Category Archives: book reviews, interviews & celebrity views

Interview with Gina Holmes, author of Wings of Glass and founder of Novel Rocket

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Gina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and a Southern Indie Bookseller’s Okra Pick. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit www.ginaholmes.com.

Your 3rd novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.

What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

As a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters entered abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me …until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him.

I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships. I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a codependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction … or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of codependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And, of course, I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

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Which of the characters in the novel is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae.

Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually find myself missing her presence.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?

Favorite:

Making my own schedule. I love when I’m feeling bad one day knowing that I don’t have to punch a clock. I can just take the day off and then work harder the next. Of course, there’s a lot of other things I love about writing, like allowing others to consider another point of view that may be far different from their own.

Least favorite:

There’s a joke that when you work for yourself you at least get to pick which eighteen hours of the day you want. That’s true. Working from home means I’m always at work. Most days I work from about 7:30 a.m. until about eight at night. Under deadline, it’s worse.

Truly understanding how much the success of a book rides on the shoulders of the author is a blessing and a curse. Because I get that no one is more invested in the success of my books than me, I put in a LOT of time on the publicity/marketing end of things. It’s tiring but an investment that I think pays off in the long run.

You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans, was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

Never say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work.

Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plotline is completely different. I started out writing suspense but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

You’re known for your quirky characters. What inspires you to write these types into each book?

Honestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky, and so are my friends.

Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything  (and genre, marketing and reader expectations didn’t matter), what would you write?

Speaking of quirky … I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme.

In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk, but I’m always having to play it down because it’s so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly!

Will I? Probably not unless I use a penname. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s lots in life I want to do, but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers, and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success. There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success.

It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success and maybe even happiness depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel Rocket.com and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also connects you to the writing community. Community is important.

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From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny’s happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn’t the last, yet the bruises that can’t be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

Thanks, Gina, for a heart-warming interview, as well as for all you do for other authors and for your readers.

Wrecked by Jeff Goins, online book tour

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Why would you want to? Find out in Wrecked.

I was fortunate to be chosen as one of the hosts for Jeff Goins’ online book tour for Wrecked. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Jeff, and for writing a book that changes lives. Hope this weekend your dog is allowed on the couch.

Readers, read on …

What happens when we run hard and fast to shopping, food, alcohol, whatever, all the while trying to escape being wrecked? What then?

Two things:

First, what doesn’t happen is you don’t overcome your restlessness. You don’t find satisfaction.

Second, your dissatisfaction eventually catches up to you. It’ll manifest as an affair or midlife crisis or neurotic breakdown. If you don’t willingly get wrecked now, you’ll unintentionally get wrecked later.

What if after being wrecked, we’re not sure what to do next? I’ve heard people say they have no direction. Is this possible or is it an excuse to stay on the couch?

This is typical — in fact it’s why I wrote the book.

I’m not sure if it’s an excuse or not, but it’s inaccurate. How do you get direction? You start moving. It honestly doesn’t matter where you head; you just need to build momentum. Think of a bicycle. Pointing it in the right direction does little good. A bicycle needs to be moving, and once it is, it’s much easier to direct. The same is true for our lives.

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If readers only learn one thing from Wrecked, what do you hope the lesson will be?

I hope they consider something uncomfortable they haven’t done that they should. I’m not talking about skydiving or eating sushi for the first time; I’m talking about forgiving someone or telling the truth when you’d rather not. I’m talking about the simple, but difficult, choices that define us.

What’s the best advice you have for parents when it comes to their children’s wreckage?

Let it happen now so it doesn’t have to happen later. Again, getting wrecked is inevitable. The question is: when will it happen? In the company of people you love, in the context of community — where you can process it and better understand it? Or when you’re on your own and will most likely wallow in the pain for far too long?

One of my former pastors once preached that three things change us: when we’ve been given enough, when we’ve learned enough, and when we’ve gone through enough pain. Do you agree? Does this fit the thinking behind Wrecked?

Yes, I think so. Pain is not necessarily good, but it can cause good. In fact, most growth happens in the context of painful situations. Suffering is often a prerequisite for God to trust us; it is the backdrop for our faithfulness and perseverance.

We have a bunch of quote fanatics who hang around our blog. Do you have a favorite quote or two?

“We can do no great things, only small things with love.” — Mother Teresa

Finally, Jeff, since you’re interviewing on Well-Written Days blog, describe a well-written day in your life.

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It begins with breakfast, as all good days do. And I’m not talking about oatmeal. Eggs and bacon and French-press coffee; pancakes and syrup that sticks to everything. This is a meal that will stay with you for the whole day, one fit for farmers and field workers. And it all happens before the sun rises.

Then to writing. If I can do 1000 words, I’m elated. But it’s not the product that I’m proud of; it’s the process. That’s what gives me life — the act of writing at all.

After that, exercise. I love moving and sweating, as well as burning fat and building muscle.

And then, time with the family. Maybe a walk around the block or a picnic in the park. We would finish the day with steaks on the grill. The weather would be perfect: mid 70s with just a slight breeze. Following dinner would be a movie together. We’d all cuddle on the couch and just this once the dog would be allowed on the furniture — all for the sake of a good snuggle.

And then we’d all drift off to sleep together, dreaming of the best day ever.

Dinner with Jerry B. Jenkins

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The four of us talked about beach property and mountain homes and grandkids and places to travel.

It was the first evening of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and the table organizer forgot the place cards for Jerry B. Jenkins and his wife, Dianna.

My husband John and I sat at a table, just the two of us, on the empty side of the dining hall. We noticed Jerry and Dianna, trays in hand, circle the crowded tables twice. “I’m almost sure he’s the keynote speaker, and that must be his wife,” I said.

When the couple realized they didn’t have assigned seats, Dianna glanced our way and said something to her husband. They headed towards our table.

I groaned, feeling anything but sociable after our long drive earlier in the day. Ridiculous, I know. Most attendees would pay money for our seats, and for the chance to talk writing and pitch ideas.

Truth is, I was afraid I’d sound silly trying to impress him.

Jerry and Dianna were easy to talk to, which was a relief since I couldn’t think of much to say in the way of being impressive. However, my proud husband wasn’t at a loss for words.

He told Jerry about an article I wrote, which happened to be published that month in a magazine that was on the shelves of the campus bookstore. Jerry is author to 170 plus books that have sold upward of 70 million copies.

Still, he graciously congratulated me on my one story.

Jerry mentioned visiting The Billy Graham Library during their trip. The noise in the dining room was so loud I only heard the word library.

“Whose library?” I said.

“Billy Graham’s library. He’s a famous Southern evangelical minister,” said Jerry, half smiling.

John told him about Billy Graham’s home that was nearby the conference center, located on the outskirts of Black Mountain.

What John didn’t remember was Jerry helped write Dr. Graham’s autobiography. Jerry politely mentioned he visited Dr. Graham in his home on occasion while writing segments of the “famous Southern evangelical minister’s” memoir, Just As I Am.

Turns out, we made quite an impression after all, in a humorous sort of way.

Any amusing dinner tales you’d like to share?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’ll take funny memories over impressive ones any day.

On the side: I wrote Jerry and Dianna a thank you note for their company during dinner, as well as his keynote and workshop. When he replied in the letter posted here, I thought about keeping on. However, I stopped short of stalking since we made enough of an impression the first time around.

Kermit the Frog, Jim Henson and Me

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“It’s not easy being green.” Kermit the Frog

Can you imagine being Kermit, especially around all this metaphorical talk about Eat That Frog?  It’d be best to read that blog post first. It’s a main course to this one.

I’m quick to point out I never intended Jim Henson’s most famous Muppet to end up a meal, anymore than I’d invite you to sit down to a plateful of Bambi or Shari Lewis’ Lamb Chop.

Kermit the Frog is a favorite of mine.

In fact, I’ve always said, “Some of my best friends are cartoon characters.”

Don’t believe me? This is the crowd I hang with, at least on Google images.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Keeping in mind (big) birds of a feather flock together, and you are who you hang out with, and you’re as good as the people around you, I’m in pretty good company these days.

On the side: Only thing I can’t figure out, when I Google ‘S. Kim Henson’, Jim and the Muppets show up. But when I Google Jim Henson, I’m nowhere to be found. Strangest thing, don’t you think?

As Good As She Imagined, a book review

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“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Why read a book when you know the outcome is what every parent dreads?

Maybe because it also tells the story of what every parent hopes … to have a child who shines light in dark corners and wakes up the world to love.

Jerry B. Jenkins’ book, As Good As She Imagined, tells the story of triumph in between two national tragedies.

It’s the story of the angel of Tucson, nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green who was born on September 11, 2001 and died January 8 this year, the day marked by shootings at the political rally held by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Chapter after chapter describes the faith of a mother to make her family whole before and after this horrific crime.

The love of a neighbor who looked forward to spending a day with Christina-Taylor at the gathering, lunch and a pedicure that never happened.

And the optimism of a nine-year-old daughter to heal a family and a nation.

Jenkins wrote the book alongside Christina-Taylor’s mom, Roxanna Green.

Through their teamwork, As Good As She Imagined offers the reader glimpses of Christina-Taylor’s well-lived life, and also pledges this little girl’s death not be purposeless.

Her story challenges each of us to be as good as we imagine – as good a country, as good a community, as good an individual.

I Called Him Dancer

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Interview and Book Giveaway

Author Eddie Snipes is sharing his inspirational and delightful writing style with the world. You’ll love getting to know him through his interview. Also visit the virtual book tour, order I Called Him Dancer and join thousands of us who are already enjoying his book.

Thanks, Eddie, for allowing Well-Written Days to host your blog tour.  

What made you write I Called Him Dancer? Have you ever danced, taken lessons?

The only dance lesson I’ve received came when I was walking in the woods. A yellow cloud surrounded me and I began swatting yellow jackets like a break-dancer. Upon reflection, I don’t think I had the grace needed to make it big, so I quit after my first lesson. No more bees for me.

The inspiration for I Called Him Dancer came from a song performed by Tralena Walker and co-written by Tom Webster. I attended a meeting at the Atlanta Writers Club. Tralena and Tom were guest speakers. The topic was on how to write a story in lyrics for songs. Not my cup of Formosa Oolong, but at least it was entertaining. After performing the song, “Dancer”, either Tom or Tralena said, “We’ve been looking for someone who will turn the song into a novel. We think it would make a great story.”

Until those words were spoken, I was a passive observer. I looked up and words were swarming around me like those yellow jackets. They attacked my head while I lay screaming on the floor. Okay, maybe I didn’t scream – but my mind did. In an instant, the story unfolded in my mind and I knew this was something I was to write.

I knew nothing about dancing (other than what the bees taught me). Tom and Tralena gave me the lyrics and I started researching and writing. I have to admit that I worried about the dancing scenes, but I knew things took shape when people began asking how I became so knowledgeable about dance.  I thought back to the bees and said, “It’s just something that hit me while walking in the woods.”

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

When I was a child, I got my first book. I flipped through the pages, then tore it apart. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s exactly what you do when editing a manuscript.

I hated writing when I was younger. I only did what I had to do, and sometimes not even that. Writers block was more like writers dementia. My mind didn’t return to me until after … hmm. What were we talking about?

In 1998, I became active in prison ministry. Many of the men I ministered to were eager to learn. Someone asked me if I had my studies or notes on paper. I agreed to write out the next study and then my writing career was born. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t write. It was that I didn’t have something to say. Or didn’t realize I had something to say. Over time writing transformed from a task to a passion.

Is I Called Him Dancer your first fictional story?

My first fictional story was written in high school. It wasn’t supposed to be fiction, but hey, the best fiction looks like the real world, right? I’ll tell you the story.

In high school, I had a class that was dedicated to writing a 30 page research paper. I chose the topic, The Arms race between the US and Russia. It was the 1980s when the Cold War was still on everyone’s mind. We spent weeks in the library researching our topic. I say ‘we’ in the general sense. My research was sports and other useless browsing.  At the halfway point, we had to turn in our research note cards. The teacher graded them and as she returned them, she said, “Some of you aren’t going to pass this class.” She paused in front of my desk as she said this, and then dropped my note cards on my desk. She continued, “You cannot write this paper with less than 70 research cards.”

I counted my cards. Seven. A very weak seven. This information must have shocked my brain, for I didn’t even think about this again until the teacher informed the class that the rough draft was due in the morning. “Holy cow! It’s due tomorrow?” I said.

After school, I visited a few friends, ate dinner, and watched TV. It was now nearly bedtime. No more goofing off. I sat down and began to write. The information flowed. I clearly needed more research sources, so I interviewed military experts born mere minutes ago. But hey, Colonial Imagination was still a source. I wrote thirty pages – somehow. And I got a good grade in the class. After all, no one had more expert sources than I did.

I should have known then that writing was in my future, but it would be more than two decades before I discovered a passion for writing.

Tell us a little about your book, I Called Him Dancer.

For a moment, Michael danced on top of the world, but one bad choice turned his life upside down. The once promising Broadway star now washes windows for tips and lives among the homeless. When his former dance partner recognizes him behind the fray of whiskers, shame drives him away from her. Angry at God and the world, the Dancer refuses to allow anyone into his life. When everything is stripped away, three things remain: faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

I Called Him Dancer is a story about how one woman’s enduring faith and unconditional love drives her to reach out to a homeless friend, who has given up on life.

Who is your favorite character in I Called Him Dancer?

The character that inspired me the most is Kenyon. Many readers have stated the same. He’s human, struggling to do what is right, and lives by a genuine faith. At times he wrestles between what he knows God wants him to do, and what he wants. Kenyon is down to earth, not preachy, yet his life has an impact on others.

In the story I tried to present Christianity in an honest light. Many who claim to be Christians show hypocrisy and drive others (like the Dancer) away from the faith. This is a real problem in the Christian culture. Kenyon shows what sincere faith looks like. He’s far from perfect, but his simple faith impacts those around him. Kenyon’s sincerity is something the Dancer can’t understand and it piques his curiosity.

What would you like your readers to take away from this novel?

I want people to look at the reality of how faith impacts the world around us. Hypocrisy is being pretentious about faith, and there is a difference between failure and hypocritical behavior. Christians shouldn’t feel dejected when they fail. It’s part of this life of reaching upward.

Also, we all know someone who appears hopeless and hostile toward God, but we don’t know what the Lord is doing behind the scenes. Ultimately, hope is what everyone should take away. Hope that readers are not alone in their struggles. Hope that our lives can make an impact – even with our imperfections. Finally, hope that the people we care about are never out of God’s reach.

How can readers get in touch with you?

You can flash a light on the clouds that says, ‘Free chicken fingers,’ and I’ll play Batman music and come running. Some people prefer the simpler route of connecting with me on Twitter @eddiesnipes. My Facebook username is eddiesnipes. It might seem like a strange coincidence, but my LinkedIn name is also eddiesnipes. Even more crazy is my website: http://www.eddiesnipes.com. On each of these, I just closed my eyes and typed out random keys. I might have peeked on a few letters. You can get the book through online bookstores or your local Christian bookstores.

On the side: I was given a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for posting the author’s interview on my blog. This blog tour is managed by Christian Speaker Services (www.ChristianSpeakerServices.com).

Interview with Donn Taylor, Poet and more…

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Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He has more than 20 years experience teaching poetry, including at conferences like Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

His poetry collection Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond was published in 2008. His fiction includes a suspense novel, The Lazarus File, and a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red. He has published essays on writing, literary criticism, ethical issues and U. S. foreign policy.

He and his wife live near Houston, Texas, where he writes fiction, poetry and articles on current topics.

       

Thank you, Donn, for joining us and taking time to answer our questions. Well-Written Days is honored to share one of your poems with readers. Drop by anytime with more!

Give us some background about your poetry writing – how long you’ve been writing poems, what style you write and where your poems have been published.

Although I wrote song lyrics as early as age 14, I only began writing serious poetry as a junior in college—not much of it, but some worth reading. Then there was a long hiatus during military service, graduate school, and college teaching. Only after retiring from teaching have I had time to write. My main effort has been fiction, but I also had to prove to myself that I could write good poetry. In style, I’m a rebel against most of the poetry being written in today’s graduate schools. Though I do write some free verse, most of my poetry uses traditional meter and often uses traditional forms. Meter gives an extra dimension of meaning that free verse doesn’t.

My poems have been published in Christianity and Literature, The Lamp-Post (journal of the California C.S. Lewis Society), Discoveries (published by South-Central Renaissance Conference) and similar journals, as well as general-audience publications like The Presbyterian Record (Canadian). Most recently, they’ve been collected in a book titled Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. They are previewed on my Web site, http://www.donntaylor.com/, with links to buy through Amazon.

Who are your favorite poets?

Do you have enough space for me to answer? Virgil, Dante, Ariosto, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, George Herbert, Milton, Andrew Marvell (lyrics only), Tennyson, some of Arnold and Clough, E.A. Robinson, Frost, some of Archibald MacLeish, W.H. Auden.

Which is your favorite poem you’ve written?

As close to a single favorite that I have would be “Cosmos in Wartime.” Why? It is a tribute to the wives of military men in combat, including of course my own wife. For the wives are the keepers of the values their husbands are defending. I also think it has the soft sounds appropriate to the subject. Like all poems, it should be read aloud.

COSMOS IN WARTIME  (© 1996, Donn Taylor)

There at the center of the universe,
An ocean and a continent away
From where I labor, calm at end of day
Descends, drawn down by likeness, to immerse
Her house in tender truths till she rehearse
For children deep assurances that say,
“This spirit-night, no strife nor storm shall sway
These quiet cradles, nor the world amerce
Souls of these innocents for ancient wrong
As price for human essence wrenched awry.”
She speaks in trust that only grace allows,
Modestly unaware her softness, strong–
Stronger than stone or steel–holds up this house
In love, to let the house hold up the sky.

Which is your favorite poem by another poet?

Among other favorites, I keep coming back to George Herbert’s “Sin’s Round.” It treats a vital subject, the nature of sin, concentrated into 18 poetic lines. Beyond that, it’s a perfect example of poetic form becoming a part of the message. For that reason, I use it as the climactic example in my class on “Broader Horizons in Poetic Technique.”

What makes a good poem?

In most cases, an important subject presented in beautiful language. In certain cases—satire, for example—the language might need to be appropriately harsh-sounding. In comic poetry, surprise multi-syllable rhymes like Byron’s rhyming intellectual with hen pecked you all.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is at the beginning of his or her desire to write poetry?

Above all, read a lot of different kinds of poetry. Study books like Lawrence Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which explain and illustrate the fundamentals of how poetry works, and William Baer’s Writing Metrical Poetry, which contains practical exercises. Join a group of poets who’re willing to study and learn. And write, write, write. Any skill, whether it’s basketball, piano playing or writing, is learned through practice.

One other thought: Don’t try to write poetry in a hurry. If it doesn’t come out exactly right, set it aside and come back to it later. It’s not unusual for one of my poems to take months before I think it’s ready. A few have taken years. As the commercial says, “Sell no wine before its time.”

What’s the difference in poetry and let’s say, a company buying “poems” to put on greeting cards and bookmarks? Do you see this writing as similar or a far stretch?

Different kinds of poems have different purposes and audiences—everything from greeting cards to high school cheers to Paradise Lost. I don’t have a problem with this as long as the poem doesn’t pretend to be more than it is.

When writers want to sell their poetry, what suggestions do you have for them?

Selling is more difficult than writing, and each person has to blaze his own trail. It’s also labor-intensive. You use a reference like Writer’s Digest’s annual Poet’s Market or the poetry section of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide to find publications you think might be compatible with what you’re writing. Then you buy sample copies to verify. Then you submit to a selection of those publications and keep a record of what you sent where. This is a tedious process that takes about a year to complete.

In your life, what does a well-written day look like?

If I’m writing poetry, I block out an entire morning to work—with no interruptions, I hope. (It helps to have an understanding wife who loves poetry.) The usual product is a number of fragments—a few good lines, some thoughts I’d like to work in if I can find words that fit, some good sounds I’d like to use. If I do this for several days, I usually have enough to scrape out a poem, though it may be weeks before it’s ready to bring out of the office. After such a morning, there’s no use trying to write, so I usually do light reading in the afternoon or work on honey-do’s around the house.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Parkinson’s Law,” formulated by C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work tends to expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

On the side: For more, check out Donn Taylor’s website.

Interview with Edie Melson – Author of the Upcoming Book, Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home

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Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with 16+ years experience writing hundreds of articles and devotions, including ones for Focus on the Family and CBN.com.

Edie frequently serves as a faculty member at writers’ conferences around the country and was recently named Assistant Director for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC).

She writes for her own blog, http://www.thewriteconversation.blogspot.com/, is a contributing editor with www.thebookdoctorbd.blogspot.com, editor for the Southeast Zone Newsletter and staff reviewer for Afictionado Magazine. Edie and Kirk, her husband of 29 years, reside in Upstate S.C. and have three sons.

Thanks, Edie, for taking time to join us for an interview. Drop by anytime, especially to share updates about your book.

What encouraged your decision to move from technical writing to freelance writing and editing? How has the journey unfolded?

I was a stay at home mom and didn’t want a full time job outside the home and decided to give freelancing a try since I could work my schedule around raising my children.

I think the biggest thing that has contributed to my journey is my willingness to try new things. I have learned that God has an amazing journey mapped out for each of us, but it requires faith. Not just faith that God will show us the right way to go – but faith that He will stop us if we veer off the path. So many people I know refuse to act because of fear – fear that they’ll do the wrong thing or go the wrong way. I’ve learned that My God is way bigger than any mistake I make and He doesn’t hold those mistakes against me.

Who were/are your mentors? How have they affected your writing and editing?

I’ve been fortunate to learn from so many at conferences and online. Their instruction has served as a mentoring relationship in many ways. But someone who has taken a huge interest in helping me succeed is John Riddle (http://www.ilovetowriteday.org/). I met him over ten years ago and he has continued to support me in ways too numerous to count. Of course, my dear friend, Alton Gansky (http://www.altongansky.com/) has played a huge role in helping me fulfill my dreams as a writer. And finally, recently, Susan May Warren (http://www.mybooktherapy.com/) has helped me immensely—and she won Mentor of the Year at ACFW in 2010.

What are some of the highlights of your writing career?

There have been so many it’s impossible to name them all. But even with over 700 articles published this year I always feel surprised and amazed that someone wants to pay me to write. But here are some of the high points through the years:

  • Finding my writing partner, Vonda Skelton (http://www.vondaskelton.com/), at our very first BRMCWC in 2001
  • Winning first place at BRMCWC in non-fiction book category in 2005
  • Winning first place at BRMCWC in the Mystery Novel category in 2006
  • Becoming involved with Susan May Warren’s My Book Therapy website and getting one of the Bronze Medal awards at the first annual Frasier Awards
  • Getting my book contract for Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home
  • Being named Assistant Director for the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference
  • Always – watching writers discover their gifts and go on to publication

Tell us about your upcoming book. How did it come about? Who is publishing it and when will it be out?

This devotional book is for those with family members in the military and has been contracted with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas http://www.christiandevotionsbooks.com/. It’s really special to me because our oldest son served two tours in the Middle East as an infantry Marine. I describe our journey this way. “He went straight from high school to Marine Corps boot camp to Iraq.”

What tips do you have for beginning writers?

Don’t give up. 99% of the time the only difference between a published writer and an unpublished one is time.

What do you most often tell your mentorees about working toward a successful writing profession?

Write every day – 5 days a week. Submit things for publication – I recommend setting a goal for the number of rejections they receive a month. This takes the sting out of the no’s! And finally, study the craft – take classes, read books and blogs.

What makes a writer successful?

I cannot emphasize this enough – persistence.

Have any of your three sons shown an interest in writing?

Not yet, at least they haven’t admitted it. But they are all talented storytellers.

Describe a well-written day in your life.

Most important is starting my day off with some quiet time with God. No day, for me, goes well without that. After that, my days at home working are pretty similar. I’m very ADD and need order to succeed and stay on track.

Here’s my day –

Check email, job boards and social media – approximately 1 hour
Write until lunch
After lunch spend another 30 minutes with email, phone calls and social media
Marketing/editing/deadline writing

Thirty minutes before I stop for the day, I spend another 30 minutes with email, phone calls and social media.I also spend some time every evening with light work – usually while I’m hanging out with my family. I’ve learned not to answer email or phone calls when I’m writing, unless it’s an emergency.

Do you have a favorite quote (about writing, life, love, whatever)?

I have two writing quotes I keep above my desk:

“Easy reading is damn hard writing,” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit,” Richard Bach

Interview with Elizabeth Eslami, Part 3 – Life Around Bone Worship

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Are you still tweeting with Timothy Hutton? Who else famous have you crossed paths with as your book gains notoriety?

It’s been a while since I’ve tweeted with him, or since I’ve seen him on Twitter, though I suspect we’re probably just tweeting at different times. I’m still quite grateful to him for tweeting my book launch.

I remember joining Twitter a year ago, while I was zonked out on Vicodin after having my wisdom teeth removed. I had no idea what one was supposed to do with it, and now, somehow, inexplicably, I have 1,000 followers. Some of the writers I’m “Twitter friends” with either have become or already are well known – Julie Klam, Beth Hoffman, Harrison Solow, to name a few – but that’s not something that figures into the conversation.

They are all lovely, funny people and brilliant writers, and it’s a profound pleasure to know them, as it is to know Gina Collia-Suzuki, Michelle Rick, Chris Clarke, Elizabeth Enslin, Kate Mayfield, Eric Rickstad, and bloggers like Becky Sain, Judy Clement Wall, and many others who might not be famous but most certainly should be. Twitter is a nice equalizer that way. You prove yourself with your wit, not with fame.

Tell us some about growing up in the South.

My parents met in Maryland, near where my mother grew up. My father was a doctor and my mother a nurse, and they moved first to Charleston, S.C. and later to Gaffney, S.C. so that my father could work at Upstate Carolina Medical Center and later Mary Black.

I was born and raised in Gaffney and my parents still live there. I come back at least once a year to visit, so I still feel a strong connection to the South, the flora and fauna. I’m always flooded with memories of going to school in Spartanburg, S.C. – St. Paul’s Catholic School for elementary and Spartanburg Day for high school. Some of my best friends are the friends I made during those years. It’s wonderful to be able to relive those memories, to see how Gaffney and Spartanburg have changed over the years, and to remember the hopes I had then, many of which have since come true.

What’s next in your life? In your career?

Connecticut for the next five or six years, punctuated by numerous trips to Montana, writing and reading, and hopefully some teaching. I’ve just completed a draft of a short story collection, and I’m working on a second novel. My first trip to Iran is in the works for 2012. Also, I’d really like to teach my dog to swim. We can’t seem to get her to go in past her chest. She’s almost nine now, but I refuse to give up. I keep telling her to jump, but she’s having none of it.

Thanks, Elizabeth. It’s been a pleasure. All the best with your book, your writing career, and your dog’s swimming lessons. Feel free to send updates from time to time.

This is a 3-part interview with author Elizabeth Eslami. Hope you’ll also read Part 1 and Part 2. 

Interview with Elizabeth Eslami, Part 2 – The Path to Bone Worship

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You talked about taking the writing path early on and not experimenting in other careers. How have you made your living? Strictly writing or have you supplemented your income with other work?

It’s nearly impossible for anyone, certainly any writer starting out, to make a living strictly as a writer. You have to take other jobs. When I was fresh out of graduate school, I thought rather naively that it would be easy to find a teaching job, and that I would use the connections I’d made in my MFA program to find an agent. In reality, I left without any insider connections, and, because I wanted desperately to make a life in Montana, I found myself in a town of 3,000 where most of the jobs available were in the cattle industry.

I worked as a housekeeper at a hotel, and for years as a maid in people’s homes. Nobody cared that I had an MFA or a novel that I was hoping to have published. I was the person who cleaned their toilets. It was extremely hard, low paying, backbreaking work – but there was time to think, and I was, in a sense, invisible. Nobody pays attention to the maid. So you get a real sense of how people behave, in their best and worst moments, when they think no one is watching. That was invaluable for me.

There was a time when I flirted with becoming a veterinary technician, but I just didn’t have it in me, either the scientific knowledge or the nerve for it. So, no, I suppose I never considered any career other than writing. But it’s a constant scramble to make it pass for a living, and I suspect it always will be. You write as much as you can, and you vary your material. You freelance, you tutor and teach when you have the chance. And you scrape by. It doesn’t work for everyone, but for me, I came to a point when I realized that if I let myself, I would be cleaning houses for the rest of my life, without time to see if I could make it as a writer. I decided to jump into the ocean. For the present, at least, I’m still paddling around.

You mentioned being encouraged by teachers. How about your parents – were they hopeful about your writing? What have they said about your novel?

“Hopeful” might not be the best word. Supportive, yes. I’ve found in talking to other writers that unless one’s parents were also writers, there is often the sense that writing is more of a hobby than a career. My father always suggested that I write “on the side,” secondary to a solid job. Sound advice, but fortunately or unfortunately, I was born believing that writing is as important as eating or sleeping. It wasn’t just a dream for me or a hobby, being a writer. I treated it like one would treat becoming a chef or a social worker. I worked at it. My mother respected it more than my father, but for her it was the myth of the muse, the fantasy that I would write when inspiration struck, and when I did, it would be autobiographically about the family, about our neighborhood. I think my folks are still mystified by what I do, and I suppose I can’t blame them for that. It’s a strange art and a stranger business.

Believe it or not, we’ve barely talked about the book with each other. When I call them, they are far more interested in whether I’m maintaining my car or going to the dentist regularly.

How did it happen that you were published with Pegasus? How did you find them? Do you have an agent? 

My agent is Mollie Glick, of Foundry Literary + Media. When I was first starting out, I really didn’t know how to find an agent, though I had my Writer’s Market and the listings in Writer’s Digest. I did a search for the agents who represented my favorite authors, and I queried them. After about six months or so, I signed with Mollie. And way down the line, after many months of revisions, she sent the book out to various publishing houses, and Pegasus was one of them. It was a lot of patience, frustration, elation, perseverance, and luck, and a lot of people working hard on my behalf.

You had quite a schedule of touring in 2010. Did you expect the busyness? Was it exciting, tiring, encouraging to be on the road so often and speaking?

I can’t say it was unexpected because for the most part, I planned it. As a debut author with a small publisher, it was my responsibility to orchestrate the tour and promote the book on my own. I was determined and happy to give 100 percent of my efforts to that end. Sometimes I’m asked if it’s frustrating not to have someone do those things for you, to book events, to plug you into the publicity machine. Of course it is, but there’s also a tremendous amount of freedom. In the end, no one’s going to work harder than I am.

It was exciting, tiring, encouraging, discouraging, scary, all of those things. Honestly I thought I’d be terrified throughout, the idea of all that public speaking, but I really got comfortable and more confident as it went on. I was supremely lucky to have my husband by my side for nearly all of the tour, rounding up people in bookstores and on the streets. I couldn’t have done it without him. I’ll miss touring, meeting readers and booksellers, traveling, all of those things when the events end and it’s time to hunker down. What I won’t miss is the fact that it’s nearly impossible to write while you’re on the road.

What other ways are you promoting yourself?

I use social media as much as possible – I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Red Room, Goodreads, and I try to maintain an active presence. I post my work, essays and short stories, and I blog. I contribute to The Nervous Breakdown, The Millions, and Matador which are all terrific websites in terms of their content and their ability to nurture writers. I made a book trailer early on, had a website designed, made posters and bookmarks, did radio interviews. Basically, I keep my eyes open, and I say yes to opportunities that come my way.

This is a 3-part interview with author Elizabeth Eslami. Hope you’ll also read Part 1 and Part 3.