Positive conversations with old and new friends. I'd love for you to join me on my back porch.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Beach memories with Misty Beller

Misty Beller has become a special friend. We became critique partners in a big group through ACFW. After awhile, we formed a small group with Janet Ferguson and LeAnne Bristow. The four of us have shared dreams, stories, and prayers. We all love God, and these women have become so special to me.

I asked all three ladies to share about a favorite beach trip, and here's Misty.

Thanks for inviting me to talk about one of my favorite beach trips! We live in South Carolina, about four hours from Myrtle Beach, so that's one of our favorite spots!

Last summer, our family did something a little bit different than our typical hotel stay— we went RV camping in the Myrtle Beach State Park. The park is an amazingly green stretch of nature on the southern end of Myrtle Beach, and includes a full mile of beach and its own pier. Included on the trip were my parents and grandparents, as well as my two daughters—age seven and almost three at the time. One of the best parts was spending dedicated time with my extended family!

Each day, the park staff held special programs for the kids, including scavenger hunts, crab fishing, and hands-on learning about sharks, sea turtles, and tons more!

One interesting incident happened when my girls were on the scavenger hunt with my dad. One of the trails was rather "verdant", and out of the brush slithered a rattlesnake! They saw it just in time to jump over the surprised serpent. Needless to say, they took a different route on the way back to camp!

Despite the heart-racing encounters with wildlife, the trip was one of the most memorable beach trips I've ever experienced.

What about you? Have you ever been camping at the beach?

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Vigil by Marian Merritt

I'd like to introduce you to Marian Merritt and her newest book, The Vigil. Marian Pellegrin Merritt writes stories that blend her love of the mountains with her deep Southern roots. Her tagline, Where the Bayous Meets the Mountains, grew from both loves. She is the author of, Deep Freeze Christmas, A Cajun Christmas Miracle, and Southern Fried Christmas.
Marian is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Women's Fiction Writers Association.
She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in physical therapy and an accounting certificate from the University of South Alabama. This Louisiana native writes from the Northwest Colorado home she shares with her husband and a very spoiled Labradoodle.

Here's a blurb from Marian's book.

Cheryl Broussard made two vows: She'd never fall for an abusive man, and she'd never return to her Louisiana hometown. But she's learned all too well the lesson of never-say-never. Now, back in Bijou Bayou after fleeing from an abusive boyfriend, Cheryl finds work as a Hospice nurse. While reading a dying patient's Korean War love letters, family secrets shatter Cheryl's beliefs about her family and herself and shed light on the reason she fled her hometown. When the Broussard family secrets are revealed, can Cheryl deal with the truth and accept the blessing of a second chance for relationships with her family, old friends, and with the God she never really knew?

Marian graciously agreed to answer a few questions.

Tell your readers about your brand and how you came up with it?
I'm from south Louisiana close to the fictional town of Bijou Bayou where my book is set. I currently live in Colorado. My tagline is Where the Bayous Meet the Mountains. This defines both my work and me. Each of my stories have a Louisiana/Colorado connection.

If you could spend the day with a famous author, whom would you choose and why?
Probably Danielle Steele. As a girl growing up in a rural area, I read many of her books. I contacted her sharing that I wanted to be a writer. She sent back a very encouraging letter. (Of course this was in the days before internet) I wish I still had that letter. Like her or not, she's a prolific writer that has crossed generations of readers. I would love to talk to her about writing.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
I'm an avid Women's fiction fan. I love stories about women overcoming life's adversities. It would be a natural progression for me to write those types of stories.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
My biggest challenge when writing is making my characters do what I want them to! They usually take off in a direction I hadn't intended, but typically tell me something about their past during that time that makes the story come together. So, while it can be challenging, I've learned to indulge my character's whims and explore the story with them.

What was one of the most surprising things you've learned while writing your books?
To trust my characters, but most importantly, to trust God while writing. It's His story, and He wants to use me to write it.

Give us the description of the ideal person you wish would read your book.
A young woman who is estranged from her family and is in an abusive relationship. I hope this story gives her the courage to leave the relationship and to give her family relationships a chance to mend.

What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
If they like it, talk, talk, talk—let family and friends know about it. Referrals from readers are the best advertisements. Post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Another BIG help is to post a review on Amazon, B & N, Goodreads, and iTunes wherever the book is sold.

Tells us about your past books and what to expect from you in the future?
I have two Christmas Romance Novellas and one Christmas Romance Novel. All three have the Louisiana/Colorado connection.

I'm currently editing a Women's Fiction story. Two Mothers—One Son. Is the tagline and ask the question: What if your kidnapped child was the adopted child of someone else? I'm hoping to have, The Moon has no Light in 2015 as well.

I'm currently writing another Women's Fiction set in Louisiana and Tuscany, Italy. Look for Four Weeks in Tuscany in 2016.

The next Bijou Bayou book, The Eagle, is in the plotting/character development stages.


Plotter, Pantser, or Planser? Planser
Coffee or Tea? Coffee in the winter—Tea in the summer
Dogs or Cats? Dogs
Steel Magnolias or Fried Green Tomatoes? Steel Magnolias
Sweet Tea or Unsweetened Tea? Loved Sweet tea, but drink Unsweetened.

I share more about my books, have giveaways, exclusive Cajun recipes, and make recommendations of books I've read in my quarterly newsletter. Sign up at my website below.

Website: http://www.marianmerritt.com

Blog: http://marianmerritt.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marian.p.merritt

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marian-P-Merritt-Author/395714820494287?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MarianPMerritt

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4429639.Marian_P_Merritt

Marian, thanks so much for stopping by today. It's been great getting to know you better.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fort Morgan in the Fall with Janet Ferguson

A good friend of mine, Janet Ferguson, shared about a beach trip she took to Fort Morgan. She shared the experience on her blog, Janet Ferguson author, and agreed to repost it for us.

Confession. My blue eyes shaded green for years when I heard other moms talk about their annual girl beach trips, pictures of their toes in the sand on their profile.

(To be honest, I did manage to escape once with my sisters and once with my daughter for girl trips. We had a blast.)

But I love the beach. It’s like God opens a treasure chest and sprinkles prizes around for us to find. Shells, porpoise, heron, sand dollars, starfish, sunsets, the ocean breeze, sea turtles, glowing jellyfish, the stars and the waves as constant as His love, and so much more. Another confession. I like to get a flashlight and chase little crabs at night. (I don't hurt them.) Good times.

Visions danced in my head of a trip where I would read novel after novel and then walk the beach observing God’s natural surprises. No shopping. No putt-putt. No movies. Just beach and books.

None of those moms’ beach trips ever materialized for me. With my daughter in college and my son almost out of the house, too, I figured I’d plan my own trip in a year or two or three. Then last fall, out of the blue, I received an invitation. And the timing couldn’t have been much worse.

Basically, I prayed, then went anyway. Destination Fort Morgan. The first weekend in October. Seemed like an odd time of year, but who cared?

The weather was fantastic, people. Forget spring break, fall is the season. The gulf is still warm. Not crowded, cheaper prices. I’m sure you could land nicely on one of my other favorite coastline resorts, San Destin or Orange Beach, as easily.

But Fort Morgan holds the charm of a bit more isolation. Filling the air with chatter, the trip down passed quickly. But not without picking up pastries at Jody’s Bakery in Hattiesburg. Yum! They have great homemade frozen casseroles, too, which saves time one night for dinner. Stop at the grocery before turning onto Fort Morgan road. Then make another quick pickup at the Fresh Seafood Market for shrimp or fish.

Now don’t leave the condo except to hit the beach.

If you must go out one night, Sassy Bass Amazin’ Grill is further west toward the fort. Yes, there is a cool fort at the end of the road built after the war of 1812. I’d already been there a few times with my kids, so I didn’t feel the need. But if you like history and you've never been, it’s worth a tour. I'd let you leave the condo for the experience. After all, it’s on the beach.

Okay, I’m over coveting for now, but I still love the ocean. The beach reminds me to search for God’s treasures. His gifts are all around me at home, too, I know. If only I take time to look.

Janet, thanks for sharing your trip with us. It looks like a great beach to visit one day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Favorite Beaches

My husband and I are beach people. We are landlocked in Kentucky, but when we have vacation time the beach is where we want to go.

I recently asked my critique partners, Janet Ferguson, LeAnne Bristow, and Misty Beller if they had a favorite beach. Today I want to share how LeAnne answered my questions. I bet you laugh before you finish.

LeAnne, would you share about a memorable beach trip?

Sure. I'm in. However, I'm not the best person to talk to about beaches. I've been to the beach a grand total of 3 times in my whole life.

Favorite beach? I don't know the names of any beaches. :(

My first beach trip was to a beach in Galveston. I wasn't very old, maybe 7 or 8. My mom and her sisters took the kids on one of the rare weekends that she had visitation. I remember that I played in the water for a long time and when I came back to shore, I was lost. Apparently the water pushed me further down the beach than I realized. I was really freaked out. Life guards finally helped me find my mom. I also remember that I got so sunburned that I couldn't wear a shirt for a week. Not my best memory.

Do I enjoy going? I'm a desert rat, so we don't go often. Plus my husband has a huge phobia of the ocean (deep sea fishing trip gone bad). We went to San Diego for my daughter's soccer tournament and took the kids to the beach while we were there. My husband sat on the beach in his wranglers, western shirt and boots while we let the kids play. The only other time we went, my husband had a workshop in San Diego and we ate at a restaurant on the beach and had drinks on the roof. We watched the sunset and it was really beautiful. I loved the smell and the atmosphere. The water...not so much. The pacific ocean is really cold.
I'm attaching a picture of that night. I snapped some of the sunset and it was pretty.

I'm wishing I was there now. Thanks for sharing, LeAnne!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Color of hope

I recently came across an article discussing the meaning of colors.

Certain colors make me think of the beach, but I never considered colors had meanings.

I looked up the color for hope. Most sites I visited listed green as the color of hope. (One site suggested gray which does not make me hopeful.)

If you have visited me at my house, you'll know I'm not afraid of color. Here's a picture of my dining room brainstorming with Rose McCauley, Loretta Gibbons, Jennifer Johnson, and Kim Sawyer.

As I read more I found green is the color for harmony and balance. That's a little out there if you ask me, so I continued to look. After my research here's what I came up with.

In the spring we see green grass coming up. Green leaves pop out on trees and flowers. When I see the green in nature, I'm filled with anticipation of spring and warm weather. I'm filled with HOPE.

Today the grass is brown and yellow, but soon it will begin to turn green. And then I'll head outside to enjoy the beauty of nature and spring sports.

Do you have a favorite color? Does it make you hopeful and happy?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thanks, Rose McCauley

I'd like to thank Rose McCauley for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award. A few years ago Rose invited me to a brainstorming weekend at her home, and we've been friends ever since. You can visit Rose at http://www.rosemccauley.com/

Rose asked me to answer the following questions.

1) Why do you write?

I've always been a writer at heart. I'd make up stories when I was little, and during my youth I'd read stories and think about how to write them better. In Girl Scouts I signed up for a pen pal, and I soon loved writing letters.

2) What single most important thing do you hope your readers will take away from your writing?

A deeper love of God.

3) What is the first adjective that comes to your mind to describe your writing?


4) What, in your opinion, is our culture's most urgent need?

I think there are so many people who are only focused on themselves, and we need to turn our eyes back to Jesus. When we do this we'll begin to see others as He does, and we'll find ways to help others.

5) If you could start over again as a writer, what would you do differently? What would you do the same?

I think I would have started taking classes and reading books on the craft of writing sooner.

6) What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

One of my stories was a semi-finalist in the Genesis writing contest last year.

7) Who has most influenced your writing?

In the beginning, Brandilyn Collins and her mother, Ruth Seamands, both encouraged my writing. Brandilyn was also the one who encouraged me to join American Christian Fiction Writers, and she never quit telling me to attend the ACFW conference.

Tina Radcliffe has also been a great encourager along my journey. She has called me to discuss a story and gave me pointers to make it stronger. She has given me courage to enter writing contests where I've received valuable feedback. I got to meet Tina in St. Louis at the ACFW conference, and she was just as kind in person. Tina and the ladies at Seekerville have taught me so much on my writing journey, and I appreciate all of them.

8) Where do you see the publishing industry headed in the next five years?

I'd like to see a return to more "real" books and less e-books.

9) What is the role of the writer who follows Christ?

My role is to write stories that honor God. I'm not published yet. Ten years is the average length of time to get published. As I study and write stories, I make friendships and try to encourage other authors in the journeys.

10) What do you love most about the writing life?

I love the process of creating characters and stories. My work as a pharmacist is crazy with noise. Phones, faxes, and people. There's always noise. Good noise, but still noise. I enjoy going into my quiet office and writing.

Thanks, Rose for the award. I look forward to your next story.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The London Eye

Sunday morning we found time to ride on the London Eye. It was raining, but we still enjoyed the views.

No matter how many times we saw Big Ben, I was fascinated. By the time we left London, we all knew we'd go back to visit one day. And we'll plan to stay longer than 24 hours.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Do you have a favorite song? How about George Strait's "Breath You Take"?

Do you have a favorite song? George Strait's "Breath You Take," is one of my favorite songs.

This clip is from the 2010 CMA Awards, and it was the first time I heard the song. It almost always moves me to tears. It doesn't matter if I'm listening to the CD or if it comes on the radio. I'm always touched.

It looks at the relationship between a father and son. The father teaches his child that in your life there will be special moments where you put everything else aside for the one you love. He doesn't just teach this with his words but also through his actions.

Here are a few of the words to the song:

"...life's not the breath you take
The breathing in and out
That gets you through the day
Ain't what it's all about
You just might miss the point
Trying to win the race
Life's not the breaths you take
But the moments that take your breath away..."

I hope you enjoy this beautiful song written by Casey Breathard, Dean Dillon, and Jessie Dillon.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Night life with the Laytons in London

The guys were not intimidated to walk around downtown London at night. We walked through neighborhoods and along the river.

We found some of the same issues there that we have in the states. Poor people and homelessness.

The most exciting building we spotted was the MI6 building. And when the clouds moved to reveal a full moon over the building, it was even more amazing.
I'm glad the guys convinced me to go for a walk after dark.


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