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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Julie Lange Groth, Author - An Interview

Julie Lange Groth

Today we honor Julie Groth, author, wife, and mother. Twenty four years ago Julie experienced the loss of her son. Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Groth and was deeply impressed at her resilient loving spirit. I requested an interview. So, here it is.
First, to Julie Groth, my sincerest condolences and appreciation for honoring BookOrBust with your sage words.

Next, tell us a little about yourself.

Q: Who you are? 

A: I am someone who has traveled that dark road every mother dreads above all others, the death of a child. As part of my own healing journey, I discovered shamanism and have followed a shamanic path for almost 25 years. I have become an experienced practitioner and teacher and I lead shamanic grief work programs with groups as well as with individuals to bring comfort and healing after a deep loss.

Q: Where do you make your home? 

A: I live with my husband Lou in rural northwest New Jersey.

Q: Do you have pets?

A: We have a cat named Kiva.

Q: Can you tell us about your son.

A: My son Justin was a lovable, freckle-faced 16-year-old with a huge heart and a quirky sense of humor. He died while using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) with friends.

Q: How did you react to the news of his death?

A: When Justin died I was a 46-year-old single mother of three with a mortgage and a failing business. I had dropped him off at school that sunny September morning without a clue that this would be the day that changed everything forever.

That afternoon after school, he and some friends were fooling around huffing from a tank of nitrous oxide that his friend had stowed in the basement of our home and he overdosed. After three days and nights in a coma, he was declared brain dead.

Losing Justin flattened me. Some days it was all I could do to keep breathing. For almost a year I was emotionally disabled, eviscerated by grief, unable to save my business from bankruptcy and incapable of finding new employment. My home went into foreclosure and my car was repossessed, but none of it mattered because Justin was gone.  Meanwhile, my father was dying a slow, brutal death from colon cancer. He was buried on my birthday a year after Justin died.

That year between Justin’s death and my dad’s was a purgatory of sorrow, doubt and confusion. For the first time in my life, I understood how it might be possible for someone to contemplate suicide. I understood how a strong, intelligent, middle-class person could decline into homelessness and hopelessness. But it was also a time of deep transformation, and ultimately birthed me into a new life of meaning, growth and joy.

Q: How did you get through those early days?

A: I had no particular spiritual beliefs at the time Justin died. I saw myself as an agnostic, someone who didn’t pretend to know the source or purpose of creation. But from the moment Justin passed, I began to sense larger, loving forces operating in my life. In my moments of greatest despair, I felt invisible hands holding me up, and when I was destitute, providence intervened with just what I needed, whenever I needed it. I came to think of this as grace, the only word I could think of to describe being held in the loving arms of a power far greater than myself.

Synchronicity brought me many unexpected gifts and surprises during those first few years, and one of them was a new friend who told me about shamanism and taught me how to connect with the spiritual realms during a type of drumming meditation called journeying. Not long after meeting her, I began my formal training with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. What I learned and experienced was such powerful medicine for me as a grieving mother and it helped me heal on many levels.

Q: How do you get through now? Do you ever have those days?

A: It's been 24 years since Justin died and I still miss him every day. I think about who he might have grown up to be, what he would be doing with his life, and how many children he might have. But I also have come to believe that the soul is eternal, that we came into this life together to learn certain things and fulfill certain purposes.  And I feel that in a certain way, we are still working together on our souls' plans.

Q: Tell us about your books. Please name them. What inspired you to write them?

A: My first book was Life Between Falls: A Travelogue Through Grief and the Unexpected,
It's a personal account of my life during three pivotal autumn events: the death of my son Justin, my father's death the following September, and the death of my grandmother one year later on the anniversary of my son's death. During that period my advertising business also went bankrupt and I lost my home to foreclosure.
The book is a travelogue through the rockiest territory of my heart, but it’s also a kind of resurrection story. Time and again my grieving process was mitigated by little miracles, messages and moments of pure transcendence.
A big part of my healing process was writing. Although I had not thought of myself as a writer before, writing somehow helped me get through my darkest moments, and so I kept a journal. While the book is largely based on that journal, it also offers the reader some practical tips for moving through the grieving process without getting stuck in it, based on my own experiences.

By the time the third “fall" arrived, I had become a professional freelance writer and a passionate community activist. All the trappings of my old life had fallen away and a meaningful new life was unfolding for me.
I began writing Life Between Fallabout 10 years after Justin died because I felt my story might bring encouragement to others during their own dark night of the soul.

Shamanism became a powerful avenue of healing for me personally in the years after my son’s death, and it brought me some huge, unexpected breakthroughs along the way. My deep gratitude for these gifts made me to want to share what I learned through my work as a healer and author, and so I wrote my second book, Healing What Grieves You: Four Steps to a Peaceful Heart, as a step-by-step guide through the grieving process using the tools of shamanism.

In my work as a shamanic healer, I noticed that many people sought my help because they were feeling blocked, inexplicably weary, unable to make decisions or move forward in their lives. In many cases, the problem was simply that they were weighed down by unresolved grief from some past loss.

When I work with people who’ve lost a child or spouse, I’ve heard them say things like, "I’ll never be happy again," as if something has been ripped out of them, never to return. They can’t even imagine themselves being able to reclaim joy in their lives. While it’s true that such a loss does change us in fundamental ways, grieving mindfully can also bring comfort, healing and a deeper understanding of life and our purpose in it.

Shamanism presents us with the opportunity to look within ourselves and discover the deeper meaning in what happens to us. As I describe in my book, it can help us gain the will and the strength to begin the healing process, it guides us through the hard work of grieving and it supports us as we regain our balance in life.

In my own spiritual journey through what had seemed unthinkable and unsurvivable, shamanism helped me find my way into a life of newfound meaning, self discovery, fulfillment and happiness. What better way to honor the dead than to live a life of purpose?

Q: Can you talk about any of the methods you share in your book?

A: I think of a major loss as a sacred wound. It changes us in deep ways. Our grief deserves to be honored and attended to on a spiritual level so that we can move through the pain with awareness and intention rather than getting stuck in it.

As part of that spiritual process I recommend creating a sacred space in your home, a special place where you can spend a little time each day attending to your grief, checking in with yourself and opening up to whatever feelings may be bubbling to the surface. Having this dedicated space and time can help you free up more of your day for attending to your life.

You might create a little a "altar" with a candle, some sage or incense, fresh flowers, your journal, and perhaps a small picture or keepsake that reminds you of the loss you are grieving. Some people like to hang a wind chime there or play soothing music when they're in their sacred space. I recommend getting yourself a rattle or hand drum that you can play in a steady rhythm for five to ten minutes at a time when you're feeling unsettled or stirred up. You'll find that it helps you shift from your present emotional upheaval into a calmer, more reflective state that allows you to work with your grief more productively.

Q: One more thing, Julie, how would a reader contact you?

A: My website is You can find more info there about my grief retreats and online programs as well as my books, how to order them, articles I've written, and lots more.

My contact info is there also, including

By email
On Facebook.
I don't usually give my phone number out in articles, but of course if you need to call me, my number is 908-399-9762.

On behalf of BookOrBust and BookOrBust readers, thank you Julie Lange Roth for your inspirational and informative interview. Best wishes for continued success.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Signs, Butterflies, A Gift of Love

Have you ever noticed signs.

Really, signs are everywhere. They surround us. We have only to open our eyes to see them.

Recently I walked Main Street, snapping photographs of the many different signs I passed along my way when suddenly, a Monarch butterfly, seemingly from out of nowhere, fluttered into my face. That butterfly startled me and for one long city block, that butterfly fluttered along side me.

I took it as a sign.

After Ed died, I was in my backyard when a Monarch butterfly appeared, seemingly from nowhere. I remember it fluttered my face, lit in the palm of my open hand, and stayed there, resting for the longest time. I couldn't help thinking then, as I thought now, it was my beloved Ed paying a visit.

I'm sharing photographs of signs today and a few quotations on signs. I hope they inspire you to pick up your pen and write something.

Here they are:

"I remind myself that not everything is a sign, that some things simply are what they appear to be and should not be analyzed, deconstructed, or forced to bear the burden of metaphor, symbol, omen, or portent." --Diane Schoemperlen, Our Lady of the Lost and Found.

"Beyond the edge of the world there's a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard."--Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore.

"When you  know that something's going to happen, you'll start trying to see signs of it approach in just about everything. Always try to remember that most of the things that happen in this world aren't signs. They happen because they happen, and their only real significance lies in normal cause and effect. You'll drive yourself crazy if you start trying to pry the meaning out of every gust of wind or rain squall. I'm not denying that there might actually be a few signs that you won't want to miss. Knowing the difference is the tricky part." --David Eddings, Belgarath the Sorcerer.

"If, instead, you find yourself pitying someone who consistently hurts you or other people, and who actively campaigns for your sympathy, the chances are close to 100 percent that you are dealing with a sociopath." --Martha Stout, The Sociopath Next Door.

"A soul is always looking for ways to make contact with the living. A butterfly is the easiest form for a soul to slip into. The important thing is to keep an open mind."--Linda Della Donna, A Gift of Love.

See you in print,

Linda Della Donna
Come journal with me;
your book is yet to be.

The E,
My Mighty Muse,
Faithful Friend,
Constant Companion,
and Me.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Jo Linsdell, An Interview

Jo Linsdell, Author/Illustrator

Recently BookOrBust caught up with author/illustrator, Jo Linsdell. Gratefully, BookOrBust got to ask Linsdell a few questions. 

Here's what Linsdell had to say.

Q: Can you share with readers a little about yourself? Where do you live? Perhaps info about your family, too, if you care to share.

A: I'm originally from the UK but moved to Rome, Italy back in 2001. I came here for 3 days and ended up staying. I'm married to an Italian and together we have two sons, a 9 year old and a 5 year old.

When I'm not writing, or illustrating, I work as a graphic designer and create book covers. I'm also the CEO of and organiser of annual Promo Day event at

Q: I see that you have written several books, can you list them here for BookOrBust readers?

A: I've published books in different genres. Italian for Tourists, and a Guide to Weddings in Italy and non fiction guides. Out and About at the Zoo, Fairy May, and The Box, which are children's picture story books. Virtual Book Tours: Effective Online Book Promotion From the Comfort Of Your Own Home, and How To be Twittertastic, which are non fiction reference books, and most recently the serial fiction KOSMOS, The Pendant, Gunpowder, Gladiator, Pyramids, The Soldier, and All That Jazz. The rest of the series will be coming out over the the rest of this year, with a new book being published on the first of every month.

Q: Care to share what prompted you to write your books? Where did you get your ideas?

A: I get ideas from everywhere. Seriously it's almost a problem. I have so many ideas and not enough time to develop them all! 

My Italy guides came about because so many people told me I should write them. I wrote my children's books for my kids. They are an endless font of inspiration. I got the ideas for my non-fiction reference books from the fact that I'm an author and therefore have a good idea about the sort of things fellow authors might want to know, and the fact that I'm also a social media junky. I'm one of those weird people that enjoys the marketing side of things just as much as the creative side. 

I have a huge list of works in progress, and others that I plan to work on in the future. I don't think I'll ever run out of ideas. I add to the list almost daily.

Q: I was delighted to learn that you do your own illustrations. Can you describe your training? Where did you go to school for this? Is your artistic talent as natural to you as your writing talent? Would you recommend to writers learn to do illustrations for their books? If so, any tips or advice on that?

A: I've always been creative. I studied Art and Design in college when I was a teen, but then just did it as a hobby after that. As I tend to have very clear ideas for how I see my books, it just seemed natural to do the illustrations myself. I taught myself how to use Adobe Illustrator by playing around with the program. I'm a very hands on learner. I've since gone on to learn photoshop and other design programs too. I've spent a lot of time studying tutorials and reading articles about illustrating and graphic design. 

If you're going to illustrate your book you need to know how to do it right. It's not enough to just be able to create an image. You also need to know how to format an image and other technical stuff. After-all, you want a professional looking finished product. It's a huge learning curve, but if you have an artistic talent, it could be worth your time and effort.

Q: Are you self-published? Why did you make this choice? Any tips or advice to writers on self-publication, perhaps a recommendation or a favorite publishing house?

A: I knew I wanted to self publish my books from the start. I'm quite a control freak! I also wanted to know as much as possible about the whole process. Like I said before, I'm a hands on learner. 

Over the years I've often considered going the traditional route. As a self publisher I have full control over every aspect but I also need to do all the work. I'm not just talking about the writing, editing, formatting etc... I mean the marketing and publicity side of things too. It's a LOT of work for one person. Even more so, when you've published several books. A traditional publisher has an editing team, a marketing team, etc. 

The reason I haven't yet gone the traditional route is that I know however you publish you still need to do your fair share of the work. So yes, they help, but it's limited. Then there's the fact that you no longer have full control over the project, both on a creative level, and from an administrative point of view. As a self publisher I get to decided when my books are published. With publisher you often have long wait times.

I think the route an author takes depends a lot on what their personal goals are, and the strengths and skills they have. It's different for everyone. Either way you should learn as much as possible about the industry, the publishing process, author branding, and book marketing.

I've published most of my books through Amazon KDP and createspace. The quality is great, and the publishing process is very easy. They are always on time with royalty payments, and have great customer services when you need some help. They also offer competitive pricing (which helps sell more books), and one of the best royalty percentages.

Q: Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite? Why?

A: That's a tough question. All my books are my babies. It's hard to choose just one. Italian for Tourists was the first book I published and so will always hold a special place in my heart. I think my favourite is probably Out and About at the Zoo though. I wrote it for my son when he was little. It's based on the first time I took him to the zoo. It was also the first children's book I wrote and illustrated.

Q: Finally, what is your favorite book, or author? Do you have one? Why? Why not?

A: I have lots of favorite authors, and books I love. I don't think I could ever pick just one. Authors that inspire me are people like Julia Donaldson (she does the best children's picture story books), Neil Gaiman, JK Rowling, CS Lewis... and then there's authors of adult books like Ethan Cross (he does awesome thrillers), and Susan Hatler, Freya North, and Sophie Kinsella who all write amazing romance. Then there are particular books that have stayed with me even years after reading them like the Diary of Anne Frank, or Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. It's too hard to pick just one! 

Q: In closing, what tips or advice on writing or illustrating do you have for a writer?

1) If you write, you are a writer. Be proud of it and stop calling yourself an "aspiring" writer.
2) No first draft is perfect. It's just you getting the idea out of your head and down in words. 
3) No book is for everyone. Not everyone will like your book, and that's OK.
4) Don't be scared to be different. Embrace your personal style and voice. This applies to both writing and illustrating. 

I wish to extend my sincerest thanks Jo Linsdell for taking time for BookOrBust readers and for sharing her amazing talent. We look forward to reading her all her books. 

On a personal note: Jo Linsdell, all best wishes for continued success. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being my friend.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

BookExpo, Jacob Javits, Day 2

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood
--Mr. Rogers

Today I am the luckiest woman in the world. I get to walk BookExpo at the Javits Center in NYC. Again. I snap a few photos, meet some nice authors and make a few notes. I hope you enjoy viewing them.

Book Expo - Day 2 - It's all about da books, da da books.

For the second day in a row, I make the long walk from my place to the train station, my first leg of a commute to Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Still rocking my senior status, I purchase my discount off-peak ticket, stand on the platform and bask in the morning sun, inhaling and exhaling the delicious moment while relishing the many more to follow for rest of this day. 

 Almost there. This is last block I must walk to get to the train station. It's just beyond that multi-level parking lot in the distance.

 Still rocking my senior discount, I purchase one round trip, off-peak ticket.

 Gotta love off-peak. No crowds.

The train is empty.
 Off-peak means less stress, a place to sit, and an extra hour of sleep.

At Grand Central, I rush to catch the No. 7 subway to 34th Street and Hudson Yard.
I take a seat and see a family of tourists.
The parents are pleasant and friendly. And their four children are mannerly and well behaved.
I love to people watch. I love the subway.

The Javits Center is under construction. Exiting the subway station, I can see the Javits building across the street, but I must wait for the cement mixer to back up out of the way before I can cross. I don't mind, because truly, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. And I am grateful.

 Soon as I enter the Javits Center, I am greeted by Bookt.v.
"Can I take your picture?"
"You betcha!"
Here I am pretending I'm on t.v.

 People are everywhere. I feel like salmon. I simply follow the crowd.

 There are bright neon colored displays...

 ...And books.

Books here. Books there. Heck, there are books everywhere!

Author Amy Hest is autographing her book, "On the Night of the Shooting Star."
I get on line, ask permission to snap her photograph, and thank her.

 This display at the Greenpeace booth caught my eye.

I stand on line to meet Maria Shriver and get her autograph. 30 minutes pass. Will I meet Maria Shriver? Will I get an autographed copy of her book,  "Color Your Mind."

 The line creeps slowly. I can see Ms. Shriver, but there is a man counting heads.

He stops at the woman behind me.

Yes, I am lucky. I meet Ms. Shriver. I get her autograph.

This is Maria Shriver's book.

It is a long day. I head home. But not before stopping off to say hi to my book, "A Gift of Love."

See you in print,

Linda Della Donna
...Come journal with me;
your book is yet to be.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BookExpo2017, Jacob Javits, Day 1

Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go, instead, where there
is no path
And leave a trail.

Today marked the official opening of BookExpo2017 held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. Whether you are a seasoned, or first-time attendee, I have a few photographs and a few tips about the event:

Day 1 - Tuesday - 4/31/2017
So Many Books--So Little Time

Empty suitcase on wheels.

If you're headed to BookExpo, be a good scout--Be prepared. 

At BookExpo, there are books--Books to buy, books to get autographed, books to take for free, and free handouts from book vendors. Books are heavy and before you know it, by the end of the day, you may find yourself lugging ten, twelve, maybe two dozen books stowed in a sack on your back, in addition to whatever else you brought from home. This will put a strain on your back and sap your energy. And it may make you tired before your day is through.

The Coat Check Room--Where all those empty bags go.

Tip: Bring an empty suitcase. For a small fee of $3, you can check that empty suitcase at the Coat Check Room and return to fill it with your books. Later, you can wheel it out. Of course you can always box up your books and have them Fed Exed to your home address. For a fee, of course.

This is the place that will box up your books and ship them to your home.
For a fee, of course.

Comfortable thick-soled shoes and cotton socks.

The Javits Center is a huge pavilion. It has several floors. There are stairs, escalators, and long concrete walkways. Today I clocked more than 6 miles walking the show. There is nothing worse than sore feet, or worse, hobbling on one foot because of a painful blister on the other. 

Tip: Leave the high heels home. Opt instead for a comfortable pair of thick-soled shoes, or sneakers. Don't forget to add a pair of thick thirsty cotton socks to your foot wardrobe. They will absorb perspiration and keep your feet dry.

BookExpo2017 is a non-bullying,
no harrasment venue.

Tip: Just a reminder: Be kind. Or, you will be asked to leave.

Wondering what to wear? Whatever you want. Last time I checked, this is America. It is the year 2017. 

One more thing: Pack a snack, bottled water, can of soda, or thermos of tea or coffee. Of course there are plenty of vendors selling food in the Food Court, but as every writer knows, saving a dollar or two on something you can easily bring from home, gives you extra money to buy that special book from your favorite author.

See you in print,

Linda Della Donna
"Come journal with me;
your book is yet to be."

The Back Story:

This is the 7:53 a.m. MetroNorth to Grand Central that I caught today.
To save money, I walked the 18 blocks from my home to the train station.

Grand Central Station is my favorite place in the world.
Here it is at eight-something in the morning. I'm half-asleep,
got a screaming sore throat, but I'm getting to Jacob Javits by 9 a.m., no matter what.

I'm onboard the No. 7 train to 34th and Hudson Yard.
I snapped a photo of the woman sitting opposite me.
I love her comfortable shoes.

It is a gray day. But soon as I exit the hole in the ground from Grand Central Station,
I spy Jacob Javits Center and there is sunshine, if only in my mind's eye.

I have arrived. And I hustle to the line for registration.

I've got my ticket. It's time to stop for a cup of tea and honey.
Oh my aching throat.

While I take time to rest and sip hot tea, I write.
Hey, that's what we do.

 I take time to recharge my cell phone battery.
There's even a station for that.

I meet a pigeon. I feed him, too.

I visit my book.

Surprise. It's time to go home. When I exit, I am greeted by warm sunshine. 

The views are warm and awesome. 

What is it about concrete that makes me glad all over?
I love NY.

It's back to the No. 7 train...

...And back to Grand Central.
In a little while, I am home--Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home.

The E