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What’s on your writing desk, Cynthia T. Toney?

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Today’s writing space is brought to us by former advertising designer, marketing director and interior decorator, Cynthia T. Toney. She has a BA in art education with a minor in history. She knew she was a writer when she got in trouble for rewriting ad copy without permission at a large daily newspaper she worked for. (I love it!)

Cynthia T. Torey

Cynthia T. Toney

When she’s not cooking Cajun or Italian  food (yum!), Cynthia writes historical and contemporary teen fiction containing elements of mystery and romance. The first edition of her debut novel, Bird Face, won a 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Bronze, in the Pre-teen Mature Issues category!

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With a new publisher for an entire Bird Face series, the original story is now Book One and titled 8 Notes to a Nobody. Book Two is 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status. Look for more books in the series in the near future from Write Integrity Press.

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Let’s find out where Cynthia creates these award-winning books!

Karla: Cynthia, I’m so excited to have you on my blog today. Tell us all about your writing nest.

Cynthia: My current workspace was meant to be temporary when my husband and I moved 500 miles from Mississippi to Texas in April, but I’ve become quite comfortable in what will soon become the guest room. So one photo shows a space in use, while the other shows a space I’m designing in the designated office/study of the house. It looks so fresh and clean, I hate to move the computer and other stuff in there.

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Karla: Oooo, I love that curved desk. The carpet is lovely, too. I’m a snacker when I write (unfortunately). Do you have anything nearby when you’re creating?

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Cynthia: I like to keep the following close at hand on or near my desk:

  • A colorful napkin for use when snacking. I’ll eat almost anything at my desk, but today I tried to be good and ate baby carrots.
  • Brain supplements. A bottle of DMAE sits there now.
  • Handwritten notes to myself.
  • Tissues. Not just for crying.
  • A cushion for the tushie.
  • A novel by an author I admire.
  • My paper files, although poorly arranged. I would’ve made a terrible secretary.
  • A dog or two or three, although they made themselves scarce when I started taking photographs.
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All moved in!

Karla: Oh, I can totally relate to baby carrots, DMAE (I take other brain supplements but they are near me at all times!) and furry editors. Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

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Cynthia: I love rescued animal-shelter dogs and the friendly South from Georgia to Texas, I love  connecting with readers online and hope to hear from them.

Karla: I knew we were kindred spirits! I have furry rescue babies at my house, too! They’re the best kind.

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Tweet this: Check out @CynthiaTToney ‘s writing lair!

 

Karla: Dear Readers, please connect with Cynthia in the following ways. She’ll be thrilled:

Website:  http://www.cynthiattoney.com

Blog:  http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.com

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7872181.Cynthia_T_Toney

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=79780768&trk=spm_pic

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

Where in the world do you write-

Would you like to share your writing space with my readers? If so, you can find out how here: What’s on your writing desk?

January’s Brilliant Blog Winners!

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As you may know if you read any of my posts last week, I’ve launched a new contest this year. I’m recognizing outstanding blogs. Blogs that catch my eye. Blogs that I love.

In choosing blogs for this award, I follow the rubric below. Now, keep in mind, anytime there’s a contest that pits one thing against the other, a judge’s opinion is extremely subjective. Also, as this is my first time doing this type of thing, this rubric is subject to change. As I learn more about what works and what doesn’t in creating a great blog, and as I scrutinize blogs more carefully this year, I’m certain to figure out other important or not-so-important elements.

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But I also go with a gut reaction when I’m at the blog site. If there’s a quick intake of air, if I feel that my time has been well-spent, if I feel butterflies — chances are it’s a blog that even lines up with the rubric I’ve created.

By the way, I’m not comparing blogs with over 1000 subscribers to blogs under 1000 subscribers. All blogs are considered in this contest as separate entities apart from their popularity. I don’t choose a blog simply because it’s more popular. There are a lot of popular blogs I don’t read or don’t like. I choose them for how they appeal to me or meet my needs as a Christian writer.

Now. On to the awards! Drum roll please!

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My first pick is in the Secular Travel Blog category. I’ve chosen Camels and Chocolate by Kristen Luna. I’ve followed Kristen for quite a few years now. But when she gave her blog and website a makeover, I was mesmerized. There’s really nothing I don’t like about this blog. Copious pictures. An engaging writing style. Useful information. Not to mention the aesthetics of this blog are second to none. Congratulations, Kristen! Giving you this award is a no-brainer. Readers, if you want to know how to do a blog in an engaging way, study this one!

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Food category — The Miss Nini Blog.  Full disclosure: “Miss Nini” is a friend of mine from way back when I lived in Iowa. But we haven’t seen one another in person for more than 20 years! And we just recently (about a year ago) got back in touch via Facebook. She and her husband, a very successful sheep farmer, attended our little storefront church in Anita, Iowa years ago. And now she’s a famous baker! She’s won tons of awards at the Iowa State Fair, been a contestant on Shark Tank, and got her picture in the New York Times.

But that’s not why I love her blog. First, who doesn’t love baked goods, right? But I also love Miss Nini’s writing style. You have no idea how thrilled I was to learn she is writing a book now.  Her turns of phrase are as delicious as your kitchen concoctions, I assure you.

My next two picks are in the Christian writing category. These go to:

Zoe M. McCarthy and Karen Wingate’s, Grace on Parade Blog

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I have fallen in love with Zoe M. McCarthy’s writing advice. One of the reasons I like it so much is that it’s worthy of my time and the posts are usually moderate in length. I get a lot of info without spending a lot of time. Several of her posts I’ve bookmarked. The information is so worthy. I never delete a post that shows up in my mailbox.

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Karen Wingate’s blog, Grace on Parade, contains rich content. And I absolutely love the daisies! Her web design is lovely. But it’s the content that’s impressive. Each post is well-thought-out. Each post conveys a message. I like that.

So, tell me, Dear Reader, what are your favorite blogs so far this year? Weigh in!

And congratulations to January’s winners! Write on, ladies! I’ll be in touch with the secret code for posting the button to your blog (if I haven’t given it to you before now).

What do our winners get? Winners get to display the Brilliant Blog Button on their website. Readers can click on the button to vote for them for Blog of the Year. Fun, right?

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Tweet this: January’s Brilliant Blog Awards announced!

Do you have an award-worthy blog or know of one? Let me know in the comments below. And take time to congratulate January’s winners!

Brilliant Blog Award Button Reveal!

As I mentioned last week, this year I’m giving away Brilliant Blog Awards!

Behold the coveted button:

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Who knew running such a contest would mean so much graphic design and html? Whew.

But I think I have the kinks out.

Here’s how it works. (Refer to last week’s post for categories, etc.)

I will choose one or more blogs per month to bestow the coveted Brilliant Blog Award button to. The button is then embedded into the blogger’s website. When readers click on the button, they are taken to a survey page where they can nominate the blog for Blog of the Year.

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Cool, eh?

Blog of the Year nominees will be announced Mid-December. Winners will be announced either at the end of the December or the beginning of January.

If you’d like to nominate a blog, you may do so here.

Who will you nominate this year?

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Tweet: Nominate a blog for the Brilliant Blog Award!

Breaking News: Karla speaking at Iowa Homeschool Conference

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I’m writing to confirm that I will indeed be speaking at the Iowa Homeschool Conference, June 9-11. You can find more info here.

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I’d love to meet my Iowa readers! I’ll have a booth and will be signing books and giving away goodies.

Hope to see you there!

Love,

Karla

Time management: a new way of doing things around here

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Let’s see, it’s already January 19 and I’m just now getting around to mapping out my year.

But in my defense, it’s only because I had to finish up a three-credit-hour course in Science methods which I did in two weeks. Talk about noodle brain! But I did it, and now I can move on to other things! Yay! (God is so good to help me! The glory goes to Him!)

This is our college mascot. His name is Sage. Isn't he cute? He sends me a note whenever I pass a course. Love it!

This is our college mascot. His name is Sage. Isn’t he cute? He sends me a note whenever I pass a course. Love it!

Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit about what I’m doing in terms of compartmentalizing my life. From what I read, I work more like a guy than a gal. I’m very compartmentalized. Guys can do that better than gals. Gals tend to keep a lot of their mental compartments open all at the same time. I think that’s because they have to when rearing children. They have to be able to nurse the baby, make supper, fish the toddler out of the toilet, call the plumber and switch the laundry all at once. If they compartmentalized everything, something would go wrong. Supper would get burnt while switching laundry and the baby would end up in the toilet and the toddler in the oven or some such thing.

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Now, I’ll admit, I had to do a lot of the many-things-at-once sort of thing when my kids were small, but I was never very good at it. A lot of suppers got burnt. I’ve always been someone who likes needs to focus on one thing at a time. And I think that’s why I get so much done. It doesn’t seem like one would, but it works for me. Always has.

This is how compartmentalizing works.

-There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven---Ecclesiastes 3-1, NASB (2)

 

Picture your brain with a lot of drawers. You only open one drawer at a time. For example, when I’m working on my novel, I only open the novel drawer. I do not allow myself to open any other drawers because to do so means my focus is split. I don’t crack open those drawers even a little bitty bit. This is easier for me than it is for a lot of my female friends. But it works for me. (I also shop like a guy. Grab it. Bag it. Boom. I’m out of there. My husband, on the other hand? Total opposite!)

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Recent scan of Mr. Himself’s brain

 

(Naturally, I’m speaking in general terms, here. I do not mean to imply that all guys and all gals shop or focus the same all the time. Well, actually, I am, but thought I’d put that disclaimer out there to keep the trolls off my back. Seriously, though, Mr. Himself and I are clearly examples that generalizations don’t always apply.)

Here’s one way I’m trying to compartmentalize this month. If it works, I’m going to do it all year.

Sundays/Mondays: Read an entire book cover to cover. I start it on Sunday afternoon (or Saturday evening if I can) and finish it on Monday. It’s a priority. I have a mile-long stack of books I haven’t read that I’m dying to read. Not to mention the hundreds on my Kindle. Some are for research. Others are fiction authors I want to study. Yes, thankfully, I’m usually a fast reader (depending on interruptions).

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore-–Henry Ward Beecher (2)

Tuesdays: Update the blog for the week (I’m glad I can pre-schedule my blog posts), create info-graphics for social media, etc. Write four hours (this includes editing time).

Wednesdays: Focus on my grandchildren and working at the church. I teach an evening class for children and I create my own hands-on lessons. I also pick my granddaughters up from school and taxi them back and forth from dance class and give one of my granddaughters a piano lesson.

Can you believe I get to spend every Wednesday afternoon with these beauties?? (Here they are with their Dad, my son, Jesse)

Can you believe I get to spend every Wednesday afternoon with these beauties?? (Here they are with their Dad, my son, Jesse)

Thursdays: Heavy writing days/college study time/church work study time

Fridays: Heavy writing days/college study time/church work study time. Date night!

Saturdays: Church work/laundry/other manual labor chores

Sundays: Church, rest, read

Now, I don’t know how well this will work. I’m going to give it 30 days. So far so good.

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In the midst of all of it, mind you, I’m still taking care of things at home, fielding interruptions (which are constant), exercising, taking my vitamins and showering. (Showering is important.) I also substitute teach when I can, but usually on Thursdays and Fridays unless there’s an urgent need another day of the week. I’d rather not have to, but feeding the family is important, too. For some reason they show up hungry at regularly scheduled times.

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I think the fact that I’m constantly interrupted (due to living with Autism and Alzheimer’s) is why compartmentalizing works for me. I get so mentally distracted, it’s easier for me to get re-focused if I’m only focusing on that one thing for the day. I also use the timer on kanbanflow (where I keep track of my tasks). It helps me stay on task, keeps me off social media, and helps me track my interruptions and time spent working. I just wish I would remember to start the timer each time!

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Please tweet: How do you keep track of time? How do you focus? Weigh in!

So what do you think? Am I nuts? How do you get it all done? I need ideas, so please share with me!

Will 2016 be better?

I don’t want to be a downer, but 2015 for me was the pits in many ways.

But guess what?

God is still on the throne and Jesus is coming soon!

Will He come in 2016?

Who will be elected president?

If you listen to the doomsayers, it’s going to be a defining year and danger is just around the corner. But our eyes aren’t to be on the storms and waves around us. Our eyes are to be on Jesus. And the safest place to be is in the center of His will.

My prayer for you for 2016 is that you will hunger for more of Him, and you will feast your eyes on Him, so that you will live in perfect peace.

-Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,whose mind is stayed on thee-because he trusteth in thee.Trust ye in the Lord for ever-for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.-Isaiah 26-3-4

 

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Tweet this: Our eyes are to be on Jesus & the safest place to be is in the center of His will.

The most adorable elf

Like many of us moms, grandmas and pastor’s wives, I’m  more than a little swamped this Christmas season.

Thankfully, That Dad Blog has posted some of the most adorable real-life baby elf on the shelf photos you’ll ever see!

Enjoy!

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Click to see Our Real Life Elf on the Shelf

Tweet this: Dad Transforms His Adorable 4-Month-Old Son into a Real-Life Elf on the Shelf

Time — it’s not what you think!

Today I’m blogging on my teaching portfolio website. Please check it out and let me know what you think!

I have some happy news to share there. 

Yes, I have a life outside of writing. Believe it or not. I’d like to think it makes me a better writer. Mostly, though, I think it makes me tired.

That one time when I had an actual whole week to do nothing but write, I found it grueling. It was just plain hard. But I did enjoy it. Parkinson’s Law is true — work expands to fill the time available for its completion. And speaking of time, did you know that it’s a physical property? I’m fascinated with this concept. Here’s a video that explains it better than I can.

What’s your favorite way to spend time?

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Please tweet: Past, present and future: a stubborn illusion!

To my dear readers

Dearest Most Darling Reader,

My website hosting is weird. Half the time it doesn’t let me in to blog. In its eagerness to protect me from hackers it even blocks ME! And the server people don’t work on weekends (when I have more time to blog) so by the time I’m allowed back in to work, my inspiration has flown to the land of missing socks.

That is part of the reason why I haven’t had a post recently. The other reason is that my husband, Mr. Himself, is in the Philippines doing missions work and I have total care of mother Ellen while he’s away (she lives with us). I spent most of the day yesterday in the ER with her. I also have total care of my twins with autism and another son with bipolar.

I live the life of a circus mom. Seriously. I also have four dogs and two cats. The fact that I’m still walking in an upright position without severe twitching is a miraculous thing.

Mother Ellen is home now, doing well, and Mr. Himself comes home in a few more days. But, of course, the interruptions won’t cease. Along comes the holidays. Not to mention I am doing 60 hours of observation at the local school for part of my degree requirements. (I’m getting a degree in Special Education.)

Does life ever slow down?

No. I don’t think it does.

Leave me a comment and let me know how chaotic your life is right now so I don’t feel alone!

And if you could click on the little twitter bird over at the left and help me spread the word, I’d be most appreciative.

Love,
Karla

The Charlie Charlie Challenge

The Fringe Files

The Fringe Files: topics that are edgy and out of this world.

There’s a new trend among young folks.

Actually, it’s not new at all. It’s as old as time itself.

And it’s just as dangerous as it’s always been.

Since Halloween happens in October, I feel led to address the dangers of interacting with demons in the spirit realm.

Walk in any bookstore or library and in the teen section you’ll find shelves overflowing with books dealing with the paranormal. And it’s not just the Teen or Young Adult/Adult bookshelves anymore. These books are abundant for all age groups. Kids and teens are hungry for the supernatural. Unfortunately, to satiate their appetites for the paranormal, they’re drawn into dangerous realms that God very much wants to protect them from.

According to the Barna Research Group, 73% of teens admit to participating in some kind of psychic or witchcraft activity. And:

“…seven million teens have encountered an angel, demon, or some other supernatural being. More than two million teens say they have communicated with a dead person (10%). Nearly two million youth claim they have psychic powers.” — David Kinnaman, author of the Barna Group report

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Young people (and people in general) are exposed to more supernatural hype and temptation than ever before via technology and media. One click and they can participate in a seance, cast a spell, watch a paranormal movie. These things shape their belief systems. They feed the yearning they have (and don’t recognize) for intimacy with God.

The spiritual vacuum in all of us longs to be filled. We know instinctively that there is more than what we experience in this world. From the beginning of time, though, the enemy–Satan–has known this, and has exploited our longing by offering cheap counterfeit experiences. (I’m going to be writing more about the history of demons, giants and so forth in coming weeks. Stay tuned.)

People are hungry forthe supernatural.Give them JESUS.

One popular activity these days is a a so-called game going viral via social media (twitter, YouTube, et. al.) called the Charlie Charlie Challenge. In this game, kids make a spinner out of two pencils then write “yes” and “no” on four quadrants of a paper. They ask if a demon named Charlie would like to play and wait for the pencils to move in an answer. It works similar to a Ouija board. They film themselves doing this and then tweet about it or post it on their blogs and YouTube.

Bing Free Use Image

Bing Free Use Image

While this  may seem like a harmless past time, and several websites claim that gravity is all that moves the pencils, it’s much more than child’s play. Christians and worshipers of the One True God are forbidden to communicate with the dead or any other-worldly entities of any kind. Yahweh, warns us in His Word:

“Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12, NIV).

“Do not practice divination or sorcery” (Leviticus 19:26).

The reason God doesn’t want us to communicate with spirits isn’t because He is a mean old God who doesn’t know how to have fun. On the contrary, He doesn’t want us to in order to protect us. Ephesians 4:27 warns us: “do not give the devil a foothold.” When you invite a spirit into your life, you are doing exactly that. You are giving them permission to hang around. And be warned: they do not have your best interest in mind. They hate you. They despise you because you are what they can never be: created in the image of God.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Does this book pass the Philippians 4:8 test?

Does this book pass the Philippians 4:8 test?

There is no such thing as a friendly or playful spirit. They have no access to the promises of God, and God is their enemy. For this reason they will do all they can to destroy you because you are the apple of God’s eye. If you invite one spirit, they will likely bring others along, too. And yes, they may appear friendly (as in a spirit guide sort of way) but I assure you, they are not. They are no different than a charming serial killer. Friendly at first, but in time, will turn on you.

This Halloween and always, be smart not stupid. Ask for Jesus to protect you. If you long for the supernatural, invite Jesus into your life. He longs to be your friend.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

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Tweet this: #CharlieCharlieChallenge dangerous game. Don’t do it.