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...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Excellent news!

My wonderful agent, Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, has placed my Road's End series with Write Integrity Press! I'm blessed and honored to be a part of this wonderful publishing house, its employees, and its family of writers.

Just when I thought my three books (Misstep, Faux Pas, and Misjudge) would never see the light of a publishing day, it happened. And just as quickly, I was made comfortable by the welcoming words of editor Tracy Ruckman who made me feel right at home.

I'm not quite sure when Misstep will be published or how soon the other two books, Faux Pas and Misjudge, will follow. I'll let you know when those details are worked out. In the meantime, what I do know is that I'm happy, excited, and proud to be a part of the Write Integrity Press family.

The Road's End series tells the stories of Pastor Hugh Foster (former Air Force colonel and chaplain) and his wife Melanie and how they deal with the ornery, lovable, feuding, patriotic, and well-meaning, but sometimes inept citizens of Road's End, Virginia. I can guarantee lots of laughter, adventure, shenanigans, love, inspiration, and perhaps some tears along the way. Please join me on a hilarious and touching journey with the good (and crazy) folks of tiny Road's End. You won't be sorry.

And before I forget, once again I find myself thanking God for Terry Burns, agent extraordinaire!

Until the next time...

Friday, April 3, 2015

It is finished!

It's been far too long since I checked in, friends. Life has kept me busy, but that's no excuse to stop communicating. I'm writing this on Good Friday at a little past 2:30 p.m. While I know I'm not in the right time zone and I may be a bit off on the timeline, I'm counting down the minutes until our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ cries, "It is finished!" and takes our sin and the punishment for that sin (death) upon His holy shoulders. It's more than I can comprehend, but God knows I'm struggling to understand the depth of His sacrifice for His children.

Perhaps I will never understand completely how horrible His death really was. I can imagine, of course; I can try to put myself in His place, but that's laughable in its impossibility. How a man, righteous or not, could tolerate the pain and degradation He endured before He was nailed to the cross is beyond belief. But to endure all that knowing that once He reached Golgotha, He would be nailed--not positioned with soft fabric, not even tied with ropes, but nailed--to the cross and left to hang in the sun for however long it took Him to die--well, that defies comprehension. And He was God. He was the Creator of all that was, is, and ever will be. He is the Alpha and the Omega. And yet, he died such a lowly death for us.

It is now just after 3:00 p.m. My Lord has died upon the cross for me. He has taken my sin with Him and offered me His forgiveness and love and guidance and friendship and salvation and everlasting life with Him after my own death, which no matter how gruesome it may be, could never be as bad as His.

I often wonder how we humans would react if we were told we could have everlasting life in Heaven for only one million dollars per soul? You can bet there'd be a lot of panic, murder, thievery, embezzlement and other cutthroat activities in our scramble to secure a spot for our everlasting soul and those of our loved ones. What if God required His children to be crucified on the cross, just as His Son was, for the privilege of living with Him for all eternity? How many takers would there be to die in such a gruesome manner to secure your soul's forgiveness and an eternity with our Heavenly Father?

Luckily, none of us have to endure either of those scenarios, because in His divine love for us, God has offered salvation (forgiveness of our sins and an eternity with Him) to all of us for... absolutely nothing. He doesn't want us to equate money or other earthly goods with the Best of the best. He doesn't want us to die in our sins, so he offered His Son to die in our stead. Could you do that? Could you watch your son die so horribly for the sins of others? I don't know about you, but I couldn't. No way. But God did. And I'm sure it hurt Him immeasurably more than it would hurt us to see our sons hanging on that cross, bleeding, scourged, thirsty, broken, mocked. Can you imagine a hurt that great?

So if we admit our sins, recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and ask for forgiveness, He writes our names in the Book of Life! No strings attached. I don't know about you, but that's one book I want my name in! I could reach the top of the bestseller list everyday for the rest of my life and it wouldn't mean one iota as much as having my name among the other saved souls in this world.

Rejoice, for on the third day, He will rise! He has defeated death. He has taken our sin. He has invited us into His family. He has offered us an eternity in His Presence. Are you one of His children?

Until the next time...

Laughing with the Lord #6

Welcome to Laughing with the Lord #6!  Sometimes I wonder if my purpose in life is to make God chuckle. I do so many ridiculous thi...