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It’s Your Party Too — Book Plug Friday 53

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

We can't wait for our terrible twos!  You ain't seen nothing yet!

We can’t wait for our terrible twos! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

 

Book Plug Friday turns one today.  Like all toddlers, it’s mobile, running around and creating havoc.  It’s still somewhat ineffectual, but we pride ourselves in thinking that over this last year we brought to the attention of readers many fine books or entertaining reads that they would otherwise never have heard of.

And since that was all we wanted to do: to lend a little impetus on the outer fringes of the digital book revolution, little Book Plug Friday is mighty proud today.

Out there, the adults in this business are winning battles too.

We’re the barbarians at the gates of publishing, yeah, sure, and our little horses are mighty fast, but you know we’d not be half as effective, if publishing hadn’t stopped adapting and started imploding from within long before technology set us free.

The Fall of Rome is still debated. How could such an empire fall? Various theories are floated; taxes were too high, barbarians joined the army, borders became too porous, corruption and incompetence were rampant.

But I would argue that these were mitigating factors. Empires always fall for the same reason.

They stop adapting.

Adaptive Capacity is the technical term for an ecological or social system’s response to changing conditions in the environment.

A system that cannot adapt, self destructs.

Go read the whole thing.

And there are true signs of hope out there.

At a glance, we can see how each publishing path performs in the top genre categories, and we can also see how these genres compare to one another in both total revenue and market share by publishing path. This last distinction is crucial, because the old-time advice to “never self-publish” has now faded to the advice that “self-publishing only works in certain genres.”

The truth is that, regardless of which publishing path an author chooses, some genres of trade ebooks sell vastly better than others, period. Other genres languish. For Big 5 authors, Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense is by far the most lucrative genre. But you don’t hear many people assert that traditional publishing is only good for people writing sleuths. Another common refrain is that nonfiction and literary fiction are uncrackable genres for indies. But in non-fiction, self-published authors are earning 26% to the Big 5′s 35%.

It turns out that Big 5 publishers have nearly as small a portion of Romance earnings (18%) and Science Fiction & Fantasy earnings (29%) as indies have of Literary Fiction earnings (13%) and Nonfiction earnings (26%), respectively.

Here, too, we say onto thee, go read the whole thing.

There are riches in the comments there too.

 Data Guy: The short answer to your question is yes, time and schedules permitting.

I did take a brief look Historical Fiction earlier today.

Historical Fiction makes up 7% of the overall gross Kindle sales. Indie books are somewhat underrepresented in Historical Fiction today, having so far captured 10% of the unit sales and 14% of the author earnings. I’d tend to see that as an opportunity.

And you know, he’s right.  Sarah’s top performing book of the reissues (books previously traditionally published and a whole different ball game from new and original indie releases, which do better for various reasons,) is No Will But His, straight up historical fiction.  It does so well in fact, that as soon as she finds the time, she will write the rest of what she terms “dead queens.”  That is the queens of Henry VIII and possibly, time permitting the queens of the War of the Roses.  There is gold in them there hills.

And that’s the message we want you to take on this anniversary of Book Plug Friday.  Go forth and write what you will.  Try any path to sales.  You no longer need to sell to a traditional publisher, and if they don’t like your idea, you can still publish it and make money.

Set yourself free.

And send us your book plugs!

 


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Streiker’s Bride
By Robin Hardy

What would you do if you received the offer of a lifetime—marriage to a billionaire—with one catch: you had to make up your mind without ever seeing him? When lowly bank teller Adair Weiss receives such an offer from reclusive philanthropist Fletcher Streiker, she is dumbfounded and disbelieving: Why me? What does he know about me? What does he want?

Rejecting his offer would end her dream of dancing. But accepting it would change her life in ways she never guessed. . . .


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The Lost Book of Anggird
By Kyra Halland

Stodgy Professor Roric Rossony has been asked to find a way to stop the deterioration of the powerful magica. He hires Perarre Tabrano to translate books for his research, and finds his orderly existence turned upside down by his unexpected romance with her. Caught up in his new-found love and the most important work of his life, he goes too far in his search, delving into forbidden books hidden away for centuries. When the most dangerous book of all falls into the Professor’s hands, magical disaster strikes, and he and Perarre flee from the authorities in search of the secret of the magica’s origins, a journey that only their growing magical powers and their love for each other will help them survive.


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A Distant Eden (Book 1 of 5)
By Lloyd Tackitt

December 2012, a massive solar storm knocks out the power grid. Three hundred million Americans are suddenly faced with a survival situation. They have no water, electricity or fuel. Food rapidly disappears from the store shelves, not to be replaced. Only three percent will survive. Those three percent will have much in common. What does it take to be one of them?


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Adrian’s War
By Lloyd Tackitt

Three years after a solar storm wiped out the power grid Adrian Hunter embarks on a journey to the mountains, determined to live and survive by utilizing his knowledge of stone age techniques. He encounters a band of raiders who attempt to take him prisoner – and Adrian’s War begins.


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The Last Falangist
By Kevin Trainor

A military history buff shares his thoughts on religion, society, science fiction, anime, and affairs of the heart.

It is both a personal book and a glimpse, at moments, into the history of “The Blogosphere.” Readers are treated to a retrospective of moments in online life–the debates that raged at various points in the 2000s and 20-teens—along with moments in the life of the author, one of the co-bloggers at the online magazine The Other McCain. As a bonus, there’s an appendix, “21 Books,” that discusses the war stories, Russian novels, Westerns, and history books that have left the most lasting imprint on Trainor’s life.

Together, the entries and essays comprise a slice of gritty reality.


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Moonstone Obsession
By Elizabeth Ellen Carter

Secrets, scandal, and passion…

Selina Rosewall had given up on love, but while helping her brother further his merchant fleet business, she meets Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen. Their attraction is mutual, but what James wants from the relationship goes further—much further—than Selina could have expected. And she learns that in the world of the Ton, scandal and deceit are commonplace.

For Sir James Mitchell, Lord of Penventen, it’s hard to say which is more dangerous: being a spy or being considered husband material by the Ladies of the Ton. With political machinations threatening to draw England into the violent wake of the French Revolution, the last thing James expected was to fall in love with Selina Rosewall, daughter of an untitled seafaring family. But when James’ investigation stirs up a hornet’s nest, can he protect Selena from danger that threatens her very life?


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Men Are Pigs: And That’s A Good Thing
By Ron Sturgeon with Mark Stuertz

Entertaining and enlightening, Men are Pigs is an unabashed peek into the differences between men and women. Women (and “enlightened” men) think men are pigs because all they think about is sex. Men think women are pigheaded because they think men are nothing more than women with whiskers. In Pigs serial entrepreneur Ron Sturgeon (and PJ Media contributor Mark Stuertz) takes aim at the current orthodoxy that idealizes the feminine and maligns the masculine, and how this destroys relationships and frays the social fabric. A little naughty and packed with humor and actionable tips, Pigs offers strategies on how men can attract more women, enjoy better sex and relationships, understand the differences between men and women, and keep the fires burning hotter and longer. Though written for men by a man, Pigs offers valuable insights for women too.


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Jennifer’s Neighbors: Part One: Try This
By Lilith Revnik

Jennifer’s parents are having troubles; Sammy has lived with her stepfather since her mother died. They’ve been next-door neighbors since they were little girls, and they’re the best of best friends.

So Jennifer and Sammy are just two teen-age girls — beautiful, sexy and sexual, shy, scared, learning about themselves, what they want, what they need, what they like. One of the things they want is sex, and they’re … uninhibited about getting what they want. Intrepid explorers. It’s not always easy, but they learn a lot about themselves, and even more about the ways of the world.

[Ed. Note: This book is erotica. If you don't like erotica, don't buy it.]

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A Mainstream Publisher May Not Be Your Friend

Friday, June 27th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

mrpotter

Charlie here. So Sarah is away at science-fiction-writer summer camp, and I’m doing the prose for the book plug links this week. (Don’t forget to email book.plug.friday@gmail.com for guidelines if you would like your book plugged here, leading to fame and fortune.) I can’t promise a fiery Latin rant like last week, but think of this as an appendix — small, kinda slimy, and no one is quite sure what it does.

This time, I’m going to do a little arithmetic. Amazon’s royalty options are a little bit arcane, because of special programs and multiple currencies, but here are the basic rules:

  • You can get 35 percent of the sale price as a flat rate for any book from a minimum of between 99¢ and $2.99 — depending on the size of the book in megabytes — up to $200. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a $200 ebook.
  • Or if you meet some conditions, you can get 70 percent of the sale price, as long as the price you set is between $2.99 and $9.99. You also pay a data transfer fee, which is 15¢ a megabyte. (Which, for most fiction, means about 15¢.)

The conditions aren’t particularly onerous: first, if you have the right to publish the work in some country, Amazon has to be able to e-publish your book in that country; second, the book can’t consist primarily of public-domain content — you can’t ebookify something from Project Gutenberg and get the 70 percent rate; third, the e-book has to be enabled for text-to-speech; and you have to set the e-book price at least 20 percent below the cover price of the physical edition.

So, now I picked a novel at random from the ones Amazon is pushing, The Hurricane Sisters. It’s from the most mainstream of mainstream publishers: William Morrow, part of HarperCollins. From the blurb, it’s a standard sort of Southern-gothic chick-book, with the powerful lover, the gay brother, the BFF, family troubles. (God, no, I haven’t read it! The blurb sounds like it would be a more honest work redone as porn, but that’s a topic for another time.)


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The Hurricane Sisters: A Novel
By Dorothea Benton Frank 

Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long, well into September. Often people’s lives reflect the weather and The Hurricane Sisters is just such a story.

Once again Dorothea Benton Frank takes us deep into the heart of her magical South Carolina Lowcountry on a tumultuous journey filled with longings, disappointments, and, finally, a road toward happiness that is hard earned. There we meet three generations of women buried in secrets. The determined matriarch, Maisie Pringle, at eighty, is a force to be reckoned with because she will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, whose dreamy ambitions of her unlikely future keeps them all at odds.

[Shortened....]

The Lowcountry has endured its share of war and bloodshed like the rest of the South, but this storm season we watch Maisie, Liz, Ashley, and Mary Beth deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. After a terrible confrontation they are forced to rise to forgiveness, but can they establish a new order for the future of them all?


But look at the price. $12.99. Easily more than 20 percent less that the hardcover price, text-to-speech is enabled, and I’m sure that HC will happily sell it anywhere they have publication rights.

So, this is the part of Book Plug Friday where we do arithmetic.

$ 12.99  
x  0.35  
-------
   4.65  

Amazon is paying $4.65 to HarperCollins for each copy of the e-book they sell. But they seem to be able to qualify for the better rate in terms of the other conditions. Which means

$  9.99  
x  0.70  
-------
   6.99  

Let that be a lesson to you indie writers: 70 percent is better than 35 percent. Also, let that be a lesson to you, HarperCollins: 70 percent of $9.99 is better than 35 percent of $12.99.

And let that be a lesson to you, Dorothea Benton Frank: for some reason, HarperCollins is happy to give up $2.34 of your money.

Don’t you wonder why?


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Golf Cart Blues
By Walt Pimbley 

“A foursome from Fordo (Iran’s nuclear bomb research center) take a breather on the links, where they discover that Commies make poor caddies. When Mossad
shows up to play through, things get dicey.”

FREE on Kindle for a few days!


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Master Minds
By Edited by Juliana Rew 

A new collection of science fiction and fantasy stories for Summer 2014 on the theme of “intelligence.”


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In Treachery Forged
By David A. Tatum 

Following the rebellion of the Borden Isles, the Kingdom of Svieda was forced to make a pact with the Sho’Curlas Alliance in order to maintain the world’s balance of power.

Many years later, that pact was betrayed, suddenly and irrevocably, when the Sword King of Svieda was brutally assassinated by the Sho’Curlas Ambassador in the opening act of an invasion.

To help save his country in the ensuing war, Sword Prince Maelgyn must travel to the Province of Sopan, take command of his armies, and join his cousins in battle. Along the way he rescues a Dwarven caravan, forges a badly needed alliance, and accidentally gets married.

And then he learns about the dragons….


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Urdaisunia
By Kyra Halland 

Rashali, a widowed Urdai peasant, has vowed to destroy the Sazars who conquered Urdaisunia and brought her people to ruin.

Prince Eruz, heir to the Sazar throne, walks a dangerous line between loyalty and treason as he tries to do what is best for all the people of Urdaisunia.

The gods who once favored Urdaisunia have turned their backs on the land and left it to die.

When Rashali and Eruz meet by chance, the gods take notice, sending peasant and prince on intertwining paths of danger, intrigue, love, and war – paths that will change their lives, the destiny of Urdaisunia, and even the fate of the gods, forever.


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Wizard’s Heir
By Michael A, Hooten
Gwydion ap Don is a talented harpist, and a known rogue. But his Uncle Math sees something more: a young man with the magical talent to succeed him as Lord Gwynedd. But to learn magic, Gwydion will also have to learn self-control, duty, honor, and the martial arts. He’s not sure which will be the hardest. And when his training in magic begins in earnest, his whole world will change, as well as how he sees himself.

Based on the ancient Welsh myths from the Mabinogion, but set in the world of Cricket’s Song, this new series looks at one of the three great bards of Glencairck, Gwydion. But long before he became a great bard, he had to learn how to be a good man. This is the story of how his uncle tries to temper him into a leader, and a suitable heir.


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Fate and Fair Winds
By Dory Codington 

Adventure / Romance: Fate and Fair Winds takes place in Philadelphia in the months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The novel explores what it means to be free and independent from both a personal and a political standpoint.

Rebecca is a stubborn Pennsylvania farm girl, searching for her right to independence. Her father has used her dowry to buy a neighbor’s land and has offered to arrange her marriage to that neighbor as an alternative to having a dowry. This is an option she finds repugnant, but perhaps inevitable.

John FitzSimmon has been traveling the coastal colonies to learn what he can about the mood of the Colonists for his commander Gen. William Howe. He stops in Philadelphia to meet with his brother Jason, the captain of a merchant vessel docked at the harbor. When his shadow falls over the sketch Rebecca has made of the pretty ship, she asks him a question that will change both their lives.


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Self-Publishing With Burning Slug
By Anthony W. Hursh 

The Burning Slug book engine (http://burningslug.com/) is quite possibly the fastest way to get your text into book form. From the same manuscript file you can produce:

  • EPUB format (iBooks, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and many other readers)
  • MOBI format (Kindle)
  • Print-ready PDF
  • Stand-alone website

This manual was itself compiled with Burning Slug. The EPUB, Kindle, and print versions were all generated from the same manuscript without any text changes for the different versions.


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What About the Boy? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son
By Stephen Gallup 

Nobody knew what hurt little Joseph, and no one was offering a way to help him. He cried most of the time, and thrashed about as if in pain. He wasn’t learning how to crawl, talk, or interact normally. Doctors told his parents to seek counseling, because nothing could help their son, and the quality of their own lives was at risk. Refusal to accept that advice changed their lives forever. WHAT ABOUT THE BOY? A Father’s Pledge to His Disabled Son chronicles a family’s rejection of hopelessness and their commitment to the pursuit of normalcy.


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Father’s Day: More Married. More Husband. More Father. More Man.
By Greg Swann 

Families without fathers typically are not families for long, and they are rarely strong families. The families from which children emerge the strongest – best-prepared intellectually, emotionally and in future earning-power – are the best-fathered families. Dad is the unchallenged leader of his brood, and everyone recognizes that it is his steady, unwavering, mission-critical leadership that most makes them a family. He never stops driving his family, and – in direct consequence – they are proud to go where he takes them.

Father’s Day is about making more families like that, helping Dad find his way back to his leadership role, helping him take charge and get his family moving again.


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Scout’s Honor
By Henry Vogel 

Told in a relentlessly fast-paced and breathless style, SCOUT’S HONOR is an exciting modern homage to the classic tales of planetary romance made famous by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, as well as the cliffhanger-driven energy of the early science fiction movie serials. If you like your heroes unabashedly heroic, your heroines feisty and true, and your plots filled with dangers, twists, turns, and double-crosses upon triple-crosses, you’ll enjoy SCOUT’S HONOR.


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Dark Invasion
By Mark Whittington 

Having escaped the Nazi vampire hunter, SS officer Kurt Hesselman, the Contessa Gabriella Doria finds herself in neutral Switzerland and in the company of American spy master Allen Dulles. Dulles sends Gabriella on a mission that might cut short the war by a year. She is to infiltrate occupied France, contact Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, and persuade him to change sides and fight on the side of the allies. But Gabriella will soon face peril from all sides, including from an enemy that she had thought dead and buried.

A direct sequel to Gabriella’s first World War II adventure, Dark Sanction.


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War To the Knife
By Peter Grant 

Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.

Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers an opportunity to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.

That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.

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Teen Girl Goes Old School (1951) to Get Popular

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 - by Scott Ott

Bought the book in the morning. Finished it in the afternoon. Literally could not put it down.

That may sound odd when you learn that I’m a 52-year-old father of four and I’m talking about a nonfiction book written by a geeky teenaged girl about her efforts to become popular. But it’s weirder than that: I actually had to reach for the Kleenex more than a time or two.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekIn Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek, Maya Van Wagenen, 15, lives and writes an engaging adventure — a social experiment, in which she tries to apply the lessons of “Betty Cornell’s Teenage Popularity Guide,” which her Dad found in a thrift store. Maya manages to bring precocious insight into the human condition through a fun, often dramatic, personal story.

Did you ever wish you could go back to high school knowing what you do now about human nature? Maya actually does it, but as a middle-schooler willing to test out principles of grooming, attire and attitude tailored for 1951. And she doesn’t update them. She lives out the vintage popularity guide as written.

Maya: Before

Maya Van Wagenen before she wrote (and lived) “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek.”

How could paleolithic advice about makeup, girdles and etiquette survive the onslaught of feminism and political correctness? Quite well actually — surprisingly well. But ultimately, what Maya learns has little to do with superficial attractiveness. It really gets at the core of why some people seem to naturally attract friends, and have more fun, while others live lives of quiet desperation.

It’s easy to understand why this book, out since April 15, has already been optioned for a movie. I hope that the studio realizes that this is much more than a story of teenage angst — that it has broad appeal, and deep meaning.

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Tumbleweed Philosophy: The Desert Thoreau

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

Abbey-Desert-Solitaire

I just finished Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, which oddly enough I found much more comforting breakup reading than all the books out there about breakups. Abbey mines wisdom — and churns up insanity — from the contemplation of nature. Reading his book I felt I’d found a new friend, someone who wouldn’t ask me how it’s interesting or comfortable to sit and stare at the trees and sky for hours on end (a question I get from those who haven’t really tried it). He’d understand the need to bask in nature, the healing and invigorating qualities of letting your mind roam free; and as a complement, the meditative aspect of scrambling over rocks, up mountains, through bushes and streams — few things sharpen the mind to the beautiful, intricate, rich present moment.

If you were to read just one chapter from Desert Solitaire, pick “Down the River,” the story of Abbey’s rafting trip down the Colorado, a poignant journey taken just before the construction of the Boulder Dam. It can never be replicated; the canyons and grottos he describes are now all flooded under Lake Mead.

The crystal water flows toward me in shimmering S-curves, looping quietly over shining pebbles, buff-colored stone and the long sleek bars and reefs of rich red sand, in which glitter grains of mica and pyrite — fool’s gold. The canyon twists and turns, serpentine as its stream, and with each turn comes a dramatic and novel view of tapestried walls five hundred — a thousand? — feet high, of silvery driftwood wedged between boulders, of mysterious and inviting subcanyons to the side, within which I can see living strands of grass, cane, salt cedar, and sometimes the delicious magical green of a young cottonwood with its ten thousand exquisite leaves vibrating like spangles in the vivid air. The only sound is the whisper of the running water, the touch of my bare feet on the sand, and once or twice, out of the stillness, the clear song of a canyon wren.

Is this at last the locus Dei? There are enough cathedrals and temples and altars here for a Hindu pantheon of divinities. Each time I look up one of the secretive little side canyons I half expect to see not only the cottonwood tree rising over its tiny spring — the leafy god, the desert’s liquid eye — but also a rainbow-colored corona of blazing light, pure spirit, pure being, pure disembodied intelligence, about to speak my name.

If a man’s imagination were not so weak, so easily tired, if his capacity for wonder not so limited, he would abandon forever such fantasies of the supernal. He would learn to perceive in water, leaves and silence more than sufficient of the absolute and marvelous, more than enough to console him for the loss of the ancient dreams.

Take Desert Solitaire with you on your next camping trip. Or better yet, read it before your next camping trip and them spend the trip bending your mind and soul to nature.

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The #1 Reason We Watch Call the Midwife

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

This past Sunday, American audiences finally had their chance to wave goodbye to Nurse Jenny Lee, the lead character in the famed Masterpiece series Call the Midwife. However sad it may be, the departure of the show’s Hollywood-bound lead actress Jessica Raine was, ironically, in no way a traumatic one.

Most American shows die when their lead actor disappears. Dan Stevens’ untimely departure from Downton Abbey still enrages fans over a year later. Yet, while Nurse Jenny Lee will be a much missed character, fans are far from outraged at her departure. Perhaps this is because Call the Midwife was never just about Jennifer (Lee) Worth, but about the many lives she encountered and a profession that is finally being given the credit it so sorely deserves. But there is more to the massive success of what began as a 6-episode BBC show about nursing in mid-century London’s bombed-out East End than giving credit where credit is due.

In an era of roughshod marketing tactics and semiotic overload, Call the Midwife, with its pure, heartfelt approach to the vicissitudes of life, is therapeutic television. We are a desensitized audience: No one cries when a pregnant mother is stabbed to death on Game of Thrones. Yet, everyone, including the burly guys on set, shed a tear at every birth on Call the Midwife. We are treated to an East End rife with chamber pots, not sexy chamber maids, and yet audiences are drawn to the show in droves. We love the midwives, even when they are dressed in habits and wimples; they are the ideal face of medicine, mother, and God in an era when we’ve been taught to doubt all three. Like a nurse checking our pulse, Call the Midwife reminds us that we are human after all, and perhaps not as sick as we’ve been led to believe.

And yet, while TV execs struggle with sex and violence in the name of Tweet power, they remain blind to Call the Midwife’s axiom for success: There is powerful endurance in simple truth. Call the Midwife will survive without the character of Jenny Lee because the show has embraced Jennifer Worth’s own mystical sense of timelessness. It is the stuff that fueled her memoirs of both London’s East End and her time as a nurse caring for the dying. Brilliantly captured in the season finale, this sense of the eternal in both life and death is what makes Call the Midwife a healing balm of a show and transcendental television in its finest form. Forget bloody battles and wild, nameless sex. Call the Midwife empowers its audience with the strength to face, not escape, life’s pressures, and the faith to believe that while “weeping may happen for a night, joy breaks forth in the morning.”

Now and then in life, love catches you unawares, illuminating the dark corners of your mind, and filling them with radiance. Once in a while you are faced with a beauty and a joy that takes your soul, all unprepared, by assault.

Jennifer Worth

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10 Quotes on Faith and Freedom from Eric Metaxas’ Hillsdale Commencement Address

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

hillsdale-pic

We had the honor of attending our son’s graduation from Hillsdale College last week on a picture-perfect May day with chairs lined up in tight rows on the east lawn of the beautiful campus. In addition to the joy of watching our eldest son walk across the stage to receive his diploma, we were blessed to hear the insightful commencement address from author Eric Metaxas. In addition to sharing stories from his youth and his faith journey, Metaxas, author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spydiscussed at length the connection between faith, virtue, and freedom. You’ll find the video of the speech at the end of this post.

Here are ten incisive quotes from Metaxas’ address, “The Role of Faith in the Story of Liberty”:

1. Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state.

Real faith is never something that can be forced by the state. It’s something that either be encouraged and smiled upon or discouraged and frowned-upon. Or, simply crushed, as it has been in every Communist country…Religious freedom, which was at the very heart of the Founders’ vision for America, cannot be compromised without all our liberties being compromised and America as we know her being redefined into non-existence.

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How to Attract And Keep A Muse In Your Creative Life

Sunday, April 27th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

creative

Part 1: Finding My Way Back To Creativity, And The Heart of My Daughter

Part 2: 2 Indispensable Tools For Blocked Writers and Closet Artists

Part 3: Want to Kill The Dragon That Ate Your Dreams and Your Socks?

Part 4: What We Owe Rockwell, Orwell and the God of Creation

Part 5: Anger Is An Agent For Change. So Why Control It?

*******

At the beginning of the year, I realized what’s wrong with me–I’m a creative.

It wasn’t until we moved to the Nashville area that I understood that it’s not what you do, it’s a personality type. People from all over the world come to Nashville to follow their dreams and find their own kind. Writers, artists, recording artists and songwriters–all creatives from every area of the arts flourish and wither here.

Living with your creativity is a challenge. Making a living with it is a lot like trying to make two marriages work at once.

Creatives of all genres want a muse. Every artist has watched with amazement as their best work flowed effortlessly through their fingertips as though they were the instrument, not the creator.

Call her what you like. Although she is fickle, selfish and obstinate, she is a most desired companion. She is the whisperer of the words to a song in the middle of the night. She is the unseen hand atop your brush as it glides across the canvass. She is wisdom. She is color, song and prose. She sows thoughts in the mind that blossom at the fingertips. She is your creative self, set free.

Without her, the fields of creativity are rough, rocky and require long hours of toil– often abandoned, and left to lay fallow.

With her at your side, the creative life is a joy and new every morning–but if you wait on her to feed you, you will become an artist all right–a starving artist.

As any marriage partner, she is to be treated with respect, courted and never taken for granted.

But first, you have to know where to find her.

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Does Admitting You Might Be Wrong Make You Right?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

freakonomics

I just finished reading Freakonomics for the first time. I know, I’m behind the times. I picked it up out of curiosity (I’ve heard so many things about the book, its authors, and the subsequent podcast) and convenience (it was left by a previous employee in the office I just moved out of, and while I was packing up unwanted books to donate, I set it aside).

One thing that struck me is how often economist Steven Levitt’s self-deprecation is cited as proof of his sincerity and trustworthiness. Everyone is fallible (even economists!) but you can probably trust the guy who’s wise enough to admit it, right?

I won’t play a guessing game on whether Levitt uses self-deprecation cynically, to manipulate readers, or whether he really is that humble a guy. The thing is, either way, there’s just too much of it. My relief and pleasure at discovering an economist who admits he may be wrong was quickly dampened by irritation at the way self-deprecation is used to excuse whatever happens to come next.

It’s possible I’m wrong, and there are a lot of variables involved that are nearly impossible to scientifically measure, and you should do your own research and think critically before making up your own mind, but…I’d posit that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is actually a documentary. Cats are secretly in control of the White House. And we all live in a computer program called The Matrix.

Obviously, admitting my potential error before I drop these theories makes them no less ridiculous. But the example above illustrates how self-deprecation can really be a rhetorical device to persuade someone into hearing out your outlandish theory (“Well, if he admits he might be wrong, he can’t be that nuts — what’s he got to say?”) and also a verbal insurance policy (“You can’t hold me to that, I told you up front I might be wrong!”).

My question is: does that verbal insurance policy really cash out? Is “I told you I might be wrong” actually a good defense for sharing a theory that may not be completely sound, but may spread disinformation or encourage bad policy? (I’m done picking on poor Levitt now, and just wondering generally — though some of his more famous theories may be grouped by some readers in that category.) It’s actually a close cousin to an infamous tabloid journalism trick — start a statement with “rumor has it” and you’ve admitted the following report may not be totally factual, but most readers who remember it will just remember the claims in the story, not the qualifier that they may not be true.

I still enjoyed Freakonomics for its refreshing and unusual take on a variety of interesting subjects. I hope Levitt continues to do his work of overturning common wisdom and examining topics other economists consider beneath them. I just wonder if he, and other fans of his favorite rhetorical device, realize there are limits to a “I might be wrong” insurance policy.

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Finding Mr. Righteous: A Single Christian Guy’s Perspective

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - by Chris Queen

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I approached Lisa De Pasquale’s new book Finding Mr. Righteous with some trepidation. Ann Coulter referred to it as “a true Christian story disguised as racy chick lit.” The reader reviews on Amazon contained phrases like “gets to the inner workings of the mind of an insecure young woman” and “as [if]  she was writing about my loving and sexual past.” Our own David Swindle called it “a time bomb waiting to explode.” I thought, ohhhhhh boy. But when David personally recommended it to me, I figured it must be a good read.

Lisa didn’t disappoint. It seems a little weird to refer to her by her first name, since doing so goes against everything you learn about how you’re supposed to write, but after reading Finding Mr. Righteous and talking to her a little about it on Twitter, I feel like I’ve known her for a long time.

Finding Mr. Righteous jumps in to Lisa’s romantic and sexual life with gusto. She never pulls any punches when it comes to her experiences. Situations get steamy from time to time, but I never felt like I was on the verge of being offended. This is no creepy confessional or salacious tell-all — it’s a memoir of a mature woman telling it like it is, warts and all. More often than not, I’d finish a chapter thinking, so that’s what women think about men.

Lisa is a keen judge of human nature as well. She provides astute glimpses behind the facades of the men she’s dated. She offers plenty of fascinating observations like:

Chris was a cat person. But having one view wasn’t enough for him. He had to denigrate the opposing view. Chris’s cat versus dog views were like his views on religion. It wasn’t enough to just accept that some people are religious and some people are not. You had to be an atheist or true believer. And if you were a true believer, you were ignorant.

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Anger Is An Agent For Change. So Why Control It?

Monday, April 21st, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson
NoEyesNellie

Penelope, my constant companion.

Do you ever wake up feeling guilty or angry with yourself? Contrary to popular belief, anger and guilt aren’t about self-control– they’re catalysts for change.

One of the perks of old age is that I seldom do things that make me feel guilty. The majority of my guilt comes from things I don’t do.

There’s a lot to be said about our conscious. In “Is Self-Esteem a Social Construct or the Soul’s Self-Awarness“ I wrote about how our “self” is stamped with the knowledge of right and wrong, and how it comes with a moral imprint. While this is true, all guilt doesn’t necessarily come from immorality. Nor is all anger wrong.

I’ve battled bouts of guilt all week. Like, every time I look at my dog. Poor girl can’t see me because I’ve failed to take the time to cut holes out of her mop for her eyes. I’ve been guilty of not calling my mother–and getting lost in Facebook when I should be working, just to name a few. All of these things seem minor on the surface. But they do in fact diminish the quality of my life, and those I love–in small and large ways.

Recently, I woke up under a severe reality attack–another failure, I’d been too busy to realize. I failed to continue both my series. The works on Ernest Becker that I began here, and creative recovery which began as a promise to my daughter. While I consider both important for several reasons, guess which one held enough guilt to induce anger at myself?

I made commitments on two levels. First to my daughter who once begged, “Come draw with me mama.” The idea of this creative series was to explore and revitalize our creative lives as artists, and bring our PJ readers along for the ride. Our thirteen-week adventure The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron fizzled out in just four weeks.

My theory is that when we fail to do something that we know is right or would enrich our lives and relationships–it’s more of a spiritual battle than one of self-discipline.

When confronted with failure of any sort Michael Hyatt explains we have three options: recommit, revise or remove.

I chose to recommit. That’s when I learned about anger.

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Is Self-Esteem a Social Construct Or the Soul’s Self-Awareness?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

Superboy

I worried about my son’s inability to read. He seemed far behind other second-graders. When I brought my concerns to his teacher, she brushed my fears aside. ”He is the highest in his reading group.” With her assurance, sprinkled with condescension that hinted education is best left to professionals, my parental instincts were put aside. After all, what parent argues with a teacher who insists a mother should be proud of her child’s hard work and dedication?

Imagine my surprise when at the end of the year, the decision was made to hold the boy back and repeat the grade. The reason? You guessed it–reading. When I pushed-back, reminding Mrs. Professionaleducator of her own words of assurance, she added one small detail previously left out. He was indeed at the top of his reading group–the lowest group in the class.

When he reached the top, she did not advance him to the next level for fear of hurting his self-esteem. He would no longer be the top dog. He would be at the bottom in the new group–with better readers. He would have to struggle to climb back to the top. For this reason alone, the preservation of the boy’s self-esteem, that he was not pushed to the next reading level.

He was reading somewhere around the 1.3 grade level at the end of the second grade. His prized self-esteem, was artificially inflated–something that was quickly and properly adjusted with the news he would not be advancing to the third grade with his friends.

For years, I chalked this experience up to the fact that his teacher just didn’t know my son. If she had, she would have known that putting him at the bottom would have challenged him to climb to the top. His competitive spirit and almost untamable drive would have propelled him over each obstacle put in front of him. Instead, she gave him a dunce cap and told him it was a crown, and rewarded him with a false sense of accomplishment as a foot-rest.

This week’s reading of Ernest Becker’s Birth and Death of Meaning reminded me of that first encounter with an esteem-puffer disguised as an educator. Becker made me rethink how self-esteem is actually built.

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The World Turned Upside Down

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

Surrender_of_Lord_Cornwallis

Sarah here. One thing for sure is that the publishing industry (following the footsteps of the music industry, the newspaper industry, and all the lemmings who went before it) would rather die sure of its convictions than change.

They will keep insisting that the old model was right, the new model is wrong, and dang it, people will soon realize and come back to them crying… or something.

My friend Amanda Green posted about this at Mad Genius Club this week. Yet another consultant telling the publishing industry what they want to hear: that ebooks are underpriced at…. what they’re selling for, that people should want to pay more for the “convenience”, that it’s just a rental of a service, and of course if you want it in more than one device, you should pay again.

Really, how many times have we heard this? It started with the traditionals manfully declaring that no, ebooks would never take a significant chunk out of paper sales.  They were a specialty, a fad, a curiosity.  No one really wanted to read on the computer screen (this while the kindle was becoming popular.)  Then we were treated to the spectacle of senior VPs in New York Publishing talking about how much they gave their authors in terms of support, of covers, of editing. Well, that is only going to sound good if you don’t know any mid-list authors who talk.  And even then, the reading public doesn’t care.  Once indie upped its game a little, it competed handily with the bottom of the publisher “support.” And customers bought indie.

Now we’re back to “we really should be able to charge a lot more” and the new twist of “ebooks are so much more convenient.”  (Apparently they got that we’re not lugging our CTR monitors to the bathtub to read there. Who knew?)

From Amanda Green’s article:

Now we have someone who calls himself a pricing consultant telling everyone that e-books aren’t a product but a service. Yep, those publishers and their bean counters are doing dances of glee. Someone finally understands!

“Ebooks should be more expensive than they are, more than print books — a lot more,” said Luby, adding that ebooks are relatively cheap because publishers and retailers don’t properly explain their benefits, namely, convenience.

And now those same publishers and bean counters are singing as they dance. Hallelujah! Someone is finally saying what we’ve said all along.We should be able to charge the reader more for something that costs us less, much less, because it is convenient for the reader.

The astounding thing is that they prefer to do this, to actually looking at other industries that have faced catastrophic change, and which went down the merry path to h*ll by holding on to their old model and paying high-priced consultants to tell them to keep jumping, everything was fine.

My friend and co-blogger Dave Freer has some ideas on how the Publishing Industry could restructure. His ideas are good and he gives them for free, but they won’t listen.  They want to be told everything will go on as it has been, and that their model is viable.

I imagine King George was told that the rebellion in the colonies was a passing fad too.

This is how the world turns upside down.  The old model can’t and won’t adapt, and the new model becomes the only model.

Other industries caught in catastrophic change should take note.  And even those of our governing elites who think that applying an early twentieth century model will work, (and at that one that never worked anywhere) should take note.  The world is changing.  Technology is changing.  If you don’t think of new ways of doing things, the world will change OVER you.

Like King George, they should realize that new places, real or virtual, create a new spirit and the old cudgel won’t bring the desired results. But they won’t….

They’ll go to sleep, telling themselves pretty fairytales.  And while they sleep, we’ll build the future.


Charlie here. This is late again because I’ve spent the whole week dealing with issues caused by the Heartbleed bug. No, that’s not an emo band. I’ll have more about the bug up, but let me just say, I’m usually the guy telling you “Oh, it’s not that serious.” Well, this one’s pretty bad. Check every website you use often, and as soon as they are confirmed to have updated, change your passwords. In particular, if you use Amazon — and I’m guessing you do, since these links aren’t much use otherwise — you should change your password.

Go do it now. I’ll wait.


Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com to be plugged here on PJ Media.


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Witchfinder
By Sarah A Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.


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The Unexpecteds
By Kathryn Judson

Out west in Northam, 11-year-old Shayna Miller finds that living underground to escape government persecution is only one problem among many. For instance, her dad never keeps his family in one community very long. It’s almost like he’s running from something horrible in Subterra. But what?

Other books in this series are The Smolder, and The Birdwatcher.


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Why We Raise Belgian Horses
By Kathryn Judson

When famine threatens a small fishing village in 19th-century Norway, 17-year-old Lars and his 5-year-old brother, Torvald, are sent to America to live with their Uncle Anders in the Dakota Territory. When Lars buys his first horse, he accidentally buys a horse that’s widely considered a joke. But that ‘crazy’ horse is about to prove his detractors wrong. Historical fiction. Roughly 78,000 words.


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In the Shadow of Death: Reflections on a Chronic Illness
By Cyn Bagley

When Cyn Bagley became ill in 2002, she thought that it was a case of conjunctivitis and would go away in a week. From eye problems to kidney failure, she tells the story of her diagnosis and treatment. The reflection also contains essays like “half-naked in the doctor’s office,” and “Tales from the Bed.” Even though she deals with a suppressed immune system daily, she has learned that survival is not only physical health, but mental toughness.


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The Reprisal
By Allen Mitchum

The Reprisal chronicles a revenge mission of the world’s deadliest mercenary Fadi Khaldun. A former assassin of the Saudi government determined to make amends for his malicious past, Fadi sets out to destroy an Iraqi kidnapping ring that brutally killed his client’s son. His relentless and lethal pursuit of the killers through the streets of Baghdad and rural Iraq leads him head on into a startling international criminal conspiracy.

The Reprisal is the first installment in the new Lethal Solutions Short Story Series featuring missions of Fadi Khaldun. The first thirteen chapters of Mitchum’s new full length action thriller Trophy Target also featuring Fadik Khaldun is included as a bonus at the end of The Reprisal.

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The Brains of Brawn

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

AmericanBody

If you’re a skeptical gym rat — someone who likes to stay fit, but raises an eyebrow at flash-in-the-pan fitness trends — your curiosity will be piqued by a new book on the history of fitness and exercise in America.

Making the American Body: The Remarkable Saga of the Men and Women Whose Feats, Feuds, and Passions Shaped Fitness History by Jonathan Black is a fascinating whirlwind tour through fitness history, starting with a brief review of ancient Greece and the first Olympics before fast-forwarding to the Chicago World’s Fair.

I went into this book expecting to learn many damning things about gurus who offer false promises of health and pleasure with one hand while taking all your money with the other. What surprised and encouraged me, as I read, was that many fitness pioneers seemed genuinely interested in making people healthier, and helping them to feel more confident and empowered. Mixed with that impulse was, of course, the desire to sell something to those people, and pressure to achieve body image goals — for the bulk of fitness trends, that meant simply fitting into fashionable clothes, but for some of the larger than life (literally) it meant sculpting a body that would make a Greek god quake in his sandals.

The most rewarding strands of the book told the stories of the great bodybuilding pioneers — men (and a few women) who took big muscle out of the circus ring and onto the beach. The personalities that created the American bodybuilding scene were as epic as the muscles they grew. The feuds between lifters, posers, dopers, and hopers is as thrilling as the rush of endorphins after a heavy lift (at least, I think so, remembering that one time I tried it).

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Get Fit or Die

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg
via

Pudgy Stockton (via)

Do we work out for health or beauty? Yes.

I’m in the middle of reading Making the American Body: The Remarkable Saga of the Men and Women Whose Feats, Feuds, and Passions Shaped Fitness History by Jonathan Black. (Full review to come.)

So far, it’s enormously entertaining and enlightening, and I’m recommending it to friends already. Interestingly, it focuses more on the clash of personalities (and marketing styles) than on the fitness methods themselves. But what stood out to me is how so many marketing campaigns for fitness regimes, dating all the way back to the nineteenth century, played on fear and shame. Apparently every era of American society has teetered on a crisis of emasculation and/or unhealthiness. And that crisis also happens to necessitate buying lots of new equipment, accessories, and specialty food, so we can fit into the clothes that exalt the body type that the fitness trend tells us we must have.

Another thing that stood out to me was the changing shape of the “ideal” woman. One of my favorite stories from the book so far (and a welcome note of positive, encouraging marketing) was that of Pudgy Stockton. Pudgy’s nickname originated in her chunky teen years, but she shed the pounds and gained a very different reputation on Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach. A smiling, playful fitness icon, Pudgy is credited with demonstrating to women of her generation that females can lift weights without losing their femininity — and that lifting can even enhance their womanly curves. It was refreshing to see a female fitness icon who didn’t look like she could fit through the eye of a needle — but was still healthy, attractive, and feminine.

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Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt
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Click to check out “Murder at CPAC” by Jamie Wilson.

A year or more ago I heard about this project called Liberty Island, supposed to give those of us whose politics make us pariahs with most of traditional publishing — though not Baen Books — a haven where we could meet our fans. I keep meaning to contribute to them, but of course, the last year I spent more time sick than well, and consequently I’m so far behind on books and contracts, I can practically see myself around the corner.

Well, they are up now (and have a story by Frank J. Fleming). And I’ve secured an interview with Adam Bellow, Liberty Island’s publisher and CEO. Bellow is a longtime nonfiction editor, currently running Broadside, the conservative nonfiction imprint of HarperCollins. He is also the author of In Praise of Nepotism, a lively contrarian take on an eternally divisive topic.

And, yep, sure, as soon as I get a weekend to pound it out, I’ll do a novella for Liberty Island.

Sarah Hoyt: I heard of Liberty Island back when it was in the planning stages.  I understand it is an online magazine-cum-community center for writers and readers on the right side of the spectrum.  Is this true?  What do you want to tell us about Liberty Island?

Adam Bellow: We started Liberty Island to help the new wave of conservative storytellers connect with their natural audience. Even before launching the site we’ve discovered dozens of new voices on the right that you won’t find anywhere else. These are talented and creative people who have previously been excluded from mainstream culture because they hold the wrong views and didn’t go to the right schools or attend the approved writing programs. This just confirms our hunch that something like Liberty Island is desperately needed.

SH: Who is the audience for Liberty Island? What is “conservative fiction”? Shouldn’t good stories just stand on their own?

AB: Great literature stands on its own, but the productions of popular culture often carry a hidden freight of ideology that reflects its authors’ biases. Sometimes not so hidden — the evil conservative businessman is essentially the default villain in Hollywood these days. But think about what happens when great stories are told from a conservative perspective: you get Tom Clancy, or Brad Thor, or James Patterson, or Vince Flynn. Mega-bestselling authors with a huge following. Our audience is anyone who loves great pulp writers like those guys. At Liberty Island you will find dozens of stories like these, in genres ranging from humor to thriller to SciFi. These writers aren’t heavy handed in the least – their conservative outlook is sometimes explicit but just as often merely implied or completely submerged. Besides, a case can be made that traditional pulp genres are inherently conservative.

SH: In what way do you intend to distinguish yourself from other online magazines?

AB: Liberty Island combines a magazine, a free range self-publishing platform, and a community of readers and writers who share a commitment to the values of freedom, individualism, and American exceptionalism. It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.

SH: What made you think of the project – and commit to it and work so hard for it?

AB: Two things: first, an impulse to carry the culture war into the field of popular culture. And second, the writers themselves. In 25 years as an editor of nonfiction books I’ve watched the conservative intellectual project thrive and flourish. But like others on the right I’ve been dismayed by the slowness of conservatives to challenge the liberal dominance of popular culture. It’s not enough to carp and criticize the frequently substandard and offensive crap that liberals produce. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, we have to make our own—and it has to be good. But recently we began to notice an exciting development: hundreds, indeed thousands of conservative and libertarian writers were seizing the opportunity afforded by new digital technologies to produce and publish original works of fiction. Others were making music, video, graphics, and other forms of entertainment right on their laptops at home. These were ordinary men and women all over the country, working in isolation, doing their best to hone their art and find an audience. Yet no one seemed to know that they existed. So we started talking about what we could do to help them. Liberty Island grew out of those discussions.

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How Do You Survive When Your World Shatters?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

“And now I know that every single day, the best and the worst, only lasts for twenty-four hours.” — Tricia Lott Williford

Two days before Christmas in 2010, amid the festive pictures of family Christmas celebrations, cookie recipes, and excited discussions about plans for the holidays, some terrible, heart-sickening news began to spread through my network of Facebook friends and acquaintances:

Stunned by some news. Please pray for a friend and her young family. The husband and father was unexpectedly taken to heaven for Christmas.

Pray for Tricia Williford as her husband went to heaven this morning. They have two little boys, Tucker and Tyler. What a sad day this is.

Three years later, I have fresh tears in my eyes as I re-read those words and I think about the shattering of lives, dreams, and families in that one terrible moment. How does a family survive such a profound tragedy? Can those shattered pieces be fused back together again? What does that really look like? I mean, in real life, starting with how you get out of bed the next day and how in the world you explain to two little boys that their daddy has died?

Tricia Lott Williford, a writer and editor — and a fabulous storyteller — had a blog at the time of her husband’s unexpected death at age thirty-five. Her bio explains, “On the day of her husband’s death, an unknown someone posted a link to her blog on Twitter with the words, ‘Please pray for this woman. Her husband died this morning.’ Overnight, her blog went viral and her community of readers grew exponentially.” Tricia continued with her long-established discipline of writing every day and shared her story, in all its brutal transparency, with friends and strangers around the world. Her story has now been turned into a book, And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimedreleased February 18th.

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Student Survival Tactic: Think Big

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Most folks first became aware of Dr. Benjamin Carson when he dared to speak out against Obamacare in front of the architect himself at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013. I had the privilege of meeting Ben Carson about 20 years earlier when my mother handed me his book Think Big. At the time, I was an above-average student who struggled in the public school environment. Despite being intellectually acceptable (but economically unqualified) for entrance into a prestigious private school, my own public institution refused to allow me to skip a grade because they felt I’d suffer socially.

As if being the #1 nerd in the room qualified me to be crowned Prom Queen.

An outcast, I’d spend most of my time feigning illness or sick with stress, looking for a reason – any reason – to get out of going to school. I knew my mother was right; I couldn’t run away forever. But, I didn’t have a reason to care enough to face my battles. What I needed then is what so many young people need now: A perspective greater than their own. They need to learn how to Think Big.

And so my mother encouraged me to encounter the story of Ben Carson, a young African American boy from the projects who rose out of the ghetto mindset by seeking a perspective greater than his own:

“I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions.”

Carson’s illiterate mother required her 2 sons to turn into her 2 book reports a week. This practice turned Carson into a habitual reader, classical music listener, and Jeopardy! aficionado. His love of learning and imaginative fascination with science developed into the desire to become a neurosurgeon:

First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.”

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Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein’s Unsung Revolution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

fifthbeatlecover

Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.

This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatlereleased by Dark Horse Comics.

What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.

Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.

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A Day in the Life of the Fest for Beatles Fans 2014

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Beatles-themed sensory overload: That is how to describe The Fest for Beatles Fans in New York City, held from February 7-9 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. What’s it like roaming a Fest that fills four floors of a New York hotel with musicians, historians, artists, authors, yogis, meditators, the famous and well over 8,000 fans from 40-odd states and five continents? Take a look at a day in the life of The Fest.

Awesome Beatles historian Bruce Spizer and the moron at Capitol who kept turning down The Fab Four's early hits. "Harmonica-Americans don't listen to harmonica." #NYCFEST14

Beatles author and historian Bruce Spizer opened Saturday with a presentation on how the Beatles conquered America, no thanks to Dave Dexter, Jr., the Capitol Records guy who rejected hits like ”Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me” because they had “too much harmonica.”

Dear Prudence Farrow talks India, the Maharishi and TM #NYCFEST14

Dear Prudence Farrow spoke about her spiritual journey in India with the Maharishi and the Beatles before leading an introductory transcendental meditation session. The room, dubbed the Ashram for the occasion, was so packed that more chairs had to be brought in for the standing room only crowd.

The line to see Good Ol'Freda #nycfest14

Good Ol’Freda Kelly, secretary to Brian Epstein, manager of the Beatles, and president of the original Beatles fan club, is signing autographs! Quick, get in line!

Good Ol'Freda! #NYCFEST14

Still down to earth after all these years, Freda hates being the center of attention but enjoys being with the fans. Her grandson, a toddler, was happily drawing next to her. “Would you like Nile’s autograph?” she casually asked, to which I happily agreed. Good Ol’Freda is the Queen of Beatles Fans: regal, royal, lovely. Her documentary Good Ol’ Freda is a must-watch.

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10 Things You Must Never/Always Do

Friday, February 7th, 2014 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin

It’s the Book Plug Friday!

Just go YOUR way.

Just go YOUR way.

Brad Torgensen has a blog up, on the contradictory advice writers get. His list reads like this:

1 and 2 — You must never/always self publish
3 and 4 – You must never/always use a well known trope for your story
5 and 6 – You must never/always offend someone with what you write
7 and 8 – You must never/always write short fiction
9-10 – You need a writers’ group to help you polish your work/your work is best right off the bat.

Brad is very rational and sane in his post, and you should read it.  Here’s an excerpt:

1. You must never self-publish.
This was gospel when I was plowing through my proverbial first million words of “practice” fiction. And at the time, it was good advice. Self-publishing invariably meant vanity publishing, which is a form of publishing where the author spends hundreds or even thousands of dollars of his/her own money, to put his/her book into print. Vanity presses tend to be scams as often as not, and with the advent of widespread electronic book platforms (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) as well as print-on-demand options like Amazon.com’s CreateSpace, vanity presses are also wholly unnecessary. Plus, self-publishing doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to. Once upon a time self-publishing was a warning flag to the rest of the genre—hey guys, I couldn’t cut it with editors! These days, not so much. There are good writers who are self-publishing, and making a decent amount of money. You have no doubt heard of a few.

2. You must always self-publish.
A lot of bogeyman-mongering has been going on the past few years, where traditional publishing and publishers are concerned: that they will always rip you off, that they don’t abide by their own contracts, that the editors suck and don’t know what they’re doing, that anyone who signs with a traditional publisher becomes a “slave” to that publisher, and so on, and so forth. Frankly, it’s up to you to know your markets. Traditional publishing is still the best bet: to make money and get exposure. And it’s also got a degree of branding power that’s tough to argue with. Why? Because writers who make the editorial cut have at least survived one kind of significant professional filter. There are lots of readers who pay attention to this. So scope out those houses beforehand, talk to writers already under contract, and do your homework. An educated writer with a bit if business savvy can do well in trad pub.

Sarah, as you know, is less sane and far less polite.

So, her answers would go something like this:

1 and 2 — other than Baen and a couple of indie presses I have no intention of writing for anyone else, but should another house emerge that is rational and treats its authors as people not interchangeable widgets, I might be tempted.  The future will tell.

3 and 4 -  since I usually can’t find that box that people can’t think outside of — being so far out of it I can’t see it with a periscope — I don’t really have the option of using a familiar trope. Though since I grew up in Heinlein novels, I do sometimes go home again.

5 and 6 – Well… since apparently some people were offended with the politics of my shifters fantasies, which don’t got any, and since I seem to offend people by continuing to breathe, this too might be a moot point.  However my feeling is that you should write is what you FEEL intensely about. That’s what will be most present and alive to you. If you are lukewarm, the readers will be too.  So, some people will hate you for what you write.  Let them. Think about it, by raising their blood pressure you’re giving them all the benefits of exercise without trouble.

7 and 8 -  I am a natural novelist.  I trained myself to write short fiction because I thought that’s how one always broke into writing.  I’m glad — now — that I have the skill.  Was it worth the three years spent acquiring it?  Probably not.  But it was done, and now it is what it is.

9 and 10 – At some point — listen to me, all of you — everyone outgrows their writers’ group.  At that point, you’ll have to stand on your own two feet.  As for things being perfect off the bat… well, mine aren’t, but that’s why I have beta readers.

For all of these and the other contradictory pieces of advice you’ll get breaking in, remember — You might break in by following them, but to remain published and have a career, you must do it your way.  (Cues Frank Sinatra.)

Go and read Brad, who is, as I said, far more rational than I am.  Then come back here for the book plug Friday!


Last week we asked you to “please pass word to all your writer friends that we accept submissions for Book Plug Friday at book.plug.friday@gmail.com. Submissions should include the TITLE, AUTHOR’S NAME as written on the cover, a short BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK.”

And it worked! So do it again!


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Weight of Worlds
By Alma Alexander

A collection of breathless and enchanting tales of magic, cruelty, and sacrifice – a connoisseur’s box of chocolates, dark and bittersweet. to be nibbled at and savored. Alexander’s stories owe a debt to the dark and twisted fairy tales of Oscar WIlde and the passion and poignant drama of the tales of Hans Christian Andersen; the dozen stories here are fairy tales for grown-ups – they are not the sort of stories you might want to read to your young children at bedtime. But if you read them just before go to sleep, your reward is likely to be dreams that are rich and strange, and that you may feel you have walked for a little while on roads paved with real magic.


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Glimmer Vale
By Michael Kingswood

Lydelton, a small fishing town in a remote valley called Glimmer Vale, is the perfect place for two fighting men on the run to stop and decide on a plan. But when Julian and Raedrick arrive they find the town besieged by a ruthless band of brigands. Worse, the brigands have taken up station in the mountain passes, blocking the two friends’ escape. With no way around the brigands and no option of returning the way they came, Julian and Raedrick accept an offer of employment. Their mission: defeat the brigands and restore peace to Glimmer Vale.

They are outnumbered at least twenty to one, long odds even if they recruit help. But that help may not be enough when the specter of their past rears its head, forcing Julian and Raedrick to openly face what they are fleeing or risk losing not just their freedom but the lives and fortunes of Lydelton’s inhabitants.

Glimmer Vale is a short, fun fantasy adventure novel, the first installment in the Glimmer Vale Chronicles.


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A little book of cat: Meditations on Japanese art of sumi-e and the essence of catness.
By Poul A. Costinsky

Meditations on Japanese art of sumi-e and the essence of catness. All the illustrations in this book are original sumi-e (Japanese ink on paper) paintings by Poul A. Costinsky. The so-called poetry is too.


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Muddling Through MS: 40 Years of Doing It My Way
By Kathleen Scully Aquilino

Those with MS and the people whose lives they touch will find this book helpful in understanding the wide ranging effects with a firsthand look at what it is like to live day after day, year after year with the disease. Written by a woman who is still walking after more than 40 years, the author paints a full and encouraging picture of how it is possible to have a satisfying life despite illness. Kathleen Scully Aquilino experienced the first symptom while in college but was not officially diagnosed until she was 44. Through the growing number of ailments and afflictions her mysterious disease brought, she kept going. Working, Marrying. Making a home. Adopting and raising a daughter. The delay in diagnosis actually did a great deal to help her stay positive and active. There are some lessons here in the power of expectations.


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Ierna (Refrain of Legends)
By Les Hauge

Ierna is an island on a world at the center of the universe where magic and legend converge and an epic battle is raging between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Ancient Ireland of Earth is a reflection of Ierna and what happens there will ultimately affect Earth and all other worlds.

Cuhal O’Connor has murdered his brother the King and, with the help of Porthcodal, the arch-druid of Tara, seeks to take the throne for himself. To support the king and his own ambition, the druid has unleashed old gods and dark forces to support the king in his subjugation of the country. He has called a race of evil sorcerers, the Fomorians, to the island to assist in his plans.

Opposing Cuhal are Sean O’Connor, his younger brother, and Brian O’Mordha, former King’s Champion and high general of the army. They are determined to stop Cuhal, but have few resources and a price on their heads. They rescue Sean’s niece Maggie, the former king’s daughter, who escaped when Cuhal murdered her parents. Sean knows the true ruler of Tara must have the Gift, a psychic feel for the land, and while he doesn’t have it, Maggie does. They escape from Tara and set out for the fortress of another major family, the O’Neills, in search of allies.


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The First Impression
By David K. Thomasson

A man framed . . . his life ruined . . . and then the twists begin. Jack Bolt rose from a hillbilly childhood of poverty, neglect, and abuse. Thanks to his unusually keen mind and the faith of a teacher and a bookstore owner, his future looks bright. At age 25 he’s working maintenance in a college town, studying on a scholarship, and about to marry the girl of his dreams. During a routine service call at a church he runs into 13-year-old Sarah Ellison. Moments after he leaves, Sarah is brutally murdered. Bolt is charged with the crime and convicted by a brilliant prosecutor who uses his own honesty against him. He’s been framed with tainted evidence, but this is no whodunit. Bolt knows exactly who did it—Conrad Baylor, church deacon and deputy chief of police. Held in jail during his trial, Bolt is haunted by the ‘howdunit’: How did Baylor manage to tamper with the evidence and frame him? And how can he discover the secret and clear his name if he goes to prison? But then, in a strange turn of events, Bolt is offered a chance to prove his innocence and recover his once-promising future. That’s when a deadly game of cat-and-mouse begins . . .


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MUSES OF ROMA
By Rob Steiner

Marcus Antonius Primus began a golden age for humanity when he liberated Roma from Octavian Caesar and became sole Consul. With wisdom from the gods, future Antonii Consuls conquered the world and spawned an interstellar civilization.

Three weeks before the millennial anniversary of the Antonii Ascension, star freighter captain Kaeso Aemelius, a blacklisted security agent from Roman rival world Libertus, is asked by his former commanders to help a high-ranking Roman official defect. Kaeso misses his lone wolf espionage days – and its freedom from responsibility for a crew – so he sees the mission as a way back into the spy business. Kaeso sells it to his crew of outcasts as a quick, lucrative contract…without explaining his plan to abandon them for his old job.

But Kaeso soon learns the defector’s terrifying secret, one that proves the last thousand years of history was built on a lie.

Can Kaeso protect his crew from Roman and Liberti forces, who would lay waste to entire worlds to stop them from revealing the civilization-shattering truth?


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The Prisoner and The Assassin
By Tom Nixon

In the future, America is divided. It’s been two decades since Washington D.C. was destroyed and the West Coast devastated by EMPs and The Federal Council rules the country. Only the Free Territories, carved out in the bloody aftermath of two revolts against the Council defy them.

When a shocking assassination threatens the uneasy peace, the Prime Minister of the Free Territories, Chelsea Andrews is faced with a choice: fight to save the peace or take a chance to make America free once more. As both sides race to prevent a war that no one wants, a shadowy enemy from her past waits for his chance at revenge and the secret he holds could be the most powerful one of all:

Who is Prisoner 112?

The answer to that question may decide the fate of America, once and for all…


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Demi God
By Zoey Ivers

In a world where prayers are often answered, and saints talk to the Gods . . .
The First Gods created the Universe. And their time done, returned their Fire to their creation.

The Ancient Gods crafted the World, and the People. And their time done, gave their Fire to their creations.

Then Men became so great souled they became gods themselves upon the death of their final mortal bodies.

The Elder Siblings have long ruled the Continents, attending to Dynasties, Nations, and Wars.

The Younger Siblings are not yet so strong, and content themselves with matter of local importance. Hearth and Hone, Trade and Piracy. Death and Birth. Storms and Tides.

But men continue to act like men. Power accumulates, attracts and nurtures both good and bad stewards.

This is a time of the bad stewards. A time when the Church has ceased to serve god and congregants, and insists that the congregants serve the Church. A time when the saints are constrained in what they ask the Gods to do. A time when the son of a saint and a god is well advised to keep himself away from the gaze of the powerful.

This is a time when the gods themselves have become corrupted.

This is a time when a demi god can save the world—if he manages to first save himself.

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What We Owe Rockwell, Orwell and the God of Creation

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

normanRockwell

I met Norman Rockwell in Nashville last week.

Throughout my life, I’ve brushed by his artwork and admired it just like countless other Americans. However, his delightful mixture of realism and caricature are nothing short of captivating on their original massive canvases. I don’t think I could have appreciated him more as a person or as an artist if he were alive and standing in the midst of that exhibit. His lifetime of artwork left behind footprints pooled with deep, reflective waters.

Our trip to the Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the Frist Center started out to be this week’s “Artist Date” as prescribed weekly by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. It turned out to be more than just looking at the work of a master illustrator; it caused me to consider what it means to love your work, and what impact our creativity has on the world around us.

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The Religion of Beatlemania Still Going Strong

Sunday, January 26th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

beatlesvans

America is celebrating The Beatles’ Jubilee. 50 years ago this year The Fab Four landed on this side of the Atlantic and the ’60s officially began. (At least, that is, according to PBS.) With the announcement that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two surviving Beatles, will reunite at the Grammys on January 26 and perform a concert to air on February 9, 50 years to the day of their Ed Sullivan premiere, it would seem that Beatlemania (unlike much of organized religion) is making a resurgence in pop culture. Think the Fab Four are so yesterday? Think again:

A 2009 Pew Research Center survey placed the Beatles in the top four favorite music acts of Americans ages 16 to 64 — suggesting the band that helped create the 1960s Generation Gap ultimately helped us come together. Perhaps that’s the Beatles’ greatest gift: music that can be shared not only across the universe, but across generational lines.

Imagine a mathematician trying to quantify each Beatles’ album with Martha Stewart-like graphics. Wait, you don’t have to, just check out one Millennial’s  4 Simple Charts Visualizing The Beatles’ Major Albums and you’ll find out that The Beatles aren’t just for rock n’rollers, they’re for nerds, too. ”A new project on Kickstarter aims to tap into the passion of teenyboppers young and old withVisualising the Beatles, a book of infographics about each of the Fab Four’s major records.” Seriously: If that doesn’t make you want to start a Revolution, nothing will.

Huff Po details A Comprehensive Guide to The Beatles’ Invasion of Comic Culture for Millennial comic fans:

“Thanks to a book by Enzo Gentile and Fabio Schiavo, appropriately titled “The Beatles in Comic Strips,” we’ve been enlightened on the Fab Four’s history of comic book appearances. From subtle cameos to entire issues, the group managed to squeeze their iconic faces and psychedelic style into more than a few works of comic art.”

In March, Vans will release four pairs of Beatles-themed shoes for their Millennial audience:

“The most expensive of the bunch, the Sk8-Hi Reissue, features stylized portraits of all four Beatles running up the ankles apropos to cartoon portraits of each as they were animated for the film. The other shoes each feature psychedelic tableaus from the film. The Classic Slip-Ons play off the movie’s Sea of Monsters, showing trippy marine life swimming in an ocean of pink. The Era shoes depict all four band members, some wearing rainbow pants, hanging out in a yellow garden. And the final pair, a model called Authentic, is adorned with a pattern that reads “Allyouneedislove” running over and over again and into itself in purple, yellow and green.”

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The Fatal Flaw Of Public Education and Why Homeschoolers Own The Future

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Now, adults are hoping for answers like, ‘I want to be an astronaut or I want to be a neurosurgeon’… Kids, they’re most likely to answer with, ‘pro-skate boarder, surfer, Mindcraft player’…us kids are going to answer what we are stoked on, what we think is cool…that’s typically not what adults want to hear.

…When I grow up, I want to be happy.

Young Logan stands out for several obvious reasons. Not only because of his outstanding performance on stage giving a TEDx Talk, a feat that would make most adults’ stomach turn, and not because he dispels the myth that homeschoolers are social misfits. It’s more than that; Logan cracked open the door and allowed the world to peek into home education at its finest.

Educators and parents, many perhaps for the first time, got a glimpse of what an adolescent boy looks like when he’s thriving in an environment that nurtures and values his unique potential.

The type of schooling that Logan is experiencing is actually second-generation “Delight-Directed” learning.

Gregg Harris introduced this philosophy of education to the homeschooling community in the 1980s, around the time I brought our oldest children home. The Delight-Directed theory rests on the idea that children learn best when academics center on their interests and talents.

The thrust of a child’s education is around real world situations in which they have an interest. In our family that meant my eldest daughter spent the bulk of her junior year in high school shadowing a veterinarian in her clinic, which equipped her to land a job in the Necropsy Lab at the University of Illinois, where she spent the majority of her senior year. For my son, it meant working on home construction sites from the age of 12, which equipped him to launch his own crew and become an employer just barely into his twenties.

Most doors were closed to homeschoolers then, and dial-up Internet was the height of technology. We just scratched the surface of what this young man called, “hack schooling.” In essence it’s really Delight-Directed 3.0.

Today there is a universe of knowledge to draw from, right at their fingertips. Creativity and innovation coupled with the ability to work without a foreman looking over their shoulder, will be the most valuable skill sets to master for this generation. I’ll wager the market will demand it, but few will be able to supply it.

Logan has a great shot at achieving his goal of health, happiness and the career of his choice. Although his message needs to be heard he’s talking to the wrong audience. A government-controlled educational system is incompatible and incapable of producing the kind of education that will put students on the same path. It’s fatally flawed at one critical point: its view of humanity.

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Hillary’s Hit List

Monday, January 13th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Hillary Clinton

Bill and Hillary have a notorious reputation for maintaining enemies and holding political and personal grudges. Now, a forthcoming book reports that Hillary Clinton kept a spreadsheet with a list of enemies on it following her loss in the 2008 presidential campaign. HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen is set for release on February 11, and its authors reveal the details of the “hit list” in the book.

The so-called “hit list” reportedly was entered into a Microsoft Excel document at the end of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid. In one draft, Democrats in Congress were even given a rating, from 1 to 7, with 7 being the worst.

[...]

The list of who’s naughty and who’s nice — in their eyes — was largely based on who endorsed then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008, who endorsed Clinton and who sat out the race.

[...]

The list was made not just to keep track of those who betrayed the family, but also to keep track of those who did right by them, for the purpose of returning political favors.

An excerpt from the book goes into detail as to who made the list and why:

“We wanted to have a record of who endorsed us and who didn’t,” said a member of Hillary’s campaign team, “and of those who endorsed us, who went the extra mile and who was just kind of there. And of those who didn’t endorse us, those who understandably didn’t endorse us because they are [Congressional Black Caucus] members or Illinois members. And then, of course, those who endorsed him but really should have been with her … that burned her.”

For Hillary, whose loss was not the end of her political career, the spreadsheet was a necessity of modern political warfare, an improvement on what old-school politicians called a favor file. It meant that when asks rolled in, she and Bill would have at their fingertips all the information needed to make a quick decision—including extenuating, mitigating, and amplifying factors—so that friends could be rewarded and enemies punished.

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