Thursday, August 27, 2009

Country Girl, Deborah Vogts

On Grandma's Steps

Deborah (Swiler) Vogts, a country girl at heart, grew up in the country and had a storybook childhood. When you read her debut book, the first in a series, Snow Melts in Spring,you get to see a bit of her heart and passions in the setting, which is one of the last tall prairie grass regions in the world.

I know you are going to enjoy this glimpse into Deborah's past as much as I did!

Childhood Ambition:

As a girl I had high aspirations of becoming a concert pianist, or an artist or clothing designer, and then in high school I decided I wanted to be a writer.

Fondest Memory (then):

That’s hard. I had a very idyllic childhood. We lived in an old farmhouse built in the late 1800’s with a lovely L-shaped porch. I had two older brothers and our bedrooms were upstairs. Summers were hot and winters were cold—very cold. I can still feel that frigid wind seeping through the uninsulated walls, and the wood floors were so cold beneath my bare feet. Brrr.

As for a fond memory, though, there was an old storage shed next to our house that was falling apart. My folks had abandoned it for anything useful, so I took it over and turned it into Debbie’s CafĂ©. I made mud cakes, mud lemonade, mud pies, mud hamburgers, and a host of other items. What was really fun, though, was when my brothers or mom and dad would come up to the “restaurant” and order food from me. They were very good at feeding my imagination. So fun.

My First Job:

My junior year in high school I became a Princess House Consultant (fine crystal dealer.)I scheduled 2 home parties a week and did this for one year. This job helped me out of my shyness. I’m still an introvert, but I can be bold and outgoing if I have to. LOL

Childhood Indulgence:

Hmm. I’m not sure if this is really an indulgence or not, but I’m going to say homemade ice-cream. My dad LOVED homemade ice-cream, (still does, for that matter,) so we made it often—at least once a week, sometimes more—on an old hand-crank machine. Mom would dish what was left from the ice-cream freezer into little containers for us to eat later. I recall many mornings waking up and eating rock-hard frozen ice-cream with my dad for breakfast. I think that qualifies as an indulgence…

Favorite Outfit as a Child:

Oh, that’s a fun question. I think I may have been around 8 years old, which would mean it was 1973. Mom bought me a pair of denim bell bottoms that I adored, and also a red, white & blue leather belt to go with them. I think I often wore a red sleeveless shirt with it. Loved, loved, loved this outfit. LOL. Oh, and I wore cowboy boots with it, of course. ;)

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

Little House on the Prairie, but also I Dream of Jeannie, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Gilligan’s Island and Happy Days!

Favorite Childhood Book:

Little House on the Prairie, The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, and Misty of Chincoteague.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

Reading and playing with my dolls. I had LOTS of dolls, from baby dolls to Barbie dolls. One of my favorites was a Timey-Tell Doll, and then there was my Velvet Doll (I think those were the only two whose hair I didn’t cut off). And then there was this really cool Dusty Doll. She was like a Barbie only she had “real” features. A thicker waist, small bust and short hair. LOL. Mine played golf, but there were others that played tennis, softball, etc.

Playing with My Dolls

Oh, I almost forgot our Johnny West collection. Every winter, (usually during our Christmas break from school) my brothers and I would get out our Johnny West dolls and set up the “ranch” in our living room. Between the three of us, we had quite the setup. My brothers collected the cowboys, Indians, and outlaws, and my collection included Jane West, Josie West, and Princess Wildflower, along with a “Flame” horse. We also had a cardboard bunkhouse that we set up, along with cardboard furniture. All of this burned in a house fire, but I recently found a Jane West at a thrift store and bought her to show my girls and future grandchildren. Maybe I’ll try to find more of the set to start my collection again.

Childhood Hero:

Fonzie. I was even a member of the Henry Winkler fan club. LOL

Any childhood pets?

- Of course…a collie named Lassie, a horse named Strawberry, lots of kittens and puppies and even baby piglets. Oh, and one winter, I remember my oldest brother bringing an orphan lamb into the house when it lost its mama. That was really cool. So cuddly and soft.
Deborah on her horse, Strawberry

Greatest spiritual influence (when you were a child):

My Grandpa Swiler. He was a very faithful man and loved to sing hymns, often leading songs during Sunday school at our church. I don’t recall him being a great singer, but he was loud and always had a grin on his face.

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

– I grew up in the country with lots of space to roam and the freedom to dream big. I remember climbing to the top of one of our grain bins and looking out over the countryside, thinking that I couldn’t wait to get out on my own and start my life. Then, only a few years later, I recall being in a city park and flying kites with my youngest daughter and longing for “home” and for the wide-open spaces of the country.

Little did I know as a girl, that my strong bonds of childhood would bring me back home to the country. And that’s what I write about today. Country at Heart is the tagline I use for my writing, as well as what I call my blog. It’s what I know, and it comes from the memories that I draw upon.

Thank you so much, Crystal, for allowing me to stroll down memory lane with you. It’s been such a joy recalling all of these fond moments from my childhood. Blessings to you and to your readers!

You can find Deborah at her web site and on her blog! Do check out her web site for a book trailer on Snow Melts in Spring, recipes and more about Deborah, including tips if you are interested in writing.

Deborah has also graciously offered a free copy of her book,[UPDATE: Sarah Rupp won !! ] Snow Melts in Spring published by Zondervan. If you'd like a chance to win a copy, leave a comment with your contact info (email, but leave spaces or spell out the ISP) to be included in the drawing. And all of you Johnny and Jane West collectors or who had those action figures as a child, tell us about it! (I had the West collection, too, so I related a lot to Deb's childhood on several points.)Her book has become one of my favorites this year because of the setting, characters and story.

Don't forget that you can request a copy be acquired at your local library, if you can't get your own copy.

Deborah's debut novel: Snow Melts in Spring

Snow Melts in Spring

Book #1 ~ Seasons of the Tallgrass Series

When an aged horse is severely injured on a gravel road in the Flint Hills of Kansas, country veterinarian Mattie Evans accepts the challenge to save him. But she finds herself in the middle of a longstanding feud between the horse’s owner, pro quarterback Gil McCray, and his ailing father—who is also her dear friend.

As the snow melts in spring, Gil’s return to his estranged father’s ranch brings a chance for new beginnings and reconciliation, but when he falls in love with Mattie, he must face the truths that haunt him or run from his past. Meanwhile, Mattie encourages Gil to return permanently to Kansas rather than retire in California.

Their love collides when Mattie’s sister arrives on Gil’s doorstep, causing Gil to come to terms with the jealous acts leading up to his brother’s death and seek forgiveness from those he loves most. Can he accept God’s forgiveness, and will that be enough to make him stop running from his memories of home? In turn, if Mattie forgives, she’ll be forced to choose between the man of her dreams and the land she dearly loves.

The Seasons of the Tallgrass series captures the spirit and dreams of ordinary people living in the Flint Hills of Kansas--one of the last tallgrass prairie regions in the world. In writing this series, I hope to share my passion for this place, showing that God's great beauty rests on the prairie and in the hearts of those who live there.

Order at or

ISBN - 0310292751

ABOUT THE FLINT HILLS OF KANSAS: The Kansas Flint Hills is a strip of land stretching from Nebraska to Oklahoma, two hundred miles long and fifty miles wide, that refuses to be tamed because of the flint rock embedded in the hills. Although farmers once tried to run plows through it, they abandoned their efforts, leaving it to its original native grass. That is why it remains as one of the largest tallgrass prairies in the world.


Some of you may be writers. My writing career really took off when I joined the online writing group ACFW. Many wonderful authors took the time to help me, and I want to do the same. Visit my writing page for a few meager tips.

When I'm not writing, reading or working on the Internet, I enjoy taking walks with our golden retrievers. I also love to cook and have included recipes to share with you. This page will be updated each season, so check back regularly.

It's always fun to hear from my readers. If you'd like to introduce yourself, please sign my guest book or contact me. To help stay in touch, I invite you to join my newsletter, visit my blog, or maybe I'll see you at one of my future book signings!

It's been fun sharing my life with you. May God bless you. ~ Deborah

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Joy DeKok: "Believed and Loved"

Young Joy Getting Her Photo Taken (a girl named appropriately!)

What if you have a dream, and it doesn't turn out the way you envisioned it? What if it's a little different?

Joy DeKok knows what that is like. And she now sees a little better how her dream would pan out in God's perfect vision for her. Her delightful and poignant own story is the drive behind her author coaching and she "believes and loves" not only her readers, but also those who wish to write. Be sure to leave a comment with your email contact (YOU [AT] ISP dot com, to discourage the trolls.) Joy is giving away her book!

Childhood Ambition:

I had a 3-fold ambition – to be a wife, mommy, and writer. When I was about
three- years-old, a friend of my dad’s who had promised he would wait for me to grow up so he could marry me – married someone else. On his wedding day, I promised myself I’d find my very own man someday. Part of that dream, was also children. Lots of them. As a teenager I read, “Cheaper by the Dozen” and thought I’d like that many children. I used to stare at the huge convent in our city and dream that one day the nuns would sell it to me so I could fill it with my children and lots of dogs.

When Jon and I started dating and I told him about this dream, he was delighted. He came from a family of 7 kids so 12 didn’t seem like such a daunting number. We assumed our dreams were part of God’s plan. We were wrong. I won’t go into the whole journey here, but at 50, I can see part of God’s plan clearly – we have the sweet privilege of loving and being loved by a huge number of nieces, nephews, their spouses, and children. (The combined number is over 40!) At twenty-something accepting infertility as God’s perfect plan was a lot harder.

Joy's new perm and new coat--snazzy!

The writing started before I could read. I traced the words in my books and then taped together those pieces of paper into my own books dreaming about the day I’d write my own words and see them in “real” books. I am married to the man of my dreams and am a published writer. Two out of three ain’t bad!

Joy reading the paper wearing Grandpa's glasses. Joy says, "I couldn't read the words yet--I was a word watcher and the paper had so many to look at, sort of like a word catalog!"

Fondest Memory (then):

Being with my grandpa. He was very sick and I spent lots of quiet time with him – usually in his arms. He loved me deeply and listened to me as if whatever I said was the most important thing he’d ever heard. I knew he loved God deeply and I was certain he loved me almost as much.

Grandpa letting Joy play the piano.

Proudest Moment (then):

The day my dad stood up for me at school. I was a chatterbox and first grade work wasn’t a challenge for me (I’d been reading and writing since I was 4)--being quiet was so hard. My teacher had called my parents in several times with good reason.

One day one of the other girls was talking and the teacher assumed it was me. It wasn’t. The teacher yanked my desk out of the row (again) and made it clear--my parents would deal with it this time or else. Not sure what or else meant, I went home sick in my heart. My parents listened to me and told me they’d take care of things the next day. The next morning instead of riding the bus, my dad took me to school. Before we could go in, the girl who had done the talking got in a taunt or two--she thought the victory was hers. So did I. Daddy stood with me in front of the teacher and said, “Joy’s mother and I believe her.”

He confirmed that when confronted with wrong doing in the past, I’d always “owned up” to my guilt. The teacher eventually agreed with him. My dad is around 5 ft 10 or 11 inches tall. That day when he said he believed me, he was a giant of a man. As he continued to talk to the teacher, he advised her to ask the girl who had confronted me at the school door. He left after giving me a gentle kiss on the top of my head.

Believed in and loved. I was so proud of him. Still am.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen:

Pleasing people. I wanted to be liked and worked hard at it. Then, I wanted to be cool. Then I wanted boys to think I was beautiful. I wasted a lot of time worrying and striving to please when I could have been having a lot more fun just being me.

My First Job:

I baby sat two little girls every day after school when I was in the 6th grade. I also baby sat for another family on Saturday mornings. I was young but loved kids, was highly responsible, and enjoyed earning a bit of money doing something I loved.

Childhood Indulgence:

Paper and pencils or pens. I loved them and bought them with my allowance at the local Ben Franklin or Woolworth’s. I loved the way paper felt, the sound of a pencil or pen on paper, and the smell of paper with either lead or ink words on the pages. Sometimes I saved out a dime for Mac’s Grocery where they had a huge selection of penny candy. A dime went a long ways and we made those candy treats last for days.

Favorite Outfit as a Child:
My black winter coat with the fake leopard tam and purse. I felt like a movie star.

Joy with her new coat, hat and purse, looking like a movie star, no doubt!

Favorite Childhood Movie and/or TV Show:

I loved Snow White. She was loved by animals, the dwarves (I could not pick a very favorite--I loved them all,) and the prince. I went to Disney on Ice this winter with my great niece. It was the princesses and their princes and we enjoyed each one. I was missing Snow White when at the very end, the castle doors opened and there she was. The whole crowd cheered. We all loved her.

Favorite Childhood Book:

I have many of my books from childhood. They are battle worn--some falling apart. They all smell old and are all fragile. They are on my office bookshelf as a reminder of a dream come true. My favorite? As a teen I read Blueberry Summer and the Christmas Bride. I loved them both--they are together on the shelf.

Favorite Childhood Activity/Pastime:

Tracing words and eventually, I was given my favorite toy ever--a little red typewriter with a full like-real keyboard, red and black ink ribbons, and a real bell that let me know it was time to return the carriage. If it had to do with words I loved it.

Did you pass notes or have a pen pal as a child?

I wrote to my only girl cousin as a child. She was my pen pal. My friends and I wrote notes to each other almost every day in school. We doodled on those pages and wrote our hearts out. Then, we walked home from school together, talked on the phone, and walked together again the next morning. We were constant communicators!

Childhood Heroes:

My dad and my uncle Frank who served in WW2. Frank told me stories from the war--things he didn’t tell anyone else. He even cried in front of me. For whatever reason, that made him even more a hero to my tender heart. Later, when confined to the VA hospital, this hero went to visit the Vietnam vets--clearly communicating to them that they were his heroes. I went with him and saw destroyed men light up at this old man’s words. They’d cry. He’d cry. I’d cry. I knew I was in the presence of great men and wondered why in the world no one else knew it. Oh my--what an honor!

First Crush:

My uncle Lee. He was quiet, handsome, and always had room for me on his lap where I could breath in the scent of pipe tobacco and after shave. He could hold me for hours and again, made me feel like I was the only person in the world worth listening to. I knew he belonged forever to my Aunt Dorothy, but when I was on his lap, even she gave us our space.

Anything else you would like to share with readers about your childhood which affected the writer you have become?

I’d written all my life until I was about 17 years old. A teacher I greatly respected condemned my writing and I burned hundreds of poems--keeping on the first one I wrote after I came to faith in Jesus.

Later, my husband encouraged me to do whatever it took to follow my dream and write. While he didn’t stand at her desk and defend me, he stood in home and when I got cranky he quietly ordered a desk and word processor – they arrived at our door the next day. The examples of the loving men God placed in my life are part of the driving force behind Getting It Write and the Author Coaching that I do.

Joy's handsome husband, the guy who believes and loves Joy, and gave Joy her wings (and tools!) for writing.

I can be honest, but there’s no reason to destroy another person’s dreams. We’re all works in progress. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy hearing someone else’s dream, seeing it become their vision, then their reality, and watching them soar. Then, something else amazing happens – after they catch their dreams, I get to watch them cast their vision into the hearts and lives of others. Wow. Who knew? Only God.

Rain Dance by Joy DeKok

Rain Dance is a novel that deals with the issues of infertility and abortion. It attempts to answer the question: Can shattered dreams be part of the plan?

From Joy Dekok: Christian Author & Speaker

"Abortion is still one of the most divisive issues women and men confront. Infertility is still one of the most misunderstood experiences women and men face.

I'm passionate about both which can be dangerous for an author. The rules of writing say the author must stay out of the story. I knew that couldn't happen with Rain Dance.

Then there was the fact that combining these topics in one book made the project daunting. The issues looked mountain-sized and I'd have to climb them both. I also knew I was going to ask readers on all sides of the abortion issue to look beyond the politics to the personal. My own beliefs and hypocrisies would splash all over the pages. . .so that meant I'd break a rule of writing . . . as the author, I'd have to show myself on the pages. I could only hope it didn't come across as intrusive or meddling or worse yet. . .preachy.

According to readers. . .it didn't.

Instead, the characters drove the plot. The story and the format worked. Both readers and critics loved it!

The spoken - sometimes whispered - reader responses amazed me even more and confirmed to me: The Jonica's and Stacie's (characters in Rain Dance) in real-life experience similar experiences.

Then I heard from women who were neither infertile or post-abortive. . .but who found compassion and love for people they thought they could never understand on the pages of a novel.

Those revelations could have been a high for the author. . .and I admit - they were. However, that faded in the face of what the comments revealed below the surface of encouraging words: A need for a place we could all meet on common ground and find resources and that would lead to uncommon support."

Leave a comment with email info (see above as to how to avoid the "trolls.") Win this book in a drawing! If you don't win, be sure to see to order a copy of your own.

Be sure to check out Joy's web site, coaching site and other places!
Getting It Write!
Joy says: "Need a writing coach? Do you want to discover and then what matters most? Are you wondering what’s up in the publishing world and where you fit in?

Then…you might be at the right place!

As an author coach, I help people write what matters most and discover their publishing options."

And for fun and excellent pages and to see her books for KIDS! check out this site!