Friday, May 29, 2015

Fabulous Friday Feature-Pepper Basham-Happily-ever-after Stories

Today we welcome author:
Pepper Basham

One commenter will win a copy of Pepper's new release: 
The Thorn Bearer

Mary here. I am beyond excited to host my good friend Pepper Basham this weekend. We are both Alley Cats and write for the Writer's Alley. Pepper has such a vat of story ideas. It bubbles over every time she calls. As she talks the idea deepens, and everyone is drawn into the story, laughing, and upping the ante. It's so much fun. Of course her Appalachian accent adds to the good time. Pepper has three books being published this year. Her debut year!!! Of course I had to invite her to join us and share her amazing God story.  You're gonna love it. Here is what she said:

God's Dream in Our Hearts Equals a 

Thanks so much for letting me visit your blog today, Mare!! My goal is to provide some insight and encouragement for those journey-weary writers out there!

I hope that one thing any aspiring writer can take from my writing story is that God’s timing and our perseverance for His dream in our hearts equals a happily-ever-after.

But remember, I didn’t say God’s timing was fast!

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, creating wild stories to regale the other kids in grade school or make my parents laugh. Those silly adventures turned into words on the page when I was about eight…and never stopped. But writing has never taken a front seat in my eclectic and busy life….until recently.

Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia I had the wonderful opportunity to be surrounded by a funny, creative, loving, and big Appalachian family. My extended family lives within a few miles of each other and there were times when my family life really did resemble bits and pieces of Mayberry. Faith, family, friendship, and fun were four hallmarks of the culture – including a solid dose of hard work, a smattering of good ol’ storytelling, and a sprinkling of ‘dream big’.

Dreaming big for a poor Appalachian girl was definitely a big deal! And no three people dreamed bigger for me than my Mom, Dad, and Granny Spencer. If the size of dreams could be counted in coins, I’d be a millionaire off of their dreaming. When I was ten years old, my Granny bought me a second-hand typewriter and stated words that fueled my dreams. “I bought this because…well…a writer needs one.”

A writer.

That’s what she called me!

And with God’s calling on my heart, my Granny’s words in my head, and my parents’ encouragement in my purpose, I’ve been writing stories of all sorts ever since. It’s been a very long and difficult journey, but on May 7th, 2015, I held my DEBUT novel IN. MY. HANDS!!!

What did it take to get to that point?

I sent in my first writing contest entry and attended my first writing conference in 2004. At that point, I didn’t even know what a synopsis or proposal was. I just liked writing a good story. In 2004, I was a pastor’s wife, full-time speech-language pathologist, and mother to a 6, 4, and 2 year old with a little brother on the way.

I left that conference discouraged and overwhelmed at all the information I needed to learn, so I spent the next 3 years studying craft and learning ‘how’ to write a good story. I had PLENTY of stories in my head, but I had to learn how to hone my skills to be able to communicate those stories well.  I also attended The Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop.

In 2007, I attended my next conference. In 2007, I was a pastor’s wife (at a new church), full-time university instructor, and mother of a 9, 7, 5, 2, and 1 year old. At this conference I felt a little more prepared, because I’d actually created a ‘projects’ sheet and entered the paid critique, and though the comments on the critique hit my confidence pretty hard, it also gave me encouragement. So in 2008, I took The Writer’s Guild’s Journeyman course and then entered two contests, one was for the conference I’d attended in 2007.

To my complete shock, I won! Both! (I also learned that a writer needed business cards ;-)

It wasn’t until the next year that I learned about ACFW and joined the encouraging group of writers from around the world, but the BEST year of my writing life (up until this year) was in 2010!!

2010 marked SO MANY WONDERFUL things for me. In 2010 I was still working as a university instructor, my husband was still pastoring a church, and our 5 children were around the ages of 12, 10, 8, 5, 4, but into my life came a brand new chorus of friends.

The AlleyCats!!

In May 2010, five aspiring writers started The Writers Alley. Within six months, we added 5 more! The beginning of this group writing blog not only offered a wonderful resource for aspiring and published authors, it generated a fantastic friendship among the ten of us. Through the AlleyCats, I not only gained critique partners, but fabulous friends – some of my very best friends!!

Also in May 2010, I found out that I had double-finaled in the Genesis Contest, with two VERY different books!

You would think after finagling in such a big contest, I’d have a contract the next month, right?

No. I added more slips to my growing rejection pile…and kept on writing.

There were many opportunities for discouragement and questioning my calling. Many times when I had to take a break from writing to manage life.

But also many times when God sent Providential messages of hope my way through the words of encouragement in my family, friends and other writers.

In May 2014, the amazing Julie Gwinn signed me on as one of her clients. In June, our family made a big move to Asheville, NC. It was a difficult transition, especially for me and my oldest 3 kids. I left a job I loved with people I loved even more. They left a school and friends they’d known for 8 years. I was ready to give up the writing gig for a while because I couldn’t manage more disappointment along with all the change I was helping my family get through.

In the middle of the flux of change, I received my very first contract from a small publishing house called Lighthouse of the Carolinas. I signed that contract, with my awesome Alleycats around me, at the ACFW conference in September. By the end of November, I had two more contracts, the BIGGEST was from a small, mainstream publishing house for a THREE BOOK SERIES!

So…here I am in 2015. A wife of a music minister, full-time SLP, and mom of a 17, 15, 13, 9 and 8 year old…and a published author!

God’s dreams are constant, even if ours fluctuate from time, disappointment, rejection, and trial. No matter how my life has changed, He’s remained the same – and so has his calling on my life, so I pray that he continues to give me stories for his glory to share with others.


Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. 
She’s a native of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a mom of five, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate. She enjoys sprinkling her native Appalachian culture into her fiction whenever she can. 

She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she works with kids with special needs, searches for unique hats, and plots new ways to annoy her wonderful friends at her writing blog, The Writer’s Alley. She is represented by Julie Gwinn and her debut novel, The Thorn Bearer, released in April 2015. 

Here is how you can connect with Pepper:


The Thorn Bearer
From the decks of the ill-fated Lusitania to the smoke-filled trenches of France, Ashleigh must choose between the forgiveness of her past, life in the present, and a Savior who can rescue her from them all.

When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman?

In an attempt to escape the shame and disappointment of her past, Ashleigh boards the ill-fated Lusitania to cross the war-torn waters of Europe. Much to her dismay, she isn’t traveling alone.

Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancé and his own childhood companion.

As they travel across the Atlantic, neither is prepared for the life-altering and heart-breaking journey of their friendship.

When the truth of Ashleigh’s past explodes in the middle of war and Sam rejects her, Ashleigh must decide if God is enough – or if the double weight of her betrayal and past will crush her life forever.

Enter the contest to win a copy of 
Pepper's new release:
The Thornbearer:
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, Pepper, 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, or hey.

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We Remember

Photo Courtesy

We set aside Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices of the many American men and women of every race serving in the armed forces. This sacrifice has meant death for some, injury for others, and traumatic flashbacks for many.

I saw a few of the Dancing With the Stars shows this season. One of the "stars" was a man who lost his left arm and his left leg while serving in the Middle East. In those few shows I watch him learn how to dance and inspire the nation with his determined spirit.

The man openly admitted he struggled terribly from the moment he woke after surgery and for a long time after. It took a team of friends and family to envelope him and encourage him to keep living. 

Dancing wasn't easy. He fell. He tried to wear an arm prosthesis and failed. He had trouble moving his leg prosthesis to the beat of the music. Those watching the program inspired him to keep trying with their votes.

He didn't win. He came in third place. But in the end, he smiled. He spoke of his appreciation for all the people who remembered to encourage him and stand by him.

That is what it takes. 

For anyone who has sacrificed for others and has come home.

He or she needs friends and family to remember that sometimes they just need:

*to cry
*to be sad
*to be angry
*for someone to listen and not offer advice
*someone to hug them

And sometimes they will:

        fall or fail

But with the right amount of encouragement and support he or she will: 

       get back up and succeed

What special way can you show someone you remember them?

This post has been brought to you by the one-word: Remember

Friday, May 22, 2015

Fabulous Friday Feature-Jerry B. Jenkins-Whatever God Calls Me to Do

Today we welcome author:
Jerry B. Jenkins

One commenter will win 
a copy of Jerry's new release: 
Empire's End

Mary here. My son and I read all of the adult Left Behind series. My daughter and I read all the Left Behind Kid series. These books gave me an opportunity to discuss Bible topics with my children. I've respected Jerry's writings for a long time and even took the apprentice writing course with Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. The course jumpstarted my writing and taught me a wealth of information about the craft. When I heard Jerry was releasing a new book, I took a chance and asked him to join us here on Let's Talk. This busy man quickly made a space in his schedule for us! I asked him to share how God has led him in his writing journey. This is what he said.

Being the Best I Can Be
at Whatever God Calls Me to Do

When I was a kid, baseball was my life. The sport dominated my heart, soul, and mind, even to the exclusion of my childhood faith. I wasn’t a bad kid, but all I wanted was to become a big league ballplayer someday, and I didn’t realize how the game had taken over my life until I was injured as a freshman in high school and that dream ended.

I turned to sports writing to stay close to the athletic scene and realized immediately I had found my niche. I wasn’t any good at it yet, of course, but I had a knack for writing because I had been reading the sports pages religiously since I was a child.

I had to get a quarter million clichés out of my system and learn a lot about the craft, but I was an eager student and somehow realized perfecting this skill would be a lifelong pursuit. My mother became a convicting model in this because she was both a piano teacher and a piano student well into her 80s.

Looking older than my age was an advantage at 14 (not so much now), and I was able to talk my way into a part time job covering high school sports for the local daily newspaper. Still two years shy of qualifying for a driver’s license, I had to have my parents drive me to the ball games and to the newspaper office.  Yet I was paid a dollar per inch for whatever of my copy made it into print each day, so I can say I’ve been a professional writer for more than 50 years.

Forced to free myself from my baseball obsession–at least as a player–I was able to get serious again about my faith and put Christ back on the throne of my life. This led to a summer camp experience where I felt a distinct and definite call to full time Christian work. I assumed that meant I would eventually have to give up my writing and prepare to become a missionary or a pastor.

However, a wise counselor advised me that God often equips a person before He calls him and that He might have given me my writing gift as the vehicle with which to obey His call.

Recognizing the beauty of that truth set the course for a life I would never have dreamt possible. And my own father wisely counseled me that I should never strive for success as defined by society–book sales, royalty checks, bestseller lists, etc.–but rather by being the best I could be at whatever I was called to do: in my case, following the call to full-time Christian work.

So, while my writing career has resulted in what many would call phenomenal success, even in the world’s eyes, I can honestly say that has never been my focus. Obedience has been the point.

I urge writers to:

  *Never compare yourself to anyone else, but be the best writer you can be

  *Never sacrifice your family on the altar of worldly success, because you’ll write
         better without guilt when you put them ahead of your writing

  *Make obedience to God, not success, your aim

You can control only the quality of the work you do. The vagaries of the marketplace determine all the rest. Obedience is success.

Jerry and his wife Dianna

Jerry Jenkins has been steeped in the craft of writing for more than 40 years. With 21 New York Times bestsellers (seven debuting at #1), 186 books, and over 70 million copies sold, he has become one of the most commercially successful writers of our time.

Lucky guy? An overnight success? Hardly.

Jerry's from-the-trenches perspective on how to achieve success is quite the opposite of a conventional approach. He espouses working fiercely and with discipline and leaving the results to the marketplace.

"Left Behind was my 125th book — but not a lot of people realize that."
Jerry wrote that 16-title culture-shifting series for Dr. Tim LaHaye, and the publishing world now refers to it as "the Left Behind phenomenon." Several books in the series hit the New York Times bestseller list, selling over 62 million copies.

Jerry has seen unprecedented success in both fiction and nonfiction. His insatiable pursuit of great stories has led him to achievement as a biographer to icons such as Hank Aaron, Orel Hershiser, Walter Payton, Meadowlark Lemon, Nolan Ryan, Mike Singletary, B.J. Thomas, and many other men and women. The Hershiser and Ryan books reached the New York Times bestseller list, as did his most recent work, The Matheny Manifesto, with baseball's most successful young manager Mike Matheny.

Jerry also assisted Dr. Billy Graham with his memoirs, Just As I Am (also a New York Times bestseller), which he considers the privilege of a lifetime.

For the full list of Jerry's published books, click here.

Here is how you can connect with Jerry:

A Novel of the Apostle Paul

Jerry B. Jenkins’s new novel is filled with adventure, drama, historic people and places, and even romance. Empire’s End tells the story of a man who single- handedly turned the Roman Empire on-end. Only a few snapshots of Paul’s life are revealed in the Bible. In this fictional account, Jenkins tells of a devout Jewish scholar, who after only three years in the Arabian wilderness, emerges as the greatest Christian theologian in history. This novel explains how, after supervising the death of Jesus’s disciples, Paul would be moved to effectively conquer the Roman Empire with a message about a Jewish man named Jesus. You’ll be captured by the shocking “thorn in the flesh” that burdened Paul’s heart. Empire’s End will cause you to rethink whether Paul ever experienced the love of a woman or the embrace of a child.

To enter the contest for a copy of 
Jerry's new release:
Empire's End
(the book will be released June 9)
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, Jerry, 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, or hey.

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kudos Party Time!!

Fireworks above the stadium during the graduation
Photo by Mary Vee

Like many of you, we are celebrating a graduation. Hubby and I went to Tucson to attend our daughter's graduation from University of Arizona. 

Photo by Mary Vee

My daughter, Katy received her Masters. 
Her focus was Choral Conducting. 

University of Arizona stadium
2015 Graduation
Photo by Mary Vee

There are many kinds of graduation. No matter what the party pooper says, they are all important and worthy of acknowledging.

Here is a short list of graduations:

High School
Finishing a first ...(quilt, story, song on an instrument, vocal performance, hair cut, walking, lost tooth, first tooth, cooked meal, reaping from a garden, learning a foreign language..etc)
Fundraiser ___K walk
First Job
Having a baby
First house
First move
First gray hair (okay--this isn't such a great one)
For our men-beard/mustache/voice change
Made it through a Bible reading Genesis-Revelation

Are we thinking outside the box? 

Over 5,000 students graduated this night
Photo by Mary Vee

We won't necessarily throw a party or gather the entire family together to celebrate some graduations but we sure can be happy and thrilled that God gave us this moment. 

I am convinced that all of us have graduated from something this year. I know I have. Let's see: 

I was a finalist in a writing contest. 
I have read twenty-five books this year so far
I planted wildflowers in a garden I've sorely neglected in the past
I gave my teen daughter's room a make-over and lived to tell the tale

Yippee! That's four things so far. If I sat here long enough, I hope I would think of more. 

The evening hours-packed stadium
Graduation of University of Arizona students
2015. Photo by Mary Vee

Before you raise the red flag and say God wants us to be humble and not consider these things--think of this: you feel it is good and right to honor those who have graduated, had birthdays, etc...right? Is it not also true that God loves us and gave us whatever to achieve the graduation? Yep He has. 

So go ahead. Have a kudos party honoring God for helping you to graduate. Make a cake. Sing a praise to God. Have chocolate. Get ready for more of your graduations this year.

Your turn: share something you've graduated from this year. Don't be shy. Give us the chance to praise God with you.

This post has been brought to you by the one-word: Kudos-to-God's-Kids

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fabulous Friday Feature-Renee Ryan

Today we welcome author:
Renee Ryan

One commenter will win a copy 
of Renee's new release: 
Wagon Train Proposal

Great news! 
International readers are invited to enter. 
Renee will send a paperback copy to the winner,
 even International

Mary here. Renee is one of the super authors I met at ACFW. I only had a chance to eat a meal at the same table, but in that short time I felt an immediate connection. Her fun spirit. Her friendliness. Well, I simply had to share with you. I asked Renee to tell us how God led her on her writing journey. Here is what she said:

A Dangerous Indifference

I started writing fiction an entire decade before Kindle, Nook and other modern e-book devices existed. I consider this a huge, unexpected blessing. I wasn’t ready to publish when I began this journey. I had a lot to learn about writing a book. But the pain of rejection (especially in those early years) was difficult. 

I know myself well enough to know that had there been the option of bypassing editors and agents I would have done so. I would have been tempted to take the easy way out and publish my work on my own. That route would have been a disaster. I needed time to learn the craft, to hone my skills and, most importantly, to find my niche. 

I’ve heard it said that back in those days (circa 1996-2006) a writer targeting New York publishers had a 1 in 6,000 chance of landing a book deal. Thankfully, I heard that horrifying statistic after I started submitting manuscripts to editors and agents. 

Again, this was yet another unforeseen blessing. Had I known the odds, I might not have had the courage to send out my initial attempts. Those early rejection letters were both helpful and spot on. Stubborn by nature, once I’d already set my mind on the goal of publication I wasn’t backing down.

In 2001, I found success--five years and five manuscripts later. I hit with a splash by winning the inaugural Dorchester/Romantic Times New Historical Voice Contest. The magazine did a feature on me and my book, a western historical romance. They put a good amount of promotion behind the book. But the sales weren’t great and western historical romances were dead in the secular (ABA) market. I became a one-book wonder within months of EXTREME MEASURES hitting the shelves.

I despaired. I cried, cried some more. I started and finished new projects and continued submitting. But no one was interested. And so began a very looooooong dry spell between book sales. I became so frustrated that I quit writing altogether and cancelled my membership in all of my writers’ groups. I knew I was heading down a dark road. I couldn’t keep chasing the sale and maintain my sanity. I was too obsessed. In fact, the pursuit of publication became my sole mission in life. Something had to change.

I purposely took a step back and started working on my own faith walk, something I had let lag to dangerous indifference. I also started reading books that were not romances, namely thrillers written by men for men. I very quickly realized these books, though well-written and fascinating, lacked the depth of character, emotion and romance I preferred. 

And then it occurred to me. If I was going to collect rejections, I might as well stop playing it safe. I took what I knew about romance writing and what I’d learned from all those male-targeted thrillers and melded the two. I added the Inspirational thread for me, and my Daddy, too, a WWII vet who says, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

I had no real plans of selling the manuscript, and actually didn’t sell it until many years later, but the writing of it brought me to the Inspirational market. I’d found my niche and went on to sell the next manuscript I wrote, a western historical romance with a strong Inspirational thread. I’ve written and sold eighteen more books since. 

Moral of the story: Swing for the fences, never play it safe and continually work on your relationship with the Lord. The rest will come, in His time and His way. 

My 91 year-old father (the WWII vet)
Renee Ryan is a multi-published, award-winning author best known for her fast-paced, character-driven romances. She sold her first book by winning the inaugural Romantic Times New Historical Voice Contest. She currently writes contemporary and historical Inspirational Romances for Harlequin Love Inspired and Amazon’s Waterfall Press. An empty-nester, Renee lives in Nebraska with her husband and a large, fluffy cat many have mistaken for a small bear. 

Find out more about Renee at

CLICK HERE to see or buy
 Wagon Train Proposal
For the Sake of His Children 

A marriage of convenience? Rachel Hewitt couldn't possibly accept. Not even for the sake of three adorable little girls who desperately want a new mother. Sheriff Tristan McCullough offers Rachel a home and family, but not the one thing she truly seeks—someone to love her for herself. 

Tristan McCullough hoped to find a wife on the wagon train, not a nanny. The hardworking widower wants a marriage without emotional risks. But independent Rachel intrigues him. One minute she's winning over his shy little girls, and the next she's tackling danger head-on. She might just be Tristan's unexpected second chance at happiness…if he'll risk his wary heart again. 

Journey West: Romance and adventure await three siblings on the Oregon Trail


CLICK HERE to see or buy
The Marriage Agreement

Promoted to Wife? 

Always the dutiful daughter, Fanny Mitchell surprised everyone when she broke her engagement. Now she's working at the fancy Hotel Dupree—and falling for the mysterious, handsome owner, Jonathon Hawkins. But when she and her boss are caught in an unexpected kiss at a ball, will her reputation be tarnished forever? 

The son of a woman of ill repute, Jonathon knows that gossip can destroy lives in an instant. And he won't allow sweet, lovely Fanny to suffer the consequences. When he proposes a marriage of convenience, Jonathon believes he can keep his heart to himself. But the more time he spends with Fanny, the more he realizes he may just be in love—with his wife… 

Charity House: Offering an oasis of hope, faith and love on the rugged Colorado frontier
To enter the contest for a copy of 
Renee's upcoming new release:
Wagon Train Proposal:
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
(see right column to sign up)

The winner will be announced on my Facebook page

Thank you, Renee, 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, or hey.

Thanks for stopping by!

Don't forget to comment!