Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guest Post: Suzanne Jenkins - This Makes Me Uncomfortable

As I began writing in earnest two years ago, the inspiration to tell a story about an older woman who discovered her beloved husband’s infidelity after he died came from out of nowhere.  Pam of Babylon simply appeared in my consciousness and I wrote it as I thought of it.  Later, a quote by E.L. Doctorow would confirm my writing style was not unusual.  He said, “Writing is like driving a car in the dark.  You only see as far as the headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way.”  Those words validated me.  An encounter with an editor who did not like my story line made me doubt the wisdom of spending another second writing.  She asked me to do an outline before I began to write, which I found nearly impossible to do because of the way the book was coming to me as I went along.  She referred to the story as triple-x rated because it contained a depiction of child abuse.  Child abuse transcends the rating system.

Later, I learned from a fellow author that sometimes a writer/editor relationship may not be a good fit and it is acceptable to move elsewhere.  Once I found the courage to move on, I found a new editor.  She was a barracuda who demanded revisions and rewrites, but she also loved the story and wanted it to be the best I could make it.  I felt totally comfortable deferring to all of her suggestions and to this day wish I had used her from the onset.  However, once the story was published, I would encounter readers who felt the same way my former editor did.  My books are not for everyone.  I can’t say I enjoy writing about topics that many people find repugnant and some that are downright disgusting like the child abuse and marital infidelity.  But it’s something that I find compelling for whatever reason and the stories wind through the tragedy and horror that normal people sometimes encounter.

After a book is finished, I suffer from insomnia for months.  I’m in that mode right now.  The Greeks of Beaubien Street will be released this summer, and although I love the story, there is a portion of the book that worries me because it depicts the seamier side of life in a most grotesque way. Even the perpetrator is disgusted with the crime. I know there will be those readers who are offended by it in spite of a warning.  I almost didn’t write the book until my son, a filmmaker and writer told me not to censor myself. I have tried censoring in the past and once I began, I found I was putting up so many parameters I could no longer write.  The question I had to ask myself over and over confirmed that the story line was important.  What is my purpose in writing about this topic? It isn’t to titillate, or to be sensational.  In The Greeks, the horror story is in contrast to the gentle Greek father who prepares his homicide detective daughter’s breakfast every morning.

Regarding Pam of Babylon’s adult content, I tried to write so that it would be the least offensive as possible.  If a writer is going to have child abuse as a topic, there is little that can be done to clean it up.  It’s deplorable, and the consequences are usually tragic. The Kirkus Review said about the third book in the series, Dream Lover; “A gritty, realistic portrait of the aftermath of deceit.”  In order for the resolutions to take place, I must first describe the conflict.

My friend Dan Georgakas, author of My Detroit, Growing up Greek and American in Motor City (Pella Publishing Company, NY, NY, 2006) wrote when I confided my concerns, “….people are embarrassed by this [content] and want to project a perfect family image: a stereotype no one is going to believe anyway.  I have always believed in showing warts whenever possible.”  Some of character’s warts are painful to look at, but exist in real life.

The final book in the series may be finished this fall and has some of the characters achieving positive resolutions.  Fans of Pam will be relieved that she is triumphant in the end.

About the Author

Suzanne Jenkins lives at the west Michigan lakeshore with her husband, two dogs and two sheep.  Her latest books are Pam of Babylon, Don’t You Forget About Me and Dream Lover.

About Pam of Babylon:
Pam Smith lives a charmed life as a well-to-do Babylon, N.Y., homemaker in a large house by the water. In her 50s with her children grown, Pam is happy with her exemplary husband Jack. After he has a heart attack on the subway, however, she finds out more than she ever wanted to know about Jack. Pam must confront a series of revelations that unmask a life she realizes she only thought she knew, and the losses and disappointments she discovers give color and understanding to a man markedly different than he appeared. Uncovering secrets and betrayals far worse than her most vivid nightmare, Pam retreats to their meticulous Babylon beach house, the one refuge she has to put the pieces of her life together and move toward ultimate forgiveness.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest Post: Kevin Burk - Mind Your Own Business

Byron Katie is an author and speaker who created a powerful process called “The Work.” In her first book, Loving What Is, Katie suggests that there are three types of business in the world: “My Business,” “Your Business” (“Other People’s Business”), and God’s Business. She points out that anytime you find yourself in “Other People’s Business” or “God’s Business,” you feel stressed. Why? Because you don’t have any business in “Other People’s Business” or “God’s Business.” When you’re in “Other People’s Business,” or “God’s Business,” you have no control and no influence. In fact, when you’re in “Other People’s Business” or “God’s Business,” you are powerless.[1]

Put another way, when you’re in “Other People’s Business,” or “God’s Business,” you’re in Victim Consciousness, so any action you take will only make things worse.

You may find it difficult to grasp the difference between “My Business,” and “Other People’s Business,” so here’s some helpful advice. If you can’t seem to find the line that divides “My Business” from “Other People’s Business,” look behind you.

Anytime you find yourself feeling angry or stressed, chances are, you’re in Victim Consciousness. All you have to do in order to step back into integrity is ask yourself, “Whose business is it?”

Now, I like to think that I can spot an idea for a good game show a mile away. I did, in fact, have a chance to pitch my idea for Whose Business Is It? to Howie Mandel’s people at NBC Universal. Unfortunately, they said “No deal.” I remained undaunted by their obvious lack of vision (after all, these are the same people who, all evidence to the contrary, still believe that “America’s Got Talent”), and filmed an episode anyway. You can watch it online at Meanwhile, I’ll teach you how to play the home version.

In order for something to be “My Business,” it has to meet three criteria:
1. It must affect you, personally, right now.
2. It must be your responsibility.
3. You must be able to do something about it.

Unless a situation meets all three criteria, it is none of your business.

Remember, just because you’re involved in something doesn’t mean it’s any of your business!

Most people get hung up on #3, so let me take a moment to elaborate. Your being able to do something about a situation means that you are able to adjust, change, modify or alter the circumstances in some way. Note that if changing, adjusting, modifying or altering the circumstances requires that you get other people to change their behavior, you’re wasting your time. There is nothing you can do to get anyone else to behave the way you would like them to behave. (If you don’t believe me, ask my father.) If you can accept that you have no power to change anyone else’s behavior, you’ll save yourself a tremendous amount of suffering, and significantly reduce the amount of time you spend in Victim Consciousness.

When you discover that you’re involved in a situation that is not your business, stop, take a step back, say, “This situation is none of my business,” and then drop it.

For example:

“The economy is none of my business.”

“The government is none of my business.”

“Other people’s marriages are none of my business.”

“What my mother thinks of me is none of my business.”

When you drop the story and step back into “My Business,” you’ll no longer feel angry; however, you will still have all of the energy of your anger available to you. It’s important that you use this energy yourself—otherwise, other people will steal it from you.

Take this extra energy and work it off at the gym. Use it to clean your garage, do your taxes, or remodel your kitchen. Whatever you do, don’t take any action that has anything at all to do with the story that was making you angry. The more you practice this, the more comfortable you will become using your own energy. In time, you’ll be able to store this extra energy and use it to become truly, completely happy. This is the first step towards mastering your anger.

About the Author:
Kevin B. Burk has been helping people around the world to improve their lives and relationships since 1996 through his astrological counseling and relationship coaching practice. His humor, wisdom and compassion are always present, in his books (ten so far, including Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart, The Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life, and his newest book, Anger Mastery: Get Angry, Get Happy), his classes and workshops, and his interactions with his clients and students. Kevin’s focus is always on the practical, exploring how we can actually use astrology and spiritual practice on a daily basis to transform our lives.

In the astrology world, he is best known for making Classical Astrology accessible to everyone, taking complex and abstract concepts and showing how they can be used to create concrete, specific and practical interpretations. Kevin’s website, The Real Astrology with Kevin B. Burk is one of the premiere astrology resources on the Internet. His book, Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart is a textbook used at Kepler University in their Undergraduate Astrology Degree program, and has been translated into Russian, and is currently being translated into Bulgarian. Kevin’s articles have appeared in The Mountain Astrologer, the Australian publication,Well Being Astrology, and in Llewellyn’s Moon Sign books.

In the non-astrology world, Kevin is best known for his unique approach to understanding and improving all human relationships through The Relationship Handbook andThe Relationship Workshops.

Kevin has released a series of DVDs of his Law of Attraction workshops: the self-contained Prosperity & The Law of Attraction, and Astrology & The Law of Attraction, a series of 7 DVDs recorded live in Houston, TX at a weekend workshop for the Gulf Coast Chapter of NCGR.

Kevin has developed a revolutionary program for spiritual growth called Archetypal Astrology: The Hero’s Journey. This intensive program guides participants through the process of meeting and moving into Right Relationship with each of the seven Astrological Archetypes (you may know them as the seven personal planets).

Kevin is currently synthesizing astrology and spirituality into his next series of books: Astrology & The Law of Attraction, Prosperity & The Law of Attraction andRelationships & The Law of Attraction.

You can visit Kevin’s website at

To get your paperback copy of  ANGER MASTERY by Kevin Burk:

To purchase a copy of ANGER MASTERY at Barnes & Noble:

Buy the book directly from the author at

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Author Kevin B. Burk wants to make you angry. Burk believes that getting angry is the first step to happiness, and his newest book, Anger Mastery: Get Angry, Get Happy shows you how.
“Anger is like fire,” says Burk. “When you master it, it’s a powerful source of energy. If you don’t master it, however, it can be dangerous and destructive.” More importantly, Burk asserts, until you master your anger, other people will steal your energy, your power, and your ability to be happy.
The Anger Mastery Process has three phases. In Phase 1, you learn how to use more of your own energy, which makes it harder for other people to steal it from you. (This involves going to the gym at least five times a week.) You also learn how to leave Victim Consciousness and move into integrity by answering the question, “Whose business is it?”
Phase 2 of the Anger Mastery process helps you to stay out of Victim Consciousness by learning how to feel Safe. You meet your Safety Needs with a tool called the Present Moment Awareness Safety Meditation, available for free at
By the time you complete Phase 2, you will already notice significant changes in your life. In particular, you will have considerably more energy. Phase 3 shows you how to use that energy to become truly, completely happy.
Anger Mastery is not your typical book on anger. Not only is Burk’s approach unique, but also the book itself is laugh-out-loud funny. “Humor is a powerful tool to shift consciousness,” said Burk. “Laughter instantly transforms anger. Plus, funny sells more books.”


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[1] Byron Katie, Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life (New York” Harmony Books, 2002), 3.