Tag Archives: Stacey M. Kananen

Think twice before leaving a bad review

hurt feelings cat

When one exposes one’s “art” to the general public, one takes the chance that some of the public won’t like said art. In fact, some of them will be loud about it … and mean.

I’ve heard artists from all mediums say they don’t read their reviews, for this very reason—some people are needlessly cruel. They’re not leaving constructive criticism, they’re just trying to tear the artist down so they can feel superior.

I try not to read my reviews but, once in a while, some scary part of myself drags me to my Amazon page and forces me to read what strangers are saying about my books.

hurt feelings

I’d like to be cavalier about it but, as a matter of fact, your words did hurt.

Most of the time, the reviews are friendly and glowing, but once in a while, someone posts a review that really hurts.

Those seem to be written by other writers, or by people who fancy themselves to be. They generally bash my writing style, implying that they coulda woulda shoulda done a better job. I don’t know if they’re professional writers, because they never say. However, I’d like to think that the pros don’t leave bad reviews for their peers, because they know better. They know how it feels to get bashed for their hard work.

My wide-eyed wanna-be” theory brings small comfort, however, when I see how much thought and effort some of them have put into their well-written criticism. They felt so strongly that they went out of their way to publicly trash me. (Should I be flattered?)

I’m addressing one particular review of Fear of Our Father, a book which has received over 100 reviews on Amazon—75 percent of which give a four- or five-star rating (mostly five-star :-D). It’s still on bookstore shelves almost three years after publication, and has had a few TV shows based on the story. So it must not suck that badly.

hurt feelings dwight

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that 75 percent of the reviewers have wretched taste. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be more helpful to offer useful suggestions on how to improve next time, instead of being nasty about something that cannot be changed? Or are these reviewers actually more interested in sharpening their pithiness on my back?

Plus, how about a little credit for what I did accomplish? I wrote a book that hit #1 on Amazon’s True Crime list. Do you know how hard it is to do that? Only frustrated writers who want to take the piss would try to make another writer feel bad about their accomplishments.

I’m specifically talking about a review that said my co-author, Stacey M. Kananen, should have hired a ghostwriter, instead of letting a friend write the incredible story of how she was unjustly accused of and tried for murdering her parents. (Her story is similar, in some ways, to that of Steven Avery in Making a Murderer.) Fear of Our Father could have been so much better, the reviewer implies, if only a more capable writer had been assigned to the task. (Isn’t that the case with every book?)

For the record, I’m not just some random friend of Stacey’s who thought, “Hey, I’ve got a computer and I took an English class once. Why not try my hand at writing a book?” I’ve earned more than a few impressive writing credits. And, yes, of course it would have been a better book if I wrote it later in life, with more experience and maturity. However, Fear of Our Father dropped into my life exactly when it was supposed to.

I “just happened” to move to Gulf Coast Nudist Resort right before Stacey and Susan did. I “just happened” to work with her and Susan in the resort’s office. I “just happened” to witness the story leading up to Stacey’s murder trial (which aired on national television) as it unfolded.

hurt feelings proud

And, I “just happened” to be a professional writer, with an award-winning background with MSNBC News, and three previous (albeit self-published, but well-reviewed) books under my belt.

This story fell into my life as an assignment from the Gods, and I took it that seriously. Someone needed to be there to witness and tell Stacey’s story, and who better than an objectively-trained, supportive friend, who “just happens” to be a professional writer?

I watched the tale unfold over the course of seven years. That’s how I know the subject matter well enough to properly tell it. I am Stacey’s friend and she is mine. She trusted me enough to confide horrifically intimate details, knowing that I would tell it like it is, while displaying respect and compassion for her entire family—even those who turned against her. A stranger would have never been able to do justice to their story. And, if the Gods had wanted a “more capable” writer for the task, they would have assigned one.

Of course it’s not my greatest, all-time writing achievement, because I’m not dead yet, but it’s my best so far. Artists—or, for that matter, all beings—are constantly striving to improve. Does it really help to be nasty when pointing out the flaws in someone else’s honest creative work?

mirror girl

I’m not saying I’ve never done the same—after all, the Internet’s offer of anonymity is seductive—but I haven’t done it since I became a grownup. All it accomplishes, really, is to point out who the critic is actually talking to. —>

In closing, here’s you some dogs, to illustrate how it feels when someone tries to tear you down, instead of offering helpful, uplifting, constructive criticism. (In other words, I’ll continue to strive to become a better writer in spite of your words, not because of them.)

snarly dogs

lisa author shotLisa Bonnice is an award-winning, best-selling author and editor/manuscript doctor (and former stand-up comedienne—is there anything she can’t do???). Her current passion-project is a series of metaphysical comedy novels. The first in the series is Be Careful What You Witch For!, a modern-day fairy tale about Lola Garnett, a bored housewife, mom and office drone who wakes up with unexpected psychic abilities, and no instruction manual, and Twink, the reluctant, sarcastic faery assigned to assist and educate her.



When a private story goes public

This past week, my co-author Stacey M. Kananen‘s life has been splashed all over the airwaves and internet (admittedly, I’ve been doing some of that splashing). See, Stacey was horribly abused as a child and then, as an adult, accused of murdering both of her parents. When she was found not guilty, she asked me to co-author her life story so she can tell what happened from her perspective.

photo from the Tampa Bay Times, Douglas R. Clifford photographer

Tampa Bay Times, Douglas R. Clifford photographer

Up until then, the only story that the public knew was what the media and the prosecuting attorney were telling them, and they were making her sound like a murderer who got away with heinous crimes.

On March 3 (and subsequent rerun dates), a portion of that story was told on the Investigation Discovery series, Catch My Killer (episode title: The Dearly Departed–watch: Catch My Killer promo video).

While the show was mostly accurate (only a couple wince-inducing inaccuracies and one flat-out lie from a “witness,” but that’s to be expected when someone who wasn’t there is telling a story), they could only tell so much of the story in the allotted time frame of sixty minutes. Her trial was only mentioned in the final couple minutes, and a lot of important details were left out. But, again, they only had one hour to tell a very complex story.

But that’s where the book comes in. Fear of Our Father tells the whole story, from her childhood to the aftermath of her trial. It clears up any questions left dangling by the TV show’s brevity. It explains why she’s so passionate about starting up her own advocacy program. Yes, there are many programs out there, most started up by people who’ve lived through similar abuse like Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart. They all have their own take on what could work, and so does Stacey.

What impresses me most about Stacey is that she has come to terms with the fact that her incredibly private story is now out there for all the world to see and comment on. While her trial aired on In Session, viewers posted horrible things about her and her family, many forgetting that they were watching the suffering of real people, not characters in a movie. This book is Stacey M. Kananen taking charge of her life, for the very first time.

The Tampa Bay Times printed a very good article last week, and I’m very happy for Stacey that she is finally getting to tell her story. Here’s hoping that this is just the beginning of a successful new journey for her.

“Fear of our Father” on Investigation Discovery

Last September, my co-author Stacey M. Kananen and I traveled to Orlando to participate in our very first (and hopefully not our last) national television show based on Stacey’s incredible life story and our upcoming book, Fear of our Father.

orlando et al 017

Stacey being hooked up to her wireless microphone.

We’ve had to keep quiet about it until an official airdate was scheduled, and you better believe that was hard to do! The show, which will air March 3, 2013 on the Investigation Discovery channel (also known as ID), is called Catch My Killer.

The show is about cold cases, and they were interested in featuring the Kananen family’s saga because her father was “missing”– buried under the garage floor of the family home–for fifteen years before police discovered that he was dead, killed with a single bullet to the head.

While the reason for  the book’s existence is sad and horrifying, participating in the taping of this show was an incredible experience. In case you’re not familiar with Stacey’s story, here is a synopsis (from the book cover):

Even after a childhood of abuse and fear, Stacey M. Kananen was shocked when her brother, Rickie, admitted his guilt in the cold-blooded murder of their terrifying father, and years later, their helpless mother. But the greatest shock was to come—when he claimed that Stacey had helped him.

In 1988, when Rickie and Stacey’s father, Richard Kananen Sr., apparently left their home in Orlando, Florida, the family was so relieved that they never reported him missing. Fifteen years later to the day, their mother disappeared. When police became suspicious, Rickie admitted to Stacey that their father’s body was under the cement floor of their mother’s garage, and their mother was buried in Stacey’s own backyard.

Overwhelmed by grief and horror, Stacey’s brother convinced her that they should commit suicide. After a failed attempt, she woke to discover her brother arrested—along with the realization that he had probably never intended to kill himself at all. But his betrayals were not yet over: On the eve of his trial in 2007, he suddenly claimed Stacey had been in on it, and she found herself charged with murder with a gung ho rookie detective who was convinced she was involved.

This is the tragic and triumphant account of one woman’s struggle to overcome her past, clear her name in what would become a dramatic public spectacle of a trial, and finally escape the nightmares that had haunted her entire life.

Susan Cowan, during her interview.

Susan Cowan’s interview.

I haven’t seen the show yet, but the production crew was so professional and easy to work with that I’m sure they did an incredible job piecing together all of the interviews with the dramatization of the crimes and Stacey’s trial.

They asked Stacey the hard questions, the same questions that you would want to ask, and she was forthcoming with her responses. It was difficult for her to, once again, relive the abuse, the murders and the trial but she came through like a champ.

The crew gets some "B-roll" footage of Stacey and Susan looking at family photos.

The crew gets some “B-roll” footage of Stacey and Susan looking at family photos.

We’re hoping for some big things as a result of this book. Stacey has already been featured on an Emmy-nominated BBC documentary, America’s Child Death Shame, and our fledgling advocacy program, currently called Amnesty From Abuse (that could change, as the program evolves) is an exciting new and holistic way of working with dysfunctional and abusive families.

Stacey’s reasons for writing a book are sort of contradicted by the fact that it’s being published in the “true crime” genre, but the story is so compelling that it’s so much more than just an autobiography. Our intent is that the book will bring attention to the fact that we, as a society, still have not come up with a workable solution to the overwhelming amount of domestic violence that still takes place in our country, where we like to think of ourselves as enlightened and evolved. In some ways, we still have a lot of work to do. I, for one, am thankful that Stacey is willing to set aside her desire to live a private life and step into the public arena in this way.

Fear of Our Father is available for pre-order now. The official publication date is June 4, 2013.

Fear of Our Father update

It’s been a while since I posted an update on my newest book, Fear of Our Father—a true story of abuse, murder, and family ties, co-written with Stacey M. Kananen to be published by Berkley Books, April 2013. Maybe it’s time to do that.

Stacey is the survivor of years of heinous abuse at the hands of her father. When her older brother confessed to murdering both parents, he decided to take her down with him and she was arrested and tried for murder. Fear of Our Father tells the harrowing story of how she survived.

The original title was Sink or Swim, but Berkley suggested Fear of Our Father and we saw the wisdom in that title change. It’s a little more gruesome than we had in mind, but it certainly tells the story better than our working title.

Right now, we’re working on rewrites with our editor, gathering author photos and approving the cover design. Once the manuscript has been completely edited, Berkley’s legal team will give it a thorough once-over and then we’re on our way to the actual publishing process.

I never thought of myself as a “true-crime” author, and that’s not how we envisioned the book being published, but that’s the genre that Berkley has chosen for us, and so it is what it is. Many people still think Stacey got away with murder. I know that she is innocent. This book is intended to tell her side of this incredible, mind-bending story.

It seems that the Universe is on her side, because things are going very well for the book. We have a foreword written by Stacey Lannert, and two famous best-selling authors have agreed to write promotional blurbs for us. (I don’t want to name them until that’s a fait accompli.) In addition, the BBC documentary that featured Stacey’s story, America’s Child Death Shame, has been nominated for an Emmy award!

Other huge news is brewing, but we’re not at liberty to discuss it yet, so watch this blog for the big reveal in the next couple months! In the meantime, you can pre-order your copy of the book today, on Amazon.com.

Am I boring you?

I know I’ve been posting a lot of stuff lately about feminism, sexuality and age (both young and old). I hope I’m not coming off as a one-note wonder, but since I’ve started writing a book with my co-author, Stacey M. Kananen, who was sexually assaulted between the ages of 4-22 by her own father, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much more common this is than we realize. It’s leading me down paths of discovery that I wish to share with those who might be inclined to do … something … I don’t know what can be done, but we can’t just sit back and ignore the continual over-sexualization of the female form, no matter what its age.

My philosophy of life leans toward the “New Thought” side of things, wherein we are responsible for our own creations, where karma isn’t a punishment but is instead cause and effect, and “soul contracts” are agreements we make with others to experience both the best and worst life has to offer. That said, I know that some people will respond with things like “It’s all an illusion, anyway,” as if that makes it okay to sit back and watch these things happen, and the law of attraction crowd might say that it does no good to focus on things that we don’t want to see continuing. But I prefer to live by Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

One of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from Neale Donald Walsch was when he told me, “It’s not your job to save the world, just the ones God sends to you.” Well, “God” has sent me Stacey and her mission to bring awareness to child sexual abuse. So that’s what I’m doing.

Part of that awareness is shedding light on the fact that girls are treated as sexual beings from birth to death, in every culture, the world over. Many say that’s just the way it is, males are “visual beings” who can’t help themselves, and that I’m being an unrealistic and whiny baby by making a stink about it.

But here’s the deal. The stink is going to get stinkier, and I’m going to be talking about this more and more as time goes on and as this book gets off the ground. So if I’m boring you, just look the other way at these posts and watch for the funny and ironic ones. I’ll still be posting those, too, because life is still fun, but it’s also pretty scary and icky sometimes. I’m hoping to help throw a liferope to some who are stuck in the ick.

If you’re so inclined, why not send Stacey a friend request on Facebook and show your support? And if you’re not my Facebook friend, hit me up as well.