Friday, March 30, 2012

Frank G. Poe: Saying No To Multiple Sclerosis And Yes To Helping Others

Everyone's Story welcomes author Frank G. Poe as its guest this week. I've always admired those who tackle illnesses head-on rather than permit an ailment to tackle them. Frank was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a term that leaves most shuddering. Although Frank had some fighting to do, he is a beautiful example of how not to let life's nitty-gritties get you down.

First, some questions for Frank:

Shortly after your diagnosis of Secondary Progressive MS, you may have retired from your work at the IRS but you then plunged right into volunteer work as a coach. Kudos to you for seeing your situation as a stepping stone rather than a brick wall! What was the impetus within you that made you exceed a diagnosis that others have found to be devastating?

Knowing doctors are only human, I convinced myself anything negative they said about my future health was a mistake on their part. To this day I still only entertain positive thoughts about my health. Believing the axiom bodies in motion tend to stay in motion and bodies at rest stay at rest, I knew I needed to find a purpose and stay active. Volunteer work is a great way to feel needed while giving back to the community.

What has working with children taught you about yourself, and life in general? Do you have one specific story to brighten our day with hope?

I coached youths from Junior High and young adults from High School. They'd be upset if I called them children. The great thing about young people is they haven't been jaded into thinking there are limitations to what they can do or accomplish. Coaching them inspired me as much as I inspired them. For example, one of the first throwers I coached returned after graduation to help demonstrate to the new throwers, and he convinced the company he worked for to donate to the track team.

Looking back, do you think you, Frank The Writer, would have a whole different writer's eye view of the world if it were not for the forced changes in your life?

I was humbled by my brush with death, and it made me a better person. I believe I've done more positive things with my life since prior to my diagnosis. As for writing, life experiences improve it. The more writers live the better their writings.

Winning Against MS by Frank G. Poe

I believe I'm a champion in the fight against Multiple Sclerosis. Going blind and nearly dying from the disease in October of 1997, I battled back from bed ridden, wheelchair, and walker to cane. I still use a cane to keep from falling, and I regained vision in one eye. I‘ve pledged a combined 6% of my book royalties to three MS charities. My goal is to make those donations substantial. A husband, father of three and grandfather of four, I remain positive. 
Since secondary progressive MS is my diagnosis, I intend to bring attention to the disease for as long as I am able. I’d like to share with you a little about my life before and after the disease. 
I was a public servant working at the Internal Revenue Service as a tax examiner for ten years and as a substitute teacher for local public schools when I was forced into retirement due to MS. Within a few years, I began to volunteer as a track and football coach at the local public high school where I taught with some success. Athletes I coached frequently made it to the state competition and hit the podium. Before I took over as shot put and discus coach, the throwers were drawing circles in the dirt to throw. I brought community attention to the need for an adequate concrete pad and safety netting and within a year the student athletes had both. 
During the same time, I wrote sports articles for the local community newspaper, also, on a volunteer basis. Once again with some success, the paper won an award for best sports section in the state, a section for which I wrote nearly half the articles and took half the photos.
Admittedly, the journalism seems like a vanity issue on my part; however, my reasons for writing were to rally community support for the introduction of high school football, get more young adults active in the already existing track program, and to generate interest in girls’ athletics to help recruit female students to participate in the available sports programs for them. Without getting more young women interested, the school was going to be forced by law to reduce the sports programs available to young men. Thankfully, my efforts paid off with increased girls’ participation and no programs were cut.
After doing this for ten years, the physical demands forced me to take a hiatus from coaching and journalism, and I focused on my books. Still trying to reclaim my life, I wrote Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales. All but two reviews were good, and I was compared to Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe. My stories are for adults not children, and the two bad reviews, 2 out of 5 stars, came from both ends of the spectrum. The far left said my material was too mild. The far right claimed it was too obscene. 

Although I no longer coach, I haven’t forgotten the youth. I write youth oriented blog called The Political Poet where I share free information with students on the types of poetry and creative writing while encouraging them to become politically active.
If anything, I want people to know that having or being diagnosed with a disability doesn’t mean your life is over and you lost your value. You can still decide to do as much as you possibly can, regardless, and service to others is a great way to start. I believe living with a positive attitude produces results, and I'm alive today because of it.
Currently, the poor economy is making life hard for many people in the United States and around the world, and many charitable organizations donations are severely decreasing due to the same economic crunch; unfortunately, this fall in charitable contributions comes at the same time these nonprofit organizations’ resources are being stretched thin by the increasing number of people needing their help or services. If you are able, please give to a charity of your choice. Several of the charities to which I’ll donate help fight Multiple Sclerosis by funding research and providing services to people stricken with the disease, but many worthy charities exist from the battle against breast cancer to helping the homeless. If you don’t have money to give, volunteer your time. 
~*~Have you battled an illness and managed to thrive? Would you like to share your encouragement with Frank and others? Have you found creative ways to help others? Please drop Frank a comment on the blog. He looks forward to hearing from you~*~
Author Bio:
An army brat, Frank G. Poe started life a fat, bald baby resembling Buddha, and Okinawan women rubbed his belly for good luck. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Northern Kentucky University, where he lives now, and is a published and recorded poet. Author of Raven Wings and 13 More Twisted Tales and Star Child and 13 More Twisted Tales, Frank boasts over 15 years of experience as a journalist. A jack of all trades, Frank has worked as a bus boy, cook, florist, golf ball collector, manure shoveler, gardener, landscaper, construction worker, shuttle bus driver, cashier, clerk, work leader, manager, union steward, salesman, instructor, projectionist, customer service representative, tax examiner, quality assurance examiner, writer, editor, managing editor, editor in chief, photojournalist, public school teacher and a coach. 
Relavant Links:
Frank’s blog The Political Poet
The Political Poet teaches about various types of poetry and gives creative writing pointers while encouraging people to become more politically active. 
Each April Dark Butterfly Publications holds a poetry contest to celebrate poetry month. The entry is free. Find out details at The Political Poet.
Frank on Twitter® at

Friday, March 23, 2012

Yvonne Anderson: One Foot In Space, But Both Feet Well Grounded

Author Yvonne Anderson may be a first-timer here on Everyone's Story, but many may know her from the awesome blog Novel Rocket, a personal favorite of mine, as well as her connection with American Christian Fiction Writers. What you may not know about Yvonne is that she likes to stir up trouble between her characters. This week she's putting them in the hot seat with a debate. And viewers, you get to cast your vote on the character you feel deserving of the win by leaving a comment. The "winner" of the debate--with the commenter's name--will be announced next Friday, March 30th. 

Plus...Yvonne is offering a book giveaway of Book 1 of a trilogy: THE STORY IN THE STARS. To have a chance to win, please take a moment to share a comment with Yvonne, as well as include your email address within your comment. And for your pleasure, take a gander at the excerpt below.

Book Excerpt:

by Yvonne Anderson 
Dassa trudged through the Ayin Forest across a crusted snow, her weary steps fueled by the nearness of her goal. Soon, she told herself. Soon this will all be over.
On much of the planet Gannah, winter was drab as an old faded photo, but the foliage in Ayin boasted the colors of a prism and the trees kept their leaves until spring, when the new growth pushed them aside. The frosty forest pulsed with color as Dassa quickened her pace despite her exhaustion and the steepness of the slope.
Labored breath billowing like smoke from a puffing firedrake, she crested the ridge and cast her gaze into the valley below.
A warm rush of delight coursed through her weary body. There it was. Home, the comforting outlines of the domed green roof barely discernable through the trees. Revived by the sight, she hastened down the hill across the sun-spangled snow.
She smiled as the round, two-storied house came into view. It was no mansion, like her childhood home. It couldn’t compare to any of the seven provincial palaces from which her father, the toqeph, reigned as the ruler of all Gannah. But she could think of nowhere she'd rather live than in this yellow stone cottage at the edge of the forest with her husband, Rosh, and their two boys.
Nor could she imagine a more perfect late-winter's day. Gannah's volatile temper was unusually mild that afternoon, with the sun smiling down from an azure sky and breezes caressing with a mother's gentleness. And today, this most beautiful of days, she, Atarah Hadassah Hagah Natsach, would finish her quest and be made Nasi.
She plunged toward the house and the last lap of her race, but she felt no euphoria. The test had been grueling, and she still must prepare the metheq and take it to her father. Surely once he approved her offering and declared her Nasi, her elation would know no bounds.
She left the woods and traversed unbroken drifts. Where busy laughter usually bubbled like a spring, a shroud of abandonment lay over all. True, her mother kept the children at Armown, and Rosh traveled Outside. But the silence seemed unnatural.
At the house, she removed her snowshoes and used a booted foot to sweep the snow from the threshold. Once inside, she closed her eyes and heaved a sigh.
Then she shivered.
Before embarking on her trek she'd set the temptrol to just above freezing, but the empty house felt frigid, a chill of the spirit more than the body.
Dassa tugged off her boots, took thick slippers from the shoe-warmer by the door and slid her numb feet into them. Next she shuffled through the dining area to the climate panel nestled in the gently curved, fabric-covered wall, and adjusted the control to a more comfortable temperature.
The heater rumbled awake then settled into its familiar hum as Dassa toured the vacant rooms. She hugged herself as the emptiness formed a shadow of foreboding in her heart. Nothing had been touched in her absence, but somehow, nothing was the same.
But she had neither time nor strength to waste on the puzzle. She headed back to the kitchen, where she shrugged off her travel-stained pack, laid it on the table and pulled out a heavy tin. Though mossberries weren't much bigger than the blue spots on a damebug's back, they were weighty, and this tin was full of them.
She removed her hooded coat and draped it on the back of a chair, then opened the tin and admired the glistening purple berries. Their rich fragrance made her mouth water. Hungry as she was, though, she wouldn't steal a taste.
Every Gannahan knew the legend of the would-be Nasi who completed his quest with valor until the end, but sampled a berry while preparing the metheq. When he then came before the toqeph, his purple-stained tongue told all. Because he'd yielded to temptation, he was disqualified from the Nasihood for the rest of his life.
The knights of Gannah wore neither badge nor uniform. The color from the mossberries eaten at their induction never left their tongues, and that was the mark of their rank. Some toqephs’ mouths were black because they ate each time a new Nasi pledged.
Dassa assembled the ingredients for a pie shell. Though the metheq could be any sort of treat in which mossberries played a role, her father loved pies, and she’d picked enough berries for a good one. Thinking of the pleasure it would give him, she scooped and measured, mixed and rolled.
An hour later, Dassa left the house with a bubbling-hot mossberry pie in a basket over her arm and ice skates slung over her shoulder. The ancient rules stated the Last Requirement must be performed entirely on foot, so she trudged past the hangar without stopping for the motorsled. If she continued on through the woods then cut across the frozen lake, she'd be at Armown in less than two hours. A baby step, compared to the distance she'd already come. She'd easily make it before nightfall.
The sun still shone undimmed by clouds, but the shadow in her heart grew darker the closer she drew to the palace. Fear knotted in her chest, though she smelled no dangerous animals near nor sensed treacherous changes in weather.
She cast her mind toward Rosh, and their meahs connected faintly. Good. He was well. Her children, though… A mother shouldn’t lose touch with her children like that, even under stresses like these. But when she reached for them in her meah, she felt nothing.
Perhaps she'd been away too long. She reached upward, toward her Yasha. That connection remained as clear as ever. Finish your mission, was the message she sensed. Finish your mission.
So that's it. The children would be restored to her once her quest was completed. Odd, though, how she felt so desolate. Almost as if… No, she wouldn't think it.
On the bank of the lake, she sat on a rock to change into her skates. After that, the colorful tree line fell behind as she sped to her destination.
But the closer she drew to the palace, gleaming in the sun across the frozen expanse, the larger the emptiness yawned within her. What was going on? Was this part of the test? She drew the crisp Gannahan air deep into her lungs, but it failed to calm her.
Fourteen days ago, when she'd clung to the frozen cliffs, buffeted by gusts and sprayed by the icy breakers, filling her tin with the tiny mossberries, she'd envisioned this moment. Nearing the palace, carrying her prize. Lightheaded from fasting, weak from exertion, but energized by the impending victory. Then presenting her offering to the toqeph. He'd sample it. She pictured his cerulean eyes widening in delight as a smile stole across his face. "Not bad," he'd say, or some such grudging praise. Once he'd eaten, he would pronounce her a Nasi and the rest of the metheq would be hers.
It would be the first food to cross her lips in a fortnight, but it was reputed to be worth the wait. They said a man could fight for seven days and nights on seven mossberries. An exaggeration, no doubt, but the tiny fruits did seem to impart unusual strength and refreshment to those who had earned the right to eat them. Her mouth watered at the scent wafting up from the basket she held in both arms.
As she neared her destination, she wondered at the absence of skate marks on the ice. Usually the surface was scarred with them, especially here, near the palace.
She glided to the pavilion on the shore. After stumping on her skates across the snow, she sat on a bench to change into her boots then started up the path to the plateau, where Armown reigned in noble splendor. Her legs felt wobbly, the basket heavy on her arm, as she plodded upward.
Intent on her purpose, Dassa maintained communion with the Yasha, putting all else out of her mind.
Then she reached the stairway cut into the stone face of the mountain, leading up to the palace. Before she'd climbed three steps, waves of sorrow radiating from the ancient pinkstone walls drove her to her knees, and she barely rescued the precious metheq from sliding down the slope behind her. A vision of death—many deaths—passed across her meah, sucking the air from her lungs. Eyes closed, she forced her lungs to inhale, and the frigid air cut like a blade.
She rose slowly, casting with her meah into the palace. She could make no connection with her sons. Her heart nearly stopped—they were gone. No! Her mother? Gone. Her father? Dim. Very dim.
A great many souls had vanished from inside those walls, from the whole city of Ayar. She spread herself farther. This death ravaged as far as she could sense.
Dropping her skates, she clutched her basket and ran up the stairs.


In his office aboard the hospital ship LSS Barton, Pik studied an image on the computer. Was it an actual woman of strange and wonderful breeding, or a computer-generated compilation?
Was it pornography? Perhaps. But he was conducting an anatomical study. To settle an argument.
His eyes followed the gyrating image on the screen. She was a remarkable specimen. Clinically speaking, of course. The breasts were Glenmarrian, no doubt about that. His focus lingered there to confirm his first impression. Definitely Glenmarrian. And definitely delicious. His gaze moved south. Ah, the umbilicus sprang from a different gene pool. Unlike the one undulating before him, the Glenmarrian navel is—
"Dr. Pik…"
Pik's heart jumped and he closed the screen, feigning deep interest in the medical page that came up in its place—a treatise on toenail fungus in elderly Eutarians.
Though his thinning brown hair and stubby frame made him a less-than-imposing figure, Broward's position commanded respect. Probably the only man in the galaxy with both a medical degree and a ship captain's credentials, his resume was impressive indeed. Besides that, Pik liked the man. Considered him one of his few Earthish friends.
Nevertheless, he felt superior to the captain, in height, looks, intelligence, and especially fashion sense. Pik didn't lift his gaze. "Yes, Captain?"
Broward got right to the point. "You have a new project."
"Already? We haven't completed our assignment here yet."
"No, but a distress signal takes precedence."
Pik looked up. "Distress signal?"
"From Gannah. They're dying from the plague and require immediate assistance."
Pik blinked, not sure he heard right. "A plague where?"
Something clumped in Pik's gut like a not-quite-done Cephargian blood pudding. "What sort of plague?"
"The message calls it the Karkar plague."
The pudding rolled over. "I had no idea it still existed."
"Nor did I.” Broward paused..“Gannah's never asked for help before. Ever. For anything."
Pik said nothing. He couldn’t fathom the proud Gannahans being brought so low.
The shorter man looked at Pik with accusation in his brown eyes. "What do you know about this plague?"
Pik returned his glare with a Karkar impassivity no Terrestrial could match. "That was centuries ago. I'm not that old."
"But you are head of my Infectious Disease Unit, and the plague originated on your planet. How do we stop it?"
"I have no idea." Neither did he have any idea why one would want to.
"But you can research it."
Pik’s ears swiveled in a Karkar shrug. He felt confident the captain, being a Terrestrial, would be unable to interpret the subtle gesture of casual disrespect, even if he noticed it.
But Broward frowned, perhaps picking up on Pik's attitude through his hesitation. "Well? You Karkar might not have the musculature to make faces, but I know there’s something going on behind that expressionless mask of yours."
The Karkar sighed. "Research the plague?" He paused again. "I suppose I could…"
"And you will. Quickly. We should be there in two standard-weeks. A great many more Gannahans will likely have died by then. Your plague just about wiped them out last time, did it not?"
"It's a shame it didn't."
Broward’s brows rose. "You're a doctor. How can you say that?"
Pik pulled himself up to his full, proud height, putting him eye to eye with the standing captain. "I don't see that Gannah has made any contribution to the galaxy, save to provide a template for pure evil."
If Broward was impressed with Pik's superior size, he didn't let on. "It's good you're a cool, dispassionate professional, then, because as an agency of the League of Planets, it's our job to save them." He let that sink in a moment then went on. "What do you know of Gannahan physiology?"
"Very little. Only that it's markedly different from yours or mine."
"How so? Are their livers in their armpits and their hearts in their backsides?"
Pik ignored the captain's Earthish humor. "The systems are comparably arranged, but their chemistry is different and their functions are enhanced. Muscle mass is greater, senses are sharper, organs more efficient and less subject to wear. Their immune systems are impervious to all known diseases…"
"Except this plague."
Pik turned to his computer and began a search, but answered according to his own knowledge. "That's caused by a musculophage engineered by Karkar biochemists to attack Gannahan muscle tissue. I believe it's the only illness they're susceptible to, and it's harmless to all other life forms."
Broward crossed his arms. "So those biochemists must have been familiar with how the Gannahans are put together. And they must have kept records."
"I'm sure they did." Pik scanned the various entries. Not much came up at first glance.
"And with their data, you can stop the plague."
Pik cocked his head to the left in acquiescence. "I shall try."
"And you'll succeed. Once you and your people figure it out, get a team working around the clock to manufacture as many doses of the cure as possible. If you need more help, I'll take personnel from other duty. This is our top priority."
"I’ll do my best, Captain."
"Your best is all I ask. But you've already shown me how good your best can be. If you fail me this time, I'll be demanding some answers."
If Pik could have scowled, his look would have been enough to get him demoted to records clerk. "I understand, sir."
"Very good." Broward nodded and started to go, then turned back. "But Dr. Pik…"
"Those people who sent the distress signal are generations removed from the ones who ravaged Karkar. They've been living peaceably for hundreds of years, ever since your forefathers sent theirs running for home with their tails between their legs. You should have no axe to grind with them after all this time."
Pik swallowed a snort of derision. "I’m familiar with your overworked Earth adages, but our Karkar proverb says it better: 'Deep wounds heal, but the scar reminds, and the memory makes the wound bleed fresh.'"
"Your sayings are morbid. I like ours better."
"It sounds smoother in our own language."
"Your language sets my teeth on edge. Spare me."
Before Pik could decide whether to take offense, the captain had left the office.
He stared at the door as it swished closed. Ordinarily, Pik enjoyed his job. The assignments were challenging but satisfying, and when he pillowed his head at dimlights, he felt as content as a luglit with a bellyful of well-aged zikzak. But requiring him to come to the aid of the filthy Gannahans pressed his loyalty to the edge.
He should have listened to his mother. She'd told him to keep all twelve toes on Karkar where they belonged and not get mixed up in the Earthers' affairs. Just because our governments have joined in league, she said, doesn't mean we should forget who we are.
She was a fine one to talk. She, who married a Terrestrial. Fortunately, that mistake hadn't tainted her progeny. Pik's appearance was as striking as anyone's on his planet, and his mind was sharper than most. That was why he wanted to travel. There was too much to see, too much to learn to stay in one place his whole life. He'd come home when he was ready to settle down.
But he didn't expect that would be soon. In fact, he'd released his betrothed from her promise two years ago.
Deen would have made him a worthy wife; his mother had chosen her well. But it wasn't right to keep her bound to a man who might not claim her until her fertility was past.
It had been comforting, though, to picture her waiting. It pained him more than he cared to admit when she married Llllaarrr less than a year after he released her.
Now here he was, forever single, far from home, and required to rescue the people who would have annihilated his own had they not been stopped in their tracks by what some called a miracle.
As a scientist, Pik didn't believe in miracles. But he had to admit the way those ancient chemists stumbled upon the one thing that could bring down their ultrahuman opponents seemed supernatural. And their success at surreptitiously introducing it into the enemy starcrafts' ventilation systems certainly beat all odds. Every last fiend not only left the planet within days, but their bloody surge across the galaxy was halted once and for all. The Karkars' stroke of luck—or genius, Pik preferred to think—saved every civilization in the path of the ravening Gannahan onslaught. As far as Pik was concerned, his people were the saviors of the universe.
At the computer, Pik delved deeper into the records. Surely somebody, at some time, had digitalized the chemists' notes and entered them into the database. Not that anyone could have predicted a resurgence of the plague, but such a notable achievement should be properly memorialized.
While he searched, his mind rehearsed what he knew of modern Gannah. The sum of it would fit on a sticky note. The villains had burst from anonymity to become an unstoppable scourge—nearly unstoppable, anyway—then vanished from sight as quickly as they'd appeared. Thereafter they were relegated to the realm of legend, in which they always played the bad guy.
Except for that swarthy musician. Since he burst onto the music scene about two years ago, Ross Knapsack, as he called himself, had been improving his people's public image at the speed of sound. Adolescent girls swooned over his well-muscled physique and startling violet eyes, the boys admired his manliness, and adults appreciated his talent. Having seen videos of his performances, even Pik was grudgingly impressed with Knapsack's smooth, agile voice and natural showmanship.
Pik tried to ignore the popular Knapsack tune that came unbidden to mind as he scoured the records. Ah-ha! What’s this?
After an hour of poring over the data, jotting notes, and sketching diagrams, Pik sat back and rubbed his eyes. The ancient Karkar had discovered that the invaders’ inordinate strength lay, at least in part, in the extra CD155 receptors in their muscle cells. Pik’s ancestors then were able to engineer an organism that attacked those receptors. Because of the Gannahans’ unique neuromuscular junction, the virus readily slipped into their central nervous system through the retrograde axonal transport. That led to paralysis, respiratory arrest and death. 
It was a masterful piece of molecular engineering—a thing of beauty, really. Now, what about undoing its damage? It would take a few days in the lab, but he was pretty sure he could—
He stopped short, realizing he was humming that Knapsack song again. Catchy tune, though. And the lyrics were clever, for a love song.
He thought of Deen, and his ears sagged. A Karkar didn't marry for love, but feelings usually formed between spouses over time.
Pik wondered with a touch of bitterness what his wanderlust had cost him.

The Debate: Dassa vs. Dr. Pik
We’ve asked Dassa, currently considered the female leading protagonist, and Dr. Pik, the male lead in the story, to debate this issue: who should be considered the main character of The Story in the Stars? In an attempt to keep things from getting out of hand, we’ve asked the author to serve as moderator.

Author: All right, then, ladies first. Dassa, why do you believe the term protagonist applies to you?

Dassa: Since the book opens with a scene in my point of view, it stands to reason that my character is the one upon whom the whole book hinges. Isn’t that some sort of a writing rule? That the protagonist is introduced first?

Author: I don’t know if it’s a rule, but—

Pik: There is no such rule. I’ve checked with a number of industry professionals, and they tell me—

Dassa: Industry professionals? Name one. Probably a guy who drives a forklift in the Book Bargains warehouse. No—more likely, some agent’s dermatologist.

Pik: Not true! I—

Author: We needn’t name names and draw innocents into this. But I’ve raised this question at conferences and such, and from what I’ve been told, there is no hard-and-fast rule. Generally speaking, the reader meets the protagonist first, but there are legitimate exceptions. So I’ll give a point to Dassa for this while conceding that her argument isn’t definitive. And now, let’s move on. Dr. Pik, why do you think you’re really the protagonist?

Pik: First, and most obviously, readers love me best. You said yourself, when you were submitting your chapters to critiquers for feedback, everyone commented on how much they loved my character. And if you hadn’t submitted anything for a while, it was me they asked about. “What’s Pik doing these days?” No one inquired about Dassa.

Author: Well, that’s true, but—

Pik: But more objectively, I think everyone here will agree that my character is the one that shows the most growth. Don’t several reviewers comment on the impressive character development in this book? Which character are they’re talking about? Certainly not Dassa, who remains a cold fish throughout the entire story. My character gives the story its depth and adds a lively humor. It’s my words in the last line that put a smile on the reader’s face as she closes the book with satisfaction. Dassa is merely the straight man, so to speak, around which my character revolves.

Author: “Cold fish” hardly describes Dassa. It’s true that she never gets carried away by her emotions, but she does clearly feel them. And her role is far more vital than that of a mere straight man. Nevertheless, you raise a good point about the character development. Your character shows amazing growth between his introduction in chapter 2 and that last line of the book that you mention. 

So what do you have to say about this, Dassa? Pik seems to have scored two points to your one so far. Can you offer another reason why you should keep your protagonist status?

Dassa: Absolutely. It’s true that the doctor shows the most character growth, but plainly, the reason for that is because he had more growing to do. I may be younger than he, but I was more mature at the beginning of the book than he is by the end. No, don’t argue, Pik, it’s true and you know it. However, all that side, I believe the biggest reason why I should remain the protag is because it’s my character who has the most to gain or lose. You had a life—a career, a family, and a future—before I came on the scene, and if I had never made an appearance, you’d have gone along your merry way without a care in the galaxy. I, on the other hand, lost everything. The story is more about my struggle than it is about your character growth. Clearly, that gives me every right and reason to be the protagonist.

Author: This is quite the dilemma. All your arguments are valid. I think we should put it to the vote. Readers? Who do you consider the protagonist of The Story in the Stars? I’m asking that question on my own blog today, too, so if you don’t mind, would you go to and cast your vote?

Thank you, Elaine, for providing a forum for this debate. Thanks to Dassa and Pik for participating in this discussion. And thank you, readers, for helping to make the whole thing a success. I hope to see you in Gannah in the near future. 

Yvonne's office
Author's Bio:
Lifelong resident of Ohio, Yvonne Anderson is the mother of four grown children and three grandkids. For a number of years, between raising children, chickens, goats, calves, and a truck garden, as well as working part time as a legal assistant, she was too busy to read a novel, let alone try to write one. Early in 2002, however, the frenzy slowed enough for her to take a deep breath and dive in.

In 2006, she left the law office to work as a Virtual Assistant. This gave her the freedom to stay home to keep an eye on her elderly dad and work on her writing. In 2011, she signed a three-book contract with Risen Books for her space fantasy, Gateway to Gannah. The first book in the series, The Story in the Stars, was released in June 2011.

Since 2007, Yvonne has been a contributor to the writers’ blog Novel Journey, now known as Novel Rocket, for which she currently serves as Contest Administrator. The blog was named to Writer’s Digest’s list of 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

Yvonne is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, The Lost Genre Guild, and International Thriller Writers, Inc. She still works as a Virtual Assistant, but spends most of her time on the planet Gannah, researching her stories.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rhonda Rhea: A Mission Of Hilarity And Hope

Everyone's Story welcomes comedic author and radio personality Rhonda Rhea (pronounced RAY) as its guest this week. From the St. Louis area, Rhonda exudes not only hilarity and cheer through the many miles of cyber space, but also a genuine warmth. Multi-published in columns and articles, she recently released her eighth book. Plus, she's one ecstatic and proud mom, with a new two-book deal written with her favorite fiction author, daughter Kaley Faith Rhea. 

~*~Book Giveaway: Rhonda is generously offering one copy of her just-released book HOW MANY LIGHTBULBS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A PERSON?--Bright Ideas For Delightful Transformation. All you have to do to be entered into the random drawing is to leave a comment with your email within the text~*~

Back of the book blurb:

Enjoy enlightenment from the Scriptures through the real, humorous stories, pithy wit, and life-wisdom shared by celebrated speaker and author Rhonda Rhea. In How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Rhea explores many of the 300 Bible references to light--to draw us to the light found only in Jesus Christ.

Author and speaker, Patsy Clairmont, calls the book “high voltage humor along with a biblical charge.”

Hanging On to Hilarity by Rhonda Rhea
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I think I have some very unique and useful character qualities. Granted, most better psychoanalysts might not refer to them as “character qualities” as much as they refer to them as “symptoms,” but still.  
One of the reasons I love being a humor writer is that I’m sort of “forced” to find the hilarity in everyday life. I think humor writers are usually the result of a strange stirring of the gene pool. Just the other day I was thinking about the fact that our family doesn’t have a coat of arms. I’m considering designing one myself. A white one. With really cool sleeves that tie in the back.
I think writers in general acquire an exclusive symptom…er…“quality” or two that others don’t necessarily encounter. Maybe it’s the inordinate amount of rejection we’re called to deal with, but insecurity is so often the order of the day. Not to mention that when fiction writers hear new little voices in their heads, they never medicate. No, they actually encourage the little voices. And then publish them. 
Recently, though, I experienced a “quality” beyond voices. It’s a weird thing that happens to me now and again. I look over the writing du jour and I keep thinking I’ve misspelled words—even when I haven’t. 
I think I might be a typo-chondriac.
Interestingly enough, if the psycho-professionals come up with a 12-step program for typo-chondriacs, I’m pretty sure step one will be admitting you don’t have a problem.
When it comes to successfully living out this writing life, though, I would never try it without full reliance on my Heavenly Father. As a Jesus-follower, I have to recognize right from the get-go my complete lack of ability to make anything good happen on my own. 
You’d think that would cause a more intense insecurity. But it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it’s the exact opposite. There is great security in knowing that I don’t have to depend on my own abilities. There is even greater security in knowing that I can so completely depend on the One who is all-powerful. Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:3 that, “We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,” (NLT). 
So it’s not such a terrible thing to recognize that even though I’m a writer, with all the built-in insecurities and various “qualities” that come with it, I don’t have to live in insecurity. There’s freedom in recognizing I have nothing to offer in and of myself, but that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). 
That’s especially refreshing to dwell on when I realize that on top of my typo-chondria, I think I might be coming down with a touch of kleptomania. Gee, I hope there’s something I can take for that.

Rhonda addresses in HOW MANY LIGHTBULBS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A PERSON? the weary person who longs to make a change in her or his life. In Rhonda's words: "It is God's given enlightenment that makes possible this change. God will show us this path for change, and will light our way in His mighty plan for us."
Are you considering a change in your life? Are you a wee bit skeptical or nervous? How do you use humor to get through the day? Rhonda will enjoy reading your comments.
Rhonda Rhea is a radio personality, humor columnist, conference/event speaker and author of eight books, including I’m Dreaming of Some White Chocolate, High Heels in High Places, and her newest, How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person? She is presently working on her ninth nonfiction book, scheduled to release in early 2013, and just this week got a yes from a publishing board on a two-book fiction deal co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Faith Rhea. Rhonda is a pastor’s wife and mother of five mostly grown children. She chuckles through the hubbub with pastor/hubby, Richie Rhea, near St. Louis in Troy, Missouri.
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Kathy Carlton Willis: Publicist, Author, Reflector Of God's Light

I love blogging, an undertaking I never expected to enjoy beyond the sigh-it's-another-task-to-do perspective. Meeting awesome people (both guests and commenters) and learning so much about... well, so much... is the #1 impetus behind my blogging zeal. And, one of those awesome people is my guest this week on Everyone's Story, Kathy Carlton Willis. Kathy is owner of KCW Communications where she helps to shine the light on her clients. During Kathy's visit with us, she will share insights to reading, publicity and God's timing.

Are you struggling with your writing, full of doubt? Are you curious what a publicist can do for you? Drop Kathy a line or two. She'll enjoy hearing from you!

Some Questions for Kathy:
One thing (out of many!) that keeps leaping out toward me from the adult Christian Ed classes I'm taking at my church is that when it comes to God, nothing is coincidence, that He has it all figured out. Relating this to writing, and His Divine Time Line for each individual, would you care to share your thoughts on God's timing for the writer vying to become published? From your perspective as a publicist and inspirational speaker, are there things we should or should not be trying to aid God with?

I think realizing God doesn’t need our help to manage what happens on our timeline is probably the first step! But He does use servant-hearted believers who are obedient to His direction and intentional in their goals. What is really neat about trusting Him for the timing is knowing He is taking care of an incredible cluster of events, attitudes, opportunities, connections and ideas before an author is published, or in the broader sense, before a believer accomplishes any God-ordained goal. It’s almost like the old-timey phone operator switchboards. God is plugging in all the lines at the right time to the right people and when it’s all in place, then our opportunity happens. And there’s room for so much human error in that, as we drop calls, don’t listen to Him on the other end of the line, or try to force a connection that isn’t available yet. The main thing we can do as Christian writers is to ask God to show us the goals He has for our writing, and to use His wisdom, along with receiving advice from the wisdom team He has placed in our lives. If we look at the end goal and back-up from that final destination (reverse story-board style) until we get to the next step we need to take, then we have God’s plan divided up into small doable tasks. Then it’s just a matter of following His lead, step by step.

Okay, so an author has a website, a blog, is active in social network circles. What advantages can a publicist offer that an author cannot do for his or herself?

Not all publicists offer the following services, but these are a few of the services KCWC offers to help writers who are already doing their own promotion and marketing. A publicist can:
  • Help you write marketing into the book: hooks and angles that will be timely for publicity when the book launches—utilizing evergreen and water cooler topics.
  • Write your marketing plan and book proposal.
  • Work in tandem with your in-house publicity team to maximize exposure.
  • Create a custom database of contacts for media, consumers, niche-markets, retailers, etc. This might include local, regional and national networking.
  • Consult with you on branding, first-impression image effects, media training, etc.
  • Design and coordinate your media kit, blog tour, speaker kit, event kits, etc.
  • Escort you to national tours, trade shows, etc.
  • Arrange article placement and guest blogger opportunities for you.
Care to reveal your seemingly unending source of energy? And, as a theme on Everyone's Story, I use the image of plowing on and through discouragement. Any advice on plowing through rough spots in one's career (or aiming for a career) without zapping your physical energy or emotional stamina? 

There’s never a problem with getting my brain to surge with ideas—but there’s sometimes a problem in getting it to shut off so I can rest! I’ve had plenty of rough spots in the past twelve months (meaning I’m an overachiever on the stressor test). I confess those challenges could easily derail me. Rather than focus on the setbacks and struggles, I gaze at the goals God has set in my line of vision. I refuse to let trials get the best of me. Not that I’m some superhuman businesswoman—just that God has assigned me to a mission and as long as I stay open to His lead, I can plug in to His stamina and His drive—it’s not about what I have to deliver on my own. And when I’m having a “stinky” day, I acknowledge it as a bad day—then take stock of what I can do in spite of my circumstances. And then, before I know it, I’ve tackled the to-do list and have something productive to show for my efforts. Sulking, brooding or self-pity would have made me feel worse in the long run. I prefer the rewarding sensation of being used by God. That reenergizes me like no other stimulant! (Although I do confess to enjoying a daily diet Pepsi Max, too!)
Courtesy Google Images
A Reading Tale by Kathy Carlton Willis

The love of story leads readers to devote time from our busy schedules to visit a new world, a new time, a new way of life. Because time is precious, it makes sense to maximize our reading experiences as much as possible. I’ve always been a lover of books. What’s your rite-of-passage book story? 

I’ll start with my own reading tale. 

My mother encouraged me to learn to read as soon I started school. She was a voracious reader, eager for me to develop the same love of books she had. This Chatty Kathy loved every form of communications since my first spoken word, and the written word was no different. I took to it like gravy goes with biscuits. Remember those Weekly Reader magazines (oh, the delicious smell of the ink and paper!)? And the SRA Reading Lab inspired me to read not just for speed, but for retention—thanks to those specialized tests. It was my goal to make it through each level before the appointed time. To this day, I still like to beat deadlines.

I received my first public library card as soon as I started school, and Mom walked us kids to the library several times a month to pick up books. Yes, it seemed like it was two miles uphill both ways, but it was worth it! Our little town of four thousand was blessed with a Carnegie library (built in 1905) full of well-loved books. Mom taught me how to follow my favorite authors, and I read every title they’d ever written. I knew how to thumb through a card catalog and recite the Dewey decimal system as well as I could spell my own name. By the time I outgrew the children’s section, I had read every book and graduated to the “grown-up” shelves. 

Now I’ve grown up even more. My love affair for words inspired me to start my own communications firm, so I get to fiddle with words all day long. We promote authors and books, and present programs to various groups, stringing together words we’ve written, edited, proposed, sung, spoken, coached, pitched, and more! Words thrill me. Story entices me—draws me in—beckons to me. 

Most avid readers have been caught saying their idea of a time-out from stress and life involves curling up with a good book—claw-foot tub or blazing fireplace optional. Some readers aren’t quite as gung ho to dig in to their “to be read” piles. They want to like to read, but they aren’t quite there yet. 

My favorite reading tip is this: Don’t waste time on a mediocre book. When reading for recreation, remember that you aren’t in school anymore. You aren’t being graded for reading every word. So if a book doesn’t appeal to you, put it down! Grab a different one. We have only so much time in life—definitely not enough time to get bogged down with a boring or confusing story line. 

Just because a book earned rave reviews doesn’t mean it’s the right book for you, any more than gorgeous size 7 shoes will fit size 10 feet! 

Think about your own reading tale. What was it like when you learned to read? What turned you on to books? Do you recall the favorite authors of your early years? Who inspired you to read more? Did reading lists and contests in school motivate you to try harder? What challenges you today in your reading? We all have a story—even a reading story! 

Author Bio:
Kathy Carlton Willis enjoys fiddling with words as: writer, publicist, and writer's coach at KCW Communications. Kathy is affiliated with AWSA, CLASSeminars, and others. She’s published in multiple books, magazines, and online publications. She writes and speaks on the issues that hold women back and shines the light on their path to freedom, encouraging others to have their own light bulb moments. Kathy shines, whether she's shining the light on God's writers and speakers, or reflecting God's light during her speaking events. For more information, catch up with Kathy at her website:

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