Beloved Mother follows the lives of several family members in a poor coal-mining town during the 1900’s. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
I know these people. I grew up in a lower Appalachian coalmining area. My mother grew up in the Appalachians where coalmining was a way of life. I spent my summers there where soil was a black as the coal itself, where miners can’t wash the black rings from around their eyes. The livelihood of the community depends on what can be extracted from the earth’s belly. No coal=no food, no warmth, no clothing. An accident, a death, would turn a woman’s life into a catastrophe, as she tired simply to feed her children.
Three woman struggle to find their place in a harsh Appalachian mining town. What were some obstacles you felt were important to telling their story?
One of the primary obstacles women faced then, and for many today, is society’s failure to recognize that women must cope with whatever they have available. Often times, what they are relegated to do is not what society accepts. Society then shuns them, casts them aside, because they are different. The women in BELOVED MOTHER must choose. Mona must choose a way of life that will allow her to survive by using what she has been taught. Anna chooses to live her life for a lover, and Lily chooses to make her own way through what Nature offers her. Society doesn’t approve of any of their choices. As a result, all three find themselves isolated.
You explore many ideas in this novel like family, God, and humanity. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing?
I didn’t think about themes as I wrote BELOVED MOTHER. The threads seemed to come together as the plot developed. This novel was gifted me. Once the characters and setting gelled, the action, dialogue, senses and plot – all the story elements – played out before me as if I were watching a movie. After I finished the preliminary plot, I did see that each of the women hold a different concept of family, even though they are biologically connected. I initially included the spirit world to emphasize the Cherokee legends, to justify the bizarre actions of Mona and to lighten the tone of what was happening to the earth people. As the spirits Sister Sun, Brother Moon and Great Spirit came into focus, I realized that they offer the differing beliefs of many people, not just mountain folk or Native Americans. As a result, the earth characters pull from the spirit world in order to establish their own philosophy. The beliefs are as different as the characters themselves. Some would argue that one belief is as valid as another.
God? God, or a supernatural power, is presented as a vengeful Old Testament being, a being that terrifies Anna as she realizes she is dying. As Great Spirit is known to Mona and Lily, this supreme being is sometimes tired, a forgetful character who gets overwhelmed by the actions of those on earth. Other times, he leaves people to survive their own actions. He also merges with the spiritual concept of a loving God for good, to help Lily survive the loses she must face. Then, too, Mona so distorts the concept of a superior being that she, or her talking weasel, convinces herself that she is more powerful than Great Spirit. In looking back, the reader might see these characters as prototypes of different ways of looking at a supreme being. I had no intention of writing such, but perhaps I did.
Humanity is depicted as humanity often shows itself to be: hurtful, manipulative, greedy, gentle, loving. One character who borders on being a narcissist comes forward to save the most vulnerable character in the novel. One character has no concept of the role of father and almost kills his son. One character, on the other hand, bribes his boss to insure that his son will have an education that will carry him out of the coalmines. Overall, the characters portray the different personalities that we encounter. We all are different. We all have different reasons for doing what we do. We make mistakes. We have successes. Like the characters in BELOVED MOTHER, we trod along, attempting to survive as best we can.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title of my current project is SUMMER OF NO RAIN. The manuscript is currently with Beta readers. I hope that it will be available late 2019. The story is based on actual events of the late 1960s near Montgomery, Alabama. A clinic for women of color used 1964 Civil Rights monies to establish a program that used sterilization experiments on illiterate and young girls of color. The case against the clinic went to the US Supreme Court in 1974.
In SUMMER OF NO RAIN, the characters, the setting, the events all are fiction. I researched what medicines and procedures were used to sterilize these young girls and let those events become part of a 12-year-old mulatto’s summer. The plot focuses on her socialization failures, her physical decline, and her eventual suicide attempt and the love her mother has for her.
Like BELOVED MOTHER, the tone is serious. It must be, for the procedures were brutal. The outcome was a farce as the reader will see, but I tried to lighten the mood by including events typical of children in 1968 in rural Alabama.
SUMMER OF NO RAIN depicts a grave injustice that many today know nothing about. Unlike when writing BELOVED MOTHER, I had a goal in creating this novella. That goal is to make people aware of the hidden evil man can perpetrate on his fellowman.
A story of the lives of three women, tightly woven together and surviving the harsh societal environment of an Appalachian mining town in the early to mid-1900s. Two religions contrast with each other—the Cherokee spirits of the native people and the Old Testament God of the white settlers—as each woman struggles to find her place. Love and hate, marriage and adultery, childbirth and abortion, all have their parts to play. Beloved Mother accurately portrays the evilness in humanity, in which the wicked corrupt the innocent to create a vicious cycle of abuse, until one person—with a heart of understanding and forgiveness—has the courage to end it.
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Skeins follows a group of Indian woman as they travel through Europe learning something about life, each other, and themselves. What served as your inspiration for this uplifting novel?
Both my novels relate to a world well-known to me: urban educated India. I have been travelling a great deal for the past 14 years and I undertake at least one group tour overseas each year. Though the itinerary for the tour described in Skeins is similar to that of a group tour I undertook with Cosmos© in 2015, the similarity ends there as the tourists in the latter included men and women of varied nationalities. Also, when I had traveled to Ireland in 2016, my suitcase had not been transferred in time to the connecting flight by the airline staff at Munich airport during transit. These experiences sparked off my imagination, which led to the birth of Skeins.
There is a great collection of women from several generations in this group. Who was your favorite character to write for?
It’s like asking someone who is your favourite child. Each woman character is alive in my imagination with her own distinct personality, dreams and circumstances. They are all resilient as I don’t sympathize with whiners. I like women who get back on their feet after a hard tumble and find their own path in life without seeking sympathy or support. However, I particularly empathized with the characters Sandra D’Souza and Vidya Rao who are caught in a conundrum and need to make tough decisions.
I enjoyed how the characters each had their own story that contributed to the depth of their character. What were some themes you wanted to capture in this book?
Though the novel is a breezy read, it deals with serious societal issues related to women. I feel very strongly about the thwarting of women’s emotional, professional and intellectual independence and expression by a patriarchal society and a dominant partner who limit her role to that of a mother and a comfort provider. The novel also depicts the generic issues of social hierarchy, aspirational lifestyles, the violence within and without our homes, loneliness and dementia.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have a few ideas that I am exploring. When that creative spark is ignited, I know I will not take longer than two months to pen the story and edit it.
With a galaxy of identifiable characters from modern urban India depicted with light-hearted mirth in a travel environment, the novel explores serious issues, such as the quest for an independent identity and economic independence, the violence within and outside our homes, the loneliness of old age and the need for constructive channelization of youthful energy. Spanning events across a little more than a year, Skeins depicts how self-expression and a supportive environment trigger a cataclysmic effect and stimulate the women to realize their dreams.
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Arlington Heights follows the course of a gifted and beautiful black woman who overcomes the stigmata of a youth of mistakes to become one of the more powerful forces in New York’s fashion and business scene. Arlington Cavanaugh has past her prime as a model and has committed her life to the building of the highly regarded fashion magazine, HEIGHTS. Through the novel she takes a journey that speaks not only to the incredible climb up the ladder of success, but also details all of the consequences of decisions made along the way by a woman so focused on escape from her past that she nearly loses her soul.
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Tonya Barbee’s memoir, I am Still a Rose, details the struggle of a modern woman to find stability and true love for herself and her ever growing family. This book is Tonya’s version of events of her childhood, tumultuous love life and her change of heart. She has written this aiming to promote a healthy understanding and level of accountability for bad relationships and to educate women, young and old, about the dangers of unhealthy partnerships.
The book is refreshing to read. It’s a text about relationship struggle that does not place all of the blame on the male perpetrator or plead for sympathy from the readers. It is actually written in a very matter-of-fact and frank tone. Even when there are episodes with heightened emotion, which often occur in life, they certainly seem to have been written with a clear head.
One of the most prominent themes is the importance of family and motherhood. Tonya seems to rate her confidence in her weddings based on how many of her family turn up, and she is always grateful for the help her family, particularly her mother, provides in times of need – when she cannot rely on her current husband. Throughout her adult life she always does her best to provide for her children and stresses the importance of financial stability, which she did not have when she was growing up. Even when she suffers periods of illness and relationship breakdown, she still goes to work and earns a living for her family. She choses each man believing they will be beneficial for her children, as well as herself, always wanting to complete her family.
Due to her hard-working attitude, she represents female empowerment. She is the only constant parent in her children’s lives, despite her efforts. None of the fathers come to visit the children so she has to be both mom and dad. She even makes sacrifices for children that aren’t hers – as she wants her children to know their siblings. Whatever trouble comes her way she always bounces back, ready to conquer the next hurdle. Throughout her many relationships and responsibilities, she continues to climb the ladder at work and gain qualifications.
Tonya clearly explains that she takes responsibility for not listening to her gut instincts and the mistakes she has made and works to overcome them. Admitting this takes guts, and to admit it publicly and open yourself up to the world in writing takes bravery and pride. She uses her life experience with the view to educate women and to encourage them to listen to their own and their family’s instincts. She wants women to trust themselves enough to make bold decisions and to go it alone if they have to, because she knows they are more than capable.
She might not have had the fairy tale ending like she wanted, but did end up with a great sense of pride and independence and a very strong bond with her children and family.
Pages: 159 | ASIN: B07DSTYFWR
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Once upon time, women struggled to gain notoriety capable of any feat besides household responsibility. The struggle was life and death in the resistance of recognizing the inevitable rise of women. Starting life in Italy with a wealthy protestant family. Sylvie idolizes her father Dr. Fiore. Sylvie has her hopes set on being one of the first female doctors known to the area. But when Sylvie is married off to a wealthy craftsman named Leon, in France, she quickly realizes that this dream may be out of her reach and possibly run the risk of death. Is Sylvie’s dreams worth dying for? This book starts our journey in a small town of Eze in Southern France in the late 1600’s and tells a fictional story based from real time events in our history. This is book one of a new short story series.
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A gut-wrenching journey through life is portrayed in the pages of Shame, Guilt, and Surviving Martin Bryant by Karen Collyer. It’s a short read, but the raw emotions within the page are heavy, terrifying and intense. This book follows Karen through her life as a very young girl towards where she is today and spares no detail. Karen’s life has not been kind to her, and the novella is not afraid to tell readers exactly what horrors she has gone through. This is not a book for those who are emotionally fragile or have troubles reading about assault and rape. These horrific events are laid out in painstaking detail as well as the trauma Karen faced when she was stalked by the man who committed the massacre in Port Arthur.
The book takes great pains to let readers know what they are getting into before it even begins. Readers should pay careful attention to the trigger warning at the beginning, as it accurately describes the type of events that take place in the book. The book, however, is a powerful tool that demonstrates the ways in which deep rooted emotional scars can shape our lives.
Karen tells the story from the perspective of the ‘wide-eyed girl’. This serves to disconnect the author from the story in a sense that readers may forget they are reading a memoir of sorts. This also allows readers to avoid projecting the feelings of the protagonist on themselves, as can often happen when stories are told from the first person perspective. This makes the story powerful and allows readers to relate on a deeper level. Those with empathy may feel drained after reading the emotional journey Karen had to go through.
This book states that it is a journey from terror to joy. Upon reading the book and now writing this review, it is hard to see where joy comes into play. There are several times that the protagonist Karen embarks on ventures that light her up and cause her to feel elated and wonderful, however by the end of the story there is no confirmation that she was able to obtain the happiness she is long overdue. Yes, she barely survived being a victim of Martin Bryant, but where is the confirmation of her happiness? Where is the consolation for the readers that the wide-eyed girl made it and was able to attain joy? It’s not explicitly stated, just implied. It leaves one wondering, in a good way, where one finds this confirmation in life.
For those who are looking for a short but meaningful book that will take them on a roller-coaster of emotions, Shame, Guilt, and Surviving Martin Bryant by Karen Collyer is a must read. It’s gripping, tears at the heartstrings and exposes the ugliness of the ‘don’t tell’ culture that is still alive and well today.
Pages: 174 | ASIN: B07B8Y47XR
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Bernadette has almost everything a twenty- six year old model could desire. She has a great home, beautiful clothing, and a wonderful family. Yet, all she really desires is a decent man to share her life with.
Against her sister’s wishes, Bernadette, joins the world of online dating. She can hardly believe her luck upon finding the profile of Martin Day, a handsome, successful businessman, who is moving to her hometown.
The couple clicks instantly and their relationship is on the fast track to marital bliss, when suddenly a stranger brings unsettling news about Martin’s past. Despite the warnings, Bernadette continues seeing him, and quickly finds out that some relationship mistakes cannot be easily fixed.
As her situation grows increasingly out of control, she realizes that it has come down to life or death and that she must put a stop to Martin’s reign of terror, at any cost.
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All Roads Home by Lisa Diaz Meyer is a fictional short story collection. Covering several genres, the book is divided into six parts titled The Outposts, The Enduring, The Oddities, The Particulars, The Fragments and The Play Versions. With each section and story being utterly unique, this book really is a mixed bag of offerings. Nowhere is this more obvious than, besides the four sections of short stories all varying greatly in their genre, the collection also consists of a part of poetry and The Play Versions which really are that: five of the stories in the collection written in play format!
The first section of the collection deals with a world that is hard hitting. In the story titled The Safe Room, this links back to the previous short story in its representation of women, cancer, and childbearing. With such stark descriptive passages of the cloning and curing process detailed, this section hits upon the more awkward of subjects that aren’t always spoke about comfortably.
Dealing with religion verse science, this section may be quite an eye-opener, considering its placing at the very start of the collection, but its subject matter does indeed turn the tables making you question just who, if anybody, has such a right at this stage.
The Enduring section starts off with a story which is most certainly that – enduring for its characters. What begins as a heartfelt story of a mother’s struggles quickly turns itself on its head when the story ends. However, nothing physical has changed, her situation remains dire, but she has found peace in her heart and mind and can now approach her situation from a more positive perspective. This story emphasizes Lisa’s ability to change tact and emotion in just a few short pages and sums up the book in its entirety.
All of Lisa’s characters, though only with the reader briefly, are very easy at catching our attention and therefore it’s easy to recognize their plight and see the story from their point of view. That Lisa can create such emotions in her readers through characters that appear fleetingly is a wonderful achievement.
For me, The Enduring was a favorite section. Packed full of emotions, there is one story where the action begins, plays out and ends in a matter of just two short pages! If you’re not too sure whether this selection of stories is for you, I urge you to read The Christmas Break first. Immediately this highlights Lisa’s fluidity in prose as well as her ability to create a fascinating collection of characters, and all within a few short sentences.
With superb powers of observation, a beautiful and haunting writing style on many of the pages, alongside an ability to push topic boundaries (Hitler and Jesus at a dinner party, need I say more!) this is truly a collection you must read for yourself.
If Lisa is this good at creating such an enthralling collection of short stories, I can only imagine what she would be like with a full-length fictional novel!
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00WVWFL86
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Stella Ryman and the Fairmount Manor Mysteries follows an elderly amateur sleuth as she sets out to solve the various mysteries plaguing her retirement home. What was your inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
Thanks for the kind words. My inspiration came while I was hanging about in a Vancouver care home, preparing to help move an enormous television set into an elderly acquaintance’s bedroom. I wondered, what if I lived here? What on earth would I do with myself? How do you wake up every day knowing that people are responsible for you, but you are responsible for nothing (there seemed to be some possibilities for rebellion here.) We all need a good reason for getting out of bed in the morning. What would that be? Watching television? Complaining about the food? I thought Stella Ryman might come up with an intriguing Third Option.
Stella is a senior with a tenacity that I enjoyed reading about. What were some themes you wanted to explore while creating her character?
I love exploring these:
- Old or young, we need to serve the world somehow.
- Almost everything is funny from some angle, and nothing is ever quite what it seems.
- No life is over until the final breath passes (and maybe not even then, see Mad Cassandra Browning.)
- Even in dire circumstances, there are always new chances at happiness.
- Without connection to others, we’re all just bundles of cells in fleece warm-up suits.
I enjoyed the logical mysteries portrayed in the novel, they were always intriguing yet intuitive. What was the process like in developing the different mysteries in the book?
I’m glad you enjoyed them—they were fun to write. I wanted to explore ways Stella struggles to regain the symbols of power that she discarded from her world when she checked herself into Fairmount Manor Care Home: a handbag on her wrist, a best friend, freedom to walk outside if she likes, or fix herself a cup of tea, or enjoy solitude, and above all the power to help others and right wrongs. All the mysteries turn on these.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The Extra: A Monument Studios Mystery, is next, in second edition on Amazon in April 2018 and, writing as Melanie Archer, Younger Men. a comedy, also on Amazon in April 2018. The second Fairmount Manor Mystery novel, Stella Ryman and the Mystery of the Mah-jongg Box, comes out this fall from Pulp Literature Press, along with the seventh of the Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, published in Pulp Literature’s literary quarterly.
On this particular sun-and-shade April morning at Fairmount Manor, Stella Ryman no more entertained the idea of becoming an amateur sleuth than she did of entering next spring’s Boston Marathon. For not only was Stella eighty-two years old, but she had lately sold her home and a lifetime of gathered possessions and washed up at Fairmount Manor Care Home in such a state that she would have bet her remaining seven pairs of socks that she’d be dead in half a year.
But when money goes missing and an innocent woman stands to lose her job at Fairmount; when malicious poison pen letters find their way into the hands of staff and residents; and when a resident vanishes without a trace, Stella takes matters into her own hands. To hell with being elderly — Stella will break every one of the Director’s rules and slash all the institutional red tape in the place in her struggle to solve mysteries and protect the innocent. Over the course of the first five mystery adventures, Mrs Stella Ryman transforms from a woman on her deathbed to a force of nature and intellect. She’s a fish out of water, a stranger in a strange land, and an amateur sleuth trapped in a down-at-the-heels care home.
You’d be cranky, too.
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Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul by Keeshawn C. Crawford is certainly among the most interesting books I had the pleasure of reading this year, if not the best. This piece of non-fiction is an apt example where in the author delves into a personal need of an individual for that special word of inspiration.
This book has a clear vision of it’s purpose and direction and was a really good read. The focus of the writer is crisp and smooth. We are observing a world today that is experiencing more and more women raising their voice against violence and sexual aggression of men in power and influence. The first topic thus selected, aptly deals with the intrinsic build up of the common woman, and to take care of herself.
The subsequent topics have been laid out in a well-defined manner, starting with happiness, love and the concept of helping. The book further delves into other topics which form an important part of moral principles such as sacrifice, strength in troubled times, empathy, and many others. The author also touches on other equally important topics such as parenting, the ingredients for a well-nourished relationship, and accepting criticism constructively to become better. The author balances this with wise words of caution against weakness, ignorance and greediness.
There are many other word gems in this book as well, such as the ones highlighting wisdom of elders, the notion of self-respect, signs of a true friend, just to name a few. I was a bit bewildered at first at how much these moral principles influence, affect and shape our lives, and of those with whom we interact. The author however, seems adept in corralling these principles together with the physical constructs. I feel it important to point out that this book is not meant for speed reading to be just done away in a few days time. The real pearl of this work lies in soaking up the meaning in the words and continuously striving to build a strong mental platform upon which you can work to see your behavior change and be improved by the many areas which the author has pointed out in every chapter. The author fervently impresses upon the reader to conduct oneself in such a manner that would make it more pleasurable for others to follow their lead.
This book can be categorized as a self-help book, but it goes beyond and compels you to think and continuously strive to be a better individual and a good citizen. I am already looking forward for the next book from this author.
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