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Family Inheritance Cover Art Smaller FamilyYesterday I received my first negative review on my debut novel, Family Inheritance, that will release in October. I’m okay with the fact that somebody didn’t like the book because I don’t like every book I read. What I’m concerned about is the message in her review. Here’s part of the review:

Coming from a mental health career, the idea that these characters resolved major trauma so easily is insulting. No one opens up that easily or quickly and especially three women who haven’t seen each other in over 20 years. The dialogue was ‘cheesy’ and very predictable.

I agree, no one resolves major trauma ‘so easily’ but these women had been dealing with their individual trauma for those 20 years, and had each reached a crisis point. We’ve all gone through traumas in our lives, some of them very major, and those of us who have survived and thrived understand that there is a moment when everything changes — when our thought processes change because of something we read or something someone said, or people come into our life who help us understand that we are better than our circumstances. When those things come together, resolving past experiences and trauma can be that ‘easy’ to use the reviewer’s word.

I don’t often share private stories in public venues, but I will share one here to help make my point. I was married for the first time when I was just over 18 years old. I knew him for two years and he seemed kind and loving. But . . . two weeks after we were married, I had the audacity to talk to him while he was watching a football game and he proceeded to beat me and leave me curled up in a ball, sobbing on our bed. That was the first beating I endured, but it was far from the last. And all the while, I kept thinking it was my fault . .  . that I was saying or doing something that made him mad enough to beat me.

I stayed in that marriage for 14 years. My parents were both alcoholics so the culture I had grown up in taught me to not talk, to keep everything private, and put on a good front. And that’s what I did. No one had a clue as to what I was enduring at home, not even my parents or my own siblings. If I had a black eye, I covered it with makeup or blamed it on being clumsy. If my legs and arms were covered with bruises, I wore pants and long-sleeved blouses. I learned to cope because at that point, it’s all I knew how to do.

Then, during a coffee break at work one day, a co-worker was reading a book that caught my interest. When she finished reading it, she loaned it to me. It was Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer. His words began to open up new ways of thought, and the co-worker and I started sharing personal experiences. In that safe environment, at that time, it was ‘easy’ to open up and it happened quickly with this person because I was ready. My private hell had gotten to be too much to bear alone.

My thoughts began to shift. Then, more caring people started coming into my life telling me ‘cheesy’ things like: I was important, they cared about me, I made a difference in the world. My mindset started to change and with that new mindset came new ways of behaving and new choices. While life still had its challenges, things were ‘easy’ compared to what I had previously endured. I left the marriage, started caring about myself, surrounding myself with positive people, and making choices that created a good, safe life.

I rebel against people who want to continue the victim mindset that says things can’t feel easy and that solutions to our issues can’t be simplistic. Why can’t they be? There is a saying I use quite often in my life, “To change your life, change your mind.” I’m not sure where it originally came from, but it is one of the most powerful sayings I’ve every heard. It doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to slide back to what you knew. What it means is that you now know a different way of being and you get to choose each day which way you’ll go.

Don’t let anybody or anything tell you that recovering from a past experience or trauma can’t get to a point where it feels easy and simplistic. That’s your choice. As for me and my life, bring on the ‘easy’ and the ‘cheesy’.

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I feel like I need a drum roll, or a curtain being raised as I wait in excitement and anticipation to see what the audience will think. After all, the cover for my debut novel which will release in October, is a big deal to me.

It always amazes me how things can be happening all around us, all the time, and we don’t notice any significance until we step into those shoes. I’ve been surrounded by book covers ever since I was a young child and began to love and be fascinated by books; and I still have that fascination to this day. But, until I started working with my publisher on my own book cover, I had no idea of the love,  patience, creativity, thought, and work that goes into creating a good cover for a book. Nor did I really understand the extreme importance of a strong cover that will draw the audience to the book and then to open the pages and want to take the book (or eBook) home.

When we first started creating a book cover for Family Inheritance, I had an idea and concept in mind. Yet, as the publishing team and I worked together, new concepts started to emerge, and the characters from the book began to make themselves known in regards to the cover. (I know . . . for those of you who are not fiction writers, I’m beginning to sound a bit nutty.) Then one day, it just fit. The book, the cover, and the characters all seemed to belong together in one solid unit. Now, I can’t imagine the cover being any different than it is.

So, this phase is done. The book is in its finishing stages of being polished and honed, my marketing plan is coming together, and stage fright is starting to set in. Ahhhhh, the joys of being of author. But, I’m loving every moment of it.

Imagine a drum roll as the curtain slowly opens. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to present . . .

Family Inheritance Cover Art Smaller Family

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A week before Thanksgiving I was on my way to a poetry reading at our local Barnes & Noble where I intended to read from my book For a Grieving Heart. Before the event, a friend and I stopped for dinner at a local restaurant and starting chatting with some people we know. I mentioned that I was nervous about the poetry reading and one of the guys said something to the effect of “You do stuff like this all the time. Why are you nervous?”

My mind filled with responses like “Dah! What do my abilities have to do with my feelings?” but Mom and life have taught me to seldom speak words that quickly rush to my tongue without going through my mind to ensure they are appropriate. So, I bit my tongue, smiled, and explained that because the poetry was written during my time of grief after my son died, it was harder to read.

But the whole conversation got me thinking. What do abilities have to do with feelings? Not a thing! Just because we’re good at something doesn’t mean we know that we are, or that we don’t feel scared, intimidated, less than, overwhelmed, etc. In fact, very often, the things we are good at from the world’s perspective are the things that we feel the most frightened by. But if we can identify our fear, take steps to minimize it to the best of our abilities, and then move forward anyway, some of our greatest experiences and most pleasant moments might just be waiting for us.

I knew that reading my poetry in public was intimidating for me because I’ve never studied poetry, don’t know all of the “requirements” for a good poem, these poems are especially emotional for me, etc. and I had some fear about really making a fool of myself. So, I enlisted my good friend Betsy to come with me to ensure I wouldn’t chicken out, and to give me the assurance that at least one person there would like the stuff.

When we got to the reading I discovered that the event leader that particular night was a retired professor who had taught poetry at Radford University and the knot in my stomach enlarged to the point that it was also pushing against my throat. As panic was pulling me toward the door, Betsy’s chatter and encouragement kept me heading toward the chair.

I made it through, read my poetry, and met some delightful people. My poetry was received well. The professor from Radford encouraged me to keep writing and to even study poetry because I apparently have a natural talent for it. Who knew!

Once again, I was reminded that our fears are seldom attached to reality, but that doesn’t mean they don’t often show up in our lives, grab us by the throat, and tempt us to run and hide instead of moving forward to continually discover more about ourselves and life in general.

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Yesterday, my husband and I were headed into a very busy post office when we were met by a toddler charging  full speed toward the door with a harried mother close behind. I stepped into the little guy’s path, slowing him down enough that Mom was able to scoop him up and head back to the counter to try to finish her business.

The toddler wasn’t going to make it easy. He squirmed so much that Mom had to place him down on the floor again just so she could pay for her outgoing packages. With the determination of a toddler, he once again focused on the front door. I quickly moved around the counter and into his path and began talking with him. His curiosity about me deterred him long enough that Mom was able to finish her business, gather her young son in her arms, and go on her way. But not before giving me a huge smile and thank you.

As we were leaving the post office my husband scurried ahead a bit to open the door for an older woman who seemed to be struggling with the heavy door, and that’s when I began thinking about the spirit of giving and the importance of just being there to help in a myriad of situations. Gifting doesn’t always involve money, although financially helping others in need is a wonderful way to express the spirit of giving, and it certainly isn’t limited to the Christmas season. My thoughts went to the many times throughout the year that I received gifts from wonderful random people:

  • The homemade Christmas card that was in my mailbox from the young couple across the street.
  • The man in the Starbucks drive-up line who had apparently handed the cashier a sum of money and told her to pay for as many people behind him as the money would allow. I was one of those delightfully surprised people.
  • The many times someone will open a door for me.
  • The woman at the grocery store who stopped her shopping and moved out of the crowded aisle to let my daughter who had just had back surgery, maneuver the “drive yourself” cart through the crowd.
  • The kindness of my fellow authors who donated books to a library in my mother’s name when she passed away this year.
  • Text messages in the middle of a busy day from people who just want to let me know they’re thinking about me.

And the list goes on. Each week, my life is made better by the thoughtfulness of the people around me. And that spirit of giving exists all year long, but we often don’t stop to think about it or even recognize it. Thanks to the busy little toddler and his mom, offering a spirit of giving every day and appreciating all the ways that I receive are now tops on my list of “to do’s” this Christmas season and every day thereafter.

 

 

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I remember the first time I saw the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. It was July 4, 1989, and I became motivated! The whole process of running in a race, gathered with thousands of people, all with one purpose—to make it to the finish line as quickly as you can—really got my blood pumping. So right then and there I decided that I was going to start running and get in shape for the race the following year.

So I started running every morning at 6:00 a.m. before getting ready for work. The first day was hard and I wasn’t sure I’d make it past the stretching. But I did and I ran a mile. And the next day, and the next, and the next. I gave myself two days off a week, but I stayed consistent and focused. I made it up to two miles and then three, but the process was hard. The pains in my legs were strong and my feet were screaming at the end of each session.

I bought new running shoes, I stretched some more, got massages, purchased special socks and running gear, but my speed didn’t increase, my endurance wasn’t improving, and my pains weren’t going away. So I went to the doctor and found out that I have a genetic muscle deformity that prevents my muscles from performing normally. I decided to get another opinion and another. As my chiropractor puts it, even today, my feet are not my friends. True, I could keep running but the pain would probably never lessen, my speed and endurance weren’t getting any better, and probably wouldn’t. I had most likely reached the pinnacle of what I would be able to do as a runner. I continued to attend races and watch the runners whose bodies so fluidly moved mile after mile, looking like it was effortless, even though I knew that was not true. I kept hoping that maybe by watching them I would discover some secret that would help me change my body and get it to do what my heart and mind wanted.

My heart was broken. I’m of the mindset that we can do anything if we put our mind, intentions, and efforts into it. But there I was, faced with the reality that the best I could do in running wasn’t going to get me to the front of any race and it probably wouldn’t even get me to the finish line, unless it was a short race.

So I gave up running. I pride myself on not being a quitter so it was a tough decision but I learned a big lesson—none of us is going to be able to do everything well. Now I look at the things I can do well and I embrace them, celebrate them, and give thanks daily.

But I will admit—to this day, I envy runners.

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