Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Author Behind the Story - Lena Nelson Dooley

Just watched the movie, I Can Only Imagine. Now, that song has a different meaning for me. Not so much about what we will do in the presence of God when we finally arrive before Him, although that is a question I ponder as much as anybody else, I imagine (pun intended). That's why I wrote my manuscript, The Letters. There is a spiritual world around us now that will culminate in Heaven. And I believe that "scene" will be literally "out of the this world" and something we cannot fully describe on this side of it. The marriage of the physical and spiritual worlds will be something unforgettable, like Jesus walking through a door as if it wasn't there and showing His disciples his nail-scared hands and pierced side.

In the same way, this blog series is meant to help readers see the author behind the stories they pen. To have a new appreciation for the story lines, the themes, the truths, contained within its pages.

To further that journey, I welcome a fellow author who has written many a book, Lena Nelson Dooley!

Lena, welcome to the Florida front porch! Pull up a chair and give us a description to the reader who may not know who Lena is. Who is Lena Nelson Dooley? 

I’m a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. My family is the most important thing in my life. And I have loved Jesus for over seven decades. God blessed me by choosing me to write stories whose  characters will grip the reader’s heart.

Seven decades. Wow. What a blessing! Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I have written all my life. I came from a family of writers. However, I’m the only one with that profession. In May of 1984, God used events in one week to let me know He wanted me to be a professional writer. Your readers can read that testimony by going to my website, and clicking on the About Me tab.

What educational background do you have?

My father paid for my brother, older by 16 months, to go to college. He told me he’d pay for secretarial school or something like that for me because I wouldn’t be the breadwinner for a family. That’s how older people felt in the early 1960s. I wanted to go to college, so I worked my way through, working full-time in the summer and holding an on campus job and an off campus job during the school year. I chose Ouachita Baptist College (its name at that time), because my brother and many of my friends went there. When my family moved to Texas during my college years, I transferred to Howard Payne in Brownwood. Later I did graduate work at Abilene Christian College. It was the only one with graduate classes in Drama, my major.
I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Song of All-Time: “Love Me Tender” I think it’s the most romantic song ever written.
Favorite Bible Verse: Jeremiah 29:13
Favorite Movie: I love Christmas movies and princess movies
Favorite Actor or Actress: Tom Selleck
Favorite TV Show: I love game shows and cooking shows
Favorite Novel (other than your own): Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Favorite Author (other than you): I have so many, and they are all Christian novelists
Favorite Sport: America’s pastime, baseball
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): The Texas Rangers
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: I loved all the literature classes
Favorite Subject Now: My grandkids and great-grandkids (KEVIN: Bet you get schooled often in those classes!)
Favorite Teacher in School: Mrs. Hater (that was her name, and she saved me from completely dropping out) (KEVIN: Glad she didn't live up to her name!)
Favorite Time of the Year: The holiday season including Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas
Favorite Place to Vacation: On cruises. I’ve only cruised in the Caribbean.
Favorite Drink: Iced Green Tea (year around)
Favorite Food: Lobster

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

One of the books I’m featuring here was a miracle from God. The publisher contacted my agent with what she wanted to publish this year. My agent told me that as she told my agent each thing, my name came to her with each one. So she didn’t offer it to the authors in her group. Because there had to be a short turnaround, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But God gave me the story, and He assured me that I could do it. I always pray about what I’m writing, but with this book I had to remain totally plugged into God to be able to get the book done in time. It was an amazing experience.

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story?

I’ve often been asked this question, and I answer, “The one I’m writing right now.” It’s the one I’m pouring all my writing ability into, and it’s the one most present in my thoughts. I loved writing the McKenna’s Daughters series. A Heart’s Gift was a book of my heart. I could go on with a long list The 12 Gifts of Christmas that released on September 4th is the book I was talking about in the other answer. Right now, it’s my favorite, both because of the story and because of how closely I was connected to God during the writing.
and why I loved that particular book.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on. 

Right now, I’m working on filling out the details of a book that I dreamed about a few weeks ago. It’s working title is The Small Green Cottage, and it’ll be what they are calling a time-slip story, where there are two time periods and two sets of characters but happens in one place.

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

My mother. She died when I was seven years old. I’d love to know her as an adult. Learn the wisdom she would have passed on to me, had she lived.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

I’ve always been fascinated by Queen Esther. I’ve studied her at length. I even wrote a dramatic monologue of her that I’ve shared with women’s groups and at women’s retreats. Her situation was unique, emotional, and intense. She could share a lot of wisdom with me, too.

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

Adventures in Prayer by Mary Jo Pierce. This book has meant a lot to me, and I’ve used it when mentoring other women.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

I love my readers. They are the reason I work so many hours writing. I want to entertain them. I want to make them think … and feel. And I like to connect with them on many levels.

They really bless me when they write reviews of my books. I love hearing from them on social media. They are the reason I’m there. Nothing pleases me more than knowing how one of my books changed a life. I’ve been known to sit and cry before the Lord, because He used me to do that very thing.

What a great way to end our interview! With the readers!

Lena, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and stopping by the Florida front porch. Many blessings to you and your writing ministry!

Dear Readers, if you wish to learn more about Lena and her writing, you can visit her at these sites listed below!

Blogtalk Radio, The Lena Nelson Dooley Show:

Until next time, May God bless you all, and may you bless God!


Friday, August 24, 2018

Empathy for the Dark Side (A Seriously Write Blog)

We’ve all heard it said, “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” In other words, have some empathy. Try to understand how that “someone else” lives, what they deal with on a regular basis, and why that person comes to the conclusions he or she does, whether you agree with those decisions or not.

For us, the author types, there is no position we should have more empathy for than an editor.

That’s right. I said it. In some of your minds, I just slipped on my Darth Vader helmet and asked you to come over to the dark side. But hear me out first before you rally the rebel forces.

Imagine yourself sitting at your desk. You’re the new editor for XYZ Publishing, in charge of making this new division not only solvent, but profitable. You have six months to a year to make that happen. It’s week four, and in your e-mail inbox are two hundred query letters, each complete with a synopsis, a marketing plan, an author bio, and the first few chapters of the work. About sixty pages each, give or take. And these are just the agented but unsolicited manuscripts that have arrived in your inbox. More arrive each day.

To see the remainder, click HERE!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A Chat with MaryAnn Diorio (A CAN Blog)

School is back in session here in Florida. That means there are thousands of mothers out there either breathing into paper bags (because they are first time school parents) or breathing a sigh of relief, looking forward to hours of quiet time with a book, a cup of coffee, and a house filled with silence (because they’ve been there, done that with the whole school thing). So, for those ready to read, I introduce to you novelist MaryAnn Diorio!

To see the remainder of the article, click HERE!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Author Behind the Story Series - Molly Noble Bull

It's August now. We're nearing the time of year when the humidity and daunting hurricane forecasts are at an all-time high. However, there is one thing soaring higher than anything else: the frustration levels of parents waiting for school to start again. If you have kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about. So, over the next ten months, send your child's teacher a gift card every month. Vary it. One for coffee. One for lunch. One for dinner. One for a department store. One for a movie. Be creative. Trust me. It's the cheapest babysitting fee you'll ever pay.

Okay, enough of the Teacher Appreciation advertisement. :-)

We're here to meet authors, and I have another one you need to meet. So, without further ado, please welcome to the Florida front porch, Molly Noble Bull!

Hi, Molly! Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Mary Noble Bull?

My name is Molly Noble Bull. I am a Christian wife, mother, and grandmother. I write novels. Some have won contests for published authors, and my one and only non-fiction book explains a lot. It’s titled, The Overcomers: Christian Authors Who Conquered Learning Disabilities.

I'm sure you are going to enlighten us later as to which learning disabilities you mean exactly...besides the obvious "writers are crazy and need therapy." :-)

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

As a young child, my mother copied down made-up poems that came to my mind. So, at that time in my life, I attended kindergarten.   

Wow. That's pretty young. What educational background do you have?

As with all dyslexics, school, especially elementary school, was hard for me. But I tried harder, and harder, and harder. I completed four years of high school, and graduated from a local Texas college with a degree in elementary education, a minor in art, and a specialization in early childhood education. I’ve taught in public and private schools, but all these locations will remain private.

If your life was a story, and you were the lead character, what kind of role would you play?

I’d be the heroine, of course. I’d get the handsome prince, and live happily ever after. Despite some bad times during my early years in public school, I married my prince. Though I once had trouble learning to read, now I write books that other people read. Is this happily ever after, or what?   

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story?

I write because it’s what I do, and my favorite novel is always the one I am working on at the moment. I’m writing three novels now. I work on one for a time; get stuck, and move on to another, It keeps me busy writing even when writers’ block comes to call. This works for me.  

As a writer, if you had one thing you would do over again, what would it be?

I write under the name Molly Noble Bull. Noble is my maiden name. I used Noble to honor them. But if I had it to do over I would be Molly Bull. It easy to remember and has a funny ring to it. Don’t you think? 

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

I have a blog, but don’t use it much anymore. However, I have been posting one Bible scripture or more a day at my page at Facebook since August 30, 2017. That anniversary is coming up soon. I’ve spoken in front of groups on writing, and some time ago, I was a guest on a Christian television station for a grand total of two days.

Why do you live where you live?

I was born in the cattle ranching country of South Texas where my husband and I live today, but we lived in Germany when we first married. He was in the U.S. Army then, and we also traveled to France, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. We also lived in the Texas hill country. But as they say, there is no place like home.   

Those are beautiful countries. Hard to beat that part of Europe. When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

My father and my grandfather were ranch foremen, real Texas cowboys, and I spent part of my growing up years on a sixty thousand acre cattle ranch in South Texas. Is it any wonder that I like to write Christian westerns? I like country roads, open space, and the sound of cows mooing in the distance, birds chirping, and dogs barking, if not too loud. But I also like to hear the haunting whistle of a train, calling out—breaking the silence on a dark night.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

For me, the first sentence is the most important sentence in the entire book. Dyslexics are easily bored. If the first sentence doesn’t catch my interest, it is unlikely that I will read sentence number two. However, if the first sentence grabs me, I’ll read the first paragraph. If I am still not bored at the end of page one, there is a good chance that I’ll buy the book.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

I love to read the Bible, and look forward to reading it every night. I talk to the Lord when reading the Bible, and during that time, we grow closer together. But it would be hard to choose a favorite verse because I love them all. As readers get to know characters, inside and out, from reading novels, I get to know the Lord better and better from reading the Bible. I would never want the Lord to turn me away because he never knew me.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

I am a born again, spirit-filled Christian, but you already knew that. Some people say I am a funny lady, and some of my books might make you smile. Cinderella Texas and one of the books I am writing now comes to mind. But I might also be called a genre smasher because not all my books are funny. Well, maybe a little amusing via the dialogue, but mostly serious.

Today, I am posting the covers of When the Cowboy Rides Away and Gatehaven because they are two of three books that won contests for published Christian authors. The third is titled, The Secret Place

Sounds like you've been a busy writer of late. Molly, thanks for stopping by and letting our readers get a glimpse of the Author Behind the Story!

Readers, if you wish to learn more about Molly and her writing, you can visit these locations on the web:

Her book: Gatehaven

Until next time, May God bless America, and may America bless God!


Friday, July 27, 2018

A Twist of Hope (A Seriously Write Blog)

I was browsing around the internet the other day, looking for some things screenplay related, and I ran across a blog by a British screenwriting bloke. In the upper, right-hand corner of the blog, it said something like this:

It’s not the rejection I’m afraid of. I can handle rejection. It’s the hope that drives me mad and has me up at night.

Ever been there?

“Oh, I hope that agent calls me back. She was so excited about my WIP.”

“I think my novel could easily be made into a movie.”

“Just imagine my non-fiction book stacked up five high, multiple stacks, just inside the doors of Barnes & Noble, displayed for all to see. Right next to all the big authors.”

“I’ve submitted my book into the awards contest. I hope I win.”

Hope can be a funny thing. 

Want to read the remainder of the post? Click HERE!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Author Behind the Story Series - Deborah Harper

It's summertime in the south! Cicadas buzzin'. Humidity hummin'. And so are the air conditioning units! Oh, and did I tell you...we have two hurricanes in the Atlantic already. I still have dead branches falling out of my oak trees from when Hurricane Irma bulldozed her way through our fair state last September.

Yet, despite the three H's (heat, humidity, hurricane), we have Hope. And that leads me to our next guest in the Author Behind the Story series here at!

Please welcome to the Florida front porch, fellow author, Deborah Harper!

Deborah, I want you to pretend you are in an elevator. The door opens, and Jimmy Fallon is standing there. He gets on with you and says, “Hi, I’m Jimmy Fallon, and I’m looking for average Joes & Janes with not-so-average lives to interview for my new show segment airing next month. And you’re name is? Ding! The door just shut. You have twelve floors until you reach the lobby. Go! 

Hi, Jimmy. I’m Deborah Dee Harper, recently relocated from Alaska to Tennessee. I write inspirational and humorous books for both children and adults when I’m not chasing grizzly bears or moose for a picture, climbing on glaciers, or hiking rugged mountain trails—slowly, and usually in great pain.

Okay. Got my attention. And I'll bet Jimmy might ask some clarifying questions as well! Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I believe I was in elementary school when the writing bug bit me. I must have been about seven years old when I came up with the title The Mystery of Castle Dawn. That’s as far as I got—the title—and I’ve often thought I should just write the darned thing so it’ll quit bugging me. (And you know, I might just do that.) My writing back then consisted of half-page book reports, handmade Christmas cards, and lists for Santa. I picked up the pace in high school during a creative writing class and was encouraged by my teacher to continue writing but didn’t do so, in earnest at least, until my children were born and I was in my mid-20s. My writing was wretched, but I didn’t know enough about writing to know it was, so I blindly continued trying. That was the most important thing: I kept trying. I learned and read and studied and wrote and wrote and wrote. Eventually I began to learn what I needed to know.

That's the key isn't it? Keep writing and keep learning. Haven't read or met the perfect author yet. When the words aren’t flowing, what is your favorite comfort food and why?

Oddly enough, I find that a glass of wine and some cheese (or chocolate) helps relax me enough to get those creative thoughts flowing again. (Or maybe I just don’t give a rip what I’m writing after a glass of wine J.) Sometimes I even have to resort to two glasses of wine and both cheese and chocolate. Scandalous, I know, but it works! If none of those are available, I tend to gravitate toward pizza.

Ah, pizza...Thanks. Now, I'm hungry...I'll be back in a little while...they just opened a Little Caesar's down the road...

Okay, I'm back (excuse me...let me wipe the sauce off my chin). For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any?

We have/have had a wide variety of pets. At the moment, we have two cats, three birds (two canaries and a parakeet), and two hermit crabs. In the past, we’ve had a black lab, yellow lab, three rabbits, about a dozen other cats through the years, several other hermit crabs (who have a disconcerting way of dying on us), and three other birds. My daughter is a licensed medical veterinary technician, so we love pets, and I have the added benefit of living with someone trained in sticking pills down animals’ throats so I don’t have to. Our plans include a couple of goats and a small flock of chickens, but that’ll have to wait until we have a place in the country.

Besides cramming pills down animals' throats, what makes you cringe?

I have a fairly simple and probably common cringe-inducer: spiders and snakes. I detest them.  My daughter (the lover of all types of living things that she is—creepy or not) urges me to “re-home” them by taking them outdoors and releasing them, rather than the “smash, grind, and sweep up” method I use. I tell her I am re-homing them by sending them on to their next life. Snakes are not as easy to smash and grind into the ground, so if it were up to me I’d use fire power and explosives. But they’re bigger and easier to spot, so I don’t often have to deal with them. 

Good thing you don't live around here. You'd never have any time to write. You'd be spending your days grinding and smashing and blowing up your cringe-inducers. Everybody seems to have a bucket list. Do you? If so, what’s on it? If not, why not?

Yes, I certainly do. I’d love to someday visit the Holy Land and Italy—not necessarily on the same trip, though. I’ve wanted to visit Israel for decades now, and I might just do that one of these days now that I’m retired from my full-time job. To walk where Jesus walked, see the places of the Bible, experience the weather and scenery, to simply touch the buildings of Old Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall—well, it all boggles my mind and quickens my heartbeat.

I think my desire to visit Italy came about even earlier—I remember wanting to be a “stewardess” (back before they were called flight attendants and when Pan Am Airlines still existed) on an international run to and from Italy. That didn’t work out for a couple of reasons: I hate flying and I
don’t speak a lick of Italian. But given the opportunity, I’d bite the bullet and fly over there since the only other way would be by sea, and I’m scared to death of water. There’s something about that part of the world that intrigues me.

As a writer, if you had one thing you would do over again, what would it be?

Funny you should ask … One of my books is titled Faux Pas. J I think my worst writing mistake was made early on when I thought everything I wrote should be etched on stone and prominently displayed everywhere books were sold and in front of courthouses and government offices across the country. Some of it embarrasses me so much I can’t even read it. I’ve even gone so far as to burn it so no one runs across it after I die. I’d hate to be humiliated in my grave; it’s bad enough being dead without being embarrassed too.

An even bigger mistake was sending my early work to so many publishers. It not only wasn’t ready for the eyes of professionals, but the whole process was time-consuming as well, and my propensity for over-submitting didn’t help any. Back then you submitted to publishers through the U.S. Postal Service, waited six months for a reply (which was always, always a rejection), then started all over again with another publisher because simultaneous submissions (sim-subs) were usually not allowed. Another six months passed, I added another rejection letter to my pile, and did it over and over and over again. I must have improved as time passed because the acceptances started rolling in. 

I remember those days. Lots of printing and lots of stamps. And postcard rejection notices. Ahhhh, the good old days. So, all authors have writing days. Tell us about yours. How do you go about writing?

I’m retired from my long-time job at a school district in Michigan, so I have more hours in the day to devote to my writing. I’m also divorced and my three children are grown and have families of their own. In fact, I live with the oldest of my daughters (and middle child) and her sweet little girl—my precious and only granddaughter. It seems as though I should be rolling in leisure time to devote to my writing, but I don’t. That’s because I watch Molly while her mother works, and my other children and grandchildren live out-of-state. That means traveling whenever I want to see them. On the other hand, we currently live in an apartment so taking care of our home isn’t as time-intensive, and Molly is six and in school most months of the year. My other grandchildren are also in school, so that limits their availability for my visits to those times they’re off.

I try to write as often as I can, although I’ve fallen out of my routine of getting up and writing first thing in the morning, because my morning hours are filled with getting Molly off to school and starting the laundry, etc. My daughter works long hours at a vet clinic an hour or so from here, so many of the things she’d normally do falls to me, and I gladly do them. But that means my writing has to be done when I find the time. As soon as Molly is back in school this fall, I’ll have a more regular routine—get up, freshen up, get her to school, and return home to a cup of coffee and my computer. It’s amazing how much writing you can get done when you don’t have all the time in the world to do it! My mind works faster, the ideas flow more easily, and as a result, I’m more productive than I would imagine I should be. It’s a hectic life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

If I’d known back when I first began writing what I know now, I might not have pursued it. Fortunately, I didn’t know, and I think that’s a good thing. As they say, experience is the best teacher, and I can’t put a price on the things I’ve learned either from other authors or through trial and error. It wasn’t always easy, but it was effective in turning me into a writer.

I think the most important thing I could pass along to others is what so many others say: Don’t give up. Granted, there are people out there who think they can write and perhaps have great ideas, but just don’t have the skill, imagination, time, whatever, to pursue it successfully. But if you do think you have those things, please don’t be discouraged. For every person out there who’s achieved fame and fortune with their first or fiftieth book, there are thousands and thousands of us who have not and never will. But not everyone can be at the top of the heap, and I can’t imagine the pressure of being a #1 bestselling author, anyway. (I might want to explore that option, but even so, I still can’t imagine what it feels like. J) That said, please don’t give up. There’s more to writing books than fame, and who knows who you’ll influence by your words?

Another point I’d like to pass along is to get yourself as much training and education in writing as you can. Creative writing classes in high school or college can cut your “trial and error” period by years. I joined the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writing Guild early on and learned so much about different kinds of writing—fiction, non-fiction, essays, poetry, short stories, newspaper, etc. It’s not fun having your work critiqued by professionals, but how do you think they learned? They too were critiqued, and I can’t imagine it was much fun for them either. None of us emerged from the womb experienced writers. We have to learn, study, make mistakes, try again (and again and again), get better (and better and better) until we feel confident enough to shoot for an agent or a publishing contract. Even then, your studying and learning isn’t all behind you. Great writers learn all the time. As writers, we’re never finished; we’re just on different points in our journeys.       

Well said. Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

Although I have plans to try turning my fiction into a screenplay, I haven’t yet done so. In the meantime, I’ve combined my photography with my writing and found it to be an effective way to use both. Having lived in Alaska for six years, I have thousands of pictures of mountains, glaciers, wildlife, and flowers. I’m also a sky-lover. I consider the clouds precious gifts from God that are never the same—not one day since He created Earth and the heavens have the clouds been the same. Each and every day we’re treated to an entirely new masterpiece by the Master himself. I have a semi-regular “column” that I post on Facebook entitled Laughing with the Lord. It’s a humorous look at my life and how God protects, guides, loves, and rescues me from silly things that happen to me—usually due to my clumsiness or lack of common sense. If any of your readers are interested in reading it and seeing my photographs, they should check out . I’m also writing a devotional using many of my pictures taken over the years.

Why do you live where you live?

I grew up in small towns, as did my parents. While we weren’t farmers ourselves, my grandparents on both side had strong ties with the land. I learned to love the smell of hay, freshly-cut grass, and gardens. I now live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a town not far from Nashville. While it has a hometown feel for me, it’s growing by leaps and bounds and it saddens me to see so much of the green space being sold and converted to apartments or businesses. Perhaps we’ll move to another town or state and I can renew my love for all things country. 

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

This one’s easy. I lived with my son-in-law and daughter for four years on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska. (This was prior to my recent move to Alaska.) We saw an incredible array of wildlife—moose, black bears, whales, Dall sheep, eagles, puffins, wolves—the list goes on and on. But up to the very last month we were going to be there prior to my son-in-law’s retirement and our move to Tennessee, we had yet to see a brown bear—a grizzly.

One evening my daughter Darice, my 10-month old granddaughter Molly, and I embarked on a serious expedition to look once more. There was a road around the perimeter of the base that we often drove to find wildlife, so that night we bought a good supply of candy bars and headed out. We weren’t very far into our ride when I spotted a brown bear. We couldn’t believe our eyes. I screeched at my daughter to get closer, she did, and I jumped out. I had to get a picture. I left my door opened a couple of inches so my entrance back into the car would be a bit easier if he turned on me. But Darice yelled, “Shut the door! You’re letting in the mosquitoes.” Not “Be careful, Mom” or “I love you!” Nope. She wanted to keep those helicopter-sized mosquitoes away from Molly, and looking back on it, I don’t blame her.

I dutifully shut the door, walked behind the car, edged alongside it to get closer and closer to the bear, who was now aware of my presence, and … Darice drove off. Not just a few feet, either. She headed right on down the road. She didn’t want mosquitoes getting into the car, but she left her mother in the middle of Alaska on a gravel road with only a grizzly bear, a half-eaten Hershey bar, and mosquitoes for company? Go figure. As I watched her drive off down the road, I thought to myself, “Okay, I’m going to die right here, so what should I do? Put my camera away or get myself the best darned grizzly bear pictures ever taken in the history of the world?” I got to work.

Coughing on the dust Darice was kicking up, I turned my attention to the bear. He didn’t seem to care one way or the other that the GGBS (Great Grizzly Bear Stalker) was on the loose, so I upped the ante a bit and walked toward him. He might have been twenty feet away from me by that time.

Closer and closer and closer I approached, emboldened by the fact that he didn’t seem to care one way or the other if he killed me then or a few seconds from then. As I drew perilously near … that darned bear started to lope away from me, and the big chicken hoisted himself over a wire fence to get to a small indentation in the landscape that probably held a drain or something to keep the road from washing out.

To her credit and my relief, Darice returned to pull up beside me so I could get into the passenger’s seat without going around the car. Turns out the road was a dead-end, and in my astonishment at seeing her drive off, I didn’t notice that. But all’s well that ends well. At least I can say a grizzly bear ran away from me. Not many people can say that. (I must be pretty scary-looking.)

God thing he didn't get a sniff of that candy bar. They love candy bars, I hear. When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

I’m big on coziness, ambiance, and family togetherness. Ideally I would build a house on no fewer than ten acres (need some goats and chickens, you know) with four bedrooms and a den for my office and books, three full baths (because the fourth bedroom would be for guests), a fireplace, beamed ceilings, a country kitchen (and by that I mean shelves in lieu of some of the cupboards, no “sleek” cupboards or ultra-modern design, a large separate pantry room, and enough space for a big kitchen table), a wrap-around porch, lots of light, and enough space to accommodate guests, but not so cavernous or empty that it feels hollow when it’s not filled with friends or loved ones.

On the practical side, I want a spacious home, but utility costs rise with the addition of square footage, so clever use of the space available to me is mandatory. I want an herb garden outside my kitchen door, a chicken coop and a second out-building to house our goats, a fenced-in pasture, a room for a large garden close to the house. Perhaps this house will eventually come to pass, perhaps not. But in any event, I can still use whatever home I’m in at the moment to welcome visitors and shelter my family. 

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Saul of Tarsus. When I think of the atrocities he was responsible for in his past and the guilt he must have felt, I’m amazed he could function in the ways he did. I realize he knew he was forgiven, but still, it’s human nature to feel regret. Paul was so eloquent, yet straight forward and plain spoken in everything he wrote, that as a writer myself, I envy his ability to get his point across (clearly the most important point ever made) in the ways he did. Also, his writing wasn’t done in an air-conditioned office with a computer, printer, and the internet. (Actually, he had it better because he had God inspiring him!) He was either traveling, hard at work to support himself, or in prison because of his preaching much of the time, so his life was neither leisurely nor easy. But I must admit I’m envious of his encounter along the road to Damascus with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

I’d have to say Philippians 3:13-15 has impacted me the most. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

There have been many times during my writing career (as I’m sure it has with lots of other writers) when I’ve been ready to throw in the towel. It’s not always easy to find the time, inspiration, and inclination to write, let alone edit, market, blog, write a newsletter, and try to balance it all with other family/work/church obligations.

Nevertheless, I do continue. I feel God has gifted me with not only the ability to write, but also my sense of humor, so I do my very best to stay focused and busy doing those things He wants me to do. I’m not quite sure my work makes the difference I would like it to, but that’s not my decision to make. It will make a difference in the life of whomever the Lord wants it to. It’s my job to write it; it’s His to use it for His purposes.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

I firmly believe God gave us a sense of humor to help make sense of this world. He knew it wouldn’t be an easy row for us to hoe, so a sense of humor definitely helps. I’m talking of wholesome humor and nothing directed toward a person, group, race, religion, or other part of our world that would divide rather than unite us. I think humor brings us together, shows others we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and helps us get to know one another. I write a lot of self-deprecating humor, but I’m careful not to imply that God’s creation is anything less just because I mess up once in a while. I write humor in my novels because I want non-believers to know that believers are imperfect and often do things that are silly, dangerous, or downright dumb. Nevertheless, we are God’s children and owe everything we are or have to Him alone. Humor, to me, is just another way to bond with others. 

If someone wanted to check out your writing more, where can they go?

All of my blogs and my website are undergoing renovation at the moment, so the best way to get in touch with or learn more about me or my writing would be to either visit the Facebook page I mentioned earlier ( or , which is my Facebook author page.
My Amazon page can be found here: and my email address is .

Pictured above is the second book in my Road’s End series, Faux Pas, a hilarious story whereby the President of the United States visits Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town forgotten by all except those who still live there—a crazy bunch of senior citizens and a retired Air Force chaplain and his wife who purchased The Inn at Road’s End and had no idea what they were in for.

Also pictured above is the first of the six books in my Laramie on the Lam adventure series for kids. If your kids love adventure, humor, wildlife, good guys, bad guys, dogs, mystery, great locations, and learning about America along the way, Laramie on the Lam is great for their summer reading. 

Deborah, thank you for taking the time and visiting with us today, and we wish you all the best in your writing career!

To all our readers, thank you for stopping by! And remember, our Author Behind the Story series appears every second Wednesday of the month (unless I don't have somebody to highlight).

In this time of July 4th, May God bless America, and may America bless God! 


(And if you wish to join Kevin's newsletter to keep up with his writing announcements, go to and scroll down to the bottom of the home page and sign up!)


Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Chat with Author Diane Stortz (A CAN Blog)

Greetings, everyone, from Kevin Thompson! We’re in full summer mode in Florida. Wake up. Already hot. Muggy all day. Afternoon thunderstorms. Go to bed. Wake up. Rinse and Repeat. So, I’m inside where the A/C is cool, the air is dry, and the Lay-Z-boy is comfy. It’s here that we welcome children’s book author, Diane Stortz!
Diane Stortz

Welcome, Diane! Tell us about your book, I AM: The Names of God for Toddlers.
Bible stories, verses, and prayers help toddlers and preschoolers get to know God by discovering the meaning of twelve different names for God, such as Creator, Savior, Healer, Teacher, and Friend. It’s an 8×8-inch board book with a padded cover.

Want to read the rest of the interview?

Click HERE!

Friday, June 22, 2018

An Author’s Forum on the Four-Letter Word We Have All Grown to…eh, Love? Marketing! (A Seriously Write Blog)

Return on Investment. It’s called R-O-I in the business world. Well, actually, it’s called that everywhere these days. I’m an educator by day, and we use it. It speaks of whether or not what you spend your money on has the old “bang for the buck.” The same can be said of time we spend. And as I get older, the former is just as critical as the latter!

So, as a writer, what are your ROIs? Think of what you spend and what you spend it on, and ask yourself this simple question: Is it giving me the bang for my buck?

I just read an article recently that said authors (not just people, but authors) spend an average of two hours and twenty minutes on social media a day. No doubt, much of that is marketing stuff. And no doubt, some of it is that “Squirrel!” moment when you went to that social media site on a mission and found yourself sitting there thirty minutes later laughing and shaking your head at the internet’s latest version “The People of Walmart” photographs.

Want to read the rest? Click HERE!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Author Behind the Story Series - Dawn Owens

As I write this, it's Saturday, June 9th. What a great time of the year. School's out. My Gator team is defending their national championship in baseball (they just beat Auburn in Game 1 of the super regional), and I had a great writer's critique group meeting this morning with a great group of writers. Love posting this blog series, too, because it also allows me (and you!) to get to know some awesome writers! Writers you may not have heard of before, but have now (Oh, and that reminds me...don't forget to subscribe to my blog via e-mail! Then, you'll get a notification each time I post here. Then you won't miss any of these!)

This brings me to the next guest in my Author Behind the Story series. Please welcome to the Florida front porch, Dawn Owens!

Dawn, in fifty words or less, who is Dawn Owens?

Dawn Owens, founder/executive director for The Link of Cullman County, a relational ministry to the poor in Cullman, AL. I also host a Radio Show where we talk about how to help people grow out of poverty. Most recently, I published my first book Like Me or Not: Overcoming Approval Addiction.

So, let us get to know you better. You know, the person before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author. How old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I have had a love for reading since I was a child. Learning how to read at a young age, it came easy to me and once the skill was learned I could not get enough. I spent many a summer on a sofa or in a car with a book in hand and my mother trying to encourage me to go out and play. With it, I also found an affinity to writing. My writing started in journals and later through schooling turned into school papers. However, writing has always been a bit sacred to me. Writing took the form of journaling, which was more for me than it was for anyone else. I used it to process through the circumstances I was living through at the time.

What educational background do you have?

I grew up in a Suburb of Philadelphia called Havertown where I attended Haverford Senior High School. College was a desire of mine since Middle School, but when my parents got a divorce I thought I was going to have to let the dream go. Thankfully, I had cousins who grew up in poverty and already knew how to navigate the financial aid process. I applied to five schools, got into four of them and chose my college by the number of other people I knew going there, which was next to no one. I attended Kutztown University for both undergraduate and graduate school and then later attended Cincinnati Christian University to obtain a Masters of Arts in Religion, Pastoral Leadership. I am still two courses shy of completion.

After four years of trying to figure out what I was going to get my degree in at KU, I declared Professional Writing as a major and graduated with two minors in Public Relations and Speech Communication. I have also obtained a M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from KU.

Are you married? Single? Have any children?

My husband and I have one child, Sawyer, who is almost 9 years old. Sawyer is the joy of our lives and wants to be a scientist and preacher when he grows up. After that he’d like to be a paleontologist and then he says he’ll play golf.

What a vast array of jobs. :-) I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Song of All-Time: Good, Good Father
Chris Tomlin is a favorite artist of mine, but this song just reminds me no matter what my circumstances that my Father is Good.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible):  Breaking Free by Beth Moore
Breaking Free was one of the first non-fiction, Christian Living books that I read as a new-believer, and it’s stuck with me.
Favorite Bible Verse: Ephesians 3:20
I have seen God reveal this verse to me over and over again in the ministry He has given me to steward and in my own circumstances.
Favorite Movie: Pride and Prejudice.
I have probably watched it hundreds of times
Favorite Actor or Actress: Huge Anne Hathaway fan
Anne is such an animated actress, and I love how versatile she is her roles.
Favorite Novel: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
The love of God is overwhelming as it is but to hear it through the message of Hosea.
Favorite Author (other than you): Beth Moore
Because I was saved under Beth Moore’s ministry, she has become like a Momma to me in the faith, and I get discipled by her through her writing. God has used her in a powerful way in my life over and over again.
Favorite Sport: Tennis – played in high school
I played from freshman to senior year going to Regionals twice for doubles.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): University of Alabama. Roll Tide.
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: English and Criminal Justice
I always loved my English classes, but as I went into high school, criminal justice and the criminal mind became more intriguing to me.
Favorite Subject Now: British History
I love period movies and shows, especially ones that depict the monarchy. British is my favorite, but I do enjoying learning about others as well.
Favorite Teacher in School: Miss Angelo
She was my sixth grade homeroom teacher and English teacher. She always saw the potential in me, even when I couldn’t see it in myself.
Favorite Time of the Year: Fall
I love it when the air cools, the leaves start to change and the landscape becomes bright and colorful.
Favorite Place to Vacation: The Beach
Growing up not far from the Jersey Shore, I am a beach girl through and through.
Favorite Drink: I’m a coffee lover
Put me in a coffee bar, and I am near to heaven. Love me some coffee.
Favorite Food: Sushi
I could eat Sushi once a week but now I save it for the times that I want to celebrate something that the Lord has done.

For all the pet lovers out there, answer this question: Do you have any?

I used to have two dogs and one cat. Unfortunately, we found out my husband and myself were allergic. Though I did enjoy them, the freedom that I have without them outweighs my need to have the critters in my home.

What makes you cringe?

Lack of care for the dignity of human beings. As an advocate for the poor in my community (I am the executive director of a ministry to low-income families), it can get me pretty fired up when I hear people refer to those in poverty as “those people.” It almost sounds like they are second-class citizens. But God made us all in His image, so we should never refer to any other human being in such a tone.

Well said. Everybody seems to have a bucket list. Do you? If so, what’s on it? If not, why not?

Oh, I most certainly do have a bucket list. Two of my big ones on there are returning to England again to tour the countryside. I want to visit locations where Pride and Prejudice was filmed, visit Jane Austen’s home, stay in the hotel near where Downton Abbey was filmed and tour the castles and great homes in the area. After that I would want to extend my journey to Scotland and Ireland, and then to the rest of Europe to do the same.

I also want to visit Seattle, Oregon to visit the Fish Market, visit and eat in the Space Needle, and have coffee at the original Starbucks.

My wife and I have been on a British/Irish/Scottish/Welsh crime drama binge of late. We've been watching shows on Netflix like Broadchurch, Shetland, Hinterland, and Wallander (although it's set in Sweden and based on novels by a Swedish author, it has British actors and actresses in it...even "Loki" from The Avengers and Inspector Lestrade from Sherlock). Because of this, we now want to visit those places in the British Isles more than we already did. So, we get it. 

When the words aren’t flowing, what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I have a huge sweet tooth. So I tend to grab for sugary treats, which feel like a bit of a burst of energy too. Last night I was writing and ended up nibbling on some sour-filled Twizzlers, they are just enough zing to keep me going.

If your life was a story, and you were the lead character, what kind of role would you play?

I think I would be the underdog. My life has been filled with one challenge after another and each time I have learned (with and without God) how to press through. However, since coming to know the Lord at age 26, while going through a divorce, I realized going through these challenges with God is way more comforting and strengthening than without.\

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

Beth Moore is the first person that comes to mind. I was saved by her ministry nearly 17 years ago and she is still one of the women in my life that I constantly look to for biblical wisdom.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Hmm. This is hard. I have two favorites, my go to guys are Moses and Paul. I would love to hear more from them for different reasons. But because my life has been one challenge after another, I relate to Job on so many levels. So I think my final answer would be Job because I would want to hear the rest of the story. How did he stay close to God, what did he learn from his trials, what would he have done differently.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

Cliff jumping is the first thing to come to mind. I was in college and of course, all the “cool kids” were doing it. Ha. I had a boyfriend who loved it and wanted me to go with him. Well, I did and never thought I would actually take the leap, but I did, and it was exhilarating.

Why do you live where you live?

I am a Yankee living in the deep south. The only two things that could lead me to live her were my God and my man. So when my husband started to talk about wanting to start a church in his hometown, I started asking God whether it was His will for us to move. Over time God not only laid on my heart the desire to move, but gave me a passion to love the people of Cullman, AL. So when the church launched and closed within 6 months, I knew the reason we were here was greater than a local church. That was 8 years ago, and I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else.  This is home.

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

The book that has had the biggest impact on me in the last year is A Secret to a Wife’s Happiness by Jen Weaver. This book taught me how I was supposed to be responding to my husband in the area of submission. Most of the time as women we are told we need to do it, but its rare, if ever, that we hear someone explain how to do it and what it looks like on a daily basis. Jen Weaver accomplished that and in doing so gave me the “ah-ha” I needed to start responding to my husband differently.

When you look for a new home, what are the things that are important to you?

Aesthetically pleasing to the eye, has a layout that is conducive to our family’s activities, only needing a little renovation, and that we can live well within our means with the payment.
When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

Comfort, style, and functionality are my big three.

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

Book reading can happen in many different ways for me. Sometimes I read a book because of its cover sometimes because I know or have heard great things about the author. Other times is purely the subject matter and my desire to learn or improve in that area. Or just for the pure entertainment of the book.  But I would say more often than not, a book cover does help me to make a decision to purchase, unless I know for sure the content within is better than the cover itself.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

Isaiah 61:1-3 were the scripture verses that my husband and I originally felt called with when we moved from Cincinnati, OH to Cullman, AL. Today I feel like God is using me in that capacity in this community and now, through my book and beyond. Although there are many other scriptures that have impacted my life these are the verses that I believe God is transforming my life upon so that I can be used for His kingdom.

Besides the usual things authors face, has there been an unusual event that changed your perspective about being an author?

Writing for me has been a challenge since college. When I was about to graduate I had to turn in a portfolio of my work to my Senior Thesis professor. In doing so, he was going to grade me and let me know whether or not I had a chance in this field. I had not been a professional writing major all five (yes, I was a five-year student) years of college and therefore had a tough time coming up with pieces over the last several years to add into my portfolio. However, when my I met with my professor for my review, his words stung me and changed me forever. He said, “This is just what we thought. You do not have any potential in this field and you will never be a published author. No one will ever pay you for your work. You should find another career altogether.”

That was many years ago, and God has done much to redeem those words meant for my harm. But the change for me was as I was writing Like Me or Not, it hit me that my writing this book was not a want to anymore, it was a had too. I was not longer going to worry about what other people thought, what my professor said, or whether or not the writing would be published. As I wrote I could sense the power of God in the words and I knew that someone else needed what I was sharing. It was in that moment that everything changed. It wasn’t for me or about me anymore, it was for someone else.

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story?

Well, since Like Me or Not is my first published book, it is of course my favorite. But I do believe God had a MUCH larger purpose in it for me than just getting out my journey and His truth on the written page.

As the founder of The Link of Cullman County, I struggled with people-pleasing, insecurities, and fear of rejection. For God to complete His vision for the community I had to get in alignment with His Word trusting and obeying Him, rather than worrying about man at every turn. I was a foreigner (a Yankee) in this small southern community, a woman, and I knew next to no one. I was the last person on God’s green earth that should be pursuing this vision to minister to the poor. But God had another plan. It was our five-year anniversary and we were celebrating all that we had done. I did a one-take video of all God had accomplished through our volunteers, staff, board, and of course the thousands of people who were brave enough to start learning a new way to live. It was then that it hit me, what if I had said no. What if I allowed the fears of men to triumph over following God.

That is when I knew I had to write the book. I realized other people may be facing the same struggle of trying to overcome their fears of rejection and need for approval to do the dream God had called them to do compelled me to write for them and for the kingdom. Because really, when I do what I was created to do and you do what God created you to do, it’s then that we see the body of Christ acting, moving, and loving the way that it should.

As a writer, if you had one thing you would do over again, what would it be?

I would have taken more time to review the final edit of my book. The timeline of my final edit of Like Me or Not felt really rushed. I think I will read the entire book out loud prior to submitting to the publisher. There are places that the same word repeats itself (and in two close of corners) that I wish I had changed prior to it being published. It’s not the end of the world, but when I catch them it is super obvious to me.

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

Currently I am working on another book that will address our need to sacrifice our comforts and walk in obedience if we want to see God use us here on planet earth.

Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?

When I am in book writing mode I sacrifice sleep, Netflix, lunches. Whatever I can possibly give up I do. I will then get up earlier, go to bed later, and write through every other opportunity that I can get during those times. I am taking my edits with me to the nail salon (pedicures are a great time to re-read what you wrote), doctors visits, and any other time I am in a waiting pattern.

But since I run a blog and write copy for our ministry, I am pretty much writing daily. However, I still have to carve out time in my schedule to do these because I need time to be creative in a quiet setting, which is not my norm.

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

The publishing field is constantly changing and now there are various ways you can get your writing out to the public. But those ways take a lot of hard work and commitment. In recognizing that I think it is important that you ask yourself and the Lord some questions. Is this for you or is it for someone else? If it never published will you be okay with that as an outcome? How hard are you willing to work to get it published? When I say that what I mean is, are you willing to sacrifice time, financial resources, and sometimes relationships to accomplish this goal? Answering these will tell you whether or not this is the time for you to go for it.

Basically how badly do you want it or feel like it needs to be read by more than you and your Mom? If you say really bad, then go for it. If you are excited but have other areas of life that are pulling you, then focus on those for now.

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

Yes, it has already crossed over. I have written articles, I am working on a devotional, and possibly a children’s version of the book. My son and I have been “working” on a middle-grade series of books. We are at the very beginning stages of this, writing book one. But learning fiction writing is a change of pace. I don’t walk around with characters in my head so I am really trying to pull the characters and their stories from an eight-year old's mind and get them down on paper.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Right now they are purely coming from my son’s brain and when we come to a new character, I allow him to name them.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

My writing journey has been one of redemption. My life has been much like Joseph’s in God giving me a heart for writing at a young age and the devil trying to steal it from me.

Dawn, I want to thank you for taking the time to stop by and allow our readers to get to know you. May God bless your ministry in Cullman and your writing ministry.

Dear Reader, if you wish to find out more about Dawn, you can find her at the following locations:

Until next time, may God bless you, and may you bless God!

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