Sunday, December 20, 2009


Kelly contacted me recently and said she has an opportunity to hand-delivery her book, "A Better Man," to Oprah Winfrey. What a fantastic prospect! Everyone knows that a mention of your book on Oprah is an instant best seller. I wish Kelly that good fortune, and I'm posting my letter here, hoping that others who aren't familiar with Kelly's book will pick it up and pass it along to a teen.

Ms. Winfrey: As you are aware, teens need role models, and I would like you to know that Kelly Johnson has an indisputable line-up of 26 role models in “A Better Man,” the book of essays and interviews she has compiled and edited. Johnson found reputable leaders in a vast array of professions from athletics, politics, the military, education, entertainment and more. Some of the men, such as director, producer and actor Kenny Leon, grew up poor. Others, such as President George H.W. Bush, were born to privilege. In all cases, these men overcame adversity, used their talents to achieve success and also to benefit others.

This book can help boys look to men who have succeeded in fulfilling their dreams. It can help them understand they can attain their goals. I recommend this book for all young men from middle school through college. They can benefit from reading about men with dreams just like they have. Johnson gets to the heart of the subjects and presents their stories in understandable terms.

I hope you can find time to invite Johnson to your television program to discuss “A Better Man.”

Thank you for considering this request.

Jo Ann Mathews

Thursday, December 3, 2009


One of my first posts at my Writers Forever blog was about LENKE BROWN, an 88-year-old who wrote a book with the help of her long-time friend, MAUREEN WOODS. “Life As Lenke” is an autobiographical account of how Lenke overcame monumental obstacles growing up in Hungary, worked as a seamstress in her homeland, survived the Hungarian Revolution, immigrated to America and became a successful businesswoman/designer/seamstress in her adopted land.
Her inspiration for writing the book was her husband, Larry, who encouraged her to record the fascinating, as well as sordid, details of her long life. It was his dream to have Lenke write her autobiography. His dream was fulfilled in May, and at the end of October at the age of 97, Larry died. He and Lenke had been married more than 30 years.
Even though it was Larry’s dream, out of love for him, Lenke fulfilled that dream. At the same time, she accomplished a seemingly unachievable goal. English is not Lenke’s native language, and she didn’t feel competent to write a book. In steps Maureen.
Think about how people help each other and how many massive roadblocks are smashed when someone believes in another. All of you who want to write to publish can accomplish that goal. Find others who encourage you, others who believe in you. Don’t be discouraged in spite of barriers. Think of Lenke and what she accomplished. If writing a book is your life’s dream, work to accomplish that goal. Make that your 2010 resolution.
Larry believed in Lenke. He didn’t want any recognition for Lenke’s book. He just wanted other people to know how valuable and noteworthy her accomplishments are.
“Like As Lenke” is available at

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jacqueline DeGroot, Novelist

Jacqueline DeGroot is a prolific self-published novelist who specializes in erotica. She calls herself “Jack,” saying that the nickname is a result of being in auto sales. Ben Steelman, feature writer with the Star News in Wilmington, N.C., recently dedicated a column to her. Despite her popular sex scenes in “Climax,” “Barefoot Beaches,” and her latest “Tessa of Crooked Gulley,” one book in the Widows of Sea Trail series, my favorite book is “For the Love of Amanda.”

In this novel, the protagonist, Michele Moore, wants to save her daughter, Mandy, from dying of leukemia. One way is to harvest stem cells from an umbilical cord. The problem is that Michele is a widow whose husband, Kevin, died in an airplane crash. Michele is desperate, though, so asks Kevin’s twin brother, Michael, for his sperm. Michael agrees.

I like the story because it approaches love from several angles. The reader admires Michele for her love of Amanda and praises Michael for his love of Michele. Then you have Mandy and her friend Gabby and her cousin, Sam.

Jack does her research and knows what she’s talking about when she delves into the medical field. Michael is a physician, which can be complicated if the writer doesn’t know procedures, techniques and medical terms. Jack knows all about these, and I give her credit for writing so lay people can understand what she’s saying.

Jack is also wonderful at self-promotion. She attends festivals, book discussions and book signings where she sells a good number of her books. Her dozen titles are available at and on her Web site at

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Amazon, book reviews and HCRW

It came to my attention that I was reviewing the same books on this blog as I was reviewing on I had hoped to give more coverage to little known books that are worth reading, but amazon gets a lot more readership than my blog does. So in the interest of efficiency, I will only review books occasionally.

There are dozens of books being published that are excellent reads. Heart of Carolina Romance Writers in Raleigh, N.C. is one group with talented writers. The organization, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, promotes its membership and their books. A list of the nearly 50 authors in HCRW is at More information about the authors is available by clicking on their names.

Other information is at the Web site as well. Nonmembers can read about the organization, which meets the second Saturday of each month, usually at Cameron Village Library in Raleigh. Nonmembers can also take online classes HCRW offers.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Best Seller Contest!

Have your book reviewed on my blog! Five people will receive the honor.

I’ve read excellent books that don’t get the publicity they deserve. More people would buy them if they heard the title and read glowing comments about them. You can increase sales and advance your career if your book gets good reviews. It doesn’t matter if the book is nonfiction or fiction, an e-book, soft cover or hard cover, published by a small publisher or self-published. But it must be published!

To enter the contest, submit one paragraph of 50 words or less saying why your book deserves to be read. Include publisher and where the book is available. The criteria I use is that it better be good! Compelling motivation and believable characters, if it’s fiction. Informative, if it’s nonfiction. I have examples of my reviews right here.

Enter today by e-mailing me at Put “contest” on the subject line. Deadline for entry is Nov. 20. You will be notified by e-mail if you are one of the five chosen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


“I know recipes that work,” Patricia “Pat” Gambarelli told me.
That’s the kind of chef I like to be around!
PASTA FOR MEN ONLY is a collection of recipes with easy-to-follow directions, tasty dishes, and, as an added treat, some background information.
For example:
· “ Dos and Don’ts for Perfect Pasta” — 10 tips
· “Tomato—the Magical Fruit” — the nutritional value and more
· “Basil: King of the Realm” — history and facts about this herb, such as:
► Tear it don’t chop it
► Add it the last five minutes of cooking because heat destroys the sweet flavor

Each recipe has a brief introduction, e.g., page 20: Tomato Sauce with Sweet Sausage.
“I always look for sweet sausage that doesn’t contain fennel.” Pat tells more in four sentences. Fascinating!

What is remarkable about this slim, 124-page book is its numbered steps in the instructions. Pat has made cooking as simple as 1-2-3. Let’s take a peek.

Tomato Sauce with Sweet Sausage
1. In a large saucepan equipped with a cover, heat the oil.
2. Brown the sausage.
3. Add the pureed tomatoes and salt.
The instructions have 6 more steps. You are never left to wonder what to do.

Each of the recipes is paired with a suitable wine. This one suggest Zinfandel.

You can imagine that this book isn’t only for men. Women will love it, too.

You can read how the book came about, order the book and read Pat’s blog at her Web site: You can e-mail her at

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I wrote about A BETTER MAN by KELLY JOHNSON on my blog before I switched to, but that post was erased, so I thought I’d give more people a chance to hear about the book.

KELLY JOHNSON, writer, lawyer and speaker, wanted to direct her five sons, as well as other boys aged 12 through their teens, to worthy role models. She said that currently boys are looking at musicians, actors and other high-profile men 24 years and younger as role models. She believes men have to have life experiences well beyond their twenties before they can be noteworthy examples for young adults.

After doing research and consulting others, she chose 26 men who fit her criteria. A BETTER MAN is a compilation of essays about and interviews with these men. JOHNSON’S “Editor’s Note” after each entry gives some background about the man and explains why she chose him as a role model. The Honorable HARRY L. CARRICO, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, was the first man to accept JOHNSON'S invitation to be part of the book. She clerked for him after she graduated from law school and writes that he is “the most decent person I’ve ever met.”

JOHNSON’S final list includes men in a wide variety of professions from athletics, the military, politics, the arts and education. Among those featured in the book are former President GEORGE H.W. BUSH, who responded with a letter of his own; former NBA star DOMINIQUE WILKINS; Seattle Seahawks quarterback MATT HASSELBECK; and actor TIM REID. She also wanted to include someone from a faith community, so she asked REV. HECTOR LACHAPELLE, a Catholic priest, for an interview, which he granted.Kelly gets to the heart of the matter in each interview/essay and includes exactly what makes these men remarkable. RISING WRITERS who want to break in by writing essays or by interviewing people can use Kelly's book as a guide. She's a talented and creative writer, who herself can be included in a book on women role models.Information about KELLY JOHNSON and A BETTER MAN, are available at Let me know what you think about all of this at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Undaunted Heart: The True Story of a Southern Belle & a Yankee General by SUZY BARILE

I am using my Blog to review some books by local authors, and the latest I’ve read is a wonderfully crafted addition to the host of books surrounding the Civil War, "Undaunted Heart," subtitled: "The True Story of a Southern Belle & Yankee General" by SUZY BARILE.

The book tells a love story that involves:

* prejudice

* politics

* family


—topics in the news on a daily basis.

The Yankee general is Smith Dykins Atkins from Freeport, Illinois, and a volunteer for the Union cause.

The southern belle is Eleanor “Ella” Hope Swain, daughter of David Lowry Swain, governor of North Carolina from 1832-1835 and president of University of North Carolina from 1835-1868.

BARILE writes, “Ella did the unthinkable: She married a Yankee general at the close of the Civil War.” A North-South marriage was as offensive to the general public in 1865 as a black-white marriage was in the 1960s.

The angle is unique to books concerning the Civil War, and BARILE does a fine job of recreating the attitudes of the times and capturing the spirit of Ella and the general.

BARILE has an extraordinary perspective. While searching in her mother’s attic, BARILE found a box of Ella’s letters. BARILE is the great, great granddaughter of Ella and the general.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September 8, 2009 - The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully

It happens that I have gotten several assignments from The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C. (where I am a free-lance feature writer) to review books or to attend seminars when a book is discussed. A recent panel discussion concerned “The Gift of Years: Growing Old Gracefully” by Joan Chittister.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects the population over 65 years will be 72 million people by 2030, about 20 percent of the total population. This is twice as many senior citizens as in the year 2000.

Few people look forward to aging, especially when they consider its effects: slower movements, medical problems, sagging skin, bulging middles, gray hair and most importantly, diminishing respect from younger people.

American culture concentrates on youth and beauty and doesn’t give much value to aging. Chittister acknowledges the disadvantages age brings, but she suggests people consider its benefits:
· Beginning of a new life
· Time to think of your purpose
· Wisdom of years
· Freedom, primarily from work, raising children and other restraints
· Developing another kind of usefulness

The list goes on. What’s the benefit of reading the book? A new perspective on aging.

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21, 2009-Life As Lenke

Lenke Brown turns 88 on Sept. 26 and proves that publishing is possible at any age. She tells her life story in “Life As Lenke,” a self-published book that became available in May 2009. Lenke is one of those fascinating people who helps you realize you can survive hardships, learn anything you want to and accomplish your goals.
She still plays golf, a sport she took up in her late 50s. She learned to play chess after she married Larry Brown when she was 56. As a child she was deathly afraid of deep water, but as an adult she learned to water ski. She grew up in Hungary, escaped that country during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and immigrated to America. She learned English, opened her own tailor shop and was a successful businesswoman. She’s lived in Connecticut and Nevada and now lives in North Carolina.
Larry urged Lenke to write her autobiography, and her good friend Maureen Woods made it possible. Lenke recited her memories on audio tapes and Maureen transcribed them.
The book is worth reading because the reader:

► sees fortitude in action
► is inspired to accomplish long-sought goals
► develops a deeper appreciation for freedom
► is amazed at the anecdote about Frank Sinatra

Maureen suggested the self-publishing route to Lenke and chose Mystic Publishers in Henderson, NV. Self-publishing is losing its negative connotation. This is one book that deserves to be published. Once started, it’s hard to put down.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Initial Post-Friday, August 14, 2009

This is scary--writing my first post for my new blog: I've had a blog on my Web site,, for a year, but I felt I wasn't reaching enough people. I also have pages on my Web site I named Rising Writers. The intent was to offer suggestions to those who want to write for publication but need encouragement. I've decided to combine my blog and the Rising Writers pages and expand my focus.
On this blog I plan to:
  • review little-known, self-published books that deserve readership
  • review books by well-known authors
  • recommend other blogs and Web sites
  • highlight writers who have written a noteworthy piece
  • offer suggestions to Rising Writers so they can accomplish goals they set for themselves
  • present information that others can discuss, meditate upon and contact me about

I want to post a blog every seven-to-ten days. If I feel inspired, it will be more often! Inspiration--what every writer hopes for without sweat equity!

I am open to ideas, suggestions and opinions.

Enough for now. I'll return soon.