Saturday, November 17, 2012
In 1969 a Wellesley undergraduate by the name of Hillary Rodham submitted her 92-page senior thesis on the theories of Saul Alinsky. The title of Hillary's thesis was "There Is Only the Fight: An Analysis of the Alinsky Model."
Alinsky was born in Chicago in 1909 and his entire life, until his death in 1972, was devoted to organizing revolution in America to destroy a system he regarded as oppressive and unjust. His book, Rules for Radicals, became the bible for "Progressives." On many occasions, Hillary Rodham Clinton has referred to herself as a "Progressive." And Michelle and Barak Obama embrace the "Progressive Movement."
In the Alinsky manual for organizing new trainees to the radical agenda, members were told to get over the idea that community organizing was done for any idealistic reason, such as betterment of a community's social ills, but existed only to gain a base from which to wrest power. The Alinsky manual instructs, "We are not virtuous by not wanting power. We are really cowards for not wanting power, because power is good and powerlessness is evil."
In the dedicatory page of his book, Rules for Radicals, Alinsky reveals insight into the radical mind by praising Lucifer as the first rebel: "Lest we forget, an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins--or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom--Lucifer."
Just something to consider.
My comments were taken from the booklet by David Horowitz entitled Barack Obama's Rules for Revolution. If you want to do further study, look up the Freedom Center or go to www.frontpagemag.com.
Friday, November 16, 2012
At our local authors' annual presentation at our public library, I was asked to take a couple of minutes and comment on what is the best thing you can do to a manuscript before you submit it to a publishing house. This was my answer: 1. We’ll start with the assumption that you have already read your manuscript to your alpha readers. Alpha readers are your critique group that reads each chapter as you write it and they give their suggestions for improvement and catch inadvertent errors. 2. Then we assume that you have already gone over it with an eye to too many adverbs – those descriptive “LY” words we love to use to impact our writing. Quickly, sleepily, beautifully, suddenly. Most of them can come out and make the story better, flow more smoothly. Editors are not fond of adverbs. 3. Then we assume you have already done a word search for words like “was” and “were” and “then” and “that” and “is”……all of these are weak non-descriptive verbs. Replace them with action verbs and your writing takes on a new vibrancy. Some sentences will need to be revised: “She was going to call him” can read “She planned to call him”: or : She needed to call him.” Get rid of lazy weak verbs. Nine times out of ten you can revise the sentence with an action verb but there are a few times nothing really does the job better than “was”. 4. Then we are assuming that you have given the completed polished work to your beta readers – beta readers are friends, teachers, avid readers, and people who can spot errors in grammar, continuity, typographical errors - and you have made any corrections needed from this group. New writers are always concerned about someone stealing their ideas so they don’t want to share their stories with anyone. You don’t have to worry about that. Experts say there are only 8 basic story ideas in the world and everything else is a variation on one of those. And we have great copyright laws. 5. You’ve edited and polished until you are sick of your story, but there is one final thing you must do before you send your baby off to be birthed by an editor: You must read it aloud all in one sitting -- if that is physically possible. An amazing thing happens when you do that – a sentence that seemed perfect before will suddenly stop your flow. If you tweak it – change a word or two and read it again, it now flows beautifully. This will probably happen dozens of times as you read. And only by reading it out loud can you discover this magical ebb and flow of your words that will raise your manuscript up a notch or two and have an editor read to the end instead of circular filing it. Anything that brings you out of the dream you have woven as you read it aloud is an immediate flag that something needs to be fixed. Don’t submit anything that is not the very best that you can do.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
You can read more about the fallout here, but essentially this was done because of all the crony-ism You know how that works - an indie author has maybe ten other indie author friends, often thanks to Facebook. Author 1 brings out a new book, and asks the other authors to post a five star Amazon review of his work. In return he will do the same for each book brought out by authors 2-10, and as a result each author will have nine glowing reviews on their Amazon page. And if that doesn't work there are, apparently, people out there who will pay you up to £7 to post a five-star review of their book or product on Amazon.
It's not difficult to review a book you've never read. At book club on Sunday one of our members talked about how her twelve-year-old son had been praised for his book reports, yet she knew he rarely read a book. When questioned he told her that he read the first page and the back cover blurb and that was enough to write a report which could convince his teacher that he'd read the whole thing. So those Amazon reviews might be a long the lines of "A lovely story, well written and highly recommended", but with no specifics at all.
Clearly, this sort of practice destroys the integrity of Amazon's review system and dupes readers into paying for a book which genuine reviews might have led them to avoid. I think Amazon were in a difficult position and I can understand how they have come to this decision.
But the problem is that I am a reader as well as a writer. Most writers are. And I might want to post a review of a Charles Dickens book without for a moment expecting the late Mr Dickens to return the favour. I might also read a superb book which I very much want to recommend now only to my friends, but to all the customers of Amazon who may be browsing and thinking about buying it. I'd really like my reviews to appear on the page, if Amazon don't mind very much.
The official reason Amazon gave for their decision (as opposed to saying that the review system couldn't be trusted because of crony-ism) was that authors are in direct competition with each other, and might post a bad review of another author's book in order to direct readers to their instead. But this argument doesn't hold water for two reasons. First, authors really are not in competition in the same way that, say, car manufacturers are. Most people only buy one car every four or five years, so Ford would have an interest in planting a few poor reviews of Vauxhall's vehicles. Buy readers may buy many books each year so there really is no reason in dissuading someone from buying a particular book, because with most indie books costing only £1 or so, readers can easily buy both. In addition, there are so many alternatives to choose from that posting a bad review of a "rival" author's book isn't necessarily going to result in the reader buying yours instead. After all, they have several million others to choose from.
I wonder if Amazon considered any alternative to a blanket ban on author reviews? One solution would have been more moderation of reviews, but there are so many of them this was probably dismissed as impossible to implement. Another might have been to use the review system employed by Argos. When you reserve something online to buy from Argos you get an email a couple of weeks later asking whether you would like to review it. The email includes a link to use, and this is the only way you can post a review. In other words, if you haven't bought the product from Argos, you can't review it on the Argos website.
People rely on Argos reviews. I know I do. My youngest child has been asking for a particular toy for several months, but the Argos reviews are highly critical so I haven't bought it from her and probably never will. I'll try to find her an alternative, because I know that people who have actually bought and used the toy are not happy with it.
If Amazon were to implement this system then all those indie authors would actually have to buy the book from Amazon before they are able to post a review. And the number of fake reviews might fall considerably as a result.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
I've been trying really hard to think of something to blog about and not succeeding too well. Lots of people are blogging about the election, but that's just too depressing. I could tell you about my two upcoming surgeries, but that's depressing too and leads back to the election and the huge increase in price and reduction in coverage I'm facing thanks to Obamacare. I guess that leaves the weather.
I thought about illustrating this blog with a cute picture of my little granddaughter, Jennifer, playing in the leaves, but she wouldn't go near the pile of leaves. She barely touches one at a time with her toe.
But I did get a pretty good shot of our spectacular firebush with little Jen checking out individual leaves. According to the weatherman this beautiful fall weather is leaving us this week to be replaced with snow. We need the snow! Another dry winter will limit the West's water next summer, damage trees, and create a number of unpleasant problems. A good snowfall not only improves our water situation, but brings in lots of skiers who spend money and fill our tax coffers. Still I hate driving on icy roads, worrying about my family driving on icy roads, and just plain being cold.
Perhaps I should stick to blogging about my next book. It has a title now, Where the River Once Flowed. My editor and I are almost finished with the edit; I don't have a cover yet, but it is due for release in February. If you read The Heirs of Southbridge, you'll remember when Clayton decided to return East to attend school and visit the plantation where he was born, his younger brother opted to go further west. This new book features three major characters, one of which is the younger brother, Travis.
This month is a month when American's thoughts generally turn to giving thanks and this month's Wish List contest is focusing on gratitude, though any comment on any of my blogs, as long as it's tasteful, will count as an entry in the contest. The winner will receive an LDS novel of his/her choice from my bookshelves. (US only unless postage is sent by winner to cover shipping cost) Admittedly I'm disappointed in many aspects of this recent election, but I'm thankful to be an American. I'm grateful to live in a country where I can express my dissatisfaction and not fear punishment. I'm grateful to live in a country where there is still hope for a course correction when rights are trampled on. I'm grateful for all of the hardworking individuals who built this country. I'm grateful for all those who died to ensure this land's liberty and I'm thankful I can worship God and seek His blessings upon all who sincerely endeavor to protect this country from a loss of liberty. I'm grateful, too, that every four years we get another chance to try to get it right.
Monday, November 5, 2012
Is it cheating to share a recipe for a blog? I'm so very tired of all the election mud-slinging and lies that have flooded the nation that I'm ready for a total change of pace. I love the holidays because of all the special foods we prepare, consume, and share. I always make mounds and mounds of caramel corn and deliver it to friends and neighbors, and sweet breads, cakes and cookies. Recipes we never seem to take time to make during the rest of the year are brought out, dusted off and whipped up with family standing by the oven eagerly awaiting the familiar taste treat. My English grandmother was an incredible cook. All her older brothers and sisters were born in England, but she was fortunate to be born in America after her parents came to the "promised land." She spent hours in our kitchen on holidays preparing all the wonderful treats her family had enjoyed in Derbyshire. She was famous for her bread pudding and it became one of my favorite treats. I love eating at a buffet to this day because they usually serve it as one of the dessert options. But I just found a recipe that is a must-try this Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Bread Pudding. I'll share it here before I send it along to my son-in-law who shares my love of that tasty delicacy. He served his mission in England so apparently developed a taste there for this easy to make dessert. Pumpkin Bread Pudding 4 cups white bread, cut into cubes l cup granulated sugar 4 eggs 3 egg yolks 1 1/2 cups milk 1/4 tsp salt 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 1 Tbsp rum or brandy flavoring 3/4 cups canned pumpkin puree 1/4 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp cloves, ground 1 TBSP butter; cold, cut into pieces Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Dry bread cubes on cookie sheet in oven 10 to 15 minutes. Place bread cubes in pan. In large mixing bowl, whisk together all pudding ingredients except butter. Pour mixture over bread cubes. Let sit 10 minutes until bread is fully soaked. Dab butter over top. Bake 40 to 50 min. Pudding should be set in center, but not dry. Bon Appetit! And don't forget to vote tomorrow!!