A Vacation-Inspired Giveaway

Last week, I went on a mother-daughter vacation


to visit my super-cool writing friend Lisa Belcastro on Martha’s Vineyard.

mv-beach picnic
lobster picnic on beach at sunset

And what a week!

Fans of the movie, Sabrina, with Harrison Ford, will know this building as the one his character buys for a homeless shelter. It's really a bank.
Fans of the movie Sabrina, with Harrison Ford, will know this building as the one his character buys for a homeless shelter. It’s really a bank.

We’re all writers so we had lots of fun talking writing, even joined Lisa’s crit group one evening. Inspiring stuff.

We also soaked in the beauty of God’s creation.

We hiked to the island’s highest point–a whopping 300 feet above sea level.
mv-martha's vineyard beach
We walked the beach.
mv-martha's vineyard beach 2
Walked many beaches. Each one was a little different.

Lisa was a wonderful tour guide, offering lots of fun tidbits about the island, as she does in her Vineyard based books. Even showed us the best place to hunt for sea glass. I found a red piece!

We saw lots of sights.

mv-colorful houses Martha's Vineyard

mv-martha's vineyard lighthouse
We even saw the crew working at moving a lighthouse in from the rapidly eroding cliff’s edge.

And if all that wasn’t enough to refill my creative well and give my writing a much-needed kick start, I also received lots of exciting news last week. holtfinalist





In addition to finaling in The Word Awards, Blind Trust is a finalist in the Selah Awards for Mystery/Suspense. And Identity Withheld is a finalist in the Holt Medallion for the short inspirational category, and…is a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards for contemporary series suspense/adventure.

Lisa also received news that she’s a double finalist in the Selahs and a finalist in the Booksellers’ Best Award


The president, who vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, sent over a bottle of champagne for our impromptu celebration…

Okay, just kidding. I’m a fiction writer, remember? But…the bottle does have the president’s seal on it! Lisa clearly knows people (but you didn’t hear that from me, shh)

To celebrate, I’m giving away books!

Three copies of Identity Withheld to three lucky winners.Identity Withheld


And a set (on kindle) of Lisa’s Shenandoah inspirational romances to one more lucky winner.

mv-Lisa Belcastro

Monday Update: I just learned that my July release, Emergency Reunion, was a Top Pick at RT Book Reviews, and my box has arrived, so…I’m adding a copy of it to the giveaway, too.  😀 

Your Turn: Tell me about your most inspiring vacation (in the comments below) for a chance to win. (If you win and already have Identity Withheld, I can gift it to a friend from you.) Names will be drawn randomly from all entries received by midnight May 23rd. EDT


P.S. Desperate Measures has been spotted in bookstores! And…is already shipping from some online stores! It’s also still up for a Goodreads Giveaway. And Deadly Devotion is still free in Ebook.


  • Let’s step back in time for a moment. Close your eyes and picture yourself 47 years ago as a patience-testing, adventure-going, imaginative, and painfully shy 3-year-old. Now picture that you have blond hair so blond a photographer once had to brush it up on the part so you could actually see it. Now take this toddler and put her in an old tent camper with snaps all around it to hold down the canvas tent and two wide wooden slats, one on each side, that could easily sleep 2 adults. Notice I did not use the word “comfortably” in that sentence. Got the picture? Good.

    In 1966 my family and I went on our traditional family vacation to Jekyll Island off the coast of southeast Georgia. I hated the drive because once you passed Macon you couldn’t even play “punch buggy” due to the lack of traffic on I-16. If you were lucky you might see some cows and horses in the pasture but mostly you would see corn crops, well the stalks anyway, or fields of wheat. There were no peach orchards or peanut farms in that part of Georgia – wrong soil. What lacked in entertaining views and vistas was made up for and then some with mosquitoes – Georgia’s state insect.

    After an eternity of driving we pulled onto Jekyll Island and the wonderful refreshing scents of the ocean replaced that horrid smell that only a paper mill can produce. I really hated having to drive through Brunswick with it’s paper mills (also the home of Brunswick stew!) which permeated absolutely everything with it’s stench. My older brother, who had been napping during the drive, and I had to scramble out of the car and stand in a small grove of trees as my father backed the station wagon pulling the camper into our campsite. Mom was his navigator in this and I marveled at how well he was able to complete this task after only 3 or 4 tries, (usually one was due to myself or my brother getting in the way). The family rule was no one got to go to the restroom until the tent was pitched. I, being 3, was the exception to the rule just to prevent, you know, mistakes.

    Each day Mom would cook on the little Coleman stove and make camp fries in the fire pit. I loved the smell of the campfire and stove mixed in with the pine and ocean brought in on a breeze. I did not know it at the time but we were also camped near a Boy Scout camp. Mom or Dad would regale us with stories of the War Between the States and the American Revolution. I was fortunate and got my love of history from both parents.

    The first night was the most magical. After a day of setting up camp then going to the beach of white sand to build sandcastles and splash my feet in the shallows (I was scared of the ocean – it was just too big!) Mom and Dad tucked my brother and I in our beds – Dad slept with Jimmy and I slept with Mom. I would lay there in the dark, next to the canvas wall and listen to my parents talking. All I could hear were the reassuring murmurs that they were still close by. Approximately 11 pm I heard the most amazing music I’d ever run across, which was amazing to me since Mom was a concert organist. It’s notes were somber and achingly tender. The instrument was brass and sounded like the notes washed together in a blend of beauty and sadness. The bugler I would find out later was from the Boy Scout camp and would play Reveille at the crack of dawn and Taps at night.

    I laid there in the tent for the next 5 nights listening to the crickets and katydids as they announced the approaching Taps. I breathed in deeply the refreshing aromas of the ocean and pines as I let my parents’ murmurings cover me as though a quilt. I imagined, as the bugler played, the soldiers camped down for the night, listening to that simple little tune that was meant to bring peace after a day of brutal fighting and restore the spirit for a new day.

    On Sunday we went to the campsite “church” where a local pastor would come preach unless there was a minister amongst the campers who agreed to present the Message. I loved Sundays on Jekyll. I didn’t have to wear those much-hated dresses that looked so frilly but really did not take into account the activeness a 3-yo tomboy. Sometimes when we were there the campers would gather together for a potluck made up of everything from hot dogs to fried chicken. One year at Christmas we even had turkey!

    I dreaded the last couple of days as I knew we would be leaving this refuge of God’s beauty and peace and head back to the “big” city where Dad would return to work, Mom would continue giving piano lessons and playing for the church, my brother would head off with his friends, and I’d be left with my imagination. For weeks after our vacation I’d replay each moment of our stay on Jekyll and the tour of the millionaires’ “cabins” on St. Simon’s. I couldn’t wait to go back because it was there that I felt closer to God than anywhere else, except for the mountains, but I preferred Jekyll because it was warm and had all sorts of adventures awaiting me.

    Whenever I become really stressed out I can close my eyes and picture that little girl in the wonderful camper tent with the snaps.I can close my eyes and feel that closeness to our Creator once more and allow the breeze that carried the sweet aromas of pine and fauna and the ocean wash over me cleansing me of any stress. Many a day I wish I could return to yesteryear to that time of innocence and play. In all my travels there is no place I hold more dear than that original campsite with the luscious memories of peace and love.

    • Wow, Ann, what a wonderful account. I could smell and hear and see it so vividly and relived my own wonderful childhood memories of camping with my parents. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • wow! my vacation can’t compate to Ann’s but here goes. I’m in it–staying with a friend in Minnesota. We spent two nights on the North Shore of Lake Superior and went up into Canada to Thunder Bay one day. Antother day we went to Artist’s Point. Can’t wait to read your new book. And I know you had a wonderful time in Martha’s Menu!!

  • The first day of colege, 39 years ago, I met the girl across the hall. We became best friends and eventually roommates. After graduating, we have remained like sisters. We go on a short vacation once a year somewhere we find interesting. This year in March we went to Phoenix AZ. We went to see the Rock and Worship Road Show. A lot of different Christian performers were going to be there and we were very excited. The night before the concert, we were thinking of something to do and decided on a movie. We went to see “Do You Believe”. We both didn’t know much about it but thought it sounded good. Oh My Word was it ever good!!!! We cried, we sang praises and shared our thoughts about God and the movie. The next night was the concert. We arrived at 4pm and left after 10pm!! What an uplifting time of praise. Needless to say our girls get a way turned into a retreat!!! It will be hard to top this experience.

    • Oh, Becky, that sounds fabulous. it’s so great that the two of you have made a point of getting together every year!

  • What a great trip. Thanks for sharing. One day I’d love to visit that area.

    We just came back from a quick trip to Mobile, Alabama. We were there to watch Asbury University compete in the national NAIA tennis tournament. So many young men and women have worked hard, for years, to reach this tournament. Lots of excitement and determination filled the park. It’s inspiring to see these athletes compete.

    Mobile is a beautiful city that has undergone many changes. We had a few free hours and drove over to Dauphin Island. While walking a heron landed close to us. We started taking his picture and he ‘posed’ in different spots. That was a lot of fun.

    I can’t wait to read your new book. Thanks for sharing.

    • I love that when animals seem to pose for us. One morning when we arose early to watch the sunrise over the ocean a swan came barreling toward us. We must’ve been nearing its nest. It came out of the water, fluffing up its chest, looking tough. As soon as we backed off it calmed and we got some great photos. 🙂

  • Congratulations to you both! Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and for the giveaway. My inspiring wacation was an autumn backpacking trip to Leigh Lake in Grand Teton National Park with my husband. A night of viewing the full moon with the elk bugling was perfect to enjoy God’s beautiful creation!

  • My most memorable vacation was when I traveled with my husband and son to Maine to research Curtis Island Lighthouse and Camden for a book I was writing. It was a great week together.

    Congrats on the awards. 🙂


  • We’re writers, so it’s okay to time travel. Right? We are going to Scotland for my eldest’s wedding in September. I think that will skyrocket to the top of my favourite vacation memories. And what better than new reading material for the flight? 😀

  • I guess my favorite vacation was 15 yrs. ago, when dh and I accompanied daughter and family to Disney In FL….grandson was about 4. To see all the beauty, sights, and fun there ..through his eyes was such a delight!
    Glad you had fun, Sandra.
    Would love to win a copy of your book!

    • Ah, Disney. The friend I was visiting is a huge Disney fan; should be good for bonus points. 😉

  • MV is on my list of things to visit. I didn’t recognize the homeless shelter/bank but glad you pointed it out. Major congrats to both of you on your awards 🙂

    • Thank you, Pamela. That Sabrina movie is one of my favourite so it was fun to see scenes from the movie. We took pics of other places, too, that when we got home, my son immediately recognized as being from Jaws.

  • My most inspiring vacation included the Great Wall of China. The Wall was built of huge stones moved into place by peasants beginning as early as 220-206 BC. Archeologists describe the Great Wall as more than13,000 miles long and wide enough in sections to ride five horses abreast.
    The extent of this manmade structure itself is overwhelming, but for me the inspiring aspect came as I walked along its heights. As ancient and long and wide as the Great Wall of China is, it doesn’t begin to approach the measure of the eternal and deep and broad love of God. Amen

  • Since most vacations are adventures in our home, I think perhaps the best one will be the last one. We travelled from MN to Ontario for a family wedding. This gave me a chance to get together with you, Sandra, who I had not seen for many years. It rained most of the time we were at the park, but we had a lovely time :)!
    We visited Mackinaw Island on our way back to MN. That was a highlight – a visit we certainly would like to repeat!

  • Hopefully this is not too late. I just spent a week at a cottage near Kincardine with two writing friends I met last year at Write Canada. It was a writing retreat for us. It was the first time I had ever done anything like it or had the time to do it. My kids are a little older now. Anyways it was a busy winter with a couple of speaking engagements thrown in and so it was not only a time of writing without distraction and enjoying the thrill of a new project but also a time of rest, and letting the creative juices flow. The sound of waves hitting the beach was awesome and we all got along great and enjoyed some quiet! and some good conversations too. It was just a great week! now it’s back to school lunches, busy boys and lots of noise!

    • Not too late, Jennifer! Sounds like a fabulous time. Will you be at Write Canada this year? Less than a month away!

  • One of my favourite vacations, largely because I know I will probably never get the change to do it again, was traveling in Zimbabwe and Zambia, but the highlight was staying on a ‘house boat’ on Kariba Dam, seeing the Hippo’s and the crocodiles and the wild life. I think we saw elephant too and heard the lions roar at night. It was B.C. (Before Children) so it was a wonderful time together as a couple…..

    • Oh, wow, sounds very exotic. I’m not that adventurous. But I do love African Lion Safari. 😉

  • I have just returned from a vacation of a lifetime with my daughter. She is a busy mother of four and her husband took time off to take care of the family so she and I could go on a Caribbean cruise.
    We talked, laughed, explored new sights and enjoyed our time together. One of the highlights was climbing up a path in a rainforest to stand behind a waterfall. Another day we went on underwater scooters and drove amongst the tropical fish. A memory that stands out is her first glimpse of the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. What a wonderful gift to be able to share this experience with my daughter.

    • Oooh, Tandy, what a fabulous vacation to share with your daughter. And what a wonderful hubby to stay home with the kids. 🙂

  • I love to vacation – whether locally or abroad. My stay-cation last week with you and Jen was a blast! So thankful you both were able to travel down, and that we had a week (too short) to tour the Island, chat, laugh, and celebrate life. I love all the photos you’ve shared with your readers! On to the next adventure . . .

  • This isn’t because you mentioned bonus points, honest, but Disney is always my vacation of choice. I went as a kid, then on my honeymoon, three times (so far) with kids, and we’re hoping to go again in the fall as child number three, who’s almost 12, has never been. It truly is the happiest place on earth 🙂

    • I totally agree, Sara! Disney is one of the happiest place on earth, if not THE happiest place. I won’t mention how many times we’ve been, over a hundred – BUT, we lived in Florida for over a decade so it was easy to go with a Florida resident pass. 🙂

    • LOL, my dad always said he should take me, because my sisters went to Disneyland in CA with my mom and grandparents before I was born, for a special family event. But alas, my one and only time was 7 years ago with my 2 youngest, already teens, to Florida. So yes, definitely make sure you take that youngest son!

  • Hey Sandra, Huge congratulations. You deserve every good thing that comes your way. You are such a talented writer. My most inspiring vacation was a trip I did with my husband for our 25th wedding anniversary. We went on a horse-back trail ride into Jasper National Park to a lake with some lovely cabins. We stayed there three days, did some day trips on horse back from there, some fishing, some lazing around and a lot of eating of amazing food! Then we got on the horses and rode back out. It was a beautiful trip through places you don’t get to with vehicles. Saw some fantastic vistas and had a lovely relaxing time. And got inspired to write a story about the adventure. Not done yet, but someday. Blessings and here’s hoping to many more nominations and wins.

    • Thank you so much, Carolyn. My daughter–the horse enthusiast and all-around adventurer–is drooling over your trip. 🙂 Can’t wait to read that story!

  • Five years ago our family hiked around beautiful Lake Waikaremoana in New Zealand. We read “The Hobbit” aloud in the evenings and it was quite eerie the way our adventures lined up with the story. We encountered a party of elves who shared their food with us (okay, they were retirees but they sure laughed and sang like elves), strange music tempting us to abandon the trail to investigate, a cave that could’ve belonged to trolls, plenty of spiders and flies, a man named Beorn (alas, not a shapeshifter) and even the Desolation of Smaug in the guise of a recently clear-cut area with piles of burned stumps and nothing green for kilometres. The scenery was spectacular, and it’s still a holiday we talk about.

    • LOL, love it! My daughter visited NZ a couple of years ago and returned with all sorts of pictures of Hobbit houses and eerie volcanoes. 🙂

  • I think our most recent vacation was the best. My wife and I both love lighthouses. We had visited the Outer Banks of NC in the early 90s and got some very good pictures but all of them were closed to the public. I heard last spring that my favorite, Bodie Island Lighthouse, was open to the public. I got very excited but we were unable to work out a visit until early this month. The plan was to spend five nights there and I was going to climb Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras Lighthouses. After our arrival, we learned that Currituck Beach Lighthouse was also open and that there was another small lighthouse at Manteo on Roanoke Island that we had never heard about. My goal was to climb one lighthouse on Tuesday, take a day off, and climb the second one on Thursday (before I knew Currituck was open). Things didn’t go as planned. They went much better. We visited the little Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I was able to climb both Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras. Thursday morning we went to Currituck and I climbed it. The three were a combined total of 696 steps up and the same number back down. Fortunately, I didn’t miss any of them goin up or down. I felt good about my accomplishment at 68 years of age. My with was content to sit and read while I climbed. She has had both knees replaced, so climbing a number of steps isn’t in her plans now. However, in September 2001, about 10 days after 9/11 and seven months after a major stroke, she climbed the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida with me. To God be the glory for that climb! I have been able to climb six so far and hope to keep climbing as we get the opportunity to visit more. Anyway, we had a great week at Outer Banks with some very good meals and times of simply relaxing.

  • My most memorable vacation was when my husband surprised me by planning a trip to Europe several summers ago. We got to see Rota Spain and several cities in Italy. Definitely a trip I will never forget!!!

  • MY most inspiring vacation was a trip my family took when I was in high school. We drove from KY to CA and back again – the southern route on the way out & the northern route on the way back. Gorgeous scenery and so much fun time as a family!

  • My sister and I years ago went to Bethany Beach it was the first time I ever saw the ocean. I will never forget how amazing our God is to make such beautiful scenery! We had a great time and enjoyed spending a long weekend away from the rat race of life. She has been gone 3 years now and I treasure the memories even more now.

  • My favorite vacation was a trip to Maui with my husband and my in-laws. I’ve never seen so many rainbows before. Maui is paradise. The beaches, the blue water, and the friendly people. We went snorkeling and I came face to face with a shark. Needless to say, I quickly got out of there and headed closer to shore. Luckily, the shark wasn’t that interested in me. We parasailed and went sight seeing and spent some great quality time with family. All over an amazing vacation. We hope to go back soon.

    • So nice! Hawaii is on my wish list. So far hubby hasn’t gotten the hint from the brochures lying around the rec room. 😉

  • I loved all the summer family vacations we spent at the lake.. now my children are all grown up and my memories are so special.
    congratulations on your awards!

Great to "see" you here today! I look forward to reading your comment.