Friday, May 11, 2018

Five Things I Learned from My Mother

My mother at 41 and her 13-pound boy.
To say the last few weeks have been a thrilling roller-coaster ride would be an understatement. In the span of a month, my debut novel released, I moved, and my beloved 16-year-old dog Bella died. I sometimes wonder how we survive even one of these events without curling into a tangled ball of stress. But then I remember that for every lowdown low there is an incredible high. Our lives might feel out of control but it's possible to find balance even in the midst of complete chaos. You know how I know this? I learned it from my mom. This photo of her was taken shortly after the birth of her eighth child when she was 41. I realize he looks like a three-month-old baby but my brother David came into this world weighing a whopping 13 pounds. My mother quit babies after that one, but she didn't quit bringing forth life. 

Writers often compare launching a new book to giving birth. In my just-released novel THIS I KNOW young Grace Carter inherits her mother's deep intuition. As Mother's Day approaches I've been thinking about what traits my mother gifted me through her genes and by her example; qualities that have made me better equipped to navigate this life.

1. Laughter cures pretty much everything.

Laughing with Anna Unkovich
Although she suffered from debilitating degenerative disk disease, it's my mother's laugh, not her pain that I remember most clearly. She often shared jokes, ruining the punch line because she couldn't get through it without cracking herself up. The only thing I loved better than making my mom proud was making her laugh so hard she once peed herself while cooking lunch for my sisters and me. Being pregnant with 13-pound baby might have contributed to the bladder release but I happily took credit. I've carried my mom's voluptuous laugh with me into my own parenthood and beyond. When a neighbor moved away a few years ago she shared that the thing she'd miss most about living next door to me was hearing laughter resonating from my home almost every day. She said hearing me laugh made her less lonely. I hope she laughed with me. Or even at me. Because there's nothing like the chortles and howls of a good belly laugh to make you forget for a moment everything you want to cry about. Laughter takes you out of yourself and sends back a love note.

2. Human touch heals the soul.

My mother was one of the most affectionate people I've ever known. Severe back pain often prevented her from lifting or bending to hug us so she'd pull us close to pet our heads or massage our ears. When she ended up in traction, she'd often invite me to crawl in beside her on the bed where she lay in traction where we could snuggle and hold hands. I used to think she did this for me but looking back I realize she hungered for the healing properties of touch as much as I did. She died a few years before I started my 25-year career in as a massage therapist. What I wouldn't give to have been able to offer her a healing massage when she was hurting. I'm so thankful for her tenderness, for teaching me the power within our reach not only to heal others, but to heal ourselves.

3. Your circumstances don't define you. 

Just when her life seemed to peak, my mother was given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. The doctor gave her six months to live. Surrounded by all her children when the call came, she bawled into her hands for all of about fifteen minutes. By the end of the day she was calling the doctors liars; she hadn't come this far to accept their doom and gloom sentence. Over the next three years my mother LIVED her life. She endured chemo, radiation and platelet infusions. She researched and delved into alternative therapies, the most memorable being garlic. Everywhere garlic. She danced, she sang, she went to movies, she spent time with old friends and made new ones. Through it all she refused to give in. Of all the things my mother taught me I'm most grateful for learning what resilience looks like. Her strength has shadowed me through every hardship along a path littered with heartbreak and loss, including losing her.

4. It's okay to break the rules.

VaLoyce Edwards was a mother and preacher's wife but she was so much more than that. The only thing she loved more than singing was if you sang with her. She often performed in our churches and if I'm being honest. that was about the only time I paid attention. Her voice could make a Buckingham Palace guard cry. We didn't have much in the way of luxuries growing up in a home with seven children and two adults but we always had music. My mom listened to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson records on our hi-fi. Dancing wasn't allowed in our Southern Baptist home but it didn't stop her from swaying. She'd close her eyes and become a like a willow branch, moving with an unseen wind. Later on in life, she gave herself permission to go listen to bands at various venues. I never had the pleasure of tagging along with her but I'm told that once she let loose she burned up the floor. 

5. Never give up on your dreams.

I know this one sounds cliche but hear me out. In her late forties, my mother opted for a risky surgery, one that could have left her in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. The outcome of this decision changed her life. Freed from chronic back pain and the unfortunate side effects of pain medications, she enrolled in college and earned her degree in sociology. Immediately upon graduation she was hired by the university as a financial aid counselor, helping others to find ways to pursue their educational goals. Like my mother, I went back to school in my fifties. And also like her, I never gave up on my goal of writing books. I was 54 when LOST IN TRANSPLANTATION published and 59 when my debut novel THIS I KNOW released. I'll be 60 when my next book is out in June of 2019.

It's been almost three decades since my mother passed away, just shy of her 65th birthday. I know she would be so proud of me for writing a book but prouder still that I channeled her resilience, her laughter, her willingness to break the rules in writing this little story about a girl who longs to rescue her mother from the depths of darkness. Happy Mothers Day, Mom. I love you. This I Know.

What about you? What did you learn or inherit from your mom-person?


It's out!

My debut novel THIS I KNOW released on April 24 and I'm thrilled with the overwhelming support and positive feedback from so many people. It's available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, Sam's Club or order from you Independent Bookstore. I'm headed to Michigan for a book tour May 12-20. If you happen to be within spitting distance, I hope you'll drop in and say hi.

Eldonna Edwards' Upcoming Book Events

Monday, April 9, 2018

Wading in The Wings

Living in the present moment is the recurring baptism of the soul, forever purifying every new day with a new you.” ― Alaric HutchinsonLIVING PEACE

Of all the days that stand out from my childhood, the times we gathered at Stony Lake for baptism services feel the most visceral. It was a big deal in our little church and nearly all of our small congregation attended. What I remember most clearly is my dad's sun-deprived white feet under rolled-up pant legs as he stood at the water's edge, holding his weathered Bible in one hand while he spoke. It didn't matter that the pages flapped in the summer breeze; he knew those words by heart, as did most of us.

I'm not Southern or Baptist but something deep and holy stuck to my bones from those annual gatherings at the lake. Two of my favorite  scenes in THIS I KNOW are a spirited community baptism that takes place at Cherry Lake and a much more personal one that occurs in a small backyard pond. To this day I much prefer baths to showers. One of the first
things I did when I bought my current home was to drop an antique claw foot bathtub in the yard under the trees. It is my sanctuary. Showers are for rinsing; the bath is more of a prayer, a purification of mind and spirit that transcends mere physical cleansing.

Waiting for my book to come out reminds me of those languid summer days wishing my dad would wrap up his long-winded sermon so I could watch him dunk people in the lake. As I count down the last several days to the long-awaited release date, I'm reminded of the words we used to sing as we gathered in the long shadows of those sandy Lake Michigan dunes. 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It's been two years since I gleefully signed a contract with my publisher for THIS I KNOW, a story about a young girl trying to navigate her kaleidoscopic understanding of Spirit, juxtaposed against her father's black-and-white image of God. My gratitude goes out to every single one of you who has cheered me on. Thank you to the many pre-release readers wrote to tell me how much you loved my little Grace Marie, shared my good news, and talked about my book to others. Today I truly can say that all is indeed well with my soul.

Please join me for my long-awaited Launch Party on Facebook!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tornado Weather

We take our place in the northeast corner of the basement, just like always. My heart thundering inside my chest seems almost as loud as the storm outside.

The first day of Spring is just around the corner. Here in California that usually means our jade-green Irish hills gradually turn the color of a lion's mane, but due to recent drought, it's probably going to be more like fading from olive to burnt toast. We're getting some rain this week but probably not enough to correct a full dry season. Hopefully we'll be spared another round of mudslides to the south.

I come from the Midwest, where precipitation happens all year long. The part when it turns white is mostly what propelled me toward the west coast. I'm not nostalgic about shoveling out of six-foot banks of snow, but I do miss how lightening sparked across a forever sky, followed by booming thunder that sometimes punctuated my dad's hellfire and brimstone sermons. When people ask why I set my first novel in Michigan they assume it's because I grew up there. That's partly why, but it's also because Michigan weather makes for a more interesting backdrop. Rain, thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, ice storms; and let's not forget when the air turns eerily still and the sky a sickly shade of yellow that we call tornado weather.

One of my favorite scenes to write in THIS I KNOW is when the family huddles in the basement of their home as a tornado passes overhead. Just recalling the hush of a sticky wind right before the warning sirens pierced my young ears sends me reeling backward in time. I can feel the humidity on my skin, smell the dank corner of our parsonage basement, feel the fear of my family as we waited for the all clear on our transistor radio.  

From chapter 16 of THIS I KNOW:

A huge crack of thunder booms above us, rattling the windows. Chastity scampers over to Mama and Daddy and I follow. The lights flicker on and off twice before the room goes completely dark. Above us our whole house shakes, the wind leaning it one way and then the house fighting its way back to center. Mama starts humming “A Shelter in the Time of Storm,” which is meant to comfort us but for some reason makes me even more scared. 

We don't experience tornadoes as a rule in California, but we do have earthquakes. Mother Nature usually gives you time to take shelter before a funnel cloud reaches for the ground but these tremors come without warning. The best we can do is strap furniture to the wall, keep glassware secured inside cabinets and pray we're not in the grocery store when it hits. 

What about you? How does Mother Nature earn your deepest fear and respect in your neighborhood?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I Only Know What I Don't Know

"I'm spooning my Other, my belly to his back..."
Lately I've been thinking a lot  about birthdays. Not just because I'll be completing another trip around the sun this month, but because I've witnessed so many people at the end of their journey. Having recently midwifed more than a few dear ones across the fragile veil of this life, I've realized just how similar these transitions are to birth; the labored breath, the physical pain, the emotional whiplash and at long last, the rush of love that overwhelms us.

Family legend says I was born in a hospital elevator between the labor room and the delivery theater, all ten-and-a-quarter pounds of me! I don't know if the story is true but I tend to believe it. Patience is not one of my most stellar virtues. On the other hand, I do enjoy my comforts and I'm just as apt to believe I was one of those hangers-on who waited long past my due date to leave the safety of my mother's womb. And to do so on my terms, not the will of my poor mother or the hospital staff.

While writing the opening prologue of THIS I KNOW, I tried to imagine the final moments  of unborn twins who communicate their last thoughts to one another right before birth. Do babies experience fear? Excitement? Sadness? Or is the whole experience just a lollapalooza of love during a newborn's entry into the outside world? Here's how my young protagonist Grace Carter describes her memory of a time before birth:

Folks don’t believe me when I tell them I remember being in the womb. They think it’s my wild imagination. “There goes Grace in her fantasy world,” they say. But I know what I know. The thing is, they could remember, too, if they wanted. Maybe they don’t because they’d be sorry they were ever born if they recalled the sweetest place they’ve ever been and how they had to leave it.

As I lean into the final bend of a new decade I'm more inclined to believe we don't know any more about what happens before life than what follows death. When people ask me what I think happens after we die, my answer is that I only know what I don't know. For now, I choose to be awed by the gift of another moment, another day, another candle on this sweet slice of life before me. Because every day is new birth. How will you celebrate that gift today?

Pssst! In celebration of my birthday, we're announcing a Goodreads giveaway for 20 print copies of THIS I KNOW beginning March 3. If you add the book to your Goodreads want-to-read-list you'll be reminded when the giveaway opens. Good luck!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Healing Power of Music

"Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows. Lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose." --from "The Rose" by Gordon Wills, sung by Bette Midler

My mother had an amazing voice and she love, love, loved to sing. I remember how she'd hum her favorite hymns as she washed dishes or ironed my dad's shirts, and especially when she sat at her sewing machine.  I'd watch her lean into the lever with her knee, pushing the fabric past the needle, bubble-tipped straight pins clenched firmly between her lips. I always worried she'd accidentally swallow one but she never did. And she never stopped humming.

I don't know if I inherited my mother's voice, but I'm pretty sure my love for music came from her. From the time I was a small child, I'd volunteer to sing in church and auditioned for school musicals. At the age of twelve my older sister Mary Beth gave me a beginner guitar, a thing my other sister Nita never forgave her for because I considered that guitar a license to sing all the live long day. Singing brought me joy. It brought Nita to tears, and not in a good way.

When I created the character of Isabelle, wife to the Rev. Henry Carter and mother to four daughters in THIS I KNOW, I gave her my own mother's beautiful voice. And then I took it away from her when Mrs. Carter suffers an unbearable loss. I wanted the reader to feel her deafening silence, how grief not only stills our hearts, it will come like a thief for your tongue and the soul that feeds it. But also how music just might be the one thing to make you feel whole again.

The other day I drove home from a literary event feeling exhausted. Not just from a busy day, but from the heaviness of recent heartbreaking news, the dreadful political noise, and not knowing how to rise above the ennui resulting from day-to-day information overload. I have so much to be happy about--a new book coming out, living where other people vacation, and exceptional good health. And yet here I was, sighing as I exited the 101 toward the Pacific coast.

I turned on the radio hoping to cheer myself up. I surfed from channel-to-channel without landing on the perfect song. I turned it off again, choosing the hum of tires on pavement over bubblegum pop. It was in the silence that I heard my mother whisper, "Come on, Donna Sue." That's what she called me when she was being playful. "Sing us a song." 

And so I did. I sang, nay, belted out a rendition of The Rose that cleared the fog from my lungs and the dread from brain. I sang it three times until, pulling into the driveway, I felt an imaginary pair of wings unfold as I emptied myself from the car and floated into the house.

What about you? Is there a song that lifts you out of a funk? What was your relationship with music growing up? 


THIS I KNOW by Eldonna Edwards releases 04.24.18

"Once in a while you read a book that just takes your breath away with its beauty and truth. This I Know is such a book.This is one of the most beautiful coming of age stories I’ve ever read, and it will stay with me for a long, long time."  --Rosemary S., Librarian

Monday, February 5, 2018

What Was I Thinking?

Work in Progress
My beau secretly snapped this photo in a rare moment of what appears to be me taking a break. I am not on a break, I'm working. Having recently turned in the manuscript for my second novel, I've started pondering Book #3. You can't see it, but if thoughts were literal bubbles around our heads, mine would block out the ocean and the mountain behind it. (Yeah, I know. Rough setting, right?)

Writers often hear things like, "You're so lucky. You get to sit around and just make up stories instead of going to a job." I am lucky and I do get to play with words, but it's a job--one that I don't ever leave. Every single experience becomes an opportunity to explore as a possible scene. Every person I meet gets filed away in a collage of traits that make up future characters. Every sound, every smell, every touch; they're all pieces swimming around in my head trying to find their way to the page. And that's just the writing part. PR and marketing are a whole 'nother ballgame.

Several years ago I took a stab at meditation. It didn't go so well. Apparently some people the luxury of neat little organized brain compartments. My brain is more like a pinball machine, with thoughts racing and bouncing faster than I can write them down. And yet I'm grateful for this. I love my job, I really do. I manifested it! But when I look at this picture I realize I also manifested moving to California, living near the ocean, and a beloved companion who pauses to snap a pic of his partner deep in thought on a sunny day in Avila Beach.

So as I close my laptop and head out to the back deck, I'm going to try and leave my work-in-process right here in my office, along with these forming characters, plot lines, and settings. Because sometimes you have to take time to live your own story, yes? In the meantime, caption the photo above for a chance to win a "THIS I KNOW" lined notebook (pictured below). I'll choose a random name from comments here and on my Facebook Page. Go!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Dear Rosemary: A Love Letter to Librarians

Eldonna Edwards author THIS I KNOW
Dear Rosemary,

My sister taught me to read. An avid reader herself, Nita turned empty milk crates into desks, our living room into a private schoolhouse, and my younger sister and me into her wide-eyed students. It was during those not-so-lazy summer mornings and blizzardy winter afternoons that she'd assign us articles from a dog-eared set of encyclopedias to read and report on. Oddly enough, Rosemary, I loved her game of "school at home." Not just because I could sneak peeks at naked statues, but because thanks to my older sister's penchant for making learning fun, I entered kindergarten at a fifth grade reading level. 

We had no library in our tiny town. The closest one was miles away and I didn't discover it until our second grade teacher took us on a field trip there. I remember crawling around on the floor like a monkey in a banana store, pulling stacks of books off the shelf and devouring them on the spot. I fell instantly in love with Dr. Seuss and all his crazy thing-a-ma-words. Eventually I graduated to The Bobbsey Twins, Laura Ingalls Wilder's books and Nancy Drew mysteries, all recommended by the smiling librarian. Oh how I loved the crunch of that stamp as she punched a date next to my name on the yellow card from the book's pouch!

Flash forward fifty years to when I received the very first netgalley* review for my debut novel, THIS I KNOW. Now, I try not to look outside of myself for validation but I'd be lying if I said reviews don't matter. Of course they do. The experts tell us authors never to read reviews of our own books. But for me, that's like putting a do-not-look note over David's junk on Michelangelo's  encyclopedia page. So of course I took a deep breath and clicked on your review.

"Once in a while you read a book that just takes your breath away with its beauty and truth. This I Know is such a book. In the mid twentieth century Midwest, 11-year-old Grace Carter tries to hide her gift from her father. The Evangelical preacher would believe that Grace’s gift for finding things, knowing things about a person’s past or future were akin to witchcraft. She certainly doesn’t want him to know that she’s able to speak to her twin, Issac, who died at birth. Luckily, Grace has her aunt Pearl who understands that Grace’s ability is a gift and who offers the only comfort the girl knows. As Grace’s own family becomes more distant, she finds friends in the community, other “throw away” people, who become her true family. This is one of the most beautiful coming of age stories I’ve ever read, and it will stay with me for a long, long time." -Rosemary, librarian

And suddenly I felt the glitter of happiness sprinkling down upon my head. Not because someone liked my book. Because you liked it, Rosemary. Someone who reads and recommends books for a living. Someone who holds the power of "yes" and with the ability, as Barbara Kingsolver said, "to save souls." I'll likely never know who you are, but I will never forget you because you were my first, my virgin 5-star review, my, dare I say...hero. I understand that not everyone will agree with your review but it won't matter. Because this? This is something no critic can ever take from me.

So thank you Rosemary for reading my book and sharing your thoughts. Thank you Nita for teaching me to read and Mrs. Swanson for taking a bunch of wild eight-year-olds to the public library. Thank you to the library patrons who read and request books. And a huge thank you to all the librarians who pull a book from the shelf and whisper, "This one will take your breath away..."

With love and gratitude,


What about you? Did you visit the library as a child? Do you still utilize your local library? Do you have a favorite go-to librarian you look to for book recommendations? What books/people set you on the path to a lifetime of reading?

*Netgalley is a website where industry professionals like booksellers, trade reviewers and librarians can read new books before they release.