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REVIEWS

Note to my readers-You may find all these reviews very short, but as a writer I know how hard it is to get readers to leave any review at all so I want to post an example of how easy it can be, and maybe more folks will leave reviews. A sentence, even a word is a great boon to the author.

Book Review of Bibliophile- An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

I highly recommend this book to authors, readers and collectors.

When one of my many trips to the library, I asked a bubbly library assistant if she could order me some books on book collecting. She was so eager to help that though some were not what I wanted they were still of interest. As they came in one by one from other libraries I went to pick them up and one day this book was among the ones they ordered for me. I didn’t look at it very well at the library and waited till I got home and then began reading it immediately. I was attracted by the bright colorful pages, the fun pictures and the useful information. I’m not sure why I was, but I was so enthralled with the book that as soon as I read it I ordered it.

Whether you are an author, a collector or an avid reader, you will find this book delightful. It breaks down books into genres and then the most popular and most sold. It lets you in on some famous authors secrets and even their writing rooms. It gives you photos of some famous author’s pets. It gives you an idea of how the whole world gets its books and shows you the libraries. Some libraries are mobile, some are simply no bigger than the cart of a donkey or the saddlebags of the borough. It reveals many kinds of free libraries that sit on posts rather than in buildings.

It shows many covers of some famous books and how the covers changed over time.  It shows you books in which food takes a large part. There is a map showing the most important or popular book in each country.

The text is fun and so interesting, but the illustrations make the book. I highly recommend this 2018 book and believe any author, avid reader or bibliophile should own this fun book.

Today, I’m ambivalent about being an author

five book pix

With the new year approaching, I decided I should get all negative feelings out of my mind and heart. I love new beginnings, whether it is starting a new project or a new school year when I was younger, it always motivated me and made me passionate. I guess I like change, but only sometimes, like, when changes are being sought after and beginnings being looked forward to as another chance at getting it right.
Some days, I think writing is a colossal waste of time. The way we tell that or come to that conclusion is that we are not selling any books. I guess I have not reached even a little bit of success when you count the few books I have sold since I became an author.
My first book was written in response to a need. We were training foster parents and I needed something in written form to help answer the thousands of questions we received. I wrote a non- fiction called It Begins and Ends with Family. It did not sell well, but I did give hundreds of books away. People said it was a limited market book, so I advertised it as parenting and sold a couple more. Still not setting the world on fire.
I decided to write about my passion, what really mattered to me, so Ultimate Betrayal was created. It focused on the problem of child sexual abuse and was told as a dystopia tale in the beginning of end times. I truly believed a fiction book would get a more emotional response from people and would sell much better than a non-fiction. Wrong again-since I was told many could not read such a heart- breaking tale. It disgusted many and even though I strived to make it less sensational and vulgar, people shied away from it.

However, the six people or so who read it wanted a sequel which I obliged. It was called Ultimate Obliteration and that was even less popular. Understand, the people who read my stuff usually give it 5 stars. But, there have been so few.
All this time, I was still writing short articles for many places and decided to put a collection of them into a book. A Collection of Jo Ann’s Thoughts was born and has also had little success.
I tried taking a good look at my writing, I never thought it was wonderful or grand or should be number one on anyone’s list, I thought it just may be interesting to many readers. After all, writing to me is not about making money or I would have left long ago. It is not even about the writing if I’m truthful, it is only about being read.

I thought okay, I must write something that will be happy, enjoyable and less objectional. I decided on a children’s book. This book is for little ones being read to or beginning readers just learning. I found a great illustrator and we whipped out Spitzel and the Spider. People read it and raved. Said it should fly off the shelves, but did it? You guessed it. No!!!
I realize writers and authors are much like gamblers. We put everything we have in it and place our bet that we will win. You would think my casino visits would have forewarned me, but being a dreamer carries over to all phases of your life. So, I placed the bet. As I said up front, I must get rid of these negative feelings before starting the new year or I may not feel encouraged enough to start again.

Seriously, where else can you do so much work to get so little return. We cultivate people ‘s friendship with the hope they may be readers. We post and post on book clubs to garner a few likes and feel eternally grateful when anyone shares our links. We hunt for reviews like half- starved wolves or even closer to Zombies. We do all that and then after viewing stats that would make most people suicidal, try to gather enough energy and interest to write something again. We really are a special kind of breed. I know many famous authors were rejected numerous times, but that knowledge is not enough.

So, I will plan a few more days of post- holiday season laziness and then with all the passion I can muster, I will write again. And yes, call me an author too. If you feel as I do, remember it is a new year. It is another chance to be discovered. Another possibility that we will gain readers. So, limber up your body. Meditate to a calm point and clear your mind. With a pot of hot tea and low-cal snacks (it is after Christmas after all) begin that novel or finish that project. Shake hands with some great characters you created and dive right in. It is said insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. So, what does that say about us? The only thing I can see is we must think quite differently about marketing and try something new. After all, “What do we have to lose?”

Working with an Illustrator

Dooney & moe Book Photo 2

I love her interpretation of the spider.

 

 

 

Writing my first children’s book meant having illustrations. There is no doubt about my inability to draw. My cats look the same as I was taught to draw them in kindergarten. Not an ounce of improvement toward the likelihood that someone might recognize what it is supposed to be. Thus, my search for an illustrator began. Creating books can get expensive when you pay everyone to do something for you. We are trying to learn to do as much of the process as we can because it is harder for Indy writers to sell books. As I said, I can’t draw.Many of us are on very limited incomes.

My search for an illustrator was very short since I knew a few artistic souls and had been following some of them on Facebook. I only had to approach one and she was agreeable and reasonable and exactly what I needed.

Things to think about when you are considering hiring an illustrator. You want to know that you both are willing to set the same timeline. If you wish to get the book for sale at a specific time, you need to be agreed as to what that timeline or finish date looks like for you both. We, as authors, must not be unreasonable or inflexible since your illustrator or artist may have many more projects ahead of yours. You may both have to give a little to accommodate everyone’s schedule and anticipated time to complete the work.

If you approach someone to do your illustrations, you should check their previous projects, so you can see a sample of their work. I had seen some of this illustrator’s work previously so already knew she had talent. She, however, had never done book illustrations in the past, but then I had never written a children’s book before or worked with an illustrator. We agreed to learn the process as we worked together and went on.

After establishing the agreement as to what you want or need and their willingness to do the job you asked them to do at the price you both settled on, you need to see if your vision is their vision. It is not often the fact that the price is as much as they deserve, but many of us are working with small budgets.

You need to be able to covey what you want so that they will understand what they need to give you. This was a wonderful experience for us. I had not finished the final draft when she took on the job, so I sent her what I thought we needed for each illustration. A paragraph description of what each picture should show. Even though you wrote the book, your illustrator should be given control of the drawings and let them show you their interpretation of what it should look like. Something I read talks about allowing the writer to make a couple minor changes, but if you are ‘on the same page’ so to speak this should be unnecessary.

A super important element of this selection of illustrator should be a happy working relationship. We did this whole project online through texts and emails and never met each other. I am hoping to remedy that and to meet in person someday.

Your illustrator should have the following qualities: patience with you because you are new to each other, a detail – oriented mind, be an excellent listener, a person that doesn’t get too excited because life is unpredictable and a person you could have a long- term relationship with and I found exactly that person. Part of me does not want to share, but that would be selfish.

 

I highly recommend Janice Ducrepont and would suggest you contact her for help with your next project.

E-mail Janice here-paintwrangler@gmail.com

Once the book is published I will replace the drawing above with an illustration from my book.

Book Review-A memoir of the craft- On Writing by Steven King

 

 On Writing Steven King

I have been quoting this book long before I read it. I found it with books on sale at a thrift store. I am so glad I found it because it is one of the best books about writing that I’ve ever read. The appeal for me was the biographical information of Stephen King that is responsible for who he is. I have little patience for writing books that reiterate the grammar and spelling rules that we learned in school. I am sure I have not mastered does but do not feel they are as important as some of the more elusive solutions in writing that most of us never think about. Rules are very important to know how the craft should be executed, but more important are what goes in to the actual writing not the mechanics or logistics of it.

 

This is an enjoyable book because it offers you suggestions, options and choices and how you produce the material. I like that about the book because every writer works in different ways. We are all not a like nor do we profit by cookie-cutter solutions.

 

The book is very interesting as you get glimpses into what went in to creating Stephen King. He had to work for everything and did not have anything handed to him and yet he is published dozens of books and many countries.

 

I think the hints given in this book are an insight into what we might look for in our own lives. I believe all experiences are reflected in our own writing.

 

I would recommend this book even to non-writers because it is entertaining. All authors and writers would find it helpful and a good resource to keep on your shelves. I highly recommend it.

 

Interview with Suzanne Burke

sooozI have been overwhelmed by the beauty of this author and the warmth she has for people in spite of her personal past. She should be a cold, unfeeling woman with nothing to share with the world. Instead she has the most giving spirit and it comes across in all she does. There is a graciousness about her and trustworthiness you feel at first contact.We have never met in person, but she herself would be a compelling reason to visit Australia. If I ever have the opportunity to do so, I know we will be friends. This is my take on the person and I cannot say enough about her as an author. Her talent is extraordinary.She writes with truth and her characters are so complex yet perfectly right for the book she has written. I am referring in this case to Acts Beyond Redemption.

My review-https://joannwentzel.wordpress.com/2017/01/25/book-review-of-acts-beyond-redemption-by-suzanne-burke/

“Please say hello, to my Aussie Friend-Suzanne Burke. Thanks Soooz for allowing me to do this interview and the honesty with which you answered my questions.”

 

 

Question #1- Suzanne tell us about yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and past? How has it affected your writing?

Firstly, I would like to offer my personal thanks for your kind interest in my work, and by extension the things that sparked my need to write.

We are all such complex creatures, Jo. We all have layers of protection that are utilized whenever the need arises. It took me almost five decades before I decided to remove that shield, before I was brave or bold enough to write the words that my heart ached to set free.

As for my childhood? I didn’t have one. The innocence of that time, that precious time, was stripped away by those that should have given their own lives to protect me. Child abuse, physical abuse, and the emotional abuse that happened day-in and day-out every day, took away that childhood. I spent fifty years of my life seeking to find it again, but we can’t go back. Once I learned that precious lesson, it freed me to pursue a future. That future of course would always be colored by the textures of darkness that my past brought forward. That is an inevitable factor in all our lives, the joys, the heartaches and the memories cling to us like perfume, some rich and fragrant, some sour and bitter.

I discovered that that bitterness was an odor that prevented me from moving forward. I made the decision to rid myself of it, and I believe absolutely that the decision to do that saved me from the continuous hell I was allowing myself to be enslaved by.

I’ve lived with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for my entire life, but I refuse to allow it to dominate. I fall prey to it more often than I’d like, especially when writing my memoirs. The nightmares and flashbacks can be horrendous, and I have resorted to alcohol as a memory salve more often than I ever should have. I am currently a recovering alcoholic and well aware of just how fragile I can be.

The decision to write my memoirs was a difficult one, I had no way of assessing just how tremendously difficult it would become, but I will never regret writing Empty Chairs or Faint Echoes of Laughter. The people I loved most in the world were dying one after the other, all of them deserved to be remembered. They took their own lives for the most part. That would never have happened if they had not endured the nightmares that no child anywhere should be subjected to.

I am now in my Sixties, my health is bad. I have so much more I need to accomplish. I am happy now. I am safe. I am loved. No one can ask for more than that. I have lived long enough to see my own child grow and blossom into a marvelous, strong, and loving woman, and I have the utter joy of living with her and my delightful young grandson. I am content with that. Yet I know that I have still one more memoir left to write. That is currently in progress.

 

Question #2 – Suzanne, when you choose what to write what influences your decision? Does it reflect those things most important to you? Does your choice come from another place or result from an altogether other reason?

I have covered what inspires me to write non-fiction. My fictional books are written to entertain. Reading has always offered me a means to escape. I find it the most relaxing of all the places in the world to escape to. I love the thriller/suspense/mystery genre above all that I have read thus far. I guess primarily because so much of it could be easily grounded in fact, yet it’s fact that makes complete sense in a world that is crazy. I have written in several different genres, with paranormal being a close second of my chosen genres. People (Characters) that take a strong stance for what they believe in inspire me. Even the wickedest amongst them are usually inspired by what they utterly believe to be truths.

I escape happily into my characters’ lives and they take control of the words that I write. I find myself to be uncompromising in writing of their actions, for they are the actions rightly or wrongly, of men and women who do not bow down.

I have to laugh as I read this. It really does expose my underbelly. I’m okay with that.

 

Question #3 – We know you wrote at least two books under another pen name? Was the reason for that the personal nature of those books?

Absolutely. I write my non-fiction under the pen name of Stacey Danson. Why? Simple really, those that I write about have private lives. Many of them discussed this undertaking with me. They were to a person all happy that I was doing so, but by choice, many of them had chosen to never reveal the hell that they had come from to the loved ones that now peopled their lives. I promised them anonymity. I will never break that promise. Despite the fact that one of the Big Five publishers approached me when Empty Chairs was first published. They required confirmation. I refused to give it. I will continue to protect the very few that remain, and the blessed memories of all that have passed. End of story.

 

Questions #4 – Briefly describe each of your books. What was your message or what was the purpose for writing each selection.

Great questions, I’ll try to be brief, but brevity is never going to be my strong point when I’m so passionate about what I do.

Empty Chairs … Was written because despite the passage of time (Four decades) I found that the naivety that existed about the evils of child abuse to be unbelievable. I just couldn’t understand how ordinary folks could remain so unaware, or be so unwilling to open their eyes to what could be happening right under their noses. In their own neighborhoods, their own streets. The general consensus appeared to be that this horror simply couldn’t exist in well to do families from upper crust areas. They needed to understand just how very wrong they were. I came from a wealthy home, I lived in a wealthy neighborhood, my abusers were well to do, and a few of those highly respected members of that community were the most abusive and sickest human beings of all I encountered. I wanted to help people understand that Child sexual abuse in all its perverted forms, knows NO social, political or religious boundaries.

Faint Echoes of Laughter… I ended Empty Chairs too abruptly. I should have continued with it. I allowed myself to be under contractual obligation to a publisher, and to be fair I also had reached a point in the writing when I fell too ill to continue at that point. I felt I had cheated those who deserved their stories to be told. I wrote Faint Echoes of Laughter to continue my promise both to them … and to my readers and myself.

Acts Beyond Redemption … Was written initially as a means to escape the nightmares evoked in my life by my non-fiction work. That’s how it began. Then I discovered to my absolute delight that I LOVED writing fiction. I immersed myself wholeheartedly into that adventure, the research, the characterizations, the whole nine yards. I found it to be a rewarding emotional experience. That book unleashed the writer in my soul.

Acts of Betrayal. The first book wouldn’t let me go. It deserved a sequel. I enjoyed the creating of it more than I can ever express.

 

Question #5-We know you recently released your sequel to Acts Beyond Redemption. The title is Acts of Betrayal. Therefore, will you take a breather between books or jump right back in? Do you break from writing at all?

No time left for breathers, Jo. I have too much left to do. Why take a break from the thing that fires my passions and nourishes my soul. I’m already well into my third book in both Non-fiction and fictional works.

 

Question # 6 – What are your next projects? Do you know what you wish to write next? Can you give us a teaser to increase our anticipation?

Next projects in rough order.

Non-Fiction: Book 3 in my Standing Tall & Fighting back series. Titled “Still Sassy at Sixty.” This is about an third completed. I discovered I had so much more to say. This will in all probability be the final book in the memoir. But then of course, I could always write again, when I hit seventy. Life has a way of adding to the book count. “Still Sassy at Sixty” is due for release early July 2017.

Fictional Works. Book 3 in my Unintended Consequences thriller series. Working title “Acts of Reckoning.” Newly started, and I have no idea just where it will lead me. I love the fact that it has such a plethora of possibilities for my imagination to run with. I hope to have ‘Acts Of Reckoning” out by January 2018.

Other Fictional works: Genre Romance. Yes, I did say romance. Eeek! Working Title: “Priceless” a Romance that will take the reader from Outback Australia to the glittering and shallow world of Hollywood.

Basic Synopsis:

Maddison Howard lost both her husband and their unborn child in a horrific car accident. Maddison a country girl from a small Australian country town is grief stricken and takes herself off to the farthest reaches of the Australian outback. Working on a large cattle station as a ‘Jillaroo’ she rides the enormous open spaces with the Jackaroo’s herding cattle to market, spending long hot months in the saddle and sleeping under the stars. Located finally by Lawyers acting for a Los Angeles based law firm she is stunned to discover that her dear childhood friend Carol Landers who has become a huge star of screen and stage has tragically died from Cancer. Maddison, together with the rest of the world is stunned to discover that Carol had a child out of wedlock. A three-year-old daughter named Danielle who has been hidden away on the late stars’ multi-million-dollar estate in Malibu under the care of the household staff sworn to secrecy by their late employer. Dannielle (Danni) has no idea that the pretty-lady that visited her from time-to-time was her mother. Maddison is further shocked to find that she has been named as the child’s sole guardian and beneficiary of the multi-million dollar estate, and an even larger trust fund.

The story covers Maddison’s journey to Los Angeles where she is met by the lawyers and hurried away to meet her new charge. She must decide within three-days whether to accept the guardianship and all it entails; or leave the little one to be cared for by the law-firm and a succession of Nannies and strangers.

The story covers Maddison’s initial arrival, her meeting with a sad and frightened little girl, plus the feeding frenzy of the crowds of press hungry for photographs of both she and the child. She is under the protection of three superbly trained bodyguards, headed by an ex-Navy seal in the shape of the disenchanted Tyler Bradford.

A kidnap attempt ensues. To ensure Danni’s safety Maddison decides to bring her to Australia where she and the bodyguards must secrete the child and themselves from detection. Can Maddison learn to open her heart again? Or will she continue to distance herself from a pain-filled-world? I anticipate “Priceless” to be out by Mid-2018.

As for a teaser? Sorry, Jo. It’s too soon yet to reveal more from any of the new works.

Thanks so much for having me here. I have rarely enjoyed an interview more.

 

 

My New Book – Just Released – A Collection of Jo Ann’s Thoughts

article-book-covetr

I just released my new book called A Collection of Jo Ann’s Thoughts. This was a way for me to answer the many questions I get from readers and chat room attendees. It was a way to corral the numerous pieces of writing in one place and still this book certainly does not contain all my articles.

This book is available on Amazon in e-book and print format-https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N05161P

You may also purchase this at Create Space-https://www.createspace.com/6689159

For decades I wrote articles for websites online and print offline. Many of them were addressing parenting and foster parenting issues. I specialized in many different types of articles for specific websites. For example I wrote hundreds of articles about party planning and celebrating holidays for Suite 101. As an Examiner, I covered small business issues and rescue pets topics. There were many more issues especially when covering newspaper stories.

When you are involved in the social services field for foster parents, dysfunctional families and challenging kids, topics you deal with daily results in articles you wish to share. Sometimes they are a form of advice and some of mine have even been used in parenting and foster parent training. Dan and I used them in doing our job and others have included some of them in their agencies training as well. Many of my articles were also reprinted in newsletters for various foster care and adoption agencies.

Some articles discuss terms and concepts which I found vital when working with at risk kids. These include “Success is Relative,” “Unconditional Love” “Separate the Kid from the Behavior” and “Foster Care is a Different World”

While working with whole families, it became apparent that some parents do not know how to provide activities for their children which led to a whole series of articles such as starting your children on a collecting hobby or tracing your roots for your kids.

Kid’s parties and I believe in celebrating holidays of all kinds even when money is short. There are non-expensive ways to keep the holiday and at least include its recognition. Since I love theme parties, I have included several plans in this book.

Relationships have their own set of issues and being married to the same man for over 52 years, I think I found a few of the answers to popular questions about marriage. Communication is one topic discussed in this book along with how to choose friends and mates.

Since wring for such a long time, almost every imaginable topic has been explored in my articles. Of course they are not all in this volume. The miscellaneous section includes such things as an essay of food, how to organize a bedroom closet, spiritual issues and my take on gun control.

This book includes 60 articles. All fairly short and easy to read. Lots of topics not discussed here. If this book finds interest, there are enough articles to at least do two more books.

Please grab a copy since I will need readers and reviewers. Thanks to all who have supported me.