere example of the beauty Oklahoma offers.

The conference! Where to begin--it's always like a reunion. I see people I only see annually. I meet big name authors. I go to workshops and try to soak up as much knowledge as I possibly can. I try to retain everything. Choosing workshops is difficult. At least for me. Laughter is present in every corner. Small groups can be found talking at tables in the lobby and bar. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hospitality of The Embassy Suites Hotel near the airport. The staff is always kind. They remember us. It's amazing in this age.

This year I served as the Shepherd (guide) for Sarah Henning. A lovely young woman and author. That was a genuine pleasure. She didn't need me much. I met Lee Lofland, a top cop, and Les Edgerton, an ex-con as he describes himself. I learned more about the importance of covers from Brandy Walker. I learned about First Pages. I learned and learned.

Our banquet table was probably the craziest! Lots of fun. Vicky Malone was our leader but Nick Lyon, H.b. Berlow, Tom Barczak, and Les Edgerton stole the show. Arlene Gale and I decided to make it a tradition to sit with each other at the same banquet table.

However, the absolute highlight for me was meeting Andrew E. Kaufman. He's a writer of psychological thrillers that make readers question their sanity. I'm on his "street team" and find it humbling to have actually met him. By the way, I don't think he's crazy. He just writes crazy.

Next year can't come soon enough. One thing I can count on following a conference is a temporary status of Super Writer. That generally doesn't last long for me, but it feels good while it does last. Learn more about OWFI at

Enjoy these photos from the conference:

Me (Winona Cross), Andrew E. Kaufman, and Brandy Walker

 Me (Winona Cross) and Andrew E. Kaufman

Nick Lyon, Tom Barczak, Les Edgerton, and H. b. Berlow

Me (Winona Cross) and Callie Hutton. I'm on Callie's Street Team.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Jodi Thomas is visiting!

April 1, 2015! It's not a joke, I really do have Jodi Thomas visiting "Wandering and Wondering with Words"! It is an honor, one that humbles me yet fills me with pride.
Most readers will know that Jodi is a multi-published, award winning author and is a constant on the New York Times Bestseller List and at USA Today. Her latest release, ONE TRUE HEART, takes place in small and usually quiet Harmony, Texas where the inhabitants have personalities as diverse as the west Texas winds blowing over the plains and through the canyons. Millanie McAllen returns as a wounded veteran just wanting to start over and figure out what the next steps in her life will be. Drew Cunningham appears to be a nerd but he's hiding from the past. His sister, Kare, is the local fortune teller, compassion is really her stock in trade. That, and a hidden career. Beau Yates returns home for his estranged father's funeral. His music heals his heart. And, Johnny Wheeler wants nothing but to get a divorce behind him and work the family farm. Now, that's all I can say . . .


The questions I have for Jodi focus on The Writer's Academy at West Texas A and M University (WTAMU) in Canyon, Texas. It is an intense week but well worth the time, money, and fatigue. The faculty members share their knowledge without pretense. Fellow students make friends. Staying in the dorm is a perk for many of us.

Winona Cross: When the Writer's Academy at WTAMU began in the mid-90's did you imagine how successful it would become?

Jodi Thomas: When I accepted Writer in Residence at West Texas A and M University my number one goal was to help beginning writers. It took me a few years to figure out how. When Continuing Education on campus offered to help, I knew we were off to the races. I wanted to help people not only write the best books they could, but learn ways to break into publishing.

We put together a one week class that ran all day. For five days students would live the writer's life. I wanted classes, intense classes--not one hour workshops you can sleep through or skip to go shopping like people do at conventions. I wanted lectures given to the entire group that focused on exact problems and rewards in the industry.

The success was unbelievable. People looking at the Academy sometimes say it is expensive because conferences may be cheaper, but I've never heard a writer who has attended say it wasn't well worth the money.

I believe in the Academy so much I donate my time for the week and usually stay in the dorm so we can have late night critiques. We even study plot structure over popcorn and a movie one night.

WC: I attended the Academy for the first time in 2012. I was in your group and we worked on the first 30 pages of our works-in-progress. After almost three years the book I worked on is being published by The Wild Rose Press. Tell the readers, if you will, how many Academy alumni have moved forward to publication.

JT: I believe ten of my first class have sold. Some have several books out. Check the Hall of Fame page on the

WC: You have shared that you go to your home office to write for several hours every evening. Was developing that habit difficult? Were there hurdles you had to overcome?

JT: I think the hardest thing to do as a writer is to get your bottom in the chair and work. After 25 years and 40 books I still fight it, but I've learned a few tricks.
1.  Make yourself sit down for a short time--I usually say I'm going to sit here for one hour no matter what. Three hours later, I realize I'm working overtime.
2.  Start with reading what you wrote yesterday. It pulls you into the story.
3.  Work on a computer that doesn't have e-mail, games, etc..
4.  Set weekly, monthly goals. You may not reach them all but you'll get some.
5.  When you're stuck, change your environment.

WC: You've earned many awards, including the RITA from the Romance Writers of America (RWA), will you share the feeling of being recognized for your knowledge, talent, and hard work?

JT: I won my first RITA in 1993 with my third book. It never occurred to me that I'd win. I just went to the RWA convention so I could wear the ribbon that said Finalist. The second time I was up I read the other books that were up and decided I didn't have a chance, so I didn't go--couldn't afford it anyway. Hawaii? Third time I believed I had a chance, even bought a new dress to wear. I won. Said my thank you when I turned to leave they wouldn't let me off the stage. Nora Roberts took the mic and said in front of 3,000 people, "On the rare occasion a writer wins three RITA's in the same category, she is inducted into the Hall of Fame". I couldn't believe it! That morning I'd bought 150 dollars worth of books on how to write.

Now, awards line the top shelves of my office but what matters most is the letters I get from readers.

WC: Any advice for authors who feel discouraged?

JT: When you stop growing and taking critique you're as good as you're ever going to get.

Thank you, Jodi, for visiting my blog. It does mean more than I have the words to say. I look forward to seeing you on June 8, 2015 in Canyon for my third visit to the Academy. For writers out there who have considered attending the Academy all I can say is "Just Do It". Regardless of whose class you choose to be in you will be rewarded with new knowledge and kindness.  

I look forward to reading your comments. Thank you for reading.