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The White Rhino Hotel by Bartle Bull ~~ A Review

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                                                The White Rhino Hotel   ~~ A Review

A sweeping epic reminiscent of Hemingway, Steinbeck and Kipling. But, none of these…a unique voice that will touch you deeply if Africa touches you. 

The setup for the legion of characters and the landscape of Africa took about 100 pages. By then I was hooked by the richly developed people that fill Bull’s story. The writing is pure prose.

“Remember these stories, Tlaga. My people live inside them. When a tale is told, everyone who ever heard that story is alive again….” 

“An alphabet makes the words that keep a people together….” 

The story is dusty, hot, dangerous and violent. But so is Africa.   Just when the new settlers think they’ve domesticated the continent, warrior ants, a herd of elephants and floods storm through.  Bull’s characters populate Africa but never effect it, much less conquer it. Olivio, the grotesque dwarf. The reader can’t help themselves, they love and hate him at the same time. The star-crossed lovers, Anton and Gwenn. Hugo von Decken and his son, Ernst. German pioneers homesteading their piece of Africa. The list goes on and on. 

The story begins in (literally) the last days of World War I as a German unit traverses the plains of Africa, toting along their prisoners of war, some severely wounded. I don’t write spoilers so that’s about all I will tell of the story. I adore fiction that teaches me history. I had no idea of a Soldiers Lottery for land in West Africa after the world war ended. Whereby soldiers who fought in Africa could enter a lottery and homestead land that belonged only to the African native.  

This is their story. But it’s also Africa’s story; how it was fought over and then the land was passed out as booty after the war. Given away even though none of it belonged to any white man. 
I highly recommend this book. Take your time, savor each word, taste the air of Africa. That’s what I did! 

To Purchase
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    January: Sue Grafton ~ In Memory
March: Mystery (and Western) writer, Larry D. Sweazy.  April: in60Learning ~ A unique, non-fiction mini-book read in 60 minutes.
                        
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The Tuscan Child ~~ A Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills ~~  The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen

All writers have a voice. A flavor, a timbre. Some good, some not so good. Rhys Bowen has her own unique essence. Like fine wine her words flow across the page effortlessly.  The tale of The Tuscan Child journeys between England and Italy. Within this author’s superb writing she captures the staid, stoic, ‘stiff upper lip’ of the English personality and the extravagant, dramatic over-the-top flamboyance of the Italians.  It’s perfection.

We travel the countryside of Surrey, England which Bowen has brought to clear and gleaming life. The rolling hills, the hedgerow lanes, the tiny villages, the ancient, cold stone from which most of the great houses were built, centuries ago. In alternate chapters the author thrusts the reader into another fortress-like village, surrounded by olive trees under a hot Tuscany sun, full of the aromas of cooking. The absolute power of the church and  the old, archaic Italian families dominates the population. Mixed in with life in the 70’s we travel back in time to the same village in occupied (by Germans) Italy in the 40’s. We hide out with a downed pilot behind enemy lines. 

If you know me, as a reviewer, I don’t write spoilers. I don’t fill my review with a synopsis of the story. I prefer to tell you about the writing. It’s always about the

mysteries, best sellers, Rhys Bowen, author

Rhys Bowen, Author

writing.  But I will tell you this; Bowen has created two wonderful new protagonists: Sir Hugo Langley, bomber pilot in the RAF and his daughter, Joanna Langley.  Their stories separate them by thirty years as the daughter tries to understand a time when the world was at war and her father was fighting for his life.  

Released February 20th for sale.  Rhys Bowen’s fans can look forward to an exceptional story and superb writing!!

Did you miss my Interview with Rhys? Click here 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    January: Sue Grafton ~ In Memory
March: Larry D. Sweazy
                                                                                   
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Black Orphans…What Did Savannah Do With Them? (Nostalgia-part 7)

   In honor of Black History Month I am reposting this charming story about orphans and an old man.      The other day I was out on errands and spied a ‘For Sale/Waterfront’sign .  In my neck of the woods that usually means river front and/or marsh land.  So I turned around and followed the  signs.  At the end of the road I found a beautiful home on some acreage.   I always like to look at real estate and I am always curious about what ‘water front’ costs.  Driving slowly onto the property I began to look for a flyer. Failing that, I slowly rounded their circular driveway heading back out.

I paused at the street as a man, riding a John Deere mower, chased me down and asked if he could show me the house.  What luck!   I was going to be able to see the beautifully restored plantation house. I never could have imagined the story that awaited me!

It sits on three acres with a six car garage, a guest house, a barn and a doll house.  The lawns spill down to a large deck overlooking a tidal creek which feeds out to the Vernon River. The live oak trees are hundreds of years old, spanish moss dripping from every branch.  The deck has been built around an oak even to the point of interrupting the hand railing to accommodate an oak branch eighteen inches thick.  (it’s a southern thing; we love our live oaks.)

But it was the owners’ story that I wanted to share.

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Courtesy of sonofthesouth.net

Dick and Sue bought the working farm and farm house in 1975.  Back then, common in those days, the kitchen was outside on a porch so that it wouldn’t add to the summer heat within the house.  The house was approximately 1,000 sq. feet compared to its 5,000 sq. ft. now.

Part of the sale was that the new owners must care for a middle-aged black man; the grandson of slaves, for the remainder of his life.  That in itself was remarkable but they agreed.
Parker Bell was illiterate, didn’t know how old he was, didn’t know his mother or father’s name.  He was blackmanraised on a ‘brown farm‘.  At first I found little history referring to a ‘brown farm’ but had heard that this is where young children (orphans) were housed after the civil war and into the early 1900’s.  I wondered if the name was an acronym in reference to John Brown, the abolitionist?

But thanks to a friend, Lori, who loves this kind of research as much as I do….we found the ‘Brown Farm’ in Savannah, GA., and a census map.

Young black children who were orphaned in Savannah from the latter part of the 19th century to 1943 had – for a number of reasons – nowhere to live except Savannah’s penal farm. There the young children were surrounded by such sights as men in shackles laboring in the fields, windows with bars and chain gangs. The kids were not being punished, but it was common practice for them to be taken there.

Savannah Penal Farm

Savannah Penal Farm 

Because there was no orphanage for black children, Chatham County black youth were often placed at the old  Brown Farm, a 400 acre county penal farm for convicts (located on Montgomery Crossroad near where Lake Meyer is now) where they remained until they reached legal age. The girls were sent to the Chatham County Protective Home, operated by the Savannah Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. This practice went on for years, until Greenbriar Children’s Center was established.’   (Courtesy Greenbrier Children’s Center)

Lori’s mother-in-law, Mamie (now 94 years of age) remembers the Brown Farm.  She told us, When I was a young’un, me and a girl was in a fight, and both of us was sent to the Brown Farm.   The people in charge there, kept us for thirty days, and we had to wash clothes for the boys that were living there.  I believe that old brown farm is where Memorial Hospital is now, just off Waters.”

the old Brown farm

Census map of the Brown Farm in Savannah

 

 

 

Back to the old man. Parker Bell lived in the guest house and had the run of the property until his death a few years back.  The family treated him like a favorite uncle.  He didn’t have a social security number and because of his learning disabilities couldn’t work an outside job.  But he kept busy cleaning up leaves, mowing grass and helping the children with their horses.  Dick and Sue kept their promise and supported Parker Bell, financially his entire life.

Dick told me the delightful story of the night they had a dinner party for twelve.  In the middle of the meal, Parker walked into the house and into the candle-lit dining room, proudly holding up a stringer of fish, saying, “Mr. Dickie, I caught us a mess of bass outta that creek.”  

My whole adult life I have had my best adventures when I’ve been lost….and today was no exception.  To other writers out there? Our stories are all interwoven as human beings.  Your new story could be around the next bend in the road.
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DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!

In addition to my weekly blog I also feature an interview with another author once a month. So come along with me; we shall sneak into these writers’ special places, be a fly on the wall and watch them create!  March: Mystery and Western writer, Larry D. Sweazy    

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Celebrating Our Veterans on Their Day, 2017!!

In Memory….

            You might say I’m a ‘military brat’.  My life certainly was changed by members of my family serving in the armed forces.  So what better time than on this Veteran’s Day to honor them….those who keep us SAFE and FREE!  And to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and their country.

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Gerald Guyer (cousin)   US Marines**WWI – gave his life -France ** Son of Gladys; nephew of Violet, about whom I have written many stories.

William Jay Woods (biological father)  US Navy ** WWII –   South Pacific campaign – PTSD.  He met my mother in San Francisco, where she owned a bar and grill.  He returned from war  an alcoholic, experienced rages and had a parrot named Butch.

military verterans, US Coast Guard, US Navy, US Air Force, WWII, Viet Nam, Korean WarJohnny Cable (step-father)  US Army ** WWII South Pacific campaign – lost an eye, suffered from jungle rot and PTSD.  He later served on a ship in the Korean War as a meat cutter.  He was instrumental in serving the troops a HOT Thanksgiving dinner on the beach.

At seven years of age I dare not run in and jump on the bed in the mornings to wake up Daddy.  He would wake up ready to fight the ‘Japs’.   He was a wonderful father but the horrors of the South Pacific campaign were never far from the surface.

family histories, family secrets, story telling, writers

my mother, Violet

Violet Guyer (mother) US Armed Forces ** Wife, sister, and mother of members in the military.
My mother, who I write about, was auntie to Gerald.  She married Jay (active Navy) and Johnny (active Army) and was a military wife for two decades. She was mother to Jack (US Air Force) and Doris, (US Marines).

Jack Borden (brother)  US Air Force ** Loaded B52 bombers – hot spots around the world – 20+ years of service.  My brother would come home from far away places like Germany, Iceland, Africa, Panama and because he  didn’t have a hometown girl, he would take me, his teenage sister, ballroom dancing.

Jack Henderson.  (first husband) US Air Force * While in the military, he was on a ship in the Pacific and witnessed one of the first A-Bomb test explosions off Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands.  We are still friends.

Robert Berry (second husband)   US Navy Seals, US Coast Guard ** 20+ years of service. Robert.Berry
Robert was a Navy Seal, underwater demolition during the Viet Nam years.  He later served as a warrant officer aboard an icebreaker and was certified to scuba dive under the Arctic ice.

 

john.Viet.Nam

John Sugarek, Viet Nam

John Sugarek (husband)  US Marines ** Viet Nam –   John was my husband for 30 years. He was kind-hearted and funny and everyone loved him.  I witnessed two of his  flashbacks from battle in Viet Nam (twenty years later)  and he suffered, untreated, from PTSD. Partially due to the PTSD (I believe) he died at his own hand in 2006.  His fellow wounded warriors celebrate at the Whiskey Battery Reunion, once a year.marines

 

We are all grateful to our military for their unswerving bravery, service, and loyalty and we honor those who have come home, battered but alive.
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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    September: Dylan Callens.  October’s author is Donna Kauffman. In November we say hello to Rita Avaud a Najm. 
                                                                                   
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The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal ~~ A Review

writing, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fictionwriting, creating, reviews,fiction, children's books, fiction for adults, women's fiction A REVIEW 
5 out of 5 quills ~~ The Paris Spy

 

A real cliff hanger! To the last page (especially the last page) MacNeal’s new book keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.  This series is a delight. Beginning when a ‘math-o-holic’ girl gets hired in Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s office as a typist. WWII is just gearing up.  With an aptitude for numbers and codes Maggie Hope quickly rises, for a woman, in the war offices.  In this latest offering, we catch up with her as she ‘wrangles’ her way into war-torn and occupied France.  Searching for her sister, she is thrown into the deep end of espionage.

The Maggie Hope Mystery series offers intrigue, twists and turns and great characters. Woven expertly through world history the reader is treated to the workings and intrigues of 10 Downing Street and M16 (the CIA of England) . This reviewer strongly urges the reader to start at the beginning with Mr. Churchill’s Secretary and read the books in order.  But, of course, The Paris Spy stands very well on its own. With each book Susan MacNeal gives the reader a complete story, albeit a dangler most likely leaving the reader in a most delicious sort of suspense.
 
Available at www.amazon.com or your favorite book store.

 

 

 

Did you miss my Interview with this Author??
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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?     Johan Thompson (South African author)  joined us in April.   June: Mehreen Ahmed.  July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter and in August we say ‘hello’ to Cheryl Hollon.
                                                                                   
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Motivational Moments…for Writers! #27

I’ve always believed that to be a good writer you must read. Why? 

I can only answer for myself. Other writers inspire me to improve my writing skills. This is true of my fiction, stage plays, and poetry.
Their styles are innumerable, their dash extraordinary, the story telling superb.  Oh sure, I stumble upon the ‘not so good’ authors but they contribute to my self-confidence.  I say to myself, “Oh! So I’m not the absolutely worst writer out there.”  I learn from the great ones and I learn from the mediocre.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading. Fiction mostly. I love a good story…and better, a good story-teller. I recently discovered Janet Macleod Trotter, one of our hidden treasures and, I predict, her books will be considered some of the best modern-day classics of our time.

Here are more some quotes that I stumbled across recently and really enjoyed. 

“That’s what the greats of literature did — they got their characters up a tree and threw rocks at them…” Robyn Carr (excerpt from ‘What We Find’)  Another great weaver of stories. 

“Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude.” Sir Thomas Browne

“Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered pot holder.” Raymond Chandler

 

Coming Soon! Release date, May 15th.

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MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   Did you miss the past few months?    February’s author was Sheryl Steines.
Johan Thompson (South African author)  joined us in April.  May’s author will be Cheryl Hollon and in June: Mehreen Ahmed. July: Janet Macleod Trotter, author of Tea Planter’s Daughter
                                                                                   
                                        
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Interview ~~ Grace Burrowes, Author (conclusion)

interviews-authorsQ. As a fan, I noticed that you are published by a traditional publisher and have self-published some of your romances as well. Can you give other writers some tips about that?

GB. I’m actually onto my second trade house. I started with Sourcebooks and now write for Grand Central/Forever, in addition to my indie titles. I hesitated to indie publish because I’d heard it was, “so much work,” and all I wanted to do was write. I just kept feeding manuscripts down the trad pub chute, and I kick myself for that. Good career decisions are made based on good information, and “everybody says,” is not as useful what I say about my own experiences. I find trad pubbing a lot of work, in part because I don’t control the schedule, I don’t control development of the cover and meta data, I don’t control pricing or PR. I’m at the mercy of the trad house’s schedule, process, and agenda, and to some extent, their editorial preferences.

With indie publishing, there’s start up effort—setting up accounts, and rounding up a team to do editing, proofreading, covers, and virtual assistance. The reward though, in terms of creative, scheduling, editorial and financial control is enormous. I’m very fortunate to have worked with trad houses who are supportive of hybrid authors, but then, I couldn’t see signing a contract with a house that wasn’t.

Q. What makes a writer great?

grace-at-eilean-donan-1GB. The people whose company I treasure most work hard at being kind and telling the truth (both). They laugh a lot, love ferociously, listenGrace - age 8 respectfully, and take risks in the name of love. Great writing touches the heart and makes a lasting impression. As for a great writer… I’ll have to think on this. Generosity of spirit and humility come to mind, but so do passion and fierce, unapologetic ability.

Q.    ….and the all important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

GB. I wake up one morning and roll around in bed waiting for a thought to coalesce that I can build a scene on. Could be a line of dialogue, could be a letter, could be a guy grousing to his horse about the burdens of bachelorhood. When I get something that leans toward dialogue or an opening hook (or I have to pee), I get out of bed and turn on the computer.

A scene emerges, and in that scene, I find a character, usually the hero of a romance novel. He has Troubles. I lurk in his hedges and ride pillion behind him, and scribble down any scenes he’ll give me. He also has a heroine intent on her own story, and she gets the same treatment from me. I haunt my characters until I can pry a story loose from them.

I write the opening scenes and the meet, launch the character arcs, introduce a few secondary characters, and then the begging begins. I crawl around on all fours, searching, searching, for an external conflict. To quote the brilliant and humble Joanna Bourne, “Liking, attraction, and respect pull them together. Something real, substantial, and interesting must push them apart.”

jack-683x1024If the universe is kind, the external conflict reveals itself in a flash of insight—the universe is seldom kind. I impose on friends, I talk to myself, I toss away scenes, I mutter profanities and plan trips to Scotland, and eventually, I will see the tail of an external conflict peeking out at me from under a pile of clean laundry.

By then, I’ve often gotten a handle on the main characters’ defining traumas, and that sheds light on how to write the big black moment.

Creating a rough draft usually takes from eight to ten weeks, and then it’s on to polishing, polishing, polishing. I’m awful about talking heads/white room syndrome, echoes, oh, my sins are legion…. At some point, the manuscript has to go into cold storage while I work on other stuff, then it gets another buffing and goes into production.

I try to keep at least two, more often three projects going at once, so that if any one of them needs a rest, I can forge ahead on the others. I am happier working like this, and it seems to result in the most progress overall.

Q. How have your life experiences influenced your writing?

GB. That’s a big question. My life experiences include being the sixth out of seven children in an academic family. I had to learn to use words early and well if I wanted to be noticed. I also had to learn to entertain myself, hence books and imaginative play. I’m a child welfare attorney, single mom, horse girl, animal lover, former musician, and I have a master’s degree in conflict transformation. It all goes in the pot, as does my belief in the power of loving and being loved.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

GB. I’m toying with a historical mystery series, mostly because I love to read them.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

G.B. One of the quotes I keep handy, because our business can be very unfair and daunting, is from Stephen King: “If you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.” Words to write by! 
Did you miss Part I, II of this wonderful Interview? Click here
http://graceburrowes.com/
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My BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October Author, Lisa Jackson.  November will be best selling author, Grace Burrowes and in December, Reed Farrel Coleman, contributing writer for Robert B. Parker series

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The Queen’s Accomplice ~~ A Review

queens-accomplic-coverreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  reviews, authors, writing 5 out of 5 quills          A REVIEW
The Queen’s Accomplice
On Sale: October 4th

Susan Elia MacNeal plunks the reader down on the streets of war torn, bombed out London.  We can see and hear the determination of the British people as they pull together and try to overcome the ravages of war.  So how can it be that a serial killer is on the loose mimicking the infamous London ‘ripper’ from a previous century?  And targeting only women who are ‘doing their bit’ for the war effort; many of them secret agents for MI-5.

Maggie Hope is still working for the British version of the CIA. But, now she’s been dragged into a murder investigation. And it’s suddenly gotten very personal when her own acquaintances and friends are the victims.

As always, with a MacNeal mystery, there are a couple of story lines within one book and at the end Susan ties it all together with a tidy bow.  Fans of MacNeal’s Maggie Hope mystery series won’t be disappointed with this new offering.  I was engaged to the last page by Susan’s excellent writing, and now can’t wait for the sequel, The Paris Spy.

Did you miss the wonderful interview I had with Susan: click here
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DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October Author, Lisa Jackson.  November will be best selling author, Grace Burrowes
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Song of the Yukon, A new Novel by Trisha Sugarek

Song.cover_rev16JulyIt’s taken me 3 years to write this saga. Since it’s set in the 1920’s there was extensive research to be done about how life was lived ‘off the grid’ in Alaska. It’s jammed packed with interesting characters and adventure.

The old timers would tell you, ‘it’s a good yarn’ and I’m proud of it. Based on the true story of my aunt when she was a mere 17 years old, running away from home and working her way from Seattle to the wilds of Alaska.

Click here to purchase

Alaska was calling! LaVerne’s dream was to follow in Robert Service’s footsteps to the wilds of Alaska. At sixteen she was already writing her own music and she believed that her talent could only flourish on the back trails of the Yukon. Alone and impersonating a boy, she hires aboard a freighter, out of Seattle, and works her way to the north.

From boat rides on the Yukon and encounters with native tribes to filing homestead papers and working the land, LaVerne uses newfound frontier wisdom as a basis for expanding both her music and her perceptions: “No man owns what Mother Spirit does not freely give.” Black-eyed Joe told her. What a charming folk tale, LaVerne thought. I could use the story in one of my songs.”
It was here she learns the realities of frontier life that will shape her life, help her create music, and lead her in directions no woman has explored alone before.

‘Song of the Yukon covers more than music growth, more than homesteading in the wilderness, and even more than testing one’s abilities against a foreign environment. Most of all, it’s about one woman’s determination to achieve her dream against any odds – and it provides readers with not only a solid background in frontier experiences, but a sense of self and accomplishment that heroine LaVerne learns through hard experience. Song of the Yukon is a powerful saga, recommended for a range of readers. Thank you for the opportunity to look at your fine title! ‘~~ Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review ~~

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DON’T MISS UPCOMING BLOGS featuring INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  

                     Check out Motivational Moments…for Writers!

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What are Writers? Crazy?

……..to want, to need to be writers??  I am happy (and nostalgic) to report that the world of writers has not changed all that much…..I came across these quotes and laughed.  Writers of the World!  We are not alone!

john steinbeck, authors, writing, quotes from famous authorsJohn Steinbeck:  ‘The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.’

 


Edna St. Vincent Millay
:  ‘A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his (or her)authors, quotes from famous authors, writing, writers, bloggers pants down….if it is a good book nothing can hurt you.  If  it is a bad book nothing can help you.’

famous quotes, famous authors, writing, writers

 

Somerset Maugham:  ‘There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.’

Trisha Sugarek ‘Writing is a lonely business.  You pour your heart and guts into the written famous quotes, authors, writers, writingword, often exposing what you’ve experienced in your own life.  You nurture it, feed it, trim its toe-nails, wash its hair, dress it up and send it out into traffic.’  more »