Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review- A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

I finished reading A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman yesterday and felt this book worthy of a spotlight.

Before I tell you briefly what this story is about, I'd like to start with telling you what I liked about this book.  

First, this story has a family charm ornamented with Irish traditions for celebrating holidays, laughter around the dinner table, tots stealing favored marbles from older brothers bedrooms, sisters who compete for the same boyfriend, and a mother who not only holds the family together but is truly in love with her husband.

Second, I Corinthians 13 aspects are beautifully infused in the storyline. From the first sisterly conflict, to the day father and brother go off to war, the truth of what love really is glows through the pages.

Third, Without preaching, the Gospel is melted into the scenes with great clarity. 

Fourth, Read this book with a box of tissues and boxing gloves. You'll definitely need both.

A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman is a story about an Irish family with six children who settle in Boston during pre World War I days. With US involvement in the war lurking in newspapers, the O'Connor family continue to go to work and school, celebrate holidays, and attend church as they did when living in Ireland. Focused on the lives of two sisters, this story unfolds their desire to love and marry the perfect man. But learning the difference between desire and true love can be a costly endeavor. 

Faith O'Connor has grown in her walk with Christ thanks to the guidance of Mr. Gerson, the widow who lives three doors down. From her many talks with the widow, Faith makes life choices that include what kind of man she'd like to marry. One day, the young man she's always loved since early school days surprises her with a proposal. The only problem, he doesn't have time in his life for God.

The O'Connor family will entertain and tug at your heart. This is a wonderful cuddle up with a blanket and hot cocoa story.

*Please note: author Julie Lessman portrays this story with the passionate attraction found in the human heart without showing more than kissing in scenes. For this reason, this book is not recommended for young readers.

This review is my honest opinion. I downloaded this book free with out obligation to review.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Warm Fuzzies Nestled in Traditions

Don't you love the traditions that bring friends and family together? Sure, there may be a spat or two during the event, but the take home is a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Our Frankenmuth Tradition.
Photo By Mary Vee 

At first, I thought this pre Christmas season primarily roused the family event planners need to get everyone together. However, with each word of this post, I realized the entire year pokes our attention to congregate.

No matter how much we dream of having five precious minutes to ourselves, deep down we crave the crazy get togethers. God made us that way. 

Let's talk about the traditions starting with October, since we have a few days left of this month for this year.

Bronners Christmas Store, Frankenmuth, MI
Photo by Mary Vee

October: Our family takes an annual trek to Frankenmuth. It is a German town located in Michigan and is the home of the largest Christmas store in the world (or so they say). Between small children and pets knocking down Christmas tree ornaments or the whole tree, we are always in need of new ornaments. We take the back roads to the village, incorporating an autumn tree color tour. Each member of the family has a favorite store or site to visit. The day is spent by the time the last favored place is seen. Do you have a favorite color for trees?

Montana, Photo by Mary Vee

November: Thanksgiving. What family tradition do you have for this holiday?

Frankenmuth, Photo by Mary Vee

December: Christmas. My favorite season of the month. I still get jazzed to see the sparkles and colored lights celebrating our Lord's birth. Our tradition is to make a birthday cake for Jesus. What tradition do you have?

Rocky Mountains, Montana  Photo by Mary Vee

January: A month of renewal and new goals. Our family makes resolutions, risk free. No pressure. Blankets of snow cover the ground and ice skating season begins. What winter sport do you like?

Grand Haven, MI on Lake Michigan. Photo by Mary Vee

February: The month of love. My hubby remembers flowers (carnations are my favorite), and the box of chocolate he shouldn't buy because I am always on a diet. What do you give the love of your life? (this does not have to be a spouse)

March: Spring break vacations to the beach, St. Patty's Day, warm teasers from the weather. Sometimes Easter falls in this month. The blessed Holy day when our Savior rose from the grave, leaving our sins buried. Praise His name. What does your family do special this month?

Rocky Mountain hiking. Photo by Mary Vee

April: End of college semesters, early spring flowers, Mud walking. Rain. Early spring scents. What do you like to do in April?

Sleeping Bear Dunes hiking trail. Photo by Mary Vee

May: School field trips and programs, May Baskets, Memorial Day parades and barbecues. Snow disappearing, farmers plowing fields. What is your favorite scent in May?

June: Graduations, Weddings, beaches, vacations, tree leaves a chartreuse color, grass and plants reviving, strawberry festivals, canning, summer walks, and reunions. What traditions do you have for June?

Toledo, Ohio Fireworks  Photo by Mary Vee

July: Independence Day. Family trips to the favorite place or a new place to watch the fireworks. I have been blessed to see fireworks in Germany, New York City, Detroit, and many small cities. Pray for the leaders of your country, where ever you live. Where do you go to see fireworks?

Billings, Montana  Photo by Mary Vee

August: Sizzling hot days of August spent at the beach on an air conditioned home. Harvesting early vegetables. Last month to play before school starts. Camp, buying school clothes, end of the summer events. What August tradition do you celebrate?

Michigan woods. Photo by Mary Vee
September: Labor day parades and barbecues, School in session, first fall colors, cooler temperatures, long harvest days. Apples, hay rides. What tradition do you have for September? For us, the tradition is simply to adjust to the wacky schedule.

God loves to have traditions, also. Whenever something significant happened in the Bible an annual festival, celebration, or other form of remembrance happened.  Here are just a few:

Esther's holiday (this has a name, but I can't think of it right now)
Festival of Lights (Chanukah)
The Lord's supper
The Lord's birth (Christmas)
The Lord's resurrection (Easter)

Can you name some others?

Whatever tradition your family has, and whenever that may fall, may your fellowship be sweet and filled with laughter.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature-Suzanne Hartmann

Today I welcome author 
Suzanne Hartmann,
a kind and exciting friend who is fun and one who likes to see a bargain. 

Enter to win Suzanne's book, Peril

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.
 See how, below.

Writing By the Grace of God

The title of my article may seem trite or clichĂ©, but in the case of my writing, I can honestly say that without the grace of God, I would not be an author at all, much less published. 

Until God got my attention, writing simply was not my agenda. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even on my radar at all.

That’s not to say that I didn’t create stories. When my children were younger, I occupied myself during their sports practices and music lessons by thinking up characters and scenes. These eventually became the basis for my first novel, Peril: Fast Track Thriller #1. At the time, however, the idea of writing the book never entered my mind. 

One day, while taking a walk in our neighborhood, a thought popped into my head. It came out of the blue, and it took several weeks of prayer to determine it truly was a God-nudge not an early mid-life crisis. I began researching NASCAR since I wasn’t a fan at the time and didn't have a clue about the sport.  A couple of months later I started writing the story.

Once I finished my first draft, I had no idea what to do next. I joined several Christian writing forums, lurking about until God opened the doors for me to join a wonderful critique group. These lovely ladies helped me hone my writing skills and rework my story. I can't thank them enough!

Because of my lack of experience, I knew if anything ever came out of my efforts, it would have to be a God-thing. And it has been. Since I first stepped onto this writing path God set in front of me, He has led me on an interesting journey filled with doubts, anguish, inspiration, and joy. But, He has faithfully encouraged me and sent affirmations every step along the way

I am still in awe over the way He led me to literary agent, Terry Burns, and my publisher, OakTara. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I truly am a published author. I'm excited to tell you about the second book in the series, Conspiracy: Fast Track Thriller #2, which is slated to release the end of October.  I’m also working on the final book in the series, titled Revenge

What a journey God has set me on! Every time I look back on my journey, I point to God, because without His calling and His grace to equip me for the work involved,  I would never have made it to publication. 

Suzanne Hartmann is the author of the Fast Track Thrillers series, Christian suspense novels with a twist of NASCAR. The first in the series, Peril, is currently available, and the second, Conspiracy, will be available soon.  When not writing, editing, or homeschooling, Suzanne enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and scouring local library sales for books to resell on-line. 

Connect with Suzanne at:
Blog: Write This Way (
Website: Fast Track Thrillers (
Website: Castle Gate Press (

Doesn't the book cover for Suzanne's first book in the series look exciting?  
Here is the book blurb for the second book: 

Conspiracy: Fast Track Thriller #2
When conspiracy invades the NSA, danger closes in on Joanne Van der Haas, a top-secret agent with enhanced strength. Before she can make sense of unusual happenings at the agency, her boss is accused of selling government secrets. Can she trust the man she’s worked with for many years, or should she believe the NSA’s evidence? Although she hates to show her weakness, she leans on her friend, NASCAR Champion Stuart Jackson, who follows through with his promise to always be there for her. His willingness to help lands him in danger, but when Joanne doesn't know whom she can trust in the intelligence community, she has little choice but to depend on him. Her final assignment for the agency leads to disaster, yet opens the door to surprising information from an unlikely source. Is there enough time to chase down the mole before Joanne is implicated too? 

To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
Suzanne Hartmann's book: "Peril":
leave a comment (and email address)
and become a follower of this site if you aren't already.

Sorry, US only

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Suzanne, for Joining us This Weekend!

Friends, We all have skills given to us by the grace of God. 
What is your skill?
What makes a thriller exciting to read?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Makes You Giggle?

My son has an apartment. He moved out several years ago. Like most sons, he grew to be taller than his mom and likes to have fun with that. 

He also has a contagious laugh. Seriously, he could get anyone to laugh. 

What is his inspiration? None other than his favorite comic book collection. He gave me permission to share this small representation:

Dear Calvin and Hobbs, 

You did what we thought and often still think. Too bad, we can't get away with the things you do.

Dear Pearls Before Swine, 

You remain my son's favorite. Why? 

Dear Dilbert,

You captured the true nature of my office setting more than you'll ever know! 

Dear Fox Trot,

You tell the secrets of the American family. Why is it funny when it happens to you?

Friend, What makes you giggle? Do you have a favorite comic series? Perhaps a comedy team like Three Stooges? Take a memory trip to your favorite one and enjoy a laugh today.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Light Remained

There are times when sad events turn out to be phenomenal testimonies.

Last week I wrote about the burning of the church I grew up in. 

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the site.

My teen daughter went with me. 

We pulled into the parking lot and were saddened to still smell the smoke, now one week later. 

She took my camera and captured a few photos for me. 

When we walked to the door to what we called the old church, she looked up and smiled. "Mom. Up there. See? The fire didn't touch the light!"

Her observation took my breath away. At that very moment I knew what needed to be shared today.

Despite the fires...the Light remains.

We walked around to the front of the church and took a picture of the sign. Yet another testimony.  

Building Gone Not Church
Service 11 am

God is faithful, loving, and kind. He promises to take care of us all the days of our lives.

Thank you God for your constant presence.

Friend, maybe you've seen/heard of tragedies and have witnessed the presence of the Light. Let's chat about times in which we clearly saw God's presence, in any situation.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature-Myra Johnson

Today I welcome 
Myra Johnson,
faithful to the calling of Jesus Christ. She is one of the "gang" from Seekerville, an award winning writer's blogsite. 

Enter to win Myra's recent 2013 release,
When the Clouds Roll By

Scroll to the end of the post to see how to enter.
International readers can enter!! See how, below.

I have been blessed to sit and chat with the Seekerville gals at several ACFW after-session get togethers. What a warm group. Their goal is to help writers on their journey. They've walked the steps where I am and freely share words of help and encouragement.  I've had several Seekerville gals as guests here on Let's Talk. This weekend, I simply had to invite Myra because she has a fantastic new release: When the Clouds Roll By. I asked Myra to tell us how God led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:

When God Gives You a Dream

Mary, I’m so honored to be your blog guest today—thank you!

Mary asked me to share how God has led me on my writing journey, and I have to warn you, the journey has been a really long one. As best I can recall, it began in second grade, when I wrote my very first short story, “The Enchanted Prince.” In high school, whenever I’d finish a class assignment early, I’d pull out my story notebook and add to whatever saga I’d been working on. One favorite featured Gidget and Tammy-type characters at the beach, and I also had a spy story going, inspired by The Man From Uncle. (Am I dating myself here?)

That's okay, Myra...many of us saw these shows, too! 

The love of writing persisted into adulthood, but as a busy wife and mom and working occasional part-time jobs to supplement the family budget, I didn’t have the time or energy to give much thought to writing for publication. Not to mention, I was completely clueless about what it took to write professionally.

Then in 1983, I came across a magazine ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I’d flipped right past these ads many times before, but this time it felt as if God were whispering in my ear, Now’s your chance. Learn how to do this right.

August 2013 Africa trip--Myra greeted by a Masai warrior
I took the aptitude test and enrolled, and when my stories and articles began to sell even before I’d completed the course, I felt certain my writing career had finally been launched. I wrote for several children’s publications and devotionals, and eventually went on to teach the Institute’s magazine writing course for nine years.

The magazine credits were nice, but my lifelong dream was to publish a novel. Throughout those years I wrote and submitted one children’s book manuscript after another, but even though editorial feedback was usually positive, I could never seem to find the right fit.

In the mid-’90s, after my daughters had left the nest, I resigned from teaching the children’s writing course and decided to try my hand at romance and women’s fiction. Since faith is central to my life, writing for the Christian market was the only option I considered. I joined writers’ organizations, participated in critique groups, studied craft books, attended conferences, and began entering my work in manuscript contests. In the meantime, I was still getting enough of those “encouraging” editorial rejections to keep me hopeful.

In 2005, I entered a manuscript in Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Contest and was both shocked and thrilled when my manuscript actually won the Inspirational Romance category. After all, rumor had it that even making the finals in the Golden Heart was practically a guarantee of publication.

Not for me. Over the next couple of years, two of the other finalists, who remain among my very best writer friends, sold their books. When I couldn’t even get a nibble, I questioned whether all the time, money, and hopes I had invested in this dream had been in vain. 

By the time I arrived at the ACFW conference in 2007, I was at my lowest point. It was so hard to be there, still unpublished, when so many of my friends were celebrating their first book contracts. But one night during the conference I had an amazingly vivid dream that I am absolutely sure came from God, and the message was crystal clear: Writing is so much a part of who I am—who God created me to be—that if I gave up writing, the very framework of my being would be gone.

So I held on another year, continuing to write and doing my best to be obedient to God’s direction and to trust Him for the results.

Then in July of 2008, I learned of a new fiction line at Abingdon Press. The editor had put out the word that she especially welcomed submissions from unpublished but talented writers who had paid their dues.

I figured that was me, so I e-mailed the editor that very day. She requested one of my manuscripts, and within a month, she called with a contract offer for my book One Imperfect Christmas. Then, as if God really wanted to show off, one month later the Heartsong Presents editor offered a contract for Autumn Rains, the book that had won the Golden Heart three years earlier. Both books released in the fall of 2009, and I officially became a published novelist.

If you’ve been doing the math, you’ve figured out my “overnight success” was 25 years in the making. If at any point along the way I’d given in to discouragement and laid aside my dream, I couldn’t claim eight published novels as of last month plus two more coming out next year.

So that’s my writing journey in a nutshell. Even with all the ups and downs, the years of discouragement, and now the “fun” of learning what a published author’s life is really like, I have to say it’s all been worth it. No words come close to describing what it feels like to hold my published book in my hand, to see it on a bookstore shelf, to read a glowing review, or to hear from a reader that my story touched her heart.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from my writing journey, it’s this: If God gives you a dream, there’s a plan and a purpose for it. No matter how long it takes, God’s timing is always perfect, and He is never late. So follow your dreams in faith, and remember “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

 Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes inspirational romance and women’s fiction—emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. She is a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award finalist, most recently for her novel A Horseman’s Hope. Her novel Autumn Rains won the Romance Writers of America 2005 Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript and was a 2010 Carol Award finalist. Myra and her husband are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters, and are also grandparents of four rambunctious grandsons and two precious granddaughters. Although Myra is a native Texan, she and her husband now reside in North Carolina and share their home with two very spoiled lapdogs. Myra writes full-time and is currently serving as president of ACFW-Charlotte Chapter (Carolina Christian Writers). Her latest release is When the Clouds Roll By (Abingdon Press, September 2013), book 1 in the Till We Meet Again historical romance series. 

Find Myra online here:
Tweeting as @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen

When the Clouds Roll By: Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiancé, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry.
After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie. While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Whom will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be? As the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.

To enter the contest for an autographed copy of 
Myra Johnson's book: "When the Clouds Roll By":
leave a comment (and email address)
and become a follower of this site if you aren't already.

Guess what??? Kindle option available for international readers!! Yeah!!
Hardcopy or kindle available for US

Winner announced on my facebook page.

Thank you, Myra, for Joining us This Weekend!

Friends, I personally was so taken with Myra's post, I couldn't even choose what question to pose for your response. Please, let the Spirit lead you in your comment.
Blessings on all of you, 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Glass--Dark or Stunning Clarity

Photo by Mary Vee
In my last manuscript, Who Invited Hank, the hero and main character encountered several problems with no immediate solution.

After years of squabbling, two families successfully built a wall between a once treasured relationship.

The main character's family moved east and the hero's family stayed in the west. 

Grounded in clouded thinking, both families learned to bury the beloved friendship once binding two best friends from long ago.

God sees us doing silly things like this all the time. 

We stop going to a certain church because someone offends us. We change banks, grocery stores, stand in a different line to avoid a cashier, move to a new city, and stop speaking to the neighbor because . . . sometimes we don't know why.

Our thoughts become clouded. We misunderstand. We do the things we don't want to do and  leave undone that which we should do. 
Photo of the same scene as the above
but later in the day. by Mary Vee

The Apostle Paul says we see through a glass darkly, but someday we are going to see God face to face.

One day-- The clarity will be stunning.

As you probably guessed, the main character and hero rely on God to help them find a way to reunite their family. Someday I hope the story will be published and give you a chance to read what happened.

God is willing to help us when life seems cloudy. His Word offers great comfort. His church gives hugs and assistance. Music praising God soothes. Prayer and meditation draw us closer to Him.

May your day be blessed with a clear view of what God has for you.

Your challenge: Write a positive comment to a friend. You don't have to give their name. then if you want, invite your friend to read the post so they can participate, too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Unity and Tragedy

Rather than show the scorched building,
I am showing the front of the church.
The mission of the saints
Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook (and if we aren't friends-send me a request, I will gladly friend you), may have seen my posts from this last week.

The church I attended as a child and grew up in, burst into flames last Saturday, gutting much of the structure. We aren't sure why. Someone suggested a new boiler might have been an issue. Within seconds, beloved church friends formed a message thread on Facebook to pray. We invited childhood friends who had moved to other states and shared with them what we knew.

Those living locally watched the news and reported updates. One person walked close to the scene to get pictures and post them.

My heart ached horribly over the event. So many memories, all in praise and honor to the King. 

We stayed up into the very late hours, sharing God's work accomplished in that building, and rose early the next day to tell how we had been changed for the kingdom and how we witnessed others change and grow strong in a new faith.

Tragedies like this are so very bitter to taste. 

Those involved---plus an added outer layer of new friends who never set foot in that building, yet tenderly saw our anguish--drew together as a body of believers despite distance separating us over time.

Those attending the church now have a choice to clear the area and build a new building or rebuild and repair damaged areas.  For now, worship will take place on the grounds. It's cold outside. Please pray for those still living in the neighborhood.

As for the rest of us who moved too far away to roll up our sleeves and help, our memories have been stirred to the great work God did and will do in days and years to come. We also have many other ways to help the rebuilding of a beloved facility used by saints to continue the work in that neighborhood.

May God bless and grow ministries all over the world, serving Him.

Tragedy isn't easy. I soaked many tissues. God always knows. He always cares. And He will always be our strong tower. How has God blessed you or someone you know after a tragedy?