Book Review – Not by Design

Not by Design “Not by Design” is the latest offering from multi-published women’s fiction author Carol Balawyder. It is a sequel to “Getting to Mr. Right,” which you should read if you haven’t. “Getting to Mr. Right” is the story of four women who meet at a support group (the focus of which is women who have men/father issues) and form lasting, sincere friendships.

“Not by Design” is Felicity Starr’s story. She is one of the women in the support group, and she has it all—looks, youth, a rich father, talent, true-heart friends and the love of a handsome, successful man. She is living a fairy tale life in France, studying art and pursuing a career in art, while enjoying an active social/love life. But even fairy tales are wrought with obstacles and that’s exactly what our heroine encounters—one setback after another. There’s the death of her father, a dwindling bank account which brings on financial woes, an art career that has stalled, and the painful decision to end her relationship with her fiancé and call off the wedding. But that’s not all. The biggest blow of all—a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). With all this dumped on her, Felicity makes the hard decision to release her dream of being an artist and living in France. She returns home to Canada to try and piece a life together.

The move back home is met with more bitterness. She fights to recover her reputation in the work world. She has disagreements with her mother and step-mother. She gambles on several romantic interests and loses. And, she must make a slew of difficult choices in regard to her living arrangements and medical treatment, decisions made more difficult because of her limited funds. One wonders if Felicity will ever catch a break when…help arrives. At the strong suggestion of her doctor, she attends a MS support group meeting and finds the support and acceptance she so desperately needs. With the encouragement of the group, she shares her medical condition with her friends, who surround her with love, care and acceptance. The end of the story details the good life Felicity has finally secured. No, it’s not the one she would have designed for herself, but it works. She’s happy.

This is a story that will take you low on the scale of human emotions and then pick you up. You will feel despair, then happiness; fear, then joy. This emotional seesaw is achieved in part by the story’s conflict—dreams and desire versus medical and financial worries, a situation many readers may relate to. I certainly did. And then there’s the overall story question: are we willing to release our version of our dream or life in exchange for an uncertain version? This is the question Felicity struggles with throughout the story but I dare say it is one many readers struggle with as well.

There are many things to appreciate about this story. It is inspiring, well written and has relatable characters. But the one aspect I appreciated the most was the focus on MS. Reading about the symptoms, the various treatments, the expense, and how it requires life adjustments was a real education. Thank you Carol for that.

I finished reading the book and shut down my e-reader thinking, I can’t wait to read the remaining sequel. The other three—“Café Paradise,” “Missi’s Dating Adventures” and “Not by Design”—have been purely enjoyable. Check ‘em out and see for yourself.

An Undetermined Future

Last night while I was meeting with my critique group…a 25-year-old gunman was setting up his perch in a downtown Dallas building. Ironically the building was part of a community college, a place of learning and expanding young minds.

Last night while I was driving home…the young man pointed a high-powered weapon down a busy city street. Ironically that street is only a few blocks from where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and ironically it’s the same street where a peaceful protest (organized to call attention to the proliferation of police-involved shootings/murders of black men) was winding down.

Last night while I slept…the Army veteran shot and murdered five police officers and wounded seven additional officers and two civilians. Ironically our government trained him on the use of weapons and gave him the opportunity to perfect his training by sending him to the battlegrounds in Afghanistan.

Early this morning…the murderer was killed, blown to pieces by a special delivery bomb. Ironically his motives for killing (hate, anger, frustration, arrogance, fear, injustice) remain solidly intact and are shared by many—black, white, yellow, brown and others.

Later today…the hate will continue. The killings will continue. The violence will continue. The country will remain dysfunctional and divided. UNLESS…all people are seen as individuals. Unless all people are seen as equals. Unless all people are free. And UNTIL racism is rooted out of every system, institution, policy and practice, and until hate is replaced by love.

Racism

My Acceptance Speech

The totally awesome and completely fabulous Shehanne Moore chose me for the EPICALLY AWESOME award! Woo-hoo! Claps! Cheers!

Epically Awesome

Thank you, Shey for the acknowledgement. Truly, I am smiling like the cat who slurped all the cream.

In accepting this award, I agreed to answer a few questions so others in the blog-o-sphere might learn a bit more about me. I also agreed to recognize five other bloggers who in my opinion are Epically Awesome. But before I unveil those five…

What made you choose your current blogging platform? When I first decided to start my blog, I checked out several writers’ forums and the overwhelming recommendation for a blogging platform was WP. So here I am.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your blog? I am a writer, author, blogger, reader and world citizen. I enjoy writing novels, novellas and short stories the most. Blog posts, articles, social media content and marketing materials come in second…a distant second. My blog reflects three of my favorite interests:  reading, writing and spirituality. Seems like complementary topics until you get to the third one. But I think some might be surprised to learn how fundamental spirituality is to creative pursuits.

Are you a once-in-a-while blogger or a daily one? I started as a weekly blogger but I am now juggling four major writing projects as well as two writing-related organizations. That workload forced me to scale back to blogging once or twice a month. I really hope I can jump back on a weekly schedule later this year.

Do you wish to publish and if so, what type of book? I am published. Yeah!!! Both traditionally and self-published and it was an adventure following both paths. I traditionally published in romance but switched years ago to paranormal and mainstream fiction as a self-publisher.

What is your favorite thing to do besides write? Read. Read. Read…and movies, of course.

Thanks again, Shey for the opportunity to share with you and others. I had fun answering the questions and now for the five bloggers who I think are Epically Awesome…

Pam Fields – who is epically awesome because she works hard every day to promote understanding, love and acceptance of all people. This is especially important in a world where hatred kills every day. https://pamyfields.com/

Faith Simone – who is epically awesome because she is totally transparent and honest about her writing journey and I love her for that. https://faithsimone.com/

Lizzie Newton – who is epically awesome because she reminds us that it’s okay to embrace our dark side. Really, it’s okay. https://elizabethnnewton.com/

Annette Rochelle Aben – who is epically awesome because she reminds us help and love is as close as a prayer (thank you angels!). https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com/

Carol Balawyder – who is epically awesome because she is so pure and giving, a model writer and a great human being (wish there were more of her). https://carolbalawyder.com/

They (if they chose to accept…cue the Mission Impossible theme music) will recognize the blogger who nominated them, link back to the nominator, post the graphic of the award, and answer the questions above. I hope the above EPICALLY AWESOME bloggers accept because I would love to read their answers and learn even more about the wonderfully epic people they are.

Have an awesome and epic week, one and all and happy summer!

June is Black Music Month

Every June we turn the spotlight on black music and black musicians in observance of Black Music Month. This June it’s especially meaningful to recognize the contributions that African-Americans have made to the music world. Why? Because of the recent death of Prince and the great legacy he left for us. It’s reported that Prince left scores and scores of unpublished music that his estate will have to sort through and release at will. This in addition to the extensive treasury of songs and films he’s already shared with the world.

Where were you when you heard of Prince’s death? I was in a writing class and the instructor had just given us a writing prompt. The room was silent except for the scratch of pens on paper. Heads were bowed and foreheads crinkled in concentration when the instructor, a noted journalist and HUGE Prince fan read a text about Prince’s death. She cried out and that was the end of class and the end of a great musician. This happened on a Thursday.

Prince’s death took me back to another Thursday when I learned of Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009. That was another shocking newscast that immobilized me for hours. I remember friends and relatives calling but I don’t remember what we talked about. Which was the same with Whitney Houston’s death in February 2012. Her death was the hardest hitting of the three because she was my favorite. I loved to see her perform. She was so passionate and sincere. Her voice, her style, her presence, her smile…all amazing!

But let me get out of my heart for a moment and into my head. I have a dear friend who is a numerologist. If you’ve been following my blog for a while you already know about Cindy. Cindy has studied numbers, patterns and the spiritual significance of such for the past thirty years, and is quite the expert. I, on the other hand, have a very rudimentary knowledge of numerology but let me share a little bit of what came to me as I pondered the deaths of Prince, Michael and Whitney (for how could one not think of them collectively?).

Michael died first in 2009. Three years later, Whitney died. The number of years between the deaths of Michael and Prince was seven. In the spirit realm, the numbers three and seven both represent completeness. Cycles completing (God created the heavens and earth in seven days); the beginning and the end connecting (Father, Son and Holy Spirit); closing one door, opening a new one (the seven year itch). So we have three mega talents dying within a seven year period. What that tells me is we’ve completed a cycle. Again, I’m not the expert but I’m pretty sure Cindy and other numerologists figured this out and saw it coming after Whitney’s death. They may not have known the “who” but surely the “what” (an iconic death) and “when” (the year) and were therefore less shocked than the rest of us.

So now I’m back in my heart and thinking I need to end this with how I started—a focus on Black Music Month and Prince. Below is a link to one of my favorite Prince songs. I present it, along with my loving thanks to Michael, Whitney and Prince for so many hours of pleasure, in honor of Black Music Month.

When Doves Cry

And to all black singers, musicians, songwriters, producers, composers, and engineers…thank you! A million times THANK YOU!!

More To It

My niece graduated from college this month and is fortunate to have landed a job in her field of study—journalism. I am so proud of her—chest out, big grin!

Grad Photo 3

I hesitated about using the word fortunate because she worked really hard. She studied long hours; took advantage of internships; formed alliances and friendships; sought and enacted the advice of counselors, professors, TAs; and the list goes on. As I was typing this list, thinking about the work she had put in to reach this monumental goal, another list started scrolling through my mind. I’ll call it the more-to-it list because there’s more to reaching a goal, any goal than taking action steps. Read on to see what I’m talking about…

  • Fight back – when you’re sucker punched (and you will be), it’s natural to cry for a short while, but then come out swinging.
  • Sleep through problems – when seemingly insurmountable problems arise (and they will), go to sleep. Let your subconscious work out the solution and when you wake, enact it.
  • Different is normal – exploit that in you which others label as different. It’s that difference that leads to success.
  • Minority rule – when you know what’s right for you, stick with that. Your life is not majority rule.
  • Playtime – all work makes one a grouch. Strive for a balance between work and fun.

The great thing about these more-to-its is they are available to all of us. Not just college students in pursuit of knowledge. Not just college graduates, but all. So go for that goal, initiate that plan, while remembering to enact these more-to-its when needed. So please excuse me as I head off to enact the more-to-it of playtime.

Congratulations to all Graduates!

 Congrats

Unforgettable Mothers in Literature

One of the many things I am grateful for is my love of books and reading. I credit my mom with this love because I grew up watching her fill her leisure hours reading, and because our house was always filled with books (books, books everywhere just like my house now). This weekend as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to swirl books, reading and mothers together to create a short list of unforgettable mothers in literature. Take a look at the list below. Perhaps you’ve already met these mothers, and if so, you know that they range from heavenly (like my mom) to warped. But one thing they all exhibit is the very thing that mothers are known for…love. If you haven’t met these mothers or if you want to reacquaint yourself with these women, this is a great weekend to pick out a book, kick back and enjoy! 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Reading!

 cover_whatcamebefore_1[1]  “What Came Before He Shot Her” by Elizabeth George

th[8]  “Voodoo Dreams” by Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes

thX3WKPC9W  “The Living Blood” by Tananarive Due

th[3]  “Dolores Claiborne” by Stephen King

41sVNRTt5cL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_[1]  “A Worn Path” in the collection “A Curtain of Green” by Eudora Welty

9780312193379[1]  “Some Soul to Keep” by J. California Cooper

thYPD60P7E  “The Book of Ruth” (Bible) inspired by God