Friday, March 3, 2017

Old Friends, Good Times, and Belly Laughs

A dear friend of mine left my house this morning to return to her home in Michigan. After spending a couple of months in Gulf Shores, Alabama, she asked if she could stop by on her way back north. I jumped at the chance to see her again.

Karen and I met when we both worked at a Social Services office in Michigan. She was a raving beauty (still is, for that matter), with a raucous sense of humor and irresistible smile. We bonded for life during the little time I worked there before moving to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, after my husband returned from Vietnam. After that our lives took weird, yet similar paths over the years. We both were divorced from our first husbands when they left us for women eleven years older than they were and raised our children (two for her, three for me) as poverty-stricken, hardworking, frazzled, single moms. I spent a lifetime working for a school district as the superintendent's secretary (five superintendents over the years), and she joined the school board somewhere in there and is still serving on the board despite my telling her she's nuts. We faced many problems, some serious, some idiotic, during those overlapping years, and she still keeps me abreast of what's happening up there.  Now we're both retired from our "day jobs," while she continues to serve on the board, and I spend my time taking care of my granddaughter, traveling to see my other children and grandchildren, and writing.

Karen is a skilled writer in her own right, and has authored a column for many years. Our political and religious views are about as dissimilar as possible, but we've always found a way to listen to the other's viewpoint and express our own without going for one another's throats. That's probably due to a couple of things: we both respect one another (and opinions, even though they don't mesh with our own), and our combined, wild and wooly sense of humor. I can always look forward to a belly-laughing, deep cleansing renewal of my spirit when I spend time with Karen. Our conversations are intriguing, spirited, enlightening, and inevitably expose me to views and causes I've never known about or considered. She seldom changes my mind, but she presents her points with passion, and I respect her devotion to what she feels is the correct way of dealing with topics as varied as family, school districts, bosses, leaders, and the nation. She's an intelligent, intuitive, educated woman who has helped innumerable people throughout her life.

I'm honored to have Karen in my life, and I look forward to many more in-person and long distance conversations in our futures. The world needs more women like her, women who are passionate about what they've learned from their life experiences, who love people enough to respect them even if she disagrees with their viewpoints, and who give of their time, money, and laughter to keep their friends on the straight and narrow and the world on its axis.

It's a tough job, but someone has to do it. My someone is Karen. Love you, K.K. Wibesep.

Until the next time...

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Lifetime of Time

I doubt if this butterfly worries about the life already lived.
He/She lives for the moment and that next taste of the sweet
nectar God gives to His littlest creatures.
I had two sobering occasions occur recently--my oldest child turned 44, and my oldest grandchild turned 15. That makes me at least 50 years old. Sigh.

Okay, okay, I'm older than 50 years old. How much older isn't important. My point is that despite my best efforts, neither my children nor my grandchildren have remained babies. In the case of my son and grandson, they grew up just as they were supposed to and evolved from adorable infants to fine men. Derek is middle-aged (oh, my gosh, I can't believe I just typed that), and Dustin is on the verge of adulthood. From all indications, he too will turn into a fine young man.

I also have two beautiful daughters (both over 40), and in addition to Dustin, I have four other grandsons (13, 9, 9, and 5) and a 5-year-old granddaughter. All of them share the same compassionate, intelligent, and hard-working characteristics as Derek and Dustin. I'm surrounded by incredible people--and they're all younger than me.

How on earth did that happen? Wasn't it just last month that I was the youngest in the office, the baby of the restaurant where I waited tables? Wasn't it last week that I was the youngest office manager in the state's social services system? What happened to those 40 or so years? How did I go from the youngest in just about every situation in which I found myself to being the oldest person in the room?

Well, if I stopped blathering long enough I'd realize that time is what happened. The passage of time--that slow, but inexorable ticking of the clock, second by minute by hour by day until the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months and the months to years. The years? Well, they turned to decades, and eventually, they'll turn into a lifetime.

A lifetime of time. Sounds odd, doesn't it? But that's what life is. Time. God has given us the time to live our lives, and coupled with the gifts He imbues us with, the opportunity to live those lives, to spend all that time in His service. He desires that we become the men and women He intends us to be and to live out our time on earth glorifying our Heavenly Father.

The older I become, the more clearly I see not only His Hand in my life, but the ways in which He wants me to behave, the paths He wants me to take and those He wants me to avoid. Of course, decades of experience helped make my vision clearer, but looking backward at more years already lived than I have before me can have the same sobering effect as a slap across the face with a large, wet fish. I've already lived many more years than I will live during my entire future on this planet. Not everyone can say that, so I'm careful to remember that I'm fortunate to be growing older. Some people never have that chance. Their lives are sometimes over before they really begin--or at least before they gain traction. The fact that God has allowed me to live this many years means He still has something for me to accomplish in His Name.

Now I can either bemoan the years that have passed as if their passing were a bad thing, or I can rejoice that those years happened in the first place--that my children and grandchildren were born and grew into fine human beings. They have their paths to take; I have mine. Just because I started out on my path before theirs began isn't a bad thing. Mine will end before theirs, as well, but that will be because I've accomplished all I was supposed to. They still have things to do, places to go, people to meet and influence, spouses to marry, children to raise, jobs to work at. Lives  are staggered that way for purposes that only God knows fully, but I know one thing. If we were all born at the same time, lived our lives and died at the same time, life would be one big train wreck.

God knows what He's doing. Allowing me to celebrate the birthdays, anniversaries, births, joys, and triumphs of my children and grandchildren is a privilege only He can bestow. How dare I diminish that great blessing by bemoaning the fact they're growing older along with me?

I am blessed beyond comprehension and have joys that defy explanation all because of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord.

Until the next time ...

Friday, September 9, 2016

Dropping the Devil's Bonds

It's been ages since I posted, and you'll never guess why! Ready? Here goes: No good reason. None. None at all. I just didn't know what to post and had that "deer in the headlights" look in my brain whenever I realized I hadn't posted in forever. So I just didn't do anything.

Not a very good reason, huh?

I know it's not, so I finally decided to simply blog about why I haven't blogged. I think this is a problem many of us face whether we're writers, moms, dads, employees, bosses, whatever. We don't know what to do next (because Heaven forbid we make a mistake), so we make the worst mistake of all and don't do anything. We're paralyzed by uncertainty, and instead of doing something--anything--we choose to do nothing.

And yes, it's a choice. I chose not writing because I was afraid I'd write something dumb (like this post, perhaps?) and make a fool of myself. How's that for dumb? In my not-so-gallant effort to avoid looking like a dolt, I spent months doing nothing and looking more doltish (doltisher?) by the minute.

But that's all behind me now. I've spent a lot of time lately evaluating why I do or don't do certain things. Most of it boils down to being afraid of looking bad/amateurish/dumb/ignorant/unkind and on and on. This applies to the rest of my life, by the way, not just my writing.

Uncertainty is a tool the devil uses to bind us so we don't do what God created us to do. And he's been binding his evil heart out around me.

That stops now.

Just because I'm not sure what to do about something doesn't mean that what I do choose to do will be wrong. Maybe it'll take me on a journey to what is right. Maybe it'll bomb. But in any event, I'll be actively seeking an answer rather than twiddling my thumbs and giving the devil something to grin about. Confusion, indecision, uncertainty, fear, prudence, whatever you choose to call it or whatever situation you find yourself in that causes any of the above will probably require some action on your part. Yes, some things resolve themselves without our assistance. There's nothing wrong with a "wait and see" attitude unless it's a "wait and see forever because I'm so darned afraid of doing something wrong that I'm tied in knots and basically useless." But if it's clear that action is needed, do your homework, make your best guess, and then take your best shot.

My most recent conundrum has been how to best market my latest novel. Because I couldn't come up with a sure-fire way to become an instant bestselling author, I came up with absolutely nothing. Oh, I tried lots of stuff all right, so much in fact that it all became useless. You can take all the shots you want, but if you don't have a clear target you're shooting blindly. Rather like using a water pistol to put out as forest fire. It doesn't do any harm, but it doesn't do any good either. My mind was filled with ideas and although none of them seemed perfect, some were not so bad. I immediately eliminated what I couldn't afford, which was a good start. But after that, I had no idea what idea was the best idea for me, so I did the worst possible thing. Nothing. If I'd tried some of them back when I first thought of them, I'd have a good idea by now which ones worked and which didn't. As it is, though, I'm left with a brain full of ideas and still no idea which ones will work. The only way to rectify that is to try them out--one at a time, two at a time, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I try. 

I can feel the devil grinding his ugly teeth. His hold on me is lessening; his ropes of indecision and insecurity are loosening. I am almost free of his grimy, slimy bonds, and it feels so good.

So very good.

Until the next time ...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cynthia T. Toney and her "Bird Face" series!

Today I have Cynthia T. Toney, author of the "Bird Face" series with us today to discuss how she started writing, as well as the first two releases of her series, 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status.

Cynthia, welcome to Deborah Deetales. It's great to have you here. To start things off, please tell us why and how you started writing. 

Thanks for inviting me, Deborah. I tried different types of writing as an adult—advertising and marketing copy, greeting cards, and nonfiction articles. The writing bug latched onto me with its teeth and wouldn’t let go until it convinced me that I should tell a story.

Did you make a conscious decision to write for teen readers or did it just happen gradually? Tell us something about that.

When I decided to write fiction, it had to be a novel for young people. There was so much I wanted to show pre-teens and teens about how wonderful and powerful God made them. They have the ability to overcome adversity and help shape their own lives. But I knew I couldn’t lecture them. I had use story to entertain while I demonstrated through the characters’ actions how they could react to, work through, and possibly overcome life’s problems.

You have two books out now in the Bird Face series, 8 Notes to a Nobody and 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Can you tell us something about each?

In 8 Notes to a Nobody, originally titled Bird Face, shy Wendy discovers that most of her peers have problems, some of them hiding serious ones. The reader sees different characters react differently to similar problems, with very different results. I hope it helps young people understand to think carefully before they make some of the choices they make and to seek help for their problems. The mystery element in this story involves anonymous sticky-note messages and leads to a special relationship for Wendy.  

10 Steps to Girlfriend Status may sound like a teen romance, but there’s much more to it than that. Wendy is now in high school. Two boys are interested in her: David, from the first story, and Sam, the hearing-impaired grandson of Wendy’s surrogate grandmother, Mrs. Villaturo. Her friendships with both boys and the start of an innocent romance show girls that it’s best to get to know boys as people and friends first. At the same time, Wendy discovers that Mrs. Villaturo suffers from Alzheimer’s, and she fights Mrs. V’s son to try to keep him from moving Mrs. V to Alaska. The mystery in the story has to do with a relative of Wendy’s who disappeared in the early ’60s, and the mystery winds up involving two people in Wendy’s life in an unexpected way.

You must have a special place in your heart for teens. Are your books based on personal experience as a teen yourself, or perhaps the experiences of a daughter, niece, or neighbor, or are you just empathetic toward teens in general?

I drew on my own memories of youth, my daughter’s life experiences, and some of the insecurities and struggles I witnessed in the lives of many young people she or I knew. We both were devastated by suicides among her peers, and because of that, I chose to delicately address a teen suicide in book one, 8 Notes to a Nobody.

You have a third one in the series, too, right? Can you tell us a little about that one? Are all three books so far about the same characters?

Wendy remains a constant character because these are her stories now. David, Alice, Jennifer, Gayle, and Sam appear, recede at times, and come back in force. In book three, Wendy gets into some serious trouble at school. Jennifer, who was Wendy’s best friend in book one but receded into the background in book two, becomes a major character again in book three. And of course, there is another mystery.

How many books are planned for the series?

Write Integrity Press has three under contract for now, but I would like to keep writing about Wendy and have her advance in years until she graduates from high school.

Are you available for speaking engagements?

Yes, thank you for asking. There are so many variables regarding that, anyone interested should contact me through my website, (Be sure to include the middle initial T.)

You’re being published by Write Integrity Press. Where can we buy your books?

The first two titles are available on and I’d love for to carry them. The more people ask for them, the more likely they will carry them, so I’m counting on the public’s demand to assist me. Of course, I’d love for readers to ask their local bookstores, too.

And finally, is there anything you’d like to tell your readers? Any advice? Please tell them why you consider them so valuable and why you devote so much of your life to writing about and for them.

Never give up on your dreams. Believe in yourself even if no other human being seems to. God loves you. And authors like me who write for teens wouldn’t do it if we didn’t care.

Thanks so much for being with us today, Cynthia. Can your readers contact you for answers to questions or information about your books? I’m sure they’d love to visit your website and your other social media sites. Can you give us those addresses?

I love to hear from readers, young and old. I can be reached at any of these:

Follow me on Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

Cynthia is a former advertising designer, marketing director, and interior decorator who holds a BA in art education with a minor in history. While employed by a large daily newspaper, she rewrote some ad copy without permission and got into trouble for it. At that point, she knew she was destined to become an author.

When she’s not cooking Cajun or Italian food, Cynthia writes historical and contemporary teen fiction containing elements of mystery and romance. Cynthia loves animal-shelter dogs and the friendly South from Georgia to Texas, where she resides with her husband and several canines.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ever Had One of Those Days? (PLUS a big announcement!)

This is joyous little Molly chasing bubbles.
This is what I looked like that day--well,
not exactly, since I'm older, taller, a tad,
well ... not so ... uh, slim, and I seldom run
around the yard chasing bubbles anymore.
Other than that, you're looking at ME!
Some days are just better than others. Most days start out normally enough--I get up, get myself ready, drink my coffee, feed Molly (my 3-year-old granddaughter) her breakfast as her mom and dad leave for school and work, dress her in fresh clothes, etc. If it happens to be a day when my son-in-law or daughter are home, the Molly chores are relegated to them and I'm free to write, tweet, blog, email, edit, Facebook, and perform all the other myriad duties of a writer.

Yesterday was one of those days.

Once at my desk, I found myself once more wending my way through the mine-littered jungle of social media marketing that's taken its toll on me recently. I've been reduced to a whimpering, quivering, complaining ball of self-pity. Just when I think I've mastered one form of media, another pops up, and I'm forced to learn its particular ins and outs. My publisher and writing cohorts have witnessed my slow, but gradual introduction to Twitter, and if not for them, I'd have given up and crawled into a corner. I haven't been shy, either, about confessing my frustrations, but some days I find I learn a little more about "stuff" and a lot more about myself.

Yesterday was one of those days.

It occurred to me, fresh from yet another rant, that I was belittling something writers would've given their comfy computer chair for just a few years ago. In the 80s, I think email was the closest most writers could come to marketing their books without spending money, other than what they paid to have internet service. Once in a while, a writer would create a newsletter but for the most part those were read mostly by family and close friends. With the onset of the internet for both home and business use (gasp!), our reach expanded world-wide, but unless you had a website (and believe me, I didn't), there was little you could do but buy an ad on the internet or use your trusty email list. In the 50s, not that I remember them in any detail, mind you, computers were the stuff of science fiction and a computer or two in most homes (in countries where circumstances allowed it) was off-the-charts crazy. No way, no how. If you had a book published and your publisher didn't do all the marketing, you had to buy ads for newspapers or magazines. Some days I think about things a little more deeply.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I realized that as frustrating as learning (and in some cases, relearning) Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, websites and other media forms with which I'm not familiar can be, they are all free. Can you imagine how thrilled we'd be if after paying for these wonderful tools for marketing, advertising, creating relationships, making contacts, keeping in touch with friends, colleges, and family members, they were suddenly declared free? If after spending money on marketing--money that most of us don't have to throw around--the powers-that-be declared that from now on we could garner world-wide attention to our work at no cost. Some days I come to my senses.

Yesterday was one of those days.

To top off my victory against my fear of social media and the resulting pity parties, I was invited to appear on Atlanta's WATC, Channel 57, for an interview about my upcoming Christian novel, Misstep. Talk about one of those days! When I'd whooped and hollered and danced around long enough (please see above picture), my publisher, Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press, and I talked about this God-granted opportunity. Fortunately, the edits for Misstep were nearly complete, so she was able to send them to me immediately. At long last, my book will be published! And following Misstep, will come the 2nd and 3rd books of the Road's End series--Faux Pas and Misjudge. Yes, some days are better than others.

And yesterday was one of those days.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is... Getting It All Wrong

I know many of you long for the freedom (uh... nope), ease (yeah, right), and wealth (hahahaha) of all writers everywhere, and think the life of said writer is one long session of retiring to our garrets, drinking copious amounts of coffee and other caffeine-laden drinks, staring out the window at the scenery beyond, and making things up. Let me set you straight.

Aside from that freedom, ease, and wealth baloney, you're... absolutely right! That's exactly what we do. It's not so cut and dry for the non-fiction writers among us, of course, but for those of us writing fiction, it's just that simple.

Or is it? Let me explain.

This is not, I repeat not what the window looks
like in my garret. It is pretty, though, isn't it?
It's actually the window in a church
in Maine near Acadia National Park. 
Yes, we retire to our "garret," which in most cases is not up a long, winding, stone stairway to a tiny room at the top of a tall tower with a window that faces the east when we want to see a sunrise and the west when we want to watch a sunset (it's a magic window), but rather anyplace we can find to plunk down our computer. It might be one of those fancy "office garrets,' or a simpler "couch garret." It might be a comfortable "bed garret," or an uncomfortable "bathroom garret." Of course, there are the ever-popular "Starbucks" and "Barnes and Noble" garrets where you'll find several writers using the same garret you are. (Have I used the word "garret" enough, or would you like me to expound on that topic a bit longer? No? Okay.)

Moving on. Yes, we often drink coffee. Or tea. Or wine. That's why Starbucks and Barnes and Noble are so popular for writing. However, taking your computer to a wine-tasting event is often frowned upon, and you have to keep moving around to different wine stores because they won't let you come in a second time, but at least the drinks are free.

And we do stare out the window, unless we're in the bathroom and have to stand on the edge of the bathtub to look out one of those skinny, rectangular, frosted windows and find out we can't see anything anyway, so we might as well not try because sure as shootin', we'll break a leg trying.

Lastly, we do make things up. To a point. Our imaginations are our best friends during our writing sessions, but even making things up requires diligence and hard work lest we screw things up. I once attributed the quote, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," to Winston Churchill, and was chastised (none too gently, I might add) and told it was actually Franklin Delano Roosevelt who used those stirring words. Using the wrong colloquialisms for the period is another problem historical book writers have to worry about. For instance, having your knight from the Crusades saying, "Hot dang, that was close!" isn't going to cut it. Even readers with little or no knowledge of ancient languages know that knights would more likely have said, "Hot dangeth, that was nearbyeth!"

In short, writers of any genre--with the exception of speculative or science fiction--have to stay true to the period, geography, language, dress, and historical events that were/are indicative of the location and period we're writing about. We don't want to jar our readers with a glaring inaccuracy... like a wrongly-attributed famous quote, for instance (not that I would know anything about that). We strive to make our job of making things up a pleasure for our readers no matter what or where we've placed our characters.

We just don't plunk them into the bathroom at a wine-tasting event.

Until the next time...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Michael and Me

What on earth, you ask, do Michael W. Smith (internationally-known musician, composer, and singer) and I (an author known to my immediate family, mother, and grandmother) have in common? (Well, maybe you didn't actually say it, but humor me.) Plenty, I reply, plenty. And here's the proof:

Michael W. Smith is as kind and considerate in real life
as his songs are soul-inspiring and joyful when he performs them.
It's a joy to know a favorite entertainer is just
what we hope they are.
A picture!

Yes, that's me with Michael's arm on my shoulder. Even though I look like one of those life-sized cardboard cutouts, and I'm paler than most snow drifts, that's me standing next to the great (and incredibly handsome) Michael W. Smith at a meet-and-greet just before his concert on Sunday, May 10th. Since meeting him, I've been completely blown away by how much we have in common.

1.  Michael and I were both at the World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on the evening of Sunday, May 10, 2015! Can you believe the coincidence? Yes, he was there to do a concert with the talented and insanely beautiful Amy Grant, and yes, I was there for the concert, but still... both of us there at the same time? What are the chances? (Pretty darned good, since we bought the tickets a millisecond after they went on sale.)

Here I am looking nowhere near as beautiful as Amy Grant,
who is not only talented beyond belief, but sweet and funny
in real life. 
2.  Michael is married and his wife's name is...are you ready for this?... Deborah!(My name is Deborah!)

3.  Michael was born in October and I was born in November! (Just one month apart and maybe a year or two (okay, a few years) apart, but hey, it's still pretty weird.)

4.  Michael is a composer, musician, and wildly-popular singer. I'm a writer, took piano lessons for two years, and I... get this...sing along with Michael. I know, I know. Pretty wild, huh?

5.  He lives in Tennessee. I live in Tennessee. Just gets stranger and stranger.

6.  Michael graciously accepted a copy of the children's adventure book, Laramie on the Lam, for his grandchildren. I wrote that book. Of course, I took two copies with me to the concert (one for Michael, and one for Amy) for the purpose of giving one to each of them. Still... seeing my book in the hands of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant was a thrill.

7.  And last, but certainly not least, Michael loves the Lord. I love the Lord. He composes, plays, and sings for the glory of our Father. I write, edit (and then write some more) for the glory of our Father.

You've probably figured out by now that I'm spoofing the things I have in common with Michael. Except for that last one. It was very apparent from the way he treated his fans at the meet-and-greet and his audience during the nearly 3-hour concert that his love for God is genuine. What a wonderful role model for younger generations and what a thrill for his older fans to know he's the real deal. We need more Michael W. Smiths and Amy Grants in our entertainment realm and in the world as a whole.

The love for God displayed in his music and during his concerts is also contagious. I dare anyone to sit through a concert of Michael W. Smith's (or Amy Grant's, for that matter) and not want to worship our Heavenly Father.

Thanks, Michael. Thanks, Amy. Thank You, God.

Until the next time...