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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What is Your Rosebud?

Citizen Kane (1941)

Directed by Orson Wells; written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Wells.
Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Agnes Moorehead

Citizen Kane, a publishing magnate, dies, and on his deathbed he utters one word: “Rosebud.” News reporters begin a frantic quest to discover what “Rosebud” meant to the dead tycoon.

We all have something in our lives which is the core of our existence, and that, when we prepare to leave this life, will be thinking of even as we take our last breath.

At this time of year, as we celebrate love and family, and in the beginning of a new year; a fresh start, answer this:

What is your rosebud?

Sunday, November 30, 2014



The authors hosting this event can't wait to give you tons of prizes and good books to read. Join me Dec 1st, 7:00 p.m. EST Grand prizes galore! See Banner up top.

http://masterkodaselectpublishing.com/black-friday-book-bash/enter-to-win enter once a day to win a $100 gift card!

I will be hosting Monday, December 1 at 7:00 p.m. EST

Show up, have fun, and you may win:

The Grass Dancer
11x13 print
Taken at the Muddy River Powwow

Railroad Crossing Peebles Ohio

Artist Linda Lee Greene
All ready mated in a silver mat
14x11 print


Cedar Woman Earrings from the Cedar Woman Collection


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Meet the Author

Meet the Author Tonight, November 18, 7:00 p.m. 
First Half of the Big MKSP Black Friday/Cyber Monday Book Bash
November 28 - December 1
Join the biggest Facebook book event of the year. Enter the drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card, a $25.00 Amazon gift card, a $25 gift cert for custom nail wraps, a huge bundle of eBooks and print books and other great prizes. Meet new friends and have fun. Starts Friday Nov. 28th and continues Monday Dec. 1st.
http://tinyurl.com/MKSPBlFrCyMo ‪#‎sale‬ ‪#‎MKSP‬

I will be available tonight, November 18, to answer your questions about Cedar Woman, and any of my other books.

It is an honor and a privilege to be a part of this event.  For the next two weeks, various authors will be available to share with you their thoughts, and maybe a secret or two, regarding their work.

All of us are excited about this event, and we have drastically lowered the prices of our books in the hopes that it will somehow bring a new reader into the world of reading for pleasure.  Some have charities they donate to, such as myself: a large percentage of my royalties goes to Operation Smile.  Many of us donate books to auctions, book mobiles for inner-city children, churches and charitable institutions.  Why?  Because we love books.

I have been in love with the written word since I was a very small child.  Reading, writing, putting words together in an harmonious string of vowels and consonants, brings me great joy.  To me, language is like a symphony.

I have been writing since age nine.  A third generation poet, I have always enjoyed the beauty and flow, the cadence and flavor, of words.

I remember lying upstairs in the old farm house, snuggled down deep into a feather bed, buried beneath layers of homemade quilts.  Fully awake, I would listen to my mother, father, Mawmaw, Pawpaw, aunts and uncles talking, their voices drifting up to me through the heat vent in the floor.  I enjoyed the music of their speech, the meter: the up and down patterns and the various inflections and tones of each individual.

Many of the patterns were the same.  They were from the same family, after all.  But some had moved away, as my mother had, to the “big city” and her speech had changed – evolved.  I found this fascinating!

Mawmaw would say, “Well, I’ll red up the table then,” her voice deep, resonant and rich.   Mom would answer “Okay, Mother.  I’ll help you clean up,” this said much lighter and higher in the throat.   Aunt Louise would respond with, “Fetch them dishes on over here then, Mam-aw.”  Like Mawmaw, she speaks deep within the larynx, emitting the same sonorous sound.   Beautiful!  Exhilarating!  It was difficult to drift off, in spite of the caressing feathers and quilts.  Who could sleep with this verbal lullaby just one floor below?

With this wealth of dialect and poetry surrounding me throughout my childhood, it was no wonder I became a writer.   What else could I do but scribe the music of my family’s voice?

Guest appearances throughout the event by Kim Mutch Emerson author and owner Master Koda Select Publishing

Authors in Order of Appearance:

John Emil Augustine 
Ey Wade
Jerrid Edgington
Laurie E. Boris
Jane Carroll
Linda Bolton
Yasmin Correa
Greta Burroughs
Douglas Davis
Lauri Fern
Steve Vernon
Jacqueline Cross
Sue Hayman
Robert Craven
George Polley
Dan Amsden
Laci Paige
Allison M.Cosgrove
Annarita Guarnieri
Michale Burch Hess
Brenda Perlin
DeEtte Beckstead 
Jennifer Loiske
Tamy Burns and Kimberly Hughes Smith
Denise Ellyson and Lorraine Nelson
Leland Hermit and Vickie Johnstone
Jennifer Don and Dominique Goodall
Donna Dillon-Truckenbrod and Dianne Gardner
Debra Shiveley Welch
D John Watson
Candy Ann Little
Sarah Lane 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Interview with Author – Debra Shiveley Welch: By Book Goodies

About Debra Shiveley Welch:

Debra Shiveley Welch was born in Columbus, Ohio and has lived in the Greater Columbus area all of her life. She now resides in Central Ohio with her husband, Mark, and their son, Christopher, also a traditionally published author.

Debra is an Amazon Best Selling Author of 14 books and the recipient of the FaithWriter’s Gold Seal of Approval, Books & Authors Award of Excellence recipient, Books & Authors Best Non Fiction Book – 2007, AllBooks Reviews Editor’s Choice 2010 and Books & Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011. 

Her books include: Cedar Woman, her solo novel, made its debut in December of 2010 and recounts the story of a daughter of the Lakota Sioux who opens the first Native American restaurant in Central Ohio and won Books & Authors Best Native American Fiction 2011; four time award winner Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher, released during November, National Adoption Month in 2007 and a Best Seller on Amazon within the first week of its release and soon to be available in audio; A Very Special Child, an award winning Best Seller on Amazon America and in English at Amazon Japan. Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, Debra’s first novel, co-authored with Linda Lee Greene, an Amazon Best Seller as well. Christopher Meets Buddy, a children’s book about the proper care of a pet bird, is the second book in the Christopher Series. Printed in full color, it is an excellent guide if you are considering buying a pet bird.

All are available through Amazon in Kindle or paperback and your major book stores.
To view her other works, visit her author page on Amazon.

Currently Debra is working on Spirit Woman, a sequel to “Cedar Woman,” Christopher’s Family Table, a companion cook book to Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher, which she is co-authoring with her son, My Cousin My Son – A Story of Adoption, Motherhood and Kinship, a sequel to “Son of My Soul,” and “Heads Are Gonna Roll,” an ambitious tale weaving English history, reincarnation and murder.

What inspires you to write?

I have been writing since age nine. A third generation poet, I have always enjoyed the beauty and flow, the cadence and flavor, of words.

I remember lying upstairs in the old farm house, snuggled down deep into a feather bed, buried beneath layers of homemade quilts. Fully awake, I would listen to my mother, father, Mawmaw, Pawpaw, aunts and uncles talking, their voices drifting up to me through the heat vent in the floor. I enjoyed the music of their speech, the meter: the up and down patterns and the various inflections and tones of each individual. 

Many of the patterns were the same. They were from the same family, after all. But some had moved away, as my mother had, to the “big city” and her speech had changed – evolved. I found this fascinating!

Mawmaw would say, “Well, I’ll red up the table then,” her voice deep, resonant and rich. Mom would answer “Okay, Mother. I’ll help you clean up,” this said much lighter and higher in the throat. Aunt Louise would respond with, “Fetch them dishes on over here then, Mam-aw.” Like Mawmaw, she speaks deep within the larynx, emitting the same sonorous sound. Beautiful! Exhilarating! It was difficult to drift off, in spite of the caressing feathers and quilts. Who could sleep with this verbal lullaby just one floor below?

With this wealth of dialect and poetry surrounding me throughout my childhood, it was no wonder I became a writer. What else could I do but scribe the music of my family’s voice?

Tell us about your writing process.

Please allow me to share an instructional book I’ve written about this exact subject:

Writing Your First Book

I have had so many people say to me, “I don’t know where to start! How do you do it?’ How do you manage to write a book?” Well, it may not be as difficult as you fear. The “doing” simply is in the knowing how.

Let’s start with the basics. Just as you prepared for doing your homework as a child and young adult, you must prepare for writing your manuscript. This isn’t something you can just jump into without preparation.

First of all, most publishers want your work written in Microsoft Word. Documents must be single spaced, with no spaces between paragraphs; each paragraph with a five space indent.
This may vary from publisher to publisher, so do your homework. Go to their website and read their guidelines for submission.

Today’s publishers want submissions to be in pristine condition with:

Correct punctuation
Correct grammar, and
Vigorous editing

If you’re trying for traditional publishing, most houses these days have their word count limits set to between 65 and 100,000 words.

Get an editor on board!

Find a writing/editing partner to work with, whose strengths do not mirror your own.

For instance, let’s say that you are very good with dialog, and they are weak – but they are very good with punctuation, grammar and verb tense agreement. Well, you can help each other a lot. In the end, however, a professional editor can be invaluable. The publishing world is not what it used to be. An editor will most probably not be provided, and many works are rejected on bad-editing alone.
Invest in a good writing guide such as Harbrace College Handbook or Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. They will be invaluable to you as you edit your work.
Start out With a Good Outline

Eternal beauties have “good bones.” Your book has to have “good bones” to be a good book. That is, good organization, a good outline…a good “skeleton.” Create an outline for your book to keep you on track. It doesn’t mean that the outline can’t change, but if you write out a “road map” for your work, you won’t get lost before you reach your destination: the end of your book.

Join a writing group
Many writing groups are set up so that, in order to be critiqued, you must reciprocate. So if you are active with other writers, you will get feedback on your work. This is all done with respect and a desire to help each member become a better writer. This is also an excellent place to find your writing/editing partner.

Learn to Take Criticism

It’s nice to hear someone say “Oh, I just love your work!” But does this help you? Maybe a little, but honest, constructive criticism is your best tool for improving your writing skills. However, sometimes, the people around you, friends and relatives, for instance, are the worst ones to listen to. They will either tell you that you are brilliant, when you are not, or not talented – when you are! Some may even tell you to give up. Only you can decide if you want to go on, and if the need within you to write is great, go for it. 

Write, Write and Then Write

Write every day. If you are blocked on your current project, write a practice exercise. Keep the juices flowing and your creativity active. Writing is not like riding a bike….if you get lazy and don’t practice, you will lose a lot of your skills. The more you practice, the better you will get, but if you don’t use it, you will lose it.

Practice – Indulge Yourself in Writing Exercises

For instance, pick up a piece of fruit. Smell it, feel it, taste it. Now write about it.
Make your reader smell, feel and taste that piece of fruit.

Step outside. What do you see, hear? Describe it so that a reader will feel like they are there.
And, you’re off!

Now you are prepared to begin your first book. Word is loaded on to your computer. You have your writing manuals, you have a writing/editing partner, and your keyboard is dusted off and ready to go. Now what do you do?

We will talk about:

Writing about what you know
Getting your reader’s attention
Setting the Scene
Fleshing out your characters
Dialog – It can make or break your book

Following are some examples taken from the novel Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams.

Write About What You Know

If you write about what you know, places you’ve been, and draw on your own experiences, you will bring to your writing a unique quality and a reality that will truly speak to your audience. Sci-fi and fantasy novels are fun to write and read, but even they must be based on some reality unique to the author. Draw on your history, and your book will ring true to your readers.

Get Their Attention

Any work, whether it is an article, an essay, a novel or a poem, must start with a first paragraph that is a “grabber.” If you don’t get your reader’s attention immediately, you will more than likely lose them. Be creative, think about your story, and give them all you’ve got with your opening: 

Mortified and with shoes in hand, Oma Mae paddled flatfooted to her office door, her burning feet, swelling and smacking heavily on the tiled hallway floor. “WOMEN DO NOT HAVE HOT FLASHES! THEY HAVE POWER SURGES,” flashed across her brain, the words throbbing in her head like a strobe light on the set of Saturday Night Fever. What in the hell would Gail Sheehy know about hot flashes! I’ll lay odds she was popping estrogen pills like they were M&M’s when she wrote that one, Oma Mae blustered hotly, her breath so hot she quickly sipped it back in to keep it from scorching the tender insides of her feverish lips.

Set the Scene

Where does a particular scene happen? Your reader must “see” what you “see,” “hear” what you “hear.” Each scene should be carefully crafted so that your reader can follow the story with ease:
Later that evening, Oma Mae went topside after the rest of the party had settled in their berths for the night. She made herself comfortable, lying down on a deck chair and placing her hands behind her head. She laid there watching the stars and enjoying the soft listing of the ship and the slap, slap, slap of the waves against the schooner’s wooden hull. The evening was a little cool, pleasantly so, and there was a slight wind carrying the scent of salt, a briny perfume she found enticing; delightful for someone who was used to the green smell of land-locked Ohio.

Flesh out Your Characters, But Con’t Go Overboard

When you introduce your characters, flesh them out. Describe them: color of hair, eyes, height, attitude, perhaps a brief history. Make them real – a living and breathing character, but don’t go on forever. I once read a book where it took 20 pages to introduce a character. By the time I got back to the plot, I’d lost interest. But your readers have to care about your characters, whether it is to love or hate them. Ambivalence doesn’t work in successful writing:

Sylvie Musser stood a mere five feet tall, her height diminished by a pronounced dowager’s hump, forcing her head and shoulders forward in a classic osteoporosis slump. Hazel green eyes, sunk deeply in their sockets, peered beneath gray brows and above high cheekbones, her facial structure reminiscent of her Native American great grandmother. Her hair, straight and iron gray, was worn in a simple bun nestling atop her curved spine.

The old woman was thin to the point of gauntness, her frail frame clothed in a simple summer dress of the kind Oma Mae had not seen since the early sixties, consisting of a simple sleeveless shift under a bibbed apron, tied at the waist and pinned at the shoulders. She wore terry cloth carpet slippers, their outline stretched and molded by the arthritic toes encased inside them.
Dialog – It can make or break your book:
Your dialog should make the reader feel that they are there, in the moment, eavesdropping, as it were. Stilted dialog can make a book drag to the point where your reader will eventual put the book down, and possibly never pick it up again.
Listen to the following dialog…first without description and then with:

“You know, evolution is impossible.” Ray said.
“Impossible?” Oma Mae said.
“Yes. Well, more accurately I guess, is that it is a miracle. I suppose nothing is impossible; it’s just that we haven’t come to fully understand evolution yet.” he said. “It goes against natural law.”
“Yeah, it would be like reversing the flow of the tides of the ocean, if I’m understanding what you are saying,” Oma Mae said. “Or the breeze kicking up now and swirling across the water,” she said.

Now, note the difference:

“You know, evolution is impossible.” Ray scanned the horizon of the vast ocean with a slow contemplative sweep of his head and rested his gaze fully on Oma Mae.
“Impossible?” Oma Mae slanted a disbelieving look at his statement.
“Yes. Well, more accurately I guess, is that it is a miracle. I suppose nothing is impossible; it’s just that we haven’t come to fully understand evolution yet.” He turned sideways toward Oma Mae and rested his elbow on the railing. “It goes against natural law.”

“Yeah, it would be like reversing the flow of the tides of the ocean, if I’m understanding what you are saying,” Oma Mae contributed. “Or the breeze kicking up now and swirling across the water.” She raised her hands to her hair and smoothed the tendrils dancing in the wind across her face.


Ever watch a good movie where the transitions are so great, you can’t help but notice them? Take for instance, “Avalon.” Released in 1990 and directed by Barry Levinson, it is a story of three generations of immigrants who try to make a better life for themselves in America. The first scene ends with 4th of July fireworks. There are the bright lights, the booming, and then the smoke…fade to black, with smoke drifting across the scene, fade in to the grandfather, blowing smoke from a cigar, and telling his grandchildren of when he came to America in 1914 on the 4th of July. Now there is a transition. Your viewers know that a scene has changed, but there is a connection.

The same holds true with a novel. Each paragraph should lead into the next. More importantly, each chapter should end with a transition which leads to the following one. This keeps your reader interested, and keeps them turning the page: picking your book up again and again, until the finish.

Chapter ends with:

I feel prepared to take this giant step away from the comfort and security of my mother’s loving arms, and Patrick’s brotherly protection, and Joy’s sisterly companionship. Even Mother Mary Claire, as with the others, must be left to pursue, her own soul development and growth. These wise and wonderful and loving people have honed me, and if I am to do anything of good or service at all, it will be to them the credit will be owed. Therefore, it is those four most precious loved-ones to whom I devote my life, even as I say goodbye.

Next chapter:

The lonesome faraway echoes of a braying burro were the only sounds Oma Mae Adams heard as she disembarked the bus transporting her to the Terminal in the city of Cuenca, located in the southern highlands of the Andes Mountains in the south-central region of Ecuador.

Edit, Edit and Then Edit

Clean up your work! You wouldn’t send your child to a party with mud on his face and his clothes torn, would you? So why would you send your book, your “child” out into the world filled with errors in punctuation, grammar or spelling? Take the time to edit and then edit again. This is not the time to be lazy.

So, now you have written your book. You’ve made an outline to help you stay on track, you’ve written a killer first paragraph to get your reader’s undivided attention, your scenes and characters are vivid and believable, and your dialog is visual and interesting. 

You’ve edited and edited to make sure that your punctuation, spelling and grammar are absolutely correct, you’ve used a writing/editing partner to read your story and help you with every aspect of your work, and now you are ready to submit your “baby” to a publisher or agent.

For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?

Absolutely! I always have someone on board who is reading my work as it progresses. We discuss the characters, what is going on with them, how would they react to this or that.
I’ve spent many an hour with a friend in a restaurant talking about my characters. It’s not unusual for the server to finally ask if everything is all right with our friend. That’s how it should work.

What advice would you give other writers?

Write with integrity. Your name, your art, and your colleagues deserve nothing less.
Research everything. Not long ago I watched a movie where the actress was describing the death of the conjoined twins she was holding at the time. She said, “First I watched the boy die, and then the girl.” What? Conjoined twins can only be of the same sex. Dumb mistake. On that same line, “Douglas and Dianna, being identical twins…..” Obviously, the author started out with the twins being of the same sex, at some point in time decided that they should be fraternal, but somehow missed this very important reference.

Research, edit and after that, edit.

How did you decide how to publish your books?

I have always gone to my publisher. I wanted to be traditionally published and I was thrilled when my publisher picked up my first book, “A Very Special Child,” an children’s book about adoption. She has accepted every manuscript submitted since that time.

What do you think about the future of book publishing?

I like the fact that people who heretofore could not be read, can now publish their books on their own. However, this also poses a problem.

I can’t begin to count the number of new authors who have expressed their surprise to me because they didn’t become rich over night. It just doesn’t happen that way. You must write to be read, not to be fed. Yes, it comes down to that.

Consequently, so many books are being published which have not been cared for, polished, edited, fussed over. It now behooves the reader to research before they buy, and that can be quite overwhelming.

What do you use?: Professional Cover Designer

What genres do you write?: Children’s, Murder Mysteries, Romance, Memoirs, Thrillers, Cook Books, Anthologies, and Poetry

What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print


Monday, September 15, 2014

Today I offer the introduction to a re-release of a book which deals with a subject that I am quite passionate about: bullying.

Bullied as a child, I am well aware of the damage to a child's self-esteem, feelings of security and safety, and joy in life.  The time of my travail lasted from age seven to eleven, finally ending when I fought back.

One can only imagine my feelings when my son began to experience the same problem, not because, like me, he was poor, ill fed and dressed, but for the simple reason that, like the author, he was born...different.  Christopher was born with a moderately severe clefting of the lip, gums and hard and soft palates.

His bullying began in first grade.  Thankfully, his teacher was one who could not abide such behavior.  Unfortunately, my son's art teacher could not claim the same intolerance to bullying.  Although he won a state award for his artwork, she flunked him, and was heard saying to another teacher, "I can't stand looking at that deformed mouth," and affecting a dramatic shudder.

In middle school, my son was again bullied because of his clefting, and once again, a teacher was also involved.

Disgusting, unconscionable, unbelievable! But it exists.

In The Snake Pit: Jr. High Can be Torture,  the author touches on this subject, and in a style that I can only compare to The Laramie Project, chronicles the life of a young girl who is bullied simply because she looks different.  Pay attention!  This book should be in every school, and most definitely should be made into a documentary.

The Snake Pit: Jr. High can be Torture Synopsis:

Cinda doesn't look like other twelve-year-old girls. A facial defect, and the surgery to correct it, has left her face scarred and disfigured. When she walks into Hargrove Junior High for the first time, Cinda knows the other kids won't see how smart she is, or what a good friend she could be. The other kids will see her as a monster, and her life will be torture.

The school cafeteria, or The Snake Pit, as the kids call it, is the prime location for bullying. One pretty girl in particular takes an instant dislike to Cinda. Day after day she is pushed, tripped, and laughed at. Not all the other kids bully her, but only one tries to help.

Charlene Carsten is Cinda's only friend. She tries to stop the bullying, but the other kids won't listen. She tries to tell the Principal, but he only sees what he wants to. She tries to tell the teachers, but they all say the same thing, “kids will be kids.”

When Cinda falls victim to a vicious prank at a school dance, it sets off a series of events that will change the lives of everyone involved.

Order your copy here, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NJCKFCO/,ask your library to carry it, and definitely ask your school to include this book in their curriculum.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Splitting The Velvet Dark - WINNER of the 2014 Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Prize

The poems in Splitting the Velvet Dark cover the life of a wife and mother struggling with depression and anxiety. They speak of the transcendence felt by planting strawberries to avoid a breakdown, and the peace that comes from driving a green Plymouth through the countryside.

"Elaine Mott is a poet of accuracy and reverence. Her poems, ceremonial and intense, are grounded in city life and garden life, in the cycles of nature and emotion. Her voice is genuine and immediate. We hear it with the sense she is right next to us, singing directly to us."
– Sharon Olds, winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry

  Interview With Aaron Mott

Debra:  Aaron, it is an honor to have you agree to this interview.  Before we get started, could you tell us a little bit about yourself: where you were born, your education, and a look into your private life?

Aaron:  Thank you, Debra. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss my mother's poetry. To answer your question, I was born in New York City, and grew up in Bayside, Queens. I went to Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, then attended the State University of New York at Buffalo, earning a B.A. in Studio Art.

My wife Christie and I currently live in Williamsburg, VA, and I'm in the process of opening an art gallery/coffee shop in nearby Richmond. I've also done a little acting over the past year, appearing as an extra in seven episodes of AMC's Turn.

Debra: Aaron, we discussed including some very personal information about your mother and father, but before we do, could you tell us what your childhood was like, and your memories of your mother and father?

Aaron: Looking back, I had a very interesting childhood. As a poet, my mother encouraged my attempts at creative writing, and both parents helped me develop a love and appreciation for art and beauty.

My father taught English, but was also a metal sculptor, and we all took day trips to museums in New York City several times a month. While I was growing up, I only had a vague idea what being a poet meant in terms of my mother's work. I didn't see many of her poems, and had no idea she was as prolific as I later discovered.

She dealt with anxiety and depression, which I was aware of, as well as insomnia. My father was very protective and supportive of her. They had an extremely close, loving bond, and a similar love of nature. My mother took my father to see where she used to spend summers in upstate NY, and he immediately took to "the country."

The year I was born, they purchased a small bungalow on a few acres of land, and worked on it every summer and weekends throughout the year. For a long time, they didn't even have a phone line in the house, so my father was able to spend his time working on the vegetable garden, which grew to more than an acre, and my mother could work on the flower garden and do her writing.

Debra:  Why did you decide to publish this selection of your mother’s poems?

Aaron: Her dream was to have a book of her poetry published. Although she was published in numerous journals and anthologies over the years, this was one goal she hadn't yet achieved when she passed away.

The rejection associated with being a writer was very tough on her. I felt like the baton had been passed to me to finish the race. I had an advantage, I think, because it wasn't specifically my work, so the rejections didn't sting as much. It was a privilege to be able to bring her life's work to a larger audience through this book.

Debra:  It is hard to believe that this poetry was not accepted immediately. Your mother’s poems are filled with such imagery, as in the following;

I’ve come back to find the space
 between one mulberry leaf and another,
between the fingers when the hands
make a church and a steeple,
to find the passage between the boxwood
and forsythia in the backyard,
the crack in the flowerpot
where the spider lives,
the distance between the wild grapes
and their tangle of vines
growing on the garage wall,
between the spirals in my mother’s long braid,
the whorls of hair on my father’s chest.

I’ve come back to find the quiet
between the shouts and raised voices,
the hush before the leather belt meets flesh,
before the door slams shut.
I’ve come back
to find the small child dreaming

How does her work affect you on a personal, and emotional, level?

Aaron: This was a very emotional journey for me. It was actually another reason I was interested in putting together the manuscript for publication to force myself to deal with my feelings about her passing. I tend to push deeper emotions away, and realized that might not be the healthiest way to handle something of this magnitude.

As I suspected, the more of her work I read, the more of a connection I felt with her. It was like a real conversation, and I ended it with much more of an understanding of her feelings and motivations. There were a lot of things I wish she had shared with me while I was growing up.

In addition to naturally being a sensitive and delicate soul, she had some traumatic experiences I wasn't aware of, or didn't realize how they affected her. I think before this experience, I didn't know the complete person she was. Now I do, and the best way I can describe it is “bittersweet.”

Debra:  Now we enter into a very delicate and emotional dialog.  To the readers, I want to assure you that Aaron has agreed to this portion of the interview.  He is a brave, young man who has suffered much, but through his compassion and love for his mother, has put aside his own grief to try and understand her more deeply than before.

So, Aaron, I appreciate your wanting to share with us.  I truly believe that this may help a great many people.  I would like to encourage you also to speak about your father, if you wish to.

Your mother and father were deeply in love.  Would you like to talk about that?

Aaron: Yes, my mother and father were deeply in love. They had very different backgrounds, but something inside of them matched perfectly. Over the course of their 41-year marriage, their bond only increased, and they needed less and less of the outside world. Neither one had ever been very interested in friends, and once they retired to the mountains, didn't see much of relatives either. They were completely happy to spend all their time together, working on art and gardening.

It was a huge shock in 2007 when my father was diagnosed with Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis, or IPF. It is an incurable, terminal lung disease, which rapidly hardens the lungs so they don't work anymore. At first, they thought it might have been a severe mold allergy, so he spent about a year trying to stay inside as much as possible, or going out with a surgical mask. When the doctors determined it was definitely IPF, he did go on prednisone, and some of the other medications prescribed, but none of them are meant to cure, just to slow down the progression of the fibrosis. My mother was devastated. She did a lot of research online, hours and hours of clicking through medical websites on a slow dial-up connection. She also wrote some poems. Although they are not in this collection, I'd like to share one with you, titled, "To Keep Out the Dread":

To Keep Out the Dread

Focus on anything
anything to keep out the dread:
the worn shellac of the pine floor boards
and especially the old nails you nailed in
every last one, with care, so lovingly
those years ago,
the way they pick up shine
and seem new again when the morning sun
touches them and brings out the silver.
Monet understood, painting the light
the light stays
long after we are gone.

Debra:  That is beautiful Aaron.  I appreciate your allowing us these glimpses into you’re mother’s heart.

Where were you when you found out about your parents, and what they had decided to do?  Was it apparent at first, or did you find out over a period of time?

Aaron: It was 2009 and I was at work in Buffalo, NY, when my sister called me with the news. They had sent a letter to their lawyer, and he had called her in NYC to let her know. My fiancé, now my wife, drove me the whole way to the country house to meet my sister, which was about an eight hour drive. My parents had decided to end their lives, painlessly, on their own terms. They each left a note. My father's said that he didn't want to suffer a long decline, being able to do less and less, like he'd seen happen with his own father. My mother's note said that she couldn't imagine life without her husband and love of 40 years. We still aren't completely sure if he knew that she was going to do the same thing.

Debra: The shock, grief and a desperate need to understand is a given, but please, tell us a bit about that day, how you felt and what you remember.  Tell us only what you are comfortable with sharing.

Aaron: I was in shock that day. My sister and her boyfriend, and my fiancé and I, stayed in a nearby motel for a few days. I actually can't remember what we did on the first day, as opposed to the second or third day. The police let us read the notes at the station. It was too emotional to sleep in the house, or really even go into the bedroom where they ended their lives.

At some point, we called my mother's parents. I was the one who made that phone call. If we called other people that day, it's just a blur. My mother and father were at the funeral home already. We brought some of their familiar clothes and had a meeting with the funeral director. Laid out, my parents looked nothing like they did in life. My father's hair was always in tousled bangs, and the funeral home staff had neatly combed his hair back. My mother's only makeup was eyeliner, when she wore any at all, so her face didn't look right the way they did it either.

We didn't have a funeral, just a cremation, and made plans to hold a memorial at the country house a few weeks later. My mother was Jewish, and my sister's boyfriend at the time was from Israel. We scattered some of their ashes around special places on the property, in the woods and flower garden, some near the stream and some near the daffodils, and he read a "Mourner's Kaddish" in Hebrew and English.

Debra: How did you feel about their suicide pact?  Did you feel abandoned?  If you can, please share this aspect of your grief.  Again, only what you wish to share.

Aaron: I don't know if it can really be called a suicide pact. I'm still not sure if my mother's was thought out in advance, or just decided by her that day. I went to a suicide survivors support group for a few weeks afterwards. It was helpful in its own way.

My parents had researched a way to go painlessly, as my father assured us in his note, and that was a contrast from some of the stories from the other survivors in the group. For a long time after, I had problems watching violence on TV, and it seemed like every show involved a suicide. I got over that, but it still disturbs me how carelessly people constantly mention wanting to kill themselves over mundane things like standing in line or talking to someone boring. I know it's said jokingly, but it bothers me every time.

To answer your question, yes, sometimes I feel abandoned. From an outside perspective, it seems like a very romantic, Romeo and Juliet-like story. As one who was left behind, I can't share in that same feeling. I know how hard it is for the survivors. There actually is a possibility that I've inherited the gene which would predispose me to IPF. I haven't gone through with the testing, because I don't want that knowledge to affect the way I live my life. Either way, I'll cling onto life as long as possible, even if it means breathing through a tube at a hospital until the end, because I don't want to put my loved ones through the same thing.

Debra:  Aaron, I am so sorry that you had to go through this.  I find your way of coping extremely poignant and brave. I admire your decision to honor your mother, and the way you have approached accomplishing it.

At what point did you decide to pay tribute to your mother by having her poems published?

Aaron:  After the first few months, I stopped going to the survivors group, and went on with ordinary life. As I mentioned, I think I tend to push away deeper emotions, and wanted to force myself to face them.

I started to read my mother's collection. She wrote the manuscript to deal with her life, and I read it to deal with her death. I realized for the first time how sensitive and emotionally scarred she was from life, and how difficult it was for her to just get through her days. I found out that she had been raped as a teenager through one of her poems.

At that point, I didn't feel comfortable publishing that one, but "The Call" in this book is a metaphor for the rape and her feelings about it.

As if that wasn't enough of a trauma, when she was pregnant with my brother and me, she fell ill and my brother was stillborn. I did know about that, and didn't realize the extent of her guilt and grief. In addition to learning about her inner thoughts and emotions, I realized what an excellent poet she was. This work had to be shared. It's a way of keeping her spirit alive, and the memory of her in the world.

Debra:  You have the soul of a poet, Aaron. I am positive that your parents are happy with what you are doing. 

Splitting the Velvet Dark is essentially a journal, or diary, written in poetic form.  Why do you think that your mother chose this format to write her life’s journey?

Aaron: There were poems which were completely fictional, or about other topics, but the most powerful and evocative ones were those about her personal experiences. Poetry was the best vehicle for her to express complex emotions, a framework on which to lay metaphor and imagery from her inner world.

Debra:  What is your impression of her body of work?  Did she write for pleasure, or release, perhaps?  Do you think it started out for one reason and evolved into another?

Aaron: Her body of work is both an amazing autobiographical journey, and a meditation on the meaning of life. She wrote as a way to deal with life. As an individual, she was quiet and shy, so a lot of her thoughts and feelings about the events of her life went into the poems.

There are revelations about the search for peace and beauty in this world, gems of insight into universal struggles and truths. I think her first poems, some of the early ones, not in this collection, were more about finding her voice and the form of the poetry itself. By the time these poems were written, she'd definitely found her voice and style, and poetry became a type of release and therapy.

Debra: Do you have plans for any videos connected with your mother’s poetry?

Aaron: Through the film work I've done, I've made some contacts with folks who do videography and editing. The publisher of Splitting the Velvet Dark, the wonderful Deanna Roy of Casey Shay Press, has agreed to let me do a few "poetry videos" to post online. They should be completed by mid-August, and feature dramatic readings of some of the poems, intercut with interesting visuals. The first one will be "The Apartment," which is a poem from the collection about the early part of my mother and father's love story. I'll post the videos to YouTube, and put links to them on GoodReads and my own website.

Debra:  Aaron, will we be seeing more of your mother’s works in future volumes?

Aaron: Yes! My mother wrote over a hundred poems. Since this collection is only about twenty of those, I've submitted the larger manuscript, In Love With the Dark, to about a dozen of the current crop of publication contests. Considering how well the chapbook is doing on Amazon.com, I'm optimistic that the good buzz her work is receiving will lead to some new offers.

Debra:  Aaron, I want to thank you for participating in this interview, and for your courage to share what you have with us today.  I would like to express my sincere sympathy for your loss, and admiration for what you are doing to help your mother’s name and talent live on.

I would like to end this interview with the review I recently posted on Amazon and Goodreads:

5.0 out of 5 stars An Honor to Read July 10, 2014
By Debra Shiveley Welch
Format:Kindle Edition

Splitting the Velvet Darkness has been an honor to read. The poetry contained within this offering is, not only pleasant to the inner ear, but touches the soul as well.

Unpretentious in its writing, Splitting the Velvet Darkness is an autobiography written in rhythmical, evocative language, projecting pictures upon the inner eye. It flows through the mind like a gentle breeze, as we follow the author's life from childhood to retirement. The author appears to be musing over her life experiences, as if opening a treasured scrapbook, and allowing the reader a peek inside.

I love this book, and will read it again and again. Five stars is not nearly enough.

Aaron is willing to answer any questions you may have.  We look forward to your comments and questions.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Military Mom in Trouble

Arlene and Tanner
I am posting this as an appeal to aid a friend desperately in need of help. Her name is Arlene O'Neil, and she lives on a small farm in Johnston, South Carolina. She is a military mom who has provided, not only her son, but many other soldiers serving their country with shipments of cookies, miscellaneous requests for things as special as, for instance, golf clubs, and much more. I once paid the postage for her and it was for a huge shipment of gifts for Christmas, not just to her son, as I have mentioned, but everyone in his unit.

I am sharing with you this post on FaceBook: http://www.gofundme.com/Arlene 

I can personally vouch for the authenticity of this woman's predicament. Not only has she been a friend for many years, she is also my colleague: we edit each other's novels and share marketing plans, not to mention long conversations on the phone about our sons.
The plea reads as follows:

Most of you know Arlene R. O’Neil as a friend, animal lover, Army Mom, and author. You also know her as the type that always has her hand out to give, and would be the last person to ask for assistance. But now, our friend Arlene finds herself in a dire situation. She needs her 5th total hip replacement. The titanium rod that connects the donor bone to what is left of Arlene’s femur is currently broken away from the bone, and her entire prosthetic will need to be removed and rebuilt to regain use of her leg.

Arlene’s book, Broken Spokes is the journey of her life. It speaks of the accident she experienced as a child, and as a result, her lifetime living with a disability. It delves into love and loss with the death of her husband at an early age, and the challenges of raising a son alone. In fact, her son Tanner is now a SGT in the Army and has served his country for 13 years through 5 tours of duty, earning the Bronze Star as well as numerous other awards. He is still serving his county.

Arlene was never one to ask for hand-outs, she was the one that was always there to lend a hand. She was the giver. And now we want to give back to her.

Being on disability, Arlene’s insurance does not cover the overwhelming medical costs that her fourteen hour surgery will create, or any assistance she will need after this complicated procedure. Arlene will have to hire people to assist during her five month recuperation process; help with the animals, yard care, house cleaning and personal care until she is recovered enough to resume these activities on her own.

She will need as much financial support as you can give to help her through her recovery period. Worrying about paying for needed medication and physical help should be the last of her worries. Arlene needs to be able to focus 100% on healing.

We also ask that people pray that Arlene has the strength to make it through this complex surgery and recovery

Created by Brenda Perlin on June 1, 2014

Note from Kim Mutch Emerson ~

Arlene has faced more challenges in her life than most will ever see and she always comes out with her head held high. She has never asked for a hand out. In fact she has always been the giver.

It all started when she was six and she was crippled for life in an accident. Today after many years of trial, everything has come to a pinnacle. Arlene is single, living in a remote area with no one around who can help her. She is facing many series health concerns and is increasingly unable to walk. She is awaiting a 14 hour surgery to replace her hip and the titanium rod in her leg. She can not have this surgery until they check the two coils in her brain that she had done a couple years ago and make sure they are stable. Everything around her is breaking down - her car, her washing machine, her fridge, the fence for the goats, the 5 acres of land that needs to be attended to, not to mention the animals that need to be cared for.

I am asking if there is anyone here that can donate anything toward this fund raiser.

Arlene is my sister, I have no pride. I am on my knees in humble submission.


Note from Debra Shiveley Welch ~

I have known Arlene for many years now. In fact, I edited her book Broken Spokes, and know the devastation she faced as a very young child. She is a fighter; she is doer; she is a giver.
I spoke with her two days ago. She is bedfast, rising only to feed her goats and her dogs. She then creeps back into bed until she has to get up again. She has given too much to be forgotten.

Please help.

Interview with Arlene Reposted:

Interview with Arlene O'Neil, Author of Broken Spokes a #1 Bestseller This Week on Amazon
Debra Shiveley Welch,

Debra: Hello, Arlene. It's a pleasure to have you here for an interview. First of all, could you tell us about yourself and bring us up to date on your life today? 

Arlene: Hi, Debra. It's great to talk with you again. I must say life is interesting at this point. I live on three-and-a-half acres of farmland in SC with my five pet goats - Paxton, JaeJay, Rupert, Patches, and Frosty. Each have amazing personalities, make me laugh daily, and are so very loveable. I also have two pet Labradors, Holly and Bruno, who are my security system, my bed warmers, and my cuddlebugs. Besides mowing, gardening, housework, and fixing the goat pen when the kids decide to play Houdini, I am also Editor-in-Chief for Master Koda Select Publishing as well as do private editing. 

Debra: Arlene, you are a busy woman and I admire you for what you are doing for our men and women in the military. We'll get back to that in this interview. For now, however, how was your early childhood before the accident? 

Arlene: Prior to my accident at age six, I was a typical happy kid of the 50s where family, school, and church came first. Dad worked while Mom cooked and cleaned. I lived in a safe neighborhood where everyone knew their neighbor, and it was not unusual to see them all getting together for cookouts or coffee. 

Debra: Broken Spokes addresses your life after the accident? 

Arlene: Broken Spokes deals with the impact negative messages can have after a childhood accident. These messages carry through into adulthood and can affect every part of life. 

Debra: What do you remember most from your experience as a child, in relation to your emotional state? 

Arlene: I remember being afraid all the time; afraid of making others feel sad. Somehow I felt responsible for other's happiness. I experienced such guilt over taking up so much of Mom and Dad's time for the 18 months I was hospitalized and the year after on crutches. I felt I never fit in, and was teased by other children because I was different. 

Debra: Looking back, how did this experience influence you as a young adult? That is, once the main surgeries were done, how did it make you feel as a person, and more importantly, a human being? 

Arlene: Thankfully there were no surgeries; just 18 months in braces in a hospital called Newington Crippled Children's Home. That name alone had a negative connotation. As I said, I never felt that I fit anywhere. I always had a low self esteem and a very poor self image. Because of this, I believe I became an over-achiever. In other words, don't tell me I can't do something because I will just to prove you wrong. I bought a horse when I was 18 and appeared on the rodeo circuit. I danced extremely heavy choreography in Jesus Christ Superstar and even auditioned on Broadway. I became Crew Chief for a hot air balloon company, played softball, and women's Dek Hockey. All these activities were dangerous, especially after I had my first total hip replacement, but that never stopped me. I was determined to prove to everyone that yes…I can! 

Debra: Childhood experiences impact us for the rest of our lives. How has this impacted your life physically now? 

Arlene: Every single step I take now is a reminder of my stupidity of my younger years. The pain is very severe and I will be having my fifth total hip replacement within the next year. I finally have the life I want, yet it's so difficult to keep up physically with the demands of the house, property, and animals. If only I hadn't tried so hard to prove how strong or daring I was, my hip may have lasted longer. Most have one hip replacement in their 50's or 60's. I am on number five already.

Debra: How has your accident impacted you emotionally now?

Arlene: I find myself very self conscious of my limp, of my inability to walk very far, to exercise much, or lift items I could even up to four years ago. I now live in fear of my hip fracturing and in panic knowing I need surgery once again. Emotionally I feel I have failed myself, due to a lack of common sense and trying so hard not only to fit in, but to over achieve. 

Debra: Arlene, if I may, may I ask you about your late husband? How did you meet, court and fall in love? Did your injuries play any part in your developing relationship? 

Arlene: Pat and I met when we were both Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Counselors. He was divorced and had 4 daughters. Pat was much older than I and many frowned on the relationship, but when you know… you just know. I was due for another hip replacement and refused to marry Pat until after I recovered. Finally in 1979, we were married. 

Debra: You were widowed early. Did your past help you to cope with your devastating loss or hinder it? 

Arlene: I lived in denial of Pat's death for a very long time, and due to the childhood messages, I could not cry. I was warned not to cry after my accident because it would upset my parents, my grandmother, my brother...everyone. These well intentioned messages, trying to make me be strong, had the reverse affect. I became emotionally cast in stone. Because of my hip injury, it was suggested that I may not be able to conceive and that it may put a strain in my leg. I didn't care. Most of all, I wanted one opportunity to give Pat a son. I knew it was risky, but what in life isn't? Even though I ended up with an emergency caesarian section, Tanner entered the world kicking and screaming, destined to be someone. The tears in Pat's eyes were worth any risk I may have taken physically. Unfortunately, Pat died when his only son was 4 ½ years old. I've done my best to keep Pat's memory alive. 

Debra: When did you start writing and what prompted you to write Broken Spokes

Arlene: I've been writing for as long as I can remember and was first published in an anthology called Our Forgotten Graces back in 1985 - the year my husband died. Broken Spokes was written in the hopes of sparing one person the pain of living with childhood messages, and to let those who still heard them in their heads know that they were not alone. With time and determination, the negatives can be reversed. 

Debra: What is Broken Spokes

Broken Spokes is the story of my life. The title refers to broken bones, broken bike, and broken spirit. It speaks of the negative messages, although unintentional during childhood, which contributed to many of my insecurities today. It is also the tale of how a blind Labrador named Little Bit helped me find my emotional balance in life. 

Debra: Arlene, the cover of your book is, to me, iconic and so appropriate for your message. A special friend created it for you. Can you tell us about it? 

Arlene: Linda Danek of WI and I used to belong to a writing group years ago. She had sent me some pictures of her dog, and hanging on the wall was an incredible portrait of wolves. When I commented on it, she said her husband Frank drew it. I knew then that I wanted him to design my cover and do my illustrations. He is an amazing talent! I sent him the chapter that I wanted the cover to portray and he returned more than I expected. I fell in love with the cover the first time I saw the proof. 

Debra: Arlene, Broken Spokes just hit #1 in many categories on Amazon. How does that make you feel? 

Arlene: Knowing that more people will read Broken Spokes is important to me. It was never about the money, just the message it brings. Of course I'm ecstatic finally being considered an Amazon Best Seller and ranking #1 in every category listed. However, if my book touches one more person because of this, I will be thrilled! 

Debra: I know that you have another book in the works. Can you tell us about it? 

Arlene: Debra, my next book is the story of my son's life in the Army…told through my eyes, using my experiences and emotions. Parts of this book are contained in Broken Spokes, and I guess that's what inspired me to write the story of Tanner's career. 

Debra: Arlene, this sounds like an extremely noble endeavor. I know that it is inspired by your son. Could you share with us his story and how he inspired you to write your upcoming book? 

Arlene: Tanner has been in the military for almost 13 years now and deployed five times to active war zones. I plan to detail every step he took from Basic Training to multiple deployments, and help readers learn where to go for support, what they can do to help their soldier, and what to expect emotionally. It is my hope that this book will assist parents and all involved with those in the service to understand better what to happens when your loved one announces, "I'm gonna be a Soldier."

Debra: There is also another special male in your life. Would you like to tell us about Little Bit and how he has affected your life and your writing? 

Arlene: Little Bit came into this world in the middle of a snowstorm on January 4 1995 - not breathing. This runt of a pup tugged at my heart and puppy CPR allowed him to take his first breath. At that moment, he was mine. His mom, Pepper, had 12 other healthy puppies, but Little Bit had his problems: seizures at 3 weeks old and totally blind by 9 months old. Most would have given up and euthanized him, but I knew there was something special about this handicapped puppy and refused to let him die. Little Bit grew to be a 100 pound bundle of absolute love. He represented Friends of Berlin Animal Control for years as their mascot at fund raisers and also became a Therapy Dog for the State of CT, visiting nursing homes, and locked wards for juveniles, as well as drug and alcohol addicts. He wasn't just a dog. Little Bit, through his handicap, taught me how to deal with my emotional insecurities and showed me "balance" in my life. He was also my rock while Tanner was deployed. A great part of me died with him on August 31, 2007, yet I will be forever grateful for the 12 ½ years we were together.

Debra: Arlene, I have enjoyed this interview very much. I hope you will come back when your next book is published so that we can keep abreast of what is going on in your life as well as your career. 

Arlene: Debra, thank you so much for having me. I hope that those still living with negative messages from childhood will be inspired and know they can be overcome. My next book will be out as soon as I can carve out enough time to assemble my notes and I promise to return! 

An author, editor, and proofreader, Arlene R. O'Neil may be contacted at arleneoneil@aol.com
Arlene's eBook Broken Spokes can be found here: http://goo.gl/7Zz4Qb