Party Time!! First Place in the TARA

by | Sep 12, 2010 | Fiction Book Reviews | 15 comments

This just in (as of last night)….

My novel, Here To Stay, won first place in the Inspirational portion of the TARA. The final judge was Barbour editor JoAnn Simmons. I’m really surprised, but very thankful, and am in hopes that JoAnn will tell me some ways to improve my novel.

If you’d like a sneak peek into the story, you can check out a few posts where I’ve introduced some excerpts.

Kissing Scene here

First encounter here

And here’s another BRAND NEW PEEK into the novel Here To Stay.

Eisley & Wes having their first meal together – as friends. That’s it. Nothing more. (of course)

She wrinkled up her nose, very unromantic thoughts swirling in her head. “Real romance is for wimps.” She winked and leaned forward, resentment beginning its’ ugly churn in the pit of her stomach. “And that’s why you have job security. We have to act love out on movies, because it’s the only way we’ll get close to the ‘real thing.’ People don’t believe in fairytales anymore.”

“You’re parents seem happy…so do mine.”

“But that’s a generation ago. How many couples do you know in the 21st century who  even like being around each other, my brother’s marriage is the exception, not the rule. Believe me I know.  Everybody’s into fast food consumerism. Give it to me now, quick, and it better make me happy or I’ll never shop there again.”

The intensity of his stare unnerved her, made her feel vulnerable, so she studied her napkin instead. Actually, it was a very pretty napkin, all white and lacy.

“I don’t sense a hint of bitterness in between those freckles, do I?”

Eisley grinned and inched her gaze back to his. “A hint? Gee, I thought it was an entire color spectrum.”

He chuckled and let her sentence disappear into an unspoken agreement. Silence. The type of silence shared among friends.  Friends? She rolled her eyes. Now that was an impossibility. Friends with actor Christopher Wesley Harrison? Yeah, right.

Wes sighed and sank back in his chair with a bewildered shake of his head. A grateful distraction. “All those children in, how many years?”

Eisley lifted her eyes to the ceiling in thought. “Hmm, let’s see, I’m thirty-three and Emma just turned…um…twenty-three.”

Wes ran a hand through his hair and leaned forward, elbows touching the table for a moment. “Eight children within ten years.  How did your mother do it?”

“Oh, well, lots of prayer?” Eisley chuckled.  “I have one of those loud, annoying, suffocatingly loving families and we all live really close together…I mean aunts and uncles and cousins, so everybody pitches in, like they have with me.”

His gaze sobered, but to her great relief, he didn’t ask the follow-up question she dreaded. The one that led down the path of betrayal, rage, and with God’s continued grace, ended with this shaky hope in her heart. She felt secure in God’s love, and her family’s love. It was any other kind, not found in fiction, which left her petrified.

A waiter broke the conversation with perfect timing, and a tray filled with steaming food.

“You were right.  This is a breakfast my dad would be proud of.  Gracious sakes!  Look at the size of it. Eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast.”

Wes smile slid into a grin.  “The Full English Fry-Up, at your disposal.” He snapped his napkin in the air then placed it in his lap. “What are you parents names?”

Eisley looked up at him and allowed the question to sink in.  “Oh, my parents, Nathanael and Kay Jenkins.  My dad’s a stone mason and carpenter, and my mom used to be a teacher, but she retired to help me take care of the kids.”

“Shall we pray?”

She lifted her gaze to his as if he’d proposed marriage. He asked to pray? Daggone-it, why did he have to go and do that? She swallowed down a lump in her throat and, by force of habit, placed her open palm out on the table.


At his slight hesitation, she started to slide her hand to her lap. Eisley, you’re not in Pleasant Gap anymore. He caught it in one swift movement and offered her a faint smile.

“I’m afraid I’ve sufficiently distracted you from reading your Bible too. Perhaps, once we’ve finished?”

His words had the same effect as when he’d offered to read the Bible with her in the hallway upstairs. Nothing. Her brain drew a complete blank. Call it shock, fatigue, the most perfect dream of her entire life, but it all ended in the same thing: speechless.  A voice in the deepest part of her mind started screaming, Run. Run like you’re escaping a nest of angry bees. Red Alert!

She realized her mouth hung open and quickly closed it, her eyes glimpsing their hands together on the table.  How on earth could she run away with his hand attached to hers? She’d have to take his hand with her. Souvenir? She sighed and decided to resort to her best weapon for embarrassment. Humor. “You’re really working on that chocolate pie status, aren’t you?”

He leaned forward and squeezed her hand.  “How am I doing?”

Her throat felt strangely dry. “I think you’ve moved up to strawberry, with whipped cream.”

The smile he wore should have owned a disclaimer: Warning. This man is dangerous. Especially for women who are trying their best to steer clear of knights in shining armor.


  1. Sherrinda


    Pepper, you so deserve a first place with this story! I feel this is the one for you! It’s awesome! 🙂


    • Pepper

      Thanks, Sherrinda
      Such a sweet note – even when I interrupted your football game 😉

  2. Melanie Dickerson

    Woohoo!!! This is totally awesome, Pepper!!! Congratulations, girl! And I LOVED that excerpt, especially paired with the pics of the those actors! I can’t wait till you sell this puppy! I’ll be first in line to buy it!

    • Pepper

      Oh thanks, Melanie.
      I just LOVE this story. And my new rewrite of it is my favorite 🙂 Hmmm, how many times do you usually have to rewrite a ms? 😉 I have a feeling I’m going to do much better on the fourth and fifth tries. LOL. I’m a slow learner

      • Melanie Dickerson

        Um, Pepper, you reeeeeally don’t want to know. But rewrites are fun. 🙂

      • Pepper

        I bet I rewrite more than you do. Neener, neener, neener 😉

  3. Edwina Cowgill

    Congratulations! Can’t wait to hear that you have a publishing contract and your book will be out soon! I’ll be one of the first in line to buy it!!


    • Pepper

      Thanks, Edwina
      It was a great surprise. I’d just been praying about whether this was the time to write or not – and God was soooo sweet to answer in this way.

  4. Sarah Forgrave

    Hooray!!!! Congratulations, Pepper! That’s awesome!

  5. Regina Merrick

    Congratulations, Pepper! What great timing, right before ACFW! Can’t wait to congratulate you in PERSON in just a few days! Out of curiosity – how many times have you rewritten your MS?

  6. Audra Harders

    OMG, Pepper! How could I have missed this terrific news!! Winner of the Inspirational TARA! My congratulations go all out you, sweet stuff!

    And your excerpt…yum. Time to put this story on the shelves for others to enjoy, too!

    Congrats, again!!

    • Pepper

      I absolutely LOVE this story. LOVE IT!!! It’s sooooo much fun to write. The entire family is nuts.

  7. Sherrinda

    Ummmm, did Audra just call you sweet stuff? How cute is that?!

    • Pepper

      Yep – shows how I fooled her in Indy 😉

  8. Keli Gwyn

    Sorry I’m late to the party, but congratulations on your first in the TARA!!!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Meet Pepper

Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This