Friday, February 27, 2009

Valentine's Short Story Contest Winners

Becky and I have judged the entries and are pleased to announce our winners!

The Grand Prize goes to Barbara Curtis for our favorite Beckoning Love, using twenty of the Heartsong titles.

Beckoning Love by Barbara Curtis

Louisa lay contentedly in her hospital bed, cuddling her newborn daughter. This baby makes five precious children, she thought, gazing into the delicate face of little Betsy.

Then, out of the blue, she heard a song drifting down the hallway, getting louder as the singer approached her door. Franklin, holding a bouquet of wildflowers, waltzed in. The whole maternity floor could probably hear, "O, Buffalo Gal, won't you come laugh tonight?" He didn't have the words exactly right, but Louisa loved the way he could turn any occasion into a time to laugh. And this was just the first song he was bound to sing to Betsy. He'd lull her to sleep with silly songs of butterfly trees and castles in the air and treasures in the hills─whatever happened to come to his mind. For sure, this baby would bring a new joy to their already blessed lives.

When the nurse came to take their darling for a few minutes, Louisa couldn't wait for Betsy's return. Already her arms felt so empty. As soon as they were alone, though, Franklin pulled out a package he'd been hiding behind his back.

"What's this?" Louisa asked as he handed it to her with sparkling eyes and a grin.

"Open it." He bowed gallantly, a look of deep love in his eyes.

Louisa gasped as she opened the box. She didn't dare think of the cost, of the sacrifice he'd made for her. "It's lovely." She ran her fingers through the silky fabric of the new dress. It felt soft and downy, like Betsy's hair.

"I wanted you to be warm and beautiful on the long road home. When all the children gather around you to meet Betsy, you'll look like a queen surrounded by her subjects. So, if the dress fits, it's for your homecoming day."

"Oh, Franklin. Thank you." She blinked away tears, but he gently traced one that had slipped onto her cheek. Louisa sighed. "I can hardly wait to go home and for the other children to meet Betsy."

Franklin chuckled. "Well, they're all planning—shall I say, little gifts?—for you two girls. Unfortunately, by the time each one has said hello to Betsy, your dress might end up smelling like garlic and roses."

Louisa laughed. She could imagine the giggly girls Letty and Veronica breaking off sweet-smelling flowers growing along the fence. Lester would bring whatever he could pull out of the garden. Maybe she'd be lucky and get carrots instead of the garlic. And Thomas─if he could find them─would bring porcupine quills─and promises that he wouldn't leave the yard again. Oh, those sweet children...

Franklin took her hand. The look in his eyes changed from his wild-at-heart musician charm to his quieter, poetic side. "By the beckoning sea," he started softly.

Louisa's heart swelled as her husband began the poem he'd written for her. The beach was where they had met, when he had come ashore after a day of sailing his small boat.

Where I first set my eyes on you.
I, the seafaring stranger, a reckless rogue,
You, the lovely maiden with kindness untold,
I found in you my joy, my life,
And 'twas there I spoke my love to you.
When the captain's wife I asked you to be,
My voice turned to song for your love toward me.
O return to love, return with me,
As we walk by the beckoning sea.

Pulling Franklin's face down close to hers, Louisa could feel her heart beating faster. Her thoughts were whirling like they had when she'd been a child riding the carousel. Dreams had spun round and round in her head. From atop her trusty steed, how often had she been the lovely princess awaiting her knight? But what had once only been captive dreams on a spinning carousel horse were now her glorious days. How God had blessed her.

She kissed Franklin, holding him close. Just then the nurse reappeared with Betsy. As Louisa received the child into her arms, she whispered for Franklin alone, "I'll love you always, with a beckoning love."

The End

And an Honorable Mention Prize goes to Erica Vetsch for using twenty-five Heartsong titles in her cute story called Wedding Gossips.

Wedding Gossips by Erica Vetsch

“I can’t wait for BETSY’S RETURN.” Gladys fingered the gaudy beads around her neck. “She’s going to die when she hears about THE CAPTAIN’S WIFE.”

Millie eased her bulk onto the tulle-wreathed folding chair, pausing to admire her new CAROUSEL DREAMS ecru pumps purchased just for this wedding. “Gladys, Betsy will have a fit of the vapors when she finds out she missed that RECKLESS ROGUE busting out singing BUFFALO GALs in the middle of the wedding. Why, it was like a bolt OUT OF THE BLUE.” She straightened her back to ease the pinch of her new girdle. “Is that a new hair rinse?”

Gladys patted her tight, blue-gray curls. “It’s from that new CAPTIVE DREAMS line at the salon. It’s called SENECA SHADOWS.”

Millie sipped the too-sweet punch. “I wonder if Betsy realizes just what a treat she missed. The bride picked such an odd outfit. I mean, really. Have you ever been to a wedding where THE BRIDE WORE COVERALLS?”


Millie leaned close and whispered. “And THE PREACHER WORE A GUN?”

The bridal couple entered the fellowship hall, ducking under the archway coated with blossoms. Millie peered over her glasses. “I don’t know who chose the flowers, but really, BUTTERFLY TREES and daisies together? I’d as soon pair GARLIC AND ROSES. And that maid of honor. She could at least check to see IF THE DRESS FITS before squeezing herself into it.” Millie had to stop for breath, realizing she should’ve bought a slightly larger sized foundation garment for herself.

Gladys dabbed the corner of her eye with her lace handkerchief, careful not to disturb her frosted blue lids or the caked on mascara. “When I think that the Captain and his bride met BY THE BECKONING SEA, it brings me A NEW JOY.”

“Then stop crying. This is A TIME TO LAUGH.” Millie sniffed and pinched her lips together. “At least this was a happy wedding. Not like the last one. Why, the preacher should’ve worn his gun for that one. George and Lucinda finally tying the knot after all this time. AND BABY MAKES FIVE only a few months later.”

“Now, Millie, at least they did the right thing.” Gladys gazed at the wedding program. “Did you see the beautiful lettering? Who did the work designing the program and the invitations?”

“A new place that just moved into the mall. QUILLS AND PROMISES Keepsakes. Where that art gallery used to be. You know, WILD AT HEART? I tell you, the way shops move in and out lately, it’s hard to keep them all straight. I miss the good old days where you could go to Woolworths or the Rexall and that was it.”

A blare from the stage jolted Millie and set the punch in her cup to sloshing. “What on earth is that?”

Gladys frowned. “It’s the wedding band. It says here in the program they’re called TRESPASSED HEARTS.”

“Trespassed Hearts? What kind of a name is that for a music group? And what is it that they’re singing? I can’t make out the words.”

Gladys squinted at the small print. “It says the bridal song is CASTLES IN THE AIR, from their new album TREASURE IN THE HILLS.”

“Fitting. The bride’s got her head in the clouds all right. I’ve never been to such a strange wedding. The marriage will probably be stranger still. I give them two years at the most.”
The bride and groom circulated, chatting with guests, their faces glowing. He kept his arm around her waist, and she laid her head on his shoulder from time to time, a smile always on her face.

When they reached Gladys and Millie, the bride hugged them both. “I’m so glad you came. We just couldn’t have a church function without you. And I’m sorry Betsy couldn’t be here.”

Millie returned the bride’s embrace. She looked the young woman right in the eye and said, “We’ll tell her all about it, dear. It was a lovely wedding. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. You’ve traveled THE LONG ROAD HOME and made a RETURN TO LOVE. I predict you’re going to live happily ever after.”

The End

Thanks to everyone who participated! This was really fun. We hope you think so, too. :)


Erica Vetsch said...

Congratulations, Barbara! What a fun story. And what a fun contest. Thanks to JoAnne and Becky for running it. :)

Now if I could just remove the typo from the last paragraph of mine...GROAN!

Janet Spaeth said...

Wow! Loved these! Lots of creativity abounding--!

JoAnne said...

Fixed, Erica! My bad, too. I'll admit I didn't spend time editing these or looking for typos. :)

Susan Page Davis said...

Both stories are terrific. I love the creative ways Barbara used the titles so that the whole thing actually read smoothly. That's a gift. Erica, I'm still laughing. Great job!

Debra Ullrick said...

This is just too fun! Both stories are amazing.

Congratulations, Barbara. You did an awesome job!

And, Erica, I loved the way you used, The Bride Wore Coveralls, The Groom Wore Spurs, and The Preacher Wore a Gun. Too funny!

Debra Ullrick, author of
The Bride Wore Coveralls

Erica Vetsch said...

JoAnne, no worries, the typo was mine from the original! EEEK!

Keli Gwyn said...

I enjoy reading your blog with its valuable content and want you to know I've given it the Premio Dardos award. You can see my post at Romance Writers on the Journey at

Mary Connealy said...

Nice work, ladies. I like the stories.

Barbara said...

Thank you all for your kind comments! And congratulations to you, also, Erica--what a fun story you had.

Barbara Curtis