Faith, Friends, and Storytelling

acfwalleycatsLast weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference. I’ve been going to ACFW for five years now and over that time I’ve developed great connections with remarkable people, met some of my dearest friends (Go, Alleycats!!), and cultivated a deeper understanding of the ‘call’ God’s placed on my heart as a writer.

alleycatsI am a writer.

My Granny called me one when I was about ten years old, and I joyfully accept the mission. God just happened to sprinkle powdered sugar on top of my life by giving me an amazing group of writers to share the journey.

Tweet: ACFW is so more than meeting editors and making profitable connections. It’s a braided blessing of fellowship, worship, learning, and encouragement.

francineI’m reminded of this truth every September I’ve joined hundreds of writers, editors, publishers, marketers, daydreamers, and world-weavers.

We are taught great courses. The ones I took in marketing were particularly fantastic this year.

We develop amazing friendships. I absolutely love the camaraderie honed among professional daydreamers who love Jesus.

We worship. At the heart of this calling and these friendships is a bond bound by grace.12027752_10207297498386565_6334955013657674308_n

We find and give encouragement. Because the writing road has more twists than a pretzel, finding other journey-ers acfwjulie'sangels2along the way helps the stragglers stay the course and shores up the discouraged.

We create hope-filled stories. And encourage others to spread the endearing truth to the world through words.

What a gift!

News to Share

10646741_10204870944154085_8514285265217180766_nWell, so much has been going on lately that I figure it’s time for a recap…and just maybe I’ll get back on track to posting at least once a week on this blog 🙂

Ever hopeful!

God has an amazing way of surprising us with more than we expect.

I’ve been pursuing writing for the past ten years and in that time God’s done some amazing things like:

Introduced me to the fabulous Alley Cats

He brought the FABULOUS, Julie Gwinn to be my friend first – and then my agent

Brought wonderful authors like the Seekers, Janice Thompson, Beth Vogt, and so many others into my life

He’s brought teaching and resources to help hone my skills.

And now..well, I’ve joined the roller coaster of published authors.

1. I signed my first contract with Lighthouse of the Carolinas for my Contemporary Romance novel, A Twist of Faith, at the end of September. It’s a fun story that is a modern day retelling of My Fair Lady set in Appalachia. It’s scheduled to release in June 2015.

2. I signed my second contract in mid-November to co-author a Middle Reader/YA novel that accompanies a new video game releasing in 2015.

3. Yesterday I signed a three book contract with Vinspire Publishing for my historical romance series, beginning with The Thornbearer to be released in October 2015. This Penned in Time series takes place during World War 1 and follows the lives of three friends who each struggle with forgiveness and the definition of true beauty as they face a world at war.

I’m excited about these new opportunities but also nervous about how to make it all fit into a very busy schedule as a full-time speech language pathologist and mom of five. It’s great to know if God provided the opportunities, He’ll also provide the ability to complete them 🙂

Here’s to seeing what God ends up doing with MY story in the middle of writing these stories!!

Post ACFW – part 2

I’ve been out of town the past few days for my grandfather’s funeral, so I’m sorry I haven’t posted more pics. It’s weird being on this side of the emotional roller coaster of ACFW – back to work – my grandfather’s death – and back to work. My brain is numb! 🙂

Let me start off with two beautiful ladies (and great encouragers) that I met on Friday at lunch. Debby Mayne and Trish Perry were phenomenal. Debby just showered me with encouragement and even took me to meet her agent, Tamela Hancock Murray (another pleasure). With more books than I had time to count on her website, Debby’s advice and friendship meant so much to me.  Thanks, Debby!!

I just have to say that encouragement was EVERYWHERE – almost in every smile I saw.

I LOVED this pic from Casey’s stash. It’s of me, Case, and the lovely Laura Frantz. Those gals are two absolutely beautiful people (inside & out)

YAY!!! Roomie Carol Moncado is here with me while we have one of those ‘fancy’ meals during the conference. Mealtime was a great opportunity to network and enjoy food (that I neither had to prepare or clean up after – GOOD FOOD in my book) If in doubt of who Carol is – just mentioned the “Cookie Queen’ to any ACFW attendee and they’ll probably be able to tell you. Carol brought SEVEN batches of cookies to give out at the conference. Bribery?…Well, it sure worked. 🙂 No ONE complained.

ACFW!!

Just a quick stop in to share some pictures from ACFW. You can see some more over at The Writers Alley.

It’s been a fun time so far. I’m not expecting crazy stuff to happen (unless I’m spending time with the Seekers), so the HIGHLIIGHT of my trip has been getting to meet some of the Alley Cats – and especially rooming with Casey Herringshaw and Mary Vee. Our other roommate is Carol Moncado, my long lost twin. It’s been a blast.

(this pic is of me, Angie Dicken (Alley Cat), and Mary Vee (Alley Cat).

This next photo is just how crazy things are with Casey Herringshaw. Seriously! Look at that face. 😉

 Big stuff is going to happen for the gal to my left. Ashley Clark was a fantastic buddy to make – perky, fun, and totally nailed her pitch to a certain agent that I saw. WTG, Ashley.

There’s more to come, once I upload the pictures from this morning. But I hope you enjoy this sneak peek 🙂

 

A Day Off to WRITE

I can’t remember the last time I had a day off JUST TO WRITE!

The last day off I took to write, two of my kids got sick the night before and were home from school with me.

But today….

TODAY……

I am sitting at the kitchen table staring at an empty house and getting ready to open up a manuscript to DIVE INTO.

FOR. THE. DAY!! (or until 3:30)

It’s my big attempt to get ready for ACFW which happens in THREE WEEKS! I will get to meet CASEY HERRINGSHAW, ANGIE DICKEN, MARY VEE, WENDY MILLER, and SARAH FORGRAVE!! My ALLEY CATS!!!

Did I mention Casey is a FRASIER FINALIST!!

Did I also mention I get to stalk…er…meet RUTH LOGAN HERNE!!!

Anyone else get excited about writing days? I’m feeling very Connealy-esque here. Might have to shoot somebody! 😉

A Visit with Author Krista Phillips

If you don’t know this already, I am a member of a fantastic group writing blog known as The Writers Alley. It’s such a fun place to be – with nine awesome aspiring authors to help bounce ideas, share prayer requests, enjoy funny moments, and gab about writing. Interestingly enough though, many of us have never met in person. We started the Alley online last May with five: Mary Vee, Casey Herringshaw, Krista Phillips, Sherrinda Ketchersid, and me.

In the fall of 2010, God sent five other authors our way: Julia Reffner, Angie Dicken, Sarah Forgrave, Wendy Miller, and Cindy Wilson.

Since ten is one of my favorite numbers, I think our group feels pretty complete. But what would make it even better is to get to meet in person.

We’re all scattered throughout the U.S. so that makes meeting very hard, but this weekend I had the opportunity to meet Krista Phillips. Unfortunately, we met at the hospital where she’d just brought her sweet baby girl, Annabelle, back to the PICU. To learn more about Krista’s amazing journey with Annabelle this past year, you can visit her fantastic blog here.

It’s such a blessing to meet any of these ladies who’ve inspired and encouraged me so much this year. I was grateful to meet Wendy, Sarah, Angie, and Cindy at ACFW last year (and that was WAY before The Writers Alley ever came to be – cool, huh?!?)

With ACFW 2011 just around the corner, I look forward to meeting more of the Alley Cats. Particularly, Casey and Mary – but we’ll be joined by Sarah, Wendy, and Angie too.

Other writing buddies will be there – such as the EXCELLENT Seeker-gals! Oh dear, I love them!

And friends, Carol Moncado, Keli Gwyn, Laura Frantz…and so many more!

Any writing pals-meetups in your future? Whether at ACFW or otherwise?

Also, here are a few pics of the Parthenon in Nashville- a exact replica of the original Parthenon in Greece.

The GENESIS of Friday the 13th

Friday was a very special day. You know why? I started off my morning by taking a driver’s training. Yep – I was chosen from the other faculty members at the university where I work to take the training to drive 15 passenger vans. Exciting stuff, let me tell ya.

I think I heard the phrase “Large passenger vans have a longer stopping time.” “Create a cushion of safety around the van.”

Enthralling, really.

Another repetitive mantra? Don’t BACK UP unless you HAVE to. Hmm….life motto? 😉

This past year, particularly this past semester has been a tough time for me and my writing. Between my first grandmother’s death in October (which shook my world), then an insane work schedule in the spring, plus two boys who needed lots of extra school support, a pastor hubby’s crazy regular schedule, a pretty intense family sickness, and finally my other grandmother’s death two weeks ago – writing time has taken a seat in the trunk….until this week.

What was so special about this week?

Monday – I turned in grades for the semester. PRAISE GOD  I SURVIVED!!!!!!!!

Tuesday – I went to Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference as a day-guest….with NO agenda at all. I went for the ‘soul’ purpose of fellowship and encouragement with other Christian writers. DiAnn Mills Writing Romance course was fantastic. Lisa Carter was SUCH an encouragement. I had the fabulous opportunity to meet Gina Holmes, author of Crossing Oceans. It was a beautiful day!
(you can see pics on my facebook page )

Wednesday – I drove back to BRMCWC. Chatted with Deb Raney. Revelled in Ramona Richards “Writing a Lady to Love” workshop (FABULOUS!!!)
Just felt an overall encouragement to start fresh – but don’t BACK UP!!! Start where I was and move forward.

Thursday – Had a great lunch with friends and was promoted to Assistant Director of Clinical Services at East Tennessee State University.
Pretty cool, eh? Sounds fancy, which means a lot more work 😉

Thursday night I prayed for all of my wonderful pals who awaited news about the Genesis. Especially my Writers Alley Buddies, Angie Dicken, Krista Phillips, and Sherrinda Ketchersid. Other pals were Susan Mason, Jeannie Campbell, Jessica Nelson, Anita Mae Draper, Diana Sharples, ….so many wonderful ladies.

Friday – Drivers Training course, then I had to drive to my children’s school during my lunch break to remove a tic from my daughter’s head (happy times – that’s a story for another day). I got back to work. Around 1 (EST)I got a call from  Erica Vetsche. My heart started doing the mamba in my chest. I was either excited or the 24oz of Mountain Dew I’d just consumed was starting to cause arythmias. My YA had finaled in the GENESIS!!! NO STINKIN’ WAY!!!

I’m sure Erica thinks I need medication, btw.

I called my mom right away and while I was on the phone with her,  another call was trying to come through. Since I work with college students from all over the world, I’m used to seeing phone numbers from different places – so I told mom I’d call her back.

When Becky Yauger said my name on the phone, I answered with a VERY shaky ‘yes’. She informed me that my CR had finaled too.

Whether it was professional or not, I did a little happy dance (including junior-high scream) right there in the middle of my very
professional office…(if you don’t count the toys on the bookshelf, the Dr. Pepper lunchbox in the corner, the happy face coffee mug full of chocolate, and
the stuffed chicken in the corner) It was AWESOME!!

I called back my mom, Casey Herringshaw (who told me so), Ruth Logan Herne, Sherrinda Ketchersid, and left a disturbing message on  Mary Connealy’s voicemail (something about how her demotivational technques really worked – I was sHOCKED).

I wish SOOOOO much I could celebrate with my buddies too. Of course, I can. I know my Alley Cats are celebrating with me. I love them for
that. They’ve given me so much love and encouragement this year. You guys are AWESOME!!! (GO ANNABELLE)

Congrats to Jessica Nelson – who is a partner in crime with me in the CR category.  I wish you the best of luck with my whole heart, Jessica!

Now, I’d better start writing, eh? DO NOT BACK UP unless I have to – and move forward…to whatever God has planned.

I’m pretty sure my dear sweet beautiful Grannies are up in Heaven smiling. I know I am.

Thanks all of you who’ve prayed, encouraged, and loved me.
It’s wonderful to share this news with all of you!!!

Blessings,

Pepper

Love at First Thought with Casey Herringshaw

OH My Goodness!

I am so pleased to have my sweet friend, fellow Alley Cat, and TREMENDOUS encourager, Casey Herringshaw as my guest today. Many of you may already know Casey from her beautiful blog, Writing for Christ, or her wonderful author blog, Operation: Encourage An Author.

If you’ve been blessed by the lovely personality of this young lady, let me introduce you to something else about her.

Her writing.

Yes, we get tastes of her writing on her blogs, but today I want to give you a hint behind her story-making.

Case, what was your Love at First Thought?

It was ever so simple.

I wanted to write a contemporary novel. After dabbling in historical fiction I wanted a change of pace. And I had the perfect story rattling in the noggin for such a story.
(one of those EUREKA! moments)

What would happen if a young woman became pregnant. What if it wasn’t by her husband? And what if it happened just days before the wedding?

Just what kind of emotional turmoil and external conflict would such an event cause?
Hmm. “What if” seems to be a theme here. Such a question is a writer’s best friend. At least, it’s mine.

And thus, Releasing Yesterday was born.

Ideas (for me) come from watching life. A pink rocking horse abandoned outside a church daycare. A couple that fell out of love even before they married.  Or my latest story- of a young woman who finds her now deceased husband has a child. A child she never knew about and now has to care for.

I’m inspired by the mundane or the normal that can be made extraordinary in fiction.

Wow! What a premise. I cant’ wait to learn more as Case continues her writing journey…and her navigation of the world wide web in search of sending someone encouragement.

Inspirational Moment:

Phillipians 1:4-6

 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Before I close up my laptop for the night, I think it’s important to reread this memorable verse. If our lives are a story, we know two things for sure:

1. There’s a beginning

2. There’s an ending

All of our stories started somewhere. It’s just the nature of it. All stories have beginnings.

And

Because our stories are penned by a loving and devoted Author, we don’t have to fear the ending of our story either. If you like HEA, Christianity is the place for you. Nobody can write an HEA like Jesus!

Read the Bible to get a good taste of a few stories. Raising people from the dead. Making broken people whole. Saving the world from the wrath of God…to name a few.

Ultimately, we get to be united with our Father God in some glorious ‘otherworld’ called Heaven.

So if you’re looking for a reality check, here ya go:

Life is hard.

God is good.

And you are part of a HEA.

End of story 😉

Love at First Thought with Myra Johnson

Well, it’s the last week of Love at First Thought blog series. I hope you guys have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Wednesday, Alley Cat and buddy, Casey Herringshaw gives us a glimpse into her Love at First Thought, and on Friday, I have debut author, Tina Radcliffe.

But today….

Myra Johnson joins us.

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit and chat with Myra and Mary Connealy for about half an hour at ACFW. (I chatted with them on other occasions throughout the weekend, but that 30 minutes was mostly just me and them. WONDERFUL – and totally selfish of me, but I’m not sorry 😉

Myra’s Love at First Thought is AMAZING! It’s one of those comments that becomes devotional.

Here it is:

One of my favorite books is Autumn Rains, and the main reason is because of how the idea came about. It was inspired by something that actually happened to my brother-in-law, who at the time was pastoring the church we attended in northwest Houston. Late one evening he and the church council president were at the church discussing some business when a man arrived looking for help. He said he’d just been released from prison (somewhere up north) and was trying to get to a Texas town farther south where he heard there were employment opportunities. 
 
When the bus stopped for a layover in Houston, he locked his belongings in a bus station locker (this was back when they still had lockers in bus stations), and then he lost the combination. Unable to get to his money or possessions, he asked around for suggestions on where he could get assistance, and someone pointed him in the direction of our community. This was in the heat of summer, and the man walked or hitchhiked some 25 or 30 miles to get to our church.
 
My brother-in-law was glad to offer the man some money from a church fund set up for such needs, and then he and the church council president drove him to where he could board a commuter bus back downtown so he could catch the next Greyhound bus south. On the way, they asked him what he’d been in prison for, and he answered, “Murder.” By now it was really late and really dark, so it got really quiet in the car at that point. My brother-in-law still chuckles over the experience, though, and several weeks later they heard that the man reached his destination, found a job, and started his new life. Or at least that’s the way I like to remember it.
 
So that’s the inspiration for my character Healy Ferguson in Autumn Rains, and to this day he remains one of my favorite heroes, a good man who made a mistake and paid for it, determined to become the man God created him to be.
Wow! What inspiration – and food for thought! Thanks, Myra.
What does grace look like in your life? Jesus was the Master at peddling out grace. Especially grace to the people the ‘world’ viewed as outcasts and undeserving. The very nature of grace is just that – showing love, forgiveness, & mercy when it isn’t deserved.
Christ is in the business of blessing beyond expectations or just desserts.
His entire rescue mission was built on this foundation: Save a bunch of undeserving sinners.
Wow!
And that love, that kind of grace, should spill out of our hearts and into the lives of those around us.
May we become Christ’s hands and feet of grace wherever we are.
Today.
Blessings,
Pepper

Operation: Encourage A Casey

There are some nice people in the world. Then there are some amazingly sweet people – ones who make random acts of kindness a daily occurrence.  Well, today – I’d like to honor one of those people.

Casey Herringshaw

Apart from being an Alley –Cat for The Writers Alley, a handmade-jewelry business owner, a country girl, and a women’s fiction author, Casey is an encourager.

Combining two of her passions, encouragement and reading fiction, Casey created the blog ministry: Operation: Encourage An Author.

Well, it’s time to turn the tables on this cute young lady. If you’ve been encouraged by Casey’s Operation: Encourage An Author blog, her Writing For Christ blog, her posts at The Writers Alley, or in any other way – leave a comment for her.

In honor of all she does for others, let’s celebrate her gift of encouragement! Leave an encouraging post for her today!

Thanks, Case

You’re a sweetheart! Thanks for putting Love Into Action!!

Romans 12:

 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

 9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.