Friday, April 24, 2015

Fabulous Friday Feature-A.J.Cattapan-To Make God Laugh, Make Plans




Today we welcome author: 
A.J. Cattapan

To win a copy
of A.J.'s's new release:
Angelhood


Scroll to the end of the post 
to see how to get your copy.
International readers are eligible, too!


  
Mary here. A.J. writes in one of my favorite genres. When I saw her debut novel I couldn't resist invited her to join us. And, as I read her post for today, I was surprised how many places we both have visited on our writing journey. Amazing what a small world!

I asked A.J. to join us and share how God has led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:



To Make God Laugh, Make Plans


You know how they say that if you want to make God laugh, make plans? Well, at the rate I’m going, I must be God’s court jester. I’m sure my plans have him in stitches all the time.

When I was in junior high, I thought I’d have my first book written and published by the time I was 30. Ha! That didn’t happen. In fact, I didn’t even get serious about my writing until well after graduating from college, and then it took me another ten years to get to the point of having a book published. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back a little ways.

When I finally decided to get serious about writing, I knew it would have to be part-time. I couldn’t leave my full-time teaching job. Single women just don’t do that kind of thing. However, one day I saw an ad for a writing class in my mom’s Better Homes and Gardens magazine (I’ve always loved looking at floor plans), and they offered a “test” to see if you had what it took to be a children’s writer. Well, how could I resist? The test was free!

Needless to say, I passed. Good thing, otherwise, I’m not sure I could’ve continued to pull off the whole English teacher thing! That class led to my first article being published in a children’s magazine. Who would’ve thought my interest in looking at floor plans would lead to a writing class, which would lead to my first writing credential? See, only God could’ve thought up that one.

A few years later, I was ready to try my hand at novel writing. The school I took the first class at also offered a class for novel writing. I enrolled again. During the course of the class, I wrote a middle grade sci-fi novel that was going to be a cross between Harry Potter and Star Wars. Everyone would love it! It was a surefire hit!

Yeah, it never sold.

See, there I went making plans again, and God just laughed. So I wrote another novel. This time, a cozy mystery. Maybe God wanted me writing for adults instead of children.

Nope. Never sold.

Okay, God, I’ll try again. I started working on an idea based very loosely on a small Catholic school I had taught at that was forced to close. When you teach at a small school like that, you all become family. It was heartbreaking to watch our little family split. I thought if perhaps I wrote a story based loosely on that, it would please God, and He’d make my publishing dreams come true.

For months, I conducted research and tried to fit the pieces of my mystery puzzle together. I had planned to write the novel during November for National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), but as October 2011 drew to a close, I still couldn’t fit all the pieces together. God seemed to be laughing at my plans yet again.

Suddenly, on October 29, I got an idea for a different book. A young adult story about a girl who commits the gravest of sins. She takes her own life, and then must play guardian angel to another girl who is considering doing the same. It was a crazy concept. It will never publish, I thought. This story’s too religious for the mainstream, and too dark for the religious! But it was the story God seemed to have planted in my head and my heart. The outline rushed forth, and within three days, I was ready to start writing just as November began. By the end of the month, my story was finished, but what would I do with it?

For a month, I did nothing, but then a very brave woman opened up to me about her own suicide attempt. Was this God nudging me again? I decided to do some research. Believe it or not, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Christian fiction. My research led me to ACFW, and there I found wonderful critique partners, who encouraged me to seek publication. Nearly two years later, I finally found a publisher willing to take a risk on my story, and even that seemed to be divine intervention. I didn’t find Vinspire through ACFW—or even SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators), which I’d belonged to for years. I actually heard about Vinspire through the Mystery Writers of America, which I’d joined when working on that cozy mystery!

So you see, God had a plan in all this. It wasn’t my plan. My plan would have had me being the next J.K. Rowling/George Lucas with my Harry Potter/Star Wars remix. But that’s not the story God wanted me to tell. He wanted me to write the story of a girl who struggles to see God at work in her life.


Because that’s the story I know.

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One of my favorite places-
Choco Museo (Chocolate Museum)
 in Antigua, Guatemala

A.J. Cattapan is an author, speaker, and middle school English teacher living in the Chicago area. Her published works include the young adult novel Angelhood, a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade, and numerous short stories and articles in magazines for teens and children, including Highlights and Hopscotch for Girls. She will also be featured in a recipe and corresponding story anthology due out this summer.

Contact A.J. She loves to talk to her readers!





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Angelhood ~

Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life.


Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. If she’s going to find peace in the afterlife, she’s going to have to discover what living is really all about.


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To enter the contest for a copy of 
A.J.'s  new release: 
"Angelhood"
leave a comment (and email address)
AND become a follower of this blog, 
OR sign up to receive posts by email
if you aren't already.

International winner will receive an eBook. 
US winner will receive a paperback

The winner will be announced on my facebook page.


Thank you, A.J., for Joining us This Weekend!


We love chatting with you and are looking forward to reading your comments and questions. Or at least your hi, hello, hey, or ...

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Some People Solve Problems in the Weirdest Ways



I stood in line at the grocery store behind a couple who must have been shopping for a family of 50, purchasing enough food to last a month. 

Long lines filled every available lane which meant even the managers hopped on a register. The cashier in my lane was one of those managers. Surprisingly enough, he didn't mind helping out in this way. 

He kept a polite conversation with the couple in front of me. When he picked up their eggs and scanned them he said, "Did you check your eggs?"

The couple seemed a bit annoyed with his question and blew him off. 

To fill the silence the manager said "Earlier today I asked a customer if they had checked their eggs. The shopper said, 'Yes--there were eleven.'"

The shoppers in front of me left, obviously not as intrigued with this fabulous story as I was. The manager scanned my first item. I couldn't stand it any longer and said, "So, what happened to the customer with eleven eggs?"

He carried on with his story as if he'd never been interrupted. "Well, I asked them, did you want to exchange the carton?"

"'No,' they said. 'We took an egg out of the carton next to it to fill the dozen."

The manager was relieved.

Oddly enough, the same day another customer purchasing eggs answered, "Yes" to his question and they, too, had eleven eggs. They had solved the problem the same way.

He said, "You won't believe this, but a third customer coming through my lane and answered me the same way. I began to think it was a joke. Maybe the three knew each other. 

"Later a fourth customer purchasing eggs came through my lane. They said they'd checked their carton and it had all twelve. I don't know how, but somewhere between the third and fourth customer purchasing eggs, an extra egg appeared."

Fancy that.

If I had been the one checking a carton of eggs and found one missing, I would have put that carton down and picked up another, one with all twelve. 

I asked myself, why would someone solve the problem by filling in the missing egg?

Here is what I decided....I have no clue, but it sure would make great fodder for a story.

God created all of us to be individuals. We think differently. We respond differently. We don't belong in a box, and are far from predictable. I think we often surprise ourselves with what we choose to do.

Good thing God knows our hearts and minds. I am so thankful He is willing to steer my life and pull me back on the path when I veer off. 


So, here is the mystery of the day, why do you think the customers chose to fill the missing egg slot instead of getting a different carton of eggs?


This post has been brought to you by the one-word- 
Weird-but-loveable-people



Friday, April 17, 2015

Fabulous Friday Feature-Jill Kemerer-God Whispered, "But I Like Your Writing"




Today we welcome author: 
Jill Kemerer

To win a copy
of Jill's new release:
Small Town Bachelor


Scroll to the end of the post 
to see how to get your copy.


  
Mary here. Jill is a sweet friend of mine. I visited her at her house back when she was waiting for a proposal to be accepted. The days flew by for me before she announced her debut release...but for her? Well, I'll let Jill tell you the story.

I asked Jill to join us and share how God has led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:



God Whispered, "But I Like Your Writing"


When I started trying to get published, my journey was all about me. I worked hard, poured stories onto my computer, studied how to submit novels and ate up every piece of writing advice I could find. My prayers tended to revolve around “Please let me get published quickly.”

A nagging sensation nibbled as I waited to hear back from the editor who requested a proposal of my first book. I’d been reading blogs where authors shared that it had taken them years to get published. What if that happened to me?

Fast forward through two form rejections. I entered a writing contest with my third book and, no, I didn’t final. The judges’ comments were very hard to read. That night, I crawled up to my bedroom, dropped to my knees and sobbed.

I totally understand, Jill. I've been here so many times.

Why did I ever think I was talented enough to be a published writer? I was clearly delusional, awful, at a preschool level.

I felt broken, and I cried, long and hard.

Still on my knees, I started praying. I asked God why I had this burning desire to write. I begged for Him to guide me. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer. Maybe I should quit. No one liked my writing, anyway.

And I heard it—a whisper—“But I like your writing.”

After that night, I stopped concentrating on getting published quickly and started praying for God to help me become a good writer. I grew humble. I continued studying the writing craft. I prayed daily about my writing. And it took five more years and many, many more rejections before I finally got the call.

The two years before selling my first book were depressing and discouraging in ways I couldn’t anticipate, but God got me through them. It’s pretty cool when you can get a devastating rejection and smile because you know God approves your work, even if no one else does. I would never have continued writing without Him.

The best part of my writing journey? It forces me to rely on God, to get closer to Him, to depend on Him. I’m so thankful for all those rejections. I truly know I write for God.


Are you waiting for your dream to come true? Keep praying!

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Jill's mom threw a launch party.
What an amazing Mom!



Jill Kemerer writes inspirational romance novels with love, humor and faith. A full time writer and homemaker, she relies on coffee and chocolate to keep up with her kids’ busy schedules.


Besides spoiling her mini-dachshund, Jill adores magazines, M&MS, fluffy animals and long nature walks. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. 

Jill loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website www.jillkemerer.com and find her on Facebook and Twitter.




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Small-Town Bachelor ~

A Place to Call Home
  
When Reed Hamilton arrives in Lake Endwell for a family wedding, he expects to do his part as best man then head back to the big city. But when a tornado postpones the wedding, the town is in shambles and Reed is injured. Thankfully maid of honor Claire Sheffield offers him one of her cottages to recuperate in.

Dedicated to her family and her dream job at the zoo, Claire is all about roots. She's this city slicker's opposite, yet as they help the town rebuild, Reed is captivated by her stunning looks and caring ways. He can't ask Claire to leave the life she loves for him, but he also can't imagine ever leaving her behind…


Interested in buying Small-Town Bachelor? Click on http://jillkemerer.com/books/small-town-bachelor/ for links to purchase!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the contest for a copy of 
Jill's  new release: 
"Small Town Bachelor"
leave a comment (and email address)
AND become a follower of this blog, 
OR sign up to receive posts by email
if you aren't already.


Sorry, US only

The winner will be announced on my facebook page.


Thank you, Jill, for Joining us This Weekend!


We love chatting with you and are looking forward to reading your comments and questions. Or at least your hi, hello, hey, or ...

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Heritage Festivals-Talk About Having a Great Time!



My daughter saw a poster at her work: Lithuanian festival. She took a pic with her cell phone with all the details and told us as soon as she walked in the door. "Yah wanna go?"

Hah. Did we want to go. Let me tell you about Lithuanians, they know how to have fun!



Nestled in a community where the houses are only inches away from each other was the building where the festival took place. 

A team of dancers, ranging from the little ones in this photo to adults standing behind the curtain, performed ethnic dances. The audience clapped to the beat and cheered the dancers on.

Lithuanians who ran the kitchen had no idea such a crowd would come. It seemed every Lithuanian from hundreds of miles heard the news. They ran out of food hours before the festival was over!


Our favorite Lithuanian dish:
Kugelis, Cepelinai, sausage, and sauerkraut
My son and I went to one line and told the worker what we wanted. We knew how to say the words and apparently convinced the gal we could speak the language. She smiled and rattled off the instructions and prices. "Whoa!" we said. We are Lithuanian, but we don't know how to speak the language! Truly we were the only ones speaking English!

We laughed and had so much fun. 

Saltibarsciai (cold beet soup)
Photo by Mary Vee




The food is what most of us go to festivals to enjoy. I couldn't believe how delicious the Kugelis (potato and bacon dish), fresh sausage, cepelinai (a potato dumpling stuffed with meat) and sauerkraut tasted. Fresh, cooked perfectly. Yum.

We bought some Saltibarsciai (the cold beet soup in the photo to the left.








Sakotis (tree cake)
Photo by Mary Vee


For dessert we brought home Sakotis (tree cake). Our family calls this cake by it's German name, baumkuchen. I left it in the wrapper to take the picture, because once the plastic is removed this delicious cake evaporates instantly courtesy of family members. 

These cakes are made on spits and can be three-feet tall.

What is so amazing about a group of Lithuanians who get together, is their simultaneous conversations. This is how it works. Persons A,B,C,D,E,F will sit at one table. A, B, and C will talk at the same time expecting everyone at the table to hear their conversations. Then D, E, F, and A will respond, at the same time. And they do! I don't know how. But I've witnessed it in Lithuania, at our family gathering, and here at the festival. It is amazing.


Lithuanian Dancers




I would be hard press to choose what I enjoyed most at the festival. The laughter, conversation, food, ethnic dances, the fun spirit of a people group speaking their own language.

We all have our genealogies and can identify mostly with one people group or another. 

I have a second people group that I belong to and also enjoy being with. They are known as the body of Christ. Although as individuals we gather in separate ethnic groups, we will all speak the same language in heaven.


So, what people group do you mostly belong to? 
Have you ever attended your own heritage festival?
What did you like the best?




Friday, April 10, 2015

Fabulous Friday Feature-John Sheppard



Today we welcome author: 
John Sheppard

To win a copy
of John's releases:
Ten Days or 
Seeds of the Bitter Harvest 


Scroll to the end of the post 
to see how to get your copy.
Two winners will be chosen!


Mary Vee here. John and his wife, Connie are great friends of mine from Bible college days. That was such a fun time. John was the editor for the yearbook and allowed me to come alongside to work on one section. I was delighted to hear he found time to write books with his busy job and even more happy when he agreed to come visit us here on Let's Talk.


I asked John to join us and share how God has led him on his writing journey. Here is what he said:



My Faith Has Validity Even in the Worst Times


I am not one of those who have had a driving desire to write since childhood, or even through most of my adult life. It’s just not an area that was even on my radar screen until a few years ago.

I have always enjoyed communicating on a professional level. In my earlier years, it was as a pastor. Since then, it has been in the business world, whether as a trainer, presenter, or even just sending Emails. Yes, I even try to make Emails interesting. They can be so boring / perfunctory.

Since I work for a major Japanese corporation, communication takes on an added level of challenge. There are the basic issues with language; including syntax and sentence structure. Toss in a good measure of cultural differences. Japanese culture is rich with tradition; there are even proper ways to receive a business card, or hand a document to J-staff. Everything seems to have meaning.

The first inkling to write came about 6-7 years ago when I started to mentally visualize the opening scene to my first book, TEN DAYS. The scene didn’t have any sense of context; it was just something I would catch myself thinking about as I’d drive to and from work. Months later, other scenes would start to play-out in my mind. Still, I had no clue what I was supposed to do with these thoughts.

About a year or so later, I was approached by The Discipleship Pastor of my church. He asked if I would write a series of devotional thoughts for an upcoming sermon series by our Lead Pastor. The parameters of the project and the timeline were extremely tight. I enjoyed working my way through all of the requirements, and the devotional was well received.

It was at that point that I felt a very strong compulsion to write TEN DAYS, but the book bothered me because it is so very dark. Much of Christian writing seems to want to tie things up in a neat tidy bow, with a happy ending. Yet life can be very difficult, even for Christians.

As a Christian writer/author type, living in what has been called the Post-Christian Era. I face challenges in communicating my faith, which are similar to corresponding with my company’s Japanese associates. The basics of what I believe and practice are increasingly not believed or understood in contemporary American culture.

I am concerned that as Believers, we often speak our own language and seldom really engage the outside world. I feel I need to write differently if I want to express my faith to a world in which it can seem completely alien.

There is a place for us to talk in the language of the Family, and for books with positive storylines. It just isn’t the direction I’m headed for now. The more I can show my faith has validity in the worst times in life, the more true-to-life it might to sound to those who know nothing of it. My pastor often says; “Jesus didn’t say if the storms come, but when the storms come.” I want to help people take a look at the foundation their life and determine if it will stand the storms.

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John Sheppard developed an interest in writing later in life than many. He grew up reading and enjoying the works of these and authors: E.G. Poe, Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, and John Hersey. Currently, John is an engineer for a major Japanese automobile company. He has a BA in Biblical studies. John prefers to mix history and suspense as he writes.  His books TEN DAYS, and Seeds of the Bitter Harvest are part of the “Fallen” Series.



Contact John through: 


He enjoys talking with his readers!

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CLICK HERE to buy or see
 "Ten Days"
Ten Days:It’s easier to pretend there will always be a day after tomorrow than deal with the reality that there may not even be a tomorrow. 
Dr. Carl Whitman, his wife Jackie, and their children tried to leave their nation’s capital a couple of months ago, but a poorly timed escape has them trapped. Stephen Newhouse is a retired military veteran with a passion for his country and a risky plan which could save some, but not all, from the certain slaughter to come. An archivist with the National Museum, Samantha Carrolton-Logan is on a quest to save some of her country’s history, but discovers a surprising past and mysterious happenings in the former national cathedral. 

What will Carl, Jackie, Stephen, and Samantha hold on to, and what will be lost as the clock ticks away on the final Ten Days of the world they have known?
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CLICK HERE to buy or see
"Seeds of the Bitter Harvest
"


Andy Whitman, the sole surviving member of a wealthy, prominent family, struggles to define who he is and what really matters. His world has been shattered; can he find solace in the arms of a "lady of the night" or will the Russian mob take even that from him? He and others will discover seeds planted long ago are yielding a bitter harvest.












To enter the contest for a copy of 
John's  new releases: 
"Ten Days" or "Seeds of the Bitter Harvest"
leave a comment (and email address)
AND become a follower of this blog, 
OR sign up to receive posts by email
if you aren't already.

US and Canada only

The winners will be announced on my facebook page.


Thank you, John, for Joining us This Weekend!


We love chatting with you and are looking forward to reading your comments and questions. Or at least your hi, hello, hey, or ...

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!