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? 


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THIS I KNOW BY ELDONNA EDWARDS
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, the 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 our 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 then the 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 yesterday, 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.

eldonna edwards this i know



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,

Eldonna

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. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Eagle Has (Almost) Landed

Apollo 11 Moon Landing
I was ten years old when astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historical Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969. It happened on a Sunday, between morning and evening church services, which is fortunate because had it been a few hours earlier or later, I'd have missed it. Moon landing or not, nobody in our house ever got to skip church unless they were sick. And by sick you either had to have a fever over 100 degrees or throw up, both rather hard to fake. 

I know this because I tried many times to fool my parents so I could stay home to watch Wonderful World of Disney. One time I went so far as to eat pickles and ice cream, then let my sister spin me around in a plastic sledding saucer because The Wizard of Oz was going to be on. It didn't work, other than to make me queasy for the next couple hours which, of course, I spent at church. As if the upset stomach wasn't  torture enough, I still had to listen to my peers going on and on about the amazing movie at school the next day.

Not only were the astronauts kind enough to land on the moon at three in the afternoon, but they waited to take their moon walk until after evening services let out. I raced across the street and gathered around our black-and-white set with my parents and six siblings. I knew this was a big deal. Not just because we'd read about it in our Weekly Reader or because I was allowed to stay up past my nine o'clock bedtime. It was a big deal because my parents usually spent Sunday evenings lingering over coffee and pastries with one or two of the deacons and their wives, but on this night they came straight home after the last Amen.

My dad wasn't too keen on the whole space exploration thing. He believed that if the good Lord wanted us to walk on the moon he would've put us there in the first place. I don't recall much about what I saw on TV that night other than the squeals and shushing between my siblings as the big event unfolded. What I remember most is laying in bed afterward, worrying about those two men up there so far away. How the heck they were supposed to make it all the way back home? What if a whale swallowed their tiny pod when it crashed into the sea, just like the one that swallowed Jonah in the Bible, perhaps punishment for going against the laws of God?

Of course they did land safely and the rest is history, but I remain fascinated by the idea of we humans having the ambition to send a spaceship to the moon. Nearly fifty years later I realize every grand idea starts with a small spark of imagination. For some, it's the idea of planting a flag on the moon. For others, it's merely planting one word in front of the other, day after day after livelong day. Y'all are my rocket fuel. And when that book finally hits the shelf? That's my eagle landing. That's my flag. One small step for a woman. One giant leap of faith.

What about you? Where were you when Apollo 11 landed?* What small steps are you taking to launch YOUR dreams? 

*For those of you born too late, ask your parents. ;) 


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Only 106 more days until THIS I KNOW launches. Now available for Pre-order Online or at your favorite indie bookstore.



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Writing Season

Eldonna Edwards
A little before midnight on the very last day of 2017, I emailed the revised manuscript for my next book to the publisher. As the document whooshed its way toward New York, I felt a little thrilled and a little lost. Having been totally immersed in editing this story for the last two months, the realization that I was finally done was both liberating and terrifying. My first thought was, it good enough? That thought was immediately followed by, now what?

People often ask writers where they get their ideas. The obvious answer is that we get them from life, from our experiences, and from the what-ifs that hit us in the shower or the grocery store or while driving. (All places, by the way, where you are least able to write them down.) But beyond the spark of ideas there needs to be an inner voice nudging us to tell a story. Not just the story we want to write, the one we must write.

The idea for my debut novel was gifted on a platter, nay, a silver-plated communion plate. As the daughter of a rural evangelical minister, I teethed on the back of church pews. I  think I always knew I'd someday write this book. 

From the Author Notes in THIS I KNOW:  

Every story begins with "What if...?" and here's where truth and fiction part ways. What if my dad had been a bit of a tyrant rather than the loving, compassionate, imperfect man that he was? What if instead of a rebellious teen with a wild imagination, one of his children was born with something that challenged his deeply-held convictions? 

And from there, a story about a clairvoyant preacher's daughter who comes of age in the 1960's Midwest took hold.

My next book, the one I just sent off to the publisher, was borne of a lifelong fascination with the cultural revolution. Having grown up just a beat behind the peaceniks and flower children, I missed out on Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury and the idealist generation of hippies who turned on, tuned in and dropped out. I used to fantasize about living in a commune, learning from enlightened masters, and living off the land. In writing my next book, I turned those imaginings into the story of a young boy who grqapples with invisible loyalties as he comes of age among a ragtag group of offbeat characters who live at the Saffron Freedom Community in Northern California. There's a guru, a midwife, a Vietnam deserter, a surfer, a yoga enthusiast, a tarot card reader and a runaway teen, among others. All that's missing is Ken Kesey's bus.

Now that the first book is about to launch and the next one is written, I've discovered that the ecstasy of accomplishment is sometimes encased in a thin shell of panic. Unlike the first two novels, book number three hasn't burst forth from my consciousness, screaming for attention. I have a few ideas germinating but they're just tiny seeds. I guess you could say it's the winter of my creative cycle. But the thing about seasons is that they change, and I have to trust that those riotous roots are conjuring up a hell of a good story. In the meantime, I'm pretty excited about the one that's about ready to be born. 





Thursday, December 28, 2017

Womb for Two

Quote about twins and birth and pregnancy

Growing up in my tiny hometown of New Era, Michigan, my two very best friends were identical twin girls. Wendy and Lili looked almost exactly alike but their personalities were quite distinct. I remember I felt really lucky having not one, but two bffs. I figured if one of them ever tired of climbing trees with me the other would always be available for jump rope or hopscotch or playing on the monkey bars. 

This assumption made sense in principle but what usually happened was that the twins would both tire of me at the same time, preferring each other's company over mine. As much as I wanted to believe I was their very best friend, that honor was reserved for each other.

Although I've never given birth to twins, in my debut novel, THIS I KNOW, I was able to draw on my personal experience when writing about Grace and her twin, Isaac. Unlike my childhood friends, the characters aren't identical twins but they share a bond that begins in the womb. I tried to imagine what it might be like for these tiny humans in those final moments before birth.  


From the Prologue of THIS I KNOW:

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. Over the last few months our warm-water pool has slowly transformed into a room with soft walls shaped like us. Now we’re squeezed so snugly together I sometimes forget where I leave off and he begins. From the time we joined each other in the darkness we’ve felt as one, exchanging thoughts merely by thinking them. If a question forms in my mind, he answers. We know each other as well as we know ourselves...

Having grown up with six siblings, I tend to enjoy stories about families, especially those set in small towns where everyone knows everyone else. I created the fictional setting of Cherry Hill, Michigan to reflect the small lakeside towns I remember from my childhood. In some way, I think we all ache for that sense of belonging, the collective nourishment of community--perhaps stemming from that first primordial connection to our mothers. In my case, between my dad's church and my immediate family, we had a built-in village that grew every time my parents produced another child. No twins, but we share a  loving bond that continues well into our adult lives.

Writing a book is not all that much different than pregnancy, albeit it a rather long one. It takes me about nine months between the spark of an idea and the full swell of a story--what I call the conjuring phase. After that there's lots of revising and editing (active labor!) and then, good lord willin' and the creek don't rise, the publisher loves it and a book is born. My book baby will make its entry into the world on April 24, 2018. I can hardly wait to hold her in my hands. 
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"In THIS I KNOW, Eldonna Edwards has crafted a compelling allegorical tale about the fear of otherness in this coming-of-age tale set in the late 1960's and early 1970's in Midwestern America. Readers of all ages will find an unlikely hero in 11-year-old Grace Marie Carter, who was born with a type of clairvoyance she calls the "Knowing" - as she bravely forges her own path in a world that is constantly trying to silence her voice." --Amy Impellizzeri, award-winning author of THE TRUTH ABOUT THEA

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Embracing the Monkey

Several years ago while studying massage therapy, I decided to commit to a meditation practice. I guess you could say I dabbled in meditation, because my many attempts to tame what the instructor referred to as "Monkey Mind" were a complete failure. No matter how long I sat or how many times I "noticed my thoughts" or pretended the thought was just a leaf passing by in a stream, I'd end up wondering where that leaf was going and I'd follow it. I'd follow it over rapids and to the bank and then who or what might be on the bank and speaking of the bank, did I deposit my last check? Was I overdrawn? I'd open one eye to sneak a peek at the clock. Is the bank still open?

This, my friends, is what it's like to live with an untamed mind that simultaneously moves in multiple directions; a Dr. Seuss many-geared thingamabob with thisorthats and flufferbloots beeping and blooping around this pinball machine in my head. My teachers used to call people like me scatterbrained but my thoughts are anything but scattered. They're organized into unique slots on many levels, like a hi-rise condo with compartments for everything from household chores to driving to managing my massage business to storing ideas for the next blog post or novel. Where most people visit one resident of the condo at a time, it's like I have multiple versions of myself shaking hands with everyone concurrently. 

Meditation was not a complete failure because it gifted me with a fresh perspective on self-realization. Monkey Mind isn't a fault, it's an asset. (Just ask any successful multi-tasking waitress.) What I learned from observing my crazy thought process was to respect it rather than shame it. Thinking is a form of meditation. Walking and dancing are moving meditations. And for me, writing is a creative meditation where the zen-like flow of words enables me to become one with my most inspired self, allowing my thoughts to branch off in several directions like those "choose your own adventure" books my kids used to read.

Today, my young protagonist in THIS I KNOW would likely be diagnosed with ADHD. Grace Carter is a daydreamer with lots of questions not only about how the world works, but why it exists and her purpose in it. People close to Grace try to tame her wild mind. Curiosity often results in her getting into trouble. But her unrelenting inquisitiveness also results in discovering answers to some of her questions. And writing this book was a wonderful opportunity to follow that leaf with Grace to its many possible destinations.

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My debut novel, THIS I KNOW, releases April 24, 2018. Follow me on Good Reads to be updated about future giveaways and blog posts. You can also pre-order my book on Amazon or from you local bookstore.