NOTE: Commentary is made as a private citizen and not as Regional Coordinator for Silent No More or Leader of Rachel's Hope, unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Falsely Accused

I’m not one to rant and rave (well, maybe once in a while), but I opened a letter today that infuriated me. 
The letter was from one of the hotels we stayed at on our recent get-away.  The contents included:  “…upon your departure our housekeeping staff reported two pillows missing from the hotel room.  As the registered guest of this room, you are liable for the replacement fee.”

I immediately called the person who sent the letter and (believe it or not) calmly informed her we were not pillow-pinchers.  She curtly explained that each bed has four pillows and upon check-out the bed only had two.  I suggested the bed had to have been double rather than quadrupled pillowed upon our arrival and that maybe in the future they should provide a list of amenities on an inventory sheet for guest reference.  That way if something was missing the guest could notify the front desk.  This woman didn’t respond to my scenario or recommendation, but reluctantly agreed to reverse the charge.  Based on her tone of voice, she still thought my husband and I were thieves.

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.  Even though the charges were reversed, I wasn’t satisfied.  I did some research on-line and found the CEO of the hotel chain and promptly sent him an e-mail with my concerns and recommendations.  Lo and behold, within thirty minutes I received a positive response AND apology. 
I am aware people do steal from hotel rooms.  Who knows, maybe there’s a huge pillow pinching ring out there.  My question is….what about those of us that are falsely accused? I wonder how much money hotels make on the innocent who just let it go and not refute the charges?   I wonder what percentage of remodeling, expansion costs or bonuses are paid through unsubstantiated pillow recovery fees?

Yes, I’m making light of the incident now, but I did learn a lesson that might be considered by all … Make sure to ask housekeeping how many towels, pillows, duvets, etc., are supposed to be in the room before checking out!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Take on Deflate-gate

I must have been extremely bored last night (or procrastinating on my writing projects) because I read the complete investigative report on “deflate-gate”.  You might think it’s sour grapes, me being a Seahawks fan, but I have to agree with the conclusions even though nobody was caught red-handed.  In my not-so-expert but realistic opinion, he had to have known the balls were improperly inflated during the game.  Even though he may not have been involved in the “conspiracy”, he made himself complicit by using them.  Also, refusing to turn over text messages and e-mails about the subject matter added fuel to the fire.

It was good to see the Patriot’s organization accept their penalties; however, I’m disappointed that Tom Brady didn’t do the same.  I’ve always admired his talent but as far as I’m concerned, failing to accept his part in all of this drama and failing to cooperate in the investigation has forever tarnished his image. 

This is not the first time a professional sports team has done something to skew the odds in their favor and it’s bothersome. What message is this communicating to our young?    

Cheating is not the American way.  It is small, while we are large.  It is cheap,
while we are richly endowed.  It is destructive, while we are creative. 
It is doomed to fail, while our gifts and responsibilities call us to achieve. 
It sabotages trust and weakens the bonds of spirit and humanity,
without which we perish.
-Terrance McNally


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Setting Aside Fear

My father and uncle live with us and although I absolutely love being their caregiver, it takes its toll on private time with my husband.  Mike and I decided to take a mini-vacay as a late anniversary gift, and chose the Grand Canyon because it’s something we both always wanted to see.

Now comes confession time.  I have a few phobias … Bees (I’m allergic), small spaces (can’t even sleep in a sleeping bag) and unfortunately for this trip – heights.  I break out in cold sweats on mountain roads, avoid flying whenever possible, and embarrassingly, won’t even climb a ladder.

Once we arrived, we took the shuttle bus to all the viewpoints.  I was a "tad bit" apprehensive leaving the security of the bus, but confident there would be railings at the overlooks that would prevent an unfortunate plunge.  Yes, there were some railings and security barriers but mostly open spaces. People stood on rocks right on the edge of the canyon taking pictures (including selfies) and some were hiking down narrow trails with no guard rails, perilously close to sheer drop-offs.  

Watching these people produced a mini panic attack (thank goodness for my inhaler). I’m sure the tourists saw the terror in my face and observed my shaking legs as I gripped the pathway handrails and dragged myself towards the secured viewing areas.  My husband (bless his heart) patiently waited for me and avoided the unsecured areas (at least when I wasn’t looking).  At each vista point, I kept my death grip on the rails but thank goodness the fear and panic didn’t minimize the beauty of this gigantic (and very deep) canyon. I was able to stop shaking enough to focus and even take a few pictures – thinking: HOW MUCH GOD MUST LOVE US TO CREATE SOMETHING SO MAGNIFICENT.  

(Another thought came to mind as well ... if I would have succumbed to fear, I would have missed out on something spectacular.)

"Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made."
Romans 1:20






Friday, May 22, 2015

Welcome Andrea J. Graham to "An Author Speaks"!

Andrea Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University, has been envisioning fantastic worlds since childhood, and has been writing science fiction novels since she was fourteen. Her Web Surfer Series is being released with Helping Hands Press and she has co-authored novels that were primarily by her husband, Adam Graham. Andrea and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho.

What five words describe you? 
Depends on which quiz you ask. Says I’m Wise, Deliberate, Beautiful, Mature, and Humble Says I’m creative, punky, nice, pretty, and smart 
What are you working on at the minute? What is it about? 
Life After Venus! which is the sequel to Life After Mars? They’re set on a Post World War III Earth’s Martian Frontier in the 2080s, roughly a decade before the main cast of the Web Surfer Series were born. (the Web Surfer Series is two short, five-volume serials and four novels being published by Helping Hands Press.) I realized some of that cast’s parents had lived in interesting times, too, and thought a series focusing on them would make a good introduction to both series’ story world for younger readers and anyone looking for slightly easier reading.  
It goes lighter on the AIs and the AI-humans and focuses more on ordinary people with family-centered conflicts at the fore. In the backdrop is a religious society that tried to build utopia and put the military in charge based on a vision of the solider as a hard-working, freedom-loving, peace-loving servant. After a single generation, they instead wound up with a classist system where the civilians are ruled by the brats, with the brats being aristocrats who inherit their military titles from their parents. Despite this, their town’s name, Apricot Pond, suits it perfectly. That isn’t what we’d normally expect, but I find such contrasts irresistible.   
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character
from your most recent book? 
I’d prefer unknown, real-life fraternal twin actresses who were half-Latina, half-white, and 12-14 years olds or young-looking 16-17 year-olds, if they played younger than their real ages. 
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? 
Why would I covet another author’s book? I am simply grateful for the story ideas the Lord lays on my heart and hope they inspire readers and glorify God in entertaining ways. 
What is the hardest thing about writing? 
The beginning, middle, and end.  :)   Half kidding. That varies from day to day, project to project. 
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block? 
What I usually do, someone else will tell you not to do, ever. When the story stops flowing smoothly, I back up to the top of the last chapter or so and look for where it got clogged. Every now and again I have to back up significantly farther to find what is nagging me and edit that portion but usually I have to revise the last chapter or so and get that right before it’ll flow again. How often this happens I won’t say, but it is why I finish the first draft a bit slower than people who don’t edit until they have a complete rough draft of their manuscript, but I’ll admit I usually have a manuscript that is in second-draft or third-draft shape by the end. 
Where would your dream location be for writing? 
Any cabin in the woods/mountains or a lake/sea-side cottage, except it would have to have electricity, etc. and the awesome wi-fi connections you get in the city.  
When creating characters, are they based on people in your life? 
Not really, sometimes real life situations influence things in subtle ways, but I’ve been avoiding writing real people into novels ever since I got out of my teens. I have a background in theater and method acting, so I usually have at least some angle that I can relate to my main cast from. 
If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be? 
A mom is my first thought. That is getting less and less likely to ever happen for me each year, but I have a good decade or so left in which to dream of someday having a few cute distractions from my writing to love and give my full undivided attention for however long they wanted it. 
What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in your writing career? 
Less time on the fun stuff, more time working on learning how to market books and platform-building and the like. Maybe I should still listen to that advice now.  :)
Where can we buy your books? 
Amazon, Barnes and noble, the Helping Hands Press store. 
How can we keep up with you? Blog, Facebook, etc...... 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Oops, I did it again!

Learning the hard way appears to be the method God has chosen for me ... probably because of an overabundance of stubbornness that flows through my veins (intermingled with coffee).

I've always been a "people pleaser", which is not a bad thing ... until someone decides to take advantage of the situation, demanding more and more. It is a vicious cycle  ...  Realizing I'm being used, backing off, then ending right back where I started ... falling prey to the guilt trips and drama.

I thought I had this certain aspect of my life under control, but evidently I had a blind spot and recently had the rug ripped from under me ... and I fell hard.  Oh yes, I was warned.  God sent subtle hints (that sick feeling in my stomach, nagging doubts), but did I listen?  Heck no....and I suffered the consequences, all self-inflicted:  Sadness, guilt, anger, hurt ... and it wasn't limited to me.  Yep, I like company in my misery.  Of course I didn't lash out, I did what I always do ... isolate ...  leaving God, my family and friends in limbo and neglecting my responsibilities, that in turn added more misery.

This incident was one of those temporary setbacks in my faith journey.  Once again, I thought I knew more than God, which I'm sure made Him laugh.  I am so grateful for His love and understanding and for blessing me with the humility to eventually reach out, not just to Him but to those close to me.  I was able to finally let go of the source of pain and return to the land of the living, hopefully, a little more wise.


Monday, May 11, 2015


Jennifer Bean Bower is an award-winning writer, native Tar Heel, and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Bower is the author of North Carolina Aviatrix Viola Gentry: The Flying Cashier; Animal Adventures in North CarolinaWinston & Salem: Tales of Murder, Mystery and Mayhem; Moravians in North Carolina and numerous articles. She lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with her husband Larry and their pet rabbit Isabelle. 

What five words describe you?

Loyal, Dedicated, Adventurous, Detailed, Inquisitive

 What are you working on at the minute? What is it about?

Many years ago I began writing a historical novel based on a true North Carolina crime. However, other projects and work-related responsibilities prevented me from completing it. Now that my book North Carolina Aviatrix Viola Gentry: The Flying Cashier has been released, I plan to focus all of my time and energy on finishing it. As with many crimes, the story is a twisted account of love, lies and murder; yet, this tale is anything but typical. Throughout the novel, readers will be forced to defend the main character or stand with his accusers. Only in the end will they find out if they chose correctly.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

My latest book tells the story of Viola E. Gentry who was the first federally licensed female pilot from North Carolina. Gentry set a course for the sky and did not let anything—be it discrimination, financial hardship, misguided landings, crashes, physical limitations or tragedy— put an end to her dreams. She always trudged forward and kept a smile on her face.

There are so many wonderful actresses to choose from; but, I believe Renee Zellweger would best portray Gentry’s spunky attitude. In 1929, Gentry crashed her airplane into a pile of manure. When she discovered what she had landed in, she roared with laughter. Only Renee Zellweger (in my mind) could adequately recreate that scene!

If you could have been the original author of any book,
what would it have been and why?

Without a doubt, it would have been An Illustrated Guide to Ghosts & Mysterious Occurrences in The Old North State, by Nancy Roberts. Roberts, who passed away in 2008, was known as the “First Lady of American Folklore.” She was an author, a storyteller and minister. Her stories, which she researched extensively, were intriguing; yet, easy to read. As a result, her stories encouraged many children (myself included) to read. After reading Roberts’ books, I wanted to visit the towns in North Carolina she spoke about; I wanted to learn more about North Carolina culture and I desired to read more about my state’s history. I would love to inspire my readers in the same manner that Nancy Roberts inspired me.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing is finding the time to do it!

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

Writer’s block happens to me a lot! Sometimes my thoughts fly right out the window and I find myself staring into a stark white page on the computer screen. I type, I delete, I type and delete. When this happens, I generally (if the weather is nice) take a walk outside. The fresh air and increased blood flow to my brain seem to round up those wayward ideas.

Where would your dream location be for writing?

My dream location would be a cabin that is tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina; a quiet place void of a television and other distractions that vie for one’s time.

When creating characters, are they based on people in your life?

I have not had to create characters, as I write non-fiction. The main characters in the historical fiction I am working on are based on real people. However, if I was tasked with creating characters, I would definitely draw personalities from people I know and have known. I think it would be hard not to. 

 Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad?

Yes, I read my reviews, as I enjoy hearing from my readers. I have never responded to a review; but, appreciate readers who take time to leave one.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

No one has the ability to please everyone. In high school, my floral design teacher (who often picked up a floral arrangement and turned it upside down to see if anything would fall out) often provided negative reviews on mine and my classmates’ floral masterpieces. He told us the remarks should not be seen as harsh and unjust; but, should be accepted as a form of constructive criticism. He reminded us that praise alone would not help us grow (become better); would not force us to reexamine what we had created, and would not compel us to look for ways to improve. I think the same can be said for a bad book review.

If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?

If I couldn’t write, I would love to share the history and heritage of North Carolina; particularly Appalachian culture, through the spoken word. Storytellers have the wonderful opportunity to see the emotions brought forth from their words.

What would you tell your younger self that would have helped
you in your writing career?

When I was in the second grade, I loved to write plays. My teacher was very encouraging and allowed me to “produce” a couple of them. If I could go back in time, I would return to the second grade and tell myself to write about anything and everything; to write often, and never suppress a story. I would tell myself to participate in young author classes, enter writing contests, and make connections with other writers. I would tell myself to write, write, write!

Where can we buy your books?;;; and wherever books are sold.

How can we keep up with you? Blog, Facebook, etc......