Author Spotlight no.136 – memoirist Michelle Taylor

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-sixth, is of memoirist and non-fiction author Michelle Taylor.

Please note: although I endeavour to keep this blog light and cheerful, I do cover all genres of writing and some are likely to be more diverse or sensitive than others. Michelle’s is a very traumatic and inspiring story.

Michelle Taylor is a National Speaker and Author who learned some very important lessons from her journey in life and raising her children – Justin, Jordan and Meghan. She has endured a lot of pain during the course of her life and is so proud of each of her children and their accomplishments. They taught her so much about love and literally saved her life as she managed to pick herself up each time, dust off and begin again.

Michelle’s life story of abusive relationships sends a strong message that the cycle of abuse must stop!  Victims of abuse can learn from her incredible journey that will give women the courage and strength to take positive steps in the right direction.

Many people do not understand why women stay in any verbal or physical abusive relationship.  The truth is many women become so accustomed to it and end up missing the control, abuse, pain and fear simply because they feel lost without it.

Learn from Michelle’s story how she rose above it all with strength, courage and wisdom and her strong faith in God. Michelle candidly shares her difficult journey and darkest secrets that kept her constantly on the run from herself. A definite page-turner that will inspire and motivate to heal those dealing with the pain of complicated feelings toward their abusers.

And now from the author herself:

I am a 45-year-old woman that lives in North Carolina, USA, and when I was twelve years of age that is when my whole world turned upside down. ‘Lies in the Womb’ is a story about the terrible truth of being born as the result of an affair. It is a story of surviving years of abuse, longing for unconditional love and dealing with years of lies. The important lessons learned will help those who have endured abuse or are still in an abusive relationship.

My Mother was married with a three-year-old child when she decided to have an affair, and I was the product of that affair. Needless to say my Mother lost custody of her first daughter because she was pregnant with another’s man baby. Because of this, it is something she never got over and took this pain out on me. I left home seven times between the age of twelve and fifteen. Soon afterwards I was gone for good and then that is when I got into domestic abuse, one relationship after another. I felt no self worth, nor did I feel like I deserved any better than what I was getting. It took me many years to get over all this pain, including Mother stealing my first child to get even with me for her losing her own daughter years ago. It is a very sad story and one that I have cried myself to sleep over many times in my life.

Lies In The Womb’s title came from me being a lie in my Mother’s womb, this is my first book that is being published by Tate Publishing, also I have written two more that go along with the first one, also being published by Tate. I have had several interviews on National TV already. My goal is to help men and women to feel self-worth. I tried three times to kill myself, I didn’t care if I lived or died after my Mother took my first child. I have been belittled all my life, emotional abused, physically abused, and more importantly mentally abused by others, including my own family.

One of the biggest problems when dealing with manipulators is being aware of what is happening.  It is high time we bring these actions out into the open.  To be honest, the best defense is to remove yourself from the toxic person, however, some manipulators behave the way they do because we make it easy for them to do it.  If you are reinforcing their behavior, sometimes these relationships can be salvaged, but not always.

Here are some examples of manipulators and the best way to handle them:

Those That Belittle You

Those who deliberately belittle you in attempts to control you are one of the worse types of manipulators. These people may say you’re not worthy of their company or may be a little more subtle than that by telling you, “You’ll never find another man or woman willing to put up with you like I do.”  The best defense is to give these people clear consequences for their actions. These people thrive from your reinforcement knowing that you won’t fight back. Instead, make it clear what will happen if they continue to act or say things that are demeaning to you. However, you must follow through with your threat. These partners will never treat you as an equal, unless you put the same amount of pressure on them to change, as they do for you to conform.

Imposers of Guilt

Partners that manipulate relationships by guilt, understand they have a strong hand when dealing with a person of a caring nature. They may claim their problems are your fault, making you feel like you have to put up with them, otherwise they will be placed in an even worse position than they already are. They are telling you that by being with them, you have become indebted to their happiness. The best way to deal with this kind of guilt is to appeal to the person’s self-image. Tell them that you’re sorry they’re going through a tough time, but you need a strong partner who can take care of himself or herself. If that doesn’t bring them around, they are not ready to accept responsibility for their own life, and you’re better off without them.

Conditional Love

Sometimes manipulators use conditional love to shape the tendencies of their partner. In other words, if you do what they want, they will offer kindness, attention, and love. However, the moment you fail to reach their expectations, they take it away, demanding you work within their terms. Your defense is to not give-in to make things better. If you give into their fits, even just once, they will learn that the best way to manipulate what they need, is by using love as a bargaining tool.

Good and Bad Times

Some manipulators fear intimacy, so they maintain a balancing act of both good and bad moments throughout the relationship. This keeps things from escalating to a commitment. The reason this works is because the bad or sad times influence a partner with low self-esteem to accept the poor treatment in order to regain the favor of their lover. The good times reinforce their commitment, by strengthening their belief that they must be in a blissful relationship. While you may not always be happy, you should never feel you have to beg for your partner’s forgiveness to reap a small reward. Your best defense is to remind yourself that anyone who intentionally hurts you is not worth your time. Take advantage of their next low point or sad moment to get out of the relationship.

Broken Promises

Some manipulators get what they want by making promises they won’t keep. They’re not all bad, as some just like the attention, or don’t have the backbone to tell a guy / girl they’re not interested. Their intention may be there, but when it comes time to deliver, there isn’t enough motivation to get the job done. In defense, you should never loan anything of value to someone you don’t know. In addition, when in doubt you should ask for the promise prior to holding up your end of the bargain. For example, if a partner promises not to lie if you take them back, tell them that you will, but first they must regain your trust. This is one way to establish consequences for their actions, while giving them the opportunity to avoid punishment in the future, by proving to be genuine with their commitments.

It can be difficult to avoid manipulators.  There is a common thread throughout all of the above and that is a lack of awareness.  If you are not happy in your relationship or feel insecure, there is a chance their intentions for you are not honorable.  It is my hope that you will become aware of what is happening before it’s too late and make the necessary changes.

My schedule has been rather hectic lately with speaking to various groups about my story of surviving abuse in many of my relationships.  Yesterday I took a break and watching a segment on Oprah’s Master Class.  She had a woman on the show that had been married to a man for 14 years.  Like many couples, they were madly in love at the beginning, got married and eventually had 2 children.

Things changed after the children arrived.  She noticed odd things beginning to happen like finding marbles or toy cars on the stairs at night after the children had gone to bed.  She always kept a glass of water on her nightstand and it tasted like metal, bitter and left a nasty taste in her mouth.  Soon, her husband started cooking meals, specifically dinner however, it too tasted odd.  In fact, she found a green substance underneath the cheese in a pizza he served her.  Turns out, it was rat poisoning.  Can you believe it?

The point is the signs were there and as Oprah pointed out, it was important for not only her guest, but for all of us to learn about the signs of abuse.  They are often subtle, silent and unexpected.  No one wants to believe that the person they fell in love with could possibly do something so horrible to their mate.  Her guest did not want to believe it was really happening but after the rat poison discovery, she finally took a stand, changed the locks, recorded their phone conversation where he admitted it was rat poisoning and finally, filed for divorce.

Unfortunately, many women get hooked on the roller-coaster ride of an abusive relationship or the need to please their husband or the man in their life.  Of course, when there are children involved, it makes it much harder to leave the relationship no matter what is going on, simply for financial issues.  It takes a lot of courage to leave a relationship and sometimes it takes time to gain some perspective on what is best for yourself as well as your children.

It is estimated that 80% of domestic abuse victims remain silent, suffocated by fear of the unknown life without their spouse, self-doubt and financial ruin.  Whatever is going on in your relationship, the first step is to recognize the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship.  Here are some of the signs and symptoms of an abusive relationship:

  • Do you often feel afraid of your partner or avoid certain topics for fear of making him angry?
  • Can’t do anything right?
  • Feel you deserve to be mistreated or emotionally numb?
  • Does he ever yell at you or humiliate you in front of others?
  • Criticize or put you down
  • Excessively jealous?
  • Constantly checks up on you or looks through your cell phone?
  • Threaten to take your children away from you?
  • Force you to have sex?
  • Destroys your personal belongings?
  • Limit your access to the phone, money or the car?
  • Controls who you see or where you go?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then it is time to take action.  Make a plan and do whatever you have to do to stay safe and keep your family safe.  If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save his or her life.

That was really interesting. Thank you, Michelle. You can find more about Michelle and her writing via her website http://www.liesinthewomb.com.

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with romantic suspense author Amy Romine – the five hundred and fifty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

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You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.100 – Jane Wenham-Jones

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the hundredth, is of novelist, speaker, journalist, tutor, presenter and writing guru Jane Wenham-Jones.

Jane Wenham-Jones is the author of four novels and two non-fiction books.

As a freelance journalist, Jane has written for The Guardian, The Daily Express, The Sunday Express, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and numerous women’s magazines. Regular spots include columns for her local paper – The Isle of Thanet Gazette, Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special and Writing Magazine, where she is the agony aunt.

A member of Equity, Jane has presented for the BBC on both TV and radio and has hosted the award ceremony for the RoNas (Romantic Novel of the Year Awards) for the last two years. She is not the sort of writer to remain in her garret, shunning publicity, and has also done her fair share of daytime TV, particularly when promoting her controversial second novel Perfect Alibis (subtitled ‘How to have an affair and get away with it…’). It was those – sometimes hair-raising – on screen experiences that inspired Prime Time, her new novel.

Jane is an experienced tutor who is regularly booked by writing conferences and literary festivals to run workshops, give talks and chair panels. In recent years she has interviewed dozens of best-selling authors and celebrities including Julian Clary, Richard Madeley, Victoria Hislop, Bel Mooney, Helen Lederer, Amanda Ross, Kate Mosse, Kay Burley, Jenny Éclair, Katie Fforde, Veronica Henry, Fiona Walker, Jill Mansell and Tim Bentinck.

Her two non-fiction books are: Wannabe a Writer? – a humorous look at becoming a scribe – featuring contributions from a wide array of big name authors and journalists including Jilly Cooper, Frederick Forsyth and Michael Buerk with a foreword by Katie Fforde;

and Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? – a guide to the art of book and self-promotion which includes tips from a variety of celebrities.

And now from the author herself with more about the inspiration behind her latest book:

My new novel, Prime Time, is the story of Laura, who is persuaded onto a TV discussion programme which has life-changing consequences.

I’ve done a few TV shows now – often on little-watched channels with three viewers – and one of the things I’ve learned is that you need to be ready for anything…

On Loose Lips on Living TV, I was called upon to give off-the-cuff relationship advice as part of a live phone-in.

I’m not sure what sort of counsel I cobbled together – the woman in question was having an affair I seem to remember, so I probably said: For God’s sake don’t get caught – but it was the first in long line of situations where I’ve had to think on my feet.

I once nearly spluttered on air having just heard myself introduced by one regional radio station (clearly desperate to fill five minutes before the travel news) as a “relationships expert” and finding I was being called upon to offer guidance to Helen who felt Kevin no longer loved her, when I’d thought I was just there to plug a novel.

I rose to the challenge though, trawling my memory for every cliché from every agony aunt page I’d ever read, suggesting quiet nights in and heart-to-heart chats over candlelit dinners, even though I knew that Kevin, if he was like most blokes, would probably much rather watch the football than have any sort of discussion about his feelings, and would be totally aghast when Helen switched off the TV and served up chicken a la mode in the dark instead.

In fact, I obviously showed a bit too much enthusiasm for her plight because they then rather misguidedly kept me on the line and offered me Veronica and her problems with her mother over which I was utterly lost – “put the old dragon in a home” evidently being not quite what they were looking for.

On another occasion I got involved in a “documentary”. Again, I was supposed to be talking about affairs, but this time, how to get away with them (it was when my second novel, Perfect Alibis, which deals with that exact knotty issue, had just been published).

When I got there –”on location” to a frighteningly expensive house in North London – they wanted me to shave my legs on camera. The director – who looked about twelve – was the creative type.

They were also filming a Betrayed Wife, the suitably scary Lady Sarah Moon – she who cut her husband’s bespoke Savile Row suits to ribbons and distributed his vintage claret collection around the village.

We met in the hall.

“What are you angry about?” she asked me. I opened my mouth to explain only to find it covered by one of the crew’s hands.

“For God’s sake don’t tell her you’re promoting affairs,” he said, as she was taken down to the kitchen to hack off chickens’ legs with alarming savagery, and I went upstairs where it was considered jolly arty to have me sitting in the bathroom half-dressed (the cameraman squashed uncomfortably in the bath with the lighting man on top of him) pretending to get ready for a night out.

I haven’t shaved my legs for years (this is not an admission of German ancestry – I have them waxed) and was apparently not much cop at pretending.

As I sat there under a weight of shaving foam doing Take Fifty-three, repeating the same sentences over and over again, I not only drank all the rest of the Lady Chicken-chopper’s cooking wine to get me through the ordeal but persuaded the runner to go out and get me another bottle.

This was, on balance, a mistake. I will spare you the rest of the story but it involved slurring, agreeing to greater states of undress and nobody telling me my make-up had run.

Most of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor – thank the Lord – but in the bit I saw, I looked utterly deranged and in need of a good social worker.

Nothing is lost however. I drew on that very experience to inform Laura, my heroine in Prime Time, who, one way and another, ends up feeling pretty bonkers too….

For more information see www.janewenham-jones.com and http://janewenhamjones.wordpress.com (the latter built by yours truly, and lovingly crafted by us both. :)). Jane travels extensively and she may be appearing at a venue near you (she’ll be visiting us in Northampton in September for our first ever gay literature festival – the gay festival for everyone :)) – see all her dates on her blog’s events page. You can also see Jane in action on youtube. I challenge you not to laugh. 🙂

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with novelist and scriptwriter Veronica Henry (whom Jane panelled with at the recent Chipping Norton Literature Festival) – the four hundred and twenty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.84 – Barbara Ann Derksen

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the eighty-fourth, is of author, speaker and photographer Barbara Ann Derksen.

Barbara Ann Derksen is a Canadian with a flair for words. She began writing 20 plus years ago, surprised herself when readers responded to what she wrote, and has been writing in one form or another ever since. She has always been an avid reader and continues to enjoy many emerging writers as well as established ones.

Barbara describes herself first as a Christian. She has been married for 43 years to singer / songwriter HC Derksen, is the mother of four gifted children, and the grandmother of nine. Barbara and her husband travel with Christian Motorcyclists Association so wearing leather and biking across country is part of her current lifestyle. She is a certified scuba diver, and a lover of all things water related.

Her books are something that readers look for each year. They flock to her tables and to the websites when a new one appears. Her recent distribution into the UK, France and Germany has opened the door for Europeans to discover what North Americans already know.

She writes adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as children’s stories, is often invited to speak to women’s groups and has even been invited to speak in Africa at a pastor’s conference.

And now from the author herself:

I love watching the expressions on my reader’s faces when they tell me what they liked about one of my books or that they had a hard time putting it down so they could go to sleep. Answering questions about my characters is a bonus. This is what keeps me writing.

My favorite genre to read and write is murder mystery. In the Wilton / Strait Mystery Series, each book completes the puzzle in my character’s life but leads into the next.

Vanished introduces my readers to the beginning of the Wilton / Strait Mystery Series, with Presumed Dead, Fear Not, and then Silence adding to the collection. In ‘Vanished’, death, fire, and kidnapping send my characters, Andrea Wilton and Brian Strait, to the country of Haiti where voodoo, restavic children, and scuba diving lead them to discover a diabolical plot that sets nerves on edge.

Besides mystery, I write devotionals. Each year, collectors approach to purchase the latest one for their own personal time with God or for church Bible study groups and small group devotions. From Straight Pipes, my first, to Chaps, the latest, my devotions take people to the place where God can touch their heart and leave a lasting impression. 2012 will see the release of the fifth about the Sermon on the Mount. I also plan to add my devotionals to Amazon Kindle for wider distribution.

I was born in Canada, but lived in the US for 12 years. It was in that country where my writing found a voice. I worked as a journalist for six years with over 2500 articles published in newspapers and magazines during that time. In 2005, my first book was published and I have added 10 more since.

I am a member of The Word Guild, Manitoba Writer’s Guild, The Writer’s Collective, and Christian Motorcyclists Association. I have spoken across the US and in Manitoba, Canada for women’s groups and in church services on topics such as The Writing Experience, working in the ministry of Christian Motorcyclists Association, Love, Parenting, Time Management, and a host of others.

I believe in learning and honing my skills so with 11 books to my credit, I have attended several writers conference and a host of workshops. According to my readers, it’s working because they feel that each book is better than the last. This summer, with the release of Silence, the fourth in the Wilton / Strait mystery series, and Road Trip, my fifth devotional, I begin work on a new series. I plan to let some new characters tell their story in Finders Keepers, a series of books, each one solving the mystery of a missing child.

Developing a social media presence, getting published at Amazon.com and adding my books to Amazon.ca has kept me busy this year. I’ve also added my books to Amazon’s Kindle collection making them available in Canada, the US, Great Britain, France and Germany.

Wow, Barbara, you’re a busy lady. Thank you for taking time out today.

You can find more about Barbara and her writing via…

Her books can be found at Amazon (Vanished is also available at Amazon.co.uk) and her website is http://www.barbaraannderksen.com where she posts to her blog at least twice a week and has sample pages of all her books available. Past interviews are also posted on the media tab.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with non-fiction author Charles Shingledecker – the three hundred and sixty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.