Friday, September 15, 2017

Wounded Song Meets Dark Chocolate

Dear Friends,

Today I have the absolute pleasure of interviewing my daughter, Tammy Sue Willey, about her memoir Wounded Song. Considering where we were a few years ago in our relationship and where we are now, it's nothing short of a miracle that we're now sitting together, able to talk on a deep and honest level about her book. Disclaimer: I love Tammy dearly so I do this interview with just a tad bit of bias!

Hi, Tammy. Let's hear a little about your current life.

I've lived in Manchester, Connecticut for the past 25-years. I’m happily married to a wonderful man, Curtis Willey, who not only is a great husband, but is a seasoned singer-songwriter who brought music back into my life.
(I love him, too.) How about a brief synopsis of Wounded Song?
I was a child born in the 1960s who grew up in a tense household that grew physically abusive over time therefore straining personal growth and family relationships.  The 1960s were on the heels of an era where you weren’t supposed to embarrass or bring shame to your family and you certainly weren’t supposed to air the family’s “dirty laundry.” Wounded Song is my personal journey of a little girl who begins to sense fear and shut down before she has the words to describe why she’s feeling uneasy. It’s about a teenager who questions if she is really being abused. It’s about a young adult who makes poor choices because of negative messages she received growing up. It’s about a woman who is determined to make sense of her past and determined to put it behind her so that she is not forever stuck in her wound. It’s about a woman who perseveres with God for a better outcome to get away from the messy hand she was dealt. It’s a journey that finds a way to forgive again and again and as many times as it takes so that the enemy doesn’t win. It’s about restoration. I decided to embrace hope because Hope will have its way, if I let it.
What prompted you to write this book?
A long, long time ago, some friends said I should write my story. I hesitated because first of all, I’m not good with proper English. Second, abuse isn’t original, so I thought who would care. Third, I had no interest in writing a book as I wouldn’t know where to begin and I didn't feel I was qualified.
Long story short, I had a conversation with myself and asked what might my story look like if I wrote a book? I know the poignant memories, but when I thought about how I would share my story, I always got stuck in my head. Finally I decided to review my journal and miscellaneous notes from over the years and I started typing out my timeline. Unlike trying to sort it out in my head, I found that as soon as I started typing, creativity flowed through me in an unblocked manner. It felt like Divine intervention. I was encouraged by the burst of energy I had so I kept going until I actually wrote a book.
How long did it take you to write it?

I began taking my story from my head to computer and started typing in February 2009. I was making such exciting progress that I set a goal for myself to be done by the summer of 2012. However, 2012 had a series of unexpected life interruptions which intercepted my plan. Some of those events added a new dimension to my book which meant I wasn’t yet done. In addition, my husband and I were affected by the economy, suffering three layoffs between us. So…I started typing in February 2009 and I hit the publish button in July of 2017. I had a book launch for August 18, 2017 where we celebrated victory over abuse!
Do you have a favorite line from the book?

It’s hard to say what is my favorite because I have found that I actually like a few lines. Because of the topic of abuse, if it’s okay, I would like to share two of them.  
“We may be stuck with our wounds, but we don’t have to be stuck in them.”
“And we don’t discover the root unless we are willing to get our hands dirty and dig.”
How can my readers get a copy?

I’m proud to say I self-published through Createspace! If your readers don’t have an account or prime shipping with Amazon, they can buy directly from the Createspace eStore. Here is the link: https://www.createspace.com/7309877

For those that prefer Amazon, go to amazon.com and put in the title of my book, Wounded Song,  by Tammy Sue Willey.
What do you do, Tammy, besides write?
I'm a special education secretary in the public schools. I also enjoy hiking and taking walks with my husband. I like to sit on our patio with the string of summer lights on and watch our backyard birds. And somewhere in the mix, there is always dark chocolate!
Do you have advice for would-be writers?

To believe that their story is unique and important! I believe that we were all designed for a purpose and while our story may not be an original topic, it is original in how we will tell it because everyone’s voice is different. Our story will be filtered through our individual experiences. It may take a long time, but don’t get discouraged and don’t give up! It takes as long as it takes until you’re satisfied it’s good enough. And at some point, let it be good enough because it will never be perfect and your story needs to be told.
Also, the other thing is to listen to your own heart so that your story is authentic and in your voice. Nobody else can tell your story but you.
What do you wish you knew when you started your book?

Grammar! Sentence structure! Where to put a stupid apostrophe! But seriously, I didn’t know those things and I still wrote a book! So don’t be discouraged. Learn along the way. But I would say, hide the red pens from your husband and stock up on dark chocolate!!!!
Success!
I honestly don’t know how to answer this. I think if I knew how long it would take and how painful the editing and rewrite process would be, and that I would get laid off during it, that my laptop would die midway through my book draft (thank God I had backed up), and that my cat would get kidnapped, and the many other life things that happened, I don’t think I would’ve started. I guess it’s why people give birth to a baby and not a 9-year old.  I also decided God and my editor were out to get me. However, I had gone to my first writers conference in 2013 (four-years after starting my book), where I heard good advice. One of the authors said to be prepared to be alone a lot. That writing is solitary and you have to say “no” to a lot of things, events, the beach, the party, etc. I did that more and more. I found that advice to be helpful because at times I thought I was going insane by spending too much time alone and at other times I thought I was stupid for writing this book. But then I’d remember her words about it being solitary, so I realized I was right where I needed to be.
What’s next for you?

I started blogging in 2014 to see if my voice, my way of telling stories, would resonate with anyone. Because I received so much positive feedback, it encouraged me to keep blogging and keep going with my book.  Now that my book is finished, I’d like to get back to blogging. Also, I’m considering starting a support group. I might even use my book and follow the questions that I put in the back of the book to help readers think about their own journey.
Tammy, I know that writing this book was difficult, having to dredge up the past, but the fact that you and I are close today and that many other people have been affected by your story, is proof that it was all worth it. 

Thank you, Mom for cheering me on through my book project and for your amazing support and courage throughout my journey!

My pleasure!

Thought for the day: ...not till the wound heals and the scar disappears, do we begin to discover where we are. Thoreau

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Book Launch Tammy Sue Style!


Tammy Sue With Her Book
On Friday, August 11, I hopped in my car and drove to Connecticut. My purpose for going (besides seeing the rest of my family while there) was to be present at the launch of my daughter’s first book, Wounded Song, nine years in the making. Her book is about growing up in a family with an abusive alcoholic father and a mother, me, who stood by and allowed the physical and verbal abuse to continue. Although I don’t come across as a saint or even a very good mother in her book, I have supported her in this endeavor since day one. (It helped to know her story has a good ending!)

Tammy's Touch 
Tammy worked on her book launch for months, planning every little detail, and, trust me, all her hard work was worth it. In one room of the church where it was held, she had lights strung around the room for ambiance, fresh flowers here and there for beauty, and all around the room were pictures from her childhood. She had a guest book, raffle tickets for free prizes, and two banners proudly proclaiming the name of her book. In another room, she had tables nicely set for refreshments.
More of Tammy's Touch

Tammy Reading
The launch of her book was held in the sanctuary where over eighty people joined her and took a seat to await her presentation. And what a presentation it was! Tammy explained the various stages she went through over the years to bring her book to fruition—from a few random thoughts, to a few written pages, to a whopping thirty pages, to finally a full-size book. She led us through her tears, joys and frustrations throughout the process to which any author can relate!

Mike, Cyndi, and Me with Tammy

Curtis, Tammy’s husband, entertained us with songs on his guitar, then Tammy had her sister Cyndi, her friend Dawn, and Curtis read passages from Wounded Song. Cyndi and Dawn then each read something they’d written to honor Tammy Sue and during a lull, my son Mike got up and said a few heartfelt words about his sister. Tammy read a passage from her book, then it was time for me to read what I’d written. When I finished, Tammy and I hugged. Then I saw that Mike and Cyndi had come forward to stand with me and we had a group hug that lasted quite awhile. When I looked up, all the guests were on their feet giving us a standing ovation.

I mention this to say that, like the book, the book launch was a testament to how a family can heal and love one another as family members should love one another. Tammy’s theme for the night was, “Hope will have its way if you let it.”  

Cyndi, Me, and Tammy With my
Award the Next Day
Loving Family Surrounding Tammy
Afterwards, Tammy Sue presented me with a treasured “Mother of the Year” award she’d lovingly created, then people lined up to get their books autographed. Because of Tammy’s book, many people came forth and spoke to me honestly about whatever situations they were in that needed healing. Wounded Song touches people's hearts and prompts open conversations and will continue to do so for as long as the Lord desires.

Stay tuned for an interview with Tammy Sue Willey about her raw, emotion-filled, book, Wounded Song

Quote of the Day: To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1



Monday, July 31, 2017

What it Was Wasn't Football, It Was Mayberry

How many of you remember Andy Griffith and Mayberry? Of course, you ALL do. His show is a mainstay of Americana. But did you know Andy was from Mt. Airy, NC and modeled the fictional town of Mayberry after his hometown?

Barney's Cafe
Last week Cyndi and Bill and I took more than a day trip to Mt. Airy, we took a step back in time to when life was simpler and people were friendlier. Being in Mt. Airy was like being on the set of the Andy Griffith show. We started the day with lunch at Barney’s Cafe where pictures of Deputy Fife adorn the walls. We all had a “Barney Burger” and it was hands down the best bacon cheeseburger I’ve had in a long time. We topped lunch off with ice cream at another shop. I had chocolate chip mint while Cyndi and Bill had moonshine ice cream. This is the South after all!

Russell cutting Andy's hair
We then stepped into Floyd’s City Barber Shop, formerly owned by Russell Hiatt, a barber who used to cut Andy Griffith’s hair and is now run by his son, Bill. Bill, at 71, isn’t a barber but he employs barbers so it’s still a barber shop. “Two chairs, no waiting.” Bill talked with us for nearly 45 minutes, cracking jokes and taking our picture as a memento of our visit.

The icing on the Mayberry cake was a 
tour of the town in a black and white ‘60s era squad car. We saw the house where Andy lived for nine years and is now owned by a hotel and rented out for overnight visitors. His parents bought the house in 1935 for $600. We saw the Baptist church where Andy worshiped and the school he attended. We started the tour at Wally’s garage with the siren blaring and ended back at Wally’s, again with the siren blaring.

Next to Wally’s was a replica of the courthouse and jail with Sheriff Taylor’s desk on one side and two jail cells on the other. One cell was plain—a cot and a sink, the other had a TV, rocking chair, table and lamp, and a sign indicating it was Otis’ cell. So much fun.

Even though no episodes were ever filmed there (they were all shot in Burbank), you can easily imagine Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, Gomer, Otis and all the rest walking the streets and going in and out of the buildings. Betty Lynn, who played Barney’s girlfriend, Thelma Lou, is now 91, lives in Mt. Airy, and goes to the Andy Griffith Museum once a month to sign autographs.

Shows come and go, but I’m here to tell you that the town of Mayberry lives on, not only in our hearts but also in a little town called Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

Thought for the Day: The days may come, the days may go, but still the hands of memory weave the blissful dreams of long ago. George Cooper



Monday, July 17, 2017

God Visits the Patent Office

Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked for two patent attorneys at Union Carbide in Danbury, CT. During my two years there, I became familiar with the formality of patent jargon which led me to wonder what would have happened if God had had to apply for a patent before making humans. Here's the lighthearted result of my musings. Let me know what you think.

IF GOD HAD TO APPLY TO THE PATENT OFFICE


IN THE UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE
Hon. Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks
Washington, D.C. 20231

WOMAN

ABSTRACT

The present invention relates to the manufacture of a homo sapien of
the female genus.

PRIOR ART

The principal object of this invention is to provide an improvement over
the prior art which consists of U. S. Patent No.1, which teaches the
manufacture of a homo sapien of the male genus.

As can be seen by the accompanying drawings:

FIG. 1 is a side view of the present invention, showing a considerable
improvement in the overall lines, contours and curves of the No.1
invention.

FIG. 2 is a rear view.

FIG. 3 is a front view. It will be obvious to anyone skilled in the art that
considerable changes have been made over the prior art.

In addition, it should be noted that in the present invention, the
shoulders are narrower and the hips are wider than in the prior art,
allowing for a major improvement in that the invention possesses the
capability to contain within itself an exact duplication of itself, or of the
male genus of the prior art, albeit on a smaller scale. This capability
also affords the advantage for the shape of the instant invention to
increase or grow in size over a period of nine months.

It should be further noted that the present invention has one more rib
than the previous invention, thereby increasing the strength and
stability of same.

BEST MODE OF THE INVENTION

The best mode of the subject invention is to present an improvement
over U. S. Patent No.1; to provide a complement to the No.1 patent;
and to provide a means for reproducing itself, either in kind or similar to
the genus of the No.1 patent.

CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A homo sapien of the female genus possessing reproductive
capabilities.

Applicant respectfully requests that this application be favorably considered,
allowed and passed to issue at an early date.

Respectfully submitted,


GOD

Monday, July 3, 2017

EEK, It’s Murder!

Today I’d like you to meet my friend and mystery writer, Ellen E. Kennedy. She’s not only a compelling author, she’s a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired commercial copywriter, living in the Raleigh, NC area.

Welcome, Ellen! I'm excited to do this interview with you. Let’s talk about your writing career. How long have you been writing books?


Roughly seventeen years, when I began writing the first book (Irregardless of Murder) in the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery Series, about a high school English teacher. It was first published around 2001 and then re-published in 2012, followed by Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and Incomplete Sentence.

What type of writing do you normally do?

I always recommend that new writers write in the genre they most enjoy. I love cozy mysteries, a la Agatha Christie. I’ve also written Christian romance and a couple of Christian suspense novellas.

Tell us exactly what a cozy mystery is.

A cozy mystery, in my opinion, is one set in a small community where all the characters know each other well. The murder, if there is one, occurs offstage, so to speak. There is a minimum of sex and violence and little or no police procedure. Some have said a cozy mystery needs a “hook” of some kind, such as a knitting theme, or coffee, or a bakery. If that’s the case, my cozy series’ “hook” is that my character, Amelia Prentice, is an English teacher and her thoughts and speech reflect her profession.

How many books are in your series and how do they relate to each other. Introduce us to Amelia Prentice.

Amelia’s story starts in Irregardless of Murder, when she trips over the corpse of a former student in the public library. The aftermath of this incident changes her life, which is that of a single, forty-something teacher who has taught at least half the local population.

In Death Dangles a Participle, two of Amelia’s students are accused of a particularly brutal murder and she sets out to clear them. There are many side plots, including a strange lunchbox and a mysterious illness that plagues Amelia.

Murder in the Past Tense is centered around a flashback, when Amelia and her husband Gil remember the summer they worked together in the local summer theater. I especially enjoyed making up a musical, complete with lyrics, for the actors to perform. The strange disappearance of a young woman and the enigmatic life of an Adirondack hermit are intertwined.  

Give us a brief synopsis of the third book in your series, Incomplete Sentence.

Incomplete Sentence is about a ruthless killer who was found guilty of the brutal murder of his girlfriend fifteen years before, but has eluded the law, hence the title. Amelia becomes acquainted with the father of one of the victims and when she and her friends are stranded in her family B&B during an unexpected blizzard and another victim is found, she fears that the killer may be among them.

Folks, I’ve read this book and it is a page turner! Ellen, how long did it take to write this thriller? 

I worked on Incomplete Sentence for about a year. Most of the books have taken about that long.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?

I love the character of Hugh Channing, the elderly law professor and father of one of the victims. He reminds me of my own dad. Here’s a favorite quote: “Die. You can say it: die. It doesn’t frighten me. Don’t say ‘pass.’ I hate weasel words. I’ve heard my share. Lawyers use far too many of them.” He goes on to say, “The Bible is the ultimate law book. Everything stems from it, or should.”

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom and how can my readers get a copy?

Incomplete Sentence was published by Sheaf House Publishers on 2016. You can buy it or any of the other Miss Prentice mysteries from the publisher, from CBD (Christianbook.com), Amazon or B&N. It’s available in Ebook or paperback. 

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?

Until they came along, I had no idea how much I would enjoy having grandchildren. We have five and my husband and I take every opportunity to spend time with them. Another joy is the writers’ circle I mentor every Friday morning. It’s made up of some extraordinary people who turn out remarkable work. It’s a highlight of my week!  

Do you have advice for would-be writers? 

People should write whatever it is they want to read themselves. If you love science fiction, that’s what you should write. The same for romance or mystery. If you like biography, do that. It’s important to learn the basics, but don’t spend all your time learning how. Just do it, as the Nike slogan says!

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?

I wish I knew how hard promotion is. I thought that part would be easy, because I have a background in advertising, but it’s much more difficult in my opinion than the actual writing, which is a joy and agony by turns. But writing is well worth it, even if you’re never published. 

What are you working on now?

Earlier, I mentioned writing novellas. I’m working on a story for an anthology now, to be called I’ll Be Watching You, and one for another anthology, Christmas at the Cactus CafĂ©. Barbour is going to re-publish—for the third time—my Christian romance novella The Applesauce War, the plot of which is based on one of my favorite musicals, The Fantasticks. The novellas have proven much more lucrative than my full-length novels, but mystery novels are still my first love.

Sometime soon, I hope to finish book number five in the Miss Prentice series. The title will be The Village Idiom.

Folks, I have one word of advice for you. Don’t read this book if you plan to pick it up and only read for a few minutes. You won’t be able to put it down and before you know it, your few minutes will have turned into an hour. I know. It happened to me.

Thank you, Ellen, for a good interview and a great series of cozy mysteries. They are just the thing to take to the beach, take on vacation, or curl up by a fire with.  (I hope I didn't just dangle a participle or something!) Trust me folks, Miss Amelia Prentice is a character you won’t soon forget.

Quote of the Day: There will be time to murder and create. T.S. Eliot


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Validated by Spencer Tracy

It’s been four months since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The USS Hornet sails from Alameda, CA toward Japan on a secret mission. The navy carrier has a special unit on board—Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle accompanied by his men and their planes. Their mission: bomb Tokyo in the first retaliation for what the Japanese did to America. 

When the Hornet came within 700 miles of Japan, Col. Doolittle and his raiders climbed into their planes and roared off the flight deck toward Tokyo. The carrier that aided the successful mission was kept secret for a year, known only as Shangri-La.

So why am I dredging up history? Because to me, it’s not history. It’s what I’m absorbed in every day as I write my latest novel, Saving Lou. I’ve done a lot of research to make my book as historically accurate as possible. Over the weekend, I watched a 1944 movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, with Spencer Tracy, Van Johnson, and Robert Mitchum. Spencer Tracy played the part of Col. Doolittle. As I watched the movie, entranced, I could see my book come alive on the screen. Like seeing your baby for the first time, after feeling it for nine months.

My main character Lou Dyson joins the Navy in January ’42 and, after boot camp, is assigned as an aviation mechanic on the Hornet. In April, Col. Doolittle comes aboard to prepare for his mission. I mention this in my book and take a bit of poetic license by having a brief encounter between Lou and Doolittle. I write about getting lost in the huge ship and voila, the movie shows three of the army airmen getting lost in the bowels of the ship. Watching the movie, I could almost see Lou on the deck of the Hornet mingling with the airmen. This movie, made while the war still raged on, validated my writing and my research, and that’s a mighty good feeling.

My book isn’t finished yet, it’ll be awhile before it is, but for now, Lou and I spend time together every day. I help him come to grips with the internal conflict he’s carried within him all his life and he helps me see World War II up close and personal. I hear the bombs burst and see the skies fill with smoke. I look into the fearful eyes of the young kamikaze pilot as his plane swoops toward Lou's carrier and then I feel the heat from the explosion.

Just as Willard Manor, Leaving Mark and Finding Gary, have a connection, Saving Lou carries on that connection. I’m having a good time populating the city of New Haven, CT with my characters. I’ll let you know when the book is published.


Quote of the Day: What air is to the body, to feel understood is to the heart. Stephen Covey


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Master's Touch

I like to watch Bob Ross on PBS television. As a disclaimer, Bob Ross has since passed away and the shows are reruns of his old shows. If you haven’t seen him, he paints beautiful pictures using a two-inch brush, a palette knife and a couple of other brushes.

I paint along with him, in my mind, as I watch the full painting come into focus.

So why am I talking about painting on a writing blog? Because it occurred to me that the way he paints is similar to the way we write.

He starts with a blank canvas. Isn’t that how writers start? With a blank screen in front of them?

Ross mixes a blue color to fill in the sky and a lake or stream, so his entire canvas is mostly blue. That’s his background for starting the painting. Our background comes together when we decide if we’re going to write fiction or non-fiction, what the genre will be, and if it will be a book, short story, article, or memoir. Then Ross adds clouds and a little pink to enhance his sky. We writers, by now, have settled on the form and style of our book so we can continue in earnest.

Then Ross puts a black color on the palette knife and slashes a jagged line across the blue sky to represent the beginnings of a mountain. Our black slash will be the conflict our protagonist encounters and must overcome. As Ross adds strokes to the mountain, the ridges and plateaus come into sharp focus. Likewise, our conflict will soon reveal its many dark areas, twists and turns.

Then he adds tall pine trees on each side of the lake. These trees, along with a waterfall down near the front, are his secondary characters. They’re included to add interest and warmth to the painting.

Then he fine tunes the picture by adding highlights to the trees, adding a grassy meadow and colorful shrubs, and putting a few rocks in the water. What was once a blank white canvas, is now a colorful, beautiful picture with depth, and dark and light areas--a scene you want to step into. How does this translate to a book? Once you have a skeleton of an idea and have inserted a conflict, protagonist, and secondary characters, you go back and fine tune the story by adding scenes and all the little nuances and dialogue that bring the story to life.

I can hear you asking, “But who is the protagonist in a painting?” It’s you, my friend, the one who looks at the picture and wants to be in the scene.

So whether you’re painting a picture, writing a book, or building a house, you start with an idea. Then you add all those little touches that make your work unique, something that someone will want to own in order to look at, read, or live in.

Go ahead. Let your creative self shine!



Quote of the Day: You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. Les Brown



Monday, May 8, 2017

Launching a Guiding Missal

Today I want to tell you about a special event I attended Sunday. It was a book launch by Nancy Panko (you may remember I interviewed her in my last post).

Guiding Missal is Nancy’s first book, so this launching of her story was the culmination of long years of writing and research.

Nancy held the event at a wine bar in Holly Springs, NC surrounded by loving family, friends, and writing associates. 

Since Guiding Missal is the story of three men in her family who served in various wars, starting with World War II, the event had a military theme. One poignant moment was when the Pledge of Allegiance was given to a tattered US flag that had flown over Normandy on D-Day. The flag was held by Nancy’s husband, who is the second of the three men in her story, and a retired Marine whose father, after raising a new flag, carried the tattered flag in his sea bag throughout WWII. This flag is featured on the cover of Nancy’s book.

On the table preserved in glass, was the Catholic missal that all three men carried into service. As only Nancy can do, she has the missal narrate the story so we see the wartime action through the missal’s eyes and hear how the missal protected each family man who held it close to his heart. The missal is also featured on the book's cover.


And of course, no celebration is complete without cake, so Nancy had the cake made so that the book's cover is reproduced on the cake.



Nancy is a dear friend and warm, loving person and it was a thrill to be able to honor her at this special event. A book launch is a fun way to introduce a new book to the world and this week Guiding Missal is that book. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Story the Prayer Missal Tells

Today I am thrilled to be sitting here with author and close friend, Nancy Panko.

Nancy, before we get to your excellent book, Guiding Missal: Fifty Years, Three Generations of Military Men, One Spirited Prayer Book, tell me a little about yourself.

I was born in the dining room of a farm house in central New York State. I graduated high school in Pennsylvania and attended The State University of New York at Alfred for one year. I met my future husband in PA and we were blessed with two children.  At age 35 I decided to go back to college to become a nurse. I graduated just before my 40th birthday. It was difficult, but I'm eternally grateful for the opportunity to have had a rewarding career for 23 years. In 2009, we retired and moved to Fuquay Varina, NC and never looked back. Our kids live close by and we get to spend time with them and our 4 grandchildren.

How long have you been writing?

As I look back through my scrapbooks, I find I wrote short stories all through grade school. I was always good in English composition and took a creative writing class in high school which really got me going. As a nurse, we spent a great deal of time writing care plans for each patient. They had to be clear and concise. The first time I got paid for a piece was when I wrote for "Humor in Uniform" for Reader's Digest. They paid me $400 and the check arrived just in time to replace a water heater which had exploded earlier in the day. I now have seven stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul and two in Guidepost magazine.

Give us a brief synopsis of your book.

Across a span of fifty years, three generations of military men have one prayer book in common that has a mind and voice of its own. In 1944, a U.S. Army baker volunteers as a forward observer to carry out covert operations behind German lines in World War II. In the early Sixties, a focused nineteen-year-old Airman is responsible for decoding critical top secret messages during the height of the Berlin Crisis. In 1993, an army sniper overcomes a debilitating condition only to fight for survival in the streets of war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, when a Blackhawk helicopter is shot down. Yet, when each of these men face a crisis, this very special prayer book, My Military Missal, intercedes with understanding and divine power. Based on actual events, Guiding Missal is relevant for any person who is serving or has served in the military and their families.

What prompted you to write it?

Initially, I started a notebook in March 1994 to re-create Dad Panko's military history as a birthday surprise for my husband. I interviewed Dad and members of his company who were eager to tell their stories. Without the volume of material these men provided, it would have been impossible to tell his story. I began to compile the information in a notebook. That single notebook grew to three notebooks.

After all the research put into the birthday project, I decided to tackle the rest of the story. It was an emotional journey to relive the struggles of military life and combat affecting loved ones. With months of interviews and tape recorded conversations from my husband and our son-in-law, along with well-documented historical facts, similarities and differences emerged. Three generations of men shared the guidance of the same prayer book, two experienced combat, one did not, all returned home changed men sustained by faith and family love. I had everything I needed for my book "Guiding Missal.” 

How long did it take you to write it?

A total of 10 years with many interruptions, stops, and starts. Life happened, I lacked confidence, and then I joined a writer's group. They provided feedback and gentle critique. I got to be a better writer and blossomed.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?

Yes! It is: "He was just an ordinary man carrying a uniquely endowed military missal with the Word of the Lord to guide and shield him from harm."

Is it published, and if so, when and by whom?

It is published by The Light Messages group from Durham, NC, released to bookstores and the public on April 17, 2017.

How can my readers get a copy?

Amazon.com is taking orders for both the print and Kindle version of the book. Any bookstore can get it for you, it will probably have to be ordered unless there are lots of requests. (Please, Lord!)

What do you do besides write?

Spend time with family and friends, take care of our home, read, read, read, and my most favorite thing of all, spend time on our boat!

How nice. What is your advice to would-be writers?

Keep honing your craft, take writing classes, join writers' groups that offer constructive, supportive critique. Start with short stories and try to get them published to gain confidence.

Tell us what you wish you knew when you started your writing career?

I wish I knew how hard and time-consuming it would be. Anything worthwhile is hard work and the passion has to be there.

What's next for you, Nancy?

At this point, it's hard to think beyond getting this labor of love off the ground. Promoting the book is a full-time job. I continue to write short stories, submitting to Chicken Soup. Perhaps another novel will take form in a few months, who knows.

Folks, I’ve read this book and I highly recommend it. One thing that stands out to make the book unique is that it is narrated by the prayer missal, making the missal as much a character in the book as any of the Panko men who carried it into battle with them.

Guiding Missal is a timeless journey of faith, patriotism and miracles that will touch your heart as the missal and the men call out to God for guidance, protection, and a safe return home. 


Quote of the Day: Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war, With the Cross of Jesus Going on before!  Sabine Baring-Gould


Friday, March 24, 2017

Getting Out of Trouble

There’s a literary device that’s been used for centuries. It’s called deus ex machina, a Greek phrase that literally means “a god from a machine.”  In English literature, it relates to a character or thing that suddenly enters the story in a novel, play, or movie and solves a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve.

Think Perils of Paulene. If you’re old enough to remember Saturday serials at the movies, picture a woman bound up in a cave and a dynamite fuse is lit. Just as the burning fuse gets closer and closer to the cave, a voice says something to the effect of, “Come back next week to see if she survives this terrible fate.” You go to the movies the next Saturday afternoon only to find that there was a back entrance to the cave and she walked out unharmed. That’s deus ex machina. And a huge letdown.

If you’re old enough to remember movie serials, then you most likely remember the Coasters and their song, Along Came Jones.  It seems Jones was a lanky guy who always showed up in time to save the day. The group sang: 

Salty Sam was tryin' to stuff Sweet Sue in a burlap sack
He said, "if you don't give me the deed to your ranch
I'm gonna throw you on the railroad tracks!"
And then he grabbed her (and then)
He tied her up (and then)
He threw her on the railroad tracks (and then)
A train started comin' (and then, and then!)
And then along came Jones
Tall, thin Jones
Slow-walkin' Jones
Slow-talkin' Jones
Along came long, lean, lanky Jones

Jones, of course, always saved the girl in the nick of time. Deus ex machina.

You could say the same thing about Superman, Batman and any other super hero who are fun to watch (I especially like Superman), but do they teach us how to solve problems? No, because they solve all our problems for us.

I much prefer a book or movie about a character who gets in a real-life situation and must figure out how to solve the problem using his own wit, brains, and stamina, and not have some supernatural being swoop down and get him out of trouble. What good does that do me should, by chance, I find myself in the same predicament some day? Neither Superman nor Jones are going to come along and get me out of the situation; therefore, I need to know how the protagonist got out of it.

Do you want to be rescued by a deus ex machina? Or do you prefer books where you mentally put yourself in the protagonist’s place and try to figure out how the conflict will be resolved? Which one will benefit you in life?

Quote of the Day: Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition - such as lifting weights - we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity. Stephen Covey

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Book and Movie For All Time - a Must See!

I have something extremely special to share with you. I went to the movies Saturday. That event in and of itself is not exactly special (although it has been a while since I’ve been to the movies), but the movie I saw, now that IS something special.

Let me go back a bit. A few years ago, I heard about a book called, The Shack, so I bought a copy and read it. I must tell you, this book changed my life. While reading it, I was enthralled at the highly profound story unfolding before my eyes and the way it deals with forgiveness, anger, love and a slew of other emotions.

There’s an interesting story behind the story. The author, William Paul Young, was a preacher’s kid, now married to a good and patient woman. Because the author had gone through a bad period in his life that sent him on a downward spiral which he eventually crawled out of, his wife suggested he write a story for their six children to help them understand life better.

Young finished his story in 2005 and took it to an office store where he had fifteen copies printed and spiral bound. He gave copies to his children and a few friends for Christmas, figuring that would be the end of it.

Eighteen million copies, 41 languages, and rising to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List later, he still shakes his head and laughs at the journey his little book has taken.

The Shack is a metaphor for that place where we get stuck or damaged, or where we've made really bad choices, or where we've piled up a lot of stuff in our lives that we don't want to go back to and deal with. Young says, “My life crashed and burned when I was 38-years-old, and I had to go back and deal with some stuff from being a child on the mission field along with other stuff in my life. It took me 11 years to get through the shack, and I condense that 11 years to a weekend for Mackenzie Allen Phillips.”

The Shack tells the story of Mack Phillips whose daughter is thought to be kidnapped and murdered, which sends Mack into a deep depression. Mack later receives a mysterious letter from Papa--his wife's nickname for God--which leads him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. At the shack, Mack encounters a trio of strangers led by Papa, who help him through this tragedy and change his life. 

Now to the movie. I went with friends to see a premier showing of The Shack, starring Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, and Tim McGraw.  As I’m sure most of you know, a movie version seldom does justice to the book. Not in this case; the movie is every bit as excellent as the book. The Shack allows God and the Trinity to become accessible and understandable in a way that's not been done before.

I have one suggestion for going to see the movie—bring more than one tissue! I only had one with me and it wasn’t nearly enough. The deep, deep sorrow inside Mack, together with his anger at God for letting his daughter die, are heart-wrenching as he finally is able to reach down and drag his feelings and questions and anger to the surface where he can deal with them. Mack asks questions we’ve all asked at one time or another.

When Mack (Sam Worthington) meets God, he is surprised that God is a black woman (Octavia Spencer). Why, you might ask, is God portrayed as a black woman? As it turns out, when Mack is a child living with an abusive, alcoholic father and compliant mother, the only person who is kind to him is a black woman who lives next door. It’s not surprising then that that same woman appears to him at the shack as the loving and kind God.

My favorite scene in the book/movie is when Mack and Jesus walk down to the water and sit on the dock, looking up at the stars. Just two friends enjoying a normal, quiet moment together. That’s how I like to think of Jesus, real, warm, caring, smiling, relaxed.

What is my recommendation? Run, don’t walk to the theater to see The Shack when it comes to your town. You don’t have to be a Christian to want to understand the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and how they interact with one another, or what it means to truly forgive, or how misunderstandings can grow and be harmful to those we love. This is truly a story for all, and for all time.


Quote of the Day: Thou art a God of forgiveness, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness; and Thou didst not forsake them. Nehemiah 9:17