Jay Got Married by James Robinson Jr. // Book Tour

Length: 142 pages
Publisher: Independently Published (September 6, 2019)
ASIN: B07WQQ28WW
Genre: Non-fiction / humor
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5.

SYNOPSIS:

Jay Got Married consists of 9 humorous and, at times, poignant essays chronicling the ironies of everyday life in word and picture. Take for example the lead essay, aptly titled, “Jay got Married,” where I find myself mired in a horrendous dream. 

In the fantasy, my aging father–dressed in his favorite Champion t-shirt with stains covering the front–marries my wife and I like he did 42 years ago but, this time around, the my 92-year-old ex-clergy dad forgets his lines causing me to coach him through the event with hints like: “ask for the rings, ask for the rings.” All the while, my best man sings Sonny and Cher’s, “I Got You Babe.” 

Finally married, my wife and I end the ceremony with a kiss. But as I turn to exit, my eyes catch a glimpse of the bridesmaid who is no longer my wife’s best friend but now Gal Gadot from Dell Comics and Wonder Woman Fame. She is dressed in full Wonder Women regalia and looks totally shocked by the whole affair. 

My mother turns to my father (now in the audience) with a quizzical look and says, “Dad, look at that bridesmaid. Isn’t that Superman?” She doesn’t get out much. 

As we exit the church, and the bubbles fill the air–no one uses rice anymore—my wife ignores the limo and takes off on a sleek motorcycle, leaving me in the lurch—hence the cover. 

Sure, it’s sounds crazy. But, in truth, isn’t the world of marriage crazy these days? In my case, what would one do when faced with the prospect of losing their beloved wife after 42 years? At age 67, would they remarry? Would they even want to remarry? These and other marital tidbits are discussed with humor and as much reverence as I could muster.  

P.S. The author pairs up with Wonder Woman again in a final bit of photo wizardry Why? How? How are tricky copyright infringement laws avoided? Read Jay Got Married and find out.

BOOK EXCERPT:

JAY GOT MARRIED

I had a frightful dream. I was standing at the altar with my wife and 400 guests in attendance. It seemed to be a repeat of our wedding in 1976. My now 95-year-old father performed the ceremony for my wife and me the first time around, and that’s how old he appeared to be in this vision. He kept forgetting the lines and was forever looking at me for support. At one point, I was whispering, “The rings, the rings.” I kept reaching for them, but they were disappearing before I could grab them.

Albie, my cousin and best man from my first wedding, was singing Sonny and Cher’s, I Got You Babe. Normally, he can’t sing for shit, but in this scenario, he had his hand on his chest and his head back, sounding like Luciano Pavarotti. What was this all about? 

My father, the minister, wearing his trademark Champion sweatshirt, with coffee stains on the chest portions, pronounced us man and wife. I turned to kiss my new bride and caught a glimpse of her bridesmaid. But instead of her best friend who was her attendant back in the day, it was Gal Godot from DC Comics and the movies. 

She was wearing her Wonder Woman garb, but she didn’t seem primed for a wedding. In fact, she appeared to be totally shocked by the whole affair. What kind of dream was this?

My wife and I ended the ceremony with a kiss. My mother turned to my father (who was then in attendance in the audience) with a quizzical look and said, “Dad, look at that bridesmaid. Isn’t that Superman?” 

She was close. She doesn’t get out much.

Oh, and then, though neither of us would be caught dead on a motorcycle, in this weird musing, we were apparently bikers. Instead of a limousine waiting for us at the curb, there sat a racy motorcycle with cans in tow. It looked like this one:

a person riding on the back of a motorcycle: The ground-up redesign for the S1000RR could catapult BMW to the pointy end of the literbike class.

I Googled it. It’s a BMW S1000RR—sleek, fast, and flashy.

But before I could get on the bike, she pulled off without me, as the cans tied to the wheels of the hot machine banged on the street, while her gown billowed in the breeze. She had left me standing in the street like a lost soul.

True, I shouldn’t have been drinking the caffeinated tea before bed, but more to the point, maybe, just maybe, this crazy vision was a warning, a forecast, an omen. Maybe it was God’s way of telling me that Wonder Woman could show up at your wedding without even paying her an appearance fee. Or even more to the point, perhaps it was to make me appreciate what I have. 

What if the unthinkable happened to my wife? What if she succumbed to a disease, or was killed in a terrible auto accident? Or worse, what if her life were cut short in a vicious pit bull attack? 

I jest. But you never know.

MY REVIEW:

I will start off with my negative review of the book…

Memoirs are usually my favorite genre; however, I am not usually a fan of memoirs in multiple short-story format. I prefer to read books in chronological Real-life events. When I saw this book, I hoped it would be different than the many other books, I have read in this format because, it had added humor to the genre. Unfortunately, I did not think it was.

I did not think the humor was very humorous–it was more absurd. I understand that the absurdness was the whole point for the humor, so if you are a fan of this type of genre, than I totally recommend this book. However, I am not a fan of absurdness, so I did not enjoy the humor that much. The only time I laughed in this book, was when I was laughing out of the pure ridiculousness of the stories–and it was not because I thought it was funny. I would have liked if the stories made me laugh because they were actually funny–not absolutely ridiculous. I think the author should have added genuine humor to the book–the type that makes yu laugh until your sides hurt.

All that being said, now on to my positive review…

I thought the author had a great writing style–and even though his stories were not very funny–he knew how to tell a good story. His stories were absurd but I have to give it to him, because he did a great job of telling them. He sure keeps the reader entertained and waiting to see what absurd thing is going to happen next. The stories are light reads but full of insightful nuggets about history and life that are nostalgic and fun. He also wrote the type of experiences in his own life that made you think “Yay, I’m not the only one who does that or thinks that way!”. I could relate to several of his stories–and thought they were so true. I did enjoy that he related to the reader a lot.

Overall, I am only taking one star off for the content–just because I think a humorous book, should have been just a bit more humorous–but I think the book really earned the other 4 stars. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy short, “humorous” reads. I personally did not think it was very funny, but I read several review of other readers who thought it was hilarious. So you never know! You should give this book a try!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

James Robinson, Jr. is so formal; call me Jim. People have also referred to me as James, Jay, Jayzer, and even Jimbo. (You can thank my middle daughter for the Jimbo thing. Kids have no respect for authority these days.) I’m a sixty-year-old father of three, thirty-plus daughters and grandfather of four who has been battered by gravity unmercilessly (see Fighting the Effects of Gravity). I was late getting into the writing game. Mainly because I was busy having children and trying to keep them fed.

I have written and published most of the books that you see here since 2012. My first book, Fighting the Effects of Gravity, was a long-term project that I started long before the digital revolution. My next book, Death of a Shrinking Violet, consists of 13 essays including the memorable entry, “Damn You Sam’s Club!” My latest work, a novella, is my first foray into the world of fiction. Along the way, I have managed to take home two Five-Star Readers’ Favorite Reviews and become an Indie Excellence and Readers’ Favorite Award finalist.

Author Links:

Instagram : Facebook : Amazon

AUTHOR INTERVIEW:

1. What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

My most dramatic literary pilgrimage has been my lifelong journey from babe in the woods (in literary terms) at age 43—the year 1995–when I began writing in earnest to now as I write my 7th book. As I look back, I can’t believe how far I’ve come and how little I knew when I first began writing. 

When I began writing at age 45, there was no digital media—no internet, no email, no Kindles or Nooks. I wrote query letters to agents and included a self-addressed, stamped envelope. I went through 4 agents without getting a book deal. I put out my first Kindle book in 2012 at the age of 60–it took me 15 years to get the right cover and content–and entitled it: Fighting the Effects of Gravity: One Man’s Journey Into Middle Life. 

I’m on my 7th book since then including three fiction books but nonfiction seems to be my thing. As they say, It’s not a race, it’s a marathon.

2. What is the first book that made you cry?

Since I’m a fan of non-fiction genre, especially satire and humor, I’d have to say I’ve never really cried while reading a book. Sorry.

3. What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Since I self-publish, I haven’t found too many unscrupulous practices in that industry. Early in my writing career when I was soliciting agents, they would sometimes ask for a reading fee before they would look at your manuscript even though such fees were strongly forbidden. I’m not sure if this practice is done anymore. 

With my first book, I joined a company called iUniverse just to take advantage of the new digital publishing craze that was taking place. They helped to improve my book. They editor whose services I purchased, really changed my life. But when I tried to get out of their group, I found out that they essentially owned the rights and I had to buy my way out.   

4. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both. Working on a first draft or the initial stages of a book or other work is exhausting. Working on a piece that I’ve already put the hard work into is exhilarating. Especially when dealing with humor. 

5.What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Thinking that your writing is the best that it can be without professional editing. Offer up the best that you have, hire a professional editor, and get ready for a long period of editing. Thinking that you will make a great deal of money with your writing. I only know of a few people that do. Work hard getting your books out there to readers and be happy with whatever few books that you manage to sell.

6. Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

A passion for writing, a willingness to learn, and hard work are the basis for a good writer. An ego helps nothing. A person with a large ego would probably think more of their writing than they should and refuse advice.

7. What is your writing Kryptonite?

I would have say that first drafts are like Kryptonite to me. Sometimes my initial drafts are so bad that I don’t see the need to go any further. “This will never amount to anything,” I say to myself. But I keep on plugging away and that horrible duckling using turns into my version of a swan. 

8. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

I am inflicted with reader’s block. People can’t understand how I can be a writer and read so little. I think I worry that it will ruin my originality. Sometimes I think that I just don’t have the patience. I am also a lover of movies and that  takes away from reading time. I will, however, diligently read a friend’s book and leave a review and they will do the same for me.

9. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I actually have considered it. I thought it might be fun. A couple of my writing friends do it. But I think it’s mainly for romance authors and I’ve never been able to come up with a good name. What would I call myself? How about Jerome Alexander? I’ll keep trying.

10. do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

My only goal is to be original. Have you ever heard the song, “I gotta be me…? Well, I can’t be anyone but myself. I’m sure I could write romances if I wanted but I hate the stuff. I have this warped sense of humor. When I sit down to write, that’s what comes out. It would be nice if readers enjoyed it but, if not, oh well.

Merry Christmas!! Happy Day SEVEN of Blogmas!

Better Off Bald by Andrea Wilson Woods// Book Review, Author Interview, Giveaway

Length: 394 pages
Publisher: Build Your BLISSS (October 15, 2019)
ASIN: B07X3N6TCP
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Adrienne Wilson is a depressed, suicidal teenager–until the day she receives a diagnosis of stage IV liver cancer. Facing the fight of her life, Adrienne discovers how much she wants to live. In Better Off Bald: A Life in 147 Days, Andrea Wilson Woods chronicles her sister’s remarkable life, from the time she was born to the day she dies at age fifteen. Written like a journal, Andrea takes the reader inside her and Adrienne’s journey explaining how she gained custody of Adrienne from their mother and how the sisters’ relationship evolved over time. Adrienne’s courageous spirit shines through as she squeezes more life into 147 days than most people do in a lifetime. From meeting Jay Leno to spending the day with Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction, Adrienne makes every moment count.As she lay dying, Adrienne teaches Andrea how to live.

My Review:

Cancer stories are always so hard for me to read, because it is so devastating for me, to read how helpless people are when they go through such an almost incurable disease. “Better Off Bald” was no different.

However, Adrienne fought the cancer with such a determination and bravery, that her story was also encouraging to read. She had more courage when she was sick and dyeing then most strong and healthy people have.

I had a hard time read parts of the book because Adrienne was so brave and optimistic during the toughest of times, that it made me realize just how much I have to work on.

I don’t mean to make this review about me, I am just trying so hard to let you know how strong and brave this girl was. I just cant imagine what it was like to go through it.

Better Off Bald was not just a story of an amazing life and cancer journey, but also a story of true love and devotion. I have never seen so much love and devotion between two sisters then Adrienne and her older sister Andrea.

Andrea stepped up to the plate and took on the role of Adrienne’s mother who had failed to take true care of her. Andrea loved Adrienne and encouraged her to be her–and nobody else.

Andrea showed Adrienne what true love between a mother and daughter should look like. She also showed her what true love between sisters is like.

Even throughout Adrienne’s entire cancer journey, Andrea stood beside her like a rock. She stayed through so many sleepless nights at the hospital, meticulously learned how to administer the meds so that Adrienne could suffer at home instead of a clinic, and just altogether made Adrienne know she was loved.

I do not think a sister could love her fellow sister more than Andrea loved her sister Adrienne. Just from reading the book I could tell Adrienne left this world with her heart as full as her life.

Adrienne is such an example of what strong and brave really is. And Andrea is a perfect example of how powerful love is.

Better Off Bald is such an incredibly amazing uet tragic story, and I hope I showed just a little bit of how much it meant to me.

If I could be just a fraction as brave as Adrienne was, and be able to love just a fraction of the amount Andrea did, I would be content.

About the Author:

ANDREA WILSON WOODS is a writer who loves to tell stories, and a patient advocate who founded the nonprofit Blue Faery: The Adrienne Wilson Liver Cancer Association. Andrea is the CEO and co-founder of Cancer University, a for-profit, social benefit, digital health company. With Cancer U, Andrea synergizes her talents of coaching, writing, teaching, and advocacy. For over ten years, Andrea worked in the education field as a teacher and professor for public and private schools as well as universities. Andrea obtained her master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California; her nonfiction writing has won national awards.

Author Interview:

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Write more often. Write every day. Write for yourself.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing? It hasn’t. At all. What people don’t tell you is that writing like training for an ultra marathon. The marathon isn’t over when your book is finished. The marathon begins the day your book is published. 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Investing in my education which connected me to terrific mentors. 

What does literary success look like to you? If someone comes up to me 10, 15, 25 years from now and tells me my book has made a positive impact on their lives, then I consider myself successful–not that I would turn down a Pulitzer. 😉

How many hours a day do you write? Right now, not nearly enough. Even when I’m not working on a new project, I journal every day. When I’m working on a book, I aim for 1500 words a day. 

What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult) Hmm … probably adulthood though our childhood shapes our experiences. 

What is your most unusual writing quirk? When I’m on a deadline, I reward and punish myself for meeting or not meeting my word count respectively. When I didn’t make my self-imposed deadline for the first draft of my book, I punished myself by contributing to Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign. I wrote a note explaining why I was giving money asking them to never contact me again. They never did!

What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written? When I’m really tired, I forget how to spell the simplest of words like the. (Seriously.) 

When did you first start writing? I wrote a book in first grade about a little girl with a cat. I think it was part of a school project. I’m sure the book was awful!

What’s next for you? I have several other memoirs about other periods in my life, but they are on hold until I get my health tech startup Cancer University (https://cancer.university) off the ground and running smoothly.

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night Afternoon!

Trek by Rand Bishop // Book Review and Author Interview

Length: 376 pages
Publisher:   BookBaby; 1 edition (July 10, 2019)
ASIN: B07V2K64T6
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir
Buy On: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis:

Early 2017. Rand Bishop’s heart was breaking. With post-election America turning mean, the Grammy-nominated songwriter/author couldn’t sit idly by. So, inspired by the woman called Peace Pilgrim, Rand — at 67, with chronic knee and foot issues, minimal camping experience, and zero knowledge about long-distance hiking — decided to TREK from Southern California to the Central Oregon Coast, a distance of 900 miles.

Understandably, concerned friends and family members attempted to dissuade Rand from a venture fraught with such potential peril. Still, he remained undeterred, convinced that traveling by foot offered his best opportunity to meet folks one-on-one, listen to their concerns, engage in civil, constructive dialogue, and locate patches of common ground. Amid the dissonance of tribal rancor and blame, Rand needed to know there were still nice people out there. So, he went searching for a kinder America.

With TREK, the author invites the reader along, as he pushes a jury-rigged cart christened “the Pilgrimmobile” over urban sidewalks into the hinterlands, along dedicated bike paths, aside interstate highways, through neighborhoods and massive industrial parks, on narrow, decaying blacktop and remote, rutted, mountain trails. The pilgrim treks past windswept corporate farms, then inhales fresh, salty breezes, dwarfed by the awesome, dramatic beauty of the Pacific coastline.

Facing constant alienation from the common presumption that a grey-bearded, cart-pushing pilgrim must be homeless, he confronts seemingly insurmountable grades, spans precarious bridges, encounters wild animals, endures relentless wind, moisture, hunger, blisters, exhaustion, and loneliness.

The pilgrim gets spat upon, spattered with gravel, nearly knocked down a cliff by a Goliath RV. One fateful afternoon, the earth literally swallows him whole, buries him in dirt and rocks, and straps him down with thorny blackberry vines.

But, readers can take heart, because these difficulties are far outnumbered by spontaneous demonstrations of kindness and generosity from myriad Good Samaritans. Meanwhile, the pilgrim hangs with the homeless, convenes with fellow seasoned adventurers, lends an empathetic ear to the forlorn, the dispossessed, and the self-possessed, performs impromptu campground concerts, and withstands evangelical attempts to save his immortal soul.

By TREK’s end, after meeting a thousand fellow humans over the course of one life-changing spring and summer, Rand Bishop returns home nourished with the knowledge that, one-on-one, the vast majority of us are not only nice, but kind, caring, and often generous. And, despite our obvious differences, we have far more in common as individuals than we might have assumed.

My Thoughts:

Trek was an incredibly unique memoir. I have read many memoirs in the last few years as memoirs are my current favorite genre, but none nearly as unique as Rand Bishop’s. Of course, each writer’s story and book is unique in its own way, but Rand’s story just made me read in awe. I have never read about a person’s pilgrimage–let alone from an author’s point of view–so his story was so neat to read. I loved how he wrote his book in the form of a journal/diary with an entry written every day of his pilgrimage. It made the story so much more personal to the reader as it gave the impression of reading Rand’s personal life and thoughts. He gave a glimpse of what it was like to walk 900 miles across U.S. terrain both physically and emotionally. I admire his devotion to peace as well as his courage to do something about it. We all have something in our lives or the world that we want to do something about, but it takes someone special to actually do something about it. Rand Bishop did something about it.

About the Author:

Oregon native Rand Bishop grew up in the suburbs of Portland fixated on two equally impractical career paths: stage actor or rock star. Between attending Oberlin College and the University of Washington, a season of bit parts at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival made his choice obvious. Rand ran away with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. During the 1970s and ’80s, Rand recorded for Elektra, A&M, Sony, and MCA and shared stages with The Doors, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, Rod Stewart, and Credence Clearwater, while honing his tune-smithing craft. Tiring of the road, he transitioned to “the other side of the desk,” to earn his stripes as a platinum record producer, talent-development executive, and music publisher. An in-demand studio singer, Rand harmonized with the Beach Boys, Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson, Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, Graham Nash, Tim Curry, and Quiet Riot. As a Grammy-nominated, BMI Award-winning, Million-play songwriter, Rand counts 300-plus diverse credits: from Cheap Trick to Tim McGraw, Heart to Indigo Girls. He has contributed compositions to more than a dozen feature-film and TV soundtracks and several stage musicals. Rand’s song catalogue has generated over 20 million sales and continues to rack up millions of broadcast performances year after year. Positive public response to “My List” (Tim James/Rand Bishop) ― a five-week #1 for Toby Keith, and the most-played country single of 2002 ― inspired Rand to co-author My List: 24 Reflections on Life’s Priorities (McGraw-Hill, 2003). After that publication, he authored two career guides for aspiring songwriters (Makin’ Stuff Up and The Absolute Essentials of Songwriting Success) both issued by Alfred Music Publishing. Rand’s self-published novel/mock memoir Grand Pop spent a year in development as a premium-cable series under producer Ken Topolsky (The Wonder Years, Party of Five). Rand’s latest book is the self-published memoir, TREK: My Peace Pilgrimage in Search of a Kinder America. Rand is a produced playwright, an award-winning/optioned screenwriter and, for six years, contributed a regular column to American Songwriter Magazine. He has guest lectured at colleges, sat on music industry panels, facilitated creative workshops, and remains a highly respected songwriting coach. Rand has served on the boards of directors for three non-profits: Songwriters and Artists for the Earth (SAFE), the Nashville Film Festival, and Peace Village, Inc. In 2012, after four decades in Los Angeles and Nashville, Rand returned to his home state to be of assistance to his aging parents. Residing in Newport, on the Central Oregon Coast, he is developing and staging a one-man musical multi-media performance piece entitled TREK on Stage, comprised of stories and songs inspired by his 2017 900-mile pilgrimage. Most days, Rand can be seen on Nye Beach taking his beagle Millie for yet another long walk.

Author Interview:

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book? TREK is my fifth published book but my first attempt at a full-length memoir — if you define memoir as an autobiography that covers a specific period in the author’s life. I come from a songwriting background. A lot of people — even a lot of aspiring songwriters — assume that songs are beamed down from the Muse whole, complete and perfect, that we write them in a few minutes. While that might happen on rare occasions, the fact is, everything after the initial inspiration is about craft which means there’s almost always quite a bit of rewriting involved if you really want to create an airtight song. Introducing characters, situations, developing relationships, and conveying the entire story in three or four minutes with clarity and emotional impact means trying out a lot of ideas, making difficult word choices. Songs require succinct writing, using language economically. 

When I wrote my first book, I felt liberated, like I’d escaped the confines of the three-minute song. I enjoyed being able to expand and spread out, using words to explore the dynamics and nuances of thoughts and emotions. I could indulge in lengthy descriptive passages. And, even with all that freedom, it wasn’t a struggle to keep my earlier books within reasonable lengths. TREK was an altogether different experience. My first draft turned out to be more than twice as long than the recommended length for a commercial memoir. That surprised me. It was like I’d written a seven-minute song that needed to be shortened by half. It took many months to hone the tale down to a digestible portion. And, honestly, I still wish I’d been able to write a shorter book — if only because I’d prefer the font in the paperback to be bigger. 

What was one of the most surprising things you learned over the course of your pilgrimage?   Before I started, I envisioned myself gaining a certain amount of notoriety along the way — you know, as the old Pied Piper Peace Pilgrim with his beagle pushing a cart up the west coast inspiring folks to set aside their differences and communicate civilly and constructively. I’m a Unitarian. It seemed reasonable to expect that Unitarian fellowships along my route would invite me to sing for their Sunday services, that parishioners would invite me to stay at their houses. Some would even invite friends over for spontaneous house concerts. One Unitarian minister put me up and another church gave me shelter. But that was it. I got smiles, some hugs, lots of encouraging words. But, no invites, no house concerts. Aside from friends I hadn’t seen in decades, the most open and generous people turned out to be friends of friends, or folks I just happened to meet purely by chance. 

And, as I trekked on, the more right it seemed that I wasn’t drawing attention from anyone outside of my Facebook friends. Because I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to think I was doing it for fame or ego. Being anonymous and unexpected actually gave me much better opportunities to meet people on an equal basis and have honest, unguarded communication. Still, it surprised me that I felt so content to trek those 900 miles without a bit of fanfare.          

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? Actually, I’ve never been on a literary pilgrimage per se. That being said, I guess I could say that my entire life has been a literary pilgrimage of sorts. Life is a journey, often a pretty challenging one at that. Writing is my default mode, my way of coping with the short falls and the disappointments. When my brother died suddenly and unexpectedly, I sat down to write. Every time I got up from my desk, I’d start sobbing and break down. Writing about my brother got me through the initial shock and anger of losing him. 

I like to say that I write to find out what I know. And, when I come back later and read my own writing, I nearly always wonder how I could have possibly come up with those exact words… half the time because it sounds like a bunch of pointless, pretentious gobbledygook, and the rest of the time because I can’t believe I came up with these ideas, and had the wherewithal to capture them in writing. 

People often ask me if I’d do it again — another 900-mile pilgrimage. My knee-jerk response is always a very emphatic, definite, “No!” My feet still hurt two years after completing my trek. By mid-afternoon nearly every day of the 90 I spent pushing a heavy cart northward through California and Oregon, I questioned my own sanity for taking on what often seemed a totally foolhardy endeavor. Then, the next morning, I’d get up and start again with new vigor and optimism. I love to walk. Walking not only gives my body exercise, it sets my creative subconscious free. I still walk three to five miles a day on the beach with my dog. Typically, that’s when I come up with my best ideas. And, I really enjoy getting out in nature on a day hike. Sometimes I fantasize about walking the Camino de Santiago. But, I seriously doubt I’ll be taking on any more peace pilgrimages, especially on pavement, breathing heavy metal exhaust, climbing long grades, and jamming my toes into my sneakers on the other side. From now on, I think I’ll use more conventional transportation when I go out to meet people.     

What does literary success look like to you? Good question. Because success is always relative, isn’t it. In 2002, I was already what most people would call a successful songwriter… with a Grammy nomination, songs recorded by superstars, on platinum albums, movie soundtracks, all that. Then, one of my tunes spent five weeks at #1 and I experienced success on a whole different level. Public response to that song “My List” got me my first book deal, which is how I got bit by the literary bug. Having a #1 hit was an accomplishment that could never be taken from me. The recognition and the financial rewards felt really fulfilling. But that experience was transitory. The honest truth is I’m on the cusp of 70 and I still feel like I’m trying to make it in show business. 

Here’s something I’ve learned: Any success in the entertainment business depends on a whole lot of essential factors somehow converging together. Some of those factors are in the artist’s control — doing quality work, networking, etc. But a whole lot of what’s required for mass exposure and commercial success is about persevering long enough to allow synchronicity to happen. And still, even for some of the most talented creative people, that convergence never happens. Even though I haven’t achieved the commercial success and recognition of a Jon Krakauer or a Brene Brown, I feel fortunate to have survived as long as I have, and enjoyed the successes I’ve had.

Would I like greater success and recognition as an author? Absolutely — if for no other reason than it would give me the opportunity to go out and perform my one-man show TREK on Stage for packed houses of adoring fans. And, it would be really gratifying to know there’s a large, avid audience out there eager to read whatever words I write next. 

But, bottom line, it’s pretty cool to think that someone out there is probably listening to one of my songs right now, or reading my written words, and those people’s lives are being affected, hopefully in a positive way. Most writers write because we have to, not because we want to sell a ton of books and become famous authors. But, since we write, we should also want people to read our work, and be moved by it. So, I guess success for an author — or any creative artist, for that matter — has a lot to do with real people getting emotionally involved or intellectually stimulated by the work we feel compelled to create.      

Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” So, I guess, by that standard, I should consider myself a very successful and fortunate man.         

What was the most difficult scene to create in Trek? I tend to use an excess of descriptive words, especially in my earlier drafts. In TREK, I wanted to bring the reader on my journey with me. I want them to, as much as possible, visualize the dramatic beauty of the landscape, feel the chill and the strength of the wind and the heat rising from the blacktop. Choosing the precise language to capture my actual experience on the page, keeping it lean and economical, without getting self-indulgent or banal was an especially huge challenge in this book. 

Recounting the physical pain of walking up and down steep grades, crossing narrow bridges, while being exposed to constant traffic noise and pollution was also a challenge. As these were constant, everyday experiences, as essential as they are to the story, I had to pick and choose when and how I could even write about them. Otherwise, the entire book would have turned into a redundant list of complaints that no one would ever want to read. 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?  Not intentionally. Any secrets I might have, I keep to myself. The rest, I lay out there, naked in the light of day. I think negotiating everyday life is complicated enough. Just when we think things are going along smoothly, something invariably happens to throw us off the track. Life is about problem solving, which sometimes is a whole lot like decoding a puzzle, or a secret.  

There’s a scene in TREK where the metal frame of front wheel of my cart (“The Pilgrimmobile”) crumples. At that moment, blood rushed to my head and all I could hear was the pounding of my own heart in my ears. I was in overwhelm and my ability to comprehend anything was gone — temporarily. Here was a situation that required rational thinking and a realistic, step-by-step plan of action. But, in my addled brain, my only thought was worst case scenario — that my pilgrimage was over, my crazy, idealistic endeavor had come to its very inauspicious ending on a disintegrating sidewalk in Fremont, California. What seemed like a disaster in that moment turned out to be the segue into an important chapter during which I met some amazing people and learned some important, essential lessons. In life, secrets are revealed as they need to be revealed, and they can only be understood when we have the capacity to pay attention. Now that I think about it, that’s one of the major themes I explore on the pages of TREK. 

What are the best and most challenging things about being a writer? When people ask me what I do, I like to say “I make stuff up in my pajamas.” Then I’ll wink and add… “Beats laying bricks. No offense to any brick layers out there.” I’m not built for labor. So, I feel fortunate that, for most of my adult life, I’ve been able to spend most of my time doing what I love to do, what I feel compelled to do. I find satisfaction in laying my head on my pillow every night knowing that I’ve created something that wasn’t there before I woke up in the morning. Then comes the difficult part: creating commerce, which, like most creative types, I feel very uncomfortable about. 

Lots of talented, creative people don’t give themselves permission to live creatively. Every human being is born with a unique set of gifts. So, if we were granted our individual talents by a creative God force of some kind, don’t we have an obligation to reciprocate by developing those gifts to their highest potential and sharing them with others? I’m not saying that everybody should spend their lives making stuff up in their pajamas. Nor am I saying that everyone should be an artist of some kind. I’m saying that the world would be a much more peaceful, loving place, if more of us followed our natural childlike impulse to express ourselves creatively in our own unique ways. That’s how we pay that creative God force back for this brief life and for our native gifts. 

On the flip side, choosing to live a creative life is also a choice to live a life of uncertainty, or what most people would call “insecurity.” So, it’s understandable why so many people deny their creative natures and decide to take a more “secure” career route. And, I know — because I’ve experienced some very lean years and some very abundant ones — that life is a whole lot less stressful when have enough money and a solid roof over your head, food, all the essentials for a comfortable life. But, really, any sense of real “security” is imagined, and temporary. There’s always something we can feel insecure about, something to stress over, something we can find to be afraid of. It depends on how we look at it. We’re never in complete control of our actual life experience. All we can control is how we experience life — do we look at it as a daily grind or a trial by fire, or as an adventure. You either trust that the universe will always provide or you worry that it won’t. It’s your choice. There’s a phrase I love. I can’t remember where it came from: “I wouldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t blinded by optimism.” Ironically, I’m not a cheerful, optimistic person by nature. My Finnish bloodline doesn’t flow in that direction. So, it takes constant, daily practice to correct my natural inclination to look on the dark side. 

What was the most gratifying experience of traveling by foot for 90 days? Well, first, there was that sense of accomplishment, conquering seemingly insurmountable grades against powerful, relentless winds, through heat, pushing myself physically, finding out what I’m made of. 

But, honestly, my greatest fulfillment came in the conversations I had with so many fascinating people, the characters, the eccentrics, the borderline crazies. These were people from every walk of life, all ages, ethnicities, religious faiths or lack thereof, the gamut in socio-economic status. Interestingly, most conversations would begin with them asking a question like, “Wow! What are you up to?” Then, most of the time, the subject would quickly be about them, not about me. Most folks were actually far more interested in having someone to listen to their story than in hearing about mine. So, I had to practice my listening skills, to really pay attention, and ask sincere questions of them. Because, ultimately, what we’re all looking for is connection with other people. And, connection begins with knowing that someone else cares enough to really listen without judgement. I had to rid myself of the bad habit of thinking about what I wanted to say next. There’s a reason for the phrase “giving” your attention. Because listening is a gift. On many occasions, listening to the most egocentric, sometimes even incoherent ramblings required dipping into my reserve tank for extra patience. But, it was worth it because I could actually see, in their body language, in the pitch of their voices, that having somebody to talk to was providing them with a measure of healing.  

And, in the long run, I discovered that even in a nation turned mean, not only are most of us nice, and kind. Many are truly generous. And, knowing that provided healing for my fractured heart. It gave me hope. And, that’s the main reason why I felt compelled to sit down in my pajamas every morning for well over a years and write the TREK story. A lot of people are feeling discouraged and disillusioned right now. If I can help someone see a glimmer of sunlight on the horizon, then I’ve done my job. And, by Emerson’s standards, that is success in and of itself.             

BOOK TOUR: “Velvalee Dickinson: The Doll Woman Spy” by Babara Casey // Book Review, Author Interview, & Giveaway

This is my very first book tour and I was so excited to participate! You can read the synopsis, my thoughts, author bio and interview, and then enter the giveaway at the end of the post! Special thanks to Barbara Casey for allowing me to feature her book and interview her!

Book details:

Title: Velvalee Dickinson: The Doll Woman Spy
Author: Barbara Casey
Publisher: Strategic Media Press (April 1, 2019)
Length: 171 pages
ISBN-10: 1939521742
Genre: True Crime/Historical/Biography
Buy On: Amazon

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own

Synopsis (from back of book):

Velvalee Dickinson was born in Sacramento, California, graduated from Stanford University, married three times, and then in the early 1930s moved to New York City where she eventually opened her own exclusive doll shop on the prestigious Madison Avenue. It was there that she built her reputation as an expert in rare, antique, and foreign dolls. She traveled extensively around the country lecturing and exhibiting her dolls while building a wealthy clientele that included Hollywood stars, members of high society, politicians, and other collectors.

When medical bills started to accumulate because of her husband’s poor health and business started to fail with the onset of World War II, she accepted the role as a spy for the Imperial Japanese Government. By hiding coded messages in her correspondence about dolls, she was able to pass on to her Japanese contacts critical military information about the US warships. After surveilling Velvalee for over a year, the FBI arrested her and charged her with espionage and violation of censorship laws. She became the first American woman to face the death penalty on charges of spying for a wartime enemy.

Velvalee Dickinson: The “Doll Woman” Spy is a carefully researched glimpse into the “Doll Woman’s” life as a collector of dolls, and as the highest paid American woman who spied for the Imperial Japanese Government during World War II.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely love reading historical books! However, I usually prefer reading historical fiction, since many of the historical non-fiction books I have read are not very well-written, and therefore very dry and boring. This was not the case with Velvalee Dickinson: The Doll Woman Spy.

My favorite historical time period to read about is World War II. I will read just about any book that has anything to do with WW II. Surprisingly though, I had never heard of the story of Velvalee Dickinson–in fact I did not even know she had existed–before reading this book, so it was neat to hear about a completely new story and person. Her story was so unbelievable that if it were not for the FBI-proved evidence, I would not have believed it.

I would say that this was on my list of most-readable history books, however, i did think a few parts were a little dry. Overall, though, I would say that it was very readable. I thought Velvalee’s story was unique enough that a movie could be made on her–and I would totally watch it.

I was disappointed on the ending of the book because I think that any person who betrays his/her country should be punished by death. Velvalee Dickinson was charged with espionage and given the death penalty, but somehow it all fell through and she just died peacefully at home of old age. I am not taking off any stars for the ending though because this is a non-fcision book so the author did not choose trhe ending. I believe that the author did an amazing job of writing about this extrordinary story, and I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys historical books and especially the topic of WW II.

Meet the Author:

Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency, established in 1995, representing authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014 Barbara became a partner in Strategic Media Books Publishing, an independent publishing house that specializes in true crime and other cutting-edge adult nonfiction. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her husband and three dogs who adopted her: Benton, a hound-mix, Fitz, a miniature dachshund, and Gert, a Jack Russel terrier of sorts.

Connect with the author: website

Author Interview:

How did you discover the story of Velvalee Dickinson?

I was doing research for my book Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly when I discovered that a female American WWII spy was serving time at the same prison as Kathryn Kelly. The spy’s name was Velvalee Dickinson. I was intrigued so made a mental note to learn more about her once I finished my book about Kathryn Kelly.

Where did you get the research for your book?

The research on Velvalee was challenging. To begin with, there are no other books written about her. But at the time of her arrest and trial, newspapers around the world carried the story and I was able to access those. Also, I was given permission to access the FBI Vault files and go through FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) for material. The amazing thing I learned through my research was that many people who lived through WWII still remember Velvalee, and I disovered interesting information through those connections.

How long did it take for you to write this book from start to finish?

I spent almost eight months gathering all of my research before I even started to write my book. Once I had the research, however, I knew how I wanted to organize my book so the actual writing and editing took about three months.

What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

My last three nonfiction books have been about strong, intelligent women who have somehow lost their sense of what is right and wrong. They paid the price, but it was surprising to learn how easily they were able to justify their moral compass toward the negative. It could happen to anyone.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion? What about your book?

I write both novels and nonfiction. In each case I try to write a story that is entertaining, but also gives the reader something to think about. Velvalee does exactly that. She was a world-renowned doll collector, and that part of her life was fascinating. How she was able to use that to spy against the United States is remarkable.

Do you read a lot? If so, what genres do you most like to read?

I don’t have as much time as I would like to read for pleasure. When I do, I tend to read mysteries, especially those written by authors from Great Britain.

After writing this book, do you feel that this is something we can expect more from you?

Right now I am working on another novel for adults. Once I finish it, I want to turn back to nonfiction. I have already started looking into the background of a new subject. I am superstitious, so I don’t talk about my new projects until they are published, but I think this next nonfiction book will be another amazing story.

Book Tour Schedule:

May 27 – Working Mommy Journal – review / giveaway
May 28 – Readers Cozy Corner – review / giveaway
May 28 – My Devotional Thoughts – review / giveaway
May 29 – Library of Clean Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
May 30 – Literary Flits – review / giveaway
May 31 – #redhead.with.book – review / giveaway
June 3 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – review / giveaway
June 3 – Ani’s Books – review / author interview / giveaway
June 4 – Rockin’ Book Reviews – review / guest post / giveaway
June 4 – Books for Books – review
June 5 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / author interview / giveaway
June 6 – Readers’ Muse – review / guest post / giveaway
June 7 – Just Reviews – review

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Giveaway:

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Giveaway and Author Interview with Belinda Rose

This past week I had the pleasure of interviewing Belinda Rose, the author of Little Girl Crying. I read her book several weeks ago–you can read my review here–and I thought it would be very interesting to interview the author. Belinda not only agreed to do an interview with me, but she also very graciously offered to host a raffle giveaway for a free ebook copy of her book Little Girl Crying. She is giving away TEN free copies, so you have a very high chance of winning one; therefore I totally advise you to enter. The length is worth the read. I am very grateful for her willingness to do this with me, so here it is.


Author Bio:

Belinda Rose is a Christian Contemplative, inspirational author, poet and creative. She overcame a 38 year battle with anorexia nervosa, bulimia and deep depression through the healing and transformational power of contemplative prayer. Near death multiple times, her story of survival is a testimony to the power of God’s unfailing love and amazing grace. Amid an abusive childhood, she felt a deep devotion to Jesus, where He soon became her dearest friend and lifeline. Through God’s grace she was drawn to contemplative prayer, of which she has been a long-time practitioner. Belinda attributes the true miracle of her healing to the power of experiencing God in this deep, meditative prayer. As a Christian Contemplative, she believes it is by resting in God in the silence – the journey within – that sets God’s divine action to work within us to allow true healing of the wounded heart, mind and soul to occur.

Since the moment of Belinda’s miraculous healing experience she has been on a healing mission to uplift those who suffer, through her inspired poetry, writing, and prayer ministry. Through her vibrant online prayer community www.facebook.com/illustrateddevotions she shares daily prayers and devotions, offers intercessory prayer for those in need, and seeks to inspire and encourage those who suffer by ultimately leading them into a deeper intimacy with God through prayer.

Belinda Rose is devoted to her Catholic faith. When she isn’t writing or creating, Belinda loves spending quiet time in nature and adores animals of every kind. Born and raised in the Midwest, she still lives there with her husband and three sons. Together they enjoy the companionship of their five cocker spaniels, three cats and Buster the parrot.

Belinda’s memoir, Little Girl Crying: My Life-long Struggle With Anorexia Nervosa and the Prayer That Saved My Life, and the accompanying Christian Worship CD; Songs of Praise and Worship Inspired by the Memoir Little Girl Crying, are a testimony of her personal resurrection. Her life story is one of miracles, survival and of God’s great love, infinite mercy, and amazing grace at work in our lives. Visit her website: https://www.belindarose.com or her Amazon Author Page for more information: Amazon.com/author/belindarose


INTERVIEW:

What led you to start writing?
Honestly, I don’t remember ever not writing. I’ve literally been writing since the time I could print! I was just six years old when I began writing stories in first grade. In junior high, I began writing poetry. Then in high school the writing branched out to include Journalism as the Feature Editor of our high school paper, The Pepperbox. I also wrote children’s stories for my kids as they were growing up. Even though I love playing with many forms of creativity — art, photography, movie editing, graphic design — writing is the one thing that just comes naturally to me.


How long did it take you to write Little Girl Crying?
About a year and a half to write. But then came all of the illustrations. So the entire project from writing to publication took about 4 years. 


How did you come up with the title? Is there a message behind it?
Actually the title was given to me in prayer. It isn’t that I had been praying for a title, because I thought all along the working title was going to be Love’s Pure Light, which was an expression of the heavenly encounter and miracle that healed the eating disorder. The Holy Spirit embraced me in divine light and that light was permeated with divine love, so Love’s Pure Light, right?  But as I was praying one day, I distinctly heard the still, small voice whisper, “Little Girl Crying”.  Even though I thought the title was set, I knew immediately what this message meant. It was meant to be the title of the book.As for the next part of your question; is there a message behind it?  There’s not so much a message as there’s a meaning. The little girl I was spent a lifetime crying — crying to be loved … to be heard … to be validated. This is what the poem, “Little Girl Crying” at the beginning of Chapter One expresses. As that little girl grew up, she didn’t outgrown the emotional angst. Those emotional wounds I had repressed had now only gotten deeper and more unbearable. As an adult, I had a wounded and broken inner child to heal. Telling her story through this book is one way in which she has finally stepped into her power and no longer the victim. The book is in a very real way making her pain finally heard and validated.

What is the first book that made you cry?
That’s easy. Black Beauty! LOL! I think I might have been 8 when I read that. Animals have always been a very important part of my life — especially horses and dogs. I’ve always felt a deep connection to them because an animal loves unconditionally. I fell in love with the story of Black Beauty. Although I’m sure I didn’t understand this as a child, looking back maybe it was the oppression Black Beauty experienced that touched me so deeply. I was experiencing abuse and oppression in my own life as well. I think I felt a sort of “kinship” with Black Beauty’s suffering.    

Did you ever get writers block while writing this book? If so, how did you overcome it?
No, never. I was blessed to have a very special writing mentor help me to get the structure of the book down. Trying to write a book that encompassed so many decades of my life was overwhelming, and I struggled trying to figure out how I might do it. But once that came into view it all fell into place. I’ve never for one moment believed I wrote this book alone or just for me. This book was written from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is for God’s glory alone. It is a story meant to give hope and strength to the hurting. Everyday before I wrote I prayed fervently that the Holy Spirit would infuse every syllable with the light and love of heaven to lift up the broken and suffering and to glorify God. My intent has always been that my testimony make a difference in the lives of those desperately seeking a glimmer of hope in their pain. Jesus is that hope. I have to say, writing the book was the most blessed and peaceful period of my life — ever. It just flowed. I truly believe I was just an instrument, and this book was just part of my destiny. I’m both grateful and humbled that the Holy Spirit has used me in this way.

What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?
In my humble opinion, the most important books are the ones that inspire, teach or guide us in a way that makes us better human beings. Whatever path you are spiritually walking, it’s about walking it as better human being and having a deeper relationship with the Creator. 

Who is this book written for? Is there a particular audience you are seeking to reach?
While much of my suffering has revolved around an eating disorder and depression, I believe my story is universal. It isn’t meant only for those with eating disorders, but anyone hurting and in need of healing and hope. People struggling with addictions or physical, emotional, and mental suffering are hurting and struggling to get through the day. My testimony and it’s message is meant for them. I pray it will bring them the encouragement and hope to do that. 

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
So many things, really! I want them to understand God is with them in their suffering — even when He seems silent. I want them to know our God is not a has-been God, but a living God still healing and performing miracles, just as He did when He walked among us 2000 years ago. So don’t lose hope or faith, and never, ever give up because tomorrow may be the moment victory comes! And most importantly, I hope they will be inspired to seek a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord in prayer because prayer is truly the key to experiencing His love, His healing and His miracles.

What’s next for the book? Will there be an ebook or audio book?
Yes, I’m glad you asked that question! I just released the ebook edition of the book which I’m  very excited about. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to release an ebook edition because of formatting issues with the poetry, prayers, and illustrations. But it actually turned out really well, and I got to share many color illustrations rather than just the black and white that are in the print book. My next project is to begin working on the audio book. There are also two other books that I’m being inspired to write which would actually make this a series or trilogy. 

You also produced a music CD that accompanies the book. Songs of Praise and Worship Inspired by the Memoir Little Girl Crying. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Sure. I’d love to! The CD was inspired from the poetry in the book. Creatively I love to do things that are a little out of the box I guess you’d say. It is sort of a ‘soundtrack’ for the book! Who does that, right? But I also write song lyrics. So I began by rewriting some of the poetry into lyrics. Then, I wrote other lyrics for the CD solely from themes in the book. For example, the song Little Girl Crying is about the abuse and the relationship I formed with Jesus as a child in response to that abuse. I was really looking to create a means for readers to have a deeper — even devotional experience — from the book. The book is really at its essence about healing, and music is a great healer for so many of us. If anyone is interested in knowing more about the CD you can go to: https://belindarose.hearnow.com


Here is the link to the giveaway:

(you can either click on the image or the button, and it will take you to the giveaway)


I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as we enjoyed doing it! Thank you so much, Belinda for doing this with me!! Make sure to check out her book and cd AND be sure to enter the raffle for a chance to win a free ebook! Hurry, your time is running out!


Author Interview with Chris Fabry

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Author Bio:

Chris Fabry is an award-winning author and radio personality who hosts the daily program Chris Fabry Live on Moody Radio. He is also heard on Love Worth FindingBuilding Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, and other radio programs. A 1982 graduate of the W. Page Pitt School of Journalism at Marshall University and a native of West Virginia, Chris and his wife, Andrea, now live in Arizona and are the parents of nine children.

Chris’ novels, which include DogwoodJune BugAlmost HeavenNot in the HeartBorders of the HeartEvery Waking MomentThe Promise of Jesse Woods, Looking into You, and his latest release, Under a Cloudless Sky, have won five Christy Awards, an ECPA Christian Book Award, and two Christianity Today Book Awards of Merit, but it’s his lyrical prose and tales of redemption that keep readers returning for more.

Chris has also published more than 70 other books, ranging from nonfiction and film novelizations, including the recent bestseller War Room, to novels for children and young adults. He coauthored the Left Behind: The Kids series with Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, as well as the Red Rock Mysteries and The Wormling series with Jerry B. Jenkins. RPM is his latest series for kids and explores the exciting world of NASCAR.

*You can read my review of Chris’ book The Book of the King here.

Author Interview

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

I find it more difficult to create the antagonists because it’s easy to slip into making them simply evil. A good hero needs a villain. But even a villain must be crafted carefully to give a full-orbed view of their motivation. So, the Dragon and all of his followers were most difficult for me.

Are any of your characters based on real people you know? 

All of my characters have bits and pieces of real people. I suppose I identify with Owen because I was a solitary kid and isolated and books were a way for me to venture into the world.

Do you remember first getting the idea for the series?

Yes, the story kind of came to me late one night and I got up and went to the garage—my office at the time was above the garage—and I wrote for probably an hour, put the content in an email, and sent it to Jerry. The next morning I woke up, wondered what in the world I was thinking getting up that early, opened my email and saw Jerry had responded to the chapter I sent. He told me to keep that email, that this would be a bestseller and would connect with many readers. As of right now, the books have not become wildly popular, but those who have read the stories have really connected with them.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

It’s all about identity. It’s all about realizing who you are and living from who you are rather than trying to become what someone else thinks you ought to be. And the actions of our lives must come from that identity—being is the most important thing, not doing. And the doing must come from the being, who we are. That’s a deep thought, but true.

What led you to start writing? 

I always say that writing is the process of joining yourself in your own journey. So for me, writing was a way to explain my life to myself. And as I look back at the stories that bubbled up in my soul so much that I had to write them, I see the struggles of my life and what I’ve done to try and grow and mature. I also wanted to do for others what writers had done for me. Reading made me come alive. Writing does the same thing.

What life experiences have shaped your writing most?

Painful experiences shape you the most. These are the things you remember without having to try. Something goes on in the brain when there’s trauma. The pain comes back. I think this is why it’s hard to forgive others—because when we’re hurt, those memories surface again and again and we think because we can’t forget that we haven’t forgiven. But that you remember something isn’t proof you haven’t forgiven, it’s just that your brain is working and you have a new opportunity when that memory comes to forgive again. So I think the painful stuff provides some of the best story fodder because everyone has painful stuff and we’re all trying to deal with it in some way.

Thanks for reading, and make sure to go check out all of Chris Fabry’s awesome books! Have you read any of them?