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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

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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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The Existential Vacuum: Birth Canal of the Knockout Game?

Monday, January 6th, 2014 - by Rhonda Robinson

SadChild

Every parent has heard it — that dreadful lament of “I’m bored!”

Although it’s usually accompanied by dramatizations of actual pain, few parents have patience for it. Even fewer view it as something to be concerned about. That could be a deadly mistake.

I certainly didn’t view it as more than an annoyance. My children learned very quickly and early on that to complain of boredom was a bad idea. At least expressing it to me, that is. The first time those words would come out of a child’s mouth, I simply replied, “Oh that’s great. I have plenty of work for you to do. If you don’t know how to fill your time wisely, I will happily fill it for you.”

You would be amazed at how fast a child can figure out something else to do besides extra chores. One full dose of work instantly cures childhood boredom.

What about children who are never taught what to do with boredom? What do they grow into?

This week’s reading of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning brought to light what could be the answer to a problem not yet conceived of at the time of its writing. Frankl explains,

The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the twentieth century…man has suffered another loss in his more recent development inasmuch as the traditions which buttressed his behavior are now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells him what he has to do, and no tradition tells him what he ought to do; sometimes he does not even know what he wishes to do. Instead, he either wishes to do what other people wish him to do (conformism) or he does what other people wish him to do (totalitarianism). ….

The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.

In most cases, when children announce their boredom, parents give them placebos rather than cures. They think it is not really a problem at all. By dismissing the issue as unimportant, the parent takes the path of least resistance and too often offers entertainment as a cure. (This is evidenced by the large sums of money willingly paid for gaming systems.)

However, if Frankl is correct, and it is a real issue, then we are in essence training our children to seek amusement rather than meaning. This could have deadly consequences.

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The Biggest Challenge Facing The Church Today?

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

historicJesus

We began this series, some months back, following Shmuley Boteach’s Kosher Jesus. You might remember the first installment Restoring Our Judeo-Christian Culture where, in earnest, I was inspired by the author’s introduction to his work with these words:

“Christianity, too has much to gain from a rediscovery of the authentic Jewishness of Jesus. American culture is less in accordance with Christian theology than many would think. Bringing a bit more Jewish influence to bear would make a great deal of sense for American Christians.

By discovering the Jewish Jesus and the Jewish understanding behind the bedrock premises of Christianity, Christians’ understanding of their own faith will be enriched and riddles will be resolved. Modern American and Judeo-Christian values will be strengthened to the benefit of both Jewish and Christian communities and our society as a whole.”

It’s hard not read the headlines and not shake my head in disbelief, if not disgust, at how far we have fallen as a society. Who doesn’t want both communities strengthened along with society as a whole? However, Boteach misses the mark–at least within the Christian community. His attempt at unity between the faiths rested in presenting Jesus as a fully Jewish man–fully Jewish but fully man.

However, there is a common thread running throughout both Kosher Jesus and Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel. That is the misinterpretations of Jewish culture that has led to much of the antisemitism and Jewish suffering throughout history done in the name of Christianity.

Although Boteach’s intention is to bring the two faiths to a better understanding, one thing I learned from him was that there is a deep, deep wound inflicted on the Jewish people over centuries of Christianity that for many, has yet to heal.

As we finish the last of this series with David H. Stern, Ph.D’s book, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel: A Message For Christians, I noticed that Stern uses many of the same scripture passages that Boteach does. Although he takes it one step further. Rather than blaming unnamed antisemitic editors that have purposely (for political reasons) turned Christ and the New Testament against the Jewish people, he explains the subtle yet profound misinterpretations.

One other noticeable point, while Boteach (and myself) were focused on restoring values to the culture, Stern is focused on returning the Christian to answering the call of the Great Commission.

As we pray for our nation we often quote, 2 Chronicles 7:14:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” New International Version.

“My people” that are called “by my name” is that Jewish, Christian or both? Whose land?

The answers shouldn’t surprise you.

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3 Reasons to Get Addicted to Call the Midwife

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

YouTube Preview Image

Haven’t yet caught an episode of the BBC/PBS smash hit series Call the Midwife? Here are three reasons from writer/producer Heidi Thomas why you need to watch this groundbreaking feminist masterpiece:

3. Call the Midwife provides female role models who embrace professionalism, not porn.

“I remember an RAF Careers Officer coming to my school and telling us about the wonderful work we could do in the RAF… as catering assistants! We were furious to hear we would never be allowed to be pilots. Now every profession a girl would wish to consider is open to her.

But I think the Spice Girl, Girl Power thing veered a lot of young women off course, because it was about investing your self-worth in your physical persona, sexuality and “attitude”. I love the idea that we have put the notion of professional women right up there in front of a new generation of TV watchers.”

2. Call the Midwife is the antidote to bad girl TV.

“One of the things they enjoy the most is playing women who are actually nice to each other. Because as young attractive actresses, they are often only offered parts where women are in opposition to one another, where they are catty, or bitchy or quarrelling over the same man.

“They love the idea of women living together in a supportive community dedicated to their professions and to the service of other women, which brings us back round to your thesis about Call The Midwife as a feminist piece.”

1. Even the boys in your house will become addicted to this show about midwives, nuns and babies.

“One interesting thing we learnt, from a breakdown of our audience figures, is that numerically, more men were watching Call The Midwife than Top Gear…”.

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The 10 Best Conservative Books of 2013

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 - by Kyle Smith

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In no particular order, here’s a look at some of the best conservative books of 2013.

1. The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters by Gregory Zuckerman

Zuckerman’s gripping tale is a story of men who risked everything they had, and in many cases won (or lost) fortunes betting against the conventional wisdom: That perfecting fracking would be a revolutionary improvement in the means of harvesting more fossil fuel (not the wind/solar/geothermal sources the best and brightest tell us are the future) that would do more for the American energy business than anyone could have foreseen even 15 years ago.

“Creative destruction can render public policies irrelevant, as seems to be the case with several decades of conventional-wisdom energy policy,” noted Michael Barone in National Review. “It reminds us that people with ingenuity and daring can reshape the world in ways few can imagine.”

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The Soviets’ Secret Weapon to Defeat America

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 - by James Jay Carafano

wndb.Pacepa_Rychlak.DISINFORMATION.cover_.FINAL_ (1)

In Kiev, they are partying like it’s 1989. Pro-western protesters even pulled down a statue of Lenin that had stood unmolested for decades.

Moscow’s effort to reassert its influence over its former client state has triggered wide spread public protests. In the process, sledgehammers have reduced leftover symbols of Soviet occupation to rubble.

The chaos in the Ukraine is sharp reminder that Russia has not foresworn its old ways. If the angry protesters jamming the streets of Kiev don’t convince you, flipping through the pages of Disinformation will close the case.

The Soviet Union’s Cold War arsenal bristled with arms from nuclear bombs, tank divisions, and backfire bombers to gulags, spies, terrorists and revolutionaries. But one of Moscow’s most prized, secretive and diabolical weapons was disinformation. Thorough a relentless campaign of political and psychological warfare, the Soviet Union planned to undermine the West with propaganda, rumor and lies. In Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism, Ion Pacepa, a former Romanian intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 1978, and Ronald Rychlak, a professor of the University of Mississippi, have collaborated to produce a saga of Soviet disinformation from the Stalinist era to the fall of the wall. Beyond that, they show how these tactics have been revived under the current Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.

Disinformation draws a good deal on the authors’ previous published works including Pacepa’s expose on his former boss, Romanian strongman Nicolae Ceausescu and a book on the Kennedy assassination. Rychlak wrote Hitler, the War, and the Pope, a defense against charges Pope Pius XII was a Nazi-collaborator. Each of these books argued that Moscow played a major role in playing the West–promoting the notions that Ceausescu was the “progressive” face of Communism, that the CIA was behind the killing of President Kennedy, and that the Pope cheer-led for the Holocaust. In this book they pull together these stories and more to produce a sweeping narrative of how the Soviets tried to shape public opinion as one of their chief instruments of dark diplomacy.

Disinformation is a page-turner from beginning to end. Every chapter offers history never heard in high school. Some will snap this book shut and cry “I told you so.” Others will slap their forehead in disbelief. No one will be neutral about Disinformation–and they’ll all have something to point to for arguing they are right.

rioters_kiev-447639

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Depression? Or the Onset of Human Transformation?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

 takeapill

Month after month we sat in the doctor’s office, hoping he would give us our life back.

After suffering a pulmonary embolism his doctor could not in good conscience allow my husband to return to work as a police officer. She believed it too dangerous to be on blood thinners in law enforcement, citing the need to avoid blunt trauma at all cost. In her opinion, a profession that required a bulletproof vest as part of the daily uniform was no longer in his best interest.

Regardless, law enforcement was all he knew. After almost two years of recovery, the days seemed to run together and Mike began to spend more and more time in bed.

Concerned his condition had started to return, I mentioned my observation at the next office visit. With a sincere concern, the doctor asked if Mike needed a prescription. Noticing our puzzled expressions, she clarified, and offered an antidepressant.

We both desperately wanted her to write something on that little pad of hers that would make all of our troubles go away. All she had to write was, “Released to return to duty.” He would have been overjoyed.

Returning to the work in which he found meaning and provided for his own family–that is what he desperately needed. That is what the entire family needed.

Would a pill make the situation acceptable?

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Does Injustice Grant The Right To Do Wrong Or The Opportunity To Discover Inner Greatness?

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

StevenChapman

Traces of pain were embedded in his voice.

I instantly recognized the man as one of my long-time favorite recording artists, Steven Curtis Chapman. The woman sitting next to him was obviously his wife. Although I’d never seen her before, I knew the look on her face as well as my own. It was the blank stare of a grieving mother.

Then I heard her say to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America,

“I’ve said, you know, somewhat coldly, ‘I don’t care whose lives are touched by this story and whose lives are changed or what good comes of it.’ As the heart of a mom, I want Maria back.”

“And that’s — you know, that’s what I want people to know is I want Maria back.”

There’s just not enough good that can be done, to ease the pain of losing a child.

The Chapmans’ five-year-old daughter had died just a few months before that interview in 2008– the pain was still visibly raw. Little Maria died after being hit by a car in her own driveway. It was a tragic accident to say the least.

People often try to comfort grieving parents by trying to show them some good. Their attempts usually compound the pain rather than relieve it.

In the Chapmans’ case the “lives touched,” by their daughter’s death, are real not just a Hallmark sentiment. The Chapmans expanded their charity to add Maria’s Big House of Hope for special needs orphans. They have carved an immense amount of good out of their sorrow.

However, there are people who commit crimes of destruction and violence in the name of injustice on a daily basis. We’ve all seen them captured on film. What about rioting in the streets over issues as trivial as a lost sporting event? There seems to be an air of justification in too many of those instances.

If circumstances such as these can be justified in the least, what of the liberated prisoners of Auschwitz?

Frankl explains:

“We have to consider that a man who has been under such enormous mental pressure for such a long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation, especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly…the psychological counterpart of the bends.”

They now had a choice on how they would use their new freedom.

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The Framing of Hitler’s Pope

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

stalinpius

See the previous parts of Susan L.M. Goldberg’s blogging on Ion Mihai Pacepa’s Disinformation

Red or Dead: How Stalin Re-Defined American Liberalism

The Assassination of Patriotism: Intellectuals, Disinformation and JFK

*****

“The first Soviet tsar, Vladimir Lenin, killed thousands of priests and closed most of Russia’s churches so as to make Marixsm-Leninism the country’s sole religion. Stalin, who continued that bloody rampage, transformed Lenin’s new religion into Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism, and used it to portray himself as a Soviet saint in order to keep his famished, oppressed population quiet.”

– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa

In his book Disinformation, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa supports a wealth of evidence with a first-hand accounting of the Soviet empire’s war on Judaism and Christianity. Stalin’s purpose in attacking both religions was simple:

“… atheistic communism’s very existence and expansion required that it discredit and demonize its chief competitor”

Consequently, Stalin followed the tsarist suit, employing Russia’s historic anti-Semitism (think: Protocols of the Elders of Zion) to portray America as “a Zionist realm owned by Jewish money and run by a greedy ‘Council of the Elders of Zion’.” According to Pacepa, Stalin “…transformed his Georgian anti-Semitism into a national and international policy.” As a result, the Soviet dictator, ”labeled Zionism as the main tool used by the United States to undermine the ‘socialist camp,’ and he committed unlimited Soviet political, military, and financial support to Israel’s historical enemies, its neighboring Arab states.” Simultaneously, Stalin purged his party and the Soviet nation of millions of Jews “…allegedly to preserve the ‘purity of Eastern European Socialism’.”

Stalin also played on post-World War II global fears of European anti-Semitism to discredit his number one enemy: The Pope of the Catholic Church. As the number one religious leader of the western world, the Pope was tapped by President Truman in his “Campaign of Truth” against the expansion of communism, “the mortal enemy of religion – of all religions.” The Catholic Church had a history of railing against Communism since the days of Marx. Now, legitimized by the Western World, Stalin the Nobel Prize winner decided it was time to make his move.

If this two-pronged attack on Western religion sounds confusing, don’t worry. It’s supposed to be. As Pacepa explains, the “nature of disinformation” is that of “a sophisticated, complicated, long-term, multifaceted campaign of pure lies and smears.” When the seeds of pure lies planted by Stalin in 1945 finally flourished, they contributed to the creation of an intellectual and spiritual cataclysm in the West.

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Book Plug Friday: Discoverabiliy is Key

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
The key to the future of publishing rests with you.

The key to the future of publishing rests with you.

This week Kris Rusch is blogging about “discoverability” which she says is the new publishing industry buzzword. (And do read the whole thing, and bookmark her blog if you’re at all interested in publishing.)

The traditional publishers use this discoverability thing to lure new writers to their stables. “Come with us,” they say. “We’ll make you a star.”

We all know how that worked in the old movies, and let me tell you, it works pretty much for traditional publishing these days. As Kris puts it, doing a step by step analysis of the cost of advertising in various venues, and your chances of getting it if you’re a midlist writer and even if the traditional publishers are bringing you out in print, which isn’t always the case these days:

Sure, a publisher might spend that $1050 to advertise the latest book in a growing series, but that ad will be viewed by a few thousand readers instead of a couple million. (And that’s still one-fifth of that mid list advance.) Suddenly, the print/online ads seem less likely for a traditional published book, don’t they? Here’s something else to remember: It’s not that hard for an indie author to reach 6,000 readers, through Amazon or Good Reads or a dozen other venues, which traditional publishers badmouth or ignore. Then there’s the expectation side of advertising. Book publishers know that book ads are informational only. The ads do not increase sales at all. The publishers buy the ads to inform the consumer that a new book is out. The consumer must see references to that new book several times before the book ever makes an impact on a consumer’s consciousness.

Also, let me tell you unless you get an advance over 10k, you’re not likely to see even that much advertisement. Or even placement on shelves. In the good old days, when Amazon didn’t force the publishers’ hands, Sarah once had six books out in a year, with two major publishers without seeing a single copy on the shelves – ever.
Later on in the same article, Kris says that book reviews do matter, since they’re seen by booksellers. Which is why the smart indie publishers are now doing print titles and sending out review copies months in advance. They might not get on the shelves, but they have as good a chance as any.

What about the quality of self-published work? Oh, sure. We’ve seen some terrible stuff out there. But then we see some terrible stuff from the traditionals. [And don’t talk to me about the superior editing and copyediting of traditional publishing. As I bring out my books that reverted, I find I had to go over them line by line – and that the published version often introduced errors – I don’t want to go over them line by line, but I want to make sure my indie version is better than the “traditional” one-- S.A.H.]

Also, later on in the article, Kris says that as far as electronic publishing only, you get no advantage from traditional publishing. This is probably right. So, if you choose to go indie, make sure you put a good product out and feel no regrets. Also, of course, send your book plugs here. We’re all about the discoverability. If you don’t go over and read Kris’ article, I leave you with this sentence, which blew me away:

That assumption was true, back in the olden days, y’know, about five years ago.

She’s right. It’s changing that fast. That means, whether you’re going indie or not, you need to stay alert, move fast, and the odds of success are all in your hands. I don’t know, guys. It sounds like we’re braving into a new frontier and the future is ours to forge. You got to like that about a future.


[Charlie here.] It’s a light week this week, largely because of a number of submissions that lack the necessities of making a book plug. That is, the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK.

Of the four, the AMAZON LINK is most important. We don’t have any arrangements with iTunes or Barnes and Noble yet. “It’s available on Amazon” is not an AMAZON LINK. A link to CreateSpace is not an AMAZON LINK, even though CreateSpace is owned by Amazon.

For more detailed guidelines, explaining the we need the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK, send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com.

To submit a book to be plugged, send the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com.


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Leap Of Faith: Quit Your Job And Live On A Boat
By Ed Robinson 

They gave up everything and now they have it all.

Follow them as they leave the working world behind and become carefree boat bums and beachcombers. Read how one couple got rid of all their belongings, quit their jobs, and moved onto a boat. This is a story of finding happiness in paradise through simplicity of life. It’s tales from tropical adventures. It’s a simple plan for financial freedom. It’s social commentary on the state of today’s society, sprinkled throughout with lyrics from the songs that inspired them.


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The Secret Life of Movies: Schizophrenic and Shamanic Journeys in American Cinema
By Jason Horsley 

Film blurs the line between myth and reality better than any other artistic medium, one could argue. Using movies to explore the unconscious realms of society in order to reach a better understanding of what drives it, this book examines filmmakers and films that center on schizophrenic themes of alienation, paranoia, breakdown, fantasy, dreams, dementia and violence, and that address–as entertainment–the schizophrenic experience. The loss of individual identity as reflected in the films is investigated, as well as the shamanic potential inherent in the broader theme.


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The Port of Houston
By Mark Lardas 

The Port of Houston is the second-largest port in the United States as measured by cargo tonnage. It is also 50 miles from the sea. How did such an improbable location become such an important port? The answer lies at the intersection of geography and technology mixed with a bit of Texas brag.

Seasoned with 191 illustrations, The Port of Houston tells the story. Starting with a not-so-wide spot on Buffalo Bayou in 1836, it follows the growth of a minor river port into a shipping colossus. It is a tale worth exploring.

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Book Plug Friday: The Cutting Edge

Friday, November 15th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
Welcome to the Wild West -- keep your keyboard loaded!

Welcome to the Wild West — keep your keyboard loaded!

This is Sarah speaking – since this has been an odd and over-full week for both Charlie and me we agreed I’d do the introduction, and he’ll do the links. [Which is actually usually the way we do it. --C]

For me, I caught some sort of flu – though it seems not to be flu-flu, or else I have a very mild case, as I’m getting better after a few days – which for three or four days made me very tired, but not tired enough not to work – if that makes sense. Instead, I was just tired enough that I couldn’t write new stuff.  (That part lasted almost a week, and I thought I’d just hit one of the patches of weird block, where I don’t have the strength to write the words even though I know what happens almost word per word.)

So I thought this was a good time to catch up with my publishing. I’m giving Draft2Digital a try.  They’re a reseller who will put the book in Apple and Kobo, who are problems for different reasons: Apple because it requires you to have a Mac (and I don’t. Um… wonder if I could borrow Charlie’s and come up once a month to upload stuff) [Of course.] and Kobo because their interface is a right pain.  Yes, I’ve heard about Draft2Digitals possible payment issues, and other horror stories, so I’m trying them, but keeping a close eye.

In the same way, I had a few books to upload to Smashwords, who were the original of these “reseller” ebusinesses.

Smashwords was the very first platform into which indie publishers could upload.  As such, it started by educating a lot of people – and let’s face it, most writers are the least technical people on the planet – about how to put together an ebook.

This meant that their “how to” was a comprehensive manual about how to put an ebook together, including how many spaces you could have clumped together, and exactly how things should look.

Part of the reason for this was that – to make it easy for those non-technical writers – smashwords had a piece of software called “the meat grinder” which took your doc file and turned it into all the sorts of ebooks on the market.

The end result was fraught with errors and often baffling (half of one of my books because small caps for reasons known only to the gods of software) but it allowed people who were otherwise incapable of figuring their way into ebook format to put books up.  And Smashwords placed it on all those other platforms too.  It was push-button. And they added other platforms every day.

Times have changed. Times have changed a lot.  Nowadays, needless to say, the big player is Amazon, with everyone else trailing.  I hear All Romance does well for Romance, and I must say that Barnes and Noble is not bad for mystery (though it is for everything else.)  Places like Amazon and Draft2Digital accumulate complaints and allegations they don’t pay properly and on time.  Partly this is because it’s not very easy.  My husband has written software to extract the numbers and correlate them and does the books for a couple of small publishers, but things change so fast, that every time he does it he has some puzzle in the numbers he encounters, which takes hours to resolve.  And frankly, given the complexity, we don’t know if anyone else has that type of precise accounting software.

Part of it is that things change so fast.  It’s the wild west.  It’s the unknown frontier.  So I’m trying Draft2Digital, and I still go through Smashwords for the more obscure ebook platforms: Sony and such.

But I only put stuff up there LONG after it’s gone up on Amazon and the others.  And I often do it when I’m tired/burned out for anything else.

Which is how I found myself yelling at the screen when they said I’d made some mistake in my format, and quoted their manual at me.  Even if I had read their manual, I wouldn’t have memorized it.

But I came to indie “late” and there were Amazon and Barnes and Noble, practically push button.  The idea of having to read a manual seemed absurd.

And yet, Smashwords is stuck in the far distant past, three or four years ago, and doesn’t realize its elaborate manuals and its careful rules are things of the past.  They were the cutting edge.  Now they’re not.  But they’re not aware of it.

If indie publishing is the wild west, Smashwords is the old, fastest gun slinger, who doesn’t realize the danger in the new kid in town.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t be relevant again tomorrow.  All it would take is a change in interface and better up-to-the-minute accounting software.  And it would happen.

The advantage of wild frontiers is that you can always reinvent yourself. Right now people are mining indie as writers, as editors, as artists, as publishers – and nothing is written in stone.  Amazon is making all the right moves, but it could find itself dethroned tomorrow by some new kid in town with a brilliant idea and the right attitude.

Life on the cutting edge is tough – the edge cuts, and having cut moves on.  But it’s also a land of endless possibilities, exciting and fraught with danger.

And for you (and us, who also read) the endless possibilities include discovering new writers – which Charlie and I hope to foster with the books below. Download a sample that sounds likely and give it a try.  You never know.  You might like this wild west of ours.

(Email book.plug.friday@gmail.com for submission guidelines, which don’t include a multipage contract in the middle of a chapter, but which also don’t include a fully-furnished dungeon in a penthouse apartment.)


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The Musketeer’s Apprentice
By Sarah D’Almeida (Sarah A. Hoyt)

When Porthos finds his pupil dead of poisoning, the four friends — Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan start investigating. Little do they know what the investigation will discover, and the past secrets that will reach out to shake Porthos.


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Altering Course
By George Eliseo

Carmine LaRosa medically retired from the San Diego Police Department almost a year ago. So far, he hasn’t found anything to replace the thrill of police work until an old friend offers him a next to impossible job: find a local businessman that went missing after he sailed from the San Diego Yacht Club bound for Cabo San Lucas a week ago. Carmine takes the case but for reasons other than money, reasons he can’t tell anyone about.

During his investigation, Carmine discovers that a beautiful blonde bartender went missing in Las Vegas around the same time. A mysterious Russian lawyer with ties to the Las Vegas underworld hires him to find her. As both cases progress, a lot of people are suddenly very interested in the missing boat and the missing bartender.

The case takes Carmine from his dilapidated fixer-upper of a house in Pacific Beach to Cabo and Vegas then back, tracking down the boat, the businessman and the girl. As he gets closer to the solution, it’s obvious someone doesn’t want him to succeed, and will use deadly force to stop him.


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Cobalt Agonistes
By Frederick Key

Cobalt is a retired superhero—retired after the rest of his team was wiped out in an apocalyptic battle against their greatest enemy. Now someone is trying to kill him. But he knows that all his enemies are dead… or are they?

Cobalt also is the creation of Gary Vykk, whose amateur comic books kept him sane in school. But nothing can help him now, it seems, with his best friend marrying his ex-girlfriend and his father dying of cancer.

Both men are racing toward destruction, faster than a speeding bullet. Can our heroes be saved?


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MacFinster
By Frederick Key

Rex MacFinster has gotten a windfall — the father of his foster mother has left him a mansion. MacFinster takes a loan and quits his job to dedicate himself to his life’s unfinished business, from appearing in a play to dating his high school sweetheart. But a nephew of the deceased millionaire wants that mansion, and will stop at nothing to get it.

George Darmowycz explains how being MacFinster’s best friend can lead to all kinds of things — a part in a musical about whaling, an attack by vicious watchpugs, a dash through the woods in someone else’s bedroom slippers, and a death-defying race in the Rolling Coffin of Doom.

Hilarious and fast-paced, MacFinster is the great suburban adventure of our times.


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31 Days of Marketing
By JP Jones

If you’ve avoided the prospect of marketing your product in the past, fear no more! In her book, 31 Days of Marketing, JP Jones unmasks thirty one different aspects of marketing that can be applied immediately — one day at a time. From press releases to public speaking you’ll glean the ‘how-tos’ you need without wading through a lot of confusing buzz words and trendy speech. For each marketing tactic, Jones shares practical advice and information in bite-size pieces for you to incorporate into your advertising strategies.

Pulling on her experiences and over 10 years in the ever-changing marketing landscape, JP shares openly about what works and what flops when it comes to successful promotion. Each chapter contains highlighted objectives and frequently asked questions to make the book an easy reference guide and great addition to your business library.

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