Sunday, November 12, 2017

When Things Fall Apart


"I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps inside me." --Sylvia Plath

We've all done it; pasted on a happy face to cover our fear, our sadness, our fragility. Nobody wants to be a Debbie Downer and drag others down with them, right? So we stuff our vulnerable selves deep into our core and pull out a mask bearing an appropriately put-together shell. One that appears happy and confident. But on the inside, things are still falling apart.

Growing up in the Midwest I learned from an early age that you need to "buck up" or " "grin and bear it" when times get tough. We were taught to smile through our pain or discomfort because appearances mattered more than feelings. I was a sensitive child and cried easily so I heard it a lot. Of course, I carried this idea of stuffing your feelings well into my adulthood, until that point when I realized that a river of repressed emotions will eventually breach the damn. This flood of truth might manifest as anger or addiction or even suicide if not treated.  

Such is the case for Isabelle Carter, wife of the Rev. Henry Carter, who suffers from a combination of postpartum depression and unfulfilled desires. She wanted to be a famous gospel singer. What she got instead was life as a rural minister's wife and mother to five daughters, one of whom reminds her of long-forgotten self.

Daddy brought Mama back home two days ago. She doesn’t seem very rested if you ask me. She still naps a lot and when she is up and around she bumps into the walls. Joy won’t let Mama hold the baby unless she’s sitting down. Mama reminds me of a Dilly Bar from the Dairy Queen, like there’s only a thin shell covering what’s melting inside.

In this scene from THIS I KNOW, Mama has just come from a place where she was sent to "rest" but returns home looking anything but recovered. I wanted to underscore the disconnect that people (mostly women) from that era suffered. Faces disguised with pleasant, Stepford-like eeriness. These women were often over-prescribed "nerve pills" to calm them or "diet pills" to give them energy. Many self-medicated with alcohol and other forms of escapism. Or as in Mrs. Carter's case, told to pray away the malaise when what she most needed was simply to be allowed to feel what she was feeling. In retrospect, it's no wonder we're currently struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic crisis. People want to feel good and will do anything to make the pain go away.

I enjoy what most friends and acquaintances would describe as a happy disposition. But where there is light, there is shadow. For several years I endured depression that might have been postpartum or might have been circumstantial due to life events. Or maybe it was just good old-fashioned clinical depression. What I remember most was feeling terribly ashamed, that old tape of "get over yourself" looping endlessly in my head. Eventually I sought help, got counseling, and was able to talk openly about my feelings as I surfed the waves of melancholy and despair. 

During that time I learned that what depressed people most need is acceptance and support. Things young Grace strives to give her mama as the reverend's wife struggles to find her way back to happiness  and contentment. In THIS I KNOW, Grace's way of helping happens to involve using her uncanny abilities to break through the membrane of consciousness to reach her sullen mother. Because sometimes a little magic is the best medicine.

~~~~~


Someone, maybe you, is reading these words and recognizes yourself in them. Talk to somebody

~~~



My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24 2018. I'd be honored if you'd add it to your wish-list on Good Reads. and thrilled if you recommend it to your friends. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.




In this outstanding debut, Eldonna Edwards has created an enchanting, loveable narrator by the name Grace Carter, who shares all she sees about her world and beyond.  Rendered in a voice at once singular and exquisite and with an old soul sense of wisdom, I was captivated by this story of a girl and her unique gift, her love of family, the pain of loss, the sting of indifference, and the simple joy of acceptance, but most of all by Grace, and her purity of heart. --Donna Everhart, best-selling author of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE and  THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Big Daddy

Photo Credit: Wiki Commons
Remember when you were a kid and adults seemed so big, so powerful, so impossibly in charge of EVERYTHING? They controlled what you ate, when you went to bed and the consequences of any misdeeds. It was frustrating wasn't it? Especially when you were innocent but got blamed because more often than not, you were the mischievous kid at the center of those misdeeds. 

My father was loving but strict. As a preacher, he held a higher position than most of my friends' dads. We might have been on the low end of the economic barometer, but we had righteousness on our side and that allowed us other benefits. Clergy discounts. Chore-free Sundays. Memorized Scripture to back-up and win most arguments. Because really, who wants to take a side against the Almighty?

In writing THIS I KNOW I tried to convey that sense of impotence in children compared to powerful adults, especially parents. In the following scene, Grace nervously waits while her mama explains a situation that could make her either a hero or a villain in her father's eyes:

"Daddy spends a long time in the bedroom with Mama before supper. I picture him sitting on the bed, the way it sinks when he lowers himself onto it. Daddy tends to leave a dent in soft things. Not just because he’s big, but because he means to. Everything about him is heavy, from his voice to the way his foot lands on the floor. Sometimes just in the way he looks at you."

As a child, that's pretty much how I viewed my dad. He was the boss. And he was the pastor. Who was I to challenge him?

And then one day, tragedy struck and for the first time in my life, I saw him crying. Dad's don't cry, I thought. Kids cry. Sometimes mothers. But not your dad. And especially not Pastor Edwards. Until he does. He appeared disheveled that day, like someone who'd slept several nights in their clothes. It was the first time I recognized that he wasn't merely those roles of father and minister, he was a human being who, in that moment, felt helpless and not in control of anyone or anything.

It was a rare moment, but one I never forgot. So in creating the fictional Reverend Carter, I made the character big--much bigger physically than my own dad. I made him insufferably controlling and close-minded. But somewhere deep inside I managed to insert a tiny wedge of vulnerability: a woman that he adores and without whom he feels unlovable. And then I wrenched her from his assured grasp. I'd like to say I did it to expose his true self, letting his house of cards crumble around him so that he's faced with difficult choices. But the truth is, I'm still that same mischievous kid who enjoys stirring up shit when she gets the chance. Fortunately as a writer, I get lots of chances.

~~~~~

My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24 2018. I'd be honored if you added it to your wish-list on Good Reads. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.






In this outstanding debut, Eldonna Edwards has created an enchanting, loveable narrator by the name Grace Carter, who shares all she sees about her world and beyond.  Rendered in a voice at once singular and exquisite and with an old soul sense of wisdom, I was captivated by this story of a girl and her unique gift, her love of family, the pain of loss, the sting of indifference, and the simple joy of acceptance, but most of all by Grace, and her purity of heart. --Donna Everhart, best-selling author of THE EDUCATION OF DIXIE DUPREE and  THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Good Grief

I sometimes imagine we have all these invisible cords leading to those we love. Even when we aren't close physically, our loved ones exist on the other end of those cords and all you have to do is give a little tug, feel the resistance and be assured of their constant connection to you. Life and love flow beautifully between the two ends. When we lose someone close to us that cord loses its resistance, comes to you freely. You worry the frayed edges knowing it will take time to adjust to a world without this particular human in it. 

Grief is a gift. It is an affirmation of our loved one's presence in our lives. In THIS I KNOW, Grace's beloved Aunt Pearl tries to explain this to my young protagonist after she experiences the loss of a dear friend:


"Sorrow is the good Lord's toll for love," she says, shaking her head. I know by the way she says it that Aunt Pearl has paid a great debt for the generosity of her big heart.

I wanted to convey that earned elder wisdom, how opening your heart to love also means subjecting it to possible pain. And that by becoming vulnerable, we more fully appreciate that the price is more than compensated by the depth of that love. The bigger the joy the greater the sorrow. The deeper the love, the higher the toll. That's just the way it works. 

Although we're sometimes glad for the end of suffering, when a loved one dies it often feels as if someone has turned off the sun and the world is suddenly darker and colder. Every inch of you feels raw, tender, fragile. To those of you currently reeling from loss, I know there are no right words. We can only listen and offer comfort. Perhaps the best we can do is to hold up a mirror in hopes that you'll recognize your loved one in every tear, every fold of your heart, and know that you still carry them you.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Anna Banana Unkovich, who left this world on August 7th. I miss you every day.




~~~~~

My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24 2018. I'd be honored if you added it to your wish-list on Good Reads. You can also pre-order the book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.




"Set in a small Midwest town in the late 1960s and helmed by an unforgettable young protagonist—compassionate, uncannily wise Grace—This I Know is a luminous coming-of-age story from an astonishing new voice."

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Book of Wishes



 Growing up in the 1960's and 70's, who doesn't remember filling up their quick-saver books with sticky strips and sheets of S&H Green Stamps? After every grocery shopping trip, my parents would toss the earned stamps in a basket on top of the old Hotpoint fridge, the kind with the door handle that would snap back and pinch your little  fingers if you weren't careful. Once a month my sisters and I would take on the job licking and pasting, dreaming of all the wonderful things we'd be able to get for "free" as a reward for feeding a family of nine.

We kept the Ideabook in the magazine rack next to the sofa, along with the Sears catalog, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, and random articles my Dad had cut out of religious pamphlets to read later, usually in the bathroom.  Every once in a while I'd take out that sacred book and pour over images of dolls, trains, wagons and bicycles. Unlike the Sears catalog, full of toys and clothes we couldn't afford on a minister's salary, the green stamp book offered a promise of something within reach. I could see myself holding that doll, riding that bike, pulling that wagon. If only we filled enough books.

But it was never to be. My mom always traded the stamps for flatware. I remember the pattern, a swirly line with sparkly stars on either side of the spoon handle. They looked pretty on our
Sunday dinner table set with the "good" china and drinking glasses we fished out of detergent boxes. (Our family went through a lot of detergent.) As an adult I've stopped longing for shiny things and expensive toys. I drive a sixteen-year-old car, shop at thrift stores, and live in a 500 square foot home by choice. I prefer living a simple life abundant with the joy of immaterial goods. If there was a catalog for my yearnings it would be for continued good health, delicious foods, great books, my morning espresso, and a place to share my writing. Every blank page is like an Ideabook that I get to fill with my stories! Looking back I now  realize it was never about getting the thing, it was the hope that filled you from the wishing itself. 

What about you? What's in your "idea book" today? If you could wish for one thing for yourself, what would it be? And how do you plan to turn your dreams into reality?

Shameless plug: My debut novel THIS I KNOW features a clairvoyant preacher's daughter who comes of age at the turn of the culturally-explosive decade of the 1960's. It's available for pre-order and you can add it to your Goodreads wish-list. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Box of Joy (and Grace and Chastity)

Photo credit: Vince Laconte
Logic will get your from point A. to point B. Imagination will take you everywhere. --Albert Einstein

My siblings and I learned early on what all cats intuitively understand: empty boxes are are far more entertaining than the items they once contained. I can't count the number of times we kids set upon a discarded appliance box and let our imaginations run wild. All it took was a pocket knife and a box of crayons to transform that ugly carton into a rocket ship, a store or circus ticket booth.  Every new cardboard box was an opportunity to become a banker, a baker, a train engineer or anything else we dreamed up. 

I tapped into those childhood experiences while writing a scene for THIS I KNOW where Grace's sisters convince her to use her intuitive gift to predict the future for curious neighborhood children. Grace knows it's a bad idea, but the combination of getting to play dress-up and earn a little pocket change is too tempting to turn down. Here's an (edited for length) sneak peak of that scene:

As we round the corner behind the barn I can hardly believe my eyes. Joy has outdone herself this time. She and Chastity must have dragged a refrigerator box home from the hardware store. They painted it all swirly with markers and cut a square out for a window. A hand-lettered cardboard sign hangs above the opening: 

AMAZING GRACE! Fortunes Told: Twenty-Five Cents

Joy hands me Daddy’s paisley bathrobe and a blue bath towel.
“What am I supposed to do with these?”
“Wrap the towel around your head. You know, like a gypsy fortune-teller. The robe will make you look more authentic.” 
I stick my arms into the sleeves and Joy ties the belt at my waist. There’s a foot of leftover robe puddled on the ground. She wraps my hair in the towel and clips it with a brooch from Mama’s jewelry box, then snaps two earrings with silver balls dangling from them onto my ears. 
"Ow!"
Joy takes a step back. “You look great!” She shoves a kitchen stool under my rear end, then picks up the refrigerator box and drops it over my head so the window is in front of my face. She claps her hands together and squeals. “Perfect!”
“I feel ridiculous.” The words echo against the cardboard walls of my tall, dark room. 
Chastity bounces up and down, her blond pigtails flouncing behind her. “Here come the first two kids!”
Joy leans in close to my face. “Okay, Grace. Just be yourself. Except with, you know, a little flair.” She winks at me and straightens my turban. "Ready?"


~~~~~


I'm not clairvoyant like Grace Carter  and yet I knew the minute FedEx pulled up they were delivering a very special package. A cat might find the cardboard box quite inviting but the contents are what made me audibly squeal. Inside are the Advance Reader Copies (Uncorrected Proofs) of THIS I KNOW. Most of them will go to indie bookstores, librarians, book bloggers and reviewers. But one lucky reader will win a shiny advance copy for themselves. ☺ Stay tuned for a contest to be announced on my Facebook Page this week!  In the meantime, drop a comment below to let me know you've shared this post. The first ten people who share this post will receive a signed dust jacket and a bookmark

Thank you all so much for sharing in my excitement and helping to build buzz about my debut novel. Want to keep up with contests, sneak-peaks and news about my upcoming release?

Add THIS I KNOW to your Goodreads list.
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Pre-order THIS I KNOW (Or ask your favorite indie bookstore to carry it!)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Daydream Believer

Every year on the first day of school I always tried to grab the desk nearest the windows. I knew it meant that I'd be in charge of opening them in the event of a tornado drill but I didn't mind. What mattered was having a direct sight-line to the parking lot where I'd witness parents bustling up the sidewalk to deliver forgotten lunches. I'd have a close-up view of the weather as it shifted (sometimes hourly) from rain to sleet to sunshine to blizzard. Toward the end of the day I'd watch buses roll under a flapping American flag to wait for their rambunctious charges. That glass was more than a view of earth and sky; it was a window into my daydreams as I watched clouds crawl across the livelong sky of seemingly endless school days. 

Don't get me wrong--I loved school. It was the place where I first fell in love with words, competing with Glen Burmeister and Keith Johnson as the only girl left standing during our weekly spelling bees. Reading and writing were my favorite subjects because I could lose myself in my imagination, which I often did, to the consternation of my teachers. "Doesn't work up to potential" or "Unfocused" or "Daydreamer" they'd write in my report cards. And it was true. I was often bored and that window was my salvation. But because I got good mostly good grades (I sucked at art and penmanship) my parents didn't balk that much. "Try harder," they'd ask, and I'd promise I would. But I didn't.

They always say you should write about what you know. Even as I tapped away at this post I stopped and started it several times, distracted by a bird on the wire, the sound of my neighbor yakking loudly in her driveway, then imagining that bird knocking the cellphone out of her hand. I suppose it comes as no surprise then that I gave my young protagonist, Grace Carter, the same penchant for losing herself in the world beyond her immediate surroundings. Because this? This I know.

What about you? Were you a daydreamer? Did you like school? Share your thoughts down yonder. ;)

Monday, October 2, 2017

And Then There Were (Still) Six

I was five years old when my mother lost her seventh daughter. I don't remember my mom being pregnant. I only remember my exhausted dad lining up the six of us girls and telling us that our baby sister had been born with a hole in her heart so she went to be with Jesus. They named her Lori Lee and she was laid to rest in a tiny cemetery in New Era, Michigan. I never got to see her. Fifteen months later my mother had another baby, her only boy. He weighed thirteen pounds. That one I remember.

One day, while snooping in my parents' closet, I found a pair of tiny white booties, a lock of hair, and a photo of a ruddy-faced infant lying in a silk-lined casket surrounded by bouquets of flowers. I wanted to ask my mom about the stillborn baby but it seemed a box tucked that deep into a closet was a thing she might prefer to stay hidden, so I left it there. Every once in a while I'd sneak back into the closet to visit the box and study that photograph. The baby looked like she was sleeping; the casket, like a tiny doll bed. I'd whisper her name over and over, as if by doing so she'd recognize me someday if I ever bumped into her in heaven. Even after all these years, the image of that baby remains frozen in my mind's eye.

My mother died when I was thirty-one and I regret not asking her more about how that was, losing a child. I imagine people might have tried to reassure her with clumsy words about how lucky she was to have six healthy children. I doubt those words soothed her pain. I wish I'd talked with her about it, felt the full weight of the sorrow she must have endured. Maybe I'd have been better equipped to console friends who've miscarried or given birth to stillborn babies. Maybe I'd have navigated my own episode of postpartum depression with more self-compassion. And maybe I'd have understood my mother better than I thought I did.

I can't go back in time, but in writing THIS I KNOW I was free to imagine what it might be like to endure such a loss. The book opens with twins communicating their last thoughts to each other in the womb before being pushed into the outside world. What follows is the story of a prescient child who longs to harvest the pit of sorrow from her mother's heart and replace it with seeds of hope. Something we could all use a little of right now, yes?