Friday, February 8, 2019

Clover Blue: The Boy and The Book

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. --Kahlil Gibran

I was a child of the seventies but had little awareness of the cultural revolution that book-ended my rural upbringing. Sheltered within the bubble of small town life, the most scandalous thing ever was when a busload of hippies stopped off at our tiny ice cream parlor clad in flowing gauze and scanty bikinis. 

I remember being seriously bummed that I'd missed the spectacle. Although I was the daughter of an evangelical preacher, it was clear to me from a very young age that a drunken stork must have mistaken Lake Michigan for the Pacific Ocean when he dropped me on our doorstep. While other children were playing hopscotch and jumping rope, my teachers would often find me writing poetry in a field beyond the playground. By the age of thirteen I was writing songs, a guitar slung over my back as I hiked beyond the meadow near our home. I loved my family dearly but I longed to find my tribe.

In writing CLOVER BLUE I wanted to draw a thread through the the needle of those early longings. Not just the fantasy of what it might be like to grow up in a 1970s commune, but someone who grapples with invisible loyalties between family and tribe. The book opens when young Blue attends a birth. He's been told that all the women are equally his mothers. It's not until he witnesses the love between sister-mother Jade and the biological father (Coyote) of their newborn baby that an ache rises in his belly. He wants to know, must know, which of the women gave birth to him. 

“Who did I come out of?”
All heads instantly turn toward me. I look at Willow. “Are you my mother?” Then down at Jade, now clutching the baby to her bare chest. “Or you?”
Harmony stares at me, her big eyes suddenly mirroring my question, the one I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to ask. 

And so begins Clover Blue's quest for truth. Although community leader Goji promises to reveal more when Blue is older, he's fed mere scraps of truth and anecdotal tidbits as he and his best friend Harmony try to weave together the story of his history. Despite his yearning, Clover Blue is conflicted about delving into the unknown because he loves his community and strives to follow the teachings of The Peaceful Way. It isn't until he comes of age and begins to unravel inconsistencies in the stories he's been told that he becomes quietly obsessed with his heritage.

If I had to describe Clover Blue to an interviewer, I'd say he's intelligent, earnest and eager to please. He's a dedicated follower of the community teachings who embraces what he considers an idyllic life, living in a tree house, surrounded by nature and people who love him. It's Blue's best friend Harmony who brings out his lighter side, constantly taunting him with her wicked humor and relentless teasing. Harmony and Blue have been joined at the hip since her mother (Gaia) brought her to SFC at the age of five. Their kinship is a mix of brother-sister rivalry and devoted comrades. 

CLOVER BLUE by Eldonna Edwards
I love writing coming-of-age stories because they are a reflection of the people we were before we became the people we are. It probably comes as no surprise that I eventually moved to California in search of my tribe. I don't live in a commune, but I have created a sacred space to live, love, laugh and write. I can't wait for you to meet Clover Blue, and hopefully, fall in love with him as deeply as I did. Perhaps you'll recognize someone you know. Perhaps that person is a younger version of the one in your mirror.

What about you? What were your deepest longings as you came of age? How have those early desires manifested in your adult life?


Our First Review!

I hope you'll pop over and read this extraordinary in-depth review of CLOVER BLUE by D.B. MooneI'd love it if you leave a comment on her book blog and don't hesitate to share it!

"Mesmerizing and riveting. Eldonna Edwards has written an artistically gripping story that will leave you book-drunk. Clover Blue is a profound, coming of age literary piece of work by an author without limit." --D.B. Moone Book Reviews

CLOVER BLUE is available for Pre-Order at: Barnes & NobleHudson BooksellersAmazon,  Books-A-MillionIndieBoundWalmart,  Amazon (Kindle)AppleGoogleKobo, and Nook.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Everybody Loves Rain: When the "New Girl" Shows Up

I distinctly remember the day Michelle* first appeared in the halls of our high school during the Spring of my sophomore year. A natural beauty, the shiny, new brunette immediately turned heads. My testosterone-fueled classmates were less than obvious in their remarks as Michelle's perfect body with perky boobs, a full head of gorgeous hair, and a perfect mouth that framed sparkling white teeth, breezed past us on her way to class. Of course, we girls stared, too. Michelle was a freak of nature, carved from some unnatural combination of drop-dead-gorgeous looks and bubbly personality that made it difficult to dislike her, even after she'd plucked your boyfriend from under your arm while you were home recovering from mono. 

I knew early on while writing CLOVER BLUE that although life in a commune would be far from boring, there's nothing like having a stranger arrive to shake up the status quo. Early in the story, a young runaway shows up, guided to Saffron Freedom Community by an estranged former member. The men fawn over the new beauty while the women become overly-protective of her. Despite the free-loving nature of the community, one is never sure if the sisters are more worried about the men seducing this naive young woman or her seducing them with her charming innocence. 

What follows is an excerpt from CLOVER BLUE, where young Blue watches as the commune's leader welcomes his newest protege:

The girl stares at her tennis shoes. Other than a smeared dirt hand print on the front of her white pants, she looks like a townie; clean like she just climbed out of a bathtub. She’s so beautiful I can’t stop staring. 
Goji puts a finger under the girl’s chin and lifts her face. With his other hand he sweeps the curtain of white-blond hair out of the way and looks directly into her bright eyes. I can tell by the blotches on her light skin that she’s been crying. I can also see that she’s already under Goji’s spell. That’s just the way it is with him.

From the time we're babes, we humans long to feel special in the eyes of those we love. It's no surprise then that when a stranger's light threatens to cast us into their shadow, our first reactions are jealously, fear and resentment. Hopefully, as in the case of my high school friend Michelle, we come to judge that person based upon who they truly are rather than any threat to our perceived ranking among family or peers. In my case, I was fortunate to remain friends with Michelle, long after she traded in my ex-boyfriend for a new one. 

I loved creating these ragtag characters and I'm looking forward to introducing you to them one by one in the weeks leading up to the release of CLOVER BLUE. In the meantime, think about a time when a stranger showed up in your life. Do you tend to hold back until you get to know a new person, or are you a virtual Welcome Wagon, embracing newcomers to your circle with open arms?

*Name changed to protect privacy. Sadly, like many bright and beautiful beings, we lost "Michelle" much too soon when her life was cut short by breast cancer. This post is dedicated to her beautiful memory.


CLOVER BLUE is now available for Pre-Order!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Out On A Limb: World-Building From The Ground Up

Sanya Nanshan Treehouse Resort | Shi Huai Xun

When I was a young girl I envied our neighbor's adorable playhouse, a miniature home with tiny windows and a real roof, set back among the trees in their back yard. The little house had long been abandoned by their grown daughter but my sisters and I were not allowed to trespass on their fenced property. That didn't keep me from admiring the secret hideaway from our side of the barrier, which seemed more like a wall than a fence when you're a small child. 

What I remember most about the playhouse is the ache of jealousy I felt. I've always been a fan of cozy places. I used to love building forts under sheets draped over tables and sofas or between bales of hay in my friend Paula's old barn. I often hid in the linen closet on the second floor of our five-bedroom parsonage where I crawled between the shelves and wrote secret messages with glow-in-the-dark Play-Doh on the board above my head. One of my other favorite places was the small space between the washer and dryer where I would drag a blanket and let the warm rumbling and churning lull me to sleep. I also loved to hide in closets, a habit that helped inform young Grace Carter's visits with her deceased twin in my debut novel about a clairvoyant preacher's daughter, THIS I KNOW.

Fast forward to my teens when my dear dad gifted us with the best thing ever, an A-frame tree house nestled into a huge tree on the east side of our new house. At first it was a novelty to my younger sister and little brother, aged eight and twelve, but they quickly bored of it. Not me. I practically moved in, covering the walls with square carpet samples donated by Burcon's Furniture Store, coincidentally owned by the same family who'd lived beyond The Great Wall of our earlier home, the one with the forbidden playhouse and teenagers frolicking in an in-ground swimming pool, also off limits to my siblings and me. At age fourteen I carried my guitar up the rickety ladder of the tree house and sang Joni Mitchell songs and wrote a few aching love songs of my own. Mostly I sat  with my legs dangling off the edge of the plywood floor, scribbling bad poetry, my fort swaying as the branch yielded to moody Michigan winds. 

Given my love for trees and hiding places, it likely comes as no surprise that as a volunteer  
My Backyard Writing Shed
screener with our local film festival, I fell in love with a 2009 documentary about a group of free-spirited young people who formed a coalition of independent island-dwellers on the north beach of Kauai. I've long been fascinated by the revolutionary 1960s, the communes, the sloughing off of traditional family structures in favor of tribal life. I've fantasized about living in an intentional community. 

At one point I turned my empty-nest home into a sort of boarding house and filled the rooms with young women who needed a safe place to live. My "girls"  christened our house The Urban Oasis. They've long-since moved on, some now with families of their own, but those young women will always be remembered as part of my evolving tribe. I now live in a tiny converted garage next door to that house, what we call a granny unit here in California. I recently built myself a "playhouse,"  that serves as my writing studio under a Yucca tree in the back yard. Okay yes, it's my grown-up fort. It even has a hanging swing chair.

It's been almost a decade since I first began to conjure a story that incorporates my love of cozy places with my curiosity toward communal living. In about twenty weeks that story will hit bookstore shelves. In CLOVER BLUEthe members of Saffron Freedom Community reside among ancient live oak trees, the largest of which supports their many-roomed tree house. They live free from the weight of cultural norms. Free of clothing, if they wish. Free from overcrowded classrooms. Free to raise their own food and treat illness with herbal remedies rather than Western medicine. But as in all civilizations, freedom requires self-regulation, lest people begin to treat their claimed liberation from society's rules as a sense of entitlement. This concept is the moral challenge I sought to pursue through the eyes of a young boy who grows up dedicated to the precepts of his idyllic community and the tribe he loves. That is until he begins to question everything he's ever learned in his quest for truth, beginning the day the family midwife is preparing for a communal birth.   

I want to be excited, but I'm a little freaked out. I'm worried Jade's baby might not survive, just like the baby goat that got sick and died. Goji forbids doctors and hospitals. We believe in natural medicines. Sirona probably knows what she's doing, but what if she doesn't? What if none of them know what they're doing? --Clover Blue, age 10

I'm counting down the days (145!) until y'all get introduced to young Clover Blue, his best friend Harmony, and the rest of this ragtag clan of tree house dwellers. In the meantime, tell me about your favorite hiding places, your dream oasis, your sacred spaces. Where do/did you go when you need(ed) a quiet place to dream?

Book Trailer for CLOVER BLUE by Eldonna Edwards

I'll leave you with this delightful Shel Silverstein poem from his book, Where The Sidewalk Ends.

A tree house, a free house,
A secret you and me house,
A high up in the leafy branches
Cozy as can be house.
A street house, a neat house,
Be sure to wipe your feet house
Is not my kind of house at all- 
Let's go live in a tree house.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Hippies and Gurus and Communes, Oh My!

Back then it was just the six of us: Goji, Willow, Wave, Jade, Doobie, and me. I don’t remember much from the first couple years after I came here, but sometime during that summer my memories kick in, as if my brain suddenly threw the switch that saves stuff.  --Clover Blue

When I was a girl I envied my sisters for each having a unique nickname, endearingly handed out by my dad. My oldest sibling Sharon was called Queenie due to her towering height. Luanne was LuLu, Mari-Beth was Izzy, Nita was Neat (although she spelled it "Nete") and LaVonne was Ree, short for her middle name, Marie.  My baby brother David we called Gus, or more commonly, Gassy Gus, for obvious reasons. Me? I was simply Donna, although my sisters recently informed me that my nickname was actually Pinch-Face so maybe I just blocked the memory. 

One of the most thrilling parts of beginning a new novel is getting to name your "children". CLOVER BLUE is set in a 1960s/70s Northern California spiritual commune led by a quiet but charismatic man who gathers like-minded people to live a life that he terms The Peaceful Way. Each member of Saffron Freedom Community chooses or is given a new name when they join the family. As someone who lives in California and with a twenty-five-year career in massage therapy, I'm pretty sure I've heard every hippie-dippy-woo-woo-hooky-do name out there so I assumed this task would be easy. 

Long before typing the first words of the book, I made a list of my characters and their qualities, then assigned them a unique name. Besides Clover Blue and his best friend Harmony, whose namings are revealed as the story unfolds, Jao Ji  was the first name that came to me for the group's founder, given to him by an Indian guru. I wanted the leader's title to be a bit of a puzzle, just as he is. I liked the sound of the word. In Hindi Jao means "go" and Ji is a suffix of respect. So to my mind, having traveled throughout Eastern Asia before starting the commune, it felt like a fitting name for him. 

The next two names were given to prominent characters Willow and Wave, who, despite the free love enjoyed during the sexual revolution, remain steadfast in their love for each other. Willow is a skilled yogi and Wave a former surfer who abandoned the sea after an encounter with a shark. Another original member, Doobie gets his moniker from not only being the family marijuana cultivator, but also the person who consumes most of the product. It's a friendly name, which reflects Doobie's easy-going personality. 

On and on my list went with names like Lyric, Tao, Peace, Feather and Earth, a singer-songwriter, a thespian, a war protester, a bee-keeper and a wildish woman who worships nature. As the story progresses, three more characters show up: a teen-aged girl called Rain, midwife Serena, and Lotus, a neighboring artist. Other characters appear on the list, minor characters, and together I created a lively cast of spiritual seekers devoted to living a peaceful life in nature, far from the madding crowd. But as the story unfolded on the pages and these people came into better focus, they evolved from simple characters to three-dimensional human beings with a past and a purpose. Some wore their names perfectly while others began to slough off the names I'd given them, begging for a more suitable one. 

Jao Ji became Goji, a bastardization of what his teacher had called him, underscoring his flawed self-image. Rather than "Respected Traveler" his name became simply a plant with berries. Peace was renamed Coyote when he evolved from being just an army deserter to a man whose integrity runs much deeper than his politics. Earth became Gaia as she grew into her unpredictable wildness. I changed Feather to Jade because she is a much stronger, more independent woman than I'd first imagined. And sadly, Lyric and Tao disappeared from the pages as I tightened the cast and killed off my darlings.

What I realized while writing Clover Blue is that it would have been easy to take the lazy route and write caricatured versions of every hippie or flower child I've ever met, read about or seen on the screen. But the characters in CLOVER BLUE are more than their names. They are part of a collective tribe yet each with distinct passions and motivations, just like you and me. Mine just happens to be conjuring worlds full of imagined people and places to entertain and hopefully, enlighten readers. I sincerely hope you enjoy the time you spend with them as much as I did creating them.

CLOVER BLUE is now available for Pre-Order!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

When Breath Becomes Heir

*Note: Beginning last week with the Cover Reveal for my next book, CLOVER BLUE, I'll be posting weekly-ish peeks into the story ahead of release on May 28, 2019. Be sure to subscribe via the button on the left to stay updated! 

When I was about seven years old, I sat at my desk in our tiny elementary school, staring at the pencil between my fingers, turning my hand this way and that. I remember very distinctly a dawning awareness of my hand attached to my arm, my breaths leaving my mouth, my body separate from my thoughts. In that brief existential moment, I suddenly understood that what I was, was not who I was. 

It was a strange feeling, this new realization that my body would grow and change but that the person inside having those thoughts would remain. The experience, however brief, left an indelible mark on my memory. At fifty-nine years old I still remember that epiphany almost as clearly as if it happened yesterday. 

As children we accept what we're told and rarely question the past as it fades in the wake of our maturation. And yet for most of us, there comes a point where we begin to ponder our existence, how we fit into the world, our families and the surrounding environment. We yearn to identify as a member of the human tribe that begins with our parents and siblings, stretching outward toward extended family, friends, and community. The older we get, the more our world expands to include our country, our planet, and the seemingly-infinite universe. 

In my next novel, Clover Blue, my young protagonist is missing a piece of his biological puzzle. He lives in a spiritual commune in Northern California without running water or electricity. Each day begins with yoga and ends with meditation. They sleep in an elaborate treehouse, raise their own food, and the Youngers are nature-schooled. Clover Blue is twelve years old when he begins to reflect upon his connections beyond Saffron Freedom Community:

I have no memory of anything before here. Sometimes when we’re in town at the library or the store, I hear a voice and it sounds familiar. Once in a while a smell reaches into my brain and tries to call up the past, but it’s always dark and flat. Maybe I don’t want to remember. Maybe it was bad. Or maybe it was so good it would hurt too much to remember.

And so begins Blue's search for identity among the ragtag tribe of folks who've raised
him. People like Goji, the commune founder, Jade, their former beekeeper, Wave, a guitar-playing surfer and his "old lady" Willow, a yoga enthusiast. Although Blue loves his unique family--especially his funny and fiercely independent best friend, Harmony--he aches to know more about his roots and how he ended up at Saffron Freedom Community. 

What about you? Can you remember when you first began to assert your autonomy as an individual? Was it a lightning bolt revelation or was it a more gradual understanding of your place in the world?

Have I piqued your interest yet? I hope you'll follow this blog to learn more about my earnest young protagonist and his ragtag tribe. If you add Clover Blue to your Goodreads shelf and your BookBub wish-list you'll be notified of any news like giveaways or deals. The book is also available for pre-order online. Descriptions of all my books, including my debut novel This I Know and my memoir Lost In Transplantation can be found HERE

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Birth of A Book (And A Cover Reveal!)

Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
As I read excerpts from my novels while leading a recent writing workshop  at our local library, it occurred to me that although not intentional, both This I Know and my 2019 release, Clover Blue begin with a birth. The prologue of This I Know features twins Grace and Isaac communicating their last thoughts to each other during the final moments before birth:

I'm spooning my Other, my belly to his back. I love the way his body feels against mine. Although we've changed positions many times,  we always come back to this...

My goal was to capture the sibling's love for each other, but also their fear of separation. I'm not a twin and of course I don't remember being in the womb, but I do know how it feels to love. And I have endured the depth and weight of loss many times over so it wasn't that difficult to imagine how  vulnerable these two tiny humans might feel as they leave the safety of their mother's womb to face the unknown reality of the outer world. 

Authors often compare writing a book to pregnancy, and the eventual release, to birth. It's true that incubating a story takes months, often years, and there's no greater feeling than seeing your book come to life on bookstore shelves and in the hands of readers. Writing, editing, rewriting and revising is hard labor, but the rewards are plenty. One of those rewards is seeing your book cover for the very first time. I remember literally squealing when I first received the cover comps for This I Know. As some of you might remember, the real-life mother of that gorgeous red-headed child on the cover found me on Facebook and shared more photos of her daughter to use in our book trailer. 

My next book won't be out for another 175 days (whose counting, right?) but this is the week I get to reveal the cover. Before I do, I'd like to share the opening sentences to give you a feel for the book:

The Olders are letting us watch the birth. Harmony runs up the path ahead of me, her bare feet kicking up a cloud of dust. When she gets to the teepee she turns and yells, "Come on Blue! Aren't you excited?"

This story takes place in a fictional Northern California commune during the 1960s and 70s. The novel opens with young Clover Blue on his way to a birth, attended by the Saffron Freedom Community midwife. His fiercely independent best friend Harmony can't wait for the event but Blue holds back, fearful. And with good reason:

I walk slowly, taking small steps. I might be old enough at ten, but that doesn't mean I'm ready for this. I can't shake the memory of when our nanny goat, Inga, had a baby a couple years ago. She ate the sac around her kid and other stuff that came out of her afterward. I hope we don't have to eat anything that comes out after Jade's baby is born. We're vegetarian so probably not. But you never know with this family.

I loved writing Clover Blue. It was a unique opportunity to imagine coming of age in a spiritual commune among a tribe of bohemian seekers that includes a beekeeper, an army deserter, a surfer, a yoga enthusiast, a pot farmer, and their guru, among others. What would it be like to sleep in an elaborate tree house? To live in harmony with nature, without electricity or running water? To start each day with yoga and end it with meditation? To be raised equally by all the members, not knowing who your biological parents are?

Starting this week I hope to post weekly sneak peeks of passages from Clover Blue. I read the first several pages in a Live Video on my Facebook page yesterday (reading starts at 10:30) if you'd like to listen. I hope you'll follow this blog to learn more about my earnest young protagonist and his caretakers. If you add Clover Blue to your Goodreads shelf and your BookBub wish-list you'll be notified of any news like giveaways or deals. The book is also available for pre-order online. And now...drum roll please...I present the amazing cover for CLOVER BLUE. I look forward to reading your comments!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Drawn to The Fire: How Tragedy Brings Us Together

California is burning. I'm fortunate not to be in close proximity to any of the currently active wildfires, but my son lives just four miles from the Camp Fire in Northern California. Jacob and I communicated by text throughout Thursday night as the fire consumed over 6,400 homes, 230 businesses, and innumerable creatures in its path. His neighborhood was supposedly still safe, but what if the winds shifted? Should he wait or evacuate with a few possessions and his cats? Would he lose the job he'd just started, located a stone's throw from the fire line?

In the end my son decided to stay put, although he packed up his car with life-saving necessities, staged valuables near the door, and made sure his gas tank was full and devices charged. While we waited for any new alerts or fire updates, videos of terrified families began popping up on social media. Cars driving through flames, people abandoning their vehicles to flee on foot, the sounds of exploding propane tanks punctuating the terror. By midway through the next day we learned of several residents who didn't get out in time, of injured firefighters, and of overflowing shelters. The #CampFire has already exploded to over 100,000 acres, the largest and most devastating fire loss in California wildfire history. As I write this on Saturday morning, it's just 20% contained. The air quality across the state is equal to Beijing's. And more fires have started.

When I was a young mother, my car and U-Haul caught on fire while driving with everything we owned from Houston, Texas to Tuscon, Arizona. All my photos and journals, my beloved 12-string guitar, and all our clothing went up in flames. I stood at the side of the road holding my one-year-old baby, watching the black smoke engulf the car. I marveled at how fast the fire grew and how lucky we were to have escaped unharmed. The experience was traumatic, but what I remember most were the people who stopped to help. The family who played with my little girl while I talked with the police. A woman who comforted me as I cried. RV owners who offered us a ride to our destination. 

Loss changes you, be it physical possessions. a home, a marriage, or a loved one. Fire is a fierce metaphor for transformation. I used it in This I Know, to underscore how tragedy brings people together, and refuels our humanity. We're already seeing it happen around the fires. People who've lost their own homes volunteering at shelters. An evacuee who rescued a puppy. An RV couple who picked up people fleeing from the fire. And firefighters who rescued a donkey. At a time when our country feels so divided, it fills me with hope when I see us helping each other. 

While the wildfires rage around us, it's the flame within us that propels us forward and defines us as human beings. Once again I'm reminded of my favorite Ram Dass quote, "We are all just walking each other home." Grab someone's hand. Hold your people close. Remember why we're here. 

We are all just walking each other home

If you'd like to contribute to the relief fund for the 6,432 families who lost their homes in a single day, you can join me in contributing to NorCal United Way <-----by clicking on that link, or texting BUTTERFIRE to 91999. All proceeds from sales of any of my books during the month of November will be donated to victims of the #CampFire in Butte County.