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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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Image I don’t consider myself a poet—even though I have written some poetry—and I certainly don’t like all poetry. But I have to admit that there is something wonderfully magical and even spiritually healing about writing and/or reading it. Only in a poem can three or four lines resonate with feelings that don’t have to be explained, a back story that doesn’t have to be told, and a voice that is simply accepted for what it is.

I’m not a person who memorizes poetry or even the names of poets, yet I have several poems that are earmarked for easy access, and each time I slowly read them out loud, they calm and mesmerize me.

I love the writings of Kahlil Gibran and often read Song of the Flower. I will share the first six lines with you and highly recommend that you seek out this poem to read it in its entirety.

I am a kind word uttered and repeated

By the voice of Nature;

I am a star fallen from the

Blue tent upon the green carpet.

I am the daughter of the elements

With whom Winter conceived;

Yet, with all its beauty and wisdom, poetry is not as well read as fiction and poets have fewer outlets in which they can share their talent, their craft, and their appreciation for beautifully written verse. That’s why I love it that April has been designated as National Poetry Month. During thirty full days, poetry can take center stage to revel in its own beauty, and poets are encouraged to come to the forefront. It’s a time that those of us who dabble in poetry from time to time are encouraged to slow down, clear our minds of things we have to do or characters we are creating, to let the words flow in lyrical verses that we can then hone and tweak to be shared or set aside to be enjoyed in quiet moments.

From time to time, I’ll come upon a verse whose simple words guide me daily in how I want to live, and I’ll end this post with one of my favorites from Longfellow, A Psalm of LIfe:

Lives of great men all remind us

                  We can make our lives sublime,

 And, departing, leave behind us

                 Footprints on the sands of time.

If you are a poet, or someone who dabbles in the craft, BQB Publishing is sponsoring a poetry contest worth checking out. The information is posted on their Facebook page.

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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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I absolutely love writing; especially when I can step into that “space beyond the mind” where the story just flows, often with the characters leading the way. To anyone who isn’t a writer, that phrase probably sounds a bit Schizophrenic, but to other writers, it’s a well-known and desirable state. It’s when we are writing from that space that our stories and the words that end up on the page can leave us with the feeling. . .”Wow, I wrote that?”

As I’m working with my publisher’s team to get my novel ready for release next October, I’ve been experiencing some of those moments. This last week I received the draft of my back cover blurb for my approval and tweaking, and as I read the synopsis of the story, I must admit, I was drawn in. It was a curious moment for me to read the description of the book from someone else’s perspective.

Called to the bedside of their dying mother, three sisters reluctantly return to their childhood home in northern Minnesota. What should be a reunion of love and warmth is tainted by the ghosts of their childhood; their parents’ farm is a place of painful memories. With their mother slipping into a coma, Helene leaves behind a shell of a marriage in Atlanta—her country club lifestyle not at all what it seems. Alice has finally fled an abusive husband but is afraid her failing courage will put her children in danger. Waking up beside yet another stranger, Suzanne can no longer deny how an alcohol addiction may destroy everything she’s worked for—an addiction that barely masks the terrible wounds on her soul.

They may have escaped the farm, but Helene, Alice, and Suzanne find they are still perpetuating a cycle of pain, abuse, alcoholism, anger, fear, and bitterness. Seeing themselves through each other’s eyes, the sisters are forced to confront their demons as their mother’s presence supports them in a way she never could in life, on a journey of healing, of awakening. Slowly, the women tread through the wreckage of the past to create lives filled with hope, love, and triumph—building a legacy of the heart.

As my eyes scanned the words and my mind formed a visual picture of the story, I forgot that it was my book, my story. In those brief seconds, I was a reader. The story pulled at me and I wanted to know more about these women. When I finished, a small smile touched my lips as I sat back in my chair and  thought, “I’d read that book.”

For a few brief seconds I was totally mesmerized by the words and not besought with the quest to continually make the story better, the characters stronger, the book perfect. For a moment in time I stepped out of the shoes of the writer and into the pleasurable experience of being a reader. Then a big grin consumed my face as I thought. . .”Wow, I wrote that book?”

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